Sunday, August 30, 2009

Recipe Rewind: Lemon Chicken Pasta

This has been the weekend of family birthdays. My sister's birthday was yesterday and our niece Lizzie's was today. Because we were in Huntsville yesterday, we celebrated with them today. Mel requested Lemon Chicken Pasta for dinner. This recipe is impressive tasting, but it comes together quickly. If you haven't tried it, you need to! We had Apple-Blue Cheese Chopped Salad and Focaccia. For dessert, we had cake from Whole Foods. Happy birthday, Mel and LB!

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Today, our nephew Aubrey turned 2. Happy birthday, buddy! We spent Friday night and Saturday in Huntsville with Andy's family so we could celebrate Aubrey's big day. His party was a picnic at Monte Sano State Park. Each family was responsible for their own lunch. Andy's parents, Andy, and I had Muffulettas, Updated Potato Salad, and watermelon. Usually I make a muffuletta in a sourdough round and cut it into quarters. However the size of the quarters make them difficult to eat. For our picnic, I decided to make individual sandwiches using the French hamburger rolls from the Publix Bakery. Very easy and delicious!

French hamburger rolls, sliced
Olive salad
Provolone cheese slices
Hard salami slices
Black pepper ham slices
Pastrami slices

1. Spread olive salad on cut sides of rolls. Layer half of rolls with cheese, salami, ham, and pastrami. Top with remaining rolls halves.

Olive Salad:
1 jar greens olives stuffed with pimientos, drained
1 jar roasted red peppers, drained
1 garlic clove
1 tsp. dried oregano
Olive oil (optional)

1. Combine olives and next 2 ingredients in a food processor. Pulse until mixture is coarsely chopped. Stir in pepper, oregano, and, if desired, a little olive oil.

Updated Potato Salad
This is a new (and easier) method for making Grilled Potato Salad.

4 new potatoes, thinly sliced
1 onion, sliced in half and then into thin half-moon shape
Olive oil
6 bacon slices, chopped and cooked
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. Worchestershire sauce

1. Bake potato slices on a lightly greased baking sheet for 15 minutes or until done.
2. Sauté onion in hot oil over medium heat, stirring often, until they caramelize.
3. Combine potatoes, onions, and bacon in a bowl. Stir together mayonnaise and next 2 ingredients. Toss with potato mixuture. Serve warm.

Friday, August 28, 2009


There's a recipe in the October issue of SL for focaccia topped with caramelized onions. Yummy! I had planned to make it tonight for dinner. However AC and Lizzie ended up eating with us and I knew they wouldn't eat the onions, so I improvised. I used pizza dough from Publix as the base of the recipe and roll it out a little thicker than I do for pizza. Then I made indentations in the top of the dough with the handle of a wooden spoon. The next step was to sprinkle the dough with salt and dried rosemary and drizzled it with olive oil. Bake it at 425° for 15 to 20 minutes. Cut the focaccia into triangles to serve.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Wilted Spinach

Tonight for dinner we had Pork Chops With Apple Cider Gravy and Wilted Spinach. I don't usually make spinach but I had a craving for it, so I made up this easy recipe. (Keep in mind that spinach really shrinks when it is cooked, so cook twice as much as you think you need. I cooked one bag of baby spinach, which was enough to serve two people.)

Wilted Spinach
2 Tbsp. butter
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced
1 bag baby spinach
Salt and pepper
1/4 chicken broth (optional)

1. Melt butter in a skillet; add in garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Stir in spinach, salt, pepper, and, if desired, chicken broth; cook 2 to 3 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Chocolate Cupcakes With Peanut Butter Frosting

Our department at work takes birthdays (and cake) very seriously. We look forward to all eight birthdays and what delectable desserts our coworkers will make. (Our tradition is that whoever had the last birthday brings dessert for the next one.) Sunday was Stephanie's birthday, so JoAnn made cake for her on Friday. In this case it was Chocolate Cupcakes With Peanut Butter Frosting from Barefoot Contessa. JoAnn meticulously piped the frosting on the cupcakes using a zip-top bag and then she had the great idea to garnish them with chopped Reese's Cups to further amp up the chocolate-peanut butter combination. They were outstanding! I asked if it would be okay to post the recipe on my blog and she agreed. (Photography by Stephanie; styling by JoAnn.) Happy birthday, Steph!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Buttermilk-Brown Sugar Pound Cake

