I was lucky to grow up in a family of fabulous cooks in the upper midwest.
A recent move to Texas has caused me to begin a torrid love affair with Tex-Mex, the constant supply of fresh produce, and the area's foodie/ethnic grocery stores

  • Location: Hot & Humid Houston

Care to introduce yourself?

I originally hail from the windswept prairies of the Dakotas, where I developed a love of cooking and baking from my mother and grandmothers. Went to college, fell in love, got married and moved with DH to hot and humid Houston. I pursue a boring desk job by day and enjoy heating up our apartment kitchen and exploring the city (and it's many fabulous eateries) in my spare time.

Rhubarb Jam recipe needed

If you don't have one already, I'd definitely recommend the Ball Blue Book--it's fairly inexpensive and is widely considered the home food preservation bible.

That said, the Ball website is a good recipe source as well. I haven't tried it, but this Rhubarb Chardonnay Jam sounds pretty darn tasty:

Did you ever eat.....

I had a good friend in high school whose parents were hippies. Compared to my rural ranch family, they had all sorts of interesting things in their house, ranging from stinky incense to organic chlorophyll-based breath drops for their dog, Parsley. We tasted the chlorophyll drops, but they were fairly unremarkable.

Is Müesli Finally Becoming More Popular in the U.S.?

I heart Bob's Red Mill muesli with plain, nonfat Fage and a little honey for breakfast! I've tried a few other brands and definitely prefer Bob's.

Eating in North Dakota

I'm probably too late to the party, but I'll second the suggestion of finding some good homemade knoephla soup! I'd kill for a bowl here in Texas! Also, grab some lefse from refrigerated section of a local grocery store--try it rolled with a little cinnamon sugar, butter, and warmed in the microwave! YUM!

Also, a lot of the upper midwest is beef country! Have your wife hit up a local mom and pop steakhouse. The sides probably won't be fancy, but they'll be sincere and delicious!

Macadamia Nuts in Cocktails and Reality TV

@Lee: Thanks for the suggestions! I might give the cocktail a try later tonight!

Macadamia Nuts in Cocktails and Reality TV

Hmmm, this reminds me that I've still got a bottle of Trader Vic's macadamia nut liqueur at home. Received it as a Christmas gift and haven't come up with many ways to use it...

Regional Chain Restaurants

@joyyy- El Taco Tote has my vote, too! DH and I only recently discovered one close to us here in Houston and we're hooked! It's ten times better than Taco Cabana!

@jlcady- Right now, I would kill for either A.) a Coconut sherbet/chocolate swirl cone from Zesto (dumped upside down in a cup with the cone on the top, or B.) an Avalanche from B & G Milky Way!

What'd you get/give for valentine's?

I mailed chocolates to the fam back home and made dinner for DH. Roast beef tenderloin with shallots and a red wine reduction, steamed white asparagus, creamed spinach, and strawberries dipped in chocolate--it was pretty low-key and delicious.

Dinner tonight? 1/5/11

I've got chipotle pulled pork in the slow cooker for tacos and a nice fresh pineapple sliced for dessert.

Naughty or Nice--Dinner Dec. 20, 2010--HOHOHOHOHO

We had clean-out-everything-that-might-go-bad-while-we're-traveling-for-the-holidays dinner: steak, mushrooms, sauteed spinach, creamed carrots and a few roasted potatoes.

Dairy-free sides for Christmas

I stumbled upon this zucchini saute from smitten kitchen a few weeks ago--so simple, but delicious! You could provide some parm shavings on the side for those who need a little cheese.

Compost Cookies. Have a question....

I think it would take forever to get the dough thawed to a point where you could easily mix anything else into it--can't imagine it would be a time-saver in the long-run.

I'd mix them all up at once and try freezing it with the add-ins already incorporated or just mix and bake immediately.

What are you cooking/baking today?

Threw some quick chicken fajitas together after work. I'm studying for the final of my last master's degree class this week, so DH and I will be eating whatever's fast! I am so looking forward to being done with school, so I can start thinking more about holiday baking!

@Suzzanne: So jealous about the fresh lefse--it always tastes best when made with loved ones!

I know you're all thinking it - CRANBERRIES

I wish I had that problem--instead, I am borderline obsessed with all things cranberry. I finished off our leftover cranberry sauce on Saturday night. I made another batch on Sunday and have almost finished it, too.

Weekend Cook and Tell: Thanksgiving Leftover Derby!

Just whipped up a big pot of potato leek soup with our leftover mashed potatoes.

Any 'that was dumb..." kitchen mishaps?

Hosted a lovely dinner party with friends to showcase what I learned at cooking school in Florence. Spent all afternoon making beautiful pumpkin ravioli, roasting stuffed pork loin, and a decadent chocolate cake.

Picture it: the guests begin to arrive, wine is poured, I brown butter for the pasta sauce and add a little water from the pasta pot (just like I learned in class). My fatal flaw was forgetting to remove the super-hot butter from the burner first. Browned butter bits spattered EVERYWHERE. Luckily (?), I made it through with only some minor spatter burns and one terrifically bruised ego.

Do You Do a Thanksgiving Dress-Rehearsal?

