Sunday, October 7, 2012

Chowder Time In Tennessee

Yep, when the air starts getting colder, we all think about steaming bowls of chili or big pots of vegetable beef soup.  I had my beef soup craving satisfied last week with the ole, reliable Cabbage Beef soup that we've chowed on for years.  It's a recipe straight out of the Tennessean newspaper from about 20 years ago where someone had written in requesting the recipe for Shoney's Cabbage and Beef Soup.  I've hung on to the scrap of paper, now squirreled away in my "Mom's Favorite Recipes- Grab This Book In Case Of Fire" Cookbook.  One of these days, I'm gonna get all those bits of paper and clippings organized.  At least they are all in the same general area of the house.  And having this blog has been a really big help in getting some of the family favorites down for prosperity. That's almost funny.

I didn't do a brothy  (is brothy a word?) soup today.  I was online for awhile this afternoon and after looking at all the "purty pictures" of food on Pinterest and all the cooking sites, I wanted a stand up soup.  Something really substantial and creamy.  So, I started making potato soup and then that does, like it usually does, well, it evolves into something with cheese, more vegetables and bacon.  So, another chowder is born.  And since I had a poblano and a hankering for a little kick, I added some diced poblano at the last minute and a Southwest Chowder ended up in the pot.  And you know what?  It's  really good.  I'm gonna share the recipe with you.  Dress it up anyway you want.  I'm betting cheese makes it on top and some sour cream is sitting close by.  Enjoy fall, it's a great time to dig out those old newspaper recipes you have shoved into a drawer somewhere and make that dish you always wanted to make.  Steam up your windows and make a memory!

Southwestern Corn, Chili and Queso Chowder
½ large sweet Onion- diced
2 ribs celery with leaves on-diced
3 large cloves garlic-minced
1 TBS Margarine or Butter
1 Tbs Olive Oil
1 TBS Bacon drippings
2 Large Russet Baking potatoes (equal to 3 Cups cubed)
2 Cups Frozen Whole Kernel Corn (or fresh, if available)
2 Cups frozen Hash Browns
1/3 Large Poblano Pepper, cut into small dice-no seeds or stems
¾ Cup Real Bacon bits (or real Bacon, cooked and fat rendered & reserved)
 1 1/2 Cups Half and Half 
1 Cup Milk
White Queso- Mexican melting cheese -Diced, about ½ Cup (more if you want it really cheesy, but you can do too much)
2 TBS Chicken Base*  
1 1/2 Cup Water
Fresh Thyme- 4 sprigs
Salt and Pepper
Bring potatoes to boil and cook till medium tender, not falling apart. Drain. Meanwhile, heat oil and butter (or margarine) in dutch oven over medium heat. Add diced onions and celery, saute on gentle heat till just tender. Add a dash of salt and pepper, will season with a bit more later on in recipe. Cook 2 min. Add 1 TBS of Chicken Base and stir to coat vegetables. Add water and stir. Pot should be bubbly and thickening. Add Bacon, drain potatoes and add to vegetable mix, stirring in gently. Add corn, stir, add Half and Half. Stir. Cook 3 minutes on medium low heat, then add hash browns, dash more salt and pepper, stirring all together then add the rest of chicken base. Stirring in completely. Add fresh thyme and let it all thicken for just a minute. Then add the milk, queso and diced Poblano. Cook on low heat, stirring gently to keep from scorching. Cook on low for 15-20 minutes and can serve immediately. Top with green onions, sour cream, more queso, jack cheese or cheddar cheese.

* I use McCormick or Tone’s Brand Chicken Base. Available at Sam’s Club. It is a paste, not boullion. Adds a deep richness for recipes that call for chicken stock.  It is a real bargain compared to supermarket prices and I use the Beef and Chicken bases all year round.  A must have staple for me.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A Little Black Magic In The Kitchen

