33 Cookbooks

I love cookbooks. I never go into a bookstore without visiting the cooking section—and usually have to talk myself out of buying one or two or ten. As such, over the years I have collected quite a few. Thirty-three to be exact. And by 33, I mean that’s the bare-minimum-absolutely-must-have number.

The problem is that—in addition to the amount of precious space they take up—I rarely use the majority of them. And by majority, I mean all but 5 books—and for 4 of those, I only open to one recipe.

But, of course, I can’t bear to part with any of them. Thus I have decided to make it a point to dust these babies off and use them more often! What better way to help me stay on task than to rope you in as well by chronicling my navigation through all of them?

First up, I decided to start with quick breads…because, why not? Okay, so the idea wasn’t completely my own: awhile back Becca texted me that I should write about quick breads—and since I love them, it seemed like a logical place to start!

Quick breads are those which do not use yeast, but rather use other ingredients, like baking soda or baking powder, to leaven them. When I hear “quick breads,” the first thing that comes to mind is banana bread (or zucchini or pumpkin), but quick breads also include muffins, biscuits, scones, beer breads, and pancakes/waffles.

I mean, who doesn’t like at least something on that list? Or in my case, everything on that list! But I’m going to start with the one I make the most: banana bread. Actually, that’s a lie—I make pancakes and waffles the most, but I’m just rolling with it because my brain has already committed to banana bread.

For the record, I’m not being lazy when I say banana bread rather than Banana Nut Bread because I’m weird and I generally don’t like nuts in my baked goods. So if you’re not weird and do like nuts, then go ahead and add a cup of chopped nuts. Perhaps it’s the Texan in me, but I think if you are going to add nuts, pecans are the way to go.

This recipe comes from the Fredericksburg Home Kitchen Cook Book, 13th Edition. Or as it’s commonly called in my family “The Light Blue One”. My mother has the 12th Edition aka “The Yellow One.” Ironically you can find “The Yellow One” on Amazon, however, we (aka The Family) have always gotten our books—usually gifts for special life events, like moving into your own place—from Der Kutchen Laden (unless one of my aunts texts me after reading this to tell me otherwise!), which is a great little kitchen store on Main Street in Fredericksburg.

As you might have guessed from the picture, it is easily my most used cookbook (and yes, that’s coffee at the top and no amount of scrubbing will get it off). The original Banana Loaf Bread recipe was written by Mrs. Robert F. Heiden and debuted in the 9th Edition (I’m not sure what color that was)—so it should be in all subsequent editions.

A couple of things about the original recipe: it calls for shortening but since that isn’t always the easiest thing to find depending on your geography (like when I was living in Australia), I switched it for butter and never looked back. But if shortening is your jam, by all means, use that. Also, I upped the mashed bananas by ½ cup because I like that it keeps the bread it very moist (FYI dried-out banana bread is considered a tragedy in my house).

Banana Bread

  • ½ cup of butter, softened
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2.5 cups of mashed bananas (about 3-4 bananas)
  • 2.5 cups of flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a loaf pan (or set of mini loaf pans). Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each one. Add bananas and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Add flour and baking soda and mix they are fully incorporated. Pour into pan(s) and bake for 40-45 minutes (less for mini loaf pans) or until golden brown and inserted toothpick is clean. Flip onto a cooling rack and remove pan to allow to cool completely.

Or don’t because warm banana bread with a little butter slathered on top is divine. 😋

Bacon Makes Everything Better

BLTs are proof that bacon makes everything better because let me tell you I am not overly fond of lettuce and I hate tomatoes on my sandwiches.  They make it all soggy, but that is a rant for another day. 

However, add BACON and suddenly, I can tolerate both. Mainly, because I know what kind of strange looks one gets when one orders a BLT without lettuce and tomatoes. And yes, that “one” to whom I am referring is moi. What? Bread and bacon are part of my five food groups: coffee, tacos, cheese, bread, and bacon. Okay, okay….and fruits and veggies—but I’m just lumping them into one group. So six food groups. Eight if you count wine and beer.

But let’s not get sidetracked. BLTs. Heaven on earth (in my humble opinion) and if you want to make them better, make it a BALT (bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato) or if you wanna make it truly spectacular—don’t tell your cardiologist and make it a BA…because who doesn’t like bacon, bread, and avocado?

They’re super simple to make and yet, I usually only eat them out. Which is silly because right now we’re in a pandemic and there is no going out…except to the grocery store where you can magically buy all the fixins for a nice BLT. It’s a great summer dinner option, since tomatoes are in season and delicious, so you are (aka I am) more likely to overlook the sogginess factor and the only cooking you need to do is frying the bacon.

