Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thanksgiving is almost here!

Oh my, what a lovely holiday.  This is one day that is all about the food.  No gifts to buy, just the company of family and friends.  In my family, there are expectations for this day.  They expect the same bird recipe with stuffing or dressing and mushroom gravy and the meal has to end with chocolate pecan pie and classic pecan pie.  The sides are important but not as critical as the turkey, so I can get a little creative. This concept was tested one year when we spent T-Day at the Outer Banks.  The beach was awesome, but the turkey was just OK.  We ordered a turkey and my immediate family let me know that is not what they look forward to.  I guess this is where tradition steps in and takes hold. I am good with that.  This way the main dish has been tested and approved, so be it. 

Thanksgiving food is for Thanksgiving day and it is worth the wait.  We fix a large meal and eat till we are ready to pop, have leftovers for several days afterward and and then we are done until next year.  We have whole roasted turkey, stuffing, cranberries and pecan pie once a year.  So we are in agreement that Thanksgiving is for being thankful and copious amounts of our favorite delicious food.  Oh yeah, and family and friends, they are the icing on the cake!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Chunky Apple Coconut Cake

Apple season has begun.  I love fresh, crisp apples.  At my farmer's market, the same orchard farmer who has the most delicious, juicy peaches every summer starts apple season with fabulous ginger gold apples in late summer.  This year he had lots of second apples because of hurricane Irene.  Did you know that the east coast had an earthquake (unheard of) and a hurricane in one week.  The area was already saturated with water and flooding was guaranteed.  There was more concern about trees falling over because of ground saturation than high winds and I am sure both happened, but luckily not in my backyard.  During both of these events I was in Houston where there was no rain, no wind, the ground was stable and the fires has not started yet.  It was a good time to be out of town but I was a little sad I missed the earthquake because it was such and unusual event for my area.  The hurricane I can do without.  I like electricity and hot water and I have had enough rain.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chunky Honeycrisp Applesauce

 I got a bucket of hurricane Irene apple seconds.  They were all Honeycrisps. I felt like I hit a home run!

Needless to say I pounced on these jewels.  They had dings and a couple of bumps but no bruises.  Even if they had bruises I still would have bought them to make applesauce.  Homemade applesauce is one of my favorite fall treats.  It is great for breakfast, a side dish for dinner, snacks and a fabulous ingredient for applesauce cake.  I really haven't found the perfect applesauce cake, maybe you guys know of one?!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pomegranate Molasses

 I love taking short breaks because you can't do everything, all the time.  This has always been my way no matter how much I love something.  Time to refresh.  Sometimes other stuff just needs to get done.  Dust bunnies aren't as cute as they sound.

Cooking and photographing the food can be a challenge sometimes because aspects of the process does not work out - such as . . .
  • the food doesn't look right or I screw something up like forget a main ingredient (who does that!), 
  • dark gloomy clouds pop up out of nowhere in the middle of a photo shoot and change the lighting to dismal grey and dungeon dark,   (note pic above)
  • cats that are completely energized by the cooler weather are shooting and flying across the room playing under and over the props without a care for what I might be trying to achieve, 
  • or the pressure is on because there is a hungry mouth repeating "are you finished yet? can I have some? please I have to leave soon!  I'm hungry." 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Zucchini Olive Oil Cake with Crunchy Lemon Glaze

Here is an Italian cake that I ran across in my internet travels.  I was completely intrigued by using olive oil in a cake.  Olive oil is not usually used in for baking in American cakes and I was hesitant even though it is a staple in my kitchen and use it daily.  It is commonly used in Italian cakes and given the abundance of zucchini this summer and my quest to use it in as many new ways as I can come up with, I could not resist sharing this recipe with all who still have zucchini in their kitchen.  I know,  I know - enough of zucchini, but this cake was just too good to pass up!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Okra, Two Delicious Ways

Okra is a vegetable that falls into one of three categories of love it, hate it or what the heck is it?  People who don't like it mention its sliminess and people who love it usually grew up with it.  Those who don't know what it is probably did not grow up in the south.  I fall into the category of "I grew up with it" and love it. Okra is a vegetable that originated in Africa and grows in more temperate climates such as the southern United States.  For me it is hard to choose a favorite vegetable dish, but if I had to it would be my Granny's fried okra.  I grew up going to my grandmothers house for Sunday dinners and I always had creamed corn, fried okra, corn bread, cantelope (during the summer) and black eyed peas.  I never wavered on this, ever.  My grandfather had a garden and a large freezer the size of most people's back porch.  It was always full at the end of summer and lasted throughout the winter with plenty to share with family and friends.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Sweet Corn Pancakes

