Category Archives: Food

God Speed Corned Beef

A few months back the Rocket City Grill here at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center changed their menu to include some yummy sandwiches.  The sandwiches were named after a few early American astronaut heroes and all were original Mercury Seven astronauts.  The glaring absence to the list of sandwich was a corned beef sandwich.  On Gemini 3 Gus Grissom and John Young smuggled a corned beef sandwich in to their capsule with help from Wally Schirra.  This was the first U.S. sandwich to travel into space and it was not honored in the naming of The Grissom, which I might add is very tasty.

The Grissom is a ham and swiss on a toasted waffle with powdered sugar served with a side of raspberry syrup.  This is a yummy sandwich but doesn’t have anything to do with space flight.  I stood in shock feeling that something was not right in the space time continuum!  We need a corned beef sandwich!  Since Grissom was already honored with a sandwich I feel like John Young should be honored in the naming of the Rocket City Grill’s corned beef sandwich.  I know what you are thinking; John Young was not a Mercury Seven astronaut!  But for the love of Max Peck, we need to honor the corned beef sandwich’s sacrifice in low earth orbit by giving it a place on the menu of the Rocket City Grill.

Therefore, I have started a movement to put the corned beef sandwich on the menu at the Rocket City Grill as the Young Sandwich!  I have started a Facebook group “We Want the Young Sandwich” to help bring this injustice to the hearts and minds of the American people.  True, NASA was not happy with its mischievous astronauts.  And yes, Gus Grissom became ill upon re-entry and vomited in the spacecraft.  But this story is a part of our history.  The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is a beacon of light in a dark world. This place teaches generations about the early days of space.  It is our duty to have a corned beef sandwich and to teach about this heroic feat of sandwich goodness!

Please stand with me in this sandwich protest!  Join the movement.  Tell your friends about this injustice and ask them to join us on Facebook.  Email your space geek friends, mothers, daughters, and any lover of corned beef.  I plan to organize a “Occupy the Rocket City Grill” rally at some point in the future.  I really hope it doesn’t come to that; however I will stand firm in my belief that we should have a John Young Sandwich!  Thank you for your time and God Speed Corned Beef!

Cookies

The Messy KitchenRemember the Friends episode with Phoebe’s cookies? Monica wanted Phoebe’s grandmother’s chocolate chip cookie recipe as an engagement present. After realizing Phoebe had lost the only copy of the recipe, they slaved in the kitchen for hours trying different combinations (“Don’t try batch 16”) of egg, sugar, butter, and flour to recreate the recipe. At the end of the episode we learn that Phoebe’s grandmother’s cookie recipe was actually the recipe found on the back of Nestle Toll House chocolate chips. There is nothing wrong with handing down a family recipe which was found on the packaging of a baking product.

Last night with my friend Taunya, we dusted off the recipe for my Gran’s cookies and made what seemed like one hundred cookies. The recipe isn’t really a secret, but I am a believer that the way my grandmother prepared the cookies is the secret. I don’t know how many times I helped Gran make cookies, but each time seemed special as I watched her hands move carefully through the ingredients. She would pull up a stool for me to stand on and dress me in a hand made apron. Gran had this ceramic bowl with blue and pink stripes on it. I was often unwilling to wait while the butter softened, so she put me to work setting out the cooling racks, or lining the cookie sheets with aluminum foil.

The “secret” recipe came off a box of Arm & Hammer baking soda. I think I remember Gran telling me when I was a kid that my great grandmother discovered the recipe. Gran probably made thousands upon thousands of the buttery cookies, especially since she made cookies with all of her grandchildren. Making them as well as eating them is a family tradition. A few years back, well maybe it was a decade or two; my Aunt Wanda collected all the family recipes and compiled them into a handy dandy cook book. In “Family Jewels” my aunt tells brief stories about each recipe. The cookie recipe is my favorite; let me share it with you… You can find it on Arm & Hammer’s website. It is neat that this recipe is still being published.

