Friday, January 30, 2009

Onion Rings with a Burger on the Side

How long has it been since you've made onion rings? It's sad that onion rings are are so forgotten. You don't have to get crazy with the batter to make them really good; keep it simple, I bet onions rings would love to be an attraction at your Super Bowl party.

A little note here - one fairly large onion goes a long way.

Cut both ends off the onion, peel the paper skin from it and cut slices as thick or as thin as you like them. We like them pretty thin. Take each slice and gently push the center of the onion slice and separate your rings. Coat them in an egg wash containing 1 teaspoon of yellow mustard (mustard puts a little zip in their do-da) and dredge them in a mixture of 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup corn meal (this makes them crunchy), salt and cayenne to taste.

Fry them up in peanut or canola oil until they turn golden brown. Only flip them once and try not to move them around too much so the coating doesn't fall off in the oil. Drain the rings on a platter lined with paper towels. Salt and pepper to taste as soon as they hit the platter.

A simple side to onion rings would be a big, thick, juicy burger. Believe it or not, but this is a fairly low fat burger.

I saw a Tyler Florence episode last week where he cooked burgers, I changed it a bit...
2lbs. of beef brisket freshly ground at the market. My husband mixed and shaped these burgers and he was amazed that there was not a trace of grease on his hands. Season the ground brisket with salt and pepper, that's it...they are pretty moist. Form into patties and cook them on the grill or in the oven. We melted pepper jack cheese on the patties.
We topped the beef with caramelized onions. Then we got crazy and sauteed sliced baby bella mushrooms in a few drops of extra virgin olive oil seasoned with dried thyme leaves and salt.
I made a dressing of 1 teaspoon of horseradish, 2 tablespoons of low fat mayonnaise, chopped a splash of white wine, chives and salt and pepper.
Have a great weekend and a fantastic Super Bowl Sunday!!!!
Here are a few more Super Bowl sides

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Roasted New Potatoes

Potatoes are my ultimate comfort food and new potatoes take it over the top. It's not often that I actually get to get creative much less cook new potatoes. Somehow my husband usually gets to the little sack of potatoes first and boils them in crab boil for a snack. Every time, he can't help it, so now I hide the little sack until I'm ready to cook.

Wash and drain the new potatoes.

Cover a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Cut the potatoes in half, season with sea salt, black pepper, 1 tablespoon of rosemary and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil to coat each potato.

Bake at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Look how crispy the outer layer is.

Remove from oven toss the steaming hot and crispy potatoes with 1/2 cup of grated pecorino romano cheese and freshly chopped parsley. The cheese will melt over the potatoes and you will completely forget how forlorn you are due to the icy, windy, wet weather outside of your door.
I promise!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

We All Scream for Ice Cream

Marjie from Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet made Praline Ice Cream a couple of weeks ago that had me drooling. Marjie had great pictures and instructions on how to attach the ice cream maker to a Kitchenaide stand mixer...she knew I had asked Santa for the ice cream attachment but sadly Santa didn't deliver. I told Marjie that my birthday and my anniversary weren't far behind and that I had my fingers crossed.

My wishing was not in vain, I received the ice cream attachment this past weekend. I could not wait to get started on my first batch of ice cream and had no idea what a process it is! Ice cream making is not for sissies and is well worth the wait.

The ice cream bowl for the Kitchaide stand mixer has to reside in the freezer for at leat 15 hours prior to making any ice cream. Marjie thanks for your instructions for hooking up the attachment.

French Vanilla Ice Cream - (adapted from Kitchenaide's instruction booklet)

2-1/2 cups Half-n-Half
1 cup of sugar
8 egg yolks
4 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
2-1/2 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt

Heat the Half-N-Half in a sauce pan over medium heat until it almost boils. Remove pan from heat and set aside. Combine egg yolks in sugar in bowl of mixer until smooth. Very gradually add Half-N-Half to egg/sugar mixture with mixer on "stir" and combine. Pour mixture into a large bowl, whisk in vanilla, cream and salt. Cover bowl and chill for at least 6 hours.

Pour mixture into ice cream bowl, turn mixer on stir and let it go for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, pour ice cream into an air tight container and place in the freezer for at least 2 hours.

Considering the process involved and considering I'm not the most patient person you will ever meet, this ice cream is worth it. This has to be the best I have ever had!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tangy Mustard Chicken

The idea of "mustard" chicken is making you make faces right. You're squinting your eyes, crinkling your nose, even sticking out your tongue and saying, "Ewwww". I know, because that's what I did when I first saw this recipe. I tried it anyway and it's a keeper. A little added bonus, you can make this using pork chops too!
My girls do not care for mustard at all, but they will hurt themselves on this chicken. Let's lower the shroud of mystery and see for yourself, I know you will be intrigued and will want to try this.
In a small bowl, place 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons of Creole or brown grainy mustard, 2 tablespoons minced garlic, a splash of white wine or chicken broth and 1 tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce.

