Sunday, June 29, 2014

Dixie's Fried Green Tomatoes

Happy Sunday y'all! 

Thomas stayed out at the plantation with us this weekend and today we decided to get up and fry us some fried green tomatoes for lunch.  Lord they are good. I think that's one of the best parts of summer and having a garden.  A bunch of people have asked me over the last couple of weeks how I make them. So I figured writing a blog about it would probably be the best way to tell y'all.  First off, you should know this.  These are a southern specialty. God himself only knows calorie counts and things like that. So don't even ask. Just make em and enjoy em!

I think a lot can be said about southern cooking-  nowadays, people are scared of this, count the calories in that, stay away from the carbs here and substitute for this in that.  Seems like a long way around to me. I think our grandparents had the right ideas- remember them? Those people who used REAL milk and real butter, who grew gardens and ate out of them every day?  They seemed to live long happy lives (not always, but...).  Today, it seems like everyone is sickly and full of cancer and other things before they are 50 years old.  Makes you wonder-  maybe we should go back to doing things the "not so easy" way like our grandparents did.  Now that being said, sit back, get out the Crisco and enjoy these tomatoes!  

Now you're free to change and substitute as you wish on this recipe, but don't be all mad and crying to me when it doesn't come out right or tastes like cardboard.  Trust me on this.  For once, go with the "unhealthy" ingredients. You'll thank me later 

First thing you're going to need is a big can of butter flavored Crisco. For those of you over 35, you might remember Loretta Lynn cooking up her fried chicken in so many Crisco commercials in the early 80's. She had a point...   Go get you some Crisco.  We use the solid form. Kind of like a big can of butter flavored lard.  

Second thing you'll need is a big green tomato.  This is just what it sounds like- a tomato that's not ripe yet.  We get ours fresh out of the garden, but if you don't have one of those, I'm sure most grocery stores, farmers markets or even walmart will carry green tomatoes. 

Next, make sure you have a big bag of Martha White self rising flour.  Not sure of the difference between that and the others, that's just what we keep on hand for our baking.  ....and boy does that make a mean biscuit!  

Seasonings.  Again I go back to my grandparents. A lot can be said for keeping it simple. We just use black pepper and sea salt.  Regular salt and pepper work too, but to me, doesn't give that subtle kick like cracked pepper and sea salt.  

Then there's my secret ingredient.  You're gonna laugh...  And that's ok.  Laugh away. Then try it.  You'll be shocked. Ready!?   Get a big bottle of international delight southern butter pecan flavored coffee creamer (the liquid one). Yep-  the same stuff you get for your coffee. This is what I use to soak the tomatoes in.  It replaces the milk and gives the tomatoes a subtle southern flavor that leaves you wanting more. Before you write this part off as just too odd, think about it. Coffee creamer is just a step away from milk anyway.  Trust me on this.  

You're just about ready to start cooking.  Now it's time to prep. 

First thing you need to do is get out a skillet and put a BIG OLE scoop or two of the Crisco in it.  Turn it on medium to medium high heat and let the solid liquify. This should be heating up while you're prepping the tomatoes.  You'll want the liquid to be about an inch to an inch and a half deep in the skillet so the tomatoes can float in the grease. 

Now you want to cut up the tomato. I slice mine pretty thin, but you can do them as thick or as thin as you'd like. The thinner they are, the more tender (and they will cook faster). Once you have the tomatoes all sliced up, put them into a bowl and drown them in the southern butter pecan creamer.  You want to make sure they are all covered.  If you want to do this in stages so you don't use as much creamer, ok. I do that too.  If you want to be quicker, do them all at once. Set the bowl of tomatoes to the side and let them soak for a few minutes.  While they are soaking, we can get the flour mix ready.  The easiest way to do this is to pour the flour out into a big plate or a bowl. Salt and pepper to taste.  Remember that salt goes a long way and pepper can usually go further than what you've put in there. Add more pepper ;). These are the dry ingredients.  Mix up the flour, salt and pepper with your hands and get it ready to dredge the tomatoes in. 

