Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Yummy Chicken Bake

I was in charge of making a meal that could be made ahead of time and would still be tasty whenever we got around to serving it. I searched the pantry and freezer and came up with a Black Bean, Chicken, Polenta Bake. It was fairly easy to make, serves 6 and was also relatively low in calories (but still flavorful). Here is my recipe, I made it ahead of time and stored it in the refrigerator for about 6 hours before cooking it. I would also add some sour cream and tortilla chips, but I didn't have any on hand and I didn't want to run to the store. I served this with a simple tossed salad and it was delicious.

Black Bean, Chicken, Polenta Bake
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite sized pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 tsp fresh, chopped garlic
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
salt & pepper to taste
1 (15 oz) can black beans, rinsed
1 (14 1/2 oz) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup frozen corn
1 (18 oz) log pre-cooked polenta, cut in to 1/2" rounds (~12 total)
5 oz white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • Heat oven to 375 degrees.
  • In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook chicken, onions, and garlic until the onions are translucent and the chicken is fully cooked. Add cumin, chili powder, and salt & pepper. Add black beans, tomatoes and corn and mix well.
  • Cut polenta in to 1/2" rounds and line the bottom of a large casserole dish with them. Pour the chicken mixture over the polenta. Top with shredded cheese and cook until cheese is melted and bubbly (about 30 minutes).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sustainable Eating

Organic food has been the rage for a while now, but lately a new trend in food is emerging: sustainable eating. I was flipping through the July edition of Whole Living (a terrific magazine filled with tips for healthy living and cooking) and they featured a whole section focused on 50 ways to eat sustainably.

I encourage you to pick up this magazine (or check out their website). I'm not going to list all their tips, but here are a handful of my favorite suggestions.
  • Shop at farmers' markets...regularly! You'll be supporting local agriculture and getting fresher products. Check your local farmers' market for staples like onions and potatoes. Stock up on fruits and veggies that are in season and freeze any leftovers. Talk to vendors--ask questions and ask for samples!
  • Follow advice from chef Alice Waters. She says, "local is always the priority, but the organic label really does mean something. If you can't buy local, buy organic--coffees, teas, jams, olive oils, honey, nuts, raisins, oatmeal, beans, grains. There's so much available across the country now." On a related note, be sure to check out the Environmental Working Group's website. They list the dirty dozen--fruits and veggies you should always buy organic, if possible.
  • Buy local eggs and breads to eliminate unnecessary packaging, travel time for your food, and to get the freshest possible product. You'll also be supporting your local economy, which is satisfying.
  • Be package conscious. Try to buy products that come in the least amount of packaging possible--or in containers that are easily recyclable.
  • Eat safer seafood. This is a huge concern now that BP is destroying the Gulf of Mexico. According to Whole Living, just about any fish from Alaska is safe because (surprisingly), they have some of the most environmentally sound fishing practices in the US. Also safe to consume: anything in a shell (oysters, mussels, clams), wild American shrimp (not farm raised!), and local seafood (here in WA we have Dungeness crabs and an abundance of fresh, local seafood to pick from--we're lucky).
  • Buy whole chickens. There was a period in my life that I had almost no money, and I bought whole chickens all the time. They're cheaper than buying already cut up and skinned chicken parts. You can get a ton of meat from a whole chicken that can be used in a variety of ways. And, if you know how to use a knife, it's easy to butcher a chicken to meet your needs. While you're at it, learn how to make your own chicken stock using scraps of chicken, bone, and vegetables you probably already have lying around your kitchen!
  • Go plastic free. This is easier said than done. But go ahead and start small: instead of buying expensive Tupperware or cheap, throw away Gladware, opt for glass storage containers. They're safer to use for microwaving, they won't get stained if you store tomato based products in them, and--unless you drop and break them--they'll outlive your plastic storage containers by far. If you still need to use plastics, be sure to use safer products. Check the bottom of your plastic containers: if there is a number 2, 4, or 5 on there, you're product is less likely to release toxins when heated.
It's nice that we're thinking more about where our food comes from and how it is produced. While buying local/organic may be too expensive or inconvenient at times, I think it's good to do what you can. I'll try to incorporate some of these tips into my shopping/cooking routines. But wow! There's a lot to consider and it can be hard to keep track of it all.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Saturday Dinner

Over the weekend, I was thinking about what I had on-hand and what would taste good together. I came up with Apricot Glazed Chicken, Snow Peas with Toasted Almonds, and Basmati Rice with Peas. I started preparing the ingredients around 04:30 and had dinner served at 05:30 - so this was a pretty quick meal to make.

