Pork – I’m not so open-minded after all

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Today I was going to write a post about pork and buttermilk. Mostly this was for my own benefit. I had two questions – is it safe to eat medium-rare pork? What is “cultured” buttermilk? (Or “uncultured” buttermilk for that matter.)

And, in case it wasn’t clear to any of you before – I’m a “Mom” cook. My specialties are things like “stuff you can make with canned tuna.” Don’t ever think I know anything. There. You’ve been warned.

A few years ago, restaurants started asking us how we wanted our pork cooked. Pork. The first time it happened, Bones and I just stared at the poor waiter until he started to sweat.

“We recommend medium rare,” he finally offered.

Greatly daring, we went medium. In my head, I was screaming. WELL DONE.

After he left, we stared at each other across the table. Medium-rare pork? Recommended? Now I knew how those people who order well-done prime rib felt (tastes just like roast beef!).

We had just committed the dining faux pas of ordering over-done pork.

Now, you have to know, Bones and I consider ourselves adventurous eaters. I’m down for head-cheese, boudin noir (which is illegal to sell, btw), frog legs, and snake. I’m pretty sure I could eat roasted crickets (so far, no one has offered me any). I’m not shy about trying International dishes I know nothing about (What’s good? How do I eat it?) I’m not skittish about not-so-cooked-meat either. If my beef doesn’t make it all the way to medium-rare, well, as long as it doesn’t moo, I’m happy. Fish? Okay, I’ll eat fish almost any way you offer it, but I’ll eat sashimi until you stop bringing it to me. I’m not even a huge stickler for FDA warnings (the expiration date post is here).

I’m happy to take server recommendations.

Except medium-rare pork. My self-image crashed and burned. It must be safe or restaurants wouldn’t be serving it that way. So why couldn’t I order it cooked as suggested?

Because when I was growing up, you did not eat under-cooked (by which I mean anything but well-done) pork. Period. Despite the fact that I have abandoned quite a few of the beliefs that I held growing up, I can’t shake this one.

I’m stunned to realize that it was easier for me to change my religion than deeply held food safety guidelines.

I’m obviously not as open-minded and free-thinking as I thought I was.


On the up-side, we managed “medium.” Baby steps.

Oh, and in case you think I took some college kid’s word that the pork was safe…yes, of course I looked it up.

Here’s Bon Appétit calling my feelings on the issue seriously outdated as far back as 2009. I’m only slightly mollified that their expert recommends medium rather than medium-rare.

Here’s the Chicago Tribune reporting the change in the FDA guidelines back in 2011 and here are the actual, current FDA guidelines for internal temps.

This post debunking 9 Cooking myths was fun – although they lost cred over the pasta thing. If you have left-over pasta you aren’t storing in sauce, the olive oil DOES keep it from sticking (I put leftovers in the fridge like this all the time, then heat and eat with a little fresh pepper and Parmesan). No oil and it’s a clumpy mess when you take it out.

And here are some statistics about trichinosis showing that only about 11 cases per year are reported in the US. Logic and statistics. This really should make me feel better. But somehow it is now an unreasonable phobia – like my fear that I’ll drive into a puddle some day and fall through to China.

So – my lesson for today: Question what you know. Seriously, keep questioning.

We’ll get to that buttermilk thing some other time. Today I’m still grappling with my stunning inability to accept modern thinking. Next I’ll deny climate change and insist that creationism be taught in school.

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Left-Over Chicken and Dumplings Recipe for Two

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I avoid turning the oven on in the summer, but we get just the tiniest bit of fall weather, and immediately I roast a chicken. Now, I have a little bit of chicken left—Not enough for another meal but more than enough to make me feel guilty if it goes to waste. So, how can I stretch it out into another meal Bones will be happy with?

I’m from the South, and it is fall. I’m thinking chicken and dumplings will hit the spot!

I start by making a stock from my leftover chicken.

 Making Chicken StockStick the whole chicken carcass in a stock pot.

This was a relatively small chicken, and we’ve eaten most of it, so I go light on the other flavors for my stock. I add:



½ an onion.
2-3 carrots.
2-3 ribs of celery.
Several sprigs of thyme
Sprig of rosemary
1 bay leaf
Some sage leaves
Salt and pepper

Don’t worry about chopping everything up too much. This is just for flavor.

