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Last Saturday I attended the Chili For Children chili cook-off at the Lady Luck Casino here in Vicksburg. It was a charity event to raise money for Vicksburg’s children’s home.  (more…)

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iced teaWhen we made our decision to move to the south, there were certain things I expected to change about my diet. I anticipated that I would be eating more spicy food; foods with a Cajun or Creole flavor. I knew that gumbo and jambalaya and red beans and rice would be prevalent in most restaurants, along with sweet tea. Let’s not forget about the sweet tea. It is a southern staple. In fact, if you order iced tea and you don’t specify unsweet, you’re probably going to get sweet tea.

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Photo courtesy Google Images

Photo courtesy Google Images

I enjoy cooking. I enjoy eating. I enjoy trying new dishes and recipes. I love reading and collecting recipes and flipping through cook books. I would love to take some cooking classes. I want to learn how to cook like a pro, flipping omelets with ease, flinging pizza dough over my head, frying up the perfect sunny side up egg. I’m excited just thinking about tying on a pristine white apron.

When I was growing up my mother prepared well-balanced, colorful meals, but painfully lacking in variety. Every week saw the same dishes set before us, spaghetti, meatloaf, tacos, the occasional casserole. These dishes were accompanied by over cooked vegetables or boring green salads with vinegar and oil for dressing. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my mother to pieces and she never failed to have those healthy meals on the table for us each evening, for which I am eternally grateful. But, she lacked imagination or innovation or creativity of any kind when it came to cooking. Her spices of choice were salt and pepper and when she did get a little crazy and add herbs they usually consisted of dehydrated chives for the baked potatoes.

I think my husband wishes I were a little more like my mother in that regard. He’d be happy to have hamburgers or pizza (or both) every night of the week without ever seeing a vegetable or anything he can’t pronounce on the table. And don’t even say the word “fish,” when he’s around.

My poor, poor husband. I’m afraid his destiny is to endure experimental meals; meals prepared with love from the caring hands of the woman he loves. At least that’s what I keep telling him.

Photo courtesy Google Images

Photo courtesy Google Images

After many years of experimental cooking, let me give you a tip, read everything before doing anything. The preparation instructions are just as important as the list of ingredients. On more than one occasion I have been whipping and stirring and folding in things only to discover that my delicacy must marinate or some other such process for several hours before moving on to the next step. There goes dinner for that night. And, how often have you been mixing like mad, adding dashes of this, and pinches of that, only to discover that the next ingredient is something you’re either out of, or have not idea what it is? Yes folks, that has happened to me. I’ve learned to read carefully before assembling products and gathering dishes and utensils.

While cooking is fun and eating is enjoyable, the preparation process can be tedious and downright frustrating. Here are some examples of ingredients I’ve come upon while preparing to serve an outrageously delicious meal: Amchur powder, garam masala, bulls horn peppers, ground sumac, elderflower liqueur, locatelli cheese, dry prosecco, Taleggio cheese, furikake, sharp pecorino, wattleseed, Fleur De Sel. That last one is just sea salt and why in God’s name the recipe doesn’t just say sea salt is beyond me, but what the what? I guess, “sprinkle liberally with Fleur De Sel” does sound better than “salt at will,” but really, do I need to go to the trouble of locating and purchasing glorified salt?

Photo courtesy Google Images

Photo courtesy Google Images

Well, if I’m anything, I’m persistent. Google is my best friend and the store manager at my local supermarket has learned to run and hide if he sees me in the store, because I have sent him on a wild goose chase on more than one occasion looking for that special ingredient for my dinner. After I discover what furikake or bulls horn peppers are, I will spend way longer than necessary trying to find them at the market. Or, special order them.

And then there’s this quandry: you locate the item, or a close equivalent if you’ve been lucky enough to find out what that substitute item might be, only to discover that it costs like $100 for a half an ounce. You only need an 1/8 of a teaspoon and you’ll probably never use it again, but should you buy it – just in case it makes or breaks the dish you’ve been longing to try? I mean will you even notice if the wattleseeds are not present?

Ah yes, the joys of cooking and experimenting with new recipes. I have an impressive collection of spices and quite an assortment of colored salts (they’re all the rage now apparently), but my pocketbook is also considerably lighter. Was it worth it? Don’t ask my husband.

