January 30, 2009

Super Bowl 7 Layer Dip

If you are still looking for a dish to take to that Super Bowl Party this weekend, look no farther. My friend Danielle passed along this easy little dip recipe to me this week. She’s making it for an upcoming party this weekend herself.

Thanks for sharing Danni!

Super Bowl 7 Layer Dip
Chopped tomatoes
Black olives
Shredded cheese
Shredded lettuce
Tub of Sour cream
One package of taco seasoning mix
Refried beans

Spread refried beans on the bottom of your dish (9X13…glass or Tupperware). Then, mix the sour cream and taco seasoning mix.

**If you want your yard lines to be completely white, keep some plain sour cream for the end.
Spread taco mix/sour cream mixture on top of beans. Then add guacamole over top of that…spread entire dish.

End Zone 1: On one end add shredded cheese to the top. From the side of the dish to about an inch towards the middle.

End Zone 2: This side, pour/spread salsa and chopped tomatoes out about an inch.

Middle of Field: Put about a cup or less of plain sour cream or the taco mixture if you have some left into a Ziploc baggy…small one. Cut a tiny hole in the corner of the bag and squeeze it out for the yard marker lines. I would say about every ¼ or ½ of an inch.

Grass: Between each line spread shredded lettuce for the grass.

Outline of Field: Place black olives around the outside of your dish

Players: Add some black olives on one side and tomatoes facing them…in an offense and defense layout.

Serve with chips and enjoy!

January 29, 2009

Baked Chicken

My husband likes to cook, almost as much as I do. We enjoy a lot of nights together during the week in the kitchen cooking together (which are some of my most favorite times). I’ve been showing him a few of my most favorite, not to mention easy recipes.

Last night he made Dad’s Baked Chicken. This is a recipe that I actually learned to cook when I was a kid. My dad didn’t do a lot of cooking, but he and I would cook dinner for my mother at least once a week, when I was a kid.

This recipe is what I call my dad’s signature meal. He always served this baked chicken with wild rice, a vegetable and a dinner roll. Last night Charlie made Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice, steamed broccoli, and Sister Shubert Dinner Rolls.

Try this recipe for an easy week night meal for your family!

Dad’s Baked Chicken
1 whole chicken, about 3 lbs.
1 large onion, chopped coarsely
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
2 Bay Leaves
2 springs fresh thyme
4 springs fresh parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1 T. soften butter
2 T. Garlic powder or 4 whole cloves of garlic
Dried thyme
*Frozen stock or 2 cups of chicken broth

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove chicken giblets. Wash chicken with cold water, then pat dry. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, including the inside of the cavity (if using garlic powder – do the same). Rub seasonings into chicken really good.

In cooking pan, place your frozen stock or broth and place half of the onions, celery, carrots, bay leaves and 2 springs of parsley.

Stuff the inside of the cavity of the chicken with remaining ingredients (vegetables, herbs and garlic cloves). Then rub softened butter all over the skin of the chicken and sprinkle chicken again with salt, pepper and a little dried thyme.

Cover dish and cook for about 1 hour or until done, then remove from oven. Use an instant read thermometer – these make life so easy! Let chicken rest is dish for about 15-20 minutes. This lets the juices remain in the chicken.

* For stock: Whenever I cook any meat – I keep the stock and freeze it in mason jars in my deep freeze. These juices make the best soups ever and are also great to use for cooking rice (replace stock with water).

January 26, 2009

Lentil Soup

When will the farmers’ markets open back up- not soon enough! I’m can’t take it anymore…tomatoes that taste like cardboard, greens that are tasteless, produce that has been shipped in probably 2,000 miles (+), no connection with my food….when oh when will the farmers’ markets be open again! I need my fresh fruits and vegetables…I need my weekly visits to the farmers’ markets.

But, I’ll have to wait, at least until about the second or third weekend in March until the markets around Missouri start to open back up.

Until then I’ll have to try and savor what frozen vegetables I have left from my own garden this summer (which isn’t much except broccoli, sweet corn, green beans and some tomatoes).

It’s always about this time of the year that I start to get antsy for the growing season to hurry up and make it’s appearance. Maybe because of all the seed catalogs I’m thumbing through, the farmers’ markets workshops/conferences I’m attending for my job, the diminishing frozen vegetables in my deep freeze or maybe because I’m just tired of the cold, bone-chilling weather. (It’s probably a little bit of everything.)

So, to celebrate the farmers’ markets opening soon (about 2 months) I’ve got a “fresh” recipe today!

