Friday, September 16, 2011

September 9, 2011

It's a time to reflect. We often go about our business, only thinking of ourselves and doing things for us. We know deep in our hearts that things we had said have thin walls and things that we have done have no regrets. Who are we actually kidding?! Absolutely no one. We lay in our beds and stare innocently at the ceiling. Are we perfect in life? No! Are we the sole reason why mistakes happen? No. Don't think you're the only one, because you're not. You're not the Picasso on the wall. You're not the one who took the greatest fall. Look at yourself! How perfect you are! How dare you be so golden! What were you thinking?!

I often reflect on bad times. Not too much good has happened to me this past calender year. But, I do know of one thing for sure: there is no love greater than a love from father to daughter. It's my big girls' birthday! She is now a teenager. I asked her what she wanted for her birthday dinner this year. She said, "You know what I want. I want breakfast. I want your scrambled eggs, bacon and your famous cheese grits." That's my Savannah. A true Southern girl!

I found this assignment written by my daughter not to long ago that she had written earlier in the year, not knowing it was about me. What a tribute! This was written by her. I hope you enjoy it!:

Dear principal,
                         It would be amazing to have my dad come and talk at my school. He is a chef, so he can talk about nutrition and cooking. He has different health issues that he can tell students how to handle. Last, and most important, he is my role model. After reading my essay, I believe you will consider inviting my dad to talk to the students of my school.

                        First of all, my dad is an amazing chef. He can teach people all about cooking and nutrition. He can teach kids health tips. He loves teaching kids about how to stay fit and healthy. Since he's a chef, my dad could even demonstrate cooking healthy meals, unlike other speakers. I promise that the kids will have fun watching my dad talk and demonstrate.

                       After that, my dad could talk about different ways of handling different health issues. He can really relate to what he's talking about, because he has quite a few health issues. He found out he had diabetes at the age of 46. A lot of kids would be able to relate to that. He could talk about ways to keep your diabetes under control. He was born with a hole in his heart and has many other heart issues. He also has equilibrium issues, which means he has trouble with his balance.

                      At this point, I would like to explain why I would want my dad to be a guest speaker at my school. He is my role model. He taught me to stay strong when things got harder. My dad taught me responsibility by making sure I was doing everything I needed to. Last of all, he taught me to be brave and look on the bright side.

                     I would love to have my role model, my dad, come and be a guest speaker at my school. While he is speaking to the school, he can give tips about nutrition and cooking. It is a proven fact that kids are better cooks when taught young. He could also talk about handling some health issues. It would be even more amazing for me, because my dad is my role model. I hope you will definitely consider my dad as being my schools' special guest speaker.

What a tribute to your dad! This was signed by the teacher. Wow!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September 8, 2011

When I think of fall, especially the time of year when it's not quit fall, but more summer (and you want it to be fall right now), I think of lovely Macaroons. When I make them, it's a 2 day process. The time is worth the wait, because we're not talking about just Macaroons here, we are talking about Pina Colada Macaroons. In a recent find of culinary exploration, I found what I believed to be the perfect Macaroon Cookie. Then I realized I could make it better really quickly. I saved the juice from a small can of crushed Pineapple and saved it for the Macaroon mixture. I added only about 1 tablespoon of Dark Rum to the cookie mixture and let it sit in a glass container in the refrigerator overnight. This helped develop more flavor and gave the cookie dough a complexity and edge at the same time. The next day, the dough was already done and baking started early to avoid a hot apartment. This recipe will surely bring a smile to your life, and probably even a laugh or two. And don't forget the milk. This is one tasty treat!

Pina Colada Macaroons

7 Egg Whites
2 1/2 cups Sugar
2 tablespoons Wildflower Honey
2 teaspoons Vanilla
1 pound of Sweetened Flaked Coconut
1 1/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
1 small tin of Crushed Pineapple, (using only the drained juice)
1 tablespoon of Dark Rum

Combine the Egg Whites, Sugar, Honey and Vanilla in a large bowl and place over a medium saucepan of simmering water. Cook and stir constantly for 10 minutes until the sugar dissolves. Combine the Coconut and Flour in a separate bowl and mix together. Remove the Egg White mixture from the heat and stir in the Coconut mixture. Now, put this mixture in a glass bowl or container, cover and refrigerate overnight. Heat your oven only to 300 F. Lightly spray 2 large baking sheets with Oil and set aside. Remove the batter from the refrigerator and scoop with a 2-ounce ice cream scoop and drop onto the baking sheets a few inches apart. Bake 20 minutes until golden brown, but still soft in the center. Cool 5-10 minutes on the baking sheets and then place on a baking rack to cool. Enjoy!

