Saturday, December 13, 2008

HOLIDAY CHEER!!!

I made the following drink for Thanksgiving and it was a huge hit!! I wasn't sure if the Brandy in it would taste too Brandy-ish, but you could barely tell there was any in it. Dangerous? Not really. The recipe calls for 2 cups, but as you'll see after you dilute each glassful with the soda, you have 30+ servings, so no one drink is going to make anyone table dance! Do drink responsibly, and have a designated reindeer wrangler if someone over indulges!! Of course you could opt for a liquor free version, that's also very good, but you won't get the same slushie effect, so don't freeze it or you'll have nice juicy ice cubes!
It's pretty, it's festive and it has that great holiday combination of Cranberry and Orange flavors. I 'xpect we'll have it again during the upcoming holidays at some point. Maybe our Open House. Yeah, that's with our neighbors and they can just walk home! No crawling!! So grab a punch bowl, some pretty stemware and have some holiday cheer. This round's on me!!
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COMFORT COOK CATERING
615-525-8336

CRANBERRY-ORANGE SLUSH COCKTAIL

1 can (12 ounces) frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 can (12 ounces) frozen cranberry juice concentrate, thawed
2 cups brandy
1 bottle (32 ounces) cranberry juice cocktail *(I used Cran-Raspberry..Yum!)
2 bottles (1 liter each) lemon-lime soda pop or sparkling water *(I used 7-UP)
1.Mix all ingredients except soda pop in nonmetal container. Divide among pint containers. Cover and freeze at least 8 hours until slushy.
2. Pour equal parts juice mixture and soda into each glass and serve immediately.
TIP: I have also used a Wildberry blend frozen concentrate in place of the cranberry and feel certain you could use any fruit juice combination with the orange juice you'd like. I know the berry flavors work really well. And you know that Vodka would be great, too. So many versions for this one! Pick one and Enjoy!!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

PAUSE FOR THE CAUSE

Hey Folks, I'm taking a few days off from posting so I can get my big ole Turkey Dinner done for family and friends. I love Thanksgiving and all the cooking and planning. We are expecting around 10-12 guests. That includes and excludes girlfriends and neighbors. I'm not real sure who'll show up. But our dear friends Don and Beverly Pendley are coming to spend the day with us this year. I'm really excited about that! Don's bringing his guitar so we'll be singing for our supper, I guess you'd say. You gotta love that about Nashville....real Karaoke with live music, right in your living room. And Sam has called a half dozen times checking on the menu. The last conversation was a request for Oyster Dressing. Yep, I brought my boys up right!! He's bringing the oysters. I'll have a pan each of regular sage dressing and the oyster dressing for everybody to try. Two turkeys this year, too. One roasted and the other fried. I'm making sure I have my leftovers for that turkey sandwich Thursday night. Our dinner is planned for 1 P.M. and right in the middle of the Titans/Lions game, but Geraldo and I will have TV's going in the kitchen and living room till dinnertime, so we won't miss too much. The Titans playing on Thanksgiving put a wrench in our dinner schedule, but what would Thanksgiving Day be without a little football going on? I love the Titans, but I only get this day once a year! Priorities...mine, anyway.
I'm right on track with all the food prep. I'll be frying turkeys Wednesday for the ones that were ordered and one for us. Have a Wonderful Holiday and remember all that you have to be grateful for. Take the time to be thankful for all the many blessings we all share on any given day! I am thankful for you! Happy Thanksgiving!!

comfortcook@gmail.com
Comfort Cook Catering 615-525-8336

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

FRIED TURKEYS! PLACE YOUR ORDER NOW!!

"That was the best turkey I ever tasted!!" An actual quote from the Schmidt table last year at Thanksgiving. SO, I'm branching out this year and am offering to Fry Turkeys for any of those who don't want to put up with the mess or danger of frying that delectable bird! I am definitely setting up my cook site outside this year! We had that oil smell in our house for a month afterwards last year. Now, don't think I'm totally nuts....I would never light a propane tank over a tub of oil in the house! You see, we have an ELECTRIC turkey fryer, (Thanks Geraldo!) so we set it up in our attached garage and although everything smelled delicious that day, I gotta tell ya, that smell hung around and after a few days it became kinda gross. So this year I'm heading outside with my trusty MasterBilt Electric Turkey Fryer and offering my services to the frying impaired. Or to those who are clever enough to have someone else do the dirty work while they reap the moist, flavorful rewards!

If you've never had a Fried Turkey, you really ought to try one. They are all they're cracked up to be when they're pampered and prepared the right way. So if I can fry a turkey for you this year, have your order in before 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21 and come pick up your delicious turkey Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 26. $50.00 for a 12-14 lb turkey fried, wrapped and ready to go!

You can email your order to comfortcook@gmail.com
or call (615) 525-8336, Please leave a message and return phone number if you get voice mail.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

30 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS COOKIES

Here are 30 beautiful and delicious holiday cookie recipes from the food editors at Good Housekeeping Magazine. Just click your mouse on the title above and take a look at some great cookie ideas!
Comfortcook@gmail.com
COMFORT COOK CATERING
615-525-8336

Monday, November 10, 2008

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN...START YOUR OVENS!!

Recently, my mailbox has been filling up with so many wonderful cooking magazines filled with scrumptious recipes and photos of beautiful Holiday treats and meals. (Is that the same turkey year after year on Bon Appetit? I swear those herbs are in the exact same spot, under the exact same breast, as last year's issue.) Skeptic? Anyway, this is part of all the hub bub I love about the holidays. I read all these great new recipes with all these great new ideas for sides and desserts and think, "Oh, yea, that sounds great...that would be something really different and special to serve. Ooooh, and that sounds delicious! I'm definitely gonna make that!"
Yep, I have all these great ideas going thru my head and how everyone is going to just be blown away by my originality and wonder how I come up with such amazing dishes. Then two weeks before Thanksgiving I'm so excited I start working on my menu, writing everything down, scratching out this and adding that and coming up with way too many dishes, a grocery list that's ridiculously long, even by my standards, so that when I start paring it down, it seems like the list always ends up being the same good ole traditional meal that we enjoy year after year. Tho my intentions are good, I usually throw in a couple of newbies, maybe, but I tend to stick to the good old turkey and sides that I grew up with. I imagine it's probably true with most of us.....what makes a meal special and a holiday memorable, is how it reflects how we grew up and all our favorites our Mommies and Memaws made for us on those special occasions. Really, think about it....how often do you see that ad for Green Bean Casserole throughout the year and then there it is in every magazine and newspaper from November thru December? I would love to see the sales numbers on French's Fried Onion Rings and Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup for those two months. You know it's gotta be like Cadbury Eggs or Peeps at Easter! Not necessarily on the weekly shopping list, but most definitely a very important part of many a holiday memory. Special treats, such as turkeys, hams, casseroles, cakes, candies, cookies, pumpkins and nuts....define tradition and have a very special place in our hearts.
Yes, I'll fry another turkey this year, 'cause it was a hit with the fellas, but I'm having my big roasted bird right there beside it.  Lesson learned. I have to have my leftovers and turkey sandwiches.  And Fried Turkey is a while 'nother sandwich, not the traditional one I look forward to the next day.
Okay, having said all that, I'm gonna get started on some of my baking and I want to share this great cookie recipe with you. I found this recipe last year about a week before Christmas and made them immediately. One of my very favorite ingredients is cranberries and I eat them year round. I always buy extra when they're fresh at the grocers during Nov. and Dec. and I keep a few bags in the freezer to pull out throughout the year. This cookie is a thin cookie. It's crisp, sugary, orange-y, and filled with cranberries. It's a delicious, light cookie that's perfect for a crunchy, sweet snack or served with cheese, they are great with my Blue Cheese Cheeseball, (recipe listed below) and they are perfect for wrapping in some clear celophane, tying with some pretty ribbon and giving as gifts. I keep some on hand for those "surprise" guests that might show up. I never know if one of the boys is going to bring home a girlfriend I didn't know about or a buddy that just needs a little lovin' around the holidays. If you like the fruits of fall, that Thanksgiving/Christmas Citrus-thing, then you'll really like this recipe. I'm also including some baking tips from "Best Of Baking" from Land O Lakes, a favorite baking book of mine. Crank those ovens up and let the baking begin!!
Comfortcook@gmail.com
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CRANBERRY ORANGE COOKIES
Sugar Mixture:
1/3 cup Granulated sugar
1 Teaspoon Freshly grated orange peel (Careful, No white (pith) of rind)
Cookie Recipe:
1 Cup gran. sugar
3/4 C unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
2 C all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 C sweetened dried cranberries, chopped
1/2 C chopped pecans or macadamia nuts
1 Tablespoon freshly grated orange peel
Preheat oven to 350. Combine sugar mixture ingredients in a small bowl; stir until well mixed. Set aside. Combine 1 cup sugar, butter and egg in a large bowl; beat at medium speed till creamy. Reduce speed to low; add flour, baking powder and baking soda. Beat until well mixed. Add all remaining ingredients. Continue beating till just mixed.
Shape rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into 1-inch balls; roll balls in sugar mixture. Place 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten with bottom of glass to 1 1/2 in. circles. Bake for 7 to 11 minutes or unit edges are lightly browned. (DO NOT OVER BAKE) Cool 1 minute; remove from cookie sheets with a small spatula onto a wire rack. (Store in air tight containers. Can freeze unused dough. Thaw in fridge before cutting to bake)
TIPS: To prevent cranberries from sticking to knife when chopping, spray knife with non-stick cooking spray.
* To prevent hands from getting too sugary, shape dough into enough balls to fill one cookie sheet, then roll balls in the sugar mixture.
* I always use parchment paper when I bake cookies. It just seems to do better for me. I am "baking challenged" and need all the pointers I can get!


