Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Baked Meatballs

  With the cold weather of this time of year, hearty appetites are brought to the table.  One of the favorite recipes around our house is meatballs.  But honey, before you get the idea these are run of the mill balls o' meat, let me fill you in on a couple of things.  This is a slight tweaking of Alton Brown's recipe, and I got to say, these are a step up from the norm.  First thing that's different - they are baked.  To elevate them a bit more, they are baked in a mini muffin pan.  Why?  It keeps the meatballs from sitting in grease as they cook.  And then to ratchet it up a bit more, they are rolled in bread crumbs before they are baked.  When all these factors come together, you get a nice meatball with a slightly crisp exterior that is just wonderful to sink your teeth into.

Baked Meatballs
Approximately 20 meatballs; 5 servings

1 pound ground round (80/20 ground beef)
1/2 pound ground pork or pork sausage
10 oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup bread crumbs, divided (may need more)

  Here's a quick starter note - you can prep the meatball mixture up to 24 hours before you plan on baking them.  When you get ready to make these, preheat the oven to 400°F.

  In a large mixing bowl, add in the ground round, pork, spinach, Parmesan, egg, basil, parsley, garlic, salt, red pepper and 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs.  With clean hands, combine everything thoroughly.  (If you are making the meatballs later, cover with plastic wrap and stash in the refrigerator at this point.)   

  At this point, we are ready to form the meatballs.  Pour the remaining 1/4 cup of bread crumbs in a shallow bowl, and set aside.  Keep the bread crumbs out, because you may need a little more.

  I'm going to give you two ways of divvying up the meat to get even-sized meatballs.  Method 1 - Pat and Cut: On a clean surface, pat out the meat mixture into a rectangle that's about 1 inch thick.  Cut lengthwise across the middle, making 2 equal halves.  Repeat this cut on each half so that you have 4 even rows.  Then make 4 cuts width-wise, creating 5 equal columns.  You should now have 20 squares ready to be rolled into meatballs.  Method 2 - Scoop and Weigh:  With a spoon, scoop out some meat and weigh it on a kitchen scale.  You are shooting to make the meatballs 1 1/2 (1.5) ounces.  I wrap the removable top of my scale with plastic wrap before weighing out the meat to keep it from sticking, and well, to keep raw meat off the scale.

  Once the meat is portioned to the right size, roll the mixture into balls.  Then roll the meatball in the bread crumbs. Place the meatball in a cup of a miniature muffin tin.  Repeat until all the meatballs have been rolled and coated in bread crumbs.  Place the pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until they are cooked through.  Serve with your favorite marinara and spaghetti noodles or slap them on your favorite hoagie buns and make meatball subs.

Helpful Hint - If you have a potato ricer laying around, it makes quick work of draining the thawed spinach.  Just load up the ricer and squeeze; you'll end up with nice, dry spinach that won't water down what you are making.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Pizza Dip

Here's an easy tried and true recipe I need to pull back out for Game Night at our house soon.  Make sure you serve this with some hearty crackers or breadsticks!

Pizza Dip
Serves 10

8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese (8 ounces), divided
1/2 cup pizza sauce

  Start by preheating your oven to 350°F.  Using an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder.  Beat until well-blended.  Spread the cream cheese mix on the bottom of a 9 inch pie plate.  Top with 1 cup of mozzarella, spread on the pizza sauce, and sprinkle on the remaining cheese.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and everything is heated through.

Tip - Feel free to add in your favorite pizza toppings to customize this dip to your tastes.  I'd put them on top of the pizza sauce before the final layer of cheese.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Stuffed Mushrooms (like Olive Garden's)

  When I was in high school, we took a family vacation to Disney World.  On the drive home, we stopped in Lakeland, Florida to eat dinner at the Olive Garden.  Mom ordered one of those appetizer samplers where you could pick three things.  I remember the platter being placed on the table, and looking at Mom sitting across the table, telling us what she ordered.  My brother, who was in elementary school at the time, looked at me and we started to add things to our plates of things to try - there was fried zucchini (oh, how I love thee...), fried mozzarella (I still contend cheese is a most perfect food), and stuffed mushrooms.   I had no idea those little suckers could taste so good.  But they did.  It was one of those tastes that haunts a mushroom lover; randomly in the years after that trip my mom, my brother, or I would just be hit with a craving for those mushrooms.  Being a good hour and half away from the nearest Olive Garden, it wasn't something easily rectified.

  While hunting for a different stuffed mushroom recipe for Mom, I ran across this one.  This recipe is floating around on many cooking websites online, and with excellent reason.  This copycat recipe produces the best stuffed mushroom that has ever passed my lips.  Actually, if you ask me, I find them to be better than those from Olive Garden - high praise coming from someone that loves the OG as much as I do. 

Stuffed Mushrooms (like Olive Garden's)

12 or more fresh white button mushrooms (depends on the size of the mushrooms)
6 oz. can clams, drained and finely minced
1/4 cup clam juice (can be reserved from the canned clams or purchased separately - I used the bottled juice)
1 green onion, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon  minced garlic
1 tablespoon melted butter
1 teaspoon oregano leaves
1/2 cup Italian style bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon finely grated Romano cheese
2 tablespoon finely grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated mozzarella, for topping
1/4 cup melted butter, for topping
Optional - finely chopped parsley for garnish

  Begin by preheating your oven to 350°F.  Clean the mushrooms and remove the stems.  Save the stems for another use. (Sauteed in a little butter, served over rice is fantastic, if you ask me.)  Lightly grease a baking dish, and set aside.

  In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the clams, green onion, garlic salt, garlic, 1 tablespoon of melted butter, and oregano. Once that is well blended, add in bread crumbs, beaten egg, and clam juice.  Stir until it is well mixed, and stir in the Parmesan, Romano, and 2 tablespoons of mozzarella.  Stuff the mushrooms, slightly mounding the stuffing mixture.

  Place the stuffed mushrooms to the baking dish.  Pour the 1/4 cup of melted butter over the mushrooms, and cover the baking dish with aluminum foil.  Place the dish into the preheated oven to bake for 35-40 minutes.  Remove, sprinkle the 1/4 cup of mozzarella and return to the oven until the cheese melts.  Sprinkle with parsley before serving, if desired.

Notes- This dish is great for the holidays.  You can prepare the mushrooms and place in the baking dish (don't pour the butter over yet), cover with foil, in the morning.  Stash in the refrigerator until you are ready to bake them that evening.  Preheat the oven, then pour over the melted butter at this point and continue the recipe from there.  And pssst - I don't think too many folks would notice if you just use Parmesan for both the Parmesan and Romano.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Chicken and Dressing Skillet Bake

This one's a winner, folks.  No, really!  When Sue Gulledge entered this recipe in the 1997 National Cornbread Festival, she took home first prize for the year.  And I can see why - the taste of good ol' fashioned cornbread dressing, but some of the work has been cut out for you.  Granted, it's not quite the same texture as that famed dish, but it certainly hits the spot.

Chicken and Dressing Skillet Bake
Yields 6 servings

1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
4 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon oil (I used canola)
2 cups buttermilk
2 eggs, beaten
1 (8.5 oz) can cream-style corn (I couldn't find one this small, so I used 2/3 of a regular can)
2 cups self-rising corn meal mix
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
3 cups chopped cooked chicken, seasoned with salt and pepper (or shred a rotisserie chicken like I did)

  Start off by preheating your oven to 450°F.  On the stove, put a 10 1/4 inch cast iron pan on medium heat.  Melt the butter in the pan, and cook the celery and onion for about 10 minutes, or until they are tender.  Pour the cooked vegetables and butter drippings into a large mixing bowl and set the bowl aside.  Pour the oil into the skillet and put it into the oven to heat up - 5 minutes.

