Sweet tea and summer thoughts…

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So if you haven’t noticed, I have been AWOL for a month of so. I’m sorry, life got very busy and fun all of a sudden. Old best friends coming through,  music festivals etc… But the most exciting news (in the way of food) is my new job! I am now a cook at the super amazing restaurant, Chez Liberty. This is the kind of job cooks wait their whole career to find. It’s laid back, my chef is super talented, passionate and fun and the food is orgasmic. I have an amazing crew I work with, and am learning new things literally every day. I can’t wait to share some of what I’m learning with ya’ll. And the best part is that my chef loves The Hedonist Cook and has agreed to be a guest on a video soon. Ya’ll are gonna LOVE him!

Besides all that great stuff, it is hot as hell here in East Tennessee. Today is the first day of summer, and it’s so hot outside I wanted to cry earlier while driving my non air conditioned VW fox across down. If I drank I would get drunk and stay drunk until mid September. Anything to distract me from the heat. But I don’t drink, so I had to come up with another solution. And my solution is sweet tea. Sweet tea is something I discovered when I moved to the South, and it’s one of those things that just doesn’t exist across the mason/Dixon line. In the south, if you ask for tea it will come sweetened unless you request it otherwise. When my dear friend Mickayla, who is a Tennessee native, moved to South Korea she literally panicked at the idea of not having sweet tea for a year. Her parents send her packages of Luzianne on a regular basis, that’s how much it means to her.

When I first moved here I didn’t get it. I mean, it’s just iced tea with a boatload of sugar. But after 2 years here something has changed and I’ve begun to crave sweet tea, especially in the summer. It seems to cool you down better than any other beverage. An ice cold cup of sweet tea in the afternoon makes me feel like there is hope, that I’ll make it through the humidity for one more day. And it makes me feel like a true southerner, which I love. The best part of it? It’s soooo easy to make! Here’s the recipe I use. You can find all sort of recipes with additives to remove any bitterness, as the tannens in tea can give off a bitter taste. But this is how Mickayla taught me to make it, and her word is law when it comes to all things southern. Enjoy!

Sweet Tea

  • water
  • 3 family size tea bags (Luzianne is best, but Lipton works for my non southern friends)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • Ice
  • Gallon sized pitcher
  1. Fill a medium size saucepan with water and bring to a rolling boil. (It doesn’t matter exactly how much water. I’d say 4-6 cups)
  2. Remove from heat and steep 3 family sized tea bags in water. Cover with lid or plate and let steep for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Pour in 1 cup sugar and stir until sugar is totally incorporated. (That means no grittiness. It only takes a minute or so.)
  4. Throw away tea bags (be careful, they’re hot!) and pour into a gallon sized container. If it’s glass, be sure to warm the container first with hot tap water so it doesn’t crack. If i’ts plastic don’t melt it, duh!
  5. Fill container with ice and cold water. Cool or serve over ice.

Video – How to roll pie dough without a rolling pin

Topic: Recipes

A few clarifications:

  1. If you have a wine bottle you can just ignore the video and use that. It works great.
  2. Make sure to look at my video for the Apple Dumplings if you haven’t already. This recipe works wonderfully for them.
  3. I’m sorry I look like a not-as-sexy cracked out Marla Singer in this video. I decided to record it totally on the fly, which is obvious by my lack of clothing, make-up and shaky camera man.
  4. I know pie dough can be really scary and intimidating. I’m gonna do a video on it soon, but I wanted to include the recipe I used in this video. It’s super easy, promise.
  5. Thanks for watching, The Hedonist Cook loves you. Muah!

Pie Crust Recipe

  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (It helps if you chill the butter again after you cut it, because it warms up as you cut it.)
  • 6 tablespoons (about) ice water (Stick the water in the freezer while you prep everything else. It gives it time to get really cold.)

Directions

Food Processor method:

Mix flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter; pulse until coarse meal forms. Gradually blend in enough ice water to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Form dough into 2 balls; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; chill 2 hours or overnight.

