March 31, 2009

Can This Herb Garden Be Saved?

Herb Garden this week . . .



Herb Garden early summer 2008 . . .


Break out the wellies, pruning shears and rake! Or maybe a trip to the garden center to purchase some little pots of inspiration. Hmmm . . . I'll be back! Stay tuned.

March 29, 2009

Barefoot Bloggers: Tomato and Goat Cheese Tart

The second of this month's recipes for Barefoot Bloggers was Tomato and Goat Cheese Tarts, chosen by Anne of Anne Strawberry.



I almost made this recipe "as written," but my practical side took over, so I used some grape tomatoes I had on hand instead of buying yucky winter tomatoes. And as a concession to the smaller tomatoes, I also cut out the puff pastry with a biscuit cutter to make them pick-up party size. As far as those changes go, everything was a success. The grape tomatoes tasted tomato-y and the size was perfect for pass-around hors d'oeuvres. Score one for practical adaptations!

At the risk of being branded as a less-than-loyal Barefoot Contessa fan though, I really have to say that . . . while these were good, and certainly better than most hors d'oeuvres at fancy parties . . . they just didn't do it for me. Even my husband, who is usually easier to please with food than I am, thought they needed something more. I thought they might need something less. Although all the component parts were tasty in their own right, together they somehow missed. No flavor sensation. My taste buds were working overtime to process herbed goat cheese AND Parmesan cheese AND caramelized onions and garlic AND tomatoes AND basil. I love layers of flavor, but this combination just didn't come together for the finish.

Would I make these again? Yes. I loved the bite-size puff pasty idea and the cheese, tomato, basil combo. Next time I'll try mixing it up a little to find the combo that makes my taste buds dance. How about tomato, feta and basil? Or tomato, feta and kalamata olives? Or tomato, basil and Parmesan? Or caramelized onions, Parmesan and rosemary? Or herb goat cheese, tomatoes, basil and bacon? Best of all, I can't wait until the real summer tomatoes arrive to crank up the flavor. But I doubt I will be making the recipe exactly as written again! I need more harmony in my life than these discordant flavors could deliver.

Definitely do try the puff pastry cut into bite-size circles when you need an impressive party food, and follow Ina's recipe guidelines for preparing the puff pastry and baking too. Any flavor combo favorite you choose would be easy to make ahead and serve at room temperature. And who doesn't like that!

Thanks to Ina for the inspiration and to Anne Strawberry for choosing a recipe that made me use puff pastry and made me think!

March 25, 2009

MENU OF THE WEEK #20


Today is Menu of the Week and we're featuring a wonderful meal for bringing the fresh feeling of spring right to the dinner table. And to simplify meal prep while you're extra busy with seasonal gardening chores, everything on the menu can be roasted, either in the oven or on the grill. Better yet is a salad for lunch the next day made from the leftovers--if you have any, that is. Step into Prairie Wood Kitchen to see an easy menu that will surprise you with spring-time fresh flavors. Just print out the recipes and shopping list and you're ready to go. We're all about delicious and easy!

March 24, 2009

Cookbook Giveaway Winners!

Congratulations to the winners of my extra copies of Frank Stitt's wonderful cookbooks:

BMK of Reservations Not Required wins Frank Stitt's Southern Table


Becky of Random Musings of a Deco Lady wins Frank Stitt's Bottega Favorita

Thanks for the comments and happy cooking!

Ada Lovelace Day - A can-do attitude is a good thing to teach

"Ada Lovelace Day is an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. Women's contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines."

When I read this challenge to bloggers to participate in Ada Lovelace Day, I wasn't sure it was something I would do. After all, I don't have much experience with "technology" other than being a somewhat reluctant "end-user" and that is limited mostly to my writing and blogging. But, upon further reflection, I realized I know someone who has made what I consider to be a significant contribution to technology, and in a very meaningful way.

I am not one of the gifted and talented pioneer women of technology, nor do I know anyone who is. When I try to think about how computers work, my mind quickly reports back "that does not compute." I am in awe of those whose minds work the miracles of math and logic required by technology. And even though we've had a Mac in our home since 1985, several years passed before I dared to sit down to learn what I could do with it. I respect (fear) machines! Now I use my personal computer for almost everything I do. But I still don't get it!

