Food -n- Flix Round-Up: Practical Magic~

30 04 2013


April’s Flick is Practical Magic, a story of two sisters, and two other sisters, and two other sisters… There are a number of little plot twists… Sally, played by Sandra Bullock is the older, more stable sister…who falls in love, has babies and ignores as myth the legend of Owens women being cursed about love.  Should they fall in love with a man, he will die.  Sally and Gillian (portrayed by Kidman) grow up with their maiden aunts because the curse came to their mother…her beloved husband died, and their mother then died of a broken heart.  Sally and Gillian are very close, and when either of them is in dire need of the other, there shall they be.  Our flick winds through various emotional highs and lows of the sisters’ love lives, and what happens when things get a little out of hand.


Our first recipe comes from Elizabeth of The Law Student’s Cookbook who made Blood Orange Margaritas
to commemorate the famous “Midnight Margarita” scene depicted above, where the sisters and the aunts succumb to the spell of a bottle of tequila and indulge in margaritas.  I love to start a Mexican supper with a margarita, and I’ll bet a blood orange margarita is simply wonderful!


Girlichef, Heather, brought margaritas too…I’m tellin’ ya…that tequila makes quite an impression in this movie!  Oh, but not just any margaritas…these are highly witchy and sophisticated margaritas, flavored with berries and herbs…rosemary to be precise.  Midnight Margaritas (with a side of remembrance)  Hmmm…we’ll want another round of these to go with our desserts tonight… Yes, indeed.

Midnight Margaritas 3-girlichef

Wait, wait…we have more margaritas!  Anne-Marie at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet was in the mood for margaritas too!  Anne-Marie combined tequila with gluten free beer to make her Practical Magic Midnight Peach and Cherry Beer Margaritas, and they look stunning!


Next, we heard from Caroline of Caroline Makes who made Lime and Coconut Chicken…  Those of you who are familiar with the “Midnight Margarita” scene know the connection here…in case you aren’t familiar with the movie, Caroline explains it this way…”The sisters and their aunts are drinking and getting merry on tequila and end up dancing around the kitchen singing a song called “Coconut”, with a particularly catchy line that goes “put the lime in the coconut”.”  Caroline’s recipe takes us for a walk on the Thai side.  A very nice interlude.  I can’t wait to try this recipe!

caroline-lime coco chicken

Before we indulge in our incredible desserts, we’ll stop off in my kitchen at Can’t Believe We Ate… where the tequila was flowing as well!!  I poured mine into a marinade for “Practically Magic” Beef Fajitas.  This recipe takes longer to explain than to create!


Over at Eliot’s Eats , Debra made her “go to” Coconut-Pecan Brownies  to honor the family’s unusual tradition of chocolate cake for breakfast…something Bullock’s character, Sally, abhors.  Sally doesn’t want to be different…she longs for traditional White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant values and lifestyle.  Silly Sally…  Let’s just say it’s never quite going to work out that way!  Debra, my hubby looked over my shoulder while I was at your site, and purred over these brownies!  I guess I’ll be making these too!  Works for me!


Over in the Pacific, Deb at Kahakai Kitchen is also making chocolate cake…once again, not just any chocolate cake but an In this house we have chocolate cake for breakfast“-Single Girl Melty Chocolate Cake… Oh my.  We’re big on being “jolly” this month…ignoring bedtimes and teeth brushing…dancing ’round the table at midnight…  That’s okay… I understand there’s a little “witch” in all of us!  Regardless,  I’d happily have this cake at breakfast, lunch or dinner!  It looks marvelous!  I can’t wait to try this one either!!


Practical Magic is a movie full of love and plot twists.  It’s hard to explain and not give the plot lines away.  With so many twists, there are story lines, and sub-story lines.  It’s almost two complete movies in one!  If you haven’t watched this movie, perhaps some of our dishes will intrigue you to try the movie…and some of these incredible dishes!


If you’d like to join in on the fun, visit Food n’ Flix and look for the announcement of the next movie, which is “Delicatessen.”  You’ll find a link on the Food n’ Flix page that make it easy.  Watch the movie, cook what the movie inspires to you cook, then post it on your blog before the deadline and let the hostess know.  And don’t be shy about being a hostess either!  It’s a super easy job!  LOL!  Meanwhile, thanks for stopping by and checking out this month’s inspirations!


Food n’ Flix: Practical Magic~

30 04 2013

This April, Food n’ Flix watched Practical Magic. You might think it’s a better movie for Halloween, but there’s a lot of focus on various herbs and other plants, and it is, after all, a story of love…the love shared between two partners, two sisters, family, parental love…and the lengths we will go to over love.  I truly enjoy this movie, even with it’s darker moments.  There seem to be a few highly memorable details from this movie…one being the Midnight Margarita dance, another being chocolate…  I confess.  I used tequila too.  Just not as a libation.  I used it to cook.


