Shrimp in Alfredo Sauce over Crispy Polenta with Greens

DSC_0030(Becky, the Mama.)

I love it when a plan comes together, when a dish in your imagination turns out as delicious as the actual experiment.  This is one such meal.

Last night I  put a little gourmet Italian twist on southern-style Shrimp n’ Grits, then added a serving of smoky-garlicky greens as a side. The results?  Not only was the presentation gorgeous, it tasted heavenly.  As in I would absolutely put a this recipe in the category of “the perfect bite” and serve it up in a spoon to Nigella Lawson and Anthony Bourdain on the show “The Taste”.  Then step back and wait for them to swoon and hand me the prize without further debate.

In place of  the traditional grits, I pan-fried thin slices of ready-made polenta, often used in Italian recipes.  I used Trader Joe’s brand, which comes in package shelf (not refrigerated), usually near the Italian section of the store.  It looks like moist, cooked cornmeal made into a log and wrapped in plastic.  That is because, well, it is.   It is not the most appetizing looking food when you open it up for slicing. (Think yellow corn grits that may have been left too long in a pan.) However, once you’ve pan-fried them in olive oil and butter, with a little salt and pepper…. Look out, Louise.   They turn into crispy-edged, buttery disks of corny decadence.

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polenta skilletI made a quick n’ easy, creamy Alfredo sauce for the shrimp and paired it side dish of greens–  a mixture of kale and some wonderful fresh greens, a gift from our neighbor’s garden.

I can’t wait for you to try this recipe, a Taste of Tuscany meets South in Your Mouth.

Bon appetito, Ya’ll!

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Shrimp Alfredo with Crispy Polenta and Greens

Serve’s 2

Ingredients

For Polenta:

½ log of pre-made polenta

1 T. butter

1T. olive oil

Dash salt and pepper

 

For Shrimp and Alfredo:

20 pieces of raw medium shrimp, cleaned, peeled, tails removed

1 T. olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 cup cream

¼ cup Parmesan cheese

Dash salt

 

For Greens:

1 T. Olive oil

2 cloves garlic minced,

½ red onion, diced fine

2 slices pork or turkey bacon diced fine

4 cups loosely packed, rough chopped  kale and/or other greens,  thick stems mostly removed

½ cup water

1 t. smoked paprika

1 T. vinegar, your favorite

1 T. brown sugar

Salt and Pepper (or Grill Seasoning or Cajun Seasoning) to taste

Tabasco or Frank’s Red Sauce or Red Chili Pepper to taste

 

Directions:

Start the greens first, so they can simmer on the back burner.  In your largest deepest skillet, saute olive oil, garlic, red onion and bacon, until bacon crisps. Pile the greens on top of this mixture in the skillet, cover with ½ cup of water, cover, and let the greens cook down about 5 minutes over medium heat. Take lid off and stir in paprika, vinegar and brown sugar, add salt and pepper and hot sauce to taste.  Cover again and simmer while you make the shrimp and sauce.  (Adding water if needed to keep from scorching, but no more than necessary.)

In another skillet (I like my iron skillet) let oil and butter melt and get hot while you slice the polenta into ¼ inch or so rounds.  Place the rounds in the skillet and turn heat up to medium high so that the polenta starts to pan fry.  When it is golden brown in places, turn it over and brown the other side.  Sprinkle the tops very lightly with salt and pepper.  Remove to a paper towel to drain any excess grease, then cover with another paper town to keep warm.

Wipe out the iron skillet with a paper towel, and then put in oil and garlic and shrimp.  Cook for just a minute or two until shrimp just turns pink on both sides.  (You can add a little water to the pan if the shrimp starts to stick.)  Add cream and parmesan cheese.  Stir and heat until cheese is melted and the shrimp and sauce is heated through.  Season lightly with salt to taste, if needed.

Put about 5 or 6  rounds of polenta on each plate.  Pile with shrimp and sauce.  Sprinkle with smoked paprika.  Serve with a side of the greens.


Ultimate, Everything Pumpkin Bread (with cherries, nuts, sunflower seeds and cream cheese)

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(Becky, the Mama.)

Yesterday, Colorado was cool, misty and alive with Fall color.  I snapped this picture out my upstairs bedroom window . Through the window pane and the mist, the photo came out looking like a painting, so beautiful it seemed almost unreal.
Room with an Autumn View

On a day like that, what else is there to do but curl up with a book and a blanket, take a long nap, then wake up, pad to the kitchen and bake pumpkin bread?

