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Books

You, Too, Can Be A Copy Cat!

By Gini Rainey

Well, last week was quite interesting in Tyler, Texas!  Beginning late Monday evening, our temperatures dropped below freezing while we were having a bit of a rain storm.  This is the way it always seems to work here, and then before you know it, we were in the teens with snow flurries.  Of course, the recorded snow fall was below an inch –maybe even below a half inch, but remember – we had a bit of freezing rain first.  That being said (to all of my snickering friends in the north), schools and businesses shut down Tuesday and Wednesday and us folks in the south are definitely not good at all at driving on an inch of ice.  With over 200 reported fender benders and stranded vehicles, we had quite a mess on our hands.  Now today, our temps are in the high 60s and the snow is just a dim memory.

If you didn’t make my cream of chicken with wild rice soup this past week, you might want to give it a shot this week and while you’re at it, I’m going to share my recipe for cheddar/garlic biscuits to go with it.  As my publisher commented on my blog last week “Where’s the recipe for the biscuits!!!”  I guess sharing the soup recipe was just not enough.  I have to admit that part of the fun for me when dining out is trying to figure out just “how they made it!” and my recipe for the biscuits came from dining at Red Lobster over the years.

So, along those lines, I did it again.  I jumped on to ebay during one of the snow days and bought a few more cookbooks.  One of them was “Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2” by Todd Wilbur.  Guess what is pictured on the cover!  Red Lobster’s Cheddar Bay Biscuits!  This fun, 395-page book was published in 2007 by Penguin Group and borrows 150 recipes from 29 restaurants.  So if you don’t feel like going out, you can cook up one of your favorite dishes using Todd Wilbur’s version from this cookbook.

Whether you love the Grilled Baby Back Ribs at Chili’s©, the Penne Rustica at Macarone Grill©, the salsa at Chili’s©, the Garlic King Crab Legs at Joe’s Crab Shack©, the Pasta E Fagioli at Olive Garden, P. F. Chang’s© Garlic Snap Peas, or the Cinnamon Apple Oblivion at Outback Steakhouse© this cookbook has you covered!

However, if you would like to make my version of Red Lobster’s biscuits (which is very, very close to Wilbur’s version) here’s how I do it.  First, preheat your oven to 375°. Then melt 3 tablespoons of butter and stir in ¼ teaspoon garlic salt and pour onto your baking sheet (I’ve always used a pizza pan).  In a large bowl mix together 3 cups baking mix (I use Pioneer Original©), 1 cup of milk, 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1 ½ cup grated cheese.  Turn out onto a floured surface and gently knead until no longer sticky.  Cut into rounds and dip both sides into the melted butter/garlic salt mixture place in a circle with edges touching on baking sheet.  Bake for 13-15 minutes or until light golden brown.  If you want to come even closer to the Red Lobster© version, add ¼ teaspoon dried parsley flakes.  I think you will discover these are stinkin’ good, you really don’t need anything else to eat with them, yet they go so well with so many kinds of food.

Books

It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over

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By Gini Rainey

Well, it sort of feels like summer is over, what with school starting tomorrow here in Tyler, but some of us are still looking forward to a little summer vacation at the beach in a few weeks.  Our family has spent a great deal of time – and money – over the past 40 years in Fort Walton Beach Florida on Santa Rosa Island.  We like to stay at the El Matador Condominiums, primarilly because they are at the end of the public access to the beach right next to where the 12 mile stretch of U.S. Air Force property begins.  Known for its pristine white beaches and sparkling clear blue water, this is our favorite spot over places like Destin and Navarre which are terribly over-populated and crowded for our taste.  

When we first started go to the beach, we would consume massive quantities of seafood, but over the years I have succumbed to what I refer to as the 4-S disease, caused by a mixture of sun, surf, sand, and seafood.  I think that the first year I realized I had this problem was when we were at The Back Porch in Destin for dinner and our friend, Joe, looked at my chest that was in full-blown hives and said “Doesn’t that hurt?”  Well, duh!  It was then that I made the connection – I’ve always been a little slow on the uptake! 

 So, while I now carefully watch my consumption of seafood (moderation in all things is the key) I still get hungry for an occasional dinner of crab legs or shrimp scampi and “The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Cookbook” has some great tasting and easy recipes in between its covers.   

This book, published in 1994 by Oxmoor House, is filled not only shrimp recipes, but also reflections from Forrest Gump of the movie of the same name.  Dedicated to the memory of Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue, Forrest’s best friend from his Viet Nam days, Forrest says “Bubba and me were partners for life.”  If you’re not familiar with the movie, perhaps you should view it while cooking up a yummy recipe from the book like Millionaire Stuffed Shrimp, Alabama-Style Shrimp Bake, Bubba’s Beer-Broiled Shrimp, Medal of Honor Shrimp Grill, Grilled Orange Shrimp Salad, Spicy Shrimp Dip (football season is coming up!), Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Cocktail, or Greenbow County Okra Gumbo.   