I discovered that tequila is absolutely fabulous in fajitas quite by accident one night.  My pan cooked pretty dry while I was cooking fajitas one night…lots of yummy caramelized juices on the bottom of the pan…but what to deglaze with??  I looked at the sake….no.  Too sweet.  White wine?  Better, but still no… Then it hit me… Hit the pan with a shot of tequila and cook off the alcohol and then add clean Mojo back to the pan.  That ought to work!!  And it did…


Now I’m pouring a shot of tequila to a pound of beef or chicken while it’s marinating and pouring Mojo Criollo to cover the meat.  After cooking all the veggies and the meat, I  deglaze the pan with another shot (1-1/2 ounces) of tequila and cook until the pan is almost dry, but not quite…and add in fresh Mojo…just enough to moisten all the goodies.  I like El Mexicano brand, but it’s what my local carniceria (Mexican butcher and grocery) carries.   I’ll learn to duplicate it in time…it’s seasonings and citrus juices…but for now, I’m cheating!  This is the standard commercial image for this product, but it’s much lighter in color.  As for tequila, whatever you’re drinking!  I prefer gold over white or silver.


I use 8 oz. of carne asada “steaks” for the 2 of us.  That’s about the same as “a quarter pounder” only much healthier!  Marinate before cooking, as described above, but don’t bother slicing the meat into strips.  Cook the marinated thin steaks in a hot cast iron skillet.  Nothing else holds the heat well enough and you’ll end up simmering your meat at some point.   Cook the beef just long enough to get a nice caramel color on both sides, and hold the slices in a warm place for a few minutes.  This helps keep the juices inside the meat.  When all the meat has been cooked, cook the veggies while the meat sets.  I use thinly sliced onion and peppers usually.  I don’t care for green bell pepper too much, so I usually cook red, yellow or orange peppers.  You can add any hot chiles you like, I let folks add their own at the table.  A lot of folks add tomato to their fajita mixture.  I may during the summer, but it’s only worth it when tomatoes are summer ripe, otherwise a good salsa fresca is fine.  When the veggies are nicely browned, but not necessarily cooked through, remove them from the pan, and put them in a dish (I use the serving dish I’m going to use).  Slice the beef across the grain into thin strips and add back to the pan along with any accumulated juices.  Cook until the juices are mostly gone.  Now it’s time to add that shot of tequila, then the veggies and follow it with a bit more fresh mojo (There are meat proteins and juices in the mojo you used to marinate the beef.  You won’t be cooking this more than just enough to bring it to a boil, so the leftover marinade isn’t safe to use).   Not much, a quarter to a third cup, just enough to add a bit of sauciness to the meat and veggies.  Toss everything together.  There should be very little liquid in the pan.  Remove to the serving dish.

This dish is great served with shredded lettuce mixed with chopped fresh cilantro, sliced tomatoes or salsa fresca, grated cheese and hot tortillas.   Rice and-or beans on the side rounds out the plate, but isn’t required.  A bit of Mexican Crema or sour cream doesn’t hurt either.  The tequila and the citrus does a fabulous job of breaking down the meat and making even stubborn beef nice and tender.  Because this goes together relatively quickly, this has become a standard in our house…the tequila is the newest twist though!

Food -n- Flix- Now Showing…Practical Magic~

31 03 2013


It’s April, Spring is in the air, and it’s time to enjoy a little Practical Magic, because, after all,  “There’s a little witch in every woman.”  Part love story (as sisters), part love story (you’ll figure it out), part witchiness…this is one of my all time favorite flicks.

Practical Magic boasts an all-star cast of  Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman in the primary leads, supported by Stockard Channing and Dianne West.  See what I mean?  IMDb says, “Sally and Gillian Owens have always known they were different. Raised by their aunts after their parents’ death, the sisters grew up in a household that was anything but typical…”  Practical Magic has plenty of plot twists and surprises to keep your attention.

I hope you’ll join me, and make time for this movie.  It’s available to buy or rent through  I think it would be fun if we shared our favorite scenes in Practical Magic as well.  

Want to join in? Here’s how to participate:

Watch the chosen film Practical Magic. Taking inspiration from the film, head into the kitchen and cook or bake or make something.

Post about it on your blog with a link back to THIS post and a link to Food ‘n Flix. Use of the Food ‘N Flix logo is optional.
Your post must be current (during month of film). And of course we don’t mind if your post is linked to other events.

Email your entries to me at: cantbelieveweate AT and include:

Your name
Your blog’s name and URL
The name of your dish and the permalink to the specific post you’re submitting
Attach a photo of any size (or tell me which one to “pull” from your post)
Indicate “Food ‘n Flix Submission” in the subject line please!

Deadline for submission is Sunday, April 28th. I will post a roundup before the end of April…no foolin’!

Have fun!


Food ‘n Flix – Attack of the Killer Tomatoes…35 pounds of them~

28 10 2012

Our Food ‘n Flix hostess this month is Elizabeth of The Law Student’s Cookbook, and she chose The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes for our October viewing pleasure!  Great choice!!  And ever so timely!

