Saturday, April 21, 2012

Cancer Sucks

It has to be so awful to hear those words, “It’s cancer.” I hope to never have to hear them but more than that I hope to never be sitting with someone I love when they hear those words. My friend, Amy, has done that. Sat there. Had to hear that. Had to say the words, “My husband has colon cancer.” Torture. She is the bravest person I know.

And so was my friend Barbara, and my friend Leslie, and my friend Samantha and all my friends and their children who have sat around the dinner table trying to choke down dinner, while they choke back tears and choke on the cancer that is ravaging someone they love. So I cook. Not to say I feel sad for you, not to say you need help, not to say cancer sucks. I cook so that maybe one meal, one dinner, one moment can feel like a celebration. Maybe something I cook for you reminds you of a vacation, or a special evening, or maybe it just tastes good even to taste buds worn away by the damn chemo. You know, the damn chemo that is saving them.

So I’m sending a package of love to a family, a fiesta in a box! The menu is Margarita Chicken Salad, Black Bean & Corn Salsa, Homemade Jalapeno Honey Mustard, Tortillas, and Churro Cupcakes. See what I mean! How can that not be fun?!

It is a super easy meal to make to deliver to someone. My friend has a Mealtrain. If you know any families dealing with a loss or traumatic illness this is a great way to organize meal delivery. Please check it out!

Here is how the components of this meal break down. I will not have a final dish picture because I am packaging it all to place in coolers on her front porch.

Margarita Chicken- I marinate chicken breasts in lemon or lime juice, garlic, chili powder, cumin, cilantro, and add some tequila. I grill the breasts ahead and slice into thin strips.

Salad/Tortillas- In this case I am sending bagged lettuces, a bag of shredded sharp cheddar and a package of tortillas. My kids like to make this meal into soft tacos instead of eating it as a salad.

Black Bean & Corn Salsa- I chop up about a cup of whatever tomatoes look the ripest. I add a can of rinsed and drained black beans, and a cup of frozen (thawed) sweet or baby corn. I add 2 T of vegetable or olive oil, 1 T of lemon juice, 2 T of white balsamic vinegar. I mix in salt, pepper, 1 small chopped jalapeno (I took out the seeds since I am not sure if they like heat), some fresh cilantro, sliced green onions, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp cumin, garlic, and onion powder. This is better if the ingredients get a chance to hang out and party together.

Jalapeno Honey Mustard- I make this in my favorite kitchen tool, my Magic Bullet. Blend together ¼ c honey, ¼ cup stone ground mustard, 1 T lemon juice 1/3 c vegetable or olive oil, 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar, salt, pepper,1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp cumin, fresh cilantro, garlic, 1 seeded chopped jalapeno or several spoonfuls of pickled jalapeno rings or diced jalapenos. This warms up more as it hangs out in the fridge.

Churros Cupcakes- (pictured without topping) I used this recipe for the cupcakes and made a simple glaze of lemon juice, vanilla and powdered sugar. I dipped the cupcakes in the glaze and then into a cinnamon sugar mixture to coat.

I am hoping this meal is devoured and with it all the karma and positive energy I mixed in.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Whose Yer Daddy?

Or Mama as the case may be???
I did it! I finally got it together enough to try my hand at Shrimp-n-Grits. I have spent a lot of time online surfing recipes to try to come up with something that sounded just right. That being said I have only ever tasted Shrimp-n-Grits off other peoples' forks at restaurants. I've had it from Harry's and most recently from the glorious Angelette's. If you have not been to Angelette's by all means try it.
So I also had to consult Weight Watchers since I started it again last Monday. I found a link to a member's post of a Southern Living recipe. I emulated it the most. Keeping in mind that I measure nothing and cook by smell, I am going to include a guesstimated recipe. That means YMMV and I can not be held responsible if yours comes out like soup :p It was simple and I served it with sauteed fresh yellow squash and cheddar garlic biscuits from a mix. I hope you'll try it and find it as delicious as my Favorite First Husband did. Rumor has it he used a biscuit to clean the plate.

2 T olive oil
4 small sweet red & yellow peppers finely diced
1/2 an onion
1 T minced garlic (I used jarred- so spank me)
3 raw strips of bacon diced
2 T butter
1 1/2 T all purpose flour
1 T Tony's Cajun Seasoning
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 T Worcestershire Sauce
1 T Frank's Red Hot Sauce (adjust per your peeps' tastes)
1 T chicken base and 1 1/2 cups water mixed or 1 1/5 cups chicken stock
1 tsp lemon juice
1 pound cooked, peeled, tail & head off shrimp (thawed)
4 scallions (I cut them with kitchen shears)
1/4 cup half and half

3 cups water
3/4 cup quick cooking grits
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup half and half


In a skillet heat olive oil and then add peppers, garlic, and onion. When I added the onion I grated it into the pan so the sauce would be smoother in the end. Sautee until soft then add diced bacon and cook until lightly browned. Add the butter to the pan and once it has melted add the flour, Tony's and black pepper. Mix and cook slowly over low heat until a light red-brown sort of brick color.

In a sauce pan add the 3 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Add the salt and whisk in the grits. Turn the grits to low, cover and turn your attention back to your roux in the skillet.

