Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Small Town Fun 2009

When you first move to a small town, like I did about a decade ago, you tend to scoff at the local "goings on" and make fun of what is termed "a good time" by the locals. For example, when prom time rolls around, you will drive by the high school here and see bleachers set up on the front lawn, and very early in the daylight hours, people will start claiming spots on the grass with their lawn chairs. That night, it is local custom to attend "Promenade", better known as sitting on the grass in front of the high school and watching the couples arrive in their various unusual vehicles and ummm....what may or may not be termed "formal attire" depending on the styles of the moment.

This is one tradition that I still do not understand.

However, I have found that the longer you live in this small town, the more some of its customs tend to grow on you, creeping into your subconscious, and becoming a part of what you look forward to about the seasons. I will give my town credit for trying to fill as many weekends in the fall as possible with family friendly events. In our case, fall officially begins when the Lions Carnival sets up shop on the town square. After that, the fall unfolds into a series of fall festivals and other events that we have come to adore. So far this fall, we have had the Lions Carnival (which we missed this year, much to Ty's dismay), the Fall Festival (a craft fair at the local historical society), and now the Apple Festival (at the local orchard), which will soon be followed by the Pumpkin Festival and the Halloween Parade. You'll see another post in a few weeks with the second set of festivals, but here are a few shots from the Fall and Apple Festivals.

(This is Ty, riding in the wagon with our carefully chosen pumpkins. We do this every year at the Fall Festival. Hopefully you'll see more shots of our pumpkins on my front porch later this season.)
(This is a traditional shot at the Apple Festival every year.)
(There are always pony rides at the Apple Festival. The first year, Ty cried the whole time. This year, he was finally a "big boy" and rode all by himself. In this shot, I caught him mid-"woo-hoo!")
(You'll see a shot nearly identical to this when the Pumpkin Festival rolls around.)
One other event that is put on locally, although not in our town, is Hunting and Fishing Days. In a town north of St Louis, there is a brass plant called Olin where they manufacture ammunition. This company owns a piece of ground not too far from us that they have called NILO (OLIN = NILO) and although I know they must use it for other functions as well, each fall they hold Hunting & Fishing Days there, which is an event geared toward hunting and hunting safety and is very pointedly focused on the youth in the area.

This year, we decided to take Ty for the first time and asked if we could also take his cousin along. At NILO, they have a number of activities available to promote interest in hunting and arms, putting emphasis on safety. There are stations where you can shoot cans with b.b. guns, trap shooting for both youth and adults, youth and adult archery, a demonstration on dummie retrieval with a group of well trained Labradors, and always a demonstration of trick shooting by a seasoned professional. It used to be Tom Knapp (of Benelli fame) but lately has been Patrick Flanigan, who unfortunately was absent this year due to a nasty case of pneumonia. They also always have the fire department there, representing the school of fire safety and a number of hunting related vendors and organizations.

The boys both got the opportunity to shoot, and the staff does a wonderful job with positive reinforcement, helping each youth feel a sense of accomplishment and success. Both boys can't wait for next year's event.

I know this may seem odd to those of you who are not a part of the hunting genre, but when it is a part of your daily lives, it is really nice to see an event where you can trust that they will instill not only a sense of pride, but good hunting safety and ideals as well. Big kudos to Olin for sponsoring such a wonderful event, which has become a time honored tradition in our family. I'm including some pics of my Little Hunter.

(First time shooting a bow and arrow - the instructor was terrific with the little kids.)(Shooting cans with Daddy. Ty was doing the shooting, Daddy was just being supportive.)(Waiting patiently for his turn at the "youth shotgun" station. His first time shooting trap. Notice the safety gear.)(Posing for the camera. The staff sure were good sports with all the first-timers.)
(Aaaaand....PULL! He actually hit one of the clay pigeons, too!)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce

I ran across this dish on one of the blogs that I follow, and knew instantly that I had to give it a try. I mean, with a name like that, how could I go wrong? I am a fool for basil, and since I was considering making a batch of my Thai Basil Chicken anyway, I thought I'd give this version a whirl.

I must preface the remainder of this post by describing my husband's entrance to the house when he came home the night I made it.

