Friday, December 19, 2008

Dixie Caviar

There are so many versions of this recipe, and it really comes down to what you like. I'm putting measurements here, but I can honestly say I've never measured a thing for this. I just put it all together until it looks like I want it to. It tastes even better after sitting in the fridge overnight.

Dixie Caviar


-2 cans black-eyed peas, drained (or you can use a bag of frozen, thawed)
-1 can black beans, drained
-1 can hominy or shoepeg corn, drained
-2 tomatoes, diced
-1 small onion, diced
-3-4 green onions, diced
-2 jalapenos, diced
-2-3 cloves garlic, minced (honestly, I use the pre-minced stuff in the jar... no one knows)
-cilantro to taste
-2ish cups bottled Italian dressing (if you add in more ingredients above, you may need up to the whole bottle)

Mix it all in a bowl together and enjoy with tortilla chips. You can garnish with cilantro and sour cream, or just serve those things on the side.

*Other variations inclue various types of beans, olives, pimentos, etc... The possibilities are endless.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Menus

I've finally nailed down (I think, anyway) the Christmas menus. Christmas Eve will be coming and going as we take turns going to the Christmas Eve services and visiting with everyone, so that will be an appetizer meal. Recipes and pictures to come.

Most of the things I've chosen are because a) a lot can be done ahead of time, b) there's some healthy stuff thrown in (I know, who eats healthy on Christmas??), and c) it's good stuff!

Christmas Eve:

Onion souffle with melba toast
Dixie Caviar and Ro-tel dip with tortilla chips
Crudités
Spicy Chicken on Pita Wedges
Marinated Asparagus With Pecans
Whatever frozen bite-sized appetizer looks good at Costco
Apple Pecan Bread
Lemon Custard Bites

Christmas Morning:

Pierogs (tradition in my husband's family)
Cheese Grits
Mini Quiche (so cheating and getting these at Costco)
Banana bread
Pumpkin bread
Fruit
Coffee, Tea, OJ

Christmas Lunch:

Ham
Roasted Broccoli
Roasted Roots (carrots and parsnips)
Pyramid Potatoes
Green beans with lemon, garlic, and toasted almonds
Corn Casserole (I had to have at least one casserole)
The Famous Rolls
Birthday Cake (kidlet turns 1 on Christmas day!)
Pie of some variety

Christmas Evening:

Tuscan Vegetable Soup
Harvest Grains Ciabatta

The plan for all of the cooking:

Weekend before:

  • Make the spicy chicken topping for the spicy chicken pita wedges and freeze
  • Bake apple pecan, banana, and pumpkin breads and freeze
  • Make and bake pierogs and freeze
  • Since I need the ham for the pierogs, go ahead and bake it with the honey glaze, cut into slices, and freeze
  • Assemble pyramid potatoes and freeze before baking
  • Make rolls and freeze
  • Bake more harvest grain ciabatta and freeze

Tuesday (23rd):

  • Chop all onions I'll need and keep in baggies in fridge
  • Make Dixie Caviar (it's actually better after a day or so)
  • Make marinated asparagus (needs to sit overnight)

Wednesday (24th):

Morning

  • Pick up birthday cake (sounds like a great job for the Hubs and kidlet!)
  • Assemble onion souffle and refrigerate until ready to bake
  • Make lemon custard bites and refrigerate
  • Make green beans for Christmas Day

Late Afternoon

  • Assemble pita wedges
  • Bake onion souffle
  • Throw some Velveeta and Ro-tel into a mini slow-cooker
  • Bake appetizers from freezer
  • Take top off of veggie tray (Seriously, I'm not doing all that chopping and washing. Costco is just as capable.)

Night

  • Assemble corn casserole and refrigerate
  • Take ham, potatoes, pierogs, and breads out of freezer to fridge

Christmas Day:

For Breakfast

  • Make cheese grits
  • Heat up quiche and pierogs
  • Set everything out

Mid-Morning

  • Roast broccoli and root vegetables
  • Put pyramid potatoes and corn casserole in oven to bake
  • Heat up green beans, ham, and rolls
  • Enjoy lunch!