  Return to the mixing bowl with the celery and onions.  Add in the rest of the ingredients.  Stir until everything is well mixed.  Take the skillet from the oven, and carefully pour the cornbread batter into the hot skillet.  Return to the oven and bake for 25-35 minutes, or until the cornbread is golden brown.  Split the cornbread into 6 wedges.  If you want to, you can garnish with fresh sage and top with chicken gravy.  I thought the cornbread was pretty darn good as is, but some people enjoy their gravy, too.  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kitchen 101: Seeding a Pomegranate

  It was in Mrs. C's 7th grade reading class I had first heard of this 'exotic' thing, the pomegranate.  We were studying Greek mythology.  There's a story that explains the change of seasons - it had all the elements of a good read: a mother whose love transcends everything, a dark stranger, forbidden desire, and food.  Well, okay, maybe it wasn't a stellar read by our standards, but it stirred base emotions.  Demeter, goddess of fertility and vegetation had this beautiful daughter, Persephone.  Now we all know, that's a curse of doom for women - the Greek gods just could not resist a good lookin' woman.  Many tried to court Persephone, but Demeter didn't think any of them were good enough for her girl.  No sir.  None of 'em.  So, Demeter hid her off and left her picking flowers in the meadow, oblivious and innocent.  Bam!  The earth opened up and Hades, god of the underworld, erupted forth on his chariot, stealing away Persephone.  Demeter launched a full-scale search, and in her anger and sadness, the crops withered.  Eventually, Zeus grew tired of the mortals' cries of hunger and sent Hermes to fetch Persephone from Hades.  Wouldn't you know it?  Persephone had gotten hungry herself, and Hades tricked her into eating seeds from the pomegranate.  While she would return to her mother, she would come back to reside with Hades a month for each seed she ate, giving the world seasons.   Interesting story, but no way I could just pop a few seeds and be satisfied.  Poor girl must have been a twig.

  Pomegranates are an intriguing fruit - you eat the seeds, better known as arils.  They pop with a tangy, sweet and sour juice.  To harvest the arils, be prepared for some tricky business - but there is a way to do it with minimum fuss.

You'll need a cutting board, knife, a big bowl filled with water, colander, and some paper towels.

  Start off by finding the crown, the part of the fruit that looks like Jughead's hat.  Trim off the top 1/2 inch.  You will get a little juice spurting out on the cutting board.  Turn the pomegranate around, and trim off the bottom 1/2 inch.  You'll see parts of the aril pockets hidden inside the white pithy insides.  Take the knife and score sections all around the fruit, going from top to bottom.  Put the scored pomegranate in the bowl of water, and carefully start pulling the fruit apart, working underwater. 

Here's my pom after I pulled it into two halves.

 Working with a section at a time, take your fingers and work out the arils from the white part, again in the water bowl.  You'll see the white pith float to the top and the arils will sink to the bottom.  After you've freed all the arils, skim the top with a spoon or just pick out the stuff that's floating.  Pour the water and arils into your colander to drain.  Spread them out onto paper towels to dry a bit.  Move them to a plastic container, topped with a paper towel and seal.  Stash in the refrigerator, and these lil' rubies should last for 7-10 days.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Pumpkin Pie Spice

  Some of you out there are taking inventory of your spice racks, making lists to prepare for the holidays.  If you've got these four spices, don't shell out for pumpkin pie spice.

Pumpkin Pie Spice
Yields 1 teaspoon

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

Mix together and use wherever pumpkin pie spice is called for.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hot Artichoke Dip

  We are wading into the holiday season, replete with good friends and good food.  Deep into football season, Thanksgiving is around the corner, which means Christmas and New Year's Day are hot on its heels.  Time to break out the appetizers - easier the better.  Today I'm sharing with you a recipe I found in one of my Taste of Home cookbooks awhile back.   

Hot Artichoke Dip
Serves 12 - Yields about 3 cups

1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup roasted red pepper, chopped (I used jarred peppers for this)
1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 1/3 cup French fried onions, divided

  Start off by preheating your oven to 375°F.  Spray a 9 inch pie dish (or a 1 quart baking dish) with cooking spray.

  In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, sour cream, Parmesan cheese, pepper, artichoke, and 2/3 cup of the French fried onions.  Spoon it into the pie dish and spread it out.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and sprinkle the remaining 2/3 cup of onions on top.  Return the dip to the oven for another 5 minutes, until your onions are a nice golden brown.  Serve the dip with crackers or bagel chips.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Kitchen 101: Roasting Garlic

Ah, the Stinkin' Rose, and just in time for Halloween, to boot.  Garlic has a way of, shall we say, making an impression.  Me?  I love the stuff anyway I can get it.  But if you don't care much for garlic's pungency, try roasting it.  It brings a mellow and slight sweetness that is just heavenly - a contrast to the sharp bite of raw garlic.  Roasted garlic is versatile and downright tasty spread on toasted French bread.  And roasting is too easy not to give it a try.

For the tools of the trade, you'll need a head of garlic, olive oil, and aluminum foil. 

A head of garlic?  Sometimes it's referred to as a garlic bulb, covered in several papery layers of skin, a bit like an onion.  The small, individually wrapped nodules that compose the head are called cloves.  Got it?  Great!

For what we are doing today, we need to keep the head intact.  With a knife, cut off the top 1/4 of the head, exposing the clustered cloves inside.

Tear off a square of aluminum foil, and place the trimmed head in the middle.  Drizzle with just a little olive oil.

I find that olive oil from a cat dispenser tastes the best....but I'm weird that way.  (All kidding aside, the opaque container does protect the oil from light.)

Wrap your garlic up tightly in the aluminum foil and pop into a preheated 350°F oven.  Bake for about an hour.  Remove and once it's cool, unwrap the head.  The cloves will be caramelized and brown in color.  The garlic has taken on a more mellow taste.  To remove the garlic, squeeze the head and the softened garlic will come out.

What's it good for?  Lots of delicious options - add it to mashed potatoes, make a garlic seasoning paste, squeeze it straight from the bulb and spread on toasted bread, and one of my favorite ways to use it is in a salad dressing.  And the roasting process I gave you is very flexible.  If I've got the oven going for something else - say baked potatoes- I just toss my foil wrapped garlic in on the rack to take advantage of that heat.  Cooking at a higher temp than 350°?  Just start checking your garlic at an earlier time.  I usually run about 30-45 minutes in a 400°+ oven for roasting.  Multiple heads going?  I've read other blogs where crafty cooks use a muffin tin and cover with foil; you don't have to retrieve multiple foil packs that way.  Just make sure to store leftovers in the fridge, covered with a bit of olive oil, and use within a few days.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Roasted Vegetable Spread

  Life gets hectic this time of year.  Meetings, responsibilities, and getting ready for all the upcoming holidays and events...meal planning is something I'm going to have to invest my time in.  This week, I'm planning out my lunches.  On the menu?  Fresh salads, fruit, and sandwiches.  Right now I'm roasting off some vegetables for one of my favorite sandwich spreads, a recipe from food geek - Alton Brown.

Roasted Vegetable Spread

1 small zucchini, sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced into rings
1 onion, sliced and seperated into rings
4 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 ounces cream cheese
salt and fresh ground black pepper

  Start by preheating your oven to 400°F.  Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

  Take the zucchini, bell pepper, onion rings, and garlic cloves and put them in a small mixing bowl.  Drizzle the veggies with the olive oil and mix them up until all the vegetables are lightly coated in oil.  (Clean hands are awesome for this job.)  Spread them out in a single layer on your prepped pan.  Put the pan in the oven and roast the vegetables for 30-45 minutes.  The time depends completely on how thin or thickly you sliced the vegetables.  You will need to pull them out and stir them occasionally.  They will be ready when you are getting brown edges on the food.  Keep an eye on that pan - there's a fine line between roasted and burnt.  Let the vegetables cool.