By Hand Method:

Mix flour, sugar, and salt in large bowl. Add butter; cut in with fork or pastry cutter until coarse meal forms. Gradually blend in enough ice water to form moist clumps. Gather dough into ball; divide in half. Form dough into 2 balls; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; chill 2 hours or overnight. (I threw mine in the freezer for 15 minutes and it worked fine.)

My Favorite Cornbread Recipe…

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Cornbread is a staple food here in the south. In fact, if you go to a southern restaurant, it’s not surprising to see cornbread listed as a vegetable side. When I first moved here I decided to try making cornbread from scratch, since up to that point I had only had it from the lovely little blue jiffy box. I bought the ingredients, looked up a recipe from a southern magazine and got to work.

You can imagine my horror when I bit into it and it was dry, crumbly and almost savory! I asked around and found out that southern cornbread is nothing like the rest of the country eats. It’s meant to be, you know, bread. In fact, most people crumble it into whatever they’re eating. No light fluffy cornbread here. In desperation I went to the store and looked for a different kind of cornmeal. I found the cheapest most enriched cornmeal I could find and used the recipe on the back, making sure there was a liberal amount of sugar in the recipe.

Finally, I had found what I had been craving. This was what I remember. At the same time, I knew something was off. Maybe it was the months of getting used to Southern Cornbread, but it seemed too sweet. I was serving it with dinner, but it felt like it should be for dessert. The following recipe is my Yankee leaning compromise. It is still  sweet, but the addition of some stone milled cornmeal gives it a bit more texture and cutting down on the sugar brought out the flavor of the cornmeal itself.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup cheapo enriched corn meal
  • 1/4 cup real cornmeal
  • (For a sweeter, cake like cornbread use all enriched. For a heartier cornbread use 1/2 cup stone milled cornmeal and 1/2 cup enriched.)
  • 1 1/4 c all purpose flour
  • 3 Tablestoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk (whole is best, but anything will work.)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (You can use “drippings” as well, as in bacon drippings. I think it’s a bit rich, so I’ll throw in a few Tablespoons with the oil. Great flavor and totally old school.)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease an 8″ or 9″  pan or skillet with shortening or lard. (I swear by my 9″ cast iron skillet. You can get them super cheap new, and I think it’s worth if it if all you ever cook in it is cornbread. )
  2. Put greased skillet into oven and get it super hot while you mix the ingredients. It should only need to be in there a few minutes. This gives cornbread that amazing crispy, almost fried, crust. **
  3. Blend all dry ingredients in medium bowl. Mix in wet ingredients and stir until incorporated. It will be a bit lumpy but it should all be wet.
  4. Pour batter into hot pan and cook for 18-25 minutes. Anything over 18 in my cast iron skillet will burn. The original recipes said 20-25 minutes, so I assume that’s for a different kind of pan.
  5. You can tell it’s done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes about 9 servings. It’s best served warm with butter, honey and possibly some sorghum syrup if you’re lucky enough to live in the south. :)

**Thanks for this piece of advice from my rad boss and co-worker. It really helps to have honest to goodness southerners to bounce ideas off of!

Video: Chicken and Dumplings

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Ingredients:

Chicken:
  • 3 Chicken Breasts with bone and skin
  • 4 cups low salt chicken broth
  • 4 celery stalks, rough chop (don’t throw any part of it away)
  • 2 mediums onions, rough chop (don’t throw any part of it away)
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch pieces
  • 8 peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
Dumplings:
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon
  • 1/4 cup cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 7 oz heavy cream or whole milk

Directions:

  1. In large stock pot over medium high heat, add first 9 ingredients (everything but butter and flour.) Bring to a boil, lower to a mild simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove meat and set aside and strain all liquid into a bowl, set aside.
  3. Reserve carrots in bowl and throw away all remaining ingredients (celery, onions peppercorns and bay leaf).
  4. Let chicken cool slightly and remove all meat from bones. Throw bones and skin away.
  5. Now make the dumplings!!: Mix all dumpling ingredients just till moist and set aside.
  6. Put pot on medium heat to melt butter, add flour and stir nonstop for 2-4 minutes until it’s a light brown color.
  7. Slowly stir in broth, then add chicken and carrots, bring to a light boil.
  8. Spoon dumplings over chicken and cook covered for 10-12 minutes. (Dumplings will be really wet.)
  9. Remove lid and cook for another 10-15 minutes, until cooked through.

