Author Archives: Giggles

Creole Style Black-eyed Peas

Did Christmas really come and go that fast? Is the New Year so close to being around the corner? Of course it’s no surprise when 2013-11-3 Creole Style Blackeye PeasChristmas rolls around and when the New Year begins and yet every year I feel like it sneaks up on me. I think it has to do with the end of the year. When a year comes near to closing, it is a time of retrospection, a time for looking back and thinking about what you have and have not accomplished.

Naturally the first instinct is to think about what hasn’t been accomplished, I never lost weight, I never stuck to any exercise program, I didn’t keep up with my bookkeeping, my car was totaled, my baby boy got an MIP (drinking underage), I got two speeding tickets and the list could go on. If I was a glass half full kind of gal, some of that could be downright depressing. But I’m a glass half full person and I focus on all the positives. My whole is family healthy, I’m expecting another grandchild, my blog got a great makeover, I got a newer vehicle (gotta look at the positive of losing the other one) I’ve been super involved with the community and that has led to positive things, I started a community garden, earned my Master Gardener 1, 2 and 3 levels, made new friends, traveled, spent many, many weekends at the cabin, got my first photography gig with a National Magazine (one that is dear to my heart), have two possible cookbook shoots lined up and a very exciting adventure that I will reveal later in January. Really, it has been a momentous year.

Next year is promising to be just as memorable; maybe I’ll lose weight and exercise more too.

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all-purpose Steak Seasoning

all-purpose steak seasoning www.thekitchenwitchblog.com ©Rhonda Adkins Photography 2013Do you buy pre-made spice mixes or do you like creating your own? I used to be a big fan of spice mixes, Johnny’s seasoning salt, Lemon-Pepper, pumpkin pie spice, Italian seasoning, etc. The broader my culinary skills grew the bigger my spice cabinet got and before I knew it I had every spice and herbed imagined stocked! Add each spice plus a variety of seasoning mixes and my spice cabinet(s) were bulging at the seams.

Also as my culinary skills expanded I had specific tastes that had developed, no longer was stock pumpkin pie spice or generic Italian spice mix good enough I discovered I like more ginger flavor in my pumpkin pies and I adore a heavier oregano flavor and the taste of fresh basil in marinara. Slowly I ditched the pre-made spice mixes and just added spices to my taste.

I have discovered that for some things I was always using the same flavor profile and using it often. It was times like these that I missed the convenience of pre-made spice mixes. Like many things in life I have gone back full circle, I now frequently use pre-made spice mixes except now they are my own pre-made mixes. If you are going to make a batch why not make enough for a few dinners and save yourself time later? It takes no extra time to double or triple a recipe.

Some of the spice mixes that I almost always have on hand is my black magic seasoning salt (which I use on and in nearly everything), kale salttaco seasoning and this all-purpose steak seasoning. I use this steak seasoning on my steaks of course but I also use it on wild game, to flavor burgers and meatloaf. My most favorite way of using it is on a prime rib roast. The bold flavors of this steak rub and its hearty texture add amazing flavor and help make a nice crust on the outside of a prime rib.

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Salted Caramel Fudge {in 5-minutes}

Salted Caramel Fudge www.thekitchenwitchblog.com ©Rhonda Adkins Photography 2013 It’s amazing how this time of year tempts even the non-sweet maker into a cookie and candy making machine. Actually it’s quite over-whelming at times which is why I love having a few super quick and easy recipes on hand. One of my go to recipes every year is my 5-minute fudge,. Every year I change it up so it feels like something totally new.

This year I took my cue from one of my sweet loves, salted caramel, which is heaven to me. I made this super easy by using milk duds (chocolate covered caramels), truth is that the family doesn’t really care for Milk Duds, they like chocolate and they like caramel but they do not care for Milk Duds. Because the family doesn’t care for them, I ended up having a bunch of them leftover from Halloween. I took my chances and stirred them into my fudge. An amazing thing happened, the chocolate on the outside melted and blended with the fudge and left these beautiful pockets of caramel. Because of my adoration for salted caramel I topped my little fudge squares with fleur de sel.

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Flower Sprout {Kale} Lasagna

Flower Sprout Lasagna www.thekitchenwitchblog.com ©Rhonda Adkins Photography 2013Flower Sprout (Brassica oleracea), have you heard of it? I hadn’t heard of it until last month when a friend asked if I wanted some kale, she had pulled the last from her garden and had plenty to spare. Since my discovery/addiction of kale salt I was more than happy to take some off her hands. When I got to her house she asked if I was also interested in some flower sprout. I gave her this blank stare, flower sprout? I may not have decades of gardening under my belt but I do have decades of food knowledge and I had never ever heard of a flower sprout.