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

CHEAP AND EASY!!!!!!!!!

With the economy being what it is these days, it only makes sense to take advantage of all those coupons and sales papers so many of us may have been ignoring.... Until lately, that is. Now, I have always looked thru my grocery stores' ads because I'm curious and funny that way. I've have kept quite a collection of the coupon inserts that conveniently arrive with my Sunday paper. Yep, my collection went as far back as January 2008. Guess I must have purged them at least once last year. So, I got busy and grabbed the scissors. Not only did I end up with a whole empty drawer available for whatever I need one for, I also ended up saving quite a few bucks on a big shopping trip. You see, I had been a "closet clipper" so I know how to organize and play the coupon game, I had just gotten slack since my shopping routine is more erratic now that the boys are out of the house and it's just Geraldo and me. We tend to buy differently and more on impulse than planning. So much for that. It's time to get back on the $$$$avings train and polish off my savvy, shopping skills!!
So what do we start with? CHICKEN!!! There's always a deal on chicken somewhere and to my delight, my little neighborhood store had fryers on sale for $.88 a pound. Well now I can get at least 3 meals out of a 4 pound bird, so I scooped a up a few and put 'em in the freezer. I have to admit that a store-bought, deli-style Rotisserie chicken for 5 bucks is awfully hard to beat...and quite frankly, you can't beat it for a great last minute meal. What a healthy, inexpensive time saver! But if you've got the time and a little kitchen know how, you can get alot of bang for your buck cooking your own bird. This goes for turkey, too. With the holidays coming up, they're going to practically be giving turkeys and hens away! This is a great time to stock up for the months ahead. You can always, ALWAYS, make something from chicken or turkey, even cover all your favorite ethnic food groups. No ingredient is probably more universal than fowl.
Alright, I feel like I've made my point so I'll move on. Make the time to roast your own chicken. After you get the sweet meaty goodness for meal #1, take the not so pretty leftover parts and simmer them with some water and aromatics (onions, celery, carrots, maybe a little garlic) and after cooling, skim off the fat and you have a great base for a rich soup or stock when a recipe calls for some. I freeze small stock filled baggies, and store them flat in the freezer for those last minute recipes that call for a cup or two of chicken stock. I always have chicken stock on hand. If you're a cooker, there is absolutely no excuse for not having some.
Below is a recipe I tried last night and it was really good. Simple, easy and goes with anything. Roast Chicken. You can always oomph-up the ingredients with a spicy rub or different herbs or aromatics, but this is basically a naked version so you can do more with it afterwards. A blank "chicken pallet," if you will. I had chicken fajitas tonight for meal #2 and my stock is ready for the freezer. I'm also including a good site to pick up some coupon deals. Remember your Sunday paper probably has the best selection, and now that gas has gotten more reasonable again, it makes cents to check out all the local grocer's ads and throw a cooler in the trunk and go get those deals! For most of the summer and up till this past week, I was limiting my shopping to one destination as best I could. I spent more on some items than I'd have liked, but when you figure in the cost for a gallon or two of gas, you end up saving overall even if you do have to pay a few dollars more for certain items. Deals are out there and it's time we all started living a lot more frugal. We can still eat well and cheap...save the $$ for other necessities we don't have so many options for. Eat some chicken and be creative with your shopping!!
comfortcook@gmail.com
www.coupons.com Great Coupon Deals!!!
Comfort Cook Catering
615-525-8336

ROASTED CHICKEN
1 4-5 pound roasting chicken
1/2 medium onion (halved)
1 stalk celery, cut in thirds
1/2 Cup butter (softened)
3 Garlic cloves (optional)
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme (and a couple whole sprigs for inside)
1 teaspoon fresh chopped oregano (and a couple sprigs for inside)
1-2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
FOR GRAVY:
1 Cup chicken broth
1/2 Cup dry white wine ( or dry vermouth)
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
PREPARE CHICKEN :
1. Preheat oven to 450. Remove giblets from cavity of chicken. Wash chicken under cool water, removing any pin feathers. Pat dry and sprinkle cavitiy with 1 teaspoon salt and half the pepper.
2. Mix together the butter and chopped herbs. Starting at the neck cavity, loosen the skin from the breast and drumsticks by inserting fingers and gently pushing between skin and meat. (Do not totally detach skin)
3. Rub half the butter mixture under the skin on each breast and leg.
4. Lift the chicken and place the onion, celery, garlic and sprigs of herbs in the cavity.
5. Rub the outside of the chicken with the remaining butter and herb mixture.
Sprinkle body of bird with remaining salt and pepper.
6. Place the chicken, breast side up, on a lightly greased rack in a shallow roasting pan.
7. Bake at 450 for 30 minutes. Reduce heat to 400 and bake for an additional 55 to 60 minutes or until meat thermometer inserted into thigh registers 180.
TO MAKE GRAVY:
Add broth to drippings, stir to loosen bits. Wisk together broth mixture, wine and flour in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring often until thickened. Serve with chicken.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

SILKY AND DELICIOUS

I made this French Silk Chocolate Pie Saturday night for a get together with our neighbors. It was the first time I'd made this pie and it is SO easy! Nothing fancy about it, but it sure tastes decedent. I used heavy cream to make the whipped cream along with a tad bit vanilla and sugar. Delicious!!!! By all means, try this recipe and I think it'll be a favorite for your recipe box!
http://www.pillsbury.com/recipes/showrecipe.aspx?rID=11269
COMCOMFORT COOK CATERING
615-525-8336
Nashville, TN

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

HOT "N HEARTY, SLOW AND SPICY

When I meet someone new and they find out that I'm a bit silly about cooking, they always get around to asking me what is my best dish. You can almost bet it's a non-cook or novice cook that asks a question like that. I think my best dish is the one we sit down to on any given day. Because I'm a "Craver" I tend to be all over the place when it comes to what delights my taste buds. I am a real fan of Italian food, and probably cook it more than any other ethnic food group, but I'd have to say that I am truly a fan of AUTHENTIC (key word here being Authentic) Mexican fare. I love the deep, intense mysterious flavors that are such an essential part of a real mexican dish. No kidding, it can seem pretty odd to a southern gal to read a recipe that mentions cinnamon, olives, cloves, raisins, almonds and sometimes chocolate in the list of ingredients. That's in my Picadillo for Chile Rellenos. And what are those little green, papery tomato-lookin' little things? Luckily, because I happen to love each of those ingredients I mentioned, I am more apt to be intrigued than intimidated. I can't handle a lot of heat, but I've found that most Mexican recipes are only hot if you take them in that direction. The taste says it all and Geraldo and I love sharing some of our favorite Mexican dishes with friends. You can bet on some interesting table conversation when a guest takes that first bite of something they thought would taste like something from Taco Bell. "Cinnamon, what? And Chocolate? Cloves, olives? That's all in here? You've got to be kidding...who'd have thought?"
So with Fall now in full swing and the days and nights getting cozier and cozier, I'll be spending
more time inside, but not necessarily at the stove. This recipe is for the slow cooker and it takes a little time to assemble but then it cooks for several hours to develop the rich flavor of the chile and tomato- sauced pork cubes. If you've never cooked with Ancho chiles, this is a real good recipe to start with. Anchos are the dried version of the green Poblano pepper. The following dish is one of my very favorites and one we enjoy several times a year with good friends and lots of laughter. Ole! (Check out the Chile Relleno recipe, too.)

PORK ADOBADA
8 dried ancho peppers
2 cups water
1/2 cup cider vinegar
2/3 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup orange juice
2 TBS packed brown sugar
2 TBS tomato paste
1 TBS ground cumin
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 pounds lean boneless pork, cut into 3/4 in. cubes
6-8 8 inch flour tortillas
Assorted toppers, such as chopped tomatoes, shredded lettuce, shredded Monterey Jack cheese

HEAT a 12 inch heavy skillet over med. high heat. Add the peppers: toast until they begin to blister turning frequently. Transfer peppers to a medium saucepan: add the water and vinegar. Bring to boiling: reduce heat. Simmer, covered for 20 minutes. remove peppers with slotted soon, reserving liquid. Cool peppers slightly.

IN A 3 1/2- OR 4 QUART SLOW COOKER, combine the onions, chicken broth, orange juice, brown sugar, tomato paste, cumin, and garlic.

