Grandma Helen's Enchiladas

I’m not quite sure what has happened to enchilada sauce in the market place, or maybe a better question is, I’m not quite sure what has happened to the taste buds at the Diner.

I used to be able to make enchiladas with a mild canned enchilada sauce, but lately that hasn’t worked out and HH can’t take more than two or three bites and he’s done – too spicy. I don’t think it’s just him because even though I think they taste good, I have to admit they are a bit spicier than I might choose – if I’m breaking a sweat while eating them they are too spicy.

Anyway, I was talking to Anna about this a few weeks back and she said, “What about your Grandma’s enchiladas?” I had forgotten about them. I have to confess I don’t really remember Grandma Helen making them, but I remember Anna making them. Anna said that Grandma Helen’s enchiladas were one of five “recipes” or meals she had to take lessons from my grandmother in order to cook them properly for my dad – homemade tacos also one of the five.

Knowing that I had Grandma Helen’s recipe box, I started thumbing through her recipes when I got back to the Diner and viola! The enchilada recipe card! This card is just like I like them - pre-seasoned, written in pencil in my grandmother’s handwriting with notes in pen, and the big batch recipe if needed.

Well, last night was Grandma Helen’s enchilada night at the Diner. I constructed them as best I could from a somewhat ledge able recipe card (probably older than I am!) that leaves a lot of room for error. They were not as familiar as I was constructing them, but worth a try since they were Daddy’s favorite. I simply told HH that I was trying a new recipe, he said, “Oh boy! I get to be the guinea pig again.” When the timer went off and I opened the oven, the memories came flooding back! The smell of these enchiladas was as familiar as though Anna (or my grandma) had cooked them just yesterday, and it’s probably been 15 - 20 years or more since I have smelled these enchiladas.

HH and I sat down to test them. HH loved them! They were the best enchiladas ever! Now remember, I’ve cooked Paul Deen’s enchiladas, a version of my own enchiladas, and those fabulous mole enchiladas – but these, according to HH, are the best. I told him they were my dad’s favorite; he looked at me and said, “Your dad and I would have gotten along really well.” Yes, they would have.

Grandma Helen’s Enchiladas
(Slightly modified for today’s cooking and Holly’s Diner)

1 package of 10 corn tortillas
1 lb ground beef, seasoned to taste (Worcestershire sauce, steak seasoning, ancho chili powder)
2 cans Hormel Chili no beans
1 cup water
½ an onion, diced
A grated box full of cheddar cheese

In a pan combine Hormel chili and water, heat. In a separate pan brown and season ground beef.

Form an assembly line of tortillas, chili, ground beef, onions, cheese, and rectangular baking pan.

Dip one tortilla in chili, turn over so both sides are wet then place in baking pan. Scoop in some ground beef, sprinkle of diced onions and pinch of cheddar cheese and fold over tortilla with fold side down in pan. Repeat for all tortillas.

Pour remaining chili sauce over enchiladas, top with remaining onions and cheese. Put in oven for 35 minutes at 350º. Serve hot.



A Homemade Life

I just had to share…
I ran across this book while in Alabama at the Alabama Booksmith – better late to the party than not at all.

I found this book in the soft back edition, since it originally came out in 2009, and I recognized the author Molly Wizenberg who also writes orangette.blogspot.com.

I originally ran across Molly’s Orangette blog when I was trying to figure out how/what Holly’s Diner was going to be in its pre-Holly’s Diner phase. I thought Orangette was clean, elegant, warm, welcoming and probably above my ability – but I loved it. If you look at Orangette, you will see that Holly’s Diner looks nothing like it but the idea of stories and memories and food and having something to say are very similar.

As I started reading A Homemade Life I found that I connected with Molly in the introduction when she said “I wanted a space to write about food.” I was hooked. I also started to do two things that I NEVER do with a book – underline in pen and turn back the corners. I must have 15 pages turned back and have sentences and paragraphs underlined all over the place.

