Saturday, November 26, 2011

Life Is Never Boring

If you have an aunt or relative like my Aunt Guy (I'm not quite sure why we call her that but we do) then you understand how your life is never boring around him or her. Aunt Guy is care-free, confident, risk taker, and I could go on. Let me also add in that she loves karaoke. You will understand why I added that part in later.

It is the night after Thanksgiving and my mom and I were pulled away from our Black Friday shopping, which didn't include getting up before the sun or beating anyone down to get a sweater that was on sale. We chose to shop at our favorite discount stores- Ross's, TJ Max, and Marshall's. So we were called to go eat dinner with my dad, Aunt Guy, and Wawa aka grandma. We met my aunt at my Wawa's house and piled into the car to go eat. My mom and I both looked at each other wondering where they had decided to eat. My aunt is at the wheel chauffeuring us to our unknown destination. After 20 minutes and signs that we had crossed over into Mississippi from Memphis, TN, we began inquiring about the restaurant.
"Aunt Guy what is the name of the restaurant"- me.
"Well I'm not sure but my friend recommended it to me." -Aunt Guy.

That satisfied our curiosity enough for the moment until 10 minutes down the road she declares that she can't find the restaurant. After a stop into a convenience store for directions and a phone call to the restaurant, we got pointed into the right direction.
"What kind of food does the restaurant have?"-me
"Well I think they are supposed to have good burgers and chicken tenders"- Aunt Guy
You can probably fill in what my mom and I were thinking then.
"Look for the restaurant its called Barbwire"- aunt Guy.
I didnt even have time to process it all before we drove by a shack with a sign that read Barbwire Bar and Grill. We all looked at each other like I dont't think I want to go in. Aunt Guy convinced us to go in and give it a try. We open the bar covered door, walked in, and sat at one of the many open tables. A rendition of some country song was being sung by a girl with a microphone.
I jokingly told my Aunt Guy I know why she wanted to come here because they have karaoke. She has been known in the past to bring her karaoke machine to family functions. If the surroundings weren't already a clue that we should get the heck out of dodge, we asked the bartender/waitress for a menu. She gave us a look like why?? then found a menu and handed us the piece of paper.
We peered through the haze of the smoke filled room at the short menu of burgers and chicken tenders. My aunt chockingly explained to the waitress that her brother (my dad) has a breath problem (allergic to smoke) and we won't be dining with them this evening. We swiftly escaped from the table and headed towards the door.
With the scarcidity of women in the place, one disappointed older gentlemen exclaimed "why yer leaving?" With one foot out the door and fresh air ahead, we didn't stop to reply.

Needless to say Barbwire wasn't exactly what we had in mind for a family dinner. We all laughed off the experience and headed to our next destination that included a few turn arounds and dead ends along the way.
Cracker Barrel never looked so good as we pulled up at 9:00 p.m.

As I reflect back on Thanksgiving and the dinner I shared with my family, I am thankful for the people God placed into my large extended family.

I am thankful that we can laugh together and have a good time. "A cheerful heart is good medicine..." Proverbs 17:22. I pray we as a family continue to have many more laughs and good times.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving, Family, and Fellowship

Thanksgiving has been one of my favorite holidays because it is centered around food, family, and fellowship. For my family, it has been a tradition for the past several years for my dad's side of the family to all come together. I love the almost 40 people family gathering. You know we have to have a lot of food to feed this many people. It is like a Sunday pot luck in which everyone brings their favorite side dish or dessert. We always have one of my aunts bring the turkey and one of my grandmas bring the ham.
I have been contemplating this week on what I will prepare. I have decided to make a dish I created with brussel sprouts, one of my favorite vegetables. It is my Sauteed brussel sprouts, leeks, and green apple dish with candied pecans.

Sautéed Brussel Sprouts, Leek, and Green Apple with Candied Pecans
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
About 10 large fresh brussel sprouts, sliced thin
1 leek, sliced thin
1/4 granny smith apple, halved and sliced thin
½ tsp. hickory smoked salt
Candied Pecans (recipe below)

Melt butter in a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add olive oil and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add sprouts, leek, and apple slices to skillet. Season with salt and cook for 8-10 minutes. Gently toss vegetables during cooking time to coat in butter and oil and prevent from cooking on only one side.

To finish, top with candied pecans and serve immediately.

Candied Pecans
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. cane sugar
¼ cup pecan halves, cut in half lengthwise

Over medium-low heat, bring water, sugar, and pecans to a simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves. Continue simmering for 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Sugar and water should turn into syrup. Using a fork, remove pecans onto wax paper to cool.

I am also going to be creative with my other new favorite vegetables- turnips and rutabagas. I am going to make my roasted rutabagas and turnips with walnuts and fried sage.

Roasted Rutabagas and Turnips with walnuts and fried sage

1 small rutabaga, peeled and cubed into ½” cubes
5 medium turnips, peeled and cubed into ½” cubes
¼ cup thinly sliced yellow onion
4 Tbsp. walnut oil
½ tsp. sea salt
14 fresh sage leaves
1 Tbsp. chopped walnuts, toasted
1 Tbsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine the rutabagas, turnips, and onion on a baking sheet. Drizzle walnut oil over the vegetables. Sprinkle sea salt over vegetables.

