Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Nick's Birthday 2011

Friday, February 18th was Nick’s birthday.  He asked for a plain cheesecake with graham cracker crust for his cake and I was happy to oblige.  I left work early Friday so we got an early start on going to celebrate.  He wanted pizza so we found some of the best pizza we could find below the Mason-Dixon Line. 

Saturday I cooked Chicken Fried Steak and gravy, mashed potatoes, mustard greens and biscuits (ok…the biscuits were frozen and the greens were canned BUT both were good).  I want to thank Claire Perkins for her guidance on cooking the steak.  Nick has been asking for chicken fried steak for at least 10 years.  We went to San Antonio to visit Grandmother Carter in 2001 and we ate lunch with her at Earl Abel’s.  Both of us had chicken fried steak and gravy that day and it was delicious.  It was after that trip that I was asked to make chicken fried steak.  I have no idea why it took me so long to make it because it’s really not that hard.  I would always tell him I would be glad to make it then when we would be at the grocery store trying to figure out what to have for dinner we would not think of it…my memory is not what it used to be!

I used Top Round Steak instead of that chewy cubed steak.  My parent used to get the cubed steak and it was grizzly and chewy…the longer you chewed the bigger the piece got…UGH!  Claire said Top Round or Bottom Round Steak was the best way to go and it was delicious!  The crust fell off (I guess I’ll have to make more to get it rightJ) but other than that it was perfect.  I added a little cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to the flour; I mixed the eggs with the milk.  I tenderized the meat and worked off some built up frustration while I was at it.

All in all it was a great meal; I hope it was worth the wait!

"Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside"
Mark Twain

Monday, February 14, 2011

Rigatoni w/ Vodka Sauce

Happy Valentines Day! 

Nick and I spent Saturday evening preparing Rigatoni with Vodka Sauce for our early Valentines dinner.  After a little angst over the measurements that were NOT on the recipe I decided to use, the chopping was done and the flambĂ© was complete and the sauce was in the pan.  After about an hour of simmering, the heavy cream was added.  YUMMY is all I can say.  Well, I will say one other thing…when you write a recipe, how about putting the quantity and sizes on the recipe.  For instance, this recipe called for “4 Cans of Crushed Tomatoes”…Really?  You can’t give me a can size?  Although it’s not relevant to the complaint, I will say that the recipe I was using was for 4 to 5 pounds of pasta and I was cutting it in half so we would have leftovers (but not too much) for this week.  Regardless, I did not realize that information was missing until I was making my list for the grocery store.  And, I found out that Nick and I have different thoughts on what the size of the can could be.  When I think of a “can of crushed tomatoes” I think of a 14.5 ounce can…a regular size can.  Nick, on the other hand thinks of a 28 ounce can.  This became an issue with me ALL day.  So, we used 2-28 ounce cans (to half the recipe) and the sauce was very good and that’s what counts.

I want to thank Michele Brigante who writes the blog at  She gave me such a quick response on my question concerning the can size.  She has some great recipes and this is only ONE of them.  Check her out.

Vodka Sauce

2 onions, chopped
1 bunch scallions, chopped, (separate light and dark green parts)
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
¼ lb Prosciutto di Parma, sliced into strips
1 ¼ cup vodka
2 cans tomato paste
4 – 28 oz cans crushed tomatoes
1 Qt heavy cream
Kosher salt
Black pepper

In a large saucepan, sauté onions, garlic and light parts of scallions until soft on medium heat. Add Prosciutto and let cook for about one minute. Add vodka; turn up heat to medium high and cook until alcohol burns out about 4 minutes. Lower heat and add tomato paste and crushed tomatoes; stir. Add green parts of scallions, kosher salt and black pepper. Turn up heat until boiling, then lower heat. Let cook for 1 hour. Add cream; let simmer until starts bubbling and turn off heat.
This is enough sauce for about 4-5 lbs of pasta or more.

"One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating." -- Luciano Pavarotti

Friday, February 4, 2011

Wishes and Weekends

The days go by so slow but the weeks fly by…how is that possible?  And the years are flying by at warp speed, that’s been happening to me since I turned 30.  When I was still in school and wishing for the weekend, my Dad would say “You’re wishing your life away” and I would say “Oh well, I’m ready for the weekend.”  Things haven’t changed that much…I still wish for the weekend on Monday morning and I’m still wishing my life away.  When summer vacation was over and it was time to head back to school I’d complain that it went by too fast.  My Dad would say “you think time goes by fast now, just wait, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”  He was right…the years are flying by with our minds so tied up with work, worries, money, appointments and everything else except slowing down to enjoy the simple things in life.

I like to spend most of my weekends enjoying the little things…taking Bailey to the park for a long walk, chasing a few squirrels and if it’s warm watching him have a big time running through the stinky water of the creek that runs through the park, taking a nap on Sunday afternoon, going to Granny’s house for Sunday Lunch and spending time with her, getting in the kitchen with my wonderful husband and whipping up a delicious meal with good music playing and sitting around my parents house talking about whatever subject pops into our heads…quality time.

This weekend I hope to get to enjoy several of those things.  As for the meal I’ll be cooking with my wonderful husband, I’m thinking Shrimp Scampi with Linguini.  I have to admit that I got this recipe from Tyler Florence.  I have tweaked it some but not much, it’s just about perfect in my opinion.  This morning as I left the house and it was cold and rainy I was wishing for the beach, warm weather and flip flops and this recipe popped into my head.  It just feels like summer and boy am I ready for summer.  I’m not “wishing my life away” this time, just wishing my front yard was surf and sand J

Try this recipe and see if you don’t think about the beach, flip flops and the sun.  It’s super easy, quick and tasty…what more can you ask for?
I’ll post a picture after I make it and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Shrimp Scampi with Linguini
1 pound linguini
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 large shallot, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, sliced
Pinch red pepper flakes, optional
20 large shrimp, about 1 pound, peeled and deveined
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, juiced (I use 1 ½ lemons and the zest of 1 lemon for more zing)
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley leaves

For the pasta, put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. When it has come to a boil, add a couple of tablespoons of salt and the linguini. Stir to make sure the pasta separates.  When the water returns to a boil, cook for about 6 to 8 minutes or until the pasta is not quite done.  Drain the pasta reserving 1 cup of water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat.  Saute the shallots, garlic, and red pepper flakes (if using) until the shallots are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Season the shrimp with salt and pepper; add them to the pan and cook until they have turned pink, about 2 to 3 minutes.  Remove the shrimp from the pan; set aside and keep warm.   Add wine and lemon juice and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil.  When the butter has melted, return the shrimp to the pan along with the parsley and cooked pasta and reserved pasta water.  Stir well and season with salt and pepper.  Drizzle over a bit more olive oil, add freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese and serve immediately.