Add in your Worcestershire and Frank's. Then stir in your chicken base and water or stock to the skillet. Add the lemon juice. Sauce should thicken quickly but let it bubble a minute or two so all the ingredients get friendly. Add your thawed shrimp and your scallions to the mix and place a lid on the skillet to continue a low simmer for another 2 minutes.

In the sauce pan with your grits, stir in the black pepper and half and half. Then add the half and half to the skillet with the shrimp, and mix. Turn the heat to both off and serve it up piping hot with a veggie and biscuits. It made 6 servings.

This recipe is devoid of cheese as my favorite First Husband is not a fan but some Parmesan mixed in with the shrimp and the grits would be a delicious addition. I hope you will give it a try. I would guesstimate it at about 12 WW Plus Points. I try to make my foods healthy but I will not sacrifice taste. You could use light butter, and fat-free canned evaporated milk instead of half and half to save considerable fat and calories. I really wanted it to be creamy and luscious because this dish was a Sunday night love letter to the man who pumps my gas, rubs my toes, encourages me to drink wine, eat candy, go back to college and hang out with my friends. *swoon*

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Soy Milk ≠ Heavy Cream - Last episode of the cupcake trillogy

And I know what you are thinking, "What idiot would ever think it does?" *Raises hand and jumps up and down wearing dunce cap*

I just must have lost my mind temporarily. But I only have 1/2 and 1/2 and need it for coffee so I was thinking chai tea, chai tea. What do I like with chai tea? Ooooooh I know, vanilla soy milk. Wrong answer. 2 sticks of butter, vanilla bean paste, cinnamon, cloves, soy milk and powdered sugar does not make frosting. Not with any decent consistency. It tasted pretty good but I'll let you be the judge on whether or not you think the frosting will hold up long enough to have them for snack. It is my intern's 30th birthday and we will be partying even if the frosting drips down our elbows.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sweet 16 Indeed

So my baby turns 16 tomorrow. He's so much more man than child now days. I walk that line between wanting to wrap him up in his "ki ki" and rock his big self to sleep, and giving him the keys to the car so he can try to buy me wine at Walmart because I don't want to put my bra back on. Honestly people, I am trying to avoid being a post of . He doesn't want a party but he conceded that I could make extra cupcakes and take them to his dojo. So despite an overwhelming urge, I did not decorate them with Thomas the Tank Engine.

In a previous post I mentioned how I had used cream de coconut in place of water in the cake mix and it resulted in sinkholes. So I piggy backed from the recipe for frosting Kristina mentioned in that post and made a filling from a stick of butter, 1/3 cup of honey and 1/2 a bag of sweetened coconut. I creamed them together, then scooped and rolled them into balls placing the balls in the sinkholes. I then made a coconilla frosting from a stick of butter, 8 oz. of cream cheese, 1 T of vanilla bean paste, and 2 tsp of coconut flavoring. I creamed those together til nice and fluffy then added 2 cups of powdered sugar, whipping until it was like coconut clouds :p Then I did the old sandwich bag as frosting bag trick. I hung a bag inside a plastic cup folding the edges of the bag over the edge of the cup then scooped the frosting in the bag. Then I rolled the edged of the bag up, squeezing the frosting towards one corner, clipped the corner off and frosted the cupcakes. They turned out smarvelous. The soon to be birthday boy came home mid-frosting and I let him have a taste. He approved which means I am over the moon.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


So this upcoming week I have not one but 2 birthdays to celebrate. My wonderful classroom intern, Ebonee, is turning the big 30. When I turned 30 I wore black and moped around for a solid week. It is my duty to make sure she experiences none of that. So she said she likes Vanilla cupcakes but well I think vanilla is boring. So I trumped her vanilla with some chai tea. I substituted vanilla chai tea for the water in the French Vanilla cake mix I used. I'm thinking I will make a ginger butter cream to top them off. Hers are the ones in the purple floral wrappers.

Also this week my sweet baby, most honorable son #2 turns 16. Sweet 16 and never been. never. ever will. *plugs her ears & sings loudly* So he loves coconut. I hate coconut. But I decide to doctor a plain cake mix by using cream of coconut in place of the water and added some vanilla bean paste. Unfortunately the doctoring caused a way too thick batter and what resulted looks more like innie belly buttons than cupcakes. Good thing I know frosting covers a multitude of sins. I'm thinking banana coconut cream cheese but will have to decide that later.

A Plan to Document the Murder & Mayhem

So many friends on facebook have made comments about my obsessive posting of my adventures in cooking that I decided it was time to try my hand at creating a place devoted to my epicurean therapy. I cook because it helps me to relax and feel good about myself. The accomplishments I make in the kitchen make me feel creative. I can express myself there. When I cook I can try new things with little fear of failure. I'm expanding my skills and my pants size simultaneously!

This is the place where I will discuss the recipes I undertake and the stories behind why I am making them. Often the focus of my dish is the person I am making it for. I often cook to express my feelings. If I love you, I will cook for you. If you inspire me, I will cook for you. If you are unwell (body or spirit), I will cook for you. Not because you need me to but because I need to show you how I feel about you. It's my personal epicurean therapy. You, are my victim.