Let's check your grease. It should be hot enough at this point. You don't want it very hot because the flour will burn before the tomatoes get done and nobody wants that.  Slow and steady wins the race.  

Ok. Let's dredge the tomatoes.  You want to take one tomato slice at a time from the creamer and completely cover it with the flour.  Pat it firmly so that the flour completely covers the tomato everywhere.  Flip it over and pat the other side just as firmly. Once it's completely covered in flour, set it on a clean plate off to the side so that it can dry.  Continue on to the next tomato.  (Extra step) once you get all of the tomatoes completely covered in flour, and sitting on a plate to dry, you CAN start this process over (creamer/flour/pat) for a thicker, second coat of breading. 
This is an important part.  You want the tomatoes to sit to the side to dry good for 10 minutes or so. This helps the breading to stick to them better once they go into the grease. Lay them out separately on a plate and give them time to set up.  Once you've done this, you're ready to cook them. Gently float them in the skillet with the grease. Remember to keep the heat on medium.  I only flip mine once. If the temp is just right, you can let it float for a couple of minutes, notice the edges turning a light golden brown and flip them over to cook the other side. Once you flip them, let them cook for a couple of minutes on that side as well.  Cook them till they look almost done.  Once you pull them out of the grease, they will darken just a little bit more. I lay mine on a plate with a clean paper towel to absorb some of the grease and then lightly go over the top of them with a dash of salt and pepper again.  

Now in the south, most people dip them
In 1,000 island dressing-  if you don't have that, it's pretty easy to make. It's mayo, ketchup and sweet pickle relish (or a minced up pickle of your choice with just a touch of the juice mixed in). You want to balance the mayo and ketchup to make it a light peach color.  

We use cucumber ranch salad dressing to dip ours in.  The cucumber ranch plays nicely with the breading on the tomatoes and makes you want to lick the plate once you're done.  

And there you have it.  My fried green tomatoes recipe.  Dixie approved!  She loves to not only sit beside me while cooking them, but get her own to eat once they are ready!  Try these. You won't be disappointed.  I don't even like tomatoes, and could eat my weight in these.  

If you make them, send me pictures of them!  I promise it won't be the last time you make them. 

Bye, y'all!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Pug life.

Two years in to this rescue stuff and I figured it was time to start writing all of this down. I've had my personal blog for a few years now, and even though I don't post that much on it, I figured I owed it to people not to let rescue take that over as well. So far, all of my other social media outlets have been taken over by this lifestyle choice that seems to have surfaced in my life. Twitter has all but been abandoned. Instagram and Facebook are now full of pictures and stories of pugs, those needing a savior, those who have been saved and the random funny meme that may or may not be animal related. This will focus on the day to day. My thoughts, my experiences and for lack if a better phrase, my soapbox for shouting at the moon. Jay's Memoirs, if you will.  I should have been doing this from the beginning;  yeah, it happens. So I figure now is just as good of a time as any. Two years in.  Then I can just bounce back to things and stories of the past, and work them in to this story, my story, as I see fit.
Lise, a very good friend of mine and blogger, once told me that for her, she's done better with short and to the point blogs. It works for her. Sadly for you, I don't think I could ever be short and to the point on anything.  It's amazing that I survived on twitter as long as I did with that pesky 140 character limit they have. I mean really...  Who can make their point in 140 characters?!  Surely not me-  I'm long winded.  Always have been.  I should probably scrap the blogging idea now and go straight for a memoir in more of a book format. Who knows, maybe someday.

