Saturday, December 31, 2011

Big-Batch Chili

Usually I make a several kinds of little food for our annual (almost) New Year’s Eve open house. This year I decided to make a big pot of chili to round out the selection of appetizers and desserts that our friends brought to share. Over the years, I have experimented with many different ways to make chili and this creation is no exception. It uses ground beef and a combo of black beans and garbanzo beans. The complexity of flavors from the spices works well. I pureed the veggies to add nutritional value while disguising their presence from picky vegetable-haters. Enjoy!

Big-Batch Chili
2 onions, cut into chunks
3 carrots, cut into chunks
3 celery ribs, cut into chunks
3 garlic cloves
Salt and pepper
3 lb. lean ground beef
2 tsp. allspice
2 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tbsp. chile powder
2 tsp. chipotle chile powder
3 Tbsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 (28-oz.) cans diced tomatoes
1 (14.5-oz.) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
2 cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup water (optional)

1. Place onion and next 3 ingredients in bowl of food processor, and pulse until slightly chunky. Cook vegetable mixture in hot oil in a large Dutch oven for 5 minutes or until vegetables began to become aromatic. Season with salt and pepper. Add in ground beef, and cook, stirring often, until meat is browned and crumbly. Stir in allspice and next 5 ingredients; stir in salt and pepper. Add in tomatoes, beans, and, if needed, water. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 1 hour or until ready to serve.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Fish and Grits

My father-in-law was visiting tonight and I needed a quick but tasty meal to serve. Andy’s not a fan of shrimp (I know, it’s sad!), so I don’t cook it often. He does like fish and we eat tilapia a lot. I decided to pair the flavors of this recipe with tilapia instead (three tilapia fillets were subbed for the shrimp). The results were yummy! The biggest challenge was presentation. The fish broke down too much, so I just spoon it and the sauce over the grit—not the prettiest meal, for sure. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Penny’s Rum Cake

This delicious recipe is from the mother of a former SL coworker of mine. His mom would make it for us at Christmas and we always eagerly anticipated the arrival of the package from Kentucky! It’s so simple—the basis is a cake mix. If you have any left, it freezes well. Five of my nieces came to help me bake for Christmas today. The little girls took turn adding things to the mixer, and Mad, who’s 13, chopped pecans. We had a great time together. Enjoy!

Penny’s Rum Cake
1 box golden yellow cake mix
1 box instant vanilla pudding
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup light rum
4 eggs
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup light rum
1/4 cup water

1. Combine cake mix and next 4 ingredients. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, until blended after each addition. Lightly grease a Bundt pan, and sprinkle pecans in bottom of pan. Pour batter over pecans.
2. Bake at 325° for 1 hour or until done.
3. Meanwhile, combine sugar and remaining ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, and cook 2 minutes.
4. Use a skewer or large fork to make holes in warm cake still in pan. Slowly pour sugar mixture over cake, and let stand 25 minutes before removing cake from pan.
my helpers: LB, Mad, AC, Em, Mol

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Pancake Fritters

This is my latest dessert brainstorm. I was thinking about serving apple fritters for dessert at supper club but then decided to use my pancake batter as a basis for the fritters instead. The only change necessary for the recipe was to make it with a little less liquid. We enjoyed the warm fritters with a homemade milk chocolate ganache (milk chocolate chips melted with a little cream) and caramel sauce.

Pancake Fritters
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup buttermilk
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Vegetable oil

1. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk and next 3 ingredients. Gradually add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, stirring just until combined.
2. Heat about 2 inches of oil in a Dutch oven. Working in batches, scoop batter into hot oil. Cook, turning fritters, until golden and cooked through. Drain on paper towels. Serve warm.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Cheese Bread

My favorite thing about dinner at our favorite pizza place is the cheese bread. Tonight some friends and their sons came over for homemade pizza, so I decided it was time to figure out how to make cheese bread. This creation is super-easy and delicious. Enjoy!

Cheese Bread
1 round pizza dough (homemade or purchased from the Publix bakery)
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 cups shredded Italian cheese blend

1. Roll out dough on a pizza stone. Combine butter and next 2 ingredients; spread over top of pizza dough. Sprinkle with cheese.
2. Bake at 400° for 10 minutes or until cheese melts and crust is done. Serve immediately.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cheddar-Bacon Potato Chips

We hosted our supper club tonight and served a collection of appetizers: layered Mexican dip with homemade tortilla chips, sliced pork tenderloin on rolls, pork dumplings, and cheddar-bacon potato chips with a ranch dipping sauce.

