Monday, October 31, 2011

All Broken Up

Today is the day:

Horror of HORRORS!

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The relentless hammer and buzz saw result in...

carnage, carnage everywhere!

I guess I found my mask for Halloween!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Torn Apart

We're getting ready for new floors on Monday. Yay! I think.

I've been frantically trying to move crap out of the way so that the installers can move the furniture more easily without breaking anything and so that my dust cleanup will be minimized.

Emptying the pantry (new, larger porcelain tile is coming)
Better look at the Before tile (and my pantry mess)

Clearing off the bookshelves (bye-bye old carpet, hello wood floors!)
Wow.  Just wow.  Seems like my whole house is torn apart.

Unsettling doesn't begin to describe it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Tradition with a Twist

I lived in New Orleans for a long time, so on Monday, I made beans and rice.  Red beans and rice are a menu staple in New Orleans, but Monday is when the locals eat 'em.

Menu Board at Mother's Restaurant

The story goes that Monday was wash day in times past, and housewives made beans and rice for dinner because they didn't require a lot of tending.  Beans are easy and can simmer for a few hours on the stove while you take care of other things.

I alternate between making red beans and white beans.  We love them both.  Red beans have a rich, almost smoky flavor while white beans are milder.  They don't get the play that red beans do.  They may be considered an also-ran, a has-bean, if you will.  But I remember the first time I had white beans and rice at the Des Allemands Catfish Festival.  I was smitten!  They were served over fluffy steamed rice as a side to the crispy catfish, but white beans are also often served as a side with a grilled pork chop or paneeed chicken (pounded chicken cutlets dipped in seasoned flour and pan fried).  We eat white beans and rice as a main course; they're an inexpensive meal and a complete source of protein.  Can't beat that!  Plus, beans freeze beautifully (freeze the beans and rice separately, though) and are hearty and delicious fare on those nights when you just don't feel like cooking.

Soak the beans overnight (or use quick-soak method), then drain:

Saute onion and celery in a small amount of oil for 5 minutes:

Add ham cubes, garlic and bay leaf and saute for another 5 minutes:

Add drained beans along with 6 cups of fresh, cold water and some Tabasco:

Stir the pot, bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for about 2 hours, stirring periodically and adding additional water as needed to prevent beans from sticking.

Mash the beans slightly (you want them to be quite broken up):

Start boiling your rice.  Meanwhile, add about 1/3 lb. of your favorite smoked sausage (cubed) to the beans

I brought 10 lbs. of this stuff back last time I went to New Orleans

and serve the rest of the sausage on the side.  Garnish with green onions and add additional Louisiana Hot Sauce or Tabasco.

Creole Style White Beans and Rice
from Emeril Lagasse's Louisiana Real & Rustic
click here to print

1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 bay leaves
1 cup chopped boiled ham
1 Tbsp. garlic, minced
1 lb. dried white navy beans, soaked overnight and drained
6 to 8 cups water
1 lb. smoked sausage (divided use)
1 tsp. Tabasco sauce

Heat oil over medium heat in large, heavy saucepan or dutch oven.  You want a heavy pan so that mixture doesn't scorch too easily.

Add onions, celery, salt and pepper.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the ham, garlic, and bay leaf.  Cook for an additional 5 minutes.  Add drained beans, Tabasco, and 6 cups of the water to start.  Stir and cover; bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding water as necessary.

Mash beans against side of pot so that they are creamy  Add 1/3 lb. of the sausage and cook uncovered for an additional 30 minutes.  Remove bay leaf and serve over rice with a side of sausage and additional hot sauce, if desired.

 C'est Bon, Cher!

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Friday, October 21, 2011

Garage Stuff -- Industrial Chic and an Antique

I have been cleaning the garage of all things because I'm preparing for two major events in the next couple of weeks:  a garage sale (next Friday) and new flooring (starting on Halloween--hopefully not a bad omen).

So while I was sorting through the flotsam, I happened upon a lot of trash but a few treasures that I may need to steal for inside.  My Man is originally from New England, and I suspect that these came from his Dad's stash.

Mini galvanized storage cube -- about 6 inches square
A neat wooden box from Eagle Lock Company with original graphics, painted red on the outside...

Mustard yellow on the inside

and back

And then this...the piece de resistance!

Antique Biscuit Box with original label - Yowser!

Oh, I LOVE this!  But how can I use it inside?  I don't want to damage the graphic which is already tattered.

It says that this company was established in 1863 and "36 Years a Success", so that would put its age at 112 years old!  Just barely 19th century, but I'll take it!  My husband's great-grandfather had a General Store in Maine, so maybe it came from there...

It is stunning!  I think it deserves better than dust masks and respirators, don't you?

I did something SO STUPID recently and damaged a family heirloom.  I'm afraid to admit it, but let me just say this:  be careful where you put real pumpkins, because they can rot very quickly.  If they're on top of something, it will be damaged.  Oh, I can't even tell you.   Makes me SO sad.  Lesson learned:  only faux pumpkins inside!  Maybe the garage treasures are better off left with My Man.   The neglect isn't killing them, but I accidentally might!

