Friday, December 29, 2006

Well everyone, Christmas has come and gone this year and I survived my first ever attempt at Christmas dinner. It actually turned out OK. Probablly not the best CD my family has ever had, but they were all very complimentary and are so wonderful they would have said it was great had it tasted like gravel. But they didn't have to tell me that, because, darn it, I did alright! I should thank my friend Trish for telling me the proper way to "doctor" baked beans and the secret coleslaw recipe that was so easy even I could make it. She even told me which brand of corn to buy--Sam's Supersweet(it was quite yummy and will now be my corn of choice). So Thanks Trish! By the way, did anyone besides me NOT know that there were 312,000 varieties of Baked Beans available? THAT caused a slight panic attack...barbeque? country style? homestyle? brown sugar? aaaaarrrrggghhh! I went with the barbeque. They were pretty yummy enough after "doctoring" but next time I'm going to go with a differnt variety. In addition to the corn, bb, and coleslaw, I made roasted red potatoes, a weird cold vegetable salad of corn, pimentos, peas and green beans in a vinegar/sugar sauce/juice/whatever you call it for Mark--he liked it but I don't think anyone else even attempted a taste of it and I don't blame 'em--blech! I revamped the mac and cheese recipe and this time, it was much better. The recipe is somewhere recommendation is DON'T use sharp cheddar cheese. This time I used a cheddar jack blend and added some velveeta in with it. It was better, still not perfected, however. I made some of the King's cornbread...see previous post for the delicious recipe. And for dessert I used my new favorite cookbook once again for a Chocolate Eclair and "Paradise Hawaiian Style Pina Colada Cake". That PCC was good eatin' and you can't go wrong with an eclair, ever. Too many days have passed now for a complete rundown, but it all went fine and I'm slightly ashamed of myself for waiting this long to do it.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Cornbread fit for The King.

Finally!Something that turned out right! This cornbread was good…I’d even go so far as to say it was delicious! And it was not hard to make, either! Just lumped all the ingredients into a bowl, mixed em’ up, poured it into the hot skillet and let it go! NOW of course, this is me and you know it wouldn’t be without at least one disaster. I had my cornmeal and flour all ready to go (1 1/2 cups of each) and obviously looked at the recipe wrong because then I dumped in a CUP of sugar and had it all stirred up before I glanced down at the recipe and noticed it called for a TABLESPOON of sugar. SO I wasted a lot of flour and cornmeal, but at least I caught it before I tried to cook it, so I am getting better! Any other time I’ve ever tried to make cornbread, it has been the kind in the package…Martha White brand just add water, I believe. It’s OK, but it doesn’t taste like that good ole’ stuff my gradma makes. I would never have imagined I could make cornbread as good as hers, but I did.

I got this recipe from a cookbook that I picked up recently called Graceland’s Table: Recipes Fit for the King of Rock and Roll. Written by Ellen Rolfes with Elvis Presley Enterprises. C.2005 It’s actually a pretty good cookbook and I’m sure you can get it on Amazon. Now, remember, this recommendation is coming from me, and I don’t know squat about cooking, but I dig it! The recipes are submitted by various Elvis Presley fan club members around the country and are supposedly the types of foods that might have been served at Graceland for Elvis and his friends and family. Between recipes are Elvis stories and recollections by fans and friends. Some are really interesting while others are slightly idiotic. Also slightly idiotic, but insanely fun to read are some of the recipe titles and accompanying captions written by those who submitted the recipes.

For example: "Jailhouse Rock" Baked Beans, "If the warden had thrown a party at the county jail, he would have served Jailhouse Rock Beans."

And then we have: Mary’s "Ready Teddy" Potato Salad, "The King deserves the best potato salad…and this is it."

And my personal favorite: "Stuck on You" Burnt-Bacon Sandwiches, "I have been an Elvis fan my entire life. Through his music, he made me the person I am today. I think this recipe is very fitting, since all Elvis fans know how much he loved his burnt bacon."


