Saturday, January 15, 2011

Weekend Cooking - PW's Chicken Fried Steak

Weekend Cooking is hosted over at Beth Fish Reads

Last Christmas I discovered Pioneer Woman Ree Drummond's cookbook by accident as I was trying what to decide to buy with my BAM gift cards :)
I like Ree Drummond's recipes for a lot of reasons and have tried more recipes from her cookbook than I have from any other cookbook I own.
I even blogged about a few of those trials right here on my blog in my earliest blogging days:

It's no secret that I'm a Southern gal...and as far as I'm concerned, milk gravy should be its own food group.  I could care less about the brown stuff...but don't skimp on the milk gravy...ever.
And, there is nothing better than old fashioned Chicken Fried steak smothered and then extra dipped in a side container of that blessed milky stuff.

I've tried quite a few variations of this Southern classic...and Ree's is one of the best I've found.  I'm not as fond of Lawry's seasoning salt as she is, but it does not make any difference in this recipe.  I frequently change up my seasonings anyway, depending on what I have on hand or quite frankly, what kinda mood I'm in.

Here are Ree's specifics, and then I'll walk you through my process:

3 lbs. cubed steak
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups milk, plus 2 cups for the gravy
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus about 1/3 cup for the gravy
2 tsp. seasoned salt, such as Lawry's
3/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp black pepper
3 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 cup oil for frying

Obviously you start with cubed steak. I like to buy thin pieces rather than big bulky pieces...I have a tendency to overcook thick meat bc I'm scared to death of food poisoning (I'm really not kidding).

Make an egg bath with the eggs and 1 cup of milk,  

and then a batch of your dry ingredients (flour, pepper, seasoned salt, paprika, and cayenne) 

Lightly season each piece of cubed steak with salt and pepper and then, kinda like a production line, submerge each piece of cubed steak into the milk/egg bath...

then into the flour mixture...

then, back into the egg/milk bath

then back into the flour again...

Yes, I did dunk the meat into both the egg bath and flour mixture TWICE.

After this process is complete, you will have some seriously dredged and floured pieces of meat

some seriously messed up hands :)

And if you're me, you will also have some seriously messed up kitchen counters, bowls and plates :)

Add the meat when your oil is good and hot (the meat needs to begin sizzling as soon as it goes in), keep a good eye on it and cook the dredged cubed steak on on both sides...Ree suggests about 2 1/2 minutes on each side or until the edges start to get brown.

Then flip 'em.

You can see in this picture why Ree recommends the dredging thing twice...look at that don't know crumbly, flaky good crust till you do this. 

Take those babies out and get ready for the milk gravy.

Pour all but about 1/4 cup of oil out of your pan...but under no circumstances should you try to clean your pan...keep all that yummy crumbly stuff in there...your gravy will thank you later.
Pour in your 1/3 cup of flour

and then whisk that stuff up till its nice and smooth and a beautiful brown.

Pour in your 2 cups of milk and whisk again till the gravy thickens to your liking.

Add a little salt and pepper to your taste...

Pour that mouth watering creamy goodness onto each piece of meat.
As you can see we had buttermilk biscuits and lima beans as sides this particular night.
I also always keep fresh veggie and fruit salads on hand for every meal. 

This particular recipe is not on Ree's blog, but it is in her cookbook, Pioneer Woman Cooks, on pgs 142-145

Till next week...

Saturday Snapshot - That's What Little Girls are Made Of

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce over @ At Home with Books

This past week immediately following the game during which this snapshot was taken (by me), my firstborn officially committed to play soccer in college next year.
It was a tough decision with several offers to consider...We are proud of her final choice, and I personally am relieved that she'll still be close enough for me to continue getting pictures like this to add to my collection :)

Whoever made up all that Sugar and Spice nonsense obviously didn't know my kid (the one in the white jersey)
She's a little like her mama :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Book Blogger Hop - Jan. 14

I'm looking forward to a looooonnggggg weekend of hopping! 
Stop by Crazy For Books and hop along!

In the spirit of the Twitter Friday Follow, the Book Blogger Hop is a place just for book bloggers and readers to connect and share our love of the written word! This weekly BOOK PARTY is an awesome opportunity for book bloggers to connect with other book lovers, make new friends, support each other, and generally just share our love of books! It will also give blog readers a chance to find other book blogs to read!

