Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Our Thanksgiving 2014

Nov 25 2014

Thanksgiving here in the US is a holiday where families get together and give thanks for what they have. A lot of countries have other days set for celebrating so hope all here in the US and all you in other countries have a lot to be thankful for. Here our Thanksgiving meal is usually Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, veggie casseroles, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie for dessert.

It is getting into winter now and our first winter holiday is near. We used to try to celebrate the holidays with both the wife’s and my parents. That meant getting the kids around and any food we were taking. Our parents are gone now except for my 93 year old Mother and she still live sat home but don’t celebrate much anymore. We went through having the family’s gathering here for a long time.

For the first time we are going to our Son and daughter in laws for Thanksgiving. Our daughter is coming to stay for the week-end so all our immediate family will be here. The wife and I are both 72 now and it’s kind of a relief to not have to host the party! Every year now it’s a little harder to get in the holiday spirit! I am on meds for a ruptured disc and waiting to have an operation on Dec. 15th so I can’t do as much work as usual.

Today it was a brisk 35 deg. and a little windy. The wife was going through the task of getting all her Christmas decorations carried in and put out. Our son helped carry some of the stuff in. The grandson stayed and helped me pick up the leaves on the back patio. Three days ago I had them cleaned up then we had two days of strong winds and it blew more back in.

We got all the leaves picked up and I spent the rest of the afternoon making some treats for the holidays. For the last few years I have been smoking pistachios in the shell. A little smoke and seasoning makes them a little bit better. I found a recipe for some pretzel and nut mix that sounded good so I made a batch of those. They are done in the oven and coated with a sweet and spicy chocolate mix. They turned out pretty well even though I had to improvise on some of the spices.

I have the pistachios down pretty well now; mix a tablespoon of melted butter with a tablespoon of olive oil per pound of nuts and stir to coat. Then add any seasoning you like to cover and smoke, 180 deg., for 1 ½ to two hours. We like Penzey’s Sandwich sprinkle which is a salt, garlic and herb blend.

Today I smoked 2 pounds of the pistachios that are on the hot side and will do 2 more pounds tomorrow that are mild. Our daughter from the Chicago area will be here tomorrow. All I have to do for Thanksgiving Day is to heat up about 3 lbs. of smoked ham and make a batch of calico beans in the crockpot. Our daughter in law is making some turkey breast, mashed potatoes and gravy. Her parents will be there too and bringing side dishes.

I hope all of you have a great Thanksgiving! I will be glad when my belly is full of good food and it’s all over!


Pretzel nut mix

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Shrimp and Smoked Sausage over Cheesy Grits

Nov 24 2014

When I found this recipe at I knew I had to make it. Shrimp and grits are a favorite dish of ours. Liren, owner of the food blog had a nice twist to her dish with the addition of smoked sausage and cooked in a half & half cream sauce. For her cheesy grits she used aged sharp cheddar. I had a bag of shredded mild cheddar that needed used so I used it and some grated parmesan cheese. Next time I will use sharp cheddar.

I had a pound of Key West wild caught pink shrimp to use. I had them thawed out so cleaned them early. I had bought medium shrimp but next time I need to look at the count per pound. I would call these small, the count was 51 to 60 per pound and I had a bag with 60 in it! I had a garlic loaf of take home and bake bread so got that baked early too.

The recipe looks complicated but when you get all prepped it goes together pretty quick. I had everything prepped and got my grits on cooking. The recipe called for 3 cups chicken broth and 3 cups milk to one cup coarse ground grits. I usually only use 3 to 3 ½ cups liquid so I used 3 cups chicken stock and 1 cup of milk.

The kids dropped off the grandson while they went to meet his teacher and see how he was doing in school. He ate supper with us.

After the grits had been simmering for 15 minutes I heated up the skillet to cook the rest. I got the onions and celery in cooking, added the sausage to brown up. I then added some Penzey’s Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper. I added the half cup of white wine to deglaze the pan and let cook a few minutes while I stirred the cheese in the grits. I added in the shrimp and stirred then added the butter and half and half slowly and let cook a few minutes.

I must have been hungry since I forgot a pic of the skillet with the sauce when done! I didn’t want to overcook the shrimp so got it served up pretty quick.