There is also a section of photographs. Some are of Elvis, some are of Graceland, and then there are the ones where food stylists have arranged various recipes on serving dishes and plopped them in different rooms of Graceland. It’s just fabulous, I tell you, fabulous!

Among all the fun fan stuff and photos are some recipes that were actually prepared at Graceland. They are much simpler and tend to have fewer ingredients than the fan recipes, so Î decided to try one of those first.

OK remember, we’re talking Elvis AND cornbread so low fat, low cholesterol, low calorie, it AIN’T.

From Elvis’s Kitchen: Southern Cornbread

1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 1/2 cups self rising cornmeal
1 1/2 cups self rising flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3 large eggs
2 cups milk

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Put the shortening in a 9 inch hot, iron skillet and place it in the oven until melted. Combine the cornmeal, flour nad sugar in a large bowl. Add the eggs and milk and stir until well mixed. Pour the mixture into the hot, greased skillet and bake for 20 min. or until the top is golden brown.

Slap on some butter and enjoy it while it's hot!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

if it takes THAT long to cook, it ought to taste good!

Macaroni and Cheese happens to be one of my favorite foods…my mac of choice is usually the stuff in the blue box. I think its Shea that named it Radioactive Orange. Nonetheless, it’s pretty tasty and I CAN whip up a batch of that without any problems at all. BUT…the blue box stuff is not homemade and since I am now adventuring into the land of all things culinary, I thought Mac & Cheese would be a good choice for my next recipe. It's a favorite of mine. Other would enjoy it if I cooked it for an event. It's Quick, easy and delicious. HA! HA! And HA! It was none of the three. I’m beginning to think I ain’t meant for this domestic stuff!

So anyway, I was actually excited to try the mac and cheese recipe(if that doesn't prove I'm a dork, nothing does) and things were pretty swell with until I began to make the white sauce. The pasta was boiling away, my milk/butter mixture looking good and I had all the ingredients lined up and ready to go. Once I added the flour/dry mustard/salt mixture I started to get lumps. Lots of little lumpy dumpling like thingies floating around in what was to become cheese sauce. I whisked and whisked to no avail…I couldn’t seem to get them to dissolve so I did the only thing I knew to do. I called Mom. I’m sure my parents get a huge kick out of me calling everytime I try to cook something…either that or they just shake their heads and wonder how and where they possibly went wrong with me. My siblings are so normal… Anyhow, Mom tells me to keep on whisking and gives me several other options to try and eventually most of lumps do dissolve, I add the cheese and things look as if they are getting back on track. Once the cheese sauce is done, I slosh in the mac, stir it up and then decide to get REALLY fancy and top it with an additional layer of Italian cheese and cracker crumbs. Then I put my creation in the oven and wait…a really long time. From start to finish it took almost 2 hours…TWO hours to make a dadgum macaroni and cheese. I know that can’t be right. Had to be of all the fuss over the sauce.

So after the really really long time in the oven, I take the dish out and, well, if I do say so myself it was the prettiest dish of macaroni and cheese I’ve ever seen! They say looks can be deceiving and now I know why. It was not nearly as tasty as it looked. To look so yummy and taste so blah was a huge letdown. At first taste, I couldn’t quite figure it out…is it the sharp cheddar? is it not enough seasoning? are the cracker crumbs throwing it off? what gives? Today I warmed up a bowl in the microwave at school and realized that it was just bland. Maybe I should have salted the pasta a LOT more. I had my buddy Pam try it and she said; "it needs SOMETHING". Recipe is below WITHOUT my addition of lawry's or the cracker crumb/italian cheese topping. I’m sending some to Mom and Dad to sample. Hopefully they will be able to tell me what to do to make it TASTE as good as it looked before Christmas. Yes, that’s right, Christmas dinner is at MY house this year! My family…they are brave people.

