Midwestern Rasied, Southern fed.

After a semi-traumatic (see also: dramatic) experience with innards from a chicken I bought at the Farmer’s Market last summer, I was relieved when we were told that we could have everything removed from our fifty birds at the place we took them late last fall to get butchered.

Adam grew up with a great friend, Andy, who still lives just down the street. Andy is over often and when he heard we were going to have the butcher just pitch the innards, he spoke up and told us that we had to save the livers.

… Livers?

He explained that his family, who hails from eastern Tennessee, loves fried chicken livers. We had to keep them and the next time they were in town they would cook them for us.

So, we had the butcher bag up all the livers and we froze them until early last week when Andy’s grandparents and aunt came to town.

At lunch, the day of our fried chicken liver dinner, Adam’s mom asked me if I had ever had liver in tone that made me wonder what I was getting into. Truth of the matter was no. But, I convinced myself that if it’s fried, it’s probably not going to be too bad.

I am also not a picky eater and will try almost anything, but it still didn’t stop me from Googling “Fried Chicken Livers” in the afternoon just to see what to expect.

Within the first five posts there were recipes from Saveur and Food and Wine. Turns out fried chicken livers are a southern classic and even the snazziest southern inspired restaurants were serving them. The sites even listed beers and wines that pair well with the fried livers.

010

That evening, Adam and I headed over to Andy’s where we found his grandmother and dad cooking up a storm. The stove top was full of cast iron where livers were frying as well as potatoes and cornbread patties.

003

Andy and his grandmother both commended us on how great the livers from our birds looked and that they were a great size. They had soaked them in salt water and then milk, much like I do with duck, to help dull the game-y flavor.

001

The liver’s were dredged through flour with a bit of spices and then placed in a skillet of oil and melted butter.

004

Andy’s grandmother told me to try one that she had pulled out of the skillet a few minutes earlier that were sitting on a plate lined with a paper towel.

002

I understood why they had soaked the livers in milk; they had a very similar taste and texture to venison or duck. Andy said the gaminess is likely because they contain so much iron.

Chicken liver is a great source of iron and zinc, but contains quite a bit of cholesterol so they are not something that you would want to eat all the time. (Don’t worry, Doc. I balanced this meal out with a glass of red wine.)

The spread that evening was great. In addition to the livers, there was homemade cole slaw, deviled eggs, fried potatoes, corn bread, and a killer peanut butter pie.

008

Adam and I so appreciated the experience because it was something we would have never done ourselves. But, we will now. What I really loved was getting a taste of an authentic southern meal and seeing another family’s traditions come to life.

Yesterday, I saw liver’s at the Farmer’s Market. Give them a try! There are tons of recipes out there and when I try them at home I think I will use this recipe from Food and Wine. The author says the soy sauce will balance the gamey taste if that’s not something your into.

Advertisements

Pinteresting Veggies.

Written June 19, 2013

It’s pretty safe to say that I am obsessed with Pinterest.

But, if loving Pinterest is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

It’s is so handy and I actually use it… a lot.

Like look at this great wreath I made for the Fourth of July last week.
IMG_1272
It is based on this image I found on Pinterest that links to:http://www.allthingsthrifty.com/2011/07/red-white-and-blue-wreath-idea.html
2339e504de35e19750b541ff9f2ab899

It was a great resource when building and decorating our new house.

We used this room as inspiration for our master bedroom.
7c352f4e6dbb6e40ce2c4c9aaa246793
The photo came from: http://ashleeraubachphotography.blogspot.jp/2011/04/alison-royer-interior-designer-belmont.html

I love our beautiful master bedroom. It is the perfect combination of romantic and relaxing.
photo

I also loved this idea to save counter space and use planter baskets for produce.
da2492e481352764a721e1be5177b11b

I got my planters from Hobby Lobby. These are from http://www.store.willowhouse.com/

It works great in our house as fresh fruits and veggies are the norm.
photo

Last year we hosted a Baby-Que, inspired by something I saw on Pinterest, for one of Adam’s fraternity brothers and his wife when they were expecting this first son. I made these fun labels for the barbeque sauce to stick with the Baby-Que theme.
547288_10101510842187078_404893034_n
The mild sauce was called “Mild Child Sauce.” The hot barbeque sauce said, “Oh Baby! That’s Hot Sauce!” And then we got a super-hot sauce that we called “Screaming Hot Temper Tantrum Sauce!”

I am always looking for new ways to work out so that I don’t get bored. Pinterest is full of links to health magazines or youtube videos. Like this one for your arms by Tracy Anderson.

It is awesome because it doesn’t require any equipment. Consider yourself warned, it’s only eight minutes but it’s killer!

