Thursday, April 29, 2010

Impossible Coconut Pie with Bittersweet Chocolate

Here is another recipe inspired by JennyMac. I made it for my eating machine--he loves coconut. JennyMac's blog post reminded me of all those "impossible" Bisquick pies from the 1980's, both sweet and savory, the premise being that it makes its own crust.

JennyMac adapted her Impossible Coconut Pie from the original, which is certainly her prerogative, and something I do more times than not, when "following" a recipe. But I was curious to see the original. An online search proved this recipe to be extremely popular. Many, many people recommended using a blender to combine the ingredients. But I say Nay! a bowl and spoon work just fine. I did take my pie one step further and smear some melted bittersweet chocolate on the top.

I ate just a bite of the pie so I could blog about it, and the rest is for Pritchard Parker. It is very custardy and reminds me of the old-timey egg custard pies my Grandmother used to make.

Impossible Coconut Pie
1 cup coconut
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Bisquick
1/4 cup softened butter
2 cups milk
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
4 eggs, lightly beaten

Combine all ingredients well. Pour into a buttered pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees, until golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Cobb Salad on a Croissant

For this sandwich, I bought some mesquite smoked turkey from the deli. Leftover roasted chicken would be even more perfect. I really love putting together great sandwiches.

Cobb Salad on a Croissant
Split croissants
Turkey or chicken
Tomato slices
Avocado slices
Sliced hard boiled egg
Drizzle with blue cheese dressing

Presidential Visit

So President and Mrs. Obama were in Asheville for a weekend getaway and the whole area was buzzing with excitement. Friday, I started following a local blog about their visit. Around 1:00 I heard Air Force One (which was impressively loud). There were no politicians to meet the Obamas at the airport and no photo ops - this was strictly a weekend vacation for a married couple.

The couple went straight from the airport to 12 Bones Smokehouse, which is a very funky restaurant down on the river, in West Asheville. The Obamas waited in line to order with everyone else. They ordered ribs, which are THE best you could possibly ever imagine, along wth some delicious sides. (This restaurant has the most amazingly delicious sides.) The woman taking their order, handed over their tea glasses, and their table number stand. Mrs. Obama hung the number stand - #99 - on her husband's shirt pocket and proceeded on to the urns to fix their glasses of sweet tea, while he paid.

They went for a hike on the gorgeous and astounding Blue Ridge Parkway (my personal favorite thing about living in these mountains). They stayed at the Grove Park Inn, which is old, historic, luxurious, but not exclusive (you may be familiar with their annual Gingerbread House Competition.) They toured the Biltmore Estate (a requisite when visiting Asheville.)

Sunday morning, I was thinking of driving over near the airport to see if I could sight Air Force One, when I learned that before President Obama left town, he was going to visit Billy Graham. Aha! You can't go see Billy Graham without passing by our house. So I just stayed put and saw the Presidential Motorcade twice from my own front yard. It was impressive, I tell you.

There were several pairs of these.

Several of these.

Blackhawk helicopter overhead, which incidentally was audible all weekend. As you can see, it was a beautiful day.

If you can zoom in on that open window, you will see a Secret Service Agent pointing an automatic weapon right at me. Also in the open rear hatch are two more Agents with automatic weapons on the ready. And there were a multitude of other support vehicles. Serious, serious business.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Baby Artichoke & Sausage Pizza

I first made a deep dish pizza several weeks ago on Super Bowl weekend and since then I can't seem to stop. Well, actually this is just the fourth one. I have used different "toppings" each time, although in this case, I would call them stuffings, and we have loved each one. The crust is from All Recipes, link below, ignoring the actual baking directions.

In this pizza, I used baby artichokes, sliced black olives, roasted garlic tomatoes, sweet onions, and sausage. And cheese, of course. Here is a good link about baby artichokes from Ocean Mist.

This is not the thin and crispy pizza I traditionally make. No, this crust is soft and billowy and this pizza is much like a stuffed sandwich.

Baby Artichoke & Sausage Pizza
1 recipe Quick and Easy Pizza Crust
1 lb. hot and spicy bulk sausage, browned and drained
8 oz. mozzarella cheese, grated, plus extra for topping, if desired
1 medium sweet onion, sliced
8 - 10 baby artichokes, cooked, quartered
1/4 cup sliced black olives
1 - 1 1/2 cups roasted tomatoes with garlic
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Stretch and fit pizza crust into a lightly oiled black iron skillet. If the crust seems too springy, less it rest about 5 minutes, then try again. Add the browned sausage and press into the crust which also helps the crust hold its shape. Top with 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese, the sliced onions, and the sliced baby artichokes.

