OctoBEARfest, Magnolia, Texas

BearsEtc_(1)Bears Etc.’s second annual OctoBEARfest is ready to roar!

Join them on October 12 from 10am-4pm in Montgomery’s historic district located off of Texas 105 and Liberty Street to help raise funds for a bear sanctuary in Montgomery County. The children’s area, crafter’s market, and bake sale will be back again this year, along with several new attractions.

Last year’s inaugural event raised over $4,000. The goal is to raise $200,000 to support the vision for a new Bear and Exotic Animal Rescue Sanctuary  in Montgomery. Bears Etc. was founded as a nonprofit organization in 2017 to provide permanent, community-based, self-sustainable refuge as a home for displaced exotic and wild animals and to educate others about the natural world.

As with last year, there will be a BBQ cook-off. Buy your taster’s ticket early and enjoy some premier Texas BBQ – and get to vote on which is the best!

 

This year will also see a lawnmower race, and a wide assortment of information and crafts booths to browse and learn from. The cottage industry was well represented with tons of tasty items available for sampling and sale.

 

Last year’s information booths included Bear’s Etc., Safe Haven – a large animal rescue service, and a raptor rehabilitation team.

 

Hope to see you there!

— Ann Cathey

Food Porn – Episode 13


Yet another episode of photos of foods that my partner and I have been blessed to have tasted, if not consumed outright. Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

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Kielbasa with potatoes, mustard, baked beans and a kosher pickle.

42788081_253369915368591_1097165918502387712_n CMO AFWaffle Sausage

Almond flour waffles with Li’l Smokies sausages.

DSC_0871 - Smokey Mos Sliced Sausage

Sliced sausage from Smokey Mo’s in Conroe, Texas.

37656581_10215091303609761_5789569383332315136_n Daves Smoked Brisket

Dave’s backyard brisket.

Kitchen Hash

What wonderful things come to mind when scrounging in the kitchen.

My grandmothers and theirs used to make their own hash, rather than
buying it pre-made from the grocery. The potatoes made leftover meat
go farther on a tight budget. I found what I needed in my own kitchen
one morning and whipped this little recipe up for breakfast.

Kitchen Hash

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Sausage leftover from brats and saurkraut.

Ingredients:

Tbs minced garlic
1/4 white onion, minced
Leftover sausage or other broken meats
2 medium potatoes, cooked, chopped
1/4 tsp pink sea salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp parsley
Cheddar Jack cheese to taste

 

Directions:
Sauté garlic and onion in olive oil
Add meat, sauté until hot
Add potato and spices, stir until hot throughout
Serve with cheese

 

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Garlic, onion, and sausage.

Directions:
Sauté garlic and onion in olive oil
Add meat, sauté until hot
Add potato and spices, stir until hot throughout
Serve with cheese

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Potatoes added

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I simply served on a plate with shredded cheese. You might toss some
of this hash into a tortilla for breakfast tacos, or pile some on a
split biscuit and serve it with gravy. The potential combinations are
limited only by your imagination, and may be served for breakfast,
lunch or even dinner.

– Chopped jalapenos will give it a bit of bite.
– Diced, pre-cooked carrots, turnips, and/or rutabagas might be used
with or instead of the potatoes.
– Any broken meat will work with this recipe, from chicken and turkey
to pork, beef, venison, goat or mutton.
– Any type of onions, shallots, or even leeks will offer a variety of
textures and flavors.

Give this hash a try at home, seasoned to suit your tastes, an leave
a note about how it turned out.

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

Dan’s Lentil Chili

This vegetarian chili is quick and simple. The recipe comes from the kitchen of Dan & Salley, long time friends.

DAN’S LENTIL CHILI
Ingredients:
1 lb bag lentils
1 15 oz can tomatoes
1 chili powder to taste

Cook lentils as directed.
Add tomatoes and chili powder. Add salt & pepper to taste.
Stir well.
Allow to heat through and serve.
Of course I had to mess with it.