As I continued Molly’s journey of stories and recipes that made a different in her life, I found myself laughing out loud, seeing a better way to talk about recipes that are not mine but important and properly acknowledge the creator, and reaffirming that my voice at Holly’s Diner as I “talk” to SS is definitely the way to go.

Then I got to the middle of the book, and over a few chapters I found myself putting the book down so I could recompose myself (on an airplane) as the stories of her Dad struck such a cord and brought back so many memories that I was crying enough that I couldn’t see the words on the page!

I really need to write a letter to Molly and thank her. I should let her know how her blog and book impacted me. In the meantime, I encourage you to pick it up, read a little and hopefully enjoy. You may not connect with A Homemade Life like I did, but it’s worth a few heart-felt stories and delicious recipes.

Oh! And SS and I are using A Homemade Life for our current book club; I wonder what recipe we will pick to share on Skype?


Thanksgiving Recap

Ahh, the big day is over and the pressure is off – both in the kitchen and on our tummies.

We cooked, we eat, we cleaned, we slept. And the leftovers began this morning.

The meal was delicious, although not perfect which leaves room for a do-over next year.

The table consisted of a wonderful smoked turkey, compliments of HH. This meant a special “bird bath” the night before with molasses, orange slices, onions, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves. The turkey was delicious and moist and smoky.

Then there were the homemade popover rolls and special Tarte Tatin (French apple tart). The popover rolls were better with a different recipe then the first attempt a few weeks ago, but the Tarte Tatin caramel was over cooked. Oh well, that’s why I bought a chocolate cake for HH earlier in the week.


There was sweet potato casserole, stuffing (I went astray from my usual recipe and need to get back on track for next year), mashed potatoes, gravy, deviled eggs, Anna’s cranberry Waldorf salad and for the “green” dish a wonderful fall salad with baby Bibb lettuce, arugula, pomegranate seeds and mandarin orange slices.

The big faux pas of the day was mine. I was so focused on getting the popover rolls and Tarte Tatin in the oven and not opening it so the popover rolls didn’t fall, that I forgot about heating the sweet potatoes and stuffing! So once the popover rolls and Tarte Tatin came out of the oven, they had to sit for about 20 minutes in order to warm the others – that meant the popover rolls fell and got cold – not their best presentation, but still better than the first attempt.

Oh well, as I said, there is room for a do-over next year. And don’t worry, HH didn’t go hungry, he managed to fill his plate with all kinds of tasty treats!


Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Details tomorrow, now for some rest.


One Day to Turkey

There’s one day left, and not as much cooking as I thought today but still stuff to do. There was one last trip to the market (even though I said I was done) – not as many craisins on hand as I thought, so I needed more; some sliced up “gourmet” bread strips (since there is not quite enough left over corn bread for stuffing); and a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting for HH – very un-Thanksgiving if you ask me, but he is not a big fan of apple pie so I want him to be happy.

Ironed the linens and set the table, made the Thanksgiving arrangement (which is more than I do some years), laid everything out for the brining of the turkey tonight, making the sweet potato dish, assembling everything for the stuffing, and maybe I’ll attack the deviled eggs. See, not much at all!

Ahh, but it’s all worth it for the biggest and best eating day of the year – and the cooking is still my favorite part!


The Countdown to Turkey

It’s time to start Thanksgiving Cooking Week. The cornbread is baked, sitting on the counter to dry out for stuffing. The eggs are hard boiled, and cooling, getting ready for peeling and separating to become deviled eggs. The yams are cooking for the “sweet potato” whip. Checked on the star of the show to make sure it was thawing in time to be brined.

Things are looking good!


Are You Ready for Some Turkey?

Well? Are you?

It’s that time of year, my favorite cooking holiday of the year! The planning began about two weeks ago with the start of “the list.” Last week I confirmed recipes and did most of the shopping, then came a few adjustments, and yesterday (hopefully) the last of the shopping.

