Wherein I am Not Mary Poppins. Or Martha Stewart. {Fish Chowder}

On any given day in our house you’re likely to find piles of laundry, kitchen counters with food dried on them, cat and dog hair gathered in the corners of the common rooms and dirty dishes piled in the sink.  It’s not pretty, but it’s our life.  Two growing boys, two working parents, and a multitude of furry pets does not always an idyllic household make. I’d like to tell you that I have a cleaning scheduled that I adhere to, and that my children are conscientious about picking up after themselves and putting their dirty clothes in the hamper regularly (rather than tossing their dirty socks haphazardly in the air, allowing them to land wherever they may).  I’d like to appear to have it all together, but that would be a lie.

The truth is, sometimes I’m a mess.  I stress out when I know people are coming over, worried that they’re going to judge me and my disorganized house.  I long to be Mary Poppins – to just snap my fingers and have everything go back to its rightful place.  My mother used to joke that, as her only child, I was “practically perfect in every way.”  Sadly, that description does not come with a magic carpet bag full of delightful tricks and the ability to sing your cares (and your cluttered play-rooms) away.  fish chowder1

I’ve come to realize, in my almost 40 years, that we all have our strengths.  While some of us are excellent housekeepers; others of us are decidedly not. I, clearly, fall into the latter category. However, I am not completely devoid of domestic talents.  I may not have the ability to decorate impeccably or organize seamlessly; but, by God, I can cook.  fish chowder4

This fish chowder has found its way into regular rotation at our dinner table.  It’s super simple to put together, and the flavor is incredible.  It’s adapted from this Martha Stewart recipe.  I may not have all of Martha’s talents (or, rather, those of her staff), but I can certainly recognize a good recipe when I see one.

fish chowder2

Fish Chowder

Prep time: 10 Minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes

Yields: 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 stalks celery, finely diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced or grated
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups stock (chicken, vegetable or fish)
  • 1 1/2 pounds of russet potatoes peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 wild-caught flounder fillets (or other flaky white fish)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup milk (you can also omit the cream and use 1 cup of milk instead)
  • salt and pepper to taste

fish chowder3

  1. Melt butter in a large saucepan
  2. Add celery, onion and garlic.  Saute until softened
  3. Add the flour and stir to coat with the butter.  Cook until it starts to smell nutty (do not let it get too brown)
  4. Add the stock and stir to combine.  Allow to come to a boil.
  5. Add the bay leaf and the potatoes and reduce to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 10 minutes, or until potatoes are cooked through.
  6. Add the fish and simmer until it’s cooked through and begins to flake apart when stirred
  7. Add the cream/milk and salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Enjoy!

After All This Time, All I Have To Offer Is Casserole

It was never my intention to take a leave of absence from this space, but it seems that it happened anyway.  Oops.

If I’m being perfectly honest, it was kind of nice.  Not being tied to a camera or a computer for a little while.  I might try it more often.

Not that I don’t enjoy coming here and sharing with you – certainly I do.  I just might be doing it a little more sporadically right now (not that I was all that regular about it before).  When I make something that I think you’ll particularly appreciate, then I’ll share it with you.  That’s what this space is really for, after all.

It’s still January for a few more days.  I didn’t really make any earth-shattering resolutions at the start of this New Year.  I’ve found that I’m not very good at keeping them.  What I did decide with some certainty is that I really need to simplify.  Complicated is just…well…too complicated.  So, simple it shall be.

I’ve kind of gotten into a routine with my cooking.  Another reason posting hasn’t happened much lately – not much new to share.   Once a week or so, I make this chicken (or some variation thereon), and we eat about half of it for dinner that same day.  Then I cut the rest of the meat off the carcass and tuck it away for use another day and make this lovely dark chicken stock out of the bones.casserole2

Then, a day or so later, I make chicken and rice casserole with that leftover meat.  I know what you’re thinking – casserole is so passé (does anyone even say passé anymore, or is that passé)?  Just hear me out, though.

casserole4 (2)