**door opens...I am standing at the stove, dishing up a second helping as he walks in the door**
*sniff sniff*
Me: hi honey
Him: Ok, honey, I don't know WHAT that is... (at this point I am expecting his usual asinine comment of "but it smells like ASS")
Him (cont'd): but D.A.M.N. (yes, he spelled it out) it smells GOOD!
Me: *smile* you should try it, I think you'd like it (notice I never tell him what it is or what's in it)
Him: Oh, I WILL. That dish and I have a DATE later tonight....

Yeah, okay, so he got in from hunting so late that night that he didn't get around to it, but MY thoughts? It was so D.A.M.N. good that I made a second batch the very next day so I could eat it for lunch all week. Holy cow, is this good, and RICH! I will be sharing it with my friend Whitney for lunch today.

Basil Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce
3 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
2 teaspoons curry powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon chili powder
1 medium red onion, chopped (I used white onion)
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped (by seeding the jalapeno you lose most of the spice/heat but retain great flavor)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 14-ounce can light coconut milk (light? I used regular because its what I could find)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
3 cups hot cooked rice
Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces. Place in medium bowl. Stir together curry, salt, pepper and chili powder. Sprinkle over chicken, tossing to coat evenly. Cover and chill for 1 to 2 hours.
In a large nonstick frying pan, stir onion, basil, garlic and peppers in hot oil over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes, until onion is translucent. Add chicken and cook for 5-6 minutes until no longer pink. Combine coconut milk and cornstarch and whisk well to combine. Carefully add to skillet, whisking vigorously. Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly. Stir in ginger. Cook and stir for another minute. Serve over hot rice.

**notes** Instead of dried basil, I chopped up a pile of fresh basil from my garden and tossed it in at the very end.

The funny thing about this dish is it started as the first step in cleaning out my pantry. I have a bad habit of buying "fun" or "interesting" canned items thinking I will use them, and then they take up a permanent residence at the back of my pantry. A few weeks back, I decided to start pulling these items out and finding ways to use them. The first one on the list? You guessed it, COCONUT MILK! Unfortunately, my effort to clean a singular item out of my pantry once and for all turned into making coconut milk a new staple in my pantry because I will be making this dish over and over again!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Have Beer, Will Travel.....or Grill.....

In the ongoing saga that is my husband's love affair with his grill, we are constantly trying new things so that he can learn lots of different ways to use his new toy. We have made beer-butt chicken once before, with mixed results. Recently, I was placing a book order on half.com when I ran across a copy of Steven Raichlen's Beer Can Chicken for $.75. I could hardly resist that. While I have been acquiring some new cookbooks recently, I've also been picking several up for Matt. This book has a section on variations for beer-can chicken (which, if you are not familiar, is a whole chicken, impaled on an open can of beer, and then grilled upright) as well as one for Beer-less Birds, and Other Birds on a Can. What really caught my eye, and made the decision to get the book for him, was the reference to "Welder's Chicken". Well, you know the hubs is a welder by trade, so I couldn't resist.
Saturday, I picked up a couple of roasters and invited Matt's sister and another friend over for dinner. I went to work prepping the birds. We decided to try two different recipes, and since we only had one beer can chicken roaster, we settled on a Cajun Chicken and the Welder's Chicken (which is wrapped in layers of foil instead of roasted on the can. Hence, the name....you are supposed to pick it up off the grill with welder's gloves because using tongs would break through the foil and release all the lovely juices prematurely.)
I will include both recipes at the bottom, but since he instructs you on specific grill set up for each recipe, if you want to try it, you may want to pick up a cheap copy for yourself! If you're really serious, let me know and I'll scan the pages and email them to you! The recipes are long, but its worth reading them because I included some personal notes here and there about our experience with them.
After about an hour and a half (right on schedule, based on Raichlen's instructions) we had two beautiful birds sitting on our table. He suggests checking the birds' temperatures with an instant--read thermometer to determine doneness, but it was completely unnecessary. The Cajun Chicken won our hearts immediately, as it was the most gorgeous bird any of us had ever seen. Golden and gorgeous with a nice crispy skin and the meat was lovely and smoked (this one is grilled over indirect heat). The welder's chicken lacked the aesthetic appeal, since roasting it wrapped in foil prevented any browning, but the bird literally fell apart, was moist and delicious, and had hints of both the bacon and lemon without being overbearing.
There was very little conversation that extended beyond "Mmmmm" and "ooooh my god..." and there was even the occasional "forking" of another diner's hand when one tried to keep a piece of crispy skin away from another (seriously, my niece jabbed our friend Mike in the hand for trying to take it from her). A couple of people even got a little wild (yes, there was alcohol involved, and yes, we live in the country) and chicken bones were flung over the side of the deck as they were licked clean. I know, it sounds very redneck, and it was, but sometimes you just gotta live in the moment...
So, here they are, it was a bit dark, and we were famished, so the pictures aren't fabulous, but take a look at these girls....The gorgeous birds and some baby zucchinis...The Welder's Chicken...And, finally, the Cajun Chicken. A terrible picture, it doesn't do her beauty justice....Ragin' Cajun Beer Can Chicken

