Thursday, July 30, 2009

Aspa-broccoli: A new kind of green veggie

For dinner we had leftover Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, Mashed Potatoes, and a new kind of veggie. It has the stalks of asparagus with the floret-like top of broccoli. I'm not sure what it's actually named; the tag said "Aspirations," hence the coined name above. To cook it, I used the same method as I use for asparagus. We both really liked the Aspa-broccoli. It's worth a try!

Roasted Aspa-broccoli
1 bunch Aspa-broccoli
Olive oil
Zest and juice from 1 lemon

1. Spread Aspa-broccoli in a single layer on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Top with lemon zest and juice.
2. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until tender.

Mashed Potatoes
4 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into chunks (These have very thin skins, so I don't peel them.)
4 Tbsp. butter
3/4 cup sour cream

1. Bring potatoes and water to cover to a boil. Cook 15 to 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain and return to pot.
2. Mash potatoes with a potato masher (I prefer a chunky texture). Stir in butter until it melts. Stir in salt, pepper, sour cream, and a tablespoon or two of buttermilk.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Blackberry-Peach Coffee Cake

This recipe appeared in the June issue of SL and I've been wanting to try it since the story was in production in March. (Incidentally this is the story that prompted my serious craving for fresh peaches.) I made the cake for my Bible study group tonight and it was a hit! It bakes for a long time but stays very soft and moist. In fact, the center has a similar texture to cheesecake. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

MeatFest '09

For the past several years, our family (Mom, Grannie, Aunt D and Uncle J, my cousins J and J and their families, my sister Mel and brother Jeremy and their families) has gathered at my aunt and uncle's for a reunion of sorts. It takes place in July and serves as the half point gathering of the year (Thanksgiving and Christmas are the other times we're usually all together). I don't think of my family as very big (I only have two first cousins), but now that everyone has children (their are seven grandgirls, with one more on the way), we number 24. Plus Andy and I bring our niece Cameron and nephews Carson and Christopher from the other side of the family. This year, the weather was unseasonably comfortable for July in Alabama; the temperature was in the low 80s. We stayed outside in the shade all day.

Southern family reunions are known for the spread of food, but our gathering has a special name because we always have an overabundance of meat. Andy coined the name several years ago and it stuck. Now as a joke Mom monograms us MeatFest T-shirts each year. (You might be a redneck if…) Anyway, the amount of meat this year did not disappoint. In fact, it took two huge grills and three smokers to produce this much. We had hamburgers, pork chops, smoked ribs, grilled ribs, hot dogs, sausage, Boston butt, and steak. (Definitely not a place for a vegetarian!) The side dishes were equally as numerous (most folks can't resist some contribution): roasted potato wedges, Panzanella, coleslaw, corn salad, green beans, watermelon, not one but two slow cookers of baked beans, corn on the cob, Waldorf salad, rolls, and chips. For dessert, we had birthday cake for my niece Emma, ice cream, and Fried Peach Pies. Believe me when I say that after the 30 folks who came went through the line, it didn't look like anything had been eaten!

It's hard to imagine what so much food looks like and my photos don't do it justice. In order to have enough room for all of it, the meat was on a fellowship hall table in the dining room and the sides were on two tables in the kitchen.

I love this time with my family. It's laid-back and just a whole lot of fun. We spend the whole day reminiscing and laughing! The kids enjoyed the two inflatable water slides of Uncle J's as well as the awesome play set he built in the yard. Looking forward to MeatFest '10!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Chocolate Ganache Baby Cakes

I usually make these cakes as regular-size cupcakes. However, I wanted them to be a little more special tonight, so I made baby cakes. They were very good but too rich in this size. Next time, I'll use the regular muffin pan, instead of the jumbo one. Definitely serve them with ice cream to cut the richness. Enjoy!

Chocolate Ganache Baby Cakes
This cake is very moist; it's not quite as soft as a molten chocolate cake, but it's similar. Don't overbake the cakes; a knife will not come out clean.)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 (16-oz.) can chocolate syrup
1 Tbsp. vanilla (yes, that much)
1 cup all-purpose flour
4 oz. semisweet chocolate morsels
Chocolate Ganache
Ice cream

1. Beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until creamy. Add in eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in chocolate syrup and vanilla. Gradually add in flour, beating just until blended. Stir in chocolate morsels. Pour into a lightly greased jumbo muffin pan.
2. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes; remove cakes from pan. Invert onto serving plates, and spoon Chocolate Ganache over top. Serve with ice cream.

