Fat Tuesday

Tomorrow is the first day of Lent. That makes today Fat Tuesday, aka Mardi Gras!! I keep meaning to make to New Orleans for the carnival. I can never seem to find the time to go. It was suppose to be our honeymoon detestation, but that fell through too. I wasn’t in my high school band either. They marched in the parade almost every year, and came back with truly awesome stories of shenanigans and beads. I’m starting to think it’s just not meant to be. May be next year I can make it. Until then, Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler.

New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp

5 Tsp butter

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 1/2 Tsp homemade Cajun seasoning (recipe following)

1 1/2 tsp. cumin

1 1/2 tsp. sugar

3 lbs. shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 lemon, juiced

2 Tsp Worcestershire sauce

4 scallions, whites and green parts thinly sliced

In a large bowl combine the Cajun seasoning, sugar, and cumin; blend well and set aside. Over medium heat, melt butter in a large cast iron skillet. (I used my Lodge 12″ skillet.) When butter has melted, add the garlic. Cook the garlic for 1 to 2 minutes stirring constantly. Add the shrimp to the seasoning mixture and toss well to coat. (You may want to use your hands for this. Make sure to wash up afterwards.) Once the shrimp is coated in the seasoning, add to the pan of hot butter and garlic. Cook the shrimp for 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Shrimp will not be fully cooked. Add the Worcestershire sauce and lemon juice, stir well. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, or until shrimp are fully cooked. Sprinkle the scallions over the shrimp; stir to combine. Serve hot over grits or rice with a few slices of crusty French bread.

Cajun Seasoning

2 1/2 Tsp paprika

2 Tsp salt

2 Tsp garlic powder

1 Tsp black pepper

1 Tsp onion powder

1 Tsp cayenne pepper

1 Tsp dried leaf oregano

1 Tsp dried thyme

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.

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It Must Have Been the Mistletoe

Here we are again. Another Christmas season is coming to a close. Sheridan and I have had ten Christmas together this year. How we have managed to stay together this long is baffling. I never thought I would have someone to stay around this long. It must have been the mistletoe, and our first Christmas kiss. Actually, I think my cooking hooked him. Our first Christmas Eve together I put on a huge spread of finger foods. Everything from homemade pizza rolls to chick wings, and everything in between. That was at the start of my learning to cook phase. I haven’t cooked like that since then. Christmas Eve now consists of pasta, breakfast, or Chinese take away. I save the hard stuff for Christmas Day.

A few years ago for Christmas I made my mama’s Cherry Yum Yum for dessert. Sheridan loved it. It was the one and only time I made it. It’s a fairly easy recipe to make, and is very worthy of any celebration. I keep this recipe in the back of my mind for holiday entertaining. I could be wrong about this, but I think the first time I had it was at my Aunt Willy’s. I also want to say I think my cousin Kay made it. She always made the best desserts, and always from scratch. I had to flip a coin this year as what to make for dessert, and both of them were recipes that I remember Kay making. None the less, I have the recipes now, and the memories of dishing them out at Aunt Willy’s.

Cherry Yum-Yumunnamed

1/2 c. chopped pecans

3/4 c. sugar

2 cans cherry pie filling

1 c. milk

3 1/2 c. nilla wafer crumbs

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened

2 sticks butter, melted

1 box (2 envelopes) dream whip

Combine melted butter and nilla wafers, mix well and set aside. Mix sugar, cream cheese, milk, and dream whip in a large bowl until it forms stiff peaks. Fold in pecans. Line the bottom of a 9″ x 13″ with half of the crumbs. Spoon the pie filling over the cream and carefully spread out. Top with remaining crumbs. Chill 24 hours before serving.

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My Georgia Christmas: Mounds Candy

Remember in my last post I said I wanted candy? Here’s another little Christmas gem from my youth. My mama made these for as long as I can remember. It just wasn’t Christmas time if she didn’t spend several days in the kitchen listening to WIVK, the local country music radio channel back home in East Tennessee, and making pounds and pounds of candy and cookies. Back then, home made candy was a perfectly acceptable gift for friends and family. To be honest, I would rather have a tin full of homemade candy or cookies over anything else. The time and skill that goes into making perfectly delicious and creamy candy will always trump any store bought item in my book.

If you’re a fan of Mounds or Almond joy candy bars, you have to try these. They are easy to make and taste so much better then the store bought kind. Who knows you may end up making them all year long and not just at Christmas. I don’t know where my mama got this recipe. I don’t think I ever asked. I’m sure she remembers, and will let me know.

Oh, by the way, if you are on Facebook hop on over and give my page a like. You can find it here.