This week's question:

"Why do you read the genre that you do? What draws you to it?"

My Answer:
I read a variety of genres, so this question is a little tough for me.  It might actually be easier for me to explain why I don't read the one or two genres that I don't read :/ But...that's not the question this week so I'll try to stay on track ;)
I'm looking at my TBR shelf right now trying to think why I chose each of the books there...What is the common thread between the non-fiction, the classics, the stories about pets, the mysteries, the vampires, the YA...

I think you can see some aspect of my personality in all of the books I choose...

I think the common thread between all these books across various genres is people and relationships...even if the relationships are between paranormal or animal characters...more specifically even, I want deep, complicated, even puzzling or unexpected relationships...and a varied list of characters and events whose lives are entertwined in sometimes inexplicable and unbelievable ways.  No matter what genre it is, I like the book to be so deep that I'm taken into it affects me as a person, a woman, a mother, etc. 
I want the story to be so intense that I'm changed after I read it.

That's not too much to ask, is it?

Here I go HOPPING along!!


Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's a Book - Book Review

A funny story happened on the way to Christmas...

I stumbled upon the book It's a Book while preparing a presentation in October.
Enjoy this trailer from MacMillan Publishing Co:

I decided then and there that all my nieces and nephews should have a copy of this book for Christmas.  With the Ebook explosion the younger ones especially may not ever really get as deeply involved with paper as they do with electronic media and texts of all kinds.
As a teacher this was an important part of my message that day.

While I would never propose trading out paper books for Ebooks, as teachers, we have to make sure that what we do in the classroom matches how students learn. 
What was good enough for us is not necessarily good for them, and we have to be prepared to teach using the media that our students embrace.
Yada, yada, yada...

The book was so popular over the holidays when I was ordering our gifts that I could only order 3 at a time.

My firstborn was a huge help to me with giftwrapping this Christmas, and she offered to wrap the books as they came in.
After opening one of several shipments, she sat quietly and thumbed through the book.

"Mom," she said.
"Did you realize that the donkey in this book is called a jackass?"


"See, Mom, it says it right here."

"Well," I said.  "Even in the movie Pinnochio they use the word 'jackass'."

My firstborn kept reading  as the "jackass" gets more involved with the monkey's book.

Finally, the monkey can stand it no more when the donkey (talking about the monkey's book) says..."Don't worry, I'll charge it up when I'm done."

My firstborn said, "Um, better look at this before you give it to the cousins...all under the age of 10."

My youngest (6) was reading one of the other copies of It's a Book waiting to be wrapped and get me kicked out of my family.

"What's this word, Mommy?"


Instead of giving this book (which is absolutely hilarious btw) to the children, I gave one copy per family to the they could decide when to introduce this new vocabulary word to their children.

You have no idea!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wordless (Almost) Wednesday - Senior Night

My middle child took this of me and my firstborn during the Senior/Parents ceremonies between games.
It is official.
My firstborn child is getting ready to leave my nest :(

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Top Ten Bookish/Blogging Resolutions

Top Ten Tuesday is my very favorite meme and was created and is hosted by the ladies at The Broke and the Bookish each Tuesday.  This week's list is:

Top Ten Bookish/Blogging Resolutions

1.  Post every single day...even if it's just a photograph - I do better if I'm in a routine, and once I skip a
     day, it's easier to skip another. 

2.  Download books to my ipod and do some kind of exercise while listening.  So far, I've only listened to
     audiobooks in my car; I'm not sure why it never occurred to me to listen to books while walking, etc.  I
     have to find my ipod first though :p  Maybe I'll also wait until it warms up outside some ;) 

3.  Set aside time for personal reading every. single. day. PERIOD.

4.  Read magazines the day they come in the mail!  I'm a magazine maniac, and if I let them pile up on
     me, I quickly begin to feel overwhelmed and I feel as if I'm wasting money.  No, the answer to this
     problem is NOT to quit subscribing ;)
5.  Reorganize Mondays. Mondays give me problems for some reasons, but the organizing wannabe in
     me sees Mondays as a fresh start each week.  Saying that my blog is "eclectic" is a nice way to say,  "She
     sure does talk about a lot of stuff!"  I don't always stick to my plans, but the plan does give me a
     boost...for example, if I commit to Magazine Monday, then I'm more likely to read my magazines; if I
     commit to Menu Monday, I'm more likely to plan a menu, etc.  I also want to continue with my library
     postings and coupon postings.  BUT, I don't want to do any of these posts on a weekly basis.  So, I
     think Mondays will become Management Monday, and I will take turns with Menus, Library, Magazines
     and Coupons.  There, I feel better already :)

6.  Dedicate myself even more to memes I LOVE: Top Ten Tuesday, Wordless Wednesday, Snapshot
     Saturday, Weekend Cooking, and Sunday Salon.