I am not making this up...the recipe is actually titled:
Marvelicious Mac and Cheese
2cups uncooked elbow macaroni
21/2c. milk
1tbs. butter
3 tbs. all purpose flour
3/4tsp. salt
1/2tsp. dry mustard
2c sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup. sharp cheddar (optional for topping)

Preheat oven to 375. Cook macaroni according to package.

Meanwhileheat milk and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Gradually whisk in flour, salt and dry mustard and simmer one minute, whisking occasionally.

Remove from heat; stir in 2c. shredded cheddar until melted. Add drained macaroni to saucepan and toss with cheese sauce.

Transfer mixture to a greased 8 or 9 inch square baking dish. Sprinkle 1/2 c. cheddar on top(optional) .

Bake uncovered until hot and bubbly (about 20min.) Let stand 5 min. before serving.

Saturday, December 9, 2006

Kellie vs. the Chicken Episode II

OK. I decided to try a new recipe today. Actually I did exactly what I said I was NOT going to do and tried to three things at once. Unfortunately, it didn’t work as well as I had hoped it might.

I decided to try my friend Cara’s recipe for Chicken and Spaghetti. Sounded yummy, seemed simple enough. I’ve fried chicken once, thought not a complete success, I am willing to try it again. Maybe I should have waited a while longer. Didn't turn out quite as well as I had hoped. NOT because it wasn't a good recipe, but it's my lack of skills and my choice of side item. One problem was I think I probably wasn’t supposed to fry it quite so much. Again, with sketchy directions on the amount of olive oil to use, I decided to use the amount I had when I fried chicken the last time…enough to cover one side of the tenders. Well, these guys must have been smaller than the last batch or something. It looked like they were getting an olive oil bath. And they came out a tad over done and really oily. I had to drain them on a paper towel to get rid of some of the oiliness.

Now, because Mark is a vegetarian (fanatical about it, actually) I wanted to fix something that he could have with his spaghetti…of course it was only later that I got to thinking on it and realized you don’t really NEED anything with spaghetti other than maybe a salad and some garlic bread.

Anyhow, I come up with potatoes! As if we aren’t getting enough starch with the pasta, I added even more. It sounded good at the time… So the recipe I choose is called Unfried French Fries. Sounded good and similar to the roasted red potatoes Mom makes. I should have stuck with Mom’s recipe. Like the chicken, the potatoes were BATHED in olive oil. I used the amount called for in the recipe with only one potato less, so you’d think it wouldn’t be that different. My unfried taters weren’t crunchy at all, as the recipe promised. They were greasy and soft. The few that got "burnt" tasted allright and they might have been good without the olive oil soaked chicken, I don’t know. I just think I should have stuck with one thing.

Now Mark liked the meal. He liked the potatoes (even though he admitted to the greasiness when pressed---he wasn’t going to tell me but I kept after him till he did) and he enjoyed the spaghetti w/marinara sauce. When it came to the sauce, I went for the expensive stuff…Bertolli Marinara w/Burgundy Wine…thinking if it cost more and sounds exotic it must taste better. Nope. Should have stuck with the good old Ragu. I like a hearty sauce and this was way too sweet for me. But again, Mark really liked it so it wasn’t a complete loss.

My opinoin was the best part of the meal was the garlic bread (Pepperidge Farm) and the orange popsicle I afterwards to try and kill the taste of all that olive oil and sweet tomato sauce.

Cara’s recipe was easy and I’m sure when SHE makes it, it is quite tasty. Had I used a normal amount of olive oil and used a better sauce, I’m sure it would have been fine. My chicken cooking skills…or lack of…are the majority of the problem...just can’t seem to get it right. But hey, that is only the second time in my life I’ve tried to do anything to chicken other than slap in on the George Forman or Shake and Bake it. I will definitely try this one again. BUT not any time soon. I'm done with chicken for a while. The potatoes, I don’t know. The recipe called for butter OR oil. Maybe the butter would have been a better choice. Maybe if they were tossed in rather than drowning in it? Also, mine touched in the pan, but surely that didn't do them in. If anyone tries the unfried fries recipe, tell me what I did wrong.