There is a woman I know and admire for her grasp of technology though. My friend Kathy was an early and eager fan of personal computers and jumped in with both feet. While I was ignoring "my husband's" Mac (which I bought for him, by the way!) sitting there on the table, Kathy saw the possibilities of what a computer could do in her life, and had the intellectual curiosity to pursue her vision. She explored each new bit of hardware and software with enthusiasm. Once I attempted to use ours, I had to call my husband (long distance, at all hours of the day and night) just to ask how to copy and paste, or download files, or whatever. Kathy was mastering Photoshop and Dreamweaver and hundreds of other things I still couldn't even imagine.

Not only did Kathy teach herself how to do all this, but she also became good enough to take a job teaching kids everything from keyboarding to video-editing and graphic arts. She learned to trouble-shoot problems and fix things and answer questions about all kinds of technological issues. She set up entire computer labs. She never stopped learning herself and teaching others. Her interest became a passion and a career, and she used it to enrich the lives of others.

I'm a little late to the party, but I'm here. Now I can do all sorts of things with my computer to amaze myself and, I hope, amuse others! I owe a lot of thanks to Kathy, whose example helped inspire me to leave my comfort zone and strike out into the brave new world of technology--blogging and social media. Becoming a blogger has been a rewarding experience for me and has forced me to jump into technology with both feet, just like Kathy. I have moved well beyond copy and paste, and each new accomplishment is encouragement to take the next step. I know I would not be a writer without my computer, and the inspiration to embrace it as the useful and accessible tool it is.

Today--Ada Lovelace Day--I am honoring Kathy as my unsung heroine of technology. Kathy's professional training was to be a lawyer, but I'm glad she chose a different path. Fortunately for all of us, a smart woman, who is adaptable, willing to share and to lead by example is not rare. But one who is self-taught, self-motivated and generous enough to teach others deserves special recognition. Through her love for computers and mastery of technology, Kathy has proven that it is never too late to learn something new yourself, or to inspire others (like me!) to do the same.

March 22, 2009

We've Got Spring Fever and We're Ready to Go . . . Eatin' Up The Road


I am so fortunate to have a group of like-minded friends, who love finding new places to eat as much as I do, and we’ve got spring fever.

But we could use some help . . .

We’re in the car.
We’re ready to go.
We're hungry.
We want something good.
Really, really good.
A local favorite.
A specialty of sorts.
Off the beaten path.
Not to be missed.
Known by reputation.
And word of mouth.
Unusually good.
Or maybe just unusual.

So what’s it gonna be?

Where do we go?
How do we get there?
When’s the best time to show up?
What do we order?
What are the local customs?
Who are the characters?

We’re open to suggestions.
Anywhere in Southern Illinois.
The neighboring states.
All 50 states.
The world even.
We all travel quite a bit.
And we wouldn't want to miss anything.
And we can always eat.

Our usual starting point is I-57 at IL Route 13.
That’s only a point of reference.
We’ll go anywhere the food is good.
We don’t mind traveling back roads.
Or gravel roads.
Or dirt roads.
It's all about the food.

So how about it . . .
Do you know a place we should visit?

You are the people who know.
Good food, that is.
We’re willing to share our info too.
If you share yours.

Leave a comment here.
Or email CoraCooksBlog-at-gmail-dot-com.

And feel free to forward this.
To friends or anyone else.

We’re ready to go eatin’ up the road!

March 19, 2009

Cookbooks, Frank Stitt, Pimento Cheese, Mayonnaise and Two Lucky Winners!


To begin, I want to say welcome to my readers from Season To Taste, the food column I write every month for Heartland Women and post here at Cora Cooks. In this month's column, I promised I would be giving away copies of Frank Stitt's cookbooks to two lucky readers. A thinly veiled attempt at luring readers from one place to the other, I know.

Now, if you read the post of my HW column about my trip to Birmingham and dinner at Highlands Bar & Grill, you might remember that MFH bought new copies of both cookbooks at Highlands Bar & Grill, and had them signed by Frank, just for me. This means I've got an extra (unsigned!) copy of both cookbooks (gently used in a no pet, smoke-free kitchen), of course. Now I want to pass them along to two lucky Cora Cooks readers. Remember, I'm a cookbook c-o-l-l-e-c-t-o-r, not a hoarder.

Here's where you can skip ahead to the details of the cookbook giveaway OR read on to follow my thought process and masterful writing skills to connect seemingly random thoughts.

