Tuesday, December 28, 2010


"There is no sadder story of cooking woe, than that of Lisa and her kitchen stove."
One of the biggest cooking days of the year would have to be Christmas, right? And this year we had relatives coming and no telling who else walk through our door at any given time, throughout the day. I was on top of my game. Had my menu all made out, the groceries were laid on the counter with care; in hopes that deliciousness soon would be there. Yep, I'd done most of the prep work for our holiday meal a couple of days in advance and was feeling the stress dissipate. One of those days was the entire afternoon dedicated to the baking and structuring of a three layer Red Velvet cake. Wait. What? Three layers? Not 4? That sounds odd, doesn't it? Well, thus began the slowly, but oh so surely, demise of my oven and any chance of keeping and maintaining a temperature of 350 degrees.

350 degrees. The temperature that every cake mix recipe, cookie baking recipe and bird roasting recipe command you to bake with. Even if you get the opportunity to start out high, say 450 or 400, you are eventually going to have to fine tune your entree to 350 degrees.

With my four layers of beautiful, red cake batter in their new parchment lined baking pans, I double checked my oven thermometer and when we hit it straight up on 350, I gently slid in the 4 pans and set my timer for a couple minutes shy of the suggested baking time. Even at this point, because of my tumultuous history with this oven, I knew I had to be on the ball and keep an eye on things. Well, this was the beginning of what was to come in the 3 days ahead, with a turkey breast to roast, a ham we would glaze and bake, 7 pounds of scalloped potatoes and a ridiculous amount of Yankee dressing. All waiting for and counting on the oven from hell not to fail.

After getting through the best 3 out of 4 layers of red velvet cake, held together with 6 bamboo skewers and a bucket full of stucco, I mean cream cheese frosting, I managed to hold the cake together after the initial collapse. You just cannot bake a cake at varying degrees and expect the layers to turn out right. This is baking, folks, Ugh. Getting it close is not an option. Good thing I checked the cake the night before our dinner, cause sure enough, when I brought it in to show Geraldo, it was split open like something out of a Jules Verne movie. More frosting please! And this time it held together long enough for me to make that initial cut and share my baking perils with my guests just in case the house of cards came tumbling down. The cake tasted really good.....but it took a lot of architecture to hold those layers together.

The turkey breast I had brined to ensure it's juicy goodness, ended up baking anywhere from 450 to 250 with no 350 at any time. I didn't think it would ever get done and when it did, my juiciness had dried up like a river bed in death valley. The dressing? Luckily, Geraldo likes drier, crunchy dressing. I did not know that before Christmas Day. (Or maybe he was doing what he does and trying to make me feel better when I fall short in the cooking department.) Now, the potatoes were good. I had par boiled them a bit the day before in order to speed up the cooking time and that turned out to be a foresight of genius. And 5 kinds of cheese, a bechemel sauce and starch is going to taste good, no matter what.

Our family was together and when we sat down to eat, all that angst disappeared and again I learned the lesson that it's not what's on the table...it's who's around it.

I've been online the last couple of days emailing descriptions of various kinds of ranges back and forth and taking home pictures of our new stove. Nope, I don't know for sure what it will be yet, but Convection is most definitely in my very near future and a warranty. A big, fat warranty.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


COOKIE TIME IS HERE ......Cookies move to the head of the class during the holidays and folks get crazy with their cookie recipe swaps. I first printed this recipe a year and a half ago, but I know that its asking a lot for any readers to go to the archives or the recipe list and find something interesting in here, so I'm making it easy and sticking this recipe in your face....again. Cause it's that good.


