29 March 2013

Not At All Slimy Okra

The pictures of this finished dish, as a matter of fact the finished dish in the flesh, may not inspire you to love okra.  That is, if you don't already.  I guess, considering this post and the last one, I am on a vegetables that divide the masses kick this week.  If you aren't familiar with it, and if you're not from the South you may not be, okra is one of a kind in the vegetable world.  It's closest relation in the plant world is cotton.  Yummy, right?  The most off-putting characteristic of okra is is mucilaginous goo, a.k.a its slime.  That slime is actually good for you since it is actually full of easily digestible fiber, but slime isn't exactly an appetizing food descriptive.

I grew up with okra at every family fish fry, so I love the stuff.  If it's on the menu, I almost always order it.  I actually never made okra at home before this because my husband doesn't care for it.  I decided to roast it in the oven with a good dousing of red pepper flakes.  I had high hopes that my husband might actually eat it if it was really spicy and not at all slimy.  I did succeed in getting him to eat a few bites, which is more than I can say for his previous relationship with okra.  I pretty much devoured the rest, albeit with a big glass of milk because of the spiciness.  All and all it was a big hit, which is more than I can say okra ever was before at my house.

Toss some okra with some vegetable oil and chili flakes.  I threw in the Brussels sprouts I had left over from Wednesday's post, too.  The throw it all in the oven.

Cook it for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until it looks almost burnt.  When it looks about as unappetizing as it could possibly be, then it's done.

Spicy Oven Roasted Okra

1 lb fresh whole okra pods
3-4 Tbsp vegetable oil
2-4 Tbsp red pepper flakes, to taste

Preheat the oven to 350°.

In a large bowl, toss together the okra with the oil and pepper flakes.  Use enough oil to thinly coat the okra.  Pour the okra onto a rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with a little salt.

Bake for 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until the okra is not quite burned, but is quite dark in color and crispy on the edges.  Let cool slightly before serving.

27 March 2013

Ravioli with Brussels Sprouts, Pecans, and Bacon

So now for a complete change of pace....Since my last post was about as unhealthy and lacking in nutritionally redeeming qualities as a pie could possibly be, I figured I should throw in some vegetables.  My arteries needed some time to recover from the pie. 

Brussels sprouts may be the most divisive of all the vegetables.  Everyone I have ever met either loves them or hates them.  I mean really loves them or really hates them.  I have never found any middle ground when it comes to Brussels sprouts.  I am firmly in the pro-Brussels sprouts camp. I love, love, love them! I love them so much that I feel the need to use exclamation points and I am totally not an exclamation point kinda gal.  The only other food I can think of that brings out sich great division with the folks I know is the tomato.  I know so many folks who don't like tomatos, but still eat spaghetti sauce and ketchup (which makes absolutely no sense to me at all).  I can't imagine those same folks being down with dipping anything in a sauce that is Brussels sprout-based....

Brussels sprouts are tiny relatives of cabbages (no wonder they look like that) and have been known to be cultivated for over since the 13th century in what we now know as Belgium.  That's how folks think the name came from.  Seems sort of obvoius, but if you know anything about food nomenclature, then you know that the origins for food names are not always so straightforward.  You can also cook them any number of ways -- steaming, roasting, sauteeing.  You can even eat them raw, just like cabbage.  If you have never had them any way but whole and steamed or boiled, then you should try this recipe.  Slicing and sauteeing them completely changes the flavor.  They are nothing short of delightful.  Even my husband ate a plate of this and he has a permanent settlement in the anti-Brussels sprout camp.

Chop up of pecans and get your Brussels sprouts ready to go.

To prep the Brussels sprouts, cut off the stem at bottom, peel off the first layer of leaves on the outside and slice into thin slices.