I'm 36 years old.  Shocking, I know.  I feel closer to 80 and act closer to 18 with the mentality and humor of a 12 year old.  I feel like my life this far has been pretty amazing; changing every single day. The person I am is not the person I was, or who I thought I'd be 10 years ago.  Grew up in a small town, moved off to Memphis not long after graduation, moved back home, moved back to Memphis and on to Destin Florida.    I've been a radio disc jockey, a banker, ran restaurants and was a personal assistant to an actress for years-  None of that prepared me for rescue.  It wasn't planned, thought about, or even looked in to.  It just happened.  And boy did it happen!  It hits you like a ton of bricks and changes every aspect of your life. Some for good, some not so good but all of it leaving you with a sense of a higher good; like your life has meaning finally. Through the good and the bad, the ups and downs I can say, I wouldn't change it for the world.  I've made friends, lost friends, made enemies and ticked off my fair share of people. I've laughed and cried and I've held on to long for the lives that the world has tossed away-  and everything I do now is for them.  Pugs, pigs, horses and any other creature that the world has forgotten about or realized that life was more important without them.  I am not superman:  and yet the world loves to put me on a level to make it seem like I am.  I'm no different than anyone else. I'm just full of compassion. That's the only way I can describe this. I've heard it all-  why pugs?  Why not starving children or the elderly, Alzheimer's or cancer?  Why pugs?  Well, I think there's a pretty logical answer there. Ever heard that saying, we can't save them all?  Or, it takes a village?  These apply here.  If I truly sat down and searched my heart, I'd find amazing compassion for each one of these causes. And knowing me, I'd try my damnedest to save them all. Truth is, it DOES take a village. We can't do it alone and we can't save them all, even though we want to. I hope that others out there share in my battles. I hope that there's people out there fighting for the elderly, feeding a starving child and comforting an abused wife. Those are our teammates. All standing together trying to do a small part to make this world a better place. Trying to make a difference. Trying to lead by example and all in all, be less of an asshole. This is my platform.  I am a rescuer.  I try to take these babies and breathe new life into them.  To show them love and compassion, get them the medical care they need, provide them a home, food, a warm bed and teach them that it's gonna be ok. I see it all. The best and worst of humanity; and I don't do it alone. Actually, I couldn't do a third of what I do if Jeremy wasn't right beside me. His heart is pure gold. He loves these animals just like they were family- and he doesn't have to.  Like me, Jeremy was raised differently. We are from the south-  where a dog lives out back, maybe in a kennel, you feed it once a day and make sure they have fresh water.  Kinda sounds like prison, doesn't it?  My mom is an animal lover and I know that's where I got this. Her compassion for everything is unmatched. In fact, I'm pretty sure  that my mom is the only person in my family who doesn't think I've completely lost my mind in becoming a rescuer.  She loves it.  And I love her!
Jeremy has quit working a 9-5 job to stay home full time with the animals.  From the time he gets up till the time he goes to sleep, it's feeding dogs, feeding horses, changing out  fresh water, cleaning up poop, reprinting a baseboard that Charlie has chewed up... Again...   Taking them outside, bringing them inside, running this one to the vet for a runny nose, this one for a runny butt, and still finding the time to get down in the floor with them and throw a ball across the room or just holding one that's wondering why his family tossed him away.  They all wonder that. Hell, we wonder that.  Not all of them come from bad situations. We see it all. The families who are forced to surrender-  trust me, watching an elderly woman say goodbye to her best friend of 13 years, kicking and screaming as she's being put into a home is NOT my idea of a good time. You'd be surprised how often we see other rescuers casting judgement just because it's easier-  whatever. We aren't here to judge. Only to help.  Only to pick up the pieces we can and look ahead to tomorrow.  To comfort when we can, and go the extra mile to see the whole picture and be as supportive as we can be, or, in a bad situation, get the animal as far away as quickly as possible for the sake of the animal.

Our lives are much different today than they were yesterday.  I think they are better.

I'll be writing this straight from the heart. Just how I feel and how I speak.  I'll use bad language on occasion.  It's not to offend, or to upset, it's just who I am.  I don't use it regularly.  If you're a grammar nazi, let me apologize now.  There will be plenty of opportunities for you to correct me. I write just as I speak. With passion and broken sentences.  It's just who I am.  I'm glad you've found it interesting enough this far-  there's plenty more to come.  My thoughts and my life. This life, this PUG life.  Pug rescue life.  Add in the Jay twist and you have it-  50 shades of spayed.