Chocolate Ganache:
8 oz. semisweet chocolate morsels
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp. instant coffee granules

1. Combine all ingredients in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH for 1 minute, 30 seconds, stirring halfway through. Whisk chocolate mixture until chocolate is melted and surface is glossy.

Stuffed Tomatoes

This yummy recipe works best with plum tomatoes, because they have sturdy sides. I think regular tomatoes would also work, but seeding them would be more difficult. A little crumbled bacon would be a great addition. There's always tomorrow…

Stuffed Tomatoes
5 plum tomatoes, cut in half and seeded (A spoon works well for this.)
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1 handful freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
Olive oil
1/2 cup fancy shredded Italian cheese blend

1. Sprinkle tomato halves with salt and pepper. Combine breadcrumbs and next 2 ingredients in a bowl. Mound breadcrumb mixture in tomato halves. Drizzle stuffing mixture with olive oil. Sprinkle with shredded cheese.
2. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Some friends came for dinner tonight and I made Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, Cheese Grits, Stuffed Tomatoes, and Chocolate Ganache Baby Cakes. Sounds hard, but I promise that it was easy. The pork recipe was inspired by one from Ina Garten that I made several years ago that was stuffed with fennel and onions. Don't be intimidated by stuffing a pork tenderloin. Traditionally you use pork that's been butterflied by a butcher. However, I shop at a regular grocery store, so I had to improvise. I bought one (1.5-pound) package of pork tenderloins, which contained two (0.75-ounce) cuts of meat. Enjoy!

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
1 (1.5-oz.) package pork tenderloins
Kitchen twine
1 onion, chopped
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 chopped fresh parsley
1 handful freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil
Country-style Dijon mustard

1. Slice each pork tenderloin in half along the length, just enough so each lays flat. (Don't cut all the way through the other side.) Place the two halves next to each other. Next cut four pieces of kitchen twine, and place at even intervals underneath the pork. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Combine onion and next 3 ingredients in a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil. Mound onion mixture onto one of the flattened pork tenderloins. Carefully fold second tenderloin over stuffing, and tie kitchen twine pieces to seal. Rub outside of pork with mustard. Place tenderloin on a lightly greased broiler pan.
3. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes. Decrease oven temperature to 350°, and bake for 20 more minutes or until pork is done. Let stand 20 minutes before slicing.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Recipe Rewind: Pumpkin Cookies

It's definitely July in Alabama according to the calendar, but the weather feels like early October. We've had several days of mild days with low humidity, so to celebrate I decided to make one of my favorite cookie recipes to take to Bible study tonight: Pumpkin Cookies. The recipe is from my friend Cindy. I love how tender the cookies themselves are! Best of all, everything comes together in a snap; I had these ready in 30 minutes. Definitely try these! (Note: One can has about 2 cups of pureed pumpkin. You only need 1 cup for this recipe, so store the remaining cup in the fridge.)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Chicken Ratatouille

It's summer, and nothing tastes better than a meal that makes use of fresh veggies. In my crisper drawer, I had 3 different colors of bell peppers, zucchini, and some fresh basil. The idea of pasta with a chunky tomato sauce sounded just right. All of the fresh veggies, mentioned above, plus an onion and 2 garlic cloves were combined with pureed tomatoes and chopped cooked chicken. I served the sauce over ziti and topped it with freshly grated Parmesan. We had a salad of green leaf lettuce, fresh tomato, sliced carrot, sliced cucumber, and sliced radishes. The dressing was my favorite Balsamic Vinaigrette. Super easy, super fresh!

Chicken Ratatouille
1 onion, chopped
Olive oil
1 each red, green, and yellow bell pepper, chopped
2 zucchini, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
3 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped
1 (28-oz.) can tomatoes (whole, diced, or pureed)
1 lb. chicken breasts, cooked and chopped (Note: I used my slow cooker method to cook the chicken, but instead of tarragon and thyme, I seasoned it with oregano, dried basil, and garlic powder.)
Cooked ziti pasta
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Sauté onion in hot oil 2 minutes. Stir in bell peppers and next 2 ingredients. Sauté for 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in salt and next 5 ingredients; cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture is thoroughly heated. Stir in chicken, and cook 5 more minutes. Serve tomato mixture over hot cooked pasta; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Blue Cheese Burgers

A few weeks ago, I made Blue Cheese Burgers and put them in the freezer for a crazy night when I didn't have time to make anything. Tonight was just such a night. Andy had to be in charge of dinner, so he thawed the burgers and cooked them on the grill pan. He also baked french fries and cut up some fruit. It was very nice to walk in to dinner. Thanks, Andy!

