Today I am flying solo, which means there are three of us in tow, but I'm the only rational adult on our journey to New York.
My husband is flying solo at home. Since he is not one for cooking, I have made a few meals for him in advance. In the past, I've made him a lasagna to eat while I was away. But I found that he'd get bored after a day or two and then just order pizza.
So for this trip, I made him a little bit of warm lentil salad with kielbasa, one of his favorite meals. As an alternate, I've made pulled pork for him. He can alternate what he wants to eat, or have one for lunch and one for dinner... whatever he wants. The nice thing is, he can put the pulled pork in the freezer when he tires of it.
I know he'll probably go out with the guys a few times, so he won't have to eat only two meals for 5 days. But at least I know when he's home, he'll eat.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Without a doubt, my most popular post (in my modest 9 months of blogging), has been the Peach Lemonade Coolers. So I figured you wouldn't mind another summery, peachy cocktail. I've had this several times this summer. Every time, I love it more. A friend made it for a few outdoor events we've gone to. This weekend I finally got around to making a pitcher at home.
She uses white wine in hers. Typically I would, too. But you know how sometimes someone will bring you a bottle of wine and you put it aside thinking, "gee, thanks. I'm sure I'll never drink this..."? Well that is exactly how I acquired a bottle of white merlot. A 1.5L no less. While it wouldn't be my first choice on its own, it was lovely in this sangria.
The chopped fruit absorbs the alcohol, making it far more dangerous than the sangria itself. You can use pretty much any fruit you have hanging around. I used peaches, nectarines and cherries. My friend buys the pre-diced fruit at the grocery store and uses that in addition to peaches. Brilliant time saving move. Because of the Southern Comfort, diced peaches would really be missed if you skipped them.
I'm off to New York City in the morning. I hope to have a post this weekend about my favorite food spots in the city. In the meantime, cheers!
White Summer Sangria
diced peaches, nectarines and pitted cherries
1 750 ml bottle of your favorite white wine
1 cup vodka
1/4 cup southern comfort
Place diced fruits in a pitcher. Top with liquids and allow to sit, refrigerated, for at least one hour.
When I am ready to serve this, I spoon out the fruit and pack it in on the side.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
I really wanted to have her help me make this zucchini bread. The moisture in it in apple juice. Apple juice is a rare treat in my house. I don't keep it on hand and the only reason she is aware of its existence is because her friend only drinks apple juice. Every time she asks me for it I say, "We don't keep apple juice in our house." So I bought apple juice for this bread and I thought she would like helping me put it all together and seeing that the apple juice is in the bread. Just like with the Chocolate Beet Cake, I thought seeing things she loves go in with the vegetables might make her more willing to eat it.
Unfortunately, we had a long day and she went to bed early and I made the bread at 9pm. The next morning she had zucchini bread for breakfast and I told her it had apple juice in it. She called it Apple Juice cake and never questioned the green bits in it. Whatever the reason for her willingness to eat it, I was not about to argue with her.
I grew up eating zucchini bread and always loved it. My mom made hers with nuts, which I am not a fan of. This recipe did not call for nuts, but I am sure you could add them. I had debated adding chocolate chips too, just to up the chances of Evelyn eating it, but turns out I didn't need to.
The bread is super moist, even after three days. I wrapped it well in plastic wrap and it stayed tender and fresh tasting. It was not terribly sweet, just perfect. The recipe makes two loaf pans, but I opted to do 1 loaf pan and 12 muffins. Next time I will probably just do two loaves since the muffins came out a little tough from too long of a bake. I baked them for about 10 minutes. I really don't know what to say about baking times. The recipe said to bake two loaves for 1 hour, but in my matchbox oven my loaf came out perfect in a half hour. Yet 10 minutes was too long for the muffins. So next time, two loaves. I'm planning to make a few more of these and freeze before the summer is over.
courtesy of Woodfired Kitchen
2.5 cups all purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons cinnamon
2.25 teaspoons baking soda
1.5 teaspoons salt
.25 teaspoons baking powder
3 large eggs
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup apple juice
1.5 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups grated zucchini (this was about three large zucchini)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees with the racks set at the center.
Sift together flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and baking powder in a bowl and set aside.
Using the paddle attachment, beat the eggs until frothy in a stand mixer. Beat in the sugar. Add oil, apple juice and vanilla and beat until thick and lemon colored.
