Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lazy Sunday Suppers

After having a very full Saturday, and getting to see my wonderful sister- and brother-in-law (and their fabulous boys) we stayed at home Sunday.  Scratch that--correct it--stayed in BED on Sunday.  Well, most of it.  The girls came in and woke us up at about 9ish.  We all slept in because we got home so very late last night.  Both of them rolled over us about twenty times ("Mommy.  Mommy.  Wake up.") and finally Darling Daddy got up and got them some breakfast, and put some bacon in the oven. Don't know about you, but bacon cooked in the oven on a cookie sheet is the ONLY way we make bacon around here. After that, the little sillies were off to play Legos and random assorted games.  I've been having so much trouble with my lap-band and allergies (inflammation-wise) lately, but today I was armed and ready: I took an Allegra and 3 ibuprofen.  I was bound and determined to get something down the ol' gullet today.  No real luck at noon, so at about 2pm I took 4 more; that was the magic number, apparently, and did the trick.  Only took about two hours to kick in, so we all packed up in the mini and headed to Target.  Headed over to my favorite section--the frozen seafood--and stared at all the delicious (and relatively inexpensive) flash-frozen goodies.  I bet you didn't know that most of Target's Archer Farms brands of fish/shellfish are caught right here in the good ol' USA and are wild to boot.  If you didn't know that the flash-frozen seafood is actually more fresh than what you get at your grocery store, I invite you to check out the episode of "Good Eats" about flash-frozen foods.  Alton Brown is a big advocate. I recommend any pacific salmon they have; it is absolutely delicious.  I almost got that when a bag down below caught my eye.

Archer Farms Wild Caught Key West Pink Shrimp.


I've bought them before and they cooked up beautifully.  For $13, and a pound of some of the most delicious shrimp on the planet, it was hard to beat.

And here is what I made with my delicious shrimp!

Shrimp and Grits.  For less than $5 per person.  And soooooo incredibly easy.  And....GLUTEN FREE!

Grits are just about my favorite food.  Shrimp is just about my favorite food.  Add salt, butter, and bacon fat?  It's pretty much heaven.  I'm sure of it.

My cookie sheet from the bacon cooking was put to good use.  Matt had poured almost all of it into our bacon fat keeper thingie (it's an old peanut can), but there was still plenty of fat and cracklins on the sheet, so I threw the shrimp in one layer down on the cookie sheet and added more butter, then a little kosher salt, black pepper, and garlic salt.  Be generous with the salt; shrimp need a lot of seasoning.  I put them in a 350*F oven for 20 minutes total.  10 on one side, then I flipped them for 10 minutes on the other.

Next, I whipped up a pan of grits.  Again, use your salt liberally.  Grits need it.  I use about 1T salt in a pan of water that is enough for 6 servings (a 3 quart pot).  Do not fear the Morton Girl and her umbrella walking in the rain.  She is saying, "More salt, please."  Forget that "When it rains, it pours" nonsense. Nobody wants to hear all that.

Then I took a low soup bowl, and served up some o' dem grits.  I then scooped up some shrimp, and of course the lovely butter/bacon mixture and placed it on top.  You can see how the butter escaped to the rim of the bowl; it is lovely to spoon that over the grits and take a bite.  Oh my.

How cheap and easy can one dinner be?  There's a joke there somewhere.

The ultimate in Lazy Sunday Suppers...hope you enjoy it!  More to come with Sunday Suppers soon!

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fast Comfort Food: Chicken & Dumplings

Well, I'll tell you. *sigh* I was sure glad it was Friday when I woke up this morning.  Even though Monday was a holiday, the entire rest of the week was as slow as molasses in....well, this month.  It seemed like all my energy was sapped last night, and I was NOT interested in cooking anything.  I almost picked up the phone to order from my favorite hole-in-the-wall Wok Inn...but as I looked in my fridge, I realized I had too much food to go to waste.  The Mattman had pulled apart a rotisserie chicken for me a few nights ago and it was just sitting sadly in a freezer bag.  Waiting for the perfect recipe.  I went to the pantry and surveyed my domain.  Grabbed some stuff and put it on the counter.  I realized I had not made Chicken and Dumplings all winter long--kind of strange for me, but let's face it, it's been a strange winter. *eyeroll*

Chicken and Dumplings is something my fantastic Grandma, aka the Ole Biddy, taught me to make.  Making my own stock, cooking down the chicken, getting the spices just right--all leading to a frothy stew upon which to dunk some raw biscuit dough, waiting for those last few minutes until you bite into a light fluffy cloud...pure comfort...she was the master.

I didn't have time for all that.  It was close to 3:30.   I'm what you call a protagonist.  You might know what I'm talking about.  If not, you're probably shaking your head.  Like my sister is doing right now.  Hey.  Don't judge.

