Monday, January 31, 2011

Chuck's Favorite Mac and Cheese

I don't know who Chuck is, but I can understand why this is his favorite mac and cheese.  The only Chuck I know is the one who had my cell phone number before me. When I first got the phone, I was bombarded with calls, mostly bill collectors, for Chuck. People even asked me to take messages for him.  Or they would leave voice mail for him, though my announcement clearly said, "This is Rocquie" in my own voice. One caller even asked if I was his wife! What a pain. I set up ring tones for my own callers and ignored the generic ring whenever I heard it.  Then one day I had a voice mail from the actual Chuck. He had the audacity to ask me to take messages for him, then he gave me his new phone number to report his messages.  Over five years later, I will still get an occasional Chuck call. 

Be that as it may, I really like this Chuck's Favorite Mac and Cheese. I found the recipe at All Recipes and have made it a few times. This time, I used farfalle (bow ties) rather than elbow macaroni because it is what I had and because it is so cute.  The first time I made it, I had a few scallions on hand that wanted to be used, so I tossed them in. I liked the taste so much, I plan for them now.

Another way I strayed from Chuck's recipe is that I use fresh bread crumbs, made with whole grain bread, rather than dried bread crumbs. Also I bake mine in a 3 quart deep casserole instead of the 13 x 9 inch casserole Chuck uses. 

Chuck's Favorite Mac and Cheese
8 oz. macaroni, cooked until done
8 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese
12 oz. cottage cheese
8 oz. sour cream
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 scallions, white and green parts, sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a 3 quart casserole. Mix together the cooked macaroni, cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, Parmesan cheese, scallions, and freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Pour into the prepared casserole. Mix together the bread crumbs and butter; spread over the macaroni mixture.  Bake for 30 - 35 minutes or until bubbly and golden brown.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Cheese Spread

I am a purist when it comes to Pimiento Cheese.  Although this has some of the elements of Pimiento Cheese, I'm not calling it that because of all the extras.  Originally, I was going to mix together cream cheese and olives. Period. Then I started seeing dabs of things in the fridge and stirring them in too.  I have to say, this turned out to be very tasty, indeed.

Cheese Spread
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
8 oz. extra sharp cheddar cheese, freshly grated
1/2 cup chopped salad olives
1/4 cup chopped deli sliced jalapeno peppers
3 scallions, sliced
1 (2 oz.) jar diced pimientos plus juice

Stir everything together until well combined. Stuff into celery, smear onto crackers or a bagel. Or make a toasted sandwich. 

What other ways would you use it?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Spinach Cheese Pie

I must like triangle shaped food.  I didn't realize this about myself until I was organizing some of my photo files. I kept seeing more and more foods cut and formed into triangles and wedges. Over 30 such shaped items have been appeared on this blog and there are more! These include pies, quiches, tarts, pizza, sandwiches, frittata, turnovers, claufutti, wedges of cake, cheesecake, cornbread,  wedges of cheese, even cookies. 

I saw this recipe at All Recipes and decided to try it. I suppose my initial attraction was the shape, but it is also very cheesy and I love cheese. Also Pritchard Parker loves spinach. He is especially fond of those dense packages of frozen spinach, which is great because fresh spinach, in this area, is quite expensive. I usually only buy fresh spinach for salads. 

Spinach Cheese Pie
(adapted from allrecipes)
2 (9-inch) pie crusts
1 (10-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
15 ounces lowfat cottage cheese
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, freshly grated
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 cups diced sharp cheddar cheese
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fit one pie crust into  a pie plate. In a large bowl, mix together the spinach and cheeses. Mix together well and season with freshly ground black pepper. Pour into the bottom pie crust and place the second pie crust on top of the filling. Trim and crimp edges. Bake for 40 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting into wedges.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Upside Down German Chocolate Cake

All the Christmas cookies were gone and it was time to make more dessert for my sweet (toothed) husband. I am still reeling from all the butter and sugar from the holidays, so I made this shortcut German Chocolate Cake. Shhhh, don't tell anyone but I even used a cake mix! I do hope you will click here and read about the real German Chocolate Cake I make for Pritchard Parker's birthday last year.

I think I originally got this recipe from Taste of Home Magazine. This is the third time I've made it and I would like to share my experiences.  First of all, I would like to say, prepare your pan according to the recipe and not the cake mix box.

Secondly, don't get the cream cheese closer than an inch from the the edges of the pan or your cake will not turn out without sticking.

And lastly, don't overbeat the cream cheese mixture like I once did. The recipe told me blend the mixture until combined, then beat until smooth. Because the first time I made the cake I had trouble "spreading" the mixture over the cake batter, I decided, wrongly, to really beat it until light and fluffy.