Method: Indirect grilling
Serves 2 to 4
For the beer can chicken:
1 can (12 ounces) beer
1 chicken (3 1/2 to 4 pounds)
1 teaspoon Liquid Smoke

For the rub:
1 1/2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 1/2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
2 teaspoons vegetable oil

You'll need: 2 cups wood chips or chunks (preferably hickory or cherry), soaked for 1 hour in water or beer to cover, then drained; vertical chicken roaster (optional)
1. Pop the tab off the beer can. Using a church key-style can opener, make 2 or 3 additional holes in the top of the can. Pour the Liquid Smoke into one of these holes. Insert a chopstick or skewer and gently stir to mix the Liquid Smoke and beer.
2. Remove the packet of giblets from the body cavity of the chicken and set aside for another use. Remove and discard the fat just inside the body and neck cavities. Rinse the chicken, inside and out, under cold running water and then drain and blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels. Place the chicken in a large bowl on its side and pour half the smoke-flavored beer over it. Let marinate in the refrigerator, covered, for 45 minutes, turning twice. Make sure each breast side and the back have marinated for 15 minutes. Set the can with the remaining smoke-flavored beer aside
3. Make the rub: Put the Cajun and Old Bay seasonings in a small bowl and stir to mix.
4. Set up the grill for indirect grilling (see page 000 for charcoal or page 000 for gas) and preheat to medium. If using a charcoal grill, place a large drip pan in center. If using a gas grill, place all the wood chips or chunks in the smoker box or in a smoker pouch and preheat on high until you see smoke, then reduce the heat to medium.
5. Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons of the rub inside the body and cavity and 1 teaspoon inside the neck cavity of the chicken. Drizzle the oil over the outside of the bird and rub or brush it all over the skin. Sprinkle the outside of the bird with 1 tablespoon rub and rub it all over the skin.
6. Spoon the remaining rub through a hole in the top of the can into the beer. Don't worry if it foams up; this is normal. If grilling the chicken on the beer can, hold the chicken upright, with the opening of the body cavity at the bottom and lower the bird onto the beer can so the can fits into the cavity. If using a vertical chicken roaster, fill it with the beer as described on page 000 and position the chicken on top.
7. If using the beer can, pull the chicken legs forward to form a sort of tripod, so the bird stands upright. The rear leg of the tripod is the beer can. You don't need to do this if using a vertical chicken roaster. Tuck the wing tips behind the chicken's back.
8. When ready to cook, if using a charcoal grill, toss all the wood chips on the coals. Stand the chicken up in the center of the hot grate, over the drip pan, away from the heat. Cover the grill and cook the chicken until the skin is a dark golden brown and very crisp and the meat is cooked through (about 180¡ F on an instant-read meat thermometer inserted in a thigh), 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. (See page 000 for other tests for doneness.) If using a charcoal grill, you'll need to add 12 fresh coals per side after 1 hour. If the chicken skin starts to brown too much, loosely tent the bird with aluminum foil.
9. Using tongs, grab the bird with tongs by the beer can just below the bottom, carefully transfer it in its upright position to a platter, and present it to your guests. If using a vertical chicken roaster, grab it with oven mitts or pot holders. Let rest for 5 minutes, then carefully lift the chicken off the support. Take care not to spill the hot beer or otherwise burn yourself. Normally I discard the beer, but some people like to save it for making barbecue sauce. Halve, quarter, or carve the chicken and serve.