Blue Cheese Burgers
Combine 1 lb. ground round or sirloin, 2 tsp. grill seasoning, 2 oz. crumbled blue cheese, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Form meat into patties. Grill burgers until done; serve on buns. (My favorite buns are from Whole Foods bakery and French hamburger buns from Publix bakery.)

Oven-Baked French Fries
Andy recommends that you don't stick your face too close to the oven when you are getting out the fries. They make a lot of steam!
Making baked fries is super easy. To make them, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place frozen french fries in a single layer on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 450° for 20 to 25 minutes or until crisp.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Monte Cristo Sandwiches

For lunch today I decided to make Monte Cristo Sandwiches. A combination of smoked gouda, turkey, and ham was layered on sourdough bread. The signature characteristic of a Monte Cristo is jam. Andy's had raspberry jam; mine had pepper jelly. Yum! A terrific combination with the smoky, creamy cheese. Andy really liked his, but he said he never wants to see me make them because "it's too weird." (He has a similar policy about anything with mayonnaise in it. He likes how it tastes in dips, etc., but he doesn't want to actually be confronted with the idea that he's eating mayo.)

Monte Cristo Sandwiches
Sourdough bread slices
Raspberry jam or red pepper jelly
Sliced smoked gouda
Sliced turkey
Sliced ham
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
Salt and pepper
1 Tbsp. butter

1. Spread one side of each bread slice with jam or jelly. Layer half of bread slices, jam sides up, with gouda, turkey, ham, and then another slice of gouda. Top with remaining bread slices, jam sides down.
2. In a shallow dish, combine eggs and next 3 ingredients. Dip sandwiches, on both sides, in egg mixture.
3. Melt butter in a skillet or on a grill pan. Cook sandwiches at medium heat on each side until golden and cheese melts.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Chocolate-Mint Cupcakes

Every year for my friend Sallie's birthday I make her a Crème de Menthe Cake (chocolate and mint is her favorite dessert combination). Tonight I decided to make a treat for her when she and her family were coming to dinner. I didn't want to make a cake though, so I opted for cupcakes. The topping for Creme de Menthe Cake is whipping cream, but that doesn't work well for cupcakes. So I came up with this recipe; it uses the base for the traditional cake, but the topping is completely different. This recipe is going on the cupcake rotation at our house!

Chocolate-Mint Cupcakes
1 box white cake mix
1 1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup creme de menthe
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting

1. Combine cake mix and next 3 ingredients in a mixing bowl. Beat with a mixer until thoroughly combined. Scoop batter into lightly greased muffin cups.
2. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until done. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Spread each cupcake with Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting.

Chocolate Cream Cheese Frosting:
Peppermint oil is much stronger than peppermint extract, that's why you measure it in drops. Buy it at a cake-supply store, not the grocery store.
5 oz. semisweet chocolate squares or morsels
3 Tbsp. water
3 to 4 drops peppermint oil
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
5 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1. Melt chocolate and water in microwave at HIGH for 1 minute, 30 seconds. Stir until mixture becomes glossy; let cool to room temperature. Stir in peppermint oil.
2. Beat cream cheese and butter with a mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in chocolate mixture and vanilla. Gradually beat in powdered sugar until spreading consistency is achieved.


This delectable salad features huge chunks of homemade croutons. It's one of my favorites, for sure, and is a breeze to make. In the summer, serve it as a cool main dish. The best thing about it is that it has all the components of a BLT (do you see a theme to my summer cooking?). Tonight our dear friends Sallie and Ed and their kids came for dinner. We had grilled steak, Blue Cheese Butter, Panzanella, Grilled Potato Salad (I have a new method for making this, which I'll share later this week), and fresh watermelon and cantaloupe. Yummy food and great fellowship—what could be better?

1 loaf crusty bread (I used rosemary sourdough from Whole Foods.)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 tomato, cut into chunks
1 head green leaf lettuce
1/4 red onion, minced
8 bacon slices, chopped and cooked
Balsamic Vinaigrette

1. Cut bread into cubes. Place bread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bake at 350° for 10 to 15 minutes or until cubes are toasted.
2. Combine tomatoes and lettuce in a serving bowl. Add in onion, bacon, and croutons. Drizzle with Balsamic Vinaigrette, tossing to coat.

