Monday, May 31, 2010

Thanks To All Who’ve Served

When I was a youngster, I remember discovering my dad’s box of military memorabilia in the closet and believing I was in hog heaven. It contained sergeants patches, service medals, etc. and while I eventually lost or broke all of them (Dad didn’t seem to care) I enjoyed the discovery and adorning my room with them. Like many in his generation, he didn’t talk much about his service during the war, but when I got older I asked him about it. He was in North Africa and Europe for around four years and according to him you really just forgot about your other life at home and assumed the military life would go on forever. I can’t imagine the sacrifices made by those folks and all the others through the years, including those serving today, who have made it so I can live in the land of the free. As we enjoy our holiday today, let us not forget what we are celebrating and say a big thank you to those who make it possible.

Enjoy your holiday and here are some shots of yesterday’s quesadilla meal, using a recipe inspired by Pam over at For The Love Of Cooking. We wanted something to use the meat left over from Fridays jerk chicken and this seemed perfect for a lazy, rainy Sunday. We were also able to help with the clean-out-the-freezer-project by using some Anaheim chiles and roasted red peppers we’d put up last year and some of our canned jalapenos. I de-boned and shredded the chicken, chopped up the peppers and let everything come to room temperature. Since I had the flavors from the jerk seasoning, I didn’t add anything else but salt. For cooking, I put everything but the cheese on one half of a flour tortilla and the cheese on the other half then laid them on the grill over low heat with the lid closed and let them warm and crisp until the cheese melted and the bottom browned. Headed for the grill.

Alex wanted only chicken and cheese on hers.

To serve, I folded the cheese half over the other half, removed to a cutting board, cut into two pieces (it was too thick for four) and plated. We served them with the leftover mango salsa and some sour cream. It was an excellent quick and easy meal with very little cleanup.

Thanks for stopping by.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pasta Bolognese

I watched Ann Burrell (Secrets Of A Restaurant Chef) make this dish on the Food Network the other day and knew I had to try it. She described how she had learned to cook it either in a restaurant or cooking school in Italy (or maybe both, can’t remember for sure). When eating pasta with tomato sauce, I generally prefer my meat shaped like meatballs or sausage rather than in the sauce, but since it looked so good and meat sauce is Bev’s favorite, it had to be cooked. I won’t reprint the recipe here as it is pretty long, but it can be found at this LINK.

I can’t remember cooking one of her recipes before, but since I like the way Ann cooks and she seems to know what she’s doing, I followed the recipe as closely as I could until close to the end. The prep was quick and easy, which I liked, and I think the initial cooking process up to simmer took about an hour of pretty continuous attention. I was surprised at how flavorful it was with only the browned meat, veggies and salt. Once you get it to the simmer stage, it requires only an occasional stirring and a few water and salt additions. I also added some black pepper, dried basil, oregano, and crushed red pepper the last hour to achieve a flavor we liked a little better. While Bev was shopping for the ingredients she called to confirm I wanted 2 cups of tomato paste and not 2 tbsp as might be more normal for a recipe. She advised she'd never heard of a recipe that used so much tomato paste. This is the sauce simmering away.

Here it is in the pan ready to plate up – we used angel hair pasta, as that’s Bev’s favorite.

Plated with the addition of some fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano - we prefer it added to the plate rather than the pot. The plan was to have salad with it but the salad maker got busy with laundry and forgot and I’m glad as it left room for a second helping.

As much as I enjoy a glass of red wine, I'm not normally a fan of dishes made with it, and I even considered using less than called for here, but I plunged ahead and glad I did as it sure works well here. This is a definite keeper recipe for us – even Alex, the anti tomato sauce person, liked it, and ate two servings - as did everyone. Bev really liked it, as did her sister, so I was a hero today thanks to Ann Burrell. If you like meat sauce, I can’t imagine you wouldn’t like this.

Larry’s eating instructions – don’t roll it on your fork like regular tomato sauce, or all of the meat will end up left in to bowl (or plate), but rather cut it into bite size forkfulls and be sure you get the meat with the pasta :-).

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

My First Jerk Chicken

I’ve not eaten jerk meat more than a time or two and don’t remember being a big fan. Since I had the same opinion of blackened, but have changed my mind, I decided to give jerk another try or two. I found this recipe on line at LINK and decided it sounded pretty good.