USING GLOVED HANDS, remove stems from the peppers. To remove seeds, use a small knife to make a lengthwise slit on one side of each pepper. Spread peppers open and lightly rinse under cold water. Strain any seeds from cooking liquid. Transfer peppers and 1 cup pf the cooking liquid to a blender. Cover and blend until the peppers and liquid form a thick paste. Stir paste into mixture in slow cooker.

ADD PORK to slow cooker and stir until all the meat is coated with the sauce. Cover and cook on low heat for 5-6 hours. Season to taste with salt.

After cooking time...
PREHEAT oven to 350. Wrap tortillas tightly in foil. Heat in oven about 10 minutes or until heated through. Use a slotted spoon to serve pork with warm tortillas and assorted toppers. Spoon some of the sauce over each serving.

TIP A great variation on this dish is to make up each of the tortillas with the finished filling and place in a casserole dish. Spoon pork and sauce over the top and top with cheese. Heat in oven till cheese is melted and bubbling.

Comfortcook@gmail.com
COMFORT COOK CATERING

615-525-8336

Monday, October 6, 2008

A SUPER SAUCE!!

Because of this little food blog of mine, I have been very fortunate to have heard from long lost relatives and friends that I hadn't heard from in years. "Googling" my maiden name, Rilying or Eldorado, (my hometown) or maybe someone checking up on my big brother Allan, have led some fine folks to my email address. I have connected with 2 cousins in California that I've never met and we have shared stories about our families and gotten to know one another a little bit. This "Email machine" is quite an invention!
Recently, I received an email from this really nice fella from Southern Illinois (my home turf) and lo and behold, he is part of the family-ran business that manufactures and distributes the * Country Bob Products that grace the shelves in markets throughout the Tri- State area and probably beyond. Al Malekovic was kind enough to take the time and read my blog and asked me if I would like to sample his company's products. Now, I'm not gonna turn down a food sample, so I immediately replied and I had Country Bob's All Purpose Sauce delivered to my door in TWO days!! I was so excited opening the box. It contained not only those 2 bottles of deliciousness, but Al was kind enough to include some great recipes, knowing I'd love them.
Geraldo and I had our first taste of Country Bob's that evening and we instantly became fans. I am a firm believer in the fact that if you cook a steak right, you don't need any steak sauce, but this particular sauce really enhances the great Flat Iron steaks we grilled for dinner that night. It was just the right amount of spice and flavor to use as a dipping sauce for the tender steak. I have since included it in my Meat Loaf recipe and Stuffed Peppers. I hit my prized BBQ sauce with a few dashes, too. It's got that taste that goes with just about everything. Very versatile! I guess you could say that I now use my Country Bob's for anything where I had used A1, Worcestershire or 57 Sauce for. It is really delicious and I am tickled to see it on the shelves at Kroger's here in Nashville. I've spread the world to my friends and neighbors urging them to give this "Sauce" a try. I am sharing that same advice to your foodies out there also. Check your store's shelves for "Country Bob's Products." I am including a picture of Al's product line and encourage you to get on board the County Bob train!! I gave a bottle to my youngest son Sam, who just moved into his first apartment this past week. He's looking for anything to get that "Mama-fied" taste to his food, so I handed over a bottle and told him that this is the newest condiment in the Schmidt House and that he will Love it. So, thanks Al, keep up the good work and I wish you and your family continued success.....you have a mighty fine product!!! This is an unsolicited opinion from someone who appreciates good tasting food!

*COUNTRY BOB'S ALL PURPOSE SAUCE can be found in the condiment aisle of your supermarket.

Check out COUNTRY BOB'S Webpage! Order some..you'll be glad you did! Tell Al that Comfortcook sent ya!
http://www.countrybobs.com/ Website
Al's # 618-533-2375
al@countrybobs.com Email

comfortcook@gmail.com
COMFORT COOK CATERING
615-525-8336

Thursday, September 25, 2008

LOVIN' FROM THE OVEN

Nine times out of ten, given the choice of Savory or Sweet, I tend to choose the savory Now that doesn't mean I don't love me some chocolate or a great dessert from time to time, it's just the way I'm wired, I guess. So, when I came across this cheesecake recipe, I was immediately intrigued by the list of ingredients. Ham? Basil? Swiss Cheese? Wow!! Now that's what I like in a CAKE.

I'd been eyeballing this particular recipe for a couple of weeks when Geraldo finally gave me the excuse I was looking for to make it. His department at work was having a little potluck-type get together and he needed to bring something to table, so to speak. He works with lot of great gals who appreciate some good snacks, so I immediately knew what he'd be contributing to the party. I would make this Ham Cheesecake and get it over with, let the ladies critique it for me, and then decide if it was a keeper or not. The ingredients are not cheap, so I needed to know if it was worth the time and the dollars to consider this for any upcoming get-togethers. It would be served as an appetizer with some fancy pants crackers on the side and what a great way to use up some of my "end of the summer" basil and chives!

So, I went grocery shopping yesterday afternoon and got all my ingredients together. Yes, the recipe calls for 4 bars of cream cheese and 2 cups of swiss. Oyster crackers, I don't usually have on hand, unless it's one of those little individual packs that came with my fast food chili, so I had to buy a big bag of those. I had the Parmesan (my treasure cheese came in handy here) and while thinking that this would be a great dish to use up leftover Holiday Ham, but having none handy, I bought a chunk of ham to put in the dish. I followed the recipe to the "T", 'cause I don't like to screw around with anything that requires measuring and baking. Not the first time anyway. I wait and give it my spin (if necessary) the next time. So I had everything I needed, got my cutting board out, knives, processors, graters, cream cheese was softening an d the eggs were at room temperature. Everything went smoothly...........until I picked up my 2 cups of finely chopped ham to cover in plastic wrap when something in my hip went "zing" and while trying to balance the measuring cup of my $$ham$$ between my belly and the kitchen counter, the bowl fell to the floor and my finely chopped ham was in a neat little pile in front of the stove. I said something I shouldn't have (or should have) grabbed the little broom and dustpan, cleaned it up, wiped the floor, washed the dustpan, poured a big glass of wine and went out and sat on the deck. Best thing to do in a situation like that? Walk away from it...regroup, keep telling yourself that it's really no big deal and approach it at a later time with a good attitude.

The Cheesecake did turn out really good. I've already gotten an email from Rose from Geraldo's office and the word she used was AWESOME! Whew! I needed that. I even forgot the swiss cheese and had to go back and add it after I'd done the crumb topping. My cooking "Zen" was definitely out of sinc that afternoon. Adding the cheese last didn't seem to make that big of a difference and who needs a crumb topping anyway? And who would know the difference? It was a tough day in the kitchen, but I won and I can make this dish again and again. I already have some different ingredients in mind for the next time.

The recipe is below. So, pour yourself a glass of wine to start with and take your time...it's worth the wait!
www.comfortcook@gmail.com

COMFORT COOK CATERING
615-525-8336
http://tasteofhome.com/Recipes/Savory-Ham-Cheesecake

Thursday, September 4, 2008

FOOD 'N FOOTBALL

Sunday is the Kick Off of the new 2009 Tennessee Titans football season and my Sundays are about to change dramatically. There are a few "Schmidt House" rules that go into effect not just game day, but game weekend. First of all, there's Saturday so we have the Big Orange to cheer on, so that day's pretty much shot as far as getting any work done. You see, anything I need done in or around the house must be finished by game time or more than likely, we wait until another day. Now Sunday rolls around and when the Titans win the rest of the day is joyous and smiles abound and any chores just comes easier. You know...not too much grumbling. HOWEVER, should the Titans lose, (God forbid!) well that's another story. Yes......the storm clouds roll in, the mood grows somber and there's a lot of muttering under one's breath as we go about dark and dismal lives.... Something like that.

I am not expected to cook on game day, but many times I do something easy or leave simmering for a couple of hours on the stove. Low maintenance. Or at least have some snacks available. You see, win or lose, life goes on and we must sustain ourselves even is times of woe. Eventually, even the defeated realize this and it's good to have a backup plan. Nothing gets you in the mood for Fall quite like good old tailgate food. Finger food with a purpose....I LOVE it!
www.comfortcook@gmail.com

Comfort Cook Catering 615-525-8336

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

RED, WHITE & "CUE"

It's too sad to think that this coming weekend, Labor Day weekend, is regarded as Summer's last "Hurrah." Here in Tennessee after a long, hot and drought-filled August, September finally brings back some pleasant 80 degree weather and it's comfortable to sit out on the deck again. So, I look forward to Labor Day as not an end to summer, but as a way to celebrate the beginning of fall and another reason to have a cookout! Once again, food becomes my focus.

Our holiday weekend is going to be a lot different this year. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my friend Beverly's son is getting married on Sat. the 30th and I'm helping with the reception dinner. I've worked it out over and over in my mind and am ready to crank up the roasters. It'll be some work, but I keep telling myself it's only cooking...just cooking more than usual. Sunday dinner on steroids, so to speak. I'm looking forward to the festivities and resting for 2 days afterward. That's where our "labor-less" Labor Day comes in.

