The End of 2009

Well, what has been happening on my cooking scene?  For Thanksgiving and Christmas both I made absolutely amazing pecan pies.  Talk about living deliciously!!  Yum!! It was the first time I made my husband one and it is one of his all time favorite pies.  I even got my picky daughter to taste the pie (she was previously a confirmed pie hater) which led to her nibbling away at the center to where everyone else got mainly the sidelines with crust.  For Christmas my hubby received one of his own since I am diabetic and cannot indulge except in the smallest of tastes.  I am about to share my not so secret recipe with you – I am a firm believer you cannot improve on perfection and this recipe is as close to perfect as one can get.  Ready? I use the recipe on the bottle of dark Karo syrup.  The only difference I make is to use pecan halves for the 1 ½ cups the recipe calls for, plus a ½ cup of pieces because I love my pie to be very pecany.  If you have never tried it the recipe is quick, easy and I believe, foolproof.  I even used a Pillsbury pie crust and hubby has been in pie heaven.  Just a note:  The better quality your pecans the better quality your pie.  We have a truck farm nearby that has fantastic fresh shelled pecans every year so I got a new batch, having brought all my pecans to my daughter for Thanksgiving, and this new batch is totally yummy as always.  (Recipe follows.)

We made quite a road trip in November; drove from Texas to my daughter’s in Woodbury (outside Minneapolis/St.Paul), Minnesota where we spent several weeks including Thanksgiving, then thru a little snow storm all the way through Iowa to Missouri to see Mom and my Son with his little family, then to Dallas to see another  daughter and finally home to an unfinished remodeling job with workers in and out continually.  I slept in a chair for 10 days in Minnesota because of the crud, hacking cough and more. Leaving Missouri, pain in my face began which proved to be an infected and broken tooth, etc., etc.  None of the above stopped me from popping out a delicious Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, homemade dressing, corn pudding, and much, much more.  I am finally better after many weeks, the remodeling is done and my bathroom is clean and bright and as close to perfect as it can ever be.  I got smart and brought in a construction cleaning crew that cost me the farm but cleaned my house from top to bottom since my allergies wouldn’t allow me to deal with the tons of construction dust that even coated the clothes in my closet.

My thirty year old house is getting a face lift inside and out in 2010 if I can survive it all.  It will finally be a home of which I can be proud with a brand new professional kitchen.  The worst is yet to come when I get the kitchen and living room done, stripping the kitchen and taking the wall out between the piano room and living room.  Maybe all that illness rotted my brain for me to even consider any further remodeling.  I guess we will see.  My hubby’s bathroom is next and then we will see if I postpone the other rooms for another year.  Hmmm??  When this is over my house will no longer be my first husband’s home but very obviously my adorable husband, Bob’s, home.  This is a spiritual event as much as it is a physical event for me.

What have I learned this year, besides a lot of hard lessons about remodeling?  Let’s just say I reconfirmed I like home cooking better than restaurant fare.  There are two exceptions for special occasions, the restaurant we went to on Christmas Eve and one close to our home that, in my humble opinion has fantastic food.  Christmas Eve we went to the original Brenner’s Restaurant in Houston.  We had a special guest this year, a widow friend of 30 years joined us for Christmas eve dinner.  She only has one relative in Texas and because of extenuating circumstances of loss at this time she was going to spend her Christmas alone, not choosing to be with a large number of people.  It’s not like me to be content with anyone being alone for Christmas so we invited her to join us, and she joined us for what was a most wonderful evening of good company and fine food at Brenner’s.  I had lobster bisque plus Australian Lobster Tail and it was divine.  Bob and Reta had filets and both said theirs were delicious.  Of course, because of price this remains a special occasion restaurant for us.  Other times I get a Prime Rib sandwich at Perry’s in Friendswood and just eat the steak, which is grilled to perfection, all crusty and buttery, and doesn’t dent my pocket book.  YUM!!  They are the only two I can rave about at this time.   I will mention that the Jambalaya at Pappas Restaurant was finally delicious to my palate; formerly it was too hot but since it has been toned down I love every bite.  It’s not mine but it is a good second.  So, if you are in the Houston area be sure to try these wonderful establishments and give yourself an evening off.

I also had reaffirmed the ease of use of my cookbook for novice cooks as well as the enticing flavors for expert cooks.  Now that my cookbook is sold internationally I am getting a broader perspective of how it relates to adults of all ages and degrees of cooking experience.  The American Women’s Association in Doha, Qatar enthusiastically welcomed Down Home Delicious as did many other expats in the area.  I never envisioned my book having such a following but am delighted with the reception.  I look forward to welcoming home Rhonda Bryant, past Doha AWA president when she returns to Houston in January.  I am excited to find what new opportunities present themselves in 2010.  How wonderful to live my passion and be so affirmed by it.  I hope you will have the courage to move forward into new areas in your life this New Year.  If I can be of help in any way, let me know.

Because of all the travel since returning home, I have not had much chance to do creative cooking but my love of shrimp remains a driving force and I did experiment with a new recipe for grilled shrimp.  It is quite a tasty treat, easy and adaptable to your own palate.  You can play with the flavors beginning with substituting lime or orange for lemon, or use your favorite preserves instead of pineapple.  Use cayenne, black or jalapeno pepper according to taste, and substitute teriyaki or sweet and sour sauce in place of soy sauce, while parsley can be substituted instead of cilantro.  This is a sneak peek at how to create your own recipes without fear, something I may expand on in 2010.   (Recipe follows.)