So first off, this video is chopped all to hell! I couldn’t make the 10 minute limit so I had to cut out a bunch of stuff. I’m sorry about that. If something doesn’t make sense, just send me a quick email and I’ll get right back to you. Also, although it looks like a lot of ingredients and directions, please don’t be intimidated. It is really one of the easier things I have posted on here. It’s been suggested to me that for the new cook I leave some info out sometimes, so I’m trying to make sure I put every step on here.

I hope you liked the video and recipe. Thanks for watching!

xoxo,

Mel

Video: Butter Chickpea Curry

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Ingredients:

  • 4 medium potatoes, cubed and cooked
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into bite sized pieces, steamed
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes (regular sized can)
  • 2 teaspoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup cream (or milk)
  • 1 (12 ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) rinsed and drained.

Directions:

  1. Place potatoes in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil over high heat; simmer until the potatoes are tender. Drain, and set aside.
  2. Steam or microwave cauliflower until it’s cooked but still firm. Drain and set aside.(You can cook the potatoes and cauliflower ahead of time, just throw them in the fridge up to one day.)
  3. Melt butter in large pot over medium heat. Stir in onion and garlic, and cook until the onions are soft and translucent.
  4. Stir in curry powder, garam masala, ginger, cumin, and salt. Cook for at least 2 minutes, stirring the whole time. (Don’t worry that it’s a weird pasty mess, it will be fine once the liquid is added. Promise.)
  5. Pour in crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, cream, and chickpeas. Stir in potatoes. Simmer at least 5 minutes, up to 30 minutes

This dish can be served right away, but it’s also delicious when it’s had some time to sit and let the flavors come together. If you let it cool then reheat it don’t forget to add a little water, as the curry can thicken up quite a lot. You want the curry to be like a heavy gravy, not lumpy and grainy.

Hopefully you saw in the video how totally easy this is. It’s a great dish, and even though it’s vegetarian I still feel like a hedonist when I eat it.

As always, enjoy and let me know what you think.

xoxo,

Melanie

Video: Triple Decker Grilled Cheese

Topic: Recipes

Here’s a video on how to make my world famous triple-decker grilled cheese. This is a fool proof way to make friends and attract a hottie. (Swear to God, it worked for me!)

Video: French Toast

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Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 9 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups whole or reduced-fat (2%) milk
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 12 3/4-inch-thick slices French bread

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees (to keep cooked french toast warm.)
  2. Wisk all ingredients together (except bread of course) in large bowl.
  3. Soak both sides of bread in wet ingredients until fully saturated.
  4. Heat large skillet to medium/medium high heat, coat skillet with butter. (Butter should sizzle but not smoke.)
  5. Place bread in skillet and cook until golden brown, 3-5 minutes. Flip over and cook 3-5 minutes more. (May take more or less time depending on oven and skillet. Keep an eye on it!)
  6. Once french toast is done, place in oven to keep warm. Make sure to put more butter on the skillet before cooking the next batch.

