Sunday, August 30, 2009

It's pronounced "Cal-Zone"

While I was out picking green beans and tomatoes from my garden yesterday I got to thinking about all the things my mom used to cook. My brain is often one big web of thought when I garden. I let my brain relax and wander to places I haven't thought about in years. It's like one giant domino game, in that one thought leads me to the next in a seemingly random but beautiful pattern.

First, I was thinking of BLT's with my own lettuce and tomatoes, then about cleaning my green beans, then about my mom and how she used to set me and my brother up in the dining room with green beans and brown grocery bags. We would snap green beans for what seemed like an eternity(which was in reality probably only 20-30 minutes)while our mom would wash and freeze them for winter.

From there my brain turned to later in my adolescence, to Mom making calzones. They were of course cheesy and delicious, but she managed to "sneak" spinach in there too. Then I remembered a few people had requested the recipe. So, today, before I snap beans and get ready to freeze and can them, I will take a moment to share her recipe with the world.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Ms. Mary's Cheese Calzones
Serves 4

8 oz frozen bread dough, thawed
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 TBS water
1 clove garlic, minced
5 oz frozen, chopped spinach
1/2 tsp Italian seasoning
1 egg slightly beaten
7 oz ricotta or cottage cheese
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/8 cup parmesan cheese
Pizza sauce or marinara sauce for dipping

Divide dough into 4 equal pieces. Place on a floured surface and cover with a clean towel. Let dough rest while preparing the filling.

In a skillet, mix onion, water, and garlic. Cook until onion is soft. Add spinach and seasoning. Salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook until warmed through.

In a medium bowl, combine egg and cheeses.

On a floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a 6 inch round. Place 1/4 of the spinach mixture on one half of each circle. Be sure to leave an edge. Top with 1/4 of the cheese mixture, again leaving an edge. Moisten the edges of the dough with water. Fold the dough in half to cover the filling. Pinch the edges together to seal. You may want to use a fork to help press the seals together, just be careful not to poke a hole in the calzone.

Using a fork, poke three to five vents in the top of the calzones.

Bake in a 375 degree preheated oven for 15-22 minutes, until golden brown. Serve with wamed pizza or marinara sauce.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

It's a greeny beany you weeny!

I have pictures! I went to collect some of my veggies today from my square foot garden. I have been enjoying lettuce and arugula for quite some time now. But, today. Oh, today, was wonderful! I have been patiently waiting all week for my peas and green beans to reach perfection before picking. Today was the day!

Peas ready to be plucked from the vine.

Some of my yellow tomatoes, I have four varieties this year. They are all heavy with green fruit.

Carrot tops, the carrots are still tiny babies.

Finally- my bounty from today: lettuce, beans, and peas. Not pictured is the fresh dill I also picked. Behind the veggies are four jars of my homemade jelly. I started with seven jars a few weeks ago, let's just say the recipe has been saved :)


With fresh green beans, I don't like to do anything that might compromise the flavor. Quick and simple, green beans with feta are a perfect compliment to a grilled steak and fresh pasta.
Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Green Beans with Feta Cheese
2 # fresh green beans, ends trimmed
½ cup prepared Italian dressing
¼ cup crumbled feta
¼ fresh dill
1/8 cup bacon crumbles
salt and pepper to taste

Steam beans until just tender crisp (Only about 5 minutes, we aren't going for canned bean here. If your beans are olive colored you killed them.) Drain and rinse with cold water. Shake of excess water. Toss with remaining ingredients. Can be served right away or chilled for an hour first.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

It's hot out, let's make soup!

So, the weather man lied. Again. It was supposed to be cold and rainy on Tuesday. That's what the weather man told me last week when I made my menu. Well, it was 83 and sunny. Since I was still sick and was freezing in the air conditioning, I made soup.

Quick and easy, this corn soup is best with fresh corn picked at peak ripeness. Enjoy!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Quick Corn Chowder
Serves 5

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/2 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 cups 1% reduced-fat milk
14 oz turkey sausage, chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (about 3 ears)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 (14 3/4-ounce) can cream-style corn
cheddar cheese

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, celery, and pepper; cook for 3 minutes or until tender, stirring frequently.

Add flour; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in milk and remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer.

Simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes until corn is tender and soup has thickened. Spoon into bowls. Sprinkle with cheese to garnish.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Crispity, crunchity, chicken-y!

I have a head cold. In August. Seriously, how does that happen!?

So, today I made a food comforting to my soul. Fried Chicken. It made my tummy happy though the battle rages on in my sinuses. Luckily, at this point I can still taste my food. I dread the next few days when that sense goes on a temporary vacation as it always does when I have a cold in my nose.

And yes, I am doing exactly as Mom always prescribed: getting lots of rest and forcing fluids. Hubby has since added orange juice to my fluid intake to try and kick this thing fast. We'll see who wins out.

In the mean time, my tummy is full and it's time for a nap. :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Overnight Oven Fried Chicken
Serves 2

2 bone in chicken quarters, skinned (or 2 thighs and 2 drummies)
low-fat buttermilk to cover (about 3/4 cup)
3/4 cup dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup yellow coarse grain corn meal
garlic powder
onion powder
black pepper
Butter flavor cooking spray

In a large plastic bag, place skinned chicken quarters and buttermilk. Seal and toss to coat. Place in a bowl to catch any possible leaks. Refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix crumbs, corn meal, and seasonings to taste together in a shallow dish. Once quarter at a time, coat chicken well with crumbs. You want this to be a nice, even but thick coating.

