The pickle man

Monday, February 28, 2011

Frogs, Bears, and Florida Shrimp

Tonight was a very busy night. 

First, it's Monday, so I had Quiz Bowl practice after school.  It's the competitive sport for the smart kids ;)  Seriously, we won state last year! 

Second, my four year old (with some coaxing from his parents) picked tonight as frog release night. 

Do you have any idea how many crickets 2 bullfrogs eat? Or what crickets cost in February?  Let's just say that when the frog is as expensive as the dog... it's time to return it to it's proper job of eating mosquitoes. 

And then, I had to play with the baby.  A lot.  Because he's really cute, and little, and I'm getting sentimental about how fast he is growing.  

So this is currently his favorite game: 

Odd? Probably...

But hey, look at the smile!  This guy is currently positioned over the diaper changing area, so it gives him something to look at.
But I realize that some might find this a little disturbing... especially considering that at some point, this was a real bear. 

My great-grandfather killed it, shortly after the end of World War II. 

Dixon named it Dotious as a child (as in "super-cali-fragilistic-expialidotious).

So anyway, with the busy night we are having, I made a super quick supper. 

Growing up, we called these Florida shrimp because my mom usually only made them in Florida.

In Destin, we always got Royal Reds (they are AMAZING), but any fresh or frozen shrimp will work.

1/2 stick butter, melted but not hot.
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2-3 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp Worcestershire
2 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 lb fresh large shrimp *(peeling is optional... Normally, I peel them so there is less work at the table, but tonight I did not have time, so I just cooked them shells on and we peeled and ate.  If you go this route, bring the whole roll of paper towels to the table).

Preheat oven to 450. 
Combine melted butter with the seasonings.
Place shrimp in a baking dish.  Top with butter, seasonings, and lemon juice. 

Bake uncovered for 6-8 minutes, until shrimp are pink (8-10 minutes if unpeeled).

(and this is not optional)
Pour the yummy butter lemon mixture into a bowl and serve it with crusty French bread. 

Actually, tonight Dixon picked ciabatta at the store.  It was delicious.  I need to learn how to make it. 

Anyway, Happy Monday!  

Sunday, February 27, 2011

King Cake Part 2

Well, I've already posted the recipe/ how to for king cake (here's the link)

But last time, the finished product, while tasty, was not pretty.

So today for a sweet baby's special baptism, I tried again.  This time, I divided the dough into thirds, stuffed each third with the cinnamon/ cream cheese filling, then braided it.

Oh, and my mother-in-law bought some pretty sugar for me :) 

It was so good, and this time I was not ashamed of the pictures!! 

The newly baptized!   Isn't she the sweetest thing!! 

And my own sweet things ;)

He's cutting a tooth... this is as close to a smile as he would give me.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Mom's Chocolate Cake

I probably have too much to say about this cake.  So if you're just here for the recipe, scroll on down. 

This cake is an integral part of my childhood. 
It was definitely the first thing I could make from scratch.  Same goes for all of my sisters (I have 3).  After watching the process several hundred times a year, I could do this at age 8. 

Oh, and if you think I'm exaggerating about the several hundred, guess again.  Mom made about 3 of these a week - for everyone's birthday she loved (and she has a big heart), to auction at the church, for thank you notes, Valentine's Day... You asked, you got cake.  

And she went into overdrive at Christmas.  The first year after her stroke, she asked me to come by and get the "cake list" to help her bake.  When I saw there were 53 names on it, I told her it was time to start giving away wine! 

But why make box cake if you can whip this up in the time it takes to preheat the oven?  Yep, that's how long it takes.  I know because my husband timed me. 

So, let's get this show on the road. 

First, you grease and flour two 9 inch pans.  

When I was little, mom used vegetable oil and waxed paper (I loved getting to cut out the circles).  But now we've both discovered Baker's Joy.

Next, measure 1 cup buttermilk, and float 1 teaspoon of Baking soda in the buttermilk.  Brands pictured.

Next, put 2 sticks of Parkay in the mixer.
That's right.  Parkay.  If you want it to taste like Kay's, you use Parkay.  Not Country Crock.  And certainly not real butter.  I know - I tried for years to use real butter and it never tasted just like mom's.  Then I caved.  Now I have Parkay in my fridge just for this.

Moving on,
add 2 cups of sugar and 2 eggs to the butter. (Picture your six year old, sing-songing two sticks-a-butta, two cups-a-sugah, two eggs... yep, that's my childhood)

Then add 3/4 cup of Hershey's cocoa.

