Thanksgiving Trials and Tribulations: The Meal

On Thanksgiving morning, I got up at 6 AM to get my 20lb turkey, Tyrone, into the oven.  He had been brining in the garage for the previous 24 hours to ensure his flavorful tenderness.  After several careful calculations, I heaved him up and out of his brining container and into the sink.

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There is just nothing appetizing about a raw turkey.  Especially a raw turkey taking a bath in your kitchen sink.  FYI that’s a lemon from the brine, not a rubber ducky.

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06:30: Judging by the mess, there was some serious cooking underway at this point.

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Here I am mentally preparing myself to lift Tyron and escort him to the tanning bed.

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A few last words. Bye bye, birdy.

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Next on the list was to make the desserts and eat my breakfast since it was likely only about 7:00 AM at this point.  Please note my “Oops! All Berries!”, the traditional thanksgiving breakfast cereal. As I noshed on my nutritious meal, I made brandy apple cake and derby pie.  Technically, it was bourbon apple cake because I didn’t have any brandy and bourbon seems to make most things taste better.  This wasn’t the last of the bourbon for the day, either.

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My mom had gotten me this beautiful cake pan that was featured on the cover of Southern Living a year or so ago.  I was anxious to see how cleanly the cake would come out of the pan and nervous that it might tear.

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But it slid right out and looked lovely!

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The pie looked good, but I overcooked it.  While the taste was alright, the pie was so sticky that it stuck to my teeth like tar.  This is why I make multiple desserts…with bourbon.

09:00: Princess Eugene arose around this time.

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Meanwhile, I continued to baste Tyrone every 30 minutes or so.  The previous owner of the home designed a lovely chef’s kitchen but only put in one oven.   Have you ever cooked Thanksgiving dinner in one oven and in one day?  Trying to juggle a 20lb turkey, a cake, a pie, dressing, sweet potatoes, roasted nuts, and popovers meant that Tyrone’s legs were a little underdone.

I promptly started measuring for an additional oven.

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Looking golden, Tyrone!

About this time, I was roasting some pecans for the salad.  Eugene walked in and asked if I was making popcorn.  I gave her a very confused look and then ran to the oven to pull out my nuts that were so far past roasted that they were as black as night and beginning to melt into the pan.  I took the pan outside and left it on the patio to get rid of the lovely smell.  When I went to get the pan the next day, the nuts had been left untouched.  They were even too far gone for the squirrels.

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Ahhhhhhhhhhh!

At this point we had used every piece of cutlery in the kitchen.  That is not an exaggeration.  Things got especially tight when it was time for dessert.

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My collection of serving utensils is lacking.  And by lacking I mean nearly nonexistent.

As my mom finished up the gravy, she asked what I would like to put it in.  In my imaginary gravy boat, of course!  I scrambled for something suitable and came up with this silver nut bowl that was Aunt Anna’s.  I think the soup ladle 4 times its size really completed the look.

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Though we had a few challenges along the way, we managed to produce a nice meal.  It was tasty, but not as spectacular as we had wanted so we started to make a plan for next year.  Here’s a sneak peak at the menu:  (If you’d like to come, please bring your own tailgating equipment.)

  • Fried corn! How did we forget this!!??? This is a thanksgiving staple
  • Roasted asparagus
  • Dressing patties
  • Root vegetable gratin
  • Bourbon bread pudding
  • Maybe just a turkey leg?

We’ll try to have the additional oven installed by then.  Maybe we’ll have a proper table and chairs, maybe not.

Merry Christmas Eve!

Y’all keep it tasty,

Sugarlump

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It’s kind of not so great…

I recently purchased Gwyneth Paltrow’s new book, “It’s All Good,” intrigued by the idea of healthier and cleaner eating.  The book offers a lot of great information and recipes about eating diary-free and gluten-free.  It also discusses healthier choices for fats and non-meat proteins.  As someone with a sensitive stomach, I thought I might try out some of these ideas with my meals.  Don’t get me wrong though, you won’t catch me eating tofu lettuce wraps any time soon/ever.  Except that one time I made them for dinner at my parents’ house.  I tried hard to sell them to my dad as a delightfully healthy alternative to beef tacos and he just wasn’t buying it.  And neither was I.  So I decided to apply my new way of thinking about eating to a fairly familiar food: pizza.

