Springtime in Mississippi

Sunday morning, it was in the 70’s without a cloud in the sky. I love to cook outside, so I set up my electric skillet (Amazon) outside to make hash browns, eggs and bacon.

Not too long ago, I bought a spiralizer from Amazon, to cut veggies. I have used it quite a bit, and it works great with potatoes.So I got to work peeling the potatoes for my hash browns. After they were peeled (I used 1 large potato and 2 medium-small ones for 2 people) then I used the sprializer with the next to the smallest blade. After the potatoes were prepared, I turned the electric skillet on to 350 degrees and put 2 tablespoons of butter in it to melt.

When the butter was melted, I put in the potatoes, placed the grill press on top of them and covered the skillet with the lid. After about 20 minutes, check the bottom of the potatoes (be careful and use a mitt, the metal top of the grill press gets very hot). If the bottom is brown, flip them over using a silicone implement. You will need a trivet or a cork protector on the counter next to the skillet to put the hot grill press and the large skillet lid on while you are moving the potatoes around.

After I flipped the potatoes, I went ahead and put some bacon, cut in half, in with the potatoes, I wanted the bacon and potatoes to be ready to eat at the same time, and I thought the bacon fat would just add to the deliciousness of the hash browns. I also added salt and pepper to the potatoes.

Once the potatoes and the bacon were done, I took them out and cooked the eggs to order. I felt like a short order cook, but what a great place to be one, right on the water, surrounded by nature, with only myself and my husband for customers.

Most of my tools, as you can see below, came from Amazon. I’m not really sure where I bought the Staub grill press. I googled it, and the price I found was $99 which I know I would not have paid. I probably got it at Home Goods or T J Maxx.

Sorry there are no pictures of the finished meal, we gobbled it down too quickly.

Cuisinart CSK-250WS GreenGourmet 14-Inch Nonstick Electric Skillet

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Spiralizer 5-Blade Vegetable Slicer, Strongest-and-Heaviest Duty, Best Veggie Pasta & Spaghetti Maker

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Staub 1203123 12″ Grill Press w/ Ridges On Bottom & Cast Iron

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Dinner Tonight See link above

imageGround Beef/Lamb Casserole

Well, I am trying to do this post on my phone, but having some issues. I was unable to copy & paste my recipe so there is a link to my Adobe Spark page.

Here are a few notes that I remember from the last time I made this:

* Sam’s Club has great, reasonably priced ground lamb.

* I used an organic cream of mushroom soup, the kind that is in a box, instead of mushroom gravy.

* For Greek seasoning, I used salt, garlic powder, oregano, onion powder, pepper. You can google how to make a more authentic blend or go buy one. My husband is not a big Greek food fan so I have to modify things.

* Husband modification- I used cheddar instead of feta.

Baked Cauliflower/Carrot Cheese Casserole

In a two person household when one person would rather eat his own finger than eat a vegetable, the vegetable lover (me), tends to avoid cooking the dreaded veggies.

Last year, a lovely young couple and their one year old daughter moved in next to us. They are not from the United States, so we’ve sort of adopted them. And, lucky me, they are both very busy doctors (no time to cook), and they love vegetables. Perfect recipients for my cooking experiments that my husband will have no part of.

I’m pleased with the way this turned out. In fact, I mixed a little smoked chicken in with this and it was a whole meal.

Here’s what I tried tonight:

Cheesy Roasted Cauliflower 1 hour to prepare serves 4‐6

INGREDIENTS PREPARATION Recipe adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 1 head cauliflower & 1 cup baby carrots cut into 1/3’s
  • ¼ cup (½ stick) unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  •  2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 cups 2% milk ﴾or whole)
  • 2 cups white cheddar cheese, grated, divided ﴾½ cup reserved﴿
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped, garnish
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

1 Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease a 9 x 11‐inch baking dish (or 2 quart baking dish), set aside. Trim off any excess leaves from the cauliflower and core by removing the large center stem. Cut cauliflower into florets, and carrots in 1/3’s, then steam or partially cook in boiling water until just softened, about 5 minutes. Place cauliflower/carrots on a towel to drain any excess water.

2 While cauliflower/carrots drains, add butter to a medium saucepan over medium heat until melted, then stir in flour. Cook for 2‐3 minutes, stirring frequently, until flour has cooked out and mixture is golden and smooth. Slowly pour milk into roux while whisking to avoid any lumps. Bring to a simmer, allowing sauce to thicken. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, then whisk in cheese in small increments, reserving ½ cup for topping just before baking.

