By Guest Blogger Tena Jerger filling in for Gini Rainey, the original Cookbook Junkie
I was not raised in a household that did a lot of cooking at home. We ate out, went through drive-thrus, had sandwiches, or made a meal on chips and dips more times than I care to think about. My mom simply had no interest in cooking. Don’t get me wrong, she cooked ‘some’ – for special occasions or if my dad or grandmothers guilted her into it, or when she got a new toy like a Frydaddy. We ate corn dogs and French fries until we all begged to go back to Weinerland’s drive-thru.
And even though my mom never really cooked, I have always enjoyed cooking a lot. I’ve had my share of disasters but I prefer to eat at home, preparing our food ourselves.
My favorite cookbooks are pretty much any in the Skinnytaste line of books. Author Gina Homolka has a cult-like following for her blog and has several NYT best selling books under her (skinny) belt.
I’ve been making Gina Homolka’s recipes for years. I find them both easy to follow and very flavorful. I have always found the ingredients easily – there is never some obscure expensive ingredient that the recipe must have. All of her recipes are made with real food that are “skinny on calories but not on flavor.”
That being said, I should add that she has recipes for all kinds of eating styles including vegetarian, Weight Watchers, gluten-free, Paleo, Keto, Whole 30, and more. Beside each recipe, there is a color and letter coding like V for vegetarian, GF for gluten-free, kid-friendly, freezer-friendly, crockpot etc. And, for those of us who count calories and want to know nutrients or carbs, she also has all of that included.
I was recently given a gift card for Barnes & Noble so I purchased two of her hard copy books, “Skinnytaste Fast and Slow: Knockout Quick-Fix and Slow Cooker Recipes” and “The Skinnytaste Cookbook: Light on Calories, Big on Flavor.”
From the “Light on Calories,” one of my favorite recipes is Buttermilk Oven-Fried Chicken. I’ve made this over and over, and still to this day have not changed the recipe in any way except that I use a cut-up fryer instead of just legs. Soaking your chicken at least overnight keeps it moist and juicy. The recipe is at skinnytaste.com/oven-fried-chicken
I’m sure you are wondering “why do I need to have the book if all the recipes are on the blog?” Well, they aren’t. In fact, there are quite a lot more in print. One of my favorites is the So-addicted Chicken Enchiladas. These enchiladas are easy to prepare and taste excellent too. This recipe is only available in the book so for copyright reasons, we can not post the recipe.
From the “Fast and Slow” book I love the Banh Mi Rice Bowl. I make up the pork tenderloin and freeze in small batches for a quick lunch. The recipe is at skinnytaste.com/slow-cooker-banh-mi-rice-bowls.
All of the photos in these two cookbooks are professional and abundant throughout. The recipes
are well put together, easy to follow, and not just the same tired ones redone with diet ingredients. They are original and loaded with flavor and are good enough to serve at dinner parties and more importantly – to make you feel like you are not dieting. All of her recipes are quick to make if you follow her tips for prep and shopping.
From her bio, “Each month millions of readers visit [her blog] Skinnytaste and learn how easy it is to cook healthy recipes for the whole family. Her work has been featured in Fitness Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, FineCooking.com, Glamour.com, Oprah.com, among other media outlets.”
Her books are available digitally, in hardcover and on her blog website.
It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over
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.
Wasn’t That Just Yesterday?
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.
Foodie Events: Cookie Decorating Workshops
Cookie Decorating Workshops will be held this month. You will receive 1/2 dozen cookies to decorate as well as instructions on how to decorate themed cookies using a special blend of Royal-Glaze icing. These will be a mix of Vanilla-Brown Sugar and White-Almond cookies that you can take home to enjoy. Each person will receive cookies and access to multiple colors of icing bags and tools to work with. All tools and supplies will be provided. Also, a 10″ sturdy plate will be provided for carry home (you may bring your own container). Classes are:
- August 6th (6:30pm): Beach Camping Cookie Decorating at Potpourri House, 3320 Troup Hwy., Tyler
- August 12th (3pm): Seaside Cookie Decorating at Pottery Cafe, 5380 Old Bullard Rd., Tyler
- September 9th (3pm): Sunflowers Cookie Decorating at Pottery Cafe, 5380 Old Bullard Rd., Tyler
- September 18th (6:30pm): Safari Cookie Decorating at Kiepersol Salt Kitchen, 4120 FM 344E in Bullard. RSVP at goodjujucookies.com/workshops
August 11th, September 8th (10am): Yoga & Beer at True Vine – Held every second Saturday of the month, this beautiful yoga practice is held under the pavilion. The class and one beer is included in price of admission. Sola Bread pizza will be there as well serving up breakfast pastries and lunch. Tickets available at the door for $10 and include an hour yoga session and a beer. True Vine Brewing is located at 2453 Earl Campbell Parkway, Tyler, truevinebrewing.com.
August 18th, September 15th (10am): Barre + Brew at True Vine – Held each third Saturday of the month, Barre + Brew classes are with Studio B Pilates+Barre. For $10 at the door, you can enjoy this amazing class inside the brewery and enjoy a cold beer after. Barre classes mix elements of ballet at the barre and functional movements set to motivating music. You’ll use the barre, small balls, bands, and hand weights to work your entire body. Isometric training and small range of motion exercises along with planks, push-ups, and core focused training will round out these energizing classes. Sola Bread pizza will be there as well serving up breakfast pastries and lunch. True Vine Brewing is located at 2453 Earl Campbell Parkway, Tyler, truevinebrewing.com.
September 26th (7-9pm), Vitner’s Dinner: South of the Border – It’s a fiesta! This will be a delicious Mexican-inspired dinner that will wow your taste buds. Who says the only drink that goes with Mexican food is tequila? Come learn how Keipersal’s wines can pair with any food you love! Food will be Shrimp and Avocado Ceviche, Seabass Caldo, Roasted Guajillo Ribeye, and Pierre’s Rum Tres Leches Cake. Cost is $100 per person not including tax and gratuity. This will be held at Kiepersol, 21508 Merlot Ln., Bullard. RSVP by calling (903)894-3300, or visit kiepersol.com. Other Vintner’s Dinners will be November 28th, Fall Harvest featuring Baked Gouda Stuffed Olives, Corn Bourbon Bisque, Salmon with Curried Fennel Wine Sauce, and Mustard Roasted Tenderloin with Squash Polenta. Dessert will be a surprise.
September 21st (5:30-6:30pm) – XTC Barbells, Bites & Beer – Start your weekend with a Friday evening XTC Workout, followed by some appetizers, bites, and beers on the patio! Members are $20 a session and non-members are $25 a session. For more info or to register please contact Tony Cruz at (903)561-3014 or email email@example.com. This will be held at Tyler Athletic and Swim Club, 11208 Oak Creek Blvd., Tyler.
September 29th (All Day): German Fest Bier Garten Festival will be held at High Hill Farms, 12626 CR 217, Arp. More details to come.
EGuide Magazine’s Gig Guide
Make a Splash This Summer at The Waterpark at The Villages Resort
Blue Moon Gardens: More Than a Family Nursery
Fall Fun in East Texas: Fall Festival Guide 2018
Off Road Biking: Hitting the Local Trails
It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over
August 18th Lance Lopez Live @ XL’N Pool Hall & Club
August 18th: A Rock ‘n Roll Summer of CESSE Fun
Amy Holden Concert Benefiting Children’s Miracle Network, Aug. 24th
East Texas State Fair Returns Sept. 21st-30th!
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