Friday, December 31, 2010

Stuffed Pork Loin For The Family


Uncle Bill, the last sibling of Bev’s mom, passed away this week and the tradition here is to take food to the family. Knowing I had two whole pork loins in the fridge, Bev decided she’d like me to make a stuffed one for them.

I trimmed off most of the fat, opened it up, and pounded it to an even thickness. For the stuffing, I sautéed some onion, roasted red pepper, garlic and just a little sun-dried tomato, then let it cool, spread, and added some Tillamock smoked cheddar. I swear I’m going to have to write down the stuffing ingredients as soon as we decided on them as I always forget something. This one was supposed to get a little diced country ham, which I remembered about the time I tied the last knot. Here it is before and after rolling - I like to put a good taper on the outside edge (left in the shot) so it is smoother on the outside after rolling.

On the outside, it got a coating of olive oil and a sprinkling of dried thyme, sage, parsley, S&P.

I baked it in a 350* oven to an internal temp of 140* so it would have room to be reheated without getting overdone.

If we weren’t pressed for time, I would have used the reverse sear method to develop a more consistent doneness throughout (similar to the Christmas rib roast), then put a high temp crust on it at the end.  Stuffed loin is a fairly quick and easy way to provide a pretty special meal, and guess what happened to that highly flavored cheese you see in the bottom of the pan - yum.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Leftovers Ala Larry

We have a fridge jammed full of leftovers and need to be about eating them, so our Tuesday meals continued Mondays desire to eat them up and not not cook.  What we don't get to will be made into gourmet dog food.

Tuesday's breakfast was simple - a reheated twice baked potato topped with a fried egg – big surprise huh? Not only was it good, but it contained four of my five food groups – potato, cheese, bacon, and egg (I passed on the glass of wine - my fruit).

Bev went off to town today and left me on my own, so for lunch, it was leftover crappie, with a little Slap Ya Mama cajun seasoning added, reheated in the toaster oven to re-crisp it, then laid on a slice of lightly toasted homemade sourdough bread, topped with sliced smoked Tillamock cheddar and heated again to melt the cheese.

Then it was  Vickie’s fish taco sauce (I could eat this stuff with a spoon).

And finally, shredded lettuce, split grape tomatoes, a little more Slap Ya Mama and wa-la, an open faced po-boy fish taco sandwich with cheese.

All I can say is, I wish I had more fish.

Supper was a bed of leftover lettuce and spinach, topped with thinly sliced and quickly sauteed  leftover Beef Wellington and bleu cheese dressing. Bev had this the night before, gave me a bite and I thought it was super good – beef filet, mushrooms, and bleu cheese dressing, how could it not be?  Of course the crust came off during handling - became a soft oddly shaped crouton.

For leftovers and virtually no cooking we ate mighty fine at Almost Heaven South this day.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas With Kids At Almost Heaven South

After all of the food posts, I thought it was time for a break.

We started the Christmas gift-opening with the Doolittle grandkids, Matthew and Sophia, on Tuesday evening.  Sorry about the photo quality, but click on them to enlarge.

No doubt about it, Christmas morning is definitely different when three young kids are here - Riley, Reese, and Madison (Alex) Walker.

And the aftermath.  They did a pretty good job keeping their stuff together and the trash picked up.

And to make it even better, we had a white Christmas. We were right at the top of the storm that moved through the area and it began snowing a little before daybreak and snowed until mid afternoon. There was enough to cover the ground, but it was warm enough as to not lay on the roads – perfect.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Leftover Prime Rib

So what do you do with leftover prime rib you asked?  How about slice it thin so it can warm quickly, lay it in a pan of simmering au jus for about a minute per side.

And serve this for the day after Christmas, again forgetting the horseradish sauce.

Click on any shot to make it bigger.

Then you wrap up the 6” piece of roast that’s still left and send it to Kentucky, so Rhett can do this every morning for the next week prior to heading off to Afghanistan on January 3.  I’m guessing the food will be a little different in a combat zone.

