Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Roasted Red Pepper Pasta

Sometimes you just want to make something that has, like, 5 ingredients.  Seriously, whole shows are devoted to the concept of simplicity.  5 Ingredient Fix, anyone?  Because maybe you're tired or you've had an uber-busy day.  Or just don't feel like broasting and basting and filleting and marinating and heightening the umami.  Just... straightforward please.

I've made a handful of Pioneer Woman recipes, including her deadly cinnamon rolls.  I withered (in a good way) when I ate one for the first time.  I've made her roasted red pepper pasta before, and it comes together in no time if you use jarred roasted peppers.  PW roasts her peppers, which isn't difficult.  I'm definitely not averse to roasting your own peppers, it's just that red bell peppers for some reason have been expensive lately.  So for simplicity's and my budget's sake, I used jarred peppers.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Mini-Lesson on Barbecue

Hurricane Irene just sort of brushed by us, so all we got were some mild tropical storm conditions.  It wasn't safe to drive, but we didn't lose power or have any trees blow over.  There were some flash flood warnings but nothing like the flooding in the northeast.  We stayed with my grandmother, who has a nice, sturdy brick house.  It's also substantially nicer than our house.

We played bridge (well...sort of) and ate shrimp creole.  Definitely one of the best storm experiences I've had.  The dogs were quite excited to be somewhere new, at least at first.  They're getting on in years, so they don't make as many trips anymore.  It'd been a while since they'd been to the house.  When we let them out in the backyard Daisy didn't quite pay attention to what she was doing and fell in the pool.  She was not happy about that.  She didn't settle down until we were almost ready for bed.

We have a lot of frogs around here, and I think they wanted some shelter from the storm.  This little guy was hanging on with all his might!  He was only about an inch long.

Puddin doesn't have any trouble getting comfortable.  Give him a couch and a leg to lie against and he's a happy pup.
Sybil claims she doesn't like dogs, but she didn't exactly move him over.

The next day we had barbecue for dinner.  Barbecue can soothe the soul.  It's absolute comfort food for me.

This the barbecue sauce my grand-daddy made.  It's a vinegar based sauce with lots of pepper.  Barbecue is serious business in South Carolina.  Mostly because it was invented here waaay back when the Spanish came to colonize this part of the world.  The vinegar based sauce is the original condiment used with barbecue.  I like mustard and ketchup based sauces, which are readily available depending on where you are in South Carolina.  But I love vinegar-pepper sauce.  I get a facial tic when someone says they're going to barbecue something because to me barbecue is a noun, not a verb.  You can grill meat to your heart's content, but you do not barbecue it.  I also don't consider it real barbecue if it's not pulled pork.  I'll eat it because brisket and ribs are tasty, but they are not barbecue.  So now you know where I stand.

Yummm.  A plate.  'Cue, baked beans, cole slaw, and a slice of white bread.  This is not the time for wheat bread, people.  Save it for your turkey sandwiches.  Use soft, smushy white bread.

I like to take the bread and make a little sammich with some barbecue and cole slaw on top.  The slaw cuts some of the heat from the vinegar-pepper sauce, and the bread acts as a vessel.  The easier to stuff my face with, my dear!

One day I'll show you how to slow cook pork shoulder the easy way.  Whole hog is great, but I don't own a smoker.  And I'm pretty sure I can't lift a whole pig by myself.  Details.  For now, the restaurant stuff will happily do.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Starch Is Friend, Not Foe

The seasons are a funny thing in the South.  It's almost September, and I feel like I should start transitioning into fall.  But you see, fall in South Carolina doesn't mean cooler temperatures and pretty falling leaves.  It's hot.  I've seen Thanksgivings with temps in the upper 70s.  Of course I've been to Carolina games in October and frozen my behind off (no easy task, mind you), so there's just no guarantee what the weather will be like on any given day.  I don't think that's a complaint, just how it is.