For this recipe, I decided to make homemade potato chips, which require some effort but are completely worth it. Thinly slice the potatoes (a mandolin makes this easy); place the slices in a bowl, and cover with ice water. Allow them to soak for about an hour. Drain potatoes, and pat dry with paper towels. Heat about 2 inches of peanut or vegetable oil in a Dutch oven, and cook potatoes, in batches, until golden and crisp; drain on paper towels. (If this is too much work, substitute kettle-cooked chips.) For the dipping sauce, I used a buttermilk ranch seasoning from Penzy’s—it had just the right ranch flavor.

Cheddar-Bacon Potato Chips
Homemade potato chips
6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese

1. Arrange potato chips on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with bacon and shredded cheese.
2. Bake at 400° for 10 minutes or until cheese melts. Serve immediately.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pasta With Bacon and Roasted Vegetables

This recipe is based on one in the October issue of Martha Stewart Living that I modified a bit. (Sorry, I forgot to take a photo!) The combination of ingredients is unusual, but it works well. The sweetness of the potatoes pairs well with the caramelized bitterness of the cauliflower and smokiness of the bacon. Andy was skeptical but gave it his seal of approval after trying it. Enjoy!

Pasta With Bacon and Roasted Vegetables
Olive oil
4 bacon slices, chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into cubes
1 small onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
Salt and pepper
8 ounces orecchiette pasta
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

1. Cook bacon in a Dutch oven in hot oil until done; drain on paper towels, reserving drippings.
2. Toss sweet potato and next 3 ingredients in bacon drippings; season with salt and pepper. Place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet.
3. Bake at 400° for 30 minutes or until veggies are tender and caramelized.
4. Meanwhile, cook orecchiette according to package directions. Reserve 1 cup cooking liquid; drain pasta.
5. Combine pasta, veggie mixture, and cooking liquid in Dutch oven. Stir in cheese and parsley. Serve immediately.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Tonight we had breakfast for dinner—pancakes, bacon, and fruit. I had some sweet potatoes leftover from Thanksgiving and decided to add them to my basic buttermilk pancake batter along with some chopped pecans. (If you don’t have mashed sweet potatoes, pumpkin puree could be substituted.) The pancakes, served with warm maple syrup, were delicious. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Pancakes
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup mashed sweet potatoes
2 eggs
3 Tbsp. melted butter
1 tsp. vanilla

1. Combine flour and next 6 ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine buttermilk and next 4 ingredients. Gradually add to flour mixture, stirring just until blended.
2. Scoop batter by 1/4-cupfuls onto a lightly greased hot griddle. When bubbles form on the surface, turn pancakes, and cook until done.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Breakfast From Leftovers

There are few things Andy and I love more than toasted and buttered slices of his mom’s Irish soda bread. This morning we improved on perfection by topping the bread with leftover cranberry-apple relish. Delicious!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Dinner: Dessert

Dessert was a family affair. I made the now-traditional pumpkin cheesecake. Andy’s sister, Laurie, and her daughter Grace tried their hand at pie. They made lemon meringue and vanilla cream—both were delicious! They are to be further commended because they beat the fillings by hand and the consistency was perfect, as was Laurie’s mile-high meringue. After eating such delicious food, a nap was in order!

Thanksgiving Dinner: Side Dishes

Our side dishes were pretty simple. We had swirled mashed Yukon Gold and mashed sweet potatoes (kudos to my s-i-l Laurie for the fancy food styling), brussels sprouts with bacon, cranberry-apple relish, and white cheddar-chive biscuits. The relish is a new recipe that I made up; it was a nice accompaniment for the pork. Enjoy!

Cranberry-Apple Relish
1 bag cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
2 Granny Smith apples, chopped
1 tsp. cinnamon
Orange juice

1. Combine cranberries and next 3 ingredients in a saucepan. Pour in orange juice to cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid reduces and mixture thickens slightly.