I’ve been quite inspired this year and a few of the things I get pre-prepared, I’m going to make myself (I’m sure HH is very excited about that!) For rolls, instead of Hawaiian sweet rolls I’m making a revised Popover roll. Instead of Mrs. Smith’s Deep Dish Apple Pie, I’m going to make Julia’s Tarte Tatin, inspired by A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg (more on that in a few days).

How is your planning going? How’s your list coming along? Remember, a check mark to the right indicates the ingredients have been purchased. Check marks on the left happen when the item is prepared and ready to go, finally a strike-through of the item when it is on the table, served and ready to go.

I talked to SS the other day, she wondered if “the list” had begun – I did not disappoint!


Detour - Sacramento

HH and I spent a few days in Sacramento recently.

On the “our time” agenda was the Thursday night Chargers game and a Charger-friendly place to watch the game. We found it at Players. But that’s enough said about that game. Oh, the turkey bacon cheese burger was really good.

Then there was the Farmers Market on a rainy morning. What beautiful produce!

And look, SS, they had cranberry bean!

Too bad this stuff was not suitcase friendly, I really thought about stocking up for the Diner.



Man Food

After a week of trying to get HH healthy, it was a week of homemade soup - Ancho Chili Corn Chowder with fresh/frozen corn from the summer, Albondigas, Potato & Leek soup with ham and cheddar cheese.

(The Corn Chowder and Potato & Leek Soup are camera shy, plus they taste much better than they photograph!)

To help him feel a little better, it was Grandma Baker’s Mayonnaise Cake on Saturday - here's the mini version.

And finally it had to be Man Food on football Sunday. Good thing it was comfort food, too, after a Charger loss.

Thankfully the Diner is back up and running!

PS - HH is feeling better, too!


Last Stop, Downtown Homewood

My last day in Alabama, I spent the morning in downtown Homewood. I walked downtown (after dropping off Miss Audrey’s lunch at school, which she forgot since she was distracted by an episode of Toddlers and Tiaras.) It was a beautiful, brisk fall morning, the last day of October. The fall colors were the best they have been of all my visits, the leaves were falling; being bundled up in my field coat and scarf was just right.

I passed the Piggly Wiggly, went past the mortuary and turned right at the top of the hill that led to the village of Homewood. I window shopped, browsed through the stores, reminded myself not to fritter any money and thought about what would actually fit in my suitcase for the flight home.

In the end it was Savage’s Bakery that was calling my name – no harm in Halloween cookies, they would be gone before my flight the next AM. 

And then down to Sam’s Sandwich Shop.

John and I were supposed to meet at Sam’s, but I got done with my window shopping before the appointed time. So I called John to see what he wanted from Sam’s – a Slaw Dog, no onions with chips and a Coke. After much deliberation (I thought the chicken salad sandwich looked good until I noticed the pickles and that was out; the Super Dog looked interesting but upon inquiring, it was just a hot dog with extra meat on top, not my style) I settled on a Chili Dog, “with everything?” I was asked. What is everything? Chili, onions, mustard - I opted for their tradition and a sweet tea (of course!)

John picked me up at the back door of Sam’s, told me about the latest breaking news on the sports radio station – the Kardashian/Humphries divorce – and we went back to the house to enjoy dogs from a Homewood institution (not to mention hole-in-the-wall).

The chili dog was delicious. The sweet tea was fabulous. And spending time chatting with a southern “boy” from Auburn was a fitting way to conclude this year’s Southern culinary tour.

I’m already looking forward to next year.


Holly's Diner at Shannon Sue's

While visiting SS’ I wanted to contribute so I brought some recipes along, got some help and everyone loved the menu. By the way, for those of you wondering what Alabama looks like, this is what it looks like to me – green, cozy, warm, welcoming, such a beautiful place.

I started off with gingerbread loaves (more on those during the Twelve Days of… next month). This is Miss Audrey Rose admiring the baking.