Top with the olives.

Add the garlic roasted tomatoes.

Cover with the Parmesan cheese and any additional mozzarella cheese desired. Sprinkle with a little oregano.

Bake in a 350 degree oven until browned, about 35 to 45 minutes.

Let the pizza cool for about 10 minutes before slicing.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Start Homemade Vanilla Extract Now to be Ready for Christmas Baking

I was recently inspired to make my own Vanilla Extract by JennyMac's blog. For the life of me, I don't know why I've never thought of this before. I've made lots of herbal tinctures and extracts, yet it never clicked in my mind, to apply the same principal to a culinary extract.

JennyMac discusses the savings at her blog, and while my math comes up differently, there is an astounding difference in cost (as are all things homemade). I whined to myself last December, during my cookie baking extravaganza, every time I had to buy another bottle of vanilla extract. This year I will smile.

Vanilla Extract
6 best quality whole vanilla beans
2 cups vodka

Split vanilla beans, lengthwise, and place into a bottle which has a tight-fitting lid. Pour the vodka over the beans, seal and shake well. Shake every couple of weeks. Store in a dark place for approximately 6 months.

Watch for an update in a couple of months. . .

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Golden Raisin Bars

Here'a a super simple bar cookie recipe I got right off the raisin box. My husband really enjoys these, and loves sharing them at work. I've made them several times but should really do so more often. I always feel better about baking sweets that have at least some nutritional value.

Golden Raisin Bars
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine oats, sugar, flour, cinnamon and baking powder in a large mixing bowl. Mix in butter with fingertips until mixtture is crumbly. Add raisins and apricots. Pat mixture into an ungreased 13x9 inch baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.

Cool in pan for 30 minutes. Cut into bars and let cool completely before removing from baking pan, using a metal spatula. Don't overbake or they will become too crumbly, in other words they will turn into granola.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Three Bean Salad

Other than the types of beans used, this is basically Elise's recipe from Simply Recipes. At her blog, Elise advises not skipping the sugar because it adds so much to the recipe. While I agree with her, I think the fresh rosemary is the real magic ingredient. Not to mention the generous amount of fresh parsley.

Adding fresh onions, celery, and herbs really wakes up canned beans and any kind of beans will work. The classic three bean salad is made with green beans, yellow wax beans, and red kidney beans. Elise doesn't like the taste of canned green beans so used cannelini. I don't like canned red kidney beans, I think their skin is tough, so I used black eye peas.

Three Bean Salad
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 small red onion, chopped
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. very finely minced fresh rosemary
3 (15 oz.) cans beans, rinsed well and drained

Whisk together the vinegar, sugar, olive oil, salt and pepper. All all the remaining ingredients and mix gently but thoroughly. Cover and chill for several hours before serving.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Baby Carrots

Baby Carrots

Baby Carrots

Steamed Baby Carrots

Glazed Baby Carrots

Baby Carrots?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Jill in Jail

Our Jack Russell, Jill, didn't feel good yesterday. She was weak and wobbly, so I took her to the vet. It turns out that she had a spinal injury in the neck area. Anyone who has ever been around Jacks knows they are active, flying dogs, so there is no telling where she had her crash landing (and she's not a spring chicken anymore).

Now she is on steroids, antibiotics, and a morphine-like pain killer. And confined to bed rest. The vet repeatedly told me I needed to crate her, otherwise she would not comply. The drugs help in that department. She is being a very good patient. Poor baby.

Black Skillet Southern Cornbread

Southerners can get pretty worked up about their cornbread. I posted a very old Mexican Cornbread recipe last year, but this is just plain ole cornbread, which I served with my speckled butter beans. Some cooks, like myself, enjoy a slightly sweet cornbread so add a couple of tablespoons of sugar to the batter. Others will declare that blasphemy. Some cooks swear by using buttermilk, others say you should use regular whole milk ("sweet milk").

I have personally never had cornbread I did not like. All in all cornbread is very earthy, peasanty, and forgiving. You really can't go wrong and you don't even have to break out the appliances, a bowl and spoon work just fine. If you have saved some bacon drippings, use that for the shortening, though I have seen the old ladies of the family melt vegetable shortening and use that, with delicious results. I prefer using buttermilk, but in a pinch I have even used water. If you have a black iron skillet, use that for the best crust.

