Blog number two.... it might explain my current lack of enthusiasm for blog number 1

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Another trip back to childhood....

We would always have a week long family vacation in Panama City Beach, and it would include lots of.... you guessed it.... incredible SEAFOOD!!! One of my all time favorite seafood items has got to be oysters. Raw, fried, baked.. you name it, I love it! But a real treat, was Oysters Rockefeller. There was only one restaurant there that served them, and of course one of the many hurricanes took care of that. I haven't seen them on a menu since! But they couldn't be that hard to make. Now since I live in Central Alabama and it is almost November, I couldn't just run out and purchase a dozen oysters on the half shell. So I used what I think is the oyster's next of kin.... the mushroom!!!

Mushrooms Rockefeller
recipe by me

5 slices bacon, cooked cooled and crumbled
1 - 9 ounce bag of fresh spinach leaves
12 large mushrooms
12 mushroom stems, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/3 cup heavy cream
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup plain bread crumbs
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400* and clean the mushrooms. Fry the bacon in a deep skillet. Remove and let the bacon drain, but do not empty the skillet. Saute the onion in the bacon grease for about 2 minutes, then add the garlic and saute for about 1 minute. Add the spinach to the skillet and let it cook down. Add the crumbled bacon and finely chopped mushroom stems back into the skillet and mix the ingredients. Add the cream, salt and pepper – bring to a boil. Add the cheese, and be sure that it is all melted into the mix before you remove the skillet from the heat. Remove from heat and stir in the bread crumbs. Stuff mushroom caps generously with the mixture. Bake in the preheated oven 25-30 minutes until lightly browned.


This tasted exactly like it did back then, although I didn't try putting the whole thing on a saltine cracker. Hmm.... anyway! I can't wait to try it out on oysters and get the real effect!

Monday, October 29, 2007

I didn't cook all week!

Bradley had been in Huntsville on business. He was living out of his suitcase and surviving on Burger King and McDonalds (yuck!). I had not cooked all week (aside from the fudge rendezvous) and really wanted to do something fun but special. One of my besties had bought me the Paula and Friends cookbook for Christmas last year, since I had all this alone time and I never finished reading it, I pulled it back out and started reading again. I don't know if it was the rumble in my stomach or the urge to get back in the kitchen, but everything looked homecoming meal worthy. I needed something simple and fast, but elegant and delicious. Back in the summer when Bradley's job took him to Daphne for a week, he had shrimp and grits for the first time... and hasn't stopped talking about them since. Why had I not made these sooner? It is such a down home dish! And of course Paula's recipe was even more down home than any restaurant could of made.

Shrimp and Grits
recipe by Martha Nesbit and published in the Paula and Friends Cookbook

4 cups water
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup stone-ground grits
3 tablespoons butter
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
6 slices bacon, chopped
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 cup thinly sliced scallions
1 large clove garlic, minced

Bring water to a boil. Add salt and pepper. Add grits and cook until water is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese.

Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned; drain well. In grease, add shrimp. Cook until shrimp turn pink. Add lemon juice, chopped bacon, parsley, scallions and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes.

Spoon grits into a serving bowl. Add shrimp mixture and mix well. Serve immediately.


I did a few things differently, Publix just didn't sale anything other than instant grits, but I'm sure they did the same job. I used a little extra bacon, because we love it so and since the grease is SO hot and it doesn't take much heat to cook shrimp, I put all the ingredients in at once and cooked them together so the flavors would seep into the shrimp. We had a lot ofGouda left over from the pork chops so I used it instead of cheddar, and lastly, I did not mix the shrimp and grits together, I served them side by side.

Oh it was SO WONDERFUL!!! Mama you really missed it, I know it was better than the cheeseburger you had, even if it was the last one you'll have on a Friday night! But I will always be open, you'll just have to catch this dish the next time it is on the menu.

The recipe said it would serve four, and I almost halved it since it was only the two of us, but I figured we both would be extra hungry for some home cooking. We were and there was enough grits left over for us both to have a big serving at breakfast the next morning. So I would recommend doubling the "shrimp" part of the recipe and leaving the "grits" part as it is if you are serving 4 or 5 people.

I only took a picture of the shrimp, the grits just would not take a pretty picture. This'll get your mouth to watering.....

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

'Tis the season to eat pumpkin...