Welder's Chicken
1 stewing hen or roasting chicken (6-7 pounds)
1 lemon
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 slices bacon (the smokier, the better) (yeah, I used, like TEN. Come on, its BACON)

You'll also need 4 pieces heavy duty aluminum foil (30 by 18 inches each)
1. Remove the packet of giblets from the body cavity of the chicken and set aside for another use. Remove and discard the fat just inside the body and neck cavities. Rinse the chicken, inside and out, under cold running water and then drain and blot dry, inside and out, with paper towels. 2. Using a vegetable peeler, remove 3 strips of zest (the oil-rich outer rind) from the lemon, taking care not to remove any of the bitter white pith underneath. Place 1 strip in the neck cavity and 2 strips in the body cavity of the hen. Cut the rind and white pith off the lemon and discard. Cut the lemon crosswise into thin slices and remove the seeds with a fork.
3. Rub the outside of the hen with cut garlic. Place 2 garlic cloves (4 halves) in the body cavity and 1 clove in the neck cavity. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons poultry seasoning inside the body cavity and 1 teaspoon inside the neck cavity. Sprinkle the remaining poultry seasoning on the outside of the bird. Generously season the bird inside and out with salt and pepper.
4. Place a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil shiny side down on a work surface. Place 2 bacon slices in the center and place a few lemon slices on top of them. Place the hen breast side up so the backbone is parallel to the long side of the foil, on the bacon. Drape the remaining slices of bacon over the breast and top with the remaining lemon slices. Bring the ends of the aluminum foil up over the hen, folding over the edges several times and crimping them to make a tight seal. Tightly wrap the bird in 3 additional layers of foil, shiny side out ( so it will reflect the heat) to make a sturdy packet. Be sure all of the bird is covered with foil.
5. Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to medium. When ready to cook, place the foil wrapped hen on the hot grill and grill until hen is cooked through (about 180 degrees on an instant read thermometer inserted into the hen flesh, but not touching a bone) (yeah, so I'm thinking to myself, this bird is wrapped in FOUR, count 'em, FOUR layers of individually wrapped foil. How in the holy hell am I going to insert a thermometer through the packet without letting all the liquid and steam out, not to mention, finding the right part of the bird to stick it into? Trust me on this one, just cook it an hour and a half or so, and it will be fine. We opened the packet and legs and wings just FELL off), 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 hours, turning and rotating the bird every 15 minutes. If using a charcoal grill, you'll need to add 12 fresh coals per side after 1 hour.
6. Transfer the hen to a platter and, if you like, show it off in its flame-darkened packet to your guests. (yeah, right, our guests were so hungry for chicken by this time that they were tearing it out of the foil before it even made it to the table!) Let the hen rest 5 minutes (again, I don't think so), then, wearing welder's gloves or heavy duty grill mitts, unwrap the bird. (my husband is a welder, and yet we all have little burns on out finger tips because we were all too lazy and/or ravenously hungry to go looking for his welder's gloves) Take care to avoid the escaping steam (seriously, unless you want a poultry facial). Scrape off and discard the bacon (not us country folks, as much as it grossed me out, people gladly ATE that bacon). Serve the hen at once (no shit, Sherlock).

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Grilled Honey Teriyaki Chicken for TFF

After having been conspicuously absent for the last couple of weeks, I am hoping to start kicking things back into high gear this week! or, at least, mid-gear. I haven't been doing nearly as much cooking as I usually do since the hubs began his love affair with his new grill. That's fine with me, since I know that once the weather gets too cold or we run out of charcoal (whichever comes first) I'll be back in the kitchen full time.
Meanwhile, don't think for a minute that I am not influencing what we are putting on the table. Matt is taking the grilling thing seriously, and he wants to learn all the ins and outs, and try lots of things he has never cooked before. That being said, he's still a picky eater, so we haven't been getting too wild and crazy!
I've been looking for a good recipe to try from Tyler Florence, and while there are lots, we're in that in-between kind of season and I'm having trouble finding anything that really appeals to me. That is, until I found THIS recipe, and it is my submission to Tyler Florence Fridays this week.
I love barbecued chicken, I love grilled chicken, I love teriyaki chicken....and they had ten pound bags of chicken quarters on sale at the store for 69 cents a pound. How could I lose? SO, I planned it for a night that Matt would be home to grill (I specifically asked him, to be sure, since he hunts pretty regularly during the evenings), brined the bad boys, and got the ingredients for the glaze.
While I was still at the store after work, Matt calls (as he does every day on his way home) and asks the question....here's how the conversation went:

