Sunday, August 30, 2009

Beer Dip

As soon as I heard that there was such thing as a "beer dip," I knew I was interested. Two of my favorite things in life are undeniably beer and cheese. Most dishes that bring these two heavenly ingredients together make me an extremely happy camper. After perusing several recipes for this heavenly dish, I decided upon incorporating several of my favorite ingredients into one to-die-for dip.

Beer Dip

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
2 5-ounce jars of Old English Cheese (or 10 ounces Cheese Whiz)
1 1-ounce package dry ranch dressing mix
1/2 cup beer (go ahead, you can drink the rest)
1/2 cup toasted pecans, roughly chopped
Pretzels, crackers, or chips for dipping

In your microwave, heat the cream cheese and Old English Cheese for about 40 seconds on high. This will make it easier to blend them together, using a whisk, with the ranch dressing. Add the beer gradually as you whisk the mixture together, until you reach your desired consistency for the dip. You may not use it all. If so, feel free to drink the remaining beer.

Pour into the serving bowl. Sprinkle your toasted pecans evenly over the surface of the dip. Chill for 1 hour or up to 2 days. Serve with pretzels, crackers, or chips!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Healthy Crock Pot Chicken

Trying to stay healthy but still love the ease and convenience of a nice, hearty crock-pot dinner? Have I got the recipe for you! This is a rustic, hearty, and flavorful meal that slow cooks to perfection but does not include any of those creamy condensed soups that have a tendency to pack a lot of calories and fat. This is also an extremely versatile recipe - your chicken can be almost any cut, even a whole chicken would work. And as for the veggies? Whatever you have on hand can be thrown on in there - we used onions and potatoes this time, but carrots, celery, even green beans would be delicious.

Healthy Crock Pot Chicken

2-3 medium potatoes, quartered
2-3 small red onions, quartered
Carrots and celery would be good, too, but we didn't have any on hand
2 cups water
1 chicken bouillon cube/packet (sodium-free)
1 tablespoon poultry seasoning
1 dash Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
2 bone-in chicken breasts (boneless will work, too, but bone-in = more flavor!)

Place the potato and onion wedges in the bottom of your crock pot. Cover with water. Stir in bouillon, poultry seasoning, Worcestershire, parsley, and salt and pepper. Place the chicken breasts on top. Season the meat with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Remove the bones before serving (the meat will be so tender that it should fall right off). Serve the chicken and veggies over cooked brown rice or whole-grain pasta, if desired. Pour some broth over the top for extra flavor.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Nanny's Frozen Lemon "Cake"

This sweet is a real treat, y'all.

This recipe comes from my Nanny - my mom's mom. Mom says that her best memories of this "cake" come from her childhood. Nanny and Poppy would have a few other couples over for cocktails and a light late supper, while everyone's kids were already in bed at home with sitters.

Nanny would make this Frozen Lemon Cake for dessert. She made it in those old-fashioned ice cube trays, with the cube insert taken out. She would slice it up and serve it to her guests late at night. Then the next morning, my mom and her sisters would wake up, hoping against hope that a little corner might be leftover for them. Of course, there usually was . . . I like to think that Nanny sliced it that way on purpose.

This frozen treat is light, fluffy, creamy, and it melts in your mouth just perfectly. It's just sweet enough, with a wondurfully cool and refreshing lemon flavor. It's like a little taste of the clouds that angels sit on in heaven.

Frozen Lemon Cake
adapted from Nanny's recipe

1 cup crushed graham crackers, divided
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 eggs, separated
1 lemon (all juice and all zest)
½ cup sugar
1 cup whipping cream
4 tablespoons sugar, divided

Combine 3/4 cup of the crushed graham crackers with the melted butter, stirring until a crumbly loose mixture forms. Line the bottom of an 8x8-inch pan with the mixture.

In a bowl set over hot water (not boiling) mix egg yolks, lemon juice, lemon zest, and sugar.Stir constantly until the mixture thickens. At this point Nanny's instructions say "Keep cool." - this is because it will take about 10 minutes for the mixture to thicken. Cute. Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool.

Beat egg whites until light and fluffy. Gradually add 2 tablespoons sugar and continue to beat until glossy, stiff peaks form. Next, beat whipped cream until fluffy, and gradually add 2 tablespoons sugar. Then, gently fold all three mixtures together.

Spread the mixture in the pan over the prepared crust. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup of crushed crackers. Place in freezer for at least 3 hours. When you're ready to serve, remove from the freezer, and cut into squares and plate them. Then allow to melt ever so slightly - about 4-5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Green Beans with Walnuts and Bleu Cheese

Here is a tasty, tangy, and well-balanced side-dish that's perfect for everything from a potluck gathering to a romantic dinner for two. The toasty walnuts and pungent bleu cheese compliment the sweet beans just perfectly for a lovely trio of flavors.

Beans with Walnuts and Bleu Cheese

3 big handfuls of green beans (or purple pole beans, like we used here!)
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
1 ounce of good bleu cheese, crumbled

Rinse the beans well and place them in a large saucepan. Cover with water, and bring to a simmer, cooking for approximately 7-8 minutes, until the beans are tender.