Farmers’ Market…9:30 on a lazy Saturday morning…  I live in the farming region of Northern California.  Lives of farmers pretty much revolve around the seasons.  Sure enough…the Farmers’ Market reflects the change of seasons.  There is virtually no summer stone fruit left in the market.  Melons and summer squash are diminishing.  The bins of fresh corn have been replaced with jack-o-lantern pumpkins.  This particular day finds me searching for tomatoes for canning.  My supply is running low, and any summer-canned tomato will make a better tasting tomato in just about anything mid-winter.  Sure enough…I spy a crate of freshly picked Roma tomatoes.  I bought enough two weeks ago to can one batch, and they came out really well.  I ask how much a crate weighs.  They’re selling for $1/pound.   The stall manager looks at me with a discerning eye… “You want the whole box?”  I answer in the affirmative.  “20 bucks for the box.  It weighs about 25 pounds.”  Not a moment’s hesitation, “Sold,” I reply pulling out a picture of Andrew Jackson.  My husband reaches down to take possession of the box…and gives me one of those, “this doesn’t weigh any 25 pounds….” looks.   Sure enough.  When we get home, we weigh it….SCORE!!  35 pounds!  Oh wait…THIRTY five POUNDS???  Of TOMATOES???  I suddenly hear Harry Chapin singing in my inner ear about thirty thousand pounds…of bananas…and roll up my sleeves.

This is typical of things at our house.  Whatever comes your way, step up and take your at-bats (sorry…I’m in SF Giants country-anywhere, north of The Grapevine- and baseball analogies soak in).  I had to break up my great canning caper because I ran out of 1) sealing rings; 2) jars.  The pantry is getting pretty with tomatoes and pickles…among the other goodies.

By the end of the box, I was feeling seriously attacked by tomatoes.  I ended up canning the last of the tomatoes after work, and finished around 11:00 p.m.  Ugh!  It’s worth it though… Look at those gorgeous jars packed tightly with meaty tomatoes!!

Killer Canned Tomato Halves

Equipment needed:  Canning jars, sealing rings, sealing lids; jar lifter; water bath canning kettle; 2 more saucepans.  Nice to have: Silicone potholder mitts, lid rack, lid magnet.
Ingredients needed:  Tomatoes, lemon juice, salt, tomato juice or water.

10# tomatoes, peeled
salt (non iodized, for canning)
1/2 cup Lemon juice  (7 Tbsps. total)

Wash and sterilize 7 pint jars.
Add 1/2 tsp. salt and 1 Tbsp. lemon juice to each jar as you fill it.
Fill each jar with whole or halved tomatoes
Add hot water or hot tomato juice to 1/4 inch from the top.
Wipe jar edge and apply 2 piece seal and ring.

Process in water bath canner for 35 minutes after water returns to a boil. (Fill the canning kettle rack while it’s suspended over the water.  Bring the water to a boil before you drop the filled jars down into the kettle and start the timing.)
Lift jars, remove to draft free area to cool.  When jars are completely cool, remove rings and wipe jars clean (tomato juice will likely leak during processing and is very sweet, and dries so that it is very difficult to open the jars after a period of time).

One really nice thing about this particular variety (as well as this farmer’s crop) is they are thick walled, meaty tomatoes, and they packed well.  A lot of the time, there is a certain amount of air in the walls and seed pockets of the tomatoes themselves, and when they’re “raw-packed” (not cooked before the canning process) you’ll see a quantity of clear liquid at the bottom of the jars and the tomatoes look like they weren’t well packed.  That didn’t happen with these.  Nor did they need much water added to the jars to top them up.  I packed the halves in as tightly as I could, and added maybe up to 2 Tablespoons of water to the jars.  These tomatoes will even be good for home-made salsa in the middle of winter when there aren’t any decent tomatoes to be found.  I’m so glad we slayed these Killer Tomatoes!

Julie & Julia is our November flick… Oooh…that will be FUN!!!

Food-n-Flix: It’s Complicated…Chile Rellenos~

22 09 2012

Our featured flick at Food ‘n Flix for September has been It’s Complicated.   I had a hard time deciding what to prepare, when it dawned on me that I’d used this exact phrase to describe the preparation method for Chile Rellenos.  A friend had asked me if it was “hard” to make them, and my reply was, “No…but it’s complicated…”  And when you think about it…spicy, sexy, enchanting…the movie and the food work well together.

This was kind of a typical post-first-marriage chick flick…  I can understand (up to a point) why a woman whose spouse had abandoned her and their children for a younger woman might entertain some fairy tale-romantic dreams of recapturing what they’d once had…  I think I felt badly for her, putting herself in that position of still feeling that “need” somehow…  I may be a little harsh in that regard, but I didn’t get my opinion from a box of Cracker Jacks…there’s some history there.   Regardless…this is where the chiles fit in for me.  This is a volatile situation…and it could become combustible…just like biting into an unknown chile!  Ever done that?

