Monday, October 7, 2013

OKtoberfest/Okie October: Date Night Edition!

The man who buys me food like this is the man for me.

Having two young kids, my husband and I don't go out for dates as often as we should.  Early bedtimes, difficulty finagling a sitter, and better-than-most-restaurants home cooking (so says he, thankyouverymuch) combine to make a perfect storm of reasons why we rarely eat in a restaurant, with or without our kids.

So when my husband spontaneously offered to take me out on the town last Saturday for some much needed couple time, I jumped through hoops to make it happen.  Babysitting services were hastily begged (many thanks to my mother) and we were off with nary a backward glance. 

OK, maybe a little glance. 

Not really.  The neighbors might have heard us squeal the tires. 



We decided on dinner at one of our favorite places, a local German restaurant and deli called Siegi's.  This place is awesome.  They make their own sausages- bratwurst, kasewurst, knackwurst, and Polish, to name a few- and they have some of the best sauerkraut and hot kartoffelsalat (potato salad) in town.

Neither of us could decide between the sausage platter and the jaegerschnitzel (breaded pork cutlet with mushroom sauce), so it was agreed that we'd order both and share.  We also had an appetizer of giant Bavarian pretzel with cheese spread.  We each only ate half of our food, and took the rest home for later, along with a large portion of pretzel.  Sie gut!

After dinner, we took a little drive across town from Siegi's to a bakery in an area of Tulsa called Brookside.  Antoinette Baking Company has only been open a year, but they've already made quite a name for themselves with delectable handmade pastries.  Every Friday and Saturday night they feature a variety of pies by the slice, and stay open until 10 p.m.  Late hours for dessert in Tulsa were unheard of only a few short years ago, unless you wanted to venture into the culinary graveyard that is Village Inn, but now places like Antoinette fit the bill for sugary cravings after dark.

Saturday night's pie offerings were Mile High (chocolate cream), gluten free Mounds (coconut crust with dark chocolate ganache filling and a schmear of whipped cream), cherry bourbon, and Nutella.  We picked the chocolate ones, natch, and shared them. 

Oh. My. God, y'all.  The pies were to die for.  The Mile High was the favorite of both of us- light yet incredibly rich chocolate cream filling topped with unsweetened whipped cream, nestled in a flaky handmade crust.  Perfect.  Just please don't tell my thighs.

We also took a slice of Mile High home for my mom and the girls to share.  Lemme tell ya, we were pretty popular when we got home.

It was as lovely as a date night could be- my gorgeous husband, good food, good dessert, beautiful cool fall air...and no kids for just a little while. 

Happy girl right here, y'all.

Bratwurst and Polish sausage with sweet Bavarian sauerkraut and hot potato salad.  I neglected to take a photo of the jaegerschnitzel, but it was delicious as well.

Giant pretzel with cheese spread and spicy mustard.

Mile High chocolate pie.  I damn near licked the plate.

Gluten free Mounds pie, with coconut in lieu of regular crust, and a dark chocolate ganache filling.  Not bad at all!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

OKtoberfest/Okie October part one: Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show

In case you weren't aware, the lovely state of Oklahoma plays host to the *biggest* and most prestigious cake show in the country.

No, really.  I'm totally serious.

As a cake-maker myself, I finally mustered the courage to enter the competition this year.

Here's my entry, in the Adult Advanced Novelty category:

Awesome, right?  I'm so talented.

Not that talented, apparently.  I got third place.

But still.  THIRD. PLACE.  My first time entering!!!  I'm so excited.  I got a shitload of swag and some cool prizes. 

My six year old daughter, who is a budding caker in her own right, wanted to join in the fun, so she created a fondant cake of her own.

Adding finishing touches.  She did this all by herself!

My kiddo didn't place this time, but every child who entered got an Honorable Mention ribbon and an armload of swag, as well.

We're totally entering again next year!

There were some supremely talented cake artists represented at the show, and the usual group of WTF?s as well.  I don't feel bad at all about getting third place in my category, because 2nd place and 1st place were pretty freakin' sweet.

First Place in Adult Advanced Novelty Cakes

Second Place in my category.  I chatted with this lady when we dropped our cakes off at the same time.  She was from Austin, TX.

There were dozens and dozens of beautiful cakes, and I took pics of most of them, but there are far too many to post here. 

Several of the cakes were done by my good friends in my hobby cake group, T-Town Cake Club.  I'm so proud of all of my buds!  We all came away with ribbons and lovely prizes.

If ever you're in town during the Tulsa State Fair, make sure you come the first weekend to see the cake show!  It's amazing.

Monday, September 30, 2013

OKtoberfest! Or as it is alternately known, Okie October! I can't decide.

So, I had this great idea about a week ago to do a themed month for this page.  I'm trying to find some niches where my blog could fit, and being a lifetime resident of Oklahoma, I figured my beloved home state could offer a lot of things to post about- local bloggers, farmers' markets, Oklahoma-made products, and various goings on.

But I can't decide which name I like better, OKtoberfest or Okie October.  So it will be both until I decide.