See – I have a very picky toddler in my house.  He’s three, and he’s demanding.  And also sometimes unpleasant.  And unlike his older, more amenable brother, he doesn’t care much about pleasing anyone but himself.  So if he doesn’t like something?  He makes life pretty miserable for the rest of us.  Thus, rather than making two different dinners every night, I’m trying to come up with things that we can all enjoy (and that don’t involve opening a box of noodles that may also contain a packet of orange cheese-flavored powder – not that I haven’t done that a time or two in desperation).  This seems like a good enough compromise.casserole1

It’s loosely based on this casserole from the archives of Paula Deen.  I say loosely because hers involves opening a bunch of cans (canned chicken, canned soup, canned beans, canned water chestnuts, parboiled rice, etc).  My version takes sauteed onions and celery and homemade chicken stock and just the tiniest hint of heavy cream and mixes it all together with hearty brown rice and skillet roasted chicken (and maybe a smidge of extra-sharp cheddar) for a flavorful, tummy pleasing meal.  Paired with a salad for the grown-ups and some unsweetened applesauce for the kids, it’s an easy weeknight fix (and disagreeable-toddler-approved).

casserole3

Chicken and Rice Casserole

prep time: 10 minutes

cook time: 45 minutes

serves: 6-8

Ingredients

  • 2 Tablespoons oil (I used coconut, but you could use olive oil or butter – whatever you have)
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 8 oz. cremini mushrooms, cubed (optional – this was decidedly not a toddler-approved addition, but I enjoyed it)
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 6-8 oz. of cooked chicken, diced (I used one breast and one thigh off a pre-roasted chicken)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (this was about 2 1/4 oz. by weight)
  • 2 cups brown rice, cooked according to package directions (yields approximately 6 cups cooked)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F
  2. In a large oven-proof enameled cast iron pan over medium-high heat, saute your onions and celery in oil until they begin to become translucent (if you don’t have a pan like this, you can do everything in a regular skillet and then transfer it to a casserole dish to bake in the oven).
  3. Add the mushrooms and let them get good and brown.  Taste for seasoning – add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Sprinkle the flour into the pan and stir it around.  Let it cook for a few minutes so that it loses the raw flour taste.  You’re making a roux.
  5. Pour the chicken stock in the pan and stir to combine, making sure you dissolve any lumps of flour that might be remaining.  Let it come to a boil – it should thicken.
  6. Add the heavy cream and stir to combine.  Turn off the burner.
  7. Add the chicken and the rice.  Carefully stir to combine.
  8. Add the cheese and stir through.
  9. Cover and bake in a 350F oven for 45 minutes.  Remove the lid during the last 15 minutes to let the top get good and brown.
  10. Enjoy!

 

 

Nannerpuss (Or, If You Like, Banana Pudding)

This is a little glimpse into the inner workings of my squirrel-y gray matter.

I sat down to write this post this morning – a post about banana pudding (and an excellent one at that) – when I got sidetracked.  I was trying to come up with a title, and I kept getting stuck on the silly name that my mother had for banana pudding when I was little: nanner-poo (please don’t judge).  From there, I got an endless loop of this:

Do you remember Nannerpuss?  When my oldest son was around three years old, this commercial was popular.  A friend/coworker and I had a mild obsession with this obnoxious dancing and singing banana puppet – mostly because my little boy would sing that annoyingly catchy song in his adorable little three-year-old voice.

As an aside – what does a banana really have to do with pancakes, anyway?  Ponder that and get back to me.

And that jingle?  It really is hard to get out of your head.  So this morning?  When it got stuck in my head?  I decided I needed to share it with all of you so that you could share in my misery joy. Now you, too, can enjoy this little ditty every time you make this glorious banana pudding (nannerpuss) recipe.

You’re welcome.

Now, onto the recipe.  This is an adaptation of an adaptation, so forgive me for indulging in a little background first (as though I haven’t already been more than a little self-indulgent this morning – see above).  As a southern girl, I grew up on banana pudding – layers of  ‘Nila Wafers, sliced bananas, vanilla custard/pudding, all topped with a toasty meringue.  Delightful.  The one thing that always bothered me was that the pudding/custard didn’t taste banana-y enough.  And why should it?  It was vanilla pudding after all.

