The Opinionated Foodie: The Love (or Not) of Food and Everything That Goes with It


Facebook Food Porn Strikes Again: Ranch Potatoes
January 7, 2014, 1:58 am
Filed under: Food I Make, Food Made by Other Food Folks | Tags: , ,

I ask you: Does the world need another potato recipe? Another potato casserole recipe? With bacon? And cheese? And the cliché can of cream of mushroom soup?

I declare that the world does not.

However, here’s one I am sharing with you that is so eloquently called Ranch Potatoes. It popped up on my newsfeed on Facebook last week when its recipe and convincing picture were liked or shared with at least four of my friends. Feeling the peer pressure that I had to try it since so many of my friends were trying it and I didn’t want to be the weird friend, I made it for supper.
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The recipe was easy enough to follow-this is Facebook, not Julia Child. I had all the ingredients on hand (and I think I usually do) so that was no problem either.
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Everyone at my table (who just so happened to be my closest of all my friends) liked it. I apparently was the only one who found a twang in several of my bites. I thought with those that my face was going to draw inside out. Whew. It was rough, but these potatoes were a hit with everyone else.
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So here it is, Foodie Friends. Yet another way to serve potatoes that may or may not make your face draw up. You’re welcome.

Ranch Potatoes:
Six large potatoes, washed, peeled, cubed
One packet of dry ranch dressing mix
One can of undiluted cream of mushroom soup
1 1/4 cups of milk
1 1/2 cups of shredded Cheddar cheese
One packet of real bacon bits-I didn’t use the whole package.

In a large pot, cover the potatoes with water and boil until they are just soft-about fifteen minutes. When they are done, butter or grease a large casserole dish and pour the potatoes in the dish. Mix the dressing mix, soup, milk, and one cup of the cheese together. Pour over the potatoes. Top the casserole with the rest of the cheese and the bacon bits.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.



Onion Tarts and Sam’s Club Samples at Book Club

For this month’s bookclub, I was so totally swamped with family and friends celebrations, cooking, caroling, decorating, helping abandoned animals from those sad commercials, and doing my Christmas service work, that I totally forgot to read the book!

Of course, that is not true. I was just lazy all the way around, because there is no lazy like Christmas break lazy and Christmas break lazy don’t stop.

Everyone who read the book which was basically everyobe except me, though, liked it fine. The book was The Winters in Bloom by Lisa Tucker. I loved her book Once Upon a Day, but I just didn’t get motivated enough to read this one. Actually, I wasn’t motivated to much at all like get dressed or brush my teeth on most days.

I did cook one thing and prepare something else for bookclub, though. Go me!

So, we had been to Sam’s and one of the many samples that I was abusing to fill Miss Helper up for free was multi-grain crackers with prosciutto on top. They weren’t too bad; she said that were good, so I had one myself. I bought the ingredients and remade them at bookclub. Simple.

I also made an onion tart, or at least that is what I am calling it.
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I found the recipe in a magazine, but then I reworked it. I liked it a lot, but I do love onions. And cheese. And tarts.
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All the way around, it was good. We also ate some chicken salad stuffed in tiny little tomatoes, sausage balls, salmon on crackers with a dill sauce, and a reuben dip that was divine. It was a good bookclub, even if I have no clue what the book was about.
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Onion Tart:
1/2 stick of butter
One three pound bag of sweet onions, peeled and sliced
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
One frozen piecrust, thawed
1/2 cup of Parmesan-I used the kind on the green container, if you know what I mean
1 egg, beaten

In a large skillet, melt the butter and then add the onions. Let them get a little tender, and then add the garlic. Cook the onions and garlic over low heat for a long time, about 45 minutes or until the onions turn golden brown. Meanwhile, line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Roll out the piecrust with a rolling pin and shape into a rectangle the size of the cookie sheet. Transfer the piecrust to the cookie sheet. When the onions and garlic are done, add half of the Parmesan and mix. Spread the onion mixture on the piecrust leaving a rim of piecrust around the edges. Fold those edges over and brush the edges with the egg.

Bake for 15 minutes at 400. Then, sprinkle the remaining Parmesan on top and bake for 15 minutes more. Broil for 3 or 4 minutes if necessary to get the edges brown.

This does not have to be hot to be good, but it was really good while it was hot.



The Feast of the Seven (Give or Take) Fishes: Our Family’s Progressive Dinner 2013

Ah, the annual Christmas progressive dinner. The dinner in which my two older sisters and I get to make food for our families and each other in an attempt to make a merrier Christmas while traveling around the countryside and trying not to overeat at the first stop.

It is tougher than it sounds.
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This year, our progressive dinner was at one stop only and the theme was seafood. We transformed my living room into a dining room and the dining room into the living room so all eighteen of us could sit at one table. Other than rearranging most of my house, I was the appetizer, so my job was easy.

