Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tortellini Soup and Parmesan Crisps

Believe me this is a real treat, psst come a little closer. The Parmesan Crisps, well if you're nuts over Parmesan cheese like me, these rock. Make them when no one is around so you don't have to share, no really, you'll see. We're going to make the soup first.
You might want to call this "Soup Making for Dummies", but this is a wonderful tasty soup that is so simple and might I suggest a great meal for the night before Thanksgiving. You know, when you're pulling your hair out trying to get everything done and people are slamming you wanting dinner now and you don't even have time to run out and pick up fast food.

Ok, are you ready, don't blink or you'll miss this. Heat 8 cups of chicken broth to a rolling boil, generously sprinkle black pepper to taste into the broth, lower heat to medium, add two 9 ounce packages of your favorite tortellini to the pot, stir and simmer for about 7 minutes. Ladle up the soup and garnish with sliced green onions. It doesn't get simpler than this and your satisfied significant other and munchkins will sigh and declare their unwavering devotion to you - Really!
Now for the grand finale!

Grate 1 cup of Parmigiana-Reggiano or Parmesan (DO NOT USE GRATED PARM N A JAR - OR DISASTER WILL ENSUE). Place a sheet of parchment or silicone baking sheet over a cookie sheet (do not use foil - disaster) and place parm on sheet a tablespoon at a time. Flatten parm piles with back of spoon as shown.

Bake at 400 degrees for 3 to 5 minutes - watch them carefully. Let the pan cool for a minute or two and very gently use a spatula and remove. Oh man, these are so light and lacy and crispy and the most awesome accompaniment to any soup.

Indulge and Enjoy - you've earned it!


Monday, November 24, 2008

Thanksgiving on the Fly

Well, I was trying to post this first thing this morning, but my computer got infected with a virus and it took the IT guy all day to get me back up and working. I'm so glad to have my computer running normally again.

We're heading to New Orleans Wednesday to spend Thanksgiving with family. This is our first time back for Thanksgiving since we moved to Tennessee. We are looking forward to seeing everyone, but it's hard for me not to cook. Thanksgiving and Christmas has always been at our house. I had to make a little Thanksgiving meal so we could at least honor one of our traditions. After grace and before we eat we all take turns saying what we are thankful for.

I have to apologize that I do not have photos of all of the finished dishes. It got a little hectic and people were swarming and hovering wanting to eat. I forgot to to take pictures of everything, but trust me, this was a great Thanksgiving meal for four and it doesn't have to be Thanksgiving to enjoy.

Berry Popovers - Let's start with dessert!

Place on 16 ounce package of frozen berry melody (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries) in a pot, add 3/4 cup of sugar, 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 1/2 cup of grape juice.

Heat for about 15 minutes until liquid is syrupy. Remove from heat and let cool, then place in refrigerator for 30 to 45 minutes to chill. This will allow the cornstarch to do it's job and thicken the liquid.

Roll out a sheet of thawed puff pastry dough on a lightly floured surface.

Cut the dough in a criss-cross pattern as shown to make 4 triangles. Separate and carefully move each triangle to a large cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Brush the edges of the dough with beaten egg. This will help the dough adhere to itself and seal. Spoon two tablespoons of fruit in the middle of the dough trying to drain as much liquid as you can. Fold dough over and seal edges by pressing together. Brush the top of each popover with the beaten egg mixture so it will brown evenly.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes. I had a little to much liquid in my popovers so they didn't come out quite a pretty as I would have liked.

Cornbread Dressing/Stuffing -

We usually have oyster dressing for Thanksgiving and this my first attempt at making cornbread dressing. This recipe of very loosely taken from one I saw Tyler Florence make.

Slice two leeks and place in a large bowl filled with water. Gently agitate with your hands to wash away the dirt that is in between the layers of the leaves. Heat a large skillet with 2 tablespoons of butter and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Grab the leeks one handful at a time, gently shake off excess water and place in skillet to saute until soft. Discard dirty water. While leeks are sauteing, season with coarse sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme. The leeks have a very gentle onion flavor. Their flavor does not overpower this dish. Once the leeks are tender, remove skillet from heat and let cool for about 15 minutes in the skillet.

You'll need about 4 cups of crumbled cornbread. I made two packages of Jiffy cornbread and crumbled and placed in a large bowl.

Place the leeks in the bowl with the cornbread, season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Add 1 to 1-1/2 cups of chicken stock to moisten stuffing to desired consistency.

Place in a buttered casserole dish, Dot with butter and bake at 400 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.

It's golden brown, moist and tasty!

Now let's make some Turkey Gravy!

In a large pot over medium-high heat in 2 tablespoons of olive oil, saute for 5 to 7 minutes 1 smoked turkey drumstick or wing, 1 head of garlic cut in half at the equator, 2 stalks of celery chopped, 2 carrots peeled and chopped, 1 medium onion peeled and quartered, about eight parsley stems.