We play the cutest game at work - it is called "Boo!". It starts with one person who buys two goody bags and secretly places them on two people's desks and leaves a sign that reads "I've Been Boo'd" and then those two people boo two other people and so on. I love it! This year I got a cute bag with little Halloween themed cookie cutters: a pumpkin, a ghost and a bat. Boo me with something kitchen related??? They knew me too well. Immediately I had a plan.... Pumpkin Pie Fudge, in the shape of a tiny pumpkin!!! I went to the store that night to get boxes for the treats.

I waited for a night when I didn't have much going on to make the fudge. I had never made it before, and I knew I was going to need no distractions. Bradley is out of town this whole week on business, so Monday night was perfect. But let me just say... I probably won't ever make it again. When you bring the candy to a rolling boil.... watch out! My arms were covered in tiny red dots from the million degree liquid coming to a bubble and popping. That and it didn't completely set up... I'm blaming it on the stormy weather.

Pumpkin Fudge
recipe on
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 2/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips
  • 7 ounces marshmallow creme
  • 3/4 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. Line a 9x9 inch pan with aluminum foil, and set aside.
  2. In a 3 quart saucepan, heat milk and sugar over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.
  3. Mix in pumpkin puree and cinnamon; bring back to a boil. Stir in marshmallow creme and butter. Bring to a rolling boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 18 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, and add white chocolate chips and vanilla. Stir until creamy and all chips are melted. Pour into prepared pan. Cool, remove from pan, and cut into squares. Store in a cool, dry place.
Mine didn't set up that night before I went to bed, so I put it in the fridge overnight and took it out the next morning to cut out the pieces... it was still runny! So I just left it on the counter and went to work with the intention of throwing it away when I got home. But when I returned, it had hardened about half way through. I'm sure that someone who had more experience in making fudge would not of had this problem. It was a pretty easy recipe. Cutting out the little pumpkins was fun, too!!

The experiment turned out ok for my first time. Everyone seems to like it, but I will just stick to my once a year craving for peanut butter and chocolate layered fudge, and let someone else make it!!

Monday, October 22, 2007

See you in a year, Cary :(

Today my husband's best friend leaves for Iraq to be an on base fire fighter. He is not only Bradley's best friend; he is also one of mine. He is the third plate at my dinner table.... or in our case, at the coffee table. I don't know what we're going to do without him.... but a year will fly by quick I'm sure.... I hope!

Saturday night we had a going away party for him. His favorite food is Mexican and the party theme was "fire", so spicy Mexican food seemed to fit. I made my famous salsa and quesa-deLas.... and we also had some hot dogs for good measure. Everything was a big hit! I'm so glad; I wanted the party to be really special for Cary. All I heard was "I need the recipe for this salsa!" Don't worry girls, I told you it was easy.... and I meant it -

DeLa's Blender Salsa
recipe by me!

2 cans of Del Monte Stewed Tomatoes - Mexican Recipe
1 can of Rotel - your choice of flavor, I prefer Mexican Festival (blue label)
one bunch of cilantro, stems removed
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon garlic powder
juice of one lime

** tip: try not to play around with the salt and garlic powder, using two tablespoons of garlic salt instead of the above makes it too salty to eat **

Slightly drain the canned items, and dump everything on the list into the blender. Pulse until you reach the consistency you desire, I prefer the "liquefy" button. Keep it chilled and keep the "salsa bowl" full!

At work, we have a dip that everyone loves called chicken dip. It has 3 simple ingredients: canned chicken, cream cheese and ranch powder. To be so simple, it is so delicious! Last football season I served it a few times, but then it started to get old. So I played with the ingredients and came up with the filling for the second item on the party's menu (sorry the descriptions of size are so bad) -

recipe by me, again!

one of the larger cans of chicken
one tub of whipped cream cheese
1/3 cup taco seasoning

Mix everything together and do a taste test to make sure the seasoning is right. Add a little more if you need to. Now... here comes the part where you get creative! This is extremely versatile! From here, you can pour it into a bowl, top with shredded cheese and serve with chips as a dip. You can spread it onto a flour tortilla, roll it up and cut into pinwheels. Or, you can do like I did (above) and sandwich between two flour tortillas and cut into triangles. It would even make a great 8th layer to 7 layer dip. You just do what your stomach tells you to do and everything will come out right!

Good luck Cary! We love you and can't wait to see you again!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Shake 'n Bake, baby, Shake 'n Bake!!!!

For all those Talladega Nights fans out there!!

