My refrigerator… and ham salad.

So I didn’t go to the grocery store like I should have today, and now I feel like making something but I have to make do with what’s in my refrigerator. And here is what I have to work with: Boursin, chutney (not homemade, boo), puff pastry, dates, bleu cheese dressing, a lemon, eggs, butter, bleu cheese, Parmesan, Pecorino, Brie, Kerry Gold Reserve Cheddar, and Hormel ham steak.

What should I make? What can I make? It is a weekend and I will get to the Publix at some point and then I have a whole other list of things to make for my work week lunches.

So here is what we are going to try and make work – we shall see how it goes. I feel confident that it will not be a disappointment. At least I hope not. We shall see.

Another no recipe recipe. That is not a bad thing when you get right down to it. D&D_2093

8 oz smoked ham steak, trimmed that weird stuff that is around the outside edge (what is that?), and cube it. Into the food processor it goes for 8-10 pulses.

3 Tbs sweet relish, drained like you would do for deviled eggs.  Totally subjective – add more or less to your taste, but do make sure you drain it. I like relish in my ham salad.

Yellow or Vidalia Onion – yikes there are lots of options here, but I think I will start simply. Yellow onion grated on the large holes of a box grater and make sure you get all the onion juice – that is really important. Or if you are like me, you can use the food processor for this too – no need to clean it since the ham and onions are going in together.

Freshly ground black pepper. A great spice in my opinion. But it must be freshly ground – I think that goes without saying.

Duke’s Mayo* – just enough to hold it together, but not go overboard. This might be subjective but as my mom would say, you can always add more, but you can’t take it away. Guess that’s why I will add this last. 2-3 Tbs seems to work, though to be honest, I don’t measure, I just wing it.

This must site for at least a day or two. Same thing with chicken salad – do not try to eat it the day you make it – it just do not work. ~

*No substitutions, I mean, if you live in the South anyways. Not sure what the rest of you do for Mayo – sad to say.

~The same thing can be said for hummus too. The flavors need to come together to really work.

M & M Cookies – the best ever.

Okay – best M & M cookies ever. My mom always made these for Christmas, I am not sure why, but I tend to make them year round. I guess it just one of those things I make to make the Boy happy at anytime of the year – and, yes, it really does seem to work. I think I need picture of him eating them, but do not expect he will allow that at all.

D&D_20831 cup Crisco
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp table salt
1 1/2 cups M & M’s, plain or peanut, but no – do not do peanut – just saying

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream together Crisco and both sugars. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix to combine. Add vanilla. In a bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in 2 batches, scraping down the mixing bowl as needed. Add M & M’s and stir to combine.  Use a #30 disher to scoop dough onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake 10 minutes or until golden – turning half way through.

D&D_iPhone_image6I am not sure what else there is to say about this recipe that I have not said before. I keep Crisco in the fridge just for this recipe because I love it so much. Maybe it is just a reminder of my mom, but at the same time it is a really good cookie recipe too.

I am guessing it is a bit of both. Yep, it is.

 

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.

Vanilla Taffy

I have never posted this recipe. It is a family recipe that is so special to me. It may mean nothing to anyone else – probably will not. But this is one of those handed-down recipes for something not many people make at all … and there is a story to it.

My mom made this every winter, not every Christmas because this recipe depends on the weather. There has to be low humidity and in the South that usually will only happen sometime between late December and late February. So this did grace the Christmas Eve party on occasion -yes, but there was no guarantee. It is North Florida after all. We oftentimes wore shorts on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This was a recipe from my mom’s mom, Daisy, and my mom would describe how Daisy made it in the winter* and then to get the taffy hard they would toss it in the snow. We never were able to do anything like that, but it is kind of cool to understand where a recipe really comes from.

To be honest, I have never seen a recipe like this. Most people, when they think of taffy, think of salt water taffy which is soft,  but this is not. We (me and the Boy) have taken to calling it crack because when you pull it right and put enough air in it, it gets opaque and, well, looks like crack – at least the kind I have seen on Cops  (read: have no practical experience in the real stuff, but from TV, I can totally see it).DD_9068

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp cream of tartar
1 Tbs butter
1 tsp vanilla

Necessary – candy thermometer – not kidding. Necessary.

Place sugar, water, corn syrup, and cream of tartar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Then cook without stirring until candy thermometer reaches 266 degrees.

Remove from heat and add vanilla and butter and stir until dissolved. Pour onto sil-pat lined baking sheet. When still hot, but cool-ish enough to pull, pull small bits in cords until opaque – you will burn at least your thumbs, but probably a couple of other fingers in the process. Twist into ribbons and lay on wax paper-lined baking sheet. When hard, break into pieces (just drop on baking sheet and see what happens) and wrap in cut waxed paper, or if you want to be fancy, wrap in pieces of parchment. We used waxed paper growing up, but I have taken a liking to parchment in the last few years.  

*They also butchered a pig each winter. Something I completely understand, but an not likely to be involved in.

2016 – Tomato Soup with Spinach and Mozzarella

Thanksgiving

So I have mostly always made my same Thanksgiving appetizer, and I have to say it really is pretty much amazing. Sweet potato biscuits with ham and horseradish cream.  Just going to say, thank you once again to JW because this was all him. He was the best caterer for UNC-Chapel Hill while I was there and I totally took the idea and ran with it.DD_0184

Even so, I wanted to find a new appetizer for this Thanksgiving. But I do think I will make my small little sweet potato biscuits with all the best things, just because I can. But maybe this year my excellent cranberry sauce will be part of this mix.  Indeed.