Julienne 8 sage leaves and sprinkle over vegetables. Toss vegetables together to coat.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, stirring a couple times during baking.

Spoon the vegetables on a serving dish.
Top the roasted vegetables with walnuts.

For the fried sage, add olive oil to a sauté pan. Heat over medium-high heat. When oil is hot, place the sage leaves in the oil. Fry for about 30 seconds then remove to a paper towel-lined plate.
Place the fried sage leaves on top of the vegetables and walnuts. Serve warm.

This year I am very thankful and blessed to have such a wonderful family. I know this Thanksgiving will bring a lot more smiles and laughs.

                                        Some of my family at last year's Thanksgiving Day meal

I know what I am preparing for Thanksgiving, do you? I want to answer all of your Thanksgiving day food preparation questions. I am going to be on my blog tonight at 9:00 p.m. Central time. You ask the questions and I will do my best to answer them. Can't wait to speak to you tonight!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Waffletastic Meal

Chili Con Carne Waffle (chili served over a cornbread waffle), BBQ Pulled Pork Waffle, and Caramel Apple Waffle

My mom and I were walking around and shopping in NYC this past weekend when we walked up on the Wafels and Dinges Truck. (Follow them on twitter to find out where they are located in NYC when you are there)
You should have seen the excitement on my face. Every time I am in NYC, I am on the look out for this truck.
My first thought was "shucks we haven't eaten lunch yet". I have only eaten one of their waffles for dessert. I remembered though that Thomas Degeest (the founder/owner of Wafels & Dinges Truck) had facebooked me and told me about one of his waffle creations in which was inspired by his travel to Biloxi, MS. The waffle I am talking about is his BBQ Pulled Pork Wafel topped with coleslaw and a coolickle (pickle prepared in coolade).
My mom and I were intrigued and decided to order that and their special of the day- Chili Con Carne Waffle. And don't forget dessert! We had their special which was Caramel Apple Waffle. It was good but it had me longing for their deThrowdown Wafel which is what Thomas competed and won with against Bobby Flay. It is a liege (special Belgium dense and chewy waffle) topped with spekuloos spread (gingerbread spread) and whipped cream. Just one bite will bring you back for another and another. It left me in euphoria! ha ha!
Go find the Wafel and Dinges Truck! You won't be disappointed!
Ok so I am really feeling like you need to be able to taste it too! Leave me a comment about what toppings you would love to have on a waffle. I will randomly select from the comments for one of you to receive a jar of Spekuloos Spread. Leave your name & email for me to contact you. You have until this Friday- Dec. 18th to leave your comments.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

No Name Bar? Too Good For Words

What makes cooking and baking fun for me?
I love being creative in the kitchen. I am one that gets bored easily. I can never cook the same thing over and over. One recipe that I have been experimenting with in my kitchen is my No Name Bars. (Recipe in my cookbook- Modern Hospitality: Simple Recipes with Southern Charm)

How do you know what will work well with this recipe?
I think of what it taste like which for me its a mix between a chess square/cheesecake. Then I think of the flavors I like and how I can infuse them into this recipe. I love nuts and chocolate.

What did you come up with?
Well my love of chocolate went into over-drive so my first variation is a Chocolate Pecan No Name Bar which taste like a decadent brownie.
My second variation is a Coconut Pecan No Name Bar which taste like a Magic Cookie Bar (graham cracker crust, coconut, pecans, and chocolate).

For an elevated presentation, I cut the bars into triangles. To do this, simply cut them into squares and then in half diagonally.

The bars can also be cut into circles.

Which can be served like this......
Serve this decadent Chocolate Pecan No Name Bar warm topped with orange whipped cream at your next dinner party or Thanksgiving dinner.

Chocolate Pecan No Name Bars
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, melted
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter, melted
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
¼ cup pecan pieces

Orange Whipped Cream
¾ cup whipping cream, cold
3 Tbsp. confectioner’s sugar
3/8 tsp. orange zest (you can use navel orange, Satsuma, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 13x9 inch baking dish.
To make crust: Mix the melted butter and sugar together in a medium bowl.  In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cocoa powder.  Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until combined.  Stir in the vanilla. Spread the mixture into bottom of the baking dish. Bake for 5 minutes.

To make the filling: Beat the cream cheese with an electric mixer until smooth. Add the eggs and mix until combined. Stir in the melted butter and vanilla. Stir in the confectioner’s sugar and cocoa powder and mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips and pecan pieces. Spread the mixture on top of the crust.

Bake until set, about 38 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before cutting into squares.
To make the whipped cream: Beat the cream using an electric mixer in a large cold bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar. Fold in the zest. Cover and refrigerate.

To serve, cut the bars into desired shape and top with orange whipped cream.

Serves: 8-10 ppl