25 March 2013

The Pie They Must Serve in Heaven

That's what one of my coworkers called this pie - "the pie they must serve in heaven on a golden plate with a glass of condensed milk".  That may be true, and bless your heart if it is, because then you could eat as much as you wanted without having to let out your pants.  Here in our earthly realm, you'll have to dole out this pie sparingly.  My husband commented that this pie is "all dessert".  We actually discussed if there is any nutritional value to it.  We finally came to the conclusion that there's some protein and other than that this pie is entirely bad for you.  It is also entirely delicious, as you would expect it to be with all those pesky nutrients out of the way.

The main reason that this pie is so utterly ridiculous is the crust.  I found a version of this crust in another of the cookbooks I got at the flea market a couple of weeks ago.  The filling for the original pie was lemon, but I couldn't really see putting lemon filling in a pie crust that consists primarily of melted Baby Ruth candy bars. It almost seems like an insult to fruit, so I made a caramel filling.  You have to have some whipped cream, too.  You need the cream to cut though all that chocolate and caramel.  It might be the only thing preventing me from going in to cardiac arrest right now.  This really is spectacularly simple, even the filling.  Don't let the double boiler scare you away.  All you need for a double boiler is a heat proof bowl and a saucepan with some simmering water.  That's the picture of mine in the middle on the group below.

22 March 2013

Super Evil Eggs

So, technically these eggs aren't evil.  At least not any more evil than any other deviled egg because I love them all so much that I must eat way more than I should any time they are placed within arm's reach.  Deviled eggs are one of my favorite foods in the whole world.  I grew up with them at every holiday, buffet, potluck, etc.  I am serious when I say every one, too.  Since I was so successful with my hard boiled egg cookery for my previous post, Tangy Eggs and Tasty Tuna, I had some beautifully peeled eggs left over and I knew I had to make some deviled eggs. 

Also, as a result of the cookbook I referenced in that post, I looked at way too many recipes using Deviled Ham.  Deviled Ham isn't something I have thought about since I was a kid.  My mom made me a sandwich, I didn't care for it, and I have never had it again.  Since I'm not six anymore I figured I should give it a try.  I like it.  There's not really anything about it to not like -- ham, mustard, spices....  It also prompted me to do some research on where the name for deviled eggs and deviled ham comes from.  "Deviled" as a word first appears in 1800, when it was used in the phrase, "At half past two ate a devil'd kidney". According to the Oxford Companion to Food,
Devil--a culinary term which . . . first appeared as a noun in the 18th century, and then in the early 19th century as a verb meaning to cook something with fiery hot spices or condiments. . . . The term was presumably adopted because of the connection between the devil and the excessive heat in Hell. . . .
So, they're just evil because they contain little more than salt and pepper, not because you are destined to burn forever for consuming them.  You're safe, at least as far as consumption of deviled foods is concerned.

20 March 2013

Tangy Eggs and Tasty Tuna

Hard boiled eggs are one my great cooking nemeses.  No matter how hard I try I can never get the suckers to peel properly.  I'm sure I'm not the only one out there that has this same problem, but it sure seems like I'm the only one who can never make them successfully.  I have tried every tip and trick, but nothing ever seems to work.  Until today, that is.  I finally managed to make hard boiled eggs that peeled properly.  Most of them practically jumped out of their shells for me.  I was so excited I took a picture of one and texted it to my husband.  Maybe it doesn't take too much to get me excited, but it's a major relief to know I won't have all those wasted eggs hanging over my head any more.  Wanna know the trick?  Take your time.  Be sure that your eggs are thoroughly cooled before even attempting to crack their shells.  It seems so simple, but with a full time job and family the luxury of time isn't something I always have.  I know I'm not the only one with those issues to contend with.

I adapted these recipes from a totally awesome cookbook I got the flea market last week -- Good Housekeeping's "Ten P.M. Cook Book".  It's like one of those half magazines with recipes that you see at the grocery store checkout, only it only cost $0.39 back in 1958 when it was published and it's way, way better.  I'm more than half tempted to cook everything in it from cover to cover -- like my own retro "Julie and Julia".  I narrowed it down to adapting the recipes for Tangy Eggs and Tasty Tuna.  These would both work equally well as dips, like I served them, or as sandwich fillings (which I tried on some leftover rolls when no one was looking).  Either way they are delicious, easy, and totally deserving or their place on today's table.