I added sauted onion and garlic, and shredded fresh zucchini when the tomatoes went in.

Extra cumin is well appreciated in my kitchen, too. If you can’t smell the cumin in a chili pot, it’s simply not acceptable to the family.

There’s a lot of texture in this chili, both in the original recipe and in my version. As with any chili salt, pepper, sour cream, shredded cheese, picante, and/or hot sauces are all optional toppings.

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey
P.S. My apologies for the lack of photos.

From Frozen to Fabulous!

Frozen foods have been around since the 1920’s, believe it or not. In this modern day, they are truly a far cry from their humble, vegetable, beginnings with Clarence Birdseye and his contemporaries. Just about any type or style of food can now be found in the freezer section of your local grocery. How you prepare them is plainly laid out on the package, but how you serve them can be another matter all together.

Let us take the simple burrito. While it can merely be heated and eaten, it can also be so much more. Lay out thawed burritos in a baking dish and cover them with chili and cheese, then bake until everything is heated through and the cheese is all melty. Serve up with freshly sliced avocado, sour cream, salsa or pico de gallo, and fresh greens for a more TexMex flair that feeds the soul as well as the stomach.

Have a taste for lasagne? Pick one up for supper tonight, but be sure to grab some extra mozzarella, grated dry cheese such as asiago or parmesan, pesto, and fresh basil. Cook the lasagne as directed, but when the cover comes off to allow the top cheese to melt and brown, smear on some pesto and sprinkle on the extra cheese before popping back in the oven for that last five or ten minutes. Serve with a fresh side salad featuring strips of fresh basil, and a warm and crusty garlic bread.

Pretty much everyone is aware of pigs in a blanket, or klobásníks. Sausage wrapped in a bit of dough and baked up for a hand sandwich. Use croissant pastry and fill it with sausage, cheese, cheese sticks, sliced chicken, or even sliced steak sauteed with onions and peppers for that Philly take.

Eggs are another ubequtious ingredient that many overlook. Crack some fresh eggs onto a frozen pizza before cooking for a sunny side up surprise. Add a fried egg to a cheeseburger, or make it scrambled if you prefer. Turn breakfast into dinner or dinner into breakfast!

Coffee is another kitchen wonder. If you have some leftover from the beginning of your day, use it to end your day in a delightful way. Put a scoop or two of ice cream into a dish or cup, then pour the cold coffee over it to make an Italian cafe classic – an affogato. Top with sliced almonds, whipped cream, even sprinkles to customize your dessert or evening sweet tooth offering.

Give these ideas a try, or better yet, try out your own. Let us know what you come up with so we can give your ideas a whirl in our own kitchen, too.

Enjoy!

— Ann Cathey

Spaghetti Squash and Sausage

I originally stumbled across this recipe at the Jimmy Dean website, and after playing with it, figured I would share my results since I took photos of the process and all. This recipe may be served “in a boat” (in the squash hull) or simply cooked up in a casserole dish. It’s all about presentation and preference.

The dish features flavors and colors redolent of the fall harvest, and is a great way to kick off the season of cooling temperatures and the glorious autumnal colors of nature.

 

SPAGHETTI SQUASH AND SAUSAGE
Prep time: 45minutes
Bake time: 15-20 minutes
Serves: 4-6

Ingredients:
1 pound pork sausage

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Shredded Smoked Gouda

1 spaghetti squash
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup smoked Gouda, shredded
1 med or small onion, sliced thin
1 tbsp butter
1 lemon, halved
2 cups baby leaf spinach
Cooking spray – I prefer olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

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Halved Lemon

 

 

 

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

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Removing cooked squash from hull.

Render your squash by slicing in half longways, removing the seeds, and applying olive oil to all the exposed meat surfaces. Roast or microwave until soft. Allow the squash to cool before attempting to handle it. Using a fork or large spoon, scrape the meat out into a bowl and allow it to rest. Be careful to keep the hulls intact. Those may be set aside for later use if desired.