  In your food processor, combine the roasted vegetables and cream cheese.  Pulse until you reached the desired consistency.  AB likes his spread slightly chunky - and so do I.  I like seeing what's in there.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Notes:  If you are wondering which episode this recipe was featured in, it's "Sandwichcraft", season 8, episode #114. One of my favorite episodes, it was written to get families - adults and kids - together working in the kitchen.   Now before you think I'm off my rocker, no, I don't have the episode numbers memorized.  But I am a big fan with AB's new cookbook.  Being as meticulous, he has it divided by episodes with tons of info.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Pepper Palace & Kyle Carver Orchard

  It has been a jam-packed weekend in my neck of the woods. Friday night, after work, I went to the National Storytelling Festival- as I told you last week. Saturday, my hubby and I got up and a drive up to Gatlinburg in the heart of the Smokies. We took the back way in, driving the roads through Cosby that sinuously wind through the mountains like a snake. It was a beautiful drive that will become even more stunning in the coming weeks as the leaves change. And the trip wasn't just eye candy - we experience a couple of places that must be shared with the masses, the Pepper Palace and Kyle Carver Orchard.

  The Pepper Palace - what can I say?  It lives up to its name.  The scent of pepper beckons you as you pass the store front in the Mountain Mall- not heat, but the pure essence of pepper that is utterly inviting.  On the left as you enter, you'll find numerous trophies and ribbons for many of their award-winning sauces and salsas - several you'll find on this list.  Not only do they carry their own house brands, but any kind of hot sauce you could want.  Curious about the heat level?  Check the shelf. The sauces are rated for your taste buds.  There are sample bars to try many of the sauces, and samples using their products.  I walked out with my favorite, Southern Peach and Vidalia Onion, slightly sweet and of medium heat, and my hubby's pick - Autumn in the Smokies, a good, solid medium heat sauce that screams buffalo wings.  But if you aren't a chile head or a hot sauce connoisseur, don't despair.  The Pepper Palace has tons of BBQ sauces, marinades, rubs, salsas, and dip mixes.  But what impressed me the most was the fact you could tell the folks that worked there loved what they did.  They were extremely friendly, encouraging customers to try samples and assisting them in the floor with their impressive product knowledge.

  On the way home, we stopped at Kyle Carver Orchard, or as locals refer to it - Carver's.  A sprawling orchard that grows apples, peaches, grapes, and vegetables, Carver's has a candy store, barn market, and the Applehouse Restaurant.  This was my first time eating at the Applehouse, but it will not be my last.  We were greeted by a very professional hostess, who was 9 at most (filling in for the busy hostess, she did not want to see us waiting), but undoubtly the next generation to run the orchard.  She promptly requested us to follow her, and seated us next to one of the windows that looked out over the apple trees, heavy with fruit. 
The meals were served with a small glass of apple cider, a basket of apple fritters - hush puppy-like critters with finely diced apples, and apple butter. butter.  I can't think of a thing that wouldn't be better dunked in that apple butter.  As you can see, I came home with a jar.  After a wonderful meal, we headed over to the barn where I snagged the apple butter and honey.  Boy, the apple cider was tempting to get, but I needed a reason to go back soon.  Curiously, among the many items they had made from the things they grow there, there was a hot sauce made with peaches and Vidalia onions, like I picked up from the Pepper Palace.  I just might have to do a comparison between the two sometime.

Notes:  Need some place to feed your hot sauce needs?  You can find the Pepper Palace at or on Facebook.  Carver's doesn't have a website, but they, too, have a Facebook page.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Muddy Buddies

  This week, I'm heading over to Jonesborough for a special event at the National Storytelling Festival, the Ghost Stories concert.  Jonesborough has the distinction of being Tennessee's oldest town, formed even before statehood.  It's a lovely small town with many historic sites, and of course, storytelling.  The weekend of the festival, this little place bursts at its seams, literally.  Quaint and unique shops have lines out the door, and the ice cream parlor is packed tighter than a scoop in a cone.  A few co-workers and I have a tradition of trekking over for the ghost stories.  Outside, around the gazebo where the tellers take the stage, we huddle under our blankets and share snacks.  Last year, I brought the ubiquitious Muddy Buddies, or probably better known in some parts as Puppy Chow - a sweet Chex® Mix with peanut butter and chocolate.

Muddy Buddies
Serves 18

9 cups of Rice, Corn, or Chocolate Chex® - any combination of the three
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

  First off, pour the cereal into a large bowl; set aside.

  In a small microwave safe mixing bowl, combine the chocolate chips, peanut butter, and butter.  Microwave on high for 1 minute, and stir.  Microwave for an additional 30-40 seconds or until mixture can be stirred smooth.  Stir in the vanilla.  Pour the chocolate mixture over the cereal and stir until everything is evenly coated.

  Pour the chocolate coated cereal into a large (2 gallon) resealable plastic bag.  Pour in confectioner's sugar.  Seal and shake until the cereal is well coated.

  Spread it all out onto waxed paper to cool.  Then store the mix in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

Notes: If you'd like to find out more about where I'm heading, check out these links:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

I know, it's almost the Autumn Equinox, and I'm posting another ice cream recipe.  But, it's peanut butter!  Gooey, rich, comforting, and that's what we look for in fall food.  I came across this recipe in The Best Ice Cream Maker Cookbook, written by Peggy Fallon.  This ice cream is a rich custard based dessert.  Custard bases have eggs, but they are cooked, giving it a creamy, rich texture.  The taste is very reminiscent of those peanut butter balls your grandmother makes at Christmas, or if you've ever enjoyed a peanut butter shake down at Sonic. 

Peanut Butter Ice Cream
Makes 1 1/2 quarts

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk
3/4 cup sugar
1 packed cup creamy peanut butter
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  Begin by combining the cream, milk, and sugar in a heavy medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is hot, about 6-8 minutes.

  Add the peanut butter in large spoonfuls, mixing well after each spoonful, until the peanut butter is melted and everything is smooth.

  In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Temper the egg yolks by slowly whisking in 1 cup of the peanut butter mix. Add the egg mixture back into the pot, and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook and stir until it's thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. This should take around 5 to 10 minutes. Take care not to boil or the egg will curdle.

  Strain the custard base into a bowl and let it cool for 1 hour at room temperature. Stir in the vanilla extract, cover, and refrigerated for at least 6 hours. (The base will keep for 3 days in the fridge.)

  Pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and freeze according to your maker's directions. Transfer to a covered container and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving.  This additional freeze time is called ripening and does a lot for the flavor and texture.

Notes: This recipe is very forgiving.  Usually for homemade ice cream, you'll want to use whole milk for the fat content.  But this recipe, I used skim milk since I was already using heavy cream, and I forgot to pick up whole milk while I was at the store.  (Hey, at least I'm honest.)  The peanut butter was another total happy accident.  I grabbed whipped creamy peanut butter, which was 1/3 less sugar, and it still came out exquisitely rich with no adjustments to the sugar.  But you should know that Ms. Fallon says to use only commercial peanut butter and not the natural kind you can grind yourself, because it will separate in your ice cream.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Dairy Hollow House Skillet-Sizzled Cornbread

There is something so utterly satisfying about flipping a still hot skillet and a round of cornbread cleanly falling away onto a plate.  Tonight's supper was pot roast and this cornbread.  A little bit southern (buttermilk and cast iron), a little bit northern (yellow cornmeal and a tad of sugar), The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon features this recipe.

Dairy Hollow House Skillet-Sizzled Cornbread
Makes 8 wedges

1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal, stone ground preferred
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons butter

  Start off by preheating your oven to 375°F.

  Sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl.  If you don't have a sifter, you can do this in a food processor, or fluff and mix everything gently with a fork.

  In a medium sized mixing bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and baking soda.  Add in the sugar, egg, and oil, taking care to whisk everything together evenly.

  Over medium heat, melt the butter in a 10 inch cast iron skillet.  When the butter has melted completely, swirl it around, completely coating the bottom and up around the sides.  Once the skillet is ready, pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the dry ingredients.  Mix everything up with as few strokes as possible, and scrape into the hot skillet.  Bake in the oven for 20 minutes.  Let the bread cool a few minutes, flip onto a plate and slice into wedges.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Hot Spinach Dip

  It's football time!  Cooler days ahead, and lots of time hanging out with friends.  Today I'm going to share one of the very first entertaining recipes I learned, shortly after getting married.  It's absolutely quick, easy, makes good use of the microwave, and tasty, to boot.  Every time I make it, there's a flurry of tortilla chips diving into the bowl.  This recipe originates from Desperation Entertaining by Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross. 

