Thursday, December 31, 2009

Moving Forward to 2010

So a few months ago, I decided to change up my blog, but what difference have you really seen besides consistency in posting and a little more personalization? Well my dear friends, change is a comin'.

Where I see my blog in 2010: a true preservation of tradition taking food from a tiny seed to the table.

Last year, my garden BOMBED. It had a little to do with weather, pests and a lot to do with time. I did not can hardly at all. (I'm pretty much out of canned goods unless you like soggy pickles). This year, I hope things are different. I'm planning two-three gardens. (I've given up on landscaping so I'm just going to plant edible stuff everywhere and aesthetics be damned). I'm going for mass amounts of variety so I can CAN everything! I want to put how to's on my blog. Last year I learned the true value of the Farmer's Market and utilizing other local grower's. You know what? I don't have to do everything myself which will help alleviate the stress to grow EVERYTHING. I have so much in my head to give to all of you. Canning tips, resources, recipes, etc. I'm very excited to finally form my blog into what I had dreamed of originally but got lost along the way. I relaxed into it and I hope you will all love where it goes.

The immediate future: Healthy recipes. Once the holidays are over, I'm going to work on some healthy eating options as we ALL will be doing the New Year's diets. Then we will transition into light spring dishes and fresh summer garden dishes. The Fall Harvest will take over with all the storing of foods and hearty fragrant fall dishes, back into Christmas baking and cooking extravaganza. Mix in some book and product reviews and we have a busy year planned here at the Garden Gourmet. Who knows, maybe we will get lucky this year and be eating some really crazy stuff to satisfy pregnancy cravings (but don't hold your breath on that one.)

So to all my readers, THANK YOU for continuing this journey with me. I hope 2009
filled your home with fragrant smells of well cooked food and family, and I wish for you in 2010 a warm home of fabulous dishes and traditions. May God Bless you and yours and may your kitchen be the heart of the home.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Spaghetti With Creamy Lemon Sauce

You can always tell the difference between a Southern American and an Italian American. True Italian heritage people will cook pasta with anything. They make sweet pastas, savory pastas, plain pastas, extravagant pastas. A Southern American makes a variety of pasta.....with tomato sauce. Throw in a little alfredo every now and again and you have the extent of "italian" cooking in the Southern Household.

Okay, okay. So this may be an over generalization of stereotypical thinking, but you know its mostly true, especially in this household. Everytime I try to step out of that Italian cooking box, I get snarls and "you've gone a little crazy on the cooking front" looks from my husband. Example.

I refuse to give up. Pasta is probably my favorite thing in the world and I will be damned if I sit idly by and let the best pasta dishes go undiscovered because I hit a few that do not jive with my Southern palate.

The perfect opportunity arose to try a new dish. I have leftover lemons and heavy cream from the holiday cooking orgy. So I tried a light and simple pasta. It wasnt' BAD persay, but it was odd. Stephen ate it but I would be hard pressed to get him to eat it again and I can't say that I would be too keen on it myself. It's the lemon flavor. I'm just not sure I can get past that. Lemon belongs in Sweet Tea and Cream Pie, Squeezed over Grilled Salmon or zested with some poultry. Lemon, cream and noodles? Not so much. I'm still working on getting away from tomato sauce. Maybe that should be a new year's resolution.

Spaghetti with Creamy Lemon Sauce

1 lb Spaghetti
1 & 1/8 cup of Whipping Cream
1 cup chicken stock
Zest of One Lemon
Juice of Half of Lemon
2 tbs Dried Parsley (Plus some for garnish)
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Dash Salt and Pepper
1/4 cup Shredded Romano Cheese (Plus some for garnish)
1/8 cup flour

Cook the spaghetti noodles till desired consistency in salted water. I like mine softer than Al Dente. While the spaghetti is cooking, combine all of your ingredients in sauce pan except Cheese and flour. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce to a simmer and add Flour whisking until smooth. When it starts to thicken, add cheese and hot noodles. Coat noodles well and serve hot with a sprinkle of parsley and cheese.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Keurig-King of the Kitchen

I was introduced to the Keurig coffee pot over a year ago by Kelly. A nice tidy pot that brews a superb cup of coffee one cup at a time. While a neat concept, I didn't find it necessary and stood staunchly by my old traditional coffee pot.

I am a traditional gal, and a stubborn one. If a traditional method is working, why upgrade? After countless trips rushing home from work because I forgot to turn the coffee pot (or atleast I thought I had) off, I decided a new coffee pot was in order. I wistfully glanced at the Keurig's but reported "I just need a coffee pot with an automatic shut off so I don't burn the house down."