First . . . I need to tell you that there is a wonderful recipe for Miss Verba's Pimento Cheese in Frank Stitt's Southern Table cookbook. Remember the Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich from a few days ago? Well, it would be to-die-for with Miss Verba's Pimento Cheese! I know because Becky, my neighbor, loves to make it and she always shares some with me. I'm not going to reprint the recipe here, or tell you who Miss Verba is, because it just wouldn't be right to deprive you of reading the whole cookbook. But I will tell you, Miss Verba knows a lot more about pimento cheese than I ever will!

Second . . . for true pimento cheese lovers, a lot of its charm and deliciousness depends on the kind of mayonnaise used to bind the cheese and pimentos together. Some swear by homemade, even going so far as to eschew the food processor in favor of hand mixing. I've made it by both methods and only my Cuisinart knows which I prefer. Those who no longer make their own mayonnaise probably fall into either the Hellman's camp, or the Kraft camp or, for Southerners, the Duke's camp. At the other extreme, there may be a few cooks who use lite mayo or Miracle Whip, but who am I to judge them?

I was raised on Hellman's mayonnaise, also known as Best Foods mayonnaise when we moved to California. I have a sentimental fondness for it and I know my mother's potato salad would not taste the same without Hellman's! But, after years and year's in North Carolina, Duke's mayonnaise made its way into my life, and my refrigerator, and it is there to stay! Believe it or not, I've recently discovered it at my local Kroger store! No longer do I have to import my supply of Duke's mayonnaise! (I keep telling you this is Southern Illinois!)


The difference between Duke's and Hellman's is difficult to describe. Duke's just tastes better! The one thing I know for sure is that Duke's does not list sugar as an ingredient, and Hellman's does, although I would not say that Hellman's is really sweeter. I just know I've come to prefer the taste of Duke's in almost everything, but especially pimento cheese.

Have you been following along, or did you skip the mind maze that took us from my column, my trip, restaurants, cookbooks, pimento cheese, and mayonnaise? Either way, I'm glad you made it to the exciting cookbook giveaway. Drum roll please . . .

So here's the deal, now that I've connected these random thought dots, tell me your thoughts on mayo. Do you like it? What kind do you buy? Are you loyal to one brand? Or do you make homemade mayonnaise?

And while we're at it . . . how about Pimento Cheese? Eat it? Like it? Make it?

Fill out a comment about mayo and/or pimento cheese and you'll be entered to win one of Frank Stitt's cookbooks. Post or email a Pimento Cheese recipe and you'll get your name entered not once, but TWICE!

Comments should be posted here by midnight (CDT) on Monday, March 23. The two winning names will be posted on Tuesday, March 24. Please be sure to include your name with your comment!

The in-house random generator (names on slips of paper in a big mixing bowl drawn by my handsome assistant) will choose two winners. The first name drawn will win a copy of Frank Stitt's Southern Table, and the second name will win Frank Stitt's Bottega Favorita.


I like knowing my extra "previously owned" copies of both cookbooks will be going to good homes. Comments anyone?

March 18, 2009

MENU OF THE WEEK #19


Today we have a delicious menu, rich in antioxidants and long on satisfying comfort food. Apparently, I'm still in the throes of my salute to Southern food favorites and this menu gives me one more great taste of wintertime favorites like cornbread dressing and collard greens and sweet potatoes, before I have to shift gears for Spring. Whether you want an easy weeknight supper or a big Sunday family dinner, everyone is sure to enjoy this menu. Click here to go over to Prairie Wood Kitchen to see what's for dinner.

March 17, 2009

On The Road To Southern Comfort

SEASON TO TASTE
(My monthly food column for Heartland Women)
March 2009

You already know I will drive just about anywhere for a great meal. Actually though, I guess it’s only fair to say, I will let My Favorite Husband chauffeur me just about anywhere for a great meal. MFH refers to it as “driving Miss Cora.” And even when he is weary from his own travels and professes to not care much about what he eats, these excursions are often his idea, and he most definitely eats once he’s there.

That’s what happened last week. MFH knew I had wanted to go to Birmingham for quite some time to eat at Highlands Bar & Grill, so he suggested we hit the road and he would take me on a big circle drive through a few mid-south states for some good eats, including Highlands Bar & Grill. Of course you know what I said – “Uh, just let me grab my good black pants and my toothbrush and I’ll meet you in the car!”

