True Confessions of a Mid-Life Cook

There's a definite correlation between my profound love of music and how and what I've taught myself to cook. My favorite music to listen to and to perform is soulful, sensual, sometimes funky and always bluesy in nature . . . and that's exactly how I cook. I like to get my hands in the food. I chop, I knead, I stir with my hands. Sometimes I wear my big rimmed cowboy hat, nightie and Old Gringo boots in kitchen, sometimes a coonskin cap when the mood strikes and sometimes just an apron and a smile. Using the freshest of ingredients, I love to bringing a new spirit to old favorites. I am so to drawn dishes seeping in both Texas and Southern tradition,with a special affinity for those authentic old jewels found in South Louisiana.
Because they, too, are so powerfully soulful?

I've discovered being a good cook is a journey and not a destination. (Yes, I stole an over-used corporate slogan and made it my own--but it's still the truth) Every time we screw up, we learn. And in part, that's what this blog is about. Cooking fearlessly. With heart, with soul -- and with some damn good music to inspire. (If your three layer chocolate cake ends up looking like a Jerry Springer rerun or you cut the tip of your thumb off while making New Year's Day gumbo, WHO CARES?Proclaim Francine Reed's "I'm a Handful" your theme song. She would like that.)
We cook because we find ourselves kinda empty if we don't.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"I don't care if it rains or freezes . . .

as long as I have my Purple Jesus."

Someone pointed out that I can't have a cyberspace tavern without offering booze. So here ya go.

1 1/2 oz of Tito's Texas Vodka
3 oz of Welch's grape juice
2 oz. ginger ale
Stir and pour over ice, garnish with red grapes and get ready for one religious experience. Or two. Or ten.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

It's a Strudel Kind of Day

I've taken two naps in the glorious rainy weather already today and I'm now about ready to roll out my strudel pastry. Mind you, I am not a baker. Not consistently, anyway. For instance, I tried to roll out my first ball of pastry earlier and when I tried to roll it, it stuck to my pastry board. It's in a heap in the oven now, and I'm sure it will be delicious . .but ugly. Just like my intentionally ugly birthday cakes.

I think I didn't chill the dough enough so my three remaining pastry balls went back into the refrigerator for another two hours. I am also going to work more quickly with a cold rolling pin and more flour. I've done this very recipe with enormous success before and I am determined that this second go-round will produce similar results.
3/4 cup butter
2 cups flour
8 oz sour cream
pinch of sea salt

Cut butter into flour until it resembles coarse meal.Stir in sour cream but don't work too much. Make 4 balls, wrap in plastic wrap and chill for at least three hours.

Favorite jam or preserves, today I used apricot and blackberry
sour cream
coconut (optional)

Flour work surface and rolling pin.
Roll out pastry on cold surface with cold rolling pin -- rectangle, thin as possible. Do NOT overwork dough.

Spread preserves, over the pastry, followed a little sour cream and then by pecans and coconut.
Roll pastry, brushing with a little melted butter with each roll. Tuck ends and placed on buttered sheet pan. Flatten just a little with spatula, brush top with butter and sprinkle generously with sugar and coconut if you wish.

Bake in 375 oven for 45 minutes. Dust with powdered sugar. Let cool at least 10 minutes before serving.

Note: The second go-round today proved to be wonderful -- exceptionally flaky pastry. Secret? Keep pastry and utensils very cold when working with dough. Have patience, let the dough chill for at least three hours.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Migas - it's whats for breakfast

Please don't think crumbling tortilla chips and adding them to scrambled eggs makes Migas. The secret is in browning corn tortillas in a little butter and oil that you will also use to cook your eggs in to marry the flavor of the corn into the eggs. I know this because Flaco told me at our neighborhood bar one night right before he disappeared for Lent. (He quits drinking during Lent each and every year.  Otherwise he's full of beer 24/7.)

A little vegetable oil and a little butter
One or two corn tortillas sliced in quarter inch squares
four or five eggs, beaten with a little water
1 chopped tomatoe
1/2 chopped onion
1 seeded and chopped jalapeno
tsp cilantro chopped (optional)
grated cheese for topping

Heat oil and butter skillet over med heat until is popping
Add corn tortilla pieces and brown til golden (crisp), careful not to burn
drain on paper towel and set aside
Turn heat down to low and add eggs to same butter/oil combo and cook until almost done
Add tomato, onion and jalapeno and cook until hot and eggs are done
Add cooked corn tortilla pieces
Add salt, pepper to taste and cilantro if desired
Top with cheese or salsa or both before serving.

Flaco is right about this must-do migas concept and I will tell him that after Good Friday.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Angelina's Pan Del Campo

Pan Del Campo is the original cowboy flatbread, known mostly throughout the ranching country of South Texas. This is my spin on this age-old favorite. Of course, this is my kind of dish because the sky is the limit on the variations. This particular combination of ingredients is exceptional. Have fun with it!

1 lb. bacon (20 slices)
1 package of refrigerated biscuits
1/2 cup flour for dusting
1/2 cup Cilantro Nut Mash (see below)
1/2 lb. fresh spinach
2 large ripe tomatoes cut into thin rounds
5 cups (one lb) of grated Monterey Jack cheese or any good Mexican cheese

Preheat oven to 375. In the microwave cook the bacon in batches until very crisp and drain on paper towels. Remove biscuits and roll each out onto flour board until very thin. Carefully transfer to baking sheet and bake for 10 minute until golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven.

Increase temp to 400. Spread each with cilantro nut mixture and scatter spinach and tomatoes on each. Sprinkle each generously with crumbled bacon and grated cheese. Return to oven for two or three more minutes to melt the cheese and serve while hot.

Cilantro Nut Mash

1 cup pecan pieces (pinon nuts work well too)
1 bunch fresh cilantro chopped coarsely
3/4 cup light olive oil
1/4 cup grated Asiago cheese
1 tablespoon fresh minced garlic
3/4 tsp sea salt

Toast nuts about 10 minutes in 350 oven. Don't let 'em burn.
Let cool 5 minutes
Place in food processor and coarsely chop
Add other ingredients and process until spreadable paste forms.
Too thick, add water. Too thin? Add cheese.

Monday, September 7, 2009

My Take on Dublin Dr. Pepper Cake

Dublin Dr. Pepper cake teeters on the brink of legendary status in this part of Central West Texas.

Could be because Dublin, Texas is nearby -- where this favorite soft drink was born. My twist? Dark chocolate, which cuts the sweetness and makes a mark with its decadent richness.

2 sticks unsalted butter
3/4 cup Dublin Dr. Pepper
1/4 cup strong coffee
3 tablespoons dark cocoa
1 tablespoon cocoa
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup butter milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs, room temp
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar

Preheat oven to 350. In saucepan, heat butter, Dr. Pepper, coffee and both cocoas until boiling.

Remove from heat and let cool. In mixing bowl, combine the buttermilk, baking soda, salt and vanilla. In another bowl, flour and sugar, mixing well. Combine all three mixtures until blended and stir in eggs (one at a time) and sour cream and pour into prepared pan or pans. Bake for one hour or until toothpick comes out clean.


1 stick butter
3 tablespoons milk
2 tablespoons Dr. Pepper
1 tablespoon coffee
3 tablespoons dark cocoa
1 tablespoon cocoa
1 lb. confectioners' sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans, optional

Combine butter, milk, Dr. Pepper, coffee and cocoa in heavy skillet and bring to boil. Add confectioners' sugar and vanilla and mix well. Prick holes with toothpicks into warm cake then ice cake while both cake and icing is still warm. Top with pecans if desired.