June 29, 2006

Put a kick in your family's dinner

Yummy Pie

Who is ready for some kickin' pork sandwiches?

One of my favorites meals to cook is pulled pork. Why? Easy, because you have dinner for two to three days with it and all you can do to change it up is make different sides each day. Which saves you time in the kitchen to spend doing the things you want to do.

I serve these massive sandwich with mayo, pickles and cheese to put on the sandwich. Yes, some think that is odd, but don't discard it till you try it.

Then for the sides try some homestyle fries, grilled squash (I'm providing these recipe here below the pork recipe), potato salad or even some homemade mac and cheese.

Happy cookin' ya'll...

Slow Cooked Pulled Pork
by Lane

1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
½ c. cider vinegar
½ c ketchup
¼ c. light molasses
1 T. paprika
1 T. spicy brown mustard
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. liquid smoke
¼ c. water
4 pounds boneless pork roast

In a slow cooker place onion, vinegar, ketchup, molasses, paprika, mustard, Worcestershire, cayenne, pepper, salt, liquid smoke and water until combined.

Add pork to sauce and toss to coat. Cover and cook for 8-10 hours then transfer to large bowl.

Pour sauce into a medium bowl and set aside. Shred pork and return to slow cooker. Skim fat from sauce and pour over pork and toss.

Grilled Italian Squash
by Lane

6 summer squash
½ c Italian salad dressing
1/2 tsp fresh herbs
olive oil

Cut squash in half lengthwise and place in a plastic bag with ½ c Italian salad dressing and a little freshly herbs (whatever you have on hand). Seal and chill for 30 minutes. Remove squash from marinade and place in foil and coat lightly with a littel olive oil and grill for 2-3 minutes.

June 28, 2006

Mama Josefa does it again

My mother-in-law, Josefa is a wonderful cook. Every meal I have ever had from her I want the recipe. She is very talented and I have learned so much from her.

Whether it's her paella, one of the most famous Spanish dishes, or her shrimp fettuccine, you can bet it will be wonderful.

I called her the other night to ask how she made this what I call Italian pork roast. She has told me a million times before, but I'm the type of person I have to write everything down. She gave me the her directions and I went to work. The end result was beautiful and delicious .

McConnell Family Italian Pork
The night before you want to serve this meal: braise a 3-4 pound pork roast well in a large pot. Add 1 medium chopped onion and 3 beef cubes. Cover with water and boil from about 3-4 hours on stovetop or until roast is falling apart.

Refrigerate overnight. Boil your meat the night before dinner and refrigerate so that the meat slices pretty for your meal. Also, the night before make the sauce.

Sauté 1 medium onion, finely chopped. Add 4 cloves or shopped garlic, ½ c. fresh parsley, 2 cans chopped tomatoes, 2 cans tomato paste, 1 cans water, 2 tsp. cumin, 2 heaping T. brown sugar and mix well. Boil on medium heat until think.

The next day slice meat thinly and place in a large casserole dish. Ladle sauce over the top of meat in place in a 400 degree oven until the juices begin to bubble.

I like to serve a squash casserole, cornbread and a nice summer salad with this meal.

June 27, 2006

Sharing recipes again

I have posted about sharing recipes before. I love sharing recipes with my friends and family, that's how we all learn new things around the kitchen.

I am putting together a cookbook for the company I work for, Learfield Communications. We have a group called the LCI Fun Pack, which organizes company events such as pie contests, pot lucks, picnics and all other types of fun company gatherings. I am putting together a company cookbook to be given to our employees this Christmas, so I have been receiving a lot of recipes from my fellow employees.

A fellow blogger friend of mine and co-worker passed along a few quick and easy recipes that I thought everyone would enjoy. We all need those meals that can be whipped up in a flash now and again... Hope these help you bring a healthy and delicious meal to your family's table.

Thanks Rick! I appreciate the great recipes...keep them coming.

Aunt Kathy's Summer Salad
1 bag iceberg salad mix
1 8 oz. bag shredded cheese your choice! (I use Colby/Jack)
1 large or medium tomato
1 16 oz. can of dark red kidney beans
1 bottle Kraft Catalina dressing
1 bag Fritos (I use off-brand corn chips)

Empty salad mix into large bowl.
Crunch up corn chips and pour over lettuce.
Empty cheese into bowl.
Dice the tomato, then put in bowl.
Drain beans, then put in bowl.
Pour entire bottle of dressing into bowl and mix well.

It gets soggy within a few hours, but it's gooooooood stuff! Here's another one we used to get excited about as kids when mom made it for dinner.

Fritos, Cheese and Tomato Soup
1 family sized can of Campbell's Tomato Soup (off brands are no good for this)
1 8 or 16 oz. bag (or block) shredded cheese. I recommend Jack cheese.
1 bag (or more) of Fritos. (I use off brand corn chips)

Heat tomato soup using milk; not water.
In individual bowls, put a handful of chips.
Sprinkle desired amount of cheese over chips. (I like mine with lots of cheese)
Pour warm soup over chips and cheese.