I have to admit that I love her kitchen.  Mine is so incredibly (space saving) tiny!  I realize this is totally impractical…it works well for film, but running from one end to the other gets OLD!  *Ü*

I would seriously love to see red tomatoes in my garden too….  The weather has been really off the past couple of years, and tomatoes just aren’t on schedule the way they should be.  My plants look this good, but there are only a few tomatoes trying to set.  Every time we’d get a flush of flowers, it would get HOT and the blossoms would drop.  Now that Fall is HERE (we still had high 90’s weather last weekend) we’ll get tomatoes, peppers and other goodies to finally set fruit.  What an incredible job to have!!

We whip up a little mischief in Life by having an affair with the ex-husband (Alec Baldwin), Fate delivers a new version of Mr. Right (Steve Martin) and Meryl Streep finds herself sitting in a hot frying pan.

Fortunately, our protagonist eventually sees the situation for what it is…and extracts herself from the whole mess.  We’re left with Mr. Right and Ms. Complicated walking off screen to share a cup of tea…  Not my favorite movie… I guess I’m not a big romance-flick kind of gal.  I tend to face Life pretty much head on, and shake my head in disbelief at romance books and movies.  Not that I don’t love a beautiful love story… *Ü*  Still…it’s fun to check on some movies I’ve never seen!

Back in the kitchen, we took some of those red, ripe tomatoes and diced them with some onion and a bit of seeded fresh jalapeno, then tossed that in a saute pan with some garlic and a little oil.  Set this little salsa aside until you plate your chiles, but do make it now as your attention is going to be on your chiles for awhile.  Add salt as needed to taste and add cilantro just before you spoon it onto the cooked chile rellenos.  Couldn’t be easier!  But the chiles part…that’s what’s complicated.

Can you make meringue?  Then you can make chile rellenos.  Egg whites will whip up high and light religiously if you are equally as religious about washing the mixing bowl and the whisk, whip, or beaters with hot soapy water just before using them.  When you separate your eggs, use 3 small bowls…one to crack the egg over to separate the eggs: this bowl will be the first catch basin for your egg white.  If you are successful at separating the egg without breaking the yolk, transfer the egg white to the mixer bowl.  If you do break an egg yolk, you haven’t lost your whole mixer of egg whites…just that from the one egg.  If you break the yolk, pour the whole egg into your yolk-bowl.  The extra whites won’t matter there so much.  Stop and wash the bowl you’re cracking eggs and separating them into.  There will be traces of egg yolk left in there if you don’t.  See what I mean?  It’s not hard…but it’s complicated… *giggle*

I use 3 eggs (separated), for 4-6 fire roasted (Part of the enchantment of this recipe is the freshness of the dish…fresh, fire roasted, gently…so only the skin is blackened, not the flesh, is best.  This will yield a pepper with a bit of crunch and an incredible flavor.  However, all things considered, yes, canned will work fine, but the flavor and texture won’t be the same.) poblano peppers filled with Monterey jack cheese.  I cut my cheese into triangles about 1/2 inch thick and fill each chile pepper with a triangular hunk of cheese.  This slows the melting a little bit, giving the batter time to cook all the way through.  I like to keep a bit of the stem on my chiles to promote batter dipping.  It makes a great little handle.  Once the peppers are filled, set them aside while you prepare the egg batter.  Whip the egg whites until high and light, but not dry.  Move to the egg yolks and beat until fluffy and lemon colored.  Season with salt and fold the egg yolks into the egg whites.  Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat with about 1/4-1/2 inch of vegetable oil in it.  Dust the filled chiles with flour and dip into the egg batter and coat thoroughly.  Lay into the hot pan and repeat, filling the pan without crowding the chiles.  If possible, keep track of the opening where you inserted the cheese and lay the chile on that side to cook first.   Reduce heat if necessary to keep from scorching the eggs.  Turn the chiles when nicely browned and the egg “fluff” has set somewhat.  Once in awhile, you’ll need to make an additional third turn if you have a blocky pepper.

Remove the chiles from the pan and let drain briefly on paper.  If you have to cook another pan full, keep these warm in a 140° oven until all servings are ready.  Plate your rellenos, top with warm salsa and serve with a dollop of Mexican Crema (or sour cream) and hot sauce if you like.

I love chile rellenos.  I’ve been making them so long…They’re my favorite Sunday brunch food.  Then it’s time for a nap.  Or a good movie.  Or both.  Maybe we’ll have to amend that to Saturday brunch…


Thank you France at Beyond the Peel for being our hostess this month!  It was fun!  I can’t wait to see what decadent things everyone has been making!

