Sunday, January 31, 2010

Eli Young Band

I've recently been listening to a lot of the Eli Young band. This is a Texan country/rock band, and their most recent album is Jet Black and Jealous. So, this band got me to thinking about Texas....not good, I know.

Texas makes me think of two things in particular. First, my friend, Raz, who is from Texas and actually introduced the band to me, which I would love to thank him for. Hmm....quick side note:
Is it just me, or does anybody else notice how Texans swagger? I don't know if it's just Raz and his brother, but when you watch them, they's so wierd and so absolutely hilarious to watch! I don't must be a Texas thing....

But back to the task at hand, Texas. The other thing Texas makes me think of is beef brisket, which of course, they are known for. It's all they ever BBQ. So, I guess the combination of listening to Texas country music made me want to fix a beef brisket. So, I did.

But first, I had to find one. :) Julie and I went out last night to get just a 4 or 5 pound brisket. We tried Kroger first....and they did NOT have one. How can you be a grocery store and not have brisket?! They had corned beef brisket, but St. Patrick's day is over a month away! And that's a totally different post.... I just wanted a plain, old brisket.

So, we tried Walmart, and success!! We found one. We start to walk to check out, me now carrying this 9 or 10 pound brisket like I would my own child, and Julie goes, "So......can we name it?"

"No! We can't name the brisket! Because we're going to roast it and eat it!"

"How about Ned?"

"I thought you were going to name your first son Ned?"

" about Fred?"

Needless to say, we never decided on a name, which is probably a very good thing. :) But anyway, we now had our brisker, and now came the time to cook it. The best way to cook a brisket is at a low temperature for a very LONG time. Brisket comes from what you could consider the shoulder/arm of cow and so it's a relatively tough piece of meat. However, it does have a good amount of fat on it, which can work to your advantage. So, here is my recipe for a beef brisket.

Texan Beef Brisket
9 lb. brisket
1 cup dry rub
4 onions

You need to trim the fat on the brisket to about 1/4 inch on the top. This can be tedious, so make sure you have a good sharp knife, and a paring knife is good to have around as well. Season the brisket well with the dry rub. I use my own personal recipe, you can make up something yourself, buy one, doesn't really matter. The important part is that you do this the night before you're planning on roasting because it needs to sit over night. Make sure to cover with plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge overnight.

When you're ready, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. As the oven is preheating, you're going to make a foil package to wrap your brisket in. I used a double layer of foil, or you could use heavy duty foil, either way you're going to have, at least, one sheet of foil on the bottom and one on the top of the brisket. Cut up your onions into fairly large chunks and lay around the brisket. Seal up the foil so that there are no openings.

You're going to roast this at 300 degrees for about 4 hours or until the brisket is fork tender, which also translates to 175 degrees internal temperature. The brisket will form its own juices in the package which you can then spoon over your beef.

Here is my finished product! I served mine with creamy grits and caramelized onions. I would have also served probably collards, but I didn't really have time today.

So, here's the moral of the story. One, you can roast your own brisket; it's a lot easier than you might think. Two, listen to Eli Young Band, they're great. Three, the next time you see a Texan, watch them swagger and giggle quietly to yourself. :)

Saturday, January 30, 2010


I never been a huge beer fan; actually it took my a while to get to the point where I could appreciate and enjoy beer. I feel that I have my brothers-in-law to thank for that. :) But last night, I was just hanging out with some friends, and we decided to get a few different types of beers to try. Of course, being college students, price is one thing we look at, and we were able to find a few for a good price.

1. Dundee's Honey Brown Lager

My friend, Ben got this beer, and it's pretty good. It's more of a medium to heavy beer, but it has a nice smooth flavor. It's a nice accompaniment for a sandwich, and we served it with a portobello mushroom sandwich, which was very good. Great general all-around, inexpensive beer.

2. Rising Moon Spring Ale (Blue Moon)

I've always enjoyed Blue Moon beers. They are well-made and taste good. This is their seasonal beer for spring. It's a pale ale that's been made with lime verbena leaves and lime. Now, I'm a huge lime fan, so I really enjoyed this beer. But something I was debating with a friend, would the beer have been better with just a lime wedge in it? Or with the lime flavorings? I suppose it's up to whoever is drinking it. But, this is a good seasonal is you like a lighter flavor with just that hint of lime.

