Tuesday, January 31, 2012

First Day of Cooking School

I know y'all are so excited to hear about my first day of school.  Well, I worked a little later than expected so got to class around 11:30 ish.  Yes, I know I said I resigned, but that doesn't mean I'm crazy.  I'm still working, just part time.  Anyway, thought that might be important information sometime down the road.

So, reported for my first day of cooking class and since the first few chapters aren't in the kitchen, teacher (meaning me) let us have class out by the pool today.  I think I might be teachers pet. She is super nice and cute and so smart.

Today, the class learned about Safety and Sanitation. I now know what the "danger zone" regarding temperature is, what the difference between biological chemical and physical contamination is, what HACCP (hazard analysis critical control points) are AND that you should wash your hands well and often when working in the kitchen.  WEW!! Glad I got that outta the way.  All that talk about fungi and unhygienic workers did not sit well with my nutella and banana waffle.

The next chapter is on nutrition.  However, I spoke to the school board (meaning me) and they said since I've had that class and many levels of it and passed with flying colors, I'd probably be ok to test out. HOLLAA!!

The most serendipitous part of class today was that I had some cubed steak set out for dinner tonight....but not thawing at room temperature because that's bad! Cubed Steak is the other red meat,  for those of us that are "for all practical purposes, unemployed".  But I couldn't decide what I wanted to do with it.  So I flip to page 30 and right in front of me is a recipe typed out with exact critical control points where you'd check temperature, wash hands (thank you for that) etc.  And the recipe was for beef stroganoff.  Yeah yeah, i know it's not a typically a cube steak dinner but we in the food business (meaning me) can improvise like that. It worked out perfectly delicious.  Served with a side of warm caprese: roast cherry tomatoes and EVOO at 375 degrees until they start popping, about 20 min.  Then pull them out and sprinkle fresh pearl mozzarella balls on top. They'll slightly melt.  Then drizzle with balsamic glaze and fresh torn basil.

Thank you school textbook for my dinner idea.  I think this will be one of many. After all the damn book is 1500 pages.

School makes me tired..all that learning. So I'll be done here for the night.  Oh!, Hey, do you like how I bolded my textbook definition words?  Looks all legit!!


Monday, January 30, 2012

Good Holly Wil(son) Hunting

 Thoughts, Changes and a Smoothie

strawberries, bananas, milk, greek yogurt, agave and ice
It's not often I have a mild panic attack on payday.  This is the day most of us anxiously await. This day, however, I'm finding it hard to breathe.  My chest even hurts a little.  No need to run to the phone and call for help. The pain and hyperventilation is completely self imposed.

I have been working as a manager for the same company for about 5 years now.  Thats a lifetime in military spouse years. Anyway, it's a great company, pretty good gig, but also quite stressful.  It was one of those situations where I could physically feel my blood pressure rising second to second.  As I sat in my office feeling my blood pressure rise, yelling into my computer, I couldn't shake the overwhelming need to be in the kitchen.  It's not the Donna Reed "I must be in the kitchen" feeling.  It's more of a "I want to play with my food" type feeling.

So guess what? After many months of planning and the support of my wonderful husband The Captain, not to mention some great enabling cheerleader type friends,  I got one last overpriced hair cut and color then resigned my position. And here I am, on a weekday, nowhere close (well kinda close) to my work email and blackberry NOT watching the money roll in. I'm hoping this isn't a mid life crises since I'm only 36.  I truly believe the Universe has something great in store for people that make these drastic moves based on a passion, and a little bit of skill.

Whats next?  I've had this blog for, mmm,.... I guess about a year and half now?  It's not wildly popular, hell,  it's not even mildly popular, but it's fun.  However, I think the last thing the virtual world needs is another food blogger.  There are already so many talented, creative and established ones that I do think that market is saturated. I also had full intentions of attending a local culinary arts program starting this summer, but I've already done the school thing. So I thought, what if I put myself through culinary school, here in my own kitchen. The Wilson Culinary Academy. I'll buy some textbooks and use course schedules borrowed from other culinary arts programs and even do an externship. And I'll blog the entire process.  Chapter 1- Safety and Sanitation!! Read along if you wish.

my first textbook. bought used for $30

Next step- CULINARY ARTIST!!!! So that's the plan for now.  I'm not sure how it'll turn out or what the end goal is but here's what I do know:  I'm not nearly as stressed. I get dinner on the table every night. I even get to make a real breakfast and pack lunch for the kids.  When they're done with school, I can play basketball or ride scooters with them. And, I get to talk to you guys much more often. Those things alone are worth the occasional payday freak out

But right now, I'm gonna drink my smoothie and not check email.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Garden Ready!!