Corn pancakes made with fresh corn. Doesn't that sound like the perfect summer breakfast dish?  Where I live people are poised and ready for that first plump, sweet ear of corn and if the weather permits, we have fresh corn through September.  I grew up preferring white corn and white cornmeal and felt yellow corn was inferior.  When I was younger I was told that white corn was for people and yellow corn was for the animals.  Now I know that is just silly.  They taste very different and it is really just a matter of preference.  White corn such as silver king is sweet and delicate whereas yellow corn varieties such as the hybrid mirai  are firmer, sweet and has more of a corn taste.  There is also bi-colored corn that is a bit of both worlds.   These days I enjoy them all.  The only animals I need to feed are my family and they readily line up for fresh corn any way they can get it, grilled, boiled or creamed.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Creamed Corn with roasted peppers

 White corn was used for this dish, probably Silver King.

Fresh corn is best grilled or boiled on the cob, seasoned with butter, salt and pepper.  Maybe some lime, pure chili powder and cumin might make an appearence!  There are other seasonings that enhance the simple deliciousness of corn but in my opinion, it is always best to keep it simple, quickly cooked and a few ingredients.  This year, because of the lack of rainfall in the northeast, corn was not at its best at the start of the season.  Some of the first corn I purchased at the market was small, dry and some of the kernels were hollow.  Not too promising.  Thank goodness, rain came and corn, along with other produce, improved.

When growing up, we hardly ever had corn on the cob.  It was always creamed corn.  Now I wonder why?  It probably is a uncomplicated reason like it is just how my Granny and Mom did it.  But now in my house the first corn on the cob is a seasonal event.  After a while of indulging on fresh corn on the cob, it is time to move on!  Now comes the creamed version along with the process of freezing portions to use through out the year in some of my favorite recipes. 

This recipe is way too ridiculously easy except for cutting the corn off of the cob.  That is always a pain.  Shucking the corn is a little messy which I do outside or preferably at the market where I buy it because they compost it.  If I am going to shuck, cut and prepare corn for creamed corn then doing extra for freezer storage kills two birds with one stone. I will reap the reward later!

For Creamed Corn:
makes a good amount  or 8 - 10 servings

2 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup milk, whole is preferred but 1% to half and half will work.
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
fresh ground pepper
4 cups of corn kernels (exact measurement not necessary), about 6 ears corn

1 to 2 roasted poblano chilies, roasted green New Mexico chili  or roasted red pepper
     (optional, canned whole roasted chilies work well here)

In a large saucepan, melt the butter over medium high heat.  Add the flour, stirring constantly for about a minute.  Add the milk in a steady stream, constantly whisking.  Add the corn, roasted pepper (if using) and salt after the milk has thickened and the roasted pepper.  Simmer for a couple of minutes until the corn is slightly cooked.  Salt and pepper to taste.

  • Milk.  The higher fat milk used will produce a thicker, richer end result.  Alternatively for a truly indulgent creamed corn, 1/4 to 1/2 cup of heavy cream can be used in place of the butter, flour, and milk.  Just heat the cream,  add the corn, simmer until you like the consistency and season.
  • You might ask what do I freeze corn for?  Mostly for three different dishes:  it is a delicious addition to cornbread, cornmeal pancakes with whole corn (it is just not the same without it) and corn pudding for Thanksgiving.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Summer Squash Casserole

Summer yellow squash is perfect for this dish.  In fact, I can't think of another way to eat yellow squash that is anywhere near as good.  Yellow squash is not usually a first choice vegetable for me unless it is in this casserole.  Zucchini is a whole other story and blog post!  This recipe is one of the understated, humble classics of southern dishes.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Zucchini Pancakes

Zucchini seems to be taking over our gardens,  CSA baskets, farmer's markets and consequently our kitchens.  Here is little info on zucchini and a simple and quick recipe that will help with all that zucchini!
For thousands of years zucchini has been eaten in Central and South American countries but has only been a widely consumed vegetable in North America for about 30 years.  The variety that is grown here is a green Italian squash.  There are many types of zucchini grown these days but the most common is still the summer green zucchini.  It can grown up to a meter long but is best picked around 8 inches (20 cm) while the seeds are still soft and small.  In honor of this prolific vegetable, here is a recipe for zucchini pancakes that does this mild vegetable justice.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Southern Table: Dill Pickles

Pickling cucumbers are in the local farmers markets and you know what that means, don't you?  Time to make some dill pickles.  When I make pickles I have to hide them from my husband or he will eat every last one before anyone notices.  My family enjoys them and I like to use them in recipes and have them on hand for grilling and barbecues if there are any left.

