Thursday, August 30, 2012

on the side - simple grilled golden zucchini


Why are we never comfortable or content with simple?  Why is it we can have it so good with "easy," and yet we still find ourselves going and trying to make it harder?  We have this urge to make things bigger, seemingly better, more impressive to others, more acceptable to ourselves, and why?


Ugh.  It's just been one of those "seasons of life," and today, I want simple back.

I thought this would be a great recipe to express how I'm obviously feeling.  To tell you the truth, this is so simple, I'm almost embarrassed to actually put it on this blog and pretend it's a post.

See?  There I go again.

Simple is OK... simple is OK... simple is OK... (I'm trying to convince myself, here.)

I'm a big fan of charcoal.  I really love the smell, and I love the flavor even more.  I grew up with charcoal grills and a dad who loved them too.  Many-a-Sundays, that smell would be lingering on Dad's clothes from firing up the grill after church.  To this day, it's just one of those feel-good memories.

You might remember my mention of the farmer's market visit I made a couple of weeks ago.  The Golden Zucchini was beautiful, as you may also remember from the pic I shared.  I was interested in keeping it's color and mild flavor as uninterrupted as possible, so I just drizzled the 1/4 inch slices (longways) with a little olive oil and added a few pinches of coarse Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.  I gave them a couple of minutes on the grill, per side, and the dish was complete.  We ate it alongside marinated grilled pork chops and the lemon herb rice salad recently posted.

This is really one of my favorite ways of eating vegetables, and we've done it to everything from asparagus to eggplant to... get this... Romaine lettuce!

No joke.  You gotta try it someday.

So, there you have it.  No fluff.  No frills.  Not even an official "recipe."  Simple?  You bet.  And you know what... I'm OK with it.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

summer in the south saturdays - lemon herb rice salad

Summer is slipping away, friends.  It's nearing the end, and Fall is quickly sneaking up behind.  I can't say I'm terribly disappointed, though.  I adore Fall.  I always have.

I do want to take advantage of a few more dishes before the season fully passes.  There are so many I look forward to having as Summer approaches that I find myself trying to hurry at the end and squeeze them all in.  Such was the case last week.

I was thumbing through a magazine a while ago, and this recipe really caught my eye.  The herb collection called for was refreshing just to read, so I couldn't imagine the actual dish itself being anything less!

This is definitely a lighter fare in its original form, but after starring as a side dish the first night we had it, added grilled chicken also made it a wonderful main dish during a few lunches that followed.   This is really the perfect summer salad, and it gave me a great reason to use up my overgrown mint and basil.  Both, mixed with the cilantro, made for a really bright combination.  

Only one more Summer in the South Saturday post and we're on to Autumn.  I'm hopeful the end of the season will beckon cooler temperatures.  I'm dying to share ideas better suited for such.  In the meantime, enjoy the last of the sun-ripened tomatoes and warm weather offerings.  I'm going to take all I can get!

Lemon-Herb Rice Salad - makes six servings

  • 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice
  • 2 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. packed light brown sugar
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium carrot, shredded
  • 1 cucumber, diced (I used an English cuke)
  • 1/2 almonds, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped

~ Remove two wide strips zest from one lemon with veggie peeler.  Combine zest with the
    oil in a small saucepan over medium heat and cook until edges turn slightly golden, 
    about five minutes.  Let oil cool.
~ Cook the rice as label directs, adding remaining lemon zest strip to the water.  Transfer 
    rice to large bowl, discarding zest.  Fluff with fork and let cool to room temperature.
~ For the dressing, juice both lemons into a medium bowl.  Add the vinegar, brown sugar, 1 
    1/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and whisk until the sugar dissolves.  Discard zest  
    from lemon oil and whisk oil into the dressing.
~ Add onion slices to dressing and let marinate 15 minutes.
~ Add the carrot, cucumber, peanuts, cilantro, mint, and basil to the bowl with the rice.  
Add the dressing mixture and gently toss.

Recipe slightly adapted from Food Network Magazine

Thursday, August 23, 2012

chocolate waffles

Ms. Sonnemaker.  

