Thursday, July 14, 2011

Adventurous Eating

It appears keeping the blog updated is much more difficult than I envisioned! Such is life I suppose! :)

We've had a pretty eventful year. Kyle spent last summer in China on a study abroad program. I signed up as a Pampered Chef consultant. We got to watch our first ever NFL game live-and-in-person at the Superdome in New Orleans. We completed our first year of marriage! Kyle graduated from Jackson State. I started training for a half-marathon I plan to run in October. And of course I've been doing lots of cooking!

Since I do cook 3-4 nights a week, often times I get in a cooking rut and feel like I make the same things over and over again. When Pampered Chef came out with their spring line, I got the new "Make It Fresh Make It Healthy" cookbook, and found a really interesting recipe: Chicken with Fresh Herb Chimichurri. I love cooking with fresh ingredients, whether it's herbs, fruits, or vegetables, especially when I've grown them myself! And every now and then I get adventurous and cook things a bit out of the ordinary. Such is the case with this dish.

Ingredients for the Chimichurri:

1 lime
3 cups loosely packed fresh cilantro
1-1/2 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
2 green onions, cut into thirds
3 tbsp water
1 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 tsp grated fresh gingerroot
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp salt

Juice one half of the lime to measure 1 tbsp. (Use the other half to shoot tequila... if you like to do that sort of thing... but wait til after you finish cooking :)) Place juice, cilantro, basil, green onions, water, garlic and ginger in food processor. Coarsely puree. Pour chimichurri into a small bowl. Stir in red pepper flakes and salt. Set aside.

Ingredients for Chicken & Rice:

18 crackers, crushed
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp mayo
1/4 tsp each salt and black pepper
1 tbsp canola oil
1-1/2 cups hot cooked sushi rice (or other short grain rice)

Flatten chicken to approximately 1/2-inch thick. Brush chicken with mayo, and season with salt and pepper. Dredge chicken in cracker crumbs. Heat oil in 12-inch skillet over medium heat 1-3 minutes or until shimmering. Cook chicken 3-4 minutes on each side or until centers are no longer pink. Place rice and 3 tbsp of the chimichurri in a bowl and mix well. Serve chicken with rice and remaining chimichurri.

Some things to note... Chimichurri is nothing more than a fancy word for sauce, specifically one that's Asain-inspired and popular in Argentina. I had no intention on searching for gingerroot; I used 1/8 tsp of the ginger spice I had in the cabinet. There is a reason the recipe actually calls for 18 crackers instead of a handful or specific cup measurement. 18 is the perfect amount! I doubled the oil; it just didn't look like enough in the pan to me. Three to four minutes on each side for the chicken was not near enough. I flipped it at 3-4 minute intervals to keep the browning even, but it probably took 20 minutes or so to get fully cooked (to my liking anyway). The rice is what my husband refers to as sticky rice... perfect for eating with chopsticks!

And by the way, it was awesome! Very flavorful! Will definitely be making again!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

He is risen!... And the bread did too!

Easter is a very important time in the Christian faith! We are all reminded that God sent His son Jesus to die on the cross to save us from our sins so we can spend eternity in Heaven. What a joy and a blessing that is!

When I was a kid, Easter Sunday afternoon was always spent at either Mammaw’s or Grandmother’s hunting eggs and eating a scrumptious meal. If we were at Mammaw’s, she would make a caramel cake; and if we were at Grandmother’s, she would make the best homemade rolls. The Easter staple at my house: fried green tomatoes!!

This was the second holiday we chose to spend all by ourselves as a married couple. Best Buy was actually closed on Sunday, but we had just made the trek home a couple weekends before and decided to lay low for the weekend. Of course I whipped up a fabulous meal to celebrate the occasion! We bought one of those boneless hams we love; and I cooked fresh peas, stuffed eggs, homemade bread, and my famous fried green tomatoes! They’re famous in our house at least!

I made my first trip of the year to the farmer’s market a week or two before Easter in search of my favorite vegetable. I’m not going to debate anyone who says tomatoes are a fruit. This is my blog. Today they are a vegetable. :) Lo and behold, they had one left! I snatched it up before the lady beside me could even lay eyes on it!

And what’s Easter in this day and age without the proper candy? We had Robin’s Eggs and Reese’s Pieces Eggs to boot!

Dessert was a week late getting fixed, but still worth every bite! Nutter Butter-Banana Pudding Trifle…MMMMM!!