Thanksgiving Dinner: Main Dish

Instead of the traditional turkey, which Andy’s family doesn’t really like, I made a fruit-stuffed pork loin inspired by an Anne Burrell recipe. Sam’s Club has a good price for this cut of meat; the trick it that you have to trim it yourself. The untrimmed pork loin weighed 9 pounds and cost $18. The thinner end of the pork loin is the tenderloin. I cut off that portion into four pieces and froze them for later meals. Once the excess fat was trimmed off, I butterflied it and then pounded it with a meat mallet. (You can skip this step and have a butcher do it for you.) The fruit stuffing contains a combination of apples, dried plums (prunes sound unappealing), and bacon. The trick I learned from the TV chef was to freeze the stuffing in a log shape; this allows even distribution throughout the meat. Yes, this is technique is a little complex, but it’s not hard to pull off. When you get ready to tie the meat, definitely enlist help. Enjoy!

Fruit-Stuffed Pork Loin
3 bacon slices, chopped
1 shallot, minced
3 Granny Smith apples, cut into chunks
3/4 cup dried plums, cut in half
1/2 cup dry sherry
Salt and pepper
2 fresh rosemary sprigs, chopped
1 (6-lb.) pork loin, butterflied
Kitchen string
Major Grey chutney
1 (32-oz.) box chicken broth

1. Cook bacon in a skillet until browned; remove from pan. Cook shallot in hot bacon drippings for 1 minute. Stir in apples and dried plums, and cook 10 minutes or until apples are softened. Season with salt and pepper; add in rosemary. Remove pan from heat, and pour in sherry. Return pan to heat, and cook 5 more minutes. Allow apple mixture to cool. Shape mixture into a log, and wrap in plastic wrap. Freeze overnight.
2. Sprinkle pork loin with salt and pepper on one side. Place apple mixture log in center of pork, and use kitchen string to tie up meat around apple mixture. Place pork, seam side down, in a baking pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; spoon chutney over pork. Pour 2 cups chicken broth into pan.
3. Bake at 375° for 1 hour or until pork is done. Add additional chicken broth to pan as needed. Allow to rest 15 minutes before removing string and slicing.

Thanksgiving Breakfast

Andy’s family came down last night to celebrate Thanksgiving at our new house. Because Andy, his sister, our nieces, and I were at Grace’s Kitchen this morning, his mom kindly made a lovely breakfast buffet for us to enjoy when we came home. She made homemade biscuits, sausage-cheese muffins, Irish soda bread, and pecan pie muffins. In addition we had bacon, fruit, and country ham Andy’s dad cooked in Coke, a really nice salty-sweet combination. Enjoy!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Beef-and-Barley Soup

1 onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
1 (8-oz.) package baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 lb. flank steak, cut into bite-size pieces (It’s easier to do this if the meat is slightly frozen.)
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
4 cups beef broth
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup barley
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Sauté onion, celery, carrots, and garlic in a Dutch oven for 10 to 15 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and rosemary. Season steak with salt and pepper, and add to veggie mixture. Sauté steak for 15 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and next 3 ingredients. Cover and simmer for 1 hour. Stir in barley, and cover and cook 20 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in parsley just before serving.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Take on Grannie’s Cornbread Dressing

Dressing is a family-specific food—you love the kind your grandmother made. That is certainly true in my case! Every year we look forward to celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas at Grannie’s because of the family time and her dressing. She doesn’t have a recipe, of course; it’s made the way her mom made it.

A few years ago, it was time for me to learn to make this oral-tradition recipe. Grannie willingly shared her technique with me, and the dressing tasted like it was supposed to. Once I had the basics down, I decided to make some tweaks (nothing to change the flavor and texture, just make it more mine). The first change: Sauté the onions and celery to soften them a bit before mixing them with the cornbread (Grannie likes the crunch of the raw veggies). The second change: Make a classic véloute sauce as a substitute for the cream of celery and cream of chicken condensed soups. Don’t let the fancy name scare you—it’s simple! All you do is make a flour-and-butter paste and stir in chicken broth until the mixture thickens.

Now, my family probably wouldn’t like my version (if I was brave enough to serve it to them), but whenever I’ve made it for nonrelatives, as I did for church today, it is pretty well received. Andy likes my version and thinks it tastes like Grannie’s, which is high praise. However he’s anticipating enjoying the real thing on Saturday when we get together with my family. Enjoy!

