Monday, April 23, 2012


Easter Dinner, usually pork tenderloin on the grill.  But we've had a lot of pork this year so filet mignon took its place.  First a dousing of salt on both sides of meat until brought to room temperature.  Then a little more salt and lots of pepper.  Pan fry in olive oil and a little butter--8-10 minutes each side.  Then remove, add a tiny bit of butter to each steak, let rest for 5 minutes to reabsorb the juices.  Perfect.

I had forgotten about the bag of freshly ground grits sitting in my pantry.  My friend, Darcey, and I each bought a bag while traveling from Savannah, Georgia to Charleston, South Carolina in a little town called Round O.  Grits are great sweet or savory. Sweet for breakfast with a little butter, sugar, and cream (always cream). And at night, with butter, cream, and salt and pepper. This recipe fancied them up a bit.  I loved them, as did the adults in my family.  But the kids scrunched up their noses not quite loving the texture.

Spicy Grits - Pioneer Woman Cooks
  • 1/2 Onion, Diced
  • 1/2 Red Bell Pepper
  • 2 whole Chilies (any Variety, Hot Or Mild)
  • 2 cups Stone Ground Grits
  • 3 cups Low Sodium Chicken (or Beef) Broth
  • 1 1/2 cups Water
  • 1 cup Half-and-half
  • 1 cup Grated Cheddar Cheese
Picture taken before the cheese was added
Heat 1 tablespoon of both oil and butter. Add diced onion, bell pepper, and chilies and cook for five minutes or so. Pour in grits, then add broth and water. Stir, then bring to a boil . Reduce the heat to low, then cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. After 30 minutes, add half-and-half. Cook for another 20 to 30 minutes, or until grits are tender. Remove from heat and stir in grated cheese.

Classic Caesar Salad

I won't bother with the recipe.  I made the dressing with anchovies and everything was going along swimmingly when my niece noticed the tin of anchovies was missing from my pantry.  Really?  I have a million items in my pantry.  She noticed they were sitting on the shelf one minute and then they were gone.  A brouhaha erupted and my classic Caesar salad became your run of the mill Caesar salad.  Oh, well.  The good news is they all can say they've had anchovies....cue the sinister laugh soundtrack.

This is super simple.  One bag of frozen pre-cooked dinner rolls, butter, fresh rosemary, and sea salt.  That's it.  Follow instructions for whatever frozen rolls you bought. Everyone thought they were homemade.  Wish I had one right now.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

KNIVES AT DAWN - Andrew Friedman - Book Review

My friend Liz gave this to me for my birthday so I jumped into the whole new crazy world of intense cooking competitions.  Wow.  I had no idea.

Knives at Dawn written by Andrew Friedman tells the story of well known chefs, Daniel Boulud and the French Laundry's Thomas Keller,  working to improve the United States chances of winning the Bocuse d'Or, considered to be the most prestigious cooking competition in the world, and one that heavily favors European chefs. It's about creative technique, taste, presentation, and timing. When you see that description in print it doesn't seem like such a big deal.  But it is and it takes months if not years to prepare.

What I found most interesting was the background of the chefs themselves.  Especially the ones I was more familiar with such as Boulud and Keller.  They in turn bow to the great French chef, Paul Bocuse, now 85 years old.

For as long as I can remember chefs have been treated like rock stars so I was surprised to read it was not always the case.   Friedman writes the following about Bocuse, "he is widely recognized as the first of his comrades to march proudly into the dining room to commingle with the clientele, an act of emancipation that helped his professional brethren migrate from the heat of the kitchen to the glare of the spotlights."

Quoting Alain Sailhac, another living French culinary legend, "We chefs and celebrity chefs owe so much to Bocuse; we were domestiques, now we are nobility," said Alain Sailhac.  "Sailhac remembers that when he was a young cook in France, before the Bocuse reformation, he would conceal his profession from young women he was courting; if forced to confess that he worked in a restaurant, he would claim that he was a chef de rang, or dining room captain, which had more cachet."

While this book is about the competition itself, it also covers the culture of some of the top kitchens and training of its staff.  There is also little tidbits such as this one, "in competition a combination of textures is essential: the three primary ones being 'crisp/cruchy, meaty, and soft.' By way of illustration, pie a la mode,..the most popular dessert in the world, has all three: the crust is crunchy, the apple is meaty, and the ice cream is soft."   Doesn't apple pie sound good right now?

If you are interested in the culinary world this book is worth reading.

Friday, April 13, 2012


That is lovely chocolate you see darkening the rim of the bread.
My friend, Judith, sent me this recipe as one of her favs and she has excellent taste.  This is one of the best dessert breads I have ever tasted. But admittedly,  I'm not sure I have ever had "bad" dessert bread. And I had just ground some whole wheat flour so I added a bit reducing the amount of the all-purpose flour.  Didn't even notice. 

Judith found this on: a site I will be visiting more often.

Chocolate Banana Bread:
1/2 cup (55 grams) walnuts or pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped
3/4 cups (230 grams) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (30 grams) unsweetened cocoa powder (regular or Dutch-processed), sifted
1 cup (200 grams) granulated white sugar
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
3 ripe bananas (approximately 1 pound or 454 grams), mashed well (about 1-1/2 cups)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (85 grams) white, dark, or milk chocolate chips
A sprinkling of turbinado or demerara sugar

Perfect with hot, milky, peppermint tea
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C) and place oven rack to middle position.  Butter and flour (or spray with a non stick vegetable/flour spray) the bottom and sides of a  9 x 5 x 3 inch (23 x 13 x 8 cm) loaf pan
Place the nuts on a baking sheet and bake for about 8 - 10 minutes or until lightly toasted.  Let cool and then chop coarsely.  

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 
In a medium-sized bowl combine the mashed bananas, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla.  With a rubber spatula or wooden spoon, lightly fold the wet ingredients (banana mixture) into the dry ingredients until just combined and batter is thick and chunky. Fold in the nuts and chocolate chips. Scrape batter into prepared pan and sprinkle the top of the bread with coarse brown sugar (optional, but I say "do it"). Bake until the bread has risen and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 55 to 65 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool and then remove the bread from the pan. Serve warm or at room temperature. Can be covered and stored for a few days, or frozen for longer storage.
Makes 1 - 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf.

Sunday, April 8, 2012


Flowers can change our mood, scent our rooms, punch up our landscape, the list goes on and on. Here are a few that we've scattered around the house from the last few weeks--all freshly clipped from our gardens.

                                                                    HAPPY EASTER!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

WICKED AUTUMN - Malliet - Book Review

First, never read two murder mysteries in a row set in an English village with the vicar playing amateur detective.  I had to frequently stop to straighten out the characters and their backgrounds.  What was I thinking?

G.M. Malliet's Wicked Autumn was a fun read with a few of the characters a little too stereo-typed for my liking.  The over-bearing woman who terrorizes everyone into submission (has victim written all over her), the classic village gossip line, the flirty divorcee, etc.  But, I liked the vicar's background--former MI5 agent turned priest which added a new twist. And the plot was clever and clipped along pretty fast with a good wrap-up ending.

I read this on my Kindle and one of the downsides is that I couldn't easily skim through finding the quote I wanted to use in this review, so hence: no quotes. Bottom line: worth a quick read.