I'm in a Southern State of Mind

Hey ya'll (oh, I went there).  I had a work trip that brought me to Knoxville, Tennessee and I must say, I LOVED IT!  It was so green, there was so much water, I loved the southern hospitality and the sweet tea....oh man....it didn't disappoint!  Since I've been back, I've been dreaming about that sweet tea!  My preference was half sweet tea and half unsweet.  

For those of you that are loyal readers, you've seen me mention my grandma Helen.  She was a big part of my childhood, since she watched my brother and I while my parents worked.  In summer, she always made sun tea.  She had that same jug and it was often sitting outside in the sun, brewing up that amber gold tea.  

I decided to attempt to recreate that sweet southern tea, using decaf Liptons (avoiding caffeine since I'm pregnant) and steeping it in the sun.  It was fun for Lucy, too!

INGREDIENTS

  • 8 of your favorite tea bags
  • Container for brewing
  • Water 
  • Agave
  • Lemon - meyer lemon is my favorite
  • Rubber band - wide enough for the top of the container
  • Plastic wrap

DIRECTIONS

Add water to the container, about a quart.  Take all tea bags strings and put them over the lip of the container.  Put plastic wrap over the strings and rubber band them secure.  Let the bags steep for 2-4 hours, depending on the strength of tea you want.  Add Agave or honey to the finished tea in 1/4 cup increments to your liking (I ended up using 1/2 cup).  Squeeze lemon into the mixture, to your preference (I used one whole meyer lemon).

Pour over ice and ENJOY!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day...with a twist

Strawberry rhubarb deconstruct pie-22.jpg

Are you all familiar with food days?  It seems that almost every day is a different national food day...Coconut Cream Pie Day, Caramel Corn Day....basically anything you can think of (ok, I made those two up).  Bottom line, it's kind of fun to get me out of my regular cooking and baking box and getting me cooking and baking different things.  Well, today is Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Day!  I wanted to do something a little different, inspired by my grandma Helen.  

Many of you know, grandma Helen was a hell of a baker.  She was born and raised in my favorite apple orchard and as a result, she could make a mean apple pie.  For those of you that have ever made a pie from scratch, you know there is always left over pie dough.  She always rolled it out on a cookie sheet and sprinkled it with cinnamon and sugar and it was a little added bonus.  I decided to take that and make a deconstructed Strawberry Rhubarb Pie!  And man oh man....it paid off!

* Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 package pre made pie dough (or your favorite homemade recipe if you're feeling up to it)
  • Cooking spray
  • Cinnamon and sugar mixture (I always have a jar around pre-mixed, use whatever ratio you like)
  • 3 c rhubarb, sliced into about dime sized pieces
  • 2 3/4 c strawberries cut into similar sized pieces
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • 1/2 c packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 c cornstarch
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • juice of half lemon
  • 1 tbl salted butter

DIRECTIONS

Spray cooking spray onto two cookie sheets, put rolled out pie dough on the sheet.  Add a quick spray of cooking spray on the surface of the pie dough and sprinkle cinnamon and sugar mixture all over it.  If it's not applied evenly, use your hands to smooth it out.  Cut into chip shapes. Bake 10 minutes or until golden brown.

Next put all the remaining ingredients in a pot on top of the stove on medium heat.  Stir regularly to ensure even cooking and not burning the bottom.  Cook about 15-20 minutes, until the rhubarb has broken down.  

Serve warm or cool, using the pie chips as a scoop!  SOOOO GOOD!

* Filling inspiration recipe www.thebewitchinkitchen.com

Let's talk about "Wine Rules"

Ling Cod fish and Red wine

You've all heard it before: chicken or fish goes with white wine.  Red meat goes with red wine.  Well, I'm here to tell you, I think it's all bullsh*t.  There are SOOO many factors to consider...and your personal preference is a big part of it.

Is the chicken served in a rich white gorgonzola sauce?  Does the fish have sour cream and smoked salsa on it?  These things all impact the flavor profile of the dish and change the range of wines that can accompany it.  

