Sunday, August 31, 2008

I Can't Forget

Please keep the people from the Gulf Coast Region in your prayers. Thanks!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Garlic Flavored Spaghetti Bowls

There are A LOT of cooking blogs out there in the blogosphere! I visit a all of them everyday. Just kidding, I think you knew that. I visit a few piratically everyday and even visit a few that are photography or humor related. It is amazing how many talented people are blogging and I feel privileged to have made friends with some truly wonderful people. The cooking blogs are pure torture though...all of the dishes I see everyday have me drooling over my computer screen. My co-workers think I have a salivary gland problem and chipped in and bought me a bib. I see so many recipes that I want to try and sometimes I even get to do that provided that A.J. and the homegirlz are receptive. Jenny at Picky Palate created this dish and I decided to try it. Jenny, I hope you don't mind that I changed it just a tad, but you can click the link for the original recipe This fabulous recipe got a two thumbs up from my crew.

In a small pot of low heat, add 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil and one peeled and crushed garlic clove. I smashed the clove a little too hard that's why it's in 2 pieces. The garlic will infuse the oil with a wonderful garlic flavor in about 10 to 15 minutes.

While the oil is getting flavored, open up one package of refrigerated pie crust (it will contain 2 rolls of dough) and roll out. Use a cup or bowl approximately 3-inches in diameter and cut dough circles with a knife or pastry cutter. Use both pieces of dough, you will need 12 circles.

Brush both sides of your circles with the garlic infused olive oil.

Place the circles in a muffin pan, prick the bottoms of the bowls with a fork so they won't bubble up while baking and bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for 15 to 18 minutes.

Remove the bowls from the muffin pan and allow to cool.

While the bowls are baking, cook 1 lb. of angel hair pasta to al-dente and drain. Add the remainder of the garlic flavored olive oil to a skillet and and add 1 lb. of lean ground beef to skillet, season with salt and pepper and brown. Once the meat is completely brown drain off any excess fat and add approximately 16 ounces of a prepared spaghetti sauce or your favorite homemade sauce to the meat. I just happened to have some sauce in the freezer that I thawed and combined with the meat.

Place a small amount of past to the bowls, spoon the meat sauce over the past and top with freshly grated Parmigiana-Reggiano.

Thanks Jenny, our Wednesday night was definitely not boring!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Savory Chicken Stir Fry with Glass Noodles

We spent the weekend at the soccer field watching our tween play her season opener jamboree. I didn't cook all weekend and when I got home from work yesterday afternoon, the homegirlz gave me a MapQuest to the kitchen and I had to re-learn how to use that vittle fixin' thing with the knobs and the big black glass screen on the front.

This chicken dish is a work-in-progress and the first time I've cooked glass noodles. The real challenge with the glass noodles is there are no directions on the package on how to cook the darn things. If any of you know, I would welcome your advice! Also, once I played with the sauce and the veggies, I always think of things I could have shitake mushrooms, broccoli, water chestnuts...all things the homegirlz would turn their noses up at. I"ll add them anyway next time.

Savory Chicken Stir-Fry with Glass Noodles -

Cut 3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts into 1-inch cubes.

In a medium bowl, combine 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 1-1/2 tablespoons dark soy sauce (Tamari), and 1-1/2 tablespoons corn starch. Whisk all ingredients together and add cut up chicken. Coat the cubed chicken with the sauce and set aside for about 20 minutes.

In another bowl combine 1/2 cup ketchup, 1/4 cup chicken stock, 1 tablespoon chili garlic sauce (or 1 teaspoon of garlic juice from a jar of minced garlic and 1/2 teaspoon cayenne), 2 teaspoons sugar. Whisk together and set aside.

Heat a skillet or wok over medium-high heat, add 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Once oil is heated, add 1 teaspoon powdered ginger or 2 teaspoons grated ginger, 2 teaspoons minced garlic 2 scallions finely chopped. Cook for about 30 seconds and then add 1 thinly sliced red bell pepper and 1/2 yellow onion thinly sliced.

Add chicken and cook until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Add the reserved sauce to the pan and make sure you coat everything in the pan with the sauce. Stir in 1 teaspoon sesame oil.

Ok, now for the glass noodles or bean threads - side note you can serve your chicken over lo-mein or rice.