Jerk Chicken Spice Blend

· 1 Tbl. ground allspice
· 1 Tbl. ground thyme
· 1 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
· 1 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
· 1 1/2 tsp. ground sage
· 3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
· 3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
· 3/4 tsp. minced ginger
· 2 Tbls. fresh garlic (crushed)
· 1 Tbls. brown sugar or molasses
· 1/4 C. Soy sauce
· 1/4 C. dark rum (optional, but encouraged)
· 3/4 C. white vinegar
· 1/2 C. orange juice
· Juice of 1 lime
· 2 Scotch bonnet peppers
· 3 green onions, diced
· 1 C. white onion, diced


1) Put all the ingredients in a blender and whiz until smooth.

Jerk Chicken

· Spice Blend
· 2 lbs. of chicken pieces (I always encourage people to use legs and thighs, but breasts will work as well)
· Lime for garnish


1. Place chicken in a large freezer bag and pour in spice blend. Place in a bowl to make sure there isn't any leakage and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but up to a day is preferable.

I had planned to make the marinade up the day before but I was missing a key ingredient until the evening, which was past my regular work hours and would have thrown me into overtime. So I made it up on cooking day and had the chicken in it by 8:45am, so it got a 9 ½ hour soak and I flipped and massaged it half way through. The recipe calls for 2# of chicken, but I used 6# of mixed thighs and breasts and easily had plenty of marinade.

I cooked it on the gas grill, as I needed to use the side burner for another dish. I grilled it over direct heat on both sides until the skin looked right then moved it to indirect until it got to an internal temp of 165* in the breasts and 175* in the thighs, knowing they’d go up another 5* while resting.


· 4 cups vegetable oil
· 4 ripe plantains, peeled and cut on the bias into 1/2-inch thick slices
· Salt
· Finely chopped cilantro, optional


Heat oil to 365 degrees F in a heavy medium saucepan. Carefully add the plantains, in batches as necessary, and fry until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Immediately sprinkle with salt and cilantro, if desired

The other side dish was mango pineapple salsa which Bev made generally by this recipe from Ellie Krieger of the food channel – which means she didn’t actually measure anything.

· 1 mango, peeled and diced
· 1/2 cup peeled, diced cucumber
· 1 tablespoon finely chopped jalapeno
· 1/3 cup diced red onion
· 1 tablespoon lime juice
· 1/3 cup roughly chopped cilantro leaves
· Salt and pepper

She used a Serrano chile and added a couple of pineapple slices and some sweet red pepper. And like last time she used a splash of Ken’s Steakhouse Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette in addition to the lime juice and it was delicious again. Here's my plate and I actually ate another thigh, which would have made my plate look better had I gone ahead and added it.

This was our first time to ever make jerk anything or fried plantains and I enjoyed both of them. The two chile's I used didn't make it very hot which was good for this crowd - Bev and I would have preferred spicier but the others would not have.

So, I'm pleased with the first time out and can now look for ways to improve on it. According to Bobby Flay Vernon's in NYC has the best Jerk Sauce in the USA and I may give it a try for comparison.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Breakfast From The Frig

I had a couple of leftover items in the frig and for breakfast, I decided to work toward using them up. Fortunately, the meal included three of my favorite things: eggs, potatoes, bacon (even though it was the Canadian version). So it was some leftover smoky paprika home fries & Canadian bacon both reheated in the microwave along with a couple of plain ole moist scrambled eggs. When I was a kid, one of my very favorite breakfast meals was Grandma's scrambled eggs (always moist and gently folded into big fluffy curds) and a piece of toast - and it's still a favorite.

It took me awhile, but I finally figured out the slit on the top piece of bacon is from the meat probe I used when smoking - looks like I did pretty good getting it in the middle.

I’ve decided I prefer boiled potatoes for home fries, as they are not as dry as these baked ones turned out to be.

Alex (the granddaughter) has one trait that I really wish I had. Not only is she a picky eater, she, also, just eats to live and as such, she’s nice and slim. Whereas I eat pretty big, frequently fattening breakfasts, she usually just has a bowl of cereal – although it’s something sweet (sweets are her weakness). We ran out of cereal, Fiber One bars, and pop tarts this week, so she went with her third fallback meal – cinnamon toast. I remember eating it regularly as a kid, to my great enjoyment. To make it quick and easy, we keep the sugar/cinnamon mixed in a shaker. I think we mixed it ¼ cup granulated sugar to 1 tsp ground cinnamon. She doesn’t like a lot of butter, so we just use enough to ensure the sugar/cinnamon sticks.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

A BBQ Plan That Works Well For Us

I had several orders and ended up cooking two days for a recent BBQ day. The first day, I did brisket, pork butt, ribs, and a leg of lamb. The second day I started the smoker at lower temps to cook Canadian and buckboard bacon, then cranked it up to 300* to cook some chicken and a stuffed pork loin for some friends.

