Twice As Nice (Croatian Chicken Paprikash and a Warm Boho Salad)

Two New Favorite Dishes

Since I arrived home, I’ve been vacillating between the life I started to eke out a year and a half ago after the fire (sorry to bring that up again) and “life” — after 3-1/2 months in Minnesota — following Mom’s Parkinson’s diagnosis.

Basically readjusting to my space.

Yes, there actually is (or once was) such a place, but some days I forget what that feels like. Between multiple phone calls to/from the care center, my Mom, the Realtor trying to sell Mom’s house from afar, her doctors, home inspectors… let’s just say I’m workin’ on it… a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do!

Croatian Chicken Paprikash

Thank God for wonderful foodie friends who know me — or at least my love of GOOD foodand who’s recent recipes appealed to my sense of the familiar.

Pictured above is Croatian Chicken Paprikash by Jasmina Brasovic. OH MY! (Be sure to scroll down to her recipe for this on FB.) Even though my grandparents weren’t Croatian (they hailed from nearby Hungary), going back to my “Czech roots” — or at least the flavors that once fed me due to mutual proximity — has been instrumental in grounding me. I sooooo needed that!

Thanks, Jasmina, xo.

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Add to that an unconventional side dish: Maple Bacon Kale & Roasted Potatoes by Ally Phillips — a “warm salad” per my Boho friend, whom I know won’t mind that I subbed spinach (minus the chicken broth) and fried leftover baked potatoes in a pinch — and you have some extraordinarily good eatin’ on your hands (or plate), not to mention hearty Comfort Food by genealogical proximity.

Jasmina and Ally both have Croatia in common — twice as nice — plus exceptionally tasty recipes! My Grandma would have LOVED how these lovely ladies “cook.”

Nourishment is more than just eating — it’s food for the soul.

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Enjoying trying something new while attempting to get back to the “old,”

~ Kim

Thankful Thoughts

Ours was a simple affair — Thanksgiving Dinner for two, served in the late afternoon or whenever I got done messing in the kitchen — whichever came first.

Earlier in the day, I’d dug out the ol’ $5 box of rummage sale dishes and set the table with a “leaf motif.”  No frills.  Just favorites. :)

Appetizers were Honey Balsamic Goat Cheese Spread (“downsized”) and Avocado & Bacon Toasts.

Crudités (per se) consisted of dill pickle spears, my Grandma’s spiced pickled beets, and the cutest lil’ pickle flowers ya ever did see.  (I asked The Man Of Few Words if he minded that I cut up his beloved gherkins and he replied, “A pickle is a pickle, no matter how you slice it.”  Gotta love that man. xo)

Side dishes included one “oldie but goodie” and two new ones — baked sweet potatoes, Cream Braised Brussels Sprouts, and the best Cornbread Dressing I’ve ever tasted.  Sigh…

The pièce de résistance was Honey Orange Glazed Ham.  (I’m tellin’ ya, the glaze was soooo good, I served some on the side and ate it with a spoon!)

And for dessert… Pumpkin Pudding Pie for TMOFW and Pumpkin Crème Brûlée for me.  (The brûlées weren’t “brûléed” at this point…)

All in all, it was a lovely dinner.  We sat.  We savored.  We shared what we were thankful for.  We reminisced about family…

Did we miss ’em?  Yup.

But they were right there with us, in our memories and our hearts.

And in case you’re wondering, “What, no turkey and cranberries?!” — that’s today’s project.  I’ve got people to feed and food to share!

And I’m so very thankful for that.

Enjoying the bounty of God’s blessings,

~ Kim

Comfort Food II

Sometimes life throws you curve balls and after all of the scrambling around is done, the only thing you can do is sit down with a plate of comfort food and savor every bite. (Or at least that’s what I do!)

After some recent family health concerns (serious enough to make an unplanned trip to Minnesota), I was left with a feeling of wanting to connect with the familiar once I got back to Oklahoma. Since I grew up in the land of yah sure, you betcha, eh? :), it only seemed right to tap into my “hotdish” heritage.

Alternatively known as a casserole, covered dish, or the perfunctory “dish to pass,” hotdish is a comforting food indeed. Nary a potluck dinner or church supper goes by without someone exclaiming, “I MUST have your recipe!” (Some folks even come armed with recipe cards!) In a way, blogging is a bit like that — exchanging recipes “electronically” — and maybe that’s why I love it so. It’s comforting to share good food!

No matter what you call “hotdish” there are three requirements. It must be 1) hearty; 2) flavorful; and 3) big enough to feed a small army. (That’s where the sharing part comes in.)

Considering my repertoire of church cookbooks and recipes I’ve been blessed to receive, I could keep you supplied in hotdish for many years to come, but I decided to concoct one of my own. Let’s see… hmmmm… what are my favorite things?

Italian sausage. Sauteed mushrooms. Roasted red peppers. Olives (lots of ’em.) Mozzarella “pearls.” Onions, green and black. Pasta with some “tooth” to it.

Am I forgetting anything? Oh yeah… the link to my first Comfort Food post.  :)

Melded together with a tomato sauce of your choosing and a liberal dose of Mozzarella on top, you’ve pretty much got it covered… literally!