Here are a couple of interesting tidbits about pickles:

Did you know that dill pickles out sell sweet pickles 2 to 1?  I didn't, I thought it was the other way around.

Did you know that the word "pickle" was derived from the middle English word "pikel" which was originally was a spicy meat sauce that accompanied meat?  Me neither!  I have read that when it was hard to preserve meats that sauces and spices were used to mask the unpleasant flavor or odor of the meat.  Sounds appealing, eh?

Did you know that pickles played a role in the discovery of America in 1492?  An Italian merchant and explorer named Amerigo Vespucci was involved with Columbus's voyage and stocked the ship with vitamin C rich pickles.  At the time, a vitamin C deficient disease called scurvy was cause for the failure of many voyages.  Vitamin C is not at its peak levels in pickled food but is enough to prevent scurvy outbreaks which were fatal at the time.  It is also believed that America was named after this merchant/explorer's name, Amerigo.

Monday, July 25, 2011

French Toast stuffed with blueberry goat cheese filling

It was a spontaneous moment. It will be Sunday morning tomorrow and what better time to have something indulgent.  I had a few fresh blueberries leftover and about 3 to 4 ounces of Chevre goat cheese and I was standing in front of fresh bread at the farmers market.  The raisin studded Challah just called out to me.  It had been a while since I indulged in making French toast so it was time.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Why Buy Fair Trade Certified? Coffee Is One Reason!

Here is an article that I wrote for concerning items and foods labeled Fair Trade Certified.  There are other labels such as Rainforest Alliance, organic and other international organizations.  Companies such as Ten Thousand Villages which is a favorite of my daughter's is a Fair Trade retailer and the town Media, PA claims to be the first Fair Trade Town.  I have always been drawn to the uniqueness and quality of these products and love the concept that I am effecting someone's life and community directly instead of through a large corporation that fills the pockets of the top tier and pays the workers just enough.  If you read on I hope you enjoy this article and maybe when you see something labeled Fair Trade you will take a second look.  This is a chance for the power of our hard earned cash to make a difference.  That is a good thing.

Fair Trade is a label that I have seen more of in the US markets recently.  I bought a store brand coffee blend labeled Fair Trade dark roast beans last time I stocked up on java.  No specific information was offered at the market so I felt some research was in order.  I found out that this coffee was Fair Trade Certified and was an organic blend of Mexican coffee and a dark roast Sumatra blend from Indonesia.  What exactly does fair trade certified mean?  The Fair Trade USA website states the definition as "Fair Trade goods are just that. Fair. From far-away farms to your shopping cart, products that bear our logo come from farmers and workers who are justly compensated. We help farmers in developing countries build sustainable businesses that positively influence their communities. We're a nonprofit, but we don't do charity. Instead, we teach disadvantaged communities how to use the free market to their advantage. With Fair Trade USA, the money you spend on day-to-day goods can improve an entire community’s day-to-day lives."  That makes me really happy.  I believe there can be a lot of power in the purchases that a person makes.   You can vote all you want (and I do) but real power in the markets.  It is amazing to me that a routine cup of morning coffee in my life can make a big difference in someone else's life and their community.   This is one of the reasons I love my local markets.  I know who grows the food,  I can ask them question  about concerns I may have and I know that the purchase money is going directly to them.  For me, beside feeding my family, I feel like I am doing the right thing.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Dinner tonight? Fresh, simple and on the Deck

Life is quiet at home.  Half of my family is going to be away for a week.  A dinner out with friends is in order but I can't do that every night.  After dropping my daughter and husband off at the airport, I went to the wine store and browsed.  It is one of those mega mart wine stores that you could wonder endlessly looking for what you want.  I got several bottles of wine and some of our favorite micro brews and meandered home.  No real hurry.  Nice.

When I am up to my own devices, I am a nibbler.  Almonds, cheese slices, fresh fruit, over easy eggs and toast.  It is all easy.  Very little clean up.  Good basic food and I had more time to work on some projects, pursue some interests, read, watch a movie and catch up on "So you think you can dance" in peace (without comments and eye rolling, so shoot me - I like the show). 

