Sometimes others do things better than I do. German potato salad –

I have finally given in for real to the fact that sometimes other people do things much better than I do.

Case in point,I have been trying to make German potato salad as good as the Creamery for years. It seems to be an effort in futility. I would love to find someone in the family to give me the recipe, but that, I doubt, will happen.

So my lack-luster versions or even decent versions, have been just that, to me – lack luster compared to the Creamery. I thought about it so much before our Easter picnic luncheon and realized that be beloved father-in-law loved a canned German potato salad. And, honestly, it was the first German potato salad I had ever had too. So, damn it, I just did that.

Read German potato salad is what I went for – I mean, why not? My in-laws like it, I like it the MotH likes it. The Boy likes it. Why make things more difficult?D&D_1846

That is not to say that I did not “decorate” it. I added minced chives and some amazing local (Fairhope, AL) Bill-E’s bacon. Because, um, again why not gild that lily?

Keeping Recipes …

How do you keep recipes?

I tend to print recipes and keep them in several binders. Then I also have a drive with folders and some are on Evernote and some on my old blog. Some I just know by heart and need nothing to make them – there are many of those. I just spent two evenings this week sorting through recipes (new and old) and along the way, I edited – looked at each recipe and then think, “Will I really make this?” Lots ended up in the recycle bin which makes me feel bad (dead trees) and I need to edit earlier in the process – like before printing.

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Yes, I have a binder for Crackers. No judgement.  See: Cracker Challenge.

I wish I could develop a system that truly works for me, but using cookbooks, family recipes that I know by heart, a few magazines, recipe “ideas” (with no step by step instructions), and things found on the recipe sites I trust, and of course, other blogs – How are you supposed to keep it all straight?

Looking at my photo, I am, obviously, not consistent in the way I make my binder labels.

My first blog, and this one too, were/are a way to keep up with things, but sometimes it gets a bit out of hand. I wander around the house with a stack of recipes I want to try – just printed, pulled from binders, etc. Trying to make them fit into the right time of year makes it even more difficult. Ugh. I am supposing this is a complete first world problem, but I would like to have a set of things to pass down to the Boy and his future wife and their kids. Otherwise, why are we here? You get my genetics by default, but I would love for you to know the recipes that come from different people in our family.

Such as my spinster (yep, they used the word) Aunt Rhodie’s chow chow recipe. She was really my great aunt, my grandmother’s sister and was partially deaf (seems mostly like when she wanted to be – that is what my grandma always said anyway) and never married but lived with my grandmother and grandfather, but she could totally rock the chow chow.  Now the recipe makes gallons so I’ll have to down size it to make it manageable, but is it worth the effort?

I believe it is. Especially when you put that chow chow on black-eyed peas – my favorite way to eat it. Otherwise black-eyed peas – kind of meh. Interesting the only reason I have the recipe is because my mom asked for it. This was my father’s aunt, but my mom appreciated it – probably because it could get me to eat black-eyed peas if for no other reason. I don’t remember my mom ever making it. Can’t blame her. Why do that when Aunt Rhodie+ would do it for us? Just get a few jars from the dug-in-clay basement of my grandmother’s house – which also held the washing machine – clothes were dried on the line out back. There is something really nice about that and I miss it. Clean sheets dried in the wind, so fresh and comforting and a cool clay basement.  Something you do not, nor will ever have, in Florida.

+Rhodie was short for Rosebud. I think Rosebud is so much better, and to be honest, that is what my grandmother called her sister most of the time.

I am going to have to work on the recipe to take it down from gallons into something that I can handle.  This is not the time of year for green tomatoes, but I think this might be my “winter” (winter being a questionable word for us right now) project to make it into something smaller that might work for our family. I also wonder … will it taste like I remember? Lord, I hope so.

 

Sausage & Eggs

When I was young I had all kinds of allergies. Lord knows that is the truth. I had to go through food allergy testing to see what I was allergic to after my fish incident that sent me into anaphylactic shock at 5 years-old after dinner one night – lips turn blue and throat closed up. So I had to be tested to see what other things I was allergic to. 

Mostly just trees, grass, mold, dust mites, dogs, cats, air in general, but eggs seemed to be a problem too. So my mother never really feed me eggs. Nor did I get the MMR shots as a kid, nor did I get flu shots – No vaccine built in an egg. I did finally get the MMR to go to university, had to – they do not let you in otherwise, but by then I was about 25 then.

But no matter what, the only time growing up that I had eggs was this non-recipe recipe. And I guess that is why this is the only time I eat them now.

It is one of my favorite things, um, ever. 