Hot Spinach Dip

1 package (9 or 10 oz) frozen creamed spinach, Stouffer's preferred
3 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 cup shredded Swiss cheese
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Tortilla chips, for serving

  Start off by cutting a small slit in the top of the creamed spinach bag and lay it on a microwave-safe plate.  Microwave the spinach on high until it's thawed, about 2 minutes.

  Open up the spinach and pour it into a microwave-safe bowl.  Add in all the other ingredients and stir until the cream cheese is pretty well incorporated.  You'll still have some lumps, and that is perfectly fine.  Microwave the dip, uncovered, on high, until it gets bubbly - 5 minutes.  Stop it halfway through the 5 minutes to give it a good stir.  Serve at once with tortilla chips.

Notes: Normally I don't detect much difference in brands of ingredients, but this is a case where the brand makes a difference in the outcome of the recipe.  I really suggest trying to find the Stouffer's creamed spinach for this dip.  It gives it a decadent richness that other brands just don't give - if you can't find Stouffer's, feel free to sub, but if you can find it, use that creamed spinach.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Howdy, folks

Eating Labor Day leftovers.  So, not done much new in the kitchen department, but one of my bestest friends brought me a 4 pound zuke.  My DH swears I brought home a pod person, or possibly the cat's cousin.  It is HUGE.  And I'm the only person in the house that likes zucchini, so gotta play this carefully.  Current grinchy plans include lopping off a pound for zucchini cakes and stuffing the rest of that bad boy with a ground beef mixture and baking.

Another thing I've been doing somewhat regularly this past three weeks is planning meals and shopping accordingly.  I know, I know.  This sounds like a habit of an organized, and somewhat sane person - totally not me.  Suppose I'm off to start thinking ahead and reading the sale papers.  I'll be back soon with something new.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

French Vanilla Ice Cream

Today's recipe I'm sharing originates from Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book.  You know, THE Ben & Jerry - the guys that I'm thankful for bringing flavors like Cherry Garcia (low fat fro yo version is awesome, too!), Cake Batter, Americone Dream, and Peach Cobbler to my freezer.  I love this book because the recipes are simple and are sized for today's smaller ice cream makers.  I'm doubly delighted since this is a lot like my family's recipe we make in the large 4 quart machine on July 4th - just in a size fit for my Cuisinart ice cream maker.  Fair warning about this recipe and most of them in this book - they use raw eggs; this is not a cooked custard base.  If you have any concerns about using raw eggs, look for pasteurized eggs at your grocery store.  More expensive, yes - but can you put a price on peace of mind?

French Vanilla Ice Cream
Makes 1 quart

2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 cup milk (I used whole milk)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  Start off by whisking the eggs for about 1 to 2 minutes, until they are lighter in color and fluffy in texture.  Adding in a little at a time, begin whisking in the sugar.  Keep whisking until the eggs and sugar are completely blended, about another minute.  Pour in the remaining ingredients, and whisk until everything is combined.

  Pour into your favorite ice cream maker and follow the manufacturer's instructions on freezing.

Notes:  If you don't like the soft-serve consistency of straight from the ice cream freezer, feel free to put it in a plastic container and stash it in your regular freezer for a few hours.  I like it both ways, but I can also detect a distinct difference in chocolate syrup in a plastic bottle vs the can.  I will always take the can over the bottled, especially on homemade goodness!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Spinach Stuffed Squash or Zucchini

  This is one knock-out dish - squash dressed to the nines.  Another Paula Deen creation for you to enjoy.  It can be made with zucchini or yellow summer squash; my favorite is made with zukes, but this last trip to the store, the yellow squash was so much better than the zucchini.

Spinach Stuffed Squash or Zucchini
6-10 servings

3 large zucchini or 5 medium/large yellow squash  (this last batch was made with 3 large yellow squash)
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup diced onion
1 cup chicken flavored stuffing mix (dry - do not prepare)
10 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (4 oz by weight)

  Start off by preheating the oven to 400°F.

  Cut your squash in half lengthwise.  Brush the cut sides with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Lay  them on a lined baking sheet, with the cut side down.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Let the squash halves cool down a bit, and lower the oven temperature to 350°F.  Once the squash is just cool enough to handle, scoop out the pulp into a bowl, taking care not to break your "shells".  Lay the squash back on the baking sheet, this time, cut side up.

  In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.  Toss the diced onion in and saute until they are transparent, around 5 minutes.  (I personally like to cook mine until they turn slightly brown and take a bit of caramelized quality to them.)  At this time, add in the stuffing mix, spinach, cheese, squash pulp and sour cream, mixing everything together.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Cook for 3 minutes, and remove from the heat.  Scoop the stuffing mixture evenly as you can into each squash shell, and return to the oven to bake for 15-20 minutes.

Serving Ideas - These are great served with fried chicken livers. (Don't knock it until you try it!)  But they are pretty filling if you buy the large squash/zukes, so serving 1-2 halves as a meal isn't too shabby, either.

Helpful Tip - A potato ricer does a nice job squeezing dry thawed frozen spinach. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Buttermilk Drop Biscuits

  This beauty is my biscuit pan - makes drop biscuits look awfully purty.  The recipe I'm sharing today is designed to take advantage of a cast iron pan, whether it's a drop biscuit pan like this, or even a skillet or griddle.  This recipe is from Lodge Cast Iron, and is also featured in Cast-Iron Cooking for Dummies.  The biscuits will come out tender and fluffy like a drop biscuit, but with the taste of a good ol' buttermilk biscuit.  At the end of my post, I'll include variations from both sources.

Buttermilk Drop Biscuits
Makes 7 biscuits

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter or vegetable shortening -- cold
1 1/2 cups buttermilk

  Preheat your oven to 450°F.

  In a mixing bowl, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt. Stir the dry ingredients together.

   Make sure you are using cold butter or shortening, and cut into the dry mixture with a pastry blender, fork or knife method. The mixture will have a coarse crumb consistency when you are ready for the next step.

  Pour in the buttermilk, and stir just until everything is blended. Take care not to overmix.

Drop Biscuit Pan method: If you have a drop biscuit pan, spoon in the dough into each well, filling it pretty full. I used a 7 well cast-iron pan. If you don't have a pan - see the next step.

Skillet or Griddle method: Mound the dough into about 7 biscuits onto your griddle or in your skillet. (Make sure these are oven-proof!).

  Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.

For parsley biscuits, add 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley.
For a garden vegetable biscuit, add 2 tablepoons finely grated carrots, 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh parsley, and 1 tablespoon of finely chopped green onion.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Broccoli Salad

  Back to school means back to packing lunches for me.  So while digging through my tried and true files, I was reminded of one of my favorite, easy sides - Broccoli Salad.  One of the things I really like about this recipe is the yield - 2 servings.  No getting tired of it before it's gone!

Broccoli Salad
Servings: 2

2 cups broccoli florets
2 bacon strips, cooked & crumbled
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 tablespoon sunflower kernels
1/3 cup mayonnaise
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/3 cup shredded cheddar cheese

  Start off by making the dressing.  In a small mixing bowl, combine the mayonnaise, sugar, and the vinegar.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is creamy smooth.

  Fold in the broccoli, bacon crumbles, cranberries, sunflower kernels, and shredded cheese.  Cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours before serving.  Enjoy!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

White Chicken Chili with Cheddar Hushpuppy Crust

  Today is the first day in a long stretch the heat has not been unbearable.  There was rain for a good part of the morn, and the skies are still gray, even this close to supper-time.  I've loved every minute of today.  I could finally open the windows and take advantage of a nice breeze.  Electric food steamer did a vinegar water steam to combat the area's hard water build-up, and I have a couple of cast iron pieces in the oven getting an overdue cure.  Needless to say, my kitchen doesn't have the most pleasant smell right now.  But to pay homage to my beloved cast iron, I'm going to share a recipe I made a couple of weeks ago, White Chicken Chili with a Cheddar Hushpuppy Crust.  It's a recipe by Gaynell Lawson, from the National Cornbread Festival.  The festival is held once a year in South Pittsburgh, TN - home to Lodge Cast Iron.