I searched for what I hoped would be the perfect recipe for pumpkin bread: I wanted it to be moist, spicy and full of tasty surprises.  I narrowed it down to six recipes.  In the end,  I threw elements from all six recipes into the bowl and pans, adding special tweaks of my own. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I’d doubled the spices, used both brown and white sugar plus a tad of maple syrup, folded chopped pecans and dried cherries into the batter.  Then I thought, “Why not?”  as I plopped dollops of whipped cream cheese in the middle of the batter. Then I wondered, “What could make a nice sweet n’ salty crunchy top crust?” I reached for brown sugar and roasted salted sunflower seed kernels.  Then I popped the loaves into the oven and waited.  I had created either a masterpiece, or disaster.  I worried I might  have tweaked this recipe to death.

Well, I am pleased to announce the results are in and they are a 10.  Ladies and gentlemen, this is the BEST pumpkin bread I have ever tasted, moist with deep flavor and so many treats-to-the-senses per bite: the sweet tartness of the cherries, the smooth bits of cream cheese and satisfying chew of baked-in-pecans.  The crunchy crust… with a hint of salt and sugar..oh. my.

But don’t just take my word for it. Try it yourself next time the baking mood hits you on one of these cool fall days that beckon you to the kitchen. And feel free to tweak away and make the recipe even more your own– switch out the dried cherries for any dried fruit you like, or use chocolate chips (hmmm… white chocolate chips? Butterscotch chips?).  Use nuts you prefer or have on hand.  I never let what’s not in my pantry keep me from making a recipe.  Go with what you’ve got,  what sounds good… and most of all,have fun.

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Becky’s Epic Pumpkin Bread

(Makes 2 loaves)

3 cups flour 

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

2 t. cinnamon

1/2 t. ginger

1/2 t. cloves

1 t. nutmeg

1 t. almond extract (optional)

1 1/2 t. salt 

3 t. baking powder

1 t. baking soda

4 eggs

2 T. maple syrup

2 cans (16 oz each) pumpkin 

2/3 cup light oil  (I used olive oil as it was all I had on hand.  Worked beautifully.) 

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts (can use up to 2/3 cup if you love nuts)

1/2 cup roughly dried cherries or cranberries  (can use up to 2/3 cup if you prefer more dried-fruit-per-bite)

whipped cream cheese ( I used a light variety that comes in a tub)…  about 1/2  to 2/3 cup

For Topping:  

1/4 to 1/3 cup brown or turbinado sugar 

1/3 to 1/2  cup roasted, salted sunflower seed kernels  (If you can find fresh roasted pumpkin seeds this are also delicious instead of the sunflower seed kernels,  as are sliced almonds.)

 

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl with a whisk. Create a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add eggs, syrup, pumpkin, oil.  Whisk the wet ingredients together as you slowly incorporate the dry ingredients as well.  Finish stirring with a wooden spoon or spatula, slowly folding in pecans and dried cherries.  

Grease and flour two loaf pans.  Pour (or spoon) 1/4 of the batter into each pan, and spread evenly.  Then dollop heaping teaspoons of whipped cream cheese across the surface of the batter in both pans.  Pour the remaining batter over the top of the cream cheese, dividing it evenly between the two pans. Smooth with spatula.

Sprinkle the tops of the batter with brown or turbinado sugar and sunflower seeds.  

Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until top is golden and a toothpick in the middle comes out clean. 

Cool thoroughly before serving.  I think the flavors of this bread get better as it sits and cools.   Freezes beautifully. 

Note: I made this at high altitude with no problem.  Many quick breads use more baking soda, but I just hate the after-taste of baking soda. This option rises perfectly, but without that funky  soda aftertaste…

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Chipotle Chili, A Charm Bracelet Miracle, And The Long Awakening

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About 11 years ago now, one of my dearest writing friends, Lindsey O’Connor, gave birth to her fifth child, a little girl named Caroline.  That happy moment suddenly gave way to a trauma that would leave Lindsey’s life hanging in the balance for many long weeks and months.  She writes poignantly of that episode in her life, of what it was like to be “someplace other” and to try to make sense of it all once she woke up, in her brilliant memoir, The Long Awakening.  Warning: do not start the book until you have time to read it all. It is impossible to put down once you begin.

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Here’s a story Lindsey shared in her book, a memory I still look back on, and marvel at. In fact, I went to Texas two weeks ago, drove past the little store mentioned here, smiled and gave thanks in remembrance.

Near my daughter Allison’s birthday, my friend Becky had emailed Kathy asking for our home address so she could mail a birthday present she’d brought for Allison. Becky and I had started our friendship as writing and speaing colleagues and had grown into sister-friends, who knew and loved each other’s children, and she had wanted to get something special for Alli’s tenth birthday. She dropped in at The Mineola Mercantile, an East Texas boutique not far from where she lived, and told the owner what had happened to me and that I was lying in a coma missing my little girl’s birthday.