That said, I have been looking for Thanksgiving appetizers – they all seem to involve cranberries or Rosemary – thank you most overwhelming pinterest. Sigh. Do love some Rosemary, but isn’t there anything else?

When I was young, Thanksgiving was a huge deal at our house. The only downer part about it was being stuck at the kids’ table. Really? Ugh. I understand that my older brother and sister were a LOT older and were pretty much married by the time I was 9-ish, but I was stuck with my younger sister and nieces and nephews – it was just insulting.

One of those weird things that I remember was a glass dish that my mother would take out for Thanksgiving and put gerkins on one side and olives on the other. Olives = ick. Gerkins = loved them. Besides Bread ‘n Butter pickles, gerkins were the only pickles I ever liked.

I  can totally see that glass dish. Should have asked for it long ago and now it is too late. Let that be a lesson – do not wait –  ask for what you want from your parents because if you do not you will be forever disappointed. I know I will be giving things away very early – like my Dad’s mom did. Simplify everything.

That just got slightly strange – but on to the Thanksgiving plans. And planning is involved – lots of it.

Apparently spell check does not like the word gerkins. No, it sure doesn’t.

So we are about a week-ish out from the big day and, my friends, this is go time.

1. Make decisions on what to make and how much depending on your guest list – my list, this year, is small. But that is not a bad thing because The Boy will be joining us and that makes me very happy.

2. Develop a grocery list of what you need and when you need to buy it. And then develop the “making” list – ie. when you can/will make each thing, but do what I do … plan for a catch up day on the Wednesday before the big day. That day, with nothing planned, will save you.

3. Order your turkey from the butcher shop. And also call your favorite bakery to order Parker House Rolls – I have been doing this forever. No need to make yourself crazy at this point. They will, pretty much, be better than anything you can make – unless you are making biscuits for Thanksgiving – and in that case, I salute you.

4. Pick one, just one, no seriously just one, new recipe to try. I will try.

5. Figure out what appetizer to make. Just don’t go overboard – less is more in this case. See above.

6. Add staples (butter, eggs, heavy cream, lemons, chocolate chips, local pecans, etc.) to your regular grocery list.

7. Watch grocery ads for Thanksgiving specials. Traditional there are lots of them. Hello fresh cranberries.

8. Decide if you want girkins. Hope you do for my sake.

“Meyer” Lemon Bars

I have this habit of asking people what they would like me to bake or cook for them. It keeps me interested in baking and cooking and pushes me outside of what I typically do. I do it at work, “what do you guys want me to make for the pot-luck?” and I do the same thing at my favorite restaurants. I think restaurant staff is not appreciated enough. Guess that comes from being a server ages ago. I hope they appreciate it, but it is more to get me to try to do different things.dd_1599

So I asked Berta, at my beach local, to tell me what she would like in the baking department, and she said my baking nemesis – lemon bars. I have not had good luck with these in the past – at all. That said, I was going to give it another go – it is a challenge after all. And I never back down from a challenge.

This is a recipe on my little USB drive of recipes that I have been working on for ages and I just sort of picked it out of the two I had. It was daunting – I have to admit that I was not comfortable trying this idea again. I did this on a Thursday because I figured if I fucked it up, I would have Friday to try again. And I am really not scared in the baking department, but you never know if things are going to go pear-shaped.

I have to say, I just cut a corner out of this and just got stupid over how good it was. That is, indeed, a good sign. I guess when I get silly about something in the kitchen, that makes me happy and pleased with myself. And that makes me think it will be something other people will like too.

Personally, I would like to keep the entire pan of these lemon bars to myself, but I won’t. But I will damn sure to make this recipe again. The original called for Meyer lemons, but I only have those when my (precious) little tree produces Meyer lemons and this is totally the wrong time of year, so I just used regular lemons. It was amazing. Stupidly so. Yeah me! yep.

Meyer Lemon Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, very cold, cut into small pieces
1 – 2 tsp ice water

5 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 Tbs Meyer lemon zest
3/4 cup fresh Meyer lemon juice
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 Tbs confectioners’ sugar, for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 13 inch baking pan and line with parchment with an overhang on the long sides. Or all the sides really.

In the bowl of a food processor, mix all purpose flour, confectioners’ sugar, and salt. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add ice water as needed to bring dough together. Press dough into prepared pan, pressing firmly against the inside edges. Bake crust for 20 – 25 minutes until lightly golden. Set pan on wire rack to cool slightly. Reduce oven to 300 degrees.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until well combined and paler in color. Stir in zest, lemon juice, 1/4 cup flour and a pinch of salt. Carefully pour topping over warm crust. Bake 15 – 20 minutes, or until set.

Set the pan on a rack to cool completely. Remove squares using parchment. Cut into bars. Dust with 3 Tbs confectioners’ sugar. Or more if you want. I use way more confectioners’ sugar than that. Just me.

I think I made a few friends with these – at least I really hope so. Berta loved them and her daughter asked for them on her birthday at the end of November. I guess there are more lemon people than I had imagined. I shared one of my favorite lemon things ever – lemon, white chocolate chip cookies – they sound slightly weird, but they are stupid good.

And then in my head – lemon cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for another person that is a lemon person. I think we have to stick together. There just are not that many of us. Lemon People Unite – or something?  No, that just does not work. I guess you chocolate people have us outnumbered. Again.