Add the flour and grated zucchini to the egg mixture and mix until just blended.
Pour into 2 greased and floured loaf pans (or muffin tins with liners). Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees. Then lower the heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 40-60 minutes. The loaves will have dark, cracked tops and a toothpick inserted in a crack will come out clean.
Cool for 15 minutes on a rack before removing from the pans.
Wrapped in airtight plastic wrap, they can be stored for up to one year in the freezer.
Thursday, August 18, 2011
I'm so excited to be part of a virtual baby shower for Josie of Pink Parsley. I first met Josie when her daughter Caroline was about 6 weeks old. She and I (along with Karin, of thiswifebakes) would get together with other local moms at a coffee shop and hang out. Aaah, the days when our babies sat still in their infant seats and napped. Josie and I hit it off pretty early on over our shared love of food, cooking and entertaining. We both lived in the same town outside Atlanta and our daughters were about 5 month apart.
Our daughters grew to be good friends, too. They had countless weekly play dates up until they started pre-school. Then we moved a few towns away and the girls didn't get to play as often, but Evelyn still counts Caroline as one of her three "best friends".
Josie is the kind of girl who will go above and beyond for a friend. Last August 29th, I sat at home all morning in labor with my son. When being housebound got the better of me, Josie very kindly came and picked me up to bring me to Target to walk around. In retrospect, I don't know how she didn't freak out over my breathing through contractions. She was very calm, cool and collected as she strolled around with me to pick up the things I simply had to have before my son came home. My baby is almost a year old, so I cannot wait to live vicariously through Josie's baby boy. I am sure he is going to be every bit as wonderful as Caroline is.
Josie is a true Georgia peach. Or, at least as far as this northerner can tell. I've never met anyone more authentically Southern. Her love of Southern cuisine is unmatched by anyone I know. I have to thank for introducing me to pimento cheese. And anyone who reads her blog knows her love of barbecue, biscuits, and of course, peaches.
So when Annie of Annie's Eats asked me to be a part of Josie's virtual shower, I immediately knew I wanted to make these mini peach pies. Josie and I also share a mutual love for miniature foods. And what's a baby shower without a baby version of something.
I've never made peach pie before, so I did a little research before I began. I liked that this one did not require me to blanche and peel the peaches. The recipe said it would impart a "peachier" flavor to leave them on. Being the queen of shortcuts that I am, I loved the loss of one step. But I was also happy to have a peachier pie. And I used store bought pie crust. (I know! I can't help myself! I know I can make my own, but I still sweat bullets when it comes to pie crust.) I made very few alterations to the recipe. Really I just changed up my method a little bit. And of course, instead of baking them in a standard pie plate, I made them in mini muffin tins.
My pies are not very pretty. I didn't even attempt to properly lattice something so little. But they tasted heavenly. The recipe yielded 24 mini peach pies and small sized standard pie.
Mini Peach Pies for Josie
recipe adapted from Kitchen Parade
8 cups ripe peaches, skins on
1 1/3 cups sugar
6 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons butter
Pit the peaches and dice into a small dice. (This is going into a mini pie, the pieces have to fit!) In a large bowl, gently stir together the peaches, sugar, flour and nutmeg. Let rest for 20-30 minutes until the juices release and syrup begins to form. Place a strainer over a large soup pot and place the peach mixture into the strainer. Allow the syrup to fall into the pan, reserving the peaches. Bring the liquid to a boil over medium heat, reduce to low and cook for 10 minutes or until the liquid begins to thicken. Stir in the peaches. By adding the peaches in last, you avoid overcooking them and turning them to mush.
Off heat, add the vanilla and butter, gently stirring until the butter melts. Let cool to room temperature. The filling can be made in advance and refrigerated.
To assemble the pies, roll out your favorite pie crust, to standard size. Cut circles big enough to fill a mini-muffin well. You could use a water glass, I used a biscuit cutter because I liked the nice fluted edge it gave. Gently place the circles into the muffin tin as if you were filling a pie plate. Fill with pie filling, almost to the top. With remaining dough pieces, gently cut out whatever shape you want to top it with. I cut strips for these, but on another batch, I used small heart and star cookie cutters which perfectly covered the tops of the mini pies.
For the large pie, I just filled a standard size pie plate as usual.