So, I set out to figure out a way to make my custard more banana-y.  Because, hey! why not?

I turned to my trusty pals at Tastespotting, knowing that someone, somewhere, sometime must have had a similar idea.  And lo and behold, I was right.  Boulder Locavore (who I love, by the way), posted this version a while back.  It was an adaptation of award winning Chef Alex Seidel‘s recipe, which calls for you to make a banana-infused milk before you begin to make your pudding.  You do this by steeping very ripe or roasted bananas in whole milk and then letting the mixture sit overnight to allow the flavors to infuse.  I was intrigued, so I thought I’d give it a go.  Of course, I changed things up just a bit (as I do), but mostly I followed the recipe fairly closely.  What resulted was the most flavorful, silky-smooth banana pudding I’ve ever had.  Try it – I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

Nannerpuss Banana Pudding

prep time: 24 hours

cook time: 15 minutes

yields: 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 30 oz. banana milk
  • 4 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 3 very ripe bananas (the skin on mine was almost black they were so ripe)
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 2 1/2 oz. sugar
  • 1 oz. butter
  • 9 oz. sugar
  • 1/4 plus 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 5 oz. egg yolks (approx. 7 egg yolks)
  • 8 oz. whole eggs (approx 5 whole eggs, without shells)
  • 1 3/4 oz. cornstarch
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 2 ripe bananas, sliced
  • 1 box vanilla wafers
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  1. Begin a day in advance – place your whole milk, very ripe bananas, vanilla bean (seeds and pod), 2 1/2 oz. sugar and 1 1/4 oz. butter in a heavy saucepan and bring almost to a boil.  Remove from the heat, cover, and chill overnight.
  2. Strain the banana milk through a fine mesh strainer, pressing with a rubber spatula to extract as much liquid from the bananas as possible.  Discard the mashed banana and vanilla bean pod.
  3. Combine banana milk, sugar and salt in a heavy saucepan – bring to a simmer
  4. In a blender, combine egg yolks, whole eggs and cornstarch.  Blend on high to thoroughly combine.
  5. Once the milk mixture has come almost to boil, temper the egg mixture by adding a little bit (1/2-cup or so) of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture in the blender while it is running.  Then add the egg mixture to the hot milk, stirring constantly to avoid curdling.  Be careful – it sets up fast.
  6. Stir constantly, scraping the sides and bottom of the pan as you do.  Remove from the heat if it starts to get too thick.
  7. Once the mixture is thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove it from the heat and pour it through a fine mesh strainer to remove any lumps.
  8. Add the melted butter, stirring to combine.
  9. Set aside to cool.
  10. Whip the heavy whipping cream and 1 tablespoon of sugar to stiff peaks
  11. To assemble – have ready 12 half-pint mason jars
  12. Place two vanilla wafers in the bottom of each jar
  13. Place two to three slices of banana on top of the cookies
  14. Ladle 1/2-3/4 cup of custard into each jar
  15. Place two more vanilla wafers and three more banana slices in each jar
  16. Ladle the remaining custard into each jar
  17. Top each jar with a dollop of whipped cream.
  18. Enjoy warm, or chill if you prefer.

PS – voting in the Marx Foods’ Integrale Gauntlet is still open (until 1 PM PST tomorrow, in fact), so if you haven’t already, please go take a look at my Risotto Carbonara recipe, and then click over there and vote (for me, if you’re so inclined).  Thanks!

 

I Won This Ravioli. It Rocks.

Okay, so remember that review I did a couple of weeks ago of the butternut squash seed oil?  Well, if not, here’s a link that will bring it all rushing back with amazing clarity.  That particular post was part of a contest that was being sponsored by Marx Foods, and the winner was awarded their choice of six pounds of Pumpkin or Butternut Squash ravioli.

Guess who won?

Yep – it was I.  Little old me.

And on Thursday, I was greeted by a friendly delivery man dropping off a large box full of frozen squares of pumpkin-sage deliciousness.  Not that I ate them frozen.  That would be weird.