Cara's Chicken and Spaghetti
chicken tenders (as many as you like)
garlic salt
bottled spaghetti sauce (Prego Zesty Garlic is my favorite)
Vermicelli (enough for the two of you)

Heat olive oil in skillet or frying pan to medium heat.
Put vermicelli on to cook.
Heat sauce in saucepan.
Sprinkle chicken with garlic salt to taste (I like mine pretty garlicy.)
Cook chicken in heated pan until juices no longer run pink (that's a
little trick to know if chicken is done. You could also get an
electronic food thermometer and when the chicken is heated to 180
degrees F, it's ready. I use the thermometer whenever I cook chicken on
the stove top, especially fried chicken. DON'T WANT NO SALMONILLA!)
Drain vermicelli.
On plate, place chicken on noodles, cover with sauce, and top with
mozzarella cheese if desired.

Unfried French Fries from Comfort Food by Rita M. Harris
"It is possible to make MARVELOUSLY crunchy potatoes without frying" yeah, right.
6 med. potatoes cut into 8 wedges
6 tbs. butter or oil
salt and pepper
grated parmesan cheese(optional)

Soak wedges in ice water for at least 15min. to remove starch and make finished product more crisp
Drain potatoes and remove as much water as possible by towel drying
Preheat oven to 425
Spread butter on bottom of pan. Add potatoes, making sure they do not touch each other. SPrinkle with salt, pepper, paprika. Bake 30min. Turn every 10min. to make sure they brown on all sides. Sprinkle wedges with the grated cheese and bake an additional 2-3min. Serve hot.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Now this COOKED

Last night I had the absolute pleasure to be a part of the Brian Setzer Orchestra's Christmas Extravaganza. WOW. What a show.I expected it to be good, great, fantastic even, but it SOOOOOO surpassed my expectations! It was possibly the best concert I've been to...and I've had front row tickets to my all time favorite performer, Harry Connick Jr AND I've seen my other teenage years idols, Duran Duran live too. So that should tell you something!

Anyway, I've been a huge fan of Brian Setzer's music since high school (the days of the Stray Cats). I used to tape their videos on Friday Night videos back before we had MTV and I'd watch them over and over. Gotta Get A Cadillac was my favorite video, in case you're intersted. Anway, I played the rant and rave cd endlessly. I've always loved that 50's sound and everything associated with that era fascinates me still...I guess that was what got me started on them. I loved the music and the cats were, well they were cool! When Brian Setzer struck out on his own, I got that cassette too, The Knife Feels Like Justice, and I think I wore it out. Thanks to Shea, have had a steady stream of Brain Setzer and Stray Cats cd's supplied ever since.I I have copies of all the BSO cd's and never tire of listening to those.

And I got to see/hear it all last night. FROM THE SIXTH ROW at the Ryman. Could not have asked for better seats! Several standing O's during the night. The Christmas music was outstanding and they played some old Stray Cats stuff as well as some of Setzer's trio numbers. Some of faves were Sleigh Ride, Jump Jive and Wail--which was flat out great, Hey Santa, Red Hot, Fishnet Stockings, let's see there was a guitar duel between Brian and the Grinch, snow falling from the ceiling, Sexy and 17, the Nutcracker Suite...oh heck, who I am kidding they were ALL favorites! There was not a dull moment all night! I don't think I sat still for more than five minutes as a time the who night! Everyone had a great time...Shea was rockin'! Mom and Dad thourougly enjoyed themselves and I KNOW Bryan was there with us, loving every minute...he wouldn't have missed a show like that! I haven't had this much fun since we all went to Brian Regan! Just Outstanding. Thanks Shea, for bringing the Christmas Spirit to us this year! I owe you for this one! I'm sure Shea will post the rundown in detail on his blog, so check it out! Next time we'll get back to the food.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Eggs in a Nest

So tonight I came home from work around 5:00 or so and decided I was hungry. I almost poured a bowl of corn pops and then changed my mind at the last minute in favor of trying another recipe. I've scrambled many many many eggs before, so this wasn't a scary recipe. But it sounded really tasty, and it turned out to TASTE really tasty too!