I headed to Dominos one evening a few weeks back.  I went in and ordered a medium gluten-free pizza thinking that was the smallest size.

Dominos guy: “Oh we only have the gluten-free in a small.”

Me: “Ok perfect.  How much will that be?”

Dominos guy: “11.99?”

Me: “Wow that seems expensive for a small…”

Dominos guy: “Well you can get a medium for 7.99!”

Me: “I thought you said the gluten-free crust only came in a small.”

Dominos guy: “Well it’s not really gluten free.”

Me: “What do you mean? Your gluten-free crust isn’t really gluten-free?”

Dominos guy: “Well if you ordered a medium it wouldn’t be.  The medium is a better deal unless you need the gluten-free for health reasons.”

(DUH?  Why else would I order gluten-free?)

Me: “I’ll take the small gluten-free, please.”

Verdict: The pizza was pretty terrible and expensive.  I think I’ll stick to the real stuff and just eat it infrequently.

My next venture was speckled lima beans.  I must admit that I usually make these with bacon grease and on this occasion I fully intended to make them that way; however, there was no bacon or bacon grease to be found in my refrigerator.  Having carefully studied all of the critical pantry items for a dairy-free and gluten-free household, I had thought it was worthwhile to purchase a TUB of coconut oil at the wholesale club.  Never mind that I only cook a few nights per week, I hate coconut, and I am the only one in the household that will be using the coconut oil.  The 54oz tub was just the ticket.

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Seeing the tub of coconut oil sitting on the counter, I decided to throw a few healthy spoonfuls in as my fat for the beans.

Boy was that a misstep.

I thought it would be a subtle taste, but no.

I threw in a halved onion and 2 cloves of garlic to try to mitigate the undesirable coconut flavor.  It helped, but the coconut was still there in a big bad way.  Bacon grease and coconut oil are not similar flavor profiles in case you were wondering.

Verdict:  Good thing you can use this stuff as moisturizer.  I’ll be smelling pretty tropical for the next 23.4 years or however long it takes me to saturate my skin with that tub of coconut oil.

Having failed miserably with savory options, I thought I might have better luck with something sweet.

Nope.

I found this recipe that sounded great for a gluten-free fudgy chocolate cake.  How bad could that be?

BAD.

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It looked so pretty, but underneath that icing lay a very strange tangy, cleaning solution-like aftertaste and a chewy texture much like an actual dish sponge (not to be confused with the lovely texture of sponge-cake).

It nearly ruined chocolate cake for me.

In an effort to stay positive and salvage the situation, I have been scraping off the naturally gluten-free chocolate icing and eating it by the spoonful.  I now have a scalped cake in my refrigerator.

Verdict:  There’s a reason people bake with wheat flour.

I’m hungry.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

North comes South: Part II

Day 2 of my friend Blair’s visit was quite busy.  We started off the day with a plan to hike part of the Natchez trace and suited up in several layers of athletic apparel to face the nippy wilderness.  But first, we made a stop in downtown Franklin for a little retail therapy and sustenance.   I took Blair to several of my favorite spots: Iron Gate, Gino, Philanthropy and Anthropology.  Blair found a couple of cute pieces for Easter at Gino and then we decided a sweet treat was in order as delicious smells wafted over from the adjacent Meridee’s.  I had a strawberry pastry that I intended to eat just half of, but before I knew it, it had disappeared on me.  Blair got a cookie that I made a note to try sometime.  And by sometime, I meant later that afternoon.

As we walked to the car to head on to the Natchez trace, I lost Blair.  She was behind me one minute and as I went to unlock my Jeep and hop in, she was nowhere to be found.  I circled the car only to find Blair trying to get into another car two spaces ahead of mine.  We had a good laugh over that.

Our drive to the Natchez trace took us through the beautiful farms in Leiper’s Fork. I had never been over that way so it was an uncharted adventure for both me and Blair.  We saw lots of different animals. Blair was particularly taken by the horses wearing “sweaters.”  They were pretty darn cute.

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Don’t let this clear, sunny sky fool you; it was about 45/50 degrees.

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We arrived at the trail entrance and embarked on our hiking adventure a little leery of the heavily wooded/potentially creature filled path.  Thankfully, we didn’t encounter anything questionable except a swampy patch and a little horse poo.

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Not too far into our journey, we stumbled upon this beautiful view.

