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“Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.”




G ‘n G

Yields: 2 drinks (’cause you should never drink alone)

  • 6 oz. gin (we love the Bombay)
  • 12 oz. gingerale
  • juice of 1/2 of a lime
  • ice
  • lime wedge for garnish

1. Place ice cubes in two short glasses.

2. Add the gin, then gingerale, then lime juice.

3. Stir well and serve with a lime wedge. Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

How many times have you heard someone say, “I just don’t have anything to eat in this place”? Well, I must say I am guilty of this though of course my kitchen isn’t completely empty (I have a cooking blog, after all). When I most recently spoke these words I decided to really try to make something work… Tim Gunn style, if you will. Though I must admit that it was more the frugality in me that didn’t want to spend money on take-out than being a motivated cook. But it actually turned out to be a fun challenge, kinda Top Chef-esque. Try this in your own kitchen!

What I came up with was a random assortment, but I must say it really did work nicely on the palette…

- deviled eggs

- toasted multi-grain bread with baba ghanouj

- roasted roma tomatoes with basil and pepper

- fruit and nut salad

In the Bible Belt, fried chicken is somewhat of a cultural phenomenon. This dish never fails to appear at Sunday dinner, family reunions, church suppers, and holiday meals. A staple of the southern cuisine, it’s finger lickin’ goodness is irresistible. Good fried chicken will melt in your mouth, ignite your soul, and increase your likelihood of a heart attack. I decided to go to the Queen of the South herself for this recipe. I’ve also included a drink that might make that conversation with your double cousin a little bit easier. Can I get an Amen?

Southern Fried Chicken (courtesy of Paula Deen)

House Seasoning

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1/4 cup pepper
  • 1/4 cup garlic powder

Southern Fried Chicken

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1 cup hot red pepper sauce (I can’t eat spicy things, so I just used a couple tbsp…)
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • House seasoning
  • 2 1/2 lb chicken, cut into pieces (I used 2 packages of Purdue chicken thighs, totaling 4 lbs… hey, it was on sale, and who doesn’t like leftovers?)
  • Oil for frying (I used Canola)

1. Mix together the House seasoning ingredients. This can be stored in an airtight container for up to 6 months! This stuff is delicious.

2. Heat oil to 350 deg. in a large, deep pot. Work on the next steps while it heats, but DO use a thermometer (for reasons that are photographically displayed below).

3. In a bowl, beat the eggs and water. Add hot sauce. With a cup, it should turn the mixture bright orange. Mine was, well, still yellow.

4. In another bowl, combine the flour and pepper. I don’t really understand the pepper at this point, but I trust Paula.

5. Season the chicken with the House seasoning. Note: OKAY – I completely coated the chicken with this stuff; like, flopped it around in the seasoning… and it turned out ultra salty. Would not recommend my method.

6. Dip the chicken in the egg mixture then coat well in the flour.

7. Fry the chicken in the oil until brown and crispy. Note: Dark meat takes longer than white; appx 10 for white and 14 for dark.

8. Serve with bbq beans, corn, biscuits, potato salad, collards and/or baked potatoes. I opted for some fresh sweet corn (compliments of my mama) and bbq beans. Eat up, y’all!

Sweeteani

  • Sweet tea vodka (I used Sweet Carolina, but Firefly is better)
  • Juice of one lemon, and a couple slices for decorations
  • Cold water
  • A few cubes of ice

1. Mix together 8-10 oz of sweet tea vodka and lemon juice in a mixer with ice.

2. Pour into 2 martini glasses and add a splash of water to each.

3. Serve with a lemon slice and enjoy!

They say the key to a man’s heart is food. Well, last night I completely spoiled my boyfriend; or tortured, if you consider I made him cook with me for 3+ hours. I must say he really is a great sui chef… even though he put the cake in the oven sans flour the first time, and thinks dividing eggs is rocket science. Aside from his kitchen, uhh, “skill”… he’s an ace at eating, loves (or pretends to!) my food and redbox’d Ghost for post-cooking, which counts for something. Please enjoy the following recipes for Chilled Chocolate and Espresso Mousse, Espresso and Mint Creme Cake, and Grasshopper Coffee.

Chilled Chocolate and Espresso Mousse (from The Chocolate and Coffee Bible)

  • 8 oz semisweet chocolate (I prefer Giardelli)
  • 3 tbsp brewed espresso
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • for chocolate cups: another 8 oz semisweet chocolate
  • optional decorations: mint spriggs, marscapone, confectioner’s sugar, cocoa powder, whipped cream; be creative!