But eventually you get hungry and you need something more.    Hunger happens and if you wait too long you start fantasizing about foods you probably shouldn't and the end result is not as healthy or even remotely close to what you should be eating. You KNOW what I am taking about.  Food covered in cheese or sauteed in butter or topped with whipped cream or something to do with chocolate.  Nobody's watching.  Just you and your frying pan!  That leads me to "What is for dinner tonight?" Several months ago,  I had a flatbread appetizer in a restaurant that I really enjoyed which gave me the similar idea to do a crispy flatbread topped with veggies and goat cheese.  Something simple and I only need to use one pan.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Southern Table: Buttermilk and Lemon Buttermilk Ice Cream

Buttermilk.  Buttermilk has always, always been around, like a trusty, reliable friend.  How can you cook without it?  Buying buttermilk in the south is a very different experience than in the northeast where I am.  Low fat and non fat buttermilk is the only types available in our local grocers.  I am good with low fat or 1% buttermilk but I am very lucky that I live in an area with small farms that provide produce, dairy, eggs, poultry and meats.  So when I run across a market that has fresh, local buttermilk, I grab it.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Baking with Grains: Cracked Wheat Bread

Sometimes if you want something, you just got to do it yourself.  Cracked wheat bread is one of my favorite types of whole grain bread and only on a rare occasion can I find it in my area.  So I either have to be satisfied with the occasional find or learn to make it yourself.  Then so be it, I'll make it myself. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A Southern Table: Rhubarb Blackberry Crisp

Pies are big in the south whether it be the classic double or single crusted pie, cobbler, or fruit crisp.  A fruit crisp is a like a pie, but much easier.  When time is an issue this is my "go to" dessert.  No pie dough to make, instead a quick mixture of butter, flour, sugar and spices is combined and sprinkled over the fruit.  I also add oats and nuts which are optional but I never leave them out.  I think the oats and nuts make the crisp topping by giving more depth of flavor and the all important crunch. Usually it bakes during dinner, so after dinner a delicious, warm fruit crisp awaits.  Break out the essential vanilla ice cream and enjoy.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Taste of Philly: The Italian Market

The Philadelphia Italian market began in the late 1880s and was organized in 1915.  They are the oldest and largest continuously working market in the US. It all started when Antonio Palumbo, an Italian immigrant, opened a boarding house for other Italians.  They came, they started businesses in the area and the rest is history, literally.

At first look, you might think what is the big deal with this market.  Right away you see venders selling produce that most you can find in your local grocer, probably cheaper along with a couple of hard-to-find items.  But if you are disappointed at first glance and walk away, you will have seriously missed out.  Seriously.

 9th Street and Washington Ave.,   Italian Market, South Philly, PA

Saturday, May 28, 2011

BBQ Sauce: My Favorite for Backyard Grilling

 If you have ever witnessed conversations about barbeque preferences, you know it can get kinda heated like when people start talking politics or religion.  It is a subject that evokes a lot of passion.  Everyone has a favorite barbeque sauce or style.

In one area of the Carolinas it is vinegar based with a bit of cayenne and black pepper and in another area it is mustard based and yellow.  In the deep south, it is a tomato based, tangy sweet sauce and they are not adverse to spicing up.  In Alabama, where I am from, there is also a white sauce that is mayonaisse and vinegar based that is considered a regional classic and I don't think I have seen anything like it anywhere else.  Memphis is known for their dry rub barbeque but also has a sauce similar to Kansas City but is not as sweet and is thinner, but still tomato and vinegar based.  Texas barbecue is not so easy to categorize.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chicken Chili Verde with beans

 Ones of the benefits of blogging for me has been that I have to stop cooking like the Mad Matter.  Sounds a little crazy but let me explain.  Chili is something I have made for years.  Beef, chicken and vegetarian and every other version I or someone else was in the mood for.  I have not made the same pot of chili twice.  I might have come close but I never used a recipe and I never wrote one down.  It is totally fun but sometimes I wish I could replicate my favorite versions. I am now writing recipes down and taking notes.  Yes, notes.  If I don't get something right the first time, the next time I make it, I will or at least get closer.  This may not be a new concept to some, but for me it is revolutionary.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Lemon Ricotta Souffle Pancakes with Berries

