gritty blog buddies

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One of the great things about hosting a blog are the friends you make.  Virtual friends.  Blog buddies you probably will never meet in person but interact with on-line.  You exchange comments and replies.  You “like” their post.  You even reblog from time to time.  There aren’t any long winded phone calls to keep in touch.  Just short blog messages, and smiley faces.  LOL comments and a few LMAO remarks.  We “oooh” over photos of beautiful Ms. Harper Lee, a Golden Retriever from Louisana, from Thek9harperlee blog and “ahhh” over pictures of Colorado from Mike’s Look at Life blog.

When my cookbook was just off the press, I asked a fellow blogger, PAWS IT ON, to sample some of the recipes and write a critique on her findings.   When I started to follow a traveling wine and beer blogger, The Wandering Gourmand, I asked him to “pair” a beer with three of my soups.  I would like to think a friendship of sorts was started. A virtual friendship.  I know if any of the above mentioned ever found themselves in New Mexico, aka Santa Fe, I would love to meet up with them and have a LIVE conversation.

Turn around is only fair.  A month ago (or so), fellow blogger The Wandering Gourmand started a wine vs. beer pairing contest.  Asking the blogging world and his readers to submit a pairing with a selected entree, The Wandering Gourmand garnered several entries for the first round.

yes, my fish n' chips looked just like this!

yes, my fish n’ chips looked just like this!

Fish n’ Chips was our first pairing course.  Malcolm and I dusted off our stored-in-the-garage fryer and proceeded to inhale a double batch of homemade beer battered fish with some spicy french fries.  Delicious!  It brought back memories of London.  And Brighton Beach.  And Bath.  And York.  And all the pubs we visited while in Great Britain.  There is nothing quite like the Brits’ fish n’ chips!

Our next pairing contest was Shrimp n’ Grits.  More like a test – not contest.

I can’t say I’ve ever made Shrimp n’ Grits.  I can’t say I’ve even tasted Shrimp n’ Grits, let alone just a taste of grits.  In fact, grits aren’t even on my top 100 fave foods list.   And, to be honest, grits of any kind, ranked pretty low on my order pad.  So, here I was, about to make Shrimp n’ Grits, and for company to boot.  Oh, boy….

Hubby-dear is from Georgia. Atlanta. Inside the belt. Buckhead, which he considers Atlanta proper. Not those suburbs like Marietta, Decatur or Alpharetta.  We’re talking Atlanta.  A true southern boy. When I mentioned we were having Shrimp n’ Grits for our weekend feast to test out the perfect pairing, he sent me a stern look.

grits IS NOT polenta!

grits IS NOT polenta!

“Now Honey,” he said, “Grits IS NOT polenta!” Clearing indicating a West Coast transplant to New Mexico would not know the difference. He had a point. My first trip to the grocery store brought home corn meal. Oops!  It was a Lucy & Ethel moment.  I thought I grabbed the grits, I swear! I didn’t realize my mistake until I had the corn meal cooking on the stove top and it wasn’t thickening properly.  Yikes!  Company was due in ten minutes.   Like Malcolm said, grits isn’t even close to corn meal.  A first cousin and married, but according to Malcolm, Grits is not Corn Meal! I think Malcolm was most grumpy mainly because he was elected to run back into town to get the real deal.

We already had some fun beer in the frig, and our guests had volunteered to bring an appropriate wine. We were ready to sip and sample.  One of our invitees is a cider drinker, so at the last moment I added Stella Artosis Cidre  in the pairing line up.
Our sampling included a Fox Glove Chardonnay, a Spanish wine, Licia Albarino, and finally, Stella Artosis Cidre (made with handpicked apples).  Along with an assortment of beers, we were set.

WOW! Not only was the Shrimp n’ Grits totally fantastic, we had one of the best times sippin & samplin!  We had a pairing party to end all pairing parties!

The top choice was the Stella Artosis Cidre, with the Albarino a close second. I gotta tell ya, the Cidre was perfect with the Shrimp n’ Grits. Crisp with a hint of carbonation, it was the perfect foil for the slight heat of the sausage. I’m sure it’s the “hand-picked apples” that made the difference!

