Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

3-step (or so) Spicy Potato Salad

Spicy Potato Salad

Like many in our area, we had stocked up on food to survive a few days without power, anticipating Hurricane Joaquin would make landfall just down the street. And just last week, the US models had the center line of the hurricane’s path pushing right into the Chesapeake Bay, towards Baltimore and DC. So yes, that line was less than 8 miles down the road.

Thankfully, Joaquin moved east and is somewhere out in the Atlantic. That said, we still are dealing with a Nor’easter (fancy colloquialism for a massive rain and wind storm blowing in from the northeast.) Our problem now? It’s Saturday night, the grocery store is closing, and the church pot luck is tomorrow.

But we stocked up on food, right? There must be something…different…tasty…with a little zip, right?

[Cue light bulb over head]

Of course! Here’s a nice side dish you can whip up without too much trouble. And you probably have many of the ingredients siting inside your refrigerator right now! Bonus: it only takes three steps to make – four if you count baking the potatoes, which I didn’t. Well, yes. I baked the potatoes. But no, I did not count that as one of the steps. If I did, I’d have to change the name at the top. Okay fine, here you go:

4-step Spicy Potato Salad

Ingredients

10 – 12 baked potatoes, peeled and cubed (I baked these in advance, thinking they would go bad if we lost power)

2 celery stalks, ends trimmed, diced

3/4 cup bread and butter pickles, rough chopped

3/ 4 cup mayonnaise

4 Tablespoons spicy brown mustard

4 Tablespoons yellow mustard

2 Tablespoons cracked black pepper (use more if you want extra tang-ee-ness!)

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

1 teaspoon onion powder

Directions

Step 1: bake the potatoes. There. Everyone should be happy!

Step 2: Once the potatoes have baked, let them thoroughly cool, then peel and cube.

Step 2 and a half: Place the cubed potatoes in your serving container to make sure you have enough. Or to make sure you don’t have too much. Take your pick. If you have extra potatoes, fry them in some butter with a few chopped onions and serve with a fried egg on top. But let’s get back to the recipe, shall we?

Step 3: In a separate large bowl, mix all of the other ingredients.

Step 4: Add the cubed potatoes to the mustard mixture and gently fold using a spatula or wooden spoon until all of the potatoes are coated.

Step 4 and a half: Return the spicy potato salad to the serving bowl.

Step 4 and three quarters: Cover with clear wrap and refrigerate overnight.

The next day – serve with your entree of choice and a fine Merlot. For some of us , the Merlot “is” an entree of choice, but then again – this is a church potluck. No wine to be had, but let’s not talk about that now. Time to hit the rack so I don’t oversleep and miss the dang pot luck!

Enjoy the recipe!

 

 

 

 

 

Mac ‘n Pimento Cheese

The secret ingredient!

The secret ingredient!

Spoilers: this recipe contains a secret ingredient. Of course, trained chef’s are reluctant to tell their secrets, but I’m not a chef. I’m just a decent cook. Says so on my business card. But this dish has received too many great comments from taste-testers to keep the recipe under wraps. It’s easy to assemble, cooks in the slow-cooker so you don’t have to watch it much, and is a great twist on what might be the world’s most popular comfort food.

Did I sell you on it?

I hope so.

Next time you need something new for a potluck, try this version of Mac ‘n Pimento Cheese!

Equipment

  • A 4.5 quart crock pot, or the equivalent-sized oven-safe casserole dish or pot.

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. cooked macaroni (I use spirals, but the traditional elbow style will be fine)
    • Helpful hint: cook the macaroni the day before and keep refrigerated until needed. Saves time the next day when you are worried about the guests coming early. And they always come early.
  • 10 oz. Colby Jack cheese, shredded
  • 12 oz. Pimento Cheese
    • Spoiler: I use Palmetto Cheese with Jalapeno as my secret ingredient. This South Carolina low country specialty food is thankfully available in most higher quality grocery stores, or online here.
  • 1 1/2 cups milk (any version that works for you. Except chocolate milk. That would be a bad choice.)
  • 12 oz. Evaporated Milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced

Directions

I use a “layer” approach to building this mac ‘n cheese.