Spray a glass dish with cooking spray. Place chicken in dish. Spray with cooking spray.

Bake for 25 minutes. Carefully flip chicken over. Be careful not to disturb the coating. Bake 25 minutes longer. Let rest 3-5 minutes before serving.

I serve this with a baby fingerling potato that has been boiled until just tender. Toss with Parmesan cheese and a light drizzling of pesto. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The last muffin you'll ever eat

The last muffin you'll ever eat because your taste buds will think you have died and gone to heaven!

I have a dear friend who brought me a wonderful bounty of red, juicy, bursting with flavor, raspberries. I have been eating them one at a time savoring the brevity of their perfectness during the late summer. Today I decided I had to do something that really elevated this simple little berry to its full greatness.

I am like my dad, I like a good potluck. I just may have a fork in my glove box of my car just in case I happen to pass a church potluck. What?! Don't give me that look! There is really something to be said about those chatty ladies in a church basement cooking up a storm. You can smell casseroles, sweet desserts, meats, cheesy potatoes, green beans with bacon crumbles, pies....

Sorry, I started drooling and dreaming there for a moment. Where was I going with this? Oh yes, I remember now. I am very fickle about what I bring to said potlucks as I'm "competing" with women who've truly perfected home cooking for a crowd. But these, these little gems are going to the next potluck I attend!

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Raspberry & Cream Cheese Muffins
Makes 12 muffins or two 6"-7" round cakes

3 oz neufchatel cheese or reduced fat cream cheese , softened
3 TBS butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup low-fat buttermilk
1 heaping cup fresh or frozen raspberries*

If using fresh smush a few berries to make some juice. If using frozen, thaw and reserve juice.

Preheat oven to 350°.

Combine cheese and butter in a large bowl. Beat with a mixer at high speed until well blended. Add sugar; beat until fluffy. Add vanilla, egg whites, and egg; beat well.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. With mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture and buttermilk to cream cheese mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Gently fold in raspberries and juice.

Place 12 foil cup liners in muffin cups. Spoon batter evenly into liners. If using cake pans- spray with cooking spray.

Bake at 350° 25 minutes for muffins, 30-35 minutes for cakes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Remove from pans; cool on a wire rack.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A day of new things

So I am always on the lookout for healthy, but oh so tasty treats. I found two new things this weekend.

The first couldn't be any more simple. Creamed Honey. That's it. Raw, unprocessed honey. describes what creamed honey is best:

"Creamed honey is controlled granulation of honey which results in extremely small sugar crystals. The smaller the crystals the better the creamed honey. A good creamed honey should be smooth, not grainy, like velvet on the tongue. "

It's great on toast. But my favorite way to eat this simple treat? On a spoon. Yep. Just straight up honey. While at Tall Timber Days this weekend (a local festival celebrating the history of logging and mill work) I found a vendor from southern MN who sold about 15 varieties of honey. Creamed honey was new to me,but became an instant favorite.

Below is a photo of Jon and I waiting for the parade to start. That yellow circle on Jon's shirt is a sticker that says" I love you honey" and has a little bumble bee. Very cute, we got them from the honey vendor. They had a display with live bees making honey. It was really neat to see them working up so close.

Another flavor sensation I've newly discovered is Shrimp Pad Thai. I saw a show all about it on the travel channel one day and I couldn't stop thinking about it. I found a recipe in my cooking light cook book. I will most definitely be eating it again. :)

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Shrimp Pad Thai
Serves 3-4 hungry folks

6 ounces wide rice stick noodles
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
12 oz shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup fresh bean sprouts
1/3 cup sliced green onions
1/3 cup shredded carrots
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup tomato sauce
dry roasted, unsalted peanuts

Place noodles in a large bowl. Add hot water to cover; let stand 12 minutes or until tender.

Combine ketchup, sugar,oyster sauce, tomato sauce and pepper in a small bowl.

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp; sauté 2 minutes or until shrimp are done. Remove shrimp from pan; keep warm.

Heat 4 teaspoons oil in pan over medium-high heat. Add eggs; cook 30 seconds or until soft-scrambled, stirring constantly. Add sprouts, green onions, carrots, and garlic; cook 1 minute. Add sauce.

Toss in noodles and shrimp. Sprinkle with peanuts to garnish.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Easy as Tamale Pie

When I was in high school, my dad experimented in making tamales.

A tamale, for those of you who don't know, is a meat filled dumpling of sorts. A tamale consists basically of masa dough (a special corn meal dough) that has been smeared with a well seasoned meat and is then steamed in a corn husk. We began making them after my Hispanic uncle introduced us to this little Mexican treat.

I've really been craving those flavors but they are really high in calories. As luck would have it, Cooking Light has a light version with a lot less work involved. It's not a perfect match, but it's a pretty fair substitute.

Here's to you and your culinary adventures, friend. Cheers!

Tamale Pie
Serves 3

1 can 98% fat free turkey chili
3-4 oz shredded cheddar cheese
12 oz polenta, crumbled

Optional toppings: salsa and sour cream

Preheat oven to 475.

Spray a small casserole with cooking spray. Layer the polenta, chili, and cheese in the dish.

Bake 15-20 minutes until bubbly. Remove from oven. Cool 5-10 minutes. Top with salsa and sour cream if desired. Serve warm.