Sunday, April 19, 2015

KC's Bar-B-Q: There's a New Kid in Town!

Last October, I told you about the great barbecue in Alabama and in particular in Scottsboro. At the time, Scottsboro was home to six great barbecue restaurants. Carlile's Restaurant, Triple R Barbecue, Mud Creek Fishing Camp, 50 Taters, Tate's Barbecue, and Holy Smokes Barbecue all bring their own particular brand of tasty smoked meats to the good folks of Jackson County. But now? Well, there's a new kid in town! KC's Bar-B-Q just opened up out on Highway 79 before you get to Goosepond Colony as you head south from Scottsboro toward Guntersville.

KC's may be the new kid on the block, but the tiny barbecue joint is starting out strong. People are already singing the praises of the goodies coming from KC's kitchen. You know I had to check it out for myself, so Scott and I stopped by for lunch a few days ago.

As you enter the restaurant, the counter for placing orders is at the rear of the room, so we made our way through the maze of tables and waited our turn to place our order. There were lots of choices from breakfast items and stuffed baked potatoes to pulled pork and smoked chicken. The special for the day we were there was a smoked chicken salad, which I almost ordered, but then I decided to get just the smoked chicken plate with baked beans and slaw. Scott chose the pulled pork with baked beans and French fries. We placed our orders, filled our drinks and found a table. Our food came out pretty quickly even though the lady working the front seemed to be the one taking the orders and waiting the tables.

Here's what our plates looked like... first, Scott's pulled pork,

and then my smoked chicken. 

The rumors about KC's were exactly right. The food was wonderful. I especially liked my tender, smoky chicken with KC's delicious white sauce. I also liked KC's hot sauce. I ended dipping a few of Scott's French fries into the hot sauce because it was so good. The sides were delicious, too. Scott was equally impressed with his pulled pork. Friends have told me to check out the homemade onion rings the next time I go and I plan to do just that. After all, my friends haven't steered me wrong yet. 

If you get a chance, give KC's a visit. I think you will be very happy with this new barbecue kid in town.  It's just one more jewel in Scottsboro's barbecue crown and is helping to reinforce Alabama's reputation as the best barbecue state in the country. 

P is for Peanut Butter Pie

My youngest son, Rob,  loves peanut butter pie. I made one the other day and got the highest compliment from him. He said,"This might be better than Gibson's!" Gibson's is an old barbecue restaurant in Huntsville that was started by a different branch of the famous Big Bob Gibson family from Decatur. Rob loves their peanut butter pie.

Many years ago, we used to enjoy going to The Spot in Gulf Shores. One of the highlights of dinner at The Spot was the peanut butter pie. On one of our many visits to the beach, I found a cookbook with recipes from the local restaurants in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Lo and behold, The Spot's pie was in the book and of course, I had to have that book. I always thought The Spot's pie was better than Gibson's pie, because the filling was lighter and fluffier. There was, however, one thing the Gibson's pie had that The Spot's pie did not...a layer of intense peanut butter cushioning between the crust and the filling. I had an idea if I could marry the two recipes I might have a keeper, so I experimented and came up with my own version of peanut butter pie incorporating the best of both recipes. Rob's reaction confirmed I had hit a home run. I did not add any nuts or chocolate chips because Rob is a peanut butter pie purist, but the pie is good with a sprinkling of chopped peanuts and mini chocolate chips. So, here's to peanut butter pie and here's the recipe. Tell me what you think. Cheers!

Better Than Gibson's Peanut Butter Pie

1 Pre-baked Pie Crust. 

You can use a homemade crust or one of those you roll out and bake, but don't use one of the preformed ones. Bake according to package or recipe directions and allow to cool while you work on the filling.

