Sunday, August 28, 2011

Green Tomato Relish

Middle Tennessee has been extremely hot lately.  On top of the heat, we have had no rain.  If you combine high heat and no rain you get a tomato crop that is going south quick!   I watered my plants but continued to get lack-luster results.  The vines were beginning to die so the inevitable happened on Saturday....I pulled the green tomatoes from the vine....about two gallons of tomatoes and everything else was tidied up and readied for fall plantings.  However, what was I going to do with two gallons of green tomatoes? 

I remembered a recipe that Momma had tucked in the green box.  She called the recipe "Green Tomato Relish."  I think the recipe was similar to one she had tried at a local restaurant.  This was not an old recipe, but one that she had copied down in the last few years.  I am pretty sure that she never had the opportunity to make this relish.  She would have liked it.

So here is the recipe....when you decide to cook beans and greens this will want this!

Green Tomato Pickle Relish

1 gallon green tomatoes
6 onions ( I used Vidalia Onions)
3 green peppers ( I used red pepper and the color difference is great)

Chop the tomatoes, onions and peppers in chunks.  Place ingredients in a large plastic bowl and pour 1/2 cup of salt over vegetables.  Mix well, cover and let set overnight.

The next morning, rinse the salt off (1 time only) and set aside.

In a large dutch oven ( I think 8 quart) mix the following:

3 cups vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon of celery seed
1 tablespoon of mustard seed
2 tablespoons of pickling spice (tie in cheese cloth and drop in liquid)

Bring ingredients to boil and add the tomatoe mixutre.  Cook until crisp tender.  I was able to get 8 pints of relish.

The other gallon of green tomatoes are being readied for a Green Tomatoe Cake with Brown Butter Icing.   Looks like a great cake to take to the mountains this weekend. 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Barbecue Fried Chicken....The REAL Way!!!

It has been a few years since I have taken the time to cut up an entire chicken and fry it.   We do not eat traditional pan -  fried chicken.  With the busy schedules around here, we buy pre-battered frozen chicken breast (probably chicken parts)  and pop them in the oven.   It has not been customary to fry a whole chicken at our house.  Many of you remember that chicken did not come in nicely packaged containers with two split breast.  Chicken came one way....WHOLE!   Since it has been offered in the grocery store already butchered, we have purchased chicken pre-cut!  My children do not know how to cut up a whole chicken (I think it is time for a cooking lesson)!
As a child, fried chicken was a staple in our diet (the whole kind...including the gizzards and livers).  Momma fried chicken at least once a week.  When we got older, she started buying Banquet Fried Chicken and baked it in the oven.  Every now and then we would get the "Pièce de résistance" .....her Barbecued Fried Chicken.  It was a sweet and tangy sauce that was poured over the chicken and simmered for an hour.  It was a recipe that Momma carried to family get "togethers", dinner on the ground at Rowesville church and other special events.  I still remember the flavors today.  It is funny how you can remember certain foods from your childhood.  I certainly remember this dish.

I learned how to cut up a whole chicken by watching Julia Child.  I watched Julia's cooking program on Saturday mornings on public television.  I didn't watch it all of the time, but was able to catch enough shows along the way to learn how to cut up a chicken....thank you Julia.

As I opened up the Green Box (my Mommas recipe box), the first recipe I found was the Barbecue Chicken.  I knew I had to give it a try.  Although, I will state up front.....this is NOT a Weight Watcher recipe!  The wonderful flavor and aroma of fried chicken and barbecue filled the house today.  Enjoy!

Homemade Barbecue Chicken

One 4 pound fryer cut into pieces

Place chicken in a shallow dish and cover with buttermilk and let set overnight

Next day
Fried Chicken Batter

Batter 1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder

Chicken Dip
2 eggs
1 cup milk
Dip chicken in egg and then dredge in flour.  For extra crispy chicken...dip and dredge twice.

Frying the Chicken
I fry my chicken in a large black cast iron skillet.  I filled the skillet 1/3 full of vegetable oil.  Heat oil and and place battered chicken in skillet.  Do not overcrowd.  Let pieces cook 10 - 15 minutes on each side (depending on size).  Wings and drumsticks (10 min)  breast and thighs (15 min).  Drain on paper towel.