3 cups milk
3 large eggs
¾ cup sugar
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
5 medium-size ripe bananas
1 (1-lb) package Nutter Butters
1 (8-oz) bowl whipped topping
Garnishes: Nutter Butters, dried banana chips, fresh mint sprigs

Whisk together first 4 ingredients in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Cook, whisking constantly, 15 to 20 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat; stir in butter and vanilla until butter is melted.

Fill a large bowl with ice. Place saucepan in ice, and let stand, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes or until mixture is thoroughly chilled.

Meanwhile, cut bananas into ¼-inch slices. (Don’t cut too early or they’ll start turning brown.) Break cookies into thirds.

Spoon half of pudding mixture into a 3-qt. bowl or pitcher. Top with bananas and cookies. Spoon remaining pudding mixture over bananas and cookies. Top with whipped topping. Cover and chill 2 to 24 hours. Garnish, if desired.

Banana Pudding before...

... Banana Pudding after!!

Can you believe something I made actually turned out REALLY pretty??!!!

Chocolate Stout Cupcakes

Just a few short years ago, the only holiday I attempted special food for was Christmas. Mom and I usually make cookies and other confections together. One year, the kitchen counter was lined from one end to the other with snowman bowls and cookie jars full of sugary goodness! And there was that one Fourth of July when Jennifer and Leah came to the apartment to hang out by the pool, and I spent the better portion of a day making pulled pork bbq sandwiches. Other days, the thought might run through my mind how much fun it would be to “theme-cook”, but I’d always find something else to occupy my time.

Now, in my newfound excitement for food, I look for reasons to cook something special! Sometimes it pans out, sometimes it doesn’t. Thanksgiving was the bomb-diggity, and Valentine’s Day was seven shades of awesome! However, I never made Halloween treats or Bubba’s favorite banana pancakes for national pancake week in February. (How bout another trip to the PHOP, Justin?!) But, I was not about to let St. Paddy’s Day pass me by!

I searched my trusty websites for Irish-inspired dishes, and came across a chocolate cupcake recipe. Perfect! I can try my hand at cupcakes, which I’ve been dying to do, and I can display them on a prized wedding gift! And of course Kyle was very excited at my need for one can of Guinness (that left him three to watch slide down the glass in creamy, wavy satisfaction). I will say I never would have paired beer with chocolate, but these cupcakes were delicious! The icing was just divine!

¾ cup unsweetened cocoa, plus more for dusting finished cupcakes
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch fine salt
1 bottle stout beer (recommended: Guinness)
1 stick butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs
¾ cup sour cream
1 (8-oz) package cream cheese, softened at room temperature
¾ to 1 cup heavy cream
1 (1-lb) box confectioners’ sugar
Food coloring of your choice, optional

Preheat oven to 350°. In large mixing bowl, whisk together cocoa, sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt. In medium mixing bowl, combine the stout, melted butter, and vanilla. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Mix in sour cream until thoroughly combined and smooth. Gradually mix dry ingredients into wet mixture. Lightly grease 24 muffin cups. Fill each cup about ¾ of the way full. Bake for 25 minutes or until risen, nicely domed, and set in the middle but still soft and tender. Cool before turning out.

For the icing:
In medium bowl with a hand mixer, beat cream cheese on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in heavy cream. On low speed, slowly mix in confectioners’ sugar until incorporated and smooth. Stir in a couple drops food coloring. Repeat until you’re happy with the color. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Icing can be made several hours ahead and kept covered and chilled.

Top each cupcake with a heap of frosting and dust with cocoa.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wastin' Time

And here we are playing catch-up again! There just doesn’t seem to be enough time for those things we really WANT to do after we do all we NEED to do. But who am I kidding? Do I ever do all I NEED to do? My CPA exam grades and messy kitchen can attest to that!

One day I’ll get it all together! Ha! My husband sent me a text earlier asking how my day was going. My reply? “Pretty good I reckon. I approved a payment request this morning, read a few chapters in Deuteronomy, and found a really interesting blog written by a cattle rancher’s wife in Oklahoma. She was featured in Southern Living.” Exciting, I know... But just the way I like it!

Now if I could just read all the boring stuff I’m supposed to be reading (Regulation study book) and still have time for all the fun things I enjoy reading (Bible, Disney blogs, Southern Living, recipe sites and magazines, FB statuses, etc.), plus cooking, gardening, jogging, blogging, and curling up on the couch with the hubs… I’d call it a frabjous day!! Callooh! Callay! :)

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kiss My Shrimp & Grits!