The woman told Becky she thought she knew “what God wanted this little girl to have.”

She pulled out a silver charm bracelet and the three silver charms – one said “Big Sis,” another of a heart with “mother and daughter” written across the front of it, and finally a letter “A” with a guardian angel peeking through the “window” of the letter.

The store owner said, “Now tell little Alli that charm represents her guardian angel that is always watching over her all of the time.” Becky went home, wrapped the present, wrote Kathy for the address, and only when Kathy replied did Becky discover a fact she had not know when she’d bought the gift.

It had been my tradition on each day of my daughter’s tenth anniversaries, their double digit day, to give them a silver charm bracelet…

Such a thing. Comatose for months;tradition intact. Unthinkable …..Coincidence? Perhaps.But I don’t think so. Loved by her God?  I believe so.  His eye was on my sparrow. ”  (Excerpt from The Long Awakening by Lindsey O’Connor, Revell, 2013, pg. 97-98)

Now, let’s fast forward time. Lindsey, of course, came out of the coma, and though the road was arduous, she is very much alive,  amazing us all. Caroline has grown from baby girl to double digit young lady following her sister Allie, who is now in college.   In addition to being the proud owner of a charm bracelet, she’s also of age to want to try her hand at cooking. I posted the picture of this Chipotle Chili, recently, on Facebook, and her mama, Lindsey, asked for the recipe.  There was a Chili Cook-off at church, and Caroline wanted to make an award-winning batch of it, all by herself. I gave her my best “Auntie Becky” style directions, and Lindsey let her daughter loose in the kitchen.  Later that night, Linds wrote in an email: “Carolyn was ecstatic when she won first prize!  She probably said, at least ten times while were cooking that she wanted to win, and thought she would win. And she loved knowing it was your recipe. She really did the whole thing by herself. I taught her how to cut an onion, stood back while she used her knife and kept wanting to take it from her the whole time. Taught her how to use the food processor.  She had such fun! Thank you for sharing the recipe.”

I hope this true story warms your heart, and the recipe warms your tummy.  Please visit & “Like”  Lindsey on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/LindseyOConnorAuthor and tell her I sent you.  (I also write a story of Lindsey bringing me a wonderful Greek meal, including a favorite recipe,  watermelon mint feta salad,  in our book, We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook.)

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Becky’s Quick n’ Easy (Award-Winning!) Chipotle Chili

1 ½ lb.  ground beef or buffalo (if you have leftover roast or other beef, you can dice that up and throw it in too)

1 onion diced (if you like onions)

1 clove garlic, peeled

1 large (28 oz) can of fire roasted diced tomatoes

2 – 3 chipotle peppers in adobe sauce (a little can in the Mexican food aisle… — you can freeze the leftover ones in a Ziploc bag to use in another recipe or salsa)

1 can (15 oz) Ranch Style Beans, with liquid

1 can (15 oz) Kidney or Black Beans, with the liquid

1 t. salt

1/2 t. pepper

1 t. chili powder

1 t. smoked paprika 

1 T. cumin

1 T.  brown sugar

Directions:

Brown the beef with onion in a big pot. Meanwhile,using a food processor or blender,  blend the big can of  tomatoes with the chipotle peppers and clove of garlic.   (If you want some chunks of tomato in your chili, don’t blend the whole can. But my husband Greg thinks I’m trying to kill him if there’s any visible chunks of anything but meat and beans in his chilli.) 

Add the blended tomato mixture to the pot,  then add the 2 cans of beans, and the rest of the seasonings, tasting as you go to make it balanced as you like it. Adding more sweet, or heat, or salt until you just love it.

Heat on med high and then turn down and simmer on low, for about 15 minutes, stirring often. (You can simmer it longer, but typically my family is in a hurry to eat it, and it doesn’t take long to be edible and yummy.)

You can top with sour cream or Greek yogurt, shredded cheese, jalapenos, diced avocado, green onions, chopped cilantro, crumbled tortilla chips… whatever you like. 

Always a hit with hot buttered corn muffins.

 

 


Skillet Cheesy Italian Squash Casserole

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(Becky, the Mama.)

In my home state of Texas zucchini grows in backyard gardens with such profusion that almost everyone I knew had a steady pile of it sitting on the kitchen counter waiting to be washed, diced, sliced, grated, grilled baked, steamed, frozen — or ignored until it grew mildew and could finally be thrown away without guilt. My mother remembers having to remove a bunch of zucchini from my kitchen sink in order to make room to give one of my newborn babies their first bath. During Texas summers it is almost impossible to walk to or from your car without at least one neighbor strong-arming you into accepting a bag or bucket of ever present green squash. Everywhere you turn, zucchini lurks.

