Friday, May 22, 2015

Baked Cheese Grits with Rotel Tomatoes

AS SOUTHERNERS, WE LOVE GRITS. I cook them often, in all sorts of ways. After I made this dish, I realized I had posted only one other grits recipe, ever, here on my blog. That was all the way back in 2009 when I posted Shrimp and Grits, an amazing and delicious recipe.

You know Ro*Tel tomatoes, right? The cans of diced tomatoes with green chilies? They have been around forever, have the perfect amount of heat, and are delicious to use in so many ways. They are a pantry staple in my kitchen.

The other day, I was shopping at the gigantic grocery store, with Rotel tomatoes on my list. On the shelf I saw there are now 6 different types of Rotel tomatoes. Arrgh! Marketing strikes again. I don't mean to beat up on Rotel tomatoes; I love them. But it is the same thing with everything on my list. For every item, I have too many decisions to make. This is why the stores are so huge and shopping takes so long. On some levels choices are good but I don't always want to walk the equivalent of a city block and comb through undesired products, when I only have 8 items on my list.

Baked Cheese Grits with Rotel Tomatoes
2 cups water
1 1/4 cups milk
1 tsp. salt
1 cup stone ground grits
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup scallions, sliced
1/4 cup Velveeta, cubed
2 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded, divided
1 (14 oz.) can Rotel tomatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 x 9 inch baking dish.

In a saucepan, bring the water and milk to a boil. Add the salt and slowly add the grits and return to a boil, stirring constantly for 1 minute. Reduce heat, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When grits are thickened, stir in the butter, scallions, Velveeta and 2 cups shredded cheddar. Stir until cheese is melted then stir in the tomatoes, mixing well. Pour grits into prepared dish and bake for 35 minutes. Sprinkle on the remaining cheddar and bake 5 minutes more.

Remove from oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Quiche Lorraine

QUICHE LORRAINE IS NAMED FOR the Lorraine region of France.  I am not an expert on France, French cooking, and especially the French language. From growing up in the south, I learned that trying to speak French words with a southern accent just does not work. But I can pronounce Quiche Lorraine. And so could the B-52's. In fact their song about a French poodle named  Quiche Lorraine jumped into my head while I was making this.

Variations on the recipe are many, of course. I used what I had on hand including fresh chives which are growing abundantly in our border garden.

I made Pastry Brisee for the crust, a very buttery, crumbly crust, which was practically shortbread. It was perfect with this savory, cheesy pie. I usually rely on the convenience of those rolled up pre-made crusts in the red box but I didn't have any. I weighed my options and decided it would be easier to make pastry than drive to the store to buy it.

Pastry Brisee
2 cups flour
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp. sugar
2/3 cup butter (10 Tbsp. + 2 tsp)

Whisk together the flour, salt, and sugar. Cut in or rub in butter until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Work into a ball, wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

The pastry is too crumbly for rolling out, so press it into a buttered pie plate with your fingers until you have a smooth crust of even thickness. Finish edges as desired. Prick the bottom with a fork and bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.

Quiche Lorraine
1 pie crust
5 slices bacon
8 oz. Swiss or Gruyere cheese
4 eggs
1 cup creme fraiche
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp. fresh chives, thinly sliced
small grating of nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

Prepare pastry brisee as above or if using a pre-made crust, prick it with a fork and bake for 5 minutes only at 450 degrees.

Cut bacon into 1-inch pieces and cook in a small skillet over medium-high heat until crispy. Drain on paper towels.

Cut cheese into small cubes.

In a mixing bowl whisk the eggs until well blended. Add the creme fraiche and milk and whisk until smooth. Stir in the chives, nutmeg, and salt and pepper.

Place cheese cubes in bottom of partially baked crust. Sprinkle bacon over the cheese and then pour the egg mixture over all. Bake for 15 minutes at 450 degrees, then turn the oven down to 350 degrees and bake about another 10 to 15 minutes, until a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Baby Kale and Black-Eyed Peas Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

EARLIER TODAY, WE HAD A POWER OUTAGE. I have no idea why--the weather is beautiful and perfect.

I thought of the day when Alice was pregnant and needed to have a 3-hour glucose tolerance test. I went along with her to keep her company (and calm; she hates needles) while the time passed. While we were there, the medical office had a power outage. One worker said to another, "Someone must'a hit a pole".  We couldn't stop giggling! And to this day every time we loose electricity, that's what we say. It is what I thought this morning.

Meanwhile, I was working on this post and now I'm back at it. I got this lovely recipe from my Mother. She had enjoyed it at a ladies luncheon and I'm pretty sure the recipe came from Southern Living Magazine.

Baby Kale and Black-Eyed Peas Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette
10 slices thick smoked bacon
1 (16 oz.) package frozen black-eyed peas
3 cups water or broth
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 spring thyme
1 1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1 cup thinly sliced sweet yellow onion
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves
5 oz. baby kale
8 oz. mini sweet peppers, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place bacon in a single layer on a wire rack in a rimmed baking pan. Bake 20 minutes or until crisp,. Reserve 3 Tbsp. plus tsp. drippings.