I decided to make a pound cake for dessert and came across this recipe in The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook, which is an outstanding book, by the way. The original recipe calls for mace (I'm not sure what it tastes like), which I omitted. For flavoring, I used a combination of vanilla and almond extract. I can't find my regular loaf pan, so I made four mini pound cakes and have frozen some for later. The cake itself is very moist and did fall a bit after it came out of the oven. I served the pound cake slices with ice cream and Blueberry Syrup recipe that I made up. (A friend said it tasted a lot better than the blueberry syrup at IHOP; I hope so!) Enjoy!

Buttermilk-Brown Sugar Pound Cake
1 1/4 cups butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup buttermilk

1. Beat butter and sugars with an electric mixer until creamy. Add in eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla and almond extract.
2. Combine flour and next 2 ingredients in a bowl. Gradually add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Pour into lightly greased mini loaf pans.
3. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until a pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean.

Blueberry Syrup
1 pint fresh blueberries
Zest and juice from 1 lemon
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

1. Combine ingredients in a small saucepan, and cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves and liquid begins to thicken. Taste and add more sugar, if desired. Serve warm.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Bacon-Basil Pesto Pizza

Bacon is one of my favorite ingredients, and I use it all the time. Last night we grilled our first pizza. Andy was a little skeptical, but we decided it would be best if we put our pizza stone on the grill and let it preheat with the grill. Then once it was hot, we placed the pizza on the stone. It worked pretty well (we did end up folding the pizza like a calzone to transport it from the kitchen and then unfolded on top of the stone and placed the cheese evenly on the top. The crust browned and crisped up perfectly! We'll definitely try this again. In fact, I liked it better than cooking it in the oven. The best part is that you don't have to heat up the kitchen!

Bacon-Pesto Pizza
1 pizza dough round (I bought this one at the Publix bakery.)
Basil pesto
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
Provolone cheese slices

1. Roll out pizza dough on a piece of wax paper (helps with transport); spread pesto evenly over top of crust. Sprinkle with bacon, and top with provolone cheese slices.
2. Grill for 10 to 15 minutes or until crust is crispy and cheese is melted.

Sticky Buns

For breakfast this morning I wanted to make something different than pancakes or grits, our usual Saturday morning standbys. As I flipped through one of my Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, I came across a recipe for sticky buns that use frozen puff pastry dough. It seemed simple enough and I had the ingredients on hand, so I tried it. They are very sweet and look impressive, but they come together in a snap. Enjoy!

Sticky Buns
Makes 6 muffins
1/2 package frozen puff pastry
6 Tbsp. butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 Tbsp. butter, softened
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1. Place puff pastry on a cutting board; thaw at room temperature 40 minutes. Meanwhile, beat butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Stir in pecans. Place 1 Tbsp. butter mixture in bottom of 6 lightly greased muffin cups.
2. Spread 1 Tbsp. butter over top of puff pastry. Sprinkle butter with 2/3 cup brown sugar and cinnamon. Starting with 1 long side, roll up puff pastry into a log. Cut log into 6 slices. Place slices on top of butter mixture in muffin cups.
3. Bake at 350° for 20 minutes or until done. Serve warm.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Beer-Battered Onion Rings

Okay, so I'm not going to win awards for my healthy food posts over the past few weeks! Tonight was Sunday and that means dinner with the 3 Cs and their parents. Tonight, however, it was just Andy, Paul, the boys, and me. Julie took Cameron and two of her friends to see the Jonas Brothers in concert. The guys and I were happy to be eating burgers, onion rings, and watermelon in our relatively quiet dining room. I will definitely have to make this meal for Cameron though; she'll love it! The recipe for the onion rings is based on one in The Joy of Cooking. The batter is very simple (especially after a few modifications), and it's not too thin or thick when cooked. The two essential ingredients are oil at the right temperature and patience. (Don't overcrowd the pan.) Enjoy!