In my opinion (and I’m sure that’s totally why you’re here 😉), what truly makes a BLT great is the right bread—a thick sliced country style white bread—and thick cut bacon cooked until it’s nice and crispy. Then all you need to do is just layer everything and eat it quickly so as not to let the tomatoes make everything soggy. What’s easier than that?

If you plan on sharing, I’d quadruple the recipe. And if you have a ripe avocado handy, just add it—you’ll thank me for it later!

A Simple BLT

2 slices thick sliced bread (as I mentioned I prefer a country/homestyle white)
2 slices of thick bacon (if you add more, I certainly won’t judge!)
1 tomato
2-3 leaves of lettuce
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 tsp pesto
1-2 dashes Sriracha sauce

Fry bacon in a skillet (or whatever your preferred bacon cooking method is) until crispy. While bacon is frying, in a small bowl mix together mayo, pesto, sriracha. Set aside and slice tomatoes. Once bacon is crisp, remove from skillet and wrap in paper towel to drain off grease. Toast slices of bread slightly and spread each slice with pesto mayo. Layer bacon, tomatoes, lettuce and dinner is served! Easy, peasy, delicious, and done!

Oh and if you’re wondering, BLTs pair nicely with most things, but I think crisp dry whites (think viognier, dry chenin blanc, and sauvignon blanc from New Zealand) pair especially well.

Mmmm…bacon!

Upping Your Ramen Game

Every spring my university (West Texas A&M–Go Buffs!) would hold a Ramen Contest. As I can recall (but granted, it’s been a few years), there were probably about 10 or so categories into which you could enter your recipes, such as appetizers, desserts, most creative, healthiest, cheapest, etc.

For kids living off the stuff, this contest was a great way to either show off one’s Ramen culinary skills and/or pick up new and exciting ways to enhance your hum drum Ramen life.

Fast forward a few years couple of decades and I now live in New York City, where I was introduced several years ago to proper Ramen. O-M-G. The freshness of the veggies, the rich broth, the creaminess of the soft boiled egg–it was heaven. But also a bit of a splurge, as I never even dreamt of making it at home.

Then something magical happened. Over New Years–when I was visiting C&T in Florida–Christi made this amazing chicken ramen. And like the stuff I get in The Village, it was truly wondrous and I may have had two bowls. Okay, so I had two bowls and seriously contemplated a third until more wine & dessert distracted me.

However, I watched Christi make it and, while it was hands down one of the best meals I’ve eaten, it took a long time and a lot of prep work to make the magic happen. So, I threw it into the “too hard so I’ll just let Christi make this for me” basket and went about my life.

Several weeks later and still thinking about it, I decided what the hell, I was going to give it a try, but hoping I could find an easier recipe that was just as delicious, but a whole lot faster. Enter Pinterest, where you can find tens of thousands of ramen recipes. They all looked amazing, but most were just as–if not more–complicated as Christi’s recipe. And then I found it: Easy Homemade Ramen Bowls.

Winner Winner Ramen Dinner!

I scanned down the list of ingredients, which were thankfully minimal and decided to go for it. As I’m shopping for a few things that I didn’t have on hand, like ramen noodles and sesame oil, I called Christi to tell her I was trying a new (and infinitely easier) ramen recipe, at which point she begged me “I know how you are with recipes and thinking you need to modify them, but please, please, please follow the instructions otherwise it’s going to be awful.” Thanking her for the vote of confidence, I finished my shopping and went home to start cooking.

With the exception of substituting bok choy for the carrots, adding a splash of chardonnay (I couldn’t help it!), and including jalapeños and fresh cilantro in my toppings, I followed Dana’s recipe to the letter (you can find her original recipe here!) and it was so delicious and so easy!

Truth be told, I enjoyed Christi’s chicken ramen more, but Dana’s allowed me to have a delicious and healthy dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes, so it’s now become a staple dinner in my household. It’s so easy to throw together and customize to your taste there are absolutely no excuses to not up your ramen game.

Killing Thyme’s Easy Homemade Ramen Bowl (as adapted by moi!)