Cornbread Dressing
2 onions, chopped
4 celery ribs, chopped
1 cup butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
10 cups chicken broth, divided
Salt and pepper
1 pan cornbread
1 1/2 cups toasted fresh breadcrumbs
2 tsp. dried sage
2 tsp. poultry seasoning
5 eggs

1. Sauté onions and celery in butter for 10 minutes or until vegetables are softened. Whisk in 1 cup flour, and cook for 1 minute. Gradually add in 6 cups chicken broth, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove pan from heat, and allow to cool slightly.
2. Crumble cornbread, and combine with breadcrumbs and next 2 ingredients. Stir a small amount of onion mixture into lightly beaten eggs to temper them. Stir remaining onion mixture and egg mixture into cornbread mixture until combined. Pour into buttered 13- x 9-inch and 8-inch square baking dishes.
3. Bake at 350° for 1 hour.
Grannie and Mad, the oldest of the great-grandchildren

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Chocolate Chunk Blondies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 bag semisweet chocolate chunks

1. Beat butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Add in vanilla and almond extracts. Combine flour and next 2 ingredients; gradually add to butter mixture. Add in the chocolate chunks.
2. Line a 13- x 9-inch baking dish with parchment paper, and pread the batter into the prepared pan.
3. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Cool completely in the pan, and cut into bars.

White Cheddar-Chive Biscuits

I’m calling these “biscuits” because that’s what the texture most closely resembles. They look like muffins because that was the easiest way to bake them. The recipe is simple and tasty. Enjoy!

White Cheddar-Chive Biscuits
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/2 (8-oz.) block white cheddar cheese, shredded
Pinch of salt
1 tsp. pepper
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup buttermilk
1 tsp. chives

1. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients in a bowl. Stir in butter, eggs, buttermilk (add more, if needed), and chives until combined. Scoop batter into lightly greased muffin cups.
2. Bake at 400° for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Our niece Lizzie was looking through my copy of Hello, Cupcake! a few weeks ago and decided the next time she and her sister spent the night that we had to make these cute pupcakes. I was a little anxious because I’m more of a big-picture person—details that require patience aren’t my thing. However, I am “the best aunt in the world,” so before AC and Lizzie came over yesterday, I had collected all the ingredients we needed.

The book recommends using cake mix and canned frosting—neither of which taste very good to me. I did go with the book’s recommendations and am glad I did. The consistency of canned frosting is just right for this application, and because the girls continually licked their knives and fingers as we worked, eating the cupcakes wasn’t appealing!

The usage of candy is so creative! For floppy brown ears, melt Tootsie Rolls and caramels in the microwave. For the pink tongues, melt strawberry Starburst. For noses, cut chocolate JellyBellys in half. For eyes, use brown mini M&Ms. To build up part of the cupcakes for the noses, place mini marshmallows in a cluster and cover in icing.

Our menagerie of puppies includes: two Chihuahuas, two Dalmatians, two chocolate Labs, two beagles (one black and one brown), one Fran (our dog), one Caroline (the girls’ dog), one Yorkie, and one Schnauzer. We had so much fun and think our pupcakes are precious! Now that I understand the techniques, we’ll definitely try some more.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Roasted Butternut Squash-Cauliflower Soup

Butternut squash soup is creamy, rich, and pretty healthy. As I was thinking about making it for dinner tonight, I remembered that there was a head of cauliflower in the crisper that needed to be used. It seemed like the sweetness of the squash might be a great partner for the bitterness of the cauliflower. Roasting both would caramelize the flavors and give the cauliflower a nutty taste. Deciding it was worth a try, I came up with this recipe. Andy reserved judgment (with plan B dinner lined up) until after he tasted it. His opinion: “surprisingly good!” That’s high praise, for sure. Enjoy!

Roasted Butternut Squash-Cauliflower Soup
1 butternut squash, cut in half and seeds removed
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp. herbs de Provence
6 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup half-and-half

1. Place squash and cauliflower on aluminum foil-lined baking sheets. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until squash is softened. Remove from oven, and allow to cool slightly.
3. Sauté onion and next 2 ingredients in hot oil 10 minutes. Stir in garlic, and sauté for 1 minute. Stir in herbs de Provence and chicken broth. Remove skin from squash, and cut into chunks. Add squash and cauliflower to broth mixture. Cook, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree mixture. Stir in half-and-half, and cook 5 more minutes.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Menu 35: Chicken Enchiladas

We celebrated the October birthdays of Andy’s mom, our niece Savannah’s, and yours truly with a family dinner. For the occasion, we had Chicken Enchiladas With Roasted Tomatillo Salsa, Citrus Black Beans, and yellow rice. Mimi made brownies and the most delicious apple cake. A good time was had by all!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sausage-and-White Bean Soup

A friend brought a soup like this to eat after church on Sunday, and it was delicious! As I made my grocery list for the week, it kept coming to mind, so I knew we had to try it. This is my version of what I remember my friend’s tasting like. Andy and his dad really liked it. It’s relatively healthy, except for the sausage, but you could substitute turkey sausage. Cannellini beans are a favorite ingredient right now because of their creaminess. Enjoy!