Here's my ROT (rule of thumb):

  1. If you like white wine, have it, with whatever the heck you want.  Same goes for red.
  2. If you want to talk flavors and what technically GOES with a meal, think about fat content and how "big" the flavors of that meal are.  The bigger the flavors, the bigger the wine flavors need to be to hold up to it.  A couple things to note about big wine flavors:
    1. Acid
    2. Earthy
    3. Fruit forward
    4. Dark fruit or bright fruit
    5. Smokey
  3. Sweet wines are not ONLY for dessert!  If they're balanced, meaning have a nice acid to compliment the sweetness, it can provide a really smooth drinking experience that can go with spicy and asian food.  
  4. Let's talk about temperature.  Whites served TOO cold will mask the fruit flavors...but if it's 95 degrees outside, grab a Sauvignon Blanc and throw some ice cubes in it and ENJOY that wine on a hot day.  The alternative is grabbing for a cold beer or margarita.  I vote...drink more wine!
Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel wine

Here's an example of me breaking the rules and it tasting SO SO SO good.  Fresh caught Ling Cod (a light, low fat fish) and I served it with Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel.  Well...it's mostly Zin (94%), but it also has 16% Petite Sirah, 8% Carignane, 2% Mourvedre. 

This wine is not to be taken lying down.  This thing has a full mouth feel, dark bush berry flavors, with smoke and tannin finish.  Are you thinking..why the hell did I have this with Ling Cod?  Well, I lightly breaded the fish, pan fried it, added a hefty spoonful of full fat sour cream and topped that with smoked tomato salsa that had mild spicy notes. 

This was a match made in heaven because I added fat to the meal by frying the fish and adding sour cream and the salsa played well with the tannin and toasted notes of the wine.  BAM!  Rules broken and it never tastes so good!

Ling Cod fish

Plum Picking Fun

plum picking-2.jpg

We have entered a new phase in our lives...transitioning away from diapers and on to underwear.  For those of you that have gone through potty training, you know what a balance it is.  You've got to make it fun and exciting, but also urgent when you've got to go.  That being said, we were on lock down all weekend and Lucy did great, but by Sunday afternoon, we all needed a little break.  That's when we got the text from aunt Weezy, "The plums are ready!"

I don't know about you, but stone fruit season is my favorite and of the stone fruit, there are two that hail above all else: Blenheim Apricots and Santa Rosa Plums.  Santa Rosa Plums are flavorful, aromatic, juicy, with a dark purple tart skin.  They're the best in jam, syrup, sauces, and desert.  You name it and they are good in it!  

We loaded up the family into the truck, Bert included, and went to pick some plums.  We came home and sorted the really really ripe ones out, washed them, cut them up, and made a crisp.  

My rule of thumb for crisp making: only add sugar to the fruit as needed. The crisp topping is sweet, it’s nice to have a little tartness come through.
— Erica Manfre

I covered the bottom of a 9-13 inch pan with plums.  I didn't go too deep because we like a good ratio of fruit to crisp.  Now, for my crisp topping, here's my go to.  I've tried a few others (see my Rhubarb Crisp recipe HERE), but I always come back to this one.

INGREDENTS:

  • 1/2c Sugar
  • 1c Brown Sugar, packed
  • 1c Flour
  • 1c Oatmeal
  • 3/4 tsp Cinnamon, to taste
  • 1/2c Cold Butter

Combine dry ingredients.  Cut in cold butter until mixture forms large crumbs.  Squeeze small handfuls of crumb mixture together, then crumble evenly over fruit in coarse chunks.

Bake 375 for 45 minutes or until fruit is tender and crisp is golden brown.

Orville's Garlic Pickles

I grew up in an awesome neighborhood.  I'm tempted to say the BEST neighborhood ever.  We had kids our own age, not a lot of car traffic, it was safe, and we had the greatest next door neighbors named Orville and Elsie. They would come over if they heard the oven timer going for an extended period of time and take a roast out of the oven, they'd let us just walk in their back door without even knocking, and they'd let us come over Friday nights to watch Family Matter's, the show with Urkel because his voice drove my dad nuts. 

They also made some of the foods that I now consider comfort foods.  There were a couple that stand out to me: home made grape jelly, with butter and saltine crackers, freezer oatmeal cookies, and garlic pickles.  

Now, before you go thinking I'm nuts, these pickles are TO DIE FOR!  They're sweet and garlicy...and I'm not talking subtle garlic.  I'm talking punch you in the face garlic.  If you like pickles and you like garlic, this recipe is for you!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 quart jar of Kosker Dill pickles
  • LOTS of fresh garlic 2-3 heads or 20-30 cloves
  • 1 cups white vinegar
  • 2 cup white sugar

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Drain all pickle juice out of the jar and cut pickles into chunks and put the pickles back into the jar. 
  2. Make a syrup of sugar and vinegar on the stove, by bringing them to a boil and stirring about 2-4 minutes.  
  3. Add trimmed garlic cloves to the mixture and pour over pickles chunks back into jar, while hot.  Let stand several days before serving.