Creamy Peanut Butter Filling

1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1/2 c. confectioners' sugar

Combine and press into bottom of cooled, baked crust

Fluffy Peanut Butter Filling

3 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 c. confectioners' sugar
1 c. creamy peanut butter
1  1/2 c. well chilled heavy cream
1/4 c. milk
2 t. vanilla

Beat cream cheese with confectioners' sugar until mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in milk, peanut butter and vanilla. In a chilled bowl, beat cream until it holds stiff peaks. Stir 1/3 of cream into peanut butter mixture and then fold in the remaining cream gently, but thoroughly.  Pour filling into pie crust. Sprinkle with 3 T. chopped unsalted nuts and 3 T. mini chocolate chips (optional). Chill covered for 4 hours or overnight. Serve with chocolate sauce, if you like.

O is for Oysters

Lu and I made the trek to Chattanooga once again, this time to visit our friend Dawn in the hospital and take her something to good to eat since she has been eating hospital fare for a while. Another friend had mentioned the Cajun/Creole food at a place called Blue Orleans, which sounded pretty good to us. We looked up the address and set the GPS. Turns out, Blue Orleans is right across the street from the Chattanooga Choo Choo. Of course, this was Lu and me, you just know things were not as simple as they should have been. Oh, we found the restaurant easily enough. What we could not find was a place to park. I thought we were going to be churned into butter we circled the block so many times. I, helpfully, pointed out a parking lot to Lu, but she was pretty certain she could find a (free) parking place on the street. Finally, my frugal friend gave up and pulled into the parking lot I had, helpfully, pointed out about about 45 minutes earlier. We are not city girls, however, and those automated parking attendant boxes always throw us for a loop. We stood in a giant puddle of water (it was raining), searching our purses for money and trying to figure out how to put the money in the box. The written instructions weren't helpful at all and then we noticed something about it being a restricted lot between the hours of 8 am and 6 pm. We checked the time. It was 5 pm. Oh, great! Then we spotted a girl walking nearby. She looked local, so we asked her for suggestions on where we could park. She pointed to a nearby street and we took her advice. Finally, we made our way in the drizzly rain to Blue Orleans. 

Blue Orleans is a small restaurant with lots of dark wood, brick and high ceilings. The bar is at the front of the restaurant and the tables are in the back. We were greeted as soon as we entered and waited for only a few minutes to be seated. We ordered a couple of interesting sounding drinks and an appetizer while we decided on our entrees. Lu got a drink called King Cake Martini, which I passed on because our server, the chef's wife, told us it was very sweet. Instead, I went with a Blue Orleans Margarita. Interestingly enough, the martini came in a margarita glass. We both enjoyed our pretty drinks. 

For our appetizer, we decided to split an order of oyster and bacon pops. Luanne and I love oysters. We like them any way you can cook them...fried, broiled, smoked, baked, grilled and sautéed. We are the Bubba Gumps for oysters. Our only difference of opinion concerns raw oysters. Lu loves them, I hate them. But these Blue Orleans oysters? We couldn't agree more. They were amazing. They were wrapped in bacon, battered and fried and served with a blue cheese dip topped off with hot sauce. The batter was just right, not too much. They were fried to perfection and the bacon was fully cooked, too. The blue cheese/hot sauce dip was delicious. We raved about the oysters. The nicest thing? The menu said five oyster pops, but our server brought us six, so we each got three. We were off to a great start. 

As far as entrees were concerned, we were pretty predictable. Lu loves gumbo, so she chose a seafood gumbo. There were crawfish tacos on the menu. You KNOW I could not resist. 

Luanne's gumbo was a light golden color. She knew right away it might not be her favorite, because she prefers a dark, rich, spicy gumbo. She was correct. Blue Orleans gumbo might be perfect for those who like a mild gumbo, but Luanne was disappointed. She likes big, boldly flavored gumbo. 


My tacos were equally disappointing. They looked like no taco I have ever had before. Tightly wrapped, almost like an egg roll, they were then grilled and served with a strange mustardy sauce. They came with a side of slaw that I found peculiar and I think some of the same slaw might have been inside the taco. The grilled flour tortilla was dry and tasteless. Luckily I had saved some of the blue cheese sauce from our oysters and salvaged the tacos by dipping them in the yummy sauce. Since I had three tacos, I shared one of them with Lu and she agreed. The tacos were not very good and not at all what either of us was expecting. 

