Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Inspired by Rachael Ray and Comfort Food

It's been a crazy few days.  Pretty emotionally charged and stressful- on top of my grandma's death this weekend, I've got finals to contend with this week.  Cooking is such a relief! It's a good way to keep busy and relax, and I've been especially happy to take over the food situation the past few days.  My grandma was a great cook, and her house was the place we usually met for meals.  She grew up in the South, so her food was full of flavor and spice- and so was she :)

I mentioned Texas Caviar earlier- something I did with the black eyed peas my grandma had soaked.  I made it and took it when the family got together again on Sunday, the day after she died.  We paired it with some bacon and cantaloupe for dinner, while we watched "Kings of Pastry" on my aunt's iPad.  Very informal, but the dip was tasty- plenty of flavor and a bit of kick.  The recipe says to let it sit in the fridge overnight, but ours was only in the fridge a few hours and it was just fine.  

Texas Caviar 

4 cups cooked black eyed peas, drained and cooled
1 cup diced yellow onion
1 cup diced red onion
1 green or red pepper, diced (I used one of each color)
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 tsp black pepper

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl.  Chill in the fridge for 24 hours (or as long as you have), stirring occasionally.  Stir before serving.

I also made a pumpkin banana bread with a few aging bananas that were in my grandma's house.  It felt weird just to take food from the fridge and cupboards, but someone's got to eat it.  My bread was really, really dense after the hour in the oven, so I stuck it in later for another 25 or 30 minutes, and it still didn't bake through.  The top got really crunchy though, which everyone liked.  The contrasting textures were nice, and even if it was a bit gooey it had a delicious flavor.  Pure comfort on a plate, and it was pretty healthy as well.  I didn't think to take a picture, but there's a gorgeous one if you look at the original recipe:

I'll probably try this bread again sometime when I can really think about it- I was a little distracted on Sunday, which probably resulted in the density.  

Rachael Ray is one of my favorite figures in the world of food, and I've spent a fair amount of time the past week watching "30 Minute Meals".  On Thursday I saw an episode where she made Crusty Nacho Pizzas, and I followed her lead on Friday, but changed it up a bit: instead of nacho pizzas, I set up a build-your-own pizza bar for myself and my parents.  The crust was a baguette cut lengthwise and then in half, with most of the center hollowed out to make space for the toppings.  We saved the bread from the middle to throw in the freezer and use as breadcrumbs at some point.

Half of mine was just sauce and cheese, and on the other half I added olive oil, a little cheese, turkey bacon, and avocado.  It was delicious, but next time I would add more on the avocado-bacon side- got to balance out the bread :)

All the pizzas:

More Rachael Ray-inspired fare later, but I've got a chem final tomorrow that will be a lot less painful if I hit the books tonight.  Which won't be for long- it's almost time to start dinner and I'm thinking some loaded nachos sound good.  I was at the library today and in a Food Network magazine I checked out there was *supposed* to be an insert with 50 ways to do nachos- an insert which some jerk ripped out...but that's why we have internet.  And even without a recipe, it's hard to go wrong with chips, cheese, and veggies!

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