How to Cook Bacon Naked

September 12th, 2013
by: Blue

Yes, you read that right.  It is possible to cook bacon naked and better yet – do it SAFELY without putting the beans and franks and texas melons at risk.  It just so happens that it’s also the best method possible to cook delicious perfect fuss-free bacon.  Party naked!


Thick sliced bacon – you’re cooking naked with bacon.  Go for the thick meat here.  Don’t compromise, you won’t be happy with the results don’t ya know.


Get naked.  Place bacon in single layer on cookie sheet (make sure it’s a cookie sheet WITH edges as you want to contain the bacon grease).  Place pan in cold over (yes, a cold, not preheated oven) and set the oven temp to 400 degrees.  Check in 20 minutes to see if it’s done to your liking.

That is all, please be joyful in your naked bacon cooking.

Cooking with Blue

September 29th, 2009
by: Sue

From the time she could walk, Blue would beg to help me cook. She’d climb up on a little stool in our tiny kitchen and break the eggs, stir the dish, put her hands in the pie dough, and generally do everything she saw me do. There’s a timeless bond that develops when you cook together. And I don’t mean opening up a frozen pizza and putting it in the oven. Enjoying the smells of good food and the pleasures that come from eating the dishes together is something every family needs to get them through the hard days and make the easy days even better.

By the time she was 7 or 8, Grue had her making pancakes on Saturday morning, and she just loved cooking for him and making him happy. Before long, Blue was striking out on her own and trying her hand at new recipes, new places, and experiencing things she would never have experienced in West Texas. Her experience working in restaurants taught her a lot about food and the presentation of food. Her greatest strength as a cook is that she is fearless in trying new things regardless of the difficulty involved.

The best time of the year is Thanksgiving when Blue and I meet at her home and cook together in her kitchen. It’s a regular flour fest as we make pies and try to outdo what we did the year before. Regardless of how hard we prepare, Darrell and Grue have to run to the supermarket for three or four times as we prepare, cook, bake, and brainstorm our way through the menu.

At times we have to use that visualization technique of remembering how it looked when Mema made our favorite dishes. Blue successfully reverse engineered the chocolate meringue pie that Mema left us a recipe for but no one had been able to get the same results with.

Can’t wait for next Thanksgiving! We’ll once again do that exercise in trying to find the perfect techniques with the perfect ingredients and if we fail who cares? It will be fun.

Jammin’ Jelly Tips

September 28th, 2009
by: Blue

Every year I make jelly for Christmas, and I gift friends and family with it.  I have done this for so many years that there is no question on whether I will make it or not each year; my family just knows that I will.  Making jelly is an expression of the love in my heart. What else says love better than homemade jelly spread on a hot biscuit?

When I’m in jelly making mode I usually go through at least 40 pounds of sugar, who knows how many pounds of fruit, and wind up with around 100 jars of jelly in various flavors. Kind of crazy, isn’t it?  But I enjoy it.  One of my family’s favorite jelly that I made for the first time last year was Blackberry Chipotle Jam.  Note that when I say jelly, I really mean jam, even though I use the words  interchangeably.  I think fruit bits make jammin’ jelly! 

I’m always amazed when people are amazed that I make jelly.  It’s surprisingly easy and SO much better than store bought.

Jelly tips:
1.  My jelly recipes show a very precise methodology that makes the process easier.
2.  I use the inversion method of jelly making.  The heat from the jelly inside the jars creates a vacuum while cooling down, which causes the jars to seal.  With this method I have never had a jar of jelly go bad in over 10 years of jelly making.
3.  One of the key points in the inversion method is to get the jelly in the jar and sealed quickly, in order to lose as little heat from the jelly as possible.  I have found the easiest (and least messy) way to do this is to pour the hot jelly into a gallon pitcher, and then quickly pour jelly into the jars.  This is much easier than using a ladle.
4.  I follow the directions.  Except for when I don’t.  Everything needs a touch of creativity.  My creativity with jelly is to play with the flavors, though, and not with the method itself.  Having said that, when you play with flavors, make sure  your fruit measurements match the quantity called for in the recipe.  For example, if the recipe calls for 4 cups of fruit, don’t add 1/4 cup of peppers to the 4 cups of fruit and then make jelly.  Instead, add the peppers to the fruit, then measure 4 cups of the combination for your jelly.
5.  Liquid pectin is a far better product than the powdered pectin.  I buy the Certo brand.
6.  Never buy jelly jars in Mississippi, for some reason they are outrageously expensive there.  In San Antonio I get them at HEB for around 5 bucks a dozen.
7.  It’s awesome when empty jelly jars are returned to me for a refill!
8.  What’s a full rolling boil?  If you are not familiar with what a full rolling boil is, keep this in mind:  If you wonder if it’s at a full rolling boil, it’s probably not.  When it reaches the full rolling boil stage it’s pretty obvious and it doesn’t stop boiling when you stir it.  When it reaches a full rolling boil you’ll say to yourself “Ohhhhh, there’s no question, it’s there.”
9.  Fresh fruit is preferable, but frozen is good as well.  Just thaw the fruit completely before you prep it for jelly.
10.  You can reuse the jars and screwbands, but never reuse the flat lids.  Always buy new ones.  The rubber on the bottom of the lids is not meant to seal properly more than once.

