Thursday, September 16, 2010

Breast Cancer Awarness Month

October is breast cancer awareness month and already things are gearing up in stores and around the web for various charities to raise money for research, education and awareness causes. This is a subject that is so close to my heart it hurts just thinking about it.

I lost my beloved grandmother, my granny, to breast cancer when I was almost five years old.

That hurts to say. I still remember crying uncontrollably because I wouldn't get to see my grandmother again until I got to heaven. I loved my grandmother. I DIDN'T WANT TO WAIT THAT LONG.

So here's what you need to know:
1. I am participating in Saving 2nd Base which was started by Once A Month Mom and A Southern Fairytale. I'll be sharing my updated version of my grandmother's coconut cake. I say updated because my grandmother was an old school southern cook and she bought a coconut, cracked it open and used that. I'll be using coconut from a bag. I think you'll all thank me for that.

2. If you are uncomfortable with the words breast, boobs, tatas, boobies, etc then you are probably going to want to unfollow me for the month of October. It is ok, I understand.

3. I try very hard to control my language on the web and be sensitive to others sensitivities but breast cancer pisses me off. So I may say it sucks, I may call it a bitch. It's what I need to do to get through this month. This month is always HARD. Most days I don't think about all of the things that I missed because my grandmother died when I was so young, but this month it is in my face all the time everyday. That's ok because it is important to raise awareness, but it doesn't make it any less hard.

4. I will be talking about the uncomfortable things. I will be asking you when the last time you performed a self breast exam was. I'll encourage you to get your boobies squished. I'll suggest that you call every woman that you love and ask them the same questions.

BECAUSE IT IS ABOUT EARLY DETECTION. Early detection of breast cancer saves lives. Maybe if my grandmother had breast cancer today with all of the advancements that we have now... Maybe if she had known earlier...

My grandmother fought and won her battle with breast cancer the first time around. It came back. Breast cancer is a bitch. It robbed me of a childhood with a woman who was made to be a grandmother. It robbed me of experiences and memories, love and hugs and kisses. It robbed me of getting to bake with my grandmother, because my grandmother LOVED to bake. So this month I'll bake for her, in her memory and honor.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Proud of Myself Kaiser Sandwich Rolls for the Bread Machine

This weekend has brought a lot of time spent in my kitchen. I have made peach jam from peaches I peeled sliced and crushed myself, sweet and tender cream biscuits, Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins and these kaiser rolls. In other words, I had a very successful and joyful weekend.

I love to spend time in my kitchen. It is how I relax. I love challenging myself to try new things and this weekend I tackled two new techniques: I made jam and kaiser rolls! This might sound bad to say but I am proud of what I have accomplished. I have not witnessed anyone make either of these types of things so I was flying completely alone. While I grew up watching my mother cook, she only made bread at holidays and I do not remember her ever making jam or preserves.

Enough of my pride, let's talk about these rolls! If you are looking for a sandwich bun you can stop looking right now. These are perfect and there is not one thing that could make them any better. They are light and fluffy but also sturdy, not to mention their wonderful taste. This is a recipe to make for company because they will smell up your whole house. I love it when my home smells like a bakery.

I adapted this recipe quite a bit but the original can be found here: Potato Buns
Here's what I did:

Proud of Myself Kaiser Sandwich Rolls for the Bread Machine

1 3/4 cups water
4 cups bread flour
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup potato flakes
2 Tablespoons dry milk powder
1 3/4 teaspoons bread machine yeast
2 eggs
1 teaspoon water
2 Tablespoons or to taste sesame seeds

Load ingredients into bread machine in order according to the instruction manual. Set to dough cycle.

At end of dough cycle remove from machine and punch down. Divide into 12 even portions. I find it helpful to use my kitchen scale for consistency.

Shape into Kaiser rolls. If you need help there is a very helpful video here: the right way to shape kaiser roll (This is a you tube video.)