Bake the mini pies at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. I started mine at 10 minutes and kept checking them because of my oven being so small and cooking times being slightly off. 13 minutes seemed to be the magic number for me.
For the standard size pie, bake for 10 minutes at 425 degrees. Then reduce the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for another 25-35 minutes, until the top is golden.
Allow to cool and serve.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
I made these burgers a few weeks ago, and this picture has been sitting in my folder of food photos because I don't really love it. But I loved the burgers! I've debated making them again because they are so delicious and full of flavors, but I really am trying to make lighter dinners. But, grilled avocado! Why haven't I ever thought of that?
Recently, I've fallen out of love with chipotle, just because I think its waaaay over-done. They are every where and a lot of recipes that use it, I find that the chipotle overwhelms the dish. But not the case with these burgers. The smoky flavors are layered in perfectly so you get the suggestion of chipotle. I didn't even cut back on the amount of chipotle called for in the recipe, as I sometimes do.
We still love to have a good burger now and then, but there are lighter variations to be had. (I'm making one such variation tonight and hope to post it next week.) However, summer is not over yet and I can see us having this again.
Triple Smoke Burgers
recipe courtesy of epicurious
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1.5 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced chipotle in adobo, including some sauce, divided
8 slices cooked, crisp bacon
1.5 pounds ground beef chuck, not lean
2 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
1 large red onion, cut into 4 thick rounds, threaded onto a skewer
1 firm, ripe avocado, quartered lengthwise, peeled, and cut into 1/3 inch slices
olive oil for brushing
4 hamburger buns, toasted
In a food processor or blender, puree the mayonnaise, mustard and 1 tablespoon chipotle. Set aside.
Gently mix the beef with 1 tablespoon chipotle, paprika, and 1 teaspoon salt until well combined. Form into 4 patties.
Turn grill on to medium heat and oil the grill rack. Brush the onions with oil and grill onions until charred, 3-4 minutes per side. Remove from skewer and set aside.
Grill avocado slices, turning once, about 30 seconds per side (just enough to make grill marks appear).
Grill burgers for about 5-6 minutes per side, or until they reach an internal temp of 160 degrees. Serve on toasted buns with chipotle mayo, avocado, bacon and onion.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Before I moved to the South, just saying the word "grits" would make me scrunch up my nose. The first time I ever tried them was at Waffle House, which was a big mistake. I'm pretty sure they just cook them in water and serve them. Boring.
Yet, every time I watch Top Chef and some Southern chef rolls in with their shrimp and grits, all the guest judges go wild. Shrimp, cheese and bacon? Sounds good to me. If only I liked grits. Then, I found the grits at The Flying Biscuit. They aren't cheesy, but they are buttery. I liked them - a lot!
So one day I decided I was going to make a meal of grits and order Shrimp and Grits. We were out to lunch with my in-laws. My mother in law loves for everyone to order different things, then half way through, she wants to start trying everyone elses dishes so she can sample a little of everything on the menu. Typically, she ends up trading her entire dish with my father in law. I joke with my husband that my father in law should just order for her, he seems to know what she'll like better than she does. I'll admit, I do not enjoy this food sampling. But we only eat with them a few times a year, so I can adapt.
But this time, when I tasted the shrimp and grits, I said, "no one is touching this. It's all mine and if no one will be embarrassed, I'm going to lick the bowl clean." I did end up sharing a bite or two, and was delighted that no one loved it as much as I did. More for me! I loved how the creamy grits had a tangy bite from the cheese. Paired with the crunchy bacon and the tender crispness of the shrimp, it all came together perfectly.
And so began my hunt for a recipe to replicate the dish I had. The restaurant served theirs with a cheesy white sauce over the top, which I did not do. I found this recipe though and everything about it seemed right to me. It had the grits cooked in milk and water, which I am told is not authentically Southern. ("Grits are cooked in water, oatmeal is cooked in milk.") But I did it with milk and it was delicious without the bacon, shrimp and cheese.
I used a really sharp white cheddar for this. This is not the time or place for a bag of Sargento. I also think I will add some red and yellow bell pepper next time, for more color and texture.
