Monday, April 29, 2013

Y is for Yogurt

My typical breakfast is a cup of Greek yogurt with a banana and almonds.  I find that Greek yogurt with more protein keeps me fuller longer.  I've tried a number of different brands, but my favorite is Oikos key lime Greek yogurt.  Bon appetit!

X is for eXtra Gum

I was never really a gum chewer until I discovered eXtra gum.  Well, actually it was their apple pie flavored gum.  I saw it in the checkout aisle in the fall of 2011.  I usually avoid those last few tempting items before the cashier checks you out, but I thought, Hmmmm, that sorta sounds good.  I'll try it.

I was hooked!  And now I've discovered eXtra lemon square flavored gum.  Yummy!  My daughter asked to try the chocolate mint and the orange sherbet.  She likes them, but I'm sticking with my apple pie and lemon flavored gums!

Friday, April 26, 2013

W is for Worcestershire Sauce

A man walks into a restaurant for dinner.  The waiter takes his order and brings him his meal when it is ready.  The waiter also places a bottle of sauce on the table and says, "Our chef has mixed up a new sauce to use with some of our beef dishes.  Would you like to try it?"

The man says, "Sure," and pours a little onto his plate.  He cuts his meat and dips a forkful into the sauce.  "Mmmmmm," the man mutters as he enjoys his meal.  The waiter looks pleased and  leaves.

After a few minutes, the chef comes out to ask the man what he thinks of the sauce.

"It's delicious!" he says.  He picks up the bottle and looks at the chef.  "So, what's this here sauce?"

"Exactly," says the chef.

"No, what's this here sauce?" The man asks again holding the bottle up.

"Right," says the chef.

Frustrated the man puts the bottle down hard on the table and stares at the chef.  "I just wanted to know what you called the sauce!" the man yelled.

"Worcestershire sauce, sir," the chef says politely.

"Well, that's what I've been asking you!" the man shouts and leaves the restaurant.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for Vienna Sausages (and Other Canned Meats)

My daddy always had a can of Vienna sausages or potted meat or some other canned meat in his truck "just in case."  As a kid, I thought those tiny sausages were just the greatest, especially on top of saltine crackers.  I'd take a little brown bag with a can of Vienna sausages, a package of saltines, a 5th avenue candy bar and a bottle of Mountain Dew out to the farm when I would help my dad in the summer.  Some days that lunch didn't make it until noon, and it became my ten o'clock snack.

A few years ago I decided that I would try those little sausages again.  It had been years, but I was now pregnant and I needed to satisfy a craving.  I thought that Vienna sausages were the answer. Boy, was I wrong!  My adult taste buds have definitely changed.  I didn't even make it through the second little wiener before I was grossed out.

Sorry, but no Vienna sausages for me now!

U is for Upside Down Cake

One of my favorite desserts is pineapple upside down cake.  My mom never made it very often, but when she did, my dad and I just loved it.  A slice of cake with the warm pineapple and the caramelized brown sugars is just ooey gooey yummy delicious!  Here's Paula Deen's version that looks wonderful!

What's your all time favorite dessert?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T is for Tiramisu

Isn't tiramisu one of the most heavenly desserts?  That rich, creamy filling of eggs and mascarpone cheese layered with the coffee soaked lady fingers with just a sprinkle of cocoa on top -- makes me drool just thinking about it.

Tiramisu is an Italian dessert and its name means "pick me up" which I think is just perfect.  A little bit of tiramisu is definitely a pick me up any time of the day, especially after a yummy Italian meal, too.

Monday, April 22, 2013

S is for Seafood

I love seafood!  Shrimp, oysters, scallops, flounder, calamari, crab, lobster, tilapia -- yummy!

We eat some sort of seafood at least once or twice a week.  When I go out to eat, I most often get a seafood dish.  I grew up going fishing with my dad, and we have had many a fish fry and rock stews at our house.  As a teenager, I worked at our local seafood restaurant.  Even the greasy, fishy smell that covered me at the end of the night did not deter me from ordering up a plate of fried shrimp and flounder.  It's just good eatin'!

What's your favorite seafood?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

R is for Reuben Sandwiches

I'm searching for the perfect Reuben sandwich.  I've enjoyed my fair share at various local restaurants and I've made my own.  I prefer my Reuben traditionally with corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, Thousand Island dressing, on grilled rye bread.  I've tried the healthier version with turkey, Laughing Cow cheese, no dressing or a light version.  It's just not the same.  A Reuben has to be that thick, juicy, buttery grilled hot sandwich with the dressing and kraut oozing out with just the right amount of corned beef and cheese.  Man, I might just have to make one for lunch on Sunday!