Despite the fact that pumpkin-sage ravioli is really more of an autumnal pasta, I decided to serve it for dinner last night with a mushroom/goat cheese cream sauce.  And let me just tell you – it was pretty amazing.

I mean, you can’t really go wrong with piquant goat cheese and earthy, deeply browned cremini mushrooms.  That combo would be tasty over just about anything.  But, when you pair it with this ravioli – this beautiful, colorful pasta, which is slightly sweet and a little nutty, bursting with robust savory richness – it is elevated to a whole new level.  This is a marriage of flavors, y’all.

To make the sauce, I browned a pound of sliced cremini mushrooms in about a tablespoon of butter over high, high heat.  You want those babies to get brown, brown, brown.  I waited to add salt until they had achieved the level of brown-ness I wanted, since salt draws out moisture, which is the enemy of browning.  I also added a minced shallot toward the end and just let it soften.

Once the mushrooms got good and brown, and the shallots had softened, I reduced the heat to low and added a cup of cream and 4 oz. of goat cheese to the mix.  I tasted for seasoning and added a little more salt and some cracked black pepper.  Once the goat cheese melted and became incorporated,  I added the cooked pasta and it was done.  It was about 15 minutes, start to finish (which is just about how much time it took for the water to boil and the pasta to cook).

If you have an occasion to taste this ravioli, I encourage you to take advantage of it.  I realize that the price on the Marx Foods website seems a little high, but when you consider that it includes overnight shipping and handling, it doesn’t seem so bad.  You get about 16 portions, which breaks down to 6 pieces per person (which is more than enough) for an entree portion, but you could easily extend it by serving it as an appetizer and only serving 2 or 3 pieces per person.  And my experience with the folks at Marx Foods has been nothing but positive.  They’ve been very helpful and quick to respond to my emails.

I do recognized that it’s unseasonably warm in most areas of the country, and pumpkin sage ravioli may be the last thing you want to think about right now.  However, this was too delicious not to share.  And as I said, this sauce would be tasty over just about anything – on scrambled eggs for breakfast, over papardelle for dinner, on crostini as an appetizer (you might want to reduce the cream for that last one).   It’s good stuff.

Pumpkin Sage Ravioli with Mushroom Goat Cheese Cream Sauce
prep time: 2 minutes
cook time: 15 minutes
yields: 4 servings

Ingredients

  1. Bring a large pot of liberally salted water to a boil.  Add the frozen ravioli and stir immediately to avoid sticking.  Cook 4-6 minutes, or until they float.  Remove from the water using a strainer or large slotted spoon.  Add to the sauce.
  2. While the water comes to a boil and the pasta cooks, heat a large, heavy bottomed saute pan over high heat.
  3. Add butter and sliced mushrooms.  Cook over high heat until mushrooms are browned.
  4. Add shallot and cook until softened.
  5. Reduce heat to low and add cream and goat cheese.  Stir to melt goat cheese.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Add cooked pasta and stir to coat.
  8. Enjoy!

Note:  I received this ravioli free from Marx Foods as an award from a contest in which I participated.  I was not asked to write a review in return for the product.  The opinions in this post are mine.

Let Them Eat Brioche

This recipe may seem a little ill-timed, since tonight marks the end of the Carnival season and tomorrow is the beginning of Lent.  If you’re making any sort of Lenten resolutions, you probably won’t be baking this any time in the next forty days.  However, it was too good not to share, so I thought I’d go ahead and put it out there for you debaucherous souls who might want to give it a go.

Given that today is Mardi Gras, I wanted to treat the family to some traditional gumbo and a Gateau des Roi.  I didn’t grow up eating King Cake, or really observing Mardi Gras at all.  As such, I have no reference for what makes a good King Cake.  As an adult, I’ve seen a number of different (shortcut) variations, including cinnamon roll-based cakes and crescent roll based cakes.  While I knew that these recipes that used processed and pre-packaged ingredients were probably not the most traditional versions, they did give me a basic idea of what a King Cake entails – rich buttery dough, stuffed with a sweet filling and topped with a sugary glaze

With some digging, I discovered that traditional King Cake consists of rich brioche bread, filled with cinnamon, almond paste or cream cheese and glazed with simple icing sugar glaze.  They are often sprinkled with purple, green and yellow sanding sugar to reflect the colors of Mardi Gras.  I figured if I could find a good brioche recipe, the rest would be a piece of cake (ha-ha).