Matt: "so, what's for dinner?" Me: "Well, I brined that chicken this morning....you know....like I TOLD you I was going to...."
Matt: **silence**
Me: "What?"
Matt: "So, what are you going to do with it if I go hunting tonight?"
Me: **heated silence**
Me: I ASKED you this MORNING what nights you were going to hunt this week, SPECIFICALLY so I would have a good night to grill this chicken!"
Matt: " I know, but I didn't KNOW this morning, Mark just called and..."
Me: "Well, then either "I" have to grill it on YOUR precious grill, or I have to throw it out. Brined meet does NOT keep."
Matt: **silence**
Me: "SO, when you get home, come upstairs and light the grill, then I'll cook it."
Matt: **silence** (you can tell at this point that he is debating whether it is worth it to go hunting if it means he has to relinquish control of the 'man zone')

In the end, he lit the grill, put the chicken on it for me, then paused in the doorway to our bedroom, me on the deck outside, him in the bedroom, the screen door separating us. I looked him in the eye, grinned an evil little grin and said "You're on the wrong side of that door, aren't you?" and tipped my beer back. "Don't remind me." he says as he glances ruefully at his smoking grill. As he is pulling away, he paused on the road to yell up to the deck and ask how it was going. My response? I raised my beer in the air in "cheers" fashion and left him in the dust.

By the way, the chicken was LUSCIOUS. The flavors were intense and rich, and the chicken was moist and flavorful. I admit that I usually have to amp up the seasonings in Tyler's recipes to make them more to my taste, but this glaze was wonderful just as it is. I am attributing the juiciness of the chicken to the brine. The recipe says to brine for 2 hours, but I pushed the envelope and brined it before I left for work that morning, so it sat all day.
Very, very yummy.... I mean, can't you just TELL? Its making my mouth water just thinking about the leftovers waiting for me in the fridge for lunch today.
Here's the actual recipe:
Grilled Honey-Teriyaki Chicken
1 whole organic chicken, cut into 10 pieces
2 cups water
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 head garlic, unpeeled
4 slices fresh ginger root, gently bashed to open up
2 tablespoons kosher salt
8 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cups teriyaki sauce
1/4 cup honey
1 large (1-inch) piece fresh ginger root, sliced and bashed to open up
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
1 teaspoon sesame oil, plus 1/2 cup toasted
Freshly ground black pepper
Scallion threads, for garnish
Toasted sesame seeds, for garnish
Begin by making the brine. Combine all the brine ingredients in a large resealable bag and swirl to dissolve the sugar.Add chicken pieces and allow to brine for 1 to 2 hours in the refrigerator.
Preheat grill to low-medium heat.
Make teriyaki glaze: In a small saucepan, over medium heat, combine teriyaki sauce, honey, ginger, garlic, and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil, and simmer until rich and slightly reduced. Remove chicken from brine and pat dry. Add to a large mixing bowl, drizzle with toasted sesame oil and season with freshly ground black pepper. Toss to coat and cook on a low-medium grill for 17 to 20 minutes per side until cooked through.Baste with teriyaki glaze for the last 5 to 7 minutes of cooking.Serve garnish with scallion threads (finely sliced scallions cut on the bias soaked in ice cold water), and toasted sesame seeds.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Chocolate Chip Pound Cake-lets for My Girl, Paula!