Depending on a health of an elderly dog (it's a long story), we may be hosting our first Thanksgiving this year. I've played sous chef for my mom and grandmothers numerous times, so I'm not worried about the side dishes and the actual event coming together, but I am planning to do a turkey test-run in the very near future. Maybe a pecan pie, too since I've only recently overcome my long-standing fear of pie crusts!

Please, tell us where you're from...

I grew up on the wide-open prairies of South Dakota and nearly one year ago moved with my husband to an apartment situated amidst the high-rises of hot and humid Houston.

What did you have for lunch today?

Mushroom wild rice soup, a nice side salad and some cottage cheese.

Dead Chef's Party

Off topic, but when I read the title of this post, I really thought someone was planning a Dead Chef-themed Halloween party. I immediately pictured a zombie Paula Deen...

Food-Related Halloween Costumes?

Last year, I went as the Morton Salt Girl--bobbed hair, yellow dress, white tights, blue umbrella, and purse made from an empty Morton Salt container.

What's the story behind your SE screen name?

Back in college, I used to throw quarterly food-centric gatherings for friends. It started as a mere pie party in my freshmen dorm; by sophomore year, the cream puff social expanded to the community room in our residence hall. As a senior, my roommate and I rented out a portion of the college's student center to host a Christmas party. For this final soiree, we made ourselves aprons; mine said "The Hostess". Even as an old married lady, I still like to break out my kitschy apron when we have friends over.

Cook the Book: 'Ready for Dessert'

Dark chocolate truffle brownies.

Poll: Would You Eat the KFC Double Down Sandwich?

Nope, but not because it's too fatty/caloric/greasy/etc. I hate mayo and mayo-related sauces. Blech.

Serious Efforts: A Meal to Go

I am friends with an adorable elderly couple in my community. A couple of weeks ago they had me over for dinner (pot roast with all the fixings) and this Thursday, I'm planning to return the favor by making dinner for them.

Here's the catch: I'll be serving the meal at their place as the weather has recently turned a little nasty here in the Midwest. I don't want to have to make a huge mess of their kitchen or have to haul a ton of kitchen utensils with me, so I'd like to have most of the meal prepped and ready before I get there.

I'm thinking of a small stuffed pork loin (sun-dried tomatoes, spinach & pine nuts) and a pear-berry crisp for dessert, because they can both be completely ready to pop in the oven when I arrive, but I'm at loss for a starch and a veggie. Any fabulous make-ahead suggestions?

[Serious Efforts guidelines »]

What's your spice aversion?

Is there one spice/herb/flavor that you just can't stomach?

Mine is cloves. In high school, I had to have all four of my wisdom teeth out, and it wasn't like kids nowadays who have the luxury of being completely put under, only to wake up with a few gaping holes in their mouth. I went to our local family dentist who simply yanked them out with the help of a little novacaine and laughing gas.

Once the bleeding subsided, the dentist packed the open cavities with gauze soaked in clove oil. On top of that, the laughing gas left me nauseous. Ever since then, cloves have been my arch nemesis.

This aversion is sad for me, because I love fall/winter flavors. Cloves seem to sneak in everywhere. I swear I can detect them in a lot of curries. Clove-scented candles= Do Not Want.

Habanero Help!

This spring when I purchased herbs for my patio, DH accompanied me to the greenhouse and purchased a couple of little pepper plants. He babied them all summer and now we've got quite a few little golden habaneros ready for harvest.

DH works out of town, and we only have limited time together on the weekends (not much time to use them fresh in recipes), so I'm looking for suggestions to make his bounty last a little longer. Do you have a good hot sauce recipe that will keep for a while in the fridge? Can I freeze them? Are they any good dried? I checked out the Habanero Hot Sauce recipe from last month's Serious Salsa column, but one of the commenters remarked that it would probably only last a couple weeks in the fridge.

Thanks in advance for any help you might be able to provide!

Impressive Fundraiser Desserts

I'm looking for a couple of impressive dessert recipes for a fundraiser to be held later this week--here are the necessary specifications:

1.) Must be safe and maintain its presentation at room temperature. The various desserts are presented at a silent auction during dinner hour. The auctions winners typically share their winnings with their tablemates.

2.) Cannot require fancy frosting/icing techniques. This is only a personal requirement. Pastry tips and I do not currently have a positive relationship--I would like to improve, but this is not the week to do it.

In past years, I've concocted a couple of nice cheesecakes, but would like to try something new. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Serious Efforts: Shredded Pheasant?

My mission: to create pheasant enchilidas (or similar pheasant-based dishes) that are not horribly dry or full of lead shot.

Because I'm not a big wild game fan, I've been putting off use of several pheasants in our freezer. This hurts DH's feelings, so I've been mulling over a couple of new ideas.

I'm thinking about throwing a couple breasts in the crock-pot, keeping them covered with liquid (broth? water?) and cooking them through. After they've cooled, my plan is to shred them, thus eliminating my fear of consuming (or biting down on) any tiny pieces of lead shot.

Has anyone cooked pheasant (or other game birds) this way? Any other suggestions/tips/recipes are greatly appreciated!

[Serious Efforts guidelines »]

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