Baking good cookies usually doesn't happen the first time a novice baker pulls out a recipe, cookie sheet and a mixer. Nope. Even that first time you slice into a roll of prepared cookie dough, chances are you're gonna be disappointed with the results. Too many things can go wrong if you aren't experienced in the fine art of baking cookies. You have to have a dependable oven, and by that I mean one that doesn't fluctuate in temperature 50 to 75 degrees, and you better know the difference in baking times for a dark colored, light colored, or shiny cookie sheet. Do you really have to put the cookies 2 inches apart? And do you grease the pan even if the batter has a whole stick (or two) of butter in it? What difference does it make if I don't know if the flour in my canister is All Purpose or Self Rising? And nobody who doesn't bake regularly has brown sugar on hand that isn't as hard as a brick.....surely you can just double the amount of regular sugar the recipe calls for. Right? I can...right? Hmmmmm....
People, this is why some folks who cook don't bake. It's like chemistry. An exact science. Strict guidelines. You have to measure. And plan ahead...... like making sure you have some ingredients at room temperature. Don't try to mix in that stick of butter straight from the fridge. Ain't gonna happen.
Even the prepared cookie dough in the tube can fail miserably if you get any of the aforementioned rules wrong. The wrong pan or 25 degrees too hot or even when it says bake for 9 to 11 minutes and you're off by 1 minute and you start smelling that cookie smell.....by then it's probably too late and you're cookies bottoms are toast. It takes time, patience and batches of cookies to begin to feel remotely confident that every batch you bake is gonna turn out great. The margin for error is high simply because too many things can go wrong.
I do not use shiny cookie sheets anymore. I keep a thermometer in my oven. I buy parchment paper now. But most importantly, I read the recipe all the way through before I begin and I follow the recipe exactly. Using real measuring cups with actual amounts listed on the side and measuring spoons. A measuring teaspoon spoon and a measuring tablespoon spoon. I guess you could say I act more grown up when I'm baking. I save the experimentation and over seasoning for the more easily adaptable (or repairable) casseroles and meat loafs.
I have to admit that since I really applied myself a few years ago my baking has improved. I don't play around when I'm baking. I'm dead serious and not nearly as much fun as I am when I get to pull out all my herbs and spices, cheeses and creams. Nope, not much fun until after the baking, that is. Then it's payday!! There's nothing like that bite of something chocolaty or gooey when it's still warm from the oven. I am a Hero then. A real chip off the ole June Cleaver!
I'm still not as confident baking as I am with my pots and pans, skillets and grills, but I'm gonna keep at it till I can call myself a baker and mean it. And I'll scrape the brown bottoms of cookies in the meantime!!
Below is our favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe here at The Schmidt House.....Nothing fancy here and no big secrets. I got it off the bag of Gold Medal flour a coupla Christmas' ago and they're great. So be brave... and get your butter out, check your brown sugar and cut you some sheets of parchment paper. We're gonna bake us some cookies!!!

1 1/2 cups butter or margarine, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 eggs
4 cups Gold Medal® all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 package (24 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips (4 cups)
1. Heat oven to 350ºF. Mix butter, sugars, vanilla and eggs in large bowl using spoon. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in chocolate chips.2. Drop dough by rounded measuring tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto ungreased cookie sheet.3. Bake 12 to 15 minutes or until light brown. Cool slightly. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack; cool. Pat yourself on the back and ENJOY!!!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Little Bit Comfort, A Little Bit Rock 'N Roll: Brine It For "GOODNESS" Sake!

A Little Bit Comfort, A Little Bit Rock 'N Roll: Brine It For "GOODNESS" Sake!

Brine It For "GOODNESS" Sake!

