Friday, August 17, 2012

Now Bring Me Some Texas Pudding

One of the biggest blessings that the salesman had growing up was being surrounded by his family, I mean within walking distance. I grew up with my family living on all sides of the world and it still remains that way to this day. He on the other had had grandparents that lived around the corner that he would go visit on a daily basis. When we came into our marriage I only had two living grandparents left but lost one of them just a few months into our marriage so I was happy to gain three new grandparents when we got married. We lost his Grandpa two years ago but the other two gals are still alive and kicking!  His Granny Dot relocated to the area a few years ago and it has been a blessing to have her close by. Granny and I both have very southern roots but we both married Yankees. She lived in Illinois most of her life where as I have been able to keep my man just south of the Mason Dixon. We had thought at one point that if we ever had a girl then we would name them after our grandmothers, but when we realized that name would be Lottie Dottie (we likes to pah-ty!) we were glad that we were bless with two boys instead.
This past weekend when all of the family was together I was handed a giant accordion file of her recipes to thumb through. For anyone that knows me you know that this is the best gift I could ever get! I sat down and began to read hand written treasures that date back to many moons ago. Because of her Southern roots there are many recipes for southern staples like pecan pie and flaky pie crust but because of her meatasaurus Northern husband there are plenty of hearty beefy dishes like stew and stuffed peppers. I came across the recipe for her peanut butter balls that are legendary in the family that I will hopefully get around to making soon, but when I was in the "Veggie" section I came across a recipe for "Texas Pudding" and I knew that would have to be first on my list. Any time a combination of cheese and rice can be passed as a veggie you can go ahead and sign me up! Now, I did make a slight variation of the recipe from how it is written. I have a strong aversion to green bell peppers, a slight incident when I was younger makes me gag at the thought of them, so I made the adjustment to jalapenos which I feel is more suited to a "Texas" recipe anyway. This recipe is very reminiscent of a hearty Mexican cornbread but is served as a "veggie" instead. I paired this with some yummy black beans and southwestern rubbed chicken breast. I promise to post more treasures soon!
No idea who took a little taste test bite!
Texas Pudding- serves 6 (or I could eat the whole pan)

2 eggs
2 cups cooked long grain rice (I used the quick cook white rice)
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 14 oz can cream corn
1/4 cup minced onion
3/4 cup chopped green pepper OR 2 1/2 Tbsp minced pickled jalapenos
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3 Tbsp melted butter (one other addition but I had to!)

Combine all of the ingredients into a large bowl. Pour into a greased baking dish with a lid. Bake at 350 degrees covered for 30 minutes, remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes. Let it stand 10 minutes before serving.

Enjoy Y'all!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Betta with Butta- Basic buttercream

So y'all know by now that I have this little side hobby of fooling around and baking cakes. I am in the middle of writing material to teach a basic cupcake decorating class soon and figured it was time I should share a good old basic buttercream recipe with you. Now, this is not the buttercream I use in my business (we must have some secrets between us) but this is a great buttercream to use for any flavor cake. This is a spin on the traditional Wilton buttercream that has been around since the beginning of time. This is what some might call the "crispy" frosting because it tends to get a light crisp on it once it has been exposed to the air. I learned quickly in my early decorating days that not all buttercreams are created equal. I am not a fan of using shortening in a buttercream for many reasons. The buttercream with shortening in it can last for months on end on a shelf and that alone is very disturbing to me. This buttercream can be altered very quickly to match whatever flavor cake you are making. The trick is to let it beat for a while to get a light and fluffy texture...and salt. Salt is key to this because it helps just make it perfect, weird as it may sound. So, grab your favorite recipe, wipe the dust off of that big fat mixer that has been lonely in the cupboard and get to cookin'!