Pancakes are a food that transcends cultures.  There are too many versions that vary from culture to culture to name them all.  In North America, it is a classic breakfast food.  Pancakes can grace special occasions or a cozy weekend breakfast.  It is comfort food at its best and for many there are memories associated with them.  My family has spent many a Sunday making our favorite pancake recipes, consuming them with maple syrup and bacon or sausages.  Each person can be accommodated easily for likes and dislikes which can be rather important in families with picky eaters. Additions to a favorite pancake batter is a simple as sprinkling fresh or frozen berries, bananas, grated apples, nuts, granola, chocolate chips, or dried fruit over the top of the pancake.  Or just leave it plain, simple and completely delicious.  The options are almost endless! It can be quite a family event to make pancakes while those hungry mouths are waiting to be fed.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Ginger Soda and Ginger Candy: Double Duty Recipe

With this recipe, I can kill two birds with one stone.    The two birds are my children.  One loves ginger ale and the other loves ginger candy.  The stone is this lovely ginger syrup recipe for making ginger soda and candied ginger.  This ginger soda is similar to ginger ale but has a lovely warm heat that creeps up after you have taken a couple of sips.  A ginger syrup is made, poured into a glass with ice, a half a lime is squeezed in and then it is topped with sparkling water or plain soda.   Very refreshing.  One interesting aspect of a homemade ginger soda is the warm, spicy after taste of the ginger which I love.  The candied ginger tastes very much like the store bought variety, except for not as sweet.  I know that sounds a little silly considering that it is candy, but none the less, I stand by my statement.  I think the reason is that my ginger syrup was not as sweet as it could have been and therefore neither was the candy.  I am more into flavor than sweet and too much sweetness seems to take over the flavor sometimes.  In the USA, I think many of our products are overly sweet and the flavor is not as pronounced as it could be.  This is my personal opinion.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Fresh Strawberry Scones

Strawberries are everywhere.  They hit the markets somewhere around February 14, Valentines Day, and continue to increase in volume and drop in price.  The first strawberries that are available sadly are usually flavorless.  So I wait.  Fruit in season is undeniably the best.  That can't be argued with.  In season on the northeastern coast is June and the season is short.  That is depressing.  There is not too much that is in season right now but maybe celery and asparagus.  So Plant City, Florida is not too bad.  It's still in the US and on the east coast.  The weather south is warmer than here, and right now - I am jealous.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Morning Glory Muffins

Muffins.  Most muffins are too much like cake for me.  They seem more like a treat than breakfast.  I like hearty for breakfast.  Nutritious helps.  Foods like homemade granola with plain yogurt, oatmeal made with steel cut oats,  hot cereals made with a multi-grain cereal or a whole grain slice of toast with some delicious jam or fruit spread on it.  These are the types of breakfast foods that make me feel good and gets me going.  Of all the muffins I have made and tried, Morning Glory Muffins are presently my favorite.  How can you really go wrong with a name like that?!

I searched for the healthiest Morning Glory Muffin recipe I could find and then started tweaking. I am very happy with the results and am sad to say not one made it to the freezer.  Nutrient dense recipes that taste good become staples in my recipe files.  I like the phrase "nutrient dense".  It is a concept we can all live by, literally. 
Chunky, Healthy and Delicious.

Even though I love hearty, healthy recipes, I do want to be true to what foods are suppose to be.  Cookies are supposed to taste like cookies,  cakes taste like cakes and so on.  Healthy only goes so far and then the recipe is nothing like it is supposed to be or something else entirely.  I am  not willing to give up all purpose flour or white sugar because they have their place in baking when you are trying to achieve a certain texture and/or taste which for me is also important.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lime Curd: Sweet, Tangy and Versatile

Fruit curds are versatile and a little goes a long way.  This sweet and tangy indulgence is easy to make, but can also be a bit troublesome.  Incorporating the eggs correctly, cooking at a medium heat and constant stirring leads to a smooth and creamy curd with very few egg bits or none at all. If you have ever rushed making a curd by heating it too quickly or slacked when you should have been stirring, then you may already know scrambled egg enhanced curd is not what you are looking for.

Lemon curd always makes me think of my mom.  Mom loves lemon anything so lemon meringue pie showed up often when I was growing up.  I do have her recipe and I know it is good but it uses cornstarch as a thickener along with egg yolks and water (that's right water, I had to do a double take the first time she gave me this recipe).  No disrespect mom but I wanted to keep my recipe simple and focused on two techniques:  mixing the eggs and sugar with a whisk or mixer until well blended and the cooking method.  There are many recipes for making fruit curds. Some use yolks only or other additional thickeners or less butter or the addition of salt or more sugar and on and on (and water?!).  I am not saying anyone of these recipes is wrong or right because as long as they work, that is right!

