Friday, June 27, 2014

Cool Honey Mint Smoothie

ABOUT FIFTEEN YEARS AGO, I read a book called The Four Agreements. In the book, the author, Don Miguel Ruiz discusses the Toltec concept of mitote (me-toe-tay).  Mitote refers to a cacophony of voices in your head which are all talking but none of them seem to be listening.

My husband has always called it "too many things to think about all at the same time".

I mention it because this is where I have been for a few weeks. Some people thrive on constant busy-ness, others take pride in their ability to multi-task. Not I. It really disturbs my peace and happiness to pay constant partial attention to many undertakings and future duties at once. I prefer to be more mindful, to live in a state of balance, and to enjoy my life.

Would you like to slow down, relax, and savor a fresh, cooling, and healthful smoothie with me?

Cool Honey Mint Smoothie
3 cups chopped honeydew melon
1 cup peeled, seeded, and chopped cucumber
1/2 ripe avocado
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh mint
1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp. honey
1 cup plain yogurt
Coconut water

Place melon, cucumber, avocado, fresh mint, lime juice, honey and yogurt in blender. Process, using  as much coconut water as needed to blend to desired consistency.

Garnish with cucumber slices and mint springs.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Homemade Vidalia Onion Rings

FRESH HOMEMADE ONION RINGS seem like such a delicacy at our house, a rare and special pleasure. The arrival of the summer's Vidalia onions are cause for such a celebration.

Ordinarily, I am not fussy about the way others pronounce words. Not even my own name, and you cannot believe the variety of ways people can say, "Rocky". But when it comes to the South's, specifically Vidalia, Georgia's beloved sweet onion, I'm afraid I get a little defensive.

The name, Vidalia, is NOT pronounced vee-doll-eea with the head tilted back ever-so-slightly, chin jutting forward, eyebrows arched while the nostrils flare imperceptibly. The word Vidalia is said like so: VIE-DALE-YA and it is spoken with a smile.

I make a batter, dip the onions, then pan fry them, in a single layer, in shallow peanut oil, in a black iron skillet. Have you ever bitten into an onion ring and the entire onion slice pulls away from the crust? It happens when they are deep fried in oil that is too hot. The outside browns before the onion has a chance to cook. Not these onion rings. The batter adheres well and forms a crispy crust which encases the sweet and tender Vidalia onion slices.

Home Made Vidalia Onion Rings
3 large Vidalia onions
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 egg, well beaten
1/2 cup milk
Cooking oil for frying

Wash and peel onions and cut into 1/4-inch thick rounds. Separate rounds into rings. In a bowl, combine flour, salt, pepper, and baking powder. Whisk together the egg and milk. Add milk mixture to the flour mixture and blend well.

Dip onion rings into the batter and fry in a single layer in shallow, hot oil, in a large skillet. Once golden brown on one side, flip over and continue frying on the second side. Remove to paper towels to drain.

Serve hot.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Tapioca Pudding with Benefits

SOMETIMES A RICH AND CREAMY DESSERT which is not too sweet is just perfect. Cheesecake, creme brulee, mousse, and puddings all fall into this category.

Tapioca Pudding is an old fashioned and cheering concoction with a delightful texture. The tapioca pearls are bubbly but not effervescent. Not quite jellied. Yet the bubbles are smooth and slippery rolling around in the mouth.

Because the pudding is made with egg yolks, the benefit is that the unused egg whites can be made into meringue cookies. The light and airy crispiness of the dainty meringues is a perfect complement to the smoothness of the pudding.

Tapioca Pudding
For the Crock Pot, Adapted from Alton Brown
1/2 cup large pearl tapioca
2 cups cold water
2 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pinch of salt
2 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Place tapioca in a medium bowl and cover with water. Cover and let soak overnight.