I have to say she had to have been my favorite teacher of all time, and I was privileged to have her twice - in kindergarten and again in third grade.  She was a kind, soft-spoken teacher.  She's a big reason why my world revolved around singing for nearly three decades.  And under her direction, I was actually "good" in math.  

Math.  Just saying the word makes my stomach turn. 

I have never really considered myself even O.K. in math.  There's all kinds of baggage that goes along with it, so I won't bore you, but to this day, I'm really proud of this treasure from third grade, given to me by none other than Ms. Sonnemaker herself...  AND... the irony...  it's a cookbook.  My first, actually.

I have the best memories of growing up not a block away from the public library.  I was there just about every day.  I became great friends with the children's librarian, and I loved the smell of the books' pages. Mysteries, kid's craft and cookbooks were my favorites.  Maybe you can see why this gift was just perfect for me!

The best part of the keepsake?  The inscription written in calligraphy.  I'm telling you, I can remember getting this like it was yesterday.  

It has been fun reminiscing and looking through the simple recipes.  They are all very basic and friendly for youngsters trying their hand, first-time, at cooking.  Chocolate Waffles, in particular, intrigued me as I considered what fun thing I could attempt for "breakfast" tonight.  

I did really alter the original recipe, so the book's version became more of an inspiration, with the final version being what's posted here.  The result is tender with a darker chocolate taste, and it was a great balance to the savory flavors of thick-cut bacon and scrambled eggs that were served alongside.  

These would probably be fabulous with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top, but since I was trying to act like I require healthy eating for actual meals, I opted for homemade whipped cream, a drizzle of honey and toasted pecans with a sprinkle of cinnamon.  At any rate, any way you fix it, you can't go wrong with chocolate (or a good mystery!).  

So, as the inscription reads:  

Get Cooking! and try a Drew mystery... Oh.  And don't forget to let your favorite teacher know how much you appreciate them.  They can make all the difference in the world; I know mine did!

Chocolate Waffles - makes about 8 
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 3 whole eggs, beaten
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tsp. vanilla 
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, optional (I used dark chocolate)
~ Whisk together first six ingredients in medium bowl.
~ In mixer, blend together eggs, butter and vanilla.  Add buttermilk and mix.
~ Preheat waffle iron, according to manufacturer directions and spray with non-stick spray.
~ Add wet ingredients to the dry ones and stir until just combined.
~ Stir in chips, if using.
~ Ladle batter onto waffle iron and cook until edges are crisp.
~ Serve with ice cream or whipped cream, toasted pecans, a drizzle of honey and dusting of

  Recipe inspired by The Nancy Drew Cookbook 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

peanut butter bacon butterscotch cookies

If I had one wish for food blogging, it might be to find a way to effectively document the aroma of recipes.  I can take pictures all day long of how good food looks, but what is it about the sense of smell that really, really makes all the difference?

Quite a while ago, I bought a bag of butterscotch chips that ended up being stored away in the freezer.  Friday night, I was craving something sweet after we had our pizza.  So, I did a little searching for a cookie idea that could incorporate the chips.  I needed it to be quick, but I also wanted something different.

Different is what I found.

Peanut Butter Bacon Butterscotch Cookies.  I can not tell you how unbelievably good our house smelled.  It was this maple-y... bacon-y... (I'm struggling for adequate words here...) warm and buttery, and dare I say, fall-kissed, concoction that was about as inviting as inviting gets.

When making these, keep a couple of things in mind:  if you're not a fan of butterscotch, peanut butter chips would work just fine in its place.  Also, the dough can be slightly crumbly when doing the cross-hatch marks. No worries.  Just re-form and all will be fine.

I know some of you might turn up your nose at such a combination, but I want to encourage you to think about the potential.  It's the whole sweet/salty thing.  Think kettle corn.  Think chocolate-covered pretzels. You get my drift.

Go, now, and add bacon and butterscotch to your grocery list.  You won't be sorry.

