Kentucky Woman

Dear Anne,

I have been in the Commonwealth of Kentucky for almost a month, and I have to say I don’t hate it.  I never thought I’d be living in the South, at least not this part of the South, and I certainly never thought I’d enjoy it.  My first weekend here, a friend from home visited.  She recently moved to the Carolinas to teach outside of Charlotte, which is about 8 hours away.  I’m glad she did because it forced me to get out of my apartment and explore Louisville.  Our adventures were quite fun, and definitely had a culinary theme.  We took a ride on the Spirit of Jefferson, walked the pedestrian bridge to Indiana, walked around Cave Hill Cemetery and saw Colonel Sanders’ grave.  Later, we stumbled up on the world’s fanciest KFC — KFC 11.  No one knows why it’s so fancy, but it is.  We also went to Comfy Cow, which is number two on this recommended list by Buzzfeed, Tom + Chee, which is now a franchise that only sells variations of grilled cheese and tomato soup. I discovered this place when I lived in Cincinnati, but didn’t realize they had expanded.  You cannot go wrong with grilled cheese and tomato soup.  Saturday night we went to a comedy show at the Laughing Derby and had a good time.  Sunday was magical.  We started the day out by brunching at The Monkey Wrench, which serves Southern-style cuisine and provides you the opportunity to design your own mimosa or Bloody Mary.  They also have banjos playing every Sunday morning. Amazing!  I ordered the biscuits with mushroom gravy (delicious!) and took a stab the Bloody Mary bar.  I must admit I was sorely disappointed by the Bloody Mary bar.  My ideal Bloody Mary has spicy pickle juice in it, and there were neither pickles nor juice to be found.  I also really don’t care for vodka, so maybe my ideal Bloody Mary is briny tomato juice.  Who’s to say?  That afternoon we hiked the pedestrian bridge over the Ohio River.  After we walked to Indiana and back, we foraged for a barbecue place because if I’m going to live in the South, I’m for sure going to try to eat as much pulled pork as humanly possible without getting the meat sweats.  Based on the name alone, I am 98.64% certain you would love this place:  Momma’s Mustard, Pickles, and BBQ.  It was well worth the 20 minute drive from the riverfront.  I had a pulled pork sandwich with baked beans and mac and cheese.  I have been dreaming about going back since we finished that meal.  (Memo to self: make friends so people will go get BBQ with you.)  Since that weekend, I’ve been trying to prepare my own food because dining out is expensive, but I’m glad I explored Louisville.

The other day I read an article on The Toast called “On Cooking For One,” which completely summed up my feelings on solo culinary adventures.  So many people in my life complain about the difficulties of cooking for only themselves.  I wholeheartedly disagree with their sentiments, though I respect their right to express their opinions.  Cooking for myself is an act of self care and a little bit of meditation.  I find peeling vegetables and methodically preparing a meal to be soothing.  I will concede cooking for one can be daunting in the beginning, spurring questions like “What do I make,” “Why does my grocery store assume I’m cooking for at least four,” and “Is this going to get expensive?”  Fortunately, five years ago you sent me off to grad school with this book:  Going Solo in the Kitchen, by Jane Doerfer

 

Jane so brilliantly discusses the philosophy of cooking for one and how to shop for one.  I’ve made a number of her chicken recipes and her sweet biscuits with a cold fruit compote are delicious.  Sadly, as I am back in the land of Kroger, so much of my produce is prepackaged or pre-portioned.  I have found a more local grocery store that allows me to purchase only what I need, but it’s kind of out of the way.  I’m sure after a few more disappointing Kroger runs, I’ll be more willing to schlep out to the Highlands for produce.  Fun fact: this book made it’s way to England this past winter as I lent it to a former intern of mine for her study abroad this semester.