These friends just don’t cook to any degree (neither of them) – I think they know how but they just don’t enjoy doing it, but they like BBQ, and I like to cook BBQ. About every second or third time I cook, I get a big order from them, which they freeze and eat on until it’s gone, then place another big order. For this cook the stuffed loin, all of the chicken and some of the pulled pork were for them. Since everything for both days, but the bacon and stuffed loin were just my standard fare, I didn’t take any pics of them.

For a stuffed loin, I keep using different things based on what we have on hand. For this one, I used some onion, roasted red peppers, roasted Anaheim chili peppers, spinach, some diced buckboard bacon and sautéed them in a skillet we’d just fried the bacon in. I meant to add some grated parmesan but forgot it – just another senior moment. Here’s the stuffing in the skillet.

Here is the finished product and Bev and I both loved the stuffing combo. I had to tress it good to keep the stuffing inside.

A sliced photo just looks like a loin with a green swirl in it and the main purpose for this discussion is to suggest you may want to consider this stuffing – maybe remember the cheese, or some garlic or some cilantro for next time - I believe a Tex-Mex one for next time sounds real appealing.

Here’s their order ready for the freezer - should last them awhile and, based on my sampling, it all turned out delicious.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Escape To Serenity Falls

As you may recall, we’ve had our 12 year-old grand-daughter, Alex, living with us for the past year and if nothing else, it confirms to me why it’s young people that have children. After reading Betsy’s post over at Joyful Reflections about Serenity Falls Cabins, we decided to spend some time there while Alex was visiting her other grandmother in North Carolina over spring break. Just before the trip, however, Bev’s mom was hospitalized and we were unable to make the visit, but had already made a deposit of two nights rent. The owners were gracious enough to let us postpone the trip, and by late May I decided I was ready for a little R&R and I wanted to go before it got too hot, so we spent the nights of May 21-May 24 there.

While it’s less than 2 hours from home, unless you get lost on the way, and in an area we consider pretty local, it was still just Bev and me in a cabin in the mountains. And this place is awesome – I consider our place Almost Heaven South and this is even better. It’s a remodeled grist mill that is right at the base of a 100+ yard long cascading waterfall on a small creek. It’s hard to believe that such a little stream could produce such a beautiful piece of nature - check Betsy's blog for more, and better, pictures. The house and cabins, of 1800's vintage, were in terrible shape when they bought them, with bare clapboard siding - they all looked like a 150 year old barn - but they turned them into something very nice. This is the house.

The three buildings - the first one the old community grist mill (where we stayed), followed by the general store and finally the barn.

The grist mill sits right on the stream and right at the base of the falls.

This is the falls from the cabin deck.

A close up shot.

The pool at the base contains some fish which I assume were trout as the water was very cold.

We took a couple of steaks and the makings for hot dogs with us and you cannot believe how good they were sitting on the deck overlooking the water fall and with the sound and cool breeze it produced. Turn on your sound and click on the play arrow.

Two of the things I really enjoyed were how quickly it cooled off at night and how great it was to sleep with the sound of the falls – think raining on a tin roof or in a heavily wooded area for similarity – I slept like a rock.

This the dining view.

While there, we took a 30 mile trip thru the mountains on a mostly gravel, very curvy road and ended up in the Cataloochee Valley of the Smoky Mountain National Park. Since the park began reintroducing elk into the park there, it’s a place I’d wanted to go, but didn’t want to make the drive all the way from home – I can mark it off my list now. It’s a beautiful area and I can picture it before the park was formed – it’s like a smaller version of Cades Cove. We were there at mid day and didn’t really expect to see any wildlife, but it was still worth the drive – actually the drive was worth the drive. This is a shot on the trip over.

One of the creeks in the Cataloochee valley.

The mountains on the drive back.

Another plus for the trip was the discovery that the area where we stayed, including the cabins, is called Catons Grove, as is the little church just down the road. Bev's maiden name is Caton and her family grew up four or five valleys further west so we're pretty sure it's the same family. We went through the old church cemetary and Bev took photo's of many of the head stones to review with her sis - she keeps up with these sort of things and has a family tree going way back.