You know those commercials where it has a woman in the space suit and the guy in a chef's outfit standing in a kitchen? The slogan is something about "Where style and innovation meet?" (I think its an appliance commercial but I can't find it on google or youtube) Well, that is us. My husband is Mr. Techno and I'm Mrs. Classic Style. He actually appreciates the latest gadgets and tech fads while I cling staunchly to the familiar. Example: The great PalmPilot debate of 2006. Bless his heart he TRIED to bring me into the current world and get me to use a Palm Pilot with GPS capability and Laptop synchronization. Three years later I'm still using a day planner, post-it notes and getting lost in the countryside.

The coffee pot however, is a masterpiece of brilliance that he would not settle on. I lusted after a Keurig? Then nothing but a Keurig would do. Isn't he the best? Santa brought me a Keurig for Christmas. You think I had a coffee addiction before? HA, that little monster is getting a workout. I'm pretty sure I'm up to 5 or 6 double cups a day. This coffee is so wonderful and fast. I used to have to make the coffee, flip the switch, take the dogs out, come back in and 3 cups were barely brewed. I can now stumble to the kitchen, push the button and have a cup of coffee ready to take outside with me before I ever get my shoes on!

Can we say love? So from one stubborn traditional coffee lover to another, if you are in the market for a new coffee maker, spend the money, buy a Keurig.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Menu Monday: New Year's Edition

Since the In-law clan is coming in to do Christmas for New Years, my menu is still very festive. I also, have the week off and plan to do some experimenting as well. Given these two factors, my need to clean and organize, this menu is subject to change! LOL

Monday: Stuffed Cabbage

Tuesday: Spaghetti with Creamy Lemon Sauce and side salad

Wednesday: Beef Something and Sweet Potato Brownies

Thursday: White Chicken Chili, Zuchini Biscotti

Friday: Red Wine Risotto, Greens, Black eyed Peas, Stuffed Pork Tenderloin, Bourban Pecan Truffles and Fried Peach Pies

Saturday: Vegetable Soup with homemade mini pimento cheese sandwiches

Southwest Bites

At the beginning of the month, I experiment with my Chain Resteraunt obsession: Chili's Southwest Eggrolls. It was a good start but not perfect. As part of the Gluten Free escapade for Sarah's Christmas I did some finagling with the recipe. The filling is perfect! I placed it in Little Gluten Free Pie crusts and dubbed them Southwest Bites. For Christmas day, I used the filling in premade Phylo Cups and topped with a spicy sourcream. YUM.

I just need to work on the dipping sauce now. Sis and I went to Chili's on our Boxing Day shopping and ofcourse got the Real Deal. They were so yummy good. It really was the casing and dipping sauce that made the dish. So my work continues on this one. However, I'm posting the filling again with the miniscule changes and the (incomplete) Gluten Free Pie Crust.

Gluten Free Pie Crust
Sarah's Blend for Pie Crust (rice flour, tapioca flour, corn starch, sugar, salt and xanthan gum).
1/2 c. shortening
4 oz. cream cheese
1 egg
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
3 tbsp. COLD water

Mix shortening and cream cheese and flour mix until it forms a course crumb. Add eggs, vanilla, water and mix with hands until smooth. Dump on to lightly floured counter and form two balls. Refridgerate for a few hours.

Gently Roll onto counter and flatten. GF pie crust is very tempermental and tears and breaks easily. It's almost better to do this with your hands, pushing gently away from you with the plam of your hands. Use a glass to cut circles and gently tuck (not press) them into a greased mini muffin tin.

Prebake at 425 for 10 minutes. Fill and heat.

Notes: I can not give you exact measurements for the pie crust as I do not have them. Sarah made up baggies of flour mixes for cakes, pies etc. for me to keep on hand. If you need the exact measurements, please email me and I will get that for you.

Southwest Filling

1 chicken breast fillet
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 1/2 tablespoons minced red bell peppers
2 1/2 tablespoons minced green onions
1/3 cup frozen corn
1/3 cup canned black bean, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 tablespoons diced canned green chili peppers
1/2 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 dash cayenne pepper
3/4 cup shredded monterey jack cheese

Rub chicken breast with oil and cook/grill approx. 5 minutes per side or until done and then dice.

Preheat 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil in a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat.
Add the red pepper and onion to the pan and sauté. Add Chicken. Stir.
Add the corn, black beans, spinach, jalapeno peppers, parsley, cumin, chili powder, salt, and cayenne pepper to the pan.
Cook for another 4 minutes. Stir well to make sure it is blended nicely.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the cheese.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Neiman Marcus Cookies

Has anyone NOT recieved the infamous email about the $250.00 cookie recipe? REALLY? Were you living under a rock during the last decade? Well, to make a long story short, a completely made up chain letter story went around with a cookie recipe that supposedly cost the originator $250.00. So to "get back" at the company she passed it along for free. If you want the full details and supposed history as according to snopes, go here.

