"Food is our common ground, a universal experience." - James Beard

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wine Wednesday - Tarantas Cava Brut

This is a great organic sparkling wine from Spain. It is made using the traditional "champenoise method" which means that it goes through two fermentations - like sparkling wines that come from the Champagne region of France. The most widely noted aromas/tastes from critics are apple and spice. It is said to have soft and clean finish. This Cava goes well with light dishes and is recommended for toasts or cocktail hours. I visited an organic vineyard when I was in France a few years ago. I loved the wines there and brought back a few bottles. This operation is pretty large - the largest producers of "quality" organic Cava in Spain, actually.

Kent and I bought our first bottle about six months ago at Whole Foods. I usually like sweeter sparkling wines while Kent prefers drier ones. This one is great because it isn't very sweet, but it's also not tart or too sharp. We both loved it and have kept one on hand ever since. It usually sells for around $13, and Whole Foods occasionally has them on sale.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Gran's Cheese Straws

Even though I love my grandmother's oatmeal cookies (see previous post), her most famous recipe is her Cheese Straw Recipe. She made these for more weddings, showers, and parties than I could ever count! She always made them when we were coming to visit. And my mom would make them whenever my brother or I got sick - they always made us feel better! In college, I started making them for my friends and taking them to the Grove. It is such a wonderful southern recipe - great for wedding/baby showers and tailgating!

Gran's Cheese Straws
3 sticks of Parkay
1 lb sharp cheddar cheese (Craft Gold - Cracker Barrel)
Pinch of salt
4 cups of sifted flour

Finely grate the cheese (my family uses a wheel grater because it grates the cheese so finely and makes it soft enough to combine with the butter. Using a mixer (preferably a stand mixer, I burned out the motor in my hand-held mixer because the dough gets so tough) combine the grated cheese and butter completely. Add the salt and begin adding the flour very slowly - in very small amounts. Once everything is incorporated, spoon the mixture into a cookie press. Using the disc that has a ridge on top and is flat on the bottom, squeeze the mixture through the cookie press in long lines on a cookie sheet. Then bake for about 10 minutes (or until golden brown) at 400 degrees. Once they cool, use a spatula with a sharp edge to cut them into large pieces and serve!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Miss Lenoree's Oatmeal Cookies

This is my very favorite cookie recipe! My grandmother created the recipe and made them for years. The recipe has appeared in several cookbooks throughout Alabama, usually as "Miss Lenoree's Oatmeal Cookies". You may need to cut the recipe in half as it yields about 8 dozen cookies!

1½ cups white sugar
1½ cups brown sugar (packed)
4 eggs
2 cups oil
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp water
3 cups of plain flour
2 tsp of salt
2 tsp of baking soda
4 cups of oatmeal
1 bag Heath bits
Optional: cup raisins, chopped walnuts, or chocolate chips

Use a large bowl. Beat sugars and 4 eggs well with electric mixer. Add oil, vanilla, and water. Mix well. Add flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix well. Then add by hand oatmeal and Heath bits. Then, if desired, add one or two of the optional ingredients. Mixture will be very stiff. Roll into balls and drop on cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes or until done.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Texas Caviar

It's football season which means it's time for tailgating food! Texas Caviar is one of the easiest dips to make for a large group of people. I always made it for the Grove! And it works well for family gatherings as well.

Texas Caviar

2 cans of black-eyed peas
2 can of black beans
1 can of yellow corn
1 can of shoepeg corn
2 cans petite diced tomatoes (or fresh tomatoes)
1 green (or red or yellow) bell pepper (chopped)
1 red onion (chopped)
1 bunch of green onion (chopped)
1 jalepeno pepper (chopped and seeded)
1/2 bunch of cilantro (chopped)
1 lime
1 bottle of Zesty Italian Dressing

Drain all canned items. In a very large container, mix all canned and chopped ingredients listed above the line. Then squeeze a lime over the ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Then pour about half of the bottle of dressing over the mixture. Stir everything together well. It tastes best if you refrigerate it for a few hours before serving. Then serve with tortilla chips!

