Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Merry Christmas!

This was the first Christmas we were all by ourselves. Usually either we go to my inlaws’ or they come to our house. That all changed when we moved to Texas since it makes it more of an ordeal to go one place or another.

Still, I made a Christmas dinner and now we are faced with mounds of turkey leftovers. I went to Sam’s about a week ago and they had 10-12 pound turkeys but I didn’t buy one since it was over a week away. Then I went this weekend and all that was left were big ones. I ended up with an 18 pound turkey for 2 people. (But it cost only $15!) I’m going to freeze most of the leftovers and make casseroles this winter: King’s Ranch, turkey pot pie, turkey enchiladas, turkey quesadillas, etc.

Besides the usual stuffing, mashed potatoes & gravy, I made Paula Deen’s Sweet Potato Balls. It’s mashed sweet potatoes, brown sugar, spices, orange juice & zest (I didn’t have an organic orange so I used apple cider instead), rolled into a ball around marshmallow, then the whole thing rolled in coconut cinnamon sugar. I made mine a little smaller since I had mini-marshmallows. They look really cute and festive. As far as taste, I thought they were just OK. Mine were a little dry, I’m not sure if that’s because I microwaved the sweet potato to bake it. I thought it could use a little butter, both for moisture and for flavor. When I thought of that, I was surprised that a Paula recipe like this had no butter written into it.

For veggies, I wanted something simple so I made a recipe from "Everyday Food" magazine. It’s carrots (little strips made with a vegetable peeler) sauteed in butter with peas. That recipe was definitely a keeper since it’s simple and straightforward, tastes like it looks. A lot of times when I cook it’s usually just the entree for dinner so it’s an easy dish to throw together to make the meal more balanced.

What a downer today is. I hate that "snap of the fingers Christmas is over" feeling. I’m not sure what to do with this blog. Obviously I haven’t posted much so I’m thinking of consolidating my efforts and just post everything on my other blog.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Chianti (no fava beans)

I haven’t posted lately because 1) I’ve been lazy and 2) I’ve been in a rut where it seems I can’t make anything that tastes good. It’s very discouraging. I don’t know if it’s me or as Debbie suggested, recipes aren’t as good as they used to be. There was a time when most everything I tried from a magazine or cookbook was halfway decent.

Some of the recipes I’ve tried were a ricotta pasta, black bean vegetarian burgers, pumpkin cookies and plain buttermilk pancakes. They all were lacking something or needed to be tweaked. I think I could manage to make an improvement on everything the second time around.

Since I live in a dry county, I carry around a list of wines recommended by newspapers and magazines, for when I’m in a wet area. A few months ago I was in Fort Worth and went to the Sam’s Club there. One of the wines they carried was recommended in an Every Day With Rachael Ray, the February 2007 issue. It was mentioned in a blurb about discount wines, a Sam’s Club "Find" Familia Cara Chianti Reserva 2001,described as "A tannic, food-friendly wine with a black-fruit core." $9 for 750 ml.

I’m not a big spender on anything, much less wines, I’m more of a Two Buck Chuck girl, or Sea Ridge or Forestville (usually 2 for $5-7 range).

Anyway, I like chianti and this one wasn’t bad. A nice change from merlot and cabernet. I hate it when I try a wine that’s over $10 a bottle and it’s disappointing. This one wasn’t like that. It was nice having a recommendation because I never know what to buy.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Smores Brulee (sort of)

On the "Fire and Ice" episode of "Paula’s Party," Paula made Smores Brulee. It was a chocolate creme brulee with toasted marshmallows on top, instead of burnt sugar. I cheated a little by using instant pudding. I toasted the marshmallows by using the halogen light in my microwave, instead of one of those torches (which I don’t have). The photo doesn’t have graham crackers because I went to grab my camera in a rush to take a picture before the marshmallows deflated. I’m not good at mise en place. The toastiness of the marshmallows was yummy, and the presentation is fun. It seems like the kind of dessert that would please adults and children alike.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Paula Does Dallas

Here's an article from the Dallas Morning News about Paula Deen's recent visit to Dallas. I didn't get to go, we were in Northern California escaping the Texas summer heat wave. It was the first time I've gone back to California and not felt as nostalgic or homesick as earlier trips. More about that later...I'm still catching up on things that need to be done offline.

Paula Deen entertains fans, shares recipes at Dallas taping of her television show

By JOYCE SAENZ HARRIS / The Dallas Morning News

If you missed the recent "Paula Deen Live" show at Fair Park, rest assured it was pretty much one big love fest. The cavernous Music Hall was packed with fans who hooted and hollered not just for the Food Network star, but also for her husband, Michael Groover; her bachelor son, Bobby Deen; her niece, Corrie Hiers; her agent; her magazine publisher; and her personal assistant, all of whom accompanied her. She also introduced Weezie Chesney, a fan who looks enough like Paula to be her sister.

The 11 a.m. show (another followed at 4 p.m.) was what you might call interactive and mostly unrehearsed. When Paula told the audience, "I have a surprise for one of you," one woman called out: "Is it Bobby?"

Raucous laughter ensued, of course. Mama took the opportunity to boast about how Bobby was one of People magazine's 50 Most Eligible Bachelors in 2006, and Bobby was an awfully good sport about the whole thing.

"I think it's so important that we laugh," Paula said, in a rare serious moment. "Laughter is like one of the best medicines. My God has a sense of humor; I know that."

Her fans obviously didn't mind Paula's occasional, mild ribaldries. They ate them up, even if they weren't among the eight lucky audience members who got to eat the meal she prepared onstage in a kitchen.