Oh and don't be afraid of making a curd.  Once you get the hang of it, it is a cinch. Sometimes a little practice is all you need.  This goes well, like really well, with Coconut Bread that you can find here.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Coconut Bread

This post was my first post on March 15, 2011.  I am very proud and honored to be contributing to this food magazine site that is headed by Kalle Bergman.  It has a flavor I have not seen before.  Go see for yourself and check it out.

On March 1, I was reading a New York Times article on coconut oils, Once a Villain, Coconut Oil Charms the Health Food World, which was stating how vegans and persons with specific dietary needs  had been using virgin coconut oil to make cakes and cake frosting, pie crusts, baked goods and sautes to achieve better quality and flavor.  It also mentioned that coconut oil is not the villain that it has been made out to be.  It was the hydrogenated version, along with all the other hydrogenated oils that have been produced, that was really bad for you.  Coconut oil got really picked on and tossed out of the party. There are other sources that suggest virgin coconut oil is a healthy oil and that societies that use them heavily in their diets do not have higher levels of heart disease than areas that consume a western diet like in the US, they are actually lower.  There have been some long term studies in the US that concluded coconut oil does not increase heart disease.  There is a lot of interesting science behind these results.  I think this is all fascinating since we have been told to stay away from these foods because they are evil and they will kill you. I should be enthralled, but instead of pondering this interesting nutritional information (info on saturated fats not being so bad for you has been coming out slowly for several years now), I had an epiphany, OK just an aha moment. Maybe coconut oil is exactly what that coconut bread that I made 7 to 10 years ago needed.  It was very lackluster in taste and I was soooo disappointed.  Would coconut oil add that extra level of flavor so the bread would taste like coconut, because why make a coconut bread that doesn't really taste like coconut?  That seems like wasted calories to me.

Amazingly. I knew exactly which cookbook of mine had the recipe (I have a few cookbooks!) and went right to it and then to the store for unrefined, virgin coconut oil.  It is now apparent that I never really gave up on this bread recipe, even though I should have after the first try.  It was really not good.  Maybe coconut has a "special place in my heart" and it was meant to be!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Homemade Limoncello: Part 1

Before getting started on this post, I have an announcement that I am thrilled about.

I have been asked to contribute to a new online magazine called Honest Cooking.  I gladly accepted and am very excited about this opportunity to be a part of this community headed by Kalle Bergman.  The site launched today.  I think the look and content is fabulous.  Go check it out and decide for yourself!

Now onto more fun stuff:

Part 1:  Infusing the vodka with lemon zest.

I love making liqueurs.  Lemon seems like the perfect way to bring in the beginning of spring.  Anything citrus works for me this time of year.  I have jumped into the cyber world of Limoncello recipes.  There are serious opinions about how to make this liqueur.  My first shocker that it was highly recommended to use Everclear which is very unavailable, as in illegal to sell, in Pennsylvania. In PA, our alcohol use must be governed because we the people cannot make responsible choices.

The second shock was that people use this stuff as a cleaner.  Wow, all this time I thought it was for spiking punch, so the spiker could watch the spikees hurl their grits at the end of the night and laugh their loser butts off.  Funny stuff.  Yeah, right!  Oh well, that was the good old days when we were immature and immortal.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Toasted White Beans and Greens

 This is a bowl of homemade white beans and kale.

I love sauteed greens so I am always interested in new ways to prepare them.  If garlic is involved, all the better.  Swiss chard and kale are definitely favorites of mine to cook with.  Turnip greens not so much.

Growing up my Granny used to make turnip greens or collards.  She boiled the stink out of them, literally.  I never really cared for them and don't really remember eating them very often, if ever.  It was the classic southern recipe of chopped turnip greens, ham hocks, vinegar and some sugar.  They always seemed so lifeless and unappealing.  I know some of you out there think, well she probably wasn't a good cook because turnip greens are awesome.  It's me, Granny was a fabulous cook.  I truly looked forward to our family dinners at my grandparent's house.  It was always a smorgasbord of southern dishes made with fresh garden vegetables from my Poppy's acre garden.

So one day I was putzing around at the library and I picked up a copy of Super Natural Cooking written by Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks.  I found her recipe for white beans and kale and it looked interesting so I tried it.  I made it with Swiss chard and made a few changes to simplify this recipe even more.  It was so delicious that it became the main focus of the meal that night.  It is an easy, nutrient dense, delicious recipe that I have made many times since.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Mashed Potatoes, Rutabega and Parsnips

 I love a good side dish and this is one of my favorites.  Although I will admit, I have many favorites.