As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been cooking for myself again.  Getting into a routine took longer than I anticipated, so my cooking has only begun in the last couple weeks, and it’s mostly been staple foods that I can freeze for later.  Two of my standby basic recipes are crockpot (not) refried beans and black beans.  Both recipes com from Budget Bytes, which is by and large my favorite food blog on the interwebs (aside from Dear Broccoli).  I know I’ve written about Beth and her blog before, but I will not stop singing her praises.  The black beans are the easiest recipe I’ve even encountered because it’s a bag of dried black beans and water in the crockpot for hours.  That’s it.  Each one pound bag makes about three cans of black beans.  I freeze them until I use them in soups or enchiladas.  The (not) refried beans are only two steps more difficult because in addition to water and beans, you throw in some diced onion and jalepeno, plus some herbs and spices.  After the beans have cooked for their requisite time (heat setting dependent), you mash them with a hand blender.  Those beans are also sitting in my freezer until I make some enchiladas.  I’m waiting to make the enchiladas because last week I made chicken taco bowls, which are also from Budget Bytes.  Again, this is a crockpot recipe.  All you do here is load your crockpot with some chicken breast, a jar of salsa, a can of black beans, frozen corn and some herbs and spices and let ‘er go. I added a can of mushrooms to help beef up the meal. Once everything has cooked (read: chicken is not raw), shred the chicken.  Serve over rice and top with cheese.  I was too lazy to make rice.  Also, I didn’t have the cooking instructions for this particular kind of rice and could not find them online. . .  At any rate I ate this for lunch almost everyday this past week.  Without the rice, it’s sort of like a really thick chicken chili.

Thanks to your post about Iowa sweet corn, the best corn in the world, I did end up making a couple dinners that didn’t come from a crockpot.  The first was sauteed mushrooms and green beans with a side of corn.  Okay, I lied.  The corn was the main part and the mushrooms and green beans were the side dish.  They just awkwardly sat there while I nearly inhaled the first corn on the cob I’ve eaten in almost three years.  Kentucky sweet corn is just not as good as Iowa sweet corn (what is, really?), but it certainly hit the spot.  I had an ear leftover, so I cut the corn off and tossed it with the remaining mushrooms and green beans and served it over some Ramen at work the next day.  I bought some more corn yesterday with the intent of trying out your recipes.  I want it to be tomorrow night already so I can make the corn.  I’d make it tonight, but I’m headed to a coworkers for a Labor Day get together this afternoon and going to a University of Louisville football game tonight.

Remind me to tell you about pies and Brussels sprouts next time.  I promise it’s not a Brussels sprouts pie.  I don’t know how I feel about that.

 

xoxo,

Carolyne

 

 

Ladle me this, ladle me that

Dear Carolyne,

I was excited to hear that Wesley moved in with you, based on the lovely things you said about him the last time I saw you. I’m jealous and wish I was around to partake in the fun.

I don’t recall you ever bringing me homemade pasta back in Wash 6, which obviously means you don’t actually love me. 😦

Kidding, kidding. By the way, I am still working through the red sauce you made me and impressing family and roommate alike.

My own time in the kitchen has been limited lately due to, like, life happening and stuff. I got into a minor car accident right before Halloween that resulted in a prescription for muscle relaxers. I wasn’t really hurt, thankfully, just really sore. My car also wasn’t hurt too badly, but the guy who hit me’s insurance company is paying for some body work. 

Also, I quit my job without notice, which is the most irresponsible thing I have ever done in my entire life. Luckily, I start a new one on the 27th.

So, with all this funemployment vacation time with which I find myself, I finally can get back to making things!

Yesterday I stripped a rotisserie chicken for the purposes of a) having chicken meat around to use, b) to have a chicken carcass (ew, I hate the word carcass) so I can make stock, and c) to make chicken wild rice soup. I had just had some really excellent chicken wild rice soup at Tilia that cited bourbon as one of its ingredients, so I was itching to make some for myself.

It turned out awesome, albeit pretty thick. I am having this problem lately where I cannot make a thin-brothed soup for the life of me. I made Drew some chicken noodle soup a week or two ago because he had a cold, and he told me it was good but so thick it was more like white chili (I’m sure all the cayenne and black pepper didn’t help in that respect). The thing is, I like my soups thick. I have this carrot ginger soup from Trader Joe’s in my fridge right now that tastes lovely, but the texture bums me out. It needs cream or chunks of butternut squash or something to punch it up. I hate to see a good soup wasted just because it doesn’t meet my texture demands.