Mounds Candy

2 (14 oz.) packages shredded coconut

1 can Eagle Brand milk

1 lb. powdered sugar

1 stick butter, melted

1 tsp. vanilla

18 oz. chocolate chips

3/4 stick paraffin

1/2 c. crushed almonds, optional

Mix together all ingredients except chocolate and paraffin, and press into a 9 x 13″ cake pan lined with wax paper for easy removal. Make sure the wax paper is about 2″ out of the pan. Refrigerate over night. Remove from refrigerator, and cut into small squares. Melt chocolate chips and paraffin in top of double boiler. Dip squares into chocolate, place on wax paper to dry. Store in the refrigerator in an air tight container.

My Georgia Christmas: Mrs. Anderson’s Candy

Ah, the Christmas season is upon us, and the count down for Santa has begun. While kids today are hoping that the Jolly One will bring them the latest iPad or their favorite smart phone, all I want is candy. Lots and lots of candy. The good kind that my mama made at Christmas when I was a kid not this rubbish you can get at any filling station. That word, filling station, just made me giggle. I never thought I would use such language. Did I just date myself? Have I turned into one of ‘those’ people who speak in a language that time has forgotten? Am I suddenly…..dare I say it……old?

This candy is by far my absolute, all time favorite that my mama ever made. I think she got this recipe from one of her fellow nurses at Jefferson Memorial Hospital many, many decades ago. The only way I can describe it is as the fancy, high classed version of a buckeye. As you know, if you have ever had one, a buckeye is a partially chocolate covered peanut butter ball that kinda taste like a peanut butter cup. They are good as well, but not as good as these. I have only made them twice since I last left home, and this is the first time I have ever made them for Sheridan. I promise to try to use all my will power to save him some.

Merry Christmas Mrs. Anderson, whoever you are.

Mrs. Anderson’s Candy¬†

2 sticks butter or margarine, softened

3 c. graham cracker crumbs

1 c. shredded coconut

1 c. creamy peanut butter

1 lb. powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 c. chopped pecans

12 oz. chocolate chips

1 square paraffin

Mix all ingredients, except chocolate and paraffin, together well, and form into balls. Melt chocolate chips and paraffin in top of a double boiler. Dip formed balls into the chocolate mixture, and place on wax paper to dry. Store in the refrigerator in an air tight container.

Pan Seared Duck Breast with Cherry Port Sauce

Hey Y’all. Long time no see, huh. I bet you thought I forgot about ya. Nah, you know I would never do that. I’ve been in a bit of a rut, and didn’t know what to write about. Usually I talk about mama, or my Aunt Willie’s house, or my partner. I guess I’ve ran out of memories and stories to tell….at least the ones I want to share. Hey, I have to keep something for myself.

So, I will leave you with this little gem of a recipe. It could easily be on your table for Christmas entertaining. Classy enough for a formal dinner, and casual enough for dinner in your favorite pajamas.

In the picture, I have it paired with cherry wild rice and fresh green beans sauteed in butter. The sides are easy enough, so I didn’t include the recipes. The rice was made by the package directions with chopped dried cherries added to the mix. The green beans were blanched in salted water, shocked in cold water, then sauteed in a few table spoons of real butter. Julia Child eat your heart out.

Pan Seared Duck Breast with Cherry Port Sauce

4 (6 to 8 oz.) fresh duck breasts

1 (15 oz.) can dark sweet cherries in heavy syrup

1 c. Port wine

1/4 c. duck stock (chicken or vegetable can be used if duck stock isn’t available)

1 Tsp. cold butter

Salt and white pepper to taste

For the Duck Breasts:

Carefully score the skin side of the duck breasts. These cuts should not cut into the meat of the breast, just through the skin. Season the breasts with salt and white pepper. Place the breasts skin side down in a large saute pan. Don’t crowd the pan. If all four breast won’t fit in your pan use a second one. Turn the heat on medium. The cook time will vary depending on the thickness of the breast and the skin. You want to render as much of the fat as you can from the skin. If they begin to brown too fast, remove the pan from the heat, lower the temperature to medium low, and continue until all the fat is no longer white. For the breast I used it was about 10-15 minutes. Once the fat has render and no longer white and the breasts are golden brown, turn them over and continue to cook until medium rare to medium. ( I would suggest med-rare.) This step should take about 3 to 5 minutes depending on how done you want it. Remove the breasts from the pan and allow to rest five minutes. To server slice the breasts on a bias, and place on top of sauce.

For the Sauce:

Combine the cherries with the liquid, stock, and port wine in a medium sized sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Reduce the sauce by three quarters. If you want you can strain the sauce at this point. Stir in the cold butter. Taste and season with salt and white pepper, if desired. Serve immediately.

Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb

It’s my favorite time of the year! No, no, it’s not summer time. Now, y’all know my favorite season is Fall. It’s vacation time! Since Sheridan and I aren’t jet-setters, I will be spending the time off at home. There’s several projects that I need to get done around the house. One of them is cleaning out my deep freezer. I bet Jimmy Hoffa is in there. Tucked away between the egg roll wrappers and french fries. I’ll be finding out soon enough.