I will probably end up smoking a Pork Butt 'cause that's my "go to" meal when I have all day and not a lot of energy. Once the charcoal is going, the hard part is pretty much over with. Just some yard work and beer to get you thru till dinnertime. There'll be the same old sides; gotta have cole slaw, if for nothing else but the sandwiches the next day, some potato salad, corn on the cobb, and some baked beans; jazzed-up, of course.

This may sound rather boring, considering my foodie convictions, but I'm giving my creative juices a workout the 3 days before, so I'm shifting to auto pilot and intend to enjoy our days off. I won't bore you with my Pork Butt stories (there is an earlier post for that) but want to take the time to wish any of you who stumble upon my self-indulgent blog, the best of holidays and a wonderful beginning for Fall. Before you know it, I'll be sharing Thanksgiving and Christmas treats and tips once again. I started this blog last year in November, just before Thanksgiving and it's given me a lot of joy and laughs these past few months. I recommend this as therapy to anyone who has a keyboard and PC handy. I've had cousins I've never met get in touch with me because they "googled" our family name and this blog came up with the results. Old friends from years ago have emailed me to say "Hello" and companies have been kind enough to share their products and wish me well.

I hope that you have a wonderful weekend with your friends and family and that you look at Labor Day as the beginning to other wonderful times we'll share over the next few months.Take a big deep breath of summer and settle in for those beautiful, golden Autumn days and those first "snugglin'-weather" nights. And, lest we forget, those TENNESSEE TITAN SUNDAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!

TIP: Check out Bar-B-Que tips under "GREAT RECIPES HERE" on the right.
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Friday, August 8, 2008

SUMMERTIME SHRIMP

Sometimes it can get so hot in the summers here in Tennessee that it's nearly unbearable to stand over a hot grill and cook. That's been the case here this summer on more than one occasion and when that happens and we just can't stand another night of lettuce or cold cuts, I start thinking about what's a great easy dish that can be on and off the stove in a matter of minutes without heating up the whole kitchen. Number one priority is that if I'm going to put any time into it...it's gotta be good, just "easy" doesn't cut it here at the Schmidt House.

A good solution to that problem was this week when I decided to search my unlimited recipe source (the Internet) for a great sounding Barbecue Shrimp recipe. I had bought some quick frozen shrimp on our last sojourn to Sam's Warehouse and my palate hadn't stopped thinking of them since. I found many great recipes and I expect to be trying a few more in the very near future. The one I decided to try an award winning recipe from Commander's Palace (Las Vegas) and the house specialty. I am quite familiar with Commander Palace's culinary quests and the Brennan family's rightful place in food royalty. Ella Brennan did indeed give a little known chef by the name of Emeril Lagasse his first high profile cooking opportunity to helm her flagship restaurant in New Orleans. At the time, that was quite the risk of hiring a Yankee boy (Emeril is born and bred Falls River, MA), the Chef position in a landmark New Orleans kitchen.

Needless to say...the rest is culinary history and Ole Emeril and The Brennans have both faired quite nicely. I also followed Chef Jamie Shannon's acclaimed reign after Emeril. Jamie, from New Jersey, was the saucier under Emeril and was Executive Chef until his untimely death in 2001. I remember watching Jamie on the old "Great Chefs" cooking show on PBS. That was all I had to quench my cooking cravings till the Food Network finally hit Nashville. Those old "Great Chefs" shows are so dated now and the ones where "Andres" the lady with that Nawlin's drawl narrated them are as recognizable to me as The Andy Griffith theme song.

Let me get back on track here. Okay. I tried this recipe the other night and it was wonderful!! The trick and one I can't tell you how to do is "Do Not Overcook the Shrimp"! Just before you think it's done, remove the pan from heat and let residual heat do its thing. We had this dish with ...okay, I'll admit we had a salad with it, so much for my tired of lettuce remark, but this salad was elevated with some leftover chicken salad I had made the day before and some juicy tomatoes from our backyard. It was a very nice, easy, not too hot, quick and DELICIOUS supper. I hope you'll try this recipe. The ingredients may look intimidating, but I'll bet that if you do any cooking at all, you have most of these ingredients on hand. If you don't have the beer, use chicken stock with a teaspoon of creole or Dijon mustard mixed with it to give it some oomph.

For the 15 cloves of garlic, fresh is best, but you certainly can use the jarred minced garlic, about 2 TBS. Try this!


NEW ORLEANS -STYLE BARBECUE SHRIMP

10- 15 count Gulf Shrimp, peeled and deveined , tail intact ( and head if you're a foodie)

2 TBS Creole seafood seasoning (Paul Prudhomme has a great one in the spice section)

2 TBS Olive oil

15 (yes, 15) garlic cloves minced

1 TBS fresh Rosemary, chopped ( DO not use stems)

3 TBS Hot sauce ( I used Louisiana Hot Sauce)

3 Whole lemons, juiced (must be fresh lemon juice)

3 TBS Worcestershire sauce

1/2 Cup Amber Beer (I used Abita Springs)

4 Oz unsalted butter ( room temp)

Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Black pepper , to taste

a Loaf of fresh baked French bread from your grocer's bakery ( No oven for you!)



1. Toss shrimp with 1 TBS creole seasoning in a large bowl to coat

2. Heat oil in a heavy, large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and rosemary and saute till light golden brown. Do Not burn garlic! (if you do...start over, as this will ruin your dish). Add seasoned shrimp and toss gently to coat.

3. Stir in the hot sauce, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Add beer to deglaze the skillet, shaking gently. Simmer until the beer is reduced by about half and shrimp are cooked through, about 2 minutes.

4. Stir in the remaining creole seasoning. Reduce heat to low. Gradually stir in the butter to form a sauce consistency. Season shrimp mixture to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Divide shrimp among four soup plates and serve with a side salad and some warm French bread. Definitely-y......SCHLURRRP! Or, as Gerald put it "LARRAPIN!"



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Thursday, July 31, 2008

GARDEN PARTY

My friend Beverly's son is getting married on August 30th and Bev has asked me to help her with the "sit down" dinner following the ceremony. Paige (Bev's son) and Tara ( his beautiful bride) are having a garden wedding and the reception is going to be in the backyard of their new home. They have an acre to play with and a whole bottom floor of their new home for me to set up my kitchen "triage."

Geraldo and I went to check out the new digs last night and it's really going to be nice. It's going to be in the evening and Tara is planning dinner right at sunset. Since Bev and I are both married to musicians (we DO live in Nashville, after all) there will be a band, dance floor, tent ,the works. I have my mission and am now in full dinner planning mode. There will be many hands on deck to pull this off, but I want to help keep Beverly as cool and calm as possible. She's my #1 in the kitchen foxhole, but on this day, she's the Mother of the Groom.
We've settled on Roast Beef /au jus (carving station) and for the umpteenth time I've decided on a chicken dish. I keep waffling on that one. So, today the chicken of choice is "Chicken Marsala." I found a great (sounds great on paper) recipe for "Chicken Marsala For a Crowd." We're expecting around 75 or so, and want to give the guests the option of beef or chicken. We've decided on serving rosemary roasted new potatoes, green bean amandine, and fresh rolls for some of the sides. At this point we are keeping our options open and know that nothing is certain till it hits the plate that night!
While the couple is getting their pictures taken, we are serving light appetizers as the guests arrive. Nothing fancy or difficult here. We need something to tie the folks over and keep them nourished as the bar will be open at that time. Bruschetta, a Caprese platter, cheeses, crudite, Artichoke and Spinach dip, pesto, and an olive tapenade for different toppings will round out that portion of the evening. Of course there will be a beautiful cake and since this is a real family affair, Paige's Aunt Barbara (Bev 's sister) is taking care of that.
So for this post,I'm going to include my very basic recipe for a delicious, bright pesto that is a favorite on our table all throughout the basil-blooming season. I call this "Green Gold." A little pricey to make...really good extra virgin olive oil is key here...pignoli (pine nuts) and "treasure cheese"(that's what I call the $18.00 a pound "real deal" Parmesan cheese) are all expensive, but since there are so little ingredients to this dish, you have to pull out the good stuff. Enjoy!!