I served the sausage and shrimp over the grits with some of the sauce and garnished with some dried chives; we had bread and butter on the side. I served the grandson and then the wife; she said it was good before I got mine served! The grandson like it and ate a nice bowl of it. It was delicious; the wife said she would give me an A1 on it!

The kids stopped back to get Gavin and go eat. I offered them what was left. I had plenty but they went out; they don’t know what they missed! The grandson stayed here until after they ate. He had some good food!

Some crusty bread

Some shrimp

Stone ground grits cooking

Onions and celery sauteing

Sausage added

Cajun seasoning added

Wine added

Shrimp added

The butter and half and half cream was added
and cooked about 5 min. but I missed getting
a picture of it!

My supper

Monday, November 24, 2014

My Good Quick Chili

Nov 23 2014

Over 35 plus years cooking I have fixed a lot of pots of chili, using a lot of different recipes and eaten a lot of different chili. I am from the North so my chili has to have beans in it. I prefer pinto beans over the more popular kidney beans and to me canned are just as good as using dried and less work. My favorite brand of beans are Bush’s.

For meat I have used ground chuck, ground round, a mix of ground beef and sausage, sirloin and round steak and smoked pork. My favorite is to use ground round 90-10 mix and leave the fat in for a better taste.

 I have made my own tomato and chili sauce for good chili but that is a lot of work preparing. This recipe is easy to make up and to me about the best tasting chili I have made. I call it quick but it still takes about 4 hours; one hour to cook the meat and get it all together and 3 hours to simmer. I think any chili needs to simmer at least 3 hours to meld all the flavors. I have to keep my chili on the mild side for the wife otherwise I would have to eat the whole pot! I usually add some hot sauce to mine at the table.

It was on the mild side today, shirt sleeve weather, not really chili weather but it still tasted good. While my chili was simmering I sat out enjoying the weather and some beer. I swept up some leaves from my patio and picked up my dogs poo.

You will note I only used a half bottle of beer in my chili; you always want to use half bottles in your recipes. ½, 1 ½ or 2 ½ so you always have a half bottle left for the cook!

I served up the chili with some shredded cheddar and sour cream for topping. My wife and I both like some buttered saltine crackers with our chili. She goes a little light on the butter compared to me! I had some of my Cajun crackers left to have with mine. It tasted great and my wife said some of my best chili!

Meat browning, onions and peppers added

Dry seasonings added

Beer added

Beef broth and tomato sauce added

Simmer for a couple of hours

Beans and bay leaf added

Simmer for 1 to 2 hours more

My supper

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Spaghetti Squash in the Shell

Nov 22 2014

As much as I have fixed spaghetti squash it’s a wonder I didn’t think of this before or see the recipe. If you search there are a lot of different recipes for baking it in the half shell and then scooping it out and mixing with goodies and then back in the shell to bake a short time. I looked at several recipes and made this one up.

I think it is always fun to make a dish for the first time. I found two small squashes so would have 4 halves; enough for me, the wife, daughter in law and grandson. I had a pound and half of ground chuck I browned up with some onions, green pepper, dried garlic flakes, salt, pepper and Italian herb blend. My sauce was Newman’s Own marinara sauce. I sautéed a little onion and green pepper in a sauce pan and then added the sauce to heat up. For the cheese topping I used some shredded mozzarella and grated parmesan.

I had to make these three different ways to please all! I cut the squash in half and scooped out the seeds. They went on a baking sheet cut side down over a pat of butter. I poured about 1/3 cup of water in the baking sheet and they went in a pre-heated 375 deg. oven for 30 minutes. For larger squash you will need more time. While they were baking I browned up the ground chuck and got the sauce on heating up.

I let the baked squash sit a while to cool. I scooped out the squash from one and mixed in a Tbs. of the sauce and then back in the shell that was for the grandson he doesn’t like much sauce. He had popped in and said just meat on his and no cheese.

I scooped out the squash from the other three into a bowl and mixed in 4 ladles of the sauce. It was divided among the other 3 shells. A good portion of the ground beef went on two for the wife and me. I then topped all 3 with a ladle of sauce, shredded mozzarella, grated parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of Italian herb blend. They went back into a 350 deg. oven for 15 minutes. My wife had salads made for us and I had some good bread left over to have.