Shrimp & Andouille Sausage Grits

Shrimp & Andouille Sausage Grits

SPICY SHRIMP WITH ANDOUILLE SAUSAGE ON GRITS

  • 1/2 cup green hot pepper sauce (I use Mrs. Renfro’s Jalapeno Salsa)
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Combine hot sauce, wine, onions, lemon juice and vinegar in a heavy medium sauce pan. Boil over medium heat until reduced to 1/2 cup.  About 15 minutes.  Stir in cream.  Cover and refrigerate.  Can be made one day ahead.

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 12 oz. smoked Andouille sausage – sliced (Chorizo and hot Italian sausage works as well)
  • 1 cup minced white onion
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced
  • 4-5 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 30 or so uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails off

Heat olive oil in heavy medium skillet over medium heat.  Add sausage bits, onion, jalapeno and garlic.  Saute until onions and garlic are tender.  About 10 minutes.  Add tomatoes and seasoning.  Stir and heat over low heat while grits are cooking.  When grits are close to being ready, turn up the heat and add uncooked shrimp, sauteing until shrimp are opaque in center, about 3-4 minutes.

  • 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups corn grits (I cheated and used quick grits)
  • 2 cups grated sharp white cheddar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Bring chicken broth to a boil over medium heat.  Add 1/4 cup butter and S&P.  Gradually whisk in grits.  Cover and let simmer until grits are thickened and very soft, stirring often.  About 1 hours.  If using quick grits, about 5-10 minutes.  When grits are done, add rest of butter and cheese.  Season if needed.  Keep warm.

Bring hot-pepper cream sauce to simmer.

Spoon grits in swallow bowls forming a well in the center.  Spoon shrimp/sausage mixture over grits and drizzle the hot pepper cream sauce over.  Serve.

hogs and blogs

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Part II of the Beer n’ damn it’s hot Chili series.

To kick off the holiday spirit, which in my calendar, starts right around the corner from the  Día de Muertos, (come on, I live in New Mexico), Malcolm and I host a Loop Group Celebration.  We open our doors, invite the whole neighborhood and lock the dogs in their pen.  We catch up on the happenings of those that live close by and those we wave to in passing, but never see (there is a little bit of guilt-trip thinking… if they eat our food, they won’t complain about the dogs). Even house numbers bring a cold appetizer, odd numbers bring a hot hor d’oeuvre.  Malc and I supply the beverages and the main substance, usually a spiral sliced ham from the Honey Baked Ham joint down in Albuquerque.  I serve the ham with homemade cornbread biscuits (Malc is from Georgia) that  is devoured and destroyed by the night’s end, leaving a just a few ham scraps and a huge bone.  Not enough for leftovers, not enough to throw away.  And nothing for Dolce and Amore to snack on.

the perfect hog bone

the perfect hog bone

If it falls on the floor blog is a lot like our Loop Group party – everyone is invited and everyone brings something to the table.  Through “likes” and “comments”, “follows” and “views”,  we catch up on the happenings of those whom we enjoy reading.  The Wandering Gourmand is one blogger I make a point to read. I chuckle over his droll humor, his sarcastic absurdity.  I love how he can dig deep into some suds and produce a thumbs up or down on a beer.   TWG has become one of the ‘hood and If it falls on the floor’s resident beer expert.  While I pick a beer based on the cute label, TWG selects a fermented hop grounded in well-constructed depth and heart.

I had asked TWG to pair some beers with some of my cold weather chili/stews/soups.  Last week I think I sent him into a cardiac fit after he read the amount of jalapeno and chili powder in the recipe.  This week I’m hoping to lower his blood pressure…

 

Excerpt from The Wandering Gourmand  http://thewanderinggourmand.com/about/

Lately, I have become the beer pairing expert.  On a recent bachelor party in Charlestown, SC, I was tasked by almost each of the 12 partiers with picking out a beer to accompany their meal at Craftsman, a gastropub and tap house.  I’m not sure why.  (Maybe it’s the recent beard.  Beards and beer go hand-in-hand.)  Luckily, almost everyone ordered the Crunchy Dane so my job was easy.  It was only fitting then that Megs asked me to create beer pairings for a few recipes from her new cookbook.