HOMEMADE BASIL PESTO

2 Cups young basil leaves packed tightly
2-4 cloves of garlic ( I like mine garlicky)
2 TBS Pine Nuts (pignoli) Toasted lightly
1/4 Cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2-4 TBS (depends on consistency you prefer) Good extra virgin Olive Oil

Add basil, garlic and pine nuts in food processor ( or mince with a crinkle cutter or mezzaluna)
Pulse till basil is just minced. Scrape down the sides and replace lid of food processor.
Drizzle Olive oil into top of processor until desired consistency, stopping and scraping sides as necessary. Keep the mixture a little thick as not too get it too thin. You want a sauce consistency.
Remove all from the processor and stir in the grated Parmesan cheese at the end. Do not pulse at this point! Don't break your cheese. Sprinkle in a little fresh ground black pepper if you want ( I do) but easy with any salt, as the cheese is salty .
So, enjoy a bright taste of summer. Nothing says Italian and/or Green like fresh pesto does!
Use as a spread for crostini or a sauce for cooked pasta. You can thin the pesto with the pasta water if you use it as a sauce.
TIP:
I store mine in the refrigerator up to a week. Add a little extra olive oil to cover the top of the pesto and it will keep it's color and freshness longer. Serve at room temperature

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

WHITE CHICKEN ENCHILADAS

In past posts I've talked about the fact that I am a little obsessed when it comes to cookbooks, food magazines or any media pertaining to food and cooking. I have a few all time "GO TO" cookbooks and some of my all time favorites are the quarterly publications from Southern Living, Better Homes and Gardens and Taste of Home. These tend to be specific to a season or to a cooking method, i.e. grilling or 225 ways to cook a chicken. I have found some of my family's favorites this way. Having said that, I refer to the fact that the other night I was on the deck with 3 cooking "magazines" in front of me and 4 Bone in, skin on, chicken breasts in the refrigerator. With chicken on my mind, I went to the grilling section in each one and then got more specific and began combing through the all chicken one by Taste of Home magazine,
"225 Chicken Dishes." It was there that I came across a picture of some White Chicken Enchiladas that looked ( and sounded) delicious. Let's see....Cream cheese? Check. Sour cream? Check, check. Cheddar cheese? You get the picture...this was hitting all the high notes for me. I had been healthy enough with all the grilling that had been going on. Time to get a little ooey- gooey goodness back on the table.
The following is the recipe from Taste of Home. We loved it and it was so easy. I made a couple of changes to the original, which I have duly noted. You are really gonna like this and if you think it's a little too heavy for this time of year...hang on to this recipe and make it in the fall. Do make it though...it's a "keeper."

WHITE CHICKEN ENCHILADAS

12 white or yellow corn Tortillas (6 in. size)
4 Oz. cream cheese
1 TBS plus 1 cup 2% milk, divided
2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 Cups cubed cooked chicken breasts
1/2 C chopped green onion (whites and tops)
1/2 cup chopped sweet red pepper
(NOTE:
I substituted 4 oz can of chopped green chillies for the red pepper )

1 Can(10-3/4 oz) Condensed Cream of Chicken soup, undiluted
1 C (8 oz) sour cream
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper
1/2 C shredded cheddar cheese ( or substitute Monterrey jack for spicier version)

Wrap tortillas in foil. Bake at 350 for 10 min. till softened. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine cream cheese, 1 TBS milk and cumin until smooth. Stir in chicken. In a nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray, saute onions and red pepper until softened. Stir into chicken mixture. (If using canned green chillies, add directly to chicken mixture.)
In another bowl, combine the soup, sour cream, jalapenos, cayenne and remaining milk. Stir 2 TBS soup mixture into chicken mixture. Place 1/3 cup of chicken mixture down the center of each tortilla; roll up.
Place seam side down in a 13x9x2 in. backing dish coated with cooking spray. Top with remaining soup mixture. Cover and bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until cheese is melted and dish is heated through. Yields 6 servings.
TIP: Use reduced fat cream cheese sour cream and milk to cut back on the fat and calories. It's still a great dish.

http://www.myrecipes.com/
Southern Living recipe site

http://www.tasteofhome.com/
Taste of Home recipe site

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

HELLO GORGEOUS!!!!

I have had my eye on this one particular tomato in our garden for the past couple of a weeks. It will grace our table this weekend with all it's summer goodness and glory...not too mention breaded and fried!! The real Southern way to fresh produce....fry it if you can.
This recipe for Fried Green Tomatoes is the classic version. Many cooks have tweaked theirs the way their families like it, but this is the way it's done at "The Schmidt House." (Yes, I know how that sounds!)
Here's the recipe and I hope you have some bacon drippings....they do come in handy sometimes. If not, canola, vegetable or olive oil will definitely work. There's just some dishes that are not classic southern without that pork fat addition. This is one of those, but feel free to "healthy it up" if you want to. For an uptown Sunday version, sometimes I will add a little buttermilk and flour to this recipe and use panko along with the cornmeal for a different texture.I'm not big on the egg dipping thing, tho. Makes it to cake-y for me. This one is my favorite.

CLASSIC FRIED GREEN TOMATOES

4 to 6 green tomatoes
Salt and pepper
cornmeal
flour (not as much as the cornmeal)
bacon grease (or Vegetable oil)

Slice the tomatoes into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices. Salt and pepper them to taste. Dip in the cornmeal and flour mixture, should be 2 cornmeals to one flour ratio. Fry in hot (not smoking hot) grease or oil about 3 minutes or until golden on the bottom. Gently turn over and fry the other side. Serve as a side dish and they are delicious with breakfast. Sometimes I'll make a big platter of them and serve instead of meat. They're that meaty and that good.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

YES THOSE ARE FROM MY GARDEN!!!

Check out a few pictures (to the right) of some of our gorgeous flowers this year. The yellow rose was a new investment and I am so pleased. The Spectacular Canterbury Bells were a great surprise from seeds that I planted last year from a mixed variety wildflower package....from the Dollar Store! This plant is a biennial, so we were pleasantly surprised when it bloomed. Regretfully, it won't be back next year, but I've already ordered seeds to plant now so we'll have 3 more in different colors. This particular plant blooms twice in immediate succession. The blooms are so particular and perfect, they look fake. What a beauty!! The Chorus Line Lilly is a re- bloomer from last year. Of course, I can hardly wait till my Casablanca Lilly blooms. It is my favorite. I'll share a picture when it graces our garden. Our strawberries are little, but they are better than any I've had from the grocery these past few years. I've got my eye on one big green tomato that has my name on it. The first tomato of the season ends up in a dusting of flour and cornmeal and into the oil. Fried Green Tomatoes!! Surely one of the signs of summer.
The okra is growing, along with the zucchini, eggplant, crook neck squash, bell peppers, cubanelle peppers and romas. With our wet spring, we have a much better beginning that last year. I love summer!!!

I'm coming back in a day or two with a zucchini dish and my Fried Green Tomato recipe.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

"T" FOR TEXAS AND A "T" FOR TENNESSEE

In an earlier post, I had talked about looking for a good recipe for a Black-Eyed Pea Salad. I came across a lot that were different in their own unique way and so with a little tweaking on a "Texas Caviar" recipe, this Tennesse girl came up with a version that makes any southerner stand up and take notice. This recipe is SO good. Rumor has it that the Black -Eyed Pea Salad did originate in the East Texas town of Athens. Athens is now known as the "Black-Eyed Pea Capital of the World." They still throw a Black-eyed Pea Jamboree each year. Midsummer is peak harvest season for the "Athens Cowpeas", so it's appropriate that this salad be a part of our Independence Day celebration this year. The following recipe makes about 8-10 servings and can be refrigerated up to a week. Feel free to put your own spin on it. Acouple of days after we first tried it, I mixed it with some fresh Pico de Gallo to switch it up a little bit and it was great. Throw in some diced avacados, cilantro, and some sour cream on the side for a great garnish for any Mexican/TexMex dish. Enjoy!!

TEXAS CAVIAR-TENNESSEE STYLE

4 Cups black eyed peas,(I used canned, drained and rinsed, but cook your own if you want)
1 Cup celery
4 Oz chopped Green Chiles
1/4 Cup red bell pepper, finely diced
1/2 Cup purple onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
1 1/2 Cups Italian Dressing, enough to cover peas
Garnish with cilantro and green onions, whites and tops
Looks great on a bed of Red cabbage leaves

In a large glass bowl combine all ingredients except garnish, stirring well. You may need to add more dressing to cover peas.
Marinate, covered for 24 hours, preferably, but at least for 4 hours. Drain any excess dressing and spoon onto shallow serving bowl lined with the red cabbage leaves. Sprinkle cilantro and green onions on top.
TIP: Mix with home made Pico De Gallo or a small can of Rotel for another variation.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

KEEPIN' IT COOL

This is a really easy and delicious Key Lime Pie recipe. I have had this recipe since I played music in Marathon, Florida, a hundred years ago and before Max was born. It's the real deal and is so refreshing and DELICIOUS!! I hadn't made this in years (since moving to Tennessee from Ft. Lauderdale), but it's becoming a staple on our picnic table. I was told that real Key Lime Pie doesn't have meringue, so I don't, but I do put some dollops of fresh whipped cream on top...sparingly. Not only does it make it look gorgeous, it adds a little sweetness, too. If you've even been considering making a Key Lime Pie...make this one. You'll be a Rock Star!!

KEY LIME PIE

4 egg yolks, beaten till lighter in color (a butter yellow)
1 Cup fresh key lime juice (or substitute 1/2 fresh lime & 1/2 fresh lemon juice for key limes)
2 (14 oz) cans sweetened condensed milk
1 (9 in.) graham cracker crust ( ready made or bake your own)

Preheat oven to 375. Combine egg yolks, sweetened condensed milk and juice. Mix well. Pour into pie crust. (I pre-bake my crust since I make my own, but this is optional.)
Bake for 30 minutes. Allow to cool completely. Garnish with a little fresh whipped cream and a fresh lime slice as you serve a piece.
TIP: Please use fresh key lime juice, not bottled. It will take about 25-30 limes. If you can't find key limes, use the lime and lemon suggestion. Just make it fresh juice.
** You'll probably have some filling left over but this is the best combination to get the right texture and to fill the crust.
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Saturday, May 31, 2008

SUMMER TIME AND THE LIVING IS EASY!!!

