A mission statement

Hello, and welcome to My Kitchen and I. Every year I choose a cuisine to explore. This year, it's the year of the Snake! And I'll be continuing to cook mostly Asian foods, particularly Chinese dishes. Have I finally found the best cuisine in the world? Come explore and cook with me and let's find out. Please feel free to share your stories and comment on anything you see here, and thanks so much for visiting. Hope you enjoy the Year of the Snake in food!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Shelby's Rainy Day Potato Chowder

Hot sauce is the secret to the
zing in this potato chowder.
Today I came home from work to find a delicious lunch of soup and cheese sandwiches awaiting me, created by my daughter, who is visiting for Christmas break. It was a gray and rainy day, but I confess the soup certainly brightened things up! That's the power of good soup. It just does something good for the soul.

You'll enjoy this dish. It's so easy to prepare and healthy and delicious to boot. A definite keeper!

Monday, December 19, 2011

A detailed guide to the ultimate Red Velvet Cake

Solving dry red cake with a little cake science 

The Red Velvet Cake of my memory was soft and fluffy. Perfection on a plate topped with buttery, creamy vanilla icing. The ultimate Christmas Cake.

The cake on this plate, however, was not my Grandmother's Red Velvet Cake. Oh, it was pretty enough. It was sweet enough. And it tasted OK. But it was dry. Very. Dry. Compared to my Grandma's cake, this cake was a piece of the Sahara desert on my tongue.
My first attempt at Grandma's Red Velvet cake.

I had followed grandma's recipe to the letter, of course. I measured the ingredients exactly. And I followed all the typical cake advice. My ingredients were at room temperature. I didn't over-mix the cake or over-bake it. I waited a full 30 minutes before taking it out of the pan. I'd done none of the things experienced bakers advise against. Yet the cake had still gone wrong. Why was my Red Velvet Cake so dry?

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Seriously Addictive Cranberry Christmas Salsa!

Warning! Super addictive salsa!
More festive Holiday Sides here
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Have you seen the price of tomatoes in the store lately!?

Ridickerous ain't it?

Cranberries on the other hand ...

Cranberries are fresh and in season.

Cranberries are festive and feisty.

Cranberries are 48 cents a bag and will do quite nicely!

Pick up a bag, heck take two. You're gonna need a double batch of this stuff. It is seriously addictive! This salsa has a sweet-tart tang and a smoky, chipotle bang that keeps you coming back for more. One bowl ain't gonna be enough, trust me!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Turkey Faux Pho — an Asian inspired soup

There is just one problem with a batch of good broth. Those little bitty tiny bitty bits of meat on the bones! Now I belong to the waste not want not school, so I have to pick the meat off the bones and use it somehow. But what do you do with 3/4 cup or so of teeny tiny pieces of meat?

I had been experimenting a bit with making some sort of meatballs but most of my test versions fell apart, oh well! Back to the drawing board!

But this time, I turned the idea on its head a bit. Instead of a meatball, why not a wonton? This turned out quite well. Delicious, fairly easy, healthy and frugal. All the right stuff. Here's how to make it ...

Monday, November 28, 2011

peppers stuffed w turkey and cumin-roasted potatoes

This turned out pretty well for a first stab at a recipe concoction, so I'm going to post it. Gives your leftover turkey a whole new taste spin, one that is definitively non Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Easy peasy, kinda cheesy — Puff pastry rollups

This whole idea seems too simple for a recipe, but here's what I did:
It's probably better to put the filling
closer to the edge than I did.

The finished rollup
was delicious!

Take a puff pastry sheet and cut it into fourths. Lay out whatever of your leftovers you like near the edge of one square. I used chopped ham and turkey, sweet potatoes with black walnuts, cranberry sauce with pinot noir and topped that with a bit of smoky gouda cheese.

Roll those up kind of like a sushi roll, then bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until they are bubbly inside and golden on top.

If you're a single person like me, you could probably cook these longer and slower, taking the rollups out just before their tops turn golden. Then you can rebake them during the week and they will seem fresh. But you want to be sure the insides come to temperature if you're going to do it that way.