Food ‘n Flix: “The Help” Round-up~

31 08 2012

I knew when I first read The Help that I had to see the movie.  Well…the movie came out and I was swamped with extra things going on, and I never got to see it.  I could hardly WAIT for it to come out in a home version.  I was worried…movies very rarely compare with the books, but this one does an extremely good job.  Yes, there are a couple of places where artistic license comes in to play…but how much more impressive it was to have Mae Mobley utilize one of the commodes on Hilly’s front lawn!!  It’s my pleasure to host this little tea in honor of our Food ‘n Flix selection of the month…The Help.  I’m so tickled that we have such a huge turnout for this round-up!  You’ll see…there are so many great dishes this month!!  Go get your favorite beverage and anything else that might be nagging in the corner of your mind, because we’ve got one heck of a spread!!

From Debbie at Granny’s Southern Cooking we have a gorgeous Mississippi Mud Pie.  Being a California girl, it had never occurred to me that the towering frozen mousse I’d been served in the past simply wasn’t authentic Mississippi Mud Pie.  And then…all the lights came on and I “saw” Mississippi “mud” and “rocks”, in a pie shell!!  Gosh, what a difference when you go to the area where a recipe originated!  Here in sunny (smoky) California, it’s been fancied up so there are no rocks…no mud…  I love this!  Debbie says, “Enjoy y’all! This recipe is pure chocolate heaven and yummy in your tummy too…”

Next we have Elizabeth from The Law Student’s Cookbook.  Elizabeth said, “The movie left me hankering for hush puppies, for deep fried soft shell crab, and most of all, for chicken and dumplings.”  Elizabeth made Chicken and Dumplings for us.  She said it reminded her of her Aunt…”And it still felt good and felt right and reminded me of my Aunt Beau when I made it.”  What a beautiful tribute to a beloved family member!

Please join me in welcoming  Kate of Katie-Kate’s Kitchen!!  This is Kate’s first post with us.  She’s had her eye on our group for awhile and finally has the chance to join in on the fun!!  I’m sure I speak for all of us when I saw we hope you enjoy your time cooking with us!!  We have a really great group, and the best Moderator ever!  Kate has been making Southern Fried Chicken (with or without the skin).  Kate got high praise from the man of the house, who deemed her chicken “better than Chick-Fil-A fried chicken!

If you’ve seen this movie, you know there are lots of scenes where “Coca-Cola” makes a cameo appearance.   Girlichef, Heather, says, “I’m a Coca-Cola girl.  Always have been.”  And she proves it with this decadent submission: Peanut Cola Cake.  I think this is as close as we get to anything that resembles Minny’s Caramel Cake.  This one’s on my list to make!

“What could be more Southern than okra?” asks Debra at Eliot’s Eats .  She prepared  Spicy Southern Fried Okra to go with her “Copy-Cat Chik-Fil-A Chicken“.  I was glad to see this recipe!  Imho…Okra is kind of an acquired taste if you didn’t grow up with it.  I kind of imagine like maybe artichokes might be in the south… Debra takes us through the necessary steps, and there are a few…but she solves that by suggesting we process a quantity and keep some in the freezer.  Debra has a favorite quote from our movie that she’d like to share…with the appropriate grammatical corrections, of course… “You is kind.  You is smart.  You is important. ” as spoken by the maid, Aibileen to Mae Mobley.

Just as it is at Southern picnics and get-togethers, fried chicken was a popular dish in this round-up!  The more the merrier!  This rendition of southern fried chicken comes from Tina of  Squirrel Head Manor, and is called Buttermilk Fried Chicken.  Tina touched on a few quotes and a couple scenes that stayed with her.  One of those comes from Minny: “Fried chicken just tend to make you feel better about life.”  I couldn’t agree more.

While we’re on the subject of fried chicken, before we slip into back to back desserts, I’ll throw my Fried Chicken on the table as well.  It was the first thing that came to mind when I knew I had to host this movie!  Thank you all for jumping in!!  Now…on to the desserts!

Deb from Kahakai Kitchen said, “After seeing the many glasses of iced sweet tea consumed throughout the movie, I knew I wanted to make something featuring this Southern staple.”  Deb has pushed her way out of the proverbial box by tuning  southern sweet tea into a cooling treat for those hot summer nights,  Southern Sweet Tea Ice Cream (a non-dairy ice cream that is incredibly sweet and creamy) 😉  Deb also posted the most comprehensive review of our Flix of the month…thanks Deb!

Our last dish comes to us from Malice of Malice in Dunderland.  Malice has joined us from Puerto Rico!  Malice, welcome to Food ‘n Flix, and I hope you enjoy the time you spend with us!  Malice has created a  Pineapple Upside Down Cake.   She selected this dish because it was what Celia Foote was trying to make when Minny showed up to apply as a maid.  Malice really captures the essence of Celia in her post, and her Pineapple Upside Down Cake looks pretty darn tasty too!