Basic Buttercream
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temp
1 lb box or 4 cups powdered sugar
3 tsp cream (preferably heavy cream but if you don't have it on hand, half and half or milk will work)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract*

In the bowl of a standing mixer, beat your butter for a minute or two until all lumps are removed and you have a good creamy mixture to work with.
With the mixer on low, slowly add in the powdered sugar, 1/2 cup at a time.  One trick I have found is to wet a hand towel and drape it over your mixer while you are adding the powdered sugar. This will help you from covering your entire kitchen with magical sugar fairy dust. Just lift it when you need to add a scoop of sugar then drop it down again. Pour in the cream, salt and extract. Turn the mixer to medium high and let that baby beat for about 5-7 minutes. It will take on a nice airy texture that will be perfect to put no any cake (or dip your spoon into). Use right away. If you have to let it sit for a bit be sure you beat it for a minute or two to make it get nice and soft again. You can keep any unused portion in the fridge for up to one week or you can store it frozen up to one month. Just be sure you let it get to room temp again and beat it.
If you are having a hard time spreading the buttercream onto a cake, add an additional teaspoon at a time of milk until it is right. If it gets too runny then just add more sugar. Easy peasy. 

*So, this is where you can play around with your flavors. You can add any kind of extract at this point and can add up to 2 tsp if you want a stronger flavor.
Examples would be:
almond (great with white cake)
lemon (and add the zest of 1 lemon)
coconut (then fold in 1/2 cup shredded coconut and/or nuts and pair with in Italian cream cake)
2 Tbsp cocoa powder (yumminess with a dark chocolate cake or vanilla)
strawberry (can even add in 2 Tbsp fresh strawberry puree in place of extract)
add in 1 tsp of cinnamon with vanilla (pair with gingerbread cake)....need I go on???

Enjoy Y'all!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Million's of Peaches- Peach Salsa

A few days ago an email came into my box for a local restaurant trying to promote their peach shake in honor of National Peach Month. I had no idea August was NPM but I was thrilled with the idea and immediately starting thinking about my favorite peach dishes. Things like peach cobbler and peach pie came to my mind at first but then I remembered a recipe I had years ago that I knew I would have to share.

My first experience with peach salsa was at a family event with some friends of ours. Their son had just completed a scout program so they prepared a feast of Texas dishes to celebrate the day. Things like smokey beef brisket and spicy pintos were on the table but tucked away was a bowl of beautiful peach salsa. I had never had peach salsa before this day but I remember being struck at how beautiful the dish was. It looked like a summer painting with it's vibrant orange and yellow. The taste stayed on they tip of my tongue for days and I soon went to my local store to try to recreate the flavor for myself.

When it comes to salsas I prefer a very fine dice as opposed to a chunky texture. I have been known to throw a jar of chunky salsa into the blender to chop it up. For this salsa you will cut everything by hand so I am going to include a few photos of how I do it. Not that I think y'all don't know how to cut up veggies but this method will ensure a find dice. I prefer to serve this salsa with Frito's scoops as I love the hearty salty texture paired with the delicate sweetness of the peaches, but it would be amazing in some simple grilled chicken tacos with some cilantro lime crema. Let this be your excuse to get out to your local farmer's market and stock up on this month's prized jewel!

Summer Peach Salsa
Cast of Characters
3 medium to large sized peaches, skin removed and cut into a small dice
1 small or 1/2 of a large red onion finely diced
1 yellow bell pepper finely diced
1 orange bell pepper finely diced
2-3 jalapenos finely diced
3 medium vine ripe tomatoes finely chopped
1/3 cup cilantro finely chopped (one large handful will yield this much)
Zest and juice of one lime
1/2-3/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cumin

Combine all of the above into a bowl and gently stir. I would start with just a 1/2 tsp of salt then taste it after a few hours, after the flavors have all had a chance to come bff's, then add a bit more if it still needed. 
Serve with a big bowl of Frito's or on top of your favorite grilled meat. Enjoy y'all!

Chopping tutorial:
When I need to finely chop up a pepper I first wash it the stand it up on it's natural base and hold the stem with one hand. I make the first cut directly down, about 1/3 inch from the center. This will ensure that I don't take any of the seeds with me. Next, lay the pepper on the flat side then repeat on the remaining three sides. This will leave you with a square center. Then, take each flat section and using your knife cut it into thin long strips. Finally, go back and cut each of the strips into fine cubes. Repeat for all ingredients.
Square core
Again, square core for jalapenos...which is good since those tiny seeds will light your skin on fire if touched!
 For tomato chopping I always use a serrated knife, you know, the kind with the little teeth. I then set it on it's side and cut off the end cap where the stem was. I then continue to cut thin slices. I then lay the slices flat and with a super sharp chopping knife I proceed to cut the tomato into thin strips then turn the strips and cut up again until I get a small dice. It is okay if you have a bunch a juice, just pour it all into the bowl.
For onion chopping I cut right through the center first. Then I remove the last 1/2 inch of each end to remove the core. Then I remove the outside shell layer. I then start with the rounded edge and cut thin strips. After it is in thin strips I turn it and cut those thin strips again to create a fine dice.
Sorry it is blurry but isn't it beautiful??