As much as I love to search out new places with great food and meet new people, I don’t always look forward to the inevitable question “Where are you from?” It makes me feel like I am giving a geography lesson, by way of explanation. We say “Illinois.” They say, “Oh, Chicago.” We say, “No, Southern Illinois.” They look confused. We say, “Illinois is a very long state and we live 300 miles south of Chicago.” They look more confused. We say, “Near the southern tip of the state, where the Ohio River meets the Mississippi River.” They scratch their heads. We say, “About two hours southeast of St. Louis.” They say, “Huh? Isn’t St. Louis in Missouri?” You know the routine, don’t you?

On this particular trip though, I wasn’t concerned about explaining where I was from to the people we met. When we drive south, I’m headed back to my second home, a place I know and love. I’m definitely in my comfort zone, when I can say Southern Illinois and see their look of recognition and acceptance. After all, we are kissing cousins to the southern states that surround us, even if we are not officially recognized as part of the family. We speak y’all, we tell stories, we laugh easily, and we share a love for the same foods, like fried chicken, chicken and dumplings, grits, greens, cornbread and peach cobbler. You can even find sweet tea in most of our restaurants – it’s like the secret Southern handshake.

So off we went, down the road to our first stop in Memphis. MFH wanted to take his friend, Bob, and his wife, Val, to dinner. Bob has been the guy responsible for making MFH’s work schedule flow smoothly for the past several years, and that deserves a big thank you.

Our food tour started off when we met Bob and Val at Texas de Brazil in Memphis. I’m not sure if it’s the parade of handsome gauchos swooping down on your table with swords, or the variety and amount of perfectly seasoned and grilled meats they slice onto your plate from those swords – but they obviously know about meat in Brazil. There is also a salad bar the size of Texas, with selections like sushi, smoked salmon, black beans with rice, and generous pieces of shaved Parmesan and Manchego cheese, and about a million other traditional and exotic salad makings. And, as if that wasn’t enough, we still couldn’t pass up just one piece of the seven-layer Chocolate Mousse Cake for dessert – with four forks, of course! Definitely worth a trip!

The next day we were back on the road to Oxford MS, where, I wanted to indulge my second addiction, books! Square Books has been on my list to visit for a long time. It’s an incredible independent bookstore specializing in the works of Southern writers, like Oxford’s own native son, William Faulkner. I enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the stacks, shelves and tables full of books, and left with enough to have made a significant contribution to the economy of north Mississippi.

Lunch was at Ajax Diner, also on the square, and although they are known for their meat-and-three plate lunches, I spied the Oyster Po’ Boy and couldn’t resist. MFH had Corn Chowder and a sandwich – I don’t know what kind exactly, I was busy eating oysters! The restaurant was southern-college-town-charming, the service was good, and the tea was sweet. And any day I get to eat oysters, I am happy.

Back in the bookmobile . . . ahem . . . car, we took a spin through the Ole Miss campus before setting out to Birmingham. Stories of football and tailgating are legendary at Ole Miss, and I’m a true believer now – that football stadium rivals anything I’ve ever seen! I can only imagine what the tailgating must be like – and I’ve made a note-to-self to never turn down an invitation to see for myself.

On to Birmingham, where we checked into the Hotel Highland, located in the Five Points area. It was late when we arrived, so we tucked ourselves in for an evening of reading and Internet surfing – my third and fourth addictions! I won’t even say where we ate a quick dinner, lest I tarnish my image as a well-heeled-world-class-food-lover. Sometimes, as MFH says, it’s just food.

The next day, we discovered Tria Market and Restaurant, which is actually in Homewood, but just over the hill from our hotel, less than ten minutes away. Tria is one part upscale gourmet/cheese/deli/meat market and one part casual restaurant. MFH chose a Chicken Salad Melt, which I made note of this time before I dug into my Oyster Po’ Boy on French Baguette with Sauce Remoulade. The oyster sandwich was sweet, briny, crispy, abundant perfection!

That brings us to dinner at Highlands Bar & Grill, our primary destination and the reason for our drive across five states. I’ve been a fan of chef Frank Stitt and his food philosophy since I first read an essay about him by my favorite author, Pat Conroy. Never at a loss for words, Conroy waxes poetic on his friend’s abilities as a chef, and his truly innovative Southern cuisine. Since then, I’ve purchased both of his cookbooks and enjoyed reading and cooking from them.