Thank you, ladies, for joining me today!  I’ve had just the best time visiting with all of you!  Look at all the lovely food you’ve shared…and memories…  And I agree with Debra of Eliot Eats…this is an important message to take away, especially those of us who work with children…

Cook the Books and Food ‘n’ Flix: Home Cooking either way~

25 08 2012

Cook the Books meets Food ‘n’ Flix in the arena of “Home Cooking” here at Can’t Believe We Ate…  The character Minny, from the movie The Help, our movie selection of the month, has quite the reputation in town as a cook.  One of her specialties is fried chicken.  Interestingly enough, Laurie Colwin gives us her recipe and method for frying chicken in her book, our current Cook the Books selection, Home Cooking.  We’ll end up having a little comparison here before we’re finished.  Aside from cooking, this book and movie couldn’t be farther apart!

Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking is a collection of short food essays full of reminiscences.  Ms. Colwin delights her readers with her real-life recollections of various foods along with recipes or techniques.  I was actually inspired to make roast beef when I first read the book in March, yet fried chicken called out to me when I re-read the book in August.   My family is particularly fond of my fried chicken, however, I’m usually willing to try a new technique.  I didn’t think there would be all that much difference.

I’m sorry that Minny didn’t share any of her recipes with us.  We do get some left-handed cooking lessons from her as she “teaches” her mistress, Celia Foote, how to cook.  Personally, I’d love to have the recipe for Minny’s Caramel Cake.  That has me puzzled and intrigued…there are so many ways one could go about creating such a decadence.  But we’re frying chicken…so let’s get back to it.

Ms. Colwin and I agree that chicken benefits from a buttermilk bath.  She recommends soaking the chicken in plain buttermilk, and that’s where we start to differ.  I almost always brine my chicken because most chicken has no flavor.  Add some salt, garlic and onion powder to the buttermilk and soak away.  Soak or marinate the chicken for at least 45 minutes.  If you created a buttermilk “brine” 45 minutes will probably be enough.  However, gently salting the buttermilk and seasonings will make a great overnight bath for the chicken.

Breading the chicken is next.  So far, Ms. Colwin and I are right on track… Season your flour the way you want your chicken to taste when it’s done.  Taste the flour to get it right.  It will taste a little, well…floury, but it’s the balance of salt and other flavorings that you want to work on.  I use salt, garlic powder-granules, onion powder, and freshly ground pepper for my base.  It’s kind of my universal seasoning.  Sometimes, especially for chicken, I add paprika…or smoked paprika…Yummmm!   When the flour is the way you think you’ll like it, put it either in a bag (for shaking) or a shallow dish.  Ms. Colwin and I will depart a bit here… Ms. Colwin breads her chicken straight from the buttermilk.  Shaking off the excess milk, she drops the wet chicken pieces into a bag and flours them generously.  Knock off the excess flour, and set aside for a moment until you have enough prepared pieces to fill your pan without crowding it.  What kind of pan?  A chicken fryer…  There really is such a beastie.  It’s a good sized (12 inch or so) straight sided frying pan with a lid.  The best pan, bar none, and Ms. Colwin and I are in lock-step on this one, is a cast iron chicken fryer with a heavy lid.  I inherited mine from my mother, who prepared chicken precisely by Ms. Colwin’s method, religiously…until I brought boys home from church for Sunday dinner.  Out of nowhere, she served up a platter of the crispiest, crunchiest lightly crusted chicken I’d ever seen.  I was amazed and delighted!!  She never fixed chicken that way just for us…I brought the guys home for dinner a lot after that!

I do things a little differently…  I dry my chicken pieces a bit so they aren’t wet and sprinkle them with a light dusting of the flour mixture, just enough to make my take the breading I’m about to add…it’s kind of a double breading.  I dip the lightly floured chicken in a fresh buttermilk bath, and flour it in the same manner as above.  The difference is that the chicken actually gets a really decent crust going.  It still can’t sit around long before frying…it will get soggy and that doesn’t crisp up quite right.  I can drop my pieces right into the hot oil, because I don’t cover my fryer.  I keep the heat just a little lower, still “deep frying” but on the lower end of the temperature range.  More like 350° rather than closer to 375°.  I liked Ms. Colwin’s tip about cutting the breast halves down even farther, so they cook more quickly.  What a concept!!  Why didn’t I think of that?? *Ü*

Ms. Colwin prefers a steam-frying method for cooking her chicken…she has you place a tight lid on the chicken and turn the chicken twice before removing the lid to finish the cooking.  I followed the technique, but found I over-cooked my chicken that way.  From the first pan on, I open-fried the chicken, as in the picture below.

I think this was the last pan full of chicken I cooked…using the single breading method.  I had a rather large package of boneless, skinless chicken half-breasts that needed to be cooked.  Having a plate of fried chicken got me past a lot of obstacles this week, and I was glad for it!

One distinct difference I noticed between Ms. Colwin’s method and mine, is that she’s right…the crust on her chicken gets soft once it’s refrigerated.  Mine, however, doesn’t.  We still have crunchy chicken the following day, and if I let it cool really well before packing it into the fridge, it’s crunchy for a couple of days.  We enjoyed this batch of fried chicken with potato salad.   I’m not saying mine is better than hers…I’m saying it’s two different methods with two different outcomes, and one should expect two different results.