I admit, I am gullible. I originally got the email back in the late 90's. I ofcourse rushed off to try this recipe to see if it was ALL THAT. Who woulda thunk it? It was a damn good recipe, that made a shiton of cookies. My family dove into a pile of cookies with wild abandon. I was baking and giving away cookies for weeks. Everyone wanted them. I was quite proud of myself. I had THE Neiman Marcus cookie recipe! I deserved a cookie (or a hundred).

Thanks to snopes and the World Wide Web, I now know its not a big deal. Despite that, I still make them. Every year, for Christmas. Despite the truth, I still call it the Neiman Marcus cookie recipe. And for those of you who were living under a rock, I will gladly post it here, since its already rampant around the internet and I haven't really changed much. It makes a great holiday treat during a holiday that is largely commercialized and rampant with greed, don't you think? Maybe I should start calling it Consumerism Cookie. Nah. It will always be THE Neiman Marcus cookie to me and hold fond memories, no matter where it originally came from.

Neiman Marcus Cookies

2 cups butter (room temp)
4 cups Self Rising flour
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups brown sugar
5 cups blended oatmeal (measure oatmeal and blend in blender to a fine powder)
24 oz. chocolate chips
1 8 oz. Hershey bar (grated)
4 eggs
3 cups chopped nuts (your choice and optional)
2 tsp. vanilla

Cream the butter and both sugars. Add eggs and vanilla; mix together with flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder, and soda. Add chocolate chips, Hershey bar and nuts. Roll into balls and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet..Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Makes 112 cookies supposedly but mine are always big so I actually get around 90.

Figgy Cranberry Pudding

"Now bring us some figgy pudding, now bring us some figgy pudding, and bring it right here. We won't go until we get some, we won't go until we get some..."

Have you ever noticed how bossy Christmas songs are? YOU WILL ENJOY CHRISTMAS AND YOU WILL FEED US. What is figgy pudding anyway? Figgy pudding is a tradtional sweet bread or fruit cake in Britain dating back to atleast the 16th century. Most traditionally steamed, they are now baked in a variety of flavors like Christmas Pudding, plum pudding etc.

In my desire to preserve tradition and retain some history, I decided to try figgy pudding. The only figs I could find were extremely pricey dried organic figs that were almost candied. To really bring in some flavor and modernize it a bit, I decided to add some dried cranberries as well and sweeten it with some brown sugar to cut the heavy molasses. Topped it with fresh whipped cream sweetened with confectioners sugar and cinnamon and it was a delightful end to Christmas day. Unfortunately you will have to take my word for it as I forgot to take a picture.

While I don't consider this experiment in history a failure, I'm not sure figs and I are friends. I think I prefer the tradition of gingerbread and peppermint at this time of year! Figs and molasses are a rich DARK taste, like what dark chocolate is to milk chocolate. I'm more of a milk chocolate girl.

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup molasses
2 cups chopped dried figs
1 cup dried cranberries
1 tsp lemon zest
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup pecans (Chopped)
2 1/2 cups self rising flour
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Dash ground cloves

Cream butter and sugars. Add molasses, buttermilk and eggs. Slowly add rest of ingredients (minus figs, pecans and cranberries). Fold in fruits and nuts. Pour into a greased 8 x 4 souffle dish. Bake at 325 for one hour. Let cool. Spoon out like pudding or cut into wedges. Center will be quite moist and may fall. I served up like a pudding.

Gluten-Free Gooey Butter Cake

I wanted to make some items into Gluten Free recipes for my friend Sarah as a Christmas present. Being a single mom of two, working full time and feeding a family on a special diet due to Celiac's can be tough! So to help her out, I try to experiment with Gluten Free cooking from time to time and mark recipes that are Naturally Gluten Free for her to use to spice up their dinner menu.

A popular cake right now seems to be a Gooey Butter Cake in all its variations. Since my local grocery store has started carrying Betty Crocker's Gluten Free cake mixes, I decided to try it out. Gluten gives baking that light and fluffy texture so GF is thicker and denser which often changes the entire recipe. While this is called Cake, it makes for a chewy cake bar that is sinfully sweet and definately "gooey."

Gluten Free Gooey Butter Cake

1 box Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix
1 egg
8 tbs butter room temperature or slightly melty

8 ounces Cream Cheese (room temp)
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
8 tbs butter, melted
18-20 ounces confectioner's sugar

Combine cake mix, egg and butter in mixer until a crumb forms. Press into bottom of greases pan (9 x 13). Mix Topping ingredients and pour over "crust". Bake for 40 minutes at 350. Let cool completely before serving.

Beef Stroganoff

The week of Christmas I wanted simple hardy dishes that would have tons of leftovers. Boy did I ever make stuff with tons of leftovers. I have REALLY got to work on cutting recipes down for the two of us or freezing portions immediately! I'm going to have to throw some food out because there are still leftovers and they are over my three day rule. We just could not eat that much.

