Friday, February 25

Comfort Food

Comfort food: the ability to make a bad day melt away, to bring smiles to faces, to remember moments from your childhood, and to just say yum! This is comfort food my way!

Most people consider comfort food to be things they grew up on, or favorite foods they have eaten over their lives, and some consider southern food to be the very definition of comfort food. Personally I agree with all of these.

My favorite comfort foods are those that are sweet and served warm. My ultimate favorite, cobbler. The silky smooth texture of the fruit, mixed with the soft crunch of nuts, and topped with a crumble that could melt hearts. These three key aspects of a cobbler meld into on perfect dessert.

Serve with tea, coffee, or your favorite hot beverage and its sure to put a smile on any one's face.

Friday, February 18

Asian Black Bean Chicken

This is a great dish when your just not sure what you want. The hint of Asian spices and Mexican flavors, really pull this dish together. Easily prepared in under ten minutes this dish is ready to cook! Serve with a side of white rice and sweet rolls for an amazing diner.

Serves 2 - 4
Full time: 45-60 minutes
You will need:

1lb chicken thighs (or cut of your choice-however cooking time will change)
1 14oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp asain five spice
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

Lets begin:

Prehaet oven to 350

Measure out 1/4 cup black beans and place in a mixing bowl. Place the remaining beans in a 9 x 9 baking dish.

Place chicken thighs ontop of beans in the baking dish

Working with the beans in the bowl. Use a fork to squish the beans into a sudo-paste.

Add into bean paste, soy sauce, sugar, ginger, salt, red pepper flakes and mix well

Add vinegar into bowl and mix well

Spoon paste mixture over chicken and spread

Bake chicken 35-45 minutes or internal temp reaches 175

Sprinkle five spiceover top of chicken, serve and enjoy!

Spring is in the air!

I love this time of year, when spring time begins to peak out from the winter curtain. Its a great time to start planning ahead for new veggie gardens, herbs boxes, and start those seeds. I often think that it is my favorite time of year, all that newly planted life, sprouting forth! I think of all the yummy foods that will follow shortly! There is nothing so satisfying as a meal created with fresh garden produce, newly clipped herbs, and ripply plucked fruit.

Unfortunately, that will all still have to wait a month or two. It would be wonderful if the seeds I planted today, sprang forth veggies tomorrow, but sadly they will not. In the meantime-I like to start cleaning out the pantry, time to get rid of all those winter stick up supplies.

This is a great time of year to start experimenting with semi-home-made meals. Dishes that can easily be prepared with little or no prep work for you, but are just as yummy! I love experimenting: try blending prepackaged items together for interesting fusion cuisine.

Tuesday, February 8

Savory Stuffed Zucchini or Eggplant

This spin on a classic stuffed veggie makes a great side or an even better stand alone dish!

Serves 4
Full time: 45 minutes

You will need:

2 medium zucchini or Italian eggplants
1/4 cup rice cooked
1/4 cup diced mushrooms*optional
1/4 cup diced onions*optional
1/4 cup diced tomato
2 tbsp chopped garlic
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp parmigiana cheese
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes

Let us begin:

Start by preparring the Zucchini/Eggplant:

Cut off top of zucchini/eggplant.

Carefully cut length wise.

With a spoon gently remove the mid section. Tid will form a culvert to place the stuffing in. Leave a wall approx 1/8" thick along the skin.

Brush will cooking oil lightly and set on a baking sheet.

Dice the zucchini/eggplant that was removed and add it to stuffing ingredients.

Now lets make the stuffing:

Place all ingredients, except tomatoes and rice in a saute pan.

Allow pan to heat and butter to melt (veggies will begin to soften) over a med/high heat.

Lower heat to med/low, add in tomatoes and cook 5 minutes.

Fold in the rice.

Remove from heat and allow to cool to the touch.

Preheat oven to 350.

Place even amounts of stuffing into the culverts you created in the zucchini/eggplant. Gently mound extra stuffing onto the top.

Bake for 20-25 minutes until skin is fork able.

Remove from oven and Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 2

BAKE IT: Fantastic Farmer Bread

Farmer bread, is a heavier bread. Its golden thick crust and warm hearty center, make this a great bread for cold weather days. Farmer's bread has a very Challah like quality, however it has a slightly yeastier taste.

Full time: approximately 5 hours (includes multiple rest/rise times and cool time)
You will need:

1 1/4 cups warm (not hot) water
1/2 tbsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup honey
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tbsp salt
2 eggs
4 1/4 cups flour

For top:

1 beaten egg
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp brown sugar

Lets begin:

In a med/large bowl place the water and sprinkle yeast across top, let sit for a min or two

Gently beat in honey, eggs, salt

Add 1/4 cup flour gently beat

Add 2 cups flour gently beat

Add cup flour gently beat. You will begin to notice a heavier dough begin to form. Add in flour in parts allows the dough to mix more evenly

Add last cup of flour. Knead until smooth and no longer sticky

Cover with a damp cloth and let rise for 1 1/2hrs

Punch down dough (it does not rise as high as some doughs, do not be shocked if it only looks half risen)

Turn onto lightly floured board

Knead for 5 minutes, add very light flour if it becomes sticky

Divide into 3 equal part

Roll each piece into a rope approx 1 1/2" thick

Place ropes along side each other, pinch tops together, braid, pinch bottom together

Place on greased cookie sheet or baking stone and let stand 1 hr

Preheat oven to 375

In small bowl combine beaten egg, sugar, nutmeg, brown sugar

Brush generously over top of bread, making sure to get sides as well

Bake 40-45 minutes until golden brown

Let stand at least 1 to 1 1/2 hours before cutting

This bread pairs very well with turkey dinner, stews, and even creates amazing cinnamon toast for breakfasts!

Winter Weather Wonders

Some days in the winter I have the feeling of being couped up or even get a little restless. The constant cold, biting ice, and heavy snow falls tends to drive me inside on bad weather days. I have also often begun to feel a little bit in a food rut. Not being able to get a complete selection of fresh, crisp produce is hard when you love to cook. Using dry herbs in the winter is a great supplement to the fresh, but I would be lying if I said that winter was my favorite cooking time of years.

What I do love to do in the winter is bake and bake often. The house heats up to the smell of fresh hot breads, muffins, cookies, and cakes. The endless snow storms melt away behind the kneading of dough. It makes me feel alive. To produce homemade breads is sometimes a long process, which is perfect for those stuck indoors days.