If you're looking for a place from which to visit the Smoky's or a quiet place to relax and catch up on your reading away from the maddening crowd, this is your spot. I told Bev this would be the perfect place for a writer to go get some uninterupted work done. Well, it’s back to reality now and time to catch up on the work backlog, but I’d like to go back for a few days in the winter, when I know several inches of snow is predicted – they get more snow than we do. Another thing the trip accomplished was allowing me to pre-post all of the topics I had waiting in my queue - the past four. Thanks Betsy for letting us know about Serenity Falls via your blog.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Restaurante Italiano

Alex is taking a modeling class in Knoxville every Thursday night and for the last month I’ve been planning to go along so Bev and I could go to dinner during the 3 hour class. For a variety of reasons, we didn’t make it until last week and we decided to give Carrabba’s a try – had not been there before. As I’ve said many times, I grew up around Italian food cooked by first generation immigrants.

We normally don’t get an appetizer as the meal is more than enough, but the lobster mac and cheese caught our eye and we tried it. I thought it was very good and when Bev suggested we take some of it home, I decided I would take my entree home if necessary as I was really enjoying this dish. I ordered an Italian salad and Bev got the Mediterranean. Mine was marginal as the dressing tasted like oil with a little vinegar in it. Hers on the other hand had much more vinegar and lots of herbs and we ended up trading – too tart for her. Hers was what I was expecting and I thought it was very good.

For entrees, she had Penne Franco, which is pasta with sautéed mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and black olives and she added a piece of grilled chicken – it sounded good, but I didn’t cars for it at all. I had Linguine Pescatore, which was linguine with shrimp, scallops, and mussels in a spicy marinara – it had a nice heat that left a little burn on the tongue - I thought it was pretty good and would order it again.

All in all it was pretty good for chain Italian, similar to and maybe a little better than Olive Garden – but I still prefer the local family owned Naples. Under normal circumstances, I don’t know if I’d go back, but likely will so I can sit at their pasta bar and see how the dishes are prepared. I could see a little from our table and tried to decide if they were using fresh or partially cooked pasta, I suspect the later. I believe it would be a good learning experience to watch them for an hour or so.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great day.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Using Up The Scallops

When I made the blackened scallops the other night, I thawed about double what we used and needed to cook up the remainder of them. I really like broiled, or baked or scampied seafood, so decided to give them a try using a modified version of the following recipe from Fish Ex.

1 lb. Scallops (small) – I had 18 ounces
1 stick real Butter (more if desired) – I used 2 more tbsps for saute
fresh Garlic (to taste) – I used 3 medium cloves
1 cup Bread crumbs – I used Panko
Lemon wedges
4 individual serving dishes

In fry pan melt butter. Add crushed garlic and saute. Add bread crumbs and toss till coated with butter. Put scallops into individual buttered serving dishes. Top with Bread crumb mixture. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Sprinkle with pepper (season to taste). Bake 375 for 15 minutes.

I first let the scallops warm up some, then sprinkled with S&P and sautéed them in a little of the butter to give them a crust.

I removed them and added the other ingredients to the skillet along with the juice and zest of 1/4 lemon and 1 ½ tbsp of roughly chopped capers. I really like both lemon-butter-garlic and lemon-butter-caper sauces, so I just combined them. Then rather than a 15 minute bake, since the scallops were sautéed, I did a 5 minute bake then a few minutes under the broiler. I’m getting better at using a recipe as a guide – I actually already had in mind what I wanted to do, but this recipe gave me an idea on proportions.

After topping the scallops, I added a little more butter and garlic to the skillet and sautéed some slices of cheese grits in it – I’m getting my moneys-worth from that pan of grits. Bev had gotten some frozen Kale Maria out of the freezer the other day and I wanted something green, so added it to the meal. She just substituted kale in Calhoun’s Spinach Maria recipe as shown on Chris’ blog.

After plating, Sous chef daughter Wende added a little fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano to everything.