I was stoked.  Not only do I enjoy her blog and the adorable (yes, even bearded beer experts can use that word) photos of her dogs, but I heartily support any blogger who can turn this hobby into a business.  I truly believe in the entrepreneurial spirit and love seeing the Internet allow ideas to generate household income be they products sold on blogs like Megs or artists selling their masterpieces on Etsy.

Please don’t be disappointed by the fact that the pairings are from the macro-craft breweries.  As much as I wanted to promote Natty Green’s Southern Pale (best pale known to beerkind), nobody outside of North Carolina could buy it.  Thus, you’ve heard of these beers and that’s the point.  They had to be accessible.

Mexican Ham Soup – More smoke.  I’m thinking something with bourbon– New Holland’s Dragon’s Milk.  The spice levels aren’t atomically high like the Beef Chili and Beer recipe.  A hearty, boozy beer would enhance the flavor of the smoked ham and chipotles.  In fact, the idea is so perfect that I think New Holland should brew a version with smoke chipotles added.  Just saying…   

–  The Wandering Gourmand

Huraches Ham Chili

Huraches Ham Chili

MEXICAN HAM SOUP  

I am my mother’s daughter after all…   I couldn’t bare the thought of tossing the bone, so I came up with Mexican Ham Soup, aka Huraches Ham Chili.  WOW!  Perfect for the cold weather, great for large crowds, the smoky essence adds some hidden depth to the chili and a touch of the outdoors to your dinner.

  • 2 cans pinto beans
  • 8 c chicken broth
  • 2 c chopped onions
  • 1½ c cubed smoked ham steak + a big smoked ham bone
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 2 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 bag frozen corn kernels
  • ½ c diced green chili (Hatch Chili if you have them)
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 smoked chipotle chili in adobo sauce, minced + 2 tbsp. sauceSour cream for garnish
    Cheddar cheese, grated

Combine beans, broth and the next 8 ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil. Partially cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 2 hours. Stir in the tomatoes and chipotle chili, simmer another 30 minutes.  Discard bay leaves and bone and ladle soup into bowls. Top with grated cheese and sour cream.

 

For more delicious recipes and tails of the dogs, purchase If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823

cherry tomatoes

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Damm!  A whole carton of cherry tomatoes on the floor! One of those fangdangle bowl-shaped cartons with the snap-on-lid that holds a whole bunch of cherry tomatoes just came unsnapped, flinging its contents all over the kitchen.  Three red orbs land in the sink, a bunch hit the counter and the majority are rolling all over the brick floor.  Dolce and Amore perk up when they hear me cussing and immediately come running into the kitchen to investigate, muzzles to the ground, checking for spillage.  In Amore’s eagerness, she grabs a little red sphere before Dolce can, and quickly bites into it. Just as quickly, she drops it back on the floor, her jaw working furiously to remove the acidic taste from her mouth.  There’s not enough water in the toilet bowl for her to rinse out the flavor.  Apparently, Amore doesn’t like cherry tomatoes.

Now Dolce on the other hand, comprehends real quick that Amore has the lead in eating the lit’l delicacies.  She only sees Amore getting the drop on the tomatoes before she can.  Dolce immediately turns her focus to a pile of tomatoes nestled in the kitchen corner,  swiftly scoops up five tasty morsels into her mouth and promptly heads to her special pillow in the living room with her coveted stash.  In her rush to grab the most, she doesn’t see Amore heading to the bathroom to guzzle down some water, she only knows she grabbed more than her sibling.  Sensing victory, Dolce chomps down on the juicy lit’l guys,  squirting seeds and sticky tomato juice in all directions.   Faster than you can say the word “ta-mah-tau” the look of triumph that had entered into her eyes turned to horror as she realized she didn’t like what was in her mouth.  Hastily, she spit out the tomatoes.  UCK! Chunks of tomato carnage go flying through the air, landing on chairs, couches and pillows.