  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 head of baby bok choy (or spinach, but personally I prefer crunch of bok choy), trimmed and cut into thick slices
  • 4 cups veggie broth (or chicken or even beef but DO NOT EVER EVER EVER make ramen without using broth)
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • Very generous dash of white wine (I find chardonnay, viognier, and dry rielings pair well with ramen, especially if you like your ramen on the spicy side!) + more for drinking [you have to–it’s in the recipe! 😉 ]
  • 3 Tbsp (or more to taste) soy sauce
  • 1 Tbsp (or more if you like it hot!) Sriracha
  • 2-3 bricks of Ramen (depending on how soupy you like it–personally, I prefer less broth, so I use more noodles. also, if you’re buying ramen with flavor packets, throw the packets out!)
  • Sliced scallions for topping
  • Sesame seeds for topping
  • Sliced jalapeños for topping
  • Roughly chopped cilantro for topping
  • Soft boiled eggs (I make 1 per person)
  1. In a small saucepan, fill with water and a dash of salt and bring to a boil. (NOTE: I usually start the water and then skip down to complete Steps 3-5 before actually adding the eggs to boil.)
  2. Once the water is boiling, carefully add eggs and boil for 5-7 minutes, depending on how soft you want your eggs (I like mine at 5 minutes, but that grosses most people out). When cooking time is up, place in an ice bath for a couple of minutes to stop the cooking process.
  3. In a medium dutch oven (or sauce pan), heat sesame oil and olive oil on medium heat. Add garlic and ginger, and simmer until fragrant. Do not brown the garlic otherwise (Dana advises) you’ll get a bitter flavor.
  4. Splash in the wine and then add mushrooms, simmering until mushrooms soften, about a minute, stirring frequently.
  5. Add broth, Sriracha, vinegar, and soy sauce. Stir and bring to a simmer. Let it simmer for about five minutes. Taste and adjust by adding more Sriracha and soy sauce if needed.
  6. Add the bok choy (or veggies of your choice) and cook for about 3-5 minutes. I don’t time it, I just look at how wilted the bok choy is getting.
  7. Carefully place the Ramen noodles into the pot of simmering broth and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes or until tender.
  8. Crack and peel your eggs and then slice them in half.
  9. Carefully transfer the soup and noodles to bowls, and add your toppings.
  10. Grab your bowl, your chopsticks, your wine, and, as Dana advises, fall into a state of bliss.

Bon appetit!

 

Thirsty Thursday Mai Tai!

In trying to find pictures for Throwback Thursday, I realized I have a lot of pictures of adult beverages (that is said with pride, by the way!). As such, I’ve decided that rather than share pictures of me with bad 80s hair and glasses that legitimately covered half my face, I could easily share glasses of a much tastier kind. So without further ado, I present to you: Thirsty Thursday!

You cannot go to Hawaii and not have a Mai Tai.

SIDENOTE: Autocorrect wants to change Mai Tai to Man Tai, which is making me snort coffee out of my nose!

Sorry [wiping coffee off the laptop], where was I?  Oh yes, “you cannot go to Hawaii and not have a Mai Tai.”  Unless, of course, you are not 21 then you can totally go to Hawaii and not have a Mai Tai.  Same applies if you don’t drink.  Or can’t drink.

But if you can drink and do drink and are old enough to drink, then I feel like you cannot go to Hawaii and not have at least one Mai Tai.  It’s part of the experience.

I guess now would be a great time to mention that we’re in Honolulu–and we’ve just landed after a 9 hour flight from Atlanta. After we dropped our bags at the hotel, we walked around Waikiki for awhile and stopped in at Duke’s for a late lunch and our first drink (you can read about Tracy and my drinks from previous Thirsty Thursdays.  Christi had the Mai Tai pictured at the bottom of this post).  After that we walked around a bit more and then ended up at the hotel bar.  And before you make a I-cannot-believe-you’re-in-Hawaii-just-sitting-at-the-hotel-bar face at me, it’s not the standard-tucked-away-in-the-back-of-the-hotel bar.  It was a rooftop hotel bar where you could lounge by the pool or overlook the beach.  And the drink of the day was none other than the Mai Tai.

IMG_3840

Ironically, the Mai Tai did not originate in Hawaii or any where in Polynesia (where it tends to be the go-to drink), but in San Francisco.

Like all great things, there are some discrepancies about who created it and when, but the over all consensus seems to lean towards Trader Vic’s in the mid 1940s.  I don’t really know enough to weigh in heavily one way or another.  Plus, in the grand scheme of things Mai Tais are not my drink of choice–even in Hawaii–so I’ll leave the debating up to the aficionados.

However, I feel like with all this talk about Mai Tais, I’d be remiss if I didn’t leave you with a recipe for one!  I found Trader Vic’s Original Mai Tai recipe in an article by Rick Carroll.  If you click on the link, he is kind enough to give you a brief history of the mai tai, the recipe, and a list of places throughout the islands where you should drink one.