For a second batch of something a little bit different ...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Enough food to feed Cox's army

Grandma Bibb's Coffee Can bread
Like many families this Thanksgiving, we had more food than we could possibly eat at one sitting. As my Grandma Nina used to say ... enough food to feed Cox's army!

Daughter's kicked up cheese, spinach dip
baked in a biscuit pastry shell. Yum!

Now if I just knew who General Cox was ...
Turkey in front. In back, ham
and my sis' kicked up sweet potatoes. ; )
Sister's cucumber onion salad w
sour cream dressing in front, daughter's
salad with walnuts, sweet yellow
peppers and cranberry in back

Turkey gravy, assorted beloved
potatoes: One cheesy, One mashed,
and almost Nina green beans
Pinot Noir cranberry sauce w/
mandarin oranges
Pecan pie, stuffed strawberries,
Grandpa Red's pumpkin pie

Everything was terribly tasty! But bad for the waistline I'm sure!

The flavor standouts to me were the sweet potatoes my sister made with black walnuts, the cranberry mandarin orange sauce with pinot noir, and the stuffed strawberries my daughter made and of course mom's creamy mashed potatoes.

Mom is growing a lemon inside her house!
How cool is that?
So thankful to have wonderful family to share new dishes with! I now have lots of leftovers for the week and that makes me smile. It's one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving ... lots of leftovers to play with in the kitchen! 

On which ... more to come!

*heads out to the grocery store with ideas in her head and a rather long shopping list in her hand*

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nina's favorite turkey

I do remember the first time I tried to bake a turkey. Probably one of the most disastrous episodes I've had in a kitchen. I'll spare you the gory details and simply say that learning to bake a good turkey is an adventure!

I can't say I've necessarily mastered the art yet, but this particular turkey recipe is loved by my dear niece, who seems to think it's the best turkey ever. I'm not going to argue with her, she's a very picky eater, and she takes seconds of this!

Our turkey taste tester.
If your turkey hasn't been treated with any salt solution prior to purchasing it, I personally would recommend a dry brine the night before, unless someone in your group is on a salt-restricted diet. Brining does make turkey a little more forgiving to bake and a dry brine is easier to manage than wet. It also results in a less spongy texture, a more meaty goodness texture, which is what you want for turkey.

On the other hand, if you just keep one simple principle in mind, your turkey will come out fine with or without brining ...

Saturday, November 19, 2011

As the lobster turns ....

I am still mulling over what to do with Lobster Lou and his sidekick Lucy. Found a multitudinous arsenal of concoctions at the amazing and wonderful blog, Tastespotting. Eight pages worth of choices!

Some of the standouts to me were ...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Hot Chicken Salad — Roman chicken on China Romaine

Our romaine lettuce, as it happens, is a vegetable of ancient Rome. It was eaten cooked as well as raw, and believed to have medicinal properties. There's no doubt in my mind that Romaine does have medicinal properties! It's packed with vitamin A, for one thing, which is needed for good eyesight, and it has many antioxidants.

As it would happen, Romaine is also very close to a Chinese vegetable, Ei-A vegetable. More about that is explained at this delightful blog http://asiabyfrida.com/2011/10/26/easiest-chinese-stir-fry-recipe-–-romaine-lettuce/ which served as the inspiration for this little cooking experiment. That and the package of Romaine lettuce past its prime in my recently cleaned out fridge.

So having that neglected package of Romaine lettuce and a craving for some chicken diavolo ... a fusion of tastes came together in my mind ...

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Grandpa Red's pumpkin pie

Grandpa Red is on the right.
The writing on the back of the photo
 A tall, red-headed, handsome young man ran into a beautiful brown-eyed girl crying on an Ozark street one day not long after World War II, and a lifelong romance was begun.

 Grandpa Red had just gotten out of the service when he met Grandma Dot. He was on his way to Rolla for engineering school, but changed his mind when he met her. He opened a barber shop instead, and started a family. From such chance encounters are our destinies made. And new children born.

Grandpa Red served during World War II with the United States Coast Guard and happened to be with the crew that sank the last German sub off the coast of America. The treasured picture above depicts this moment in world history.

