Nov 23, 2010

The Dog Ate My Pants Defense

So, after a fun-filled night in Athens for Kinger's engagement party, I groggily awoke and after consuming enough bacon to make me feel like a human being, I decided it was time to struggle into clothes and get on the road.  I pulled on my tee and cardigan, rooted through the clothes scattered around Kinger's childhood bedroom, and slipped on my pixie pants.

Which were quite drafty.

"Oh my word!  I have eaten entirely too much bacon and split my damn pants!" were the first thoughts that flew through my bleary brain.  Hmmm.

I was a bit relieved when I removed the air-conditioned britches and discovered chew marks.  Kinger's devil dachshund, Lula, had eaten out the seat of my pants. I was faced with a conundrum- I could wear my gold and black full skirted cocktail dress, bottom-less pixie pants, or my lime green and fuchsia cotton pj pants.  I chose the latter, and prayed I wouldn't have to get gas or you the facilities on my four hour drive home.

In case either of the above became a necessity, I chose to go home through the mountains- a bit longer than driving through Atlanta and Chattanooga, but far less probability of seeing anyone I know.

Zooming on up the highway, rehashing all the gossip from the night before on my phone, I was completely unaware that the speed limit had changed from 65 to 55. However, the cop that was behind me was quite aware.

Now, I was just too worn out to even attempt to get out of the ticket.  I merely queried when the limit had changed, then settled down to read my new Town and Country while he wrote the ticket.

Of course, I did have to explain to him that I was speeding for a perfectly legitimate reason.

I had to go to the restroom and the dog ate my pants!

Yeah, I still got the ticket.

Nov 19, 2010

The Junior League Project- Charleston Part Two

Mmmm, so here's the soufflé all bubbly out of the oven.  I had the leftovers with a simple green salad for dinner the other night and it was divine.

Since I was cooking Charleston style, Buddy was very proper.

He was absolutely horrified when his Mom served and ate dinner in her pajamas, with the remnants of her pre-Sunday School makeup smeared around her face.
In addition to the soufflé, we had oven fried chicken.  Now, my complaint with oven fried chicken is generally this- Don't try to be something you're not.  Sage advice for people, those laminate countertops which purport to look like granite, and chicken. Now I love chicken that's dipped in something rolled in crackers or cereal and baked (with, ahem, butter drizzled on top). However, it ain't fried chicken.  On the other hand it's mouth-wateringly scrumptious.  And you feel virtuous, which is always helpful on Sunday nights. 

 Crush your crackers- I used Multi Grain Club Crackers.  I am obvious a shining example of health.
 Here's my assembly line- sour cream, cracker crumbs, baking dish.  One dry hand. One wet hand.  Now, if I was going to make this again, I would put a baking rack in my dish so both sides of the chicken are crispy.  And I will make this again.  Watch out chickens!
 It does kind of look like fried chicken.  Don't be fooled, but it almost equals the real thing is deliciousness.  So, Charleston Receipts Repeats is definitely a winner in my book- our dinner with garlic roasted broccoli.

Although I do think the real winner in this whole project is Hubs- lots of cooking coming his way, with none of my normal lean-mean waistline maintaining measures.

Now, tell me all about y'all's weekends!  I am so excited to be seeing so many ladies with a weekend full of wedding dress shopping and an engagement party in the home of my beloved Bulldogs. 

Nov 18, 2010

The Junior League Project- Charleston

Today we turn to Charleston- Charleston Receipts Repeats to be more particular.  and if we're going to talk about the Junior League of Charleston, one must always be particular.
Now, the food I made inland on a cold November night is rather different than the food I associate with Charleston. 

Summer after freshman year at Georgia, myself and four dear friends loaded up our cars and zoomed off for a summer in Charleston, lucking into an amazing place downtown.  Our furniture consisted of mattresses, folding chairs, and various items purloined from the street or Goodwill.  Our jobs were menial and rather hilarious- a couple girls worked at a restaurant that had a suspicious backroom where mafia types met, while random college students ate pizza out front.  I toiled at a well known tourist trap, where I entertained myself by telling grits-ignorant Ohioan tourists that our premises on Market was a former well-known whorehouse frequented by the likes of Rhett Butler.  No one questioned the authenticity of my ludicrous claims- not even to note that Rhett is, in fact, a fictional character.