Ok, there's that smoked turkey drumstick! After sauteing for 5 to 7 minutes, remove to an oven safe pan and add 1-1/2 cups of chicken stock, 1 teaspoon of dried thyme and 1/2 teaspoon poultry seasoning. Place pan in a 400 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes.

See at how rich the broth/drippings look!

Really look close. Use a baster and get as much liquid out of the pan as you can and toss the veggies and the turkey drumstick.

I don't have a picture of the finished gravy, but melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat in a high sided, medium pot, add 1-1/2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour to the melted butter and stir continuously to make a light roux. Stir for about 7 to 9 minutes, slowly add stick, 1/2 cup at a time until all of the stock has been used. Thin out with a little warm water as necessary. Season with salt and pepper - great over steamy rice or creamy mashed potatoes.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Winner!

The homegirlz were absolutely no help in this whatsoever. I was using random.org and they were using heartstrings.com

Congratulations Gigi you are the winner! Email me with your mailing address and that cookbook will be on its way tomorrow morning.

Thank all of you for participating in my first giveaway!

Friday, November 21, 2008


Whoo-hoo the fist Smoky Mountain Cafe Giveaway! This is the prize, a fantastic Christmas cookbook. Christmas Kitchen shares wonderful recipes, memories of Christmas traditions past, holiday gift recipes and much, much more.
All you have to do to enter is in the comment section share your favorite holiday tradition, your least favorite tradition or a tradition you would like to start. Be sure your email address is listed too!
Entries will be accepted until 6:00 PM EST, Saturday, November 22, 2008. Winner will be selected using Random.org. and announced Sunday, November 23, 2008.
Good luck to all of you and again, thanks for stopping by and visiting the Cafe!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Real Cajun Dirty Rice

Here's one holiday side dish you can scratch off your "To do" list, it's Real Cajun Dirty Rice. Let's start cooking this savory dish that is family and friend pleasing no matter where you celebrate the holidays!

Heat a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat and pour in 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 2 tablespoons of butter.

Drop 1/4 lb. of finely chopped chicken gizzards and 1/4 lb. of finely chopped chicken livers into the pot and cook them, turning occasionally until they are evenly brown, about 5 minutes. You will wind up with extra liquid in the pot from the gizzards and liver.

As soon as the livers aren't red or pink anymore, add 1/2 lb. lean ground beef and 1/4 lb. ground pork sausage (recommend regular breakfast sausage) and cook them into the mix for about 4 minutes or so until no more pink is evident. Then add 1 whole onion finely chopped to the pan and sauté them, stirring occasionally for a few more minutes until they just start to wilt.

Fold 2 ribs of celery finely chopped, 1 green bell pepper finely chopped 4 cloves of minced garlic. Cook everything together for another 5 minutes, stirring, this time continuously.

Now pour in 2 cups of white rice to the pot of ingredients and stir the entire mixture well to combine.

Once the rice is in, pour in 4 cups of chicken stock. Season the pot with salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Now bring the stock to a full boil. Once a full boil is achieved, immediately cover the pot tightly and reduce the heat to low, just enough to keep the mixture simmering. It will take about 20 minutes or so for the rice to fully cook.

When the rice is cooked (and you can test a few grains before you take the pot off the stove), move your the pot from the heat to a cool burner. Fluff the rice, give it a quick, gentle stir to uniformly combine everything for the last time, and then cover it again for 10 more minutes to give all the flavors time to combine a little more.
Where else can you find a full-bodied and flavored rice like this?

If you can still move after eating all of that rice, Margie from Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet tagged me to say something about the last 10 people who commented on my blog. I can't express how grateful and blessed I am to have all of you visit and leave comments. I started this blog almost a year ago because cooking is about the only thing that I'm good at and I'm learning how to use my camera. If you're not one of the 10, please know I take every comment to heart and am honored you stop by and visit.

The 10 of you are:

Tavolini has a unique blog sharing adventures exploring Atlanta with his wife and some truly wonderful recipes.

Maria shares some fabulous recipes that blow me away since not too many newlyweds are that adventurous in the kitchen. She's so generous with her time in taking care of her niece to help her sister.

Debbie and I could be kindred souls since we are both coffee addicts. I can picture Debbie and I hanging, picking apart apple recipes out sipping our way through a pot of really good coffee.

Gigi I have not met Gigi, but I feel like she's a dear friend. She's shares her life with her readers. We've met her sweetheart, Harry and witnessed his triumphs and watched her adorable grand children grow up before our eyes. I'm secretly keeping my fingers crossed that one day I'll win a bag of Georgia pecans!