Blend with a wire whisk.

Salt and pepper three or four boneless, skinless chicken breasts and slather mustard mixture on both sides of the chicken breasts.
Cook in a skillet in about 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat. Allow the first side to cook approximately seven minutes before turning. Cook until done.
The mustard forms a very tasty "crust" that you can feel good about because it is not bread.

Monday, January 26, 2009

King Cake

King cake is one of the earliest, edible signs that it’s Mardi Gras time. Whether iced or sugared, traditional or stuffed with any number of fillings, king cakes have become big business, in the weeks leading up to Fat Tuesday. They have also become a year-round commodity, sold and shipped to customers worldwide.

To many, it is near sacrilege to eat a slice before Twelfth Night, the feast of the Epiphany, also known as King’s Day – January 6. On that date, Christians commemorate the visit of the three wise men, or Magi, to Jesus’ manger in Bethlehem. The king cake originated in Europe as part of the religious celebration.

Inside was tucked a small object, usually a ring, a bean or later a pecan. The person who got the lucky slice became king or queen of the ball, and chose someone from the crowd as their partner. The two would reign as monarchs of the party, and would be responsible for hosting the next ball.

The custom has changed over the years, but the premise is the same. King cakes (now most often topped with purple, green and gold sugar to represent the colors of Mardi Gras) have become common sights in the workplace, at schools, parties – really anywhere 3 or more people are gathered this time of year. The beans, rings, porcelain dolls or pecans inside them were replaced by plastic baby dolls after World War II. Some say the baby was to represent the Christ child. Icing for king cakes came later, followed by all kinds of toppings and filling. Bakers’ creativity ran wild, and now you can get a king cake stuffed with nearly anything imaginable. You can also have it shipped worldwide, and ordering one is easier than ever, thanks to the internet.

Two Carnival organizations use the king cake to crown their royalty. The high society ball of the Twelfth Night Revelers includes the custom of hiding a gold bean inside a wooden version of a cake. Though the recipient is selected beforehand, the choice remains a mystery, since the queen does not know until she’s handed a “slice.”

Members of another group, the Phunny Phorty Phellows, enjoy king cakes on board the streetcar January 6, as they take to the streets to proclaim the arrival of the Carnival season. The man who selects the piece with the baby inside is proclaimed “the Boss.” The woman who does the same, is his queen. Everything old is new again in the world of king cakes. In recent years, French bakeries in the New Orleans area have begun selling cakes like the ones made in France: made from a brioche dough and containing an almond paste filling. It looks different but tastes wonderful.

Whatever the recipe, king cakes are a delicious piece of the past, and ever present sign of the season. Just remember the cardinal Carnival rule: you get the baby, you buy the next cake!


Laborde, Errol, Mardi Gras: A Celebration, New Orleans, Picayune Press, 1981Monaghan, Liz Scott, “Sugared Babies: How McKenzie’s Brought the Baby to King Cakes,” New Orleans Magazine, February 2003


1 box Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix, 16 ounces
1/2 cup granulated sugar for filling
1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon for filling
1/3 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

Preheat oven to 375°F.Cream the butter, sugar, and cinnamon together until soft enough to spread easily.Follow directions on the Pillsbury Hot Roll Mix package.

Turn one half of the dough onto a floured surface, and roll into a 2- foot x 1- foot rectangle. Spread half of the butter and filling mixture on top of the dough.

Taking a good thing a step farther, many bakeries now stuff their King Cakes with ingredients such as apple, peach, or cherry pie filling, cream cheese, or chopped pecans with cinnamon sugar. Use your creative imagination.

Beginning at the wide edge, roll the dough toward you into a long cigar shape approximately 2 inches in diameter. Do the same with the second half of the dough. Place dough roll seam side down on a well greased baking sheet, and curve each roll, pinching the ends together to make oval ring. Cover, and let rise in warm place for 20 minutes or until doubled in size. Bake at 375°F for 15 to 20 minutes or until a straw inserted into the dough comes out clean. Allow the cake to cool.