June 23, 2006

How to put your squash to good use

Every year you hear someone say it..."I'm in the squash." Well, that's me again this year. I thought I learned my lesson from last year's garden, but apparently by the looks of my fridge at home I didn't. I'm already giving my friends and co-workers squash.

But, they aren't complaining...yet! If I had a large family I would have just enough, but just with my husband, there is way too much of the stuff around. So, I'm finding every way possible to use squash and zucchini in new ways....

My Squash casserole is still one of my favorites.

Roasted Squash and Zucchini
6 squash/zucchini, sliced longish
4-5 cloves of minced garlic (don't use powder)
1/2 TCP salt
1/4 c. olive oil
2 TCP. of Italian seasonings (I like to use fresh myself)

In a small bowl pour oil and minced garlic and press garlic into oil. Add your other seasonings.

Place veggies in a casserole dish and brush your oil mixture all over the veggies. Coat very well.

Place under a preheated oven at 400 degrees for about 9 minutes or until the veggies are lightly brown.

Squash Soup
Another way to cook squash is to puree it in a food processor and make some really good soup.

I also lightly puree and freeze it, so I'll have it all year for cakes and breads. This is also one of my favorites.

Deep Fried/Sauted
If you like fried zucchini that you get in restaurants...mix up a flour and cornmeal mixture and beat a couple eggs and slice squash up and dip into egg then flour mixture and fry in a skillet with some oil or put into a very hot deep fryer. Serve this with some homemade ranch dressing...

Also, saute some in a skillet with some olive oil and butter, salt and pepper and garlic or whatever seasonings you prefer...Sprinkle a little cornmeal in the skillet to and fry 'em up.

Are you a salad lover? Take fresh garden lettuce you get from your own garden or the farmer's markets, scallions, almonds, thinkly sliced squash or zucchini, along with a couple of squash/zucchini flowers and some fresh Parmesan cheese, mix well and top the salad with a Balsamic vinaigrette dressing and a few croutons. YUMMY!!!

June 21, 2006

Cooking Tips 102

Yummy Pie

Here are more great tips from my kitchen to ya'lls. We all can use handy dandy tips that help make the job in the kitchen a little bit easier.

Does anyone else have any good tips...If so leave a comment or send me an email!

Grilling: Preventing Flare Ups
Trim excess fat from your meats to prevent sudden flare-ups. To ensure more even cooking, bring foods to room temperature before placing them on the grill.

Grilling Shrimp
Start with a good marinade with a citrus base. Place shrimp on a hot grill, preferably on skewers for easy handling or in a grilling basket. Watch closely. If the shrimp cook too long they will become tough and flavorless. When the shrimp start to turn pink on the sides, turn and cook until there is no more gray. Remove immediately and serve. Do not let cooked shrimp sit out for very long.

Avocado, Keeping Fresh (Thanks Cassie)
If you are only using half an avocado, leave the pit in the unused half and refrigerate, covered with plastic wrap. This will retard discoloration.

Breading Chicken (Thanks Lynn)
When breading chicken, coat the pieces with mayonnaise instead of egg. The mayonnaise clings to the chicken and doesn't drip like the egg does. Plus, it adds nice flavor.

Brownies, Adding Flavor (Thanks Georgia)
To give a fruit flavor to your brownies, use flavored soda pop instead of water in the mix.

Burnt Food Odors
To neutralize burnt food odors in the house, mix 1/2 cup whole cloves with 2 cups water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer cloves for 15-30 minutes. The house smells wonderful and the burnt odor is gone.

Cake, Cooling when short on time
To cool a cake quickly for frosting, pop it into the freezer while you make the frosting. By the time frosting is ready, the cake will be cool and ready to slip out of the pan.

Preventing Splattering When Frying
A little salt placed in a frying pan will prevent splattering.

Cake, Getting Rid of Air Pockets
To keep holes and tunnels out of your cake, run a knife through the batter after you have finished mixing it. This removes air holes.

Flouring Cake Pans
When flouring a cake pan, take into consideration the flavor of the cake. If you plan to serve the cake dusted with powdered sugar, a white ring on the side of a chocolate cake takes away from the appeal. For light cakes, use white flour to flour your pans. When making a dark cake, use powdered cocoa. The cocoa works in the same manner as the flour with regard to release and it doesn't leave a white ring around the edge or on top of the cake.

Cake, Keeping Fresh Longer
To keep loaf cakes fresher longer, cut slices from the middle rather than from the end. When you're finished slicing, firmly push the two leftover sections together to reform a loaf. This way, you eliminate leaving an exposed, quick-to-dry-out "end" slice.

Cake, Keeping the top from browning too fast
If the top of your cake is browning too quickly, place a pan of warm water on the rack above the cake while it is baking in the oven.