April has the sweetest blog, no really and literally, she does. She may just find me on her front door step with a big glass of milk looking for dessert! I may have to trade a casserole or something and that would be cool!

Aggie has some wonderful and easy recipes (I've tried a few) and they are good. She hails from Florida and has two cute children. I am jealous that they eat so well and mine want potato chips for dinner.

Bridgett prepares some of the most amazing dishes and they all look picture perfect. She calms the old Italian woman in me screaming to get out. I drool over her pictures have had to replace 3 keyboards...thanks Bridgett!

Bon apetit to all of you and thanks for coming back! I've learned so much from every single one of you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chicken Spaghetti

The best part of chicken spaghetti is...leftovers!!!! I loosely took this recipe from my River Roads Cookbook. I was making this while Kaitlin was making Parmesan Twists and I had to make something worthy of her twists.
River Roads was initially printed in 1959, so many of the recipes call for "bacon grease" or "lard". The quantities, well, the norm is 12 to 14 people. There's even a section in there which has now become tradition in later editions, "How Men Cook". The biggest kicker is how each recipe is credited and recipes are stilled credited the same way in this century, I guess it's Southern tradition. The recipes by women are not credited Jane Doe, but Mrs. John Doe or Mrs. Joe Public. I've heard rumblings that the Junior League of Baton Rouge may change this tradition and include the woman's name and not the husband's name but it will be a hard fought battle.
Chicken Spaghetti -
1 lb. of No. 4 spaghetti, cooked and drained.
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 onion chopped
1/2 green bell pepper chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
3 scallions chopped
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley chopped
1 14 ounce can tomato sauce
1 can Rotel Tomatoes
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1-1/2 cups grated Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
Boil the chicken in seasoned water (salt, bay leaves, thyme, garlic, cayenne) for about 10 minutes. Remove chicken from water to cool and save broth. Shred chicken using 2 forks pulling in opposite directions. Set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil is heated, add the onions and bell peppers. Let the veggies saute for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the garlic, scallions and parsley and saute for another 3 minutes. Add the tomato sauce, Rotel tomatoes and one cup of chicken broth. Stir to combine and reduce heat and let simmer for 10 minutes. Add chicken and simmer for 30 minutes.
While sauce is simmering, cook spaghetti and grease a 9x13 casserole dish with one tablespoon of butter.
Place the cooked and drained spaghetti in the casserole dish, sprinkle the cheddar cheese over the spaghetti. Pour the chicken and sauce over the spaghetti and top with Parmigiana-Reggiano and bake for 30 minutes. Then place dish under the broiler for 2 minutes so the top will get crunchy.
Mama Mia this smells so good while it's baking, people will start hovering in the kitchen wanting to know how much longer until dinner and then they will moan and whine that they can't wait 20 more minutes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Parmesan Twists

This is Kaitlin's specialty, Parmesan Twists. We are all very lucky that she's sharing this recipe of hers. I am real lucky she even lets me eat one of these (Ok, I did sneak and eat 2.). Yep, they are that good and worth every cent she pays for their protection. Note to self - cutoff Kaitlin's allowance.

Thaw out a sheet of puff pastry dough. Keep moist paper towels or cheese cloth on the dough while it thaws so it won't dry out. Give the pastry sheet a little roll with a rolling pin and using a pastry cutter or a pizza cutter, cut the dough into 1/2 inch thick strips.

Run each strip through and egg wash (beat one egg with a splash of water).

Then run the strip through a bowl of freshly grated Parmigiana-Reggiano cheese. Are you feeling the love?

Twist the strip and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Bake in a pre-heated 400 degree oven until golden brown, about 10 minutes. These treats are so light, buttery and flaky...what' not to love.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Zea's Ribs

One of my favorite neighborhood restaurants from New Orleans is Zea's Rotisserie & Grill
I miss their wood fired trout topped with lump crabmeat, I miss their corn grits and I miss their Thai baby back ribs.
When we visit during Thanksgiving, you can bet the farm that I'll be there Friday evening with A.J. sitting right next to me sipping on one of their signature micro brews. The homegirlz will be there too because they will not pass up sesame chicken on a stick appetizers.
A.J.'s brother and sister-in-law brought us a bottle of Zea's Thai Rib Sauce. I was drooling when I saw it and could not wait to get some ribs cooking. This sauce can be purchased online at the link above. I am not paid by Zea's, just a fan. Anyway, back to the sauce. This Thai sauce has a deep rich aged flavor with a little bit of heat going on in the background. It's savory just plain good!

Cut one slab of baby back pork ribs into slabs of three ribs. The ribs will still cook slowly and evenly which will add a deeper flavor to the ribs. Generously season the ribs with salt, black pepper and garlic powder. Bake the ribs in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes, turn and cook for another 30 minutes. Baste every 15 minutes and continue baking until done.