Friday, August 10, 2012

I'll Be Seeing You!

Today has been a very bittersweet day for me. It is the kind of day that reminds me that there is a God who is watching over me and is orchestrating this world around me and those who come in and out of my life.
Today a very dear friend of mine is moving to the other side of the world, well, LA might as well be! Back many moons ago while I was working for a health care company a friend of mine called me to tell me to send her my resume as she had just been promoted and a job was opening up in her company. I immediately started sneaking around at my desk and pulled together what info I could and sent it on. I remember that night feeling like everyone at work would see that I was betraying them the next day at the office and would know my secret. Turns out, the next day we had a company wide meeting and found out we were all loosing our jobs and our company had been sold! I waited on pens and needles to hear from my friend and her company and the call finally came just one week before my job was ending. I interviewed and accepted the offer and have not had one regret since saying yes! My new boss at the job was about to go on maternity leave so I quickly had to get in and learn the job so I could be her right hand gal. We became such good friends through the job! I gained such a respect for her and am so blessed that she was brought into my life. She fully supported me when I chose to stay home and be poo (we couldn't afford the "r") as dirt when my new baby came and was there to help welcome my second muffin into the world. I taught her youngest at school, I have catered her neighborhood's party the past three years...our worlds have been carefully woven together these past seven years.
Today I returned to my old job and joined some dear friends as we celebrated with her at her last day in the Nashville office. She will be missed by so many of us, but I now have a huge excuse to save up for my tickets to LA!
MB, thanks for all of the wonderful memories and for allowing my family to have a small place in your heart! We love you and can't wait to eat some Pink's with you on the boulevard!!

You Say Cream, I say Crema - Cilantro Lime Crema

Okay, first off I have had over TEN THOUSAND views. That is crazy!! I am totally blown away. Thanks to all of you who have stopped by a time or two to check to check out what's happening in my neck of the woods. I have loved every moment of this journey with you and I hope you guys have enjoyed some good meals from the Yellow Rose Cafe!
I have decided to share a super simple recipe with you today. I feel bad that I have thrown two whoppers at you this past week, both equally delicious and well worth the time though! I have been a busy woman this week and have had a hankering for some fish taco's to ease my stress. I love fish tacos! Had you put those two words together in one sentence 9 years ago I might have gagged a bit. Not that I didn't like fish, or tacos, but the thought of the two sounded way to weird for this Texas gal. When I first moved to Nashville I came across a local eatery that has had a bit of my heart since. It is a locally run restaurant that serves mission style burritos and they are delicious. I have begged and begged for the ranch dressing but am told that the  mom who made up the recipe many years ago can't even share it anymore! The fish taco's are out of this world. I don't remember exactly when I decided to put some big girl britches on and try some but I wondered where they had been all of my life after I took the first bite. I love fried fish (act surprised!)in fish tacos. Something about the crunch and the batter that soaks up the lime juice just makes me happy. I have started making my own these days and there is really no rocket science to them. But for me the kicker is the cilantro lime creme or cream. It adds the extra bit of creaminess that I like with a bit of tart from the lime. Oh, just thinking about them makes me want to go run out and get the stuff again!!
This sauce is perfect with any grilled meat that has a southwestern spice on it (try my red dirt rub recipe) and is great with tacos, nachos, corn cakes, roasted sweet potatoes, baked potatoes, chicken tortilla soup, black beans, chili...anything where you might put sour cream as a garnish. A batch will stay good for about a week in the fridge so grab a mason jar, mix it up and get to cookin' y'all!

Cilantro Lime Crema

1 cup sour cream
Zest of one lime
½ lime squeezed
1-2 tbsp fresh minced cilantro
½ tsp garlic salt
Dash of cumin

Stir all together and store up to one week.
Cilantro Lime Yogurt Sauce packs a punch of fantastic flavor to chicken, fish, tacos and fajitas!  Use it in place of sour cream on nachos!


