By now, you all know that I love to cook. For me, cooking is like art. I am always amazed by the flavors, aroma and beauty that is created. It doesn’t matter how simple or how complicated a recipe may be, it is the end product that entices me. I love shopping local farmers markets, butcher’s shop or fish market when I get a chance. I have been known to drive hours to shop at a specialty grocery store. Nothing gets my creativity going like finding something new to try.
One of my standard gift requests is for my daughter to send me spices from Central Market. I just love Central Market. That trip to the specialty store I mentioned, that was to Central Market in Austin when I lived in Houston. HEB had not graced Houston with one yet. That was a very long time ago. This past year, once again I asked for spices for Christmas. But to my surprise, she gifted me a year of spices from a company called Piquant Post.
During one of our conversations, I let her know that I had received her gift. I didn’t know how to respond because I knew nothing about Piquant Post. I looked at the little packages of spices and the recipe cards included. They came in this plain brown envelope, nothing exciting. The spices are finely ground so I couldn’t really tell much about it. It lacked the visual interest of spices not ground so finely. The first recipes were things I already make or had made before. I felt bad because all I could say is that it was interesting. I am a little bit of a snob when it comes to food. So, when the next shipment arrived, I took the time to really look at the recipes. These had more spice and creativity of food combinations. Ok, I thought I can work with that.
Living here in Florida, we have amazing Caribbean food. So, I decided the first recipe I would try was going to be the Jerk Chicken. I followed the recipe exactly as the card instructed using chicken breast. I decided to serve mine with yellow rice and fresh tomato slices. I was so surprised that I really like it! I mean, I could have made it hotter, but it was a great combination. I cooked mine in the oven and used the broiler to give a little char. My husband agreed with me that it was very good. I made a note of the recipe card of our rating. This is one I will want to make again.
Now, Piquant Post does not have an online store for gift subscription receivers to order more spices from yet. But you can email them your request according to their website. My daughter can order since she sent it to me. I will investigate the reorder process and see what happens. You can’t remake the recipe if you don’t have the spice combination they provided.
Lacey did a good job surprising me with this one! Tonight, is Cuban Mojo Marinated Pork.
On my way home, I stopped in Houston to see my daughter. Nothing puts a smile on my face like Lacey. We had dinner at one of our spots called James Coney Island. The memories we have made eating hotdogs there will always stick out in my mind. Thanks for another memory Kiddo!
I stayed a couple nights so that I could also get a chance to see Amber and Chris. I am so excited…they get married in January!! So proud of these two and the amazing future they have together.
I headed to downtown Houston so that I could go to James Avery and do some shopping. I love their jewelry and always find something for a gift or myself when I go. I picked a few things and headed over to Central Market.
HEB is a Texas chain grocery store and their specialty stores are Central Market. I wish Florida had an HEB, let alone a Central Market. The fresh squeezed orange juice puts all others to shame. You will find five or six different kinds of potatoes to exotic fruits in their produce. My mind just goes crazy with ideas when I am there. I want to take it all home. They have a butcher shop on sight as well as fresh seafood. A bakery and freshly made foods to take home, all kinds of spices, coffee and teas are just the tip of the iceberg of what you can find. I fill my basket with all my favorites that I can’t get anywhere else and spices galore. I think I picked up at least 4 lbs. of Texas Pecan Coffee. If you ever get a chance to shop at HEB, you will love it. And if you get a chance to shop at Central Market, bring a cooler!
After my little shopping spree and lunch, I headed over to Half Price Books in Pearland. I love the book store and lose time when I am in there. Then I made a stop at my favorite antique store there in town, Brows’ Aroun’ Antiques. They have been there since 2001 and I have been going there since they opened. I love finding new little treasures when I shop, and they never disappoint.
I had to make this visit short, but I will be back again soon. I made a stop in Port Allen LA on my way home to stock up on my Cajun favorites for cooking. Bergeron’s Boudin and Cajun Meats is where I pick up my tasso and andouille. Wait until you see what I cook with them!
We were home late on Sunday from Massachusetts and I was back on the road by Tuesday heading to Texas. It’s shower time y’all!
I arrived Wednesday at the little house and unpacked before heading up to my sister’s. My car was loaded with wedding decorations including the bouquet. Talk about a nervous drive trying to make sure nothing got screwed up. But I was glad I was able to bring it out and now we can focus on the shower.
