Mardi Gras

Well Carnival season is always a fun time here in Pensacola. Everyone associates Carnival with just New Orleans, but in this country it started in Mobile, Alabama – and moon pies are involved. Yep. Moon Pies. Pensacola has a vibrant krewe tradition and a host of parades and balls from 12th night (6th of January) on – there is not much else to do in January and February after all. It is cold and rainy most of the time so any excuse to drink like fish and dress up is appreciated. I would join a krewe, but I just do not like people. Nope.

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Yes, I have carnival cookie cutters. So?

Throws (beads, cups, and, whatnot) vary, but Moon Pies are in the mix. I am so not sure why, but hey, what is wrong with a chocolate Moon Pie once a year. Apparently this year there were calorie count moon pies – like tiny little things – who does that? This season is for indulgence, so let us just have a regular old-sized moon pie – like the kind I ate when I was a kid. I do not like the vanilla ones and really do not like the banana ones – ugh. Go chocolate (which is odd for me) or do not bother.

So today I wear beads to work – just like I wore beads this weekend when the major parades were going on. Monday was red beans and rice day and while that is a traditional Monday thing, but this is the important Monday. Today is Mardi Gras – the crazy day and then Ash Wednesday changes everything.

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Hood – my Mardi Gras pup

I have local fresh eggs – amazing!

My friend Tony told me his friend Dusty raises chickens and sells eggs. Finally, a source for farm fresh eggs  – that is so great! I know there have been several places in Milton that have signs out for fresh eggs, but I just do not go into Milton that often. Tony speaks very highly of his friend and from the description the chickens are kept in, it is the kind of environment that I think is great for chickens. I mentioned it at work and someone called them yard eggs, and I guess when you get right down to it, that is really what they are. Though I have never heard that phrase before.

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The colors are so amazing. It is like Easter eggs without dying them.

This is just in time for my Meyer lemons to come in from California so I can make all kinds of lemon curd. And lemon curd tartlets – oh yes, this is going to be a good couple of baking weeks. Or just a good couple of weeks in general. Yep.

I think Meyer lemon curd has to be first because the two most important things are egg yolks and Meyer (or any lemon, but prefer Meyer) lemon juice. I think the only other thing that will be made more outstanding is hollandaise because, again, egg yolks. And fresh ones have to be so superior.

Pecan Pie Cookies

It is a well-known fact that I will try any kind of “pecan pie” anything. Pecan pie muffins – so there. Pecan pie cookies, hell, even pecan sandies ^ of all sorts of varieties. I just cannot help myself. I am not a huge ice cream person, but the one thing in the ice cream world I do love is butter pecan ice cream, as long as the pecans have a bit of salt on them. dd_1798

If I were not so cheap, I would buy an ice cream machine and figure out how to make the best butter pecan ice cream, but then I might just end up being as big as a house and that serves one well in the grand scheme of things.

So here we have a new pecan pie cookie. One I really like. I also make my pecan pie muffins the same week – do we see a theme? Yep.

1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 (12 Tbs) cup unsalted butter, softened
1  large egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Filling
1 cup chopped pecans (Renfroes *)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350°F. Combine all cookie ingredients except flour and baking powder in bowl. Beat at medium speed until creamy. Sift together flour,  baking powder, and salt and beat in at low speed until well mixed. Chill 2 hours.

Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place 2 inches apart onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Make indentation in each cookie with a measuring teaspoon; rotate to hollow out slightly

Combine all filling ingredients in bowl; fill each cookie with 1 rounded teaspoon filling. Bake 8-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to cooling rack.

Source: Modified from Land o’ Lakes

* Having local fresh pecans is just an absolute joy. I guess simple things make me happy.

^Make these. No really, do this.

Artichoke Bread

This idea kind of combines a couple of other really good ideas. Cheese bread and artichoke dip with some garlic throw in for good measure. This just sounds like dinner to me. That being said, I am sure I could survive on bread and cheese – and maybe some apples and grapes and be a perfectly happy camper.dd_1810

For all the desserts that I bake, they just are not my favorite things. I do it to make the Boy happy and when I have extra to share, I take them to the office or to my local. I am going to make an effort to also start taking treats to the local sheriff’s department and the local fire departments. My only question there is – is that just weird? Will they be suspicious of it? I hope not. Cookies, and baking in general, are just good for me to do and I would like to share.

Last week was a pretty rough week for our LEOs  in Escambia County FL, Santa Rosa County Fl, and Escambia County AL. You probably didn’t hear, but a guy killed two women in Milton, another in Foley and stole her car, and shot a women in Pensacola and then stole her car too. She later died. It was a bit scary because he and his accomplice were seen not too terrible far from my office. I just don’t understand. Who does this? This seems really depressing, but it was that week. Let’s just say we were all hyper aware of our surroundings now.

I am sure artichoke bread will not fix the bad things in the world, but doing something comforting makes life a little better – at least it does for me.

14 ozs artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
2 scallions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 ozs cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano, grated
zest of one lemon
chopped chives
1 loaf Italian bread, sliced in half horizontally

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix artichokes, scallions, garlic, cream cheese, mayonnaise, sour cream, lemon zest, and cheeses, reserving some cheese for the top. Or just add some more, because it is cheese after all

Hollow about 1/2 inch of bread out of both halves of the bread. Spread mixture in the hollow and top with reserved cheese.