Drain water from tapioca. Place the tapioca into a slow cooker, along with the milk, heavy cream, and pinch of salt. Cook on high for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, and vanilla. Temper small amounts of the tapioca into the egg mixture until you have added at least 1 cup. Then add this back into the remaining tapioca in the slow cooker. Cook for an additional 15 minutes, stirring at least once.

Transfer the pudding to a bowl and cover the surface with parchment paper. Allow to cool at room temperature for 1 hour and then place in the refrigerator until thoroughly chilled.

Meringue Cookies
2 egg whites, room temperature
pinch cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Slowly add sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, until all sugar has been added. Continue beating until the whites are stiff and glossy. Add vanilla and beat for 30 seconds more.

Pipe or spoon the meringue into 1 1/2-inch-diameter cookies, spacing them about 1/2 inch apart.

Bake the cookies until dry and crisp throughout, about 1 1/2 hours. Transfer the pans to racks and let the cookies cool.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Massaged Kale Salad with Dried Cranberries and Roasted Pecans

 KALE HAS BEEN THE WELL-DESERVED DARLING of the vegetable world for a couple of years now.

I'm never sure how something ordinary like kale, which used to be relegated to the never-eaten status of salad bar garnish rises to super stardom. But it sure did. I watched this happen, thinking all along. . .so what? I have always liked kale just fine but loved other greens (collards to name one) so much better. My husband is a spinach fan.

I even admit to thinking the concept of kale eaten raw in a salad was, frankly, unappetizing.

Then I tried Bettie M's salad. She had massaged the kale until something magic happened. Whoever first massaged mature, leathery kale leaves until they relaxed into something so tender and delicious was a true kitchen alchemist. Too bad I was so blasè about trying it for so long.

Massaged Kale Salad with Dried Cranberries and Roasted Pecans
1 large bunch kale, washed and dried
Olive oil, as needed
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt to taste
Dried Cranberries
Roasted Pecans

Cut or tear washed and dried kale into bite-sized pieces, discarding the tough stems. Place in a large salad bowl.

Rub olive oil onto the palms of your hands, then massage the kale for a couple of minutes until it becomes relaxed, bright green, and softens a bit.

Squeeze over the lemon juice. Sprinkle with salt. Toss well and taste for seasoning, adding more lemon juice, olive oil, salt, or a grind of pepper if desired.

Garnish generously with dried cranberries and roasted pecans.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Dilly Casserole Bread


She had clipped the recipe from her hometown newspaper--The Opelika Daily News, on Wednesday, August 22, 1973. At the time, she was 8 months pregnant, expecting her third child. She was already Mother to a 3-year-old little boy and a 1-year-old baby girl. She was living in a small un-air-conditioned home, in Alabama, in the August heat, and there she was baking bread. I love her for that.

I have baked this bread several times and each time I wonder why I don't make it more often. It is easy and extremely flavorful. The additions of cottage cheese, finely minced fresh onion, and dill seed--not dill weed--provide a subtle savory flavor no one could guess.

It is a very old fashioned recipe. Not like the dense, chewy breads with a crispy crust so popular today.

I like baking it in a well buttered, smaller, 1 1/2 quart casserole. It rises and puffs up tall, looking like a giant cupcake. Indeed, the texture of the bread is very cake-like with a soft and delicate crumb and tender crust.

And the next day, toasted? Exceptional.

Dilly Casserole Bread
1 pkg. yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup cottage cheese, room temperature
1 Tbsp. butter, softened
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 Tbsp. fresh minced onion
2 tsp. dill seed
1 egg
2 1/4 - 2 1/2 cups flour

Soften yeast in warm water and let stand 10 minutes. Combine in large bowl, the cottage cheese, butter, sugar, salt, baking soda, onion, dill seed, and the softened yeast. Beat well to blend. Add flour and beat well.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Stir down dough. Turn into a well greased 1 1/2 to 2 quart casserole. Let rise until light, 35 to 45 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 - 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Brush with soft butter and sprinkle with salt.  Cool 10 minutes, then remove bread to cooling rack.