I was going to have to cheat, and it had to be good.  Good enough to pass the test: The Husband Test.  You know--you take some shortcuts, maybe with a meatloaf.  You find something quick and easy on Pinterest.  Not your usual, but hey, you use whatcha got.  He takes a bite, and gives a look.  Not disapproving, but not a-pproving, either.  You frown.  The gig is up.  He knows.  "I couldn't find veal at the market this time," you say, attempting to justify your choice, silently cursing The Frugally Frolicking Wife's Blog.  "Oh, well, it's still good..." he replies, eating it all.   You stare in disbelief.  He damn well better like that Crock-Pot Coca-Cola Cobbler you made.  The thing was re-pinned at least 11 times, for crying out loud.

So, if you don't want that to happen, DO THIS.  Okie dokie, then.

Go in your pantry.  Make an assessment.

Do you have a ton of chicken broth?  It's a good start, if you do. If not, get what you have and grab some chicken bullion.  I had 1 32 oz container of chicken broth, but I grabbed two bullion cubes.
I also got a can of cream of chicken out.
Black pepper.
A can of sliced carrots...
and minced garlic (you can use garlic powder, too).

Oh yeah...not in the picture: a bay leaf.

From the fridge, I took:

1 rotisserie chicken, cut/torn up
a little bacon fat, about a T. (you can use oil instead)
2 ribs of celery
1 small onion

In a large dutch oven (I have my mom's fantastic oval shaped one...which means more surface area for more dumplings...just sayin') heat up your butter/bacon fat/oil concoction over med-lo heat.  Here's the reason why you need some oil with your butter:  butter has a low smoke point.  This means that the milk solids in the butter will begin to burn at lower temps.  If you add a higher-smoke point oil (bacon fat is great, but safflower, grapeseed, or peanut oil is good too) it will raise the smoke point of the butter.  Why butter?  It gives great flavor, of course! Hello, butter?  Yes.  Hello, butter.

Dice up your onion and celery and throw it in the dutch oven.  Cook for about 10 minutes, until the onion is translucent.  Add garlic and about 1/4 tsp of black pepper (I eyeball it.).  Add the bay leaf.

Now add the broth, or water,  enough to equal about 1/3-1/2 of the way up the pot, or approximately a gallon and a half of liquid.  For every pint (16 oz) of water I added, I set aside one bullion cube.  The reason I did that is because you do not want to add a bullion cube to water that isn't boiling.  It won't dissolve, and there are few things grosser than taking a big ol' spoonful of chewy bullion in your mouth.  Blech.

Bring the stew to a boil over medium heat.  Now add the bullion.   Make sure it's dissolved.  Add the carrots.

Pick apart your chicken in chunks, big and small, throw 'em right in.

Cook it all as long as you want on low heat.  If you're ready to go ahead and put in your dumplings, then the soup needs to be simmering/low boiling.

Make drop dumplings using Bisquick or my favorite, Pioneer Baking Mix.  It's generally about 2 cups of mix to 2/3 c. milk.  I also add a little dried parsley, but that's mainly for my own personal touch.  Like sprinkles on a cupcake. lol.

Drop your dough by a large spoonful all over the top of the stew.  Put a lid on. Cook for 5-8 minutes, and everything should be ready to eat.  All in all, despite my ramblings here, it should take you 30-40 minutes from pantry to table.

I probably ought to proofread this; honestly, I'm so tired.  I've probably typed up something that will result in a combination of lasagna and pickled pig's feet.  My apologies if so.  But if it actually comes together like it did in my head, give me a shout and let me know how it works out.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Make Valentine's Day Special For a Friend

More Valentine's Day cookies--and these are GLUTEN FREE!

I used Claire Robinson's (of Food Network Fame) recipe as my base.  It has very good reviews on Food Network:

Take your cookie dough and roll into a 2" ball.

Roll each ball in coarse sugar.

Bake as directed.

When out of oven, top each one in the center with a Dove Promise Heart-Shaped Milk Chocolate.

Wait forever for cookies to cool and chocolate to re-set.


Get a glass of milk ready.


Oh, wait--no.  Don't do that.  You're baking these for a friend.  So don't chow down, just gently nibble at one or two.  Eyeball the rest.  When the chocolate is totally 100% cool...package them up in a cute little take-out container:

or antique pyrex dish.

Super cute!

Hope you enjoy...!

Hey, it's almost February. Whaaaaat?

Have you heard about the Corn Pasta they sell at Trader Joe's?  Wow.  It's pretty darned good and it doesn't fall apart.  I made mac-and-cheese √° la Alton Brown last night using the TJ Corn Penne and it was AH-MAY-ZING! Woowie!  Held together, tasted delicious, and what's more--both of my daughters scarfed it down.  A success all around!