3  Place cauliflower/carrots into a 9×11‐inch glass or 2 quart ceramic baking dish that’s been coated with cooking spray.

4 Pour cheese mixture over cauliflower and top with reserved grated cheese.

5 Bake for 30‐35 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly. Top with chopped parsley and serve warm.

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LEMON PUFF PANCAKE WITH FRESH BERRIES (King Arthur’s)

Our usual Sunday morning routine consists of my husband making his famous buttermilk biscuits. He is quite the genius at this, he never measures, and they are always perfect. But that’s not what I want to write about, mostly because I have no desire to learn what he does. I see no reason to try to follow in his footsteps, maybe one day I will get ambitious and make a video of his magic, but today is not that day.

This morning, before he started his biscuit making, I wanted to try something different, something in the pancake/crepe family. I found a recipe on King Arthur’s website.

This recipe is very specific about the pan size. I could not find an 9″ skillet or 8″ cake pan in my collection. I did have an 8″ springform pan. This worked well except that little of the puffy sides oozed out of the bottom of the pan. I have an 8.5″ cast iron skillet that I am going to try next time. It was very easy to get out of the pan, and slide right onto a plate. It tasted wonderful, I used blackberries as my fruit topping. The fresh squeezed lemon gave it a bright, springlike taste.

My husband, the purist when it comes to food, said it tasted too much like scrambled eggs, but I really did not expect him to like it, so I was not surprised.

Here’s how it goes, I also posted the link below my picture:

This is one of those magical recipes that’s much easier than it appears at first glance. A rather unprepossessing flour, milk, and egg batter is poured into a pan, and 20 minutes later emerges as a giant golden puff, awaiting a final anointing of lemon juice and sugar. It’s delicious; it’s easy; and who cares if it settles back a bit from its glorious oven-fresh heights as it cools? Part popover, part crêpe, part pancake, it combines the best aspects of all three. Our thanks to The New York Times, whose recipe for David Eyre’s Pancake, printed over 40 years ago, inspired this one.

Ingredients

  1. Volume
  2. Ounces
  3. Grams

PANCAKE

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/3 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • heaping 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter

TOPPING

  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • confectioners’ sugar
  • fresh berries

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a 9″ cast iron skillet, or 8″ round cake pan. The size of the pan matters here, so measure carefully. Too small, it’ll overflow. Too large, it won’t puff as high.
  2. Melt the butter in the skillet, or melt the butter and pour it into the cake pan.
  3. Whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, vanilla, and eggs.
  5. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients, whisking until fairly smooth; a few small lumps are OK. Stir in the melted butter, and pour the batter into the pan.
  6. Bake the pancake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until it’s puffed and golden, with deeper brown patches.
  7. Remove it from the oven, and sprinkle with the lemon juice, then the sugar.
  8. Serve immediately, garnished with fresh berries.
  9. Yield: 1 or 2 servings.

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Deerlick Creek

After much research, my husband found that the Army Corp of Engineers run campgrounds. Wow, who knew? The Federal Government really does a good job with parks. We decided that we would take our first trip to Deerlick Creek, about 3 and 1/2 hours away. Now we probably should have had a dry run in a closer campground, but we both wanted a remote location, without other campers on top of us. Here is the description of the campground from Recreation.gov

Overview

Deerlick Creek Campground is located on Holt Lake on the Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway northeast of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The facility is in a beautiful forest along the shoreline, providing campers and day-use visitors with access to water sports, boating, fishing, swimming, hiking and biking.

Holt Lake was created by the damming of the Black Warrior River. The campground is situated amidst a mixed pine and hardwood forest, which displays colorful foliage along the riverbanks each fall. Deer, squirrel, wild turkey, migratory birds and blue birds, all live in the Holt Lake area. Black Warrior-Tombigbee Waterway consists of six lakes with a total length of 457 miles and 39,800 surface acres of water.

And so, we set off. We left on Saturday, the 4th, my birthday. What a wonderful birthday present. My husband was fighting off a sinus infection, but like the trooper he is, he pushed through it and didn’t let it change our plans. I think he would chew off his own hand, rather than disappoint me. He’s an amazing guy!

We decided to stop in a Walmart on the way, to load up on supplies. We stopped in Lake, Ms. First we shopped, then ate and fed the dogs while in the parking lot. Here is a picture of me walking all three. I am way at the top of the hill. Climbing this hill was a foretelling of what the camping trip would be like. Lots of hills and climbing. Boy, do I need to exercise!