2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons water
1 cup granulated sugar, large crystals
3 or 4 drops purple food coloring
3 or 4 drops green food coloring
3 or 4 drops yellow food coloring

Combine sugar, lemon juice, and water mixing until smooth. Slowly add more water by the teaspoon until it spreads as easily as a thin icing. Place 1/3 cup sugar in each of three small jars with lids. Add three drops of food coloring in each one. Cover with lid, and shake until color is evenly distributed throughout the large sugar crystals. Add food coloring, drop by drop until the desired shade is achieved.Coat the top of the oval king cake with glaze. Immediately sprinkle the colored sugars in 2- to- 3 inch alternating rows of purple, green and gold. Cut and serve.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Things That Make Me Say....

It was time to go through my camera's memory card and clear a few photos off of it. I found quite a few pictures of food I had cooked and have not posted. Some of the dishes I don't even remember what they were.

I found a few random photos, I hope you don't mind me sharing with you.

First up is this house in Metairie, Louisiana. It is located on Ridgeway Drive near Lake Pontchartrain. The story goes that a doctor lives here. While the house was under construction, the doctor was having wild dreams at night. He would wake up write down his dreams and relay the dreams to his architect the next day. This house is the result of his wild dreams. I have more pictures of this house which incorporates just about every architectural style imaginable. I can't believe his wife did not divorce him during construction. What the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks.

The homegirlz like to shoot random pictures like this. They giggle when I find their handiwork and say things like what the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks! Shouldn't it be "You're weird"? What do they do in those BETA Club meetings anyway? Thank you Sevier County for learnin' my chirrens stuff....sheesh!

This is why my camera is usually with me. No this is not Photo Shopped. Can you believe this? I couldn't, that's why I snapped about five pictures. Dateline Sunday, January 4, 2009, 1:50 PM. This cemetery is two blocks from my house. I had a couple of errands to run and saw this abandoned coffin at the gate of the cemetery, next to an open grave. No flowers, no nothing. On my way to take my Mother to the airport the next morning, the coffin was still unmoved. By 1:00 PM Monday, January 5, 2009, still unburied. When I arrived home from work on January 5th around 4:00 PM, the coffin was finally buried. I have to say it, "What the H-E-Double Hockey Sticks!".

This award was given to me by the Blond Duck. She is my favorite writer. Stop by and visit her blog. you will be addicted to her fabulous stories!

Have a Wonderful Weekend!!!!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Spinach Madeleine

Have I ever told you how much I adore spinach? I adore spinach! There I've said it!

Spinach does not get a whole lot of attention at our house; my husband doesn't care for it at all. But since it's a new year and change is afoot, it was time to satisfy my yearning for my favorite veggie.

Spinach Madeleine, is adapted from River Roads Recipes I and tweaked by me. This gives spinach a whole other dimension. You have to try this, or, or, you life will be de-void of purpose. Not really, but you really have to try Spinach Madeleine.

Empty a bag (10 ounces, I think) of frozen spinach into a sauce pan and cover with beef, vegetable or chicken broth. Beef broth was used here. Season with salt and pepper. cover and bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Drain spinach and reserve 1/2 cup of liquid.

Melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour. Stir until blended and smooth. Cook off flour taste about 3 minutes, while continuously stirring. Add 1 shallot finely chopped and 1/2 of a de-seeded jalapeno finely chopped to roux. Cook about 3 more minutes. Slowly add the reserved liquid and stir constantly to avoid lumps. Add 1/2 cup of evaporated milk and keep stirring. Mixture will be very thick and dough-like. Then add 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg, 3/4 teaspoon celery salt, 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper and salt to taste, 1/2 cup grated Romano cheese and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Stir until cheese is melted, then add drained spinach.

Place spinach mixture into a buttered casserole dish. Dust with Italian bread crumbs and bake in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.
I slid this under the broiler for a few seconds to brown and crisp the bread crumbs.
I'll have to ask Duckie to write and "Ode to Spinach" for me!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tomato Basil Soup

We have been turning to soup a lot lately since we've been experiencing single digit temperatures. I found this recipe a while back at The Food Network Kitchens and thought the flavors would be intriguing and we were not disappointed. I did tweak it just a tad.

Try this one evening, it will warm up your tummy and put a big smile on your face. This soup is so velvety, it will surely bring joy to your taste buds!

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons flour
2 stalks of celery, diced
1 can diced tomatoes
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup of heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil, thinly sliced

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy pot over medium high heat. Add the onion and saute until softened. Sprinkle in the flour and stir to form a light roux. Pour in the can of tomatoes, the stock and the cream. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook until soup is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the basil.

Use and immersion blender, blend until smooth. Garnish with a dollop of low-fat sour cream and croutons. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Cajun Roasted Chickpeas

I was visiting a blog called First, Make a Roux and came upon this intriguing recipe. For those of you trying to eat a little more healthy, keep reading, I won't lead you astray today.