Almond Glazed Chicken
4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
cooking spray
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon garlic
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup apricot preserves
2-3 tablespoons chicken broth
toasted almonds to garnish
  • Spray a large, non-stick skillet with cooking oil and heat over medium-high. Add garlic, rosemary and chicken. Season the chicken with salt & pepper. Brown the chicken on both sides (3-4 minutes per side).
  • Heat oven to 375 degrees and spray an oven safe cooking dish with cooking spray.
  • Once the chicken has browned, remove from the skillet and place in the prepared baking dish. Add apricot preserves and broth to the hot skillet to deglaze it. Allow the preserves to bubble slightly.
  • Pour the sauce over the chicken, cover with foil and cook in the oven for an additional 25-30 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and sprinkle with some toasted almonds (about 1 tablespoon).
Snow Peas with Toasted Almonds
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted (reserve some for the chicken)
1 tablespoon peanut oil (vegetable oil or sesame oil can also be used)
1 cup snow peas
  • In a medium sized non-stick skillet (or wok), heat oil over medium-high to high heat. Add the snow peas and stir fry for about 3-5 minutes; stir often.
  • Right before removing from heat, add toasted almonds and mix well.
  • Serve immediately.
Basmati Rice with Peas
2 cups chicken broth (I prefer low sodium)
1 cup Basmati rice, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup frozen peas
  • Bring the broth to a boil over high heat. Add rice, reduce heat to simmer, and cover.
  • Simmer rice for 15-20 minutes.
  • About 1 minute before removing the rice from heat, add the peas and allow to simmer; cover.
  • Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Fast and Easy Stir Fry

I love stir fry! Any excuse to use the wok and cook up something usually makes me happy. Now there are about a million ways to make a stir fry and you can add almost anything and use all types of sauces. The prep time for cutting all the meat, veggies and sauce is about 20-30 minutes and the cook time is about 10 minutes. The one trick that I have learned is to cook the meat first, remove it, then cook the veggies. Add the sauce and then add back the meat; serve with rice - yum! Here is one option to cook up.

Ingredients - all sliced thin:
3 chicken breasts
10 mushrooms
1 onion
1/2 cup Snow Peas
1/2 cup Broccoli slaw
1/4 cup Almonds, toasted
Peanut Sauce

Let your wok heat up and add oil (peanut or vegetable work best). Make sure that the oil is hot, then add the chicken. Cook it until fully done, then remove to a clean bowl. Next add the onion and broccoli slaw. Cook until the onions are translucent. Add the snow peas and mushrooms and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the peanut sauce and chicken (including any juices). Right before serving, add the toasted almonds.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Odd Couples

There are some food pairings that are classic: thyme and lemon, chocolate and coffee, garlic and olive oil, tomato and basil, and the list goes on and on and on. These pairings bring out the best in each other. They have complimentary flavors and they just seem to work.

Sometimes, though, trying an unusual food combination can be exciting. Pairing foods that don't seem to work together on paper can yield tasty results. These "odd couples" may not have universal appeal, but to the fan, there's nothing better.

Black Pepper Ice Cream

The whole reason I'm thinking about this is because the other night the whole family went out to dinner for my mom's birthday. There, I ordered a crazy sounding dessert: Black Pepper Ice Cream. I love black pepper. It's one of my favorite flavors, and the ice cream did not disappoint. It had that yummy floral, peppery taste combined with a caramel-y, creamy ice cream base. My husband and father both liked it too. The rest of the family gave it a thumbs down. Oh each his own.

