I got up bright and early this morning. Since it’s my day off, I made a nice breakfast. Last night, I mixed up the batter for some Ham and Cheese Scones. I just had to put them in my scones pan this morning and pop them in the oven. To go with the scones, I made some scrambled eggs and sausage. Honestly, I didn’t need anything but the scones, but I had eggs left over from the egg wash that I brushed on top of the scones, so instead of throwing it out, I made scrambled eggs. Then, I just popped some sausage links in my air fryer. It was a good breakfast, but the scones were the best part.
When I lived in Alabama, my aunt always wanted corned beef and cabbage every St. Patrick’s Day. I am not a big fan of corned beef, though I can eat it. I like cabbage if it is cooked well. When my mother would cook it, she would basically cook it to mush. I like there to be a little firmness to it. To make corned beef and cabbage is a bit much for just me, especially when it is something I’m not crazy about eating. Instead, I plan to make some pork chops for dinner tonight. I have not yet decided what I will cook with them, but it should be a good dinner.
It’s been a rough week at work, but yesterday was particularly bad. I won’t get into it, but I was aggravated, annoyed, and frightened nearly all day, and I let my boss know exactly why. By the time I left work, I was exhausted mentally and physically, so I did something I never do. I ordered takeout from pizza place/bar (that I do occasionally, the food is good), but what I did differently is that I went and had a drink while I was waiting on my order. Originally, I’d planned to order a beer, but this is one of those funky places where they have a lot of craft beers, and I never know what to order. Also, beer can trigger a migraine, so I tend to avoid it, but sometimes, I just really want a beer. Instead I ordered a hard cider. They didn’t have the brand I usually drink (Citizen Cider), so the bartender listed the three ciders they had. I had tried two of them before and was not impressed as they taste too floral to me. Instead, I ordered the third choice: Graft Cider’s Desert Rose. It was so good and was just what I needed.
I never sit at a bar by myself. I always feel out of place, and this place has a particularly local crowd, which means outsiders don’t always get a warm welcome, and I am not the type of person who strikes up a conversation with a stranger. I did enjoy the cider though while I waited on my pizza. When I got home, I ate my prosciutto pizza, and it was so good. That could have been because I was really hungry, but I devoured the whole pizza. It was a 10” pizza, so not a large one, but still, I rarely eat a whole pizza. However, this hit the spot and was exceptionally delicious.
I have a busy day at work today. I’m only supposed to be there half a day because I’m working Sunday for a special event. This event is something I’m looking forward to, so going in on a Sunday shouldn’t be too bad if all goes well.
Friday, I was not feeling very well and ended up going to bed at 8 pm. I usually go to bed between 10 pm and 10:30 pm, but I was feeling completely worn out and went to bed early. I was also a little depressed, but I don’t know why. I was just feeling down. I slept for about an hour and a half before I was wide awake again and could not fall back to sleep.
Earlier in the day, I had planned to mix up some ham and cheese scones. I usually make them up the night before and put them in the refrigerator, so they are ready to take out and put in the oven the next morning. However, with the way I was feeling, I had not done this, but when I woke up after sleeping for an hour or so, I decided to mix up a batch of scones. I mostly use my food processor to mix everything up but the buttermilk, so it’s a pretty easy process, and cooking always puts me in a better mood if I can get myself motivated enough to start.
I put the dough in the refrigerator and went back to bed. Once I got up Saturday morning, all I needed to do was preheat the oven and knead and roll out the scones. It makes it a lot easier in the morning to do it this way. I am putting my recipe below. This is an adapted recipe from the site Damn Delicious, and let me just say, “These scones are damn delicious.” Once they come out of the oven, they are hard to stop eating. If you can resist eating them all, just put the leftovers in a container or Ziploc bag and save them for later. If you do save them for later, you will realize they aren’t quite as fluffy, so what I do is toast them before I eat them. It brings them back to nearly the way they were when they first came out of the oven.
I hope you enjoy this recipe. Whenever I make these, it makes my whole day better.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat or spray a cone pan with non-stick cooking spray; set aside.
In a food processor, combine flour and garlic powder. (For slightly sweeter scones, you can also add 1 tablespoon of sugar.)
Add cold butter, and pulse the food processor until the butter and the dry ingredients resemble coarse crumbs.
Add cheese, ham, and chives, and pulse to combine.
Pour the mixture into a large bowl and stir in buttermilk until a soft dough forms.
