Sunday, January 31, 2010

More Snowy Days

The wooly worm was very black and very fuzzy. The "old folks" say that means a cold winter.
The wool worm was absolutely right! We're having more snow and cold weather than any of the 6 winters we've lived here.
The snow sits in the forest and outlines our property. We can see to the top of the mountain that shelters us and to the bottom of the mountain on which we live. It is a straight drop down to the road below. Something which I tend to forget about when the leaves are on the trees. Even in winter, its hard to see all the way up or down. The snow paints a clear picture of our property lines.

This is the snow that I love. It's pretty as it falls and blankets the world, then it goes away in a day or two! Must be the "Southerner" in me.

Mr and Mrs Charlie Cardinal seem to be adjusting to this bout of cold. They've puffed up their down feathers and attacked the feeder with a vengance. And they haven't attacked the windows - at least not today!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Marshmallow update

Marshmallow recipe is still on my "to do" list... first I couldn't locate one of the ingredients (potato starch - I'm guessing corn starch might do). Now the weather is too humid.. ahhh... one day... I will get them made!!!!!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Homemade Marshmallows

Cold weather and many cups of hot chocolate have inspired me to try making homemade marshmallows. I saw Emeril make them a while back and was intrigued. The weather must cooperate... as with candy, they won't turn out right with high humidity. Today might be just the day... or night... stay tuned for a report, recipe and maybe pics. I understand that once you taste homemade, Kraft will never taste the same, even if they are jet-puffed!!

Simple Recipe

Here's a simple yet yummy recipe that takes about 5 minutes to put together. It doubles easily and you can add cubed ham or crumbled bacon for a richer taste. Enjoy!
Corn Fritter Casserole

3 tablespoons butter, melted
2 eggs
1 (8-oz.) container sour cream (1 cup)
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
1 (15-oz.) can cream-style corn
1 (15-oz.) can whole kernel corn
1 (8.5-oz) package Jiffy corn muffin mix
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine first 3 ingredients in a large mixing bowl, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Stir in onion, pepper, and corn. Mix well.

Add muffin mix and black pepper, stirring until combined. Pour into a 7x11-inch baking dish coated with Pam. Bake for 50 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Yield: 9 servings.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Charlie, the Crazy Cardinal

For those of you who read about Charlie, our crazy cardinal, here's his picture taken today.
Look closely, Charlie is sitting on the birdfeeder, Mrs. Charlie (Charlotte?) is sitting on the cold ground!! What's wrong with this picture??????
They both flew onto the porch yesterday in the snow and looked soooo sad and cold.... I hung out the snowman birdhouse so that they had a place to sleep.

Baked Beef Stew

Perfect dish to warm your kitchen while cooking, and warm your tummy with delicious flavors!
Baking the stew brings out the flavors and gives a rich broth. Serve in a bowl with mashed potatoes. If you don't want to bake it in the oven, you can cook it on top of the stove, but the taste will not be the same!

Oven Beef Stew
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 lbs beef stew meat, cut into 1-inch cubes
3 1/2 cups halved fresh mushrooms (about 8 0z.)
2 cups diagonally cut carrot
1 1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
1 1/2 cups sliced celery
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 cup dry red wine
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 1/2 teaspoon (kosher) salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (28-0z.) can diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
1(2 1/4-oz can) sliced black olives, drained
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or balsamic)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley, optional
Hot mashed potatoes

Heat oil in large oven-proof Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add beef ; cook 5 minutes, browning on all sides. Remove beef from pan. Add mushrooms, carrots, onion, celery and garlic to pan, cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Return beef to pan. Stir in broth, wine, thyme, salt, pepper, tomatoes and bay leaves, bring to a boil. Cover and place in a 350 degree oven. Bake for 3 hours, or until beef is tender. Add olives and cook, uncovered, for an additional 30 minutes.
Discard bay leaves. Stir in red wine vinegar and parsley. Serve in a bowl with hot mashed potatoes on the side. Yield: 6 servings. Leftovers freeze beautifully!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Purple Coat

It was Valentine's weekend and I flew into DC to spend it with Bill who was on a long term assignment. When I left ATL the temperature was a balmy 55 degrees. I flew on a buddy pass (Apparently my buddy was high ranking; I was bumped to first class!) so I dressed up for the trip. I was also going to visit the Dept of Interior in DC and meet Bill's National Park Service buddies. So, I arrived in DC in 50 degree temperature under a bright sunny sky dressed in my nice wool blazer, dress slacks and a big smile. It was a great afternoon. I walked around the area, popped into the Corceran Gallery and enjoyed a few hours on my own in DC while Bill finshed his workday.

Late Friday afternoon a weather front came through. It rained (I was prepared with my wool-lined "all-weather" coat.) and the wind blew (all of a sudden wind-proof took on new meaning.) and it got COLD. On Saturday morning we set off to see the sights. We rode the Metro to Union Station and proceeded to walk down the National Mall. Then it happened. My nose ran, my eyes watered, I shivered and then I shook; I was freezing! The wind whipped right through my Atl weight "all-weather coat" and the cold of DC confirmed that I am truly a Southern girl!

Finally, we sought refuge from the cold in an Eddie Bauer store in Georgetown. Hanging on a display near the entrance was a down filled REAL "all weather" coat. It would resist wind, rain, snow and cold temps. I eyed it about the same time as Bill saw it. We both almost ran to it. I hugged it to me, slipping my arms into the warm comfort of the soft down filling. I coveted it. I fell in love with it. I NEEDED that coat! I wanted that coat! BUT, I didn't love it in PURPLE! Being all about function, not fashion, Bill bought it for me anyway.