I thoroughly enjoy fall flavors.  Pumpkin, sweet potatoes, warm spices, pumpkin, squash, pears, pumpkin.  It's a wonder I don't turn orange by November.  I feel like we're in a transitional period, so I wanted a dish that reflected moving from summer to fall.

Mushroom-corn risotto.  Ta-da!  Baby portobellos give the risotto an earthy quality that's reminiscent of autumn.  The white corn is one of the last vestiges of summer.  Together, they make an interesting risotto that's not quite fall, not quite summer.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Roasted Everything

This could alternately be titled "The Best Chicken I've Ever Cooked" because it was, in fact, the best chicken I've ever cooked.

Chicken really isn't my favorite meat to cook.  Truthfully, I'm much more comfortable with pork because I have an irrational fear of making dry chicken.  As a Southern lady, it's a bit embarrassing to admit.  This recipe is right up my alley because I prefer dark meat on a chicken and turkey.  I found it while perusing Bon Appetit.  They have a recipe for Momofuku's Crack Pie that I'll be making soon.  Anyhow, I was debating what to fix for dinner when I happened upon Perfect Pan-roasted Chicken Thighs.  Um, sign me up.

You're gonna want to make this.  As Bon Appetit says, it's worthy of a Sunday dinner but easy enough to make on a Wednesday.  Or Tuesday as it were.  Seriously, it's like 3 steps.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Babies are cute.  Especially chubby babies.  I was a chubby baby, and everyone always says I was a cute baby.  There was a baby in Wal-mart today as I was standing in the check-out line buying hurricane supplies (just in case!), and he caught my eye and simply stared at me.  Like "Who is this complete stranger looking at me?"  Then he got over it and played with the watermelon next to him.

My sister is having a baby.  A little boy due in October.  My cousins and I threw her a baby shower at a restaurant in Columbia, Nonnah's.  I met a few of the ladies who peruse this here blog, which was a real treat!

My cousin, who might be the most creative person I know, made these darling centerpieces for the table.  It's all baby stuff Emily will actually use.  Each table had a different centerpiece.

I know the baby won't be able to eat the candy, but his daddy certainly will!  P.S. That giraffe sings the ABC's, which totally freaked Em's dogs out.  They were not fans.

I chose the menu.  It started with a Nonnah's salad, and it had the most precious heart-shaped biscuit!

Guests had a choice of two quiches:  3-cheese with bacon or roasted red pepper with feta.  I had the roasted red pepper and loved it. The quiches came with fruit and pasta salad.  Everything I ate had feta on it.  Love.

Nonnah's is known for their desserts, so I knew anything I picked would be outstanding.  We had crème brûlée to top off our meal.  Nom.  Don't worry, I restrained myself from licking the bowl.

I made little favors for the guests consisting of biscotti and little packs of coffee.  Something I discovered about myself:  I make yummy-tasting biscotti, but I do not make pretty biscotti.  I refuse to give people anything I'm not completely proud of, so I bought some biscotti from Target.  All's well that ends well.

We got the memo about wearing purple.  I'm particularly proud of the dress I wore because I got it for $17 at Steinmart, and the retail price was $128.  Win.

Hmm, can you find my sister in this picture? Ha.  Nonnah's shows lots of local art, and it's all for sale.

Completely unrelated, but still a significant part of my weekend.  Nick and Lourdes, Em's and Rich's friends from Florida, drove up for the weekend and brought ice cream from a creamery in Gainesville.  I. Died.  The dark brown is the straight chocolate, and it was so rich and heavenly.  The lighter brown is chocolate hazelnut, and the cream-colored ice cream is salted caramel.  Have I mentioned my obsession with salted caramel?  No?  Well I love it.  It makes me swoon.