Q is for Quinoa

Well, I'm still working my way through the alphabet in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, and Friday was the letter 'Q'.  I decided to use quinoa for the letter 'q', but I admit that I've never tried this grain.  From the Wikipedia entry, I learned that it's not exactly a grain, but it's considered a pseudocereal.  I hear that it's supposed to be good for you.  Maybe I'll add it to my diet.

How do you use quinoa?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

P is for Pimento Cheese

Mmmm, pimento cheese!

We almost always have pimento cheese in our house.  Either I've mixed up a bowl of homemade pimento cheese or I have resorted to buying a container of Ruth's.  It is another staple in our house.

Pimento cheese is good with so many things.  You can spread some on fresh white bread and make your basic sandwich.  You can scoop it up on celery sticks.  You can spread it on crackers, bagel chips, and pita chips.  You can put a little on your burger or chicken sandwich.  You can warm it up and use it as a dip for chicken tenders, fried shrimp, potato chips, baguettes or crackers.  You can make a grilled pimento cheese sandwich, but you'll need a dryer version than the store bought stuff or your cheese runs out all over the place.

When I make my own pimento cheese, it's very simple:  sharp cheddar cheese, Duke's mayonnaise, and a jar of diced pimentos.  I use one of those old timey crank graters so the cheese comes out really fine.  I usually grate at least an 8 oz block.  Then I mix in a dollop of mayonnaise.  I really have no idea if it's a 1/2 cup or more.  Then I dump the whole small jar of diced pimentos, water and all, into the cheese and mayo and mix.  If I need a dryer mix, then I drain the pimentos and maybe use a little less mayo.  Either way, it's southern goodness in a spread!

How do you eat your pimento cheese?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Blue

Book 13:   Blue by Joyce Hosttetter

This is the story of Ann Fay who is now the man of house since her father has been shipped off to war in the 1940s.  Unfortunately, her brother comes down with polio and she is left alone to care for her two sisters while her mother stays with the brother at the hospital.  After her brother dies and her mother returns home, Ann Fay finds herself having to take care of her mother, too.  Then one day she is struck with polio and shipped off to a hospital where she becomes friends with a black girl.

A very moving story of family, friendship, war and sickness, racial inequality, faith and hope and perseverance.

O is for Okra

A few years ago I attempted my hand at a garden. We had bought a house out of the city with a few acres.
The previous owners had established a ten by ten section for their garden, and the little plot of land seemed to scream at me:  Plant me!  So I decided that I would attempt my first real garden on my own.

I grew up with my parents planting a really big vegetable garden which has shrunk each year as they have gotten older and less able to take care of a big plot.  So I had some ideas about how to go about planting and tending my square;  I just had to decide what all I would plant.

I decided on three things:  tomato plants, pepper plants, and okra.   I went with the tomato and pepper plants because planting those six inch plants made me feel accomplished.  I dug holes, watered, and stuck in the plants.  Ta da!  But the okra seeds were less exciting.  I would have to wait  a few weeks before they germinated and started growing.

My husband does not really like "leaves and stems" as he puts it, but he will eat okra.  He prefers fried okra, but he has been known to eat okra cut up in soup.  I will eat okra fried or stewed or cut up in soup.  I like okra.  When the okra was ready, I was excited about having those fresh vegetables at dinner.  But after two weeks of having okra almost every night, my husband and I were done.  It was okra overload!

How do you like your okra?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

N is for Nutella

Nutella is just the most sinful thing there is in the pantry.  Whoever invented the hazelnut chocolate spread is a genius!  It's the yummiest spread to put on a bagel, toast, or sandwich.  But my favorite way to eat it is with a spoon right out of the jar.

M is for Moon Pies

Have you ever had a Moon Pie?

As a kid growing up in the South, I had my fair share of Moon Pies.  I grew up working on the farm and about mid-morning on a summer day, my daddy would bring those of us working in the field a morning snack.  We had our choices of a candy bar, a pack of peanuts, or a Moon Pie and a drink. In the South a drink is the same as a soda or a pop.  My drink of choice was usually a Mountain Dew.

Moon Pies are yummy little snack cakes, chocolate covered soft graham cookies with a marshmallow cream between the two cookies.  I'd always heard the phrase "an RC cola and a Moon Pie," but I never really liked those colas.  I'd stick with the Dew.

I a few years ago I discovered the Moon Pie Crunch, especially the yummy peanut butter filled crunchy cookies.  I could have a new snack addiction, but I'm trying to restrain myself.

What's your favorite snack?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

L is for Lettuce

Did you know that there are many different kinds of lettuce?