We weren't giving up, though. We decided to give Blue Orleans chocolate chip bread pudding a whirl. We chose to share one order of bread pudding and we were happy we did. It was a very generous order of the rich dessert. This time we were not disappointed. The warm bread pudding was not like any bread pudding we had ever had, but it was delicious. 

We took pictures of the menu and sent them to Dawn so she could decide what she wanted to order. She chose crawfish fritters and a slice of cheesecake. She enjoyed the fritters even though they had to be stone cold by the time we got them to her. Why? Because just as we got to Erlanger Medical Center, parked and started heading up to her room, I remembered she had been moved to Siskin Rehabilitation. With Luanne scowling at me the whole time, we asked for directions to Siskin, got back in the car, parked in what we thought was the parking deck for Siskin (even though it clearly said St. Barnabas), marched up to the front desk, asked for Dawn's room, were told by the elderly gentleman at the desk that there were no Don's there, we repeated "Dawn", were told there were no Dawn's there, asked if this was Siskin, were told no, it was a nursing home, got directions to Siskin again, left St. Barnabas, got back in the car, finally found Siskin, spent about fifteen minutes trying to park the car straight before giving up and parking crooked, asked for Dawn at the front desk, got her room number, almost got off on the wrong floor and finally trooped into Dawn's room. Those fritters had long since lost their sizzle. I am exhausted just telling the story!

We did enjoy our visit with Dawn, who happily got to go home the very next day. Lu and I reminisced about those delicious oyster and bacon pops on the way home and decided that we would definitely go back to Blue Orleans just for those, if for no other reason. But we also agreed that we would try some other entrees the next time. If the chef can work that kind of magic with oysters, we are pretty confident that there are other choices on the menu that we would enjoy. We did see some good looking poboys coming out of the kitchen. We might try one of those on our next visit. We were also pleased with the reasonable price of our meal. Our entire meal, including the food we took to Dawn, was only $80. Not too bad for a meal for three that included drinks, an appetizer and a dessert.

Three Friends and a Fork gives Blue Orleans 2 Yums UP. We give Blue Orleans oyster bacon pops a standing ovation! Check it out and tell us what you think.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

N is for Nutmeg

Wow! The things you learn when you undertake an A-Z Blogging Adventure. When I decided to highlight nutmeg for N, I had no idea there was so much to know. First of all, nutmeg comes from an evergreen tree native to the Spice Islands of Indonesia called a Nutmeg tree or Myristica fragrans. When I first read evergreen tree, I was picturing a tree with needles, but that is not the case here. It is a large tropical tree with broad, leathery leaves. Nutmeg is actually not a nut at all, but the pit of a fruit about the size of a peach. When the fruit splits open, the nutmeg pit is covered in a hard, bright red webbing. This webbing is removed and dried and becomes the spice, mace. I had no idea that mace and nutmeg came from the same tree!

Nutmeg is has a warm, piney scent and flavor and can be used in both savory or sweet foods. It is an important component of drinks like eggnog and Brandy Alexander, classic Bechamel sauce and creamed spinach, not to mention all the sweet baking applications in which we typically use nutmeg.

Nutmeg is best purchased whole and grated with a fine grater when it is needed. Ground nutmeg uses its flavor quickly, so avoid buying large amounts of ground nutmeg to store. Nutmeg is potent and a little goes a long way. Along with cinnamon and cloves, nutmeg is one of those spices that remind us of autumn and that we often use in our fall baking.

While I don't use nutmeg nearly as much as I use cinnamon, there are some dishes that need just a pinch of nutmeg. When I make meatloaf, I put a small amount of nutmeg in the sweet ketchupy sauce that goes with my meatloaf.

Have you used nutmeg lately? If not, give it a try. It is sure to warm up and sweeten any dish. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

M is for Muffin

M is for Muffin

We are always on the lookout for great muffin recipes. These Cinnamon Coffee Cake Muffins are hard to beat. The recipe is from Southern Living and as I was reading the mixed reviews online, I noticed that many people were complaining about two things. First, many people said the muffins caved in in the center. Secondly, there were people who complained that the topping fell off. One person suggested that the people whose muffins fell in the middle might be guilty of over mixing and that if they mixed the dry ingredients in by hand rather than with a mixer, the problem might be resolved. Okey dokey! I took the advice and did just that. What were the results? 

