Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Obsession

I have a problem.
OK fine, I have several, but this one is documented, recorded, and I believe I actually signed an affidavit about it.
I LOVE Texasware bowls. These are some of my clean ones. There are 3 or 4 covered with batter and assorted gook in the sink. There are a few at the farm.
Aren't they beautiful?
I loved them long before Rachael Ray (forgive me Rach) started using look-alikes as her garbage bowls - sacrilege I say!
They take me to my happy place. Don't hate me for it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just like you, I'm busy cooking. Just wanted to say thanks for the encouragement and all the nice comments from friends and strangers alike.
Whether you really mean them or not - they make me feel good!!!!!!
Here's what just came out of the oven - they look so much better before the eating frenzy begins!
Enjoy your families!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Today is the Day After Yesterday

Yes, this just occurred to me.
Which would also make today the day after the day I was supposed to post my Thanksgiving menu.

Well, I don't know about you, but I've looked all over the place and can't find it anywhere around here. Which is, I'm certain, because I didn't post it then or anytime between then and now, which would definitely make it difficult to find. Basically nonexistent.

So, as an act of kindness on my part, I'm just giving you a heads-up saying "It ain't posted yet."

But, also as an act of kindness, and partly to make me look like less of a loser, I'm posting the MOST wonderful soup recipe ever.

It's so good you're gonna say, "That soup was so good, I don't care that she didn't do what she said she was gonna do, she doesn't EVER have to post that menu as far as I'm concerned!" "She's no loser!"

Please have pity on me- I am a hopeless procrastinator.

(And, by jingy, here's yet another reason for the existence of Velveeta!)

Green Chili Chicken Enchilada Soup

1 T. vegetable oil
½ c. diced onion (white or yellow)
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1 c. Masa Harina
3 cups water
1 can (14 oz) green chili enchilada sauce
1 box (16 oz) Velveeta (pepper jack)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. chili powder
½ tsp. cumin
2-3 cups shredded cooked chicken

1. Sauté the onion and garlic in the vegetable oil for about two minutes, just until the onion becomes translucent.
2. Add the chicken broth.
3. Combine the masa with 2 cups water in a medium bowl and whisk until blended. Add the masa mixture to the onion, garlic, and broth.
4. Add remaining water, enchilada sauce, cheese and spices to the pot and bring to a boil.
5. Add the shredded chicken.
6. Reduce the heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes or until thick.

Garnish with chopped cilantro, crumbled tortilla chips, chopped avocado, or salsa.

** Variations

Substitute 1 (14 oz) can red enchilada sauce for the green chili sauce
Substitute regular or Mexican style Velveeta for the pepper jack Velveeta
Add one diced poblano pepper

Friday, November 20, 2009

Why Did God Make Velveeta?

I'll tell you. Macaroni and Cheese, that's why.

And maybe queso, but we'll talk about that another time.

Today is all about the M&C.

An old friend of mine (sorry Kendra, but you're only old in a long-time friend way) asked me for a recipe for this cheesy delight, and I have pondered for two weeks the perfect combination of players. Well, maybe three weeks.

Really and truly, it's just taken me this long to post it, but the whole pondering thing just sounds so much better.

This recipe is easy and forgiving, and you can substitute different pasta shapes, and cheeses if you don't happen to have my favorites on hand.

Here are some things you can't do. You can't leave out the Velveeta, and you can't leave out the cream. If you do I'll hunt you down, and heaven knows we don't want that. Also, if you leave those things out you won't swoon and melt into a puddle on the floor when you have your first bite. And heaven knows we do want that.

So here goes...

Makes you Swoon Mac and Cheese

3 c. uncooked pasta (I like the mini penne or rotini)
6T. butter (don't use margarine- that's just shameful)
5T. flour
1 c. milk
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. sour cream
3 c. cheese (I like a combo of 1 c. provolone, 1 c. asiago, and 1 c. Velveeta)
(But mix it up any way you like)
1/2 t. dried mustard
1/2 t. black pepper
1/8 t. cayenne

Cook the pasta in heavily salted water (the water should taste like the ocean, of course minus the little fish and stuff). Make sure the pasta is cooked until just al dente and not overcooked - it will absorb more of the good sauce and get softer later.
Make a roux with the butter and flour - cook it until it is a little beige, but not brown. Turn the heat way down to very low. Add the milk, cream, and sour cream, the mustard, and black and cayenne pepper. Stir constantly until it is thick, creamy and smooth. Add the cheese and stir constantly until melted. This may take a while but don't turn up the heat - you will curdle the cream!!!
Add the pasta to the sauce and stir until you have the sauce in all the little nooks and crannies of the pasta. That, my friends is what the nooks and crannies are for! Pour into a heavily buttered 13 x 9 baking dish. Sprinkle with additional cheese and Oh, oh, oh, I forgot! Crush up some cheese crackers like Cheez-its very finely and sprinkle on top. Then melt about 1/4 c. butter and pour over the whole thing.
Bake at 350 degrees 30-40 minutes until light brown and bubbly.