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Selfie alert!  Here we are at a large bluff along the trace.  You can’t judge us because there was not a soul within miles who could have possibly taken our picture.

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Limbo anyone?

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I was very interested in the neat shadow patterns of the trees.

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About 2 miles in, the trail opened up into this lovely lawn.

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Lots of pretty wildflowers.  Seeing this reminds me that I once suggested to my Dad that we turn part of my parents’ lawn into a meadow.  It was a no-go.

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We came across this memorial honoring the soldiers who traveled along the Natchez Trace during the war of 1812.

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We hiked the trail for roughly 4-5 miles.  Our pedometer seemed to be confused by our frequent elevation changes through the hills so our mileage was a little ambiguous.   We weren’t terribly concerned about it.  It was a nice hike and a nice chat and we were happy to have made it out of the wilderness alive.

It was 2:00PM by the time we wrapped up our hike and we were kind of hungry.  Just a little ways down the road, we stopped in “downtown” Leiper’s Fork for some lunch.  We first ventured into Puckett’s, which looked delicious, but neither of us was really in the mood for a rib-stickin’ meal of BBQ or meatloaf.  I was craving a salad (a very rare occurrence for me) and Blair thought something a little bit lighter sounded good, too.  We were about to head back to downtown Franklin when we spotted a little café.  Perfect! We walked in the door and started reading what looked to be a lovely selection of salads, soups and sandwiches.  The “host” greeted us with a very confused look on his face as he speculated, “Lunch?”  Not knowing any other commonly accepted term for a mid-day meal, Blair and I responded, “Yes?” (duh?).  He then informed us that the grills had been turned off.  We said no worries; we were hoping for salads anyway.   His frown deepened as he informed us that he wouldn’t be able to serve us salads either because apparently when the grill is shut down, this establishment that serves many things not prepared on a grill is paralyzed, and it is impossible to prepare anything edible for two hungry young ladies even though there were pre-packaged items staring at us in the refrigerated case in between us and Mr. No.  We left a little miffed and happily noshed on salads and fried pickles at 55 South back in downtown Franklin.

We arrived back at my place mid-afternoon and inadvertently took a power nap while catching up on some March Madness.  Then it was time to get ready for dinner.  On to the next meal!

Blair loves sushi so I knew I had to take her to Virago at some point during her visit.  Not only does it have great sushi, but it’s also one of my favorite restaurant designs in Nashville.  Good lighting, not too loud, different dining formats, great use of texture, interesting crowd, prime location in the Gulch.  It’s a pretty swanky spot.

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We sat at the bar so we could watch basketball.   After thoroughly reviewing the menu, we ordered sushi and drinks and settled in.  I can’t explain it, but something possessed me to order a cocktail spiked with jalapeno.  It was very interesting and mostly enjoyable until my sushi that contained sriracha entered the mix.  It probably didn’t help matters that I also dunked each bite into soy sauce mixed with a sinus-clearing portion of wasabi.   Towards the end of the meal I ordered a bowl of plain rice to counteract the inferno building in my mouth.

It was still a reasonable hour when we wrapped up dinner so we headed down the road to Patterson House, a throw-back speak-easy in Midtown.  We ordered fancy, chemically-engineered, hand-crafted drinks.  And doughnuts.

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We got to talking to the bartender (as this is the south after all) about the concept of this establishment and how it reminded us of a “mixology”-type bar in Boston, called Drink.  Much to our surprise, this bartender knew Drink because Patterson House had hosted several guest-bartenders from Drink recently.  This world is impossibly small at times.   We chatted with the bartended some more about her favorite places to eat in Nashville.   She recommended City House and Rolf and Daughters, two places high on my list to try in Germantown.  She also mentioned the Catbird seat, which is located directly above Patterson House.  I made a note to check it out.  Sadly, our new friend was moving to San Francisco in the near future, but it was nice to meet her.

And on that note, we concluded day 2 of our adventures.

Y’all hurry back,

Sugarlump

Easter Eatin’

Happy Easter, y’all!

I’ve been up to a lot lately that I will post about when I have some free time, which will be on the fifth of never.  Just kidding.  Kinda.

Even though these posts won’t be in chronological order, I thought I’d share my Easter while it’s fresh in my noggin.  My dear little sister, Eugene drove down from Lexington, Kentucky to join me for the holiday.  I hadn’t seen her since Christmas, which seems ridiculous since she lives only three and a half hours away.  She arrived last evening and we went out to dinner at Germantown Café, which we had been to last summer for brunch.  The brunch last year was fabulous and dinner certainly didn’t disappoint.