White Chicken Chili with Cheddar Hushpuppy Crust
Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 cup finely chopped onion, divided (I'm fond of yellow onions)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium green bell pepper, diced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
19 oz cannellini beans (also known as white kidney beans)
2 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 (14 oz) can chicken broth
1 (4 oz) can chopped mild green chiles, drained
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 (6 oz) package cornbread mix (Gaynell recommends Martha White Buttermilk or Cotton Country)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (I use sharp)
Optional for topping - sour cream, salsa, cilantro

  First thing's first.  Preheat your oven to 400°F.

  Take a 10 1/2 inch cast iron skillet, and heat the olive oil in it over medium heat.  Once the oil is heated, add in 1 cup of the onions, the garlic, green pepper, cumin, and chili powder.  Saute until the veggies are tender - plan on 3 to 5 minutes.  Once the vegetables are to your liking, add the lime juice, beans, chicken, broth, and the chiles.  Stir until everything is mixed well.  Remove from the heat while you make the crust.

  To make the crust, start by beating the egg in a medium mixing bowl.  Add in the milk, melted butter, and cornbread mix, and blend well.  At this point, stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of onions and the grated cheese.  Spoon the mixture over the chili in the resting skillet.  Just try to spoon it over the chili evenly as you can, don't worry about spreading it to cover the chili - it'll do that magic in the oven on its own.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until you see the crust is golden brown.  Pull it out of the oven and let it cool 5 minutes before serving.  Scoop it out into bowls and top with your desired goodies - check the optionals on the ingredient list.

Notes:  10 1/2 inch is the size of a standard cast iron skillet.  I personally skipped the extra 1/4 cup of onions in the cornbread.  And a dollop of sour cream is divine in a bowl of this stuff - I didn't need anything else.

For the curious, here are the websites for the National Cornbread Festival and Lodge Cast Iron.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Makeovers - the Good, the Bad, the Ugly

Well, if you've wandered by here, you've probably noticed a wee change.  A new look for ye olde blog - everything should be reformatted.  At least I hope so, I spent a good, solid day tweaking and fixing HTML tags.  I rather like the new appearance; it's a bit more "me," I reckon. There's the for the bad and ugly.

I'm not the only one that's underwent change recently. has become  It's been a bumpy changeover, but there's a bug where the recipes aren't displaying properly at the moment.  Until I'm sure it is fixed, I'm removing it from my useful links.  I really don't care for the name change - it's bland.  The new look reminds me of Food Network's website - again, not really a fan of it's look, either.  I'm sure I'll use it again when the site is back up and running smoothly, but not nearly as often as I once did.  But over the past year, I've been spending more and more time over at Kittencal's Kitchen anywho, so don't guess I'm missing much.  ;)  *lowers her voice into a Mae West tone* That lady can cook, honey.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Say Hello to My Little Friend

Goodbye, old garlic press.  I will not miss half the cloves mashed inside.  I will not miss picking the detritus out of your holes with a toothpick.  

This is my new friend, the Garlic Twist.  I was introduced to Mr. Twist in early spring in an issue of Food Network magazine.  It was a review of salad gadgets, and it got pretty high marks.  I had a tough time finding them in stores, so I turned to my good faithful buddy, Amazon.  I was pretty surprise when I got it.  It's much bigger than I expected; I was thinking a little guy from the picture in the magazine.  Nope, this guy is a handful.  But that's not a bad thing.   

As you can see, I went with the red model.  American made, they come in translucent blue, red, and clear.  

Fully closed, you can give your garlic clove a good whack to make the skin easy peeling.  Open it up, and place the garlic on either side of the plastic teeth.  Position on your lid, and start twisting.  Admittedly, the first crank or two is the hardest because you are breaking the garlic down from the solid piece.  But once you muscle through the initial twists, you can crank it easily.  Longer you twist, finer the garlic mince. Open it up, and you'll find your garlic in two neat little triangles, ready to be scooped out - which is easy with a fork.  And it's easy to clean.  Did I mention, I really hate picking garlic out of presses?

Company Website: (As of posting, the website is going through reconstruction)
Price: Under $20 USD

Note: If you have a hard time gripping, another company makes a similar product, but instead of the solid hard plastic construction, it has metal blades in place of the plastic teeth.  I've seen them in a kitchen store when I was looking for these.  If they work as well as these, you'll be pleased.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Squash Casserole

Here's a very easy, no muss, no fuss dish that takes advantage of some of my favorite summer produce - yellow crookneck squash.  It's a little different than most squash casseroles, since it doesn't use canned soup, eggs, breadcrumbs or stuffing.  And the crackers don't go on top; they are mixed in with everything else.  Differences aside, it is still absolute comfort food.

Squash Casserole
Serves 6-8

3-4 cups of sliced yellow crookneck squash (about 4-5 squash)
1/2 small-medium onion, diced finely (I use a yellow or Vidalia onion)
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons butter, solid
olive oil
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup sour cream
1 cup grated cheddar cheese (1/2 of a 8 ounce block)
20 Ritz® crackers, crushed (little over 1/2 of a roll of crackers)

  Time for the prep work.  Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, and preheat your oven to 350°F.  Grease a 8" square baking dish.

  Cook the squash just until barely tender, about 5 minutes.  Drain, and set aside.

  Melt the solid butter and add a drizzle of olive oil to a skillet.  The olive oil will raise the smoke point of the butter and give a touch of flavor.  Add the onion and garlic to the pan and saute until the onion is a golden color.  Make sure to keep your garlic moving, as it'll burn easy.

  In a mixing bowl, stir together the melted butter, sour cream, and cheese.  Add in the sauteed onion, garlic, squash and crushed crackers and mix until everything is well combined.  Scoop the mixture into the greased baking dish.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until heated through and the top starts to get lightly browned.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Kitchen 101: Non-reactive & Reactive

  It's hot outside, it's hot inside (AC isn't working).  So since I don't even want to think about food and potential heat sources, going to switch gears for a second and introduce a new category of posts - Kitchen 101.  Stuff that we should all know or learn to make life easier in the kitchen.  Some of this, I'm learning along with you folks.  The more cookbooks I read, the more new words, ingredients, & techniques I'm introduced to, and sometimes, they're just thrown out there and it's assumed the reader knows what it is.  Thank goodness for the interwebs, right kids?

  Today, let's dish about cookware.  Occasionally you're going to see the words "non-reactive" ____________ (insert skillet, bowl, pan, etc. here) in a recipe.  What does that mean?  Time to take a field trip back to science class - it comes down to chemical reactions.  Don't worry, I'm going to gloss over the technical stuff - but it boils down to mainly acidic foods reacting with certain metals, which will in turn change the taste of your food, and not in the way you want it to.  Non-reactive cookware will not cause that chemical reaction. That doesn't mean you need to root through your cabinets and toss anything considered reactive.  It just means we need to use a little knowledge on when to use them, and when to pull out the non-reactive stuff.   

What's Non-reactive?  What's Not?

  Non-reactive cookware is a pretty broad category that includes non-metallic and metallic materials in it.  Some prime examples of prep and cooking tools that are non-reactive are made of clay, stoneware, silicone, plastics, enamel, glass, and stainless steel.  But stainless steel isn't the best metal for even heating, so sometimes these pieces may have an aluminum or copper bottom bonded to them.  As long as the surface the food touches is stainless steel, it's non-reactive.