I will post the full recipe but I made the error of using too much meat and broth so I had to balance out the ingredients which made WAY too much. This would feed an army so please, PLEASE cut this recipe down. My suggestion...cut the roast in half and freeze half for a later time and use about 2 cups of the broth only to start.

Beef Stroganoff

2-3lb Beef Chuck Roast
6 cups of water
2 Beef Boullion Cubes
3/4 cup flour
1 medium onion, chopped
1 package (10 ounces) mushrooms, destemmed and sliced
3 tbs chopped garlic
1 carton Sourcream (16 ounces)

Put all ingredients in crockpot EXCEPT Sourcream. Cook for 8-10 hours on low. Remove roast and trim fatty portions (meat will just fall apart) and cube or shred meat. Add additional flour to thicken broth if needed (pull about a cup of broth out, add flour, whisk until smooth, slowly return to crock whisking the entire time so there are no lumps). Once you get a thickened broth, add sourcream and return meat to crock. Serve over rice or egg noodles. Top with a sprinkle of parsley.

Recipe Extravaganza in 2010

I have some pretty amazing people in my life who support me, my "schemes", my endeavors and my dreams. I completely racked up on Kitchen stuff for Christmas! I can't wait to review some of this stuff as well as try new recipes.

I got THREE new cookbooks for Christmas and a year's subscription to Martha Stewart Living. I have read them all (including the one magazine that came with the subscription) from cover to cover.

I have dog earred the pages of the recipes I want to try. I have made a list and I'm itching to get started.

Dishes such as: Parmigiano Crusted Asparagus, Greek Olive and Feta Bread, Pecan Honey Bread, Red Wine Risotto, Herbed Ravioli (yes, I'm going to try homemade pasta again despite my recent failure), Sour Cream Tomato Pizza, Pimento Cheese (Pate of the South), Sweet Potato Brownies and Fried Peach Pies.

Can you imagine the yumminess that is going to come out of my kitchen? 2010 is definately going to be a flavorful year! So stick with me and plow your way through my cookbooks with me and we can all have a tasty new year!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Tis the Season for Julie and Julia

Merry Christmas everyone, a little late. I did not forget you but cooking, baking, and all the insanity that comes with Christmas does not leave much time for blogging. Have no fear, I have TONS to share with you including: Chef Santa, Buckeyes, Figgy Cranberry Pudding, and product reviews!

Santa, my husband, family and friends were so good to me this year. This is one of the best christmases I've ever had. We even still had snow on the ground so it was truly my first white christmas! There was a magic in the air and it all happened so fast! I tried extending it last night through midnight.

We came home from my parents (the most darling little farm house in the foothills of NC with snow everywhere that is what people Imagine is like when you hear "off to grandma's house we go") and made (decaf) coffee with the new Keurig coffee pot, put in the movie that showed up in my stocking and dove headfirst into a new cookbook. a>

I am inspired. The critics on this movie varied greatly but most people claimed the Julia Child part was fabulous and the Julie part was a snooze fest. I beg to differ. I've often thought of working my way through a cookbook and even follow blogroll projects that do the same (such as the Daring Bakers club that bake with Dorian Greenspan). Blogging is like a job sometimes. You WANT readers. You want comments. You also want to keep it fresh and entertaining and see how much you have accomplished. I love my blog, even if I'm the only one who ever reads it, I feel satisfied and accomplished. In this, I can totally relate to Julie. She may be a bit neurotic and overly obsessive, but I admire her commitment and choice of connecting to food and her idol. I would probably act like a 12yo school girl too if Paula Deen/Martha Stewart didn't like me or I had the chance to meet her!

The movie was a tad slow in parts but it had some comedy, a rich history, and raw emotion mixed with kitchen triumph's and failures. You can't go wrong. The true test: I wanted to go in the kitchen and start trying my new recipe cookbooks midnight. I rushed off to find the original blog that started it all. It is still there but not in full. I shed a little tear at the last post ever written: The day Julia Child passed away. While I can see that particular blog had to end, it saddens me to think that this one will. So my dear readers, I hope in the coming years, this blog grows and morphs and it may take on some new faces and directions, for now, I'm enjoying simply being The Garden Gourmet: experimenting with traditional cooking, canning and gardening to keep the Southern Farming roots alive.

After I get back from shopping with my sister (after Christmas sales ya'll, you HAVE to go.)you will find me in my kitchen, playing with my new gagdets and trying new recipes. I promise in the downtime to post. Have no fear, I have the whole week off work, this blog will be hopping! Merry Christmas and if you haven't yet, go watch Julie and Julia. Be inspired and Bon Appetit!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Menu Monday-Christmas Edition

This week is insane with all the holiday baking and cooking so I'm trying to make the dinner prep as easy as possible.