Between our arduous schedule of hostessing duties, going to parties, hanging at Washout, and exploring what bars would let us in with out rather dubious forms of identification, we cooked.  The seafood market on the way home from the beach, along with the roadside vegetable stands were our main sources of sustenance (along with Bert's hot dogs).  I have never been so skinny as I was that summer.  Sigh, glory days.

Anyway, back to the present.  So, this is the sequel to the first legendary Charleston Receipts cookbook.  I needed something a little more current after the soup and eggs experiment.  I love this cookbook!  You can tell by its dog-eared nature- I loved to read it when I was a child, and peruse the menus and beautiful illustrations of south of Broad life.

First- a Cheese Soufflé (a misnomer, it's really more of a strata, delicious either way)
Take four pieces of high quality white bread- or the rough equivalent of French bread, which is what I did, and a heaping half-pound of freshly-grated sharp cheddar. Layer a slice of torn up bread, and a fourth of the cheese.  Repeat 3 times.

Mix together the following:
  • 3 eggs separated and beaten.  I don't know why you separate them, because it all goes in together- you don't beat the whites until they are stiff, and fold them in like you would for a soufflé.
  • 2 1/2 cups milk (I used 1%)
  •  1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • sprinkle of red pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon mined onion (I cheated here and used about a tablespoon of onion)
Pour the egg-milk mixture into your casserole dish.  Now let sit in your fridge for a least 5 hours, or overnight.

Preheat your oven to 325, then place your soufflé in a larger baking dish full of water.  Carefully put the whole shebang in the oven (cooking the soufflé in the water mollycoddles your custard to just the right consistency), for an hour and a half.

Okay, we have much more coming.  My mouth is drooling just thinking of this soufflé, and I have two other recipes to share with you readers.  However, blogger is being a hater, and refusing to upload any pictures.  Y'all have to see this gooey cheesy yumminess to understand how much I love Nancy Jane, and her not-actually-a-soufflé Cheese Soufflé. So, to be continued, and a souffle cliffhanger.

Spoiler- it turns out delectable.

Nov 16, 2010

New Mama Cuisine

So I've been busy taking dinners to all the new mamas in our group of friends lately, especially as the last year has been a baby boom!  The other day I had several questions on how to put together the meal (ahem, Kinger) in a special way.  So I photographed my stuffed shells for y'all this past Sunday.  Now, those of you who have actually been new moms, please correct me if I am supposing wrong with anything, or give me any suggestions.

The most important facet of the meal is disposal containers!  If you've got a wee one fussing at you, the last thing you need to think about is when you are going to return someone's dishes.  Glad makes some especially nice oven-ware which comes in packs of threes.  It's perfect for my meal- 2 packs of stuffed shells, and one of salad.

A recipe for a 13x9 pan usually works just as well in two 8x8 pans.  That way, recipient can put one in the freezer- perfect for when that flood of food dries up.  Especially if you are part of a "meal train", the family is going to have leftovers coming out of the ears.  I attach a card to the uncooked pan of shells with freezer and baking instructions.
 Now salad can be a bit difficult, since you don't want to dress it, as it might be wilted by the time the family eats it.  However, an easy way to jazz up a very simple green salad (here, just mache and cherry tomatoes) is to make a homemade dressing.  It will take about three minutes, and makes a world of difference.  I do either a vinaigrette or simple creamy dressing and put it in a mason jar.  This one is easy, and made with ingredients I usually have on hand.

Creamy Peppercorn Parmesan Dressing-
1/2 high quality mayonnaise, (or Greek yogurt or sour cream could be used if you are one of those mayo haters- hmmmppph)
1/2 cup Parmesan
1/4-1/2 cup milk (add to desired consistency)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
Tons of freshly cracked pepper

Whisk together, pour into your jar, then let sit in the fridge for a while for the flavors to meld.