18 March 2013

White Chocolate Espresso Pudding Pie

I must warn you -- I'm gonna get so super-classy this week you might not be able to take it.  The food I grew up on came from two decidedly different camps -- the homemade Southern staples and convenience foods.  The Southern staples were things like fried chicken or biscuits and gravy.  The convenience foods were Hamburger Helper, TV dinners, and other stuff from straight out of a box or cans.  Since I grew up on convenience foods, I have a soft spot for them.  The big craze for conveniece foods started in the 1950's.  So my recipes this week are hopefully gonna bring the glamour they tried to bestow on easy foods back then and bring them right up to this century.  I really think that some of these deserve it.

I have never really been a coffee drinker.  I went through a phase during college -- mostly at Waffle House -- where that's where my friends and I went to hang out.  Coffee was the drink of choice.   My mother is a coffee drinker extraordinaire.  The one thing she always brings to the annual Christmas buffet at my house is coffee.  I haven't owned a coffee maker my entire adult life.  At least until this Christmas.  I asked for one this year so that I could use it in recipes.  Having a coffee maker in my house is a bad idea, because now I am semi-obsessed with the stuff.  I'm not up to multiple cups a day yet, but I'm headed that way.  This pie doesn't actually utilized my lovely coffee maker, but it does use enough instant espresso powder to fuel a car.  Feel free to substitute instant coffee or reduce the amount of espresso powder if you don't want your pie quite so strong.

15 March 2013

Orange Pecan Sticky Biscuits

My kids inspired me to make this dessert, sort of.  Lately they have been obsessed with Cuties -- those adorable easy to peel mandarin oranges.  I have a secret love affair with mandarin oranges, but not the fresh ones.  I love the canned ones and have my entire life.  I have been known to make a snack out of them -- eating them straight from the can and then drinking the juice.  I should be ashamed and I know it.  They're a guilty pleasure for me like Oreos or Twinkies are for some folks.

I am going into the post not quite sure what to call these little dessert/breakfast treats.  They could go either way.  They are sort of a cross between a shortcake, an upside down cake, a biscuit, and a sticky bun.  They don't really fit in anywhere, which is unfortunate because I think I might just make an excuse to fit them in just about anywhere.  They are fruity, caramel-y, and cakey (in a good way).  So have them for breakfast, dessert, or a just a snack.  You won't be sorry.  Plus, anything with fruit in it is at least a little bit good for you.  Right?

14 March 2013

It's Pi(e) Day!!!

It's March 14th, a.k.a. 3.14, that means it's Pi(e) Day!  Yea!!!  It's the one day of the year that I can make no excuses.  I must make pie!  Any ideas or suggestions?  What kind of pie should I make?  What kind of pie are you making or eating today?  Whatever it is I hope you enjoy it.  I really hope you enjoy your pie more that this lady seems to.....
Here are links to my pie recipes.  Just in case (wink, wink!)

Ambrosia Pie
Soda Cracker Pie
Salted Chocolate Butterscotch Pie
Magic Pumpkin Custard Pie
Caramel Apple Milky Way Mini Pies
Pineapple Meringue Pie
Possum Pie
Corn Flake Pie

13 March 2013

Monkey Cinnamon Roll Mini Muffins

So, there's a whole lot going on in life these days, so I needed to make something fun, but easy because time is at even more of a premium these days.  My husband was in the hospital all of last week, so I have been juggling work, kids, and blogging along with daily hospital visits.  He's okay and doing fine, but it just means that I am running around even crazier than usual.  I made these fun little muffins as a treat for him this weekend after he go home and they got eaten up really quickly, so I think they were pretty successful.  They were also adorable and fun -- just what I was needing.