Iceberg lettuce was the only lettuce that I really knew growing up.  I don't remember much other than a head of the stuff, chopping it for salads or pulling off a leaf for a BLT.  At some point I discovered romaine, which is now my favorite type of lettuce.  I love chopping a head of romaine for a basic salad:  lettuce, boiled eggs, cheese, bacon, tomatoes, little dressing.  I also like making the wilted romaine salad.

Bibb lettuce is nice to use for a lettuce wrap.  Lay out a leaf of bibb and add shredded pork, a little soy sauce, chopped water chestnuts and wrap it all up.  I'm not really a fan of red leaf, chicory and frisee lettuces.  Radicchio always seems bitter to me.  I can take or leave arugula.

What's your favorite type of lettuce to use?

K is for Ketchup

I like ketchup.  I think that most people do.  It's a fairly likely condiment, sweet and tangy, tomatoey.  It goes well with French fries, hot dogs, hamburgers.

I've known folks to eat ketchup on their scrambled eggs.  Not really something that I want to try.  But I do like ketchup and vinegar on my black eyed peas, my good luck meal on New Year's Day.

What food do you like to douse with ketchup?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

J is for Java

It took me a long time to like coffee.

As a kid, I thought I was all grown up, drinking a cup of coffee in the winter time.  You probably couldn't really call it coffee, though, since it was about 1/4 cup of coffee to 3/4 cup of milk and who knows how many spoons of sugar.  Basically, it was milk coffee and for a kid it was a sweet treat.

When I went off to college, my mama who was about a ten cups a day coffee drinker kept telling me that I would probably learn to drink stronger coffee in college.  She figured late night studying would turn me on to the java, but I probably drank less milk coffee as a teenager in college than I had as a youngster. I graduated and still didn't really like coffee.

When I started teaching, my mama who was still about a ten cups a day coffee drinker told me that I would probably learn to like stronger coffee as a teacher.  It's almost a prerequisite that teachers drink the bean, but even late nights of grading papers did not see me drinking any more coffee.  I still didn't really like coffee.

In my late twenties and early thirties, the coffee house phenomenon seemed to explode.  There were already Starbucks and Caribou Coffee, but you started seeing more small coffee shops popping up all over and my coffee drinking friends started asking to meet up at the local coffee shop.  We'd play games, talk about books, and catch up on life, and so I tried a latte or two and then a cappuccino or three and before I knew it I was drinking coffee.  Granted, it wasn't too far off from the milk coffee that I enjoyed as a child, but it certainly was more adult of me to be drinking these fancy named coffee drinks.

Now in my forties with a busy life that includes an active child, I have finally discovered coffee, real coffee, strong coffee, the kind that you must have in the morning to get you going.  I don't drink it every day, but I definitely have a few cups on the weekends, and my proportions have changed: 3/4 cup coffee to 1/4 cup of creamer.

How do you like your java?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I is for Ice Cream

Yesterday was free cone day at the Ben & Jerry's and you can be certain that my daughter and I were right there with about fifty other folks, standing in line to get our free ice cream cone.  Who doesn't love some ice cream, especially when it's being given away for free?!

Ice cream is like a staple food.  I cannot remember a time when there was not some form of ice cream in the house.  As a child, my mama bought the five quart buckets of vanilla ice cream and fudge ripple.  If we weren't having a bowl or cone of ice cream, we were having a scoop on top of a brownie or a piece of cake.  I remember making quarts of ice cream in the summer, adding the rock salt to the old wooden, hand cranked ice cream maker.  The best kind was always made with whatever fruit was in season -- strawberry or peach.

I admit that my supper on many nights when I was a single gal was a pint of Ben & Jerry's --Chunky Monkey, Chubby Hubby, or Peanut Butter Cup.  Back in the late 90's on Monday nights, it was just me, a spoon, my pint of ice cream and Ally McBeal

I also like the new frozen Greek yogurt flavors that Ben & Jerry's has.  The flavors -- Liz Lemon and Blueberry Cheesecake -- are just as yummy as their regular ice creams.  It makes feel like I'm eating a little healthier, too.

At any time if you looked in our freezer now, you'd probably find a container of Breyer's vanilla and a package of Schwan's ice cream sundae cones.  There may also be some single serve cups of some crazy flavor my daughter and I just had to try or a box of ice cream sandwiches.  Either way, there will definitely be ice cream ready to serve!

What's your favorite flavor of ice cream?

(Photo: Me at the Ghiradelli ice cream shop in San Diego, CA, 2011)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

H is for Honey

I've used honey occasionally, but in the past year, I have decided that honey has to be a staple in my house.  I've been drinking much more hot tea lately, and honey is the best sweetener for hot tea.  I've also been reading more about honey as a home remedy, curing what ails you and keeping you fit.