It seems Dolce doesn’t like tomatoes either.

Tomato & Mozzarella Salad

Tomato & Mozzarella Salad

TOMATO & MOZZARELLA SALAD

A great summer salad and perfect for company!

Slice the tomatoes and then slice the mozzarella.  On a serving platter, alternate the tomato slices and the mozzarella.  Tuck in the basil leaves between the tomato and mozzarella.  Cover with plastic wrap and chill. In the blender, mix together the remaining ingredients until well blended.  Keep at room temperature.  Drizzle over the tomatoes and mozzarella when ready to serve.

Cold!

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DSC01151 The last few days have been bitterly cold. The car thermometer showed single digits on the drive into work, add some wind into the mix and the temp with the wind chill factor is in the negatives.  I feel like Ralphie in the Christmas Story  when we bundle up to take the girls for their walk –  can’t move!  My arms stick out and I have to turn my whole body to see to my left or right.  But the girls looove the cold and the snow, so we persevere and brave the cold, we pile on layers and layers of thick socks, silky thermals, woolen scarves and gloves, ear muffs and heavy snow boots to tread through the snow.  We hike through drifts, slip and slide across icy patches, and break new trails trying to find some virgin snow for the girls to play in.  Dolce loves to make snow angels, Amore just loves the cold.

Our reward at the end of the trail?  If we finish our trek before 5:00 p.m. – we whip up some hot chocolate with some added peppermint liquors .  After 5:00 p.m. and we go for the stronger warming up beverage – Santa Fe Sluggers.

PEPPERMINT & HOT CHOCOLATE

  • 2 Cups milk
  • pinch of salt
  • 6 oz. semisweet chocolate (finely chopped)
  • 1 tbsp. creme de methe liqueur
  • 1 tsp. instant coffee granules
  • 1/2 tsp. Mexican vanilla

Heat milk and salt for the hot chocolate in a saucepan over medium heat and steam is starting to rise.  Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth. Continue to heat until just before the mixture comes to a boil.  Ladle into mugs and top with frozen whip cream (see below).

  • 1/2 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 2 tbsp. pulverized peppermints
  • 1 tbsp. powdered sugar
  • 1 tbsp. crushed peppermints

Beat cream, pulverized peppermints and sugar for the whipped cream to stiff peaks.  Pipe or spoon onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Sprinkle with crushed peppermints and place in freezer until firm.  About 20 minutes.

SANTA FE SLUGGERS

  • 1 Cup Freshly brewed strong coffee (I use dark roast)
  • 1/4 cup bourbon
  • 1/2 oz. Kahlua
  • 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (not unsweetened)
  • 6 tbsp. heavy cream
  • 1 tsp sugar (or more, depending on taste)

Heat coffee, bourbon, Kahlua, chocolate and 2 tbsp. cream in a 1 1/2 quart saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, until chocolate has melted.  DO NOT ALLOW to BOIL!Beat remaining 1/4 cup cream with sugar to stiff peaks.  Pour coffee mixture into two large mugs and top with the whipped cream.

 

Friday nights

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Friday. 5:00 p.m.  Time to close up shop.  Time to shut down the computer, turn off the copier and printer.  Time to head home to the hubby and dogs and start the weekend.