So far, I’ve mainly chattered on about Ms. Colwin’s chicken, so now it’s time to give The Help a chance in the spotlight!  I’m the hostess at Food ‘n’ Flix this month, and I chose this movie.  Next month we’ll be watching a different movie…check my sidebar for “Coming in September” to see what’s next.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, with all it’s side stories and surreptitious meetings, spilling the secrets of the society ladies…  It’s hard for today’s youth to imagine the segregation and disparate treatment of anyone with a non-white skin.  Prejudice wasn’t known as such…it was more an accepted way of life…then.   While the storyline pretty much sticks to the lighter side of life around the southern plantations of the Sixties, it touches reality deeply in places.   I love Skeeter’s independence and verve.  I loved the depth of caring and empathy exhibited by Abileen…and I couldn’t possibly dislike Miss Hilly any more!  Southern cooking screams fried chicken to me…well, and a few dozen other things too, but chicken gets there first.  What I’d give to have a cook like Minny around!  Not to work for me!! Heavens no!  I’d want to learn about her magical kitchen tricks!

Speaking of tricks…there is one tiny detail I left out…when I mix up flour for chicken…I add a teaspoon of baking powder to it. It reacts with the buttermilk (actually, any liquid) and leavens the coating just a little bit…and that may have something to do with the lighter crispness of my chicken…but now you’re sworn to secrecy!

Food-n-Flix: Now Showing…The Help~

28 07 2012

It’s the dog days of summer here in the Northern Hemisphere…what better time to share a movie celebrating all Southern belles than…August!  While it isn’t exactly a romance, there is romance…and there is some eye candy appeal…  I admit I was rather taken with all the culinary opportunities both the book and the movie had to offer.  So beg, borrow, rent or buy a copy of  The Help.  Then, c’mon back to visit!  It’s surely my pleasure to have you all in for tea!

How to participate in Food ‘n Flix:

1. Watch the chosen film (The Help).  Taking inspiration from the film, head into the kitchen and cook or bake or make something.

2. Post about it on your blog with a link back to THIS post and a link to Food ‘n Flix.  Use of the logo is optional.

3. You must post must be current (during month of film). And of course we don’t mind if your post is linked to other events…the more the merrier.

4. Have fun with it!

5. Email your entries to me at: cantbelieveweate (at) gmail (dot) com and include:

~Your name
~Your blog’s name
~The name of your dish and the permalink to the specific post you’re submitting
~Attach a photo of any size (or just give me permission to “pull” one from your post)
~Indicate “Food ‘n Flix Submission” in the subject line

Deadline for submission is: Thursday, August 30th (11:59 pm Pacific).

*Note regarding Round Up… My granddaughter will celebrate her 21st on the 31st, so please don’t look for the Round Up until September 1st!

Food-n-Flix: Because I Said So…~

27 07 2012

This month at Food ‘n’ Flix we are watching Because I Said So, hostessed by girlichef.  What a fun movie! Although, I think the “only child” syndrome that made me shake my head at some of the mother-daughter-sister antics.  It’s really hard to relate!  I simply cannot imagine my mother asking me what an orgasm feels like…’nuff said on that subject!  LOL!

Without regard to my birth order dilemma, or any other dilemmas, this really was a fun flick!  What was I inspired to make??  A multi-tiered polka dot cake!  Fortunately, my senses came back from vacation before I got the pans greased and ready.

Because I Said So is the story of a single mother who has reared her 3 lovely daughters to adulthood, and has 2/3 of them happily married off.  Daphne Wilder, played by Diane Keaton, is the matriarch of  “The Wilder Women” and Millie, played by Mandy Moore, is the remaining, unmarried daughter.  Daphne finally succumbs to her meddlesome ways and runs a secret (from Millie) and lengthy “Man Wanted” ad…for her daughter, Millie.  Daphne interviews the prospective suitors, and settles on reasonably handsome, reasonably well-to-do, rather controlling, but up and coming young architect…

meanwhile, the guitarist at the lounge where all these interviews are taking place takes an interest in the parade of eligible bachelors wandering through the lounge and decides to see the “prize” with his own eyes.

Millie suddenly finds herself sought after by two gentlemen, when before there had been none.  Enchanted by their individual endearing charms, she gets caught up in simultaneous relationships.  Eventually, the truth comes out…Daphne’s meddling, Millie having two relationships, Millie discovering she has real feelings for Johnny, the musician.  And, then…there’s Daphne…

This is undoubtedly a chick flick, with plenty of sexual innuendo, double entendre and not so thinly disguised adult material.  Seriously, it’s a girls’ night crack up.  I’m good with a thumbs-up for Because I Said So…  I watched it twice and enjoyed it more the second time around!