We had a little more snow Saturday night and woke up to a nice winter wonderland - we ended up with about 4 inches, which is alot for here, but just flurries for many of you.

After all of the cooking and eating over the past week, it was a reheated bowl of potato soup for the rest of Sunday and Monday was nearly cooking free as well.

And how about prime rib again for breakfast on no cook Monday (Subway for lunch and reheated soup for supper).  A leftover slice, on a leftover roll and nuked for 40 seconds.  I finally remembered the horsey sauce and Bev and I both really liked it.

Here's the sauce recipe from Allrecipes

· 2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
· 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
· 1 teaspoon dry mustard
· 3 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise (I used regular)
· 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
· 1/2 cup nonfat sour cream (I used Daisy regular)

In a small bowl whisk together horseradish, vinegar, mustard, mayonnaise, ground red pepper and sour cream.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.  Go Mountaineers.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Holiday Dinner Five - Christmas Dinner For Us And Others

When we decided to have smoked bone-in rib roast for Christmas and Kroger’s put them on sale, I decided to offer them to my BBQ friends for their Christmas meal - I ended up cooking three and a half whole roasts. I cooked two whole ones (one for us), a 4 boner and two 3 boners – with the other 4 ribs going into 2” thick bone in rib steaks for my freezer – I’ve wanted to grill steaks like these at home.  Click on any photo to enlarge.

The roasts were such a good deal, I bought another one and after it wet ages a while, I’ll cut it into boneless roasts, steaks, and a rack of beef ribs (with lots of meat on them).

I got my rub made up on Thursday and prepped the meat on Friday in preparation of a Christmas Day of cooking in the cold and snow. I’m sure glad I did a temperature survey on my smoker a couple of weeks ago so I’d know which pieces of meat to put where. For the prep, I cut all but 1/8” of fat from the roasts (including most of the tail fat which is still on the steaks above), then scored the fat cap on a 1” diamond pattern to allow the spices to get thru.  I got busy and forgot the pics. 

Let's get this salad out of the way so we can get to the serious food.

My plan was to have all of the meat ready by 3pm and to accomplish this, I fired up the smoker at 7:30am and got all of the meat out of the fridge and gave it a good coating of rub. I put it in the 230* smoker at 10am and cooked each roast in a foil pan to be sure I captured all of the juices (by cooking it at a low temp, there was nothing but a little fat in the pan). They were all pulled at 120* internal temp, wrapped in foil and stored in a pre-warmed cooler. Here's ours just out of the cooler.

Since I'd never done a bone-in roast, I wasn't sure when to remove the bones, so for ours, I decided to remove the rack of rib bones (for later use) before oven searing and I added a little more rub to the cut area. This is just after bone removal.

I put it on a jelly roll pan with a rack, cut side up, and into a 450* oven (ours won’t go to 500*) for 10 minutes to develop a crust on the outside. I turned the broiler on for a couple of minutes to give the cut side a little more of a chance to develop a crust.  This is the cut side after searing.

Since it had been resting in the cooler for over an hour, it was ready to carve when it came from the oven. I poured the small amount of pan juices into the skillet of simmering au jus on the cook top and commenced to carving. For those who wanted their meat beyond medium rare, I laid their slice in the au jus for 10-20 seconds per side (depending on desired color) and it sucked the red color out without really cooking it any more – this is a great trick.

The main goal of cooking at a low pit temperature and searing the outside at the end is to minimize the amount on well-done meat around the outside and try to achieve the same color across the roast. It’s called a reverse sear. Here’s my plate and I believe it worked just right (steaks can be cooked this way as well).

I bought the meat the week before Thanksgiving and it had been in the fridge wet aging in the cryovac packaging for a month (don’t try for a cut roast in super market packaging) and it was the most tender one I’ve ever cooked. I’ve always been a prime rib fan and I’m sure I’ve never eaten a better one - the other diners made the same comments. The spices and smokiness came through without overpowering the meat and I'm glad I removed the bone rack prior to searing. It was definitely worth getting started at first light and as a bonus, the cook forced me to be out in the snow, which I also enjoyed.  The only negative was the horseradish sauce I made and forgot to serve, but obviously wasn't missed as no one requested it.