  • Place enough cooked macaroni in the bottom of the crock pot to cover the bottom.
  • Sprinkle a handful of shredded Colby Jack cheese on top of the cooked macaroni.
  • Using a small spoon, or a melon baller, place 4 – 5 small scoops of pimento cheese evenly on top of the Colby Jack cheese. I do four corners and a center.
    • Helpful hint: use the spoon to spread the pimento cheese into a thin layer across the entire pot.
  • Repeat the layering of macaroni, Colby Jack cheese, and pimento cheese. Make the top layer one of the cheeses.
  • In a separate bowl, mix the remaining ingredients.
  • Pour the liquid mixture on top of the macaroni and cheese. Try to drizzle it around the entire top surface so liquid will seep down throughout the crock pot.
  • Cover and cook on low heat for 3 hours. If using the oven, bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
  • Now check the inside of the crock pot wall. Using a plastic spatula, scrape the macaroni away to keep the cheese from forming a burnt crust.
  • If your mac ‘n cheese has thickened to the point a large spoonful will maintain its shape, you are done!
    • If still soggy, then cover and continue to cook for 30 additional minutes.
    • Check again. The dish should be done.
      • The longest I have let this cook is 4 hours, but I ended up with a thick inedible crust which wasted probably three servings.

This dish has won rave reviews from both office-mates and church ladies. I don’t which group has the more discriminating palate, but on both occasions I returned home with zero leftovers.

Enjoy!

 

 

Easy Granola Bars

Easy Granola!

Easy Granola!

Who doesn’t like a nice, tasty granola bar? Call it what you will: protein bar, energy bar, “health” bar, as long as it can’t be compared unfavorably to a brick of sawdust, it is probably popular and thusly sells very well. Add chunks of chocolate, or a thin base of chocolate underneath and you probably have the sales leader!

But are they really as healthy as you think? That depends. Like cars, they all tend to have the same basic shape, and they all have many of the same parts – it’s just that some parts are better for you than others. The trick is in knowing which is which.

Why not make your own?

If you make it yourself, you know exactly what goes into it. You can adjust ingredients to meet your desired goals. Want more quick energy? Add a bit more honey. Want more protein? Vitamin E? Zinc? Add some wheat germ. Need the extra crunch? Pumpkin seeds will help, and they pack in some unexpected protein, too!

Based on a recipe from the culinary team at my office, here is an easy recipe for making your own granola bars. And hey, it’s an easy activity kids can help with (except the stove-top and oven parts. Use common sense, people!)

Prep Time: 15 minutes                   Cooking Time: 20 – 25 minutes                   Cool-down time: 3 hours

This recipe makes 16 bars, maybe more, maybe less, depending on how you cut them.

Ingredients:

2 1/2 cups of rolled oats (as in Quaker Oats found in the cylindrical cardboard package)

1 cup of almond slivers

1 cup of shredded coconut

1/2 cup of pepitas (roasted pumpkin seeds)

3 tablespoons of unsalted butter

2/3 cup of honey (use locally harvested, if you can. Legend has it local honey helps build immunity to allergies. Is it true? I have no idea. But it’s a cool idea, isn’t it? Plus, you’ll be helping out a local business. And who’s against that? I didn’t think so!)

1/4 cup of light brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1 1/2 cups of dried cranberries (or any combination of dried fruits, i.e. 1 cup raisins and 1/2 cup cranberries.)

Directions:

–    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. or gas mark 4 for certain UK ovens, or Stufe 3 for das Deutsch – Ofen. [good granola bars know no borders!]

–    Take a small bit of butter and coat the bottom and inside walls of a 9×13 inch baking dish.

–    Now line the pan with parchment paper. Make sure you have enough paper to overlap the sides of the dish. I didn’t do this when we made the bars today, but now I see the value. Trust me – line with parchment paper. Getting the bars out later will be sooooo much easier!

–    In a large heat-resistant (i.e. Pyrex) bowl, toss the oats, almonds, and coconut together.

–    Pour mixture onto baking sheets and spread thin and evenly.

–    Bake in the pre-heated oven for 5 minutes; take out, stir gently, re-flatten out, then place back in the oven for 5 more minutes or until toasty and lightly browned.