Basically, you cook a pound of sausage in a skillet and then scramble up a few (4 or 5) eggs and then cook them in the grease left by the sausage. This, to me, is pretty much heaven on earth. My mom made this for us for dinner – not breakfast. I don’t think she used hot sausage, but I always use hot sausage for any recipe that calls for breakfast sausage. In my head there is no other kind. Don’t get me started on sage sausage (blech) or lord help us, maple sausage (I love maple syrup w/sausage, but maple flavor in sausage – that is just too strange to be believed).dd_2016-12-25-14-13-50

I am pretty sure I just told you how to make this. It is quick, easy, and amazingly good. My mom had good handle – a very good handle –  on what was good. And this is good in spades.

It is a favorite Christmas breakfast (not dinner) for us – or maybe just me. Well – sometimes you just want what you want and everyone else has to go along with plan. I am pretty sure no one complained.

2015 – Parmesan Shortbread – Nigella
2015 – Fusilli with Artichoke Hearts and Parmesan Cream

Cookie Cutters

I do not have a lot of things from my mother, but these she gave me these cookie cutters years ago. I do remember them from when I was a kid. They are cookie cutters in the shapes of suits of cards – heart, diamond, club, and my favorite, a spade.

My aunt was just two years older than my mother and the third to the last girl born – there were eleven children in the family – my mom was the last single girl born at my grandmother’s age of 41 – yes, that wasn’t really a sentence in the proper sense of things. So, my aunt was born when my grandmother was 39 and we won’t even mention the twins that were born after my mom when my grandmother was 44.  I just do not understand being married at 16 and having kids into your 40s. That was a very different time – I get it, but that just seems wrong.

Either way, my aunt and my mother would love to play cards – gin rummy. My aunt would come down from North Carolina and there were cards or scrabble every night at the kitchen table in our little house. They tried to include me, but I just do not have the brains for cards. I wish I did, but …. I did love to sit there and listen to the two sisters talking.  They were so much alike, but I am so glad that my mother left North Carolina. It made our lives so much easier growing up in Florida away from such a rural situation in North Carolina. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy visiting North Carolina. I did, especially when we would bring home a full cooler of Revels BBQ – the stuff that heaven is made of. No, I am not exaggerating.

As we enter the beginning of sugar cookie season –  yes, it is a real season in my mind anyway, I thought I would share my cookie cutters. I have no idea how old these are, but they have been in my life as long as I can recall – that means they must be pushing an age I would rather not say.  I have other cookie cutters that I have purchased, but these are a sentimental favorite of mine. They remind me of my mom and my aunt and gin rummy and my inability to play cards.

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Milton Bakery

Milton Bakery is an old school bakery. They make muffins, pastries, croissants, and lots of specialty cakes, and pies in the fall. They also bake breads and rolls. And they also make donuts.

Since our nephew mentioned it recently, I cannot forget Shipley’s donuts in Texas. Those donuts holes were amazing and I ate way more than I should. But would still love to eat so many more. I might even get up a little earlier for those next time we are in Texas. Not kidding, and I never do that on the weekend. Ever. Do not get me started about kolaches. That is a entire different story.

I have taken pictures of the Milton Bakery donuts, but, I did kind of decimate the box. Six donut holes out of a dozen. And I still want more. That is so not good.

D&D_1511This just reminds me of the Donut Shoppe in Jacksonville. My Dad would go and get donuts there pretty much every weekend. The shop was on University Boulevard, and right next to a 7-11, not very promising, but the donuts were pretty much amazing. Yep. It has moved since I lived there – still on University – next to a, wait for it, gas station, but the donuts are still amazing and dear lord they open at 5:00 am – ugh – who does that? I guess bakery people, but sure the hell, not me.

When we were kids we would always get donuts at the Donut Shoppe on our way out of town on our way to North Carolina to visit our parents’ families, and also go to the 7-11 for candy for the trip too. The donuts were eaten on our way and enjoyed. But the funny thing is that since we were on a road trip were were only allowed to bring a shoe box of our own stuff to pass the time, and I did fill my box with candy – especially the big ass (at the time but not anymore) everlasting gobstoppers. Yes, I did love Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Also did read the book which it was based on, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I was such a library dork. I guess I have always been a reader – not a bad thing, in the grand scheme of things.

Okay, back to donuts. I think I just might be going back to the Milton Bakery this weekend. I know Krispy Kreme is a Southern tradition, but my favorite way to eat them is without the glaze, and you can order them that way. Krispy Kreme was founded in Winston-Salem North Carolina and is an iconic Southern treat. When we lived in Chapel Hill, I had a colleague and friend whose father made the first neon Krispy Kreme sign for the first store. What a very cool story. But that being said, that glaze kind of makes my teeth hurt a bit. The Boy used to go by our one little Krispy Kreme for coffee and donuts before classes at high school, can not say that I blame him.

Either way, I am a giant fan of the Milton Bakery. It reminds me of my dad and that makes me happy. Oh, and can I have just about a dozen more donut holes, please.

 

 

Pear and Bleu Cheese Turnovers

I was always a big fan of turnovers. My Dad’s Mom made amazing fried apple pies –  which is a turnover – mostly. She made them with dried apples – not sure why they were made with dried apples but then she fried them in a  – I am not sure what that thing was called – I think it might be an electric skillet. Maybe? Not sure.