Beer-Battered Onion Rings
3 Vidalia onions, sliced into rings
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups water
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 to 1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. pepper
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup beer
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
Peanut oil for frying

1. Combine onions, milk, and water in a bowl; refrigerate for 30 minutes, turning onions occasionally. Drain and pat onions dry.
2. Combine flour and next 2 ingredients in a bowl; stir in eggs, beer, and vegetable oil until batter is smooth.
3. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven. Fry onion rings, in batches, 2 minutes or so on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Pesto Grilled Cheese With Bacon and Tomato

I worked late tonight and needed a dinner that would be ready in a snap. Also, things were hectic this weekend, so I didn't make it to the grocery store on Saturday and I have limited ingredient choices. Grilled cheese is always a good option. Here's how I made this main-dish worthy. As a side, I made homemade french fries (with a handful of ones from the freezer). Enjoy!

Pesto Grilled Cheese With Bacon and Tomato
4 slices sourdough bread slices
6 provolone cheese slices
1 tomato, sliced
6 bacon slices, cooked
2 Tbsp. butter, melted

1. Spread pesto on one side of 2 bread slices. Cover pesto with 1 1/2 slices provolone, 2 tomato slices, and 3 bacon slices. Top with 1 1/2 slices provolone and plain bread slice. Repeat procedure with remaining bread slices. Brush melted butter on outside of sandwiches. Grill, on both sides, until cheese melts and bread is toasted and golden.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Recipe Rewind: Pimiento Cheese

You don't get much more Southern than Pimiento Cheese. This week I made it twice, so it seems like a good idea to post the recipe again. The thing about pimiento cheese is that everyone makes it slightly different: some use finely minced onion, some don't; some use only Cheddar, others use a mixture of cheese; some use lots of mayo, some only use a bit. To my taste, I've perfected the combination of this simple recipe over many years. Mine uses onion, Cheddar, American, and only a small amount of mayo. And if you've never tried a grilled pimiento cheese sandwich, you should! To make it even better, top the cheese mixture with crisp bacon and sliced tomatoes. Yummy!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Chocolate Chunk Mocha Cookies

I had almost forgotten about this delectable cookie recipe, but yesterday I was looking for something new to make for Bible study and came across it. The recipe was originally scheduled to run in SL, but as far as I know, it never ran. (Blogger note: Turns out it has appeared in print. It actually ran in the April 2007 issue and is in the current Christmas book.) It's been a year or so since I've made them, but I won't go that long again. The flavor is similar to my Cappuccino-Frosted Brownies. Definitely try them!

Monday, August 3, 2009

No-Cook Peach Ice Cream

Several years ago, we bought a countertop ice-cream maker by Cuisanart. This is a terrific appliance because it's so easy to use (no ice or rock salt), the ice cream freezes in about 30 minutes, and it only makes about 1 1/2 quarts. I love homemade ice cream, but sometimes I don't want to cook the custard base. For just such a time, this no-cook version, which doesn't have any eggs, is the best way to go. I've made so many fresh peach recipes this summer, and this one is a keeper for sure. Thanks for all the Chilton County peaches, J!

No-Cook Peach Ice Cream
5 oz. evaporated milk
1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 cups whole milk (I used 1 cup whipping cream and 1 cup skim milk because that's what I had on hand.)
2 cups chopped fresh peaches

1. Combine evaporated milk and remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl. Chill mixture 30 minutes. Pour into an ice-cream maker, and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. Scoop into a bowl, cover with lid, and freeze for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Oven-Baked Tilapia

Besides being good for you and yummy, fish is a terrific weeknight supper option because it comes together so quickly. Work is crazy right now, so we may be having a lot of fish over the next few weeks. We like tilapia because of it's mild flavor and inexpensive cost (usually between $5 and $6 per pound. For the two of us, I bought 2 fillets, which weighed a little over a half pound. Panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) form a crunchy exterior, without frying. (If you haven't tried panko yet, you must! I promise.) Easy Rémoulade is a tasty accompaniment for the fish. We also had Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Yukon Gold Potatoes, and Onions and Stuffed Tomatoes. All in all, an easy, delicious meal that was ready in about 40 minutes. Enjoy!