For the brioche recipe, I turned to a trusted and reliable source: Michael Ruhlman.  The tagline on Ruhlman’s website is “translating the Chef’s craft for every kitchen,” and he does a skillful job doing just that.  His recipes are well tested, and you can be assured that you will find success if you follow his instructions.  I knew that any brioche recipe I found on his site would be delightful.  When I saw that it called for five whole eggs and twelve ounces of butter (that’s three whole sticks), I figured it could not disappoint.

Since I followed his recipe almost to the letter, I’ll suggest that you click on over to his site if you want to make it.  I did substitute freshly ground hard white wheat flour for the bread flour that he suggests and I used honey granules in place of the sugar.  I also shortened the second rise, choosing to let the dough rise in a warm oven for one hour instead of in the refrigerator overnight.

To make the brioche into a King Cake, I made a cream cheese filling, combining eight ounces of cream cheese, 1/2 cup of honey granules, one large egg, three tablespoons of flour and the zest of one lemon.  I beat this all together until it was smooth.  After the dough had risen the first time (and doubled in volume – this took approximately three hours at room temperature), I punched it down and rolled it out into a long, thin rectangle.  I spread the filling evenly onto the rectangle and folded the dough over onto itself, pinching the edges to seal the filling inside.  I then formed it into a ring and placed it in a greased tube pan.  I covered it with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm oven (preheated to 150F, then turned off) for about an hour.

To bake it off, I preheated the oven to 350F, baked the cake for 20 minutes uncovered, then 25 minutes tented with parchment paper (to keep it from getting too brown).  Once it was fully baked, I removed it from the oven, turned it out onto a cooling rack and allowed it to cool completely.

For the glaze, I combined 2 cups of powdered sugar with a couple of tablespoons of heavy cream, stirring to combine.  I added a 1/2 a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract, then glazed the cake once it had cooled completely.

Even if you don’t make a king cake, I highly recommend this brioche recipe – it practically melts in your mouth it’s so buttery.  I can imagine using it for breakfast in french toast, or making a decadent croque-monsieur (or even more decadent croque-madame) with it.  In this instance, stuffed (albeit unevenly) with slightly sweet cream cheese and smothered with creamy vanilla glaze, it was the perfect way to top off our family Fat Tuesday celebration.

Now, what to do with the leftovers tomorrow?

Southern Culinary Traditions At the King and Prince: Shrimp and Grits

A week or so ago, I packed a bag, grabbed my camera and laptop, and climbed in a car with my good friend, Rachel.  We drove five hours south of Atlanta to St. Simons Island, Georgia for three nights and two days at the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort.  Rachel and I have traveled together many times over the years, and I can honestly say this was one of the best trips we’ve ever taken.

The historic building at The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort

It was a bit of a working vacation, as we had both been invited to attend a FAM trip focusing on the resort and their efforts to incorporate local and regional cuisine into their dining experiences.  If you’re unfamiliar (ha!) with the term, FAM is short for “familiarization,” and these trips are often offered to travel writers and agents as a way for them to educate themselves about an area.  Obviously I am neither a travel writer nor a travel agent, but since this trip focused on Southern Culinary Traditions, they were also looking for writers who focused more on food.   This is the first sponsored trip that I’ve been invited on, and I am admittedly a little ambiguous about them.  Since I don’t have a reference point, it’s hard to say whether this trip was typical; however I was very impressed by the fact that, even though the trip was sponsored by the King and Prince, we were exposed to a myriad of local vendors, growers, producers and attractions.  It really felt like an educational opportunity, and in that sense it was an extremely enriching experience.  This is the first in a series of posts focusing on what I learned over the course of three days.

