Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Kitchen Essentials: Mixing Bowls

When it comes to the basics it doesn't get any more basic or necessary than a good set of mixing bowls.  I first started cooking in college out of was either I learned to cook home cooked meals or I wasn't going to have one until Thanksgiving or the nearest visit back to Nashville!  As I soon learned my kitchen was ill-equipt to handle such a challenge as were many of my friend's kitchens.  To make most anything there was usually a certain amount of mixing that was involved.  This was usually done in a large soup pot, a cereal bowl far too small for the task at hand or in a ziplock bag as those were our only options at hand.  This was simply not going to work for me!  It drove me crazy trying to mix chicken salad in a bowl that caused more to land on the counter or floor than what would actually remain in the bowl.  As anyone who has helped me move or seen my kitchen, you are well aware of the fact that I don't like to be in need of specific kitchen items, especially the basics...this is a dirrect result of such situations!  When I went off to college my parents bought me a set of plates, forks, knives, spoons, pots and pans but none of us thought to invest in a set of mixing bowls.  That was quickly remedied when I purchased these....The William-Sonoma set of 10 mixing bowls!
Even down to the tiniest little bowl, I can find a use for each size! Never again to want for a bowl in which to mix my chicken salad, pimento cheese, pumpkin bread, etc!  There is simply nothing more standard, more necessary, more logical than investing in these wonderful bowls!!!  They truly changed my culinary outlook!
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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Local Taco

Local Taco has become one of my favorite local spots in Nashville.  It is always a delicious meal, a freaking awesome margarita and queso that, I am not gonna lie, I honestly crave sometimes.  What makes this place special to me though isn't the food, it is the company I keep when I frequent this place.  My best friend, Nicoll, doesn't live that far from Local Taco so we have been known to walk to dinner and walk home if the weather is nice.  It is on these 10 minute strolls that we solve the problems of the world, at least in our little section of it anyway, and no matter how busy our lives have gotten and no matter what else is going on, this is our time to just get back to our friendship that has meant so much to me over the past 15 years.  

Local Taco is (and not to state the obvious) a local hot spot that uses fresh, locally grown ingredients making everything from the fried chicken taco (my personal favorite) to the breakfast taco absolutely mouth watering.  Tucked in the cozy Sylvan Park neighborhood, Local Taco will, without fail, have a line out the door when the weather is nice as they have some of the most desired patio seating in Nashville.  Even when the colder months descend upon us, the porch, with heaters and plastic sides, is warm and inviting.  Grab a Tacate, a maragrita and some guacamole and just enjoy the atmosphere....I assure you, you will enjoy your meal as well!

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Maggie's Sausage Balls

This time of year everyone is looking for appetizers whether they be for a cocktail party, a small gathering of friends and family, or just to have available when people stop by.  These are my favorite new apps to keep on hand.  They freeze beautifully so I typically just keep some in the freezer so I can pull them out and in 20 minutes I have myself, and my guests, the most delicious little treats!

My sister-in-law, Maggie, made these for our Pre-Thanskgiving feast and even though I have made sausage balls what feels like a million times I have never made any as good as these. They were by far the best I have ever had. Go ahead and throw out your old recipe and try me, they are really that good!

Maggie's Sausage Balls

1 pound hot sausage
1 (8 oz.) block cream cheese
2 cups Extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups Bisquick

Mix all ingredients together using your hands. 
Roll into balls. 
Cook at 400 for 15-20 minutes or until done.
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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Sue Thomas' Christmas Deviled Oysters

I'll admit it, I am not a huge fan of oyster dressing.  There....I said it! Of course there are caveats to any statement as blunt as mine.  When it comes to cooking my dear friend Reed Harrison said it best with regards to what her request would ever be should she have to decide her final meal.  She proclaimed "I would walk to my death blind as long as Anne Clayton was cooking my final meal".  This has always stuck with me as it is combination of Reed's beautiful wit and the God's honest truth when it comes to Anne's competence and abilities in the kitchen.  This year my Dad decided not to make his usual oyster dressing for Thanksgiving but instead we would have Deviled Oysters, a recipe that originally came from Anne's mother, Sue Thomas, and another culinary genius in my book.  Sue was a special lady and one who could make a meal as fine as any served in the most elegant French restaurants while knowing all the Southern favorites along with which fruits and vegetables were in season thus making her meals all the more delicious!  Last year, Anne included this recipe in her article in nFocus and this year it will be a highlight on our Thanksgiving table.  So back to my caveat, I may not be a fan of oyster dressing (which this is not, I must add) but if a recipe comes from Anne (or any other member of the Thomas family for that matter) I will be a willing taste tester as I have never had something she has made that I didn't thoroughly enjoy!  Just remember, even if there is an ingredient you may not think you like, just give it a try....what's the worst that could happen (unless of course you have a seafood allergy)!