Sausage-and-White Bean Soup
1 onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
Olive oil
1 bacon slice, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 package smoked sausage, sliced (I used Conecuh brand.)
Salt and pepper
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
6 cups chicken broth
2 cans cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 (6-oz.) bag baby spinach

1. Sauté onions and next 2 ingredients in hot oil with bacon for 10 minutes or until vegetables begin to soften. Stir in garlic and sausage, and cook 10 more minutes or until sausage browns. Stir in salt and pepper and next 3 ingredients; cook 1 minute. Stir in broth, beans, and spinach. Cook, stirring occasionally, 10 more minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Menu 34: Black Bean-and-Beef Chili

Because it feels like fall outside, I decided chili was in order for dinner. The inspiration for the recipe came from on-hand ingredients—several cans of black beans in the pantry and a flank steak in the freezer. To make it more kid-friendly (e.g. hide the good-for-you veggies), I pureed the onion, celery, and carrots before sautéing them with the meat. This is certainly an untraditional recipe, but the combination worked well. We had jalapeño corn muffins on the side. Enjoy!

Black Bean-and-Beef Chili
1 onion, cut into chunks
2 celery stalks, cut into chunks
4 carrots, cut into chunks
Salt and black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 lb. flank steak, cut into chunks
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. ground red pepper
1 (28-oz.) can diced or crushed tomatoes
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced or crushed tomatoes
2 cans black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cup beef broth

1. Puree onion and next 2 ingredients in food processor. Cook in hot oil 5 minutes. Add in garlic and steak; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until steak is browned. Stir in chili powder and next 2 ingredients, and cook 1 more minute. Stir in tomatoes, beans, and broth; cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 more minutes. Season to taste.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Chocolate Cupcakes

For a quick dessert, I combined my favorite chocolate cupcake batter with cream cheese frosting—delicious! Hershey’s Chocolate Syrup in the can is getting hard to find. Your best bet is Piggly-Wiggly or another small-town store. Enjoy!

Chocolate Cupcakes
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 (16-oz.) can chocolate syrup
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
Cream Cheese Frosting

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. Pour muffin cups lined with paper muffin cups.
2. Bake at 325° for 25 minutes or just until set. Let cool 5 minutes; remove cupcakes from pan. Spread with frosting.

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1/2 (8-oz.) block cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 (16-oz.) box powdered sugar

1. Beat cream cheese and butter with a mixer until fluffy. Gradually add in extracts and powdered sugar, beating until spreading consistency.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Menu 33: Chicken, Potatoes, and Broccoli Salad

Oven-fried chicken is so simple to pull together, so I serve it often on busy nights. Chicken tenders are just the right portion size and there are usually some in the freezer. Tonight, I made this recipe but omitted the pecans—it’s tasty either way. On the side, we had mashed potatoes and Broccoli Salad. I love the salad’s combination of sweet and salty and smoky and vinegar-y. Enjoy!

Broccoli Salad
4 broccoli crowns, cut into florets
4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
1/4 red onion, minced
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted
1/2 to 3/4 cup mayonnaise
2 to 4 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp. sugar

1. Combine broccoli and next 4 ingredients. Stir together mayonnaise and next 2 ingredients; toss with broccoli mixture. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Recipe Update: Cinnamon-Pear Cake

This cake totally takes like fall! I have posted the recipe several times because we love it so much. It’s terrific for dessert with ice cream and caramel sauce or for breakfast as we enjoyed it today. For a twist, I used Asian pears instead of apples. I bought these at a farm stand in Cleveland, Alabama. The owner told me that these pears have a smoother texture than regular ones and a nice crispness. After using them in this cake, I’m sold on their virtues! (Substitute an equal amount of peeled Asian pears for the apples.) Enjoy!
Asian pear