Have ingredients at room temperature
Sift together

  • 2 ½ cups of plain flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda

Cream the following until fluffy

  • ½ cup butter or Oleo (don’t know if anyone still uses Oleo)
  • ½ cup Crisco or vegetable oil
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Stir in dry ingredients and till mixture is smooth
Blend in 2 tablespoons of milk
Drop by teaspoon onto greased baking sheet. Flatten with bottom of a glass dipped in oil and then sugar.
Bake at 400°F for 10 – 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.
(I only needed 6 minutes)
Makes about 5 ½ dozen 2 inch cookies
You can mix chocolate chips, raisins, coconut, or nuts. You can also top the cookies with whole pecans, sprinkles, or my favorite cinnamon.

Yummy!This recipe is very special to me. I am sure there are thousands of people who use this recipe each day. It may not be a gourmet recipe, but it is special to me and my family. In an effort to connect with my mother-in-law I gave her this recipe at Christmas. She didn’t get it. I guess most people don’t get it. Just like most people don’t get Christmas. We live in a rush, rush world. An easy bake, slice and serve culture. However, it doesn’t matter if it is Nestle Toll House or the break and bake cookies from the freezer section of your local grocery store, as long you are cooking with the ones you love. That is what is important.

I enjoyed baking with Taunya. The cookies are delicate and sweet and my husband thinks that anything is good with butter. He wants to create a new butter marketing slogan, WWPDD – What Would Paula Deen Do? She uses lots of butter! Use this recipe or another, buy some butter, and find a kid and make thousand of cookies tonight!

Rainbow Cupcakes

My place card at the dinner tableSome of my favorite memories have been standing around the chop block in my mother’s kitchen. This was the case this morning and this afternoon as we prepped for our large Thanksgiving Day spread. Last night as I helped my mom prep the turkey on the chop block for its overnight stay in the oven, I realized how lucky I was to be born in a family that knew how to cook. I remember standing on a stool in my Gran’s kitchen learning how to bake cookies. Each batch of her soda box cookies we made was precious and dear to me. Cooking is just as special to me as eating on Thanksgiving Day. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love Thanksgiving.

Today I woke up excited about helping cook the 2009 edition of Big Mama’s Thanksgiving meal. We have basically had the same menu for years. Oven roasted turkey, cornbread dressing, five-cup salad, sweet corn from our farm, asparagus casserole, green beans, giblet gravy, and cranberry sauce from a can. Mom has thrown in a few things to keep us guessing like broccoli salad, mac-n-cheese (the real stuff), mashed potatoes and fruit salad. I must mention the saga of the rolls. My dad loves brown-n-serve. I love the ready to eat rolls that come in a tin pan. But my mom loves to make home made yeast rolls. She seems to always win out.

This year as I was setting the table and the Little Indians were fighting over who could help. I devised a plan to split the warring tribes. Reece would make place cards for the table while Rhett helped me set the table. I knew working at the Barn would pay off. I would have never thought of this plan if not for the dozens of tablescapes I have worked on at the Barn. Everyone helps with lunch, even little Lucy helps by taking drink orders. She wrote each drink order on a note card with a Dixon Ticonderoga pencil. I trained her well.

The Cupcake PrincessThis afternoon I had to play “babies” with Lucy. Strange thing is, I didn’t know how to play “babies.” Growing up I played football, cowboys and Indians, or army with my brothers and cousins. This concept of playing with dolls was new to me. I didn’t know how to feed the baby, change the baby, or burp the baby. Come on, it has a plastic head with a cotton body and synthetic stuffing. You can feed it, change it, or burp it! The only thing worse about this playing “babies” is my brother put Lucy up to asking for a cousin for Christmas. Unfortunately I think she will be disappointed, because that isn’t on our Christmas list.