“My Favorite Things” Hotdish

7 to 8 oz. of your favorite pasta — farfelle, shells, rigatoni, etc. (I used penne rigate, which is described as having a sharp, diagonal cut on the end, similar to a quill pen) :)

1 Tbsp. sea salt, or to taste

1 lb. Italian sausage, hot or mild (I used Lovera’s Hot Italian Sausage from Krebs, Oklahoma)

Butter/olive oil/bacon grease (or a combination thereof…)

8 oz. whole mushrooms, quartered

1 sweet yellow onion, diced

4 to 5 green onions (including tops), sliced

2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced

2 roasted red peppers (I used Mazzetta’s Roasted Bell Peppers, a gift from Mom, xo), drained & diced

1/2 jar Mazzetta Napa Valley Bistro Blend Olives, drained

8 oz. Mozzarella cheese “pearls” (or cubed Mozzarella cheese)

1 jar of spaghetti sauce (I used Paul Newman’s “Sockarooni” Sauce)

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Grated Mozzarella cheese for the top — as much or as little as you desire

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Bring water to boil in a large kettle. Add salt and pasta; cook until al dente. Drain, but do not rinse.

Meanwhile, remove casings from sausage. Heat butter/olive oil/bacon grease (whatever combo tickles ya) in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and stir occasionally to break into “bite-sized” chunks, until browned and cooked through. Remove sausage to paper-towel-lined plate; reserve drippings in skillet.

Add the mushrooms and sweet yellow onions to skillet; saute over medium-high heat until golden. Add green onions, garlic, and red peppers; heat through, taking care not to fricassee the garlic. (!!!) Mix in drained olives, sausage, and pasta.

In the same skillet (or a large casserole dish or Dutch oven), combine the above with Sockarooni Sauce (or your own) and Mozzarella pearls or cubes; stir to coat. Mix in the Parmesan cheese ’til blended.

Put everything in an oven-worthy vessel (if you haven’t already); cover and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Remove cover. Sprinkle the hotdish/casserole/whatever with grated Mozzarella cheese; heat until melted, about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how “browned” you like it. Serve with warm bread and a salad.

Enjoying the comfort of sharing,

~ Kim

What’s your favorite “hotdish?”

Living The Foodie Dream

When you love food, it’s only natural to share that inclination with others — it’s what foodies do.  And that’s what my blogging friend, Missy, and her husband, John, have been doing since January 2nd — serving up platefuls of home cookin’ with generous sides of love.

It began as a dream to own a restaurant…

Known for her tasty quantity cooking at church dinners and the like, Missy mused, “Why not turn that into a living?”  Several months and lots of hard work later, the Main Street Cafe in Agra, Oklahoma opened under new management, and the rest is culinary history.

Situated 45 minutes north of I-40/Shawnee on Highway 18 (just up the road from Route 66), “Look for the oldest building in town,” says Missy.  A warm welcome awaits.  And some dang good chili.

Actually, the food was SO good, I forgot to take pictures of it!  (Well, most of it.)  Let’s just say that Missy’s burgers make Big Macs look like sliders.  And the fries… oh my.

In addition to standard lunchtime fare, Missy will be cooking up daily specials, as well as breakfast, lunch and dinner six days a week.  (That’s a lot of cooking!)  With the only restaurant for miles around, this food-loving couple is destined for success.

To celebrate opening, customers were treated to complimentary homemade pie…

It was a tough call… lemon meringue, key lime, chocolate cream, coconut cream — or cobbler?  (I picked lemon meringue; The Man Of Few Words had apple cobbler.)  No doubt, word will get around — this is the food that feeds mainstream America.

I’m proud of Missy and John for following their hearts.

In 2012, their dream became a reality.

And their sign aptly says:

Or… as Missy says:

When you have a minute, please stop by Missy’s website and congratulate her on living the foodie dream.  Although she won’t have much time for blogging now, I’m sure she and John would appreciate the encouragement — it’s what foodies do.  (Thanks!)

Celebrating dreams come true,

~ Kim

Boeuf… It’s What’s For Dinner

I don’t speak a lick of French, but I love the cooking terms.  They make me feel more animated.  (Not that I need any help in that department.)  Try saying ragout without a hearty goo on the second syl-la-ble, or mirepoix without a saucy little kiss at the end.  (Julia Child I’m not, but there’s joie de vivre in my kitchen!)

Earlier this month, we feasted on a fabulous roast infused with garlic and smeared with Dijon.  “Pardon me, but would you happen to have...  (Yes, the chauffeur was undeniably British, but Grey Poupon remains indelibly etched in my mind.)

After we ate our fill, I relegated the rest to the freezer for future consideration.  Then inspiration struck.  Voila!  Ragout.

Traditionally, ragout is prepared by searing fresh cubes of meat and simmering them to perfection.  However, my schedule requires speeding things up now and then — kinda like being on “Chopped” in the comfort of my own home, without Ted Allen.

