Grilled Pesto Parmesan Ham and Smoked Provolone with Apple Butter on Fresh-baked Bread

Grilled pesto parmesan ham with smoked provolone and  apple butter on fresh-baked bread

You know how bread smells when you get to the end of the loaf and you know that it is just about to go bad? That overly sweet, cloying smell? The smell that comes right before the bloom of mold?

That’s what our bread smelled like when I opened it yesterday to make myself a sandwich. Yuck. Straight to the garbage for that loaf.

So this morning when I got up, I decided that it would be a good day to make some bread, just for us. So I got busy and got the ingredients for egg bread in the bread machine first thing. (Call me a cheater if you want, but I can’t live without my bread machine!)

I did all the usual things to turn out a couple of loaves of beautiful bread . . .

olive oil to grease the bread pans . . .

This is about how much olive oil it takes to grease one pan.
This is about how much olive oil it takes to grease one pan.

shaping the loaves ( I really prefer to bake the loaves myself instead of in the machine. They are just prettier that way.) . . .

Be sure to coat the dough by turning it through the olive oil when you put it in the pan.
Be sure to coat the dough by turning it through the olive oil when you put it in the pan.

letting the dough rise in a slightly warmed oven . . .

I let the oven preheat to 150-200 while I am shaping the loaves.
I let the oven preheat to 150-200 while I am shaping the loaves.
After about 40 minutes, the loaves are ready to bake!
After about 40 minutes, the loaves are ready to bake!

. . . until it was nicely doubled.

Two beautiful loaves cooling
Two beautiful loaves cooling

And finally, perfection! Two beautiful loaves of homemade bread just in time for lunch!

It got interesting, though, when I decided to make myself a sandwich for lunch out of my fresh-baked bread.

I raided the fridge for some meat and cheese. I had a few pieces of  Pesto Parmesan Ham and some smoked provolone that I thought would make an excellent grilled cheese.

Then I saw the jar of apple butter. (Also homemade, but not by me.  It is the last jar of the last batch my mom made a couple of years ago.) Hmmm…apples and ham are good together, so why not try them together on the sandwich?

I’m sure this isn’t the first time someone has combined these things together, but it’s the first time it occurred to me. So I did it. Definitely a good decision! The hint of sweetness from the apple butter was divine combined with the savory of the pesto on the ham. And of course, the melty-goodness of the cheese was pretty awesome, too!

Grilled pesto parmesan ham with smoked provolone and apple butter on fresh-baked bread
Grilled pesto parmesan ham with smoked provolone and apple butter on fresh-baked bread

Lesson for the day: don’t be afraid to put things together that you never thought of before. Chances are if it sounds good, it will be good!

The mark of a good recipe — making it over and over!

Now that's a pretty burger!

Believe it or not, I actually make a lot of the things I post on this blog over and over. That’s the mark of a good recipe, in my opinion — whether would I make it again.

So, as proof, I took pictures a couple of weeks ago when we had a burger night and I made homemade hamburger buns. Go ahead and go look at the recipe now if you want to. I can wait.

Or take a look at these mouth-watering pictures and THEN go check out the recipe, because I know you’ll want to. :)

Just out of the oven.
Just out of the oven.
Look how yummy they look in the bread basket!
Look how yummy they look in the bread basket!
Lean in even closer . . . they smell wonderful, too!
Lean in even closer . . . they smell wonderful, too!
Just to prove they work with a hamburger, check out the burger my daughter built!
Just to prove they work with a hamburger, check out the burger my daughter built!
Now that's a pretty burger!
Now that’s a pretty burger!

Potato soup: The Ultimate Comfort Food

Potato soup is the ultimate comfort food. And really easy to master!

When I was in college, I worked at a tiny little lunch place downtown. It had four tables and a lot of takeout business. There was a different daily special every day, and in the winter, it was often soup.

I was watching one of the owners make soup one day and realized she had no recipe, which kind of blew my mind. I made a comment about how impressive it was to just make up a recipe as she went along. At that moment, I was taught a cooking lesson that I have never forgotten.

She said, “It’s no big deal. You know you have to have a base — some kind of broth or cream — and then you just throw in whatever sounds good together. As long as you know what the elements are, you can combine them however you want.”

Obviously, this was an epiphany for me, because I still remember the conversation all these years later, even though I don’t remember her name.

So that is the approach I have to cooking and to soup in particular. This past weekend, I made two different kinds of soup for SND — one old standby and one brand new one.