This post is a little belated, but I’m going to go ahead and put it out there anyway. Time has gotten away from me, but I think this was last week’s recipe for My Girl, Paula! And even though it is yet another baked good, I decided to go for it anyway.
Over the past couple of weeks, I think I have put on more than 5 pounds, and aside from all the beer-drinking that surrounded the funeral, I think it might be Paula’s fault. So, I may have to start restricting my participation in Paula’s group to the non-dessert items.
Anyway – here we go! I actually really liked this recipe, and it was very easy to prepare, not to mention fast. Since I’ve been on a roll with my muffin pans, I decided to use them again for this cake instead of making the full sized version. Ty clearly doesn’t mind, since its been easy to talk every single person who has drifted in and out of our house to get one for him. As you can see, he really enjoyed helping me make these “chocolate chip nuffins” as he has dubbed them.
I did really like these, they were dense and moist, and very, very chocolately. Paula should probably call them Chocolate Chocolate Pound Cake.

Project Play Date…ready, set, GO!

I think I’ve mentioned recently that Ty had a new best friend, and his name is Brayden. Well, Ty and Brayden, his mom and I, have been making pretty regular trips to Springfield for shopping, and sometimes a play day at Chuck E Cheese. We’ve gotten to know each other pretty well (and Brayden’s mom and I have a frighteningly large number of things in common….she even has the tattoo I’ve been wanting to get for the last four years!) so we decided it was time for our grown-up boys to get acquainted as well. With Matt having this new love affair with his charcoal grill, and considering the fact that we having properly christened our new deck by having a party of any kind, we invited the “Braydens” over for a cookout. Matt has been learning how to smoke ribs, so we made a game plan. This also gave me a great excuse to use the holiday weekend to clean up my house, which it desperately needed, and get the yard in order (kind of).
So, Sunday afternoon, the Braydens arrived and the adults lounged on my new patio furniture, snacking on appetizers and getting to know each other while Matt manned the grill. In my hostess-zone, I completely forgot to take food pictures after they arrived, so you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say that the smoked ribs (courtesy of Tyler Florence), Basil Grilled Chicken (a la Paula Deen), Grilled Zucchini and Summer Squash, and French Onion Rice were uber-tasty. What I do have for you are recipes and pictures of the appetizers I put out for noshing.
I got the idea for the Pizza Pinwheels on Tastespotting and couldn’t resist such an easy snack. Basically, you take pizza dough (the tastespotting link recommends making your own, but I was lazy and used a can of Pillsbury dough. Next time I will use a better dough, as the canned dough was too soft and didn’t roll well. They still turned out tasty, just a little sloppy to cut and lay on the pan.) and roll it out into a rectangle. Then, spread lightly with either pizza sauce or pasta sauce, sprinkle with cheese and layer a few rows of pepperonis.Its important not to cover the whole surface with the pepperoni, as the cheese is the “glue” that holds the rolls together. Then, starting at the long end, carefully roll it up into a log. It helps to do this on a piece of foil, or in my case, a Silpat, so that you can use the foil or sheet to roll the log evenly. Once the log is rolled, use a pair of kitchen shears to cut it into ½ inch discs. Lay the discs a couple of inches apart on a baking sheet (lining the sheet makes cleanup much easier!) and bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the dough is done, and the cheese is caramelized on top of the rolls. YUMMY!! Makes about one dozen, depending on how large you rolled out your dough. The other appetizer doesn’t have a snappy name. I thought about Bacon Snacks, but thought that sounded too much like a dog treat. Another super simple recipe, this one only has five ingredients! Cocktail weenies, bacon, butter, brown sugar and honey. Cut strips of bacon into thirds. Wrap one piece of bacon around each sausage, securing with a toothpick.When you have all the sausages wrapped, lightly fry them in a skillet until the bacon is just done on all sides.Transfer them to a 9x13 baking dish. Mix together 1 stick of melted butter, 3 tablespoons of brown sugar, and 3 tablespoons of honey and pour over the sausages. Bake at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the sausages are caramelized and glazed with the sugar/butter mixture. Serve hot! Makes about 48.