Working on a lightly floured surface, knead the dough 3-4 times until it comes together. Using a rolling pill, roll the dough into an 8″ circle, about 1-inch thick, and cut into 8 wedges.
Place scones onto the prepared baking sheet or into the scone pan.
(Optional) Beat egg and milk in a small bowl and brush onto the top of the scones. You may also top the scones with additional cheese.
Place into oven and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until firm to the touch and lightly browned.
Notes: 1. If you don’t want to use self-rising flour, you can use 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. If you use these ingredients, use unsalted butter. 2. I like to use Cabot Seriously Sharp Cheddar 3. I use Smithfield Hickory Smoked Diced Ham
I’ve been craving gumbo for several days now, and since I did not have a headache yesterday, I decided I’d make a pot of gumbo. To make an authentic gumbo, it takes time. I miss New Orleans, a city I used to go to regularly when I was in graduate school because it was nearby, about an hour and a half away. I’ve heard that the only thing more New Orleans than a dented pot of gumbo simmering on the back burner is arguing about the right way to make it. Most places, especially seafood restaurants along the gulf coast, make a pretty tasty gumbo.
Gumbo has a heritage claiming both French, Native American (Choctaw), and West African roots. If you’re not familiar with it, gumbo is a thick stew served over rice and made with a roux (a mixture of butter and flour) and a wide variety of ingredients such as celery, peppers, okra, onions, sausage, chicken and/or seafood. With so many options, everyone seems to have perfected their own treasured recipes, which leads to impassioned debate on which one is best. Even so, gumbo does more to bring us together than divide us, as queen of Creole cuisine Chef Leah Chase said, “There’ve been a lot of problems solved in that dining room over a bowl of gumbo.”
The late famed chef Paul Prudhomme created “Gumbo Ya-Ya,” the recipe I chose to make. Making Chef Paul’s “Gumbo Ya-Ya” completely from scratch took much of my day yesterday. I love to cook and try out new recipes. Sometimes I really enjoy making complicated and time-consuming recipes. I started by roasting a chicken to be used in the gumbo. Then, I began to prepare the rest of my ingredients by dicing the peppers, celery, and onions and slicing the andouille sausage. Once the roasted chicken had cooled, I deboned it. Some gumbo chefs don’t debone the chicken or remove the shell from the seafood used. I prefer for it to be ready to eat when done and not have to work separating bones or shells from my gumbo.
Once all the ingredients were prepared, I began making the roux. A good roux takes a long time. It must be stirred constantly for 30-45 minutes. Mine took the full 45 minutes to get the “color of dark mahogany.” I started out with a moderately low heat, but ended up turning the heat up to medium to get the desired color. If you make this recipe, let me give you a few tips and make a few suggestions.
First, the roux is going to begin to smell nutty and eventually smell a bit like burned coffee, but don’t despair. It should smell that way to give the gumbo a dark, rich flavor.
Second, I would use unsalted chicken stock to be able to control how much salt you want to use as the gumbo cooks.
Third, I halved this recipe. I did not need six quarts of gumbo.
Finally, suggest adding a pound of small or medium peeled and deveined shrimp at the end. You can either add cooked shrimp, or if you want to add the most flavor, add the raw shrimp and let them cook in the gumbo. They won’t take long to cook. If you want to forgo the chicken and use crab instead, then I’d suggest adding okra and making a seafood gumbo. I did not go this route because it seems impossible to get fresh okra in Vermont.
So here’s the recipe for “Gumbo Ya-Ya” and a picture of my finished product.
1 lb. (4 sticks) unsalted butter
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 red bell peppers, in medium dice
2 celery stalks, in medium dice
1 medium onion, in medium dice
1 ¼ gallon (20 cups) chicken stock
2 tablespoons Creole seasoning
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 lb. andouille sausage, cut into ¼ inch-thick slices
3 ½ lb. chicken, roasted and boned
hot sauce to taste
boiled rice as accompaniment
In a 12-quart stockpot melt butter over moderately low heat.
Gradually add a third of the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, and cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. Add a third more flour and stir constantly, 30 seconds. Add remaining third of flour and stir constantly, 30 seconds. Continue to cook roux, stirring constantly, until it is the color of dark mahogany, about 30 to 45 minutes.
Add bell peppers and stir constantly 30 seconds. Add onions and celery and stir constantly 30 seconds. Add the stock to roux, stirring constantly to prevent lumps.