I like to tie a ribbon coordinated with the gender of the new baby- it's all about a little flair ladies!
A name-card with the menu and any instructions.  Wrap  the heated dish in a new clean dishtowel.

Now, a burlap grocery bag tied up and ready to go! 

Of course I got this all together so purty, and forgot both the bread and the dessert I had ready.  Sigh.

Nov 12, 2010

T & A

This is a slightly serious post, and I suggest my couple of male readers will be totally disinterested with "Do I look fat?" talk, so move along. 

Let's talk body image ladies.

The other day in Jazzercise (don't snicker, it burns more calories for me than running and involves "sexy walking"- try it and you'll be addicted!), I was looking at the girl in front of me.  She was about my height but probably 20 pounds lighter.  Basically the size I was when I was a freshman in high school.  Waif-like yet toned.  I started daydreaming about how nice it would be to have a figure like that.  I wouldn't have to layer on the heavy duty sports bras at the very least.  I could wear button ups, and pencil skirts without looking like a slut bucket.

Most of the time, I'm pretty content with my body.  Don't misunderstand me, I wouldn't mind losing five pounds or so, but I think that's pretty normal.  I like to exercise, and I like to eat lots of fruits and veggies.  As long as I keep those in track, I eat pretty much what I want.  If I was more regimented, I would lose those five pounds, but I just don't care that much.

Anyway, so a group of us were eating dinner, and I said something about how I saw this skinny girl and wanted to lose some weight.  One of my male friends turned to me, and asked why in the hell girls want to be so skinny. Men like curves, he stated.  Girls who look like girls. 

I pondered this.  I feel like girls like to be tiny for other girls.  I know that Hubs has no interest in me being a stick figure.  My trainer once told me he was never going to let me become twig-like, as (a) I wouldn't have a life, (b) I would be grumpy and (c) my figure is cute as it is, now let's just get my body fat percentage down.

So, when I weighed myself this am, and saw the water weight effects of my sodium laced Chinese food extravaganza last night, I tried not to freak out.  Tried being the operative word. Lately, due to the Halloween debacle and plethora of delightfully fun-sized bits of chocolate in the house, a reliance on too much diet coke, and several incidents like the aforementioned moo shu pork, my face is a  bit rounder than normal.  I need to remind myself that I look cute, and a little winter padding never hurt anyone.  However, it's so difficult not to freak out, and start a shame cycle. 

Why do we do this ladies?  I'm in a bad mood because I've gained a couple pounds- that's so ridiculous if you objectively consider that reaction. I should be grateful and proud, instead of envious of others.  I'm never going to be tall and flat-chested. If I was I would probably lament my lack of boobs, instead of celebrating the fact that I can wear anything.  Those body envy moments are thankfully so much rarer than they were in the past, when I was not as strong in my body image as I am now. 

I shoudl be thankful that I have a strong healthy body that does pretty much everything I ask of it. 

Except fit into a size two.

Nov 10, 2010

The Junior League Project- Chicken or the Egg?

So we first turn to River Road Recipes, a classic for good reason.  however, it does include a few recipes which are wee bit dated.  My eye caught this Sunday Night Quickie and my curiosity was piqued, as it frankly sounds equal parts disgusting and intriguing. 

I can just imagine a young housewife in Baton Rouge, trying to get ready for a party, her hair in rollers with a kerchief tied around her head.  She's sweating in her late 1950's Louisiana kitchen, wearing a man's shirt and pedal pushers, dealing with a crying baby, and a a couple of sick toddlers. Frantic and frustrated, she makes herself drink, while trying to find a clean pair of stockings with the baby squalling on her hip.  Taking a gulp of her drink for fortitude, she stumbles on a clean pair of stockings, and finds her dinner plan in the pantry.  A can of soup won't go far enough, but mixing it with some eggs in resting in the icebox would do just right.  Her girl would be there to watch the babies soon, and she just need to get them fed.