Oven-Baked Tilapia
2 tilapia fillets
2 tsp. country-style Dijon mustard
Olive oil

1. Rub one side of each fillet with Dijon mustard; sprinkle with panko until thoroughly covered. Place fillets, panko side down, on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet drizzled with olive oil. Sprinkle additional panko over top of fillets, and sprinkle with pepper. Coat tops of fillets with cooking spray.
2. Bake at 425° for 6 minutes or until fish flakes with a fork.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Yukon Gold Potatoes, and Onions

This side dish is very versatile. It's good with fish, pork, and steak. You could also mix up a vinaigrette and toss it with the roasted vegetables. Then sprinkle the dish with crumbled bacon and you have potato salad.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Yukon Gold Potatoes, and Onions
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into chunks
1 large sweet onion, chopped
Olive oil

1. Place potato chunks and onions on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Bake at 425° for 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Easy Rémoulade Sauce

This is version of rémoulade sauce, which is great as a dip for fish or as a spread on a shrimp po'boy. You could also use it as a dip for hush puppies. It's so simple. Combine 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 Tbsp. country-style Dijon mustard, and 2 to 3 Tbsp. Wickles Pickles relish. (Wickles are made here in AL and have a salty-sweet-little-bit-spicy flavor.) Yummy!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sausage Ratatouille

Yes, I just posted another ratatouille recipe a couple of weeks ago, but I have been so tempted by all the fresh produce at the farmers market that I decided to make it again. This time I used fresh chicken Italian sausage from the meat case at Whole Foods. This sausage has terrific flavor and it has less fat than regular sausage. It's also tasty mixed with ground beef to make meatballs for spaghetti. This ratatouille used most of the same vegetables as the one I made earlier, but I also tossed in some big chunks of eggplant. Andy doesn't like eggplant, but it doesn't stop him from eating the dish—he just picks them out. Enjoy!

Sausage Ratatouille
1 onion, chopped
Olive oil
1 lb. chicken Italian sausage
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
Salt and pepper
2 tsp. herbs de provence
3 zucchini, chopped
1/2 eggplant, cut into chunks
1 (28-oz.) can tomato puree
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Hot cooked ziti

1. Sauté chopped onion in hot oil 5 minutes; add in sausage and next 2 ingredients. Cook until veggies begin to soften. Stir in salt, pepper, and herbs de provence. Add in zucchini and eggplant, and cook 10 more minutes. Stir in tomato puree, 1/2 cup water, and tomato paste. Cook, stirring occasionally, 10 more minutes. Stir in parsley, basil, and freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Serve over hot cooked ziti.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Goat Cheese-Tomato-Avocado Salad

This is a liberal variation of Caprese Salad. Really, the only similarity is the way it's arranged on the plate and that it contains sliced tomatoes. The goat cheese rounds were rolled in panko (Japanese breadcrumbs) and sautéed in butter to make them crispy on the outside, melty on the inside. The smoothness of the avocado is a nice textural contrast. Balsamic Vinaigrette adds depth of flavor. For the goat cheese, I used Belle Chèvre, which is made a couple of hours north of here in Elkmount, Alabama. Enjoy!

Goat Cheese-Tomato-Avocado Salad
1/2 cup panko
1 small log goat cheese, sliced
2 Tbsp. butter
1 large tomato, sliced
1 avocado, sliced
Balsamic Vinaigrette

1. Combine panko and pepper to taste in a shallow dish. Roll goat cheese rounds in panko, coating on all sides. Melt butter in a skillet; cook breaded goat cheese rounds in hot butter until crispy, about 2 minutes on each side. On a serving plate, arrange sliced tomatoes, goat cheese rounds, and sliced avocado. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; drizzle with Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Peach-Pecan Pancakes

Say that three times fast! This morning I decided to make more-than-basic pancakes. It occurred to me that chopped peaches and pecans would be nice additions to the batter recipe that I love so much. I decided not to stir the peaches and the pecans into the batter; instead I sprinkled them on top of the pancakes after I scooped the batter onto the grill pan (see photo below). The key is to make sure you see bubbles all over the top before flipping them. This is true with just regular pancakes, but it's especially relevant when you add extra ingredients; this makes the pancakes heavier and harder to flip cleanly. This same technique would work well with any kind of berries. I served the pancakes with Maple-Pecan Bacon. Enjoy!