Friday, August 30, 2013

Perfectamente Hard-Boiled Eggs

"Egg-cellent" fool-proof hard-boiled eggs every time!

Sorry...I had to use the "egg-cellent" insinuation. Forgive me.

Okay, so how many of you have been trying to perfect the hard-boiled method when it comes to eggs? I know people are eating a lot of 'em, 'cause I swear I gagged almost every morning, working in a large mortgage office recently. I think those things should be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home instead of bringing them into the office for us all to smell your sulphur scent for hours, but obviously that's just me. Those who know me know that I am etiquette's biggest critic. Or should that be 'egg-tiquette?' OK, OK, Sorry. Had to.

Let's get boiling! Fill your pot with COLD water and add your eggs. This allows your eggs to all come up to temp consistently. Put your burner on high and let the water come to a boil. I don't cover my pot at this stage. You want to use a pot that has plenty of room for the amount of eggs you are cooking. I used a regular sized pot for the 3 eggs I prepared for two egg salad sandwiches. If you are doing, let's say, deviled eggs and are preparing lots of them, use your big pasta pot. If you over-crowd your pot, when the water comes to a boil, your eggs will knock against each other, breaking the shells and you will end up with whites all poached in your water.

Once your water comes to a good boil, cover your pot and remove from the heat. Let the eggs sit for 10 minutes, covered. After 10 minutes, use a spoon to keep your eggs in your pot and drain the hot water. Then, add COLD water to the pot, drain again and repeat with cold water, but this time, let the eggs sit in the cold water for 10 minutes. I do two rounds of cold water because the first round of cold water gets pretty lukewarm due to the pot being extremely hot.

After a 10 minute rest in the cold water, just take the eggs out of the water, but don't drain yet. Crack an egg on all sides gently on the counter.

Then, you're going to roll the egg across the counter under the palm of your hand.

Drop it back into the pot of cold water and work on the next egg the same way until all eggs have been cracked, rolled and placed back in the water.

I place them back in the water after the rolling stage because I have found that the water gets up under the cracked shell and loosens it a little for peeling.

Okay, now you can start peeling and the shell should just come off in strips. Make sure that the first "pick" of the shell gets up under that thin, clear film that lies between the shell and the flesh.

You should get flawless, peeled eggs, with no gashes in the whites!

And check out the inner beauty on these things! Gorgeous!

Precisely cooked hard-boiled eggs that are peeled to perfection!

(I have found that peeling lukewarm eggs is far easier than peeling cold eggs. Make sure you peel after the 10 minute rest in the cold water, then store in an airtight container in your fridge. Don't try to peel eggs after being in your fridge. You'll get dents and gashes.)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Foodie-Social Plug: Enjoy this great potluck recipe to take to your Little League End of Year Party

Yes, you heard me: "FOODIE-SOCIAL PLUG." So, like the topic line says, please enjoy this recipe at your next little league celebration party, or just bring to your summer potluck. But...not before I give my comments on what has "gone down" in The Gregory house over the last couple of weeks!!! Uh oh!

I mentioned Little League. Yes, ahhh, the typical coach vs. parents blog post/Facebook post. It's about that time, huh? I mean, Autumn is 10 now and a rising 5th grader. I think it's about that time where we all start to get frustrated with what happens, on and off the clay dirt. It does not matter if we are on the coach side, the parent side or somewhere in between (like me), we all hit this point of "WTF"-bliss around this point in your child's short "career," thus far. This posts talks about Mechanicsville Little League. After their unfair treatment of my child and my household, I will name drop. Sure thing.