We hit the ground running when I arrived. Reviewing through the menu and getting our lists together of what we still needed to buy. Decorations have been accumulated and it was time to start getting them up. Marie’s house is looking amazing and all the work being done for the wedding is really paying off. I can’t wait to show you all the work when it is done.
Thursday is a day of decorating, getting our nails done (mine look horrid after all the crafting), grocery shopping and of course the liquor store. I have things to do! Ashley comes in to try on her dress so that I can get an idea of what needs to be adjusted. Oh my, her dress is beautiful and all lace! And it needs to be taken in quite a bit. Holy cow!!!
Friday I am deep into my cooking mode so all worries about alternations will have to wait. I make my Sangria using a Llano red wine and a berry brandy. Llano is one of my favorite Texas wine companies. They also have an amazing port I highly recommend. So here was the menu for the shower. I had to make up the chocolate bread pudding for the dessert tamales and prep the rest of the menu. Luckily the beans, rice and tortillas came from Rosa’s and would be picked up before the shower along with a few other things. We had a few last-minute decorations to make and were so glad Beth and Carla came over to help. Chairs are delivered from Borrowed Treasures. I love the assortment they brought and can’t wait to see what they do for the wedding. Our brother Chip and his wife Noemi arrive with our niece Anita. Woo hoo!
Saturday as Marie is rushing around running last minute errands (our brother too) I have Anita working those arm muscles helping me with the two sauces for the tamales. The cookies as gifts were so adorable from Back Home Bakery. Long story short, it was great! Everything went well for the shower. We had over 50 people show up and Ashley was happy. We took care of the food and venue so that Havalah and the rest of the bridal party could concentrate on the bride. Noemi and Beth worked hard helping me with the food and clean up. My brother cooked the meats and jalapenos and Clarinda was the photographer. Michelle made the red sauce, yummy! I am so grateful and thankful for everyone’s help!
Sunday was a day spent finishing the headdress for the flower girls, taking in the wedding dress and chatting with my sister. Ashley will be a beautiful bride and I know that when I go back before the wedding, more alterations may be needed. The wedding is just a month away…
My husband and I are huge fans of bread pudding. During one of our dinners at Kres is Orlando, the chef had sent out bread pudding for us to try after the incredible dinner he had prepared. What a surprise and enjoyment to taste this amazing creation. It was made with Brioche!
Brioche is amazing bread. So light and a little sweetness that you just can’t resist, or at least it is hard for me. When I was shopping at The Fresh Market in Kissimmee I picked up a package of their cinnamon swirl brioche tray. It is like a cinnamon roll without the icing and extra sugar. Such a nice balance of the brioche with the cinnamon. Tasted so good warmed up with a little butter on it. The next day I had a piece toasted with fresh fruit.
Tonight, after the brioche had been in the refrigerator for a couple of days I decided to fix my husband a little surprise of bread pudding from the cinnamon swirl brioche. Now there are a million recipes for bread pudding out there. But this recipe is mine. So, you’re getting my little secrets I don’t normally share.
1 loaf of cinnamon swirl brioche
4 eggs beaten
4 cups of heavy whipping cream
½ cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon and a little more to dust the top
½ cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried strawberries diced
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cut brioche into 1-inch cubes and place in large bowl. In another bowl combine the sugar, beaten eggs, heavy whipping cream, vanilla, nutmeg and cinnamon making sure it is mixed well. Pour mixture over brioche cubes and let soak for 30 minutes. (Brioche is not toasted or dry, so you don’t need to soak any longer than that. If you do have dried brioche, then soak at least an hr.) Fold in the cranberries and strawberries. Spray casserole or baking dish with Pam or you can use butter. Pour mixture into dish, sprinkle with cinnamon and bake in oven for 45 minutes to an hour.
Adding the pudding to brioche
Soaking my bread pudding
Adding the dried strawberries and cranberries
Poured up and ready
Dust of cinnamon
Allow the bread pudding to cool. You can top with whatever whiskey sauce, chocolate sauce, vanilla sauce, fresh fruit or ice cream of your choice.
As I mentioned, I used dried strawberries in this one. You can use whatever dried fruits you would like and nuts as well. Here in Central Florida we are huge on the strawberries and if you haven’t tried dried strawberries, you should. It is like a little fruit leather (fruit roll-up) still in the fruit. There are recipes on Pinterest with directions for drying strawberries. You don’t need extra sugar with them as the drying process brings that out. But once you have one, it is hard to stop eating them.