Here are some other odd combos that I like:
  • Peanut butter and bacon. I remember eating PB&B on fluffy white bread as a kid--well before the current (though probably dying out) bacon fad. I still look forward to the combination of crispy, salty bacon with creamy peanut butter.
  • Pizza crust dipped in coke. I know this sounds gross--or like something a little kid would eat--but dipping the crust of my pizza into a fizzy, sugary coke is super yummy!
  • Pretzels and grapes. This one is a perfect combo of sweet and salty: take a chilled grape, plop it on top of a small pretzel, and viola! A yummy snack!
  • Mustard and onion rings. I like the vinegar-y tang the mustard gives to the greasy, salty and slightly sweet o-rings!
Now here are a few more interesting combos:
  • French fries dipped in chocolate milkshakes. This is something my husband likes. Again, a good mixture of salt and sweet.
  • Ice Cream and popcorn. Also a fave of the Mister. Here's a throwback: Donna (Tori Spelling's character) ate this on Beverly Hills, 90210 way back when.
  • Cream cheese and hot dogs. This is a "thing" in Seattle. I don't find it very appealing, but I've never tried it, so I guess I can't judge.
What are your favorite weird food pairings? Leave a comment!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

For Mother's Day we had a gourmet feast (thank you Lydia) but for Father's Day, it was time to break out the grill! My Dad loves hot Italian sausage, but it is not a meal that we eat often. So this year for Father's Day, I decided to give the man what he likes!

I headed out to Central Market and bought fresh corn on the cob, red & orange peppers, vidalia onions, Andouille & hot Italian sausages, ground sirloin (for burgers), Hebrew National jumbo hot dogs, kettle chips, baked beans, and buns - I wanted to make sure that there was something for everyone. Unfortunately, it was a typical Seattle rainy day so I cheated and used the indoor grill instead of the gas one outside.

Everything turned out to be delicious! I even liked the sausage (which is a food that I normally do not eat) and I discovered that my son that hates all vegetables actually likes raw peppers (he takes after his aunt). I made tons of food and we will have leftovers to munch on for lunch this week - yum!

Lydia brought the dessert, which was sorbet, fresh fruit and wafer cookies. The dessert was light and fresh and balanced out the heavy dinner. It was a really nice way to celebrate Father's Day and nobody left the table hungry. The only thing that could have made the meal complete is if the sun was out and it was warm (my father would be happy with a snow storm).

Happy Father's Day!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cookbook Corner: Everyday Italian

When I was on maternity leave (awhile ago), I watched a lot of Food Network TV. It was during this time that I first saw Giada De Laurentiis's show, Everyday Italian. I really loved the dishes that she made and thought that they looked delicious and fairly easy. I was really excited when the cookbook came out that had all those good recipes that I loved watching her make.

What to expect: 125 recipes, each with a short description about the dish. You will find recipes for everything from appetizers to desserts, along with lots of mouthwatering photos. The recipes are easy to follow and I have found that the ingredients are things that I usually have on hand or can substitute easily.

I have made a bunch of the recipes and have always been very happy with the results! My copy has sauce stains and the cover has been melted from being placed on a hot burner (I was making Risotto). This is one Food Network books that I am glad to have invested in.

Best recipes:
White Bean Dip with Pita Chips p.19 - I love this dip! Easy to make and a crowd pleaser (my picky eater even likes this dip).

Caprese Salad, p. 30 - This is really simple, but extremely good. I love this dish in the summer, for me nothing says summer like tomatoes.

Orecchiette with Spicy Sausage and Broccoli Rabe p. 106 - Okay, sausage is not one of my favorites but this looks really good and I think that I would even like.

Basic Risotto p. 128 - If you want a sure fire recipe for risotto, then this is it. I have made this a dozen times and it has always turned out well.

Chicken Spezzatino p. 173 - This is a very easy recipe for chicken stew (see the post from June 8 for the full recipe and my deviations). This recipe lends itself to be a good sweep the kitchen type meal.