But no matter how rushed I am, a mirepoix is a must.  The marvel of this 2:1:1 ratio of onions, carrots and celery cannot be overstated.  (Unless you dice the onions last — then it’s 1:1:2.)

Confession.  For all of my French word frenzy, I forgot to add one vital ingredient: Cabernet.  I dispensed it in a goblet instead…

Weeknight Ragout

Leftover roast beef (preferrably using this recipe)

2 T. extra virgin olive oil

1 c. onion, diced

1/2 c. carrot, diced

1/2 c. celery, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1 c. beef broth or bouillon — another fun word!

1 c. red potatoes (unpeeled), cubed

1 fresh tomato, seeded and chopped

Cabernet, to taste…

1/4 t. ground thyme

Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper

Green onion tops sliced diagonally, for garnish

Cut the roast into cubes; set aside.  Meanwhile, in a Dutch oven or heavy kettle, sauté the onions, carrots and celery in oil until translucent.  (Take your time — “sweating” brings out the maximum flavor.)  Add garlic; sauté briefly until fragrant.

Pour in broth and bring mixture to a boil.  Add potatoes and tomato.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until potatoes are barely tender.  If desired, add wine.  (Or not…)  Stir in beef and thyme.  Simmer until heated through.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Ladle into bowls.  Garnish with green onion tops.  Makes 2 lovely servings.

One last thing.  Ragout is generally more of a stew, thickened with a roux.  Woohoo.  But I was content with the way this turned out, so I served it au naturel. ;)  C’est la vie!

Enjoying ma petite foray in the kitchen,

~ Kim

Music, Inspiration, and Caramel Corn

Gumby here again.  Figured I better write something to keep the ol’ blog going.

(Don’t tell Kim I’ve been jumping on her keyboard.)

I see alot from where I stand — like how thrilled she was to bring home fresh Mozzarella and prosciutto and olives from Lovera’s Italian Grocery.  Made a nice looking antipasto plate for lunch, if I do say so myself.  (Sorry…  the camera’s bigger than I am, so I couldn’t take a picture.)

Lately, she’s been hitting the “other” keyboard (piano), too — something about helping a friend record a CD?  Whatever it is, she looks happy.

Music inspires her more than any other art form.  Except maybe for caramel corn.

(Yikes.  That close-up is bigger than me, too.)

Kim added honey roasted peanuts, so it was like homemade “Crunch & Munch.”  Good stuff.  (For the recipe, click here.)

In between practicing, she’s been watching movies (musicals, mostly) — it’s been too hot to do anything else.  Tell me about it.  How do you think the expression “rubber legs” got coined?”  Whew!  A little green guy could melt in this heat.

Here’s where she likes to relax.  Comfy and cozy.  And green. :)

Oops… movie’s over.  Time to lean on the ol’ paperweight.  Bye.

Filling in for Kim,

~ Gumby

P.S.  Woohoo!

Setting Things A-Rite With Alton Brown

After my vacation over the 4th, I promised you some travel highlights and food.  Now that it’s the end of July, I must set things aright (or a-rite as the title alludes…)  And, while I enjoy writing about my own food frolics, sometimes I simply must extol the virtues of “other people’s food.”

“Good heavens, what is she babbling about?” you may ask.

I’m talking about Maid Rites.

Maid Rites are a ground beef phenomenon on a bun.  A Midwest marvel in a sandwich.  A ticket to hamburger heaven…  Okay, you get my drift.  (The Man of Few Words agreed; he signified “aye” with his elbow.)

Simply put:  Maid Rite’s made right.  They’re served right, too.

Notice the classic “burger basket” presentation.  The sandwich is wrapped in logo-laden-waxed-paper with a generous side of hand-cut fries in their own paper basket, artfully assembled on a red plastic tray.  (The previous information was shared with the intent to avert your eyes from the “beef crumble” stuck to my sweet tea glass — oh well.)

The only embellishments necessary for a Maid Rite are thinly sliced dill pickles and onions, which are added when you order.

At the table, ketchup and mustard await in nostalgic dispenser bottles, which you may add.  (I don’t.)  No need to mess with perfection.  Love those little “maid” get-ups.  (Really — I do!)

FYI, hover your mouse over the photos for a summary of this review.  (I often tell a “second story” in the pop-up captions.)  Such fun. :)

Regarding the vacation re-cap, it pretty much consisted of 28 hours in a car with no air conditioning, more relatives than I could possibly include in one post, and R & R by the lake.   A good time was had by all, especially me.  There you have it.  A promise is a promise.

So where does Alton Brown figure into the scheme of things, besides our mutual penchant for road trips and diner food?

In a previous post, I mentioned Alton’s book, “Feasting On Asphalt.”  Not only is it highly entertaining fare, he included the recipe for Maid Rites (or a pretty darn close adaptation), which I know you’ll enjoy very much.  He also wrote a much more comprehensive review.  Give credit where credit is due, I say.

Enjoying the journey (and a Maid Rite or two),

~ Kim

P.S.  My review took place at the Iowa Visitors’ Center, where we stopped to cool off on the way home.  I’m happy to report that the “tipped” cows are now aright — or a-rite, whichever you prefer.  And, something new has been added…