Big mistake.  After the cake had been in the oven for a while, I started hearing hissing and sizzling sounds. When I looked in the oven, I shrieked! The cream cheese was boiling out of the pan like flowing lava. I quickly put a sheet pan under the cake to stop any additional mess to my oven. 

This is NOT what you are looking for:

Upside Down German Chocolate Cake
1 1/3 cups flaked coconut
1 cup pecans
1 box German chocolate cake mix
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
4 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 13x9x2 inch baking pan very well.  Sprinkle coconut and pecans into the pan.  Prepare cake batter according to package directions. Pour batter into prepared pan.  In a mixing bowl, beat together the cream cheese and butter until blended.  Add egg and blend.  Add powdered sugar, mixing one cup at a time.  When all is combined, beat until smooth.  Drop by tablespoons over the batter  to within 1 inch of edges.  Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.  Cool for 10 minutes, then invert onto a serving platter.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Greek Green Beans

This is a wonderful recipe for green beans, especially if you love feta cheese like I do.  I made this dish during my post- holiday-super-intense-craving for vegetables, and only vegetables phase.  

The recipe starts with fresh green beans, which are washed and stemmed. Sweet onions and garlic are sauteed in olive oil before stirring in the green beans, along with tomato sauce. Fresh mint is used, and try not to skip it because it really adds so much to the flavor.  In the end, feta cheese is stirred in. 

I served the green beans with a sweet potato prepared my favorite way--baked, with butter, salt, and pepper.  This was a perfectly satisfying supper for me.  For Pritchard Parker, I added a couple of pork chops and buttered biscuits. 

Greek Green Beans
1 large, sweet onion, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 lb. fresh green beans, washed and stemmed
1 cup tomato sauce
2 tsp. fresh mint, chopped
8 oz. feta cheese, cubed or crumbled
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In large skillet, saute onion in olive oil, then add garlic. Add green beans and tomato sauce and stir well to combine. Add 1/2 cup water. Stir in the fresh mint. Cover and cook over medium heat until beans are nearly done, adding more water or tomato sauce as necessary. Lower heat and add feta cheese. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. 

Friday, January 14, 2011


Croque-monsieur is a grilled ham and cheese sandwich first served in French bistros. More elaborate versions are served with Bechamel sauce. If it is topped with a poached or fried egg, it becomes a croque-madame.

After I decided to make croque-madame, I was contemplating Bechamel sauce. Specifically, did I want to make a Bechamel sauce. And more importantly, did I want to eat Bechamel sauce. That is when I thought of Eggs Benedict and decided to make Hollandaise sauce rather than Bechamel. Thus my croque-madame-benedict was born. 

Traditionally, the croque-madame would be made with gruyere cheese, but since my current white cheese obsession is provolone, I used that. Also, dijon mustard would be spread on the bread slices, though I opted out of that. 

For each sandwich, use 2 slices of sturdy white bread, several slices of thinly sliced smoked ham, and a slice or two of white cheese. Butter the outsides of the sandwich, then grill in a large skillet until browned and the cheese is melted.  Keep warm while preparing the remaining ingredients.

Make the Hollandaise sauce and keep warm. (Recipe below)

Poach or fry eggs.  Top each grilled sandwich with an egg and pass the Hollandaise sauce.

Hollandaise Sauce
2 egg yolks
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup firm butter

In a small saucepan, stir egg yolks and lemon juice briskly with a wooden spoon.  Add half the butter and stir over very low heat until butter is melted. Add remaining butter, stirring briskly until butter is melted and sauce thickens.  Be sure butter melts slowly to give egg time to cook and thicken the sauce without curdling.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Tom's B.B.Q. Shrimp

This is Tom's recipe. Tom is a long time family friend, an excellent cook, and has been and lived everywhere. Literally. All over the world.  It is not really what I would call barbeque--it is not cooked outdoors, or on a grill, nor does it have a typical barbeque sauce.  But Tom calls it B.B.Q. Shrimp and I'm sticking with that.

These are peel and eat shrimp, baked in the oven with a savory sauce. The sauce has intense flavor, quite a kick, and is delicious as a dip for french bread.  The recipe calls for baking the shrimp for 30 minutes, then turn off heat and let them set in the oven for another 30 minutes.  This seems like an inordinate amount of time to cook shrimp but I have made this recipe many, many times, and it works.  The shrimp become completely infused with the flavors. 

Because we don't have a lot of shrimp beds here in the mountains, we have to use frozen shrimp. We like the "E-Z-Peel" shrimp, which have already been deveined, that we find at Harris Teeter.  But if you are lucky enough to get fresh shrimp, all the better.  The first time I ate this dish it was made from fresh Gulf Coast shrimp.  Sublime.