A favorite side dish of a lot of people is mashed potatoes.  I have never understood why this dish is included at the Thanksgiving or Christmas table.  It seems like an everyday kind of dish.  But if you add root vegetables such as parsnips and rutabegas, then you are taking standard mashed potatoes to a whole new flavor level.  Rutabega, parsnips and a few potatoes mashed together to create something delicious.  This is not a creamy, smooth mashed potato type dish.  It is a chunky, smashed combination of root vegetables flavored very simply with garlic, salt and black pepper that give mashed potatoes a run for their flavor money! 

Did you know that rutabegas have lots of vitamin C?  It is a cross between turnips and cabbage and is sometimes called a yellow turnip.  It is believed to have originated in Sweden since it was found growing wild there. While I was looking into what this crazy looking thing really is, I found out it is commonly cooked with potatoes.  It seems rutabegas and potatoes are a natural pairing!
Parsnips and red potatoes.

Did you know that parsnips taste really good and are better than cooked carrots? (OK this is an opinion thing, I don't care for cooked carrots unless they are disguised in soup or meatloaf).  Parsnips are related to carrots and originated in Europe and Asia.  They are more nutrient dense than carrots which is interesting considering that vegetables with color usually tend to be more nutritious.

This side dish is really simple to prepare.  Peel, cut into pieces, cook in water, mash and season.  Done.
Potatoes, parsnips and rutabega in a cooking pot.

Where did I get this recipe?  I am not sure. I love roasted turnips and parsnips and wanted a different way to prepare them.   Give them a try and see what you think!  I have made other versions with onions and greens that were seriously good eats.

Red potatoes, rutabega and parsnips are the combination that I like best but feel free to use carrots, turnips, sweet potatoes or celery root.  The optional cream cheese bumps up the recipe to something more decadent for special occasions.  The amounts of butter and cream cheese can be increased if you would like but I think it is quite delicious as is.

Mashed Potatoes, Rutabega and Parsnips
7 to 8 servings

1 medium sized rutabega, peeled
2 large parsnips, peeled
4 medium sized red potatoes or your favorite mashing potato, no need to peel
4 tablespoons of unsalted butter
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 teaspoons salt
fresh ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup of milk
3 ounces of cream cheese (optional)

Cut the rutabega and the parsnips into 1 inch size pieces.  The potatoes cook faster so they should be larger, up to 2 inches.  Place all root veggies in a large pot.  Cover with cold water that has had a teaspoon of salt added and bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes or until done.  Test for doneness by piercing with a fork or knife to see if it slides in easily.  Meanwhile while the veggies are cooking, place butter in a sauce pan and heat over low until melted.  Place garlic in and saute, still over low heat for a minute or two.  Turn off the heat and set aside.

When done, drain the water from the vegetables.  Mash with a potato masher until the veggies are broken up into smaller pieces.  Add garlic infused butter, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, pepper, and milk starting with 1/4 cup (add cream cheese here if using).  Mash a bit more until mixed and taste for seasoning and adjust to your taste.  I leave mine chunky and the potatoes break down more than the parsnips and the rutabega.


Print Recipe

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Snowmen and Sunshine

Here is an interesting crowd that showed up in the neighborhood one day.
And then a couple of days later these little ones joined them.

 Maybe we have had a snow day or two in the neighborhood.

Actually we have had several.  You know, snowflakes and school buses don't get along.

Now there are actually teeny, tiny signs of spring.  I know I am being optimistic. The sky is blue and the temperature is rising.

Are we done with the snow?  Probably not.  But what we have is melting ever so slowly.  Melting is good.   Sadly the snowmen did not make it. 

Here is a picture of the amazing blue sky that makes you feel kinda awesome inside.  Sunshine always helps.

Well I have to take a short break and go see my hometown of Birmingham, AL.  It is a long trip, but there is family there.  I have a couple of recipes for you when I get back.  One contains rutabegas and the other is greens and beans.  Both lovely, healthy and tasty recipes that I hope you will in enjoy.  The weather is suppose to be superb this week. . .



Friday, February 4, 2011

Blondies, Brownie's alter ego!