Friday, September 23, 2011

Menu 32: Roasted Tomato Sauce With Meatballs

Tonight some new friends came over for dinner. We had Roasted Tomato Sauce With Meatballs over egg noodles, roasted broccoli, and garlic bread. The tomato sauce cooks in the oven, so allow extra time. The great thing about this method is how it intensifies the tomato flavor. Our friends have children, so pasta seemed like a safe option. If you haven’t tried broccoli cooked this way, you must—it’s my new favorite way to eat it. Enjoy!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Updated Tzaziki Salad

At the farmers market on Saturday, I bought some goat’s milk yogurt. Tonight as I planned dinner, I decided to use it to make a variation on tzaziki sauce—a Greek yogurt sauce with dill and cucumbers that’s usually served with grilled chicken or lamb. My version has halved grape tomatoes and feta; it works as a salad. Enjoy!

Updated Tzaziki Salad
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
2 pickling cucumbers, cut into chunks
Zest of 1 lemon
1 to 2 tsp. dried dill
1 cup goat’s milk yogurt
Salt and pepper
1 oz. feta cheese, crumbled

1. Combine tomatoes and next 4 ingredients in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and stir in feta.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Muscadine Crisp

A friend gave us some muscadines that she picked at her parents’ home in North Alabama. The day before, we had also received some in our market basket. Immediately I began to brainstorm ideas for using them. Earlier this year, I saw a chef on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives who serves grape pie at his Napa Valley restaurant, so I decided to try making a crisp with these very Southern grapes. Muscadines have very thick skins, so precooking is required for softening. (I added a chopped apple to provide body to the fruit mixture once the grapes had cooked down.) For the seeds, cut each one in half and use a knife to remove them. Andy wasn’t a big fan of this, but he didn’t grow up eating muscadines like I did in Grannie’s pasture. My friend and I thought the crisp was tasty. Enjoy!

Muscadine Crisp
1 pint muscadines, cut in half and seeds removed
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 Granny Smith apple, cut into chunks
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup oatmeal
1/4 cup whole or chopped pecans
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 tsp. allspice

1. Combine muscadines and next 3 ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until grapes soften and juice becomes a syrup. Pour into a baking dish.
2. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients. Sprinkle over muscadine mixture.
3. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until golden and bubbly.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Potato Wedges

Okay, this has to be one of the easiest side dishes in the world! All you do is cut sweet potatoes and Yukon Gold potatoes into wedges. Then thinly slice part of a red onion. Place the potatoes and onion on a foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle everything with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Tonight we had them with Baked Greek Tilapia. Enjoy!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Menu 31: French Onion-Potato Soup

Today was a cool, gray day that reminded us that fall is just around the corner—hooray! Andy and I decided soup sounded good for dinner. My challenge was to make something that would meet our craving while using on-hand ingredients. I'll bore you with my train of thought for developing this recipe: At first I thought about making potato soup but after finding a carton of beef broth in the pantry decided French onion soup was in order. Then it occurred to me that potatoes might be really tasty with the onions, so French onion-potato soup was born! We ate our soup with grilled cheese sandwiches—so satisfying! Enjoy!

French Onion-Potato Soup
2 tsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 cup red wine (If you don't like wine, substitute an equal amount of beef broth.)
1 (32-oz.) carton beef broth
2 Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into cubes (no need to peel them)

1. Melt butter in hot oil in a Dutch oven. Sauté onion in hot oil mixture 10 minutes or until onion is soft. Add in garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in flour, and cook 1 minute. Add in red wine, and cook until liquid is absorbed. Stir in beef broth and potatoes, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until mixture is thickened and potatoes are cooked. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Balsamic Vinaigrette

This is my go-to salad dressing; it also works great as a marinade for chicken and pork. It so easy to make this in a mason jar.
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp. country-style Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp. honey

1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1. Combine vinegar and next 3 ingredients. Gradually add in olive oil, combining completely. Stir in salt and pepper.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Peach-Almond Pound Cake

This summer, our farmers market basket has included an abundance of peaches. I have made peach crisp many times but wanted something different tonight. Early this year, GK served an awesome peach pound cake made by someone at church during the tornado relief. I had to taste this unusual cake—it was delicious! A few weeks ago, my friend Jen made us a peach pound cake that was also yummy. So I decided to try my hand at making one. Almonds and peaches are a classic combo, so that became the flavor base. Enjoy!