Place onto parchment lined baking sheets. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise for 20 minutes. Make an egg wash by beating the eggs with the water to combine. Brush the tops and sides of risen rolls with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes (mine took 18), rotating sheet pans after 8 minutes, until golden brown.


Is there a recipe that you are proud of yourself for making? Please feel free to leave a link in the comments section!

(Picture to come)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Perfect potato salad

I have been searching for the perfect potato salad recipe for years. My husband doesn't eat potato salad so I make it for myself as a special treat when I make something that he likes that I do not. That means I get to make it exactly to my taste. Now that is my kind of recipe!

So after looking at dozens of recipes and trying out several here is what I came up with this afternoon. This is mostly a traditional southern recipe. It is practically perfect but I'll probably keep experimenting because that is just the way I am!


3 pounds red skinned potatoes- skin left on
4 eggs
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/2 whole bread and butter pickle
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup yellow mustard
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 small onion very finely minced (or you can do like Rachel Ray and grate it)

1. Place whole potatoes and cold water in a large pot and place on stove over high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce to medium-high. Cook until tender. Drain. Allow to cool enough so that you can handle them. Cut potatoes into eighths.

2. Place eggs in same pot after you have run cold water over the pot to cool it. Fill pot with cold water at least one inch above the eggs. Add tablespoon of vinegar. Place on stove over high heat. Bring to rapid boil and remove from heat. Let sit for 15 minutes. Run under cold water until they are cool enough to handle. Remove peel. Dice the eggs into small even pieces.

3. Cut pickle into small half moons.

4. Combine mayo, mustard, salt and pepper.

5. Combine potatoes, eggs, pickles, mayo mixture and onion in a large bowl. Refrigerate for several hours and serve cold.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

When did you learn to cook?

Jen at Balancing Beauty and Bedlam posed that question today on her blog. Cooking is my passion so I was unable to formulate a quick response and did not want to take up tons of room in her comments so I am responding here in my own little corner of the internet. I hope that Jen will not mind. Please feel free to share your experiences and cooking history as well.

I hope I never stop learning to cook. It is one of my true joys in life. I love challenging myself to try a new technique or come up with a new recipe. I'm constantly "making things up in my head" as I call it and sometimes the results are disastrous but most of the time the result is nothing short of delicious.

I suppose the short answer would be that I inherited an ability to cook. Just as I inherited my curly hair from my grandfather or my fair skin from my father I believe that cooking is in my blood. Both of my grandmothers and my mother were/are wonderful cooks. I really believe that it is part of the southern small town culture that my parents grew up in. Things like that are so important to me. I am pretty passionate about southern culture and the things that make this corner of the world so different and divine. It's not just about flip flops and azaleas. (although L-O-V-E my azaleas)

My mother tells me that from the time I could talk I would inform her that I was going to have a TV show like Nathalie Dupree when I grew up. I was always in the kitchen with my mother keeping her company. She had a small TV in her kitchen that picked up ETV and we would watch cooking shows while she cooked each night's meals. I adored Julia Child and can still vividly remember watching her beat something with her rolling pin and thinking "wow that looks fun!"

In middle school I started begging my mother to let me help cook. I am sure before then I would help her stir something or put cake batter into the pan, peel potatoes or other such things but it was then that I started helping more with actual meal prep. I remember making pepper steak. I am not sure where I could possibly have had that since my mother didn't cook things like that. She cooked very "southern food." It was, of course, a recipe I made up in my head. It was very good, if a little spicy for some of the members of my family.

In high school I started grilling out for my family in the summer time. My dad did not so much appreciate this since he likes to grill but I am sure that my mother probably told him not to ruin a good thing as my helping out was highly encouraged by my mother. I will always be thankful to her for that.

I met my first high school boyfriend in home ec class. His mother made him take it because she wanted him to be prepared when it was time for him to be out on his own. I remember even at the time thinking that she was a mighty wise woman for that. He was a wonderful guy who treated me well and was very respectful and we took several more home ec and foods, as they were called, courses together even after we broke up because we maintained a great friendship for many years. I will always be thankful that my first boyfriend was such a great guy.