3. Bell's Amber Ale
I caught sight of this beer at the store and was immediately intrigued because it's made here in Michigan; in Comstock actually. I'm really into eating local foods and drinking local beers and wines; I think it's a great way to support the economy around you, and especially for microbreweries like this, you usually get a good quality beer because people take a lot of pride in what they're doing.
Anyway, this brewery is off of 94, closer to the west side of the state, but after looking it up, they've been around since 1983. They are one of the oldest microbreweries in the Mid-West. Also, it looks like they have a restaurant, you can take tours of the brewery, and do beer tastings.
As for the beer itself, this was by far my favorite. It wasn't too heavy, but it's definitely not a light beer. I don't think it paired extremely well with the portobello sandwiches, but it wasn't bad. I would rather have served this a beef stew probably.

Overall, my goal in this post was to show you some of the good beers around right now. And to encourage you to drink something local! Check it out, most grocery stores will sell local beers, or smaller time stores. Find something new and see if you like it. :)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Cookbooks on My Shelf

I love cookbooks! I suppose that makes sense, since I like to cook and bake a lot, but even before I got really serious about cooking, I loved collecting cookbooks. I still do, as a matter of fact. I know that it bothers my sisters so much sometimes because every time I pick up or look at some cookbook, my younger sisters always goes, "Why do you need that?!? You have tons at home!"

Oh, young one.....if you only knew...... :)

I suppose the reason I like cookbooks so much is that I like to just peruse through them, flipping pages liesurely, dissecting pictures and examining recipes. There is always some new to find in cookbooks; always some new recipe to try or inspiration for another recipe.

However, since I could not possibly keep all of my cookbooks here at school, I've chosen a few that I refer to almost all of the time. Here are just a few:

1. Alton Brown! You can never miss out on Alton Brown. He is one of my favorite TV show hosts, and I was lucky
enough to hear hi
m speak at Oakland University in Detroit in October. I was lucky enough to attend with my older sister and my roommate, and it was an absolute
blast. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard...
Anyway, he has some wonderful recipes, all from the first 7 or 8 seasons of the show, Good Eats. He also explains the science of cooking, so
if you're a nerd like me, you'll enjoy it. :)

2. Joy of Cooking: this is also a great resource! It's been around for years, and it's been revised a few times as well. I have the newest edition, but there is no doubt in my mind that they'll come out with another edition soon enough.
But what's really great about this book is the fact that it gives you recipes as well as ba
ckground about whatever you're cooking with.
So, say you want to bake rutabaga. You don't know how to cook one, much less what it is. Go look it up here! It'll tell you what it is exactly (it's a sort of tuber) and many different ways how to cook it and prepare it. This is a really a good go-to book, and great for cooks just starting out.

3. Baking by James Peterson
This is also a great go-to book for bakers. Peterson has written one for cooking as well, so if you prefer to have that, go for it. This book is nice because it covers almost every area of
baking from breads to pastries and custards and it gives you the basics. Say for a cake, it'll give you a few basic recipes, which almost all baked good are based upon. Then, it'll tell you how to make variations of that recipe. Also, he has wonderful, beautiful pict
ures in this book. They are very informative and instructive. That's one thing that can be very difficult about baking, a lot of things you have to learn either from watching someone do it, or perform the task yourself. This is the closest to actually being in a classroom with a chef. I think'll you enjoy it a lot, especially if you a visual learner, like me.

4. Rachael Ray: No Repeats
Honestly, I'm not a big Rachael Ray fan, actually I can't really stand her; nobody, and I mean nobody says "Yummo" in real life, and EVOO is in the dictionary now?!?! What is this world coming to...
Anyway, even though I don't like her, her cookbooks aren't bad. They're good for ideas and f
airly easy to follow. The only downside to these books is that a lot of people don't always have the ingredients sitting immediately in your kitchen, and unless you cook A LOT, you won't necessarily use all of whatever it is you have to buy.
But, nevertheless the recipes are good for ideas and guides and that's what I usually refer to.

5. The Flavor Bible
One of my favorite new books! By the same couple who wrote, The Making of a Chef, which I have read I should mention. Anyway, this is another great reference. There are a few chapters in the beginning which helps cooks to understand how flavors work together and how to pair different types of flavors, textures, and smells to fix great food.
In the last chapter, it's essentially a sort of dictionary which all the different pairings that go well together. For example, say you're cooking with pears, you can look pears up in the this book and see all the different foods and spices and herbs that work well with them.