1. For each chocolate cup, cut a double thickness 6 in. square of foil. Mold it around an orange. Remove the orange and press the base of the foil case on the work surface to make a flat base. Repeat. The recipe calls for 4, but I ended up having a lot of leftover mousse and would recommend making 6.

2. For the cups, place chocolate in a bowl set over hot water. Stir occasionally until melted. Be sure to scrape the edges so the chocolate doesn’t burn.

3. Spread the chocolate around the inside of the foil cups. I used a kitchen brush, but a spoon will be fine. Chill for 30 mins or until set hard; I’m impatient and put them in the freezer. GENTLY peel away the foil (I kinda messed this up).

4. For the mousse, put the chocolate and espresso into the same bowl you used for the cups. Melt over a pot of hot water as before. When smooth and liquidy, add the butter, a little at a time. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the egg yolks. Note: At this point, I think it’s best to refrigerate the mixture a bit before folding in the egg whites.

5. Beat the egg whites in a bowl until stiff, then fold into the chocolate mixture. Pour into a bowl and chill for at least 3 hours.

6. To serve, scoop the chilled mousse carefully into the chocolate cups. Decorate to your heart’s desire and enjoy!

Espresso and Mint Creme Cake (adapted from “Coffee and Mint Creme Cake” in The Chocolate and Coffee Bible)

  • 1 tbsp ground espresso
  • 18 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1/2 cup ground almonds
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
  • 4 tbsp creme de menthe
  • optional decorations: mint spriggs, confectioner’s sugar, sliced almonds, cocoa powder

1. Preheat oven to 350 deg. Grease and lightly flour 2 cake pans. Baking parchment also works well.

2. Beat 12 tbsp butter, sugar, flour, almonds, eggs and espresso in a large bowl until well blended (appx. 1 minute). Divide the mixture between the two pans. Bake for about 25 minutes. Allow to cool a bit in the pans… or it’ll break when you try to take it out (as I found out). Then turn the cakes out onto a wire rack to completely cool.

3. For the filling, cream the remaining 6 tbsp butter, confectioner’s sugar and creme de menthe together in a bowl until light and fluffy.

4. Sandwich together the cakes with the icing.

5. Decorate with mint spriggs, almonds, confectioner’s sugar, etc. before serving.

Grasshopper Coffee (adapted from The Chocolate and Coffee Bible)

  • 1/4 cup creme de menthe
  • 1/4 cup coffee liquer
  • 1/4 cup tequila
  • 1 1/2 cups hot strong coffee (I’m a Colombian kinda girl)
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream (or whipped cream)
  • a bit of sugar
  • for chocolate bark: 4 oz dark chocolate (or 2 oz of white and 2 oz dark) and 2 tbsp creme de menthe

1. Melt chocolate bark ingredients over the stove and freeze or refrigerate until hardened.

2. Divide the liqueurs evenly between two tall latte glasses. Combine well.

3. Fill each glass with the hot coffee.

4. Whip together whipping cream and a dash of sugar until, well, you get whipped cream.

5. Top the drinks with whipped cream and chopped bark. Serve hot.

Ahhh, summer. What could be better than a picnic on a beautiful day? Today I spent the afternoon at Griffy Lake (Bloomington, IN) dining on delicious chicken salad sandwiches and sweet potato salad. I made these recipes by taste and didn’t quite get exact measurements, so I’ll do my best to approximate. Play around with it! I served these with strawberries, sharp cheddar on toasted sesame crackers, and white wine. All the food really worked great together, and it proved for the perfect romantic summer picnic.

Chicken Salad Sandwiches

  • 2 cans (9 oz) Swanson chicken breast
  • 1/4 cup mayonaise
  • 1/4 cup green onions
  • 1 chopped shallot
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • a couple handfuls of red grapes, quartered
  • 5 leaves chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 lemon, juiced
  • freshly ground pepper
  • loaf bread (I prefer multi-grain)
  1. This one is easy… mix them all together and make into sandwiches!