When I dined at Highlands Bar & Grill last week and actually got to meet Frank Stitt, I told him I was inspired by Conroy’s essay declaring him to be “one of the best chefs in America” to which he replied, “Pat has been known to exaggerate.” Having now enjoyed my first, but not my last, dinner in Stitt’s restaurant, I know it was no exaggeration! Oh! But wait, I didn’t even tell you about the dinner yet.

Our 7 p.m. reservation was to be for a table in the bar, but when we arrived we were taken to a table for two, looking out on the streets of Five Points lined with twinkle-lighted trees. Our server, MG, was prompt, friendly and very helpful as we deliberated over our food and wine selections.

So guess what I ordered for my first course? Right! Grilled Apalachicola Oysters prepared Old Mobile Style! MFH had the Lobster and Crabmeat Tower with layers of avocado, roasted peppers and lime mayonnaise – beautiful and delicious. But those oysters! They were amazing – the pinnacle of oyster perfection. Really. Honestly. To die for!

But wait! There’s more. MFH’s main course – the Veal Tenderloin and Sweetbreads with Ragout of Mushrooms and Leeks with Sherry – was recommended by the charming southern gentleman dining at the table next to us, who was, coincidentally, also on an eating tour of several southern cities. Someone whose advice was compelling and very trustworthy! MFH actually ate sweetbreads and his plate was clean enough to go back in the cupboard when he finished. Just food indeed, huh!

I resisted ordering more oysters and chose another southern favorite that is almost impossible to find in the rivers of Southern Illinois – Black Grouper with Fingerling Potatoes, Rosemary and Slab Bacon. I love grouper and this lovely, thick piece of fish, crispy brown on the edges, and moist and tender inside did not disappoint. How could dinner ever get better than this?

Here’s how – dessert! MFH ordered the Chocolate Dome Cake with Strawberry Coulis, another visual marvel that was oh-so-chocolaty good, good, good. I know because I tasted it. I chose what was listed as Frank’s Favorite, and was delighted with layers of light-as-a-feather cake with zabaglione filling and meringue on top. I ate the whole thing, all by myself!

Since he opened Highlands Bar and Grill in 1982, Frank Stitt has opened three more restaurants and continued to develop the connections between the foods of his southern roots and the classic preparations of French, Italian and Mediterranean cuisines he loves.

Just last week, he was nominated again for the James Beard Award for Best Chef, and Highlands Bar & Grill was nominated for Best Restaurant – that’s in America. In the culinary world, these awards are the Oscars. So Frank, I don’t think Pat Conroy was exaggerating and I am in his debt for his outstanding recommendation! I’ll be back as soon as I can to dine again at Highlands Bar & Grill, and to check out his other three restaurants. Until then, I’ll read and re-read my new, personally autographed copies of his two cookbooks.

Our last stop was in Nashville, but we still found room for a little more good eats. MFH took me to one his favorite pilot-on-a-layover restaurants, Demo’s in downtown Nashville. The menu presented a challenge because they offer a little bit of everything your mama made, so it was difficult to choose. I ended up with delicious baked chicken and some baked spinach that was so good, I’m still thinking about it and trying to decide how they made it. I didn’t even notice what MFH ordered, he eats there all the time, and so he was on his own.

On our way out of town the next day, I really wanted some good ol’ barbecue, so we stopped at Jack’s Barbecue on our way back up the Interstate. You know you’ve made a good choice when the parking lot is full and hardly anyone looks up from his plate when you walk into the place. The pork shoulder was wonderful and so was the macaroni and cheese. But, for me, the turnip greens were outstanding! They were so good that I bought a pint to bring home, along with a pound of pork shoulder and a whole chicken. The perfect meal to round out our circle of good Southern eats!

Home again, I am reminded that it is not just geography that defines the South, Southerners or Southern food. Being Southern is a state of mind more than any particular state. I find great comfort in all things southern, my home in Southern Illinois, and the food. It’s always about the food!

The recipes this month are like many that tempted us on our recent trip. They come from friends and family, and from hundreds of Southern Living magazines through the years. Southern Living is the indispensable homemaker’s and gardener’s source book for all things Southern, and is full of wonderful recipes every month.