Shrimp Fra Diavolo p. 177 - Spicy, perfectly cooked shrimp! I served this over linguine (see the post from May 24) and the whole family loved it. I would make this for company!

Chocilate Tiramisu p.236 - I have not yet made this, but tiramisu is one of my favorite desserts and I think that Giada would make a mean one.

Complaints: None - I really enjoy this cookbook and it has become a "go to" book whenever I need a recipe.

Deliciousness Scale: 5 spoonfuls of yum out of 5.

Details: This review is based on the 2005 edition of Everyday Italian, ISBN: 1-4000-5258-0.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What's For Dinner?

As I mentioned last week, it can be tough to figure out what to cook for dinner. You want something that's going to taste good, but also something that's going to be fast and easy.

I've been on a pork kick lately (it's been on sale at two of the grocery stores where I shop) and this recipe fits the bill for both yumminess and quickness. This recipe comes from my Martha Stewart Everyday Foods app on my iPhone. I've made this a few times now, and have been pleased with the results. It's flavorful and isn't fatty or too rich--it's perfect for a weeknight, served with rice and veggies.

Pork Medallions with Orange Sauce

1/4 cup flour
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 pound pork tenderloin, trimmed of fat and sliced on the bias into 1/2-inch thick medallions
1 to 2 Tablespoon olive oil
1 clove garlic
3/4 cup orange juice
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tablespoon capers drained and rinsed
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  1. In a shallow dish, whisk together flour, salt and pepper. Place pork slices on a clean work surface and press with the heel of your hand until each is about 1/3 inch thick. Lightly dredge pork in flour, flipping to coat completely. Tap off excess.
  2. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add pork; sear until browned, about 3 minutes per side (depending on how hot your pan gets). Transfer to a platter and cover with foil. Add more oil to the skillet if necessary and cook the remaining pork.
  3. Add garlic to skillet; cook, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add capers and citrus juices. Bring to a boil, stirring up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Cook until sauce is slightly thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, as desired. Return pork to the pan and sprinkle with parsley. Serve immediately.
  • There isn't much to change on this one, but I think the orange sauce would be tasty over shrimp or chicken.
  • If you don't like capers, leave them out. My hubby loves capers, so there a highlight of this much so that I usually add a few extra!

Monday, June 14, 2010

To Market, To Market...

This past Sunday we got up early, had some chocolate chip scones, plums and coffee and then headed out to our local Farmer's Market! This was our first trip to the market this season and I am very much looking forward to going weekly as the summer goes on. I love the fresh fruit (especially nectarines, peaches and berries), kettle corn and people watching. Our Farmer's Market is in Everett and is along the marina, so the scenery is also beautiful!

I have really come to enjoy the Farmer's Market and love meeting the people that are selling, growing and making the items that are for sale. In some way, it makes me feel more connected to the community and also gives me the opportunity to try things that I might not be able to find at the grocery store. At today's market, I was able to try some fresh, homemade apple butter - it was delicious and still had little chunks of apple it (Aidan even liked it) so I bought some (it will be great in the apple butter cake)! We also got some kettle corn (for a certain little boy) and some pastries from the Snohomish Bakery. There was not much yet in the way of fruit, except in jams, dips and butters, but that should change as the weather gets nicer here. I definitely would like to get some of the fresh made cheese and Aidan found the Hawaiian shave ice stand, so we will probably have some of that too.

Another nice thing about the market is that there are not just foods for sale. There are also flowers, clothes, soaps, lotions, crafts, bird feeders, etc. It is really fun to see what everyone is selling (and buying).

soaps for sale

One of my favorites to look at are all the flower sellers. There are probably 5-6 booths that only sell fresh cut flowers!

If you have never been to a Farmer's Market, try and find one near you - you will hopefully not be disappointed! Remember to bring cash and bags to put all your goodies in. Also, go back - every week will bring something new and yummy!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Easy Weeknight Dinner

Thinking of things to cook for dinner every night can be exhausting. There are only so many times during the week that you can stomach yet another plate of boneless, skinless chicken breasts.