I’m using up leftovers and just feeding Bones and myself.  If you’re feeding a family, or starting with a whole chicken, you’ll need to double or triple the above.

Add enough water to cover everything and heat on high until the water just starts to boil. Immediately turn it down to where the stock is just simmering. A rolling boil is not your friend for stock.

If I were a real cook, I would baby that thing along by skimming it every half hour or so. Since I’m inherently lazy, I leave it on the stove, go back to my office and pretend to work.  Every now and then I go turn the chicken over with a pair of tongs. When the chicken falls apart instead of turning, I know it’s done. In addition to making a tasty stock, the chicken has now deboned itself. See? Lazy.

Remove from heat. Pour the stock through a colander to separate out solids. You’re going to be using your hands for the next part, so let it cool for a bit. If you want to hurry things along, stick the pot in an ice bath before straining.

Ideally, you will now put the stock in the fridge overnight so you can easily skim off the fat the next day. If you want supper tonight, just let it settle, skim as much fat as you can, and carry on.

Now retrieve your chicken. Separate the meat from the bones and veg and set aside. I feed the carrots and safe bones to my pups. They watch that stock pot way more closely than I do because they know they are in for a treat later. If you want, you could leave the carrots for the stew, but since they are so soft, I like to start with some fresh ones.

Now let’s start the stew.

Grab your stock pot again and heat a few tablespoons of oil. Add:

2-3 chopped ribs of celery
½ an onion, chopped
chopped clove of garlic

Cook until the onions are soft. Add:

3-4 carrots, sliced
Chopped fresh sage
Salt and pepper to taste

You can also add some flour here for a light roux, but I’m going to be a little weird and add thickener later.

Pour in the rest of your chicken stock.

You’re going to let this simmer for a while until the carrots are your desired tenderness.

Meanwhile, we’ll make the dumplings.

If you have more than a passing acquaintance with chicken and dumplings, you’ll know that there are two basic kinds of dumplings. One kind is a drop dumpling, and is really light and fluffy (yum!). The other is a more traditional southern rolled dumpling. It has a little more backbone. (Okay, okay –  they can be a little chewy). We’re actually going to make the second kind, because that’s the kind my mother and little country grandmother made. There’s no flavor like nostalgia.

Here’s what you’ll need (this is actually a ½ recipe for our leftover portions):

1 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
(chopped sage – optional)
3 Tbs butter
1/4 cup milk
1 egg (slightly beaten)


Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. I like to add a little chopped sage at this point, too. Cut in the butter. Add the milk and egg. Mix until well blended and you can form into a ball.

Turn out onto a floured surface. Flour you hands and knead for a few minutes until the dough is pliable. Keep adding flour as needed to keep from sticking.

Roll out the dough very thin. Cut into small rectangles. If you have a pasta cutting wheel, it’s great for this. Otherwise a knife is fine.

Now let’s go back to our stock. First, dump in your

reserved chicken

from earlier. Now I’m going to thicken just the tiniest bit. Put a tablespoon of flour into a small jar with about 1/3 cup milk. Shake until combined and pour into the stock. If you like a thicker stock, your options are go back in time and make a roux, use more flour, or dump in a can of condensed cream of celery soup. Don’t forget that the dumplings are actually going to thicken it a little, too.  Don’t get carried away with the thickeners!

Now taste your stock and adjust the seasoning. The dumplings are going to add a little depth, so don’t worry if doesn’t seem quite right yet.

When you’re ready, bring the stock back up to just boiling. Add the dumplings one at a time.

The first time I made dumplings, I panicked at this point. You’re quickly going to run out of surface area to add more dumplings. The trick to adding more without them sticking together is to push the dumplings around with your spoon until they are completely covered in stock before dropping more on top.

Cook until the dumplings are cooked through. It’s pretty quick, maybe five minutes.

Serve immediately with fresh ground black pepper.

And now we’ve turned a tiny little bit of left-over chicken into a hearty dinner for two that Bones will love!

Home-made chicken and dumplings

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Scream for the Cure

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Read books for a good cause (like you needed a reason)!

Don’t forget to stop by Scream for the Cure to bid on one of their great baskets!

Scream for the Cure Charity Auction

Read for Charity!

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Crazy for Cowboys Box-Set only 99 Cents

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Today I’m pleased to welcome some of my sister Crimson Romance authors to the blog with their new box-set!