Swerve to the rescue
Tonight, I had some fresh strawberries I need to use up. I cut them up and add a little sweetener (I use Swerve instead of sugar 90% of the time) to them (about a tablespoon) and let them sit in the refrigerator while I made the bread pudding. Then I added an oz of both vodka and Chambord to the strawberries. Gave them a little mix and put them back in the refrigerator. When I gave the bread pudding to my husband, I topped it off with the drunk strawberries. Now here is a little secret, take the strawberries (4 cups worth), leave them whole but remove stems and place in a Ziploc bag. Add the sugar, ½ cup fresh orange juice, vodka, and an oz of Grand Marnier. Let the strawberries sit for about an hour turning every 1/5 minutes. Serve the strawberries in a nice stemmed glass with a little sprinkle of rock sugar on top and some whipped cream. Taste incredible with a scone or shortbread cookie on the side and a nice cup of coffee.
Potato salad is one of my favorite foods to make when you have a cookout or large gathering. It brings back such great memories of watching my grandmother make it. She would make it for church functions and to go with fried chicken. I have not tasted potato salad like hers anywhere else. It is very refreshing and different.
It has been a while since I have made it. I had to pare it down for just the two of us this time. I think it is pretty good even if I say so myself. There are no true measurements, so you will kind of have to take a light hand and add more if needed. But give it a try and let me know what you think.
Grandma Treva’s Potato Salad
5 lbs of potatoes cleaned, peeled and chopped into bite size pieces
½ a large onion finely chopped
1 large bell pepper finely chopped
1 apple peeled and finely chopped
2 celery stalks cleaned and finely chopped
2 eggs boiled and finely chopped
1 tbsp prepared mustard
½ cup to 1 cup of mayonnaise
1/3 cup to ½ cup of apple cider vinegar
1 tsp of salt or more to taste
Put potatoes and salt in large pot with water covering potatoes by 2 inches. Boil until just done so a fork can easily pierce through the potatoes. This should take about 20 minutes. Drain potatoes into strainer and sprinkle vinegar on potatoes making sure to cover all and let drain. Put potatoes in a large bowl with onion, bell pepper, apple, celery and eggs. Add mayonnaise, mustard and gently combine. Add more salt if needed but taste it first. Place in serving bowl and sprinkle gently with paprika.
Getting ready to make potato salad
Good for you!
Apple a day will keep you smiling.
Left the skins on this time but think without is better.
Try to keep your fingers out of this…oh my!
** I switched out the usual vinegar with an apple balsamic vinegar. It gives it a deeper flavor. The sweetness of the apples and the tart of the vinegar makes this such a light salad. No sugar, pickles or relish is added!! You don’t need it. I have used granny smith apples and even ambrosia apples so use the one that you like the most. And being from the south, I have also been know to use Miracle Whip/Mayonnaise combo if I don’t have enough mayo.
Breakfast in my house is very simple. My husband has what he wants, and I have whatever I want. Normally anything heavy or big is saved for the weekends or special days. It’s not unusual to find him drinking a protein shake while I am trying to fold my breakfast taco without my salsa dripping out. What can I say, I am Texas girl who loves her tacos anyway I can have them.
This weekend I decided to make my husband his favorite buttermilk pancakes. This recipe is one dating back to my home economics days in junior high. Tried and true recipe that can be tweaked to please any palate. From adding chocolate chips to chia seeds, I have manipulated this basic recipe so many times over the years. This includes making it lactose free, fat-free and dairy free. This is a good base and basic recipe that also is incredible as a waffle since the buttermilk can make it thick.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1 ½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup oil
2 tsp vanilla
Shift the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Combine the egg and wet ingredients in medium bowl. Stir liquid ingredients into dry ingredients until moistened.
Preheat griddle or large skillet to 325 degrees or medium heat. Lightly grease your griddle/skillet. Pour about ½ cup batter onto the hot griddle for each pancake. Cook until the tops are bubbly and seem to be look dry. Turn and cook until browned. That usual takes a couple of minutes.
Pancake dry and liquid ingredients ready to go.
Batter thickens as it sets.
I happen to not be a big syrup fan and we try to eat as healthy as we can muster. I am a big fan of either making your own fruit syrup or compote. Mixed berries are what I chose to make for these pancakes. Strawberry, blueberries and blackberries is what you will find in the recipe, but you may use whatever combination you want or just one type. I have been known to also do a pineapple compote. If you try that I suggest adding a little cinnamon to your pancakes. Great combination of flavors.