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My friend and her sister joined us and we ordered two appetizers to share: pork belly tater tots and fried green tomatoes.  I normally don’t like tomatoes but I didn’t mind choking these down one bit.  They weren’t half-bad; in fact, they were more than half-good. The pork belly tater tots were slightly smoky, but not overwhelmingly so, which was good.  I’m not a huge fan of smoky things, including cigarettes.  They were very rich but quite tasty.

For my entrée, I had the fish special, which was a panko-crusted tilapia with a Puttanesca –like medley over parmesan polenta and asparagus.  If there is ever a fish and grits/polenta dish offered at a restaurant, I will most likely order it.  It’s one of my favorite combinations ever.   This wasn’t the best I ever had, but it certainly hit the spot.

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We moved on to Holland House for drinks/dessert.  I ordered a drink on our waiter’s recommendation that wasn’t on the menu.  I don’t recall the name, but it was a bourbon-based concoction that tasted like fall in a tumbler.  Fall is my favorite season and bourbon is my poison, so I definitely enjoyed it.  It didn’t hurt that Holland House is such a neat scene with its dim-lighting and parlor-like feel with just the right balance of rustic and refined décor.  Initially I had wanted to sit at the bar to people watch and observe the theatrics of the bartenders making their artisan cocktails, but it worked out that we were seated by the fireplace since it was a cold, rainy night.  We ordered dessert to finish off the evening.  My sister and I split a flourless chocolate cake with a scoop of homemade carrot cake ice cream.  The dessert wasn’t as spectacular as the drinks, but all in all, it was a fun evening.

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After church this morning, my sister and I headed over to Pancake Pantry, which I have been wanting to try since I moved here.  I was forewarned that there would be a line down the sidewalk and today was no exception.  Poor Eugene toughed it out in the rain with me, each of us with a malfunctioning umbrella and no outerwear, for about 45 minutes.  Thankfully, the food was worth the wait otherwise I think she would have killed me.  She ordered pecan pancakes and I ordered chocolate chip.  We also rounded out the meal with an order of sausage patties and hash browns.   The pancakes were superb and the sausage was the good stuff.  The hash browns, while good, were clearly crisped up on the griddle with Parkay margarine.  I know this because Parkay has a very distinct flavor which I first experienced as a child when I insisted we purchase the Parkay spray margarine I had seen on TV because it looked like fun to use.  It is not tasty and I’m going to have to dock Pancake Pantry a few points for this faux pas.  They have a good thing going with their pancakes with whipped butter, though.

In my typical fashion, the visit was centered around food.   Eugene didn’t seem to mind and I didn’t have to cook.  Not that I mind cooking, but I still don’t have barstools so there isn’t a proper place to sit and eat a meal in my apartment.   I’m working on it though.  Thank goodness Nashville has a lot of great restaurants.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

A Very Costly 46 Cents

I’d like to start by saying that I pay most of my bills online as this is my preference for the sake of efficiency, peace of mind and instant gratification.  Two of my utility companies, however, are stuck in the previous century and charge a fee of roughly 10% of my bill to accept payment electronically.  I refuse to pay this outrageous fee given it is significantly higher than the cost of a stamp (even though postage has gone up).

As I went to pay my two paper bills by check (quick poll: how long do you think before checks are obsolete?), I realized I only had one stamp.  No problem, I would stop at the mail center store just down the road from my apartment when I was out running errands.

I pulled into the parking lot for the mail center store toward the end of the day only to find that the store had gone out of business in the month since I had been there last.  If only I had to pay more bills by mail so I could have kept them in business.  It sure was a handy location.

The bills sat in my car for the next few days as a reminder to buy stamps at a less convenient location.

On my lunch break a few days ago, I headed out to McDonald’s for some McNuggets.  I’d had McDonald’s on the brain ever since one of my coworkers ate a sausage biscuit in front of me as my stomach growled, unsatisfied with the oatmeal and blueberries I’d had for breakfast.  Feeling slightly guilty for straying from my healthy choices, I asked if anyone else wanted anything from McDonald’s.  My pregnant boss asked for a medium order of fries.