This probably wasn’t scallops scampi anymore, but they were pretty good but not great. First the recipe provided way too much topping for the amount of scallops. Second, I used too much lemon and rather than be a subtle flavor it was somewhat over powering – the garlic and capers were about right. The major learning – with seafood, less is better and I’m committed to being able to make higher level, restaurant quality seafood at home. I guess I could just report on the things that turn out super good, but I’m a believer in sharing my successes, semi-successes and failures in case they can help you or you can coach me. Nice thing about cooking – even the failures are pretty good. I remember my first margarita tasting a little like gasoline and now they’re right good, so maybe I can get there with seafood if I live long enough. The kale Maria and cheese grits were both delicious – sadly I’m at the end of the grits, but for the next batch, the sis-in-law brought me a bag of whole grain, stone ground from a mill in Abington, Va.

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tortellini And Italian Sausage

We had seen Buitoni products advertised and maybe in the store, but had never tried them. After Mary posted about them over on Deep South Dish we decided to give one a try. I looked online to see which local stores carried the products and Bev stopped buy to pick some up. It turned out to be an adventure as neither she nor a clerk could readily find them in Food City. Finally, they were discovered beside the milk in the dairy case and she later saw them in the deli case at Walmart beside their pre-made sandwiches and fresh cheeses – looks like both stores are going to great links to make them hard to locate. Anyway, she ended up bringing home a package of Mixed Cheese Tortellini, which we served with some spicy Italian sausage that we had bought the day before from a butcher shop in Oak Ridge – they make their own. I started out to whip up a quick batch of Tyler’s Pomodoro Sauce by this recipe:

½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic gloves, chopped
2 (28 oz) cans whole peeled San Marzano tomatoes, drained and crushed by hand, liquid reserves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the vegetables are soft, 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully add the tomatoes (nothing splashes like tomatoes) and about 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid and season with salt and pepper. Cook until the sauce is thick, about 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, stirring for a few minutes with a wooden spoon to further break up the tomatoes. Reduce the heat and let simmer for 20 to 25 minutes. Stir in the fresh basil and season again.

I used the same basic ingredients, but did a few things differently. First, I used two quarts of our home canned tomatoes and since they have only a little water in them, I only drained one quart, them blended them up in the jars with an immersion blender prior to adding to the pan – I wish I’d invented that tool, it’s one of my favorites.

Secondly, after browning in a little olive oil, I added the Italian sausage to the sauce along with a bay leaf – we like the flavor it gives the sauce.

Finally, while mowing the lawn, I drove past the herb bed and the fresh oregano looked too good not to add some of it with the basil. I’m not sure, but it may have become a sauce of a different name by this time – tomato sauce is one of those things I feel comfortable tinkering with.

We cooked the pasta per package directions, plated & topped it with sauce and the sausage, sided with some salad, using bottled Caesar dressing and then grated fresh Parmigiano Reggiano over everything. Bev had some homemade bread that was getting a little dry and turned it into some delicious garlic bread.

I liked the pasta and if I paid attention, I could taste the cheese stuffing even though the tomato sauce, and the others agreed – we will definitely try some other varieties. The sausage was a disappointment, which is why I didn’t cite the butcher shop. It was not very flavorful for Italian sausage and seemed to have no heat, even though we’d ordered the spicy version. After cooking in the sauce it was moist enough, but the piece I ate after browning was very dense and pretty dry, indicating not enough fat for my liking. We usually make marinara sauce, including some sweet peppers, using several dried spices and cooking for a few hours, but I liked this and will make it again. All-in-all, a pretty good meal for not a great deal of effort – and as good as most Italian restaurants serve.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great day.


Friday, May 21, 2010

A Short Road Trip To Oak Ridge

My daughter Wende works in Oak Ridge, which is little less than an hour from here and we’ve been planning to go over and have lunch with her for over a month – but for one reason on another we didn’t make until this week. We went to a little ice cream parlor that also serves a light lunch named Razzleberry Ice Cream Lab.

We each tried a different sandwich – bacon bacon BLT, muffuletta, Bavarian pork, and homemade smoked polish sausage and they were all good. It’s somewhat of an interesting place - an ice cream parlor serving lunch is fairly normal, but serving homemade smoked sausage didn’t fit as well. When I glanced around and spotted the meat case full of European style sausages, that didn’t fit at all.

So after lunch when the girls headed toward the ice cream, I strolled over to the meat case and the owner happened to be waiting on me. When I asked about the meats – cappicola, mortadella, head cheese, and many others, she told me the story. As new residents in the US, her kids, who grew up on these products, were concerned about what they would eat in East Tennessee, so mom needed to order them to feed her family and decided to offer them to the public as well. They all seemed to be the real thing and the cappicola labeling was in Italian. After ordering up a pound of it, I studied the head cheese which I had read a little about, but had always been afraid to try, based upon what I believed it was made from. She advised this was made with meat gelatin, beef tongue, and spices. As I hesitated, she said here try a little piece and to my surprise, I thought it was pretty good. I actually bought a few slices to bring home for a sandwich and for the others to try – but I doubt they will.