Pour about 16 ounces of chicken stock into a large pot and bring to a low boil.

Place noodles in the warm chicken stock, cover, reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 7 minutes. The noodles absorb the chicken stock, so I added about 1/2 cup more chicken stock and turned the noodle nests over and cooked for another three minutes.

Talk about delicious! The homegirlz cleaned their plates! I couldn't keep the tween out of the pot.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Have a Great Weekend!

A friend sent this to me and I thought you might think it was entertaining too! Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

French Market Pie

This is an oldie but a goodie that I've had for years. I had just gotten engaged and a lady that I worked with at the time, gave this to me on a simple sheet of yellow legal paper. She told me to make this for my husband-to-be. I didn't. I found the yellow paper years later and said, "Hmmm, think I'll give it a try." and WOAH, why did I wait so long?! This pie is so light and heavenly, you must make it tonight!

French Market Pie
1/3 cup melted butter
1 ½ cups packed light brown sugar
3 eggs
1/3 cup whipping cream
½ teaspoon vanilla (for a neat twist if you're out of vanilla, try almond extract)
9-inch pie shell, unbaked
Whipped cream and nutmeg for garnish

Cream butter and sugar together for 1 minute. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat until fluffy, 1-2 minutes. Add cream and vanilla. Beat a few minutes.

Pour mixture in unbaked pie shell. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.

Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream and grated nutmeg. Ok, just stick a fork into the thing...I know you've earned it!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Corn & Crab Soup

Is anyone besides me looking forward to fall? The cool crisp air, the fiery colors, the deep blue sky...fall is my favorite time of year. I anticipation of cooler weather, I was in the mood to make soup; I love to make soup. We're going to step outside of the box just a little which means we're not cooking chicken or vegetable soup. I have a yen for a Cajun soup. Ok, who's ready to learn to cook Cajun?

Crab and Corn Soup -

First you make a a roux - ¾ cup all purpose flour, ¼ cup canola oil, ¼ stick salted butter. Combine a frying pan over medium-high heat.
Continuously whisk/stir the mixture until it turns a shiny medium brown (the color of peanut butter). Smell the wonderful aroma, smells kind of nutty. Just be careful not let it burn! If necessary, add more flour to the pan as needed to stiffen up the mix. You're a Cajun; you just made the roux! Take it off the burner and set aside and let it rest for a few minutes to cool down.

Use a sharp knife, slice 8 ears of fresh corn (do not use canned or frozen corn) corn kernels off the cob. . .hang on to the cobs! A special thanks to my husband, he's our hand model for the corn portion of this recipe.
To get this soup to turn out rich and creamy, go back and scrape each corncob with a tablespoon to extract the residual “corn milk.” Then set both the kernels and the “milk” aside for a while in a bowl.

Start by placing a large non-stick Dutch oven on the stove and sautéing 1 medium onion finely chopped, 1 green pepper finely chopped, 4 cloves of minced garlic, 1 rib of celery finely chopped, and 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley in 1/4 cup oil. Aren't the colors gorgeous?

When when the veggies are fully wilted and softened, pour in 1 box (32 oz.) low-sodium chicken stock and stir in 1 (16 oz.) can of stewed tomatoes and the corn.

Bring the contents of the pot up to a “slow bubble.”
At this point that whisk in the roux and let the soup slightly thicken over a low heat (this should take only about 15 to 20 minutes).

Occasionally stir the pot as the roux incorporates to keep it from settling to the bottom and scorching. When the soup reaches the consistency you like, drop in the containers (8 or 16 ozs. each - you need 2 lbs.) of crab meat (you can use claw meat or a combination of both).
Add 1 teaspoon granulated or 1 capful of liquid crab boil (I recommend Zatarain's), 1/2 tablespoon, 1/2 tablespoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper OR
1-1/2 tablespoons Zatarains' Creole Seasoning, and 1/2 teaspoon hot sauce.

With the heat still on low, cover the pot and simmer the soup gently for about another 20 minutes. When you’re ready to eat, quickly stir in 1/4 cup of Half-N-Half to bring all the flavors together.

Serve with some hot buttered French bread because this is pure dining pleasure! Now we're ready for fall.