I went through the drive-thru and headed back toward the office.  When I was almost there, I happened to glance down and notice my bills in the center console.  I figured I might as well stop off and get some stamps while I was out, so I made a U-turn and drove to Fedex Kinko’s.  I waited at the counter for about 5 minutes as the 3 employees decided not to pay attention to me.  When one finally came over, he told me that they don’t sell stamps but the Walgreens across the street does.  So I hopped back in the car and drove over to Walgreens.

I arrived at Walgreens to utter chaos. There were two checkout lines, both manned by people who seemed to have the opposite of a sense of urgency despite the fact that there were about 10 people in line.  I waited in line for nearly 10 minutes as the cashier studied each of the purchases of the people ahead of me.  I was delighted to wait in line on this dreary, raw day as the young boy in front of me, wearing basketball shorts and no coat, proceeded to cough up a lung.

I finally made it through the line and asked the cashier where the nearest mailbox was.  The woman behind me in line suggested I take my bills to Fedex Kinko’s just across the street.

So I headed BACK to Fedex Kinko’s.  A line had formed and the staff seemed flustered.   Seeing a box that said “outgoing packages,” I walked up to the desk and asked one of the employees if she would kindly just toss my bills in the “outgoing packages” box.  She proceeded to tell me that they don’t take regular mail, but there is a mailbox in the shopping center down the road.  Just fabulous.

I headed down the road to the mailbox and dropped off my very irritating bills. I probably wasted at least a gallon of gas and 30 minutes on this adventure for a stamp.  And by the time I got back to work, I had only room temperature French fries to present to a pregnant lady.  It might have been worth that online fee after all.

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Continuing my brilliant success at life, yesterday, I vacuumed up my phone charger.

Y’all be smart,

Sugarlump

Lemon Hummus

I like lemon hummus.   My mom got me hooked on it years back.  No other hummus seems to measure up to the fresh, savory taste of lemon hummus.  Trust me, I’ve tried them all.  Since moving to the South, I have been unable to find lemon hummus available for purchase.   Not that I’ve been able to find it unavailable for purchase.  I haven’t been able to find it at all.

So I got the bright idea to make my own lemon hummus.  I looked up several recipes for a basic hummus and realized that I would need to get myself some tahini paste, which all recipes assured me was available at any grocery store these days.  I headed out to Kroger on my lunch break and placed my bet on the international food isle.  No tahini paste to be found among the other 439 pastes/sauces, some of which were made from a) things I had never heard of and/or b) things I would not like a paste/sauce made out of.  But that’s another discussion for another time/never.

I must have looked perplexed because a nice man who worked at Kroger came over to see if he could help me.  I asked him for tahini paste.  He thought about it for a minute and then remembered that another lady had been in earlier that day looking for the same thing.  He motioned for me to follow him to the organic food isle, where he presented me two tahini paste options, which I had no way of discerning a difference in as they were the same size and price.  I thanked him, picked up the jar that had cuter packaging and walked to the register.

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The cashier scanned the jar and said, “That will be $9.67,” and held up the jar in disbelief.  Tahini paste will set you back a pretty penny, let me tell you.  I said to him, “Yeah that stuff isn’t cheap.  I guess it’s so high because it’s organic.”  He said, “Did you want the organic specifically? Because there are two or three other options in isle 2 and isle 5.”  Now you tell me.  I decided that if I were making my own hummus, which is about as granola crunchy as I get, it might as well be organic.  So I sucked it up and spent a month’s pay on that silly tahini paste.  Feeling a little too natural, I went straight to Chick-fil-a for a 6 count nugget kids’ meal.  It really hit the spot.

After work, I came home and turned on the Alabama -Notre Dame game.  What a nailbiter. About 10 minutes into the game, I determined it was probably safe for me to go get started on my hummus.  I pulled out my food processer, which weighs more than a small child and has more attachments than I can find space for in my cabinets.

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Here’s what you will need for the hummus:

·         1 can Chickpeas, drained and rinsed

·         2-3 cloves Garlic, chopped

·         1 lemon, zested and juiced

·         2 tbsp. Tahini paste

·         Salt to taste

·         ½ tbsp. Olive oil

·         1-2 tbsp. water

·         You might add a pinch of cayenne pepper to give it a little kick.  I haven’t verified yet whether or not that’s a good move.