Things your Grandmother never told you

September 27th, 2009
by: Sue

**Toast oats for 15 minutes on a cookie sheet in 350 degree oven for an enhanced cookie flavor.

**Bake the turkey or chicken breast down for juicier white meat.

**Drain cooked vegetables soon after cooking so they remain crisp, not soggy. Save water for soup stock.

**Add hot milk while mashing potatoes; cold milk makes them soggy.

**A bay leaf inside the flour canister will keep it dry and drive away bugs.

**Old potatoes won’t discolor if you add a slice of lemon to the water as you boil them.

**Toast nuts in a skillet for enhanced nutty flavor.

**Prebake piecrusts for custard pies to prevent a soggy crust.

**Brush unbaked piecrusts with egg to prevent soggy crust and present a shiny appearance.

** Out of mayonnaise? Make it yourself!! 1 whole egg to 1 cup of oil and 1 T lemon juice, process in blender or food processer or beat with electric mixer. You’ll never buy mayo again.

**Get an oven thermometer so you can make sure your baked goods are cooking at the proper temperature.

**If your pie crusts are browning too rapidly, place a sheet of aluminum foil over the pie to slow the browning process.

**Use ice cream scoops to ensure uniform size when scooping cookie dough to put on the baking sheets.

**When Martha Stewart says, “It’s Easy!” take it with a grain of salt.

**When making cookies to take to work/school, bake three times the number you need to take. The man of the house will need them.

**When in doubt about what to do with your Mother’s recipe, close your eyes and remember what she and it looked like when she made it. You’ll be amazed.

**When you don’t know what to talk about, talk about food. When you do know what to talk about, it’s usually food. When you plan, you plan your food. When you shop, you buy food. When you feel bad, you eat food. When you feel good, you buy lots of food. When you celebrate, you have parties with food. When Christmas comes, you eat lots of good food. When you lose weight, you think about food. When you don’t, you eat even more food. You can cut out a lot of things, but you can’t cut out food. Food is good.

**Keep your money pinned to your drawers. (words of wisdom from Festus)

**Do things that need to be did. (words of wisdom from Festus)

**When in doubt about what to cook, put some olive oil in a skillet and saute some onion. Something will come to you when you smell the onion cooking.

What in the world should I cook tonight?

August 30th, 2009
by: Blue

I picked up my annual 40 lbs. of Hatch Green Chiles yesterday.  Hot, not mild,  por supuesto.  THANK GOD!  I ran out about a month ago, it was a very sad day.  Took them home and froze them with loving care, we’ll be enjoying these all year.  Por supresto I had to make something with Hatch Green Chiles last night (and today).  Last night I made Green Chile Cheeseburgers.  Today I decided to redefine the leftover burgers I had, and made Green Chile Chili (no, it’s not redundant). 

These recipes are also pantry recipes – where I go shopping in my own pantry, figure out what I have and how I can creatively use the stuff I’ve already paid for or cooked.   I am great at this, but it’s only because I’ve learned from the master, Sue.  Sue can redefine rice, or anthing else, at least 50 different ways in the flash of an eye!  In these times it’s a great skill to have.   