Note: Be careful not to over-season the soup. The best way to do this is to taste the cooking mixture before adding the cayenne, you break this up by adding a little at a time.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Going Green - Grocery Bags Part Deaux

I've been trying to be a good steward of our environment. No, I don't wear Greenpeace T-shirts and chain myself to businesses and get arrested. Yeah, I know...I'm boring. There was a big thing here in Knoxville yesterday wherein the Greenpeace people who were probably from parts far from here did that to a Kimberly Clark office. I mean c'mon, they were harassing the people who make toilet paper. The stuff disintegrates as soon as it gets wet. Anyway, I don't really recycle in the "recycle" sense of the word. However, I do re-use leftovers and have been getting better about using my re-usable grocery bags instead of forgetting them in the car.

There is a little snag in using these "green" bags if you're in a hurry as we all are these days and you try to use the self-service checkout at the grocery. If you've ever done the self-service thing, you know the platform with the bags where you place your scanned groceries is VERY weight sensitive. I placed my empty green bags on the platform and the little the machine went nuts. The poor woman that oversees these machine had to keep resetting my machine all the while the people in line behind me were getting frustrated. The store clerk told me the machines were incapable of being balanced for both the regular plastic bags and the reusable bags. What a conundrum or oxy-moron. Hmm, never thought I could use both those words in the same sentence.

My conclusion is this makes as much sense as inflating your tires to save on fuel. I will keep trying to remember to use my green bags and by the way, I prefer the bags I purchased at Kroger. Theirs have a little zipper compartment in them. I don't know what it is for, maybe for a pack of gum or a candy's pretty cool.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Happy Blackberry Cobbler

In this part of the country, folks take their cobbler very seriously. You can find cobblers of every kind at local restaurants, church get togethers and in the bakery department at the local grocery stores. Where I come from, we've heard of cobbler but it's not a mainstay. Sp when in first attempt at cobbler. A friend of mine at work gave me a gallon bag of these beautiful blackberries. I was going to attempt a blackberry sorbet but my husband got into the blackberries and gave a three-quarters of the blackberries to various neighbors. The homegirlz were severely reprimanded for leaving him unsupervised when I wasn't home (just kidding).

Happy Blackberry Cobbler -

Look at these beauties! This is approximately 2-1/2 cups of washed juicy, tart blackberries.

I was told these berries were very tart, so I got a little heavy with the sugar. Normally I think 2 cups of sugar would be enough, but here I used 2-1/2 cups of sugar. Add 2 tablespoons of corn starch.

Ok, this is the "happy" part. I added 2 tablespoons of Grand Marinier.

Blend everything together and let them hang out for about 30 minutes so they can mingle.

Take a ready made pie crust and line an 8" x 8" oven safe dish.

Pour in those very happy blackberries.

Cover with the remaining pie crust, fold over excess and press to the bottom pie crust to seal. Cut top crust to vent. Ok, I know this isn't very pretty, I'm not artsy...just an everyday spastic person. I did try. I used a pastry cutter...not very well.

Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes. Let the cobbler cool. Use a VERY large spoon...ok, a shovel and serve with a side of ice cream (I've heard this is mandatory).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ranch Dressing

I have to give credit for this idea to Prudy at Prudence Pennywise. She made a fabulous looking Ranch dressing last week that had my mouth watering. My tween goes through Ranch dressing as fast as she goes through ice cream (which is a blur). Ranch dressing has gotten pretty pricey and preparing the dressing at home takes very little time, it's more economical and I am able to control the fat content; which believe it or not and according to Prudy is much less than the bottled dressings. I gave the dressing a try and kind of changed it up just a bit. The dressing came out unbelievably good; my tween said throw the bottle stuff away; this is what I want. She then proceeded to ask if we could hide the remaining dressing in the fridge where her dad couldn't find it.

Ranch Dressing -

Smash two cloves of garlic, add 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt and make a paste by using the back of a chef's knife.