Peanut Butter Bacon Butterscotch Cookies - 
makes about three dozen
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temp.
  • 3/4 cup smooth peanut butter (I used all natural)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/2 cups flour (I used all- purpose)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 cup butterscotch chips (peanut butter would also work well)
  • 4 strips bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
Spray paper with cooking spray and set aside.
~ Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
~ Beat the butters on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add the sugars and beat until
    light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the egg and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. 
~ Add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture and beat on low until just combined. 
~ Mix in the butterscotch chips and bacon. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes 
    (can toss the dough in the freezer for about 15 minutes to speed along the process).
~ Drop the dough by tablespoons onto a cookie sheet about 1 inch apart. Use a fork to press 
    the cookies flat and give the classic peanut butter cookie ‘criss cross’ on the top. 
~ Bake for 7-10 minutes until the cookies are a golden brown along the edges. Cool on a 
    wire rack. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

friday night pizza

At the end of a long week, I was really looking forward to hitting the new farmer's market in our neck of the woods.  I've planned to do so the last three Fridays, and I just couldn't make it happen.  Tonight was the night, and the boys and I had a blast.  What is it about throwing just-picked fruits and veggies into a bag all while looking at the farmer responsible in the eye?  Beats Wal-Mart any day.

This is what we ended up with...

Well, along with two scoops of homemade peach ice cream and a Gala apple that didn't make it home.

The circle of dulcimer and other stringed instrument players, as well as the fun food trucks, were also an added bonus.  Loved it.

As much as I would have been thrilled to have whipped up a meal with my new finds when we got home, I knew no one was going to wait too long for a meal.   So, I pulled out some staples, as well as a frozen serving of the leftover sauce used in my lasagna couple of weeks ago, and we had a great - SUPER FAST - pizza just perfect for a lazy Friday night.

Homemade meals in way under an hour... that's the way I like 'em!

Friday Night Pizza - makes one pie

~ Heat oven to 400 degrees.
~ Cut parchment paper to size of baking stone or pizza pan. 
~ Follow pizza dough recipe (link in recipe above).  Roll out dough on parchment and form
    a raised edge around outside.
~ Pour sauce (link in recipe above) over dough and spread with back of measuring cup to 
    raised edge.
~ Cover top of pizza with cheese.  
~ Cook pizza in heated oven for 25 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbling and 
    crust is golden.

Recipe from The Lazy Daisy Kitchen

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

grilled goat cheese sandwiches with strawberry jam and basil

Conservative eaters everywhere:  If there ever were a time to keep an open mind, this is the time!  I know what you're thinking... Goat cheese?  Strawberries?  Basil?  Together???  Give it a chance, I implore you.

I laughed the other night as I was looking at the posts I've done so far.  It dawned on me that I've yet to do a breakfast item, and that was the whole inspiration behind this blogging thing in the first place.  If you've read my "About" page, you know I'm dreaming of having a bed and breakfast someday.  I think I've covered just about everything but breakfast.

Actually, I guess this sandwich could work at any time of the day, but it just seems more "breakfasty" to me. The cheese and honey melted together is really, really good, and I love strawberries and basil.  I did use a cast iron skillet to press the sandwich as it was cooking.  I kind of wish I wouldn't have for the picture, because it came out pretty squatty.  If using a griddle or grill pan, as with traditional grilled cheese, I'll cover it with a cake pan to trap the heat and melt the cheese more quickly so the the bread doesn't overcook before the cheese is completely heated.

I am eager to try different combinations as time goes on.  I hope you'll give this one a try.  And if you have ideas for new combos, please share!  

Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwiches with Strawberry Preserves and Basilmakes two sandwiches

  • 1 log (4 oz.) plain goat cheese
  • 3 tsp. honey
  • 2  tbsp. strawberry preserves
  • 2  tsp. sliced basil leaves
  • 4  slices cinnamon swirl bread
~ Mix together goat cheese and honey.  A hand blender or regular blender makes this easy!
~ Spread goat cheese/honey mixture over each slice of bread.  
~ Top mixture with preserves and basil.
~ Place remaining bread slices on top of sandwiches and cook over medium heat until 
    cheese is melted.

