Monday, August 11, 2008

Traditional Southern Fare at its Best...

In the mad rush to get ready for the GRE as well as a new school year, I've been doing a lot of last-of-summer experiments. Like trying out Anson Mill's grits. And yup--they're just as good and as hominy/corny delicious as Sharon said they were! Trust me--these grits are bursting with creamy flavor--you can, and will--eat them straight. (Though a little gravy on the side never hurt anything at all!)

Speaking of gravy--I've also discovered yet another Southern delicacy--cracklin's. Though I don't them for eating straight, I've discovered that they make some awesome pan gravy. If you add just a little bit of seasoning, it's as good as the "Ben and Wiley" (Fried Chicken) pan gravy from my childhood.

But you can't have cracklins'--at least homemade ones--without pig fat. And you don't cook down cracklin's without a lot of manteca de cerdo--otherwise known as lard or (directly translated from the Spanish) pig butter. Yup. I'm just curious enough to try it. (If anyone's curious about the process, you can find it here and here.) And let me tell you! It's so worth it! Anything fried in the stuff turns out terrifically crisp and delicious. And, according to these people, it's one of the best fats you can use for just about anything. But you can't get this kind of lard in the store, 'cause all of it in the store has been pelted and assaulted with hydrogen molecules, making it hydrogenated. Which means unhealthy. (But my, my, doesn't it keep on the shelf!)

I've frozen some of the lard, and I'm planning on making some fine, fine pie crust in the not-too distant future.

And along with some not-so-impressive fig and lemon preserves, that's what I've been doing.

Well--except for readying my curriculum and room for school. And trying to study for the GRE. That's all.

Sorry--no pictures of the lard. I know you're dying to see, too.

God bless!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

It's tomato season, and...

For someone who loves to cook, I certainly haven't done much with canning.

Well. I still haven't done much, but at least I've gotten my feet wet.
But, suffice it to say that when I came home from the farm where I get my eggs on Thursday, I had a lot more produce than I expected-- about 20-30 pounds of Roma tomatoes.

First I froze two gallon-size bags of plain tomatoes--and made fresh-tomato pasta sauce for dinner.

Then, after reading more recipes than is healthy, I decided to make roasted tomato sauce. It's easy: coat a cookie sheet in olive oil, slice tomatoes in half, throw in 4 whole cloves of garlic, some rosemary, and sprigs of thyme. Roast at 400 degrees for 25 minutes, and 350 for 40-45 degrees. Take the tomatoes out of the oven, discard the spice sticks, and puree. Freeze if you want to store.

Then I was ready to can. My mother and I got out her pressure cooker that was last used over thirty years ago, and went to work skinning tomatoes, cutting up herbs, and sterilizing jars. The only different thing I tried here was some Italian diced tomatoes with minced garlic and fresh basil and oregano. (I think I need to fill my jars a little more next time. Ya live, ya learn.)

The last: Oven-dried tomatoes with herbs in olive oil. I sliced my tomatoes in half, removed the seeds, and placed them on racks. After oven-drying for 12 hours on the oven's lowest setting, I decided to put it on convection to speed up the process. By noon today, I was finally done drying tomatoes (I think a dehydrator would have been much easier--and if I'd peeled to tomatoes, it would have been even easier.) I rough-chopped them, mixed them with basil, thyme, and oregano, and packed them in jars. After pouring olive oil over the tomatoes, I slid I knife around the sides to release any air bubbles, sealed them, and pressure-canned them.

--And this is what's left:

I want more.

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Monday, July 21, 2008


I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from which cometh my help.

My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth

He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth the will not slumber,

Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall not slumber nor sleep.

The LORD is thy keeper, the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand

The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night

The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil, he shall preserve thy soul.

The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Psalms 121

more pictures from this year's trip to the Smokies on my picasa

Saturday, July 12, 2008

New York, New York

After my loooong sabbatical from this weblog, I'm returning with pictures from Becca's and my trip to NYC:

(I'm not going to write up this trip--though it was fabulous--
I'm supposed to be packing for another trip--!)

More photos are on my picasa site.

God Bless y'all!

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

--Found this in my School Journal today:

My Mother
is a steel hand in kid gloves.
Gentle, unyeilding
She conquers her world
by small tasks.
Soup made,
a stain unstained.
Her hands bend wisely
to my father's beckoning
And to the gentle Holy Spirit.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

A Reveiw of Sorts...

I've been meaning to post this for a long time: a listing of my favorite cook books.

It most certainly doesn't mean I've cooked everything in them; it's just that these are the cookbooks I read--and cook from--with pleasure. I'm sure I'll add to this list as I cook from books I have but haven't touched (Silver Spoon, anyone?), and others that I haven't bought yet (Laurel's Bread Book; Peter Rhinehart's Whole Grain Baking). It's a work-in-progress.