FRIED DILL PICKLES
1 egg
1 c. milk
3 1/2 c. flour
1 qt. sliced dill pickles
vegetable oil
salt and pepper to taste

In a medium bowl, beat egg and add milk. Put the flour in a Ziploc bag and add salt and pepper. Dip drained pickles in egg mixture and then shake in flour to coat well. Deep fry in hot oil until they float in the oil and turn golden brown.

TOMATO GRITS
4 slices bacon
1/2 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. finely chopped green pepper
1 16-oz. diced tomatoes, and liquid
6 c. water
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. uncooked regular grits

Cook bacon slices in skillet until crisp. Drain bacon; crumble and set aside. Pour off drippings, reserving 1 tbsp. in skillet. Saute onion and green pepper in drippings; stir in tomatoes. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Bring water and salt to a boil; add grits. Cook; stirring frequently, until grits are thickened. Remove from heat; stir in tomato mixture. Spoon into serving dish; sprinkle bacon on top. Makes 8 servings.

FRIED GREEN TOMATO BLT

Whole green tomatoes
Salt & pepper
Cornmeal
Oil for frying
Bread
Mayonnaise
Lettuce
Bacon

Slice the tomatoes into 1/4-in. slices. Sprinkle tomato slices with salt and pepper and dredge in cornmeal to coat. Fry tomato slices in hot oil until browned on both sides. Toast two slices of bread for each sandwich. Spread each slice of bread with generously with mayonnaise. Place lettuce slices and bacon pieces on one piece of toasted bread, top with fried green tomato slices, and top with second piece of toasted bread.

CREAM BISCUITS
2 1/4 c. self-rising flour
1 c. half-and-half

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a bowl, combine flour and cream until just blended. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead 4 or 5 times. Roll dough out to 1/2-in. thick. Use a 2-in. biscuit cutter to cut biscuits from dough – do not twist the biscuit cutter while pressing down or the biscuits will not rise as high. Place biscuits on and ungreased baking sheet and bake until lightly browned - about 10-12 minutes. Serve hot with butter and honey.

VIDALIA ONION DIP
1 Vidalia onion, finely chopped
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 c. grated mozzarella cheese
2/3 c. mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix all the ingredients until blended. Spoon mixture into a baking dish and bake until bubbly. Serve with Ritz crackers.

MINI SOUR CREAM CORN MUFFINS

1/2 c. corn oil
8 oz. cream-style corn
1 c. sour cream
1 c. cornmeal
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease mini-muffin pans with cooking spray. Stir together all the ingredients and spoon into prepared mini-muffin pans. Bake until light golden brown, about 15-20 mins. Makes 24 mini-muffins.
Note: Can also be baked in larger muffin pans or in a cast-iron skillet that has been oiled and preheated in oven before adding cornbread batter.

March 16, 2009

Grilled Pimento Cheese Story Board - A Working Lunch

The Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich - Photo Shoot













The Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich - Working Lunch













The Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich - Working Hard or Hardly Working?












The Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich - Finger-Licking, Lip-Smacking, Plate-Scraping Good!











Pimento Cheese
adapted from Frank Stitt's Southern Table
4 c. grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 oz. cream cheese, softened
2-3 roasted red peppers, diced OR 8-oz. jar roasted red peppers, diced OR 8-oz. jar diced pimento
1/2 c. mayonnaise (Hellman's, Duke's or Homemade)
pinch of ground cumin, optional
Cholula or Tabasco hot sauce, to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Keep in refrigerator for several hours, or until ready to use for sandwiches, crackers, or celery sticks.
PRINT

Grilled Pimento Cheese Sandwich
Pepperidge Farm Bread
Mayonnaise
Pimento Cheese
Butter

Spread mayonnaise on two pieces of bread. Spread Pimento Cheese on top of mayonnaise. Close sandwich. Preheat griddle or cast iron skillet on medium heat, add small amount of butter until melted. Place sandwich on buttered griddle and heat slowly on one side until golden brown. Remove sandwich, add a bit more butter to melt, flip sandwich and brown second side slowly until golden brown. Remove sandwich to plate and cut into two pieces. Serve!

March 12, 2009

Chicken Piccata for Lemon Lovers and Barefoot Bloggers

This week's recipe for Barefoot Bloggers is Chicken Piccata from Ina Garten's book, Barefoot Contessa At Home, chosen by Lindsey of Noodle Nights and Muffin Mornings.