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After everyone was fed, walked and the groceries were packed, we hit the road again. My husband has taken to driving this 34 foot monster like it’s his car. He actually drives it better than his car! I have only done one test drive, and don’t really feel the need to drive it unless I have to. I would rather be in charge of navigation, dog control and food preparation.

Here we are going down the road. Everyone has their favorite spot.

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We arrived at the campground right before dark which was really not ideal since this was our first time. Our site #37 was beautiful and very easy to pull into with a circular drive. The only problem was lining up the slides between the trees. We only have two slides, but there were a lot of trees. After a few adjustment, we were all set. It was a nice level concrete pad, with water, 50 amp electricity, but no sewer. When we tried to set the water up, there was a major overflow underneath which freaked us out a little. Since it was dark by now, and my husband’s illness that he had been fighting off, came back, we decided just to use the bathhouse and worry about the water in the morning.

We didn’t realize before arriving, but most of the spots were taken up by the University of Alabama fans, watching the football game against the University of Mississippi. There were huge motorcoaches with big tv’s on the outside with tons of fans watching the game. The amazing thing was how quiet it was, even with all of that. I guess it helped that Alabama lost the game, there was no wild celebrating that night.

While hubby took a well deserved napDSC_2389 I made the beds, and unpacked. DSC_2388  Then, I decided to walk up to the bathhouse for a shower. It was pitch black, no moon or stars. The only light was when you would pass another camper, but a few steps past them, and it would be total darkness again. I had forgotten what being in the deep woods was like. The sounds are so unique, the frogs, and crickets and owls, it’s very restful. However,  I wish I had not been listening to a very scarey Audible book about vampires the night before, it made me walk a little faster and check the trees with my light frequently for owls (or vampires). There was  a hill going to the bathhouse that felt like it was on a 90 degree incline so I was too winded to be worry about creatures of the night.

After a great shower in a very clean bathhouse, I walked back down the hill to our site. We all settled in for the night which turned cold, 42 degrees. I love to sleep with the windows open, so I almost froze my poor sick husband to death.

Sunday morning 7am

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I think I’m checking the weather, trying to warm up. I slept in the living room so that I didn’t keep my husband up all night and then wake him up early. I succeeding in letting him sleep all night, but didn’t manage to keep it quiet enough for him to sleep late.

Now that we had daylight, the water problem was sorted out. Yea, no more late night bathroom visits in the great outdoors! I still wanted to use the bathhouse shower, because they had great water pressure, and really hot water. Plus, I need an excuse to move my body, pant, gasp!

Our site is great, I really don’t think that any of the sites are bad. They all have decks,large picnic tables,fire rings, lantern poles, grills, water, electricity and concrete pads. IMG_2985

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And what a view! With no bugs! Very weird! I did not use bug spray the entire trip, and we were outside at night.

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We spent the next two days hiking,

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taking pictures of the changing leaves,

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cooking on the grill,

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watching the sunset,

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sitting in front of the fire,

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Even though it was a short trip, it was a very successful one. All of our stress and worries just melted away.

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Our RV Adventures Begin

It has always been my dream to have an RV. I love the idea of camping, being in nature, roughing it, leaving all of your daily worries behind. Unfortunately, having three unruly dogs, two of which are large, and a husband whose idea of roughing it is a 4 star hotel instead of a 5 star, tent camping was obviously not an option for me. And, in reality, it’s probably a lot like my dream of having a goat farm, more fun in fantasy than in reality.

A motorhome, now that’s something my husband could get his head around; lots of room for the pups, a real bathroom and shower, tv, all the amenities. The only problem was that the ones my hubby liked, cost as much as our house, if not more, which is crazy if you don’t even know if you will enjoy it. So, I put my dream on the back burner.

About a month ago, I spent the day with a girlfriend. We were looking for a repossessed mobile home for her son, another long story. It was an incredibly hot day, and I was drained from walking all around. When we were headed home, I spotted an RV lot, I was almost too hot and tired to pull in, but my friend was enthusiastic, so in we went.

My husband is tall, 6’3, so I knew that I needed something that would not cause him to stoop over. All the motorhomes on the lot were too short. A nice guy named Bo (pronounced Beau) who was boiling peanuts on an outside propane burner, came out to help us. He said that all of their RV’s were on consignment, and that he had just gotten a Class A that had been very gently used. When we looked at it, it took my breath away. It was pristine, and perfect. It was very reasonably priced, less than some used cars. Even though it was a 2006, there were very few miles on the odometer or on the generator. I called my husband, and we set up an appointment with Bo for the next day. The rest is history.

CAM00320DSC_2386Here we go, the adventure begins.

Next post; taking our first trip.

Bad Blogger, Bad Blogger! or More About Cheesecakes!