In previous posts, I have mentioned (often and emphatically) that I am a cook, not a baker.  Anyone who cooks knows there is a very real difference between the two and the bakers of the world who can bake and cook, will list "Baker" before Cook on their resume, making it very clear that baking may require a bit more acknowledgement, citing the patience, commitment and something I struggle with, the ability to follow directions while using exact measurements and ingredients, while keeping on task.  B-O-R-I-N-G!
I say it's boring rather than admitting I'm impatient, scattered and I believe that having some "wiggle room" in a recipe "is my friend."
I am quite pleased with myself when a bunch of chocolate cupcakes come out of my oven and they're all (pretty much) the same height and there isn't that familiar aroma of slightly scorched cocoa in the room.  With my collection of recipes, I have gotten pretty darn good with some really delicious frostings. Frostings, that I consider cooking 'cause you can pour in the vanilla, shake in the confectioners sugar and judge how much cream cheese or butter you need considering how stiff you want  it. I know you gotta be close to the 3 or 4 cups or tablespoons, whatever, but you can "fudge" a little bit.  NOT SO with the cake part. And because I realize my strengths and weaknesses, I head right for the Duncan Hines aisle when I'm in the mood for, or have an occasion that calls for cake.
With all the great food blogs out there, not too mention my various food magazines subscriptions that temp me on a monthly basis with  mouthwatering pictures and recipes of these gorgeous cakes, cookies, pies and desserts; it's pretty damn obvious that Duncan Hines ain't got no box mix for every delicious dessert.  They have to be "made".  Someone is gonna have to bake these babies.  Apparently, I'm gonna have to learn to restrain myself, reel in the freehand  and "read the directions, Mommy."  
This is the predicament I found myself in last week while blog-hopping.  I came across a scrumptious picture of chocolate perfection beneath the title: Black Magic Cake. Uh, oh. Now, before I could look away, I was in it's spell.  Bewitched, bothered and bewildered by the name, then there was the byline stating it was the best easy chocolate cake their test kitchen had ever made.  It had been given 8 (!) Blue Ribbons.  Blue Ribbons that had been awarded by novice bakers, such as myself.  There it was.  My baking challenge. The gauntlet had been thrown.......I was gonna BAKE this cake. 
Briefly looking through the ingredients (Briefly? Really? See, I'm hopeless!), I saw that I had everything I needed, thanks to my food hoarding and generous husband (XO, Geraldo!).  I turned the oven to 350 and got started.  I only have one 9x9 cake pan, (how did that happen?)  so I opted for the 9x13 one layer version.  With flour pretty much everywhere, all my mixing bowls on the counter and a sinkful of measuring cups, I made my Black Magic Cake. . . with Chocolate Buttercream frosting, an extra added attraction.  It was delicious!  And it really was easy.   I was very pleased with myself and inspired to not be so afraid of the exactness of the measuring and the precision of the recipe.  It certainly helps that I have a new oven that I can depend on to hold the right temperature (again, XO, Geraldo!) and that there was no one else in the house that day.  It was not a pretty site, albeit a tasty one.  And it did get the kitchen swept and the floor cleaned.  Another bonus.
Here's the Recipe.  I hope you'll try it.  DO make sure you add the coffee.  I added a bit of instant coffee to some leftover breakfast coffee.  It really kicks up the chocolate taste.  

Black Magic Cake


•2 cups sugar
•1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
•3/4 cup HERSHEY’S Cocoa
•2 teaspoons baking soda
•1 teaspoon baking powder
•1 teaspoon salt
•2 eggs
•1 cup buttermilk (or sour milk*)
•1 cup strong black coffee OR 2 teaspoons powdered instant coffee plus 1 cup boiling water
•1/2 cup vegetable oil
•1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans or one 13×9x2-inch baking pan.

2. Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, buttermilk, coffee, oil and vanilla; beat on medium speed of mixer 2 minutes (batter will be thin). Pour batter evenly into prepared pans.

3. Bake 30 to 35 minutes for round pans, 35 to 40 minutes for rectangular pan or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. Frost as desired. Yields 10 to 12 servings.

* To sour milk: Use 1 tablespoon white vinegar plus milk to equal 1 cup.