As you can tell from the photo, my muffin does not have a muffin dome. They fell slightly in the center. As far as the topping was concerned, it does have a tendency to fall off as you eat it.  The original recipe called for pecans in the topping, which I left off because my family doesn't want nuts to crop up in their muffins for some reason. Without the pecans, the muffins were probably a little less messy than they would have been. 

Other than those two things, these muffins are pretty much perfect. They are light, tender and delicious. I don't know what you can do to help them rise in the center, but trust me, you really won't mind that they can't win a muffin beauty contest. This recipe is a keeper. If you have any suggestions for how to get these muffins to rise more in the center, please let me know. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

L is for Lemony Chicken Piccata

L is for Lemony Chicken Piccata

Lemon is one of my favorite flavors. It is one of those versatile flavors that pairs as well with savory foods as it does with sweet ones. From lemonade and lemon tarts to lemon marinades and lemon butter sauce, lemon brings a splash of sunshine to any dish. It can dial down a dish that is too sweet and dial up a dish that is too bland.

I love to pair lemon with chicken. Chicken is such a blank slate, with a tendency to be dull and flavorless without the right seasonings and preparation.  The bright flavor of lemon is ideal for chicken. Lemony chicken piccata is a classic lemon chicken dish that is a favorite of my family. Lightly breaded and pan fried chicken in a lemony caper butter sauce, chicken piccata is flavorful and quick.

I like to use an iron skillet when I cook piccata. Start by butterflying 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts and then cutting them in half so you have 8 pieces of thinly cut chicken. Salt and pepper each. Season a cup of flour in a ziploc bag with 1 t. salt and 1 t. pepper. Shake the chicken pieces in the bag to lightly coat with flour.

Put 2 T. butter and 3 T. olive oil into your skillet and heat over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted and the oil is beginning to sizzle, add the chicken pieces. Brown chicken on both sides and remove to a wire rack to drain. If all of your chicken does not fit in your skillet, you will need to add more butter and olive oil before adding more chicken. After the chicken is all cooked, add 1/3 c. fresh lemon juice, 1/2 c. chicken broth and 1/4 c. capers to the skillet and stir to blend, scraping up any bits in the bottom of the skillet. Put the chicken back in the skillet and cook another 5 minutes. Remove ot a serving platter and pour the sauce in the skillet over the chicken. Top with a sprinkling of fresh chopped flat leaf parsley. Serve with orzo, angel hair pasta or mashed potatoes.

Get Printable Recipe HERE.

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Monday, April 13, 2015

K is for Key Lime Cake

 K is for Key Lime Cake 

One of the flavors that I associate most with warm days and tropical destinations is key lime. I love key lime pie, key lime dressings and key lime marinades. For Easter this year, I decided to bring out the flavor of key lime a bit early and make a key lime cake for our Easter dinner.  Actually, the only key lime in this cake is in the icing. The cake gets its lime flavor from lime jello combined with additional citrus flavor from lemon cake mix and orange juice. It all comes together to produce a delicious and easy to make cake. The bright green color was perfect for Easter. 

Those of you who have ever tried to get the juice out of a key lime know that it is almost impossible. To begin with key limes are tiny. Even if they were easy to juice, you still wouldn't get much out of them because of their size.  But, to make juicing a key lime even more difficult, the tiny fruits are not soft and squishy. The darn things are hard! Juicing a key lime is not for the faint of heart or weak of muscle. Luckily, Nellie and Joe have taken care of that for us. Seriously, skip the key lime squeezing and pick up a bottle of Nellie and Joe's Famous Key West Lime Juice. You will be so glad you did and you will be enjoying this yummy key lime cake a whole lot sooner. You could also use fresh lime juice from regular limes and it would still be delicious, but it wouldn't be key lime. You can also decorate the frosted cake with some regular slice limes, if desired.