Or maybe I won't pick one. 

Stay tuned to find out the dramatic conclusion!!!

Or not.

At any rate, tomorrow I will be kicking off the month with a post about the Oklahoma State Sugar Art Show, which is the largest cake show in the country.

Y'all come back now!

Shrimp Fried Rice

I've never been a big fan of regular Chinese takeout fried rice.  I have always preferred dishes with lots of sauce, like broccoli beef and sweet and sour pork.  My husband, though, could eat fried rice weekly.  Turns out, it's a very simple dish to make.  I found a generic recipe on the Food Network website and modified it to our tastes.

I started off with some white long grain rice (my favorite is Uncle Ben's), and cooked it with a generous spoonful of the vegetable bouillon paste that I blogged about here.  The bouillon paste really does establish a good base of flavor for the rice.

From there, it's all about mise en place- having all your ingredients at the ready so you can throw them in and cook it all quickly.  Once your prep is out of the way, the dish is ready pretty fast, so get your piehole ready!

After it's done, drizzle on a little sriracha (rooster sauce) if spicy is your thing.  You won't be sorry.

With a little prep work, fantastic shrimp fried rice can be yours for the eating, in a way that is not only homemade, but infinitely more tasty and fresh than anything you'd buy at a takeout place.

Shrimp Fried Rice
serves 4-6

3/4 cup converted long grain white rice
1 1/2 cups water
1 generous tablespoon vegetable bouillon paste, or 1 vegetable bouillon cube
3/4 lb. peeled and deveined shrimp
1/2 cup small-diced white or yellow onion
1/2 cup small-diced carrot (about 3 medium)
1/2 cup thawed and drained frozen peas, or 1 cup fresh snow pea pods, rinsed, ends trimmed, cut in half if long (We prefer the pea pods, but I was out of them when I made this dish last time.)
2 tbsp. low sodium soy sauce, mixed with...
1 tsp. sesame oil
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
2-4 tbsp. canola oil
1 egg, beaten with a little water

In a small saucepan, combine the 1 1/2 cups water with the rice and vegetable bouillon over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer, reduce to medium-low, and cook with the lid on for 15-20 minutes.  When the surface of the rice looks like it's dry with holes poked into it, turn off the heat and set the pan aside with the lid still on.

In a small skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat.  Add the beaten egg and allow to cook until browned on the bottom.  Flip gently and cook until set.  Remove the egg pancake to a cutting board and cool briefly.  Roll up the pancake and slice into thin strips, and then roughly chop the strips.  Set aside.

In a large nonstick skillet (the biggest one you can find), heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat.  Stir-fry the minced garlic briefly- about 30 seconds- making sure to keep it moving constantly with a spatula.  Add the shrimp and continue cooking until the shrimp start to turn opaque.

Add the carrots and onions and stir-fry until the onion begins to turn translucent.  Add more oil to the skillet if needed.  Fold in the cooked rice.  Expect some of it to stick to the pan.  Also, expect to make a mess.  You *will* get rice everywhere when you make this dish.  Don't worry.  You're doing it correctly.

When the rice is combined with the shrimp-veg mixture, add the thawed peas or pea pods.  Continue to stir-fry for a minute or so, and then drizzle on the soy sauce-sesame oil mixture.

Fold in the chopped egg, season to taste with salt and black pepper, and serve with plenty of sriracha sauce.

Now you have no excuse for takeout fried rice, unless you're just completely hard-up for a fortune cookie.

Beautiful Gulf shrimp.  Do yourself a favor and buy shrimp fished from the Gulf of Mexico instead of varieties from China or Thailand.  You will taste the difference!
Mise en place - French for "setting in place," this culinary term means the practice of laying out all necessary items beforehand.  Here, diced onions and carrots, thawed frozen peas, minced garlic, and soy sauce with sesame oil.
After briefly sauteing the chopped garlic, add the shrimp to the skillet.
A squeeze bottle like this is very handy for dispensing oil.
When the shrimp are almost cooked, add the diced onion and carrots.  If needed, dribble in a little more oil.  Keep the food moving around.
Making the egg pancake in a small skillet.
Flipped egg pancake.
Adding the cooked rice to the shrimp/veg mixture.
Roll the egg pancake up and slice thinly, then do a rough chop.
Rooster sauce!  Gotta have it.  Yum.
Beautiful, delicious, and completely homemade!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Lunch Box 9-23-13

My first grader's packed lunch.  Kids will eat real food if given the chance.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Black Eyed Pea Quesadillas

I posted the other day about needing to find uses for some neglected pantry staples, and when I shared on Facebook, too, I picked the brains of a couple of vegetarians I know.  One of them recommended black eyed pea tacos.  Any excuse to eat anything resembling Mexican food is fine by me.

Tonight, my husband had a work dinner, so it was just me and the two little girls- Baby Squirrel, age 6 1/2, and Baby Turtle, 22 months.  He's not often away during dinner, but when he is, I generally go meatless.  It's just easy, and a good way to cram more vegetables into my hotdog fiends for children.