Y'all know I am not a gardener. I like to play one on TV, or at least in my own back yard.  I've tried for years and years to be successful.  I get a teeny tiny better every season, but not enough to make my bank account any better.  But, it's about that time again, so we spent yesterday getting our two very humble raised gardens and pots ready for seed.  We typically buy the plant itself, but this year, we're starting from seed.  You never know,this could be our year. And if it's not, I've got a fall back plan, I've signed us up to be a part of a local CSA (community supported agriculture).  I'll be picking up a box of fresh fruits and veggies every Thursday that were grown on local farms.

This year, we just needed to get some compost to refurbish the soil we bought last year. $10/half load. Thanks Dirt Lady

Yep, it's steaming hot!
Breydon gardening in his PJ's
Lunch Break!!!  Beautiful day to grill some hot dogs
They're ready!  Still covered to protect from ornery dogs
Perfect Herb Pots

Time to relax and take a walk to the beach

Ornery Dog #1

Ornery Dog #2
Played in S**T all day, and still ended with this sunset

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chili Cheese Home Fry-Cho's

Stop drooling on your computer!!!  Y'all this isn't so much a recipe as it is a "re purposing".  You know what that is.  So you know the other day I made Venison Chili .   Anyway, we, like so many other people are on a budget.  So I'm trying to stretch our food out as much as possible.  The killer thing about this recipe is, I got the potatoes and the Velveeta as a BOGO!!  WINNING!!

So basically I chopped these teeny taters and roasted them at 375 degrees tossed in olive oil for about an hour, maybe a bit more.  PS... these little beauties are 90 calories and zero fat for 5 of them, about the mount shown below.  Much better for your waistline than chips.  And since my son snapped that picture of me from behind while making dinner, I feel better about making these instead.  But please remind me to always wear my spanx when there's a camera in the room


Melt your Velveeta. ( rarely use this stuff but a sale's a sale) into the leftover chili
Spoon your chili con queso on top of the roasted taters.  

Anndddd top the way you would your Nachos.  I have lettuce, onion, jalapenos, scallions, avocados and sour cream.
Now, what to do with all the Chili Con Queso I have left?

Ravioli with Vodka Cream Sauce

Looking for a recipe for Valentines Day dinner?
Looking for a way out of the doghouse?
Need to impress the inlaws?
Just like to eat really good food?
Looking for an excuse to liquor up your dinner?
I think you should make these. Here's how:

1 package won ton wrappers

Small carton ricotta cheese
sprinkle of garlic and onion powder
finely grated mozzarella cheese
finely grated Parmesan cheese
roasted onion **
1 package frozen spinach-thawed and squeezed
salt and pepper
2 separately beated eggs (one for filling, one for ravioli egg wash..aka..glue)

3 Tbs EVOO
minced garlic to taste
crushed red pepper
2 8 oz cans of tomato sauce
2 tbs vodka
1/4 cup heavy cream
Torn basil leaves- you won't see any pictures of these because I don't have any, but use them if you can.

Add ricotta, parm cheese, garlic and onion powder to large bowl
add well drained spinach
next stir in your previously roasted/cooled and chopped onion
Mozzarella is going in to pool.
we're going to taste the mixture, season if needed, beat up that egg a bit and dump it into the pool    

spoon a tsp of the mixture into the center of each pasta sheet/wonton wrapper  
dip your finger in egg wash, run along each side of pasta sheet and place another sheet on top.  squeeze as much air out and seal the edges well.  aren't they purdy? don't boil until sauce is done as they only take a minute to cook

NEXT...time for sauce:
cook garlic, red pepper and salt in EVOO over low heat for a few seconds.  be careful not to brown garlic   

Stir in tomato sauce and vodka.  Let simmer over medium low heat for about 10 min, while you're boiling water for pasta. Cook pasta for 45 sec- 1 min.  While pasta is cooking, turn heat off of sauce and add heavy cream and basil.  

whatever you do..don't do this, the pasta is way too sticky.  I spent a lot of time pulling these apart. 
Spoon a bit of sauce onto your serving plate, then add your pasta, spoon more sauce over the top.  This will keep them from sticking together.  


preheat oven to 425 degrees.  place onion on sheet lined with aluminum foil.  bake for 1-1:15 until skin is brown and flesh is soft.  allow to cool. then peel and chop.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chili...just chili

Who needs utensils when you have chips?
Weird few days in the Florida Panhandle. It looks cold out, and if you squint hard enough, you could mistake those dark clouds for snow clouds.  Then, you step outside. It's warm and balmy and according to my hair, super humid.  We really haven't had "chili" weather yet this year. 