1 cup of strawberries sliced
1 cup of blueberries
1 cup of blackberries
1 tbsp. of orange juice
2 tbsp. of honey
1 tbsp. of vanilla extract
1 tsp nutmeg
1 cinnamon stick
Combine the fruit and orange juice in a sauce pan over medium heat stirring as the fruit begin to cook. As the fruit starts to break down and release their juices, add honey. You may need more depending on how sweet you like it and the sweetness of the fruit. I try to use fruit that is ripe to almost too ripe. They have the most flavor and juices. Add the nutmeg and cinnamon stick. Allow fruit to simmer until cooked and you have a thick syrup. Remove from heat and add the vanilla. Stir and it is ready to serve either hot or you can let it cool.
Fresh or frozen…fruit makes great syrup and compotes
Fresh nutmeg and cinnamon on the fruit
Always use local honey when you can. Stubbs is one of ours and gift from my neighbors.
Vanilla extract from Mexico! Thank you Jana for thinking of me on your cruise.
Fruit has cooked down and syrup thickens.
I don’t cook the pancakes, my husband does. He is great at making eggs and cooking pancakes so why change it now. These pancakes can also be kept in the freezer if you have leftovers and so can the compote.
Husband cooking the pancakes. Nothing but love here!
Pancakes ready for the freezer.
Fruit Compote premeasured for the pancakes and ready for the freezer.
It is lunch time and I am grilling my dinner already. My husband works late so I pack his dinner from what I make the day before. He generally eats out for lunch with his business partner or clients but working late requires dinner. I don’t want him having to eat at 9 or 10 o’clock at night so I pack his dinner. And today with the rain expected this evening I am making a simple Shish Kabob.
I picked up a 4-pound roast when I went shopping just for this. I would normally use venison, but I am down to just a little left and don’t want to use it on my kabobs. When you use a roast try to get one with good marbling but not too much fat. Otherwise, use a good marbled steak. Without the fat it is going to be tough even when you use a marinade.
I don’t like marinades if it overpowers the food. There are so many marinade recipes on Pinterest and the internet. But I stick to what I know and love so that the flavor of the meat takes center stage. For my ‘marinade’ I use a cup of beef bone marrow broth (or you can use canned beef stock but add rosemary and thyme to it). To that I add 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic, 1 tablespoon of Tony Chachere’s, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce and 2 tablespoons fresh cracked pepper. I cut the roast into squares and place in a vacuum seal container with the marinade. Once sealed I marinade overnight or at least 6 hours.
I prefer to use wooden skewers when cooking red meat. Metal skewers tend to heat up and cook the interior of the meat too much. I like our meat medium rare so to avoid overcooking I use the wooden skewers and soak them for at least an hour before using.
Today I am using large chopped onions, bell peppers and mushrooms with my shish kabobs. I don’t season the vegetables. The marinade and meat along with the smoky grill will add the right flavors to the vegetables without clashing with the meat.
I skewer the meat and vegetables alternating them allowing the meat to be separated to cook evenly. After heating the grill to 450 degrees, cook the skewers turning them after 3 to 5 minutes allowing the meat to sear without overcooking. And there you go, beef shish kabobs! Later I will serve it with rice and squash for my dinner. I made more than enough, and I will show you what I do with the leftovers. I won’t let good meat go to waste.
I thought I would talk a little about cooking with you today. Cooking is one of my favorite things to do. It is how I show my feelings and how I like to take care of people. I had written a cook book for my daughter, at her request, and then my computer crashed. I didn’t back it up! Rookie mistake to say the least. When I went to rewrite her another one, by this time she was now severely lactose intolerant. So, I had to set about changing recipes and making new ones to accommodate her needs. I will send her recipes at her request from time to time and started saving them along the way. So, one day, I will have a new cook book ready to go. Until then, I try to make sure I write it down and take pictures of the recipe to have additional backup of my creations.
Growing up in Texas, Tex-Mex and authentic Mexican food are my favorites. Grandma made great biscuits, but the refried beans and tortillas were my favorites for breakfast. Our mother made great German style foods. Italian was my go to as a teenager. Mother had a great marinara sauce, but I like mine even better. I loved taking Home Economics in school. It helped expose me to different types of food and how to make a kitchen function well. Trust me, if the kitchen set up doesn’t flow well, neither will your cooking.
As we grow up and get exposed to more cultures, our food sphere expands. I love food. I love figuring out the spices and learning different ways of cooking. From drinks to desserts, I am always excited to taste new things and how it is made. Learning what wines to pair with food, and how to make those cute little bubbles of spirits makes cooking so much more exciting. There is a wine or liquor for every course, I just love it!
