This is a photo of my department at work not related to culinary endeavors. I head up the Social Work Department at a Federal Prison medical center for women. The woman in purple is Morgan, my newest staff member, who joined us in August. I wanted to welcome her with a little Texas hospitality and also give her a couple tastes of home. Morgan is from Minnesooota! She will tell you all about her favorite foods with a straight face–hotdish, wildrice, and bars being among them top. We roasted her a bit about Minnesota and she was a good sport. Funny part is she had examples of how, “you know you’re from Minnesota if…” you go up north for vacation. She said her grandparents went “up north” to their cabin, 30 degrees below zero, and ice fished. Yikes–doesn’t sound like vacation to me. For the important part, FOOD. Menu Texas Bruschetta with tortilla crisps, guacamole, herbed goat cheese spread, roasted tomato pico de gallo, and spiced pecans Cheese and fruit tray Jalapeno glazed Texas pecans Smoked brisket, chicken, and turkey Green chile and jalapeno grits Red and green cabbage slaw Key Lime pie Strawberry pretzel jello salad Sticky Finger bars (peanut butter, chocolate, Snickers Bars I made homemade tortilla crisps with fresh flour tortillas from Central Market. The goat cheese had several fresh herbs (dill, basil, thyme) mixed in, I roasted the tomatoes, onion, and jalapeno to make the pico, and made tableside guacamole after the guests arrived. The pecans were some we bought at the Millican Pecan Company on on trip to Fredericksburg. I made a glaze of sugar, cinnamon, and Texas Gunpowder (roasted Jalapeno pepper powder) and candied the pecans. This was a very popular appetizer. Guests spread goat cheese, pico, guacamole on their crisp and topped it with some nuts. They couldn’t get enough of it. Thanks for the idea, Jon Bonnell! I spent the day smoking meats and was thrilled at how they all turned out. I rubbed everything with spices the night before. For the brisket and chicken I used the following: 4 tsp kosher salt 1 T brown sugar 2 tsp ancho chile powder (mine is from Santa Fe) 1 tsp paprika 1 tsp garlic powder 1 tsp onion powder 1 tsp black pepper I used an 8 pound choice, flat cut brisket purchased at Sam’s Club. The chickens were two whole chickens from Central Market, cut in half.For the whole turkey breast, purchased at Central Market, HEB brand, I used a Cooper’s BBQ rub I had purchased from them. I have an electric smoker, Masterbuilt, and used Hickory wood chips. I smoked the brisket on a couple layers of heavy duty foil at 250 degrees for 4 hours. I removed it and double wrapped it, placed it in the oven in my house at 225 degrees for 3 hours. It was very tender and tasty. I smoked the turkey breast right on the rack of the smoker at 225 degrees for 3 hours. It was perfectly cooked, juicy and tender, smoky and flavorful. I wrapped it in foil and put it in the oven to keep it warm. It was still moist and perfect at 7 PM. The chicken was smoked at 225 degrees for a little over 3 hours. It was succulent and also delicious. Wish I had taken photos of everything but I was so busy preparing the food and being the hostess. I did have a few leftover sticky fingers bars though. The grits were a big hit too. I used my roasted Hatch green chiles from summer, put a couple of them, some cilantro (3/4 c), a jalapeno pepper and a couple minced garlic cloves in the food processor. I put in a little water to create a puree. I added this green puree to a pot of cooked grits (I used Quaker quick grits), put in 3 whisked eggs, 4 oz of butter, and a cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese, a little salt to taste and some pepper. I placed it in a baking dish and baked it at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. I made the Jello “salad” because people in Minnesota like them! Crushed pretzels with butter and sugar, topped with cream cheese/cool whip (ick), topped with jello mixed with canned crushed pineapples. The original recipe called for mixing frozen strawberries with the jello. My first batch of this was so nasty looking I ditched it and just added the pineapple. Fresh strawberries on the side were fine. Can you tell that I despise Jello salad! I also made the bars for Morgan. She liked them and I’ll admit I ate more than I should. A cookie crust with a layer of snickers bars and a layer of peanut butter filling topped with melted chocolate. Yum. My mini key lime pies were popular as well. I’ve made them before and the ground pecans in the crust make it taste really good, as well as using fresh key limes.