Barbecue Sauce

1 cup chopped green pepper
3/4 cup chopped green onion
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 cup of tomato ketchup
1 1/2 cup of water
2  tablespoons  Worcestershire sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Place fried chicken in a dutch oven.  Pour sauce over chicken and let simmer for one hour.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Green Box

Some of my first memories in the kitchen were the recipes pulled from "the green box."  This box held a treasure trove of Momma's tried and true recipes.  Momma would clip,  cut and stuff every little recipe that she wanted to try into that little box.  She had index cards in the box with recipes written on them.  Each card had a letter on the tab written in black bold print.  I never had the opportunity to ask her why the recipes were written in such a random order and didn't correspond with the correct letter.  It didn't really matter, Momma new exactly where every special recipe was located. 

I was the lucky one to receive "the green box" and many of my Momma's recipes.   Sometimes I just open the box to see her handwriting.  I get such a sense of peace flipping through and looking at her handwriting.  Each recipe seems to say "Chris...remember when I made this?"  It took several times of opening the box before I stopped shedding a little tear each time I opened it.  Tucked far back in the box was her Jam Cake.  This cake was the centerpiece on the Christmas table (along with her fresh Coconut Cake) every year at our house.  Sandra made the recipe last year for our family get-together and flooded our home with the sweet smells of childhood.  It was a three layer dense cake with caramel icing...which I might add...turned out perfect every time.  She scoffed at humidity and was never a timid baker.

Today I found her recipe for Black Eye Pea Dip.  It was one of those recipes that she quickly wrote down on one of her writing pads.  Often she would be listening to "Talk of the Town," a local talk show on WTVF in Nashville, chatting with a friend on the phone or copying from the newspaper.  I knew that I had become a pretty good cook when Momma started asking for my recipes.  I found several of those recipes in "the green box."  When I saw them I smiled and tucked them back in with the other countless recipes.  Thank you Momma for keeping that box.....

Black Eye (Eyed) Pea Dip (enough for Coxey's Army)

4 cans of black eye peas with juice
2 cups of chopped green pepper
1/2 cup of chopped onions (Vidalia works great)
1 cup of chopped green onion
1/2 cup of chopped green chilies
8 oz of pimento
1/2 to 1 full cup of Italian dressing (I use fat free Zesty Italian)
1 tablespoon of garlic salt

I added 2 tablespoons of sugar (never hurts)
Juice of 1 lemon (the brightness really brings out the flavor)

Mix together and let sit overnight. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Best Pork Loin - Yay for Me!!!

OK...I am not a huge fan of pork loin.  I have never felt that it was a recipe that was my friend in the kitchen.  My first pork loin was a teriyaki pork loin that I cooked for my family in my first apartment almost 30 years ago.  I even cooked the same recipe  again for my future wife just a few weeks later.  She remembers that it was good...well good enough to take the leftovers  on a picnic the next day.  I guess that love is blind (at least blind for the stomach). 

Over the years, I have tried several recipes and have garnered the same results....a dry tasteless pork loin.  Usually the marinade for the loin was two heavy or the meat didn't cook properly or....the list goes on.  Needless to say, I signed off using pork loin a few of years ago....until this weekend.

Our local grocers had pork loin on sale this weekend and of course I volunteered to give it another shot.  Now, I do most of the weekly dinners around my house.  My wife ( the same lovely wife that bragged on my pork loin almost 30 years ago) usually loves my cooking.  My son, the picky eater, will try most things but keeps very few dishes in his permanent food repertoire.  My daughter that is a junior in college always eats whatever I cook as long as she can share her daily activities over dinner.  Seriously, they generally love my food and are great fans.

After reading several recipes, I knew the key was a great marinade and proper cooking.  I created my own marinade and decided that long and slow cooking was my best opportunity for success.  IT WORKED! The pork loin was incredibly moist and the flavor was delicious.  I baked the pork loin on Sunday, took it out and let it rest.  We decided to wait to eat it until Monday dinner.  I was worried about the re-heat but I was not disappointed.  It was still super moist and very flavorful.  This recipe will become a staple in my repertoire for family dinners or even guest.  Everyone liked it and I think momma Jane (who passed away three years ago and was my biggest food fan and the greatest teacher ever) would love this pork loin and might even call and ask me to bring her a little for a snack.   Of course right there!!!

Roast Pork Loin (3 - 4 pound)

1/4 cup of Worcestershire
1/4 cup of soy sauce
2 tablespoons of honey
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
2 tablespoons of orange juice
2 tablespoons of rice wine vinegar (great mild taste)
1-2 cloves of garlic
2 tsp of freshly grated ginger
1 tsp Dale's Sauce (every kitchen needs this chicken, pork, steak marinade)

Combine all ingredients and pour over loin which has been placed in a sealable plastic bag. Place in refridgerator over night.