In high school I also tried 1.5 million chocolate chip cookie recipes one summer before deciding to ditch them all and come up with my own. Of course I didn't write it down but continued to make it during high school and beyond. I haven't made it in years and don't remember anything other than that it contained shortening, which is probably why I no longer make that recipe. Shortening= bad for you!

My early adult years were spent pretending that I didn't know how to cook so that my friends would cook for me. I loved trying all the different food that my new grown up friends made. Very few of them cooked traditional southern food so I enjoyed having my palate expanded to Indian food, Italian food and Asian food.

I remember cooking for my husband when we first met(I was 20 and that was nearly 8 years ago- side note where has all the time gone?!?) I already knew I wanted to marry him so I wanted to impress him with my cooking. I made potatoes from a box. I didn't know how easy it was to make homemade scalloped potatoes.

When I had decided that "THAT IS IT I AM READY TO BE ENGAGED DARN IT!" I made him "Engagement Chicken" by Glamor magazine. It worked, shortly thereafter we were engaged. It is the first recipe for roasted chicken I ever made and the one that still to this day that I base my own recipe on.

Once we were married I started cooking much more. I would say the turning points in my culinary "career" thus far were the trip that we took with his family to Italy when we were dating and our trip to Paris (again with his family) when we were newlyweds. I came back with a passion for those foods and a drive to learn to make them. Unfortunately I don't get to do so very often as my husband is a meat and potatoes kinda guy and then picky on top of that.

Poor guy was a transplant to this state and thought that he was marrying a woman that would cook him meat and potatoes southern food every night and he got a woman obsessed with different ethnic foods. Oh well. He's still well fed. :-)

Over the last few years I have made more and more yeast breads including my favorite recipe for bread, pizza dough, bagels, rolls, etc.

I'm still not very into making desserts. Maybe one day when I have more mouths to feed it will be more exciting but my husband's taste in desserts is as follows: fruit desserts and deserts containing peanut butter, butterscotch, or caramel. (ahem yuck) Mine are as follows: cheesecake, chocolate, pastries, frou frou french desserts such as creme brule. He finds those equally as yucky.

Right now I am focusing on meal planning, making sure that what we eat is balanced both at the meal, during the day and for the week and on making use of leftovers. I hate to waste!

I am also working on more slow cooker dinners because I reached a point where I needed to make things easier for myself.

I often remark to my husband that I really don't know what most couples our age eat since it seems that women don't cook anymore. Now that isn't meant to be sexist as my husband also loves to cook, but it is like a point was reached in the '80s when mamas started thinking their daughters wouldn't one day have families of their own!

I like to remind him how lucky he is to have a wife who knows how to cook. :-) I was just telling him that yesterday when I waved my magic spatula and turned yucky dried out leftover rotisserie chicken (that I did not make) into moist and delicious chicken croquettes.

I hope that cooking is never boring for me. I hope that I always enjoy learning new techniques and, God willing, I look forward to a day when I can pass on the family recipes and traditions to our next generation.

Friday, April 9, 2010

How to make Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup in 30 minutes

Today is the third part in my four part blog series entitled: One almost 5 pound chicken, three meals. We have already roasted a chicken and we have made chicken stock. Now we'll use the chicken stock and the leftover roasted dark meat from the chicken to make chicken noodle soup.

Not to toot my own horn but this is one recipe that I have truly mastered. It has become one of my signature dishes and I have made it for sick friends and family members. There is something about this soup that just seems to cure colds. I think it is all of the love I put in it! This is also one of my picky husband's favorite things. He definitely doesn't mind eating leftovers of this- as he is for lunch today.

This is a quick and easy recipe perfect for after a long work day when you want something warm and comforting with very minimal effort.

