Sunday, February 27, 2011

Baked Potato with Cheese Sauce and Broccoli

One evening, while Baby was here, I made a simple supper of roasted chicken, baked potatoes, and steamed broccoli, (wocca) her favorite vegetable. Then I got the idea to make a cheese sauce for the broccoli because Baby also loves cheese (chee).  I served the cheese sauce over the baked potatoes for the grown ups, but I cooked some brown rice for Baby because she not a big fan of potatoes. 

Some people prick their potatoes before baking and also wrap them in foil. I don't do either of those things because it steams the potato rather than bakes it. Or perhaps I should call my potatoes "Roasted".  The method I use results in a potato with crispy, salty skin which is fluffy and tender inside.

For the cheese sauce, I started with a thin white sauce because I wanted the sauce to saturate the potato rather than sit on top of it. I also used a Vermont extra sharp white cheddar, which kept my cheese sauce white. I steamed a bunch of broccoli, which I had trimmed and cut into florets and mixed about half of it with the cheese sauce. The rest I used for garnish and also to serve plain for Baby. 

Scrub potatoes very well and inspect carefully for any discolorations, blemishes, or sprouts, and trim away as necessary.  Dry them thoroughly.  Coat the outside of each potato lightly with vegetable oil and place on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for approximately 1 hour, until the skin is crispy and the potato is tender.  To serve, pierce the potato in a dotted line from end to end, with a fork.  Crack the potato open by pushing the ends toward the center.  Add toppings as desired.

Cheese Sauce
3 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups milk
4 oz. freshly grated Vermont extra sharp cheddar cheese

In a small heavy saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Stir in flour until completely incorporated and beginning to bubble.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Add the milk and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat, add the grated cheese, and stir until melted.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Breakfast for Baby - Cowboy Egg

 Baby stayed with us for a few days while Alice and her husband, who had been deployed to Iraq for a year, spent some romantic time together.  I think a good time was had by all.  I know I always love the time I get to spend with Baby.

We watched her favorite movie, Shrek, many, many times. The tunes are still playing in my head. We read a lot of books. She helped me wash dishes and do laundry.

For breakfast, I made her a Cowboy Egg. This dish is called many things. When I was a girl, Aunt Faye used to make them and called them Cowboy Eggs. I was so impressed, and in our family, that is what we still call them

Start by cutting a circle from the center of a slice of bread. Pictured is my Grandmother's biscuit cutter. I used it to put extra love into Baby's breakfast.

In a skillet, heat a tablespoon or so of butter over medium-low heat. Place the slice of bread in the skillet and crack the egg into the hole.  Cover pan and cook until the white is set and the bread is toasted on the bottom.  Flip over and cook to desired doneness. Also toast the circle of bread which was cut out.

For older children and adults who like dippy eggs, leave the yolk runny then use the toasted circle for dipping. I cooked the egg more because babies shouldn't eat undercooked eggs.  And as for the toasted circle, I smeared it with peanut butter which Baby enjoyed for "dessert" after she finished her egg. 

Can be simply cut into pieces easily handled by little toddler hands. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Patty Melt

It was time for a burger; time for some Man Food. I made these for my husband, Pritchard Parker.

Patty Melt
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 large sweet onion, sliced
1 pound ground chuck
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 oz. sharp cheddar cheese, sliced
2 Tbsp. butter
4 whole wheat buns

Heat oil, in a cast iron skillet or other heavy frying pan, over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion slices. Cook and stir the onions until tender and caramelized. Remove onions from the skillet and set aside.

While the onions are cooking, gently pat the ground chuck into 4 patties, handling the meat as little as possible; salt and pepper to taste. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter each bun and place on a baking sheet. Slice the cheese.

Toast the buns in the preheated oven until just beginning to brown.

Place the burger patties into the hot skillet and cook until well browned on the first side. Flip over and cook until almost done. Top with the reserved onions and with the cheese slices. Turn off heat and cover the skillet. Let the burgers rest and the cheese melt, in the residual heat,  for about 10 minutes.

Serve on the toasted buns with potato chips and a dill pickle.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Scalloped Tomatoes

I'm not sure where I got the idea to make scalloped tomatoes, but several years ago some vague memory starting bubbling up from my girlhood. I'm pretty sure my Mother didn't make it. Maybe it was my Southern Grandmother, or one of the Aunties? Or maybe I had it at a friend's house, or maybe at school--we had delicious, scratch made school lunches. 