The purple coat has become the official measure of REALLY cold weather. When it comes out of the downstairs closet, winter is at its worst. The purple coat went to the artic circle with my dear friend, Anna. It has come out for all snow events in the mountains and today, it came out for the cold early morning walk with the dog. Yes, its "purple coat weather" in the mountains of NC! And for this Southern "girl", the purple coat can't go back into the closet fast enough!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Getting ready for snow!!!

Tuscan Chicken Stew

8 skinless chicken thighs
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 red peppers, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (28 ounce) can peeled tomatoes
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon dried oregano or 1 large fresh oregano sprig, chopped
1 (14 1/2 ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper
4 sprigs oregano (optional)

Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet until hot, not smoking. Sauté the chicken in the oil until brown. Remove chicken from the pan and reserve. Add the onions and peppers to the pan and cook 3 to 5 minutes until soft but not browned. Add minced garlic.
Carefully drain tomatoes reserving liquid in a cup or bowl. Mash the tomatoes into a thick paste – more concentrated than tomato sauce but not as thick as tomato paste.
Add chicken, tomatoes, wine and oregano to the onions and peppers. Simmer 30 minutes, until chicken is cooked through. If the pan becomes dry, add a little of the reserved tomato liquid. Do so sparingly.
Add cannelloni beans to the pan, and simmer another 5 minutes until hot.
Garnish with sprigs of oregano (optional).

Monday, January 4, 2010

Greek Lasagna - Pastitsio

If you're feeding a crowd during the holidays, here is the recipe for you! Everyone loves it and it makes a lot, but freezes well before adding the bechamel sauce. This can also be made ahead and assembled just before baking. Store the meat sauce, cooked pasta and béchamel sauce separately then assemble as the recipe instructs.

I you don't like lamb ( I don't!), use all ground round. This was a big hit with my entire family a couple of years ago. Looks like I'll be making it again this year during the Christmas holidays.

Pastitsio (Greek Lasagna)

Tomato Meat Sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 ½ cups chopped yellow onion
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound lean ground lamb
½ cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
Pinch red pepper
1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes in puree
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large Dutch oven. Add onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add beef and lamb; cook until no longer pink, stirring to break apart. Drain off any excess liquid, add wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add garlic, cinnamon, oregano, thyme, and red pepper and continue cooking over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside.

Béchamel or Crema Sauce
1 ½ cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
¼ cup all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon salt ( or less to taste)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 ½ cups freshly grated Parmesan or Kasseri cheese
2/3 cup Greek yogurt

Combine milk and cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Heat until simmering (do not boil!).
Melt butter in a medium saucepan; add flour and cook over medium heat, whisking constantly for 2 minutes. Pour the warm milk mixture into butter and flour mixture, whisking constantly. Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 7 minutes or until smooth and thick. Add nutmeg, salt and pepper. Stir in ¾ cup Parmesan cheese and ½ cup Tomato Meat Sauce. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes. Stir in yogurt and set aside again.

Cook 12 ounces small pasta shells as directed on package. (Cook al dente as they will cook more when combined with the sauce and baked.) Drain and stir in 1 stick butter until melted.

To assemble the Pastitsio: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brush a large baking pan (at least 12x14x2-inches) with olive oil.

Combine cooked pasta with Tomato and Meat Sauce; stir in 2 beaten eggs. Pour mixture into the baking dish.
Spread the Béchamel Sauce evenly over the pasta mixture.
Sprinkle with remaining ¾ cup Parmesan cheese.
Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour, until golden brown and bubbly. Set aside for 10 minutes before serving.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New Year's Resolution

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.” ~ Jeremiah 29:11-13 (ESV)

"... with all your heart." That says it all. Seek Him with all your heart and everything will be OK.
He has plans for us. He knows those plans, we have to trust him to reveal them to us. If we don't talk to him, we'll never know the plans. So, talk to HIM and listen with all my heart. That's my New Year's resolution.

Lighten Up with Mediterranean Chicken

Kalamata-Lemon Chicken

6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon olive oil
2/3 cup uncooked orzo
½ cup drained, pitted kalamata olives
1 (14-oz.) can chicken broth or 2 cups broth
½ lemon, cut into wedges
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Greek seasoning
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Hot chicken broth, if desired
Fresh snipped oregano, if desired

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brown chicken thighs in a 4-quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 5 minutes, turning once. Stir in orzo, olives, chicken broth, lemon wedges, lemon juice, Greek seasoning, salt, and pepper. Cover, bake for 35 minutes or until chicken is tender and no longer pink. Serve in shallow bowls with additional broth, if desired. Top with snipped oregano.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Comfort Food for a Cold Night

There is nothing healthy about this, but when you want REAL "comfort food" Mac 'n Cheese, only this version will do! Kelley makes this for special occasions at Bill's request.

Over-the-Rainbow Macaroni and Cheese
Recipe created by Patti LaBelle

Patti LaBelle says that the sure sign of a good cook is if their macaroni and cheese will make you cry! Patti's version just might bring tears to your eyes.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound elbow macaroni
8 tablespoons (1 stick) plus 1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Muenster cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded mild Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Monterey Jack
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup (8 ounces) Velveeta , cut into small cubes
2 large eggs , lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon seasoned salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a deep 2 1/2-quart casserole. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the oil, then the elbow macaroni, and cook until the macaroni is just tender, about 7 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain well. Return to the cooking pot. In a small saucepan, melt eight tablespoons of the butter. Stir into the macaroni.

In a large bowl, mix Muenster, mild and sharp Cheddar, and Monterey Jack cheeses. To the macaroni, add the half-and-half, 1 1/2 cups of the shredded cheese, the cubed Velveeta, and the eggs. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to the buttered casserole. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup of shredded cheese and dot with the remaining one tablespoon of butter. Bake until it's bubbling around the edges, about 35 minutes. Serve hot.