Recipe from The Lazy Daisy Kitchen

Thursday, August 9, 2012

amish sandwich bread

Six simple ingredients... one great recipe!  It's hard to believe so little can produce such wonderful results!

For years I was afraid of attempting homemade bread.  I don't know why.  I had it in my head that it was the hardest, most difficult thing to accomplish in the kitchen.  I expected failure, which is kind of unlike me.

About two years ago, I decided I was up for the challenge.  I began my quest for great recipes and have found some that are nearly fool-proof.  This one is at the top of the list.  It is versatile, it is simple, and it is oh-my-goodness good!  The recipe makes two loaves, so I usually take a couple of hours first thing on a Saturday and have a good week to two weeks worth by late morning.  It is rare that I buy store-bought now.  I promise, once you make it for the third or fourth time, it becomes second nature.

The great thing I love about this recipe is it's interchangeable.  Although I love all white bread, our family has always eaten 100% whole wheat to try to be a bit more healthy.  This version can handle whatever you choose - half white/half wheat, all wheat, all white always works... whatever your family prefers.  And... I'll share later what I sometimes do with half the recipe - YUM!

There is something about making hand-kneaded bread to give away - a tasty bite of hard work, time, and comfort all rolled into one.  It can't make you feel anything but good, and my oh my, how glorious the house smells...  Go and bless someone (and yourself)!

Amish White Bread - makes 2 loaves

  • 2 cups warm water (110 degrees)
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp. active dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 6 cups flour (any works well, but we do half bread flour, half wheat)  
~ In a large bowl, dissolve sugar in warm water and stir in yeast.  Let it proof until it 
    resembles creamy foam, as seen in the following picture.  This takes about 5-7 minutes.

~ Mix salt and oil into yeast, and add flour one cup at a time.  Mix until fully incorporated.
    A dough hook works really well here, or you can mix by hand (and build terrific triceps
    while you're at it!). 
~ Once mixture is in a ball, knead on lightly floured counter for a few minutes until     
    smooth, like this:

You can allow most of the mixing to take place with the dough hook and only do a few kneads by hand.  It works just fine.  Or, you can do it all by hand.

~ Place smooth ball into well-greased, large bowl and cover with a damp dishtowel.  Put in

   a warm place.  I turn on my oven to 400 degrees and allow to heat one minute.  I turn it 
   off and open the door for a few seconds and then put the bowl inside.
~ When doubled in size (about one hour), remove from oven and punch dough down, 
    kneading a few more minutes.
~ Divide dough into two sections, shape into two loaves, and place in well-greased 9x5 inch 
    loaf pans.  Allow to rise to about one inch above rim of pan, about 30 minutes.
~ Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Recipe adapted from All Recipes

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

simple guacamole

"Hold the guacamole."

That's what I heard for years, growing up, listening to the adults around me as they'd order Mexican food.  I assumed that's what I was supposed to do as well and never realized what I was missing until just a few years ago.

I have made a few different versions of guacamole and have tried even more, but I really prefer only a handful of ingredients and making it "to taste."  Really.  I sort of measure this out, I guess, but it's totally up to you how you prefer to eat it.  This is just a kind of blueprint, if you will.

There are few things I like better than lime and salt together, and avocado is terribly nutritious.  It makes for a super healthy snack that even my boys love.  In fact, before I knew a lot about the avocado, I was extremely excited to see my picky Luke gobbling it up.  It was the only green thing he'd try.  Then I learned the avocado is not a vegetable...

Very disappointed.

If you decide to make this, make sure to save one pit to keep in the mixture.  It will keep it a nice green color rather than turning brown.  Here's to taking these five ingredients and mixing them until your tastebuds sing... Ole'!