Before I accepted I needed to know what it was, it looked stunning, very beautiful and definitely had a kale like appearance. Like a true gardener she digs out her Johnny’s seed catalog, shows me the photo and lets me read the description. According to Johnny’s seed catalog:

“Flower Sprouts™ are a cross between Brussels sprouts and kale which, unlike Brussels sprouts, remain open and resemble attractive, colorful flowers. They grow on tall, upright plants just like Brussels sprouts. The tender, mildly flavored sprouts have an excellent eating quality and are suitable for sales to high-end restaurants and specialty markets. They are excellent lightly steamed or sautéed. One marketing suggestion is to sell them in clam shells. Not quite as hardy to cold weather as Brussels sprouts or kale.”

The flower sprout was invented in 2010 in Britain. It took 15 years of natural breeding technique to create this hybrid. Kale is great and Brussels sprouts are great so why do it, why combine them? Kale is a super food full of all things good for you; Brussels’s sprouts are tall and super producers. Mix a super producer with a super nutritious plant and you have a winner and evidently you end up with a 13 gallon garbage bags full of produce to share.

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Rum Pumpkin Tartlets with Gingersnap Crust and Maple Whipped Cream

Rum Pumpkin Tartlets www.thekitchenwitchblog.com ©Rhonda Adkins Photography 2013Necessity is the mother of invention. I had several necessities that needed to be taken care of. I had a holiday get together with the River City Harvest Community Gardening board and I needed to bring some food. I had pumpkin puree that needed to be used. I had a 1 pound bag of ginger snaps that had been taking up space since last Christmas and I had brand spanking new mini tart pans. By new, I mean that they were purchased maybe two years ago? So long ago that I don’t remember; the packaging had not even been cracked.

Necessity is the mother of invention. It was necessary that I rectify this problem immediately, especially using the tart pans. When I purchased them I dreamed of making shortbread crust tarts with lemon curd. I dreamed of tea parties with adorable little tarts. My mind was filled with the all the possibilities these precious little tart pans held. I tucked them away and soon the dreams of tarts faded, locked up in a dark cupboard, waiting and waiting. Recently in a mad search for something else (of which I cannot remember), I came across these perfect little tart tins, sealed in their package. It was like being on an Egyptian archaeological dig and discovering a tomb that had never been opened, oh what treasure!

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Company Mashed Potatoes

Company Mashed Potatoes ©Rhonda Adkins Photography 2013Can you believe that Thanksgiving is but a week away? I’m so very excited for this Thanksgiving! My dearest friend Jen and her boy Jake are driving from Spokane, WA to spend Thanksgiving with us. It is monumental to me; she’s as much family as any of my own. Let’s see, the last time that I spent Thanksgiving with her was when we were stationed in Germany. I think it was the year 2001, not long after that she reassigned back to the states.

I remember us cooking and drinking wine in my tiny galley kitchen in Herforst, Germany. If anyone knows me, they know I don’t always play well with others in the kitchen, especially in small kitchens. I’m a kitchen control freak, I like my guests to show up and I have done everything. When you are a guest in my house you are treated like royalty, unless you are family, then whatever goes and Jen is family.

In my tiny German kitchen we cooked and laughed, relaxing actually. I had much of the cooking done but at that time I had not conquered flour based gravy. Oh I could do cornstarch gravy but my flour based gravies came out lumpy or runny…I just didn’t get it.

Of course in Germany there wasn’t Food Network or even the internet, no YouTube videos to watch, nada. At that time in my life I relied on those little packets of instant gravy mixes as back up. Jen taught me how to make gravy, starting with the simple roux and adding the liquid nice and slow. If it’s too thin because we didn’t measure, no worries, she’d shake up that flour and liquid and slowly add it until the consistency was just right. I owe all my great gravy to that girl. Not to mention my sanity, she’s always been my rock the one I could tell all too and the one that I could count on to be there for me.

Even though the Air Force and our lives have separated us physically we’ve managed to stay besties for all these years. Sometimes we go months without calling each, our busy lives putting phone calls on the back burner, but once we talked it was like no time had gone by. How did I get so lucky to have a friend like that? And she’s coming for Thanksgiving, I’m elated!

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Slow Roasted Tomatoes and life lessons from a tomato plant

slow roasted tomatoes ©Rhonda Adkins Photography 2013This was it, the very last remnants from my garden (other than a few hardy herbs). My little pear tomato plant was the wonder of my garden this year. I started it from a wee little seed, I only had a couple of them, so I did a germination test. Only one seed sprouted. I carefully took my sprout and lovingly placed it in a small peat pellet that had been watered and puffed up to size. Down to the basement it went where I had my little table set up with a grow light. The timer was set to give my little babies (I had my other plants growing also) were scheduled about 16 hours of light. I mothered my little seedlings, not to dry, not to wet. I cooed and wooed them, sending them all my good vibes. Not all my seedlings were healthy, although this tomato wasn’t exactly unhealthy; it wasn’t super hardy looking either.

Truth be told, I wondered if I should even bother planting it when the time came! I’m a softy and unable to ditch plants that show any signs of life, so in my raised bed it went. My gardener neighbor (she’s amaaazing) commented on how much shade we get and how she just didn’t think that poor tomato would grow. I concurred. I knew the baby plant wasn’t strong and I planted it in a spot that, well any good tomato that knows what it needs, wouldn’t grow.