The appetizer sister gets to sit back, serve small bites, and relax. Meanwhile, the other two sisters worry about something burning and/or not being cooked right at her house and the thought that everyone might eat too much at the first stop thus leaving a lot of food at her house with no one to eat it.

Again, tougher than it sounds.

An issue for me was that we went out of town the day before the party for Christmas with my husband’s family, and I arrived home four hours before the party started. Yikes.

Luckily, my food was easy enough to get a lot done ahead of time.
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I served shrimp with a spicy homemade cocktail sauce and pickled okra. I liked it a lot, and it was pretty festive with the red and green in a little glass. It was also dang easy. The only thing I had to do was boil water for the shrimp, mix the sauce, and assemble the little boogers.
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We also had Miss Kay Robertson’s shrimp salad from her Duck Commander cookbook. Since I was low on time, I made the decision to save all the shrimp I had for my other dishes and supplement the salad with two bags of frozen crawfish tails that I warmed up in butter before I added it to the salad as Miss Kay said to do. It was pretty good. It was creamy and crunchy.
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The last thing we passed around was The Pioneer Woman’s Skewers of Glory. Glorious might be a stretch, though. I precooked the bacon a little, used canned pineapple to make things easier, and I assembled the skewers when I got home.
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I was disappointed in the marinade, which was mostly at the bottom of the pan and not on the skewers, and the time it took to get the dish done. I cooked my skewers at least twenty minutes longer than PW said to and that’s even with the fact that I had precooked the bacon. Not fun when people are waiting for their first course.

Still, it was another memorable miracle of a dinner. Our main course was salmon served with a dill sauce that I will think about for ages, roasted vegetables, and rice. Devine. Dessert was an angel food cake.

Everyone ate too much, and we laughed too hard.

A good time was had by all.

Homemade Shrimp Cocktail
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup pickle relish
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 T Worcestershire sauce

Combine all and chill. In a small glass (I used tasting cups), layer the cocktail sauce, then the okra, then fill to the top with small shrimp.



Uncle Mick’s-Prattville, Alabama

The ride home from vacation is never fun.

This year, the trip from Destin was a quiet one. We were tired, full of memories, and road-weary. The movies were going in the backseat, and sand was still in our shoes. We had had enough fun for a while. Still, I had to have just one more foodie stop on the way home.

I did a little searching on my phone for a lunch stop as the miles rolled by, and Uncle Mick’s in Prattville, Alabama was a name I kept seeing.

Maybe it was that Uncle Mick’s sounded like a good place, or maybe it was the fact that they didn’t care where lunch came from, or maybe it was that they didn’t want to hear me whine about missing it, I don’t know. But regardless, the fam went along with the idea of stopping there for one last culinary adventure before home.

We took an exit and drove and drove and drove. There was a lot of huffing at this part of the journey as Mr. Opinionated was not too happy to be driving past the chain restuarants by the interstate to try a place we’d never heard of. He survivied, and we made it to Uncle Mick’s just before a meltdown.
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We walked in, and the place was very nice. The food is served cafeteria style, and so we just walked right up to the start of the line.
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We weren’t sure what to eat, but Uncle Mick was there to serve us some samples of several dishes. He was the nicest man and very good to us as we tried out his food. He said, “You like shrimp? You like fish? What’ll you try?”
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I had the tilapia with the Corn Maque Choux and tomato salad w/Feta cheese. Even though we had just eaten fish for a week, the tilapia was still good. The corn was awesome. I had never heard of maque choux before, and it was a dish to try. Yum.
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After all his huffing, Mr. Opinionated had the crawfish etouffee, and he liked it fine. He may have loved it, but he wouldn’t have let me know that.
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Mr. Picky enjoyed the garlic bread. Go figure.
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For dessert before the rest of the long road ahead, we had the bread pudding. When we ordered it, they set it aside and warmed it up when we were ready for it. It would have been better had we not just had the best bread pudding on earth at Harbor Docks.
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This ride home was another long one, but Uncle Mick’s is a place to put in the GPS for good. The food and atmosphere were a nice break from the interstate-even if it took us a little while and a lot of huffing to get there.
Uncle Mick's Cajun Market and Cafe on Urbanspoon



No Complaints Here: Findley’s Irish Pub

A weekend trip to Nashvegas was what the doctor ordered after the last few weeks we have had around here. After searching and searching, our best bet for a hotel during fall break was the mammoth Opryland Resort, a place I mostly avoid like the plague.

Yet, here we were.

We got our room when we and half of the South got checked in, and then we got a different room. The second one was the keeper. After traveling all day and then the long, long line at check-in, and then the room hopping, supper sounded like a great idea.

The way we used to travel, we would never, ever eat at the hotel where we were staying. Hotel restaurants always seemed too swanky and expensive. Lately though, we have changed our ways and have started eating at the hotel more often since it is so convenient even if it is more expensive.