To get my children to eat their share of it, I invented Skillet Italian Squash Casserole. By cooking the squash until just crisp tender, then topping it with an Italian style tomato sauce, gooey cheese, and buttery crackers, I had a winner! It was a family favorite for many years.

Soon after we married, nine years ago,  my husband Greg let me know, “I’m not really a squash kind of guy.” So I avoided serving him squash in any form. But the other day, I threw caution to the wind and made this casserole anyway, since I liked it so much. He graciously agreed to try it. To my surprise, he loved it, too.  Ate every bite. I made it again tonight, and there was not a speck of squash left on his plate,

One day we came home from some errands to find a grocery sack of [zucchini] hanging on our mailbox. The perpetrator, of course, was nowhere in sight … Garrison Keillor says July is the only time of year when country people lock our cars in the church parking lot, so people won’t put squash on the front seat. I used to think that was a joke …” Barbara Kingsolver in Animal, Vegetable, Mineral

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Skillet Cheesy Italian Squash Casserole

5 smallish to medium squash, yellow or zucchini or a mixture of both
Salt & Pepper
1 T. olive oil
1 large clove grated garlic
1 cup crushed canned tomatoes (preferably the kind with basil)
½ t. oregano
2 t. brown sugar
1 c. grated cheese (I like mozzarella but really, any cheese you like & have on hand will be yummy)
3 T. butter
20 buttery crackers, such Ritz or Townhouse (I used Ritz wheat crackers)
2 T. grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:
Heat oven to 400 degrees

Slice squash about ¼ inch thick. Sprinkle all with salt and pepper. Heat oil in an 10-12 inch iron skillet on high flame until very hot. Put squash and garlic into pan and saute until many of the pieces are golden on the outside and cooked until just crisp-tender.

Remove from stove top and pour crushed tomatoes evenly over the top of the squash. Sprinkle the tomatoes with oregano and brown sugar. Top with grated cheese. Melt butter in a medium-sized bowl in the microwave. Crumble crackers into the melted butter, add Parmesan and mix. Pour this crumb mixture on top of the cheese, then place the skillet in hot oven. Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until squash is tender, cheese melted, and cracker crumb topping is golden.

Veganize This: Substitute vegan ‘Mozzarella” and “Parmesan” cheese and dairy-free butter and you are good to go on this one.  Simple to do!

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Savory Turkey Burgers with Quick Mango Red Pepper Chutney

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(Becky, the Mama.)

A family story pops up almost every Thanksgiving.   Decades ago, my adorable cousin Kenny, about age five, tiny and wearing enormous glasses took a bite of the day’s celebrated roast bird, smiled, and then with a slow southern munchkin voice, asked my mom, “What kind of chicken is this Aunt (pronounced “Ain’t”) Ruthie?  Tur-key?”

I must confess, I’m not a big fan of turkey (even cousin Kenny’s “chicken kind of turkey”) — as it too often tends toward dry and flavorless.  I’ve found three exceptions, however.  One is a  recipe for marinated grilled turkey tenderloin. Moist, delicious,  a family favorite.  Another is a savory-sweet recipe for Asian turkey meatballs.  Finally there is this creation for savory turkey burgers loaded with flavor and topped with a sweet and spicy quick mango red pepper chutney.  It’s beautiful on a serving plate, plus budget and waistline friendly dish. Yummy paired with a side of jasmine rice and my simple sesame avocado  cucumber salad.  For vegans or vegetarians,  trying grilling Field Roast Apple Sage Sausages, and then simmer them in the sauce a few minutes before serving.

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Savory Turkey Burgers with Quick Mango Red Pepper Chutney

Makes 6 to 8 patties depending on size you prefer

Burgers

1 lb ground turkey (you can also use ground beef if you prefer)

1 lb  sweet Italian turkey sausage, out of casing and crumbled

2 t. seasoned salt or grill seasoning

1 egg

1/3 c. soft bread crumbs

Sauce

½ cup chicken or veggie broth

1 /4 c. brown sugar

1 T. Dijon mustard

1/3 c. red wine or balsamic vinegar

Pinch salt and pepper

1 fresh mango diced (Or 3/4 c. fresh pineapple, chopped, is also delicious if you prefer)

1 roasted red pepper, diced

2 green onions, chopped

Directions:

Mix the ingredients for turkey burgers together and form into patties, any size you like.   Grill or sauté with a little olive oil until brown and caramelized on the outside, cooked through on the inside.  (You can cover the pan once the burgers are brown on the outside and let simmer a bit more if they need to cook through more on the inside.) Remove from pan to a plate, cover with foil to keep warm and let juices redistribute.   To the same skillet, add veggie broth, brown sugar, mustard and vinegar to skillet. Turn heat on high to bring to boil and then back heat down to a simmer,  until sauce begins to get thicken.. Add mango, red pepper and onions, pinch salt and pepper continue to cook until the chutney is hot again.  Serve a spoonful of warm sauce over turkey patties.