Here is what you need:

leftover chicken, torn into small pieces (approximately 1 1/2 cups)
2 quarts of chicken stock
1 cup sliced carrots
salt to taste (depends on how much is in your stock)
1 cup of pasta, any type

This recipe only had one step! Combine cold stock, chicken and carrots over high heat. Heat until boiling. Add salt, pepper and Paprika. Add pasta. Cook for approximately 12 minutes or until pasta and carrots are fully cooked. Taste and adjust seasoning. It is always better to put less salt and pepper than you think you will need because you can add more at this point. Serve.

Now, if I wasn't cooking for the world's pickiest eater I would add in celery and maybe some peas but it is already hard enough to pick out all the carrots for him. Add in any of your favorite vegetables and they will only make this better!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

How to make chicken stock in your crock pot the lazy way

Here's the thing, I'm cheap, I'm busy, I'm picky and I'm tired. So I like to put in as little effort as possible to get really good results. I have applied this to my chicken stock recipe as well. I came up with this idea several years ago and then consulted Google, cookbooks and blogs and then decided just to wing it. I crafted a delicious and very easy recipe for chicken stock that I really enjoy. I have used it in all kinds of recipes, but my favorite way to use it is in chicken noodle soup.

I make this the lazy way. It cooks in my crock pot either while I am sleeping or while I am at work. It takes about 5 minutes to throw everything into my crock pot and I get about 3 quarts of chicken stock as a result.

Word of warning for the true tightwads: you can only use the bones once. We will be getting every last good thing from those bones so if you try to use them again the results won't be good. Trust me. I know from experience. ahem.

Here's what you will need:
Really big crock pot
chicken bones from roasted chicken
2 stalks of celery (not the bunch- the individual pieces pulled off of the bunch)
1 cup carrots (can use whole carrots or whole baby carrots)
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon paprika
7 whole peppercorns
1 1/2 Tablespoons salt
Water to fill to top of crock pot

Throw bones in bottom of crock pot. Wash celery stocks and place on top. No need to cut them and keep the leaves on. They taste good. Wash carrots really well. No need to peel or cut them if you are using whole carrots. Throw them in the crock pot. Cut onion in half. Leave skin on. This is the lazy way, remember? Throw in the crock pot. Throw in 4 cloves of garlic. Don't peel them just throw them in. Throw in paprika, peppercorns and salt. Then fill with water to the top. Cook on low until you have time to deal with it but at least 8 hours. I have cooked for 10 hours and then kept warm for several hours. You basically can not mess this up.

Remove the crock and let cool for about 30 minutes so that you can better handle everything. Use a straining spoon to remove everything that isn't liquid from the crockpot. Throw it away.

Put in a container (I use a pitcher and a mason jar) and put in the refrigerator overnight (or while you are at work if you cooked it overnight). The very little tiny bit of fat in this will rise to the top. Spoon it off and throw it away.

There you have it- wonderful, flavorful and easy chicken stock. If you keep things like carrots, celery, garlic and onions around the house this should probably cost you less than $1. You can store this in the refrigerator for 5 days or you can freeze it until kingdom come. I freeze it in plastic bags and then I lay them flat. That way I can just stack them up. I put 4 cups of stock in some bags and 2 cups of stock in other bags. Those are the amounts that most recipes call for.

Optional things that you can put into the stock at the beginning:
Italian Seasoning

I hope that you enjoy this "recipe." This is part 2 of a 4 part blog series entitled: 1 almost 5 pound chicken, three meals I hope that you will check out the first posting below.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

One almost 5 pound chicken, three delicious meals

Are you in on the secret? No, I'm not taking about that book that describes how to wish things into being. *eye roll* I am talking about cooking from your pantry and fridge/freezer. Everything I need to make for this series was found in my own house. Three complete meals (plus leftovers) from what I have already in my house. The chicken came from the full size freezer in my garage. I purchased it in November 2009 for $2.41. This week I will be sharing with you one way to cook once and eat three different meals from the leftovers.