It's harder for me to figure out what to make for dinner than it should be. My husband works a ridiculous shift and he doesn't get home until 9:30 pm. When I make dinner, I have to consider how things are going to reheat. And although this isn't the BEST re-heating recipe in the world, this was a very quick, very easy, very tasty meal that's perfect for a busy weeknight dinner.


4 Boneless Pork Chops, medium thickness
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1-2 Tablespoons Vegetable Oil
1 Vidalia onion, sliced into rings
Sliced Mushrooms (as many as you prefer!)
1 can Cream of Mushroom Soup (I used the low-fat version)
1/2 cup Chicken Broth (or water...or white wine)
Dried Thyme, to taste
Dried Parsley, to taste

Salt and pepper both sides of the pork chops.

Heat the vegetable oil over medium high heat in a skillet (I used a non-stick pan so I used less oil). When the oil is hot, add the pork chops. Saute the chops until they are lightly browned on both sides (about 5 minutes or so depending on how hot your stovetop gets!).

Add the onions and mushrooms to the pan with the chops and let cook until the vegetables soften to your liking.

Add the Cream of Mushroom soup and chicken broth to the pan. Stir well (be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan to get all the yummy browned bits!). Season the creamy mixture with thyme and parsley.

Stir and continue to cook until everything is warmed through.

  • This serves 2 to 4 people, depending on how hungry everyone is and how thick the chops are.
  • I served this with lightly buttered whole wheat egg noodles--this let me sop up all the sauce. It would also be good over rice.
  • Feel free to change up the vegetables. I'm a red pepper fiend, so I think they'd be tasty in this. Add what you like, take out what you don't!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Stew Anyone?

Today's challenge was chicken - I had 4 chicken breasts on the bone, lots of cans in the pantry and veggies in the refrigerator. I grabbed a few cookbooks and ended up choosing Chicken Spezzatino from Everyday Italian by Giada de Laurentiis for my recipe.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 celery stalks, cut into bite sized pieces
1 carrot, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
1 small onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can chopped tomatoes with their juices
1 (14 ounce) can reduced sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 chicken breasts with ribs
1 (15 ounce) can organic kidney beans, drained (rinsed if not organic)

In a heavy 5 1/2 quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the celery, carrot, and onion, and saute until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and pepper. Stir in the tomatoes, broth, basil, tomato paste, bay leaf, and thyme. Add the chicken and press to submerge. Bring the liquid to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently, uncovered, turning the breasts over and stirring occasionally, until the chicken is almost cooked through, about 20 minutes. Add the kidney beans and simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the liquid has reduce to a stew consistency, about 10 minutes.

Discard the bay leaf. Let the chicken cool for 5 minutes. Discard the skin and bones and cut the meat into bite-sized pieces. Return the stew and bring to a simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4 to 6.

Here are my changes to this recipe...

Well there were already 4 breasts halfway thawed when I decided to make this meal, so I doubled the the amount of chicken. I also doubled the amount of tomatoes, tomato paste and chicken broth too. I did not have any fresh basil on hand so I used 2 tablespoons of dried basil instead. I also used white cannellini beans (non-organic) instead of red kidney beans - either I think would work well. I also had a head of cauliflower that I needed to use, so I went ahead and added it to the stew.

This was really easy and turned out to be delicious! I had some crusty bread and a glass (or 2) of red wine and thought this was a wonderful meal. I will probably freeze half of this because there were not 8-12 people around to eat it!

Monday, June 7, 2010

When Life Gives You Bananas...

Make banana bread!

I'm funny about bananas. I like to eat them when they're in their normal, banana-y state. But squish up a banana and turn it into bread or muffins, and I'm out the door. I hate banana flavored stuff, even if the banana "flavor" comes from the real deal.

My husband, on the other hand, loves bananas and banana flavored foods. Since I had more than a few overly ripe bananas lying around on my counter, I decided to be a nice little wifey-poo and whip up some banana bread for the Mister.