Cake, Keeping the top from cracking
To prevent cakes from cracking while they cool, add one envelope of unflavored gelatine to the dry ingredients of any cake batter. This will prevent cracking, and will also make the cake fuller. The gelatin does not change the flavor or moistness of the cake.

Cake, Makeshift Decorating Bag
Make a cake decorator by rolling up a piece of wax paper into a cone shape so that one end has a smaller opening than the other. Snip the small end with scissors to make a good point. Put icing in and squeeze it out through the pointed end.

Cake, Making Mocha Chocolate Cake
Use cold coffee instead of water when making a chocolate cake from a box. It gives the cake a rich, mocha flavor.

June 20, 2006

A meal for kids of all ages

Yummy Pie

No matter how old you are, you can still enjoy a good sloppy joe. I like my joes with a dill pickle and some chips. This makes a perfect "middle of the week" meal that the whole family will enjoy.

Mama's Sloppy Joes

1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon Paprika
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, fine
1/2 red bell pepper, fine
5 garlic cloves, minced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
4 hamburger buns, split and toasted

Heat oil over heat adding onion, bell pepper, celery, garlic, pepper and salt. Stir frequently, until vegetables are soft, usually 5 minutes. Next add your beef to the skillet and brown. I like finley ground beef so I try breaking up the pieces as much as I can.

Place tomato sauce, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce into mixture in skillet. Simmer for 7 minutes.

Taste the mixture....everyone has different tastes. You may want more salt and pepper or another spice that is your favorite.

June 19, 2006

Chive it up tonight

Herb Potato Mash
by Lane

2 1/2 pounds small red-skinned potatoes
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup heavy cream
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 tablespoons snipped fresh chives
2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

Boil potatoes over medium heat for about 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain pot of potatoes and add butter and let melt. Next add cream, garlic powder, salt and pepper and mash together. I like to have the potatoes be a little lumpy for this recipe. Next lighltly scatter chives and basil in and stir lightly.

June 16, 2006

A Jamaican Feast

Yummy Pie

I watched this recipe being prepared by Martha Stewart and her friend Lucinda the other day on Martha's show. It looked absolutely wonderful and I just had to pass it on to you all.

If you are tired of the same old chicken recipe (like me) this one your family is sure to cheer about! I couldn't find any Scotch bonnet peppers, so I used a few varieties of hot peppers and it was very good, although if you can find the Scotch variety I would use them.

Also, take the time to marinate this. I know it says 2 hours or 24 hours, but take the time to do 24 hours...it's worth the wait and time.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken
by Lucinda Scala Quinns Lucindas Authentic Jamaican Kitchen

Serves 6 to 8
5 bunches whole scallions, roughly chopped
3 large cloves garlic
3 Scotch bonnet peppers, seeded
2 sprigs fresh thyme or 2 tablespoons dried
1/4 cup ground allspice
2 tablespoons freshly ground pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons coarse salt
One (2 1/2 to 3-pound) chicken, backbone removed

In the bowl of a food processor, combine scallions, garlic, Scotch bonnet peppers, thyme, allspice, pepper, and salt; with processor running, add 1 cup water through feed tube to make a sauce. Set aside 1/2 cup for serving.

Using the tip of a paring knife, make 8 small incisions all over chicken. Place in a shallow baking dish. Pour sauce over chicken, turning to coat. Cover, and refrigerate, turning occasionally, for at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

Preheat a grill pan over high heat. Place chicken on grill. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, basting chicken with the marinade, for 10 minutes. Rotate chicken, and cook until slightly charred, about 15 minutes more. Turn chicken over, repeating process until slightly charred and an instant-read thermometer reads 160°, about 25 minutes more. Alternatively, preheat oven to 425°, and bake for 50 minutes, turning once halfway through. Transfer chicken to a cutting board. Let rest for 10 minutes. Using a sharp cleaver, chop into small pieces, bone and all, if desired. Otherwise, leave pieces whole. Serve with reserved sauce.

June 15, 2006

The San Fran Treat

Yummy Pie

I remember Rice A Roni as a kid...I loved it. Remember those commercials..."the San Francisco Treat." I always wanted my to make my own Rice a Roni and it's amazed me how simple it really was.

I've always wondered why they called it the San Fran Treat? Why not the St. Louis Treat, or New York Treat? Does anyone know why?

Let me know what you all think because this recipe is still in the works...

Rice and Roni My Way
by Lane

1 tablespoon oil
1/2 pound pasta, vermicelli or spaghetti
1 cup long grain rice
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried parsley
2 cups chicken or beef broth

Break the dried noodles into 1/2 inch pieces and place olive oil in pot. Heat pot and place noodles in pot until they begin to brown lightly. Next place onion, rice, parsley, cumin, broth and salt. Stir mixture, cover tightly, and cook as you would regular rice, approximately 20 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork and serve.