There are those that shun canned ingredients, but I think having them on hand is not only smart but economical.  One of my favorite ham salad recipes from Sue uses Spam!  Damn!  Really – I made  it for my boys one night.  Por supuesto I did not tell them what it was – and they loved it.  It just goes to show that deception, when it comes to cooking and children, es algo muy bueno.

Produce is OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive and sometimes you just don’t feel like grocery shopping, yo.  Do yourself a favor and keep  your essential items in the pantry or the freezer.  Blue and Sue are known for browsing the grocery aisles at Big Lots for the latest marked down gourmet items (they are there, people, get in the car and GO!!).  Now, on to the recipes.

Green Chile Burgers

Green Chile Chili

About Thai Green Curry

April 20th, 2009
by: Blue

 It stands to reason that I love green curry since the main ingredient in green curry paste is green chiles.  I’m so predictable. Thai green curry is a flavor explosion in your mouth!  On top of that it is a very quick and easy meal to put together, perfect for weeknights.  You can start some jasmine rice cooking and around the time the rice is done your curry will be ready. 

Some of the ingredients may seem foreign.  That’s because they are.  But once you get familiar with them they will become a staple in your pantry as they have in mine. 

Let’s start with rice, since that’s what you serve green curry on.  I only buy Jasmine rice, it is incredibly fragrant and flavorful.  As this rice cooks you will be able to smell the difference in this compared to regular white rice.  I buy Jasmine rice at the oriental market because it’s much cheaper, but I also find it at my regular grocery store.  The rice that you buy at the oriental market probably will not have cooking instructions on it – just cook it in the normal method:  2 cups rice, 4 cups water, salt.  Bring water to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Kaffir lime leaves and lemongrass are optional ingredients in this recipe (I know, Thai experts, BLASPHEMY!!).  The fact is that the green curry paste has both, so not having either or both of these does not a tragedy make.   Definitely make an effort to find them, your curry will have an incredibly complex, authentic flavor.  Go to the oriental markets first!   But don’t let not being able to find them stop you from making this curry.  I have found kaffir leaves in the produce section of Central Market and Whole Foods (and these days I actually find them in my back yard on my very own kaffir lime tree!).  Fresh lemongrass can also be found in many grocery stores in the produce section.  Don’t waste your time or money on dried lemongrass though, it is flavorless.  Freeze any extra kaffir lime leaves or lemongrass for future use.

Green curry ingredients at your regular grocery 

Thai products by Thai Kitchen have become relatively mainstream, I have been able to purchase these in the regular grocery store for years. 

Thai Kitchen Green Curry Paste

Thai Kitchen Coconut Milk

Thai Kitchen Fish Sauce

Green curry ingredients at your local oriental market

I love visiting the oriental market, it’s like stepping into another country.  I peruse the aisles for new treasures and always ask lots of questions.  The owners of the stores I frequent know me by now, and they are always very helpful and friendly.   When I am looking for an oriental grocery, I try to find one that focuses on Thai, Philippine,  or Vietnamese cuisine.  These are more likely to have the products and brands I want.   The market that I go to also has fresh lemongrass, big bags of fresh basil, and kaffir lime leaves.  Bonus!

My favorite products available at the oriental market are below.  Honestly I don’t think you can go wrong with any brand of green curry paste, I never met a green curry I didn’t like.  But I frequently buy these brands.

Green curry

Another good green curry

Coconut milk (this is hands down  my favorite coconut milk and America’s Test Kitchen agrees)

Fish sauce

Ok.  Thai green curry discussion, ad naseum, is finally over.  My apologies.  Now get your bitch ass in the kitchen and make me some curry!  My recipe is here.

Ode to Hatch Green Chiles

April 16th, 2009
by: Blue

Hatch green chile of mine,  you are so divine
Grown in Hatch, New Mexico, by way of a vine.
You’re planted in Spring, and harvested in Fall
To find you at harvest, if I had to, I’d crawl.

You grace my enchiladas, queso and salsa
My soups and pasta; lots of dishes in mi casa.
Hatch green chiles, my chiles, mi corazón
Why are you elusive, can I grow you at home?

Alas,  in Hatch, New Mexico magic is grown
The chiles grown here can’t be duplicated at home.
Grown in rich river-sediment soil and cool Rio Grande water
As long as I have you, other chiles don’t matter.

Oh Hatch green chiles, please, never leave me
To you I’m addicted, I’m devoted to thee.