This afternoon it all seemed to come full circle. Lucy was left with me while everyone else went hunting. She wanted to make cup cakes with multicolored icing. She was standing on a stool helping me bake. Sure it wasn’t some family recipe or traditional holiday treat. It was more like we were playing in the kitchen than cooking. I learned that Lucy loves cake batter and icing. After putting the cupcakes in to bake we added food coloring to the frosting. Lucy had to sample the blue, the pink, the green, and the orange icing to see which one tasted better. As we were baking Chris was in the woods hunting.

Pumkin and BuckHe has taken on the sport in recent years. He loves growing his beard out, wearing his hunting clothes, and spending time in search of the great white tail buck! This morning he woke up and hit the dear stand before day break. This afternoon he tried his luck again. He is such a technology driven hunter. Last year he played with Blackberry more than he shot his gun. I text messaged him to see if he took a shot. He informed me that he shot at a six point. It wasn’t until I saw the bearded wonder outside with his not six point, but eight point buck I had confirmation of the kill.

We have a lot to be thankful for, cooking, cupcakes, and trophy bucks. I look forward to the Iron Bowl tomorrow, finding a taxidermist, and the Egg Bowl on Saturday!

Butter and Blogs

Chris and I went to see the new movie Julie & Julia. This movie blends two books it to a lovely tale. The two books being Julia Child’s autobiography My Life in France published posthumously and Julie Powell’s book Julie & Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen. Julie Powell’s book was taken from her blog The Julie/Julia Project. I haven’t read either book but when you make a movie about food and blogging I am there.

It wasn’t until after the movie that I researched Julia Child’s life. Wow, was she adventurous. She was born in California in 1913. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, she tried joining the U.S. Navy but was turned down due to height. She was too tall at six foot two inches. She did join the Office of Strategic Services and served her country in Europe and China. She was married in 1946. While living in Paris she decided to go to cooking school. Not just any cooking school, Le Cordon Bleu. She and her husband Paul moved around Europe while she worked on her book. When they moved back to the states her cook book was finally published, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

She wasn’t finished after that, but most of us know the story from that point. She inspired generations of home cooks in America. She inspired Julie Powell. Julie Powell was a struggling worker with the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. The movie portrays her as someone who needed direction in life, a project, something to focus her life. She created a blog chronicling her attempt to cook all of the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking. She seemed discouraged with life. She worked other temp jobs before her job distributing funds post-9/11. The Julie/Julia Project led her to a very successful blog with thousands of readers. The blog led her to a book deal and the book deal led to a movie deal. Wow, what an adventure that must have been.

Julie Powell is still leaving her adventure. The movie Julie & Julia premiered August 7, 2009. I am sure her life is wild right know. I have read her current blog What Could Happen?. She is just like Julia Child, a real person on the road of life.

I went to see Julie & Julia because it combined two of my favorite thing, food and blogs. Food is so intimate. We all have dear memories of our mother, father, grandmother, aunt, uncle, or best friend cooking something amazing. This amazing dish was shared over great conversation and utter bliss. My husband and I have shared some incredible meals. My mom can cook better than anyone I know. All of my aunts can cook because they were taught by my Gran. My Gran taught me a thing or two. Other than death and taxes there is another certainty. That certainty is food. We have to eat. And if we must eat, we should enjoy.

If you can’t get to the theater to watch Julie & Julia, please find someone you dearly love and enjoy a meal with them. Something with lots of flavor and most importantly lots of butter!

Shrimp & Grits

Every morning during training at Space Camp I make a packet of instant grits for my breakfast. Some people would think that instant grits are not real grits and would suggest I wait. Grits aren’t served on the camp line until almost 9 o’clock. I simply can not wait for industrial grits. I have a great system which yields respectable grits. One pack of grits, one serving of butter, two packets of pepper, and one packet of salt all mixed with water from the coffee maker at camp.

Some of the counselors from the north, I will refrain from calling them yankees, think that I am mixing up cream of wheat or oatmeal. And when I try to teach them of grits they are perplexed as to why anyone would want to eat grits. Even the name sounds horrific. Grits are firmly rooted in my southern heritage. Grits fall behind eggs in the south as the most liked breakfast item. On days that Gran would prepare rice with breakfast my cousin Dustin would refer to them as long skinny grits. Proving that our first reference point as southern children to a grain dish is the honorable grit!