–    Remove from oven and pour mixture back into large heat-resistant bowl.

–    In a small sauce pan, place the unsalted butter, honey, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt. Stir ingredients together as you heat the mixture over medium heat, just until the mixture starts to boil.

–    Once boiling, reduce heat just a bit and stir for one minute.

–    Pour the hot liquid over the oat mixture and stir with a wooden spoon. Why wooden? Why wooden you? Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

–    Add the dried fruit and stir again until thoroughly mixed.

–    Pour everything into your prepared 9×13 inch baking dish. Press down until you have an even thickness throughout.

–    Reduce the oven heat to 300 degrees F. (gas mark 2 or stufe 1.5)

–    Bake the granola for 20 minutes, then check every few minutes until the desired level of browning is reached. We stopped after 22 minutes.

–    Remove from oven and let cool for three hours. Refrigeration may help but we didn’t try it this time.

When ready, slice the bars and serve. Ours were about 1 inch wide by 6 inches long. If you don’t want to serve them right away, you can wrap individual bars up in plastic bags. Once sealed up, these bars will keep for several days. They make great snacks for traveling, too!

Enjoy!

French Toast Casserole

French Toast Casserole

French Toast Casserole

French toast casserole is good any time of the day (or night!) A meal, a snack, a guilty pleasure. Call it what you want – I call it delicious!

This is a variation on the original recipe by Ree Drummond, sometimes known as The Pioneer Woman on Food Network. She cooks for her family, which includes a crew of cowboys working at the ranch. Me? Often it’s just two of us so a recipe like this would last us a week of breakfasts. Fortunately, we had the monthly United Methodist Men’s Breakfast at church this morning. There were no complaints and not many leftovers.

Serves: 12-14

Pairs well with fresh blueberries on the side, plus a healthy serving of scrapple for those foolhardy adventurous enough to try it.

Ingredients

1 big loaf of French bread (or the bread of your choice, just nothing too flavorful like pumpernickel or rye)

8 eggs, lightly beaten

2 cups of milk (I used 2 percent instead of Ree’s whole milk. Trying to be healthy, right? Umm. Yeah. That’s the ticket.)

3/4 cup sugar

2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract. Don’t bother with the imitation stuff. Not.the.same.at.all.

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Topping Ingredients

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup light brown sugar (be generous here)

1 more teaspoon of cinnamon

and a 1/2 teaspoon more of nutmeg

8 Tablespoons (113 grams) of butter. Unsalted is fine, not required here. Unless you have that extra stick of unsalted butter you bought last Christmas for that one recipe. And then you went out to eat at the pub instead because your brother insulted your sister’s boyfriends and soon enough people were fighting, lamps were broken and then the third time the police were called… Anyhow – a stick of butter.

Maple syrup to taste, no more than a cup.

Directions

Treat a 9 x 13 inch casserole dish with either butter or cooking spray

Tear the bread into little bite-sized bits and place in the casserole dish.

In a large bowl, mix the eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Pour the egg mixture over the bread. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In a smaller bowl, combine the flour, light brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg.

Add the butter, blending it with the dry ingredients using a fork. You can stop once the mixture has that grainy, crumbly, sandy type of texture.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

…the next morning…

An hour before the herd awakens, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. / 177 degrees C. / or gas mark 4 if that’s how your oven rolls.

Take the breading and the topping bits out of the refrigerator. Uncover the breading and evenly sprinkle the topping bits on top. (Where else would topping bits go, I wonder?)

Bake uncovered for one hour.

While the casserole is baking, make yourself a nice cup of coffee and enjoy the quiet.

Ten minutes before the casserole is done, warm up the cup of maple syrup. Not too hot, just warm enough to make you want to stick your finger in and get a taste. (I won’t tell if you do it.)

Ding!

The casserole comes out of the oven and you now get to drizzle the warm maple syrup all over the lightly browned topping. I made criss-cross patterns when I did it. Be creative. It all sinks in so don’t stress on the artistic merit of your drizzling technique. But have some fun, right?

Serving techniques: you can slice this casserole into squares, or you can just let everyone scoop out what they want using a large spoon.

This is a popular dish. Make sure you get some.