One of my awesome friends took me to the farmers market at the start of the week. I’ve been planning the meals I wanted to make for a few weeks, and I wanted to make things we normally don’t have. I have three grocery stores I go to when shopping, and all three pretty much carry the same cuts of meat. Things such as a rack of lamb are available during the Easter season, and become hard to find after that. When they do have it after Easter the price is ridiculous. Only one of my normal stores had a rack, and it was priced at $45. The rack from the farmers market, which was exactly the same minus the shrink wrap, was $26. The lesson? If you have access to a farmers market, go forth and shop.

Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb

1 (8 bone) French Rack of Lamb, trimmed

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. white pepper

1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard

2 Tsp vegetable oil, or other lightly flavored oil

For the Herb Crust Topping

1 c. Panko bread crumbs

1 tsp. minced fresh thyme

1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary

1 tsp. minced fresh dill

1 Tsp. minced fresh flat leaf parsley

1 clove garlic, very finely minced into a paste

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. white pepper

2 tsp. olive oil

To make the Herb Crust: In a small bowl combine all ingredients, except oil, and stir well with a fork. Add the oil and blend very well; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350. Trim the fat and any silver skin from the rack of lamb, season with salt, white pepper, and garlic powder; set aside. Heat the vegetable oil, in a large cast iron skillet, over medium heat. When oil is hot, but not smoking, brown the lamb on all sides including the ends. When the lamb is nicely browned turn off the heat, and remove the lamb and place on a clean cutting board. Quickly brush the lamb with the Dijon mustard. Using clean hands, press the bread crumb mixture on to the mustard coated lamb. Wash your hands. Carefully pick up the lamb by the exposed ribs, letting any excess bread crumbs to fall off. Return the rack of lamb to the hot cast iron pan, and place it in the oven. Roast the lamb until the internal temperature reaches 140 for medium rare, or 150 for medium. Do not over cook the lamb. Once lamb reaches the desired temperature, remove from pan and allow it to rest for at least 5 minutes. Cut the lamb in to 2 bone chops. Serve immediately.

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The ‘This wasn’t suppose to be a post’ Post

Hey Y’all! It’s officially summer, and it’s been hot here in the ATL since mid April. It seems every year summer comes earlier and earlier. It wouldn’t be so bad if there was a nice shade tree to hide under. For about three weeks, I watched as Piedmont Hospital cut down and rip up couple hundred year old magnolia trees. I assume they are expanding since they have removed some of the bricks from the end of the building. The price we pay for living in the city, I guess. At least I have a nice canopy of trees to be under when I come down the drive way into the complex.

This recipe wasn’t suppose to be a post. Once I made it I could help myself. Granted it took me a week to type it out, but I digress. I’m always looking for new ways to make pasta. Pasta is a staple in our house. I generally cook it once a week, sometimes more depending on my work schedule. There is only so many times you can make tomato sauce or Alfredo sauce, or their many secondary sauces, before you get tired of them. I am very pleased to say this recipe is sauce-less, yet creamy. The secret to it is to treat it kind of like risotto. Stir it often while the orzo cooks helps to release the starch in the pasta. This starch in turn thickens the stock making it’s own creamy saucy. I guess I shouldn’t call it a sauce since the end result isn’t saucy. You can eat it hot, cold, or at room temperature.

Orzo with Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes, Shrimp, and Spinach

3 Tsp real butter

1 lb. orzo pasta

1 lb. shrimp; peeled, de-veined, tail off

1 lb. fresh spinach, cleaned and stems removed

1 lb. heirloom tomatoes, washed and dried

1 clove garlic, finely diced

1 large shallot, finely diced

4 Tsp good quality olive oil, divided

3/4 tsp. crushed pepper flakes, divided

1/4 tsp. garlic powder, divided

1/2 tsp. dried basil, divided

salt and black pepper, to taste

Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Preheat oven to 375. Wash and dry the tomatoes. Make sure the tomatoes are completely dry before moving forward with this recipe. Spread the dry tomatoes on a baking sheet just large enough to hold them in a single layer with a little wiggle room. Dress the tomatoes with one half of the olive oil, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Using clean hands, roll and toss the tomatoes to spread the oil and seasoning evenly. Place in the center of oven, and roast until they burst. On a separate baking sheet, prepare the shrimp in the same way as the tomatoes, set in refrigerator until ready to use. While the tomatoes roast, prepare the orzo. Melt the butter in a large sauce pan over medium heat. When the foam begins to dissipate, add the orzo. Cook the orzo, stirring often, until lightly browned. Add the shallot and garlic, cook for 2 minutes. Add three cups of stock to the orzo, stir well. When the stock as reduced and the orzo is just shy of al dente, add remaining stock. Stir the orzo very well, and top with the spinach. Season with salt and black pepper, and cover. All the spinach to wilt, stirring into the orzo until completely wilted. Place the shrimp in the oven and roast until slightly pink, about 3 to 7 minutes depending on their size. Add the roasted tomatoes and roasted shrimp, and their juices, to the orzo; stir well to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve garnished with Parmesan cheese.

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