Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rice Dressing

Jeffrey introduced me to this dish and it's been a standard in our kitchen ever since. It came from a cookbook from his hometown of Hollandale, Mississipi. Rice Dressing can be a side dish, not unlike traditional cornbread dressing (only it’s, you know, rice) or a meal-in-one.

1 cup rice, uncooked
1 can Cream of whatever soup (you can use cream of mushroom, cream of celery, cream of whatever your heart desires)
about half that empty soup can of water
1 can French onion soup
1 pound ground turkey (or beef), uncooked
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
(Or you can use one package of frozen chopped onion and bell pepper.)
About 3 ribs stalks of celery, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients in a 9x13-inch casserole dish. Stir well and cover tightly with aluminum foil.

Bake for about one hour.

Note: Smells crazy good while it’s cooking.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Honey Roasted Pork Tenderloin and Baked Sweet Potatoes

As soon as the temperatures begin to turn the slightest bit cool, I crave fall favorites like this.

Honey Roasted Pork Tenderloin

• 1/3 cup honey
• 2 tablespoons soy sauce
• 1 tablespoon brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons sesame oil
• 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
• 2 (3/4 pound) pork tenderloins

Combine everything but the tenderloin in a small bowl. Pour over the tenderloin, which I usually have in a zip-top bag. I like to marinate it for a few hours or overnight.

(When I'm roasting just one pork tenderloin, I use the same amount of marinade because I like it, and also because me dividing fractions is not pretty.)

When you’re ready to cook the tenderloin, take it from the fridge so it come to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Roast for about 15 minutes, then decrease temperature to about 350 degrees and roast 45 minutes longer or so. Until it’s done, which most people is say is when the internal temperature is 160 degrees.

For baked sweet potatoes, wrap sweet potatoes in aluminum foil and bake. I know! It depends on the size of the potatoes as to how long it will take to bake. I’d say, on average, for around 30 to 45 minutes or so.

I like to split it open and dollop the sweet potato with butter and that’s it. You can add brown sugar and nutmeg and make it your own little sweet potato casserole if you like.

Monday, October 13, 2008


In my book, cooking the first soup or stew of the season is a wondrous thing. Of course, I am a big goober but cooking and smelling and eating this gumbo made me very, very happy in a way that only fall and wintry things can.

Sunday afternoon was the perfect day for it. It was overcast and looked like winter outside. There was enough of a hint of fall in the air to justify gumbo.

· 1 large chicken (young hen preferred), cut into pieces
· 2 pounds andouille or smoked sausage, cut into 1/2" pieces

Season the chicken with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning and brown quickly.

Brown the sausage, pour off fat, and reserve meats.

I had some cooked chicken on hand so I shredded it and added it to the mix rather than browning some chicken.

· 1 cup oil
· 1 cup flour

In a large, heavy pot, heat the oil and cook the flour in the oil over medium to high heat (depending on your roux-making skill), stirring constantly, until the roux reaches a dark reddish-brown color, almost the color of coffee or milk chocolate for a Cajun-style roux. If you want to save time, or prefer a more New Orleans-style roux, cook it to a medium, peanut-butter color, over lower heat if you're nervous about burning it.

Or you can use Tony Chachere's roux mix, which is what we did.

· 2 large bags of frozen chopped onions and peppers, thawed
· 4 ribs celery, chopped
· 3 tablespoons of minced garlic

We sauteed the veggies in the skillet we'd browned off the sausage to give them a bit of flavor.

Add the vegetables and stir quickly. This cooks the vegetables and also stops the roux from cooking further.

Continue to cook, stirring constantly, for about 4 minutes.

· 2-3 quarts chicken stock
· 2 bay leaves
· Creole seasoning to taste
· Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Add the stock, seasonings, chicken, and sausage. Bring to a boil, and then cook for about one hour, skimming fat off the top as needed.

· 2/3 cup fresh chopped parsley (we used dried parlsey because our local grocery didn't have fresh parsley)
· 1 bunch scallions (green onions), tops only, chopped

Add the chopped scallion tops and parsley, and heat for 5 minutes.

· Filé powder to taste

We couldn't find the filé powder in the cabinet, so we didn't use it.

You know how when you crave something and then you get it and it is so good? That's what this was, not to mention how much fun it'd been to get in the kitchen and enjoy it.

I like to chop and measure and stir. I like to, you know, cook, and I don't feel like I've done any cooking in a while. It felt good to be in the kitchen on a gloomy Sunday afternoon, warm and cozy and with good smells all around, looking forward to a delicious, hearty meal.

We're having it for dinner tomorrow evening and I'm already looking forward to it. I bet it will be even better than it was last night and it was plenty good last night.

This yielded a bunch. I know; I'm very scientific and accurate. The three us each had a generous bowl-ful and I put up five or so containers full, containers being an assortment of sizes. I'd say it yielded about a gallon of gumbo if I had to guess.