When we first got married my husband informed me that he did not like leftovers. Well, I started brainstorming because, as a family of two, we have a lot of leftovers. Americans waste so much food by letting leftovers and other foods go bad and I didn't want us to contribute to that. (
Here's an article by The Discovery Channel) So I decided that rather than serve my husband roasted chicken three nights in a row I would come up with a plan to "re-make" the leftovers into a completely new meal. Also, we are snobs and only really like eating white meat. We can save a ton of money by buying a whole chicken rather than just the breasts so I needed a way to "hide" the dark meat to make us want to eat it. Thus, the roasted chicken to chicken stock to chicken soup to chicken salad journey began.

Since I started cooking this way it has become one of my favorite time and money saving tricks. Last night I got home from work, prepped my chicken (I'll tell you more about that later) and then put it in the oven to roast for about 1 hour, 40 minutes. The first night that I make roasted chicken I make mashed potatoes and gravy to go with it.

How I roast chicken- a tutorial by a semi-OCD germ freak

You will need:
1 chicken- take out and throw away the nastiness that is stuffed in the cavity. Try not to look at it. Wash your hands 5 times and try to forget it ever existed.
Paper towels
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
Seasoning mix (example: garlic herb, lemon pepper, etc use your favorite)
kosher salt (only a little if the seasoning mix contains any)
freshly ground pepper (life is too short to use fake pepper from a can)
1 teaspoon paprika (I don't care what other kind of seasoning you use- you need paprika because it tastes good and it give the chicken a nice color)
1 lemon cut into 4 chunks
1 small onion cut into 4 chunks
2 cloves garlic- don't cut just smash it
1 basting brush
something to roast the chicken in- sometimes I use a large corning ware oval dish last night I used a 9X13 nonstick pan
oven mitts (duh)
cutting board
really sharp knife
1 small saucepan
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup chicken stock
mashed potatoes-use your own recipe

Step 1:
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dry off the outside of the chicken really well using paper towels. This is what will allow you have a crispy golden skin. Throw away the paper towels and wash your hands 5 times.

Step 2:
Combine your seasoning blend, the salt, the pepper and the paprika in a small ramekin. Put the olive oil in another ramekin. Brush the outside of the chicken with olive oil. Sprinkle the seasoning mix one with one hand and use the other to rub it in. Use the same hand to flip the chicken. Use the "clean hand" to brush olive oil on the other side and then sprinkle with the seasoning mix. Use your "dirty hand" to rub it in. Use your "dirty hand" to put the chicken in the roasting pan breast side up. Use your "dirty hand" to shove the lemon, onion and garlic into the chicken cavity.

Step 3:
Wash your hands 5 times and swear that you will never again roast a chicken because surely it cannot be worth all this (5 minutes of) effort. Place chicken into oven. Set timer for 1 hour, 40 minutes. Go sit on the couch and watch TV and try to forget that you just touched a raw chicken.

Step 4:
With 30 minutes to go on the oven start making your mashed potatoes and any other side dish that requires cooking. Tip: you don't have to cook salad- I'm just saying. You've done enough with touching the raw chicken.

Step 5:
Take chicken out of oven. Test for doneness. Remove from roasting pan to cutting board and tent with foil.

Step 6:
Finish mashed potatoes. Keep warm.

Step 7:
Pour juices and tasty bits into a small sauce pan. Combine butter and flour into a paste using a fork. Whisk into the chicken juices. If gravy is too thick add chicken stock (it usually is too thick).

Step 8:
Carve chicken (there are how to videos all over the Internet). Our family of two eats one and a half breasts. Serve roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. Moan because it is so good. Be forced to share with any furry children that live in your house, especially one large cat with a chicken addiction.

After dinner remove all of the leftover meat from the bones. Set aside leftover breast meat for chicken salad. Set aside all the dark meat for chicken noodle soup.

Save the bones! Throw them in a bag and store in the refrigerator. Tomorrow we'll make chicken stock in our crock pot while we work.