Right off the bat, I have to admit that I am a big fan of Chicken Piccata. I've been making my own version for almost as long as I've been cooking, but I'm always willing to try a new one. Ina's appears to be straight forward, as are most of her recipes. In this case though, it may lack the depth and finesse I expect from Chicken Piccata.

I adapted the instructions by using panko in place of regular bread crumbs, using just a little less lemon juice, and adding little more butter. I also added capers to the sauce, because I love capers with Chicken Piccata. Having made my own version so many times, I have learned that a little lemon juice usually goes a long way. And that would be my major observation with Ina's version -- too much lemon juice, even if you make three chicken breasts, reduce the lemon juice a little as I did, and add more butter to give a richer finish to the sauce. I also felt like the flavor just didn't linger on my palate as long as I would have liked -- except for that lemon pucker!

So, I think I'll be going back to my own Chicken Piccata recipe from now on. If I made this one again, I would most definitely deglaze the pan with the wine and then add a splash of lemon juice -- maybe a teaspoon to start -- before adding more butter. I'd also use the panko again and add a bit of butter with the olive oil to brown the chicken breasts. Those changes would tweak the recipe, without altering the intent. It's not bad -- it's just not as good as mine.

March 11, 2009

MENU OF THE WEEK #18


This is maple syrup season, so what better time to feature a wonderful salmon recipe making use of the delicious real maple syrup. I love the complimentary flavors of salmon and maple, especially the rich flavor of Grade A Medium or Dark Amber. And since it's March and the weather is winter-weary one day and signaling spring the next, let's go with cozy garlic mashed potatoes and fresh shoots of spring asparagus as sides to the salmon. With this menu, we won't look back and we won't look forward, we'll just be living in the delicious March moment! Click here to go to Prairie Wood Kitchen to see the complete Menu #18 and shopping list.

March 7, 2009

Fast And Easy Date Night Dinner At Home

Remember when Saturday night was date night? Well this week Saturday night was eat-in night.

After having some electrical work done this morning - yeah, Saturday and repairman are two things you don't want to hear in the same sentence - we determined later in the day that the reason there was still a "hum" from "the box" and the lights were still flickering after "the fix" was due to a malfunctioning heat pump. Of course, that would not be the heat pump that was replaced with a new one last year. Oh nooooo! The heat/ac guys will be here on Monday, so we ate in tonight.

Sea Cuisine prepared the potato crusted cod with chives and cheddar cheese - "and I helped!" I also wrestled a monster sweet potato to the cutting board, peeled it, cubed it, and then tossed it with olive oil, garlic salt, crushed rosemary and freshly ground nutmeg before roasting. For something green, I prepped fresh asparagus with olive oil and lemon pepper, then gave it a splash of Ken's Fat Free Raspberry Pecan Vinaigrette after it was roasted to perfection. In fact, everything was perfection!

If Sea Cuisine prepared fish products are available in your area, give them a try. They take the guess work out of finding reliable fish at the market and knowing how to prepare it at home. A delicious fish dinner will be ready in about 20 minutes and it will be a lot less expensive than at most restaurants. In fact, it probably won't cost any more than the fish on a bun at the drive-thru.

I guess I've always loved a simple fish dinner. Have I ever told you about the guy I was dating once who prepared a special candlelight fish dinner for my birthday? Filet-O-Fish sandwiches and candles attached to upside down shot glasses with melted wax. Now I do the cooking . . . and he does the dishes.

March 3, 2009

MENU OF THE WEEK #17


Hey look! This week's Menu Wednesday is already posted at Cora's Prairie Wood Kitchen. Will wonders never cease? Let's just say that February is behind us now, and leave it at that.

We took a little road trip recently for a swing down south in search of some good eats. I'll have more about the whole trip and what we found when I post my regular monthly column from Heartland Women a little later this month. Until then, I've got some good ol' comfort food for this week's menu. I guess I just didn't get enough of it on our trip, or maybe it is just my favorite food in the whole world and I can't ever get enough.

And I don't know what the weather is like where you live, but around here it has been windy and c-o-old, so I'm in the mood for something to warm me from the inside out -- at least until the spring sunshine gets here. Promise me winter won't last forever. I'm already thinking about homegrown fresh asparagus!

Go on over to Prairie Wood Kitchen and see what's cooking for today! I'll just be here looking up some fresh asparagus recipes until you get back.