How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
This is cookbook is by the man behind the hilarious NY Times food videos. While he doesn't cook everything exactly to my taste, I can usually get a good recipe out of this one. And, as the title says, it does seem to have a recipe for just about--everything. My sister, Sharon, who is part of a CSA, can usually go to her handy-dandy HTCE to find a recipe for anything strange that might arrive in her veggie package. And it usually tastes good, too.

The Best (so far):
(Soaked) Lighter, Sweeter Cornbread
Sand Cake (With orange glaze)
Basic Pot Roast
Bean Croquettes
Thai or Asian Recipes (I don't always cook these, but they help inspire other things)
Moros y Christianos (Black beans with Rice)
Coconut Macaroons
Pear (or Peach) Clafoutis

Joy of Cooking--1997 ed.
A lot of people--at least since the new edition--have disced this cookbook, claiming that it "doesn't hold up to the standards of the old 1975 edition", or something like that. Well, call me a food nerd, but I really like this edition. I'm guaranteed a great recipe from this cookbook, no matter what. It's got my favorite banana bread recipe, bar none. It's got a great meat section--even some game, which I don't even think Mark Bittman has. (Figures. He lives in a city.) The only thing I truly begrudge it for is that they left out the canning section that's in the 1975 ed. (I have that one, too... lol), and that they took out an awesome key lime pie recipe.

The Best (so far):
Banana Bread
Roast Chicken with vegetables
Bread Pudding
Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes
Kale with Bacon
Carrot Cake
Buttermilk Layer Cake (A little crumbly, but would be awesome with a lemon glaze)
Lemon Curd
Sticky Buns
Buche de Noel
Chocolate Genoise
Buttercream Filling/Frosting

King Arthur Flour's Whole Grain Baking
This is my latest acquisition, and it was worth every penny I paid for it. A lot of the recipes are not fully whole-grain, but I've forged ahead and made them with all freshly-ground flour. So far, I've not had one flop. Their cakes, so far, are superb. And their Honey-Whole Wheat biscuits are to die for. There's a lot more in here I've just not had time to try yet--Whole-Grain Puff Pastry to make croissants or dainishes with, crackers, and tons of pies and pastry. I'll eventually get around to it.

The Best (so far):
Honey-Whole Wheat biscuits
Chocolate Pound Cake
Lemon-Cornmeal Poundcake

The Cook's Bible by Christopher Kimball
While I don't always appreciate the dictatorial tone of this cook book, I had to include it for the sake of a lovely chocolate cake and some of the best cookie recipes ever. It was also my original inspiration behind brining poultry of any kind, and has a bread section that comprehensively explains the baking process.

The Best (so far):
Chocolate Cake
Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies
Molassas Spice Cookies
Sugar Cookies (with many variations)

Julia Child's The French Chef Cookbook
This is one of those cookbooks that I love to read. Julia has such a way with words and is pure-t hilarious, even in recipe writing. And even though her recipes always have enough butter in them to choke a cow, there are special occasions that merit it. I've not cooked a lot out of this one--it's based off the old TV series-- but what I've cooked has always turned out well.

The Best (so far):
Le Marquis au Chocolate (chocolate genoise with buttercream frosting and ganache)
Les Supremes (one of the best-tasting white-meat chicken recipes ever) with risotto
Brioche (I've not actually cooked this one, but Julia was the only one who could give me a decent description of incorporating butter into yeast dough.)

Cook Something by Mitchell Davis
This is the wild-card of the bunch. It's not necessarily a great cookbook, though it does have some good recipes. It's just that this one book seems to capture the gamut of feelings as far as cooking is concerned. The I-don't-wanna-cook to the I-must-cook-now-because-I-must---it's all here.

The Best (reads or recipes):
Just-Between-You-And-Me Mashed Potatoes
Adam's Big Pancake
Mister Bean
Rita's Dinner Special
Scary Prefab Surprise

Happy reading!

Friday, April 11, 2008

A flash from the past...

I was over at a friend's house last night, and I saw something I hadn't seen in years:

--From when I was in high school and thought I was an artiste--lol--

It kinda makes me miss it.

I got to introduce them to real bread and chat it up--it was a lot of fun.

On another note, I'm on Spring Break this week. It's a taste of summer, with the bittersweet regret of the shortness of time. I think teachers--and their students--need at least a two-week break.