This recipe is really easy, and produces great French Toast!  Don’t forget that it’s very sweet. Preserves or even fresh fruit would be a great topping if you can’t handle too much sweetness. Let me know what you think!

xoxo,

Melanie

Video: Quick, delicious pasta sauce

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Ingredients:

  • 2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 8 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 6 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 32oz. cans whole tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil (triple the amount if fresh)
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you want heat)
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon marjoram
  • bay Leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1teaspoon sugar
  • pinch of black pepper (more to taste)

Directions:

  1. Saute chopped onion and garlic in olive oil on medium heat till tender and somewhat translucent
  2. Add basil, pepper flakes, oregano, marjoram, bay leaf (and any other seasonings you may want into saucepan and stir for 2 minutes
  3. Add both cans of tomatoes (including juice), salt, sugar and pepper and bring to a boil
  4. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, stirring every 20 minutes or so.
  • This recipe was soooo easy! What I like so much about it is how versatile it is. If you’re a new cook, just follow the recipe and it will turn out great. If you’re a little more comfortable in the kitchen, trying adding some things. Red wine, vodka, cheese, meat, different seasonings, there’s really no limit.
  • Also, don’t forget that this is a great recipe to double. It doesn’t increase your cooking time, and pasta sauce freezes great! I like to put it in zip-lock sandwich bags, freeze it, and then when I’m in the mood for a simple meal I can pull one out and defrost it real quick.

Garbanzo bean, lentil and vegetable Stew – Recipe

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Close up of amazing Vegetarian Stew, yum!

makes 4 serving

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 3 Tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 1/4 cups canned vegetable broth
  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1 15 to 16 oz can garbanzo beans (chickpeas), rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 carrots, peeled and cup in 1/4 inch rounds
  • 1 cup frozen Lima beans
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (looks great but you don’t have to have it.)
  • 1 oz bag fresh spinach leaves (or 1/2 a bag of frozen)

Stew on rice with cornbread

Directions

  1. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium low heat. Add onions and garlic and saute until soft and golden (about 10 minutes)
  2. Add tomato paste, coriander, caraway and cayenne; stir one minute.
  3. Stir in broth, water and lentils. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until lentils are almost tender about 15 minutes.
  4. Add garbanzo beans, carrots, Lima beans and parsley. Cover and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.
    (If you want, you can cool this and refrigerate this a day ahead. Bring it back to a simmer before continuing)
  5. Stir spinach info stew. Cover and cook just until spinach wilts, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Ladle soup into bowls, over rice, and prepare to really enjoy your meal!

Who knew vegetarian food could be so good?!

Recipe: Lasagna that rocks!

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Ingredients

  • 1 pound hamburger
  • 1 small onion
  • 1/2 pound sausage
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 bottles of tomato sauce of your choice (or try the pasta sauce from this site.)
  • 1 package (16oz) lasagna noodles
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 8oz. cream cheese (soften)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream

Directions

1. chop onions and garlic, get ingredients ready.

2. Saute onions and garlic until soft, about 6 minutes.

3. Add both kinds of meat and brown.

(When meat is fully cooked it should look like picture below.)

4. Add spaghetti sauce to browned meat and keep warm, letting the flavor combine.

5. Put water on to boil in large pot, while that is heating up, combine Ricotta cheese, cream cheese and sour cream in large mixing bowl.

6. Beat on medium speed until it is smooth. (The softer the cream cheese is the easier this will be. Cream cheese tend to be lumpy when mixed.) Set aside.

7. Once water is boiling, add noodles in small batches, making sure that they soften enough to be submerged totally in the water.

8. Follow directions on box for cooking, cook until Al Dente. Once they are done, drain and set out on paper towels out of the way until cool.

9. in 9″x13″ glass dish, cover bottom of pan with sauce and meat, follow with one layer of noodles, overlapping a bit.

10. Next, cover with all of the filling.

11. On top of filling do a layer of sauce, a layer of noodles and another layer of sauce. (At this point lasagna can be refrigerated overnight.)

12. Cover with aluminum foil and cook in a 350 over for 1 hour.

13. Remove tin foil, add mixture of mozzarella and cheddar cheese and cook another 10-15 minutes.

14. Prepare to be hugged, proposed to and adored. They’ll never know how easy it is to do, they’ll think you’re magical. And you know what? You are.

xoxo,

Melanie