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Apple Temptation

Sheryl at Lady Behind the Curtain invited me to participate in a Cooking Challenge today:

The Improve Cooking Challenge

This is a blog hop where participants were asked to use two mandatory ingredients:

Caramel and Apples

Ever since Sheryl threw down the gauntlet, I have mulled over apple recipes.  Two out of the four members in my family are actually allergic to apples, so I wanted to make a recipe with a smallish yield so that I wouldn't be tempted to eat the whole thing (which might taste very good at the time but prove to be very bad in hind-sight.)
First, I investigated the different apple varieties and picked some that were conducive to cooking: tart granny smith, jonagold (a cross between jonathon and golden delicious), and gala.  I wanted apples that would hold their shape as well as a combination of tastes and textures for interest.

After peeling, coring, and cubing six medium apples (2 of each variety), I sauteed them in 2 Tbsp. butter, 1/3 cup sugar, and 2 tsp.cinnamon until they were nicely caramelized and tender..

These are great on their own and are similar to Cracker Barrel's fried apples!  But this is supposed to be a Challenge, so I wanted to try a new recipe using the sauteed apples, something that could be savored over several days.  In theory.

Cinnamon Apple Ice Cream with Gooey Caramel Sauce
(click here to print)
1 cup sugar
1 cup half-and-half
3 egg yolks, beaten
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. ground cinnamon

Stir together the sugar and half-and-half in a saucepan over medium-low heat, When the mixture begins to simmer, remove from heat.  Whisk half of the mixture into the eggs, working quickly so that the eggs do not cook. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan, and stir in the cream. Continue cooking over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat, and whisk in vanilla and cinnamon. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Pour cold mixture into an ice cream maker, and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.  Stir in half of the sauteed apples (recipe above) by hand at the end of the churning process.

Turn ice cream into an airtight container, place in freezer, and allow to ripen overnight.

Before serving, soften at room temperature for 10 minutes.  Scoop into bowls and drizzle with Gooey Caramel Sauce.

Gooey Caramel Sauce

1 cup dark
 brown sugar
6 Tbsp. butter (no substitutes)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup white corn syrup
1/2 to 1 Tbsp. Bourbon (optional)

Combine all ingredients except for Bourbon in an 8 cup pyrex measuring cup.  Make sure you use a large vessel for this so that the mixture does not overflow and burn you!  Cook on HIGH in the microwave for 3 minutes.  Remove and stir well.  Cook on HIGH for an additional 2 minutes.    Stir in Bourbon (if using).  This sauce will thicken as it cools.  Any leftovers should be refrigerated and can be reheated in the microwave later at 50% power.

The ice cream had a delicious flavor, but it wasn't as creamy as I would have liked.  I found these tips to lesson ice crystal formation in homemade ice cream and will definitely use some of the suggestions the next time I make this.  And there will be a next time!

The caramel sauce was perfectly decadent and delicious and mingled beautifully with the apple cinnamon flavors.

I made another recipe with the rest of the apples that I'll share in a future post.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tasty Tater Soup

My Man is the grocery shopper in the family.

That hasn't always been true, but when I went back to work, I told him he had to pick up one of my weekly chores, and that's what he chose.  (Drat, why couldn't it be laundry?  I hate doing laundry.)  He does a great job of keeping the freezer and pantry stocked (maybe too good sometimes).  He also finds it a challenge to get the lowest price on frequently-used items.  He especially goes a little nuts when whole chickens are on sale, and he cuts them up and freezes them for me.

I know, I know.  I am blessed to have a man who likes to do these things!

So anyway, I had several packages of frozen chicken backs he had saved for me to make into stock, which I did over the weekend.  (If you have ever wondered what the difference is between chicken stock and chicken broth, check out this link.)  I froze several quarts of homemade stock for later but used some to make this delicious potato soup.  I like this recipe because the seasonings lend an interesting, complex flavor to what can sometimes be bland fare.  I don't remember the original recipe source, but I've been making this for at least 10 years.  I make a quadruple batch of the seasoning mix below and keep it in an airtight container to save time when I make it again later.

Baked Potato Soup
(click here to print)

1/2 lb. bacon, cut crosswise into pieces
4 medium baking potatoes, peeled and cubed
3/4 cup onion, chopped
1/3 cup flour
5 cups chicken stock (homemade preferred)
2 cups milk
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded (divided use)
Minced green onions for garnish

Seasoning Mix:
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. celery seed or celery salt
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. rubbed sage
1/4 tsp. dried thyme

Fry the bacon in a large dutch oven over medium heat until crisp.  Remove to paper toweling to drain.  Reserve 1 to 2 Tbsp. of the drippings and saute' onion until golden brown and tender.

Stir in flour and seasonings and cook for several minutes to toast the flour slightly.

Gradually add the chicken stock, whisking constantly.  Bring to a boil, then add potatoes.  Cover, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Add milk and 1 1/2 cups of the cheese and heat through.

Do not boil or milk may curdle.

Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with additional cheddar cheese, bacon bits, and green onions.

This soup is Mmm, Mmm Good.  Wait, that might be plagiarism...

How about this?


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Chef in Training