Add all remaining ingredients except chicken, rice, and hot sauce and bring to boil. Simmer gumbo, uncovered, 45 minutes, skimming off any fat and stirring occasionally.
Add chicken and simmer 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning with hot sauce. Serve over rice.
This recipe yields about 6 quarts, but gumbo freezes well and can be thawed without losing flavor.
I went out last night for dinner and drinks with our new curator. I really do like her. She’s very nice, and she’s very easy to talk to. When I first met her in person, I knew I’d get along with her. She’s a very perceptive person and very bright. She just seems to be a genuinely warm and interesting person. I love meeting someone and the conversation just flows. I feel like we’re old friends not like she’s just a new coworker.
She seems to be setting in just fine. Though she’s from the South, she has worked in New England before in her previous job. So, she’s familiar with some of the quirks and charms of New England. She’s also realizing that Vermont weather is not quite like that of other parts of New England. I warned her to make sure to dress warmly Tuesday. Our low temperature is supposed to be -8 degrees Fahrenheit with windchills as low as -35. Our high Tuesday is supposed to be 5 degrees. She’s getting an early taste of how bitterly cold Vermont can be in the winter. I was lucky that my first winter in Vermont was fairly mild.
I love cooking for holidays whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, or the Fourth of July. You name it, and I love the food traditions on holidays. Usually, when I go home to Alabama for Christmas break, I do most of the cooking for our Christmas get togethers. My mama isn’t as able as she used to be, so I take up the slack. I usually stay through New Years to cook for that holiday as well. My grandmama always made a very traditional southern New Year’s meal, and after she died, I kept the tradition alive. This year will be the third year in a row that I haven been there to cook for New Years, but maybe next year will be different. My mother has assured me that I will be home next year for Christmas “come hell or high water.”
This year, like last year, I’ll be doing all the cooking just for myself, though I may take some cornbread dressing down to my neighbor. My plan is to have some turkey, dressing, and a few vegetables. I have some ice cream for dessert.
I hate being cooped up in my apartment all day, so I decided to drive up to Williston, Vermont, to have lunch yesterday. I realized once I started up there that the restaurant (Texas Roadhouse—I love their rolls) I had planned to go to (my boss had given me a gift certificate for it as a Christmas present) was not open for lunch during the week. However, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from. I decided I’d go to 99 Restaurant. If you’ve never heard of 99 Restaurants, they are a New England staple. The food is pretty good too, and I’ve been to the one in Williston enough that the hostess takes me straight to what she refers to as my “usual table.” They are really nice, but while I like the food, it’s the music that I love. They always play ‘90s rock music, which is the music of my high school and college days. I always get their Country Fried Chicken. The first time I had it, I thought the gravy was odd, but it’s grown on me. Anyway, on my way up there, I decided I really didn’t want the Country Fried Chicken, so I decided I’d go to Chili’s and have their Chicken Enchilada Soup, one of my favorites. I got to Chili’s and realized that the parking lot was full, and if there was not parking, there would be no tables available.
Since Chili’s, Ninety-Nine, and Texas Roadhouse we’re all out of the question, I decided to go to Vermont Tap House. Vermont Tap House, as the name implies, has a large selection of beers and hard ciders, but I wasn’t in the mood for alcohol. They also have a large selection of wood-fired pizzas along with appetizers, sandwiches, and salads. I usually get their buffalo chicken pizza. While not a traditional pizza, it is pretty good. As I was waiting on a table, I saw their dessert menu (now we get to the point of this post). They had Maple Creme Brûlée, Chocolate Mousse, Death by Chocolate Cheesecake, Tap House Dough Bites (fried dough balls covered in cinnamon sugar and powdered sugar), and Bread Pudding (ask for the flavor of the day). When I finished my pizza, I asked for the dessert menu and decided to ask about the Bread Pudding. Being from the South, I’ve had a lot of bread pudding, so I was a little skeptical about how well a Vermont restaurant would make bread pudding. My waitress told me that the bread pudding this week was a Chocolate Stout Bread Pudding topped with Toasted Oak Ice Cream and Candied Pecans. It sounded a bit unusual (What flavor is “toasted oak” anyway?) but also intriguing, so I thought, what the hell, I’ll give it a try. Thank God I did. It was wonderful.