One of the best things about this recipe is that you can leave out any ingredients that you don't like and add in almost anything! You can also alter the amounts of any of the ingredients to get specific flavor combinations. Leftovers taste great over grilled chicken.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wine Wednesday - Whole Foods 365

I tried to do some research to find out more information about Whole Foods 365 wines. As part of their "everyday value" line, they offer different seasonal wines. It seems that they only carry a few types of wine at a time. I believe they buy wine from different vineyards and display a joint label that advertises the vineyard and Whole Foods. They sell them at low prices - usually around $6.00. This summer I was able to buy Burgundy with a certain label. Now they have Merlot and Chardonnay - but they are from a different vineyard.

All of this is to say, that the ones I have tasted so far have not been my favorites for drinking. But, they are great for cooking! Paula Dean says that you should never cook with a wine you wouldn't drink. But, I find it hard to pour a cup or two of my favorite wines into the crock pot. So far I've used the Burgundy for pot roasts - it adds great flavor and smells so good! And I've used the Chardonnay with chicken and couscous. I haven't tried the Merlot - but I'm sure it will work well with meat also. These wines don't seem to be too sweet like many other inexpensive wines. Let me know if you have any suggestions for great wines for cooking!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Thumb Print Cookies

This is such a great southern cookie. I've probably made this recipe more than any other dessert. They look so professional - just like ones from a bakery - so you can serve them at any event! I've died the icing red or blue for tailgating, pink for showers, and different pastels for Easter.

Thumb Print Cookies
1/4 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. Crisco
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 egg, separated
1/2 t. vanilla
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 t. salt
3/4 c. finely chopped nuts (optional, I usually leave these out)

Heat oven to 350. Mix thoroughly butter, shortening, sugar, egg yolk, and vanilla. Work in flour and salt until dough holds together. Shape dough by teaspoonfuls into 1-inch balls.

Beat egg white slightly. Dip each ball into egg white; roll in nuts (I usually dash them with sprinkles instead - but this can get very messy!) Place 1 inch apart on ungreased baking sheet. (They tend to stick to the pan so I've started using parchment paper on top of my pans so that I don't have to break any of the cookies or scrape the pans too long.) Press thumb deeply into center of each but do not break through the bottom. Bake about 10 minutes or until light brown. Immediately remove from baking sheet. Cool. Fill thumbprints with jelly or Confectioners Sugar Icing. (Makes about 1 dozen.)

Confectioners Sugar Icing:
1 c. confectioners sugar
1 T. milk
a few drops of peppermint extract
tint with a few drops of food coloring.
(Mix until smooth. Do not make the icing until you are ready to begin filling the cookies. It will start to harden. But, it takes several hours to harden completely. I usually make and ice the cookies the day before so they have plenty of time to set up.)

Cookbook recommendation: A Cookbook for My Southern Daughter/by: Patsy Smith
This recipe is adapted from Patsy Smith's cookbook. My mom gave it to me when I was in Junior High School, and I have been using it ever since. I've made tons of the recipes in this book, and they are always great! The books are only available in certain stores, but you can buy them on-line.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Spinach and Cheese Squares

Kent and I have made these as appetizers for church events, and they are a big hit! Finger foods are always great appetizers because then guests can pick up the food and move around instead of hovering over the table. These squares taste like quiche but are easier to make.

Spinach and Cheese Squares
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 cup finely chopped shallot
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped fresh spinach
1 pound shredded Cheddar cheese

Position the rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 12-by-9-inch baking pan.

In a bowl, using an electric mixer on medium speed, combine the milk, butter, eggs, shallot, flour, and baking powder - mix well. Add the spinach and cheese and stir to mix. Spread into the pan and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a golden brown. Cool set on a wire rack and cut into small squares for serving.

(From 1001 Snacks by Gregg R. Gillespie)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken

This is one of the first meat recipes I ever tried. Sally and I tried it sophomore year of college. It turned out so well that I've been making it ever since! It's really easy and turns out beautifully. It's good for when you're having company over - though it only feeds about four people. The whole house will smell amazing!

Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken
1 (5-6lb) whole roasting chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch of thyme
1 bunch of rosemary
4 lemons
3 heads of garlic
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 lb sliced bacon
1 cup of white wine
1/2 cup chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove anything from inside the chicken and discard. Wash the chicken in the sink, making sure to get off any feathers. Pat dry. Place it in a large roasting pan. Salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the thyme and rosemary (save some to garnish the outside). Cut the lemons and heads of garlic in half. Stuff two lemon halves and two garlic halves inside the chicken. Brush the outside of the chicken with butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. I usually sprinkle some of the thyme and garlic on the outside as well. Top the chicken with about 5 or 6 pieces of bacon. Place the remaining lemon halves and garlic halves in the roasting pan (I usually squeeze the lemons over the chicken first). Add the cup of wine and 1/2 cup chicken stock to the pan.