In my kitchen this week:
Crockpot Beef Strogonauf
Crockpot Spaghetti

Sausage Balls
Maple Brown Sugar Cookies
Scratch Brownies
"Neiman Marcus" Cookies
Oreo Truffles
Peppermint Truffles
Peanut Butter Balls
Southwest Bites

Mulled Wine
Fig-Cranberry Bread Pudding

Jarred Gifts

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Let it Snow, Let it Snow

As I sit here updating my blog pictures from this weekend, I am still staring out my office window at a melting world of blinding white, clear blue skies and bright sunshine.

I will be venturing forth shortly to go grocery shopping for my holiday week supplies but I thought I would take a moment and share the magic of snow at my home in NC.

Once part of my horse pasture and future home to my 2010 large garden (taken while it was still snowing).

Tedda guarding the cleared porch path.

It's hard to tell but the side of my house is completely glazed in ice.

Christmas Dishes

I am probably one of the last remaining Southern Wives who does not own a set of dishes for every season/ holiday. I have two sets of dishes. A large magnolia set and a four piece green set that I got from one of those homesales groups. I used to think this was adequate but I have since learned it is indeed not.

I've officially become obsessed with all things dishes and servingplatters. I intend to correct my lack of holiday dishes the day after christmas by hitting up the sales. Wish my luck!

Until then I did stumble across the most adorable dishes at Hobby Lobby 50% off last week. They did not have many left so I settled for a tea setting for two which are perfect for my husband and I but may be lacking when we expand the family.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Scratch Brownies

Another request from Stephen led me to create a from scratch brownie recipe. When I'm looking for a particular dish I have not made before, I turn to the internet. I look up several recipes and take what I want from each to create a base for the taste I'm after. You would think there would be a basic brownie recipe without having to do this but I had to keep in mind what ingredients I had in my pantry since I wasn't about to venture out in the ice/snow to get anything.

This recipe turned out great. Stephen declared it on par with Boxed brownies. It sounds like a smack in the face but coming from him is actually a complement. LOL I may never buy boxed brownies again because really, these aren't any more difficult than the boxed and would be super easy to package the mix in jars to keep on hand and give as gifts!

Scratch Brownies

1 package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup cocoa
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour (sifted)
2 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 cup butter (softened)

Grease a 13 x 9 pan and preheat oven to 350. Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. Mix dry ingredients together in sepearte bowl and add mix slowly to butter mixture. When mix is just moistened, fold in chocolate chips. Mix will be super thick.

Bake for about 45 minutes till toothpick comes out clean. Cool pan on wire rack.

I served with a quick topping of 1 cup cream, 1/8 cup confectioners sugar, 1 tbs cocoa powder and a dash of vanilla beat until peaks formed, but the brownies really do stand alone. Enjoy.

Chicken Fricasse

Sometimes you need some quick go to recipes that use up ingredients. I always keep an eye out for recipes using Cream as many of my baking/holiday dishes use cream and I need to use up the leftovers. This recipe is a nice quick/easy recipe that uses pantry staples plus cream and would actually be good any time of the year.

Chicken Fricasse

2-3 large chicken breasts with skin or 1 small chicken rinsed, dried and cut into sections)
Salt and Pepper
2 tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 celery stalk, minced
2-3 tbs minced garlic
1/2 tsp dried thyme
3 cans sliced mushrooms (4 ounces) or 1 package fresh
2 tbs all purpose flour
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 egg yolk
Egg Noodles

Liberally coat all sides of chicken with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet with oil. Saute chicken starting with skin side down for about 5 minutes each side until golden brown. Remove. Add onion, celery and garlic to pan and saute till onions are starting to turn translucent. Add mushrooms. (if using fresh add them in at the same time as onion). Stir in thyme and flour and cook for another minute. Add in chicken broth and bring to simmering boil. Return chicken to pan and cook for about 25 minutes or until chicken is cooked completely.

While chicken is cooking, boil egg noodles in salted water till tender. When chicken is done place meat portions on bed of egg noodles.

To make the sauce, whisk together cream and egg yolk. Take about 1/2 cup of the mushroom broth mixture and whisk into cream. Slowly mix this all back into pan. Simmer on low heat for a few minutes until it starts to thicken. Pour over chicken and noodles.

Buttermilk Spice Cake

This recipe is not going to be counted as a failure but it did fall on me. I made it in a stoneware bundt pan and sure enough as it cooled, one side caved in or rather compacted. The taste was still phenomenal though, so I just sliced it up and poured the rich icing over it and off to my work party we went (the cake and I).

This is definately on the do over list but I think I will wait till next Christmas. This is a VERY rich cake with a warm gingerbread feel that I distinctly associate with Christmas.