I did a little research and according to Wikipedia, head cheese in general “is not a cheese but a meat jelly made with pieces from the head of a calf or pig (sometimes a sheep or cow) in aspic. It may contain onion, black pepper, allspice, bay leaf, salt, and vinegar. It may also include meat from the feet, tongue, and heart. It is usually eaten cold or at room temperature as a luncheon meat.” It also varies greatly from country to country and this is what it said about Polish versions – “In Poland, head cheese is referred to as salceson, a name possibly derived from saucisson, the French word for a type of sausage. There are several varieties of salceson which depend on the ingredients: Black Salceson which contains blood, White Salceson made with a mixture of seasoned meats without blood, and Ozorkowy (Tongue) Salceson where the major meat component is tongue,” so I guess this last one is what I have. Like many old time meat products, I assume this one was invented to be sure very little of the animal got wasted - this using the gelatin and tongue.

For dessert the girls all had a scoop of their homemade ice cream and all testified to it being delicious.

So I’d have to rate this trip a success – a good lunch, a visit with Wende, and a source located for cappicola and other European meats. We also checked out a real butcher shop (hard to find around here anymore), which is highly regarded in the area for their meat, and learned they were a source for whole dressed pigs for when I want to BBQ one – I’ve asked at several places and this is the first one to say they could get one. They also make their own sausage in several varieties, so we bought a few links of hot Italian for an upcoming Italian meal.

So I made a very basic sandwich from headcheese the next day for lunch using just the meat, a slice of chilpotle jack cheese, and some mayo on wheatberry bread. When I opened the package, it smelled a lot like liverwurst and I thought it had a similar taste - makes me wonder if it's made from tongue. I thought it made a good sandwich with the only real oddity being the texture of the gelatin. I don't think I'd make a special trip to Oak Ridge to buy more, but if someone said they were serving me a head cheese sandwich for lunch, I'd say "sounds good to me."

Have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cajun Seafood At Almost Heaven South

Title photo added for Lea Ann over at Mangos, Chili and Z :-)

We had some scallops in the freezer we wanted to use and I wanted to try them blackened. I added the butter and Zatarains Blackening Seasoning to a hot cast iron skillet and cooked the scallops for a couple of minutes per side then put them in the oven for about 10 minutes to finish cooking. The scallops were perfectly done, but I’m not getting the crust I’m looking for – I think I’m a little hesitant to get the pan as hot as it needs to be.

I wanted to serve them with some of the grits I’d made up the other day, so I cut them into about 3/8” slices and sautéed in olive oil to a golden brown.

Bev had bought several mangos the other day and we had a slice of fresh pineapple in the fridge, so I decided we should have a mango pineapple salsa as a topper. Bev made it from the diced fruits, finely chopped Vidalia onion, chopped cilantro, a smidgen of Kens Raspberry Walnut Vinaigrette and lime juice. It was delicious.

Alex has decided she likes shrimp dusted with a little Cajun spice and sautéed in lemon butter, so we made some of those for her and tossed a few of the shrimp in the blackening skillet after the scallops were removed. I liked hers better than the blackened.

To plate, I laid down the grits, added the seafood and topped with the salsa.

I liked each of the components a lot, but the combo was just okay – I wouldn’t serve it in my restaurant unless it was in individual piles. While they were good, we also decided we prefer scallops prepared other ways. In summary – good effort, decent photo - and great strawberry pie for dessert.

Thanks for stopping by and have a great day.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Asparagus Omelet and Fried Grits

I had a big day planned so I decided to start off with a substantial breakfast while Bev gets her beauty sleep - I had an early date at the church garden I'm helping with. We’re still getting some asparagus spears and had a few in the frig so I decided on a quickie omelet sided with some buckboard bacon and sautéed cheese grits.

For the omelet, I cut up the asparagus and a slice of Vidalia onion (we just received as a gift from friends who had recently passed through the Vidalia area), and sautéed them in a little olive oil. While they were cooking I diced up a little cheddar and pepper jack cheese and beat a couple of eggs with a little half & half.

I put the bacon on first so it could shrink and render some fat. Then I added a couple of 1/2" slices of the cheese grits leftover from the other night. I made the grits more for this purpose than for the original meal.