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tejas Beef Enchiladas with Red Gravy

Enchiladas are part of my five basic food groups since I am a Texan. They fall right in line behind BBQ, Tacos and sweet tea. The enchiladas that are available in my neck of the woods now with their thin orange bland sauce are nothing compared to the earthy rich sauce I grew up eating. Enchilada sauce should be the forefront of each bite, not the after thought behind the lack of filling. Yes, you can go to the store and buy sauce in a can off of the shelf but it doesn't come close to having the depth of flavor that this sauce will give you. Homemade sauce is worth the few extra minutes that it takes to pour the ingredients into the pan. For some reason when I make enchiladas I always prefer a white cream sauce with chicken or veggies and an intense Salsa Roja or red gravy with beef. If you have read my post called, "The Last Supper" then you know how passionate I am about my sour cream chicken enchiladas....but these are right up there on my list.
I love to make beef enchiladas with slow simmered beef brisket but when in a pinch I will use ground beef. I beg you to try the entire recipe, especially the homemade sauce next time you are in a Mexican food mood and tell me if you can't taste the difference. You will never, I repeat, NEVER go back to the canned watered down gross stuff again! And, you can easily double the amount of sauce and freeze it for later use. 

Tejas Beef Enchiladas with Salsa Roja - Makes 12 enchiladas

Salsa Roja (Red Gravy)
2 Tb butter
2 Tb oil
3 Tbsp flour
1 6oz tomato paste
3 cups chicken stock
1 garlic cube (I buy these in the frozen food section but they equal one large garlic clove minced)
3 1/2 Tbsp chili
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp coriander
½ T onion power
1 Tbsp Mexican oregano
1 tsp salt

In a heavy saucepan on medium heat, gently melt the butter and oil. Once they have melted, stir in the 3 Tbsp of flour. This is called a roux which basically the thickening agent for any gravy base. For this sauce you want to allow it to cook for about 5-6 minutes until it becomes the color of brown sugar. This will intensify the flavor of the gravy prior to adding in all of the other spices. 
Once you have reached a nice light brown color, add in the can of tomato paste and stir it around. 
Whisk in the the chicken stock, garlic and remaining ingredients. Allow this to simmer on low for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Beef Enchiladas
1 Lb. ground beef (I typically buy ground sirloin)
1 small onion finely diced
1/2 tsp salt and garlic powder
1 tsp cumin, coriander, chili powder
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 dash cinnamon
1 Block sharp yellow cheddar grated, or 3 cups pre-shredded (but we all know how I feel about that!)* Be sure to reserve 1 cup for the top
12 flour tortillas (you can use corn but I prefer flour)

In a heavy bottom pan on medium high heat, cook the beef and onions and add in the spices. Use your wooden spoon to break apart the meat into fine crumbles. If it seems a bit dry then add in 2 tsp of olive oil to get it warmed up. Once the meat is cooked through turn off the heat and get ready to get your hands dirty!

In a 9x13 pan, pour in 1 cup of the Salsa Roja and spread it around to evenly coat the bottom. 
Take the tortilla in one hand and fill it with a 1/4 cup of meat and a heavy pinch of cheese (about 3 Tbsp) Roll it up and place it seam side down in the pan. Repeat until you have used up all of the tortillas and meat. Once they are all lined up in the pan, gently spoon out the remaining enchilada sauce over the tortillas and be sure that there is not white peaking through. Next, smother the top of the enchiladas with the remaining cheese. 
Bake in the oven at 350 degrees for 35 minutes until golden.


Monday, August 6, 2012

Just like Grandma's - Sausage Gravy

There is something so magical and wonderful about simple biscuits and gravy. Those two elements have been feeding the hungry for generations. They are not stuffy foods that you have to take too seriously, like a good pairing of cheese and wine. They are dishes that when served solo they always seem to be in need of a partner, like butter or jam. The smell of this dish brings comfort to my soul. It is the kind of meal that I crave after I have had a good cry or when the floodgates have opened and buckets of raining are being dumped all around. I like to eat this kind of meal in my pj's with a good book near by to comfort me after my belly is full.  Biscuits and gravy have been a staple in my house all of my life. My mom had her own twist on it which involved chipped beef in place of sausage, which is equally delicious but not traditional. Not that I am a "traditionalist" by any means, but when it comes to this meal, I like to make it the same has it has been made for many years. I love how a few simple ingredients can come together to create a moment that is deliciously unforgettable. It is the perfect meal to serve any guest who is needing to feel loved.
By the way, I am not up to par of my biscuit recipe but hopefully I will fine tune it soon and share. In the mean time you can make your own recipe or get some of those delicious frozen one's from our friend Schubert at the store.