Anyway, my wild rice soup is almost too thick to even be called soup, but I like it that way. Here is basically what I did:

6ish Tbsp olive oil

2 c. chopped celery and onion (I had this leftover stuffing starter from Trader Joe’s that was celery, onion, and some herbs that was ideal for this kind of thing)

1.5ish c. chopped carrot

3ish Tbsp flour (here is my whole problem, I am sure)

3ish tsp mustard powder

Lots of garlic powder, because all of my actual garlic had gone bad :/

1/3 c. bourbon

1 of those cardboard things of chicken stock, it’s like 4-6 cups or something

1 Tbsp poultry seasoning

2ish c. shredded rotisserie chicken

1/2 lb of uncooked wild rice (probably the other part of my problem)

1/3ish c. of half and half

salt and pepper to taste, of course

Pretty much you know the routine here. Saute up your veggies in the olive oil, then add the flour  + mustard powder, garlic, curry. Then the bourbon, then the stock, then the rice. Let it simmer while the rice cooks. Once the rice is cooked, add the chicken and let it heat through. Add the poultry seasoning. Lastly, add the cream and the salt + pepper. Oh, I am pretty sure I put a hit of cayenne in this too, because I always do and cayenne is good at bringing out the other flavors. Just a hit, though. Like, 1/4 tsp tops.

 

I am really happy with how it turned out. I mean, minorly irked at the thickness, but only for the sake of tradition. I like it thick *eyebrow waggle*.

 

Today I am going to make my mom’s pumpkin bar recipe. Did Mom ever send pumpkin bars with me to Wash 6? I feel like she probably did, but I can’t recall. Anyway, here is the exact e-mail she sent me with the recipe, and I appreciate the air of, “Eh, whatever,” that comes with it as well as all of my mom’s recipes.

 

this cookbook had the most stains so I think this is the one I use.

FROSTED PUMPKIN BARS

1 3/4 C. SUGAR                                     1/2 TSP CINNAMON
3 EGGS                                                 1 8 OZ PKG CRM CHEESE, SOFTENED
3/4 C. OIL                                               6 TBS BUTTER
1 CAN COOKED PUMPKIN                      4 C, POWDERED SUGAR
2 C. FLOUR                                            1 TSP VANILLA
3/4 TSP BAKING POWDER                     
3/4 TSP BAKING SODA

Combine first 8 ingredients together in order given. Pour into jellyroll pan.  Bake @ 350 for 20 to 25 minutes.  Mix cream cheese, butter, powered sugar & vanilla until spreading consistency.  Spread on top of cooled bars.  ENJOY!!

(I use more cinnamon and a pinch of what everelse I have, like pumpkin pie spice, cloves & or nutmeg.  Use what you like)  let me know how they turn out.

 

Ah, mom. I am looking forward to trekking back to Iowa next week to see her and the rest of the fam. Also the pets. I anticipate coming home covered in scratches and dog hair. What are your plans this year? I’m guessing you’re not coming back to the corn capital of the world. One of these years we need to be in the same place for Thanksgiving so we can do the dinner ourselves. Can you imagine? Everyone we invited would die from awesome.

 

Love and cinnamon,

Anne

 

 

Soup Season

 

Beany. Leeky.

So good I didn’t bother to clean up the bowl before I took a picture.

 

Dear Carolyne,

I can’t stop making soups from my BrokeAss Gourmet cookbook. I know all the recipes are pretty much on the site, but having something to actually flip through is more inspiring somehow.

The one pictured above is the Bacon, Leek, and White Bean soup, which was very good but didn’t seem to yield as much as I anticipated.

 

I also made Chicken, Sweet Potato, and White Bean stew. Flavorwise, it’s quite good, but if I were to make it again I would toss in some flour at the start so that it’s thicker.

 

Love and chicken stock,

Anne