At the time, I couldn't find a recipe so decided to wing it. We loved it and I have made it many times. It makes a great addition to a vegetable plate, goes very well with eggs, or along side pinto beans. I have also served it with salmon patties and with mac and cheese.

Scalloped tomatoes can be made with fresh tomatoes in season or with canned in the winter, and makes good use of stale bread. Any bread will do, whole wheat, white, biscuits, baguette, rolls, or any combination thereof. Also the recipe is very flexible when it comes to add-ins. Use sauteed onions if you wish.  Add herbs of your choice, bacon, and/or cheese if desired.

Scalloped Tomatoes
3 cups stale bread, cubed, torn, or crumbled
4 Tbsp.(or more) melted butter
1 (28 oz.) can chopped tomatoes, with juice
3 - 4 Tbsp. brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees and butter 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Place bread into prepared dish, top with tomatoes, then brown sugar, and finally pour over the melted butter.  Salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 30 - 35 minutes.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Baby Reading

I'm not the only one in the family who loves to read. Baby does too, and here she is reading her favorite book. 

Baby's Daddy just got home Sunday morning from a year long deployment to Iraq.  Alice, Baby, and BabyDaddy, are now spending time together, as they should. But I miss my Baby. When I start missing her, I look at pictures of her.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Italian Omelet

I love reading and I enjoy culinary mysteries. The one I just finished is called Chocolate Quake by Nancy Fairbanks.  Ms. Fairbanks writes a series of light mysteries involving Carolyn Blue, a food writer and amateur sleuth. Carolyn travels with her scientist husband as he attends seminars and conferences in different cities. She goes along for the food and for material for her food column.  Inevitably she winds up solving a murder in each of these cities. 

Carolyn Blue is, at the same time, stodgy, prissy, naive, and self-righteous. I chuckle about her character often. She, really, is such a cliche of a Professor's wife.  But she is serious about her food--and she gives recipes.

In this episode an Italian man treated her one morning to an Italian omelet, which he served with sauteed tomato slices, and garlic toast. As Carolyn smelled and ate this breakfast, she described the aroma, the look, the surroundings, the taste, to the point that I was almost drooling. I had to have it.

Italian Omelet

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Saute 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms and 1/2 cup chopped onion in 1 Tbsp. butter, and set aside.

Mix 6 beaten eggs, 3 Tbsp. heavy cream, salt and ground black pepper to taste, 1/4 tsp. basil, 2 springs chopped parsley, and 1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese.

Heat 1 Tbsp. olive and 1 Tbsp. butter in a large cast-iron skillet or other heavy ovenproof frying pan until butter turns white. Pour in egg mixture and cook until mixture is soft on top. Remove from heat.

Sprinkle the top with the sauteed mushrooms and onions, 1/2 cup diced cooked ham, 1 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese, several drops of lemon juice, 4 oz. cubed mozzarella cheese, and 1 Tbs. melted butter.

Place skillet in oven and bake until the cheese has melted (about 4 minutes). Remove to a hot platter and serve with parsley garnish, toasted garlic bread, and a side of sauteed tomato slices sprinkled with fine bread crumbs, olive oil, and herbs of choice.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Delicious Raspberry Oatmeal Cookie Bars

These delicious cookie bars were my Valentine dessert.  They are so simple to make and so tasty, I decided to make another batch to share at work. I like making treats like this, they are not too sweet and the oats add nutritional value. They are also quite satisfying  for breakfast.

Delicious Raspberry Oatmeal Cookie Bars
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup seedless raspberry jam

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan, then line the pan with greased foil.

Combine brown sugar, flour, baking soda, salt, and rolled oats.  Rub in the butter using your hands to form a crumbly mixture.  Press 2 cups of the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan.  Spread the jam to within 1/4 inch of the edge.  Sprinkle the remaining crumb mixture over the top, and lightly press it into the jam.

Bake for 35 - 40 minutes, or until lightly browned.  Allow to cool before cutting into bars.

I am joining Lisa at her blog, Sweet as Sugar Cookies, for her 5th Sweets for a Saturday event. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Shrimp and Linguine Fra Diavolo

For my Valentine dinner, I made Shrimp and Linguine Fra Diavolo.  Fra Divalo translates as "Brother Devil", hinting that this dish is spicy!

 I used a ridiculous amount of both freshly chopped garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Don't worry about the garlic because you and your Valentine will both be eating it. Adjust the pepper flakes according to your desires, but you may be surprised by the amount this dish can carry without being overly hot. 