 

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Meat and onion cooked in microwave rather than skillet.

Use cooking spray on a large skillet. Add onions and garlic and saute until soft and slightly caramelized. Break up the sausage into the skillet with the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally until the meat is mostly done. Add butter and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. This may also be rendered in a microwave rather than on a stove top, but be sure to use a large microwave safe bowl.

 

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If microwaving, as shown, layer cheese, spinach and squash over meat so that the cheese and spinach are heated between the meat and squash. This will cause nice wilting.

Add the spaghetti squash, spinach, and desired salt and pepper. Cook while stirring occasionally until the squash is nicely broken up and the spinach has begun to wilt. Add the juice from the other half of the lemon, half of the grated cheese, and stir it all up.

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Mix it up!

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are using the squash hulls, load them with the sausage mixture. If you are using a casserole dish, spray it with you preference of cooking sprays, then fill it up.

Top evenly with remaining cheese and bake at 375ºF until cheese is melted and just beginning to brown and dish is heated through, about 15-20 minutes.

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Allow to rest.

 

Allow to rest for five minutes before serving. Refrigerate any leftovers.

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Single serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is not the original recipe, but one that I fiddled with as I am wont to do. The original called for a panko-based topping, and no gooey cheese. It’s probably healthier that way, but in my house cheese is pretty much a necessity in just about everything.

There are lots of variations that spring to mind for this recipe. Using turkey sausage instead of pork, using kale or another leafy green with or in place of the spinach, and adding other spices to the mix all sparked right off. Toppings might be as simple as a sprinkle of parmesan, or bacon crumbles, or freshly diced parsley or chopped chives. Basing the dish on curry and using a ground meat rather than a pre-spiced sausage sounds tasty, as does a Cajun version.

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The big serving!

As with all the recipes I post, have fun with it! Try it out, twist it up and make it your own.

Enjoy!

–Ann Cathey

 

Smoky Bacon Shortbread

Last year at Comicpalooza, I was honored to meet author Michelle Muenzler. In addition to being a great writer and mentor, she makes seriously awesome cookies. In fact, on the con circuit, she’s known as The Cookie Lady, as she always has cookies in tow.

Ms. Muenzler is kind enough to share her recipes on her website, and I have had great success with a few of them. My favorite, though, is her recipe for Earl Grey shortbread. Now, I’ve never actually made Earl Grey shortbread. I don’t care for Earl Grey tea, and as that’s the major flavoring agent, it didn’t seem like a wise choice. However, there are many, many teas that I do enjoy, and I’ve experimented with a few with great results.

My latest experiment with the Earl Grey shortbread recipe is this one: Smoky Bacon Shortbread. I subbed Tea Punk Tea’s Winter Smoke tea for the Earl Grey and added in some chopped candied bacon. Delicious! Below is the recipe, based on the one at Michelle’s website: http://www.michellemuenzler.com.

For candied bacon:

  • 1 1/2 strips of bacon
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp water

For shortbread:

  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 Tbsp loose Winter Smoke tea
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 strips of bacon, candied and finely chopped

Prepare candied bacon

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Place bacon strips on rack over a lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 for about 15 minutes.
  3. Flip bacon over. Baste with a mixture of 1 1/2 Tbsp of brown sugar and enough water to create a thick liquid.
  4. Return to oven for another 15 minutes or until bacon acquires preferred level of doneness.)

Prepare dough

  1. Cream together butter, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Add flour, tea, and salt. Mix until thoroughly combined.
  2. Chop bacon (I use a Ninja food processer) and stir into dough.
  3. Roll dough into logs (1″ thick or so). I do this on waxed paper or a silicon baking max sprinkled with powdered sugar.  Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or the waxed paper and chill in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375F.
  5. Slice logs into thin disks and place on nonstick baking sheets or parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until edges begin to brown, about 10-12 minutes. Let cool slightly, then transfer to wire racks to finish cooling.