Last week, I was lucky enough to have someone give me their seats to the St Louis Rams vs Kansas City Chiefs preseason game in St Louis. Now, it always seems to be my luck that whenever and opportunity like this cones up, circumstances always prevent me from taking advantage of it. Well, this time, for once, I was not about to let that happen. You see, I am a HUGE Chiefs fan, and we had planned to get tickets to the Dallas Cowboys @ Kansas City Chiefs game in October at Arrowhead stadium, but it did not end up working out that we could get tickets (Still working on that). Me, being the Chiefs fan, and the hubs being a life long Cowboys game, its bound to be a very interesting game, if we get to go.That being said, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to take Little Man to his first pro football game. Free tickets….close to home…..and it’s a preseason game, so I wouldn’t be missing out on any great action if it proved to be too much drama for Ty and we had to leave early. It ended up being a great night, if not a great game, with my good friend Chris in tow (I’m not sure who enjoyed their foam fingers more, Ty or Chris). We didn’t end up staying for the whole game, but the boys sure had a great time, and Ty got his first introduction to pro football. He also learned a very important phrase…. GO CHIEFS!!!

Closer to Fine....

I'll quote a line from the Indigo Girls and say that I'm "Closer to Fine" today. Back at work, and tying up loose ends from the funeral. I want to apologize in advance to those of you whose blogs I also read. When I logged on this morning, I had 190 posts in my reader and although I did my best to skim as many as I could, I'm going to just start fresh. So, no comments from me, I'm afraid. I'll do better in the coming days.

Thanks again for all your heartfelt condolences, I appreciate each and every one.

Now, I have a couple of posts to get out there that were lagging from a couple of weeks ago, and hopefully you'll see some new ones coming soon!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

On Hiatus

Hi there, everyone. I know I've been conspicuously absent for a little while and I wanted to take a moment to thank you all for bearing with me. I promise to be back to my usual bloggerriffic self shortly with some new foodie posts this week.
For those of you who may have been wondering what's been going on or have been following my tweets, my father-in-law passed away this past week after a long, hard-fought battle with cancer. While his passing did not come as a surprise, it has certainly taken a toll on my family. We are slowly but surely getting back to normal and I can't wait to get back to cooking my way into your hearts again!
Thanks to all of you for your support and prayers during this difficult time, it has meant the world to me.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Caramel Apple Mini Cakes for King Arthur Flour

(this picture is just for my buddy, Tom)
Hello, everyone! Okay, it has take me a little while to get to this recipe, but I assure you, it is worth the wait! For my review of King Arthur Flour's White Whole Wheat Flour (if you haven't seen my other posts, this is part of my membership in View & Review, with Bloggeraid Changing the Face of Famine - check it out!), I was determined to test recipes across the board. One sweet, one savory, and the litmus test of flours....bread. For my first try, I chose savory (you know, that IS my comfort zone!) and made Spicy Cheddar Muffins. Next, I got brave and baked bread! It turned out really well, too. I found out after the fact that I had used the wrong kind of yeast, which explains why it didn't rise like it should have, so I'm going to be trying that recipe again, just for the sake of making it right. Now, that only leaves "sweet".
After looking around and considering my options, I decided to pick a recipe from King Arthur's site that is not yet rated, so that I would have to start from scratch, so to speak. This recipe for Caramel Apple Mini Cakes just practically called my name. I mean, caramel is an obvious draw, but its getting to be that time of year....the time when the orchards start filling up, and cider begins arriving in stores. Apples.....Mmmmm!
Keep in mind that I picked this recipe based on the fact that it uses the whole wheat flour. Now, I have two things to say about that:
1. You would never in a million years guess that these are whole wheat.
2. I really don't think that being made of whole wheat flour even remotely makes up for all the sugar and butter that is in them.
That being said...I so don't care. These little babies are fantastic. I have a number of cook's notes related to the recipe that I will post at the end.....make sure you read them if you plan to make this!!! Now, let's get on to the goods. Another fabulous recipe from King Arthur WHOLE WHEAT Flour!Caramel Apple Mini-Cakes
2 cups (8 ounces) King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour, traditional or white whole wheat
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice or 1 teaspoon apple pie spice
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons, 6 ounces) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces )brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) boiled cider or frozen apple juice concentrate
1/2 cup (4 ounces) applesauce
3 cups peeled, chopped apples (about 3 apples, 3/4 pound before peeling)
3/4 cup (3 ounces) walnuts, chopped