June 14, 2006

A meal to knock your socks off

Yummy Pie

Oh my! The first time I tried this I couldn't believe how wonderful the aromas and taste were.

I remember watching Martha Stewart make this on her t.v. show while I was working out. I thought it looked very simple and easy and went to her website, which I will say is loaded with great recipes for us "on the go."

I have finally made it and it is as good as it looks. This is a perfect meal to impress your guest with and they will think you spend all day in the kitchen preparing.

I would try serving my Lemon Divine pie alongside it.

Tequila-Orange Grilled Shrimp and Rice
by Martha Stewart

Serves 4 to 6
1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails left on
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 jalapeno chile, very finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
Zest of 1 lime, plus lime wedges for serving
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup tequila
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoonn unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

In a medium bowl, combine shrimp, oil, half the jalapeno, half the garlic, and zest; season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 15 minutes and up to 1 hour.

In a shallow saucepan, combine remaining jalapeno and garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper, orange juice, tequila, and shallots; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until mixture is thick and syrupy, 7 to 8 minutes. Stir in butter; keep warm.

Heat a gas grill on high or stove-top grill pan over high heat. Grill shrimp, turning once, until just opaque, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter; pour tequila sauce over shrimp. Garnish with chives; serve immediately with lime wedges.

Lime-Cilantro Rice

Serves 4
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup white rice
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tablespoon freshly chopped cilantro

In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups water, butter, salt, and cumin to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in rice, and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Remove saucepan from heat; add lime juice and cilantro. Fluff with a fork until combined. Serve immediately.

June 13, 2006

I'm already in the Squash

Yummy Pie

I was checking on my garden last night and couldn't believe that I already had squash and zucchini. I can't believe how well the plants of come along within the past week with this great weather we've had.

It's this time of year I bring out my garden recipes, usually because I have so much squash and zucchini I have to find new recipes for them.

When I have family up I always make this because it's become a hit in our family. To save yourself time, make it the night before and store in the fridge, just omit your bread crumb topping. Sprinkle that on right before you bake it. You will also have to adjust the time about 10 minutes longer if you do this.

Summer Squash Casserole
by Lane

1 stick of unsalted butter
3 slices of sourdough bread
6 yellow or pattypan summer squash
1 cup yellow onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt ( I always add more)
1 tsp. pepper
1 medium bowl
ice water
2 eggs
1 cup Italian bread crumbs or crackers crumbs (Ritz are the best), or enough to cover casserole

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Cut and peel your squash into cubes. Boil about 5 to 7 minutes then drain.

Saute onion, garlic, and parsley in 2 tablespoons butter seasoned with salt and pepper. Soak bread in ice water and let drain, then cube it. Add to onion and garlic mixture; cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes.

Add drained squash and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat.

Beat egg and add, allowing it to absorb into the mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper and paprika.

Place in casserole dish or baking pan. Cover top with topping of bread crumbs and dot with remaining butter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crumbs brown.

June 12, 2006

Recipe Stealing....Are you Kidding!

Recently, I have had a few bloggers email and let me know that I have "taken" their recipes and placed them on my blog. Taken their recipes? I didn't know that recipes could be stolen from one cooking blog to another. But, they can apparently.

I've had some fellow bloggers tell me that their blog is copyrighted and I am breaking the law by taking recipes off their site. They tell me that other fellow cooking bloggers won’t appreciate it either.

Well I don't either, but I have found three of my grandmother's recipes on other sites. When I saw them I laughed...because somewhere a long time ago the recipe I thought that was my grandmother's probably was another kids grandmother's or great-grandmother's famous recipe too.

Now with the internet, recipes and information is passed to others so fast we don't have time to breath. And it will become worse in the future.

I explained to these bloggers that I would never intentionally take another's work of art recipe, but that when I am given recipes from readers (like you all) I have no knowing where it came from. Recipes are passed down to others daily, whether via email, at work, at school, even in our homes when our mothers, fathers, grandparents or family friends share their beloved recipes with us.

So, how do we stop this? You can't. If you don't want your recipe secret told or shared with others, then don't put it out there for print. As for me I love sharing recipes with everyone. I believe that is how we all become better cooks. A recipe is just a roadmap or set of guidelines to follow when cooking a recipe. When a recipe calls for 1 tsp of salt, I always add more. Does that make it my recipe, no, but I have changed the recipe. I never measure anything when I cook, why, because I might like more garlic, pepper, basil, whatever. We all change recipes to our liking.

To me the point of a cooking blog is to share recipes with one another. And that is exactly what I intend to do. I have received many wonderful emails today from many of you and I thank you.

This is the last comment and any attention that I will be giving this recipe stealing matter. I will say that when I receive a new recipe I will tell who I got it from always and I’ll take my mother’s great advice and vow to always keep thing on the Up and Up here at Home Cooking is What I Like.

So, let’s forget this matter and move on.

Happy Cooking Everyone!