The Winter Smoke tea used here is available from the lovely people at: https://www.teapunkteas.com/store/c2/Black_Teas.html

 

 

Red, White and BBQ,

Being a member of MyMagazine™ Sharing Network has gotten me to try a lot of products that I might otherwise have let slip by. These products are normaly in the form of free samples and coupons for free products and discounts. This time around, the mission was all about “Red, White, and BBQ”.

The package of free goodies for this mission included:

 

There. I’m done pimping out the products for the mission. I do recommend trying them all, as they are wonderful in the opinion of my household.

 

37704196_10215091447293353_3453033150546968576_nThe mission suggested a backyard BBQ bash, but it’s been too hot to do much outside recently. Instead we had the party inside and enjoyed every bite.

There were ships and cookies and other assorted goodies on each plate served up, though the burgers and sliders simply stole the show.bite

 

 

 

 

37611425_10215091446413331_7249442738771329024_nWe gave the McCormick Grill Mates Smokehouse Maple a try. Instead of sprinkling onto a meat to be grilled, we mixed it into the hamburger meat with a couple of eggs and a bunch of shredded cheese. May not look like much in a bowl, but it came out better than we expected.

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Talk about outstanding flavor! The added smoky aroma and the subtle maple flavor wound all through the burger for a delicious surprise. We made burgers and sliders out of that one batch, with all the fixings, and can’t wait to try some of the other flavors.

— Ann Cathey

Strawberry Pie with a Twist

Are you a fan of chocolate dipped strawberries? Strawberries dusted with cocoa powder? Strawberries and chocolate in any form? Then this might be the strawberry pie for you.

I borrowed a recipe from the Kroger website, and put my own spin on it. Sadly, I did not get photos of this delectable dessert.

STRAWBERRY PIE WITH A TWIST
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 1/2 hours
Serves: 8

Ingredients:
1 pkg (+/- 14 oz) cream filled chocolate sandwich cookies
3 tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp cinnamon powder
2 tbsp arrowroot powder
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
1 3/4 cups water
1 pkg (3oz) strawberry gelatin
2 pints washed strawberries halved
Optional toppings: whipped cream, chocolate syrup, chocolate sprinkles

Directions:
Crust:
– Preheat oven to 325F.
– Crush cookies by preferred method. Place in bowl, add butter, and stir until thoroughly mixed and a little gooey.
– Pat mixture into pie plate, making sure the bottom and sides are covered with no breaks.
– Bake for 10 minutes, allow to cool to the side.

Sauce:
– Bring water and sugar to a boil.
– Add arrowroot and mix thoroughly.
– Remove from heat and stir in strawberry gelatin until dissolved.

Final:
– Arrange strawberries in cooled crust.
– Pour gelatin mixture over the strawberries.
– Refrigerate at least one hour or until set.

Serve:
– Top with whipped topping.
– Drizzle on chocolate syrup.
– Add chocolate sprinkles if desired.
– Refrigerate any leftovers.

 

Keep in mind that if strawberries cut in half are too much of a mouthful, cut them smaller. The smaller the slices, however, the more space there may be to fill in the pie. Adjust accordingly.

Adding other fruit, such as blueberries, can add a twist to the textures and flavors in this pie. Adjust the spices used to taste and give it a whirl.

I hope you enjoy this fresh fruit dessert as much as my friends did – it went quick!

— Ann Cathey

Brunch Cups featuring Hormel Natural Choice Bacon

Warning: This entry is photo heavy! As always, click on a photo to view a larger image.

Bacon. Seriously, other than folks with allergies and specific diets, who doesn’t like bacon? (I know there are a few of you out there, but what you don’t care for is our treat.)

34985143_10214773115775264_2706663659517509632_nI have had an opportunity through My Magazine Sharing Network to give a free sample of a Hormel product a try: Natural Choice Cherrywood Smoked Uncured Bacon. There are other flavors of course, but this one appealed to my partner in crime, so that’s what we took home.