Here I go again, so for those of you who have heard this sermon before, I apologize. And if you haven't followed my lead....time to do so. For any new converts, I want to share of the very best cooking tips I know of and one that is so essential this time of the year, in particular.
I have gone on and on in past blogs about the benefits of brining a bird. Big bird, little bird, fried or roasted. If you've never tried it, do yourself a favor and make this the year you take that leap of faith and take a walk on the wild side....so to speak. When I first started brining my holiday turkey a few years ago, brining was not really very mainstream, but you can bet a few really great turkey recipes had brining as a big part of that magic ingredient lots of us could never quite put our finger on or get right. Now brining is out of the closet and rightfully so. The method is front and center of every Thanksgiving edition of all the cooking magazines and on every Food Network rerun between now and Christmas. I like to think I was cutting edge: You know.....brining when brining wasn't cool.
There are several brining recipes out there and you can pretty much count on all of them. The trick is to get the right ratio of saline (salt) and liquid. I am a purist, using water or a combination of apple cider and water, with salt, but the newest versions offer up all kinds of concoctions adding peppercorns, any poultry herb or seasoning you usually reserve for the bird, and some of the good ole southern versions, use sweet tea or tea bags. Yes, really.
I guarantee you will have the moistest turkey ever and everyone will ask you how you did it. I brine anything with wings before roasting, frying or baking. So, go find a big, ole cooler and get ready to knock their socks off with your new Thanksgiving tradition.
I'm giving you the link to Alton Brown's recipe 'cause you brining doubters might trust his credentials more than mine. Why him being a Food Network Star, Food Scientist, Referee of the Iron Chefs and all....I'd say he has some "chops" and knows his "stuff"-ing. You'll thank me later when you become a convert and baptize your bird in brine for the first time.
My version? I use water and salt, a cooler and some ice. An elementary version of My Roasting Recipe? Simply said......
Rinse your brined turkey and dry well. Make sure you pat the skin dry. Then I put unsalted butter under under the skin of the breast and legs, and smear lots more all over. Then salt and pepper inside and out, and a few sprigs of fresh sage, parsley and thyme in the cavity with a split, unpeeled onion. Last year I threw in a couple of carrots cut in two and a coupla ribs of celery with the leafy tops. I don't go coo-coo with rosemary because I think it's a bit too strong, tho it does look pretty as a garnish on the platter. I am fortunate that I have fresh herbs year 'round (thanks, Geraldo!!!) and one of my happiest moments is when I go out to harvest them for a big holiday meal. I keep a small saucepan of unsalted butter on a warm back burner so I can baste the turkey for the last hour of cooking. I also use the turkey drippings to baste with. (All this goodness at the bottom of the pan mixed with a little flour and chicken stock make for a delicious pan gravy.) I start my bird breast side up and high heat. Around 400-425 for 45 minutes, till the breast starts getting nice and golden brown, then I adjust the oven to 350 and cook till a meat thermometer reads 180. (Don't cook your turkey for 4 hours like folks used to. That's a little long, unless you got a giant turkey. That's a whole 'nother blog!!) Make sure to read the cooking and time directions that come on the label of your bird and go by that. And please, do use a meat thermometer when you think it might be done. Rotate the turkey in the oven for even browning and if any parts start getting too brown, use some aluminum foil to cover them.
Let your finished turkey rest on the counter, tented in foil for at least 30 minutes before carving. There is a lot of cooking still going on after it's out of the oven. Pinch yourself off some of that good crunchy skin when no one's looking and cut a chunk of white meat from the neck end, or a piece of dark meat from the bottom of the thigh if you prefer the dark meat. The point is, you have wrestled this delicious piece of art for 2 days, brining and roasting, and deserve first dibs. And let's face it....if you're like me, you can't wait any longer....Get 'ya some!! I feel that's just good, quality control. Now, go brine a bird and see what I've been squawking about!
Below, from the Food Network, online and published in this month's Thanksgiving edition of their magazine, is this great recipe from Alton Brown.

I am.....
And we are....
"AT HOME ON THE RANGE CATERING" lisagschmidt@hotmail.com
Nashville, TN- 615-525-8336
I would love to hear from you!!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I've Missed Y'all!!

Forgive me, Food Friends, for taking such a long sabbatical from the blogging world. I got caught up in the day to day drama that makes the world go 'round and me tired at the end of the day. Yes, I was working 8 to 5 and was tired of looking at a computer screen by the end of the day, much less spend more time at a keyboard. I no longer had the luxury to sit around in the afternoon thinking of smart, witty and clever things to blog about. It was time to get up and hit the bricks and help put some real food on the table. Earn my worth, so to speak. I prefer blogging, but the pay is lousy!