Cooking Tips 101

Yummy Pie

If there is one kitchen book out there that I think every cook should have it is a "Cooking Tips" book. This would include special tricks of the trade, grilling, slicing, cooking.....every type of trick that would help a cook out in the kitchen.

I don't know how many times I have had to call my mother when I'm in the middle of cooking something to ask, "Mom what is that special thing you do to make (whatever I'm cooking) so perfect." She usually laughs then proceeds to explain her special ticks of the trade.

Here is the first of many special posts that include those tricks that help make life in the kitchen easier for us all.

If you have a special kitchen trick you would like to pass along....please post it here.

Drain Cleaner
To unclog a drain, mix a cup of salt with a cup of baking soda. Pour the dry solution into the drain, and then add a pot of boiling water.

Bread - How to get a light, soft crust
For a light, tender crust, use very hot water and stir only 20 times. Stirring the dough too much will make the crust tough.

Biscuits Tips
Biscuits will be crisp on the outside and flaky in the center if you roll the dough thin and fold it over once before cutting out biscuits. They'll also split open easily when you're ready to butter them. To re-freshen and heat biscuits, put them in a well-dampened paper bag, twist it closed and put in a 300º oven for several minutes or until warm. If you want soft-sided biscuits, bake them in a pan with sides and put the biscuits close together. If you want crusty biscuits, bake them on a cookie sheet and place them apart from each other.

Bread, Keeping Fresh Longer
Keep bread fresh longer by placing a rib of celery in the bread bag.

Dinner Rolls - Freshening When Stale
Seal rolls in a brown paper bag, sprinkle the outside of the bag with water, then heat 10 to 15 minutes in a 350F (175C) oven.

Keeping Rolls Warm
Place aluminum foil under the napkin in your roll basket and the rolls will stay hot longer.

Lowering the Fat, Oil in Baking
When baking, use fruit purees, applesauce, or plain non-fat yogurt instead of oil.

Apples - For Pies
Which apples are good for pies? Excellent for pies: Cameo, Cortland, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Jonathan, Newton Pippin, Pink Lady, Rome Good for pies: Braeburn, Empire, Fuji, Gala, Ginger Gold, Jonagold

Freezing Pies
Custard and cream pies do not freeze well, which unfortunately means that the requisite Thanksgiving pumpkin pie cannot be made ahead of time. However, fruit pies, especially unbaked ones, freeze beautifully, as do baked pecan pies and cheesecakes. To prevent sogginess, brush the bottom crust of fruit pies with egg white before adding the filling. Before freezing, wrap pies and cheesecakes securely in several layers of plastic wrap, followed by a layer of aluminum foil. Allow already-baked items to thaw overnight in the refrigerator before serving. To bake a frozen fruit pie, leave it at room temperature for 20 minutes to allow the glass plate to warm up, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar if desired, then bake as usual, adding about 20 minutes to the baking time.

Green Peppers, Freezing
Green peppers may be frozen without blanching in an airtight container for later use in hot dishes or casseroles.

Cooking with Wine
When cooking with wine, leave the pan uncovered so the alcohol will burn off. The resulting liquid will have a rounder, firmer, fruiter flavor.

Grilling - Preventing Overcooking
To avoid burning vegetables before they're done, push them to the side of grill where heat is moderate. Wrap the ends of bone in ribs with aluminum foil to prevent drying and burning.

Grilling Vegetables
For the best results, rub the vegetables with vegetable oil or toss them with a clear or light marinade prior to grilling. Although some cooks prepare corn for the grill by soaking it in its husk and grilling it cloaked, this method steams the vegetable rather than grilling it. For the smoky flavor typical of grilled foods, husk the ears and cook them directly on the grill rack.

Eggplant can be cut lengthwise or crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices.

Red, purple, orange, white, yellow, and green peppers are tasty when grilled. Add them to appetizers, sandwiches, and home-baked breads and pizzas as well as salads. Potatoes can be cooked whole or cut into halves, thick slices, or wedges.

To reduce grilling time, blanch cut potatoes for 10 to 15 minutes before grilling.

Summer squash, including zucchini, yellow squash, and pattypan, can be cut into chunks and used for kabobs. You can also slice them lengthwise.

Select firm ripe tomatoes or plum tomatoes for grilling. Cherry tomatoes are easily cooked on skewers.

To prevent onion slices or wedges from falling through the grill rack, cut a large onion into 1/2-inch-thick slices or inch-wide wedges, then push a small metal or water-soaked bamboo skewer through the onion sections to secure them.

To roast peppers, put whole peppers on the grill over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, turning occasionally until skin is charred on all sides. Put the peppers in a brown bag, fold over the top to seal, and cool for about 15 minutes. Then cut peppers lengthwise in half and discard stems and seeds; place cut-side down on work surface and scrape off skin with a small knife.