The party was lovely, and I spent the rest of the weekend recovering from myself.  Hey, it wouldn't be an event if I didn't try to overextend myself.  We all had a wonderful time, and baby D got lots of preciousness he'll be using in the coming months.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Spiced Blueberry Muffins

It was an average Wednesday.  I was at gathering supplies for the weekend at The Pig, when a craving for blueberry muffins hit me like a ton of bricks.  Wham-o.  I hightailed it back to the produce section and got a pint of blueberries that looked purty.  I don't always ask for inspiration.  Sometimes it just comes over me.  In the aisles of Piggly Wiggly.  So be it.

I scoured cookbooks and recipes online for a muffin recipe that a) I had all the ingredients for---a ridiculous amount of recipes use sour cream, which I'm sure makes for a moist muffin but wasn't in my fridge and b) excited me just a bit.  I stumbled upon a cinnamon blueberry muffin recipe that seemed a little different. Cinnamon is one of my favorite spices.  I just think it warms you right up, even if it is 90º outside and you don't need actual warming.  It's a soul thing.  Cinnamon warms my soul.  It's a happy ingredient.  Then I remembered a recipe for blueberry buckle or cobbler or what-have-you that used coriander.  I haven't had much experience with coriander, but I do know it can be used in savory and sweet dishes.  I thought it was worth a shot in my muffins.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Happiness Is...

I think it's important for us to remember what makes us happy.  Little things, big things.  Here's a little sampling of things that bring a bit of joy to my life.

The frog and the toad.  The little guy on top sticks to the window by our door every night.  The toad sits on our back porch every night.  He just hangs out and looks in our window.  Daisy will sniff at him sometimes, but he doesn't move.  I think it's kind of cute how they come to the same spot every night.

So Delicious has changed my life.  I've had their coconut milk, creamer, and ice cream at one time or another.  The coconut milk doesn't have a strong coconut taste to it, and it works just fine in my morning coffee.  Coconut products are good for me because I'm lactose intolerant, which is proof God has a sense of humor.  It's annoying to take a pill every time I want some dairy, and even though I use lactose-free milk for other things, I like the creaminess the coconut milk brings to the party.  It's comparable to 2% milk but with less calories.  So...a win.

I've been fiending after chocolate lately.  Fiending is word now.  So I remade those chocolate cookie bars, but I replaced the white chocolate with toasted coconut.  Just as good as the last ones but with a hint of coconut.  That's also the last glass of wine I had since I started my muscle relaxer.  Oh yeah, I intended to do this post yesterday, but I didn't realize the medicine I'm taking for my back would knock me out flat.  Oopsies.

New Orleans is one of my favorite places to visit.  I was last there in August 2010 with Will while we visited his brother, Andy, and Andy's buddy, Hans.  We had an absolute blast, and one thing you kind of just have to do while you're there is take a trip to Cafe du Monde in Jackson Square.  Beignets, baby.  And a cafe au lait.  You simply must.  Or you can make them at home.

Ta-da!  Yes, they make a beignet mix so you can get your fix at home.  Little square French doughnuts with a mound of powdered sugar on top.  It just brings back a host of good memories.  And it's a doughnut.  So...yeah.

I didn't need 24 beignets staring me in the face, so I did half the recipe on the box.  A cup of the mix into a bowl.

And 3.5 ounces of water.  It might be too easy for me to make these.  I might go on a beignet binge.

A little stir with a spoon and the dough comes together.

Flour the surface and sprinkle a little on the top of the dough.  The package says not to be afraid of flour.

I rolled it out to about 1/8" thick.  As you can see, it's not really a square shape.  No worries.  It's not anything a sharp knife can't fix.

I admit, my beignets are a little more rectangular than square.  It's not about being perfect, it's about evoking a memory.

Heat an inch or so of oil to 370º.

And pop in a couple of beignets.  They'll puff up really quickly, so just turn them a few times to get them golden brown.

Powdered sugar.  It's part of what makes these great.

Drain the beignets on paper towels and sift powdered sugar over the top.  I mean it, don't be afraid to just pile it on there.

I fried the scraps leftover from cutting the dough into squares.  No sense in wasting good dough after all!