Add sugar, or honey if you please. I did not add it here because I was planning ahead for leftovers, which I wanted to use for a cornbread stuffing that didn't want to be sweetened. Almost all the cornmeal sold in the South is self-rising, so if yours is not, you will need to add 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder and 1/2 tsp. salt to each cup of cornmeal.

Black Skillet Southern Cornbread
1 3/4 cups self-rising cornmeal
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups buttermilk
2 - 3 Tbsp. sugar, optional
3 Tbsp. bacon drippings or other shortening

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Mix together the eggs and buttermilk. Stir in the cornmeal, and sugar if using, until well blended. Place the bacon drippings into a black iron skillet and heat in oven until very hot. Working quickly, pour the hot fat into the cornmeal mixture, stir, and pour the batter back into the skillet. It should sizzle and this is when the great crust starts forming.
Bake for about 30 minutes, until very brown. Serve with butter.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Speckled Butter Beans

When I saw these heirloom beans at the store, I was flooded with memories of summer days growing up Alabama, and eating these beans fresh from the fields, with sliced tomatoes, and cornbread. Well, it will be a while before tomatoes are in season, but I did have some leftover ham from Easter, and I did make cornbread to enjoy with my butterbeans.

I am a real fan of beans. All kinds of beans. I make them often using a number of cooking methods, depending on how far in advance I planned. This time I used the quick soak method.

Beans & Ham
1 lb. dried speckled butter beans
Leftover ham
Olive Oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt & pepper, to taste
Hot sauce for serving

Carefully sort through dried beans, inspecting for small stones or other foreign debris. Rinse thoroughly. Cover with water to an inch over the beans and bring to a boil. Boil for a couple of minutes, then cover and remove from heat. Let the beans soak for about an hour.

Drain and rinse beans, cover with fresh water, add the ham. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, cooking, partially covered until the beans are tender, about 1 hour, adding more water if necessary.

Saute the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic in olive oil, until tender, seasoning with salt and pepper. Add the saute mixture to the beans, along with some salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer together for about 30 minutes.

Serve the beans with hot sauce.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Faux Mounds Bars

I am not a big fan of dessert (unless you are talking about the French cheese course) but my husband is. Because I love my husband and love to please him, and because I love to bake, I bake desserts for my husband.

This is one of those recipes I have seen circulating for years. I don't know who originally came up with this one, but it couldn't be simpler. And Pritchard Parker liked them so that makes me happy.

Faux Mounds Bars
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup melted butter
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups flaked coconut
12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips, melted

Combine graham cracker crumbs with melted butter. Press into a 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Combine condensed milk with coconut and spread over the crust. Bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Spread the melted chocolate chips all over the top and let it cool before cutting into squares.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Asparagus & Pimiento Cheese Pie

I've made a few variations, using different veggies, of this recipe I first heard about exactly one year ago on NPR's All Things Considered in a feature called "How Low Can You Go?" in which chefs were asked to submit a healthy recipe to feed four for $10 or less. I posted one of my versions last summer and called it Savory Summer Pie.

What this boils down to is a biscuit with pimiento cheese and asparagus. Which is a very good thing.

Asparagus & Pimiento Cheese Pie

For the crust, prepare 1 biscuit recipe from the Bisquick box (or use your own recipe) and press into 9 inch pie plate. Use pie weights or another pie plate to keep the crust from rising too much. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven to cool and lower the temperature to 350 degrees.

For the topping, mix together 2 cups hand grated extra sharp cheddar cheese, 1 small jar chopped pimientos undrained, 1/3 cup good quality mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard, and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Wash and dry asparagus, snap off woody ends, break into desired sized pieces and fill the crust lined baking dish.

Top with the pimiento cheese mixture and completely cover the asparagus.

Bake for 45 - 55 minutes, until well browned and the asparagus is tender.

Let the pie cool for about 10 minutes before cutting.

Monday, April 5, 2010


My Favorite Baby Girl

D-E-E-P Dish Asparagus Pizza

Swiss Steak, Rice and Gravy, Candied Ginger & Honey Glazed Carrots

Corn Chowder

Pimiento Cheese on Crackers with a Cup of Tea