Month: December 2010

True Grit (s)

Grits. It is a Southern birthright and we are as picky about our grits as Kentuckians are about their Mint Juleps. Properly prepared, It is a marriage of texture, thickness and creaminess. Improperly made, it’s a bowl of watery, grainy glop. It is also a puzzlement for non-southerners. Working in convention hotels, I would get a lot of travelers that may not have been to the South before, and therefore, may not have been exposed to some of the finer southern delicacies…. like grits. I have been told by customers that they didn’t think they could eat a whole bowl.. “Can I just have one grit to try?” Or.. “What does a grit plant look like?” or even.. “Wow! these are really small seeds…” It’s just very sad….. What it am… Grits are corn ~ coarse-ground hominy corn to be exact. Hominy is made from a large, flat kernel called flint (or dent) corn. It is then air-dried on the cobb and shucked. The kernels are then soaked in a lye or wood ash solution …

Randomness and a Casserole

It’s funny what your subconscious decides to attach memories to… or for that matter, how or why it decides that particular events in your past need remembering. I’m not talking about monumental events, I’m talking about bizarre, crappy little happenings in your life – a fleeting moment that really has no bearing or influence on future events. I keep thinking that one day I’ll wake up and all that random brain flotsam will coalesce, finally giving me the answers to some great truth. ..or not… Panama City was our “summer vacation town”. When we were all toddlers, we’d rent a cottage on the beach, play in the sand all day and go out to eat at night. I had one of those swanky Captain Anderson’s skipper caps with the patent leather bills even….. I wore it for years. So, when my aunt moved there, Panama City became our anytime of the year vacation destination. We’d visit during the summer, of course.. but then there were the odd Halloween visits, and in particular… a Christmas visit. …

Snow Day and the Winter Squash

I remember when I was a kid… And on the news, those venerable, gray-haired weather men would swear that we would awake to a White Christmas. It never happened. Christmas in Georgia is almost always – a rainy 47 degrees…. you can count on it. I’ve always considered it a very cruel joke that children in the South get sleds and toboggans for Christmas. “Here’s something for you that you can never ever use.. just look at it.. and be happy you got presents this year…. “ We even got those aluminum disc sled things one year. We used them once and it really wasn’t even snow… it was just that slushy glop covering the ground just enough to turn the underlying red clay into slick putty. It was probably just as well – the back yard was a 60 degree slope terminating at a perpetually icy, fresh-water spring…. We would have died of hypothermia. They mostly just hung in the garage. It became one of those things that never got used. I remember my …

Banana Nut Muffins

My mom always used Clara’s recipe whenever she made banana bread. It was the perfect density, the right amount of heft and just an all around good banana bread. Somewhere down the road, Jane came across the idea to add a tablespoon of scotch to the mix. It’s amazing what just that little amount of scotch can do to elevate that full banana flavor to really wonderful heights. Now that I’ve gotten hold of the recipe, I’ve made an additional adjustment by grinding the nuts to a coarse meal. For a muffin, I prefer that all the textures are homogeneous to give you a better bite across the muffin without obstacles in the way. And considering the density issues common with gluten free breads, I felt the muffin would be a good candidate, so I’ve also played around with a gluten free version. Now you don’t have any excuse for not making some. Clara’s Banana Bread & Banana Nut Muffins Makes 1 Loaf -or- 18 Muffins Ingredients 1/2 Cup Butter or Margarine (if you are …

The Stylish Blogger Award

A couple of weeks ago I was extremely surprised to receive the Stylish Blogger Blogger Award from The Kitchenarian. For those that may not know, the Stylish Blogger is given out by our peers in the blogosphere to those that inspire us, intrigue us and propel us to be a better blogger – or, at least that’s how I see it. I’m not terribly good at accepting praise… it’s a fault. I’ve always been one of those who was happiest just milling around in the background…. because… I know myself pretty well, and if I am left untethered, I’m just liable to go on…uncontrollably…like THIS. (really, click there.) The Kitchenarian was one of the first food blogs I started to follow in earnest. Her clean style, uncomplicated approach, and subject matter was the type of blog I wanted to write. Unfortunately, my style progressed a tad more haphazardly – and my slanted sense of humor took control of what I had intended. But through my own growing pains, she has remained a constant voice in …

Mr. Tamale?