5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup firmly (3 1/4 ounces) packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons (1 3/8 ounces) corn syrup
3 tablespoons (1 1/2 ounces) milk
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) confectioners' sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease the wells of a Pop-Up Pan, or 12 muffin cups.
(don't you just love my pretty new muffin pan?)
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and spices; set aside. Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Beat in the eggs, stopping once or twice to scrape the sides and bottom of the mixing bowl, then mix in the dry ingredients, vanilla, boiled cider and applesauce, stirring until evenly moistened. Fold in the apples and walnuts.Transfer the batter to the prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cakes for 15 minutes before turning out of the pan; cool completely before frosting.
For the frosting: Melt the butter, stir in the salt, brown sugar, and corn syrup and cook, stirring, until the sugar melts. Add the milk, bring to a rolling boil, and pour into a mixing bowl to cool for 10 minutes.
Stir in the sugar, vanilla, and cinnamon. Beat well; if the mixture appears too thin, add more confectioners' sugar. Spread on the cakes while the frosting is still warm.
Yield: 12 servings.

Cook's notes:
1. the recipe says to use a 12 cup muffin pan. I did that, and still had batter to spare, so I made a little mini loaf also.
2. make sure you only fill the cups about 2/3 full or they will pop-over like mine did. Still taste great - just not so pretty.3. These took WAY longer to bake than the recipe states.
4. Don't start working on the frosting until the cakes are out of the oven. It needs to be put on while the frosting itself is still warm, but it won't be if you do like I did and start the frosting right after you put the cakes in the oven.
5. I didn't add quite all of the powdered sugar to my frosting. I really wanted it to be more pourable.
6. That worked against me when I tried serving these the next day. The frosting had softened the cakes and made them quite messy. Again, still tasted great, not so pretty.
7. I didn't add the walnuts....just not a big fan of nuts in bakes goods. Sorry!

Some Like it HOT!

And I'm one of them! I don't honestly know what the requirements are to be able to consider yourself a "chilihead", but I know its hard for me to find something that is "too hot" for my tastebuds. So, naturally, when I planted my garden this spread, it included a wider variety of peppers, one being the red habañero. Finally last week, I started seeing some red on the plants. There are quite a few green ones on there yet, so I figured I had better do something with the ones that were ripe before I had a mountain of them to deal with. I found a recipe for Habañero Hot Pepper Sauce and decided it was worth a try.

One thing I need to remember is not to EVER make this during the winter, or any other time that the house cannot be opened up for ventilation. While the chiles were simmering away downstairs, we were upstairs watching Wow Wow Wubzy with Ty (yes, we really were) and nearly lost our nose hairs! The fumes drifting up the stairs were enough to peel the paint off the walls.

And I loved it.

I just kept thinking about how great that was going to taste when it was done. Matt was worried that it was going to be too hot to eat, but I assured him that although it was highly unlikely (for me, anyway), if it DID turn out to be too spicy, we could always mix it in with barbecue sauce to mellow it out.

Yeah, he is soooo not touching my habañero hot sauce!!! When Matt made ribs this weekend, I dabbed a little of the meat in the sauce....mmmmm....heavenly!!! Or hellish....not sure which applies, but I was loving it. Matt's friend Rex joined us that night and he mixed it in with his rice and said it was great. I couldn't resist adding some to my grilled chicken last night. I'm going to have to make a bunch more and freeze it or can it or something so I have it all year. Because I'm telling you right now, there is not way the one little bottle it made is going to last me long!

***WARNING!!! Not for the weak of heart...or taste buds*** Habanero Pepper Sauce Recipe
Habanero peppers
Jalapeno peppers
Cayenne peppers
Hot chili peppers
(Approximately 2 cups, total of the peppers)
1 head unpeeled garlic
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 T. sugar
Directions:The exact proportions of the various types of peppers above can be varied depending on your personal tastes and what you have available. For a milder sauce, milder varieties such as Hot Wax, Banana, Pimento, or Bell peppers can be substituted for a portion of the hot varieties listed above.
Using rubber gloves, clean and de-seed approximately 2 cups of peppers. In a saucepan, combine the peppers, garlic, and vinegar and cook, covered, over low heat for approximately one hour. Keep an eye on the liquid and reduce heat and add more vinegar if it seems to be boiling away quickly. Press through a sieve or a food mill, add the sugar, and return to low heat for approximately 30 minutes or until slightly thickened. Pour into a jar or bottle which can be sealed and refrigerate. Will keep in refrigerator for several months.