All in all, it was a terrific Christmas at Almost Heaven South and I hope yours was as well.


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holiday Dinner Four - Fish Tacos On Christmas Eve

Bev’s preferred meal on Christmas Eve is potato soup and we had another dish we wanted to make as well, so it was soup for lunch and fish tacos for supper. Sometime in the past, son Rhett had mentioned they had the worlds best fish tacos at Fulton’s Crab House at Disney World and we wanted to see how some homemade ones would compare. We started with Bev making the sauces the day before – we had two that sounded good and decided to make them both for comparison.

The initial part of the meal was the tortilla’s which Bev made from this recipe. After she and the grandkids made them, we cooked them on the cook top griddle.

We used some of our always-on-hand crappie for the fish and deep-fried it using a batter recipe for Baja Style Fish Tacos that came from

The sauces were the one that accompanied the batter and one from Vickie over at Montana, Part Three and they are very different.

Here's a plate of tacos ready to fold and eat.

I had one as a taco, but decided it would be as easy to eat and more picturesque in tostada style (didn't deep fry the tortilla).  From the ground up it was the tortilla, guacamole, fish, sauce, cabbage, pico de gallo - everything fresh made and Bev makes delicious guac and pico.

I rarely get enough flavors in my fish batter, but this was just right – enough to taste but not overpower the fish and while both sauces were very good, we all preferred Vickie’s. I‘ve only eaten fish tacos one other time and I thought they were ok, but more like a waste of good fish. I thought these were absolutely delicious and find it hard to imagine any that could have been a whole lot better. Rhett said that one of the things that made Fulton’s so good were the flavors imparted by grilling the fish vs. deep frying. We were planning a simple Christmas morning breakfast, but the unanimous decision was to use the remaining fish for another round of tacos and they were delicious again and  - a major hit with Rhett and Beth.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Holiday Dinner Number Three


I’ve had a dish on my really-want-to-try-list for sometime and this seemed like the perfect occasion for it. The two nearest children, Wende and Eric, and family came down on Tuesday for a holiday get-together since they were all leaving town for Christmas. The meal was to be Tyler Florence’s Ultimate Beef Wellington, sided with baked potato and Caesar salad.

As it happened, we had two pieces of filet in the freezer looking for a meal, which meant I made two rather than one, each weighing about two pounds. I have a lot of faith in Tyler, so I followed his recipe as closely as possible. The recipe is very long and rather than take up so much blog space, please click on Ultimate Beef Wellington for it.

Bev got a great deal on the filet butt end, but the first challenge was to trim out all of the junk from the three muscles that are there. Here it is with the fat chunks and silverskin removed – and I ended up with a little piece that will surely make it on to my breakfast plate. I made sure not to completely sever the multiple pieces – except the extra one.

The trick was taking multiple pieces of meat and having them behave as one, but I thought it would work for this dish, so I tied them up tightly prior to searing.

I had cooked the mushroom mixture (duxelles), earlier so it could cool and while the meat was searing, I laid out the prosciutto on a sheet of plastic, spread on a layer of the duxelles, and seasoned it.

Here it is after chilling for 30 minutes, ready for rolling in the pastry.

And here are the two of them sealed, egg washed, and ready to bake.  At this point, I made a critical error in failing to make slits in the dough so the moisture could vent out - more to come on this.

The finished product and as can be seen, they made there own vents.  They weren't as dark as they look here.

We served it with salad, baked potato, and garlic cheddar biscuits and son Eric made up a couple of delicious sauces.  We didn't have any green peppercorns for Tylers sauce, so Eric used the same recipe and substituted capers - which we all like.  The second was a sundried tomato cream sauce which he just invented - I need to learn how to do that.  I went with the caper sauce as the other one was a little sweet for me - it was Bevs favorite.