The bread pudding was soft and creamy on the inside with a layer of delicious chocolate on the bottom and just a little crunchy on top to give it a contrasting texture. I’ve never had ice cream on bread pudding. Usually, it’s a warm bourbon or rum sauce. The ice cream was a perfect complement. I can’t describe what flavor toasted oak is, but it had a light brown color like a coffee ice cream and had a hint of vanilla. The rest of the flavor was indescribable but delicious nonetheless. There was nothing left when I was finished, and I usually don’t eat all of a dessert unless it is creme brûlée. When my waitress came by to check on me, I did something I never do, I told her to tell whoever made the bread pudding that it was truly delicious. It told her that I was from the South and had eaten my fair share of bread pudding and this ranked as one of the best. She was very pleased to hear it and told me she’d tell their pastry chef. The pastry chef only comes in once a week, and when she does, she prepares all the desserts for the week. My waitress said that she didn’t think she was in today, but she’d definitely give her the message. She said she’d be thrilled to hear it.
I did not have high hopes for a Vermont bread pudding, but it far exceeded anything I would have imagined. The best bread pudding I’ve ever had was at Stonewall’s BBQ in Oak Grove, Mississippi. Many places make bread pudding with whatever bread is available. Stonewall’s made theirs with cinnamon rolls and drizzled it with a delicious white icing. Nothing else ever came close to their bread pudding until the Chocolate Stout Bread Pudding topped with Toasted Oak Ice Cream and Candied Pecans I had yesterday. I don’t often brag about food I’ve eaten in Vermont. I think some of y’all already know how I feel about Vermont “cuisine,” but when I find something good, it’s worth writing about. This bread pudding was worth writing about.
Yesterday was a busy day, and by the time I was able to stop and write my post for today, it was nearly 11 pm, well past my usual bedtime on a work night. I’d planned to write my post earlier in the day because I had finally remembered what I had planned to write for Thursday’s post. However, I was busy yesterday morning at work and couldn’t work on it then, and I took yesterday afternoon off to run some errands. The errands took longer than I had expected and by the time I got home, it was time to cook dinner.
I’d found an interesting recipe for Wintertime Braised Beef Stew that I wanted to try out. It was a unique take on beef stew and I thought I’d try it. I’m always trying to improve on my recipe, but I think I’m going to give up on that quest. My simple beef stew recipe from my mother is still the best. Stew beef, potatoes, carrots, and onions cooked in a rich beef stock is far better than anything else I’ve tried. I know some people add celery, but I use celery salt because I hate cooked celery. Other people add peas at the end, but I’m not a fan of that either.I’ve read a few recipes that use red wine to make the stew richer and more robust in flavor. I tend to think it makes it too robust. The one thing I have found that I just can’t handle is putting tomatoes in a beef stew, like the recipe for the Wintertime Braised Beef Stew called for. I do flour and season the stew beef before browning it, which makes for a thicker broth, and honestly, the simple tried but true recipe is still the best.
Anyway, I’ve had a few ideas for posts that I’ll write for next week. I hope y’all will enjoy them. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. Until then, I hope all of you have a wonderful Friday and a good weekend.
I can cook most anything. Sometimes, I use a recipe, but sometimes I don’t. However, baking is a different story. Other than cookies, I’ve never been much of a baker. I can make a very tasty coconut custard pie, but I inevitably overfill the pie crust and it overflows when cooking and causes a hell of a mess. Before i go further, let me explain what I think of as the difference between cooking and baking. For me, cooking usually refers to a savory dish that you eat as part of a meal, whereas baking is sweets or desserts made in the oven, such as cookies, cakes, or pies. For a more detailed and precise definition of the two, see this article about “Cooking vs Baking.” Cooking is an art, while baking is more of a science. With cooking, you can experiment with the ingredients to make the dish a creation of your own, and the variations can be endless. Baking, however, requires exact measurements. The order in which ingredients are added is also often a factor in baking. While I can follow a recipe just fine, I’ve often not been very successful with more elaborate cakes. Cookies and pies, I’ve pretty much mastered. The exception is pound cakes. I have been craving a good pound cake for a few days now, and I plan to make one. But, what kind should I make? My mother is a master at cake making, and while measurements have to be exact during baking, my grandmama could make most of her cakes with her eyes closed. Also, pound cakes are usually a pretty simple recipe with only four ingredients and one measurement: a pound each of butter, flour, sugar, and eggs. But there are many variations of the pound cake: classic, butter, sour cream, cream cheese, etc. I love a good buttery pound cake, but my favorite is a brown sugar pound cake, so that s what I plan to make, a Brown Sugar Pecan Pound Cake. I doubt I’ll have the energy to make one after work tonight, and I probably won’t make one tomorrow night. However, this weekend is supposed to be cool (our high Saturday is 65) and rainy, so what better day to make a cake and have the oven on for over an hour.