Eggs in a nest from Sandra Lee Semi-Homeade cooking. Basically this is what it amounted to:
Spray pam in a small baking cup
Scramble 1-2 eggs with some pepper and Lowry's seasoned salt.
Butter one side of a piece of bread
Lay the bread in the dish, butter side up.
Add a spoonful of cheezwhiz on top of the bread
Scramble the eggs till just set
Spoon them over the bread & top w/another spoonful of cheez whiz
Bake for 5-6min.

It was yummy. I wish I'd have had the wheat bread the recipe called for and next time I think I'll lay off the cheese a bit. All in all, this one is a keeper. And really, it wasn't that much more trouble than a bowl of cereal would have been.

Ya'll be sure to check back this weekend. I'm going to try my hand at chicken again! This time I'll be using my friend Cara's recipe for chicken and spaghetti. She swears it's easy.

Monday, December 4, 2006

Recipe the First: Fried Chicken Tenders

OK, you didn’t believe me when I said I can’t cook did you? This should convince you that I’m not lying…this was the first time in my life I’d ever fried a piece of chicken. For some reason I never thought I could do it. One big reason was I never wanted to mess with cutting and cleaning some nasty chicken. Blech! I’ve seen Mom & my grandma do it, and it is not a pretty sight. Lucky for me, they have those new-fangled already cut and cleaned chicken tenders right on my supermarket shelves. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know they’ve had those for years, and I have shaked and baked my fair share of chicken tenders, but that’s not the same. Frying up chicken was scary.

My poor Mom is going to be so sorry she ever suggested this “try one recipe a week” thing because I called her three times during my chicken frying adventure! The first time was to see how much oil to put in the pan. Sandra Lee suggested I use a deep fryer OR fill a deep pot with oil. Well I don’t have either (is a deep pot the same thing as a saucepan?) and she didn’t tell me how much oil to use if I’m using a plain old skillet! These food network people don’t realize they have complete cooking idiots reading their books, do they? Anyway, when I call, Dad gets on the phone and I tell him I have a cooking question for Mom. While he is on the way to get Mom I proceed to tell him that I am attempting to fry chicken. Then I say “and I’ve never fried chicken in my life!” “KEL-lie” he says with such an air of disappointment and disbelief that I actually feel guilty because I’ve never fried chicken before! So, it is ON with me and the chicken now!

During our conversation, Mom tells me not only how much oil to use in my skillet (enough to cover one side of the tender) but warns me not to get the oil too hot or the outside will be done before the inside. Well now, how in the heck am I supposed to know how hot the oil is getting? So I guessed…

While the oil was heating up, I started the chicken dunking process. As luck would have it, I did not have the right ingredients…had to substitute Lowry’s season salt for the southwest marinade mix(don’t think I used enough) and corn flakes for bran flakes. Anyhow I managed to
get all my dunking bowls and bags together and ready with ease. The actual dunking…that was pretty gross. Cold,
wet, uncooked chicken is unappetizing in and of itself, but start dipping it in a mixture of raw egg and buttermilk then a flour mix, then back into the buttermilk/egg goo and once more dunk in corn flakes and it’s evenworse! Ending up with egg-buttermilk-flour-corn flake-chicken gunk all over my hands didn’t help.

post dunking

looking OK This is where things begin to go awry

Anyway, as you may have guessed the outside of my chicken got done before the inside! The inside turned out tender and juicy; the outside was crusty and nearly burnt. I said it was nearly burnt which means it was still edible. The inside WAS tender and juicy as I mentioned and I was able to scrape some of the burnt stuff off, so all was not lost. I faced the chicken, and I won, barely, but I still won! Kellie –1, Chicken - 1.