'Nuff said! Tho, I am still on the clock from 8 to five, Monday thru Friday, I am back for a bit altho it may be inconsistent and not quite as witty. I want to spend some time sharing some food and family stories over this holiday season. I love this time of year when a turkey gets star billing and a side dish completes the story. A food lover's favorite time of the year....along with Easter ham, Memorial Day picnics, summer barbecues, hot dogs / burgers on the 4th of July and the big labor Day finale of any and all things grillable. Food is never out of season, I just think it really gets the most attention when the leaves begin to turn and families gather inside around tables loaded with family favorites, old and new, Grandma's favorite pumpkin pie recipe, some smarty pants trying a new stuffing, and those delicious Christmas cookies that deserve their own cookbooks.

While I begin to think of something inspirational and thoughtful to blog about, I hope you will take the time to go back into the Ole Comfortcook archives and brush up on some seasonal recipes and stories. I'll be back with you soon. I've missed our time together and I'm looking forward to "seeing" you again soon!

Saturday, February 20, 2010


Hey Nashvillians and Carolinians!
Harris Teeter has Crab Legs on sale for $2.99 a pound! Geraldo stopped at the Brentwood Harris Teeter (LOVE that store) and picked up a big bag for 17.00 bucks that was marked down from $38.00 ($6.99 a LB)! Crab shells will be flying tonight at The Schmidt House. (Yes, I know how that sounds!)
Now, I'm not a person who sits down and eats a lot of any meal at any one sitting. I'm usually pretty tired of what makes it to the table if I've been the one doin' the cooking. I am one of the Quality Engineers in The Schmidt Kitchen (yes, I know how that sounds, too!) along with Geraldo, so there's been lots of tasting going on before the final dish hits the table. So I'm a little tired of it, quite frankly. You could say that dinner and I have been pretty intimate up to that point. I eat a little with everyone, but I'm usually up and down and up and down. But, believe me...I make trips back! I didn't get this way doing aerobics at the dinner table. But, like I've said a dozen times before...give me a table laden with appetizers and finger foods and I am one happy grazer. That's by far my favorite way to eat. A taste of everything and not a lot of any one thing. "Variety they say is the is The Spice Of Life......" Oh please... that was a cheap shot.
The one exception? Well now, I can park myself at a table and put away some crab legs. We used to go out to a favorite sports bar (slash) "all-you-can-eat" crab leg joint and this way before seafood was bastardized at those International Buffets (ugh!) Geraldo would say he'd just take a book. I do indeed take my time with the sweet crustaceans and there's been occasions when we prolly could have used a co-signer!
Crab legs? I like mine simple and often.
Here's a couple of easy ways to cook 'em....

Crab Legs

To boil crab legs, simply fill a large stock pot half full of cold water and bring to a boil. Add a tablespoon of salt and the seasoning of your choice, if any. I usually quarter a lemon and add some Old Bay or Zatarain's Crab Boil to the water. When the water begins to boil add the crab legs and reduce the heat to medium. Allow them to simmer for about six minutes. Take the crab legs out of the water, drain and they are ready to eat. I don't rinse mine, cause I like the seasoning on the shells.
TIP: If you prefer to steam them, use a wide, deep pan and just a couple of inches of water, which can be seasoned, like suggested above. Bring the water to a rapid boil, put the crab legs in a colander in the water or just drop them in...reduce to a medium simmer, cover and let them steam for about 10minutes. You can also grill them, but that deserves it's own post. There's lot of ice cold beer involved with that method and I'm not talking about on the crab.
Melt some butter in the microwave, grab some dish towels and make some elbow room at the table. Lemon wedges on the side and hush anyone who bemoans the fact that you have to "work too hard" to eat them. Sissies. Those are the usually the folks who never cook....ever! Food folks know you gotta put some love and a little effort into anything that comes out delicious! Get to crackin'! And always.....Comfort and Joy!
"At Home On The Range Catering"