I got the idea for these from a local bakery that makes monkey bread muffins.  Their monkey bread is not your typical monkey bread, though.  Theirs is made from scraps of homemade puff pastry.  The muffins are huge pull apart piles of butter, caramelized sugar, crunchy pastry goodness.  I can't justify all that butter every morning.  And, to be perfectly frank, I can't justify $3 for a muffin every morning no matter how huge it is.  These take just a couple of extra minutes to put together, but they are totally worth it since they look like they take ten times longer than they actually do.  I hope you think they're as much fun and adorable as I do.

11 March 2013

Cracker Cookie Brownie Thingys

This is a wacky recipe I copied down a few years ago.  I have no idea where it came from or who it came from.  Most of my recipes from around this time were gotten from boxes of recipes I bought at estate and garage sales.  So, my best guess it that this recipe came from some housewife or grandmother somewhere here in Little Rock.  I don't think I'll ever be sure.

The name on the recipe card is "Cracker Brownies".  One of my pet peeves is when people use the terms brownies and blondies incorrectly.  Brownies have chocolate batter, blondies have non-chocolate batter.  These are more like a bar cookie to me than either a brownie or a blondie, but that may just be a personal thing.  These are stupendously good and take almost exactly five minutes to whip up and get into the oven.  So, what are you waiting for...?

08 March 2013

Chicken Satay

So, I know that Satay is not American Southern, but it is from Southern Asia, so that makes it Southern food in my world.  It's especially delicious, too, which makes it more than okay in my book.  Technically satay is just grilled meat with dipping sauce.  I took a few liberties with my satay because I don't have a grill or a grill pan, so I used a good old skillet instead.  I also poured the dipping sauce over mine because it's just that good and I couldn't bear to leave any of it in the bowl.  Satay is the national dish of Indonesia.  They typically serve it with a peanut sauce a lot like this one. 

One of the reasons I gravitate to lots of Asian foods is that they really get how to balance flavors.  This is a perfect example of that.  There's salty, sweet, bitter, savory -- the whole shebang.  There's also just a little bit of heat.  That's the icing on the cake.  This is really super simple and quick, so it's a perfect weeknight dinner.  It's also a nice change from our normal rotation of pastas, casseroles, and pizza.  Even my husband, the picky eater extraordinaire, cleaned his plate.

06 March 2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Puffcorn

My friend Sarah had a birthday a few days ago and she asked me to make something chocolate-peanut butter for her.  I came up with this Puffcorn.  That's right Puffcorn.  It's not a typo.  You can find puffcorn at some grocery stores with the chips.  It comes in cheese and butter flavors.  The butter flavor is a lot like popcorn without the kernels.  I love using it for recipes in place of popcorn for that very reason.  You can absolutely substitute some popcorn if you can't find Puffcorn, though. 

I grew up eating those peanut butter oatmeal no bake cookies.  Maybe you've had them before?  The mixture that coats this popcorn is a lot like the stuff that binds those cookies together, but I used chocolate chips instead for cocoa powder.  This also doesn't require the use of a candy thermometer.  I make quite a few variations on this recipe.  My husband calls it Crunch n' Munch for grown ups.  I like that a lot.

04 March 2013

Cinnamon Almond Bars

These bars are totally up my cookie alley.  They are simple, crunchy, chewy, and seriously addictive.  That's pretty much my cookie criteria in a nutshell.  They also have almonds.  That's not a requirement, but it certainly helps.  If you've read my posts that had anything to do with almonds in the past, then you know I sit in amazement at what the French can do with almonds.  They are miracle workers.  My time in France made me love almonds.  Being a Southerner this is almost a betrayal of my almost completely pecan-based upbringing.  These bars certainly would look out of place with the immacualte and perfect desserts in French bakeries, but they taste delightful enough to fit right in. 


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