I hope you'll look up these cookbooks because there are really great books, references, and generally good books. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Jodi's Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

I think I mentioned a few days ago that this house goes through loads of bananas, and for some reason we actually had some get pretty ripe......slightly strange, but that's good for me! I love these cookies because they have the wonderful smell and taste of banana bread, but in cookie form and with chocolate chips. Now, how can you beat that?

My older sister actually introduced me to these because her mother-in-law bakes them and the family loves them! Of course, my sister was kind enough to share the wonderfulness and got the rest of us hooked. :) I will warn you though, these cookies don't last very long once they come out of the oven, so you might need to stash a few of your own if you want any.

2/3 (two-thirds) Cup Shortening
1 Cup Sugar.
2-4 mashed bananas (the mushier the better)
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2.5 (two and a half) Cups Flour
1 tsp. Baking Powder
1/2 (half) tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 (half) tsp. Salt.
6 oz. chocolate chips
Cream together the shortening and sugar. I will tell you that I prefer to use butter because of the flavor and it produces a better golden brown color, but shortening works just as well if that's what you have.

Add the smashed bananas and mix well. Add eggs one at a time and then the vanilla. While mixing, combine all dry ingredients and mix well. Add slowly to wet ingredients. You batter won't be very stiff like normal cookie dough, it'll actually be very soft. Because of this I like to use an ice cream scooper to dispense the dough.

Make sure to grease your baking sheet before loading on the cookie dough otherwise the cookies will stick.

Bake at 350 10-12 minutes. You'll know the cookies are finished when they bounce back when you press lightly on them, or until they're a nice golden brown.

These are very cakey cookies, more like a muffin top than a chocolate chip cookies. However, they are absolutely delicious! Be's an addiction. :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Edna Lewis

Not many people know about Edna Lewis. She was in fact a wonderful cook, sometimes labelled as the Julia Childs of the South. She grew up in a very poor family, but grew up to be one of the most influential chefs for Southern cooking.

Unfortunately, she passed away in 2006, but before that happened, she became very good friends with Scott Peacock, the executive chef of Watershed in Decatur, GA. He now tries to carry on her tradition of Southern cooking within his restaurant.

They wrote a book called "The Gift of Southern Cooking" before Edna died. It's a wonderful book and a great resource. But what I really wanted to share was an article. I found it last year in Gourmet's archives from the early 2000's. Edna Lewis writes about what the south is. I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Peanut Butter...yum..... :)

Peanut butter is wonderful stuff. I thank God that He inspired George Washington Carver to discover the wonderfulness of peanuts in general.

Sorry, I had to express my love of peanut butter someway..... :)

Anyway, I had a friend request some peanut butter cookies, and even though he is far away (Arizona), I figured he could use a little TLC from my kitchen. I love this recipe; it's from my mother's kitchen, but I like it so much because the cookies aren't necessarily soft. They're actually slightly crunchy and kind of crumbly. This is due to the ratio of fat and sugar and then you add the peanut butter and you get a wonderful texture and flavor. Yum!

So to continue to share the TLC, I thought I would post the recipe, especially since a friend tried one and wants the recipe. :)

Peanut Butter Cookies
1 cup butter (or shortening)
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 cup peanut butter
2 1/2 cups flour, sifted with 1 tsp soda and a pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla

Combine dry ingredients, and set aside. In a standing mixer, combine butter and sugar until creamy, then add peanut butter until well mixed. Add eggs, one at a time, then add vanilla. Add dry ingredients slowly and mix until well incorporated.

This dough can chill until you're ready to use it or you can bake immediately. I like to use a small ice cream scooper to form balls which I then press out with a fork. Bake at 375 degrees for 8 to 12 minutes (it'll depend on your oven) You know they're finished when they have a beautiful golden brown color. You'll also be able to smell them, telling you they're finished. :)

It's times like this that I really wish I had my camera!!! Or even had my sister here to take the picture because she's such a wonderful photographer. Oh well......

I hope you enjoy these cookies!!!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Yogurt is....

So good! Now, I'm not talking about the colored, artificially flavored yogurt stuff that most people by these days. I'm talking about plain, simple, the way it should be yogurt. It's not usually the first thing that shoppers pick up when you're in the dairy section of the grocery store because most people don't think they like the taste. That's's not naturally sweet; it's actually very tart. We've all gotten so used to the processed kind that we can't handle the real stuff. Now, I know it might be a different flavor for your poor little tastebuds, but make it a challenge and try it! If you want a little sweetness, top it with some honey or fruit.