59 As sure as that warm sun bathes across the fields when it's blistered from the winter's cold, there's got to be... That sun is put here for something. Down beneath there, somewhere, unseen to the human eye, is vegetation and life, that'll spring forth again, because that the sun was sent for that very same purpose.
And just as sure as the sunlight of God bathes into the human heart, there's a little hidden something there that men can't explain. It's calling out. There's got to be somewhere. I think of that, and my heart quivers for joy to know that we have the supreme evidence today that Christ raised from the dead.
Now, and I think of the times of the Old Testament too, when they looked forward to the coming of the Lord Jesus, when they foresaw Him and worshipped at the very thoughts of it. There was something in them calling out, a deep calling to a deep, waiting for a time, looking forward to the time when Jesus would come. Now, today, after He has come...
Now, back there Satan tried to blind the eyes of those who looked forward to it, to tell them that there was no such. But somehow or another, beyond anything that we can say this morning, but as the Holy Spirit pushed on their heart and give them a hunger and a thirst that there was coming a just One...
Job, now think, four thousand years, four thousand years before the coming of the Lord Jesus, Job saw the resurrection. And when he saw it by a vision, that it would be four thousand years before it happened, he had the assurance that, "I know my Redeemer liveth, and at the last days He will stand on the earth: though the skin worms destroys this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: Whom I'll see for myself, mine eyes shall behold, and not another." There was a deep calling to the deep in Job.
Satan might try to blot it out with death. He might say, "Yes, Job, you're going into the grave. Skin worms will take your body." That's right. We know that.
But Job said, "I'll stand at the last days with Him." He had the assurance that he was going to be there, for there was something in Job that told him that. And as Satan tried his best to blot it with death and everything, Job looked forward to it, to seeing it. Died in the faith, gave up the ghost, rose again on Easter morning with Christ, is immortal among men today. Hallelujah. Notice. No wonder the Angelic beings can sing, "Hallelujah." Know...

--God Bless.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A First, at Last.

I don't know why I haven't posted more about sewing here, other than I don't do it as much as I do other things. And I only sew when I feel I need to or I have time to--and the time doesn't come very often. This Friday and Saturday, though, I sewed my Easter dress. It was a great pattern, one I'm sure I'll use again . It really came together in a day, and would have been even less if I'd realized what to do to the neckline to make it right first instead of last.

...on another note, though it doesn't particularly feel like it, Spring's on its way in:

Saturday, March 15, 2008

To my sister, Sharon:

This Is Just To Say

(with apologies to William Carlos Williams)

I have eaten

the bread

that you said
I should make

and which

you were right--
it was easy

Forgive me
I do not like
my bread
so dense
and so plain

These words were especially true the first time I baked the infamous No-Knead Bread first
introduced on the NY Times food page back in November. After I tried it once--and completely
failed--my dear sister told me to try, try again--so I did.
The bread turned out better this time, but I'm still not exactly pleased.  First thing, unlike Sharon,
I'm not exactly burnt out on my regular bread yet. (Makes sense--Sharon's been baking FGWW
Bread a year and a half longer than I have.) And it still had a flavor that I don't like--it's called
the "soaked wheat flavor". Yup. Admittedly, when it comes to cooking, I care more about flavor
than health. I'll prove that in a (not so skinny) minute.
So.. What to do if I ever get bored with my bread?
I can try to learn to like FGWW No-Knead Bread, or this: 
 Cinnamon Raisin Bread/Cheese Bread

Heheh. Flavor over health.

Just to drive the point home, lemme leave you with a recipe:

Easy Tortilla Soup

1/2 pound sausage
1 med-lge onion, cut into large dice
1 can or 1 1/2 c. chicken broth
1-2 cans black beans (I used home-cooked beans for both)
1 more can of beans of your choice
(black-eye peas, white beans, pintos or even kidneys work here)
1 can Italian tomatoes
1/2-1 can of Rotel tomatoes
1-2 t. cumin
1 T. tomato paste, or (easy choice) ketchup

salt and pepper to taste (I didn't need any)

Tortilla Chips, crushed
Grated Cheddar or Monterey, or Pepper Jack cheese

Brown sausage in a medium to large saucepan until no "pink" is left. Add in onion and saute until onions are slightly caramelized. Add remaining ingredients and cook until flavors have melded. When serving, top with crushed tortilla chips and cheese.

**And if you want to be healthy, you can always make your own tortilla chips with corn tortillias, some olive oil, salt, pepper, and a hot oven. And you can get your sausage locally. (That's for Sharon.)


Today I made this soup with canned beans (two cans black; one can pintos), and added 1 t. chicken base and two bay leaves to compensate. I added 1 1/2 teaspoons of cumin; that seemed to do it. I think I got a little more than 1/2 a pound of meat though--maybe 5/8-3/4 a pound, because I used two small onions, and added an extra can of plain tomatoes. After adding the extra can of tomatoes, I did add some extra pepper, but still no extra salt. I hope this helps for anyone who tries it with canned beans!

**end of edit**

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