Thursday, January 28, 2010

Ladies and Gentlemen, the moment we've all been waiting for. Your 2010 Miss America is....

"SAVE ONE AND LEAVE THE REST TO DIE!" That's the title of one of my FAVORITE pageant 'platforms'. We have Contestant No.4 in the Miss Wallace State Pageant 1996 to thank for that gem. Would you believe that her platform was about encouraging animal adoption at local shelters? Well, it was. She was named 4th runner-up that evening. Ohhhhh, local pageants how I love thee! The talents, the swimsuits, and of course, the on-stage questions! Meghan and I (along with our other dear friend Lauren) grew up going to these local pageants. Our hometown hosted 2 Miss Alabama Preliminaries, not to mention the Miss Fair Queen catastrophe that took place every fall! We've gathered a lot of good material over the years. So, in honor of the upcoming Miss America pageant and the Brooklyn Belle's next event, here's one of many stories followed by a lovely display of talent by Stacy Hedger, Miss Douglas.

It's the evening of the Miss Wallace State/Miss Cullman Area pageant...early '90's so obviously, we're looking great. We've endured the opening number, which always involved the girls wearing multi-colored sequin tops, black trousers and a sensible heel, over-simplified choreography to 'Color My World with Sunshine and Ribbons' (or something to that effect) and mass-confusion when one girl forgets to introduce herself OR the mic isn't turned on OR one of the large ferns atop a lovely plastic column is knocked over by vigorous arm-ography. We've endured the swimsuit competition--always uncomfortable-- and have made it to **drumroll, please**the TALENT portion of the evening!! Of course, there are several vocalists, a few dancers, a gymnast (dressed as Cleopatra, needed to use tumbling mats, and made the bold choice of performing this cheeky routine to Pam Tillis' 'Cleopatra, Queen of Denile') and last but certainly not least, was the dramatic reading. The text was taken from Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. That's all we knew. The lights came-up, and there stood Contestant No.9, center stage, donning a long black dress over black jeans. What happened next is hard to say. It took about 30 seconds for us to realize that she wasn't performing a monologue or having a seizure, but performing a scene...between 2 characters...jane eyre and some man. luckily, when she shifted persona she violently threw herself on the ground. Her only lines as Jane were, 'Helen!!!! Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh, Helen!!!' Then she would stand up and yell at herself. I'm almost positive that this 'scene' was merely Contestant No. 9's interpretation of what she thought might have happened in Bronte's Jane Eyre. We sat there, Meghan, Lauren (my other childhood bestie), and I, first with our mouths wide-open in shock and then resorted to pinching ourselves, and each other, to keep from cracking-up. I can't tell you how it ended, other than abruptly and probably with a few muffled sobs. She stood, bowed, and left the stage. I kept my fingers-crossed that she would win the talent award. She had clearly worked so hard and had really gone out on a limb with her choice. On that note, I would like to leave you with another instant talent classic...Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome STACY HEDGER!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Oh my dumplin'...

Another week, another urge to entertain...but what to prepare? As we sat, gabbing over our french-press, the idea came as effortlessly as our conversation. We talked about the depressing freezing temperatures, the wind (curses!), our love of all food with 800+calories per serving, Meghan's delightful grandmother, Mimi, and, suddenly, it hit us...Chicken-and-Dumplins (Mimi's recipe, of course).

Now, if you're from the South then your grandmother made this for you on more than one occasion. If you're not, then you're probably asking 'What is this magical dish you speak of?' Well, let me tell you, my friends. Basically, it's a hearty chicken stew (can have veggies or be stripped-down in all it's chicken glory) with homemade dumplins (no 'g', please). These dumplins fall somewhere between pasta and biscuits, as far as texture and consistency are concerned. It's a bowl full of comfort and nostalgia...truly an 'old school' Southern dish.

Seeing as how this is not a very colorful dish, we opted to serve our Chicken-and-Dumplins with a side of sauteed string beans and shitake mushrooms (fresh from the market--no cans, ladies). And for dessert, homemade mixed-berry cobbler...with vanilla ice cream...of course. As you can see, this is shaping up to be an uber figure-friendly meal. You know you're in trouble when 2 out of 3 dishes prepared call for shortening and multiple sticks of butter.

Meghan came over to my place a few hours before the girls arrived to do as much food prep as possible. This usually backfires, as we spend the first hour gossiping over a glass of wine and snacking on whatever hors d'oeuvres we had planned on serving. Clearly, this is something we need to work on. Our distinguished guests began arriving about half-way through our cooking endeavors. The guest list: a native New Yorker and her Pomeranian, 'Hans', a California girl, and a Tennessee debutante. Perfect!

Here's the shake-down...

Sorry about the fogged-up lens. And yes, I am always this excited about boiling chicken.

the beginnings of a dumplin' (minus the buttermilk)

Meghan get's started on the dumplins, with a little help from our mentor and friend...
Aunt Jemima

Now, both the dumplins and the cobbler require the use of a pastry cutter to incorporate the butter and shortening into the flour. If you don't have a pastry cutter you can use two knives (cutting in opposition of each other). We did not have a pastry cutter. We used knives. This took FOREVER. and really hurt our forearms. I am going to William Sonoma and buying a pastry cutter. Even if I only use it once a year, it will be worth it.