So misunderstood! Lots of companies are coming out with yogurt that has probiotic cultures, bacteria that are good for your GI tract, blah, blah, blah...... Well, here's a little secret for you.....don't tell anyone........original yogurt already has those bacterial cultures. Ahhh!!! Are you suprised?!?! I really hope not. If you look at yogurt closest to its original forms, it has that wonderful bacteria in there already, and hundreds more!

Here's a little scientific information for you. Activia, created by Dannon, has made "Bifidus regularis" it's own culture. This isn't abnormal, a lot of good quality cheese companies do the same thing. Legally make the culture theirs so that other companies can't use them (just so you know Kraft isn't really one of them....) What they don't really tell you is that, Bifidus regularis isn't really a bacteria. It's real name is Bifidobacterium animalis subspecia animalis, strain DN-173 010, but that doesn't really roll off the tongue quite as easy, now does it.

This culture is found naturally in our GI tract already. We acquire them during infancy from breast feeding. The cultures develop and simply have a lower population when we're older because of the hundreds of other bacterial strains within our body. This yogurt, Activia, is simply changing the bacterial flora of your intestine to help things out.

Well, here's another secret for you, you can save some money by buying plain yogurt, which is cheaper.....and get a lot of the same benefits. You can look up the articles, whatever, the bacteria are really good for you and help promote good health.

So under appreciated! There are so many uses for yogurt, not just breakfast in the morning. It's wonderful to use in marinades, they add great flavor, breakfast in the mornings, lunches, dips.....whatever your mind can come up with. Personally, I really like to use yogurt for dips for veggies, chips, anything. Here's a good recipe for it.

Savory Yogurt Dip
8 oz plain, whole milk yogurt
lemon zest

Line a strainer with cheesecloth and pour yogurt into the strainer. Let excess liquid drain off the yogurt while you work on other stuff. Chop up your garlic finely, you can use as much or as little as you like. Personally, I'm a big garlic fan. Also, chop up your rosemary finely. Once you've drained the excess liquid off the yogurt, it will be much thicker with a consistency closer to a soft cheese. In a bowl, combine yogurt, garlic, rosemary, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Combine well. Serve with pita chips or anything else that sounds good.

Really, you are not short of options for this dip. Change up the flavors depending on what you're serving. Use lots of different herbs, spices, whatever suits your fancy. However, do not ever underestimate yogurt.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Morning Brunch

It's gotten really warm here, so it's been raining. It puts you in the mood for really comforting food, like French Toast. :) After church this morning, came back to fix french toast, specifically my dad's french toast. It's something that my sisters and I loved having when we were younger, especially when served with iced milk.

It's really easy to fix and fast.

Daddy's French Toast
8 eggs
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
dash of nutmeg

Combine all ingredients well. Use day old bread for your toast, soak in egg mixture and cook in a skillet brought to medium heat or 350 degrees on an electric skillet. Serve with maple syrup. :)

A great brunch for Sunday morning or even dinner :)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Little Things....

I love how the little things in life are the ones that inspire you to bake. Or at least, they inspire me. :) Sometimes, it's a phrase or a song, sometimes it's a picture a landscape or a smell. Then you just get started thinking, "Hey, that sounds really good" or even "how can I reproduce that or make it better"?

Sometimes it's just the sight. Seems a little philosophical for my post, but oh well.....
I felt inspire to bake banana bread this past week. It was probably because we go through bananas like mad in this house, and for once there were some very ripe bananas sitting in the kitchen. Since I know that no one will eat them.....I stole them :)

Banana bread is such a comforting thing, I love the way it smells. So to share that wonderful smell, here's the recipe that I like to use.

Banana Bread with Pecans
2 cups AP flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 overripe bananas
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled to room temp
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup pecans

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, mash bananas together; I like to leave them a little bit chunky for good texture in the bread. Mix in the sugar and combine well.
Add butter, eggs, and vanilla. Once well combine, add dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Add pecans.

Pour batter into two prepared loaf pans.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35-40 minute or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes our clean.