I thought the dish was very good and will try it again, but my error was costly as the bottom was soggy - but it tasted great with the meat an duxelles juices in it.  The recipe wasn't clear on how dry to get the duxelles, so mine may have been a too moist, contributing to the problem.  Next time, I'll make sure on the top vents and maybe cook on a rack, perhaps with a small vent (drain) or two in the bottom.  Suggestions appreciated.

Using the multiple pieces of meat worked fine and I couldn't tell mine wasn't a single muscle, but I forgot to look at the others.

Bev and I hope you have a super good Christmas Day and we wish you the happiest of New Years.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Dinners - Numbers One & Two (Lasagna)


Around Christmas we generally have two big meals - one on Christmas Day with friends and one later with our kids as they are frequently not available on Christmas Eve or Day.  But this year it worked out differently and we have lots of fine eating (I hope) to blog about.

For dinner number one, our friends Laurie and David (Big Daddy Dave ), invited us over Sunday for dinner with them and their lovely adopted daughter, Dawn, who was visiting from Miami. We’re going to have to take entertaining lessons from them as they always put on such a professional evening. We arrived at 4:30 for sit-down cocktails and appetizers in front of the fireplace - our guests just get to hang around the kitchen bar for drinks while we cook and we almost never have an appetizer. After a pleasant hour and half of visiting and getting to know Dawn, it was off to the dinning table for good ole yankee pot roast, cooked with onions, carrots, and celery and accompanied by roasted potatoes, rich brown gravy, and hot rolls.  Everything was delicious and what a way to begin the week before Christmas.

 For dinner number two, we invited our neighbors over for dinner on Monday, for a little Christmas get together, but served something that is not a traditional meal for the season – lasagna. The lasagna recipe comes from our daughter, Kathy, and it is made without cooking the noodles. We like it because we wanted to make it the day before and this is actually better as the noodles can soften and absorb some of the sauce flavors. Here is her recipe as modified by us.

No-Boil Lasagna
Kathy Roden
  • 1-1 ½ lbs Ground beef (we used 1# of beef and ½# of Italian sausage, fried, split, and cut into 1/2 moons)
  • 1 cup Onion, chopped
  • 1 cup Celery, chopped
  • 1 ea Green pepper, chopped
  • 2 cloves Garlic, minced (we added additional 2)
  • 6 oz Tomato paste
  • 28 oz Diced tomatoes
  • 15 oz Tomato sauce
  • ¼ tsp Black pepper
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 tsp Sugar
  • 1 tsp Oregano, dried
  • 1 tsp Basil, dried (our addition)
  • 1 ea Bay leaf (our addition)
  • 1/2 tsp Red pepper flakes (Bev had to have a little heat)
  • 16 oz Cottage cheese
  • 16 oz Ricotta cheese
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 12 oz Mozzarella cheese, shredded
  • 1 lb Uncooked lasagna noodles
Make up the day before and store in the fridge (It can be made and cooked the same day)
· In a dutch oven, brown meat, onion, celery, and green pepper – drain off fat
· Add next 8 ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes
· Meanwhile mix cottage, ricotta, and parmesan cheeses
· Remove sauce from heat – it should be somewhat runny to provide moisture for the noodles
· Pam a 9x13 baking dish (or larger depending on amount of sauce – we used a 10x10x3 which was filled to the brim). Place a thin layer of sauce in the dish then a layer of noodles, a layer of the cheese mixture, a layer of meat sauce, and a layer of mozzarella (save enough for the final topping)
· Repeat two more times ending with meat sauce

 When ready to bake, set lasagna out of fridge for several hours to warm
· Preheat oven to 350*
· Cover and bake for 1-2 hours depending on thickness (we baked for 2 hours)
· During last 15 minutes, remove cover and add mozzarella
· Remove from oven and let stand for 15-20 minutes to firm up.

Ready to bake.

The edges on the baked dish looked burned, but they were not - I needed a little deeper pan. This was prior to the final topping of shredded mozzarella.

We served it with a Caesar salad and homemade garlic bread.  Here's mine - I forgot to add the parsley before cutting and didn't realize I had it all over the side until I downloaded the photos.  This may be our first lasagna to stand tall and not ooze out over the plate on into the serving dish. 