Swoon and melt in a puddle.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It Confuses Even Me

I know some of you will be shocked to hear this, but sometimes, just occasionally, I can't figure myself out.

Just admit it - you're aghast.

Here's a list of some things I've thought about today. They're in random order, well, because they're pretty darn random and trying to prioritize them would likely make my brain seize up.

And we don't want that.

  • This morning I woke up wishing my hair was curly. That's funny because my hair is the exact opposite of curly which means (wait for it....) it's straight. As a board. Like the boards the Chief always hopes I'll bring home from Home Depot when he sends me on a mission. He'll say "Get twenty 12' 2x4's, and make sure they're straight." And I'll respond "OK Chief", knowing full well that the chance of me being able to accomplish that is pretty much nil. I'm telling you it's not easy to 1) pick up 12' 2x4's because they have been soaked for months in some toxic solution which makes each of them weigh about 200 lbs 2) hold them at some odd angle while simultaneously scanning them for warps and huge knotholes, and 3) get them on the wheelie cart without injuring myself or someone else. Sometimes some unsuspecting stranger feels sorry for me and helps me load them, but more often than not they're just frightened and decide not to get 12' 2x4's for themselves that day just to avoid the chaos unfolding on that aisle.

  • Why don't they have automatic shut-offs for heated car seats? (This is where those of you who have very spiffy cars that do have automatic shut-off switches can quit reading). I get really excited the two or three days per year when I get to use the heated seat. It makes me feel cozy. It feels good on my back. And then I always forget to switch it off after the temperature has gone up and I can't for the life of me figure out what is causing me to sweat like a pig and slide all over the leather seat. I promise you sometime next July I will look up and see the little indicator light and say "Bummer". It's inevitable.

  • When is the appropriate time for me to begin my "Upcoming High School Reunion Diet and Total Body Makeover Plan"? I think I need help with this one. Here's the conundrum. The reunion is next April. There is a lot of work to be done. Do I start now and pace myself logically so the pounds and inches safely melt away never to return? (quit snickering.) Or do I eat like a crazy person during the holidays, the only time when you can actually get away with eating everything in sight, and deal with the tragic consequences in January? To be honest, I'm really leaning toward Plan B.

  • Finally, did you know that you lose your fingerprints as you get older? Seriously. I mean it's bad enough that you lose your eyesight, hearing, and ability to think logically, but your fingerprints??? This is so disappointing. My recent school district employee fingerprints were rejected by the FBI. I've been rejected many times before for a lot of things, but I always thought my fingerprints were up there with the best of them. High quality. Maybe even attractive, special. No. Rejected. When I had them re-done this morning the official little fingerprint man casually mentioned that poor quality fingerprints are common in those people "of a certain age". And then he mumbled something about robbing banks using a walker.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Don't Blame Me for This

Let's just get this out of the way.

I'm sorry, OK?

I can't monitor everyone's caloric intake. I can't slap your hand when you reach for that warm maple-glazed donut, I can't pin you down and stop you from methodically devouring, piece by piece, the leftover Halloween candy. I can't grab the steering wheel and guide you safely out of the "We'll Fry Anything" drive-thru lane.

No, I can't do this. I am way too busy slapping, pinning down, and steering myself. Fooling with the rest of you would just be asking too much.

So don't even think of blaming me for posting this recipe.

Although if we look at things logically (which I hate doing) it would, I suppose, technically be my fault.

But, you're really going to like this.

It will make you so happy you won't even care when you slowly slip into a sugar and butter-induced catatonic state.
A State where everyone wears stretchy pants!
A State where scales are just something that you get on your legs in cold weather!
A State where Paula Deen is governor, and skinny women are extradited for their crimes, by golly!

But I digress.

Really, you'll like it. Trust me.

I'm harmless.

Cinnamon Apple Bread Pudding
From Lu's Kitchen

12 large cinnamon rolls (I bought mine individually wrapped at Sam's)
2 c. applesauce
4 eggs
2 c. whipping cream
1 (12 oz.) can evaporated milk
additional milk (if needed)
¼ c. sugar
½ t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1/3 cup butter

Break the cinnamon rolls into bite-sized pieces, and let sit overnight in a large bowl loosely covered with a kitchen towel. This dries out the cinnamon rolls and will help them absorb the liquid.
Mix the applesauce, the eggs, whipping cream, milk, sugar, salt and vanilla. Place the cinnamon rolls in a greased 13 x 9 baking dish, and pour the liquid mixture over the cinnamon rolls. Make sure all cinnamon roll pieces are covered with liquid. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Dot the top with butter (or melt butter and drizzle over the top). Bake at 350º for 35-45 minutes, just until light golden brown.
Serve hot, with sauce.