The view from my room at The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort

The King and Prince is a historic hotel, opened in 1935 as a seaside dance club.  It has seen many iterations over the years, including serving as a naval coast-watching and training facility during World War II.  In its current state, it is an elegant resort with multiple dining options, five swimming pools and it boasts the distinction of being the only beach-front hotel in St. Simons Island.

The interior of my room at the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort

The rooms are spacious and  comfortably appointed.  Each room has a Keurig coffee maker, mini-refrigerator, free wi-fi, flat screen television and either one king or two queen beds.  My room had a small balcony overlooking the pool and the beach and ocean beyond.  There are a number of premium rooms available, as well as villas and resort residences.

The lobby of the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort

When we arrived at the King and Prince on Sunday, we were greeted by a light-filled lobby, a friendly reception agent and the hotel’s publicist, Leigh Cort.  We had time that afternoon to get settled in our rooms and then it was off on the Lighthouse Trolley for an excursion to the old Coast Guard Station and Maritime Museum.  St. Simons Island has a storied past spanning the prehistoric and historic eras and rife with interesting tidbits related to Native Americans, Spanish explorers, Revolutionary war battles, rice and cotton plantations, Gullah Geechee culture, and German U-boats.  The Coastal Georgia Historical Society offers a number of different programs related to the history and culture of St. Simons.

Cheeses from Flat Creek Lodge, Georgia pecans, Savannah Bee Company Honey

Upon our return to the hotel, we were treated to cocktails courtesy of 13th Colony Distillery, and an assortment of cheeses from Flat Creek Lodge Dairy.  The hotel’s Director of Food and Beverage, Vinny D’Agostino, is making a concerted effort to incorporate local and regional products into his various menus, and these are just a couple of the vendors with whom he’s been working.  Although he’s only been with The King and Prince for a short while, he’s making significant changes to their Food and Beverage Program, using wild-caught seafood, most of it from local and regional waters; incorporating prohibition-era cocktails utilizing spirits from 13th Colony; Featuring Georgia vineyards on the Wine Menu; working with the Georgia Olive Growers Association to get the word out about their product; and partnering with a variety of other growers and producers to round out his offerings.

Southern Gin, Plantation Vodka, Southern Corn Whiskey from 13th Colony Distillery

For dinner, we dined on shrimp and grits.  The hotel’s chefs did a cooking demonstration in the Solarium, and they were kind enough to share the recipe with everyone so that we could try it at home.

Table set for dinner in the hotel's Solarium

Dinner itself was lovely, both the food and the company.  Although it was our first night together as a group, the conversation flowed as easily as the food.  I’m sure some of that could be attributed to the abundant cocktails and wine, but I also think it has a lot to do with the setting and the simple act of breaking bread together.  Food is the great equalizer (we all have to eat), and when you enjoy a meal together, you’re sharing more than just the food – you’re sharing stories and experiences that might not otherwise be revealed in a different setting.  The fact that this trip centered on food gave us all an opportunity to get to know each other in a comfortable setting over delicious cuisine.  Again, the wine and spirits didn’t hurt matters at all.

Shrimp and Grits in a Tasso Cream Sauce

My first experience with Shrimp and Grits was at Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill, North Carolina back in the mid-nineties.  Since then I’ve tried a number of different variations on the same theme, but have not, until now,  encountered Shrimp and Grits to rival those at Crook’s.  The version that Vinny and his team presented to us on Sunday night might just have surpassed them.  The combination of cajun spices, tasso ham, whole kernel corn, stone ground grits, sweet white Georgia shrimp, and a rich cream sauce came together to create a well balanced combination of flavors and textures.

Homemade version of the King and Prince's Shrimp and Grits

It was so good that I recreated it for my family when I got home.  We will make it back down to St. Simons Island and The King and Prince sometime in the near future, I feel certain of that. In the meantime, I can share the culinary souvenirs that I brought back and spread the word about this quaint little island and all that it has to offer.