  Reactive cookware is primarily made up of copper and aluminum, and includes cast iron.  They are really good at heating up and retaining heat, but they react with acidic foods.  This can give food a metallic taste or discolor it.  That also means you shouldn't be storing your food in containers with these materials.  (If you are stashing your leftovers in your cast iron pans, you need to be fussed at - you're killing your seasoning and promoting rust!)  Copper pots may have a tin coating or lining to keep the cooking surface non-reactive, but as soon as the tin is scratched, your pot now has reactive spots.  Cast iron is reactive, but if you've got a good seasoning on it, you should have no trouble cooking tomato-based and other acidic foods in it, as long as you don't let the food linger around.

When Should I Use What?

Non-reactive - Use it for marinades, vinaigrettes, acidic foods like tomatoes, light colored soups or sauces to avoid discoloration (that means no aluminum whisks for stirring, too).

Reactive - Good for general cooking.   Don't forget about our note on cast iron - tomatoes are okay if you've got a thick seasoning on the pan, and you don't let the food sit around in the pan for a long time.  Just don't get any funny ideas to use it to marinate stuff in it.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Garlic Press Blues

I must be coming down with something.  I went into Cook's Corner and walked out empty handed earlier this week.  Oh, believe me, I saw all kinds of things I liked, but I somehow left the store without buying any of them. But I think there was this nagging voice of "where are you going to stash that" in the back of my head.  It's okay, I made up for it by ordering a Garlic Twist off Amazon.  Actually that's why I went into Cook's Corner in the first place, and they had pretty much everything else under the sun.  I just hope that bugger works when it arrives.  I had never heard of such a critter until a couple of months ago when they were in an issue of Food Network magazine.  They liked it, the reviews on Amazon are pretty positive, so it got in my head I must possess one.  That, and I'm seriously tired of picking skins out of my traditional garlic press.  I'm a klutz with terrible knife skills, so don't start that with me; it ain't pretty.

Yeah, I've been slow on posting still.  Been a busy week.  On the positive, I managed to hit up the one day sale on the Good Cook book club last Friday, and my order got here Thursday.  I went celebrity chef crazy and picked up Emeril's 20-40-60 and Spike Mendelsohn's The Good Stuff Cookbook, and to tip my total over the benchmark for cheap shipping I got Laura McCabe's Embellished Beadweaving.  It's not food related, but I wanted it for my other hobby of beading.  (That's the thing I love about that book club - no monthly shipments, and plenty of books I like - cooking and a decent crafting section.)

Well, my friends, my dearest is firing up the grill, reckon that means its about dinner time.  I'll check in with you again soon.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cheese on a Cob

  I'm stuffed.  Tonight we had a lovely dinner, mainly made on the grill.  Baked sweet potatoes with cinnamon honey butter, grilled NY strips, and cheese on the cob.  Cheese on the Cob - yes, this would be a Paula Deen recipe, although it's roots are Mexican street food.  Don't turn your nose up when you look at the ingredients - the mayo is just glue.  This is one of my hubby's favorite ways to eat corn.  This is not a recipe of exacts, and one of the few you'll see with me not giving quantities; I'm a geek and I like my measurements where they are necessary.

Cheese on the Cob
Yields 4-5 ears of corn

4-5 ears of fresh corn, husked and silks removed
grated Parmesan cheese*, about 1 cup (see note towards the end of the post)
chili powder
salt and pepper to taste

Special equipment: aluminum foil, cooking spray, grill

Start off by preheating your grill and ripping off enough aluminum foil to wrap your ears of corn.  Dump the grated Parmesan on a plate.

Brush the corn with a thin layer of mayo.  Roll the cobs in the Parmesan cheese until you get a nice, thick layer of cheese.  Sprinkle all sides of the corn with chili powder, salt and pepper.

Spray one side of the aluminum foil pieces.  Lay the corn on the sprayed side and wrap up the cobs.  I put my corn in the center of the foil, pull up the sides and roll them down like you do an open chip bag, and then roll in each side so the corn is fully closed, but you aren't going to mess up your cheese coat.

Put the corn on the grill for about 10 minutes, turning them every few minutes, or until the kernels start to show a little brown.

* Now, back to the Parmesan - use the green can.  Y'all know what I'm talking about- the can of pre-grated cheese that sits next to the pasta on the store shelf.  This is one of the occasions that it really is the best for the job.  I tried this once with nice, freshly grated Parm, and promptly went back to the green can.  Fresh Parmesan just didn't melt the same and the taste just didn't meld as well with the chili powder.  

**  Come in close - you can totally do this when corn is out of season or you don't have a grill.  Frozen corn - no problem.  Just cook the corn slightly under package directions, and pick up from the beginning once the corn is cool to the touch.  No grill?  Preheat your oven to 400°F and put the foiled corn in for 10 minutes.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Checking In

Evening folks - I know, I've been quiet this week.  School ended on Friday, but I turned around and immediately started a teaching mathematics methods course (or maths if you're of the persuasion).  I'm at the halfway point, and will be attending the last session on Friday.  It's been very enlightening, but I'm secretly looking forward to the end so that it really, really feels like I'm out for the summer.  That, and I'm soooo jealous DH is going to be home for E3, and I'm going to be sitting in class this week.  (For the non-geeks out there, E3 is a huge conference where the newest tech and video games are announced and previewed for us geeks to drool and fall all over ourselves until we get in our hot little hands.) 

Right now, my kitchen smells of basil.  I whirled up a batch of spinach-basil pesto and awaiting the pasta water to boil.  I've not tried this recipe before, so hopefully it'll come out well.  Boy howdy, I tell ya, if you've not made it and you have a food processor, do yourself a favor; arm yourself with a good pesto recipe and make it at home.  It totally blows the stuff you buy at the grocery out of the water. 

Well, that beep means my timer is done and food needs to be finished prepping as to be consumed.  Omnomnom...

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Frozen Lemonade Pie

  Summer and citrus go hand in hand.  And cold desserts make the heat livable.  This recipe I'm sharing with you folks is simple and no heat required, which is awesome when you feel like stepping into the kitchen will make you melt.  It's an older Southern Living recipe - mid '90s if I recollect correctly.

Frozen Lemonade Pie
Serves 12-16 servings (6-8 slices per pie) 

6 oz frozen lemonade concentrate (1/2 of a 12 oz can)
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (8 oz) tub Cool Whip® whipped topping
2 (9 inch) graham cracker pie crusts

  In a blender, combine the frozen lemonade, cream cheese and condensed milk.  Blend until smooth.

  Pour the lemonade mix into a large mixing bowl.  Fold the whipped topping in gently.  If you beat too hard, you will lose a lot volume, which you need to fill both crusts.

  Divide the mixture between the two pie crusts.  Cover and pop in the freezer for at least 6 hours - overnight is great.  Set it out on the counter about 10 minutes before serving.

Note - This recipe is fabulous using limeade concentrate instead of lemonade, too! 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fresh Strawberry Bread

Mmmmm.  I love strawberries, yes indeedy.  This loverly recipe comes from Cooking With the Noonday Chef 3 by Walter Lambert.  Now those of you unfamiliar with Chef Lambert, he demonstrates recipes on a local TV station on the 12 o'clock news.  I was tickled to death when I ran across this cookbook at McKay, a local haunt for bibliophiles, college students, and interesting people in general.  But, I digress - this is one of my favorite recipes I've tried out of that book so far.  If you're looking to try it, too, keep in mind, you'll need to prep the strawberries the night before you bake.

Fresh Strawberry Bread 
Yields 1 loaf

1 cup strawberry slices
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs, beaten

  Firstly, we're going to prep the strawberries.  Put the strawberry slices in a bowl and sprinkle with the 2 TBS of sugar.  Cover and put in the refrigerator overnight (or 8 hours).  This will create a nice syrup with the berries.

  After the strawberries have given up their sweet syrup, preheat the oven to 350°F.

  Blend together the flour, 1 cup sugar, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl.

  In a medium mixing bowl, combine the oil, vanilla, eggs, strawberry slices and its syrup. Dump the strawberry mixture into the flour mixture, and mix just until blended.

  Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan (9 inches x 5 inches) and bake for approximately 50 minutes.