Shrimp and Linguine Fra Diavolo
12 oz. linguine
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, diced
3 Tbsp. minced garlic
2 - 3 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Parmesan cheese, optional

In a very large skillet (I used a cast iron) over medium high heat, add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and cook until lightly caramelized.  Add the garlic to the pan and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the red pepper flakes and saute briefly before adding the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Cook the sauce until reduced by about half.

Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the linguine until barely al dente. The pasta will cook a little further in the sauce.

Add the shrimp to the tomato sauce mixture and cook for about 3 minutes. Add the pasta to the pan along with about a cup of the pasta cooking water. Continue to cook the pasta in the sauce until desired tenderness. Stir in the fresh parley and adjust seasonings, adding salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste.

Toss to combine well and serve with grated Parmesan cheese if desired.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

First Lady Michelle Obama's Apple Cobbler

A couple of days ago, Pritchard Parker told me he would like pie.  I had been baking many, many cookies, then a cake, then brownies and he was in the mood for a change of pace.  Of course, I immediately started quizzing him: What kind of pie? A lemon meringue pie? A chocolate cream pie? A coconut pie? A cherry pie? He replied, simply, "A fruit pie."

As I contemplated this request (don't you love it when people you enjoy cooking for actually make a request) and knew fresh fruit is in short supply, here in the middle of winter, I considered frozen fruit. Finally, I decided on apples, which are available all year round.  And who doesn't like apple pie? 

I remembered this post from Lisa's blog,  The Cutting Edge of Ordinary.  I made the pie once before and everyone loved it. Plus it makes an extra large pie, and as alert readers of this blog know, my husband has a huge eating and fuel burning capacity. 

This pie is quite easy to make but it does take some planning ahead and also up to 3 hours of baking time.  Fine with me. Running the oven for 3 hours when it is freezing cold outside works out just fine.

I do hope you will jump over to Lisa's blog, to read her post about this pie, and also to enjoy her gorgeous photographs of it.

First Lady Michelle Obama's Apple Cobbler
8 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup flour

Mix these ingredients together and refrigerate overnight so the spice goes all the way through the apples.

3 sheets refrigerated pie crust
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter and flour the bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Roll out 1 1/2 pie crusts really thin, as thin as possible. Layer the bottom of the baking dish with the pastry and prick a few holes in it.

Pour the apples with their liquid into the crust. Dot 3/4 of the stick of butter over the apples. Roll out the remaining 1 1/2 pie crusts and cover the apple mixture entirely.  Pinch the edges of the dough around the sides of the dish so the apple mixture is completely covered.

Melt the remaining 1/4 stick of butter and brush over the top of the crust.

Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.  Bake for up to 3 hours until the crust is golden brown and flaky.  Start checking the cobbler after 2 1/2 hours to prevent over browning.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Cabbage Salad with Sweet and Hot Nuts

We have begun to have a day here and there with temperatures reaching up to 50 degrees. I have lived in these mountains long enough to know that we have a lot more cold weather in front of us (and most likely more snow).  So it is definitely not time to put away the soup pot. 

Yet, at this time of year, with the days growing incrementally longer, I start wanting to eat something crunchy. And I don't mean potato chips.  I mean substantial real food. When I spotted this salad on the Edible Europe blog, I knew I would try it. I thought it would be the perfect accompaniment to a warming and heartier dish. And it was.

I changed very little about the original recipe.  Mainly I chopped my vegetables differently due to personal preference, and I omitted the cilantro.  I was a little concerned about using whole almonds but I shouldn't have worried. They baked up light and crispy and were a delicious addition to an already delicious salad. 

Cabbage Salad with Sweet and Hot Nuts
1 tsp. olive oil
1 cup whole raw almonds
1/4 tsp. coarse salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp. honey

1 Tbsp. honey
3 Tbsp. rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
4 Tbsp. olive oil

1 small head cabbage, coarsely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, diced
2 scallions, thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Line a small rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat.  Add almonds and coarse salt.  Cook until almonds are lightly toasted, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in cayenne.  Drizzle 1 Tbsp. honey over and stir to coat. Spread almonds on prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes. Stir almonds and bake an additional 10 minutes until they are almost dry. Remove from oven and cool completely.

Whisk together 1 Tbsp. honey, the rice vinegar, soy sauce, lemon juice in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in the 4 Tbsp. olive oil, whisking constantly. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Combine vegetables in a salad bowl.  Pour over the dressing and toss to coat. Add almonds and toss again to coat.