Kitchen Essentials

September 17th, 2013

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Summertime is basically 10 weeks of madness. My girls are at home wreaking havoc, it’s 4 million degrees outside and we are constantly traveling. So my time in the kitchen is limited at best. Once Fall sets in, I long to be back in the kitchen cooking and baking to make up for all that lost time. In that spirit, I thought I’d round up a number of my kitchen essentials; some I can’t live without, a few that I am still dreaming about and all of which will make your own kitchen efficient, well appointed and all and all, a happy place to be this fall.

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That Time of Year : Homemade Chili and Football

September 12th, 2013

My favorite time of year is when football season begins. There is nothing I love more than brisk Sundays on the sofa watching football. And this has absolutely nothing to do with the actual sport itself (I will never forget the look on my father’s face when I asked if the Braves were a good football team), but rather that it heralds “chili season”. And I live for chili season. If I were honest about how much chili I consume in the fall and winter (and even in the sweltering heat of summer) it would be one humiliating admission. Truly, I would be a viable candidate if there were such a thing as a chili-dependency intervention. Growing up, my mother put chili over spaghetti which is a-mazing (ala Cincinnati institution Sky Line-style) but I am a bit of a puritan and prefer to skip the spaghetti altogether. And seeing how I eat alarming amounts of the stuff, I have, out of necessity, come up with a simple and über healthy recipe that is oh so delicious. And the little ones LOVE it. Like mother, like daughter.

What you need:

1 onion
3 cloves of garlic
2 c. shredded zucchini & carrots
1 28 ounce can or box of chopped tomatoes
1 10 ounce can tomatoes and green chills (rotel or the like)
1 lb ground turkey
15 ounces drained dark red kidney beans
15 ounces drained red beans
2 tbsp chili powder
1 tbsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
salt & pepper
cayenne pepper to taste

what to do with it :

In a stock pot, sauté onions and garlic in good olive oil until translucent
Add in zucchini and carrots (shredded in the Cuisinart)
Add a bit of chicken stock or juice from tomatoes if needed to cook down vegetables
Cover and let cook on medium heat unit the vegetables have cooked down and are very soft
Add in tomatoes. Cook a bit longer
With an emulsion blender blend until vegetables are pureed but still maintain some texture

In a separate skillet cook the turkey until done and browned
Add to pot along with beans and spices. Let simmer for an hour or longer.

Serve topped off with grated cheddar, sour cream and green onion or chopped Italian parsley.

I add beer to mine in lieu of the tomato juice/ chicken stock- Shiner bock being my favorite.
When I am not feeding this to my kids I add tons of cayenne.




August 2nd, 2013

Last fall, I was visiting my family in New York for my step-dad’s 60th birthday. My mom pulled out her new cookbook, Southern Cakes, which she had bought at the iconic Oxford, Mississippi bookstore, Square Books. She proclaimed that she would be baking “Gigi’s Fabulous Caramel Cake“ for the birthday soiree. This was the best caramel cake I had ever tasted albeit not the prettiest. Near Christmas, I was traveling in Mississippi and stopped in Oxford where I too purchased Southern Cakes at Square Books. Easter came and I decided to make the caramel cake for my annual Easter egg hunt. Naturally mine would turn out to be impeccably beautiful and I would send my mom a picture to show her how it’s done. Well, I had no idea how difficult it was to work with caramel frosting and my frosting job made her’s look like an Ina Garten creation. Humbled, I resorted to making an extra batch of frosting and putting a second layer on it to try and make it look half way decent. Truly, it did not matter as the cake was so good it was gone in 20 minutes. Every baker, Southern or not, should own this little gem of a cookbook. And every daughter should just accept the fact her mother does everything better.

Gigi’s Fabulous Caramel Cake

3/4 cup butter
1 cup milk
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
7 tablespoons evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 325. Grease and flour two 9-inch round cake pans. Combine butter and milk in a small sauce pan and cook until the butter melts. Let cool. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and mix well. In a large bowl, combine eggs and sugar, beat well at high speed until smooth and thick. Stir the dry mixture, egg mixture, milk mixture and vanilla together with a wooden spoon until smooth. Pour batter in to prepared bake pans. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Let cool.

In a sauce pan, combine the brown sugar, butter, evaporated milk and vanilla. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Adjust the heat so that the frosting oils and bubbles gently. Cook for 7 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.

Beat the warm icing until it thickens. Place a cake layer, top side down, on a cake stand or plate. Quickly spread some icing over the top and cover it with the second layer, top side up. Ice the top quickly and then spread the remaining icing over the sides. If the icing become too hard to spread, warm gently over low heat add a spoonful of evaporated milk and then scrape and stir well until the icing softens enough to spread again. Dip a table knife in very hot water to help soften and smooth icing out once it is spread.