Notes:  Chef Walter suggests variations of adding 1 1/2 cup chopped pecans or a bit of cinnamon to the batter, if you like.  This bread is decadent served with a schmear of cream cheese.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Tandoori Spiced Chicken Breast with Tomato Jam

  It's official; summer is on our doorstep.  Sonic is open until midnight.  Memorial Day is rolling in on Monday for you lucky ducks that have a long weekend.  (Just know I'll be giving you the stink eye, because I'm working.)  I figure it's time to share a grilling recipe.  Gas up the grills, if you haven't already.  This one probably has the longest ingredient list out of the recipes I make, but it's not complex, and a great wake-up from the winter doldrums.  Spicy - not for the faint of tastebud.  It's a tweaked version of a Bobby Flay recipe he fired up on a Boy Meets Grill episode.  I don't care much for the herbed yogurt Bobby made to accompany this dish, so I use sour cream to tame the heat.  If you wander by FN's website and see this dish -do not go by the amounts listed there- you will end up wasting lots of spices.

Let's start off by making the Grilled Tomato Jam - it'll need a little cooling time and has the longest cooking time.

Grilled Tomato Jam
Yields about 6 servings

5 Roma tomatoes (also known as plum tomatoes)
1 serrano chile
3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil, divided
salt and pepper
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 pinch turmeric or saffron (I'm on a budget, so I use the turmeric since I need it for the chicken anyway- original recipe calls for saffron)

  We're going to start by prepping and grilling our tomatoes and chile.  Brush the tomatoes and chile with about 1 TBS of the oil.  Sprinkle them with salt and pepper.  Grill the tomatoes and chile until you get a char on all sides - this won't take long at all, so don't wander off from the grill.  Remove from the grill and to a plate and let cool until you can handle them.  Give them a rough chop.  Optional: I seed my chile at this point, because the spice rub for the chicken is plenty hot.  If you go that route, wear gloves and don't rub your eyes!

  Heat up the remaining 2 TBS of oil in a medium saucepan.  Toss in the chopped onion and cook until the onion becomes soft. Add in the chopped tomatoes, chile, balsamic vinegar and saffron. (Sub a bit of turmeric if you don't have saffron.) Cook the mixture down on medium-low until it gets thick - I usually go 30 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature before you serve.

*  After the mixture cools, I take an immersion blender and blend it just a bit, so it's a bit smoother but still has chunks, as a personal preference.

Tandoori Spiced Chicken Breasts 
Serves 4

2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon cayenne (can reduce to 1/2 teaspoon if you're worried about the heat)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil (may need a bit more)
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, 8 ounces each
4 whole pitas
Sour cream

  Heat up your grill to medium high.

  Pound your chicken breasts until they are even thickness, if needed.

  Make the spice paste - mix all of the spices and oil together in a small bowl. The paste will be thick, and you can add more oil if needed to achieve a paste consistency.

  Spread a thin layer of the spice paste on ONE side of the chicken ONLY.  If you do both sides, the spices will be too overwhelming. Trust me, it'll have plenty of taste.

  Grill your chicken until cooked through - about 3-4 minutes on each side. Pull the chicken off the grill and let it rest for 5 minutes. Slice the grilled breasts, 1/2 inch thick slices.

  While the chicken is resting, warm the pitas on the grill - just until they are pliable. Top with the chicken slices and serve with grilled tomato jam and sour cream.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Baked Potatoes & Vidalia Onions

  I've got Georgia on my mind.  Dinner is in the oven, courtesy of two of my favorite cooks, that just happen to be from the Peach state - Alton Brown and Paula Deen. I'm using AB's methodology for baking potatoes and Paula's recipe for wonderful baked onions.  I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to eating it, because it'll be the first meal I've had in a week and a half that didn't consist of broth or ramen noodles.  Suffice it to say, I've been sick - hence not much going on here past few days.  So, to make up for a bit o' silence, 2 recipes!  Great thing about both of these, they are single serving, but so easy to scale as needed.

  A recipe for baked potatoes - some of you are out in la-la land, rolling your eyes.  Go on, skip this post, but the rest of us will enjoy a well-cooked potato because of it.  The key - the spuds will bake in the oven with no foil jacket, which holds in steam, making the skin soggy.  I was a bit skeptical the first time I did this, but I've not done it any other way since then.

The Baked Potato
Servings: 1

1 large russet potato
canola oil
kosher salt

Start by preheating the oven to 350°F.

  Scrub your potato clean under running water with a stiff brush.  Pat it dry.  Take a fork and pierce deeply a few times (AB goes 8-12 times; I go 10 - 3 on front and back, and 2 on the sides.)  Drizzle canola oil over the spud; it won't take much.  Rub the potato to make sure the whole skin is covered.  Sprinkle with kosher salt.

  Place a sheet of aluminum foil (or a cookie sheet) on the bottom rack- this will save you some heartache and oven scrubbin' later.  Position the potato on the middle rack over the foil - the foil will grab the drips.  Bake for 1 hour.  The skin will be crispy, and the potato flesh, oh so soft.  You can bake up to 4 without any time change, over that, add about 15 minutes to the bake time.

Saturday Night Vidalia Onions

Servings: 1

1 Vidalia onion
1 beef bouillon cube
1 tablespoon butter
fresh ground black pepper, to taste

  Cut a slice off the top of the onion.  Making sure you leave the root end intact, peel off the outer layer of the onion.  Cut out a small cone or core out of the center, again, leaving the root end untouched.  Cut the onions in quarters, stopping about 1/2 inch shy of the root.  Place a bouillon cube in the onion center.  Cut the butter into slivers and place over the bouillon and in between the quarter sections.  Pepper to taste.

  Wrap the onion well in a double layer of foil.  During the cooking, the onion will give off a lot of yummy juice that you don't want to lose.  Place in a 350°F preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or throw the wrapped onion directly on hot coals of a grill for 45 minutes, turning occasionally.

Variation - This was the first way I ever had a baked onion; momma made a similar dish using those microwave onion cookers.  She peeled the onion and sliced the top, added a little butter and Worcestershire sauce and baked in the microwave.  Absolutely wonderful, just like my momma.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

App Review: Grill Guide

  Gather 'round, kids.  Time to get a bit of a background here.  About a month ago, I put my old 30 gig Ipod photo into semi-retirement.  I have a long drive back and forth to work, and have a hard time picking up radio stations I enjoy listening to.  My Ipod had been my faithful companion, hooked to my car stereo, providing me with music for the ride.  But lately, the charge just wasn't holding very well.  With the stars aligned and tax refund in hand, (plus a really kick butt sale at Best Buy), I came into the modern ages and bought an Ipod Touch.  Don't worry, friends - our old standby is still around.  He keeps my hubby entertained around the house, playing numerous audio podcasts for his delight.  I, on the other hand, am in lurve with all the things you can do on the Touch - especially apps, and there are some nice ones out there for us foodies.

  So, occasionally, I would like to share my thoughts on some apps, and cookbooks (Lord knows, I gots a plenty of them, too.)  Being my first review, I'd like to say, everyone's tastes are going to be different, but I'll try to give my honest thoughts.  I refuse to do stars or number ratings, as that's pretty subjective, as anyone that follows critical reviews for movies and games will tell you.  What I will give you is, if knowing what I know now, would I buy it again if given the chance.  I think that's probably the best assessment I can give.  If I lost you back there on that maze of thought, I apologize, and remember, moss grows on the north side of the tree.

*Claps her hands and signals for a drum roll*  Our first review will be:  Dadoo Grill Guide!

App:  Grill Guide
Publisher:  dadoo
Compatible with Iphone, Ipod Touch, & Ipad
Price as of posting (5/16/10) 99 cents

  I bought the Grill Guide app as this spring has been unusually hot, bringing to mind the summer state of mind at our house.  Grilling.  Admittedly, I leave most of the grunt work to the hubby when it comes to fire and food in the great outdoors of our cement stoop.  But I usually get the question, "How long should I put this on for?" Being that I know little of grilling, I usually pull up recommended times online.