I am so excited about this new dish! Last week my friend Mollie asked me to find her a shrimp and grits recipe. As soon as I got home from church that night I went to the sources. I looked through all my cookbooks and a few trusty on-line recipe sites, and found 12 recipes! I narrowed the search down to three and decided to do something I’ve never done before. I took what I loved from all three recipes and made up my own! I was very excited to see how it would turn out, and am here to tell you it was fine! I even called Mom and told her it was good enough to warrant an hour and a half drive, but they better hurry or I would have it eaten by the time they got here!

I’m so proud of it, I even entered the recipe in the 2010 recipe contest at Mississippi Magazine!

1 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
3 cups water
1 cup uncooked quick-cooking grits
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
6 slices bacon, chopped
1 lb. raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
Pepper and parsley to garnish

Bring whipping cream, butter, salt, and water to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, and whisk in grits. Cook until thickened, whisking often. Stir in cheese until melted, set aside and keep warm.

Cook bacon over medium-high heat until crisp; remove bacon from pan. Cook shrimp in bacon grease over medium-high heat until almost pink, stirring occasionally. Add lemon juice and garlic and cook a few more minutes. Stir in bacon.

Stir shrimp mixture into grits mixture and serve. Garnish with pepper and parsley.

Mollie, this one’s for you babe! Hope you enjoy!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day!

And last, but certainly not least was our first Valentine’s Day! By far the best V-day I’ve ever had! It all started Friday the 12th. We woke up to nearly three inches of snow! It was so beautiful, and I could not believe we got so much! And of course we did what every 26- and 30-year-old kid should do… we built a snowman! And named him Jack!

And we walked around the neighborhood admiring God’s beauty…

And we enjoyed just being together :) …

Saturday was the day we actually celebrated Valentine’s with a wonderful home-cooked supper! Kyle grilled us a steak and I made shrimp-stuffed potatoes, which were nothing more than twice baked potatoes with shrimp added to the mix. Recipe courtesy of Paula Deen!

3 large Idaho potatoes
vegetable oil for coating
4 tbsp butter
1 cup grated cheddar cheese
1 cup grated Monterey Jack
1 cup sour cream
salt and pepper
1 lb shrimp, peeled and sautéed

First, let me say I wanted the fresh shrimp David gets from the coast. But since we haven’t been home since Christmas and may not go back til Spring Break, I had to settle for the frozen shrimp ring at the grocery store. Not too bad, I have to admit. Even though the shrimp was already cooked, I sautéed it anyway with paprika, cayenne pepper, and lemon pepper to give it some flavor. Second, I know I’ve told you I pick up the pre-shredded cheese mixes for convenience, but this time I decided to go all out. I bought a block each of the cheddar and Monterey Jack and used a cheese grater we got as a wedding gift. Oh my gosh! To get excited over a cheese grater is probably a bit nutty, but that thing was awesome! I may start venturing out with specialty cheese as our budget allows since I can now grate with ease. And of course wine pairings! :)

Now for the recipe. Preheat oven to 350°. Wash potatoes, dry them, and gently prick them with a fork on all sides. Coat each potato with vegetable oil, place on foil covered pan, and bake for approximately 1 hour. Place butter in large bowl. Remove potatoes from oven and slice each one in half. Gently scoop out potato and place in bowl. Using mixer on high speed, mix potatoes, butter, sour cream, salt, and pepper. Fold shrimp and both cheeses into mixture. Gently stuff mixture back into potato shells, making sure not to break them. Pile mixture as high as you can on top of potato shells. Sprinkle each potato with paprika for color. Bake in oven for approximately 20 to 30 minutes until browned on top.

Very tasty!

I decorated the table all pretty and romantic…

And for dessert we had champagne with strawberries and sugared chocolate beignets!

This was my facebook status that night: “In honor of the Daytona 500, we’re drinking cold beer. In honor of St. Valentine’s Day, we’re eating steak, potatoes, and chocolate. In honor of the Saints winning the Super Bowl, our chocolate is Sugared Chocolate Beignets. And in honor of Black History Month and my husband graduating from an HBCU this summer, we’re jammin’ out to The Temptations! I think we have all our bases covered!! :)”

Super awesome Valentine’s Day with my husband! Don’t know how we’ll ever top this first one!

Who Dat Say Dey Gonna Beat Dem Saints?

Next on our busy agenda, was the Super Bowl, which inevitably became the kickoff to “Lomb-ardi Gras”! Hell froze over on Sunday, February 7, 2010, with the New Orleans Saints winning their first ever Super Bowl in the franchise’s history. Who Dat!