So young Miz Benton came up with this concoction.

4 eggs, slightly beaten.
 A can of condensed chicken noodle soup.  I used alphabet, because my local grocery didn't have regular noodle.  I know.

 Pour into your buttered skillet and scramble.

Eat with toast. 

Well, Miz Benton, I think this should be renamed "Tummy Bug Kiddie Quickie".  It tastes like something your mama would make you when you're little and sick.  As an adult it tastes like chicken soup flavored eggs.  Which is disconcerting. And worthy of a couple bites, before it just gets bizarre.

 Even Buddy was not a fan.

So now it's time for one of the accomplished ladies of the league to help us.  Nothing like a roasted chicken on a late fall Sunday evening to make your husband a happy man.  I got a high five after this one.

Of course, garlic chicken has a stick and a half of butter, but I just ignored that aspect.  Stick some parsley, 1/2 a stick of butter, and a clove or two of garlic in the chicken's rear end. Then for modesty's sake, cover it with some tin foil.  I add some fingerling potatoes to the dutch oven.  Cover and put in a 300 degree oven for a couple hours, basting with a butter sauce every 15 minutes or so.  This gives you plenty of time to do some laundry, take your adorable new golden retriever for a stroll, take a bath, make some rice and roasted Brussels sprouts, and set the table.

This was delish.  I've been eating it all week.  The slow low roasting of the chicken led to a super juicy chicken, without the dreaded dry breast.  Now, Mrs. Duchien didn't tell me how long it was supposed to stay in the oven, so you just gotta keep an eye on it.  Poke it with a fork- if the juices are pink, then keep it cooking.  If you have a thermometer the breast should be about 160 degrees.

Now this was a great dinner.  The chicken was wonderful- again probably due to the butter.

I have a feeling that my jazzercise session did not cancel out this tender buttery chicken.  I wonder if Mrs. Duchien's face was as round as mine?

Nov 9, 2010

The Junior League Project

I'm so excited to start this new project in my kitchen.  Have I told y'all that I collect vintage cookbooks?  I adore their instructions which evoke a bygone world, replete with instructions on how to deal with your help, menus for parties in which you don't have the aid of helpers, and a myriad of ways to help a housewife.  Having help for parties is one thing which I sorely lack.  I was green with envy over a dear friend at Georgia, who's mama would send her housekeeper up to Athens to clean her house before she had a big party.  Her mama also surprised her with an adorable zebra print trench-coat, which I coveted.

But I digress.

So I have a huge stack of these cookbooks from the fifties and sixties, as well as an enormous pile of Junior League cookbooks.  If you're out and about, and you run into a Junior League cookbook (especially in the South), buy it.  These ladies know what they're about.  So, once or so a week, y'all are going to be treated to some favorite, and well, interesting recipes from these cookbooks.  First up will be a classic- River Road Recipes.

You can see I'm ready- shirtdress, hose, pearls, and . . .


Hope my slippers don't get me kicked out of the Junior League.  Or as it is commonly pronounced down here- the "June-ya-leeg"

Nov 8, 2010

Battle of the Blondes

Well, maybe more like a meeting of the minds-

Meet our new buddy. . .tentatively titled, Buddy!

I'm a smitten kitten- can you tell?

Nov 3, 2010

Lazy Soufflés

So the other night, Daddy came over with some steaks for Hubs to grill for us.  I scrambled out of the office around six thirty, warned Daddy (a notoriously early eater) that we would be eating "Continental" style, and careened my buggy through the grocery.  Flinging off my lady lawyer heels and slinging on an apron, I got to work. Halved some Brussel sprouts and chopped an onion, tossed with some olive oil salt and pepper- into the 400 oven for about half an hour and done.

That's when I decided to get ambitious. 

"Hmmm."  I thought, staring into the depths of my fridge.  "I'm feeling rather culinary genius-like.  What shall I create?"  Seeing a bag of angel hair shredded cabbage, I thought that a soufflé with the cabbage would be a perfect addition to my fall menu. 

