Let me begin by stating that I am so thankful to have had a sunny Saturday! Our weather has been brutal so far this winter but somehow that seems to fade in the memory banks when the sun is shining, especially on a weekend. Granted, it was still cold, but I’ll take a sunny day however I can get it.
As a result of said sunny day, I set off on two ambitious walks with my dogs. This is probably a good time to mention that my dogs are in training right now. I am trying to socialize them and have to walk them one at a time to have any sort of control when we encounter other dogs. They weren’t always this bad but last summer they started killing things (2 rats, a rabbit and a bird) and ever since then, they have gotten aggressive around other dogs. Keep in mind, they’ve each been to dog school and one (Vegas) has even been a fan of dog parks…in the past. All of that went away when they went on their killing rampage. Now they are the typical annoying mean little dogs that give little dogs a bad name. I refuse to accept this so I’ve started walking them one at a time. Cricket is making slow progress. She is getting better around smaller dogs but still has a melt-down when she encounters a big dog. Her reaction isn’t as crazed as Vegas’ reaction. Right now Vegas hates all dogs, no matter the size, and tries to attack any that we see on our walks. Even so, I hold out the most hope for him because he used to be the more dog-friendly of the two. I think he just needs to somehow remember that other dogs are fun and not prey! My hope is that the one on one walks, and possibly enrolling in another dog class, will help.
After two wonderful walks with the dogs, it was time to start cooking. I’d been craving Red Beans and Rice for a while and had also agreed to make Bacon Cream Cheese Jalapenos for the Superbowl party I was attending on Sunday. I spent the rest of this glorious day stuck in my kitchen…and what a glorious mess I made! At the end of this post I’ll share the recipes and a few pictures…of the food, not the messy kitchen.
Sunday was the Super Bowl and if you somehow managed to forget, all you had to do was turn on NBC at dawn to start watching the pregame coverage. Seriously, it seemed like the whole days was dedicated to Super Bowl coverage. I think they told us everything but what kind of toilet paper was used in the locker rooms! (And for all I know, they could have covered that too.) Don’t get me wrong, I like football and the Super Bowl; I just don’t like all the build up all day long. Once it finally got underway, it was a great game. The wrong team won, but it was a great game anyway. It was also great to have a good friend with a gigantic HD Plasma TV! There was a house full of people and not a bad seat to be had. Even as we grazed around the food table in the dining room, it was easy to see the TV and nobody missed a thing…including the commercials. As expected, a lot of them were clever and amusing – especially the Bud commercials with the Clydesdales. Sadly, a lot were not clever or amusing…which I don’t understand. These are the most expensive commercial spots on the planet – why are there any boring ones? Oh well, at least we were all pleasantly surprised by the half time entertainment. We all liked Bruce, but none of us were huge/rabid fans. That being said, we sang along and had a great time watching him perform. There was nothing cutting edge or controversial, but we agreed that this was one of the more enjoyable half time shows in recent history. It’s also one of the few times I remember not changing the channel during half time.
Last thought…why not play the Super Bowl on Saturday? Sure would make the day after a bit more tolerable…
Food and Wine:
Wine Review – Austin Robaire 2002 Cabernet – Columbia Valley
- Wine Info: 85% Cabernet 15% Malbec
- Appearance: Nice dark garnet red
- Nose: Raspberries, chocolate and a little pipe tobacco
- Taste: Berries, cherries, licorice
- Finish: Quite a bit of tannins on the finish
- Price Range: See note below
- Remarks: Good young cab, strong tannins but also great fruit; some sediments
(Note: This winery is no longer in business.)
Red Beans and Rice (8-10 servings – freezes well!)
1 lb of kidney beans – soaked
1 lb smoked sausage (nothing specific – use your favorite)
15 cloves of garlic – minced
2 medium onions – chopped
2 green peppers – chopped
- 5 stalks of celery – chopped
- 1 lb smocked ham hocks
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper
- salt and pepper to taste (Cajun seasoning works well here too)
- 1 Tbs butter or vegetable oil to render the sausage
- 2-4 cups of water
The most important thing…soak the beans overnight. (Be sure to cover them in plenty of water as they will soak up more than you think.) Soaking them overnight softens them up and helps them to break down in the liquid, making the whole thing thicker.
Cut up the sausage and add that to the butter/oil in the bottom of a large pot. Render the sausage and chop onions, peppers, celery. Mince the garlic. Add it all to the sausage. Cook 15 minutes or so until veggies have softened.
Drain the beans in a colander, rinse once or twice and add to the pot. Add the bay leaves and smoked ham hocks at this time too. Then pour in enough water to cover it all by about an inch…you may need to add more as it cooks. Add Cayenne pepper, salt, pepper and/or Cajun seasoning. Flavors will concentrate as it cooks.
Bring it to a boil then turn it down to simmer for 1-2 hours. Check it every 30 minutes or so to make sure the water is still covering the beans. Do not let the beans burn – it will wreck the whole thing. Some people leave the ham hocks alone and then throw them out at the end; but I take them out after about an hour, let them cool and then cut off whatever meat I can and toss that back into the pot. Taste and adjust as needed while cooking.
When it seems “close” then it’s time to make the rice. There are a lot of different ideas about what kind of rice to use. I wish I could tell more of a difference, but they all work and taste just fine to me. Make whatever rice you normally would – it will be fine. Plan on about 1/2 cup to a cup per person or per serving.
Bacon Cream Cheese Jalapenos (makes 50)
- 25 fresh jalapenos (whole)
- 4 packages of cream cheese
- 3-4 packages of thick cut bacon – you will need 25-30 slices, cut in half
- 100 toothpicks
- rubber gloves
- 2 broiler pans
Prep time: approx 2 hours; Cook time: approx 2-3 hours
Put on the rubber gloves before cleaning the peppers. Trust me, your hands will be on fire for several hours after cleaning these if you don’t wear gloves. To prepare the peppers, cut off the stem and then cut them length wise. Clean out all the seeds and most of the membranes inside of the pepper. I stand over the sink with running water and scrape out the insides with a small spoon. Open a window or turn on a fan if you are sensitive to hot peppers; the smell can get kind of intense. (Notes: The more of the internal membrane that you leave in the pepper, the hotter the finished product will be. You can take off the gloves after cleaning the peppers.)
If peppers are wet, dry them on a paper towel or wipe them off before stuffing them. To fill them, take a spoon full of cream cheese (or just use your hands like I do!) and fill the pepper to the top. Don’t overfill it or mound the cream cheese on top of it; that will just get messy later. Once the pepper is full of cream cheese, take 1/2 a strip of bacon and wrap it around the pepper. Secure with 2 toothpicks. Note: These can be made up to this point the day before and kept in the fridge. I usually do that because the prep time is so long.
Preheat oven to 250. Lightly spray a broiler pans with non-stick cooking spray. (If you’re bringing these to a party, line the pan with lots of heavy duty foil for super quick clean up!) Line up the peppers.
Put the peppers in for one hour and then check them. They should still look pretty raw; it’s now time to turn up the heat to 300. I start checking them every 30 minutes or so after this. Be sure to allow at least 2 hours for cooking. The goal is to cook them slowly because it cooks out most of the heat from the peppers and just leaves a nice mellow pepper taste. If you’re in a hurry, you can turn them up to 350 at this point…just check them more often so that the bacon doesn’t burn. They’re done when the bacon looks cooked. Not very scientific, I know. But ovens vary and so do peppers; bigger ones take longer to cook.