Good job, chef!

Bon appetit!

 

 

Savory Zucchini Quiche

Savory Zucchini Quiche

Savory Zucchini Quiche

Zucchini or courgette, it matters not. The important fact is the taste – and this quiche has it in abundance!

Derived from a recipe found on Facebook (See? Facebook is good for something besides photos of cats) here is a tasty rendition of a zucchini quiche everyone should enjoy.

Ingredients

9 inch pie crust shell (make your own crust if you want – I took the lazy way out and used store bought. But it worked and dinner was ready before the moon rose above the trees.)

4 cups thinly sliced zucchini. Our slices were about an eighth of an inch thick. Too thin and you end up with mush.

And no one likes mush.

1/2 cup of diced onion

2 cloves minced garlic

3 Tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon parsley flakes

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

2 eggs

2 cups shredded Colby-jack cheese

1/4 cup shredded Bruschetta Jack

2 Tablespoons sharp and creamy mustard

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. (gas mark 4)

Bake the pie crust for about 10 minutes or until slightly brown. Burning the crust is right out.

Once done, set on wire rack to cool.

In a large sauce pan, saute the zucchini slices in butter; season with the minced garlic. Once the zucchini starts to brown, remove from heat.

Using a large bowl, mix the spices.

Add the two eggs, whisking them into the spices.

Add the shredded cheeses. Mix well.

Add the zucchini and onions; gently fold into the egg-y cheese-y stuff. (You know, stuff. That may be a culinary term.)

Spread the sharp and creamy mustard inside the pie crust.

Fill the pie shell with the zucchini mixture. Level out somewhat so it is evenly distributed inside the shell.

Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, then start checking the quiche every five minutes.

Once the cheese on top starts to brown, the quiche – she is done!

Take out and let rest for 10 minutes.

Ha! Who can wait that long? Pour yourself a glass of chilled white wine and slice that quiche up and dig in!

Happy eating!

Black Bean Corn Salsa-nated Lentils and Peppers

Black Bean Corn Salsa-nated Lentils and Viggies

Black Bean Corn Salsa-nated Lentils and Peppers (with stir fried vegetables)

After you cook several “big” dishes, such as Mango Lentil Dal, or Artichoke Lentil Loaf, you may come to realize you still have uncooked lentils left over. Looking in the soak pot, I found we had “a lot” of lentils left. If the zombie apocalypse started today, and all access to the grocery store had been cut off by the horde of brain-eating walking dead, we would be fine with the one bag of dried lentils. It never seems to run out. But since the Eastern Shore, for the moment at least, is devoid of zombies, it would be poor form to leave said lentils to slowly die a horrible death inside the refrigerator.

What to do. Hmmm.

Why not take those lentils and add some left over bell peppers and a snit or two from the jar of Amy’s Black Bean & Corn Salsa? You know, the jar that always seems to be in the door of the refrigerator? Could end up with a tasty meal, me thinks.

Turned out to be a great idea! I also stir fried some fresh cut vegetables to give the meal a little more bulk and color. Here’s the easy lentil recipe:

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked lentils (uncooked but soaked overnight, then drained)

Water – enough to cover the lentils once they are in a sauce pan

1 each – red, green and yellow bell pepper. cored and seeded, then rough chopped

1 snit of Amy’s black bean corn salsa (no ‘snit’ mark on your measuring cup? 6 Tablespoons is about the same amount)

1 Tablespoon cumin

Directions

Put the uncooked lentils in a medium sauce pan.

Add water, enough to cover the lentils by a half inch or so.

Add the chopped bell peppers, salsa, and cumin.

Stir gently, then cover.

Heat over medium high until the liquid starts to boil.

Once boiling, reduce heat to medium. You want a simmer only.

Uncover and stir occasionally.

The goal is to allow the liquid to soak into the lentils and to create a “salsa reduction.” In other words, as the liquid cooks down, the salsa and cumin flavor will be brought out for the better. Once you stir the lentils and don’t see any more liquid at the bottom of the sauce pan, you are done!

Remove from heat and cover until the rest of your dinner is done cooking.

(I stir fried veggies while the lentils were cooking. There are a plethora of options for you. Go with your favorite!)

