07/28/2011

Lemon Chess Pie….A Sweet, Easy Classic

Well, I thought it was time to take a break from veggies and I’ve been craving something sweet.  I tend to lean towards savory flavors as you can tell but my boys definitely like desserts, especially Big Sweetie.  So, I starting thinking about what I wanted to make that would be easy, distract me from the laundry and my “To Do” list.  More about those things later.  Not only did I want something easy, I wanted to make something from ingredients that I had on hand.  So, I went shopping in my pantry and mercy day, it came to me.  Chess pie!  This recipe is a Southern Classic.  You can make a regular Chess pie, coconut, chocolate or my favorite, lemon. 

With ingredients in hand, I got in the kitchen.  Don’t fall over when you read how easy this is!

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
  • zest of 2 lemons
  • 1 Tablespoon flour
  • 1 Tablespoon corn meal – I use finely ground white
  • 1 prepared or homemade pie crust

Mix all ingredients together and blend well with a whisk or fork.  No electric mixer needed.  Pour into a 9 inch pie crust.  Bake in a slow oven at 300 degrees for 1 hour or until golden brown.

Friends, I am not kidding….that’s it and boy is it good!  It’s sweet with a great crust and the lemon gives it a wonderfully fresh flavor.  So, while my pie was baking for that hour, I tried to negotiate a truce with the laundry.  We (me and the laundry) have been fighting for over a year and so far, I am losing.  I’m not sure where all the dirties come from but my new theory is that while we’re out of the house, someone comes in here, wears our clothes and leaves them dirty.  Anyway, I REALLY am trying to get a better attitude about the laundry…maybe the pie will help.
Now, if I can just work on that “To Do” list…fiddle-dee-dee…I’ll think about that tomorrow.
Counting my blessings,
Donya

07/26/2011

Squash Casserole

It’s been a little over a week since “the incident” but summer squash and I have made up!  Finally, I feel like bringing some of that yellow goodness back into my kitchen.  This time though, I decided to leave the mandolin in it’s box….that was the real trouble maker anyway! I just used my chef’s knife.  Things turned out great.  I have always been a lover of summer squash.  Whether stewed, fried, grilled, stuffed or in a casserole, I am a FAN!  My guy, Hunter and I eat sauteed squash with onion about once a week – the two other dudes…not diggin’ it.  Their loss.  So, today I decided to treat Hunter to a surprise – squash casserole.  If you are a Southerner, or have lived here for any amount of time, you know this is a “regular” at the dinner table, covered dish or church event in the summer.  If you are not from here and have never tried this creamy goodness, well, just come on over – I’ll make the introductions!  For this casserole, I changed it up just a little bit due to ingredients that I had on hand. I think it turned out better than ever.  I also cooked mine in a cast iron skillet just because I like for the edges to get a little crunchy….if taking to an event, I’d put it into a casserole dish.  Hope you’ll try it…let’s get cooking….

  • about 6 squash, sliced into medium rounds
  • 1 medium vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1 T. butter
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese – try to grate your own if you can
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • splash of milk (about 1/8 c.)
  • 1/4 cup crushed butter crackers
  • 1/4 cup crushed pretzels
  • butter to dot

Saute the squash and onion in butter with salt and pepper until tender.  Coat the bottom of casserole dish or cast iron with butter.  Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl.  Mix in the cheese, sour cream and milk.  Gently fold in the squash and onion mixture.  Pour into baking dish.  Top with the cracker/pretzel crumbs and dot with butter.  Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Most of the squash recipes I’ve had are topped with a great cracker topping.  Well, I only had enough crackers to barely top my dish so I decided to go with what I had on hand – pretzels.  I loved the outcome and so did Hunter!  Great crunch with a little saltiness, so I’m keeping this one.  Lesson learned, use what you have, be creative…..you just never know if this will be the change that last forever.
Counting my blessings,
-Donya

07/22/2011

Infused Oils from Basil, Garlic & Chipotle

    It’s hot outside, you don’t really feel like cooking but you want something with flavor.  Or, it’s hot outside, you’re tired and dinner needs to be quick and easy.  Around here, the best way for me to perk up a single dish or meal is with infused oils, you know, oil with something special.  They are easy to make, can help you stretch a dollar and can really kick up the flavor of an ordinary dish. My guys love to have the garlic oil, add a few flakes of red pepper, salt and Parmesan cheese with a big hunk of crunchy bread, yes ma’am!  I mix it up and have it out on the counter for them to snack on while I cook dinner.  I love to serve the Chipotle oil (this stuff is wicked good) with roasted chicken.  Of course, the basil oil is awesome with fish.