Sausage Gravy - enough for 4 people

1/2 lb (half of a tube) mild sausage - I am a Tennessee Pride gal
3 Tbsp butter
1/3 cup flour
4 cups milk - slightly warmed (I cook it for about 1 minute in the microwave)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2-3/4 tsp pepper (I am a firm believe in a LOT of black pepper for this dish!)
1/8 tsp ground poultry seasoning (yes! another use for it besides Thanksgiving)

In a large heavy bottom skillet or cast iron set on medium heat, cook the sausage until it is lightly browned. I like to break it continuously with my wooden spoon so that I get little tiny crumbles as I think that is best with sausage gravy. Don't let the sausage get crispy, remove it as soon as the pink has cleared away.
Turn the head to medium-low and remove the sausage with your spoon and place into a bowl. Set aside.
Throw the 3 Tbsp of butter into the pan and let them slowly melt. There will be a brown film on the bottom of the pan for the sausage but that love will come in very handy in a wee bit so don't even think about scrubbing the pan!
After the butter has melted, slowly add the flour and stir until it is combined. It is going to look like a hot mess, but don't be alarmed. It sort of looks like you are cooking play-dough and that is perfect. Let it cook for about 3 minutes so that it looses the flour taste and combines with the butter.
With a whisk in one hand and the milk in the other, slowly add the milk to the flour and whisk constantly to prevent any major lumpage. You will notice that the brown bits start floating around in the cream white sauce and that is JUST what you want! Throw in the salt, pepper and poultry seasoning and stir almost
continuously for about 5 minutes until the mixture has thickened.
It is still a little too thin. See that? 
This is the perfect thickness. See those bits of flavor?
You can turn the heat up to medium if you are in a hurry but turn it right back down if it starts to boil too fast. Once the mixture has started to thicken pour in the cooked sausage (be sure you get the lovely grease that settled at the bottom). Turn the heat to low and let it continue to cook until your biscuits are ready to be topped. I like to add an extra splash of pepper and salt right at the end.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Confessions of a First Grade mom

Today was the day. You remember last year around this time I dropped off my oldest at Kindergarten for the first time. I was a wreck! I came home and spent the whole day crying and baking yummy cupcakes just knowing that the sugary sweetness would take away all of my heart ache. But, it didn't.
Well, today I dropped off my baby for first grade and it was a great day. I don't know why but I felt so much peace about the whole event. Maybe it is because the terrible storms that came through the night finally calmed and moved on. Maybe it is because his teacher has been teaching longer than I have been alive and has been teaching at this school since before I got my license to drive. Maybe it is because she printed off the parent letter on really cool stationary so I think she is still super hip. Maybe it is because there are a hand full of friends in his class this year that were in his class last year so I know he will not be alone. Maybe it is because his Kindergarten teacher is across the hall so if his new teacher is mean then he can run across to her for consoling. Maybe it is because he was cool as a cucumber and walked right on in and flashed me a precious wave and a smile before finding his chair and getting started with his coloring page. I don't know.
What I do know is that I have been preparing a long time for this and this letting go phase is going to just get harder and harder and I will have to keep extending my arms up to the Father more and more to release all of my fears and worries. Two weeks ago we were at camp with our youth group and talked about this idea of Koininia, the idea of unity and community that what we have here on earth is a mere reflection of what is being prepared for us. I fully believe that we are surrounded by an amazing body of believers who have each had a part in shaping our little ones from early on, and for that we feel overwhelmingly blessed.

So today as I munched on almond kissed pancakes drenched in syrup while being surrounded by freshly sharpened pencils ready to be put to use on reams of crisp white paper, I felt at ease knowing that this is what we were created for. I pray that my baby will make me proud today as he makes new friends and a first impression on many around him. I pray that he will remember the rules of our house, like not hitting and being a peace maker and will put them into use. And I pray that he will remember that no matter how much I let him go that he can always run back into my arms and know that he is completely loved.