7.  Commit to at least one book review per week on Thursdays.  If I review one book per week, that
     would mean by the end of the year I will have read and reviewed at least 52 books.  I've never kept up
     with how many books I've read over the course of a year, but I'm officially keeping track in 2011.

8.  Alternate Hopping on Fridays - There are several hops out there that I've wanted to participate in, but
     I don't want to post multiple hops in one post...that distracts me...that sentence alone distracts and
     confuses me.  So I'm going to start hopping around hops :)  The ones I have my eyes on right now
     are (Follow Friday at Parajunkee's View, The Book Blogger Hop at Crazy for Books and Follow
     Friday at Never Growing Old). I will also longingly continue to read the Literary Blog Hop at The Blue
     Bookcase *heavy sigh*...maybe one day when I'm grown up I'll be able to participate in this one ;)

9.  Give myself permission to quit reading something I'm not enjoying...again.  This is really really
     really hard for me.  I should have let go of the audiobook I'm listening to now a long time ago.  That anal
     feeling that I should finish what I start has not only reached the point of aggravation, but I have also not
     been able to enjoy anything else on audiobook :(  My youngest and I are going to the library goal is to pay our fine (yeesh) and replace the dragging audiobook in my car. Period.

10.  Pace ARC's and do not request anymore until I've read and reviewed the ones I already have.  I wrote
       about the ARC snowball effect on a previous post, and I'm happy to say that I put a stop to it after 3
       arrived back to back.  I don't blog for the ARC's.

Till next week, list makers!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Menu Planning Monday

I wanted a photo to go along with my menu posts and can you believe I found this??? Black cat and all??!!
This beautiful piece of art is called Kitchen Cat and is by Diana Woods.
I perused her website and have now decided I need this in my kitchen!!
I'll let you know how it goes! 

While I have not had complete success with menu planning over the years, I have had enough success to keep trying.  As we return to our normal schedules, I really really NEED to not have to decide what's for dinner every. single. night.  I have no idea why this drives me crazy...but it does.  I also feel like a chicken with my head cut off when I leave work to begin all my after school duties and still have to make a decision, run to the grocery store, get home, cook, clean up, homework etc.  Things are a little calmer when the dinner decision is pre-made.

I tried a monthly menu many years ago.  There is no bigger nightmare than trying to grocery shop for a month's worth of groceries.  It is especially impossible to get all the fresh things; then I would forget what I had and didn't have...and still be running around like a cukoo head.  At some point I moved to a weekly menu plan which goes pretty well, but it seems as soon as I have it all planned and organized, it's time to plan and organize again, and then menu planning begins to feel like laundry. 

After I read though all the Weekend Cooking posts at Beth Fish Reads this past weekend, and particularly BermudiaOnion's post about the Fix It and Forget It Cookbook, I made some hopefully realistic decisions about our daily menus:

1.  Try a 2 week menu plan. 
2.  During the week, eat crock-pot meals, casseroles, soups or some other one dish meals. 
3.  Save weekends for favorite meals or new recipes that take a little more time and desserts.
4.  Strengthen our commitment to eating at home rather than eating out.
5.  USE my cookbooks (I have a TON!!)
6.  Get this post up a lot earlier ;)
7. Eat earlier (The Head of My Household's only request)

Here's my general rundown for the next two weeks so far:

Monday (tonight) - chili and cornbread muffins
Tuesday - PW's pot roast (family favorite) w Caesar Salad
Wednesday - Crock-Pot Barbeque Chicken (Fix It and Forget It)
Thursday - gonna call this casserole night
Friday - chicken fajita tacos (so my middle child will quit asking for it)
Saturday - Christy Jordan's Steak and Milk Gravy, Christy Jordan's Chocolate Cobbler
Sunday - Crawfish Soup (so my oldest child will quit asking for it)