'cutting' the dumplins...then you add your buttermilk, stir, roll the dough out, and start forming the dumplin's (any size/shape you like)

By this point, our chicken is done. Remove from pot. Salt and pepper the stock. Add some butter and toss those dumplin's in!

Those are going to boil for a few minutes on med/low heat. The stock will become starchy from the dumplins. We'll add the chicken back in and season with more salt and pepper. Did we mention how simple this is? It's simple.

And now (drumroll please) the finished product:

yum. it may not look like much but trust us, it's delicious! the string beans were there for color. and to make us feel better about our caloric intake.
Unfortunately, we're not posting the recipe (a family secret, you understand). BUT here's a link to a close second.

Now, time for cobbler-making
We'll start with the yummy crust. It's just 2 cups flour, 1 Tbsp. sugar, 1/4 tsp. salt, 4 Tbsp. butter, 1/4 cup shortening, and 1 Tbsp. baking powder. Incorporate that with a pastry cutter or two knives until it's grainy (for lack of a better word)

Once that's done, combine 1/2 cup milk with 1 egg. Mix together and then pour into flour mixture. Stir, stir, stir and viola. Our dough.

In a separate bowl, place your berries (this is up to you, I chose blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries-fresh or frozen) You'll need roughly 6-7cups.

Add 1/2 cup sugar. I like to add lemon zest and juice. I like the acidic zing it gives the otherwise sweet cobbler, but that's just me.

our berries are ready. our dough is ready. let's bake.
Pour the berries into a baking dish and cover with clumps of dough. Lightly flatten dough once the berries are covered. It should look delightfully rustic.
Bake at 425 degrees for half-an-hour or until bubbly and golden brown.

Do yourself a favor and put ice cream on this...please...while it's hot. thank you.

Another lovely evening for the Belles! Until next time...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rammer Jammer...

The Predicament: What are two Brooklyn Belles to do when 'The Tide' is playing in the 2010 National Championship game and there's not an R.V. in sight outfitted for appropriate tail-gating?

The Solution: Fry up a TON of wings, make a killer 7-layer dip, mix up some Jack-and-cokes, throw some 'Bud heavy' on ice, and school our cosmopolitan friends in the ways of Alabama football!

Done and Done! We knew we wanted to make our Brooklyn Football Fete as authentic as possible, which is why we decided on the menu above. Sorry, but football without wings is like Christmas without presents...not nearly as enjoyable and very disappointing. For supplies, we opted for the pocketbook-friendly FOOD BAZAAR. It's super affordable, massive, and their produce is great! Armed with all the necessities, we headed home and got to cookin'!

the cast of characters...minus the raw chicken

Mexican 7-layer Dip
You'll need the following:
2 cans refried beans
1 can chopped green chiles
1 can Black olives (chopped)
1 cup grated sharp cheddar
1 cup grated pepper jack, mont. jack, colby jack, whatever your heart desires
cilantro (chopped--just to sprinkle on top)
sour cream
Guacamole (we made ours. it's easy. it always tastes better. but if you want to buy it pre-made, we're not going to be mad at you. if you do make it, mash 3-4 ripe avacados with pico de gallo. see? easy.)
Pico de Gallo! (again, we made ours. so simple. so delicious. so fresh. chopped tomatoes (2 cartons of cherry tom.), 1 LARGE onion (or 2 med. chopped), plenty of chopped cilantro, chopped jalapeno (you be the judge based on how hot you like it. we used 3. obviously, we like it hot.), juice of 2 limes, 2 cloves garlic (minced), salt and pepper to taste.

Heat the beans over low heat, season with cumin and toss in the green chiles. Once heated throughout, layer the beans onto the serving dish of your choice. Onto layer Numero Dos, the sharp cheddar. Layer 3, Sour Cream. Layer 4, the 'guac'. yum. Layer 5, the Monterey Jack cheese. Layer 6, the chopped black olives, Layer 7, the Pico de Gallo! Sprinkle a little chopped cilantro over the top and dig in!

yum. the small plate is a vegan version. yes. we had to make a vegan option. we live in brooklyn. obviously no cheese or sour cream. and lard-free refried beans.

Buy as many wings as your little heart desires. Fry 'em up in Canola Oil unitl golden brown (20+ minutes or so) and toss 'em in the sauce. We fried up 36 wings. We meant business.
2 sticks of butter (melted)
1 LARGE bottle of Frank's Red Hot
Tabasco (as many shakes as you can handle)
and that's it. not even kidding.
Serve with celery, carrots, and our homemade blue cheese dressing!
1 Cup mayonnaise
1/2 Cup Sour Cream
1/3 bottle of Ranch Dressing
Blue Cheese (crumbled)
lemon juice

the pictures

please note: we did not intentionally stand like this...

Jack-and Cherry Cokes

mission accomplished

Good times with lovely people. Best part of the evening: Alabama wins.
Roll Tide Roll!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Hey Y'all!

Meet the Brooklyn Belles. We're two childhood best friends living in New York trying to maintain our Southern charm! We started this blog so that we can share our thoughts, projects, struggles, and a few laughs along the way. Thanks for coming and y'all come back now y'hear. Sincerely,
The Brooklyn Belles