When the onion and asparagus were crisp tender, I removed them and added the egg to the pan. When I had the top pretty well set, I spread the veggies and cheese on one half, folded it over and had a delicious and fluffy omelet.

Here’s my plate and it was an outstanding way to begin the day.

Oh I did decide to have a light lunch to tide me over until supper. Our neighbor picked the berries and provided the crust (her recipe makes two), so how could Bev not make a pie. She used Mary's recipe from Deep Souh Dish, and I believe the 7up does make it better than the water in the previous Shoney's copycat we used.

Finally some springlike weather this week with temps in the 70's/50's and some rain - I like it. Hope you have a great day and thanks for stopping by.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Crock Pot Roast

We had a top round roast in the freezer that needed to be cooked and we wanted to cook a crock pot meal – so we matched them up. I realize this is a pretty lean cut of meat to cook all day in the crock pot to almost falling apart, but that’s the way the Boss likes it and she did the cooking. She seasoned with salt, pepper, and Tiger Seasoning, added 2 cans of cream of mushroom soup and 2 cans of water, a packet of Knorrs onion soup mix, some carrots, celery and onion and later some mushrooms. When it was about three fourths done, I sliced it into half inch slices and let it cook a couple more hours. It turned out very similar to country steak and gravy.

I was going to make some mashed potatoes for all that gravy, but I’d been wanting some cheese grits for several uses. So I made up a batch using 2 cups of quick grits, 4 cups water, 4 cups milk, half a stick of butter, 8 oz. of cheddar cheese, and S&P. Some of the leftovers went into a bowl, but most went into a bread pan to set up for slicing.

Here’s my plate of serious comfort food and it was very good, not to mention easy.

I can feel several meals coming-on from both the leftover beef and the grits, and the freezer is getting increasingly emptier.

Have a great day and thanks for tuning in.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Let’s Open The Dock For 2010

One of the excuses we use each year for a social event is the official opening of our boat dock. We try to have a varied type of food each time – country breakfast, BBQ, Tex Mex, etc., and this year we decided on something simple - everyone bring a salad, appetizer or dessert. I wanted to make an antipasto pasta salad, and Bev wanted to make Mexican cornbread.

For the cornbread, she used her usual recipe, but made it as small muffins.

Makes 12” skillet full

2 cup Self rising corn meal
3 lg Eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup Vegetable oil
1 sml Onion, finely chopped
1 sml Green pepper, finely chopped
1 cup Cheese, shredded
1 cup Buttermilk
½ tsp Baking soda
1 ea Jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
1 cup Whole kernel corn, drained

1. Preheat oven to 400F and warm greased cast iron skillet.
2. Mix together meal, eggs, oil, soda, and buttermilk.
3. Stir in other ingredients.
4. Bake until top is browned and toothpick pulls out cleanly.

You can of course make it hotter by how you prep the jalapeno and by adding more. I failed to get a pic, but at least one person who normally only eats plain cornbread ate at least a couple of them. I liked them even though she had them pretty spicy. These are the three that were left.

For the pasta salad, I used 2 pounds multi colored pasta, pepperoni, salami, ham, provolone, asiago, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, grape tomatoes, pepperocini, green, ripe, and kalamata olives, shaved parmigano reggiano on top. Dressed with a bottle of Kens Steakhouse Caesar dressing with ¼ cup of additional olive oil and one tsp each of dried basil, oregano, leaf thyme. I left the items bigger than normal for a pasta salad so it would be more antipasto like. It filled our largest bowl.

Once the party got going, I forgot to take anymore food pictures, but we had more than enough as most folks bring what they said they would, plus another item or two.

I did manage a couple before things got going then some as we were finishing eating. This is the dock from the ramp leading to it.

Alex and her friend Jordyn are injoying their first swim of the year.

Relaxing and socializing after some good eats.

As you can see, this was a pet friendly event. I think there were about 8 dogs roaming around and keeping the dock floor cleaned up for us.

Most folks headed out before the rain came, but a few stayed until dark, which is my favorite time to enjoy the dock.

We managed to inspire a little rain as is often the case with dock parties, but we only collected a tenth of and inch - better than nothing.

We are really blessed to have a small group of friends we really enjoy spending time with. It seemed a good time was had by all, and I hope you'll come see for yourself at our blogger party on June 5.

Hope you have a great day and thanks for stopping by.