Never really satisfied with drip coffee makers, whenever a new model, or different design came out – I bought it. Over the years I’ve bought a lot of coffee makers. I mean… currently, there are 9 sitting on the work table out in the garage, and – that’s only counting the ones that are still working. With each pot came a lifetime supply of coffee filters which I dutifully wedged into the gadget drawer with the cacophony of measuring spoons, extra lids and filters… stacks of filters. I have since switched to the coffee pot of my youth – a vacuum pot – and will probably never return to the antiquated Mr. Coffee brew pot thingy on the counter-top. So now … I have all these filters. and as I’ve never been one to throw something away that might – sometime in the distant future – be useful, I’ve kept them… in the gadget drawer… … blocking out the light. I had a hankering to make some tamales the other day and went to dig …

Winner, Winner,… Sausage Dinner

I don’t win stuff. I’m not one of those good karma guys that fills out the raffle ticket and wins the  vacation of a lifetime. It just never happens…well, rarely happens. I did win a Chicago’s Greatest Hits Album when I was 14. And, I almost always got the brownies at the church Cake Walk… and I did win the Grand Prize at last year’s Project Red New Year’s Eve Celebration in NYC… (but that was airfare and tickets to some freakishly loud techno concert…..and a year’s supply of red sneakers….. I gave it back…. I’m 50 for Pete’s sake!) So when I won the Marx Foods raffle for a nine (yes, 9) pound box of assorted sausage, I was suitably stoked. I love a good sausage. I especially love a well-made sausage. And, the game meat sausages from Marx Foods have not disappointed me. What I got in the package was: Venison Sausage with Merlot & BlueberriesLamb Merguez Buffalo Sausage with Chipotle Chilies Duck Sausage with Foie Gras & Sauterne Wine Duck Sausage with …

Sliced & Diced – Product Reviews

My best friend grew up in Brazil where his father had a very successful business designing, manufacturing and distributing kitchen gadgetry. He had a little factory where he would put the things together and Luc’s mom would travel the countryside hawking his creations at every home show and technology convention they could find. There was a Whack-A-Chopper (you know, those chopping contraptions that you slap with the palm of your hand.)…  a Pineapple Corer, and a Burger Press. Not particularly sophisticated tools – except for the chopper thingy (the interior blade would rotate at each chop to produce super fine umm.. chopped up things.. I still use it to this day.) It is, in short – fabulous. My only complaint to his products was there really wasn’t much marketing thought put into them… they were all  that fleshy pink, hospital bed pan color. Really, truly ugly things to have in the kitchen.I love bad kitchen gadgets. I love anything that has that little red box and those awe producing words “As Seen on TV” plastered …

Bad Pie – The Harbinger of Death…in a crust

If you’re ever a contestant in a game show, and you’re down to the $100,000.00 question… and the host asks you… “Can you substitute Rutabagas for Butternut Squash in a pie?” The answer is no….  No you can’t. Let me explain. Mom usually does the big holiday spread for Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, this year she wasn’t feeling all that great, so I offered to help out. I did the duck (2 ways – crispy fragrant and plain roasted), assembled the ingredients and prepared the pureed rutabagas, cooked the cranberries and asparagus, and even prepped the butternut squash for her award winning pie. I headed out to run a few last minute errands and when I came in later that day, mom already had the pie made. She commented that maybe her taster was off, as the pie didn’t taste like it normally did. She had been sick, so that was possible…. The timer dinged..the pie came out… and immediately began to crack and look..well…pasty. …and then there was the smell….  nothing you could put your finger …