This lentil recipe makes 3 good sized main servings or 4 side servings.

Enjoy!

 

Tomatillo Salsa with a Garlic Kick

Tomatillo

It’s definitely Fall here on the Eastern Shore, and that means the deer have come out of their hiding places to graze everywhere. Especially when darkness sets in. By the way, did I tell you I drive to work at 4:30 am every day? I see plenty of deer. And I drive slowly because they love to eat the grass on the other side of the road. As the saying goes – it’s always greener.

What does this have to do with tomatillo salsa?

Deer out in the Fall means deer hunters will not be too far behind. And if the deer are out and about early, the hunters are up even earlier. Now, I am not a hunter, I’m just surrounded by them here on the Shore. But I do hear the complaints about the cold temperatures, the damp weather, the misery. Makes me want to run right out a get a hunting license. Join me? Didn’t think so.

But having been on more than my fair share of overnight hikes and campouts, I know exactly what these deer hunters need. They need a breakfast that will stay with them for hours as they tromp through the forest, looking for enough venison to last a few months, and maybe a set of antlers to hang on the wall, much to their significant other’s dismay. They need something that will heat up the fires inside the old gut. Something to ward off any cold or flu bug that might fly by.

If we were in England, this might call for Bubble and Squeak. However, in Northampton County, Virginia we prefer the Deer Hunter’s Breakfast Special (from my Nanowrimo novel in progress. The Apple Pie Alibi.)

[This takes a few days to prepare so some advanced planning is in order.]

Day 1: Bake up several russet potatoes. Plan on two per person, at least. Three might be better. Once they have been thoroughly baked, put them in the cooler. You are done for today; go open a bottle of wine.

Day 2: Make the tomatillo salsa

Ingredient’s

6 tomatillos, husks removed

6 cloves of garlic – with the skin still on. (This is the kick!)

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

1 Tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

½ teaspoon salt

1 package of chocolate truffles

1 bottle of good red wine

Directions:

In your oven, broil the whole tomatillos and the garlic, two minutes for the garlic and about five minutes for the tomatillos. You don’t want the garlic to burn and you do want the tomatillos to char and get soft. Leave the char on because it will give the salsa umpff (that’s a technical culinary term, I believe.)  Once you have taken the garlic away from the broiler, you can peel the skin off the cloves, assuming you either have very thick skin or you have let the garlic cool enough.

Once the tomatillos have choicely charred, let them cool for a minute whilst you find the blender or food processor. It is undoubtedly in the lowest kitchen cabinet, behind several cookery machines you use more often. It’s the dusty one right next to that new Panini maker you wasted 45 dollars on bought for yourself for your birthday one year, yeah, at least five years ago. Make a note to try a second time with that one. But later. For now, you need the blender way in the back. Yes, that’s the one. Don’t forget the lid.

Put all of the ingredients (except the chocolate and the bottle of wine) into a blender and pulse the blades until the salsa has the consistency you desire. Some people like to keep their salsa rather on the chunky side, others like more of a smooth sauce-like feel and as such blend the mixture until all of the pieces have been pulverized. Your choice.

Once everything has blended, put into a mason jar, cover and place in the refrigerator overnight. This is important because it allows the flavors to meld together and intensify. In the meantime, eat a few chocolate truffles and then take the bottle of red wine and go watch some television. With enough wine, all of the shows will look appealing.

Day 3: Dice up the baked potatoes and put them in a large skillet. Add a good hunk or two of butter and some salt and pepper, then turn on the heat and fry the taters up. Once some of the potato cubes start to brown and crisp up, it is time to ladle on a bit of the tomatillo salsa. Let the heat sink in until the salsa and potatoes seem hot.

Now, as the potatoes and salsa are heating back up, in a separate pan scramble some eggs, again two to three per person.

Putting it all together

Put a layer of potatoes and salsa on your plate, and top with the scrambled eggs. Add salt and pepper if that’s your habit. The salsa should be enough spice today.

Eat like there’s no tomorrow. And don’t worry about the calories; remember you are going to be out in the elements so take every advantage you can.

The Deer Hunter’s Breakfast Special – you can’t go wrong!

Cheers!