Drain and rinse a can of chickpeas.  Chop up several cloves of garlic.  I would go for 3, but I really like garlic. I also happen to dislike vampires, so that works out really well for me.

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Throw the chick peas, garlic, tahini paste,  juice and zest of a lemon, a few dashes of salt and 1 tablespoon of water into the food processor.  Pulse until the ingredients are combined and fairly smooth, adding more water as needed to help the ingredients blend.  Drizzle in olive oil while pulsing at the end.

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Now, do yourself a favor and start spreading this hummus on wheat bread with honey maple turkey, a few slices of red onion and lettuce.  You don’t know what you’re missing.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

Christmas Traditions

This year marked a big transition in tradition for the Dyer household.   Instead of having our family Christmas at my parents’ house as we have always done, I hosted here in my new hometown of Nashville.

In my one bedroom apartment.

I didn’t foresee an issue as I have a large sectional that can sleep two people so I knew all four of us would have a comfortable place to sleep.

What I didn’t foresee was the blanket shortage.  I wound up sleeping under my robe.

It’s ok though.  Santa still showed up and we had our family Christmas.

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I may need a bigger place if I plan on hosting regularly.

After our family Christmas on Christmas Eve morning with just me, Eugene and my mom and dad, we headed to Kentucky for Christmas on Christmas Day with the extended family.

Got that straight?

We always sleep at my dad’s parents’ house on Christmas Eve.  My aunt, uncle and cousins live just down the road so they do their family Christmas early in the morning and then head to my grandparents for the big family Christmas on Christmas Day.

Christmas morning, Granny made sausage gravy and biscuits.  Man that stuff is good.  I certainly couldn’t eat it every day but then again my great grandparents did and they lived into their 90’s so maybe there’s something to that.  I’ll have to ponder that at a later time when I’m feeling less full.

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Per tradition, we started with our stockings.  Among other lovely items, there was a Starbucks gift card, which it looks like I could have used that morning if the nearest Starbucks weren’t over 70 miles away.

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After the stockings, we moved into the living room and the youngins passed out the gifts.  Eugene found a tagless gift, which was cause for great concern.

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My mom and Aunt Vickie received some money in shot glasses from Santa (Papa).  I found this hilarious.  I’m glad Aunt Vickie thought so, too.

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Granny got her box of tide with a dollar bill from Papa.  He’s been doing this for decades and I’m still not really sure how it started.  Maybe someday I’ll get to the bottom of it.

After Christmas at my dad’s parents’ house, we headed down the road (literally) for Christmas with my mom’s parents.

I went straight for a bourbon ball….or two.   I have a wicked sweet tooth and there’s no telling when it will strike.

We settled into the living room and opened our gifts.  It wasn’t the same without my aunt, uncle and cousin on my mom’s side, but we were certainly thinking of them and wishing they could have been with us.

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After seeing the photo that my parents sent out unsupervised in the family Christmas card this year where I look possessed, Eugene and I insisted that we supply suitable photographs for next year’s card.  We had my dad take about 437 photos and this was one of the better ones.

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With cameras retired for the day, we ate the delicious Christmas dinner that Grandmother had prepared for us.

Then I had a few more bourbon balls and a piece of rum cake.

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We played a game of Scrabble, one of our favorites.  I wasn’t on top of my game.  There’s only so much you can do when dealt X, B, J, H, L, L, T.  That, and most of the blood in my body was likely trying to aid in the digestion of the forty pounds of food I had eaten in the past few hours instead of pumping through my brain for a stroke of vocabulary genius.

And then I might have had another bourbon ball.

And then some leftover dressing from Christmas Eve dinner back at Granny and Papa’s.

And a piece of the jam cake cousin Lauren and I made on Thanksgiving and let ripen for Christmas.  It was scrumptious.

I think I’ll be full until next year.

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These things are the devil.

Y’all be careful,

Sugarlump

Chicken Enchiladas

Anyone who knows me well knows that I could eat Mexican food for every meal.  This preference stems all the way back to a childhood of begging to go to Taco Bell or to make tacos at home as often as possible.  As I’ve gotten older, my Mexican palette has expanded from crunchy tacos with meat and sour cream ONLY to guacamole, enchiladas, Mole and fish tacos.  I can make a mean taco, but I decided it was time for me to tackle homemade enchiladas.