Shake'n'Bake was something that the grocery use to sell and now I don't see it!! Mama would buy it and always add cayenne pepper to the shake part... we love spicy foods! Rachel Ray does Cajun Oven Potatoes... and that was pretty close. I tweaked it a little so it would take me right back to that hunter green kitchen table......

Hot Potato!!
a combination recipe featuring me, Rachel Ray and mama

4 idaho potatoes
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoon of tabasco, louisiana hot sauce... any of those variations
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper (not for the faint of tongue)
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
Cut the potatoes into wedges, the size is up to you as long as they are all uniform, but bite size wedges work the best. Put the wedges into a big ziploc bag, pour in the olive oil and the rest of the ingredients - except for the salt and pepper. Zip your bag and SHAKE AWAY! Mine marinated for almost 2 hours last night. I would just shake them when I would think about it, being sure they are all covered.

When you get ready to cook them, preheat your oven to 450*. Line a cookie sheet with foil, spray the foil with non stick spray, pour the contents of the bag onto the foil and spread them out so they aren't touching. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and put them in the oven for 10 minutes. Take them out, stir them around and put them back in for 10 more minutes.

To cool them off, mix 2 spoonfuls of sour cream with 2 spoonfuls of mayonnaise, add just enough lemon juice to make it not so thick but not so much that it makes you pucker. (sorry, bad directions!) Try just adding a few drops at a time and taste it each time you add a few drops. Then add about a teaspoon of dill. Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour to let the dill soak into the dip. Serve it along side the potatoes as a great dipping sauce.

Trying on a new hat....

I cook, I don't bake. My mom wasn't that big of a baker, and neither was meme.... as far back as I can remember. We had the occasional cobbler or coconut cake here and there, but there was never a big desire for confections in our home. Bradley has a big family, and of course during the holidays they all meet up. Last Christmas I found out that you don't always have the option to bring an awesome casserole or dish of homemade mac n cheese. And thus, Bradley's family gave me the desire to learn to bake for Christmas. I started with something very basic, a gingerbread trifle of Paula Deen's. It was a bowl lickin' hit. Wow.... I could do this. I'm still taking it slow, since neither of us are big sweet eaters. My main taste testers for sweets are my co-workers. Sugar helps us deal.

While browsing blogs here, I found a recipe for Pecan Pie Coffee Cake Bars. Here is the funny part... I luh-huve pecan pie.... and I am so allergic to pecans. When we would have them at thanksgiving, mama would always make extra filling and I would just eat a plate of that instead of a slice of pie. She even went on to make a Mock Pecan Pie with oats instead of pecans, she really loved me! But the blogger described the inside of these bars as "just like pecan pie filling".... so long as you don't over bake them. Yeah... I think I over baked. Maybe you will have more luck. Without the pecans, I call them Cinnamon-Sugar Bars. They definitely register "need an insulin shot" on the "Sugar Meter".

Pecan Pie Coffee Cake Bars
recipe courtesy of the online blog sweet-savory-southern

4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 stick butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup self rising flour
2 cups chopped pecans (optional.. haha!)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, beat all four eggs with a mixer. Add sugar and mix with eggs to combine. Next add the butter and vanilla and combine with other ingredients. Add flour and cinnamon and again combine well with other ingredients. Stir in chopped pecans. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan. Bake for 30-35 min. Be careful not to over cook. The top will be golden brown, but the inside will still be a little sticky when a toothpick is inserted. It will set up as it cools. Slice into bars once cool.
*The outside is slightly cakey and the edges crusty from the sugar that crystallizes as it cooks, but the inside is gooey like pecan pie filling. Delicious and perfect with coffee

Thursday, October 18, 2007

3 of his favorites meet at last!

Recently Bradley expressed his love for smoked gouda to me, to which I said, "where did you hear that word?". I knew I have never cooked anything with gouda for him before, but maybe I needed to. I had made a sort of "inverted chicken parmesan" before by stuffing a chicken breast with gouda and then breading and pan frying it, but it required some intense effort. I finally decided to just combine two of his loves - smoked gouda and bacon - and stuff them inside another one of his loves - a top loin pork chop.

DeLa's "Apparently my Husband Loves Gouda" Stuffed Pork Chops
recipe courtesy of his cravings

2 extra thick top loin pork chops
4 strips of bacon
2-3 ounces of smoked gouda
1/8 teaspoon of parsley
Alessi Dipping Spices

To prepare the stuffing -
fry the bacon, but do not toss out the grease, leave it in the pan. dice the gouda up into small pieces, crumble the bacon and mix both together with the parsley.