Growing up we would have breakfast for supper. This was the best, because you didn’t have to rush out the door to school or work. You could enjoy each morsel of food. One night Mr. Horn, long time friend of my family and husband of my fourth grade teacher, stayed for supper. From how much he ate I felt that Mrs. Horn didn’t feed the poor man. He ate everything insight. I think he ate every grit in the bowl. With our grits my mom would cook country ham and red eye gravy. I believe the combination of red eye gravy and grits is culinary perfection.

While living in Jackson, I worked at Twin Lakes Conference Center as a host on the weekends. I love the mornings!!! Ms. Bobby in the kitchen would feed us in the back after the guests went through the line. On the morning she prepared grits I would go back for seconds and sometimes thirds. Bacon was my preferred side item during those years. My roommate Chef Holman made wonderful grits as well. She taught me to use cream rather than milk. I also learned to add different types of cheese if using grits with other dishes.

As my taste buds have matured, I love to find new ways of preparing grits. I have enjoyed shrimp and grits from South Carolina to Texas. Here in Huntsville there are a few places which have shrimp and grits. None of which I would write about. So often cooks want to cover up the grits with a thick roux or it has a soup like consistency. The best shrimp and grits I ever had was at Blackberry Farm on the back deck of the main house. I give it a five grit rating.

Last night I tried for the first time making shrimp and grits. I have never even tried cooking shrimp, so my attempting a dish that I had no experience in was quiet a leap of faith for me. I looked on the internet and found a Paula Deen recipe. If you are going to cook a southern dish she is the first and sometimes only person I would trust outside of blood kin. After doing my research I visited Fresh Market in hopes of finding high quality grits. I was shocked to find Fresh Market, known for its exotic and gourmet foods only sold Quaker instant grits. The same grits I eat for breakfast at work. I would have thought the store would have had something better than instant grits.

During my adventures in life and food I have learned that three minutes is the standard for cooking shrimp and bacon makes everything good. I have learned that eggs and grits make a great combination, but never order grits from the Waffle House. I know after my experience cooking shrimp and grits, the best place to get the southern dish here in Huntsville may be from my own kitchen. I have included Paula Deen’s recipe. Please try to find your own favorite dish and make it at home. We live in a country that spends too much time around someone else’s table eating food from a stranger’s kitchen. Eat what you love with the ones you love!

Paula Deen’s Shrimp & Grits

Ingredients

1 cup stone-ground grits
Salt and pepper
1/4 cup butter
2 cups shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined, left whole if small and roughly chopped if medium or large
6 slices bacon, chopped into tiny pieces
4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 cup thinly sliced green onions, white and green parts
1 large clove garlic, minced

Procedures

1. In a medium saucepan, bring 4 cups water to a boil. Add the grits and salt and pepper to taste. Stir well with a whisk. Reduce the heat to the lowest possible setting and cook the grits until all the water is absorbed, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and cheese. Keep covered until ready to serve.

2. Rinse the shrimp and pat dry. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned and crisp, then drain on a paper towel. Add the shrimp to the bacon grease in the skillet and sauté over medium heat just until they turn pink, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon juice, parsley, green onions, and garlic while shrimp cook. Do not overcook! Remove the skillet from the heat.

3. Pour the grits into a serving bowl. Pour the shrimp mixture over the grits. Garnish with the bacon bits.

Sandwiches

Remember on “Friends” when Joey had one of his meatball sandwiches. And there was that time when Joey appeared to be protecting Chandler from gun shots. It turned out that Joey was only lunging to save his meatball sandwich. There are many varieties of sandwiches. Jared lost like 200 pounds by eating at Subway. Elvis had his legendary fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. There are even some sandwiches that you might not classify as sandwiches like gyros, pitas, hot dogs or wraps.