I can't believe it is almost February.  January just blew by.  We are definitely warming up here in San Antonio, but my heavens, all of the weathergeeks on TV would have you believe that winter is over.  Historically, February is Texas' coldest month, IMHO, so this should be interesting to see how it plays out.  Still, both girls had on t-shirts and jeans for school today and no jackets of any kind.  I am hoping we have a normal February, rain-wise, so we have carpets and carpets of blue all over the Hill Country this spring.  Have you seen Texas in the spring?  No?  You have to come see.  Nothing but bluebonnets as far as your eyes can take you.  It's quite an event; families and their photographers out on the sides of highways taking pictures in seas of bluebonnets. They are everywhere.  I didn't even know this practice was somewhat odd until a friend who is NOT from Texas (herein known as the "Friend NFT") said, "Why in the world would you get out on the side of a highway to take a picture of your baby in some flowers? So dangerous!"  I hushed her and had to re-think our friendship there for a minute.  Next thing you know, she's posting pictures of herself with her daughter in bluebonnets on the side of the road.  I shoulda known.  Of course, I had to call her and mock her for her earlier sentiment, because that's the kind of friend I am.

What I'm getting at is this: come on, bluebonnets.  I'm ready for you.  Where will you be the most abundant?  Just another month and a half and we'll find out.

I forgot to mention what I am cooking tonight for dinner.  I have a pretty good amount of rotisserie chicken that the Mattman pulled apart for me.  I realized as I was meal planning that I had not made a big pot of Grandma Byrd's chicken & dumplings all winter long.  So--there you have it.  The easiest C&D on the planet: rotisserie chicken, celery, carrot, onion, and a ton of chicken broth, with floating puffy clouds of Bisquick on the top.  I really don't know why I don't make it more often.  It's so simple and comforting and reminds me of my Grandma. *sigh* I think of her every single day, I'm sure of it.  She was such a fun lady!  She taught me three valuable things: #1 Driving fast is fun, especially when you're old #2 Men are not the end-all, be-all and #3 Food is freaking amazing and you should enjoy it.  The Ole Biddy* was very, very wise.

*Ole Biddy is a term that was lovingly bestowed on my herself. She encouraged family to use it, often signing birthday cards to her sons-n-law and other relatives "O.B.". For years I thought she believed she was a tampon.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Valentine's Day Treat for Friends - Raspberry Sugar Hugs

I've been experimenting with some fun little treats for my friends and my daughters' friends.  I've always loved Peanut Butter Blossoms--the yummy, sweet peanut butter cookie with a chocolatey Hershey's Kiss perched right on top.  They're absolutely delicious!  Naturally, when I saw the limited-edition Raspberry Hugs version of the Hershey's Kiss...well, my mind was reeling at the possibilities.

I present to you...Raspberry Sugar Hugs!

Aren't they purdy little things?

They're super easy.  Use your favorite sugar cookie mix or recipe...
Roll into 1" balls...
and coat in sprinkles from your favorite Valentine's Day palette.


Bake as directed (do not let cookies brown) and take out to cool for a few moments.  Unwrap several Hershey's Hugs...

and place one in the center of each cookie.  Then wait.

When you can't stand it anymore (or about 5 minutes), heh heh...transfer each cookie to a cooling rack.  You will see that the Hugs do an amazing thing--they flatten out into beautiful buttons of glistening white chocolate with raspberry stripes.  If yours don't completely flatten right away, just be patient.  They will eventually.  You can help out if you feel confident enough by picking up the cookie just about an inch off the rack and "dropping" it back down on the rack.  That should do it.

Take a toothpick and swirl it through the should make a little design.

Voil√°!  Pretty little button cookie.  Delicious, as well! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Time's a-Wastin'...

(channeling June Carter Cash with my title)

I've been gone a while.

I had to go through a bit of a personal, mental transformation.

I had to learn to forgive myself.

I had to learn to rely on the Lord.  Every day.

I had to learn to banish negative things like jealousy (really, such an ugly word, isn't it?).

I had to learn I am on my own path and that I am successful and can stand on my own.

I still have much to learn...

But I am here.

I've had the lap-band for almost two years now.  I've lost a total of 38 lbs, or roughly 30% of the weight I needed to lose.  I lost 30 lbs within the first four months and after that it was a terrible struggle just to get one pound off of me, even with a personal trainer twice a week.   I've worked very hard to get health issues like my thyroid and PCOS in check in order to lose more weight, but they have worked against me for the most part.  I've still managed to get 8 more pounds off in a year and I look forward to the challenges of 2013 and watching another 8 pounds come off.  Every. pound. counts!  Every pound means my hard work is paying off.  No one ever guaranteed that I would lose weight like others; no one ever guaranteed I would lose weight at all.  I had to work through my disappointment and realize I am still a success story, just an unconventional one.

I would never, ever say I regret getting the band.  Quite the contrary. It has forced me to look at my life and the way I eat so totally differently than I had anticipated; it has forced me to face some mental demons I had/have and banish them from my life.  It's a reminder to me, every day, that I cannot do this without God's help.

If you are still here, thanks for reading.  I look forward to writing more about what my struggles have been and what I've been able to do in the last year.  Maybe it can help you, too.