Due to the fact that I forgot to take pictures as well as not changing anything about the recipe; I'm just providing the link as I'm sure neither The Food Network nor Mr. Emeril would appreciate it if I tried to pass it off as my own. LOL!

Buttermilk Spice Cake with Roasted Walnut Frosting

Friday, December 18, 2009

TACO SOUP on a Snow Night

What could be more perfect than that? When I think warmth, I don't just think physical warmth and heat. I think flavors are warm, smells are warm, even the feel of a texture can be warm. On a cold blustery night like tonight (where the sleety, snow wind mix pins your eyelids to your chin and your butt tries to fold in on itself), there is nothing better than a warm soup filled with spice, flavor, texture and heat. I KNEW tonight would not be a plain old chili night, but a perfect time to try TACO SOUP.


2 lbs ground beef
2 medium onions diced
1 LARGE (30 ounce) can of Pinto Beans
1 can Light Red Kidney Beans
1 Can Corn
1 Can diced tomatoes with chilis
1 quart canned tomatoes (about 2 cans at the store or ONE large can)
1 can black olives
1/2 cup green olives
1 package Taco Seasoning Mix
1 package Fiesta Ranch Mix

Brown the ground beef in a skillet. Remove and saute the onions in about tbs of the drippings or olive oil. Run beef through a food processor to make sure it is finely chopped. Drain your beans and corn. Add ALL ingredients to a large stock pot and simmer for an hour.

Serve HOT with a garnish of corn chips, sour cream, or grated cheese. (or all of the above!)

Note: This could be done in the crock pot. Brown beef and onions, simmer all ingredients in crock for 4-6 hours on low.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cheesy Chicken Cups

A very simple goto recipe that made it's rounds among the newlywed crowd a few years ago is actually derived from a Weight Watchers Recipe. Beyond that history I have no idea where it came from but it has been changed, manipulated and passed so many times it could be considered MONO of the foodie world.

I prefer the simple version rather than some of the concoctions that have turned into muffin pot pies. Of course I don't use the weight watcher ingredients so don't count on mine being low fat but YOU CAN make substitutions.

Cheesy Chicken Cups

2 cans Buttermilk Biscuits (With a few leftover)
1 large cooked chicken breast, diced
1 can Cream of Chicken Soup (for a lighter version use Healthy Request)
1 cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese (you can use Fat Free)
1 TBS dried parsley flakes
1/2 tsp black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place each biscuit into a muffin spot using a muffin pan. Press gently around to form cups. In a bowl, combine chicken, soup, cheese, parsley and pepper. Mix well. Spoon evenly into cups.

Bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown.

Sausage & Mushroom Penne Pasta

This is a recipe that is running around in various forms on multiple blogs. I believe someone mentioned it started in an issue of Gourmet magazine. It's a super easy recipe but I think it is hillarious that someone said "place in Flame Proof baking dish." Errr Okay. I HOPE YOUR OVEN doesn't catch on fire but just to be safe! *wink*. Seriously though, this is a very hearty dish that is light in the flavors blended perfectly. Great for a cold night and perfect for company.

Sausage & Mushroom Penne Gratin

1 lb dried Penne (1 box)
1 1/4 pound Mild Italian Sausages
2 tbs olive oil
1 package mushrooms (about 10 ounces to 1 lb)
3 tbs crushed garlic
1 tbs dried parsley
1 1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup reserved pasta water
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1 cup grated/shredded parigiano/romano cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella


Cook Penne till al dente or a little more but not much because they need to hold their shape and not be too soft. Reserve 1/2 cup of water and then drain pasta and place in 9 x 13 baking dish. Sprinkle noodles with dried parsley.
Remove sausage casings and cook in 1 tbs oil in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until done and chopped finely. Transfer to bowl but leave juice/oil in skillet. Add remaining tbs oil, mushrooms and garlic and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally until mushrooms are done (3-4 minutes).
Add sausage back in along with cream, pasta water, salt, pepper and boil stirring once or twice until starting to thicken. Pour evenly over pasta.
Stir in cheeses and broil about 5 minutes watching carefully so you don't burn the cheese. Serve hot.

Board? ME TOO!!

So I got a new cutting board. Not just ANY cutting board but a fabulous piece of solid surface counter top scrap that was lovingly cut and sealed by my darling husband (who works for a countertop place). It's fabulous. It's large, and heavy and doesn't dull my knives or show scratches.

I 'lurve' it. Now if only he had enough scraps to do my entire kitchen. HMMM. Le sigh. I love my kitchen with its custom built high counters but the 80's fake butcherblock laminate can go...seriously...I'm ready to upgrade. It's on the to do list and distant budget. Until then, I will be using my fabulous new cutting board and blocking out the counter top around it (like in a dream, where everything but the hot hunk with rippling muscles is out of focus? oh what? don't pretend you don't dream like that).

