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

National Dog Day

Today is National Dog Day, so I think I will begin operation Get Another Dog in earnest now. Up to this point, I have been casually dropping hints that the MotH* has consistently ignored, but I think I will put the spurs to it, as it were, and actively start looking for a dog that I want.

That raises the question – what kind of dog do I really want? My first knee-jerk reaction would immediately be a German Shepherd Dog, but I am wondering if that makes sense going forward. I would always compare any GSD to Duke and I just do not think it could possibly measure up. IMG_0041

And then there is Bering. The  Boy wanted two types of dogs, a GSD and a Siberian Husky. When our friends rescued a Husky right after Hurricane Katrina, I was not enthusiastic. It seemed that he was noisy. Guess I did not know anything about a Husky. The Boy picked the name, it was the Bering Sea. And lord help me, the Husky was beyond words beautiful. I miss my little puppy friend. It is a damn shame that cancer took him at six years despite all the efforts we made.

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Then we got the idiot. He was bred to be a service dog. The group thought that mixing a Border Collie and a Lab would make a good service dog. Funny, but I do not think this group will try to make that mix again, since 3 of the 4 of that litter totally washed out. But he is my little idiot and no one else can say that about my dumb little boy. He is my Hood. This the picture when I knew he was mine.

Hoodie Boy

*Man of the House

Chicken Salad

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Simple Chicken Salad

I seem to keep failing at chicken salad. I am not sure why, but this time, I really thought I got it. But to be honest, chicken salad is so pedestrian. I mean, pretty much any idiot can make it. That just makes me feel like a bit of an idiot because it does not seem to work for me.

All that said, this was pretty damn good chicken salad. Too bad I could not enjoy it like I wanted to.

I have no idea how my mom made chicken salad. One of the million of things I did not ask her – this seems to be a theme. Guess that is what happens when someone you love dies unexpectedly. So you just have to forge you own way in the world. Suck it up and deal.

I poach a chicken breast or two* – usually two and then add the usual suspects: celery, peeled of course and then minced, a few (3) chopped boiled eggs, some shallots – minced, parsley also minced, a little Duke’s Mayonnaise, Dijon mustard. And if I am feeling really frisky some sweet pickle relish. None of this is anything my mother EVER did. But this is pretty cool in the grand scheme of things.

My lovely mother-in-law makes great chicken salad and it is just the way I like it – with grapes and nuts, but the MotH does not care for that. Either way, this one is pretty damn good.

I guess this is another one of my non-recipe recipes. I do seem to have quite a few of them. But when I think of it, that does not seem to me a bad thing

*I could have poached the chicken with bay leaves and peppercorns and garlic, but I save the chicken water for Hood, so I go simple so I can give him a treat. What dog does not love chicken water? Um, none.

 

 

Italian Fresh Cream Lemon Cake

D&D_1374 I have always heard about Italian Cream Cakes, but this is my first go with one. In a way it seems like lighter version of a pound cake and I did bake this in a bundt pan. Seems to make sense in a way.

I appear to be in cake mode now. Not sure why, but that does happen to me on occasion. Kind of like being in cookie mode for the last couple of months (read: 8 months). It is odd in a way, but I guess as humans we get into a trend of sorts and just go with it. Now, it is cake – not a bad thing, at least not in my opinion. We will see how this sorts itself out. Who knows? Not me – ever.

Maybe next trend will be cupcakes (if they are not too twee). Unsure at this point. But need something to transport them in.

I brought this cake to the office this Wednesday which is when our students are there – it seemed to be a success.  It really is a light version of a pound cake. I will make it again, but I really need more lemon in it. Maybe a lemon glaze. That always seems to make things better.

2 cups plus 1 Tbs all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine salt
4 large eggs
1 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar (sifted for sure)
7 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled
zest of one lemon, grated on a microplane
1 tsp vanilla or more which is not a bad thing -kind of always do more
2/3 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Over a piece of waxed paper, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Spray a bundt pan with baking spray – yeah, just over do it if your have the kind of bundt pans I have (see below).  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat eggs and sugar until light. Add the flour to the egg mixture alternating with cream. Fold in butter. zest, and vanilla.