Late afternoon

  • Make soup & warm up bread

Having a plan breaks everything up nicely and allows me to not spend too much time in the kitchen while everyone is here. And it also ensures I won't forget anything!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Menu Saturday (On Friday Again...)

This week is a little calmer, thankfully. Whew.

Saturday: Leftover soup
Sunday: Pork tenderloin (garlic, rosemary, olive oil, s&p), asparagus, bruschetta
Monday: Pork tenderloin panini (French bread, tenderloin slices, manchego cheese, apple slice), fruit
Tuesday: Chicken and rice casserole from the freezer
Wednesday: Mexican Lasagna topped with lettuce, tomatoes, and green onion
Thursday: leftovers
Friday: Chicken thighs with pear and leek sauce, green beans, peas, Harvest Grains Ciabatta

Friday, December 5, 2008

Menu Saturday (on Friday)

Ah, the parties. They start this week for us, which means that the meals I plan really need to be healthy. In addition to our dinner meals, I'm making a big pot of cabbage soup for lunches, so that I don't do my typical lunch grazing next week.

Saturday: Party
Sunday: Baked salmon, asparagus, zucchini
Monday: Chicken stir-fry with brown rice
Tuesday: Party for me, leftovers for Hubs
Wednesday: Whole wheat pasta with 5-minute tomato sauce, peas, green beans
Thursday: Party
Friday: Tuscan Vegetable Soup, Harvest Grains Ciabatta

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cheese Grits

One thing we southerners love is our cheese grits. And, this does not just mean grits with cheese melted on top (I always find that such a disappointment at restaurants). They're great for brunch or breakfast, or for dinner with some shrimp on top.

There are recipes all over the place, but the easiest and tastiest I've found is from Southern Living. I pretty much start with theirs, and then adapt it to what I'm in the mood for.

Creamy Cheese Grits
adapted from Southern Living

Ingredients:

5 cups of water
2-3 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups quick-cooking grits
4 oz sharp cheddar, shredded
4 oz colby-jack, shredded
1/2 cup half-and-half
2 Tbs butter
1/2 - 1 tsp pepper

Directions:

Bring water and salt to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in grits* and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer, stirring frequently until thickened (may take up to 10 minutes, mine usually only take about 6). Stir in cheese and then remaining ingredients until cheese is melted and mixture is blended. Serve immediately.**

*It is important to whisk the grits as you add them, otherwise they'll become lumpy.
**I've had no trouble reheating these in the past. You might need to add a little extra moisture, but they're great.

Other variations - you could try extra sharp cheddar - I like the extra bite, but not everyone does. You could also add extra spices or tobasco. Just depends on your taste.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

French Bread

I never thought I could make homemade French bread. It just seemed too difficult. Until I actually looked at a recipe, and decided that I could conquer this breadmaking task.

I used the recipe over at My Kitchen Cafe (lots of other great stuff there as well) for Grandma's French Bread. I couldn't get over how easy this was. Using the stand mixer made things simple, and then all I had to do by hand was roll it out. I even did this in between putting up Christmas decorations, so even though the total time it took before baking was an hour and a half, very little of that time was spent in the kitchen with it.
Two things I will change next time - I got a little flour-happy and a little cornmeal-happy in the last couple of steps. I will use less of each for the rolling out and baking steps. The bread still tastes fantastic, though. This is fabulous recipe!

Weekly Menu

The CSA ended last week, so it's back to whatever veggies look good at the grocery store, as well as the frozen ones. Also, Kroger had their 15 lb bags of potatoes on sale this week, so it's going to be a potato kind of week at our house.