Vegan or Vegetarian Alternative: Use Field Roast Apple Sage Sausages, split down the middle length-wise. Brown in a little olive oil, then continue recipe above.

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This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Savory Turkey Burgers with Quick Mango Red Pepper Chutney
The recipe URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-ZD
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook


Honey & Lime Tortilla-Sopapillas

(Becky, the Mama.)

Sometimes the simplest things really are the best.  I call this recipe Vacation Sopapillas because I usually have the ingredients lying around the condo or timeshare.  If I were a person of the camping persuasion (which I am not), I would definitely be cooking these babies up around the campfire, using an iron skillet.  Hopefully, however, I’ll never be forced to do that.  My husband bought me this greeting card, and truer words have never been spoken.

I also call these my Vacation Sopapillas because they are so ridiculously addicting that I don’t allow myself this treat on a regular basis.  So I try to only make them on vacation. Seriously, if you cook these… try to eat just one and let me know if it is humanly possible.

This is a recipe you can throw together with minimum mess in a couple of minutes, just for little ol’ marvelous you.  Since they are best eaten fast and warm, I don’t even try to serve these to a crowd.  This a gift you give to yourself, and maybe, just maybe, one other person who you love very, very much.

The trick is to use uncooked tortillas.  If you’ve never tried them, boy, are you in for a treat.  You’ll never go back the pre-cooked varieties again. The brand I like best is called Tortilla Land (click link for $1.00 off coupon) and typically you find them in the refrigerator section of Costco and sometimes Sam’s or Wal-mart.  If I can’t find this brand of tortillas, however, it seems I can almost always find Guerrero brand (click on link for $1.00 coupon) which are soft semi-cooked tortillas, and they are not refrigerated.  They just hang out on the shelves with the other regular tortillas in almost any major grocery store.  Be sure to look for the yellow packaging (as pictured below); they should look very thin, not quite cooked all the way.

The beautiful thing that happens when these uncooked or semi-cooked tortillas hit a very hot skillet with a little olive oil/butter is that they puff up, very much like a big sopapilla. Only without all the work and the frying.  My favorite version of these tortilla sopapillas is simple.  After cooking I quickly slather it with a little butter, honey, a squeeze of lemon or lime, and light sprinkle of raw sugar.  To eat it – you can tear it up in little pieces; roll it up enchilada style; or cut it in fourths, bending it in half, and eating it the way Italians eat flexible pizza.

For variety, I also like filling the puffy tortillas with sliced bananas that have been gently cooked in a skillet with a little butter and brown sugar. Then I roll it up like a burrito and drizzle with a bit of honey.  Cooked apples with cinnamon and sugar make a fabulous filling as well.  The only limits to this simple recipe is your imagination.

Lime & Honey Tortilla-Sopapillas

Ingredients:

1 raw or semi-cooked tortilla (Tortilla Land brand or Guererra preferred)

1 t. olive oil

2 t. soft butter (vegan butter for Vegans)

2 t. honey

small squeeze fresh lemon or lime

1 t. raw sugar

Instructions:

Put 1 t. olive oil and 1 t. soft butter in a hot skillet, and stir until blended.  Put one uncooked tortilla in the pan. When it puffs up and browns on one side, flip it and brown the other side.

Immediately put tortilla-sopapilla on a plate, spread with butter, then honey, a quick squeeze of fresh lime and a sprinkle of raw sugar.

For banana sopapillas: slice one small banana and put in a skillet with a teaspoon of butter and a teaspoon of brown sugar. Stir just until bananas are warm and absorb butter and sugar.  Proceed as above, only fill the tortilla with warm banana slices, roll like a burrito and serve with a little more honey. Eat with knife and fork.  A dollop of ice cream and sprinkle of cinnamon couldn’t hurt either.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Honey & Lime Tortilla-Sopapillas
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-Mz
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook

© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


Sweet n’ Sour Green Beans and Bacon

(Becky, the Mama.)

Greg is away this evening, having dinner with a friend.  And therefore, I decided to make this dish that I created and love and that he considers, actually, to be the Side Dish From Hell.

His three least favorite foods are onions, peppers and green beans, so even the addition of a scrumptious sauce and bacon could not turn his head.  It would turn his stomach, but not his head. Greg worked many summers as a kid in Oregon either picking green beans or in a bean cannery and he has vowed, and I respect this, never to eat another green bean again.  Onions and peppers, according to him, have an “icky, slimy” texture and are also to be avoided.