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Dark Karo Pecan Pie

(From Karo Syrup Bottle)

Prep:  5 minutes:  [Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake 60-70 minutes]   [Serves 8]

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Karo Dark Corn Syrup
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
  • 1 ½ cups pecans halves*
  • ½ cup pecan pieces*
  • 1 unbaked 9-inch deep dish pie crust (I use Pillsbury)

*my personal substitution of halves and extra pieces

Preparation

STIR the first 5 ingredients thoroughly using a spoon (in a large bowl).  Mix in pecans and stir until all are coated with the sugary liquid.

POUR into pie crust.  (In order to make it more beautiful you might take the time to turn all the halves over where the tops are all up.  It won’t taste any different but it is very attractive.)

BAKE on center rack of oven for 60 to 70 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool for 2 hours.  Store pie in refrigerator.  See Karo bottle for further information.

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Pineapple Grilled Shrimp

Prep:  10 minutes:  [Serves: 8]

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pineapple preserves
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, mashed and/or finely minced
  • 3 teaspoons dry ground ginger or 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
  • ½ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried cilantro
  • 2 pounds large to jumbo shrimp, peeled, deveined, and rinsed

Preparation

Put pineapple preserves in a large microwaveable bowl and microwave on high for 30 – 45 seconds or until melted.  Add zest and juice into bowl.  Stir in soy sauce, garlic, ginger, cayenne, and cilantro.   Add shrimp and stir until coated.  Cover and chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

While shrimp marinate, spray grill or broiler pan with cooking oil and preheat oven on broil.  Put oven rack to high position so shrimp will be about 4 inches from heat.

Remove shrimp from marinade to a large plate or pan. Put remaining marinade in a small pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, while shrimp grill.

Divide shrimp into 8 stacks and thread onto 8 skewers leaving a little space between each piece.  (Bamboo or wooden skewers need to be soaked in water a few minutes prior to adding shrimp so skewer will not burn.  Metal skewers will cook shrimp slightly faster.)  Cook skewered shrimp 2 minutes per side several inches from heat, basting often with marinade.  Shrimp are ready when opaque.  Overcooking will make them tough.

Serve with warm marinade.  Delicious served with roasted peppers and mushrooms, or asparagus, broccoli, or green beans, and a flavored rice or pasta dish.

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I was recently gifted with a very old recipe for enchiladas that is quick and easy and sure to be authentically delicious but since it has no measurements on it I will have to wait until I try it to make it useable to you.  Look for it in the New Year.

I saved the grandest part of Down Home Delicious and Stonywood Publication’s Christmas this year for last.  This is the highlight of our truly delicious life and an honor for us to be able to accomplish.  Because my husband is a retired career Army Colonel we are cognizant of the sacrifices families endure when a loved one serves our country in the military so we decided to donate 3,000 cookbooks to Military Moms and Wives of Brazoria County (MMWBC) to distribute to the Mom’s, Wives, or Grandmothers of our Military Heroes in Iraq and Afghanistan.   We give them in recognition of and gratitude for their sacrifices in service to our country while sharing their loved ones with us in such an important manner.  There is a commemorative sticker on each book extending our gratitude and recognition.  You can see the sticker and read more about our outreach on our website (www.downhomedelicious.com), plus register for a cookbook if you have a family member deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan or a fallen hero.

We began with a kickoff book signing at MMWBC on December 12 in Angleton, Texas.  It was exciting to speak with the Mom’s, Wives, Grandmothers and even a husband or two that were able to pick up their books in person.  They are a warm and wonderful group of families we are proud to know and support.   We were humbled to sign books for the families of our fallen heroes from our area and hope they enjoy our small gift of remembrance.  Families can still sign up using the registration form on our website at www.downhomedelicious.com.  The first 3,000 to register will receive books.  MMWBC could certainly use donations for postage and more assistance in packaging care boxes and cookbooks if you or someone you know lives in the Angleton area.  Contact Mary Moreno at 979-236-6861 or http://www.militarymomsandwives.org/ for more information.

If you know of another deserving group that you would like to suggest we support, please do not hesitate to write giving us all the information so we can consider it.  When we published our book we chose to print a large quantity of extra books so that we could provide copies for charitable purposes.  It is heartwarming to know we can make a difference.  I signed books from Noon to 2 p.m. and recipients at our MMWBC book signing were so grateful that it touched us deeply.  They thoroughly enjoyed chatting with my hubby because he is one of them and understands their circumstances.  Commemorative cookbooks can be purchased on our website for your own gifting, along with the original version, and I will be happy to sign them per your request.  Down Home Delicious is also available (without the commemorative sticker) at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Favorite Recipes Press, Borders Books, and other stores on the internet.  Simply Google Down Home Delicious and you should find locations that have it for sale.  Make sure you have the real thing, Down Home Delicious, Spice up your life with Incredible Gulf Coast cooking, published by Stonywood Publications.

The next time you hear from me we will be off and running in the New Year.  I hope your beginning, middle and end is happy, healthy, safe and prosperous and more and more of your dreams come true.  There is magic in the air, miracles and a truly delicious life await you.  Enjoy!!

Ya’ll have a Down Home Delicious 2010 now, ya hear?!!!

With love from —

Peggy Sholly, Down Home Delicious, and Stonywood Publications

In God we Trust