This recipe is a Southern twist on a classic. I’ve never made this particular recipe. It comes fromdinnerthendessert.com,which claimed that this Brown Sugar Pecan Pound Cake is rich, moist and full of pecan crunch and takes just over an hour to cook. I’ll let you know how it turns out.
Do you ever have one of those weekends when you feel it never was? When you were so busy that you end up feeling like you never had a weekend at all? This weekend was one of those. On Saturday, I went to Burlington to get a few things that I can only get up there. The problem was that the one thing I needed was from Target, and they were out of stock of the item. Ugh! I did have some other stuff to get while I was in Target, but I could have probably gotten all of them closer to home and not have to spend the better part of my day going to Burlington. It’s about an hour’s drive up there.
Also, while I was up that way, I went by Best Buy to look for a microwave. I’ve never had a microwave in the years I’ve lived in Vermont, and I recently bought a baker’s rack and microwave stand for my kitchen. I’d never had a microwave up here because I tend to cook things on the stove or in the oven, but it would be very convenient to occasionally throw something in the microwave and get it done quicker. Plus, I miss popcorn. I have tried to make it on the stovetop, but it’s a bit of a pain. I think I know which one I want, so I will order it and have to go back and pick it up since they only had the display model in stock. After going to Best Buy, I then went to Walmart to get the rest of the items I needed. I don’t mind going to Target, but Walmart is really hell on earth. Honestly, there is a reason why there is a website called People of Walmart. It’s frightening. After all of that, I was exhausted.
Yesterday, I tried to find the item I had wanted at Target locally. Some places carry it on occasion, but not always. I had no luck. However, I did eat at this wonderful little restaurant in Barre (BARE-ee), Vermont, called The Quarry Kitchen & Spirits. If for any reason you ever find yourself in Barre, I’d suggest going there. I got the French dip sandwich (something that is really hard to find in Vermont), and it was delicious. I haven’t had one this good in years. It’s probably my favorite sandwich, so I will be going back to this restaurant. Also, they had very good fried pickles.
The rest of my day was spent making English muffins. I mentioned a few months ago that the Vermont Bread Company went out of business, and I loved their English muffins. I have been trying to find a brand that I liked as much, but while I have found some that are decent substitutes, none were as good as the ones from Vermont Bread Company. I thought, “Why don’t I try to make my own?” I looked up a recipe and found one at King Arthur Flour and went down to Norwich, Vermont, to get all the ingredients and some English muffin rings. When I got there, I saw that they had a “White Whole Wheat English Muffin Mix.” It looked fairly simple to make, if not a little time-consuming, so I bought a box to try. However, I just hadn’t had the energy to make them until yesterday.
I mixed the dough and let it rise for 90 minutes, and then, I was ready to make the muffins. I heated the skillet, greased the rings, set them on the skillet, and sprinkled in some semolina flour. Per the instructions, I put 1/3 cup of dough in each ring and spread out the dough. I had a hard time getting the right amount in each ring, so while they were in the first twelve minutes of cooking on one side, the dough rose much more than I anticipated. I then removed the rings and flipped over the English muffins to cook ten more minutes on the other side. They turned out beautiful but really big. I then put them on a rack to cool. When I finished cooking the twelve muffins the mix makes. I made four of them at a time, and four of them were big, four were too small, and the last four were huge.
Two of the “big” ones were actually fairly perfect in size. (They were the ones I ate last night.) Once they cooled, I sliced one in half and popped it in the toaster. They didn’t have the nooks and crannies that most people think of when they think of English muffins. So, they looked dense, but they were still light. When they finished toasting, I put some butter on the two halves and some strawberry jam. The whole process took about three hours, so at first, I thought, I probably won’t be making these again. Then, I tasted them. OMG! They are so good. I would never have imagined they’d be this good. If you have three hours, like to cook, and are so inclined, I highly recommend making them. They were the best English muffins I have ever had, even if they were a bit misshapen (one even looks like a Mickey Mouse that a four-year-old would try to draw, LOL).
All in all, it was a very busy weekend. Now today, I have to go to work feeling like I never had a weekend. Maybe I’ll take a day off this week if I can.