Friday, September 9, 2011

September 5, 2011

It's not everyday that I have leftover raw chicken. Leftover cooked chicken? No, actually raw chicken! Let me explain. I made Sauteed Chicken Breasts with Lemon, Capers and Artichokes for dinner a few nights ago. I knew I had way too much chicken, so I divided it up, kept it in the refrigerator in the pre-seasoned flour with Salt, Pepper and Thyme, and gave it some wrap. Fast forward to last night. It was just the wife & I, and I kinda' knew my daughter was going to stay later at a friend's house and have dinner with her and her family. Spaghetti was on the menu and my daughter loves pasta! So, the kitchen was once again an experiment in process at the hands of my leftover raw chicken. Sometimes, I have a plan. Most of the time, I wing it. So tonight, I was winging it big. The first thing I noticed was a bag of frozen Stir-Fry Vegetables that catered toward Asian cooking. Took out a large saute pan, and placed it over medium-high heat with a couple of tablespoons of Extra Virgin Olive Oil. While the pan was heating up, I cut up the pre-seasoned floured Chicken Breasts into strips. This was about 4 Chicken Breasts. I sauteed the chicken until it started browning and becoming half done, about 8 or 9 minutes. At this point, I cut open the bag of Stir-Fry Vegetables and laid it over the chicken. I then doused it with a good shot of Soy Sauce. Then, I added some Honey, Ginger Preserves, Siracha Thai Sauce, Cracked Black Pepper and some Thai-Style Chili Sauce. None of the ingredients were measured, it was a feel thing. Cover with a lid, reduce your heat to medium-low heat until the chicken and vegetables are thoroughly cooked. Give a stir and check for seasoning. This was served over healthy Brown Rice. The meal was complete and easy. Not bad for Leftover Raw Chicken!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

September 3, 2011

Listening to the sounds of the early morning, I was reminded of a place I lived not too long ago. It was a small town. The rooster down the road echoed every morning. Even though the roads were mostly paved, those of wealth lived on dirt roads. There was no liquer sold on Sundays. There was no liquer ordered on Sundays. But, if you had the right connections, you could find it on many given dirt roads. The train that ran through town stopped almost every hour. The whistle was the sole property of the driver. There were the ones who talked. There were the ones that walked, because by feet was all they knew. Yes, it was a small town. The crops were planted all year round. The cotton. The peaches. The pecans fell off the trees as the wind swayed into the branches. The convenience store, the Barbeque restaurant and the many hair salons were a meeting of the minds. Talk was for the fortunate. Listening was a priviledge. There were the churches, the family owned grocery stores and the big Supermarket down the road. If you were driving east or west, you were driving the other way. And if you were driving north or south, you were from out of town. The parades were official. The heat of the summer had no wind, and the winter wind had no heat. Everyone was a picture of somebody else. Football was played and talked about like it was politics. Because it was. There was the black and red. And there was the other, because it was not the black and red. The potholes in the road were filled with dirt and the potholes in the dirt were filled with rain that turned to roads that only the ones that lived on them could drive. The plain Jane ate the Mary Janes and the ones on the dirt roads owned the plain Janes. It was sad to leave a place of poverty set for life. I guess it's time to watch some football. My colors are not black and red. They are Green and Yellow. GO GREEN BAY PACKERS!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

September 1, 2011

Everything goes better with Bacon! Crispy Bacon on a cool night with a stack of Buttermilk Pancakes was just the right idea for a Thursday night meal. When you cook the Bacon, always remember to use a cold pan and then bring the Bacon to temperature while it is cooking.(If you put Bacon on a hot griddle, it will cook unevenly and cause the ends to shrival up.) And don't forget to take your time with Bacon. Most people cook it over too high a temperature. I usually cook it on medium-low heat for 10-12 minutes, turning usually every 3-4 minutes. It will cook more evenly and the fat will be distributed better. Now the Pancakes! The trick in any pancake recipe is one easy step: separating the eggs and folding in the semi-stiff egg whites at the very end. This will produce a lighter and fluffier Pancake whether you like your Pancakes big or small. Remember to use butter on your flat-iron skillet and cook over a medium-low temperature. This will produce a tastier Pancake. Don't forget the syrup or your choice of toppings like fresh fruit or flavored chips. A stack of Pancakes and a few slices of Bacon make for a wonderful Thursday night.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