Ingredients for Shrimp and Grits

Shrimp & Grits (adapted from King and Prince Shrimp & Grits in a Tasso Cream Sauce)
prep time: 10 minutes
cook time: 20 minutes
serves: 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 pound wild Georgia white shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1/2 cup tasso ham (I couldn’t find tasso, so I used 4 sliced of uncured peppered bacon instead)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 cup whole-kernel white corn
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1 cup asiago cheese, divided
  • 4-6 servings of stone-ground grits, prepared according to package directions

  1. Prepare grits according to package instructions.  For more flavor, replace the cooking water with chicken stock.
  2. Chop meat (either tasso ham or bacon) into small pieces and saute in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy and all of the fat has rendered out.
  3. Drain all but 1 tablespoon of the fat from the pan and add the green onions.  Saute until wilted
  4. Add the corn, tomatoes, garlic, cayenne and thyme.  Stir to heat through.
  5. Add the shrimp and saute until just cooked through
  6. Add 3/4 cup of the half-and-half and 3/4 cup of the cheese.  Stir to combine and remove from the heat.
  7. Add the remaining half-and-half and cheese to the grits and stir to combine.  Taste both the shrimp mixture and the grits for seasoning.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Serve shrimp mixture spooned over grits.  Garnish with additional green onions and cheese.
  9. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: While our accommodations and food were provided by the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort, I was not compensated for the trip and the opinions in this post are mine.  I was under no obligation to write about my experience, but I felt compelled given how much I enjoyed my stay.  Thank you to our hosts and to the residents of St. Simons Island for a truly memorable time.

In Celebration of a Life: Peanut Butter Pie

There’s this strange and wonderful thing called the internet.  On it, you can read the news, catch up with friends, share your thoughts on the day, and find up to the minute tidbits about just about anyone.  It’s really a marvelous and scary place sometimes.The other day, I was doing a little bit of all those things.  I found myself on Twitter, which I use infrequently at best, and this tweet came across my screen.  It was from a fellow blogger – many of you probably saw the same tweet, in fact.  It was from Jennifer Perillo, she of In Jennie’s Kitchen, and it read “He’s gone.  And my heart is shattered in a million pieces.”

I don’t know Jennifer.  I’ve never met her.  I’ve followed her on Twitter for a while now, and I read her blog.  I know that she and I are about the same age, we both have two small children, and we both love our husbands dearly.  I know that she works hard to feed her family healthfully and sustainably.  That’s about all, though.  We’re not friends in even the remotest sense of the word.  But when that tweet rolled across my screen, my heart broke for her.  I didn’t even know what it meant at the time, but I knew it must have been something terrible.

Later that day, or maybe early the next, I learned that Jennie’s husband had died suddenly of a heart attack.  And I watched as a virtual community gathered to show their support.  And I marveled at the strength of a woman who could take time during mourning to post this video, and then this beautiful tribute, in memory of her husband.In the second post, Jennie asked that everyone reading make a peanut butter pie, her husband’s favorite, in celebration of his life.  It’s a fitting exercise for a community who came together through food, and a it’s amazing to see the number of people who’ve signed up to participate on the facebook event page.  I’m sure most of them are like me – we don’t know Jennie, but we want her to know that she and her girls are thought of and supported during this difficult time. And that the memory of her husband, and the love they shared, will not be forgotten.

The night that first tweet came across my screen, I was struck to my core by the tenuous nature of life.  I hugged my boys extra long when I put them to bed, and I made it a point to tell my husband how much I loved him before we said good night.  The truth is, we never know what tomorrow, or even later today, may bring.

Peanut butter and chocolate is also my husband’s favorite flavor combination.  He could eat an entire bag of Reese’s peanut butter cups in one sitting if I’d let him.  We’re headed to an end-of-summer pool/dinner party with some friends tonight, so I thought it only appropriate that I make these little peanut butter pies in mason jars to share with everyone.  They were made, after all, in celebration of life.