Any time I make soup, my daughter always wants potato soup. It is her absolute favorite, so of course I can’t resist a request for it! (There’s just something about your teenager declaring that something you make as her favorite that is irresistible.) Potato soup is really easy (I’ve never understood how so many restaurants manage to screw it up) and will be a popular dish in your repertoire.

I will warn you, however, that this recipe is terribly inexact. Look at it as an opportunity to learn to experiment and trust yourself. Continue reading

Hors d’oeuvres and Leftovers: Shrimp and Gouda Grits in Bacon Bowls (Part 2)

When I got to the party, these didn't last long at all!

I’m going to assume you have recovered from making mini bacon bowls by now.  See, I told you they weren’t as easy as you thought! And if they were, I don’t think I want to hear about it. :D

Don't they look pretty?
Don’t they look pretty?

Now you need something to put inside those bacon bowls. (Assuming you didn’t eat them all while you were making them.) This part is actually pretty easy.

First, make grits. I kind of cheated and used quick grits (I am a fake gourmet, remember?). Put 3 cups of chicken broth on the stove to boil. I usually keep chicken broth, mostly because a local cafe gives away the stock when they boil chicken for chicken salad. (That’s right, they just give it away. Free. Just ask. Crazy, huh? Otherwise, they just throw it out.)

Of course, I got ready to make these grits and discovered that I had store-bought beef broth instead of chicken. Sigh. So I used bouillon cubes to make broth. (Then found 2 cans of chicken broth in the bottom of the pantry after I was finished. Typical.) Continue reading

And now for something completely different: Shrimp and Gouda Grits in Bacon Bowls (Part 1)

The mini bacon bowls were not quite as easy as you would think! But totally worth it, because BACON, amIright? :)

Something terribly exciting happened. I think I may have actually come up with something that didn’t exist before I did it. Well, at least it didn’t exist on Google. I checked.

A friend had a birthday gathering at her house last Saturday. I had thought I would make her a cake, but another friend beat me to the punch on the offer of a cake, so I had to come up with something else. He mentioned that one of us should make pig candy, which made the wheels start turning.

(You’ve never heard of pig candy. O.M.G. I guess I will have to do a post about that next. Or you could buy a SPQ book. Or just Google it. It will change your life.)

I am a full-fledged Queen in The Drama Queens of the Singing River, which is a chapter of the Sweet Potato Queens made up of some of my oldest and dearest friends. (If you aren’t familiar with that either, just go ahead and follow the link to check it out. I’ll wait.) And it just so happened that this birthday gathering was for our very own Boss Queen. Of course, some of the standard food at the annual SPQ Parade in Jackson, MS, (which we have attended in full-blown queenly attire) is pig candy (vats and vats of pig candy!) and shrimp and grits.

Why not combine the two?! Genius idea! I decided to make mini bacon bowls out of pig candy and fill them with gouda grits and shrimp. Continue reading

Confessions of a Veggie-hater: Spaghetti Squash Fritters are pretty awesome!

Behold the humble spaghetti squash. I have found the best way to cook it EVER!

I had never had spaghetti squash until just a few years ago. When I had it, I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was.

Here’s a confession though: Even though it’s good, it’s never quite as good as I want it to be. I think I like the idea of it better than I actually like it.

It’s a little too sweet for a vegetable, in my opinion. So every time I fix it, I’m trying to overcome the sweet with savory and it somehow doesn’t work out. It’s never bad, exactly, just not what I want it to be.

I think that all changed last Sunday. Continue reading

Cornbread Bread Pudding with Whiskey Caramel Sauce: The Final Result…Rich, gooey goodness

The final dish . . . just waiting for the Whiskey Caramel Sauce!

I wasn’t raised eating bread pudding.

I mean, I had heard of it, but I had never seen it in person. Not at my house, or at a friend’s house, or on a restaurant menu in town.

A friend of mine swears it’s because bread pudding is not a southern dish. However, when you look it up in the great Google machine, there are lots of references to Southern Bread Pudding and recipes in Southern Living magazine and other southern cooking magazines.

Crazy good bread pudding in Perdido Key
Crazy good bread pudding in Perdido Key

I don’t suppose it really matters why I didn’t have it until a couple of years ago. I’m just glad I finally did. Wow, is it ever good!

When I was at the beach last fall, I had a bread pudding at a little hole in the wall place that made me think I had died and gone to heaven.

Of course, after finally getting to try some bread pudding, I decided that I wanted to try making some for myself.

And what do you know, right after that I saw a recipe for Cornbread Bread Pudding with Whiskey Caramel Sauce. Bingo! Continue reading