To roast portabello mushrooms, brush with olive oil and grill 4 to 5 minutes each side. Asparagus: Break off and discard tough asparagus ends. Blanch tips in a large pot of boiling salted water for a minute or two (depending on size), just to remove the raw taste. Drain and transfer to ice water to stop the cooking. Drain again and pat dry. Roll in olive oil. Sprinkle with kosher salt. Cook directly over hot coals, turning the asparagus with tongs as they color, until they are lightly blistered by the grill and hot throughout, about 2 minutes.

Carrots: Leave skinny carrots whole. If carrots are thick at the top and thin on the bottom, cut them in sections and halve the thick ends. Roll carrots in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over indirect heat until softened, about 20 minutes, moving them progressively closer to the coals.

Potatoes: Roll whole red potatoes, about 1 1/2 inches in diameter, in olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill over indirect heat until the potatoes can be pierced easily, 30 to 40 minutes, moving them progressively closer to the coals.

Sweet potatoes: Grill large, whole sweet potatoes directly on ash-covered coals (not on the grate). Mound some of the coals around the sweet potatoes. Give them a quarter-turn about every 15 minutes so the skin chars evenly. Keep vents partially closed and grill covered so fire does not get too hot. Sweet potatoes weighing about a pound will take 45 to 50 minutes. Split in half and serve with butter.

Grilling Fruits
Cut 2 large apples into quarters, then core and peel. Brush with melted butter. Grill over indirect heat (not directly over the coals) until softened, about 45 to 55 minutes, moving them progressively closer to the coals. Remove from grill, sprinkle with brandy or rum and top with vanilla ice cream.

Bananas: Put whole ripe bananas, unpeeled, directly over ash-covered coals and cook, turning occasionally, until they are soft, about 15 minutes. Peel carefully, slice and serve over vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Melon: Halve a medium cantaloupe lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut each half into six wedges. Peel the wedges. Brush the melon with melted butter. Grill directly over coals until hot throughout and lightly marked, 3 to 5 minutes. Serve with grilled pork or ham steaks.

June 9, 2006

Get ready, get set...GRILL "EM UP

Yummy Pie

Grilled Lime and Chipotle Pork Chops
by Lane (thanks Laura)

6-8 pork chops, 1/2 inch thick

1/2 cup mayo
3 T lime juice
2 T dried cilantro or 2 T finely minced fresh cilantro, if I don't have it I use parsley
3 T garlic puree ( about 5 garlic cloves pureed)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. ground Chipotle pepper
2 tsp. ground cumin

If pork chops are not uniform thickness, pound to 1/2 inch thick. Put chops in single layer in zip loc bag. Mix marinade ingredients and pour over pork chops. Marinate 6 hours or longer in refrigerator. I like to do overnight to really let the spices set in. Make sure you turn the chops in the marinade.

This is my husbands favorite part: Grill chops 8-9 minutes on each side, or until well browned and firm but not hard to the touch.

Quit wining around

Yummy Pie

Wine Tips
Wine is one part of each meal that I truly enjoy. Great home cooked food matched alongside te perfect glass of Merlot makes a meal even more enjoyable. I came across some wine tips that I wanted to share and pass along.

These tips came from: Simply Recipes .

Tip #1: The Microwave Red wine should not be consumed chilled, but closer to room temperature. It just tastes better that way. But if you open a bottle of red wine and don't finish it, the best thing to do is to pop the cork back on and put it in the refrigerator, where it can keep for a couple of weeks. When you pull the wine out to drink it later, you can leave it on the counter to slowly come to room temperature. Alternatively, you can pour a glass, put it in the microwave, and zap it a few seconds until it warms up to room temp. Every microwave is different, and depending on how much wine is in the glass, the number of seconds will vary. I suggest starting with 5 seconds and adding 3 second increments until you get there.

Tip #2: Shake that Bouteille Red wine often needs to come in contact with some air to reduce some of its sharpness. Usually this is accomplished by pouring the wine into a decanter. If you're drinking a young wine that is just too rough, you can also accomplish the same oxygenation by pouring out 1/2 glass of wine from the bottle, putting the cork back in part way, and shaking the heck out of the bottle. Obviously, you're not going to do this with a well aged wine that may have some sediment. But if it is a young wine, sediment shouldn't be a problem, and it's the young wines that typically need this air.

Tip #3: Place frozen grapes in your wine glass also to keep wine chilled. (Thanks for this Shelly).

Bonus Tip: Wine Ice-cubes How do you keep your glass of white wine cool on a hot summer day? If you know what wine you will be drinking in advance, you can use an ice cube tray to freeze some of the wine into wine-cubes. Just add them to your glass of wine.

June 8, 2006

In the mood for strawberries

Yummy Pie

Strawberry Shortcake
Here is a great recipes from Simply Recipes. It is made with from scratch biscuits instead of shortcake....and if your a southern gal like me this is the only way to eat this great dessert.