Meanwhile, add the walnuts to a dry skillet. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the nuts just begin to brown, and are nice and fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside.

When the beans are done, drain them well and place them in a bowl. Toss them with salt and pepper to taste. Top with the toasted walnuts and the bleu cheese crumbles. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

These parmesan potatoes are creamy, rich, indulgent. The perfect pair to a nicely marinated steak or a juicy piece of roasted chicken.

Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

4 medium potatoes, scrubbed
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk or cream
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

Place the clean potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with cool water. Add about 2 teaspoons of salt to the water. Boil potatoes until fork-tender (depending on the size of your potatoes, this will probably take about 30 minutes).

Drain, reserving about 1/2 cup of the liquid. Mash up the potatoes and add the remaining ingredients. Adjust the texture to your liking using the reserved liquid. Enjoy!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Easy Zucchini Pie

Don't know what to do with all of the zucchinis that you've harvested from your garden this summer? Here is a great (and easy!) recipe that even the kids will love.

Easy Zucchini Pie

2 cups of diced or shredded zucchini
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup grated Mozzarella cheese
1 cup Bisquick
3 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup more grated Mozzarella cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 and grease a deep pie dish.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl, except for the second 1/2 cup of Mozzarella. Dump into the prepared pie dish. Top with remaining cheese. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the filling is set and the cheese is melted and golden brown.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Banana Bread for Life

When people find out that I have a food blog, they wonder why I do what I do. They often say, "Really?! A whole blog just about recipes and food?"

To which I answer, "Yes, a whole blog just about recipes and food."

We food bloggers all have our reasons for doing what we do. For me, it's about reaching out to people around the world and connection with them through the shared experience of food. It's about coming together around the dinner table as a family, as friends, even as an internet community. It's just pretty darn cool that someone in Oregon made my mom's squash casserole for so that their kids would enjoy eating vegetables . . or that someone in England made my zucchini bread for a neighbor who had surgery . . . or someone in Chicago make my mother-in-law's chicken squares to prove to her boyfriend that she could actually cook.

But as much as it is for others that we do what we do, I think we food bloggers have to admit that we do it for ourselves, too. There is something about this blog that feeds my soul, that grounds me, that inspires me. It's an escape for me, but it's also something that centers me and defines me. These recipes are part of my most sacred and precious memories - they are part of my family.

But despite all this . . . for the most part, we food bloggers don't "get personal." And I think that's why this food blogger's story struck such a chord with me.

You need to go read Jess' story to truly understand. But in some strange way, blogging about "just food and recipes" has a way of strengthening us and providing that nourishment in life that only the exercise of creativity and community can provide, so that we have the courage to face the big life challenges that present themselves in "the real world."

So . . . Jess, this banana bread is for you! I know you say it's a food of departure, but here's hoping that this post will be a warm and comforting welcome home, as well . . .

And, dear readers, think of this as your little reminder that miracles happen every day - sometimes in the kitchen, and sometimes out there in our everyday lives.

Banana Bread with Cinnamon Crumble Topping
Adapted from Sweet Amandine via Bakesale Betty, as seen in Bon Appetit, September, 2008

1 ½ cups flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 3 medium bananas)
2 large eggs
½ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup honey (local is best!)
¼ cup water

2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 ½ tablespoons packed golden brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (my addition - totally optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees; grease well and flour a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk the mashed bananas, eggs, oil, honey, and water until smooth. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and stir just until combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Mix together the 2 tablespoons of sugar, the brown sugar, the cinnamon, and the walnuts. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the batter.

Bake the bread for about 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 30 minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Chocolate Oatmeal Cake

I discovered this recipe when I was in college - it is the perfect comfort food. It will make you feel cozy and warm with just one bite. I've tweaked it over the years to make it a bit softer, more chocolaty, and more delicate - sublime.

Chocolate Oatmeal Cake
adapted from

1 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
1/2 cup butter
1 cup boiling water
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder
A pinch of cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease well a 8x8 inch square baking pan.

In a large bowl, mix together the rolled oats, butter, and boiling water. Set aside to cool.

Beat together the brown sugar, eggs and vanilla; add to cooled oat mixture, mixing until completely combined.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cocoa, and cinnamon. Add to wet ingredients and mix well. Pour the batter into your prepared pan.

Bake for 35-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Big Brother's Birthday Cake

My big brother. Smart, handsome, dentist, bachelor, and now 31 years old. If this sounds like a personals ad, it should. Do you have a lovely lady in your life? Single, southern, conservative, sweet? Perhaps we need to set them up?

Hahahaha, this past weekend was my big brother's birthday. Every year, I make him the same cake. White cake with lemon curd filling and white mountain frosting. And every year, I tell him what a pain in the patootie it is to make this thing. And every year, I take that first bite of cake and remember, all over again, that it is completely worth the effort to make this masterpiece of a cake!!! Tender, fluffy white cake . . . tangy, tart lemon filling . . . light, melt-in-your-mouth frosting . . . what more could a boy want?!

Here's a cute pic of big bro with his sweet Australian Cattle Dog - Scout! She is the only lady in his life at the moment . . .