Momma's Christmas Devlied Oysters
from Sue Thomas via Anne Clayton

1 quart fresh oysters
1 bunch celery, minced
1/2 small yellow onion, minced
1 teaspoon salt
few grinds black pepper
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon Tabasco, more to taste
1 1/2 sticks butter
3 cups toasted bread crumbs
Butter a shallow rectangle glass casserole or gratin dish.  Pick over and drain oysters on paper towel.  
Oysters must be very dry.  Saute celery and onions in butter until translucent.  
Add seasoning.  Adjust to taste.  
Butter casserole.  
Add layer oysters, then crumbs, then onion mixture, letting crumbs for top layer.   

 Dot with butter and bake at 350 degrees until hot and bubbling.  

Serve immediately.
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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Fried Egg Sandwich

For as long as I can remember my mom has made the most amazing fried egg sandwich.  Much like the BLT, the peanut butter and jelly sandwich and chicken noodle soup, there is just something about when it is made by my mother that makes it so much better than when I make them.  It is a very simple sandwich, nothing too outrageous, but since I was a child it has long been one of my all-time favorites and definitely falls into the category of "comfort foods".

Here are the cast of characters:
Old Fashioned Sunbeam Bread (no substitutions in my book but if you are a Wonder Bread kind of family then I guess there is nothing I can do about that)
4 slices bacon, fried and crispy
1 egg
 Fry the bacon and use about a tablespoon of the bacon grease to fry your egg.  
Bring the skillet to piping hot (that is a technical term by the way) and make sure to swirl the bacon grease around so the entire skillet is covered.  Crack the egg and drop it into the skillet.  Allow to fry for about 2-3 minutes and flip (this is completely dependent on how you like your egg cooked so the cooking time varies).
Toast your bread and put two pieces of bacon on each piece of toast.  
Place the egg on one piece of bacon layered toast, flip the other piece on top and you have yourself an official fried egg sandwich.  
My mother likes to add a little butter to her toast and sometimes some mustard to her sandwich but what can I say, I am a traditionalist and like just this basics on this one! 

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Pumpkin Cream Pie - Pioneer Woman

We have always had pumpkin pie for dessert on Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember.  Last year I decided to spice it up a bit....I still make a dessert that includes pumpkin but I try to find something new the family hasn't had yet.  This year I knew immediately what I wanted to make after I came across this recipe on the Pioneer Woman's blog.  Man am I glad I was amazing!!!

Pumpkin Cream Pie

1-½ package Graham Crackers (about 15 Cookie Sheets)
½ cups Powdered Sugar
1 stick Butter, Melted
1 box (3 Oz. Box) Vanilla Pudding (Cook And Serve Variety)
1 cup Half-and-half
½ cups Heavy Cream
Pinch Of Cinnamon
Pinch Of Nutmeg
Pinch Of Ground Cloves
2 Tablespoons Whiskey (optional)
½ cups (plus 3 Tablespoons) Pumpkin Puree
½ cups (additional) Heavy Cream
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar
Extra Graham Cracker Crumbs, For Garnish
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Grind graham crackers in a food processor (or, if you don’t have a food processor, place them in a large ziploc and pound ‘em with a rolling pin.) 
Add powdered sugar and melted butter and process until totally combined. 
Press into the bottom and sides of a pie pan until nice and firm. 
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, or until warm and “set.” Remove from oven and allow crust to cool completely. In a medium saucepan, mix dry pudding mix with half-and-half and cream. 
Add spices. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is bubbly and thick. 
Remove from heat and stir in whiskey, if using. Add pumpkin and stir to combine. Place lid on pot and set aside to cool. When cool enough, place pot in the fridge to cool completely.  When mixture is cool, remove from the fridge. In a mixing bowl, add 1/2 cup heavy cream and brown sugar. Beat until very light and fluffy. 
Fold in pumpkin cream mixture until combined. 
Pour into cooled crust. 
Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight. 
Serve with graham crackers crumbled on top.
As you can see even the puppies were in a food coma!
 My cousin Walker, with Annie sprawled out on the couch...
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