 My favorite, though, is for the Shrimp Scampi.  By the way, did you know that scampi means shrimp and gumbo means okra, so when you say Shrimp Scampi, you really are saying shrimp shrimp and okra gumbo would be – well, you get the direction I’m heading!  Less I digress even more, the recipe for scampi calls for 2 pounds jumbo fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined.  In a large skillet over medium heat, cook 1 finely chopped onion and 4 minced garlic cloves in 1/2 cup butter, stirring constantly for about 4 minutes. Then add 2 tablespoons lemon juice, ½ teaspoon dried tarragon, 1/2 teaspoon steak sauce, 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce and ¼ teaspoon hot sauce.  Bring to a boil; add the shrimp and cook, stirring constantly for 3 to 5 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink.  Serve over fettucine (or your choice of pasta) and sprinkle with parmesan cheese and chopped, fresh parsley.  With fresh, warm garlic bread on the side and a nice green salad, you can keep summer around just a little bit longer with this yummy taste of the sea. 

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Around East Texas

Summer Wraps Up at Tyler Public Library

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Any year-round weekly programs, like story times, will be temporarily suspended during movies week, but will return on Monday Aug. 6. These programs include:

  • Mondays at 10:30 a.m. Léeme Un Cuento, Spanish preschool story time
  • Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. Panera story time, only Aug. 7 and 14 at Panera Bread on S. Broadway
  • Wednesdays at 9:30 a.m. Lap and Play time for Babies
  • Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m. Toddler Time
  • Thursdays at 10:30 a.m. Read Aloud Crowd for Preschoolers

Maker Space events will continue throughout the coming months on the second and fourth Saturdays of every month.  Upcoming events can be found on the Library’s website under Maker Space.

  • Saturday Aug. 21 2 p.m. Hydraulics 101

For more information on any of these programs, please contact the Library at (903) 593-7323, or find us on the web at TylerLibrary.com. The Library is located at 201 S. College Ave. in Downtown Tyler.


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Books

Wasn’t That Just Yesterday?

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By Gini Rainey

It seems like just yesterday that my daughter Beth came home from middle school and announced that one of her classes was going to put together a booklet of favorite recipes of the students’ families.  Interestingly enough, she just celebrated another year around the sun yesterday, and as her older sister reminded her, she is on the downhill slide to 50!  At least she included a laughing emoji.  

So, there I am, cooking dinner, with her sitting across the bar from me asking where the recipe for what I was making (I think it might have been pepper steak) was so she could copy it down and take it with her to school.  Imagine her dismay when I tapped my head!  I could tell she felt like that was never going to work.  But I told her get a piece of paper and a pencil and we would figure it out together.  She may not even remember that moment in time, but seeing what a good and experimental cook she has become, perhaps what she learned that afternoon stuck with her.  Things like always, always taste what you are cooking, less is better when it comes to salt/pepper, your cupped palm will hold about a teaspoon, rub dry herbs between your palms as you sprinkle them into what you are cooking, and never be afraid to try something new.  

So, believe it or not, this memory was jogged by a cookbook, Top Secret Recipes Unlocked, written by Todd Wilbur and published in 2009 by Plume Books/Penguin Books.  As I was flipping through it, it occurred to me that even though there are some pretty good recipes in it, I found it interesting that it also included recipes for Jimmy Dean® Breakfast Sausage, Kraft® Miracle Whip, Hidden Valley® The Original Ranch® Dressing, Fritos® Hot Bean Dip, and Lipton® Brisk® Iced Tea.  Just reading the Dressing recipe made me hyper-ventilate over the list of ingredients it called for.  I mean, if I‘m going to the store to pick up all of that, why not just grab a packet of the mix? 

But, I will say the recipes included for things like Panera Bread® Broccoli Cheddar Soup, Popeyes® Red Beans & Rice, Boston Market® Butternut Squash, and Carnegie Deli® Classic New York Cheesecake sound pretty darn yummy and the ingredient lists aren’t terribly daunting.  The cool thing about this book, and the others out there that have copycat recipes, is someone took the time to taste – really taste – the original foods and experiment in their kitchen to come up with the end product that is a pretty darn good second to the original.  That’s turning cooking and your kitchen into a food lab – and I’m for that! 

One of the recipes that Beth and I saved for posterity was for my version of Pepper Steak.  First trim about 1 ½ pounds of round steak and slice paper thin (this is easier to do if the meat is slighty frozen) making the strips about 3 inches in length.  Dredge the strips in flour and brown in hot oil in a Dutch oven or a 4 quart pan. Mix 1 ½ teaspoon of garlic powder with 4 tablespoons of corn starch and blend with ½ cup soy sauce (I prefer Kikoman®) and 3 ½ cups water and pour over the beef strips.  Stir until well mixed and beginning to thicken.  Cover and reduce heat. Cut 1 large, white onion and 2 large bell peppers into eighths and add to the beef mixture.  You can also add a small can of drained sliced mushrooms and a small can of sliced water chestnuts.  Continue to simmer until the onions and peppers are cooked, but still a bit crunchy.  Serve over steamed rice.  This is some might good eating and so relatively easy to make, you might want to have the kids help cook it. 

 

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