Simple Guacamolemakes 2 cups

  • 4 soft avocados
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lime, juiced   
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise     
  • 1 tsp. coarse salt (Kosher or Sea Salt will work)
~ Run knife around middle of avocados, longways, and twist halves until separated.  
~ Pop out pits, setting aside one.  
~ Scoop out flesh with spoon and combine with garlic, lime juice, and mayonnaise in 
    medium bowl. 
~ Mix by hand or use mixer until desired consistency is reached.
~ Add salt to taste and adjust other ingredients as needed.
~ Place in serving dish, and place pit in center.  Serve with chips.

Monday, August 6, 2012

wild blackberry sour cream coffee cake

Dear Blog Friends,

Oh, how I have missed you.  If I would have had any idea of what last week was going to be like, I would have forewarned readers that posts were not going to be an option, or I would have planned ahead, pre-blogged, and scheduled the posts to publish automatically.  Instead, over a week ago, I prepared a menu as always, bought groceries according to what I was wanting to share with you, and then watched them all sit in the pantry and fridge, day after day, not being used.

Lesson #1 about food blogging:  You have to be home to cook the food you want to blog about.

Because I am not quite sure what this week will hold either, I have prepared this time, and what fun it has been to be back in the kitchen...  can we say therapy???

What seems like ions ago (but just the first of June), our family went on a trip to the mountains.  Our plan was to rent a cabin with a great view, swim in the pool, float on the river, and just be together.  That's exactly what we did.  We didn't leave each others' side, didn't rush, didn't get into a lick of traffic, even ate every meal (except the last) in the cabin.  

It was glorious.

Our Lab, Charley, joined us on the trip.  After John got back from walking him the first morning, he came back to tell me that the access road leading to our cabin was flanked with tons of wild blackberry bushes.  Before the four-day excursion was over, we had picked a ton.  I'm not sure John and I could have been more happy! It's the little things, ya know?

When we got home, I spread the lot on a couple of pans and froze them before putting into Ziploc bags. It has taken weeks for us to decide how to use them.  We wanted to find just the right recipe/s that would deliver a level of flavor compatible to the amount of work it took to collect the berries.

This recipe didn't let me down.

I am a huge fan of rustic and simple.  I like the idea of cooking in a cast-iron skillet, because it reminds me of watching Ma cook, because it's nostalgic, and because it's so easy.  I've done coffee cakes before that are prepared in bundt pans and require holding one's breath, crossing fingers, and crossing toes to get them to come out just right.  The challenge is fun, but the results are not always dependable.

This recipe is dependable.

The berries used here are wild.  Tame ones will work just as well, but I can't help but love wild ones more.  They're petite and sweet, with a few tart ones thrown in.  The cake slices have a pretty presentation, with a layer of fruit topped by a streusel-type crumble shining through.  I do think that sometimes using thawed frozen fruit in baked goods makes the end result even better, as it tends to keep the crumb moist and less likely to dry out.

So, there you have it, folks... the first of a couple of recipes highlighting this summer's find.  It's highly recommended to enjoy this treat fresh out of the oven alongside a steaming cup of coffee.  Curl up with a good book, and you have yourself the perfect way to spend an evening!

Wild Blackberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake - 
makes 1 cake

For the cake

   1     cup all-purpose flour
1/2     tsp. baking soda
1/4     tsp. salt
1/4     tsp. ground ginger
1/4     cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2     cup sugar
   1     large egg
1/2     cup sour cream
   2     cups blackberries
~ Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Butter a large cast-iron skillet.
~ In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and ginger.  Set 
~ In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Beat in 
    the egg. 
~ Mix in the sour cream. Gradually add the flour mixture and mix until fully incorporated. 
    The batter will be thick.  Spread into the prepared skillet and top with blackberries, 
    pressing them into the batter  slightly.
For the topping

   3      tbsp. sugar
   3      tbsp. brown sugar, packed
1/4      cup unsalted butter, softened
1/3      cup all-purpose flour
1/2      tsp. ground cinnamon
   1      Pinch of salt
~ In a mixing bowl, beat together the sugars, butter, flour, cinnamon, and salt until well 
~ Crumble the topping on top of the cake.  Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until top is lightly 
    browned  and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool for several 
    minutes before serving.
~ Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

Recipe from The Pastry Affair