Big Brother's Birthday Cake

2 cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 2/3 cups sugar
1 cup milk
5 egg whites

Lemon Curd
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup cold water
6 egg yolks (save 2 whites for the icing!)
2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons unsalted butter

White Mountain Frosting
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 egg whites
1 teaspoons vanilla

For the cake:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease and flour two 9-inch round pans with butter and flour (seriously, don't skip the flour!).

Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.

Beat the butter in with an electric mixer. Add the sugar and the vanilla, and continue to beat until fluffy. Gradually add the dry ingredients and the milk, alternately, starting and ending with the flour.

Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Gently fold into the batter. Divide the batter evenly between the two prepared pans, like so . . .

Then bake for 25-30 minutes, until cake springs back when gently touched near the center.

For the lemon curd:
Combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium saucepan. Add the water and whisk in the egg yolks, lemon peel, and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat until thick and bubbly, boiling the mixture for one minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Strain the mixture and cool to room temperature.

For the frosting:
In a small saucepan, combine the corn syrup, sugar, and water. Cover and apply medium heat until the mixture reaches a rolling boil. Do not stir, but uncover and continue to boil until the mixture reaches 242 degrees on a candy thermometer and/or the mixture spools 6-8-inch threads when drizzled from a spoon.

Meanwhile, whip the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Very gradually stream the hot sugar mixture into the egg whites, beating constantly, until thick and glossy. Add the vanilla and continue to beat until desired consistency is reached.

To assemble the cake, put half of the lemon curd over the first layer. Top with the second layer, and ice the entire outside with the frosting. Serve with the extra lemon curd on the side.

Don't you just love how shiny and gorgeous the icing is?

Sources: The cake and curd recipes come from my sister-in-law. The frosting is from my tried and true, vintage Betty Crocker cookbook.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Quick Garlicky Tomato Sauce

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - sometimes just the simplest, freshest ingredients don't need a whole lot of hootenanny in order to make a delicious dish. Simple stewed tomatoes with pungent garlic and fresh herbs make a perfect pasta sauce - quick, easy, fresh, simple, pure - delicious!

Quick Garlicky Tomato Sauce

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
10-12 ripe Roma tomatoes, quartered
4 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste
6-8 large basil leaves, chopped
4 servings of your favorite pasta (I went with gnocchi!)

Over medium-low heat, pour the extra virgin olive oil into a heavy skillet. Add the tomatoes and the garlic. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes begin to break down. Season with salt and pepper to taste and add half of the chopped basil. Cover and cook for another 2 minutes.

Serve the sauce over the pasta, garnishing with the remaining basil.

And I'm not gonna lie to you, dear readers - after I took these photos, I decided to sprinkle a bit of crumbled feta on top! Delish!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Kidney Bean Casserole

This recipe is a favorite side dish in my family, especially during the summer for all of our cookouts. The flavors blend beautifully for a zesty, sweet side dish packed with delicious and colorful veggies and beans. Just one bite, and you will be a fan for life!

Kidney Bean Casserole
from my Auntie Moo Moo
also contributed by my mom to Puttin' on the Peachtree, 1979

2 15-ounce cans kidney beans, partially drained
1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped or sliced
2 small onions, coarsely chopped or sliced
1 strip raw bacon, finely chopped (optional)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 of a 14-ounce bottle ketchup or chili sauce

Combine all ingredients in casserole dish and bake, covered, for 2 hours at 325 degrees. May be prepared in advance and reheated.

Alternatively, combine ingredients in your crock pot. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour, then low for 2-4 hours. Enjoy!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Peach Pecan Bread

We're in high season right now for peaches. We've got so many that we can barely eat them before they start to go soft! I took a batch that was just on the verge of ruin and used them to make this delectable bread.

This is a combination of 2 recipes I saw online and one that I found in an old cook book. Some recipes seemed to prefer pureed peaches in the batter, while others featured diced chunks of peaches throughout the bread. I chose not to choose - I incorporated them both for an extra peachy punch! The sugar-roasted pecans on top give the crust a great crunch, rounding out the soft, moist, juicy inside of this perfectly summery bread.

Peach & Pecan Bread

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup pureed peaches
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 2/3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cup peeled, diced peaches

1/4 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in peach puree and extracts.

In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder; gradually add to the creamed mixture. Stir in pecans and diced peaches.

Pour into a greased 9x5-inch loaf pan. Combine remaining pecans with brown sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle this topping over batter.

Bake at 350 degrees F for 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool or 10 minutes in the pan before removing to a wire rack.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Potatoes Provençal

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes with Herbes de Provence

1/2 lb. fingerling potatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black peppers
1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
1 tablespoon Herbes de Provence

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and spray an oven-save dish or baking sheet with non-stick spray.

Wash your potatoes, and slice them on the bias into 1/2-inch-thick coins. Sprinkle the olive oil over the potatoes. Season with pepper, salt, tossing to coat evenly. Spread the potatoes in a single layer on your prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes; then remove from the oven and sprinkle with the Herbes de Provence. Toss the potatoes carefully to distribute the herbs evenly, and return them to the oven. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender and golden brown.


Made by Lena