In celebration of something as old as Passover I have selected my favorite sandwiches of all times. Sandwiches are important to a person and who they are. I am not Joey, and I wouldn’t take a bullet for a sandwich. But I will classify and list my favorite sandwiches.

5. EALD Sandwich from Space Camp

The Early Arrival/Late Departure sandwich is something of Space Camp lore. It is so strange how a sandwich made of a burger bun, a slice of turkey, and slice of processed cheese product which has been in a cooler for over 24 hours could be so good. Maybe it is because when a person eats an EALD sandwich they are hungry and exhausted. Or it could be that it simply reminds you of Space Camp and childhood, something simple, something refreshing, and something that is grounded. An EALD sandwich is accompanied by two Oreo cookies, Lays potato chips, and a condiment/plasticware pack. I am sure the unneeded plasticware would make Al Gore anger but it is the unexplainable nature of Space Camp.

4. Open Face Roast Beef from Airport Grocery in Cleveland, Mississippi.

Ah… Airport Grocery! Is there anything better in the world than a Friday afternoon in the Mississippi Delta? The original Airport Grocery was along side Highway 8 in Cleveland near the airport and near the movie theater. I loved it. The open face roast beef with gravy fries is better than Jack & Coke! True, at the time I had not met Jasper Newton Daniel. But if you know me, you will understand the analogy. The old road signs and other produce signs along the wall only inspired me to fashion my back porch after my Delta roots. Or maybe it was the fact that eating gravy fries with beef shortened my life by fifteen minutes with each visit to the grocery that made life great as a college student!

3. Bacon Turkey Bravo from Panera Bread

Ok… when I first set out to make this list I didn’t want to put a “chain” sandwich on the list. But I can’t not put the Bacon Turkey Bravo on the list. The tomato basil bread with just a hint of cinnamon-sugar on the crust of the bread makes the sandwich unexpected and child like. Remember the first time your chocolate fell into the jar of peanut butter? Oh how the combination excited you? The Bacon Turkey Bravo reminds me of all those culinary accidents like peanut butter cups and penicillin. The smoked Gouda gives something to the noise and to the taste buds. The great thing about this sandwich is how many people love the sandwich, but can you blame anyone for loving something with bacon on it?

2. PBC Club at Prescott Brewing Company in Prescott, Arizona.

Some may be shocked to find the PBC Club at number two on my list of grand sandwiches. It is the best sandwich that can be purchased at a restaurant. I originally discovered the sandwich from a chance meeting in Prescott Arizona with a vegetarian. On a recruiting trip with Snapper and a dinner with Forecast I was introduced to a club on focaccia bread with a chipotle mayo spread. Yum!!! I guess I just love the club family of sandwiches. The PBC Club is the best version of the club to date. I know I am too young to be an expert and too old to be a friend. But the sandwich is good and the environment of Prescott is awesome! I can’t wait for Arizona 2009!

1. Peanut Butter and Jelly from my mother’s kitchen in Winona, Mississippi.

I am a finicky eater! As a red head who didn’t like pizza as a child the only protein for me was peanut butter! My mom would make me PBJs. With a knife she would meticulously smooth the peanut butter out over the Wonder Bread and then with a spoon she would apply the home made jelly. Only a NASA scientist could measure the thickness as exact as my mom. It was the perfect ratio of peanut butter to jelly. Only Jif peanut butter would do and only my mom could make the perfect sandwich. It was perfectly made to keep me alive. The bread was perfectly aligned, made with love, and tasted great. In some ways, I think my mom’s PBJ made me focused on perfection, because as a small carpet crawler I found perfection on a plate in Carroll County Mississippi!

I am sure there will be more sandwiches I will love along the road of life. I will some day tell you about pancake puppies and my fetish with corndogs as a child; but know that a sandwich is as close to perfection as we will see in this lifetime. Enjoy! Visit your favorite deli, sandwich shop, or kitchen soon! But most of all tell the chef or cook you love them!