August 31, 2011

Leftover Steak is one lucky soul! It's a fact: I don't eat that much red meat at all. In fact, I rarely eat steak. But, when I do, I crave a good one just like everybody else. I don't need no fancy grill marks on my steak or a little stick poked in the middle of one after it arrives at your table. I want my Steak done right. I want it medium-rare. I want it juicy and well fed. So, when the leftover London Broil went in the refrigerator a few days ago, nothing was going to waste. The most simple of salads was about to be made. No instructions needed: just common sense. Don't be a wise acre either. You'll eat this on a hot summer's night after a hot summer's rain. Take a bag of your favorite salad mix and divide it evenly between 3 or 4 plates. Take the leftover Steak and slice thinly and into bite sized pieces. Scatter over the mixed greens. I had Basil-Tomato Feta Cheese crumbles, so I sprinkled them generously over the Steak. I then poured Balsamic Fig Dressing over the top. You could top with Dried Cranberries and Chopped Walnuts if desired. Remember: don't forget about the leftover Steak. Two Meals. One Steak.

Monday, September 5, 2011

August 30, 2011

Figs. Who would've known that I was the only one in the family to like them! An uncommon fruit, Figs were often part of my life, growing up as a child while visiting my grandparents in South Georgia. A summer treat that rang in with the heat and stung like a wasp if you weren't careful enough. The sweet Fig trees stuck out like a sore thumb. The nectar blistered through the skins like the sap that ran through the pine trees. It was a sticky tree with a vibrant fruit. Though I rarely ate them raw, I remember them more as a great preserve that was made in the summer and then really enjoyed in the fall and winter months. The gooey syrup was so sweet as it was mashed into the toasty bread and spread on with delight. The seeds within made for a texture that only purists could enjoy. There was something to this. It was homegrown fun. I remember my father picking those Figs off the tree in late August. He'd come home with sticky hands and 2 or 3 bites or stings from wasps and bees. It was all worth it to him. Always a grin inside and a laughter that has been passed down to me. Some things are passed down through life. Others are not cared for and are passed over. Sometimes, we can choose. Other times, we cannot. Figs always stand out to me like a weeping sack of love, on a small willow tree. The branches are hearty. The fruit is sincere. It will fall in due time.

Fig Preserves
3 cups of Water
6 cups of Sugar
4 pounds of Figs, rinsed and left whole
1 Lemon, sliced into 5 rounds
5 pint mason jars with lids, sterilized

Combine the Water and Sugar in a non-aluminum pot. Bring to a boil. Add the Figs, cover the pan and simmer for 45 minutes. Remove the lid, add the Lemon rounds and simmer uncovered for another 45 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover the pot and let rest overnight. The following day, bring the fig mixture to a simmer and then fill into the sterile jars. Seal the jars. *Note: These preserves are great on Homemade Bread or just plain toast. Also great as a topping on Vanilla Ice Cream.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

August 28, 2011

Marination after the cooking process usually is not called for, but in this case: It Works! We often stumble and fumble through the kitchen of life, only to find that the ball of food is still attached to us, and we hadn't done anything to the food except glorify it into a shape of form not thought of before. Is this what happened to you last night at dinner? I'm going to share something with you: Simple Is Better! Last night was Steak. In fact, it was London Broil. I'm not a big steak person. Never have been. Never will be. It was on sale at a great price, so it was bought and then prepared. Gave it an hour out of the refrigerator to get to room temperature to come to terms with man. Splashed it with a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil and gave it a good rub down. The piece of London Broil was almost 2 pounds. In a large casserole pan, combine 1/4 cup of Olive Oil, 1 teaspoon of Kosher Salt, plenty of fresh ground Black Pepper, 2 Cloves of Garlic that are minced and the juice and grated rind of half a Lemon. Now, turn your attention back to the London Broil. Heat up a large saute pan over medium-high heat and cook the London Broil for 5 minutes on each side. This high temperature will sear the beef and retain the juices within. After this is done, place the steak on top of the marinade mixture and turn every 4 minutes. Check for temperature. If you need less redness, put it in a 425 oven for 10-15 minutes. Let it rest and slice against the grain. This will result in a more tender chew. Enjoy this tasty piece of meat with a simple salad or even some nice green peas. The Lemon in this dish is great. Shine On!