Shrimp and Cheese Grits
adapted from Serious Eats
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2.5 cups milk
2.5 cups water
1 cup grits
1 1/2 cups really good cheddar cheese, finely grated
8 ounces bacon, chopped
20 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup scallion, chopped
salt and pepper
Add the butter and olive oil to a saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the onion and cook until soft. Add the garlic and cook another minute. Turn the heat to high and pour in the milk and water. Bring to a boil and slowly whisk in the grits. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15-20 minutes. When done, add the cheese and stir until its melted. Season with salt and pepper tot taste and set aside.
Add the bacon to a large skillet and cook over medium-high heat. Cook until browned and crisp*. Remove and drain on paper towels. Pour out all but 3 tablespoons of bacon fat.
Set the skillet back over medium-high heat and when smoking, add the shrimp. Cook until pink, about 1 1/2 minutes per side.
Add some of the cheese grits to a bowl and top with the shrimp, chopped bacon, scallions and a little additional cheese.
*A note about bacon. A lot of recipes will have you cook bacon on the stove top, then use some of the reserved fat to cook the rest of the ingredients in. Since I hate messes; especially bacon grease spattered on my stove top, hood, and cabinets; here is a shortcut I take:
When I buy bacon, I cook it on a baking sheet. I lay all the slices out and bake it for about 20 minutes at 350 degrees. When it's done, I remove it to a paper towel lined plate to cool, and I drain all of the bacon fat from the baking sheet into an airtight container and refrigerate it when its cooled.
When a recipe calls for me to cook bacon then use the bacon fat in the pan for cooking, I pull out my ziplock of cooked bacon, chop it up (or do whatever I need to do with it). Then take my reserved bacon fat out of the fridge and add however many tablespoons of fat I need to the pan I'm using to cook the rest of the ingredients. I get bacon flavor layered into my dish and I don't have a huge mess to clean up. If I don't use all the bacon that week, my husband gets to have a BLT sandwich at some point, or I'll toss a piece into an egg sandwich during the week.
Friday, August 12, 2011
Last month, when Nico's family was in town, we celebrated his niece's birthday. It's hard to believe she's only 11, because she's very mature. But at the same time, when she walked down the aisle as our flower girl, she was 6. And in my head, she's still a sweet little 6 year old.
It was whispered in my ear that Lina has a sweet tooth, so I decided it would be a great time to make this candy bar cake, which was one of the very first things I'd ever pinned on pinterest. A simple way to hide the fact that I cannot frost a cake. (This seems to be a recurring sentence in my blog.) A cake of any flavor is iced with any color icing you like, then wrapped in 6-8 packages of Kit-Kat bars, and topped with M&M's. Any kid would love this. For the record, I used chocolate cake and white buttercream.
Since I've already shared with you three chocolate cake recipes, I'm only going to post the Swiss meringue buttercream that I used. Swiss meringue is a tricky icing to make. Every single time I make it, I stare in horror at my stand mixer and lament the loss of ingredients, certain that I will have to throw it away and start again. And every time, at the last minute, it comes together into a beautiful, silky, shiny buttercream. I love the fact that it uses granulated sugar instead of powdered sugar. It seems less cloyingly sweet than traditional buttercream. And when you are topping the cake with so much candy, less sweet is better!
This cake was a hit and it was gone before my in-laws left two days later.
Swiss Meringue Buttercream
courtesy of Sweetapolita
8 large egg white
2 cups granulated sugar
2.5 cups unsalted butter, softened, cut in cubes
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the eggs and sugar. Place over a simmering pot of water, whisking constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the egg whites are hot.
Remove from the heat and place the bowl into your stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Begin to whisk until the mixture is thick, glossy and has begun to cool. Switch to the paddle attachment and turn the mixer back on to low. Slowly add the butter one cube at a time until it is all incorporated and is a smooth texture. (This is where I panic and think I've ruined it. Invariably, it will look like curdled milk. And all of a sudden, it comes together.) Add vanilla and salt, mix well.
This can be stored in the fridge for one week or can be frozen for 6-8 weeks. Thaw overnight then rewhip for 5 minutes.
Saturday, August 6, 2011
Quinoa is one of those side-dishes that I passed over for far too long. I never really liked small-grain cous-cous and I think that because the quinoa grains were so small, I assumed I wouldn't like them either. But I knew it is so very good for you, so I decided to give it a try and was so glad I did. This dish, so far, is my absolute favorite. Much like the Lemon Bulgur, it's a dish I am perfectly happy to eat alone. Since quinoa has such a high protein content, it really does not need to be served with any meats. However, I'm never certain how my husband will respond if I don't make some kind of meat. So the last few times I've made this, I've grilled a small amount of chicken to go with it.