Well, 90 degree weather has finally hit Tennessee. Clearly, the kitchen cools down and the stove gets a break. Doing a little inventory, I came across a big bell pepper and some cilantro that has to be used, so I decided to make a fresh tomato salsa and a Black Eyed Pea Salad, or as some folks call it...Texas Caviar. I've got a couple of chicken breasts brining to grill tonight and a couple more cooling to make Chicken Salad. The salsa and black eyed peas will last a few days and will be great with most anything that comes off the grill or out of the vegetable crisper. We both love having Chicken Salad on hand. It's a real time saver and great on a nice big bed of lettuce with tomatoes and cucumbers, on toast (that's how Geraldo likes it) or even grilling up some great bruschetta and piling it on with black olives, dried cranberries and other other fruity nutty goodie you've got handy.

My entire way of grocery shopping changes when summer gets here. I don't care for big heavy meals in the evening, but I do love a steak or burger from time to time. There's lot of grilling and salads going on. Not any macaroni and cheese...that's for sure. I always try to have some sort of Italian deli cold cuts available...like Genoa salami, good pepperoni and a Basil-Parmesan ham that Boar's Head offers (Publix). I love to sit down to a platter of finger foods (sorta like an antipasti platter) and just munch. I always have fresh basil pesto and try to keep some olive tapenade in the fridge. I'm embarrassed to talk about how much cheese I have at my fingertips. We've discussed this addiction in past posts!! And a big "Thanks" to Sandy (shout out to Sandy!!) I have great home-canned goodies including sun-dried tomatoes, pepper jelly, red bell peppers in oil and sweet cherry peppers that are great for stuffing. I also try to have a cheese ball ( blue cheese, Old English cheddar and cream cheese) on hand and about 4 boxes of some great crackers. I am currently addicted to the new Triscuit "Black Pepper and Olive Oil" crackers. I realize that is not very "Gourmet" but they're delicious and that's what counts. Sam's Wholesale Club also has a great deal on those New York Bagel style crackers (Sea Salt) for $7.00 for a huge bag compared to 3 bucks for the small ones in the regular deli section. These are Gotta Haves in our house. Got a cracker and some cheese? "We gots us some appetizers, Ma!"
Why kill yourself trying to make something when the supermarket is full of so many great choices? These are not our Mother's grocery stores...we are really fortunate to have the availability of so many different cultures and food stuffs at our corner supermarket. Take advantage of store bought goodness when you can. Save yourself some time and trouble. I figure the folks I spend time with know that I can cook, so I am beyond that "gotta impress 'em" stage. Take the shortcuts when you can and enjoy the nice long days and those hazy summer nights!

I'm experimenting with the Black Eyed Pea salad, so when I hit on a version I really like, I'll include the recipe. You can always go online and google black eyed pea salad or Texas Cavier and there's many great sounding choices. In the meantime, here is my Chicken Salad recipe and heads up...it's not a "frou frou" version filled with grapes and nuts. There's nothing wrong with that and I've certainly enjoyed those Tea Room versions on many occasion, but here at The Schmidt House (yes, I know how that sounds) we really like ours savory and pretty low key. Like I mentioned before, you can always dress it up when you decide how you want to eat it. Enjoy!!!

CHICKEN SALAD

4 Boneless, skinless chicken breasts ( I prefer white meat chicken for this)
2 ribs of celery, diced
1 half of a small white onion, diced (A Vidalia works great here, keep the onion flavor light)
1 tsp granulated garlic (use 1/2 in poaching water & sprinkle other into chicken & mayo)
1/2 to 3/4 C mayo (Depending on how "wet" you like it)
Sea salt and black pepper to taste (If you brined the chicken..easy on the salt)

I brine my chicken breasts for a few hours before poaching them, but you don't have to. It just makes them moister and we prefer the texture you get from brining.

Anyway...poach the chicken breasts ( chicken with water, garlic and small amt. blk. pepper...bring water to boil, lower heat to a low simmer and cover pan with lid for about 20minutes)

Remove & put chicken into a colander to drain. Let chicken cool.

Dice chicken into bite size pieces. In a large mixing bowl, put onions, celery and chicken. Sprinkle with the 1/2 tsp. of garlic, a little sea salt and a good bit of fresh ground black pepper. (remember if you have brined the chicken, you don't need much salt)

Add the mayo and fold into chicken, gently. Put in the refrigerator and get it good and cold. ENJOY!! Very versatile beginning to many lovely choices.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

"GRILLIN', GRIDDLIN' and GRINNIN'!!

I'm so excited and am sure that many of my foodie buddies out there hear me when I say that I'm so excited about the new Cuisinart Griddler-4 that I got yesterday. It's either a late Mother's Day present (altho Geraldo got it for me ) or (most likely) an early Birthday gift; either way I am tickled to death! I have had this particular appliance on my short list since early last fall and I guess I finally came up with the appropriate appeal to the court. Let's say putting on a few "got a little too comfortable" pounds over the winter and looking for a healthier and "leaner" way to cook, along with the fact that it's just the 2 of us most of the time now and dinner time tends to be less planned and more impromtu. Also, not having to turn the kitchen stove on in the heat of summer, or trying to build a big enough fire in the charcoal grill for a couple of steaks while trying not too waste charcoal and cooking time can be a challenge. Now I'm not going crazy here...no way I'm giving up the my old "Black Beast" of a grill, I'm just happy to have an alternative, not too mention a Grill, a Griddle and a Panini Press. I have been burning up the internet for Panini recipes, but I've come to the conclusion that fresh "anything with a great cheese melted on it atop a fabulous atisan bread" is pretty much up to one's own creativity and preference. I am so glad I planted oodles and oodles of basil, eggplant, squash, and tomatoes and that my herb garden has never been better. It's inspiring...really. I see alot of pesto in my future.
So tonight I will grill my first, "little Summpin', Summpin" and I feel fairly confident that chicken, basil and fresh mozzarella will be involved. I'm not forgetting my leaner and healthier argument...I can always half the bread. I really am gonna try to be better about cooking healthier, (sigh) but, I look forward to trying out new things on my Griddler and sharing the highs and lows with those of you who may be interested. So... so far I give THE GRIDDLER-4 ***** (5 stars).... let's hope the love affair continues!!!!


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IMPORTANT INFORMATION!!!!!!
TIP: Go to <http://www.lnt.com/> to get a 20% discount off TOTAL purchase (good thru end of May)Linen 'N Things here in Nashville didn't have The Griddler-4, they had the smaller one, but Bed Bath and Beyond ACCEPTS LNT's coupons!! I picked up The Griddler-4 (reg.$129.99) at Bed Bath and Beyond, a new ice bucket and some bug spray and saved $32.00!!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

CUBAN MOJO CHICKEN

This is a really delicious "Chicken on the Grill" recipe that takes very little time but is so full of really bright flavors. Serve this on a bed of steamed green beans with fresh mint and you've got a party going on!! You'll feel better just thinking about how healthy it is!! Prep time is about 10 minutes (not including getting your grill of choice ready.) Grill the chicken about 4-5 minutes per side to an internal temp of 170 degrees. This is 4 servings.

CUBAN MOJO CHICKEN

1/4 C fresh orange juice (it makes a difference!!)
1/4 C fresh lime juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
1/2 tsp sweet or smoked paprika
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
4 (5 oz.) boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1. Stir together first 7 ingredients in a shallow bowl or zip-top plastic freezer bag; add chicken. Cover or seal and let stand for 20 minutes. Remove chicken from marinade, but reserving marinade for later use. Pat chicken dry with paper towels.
2. Grill and let stand for 5 minutes. Bring reserved marinade to a boil over medium high heat. Boil for 2 minutes, stirring often, Serve chicken with warm marinade.

TIP: You can also use this same recipe with Pork Tenderloin, but be sure to adjust cooking time. I look for an internal temp of 155 for pork. The chicken or the pork is also great with black beans and rice, or a black bean and corn salsa. Get festive and have some fun. Shrimp can also be substituted, but don't marinate for more than 10 minutes and cook only till shrimp are turning pink, do not over cook. Grilled pineapple is a great side dish!!

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

TO BUTT OR NOT TO BUTT?

We had some company here at the Schmidt House ( yes, I know how that sounds!) this past weekend. My Mommy from Southern Illinois came down with my brother Allan's fabulous fiance, Sandy. Mom hadn't been here in a while and Sandy was kind enough to deliver her to our door. It was a great time and us gals consumed plenty of good fun and beverages for a couple of days. We all like to "nosh" so cheese balls, crackers, chips, dips and all kinds of little snackie things were plentiful and devoured. Friday night, I made my Mom some white manicotti as that's a favorite of hers that I make, and I had bought a big ole Pork Butt to do on Saturday. Of course, as we've all been led to believe you must rub or marinate that pork the night before with all the magic powders and potions you have in your cupboard and patt that baby and put it to bed till that smoker's up and going at just the right temperature for "low and slow."