Here's Tom's recipe, in his own writing.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Crock Pot Country Captain

Country Captain is a curried chicken dish which also calls for tomatoes, onions, garlic, green pepper, curry powder, and currants or golden raisins.  Coconut is often used and some recipes recommend garnishing with slivered, toasted almonds.

Stories about the origin of this recipe are diverse, but most agree that the recipe came from India and was first served in the United States in Savannah, Georgia, a port city renowned for international spice trade in the 19th century. 

I made my Country Captain in the crock pot because I had a super busy day planned.  The recipe is adapted from the blog, A Year of Slow Cooking.

Crock Pot Country Captain
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
1 large onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 quart tomatoes with their juice

Place chicken in bottom of crock pot then add the rest of the ingredients in the order given. Cover and cook on low for 6 hours or until chicken is tender. Serve over rice and sprinkle with coarse sea salt and freshly ground black pepper if desired. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Garlic Knots

Several years ago, I worked through the holiday season in an upscale, and very busy gift shop. Before Christmas, our employer catered a lunch for us from a nearby Italian restaurant. We enjoyed delicious lasagna, spaghetti, a beautiful salad, and the most wonderful garlic knots.

After lunch, and back on the sales floor, my co-workers and I were reeking of garlic.  What was the boss thinking?  If the shoppers noticed, however, it had no effect on the action at the cash registers, and we were happy workers for the rest of the day. 

After that, I learned that garlic knots are made from pizza dough. This year, at the close of our personal holiday, and after all the leftovers were gone, I planned a simple tomato and pasta dish for dinner. To make the meal more special, I made garlic knots, using my favorite pizza crust recipe.

Garlic Knots
1 (.25 oz.) package active dry yeast
1 tsp. honey
1 cup warm water
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups flour
3 Tbsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley

In a medium bowl, dissolve yeast and honey in warm water. Let stand for 10 minutes. Stir in the 2 Tbsp. olive oil, salt, and flour. Beat until smooth. Turn out onto a floured surface, knead a few times, then let the dough rest for about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Pat the dough out into an approximate 15x10 inch rectangle. Cut into 12 strips. Tie each strip into a knot and place on a lightly oiled baking sheet.  Bake for 15 - 20 20 minutes, until golden.

While the knots are baking, mix together the 3 Tbsp. olive oil, minced garlic, Parmesan cheese, and chopped parsley.  When the rolls come out of the oven, immediately smooth on a generous amount of the garlic mixture. 

Don't forget the Tic Tacs.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hoppin' John

Hoppin' John is the South's version of a traditional West African dish.  It is simply black-eyed peas with rice and chopped onion. It is traditionally made with bacon, but I made mine vegetarian with delicious results.  This humble dish has gained popularity in recent years, and as many variations are seen as there are creative cooks to prepare it. 

I have toyed with it myself, with additions such as bell pepper, celery, carrots, tomatoes, chilis, cumin, and more. But this year, I decided to keep it simple and basic.

New Year's Day is certainly not the only day we eat beans and rice. Beans are one of my favorite foods. They are so healthful, as well as economical and versatile. There's Cuban spiced black beans, New Orleans red beans, TexMex pinto beans, Japanese aduki beans, Middle Eastern garbanzo beans, and the list goes on. . .

Hoppin' John
1 lb. dried black-eyed peas
1 large onion, chopped
3 (at least) large garlic cloves
2 - 3 bay leaves
1 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

 Sort through the black-eyed peas, to remove any stones, clumps of dirt, or other foreign matter. Rinse thoroughly. In a large Dutch oven, combine the black-eyed peas, onion, garlic, bay leaves, and salt. Cover with water and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium low and simmer gently until beans are tender but not mushy, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally and adding more water if necessary. 

Serve the peas with hot, fluffy, white rice, top with chopped onion and pass the hot sauce.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Traditional Southern New Year Meal

Happy New Year!

 My first blog post was this meal--The first meal of the year 2009. I called the year, The Year of Hope. My camera was new and my blog was brand new.  I have learned a lot since then about how to better use my camera and so, so, much about blogging.

I declared the year 2010 The Year of Faith. For 2011, I hope and wish for The Year of Peace.  The current political rancor, fiscal atrocities, and general vitriol towards one another, is very disturbing to me. I really hope for more compassion, understanding, patience, and general kindness toward each other, especially those who are different from us.

But enough about that. This is a blog about food.  And we are having the same meal we always have on New Year's Day. 

We are also having, of course, Blackeye peas, which I will post more about tomorrow.