So, let me back up and say that last year, as Autumn was a rising 4th grader and competing against rising 5th  and 6th graders, she probably should not have made the post-season All-star team (although, she could have easily!). No problem. We took it as learning experience of what we needed to work on for the next season and we put out a plan. I told her, "It's okay, hon. Next year, we'll work that much harder and you'll be a rising 5th grader going up against the rising 6th graders and have rising 4th graders under you! You'll be in the middle of the pack by age, but we'll get ya to the top of the pack on talent!" We set out with that plan, and we stuck to it and we worked. Did we ever work hard. Pitching lessons, the indoor astroturf mat, the balls, the spin right spinner, the strike-zone-net for outside, the countless trips to the little league to practice what we learned at her last lesson, the drills, the workouts, the showing up to games an hour before the team to JUST warm up the pitching (before even warming up with the team), the blood, sweat and tears. Oh, and maybe a couple of black eyes for Mama before she learned that it would probably be best to go ahead and dress out in full catcher gear. Ugh...I look retarded. I am a single mom. I think I am the only mom I see show up to the pitching coach's warehouse where she teaches. It's always Dads in there (yes, in full catcher's regalia), but still, I am like this Mom that is always there, is always at every game and practice, is there as the Team Parent, is there to volunteer my time as needed, all for the love of the game, but most of all, the love of my daughter and teaching her to be all that she can be. We all know that the odds of the kids losing their heads in high school is closely attributed to parents' involvements in their lives, the openness of communication and yeah...sports! Kids involved in sports make that lovely statistic of pregnancy, drop outs, obesity, low grades, etc go DOWN! I try to help my child achieve her intelligence with hard work at her grades, achieve sincerity and love for others by showing her how to love & accept others, and how to honestly care for others, and then to show her the value of working on the field pays off when she is off the field, as well as the value and importance of being a part of a TEAM. Because we all have to be a part of a team at a ton of things in life that the sport concept of sportsmanship carries over into, such as employment, social circles, family, volunteerism and many more. It's my job. My job as a parent and then I have to double up because I don't want those nasty single mom statistics to get her and cancel out my teachings in other areas. Maybe I have to over-teach to make sure I over-compensate for the single mom statistics? I don't know! All I can do is my best. So far, I've been told it is working or I would probably doubt myself every day. All I can do is give it my 110% effort as I teach her to give 110% to alllllll she does. Live by example, right? Right! So, my 110% is someone else's 40%? 50%? 60%? If they are in a two-parent home, at most it is someone else's 55%. So, yes, I look a little over the top sometimes. Well, yes, I am. I am doing all I can and it alllllllll comes out of one body, one mouth, one brain and one person's actions.

Autumn Rose, 10 years old, warm ups before a game. Mechanicsville, VA Little League (little name drop there - who cares)

Stay with me...the drama is coming. I just need to get out the philosophy first. ; )

So, I go back to that "fight" in me. How much I have to fight for my daughter. How much I have to be at all the school parties, functions, award assemblies, practices, games, sidelines (on and off the field sidelines -- there is such a thing), the nightmares, the kids who do her wrong, the parents who do her wrong (sometimes even her own Dad!). I make sure I am there at all these things because I never want my child to look back and wonder. We all have sat there and wondered, "I wonder if my mom, if my dad, if that kid sitting next to me at lunch in middle school, if my fellow employee, if my coach, if my teacher, if that darn stranger...whomever it was in your life...I wonder if they had just fought for me at that moment." Whoa! Right? Don't we all look back and say if that one person had maybe fought for me at that one moment, I wonder if I would have turned out differently. Or maybe it was just a situation? But we all wonder if someone had stood up and taken that stand, if that situation, or even life, would have turned out differently. Well, Autumn will never have to wonder that from her mother. I don't ever want her to look back and think "if her mother had only fought."