Luckily for us, this worked out very well for us at the Opryland Hotel at Findley’s Irish Pub.
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We were starving when we sat down. The whole hotel was swarming with conference people from Merry Maids and three weddings that night.

We started with the fries with gravy, or as we call them at home, Boo Fries.
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These were fine, but I make better at home.

Regardless, while we were eating our Boo/Gravy Fries, we were enjoying ourselves. The restaurant very comfortable and busy. At a table next to us, though, an older couple was not having a nice time. The man ordered fish and chips. He sent the fish back for some weird reason. Then, he proceeded to send back the fries. They were burned, he said for all to hear. Our waiter, a nice non-Irish guy, explained that that was just the way the fries were made. The man still insisted on different fries. We were eating the same fries with gravy and cheese, and there was nothing wrong with them.

Really, Ridiculous Old Dude? You apparently need more gravy and cheese in your life.

The waiter brought out fresh fries special made for Mr. Complainy Pants that were still not good enough.

His wife, however, ate most of them. I am sure they went nicely with her salad, and I am also sure our waiter had to comp the couple for their pickiness even though he offered a substitute side for the still-not-good-enough second batch of fries.

Thou Shalt Not Be Rude to the Wait Staff should be a Commandment.
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We had no complaints. Mr. Picky had the grilled cheese. He didn’t complain, and his name is picky.
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Miss Helper had the pasta. Loved it!
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Mr. Opinionated had the pub burger. He liked it, but at the price we paid for it, it was a little bit of a let down. It may have been full of fancy stuff, but it was still just a burger.
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I had the Bangers and Mash. It was awesome.

This summer, I really, really watched what I ate and tried to be healthy. I lost several pounds, and realized that I could eat better.

This dish erased every bit of the work I did this summer. It was worth it.

The potatoes, the sausage. Good grief. The mustard sauce. The salad on top with the vinaigrette. Heaven.

We travel to Nashville once or twice a year. Next time we go, I hope we get to eat here again-minus all the Merry Maids and the complaining old guys.
Findley's Irish Pub on Urbanspoon



The Sandwich King’s BLD Sandwich

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It took me months to make this one. The short ribs in this BLD are not an every day thing around here, and they may not be an every day thing anywhere for all I know.
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All I know is that I saw the episode where Jeff Mauro makes this sandwich, and I had to try it, but the short ribs were dang hard to find.
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I tried this recipe once with pork ribs. It was good, but by the reviews I read about this sandwich, I knew it could be better.
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One day at Sam’s while I was perusing the meat, I found them-beef short ribs. I wanted to shout, “Look! I found them! Beef short ribs!” I restrained myself, believe it or not.
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It was exciting, though.
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So I bought them up and brought them home. I followed Mauro’s recipe almost exactly, but I still had to add some beef broth during the cooking since I thought they looked a little dry. I never did get my gravy thick like his, I didn’t have any horseradish mayo, and I thought that the meat tasted a little too bayleafy.
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Still, with an egg on top on a toasted bun, it was the best sandwich ever.
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Ever.
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I can only hope that it doesn’t take me another series of months to taste this sandwich again. It was too, too good.
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Thanks, Sandwich King.
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Homemade Boo Fries

So, you know how it goes. You go to a restaurant far from home. You see something unique on the menu. You order. Your taste buds are taken on a journey to Awesomeville. You mourn the fact that you may never taste this dish again.

It is a sad, sad cycle. What to do?

Try to make it at home, and if it fails, you never tell anyone.

If it succeeds, you can post it on your foodie blog for your foodie friends. Both of them.

That, you two, is what is happening here. While at Acme Oyster House, we ordered Boo Fries for no other reason than they sounded interesting. Yet, they were fabulous. Life changing? I don’t think that overstates things. Really, delish.

So, we are home now, and the chance of Boo Fries from Acme Oyster is a dim possibility. It just isn’t gonna happen anytime soon, but they were so simple that I thought that maybe I could recreate them. How hard could it be? Plus, the husband had already given me the go-ahead to make a roast (not his favorite thing to eat) to try out the fries. So, I tried them.
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Success, my friends. Success.

Good gosh almighty, they were good. All I did was make a roast in a pretty simple fashion.
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I used a small roast with an onion, celery, potatoes, and a package of Crock Pot savory pot roast seasoning. I left it in the crock pot all day, and then just before suppertime, I fried up some frozen French fries. To serve them up, I plated them with the fries, then the juice from the crock pot, and shredded Cheddar cheese on top.
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This recipe, as simple as it is, is a keeper. Three out of four of us loved it, and it was pretty close to the Acme’s dish. It was a happy and proud moment for me and my stomach. May the cycle of vacation food be broken again someday. If I can do it again, I promise I’ll tell you both about it.
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