We all thought this was extra good and a different way to have spaghetti squash. We had some French fried onions for topping the salad and I had some Greek Yogurt blue cheese dressing I thought was extra good. It’s about 60% fewer calories than regular dressing and I thought the sour from the yogurt went well with the blue cheese.


Browning the ground chuck

The sauce

Shells baked

Ready to serve

My salad

My supper

It's Good!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Polish Sausage, Pierogies and Cabbage

Nov 20 2014

I thought tonight’s meal was one of the best tasting comfort meals I have cooked lately; if I do say so myself! I looked forward to cooking this meal. For one thing I had some homemade pierogies my daughter’s mother in law and church ladies made. They were frozen with a little cup of their onion butter sauce about ¼ cups.

The other thing I had read the proper way to cook polish sausage was to poach it in liquid, water, beer or broth, for 35 to 45 minutes and then browning. It said to not boil but just a slow simmer. I had usually done them close to this by covering half way and boil until the liquid was gone and let brown.

My Polish sausage was some fresh ones from my butcher that were frozen. I had a take home and bake Tuscan Boule for my bread and would steam some cabbage for a side. The steamed cabbage made the meal sound a little healthier to me!

I had the sausage and pierogies thawed. I did the sausage the slow way in beer and turned half way through then poured off the beer and browned them up.

The pierogies I boiled for 5 minutes and then drained them. I heated my 12 inch steel skillet on med. high, with 5 Tbs. butter, chopped onion and the sauce that came with the pierogies. I turned the heat to med. and browned the pierogies about 8 minutes per side. The pierogies were served with some of the onions over and some grated parmesan, Romano, and Asiago cheese blend. I had some sour cream with mine and bread and butter.

Did that ever taste good, the sausage was just right, tender and moist. I finally learned the right way to do fresh Polish sausage. The homemade pierogies were definitely better than the frozen ones I usually have!

My Bread

Cabbage in steamer

Kah Meats Polish sausage

Simmering in beer

Pierogies, one side browned

Sausage browning

Pierogies ready to serve

My supper, I ate it all!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Winter Comfort Food Time

Nov 18 2014

Knowing it was going to be extra cold today I slept in. My wife and I were both up and she said school was canceled today. She asked if it was going to snow more and I said no. She said I may call Gavin, our grandson, and see if he wants to go to Lima to a movie this afternoon. Lima is about 20 miles away. I said no, when they cancel school because of cold that means 72 year old grandmas stay home!

I was not sure what we were going to have for supper. I thought about getting carry outs but didn’t want to go out in the cold to get it, the high today was 18 deg. F I told the wife I thought I had enough to throw some chicken and noodles  together.

I checked the freezer and had a backbone and a large breast half. I had a half pound of good noodles, onion, celery, carrots and about a cup of chicken broth. I threw the backbone, and onion and two stalks of celery in a pot of water and boiled for 45 minutes. I strained it and added the little bit of broth I had, salt and pepper and poached the breast about 20 minutes. I removed the breast to cool and added the noodles and some diced carrots. After the noodles had cooked about 40 minutes I diced up the breast and added it back in. After it came to a boil I covered and turned down to simmer until time to eat.

I had some potatoes that needed used so I made mashed potatoes with butter and buttermilk. I had some Grand’s biscuits I baked for some bread and butter. My wife wanted soup so she had it as soup with some crackers and butter. She always adds some ketchup to her chicken and noodle soup; I won’t try that it sounds awful. I used a slotted spoon and had mine over mashed potatoes. It tasted pretty good for just throwing some stuff together, especially on a cold night!

My Supper

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Smoked Pistachios and Cajun Crackers

Nov 14 2014

My oldest daughter from a first marriage and her husband are coming over tomorrow. We have kept in close touch over the years but don’t get to see them as often as we would like. They live in Indiana about 3 hours away. She will be 54 tomorrow so we are taking them out for some good Mexican food. It is hard to believe I have a 54 year old daughter!