Strawberries and whipping cream:
3 baskets of fresh strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
Whipping cream

Remove the stems from the strawberries. Slice into thin (1/4" to 1/8") slices. Put into a large bowl. Add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of sugar (depending on how sweet the strawberries are to begin with) and mix into the strawberries. Set aside at room temperature to macerate (which means that the sugar will soften the strawberries and help release their juices).

After the strawberries have been sitting for 20 minutes or so, take a potato masher and mash them a little. Not too much, just enough to get more juice out of them.
Whip the cream, adding a drop or two of vanilla and a teaspoon of sugar.

To serve, break up one biscuit per person into big pieces into a bowl. Ladle strawberries over the biscuit. Add a dolop of whipped cream.

Biscuits from scratch
3 cups all purpose flour
3 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. Toss with a fork to combine. Cut the butter into the flour mixture with a pastry cutter or a fork until the largest pieces of butter are the size of peas. (Or pulse several times in a food processor.) Combine the cream and vanilla in a liquid measure. Make a well in the center of the flour and and pour the cream mixture into the well. Mix with a fork until the dough is evenly moistened and just combined; it should look shaggy and still fel a little dry. Gently knead by hand five or six times to create a loose ball.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and pat it into an 8-inch square, 3/4 to 1 inch thick. Transfer the dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment or silpat, cover with plastic and chill for 20 minutes in the refrigerator. Heat the oven to 425ºF. Remove the dough from refrigerator. Cut the dough into 9 even squares and spread them about 2 inches apart from each other on the baking sheet. Bake until the biscuits are medium golden brown, 18 to 20 minutes.

Makes 9 biscuits. (Adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine, July 2003)

June 7, 2006

Making Your Own Recipes

A couple of months ago I was treated to a rare and thrilling evening: someone else cooked for me! My dear friend made the most delicious lasagna I have ever tasted. The other elements of the meal--roasted butternut squash, sautéed zucchini, fresh fruit and chantilly cream. But her lasagna was utterly outstanding.

When I emailed her to tell her how incredible it was and to ask her to share the recipe, she informed me that it was not her recipe, but that of Ina Garten, a.k.a. the Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network. I was curious to know whether she followed the recipe with precision, or if she per chance made adjustments here and there to make it her own. She said, "I use sweet Italian pork sausage instead of sweet Italian turkey sausage, and I use two pounds of sausage instead of 1.5 pounds. Sometimes, I use 1.5 sweet Italian, and 0.5 hot Italian. I leave out the goat cheese (I use extra ricotta instead), and I use more parmesan than is called for. Not too different."

Not too different? Oh, yes it is! And that is what creating recipes is all about. Ina Garten, a great cook, did not invent lasagna, nor would she ever make a claim to have done so. In both ingredients and method, Ina Garten’s recipe, as a general concept, has been made before and will be reinvented again and again. But it is the selection of ingredients (parmesan instead of pecorino), the proportion of those ingredients (28 ounces of crushed tomatoes to 6 ounces of tomato paste), and the nuance of the method (soaking noodles instead of adding them dry) that makes a recipe unique.

My friend’s description above is exactly how a person should make a recipe their own. After all, a recipe is merely a road map or set of guidelines. When a recipe calls for ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper, it is just a suggestion, not a command. I do not know one chef who actually measures salt and pepper when they season. When writing recipes, however, some amount has to be assigned. So, the somewhat arbitrary teaspoon measurements are given. Frankly, a dish should be tasted first and then seasonings should be adjusted accordingly. Perhaps the salt was absorbed in the cooking process, or your individual taste just calls for more salt.

In fact, many recipes are written to bring flavor to the lowest common denominator, not the highest. When a popular food magazine or cookbook publishes recipes, many of the stronger or more exotic flavors are pared down to become more palatable to a wider audience. When I see a recipe, for example, that calls for 1 teaspoon of freshly minced garlic I invariably know that this will not cut it for my taste buds. I prefer a more forward garlic flavor, and therefore almost always double or triple the amount.

When reading a recipe, do not regard it as gospel. Instead, look at a recipe as a concept--an idea--for a combination of flavors and a method of preparing ingredients. With this attitude, you will find that you will be more willing to experiment. After all, you know what you like to eat and you have spent a lifetime doing it. You know what flavors you like paired together, and what ingredients you like to avoid. This makes you more than competent to trust your instincts when working with a recipe.

There is one exception to all this creativity and experimentation. Baking is much more of a science than savory cooking. I urge you always to follow a baking recipe, especially where the chemistry of the recipe is concerned. For example, never tamper with the baking soda, salt, egg and flour ratios of a cake batter, but feel free to add a pinch of ginger, or some toasted nuts to add a new dimension. In other words, it is generally safe to adjust the flavor of a baked good, but not the basics of the batter.

As you discover my recipes on my blog, read them as road maps. Remember there is more than one way to get from Point A to Point B. Trust your instincts and your palate.