I also love setting the table properly. I don’t get many occasions to do that anymore with the kids all grow up. So anytime Marie wants to have a party, I am right there with her. I miss setting the full array of dishes for a table. Berry bowls are one of favorites. Few know what they are, and I love explaining the history of it. My husband and I have yet to really buy a nice set of dishes since we married (both previously divorced). So, you will see a lot of pictures with my deer dishes from good old Bass Pro. But Marie, Marie is the collector of dishes. Part of that is my fault for giving my old china to her. It makes for great occasions when you have an array of different dishes to use and expands your décor options for the parties. To me a good set of dishes/China just makes the food taste better. It can be dishes from the dollar store but if you put in the effort to set a nice table, the food just stands out.
Both Marie and I are collectors of cookbooks. Some we both have, and some are unique to the other. I have been known to take all my cookbooks and stack them up beside my chair for a day of inspiration as I thumb through them. I love to feel the pages in my hands and sometimes the little stores that go along with them are written with the recipe. Don’t get me wrong, Pinterest is great for a quick idea and go to source. But nothing beats a good old cookbook in your hand.
Marie and I are both collectors of kitchen gadgets. Whether it is new or an antique, we both love our kitchen gadgets. KitchenAid has made it even easier with their mixers and all the wonderful attachments. Things as simple as a rolling-pin to a garlic press are so much fun. Pastry cutters and a simple mandolin can take a pie from good to great. One of my favorite ‘gadget’ you could say is my sous vide machine. I love it! My husband’s friend made his own sous vide from a YouTube video. Yeah, that didn’t work out too well. Then another friend who happens to be an incredible chef in his own right, showed me his set up. Again, the set up was homemade but far superior to the other. I opted to buy the actual whole machine for myself. They make an incredible countertop version. You would be amazed all the things you can make in it and how much it will help when it comes to throwing parties.
One of my husband’s favorite meals, venison with a Bordelaise sauce, I use my sous vide to cook. I decided to cook it and share with you how easy it is to make. Since my husband’s hunting and fishing supplies roughly 90% of our meat, I always have something wonderful on hand. With the meat defrosted, I prepared the sous vide machine by filling it with water and setting the temperature. I like my meat medium rare, so I set it for 134 degrees. As the water heats up I season the meat with my go to seasoning of granulated garlic (fresh garlic seems to go rancid when sous vide too long) and Tony Chachere’s Spicy Blend. Then I vacuum seal the venison loins in two separate bags making sure to double seal the ends. Once the water reaches the 134 degrees I place the sealed meat in the rack and set the timer for 4 hours. The venison would be ready in an hour if need be, but I wanted this for dinner, so I set it for 4 hours. The machine will cook the meat to the 134 degrees but never go beyond that and hold it at the temperature until ready to eat.
Sous Vide Empty
Ready to Cook Backstrap
Bordelaise sauce is a fair easy sauce to make. There are many different versions you can find on the internet. I prepare it the way I was taught by a chef friend of mine. I use half of a large shallot chopped (about 2 tablespoons), 2 cups of beef bone broth (I make my own but you can used canned broth and add a demi-glace to it), one tablespoon of butter, 2 cups of red wine (I used a Cabernet, but I prefer a Merlot), fresh cracked pepper and thyme (I showed a bottle of thyme but remembered I just planted some fresh so used it instead). Sauté the shallots until tender then add the thyme (roughly ½ a tablespoon). Then add the wine, broth and cracked pepper to taste (I like a lot of pepper so about a tablespoon). Simmer until reduced by half, strain the sauce before serving.
While the meat was cooking I prepared a butternut squash for the oven. Peeled, diced and seasoned with rosemary, garlic and Tony Chachere’s Spice N’ Herbs seasoning. I prepared a baking sheet with foil and sprayed it with avocado oil spray. Oven heated to 425 degrees, I cooked the squash for 20 minutes turn them halfway through the process.
Once the meat was ready, I removed it from the bags and let it sit for a couple minutes. Normally I would have prepared the grill to sear the outside, but it was raining. Instead I heated my skillet until it was hot and seared the outside of the meat. I like the lines the pan makes but I don’t want to cook the meat. I remove it from the heat and use a torch to make the lines darker on the meat and give it a little crunch on the outside. Perfectly medium rare!
Finished off the meal with some English peas and I have a happy husband. Have you tried Sous Vide cooking yet?