The only thing left is what was I really inspired to cook…  There were a lot of allusions to food, but we didn’t see much aside from cakes…(and what cakes they were!)…a sheet of freshly baked cookies and chocolate souffle…oh, and pasta.  Almost forgot the pasta!   Although Millie is a wedding caterer (“Good Enuf to Eat” is her company), we see or hear little actual reference to food.  Notable exceptions are “Pasta Toss” and “Chocolate Souffle”…  Had we watched this movie in a different month, I might have jumped on the idea of chocolate souffles…  I still like the idea of it, and may edit this post someday, but for now…I’m on vacation for  few more days, I’m too lazy (*Ü*), and it’s really been too hot to have the oven on…so I settled for Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond’s recipe, Baked Fudge.

The Pioneer Woman’s Baked Fudge

I’m not EVEN going to try to describe this decadent dessert better than PW does…she’s the Queen!  I will say that this is incredibly easy to toss together and it will cook up in about 40 minutes.  Can you smell that?  Oh. My. Goodness.  And it goes well with vanilla ice cream…darn. I just happen to have vanilla ice cream…

Rich. Fudgie decadence.  A dessert a woman was meant to love.  I’ve got to tweak this with chocolate varieties.  I made this with dutch process high fat cocoa.  It’s what I had on hand.  I also have some bittersweet chocolate in there and some dark chocolate…  Oh, I’m going to hate to have to repeat this recipe…jk!

Next month, I hope you join me here at Can’t Believe We Ate where we’ll be hosting the next movie, The Help.  I’m really excited about the opportunities for inspiration from this movie…  See you there!

Two for One…Basil Accented Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp

26 05 2012


I wasn’t planning a 2 for 1 post, but it worked out that way… This session the group Cook the Books is reading The United States of Arugula, and I selected Alice Waters of Chez Panisse as the chef I wanted to cook after…and at Food -n- Flix, we watched the movie Sideways, which explores the wine country of California up to Napa Valley, which is a California stone’s throw from Berkley, so they really do go together, especially since I’m in California as well.  Okay, it’s a bit of a convoluted connection, but it works, and so does basil with strawberries!

Cook the Books has been reading The United States of Arugula by David Kamp the past 2 months.  Mr. Kamp takes us on an culinary “Alice Through the Looking Glass” trip through the history of epicurean development in America.  Wow.  Having been alive through a majority of the stories related in US of Arugula, it really took me back to my own culinary roots.  Being a young wife in 1972, I was glued to Graham Kerr of the Galloping Gourmet, but somehow missed out on Julia Child.  Nonetheless, she was the chef I learned to cook with when I finally kicked out the mental walls of my kitchen and spread my wings…Coquilles St. Jacques was my first “Julia” recipe!

I selected Alice Waters as the culinary philosophy I wanted to cook.  I don’t like commercial food.  It worries me.  I’d rather garden in my backyard (to the delight of my mare, Shasta, and the dismay of her human, my beloved hubster).  She’s certainly a challenge, but we’ll get it!!  I am loathe to buy out of season fruits and veggies.  I’ve been known to make “salsa fresca” from home-grown and canned tomatoes…it tastes better than what’s made from the “fresh” tomatoes in the stores…  The concept that one can make gourmet food from garden to kitchen is pretty much a rule of thumb here.  It often happens during gardening season that I’ll decide what dinner will be based on what should be picked from the garden.  I love that.  I really do.

My dish is a Spring standard…a strawberry-rhubarb crisp, with the exception that mine is kissed with fresh basil.  I live where strawberries grow abundantly and immensely flavorful when the season is high.  May is high strawberry season.  I picked up a half-flat (6 bountiful baskets) of day old strawberries for $5…slightly below half price.  They had just-picked berries as well, but I can’t resist a bargain like that if I can make it work!  When I got home that night, I went out and cut several rhubarb stalks from my garden.  Rhubarb is perennial here, which is really nice!  As I walked across the porch from cutting the rhubarb, a basil plant hanging from the eaves called out to me…you need me!  Thought process…okay, basil is of the mint family…strawberries go well with balsamic and so does basil…why not?   Make your favorite strawberry-rhubarb crisp, and add 2 tsp. freshly minced basil leaves to the fruit and sugar when you mix it.  It wasn’t “noticeable” but there was a slightly unique flavor that enhanced the fruit really nicely with a little light minty flavor.  Yum.

Life in the Slow Lane at Squirrel Manor is our hostess this month as Food -n- Flix watches Sideways this month. gives Sideways a score of 7.7 and this review “Two men reaching middle age with not much to show but disappointment, embark on a week long road trip through California’s wine country, just as one is about to take a trip down the aisle. ”   I found myself trying to place the various vineyard regions as they drove north, and was disappointed that there weren’t more regions represented.  I felt like their mother, being a voyeur on their trip.   That wasn’t so much fun…when did I become MY mother??  LOL!  Oh well…I guess you can’t love them all!  On to The Mistress of Spices!