 

From Hormel:

No Preservatives,* No Artificial Ingredients

The makers of HORMEL®NATURAL CHOICE® Bacon believe everyone deserves to eat better. That’s why they’re committed to making honest products you can trust that are both enjoyable and affordable. HORMEL® NATURAL CHOICE®Bacon is made without artificial preservatives or ingredients. It’s gluten free, minimally processed and comes from pork raised without added hormones.** Whether enjoyed alone or in a recipe — it’s a delicious way to start your day.

*No nitrates or nitrites added except for those naturally occurring in cultured celery and cherry powder
**Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in pork.”

 

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Look good, don’t they?

Now that you have the pertinent information, let’s get down to business. The recipe. I’d been wanting to make brunch cups sans pastry dough (my usual tactic) for a while, and this was a golden opportunity. There were a bunch of photos taken during this kitchen session, so you can get a step by step idea of how these lovely cups are built, if you are not already aware. The recipe is good for breakfast, brunch, or anytime you feel the need for these flavors, and can be a wonderful cooking project to share with kids at home or at Gramma’s when you go to visit.

As usual with any of my recipes, feel free to make additions, deletions, and alterations to suit your own dietary and taste needs. The more variations, the merrier!

 

BRUNCH CUPS
Prep time: minutes
Cook Time: minutes
Servings: 6

34874862_10214773116295277_866612718298202112_nIngredients:
1-12 oz package of bacon,
6 whole strips, the rest cut into thirds
10 large eggs
4-6 oz potato, pre-cooked
6 oz Swiss cheese, shredded
1 tsp parsley
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp cumin
Sea salt, garlic, and pepper to taste

 

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Freshly washed yard eggs, medium to large in size.

NOTE:
-I used slices of baked potato (Golden) that had been stored in the refrigerator, tossed with sea salt and diced garlic).
-Olive oil baking spray is a standard in my kitchen.
-Cupcake pan should be larger than normal, but not cake sized. This handy chart helps with sizing.-The Cherry Wood Smoked bacon smells amazing!

Directions:

35080231_10214773116055271_8061552674270609408_nPre-heat oven to 350F. Spray cupcake pan liberally with olive oil.

Line baking cups with bacon in stages: 2 cut slices on bottom, one whole slice around the inside of the cup. Place slices of potato (with garlic and salt) into the bottom of the cup. Place a single slice of cut bacon on top of the potato. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to rest while other prep work continues.

34963243_10214773153696212_9215589916891676672_nIn a moderate sized bowl, crack eggs. Whisk briskly while adding parsley, paprika, and cumin.

 

 

Pour egg mixture into baking cups slowly, to allow any air bubbles to surface. Return to hot oven for 15 minutes.

 

Remove cupcake pan from the oven. Divide Swiss cheese evenly among the cups, making sure that coverage is even and no bits of cheese are hanging out to make cleanup a chore. Return the pan to the oven and cook for 5 minutes or until the cheese is all melted.

 

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Emplated, with a dab of onion sour cream.

Remove the pan from the oven and allow to rest a couple of minutes. Carefully remove the cups so as not to scratch up the pan. They may be plated individually or removed to a serving platter.

 

Refrigerate any leftovers.

 

The brunch cups may be served with fruit, a bit of sour cream on top, or however you prefer to emplate them. The meal is fairly low in carbohydrates and quite high in protein, making is a delicious main dish for diabetics. It is not particularly ketogenic friendly due to the potato content.

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Try this recipe with one of the Hormel Natural Choice bacons, and let us know how you like it. We, and our guests that morning, have enjoyed the experiment a great deal.

 

“That bacon is not too salty and not too sweet. Great stuff!” – Adrian
“I found the cups to be an interesting bit of breakfast. The egg mixing with the bacon and the cheese had a slight sweet taste. Yet, I found the cups to be soft and easily eaten with little mess. My furbaby even enjoyed a few nibbles that escaped from my plate! I would be interested in trying this again — maybe with sausage or a different type of cheese to see how the flavor changes.” — Billie Jean

 

– Ann Cathey