  Of course, there was the epic app frenzy that overtook me when I got the Touch, and started searching for food apps.  Found it recommended on a tech blog, so I tracked it down on the Itunes store and bought it.  One of the big stand-outs for me is the simple, but very visually appealing interface.  Upon opening the app - you get a picture of a hot grill with different foods cooking away.  Each piece of food represents the 7 grilling groups the app covers: pork, vegetables, red meat, lamb, poultry, fish & seafood, and fruit.  The bottom has the app logo, along with touch access to the ruler feature.  The food icons take you to a menu, where you select your food of choice.  Dadoo tells you recommended cooking times, and direct or indirect heat.  With meat products, you'll be given a choice of thicknesses and the appropriate times for each.  Which brings me to the ruler feature - it can be used in the horizontal or vertical position of the Ipod.

Final thoughts:  Would I buy it again? Yes.  But don't buy it expecting grilling recipes.  There are a few tips and ideas on how to cook a variety of foods, but these are for a basic grill.  But it serves the basic function of listing grilling times for a variety of foods and thicknesses, deciding on the right flame, and the ruler function is a nice and handy feature. For 99 cents, I can't ask for much more than that.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sloppy Joes

  Our school fundraiser cookbooks have arrived safely and gone on sale.  Beautifully printed, and they are jammed pack with all kinds of goodies.  Today, I'd like to share one of my submissions for the cookbook - Sloppy Joes!  Sloppy joes are filling, and tasty way to sneak in a few veggies.  I wish I could tell you where I found this recipe, but my memory fails - but it is a hearty, tasty and kid-friendly meal.  If you like a sloppier (saucier) joe, feel free to increase the sauce ingredients.

Sloppy Joes
6 servings

1 pound lean ground beef
1/4 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1 tablespoon brown sugar (I use light)
1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup barbecue sauce
6 hamburger buns
Optional - slices of cheese
Optional - salt and pepper, to taste

  Add the green pepper, onions, and ground beef to a skillet.  Brown the meat over medium heat, and drain off the liquids.

  Return the skillet to the stove, and turn the heat to low.  Stir in the garlic powder, mustard, brown sugar, ketchup, and barbecue sauce, and mix thoroughly.  Let it simmer on the low heat for 30 minutes.  Add salt and pepper, to taste if you want.  Scoop up the sloppy joe mix onto hamburger buns and add a slice of cheese, if desired.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Teaching an ol' dog blog tricks

I'm glad I started this blog - it's pushing me to step up to the plate and become a better, albeit very amateur, photographer.  One of the key things I've learned - natural sunlight is definitely best for illuminating subjects.  Working late hours lately, and cloudy weather for the next week, I've decided to put off taking a picture to go with every recipe - at the posting.  I do plan on going back and adding photos for recipes as I can.  I've got a lot to share, and I don't want to impede the info flow just for the sake of having a picture upon posting.  I'm a bit of a perfectionist, so I don't just want to slap sub-par stuff out there.  Nosiree.

There's some catching up to do around here, and hopefully this will make the site more useful to any readers.  (If y'all are out there...*giggles*)  Look for another info page coming soon - on measurement! 

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Creamy Hummus

  By now, you've probably seen the commercials for the Nintendo DSi with their newest cooking software, America's Test Kitchen: Let's Get Cooking.  Yes, I have a DSi.  Yes, I have the ATK software.  And yes, I have the previously released Personal Trainer: Cooking.  Y'all did see over on my profile, I am a gamer.  *grins* But back to the topic at hand, I have tried a couple of the recipes on the game, and they have indeedy come out well.  Today, I'll share the creamy hummus recipe.  It's a good basic hummus, super simple, and my best success making homemade hummus yet.  I've had three or four less than stellar attempts with other recipes - this one's a keeper.  I'll work up the gumption to do a review of the Nintendo game for Volunteer Vittles in the future.

Creamy Hummus
Yields about 2 cups

1 (15.5 oz) can garbanzo beans (also known as chickpeas, ceci, or cici beans)
1 garlic clove
1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup water
3/4 tsp salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
pinch (1/8 tsp) cayenne pepper

Equipment: food processor, garlic press

  Drain off your garbanzo beans and rinse them well.  Pour them into your food processor.

  Use the garlic press to finely mince the garlic.  It'll incorporate better into the final product.  Add it to the beans.

  Add everything else to the food processor.  Pulse it for 40 seconds, or everything is nice and smooth.

  Chill in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving to allow flavors to blend.

Notes: You can hand mince the garlic, but it may not incorporate as well as if you used a press.  The first time I made this, I used the press as per the game said. The batch I just whirled together, I just minced the garlic by hand because my press was in the dishwasher.  I could tell a slight difference when I was scraping the hummus out.

Don't skip the 30 minute meld - it makes a huge difference.  Gotta give the lemon and tahini time to work their mojo.  This hummus is even better the next day.

Tahini is sesame paste, and its becoming more and more available in grocery stores.  Pending on your local grocer, there's a couple of places to check to see if they carry it.  I've seen it in the ethnic section and also with the peanut butter.  It may seem a little pricey, but if you are as keen on hummus as I am - trust me, making it at home quickly becomes cheaper than adding those tubs to your cart. 

Now, y'all, don't get the idea everything I share is going to be pureed.  Just happens I wanted hummus and veggies for my lunch this week, and I'm trying to post pics with my recipes, if possible.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The cookbooks are coming, the cookbooks are coming!

Don't reckon you caught any excitement there, did ya?  One of our school's fundraisers is a cookbook.  I love fundraiser cookbooks from churches and schools.  Those are hidden gems of tried and true recipes, the best of the best someone's hearth and home has to offer.  And boy howdy, I work with some a-mazing cooks.  And they are arriving three weeks early.  As in, probably tomorrow.  400+ recipes.  Squeeeeee!!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Roasted Sweet Potato and Carrot Puree

  A lovely recipe from the Taste of Home Cooking School magazine (spring 2010); it can also be found on Philadelphia cream cheese's website.  It's a very filling and velvety side dish.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Carrot Puree
Serves 6

1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch rounds
1 lb sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons brown sugar (I used light)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups chicken broth, divided -more may be used at the end if desired
4 oz cream cheese, cubed

Equipment: food processor, jelly roll pan (or half sheet pan), saucepan

   Preheat your oven to 375°F.  Now would be a good time to prep your jelly roll pan, if you so choose.  I personally lined my pan with aluminum foil to help with clean up.

  After you've peeled and chopped the carrots and sweet potatoes, move them to a medium mixing bowl.  Pour the olive oil over the veggies, and sprinkle with brown sugar and salt.  Mix so that everything is well coated.  (Clean hands are the best tool for this job.)  Spread them out on the jelly roll pan in an even layer.  Pour 1 cup of the chicken broth over the potatoes and carrots. 

  Roast the carrots and sweet potatoes for 45-55 minutes, or until all the broth is soaked up and your vegetables are tender and a bit caramelized.  While roasting, give everything a good stir occasionally.

  When the vegetables are roasted, move them to the food processor.  Add to the processor the last 1/2 cup of broth and the cream cheese cubes.  Process until the mixture is smooth.  If you want a bit thinner puree, add more chicken broth and process again.  Move the mixture to a saucepan and heat through, stirring often.

Notes: I changed a bit of the methodology from the original recipe - they would have you pour your puree back on the sheet pan to reheat.  To me, that seems like a large pain to move the finished product to a serving bowl from that pan, so I say use a saucepan.  Honestly, my puree was plenty piping warm after being processed, I skipped the reheating at the end.  

Use regular olive oil for this - save the good stuff where the flavor adds something to the dish.  The olive oil is just for roasting the veggies, you aren't going to taste it.

And, if you are like me, you grew up calling a jelly roll pan a cookie sheet (and I still do around the house).  The main difference is - the jelly roll pan has those short sides where as a cookie sheet is a pan that may or may not have sides.  For clarification, I said jelly roll because with that broth, you are obviously gonna need sides.