Does everyone do this? Start off really strong and enthusiastic, only to get waylaid by life’s many chores and distractions. I am really going to attempt to be better. Having grown up in a fairly unstructured environment, it’s often a challenge for me. I have a friend who often says that I would have been a good hippie. Probably so, though I do like my luxuries (like way too many cookie cutters).

After being sick for almost a month right around Thanksgiving, I completely missed getting into the holiday spirit. Maybe next year, I should start in the spring when the urge is strong and the days are long. Obviously, the method I am using every year is not working. Or, maybe I should consider going to New England for November and December and let nature do the decorating for me. Ah, if only that were possible, but then the grass is always greener…

For years, I have been making a cheesecake from a recipe in The Frugal Gourmet’s cookbook. I have detailed it in earlier blogs. It’s a New York style cheesecake, so easy, you can throw it together really quickly. I have modified it somewhat over the years, not the ingredients, but the cooking technique. I now use a water bath with the cheesecake sitting in a protective aluminum foil wrap, turn the oven off before it finishes cooking and let it sit in the cooling oven for an hour.  I recently learned that convection ovens have a drying effect that can cause the cheesecake to crack, so I went back to using the regular oven setting. I have modified the recipe to make it a chocolate swirl cheesecake, as you have seen in earlier blogs.

Here is my latest project: Cheesecake design. I have really gotten into stencils for cookie making. The Cookie Countess sells some great ones on her Etsy site http://www.etsy.com/shop/TheCookieCountess. For cheesecakes, you have to use powdered sugar or cocoa. I could not get a buttercream icing to adhere to the cake with the stencil, though it worked fine to pipe around the bottom and top. I might try again with royal icing and a frozen cheesecake, or one topped with a nice hard ganache.

Recently, I have been more adventurous with decorating. Before now, I always felt that the cheesecake stood on it’s own merit, but as a beautiful woman is enhanced with makeup, so too is a cheesecake enhanced with a little decorating. It just amps up that “wow” factor.

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This one was my first attempt, the stencil stuck at the end, and so I had black cocoa dusted below the writing. I added the reindeer, but of course, I dusted more cocoa where I didn’t want it (note to self- never bake when you feel yucky). So I just sprinkled cocoa and green sugar around in a hopefully decorative manner. Everyone at the party seemed pleased. It seemed to be a little overdecorated to me, but it’s Christmas, everything is overdecorated.

In doing some research, (what would we do without Google?), I have found that you cannot wrap a cheesecake in fondant, but you can wrap it in modeling chocolate, interesting! Apparently, unknown to those of us who are not familiar with fondant, it does not do well in the refrigerator. So since a cheesecake must be refrigerated, that would not work.

There is a beautiful, custom cheesecake company called Elegant Cheesecakes, http://elegantcheesecakes.com/. They make the most amazing creations (I have not tried one, but they sure look amazing). The picture below is their pecan pie cheesecake, what a work of art. This picture is from their website. I did not make this, as much as I would like to take credit for it.

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They use something they call chocolate paper which sounds like modeling chocolate that has been pressed thin through a commercial size pasta maker. I think that would be fun to try at home on my next cheesecake.  Hopefully one day soon, I will wake up feeling 100%, jump out of bed, and start baking. But right now, just typing this blog seems to be taking all of my fading energy.  Signing off for now to go back to bed!

Fall, How Wonderful!

 

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Isn’t this the best time of the year? We have so much to be excited about; a new grandchild in the spring, a dear friend whom I have known since high school, getting engaged to another of our high school friends, upcoming holidays. When the dog days of summer are over, life just seems sweeter.

My Halloween cookies were a big hit with the grandkids last week. I use the recipe on Karen’sCookies site. She has wonderful tutorials also, I have learned alot. If you roll the cookies out thin, they really do not spread. Also, I made a half recipe of royal icing from Martha Stewart, and it worked out nicely. We have a wonderful cake supply store near us, and they suggested black powder for the color rather than the paste. It did not change the taste of the icing, and it was easy to get a nice black. I did not have any glycerin as the recipe suggested to give the icing a nice shiny appearance. I’m going to try that this week.

Basic Rolled Sugar Cookies
This is my favorite all-around cookie recipe and the one I use most often.
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup superfine sugar, or granulated sugar, processed in blender or food processor for 30 seconds
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla extract
  • ½ tsp. Almond extract or emulsion, optional
  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour.