Anyway, this recipe is a little hard to write down, nothing...I mean zero is measure, except whats already pre measured in a can or a packet.  So please bear with me.   I'll give you approximates and you can tailor it to your own taste.

This is venison chili, just because we happen to have a LOT of it that needs to be used. But you can use ground sirloin  . 


Ingredients (there's a LOT of them):

1.5 lbs deer burger or ground sirloin
2/3 lbs ground pork or sausage
diced onion
diced bell pepper
3-4 diced garlic cloves
2 tbs tomato paste
salt n peppa

garlic powder
onion powder
3 packets sazon (one of my most favorite ingredients)
2 tbs cocoa powder
1 bay leaf
sprinkle cinnamon
chili powder
chipotle powder or cayenne pepper. both are very hot

2 small cans tomato sauce
2 cans of stewed tomatoes
one can of the bean of your choice, drained and rinsed
1 bottle/can of light colored beer.  dark beer will turn bitter
2 tbs sugar or brown sugar

3 tbs corn meal or masa flour to be added toward the end

*brown the ground pork in a bit of olive oil, remove from pan.  brown the sirloin or venison, remove from pan set aside with the pork.  add pepper, onion, garlic, s&p, cook over medium heat a few minutes.  Add tomato paste and cook another minute.  add meat back into pan.  start adding spices.  I'm quite liberal with the onion and garlic powder, maybe 2 tbs each.  about 1tb of the cumin and chili powder. After all spices are incorporated, start adding all liquids (use all but 1 tbs of the beer) and the sugar.  Stir to combine, place a lid on the pot leaving a crack for some steam to escape and continue to cook over low heat for at least an hour.  I like to skim the fat off the top of the chili every once in a while. About 1/2 hour before you'll be serving, mix the corn meal or masa flour with the remaining beer and stir into chili to thicken.

anyone else think I'm expecting too much from this pot?

So, after you chili simmers for at least an hour or three, turn off heat to let cool just a bit. Serve with your favorite fixins:

shredded cheddar
sour cream

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Honey Wheat Hamburger Buns

And yes, I chose to show my homemade hamburger buns hugging the sloppiest of meat dishes, Sloppy Joe's.  I'm not ashamed. It's even the canned kind.
Once in a blue moon (or full moon in this case) I get a craving for Sloppy Joe's (by the way, is there anyone that doesn't sing the lunch lady song whenever you hear the words sloppy joe? If you don't know what I'm talking about click here).  I have one can on hand (yep can) for this very instance. But today, when my craving struck, I didn't have any hamburger buns.  Fortunately for me, I acquired almost every kind of flour known to man over the holiday baking season.  This sounds like a good way to use some of that up, while satiating my need for sweet, tart tomatoey, meaty goodness.

I found this recipe through another blogger A Chow Life. And slightly adapted it in order to use up some of my whole wheat flour.  I've also cut my recipe in half to make 6 buns instead of 12.  Next time, however, I won't because they were such a hit!

3/4 Cup Milk
4 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 Tbs. Honey
2 1/4 active dry yeast (1 packet)
1 1/4 cups All Purpose Flour (plus more for bench/dusting flour)
3/4 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
2 1/2 Tbs. Sugar
1/2 Tbs. Kosher Salt
1 Egg + 1 Tbs water beaten for egg wash.


Add milk and butter to small sauce pan and heat on low just until butter melts. Remove milk butter mixture from heat.  When temperature lowers to between 105-115 degrees, drizzle in honey and sprinkle in yeast mixture. Let stand for 10 minutes

Meanwhile, Add flour, sugar and salt to stand mixture fitted with dough hook. Quickly whisk dry ingredients to combine.

Once wet ingredients have sat for 10 minutes, slowly pour into dry ingredients while mixer on low speed.  Beat for about a minute until it forms a ball. I had to add about 2 additional Tbs of flour (I assume due to the humidity). Once your ball forms, put mixture on medium low and allow to knead until smooth ball forms. About 5 min. 

I think it should look something like this, I probably could have added a bit more flour or kneaded for a bit longer?

Transfer dough to oiled bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Set it in a warm place until it doubles in size.  I put it in my oven (not on) with the oven light on.

 Turn out on floured surface and roll into a log.  I find it easier to divide into equal portions this way. 

Place each portion on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicon baking mat.  Cover and let rise one again for 30 min.

Brush tops of buns with egg wash and bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 14-16 min until golden brown.  Let cool completely before cutting.

I also brushed mine with butter and grilled before using them for my sloppy joes :)