Pour into (well) prepared pan and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Testing with a wooden skewer – just to be sure. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then tump it out. Let cool for a few more minutes and dust with  confectioners’ sugar.

Notes: I just realized how many assumptions I made with the recipe – holy cow. I assumed all-purpose flour but the recipe I have did not make that clear,  and large eggs, and unsalted butter, wow could this recipe be more vague. I could have just made a huge mistake. But I am hoping I did not.

Source: An Italian in my Kitchen.com

Pan – Nordic Ware Heritage Bundt Pan

 

National Puppy Day

I had no idea that this was National Puppy Day. But I think that is a great idea, because I don’t think anything can make you feel better than a dog – no matter what the MotH says. I’ve loved all my pups (or puppers which how I usually refer to them.)

So today, I remember all my pupper friends. Two how I miss beyond words, and my little idiot (I’m the only one who can call him that) that I am so grateful for. Hate ending a sentence that way.

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Bering – My Siberian Husky – Duke the best GSD ever

Hoodie Boy

Hood – my Border Collie / Labrador Mix – My little idiot

Guinness Brownies

As I have mentioned about a million times, I am not a big chocolate person, but I am a huge fan of Guinness. It was the first beer I really drank (huge story here) and I love it still. It is like having a meal, so I don’t drink it too often. The MotH likes Guinness too and the Boy love brownies, so this just makes sense. I use a Guinness stout, and maybe drink one, the MotH gets the rest, and the Boy gets brownies, and now at his age, a Guinness for himself too. It is a win all the way around.D&D_1246

4 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar, superfine*
8 ozs bittersweet chocolate, chopped
4 ozs white chocolate, chopped
6 Tbs unsalted butter
3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cups cocoa
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup Guinness Stout**
confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray with cooking spray, an  8 x 8 baking pan, line with a parchment sling and spray that as well. Over a piece of waxed paper, sift together the flour, salt, cocoa

In a stand mixer, combine sugar and eggs and beat until light and fluffy.

In a microwave bowl,  melt chocolates and butter in 30 second bursts, and stir until smooth. Cool slightly, and mix into egg mixture.

Add flour mixture to egg mixture and beat until smooth.  Whisk Guinness into batter. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20 –  25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. (Might be longer than you think – it was for me).

Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Remove from pan using sling, cut into very tiny squares and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Source: Grace Neill’s A New Irish Table

*Take granulated sugar and whir it in a food processor and then measure out 3/4 cup. Or just use regular granulated sugar, I have.  It does not seem to matter.

**Pour the stout and let the foam settle before measuring.

These brownies are pretty much like fudge. Please cut them in little tiny pieces.

1 March 2003 – SR/ER loved them, so very chocolate w/out being too sweet.

16 March 2003 – for the office

5 November 2006 Guy Fawkes

26 March 2011

 

My Sous Chef

Every cook needs a great sous chef. Someone who is there in the kitchen with you ALL the time and who helps and makes your kitchen time easier. I have two.

One sous is here on special occasions and is super helpful. I can say, “hey, can you watch that pan of apples on the stove for me?” and know I have nothing to worry about. No burning.  A timer goes off and I’m not around – he’s up to the task – no matter if it is baking or cooking. He can handle it. He’ll do little things for me – please empty the sink (i.e. – load the dishwasher), and nothing goes in an incorrect place.   Please dice these for me – handled. What wine should we drink – at this he is SO much better than me. Makes excellent mimosas! Yes, this is the Boy. He’s become quite the epicure. I’m very proud of all he has learned and continues to learn. I just wonder why he never showed much interest in the kitchen until he started working both front and back of the house in the restaurant business. Curious, non?

One sous is here every time I cook. He’s smart and focused and always up to the task. That said, he snorkels the floor looking for anything I have dropped. He gets in the way and is a general nuisance in his own very adorable way. He never begs, for which I’m eternally grateful, but he does give you the look that strongly suggests that you need to drop something good on the floor, and damn soon. That stare. This sous is half border collie and I’m afraid occasionally, I am the sheep.

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My Sous Chef with his Border Collie stare