Just a thought, with this bread it might be good to use butter pecans. For that, bake pecans at 350 for about 5 to 10 minutes, until fragrant. Add 1 or 2 tablespoons of butter to the pan and mix well, then add to batter.

Also, this bread is really good with chocolate chips. :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Shirley's Fudgy Brownies

For my birthday last year, I was given a copy of Shirley Corriher's Bakewise, which I love! It's full of so many wonderful recipes and knowledge; it's definitely a go-to book. :)

I decided to bake some brownies last night, and I love Shirley's recipe for Fudgy Brownies and they are always popular! So, I thought I would share the recipe. She says that it's best for these to cool overnight before cutting them, and this is true, but they are just as good when they come right out of the oven. Just give them about 10 minutes to cool and serve!

Shirley's Fudgy Brownies
1 1/2 cups pecans
1 1.2 cup plus 2 T butter
12 oz semisweet chocolate
1 oz German chocolate
4 large eggs
3 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
2 T white sugar
3 T light corn syrup
1 T vanilla
3/4 t salt
1 1/2 cups AP flour

Preheat oven to 300 degrees

Spread the pecans onto a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. When the nuts are hot, stir in 2 T of butter. When cool, coarsely chop and set aside

Line a 13 X 9 inch pan with parchment paper sprayed with cooking spray or use release foil. Make sure to leave enough of an edge to easy lift brownies from the pan.

Place the remaining butter in a bowl with chocolates. Melt butter and chocolate over simmering water, making to sure that no water touches the chocolate. This can cause the chocolate to seize. Set aside.

Combine eggs in a bowl, and beat lightly. With minimum stirring, combine eggs, sugars, corn syrup, vanilla, and salt.

Again, with minimum stirring, add chocolate mixture to egg mixture. Once combined, add flour, and mix until just incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top.

Bake brownies until they begin to pull away from the edge of the pan, about an hour. My oven runs a little hot, so mine really need only 50 to 55 minutes. Brownies should be slightly underdone. When you insert a toothpick, it should come out with some gooey brownie. :)

Now here are your options. Either cool completely in the pan and then refrigerate overnight before cutting. But if you can't wait that long (like me) Allow brownies to cool for 10 minutes, lift out of pan and cut into them.

Absolutely wonderful with a scoop of ice cream!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Early Morning

First off, I still cannot post pictures since camera is still MIA. I believe I might have left it at home in GA, which of course, does not help me at all.

But to get to the important stuff, here at school, I have a lot of friends in fraternities and soroities, seeing as I am in a sorority myself. But last week, the Sigma Chi fraternity had their initiation week, aka "Hell Week". It's actually fairly enjoyable for us, minus the fact that they come and yell at us at 6:30 in the morning.

To make their week slightly better, my sorority sisters and I always fix breakfast for these gentlemen; it's something we've been doing since I came here. Anyway, I thought I would share our menu and a recipe.

"Hell Week" Breakfast
Southwest Egg Casserole, modified from Savory Sweet Life
Monkey Bread
Oj, coffee, milk, etc.

I really wanted to share the recipe for Monkey Bread, which is so easy and absolutely delicious.

25-30 frozen yeast rolls
1 cup brown sugar
1 package non-instant butterscotch pudding
1/2 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 stick melted butter

Add rolls to a greased tube pan. Combine brown sugar and pudding. Mix well and pour over the rolls. Combine white sugar and cinnamon and pour over rolls. Top with chopped pecans and pour butter over the top. Let rise over night, no more than 8 hours.

Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. Enjoy!!

Absolutely delicious and reidiculously easy :)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Low Country

Every now and then, I get in the mood for some good home Southern cooking. And today, I really wanted Shrimp and Grits. I didn't have anyone in particular to fix it for, but my friend Anna came over and we had a really good meal. I'm sorry I have no pictures though, my camera is MIA. But I will tell you the menu.

White Cheddar Grits with Venison Sausage and Shrimp
Buttermilk Biscuits
Chocolate Lava Muffins (from Alton Brown's book, The Early Years)

The venison sausage was made fresh from a friend at work. He killed the deer himself and made his own sausage. It was wonderful with lots of jalapenoes!!

Monday, January 11, 2010


I must apologize for not posting in a long time. This past semester was crazy! Finishing up my thesis and getting ready for presenting and all of the other things that life entails kind of pushed my blog into the background.

I'm hoping to have more time to bake this semester, so hopefully you will see a post soon!!