Baldwin Lentil Soup
by my mother
3 shallots, finely chopped
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons olive oil
3 cups water
1 cup dry green lentils
1 red potato, peel and dice
1 large tomato, peel and dice
1 small celery stalk, diced
1 small carrot, slivered
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. dried basil
salt and pepper to taste

In a deep soup pot, saute shallots and onions in heated oil. Add water and lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, adding more water if needed to keep the 3-cup level of liquid. Cook lentils until barely tender. Add all other vegetables and seasonings. Continue cooking at least 20 minutes longer. Fork mash or puree mixture. Serve warm, garnished with croutons or chives.

January 24, 2009

Goat Cheese Pizza

“Oh how yummy!” “One more piece….and another and another.”

Yes, that is what I sound like when I’m indulging in one of my favorite “treats” - goat cheese.

I had always liked goat cheese, but after our vacation to visit my husband’s family in Spain this past summer – I have become a fan of goat cheese. Goat cheese on crackers, with salami, top on a salad or pasta, stuffed with chicken….there are so many wonderful combinations.

Many folks say they don’t like the taste of goat cheese, but that’s probably because they have sampled goat cheese that wasn’t stored properly. Sometimes many of the grocery stores that sell goat cheese haven’t properly stored the cheese, therefore making the cheese have a “rancid” taste. I assure you there is nothing rancid tasting about goat cheese, quite the opposite – goat cheese is smooth, creamy and a “taste for the ages.”

If you are one of these type people that has tried goat cheese only once and now swears you will never try it again – I’m here to change your mind.

In Missouri we have lots of wonderful goat cheese operators that sell their products at many farmers markets and other marketing outlets.

One of my favorite goat cheese farms is from Goatsbeard Farm. The owners, Ken and Jenn Muno, are a wonderful couple whom I purchase lots of goat cheese from throughout the year at the Columbia Farmers’ Market. Goatsbeard is a small family farm dedicated to creating a sustainable livelihood from the land, as the family strives to produce excellent cheese while protecting the water quality of their watershed, enhancing the soils with natural fertilizers, and improving biodiversity.

Goat cheese, like goat milk, is easier on the human digestive system and lower in calories, cholesterol and fat than its bovine counterpart (but that doesn’t keep me from my cow’s milk). Goat cheese is rich in calcium, protein, vitamin A, vitamin K, phosphorus, niacin and thiamin. So, why not give it a try – improve your taste palate and your health!

One of my family’s favorite goat cheese recipes is our McConnell Goat Cheese Pizza. You can incorporate whatever your favorite vegetables are (we like to use bell peppers, eggplant, olives and sun-dried tomatoes).

McConnell Goat Cheese Pizza
1 teaspoon honey or sugar
2 tablespoons yeast
3 cups unbleached white flour salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Sauce (try using a pesto instead of a tomato based sauce)
8 ounces Goat Cheese (Chevre, Teleme and/or Feta)
1 1/2 cups topping of choice: sliced bell peppers or roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, eggplant, chopped olives, sun-dried tomatoes or anchovies.

Dissolve honey or sugar in 1 cup warm water. Add yeast, and set in a warm place for about ten minutes. Foam will form on the surface of the yeast.

Meanwhile, put the flour into the food processor (using metal blade) with a dash of salt. Drizzle in the olive oil, followed by the yeast mixture. When the dough forms a ball (motor will begin to slow down), place it in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours.

Punch down and roll into desired shape.

Cover the surface of the dough with sauce, and top with 8 ounces of goat cheese and toppings of choice. Bake in preheated 400 degree oven for 10-14 minutes until crust turns golden. Brush the edge of the crust with a little olive oil before serving.

January 19, 2009

Simple Grape Salad

When it comes to food- I want simplicity. Sometimes we get bogged down by fancy recipes with extravagant spices and ingredients, that we loose the true taste of the food.

That’s why I enjoy this recipe so much. It’s my mother’s recipe for a simple grape salad (that I served for Christmas dinner). The key to a this recipe is ensuring the grapes are ripe and tasty. Plus, I only use Missouri Northern Pecans because they are sweet and small (you can find them in most all grocery stores.)

Simple Grape Salad
By My Mother

2 ½ lbs. grapes
1 (8oz.) cream cheese, room temp.
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup powdered sugar
1 cup sour cream
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup chopped pecans

Mix cream cheese, powdered sugar and vanilla until smooth. Fold in sour cream and add to grapes. Mix brown sugar and nuts together and sprinkle over grapes.

January 13, 2009

Cashew Chicken Anyone

One of my husband’s favorite foods is Chinese, but I’m not a lover of most all Chinese food. So, we make a compromise (I make him cashew chicken quite a bit at home). That way I can control what the meal will taste like.

Fellow blogger Sarah over at Front Porch Rocker had a great recipe for this dish that I’ve been varying each time I make it. Each person has different tastes, therefore any new recipe takes me about four times of making it to find exactly how I like to season, cook and prepare the recipe. Look at cooking like an adventure.