I’ve looked at lots of recipes and watched various celebrity chefs make them on TV. I’ve taken note of the components of enchiladas at my favorite Mexican spots and I concluded the following as I developed my recipe:

1)      The enchiladas must be chicken enchiladas.

2)      The chicken must be shredded so as to absorb the delicious sauce and flavor.

3)      The tortillas must be corn tortillas.  This is critical not just for taste, but also for texture.

4)      No cumin allowed.  I don’t know why, but I just don’t care for this flavor.

5)      Spicy is better, just not so spicy that you can’t feel your mouth.

6)      Cream cheese is an excellent addition to the sauce inside and on top of the enchiladas.  It adds a touch of richness, balances the heat of the hot peppers, and it’s a little bit tangy.  Nobody wants an enchilada lacking in flavor and cream cheese won’t let you down.

7)      The tortillas must be soft in order to roll them.  I prefer not to dunk them in a bunch of hot oil (the best way to keep them from splitting and to hold their shape) so I microwave them between a few damp paper towels.  Not so authentic, but it means I can eat enchiladas more often, which is the ultimate goal here.

Now that we’ve covered those details, I’m hungry.  Let’s make some chicken enchiladas.

These ingredients will soon be combined in nothing short of deliciousness.  Don’t forget the tomato paste like I did in this picture.  It’s a critical player.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Rub a boneless, skinless chicken breast with olive oil.

Sprinkle both sides with chili powder, paprika, season salt, and garlic salt.  Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through.

After it’s done, allow the chicken to cool for a few minutes.

Then, using your best tools (your clean hands) shred the chicken.

Chop up onion, garlic and jalapeno, seeds and all.  Please try not to touch your face until you’ve thoroughly washed your hands or you will be very sorry.  I speak from experience.

Sauté onion in olive oil over medium heat until translucent.

Then throw in the garlic and half of the jalapeno, allowing them to soften for about 30 seconds.

Sprinkle in the rest of the chili powder, paprika and season salt.

Drop in half of the cream cheese.

Pour in half of the chicken broth.

Plop in the tomato paste.

Stir all of that deliciousness together until combined.

Throw in the shredded chicken.

Let everything hang out together until the sauce has reduced a bit.  It should be thick and absorbed into the chicken.  It shouldn’t be too loose or assembling the enchiladas will be a disaster.

Once reduced, remove the chicken from the skillet and set it aside.

Then be lazy like me and throw the rest of the cream cheese into the same skillet.  This will actually catch some of that good flavor left in the skillet.  Laziness or genius? Most likely both.

Add in the remaining chicken broth and jalapenos.

Mix everything together and reduce until slightly thickened.

Microwave the stack of tortillas in damp paper towels for a minute or so on low power to soften them.

Then start assembling by placing 1/8 of the chicken mixture in each tortilla, rolling them up and placing them in the baking dish as you go.

I didn’t do the best job preventing these from tearing slightly.  Oh well.  Nothing a little bit of sauce and cheese can’t cover up.

Then cover the top of the enchiladas with the cream cheese sauce.

And then top ‘er off with the shredded cheese and bake the enchiladas for 15-20 minutes on 300 until the cheese melts.

Here is the final product.  Enjoy!

Y’all come back and visit,

Sugarlump

Ingredients:

  • 1 large boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp season salt
  • ¼ tsp garlic salt
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 cup chicken broth
  • Approximately 2/3 package of cream cheese
  • 8 small corn tortillas
  • ½ cup shredded cheese

1)      Cover chicken breast in 1 tbsp olive oil and then season with 1 tsp chili powder, ½ tsp paprika, ¼ tsp season salt and ¼ tsp garlic salt.  Bake at 400 degrees on a baking sheet for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through.  Let cool and then shred chicken.

2)      Sauté onion in 1 tbsp of olive oil until translucent over medium heat.  Add in garlic and ½ of the jalapeno, cooking for approximately 30 seconds before adding remaining chili powder, paprika, and season salt.  Add in 1/2 of chicken broth, the tomato paste, and 1/2 of cream cheese.  Mix together until combined.

3)      Add shredded chicken to mixture and allow to reduce until most liquid is absorbed.   Set aside in a separate bowl

4)      Using the same skillet, add remaining cream cheese, chicken broth and jalapeno pepper, whisking together until incorporated.  Let thicken.

5)      Wrap stacked tortillas in damp paper towels and heat in microwave until soft.