The health benefits of quinoa are numerous, but it's preparation can be so varied you won't get bored of it. It can be prepared similar to oatmeal or risotto, for sweet or savory dishes.
But like I said, this is my favorite. I love mushrooms, asparagus and goat cheese so this recipe jumped out at me. I've made it a few times and even my daughter gobbles it up! There's not usually a lot left over, but I always look forward to having the last bit of it the next day for lunch.
Mushroom and Goat Cheese Quinoa
adapted from The Healthy Foodie
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed well*
1.25 cups water or chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 oz mushrooms, sliced (I use white mushrooms or baby bellas)
1 bunch of asparagus, woody ends removed, and cut into 1" pieces
2 geren onions, sliced
4 oz goat cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper, to taste
Add rinsed quinoa and liquid of choice to a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil. Cover with a lid, reduce heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest. Fluff with a fork.
In a medium sauté pan, heat the olive oil. Cook the mushrooms until they are golden brown on both sides. Add the asparagus and cook for 2-4 more minutes, depending on the size of the asparagus and how tender you prefer it.
Toss the quinoa, mushrooms and asparagus together in a bowl, add salt and pepper. Last, gently toss in the crumbled goat cheese.
*You can opt to first give your quinoa a 5 minute soak in warm water. Although most pre-packaged quinoa comes pre-rinsed, a quick rinse at home will just ensure any bitter saponin is gone.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
I've been meaning to blog this meatloaf for a few months. Every time I made it it just didn't photograph very pretty and I would get discouraged and not blog it. I know I shouldn't let my photography hold me back from blogging, but it really looked unappealing. But lemme tell you - it's so good. I mean, its bacon and gruyere, which, come on... is there anything better than bacon and gruyere?
The recipe is out of Real Simple and they suggested that you serve this with extra ketchup on the side. Don't do that! This is not your mom's meatloaf. It is moist and delicious and does not need to be hidden by thick condiments. Serve it with a simple salad, or as Real Simple suggests, some roasted root vegetables.
I've used this recipe to make burgers, too and it works. I grilled them on my George Forman, so they held together. I think on the grill they might want to fall apart a little bit. If I tried it, I might put them on a square of foil on the grill.
Bacon Gruyere Meatloaf
adapted from Real Simple, April 2011
1.5 pounds ground sirloin
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup ketchup
1 small red onion, finely diced
2 slices bacon, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large egg
3/4 cup grated Gruyere cheese
salt and pepper
Heat the oven to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the beef, bread crumbs, ketchup, onion, bacon, garlic, egg, 1/2 cup of the cheese, salt and pepper. Transfer to an 8x4 inch loaf pan and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup of Grueyere.
Roast until cooked through, about 40-45 minutes. Pour off excess fat and let rest 10 minutes before slicing.
Monday, August 1, 2011
Set the table-scape and call me Sandra Lee, because its cocktail time and it's semi-home made.
Last week, my husbands sister and her family visited from Vienna. I knew for a short trip, we would not eat at home much, but I had bought plenty of snacks to have on hand for when we were home. Including a ton of Georgia peaches.
I may have overbought just a little, because I still had a handful of peaches left when the house emptied out. I saw a post on The Naptime Chef for Roasted Peach Lemonade. But I was exhausted from cleaning for three days, entertaining and then returning the house to normal. And its hotter than Hades in Atlanta, and I didn't want to turn on the oven.
So I just improvised. I peeled the more-than-ripe peaches and threw them into the blender with some store bought lemonade. My daughter was the first to taste test it and declared it to be a "very good smoothie". It was a hit with a three year old. I whipped up more for myself and my husband and added a bit of Kettle One. Delicious.
The next night, I used the last peach and forgot to peel it first. Don't do that. It tasted fine, but the brown-ish color was less than appealing. Also the second time around, I used Champagne instead of vodka. Those bubbles weren't going to last much longer! I hate to see good Champagne go to waste!
Peach Lemonade Coolers
inspired by The Naptime Chef
2 medium sized, ripe peaches, peeled, halved and pitted
1/2 cup lemonade
1 ounce vodka of choice
Puree the peaches and lemonade in a blender until smooth.
Pour vodka over ice in a rocks glass. Top off with peach-lemonade puree.