To prepare the chops for stuffing -
i found that my boning knife worked really well. the trick is to keep the insertion point small and swing wide with the knife, cutting out the pocket so the stuffing will go almost to the edge, that way you won't have overcooked thin areas and undercooked thick areas.

Stuff the chops with the stuffing. I then added just a little of the dipping spices to the outside of the meat, mainly for color. Presentation is very important. Take tongs and hold the chop insertion side down and stick it to the hot pan full of bacon grease (we're so healthy). This will sear the opening and help keep the stuffing where it belongs. I rolled it in the pan so all the edges were seared, then set it in the grease. Do the same with the other one, and let them both cook about 5-7 minutes per side.

The bacon grease turns the outside of the meat into a crust almost, it cooked them SO nicely and really added an incredible element of flavor. And the stuffing..... WOW! It definately got the "sit back in the chair and moan with delight" approval from Bradley. In fact, he did it with almost every bite.

Since the main course was not so healthy, I tried to counter it with the side dish. We both ate couscous for the first time. I described it to him as "not quite grits but not quite rice" so for the rest of the meal he asked for more "grice". It was original flavor, so I added some freshly grated parmesan to the top to make it a little more tasty. I really think it is one of my new favorite sides. The grocery store where I bought it only had original flavor, I'm going to make an effort to go to a bigger grocery and buy different flavors.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I hate meatloaf!!!

Growing up, my mom never made meatloaf. I had it once at a friend of the family’s house and it was covered in peppers and onions and ketchup… GROSS! Being from a southern family, mama gave me “the look” and I choked down the nasty dish and smiled. But it was s0o0o bad! When I got married I realized that there is only so much you can do with hamburger meat and knew it was up to me to make meatloaf taste great. Fortunately enough, my husband was also a meatloaf hater. I’m not even that big a fan of the word “loaf”. Out of all this came……

The Meatloaf Hater’s Meatloaf
recipe by – me! :D

1 pound ground chuck
1 cup shredded cheese (crumbles work great!)
1 egg
half a sleeve of ritz crackers, crushed
2 big spoonfuls of mayo
1 tablespoon of Worcestershire
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
2 tablespoons mustard

preheat the oven to 350*

dump everything into a big mixing bowl and jump in hands first making sure everything is fully combined. put the mixture into whatever dish you see fit, last night it actually came out looking “loaf-like” but i've been known to make “meat muffins” using my ramekins. into the oven it goes and in ~45 minutes…. you’ve got a marvelous main course my friend ;)

Now, I can't take a bite of meatloaf with out a mashed potato ending, and my husband can't take a mashed potato ending without it being drenched in gravy. So that leads me to my comfort side dish.... mashed potatoes (from a box, don't faint) and milk gravy!

Milk Gravy
recipe by - anyone who has ever had to make gravy without pan drippings!

Melt 2 to 3 tablespoons of butter in a skillet. Once the butter has turned to liquid, sprinkle in a heaping spoonful of flour. Whisk the two together to make sure that all the flour is covered in butter and let it sit until the mixture has browned. Letting it brown will give the illusion that the gravy was made from meat drippings! When it turns brown, whisk in half a cup of milk and half a cup of water. Keep whisking until it starts to boil and thickens up. Add as much or as little freshly ground black pepper and pour over whatever you like!

I usually make garlic bread to go with almost every meal, it is just so easy to make right as the meal is finishing up. But this time I made something different...... may I present to you....

Jim n Nicks Cheese Biscuits
recipe found online and changed... just slightly

1 & 1/2 cups of Self Rising Flour
1/2 cup of sugar
1 & 1/4 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
3/4 cup 2% milk
1 egg, beaten
4 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 tspn vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400*

Mix ingredients together with a rubber spatula, and pour into a greased muffin pan. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until done.
They taste JUST like jim n nicks! I can't wait to buy a mini muffin pan and really make them authentic.

The meal was a couple pleaser, as always.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Welcome to my kitchen!

when i'm not cooking or watching someone else cook on tv.... i'm online reading recipes. amidst my plundering i came upon a co-worker's cooking blog. what a grand concept! now instead of bugging every one at work the next day, asking them to "guess what i cooked last night" i can bug the entire internet! tonight, like most every other night, i will be cooking dinner for my husband.... and i can't wait to post a blog about it tomorrow!