I started with a bechamel sauce- butter, flour, and milk.  Then let cool and added a couple of egg yolks.
 It was thick as hell. 

That's not how it's how it's supposed to be.  But, I said "expletive-it", and soldiered on, whipping my egg whites.

 I was getting a touch frantic at this point, as Hubs was wandering about the kitchen asking me random questions, and my Dad arrived, asking when we were going to eat. A touch of yolk went into my whites, but I scooped it out, and decided to move on. 


I whipped my egg whites further.  They stiffened to  certain point, then decided to stiffen no more.  "Well", I thought, "I'm sure that's good enough." I folded the whites into my cabbage bechamel mess, then spooned them into my buttered and Parmesaned ramekins.

Optimistically, I stuck them in the oven and did not even peek for 25  minutes, dreaming of pouffy mini-souffles. Well, I wasn't missing much by not peeking, because those soufflés had not risen a whit.  I closed the oven back up, and decided to eat the rest of out meal.  Thank goodness I had bread on hand, because Brother came by too, and I had barely enough Brussel sprouts as it was. 

A good hour of cooking later I realized that my soufflés were bound and determined not to rise.  I pulled them out of the oven anyway, poured a brown butter sauce on top, and served them to the hungry boys at my table.

Who loved them. 

Dense cabbage not-soufflés.  Just goes to show a little butter goes a long way.

Nov 2, 2010


Our first fire was lit, a scrumptious assortment of candy was purchased and ready to be gifted to small children adorably costumed, and chili was made.  The chili was about the only positive aspect of this first Halloween in our new house.  Adapted from Jenna's recipe, this white chicken chili was delish.

White Chicken Chili
1 head cauliflower
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 rotisserie chicken (or cook your own fryer)
1 inion
3-4 cloves garlic
2 cans great northern beans
14.5 ounces chicken broth (plus an additional 1/2 cup)

2 7-ounce cans chopped green chilies
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/2 cup half & half
8 ounce reduced fat sour cream

Heat the oven to 400.  Break apart the cauliflower and toss with a couple tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt. Roast on a baking sheet until browned- about 25 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add chopped onion and sauté for about six minutes, or until the the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another three minutes. Add chicken and stir.

Add the beans, spices, chicken broth and green chilies and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for thirty minutes.

Meanwhile, remove the cauliflower from  the oven and put in a large bowl.  Add a 1/2 cup of chicken broth, and puree with an immersion blender (or put in a blender).  Add to the chili and cook another 10-15 minutes.
Turn off the heat and add the sour cream and half & half. Serve with cheddar cheese and additional sour cream to top.

I also made Seven Layer Brownie Bars, so great was my excitement.  This is not for the faint of heart or the watcher of the waist.  But it's good!

1 box brownie mix
1 stick of butter
1 heaping cup of coconut
1 cup butterscotch chips
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 heaping cup pecans
1 can sweetened condensed milk

Preheat the oven to 350
Melt the stick of butter and spread it along the bottom of a 13x9 pan
Sprinkle the brownie mix on top
Sprinkle coconut, then butterscotch, then chocolate chips, then pecans on top.
drizzle the milk all over the pecans.
Bake for 45 minutes.
let cool completely.

Sounds awful rich!

I know, that’s why I serve it over ice cream to cut the sweetness.*

So I got all cozy in the living room, wearing my slippers and rabbit ears, reading my new magazine and anxiously anticipating my first trick or treaters, ever!  Growing up, our house is down a long windy then-country road, so we had to go to our friends' neighborhoods, and never had trick or treaters.  But now was the time!

Or not.
This is about 9 O'Clock when I got teary-eyed realizing we were not going to have a single child knock on our door.  Not even a lackadaisically dressed teenager. Laughing, Hubs comforted me (I was laughing too, as my reaction was ridiculous).  But I was SO disappointed! 
Our new neighborhood is connected to two major trick or treating hoods, so I think you just toddle over to those if you live in our area.  Boo.

Does anyone need any candy?  Lord knows, we've got plenty leftover.  Sob.

*What movie ladies?