In the past two weeks, I came down with bronchitis.  I was determined to knock it out, but I really dislike antibiotics.  In my reading, I had discovered that honey and cinnamon is a great remedy for many illnesses and diseases.  So I mixed a 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon with a tablespoon of honey and simply ate that every morning for a few days (about five days into my sickness) and my wheezing, coughing, drainage disappeared.  I've been drinking a cup of decaffeinated, citrus herb tea with honey in it once a day, too.  I'm feeling much better!

Thanks to our family friends for supplying us with some great honey!

Monday, April 8, 2013

G is for Grits

I am a southern girl.  I am GRITS -- a Girl Raised In The South -- and I love grits -- warm, buttery, cheesy, just enough salty grits! 

I've been eating grits for as long as I can remember.  In the fall and winter, the breakfast staple was definitely a piping hot bowl of grits.  Sometimes those grits were instant, pulled from a box of Quaker instant grits packets -- butter, cheese, bacon bits.  Just as many mornings, though, they were quick cook in the pot with a big ol' pat of butter, maybe a little grated sharp cheddar cheese.  Makes me melt just thinking about those yummy grits.

My daughter likes grits, too, especially the cheesy grits.  No instant for me now.  It's so easy to mix up a pot of grits, creamy smooth, right on the stove top.  I tend to make them just on the weekends and for special occasion breakfasts, such as Christmas morning.

Here's one of my favorite cheesy grits casserole recipes! Enjoy!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

F is for Frog Legs

When I was a teenager, I was a waitress at a local seafood restaurant.  I lived way out in the country, the middle of no where, and this seafood restaurant was situated in a big old barn that had been renovated.  In fact we referred to it as the red barn more often than we used its official name.

The restaurant was situated next to a business that made cement garden sculptures and birdbaths.  It was surrounded by acres and acres of farmland, and on the other side of the path leading up to the restaurant was the canal.

One of the items on our menu was frog legs.  We used to tell folks that we went gigging in the canal for the big bullfrogs, but the truth was that they came frozen in the Seaboard truck right along side the shrimp, flounder, and oysters, although the seafood was fresh.  Folks knew it was a joke. 

I only remember a couple of folks ever ordering frog legs for or with their meal, and I was curious to try them.  So one night when business was slow, the manager fried me up some frog legs to try.  I've always been willing to try most foods, even as a youngster, so I wasn't necessary disgusted by the idea of frog legs, but I was cautious.  They looked like small drumsticks sitting there on my plate. I tentatively picked one up, eyed it for a second, and then took a bite.  The frog legs tasted like dry chicken.  I remember shrugging and saying that they were okay.  I've never tried them again.

Maybe someone has a great recipe for making a more delicious version of frog legs.

Friday, April 5, 2013

E is for Eggs

I love eggs!  I could eat eggs for three meals a day.  In fact, I have actually done that a few times in my life.  I especially love boiled eggs.  They are like the perfect food.  You can eat a boiled egg with nothing on it or a little salt.  You can open it up, scoop out the yolk, mash the yolk with a little mayo and some pickle relish, return the mixture to its egg white holder and you've got scrumptious deviled eggs.  You can slice or chop that boiled egg and put it over a lettuce salad or you can mash it all up and make egg salad for a sandwich.

I also love fried eggs.  Now everybody has a different idea about what constitutes the best breakfast egg.  I want mine fried crispy on the outside, but not too hard that the yellow cooks.  I want to be able to sop up the runny yellow inside with my toast.  And breakfast anytime sounds like a great meal plan to me!

I recently had a wilted romaine salad with a soft boiled egg, bacon and Parmesan dressing that was out of this world.  Here's my attempt to recreate it:

My Wilted Romaine Salad
1 head of romaine lettuce, washed with end cut off
1-2 slices of cooked bacon, chopped
Drippings reserved from cooked bacon
1-2 soft boiled eggs, chopped
2 TBS of mayonnaise
1 TBS of Parmesan

After cooking the bacon, use just enough drippings to coat a frying pan and place the head of romaine in the pan, cooking both side for 1-2 minutes each.  Mix the mayo and Parmesan to taste (little more or less of either ingredient).  Assemble your salad:  wilted romaine topped with chopped bacon and egg and dolloped with dressing.

I sure do love to eat!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

D is for Doughnuts

I managed to make three healthy food posts in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, but today I'm thinking we need some doughnuts!

Who doesn't like doughnuts, right?!  Here's the better question:  whose doughnuts are the best?

