Saturday, June 30, 2012

Pecan Waffles With Peach Syrup

1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
3 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine butter and next 3 ingredients. Gradually stir butter mixture into dry ingredients just until combined.
2. Pour batter by 1/2-cupfuls into a lightly greased waffle-maker; sprinkle with pecans. Close lid, and cook until crisp and golden brown.

Peach Syrup:
4 peaches, peeled and sliced
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. almond extract

1. Combine ingredients in a saucepan. Cook, stirring often, until sugar dissolves and mixture thickens.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Blueberry Jam

Today I tried my first experiment with canning since I helped Grannie a few weeks ago. Because blueberries are plentiful, I decided to make a simple blueberry jam adapted from Taste of Home Canning & Preserving. The recipe is pretty straightforward and makes a relatively small amount. I had some blueberry mixture left after filling my nine small jars, so I put the extra in an airtight container and stored in the fridge (safe to eat for up to three weeks). It will be delicious over some pancakes or waffles.

Blueberry Jam
8 cups fresh blueberries
6 cups sugar
2 tsp. lemon zest
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons, depending on size)
2 tsp. cinnamon
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 pouches liquid fruit pectin
9 half-pint jars with rings and lids

1. Place jars in a large stock pot; add in water to cover, and bring to a boil. In another pan, place rings and lids in water to cover, and bring to a boil. Once the water for the jars boils, carefully, using a jar lifter or heavy-duty tongs, drain water from jars back into stock pot, and place jars on a towel-lined baking sheet. Once jars are removed, continue to maintain boil of water. Remove the rings and lids from the small pot, and drain on towel.
2. Place blueberries in food processor, in batches, and pulse 10 times. Transfer to a large Dutch oven. Stir in sugar and 4 ingredients. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in pectin. Boil, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Remove from heat, and carefully skim foam off top, and discard.
Use a ladle and wide-mouth funnel to
fill the jars with the blueberry mixture.
3. Use a wide-mouth funnel and a ladle to fill hot jars with hot blueberry mixture. Fill just below the screw bands on each jar. Run a knife around inside of jar to remove any air bubbles. Place lids on top, and screw on bands.
4. Place jars in boiling water in stock pot. Make sure water covers the top of the jars by 1 inch. Boil 10 minutes. Turn off heat, and let stand in stock pot 5 minutes. Using jar lifter to carefully remove jars from stock pot onto a towel-lined baking sheet. As the jars sit, you will hear a popping noise as the seals set. Let jars stand for 24 hours on a towel without moving them. Tap the tops to make sure seals have set, and store in a cool, dry place for up to a year.
Cover jars with 1 inch of water,
and boil 10 minutes. 
Wipe jar rims before screwing on lids.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Grilled Eggplant Gratin

Okay, this is not a traditional gratin—it's more of a casserole, but Andy is opposed to that word. A gratin traditionally has a crispy, cheesy topping, and this does apply. I love eggplant and was so excited to have one in my farmers market basket last week. I was inspired by an eggplant lasagna my friend Cindy brought to church last month. The eggplant is paired with a simple and super-quick tomato sauce. Those ingredients are layered with ricotta and Parmesan cheese—delicious!

Grilled Eggplant Gratin
It is important to salt the sliced eggplant, and let it stand for about 30 minutes; then rinse it off, and pat dry. This removes any bitterness.
Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 (14.5-oz.) cans diced tomatoes
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. fennel seeds
1 eggplant, sliced, salted, and rinsed
1 cup ricotta cheese
Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup Italian-blend shredded cheese

1. Sauté onion in hot oil 5 minutes or until onion begins to soften. Stir in garlic, and cook 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes and next 6 ingredients. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree mixture until smooth. Cook until thoroughly heated.
2. Meanwhile, place eggplant on a grill pan drizzled with a little olive oil. Sprinkle eggplant with salt and pepper. Grill for 2 to 3 minutes per side.
3. In a baking dish, ladle in enough tomato sauce to cover bottom of dish. Top with a layer of grilled eggplant. Spread half of ricotta over top. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Repeat layers once. Then top with remaining tomato sauce, and sprinkle with additional Parmesan and shredded cheese.
4. Bake at 400° for 25 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Italian Sausage-and-Ricotta Calzones

The Pioneer Woman posted this delicious-looking calzone on her blog earlier this week, which inspired me to make this recipe. I used ingredients that were on hand: homemade pizza dough, Italian sausage, ricotta, fresh basil from my herb garden, shredded Italian-style cheese, and sun-dried tomato pesto. It all came together in a snap and received Andy's seal of approval. We'll definitely have this again—maybe with the addition of caramelized onions. Yum!

Italian Sausage-and-Ricotta Calzone
2 links Italian sausage
1/2 cup sun-dried tomato pesto
1 Tbsp. water
1 pizza dough round
1/2 cup part-skim ricotta
1 egg
2 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan
1 tsp. chopped fresh basil
Shredded Italian-style cheese blend
Olive oil

1. Bake sausage at 425° for 15 minutes or until done. Cool slightly, and cut into thin slices.
2. Combine pesto and water in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH for 2 minutes or until warm; set aside.
3. Cut dough round in half, and roll out into two circles. Combine ricotta and next 5 ingredients, and spread on half of circles, leaving a border around the edge. Top with sliced sausage, and sprinkle with shredded cheese. Fold circle in half over filling, and crimp edges to seal. Brush top of dough with olive oil.
4. Bake at 425° for 15 to 20 minutes or until crust is golden and done. Serve with warm pesto.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Roasted Zucchini

Because of all the fabulous produce that came in my farmers market basket this week, I decided an updated veggie plate was in order for dinner tonight. We had potato galette, green beans with bacon, fried green tomatoes, and roasted zucchini and bell pepper. Enjoy!