If only the weather would have cooperated and we could have grilled these babies outdoors. Man oh man! Sakes a live! It doesn't get much better than this!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Fleur Di Lis Pasta

I have been exploring and testing for over a month on what to make with my homemade pumpkin puree. The test kitchen has been buzzing with activity. We came up with this decadent pasta recipe. Pumpkins are plentiful during the fall months and are sometimes forgotten after the thrill of the colors have faded and the last trick or treater has knocked on your door. This recipe uses pumpkin purée to create an interesting pasta dish. You can purchase canned pumpkin or make your own fresh purée by clicking here.

Fleur Di Lis Pasta -

Cook 1 lb. of penne pasta until al dente.

In a large skillet over medium high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat. Sauté 1 onion chopped, 1 roasted red bell pepper diced and 1 tablespoon minced garlic for about 5 minutes.

Add 3/4 cup of pumpkin puree and 1/2 cup shredded pecorino romano cheese to skillet.

Stir to combine and let simmer for about a minute.

Add 2 cups of heavy cream and bring to a slow simmer. Simmer until reduced and slightly thickened. Season with 1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes and sea salt to taste.

Add cooked and drained penne to the skillet and blend with sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley. If you love pumpkin and pasta, you've finally come home. If you don't, you've finally come home.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bourbon Street Steak and a Tag

How do you give a ho-hum Wednesday night meal a little pop? I asked my friend Jack and this is what he told me to do...
Bourbon Street Steak -

Start off with flat iron steaks. The homegirlz had friends over so I used two flat iron steaks. These steaks are affordable, tender, lean and have a great flavor.

Since I had two steaks I needed two Jacks. Each little bottle equals 1/4 cup liquid. In a bowl whisk together, 1/2 cup Jack Daniels, 1/2 cup teriyaki sauce, 1 tablespoon minced garlic, 1 tablespoons grill seasoning, 2 chopped scallions and 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.

Pour mixture over steaks and let them marinate for 1 hour oat room temperature (30 minutes each side).

Coat your grill pan with olive oil and pre-heat over medium high heat.

Place the steaks on your screaming hot grill pan and drizzle 2 ladles of marinade over the steaks and let them cook for about 5 minutes.

Flip the steaks and ladle the remaining marinade over them and let the steaks cook until desired doneness. You can't know the beauty of this until you make this in your own kitchen.

Plate, slice and serve.

What kind of side would work with Bourbon Street Steak? Fleur de Lis Pasta of course. I'll show you that tomorrow!

Susan of Yum Ninja tagged me to share 7 random facts about myself. Susan is an amazing baker and she's 13 years old. Give Susan a visit, she has some awesome recipes. The rules are, you have to provide the link of the person who tagged you, and you have to tag 7 others to do the same.

On with the facts!

I am an obsessive cleaner.
I love a good Italian table wine.
My favorite color is red.
I am afraid of clowns.
I like to eat outside.
I really enjoy sitting outside in the evenings, when the weather is warm and listen ti The Standards on Sirrius radio.
Sitting on my front porch in a rocking chair reading the paper and having a cup of coffee is a luxury.

I tag...

Gigi from Afterthoughts
Reeni from Cinnamon Spice and Everything Nice
Michele from Life, Lightly Salted
Debbie from Mocha Me
Margie from Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet
Guny from Tired N Retired
Duckie from A Duck in Her Pond

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Basted Chicken

I just looked at the calendar and realized Thanksgiving is ONLY two weeks away. I will have one or two recipes to share before hand. We are going to New Orleans for Thanksgiving and I'm hoping to have some pictures and recipes to share upon our return. The thing is, I can't believe the holidays are knocking on the door. I love this time of year with all of the planning, excitement, secrets...it's so worth all of it!
Anyway, I caught a really good sale on boneless, skinless chicken breasts at the grocery the other day. Who can turn down $1,99 per pound? Not me, I stocked up!
I found this basting sauce in my beloved River Roads Cook Book; it's so simple and so full of flavor, you have to give it a whirl too.
Basted Chicken -

My brother-in-law and sister-in-law brought us a "care" package when they visited. I seasoned the chicken with Tiger Dust.

Rinse chicken with cool water and blot dry with paper towels. The Tiger Dust is good, but not a must, season your chicken on both sides with your favorite seasonings or use salt, pepper, and a touch of cayenne.

In a small bowl whisk together 1/4 cup vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest and 1 tablespoon minced garlic.

Bake chicken in a pre-heated 425 degree oven for 30 - 35 minutes. At this point generously baste the chicken with the sauce and bake for 10 more minutes. Turn chicken, generously baste the other side and bake for another ten minutes.

Serve with Au Gratin potatoes and don't get stressed out about the holidays!