Remove loin and discard marinade.  Place in roaster pan and cook for 2 hours at 325 degrees.  Take the pork loin out and cover.  Let the pork loin rest for 30 minutes before slicing.    

Saturday, August 13, 2011

My Homage to Miracle Whip

Saturdays are always full around our house.  It usually means getting up early, weighing in at Weight Watchers, groceries, cooking, cleaning, catching all know the drill.

Today was not much different.  I have been making every dish I can think of with the bounty of tomatoes that I have had this summer.  Just in the last week, the tomato production has slowed and for the first time in a month, I had to buy tomatoes.  I have several smaller tomatoes that will be ready in a few weeks, but the big initial harvest has passed.

After buying tomatoes at the local fruit market, it was off to go "Krogering."  Oddly enough, this is a Saturday ritual that Sandra and I enjoy.  We actually love it.  Being a food junkie like myself, it is kind of dangerous.  However, I have been a Weight Watcher for 6 months and as of today, I have lost 56 pounds.  It was a necessity due to a health emergency or health crisis I should say.  Diet and exercise has made Mr. Gregory a new person and for that I am truly thankful.

Today as we were walking through the grocery store trying to think of meals for the upcoming week, we decided on Tuna Salad for one of our meals and to take to work for our lunches.  I always try to make something on the weekend that will work for lunches and for  a couple of meals.  With tomatoes, other veggies, tuna and fresh mozzarella for homemade pizza in hand, we headed home.

Tuna salad has been a staple in my recipe repertoire since I was a teenager.  I can remember my Mother making tuna salad all the time.  She would take a couple of cans of tuna, pickle relish, boiled eggs and Miracle Whip and a meal would be made.  Yes Jane was a Miracle Whip kind of gal.  It was a  staple around our house.  Probably just as much as the five pound box of  Velveeta.  Her sandwiches, potato salad and even her fruit salad could not be made without Miracle Whip.  I will even admit to my Nannie's favorite sandwich of white bread, a pineapple slice and Miracle Whip.  What a treat on a summer day.  Now since I have married, I have not seen much Miracle Whip in my house.  Sandra is a mustard kind of gal.  We usually keep light mayo for recipes but for sandwiches, hot dogs or burgers, we  choose mustard. 

My recipe for tuna salad is somewhat different from my mothers.  I like the "everything but the kitchen sink" variety.  I usually add several cans of tuna, eggs, shredded carrot, celery, boiled eggs, capers, pickle relish, grape tomatoes and sometimes cucumber.  My dressing usally consist of mayo (the light version with olive oil for my Weight Watcher buds), Grey Poupon and lemon juice.  I put the recipe into my Weight Watchers recipe calculator and you can have one cup of my tuna salad for 5 points.  That's pretty good for a light meal. 

Before I started writing this blog, I decided to look up some informaiton about Miracle Whip.  Come to find out  it happens to have 64% less fat than mayo.  Who would have "thunk" it?  I guess Miss Jane knew what she was doing.  You have to find somewhere to cut calories when you use a five pound block of Velvetta.....her way to cut was Miracle Whip.   I just might have to stop and get a jar next week.  Don't tell anyone if you see me with some white bread and a can of sliced pineapple.  Weight Watchers doesn't have to know!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Taming the Mane

About five years ago, we purchased a cat.  She quickly became a part of our family and now....well let's just say that we couldn't live without her.  Our family member is Weezie.  She is our black smoke Persian cat.  She has beautiful long hair that is black tipped and as it gets closer to her skin it turns white.  

We all love Weezie...especially our daughter Sarah.   But since Sarah has been away at college for two years, Weezie has become a "Mommy and Daddy" kitty.  She is always around us and we are definitely her parents.   We love Weezie  BUT hate her shedding all over the house.  We especially despise the floating little tufts of hair that are found under chairs, tables and on the rugs.  Not only does it make our allergies go is just disgusting. 

Thanks to a dear friend, we have remedied the situation.  Weezie now has a spa day about every two months.  Her spa day includes a wonderful bath and a hair cut.  This hair cut is reminiscent of a lion.  She has a wonderful mane around her face with close shaved hair on the body.  She also has a pom pom on her tail with hair on the bottom of her legs that look like Ugg boots.

When Weezie came home after her first spa day, she was a little shy.  But after a little coaxing, she started prancing around the house and has not stopped.  We love our new little is almost like we have a new pet.  For all of you folks that have a long haired cat and the fur balls make you crazy.....try the Lion won't regret it.