Balsamic Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. country-style Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. honey
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup olive oil

1. Combine vinegar and next 5 ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake to combine. Pour in olive oil, and shake to combine.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Oatmeal Cookie Ice-Cream Sandwiches

This idea for dessert for our Fourth of July party was a hit! Cookies are the easiest dessert to make, so I made two batches of my basic Oatmeal Cookies and then sandwiched them with vanilla ice cream. (The key is to underbake your cookies a bit so that they are flexible when you squeeze them together with the ice cream. I had planned to dip half of each cookie in milk chocolate ganache, but I ran out of time. There's always tomorrow…

Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups oatmeal
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 bag semisweet chocolate morsels or peanut butter morsels (I made a batch of each.)
Vanilla ice cream

1. Beat butter and next 2 ingredients until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until blended. Add in vanilla.
2. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients; gradually add to butter mixture, beating until combined. Stir in morsels.
3. Scoop batter onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets with a medium-size scoop; bake at 350° for 11 minutes or until done. Cool completely on a wire rack. Place a scoop of ice cream between two cookies.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Southwestern Egg Rolls

One appetizer on our Fourth of July menu was Southwestern Egg Rolls. This is a simple recipe to make (as long as you are comfortable frying food) and is a hit with guests of all ages. I used leftover Citrus Black Beans combined with yellow rice and taco meat and then rolled the filling in egg roll wrappers (these are available in the produce section of the grocery store). You could also serve these as an dinner entrée.

Southwestern Egg Rolls
1 package yellow rice
1 1/2 lb. ground beef
1 envelope taco seasoning mix
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 (8-oz.) package shredded Mexican cheese blend
Egg roll wrappers

1. Cook yellow rice according to package instructions.
2. Meanwhile, sauté ground beef until cooked and crumbled. Drain. Stir in 1 envelope lower-sodium taco seasoning mix and 3/4 cup water.
3. Combine rice, ground beef mixture, black beans, and cheese in a bowl. Place about 3 Tbsp. rice mixture in center of each egg roll wrapper; fold up bottom of wrapper, fold in sides, and then roll up. Use your finger to place a little water on the top corner of each egg roll wrapper to seal.
4. Pour peanut oil to the depth of 2 inches in a Dutch oven. Cook egg rolls, in batches, in hot oil until done. Drain on paper towels. Serve with salsa, guacamole, and sour cream, if desired.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth of July

The Fourth of July is Andy's favorite holiday and we have a party to celebrate it every year. It's super casual and a lot of fun! The menu doesn't vary much each year, because it's not the Fourth unless you grill! This year we had hamburgers, Caramelized Onion Dip with kettle chips, Layered Mexican Dip with Homemade Tortilla Chips, Southwestern Egg Rolls, Chopped Salad (without the blue cheese), watermelon, and Oatmeal Cookie Ice-Cream Sandwiches.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Tomato Pie

One of our favorite meals in the summer is Tomato Pie. This recipe is essentially like eating a BLT, minus the lettuce. Yum! In this case, the "B" stands for bacon and basil. If you've never tried tomato pie, you must! The key is ripe tomatoes, of course, so this is a summer-only dish. You can make your own piecrust, if you prefer, but refrigerated or frozen will work just as well. To avoid a soggy crust, it is essential to salt the tomatoes and let them drain on paper towels for about 30 minutes before assembling the pie. Don't be intimidated; this is very simple. Enjoy!

Tomato Pie
6 tomatoes
Kosher salt
Pepper (optional)
1 (9-inch) pie crust
8 bacon slices, chopped and cooked
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 to 3/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 cups fancy shredded Italian cheese blend

1. Preheat oven to 400°. Cut tomatoes into slices, and place slices on paper towels. Sprinkle tomatoes with kosher salt and, if desired, pepper. Let stand for 15 minutes; then flip the tomatoes, and sprinkle with a little more salt. Let stand 15 more minutes.
2. Meanwhile, place pie crust in pie plate; crimp edge of crust. Prick holes in crust with a fork; bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Layer half of tomato slices in prepared crust. Sprinkle with half of bacon and basil. Layer remaining half of tomatoes; sprinkle with remaining bacon.
4. Combine mayonnaise, shredded cheese, and remaining basil in a small bowl. Spread mixture over top of tomatoes.
5. Bake for 25 minutes.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Recipe Rewind: Cappuccino Brownies

I made a couple of batches of Cappuccino Brownies this week and thought I would remind you about the recipe. If you haven't tried them, you must. The cappuccino flavor is the perfect foil for the super-sweet buttercream frosting. Chocolate chips in the batter are a nice contrast to the cakey brownies.