So, here is the drama. : / I kind of fought. Not physically, but I might have gone a little overboard when all of Autumn's hard work was not recognized, as it should have been this year, and she was on the bubble of making the All-Star team and then was chosen over. UGH. Are you frickin' kiddin' me??? You are sitting there and telling me she is not in the top 12 of her whole division? Of FIVE TEAMS? I call B.S.!!!!!!!!!!!! She was the starting pitcher of our team, a perfect first baseman, and a middle of the road batter this year (some of that was my fault as we seemed to focus more on practicing pitching than batting when I should have balanced it out a little more, but she could still bat!!!! I just can't call her batting "perfect"). So, where did she go wrong here??? No where. It's frickin' Little League Politics. Yes, believe it. We all know of the politics and now that she is approaching that age of parents knowing the strong players vs. the ones who are just "there", I saw the politics this year and they clipped my bumper. We were there and I kind of went a little loopy there for a bit. I know I am not wrong here (like I said, show me where she is not in the top 12, bull crap), but I was wrong in execution. I let my emotions get the best of me and I let everyone know it. Should I have let everyone know it? Probably not. But, I was angry and I was fighting...fighting for Autumn. I offended more than one person, but yet, I was offended too, damnit! I had her third coach call me and maybe he agreed with me a bit, but he said, "You're going to ruin it for Autumn." See? That's the politics showing right there!!!!!!! I am going to ruin it for Autumn????? What the!?! Well, maybe he is right a bit, but isn't this proof of my fight??? Why can't I stand up for my daughter over something that was WRONG??? Why can't I fight without worrying about if it was going to "ruin it for her?" This is my point. Her talent speaks, so I don't worry too much about "messing it up" for her, but then politics won over her talent when All-Stars were chosen this year! So, we have an issue here! And this is my frustration. Plus, they TOTALLY just showed her that everythingggggggg I told her did not happen. Why work hard when there is no payoff? Why even try to be the best when the best are not chosen for All-Stars? I got an email back from the Director : / explaining how All-Stars are picked. I know how All-Stars are chosen, thanks. Duh. But, if you dare tell me that board members and/or managers kids are not weighted when it comes to who writes which girls names down, then that's B.S. You can hide behind the logistics all you want, but when it comes to a coach trying to decide between two girls, one being a board member's child and one being a better ball player, but when there's that last spot left, who do you think they will write down???? That isn't shown "out loud" at the table. And if you dare tell me the manager and first coach don't "choose" according to their travel team or "favorite players" of theirs, I tell you that you lie. I see it on the roster this year. I am not dumb and I know the talent of ALL the girls in the division, because I observe. And how selfish of those parents and coaches to have the gall to accept their child or other children who had no right being on that team over the kids who did. That is the most selfish thing they can do for themselves and their child. Teach your child that if you do not make the team, then you try that much harder next year, just like I had to do with Autumn. How dare you offend my child and me over your holier-than-thou attitude towards allowing less talented kids on that team or even girls who didn't even play in our division. YOU should be ashamed of your own self-righteousness and ashamed about teaching your kid that they will make the team, even being sub-par to other girls. How dare you. You made and continue to make me ill by even teaching your child that is okay. YOU are the 30% that my 110% is against. Oh, so then we'll bring up the attitude and sportsmanship aspect of each player. Hmmm, yeah, my kid probably has that one, too. Didn't see her throwing stuff around the dugout or crying when she didn't get to pitch, right, Coach? That's because Autumn realizes she has to earn her spot in the circle. If she has an off day, the worst that can happen is she goes to 1st base??? But, never disrespect and never act out on the field, especially like that other child she told me about who was doing just that. So, hide behind the politics and the rules. I don't care. I did care. I cared a lot, but you just took all my care and threw it out that darn concession stand's window!!!

This is also why older participation goes way down after middle school ball starts. The kids go and focus their talent on school teams and travel teams. There are just a few 10U teams in Richmond, VA, so we are just now starting to be able to venture out of the Little League World, and by golly, I was in the express lane to find a travel team when all this went down a couple weeks ago. I should have known when a board member and prominent coach literally sold his house, packed up his family, and moved his whole life just to get out of the boundary-strict restrictions a couple years back. Yeah, sold his damn house!!!! I have realized I was not wrong in my observations, although wrong in my execution, but we will take my daughter's talent, my money, our passion and volunteerism and go give it to where it should be...the travel team world. Then, I guess we'll just "show up" for rec ball just like most e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e. else does.