My new favorite thing to do is Barre workouts and Pinterest is full of them. I just use a kitchen chair to serve as my “barre” so I can do them at home. I love a work out that doesn’t require shoes!

… I told you I use it a lot. 🙂

But what I love most about Pinterest the recipes and how it has introduced me to so many new food blogs. Before Pinterest, I would Google things like “Chicken Recipes” or “Party Dips” and have to sort through all kinds of links. Now I have pin boards full of recipes or I can visit a cooking blog that I have learned to love.

Some of my favorite cooking blogs that I have found on Pinterest are the following:

SkinnyTaste.com: She includes all the nutritional information for her recipes, including Weight Watcher’s points. I have made a ton of meals from this site. The Asian recipes are all phenomenal and she loves spicy stuff!
http://www.takingonmagazines.com/: This woman makes recipes from popular cooking magazines and cook books, reviews them and lets you know if something should be changed. It’s really nice because she also describes the process. It helps to know what you are getting into!
(Speaking of magazines, Food and Wine, Bon Appetit, Real Simple and Cooking Light are also the home some of my favorite Pinterest recipes.)
iowagirleats.com/:I literally feel like I am friends with Kristin, the author of this site, because I am on it at least once a week. Like me, she is a young wife in the Midwest. She posts great recipes, stories from her worldwide travels (I hope to use some of her Napa tips soon as I am dying to go.), and running workouts (I-unfortunately- don’t use these… remember, I like workouts that don’t require shoes.).

I came across a Spinach and Risotto recipe from iowagirleats.com on Pinterest just as the spinach and the basil in the garden were ready for a harvest.
IMG_1246

IMG_1249
Tomatoes also play a starring role in this recipe, but ours are nowhere near ready so I had to opt for some on the vine tomatoes at the grocery. (Grown in a greenhouse in Canada… I cannot wait for my real garden tomatoes.)

Kristin posted this risotto in February, because risotto is known to be a heavy, creamy dish. Perfect for a winter night. But, with all my basil and spinach ready to go, and the fact that it looked delicious, I figured it could be great any time of year.

My mom used to make risotto from time to time, so I knew that it can be a tedious process. She would often have me or one of my siblings posted up at the stove top stirring the rice as she would swing by every five minutes or so and pour in more broth as we stood spinning a spatula around and around.

Kristin suggests you get a TV show going on your iPad. I suggest you have a wine bottle within arm’s reach because you will be there for a bit.

It took me about 45 minutes to completely cook the rice. I actually used Chicken Broth that we had in the freezer made from skinnytaste.com. Another one of my favorite blogs listed above.

IMG_1254

Adam loves to make this broth in the crock pot. He says it is the most flavorful broth ever and it’s true. Plus, it beats buying broth at the store that is jam-packed full of sodium. (Culinary Side note: In simplest terms, broth is just from chicken meat; stock is from bones and meat.)

Spinning risotto, just like in my childhood!

Spinning risotto, just like in my childhood!

As I added the last scoop of broth, I also put in the spinach and basil. When we harvested the spinach and basil we were sure to snip the plant close to the stem. We use a pair of garden shears.

IMG_1247

Adam washed and dried the spinach and basil. The recipe called for torn basil and I could smell the enchanting smell of basil the instant he tore through the first piece. Both of us gushed in unison. A smell so distinct that it brings back memories of summers and delicious meals of your past. You can’t beat it.

Beautiful Basil

Beautiful Basil

Garden veggies added to the risotto.

Garden veggies added to the risotto.

We sat down to our meal couldn’t stop talking about how great it was. And what was really great was that most of the ingredients were things that we typically have at the house, especially in the summer these days.

IMG_1258

And what was really, really great about this dish was the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Link to iowagirleats.com Spinach and Basil Risotto: http://iowagirleats.com/2013/02/18/tomato-basil-spinach-risotto/
Link to skinnytaste.com Chicken Broth from the Crock Pot: http://www.skinnytaste.com/2010/02/homemade-chicken-stock-from-your-crock.html

PS- Follow me on Pinterest! http://pinterest.com/vaclaire13/boards/
I love to put notes on the recipes I make so you can see recipes that work well and pass on those that don’t.
IMG_1263

Got Shrooms?

Written on May 30, 2013.

The following are a few things I had never heard of until I moved to Indiana for college.  (Mind you, I lived in OHIO.  Not exactly an exotic, foreign land…)

–        Home-style meals like Chicken and Noodles, Fried Tenderloin and biscuits and gravy.  This may have been more because of my health conscious mother.  But, my friends weren’t eating these things either.  Either way, I still had no clue these stick to your ribs, country favorite’s existed.

–        The Colts.  Not even kidding.  Every Sunday, everyone in my dorm wrote “COLTS” on their dry erase boards on their room doors.  I remember wondering if it was a weird acronym for club or something.  I had to ask my RA.  Again, I came from Ohio.  Central Ohio.  College Football was all that mattered.