Well, Friday night got later and later and the cooler got emptier and emptier and the talk got better and better and before you know it we had decided we would take a big sightseeing tour of downtown Nashville the next day. That would include our beautiful skyline, the symphony building, the Country Music Hall of Fame, etc. Not a big deal for me, cause I know my way around downtown pretty well having worked there for years. So that sounded like a great idea. It was something I hadn't even considered in our plans earlier cause Mom (Big Mom) has some walking issues and really can't do too much or ride for too long. So, I hadn't even considered it. Now we were planning a trip and I had 9 lbs of Pork in the fridge that was still in it's plastic packaging and waiting to be powdered and diapered and put to bed before its big "Debut-t" the next day. Not a problem, the pork butt could go in the freezer till Memorial Day and I had plenty of buns, the cole slaw was already made and the beans were handy, so I would just take the girls on our whirlwind sightseeing excursion and stop on the way home and buy a bulk of Ground Chuck....hamburgers on the grill would be easy and nobody really cared about the food anyway...it was the visiting that matters, afterall. Right?

Early Saturday morning, the sun was shining and it was going to be a beautiful day. We started out with coffee on the deck and a couple of hours later as we were discussing our trip to town, and like the good Southern girl I am, we had an easy southern breakfast of biscuits, (forgive me, Biscuit Gods, but they were "Grands"... thanks Pillsbury) with gravy, sausage , eggs, strawberries and tangelos. Grits were available, but everybody passed this time. Leisurely morning just visiting. I noticed no one had changed from their PJ's and began to think that these gals are really taking this vacation thing seriously....hmmm, I'd better take charge and get them loaded up for the big tour. Thirty minutes later as the last dregs from the second pot of coffee were being rinsed, it was unanimous that we'd just spend the day here at the house as the visiting was going so well, and it was apparent that no one was running out of conversation (Poor Geraldo!! He was the epitome of graciousness putting up with all that chatter along with some reruns of the same old childhood funnies. And just so you know, I have mowed the yard, front and back after this weekend to show him I appreciate him and to give him a much needed break.)
So we were staying home...now do I go to the store and get ground chuck for supper (we had to make a Coor's run, anyway) or remembering the pork butt, do I go ahead and smoke it? I had missed valuable rubbing and, marinating time the entire night before and now it was 11 a.m. and crunch time. Now I'll pick BBQued Pork over just about anything anyday, so I got it out, grabbed the sea salt, black pepper, granulated garlic, chili powder, some cumin and the little bit of paprika I had left. No brown sugar, not specials powders, potions or injections. Geraldo grabbed the Kingsford, got the chimney started and I grabbed the hickory chunks and put them in a sink full of water to soak while the coals got ready. About 30 minutes later we had the smoker filled with the hot coals, the apple juice in the drip pan and waited for the magic number of 22o or 'till the smoker dial, reached "Ideal." Longest story short....we were eating at 7 p.m. and it's really one of the very best pork butts I've eaten. So take that all you BBQ folks out there who have brainwashed us civilians with all that time, injecting, rubbing and marinating lore! I have my own theories about why this turned out so well, but that's a future post. I had a sandwich today with coleslaw and dill pickles on it and it was one of the best I've had here in Nashville....no kidding. I've got to give a big shout out to "Stubb's" BBQ sauce. It says it's "The Original", but there were several types on the shelf from Stubbs. I bought the one that looked more like it was a vinegar base, with flecks of black pepper visible. That's 'cause I'm not a thick, tomatoey, sweet sauce girl. Great compliment to the hickory smoke flavored pork. A little dab will do ya!
I had cooked the pork on the smoker till the internal temperature of the meat was at 160 (about 5 hours) then I took it out, wrapped it up tightly in foil and transferred it to the oven to finish cooking to 180 degrees. I prefer my pork sliced and so we had sliced BBQued Pork, cole slaw, baked beans, pickles, and potato chips. I had made a homemade chocolate cake with white cream cheese icing on Friday morning, so dessert was ready! It was a loud, chatty meal with food going every which way, and kudos to the cook (s). We met Sam's new girlfriend (Jess) and she got a real good dose of my family on a Saturday night around a table of food and Big Mom after a couple of glasses of wine. It was as great as any Holiday could be and will only be better when the whole "fam damily" is together. Next time. And I hope it's just as unprepared and that I roll with the flow as easily as I did this time. I learned a big lesson....Let the plans make themselves and just have the essentials handy...along with some red wine for Big Mom and a cooler of cold ones for the rest of us !!!
comfortcook@gmail.com

Comfort Cook Catering 615-525-8336 / Nashville, TN

Thursday, April 24, 2008

FIRING UP THE GRILL.....Part 1 "GRILL WARS"

You gotta love the beginning of spring when all your neighbors come creeping out into the open and lawnmowers crank up for the first time in months. Though it's not politically correct in these eco-conscious times; I do love the carbon-print smells of a gas powered mower cutting that green, green grass and the smoky smell of a good ole charcoal grill firing up for some great groceries! Everyone on the block, or in my case The Circle, are suddenly waving, shouting "Hello" to one another and unloading SUV's and car trunks of perennials, annuals, grass seed and weed killer (not necessarily in that order.) Yes, spring has sprung and once again I'm kicking myself for not planting more perennials last year and saving my knees this season. That being said, I'm on my way out this afternoon to pick up some coleus and impatiens, neither of which is a perennial. Gotta have that instant pop of color though. You know it's hard for any Foodie to wait weeks to see results, therefore we tend to go for the "Instant Gratification" of the simple petunias and any other already blooming beauty to satisfy that gardening fever.

Having said all that...this Foodie does indeed take some things low and slow. The art of the Bar-B-Que. Now, I'm not going to get in any spitting contests with all the folks out there on what region's technique, who's sauce is right, if pork or beef is best...Oh no, I'm not gonna take on that argument. I'm going for something simpler and easier to debate (though probably just as controversial), yep, that age old question......."Charcoal or Gas?"

I am proud to admit that I am, indeed, a charcoal snob, but I can appreciate the Gas grill. They are awfully shiny and come with all those burners, and turners, and knobs and with just the push of a button you got your heat going. On the other hand with the charcoal grill, you gotta lug home that big ole 20 lb. bag of charcoal, buy the expensive charcoal starter fluid, get all dirty filling up the grill, smelling all smoky and then having to clean out those ashes every week or so. Yes, it sounds like a lot of work and a real pain in the butt, and I'll admit this is where my wonderful husband comes in handy, once again. That being said, I'm here to give you some idea of why I love the charcoal way of cooking and maybe sway a few folks to take a walk on the wild side. Charcoal can be your friend. And a tasty one at that.

First of all, you gotta admit that food cooked on a gas grill doesn't have the smoky intensity or charcoal-grilled flavor like you get on a charcoal grill. And maybe it's like a lot of things and it's all in what we grew up with. I inherited an old oil drum that was welded into a grill in 1971 by my Dad, (George Rilying's) friend, Ted Kaufman. I remember many a great meal off this grill and my introduction to a still favorite of mine...the oft overlooked BBQ Pork Steak. I'm guessing pork steaks were really cheap back then cause we sure had them often. Learning to cook on this behemoth is really an art; a fact that Geraldo can attest to. He had his trial by fire with some hamburgers back in 1990, but has since became a a real pro and a great grill master. As far as the types of charcoal to use, you have the option of using a natural lump charcoal or the ever popular briquettes (Kingsford, etc.) The number one rule in using charcoal is to please buy some sort of a charcoal starter. And by that I am NOT talking about fluid starter. No matter what, if you use even the most expensive fluid starter, you're going to taste a petroleum flavor on your food. Invest in an electric starter or a Schmidt House (yes, I know how that sounds) favorite, a charcoal chimney. Just a couple of sheets of newspaper in the bottom, fill with your charcoal and you're ready to go. Weber has a brand that has a handle and slanted lever on one side that makes it a lot easier to dump the hot coals without any mishaps.

This is the first in a few posts about Bar-B-Queing and I'm going to try to offer some good advice on rubs, sauces, marinades, cooking times and cuts of meat along the way. Be sure to check out the "BBQ QUEENS TIPS" under Simply Recipes at the right on this page. There's lots of good basic information there and a good website to check out. Today I'm going to leave you with a favorite recipe of ours. This is an easy one and one that we're going to have tonight (right after I get that coleus planted.) Just know when I give you any of these BBQ recipes...they are cooked on a Charcoal Grill. You can always alter the recipe if you have a gas grill. comfortcook@gmail.com



BARBECUED PORK STEAKS

1 Bottle Kraft Original Thick and Spicy BBQ Sauce (This is a good base for a great sauce)
2 TBS brown sugar
1 TBS Maple Syrup
1 TBS Granulated Garlic powder (and extra, see below)*
1 teaspoon onion powder
Dash of A1 Sauce
1 teaspoon Worcestershire Sauce
4 1/2 inch thick bone-in Pork Steaks (at room temp.)
Salt and Pepper to taste
*Additional granulated garlic sprinkled on steaks
TIP: Sometimes I add crushed pineapple or pineapple jelly to BBQ Sauce. Great on Pork and Chicken.