Do you think I really want to be a team parent any more than you want to hear me bitch about post-season? No. I don't "enjoy" chasing after 10-12 girl's parents for uniform and trophy money. I don't enjoy hearing all the parents bitch all the time. I don't enjoy having to BEG people to do their part and volunteer for our concession stand duty or our bingo night duty. I don't enjoy having to be the attendance referee because the coach is so far removed from the parents. I don't enjoy getting constant texts asking questions that I already answered three times in those three emails I already sent out on that subject. I don't enjoy that four days after back surgery (resulting from an October 2011 motor vehicle accident), going out to the field to hand out uniforms only to have parents fight with me over the size of jersey they ordered when they signed the child up because I was NOT given a form of which size goes to which girl. I did all that on my way to the E.R. and later found out it's pneumonia that is killing those two back incisions I got 4 days ago. No, I don't enjoy all of that, but when ya commit, ya give that 110%, right??? Right. So if my 110% is stopping by practice for an hour on the way to the E.R. when I can barely stand because of that vertebrae they just removed 4 days prior, then so be it. I committed and I will do my job. You will never be able to throw that "Well, if you don't like the coaching, then fill out that form and get out there." Nope, not me. I give more than my time and so does Autumn, hence the on and off the field sidelines I referred to earlier. I spend a lot of time off the field, as well as on the field, helping the team and the Little League, just like the coaches do. Maybe if I had just disconnected myself like 75% of the other parents do, then I would not get so passionate. Sometimes the Team Parent job is more stressful and is way less glorious than the ol' Coach's job. Let me tell ya! But, Autumn will never have to wonder "If my mom had only fought for me...." Nope, not me!

Ahhhh. Whew. So, with this all said, I know people will stand up for the coach side. I know people will stand up for the parent side and I know some people will stand up for the kids. I guess I see all sides, as I have said. I have tried to apologize for my actions, although it did come with a "but" since I do not apologize for taking up for my child. I guess I had to just finally come to terms with the fact that I will always take her side. That I will always stand up for her. That I will always be HER biggest fan. That I will always love her and will always be there. If that means showing my ass at some times, then I guess that is why God gave me so much back there. Plenty of acreage to show in this beautiful, oh-so-lovely unfair world. Here we go, my dear daughter, here is the real world!

So, are you hungry yet? About to head out to that end of the year Little League picnic? No? Pool party, then? Okay, good. I have a recipe that is a crowd-pleaser to take with you!!! Just be forewarned, you don't want to leave this out in the heat and/or sun for too long. So, if you have no shelter or fridge, maybe you should wait for another get-together to make this one, like the Church Fellowship potluck! My friends, The Alversons, had a version of this at one of our get-togethers and I took the idea home and made my own version/recipe. Thanks for listening to my social issue with the Little League. Such a pain in my butt, I tell ya. So, now I offer food. :)

Update: Now that I have seen the full roster, can I just say I love being RIGHT? Politics all over that one, friends. B.S. B.S. B.S.!!! Such bull crap. 

Play Ball!!!!

Green and Chick Pea Salad (Served Chilled)

Okay, this one is a no-brainer! You cannot mess this up. PLEASE, feel free to leave out anything or use substitutions! If you do not like dill, try chives! If you do not like spicy, leave the red pepper out or for that extra punch, add double! Try adding diced hard-boiled eggs on top. Add diced jalapeno instead of crushed red pepper. This is a very versatile and forgiving dish.

Recipe Card:

8 oz. green chive cream cheese (room temperature)
1/4 c. mayo
1/4 c. sour cream
1/2 tsp. dried dill (double if fresh)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper

12 oz. bag of frozen peas, defrosted and as dry as you can get
15.5 oz. can of Chick Peas (sometimes called Garbanzo Beans), drained and rinsed and then dried as best as you can
4-5 oz. of shredded lettuce (I buy the iceberg already shredded - it is drier and just easier)
Shredded Cheddar to cover
1 lb. of cooked bacon, traditional cut, diced into pieces

So, you do want to make sure your ingredients are not "wet." This will need to be refrigerated for a bit and I have made the mistake of using wet lettuce or "not-all-the-way-defrosted" peas and the water just settles. Settles to the bottom and it's not pretty!!! Tastes okay, but is not pretty. Just take my mistakes as advice!! :)

Okay, line your dish with your green peas.