Finished product, w/ instant taters

Spiced Chicken Tenders
Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Cooking
Vegetable oil
1/2c. All purpose flour
1/2 packed Southwest marinade mix, McCormick Grill Mates
Ground black pepper
3 cups corn bran cereal
1 egg lightly beaten
1/2 c. buttermilk
1 pound chicken breast tenders

Fill a fryer with oil to its maximum level or fill a deep pot no more than halfway with oil. Preheat oil in fryer or pot to 375 degrees.

In large re-sealable bag combine flour, marinade mix and pepper. Set aside. In another bag, add corn bran. Using a rolling pin, gently crush cereal to coarse ground crumbs. Set aside. In a shallow bowl, combine egg and buttermilk.

Soak chicken strips in buttermilk mixture. Toss a few strips at a time in seasoned flour mixture. Shake off excess flour and dip into buttermilk mixture again. Toss chicken in cereal crumbs to coat. Repeat with remaining chicken strips.

Fry chicken strips in batches until golden brown and cooked through, about 6-7 min. per batch. Drain on paper towel. Serve warm w/dipping sauce.

*Note to self: remember to drain next time, turn more often, crush Cornflakes more completely, and use more of the seasoning salt (2tbs) if marinade mix unavailable we go!

I have a little secret, more of a problem really... My family is aware of it and my very close friends know about it too, but no one else. Until now. My secret isn't terrible, not even all that bad in the whole "keeping secrets" arena. But it is embarrassing and the only way to get over this little problem I have is to face it head on! So here goes...brace yourselves...I am thirty eight years old and I can’t cook! There you have it; my secret is out. Sad…but true.

If genetics have anything to do with it, I should be a good cook…

  • My mother can cook. In fact, she’s a great cook. She’s one of those throw-stuff-together-without-a-recipe-and-it-comes-out-delicious kinds of cooks.
  • Jackie, my lil’ sis, can cook. She’s pretty talented at it. She’s currently living in Poland and doesn’t have the luxury of running to Kroger to pick up a lot of conveniences that we think of as being necessary to cook. STILL, she manages to pop out dishes that are yummy and continually impresses her Polish peeps with her cooking skills.
  • My brother Shea cooks on a regular basis and I think he’s a pretty good cook as well.
  • My Dad has a few signature dishes that he makes for holidays and such…those are always good eats…baked corn being my personal favorite.
  • My brother Bryan loved to cook when he was able and even when he wasn’t able, he’d dictate ideas for recipes to Mom, she’d whip them up and they’d be quite tasty.
  • My grandmothers are wonderful cooks and Papaw could barbecue like nobody’s business.

So why did I miss out on the culinary portion of the family gene pool? No idea. I share the same bloodline with all these wonderful cooks and should be a great cook myself, and yet my cooking skills rate along side those of Ellie Mae Clampet. Remember when she made biscuits that were so hard they used them for hockey pucks or shot-put or something? I’ve made those same exact biscuits!

For whatever reason, I can’t (or perhaps don’t) cook. Maybe I’ll delve into those reasons someday, but for now I’ve decided it’s high time I start learning to cook! Mom suggested that I try one recipe a week and I thought that was a pretty good idea! SO one recipe a week it is and I plan to document it here. For now, I’ll do my documenting on Wed. or the weekend, as Mark and I still do not have internet service and I can’t really post from work. I’m usually at the folks’ place at least once a week, so the blog will be a weekly thing for me.

In case you’re wondering, on the days I’m not trying out a recipe, I’ll be eating my usual “make do” cooking (if you can call it cooking) which is frozen dinners, cereal, fast food, and stuff from cans…so don’t ya’ll worry. I’ve made it thirty-eight years without cooking and I ain’t starving (as is widely recognized). The day I DO try an actual recipe, I’ll have one of those convenience foods with it. “Why not trying TWO recipes on the same day?” you ask. Are you kidding me?! Change takes time, people!

11/10/07 UPDATE: It's over a year later and I'm now a little bit better at cooking and have even taken up some new hobbies! If you've been directed here from Jackie & Scott's blog, you can see what I'm up to these days here.