Sweet Potato Salad (adapted from Bobby Flay’s recipe)

  • 3 medium-sized sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp yellow mustard
  • 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/8 cup white wine vinegar
  • several tbsp honey
  • 2 leaves chopped basil
  • freshly ground pepper
  1. Bake sweet potatoes at 350 deg. until just tender.
  2. While potatoes are cooking, mix together olive oil and vinegars (oil FIRST).
  3. Add mustard, honey, basil and pepper to taste.
  4. Skin potatoes and chop them into small cubes.
  5. Coat potatoes with dressing and serve!

Cheese Grits

Ahhh, a southern delicacy. Warm and creamy, melt in your mouth cheese grits. Who could resist?

Well, apparently my roommate, John, did for the first 22 years of his life! To give him some credit, he had never even HEARD of grits before. And when he asked me to describe them, my choice of words wasn’t very appetizing… i.e. mushy rice, soggy sand . You can imagine he wasn’t thrilled with my insistence that he immediately try a bowl of salty oatmeal. Alas, with apprehension in his eyes and a hesitant spoon, he tried them. And this is what he said:

Mary: How did you feel about your cheese grits experience?
John: I’d probably never make them, but if you made them for me, then I would eat them. I do appreciate that no animals were killed in the making of the grits.
M: How would you describe them to a fellow northerner who had never had them?
J: It’s like watered down cheese in a mushy state with salt.
M: Do you have anything else to say?
J: I just don’t see cheese grits as something you should get excited about.
M: Blasphemy!

So maybe grits aren’t for everyone… but don’t knock it til you try it! Maybe he didn’t like them as much because I just gave them to him on a plate with nothing else. Or maybe because he’s a Yankee. (Yes, I just went there)

Cheese grits:

  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup grits
  • 4 oz. shredded cheddar, or about a heaping cup
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Boil water in a sauce pan.
  2. Add grits and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick to your pan and burn… (I speak from experience)
  3. Reduce to warm and add cheese, butter, salt and paper.
  4. Serve as part of breakfast or as a side to seafood.

Red Velvet Mistake

I am not a professional chef. And sometimes things, uh, happen… Have you ever imagined the most beautiful cake, perfectly round and smooth, smeared with creamy icing and topped with the slightest bit of garnish?

This is what I imagined. What I got was… more like… Red Velvet Crumb cake. A nice idea, I suppose, but not quite what my heart was so desperately yearning for whilst I awaited the completion of the cooking cycle.

Well, when I took it out, I encountered a problem. Warning: Here comes the “I’m a poor college student” spill: Basically, I have very old and frequently used pans that have been handed down to me anddd apparently they don’t take to Pam very well. Free=good, but stuck-to-the-pan-cake=very bad.

This situation was kind of embarrassing, seeing as I was cooking this with my friend Tamara, who was really excited to bake her first cake. Luckily, she’s a very spirited young lady who manages to see the humor in everything. This is what we were dealing with:

Despite these trials and tribulations we faced (very gracefully, of course), the cake was a success! Even if it wasn’t the prettiest, most presentable cake, it was delicious! You can thank my mom for the recipe.

Here is my recipe:

Red Velvet Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour (cake flour makes it SO much better)
  • 1 1/2 cups oil (I used canola)
  • 1 cup buttermilk1 tsp baking soda1 tsp vanilla (for the love of God, don’t use artificial…)
  • 1 tsp. vinegar
  • 1 bottle red food coloring, or 1 oz.

Cream Cheese Frosting (um, delicious)

  • 1 pkg. cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 stick butter at room temperature
  • 1 box confectioners (or 10x) sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup pecans chopped (I like to leave some whole for decoration)

Cake!
1. Beat oil and sugar together, blend in eggs, vinegar, and vanilla.
2. Sift flour and soda together.
3. Add the flour/soda mixture to the creamed. Blend well.
4. Add buttermilk and food coloring.
5. BE CAREFUL, DON’T LET FOOD COLORING SPLATTER ON YOU, IT WILL NOT COME OUT OF CLOTHING. (this step is a direct quote from my mother)
6. Beat well.
7. Pour into 2 round pans… that have been thoroughly greased.
8. Cook 25 minutes on 350 degrees.

Icing!
1. Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla until blended.
2. Add in sugar a bit at a time and blend well.
3. Stir in chopped nuts.
4. Spread on cake. You should do this once the cake is cooled. Yes, it’s tempting to just douse the velvety goodness with this cream cheese delight straight out of the oven, but it really works better if it’s cooled. But are you going to listen? Probably not. Do I? Definitely not…
After a makeover that would put “What Not To Wear” to shame, this was the final product.
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