A little more sugar probably wouldn't hurt.  Part of the fun is getting covered in the stuff as you eat them.  Mine are little smaller than the ones served at Cafe du Monde, but that just means you can eat more of them.

You need to have some chicory coffee with beignets.  They just go together.

The milk should be warmed up.

Fill half the cup with coffee.

And pour in some of the warm milk.  You can add a bit of sugar too if you want a little more sweetness.

Eat. Sip. Repeat.  Do your soul a favor and make something that reminds you of a happy memory.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Pasta So Good I Threw Out My Back

Okay that's not entirely true.  The food did not directly make me walk like a hunchback.  It was a pretty good dish though.  Definitely worth being in the rotation.

I'm sort of bedridden right now, but I'm hoping that won't affect my cooking and posting too much.  Before this started yesterday, I was watching The Rachael Ray Show as I am wont to do at 9am.  She was making French Onion Mac 'n' Cheese, and for some reason that just sounded like the best thing in the world.

I hemmed and hawed at Fresh Market because I couldn't decide whether I really wanted to make it, but it was the only thing that spoke to me.  Such is life.

I definitely didn't realize how long this would actually take me.  I suspect my onions were twice the size of Rachael's because the slicing and caramelizing were the parts that took the longest.  It's also when my back started to go Benedict Arnold on me.  Wear supportive shoes if you have massive onions.  That's not a euphemism.  Or maybe her stove is a lot more effective than mine.  Anyway, it's worth the time if you have it, but definitely start it earlier than 7pm if you want to eat at a decent hour.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Fancy Po-tah-toes

Did you know that in 28 days, football season will be upon us?  Glory, hallelujah, amen!  Carolina will play their first game of the 2011 season against East Carolina at 7:00 p.m.  This has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the post, mind you.

Anyhow, we wanted sliders for dinner the other night, but we didn't have any sides thought up.  Y'all know I love Fresh Market, so I picked up their paper of weekly specials.  I didn't realize they have recipe suggestions, so when I saw potatoes pan-fried in duck fat I was sold.  I've secretly been itching to have a reason to buy the duck fat they sell.  I know, it might sound gross, but it's really no different than having bacon grease hanging around.  And if you're skeptical about bacon grease, I really can't help you.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

3 C's: Country Concert, Chow Mein, and Chocolate

Let's start with the Rascal Flatt's concert I went to with Kaitlin.  It was an absolute blast.  Her mom and cousin went with us, and we tailgated at the Verizon Amphitheater with subs and Coronas.  Ballin'.

How do I love Sara Evans?  Let me count the ways.  She was flawless.  It's nice to hear a voice that hasn't been auto-tuned to death.  Don't get me wrong, auto-tune can be used for some cool effects, but to hear someone with a crystal clear voice just can't be matched.

I'm pretty sure she was singing "A Little Bit Stronger" at this point.  Her set was simple and feel-good.

Then came the big boys!  Oh yeah, they definitely came in three separate doors down staircases.  It was fantastic and a little over-the-top in all the right ways.

I really liked the background they used here.

They played a little bluegrass ditty!  Basically, it was a blast.  They worked the crowd, we danced, and fun was had by all.

That same weekend my sister's mother-in-law came for a visit.  Miss Susan is an incredibly nice lady who happens to make bangin' chow mein.  I'd show you a picture of it, but I was too busy eating it.  No joke, 4 bowls in 2 days.  The beef gets a little marinade-time with what we call Happy Cow Sauce.  I have no idea what the real name is because I can't read Chinese.  I have a jar of it my sister gave to me, so I'll make some chow mein soon for you guys.  The Happy Cow Sauce gives a bit of spice to the beef, which takes on a caramelized quality during cooking that flavors the noodles.  Then you have bell peppers, onions, and carrots for even more flavor.  I might be obsessed.

Now for the chocolate.  I had a hankering for a chocolate cookie, and I had some chocolate chips that needed to be used.  Thus the triple chocolate chunk cookie bar was born.