Monday, December 14, 2009

Menu Monday

This is going to be a busy week as I'll be doing a lot of cooking and baking. This menu is likely to change as the week gets hectic and this really does not include all the holiday baking I'll be doing but its a "working" menu. I love my menu Mondays because they provide me with a basic shopping list and inspiration. I often stick to them and sometimes I deviate slightly, but I love them none the less. It keeps my inspired to constantly try new things and keep playing in the kitchen.

Chicken Fricassee
Cheesy Chicken Cups
Crock Pot Stroganoff
Sausage & Mushroom Penne Gratin
Taco Soup

Buttermilk Spice Cake

Sunday, December 13, 2009

White Chicken Chili

I believe it was the same Le Petit Pierogi blog that I found a recipe for White Chicken Chili. I did change this one quite a bit right off the bat but I am VERY pleased with it. I do believe it is one of my new favorite dishs and definately being added to the winter rotation! Plus I was able to use the leftover chicken broth to make a batch of Baked Garlic Cheese Grits so EVERYthing was used. LOVE Days like that!

White Chicken Chili

1 1/2 lbs Chicken, boiled (or crockpot), deskinned, deboned and cubed (about 3 large breasts)
1 onion, chopped
1 tbs garlic powder
1 tbs chopped garlic
1 tbs Olive Oil
2 (15 1/2 ounce) cans of Great Northern Beans
1 large can of White kidney beans
4 cups Chicken broth
2 (4 oz) cans of diced green chilis (this makes it mild, if you want hot add more)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried italian seasoning
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
16 oz sour cream
1 cup whipping cream
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Crock pot chicken breasts. ( I did it for 10 hours while I was at work but you could do it on high for 4 or boil it on the stove for quicker fixing).

Debone/deskin the chicken and save broth.

Add 4 cups of broth and chicken back to crockpot (or pot). On stove saute over medium heat garlic/garlic powder and onion in oil. Add to crock pot. Add beans, chilies, seasongins to crock pot and cook on high for about an hour till hot and bubbly. Stir in Sour cream, cream and cheddar and serve hot. Is great warmed up as leftovers as well.

Peirogi Lasagna

I was browsing several cooking blogs the other day and came across Peirogi Lasagna. I thought "wow, this sounds great!" My imagination made it a little better than it actually was. It was OKAY but a little bland and oily in my opinion even AFTER I spiced it up with some Kielbasa. I may come back to this in the future and play but for now, its being sidelined. The only differences to the recipe (which is why I'm not reposting) is that I added sliced Kielbasa, some italian herbs and instead of milk I used about 1 cup of cream because the potatoes were too dry.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Challah back girl

I am honored that Krista has allowed me to infiltrate her lovely food blog with a few of my loves and ideas
from the kitchen. So, with that I will share with you my Thanksgiving project.
I speak in purple, really, I do.


Recipe makes 2 braided loavesThis recipe is from my soul sister. The lovely, one and only Julia Child. So imagine this narration in her sweet little voice and accent.

2 Tablespoons unsalted (or salted, it won't hurt) Melted butter
1 1/2 Tablespoons active dry yeast
1/2 Cup tepid water (80-90 degrees F)
1/3 Cup sugar
1 stick unsalted (or salted, I promise it won't hurt) butter, at room temperature
1 Cup whole milk (or whatever is in your fridge, though I would advise against breast milk)
1 Tablespoon mild honey
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 large eggs
6 1/2 Cups high gluten flour, bread flour or all purpose unbleached flour

Mixing the dough-
Wisk the yeast into the water. Add a pinch of the sugar and let rest until the yeast has dissolved and is creamy, about 5 minutes. Cut the butter into small pieces and toss into
a small saucepan with the milk; heat until the milk is very warm to the touch and the butter has melted.

Ok, I was horribly embarrassed as to how dirty my stove was in the first picture, so I had to clean i
t in the midst of this. But see how much prettier it is? Put the mixture
into a large mixing bowl and add the remaining sugar, the honey, and salt. If necessary, let the mixture cool so that it is no warmer than 110 degrees F. Not like this, it's too hot and will kill your yeast. And I don't want you to be a yeast murderer.

Add the creamy yeast to the milk mixture, along with the eggs, and stir with the wooden spoon to mix. Stirring vigorously, add the flour, 1/2 c. at a time, stopping when you have a dough that cleans the sides of the bowl and is difficult to stir.
[Ok, here's a hint. One that I always tell myself I don't knead (haha get it? Knead? ok ok, fine). Measure out the flour into a separate bowl, bag, feeding trough. Anything. Because if you a like me, you will be counting a long and when you get to 4 1/2c. you will lose track and start thinking about how dirty the bathroom is or how quiet your 10 1/2 month old is being which assuredly means trouble. SO just do it. Measure it out and life will be good. Because in this instance, I didn't and I'm pretty sure I added an extra cup of flour, but no worries it was still delicious and wonderful.]