Chocolate Buttercream Frosting


6 tablespoons butter, softened
2 2/3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/3 cup milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla


1  Place butter in a bowl and beat until creamy.

2  Add sugar and cocoa, mixing well.

3  Stir in milk in portions, stirring each time.

4  Add vanilla.

5  Spread on cooled cake or cupcakes
Comfort and Joy!!


Monday, July 16, 2012


Reading some of the previous posts, I have to wonder why in the world I waited so long to come back to this playground and share all my toys?  I have always had so much fun writing this blog.  It would always tickle me to death when I would get a comment or see where someone had been online and came to my website to read what I had written.  Not necessarily to feed my ego, it was more of the sharing and knowing that someone was playing with me and getting to go there, too.  So with some encouragement from my biggest fan, Geraldo (XO!)  and with an "out of the blue" special request for a recipe this morning for a dear friend, I've decided to step back onto the page and let the fun begin.
There's not gonna be a long explanation with boring sidebars.  First things first, I'm trying to figure out how to set this blog up again and what button does what; what moves this where and how did that picture get there  and where did that text I just typed go?  Oh,man.   Geez, I've already lost a fried turkey, some enchiladas, a plateful of beautiful barbecue shrimp and a corn puddin'.  And,  I haven't even tried to post a picture yet.  So, jumping in head first, trusting any readers to give a gal a break....  I'm very hopeful that one or two of you will have a good laugh along the way, sharing some recipes about some good ole comfort food, with a little rockstar thrown in from time to time.
Let's start with something I love and know a lot about.  DELICIOUS CHEESE goodies!  Here's a great, easy-peasy recipe for some delicious, (really they are delicious) marinated mozzarella cheese bites that is perfect for the surplus of herbs I have in my garden and a great go to when the temperature has been a record breaking, "Hose me down, Daddy!" summer.
It's more of a method than a recipe, but all you need to know and have available is right there.  You can tweak it with more garlic, more herbs, (I do put a few sprigs of thyme in mine 'cause I love thyme) and I make sure the lemon rind pretty side shows to the side of the jar, giving it an ala, Ina Garten/ Barefoot Contessa, food "shoppe" look.
Keep it refrigerated, setting out to warm to room temp before serving with toasted bread, or drizzle over pasta, or you can make a simple salad with some olives, grape tomatoes and basil.  Hang onto the olive oil that's left, if there is any.  This is great to use for a vinagrette or cooking next time you need a great Italian punch to a dish.  Makes a great hostess gift.  Wrap a colorful ribbon or some raffia around the top and maybe a pretty Gerbera Daisy or sprig of basil from your garden tucked into the bow. 
It's nice to be back....See ya when I see ya!

Marinated Mozzarella


Bocconcini mozzarella (the little balls of fresh mozzarella, you can use the big ones, just cut them into bite size pieces) I buy the double pkg of mozz @ Sam's Club and just cut them into cubes.  Much cheaper and its still delicious mozzarella.

lemon peel



garlic cloves

basil leaves

red pepper flakes

A VERY good quality extra virgin Olive Oil ( I use Colavita)

I am not giving exact measurements because the quantity is going to depend on various factors. How much cheese do you have? What size jar? You can play with the flavors. Want a more garlicky cheese? Add more garlic. You love lemon, add more lemon.  (I do.) I use a half pint or pint size jar, depending on how much I want to make and how much olive oil I have on hand.  In your jar, add about one third of the cheese. Layer in the basil leaves, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, and garlic cloves, and thyme or parsley if you have it. I've put in kalamata olives, ripe olives and big green, unstuffed olives, too. You can really play with this and make different versions for different tastes. I used about 5-6 cloves of garlic each time and I just cut them in half. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Keep layering the ingredients until your jar is full.

Pour a good quality olive oil over the top until the jar is full. Put the lid on the jar and shake it up. Put the jar in the fridge for at least two hours before you are going to serve it. You can keep this in there for about a week I would say. Give it a shake every now and again. Take the jar out about 30 minutes before you are going to serve this. The olive oil will solidify a bit and will return to normal again when it gets back to room temperature.

Pour the cheese and oil into a pretty bowl and serve with some toasted bread.  If you have a food friend or someone with alot of herbs they need to harvest, give them a copy of this recipe.  Maybe they'll invite  you over when they make it!  Goes great with wine, red or white, a cool cocktail or an ice cold beer.
Comfortcook is
I welcome your comments or if you wanna just say "Hi!"


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