Then, add about half of your chick peas. If you want to use the whole can, so be it. Like I said, do what you like here. I just find half the can (plus a few lol) works for my taste buds. If you want, save your chick peas for your lunch salad later this week.

In a separate bowl, add your cream cheese, mayo, sour cream, salt, dill, garlic powder, and black & red peppers. I use a hand mixer to mix this...just to make sure the cream cheese isn't lumpy. If you have the cream cheese at room temp AND use a hand mixer, it all comes out perfect! Dollop the mixture on top of the peas.

Use the back of a soup spoon to spread the mixture out. You will probably disturb some of the peas in this process...don't worry. Just continue to use the back of your spoon, as level as you can, and continue to make sure the mixture is spread evenly on top. Don't "mix" it with the peas, just layer it on top as best as you can.

Add the shredded lettuce to the top of the sour cream mixture.

Then, add the shredded cheddar and cover the dish and refrigerate for at least an hour, preferably 6 hours - overnight.

Then, top with your bacon pieces right before serving. (Try not to refrigerate your bacon with the dish. It will turn your bacon more rubbery than crunchy! Remember, your iceberg and bacon are your "crunch" with this dish. Keep it crunchy!)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Food Cart Derby -- Richmond, VA

So, Sunday, May 20, 2012 was Richmond, Virginia's first Food Cart/Truck Derby at the 17th Street Farmer's Market in Shockoe Bottom. I got there about 3:30 p.m. A lot of things had already shut down. Boka Truck had a line probably 30 deep and seemed to be doing well. The beer was definitely plentiful. I had no problem getting a beer ticket (or two) and then proceeding to the beer lines. Some of the beer vendors had shut down, as well, although this event was supposed to go until 6 p.m.! Richmond needs some more food trucks. Are you ready to run one? We need you! Here are some pictures from my time there. Hopefully we will have more food there next year. There were more non-food vendors at 3 p.m. than food vendors. It would have been better in another location and with a horseshoe formation.

My Autumn Rose!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Family Friendly Steak Night -- Summer Grillin'

Okay, so I know we all have those cravings for a great steak. There are a lot to choose from now-a-days. When you have a family, like I do, steaks can get expensive when you are feeding 4...or even more! Having that Memorial Day cookout this year? Want to show off a little without breaking the bank? Listen up...

Try a Flat Iron Steak. They are similar to a flank steak. It is off the shoulder of the cow. This is fairly new to the steak choice selections, so you may have just started to hear about it. If you do this right, you can be a star...with money left for the beer.

I find the flat iron at Kroger, near the flank steak, but this is usually in a pre-portioned package. So, know what you are looking for. I don't find it (at least at Kroger) a top a styrofoam with plastic wrap like most of the steaks you find. Usually one steak can feed a family of four for about $12. If you have more than four, or all adults, you may want to go with two cuts. Marinate, marinate, marinate! Over night for the most flavor or pop it in a zipper baggie in the morning at least. There are a ton of pre-made marinades out there or you can make your own. The garlic and herb varieties work or any of the "steakhouse" marinades. Grill for about 8-10 minutes on the first side, then about 6 minutes on the second side for medium-rare on fairly high heat. I do mine on high, but all grills are different. Take the cut off the grill and let it rest for about 10 minutes. DO NOT cut into this right away. The juices will run all over the place and you will end up with dry meat. Dry does not work with this cut of beef. Then, you MUST cut it thinly and across the grain. Usually the grain runs lengthwise on these, so you are going to cut across it, making short slices of steak for your guests. I have also used this cut for steak tacos. Perfect!

If you want to go the extra mile, try out a Compound Butter and really dazzle! Have fun this summer!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Slicing/Cubing/Dicing Bacon Tip

So, you need bacon bits for a salad or you need to slice bacon for a stew recipe. Bacon is a pain to dice up into "lardons." According to WiseGeek, lardons are defined as, "a cube of meat which is usually high in fat and used to add flavor to many dishes. Generally, bacon is used to make lardons, but general pork lardons are also common. When cooked, a lardon will reduce in size as a result of the fat melting out of it."