I've always been partial to Krispy Kreme doughnuts.  Founded in Winston-Salem, NC, these are the lightest, fluffiest, melt-in-your-mouth kind of doughnuts you can imagine.  They are best when they are hot.  Just look for the HOT NOW sign and you'll know that you have to have a dozen or two right that minute!  Yumm-O!

Some folks in our area swear by Dunkin' Donuts.  I don't think those folks are actually from here, transplants probably.  I admit that I have had a doughnut from DD on occasion, but I always go back to Krispy Kreme.  The fact that the location in downtown Raleigh was open 24 hours kept us going back many a midnight when in college.  How could you not gain the freshman fifteen with a Krispy Kreme nearby?!  My husband says that he and his college buddies would each get a dozen hot ones and each eat their dozen in one seating!  Sweet memories!

Whose doughnuts are your favorite?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

C is for Cauliflower

I don't really remember my mother having cauliflower in the house when I was a child.  I couldn't tell you the first time that I every tasted it.  Most likely it was raw, maybe on a vegetable platter, and I probably thought it bland.  I don't remember the first time that I actually ate cauliflower cooked, either, but I know that as an adult I prefer my cauliflower steamed until it is fork tender and served up with just a tad of butter.  That's the yummiest!

I have attempted to fool my husband, a mistake that I will never make again, by mashing the cauliflower and adding a little milk and butter and passing it off as healthy (fake) mashed "potatoes".  Once he had tasted them and turned his nose up, saying, "That tastes funny," I had to confess to trying to fake him out and forcing him to eat healthier versions of his favorite foods.  It didn't work.

With its cream cheese, Parmesan, and minced garlic, this version of "Mock" Garlic Mashed Potatoes on the Food Network will surely please!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

100 Books in 2013: Plum Wine

Book 12:  Plum Wine by Angela Davis-Gardner

In February, I did a writing retreat with Angela Davis-Gardner.  I had to admit at that time that I had not read anything she'd written, but I'd always heard complimentary things about her writing.  I really enjoyed this historical fiction, set in mid-1960's Japan at the beginning of the Vietnam war.  Barbara is a visiting professor at a women's college and inherits a cabinet filled with plum wine and mysterious writings when her colleague and friend dies suddenly.  With the help of her friend and lover, she works to solve the mystery and understand her friend's history.  There were parts that I couldn't wait to read, staying up well past my bedtime to finish chapters, and then parts that I didn't want to read because I knew that meant the end of the book was nearing.

B is for Bacon and Brussels Sprouts

We have a saying at our house:  Everything is better with bacon, butter, and cheese!  I'm afraid that our waistlines can attest to that, too.  Bacon is really good on all sorts of roasted vegetables, but obviously if you are going for healthy or vegetarian, you want to skip this fatty delicacy that we love so much.

If you read yesterday's post, then you saw my recipe for asparagus roasted with bacon.  Today's recipe is the same, just a different substitute for the vegetable - Brussels sprouts.  I had never been a fan of the little cabbages until a neighbor pan roasted them with bacon. Dee-li-cious! 

Two of our downtown Raleigh restaurants do a nice Brussels sprouts side dish.  Zinda, a new Asian restaurant, does a shredded version with bacon and honey, and a neighboring restaurant, Bolt Bistro, does a teriyaki version. Both a scrumptious!

My Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Bacon

1 package of Brussels sprouts, washed and dried, cut in half
2-3 slices of thick cut bacon, uncooked, cut up / cubed / diced
Olive oil spray / cooking spray

Spray the dish with cooking spray.  Add the Brussels sprouts and bacon.  Cook in oven at 350 degrees for 20-40 minutes, depending on how crunchy or mushy you like your vegetables, stirring a couple of times during the cooking process.

Monday, April 1, 2013

A is for Asparagus

Thanks to Arlee Bird at Tossing It Out , founder of the Blogging A to Z Challenge, for getting us all to write more during April!

For the Blogging from A to Z Challenge for the month of April, I decided on the theme of food.  I don't necessary consider myself a foodie, but I do like good food and I like to cook when I can.

One of my favorite vegetables is asparagus: crisp, green, young tender spears of asparagus = yummy!

My Favorite Roasted Asparagus

1 bunch of asparagus, rinsed with rough ends of stalks cut off
2-3 slices of thick cut bacon, uncooked and chopped/diced
A pinch of Kosher salt, optional
Cooking spray

Spray the bottom of a 7x11 dish with cooking spray (olive oil or vegetable oil spray).  Spread the asparagus in the dish.  Sprinkle the uncooked bacon over the asparagus.  Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.  Cook in a 350 degree oven for 20-40 minutes, depending on how crunchy or mushy you like your vegetables.