So while Greg is gone, and won’t have to even look…I made my own Dream Dinner to Eat in Bed, while snuggled in my PJs.  Tonight’s dream meal is made of this sweet and savory green bean dish, below,  loaded with sautéed onions and sweet peppers, with a side of (I know, it’s bad, but try not to groan) boxed Kraft macaroni and cheese. Served with a spoon in a big flat pasta bowl. With a glass of ice cold milk in a frosty-frozen mug.  And a cozy blankey tucked around my feet. While I watch non-action-related shows like Parenthood and Oprah’s Next Chapter, TV my husband enjoys about as much as green beans.

Of course, I miss my man, as I do adore him.

But in the meantime, I’m soldiering on the best I can,  a bowl in one hand, remote in the other.

Sweet n’ Sour Green Beans with Bacon

Ingredients

2 cans or 4 cups frozen or fresh green beans, cooked and drained well

1 T. olive oil

1/2 c. red onion, diced

½ c. chopped sweet red pepper (I used some mini red and yellow peppers)

3 T Thai sweet chili sauce (in the Asian aisle…or World Market)

2 T. brown sugar

¼ c. red wine vinegar

1/3 c. crumbled bacon (I used some Hormel pre-cooked bacon pieces this time.  Some nights you just take the easy way.)

*Vegans can use a vegetarian bacon bits product instead or use sliced almonds that have been sauteed in smoked paprika and a little olive oil instead.

Salt and Pepper to taste (I like a lot of black pepper in this)

Directions

Turn oven to broil

Drain green beans as well as you can. (I even use a paper towel to sort of pat them dry in the colander.)

In an oven-proof skillet saute onions and peppers in olive oil.  Add the Thai sweet chili sauce, red wine vinegar and brown sugar. Cook and stir all together until it is syrupy.

Add well drained green beans and stir once again until well heated.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  (This will vary quite a bit depending on whether you used canned or fresh or frozen green beans.)  Sprinkle the top with bacon crumbles and put pan under broiler for a minute or two until bacon is crisp and beans are bubbling.

Serve as a side dish (a nice alternative for a Thanksgiving green bean casserole) curl up with a bowl of it, while lounging in your PJs.

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Sweet n’ Sour Green Beans and Bacon
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-LT
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved


“Band of Brothers” MOIST Bourbon Brown Sugar Pork Loin

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My husband Greg (Right) with Buck Compton (center) and Don Malarkey (left) two WW2 heroes portrayed in Band of Brothers. This was taken in Bastogne.

For those of you who have seen the HBO miniseries, “Band of Brothers,” you may recall the choking-back-tears comment from Don Malarkey as he described his comrades of the 101st Airborne, many decades after WW2. “Brave, so brave… it was unbelievable.” Greg and I had the privilege of a lifetime 4 years ago, when we got to spend 2 weeks in Europe with Buck Compton and Don Malarkey, two of the paratroopers portrayed in Band of Brothers.

We stood at the sea of white crosses in Normandy as a friend played taps. Don, Irish and emotional, wept openly as Buck wiped away a tear and swallowed. We walked with these old soldiers through the Bastogne forest where they once nearly froze and starved in foxholes to protect our freedom in the Battle of the Bulge. They remember their dear friends whose legs were blown off in this lovely green forest, once white with snow and red with blood and lit up with terrible fire and noise of war. I gathered pine cones on that misty summer day, to give to my children and grandchildren. To help me remember the sacrifice so many made to secure our freedom.

We visited with a family whose parents/grandparents were liberated from their own home by Easy Company soldiers. The family showed us a room with a red stain on the floor. It was were a Nazi was shot and killed. They looked at Don and Buck with such admiration and gratitude.

Everywhere we went these two vets were instantly surrounded when people heard that there were American paratroopers among us. They are rock stars in Europe where children grew up hearing of the “angels coming out of the sky” in parachutes to save them from the German soldiers.
They are rock stars to me.

Greg and I had lunch with Don this year as he was passing through town with a friend. He’s had to give up his beloved nightly nip of Johnny Walker for his health now that he is 90. His hearing is going, but he seemed awfully pleased when I kissed him on the cheek.

A kiss for a hero, Don Malarkey of “Easy Company” portrayed in the Band of Brothers.

Buck, dear Buck, that gentle brilliant kind soul passed away in January.  (Click here to read one of many tributes to this brave, humble man who eventually became a judge. )

I doubt there will ever be a Memorial Day when I don’t think of that trip and those heart-tugging experiences, and of these men.

Thank you to Don & Buck for sharing your stories (see information on their biographies below) and for risking your lives for our freedom.