Molasses Cookies

Lest you get the very wrong idea that everything we cook turns out beautifully, here is a post where I am keeping it real.

I loves me some autumn and little says fall like baking a batch of cinnamon-y smelling cookies.

I saw this recipe on Saucy's blog and on a nice, chilly Sunday afternoon in October, it sounded ideal.

I didn't use the exact recipe she used because that one was a Martha Stewart recipe and naturally had persnickety ingredients. Like what is unsulfured molasses? Is that regular ole molasses? See, I didn't know either. had a molasses cookie recipe that had a nice high rating and a jillion reviews.

Things began well enough. You start with butter. What can go wrong when a recipe starts with a bowl full of butter?

I melted the butter, let it cool a bit, and added it to the sugar and egg, per the recipe's instructions. I added that mixture to a mixture of flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, ground cloves, and ginger (yummmm...those spices smelled good).

At this point, the cookie dough is refrigerated for at least one hour. Around the holidays, I like to make Plum Spice Cake. It's an easy, dense cake that's baked in a bundt pan. This cookie "dough" reminded me of that batter - it was about the same color and smelled very similiar and also, was like batter, not like cookie dough.

I was begining to have misgivings but I'd gotten emotionally vested in these cookies - these fallish cookies, so perfect for munching on by the fireside after a cozy dinner. Right?

I dutifully refrigerated the dough/batter but I knew in my heart of hearts that these cookies were probably going to flop.

Because I thought it would be fun to learn something after the fact, I went back to the recipe online and then read the reviews rather than before I began baking, which would have made more sense. Cooks mentioned substituting brown sugar for the white sugar and increasing the spices, but no one mentioned the batter/dough being an odd consistency for cookies. I wondered if I'd accidentally put only 1 cup, rather than 2 cups, of flour. No, the two-cup measuring cup was still on the counter with bits of flour in it.

After about an hour and a half I got out the dough/batter from the fridge and we rolled pieces into walnut-sized balls, then dipped each one into orange sanding sugar, until Dear Son dropped the canister and spilled the rest, at which point we turned to festive orange and black sprinkles.

When I bake cookies, I always, always refrigerate them after they're shaped and on the cookie sheets. It helps them hold their shape, which is particularly true of cut out cookies. I slid the baking sheets with cookies in the refrigerator, then preheated the oven.

I baked the cookies for the prescribed time and when I took them out of the oven, this is what greeted me:

Sad cookies. Sad, sad cookies.

They don't look that bad in the photo but the fun part came when I tried to lift them from the silpat onto a cooling rack. I used a thin metal spatula. The cookies scrunched and scooted whichever way the spatula went, leaving me with thin, crinkled, oddly-shaped cookies.

The cookies smelled divine and actually tasted good if you don't mind buttery and then more buttery (which I don't). They'd be good crumbled over vanilla bean ice cream. But for chewy, molasses-tasting cookies? Not so much.

They spread a lot and were quite flat, something none of the reviews I read mentioned. I had to scrape the bottom of the orange box to get the two teaspoons of baking soda the recipe called for. I'm thinking the baking soda may well have been old and that's why they didn't do right. What do you think? Any food scientists out there?

I'm going to try them again, because they were easy and scented the kitchen with autumn smells, always a plus in my book.

Molasses Cookies

3/4 cup margarine, melted (I used real butter)
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup white sugar, colored sugar, or sprinkles

In a medium bowl, mix together the melted margarine, 1 cup sugar, and egg until smooth. Stir in the molasses. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger; blend into the molasses mixture. Cover, and chill dough for 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Roll dough into walnut sized balls, and roll them in the remaining white sugar or sprinkles. Place cookies 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until tops are cracked. Cool on wire racks.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The World's Best Coconut Cake

Hey everybody! I haven't posted in awhile so I thought I'd share with you a little piece of heaven that I experienced in Charleston, SC over the past weekend.

Keetha has started a multi-part post on her blog that details our fun, longer than normal, weekend. This trip started out as a chance for her to meet my best friend and his wife, but little did we know what food wonders were to be had while we were there.

She and I had seen a program on The Food Network that really peeked my interest. It's fairly known that Keetha doesn't care at all for coconut, but it's one of my favorites. The show detailed a resturant in downtown Charleston that in known for it's coconut cake. Once we decided to go, there wasn't any doubt that I just had to sample this cake. So about three days or so before we left, I called up The Peninsula Grill and made reservations for the four of us for Saturday night.

The meal was, to say the least, exceptional from start to finish. However, the coop de gras was without a doubt, for me at least, dessert. I just can't begin to tell you just how good this cake was. Matter of fact, I somehow talked Keetha into having not one, but two bites of my cake. She later told me that I have never been so insistant with her about anything. And I apologized to no end to her for that fact. It was just plain heavenly!

Y'all keep a watch on her blog for more on our fabulously entertaining weekend filled with fun and FOOD!