Add 1 tsp vanilla extract (REAL, not imitation) and 1 tsp salt.  I use Kosher.  Mom used straight up iodized.  I can't taste the difference, but I'm sure if you have a discriminating pallet... better be safe and go with iodized.

Then (and this is as tricky as it gets) ALTERNATELY add 2 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour...
and the buttermilk/ baking soda mixture.
And blend until combined.

I highly recommend tasting the batter at this point.  It might be better than the cake.

Meanwhile, microwave 1 cup of water until it is boiling.

Slllooowwllllyyy  add it to your mixer (and make sure that it is as low as it will go).

Again, tasting is required.

Pour into the 9 inch rounds... 
And bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  
You can also bake this batter into cupcakes OR (if you want to prevent the problems described below) in a jelly roll pan (one of those long rectangles I always used for cookies). 

While the cake is baking...
let your kid lick the bowl, the spatula, and the beaters.  It's good for his soul.

When the cake gets out of the oven, let it cool.

SERIOUSLY, let it cool!!

Then dump it out on a cake plate... preferably near the center.

Then, start making the icing. 
Melt 1 stick of butter... um, I mean, PARKAY... in a sauce pan.
Add 3 tablespoons of Hershey's cocoa powder and 6 tablespoons of skim milk.
Stir in 1 tsp vanilla.
Remove from the heat and stir in 3/4 to 1 bag of powdered sugar
Basically, keep adding powdered sugar until it looks like you want it to...

The above picture is too thin...

And the one below is just right...

Then, spread it on the first layer of the cake.
A butter knife works just fine for this, but my mother-in-law gave me this handy-dandy offset spatula for my birthday, so now I use it.  It's fancy :)

Top with another layer of cake, and then more icing...

AND THEN (if you are Katherine and not Kay) tragedy will inevitably strike.

1. your cake will split OR
2. your cake will slide.

See below.
I propped up the cake with a spatula to slow the slide.  Mom says this happens because I get in too big of a hurry and I don't let the cakes cool enough.  But she was ALWAYS in a hurry and this NEVER happened to her cakes.  ARGH!!

(worst slide ever: a groom's cake version of this... for 200 or so... and I was pregnant... but I think I won't scare you... we'll save that for another post).

And of course, in addition to the lovely slide, this cake ended up splitting, too.  But my friend Jennifer said it was still pretty tasty. 

And for those of you who like the babies more than the food...

This is what happened while I was icing. 

I have a really really tiny kitchen - practically no counter space at all - so I put the discarded cake pan on a stool.  My baby has just started pulling up, so he found it. 

Somewhere in his baby brain, something said, you should try to eat this stuff! (which isn't saying much, since apparently everything induces the same reaction in him)... 

So he did!

And you know what? He liked it!
Some things no one has to teach you :)

For the cake:
2 sticks Parkay Margarine (you can use butter or another kind of margarine, but it won’t taste the same) room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup boiling water

Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease one half-sheet pan or 2 9 inch round cake pans.  You can also make cupcakes.

Place the baking soda in the cup of buttermilk and set aside.  Cream the margarine and the sugar.  Add the eggs, beating well after each.  Add the vanilla and salt.  Add the cocoa powder.  Alternately add the flour and the buttermilk/ soda mixture.  Do not overbeat.  Add 1 cup boiling water.  Pour into the pan you are using.  Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes (cupcakes/ sheetcake) up to 20-25 minutes (round cake pans).  Test by inserting a toothpick or skinny knife into the center.  It should come out clean if the cake is done.

For the icing:
1 stick butter or margarine
3 Tablespoons cocoa powder
6 tablespoons milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 lbs powdered sugar

Melt the icing in a saucepan.  Add the cocoa, milk, and vanilla, stirring until combined.  Remove from heat.  Stir in the powdered sugar until slightly stiff.  Pour over the cooled cake.

Note: If you are making a layer cake, be sure to let the cake cool completely before you ice it, or it will split.  The sheetcake and cupcakes are more forgiving J

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A matter of theology

Usually, this is a cooking blog.  But some nights, I don't cook.  Some nights, we actually go out.  This is one of those nights, so instead of a recipe, you are getting a funny kid story.

This week, to keep Dixon quiet during church, I allowed him to bring his crayons and some paper.  He glued two sheets together before we left the house to make a book - according to him, a Bible.  During church he illustrated it, and when we got home, he wanted to dictate the text to his father.