Peanut Butter Pie for Mikey

yields: 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. chocolate wafer cookies
  • 4 oz. butter, melted
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup chopped peanuts
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter
  • 8 oz. mascarpone cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream, whipped to stiff peaks
  1. Place the cookies in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to create crumbs.
  2. Turn the food processor on and pour the melted butter through the feed tube
  3. Spoon three heaping teaspoons of the crumb mixture into 4-oz. mason jars – there should be enough crumbs to do 12 small jars.
  4. Press the crumb mixture int the bottom of the jar with your thumb.  Refrigerate to set.
  5. Melt the chocolate in the microwave.
  6. Once crust has set, spoon a teaspoon of melted chocolate into each jar and sprinkle chopped peanuts on top.  Refrigerate to set.
  7. Combine the peanut butter and mascarpone cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.  Whisk on medium-high to combine.
  8. Slowly add the powdered sugar.
  9. Stir in half the whipped cream, just to loosen the peanut butter mixture.  Carefully fold in the remaining cream, creating a mousse-like filling.
  10. Place the filling in a zip-top bag fitted with a 1-inch star piping tip.  Pipe the mousse into the mason jars.
  11. Sprinkle with chocolate chips to garnish.
  12. Enjoy!

Hug your families, and tell them that you love them every day.

Thank you, Jennifer Perillo, for inviting us to celebrate with you.

 

 

Peaches and Cream

It’s farmer’s market season, and that means my Saturday mornings are spent perusing the vendor booths in the parking lot of our town’s city hall.  Choosing the prettiest heads of cabbage, and the plumpest pickling cucumbers, the brightest bouquet of zinnias, and the peaches with the prettiest blush on their fuzzy cheeks.

This morning, I found myself with two very ripe peaches staring up at me from the kitchen counter. Their skins were just beginning to get a little loose, and I could smell their sweet ripe scent without lifting them to my nose. They really needed to be eaten or used in some form or fashion. We’d ploughed through the other seven in the bunch, and these were the last two stragglers. They’d been slightly under-ripe when I’d brought them home on Saturday, but now they were threatening decomp on my counter.
When I glanced at my Facebook wall, I noticed that Foodimentary had posted that it was National Peaches and Cream day.

Well, then.  I guess that was my answer.  Peaches and cream.

So, I halved my peaches and removed the pits.  I dropped one half of each into 2 half-pint mason jars, and topped those with 1 teaspoon of salted butter, 3/4 teaspoon of sucanat (you could use brown sugar if you don’t have sucanat) and the leaves from a sprig of thyme per jar.  I topped that with the other half of the peach.

I made a sweet biscuit dough, comprised of 1/4 cup of flour, 1 tablespoon of sucanat, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1 Tablespoon of butter.  I brought it all together with about 1/4 cup of buttermilk and divided the batter evenly between the two jars.  I baked them in a 350F oven for about 15 minutes, or until the topping was golden brown, and I could see the peaches had softened and the liquid was bubbly.

I allowed them to cool a bit, then poked  holes in the crust with the fat end of a chopstick.  I carefully poured a couple of tablespoons of cold heavy cream into the jar and allowed it to soak into the crust and down into the peach syrup.  Then I ate it.  And I knew I had done the right thing.

Individual Peaches and Cream Cobblers
prep time: 5 minutes
bake time: 15 minutes
serves: 2

  • 2 peaches, halved and pitted
  • 1 Tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sucanat, divided
  • 1 Tablespoon cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 2 teaspoons softened butter
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 1/4 cup white whole-wheat flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk
  • 4 Tablespoons cold heavy cream
  1. Preheat your oven to 350F.  Have two half-pint mason jars ready
  2. Prepare the batter.  Combine the flour, 1 tablespoon of the sucanat, and the baking soda.  Cut the cold butter pieces into the flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal.  Add the buttermilk and stir to combine – do not overmix.  Set aside.
  3. Place 1/2 of each peach into  the mason jars. Top each half with 1 teaspoon softened butter, 3/4 teaspoon of sucanat the leaves from the thyme sprigs.
  4. Place the other half of each peach on top and spoon half the batter into each jar.
  5. Place the jars on a pan and bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes, or until brown and bubbly.
  6. Remove from oven and allow to cool a bit.
  7. Just before eating, poke holes in the crust of each cobbler and pour 2 tablespoons of heavy cream into each, letting it soak into the topping and down into the fruit and syrup.
  8. Eat and enjoy!