Stir together peas, water or broth, black pepper, garlic, thyme, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 2 tsp. bacon drippings in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes or until peas are tender. Drain peas and discard thyme and garlic.

Saute onion in remaining 3 Tbsp. hot drippings in a large skillet over medium heat 1 minute. Stir in vinegar, brown sugar, mustard, and 1 tsp. salt. Cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds or until smooth and slightly thickened. Gradually add oil, stirring constantly. Stir in peas. and cook until thoroughly heated.

Toss together the parsley and kale in a large bowl. Top with peppers and warm peas mixture. Sprinkle with chopped bacon and parsley. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Spinach Enchiladas

WE LOVE TEX-MEX,  but it seems that most of our local Mexican Restaurants have moved to more of a California style of Mexican cooking. I suppose it is more on-trend and I understand why. Cal-Mex seems to be lighter with more of a focus on seafood and fresh vegetables, whole beans rather than refried, and lots of cilantro which is an herb I don't enjoy.

The tortillas are another thing. Tex-Mex tacos and enchiladas are made with corn tortillas, whereas the Cal-Mex style uses flour tortillas, another thing I do not enjoy.

We recently went to one of our (formerly) favorite Mexican Restaurants. I ordered spinach enchiladas, which I had enjoyed in this restaurant many times over the years. Imagine my disappointment when the plate presented to me (with the standard warning of: hot!) contained a couple of "spinach roll-ups" with flour tortillas, no sauce, no melted gooey cheese. That was not an enchilada, rather more like a burrito.

We haven't been to that restaurant again--sigh--and I decided to make Spinach Enchiladas at home.

Spinach Enchiladas
1 Tbsp. butter
1 bunch sliced scallions
2 cloves garlic, minced
12 oz. fresh curly spinach, steamed until barely tender, then squeezed dry
1 cup queso blanco (may substitute ricotta or cottage cheese)
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups shredded Montrey Jack cheese
10 (6-inch) corn tortillas
18 oz. enchilada sauce

Melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and scallions and cook for a few minutes until fragrant, but not brown. Stir in spinach and cook a few minutes longer. Remove from heat and mix in the queso blanco, sour cream, and 1 cup of the Monterrey Jack.

Warm the tortillas, a few at a time, wrapped in damp paper towels, for about 30 seconds in the microwave. Spoon about 1/4 cup of spinach mixture onto the center of each tortilla. Roll up and place, seam side down, in a 13x9 inch baking dish. Pour the enchilada sauce over the top, and top with the remaining 1 cup of Monterey Jack cheese.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in a preheated 375 degree oven, until the sauce is bubbly and the cheese is melted and beginning to brown.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Carrot Cupcakes with Pineapple and Golden Raisins topped with Cream Cheese Frosting

I was asked to bring a healthy dessert for a meeting. Is that an oxymoron?

My habit of over thinking things had me wondering. Isn't dessert the final course of a meal? Wouldn't healthy dessert be the quintessential fruit and nuts?

I knew this group wanted a treat, a goody and not a tray of fruit and nuts. I started thinking about my longstanding desire to include at least some nutritional value in the sweets I make--fruit pies, oatmeal cookies, rice pudding, parfaits. (This is not to be confused with celebrations. . .birthday cakes, Christmas cookies).

Personally, I am not a sweetie. Even as a child, I always preferred savory tastes. But I do love to cook and bake. And I love seeing people appreciating my efforts. These cupcakes made the group very happy and that made me happy.

Another way to steer sweets towards a healthier horizon is through portion control; thus the cupcakes rather than an entire cake.

Carrot Cupcakes with Pineapple and Golden Raisins
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 (3 oz.) package cream cheese, room temperature
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 egg yolk
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup finely chopped pineapple
4 eggs, room temperature
3 cups finely shredded carrots (about 6 medium)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup golden raisins

Line 24 muffin cups with paper cupcake liners. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl stir together the flour, 1 1/2 cups sugar, baking powder, 1 tsp. salt, and the cinnamon. Set aside.

For the filling, in a mixer bowl combine cream cheese and 2 Tbsp. sugar. Beat with and electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Beat in the egg yolk and a pinch of salt. Fold in the pineapple. Set aside.

In another bowl stir together 4 eggs, the carrots, oil, and vanilla.

Add carrot mixture to flour mixture and stir until combined. Fold in golden raisins.

Spoon about 1 tablespoon of the batter into each muffin cup. Drop about 1 rounded teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture into each muffin cup. Spoon the remaining batter over cream cheese mixture in cups.

Bake for 15 - 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in centers comes out clean. Cool cupcakes in muffin cups on wire racks for 5 minutes. Remove cupcakes from muffin pans and cool completely on wire racks.

Frost with Cream Cheese Frosting and store in refrigerator.

Cream Cheese Frosting
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 tsp. vanilla
5 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In a mixing bowl beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in powder sugar to reach desired spreading consistency.