Friday, February 19, 2010


As I was stuck in traffic this morning in front of my favorite little neighborhood grocery, Comptons (mentioned in past posts for their superb meat department), I noticed that along with a great sale on split chicken breasts (always buy them on the bone, Thank You!) they have pork butts on sale for 98 cents a pound. This is not the cheapest I've seen them, but a very decent price and I'm always ready to go "Pork." So, I am putting the pork butt on my shopping list for the weekend and plan on making some Pork Adobada sometime soon. I have spoke about this recipe before , but it is definitely worth another mention. It is so easy and soooo GOOD! Great leftovers and if you need to, it freezes well, also. I love the taste of authentic Mexican food and this dish has all those deep, rich flavors that are so satisfying and just tastes like nothing else. "Nothing else" in my neighborhood, that is! (Ok, maybe those folks on the corner of Town Valley Court and Tea Garden may have a similar recipe, but I know I've got this convered on Pekoe Circle.)

So read the recipe below. Go find a good deal on a Pork Butt and try this dish. If you love Pork, you'll put this one in the recipe box and go back to it again and again. If you love complex, interesting, deep flavors, you'll love this. If you have a crock pot and want to razzle dazzle some company with something totally different and impressive and have time to sit and spend time with them instead of fretting over a stove...this dish is the one for you. Damn! Just try this dish! Don't be intimidated by roasting the peppers. It's good to learn a little trick every now and then, plus you'll feel like a million bucks and proud of yourself after you do it and wonder why you avoided any recipes that called for roasted peppers before. It is a whole new method to adding a lot of flavor to your cooking. It may not be the most complex of Mexican dishes, but it sure as heck isn't Taco Bell! After this you'll be ready to try the Chili Rellenos with Picadillo recipe. That one has some really interesting flavors going on...raisins, cinnamon, clove...I know the combination sounds strange to us gringos, but wow...it is delicious. For sure Chili Rellenos its a lot more more hands on than this, but they are both great ethic additiosn to your recipe box.

Nashville, TN 615-525-8336



6 New Mexico Anaheim dried red chilies
4 dried Ancho peppers (These are the dark red dried peppers. Dried Poblanos, actually)
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 medium onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1-2 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3 lbs lean pork, cut into bite-sized pieces (I use Pork Butt , but you could use a loin.)
salt and pepper, to taste

Tear chili pods into pieces, removing steam and reserving seeds.
Place chili on baking sheet, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
When oven is hot roast the chili for 10 minutes.
Place the chili in blender container.
Bring the chicken stock to a boil, add cider vinegar and pour over chili.
Allow to sit for about 10 to 15 minutes to soften chili.
Add orange juice concentrate, tomato paste, brown sugar and cumin.
Blend into a smooth paste, add 1 tablespoon of the chili seeds and blend until smooth.
Warm olive oil in skillet, add onions and garlic.
Saute until onions begin to brown lightly then pour onions into crock pot.
Toss the pork with 1 tablespoon of flour.
In same skillet add pork cubes and brown stirring frequently.
May need to brown the meat in batches to ensure even browning,.
As meat is browned, transfer to crock pot.
When all the meat has been browned, pour 1/2 cup water into skillet, bring to a boil and scrape up browned bits.
Pour into crock pot along with chili sauce, stirring well.
Cover and cook on low 4 to 5 or until pork cubes are tender.
Serve with some great garnishes such as Cilantro, grated cheese or Queso Fresco, diced tomatoes, onions, lettuce, lime wedges, Sour Cream and flour and corn tortillas. Let everyone build their own combination. Have lots of Frosty, Cold, Barley Pops (BEER!!) on hand!! El- Schlurpo!

BIG TIP: The Pork Butt is a moister cut of pork than a loin and pork tenderloin would just disintegrate in a crock pot after that amount of time. Pork Loin would work but would be drier. Also, ANYTIME you are using your crock pot, add a layer of foil to the top before putting the crock pot lid on. And NEVER!!! take the lid off during the cooking time. I know it sounds like an exaggeration, but you lose 20 - 30 minutes cooking time each time you "peek" in your crock pot. Have Faith!!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Rum Balls!!!!