–        A Hoosier.  Still not really sure what that one is.  Clearly, I went to the school in northern Indiana.  Not the one in the sourthern part of the state.  Perhaps you know of that school…?!

–        U-Turns. These I had heard of, but never had done one.  My freshman year roommate, an Indiana native, did one the first time I was in the car with her.  As we were whipping around I was frantically looking for cops and thinking she was the most reckless driver ever.  But, they are legal here.  And so convenient.

–        Morels and mushroom hunting.  Mushroom hunting for one, just sounds ridiculous.  But it’s a thing.  A super competitive, intense thing.  Morels are a  wild growing mushroom that are actually considered a delicacy.

Between the notoriety morels and mushroom hunting receives each spring throughout the state (radio stations actually have contests to see who can find the largest mushroom) to Barbara Kingsolver’s, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle account of this spring vegetable, I knew I had to try them.

Morels grow naturally in the woods very well throughout Indiana in the spring.  (Morels actually grow in most regions of the country, outside the deserts and very warm areas in the south.  The Great Lake region of the Midwest is known to be a highly popular area of morel growth from April to mid-June.)

Adam has friends who enjoy mushroom hunting.  He even would show me pictures that came across his Facebook Newsfeed when people posted the finds from their hunt.  I really wanted to try them.

But, spring was crazy.  There were weddings, a lot going on at work, both my siblings had college and high school graduations and we were putting our own garden together, so mushroom hunting never happened.

Not that I was that disappointed.  Woods and me?  We don’t mix that well.  Plus, there was a sign outside an Amish farm stand not too far from work said that they had morels.  I figured I would just swing by there.

That was until a peer mentioned how she spent $48 on a pound of morels there.

Fifty bucks? Seriously?  I was going to HAVE to find time to hunt next year.

A few days later I was driving on the west side of Indianapolis and passed a farm stand with a sign saying that they have had morels for $18 a half pound.  A deal in comparison to the morels closer to home, so I stopped.

I went back to the fridge full of little cartons full of cap shaped mushrooms of all sizes.  The looked like coral or honeycomb.  I wasn’t really sure what I was looking for, but I figured I should make sure they were free of any mold of decay just like any other produce.

I checked out and got back in my car.  As I drove away I glanced down at the little clear carton and kicked myself for not asking where they came from.

Once home I looked up the Animal, Vegetable, Miracle website to find the morel recipe that the book recommends.  (I rented the book from the library around Christmastime.  Highly recommend.  Very eye opening and a great thing to read if you want to get started in growing your own food or just want to try to be a little more self-sufficient.)  The recipe was for Asparagus and Morel Bread Pudding.

Another thing I had never been exposed to: Bread Pudding.

And I really had no interest.  Bread pudding is one of those two-word foods that doesn’t sound like they should go together thus, as a child, I was pretty sure these were items that should not been eaten.  See also: sour cream, sweet potato, or blue cheese.  (I am getting better at this.  In fact, thanks to “Cheese Day” in Home Ec during the sixth grade, I found a LOVE for strong cheeses, including blue cheese.  Everyone else thought I was nuts.  “She likes that moldy cheese?!”  I am sure it did wonders for my popularity.)

So, that was a big “no” for the bread pudding.  Plus, I really wanted to experience what the morels really taste like.  Not have them masked by a lot of other ingredients.  So, with Google as my guide, I looked up morel recipes.

There were a ton.  Recipes that included chicken or adding the morels to pasta.  Recipes for soup and different ways to deep fry them.  I opted for a super simple recipe of just sautéing the morels with some butter and salt and pepper.

The first order of business was to clean the morels.  You don’t want to wash them, but you do want to brush them off and then soak them in salted water for about fifteen minutes.  It was at this step I read that one should not be alarmed if bugs or other debris, like dirt, comes out of the mushroom and is floating in the water.

Umm? Greeeat.

Because of this, I changed the water about ten minutes in.  Didn’t want to take any chances!

Next I cut the morels in half, lengthwise, and laid them on paper towels until they were dry and didn’t leave any wet marks on the towels.

Then I added the mushrooms to four tablespoons of melted butter in a skillet over medium heat.

The morels cooked quickly as I pushed them gently around with a spatula.

Adam came in with chicken off the grill and we plated the food, after he commented on how great the kitchen smelled.

The sautéed morels received rave review that night.  They were rich and meaty.  Adam said that he was going to have to go hunting next year.  (… Especially after I told him how much they sold for.)

I am looking forward to it because I would gladly do this recipe again.

…. Or maybe I will get adventurous, fight my childhood food-fear and make bread pudding.