But I thought to myself, what the hell, I have other tomato plants that have a nice sunny home, so one tomato plant, more or less won’t matter. After all, I never expected the seeds to germinate in the first place. Somehow there must of have been something in that little seed, a fight in its soul, a desire to grow and live despite its scrawny beginnings. Despite the poor sun conditions and despite the Baby boy not watering it when it’s mama was away. Now, it took its sweet ol’ time growing, although it didn’t have enough sun it did have good soil and got compost tea regularly, and of course little loving words.

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Chana Masala

Chana (Chole) Masala-www.thekitchenwitchblog.com©Rhonda Adkins Photograhpy 2013This past week was spent at the cabin; hunting season (rifle) has started here in Montana. I’m no huntress; I’d rather be Martha Stewart of the Mountains than go out and sit in the cold or tramp through the woods. But McGyver loves hunting, he loves to take his wife hunting, he loves to buy his wife rifles and customize them to fit her short arms, tailors them, places scopes on them, etc. In other words I’m an excuse to buy more gun stuff and it diminishes my excuses for not going. In many ways I’m a very lucky lady, my husband actually likes to do things with me, I’m his best bud. But I’m not a huntress.

That being said on a day that is warmish, just right for a light weight jacket, and it’s the afternoon and not the but crack of dawn I find myself feeling a little differently about hunting. When we take the ATV out and head up, ascending the mountain, I find myself converting into huntress mode. Dressed in camouflage with hunter orange accessories, grasping my customized AR 15 in my hand, my eyes start scanning, searching, and looking. A heightened awareness permeates my every fiber, did something move in that grove of trees, is that a stump, are those branches or antlers? My hyper senses catch every breath the wind takes, movements ever so slight seem large, sounds echo throughout my ears, listening, waiting, poised and ready to spring.

Eventually we reach “Skyfall” 6,500 feet above the world. You have to pause and take it all in. Although it is fall, there is very little to distinguish it from late summer. The grass has long been brown, dried from the aridness of the Rockies, seas of green firs and pines lie endlessly before you just like spring and summer. The only exceptions are a bush or a few aspen, the only visual indicators that the season has changed. This grand vista is one to behold. The rise and falls of the mountains are kissed with the amber setting sun; it’s the golden hour of the evening. Yet even as my eye soaks in the glories of nature, it never stops scanning and looking…the hunt is on.

I am not a huntress but I get this glimmer, an insight if you will, of the order of life. It’s this basal sense of being, this primal need to find food. To look to the land and nature to provide and sustain our lives, it seems unquestionable right.

I’m not a huntress but somehow, miraculously I was successful!

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Bhatura

Bhatura-www.thekitchenwitchblog.com©Rhonda Adkins Photograhy 2013-4059Many years ago I lived in England, it was while stationed there that I developed my love for Indian Cuisine. I love British food, especially pub fare, good and hearty! However when I wanted to go out for something special it was Indian. I would hazard to guess that next to India, England has the best Indian food in the world. The food has complex layers of flavor and spices, something your palate never grows tired of. As much as I love it I don’t make it often which probably keeps the love going. It’s always a special night when I cook Indian food.

While I was in photography school I friended a British gal of Indian Heritage, she was always teasing me about my food posts. “Why can’t you post more food without faces?” she would lament. Sometimes you don’t realize how much meat you post until someone points it out. When I got mySecret Recipe Club assignment for this month,Simply.food, I was beside myself! Simply.food is a vegetarian, world cuisine and Indian food blog. I poured through all of Nayna’s Indian recipes, so much so that I was almost paralyzed with indecision. Here was a blog that would make my friend Tara smile, and I wanted to do something fabulous.

A fan of Indian breads I finally settled on a bread that I’ve never tried before, an intriguing bread because it was done differently than other bhatura recipes that I have thought about doing. Bhatura is a soft bread that is deep fried. The dough is rolled out and fried until puffs up, the frying separates the layers turning it into this pillowy pita type bread but much more delicate. I followed Nayna’s recommendation and served the traditional Chole Masala (Chana Masala) with it.

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Giveaway, New Look & a Cocktail to celebrate

Spiced Applepie-tini©Rhonda Adkins Photograhy 2013-054What do you think? Isn’t it amazing! A bit of a shocker, the new look, but I love it. For months now I’ve been working with Melissa, web designer (Fine Lime Designs), food blogger (Eyes Bigger Than My Stomach) and food photographer extraordinaire to give the blog a whole new look. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my dark biker chick look but, like my kitchen, I needed to change the look and do a little redecorating. I also needed to marry my photography site to my blog and Melissa was the perfect person to do that. Having another food blogger and photographer work on your site is the best, she totally understood my needs. It really was all about highlighting the photographs (you know, the job I get paid for) and I wanted to be able to update and change some things myself which Melissa has got all set up for me.

To help me celebrate Melissa has generously offered to do a custom Social Media icon make over for one lucky person. Wow, yay! Melissa is the easiest person to work with and she’ll bend over backwards to make sure you get the perfect icon!

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