1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
½ c. butter
1 T. light corn syrup
1 t. vanilla
1 T. grated orange zest

Cook brown sugar, butter, and corn syrup in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 3 to 4 minutes or until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, pecans, and orange zest. Pour over bread pudding.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Living with Scorpions

I dreamed (or is it dreamt) about scorpions again. Creepy, you say?

It has become pretty commonplace for me.

Now don't deny it. You just turned to the person next to you, or yelled to your husband on the couch, or went outside and found your pesky neighbor and said "Chief really needs to amp up her medication." You did that didn't you? Well, I forgive you because you don't know the whole story. And, frankly, I've had a lot of practice forgiving people that say that.

The farm has a lot of scorpions. And when I say a lot, I mean this:

Here's the process for entering the door of the farmhouse when we first arrive for the weekend.
  • I fumble for the keys in my purse. The only light is from the Chief's truck headlights. I am practically blinded.
  • I put the key in the lock and turn, then push the door open while simultaneously jumping backward at least a foot.
  • I wait and watch for the scorpion to fall off either the top of the door or the door facing. If there is no falling scorpion, I carefully scan the door frame to find the scorpion that is curled up there in the scorpion fetal position.
  • I reach in and quickly flip the light switch on in the kitchen.
  • I immediately begin stepping on the scorpions that are now running pell-mell across the floor.
After we unload the car, we repeat this process with the front door.

Last time, we got seven in the first 10 minutes we were there.

But enough of all that hoopla.

Now let's talk about being stung by a scorpion in bed at 3:00 in the morning while you are sound asleep. Mind you, I have been visiting the farm for a LONG TIME, and never, in all that time (until two months ago) had this happened. I was awakened from a sound sleep by a searing pain in my left forearm. I swatted at the offending area with my right hand (oops, I swatted it toward the Chief's side of the bed) while deftly jumping out of bed and yelling "I was stung!" This takes coordination, people. We switched on the lamps, turned back the covers and there he was strolling across the pretty blue 400 thread -count sheets.

And here's what the Chief said. "Well, look at it this way, you took one for the team. Statistically the chances that anyone else (him) will get stung in bed by a scorpion any time in the near future just dropped to almost zero!" "You go, girl!"

He's all about sympathy.

Yea Team.

To get your mind off the creepy stuff, here's a great recipe I just created last week which is really (if I may say so myself) scrumptiously(?) tasty.

And in homage to my friend Kendra I've tried to be more creative when I name the recipes....

Savory Autumn Beef Stew

1 round steak (1-1/2 lbs.) cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1 medium onion, chopped (yellow or white)
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
1 c. cubed butternut squash (use the chainsaw on this if necessary!)
1/2 c. frozen green peas
1/2 c. frozen corn
1/2 c. sliced carrots
1 T.Better than Bouillon (Beef flavor) *and yes, I put this in everything!
2. c. cubed red potatoes
1 (14 oz.) can tomato sauce
2 c. beef broth
2. c. water
salt and pepper

Brown the steak, onion, red bell pepper, carrots, and squash in a dutch oven in about 3 T. vegetable oil. Cook over medium heat about 5-7 minutes.
Add the Better than Bouillon and potatoes and cook 3-4 minutes more.
Add the peas, corn, and broth. Cook 3-4 more minutes.
Add the tomato sauce and water, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes.
Salt and pepper to taste.

****The key to the great taste of this stew is the sweetness of the squash. Don't leave it out.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Got Gouda?

OK, here's the situation.

I go to my nearby warehouse store. You know, the "Buy Huge Quantities of Things You Will Never Use Up" store. Yes, that one. You've been there.

I go (like everyone else) with a perfectly logical plan to just buy paper towels, or toilet paper, or laundry detergent or some other very practical item that will eventually get used up and will once again have to be replenished.

And then I get home and am shocked and dismayed to discover that not only have I forgotten the toilet paper, but that I also inexplicably (really, I can't explain it) purchased an 11 pound block of Gouda.

So, what I'm saying is this:

I've had to come up with a boat-load of recipes that use Gouda. Some are really tasty and I think you'll like them a bunch. Others, well, they'll just be filed away somewhere where we can't ever locate them again. It's just best that way.

Here's my favorite -

Gouda, Garlic, and Green Onion Grits

1 c. water
2 c. chicken broth (I used low sodium)
3/4 c. quick-cooking grits (not instant)
1 c. Gouda, cubed
1 T. butter
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 c. butter
salt and pepper to taste
1 green onion, sliced

In a small skillet saute the garlic in 1 T. butter about 4-5 minutes over low heat. Do not brown the garlic. Remove from heat when the garlic is soft.
In a saucepan bring the water and chicken stock to a boil. Slowly stir in the grits. Reduce heat to medium low and cover. Cook 5 minutes until thickened. Do not overcook. Remove from heat.
Stir the garlic, Gouda, and 1/4 c.butter into the grits. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Immediately before serving sprinkle the green onion on top.

Serves 6.