I borrowed Nigella's Banana Bread recipe from How to Be a Domestic Goddess...but I made a few changes. Here's what I did:

1 Cup plus 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda1/2 teaspoon salt1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs4 overly-ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup chopped walnuts plus 2 Tablespoons
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Butter a 9 x 5 loaf pan and set aside. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir well to combine. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat together melted butter and sugar. Add eggs on at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add bananas and mix well.

Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir in 1/3 cup of chopped walnuts, the chocolate chips and vanilla.

Add the flour mixture and stir well to combine.

Pour batter into the loaf pan. Tap the pan on the counter to settle the mixture. Top with the remaining 2 Tablespoons walnuts.

Bake at 325 for 1 to 1 1/4 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.

Cool the bread in the loaf pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool. Slice as thick or as thin as you'd like.
  • Nigella recommends soaking 1/2 cup of golden raisins in 3 ounces of bourbon or dark rum in a small saucepan. Bring the alcohol and raisin mixture to a boil; remove from heat and cover. Let the mixture sit for 1 hour off heat, allowing the raisins to plump up and absorb the alcohol. Drain and then add to the banana mixture in place of the chocolate chips. I don't do this because my husband loathes raisins.
  • You could make muffins instead of a loaf. Just use a muffin tin and watch the cooking time.
  • For more fiber, use whole wheat flour.
  • Try some spices: cinnamon, cardamom, etc. would probably work.
  • Up the chocolate factor by replacing 2 Tablespoons of flour with 2 Tablespoons of cocoa powder.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I Wanna Eat Bad Things: Food Inspired By True Blood

As you can tell by the title, I have fallen under the True Blood spell - along with my sister and her husband. Thanks to HBO On-Demand, I was able to watch both seasons in a few weeks and be ready for the show's return on June 13! To help get ready, I thought it might be fun to share some recipes of food that I think of when watching the show.

First up (of course) is a Bloody Mary.

1 1/2 ounces vodka
1/2 cup tomato juice
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Worcestershire sauce to taste
Tabasco sauce to taste
1 celery stick for garnish
1 lemon wedge for garnish

Combine vodka, tomato juicem lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, one cup of ice cubes and salt & pepper to taste. Mix well and shake, strain the mixture over a tall glass of ice. Add the celery and lemon to garnish.

Next up, Crawfish Etouffee - because what is a blog about Cajun food without a catfish dish? This recipe comes from Louisiana Foods - they have a lot of great recipes, so check out their site.

1 lb. cleaned crawfish tails, commercial kind
crawfish fat and water to make 3/4 cup
1 stick margarine or butter
1 heaping teaspoon all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 tablespoon parsley
2 lemon slices, thinly cut
1 tablespoon green onion

Use a saucepan with a tight fitting lid to etouffee, (French for smother). Season crawfish tails with salt and pepper, set aside. Melt butter, add onion, cook over medium heat until tender. Stir in the flour, blend well. Add water, crawfish fat, lemon, tomato and garlic. Cook slowly, about 20 minutes, and add a little more water occasionally.

When sauce is done, add crawfish tails, cover with lid. Cook 8 minutes. Season again, to taste. Add green onion and parsley, cook 2 minutes longer. Serve on steamed rice. Garlic bread and green salad is a good companion to crawfish etouffee.

Cooking Tip:
Commercial crawfish are pasteurized and practically cooked. If you are using live crawfish, wash, then scald in boiling water. Clean them, picking off the shells, leaving tails whole. Save crawfish fat. When tails and fat from live crawfish are added to cooked mixture, it should be cooked 10 or 15 minutes longer.

Last is (Gran's) Pecan Pie. Poor Gran, she deserved much better then the ending she received - but her pie sure looked good!

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
4 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 unbaked 9-inch pastry shell
1 to 1 1/4 cups pecan halves

Combine butter, sugar, and corn syrup; cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves. Let cool slightly. Add eggs, vanilla, and salt to mixture; mix well.