This recipe is easy, affordable, packed full of flavor and like I said it is healthy!

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Rinse and drain one can of chickpeas. Dry chickpeas thoroughly with paper towels.

Line a cookie sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray or line with parchment paper. Place chickpeas in a medium bowl and generous sprinkler with your favorite Cajun or Creole seasoning. Toss chickpeas in seasoning to evenly coat each pea. Arrange chick peas in an even layer on prepared cookie sheet and roast for 30-45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Chickpeas should be crisp, but not burnt.

Let cool, then serve while you are sipping your favorite cocktail.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Pecan Pie - Any way You Like It

My Dad enjoyed baking and eating pecan pie. His pecan pie received rave reviews from anyone who sampled his confection. The only problem was, my Dad would not give us his recipe. Well guess what I finessed the recipe from my Mom. Not really finessed...she left it at my house.

My husband loves my Dad's pecan pie. My Dad would bring a pecan pie to my house for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. A.J. collected the pie at the front door from my Dad like a bouncer collecting a cover charge at a nightclub. Just kidding.

Since my Dad died, my Mom has been making the pie and since my Mom has been with us the past three years for Thanksgiving and Christmas, she has brought the recipe with her to make at my house. The funny thing is, the recipe comes from the River Roads Recipes cookbook.

I've been toying around with pecan pie, since it doesn't go bad at our house. I'll give you the recipe straight from River Roads and some variations we have found to be very interesting and tasty!

Pecan Pie:

1 tablespoons butter (slightly soft)1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup corn syrup (light) - variation 1/2 cup corn syrup, 1/2 cup molasses
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecans halves
1/4 teaspoon salt


Cream butter and brown sugar, add corn syrup and eggs (one at a time). Mix until frothy. Fold in vanilla, salt and pecans. Pour into a 9-inch pie shell and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Start watching the pie after thirty minutes and check it every 10 minutes to make sure the pie does not bubble over the pie shell.


Pecan Pie Tarts

3 extra large eggs
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup corn syrup, dark or light
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1/8 teaspoon salt

1. Prepare using same methods as above. Create your own, or purchase packaged tart shells. Yield: 16 tarts.

Bourbon Pecan Pie Add one tablespoon bourbon whiskey to the filling before baking.

Chocolate Pecan Pie - After prebaking the pie or tart shells, sprinkle them with chocolate pieces. Then pour in pie filling.

Cream Cheese Pecan Pie - Soften eight ounces cream cheese. Mix with 1/4 cup powdered sugar and one egg or liquid-egg substitute. Spread over pie or tart shell, and pour in filling.

Almond Pie - Substitute sliced or slivered almonds for pecans. Use almond extract instead of vanilla.

Use some of those pecans and enjoy some pie!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Crawfish Etouffee

Today marks the first anniversary of Smoky Mountain Cafe. Talk about me being jazzed that you stop by and visit. I would like to thank those of you who comment from time to time and I am especially appreciative to those of you who comment on a regular basis. Your readership has been an inspiration and has kept me going. You are very talented chefs, cooks and bakers. You definitely keep the bar raised. I'm going to post links to some of my favorite recipes from 2008 starting with Breast of Chicken Orleans during the month to reminisce.

Also to celebrate, I'm going to show you how I make Crawfish Etouffee (Ay-too-fay). This is one dish my husband says I TOTALLY NAIL.

When we visited New Orleans in November for Thanksgiving, A.J. and I brought along our large ice chest. On Black Friday, when most people were trampling each other in the department stores, A.J. and I leisurely strolled up and down the aisles of one of our favorite grocery stores. We filled up that large ice chest and both commented, we need to buy a larger ice chest to use when we come down here.
We loaded up on these babies because this is the part of a Cajun's balanced diet. I have been lucky enough to find them in our local Walmart believe it or not. Sadly though they are Chinese crawfish tails and not Louisiana crawfish tails and there is a difference in taste.
I have adapted this recipe from one of my favorite chefs, John Folse.
The French word "etouffee" means to stew, smother or braise. This technique is found in dishes using shrimp, crab, crawfish and, in some cases, meat or game.