How about you friends, do you enjoy experimenting in the kitchen with crazy new ingredients and recipes? What’s the most money you’ve spent on something for a recipe? What’s the weirdest ingredient you’ve come across in your cooking adventures? How often have you Googled an ingredient in a recipe? I’d love to know. Please share.

Word of the Day:  Jaup

Fun Fact About Me: I sometimes try a recipe just because I like the name of it (can you say “Pasta Ponza?”)

Original post by Jansen Schmidt, April 2015. Photos courtesy Google Images.

 

 

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So autumn is finally in full swing in my neck of the woods. It was a long time coming, but finally the temperatures have dropped, the leaves are changing colors, the harvest is nearly over and we’ve had a fire in the woodstove. It is around this time of year that talk at my house turns to the holidays. Are the relatives visiting? Are we cooking or eating out? Are we exchanging gifts or buying something for the house?

I especially love this time of year because I love the seasonal foods associated with Fall and the rapidly approaching holidays. Most especially, I love me a good pot of yummy, hearty chili’s, stews and thick creamy soups. When I think soup, I think crockpot. Which in turn reminds me of a funny Christmas crock pot story.

Last year, my husband and I were discussing the annual exchange of holiday gifts and he said that he was going to get me a new crock pot. I frowned. Then I explained that girls want romantic personal gifts for the holidays, like perfume and diamond jewelry. He said that those things were very impractical, to which I responded, “Oh course they are! That’s what makes them special gifts.” The closer we got to Christmas the more I realized that the only thing I wanted was a new digital camera. So, when my husband asked me what I really wanted for Christmas, I told him, “I’d really like a new camera.”

About 2 weeks before Christmas my boss and I shared our annual Christmas lunch and gift exchange. Much to my surprise, she got me a digital camera. I was so excited! I’d gotten a gift that I really wanted and knew I’d use. At home that evening I joyously showed my hubby my new treasure and his face fell to the floor. (I think you see where this is going.) I immediately knew that he had already gotten me a camera and I told him not to take it back. I told him that I would return my boss’s gift instead, but he insisted that I keep her camera and he’d get me something else.

You guessed it. He got me a crockpot. He said he didn’t know what else to get me and since I had pitched such a fit about getting small kitchen appliances as holiday gifts, he decided I needed to be taught a lesson.

I’m gonna confess something – just between you and me – I LOVE my crockpot! I use it all the time, probably even more than the camera. So, in honor of the arrival of autumn and my love affair with my holiday crockpot, here’s one of my favorite recipes. I hope you like it as much as I do. It was my first experience using pumpkin for something other than pie.

Pumpkin Turkey Chili

Ingredients

1 Tbsp vegetable oil

1 cup chopped onion

1/2 green bell pepper, chopped

1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped

1 (4 oz) can chopped green chiles

1 large clove garlic, minced

1 lb. ground turkey

1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes

1 (14.5 oz) can red kidney beans

2 cups ( 1 14.5 oz can) pumpkin puree

1 1/2 Tbsp chili powder

1/2 Tbsp cumin

3/4 tsp salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Cayenne pepper to taste

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese (optional)

1/2 cup sour cream (optional)

Procedure

1. Heat oil in large skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.

2.  Saute the onion, bell peppers, green chiles and garlic until tender, about 10 minutes. Make room in the center of the skillet, add turkey, and brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, beans, and pumpkin. Season with chili powder, cumin, pepper, salt, and Cayenne. (It is at this point when I put the mixture into the crockpot on low for several hours.)

3.  Reduce heat and simmer at least 20 minutes. Stir in fresh cilantro. If preferred, serve topped with Cheddar cheese and sour cream.

Enjoy!

What’s your favorite autumn tradition? Do you decorate your house for Thanksgiving? Got a good soup recipe to share? Let me know in the comments.

When this blog posts, I shall be vacationing in one of my favorite places but I promise to acknowledge each of you who leaves a comment. There might even be a sweet surprise for one lucky person who leaves a comment! Check back often to see what others are saying about Fall.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Word of the Day:  Labdanum

Fun fact about me:  I didn’t learn to swim until I was 13.

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