The lasagna was a big hit especially with our neighbor, who had a birthday this week and had requested lasagna.  His wife was not going to be able to make it for him so we sang Happy Birthday and called this his birthday dinner - sent him home with a big piece of leftovers.  Bev thought the tomato flavor wasn't intense enough, perhaps do to the liquid that needed to be left in the sauce and next time, I might add some herbs to the cheese filling.  Don't get me wrong, it was very good (better than about any restaurant), but we're always looking for the perfect dish.  We finished the meal off with delicious chocolate cheese cake and Italian Cream cake provided by our friend Ashley.
Have a great Christmas Eve and thanks for visiting.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Steak And Gravy Ala Mary - Sorta

I just love this dish and can’t remember the last time we had it, except it’s been way too long. When Mary over at Deep South Dish posted her recipe on Dec. 12, I book marked it to make soon, and when the piece of London broil was left from our fajita meal the other night, I knew it was meant to be. The main difference between her recipe and our normal is the addition of caramelized onions. Check out Mary’s site for the full recipe.

The first thing we did was prep the meat, by pounding with a meat mallet to the thickness we wanted.

Then using a jaccard in both directions on both sides for additional tenderizing.

If you’re not familiar with the jaccard, it’s a bunch of sharp little swords that penetrate the meat to cut the connective tissue, while also acting as a mallet as it does. The swords are spring loaded and come out when the meat is hit with device, then they pop back in. It’s a dandy tool for tenderizing all types of meat.

We did the onions and garlic per Mary's recipe, but added about 8oz of sliced mushrooms to the sauté process. We also decided to cook it in the oven in polish pottery, as we made it up early in the afternoon for cooking later and it cleans up easily. Beverly was planning to cook some carrots and we decided to just toss them in with the meat. Here it is ready for the oven where it was covered with foil and cooked at 325* for 1 ½ hours.

Here’s my plate, sided with some mashed potatoes of course, and all I can say is this is serious comfort food and it was delicious.

A dandy comfort food meal for a cold day – thanks for the recipe Mary.

Bev had bought the ingredients the other day and wanted to make up some Merry Mojito’s per Sandra Lee’s recipe, so we had one for an after dinner drink. She used a little extra sugar and added a little cranberry juice for more color - the pink glass helps as well. She then added 1 ½ ounce of brandy (she meant to add rum but picked up the wrong bottle) to each glass and it was an excellent after dinner drink.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Peppermint Bark Christmas Candy

We don’t do the holiday sweet making that many folks do, mostly because we’re not big sweets eaters, but also because we don’t need the calories and there’s usually no one here to eat them. This year, since 5 of the grandchildren will be around, Bev decided to make a candy she really likes. The recipe came to us from Bev's sister-in-law, who said it's been a big hit for the 30 years she's been making it.  It’s very easy and something I’m sure the little ones will enjoy eating. We bought the ingredients from Sugarbakers, in Knoxville, which is a candy making and cake baking supply store.

Peppermint Bark
Marva Kay Briscoe

2 lbs White chocolate (we used wafers)
8 oz Mint candy chips (they are red and green)

· Melt the white chocolate in the microwave – only 30 seconds at a time – stir in between – don’t get it too hot. (Bev made a double boiler by setting a bowl over a pan of boiling water and preferred this method, as it’s less risky).
· Stir in the mint candy  – you can also smash up peppermint candy canes.
· Spread out very thin on wax paper, it will set up on its own at room temperature.
· After it cools, break in to chunks, just like peanut brittle.

Bev added 8 drops of peppermint oil to the second batch to make it a little more minty and she preferred it.

Here it is cooling on the counter

And in the bag ready to dive into.

I’m not a fan of white chocolate, but even I thought it was pretty good. Making it is also an activity that adults and kids could easily do together.

Bev also made a few nutty candies by drizzling some of the chocolate over piles of chopped pecans before she added the peppermint candy to the chocolate.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.