2 pounds crawfish tails
1/4 pound butter
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup celery, chopped
½ cup green bell pepper, chopped
½ cup red bell pepper, chopped
½ cup tomatoes, diced
2 tbsps garlic, diced
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1 cup flour
2 quarts crawfish stock or water
1 ounce sherry
1 cup green onions, chopped
½ cup parsley, chopped
salt and cayenne pepper to taste
Louisiana Gold Pepper Sauce
2 cups white rice, steamed

In a 2-gallon stock pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic and bay leaves. Sauté until vegetables are wilted, approximately 3-5 minutes. Aren't the colors amazing?
Add crawfish tails and tomato sauce and blend well into mixture. Using a wire whip, blend flour into the vegetable mixture to form a roux. Slowly add crawfish stock or water, a little at a time, until sauce consistency is achieved. Continue adding more stock as necessary to retain consistency. I used half chicken stock and half water and it came out fantastic.
Bring to a rolling boil, reduce to simmer and cook 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add sherry, green onions and parsley and cook an additional 5 minutes. Season to taste using salt and cayenne pepper.
Serve over steamed white rice using a few dashes of hot sauce.

A picture is worth 1,000 words!

Thank you from the bottom of my pot,

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

London Broil with Goat Cheese Chive Sauce

In my visits to food blogs since the beginning of the new year, it has become evident that many of you are trying to lose some weight. Guess what? I am too...I've lost 5 lbs. so far but I still have a ways to go.

This blog does not exist to dole out weight loss tips or make you stray from your plan, BUT if you are trying to lose weight run far, far, away from here right now. The rest of you keep reading.

I'm on a sauce kick and I don't know why. I found a sauce for vegetables and chicken last week, now I'm moving on to beef.

I cooked this lovely London Broil Sunday night generously crusted in grill seasoning, seared over screaming high heat on the stove and then gently baked in the oven. Slightly thin slices make this very economical for a family of four and we still had leftovers.
This simple sauce blend along with the intense crusted seasonings on the beef make my taste buds boot scoot boogie all over the place!

In a small sauce pan bring 1-1/2 cups of heavy cream to a gentle boil over medium heat. Keep an eagle eye on the pan so the cream does not boil over. Stir occasionally, the cream will reduce after about 20 minutes. At this point, add a small tube (about 4 oz.) of goat cheese. This particular time I used a flavored goat cheese, but plain is just fine. Once the cheese has melted, season to taste with coarse sea salt and white pepper (Black pepper is fine, I used white pepper to keep the sauce color from changing) and 2 tablespoons of chives. Ladle over sliced beef and you'll know why I am on a sauce kick!

Tomorrow is the Cafe's one year anniversary, I can't wait to show what we're going to make.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Apple and Sausage Breakfast Bake

Have I got a treat for you! What kind of a friend would I be if I didn't share this with you?
I don't know what to call this, so for simplicity, I'm calling it a Apple and Sausage Breakfast Bake.
A couple of months ago when we were guests of my brother and his wife, my sister-in-law Chele, prepared a dish similar to this using cranberries. I did not get to watch her preparation process but I did pay attention to a few things and came up with this.
My family was over the moon with this breakfast bake and I thought it was a nice change from the usual breakfast fare.
The best part of this is you can prepare it the night before then sachet into the kitchen the next morning and serve a piping hot healthy breakfast without breaking a sweat. I do sachet, did I ever tell you that? Also, it contains three of major food groups, sausage, sour cream and cheese. How can you go wrong?
Let's get some breakfast vittles going!
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and spray an 8x8 oven safe dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Whisk 6 eggs in a medium bowl.

Add approximately 1/3 cup low fat sour cream and 1 cup of 2% milk, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 teaspoon salt and whisk to thoroughly blend.

Cut up a package (6 patties) of breakfast sausage into bite-sized pieces.

Take 12 slices of cinnamon swirl or cinnamon raisin swirl breakfast bread and cut into bite sized pieces.

I have a confession...with a hot cup of coffee by your side it's hard not to pick. So drink tea.

Peel and core one apple (I used a Granny Smith - I like the tartness and they hold up well with baking) and cut up into bite sized pieces. Add to the apples 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon and 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar. Toss the apples pieces in the cinnamon sugar combination.

Line the bottom of your baking dish with a layer of the bread cubes.

Add a layer of sausage and apples and, and, and...

A layer of grated sharp cheddar cheese. Are you drooling yet? You'll need about 2 cups of shredded cheese. Repeat with another layer of bread, sausage, apples and cheese. Pour the milk/egg mixture over the casserole, cover and refrigerate for at least two hours, but better yet over night.
Bake at 325 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes. Be sure to check on this at 45 minutes. The bread will puff up and it may overflow in your oven and the last thing I want is a big mess in your oven. I do care; I almost had a big mess in my oven.

Remove and let stand for about 20 minutes so you don't burn your tongue. I got anxious and burned my tongue. I know, I'm pitiful.

Hey beautiful, where have you been all my life?