Peach-Almond Pound Cake
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
6 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups peeled, diced fresh peaches
1/4 cup sliced almonds

1. Beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add in eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition. Beat in almond and vanilla extracts.
2. Combine flour and next 2 ingredients. Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream. Stir in peaches.
3. Lightly grease a Bundt pan; sprinkle sliced almonds in bottom of pan. Pour batter into pan.
4. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until done. Cool in pan 10 minutes. Remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Menu 30: Spinach-Bacon Pizza

Tonight, I had planned to make our favorite pizza  but decided to spruce it up with spinach. After I cooked the bacon, I used a little of the bacon grease to wilt a bag of baby spinach (two minced garlic cloves added another layer of flavor. After spreading the pizza crust with sun-dried tomato pesto, I arranged the spinach and bacon on top and then layered on the cheese. A garden salad rounded out the menu. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Menu 29: Pork Tenderloin and the Trimmings

Tonight the 3Cs and their parents came for dinner. We had pork tenderloin marinated with this simple Balsamic Vinaigrette, roasted zucchini and red bell peppers, cheese grits, Sour Cream-Cheese Biscuits, and peach crisp (substitute 6 peeled and sliced peaches for the strawberries). Cameron really liked the veggies—she had a second helping! The flavor combinations worked well. Enjoy!

Sour Cream-Cheese Biscuits
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
6 Tbsp. melted butter
1 egg
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

1. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients. Stir in butter, egg, and sour cream until combined. Stir in cheese. Scoop into lightly greased mini muffin cups.
2. Bake at 400° for 10 to 12 minutes or until done.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Menu 28: Baked Greek Tilapia

Tonight I decided to make Andy's favorite tilapia dish using a slightly different method. Instead of cooking it on the stovetop, I roasted it in the oven. This was even easier than the original because it was completely hands-off. On the side, we had roasted broccoli and grits. Enjoy!

Baked Greek Tilapia
4 tilapia fillets
Greek seasoning
1 can diced tomatoes
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 cup kalamata olives
1 minced garlic clove
Salt and pepper

1. Sprinkle tilapia evenly with Greek seasoning on both sides. Place fish in baking dish. Add in tomatoes and next 3 ingredients. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Bake at 400° for 15 to 20 minutes or until fish is opaque and flakes with a fork.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Menu 27: Tomato Pie and Sweet Potato Salad

For some reason, I haven’t made this delicious pie all summer! It made me sad when I remembered the recipe because we love it so much. Tonight we had tomato pie and Sweet Potato Salad With Baby Spinach. The idea for this dish came from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters; of course, I made a few tweaks. This may be my new favorite. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Salad With Baby Spinach
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt and pepper
3 oz. baby spinach
Juice of 2 lemons
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. paprika
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
2 slices cooked and crumbled bacon (optional)

1. Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
2. Bake at 400° for 20 to 25 minutes or until tender.
3. Spoon sweet potatoes over baby spinach in a serving bowl. Combine lemon juice and next 4 ingredients. Toss with sweet potato mixture. Sprinkle with bacon, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Menu 26: Pizza and Salad

Tonight for dinner we had Bacon Pizza (I used sun-dried tomato pesto instead of the basil variety) and this simple salad. I made it with ingredients that were on hand: grape tomatoes, olives, and feta cheese. The dressing is a drizzle of red wine vinegar and olive oil; dried oregano finishes it off. The salad is salty, tangy, and little sweet—just the right accompaniment to the pizza. Enjoy!

Greek Tomato Salad
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
2 oz. crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine tomatoes and next 2 ingredients. Drizzle with vinegar and oil; sprinkle with oregano. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Menu 25: Brunch

Most Sunday mornings, Andy and I go to our favorite local coffee shop on the way to church. Because we get there right when they open, the scones and muffins are right out of the oven. Andy's favorite is the blueberry scone. I don't make scones very often because, although they aren't hard, I'm not a fan of kneading and shaping dough. The other day I saw a chef on the food network use an ice-cream scoop to make scones. She totally skipped the kneading and rolling! This inspired me to try my hand at developing a good blueberry scone recipe (any zest-and-dried fruit combo would work). I used my favorite 2-tablespoon size scoop that I use for cookies. The results were delicious! To round out the menu, we had Creamy Grits, bacon, and fruit. Enjoy!