Since Don can’t toast Memorial Day with a glass of scotch anymore,  I’m dedicating this Bourbon Pork Loin recipe to him and all the Easy Company men.  (The recipe is also “easy for company.”)  Since the alcohol burns off, it’s safe to serve to the whole family.  It is one of Greg’s absolute favorite meals, and every man I’ve served it to looks heavenward with joy after they take a bite.

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“Band of Brothers” Bourbon Pork Loin

Oven 350

Serves 3 to 4 (easily doubled for a bigger group)
1 small pork tenderloin
1 1/2  t. Cajun seasoning (I like Tony’s)
1 T. brown sugar
1 T.  olive oil
1 T. butter
1/4 c. Bourbon, Whiskey or Scotch

Brown Sugar, Bourbon, Tony’s, Butter — 4 ingredients to sublime pork loin

Directions:
Heat oven to 350.
Rub the pork tenderloin all over with Cajun seasoning and brown sugar.  Put oil and butter into an iron skillet (or other ovenproof skillet) over high heat. Once the oil is very hot, put the tenderloin into the pan, turning heat down a bit,  and brown until golden on all sides, turning with tongs.  Don’t worry about getting it done in the middle, just get it pretty and brown on the outside.  Remove pan from heat.  Pour bourbon over all and roll the tenderloin in the juices now  in the pan.  Cover lightly with foil and place in oven.  Cook for about 20 minutes or until just done in the middle.  Pork loin is often overcooked and this is what makes it tough.  If you have a meat thermometer cook until it registers 140  degrees.  Remove from oven.  Let it sit for at least 5 minutes, covered to let juices redistribute.

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Slice just before serving in thin slices, ladling a little of the pan juices over it.  Delicious with baked sweet potatoes and a green veggie or salad.
Note to Vegans or Vegetarians: This method can also be used to cook slices of tofu.  Just do not cover it when you put it in the oven and remove earlier, after about 10 minutes.
** If you’d like to read more about Buck and Don check out their books on amazon.com
Call of Duty by Buck Compton http://tinyurl.com/m6ld3t
http://www.marcusbrotherton.com/(Marcus is the collaborator and has fabulous video/pictures relating to Buck’s book)
Easy Company Soldier by Don Malarkey http://tinyurl.com/kvsxtz
Recently Marcus Brotherton interviewed and collected stories from the 101st airborne (Easy Company) into a book called: We Who Are Alive and Remain:Untold Stories from the Band of Brothers by Marcus Brotherton.
http://tinyurl.com/ox69nx
http://www.bandofbrothersbooks.com/(website with video)
This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title:  Bourbon Brown Sugar Pork Loin
The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-kL
© Copyright 2012 – All Rights Reserved

Bacon Apple Salad with Brown Sugar Dressing

Becky's Bacon Apple Salad with Brown Sugar Dressing

Here is my Facebook status from last night, which drew a crowd of friends volunteering  to join the experiment:

“I really do think I could live the vacation life all year long. Sleep late, coffee & toast, to pool to read and swim, lunch, check email, etc., more pool reading and swimming. Happy Hour. Cook dinner or go out to eat. Relax some more. Bedtime. Repeat. Why aren’t we all on this schedule all the time? The world would be such a happy place if it were. I think it might even wipe out PMS.”

I’m on the sixth day of this schedule and I can tell you the world seems brighter, my heart seems happier and people, in general, of all shapes and sizes and ages seem especially adorable.  I think I may have discovered the cure for world peace.  Yesterday at the pool, with some sort of soft jazz playing in the background I looked up into a blue cloudless sky and, I kid you not,  someone was  sky-writing,  “God loves you. Jesus forgives you.”  I started wondering if perhaps I had stepped into the Christian version of the Truman Show.  But I’m going with it.

I have come to the conlusion that the cure for World Peace is for all of us to be on perpetual vacation. Well, that, and bacon.

I cooked up a mess of bacon from the remaining contents of our condo fridge this morning.  Bacon alone makes my normally laid-back husband want to dance me around the kitchen.  But I needed to make something lunch-worthy out of it.  I spied an apple. Lettuce.  Italian Dressing. Brown Sugar. Voila!  Bacon Apple Salad with Brown Sugar Dressing. Seriously,  how could this not be amazing?  Let me assure you it is!

And in keeping with keeping me out of the kitchen and at the swimming pool, it is also easy.  Enjoy it and visualize, “World Peace. God loves you. Jesus forgives you. Bacon is good stuff.”

