I love Paula Deen!! There, I got that out of the way straight off the bat. I mean, if you are going to publish a blog post devoted to demonstrating the many original, inspirational, knowledgeable, creative, funny, informative and downright amazing things that make you the perfect addition to the Deen Team of bloggers, a certain amount of pandering to the audience is necessary, right? But, let me be clear, the requisite pandering is in no way an indication that my words of endearment are not absolutely true. She is an inspiration! A mother, grandmother, stepmother, wife, author, empire creator, cooker of stunning culinary creations, comedienne and supreme southern grande dame (this is in no way meant to be a comprehensive list) who overcame a mess of obstacles in pursuit of her dream. With her quirky presence, perky personality and "everyone's favorite neighborhood mom" demeanor, you can't help but be drawn in and, on some level, want to be a part of it all. I want to be a part of it, too!
I have been drawn to the kitchen and cooking for as far back as I can remember. One of my very earliest culinary related memories goes back to when I was about 7 years old. I can still recall the feeling of wanting so badly to emulate my mom in the kitchen and be given the chance to prepare a meal for my parents from start to finish. I vividly remember scouring the collection of cook books my mom had en massed for recipes I could actually prepare. While I can't claim to recall what I ended up making or if it was good (or even edible, for that matter)! What made me fall madly in love with cooking and the kitchen was the joy I felt knowing I could let my imagination soar and create with no boundaries. What has made this a lifelong affair is the euphoric feeling that envelopes me while feeding friends, family and loved ones and the satisfaction of giving something of yourself to other people. Oh, I also really love to eat. Not just eat anything, though. Good food. Good food prepared from fresh and healthful ingredients. Good food prepared from fresh, healthful ingredients in a pretty standard kitchen and on a single lady's (after 40 you really can't get away with calling yourself a girl anymore...lady sounds better anyway) budget. Good food prepared from fresh, healthful ingredients in a pretty standard kitchen, on a single lady's budget and in a reasonable amount of time after you get home from a long day at work. (For me that's as an emerging real estate mogul...of sorts).
Ok, so that's not asking too much, is it? "Certainly not", I said to anyone who would listen! It is possible to come home from work and prepare a delicious, healthful, easy meal in a reasonable amount of time if you know how to use your kitchen sensibly. If you do all that while sticking to the budget, you have Kitchen Centsability! And there it started.
At the time, I thought it a magnificent idea to prove my theory that one could, in fact, prepare a delicious, healthful, easy meal without fancy commercial kitchen equipment, hours of preparation and while still maintaining a budget. What better way to prove it than to just do it? So, I did. I promptly went about writing a blog entry every single day for one year which chronicled what I had for dinner. No magic, no smoke and mirrors and no tricks. Successes, flops and failures. Each and every meal. They all got marquee billing, a close-up photograph, and their very own recipe.
Since completing the project, three posts have clearly emerged as the most viewed. Not surprisingly a simple whole roasted chicken was the clear favorite followed by my Nan's (my mom) pulled pork sandwich and my recipe remake of Bonefish Grill's Bang-Bang Shrimp. Take a look! I have included them below.
Simple Oven Roasted Whole Chicken
(November 11, 2010) In my opinion, there are few things more delicious than a simple, but flavorful, oven roasted chicken. I had been day dreaming about this chicken all day long, knowing it was in the refrigerator just across the room waiting for me to escort it home and roast it until it is the envy of all other roasted chickens. The moist, tender, flavorful meat and the crispy, salty skin is utterly fabulous as is but it is also a great base ingredient for a multitude of other recipes. While I was in heaven just enjoying this chicken with no embellishment for dinner, tomorrow night it has a date with some pizza dough and BBQ sauce for my current favorite BBQ Chicken Pizza. If time permits, it is also going to turn exotic and transform itself into Curried Chicken Cashew Raisin Salad for a brown bag lunch.
Simple Roasted Chicken
1 3 1/2 - 4 lb chicken (preferably free range and organic)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees (400 degrees for a convection oven). Clean, rinse and pat dry the chicken and place on a rack set inside a roasting pan, breast side down. Drizzle with olive oil and season with a dry spice rub. Roast for 20 minutes with the breast down. Turn chicken over and roast 20 minutes more with the breast side up. Finally turn chicken breast down for 10 minutes and once more with breast side up for 10 minutes. Check chicken for doneness with an instant read thermometer placed in the thigh. Let chicken rest for 20 minutes before carving.
Easy Crock Pot Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Sweet and Sour Cole Slaw
(June 14, 2010) It was back to Sunday dinner as usual at Nan's after she enjoyed a few weeks off from hosting the family at her house. She prepared us one of our family favorites, pulled pork sandwiches, but she also tried out a new recipe for BBQ sauce which was the best ever! It was a recipe called "Sweet Hickory BBQ Sauce" from Bobby and Jamie Deen's magazine "The Deen Brother's Good Cooking - Easy Summer Recipes". Our family, over the years, has tested out gallons of different sauces, some that have a million ingredients, other with just two or three, we have long cooked it and not heated it at all. Still we never found one we all really loved...until now! This was the perfect sauce for pulled pork with just enough smokey flavor and sweetness to cut through and enhance the richness of the pork.
Sweet Hickory BBQ Sauce by Bobby and Jamie Deen
1 1/2 cups ketchup
3/4 cup unsulphured molasses
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of liquid smoke
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons chili powder
Combine all in a large bowl. Store in refrigerator until ready for use.
To make the actual pork part of the pulled pork sandwiches, Nan rubbed a pork butt with Famous Dave's pork rub and chipotle chili powder. She let it marinate in the refrigerator over night and then cooked in a crock pot for about 9 hours on low. After letting it cool she shredded it with a fork and mixed it with the Sweet Hickory BBQ Sauce.
In my opinion, you have got to have slaw with pulled pork. I am particularly fond of this Sweet and Sour Cole Slaw recipe because it is cold and crisp and it goes so well with the flavors of the pork. Combine 1 1/2 bags of prepared cabbage with carrots with 1 small diced onion, 1/2 cup canola oil, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon celery seed (which Nan leaves out because I despise celery seed), 2 tablespoons chopped parsley, 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 cup cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir well and refrigerate over night for best flavor.
Copycat Recipe for Bonefish Grill's Bang Bang Shrimp
Because the shrimp will cook so quickly, once you get them in the pan, you want to have the sauce ready and standing by to pour over the freshly fried shrimp. In a mixing bowl combine 1/2 cup mayonnaise, a tablespoon or so of horseradish, 1/4 cup sweet Asian chili sauce and a few tablespoons of hot Asian chili sauce or Srirachi (if you want to start out a bit more cautious, add 1 tablespoon at a time of the hot sauce and taste. Add more until it's a spicy as you like it). That's it! Combine well and set aside until the shrimp is ready.
I purchased one pound of raw, shell-on USA shrimp and cleaned, de-veined and removed the shell at home. Next step is to toss the shrimp in some cornstarch which, when fried, will give the shrimp a nice crisp coating without it being too heavy. Cook the shrimp in the deep fryer for about 3 minutes total. Place the shrimp in a large mixing bowl while they are still hot and pour over the Bang Bang sauce. Toss well to coat, adding more sauce if necessary and tumble out onto a bed of crispy shredded iceberg lettuce. Top with a sprinkling of green onions and chopped fresh cilantro.
Did I mention how much I love Paula Deen? Anyway, this brings to an end my pitch to be the newest member of the Deen Team of bloggers. In addition to keeping in touch via my blog, please join me in the social media sphere! (and, should I be so blessed, maybe someday soon on PaulaDeen.com)