Blueberry Scones
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Zest from half lemon
3/4 cup butter, cut into cubes
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup dried blueberries

1. Place flour and next 4 ingredients in food processor bowl; add in butter. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse sand. Place flour mixture in a mixing bowl. Stir in eggs and buttermilk until combined; add in blueberries. Scoop batter onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
2. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until done.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ranch Snack Mix

Over the past couple of months, we have made tons of this snack mix to go in Grace's Kitchen sack lunches. The great thing about the recipe is that it can be made in the microwave; it is based on one from Southern Living. The oatmeal squares cereal adds a hit of sweetness that nicely complements the ranch flavor. Enjoy!

Ranch Snack Mix
1 cup vegetable oil
2 envelopes Ranch dressing mix
1 box Corn Chex
1 box Quaker Oatmeal Squares
1 box Kellogg's Crispix
1 (16-oz.) bag tiny twist pretzels
1 bag Cheetos

1. Combine oil and dressing mix. Heat in the microwave 1 minute; stir and heat for 30 more seconds.
2. Combine Corn Chex and next 4 ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with oil mixture. Heat in microwave for 3 minutes; stir and heat for 2 more minutes. Cool completely before serving.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Cherry Crisp

My in-laws are here for a couple of days to help with some house projects. For dinner we had, Greek-Style Tilapia, mashed potato cakes, and Green Beans With  Bacon. To show our appreciation, I wanted to make dessert. We all love cherries, so I decided on this easy dessert. I halved and pitted fresh cherries (they were on sale at the store), but you could substitute frozen ones. Surprise: I served the crisp with sweetened whipped cream instead of ice cream. This is definitely a keeper! It would also be good for breakfast. Enjoy!

Cherry Crisp
1 lb. fresh cherries, halved and pitted
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. almond extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup butter, melted

1. Combine cherries and next 2 ingredients; spoon into a baking dish. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; sprinkle over top of cherry mixture.
2. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until done.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Menu 24: Steak Sauté

Our friend Jamie came to dinner tonight. I hadn't been to the grocery store, so our menu was comprised of what was on hand. Because it's Saturday, we had this week's installment of our farmers market basket, so we had yummy stuff to work with. For the main dish, I thawed two rib-eyes from the freezer and Jamie thinly sliced the meat. Then I sauté it with onions, bell peppers, and tomatoes. We also had a fresh peach salsa to spoon over the top. Delicious! (We're going to eat the leftovers in tortillas.) On the side, we had mashed potatoes and Fried Okra. Enjoy!

Steak, Tomato, and Bell Pepper Sauté
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
Olive oil
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper
2 rib-eye steaks, thinly sliced
Montreal steak seasoning
Chipotle chili powder
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
Splash of bourbon or beef broth
Peach Salsa

1. Sauté onion and bell pepper in hot oil for 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, salt, and pepper; sauté for 2 more minutes, and remove from pan. Add more oil, if necessary. Sprinkle steak with Montreal steak seasoning and chipotle chili powder; sauté in hot oil for 5 to 10 minutes or until steak is done. Add in bourbon or broth to deglaze the pan. Add in pepper mixture and tomatoes, and sauté for 5 more minutes. Season with additional salt to taste. Top with Peach Salsa.

Peach Salsa:
4 peaches, peeled and chopped
1/2 jalapeño, seeded and minced
2 Tbsp. finely chopped red bell pepper
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
Zest and juice from 1 lime

Salt and pepper

1. Combine first 5 ingredients; season with salt and pepper to taste.

Goat Cheese-Tomato Crostini

Our farmers market has a goat cheese farmer who participates. His fresh chèvre is fantastic! I love the smoked goat cheese best; my second favorite is the tomato-basil. Today we received a round of the tomato-basil in our baskets. I decided to pair the goat cheese with fresh tomatoes in a tasty appetizer. This is so easy and is perfect for any-size crowd. Enjoy!

Goat Cheese-Tomato Crostini
Thinly sliced French bread
Olive oil
Tomato-basil goat cheese (You can substitute plain goat cheese.)
1 tomato, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper

1. Place bread slices on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Drizzle bread with olive oil.
2. Bake at 350° for 3 to 5 minutes or until golden.
3. Spread goat cheese on one side of bread slices. Top with thinly sliced tomato, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
4. Bake at 350° for 2 to 3 more minutes.