This may sound elementary to some, but for those people out there who struggle with bacon, this could be a lifesaver. And, if I can help anyone get bacon in their recipes faster, I am all over it! Here's a couple tips that I use all the time...

First, put your bacon slices in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before you are ready to slice. This will harden the fat a bit and allow your knife to go right through it. (Shown in picture above. Adding bacon with a good chill on it is just fine.)

Secondly, you can always use your sharp kitchen scissors. Do not use dull scissors or the one your kid does their cut and paste homework with. Use your professional ones in your butcher block. My family knows that my kitchen scissors are OFF LIMITS, and then I only use them for food. Make sure you wash with soap and hot water after they touch any type of raw meat. 

I was writing a menu list for a large dinner I am making this weekend and making bacon bits is part of my mise en place, so I thought I would go ahead and share with you. I usually just do the freezer-then-knife method for slicing bacon, but the scissor method comes in handy if you forget to put in the freezer or need to get bacon in the pan fast!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Banana Pudding w/ a Strawberry Shortcake Round Two

Remember: I am not a baker. I am a cook. I do not have that measuring capability. But, I love to share my favorite sweet recipes that I have found with y'all!

Have you made this banana pudding yet? Banana Pudding IV Well, you should. I cannot stand fake banana that instant banana pudding. Or those candy banana runts in the neon yellow banana shape. Oh, they taste nothing like a banana. So, I completely enjoy this version of banana pudding because it is sweetened condensed milk, cream cheese, instant vanilla pudding, and whipped cream topping. Oh, yes sir. The only "banana flavor" is just the, well, bananas! The pudding part tastes more like a pastry cream. I also substitute Pepperidge Farm's Chessmen Cookies for the vanilla wafers when it's a true splurge. It just gives it a richer, deeper flavor on the crust level(s). My daughter, Autumn Rose, composed this herself. I just sliced the bananas for her!

8 oz. package of cream cheese
14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
5 oz. package of instant vanilla pudding mix
3 cups cold milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
8 oz. container of whipped topping (thawed)
4 sliced bananas
Juice of 1/2 a lemon (to toss banana slices in before using. Stops them from turning brown!)
1/2 package of vanilla wafers (or really shake them up with using Pepperidge Farm's Chessmen cookies)

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese until fluffy. Beat in condensed milk, pudding mix, cold milk and vanilla until smooth. Fold in 1/2 of the whipped topping. Don't worry here. It will still be under-thickened. Once it sits in the fridge a bit, it will really thicken up. Go ahead and use it like it is.

Line the bottom of a 9x13 inch dish with vanilla wafers. Arrange sliced bananas evenly over wafers. Don't forget to toss your banana slices in lemon juice!

Spread with pudding mixture. Topped with remaining whipped topping and chill. (I do several layers in a smaller, deeper dish and then just have the last layer as the pudding and then top that with crushed cookies. I think my daughter was enjoying crushing these cookies here!)

So, I always have extra filling. I didn't want that goodness to go to waste, so I do a round two recipe with the filling in a strawberry shortcake. But, you can use this strawberry sauce for anything...or just by itself!

I cut the leftover filling with some heavy cream to thin it out a bit.

Take half of your strawberries (always best to use the under-ripened ones here) and slice them up. Toss with 3 tablespoons of white sugar and 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Yes, balsamic vinegar. Sometimes I just splash straight balsamic on my strawberries and top with fresh whipped cream. Love it! But, let's sweeten it up a tad here.

Bring mixture to a boil on the stove and let simmer until nice and thick (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat and let cool.

Slice some pound cake or angel food cake and top with your filling cream. Top with the cooled balsamic strawberries and then top off with sliced fresh strawberries. There ya go. Two desserts for the price of one! Get down and southern dirty, y'all!

NEW! Print this recipe! Click here for a printable version: Banana Pudding and Strawberry Sauce