Here is the text:

God loves us.
We love church.
We love God.
God made some people.

I was OK until the last one... so I waited until Dixon went to bed to ask the scribe (Michael) - what does this mean? God made some people??

Michael said, "According to Dixon, God makes some people.  Mommies make the rest."

 My big boy a few days ago...

and a few years ago.  His obsession with bug spray is never ending, but oh, where did those cute fat cheeks go!!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Brussel Sprouts with Balsamic Vinegar

I was in my twenties the first time I ever tried a Brussel sprout. 
My mom was a great cook, and we ate a lot of fruits and vegetables, but when there was something she didn't like, she just didn't cook it.  And she was never quiet about her dislikes. 

Brussel sprouts. 

Except for the liver (and, OK, the coconut) these are all things I like as an adult. 

Plus, I have this rule that if my husband takes the time and effort to grow something in the garden, the least I can do is cook it and eat it... Although I have yet to figure out what to do with a rutabaga.

The Brussel sprouts stayed small this year.  Fertilizer? Random almost-snowy weather?  Who knows...  But the small ones are tender and absolutely delicious.  

And my favorite recipe is very simple. 

With tiny Brussel sprouts, spread them out on a baking sheet.  If they are larger than a quarter in diameter, you should cut them in half, lengthwise (Prime meridian, not equator).

Toss with olive oil and a little Kosher salt and roast in a very hot oven (425) for 12-15 minutes, stirring them occasionally to keep them from sticking. 

Take them out when they have yummy brown bits, as shown below.

Put them in a bowl and toss them with a little Balsamic vinegar.

Then add some Parmesan cheese.

And serve!  (here with pork tenderloin and orecchiette)

Even my mother eats them now :)  And this may be my greatest culinary success ever.  

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Crawfish cornbread - and cute kids :)

In spite of all of my resolutions yesterday, I once again made it to the parade without my camera.  Luckily, I passed some of my students, and one snapped this picture.  This was before the parade started, so my little boy didn't have any beads yet - in retrospect, a nice part of the evening, since long beads on him were directly in front of my eyes :)  Still, he had a wonderful time and is ready for New Orleans in a few weeks. 

Also last night, my baby ate crawfish cornbread (which he loved).  Actually, we all loved it, because it is delicious!!

Here is my mother-in-law's recipe:

2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp baking powder
6 eggs
1/2 cup sliced jalapeno peppers (I'm fairly sure she used a little crushed red pepper instead last night.  This much jalapeno makes for some very spicy cornbread).
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
2 medium onions chopped
16 oz. grated cheddar cheese
2/3 cup oil
2 large cans cream style corn
2 lbs. crawfish tails

In a large bowl combine dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, beat eggs thoroughly. Add other ingredients to eggs. Add egg mixture to cornmeal mixture and mix well.
Bake in a 12 x 14 inch well greased pan for 55 minutes at 375° or until golden brown.
You may half this recipe and bake in 9 x 13 inch pan, adjust cooking time to 30 minutes.
Good served at room temperature.

Oh, and in case the first picture didn't have quite enough cuteness for you, check this one out :)
That's my baby!!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Mardi Gras tradition - Bourbon Slush

For as many Mardi Gras celebrations as I've attended, there are surprisingly few photographs. 
Maybe because I rarely bring my camera to a parade. 

But tonight is my town's Mardi Gras parade... so, in celebration, here are some pics from over the years... 

Michael with the Indian at Mobile Mardi Gras... 2005.

My sister's first Mardi Gras in New Orleans (she's on the left), also 2005. 

My son at his first Mardi Gras in town - 2009.  

Before the parade in our town, we usually meet at my in-law's - a few blocks from the parade route.  Michael's mom makes jambalaya, crawfish cornbread, and king cake.  And I make bourbon slush. 

Except this year, she's letting me make the king cake!  I'm excited, but more than a little nervous.  Hers was the first homemade king cake I'd ever had, and she is an excellent baker.  Apparently my son wore her out this week - we had a childcare emergency and she very sweetly filled in.  

I resolve to get some better pictures tonight, but I wanted to post this recipe because it needs to hang out in the freezer for quite a few hours before it's ready.

Bourbon Slush
4 green tea bags (regular size) in 2 cups boiling water
2 cups sugar in 7 cups boiling water
Prepare above mixtures separately and let cool.  Mix and add:
1 large can frozen orange juice
1 large can frozen lemonade
2 cups bourbon
Freeze overnight, or for six hours...