About two years, on a Friday in early summer, I was doing exactly that, shutting off lights and grabbing my keys to head out the door, when the phone rang, a distraught member on the line, frantic that their entire brokerage was unable to access the forms library.  To a REALTOR, this is bad –  really bad –  especially with the weekend looming in the background.  I dropped back down into my office chair and began damage control.  It was two hours later before I was able to correct their “user” error.  In the middle of their crisis, I phoned home to let Malcolm know I’d be late and to hold off on dinner.  It had been a long week just made longer, but I was able to keep 200 brokers in business for the weekend.  I locked up the office and headed home……

A half-hour later I walked in the house.  I was tired, hungry and grouchy and there was my sweet, wonderful husband, waiting for me at the door, a blended margarita with salt in his hand, the dogs eagerly awaiting to be allowed to hug me in their welcome home attack, a platter of appetizers (okay, cheese and salami with salsa) sitting on the kitchen counter.  Malcolm grabbed my purse and handed me my drink with orders to go outside and sit on the lounger on the portal.  The girls followed me outside and waited for me to get comfortable.  Once settled, Dolce immediately crawled up on the long wicker lounge, curled up between my legs and put her head on my lap.  Tiamo sat by my side, getting her ears gently rubbed as Malcolm and I caught up on the week’s happenings.  One margarita led to two, cheese and salami ended up being dinner,  we watched the sun set over the Sandia’s while the tension eased and I was able to relax.  Dolce never lifted her head from my lap, Tiamo never left my side.  Amore would amble over every so often throughout the night ensuring all was well.  Malcolm and I talked until well after all the stars were lit and sparkling.  It was one of the best nights ever and the start of our “wine nights”.

The following Friday, I was able to head out for the weekend without any phone calls or delays.  On my drive home from work, I called Malcolm and asked that he uncork a bottle of red wine and pour two glasses, I’d be home soon.  Summers in Santa Fe are gorgeous – it’s our monsoon season, afternoon showers help cool down the day’s heat and create some spectacular sunsets, showing off the colors of the sky as it opens the door to the night.   Malcolm had put together another tray of hor de oeuvres which we nibbled on throughout the night.  We sat outside on the portal, the dogs at our feet, content in hearing our voices as we conversed, sipping on our wine.

We have continued  our Friday night wine nights ever since.  On occasion we invite friends and neighbors over to join us, but mostly it the two us and the girls.  On cold winter nights we will light a fire while we enjoy a warm toddy, Dolce always by my side.  Since Tiamo’s passing, Amore has taken to laying down at my feet, keeping them warm, letting me know she is right there.   She’ll lift her head when she hears a car drive by, check out what’s happening when Malcolm gets up to add another log on the fire and come right back to me, leaning up against my feet.   Eventually, she’ll roll over and start to snore, relaxed and at ease.  I believe the girls enjoy the evenings as much as we do.   I believe they hear the cadence of our voices, the low tones of our words and know their family is all right.  All’s well.

Start your own Friday night tradition with these Blackberry – Poblano Margaritas.  The deep purple color is a stunner!

Blackberry – Poblano Margaritas

  • 3 tbsp fresh blackberries (ok to use frozen berries)
  • 2 tbsp finely diced poblano peppers (seeds and membrane discarded)
  • 2 oz silver tequila
  • 1 1/2 oz Cointreau

Muddle the blackberries and poblano peppers in a cocktail shaker.  Add a tablespoon of superfine sugar if the berries need a little sweetening, at this point.  Add the tequila, Cointreau and ice and shake.  Strain into two margarita glasses filled with ice.

May substitute with raspberries, blueberries or a combination of berries.  To avoid pulp or seeds in your glass, strain before serving.

 

 

 

 

Caipirinhas

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How to stir up a pitcher of Brazilian Fun!

  • Peel the green rind from 4 large limes into 2-inch strips
  • 1 cup fresh lime juice
  • 8 (1/4 inch thick) slices of peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 30 large fresh mint leaves + 10 mint sprigs for garnish
  • 1 cup rum
  • 3 cups ice cubes
  • 5 cups ginger beer or ginger ale

Combine the lime peel, ginger, sugar and 30 mint leaves in a medium bowl.  Using the handle of a wooden spoon, crush the lime peel, ginger and mint leaves together.  Add lime juice and mix well.
Transfer mixture to large pitcher.  Add the rum and cover.  Place in refrigerator to chill.

To serve, stir in ginger beer or ginger ale.  Fill cocktail glasses with ice cubes and pour.  Garnish with mint sprig.

Turn up the volume and dance the night away!