Wrap bread loosely in foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake until the cheese is melty and golden brown.

Source: Closet Cooking


Winter Storms – do not have names.

This is just so annoying. Tropical storms have names. Too many names to recall ….

Hurricanes have names. We have had Ivan, Dennis, & Katrina,  since we have been in hurricane alley.

Winter storms – no. names. ever.

I think it is just something the Weather Channel does to increase ratings. People, it is called winter and, guess what – that means you in the north get snow in February and those of us in north Florida are in the low 70’s with polo shirts and jeans. Until we get two good days of cold, which for us, is winter. Suck it.

Granted, you northerns get your revenge when we said hurricanes make landfall and we are miserable in August or September or October. Turn about is fair play, non?

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A real hurricane – Ivan

 

Chili Jj

About a zillion years, or at least it feels that way, I found a recipe for Chili El Cid. It was very different than the chili I had grown up with, but it was intriguing beyond words. It was so weird – in a good way. It had a cinnamon stick and a jalapeño that was slit and they both simmered in the chili.dd_1796

Question: Who puts cinnamon in chili?
Answer: A very enlightened person.

Seemed so strange. Still does, but it works so well. The source, originally, was not the Parade Magazine though that seems to be where everyone else knows it from. I found it via my love of Sheila Lukens.

I have to admit, I am not a huge fan of beans in my chili. Not sure what camp that puts me in – maybe Texas, but I do put a few (read: 1 can of light kidney beans, rinsed very very well) for the MotH. It is a concession I am willing to make. Though am still not really a fan, which is interesting since all the chili of my childhood had beans in it.

We have had a bit of a mild winter, even for us, so I have not been in chili mode, but we just are having a crappy weekend this weekend. Windy, rainy, and whatnot, so I think I that fits the bill. Maybe my last chance till next winter.

Steve (MotH) says that it is fine to make chili when it is not cold – he’ll just turn the A/C down and we will make due. He is probably right, but I always hold out hope that we get just a smidge of winter in February. One can only hope.

Olive oil
1 pound ground sirloin
2 hot Italian sausages, casings removed
2 mild Italian sausages, casings removed
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1/4 cup chili powder
1 Tbs McCormick – Montreal Blend
1 Tbs ground cumin
1 Tbs dried basil
1 Tbs dried oregano
2 – 14.5 ozs cans beef broth
1 – 28 ozs can whole tomatoes
1 – 28 ozs can crushed tomatoes
1 cinnamon stick
1 jalapeño, slit lengthwise 3 times
1 – 14.5 ozs can light red kidney beans, rinsed well, no, really rinsed well, otherwise ugh

Heat olive oil, about 2 Tbs in a large pot.  Add sirloin, sausages, and onion. Once it is all cooked though, with the meat being no longer pink and the onion translucent. Use a potato masher to break the meats up. Add the chili powder, Montreal blend, basil, oregano, and cumin. Cook until the spices are fragrant, a couple of minutes.

Add beef broth and both kinds of tomatoes. Add the cinnamon stick and jalapeño. Bring to a boil briefly and reduce to a simmer for about 2 hours, stirring occasionally while breaking up the whole tomatoes -with said potato masher. When there is about 30 minutes more of simmering to do, add the very rinsed beans. Stir well.

Before serving, remove cinnamon stick and jalapeño – duh. Garnish with grated cheddar, lime crema* and if you are a great person, serve over cornbread.  Yes, I am that person (see below).

*sour cream with some fresh lime juice – sounds cooler to say crema, maybe? Not sure. Yep. It does.

Sour Cream Cornbread – necessary
1 cup of self rising cornmeal (though you can make it from regular cornmeal if you make the correct modifications*)
2  large eggs
1 small can of creamed corn
1 cup sour cream  – full fat people, I mean really?
1/2 cup canola oil

Combine all ingredients, mixing well. Pour into a greased 9 x 9 inch glass baking pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 – 30 minutes. In my opinion – closer to 30 minutes.

From my great friend Dawn, who taught me a great many things about Southern cooking and baking. 

* 3/4 cup cornmeal + 3 Tbs
1 Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt

I just do not like to buy self rising anything so …

Sour Cream Cornbread Muffins

I finally decided to make my favorite cornbread recipe into muffins, and I’ll be damned if it did not work out amazingly. I just took my favorite cornbread recipe that I always make for chili and tried to make it in muffin form. I am happy to say it worked really really well. Super happy – yep. dd_1789

1 cup self-rising corn meal*
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 small can of creamed corn – Publix brand is great – like most Publix brands
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all ingredients well.  Line a 12-well muffin tin with foil liners and spray with cooking spray. Fill cups 3/4 full – or basically just make them all even so the baking time is the same. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. Do the toothpick thing just in case you are wondering.

* 3/4 cup cornmeal + 3 Tbs
1 Tbs baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt

So this past week I have eaten really moist cornbread muffins for breakfast**. Split in half and put in the toaster oven and heat up and make a little crunchy. And then just go all in with the ridiculously rich European butter – that is some serious good eats. Might be better than biscuits for breakfast but that is almost blasphemy for a good Southern girl to say. Well ….

**Before, I just cut pieces of cornbread and brought them in. But then there was the problem of running out of cornbread for leftover chili, so I went all in – a pan of cornbread and then cornbread muffins – pretty good solution. And more cornbread for me. I didn’t even share this with the office. I think I just might be terrible, no, just selfish.