Roasted Zucchini and Bell Pepper
3 zucchini, cut into strips
1 bell pepper, cut into strips
Olive oil
Herbs de Provence
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Place zucchini and bell pepper on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and next 2 ingredients.
2. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender and begin to caramelize. Toss with Parmesan cheese just before serving. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cake Doughnuts

This summer I am hosting two book clubs. The first one is with our friends Carter and Caden; we are reading Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The second is with our nieces AC and LB; we are reading Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace. Each week, I try to find a neat activity or craft to bring the books to life—my desire is for these four children to love reading! (In addition, our friend Parrish and I have an Alabama history club. He and I both love lists of facts!)

In our books this week, we read about Almanzo's mother and Betsy's mother making homemade doughnuts, so that became our activity. My helpers enjoyed cutting out the simple dough and then watching the doughnuts puff as they cooked in the hot oil. Another highlight was shaking the hot pastry in a paper bag with cinnamon and sugar. The boys declared these as "better than Krispy Kreme." That's high praise from the 7- and 8-year set.

Try making these with the little people in your life—you will have a great time!

Cake Doughnuts
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup buttermilk
3 Tbsp. butter, melted

1. Combine sugar, eggs, and egg yolk in the bowl of a mixer, and beat until light and fluffy. Stir in vanilla.
2. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients. In a large measuring cup, stir together buttermilk and butter.
3. Gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture alternately with buttermilk mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat until a soft and sticky dough is formed.
4. Turn dough out onto a floured surface, and gently roll out until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Using one large and one small circle cookie cutters, cut the dough into doughnuts. Collect the scraps, and roll out to form another batch of doughnuts. (Note: This batch may be a little tougher because it has been worked.)
5. Meanwhile, pour vegetable oil to a depth of 3 inches in a Dutch oven, and heat to 350°. Gently place the doughnuts in the oil; fry, in batches, until doughnuts are puffed and golden on each side. Drain doughnuts on paper towels.
6. Combine 1 cup sugar and 1/2 tsp. cinnamon in a paper bag. Add doughnuts, 1 at a time, and shake 5 times or until coated. Serve warm.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Homemade Tortilla Chips

Yes, I have posted this simple recipe before—and have assured you it is absolutely worth the minimal effort required to make your own tortilla chips. Once you try it, you won't buy them at the store again. So how do you top that? Make your own corn tortillas, and then fry them up as chips. This gives you the opportunity to adjust the thickness. Even better!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Canning Green Beans 101

Today I spent a fun day with Grannie learning how to can beans. Every summer for as long as I can remember and even before that, my grandmother has canned vegetables from her garden. Over the years, her garden has gotten a little smaller and now she only cans green beans. All of her grandchildren prize the quart-size jars of beans that we receive at the end of summer and then again at Christmas. This is one way she shows how much she loves us.

It was such a neat experience learning how to can from her. Thanks to my fancy flat phone, I was able to video her explaining the various steps. My desire is try my hand at canning many foods, but starting with green beans was definitely a good idea. Grannie is well versed in how to do it, and I learned so much with her. We began in the garden picking the beans, then we broke them, washed them, put them in jars, and, finally, canned them. The following photos document our day. Stay tuned for canning recipes…

Grannie in her bean patch

This is enough beans for 14 quarts.
Grannie washes her beans seven times
before canning them.
Once the beans are packed into the jars,
top each with 1 tsp. of salt and
boiling water.
Grannie uses a pressure cooker to can her beans,
but you can do this using the boiling water method as well.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Vegetable Mexican Lasagna

This delicious recipe is based on chef Marcela Valladolid's pastel Azteca, which I saw on the Food Network a couple of weeks ago. I varied the technique and ingredients a bit. The first time I served it was to our church group as part of a meatless meal. Tonight we had it as a side to fried chicken. I made my own corn tortillas, but you can use purchased ones. Also, vary the amounts to fit the size pan you plan to use. Enjoy!

Vegetable Mexican Lasagna
2 or 3 zucchini, cut into chunks
2 summer squash, cut into chunks
2 or 3 ears corn, kernels cut off the cobs
1 bell pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
Olive oil
2 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. dried or 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper
Salsa or pico de gallo
Corn tortillas
Sour cream
Shredded cheese

1. Sauté zucchini and next 4 ingredients in hot oil for 5 minutes or until vegetables start to soften. Season with cumin, cilantro, salt, and pepper. Cook 1 more minute.
2. In a baking dish, spoon salsa to cover bottom of dish. Layer with tortillas, and top with a thin layer of sour cream and cheese. Spoon half of zucchini mixture over cheese. Top with salsa, and repeat layers with remaining ingredients.
3. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes. Serve immediately.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fruit Pizza

The produce that came from our farmers market this weekend inspired me to develop this recipe. The cookie base is this recipe. It makes a lot, so I divided it, freezing half for later. For the filling, I combined cream cheese, powdered sugar, and vanilla. Very simple! Peaches, blueberries, red plums, and blackberries completed this beautiful and tasty dessert. Enjoy!

Fruit Pizza
Sugar cookie dough
1 (8-oz.) block cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. milk
Fresh fruit

1. Spread cookie dough into bottom of a lightly greased tart pan. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes. Remove from oven, and cool completely.
2. Beat cream cheese and next 2 ingredients with a mixer until smooth. Stir in milk to achieve spreading consistency. Spread over cookie crust. Arrange fresh fruit on top.