June 6, 2006

Another one of my comfort foods

When I was a kid I can remember my grandmother and mother cooking fried chicken. It was a once of the week meal at our house. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, cornbread (unsweetened), green beans from the garden and a piece of homemade pie to finish everything off with.

I know what you are thinking...."That's a heavy meal!" And you're right it is, but eating this meal every now and again isn't that bad for you.

Today in my household I would say this meal is only cooked once a month, and that's because I'm usually tampering with new recipes or trying to improve old ones. But, fried chicken is another one of my comfort foods.

I have used the word "comfort foods" before and I've had some people ask me exactly what a comfort food was. So, here it goes:

Comfort foods are recipes that remind me of my childhood. Recipes that I remember baking in the oven at my grandmother's house or special meals my mother would put together. These foods are ones where I feel relaxed, at home and can remember the ones that I have lost in my life. My grandmother on my mom's side is the last living grandparent I have. Grandmother Hart is 84 years young. I continue to listen to her words of wisdom and gather her recipes. We need to think about those in our lives that are still around to pass down there amazing recipes to the future "family cooks." Because when they are no longer living....who will carry on their cooking traditions?

Southern Fried Chicken
by Paula Deen

3 eggs
1/3 cup water
About 1 cup hot red pepper sauce (recommended: Texas Pete)
2 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon pepper
House seasoning, recipe follows
1 (1 to 2 1/2-pound) chicken, cut into pieces
Oil, for frying, preferably peanut oil

In a medium size bowl, beat the eggs with the water. Add enough hot sauce so the egg mixture is bright orange. In another bowl, combine the flour and pepper. Season the chicken with the house seasoning. Dip the seasoned chicken in the egg, and then coat well in the flour mixture. Heat the oil to 350 degrees F in a deep pot. Do not fill the pot more than 1/2 full with oil.
Fry the chicken in the oil until brown and crisp. Dark meat takes longer then white meat. It should take dark meat about 13 to 14 minutes, white meat around 8 to 10 minutes.

House Seasoning:
1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder

Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Dark Rum Pecan Pie
by Lane

1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
3 large eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
3 tablespoons good-quality bourbon
1 (9-inch) deep-dish pie shell, unbaked

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a medium bowl, stir together the sugar and melted butter. Add the corn syrup, eggs, pecans, and bourbon, and stir until all ingredients are combined. Pour mixture into an unbaked pie shell, and place on a heavy-duty cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, and continue to bake for an additional 25 minutes, or until pie is set. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

June 5, 2006

A pie that is worth it all

Are you ready for a cool and refreshing pie for the summer...then I have the pie for you. This pie will go perfect alongside a backyard bbq for the Fourth of July.

It calls for a few ingredients that you'll have to purchase special, but it's worth it.

Grasshopper Pie
(thanks for sharing Lynn)

20 oreo cookies (40 halves), fillings discarded, cookies crushed
5 Tbsp butter, melted
3/4 cup hot milk
24 large marshmallows
1/4 cup creme de menthe liqueur
2 tablespoons white creme de cacao
1 cup whipping cream, whipped
2 drops green food dye.

Preheat oven to 425°F.
Mix crushed oreo cookie halves and butter. Pat into bottom and sides of 9 inch pie dish. Bake in oven for 5 to 10 minutes; remove from oven and cool completely. Once cooled, place in freezer to chill.

In saucepan, melt marshmallows in milk over medium heat. Remove from heat and cool. Add creme de menthe and creme de cacao, and mix well. Add a drop or two of green food dye if desired. Fold in whipped cream. Pour into chilled pie shell. Freeze for 3 hours.

June 1, 2006

What's in your chicken stock?

I remember as a youngest in my mother's kitchen helping her prepare a big batch of chicken noodle soup. Usually, it was because dad or my brothers had caught a cold. And, you know the best thing for a cold is chicken noodle soup.

Mom would always have chicken stock canned up, but if she didn't that meant we would have to whip up a pot. It wasn't a hard task to do, it was fairly simple.

I've had some people ask me how to make chicken stock, since many of my recipes call for it. Here are some easy steps that will help you prepare the perfect stock for your next recipe.

Chicken Stock
To make chicken stock, start with scraps of chicken or chicken carcasses, which I just freeze until I'm ready to use them.

You also need onions, celery and carrots. If you have any veggies that are past their prime, this is the perfect use for them.

Put the chicken scraps, onions, celery and carrots in a huge stock pot with water. I also use a little bit of chicken soup base to speed up the process a little. (Do NOT use bouillon cubes, they are way too salty.) Let it cook all day at a very low simmer, adding water whenever it gets low.

When you're through cooking it, remove the meat and veggies and strain the stock somehow. I use a yogurt strainer and a fat separator, which removes the fat by taking the liquid off the bottom. Any fine strainer will work. You can also remove the fat by cooling the stock.
Now you have delicious chicken stock ready to put in the freezer and which can be used in a huge variety of dishes.