Mix first 7 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Set aside.
Salt, pepper and sprinkle small amt gran. garlic on both sides of pork steaks
Grill over med. hot coals to sear both sides, about 4-5 minutes per side. Just don't burn. Baste with generous amt. of BBQ sauce.
Flip after 2-3 minutes and repeat on other side. Do this at least 2 times on each side, but you can really use as much BBQ sauce as you want. On last turn, move steaks to indirect heat to set the sauce. Test with meat thermometer, when temp reaches 170, remove and cover with foil till ready to serve.

Monday, April 7, 2008

ON TOP OF SPAGHETTI

Are there certain foods that when you see a picture of them or a commercial comes on TV you just start thinking about them and can't get them off your mind till that Tiger's fed? I have several that do that to me. Definitely Barbecue makes me crazy. Those BBQ marathons on The Travel Channel will have you driving miles within the next 24 hours to get that pork fix. Pizza does it, too. No wonder were are a fat nation. We're tempted 24 hours a day and being spoiled like we are, we don't generally deny ourselves what is readily available on every corner.
This is where this recipe for Spaghetti and Meatballs comes in. I don't really think of that dish often, Spaghetti, yes, but the meat balls are kind of an after thought since I make my Spaghetti with meat sauce to begin with. So when I saw a picture of this big plate of rich, red, tangy tomato sauce with meatballs and beautiful pasta, that Ding! Ding! Ding! went off in my little pea brain and I started pulling out the pots and pans, knives and spices. I'm making enough sauce to freeze 'cause I know that the days are getting longer and soon my interests will include gardening and kitchen time will be cut to a minimum. Lots of good fresh produce in the summer and our grill gets a real workout, so some extra tomato sauce will come in handy. What a great condiment for grilled bread, fresh bell peppers, even grilled asparagus. Also, try some on grilled eggplant and melt some Mozz or Parmesan cheese on top. What a great way to eat up that bounty of summer squash and zucchini! You'll come up with lots of good ideas. After all, something keeps those Ragu folks in business! comfortcook@gmail.com


SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS

SAUCE
2TBS extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 chopped sweet yellow onion
1 cup very finely chopped carrots
2 28 oz can Italian plum tomatoes ( San Marzano brand if possible)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil ( 1 TBS dried)
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chopped Oregano ( or 1 TBS dried)
3 TBS tomato paste
1/4 cup grated parmesan-romano cheese
Sea Salt to taste
Fresh ground Black pepper to taste
1tsp Red pepper flakes (Optional)
1/4 cup red wine

MEATBALLS
1 lb ground chuck
1/2 lb fresh bulk Italian Sausage (I use sweet)
2 TBS finely chopped basil
2 TBS finely chopped parsley
2 eggs
3/4 cup unseasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan-Romano cheese blend
2 tsp Sea Salt
2 tsp black pepper
1 TBS olive oil
Red Wine ( to deglaze)
1 1/2 LB dry 100% semolina spaghetti, thin spaghetti or Bucatini pasta

1. Prepare Sauce: Heat olive oil in a 4-5 qt pot on medium heat. Add onions and cook for 2 min. Add garlic and cook 1 min. This is when I add the red pepper flakes. Add carrots and blend together for 2 minutes. Add canned tomatoes, stir together. Add basil, parsley, oregano and stir with wooden spoon or potato masher to break up tomatoes till sauce begins to thicken (about 5 min. over med. heat) Add Tomato paste concentrate, stir to blend. Reduce heat and simmer while preparing meatballs, stirring occasionally. (Will add Red wine and cheese later.)

2. Prepare meatballs. Mix by hand in a large bowl, beef, Italian sausage, basil, parsley, eggs, breadcrumbs, cheese, sea salt and pepper till well mixed, but do not over mix ( will make meatballs tough)Form into 1 inch round meat balls.
Heat frying pan on med high heat. Add oil. Sear and brown meatballs, but do not crowd in pan. Cook a single layer only or roast in a 350 oven till browned. As the meatballs are finishing add the red wine to deglaze the pan.

3. Add the 1/4 cup red wine to the tomato sauce. Then stir in the 1/4 cup cheese. Add salt to taste. Add meatballs, gently and stir. Simmer sauce and meatballs for 35-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Cook pasta according to package directions, but leave a little al dente. Drain.
To serve, place thin layer of sauce on plate, add pasta, add the sauce with meatballs sprinkle with Parmesan-Romano cheese. Manga!!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

ITALIAN BEEF.....MY WAY

This Italian Beef recipe is one that is a combination of my many attempts in the past to duplicate that wonderful Chicago Sandwich...Italian Beef. For years I did the infamous crock pot recipe that's all over the 'net and in cookbooks, because gosh darn it, if that's the closest a southerner can get, then I'd try to be happy with it. For years I was. Then Geraldo and I went to Chicago for a visit, I got hooked again and the crock pot wannabe didn't cut the mustard SO....., when some little cafe came to Nashville claiming to have "Authentic Chicago Style Italian Beef" I was on my way in a matter of days. The clerk's accent seemed authentic and the weight of my foil wrapped treasure kept me excited as I drove the 10 minutes to my house. (I know better than to try to eat an Italian Beef and drive.) I got home, stepped over the dog, grabbed a TV tray, and I know I had to be giggling and perhaps even talking to myself as I sat down and unwrapped my hefty beefy lunch. My first bite made me almost cry. I can only describe it as something like you going to the supermarket deli, buying the sliced roast beef, bringing it home and soaking it in a beef bouillon salt bath for a few hours. YEECH! What a disapontment. It's like going to see George Michael and Andrew Ridgely shows up instead. How dare these people advertise this as Authentic? And what really upset me was that I know most folks here in Nashville may go there thinking that they are eating the real deal! Oh, I gotta fix this. At least in my little circle of friends. It was time for me to get to work and attempt to somehow come up with something at least similar enough to share with my southern buddies to give them an idea of what it is that makes Chicago folks so fortunate and so many of the rest of us hopelessly geographically challenged.
Do Not Critique this recipe. It is a work in progress and will continue to be tweaked. I made this when my brother and his fiance came to visit recently and it was a hit. At least no one thought is was a Philly Steak! I would never claim authenticity, but this recipe works for me and I hope that any of you out there who have heard of and perhaps wondered what the heck an Italian Beef Sandwich is will try this. It is time consuming, don't try to hurry it up and tho there's lots of ingredients, it's still cheaper than a plane ticket. The next time you visit Chicago put it at the top of your list to try a real Itailan Beef Sandwich and you'll know one of the many reasons that I love Chicago. Food, Blues, Cold beer, Great Museums, Oprah... and Italian Beef.

Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich

1 4-pound sirloin tip roast
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3 tablespoons olive oil
6 cloves garlic, sliced, and granulated Garlic (to taste) to season the roast before roasting
2 large red bell peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch strips
2 large green peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch strips2 medium yellow onions, sliced
2 cups beef stock
1 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
4 to 6 Italian poor-boy rolls, sliced lengthwise but not cut all the way through

Optional: Top with hot peppers, or a hot vegetable mix/ or serve with a grilled Italian sausage link cozied up in the bun with the beef. And I like a lot of garlic patted over the roast before roasting.
Preheat the oven to 375 °F. Season the meat with salt and pepper, oregano, and thyme. Place on a rack in a roasting pan and roast for about 2 hours or until the meat reaches 130 °F in the center. Remove and allow to cool. Deglaze the roasting pan with a little water and place the juices in a 6-quart pot. Heat a large nonstick frying pan and add the oil, garlic, red and green bell peppers, and onions. Sauté for 5 minutes and add to the pot. You may have to do this in batches.Slice the cooled meat very thinly across the grain, using an electric meat slicer if you have access to one. It just isn't the same shredded as it is when the beef is sliced paper thin. The taste is there, but the texture is nowhere near the real deal. Place the sliced meat in the pot along with any meat juices that have accumulated during cooling. Add the beef and chicken stocks, wine, and parsley. Cover and simmer gently for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Stir the pot a couple of times during cooking. Add salt and pepper to taste.Turn off the heat and allow the pot to rest, covered, for 15 minutes. Dip each roll into the broth in the pot so that it is saturated and heavy. Fill the roll with plenty of simmered beef and vegetables.Small changes: I added crushed red peppers to the broth, because I like more spiciness. And I would use more oregano next time. A teaspoon more, t least. Do it to taste, but remeber it'll intensify as it cooks. And it=f you want to make this ahead, go ahead and slice the beef after cooking and let it sit overnight in the juices. Then reheat until heated completely through (an hour, at least on a medium simmer) the next day. And Mamma mia! That's a sandwich. An Authentic Chicago Italian Beef Sandwich. You will be a hero!!

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