Today after I had a Navy bean pie in the oven I smoked a batch of my Cajun crackers and a pound of pistachios for my daughter to take home. They both like hot stuff so I did a different recipe for the pistachios. I usually just coat the pistachios with olive oil or a mix of olive oil and butter and sprinkle on some Penzey’s sandwich sprinkle and smoke them. I liked the pistachios and probably could stand a little more heat.
For the pistachios

On my smoker

Cajun Crackers


Friday, November 14, 2014

Brats, Pierogies and Fermi Slaw

Nov 13 2014

Tonight’s supper would be pretty simple and easy; brats on the smoker; fry some Mrs. T’s cheese and potato Pierogies and some of my Fermi slaw. I call it Fermi slaw because it came from salting my cabbage for kraut and letting it set overnight before putting in a jar or fermenting crock. I always had to have a taste and the slightly salty taste that had started the first step of fermenting was good. I decided to take some to this step and make some slaw with it.

I had a half medium head of cabbage shredded, added 2 teaspoons of sea salt and stomped. It set overnight in a covered tupper ware bowl. I added 2 good tablespoons on Hellman’s mayonnaise, 3 good tablespoons of Marzetti’s slaw dressing and 3 good teaspoons of sugar. Mixed all together well and it set in the fridge over 5 hours before serving.

 Our Canadian friends decided to share some of their cold air early this year. It was a cold 31 deg. F today and looks like it will be 20 deg. below normal for at least a week.

For my brats I had some pre-cooked garlic and cheese brats thawed out. I did them on my Traeger at 180 deg. and was running about 200 deg. grill level for 45 minutes. I then went to 275 deg. grill level for 45 minutes. The last 15 minutes I fried the pierogies. I had them thawed out and brushed with some melted butter. They were browned in a Lodge steel skillet sprayed with some olive oil 5 minutes per side. When I turned them I added some sliced onion.

My wife had ketchup on her brat sandwich; she doesn’t know mustard goes with brats! She did put some of the slaw on her brat. I had some Dijon mustard on my brat and ate the slaw on the side. It all tasted good! Mrs. T’s pierogies are always good and a lot easier than making my own. I did like the slaw and will make it that way again.

Brats on the smoker

Frying pierogies and onions

My supper

Monday, November 10, 2014

RouxBDoos Cajun Stewed Chicken

Nov 09 2014

I have had this recipe saved for a long time wanting to try it. It is true comfort food best enjoyed in cool weather and it is time now. RouxBDoo is a food critique and blog writer and has some great recipes at RouxBDoos Cajun and Creole Food Blog, Nola Cuisine and New Orleans Cuisine.

I had a recipe from Food52 that would go good with the chicken, Cornmeal Flatbread. It called for using Manchego cheese in it and on top. I could not find Manchego or Asiago locally so I used some 4 cheese Mexican blend instead. Mine did not turn out that great, it looked good but was more like baked mush or polenta. I didn’t get it cooked down thick enough and I had it too thick to bake right. It did taste good though.

If you want to try cornmeal flatbread just search on it and there are plenty of different ones to choose from. Mine was mainly just milk and cornbread cooked and supposed to be ¼ inch thick. Some have flour added and baking powder or yeast.

I followed RouxBDoos recipe for the chicken pretty close, for the seasoning I only used 1 Tbs. of Cajun seasoning and no cayenne, dried garlic flakes some onion flakes, a little heavy on the Italian seasoning blend and black pepper. I only had time for the chicken to be seasoned and in the fridge for an hour instead of two. I used chicken stock in place of the water and chicken bouillon cube. I browned the chicken and left out of the pot, removed some of the grease, sautéed the onions and garlic then added a little stock to deglaze the pan then the chicken went back in with all else.

After the chicken had been in the oven I set it on a burner and let it simmer while I made some mashed potatoes with a half stick of butter and a little buttermilk to thin some. I nuked some frozen buttered Brussels sprouts for a side. I skimmed off some of the fat before serving; it had plenty in with the oil and butter I fried the chicken in and the fat from the chicken skin.

I had the chicken on the side and some of the broth over mashed potatoes, the sprouts and the cornmeal flat bread. The chicken was fall apart tender and delicious as well as great broth. I will be making this again but may opt to take more time and remove the chicken when done, pour the fat off the broth and make good gravy. I may even debone the chicken to add back in. I don’t think many would eat the skin anyway.
The flatbread

Done baking

Seasoning for the chicken

Onions and garlic

Flouring the seasoned chicken

Browning the chicken


Onions sauteed and stock added to deglaze

Ready for the oven

Ready to serve

My supper