Becky's Bacon Apple Salad with Brown Sugar Dressing

Becky’s Bacon Apple Salad with Brown Sugar Dressing

Serves 2

Ingredients

1 small head of lettuce or spinach, chopped (1 to 1 1/2 cups per person)

1 large apple, cored and sliced thin

6 pieces of bacon, cut in small pieces and “stir-fried”

1 t. bacon drippings

1/3 c. your favorite Italian Dressing

1 T. brown sugar

Directions

Divide lettuce into two salad bowls. Arrange apple slices over each.  Top with crumbled bacon, dividing evenly.  In small skillet put 1 t. bacon drippings,  Italian dressing and 1 T. brown sugar. Warm just until brown sugar melts, cool slightly then drizzle desired amount over each salad.

Variations: Try this vegan version of baconmade with wide pieces of coconut, liquid smoke, and soy sauce.  Add avocados, dried fruit or use crisp pears instead.

This was printed from:

We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook

The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com

The Title: Bacon Apple Salad with Brown Sugar Dressing

The URL: http://wp.me/p1UwM9-eS


Sweet and Smoky Tilapia

Becky's Sweet Smoky Talapia

I raised my kids on a lake in the country in small town Texas.  I had three sons who all loved to fish, and by the time my youngest, Gabe, was six,  he could dig for his own worms, bait his own hook, walk out the back door to the dock and pull in a small crappie (pronounced “croppie” ) or two.

His older brothers would paddle the boat out further and catch bigger bass, and Gabe longed to catch a bass with all his little heart.  One day, I was being interviewed  “live” on the radio, via telephone.  I think I was discussing my first book, Worms in My Tea (co-authored with my mom, Ruthie), when the door to my office swung open, and a large mouth bass nearly smacked me in the face.  When I calmed down from the shock of a fish flying in my office, I realized the fish was on the hook end of a fishing pole, being held by one excited little boy on the other end.

“Mom!” he yelled. “I caught a bass!”  He sure did,  and the news of it was broadcast live, somewhere on the radio in middle America.  I managed to wipe fishy lake water from my brow, congratulate Gabe and carry on with the interview.  These are things professional mothers do.

But I digress. I started this blog post thinking about crappie, and how, though they aren’t very big,  they are, as we say in Texas, “some good eatin’.”  And we ate a lot of them.  So when the small fish, tilapia, seemed to swim out of nowhere into our supermarkets and on to the foodie scene as the new Rock Star of mild, affordable fish, I couldn’t help thinking how much they looked and tasted like crappie.  In fact, who knows? They might just be crappie, with a fancy new name.

I loved tilapia at first bite.  And it’s the best last-minute dinner! Even if it is frozen, it thaws in no time. Below is one of my favorite fish dishes.  It’s fast, it is easy, it tastes amazing with its sweet, smoky, spicy, citrus flavors.   And look how beautiful it is!  Serve with an ear of fresh corn and a salad with avocado, and you’ve got a beautiful plate of healthy “good eatin’.”

Here’s something you may not know about tilapia, but as soon as you read this you can tell your friends and amaze them with it.  Or just sound like a fish fact Know-it-All.  Tilapia can be found in the Sea of Galilee, and are sometimes called “St. Peter’s fish.” This comes from the story in the Gospel of Matthew about the apostle Peter catching a fish that carried a coin in its mouth.   (Matthew 14:24-27.)

Becky's Sweet and Smoky Talapia

Becky’s Sweet and Smoky Tilapia

Serves 2

Ingredients

2 T. olive oil

2 T. butter

4 medium to large tilapia fillets

2 T. smoked paprika

2 T. cumin

3 T. brown sugar

salt and pepper

1 lemon, cut in half

Directions:

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Put oil and butter in rectangle pan (large enough to hold tilapia without overlapping) and put in oven until butter has melted.  Tilt pan until it is evenly coated.

In small bowl, mix paprika, cumin and brown sugar.  Lightly salt and pepper both sides of 4 fillets. Lay tilapia fillets side by side in the buttery pan. Turn over so both sides are coated with oil/butter.  Generously sprinkle tops of tilapia with the brown sugar-spice mix (using all of it), patting  it in gently as you would a rub or blackening seasoning.  Squeeze one half lemon over all.

Put in oven for 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily. Then turn oven to broil and watching carefully, broil the tops of the fish until the spice mixture starts to caramelize.  Remove,  serve with the remaining lemon half, cut in pretty slices as garnish.

Variations: Try this method with other fish and other spices you enjoy!

Vegan Variation:  Use Earth Balance instead of butter, pressed or plain tofu slices or veggie burgers instead of fish.

Blackened Tofu

Rachel made this with thin slices of pressed tofu & Earth Balance, following the above directions exactly and said it was delicious!

This was printed from: We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook
The site URL: http://welaughwecrywecook.com
The Title: Sweet and Smokey Tilapia
The URL: https://welaughwecrywecook.com/2012/04/11/sweet-and-smoky-talapia