Actually, Paula didn't so much cook the meal as supervise it. Her chef de cuisine: Fort Worth restaurateur Tim Love (Lonesome Dove, Duce, Love Shack), who recently appeared on Paula's Party and showed up to surprise her.

"It's the Drinking Chef!" Paula squealed, referring to Tim's custom of starting his dinner shifts with a 5 p.m. shot of Tuaca.

Tim amazed Paula with his skill at juggling raw eggs ("You got three kids, you got to entertain them somehow"). He brought along wife Emilie, son Tannahill (a.k.a. "T"), and twin daughters Anna and Ella, all of whom came onstage to meet Paula.

The presence of the Love kids gave Paula the opening to announce that she had begun working two weeks ago on a children's cookbook, no doubt inspired by her adored year-old grandson, Jack.

She's also doing a cookware line in stainless steel and copper. "And it comes pre-buttered!" gibed Jim "Jimbo" Bohannon, the Westwood One radio host who served as Paula's master of ceremonies.

Along with Paula's kitchen assistant, Rebecca, Tim cooked the onstage meal of Smithfield pork chops ? Smithfield Foods being the primary sponsor of Paula's tour. Sides were fresh collard greens, which Tim and Paula cut in a chiffonade before cooking (she had an earthy description for the sulfurous smell), plus a butter-rich dish of macaroni and cheese.

"I find it hard to believe you're adding butter," Tim told Paula, deadpan.

"Oh, it's Saturday," Paula said. "Throw on the butter!" And the evaporated milk, and the cheese, and the sour cream.

Paula's surprise turned out to be her version of the old TV show Queen for a Day. She gave audience member Mary Wester more than $1,000 worth of goodies, plus "a diamond crown necklace from my jeweler, Michael Ross."

So a good time was had by all. And, in case you missed seeing Paula this time around, she hinted that she expects to be back on tour next year.

2 cups powered sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons cocoa, sifted
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
3 egg whites
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Stir together sugar, cocoa, salt and flour. Add egg whites 1 at a time. Beat well, then stir in pecans. Batter will be very thin.

Drop by tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until cookies have begun to brown on bottom and appear set. Allow to sit for about 2 minutes undisturbed, then remove cookies to wire racks to cool. Store in airtight containers.

Makes 18 large cookies.

PER SERVING: Calories 110 (38% fat) Fat 5 g (Trace sat) No cholesterol Sodium 42 mg Fiber 1 g Carbohydrates 16 g Protein 2 g

SOURCE: Paula Deen's 2008 Calendar (Random House, $13)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Before the Food Network

...people learned to cook from the generations before them. My mother-in-law was making a cobbler this morning, and said that when she got married, she didn't really know how to cook, and she learned most everything from her mother-in-law. So the way she makes cobbler is the way her husband's mother made it.

Instead of lining the dish with a crust, she rolls out the pastry and cuts it into strips. Then lays three strips on the bottom, adds the fruit filling, and covers it with three more strips. Recently she started using pre-made crusts, frozen Mrs. Smith's, thawing it out and rolling it out, instead of starting from scratch. Anyway, this method makes for a thinner amount of crust on top and bottom, and makes the whole process a lot easier.

This is her finished product. When I went to get my camera, I heard her say to my husband, "What's she doing?" I had to laugh to myself. I know I told them about this blog but it's not something anybody in the family looks at regularly.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Fig & Feta Salad

My co-worker Jennifer studied nutrition in college and made this wonderful salad that I want to share. Check out her blog sometime

1 head of Romain lettuce
1/2 a medium Avocado
1 large fresh fig (or 3 dried)
1/4 C feta cheese
1/4 C toasted, sliced almonds
1/4 C dried cranberries
1 slice of prosciutto (sliced)

2 Tbs Raspberry Vinaigrette (TJ's)
1/2 of a Lime's juice
1 Tsp. x-virgin olive oil
pinch of fresh ground pepper/salt

Monday, August 06, 2007

Feasting on Asphalt 2

MMy favorite way of learning about food is tied in with travel, especially when it’s someplace local or easily accessible (as opposed to a place like Dubai that I’m not likely to ever visit). I enjoyed the first season of "Feasting on Asphalt," it gave us fans a glimpse of Alton Brown out in the field. Maybe it’s because I’ve been to New Orleans (I took the photo above when we drove down Bourbon Street), or maybe the crew of the show got into the groove of things, or maybe because it was just a darn good show, that I was blown away by the first episode of "Feasting on Asphalt 2." I found myself constantly smiling and intrigued by the places they went. I liked the celebrity aspect, when they went out to dinner and had to abandon their plan and set up tables on the street, because there were so many tourists and autograph hounds there. Since I was born and raised on the Left Coast, I’m intrigued by the South and its traditions. I still don’t like sweet tea, but like the fact that it’s such a regional thing. Anyway, I’m looking forward to the rest of the episodes. My ideal travel trip is having the opportunity to try local foods while travelling, but that often isn’t the case, either because we’re too tired to explore or we’re afraid of getting sick, etc.

Speaking of new episodes, I like the new episodes of "30 Minute Meals" that I’ve seen. I’m not that keen on the new kitchen, but like that there is even a change. I wonder how they film the show so it looks different, it’s "glossier" than previous seasons. And Rachael seems to have toned down a little. I missed her giggling and she seems to be more relaxed again.

Other new things…I’ve started a new blog. It’s called "
Everyday Texan" and focused more on Texas chow and the things I encounter here.