Bake in the oven for 1 hour. Then remove the bacon and place it to the side. Cook the chicken for an additional 30-45 minutes depending on the chicken size and oven.

It will be beautiful when it comes out of the oven. The bacon can be served as a side (or eaten as a snack while you wait for the chicken to finish cooking!) Though this recipe may seem difficult, it is actually pretty easy. You can substitute any of the herbs for different flavors. This recipe is based off of one of Ina Garten's recipes - but she makes a gravy instead of cooking the chicken in the juices. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/lemon-and-garlic-roast-chicken-recipe/index.html

Suggested side dish:
This is really great with couscous. Instead of cooking the couscous (just buy a pack at the store in the rice aisle) in water, use chicken stock and white wine. This will go well with the same flavors in the chicken.

If Kent and I eat it by ourselves, we keep the leftovers to put in a different dish later in the week. It makes great chicken salad.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Balsamic Pork Tenderloin

This is one of my favorite meat dishes that Kent makes. We love to make it when we have guests over for dinner. And it is great left-over!

Balsamic Pork Tenderloin
1 pkg. of pork tenderloins (usually 2 come bundled together)
4 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
4-6 gloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp. rosemary, finely chopped
1 tbsp. thyme
Olive oil

Clean silver skin and fat off of the tenderloins. Cut small slits in the tenderloins so that they can absorb more of the liquid. Rub down in balsamic vinegar (it may take more or less than the 4 tbsp. - use just enough to cover the tenderloins.) Mix the garlic, rosemary, and thyme. Then add small amounts of olive oil, stirring, until the mixture forms into a paste. Rub the paste into the tenderloins. Allow it to sit for 30-45 minutes. (You can do the marinating ahead of time and refrigerate until 20 minutes before you begin cooking.) Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes at 425 degrees. Use a meat thermometer to determine when the tenderloins are finished - we like the thermometer to read 150-155 degrees (165 is the recommended safe temperature, but it may become dry.)

Suggested side dish - Grilled eggplant and zucchini
For 2 people use 1 large eggplant and 2 zucchini. Cut both ends off of the vegetables. Then slice lengthwise into long strips. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill on a grill pan or George Foreman. When they are cooked through, drizzle with a balsamic vinaigrette. (A suggested vinaigrette can be found on the August 31st post below.) Other vegetables, like peppers or tomatoes could be used as well.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Black Bean Soup - by Katie Groves

This recipe was submitted to the blog by my college friend, Katie. I'm sure it will be great! I can't wait to try it!

Katie says...
"If you like red beans and rice ... this is a much healthier version with black beans and turkey sausage. Only about 150 calories per serving (not including rice)."

Nancy's Black Bean Soup
1 bag black beans
2-3 ham hocks
1 can chicken broth
1 8oz. can tomato sauce
1 tsp groun cumin
1/2 c. chopped onion
1 diced poblano peper
1 diced jalapeno
1 ring turkey sausage, sliced into rounds
Tobasco Sauce

Soak beans with ham hocks as per package (can be done by boiling or soaking overnight). About an hour before you're ready to eat the soup, remove ham hocks and discard. Turn stove heat on high and add remaining ingredients to beans and stir. Bring to a gentle boil for 2 minutes, than let simmer on low-med/low heat for approx. 45min-1hr. Serve over white rice and garnish with sour cream and scallions or cilantro. Yields: about 10 servings.

Can be frozen and is great left over!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Fresh Asparagus

This is more of a tip than a recipe for cooking fresh asparagus. My friend, Sally, showed me how to easily cook this side dish for any meal. If you haven't liked asparagus in the past because canned asparagus is too mushy and fresh asparagus can be hard and stringy - you should give it one more try!

Take a bunch of asparagus and wash in cold water. Snap the thick ends off and discard. Take a long sheet of aluminum foil and place it on top of a cookie sheet. Fold the ends of the foil up so that liquid will not be able to escape. Lay the asparagus flat on the foil and salt and pepper liberally. Then either drizzle with olive oil or place thin slices of butter around the asparagus. Cook at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes depending on how thick the stalks are.

For a slight variation, you can marinate the asparagus in the olive oil and salt/pepper then cook them on a grill pan.
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