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead, adding more flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to your hands and the counter, until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes.

Or, if you a lazy like me and have a beautiful Kitchenaid mixer, use it, but be prepared with your dough hook, you'll knead (haha) it quickly. And here is what dear Julia has to say about that.
You can make this dough in a heavy duty mixer fitted with a dough hook. When the yeast , the milk mixture, and the eggs are combined, add about 5 cups of the flour, and beat on low speed for 3 minutes, or until the dough starts to come together. Beating on medium-low, add as much additional flour as needed to make a soft dough that will clean the sides of the bowl. Knead on medium low for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth, soft and elastic.

First and Second Rises
Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to the buttered mixing bowl. Brush the top with a little melted butter, cover the bowl with buttered plastic wrap , and top with a kitchen towel.

Let the dough rise at room temperature for 1 to 1/2 hours, or until doubled in volume.
When the dough is full risen, deflate it, cover as before, and let rise until it doubles in bulk again, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Shaping and final rise
Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Cut the dough in half and keep 1 piece of dough covered while you work with the other. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 16 inches long; it should be thick in the center and tapered the ends. Align the ropes vertically, side by side, and start braiding from the center down. [But if you can't follow directions, like me, just braid it like a pretty little girls' hair] When you've reached the end, turn the loaf around so that the braided half is on top; braid the lower half. Pinch the ends to seal and tuck the ends under the loaf. Transfer the loaf to a prepared baking sheet and gently plump it to get it back into shape; cover with a towel. Braid the second loaf, put it on a baking sheet, and cover. Let the loaves rise at room temperature for 40 minutes, or until soft, puffy and almost doubled.

The glaze and topping
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk (though I don't find this terribly necessary, and I skipped it in this instance)
1 Tablespoon cold water or heavy cream
Sesame, poppy and/or caraway seeds (optional)
Coarse salt

Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat to 375 degrees F. Whisk the egg, yolk (if using), and water together in a small bowl until broken up, then push the glaze through a sieve (or skip that, because you are lazy, like me). Brush the tops and the sides of the challahs with glaze; let the glaze set for 5 minutes, and brush again. Reserve the leftover glaze for brushing the loaves during baking. If you're topping the loaves, dust them with seeds; sprinkle coarse salt over the loaves, topped or not.

Baking the bread
Bake for 20 minutes. The loaves will expand and expose some of the inner dough. Brush the newly exposed dough with the reserved glaze and bake for 15 to 20 minutes longer,[bunintheoven] or until the loaves are golden and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. If they start to brown too quickly, cover them with a piece of foil, shiny side up. Let cool before slicing.
While they are still hot I like to spread melted butter over the top.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Mango Glazed Pork and Asparagus

The Foodie Blogroll in conjunction with the National Mango Board issued a challenge this month to incorporate Fresh Mango's with leftovers for scrumtious new dishes. To be perfectly honest, I have NEVER used Mango in any dish. This is something I had to try! I haven't exactly used it with any leftovers yet, but that is next on my list. I did experiment with flavors and mango. One catastrophe of a Mango Salsa later (don't ask) I decided to go with a straight up Mango Glaze on a pork Roast with asaparagus. Two seasonal items that are easily found in the stores right now. I was very proud of myself as this was completely from scratch.

Mango Glazed Pork with Asparagus

1 Pork Roast
1 Mango
1 Whole Pineapple
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp Rosemary
1 tbs Parsley
1 lb asparagus
3 tbs butter
1 cup orange juice

Place Pork in roaster pan, salt well, pour orange juice over it and roast for about an hour until thermometer registers about 160 degrees. Meanwhile cut tough ends from asparagus and lightly boil in salted water until slightly limp.

In a bowl mix diced pineapple and mango wiht the honey, brown sugar and herbs. When roast is at 160, pour fruit glaze over the top and cook for another five minutes until juices in bottom of roaster mix with the dripping fruit glaze juices. Add asparagus to bottom of pan in the juices and place butter on top. Cook for another 5-10 minutes until roast is done and asparagus is hot and tender.

Serve. The fruit sugars really come out and it is so sweet and soft against the savory of the herbs and pork. YUM!

Introducing Guest Blogger-Stephanie

You know how all the big stars have "guests" on their show to share recipes, advice, tips etc? Well I am pleased as Southern Baptist Punch at a Prayer Revival to announce that I have a Guest BLOGGER!

My dear friend Stephanie in Minnesota has graced my little Southern Blog with her presence and will be periodically sharing her fabulous recipes with us. I can't wait to try some of these and am on my toes in excitement to see what she creates next!

Welcome Stephanie!