Then we had decided on a recipe for pasta and lentil soup. As we were buying ingredients, SS paused and said “is there meat in this?” No, that’s what the lentils are for. She said that wouldn’t fly with John and we needed some meat, so we added ground turkey. By the way, all this cooking was done in SS’ fabulous new oven – look at all those burners! Especially the elongated middle one which was perfect for the grill pan and the grilled cheese sandwiches for the Halloween party.

Madge made an appearance at that party, by the way, to help Miss Audrey Rose with her “Toddlers and Tiaras” make-up and hair.

Back to the soup, which turned out to be stoup (stew/soup)…we served the delicious fall dinner on SS’ Daisy and Dot dishes, these were our grandmother’s. I remember when we were younger I thought those dishes were just boring, brown dishes. Now I think they are folksy and homey and perfect for fall. How times change, and oh how that soup was delicious!

By the way, one of the things that is an added bonus during my Alabama fall visit, we celebrate my birthday since it is just a few weeks away! This year it was all about the South. There was the apron from the Piggly Wiggly, a wonderful necklace that has a cut-out from one of the pages of To Kill a Mockingbird and references Boo Radley (just perfect for Halloween), and a new magazine SS discovered – Garden and Gun with a cover story of “50 Best Southern Foods”. So cool!


Alabama Booksmith

One of my favorite stops while visiting Birmingham is the Alabama Booksmith, and this year was no exception.

Fortunately, I found a few food related books like the Southern Living Off the Eaten Path. I had been looking at this one online and found it at the Alabama Booksmith signed by the author. Having first edition books signed by the author and having a whole room dedicated to authors with southern voices is the niche that Alabama Booksmith has found – and it works!

After a visit one day, SS and I went back a few days later for a special author remembrance and signing by some friends of hers. During that visit, I found A Homemade Life by the author of the Orangette blog page – one of the first one’s I discovered when starting Holly’s Diner.

If you are ever in Birmingham, you must stop by the Alabama Booksmith and say “hi” to Jake, I always do. In the meantime, just stop by their website (alabamabooksmith.com) and discover something you may not be able to live without!


Southern Treats

It must be fall, and better yet Halloween, with a trek to Birmingham. When I tell diners I’m headed to Alabama for the weekend they look questioningly at me and say “Really? One purpose?” Yes, really and most definitely on purpose. Birmingham is were SS and John are, where Miss Audrey Rose is, where Bodie is and my whole Southern extended family – thanks to SS.

My first night in town and I was given the option, a new restaurant SS had heard good things about or Saw’s BBQ. I’m always looking for something new, so Ollie Irene’s it was. Ollie Irene is a cute little place in Mountain Brook Village, sandwiched between Smith’s Variety (a wonderful gifts and notions store) and Western Grocery (a gourmet influenced market).

Ollie Irene had a great down-to-earth décor with a welcoming feeling, although I wasn’t sure my jeans, tennies and sweatshirt were going to cut it on attire. This is the South and gentlemen still wear a coat out to dinner occasionally. Anyway, I ordered shrimp bisque and make your own crostini; SS had gnocchi and mixed southern peas; John had slow cooked pork and mashed potatoes; Miss Audrey was a bit deflated when she learned there was no kids meal so she settled for “fries” (pick you battles, SS always says!)


After a bit of a delay, we decided John’s slow cooked pork must have been slow cookin’ indeed, dinner was served. At first glance we thought we might leave hungry, but quickly learned the portions were just right it was just that our expectations of the portions were a bit more based on the price.

Well, two nights later, with the travesty of the Auburn home game against Ole Miss NOT televised (OMG!), I suggested Saw’s BBQ (one of John’s favorites) since he had to listen to the game on the radio. SS had introduced me to Saw’s last year and I was a bit taken aback by the vinegary sauces. This time I ordered the pulled pork sandwich and cole slaw with a sweet tea. The sandwich was great; it really didn’t need sauce with such tender and flavorful meat. The cole slaw was still too vinegary for me (SS says it’s because of my bad pickle experience as a kid – she was there, she would know!) and the sweet tea was great.


So the Southern indulgences were off to a great start, with more to come.