We didn’t do anything at all in celebration, except for recording the entire game. Kyle refused to call in sick for work, which I thought was utterly terrible considering how long he’s been a Saints fan, so I watched the game at home alone and then watched it again when he got home from work! I didn’t see the point in fussing over a meal when he couldn’t be there to enjoy it, so I will leave you with this article written by Mark Lorando that printed in the Times-Picayune the week before the game…

Dear Miami,

The Saints are coming. And so are we, their loyal, long-suffering and slightly discombobulated Super Bowl-bound fans.

While there’s still time to prepare – although a few hard-core Who Dats will begin trickling in Monday, most of us won’t arrive until Thursday or Friday – we thought we’d give you a heads-up about what you should expect.

First things first: You need more beer.

Yeah, we know. You ordered extra. You think you have more than any group of humans could possibly consume in one week. Trust us. You don’t.

New Orleans was a drinking town long before the Saints drove us to drink. But it turns out beer tastes better when you’re winning. (Who knew?) So let’s just say we’re thirsty for more than a championship; adjust your stockpiles accordingly.

And look. When we ask you for a go-cup, be nice to us. We don’t even know what “open container law” means. Is that anything like “last call”?

It’s carnival season in New Orleans (that’s Mardi Gras to you), and we’ll be taking the celebration on the road. So don’t be startled if you walk past us and we throw stuff at you; that’s just our way of saying hello.

Oh, and sorry in advance about those beads we leave dangling from your palm trees. We just can’t help ourselves.

February is also crawfish season, and you can be sure that more than one enterprising tailgater will figure out a way to transport a couple sacks of live mudbugs and a boiling pot to Miami.

When the dude in the ‘Who Dat’ T-shirt asks if you want to suck da head and pinch da tail, resist the urge to punch him. He’s not propositioning you. He’s inviting you to dinner.

And if you see a big Cajun guy who looks exactly like an old Saints quarterback walking around town in a dress… don’t ask. It’s a long story.

We know that crowd control is a major concern for any Super Bowl host city. Our advice? Put away the riot gear.

Reason No. 1: Indianapolis is going to lose, and their fans are way too dull to start a riot.

Reason No. 2: New Orleans showed the world on Sunday that we know how to throw a victory party. We don’t burn cars. We dance on them.

Reason No. 3: Even if we did lose, which we won’t, leaving the stadium would be like leaving a funeral, and our typical response to that is to have a parade.

Speaking of which: If you happen to see a brass band roll by, followed by a line of folks waving their handkerchiefs, you’re not supposed to just stand there and watch. As our own Irma Thomas would say, get your backfield in motion.

And hey, Mister DJ! Yes, we know you’ve already played that stupid Ying Yang Twins song 10 times tonight, but indulge us just one more time.

To us, “Halftime (Stand Up and Get Crunk)” isn’t just a song; it’s 576 points of good memories. It’s the sound of a Drew Brees touchdown pass to Devery Henderson, a Pierre Thomas dive for first down on 4th-and-1, a Garrett Hartley field goal sailing through the uprights in overtime.

It’s what a championship sounds like. You may get sick of hearing it. We won’t. Encore, dammit.

Inside Sun Life Stadium, you may find your ears ringing more than usual. We’re louder than other fans. Seven thousand of ours sound like 70,000 of theirs.

Don’t believe us? Ask the 12th man in the Vikings huddle.

Some people think it’s just the Dome that heightens our volume. But you’re about to discover a little secret: We can scream loud enough to make your head explode, indoors or out.

It’s not the roof, It’s the heart.

Well, OK, and the beer.

Don’t be surprised if there are more Saints fans outside the stadium than inside. A lot of us are coming just to say we were part of history, even if we can’t witness it up close. The Saints are family to us, and you know how it is with family: We want to be there for them, whether they really need us or not.

Because we know our presence will mean something to them, whether they can see us or not.

Come to think of it, seeing as how you’re taking us in for the week, we pretty much regard you as family, too. So we’re warning you now: If you’re within hugging distance, you’re fair game.

Hugging strangers is a proud Who Dat tradition, right up there with crying when we win.

Most sports fans cry when their teams lose. Not us. We’ve been losing gracefully and with good humor for 43 years. Tragedy and disappointment don’t faze us. It’s success that makes us go to pieces.

Hurricane Katrina? We got that under control. The Saints in the Super Bowl? SOMEBODY CALL A PARAMEDIC!!!

So anyway, don’t let the tears of joy freak you out. We’re just… disoriented.

OK. Let’s review:

Order more beer. Throw me something, mister. Suck da heads. Wear da dress. Stand up. Get crunk. Hug it out. Protect your eardrums. Pass the Kleenex. Hoist the trophy.

See you at the victory party.

Faithfully yours,

The Who Dat Nation