Saturday: braised beef with mushroom and cabernet, mashed potatoes, asparagus
Sunday: Leftovers
Monday: Twice-baked potatoes, lima beans, corn
Tuesday: Leftover potatoes, peas, broccoli
Wednesday: Leftover potatoes, peas, corn
Thursday: Penne with 5-minute tomato sauce, focaccia, green beans with lemon and garlic
Friday: Leftovers

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Attention, Please

OK, now that I have your attention, I must direct you to Bakerella's blog. I stumbled upon her blog from Pioneer Woman's (another you must check out).

She makes the cutest stinking things I have ever seen. AND, she makes it look easy. I'm guessing from the cuteness and tasty quotient that these things are not easy, but she gives me hope. I'm going to try some cake pops at some point during the holiday season.

So, if you need good baking ideas, go check this site out. And if you're not a baker, her stuff just might convince you to become one.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Onion Soufflé

All of my Memphis friends are familiar with this dish, but it's so easy, so fail-proof, and so well-loved that I have to share it. This makes a fantastic appetizer for any event. You can also easily remember it off the top of your head: 3, 2, 1, 1/2.

Next time I make this, I'll be sure to take a picture. It's absolutely delicious!

Onion Souffle

3 8-oz packages of cream cheese, softened
2 cups parmesan cheese, grated
1 onion, diced (I usually use a medium-large white onion)
1/2 cup mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a pie plate, or similarly sized dish.

Mix all ingredients together (this works best in a stand mixer). Transfer to pie plate and bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. I like for the top of mine to get brown, but most everyone else I know takes it out of the oven a little before then.

Serve hot with corn chips or melba toast.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Apple Pecan Bread

I had a bag of apples I needed to use today, and Good Things Catered just happened to have a recipe posted for apple pecan bread. Since I really didn't want a pie, I figured this would be a great recipe to try out.

I didn't have any pecans on hand, so I made the bread without them. It tastes great with just the apples, but I'll add in the pecans next time I make it. I loved it, and it also made the house smell fantastic!

I took a picture, but it didn't do it justice, so just check out the pics over at the original post.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Popovers

I've made popovers several times in the past, and I've never had any issues. It wasn't until I was looking for a recipe tonight that I realized how many things can go wrong. Since I had no idea what I was doing before, we'll just chalk my previous popover experiences up to good luck.

I wanted an easy bread for dinner tonight. Popovers require no proofing, no kneading, and you can even mix them by hand. I used this recipe.


Everything out and ready to go.

Ready to head into the oven

Out of the oven. Not as "poppy" as I'd like, but they were still quite tasty. Yum.

Mise En Place

I had the opportunity to take a Viking cooking class a few years ago, and it was fantastic. I learned all kinds of tips and tricks that I continue to use daily.

Probably the biggest lesson I took away was the concept of mise en place, which means "everything in place." This means that before you begin to cook or assemble a recipe, you've checked to make sure you have all the ingredients and necessary tools, and you've also cut, peeled, diced, and measured all the ingredients. Think: lots of little bowls. I used to (and still sometimes do) cook via the "find it as you need it" method. Needless to say, this wastes time and resources - especially if you get all the way through a recipe before you realize you're missing a key ingredient.

As I've begun to experiment with baking, I'm learning how important this is. It makes things go so much more smoothly to have everything out and ready to go.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Focaccia

I decided to start this baking thing with chocolate chip cookies (forgot to take a picture, but they're good) and focaccia. I LOVE focaccia.

When I found this recipe over at King Arthur Flour, I thought it was just too good to be true. It's so easy. Really - you just throw it all in the mixer, then in the pan, let it rise for an hour or so, then into the oven. No kneading. No rolling. No any of that other stuff I associate with the pain of breadmaking.

And, it was great. I added in some rosemary, oregano, parmesan, and black pepper. I did feel it was somewhat bland, so I will add more herbs and some coarse salt on top next time. Maybe even some asiago. This will be a go-to for me from now on, especially if we're having pasta.


Before going in the oven (I couldn't find my 9x13 pan, so I cut the recipe in half and baked it this way)

Yum!