Pour filling into unbaked pastry shell, and top with pecan halves. Bake at 325 degrees for 50 to 55 minutes. Serve warm or cold.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Cookbook Corner: The Blue Willow Inn Bible of Southern Cooking

Two things happened over the weekend that resulted in me writing this cookbook review:
  1. Half Price Books (one of my favorite bookstores--and my absolute favorite place to buy used cookbooks) was having a Memorial Day sale, meaning everything was 20% off; and
  2. The Mister and I spent the majority of our evenings watching Seasons 1 and 2 of True Blood, the vampire-centric HBO series that takes place in Louisiana, meaning that each night we were transported to the South.
When I went to my local Half Price Books (HPB), I was looking for Mexican and Tex-Mex cookbooks, but was sidetracked by the shelf titled "Southern Cooking." I love regional cookbooks. When I go on vacation to a different state (or even a different part of WA state), I always try to pick up a local cookbook. I like bringing home recipes of places I visit. Since I've been immersed in Southern culture, I was more interested in the "Southern Cooking" collection at HPB than I would usually be.

The Blue Willow Inn Bible of Southern Cooking jumped off the shelf at me, and for about $5.00 I couldn't resist adding it to my collection.

What to expect: Over 600 recipes from the nice Southern town folk of Social Circle, GA. The recipes are divided into appetizers, beverages, jams and spreads, soups and salads, relishes and pickles, gravies and sauces, breads, side dishes, main dishes, desserts and sweets, and a kids section.

The book also has a lengthy introduction about the history of Blue Willow Inn and the town of Social Circle. Many local ladies added their favorite recipes (some are even award winners) and recipes that have been passed down from grandmother to mother to daughter over the generations.

A lot of the dishes are specials of the Blue Willow Inn, and the authors even provided sample menus that are used for special occasions (Christmas, Mother's Day, 4th of July, etc.) at the Inn.

There are not a lot of pictures, but that's just fine by me. A lot of culinary ground is covered in this book, and I for one would prefer tons of recipes over tons of glossy photos.

Best recipes: This is the kind of book you need to sit and go through more than once. I've been through it only one time so far, but I've made a lengthy list of dishes I want to try. I'm hoping to get my act together and whip up a big Southern dinner for the family soon. Here are some of the standouts on my preliminary list:
  • Vidalia Onion Spread, pg. 58
  • Sweet Potato Bread, pg. 150
  • Baked Corn, Chex, and Cheese, pg. 167
  • Orange-Pecan Glazed Chicken with Wild Rice, pg. 245
  • Triple Layer Brownies, pg. 275
I'm not including on my list all the many pies and confections that sound amazing. Chess pie, buttermilk pie, peanut butter pie, etc. are all included and are probably awesome. The book also includes mandatory recipes for Southern classics like fried chicken, ambrosia, grits, corn pudding, biscuits, squirrel, etc.

Complaints: None. Except I think the copy I picked up was once owned by a smoker. How do you get that smell out of a book?

Deliciousness Scale: 5 spoonfuls of yum out of 5.

Details: This review is based on the 2005 version of The Blue Willow Inn Bible of Southern Cooking by Louis and Billie Van Dyke; ISBN: 1-4016-0227-4.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

One Of My Favorite Desserts: Black Bottoms

Growing up, there has been an on-going debate in the house on how to properly eat a black bottom cupcake. One camp (my Dad's) likes them fresh from the oven with the cream cheese and chocolate chips melting. The other camp (my sister's & myself) prefer them cold, with the cream cheese and chocolate chips formed and solid. Either way, these are one of my favorite desserts and will always bring back good & tasty childhood memories. So whip up a batch and join the debate - warm or cold!

1 egg
1, 8 ounce cream cheese
1/3 cup sugar
  • Combine then add 6 ounces chocolate chips.
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Combine and blend well.
  • Fill muffin tin with foil or paper cupcake liners.
  • Put cupcake mixture into liners, 2/3 full.
  • Drop a tablespoon of filling into cupcakes, do not blend.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
  • Refrigerate when cool (these can also be frozen).