Cream butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes with mixer set at medium speed (see Dough Preparation and Baking tutorial for more information on creaming times). Add yolk, beat well. Add whole egg, vanilla and optional almond extract and beat until well-incorporated. Add flour; beat at low speed just until flour is mixed in; do not overmix. Divide dough in halves or thirds and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, at least one hour and up to 2 days.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Dust work surface and rolling pin with flour. Roll dough to 1/4″ thick, sprinkling with additional flour as needed to prevent sticking. Cut into desired shapes and place on parchment or silicone-lined pans. Bake in preheated oven until cookies appear dry on the surface and are light golden brown on the edges, about 10 minutes (very large cookies may take up to 12 or 13 minutes

 

Royal Icing

 

For an especially glossy icing, mix in a few drops of glycerin (available at drugstores).

  • yield: Makes about 2 1/2 cups

Ingredients

  • 2 large egg whites, or more to thin icing
  • 4 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar, or more to thicken icing
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 3 drops glycerin

Cook’s Note

You can substitute 5 tablespoons meringue powder and 1/3 cup water for raw eggs. Raw eggs should not be used in food prepared for pregnant women, babies, young children, or anyone whose health is compromised. ( I used pasteurized eggs)

Directions

  1. Step 1

    Beat the whites until stiff but not dry. Add sugar, lemon juice and glycerin (if using); beat for 1 minute more. If icing is too thick, add more egg whites; if it is too thin, add more sugar. The icing may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Source

Martha Stewart Living, March 1997

 

14 Weeks and Counting, or I’m Still Here

Peach Pie Aug 2013

Hello everyone!

I know it’s been awhile. I just didn’t have anything to say. Life has just been going along at a peaceful clip. I have modified my diet from it’s former monastery-like strictness. While I am enjoying having more options, I do miss the total focus and structure that I had before. The numbers on the scale are still coming down, and I have more energy to take yoga class three times a week. Now that fall is in sight, I plan on being much more active; long dog walks, bike rides, zumba.

Thrifting/resale shopping has been really good lately. I went to Memphis last week, and they have some wonderful resale shops, in addition to the best William Sonoma/Pottery Barn outlet. It was an exhausting day trip between the drive and the heat, but worth the exhaustion. Memphis has everything, Whole Foods, Costco, fabulous couture resale shops. I highly recommend Celery Upscale Resale, they have the largest selection of St John’s Knits that I’ve ever seen outside of a retail store. I found a beautiful Worth cashmere sweater for forty dollars. I also went to the Jr League resale store. They did not have the high fashion selection, but their prices were amazing. My closet has reached the overflowing point, but I just love clothes. And being a size 6-8 is opens up a world of choices.

I have been reading the most wonderful cookbook by Rose Levy Beranbaum, The Pie and Pastry Bible. I used it to make a delicious butter/cream cheese pie crust for a peach pie. Her instructions are so exact and so scientific, it really appeals to me. I scored this cookbook for $4.25. I am now on the hunt for her Cake Bible. This is what Amazon has written about her.

Rose Levy Beranbaum is the award-winning author of nine cookbooks, including The Cake Bible, the International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook of the Year for 1988. It was also listed by the James Beard Foundation as one of the top 13 baking books on “the Essential Book List.” Rose also won a James Beard Foundation Award in 1998 for Rose’s Christmas Cookies, and her book, The Bread Bible, was an IACP and James Beard Foundation nominee and was listed as one of the Top Ten Books of 2003 by Publishers Weekly and Food & Wine. Her most recent book, Rose’s Heavenly Cakes, won the International Association of Culinary Professionals Cookbook of the Year for 2010. She is a contributing editor to Food Arts magazine and writes regularly for the Washington Post, Fine Cooking, Reader’s Digest, and Bride’s. Her popular blog, realbakingwithrose.com, has created an international community…

As you can see in the picture, I am still working on making it picture perfect, but the flavor was amazing. I used organic whole wheat pastry flour and organic butter. I am too lazy to go find the recipe right now. I will probably make another pie in a few days and will take pics along the way along with the recipe.

I hope everyone has a  great holiday weekend. Someone asked me what we have planned, and I couldn’t really think of anything to say. We pretty much make our own holidays, and work when we have must. Both my husband and I have almost always been self-employed which after you get things to a certain point, allows you to make your own schedule. I realized a long time ago, that my time was the commodity that I truly valued, and I have always worked to ensure that my schedule, for the most part, is my own. The false security of being an employee never seemed worth the trade off of my time. My early work experiences taught me to always work, first and foremost, to secure my time, and then to strive for  the perks. Of course,  I always have my back up plan of living in my car, hope it never comes to that, I would need a big car for all those resale goodies.

Stay safe out there!