In a medium bowl combine garlic paste, 1 cup of mayo, 1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk, a splash of white wine, a splash apple cider vinegar (or you can use 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar), 2 tablespoons minced flat leaf parsley, 1 tablespoons finely chopped shallots, 1 tablespoon chopped chives, 1 teaspoon dried dill, 1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder and black pepper to taste.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate and the slather all over anything you like to slather Ranch dressing on....don't say anything...but I hid what was left from my tween and my husband.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sweet Sixteen

Whoo-Hoo #16!!! (Click on the picture to enlarge).
This is the time of year when the Smoky Mountain Cafe kind of slows down a bit. I'm not burnt out or anything, quite the's soccer season. Both of the homegirlz play and this season will be a bit more challenging. My oldest is in high school and my baby is in middle school so they are playing on different teams for the very first time. Every game is no closer than 30 minutes from our house. I work about 30 minutes from our house and on Tuesdays and Thursdays I will be making mad dashes from my office to my house and off to games in different directions. To places I never been to (for high school) and I am famous for getting lost in Knoxville.

I have to be honest, I dread this time of year. I'm just not a ball park Mom. I would rather go home and veg out, cook and veg out some more. I'm fine once I get to the ball park and I have to admit that I am especially proud of my Freshman. The high schools in the surrounding area had a Jamboree this past Saturday. Our team had two games and my girl started the in both games and played the entire time.

My baby is a "seasoned" Middle School player and a starter. So don't envy me in trying to figure out how I'll divide up watching their games.

Just wanted to let you know that if my posts start dwindling down a bit, evil soccer is the reason until mid-November.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Crispy Potatoes

You have to make these potatoes. You'll see by the pictures that it doesn't look like I cooked 2 lbs. of potatoes. The truth of the matter is the homegirlz were snatching and scarfing as fast as I cook could them. Their poor father, well he didn't get any and the girlz showed no remorse. So, when you make these, do it alone.

Crispy Potatoes -

Place 2 lbs. of peeled and quartered Yukon Gold potatoes, 1 cup white wine, 3 cups of water, 1 fresh thyme sprig, 1 bay leaf and coarse sea salt to taste in a 8 quart stock pot. Turn to high heat, and allow the potatoes to cook until just tender ( about 20 - 25 minutes).

Remove potatoes from water, allow to cool, and then cut into thin slices. Add 2 tablespoons of butter to a sauté pan on medium-high heat. Add potatoes and cook until outside is browned and crispy.

Season with salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Mmmmmm, these are so crispy and flavorful, try them tonight with Tangerine Teriyaki Pork.Chops!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Mango Teriyaki Pork Chops

I really do like pork chops and I am amazed by the comments I've read on this blog when I put up a pork chop recipe that many of you do not regularly throw chops into your rotation. I guess I'm the odd one out. Chops are pretty affordable and also pretty lean and I'm going to try and share my love of pork with you. One note here, I believe this will work with pork tenderloin and with baby back ribs.

Mango Teriyaki Pork Chops -

Rinse 4 to 5 center cut, boneless pork chops with cold water and pat dry with paper towels and set aside.

In a shallow pan, combine 1 cup of mango juice or mango nectar juice and 1 teaspoon ground ginger.

Add 3/4 cup teriyaki sauce. Pour marinade mixture over chops.
Cover with plastic wrap and let marinate in the refrigerator for 1 to 3 hours.

Set up grill for indirect cooking over medium heat (no heat source directly under ribs). Remove chops from refrigerator and allow chops to come up to room temperature (about 30 minutes). Remove chops from marinade mixture, but do not discard marinade. Place pork chops on the grill. Cover grill. Rotate and flip chops around rack every 10 minutes.

While chops are cooking, make sauce by first adding chop marinade to a saucepan. Bring to a boil for 5 minutes over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and add 1 cup 1 cup of BBQ sauce (recommended K.C. Masterpiece Original). Simmer 10 minutes and remove from heat.

About 20 minutes before chops are done, generously brush with sauce. Cover and cook 10 minutes. Turn chops and brush on more sauce and repeat. Cook an additional 10 minutes. Serve hot with sauce on the side.

INDOOR: Prepare and marinate chops as described above. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove chops from marinade, reserving marinade, and place on a rack in a shallow roasting pan. Tightly cover with foil. Bake preheated oven for 35 minutes. While chops are baking, make sauce. Remove chops from oven and carefully drain fat from roasting pan. Continue baking ribs, uncovered for 20 minutes more or until tender, turning and brushing occasionally with sauce.

When I went outside to brush the chops with the sauce, our dog Scout was foaming at the mouth. She seriously was. I spooned a little of the sauce over her food and she went absolutely nuts! That all the testimony I need!

Serve and admit that your really do love pork.