The best part of this meal – it’s pretty quick and makes incredible leftovers..which means less cooking during the work week for you!

Here are my adaptations of the original Cashew Chicken recipe. Also, I usually fry up a little more chicken because I love taking the leftover fried chicken for salads or in a tortilla roll up with lettuce, ranch dressing and cheese.

Cashew Chicken

4 chicken breasts, thawed and cut into bite sized pieces
1 ½ cups flour
½ c milk2 egg
Salt and pepper, to taste
Dried Parsley
½ tsp. Paprika
½ tsp. garlic powder
Peanut Oil, for frying

To the flour add salt, pepper, parsley, paprika and garlic powder. Coat chicken in the flour mixture and let sit for 10 minutes. Heat oil in a large skillet (Med High). Mix the milk and eggs together in a small bowl. Dip the pieces of chicken in the milk mixture and then back into the flour. Place chicken in one layer in the skillet and fry until browned. Remove to a plate lined with paper towels and lightly salt. Continue until all the chicken is fried.

2 cups of water
4 chicken bouillon cubes
¼ tsp. ginger powder
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp cornstarch mixed in 1/4 c of cold water

Bring the water, bouillon, soy sauce, sugar, ginger and salt to a light boil. Add cornstarch mixture and stir constantly until thickened. Remove from heat.

To serve: Serve over a bed of rice and top the chicken with the sauce, some diced green onions or chives and cashews.

January 5, 2009

Shrimp & Grits from Mom's Kitchen

It’s usually about this time of the year that I realize that it’s only 3 months until I can experience fresh, local produce from my local farmers’ market again. Yes, I’m kinda a produce “junkie”. Sorry but those cardboard tasting tomatoes in the grocery store just doesn’t cut it and that prepackaged lettuce that is about to out of date is not for me.

Our Missouri markets will start opening up about the second weekend in March and I for one can not wait! There are a few cities that offer year-round market when I can go and purchase fresh local products like meat, cheese, eggs, but I oh how I miss my vine ripened vegetables and freshly picked fruits – that actually smell like fruit!

Do you buy local? That is do you buy food (or any good or service) produced, grown, or raised as close to your home as possible. There are endless opportunities to buy local in Missouri (and I’m sure in your own state), and by doing so you will get exceptional taste and freshness, strengthen your local economy, support family farms, safeguard your family’s health and protect the environment. Become a localvore in 2009!

If you don’t buy local…then get with the trends. The American Farm Bureau is out with their Top 5 food trends of 2008 and guess what the biggest trend this year was- local foods! In fact the new Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year was “locavore”, a person who seeks out and consumes locally grown food.

Read more about the 2008 Food Trends on my farmers’ market blog here.

Today a true southern classic- Shrimp and Grits! Yes, this recipe will be a little hard to buy local for, unless you live by the gulf to get your shrimp, but there are more and more shrimp farmers’ in Missouri. The shrimp of coarse will be pond raised, so will have a slightly different taste than gulf shrimp.

Mom’s Shrimp and Grits
1 pound large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup heavy cream (try buying local cream)
2 cups water1 1/2 cups hot stock (shrimp, chicken, or vegetable)
1/4 cup butter (buy local butter for a dairy)
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup stone-ground grits**
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and black pepper to taste
6 bacon slices (I always use Burgers Bacon)
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons finely chopped green or red bell pepper or both

To add flavor, place the shells of the shrimp in a saucepan and cover with water. Simmer over low heat approximately 20 minutes. Remove from heat and strain the broth, discarding shells. Add shrimp broth to hot stock, makes for an incredible stock.

** If using quick-cooking grits (not instant), reduce cream to 1/2 cup and reduce stock to 1 cup.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, combine cream, water, and hot stock; bring to a gentle boil. Add butter, salt, and pepper. Slowly add grits, stirring constantly (so that the grits do not settle to the bottom and scorch), until all are added reduce heat to medium-low. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (be carefully not to scorch mixture), or until the grits are tender. Grits should have absorbed all of the liquid and become soft and should have the same consistency as oatmeal (moist, not dry). If the grits become too thick, add warm stock or water to thin. Remove from heat.

Sprinkle shrimp with lemon juice, salt, and pepper; set aside. In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, cook bacon until brown but not crisp. Remove from heat and pat dry with paper towels; set aside. Coarsely chop bacon when cool. Reserve 4 tablespoons bacon great in the frying pan. Add onion, garlic, and green or red bell pepper; sauté 10 minutes or until the onion is transparent. Add shrimp mixture and bacon; sauté 5 to 7 minutes or until shrimp are opaque in center (cut to test). Remove from heat. To serve, spoon hot grits onto individual serving plates and top with shrimp mixture, then sprinkle with green onion tops.