D&D_1492That said, when my grandmama came down from Rockingham North Carolina, she made those fried apple pies and they were (are) sublime. My Mom loved them – which was kind of cool because she was a great cook/bakery herself. Sometimes old recipes are the best. Indeed, mostly they are.

I have found a variation of  (chausson aux pommes “apple slippers”*) the fried apple pies that grandmama made and it totally works for me, but I think this new recipe might be just a little bit more interesting. I mean – pears – and then bleu cheese is involved. Although, I think Granny Smith apples would work well too.

1 sheet of puff pastry
1 good sized not over ripe Anjou pear, peeled, cored, and diced
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup bleu cheese, crumbled
1 egg, for egg wash, beaten with 1 Tbs water
Raw sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheet with parchment. Combine pears, lemon juice, cranberries, and bleu cheese in a bowl and set aside.

On a lightly floured surface, roll a sheet of puff pastry into a square, about 11 x 11 inches. Trim back to a 10 x 10 inch square. Using a pizza wheel, cut into 9 smaller squares – oh, lord, math is involved – ugh. Place a tablespoon of filling in the center of each square. Brush two edges with egg wash and fold pastry into a triangle. Press edges to seal. Transfer to baking sheet and chill 20 minutes.

Once chilled, brush triangles with egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar and make a couple of slits for the steam to escape. Bake 25 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Serve warm.

* The French make everything sound so much better, damn them. It is also Bastille Day.

Source: Baking Obsession

Mac n Cheese – the best ever

This is another no recipe thing – but in the tradition of Michael Ruhlman – it is a ratio –
though I am not good at math. There it is. My mom made the best mac n cheese ever. We never had anything out of a Kraft box (ugh — so gross). I do think I picked this up my osmosis (cannot believed I spelled that correctly on the first go – woo hoo!). I really don’t remember paying that much attention to how my mom made it, but I knew how to do this by instinct  – again, in my head it was osmosis.

So this is a total ratio thing, but to me the easiest way to tell someone how to make it is to show them how to make it. It can be a little vague otherwise. This was the subject of one of the early Wednesday Cooking School nights for the Boy. It is one of his favorite things, not surprising, since it also one of my favorite things. It is also vegetarian, which means I had it in the freezer while waiting for him to be born and I remember distinctly that I had some the night I came home from the hospital with him.D&D_1397

I have this lovely ceramic dish from Portugal (I did not go there to get it, but did buy it from a store in Durham, NC) and it is a pretty dish and I bought two because of that. But here is where the ratios come into play. No matter what dish you have, to make mac n cheese for whatever sized dish you have measure out dry pasta* in the dish to about the half way full. Once you cook the pasta, then it will fill the dish — see, a ratio – who knew from math? But I knew that before Ruhlman (still love you guy).

Now here is the next ratio – fat to flour – also knew this before Ruhlman. I always prefer to have more cheese sauce than I need, so for my pan (need to measure and figure out how big that dang this is). I start with 4 Tbs of unsalted butter, which I melt over low heat and then add basically the same amount of all-purpose flour and a bit of salt and pepper. Then cook the flour for a minute or two, stirring the whole time. It  would be a good thing if you had taken your whole milk out prior to starting this and I probably should have said that before now. But as long as you add the milk a little at a time, it will be okay. Some people warm the milk in a sauce pan, but my mom never did, so I don’t either.

Here’s the thing – when you first start adding the milk it will look like a clumpy mess with the butter mixture. You really are making a light roux and then you are going on to make a bechamel sauce sort of. Anyway. Use that whisk to eliminate lumps, but pretty soon you need to switch to a good spatula (Get it Right spatulassee this link, and this one, then there is this one, and .. well you get it.)  because you don’t want the milk to scorch on the bottom of the sauce pan – that would be a disaster (i.e. start over – no other choice, nope none).

So again, this is where it is where it is so much easier to show than explain, but the ratio, is about the same amount of cups of milk as butter – in this case 3 1/2 to four, but add a bit at a time. Let simmer over low heat and let thicken over time.

Then the cheese comes into play. In my case, always extra sharp cheddar, white or yellow, your choice, but once the bechamel thickens it is time to take it off the heat and add the grated cheese, setting aside a bit to put on the top. Add the cooked pasta (you did that already, right? Dumped the pasta you measured in the pan into a nicely salted pot of boiling water and cooked until al dente) to the sauce and tip into the baking dish, top with a little extra shredded cheese and cover with foil. But in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 5 – 10 minutes until cheese is bubbly.

You need to let it cool a bit before diving in, but that is a necessary thing.

So to you from me – My Mom’s not-recipe for the best homemade mac n cheese.

*I typically use penne or rotini, but elbow is good too. Some pasta that will hold the cheesy goodness of the sauce.