Monday - Crock-Pot Pork Chops and Rice
Tuesday - Beef Stew from my buddy Paula
Wednesday - Chicken Tetrazinni (Fix It & Forget It)
Thursday - casserole night
Friday - Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Saturday - hamburgers, PW's potato skins, PW's apple dumplings
Sunday - Christy Jordan's Chicken and Dumplings

I reserve the right to make any last minute changes I feel the need to make...I might not be in the mood for a casserole one Thursday ;)
This will be a challenge for me, but it's worth it to keep trying because when it works, my family reaps the benefits.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Sunday Salon #1 - Reading Multiple Books Simultaneously

Many of the book bloggers that I read religiously participate in The Sunday Salon:

At Home with Books

Rhapsody in Books

You've GOTTA Read This

Bibliophile by the Sea

A Striped Armchair

The Zen Leaf

The Betty and Boo Chronicles

Book Chatter

My Cozy Book Nook

It didn't take me long to decide that I wanted to show up in the salon on Sundays and have bookish, life discussions with these wonderful ladies.

Then, I found out that the Salon was closed. :(

At 500 members the Salon had grown to a point that the facilitators had reached their facilitation limit.
As much as I wanted to participate, once I found out the Salon was closed to new members, I NEEDED to participate. So, I was almost drooling the day a couple of weeks ago I learned that The Sunday Salon was opening again!!! Wahoo!!  I sent in my little request to the new Facebook group of new members and found out this afternoon that I am now an official member of The Sunday Salon!
Yay me!!

For my first Sunday Salon I want to talk a little bit about reading more than one book at a time. 
When I first started blogging and reading other book bloggers, I couldn't even imagine how in the world book bloggers could read more than one book at a time.  I also still cannot imagine how other book bloggers write reviews of books while they are reading others and especially be working on reviews of books they read weeks before.  My small brain can't do that yet and probably never will be able to.

However, after just celebrating my 1 year blogging anniversary I realize that I am reading multiple books at one time...and I really didn't even purposely try to do that.

For example, right now I have a book on my nightstand, March by Geraldine Brooks that I decided to read along with Little Women, Little Men and Jo's Boys which are all downloaded on my Kindle.  The only time I pick up March is before bed, but I after downloading the Kindle app to my Blackberry, I can access anything on my Kindle via Blackberry no matter where I am or how much limited time I have.  I usually read my Kindle selections during the first hour of bedtime while waiting on my youngest to fall asleep.

I also have my fun read, Four to Score, and the selection for my Feminist Classics Book Club, A Vindication of Women's Rights, downloaded to my Kindle.
Quite a difference in those two books, let me tell you!
I do think Mary Wollenstonecraft would have approved of Stephanie Plum, Bounty Hunter, however ;)
I have to read MW a little at at time...a chapter here and there...with time in between to think and process, but Stephanie Plum can be read without much thought at all...just pure enjoyment, giggles and a literary crush on an Italian hunk named Morrelli :)

War and Peace is also on my Kindle...this one is a year long ReadAlong so I'll work through it a chapter a day...there's a lot of history in this one so I'll need the time, belive me.

The audiobook Traveling with Pomegrantes by Sue Monk Kidd is in my car and I listen to snippets as I'm driving...honestly I've been listening to this one a little longer than I normally would and am probably going to give myself permission to let it go soon :(
If I find something to replace it at the library this week, I'll know it's a sign.

I write my reviews as I read.
Each of the books I'm reading already has a post opened up with the book name as the title.  I mark possible quotes as I read and add info to the review posts as I think about them.  Once I completely finish a book, I play with what I have listed in the post, adding in my thoughts, deleting things that might have seemed important but not so much now that I know the "big picture."
I "play" with those posts for a while, and if I'm organized, I'll have a review ready to post that I've spent some time on.  I'm not a short review writer though.  I'm wordy and I know it, but that's just me.

I expect to finish both Little Men and Four to Score this week.
Maybe even by tomorrow since we just got word that school is snow for us, just the dreaded ice and rain :p

Up next, I'll be choosing selections for my Foodie, YA and Memoir Challenges: The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Baumeister, Fallen by Lauren Kate, and Louisa May Alcott by Harriet Riesen.