6)      Assemble tortillas, placing them in a baking dish.  Once all tortillas are assembled, cover them with cream cheese sauce and shredded cheese.

7)      Bake at 300 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted.

Hearty Turkey Chili

I love a hearty chili in the winter.  I do not, however, enjoy the taste/aroma of cumin, which is an ingredient found in most chili so I have come up with my own recipe.  I also tried to make it a little bit healthier than the standard chili by using ground turkey and chicken sausage.

Here’s what you’ll need.  Just about everything.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1lb ground turkey

2 links hot chicken sausage, casings removed

2 cans cannellini beans

1 can diced tomatoes with juice

½ can tomato paste

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 teaspoons garlic, minced

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

2 cubes/packets beef bouillon

1 cup beer

1 ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano

½ teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon white sugar

2 cups chicken broth diluted with 2 cups water

½ cup sour cream

½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

This recipe is especially healthy because you also get a workout chopping vegetables.

Chop the celery and put it in a bowl large enough for all of the chopped vegetables.

Then chop the bell pepper.

And then chop the onion.

Fight back the tears.

And then chop the jalapeno, seeds, ribs and all.  This chili is not for sissies.

This photo is slightly blurry because I was still crying from chopping the onion.

Like I said, this chili is not for sissies.

Finally, chop the garlic.

Behold that bowl of healthiness.

Then prepare your ingredients for battle.

I recommend pre-measuring all of your herbs and spices to make the dumping into the pot process go a little smoother.  I would also go ahead and open all of your canned goods and beer.

Speaking of beer…

I don’t drink beer so I made a special trip to Whole Foods nearby where they sell beer by the bottle instead of by the 6-24 pack.  I went and picked out Sam Adams’ Octoberfest and headed to the register.  The young guy at the register asked me if that was all.  I said yes.  He then kind of smirked at me and asked if I wanted him to open my beer for me.  I said no.  He didn’t know what to make of me.   I don’t either.

As it was time for me to prepare the beer to be poured into the pot, I realized that I don’t own a bottle opener.  I have an electric wine opener, but nothing to open this pesky bottle of beer.  I looked to see if my can opener had the grooves in it like some of them do to open a bottle.  Nope.  I searched all around my utensil drawer for something that might work.  Nothing.  I dug around in my tool box and tried using a screwdriver.  Not happening.  I was about to give up hope when I remembered I had a paint can opener from the last time I bought paint at Home Depot.  Wouldn’t you know that the other end of the paint can opener is a bottle opener?  I’m a little late to the party on this realization, but at least I was able to open that darn bottle of beer.

Ok, back to business.  Unpack the meat.  This means you must remove the raw chicken sausage from the casing.  I promise, it will be worth it in the end.

Heat up the olive oil and then throw the ground turkey and the chicken sausage into a large stock pot to brown it up real good.

Here’s what it will look like.  Yum!

Not.

I promise it gets better from here.

Throw in the beans…

The diced tomatoes…

The tomato paste…

All of those glorious vegetables that you chopped for hours…

The seasonings…

The tabasco sauce…

The Worcestershire sauce…

The be-ah….

Some of the chicken broth and water…

And by now your pot should be very full.

Put the lid on and let her go for 2-3 hours on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally and adding chicken broth and or water.

When it’s done, it should look like this.

Yum!

Serve it up with a nice, healthy dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of cheese.

Y’all eat up,

Sugarlump

Here’s a more compact version without all of my helpful commentary:

Hearty Turkey Chili

Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil

1lb ground turkey

2 links hot chicken sausage, casings removed

2 cans cannellini beans

1 can diced tomatoes with juice

½ can tomato paste

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 teaspoons garlic, minced

2 stalks celery, chopped

1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped

2 cubes/packets beef bouillon

1 cup beer

1 ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano

½ teaspoon dried basil

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon white sugar

2 cups chicken broth diluted with 2 cups water

½ cup sour cream

½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Chop and pre-measure all ingredients.

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Once oil is hot, break up ground turkey and chicken sausage in pot and cook until browned.

Add rest of ingredients to pot and stir.  Cover and simmer over medium-low heat for 2-3 hours, adding 1 cup of chicken broth mixture and stirring every 20-30 minutes.

Remove from heat and serve with a dollop of sour cream and shredded sharp cheddar cheese.