Trader Vic’s Original Mai Tai
  • Pour only 80 proof J. Wray & Nephew Rum over shaved ice.
  • Add juice from half a fresh lime.
  • Some orange curacao.
  • A dash of rock candy syrup.
  • A dollop of French orgeat (it’s an almond syrup usually made with rose or orange flower water).
  • Shake vigorously.
  • Add a sprig of fresh mint.

I’m also going to suggest an umbrella…just because!

mai tai

Aloha!

Pizza Night!

Growing up, Friday night was always pizza night…because who doesn’t love pizza?!?  Plus nothing goes with football like pizza (hey, we’re Texans!  Also upon further reflection–aka growing older–I’ve found beer to be a better accompaniment to football, but at five years old pizza is probably the better option).

Of course, until I moved to New York City, I didn’t realize how serious pizza was.  I mean, sure, I’ve always loved it.  But here?  Here you’d better have an informed opinion about crusts and styles and toppings.   There used to be a great pizza place up the hill from my house, but they moved a couple of years after I moved here and the place became [shudder] a seasonal accountant office.

Anyway, the point is that my pizza options are now limited to Dominoes (don’t get me wrong–sometimes you just need the coolness of ordering your pizza online and watching the Pizza Tracker thingy…no, I haven’t been drinking…much…) and the Italian place up the street, who admittedly makes a mean calzone, but you have to be prepared to wait at least an hour.  At that point you could just make it yourself.

MAKE IT MYSELF?!?!?

I do need to give props to Ann for having the brilliant idea, finding a sauce, and picking up supplies at Whole Foods.

I’ve never really given much thought about making my own pizza because while the theory of making pizza dough from scratch always seems too tedious (despite assurances by April about its ease and the tastiness of her pizza).  However, enter in the age of fresh pre-made dough (not the pop open can variety)….and voilà! now homemade pizza seems a lot more reasonable.

Plus the world is your oyster when it comes to sauces and toppings.  Although I find that when you have more than 3 toppings, the pizza tends to get too heavy and thick.  Of course, if you’re a fan of Chicago-style pizza then top away! Personally, I’m not and prefer thin slices with crisp, crunchy crust (and for the record, I felt that way long before I moved a borough away from Brooklyn!).

Through trial and error, I’ve found that baking the pizza in stages ensures a crisp crust and that everything is cooked properly.  Also I like it really garlicky and spicy, if garlic or spice isn’t your thing you might just want to use 2 cloves and less pepper.

Asparagus, Avocado, & Onion Pizza

  • 1 ball of pizza dough (as I mentioned, I purchase mine–but here are a plethora of dough recipes I found on Pinterest if you’re feeling adventurous)
  • Sauce (mix together the following ingredients):
    • 1/4 c. of olive oil
    • 4 cloves of minced garlic
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 tsp black pepper
    • 1 tsp red pepper
  • 1 small onion thinly sliced
  • 12-ish stalks of asparagus, cleaned and trimmed
  • 1 cup mozzarella
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 2 tbsp fresh basil topped

Preheat the oven to 450F.  Lightly oil a baking stone/cookie sheet.  Slowly pull and stretch the pizza dough to the desired size and thickness.  Spread the sauce on top of the dough–I use a pastry brush to make sure that it is spread evenly.  Bake the dough for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes, add the onions and asparagus and bake for 10 more minutes.

Once those 10 minutes are up, add the cheese and put back in the oven for 5 more minutes.

I know all the back and forth sounds a bit tedious, but trust me–it’s really not that bad and TOTALLY worth it.  After 5 minutes add the avocado slices and bake for 5 minutes more.  At this point, the cheese should be bubbly and the crust golden brown.  If not, continue baking until it is.  Once it reaches this point, pull it out of the oven and sprinkle with the basil.  Cut the pizza into slices and enjoy!

By the way, this pizza pairs really well with hefeweizen beer and fruity, dry white wines, like viogniers and dry rieslings–okay, fine and some not-too-buttery chardonnays.  Buon appetito!

Sunday Comics: #56 Easter Chocolate

I know this has been around for a long time, but it still makes me laugh…every.single.time.

Happy Easter! -xoxo-

easter chocolate

Btw, if you’re looking to up your Easter chocolate game, check out this recipe the BFF found on FB for Drunken Bunnies from delish.com  you’re welcome.  I meant, enjoy*!!

