Brie Toasts with Bacon Plum Jam

Photo of Brie Toasts with Bacon Plum Jam on a white platter

The Evolution of the Crawdad Lunch
In our family, we have a phenomenon known as the Crawdad Lunch. Crawdad Lunch does not, in fact, include any crawfish. Crawdad Lunch was born on the shores of Lake Tahoe when my nephews and my kids refused to come back to the beach to eat a sandwich because they couldn’t tear themselves away from fishing for crawdads off the pier.

An authentic Crawdad Lunch consists of salami, crackers (usually Ritz or Wheat Thins), and some sort of sliced cheese. On a good day, some fruit would have also been consumed. But, you know how that goes.

The Crawdad Lunch has evolved over the years. But, each and every kid still eats it to this day—parents too. The Ritz crackers will make the occasional appearance. But, lately, all the components have become more sophisticated. Though let’s be real, a lot of what goes into making the perfect crawdad lunch depends on what you have on hand.

Salami is still a staple. But, prosciutto, Coppa, or even a lovely little country pate will work. The sliced cheese has graduated from your basic Colby Jack to some tangy Irish Dubliner, a nutty Toma, or a creamy Brie. Bonus points if you get the snack-sized Brie. Fresh mozzarella is also a great choice. Fruit or veggies are no longer optional. I like the crunch of grapes or apples, but cold cucumber slices or carrots can bring the same satisfaction.

Lately, I have been adding some spreads to my crawdad lunch. Sometimes a little fig jam and other times a little pepper relish, or, my favorite, some pimiento cheese. Essentially, Crawdad Lunch is your own personal charcuterie board. And, I love me a good charcuterie board. Crawdad Lunch is just how I justify not sharing….

This recipe for Brie Toasts with Bacon Plum Jam is easily adapted for a Crawdad Lunch. You can slice some brie and put it on a slice of toasted baguette or a cracker. Or, for the truly unapologetic cheese lover, just dollop a little bit of the jam on the brie bites and shove it all in your mouth…heaven!

Brie Toasts with Bacon Plum Jam Recipe
Adapted from Taste of Home
Yields about 30 toasts Read more…

Ham with Red-Eye Gravy

Gravy boat with Red-Eye Gravy on a white background

Take The Red Eye
It’s September. And, I don’t know why this is, but the minute the Labor Day weekend ends, I find myself needing just a little bit more help to get going in the morning. There is no real compelling reason for this. My routine doesn’t change between August 31 and September 1. Yet, here I am reaching for the high-octane coffee.

When the kids were younger, I could blame it on the back-to-school adjustment. Now that they are either out of the house or driving themselves that excuse no longer holds water. Maybe it’s just muscle memory from those days? Either way, the reality is that I am drinking more coffee on the daily than I was pre-September. I’m drawing the line at Pumpkin Spice though…we’re not there yet.

Coffee has been on my mind, so I have been looking for ways to use it that don’t involve simply drinking it. I am thinking outside the mug as it were.

There are plenty of BBQ rubs that include coffee—and thousands of baked goods. But, you may not have heard of some unexpected uses for that extra coffee. The most notable is Red-Eye Gravy. And, though it’s very possible you have heard of it I’m pretty confident you haven’t tried it. It’s pretty old school…

Red-Eye gravy requires rendering the fat from a ham steak and combining it with coffee and spices to make a gravy. (Sounds weird but tastes good.) The hardest thing for me is having a ham steak on hand. Though I love me some Sunday morning ham and eggs.

Ham with Red-Eye Gravy Recipe
Adapted from All Recipes
Yields 4 servings

Red-Eye Gravy is nothing more than fried county ham drippings and strong black coffee—aka the perfect breakfast. The bitterness of the coffee marries well with the sweet, smoky fat of the ham. The point of Red-Eye Gravy is to enjoy every last bit of the salty, sticky, meaty glaze left in our skillets after frying slices of Southern country ham. Read more…

Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies

Photo of Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies with a cup of tea

What’s The Tea?
I lived in the Pacific Northwest during the early 90s when the Starbucks mania was just getting rolling. And, I embraced it with abandon. To say I like my coffee would be an understatement. It is a daily routine that I find non-negotiable to start my day on a good note. The days when it doesn’t happen are rough…for everyone. My favorite part of camping, when we go camping, is the ritual of making campsite coffee. And, frankly, coffee never tastes as good as it does at the campsite.

However, if my back was to the wall and I had to make a life-or-death choice between coffee or tea, I would pick tea. Every time.

I love my coffee, yes. But I can’t drink a lot of it. I have one coffee a day. Two at the max. Why? Because the way I take my coffee is not conducive to good health. I like my coffee with quite a bit of cream. 2% doesn’t cut it. And while I like my coffee sweet, I do not like it super sweet. And, I do like it with a bit of vanilla flavor. In other words, my coffee is high-maintenance.

My tea is a different story…

I will drink my coffee in the morning. And, for the rest of the day, If I am not drinking water, I am drinking tea. I like it hot. I like it iced. I like it black, and I like it green. I like it freshly steeped or right out of the bottle.

What don’t I like? Sugar. I do not like sweet tea which is fortunate because it makes it easy to grab a mug of hot water, toss in my favorite bag of tea, and get on with my afternoon. Full disclosure, most of the time I am drinking a decaf version of tea or something herbal. Given the amount of tea I drink, if I always drank high-octane tea, I would be a jittery maniac.

Earl Grey is my tea of choice either way. I blame my grandmother. She always had a cup of Earl Grey with a slice of lemon at night. No sugar. I guess that is where I got hooked. Although, I do leave out the lemon. I’d rather have a cookie or two than the lemon. But, that’s just me. But, if you can combine all three into a convenient package like these, so much the better!

Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies Recipe
Adapted from Sugar and Soul
Yields 36 cookies

Crisp and buttery, these Earl Grey Shortbread Cookies have just five ingredients plus an easy lemon glaze. They are great for parties, tea time, and they make a delicious snack. And, The longer these cookies sit, the more intense the flavor will become. Read more…

Peach Crumble Bars

Just Peachy
I have a problem. A peachy problem—my peach cup runneth over. And, now I have to figure out ways to use or preserve the peaches, so they don’t go to waste.

The obvious solutions of eating them as a snack, slicing them up for the freezer, as well as handing them out to friends have already happened. I have made a cobbler or three. And, this weekend I will be canning some of the peaches in light syrup. I might also be making ice cream. But there are still some left…and more on the tree.

What to do with the leftovers? Sure, I could make a pie. But, the thought kind of makes me tired. I’m thinking this situation screams for a bar cookie—Peach Crumble Bars. I figure if it can be done with apple pie and pecan pie, why not peaches?

Peach Crumble Bars Recipe
Adapted from Pastry & Beyond
Yields 16 bars Read more…