Oh, Those Cowboys

We’ve all heard about those climatic 8 second rides, those moments of heartbreak and triumph that surround those most independent of spirits, cowboys. Now, you can get way more than 8 seconds of reading pleasure in Crimson Romance’s newest bundle, Crazy for Cowboys.

These 8 full length novels feature men and women who gave rise to the line in that Tim McGraw song about “the cowboy in us all.”
Recapture the independence, the sense of adventure, and yes—the passion—of the cowboys we’re crazy for—at an unbelievable  $0.99!

Eight full length cowboy romances for less than an dollar—this collection takes the buckle.

Crazy For Cowboys 99 Cent Box-Set

Crazy for Cowboys

Where to Buy:

Amazon | Barnes and Noble | AllRomance | Kobo

Amazon Canada | Amazon UK

Few heroes stir our hearts like a sexy cowboy, and Crimson Romance has eight of the hottest roping, riding, hard-loving country men in one collection. It’s a rodeo sure to make you swoon:

Tempted by Trouble: Susan Arden

When a veterinarian meets her sexy new boss, temptation beckons as they work together to find a cure for his family’s dying cattle.

The Bull Rider’s Brother: Lynn Cahoon

Rodeo weekend in Shawnee, Idaho, brings the cowboy who got away back into Lizzie’s life. But when James discovers they have a son, can they get a second chance at love?

Unattainable: Leslie P. García

DEA Agent Jovi Treviño comes to Dell Rosales’ ranch to investigate the drug movement sweeping south Texas and unexpectedly falls for the woman everyone calls unreachable.

The Counterfeit Cowgirl: Kathryn Brocato

Cattleman Aaron Whitaker has no use for a flashy, brown-eyed, fake cowgirl in his life. So why is he attracted to his new next-door neighbor, fashionista Felicity Clayton?


Heart Trouble: Tommie Conrad

Life comes easy to rancher Brandt Connor, until he falls for Marissa Sloan who’s leaving home at summer’s end. Will Brandt let her go or become the man he’s meant to be?

Taming the Stallion: Dorothy Callahan

A riding accident left officer Raylie McPherson fearing horses, but investigating an animal cruelty claim at Ashton Lyre’s stables may just offer her a way to heal.

Kiss Me, Katie: Monica Tillery

When fiddler Katie McCoy joins handsome singer Blake Jackson on his Country Summer Nights tour, they are a match made in music heaven. But will fame destroy their love?

What a Texas Girl Wants: Kristina Knight

A little too much fun in the sun lead Kathleen and Jackson to wake up on a beach together . . . married! But will their one-night fling turn into the real thing?

Sensuality Level: Sensual



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Shiny New Cover: A TASTE OF YOU

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LOOK AT MY NEW COVER! And you know what a new cover means….NEW BOOK!

A TASTE OF YOU – coming March, 2015

I’ve been sitting on this news until I can’t stand it any more. This book will be a part of the Give Me A Taste foodie line from Fated Desires.  The cover art is by Syneca at Original Syn and I’m just in love with it.  I can’t wait for you to meet Carlo and Garrett.  Scroll down past the cover for a peek at the blurb!

A Taste of You by Irene Preston

Coming in March 2015

Hell’s Kitchen has nothing on the flames Giancarlo and Garrett ignite at Restaurant Ransom…

Garrett Ransom is America’s hot chef du jour. He has a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York City, a hit reality TV show, and a new man in his bed every week. Yes, he secretly thinks his business partner, Giancarlo “Carlo” Rotolo, is hotter than a ghost pepper, but he would never jeopardize their friendship with a fling. Then Garrett overhears some juicy gossip among the crew and realizes he’ll have to break Giancarlo’s cardinal rule, no banging the staff – for Carlo’s own good, of course. Just a taste of Carlo should be plenty. Long-term relationships aren’t on Garrett’s menu.

Giancarlo’s been in love with Garrett forever. He’s sure Garrett will eventually realize they are destined to be more than business partners. But when Garrett installs his latest boyfriend as their new chef d’cuisine and announces plans to leave Carlo in New York while he opens a second restaurant on the west coast, Carlo is forced to re-evaluate his life.

Can a high-strung British chef and a nice Italian boy from Brooklyn find the perfect fusion of fine-dining and family-style?

Add A Taste of You to your GoodReads “Want to Read” list!

Join the Fated Desires Book Club on Facebook

Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest news!


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