On Hatch Green Chiles:
The culinary holy trinity in Blue and Sue’s house is Hatch green chiles, onion, and garlic.  Yes, we are fans.  Justifiably?  Absolutely, ask any chef. And just one comment about my silly little poem – you CAN duplicate Hatch green chiles at home.  As long as you live in Hatch, New Mexico, that is.  As for the rest of us, we have to be dedicated and devoted fans with the determination to keep them on hand year-round.

Once a year in the fall (around August), Hatch green chiles make an appearance at my local grocery stores (HEB and Central Market).  Sue also finds them around this time of year in her local grocery store in West Texas (United).  While they are there, they can be purchased fresh in the produce section.  But the BEST thing about their appearance in August is when there are huge roasters outside the store, where they roast the fresh peppers on site and on demand.  The wonderful aroma of the roasting chiles is amazing, and calls to my soul.  I prefer buying them roasted in mass quantities because they are much easier to peel when they have been frozen after the roasting,  plus I love the convenience of pulling the real deal out of my freezer whenever I want.    And, face it, I really don’t want to have to roast my own chiles unless I have too.  Last year I bought two cases, about 40 pounds, and froze them (8 or so peppers per quart freezer bag).  For now, I still have some in my freezer, and if I’m lucky my supply will last until August 2009 when I will be able to purchase more.  If they don’t last, I will buy three cases next time.

When I lived in Mississippi, my local groceries did not ever carry fresh or roasted Hatch green chiles.  I was sad.  Actually the state of mexican food overall is sad in Mississippi. Tortillas have a shelf life of 12 months there.  What a crime! My birthday gift to myself every year or so while I lived there was ordering Hatch green chiles online, here is one resource. There are tons of other places on the internet that you could order them from, just do a google search on “hatch green chiles”.  Again, I am addicted, which is obvious since bearing the expense of ordering them online was a far better choice for me than not having them at all.

On acceptable substitutes for roasted Hatch green chiles:
1.  Blue and Sue can find frozen, chopped Hatch green chiles in the freezer section of the grocery.  Albuquerque Tortilla Company is one company that has hot and mild green chiles.  You can order them online if you can’t find them in your grocery.

2.  Buy fresh anaheim green chiles and roast them yourself.  Anaheim chiles are not exactly the same as Hatch chiles but they are a passable substitute.  You can roast them over the open flame of your stovetop gas burner. Hold the pepper with a tong over the flame, turn, turn, turn -  until the chile is blackened on all sides.  Or you can roast them under the broiler in the oven.  Set broiler to high, roast the peppers on the highest oven rack, turn the peppers occasionally until all sides are blackened.  Once the peppers are lovely and blackened place them (still hot) in a ziploc bag.  Seal the bag, wrap the bag in a towel and let sit until cool.  When they are cool you can freeze them – or simply immediately peel the blackened skin off the peppers in order to bless one of your recipes with their presence.

3.  Canned green chiles by Hatch Chile Company  are pretty good.  I actually recommend their entire line of products, ranging from various enchilada sauces, to peppers, to diced tomatoes with green chiles.

4.  My absolute last choice as a substitute for Hatch green chiles would be canned green chiles made by any company besides Hatch Chile Company.

White Pepper 101

April 15th, 2009
by: Blue

In many dishes, black and white pepper go hand in hand (much like my beloved Beans and Cornbread). If you search on the internet you will find varying descriptions of white pepper. Generally it is considered to be milder than black pepper, and for the most part this is true, but white pepper tastes a little sharper to me and packs a higher level of heat than black pepper. Yes, I like it hot! Which is obvious if you’ve seen enough of my recipes.  But using white pepper doesn’t mean that you have to commit yourself to eating jalapenos.

It’s all about balance and layering of flavors, which happens very naturally when you use both white and black pepper.  Typically I will use a combination of white and black pepper when I’m making any kind of creamy, light colored saucy dish, or soups. If I’m making a light colored dish that I don’t want flecks of black pepper in, I’ll use only white pepper. And I use white pepper exclusively in Asian stir frys, soups, and Thai egg rolls.  Great examples of my use of white and black pepper are the recipes for Hatch Potatoes Au Gratin and Venie’s Dumplings and Chicken.

If you are new to white pepper, start with a small amount and add more as needed.