One of their favorites is quesadillas.  I generally use pinto or Ranch Style beans, a southwestern favorite of mine.  You can find a good blog post on making your own Ranch Style beans here.

My pantry inventory had some black eyed peas that needed a culinary home, so I took the taco idea and ran with it, but opted for the quesadilla route instead, per my 6 year old's request.

Quesadillas are super easy to make, but the simplicity can be deceiving.  As with a grilled cheese sandwich, you can't rush the goodness.  Don't get in a hurry and turn up the heat, or you'll wind up with runny cheese and a blackened tortilla.  That's just no fun for anybody.  Take your time, and you'll be rewarded.

All you need are:

1 (15 oz.) can black eyed peas, drained (I prepare dried beans, so I used a 2-cup container from my freezer, defrosted and drained)
Chili powder, cumin, garlic granules
About 2 cups shredded cheese (I used a mixture of Kraft mild cheddar and Monterey Jack)
Coconut oil, vegetable oil, or nonstick spray
Flour tortillas
Sliced pickled jalapeños (optional)
Electric griddle or large skillet
Sour cream (optional)

Sprinkle a little granulated garlic (not garlic salt!), chili powder, and cumin on your drained black eyed peas and mash them a little with a fork.

I stopped buying aerosol nonstick spray a couple of years ago.  I use a silicone pastry brush to apply a thin layer of oil as needed.  I like Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value brand of coconut oil.  I use refined for cooking, and virgin for things like chapped skin.

Coconut oil is sometimes solid and sometimes liquid, depending on the temperature of your home.  My kitchen stays a bit warm in the summer, so my jar is liquid right now.  I just dip the silicone brush in the jar and schmear it onto my electric griddle.  Give it a good lube.

You can also use regular vegetable oil or aerosol nonstick spray, if that's what you have.

You can't have too much cheese.  Fine shreds will melt more readily.  I like a Colby-Jack or cheddar-Jack blend.  Pepper Jack would be good, too, if you're going spicy.

And for the love of cheese, don't buy it pre-shredded!

Plenty of sliced jalapeños for Mama.  I like the Cajun Chef brand, which I found in the Ethnic section of my store.  They're inexpensive, really good, and sliced more thinly than other brands. 

Slap your tortillas onto a preheated griddle or skillet.  My griddle has a temperature dial, which I set to 250º (about medium heat).  Give them a good sprinkling of cheese and spread out the black eyed peas.  Leave a little room at the edges for melting.  Add sliced jalapeños, if desired.

Top with a second tortilla if making a whole one, or fold over a single tortilla if feeding a kiddo.  Grill slowly until heated through and melted.  The tortillas should be spotty golden brown and slightly crispy.

Allow them to rest on a cutting board for a few minutes before slicing up with a pizza cutter.  Serve wedges with sour cream for dipping.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Buttermilk Biscuits

I love buttermilk biscuits.  They are everything that is right about breakfast in the south.  Many people have dumbed down their biscuity expectations with the omnipresent pop-open cans in the refrigerated section of the store.  I feel bad for those folks, for they know not what they are missing.  Flaky, tender, soft as a cloud, yet sturdy enough to hold an inordinately large slathering of butter and jam.
I have tried several recipes over the years, and most were good, but there was always something not quite right.  Now, though, Hallelujah, I believe that I have found my savior!
This recipe comes from a blog called Une Bonne Vie, and you can find the original post here.
These biscuits can be frozen unbaked according to the recipe, but I haven't yet tested the ones I froze.
Buttermilk Biscuits
Makes about 25 biscuits
4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup vegetable shortening
2 – 2 ½ cups nonfat buttermilk
Preheat oven to 450°F.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Using a pastry blender (or two butter knives), cut in the shortening. The mixture should look like fine crumbs. Pour in buttermilk and stir until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl. It will be sticky.
Lightly flour your work surface and “plop” the dough down. With floured hands, knead the dough gently about 10 times. With a floured rolling pin, roll the dough to a ½ inch thickness. Cut into 2 – 2 ½ inch circles. (You can also just cut them into squares.) Place on an ungreased baking sheet with the biscuit sides touching. (This helps these beauties stay nice and soft.)
Bake 10 – 12 minutes, until the tops of the biscuits are lightly golden brown. Remove from baking sheet and serve them right away. These are delicious plain or with sausage gravy.
Making Life a Bit Easier…
These biscuits freeze well and are so easy to pop into the oven for an impromptu breakfast or to accompany a nice bowl of soup. To freeze, place unbaked, cut biscuits on a baking sheet (or a plastic cutting board) without sides touching. Put entire sheet into freezer until biscuits are entirely frozen. Working quickly, place biscuits in resealable freezer bags or containers. Keep them in the freezer until you are ready to bake.
To bake frozen biscuits, preheat oven to 400°F. Place biscuits on an ungreased baking sheet with sides touching. Bake 20—25 minutes or until biscuits are lightly golden brown.