In addition to being a veteran, Grandpa was also a great woodsman and huntsman, always bringing home deer and turkey —even during bow season. And he liked to use every part of the deer. It wasn't just a trophy! My grandfather was not only a good soldier, a good hunter and a good husband, but he was also a pretty darn good baker, too.

One of his favorite pies was pumpkin ...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Music and a two-timing pumpkin pie

The afternoon sky today threatened to wash the pretty red cardinals from the leafless limbs outside my window. Nonetheless, the day felt sunny to me.

I was still in the "glow" from our Sunday night house filk (what would otherwise be known as folk but for a typo that stuck a long time ago) and the pumpkin pie and wine tasting! What a wonderful evening it was! There was music, there was laughter, there was pumpkin pie and wine! Wonderful!

I cannot lie. It was very hard for me to remain faithful to just one choice! They were all so good with the pie! I liked the late Harvest. I liked the Port. I liked the Adam's choice. I waffled between the three through two slivers of pie ...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The finished pie!

I don't have a lot of time to write out the recipe right now, but the pumpkin pie is finished and I wanted to share a picture before it's all cut up and eaten! I will write more later on the pie, as well as the wine-tasting! (See previous post for a list of the wines!)

My edges are always too brown! I used foil (of course) to stave it off.
Would love tips from other bakers on what to do to prevent this!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Heaven

The self-absorbed say the question is to be or not to be, but I say the question is what wine goes best with pumpkin pie? That is a question that should be a little more fun to answer and may make you forget the answer to the former. A little joie de vivre never hurt anyone after all!

An impossible pairing you say?

Actually, my dear Romeo and Juliet, it is not so impossible as you imagine. The rule of thumb for wine-food pairings is to make the wine as sweet or sweeter than the food it is paired with. And neither wine nor food should overpower the flavor of the other. They must respect the taste each offers, and do their best to complement it. The sum of tastes thus becomes greater than the individuals, and foodie heaven beckons.

I have procured six wines recommended by Missouri vintners and will make a nice pumpkin pie to take to a little taste-testing party Sunday. Will let you know soon which we think is "The One" for a pumpkin pie match made in heaven! Below are the wines we'll be sampling:

Sweet Chardonel from Sand Creek 
Cream Sherry from Stone Hill 
Persimmon Wine from Buck Mountain 
Adam's Choice from 214 Liquor Store 
Late Harvest from St. Francois Winery 
Grand Malvasia Bianca from Crown Valley

I'll write more later about these lucious wines, as well as a little contest I'm planning to give a bottle of The One to a random reader.

In the meantime, I would love to hear your ideas for the perfect wine for pumpkin pie!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Bit of magic for 69 cents a pound

Chicken reminds me of a black Magician's hat. Because a chicken, like the magic hat, can provide so many meals from one small bird. Every savvy cook knows this and has an array of recipes that take full advantage of the 69 cents per pound magic whenever it appears.

Chicken stirfry, center, spiced with sage,
lemongrass and red pepper.
My boss for example buys three such chickens and cuts off the wings for her first round of endless meals. That's 12 chicken wings which can be served with a nice salad or pan-fried potatoes for a Friday night wing deal. I love this idea and have copied it a few times.

From there we depart ways a bit ...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Gift of Dinner

Friday night: Time to go out on the town. I landed at my favorite Chinese restaurant, First Wok, with a book about ancient Rome and an appetite for some cashew chicken.

First Wok is owned by a friend who has been helping me learn Mandarin. He was, as it turned out, having some sort of family get together late in the evening. I had long since eaten by the time it transpired, but I somehow ended up leaving with the gift of a lovely orange crab to go with my leftover cashew chicken, as well as some crisp yellow Asian pears.

Now I have never had any Asian pears but this was one of the most delightful fruits I've ever eaten. Crisp like an apple, taste like a juicy pear ... If you've never had one, you simply must try it! You won't be disappointed, they are fit for a king.

And so too the crab …

Saturday afternoon: Gifted as it were, with the makings of a truly fine meal, and getting quite hungry. All I lacked was some little side dish to round things out. Made a little Sangria and went to perusing recipes, looking for something special to accompany such fine gifts ...