 If you don't like chocolate then you are probably tired of hearing people swoon over brownies and chocolate desserts.  I like brownies a lot and chocolate.  So I am not knocking them, absolutely not, but we have a family member that is not that crazy about chocolate and given a choice, doesn't eat it.  This pushes me to find other desserts.  Blondies are the yin to brownies yang.  Brownie's alter ego?  Too profound?  How about they are gooey and chewy just like brownies but without chocolate (unless you add a few chips like I did here).  Sort of like a gooey butter cake but actually a bar cookie or blond brownies.  Do blonds really have more fun? (yes, I said that)  Let's find out.

Homemade Caramelized Onion Dip

 Onion dip mix use to be one of the prepackaged guilty pleasures that my family indulged in once a year.  Add a pint of sour cream and you have heaven on a potato chip.  Having one dipped chip is not an option.

This packaged dip has ingredients that I normally do not like to eat or serve.  Nomenclature of ingredients that defies pronunciation.  Ingredients that have chemical names that I once upon a time understood from college chemistry.  I heard someone make a statement (probably someone like Michael Pollan)  about food saying "that if you can't pronounce it, don't eat it".   OK, so a couple of years ago I searched the internet and cookbooks that I own, got some ideas and came up with this recipe for onion dip.  This is now my all time favorite onion dip.  I hope you think so too.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Vanilla Bean Tapioca Pudding

  This is the pure vanilla version of tapioca pudding, which in my opinion is quite fantastic.

There is something about the new year and January that just say old fashioned desserts to me.  Tapioca pudding is one I like to make during the winter months.  It sure says simple comfort to me.   I never had tapioca as a kid but my husband did.  I don't even know why I started making it except that  my husband was going on about it one night at dinner and I was intrigued.   Vanilla bean tapioca pudding has been a regular dessert ever since and that has been quite a few years.   My kids fell in love with it and to this day get excited when I say I am making it.  That is kinda nice.

So today I would like to share an old fashioned, not so fancy (unless you want it to be), homey pudding.  You can definitely make this with vanilla extract just make sure it is the real thing, no imitations please.

 Topped with dried apricots, cherries, raisins, pistachios and toasted walnuts.  Yum.

You might be wondering what is my secret recipe?

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Broiled Grapefruit

Ruby red grapefruit
Got Grapefruit?

I thought so.

Broil them.  Sound crazy.  Not to me.  This is one of the things that my Mom used to make when I was growing up.  I like grapefruits, but I am not crazy about them.  The tartness gets a little much after a couple of bites.  A little goes a long way.  I will say I love a grapefruit soda, grapefruit cake, grapefruit icing and ambrosia (a favorite of mine growing up!).

If you are like me, you probably received a box of fruit for Christmas that probably contains a couple of ruby reds or white grapefruit.  You can eat them plain or squeeze them for fresh juice.  Or you could make a delicious Sea Breeze cocktail  (1 part vodka, 2 parts cranberry juice, 1 part grapefruit juice and a squeeze of lime).  A cold drink doesn't sound all that appealing right now.  It is cold here and I need warm stuff to help take the chill off!  Broiling them like Mom did sounds good to me . . .

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Pomegranate Cinnamon Rolls

Aren't these beautiful?  The pomegranate seeds look like jewels.

They were really, really good.

The sad part was I did not make enough icing.  My New Years resolution is to make more icing next year.

The icing was the most important part.  Tangy and sweet and pomegranatey.  The soft, slightly sweet, vanilla flavored bread is the foundation to the deliciousness of the tangy pomegranate icing.  It is a lovely contrast, one that I love much.  I kind of have a thing for tangy sweetness.

Want to know more?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash, Parsnip and Red Pepper Soup

Roasted vegetable soup flavored with curry and cumin.  This is one of my all time favorite soups.  I love roasted anything, almost anything.  Butternut squash, parsnips, rutabaga, turnips, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, potatoes and celery root.  This list is not definitive.  I am sure I have left something out or there is something out there I haven't roasted yet.  Don't worry, I'll get to it.

We were expecting a snow storm (you know that east coast storm you are probably still hearing about, flights canceled, snow not getting cleared fast enough, football games getting postponed, nation of wussies) and I needed to go to the store.  Of course the whole east coast population was there because they were out of milk too. Weird.

After holiday indulgences,  I was ready for some healthy soup.  Something hot and filling.  I must mention here that our downstairs heater decided not to work on this day so cooking was a good way to stay warm.  We do have a wood burning fireplace and thank goodness we had some wood.  The downstairs was hovering in the 50 degree range for which I am thankful.  It was not the same temperature as outside. It was cold and it was snowing which by default makes one colder and it was the day after Christmas and we were getting snowed in and I had already cooked enough.  Seriously.

Back to the soup . . .

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