 

*totally meant you’re welcome

The Incredible, Edible [Deviled] Egg!

I love deviled eggs.  I could literally make myself sick eating them.  I’m quite certain that at least once [or ten times] in the last 4 decades, I have.  I don’t think I’ve met a deviled egg that I haven’t liked.  My aunt’s are probably my favorite [I’ll let them duke it out as to which Aunt holds the Deviled Egg title].  I asked for her recipe once and I got: “oh you know, it’s a little of this and a little of that.”  Great.  That was very helpful, thankyouverymuch.  So I did what I always do when I’m a bit stymied in the kitchen.  I fetch Granny’s or Ome’s recipe book–in this case, it was Granny’s–and then immediately kicked up the heat, as I think the creaminess of the egg lends itself to a bit of bite.

There are two things I have learned over the years.  First, I only make them in small batches, so that if I decide to eat them all in one sitting a couple of days, it’s not such a gastroenteritis nightmare.  Secondly, I start with a small amount of each ingredient I add.  You can always add more but there is nothing worse than adding too much mustard and having mushy, runny deviled eggs.

As such, it turns out to be exactly like my Aunt said:  it’s a little of this and a little of that.

So when it is a certain holiday and you find yourself staring at a colorful bowl of hard boiled eggs and wondering what to do with them, it is THE perfect time to do a bit of experimenting on your deviled egg recipe.  If you didn’t want to experiment on your own but wanted something different, try one of these recipes.  I tend to be a [somewhat] traditionalist and keep my recipe pretty basic.

Hard boil the eggs, cool them, peel them, cut them in half, scoop out the yolks, set the egg whites aside, and smash the yolks all together.  To that you are going to add:

  • mayo
  • sweet relish
  • a dash of vinegar (for just a bit of tang–of all the ingredients, this is the one you want to use the most sparingly!)
  • salt & pepper
  • mustard**
  • paprika or chipotle powder for garnish

**the mustard is how I decide what type of kick my deviled eggs will have.  EITHER I use [pardon me, do you have any…] dijon mustard for a spicy flavor OR I use yellow mustard and add chipotle seasoning powder into the mix for a  smokey-spicy kick.

I like to start out with a tablespoon or so of each ingredient [except vinegar–use about 1 tsp max per dozen eggs].  I alternate the mayo, mustard, and relish until the filling has a creamy, but not runny texture.  Add the seasonings. Do a bit of quality control tasting and once the filling is to your liking, refill the yolk indention of the egg white.  Lightly sprinkle paprika or chipotle powder on top for a bit of garnish.

TA-DA!  Yes, it’s that easy.  I’m telling you, the hardest part is not eating them all in one sitting sharing.   Bon appetite!

Birthdays Galore!

Yesterday started my birthday week. By that, I don’t mean it’s the week of my birthday, but rather: starting yesterday, I have at least one birthday a day until the end of the month (and yes, I know it’s technically 8 days, but channel your inner Beatles and work with me here people!). The only day in this week missing a birthday is the 29th. Anyone out there with a birthday on the 29th? My OCD is wanting the day to be allotted to a birthday! Of course, I have 2 birthdays the day before and 2 birthdays the day after, so I don’t reeeeeeeeally neeeed another birthday…

What birthday week has reminded me is that I’ve been slacking in the post dept! Remember last year’s birthday week? It was a bit crazy–fun, mind you–but crazy. Here they are again, if you wanna relive the magic! Hopefully they are properly linked to magically take you to the original post when you click on it. If not, yell at the technician (that’s me, btw, but alas I’m currently not taking complaints!).

Come To The Dark Side…
The Ruff Life of a Beach Dog
A Toast to Vegemite
Serefe, Coffee
The National Beer of Texas
Yo Quiero Tequila
Wicked Fun
An Apple a Day
Lions and Bears and Hiking...

I think birthdays are special–they are the one day a year that’s all about celebrating you. Unless, of course, you are Desire’, who also celebrates her half birthday. Her birthday is in February. February, in case you are unaware, is NOT conducive to sitting outside in NYC, drinking margaritas, eating Mexican food, and not getting frostbite–so we celebrate her birthday in August, when we can do all those things sans the frostbite!

Regardless of when you celebrate, do it in style: like we’ve done in the pic below! It is the pie we ordered for my boss’s birthday: sour cream and apple–The Little Pie Company’s best seller! And for good reason: while it sounds slightly weird, the flavors all meld beautifully together for a heavenly slice of pie…especially when enjoyed a la mode 🙂

IMG_1862.JPG