My friend Debbie made these Rum Balls for a get-to-gether we had last week. They are so delicious and she swears they are very easy to make! They do have bit of a punch, so be forewarned and just so you know, the alcohol isn't baked or cooked out. Try 'em, cause they are really delicious!!! Great recipe, Debbie...Thanks So Much!

Chocolate Rum Balls

1 Box (12 ozs.) Vanilla or Chocolate Wafers
1 c. chopped finely nuts (I used pecans)
1 c. confectioners’ sugar (divided)
1 c. semi sweet chocolate chips
½ c. light corn syrup
1/3 c. bourbon or rum (I used ½ c. rum)

In a medium-size mixing bowl, combine crushed wafers, pecans, and 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar; set aside. In a double boiler over simmering water, melt chocolate morsels with corn syrup. I did melted the chocolate chips in the microwave. I placed the chips in a microwave glass dish, and put them in for 20 seconds, stirred and then placed back in for 15 seconds, and then 10 seconds thereafter until they were melted. Add Bourbon or rum; stir until smooth. Pour chocolate mixture over wafer mixture. Stir to combine thoroughly. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls; place on waxed paper.
Place remaining confectioners' sugar in a shallow bowl. Roll balls in confectioners' sugar; place on waxed paper in a container, adding more waxed paper between layers, or place in small paper or foil candy cups. Store in airtight container for about 3 days before serving. Store for up to 2 weeks.Makes 4 dozen. I keep them in the refrigerator.
Have fun and enjoy!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

So Fond of You!

Valentine's Day is a great time to break out the old fondue pot that has been collecting dust and cobwebs since Aunt Helen rushed out to Bed, Bath and Beyond to check off a wedding present from you gift list. Yes, in the seventies and then for a retro return in early 2000, you had to have one. No God-fearing southern lady who deemed herself a Hostess who be caught dead without that little ceramic kettle and matching long stemmed forks. What a romantic notion of the wonderful cocktail parties ahead or for the young newlyweds consumed with wedded bliss....Ah yes, once upon a time we all think the nights and months ahead will be filled with all those romantic times when we lovingly gaze into the eyes of our soul mate over a melted cauldron of bubbling Gruyere' and feed one another Godiva dipped, chocolate strawberries while draped over a mound of red velvet pillows...toasting one another in front of a cozy fire listening to cool jazz and Michael Buble' CD's. (Is it getting hot in here, or is it just me?)
Fast forward years later.....If we ever used the fondue pot once, I'm sure it became a hassle and the results were not near what was expected and the final result became a pain in the arse as you tried to get all your ingredients together, not burn the cheese and get your fella to stop acting like an old married man and "play along." Face it...he's ready to get to # 7 on your list of 1-10. And that's giving him some credit.
Here's an easy one to help you get back on the Fondue wagon again. Valentine's Day is coming up. It's the first Sunday this year without Football....he'll be bored and a little lost. This is a perfect time to reinvent an old classic.


Basic Cheese Fondue Recipe

2 Garlic Cloves, Cut in Half
(2 cups) Dry White Wine
(1/2 lb) Gruyere Cheese, Shredded
(1/2 lb) Emnenthaler Cheese, Shredded
(1 tbsp) Lemon Juice
(2 tbsp) Flour
(3 tbsp) Kirsch
(1/2 tsp) Nutmeg
(1/2 tsp) Paprika
1. Rub the garlic inside the fondue pot then discard.
2. Pour the white wine and lemon juice into the pot and turn on the burner.
3. Let the wine and lemon juice warm up without boiling.
4. Reduce heat and add the shredded cheese.
5. With a wooden spoon, mix well and stir regularly.
6. Add remaining ingredients.
7. Add pepper to taste.
8. If the mixture is too hard, add wine. If the mixture is too soft, add cheese.
9. Dip bite size pieces of bread or vegetables.
10. Let the freshly dipped pieces cool off for a few seconds, then enjoy and repeat but no double-dipping!
Note: Italian or French bread (baguette) makes excellent dippers when cut into small pieces. You can also try mild green or red peppers, zucchini slices, steamed broccoli or cauliflower or whatever else you're in the mood for.


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