The thing is….these oils can be used on just about anything!  I’ve used them as a base for salad dressing and also put them on sandwiches.  All you need to do is set aside a little time, gather your ingredients and have fun with your food.  Probably my biggest challenge with these oils is remembering all of the ways I have used them and new recipes I want to try….duh – maybe a notebook in the kitchen would help?  That suggestion came from my Sweetie because he was tired of hearing me stomp around the kitchen talking to myself about dishes that I couldn’t remember.  Oh well, I’ll think about that tomorrow… So, back to the oils….give them a try! 
You don’t need any special equipment, just a standard blender or a handheld “boat motor” and a few mason jars for storage.  Once you’ve made them, just seal ’em up and store in the fridge for about a week but I’m not sure they’ll last that long.  Here they are, three of my fav’s…

Chipotle Oil
*this recipe is from George, the Chef at 1618 Seafood Grill. I’ve loved this infused oil, the restaurant and George’s dishes for years and so has Picky Sweetie!!

  • 2 cups canola oil
  • 1Tbs salt – make sure to taste, you might want to add more
  • 1 Tbs tomato paste
  • 1 Tbs fresh garlic
  • 6 canned chipotle peppers soaked in adobe sauce. Put all ingredients in a tall metal or glass container and process with hand blender until smooth.  You can also use a standard blender.

Basil Oil

  • 2 ounces fresh basil – abut 2 cups packed
  • 3/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/8 tsp. of salt
  • In a small bowl, prepare an ice bath – water and ice cubes.  Bring about 2 cups of water to boil in a small sauce pan.  Add the basil leaves and make sure they are all submerged.  Cook for about 10-12 seconds.  Immediately scoop out with a slotted spoon and transfer to the ice bath.  Once they have cooled, remove to paper towels to drain.  Gently squeeze the paper towels to remove as much of the liquid as possible.  Pour oil into large metal or glass container add salt and mix with hand blender.  Add 1/2 of the basil leaved and process briefly.  Add the remaining leaves and blend until all leaves are pureed.  Add a few fresh basil leaves, blend well.  This will brighten the flavor to total freshness. 

Garlic Oil

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 cloves of garlic – crushed
  • In a small saucepan, gently heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it is fragrant but not colored, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Cover and let steep for 1 hour. Strain into a bottle or jar and discard the garlic. FYI – this stuff disappears right before my eyes….not quite sure what these boys use it for but everyone seems quite happy…along with their friends!
I hope you make at least one of these recipes and find new ways to enjoy them.  Be bold and go for it or just sneak them into dishes….you’ll be amazed at the outcome.  Have a great weekend!
Counting my blessings,
07/20/2011

Homemade Tomato Soup

OK – I know my last post was about tomatoes but I just couldn’t resist.  I am getting so many sweet friends from my own plants and then there are the ones that I can’t pass up from the farmers market so, here’s another recipe with tomatoes being the star of the show. 
A couple of years ago I went on a quest to find a great tomato soup recipe.  This was a bit more of a task than I expected.  At this point, I can’t remember how many pots of soup I made and of course, I had my family taste each one.  Some were too bland, some were too spicy and some, well, were just awful.  I kinda felt like Goldilocks….searching for one that tasted “just right.”  Finally, my boys had had enough….”just make up your own recipe, for Pete’s sake!”  So, after a few more tries, I found just the right fit.  I have taken this soup to many luncheons and covered dish events and it always gets rave reviews. I put it in a crock pot to keep warm and away we go.  You may be thinking…tomato soup in summer?  Well, I like it chilled with a little dollop of sour cream and fresh basil.  You can also partially make the soup and freeze it for the cooler months to come -more about that later.  There’s the story….let’s get cookin’…

Ingredients

  • 2 1/2 lbs of tomatoes – a blend of several different kinds work best.  I use fresh, Roma, and grape tomatoes
  • 1 medium to large red onion, sliced
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 bay leaves, 3 if small
  • 2 cups of chicken stock
  • Pinch of cayanne pepper
  • 3 T. butter
  • Hunter the Helper!
  • 1 cup of half and half
  • fresh basil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wash and quarter the tomatoes.  Take out seeds.  If using cherry tomatoes, you can just leave them whole.  Put tomatoes, onion and garlic on baking sheet.  Drizzle with olive oil, coating well.  Season liberally with salt and pepper.  Roast in oven for approximately 30 minutes or until you see the tomatoes start to caramelize.  Remove from oven and place into a stock pot.
Add the chicken stock, bay leaves, cayanne pepper and butter.  Bring to a boil and reduce the liquid by about 1/3. Puree the soup until smooth using an immersion blender (the boat motor as the boys call it) or a blender.  ***If you plan on making this soup for future use, cool and put into airtight containers for freezing.  When ready to use, thaw the soup and pick up the recipe where you left off.***  Add half and half and return to a low simmer.  At this point -stop and taste!  Adjust the salt and pepper.  Serve with fresh basil – Enjoy!!

The real key to this soup is the roasting.  Make sure that you caramelize the tomatoes, onions and garlic so that the intensity of their flavors come out. One more thing – No, you cannot use skim or 2% milk!  You are only using a cup and will lose the richness of the soup if you cut corners – just saying.  I most often make a double batch to use throughout the week for lunch and as an after school snack.