Thursday, November 20, 2008

Have you ever flipped through a magazine, seen a recipe you liked, and wished you could have a copy?

I love magazines especially ones that have recipes. There are so many on the market that is almost impossible to subscribe to all of them. I would love to know your favorite ones.

I’m the first to admit that I have a pack-rat gene that I inherited from the Stewart side of my family that prevents me from throwing away things, including magazines. Therefore, to help cure this addiction, I subscribe to only a very few magazines.

Currently my favorite food magazine is Everyday Food. It’s great food fast from Martha Stewart. It’s small in size (7 ½" x 5 ¼") compared to Gourmet or Bon Appetit but it covers all of the subjects that the larger magazines do.
Have you ever been in the doctor’s office flipping through, as example, Southern Living and seen a recipe you’d like to have? It happens to me all of the time. Do you tear it out? Ask the person at the desk to make a copy for you? Or does the magazine just happen to find its way home with you? I sadly admit I’m guilty from time to time.

Well, feel guilty no more. Many of the recipes in magazines can be found on line on their web sites. It’s certainly true for Southern Living, Cooking Light, Cottage Living, Coastal Living, Martha Stewart and many others. I’ve compiled a list of my favorite magazine on-line search sites in the side bar of this blog. Write down the name of the recipe you want and go on-line. Give them a try before you tear something out of a magazine. I declare this solution as not guilty.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Famous Cheese Ball --- perfect holiday appetizer

Drum roll please. Here, published for the first time, is Nancy Simpson’s famous cheese ball recipe.

Cheese balls make a great appetizer, they are easy to prepare, and men love them. Fellow writer and poet Nancy Simpson brought her famous cheese ball to Netwest’s Prose Group last Thursday night at Tri-County College. The first person to comment, Jerry Hobbs, said, "Anything with pecans in it has to be good." It didn’t take long for the seven of us to devour it.

She kindly shared her recipe with me. It gets it kick from the Hidden Valley Ranch seasoning mix. Wherever she takes it, she says, people always request the recipe. Nancy likes to give her cheese ball as a Christmas gift by putting it on a pretty plate and adding a cheese knife. If you know Nancy, maybe you can get your name on her gift list because it’s that good.

Here, by popular demand, is her recipe.

Nancy Simpson’s Cheese Ball

1 (8 oz) package Original Philadelphia cream cheese
1 (8 oz) package 1/3 Less Fat Philadelphia cream cheese
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 ½ cups crushed pecans (divided)
1 package Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing and seasoning mix
1 teaspoon Heinz Worcestershire sauce
Pecan halves for garnish

Bring all three cheeses to room temperature. Combine both cream cheeses, cheddar cheese, ½ cup crushed pecans, salad dressing and seasoning mix and Worcestershire sauce. Roll into two large balls or three small balls.

Roll balls in 1 cup of crushed pecans. Garnish decoratively with pecan halves. Serve with Triscuits or crackers of your choice.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cranberries for Thanksgiving

Sugar and spice and everything nice add up to a new twist on some cranberry recipes for your Thanksgiving feast. These sauces are easy to make and vastly superior to the canned versions.

Serve left-over cranberry sauce over melted Brie cheese and accompany with toasted French baguette slices and a salad of mixed baby greens and nut oil vinaigrette.

For breakfast or with a cup of espresso in the afternoon, the yellow cranberry muffins are beautiful with the red berries.

Cranberry Sauce 
A citrus twist on a classic

1 (12 ounce) package of fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cinnamon stick
Grated zest of one orange
Juice of ½ orange
1 cup dry red wine, such as a Merlot or Syrah
¾ cup to 1 ½ cups sugar or to taste
Julienned orange zest for garnish (optional but recommended)

Mix all of the ingredients (except the garnish) in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then partially cover and simmer about 15 minutes, until the cranberries have burst. Cool and remove cinnamon stick. Sauce will firm up as it cools. Can be refrigerated, covered for up to 3 days. Serve at room temperature and garnish with the julienned orange zest if desired. Serves 6 to 8.

Cranberry Onion Relish
Great with a fried turkey

1 tablespoon canola oil
¼ cup chopped onion
1 small clove garlic, minced
1 (12 ounce) package of fresh or frozen cranberries
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Heat the canola oil in a small saucepan and place over medium high heat until hot. Add onions and garlic; sauté until tender. Add cranberries, sugar and water.

Bring to a boil. Cook 3-5 minutes or until the mixture is thickened. Stir in the vinegar. Remove from the heat and store in an air-tight container. Can be refrigerated, covered for up to 3 days. Serve at room temperature. Serves 6 to 8.

Warm Brie & Cranberry Sauce with Baby Greens tossed with Nut Oil Vinaigrette
Here’s an idea on how to use left-over cranberry sauce. This was inspired by a recipe, Mache with Warm Brie & Apples, in Ina Garten’s latest book, Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics. Use either one of the cranberry sauces from above.

12 slices of a French baguette cut into ½ inch thick diagonal slices
12 ounces French Brie cheese, cut into 4 wedges
4 tablespoons cranberry sauce at room temperature
4 ounces mixed baby greens
2 tablespoons peeled and minced shallots
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons walnut oil
2 tablespoons canola or other neutral flavored oil
Salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
A handful of unsalted nuts, either pecan or walnut halves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the 4 wedges of Brie snuggly in one layer in a shallow baking dish.

Heat the nuts in a 10" non-stick skillet on the stove over medium heat. Toss constantly until lightly brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Do not burn. Set aside.

Toast the bread in a toaster oven or on a sheet pan in the oven at 350 until crisp. Set aside.

Make the vinaigrette by putting the shallots, sherry vinegar, walnut and canola oil along with salt and pepper in a small jar. Shake well to combine.

Bake the Brie for 3 to 5 minutes until it begins to ooze but not actually melted. Watch carefully, it can get away from you. While the Brie is baking, toss the baby greens with the vinaigrette and the nut halves. Divide the salad among 4 large salad plates.

Place a slice of warm Brie in the center of each plate and dress each slice with a tablespoon of cranberry sauce. Place 2 or 3 slices of toasted baguette on the other side of the Brie. Serve immediately. Serves 4.

Cranberry Cornmeal Muffins

1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
Pinch of salt
¾ cup plain nonfat yogurt
½ cup nonfat milk
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled
1 large egg

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line twelve 1/3 cup muffin cups with paper liners (recommended for easier clean-up and a prettier presentation). Coarsely chop cranberries in a food processor or carefully by hand with a sharp knife. Set aside.
Combine flour and the next five ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk yogurt, milk, butter and egg in medium bowl to blend. Add to dry ingredients; mix just until combined. Fold in cranberries. Divide batter equally among muffin cups. Bake until golden and tester inserted into center of muffins comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Transfer muffin tin to rack and cool. Makes 12 muffins.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Sharing Recipes and Stories

Nancy Simpson posted a comment saying no one has ever asked her for a recipe. Somehow I don’t believe her, but her real talent lies in her poetry. I follow her site Living above the Frost Line. It is filled with wonderful poetry and pretty pictures of her garden in the mountains.

Her comment about sharing recipes made me think of my husband Meakin’s late step-mother Wanda. She was probably the best cook I have ever known and was never afraid to tackle even the most complicated of foods. Her daughter Marilynn ran a successful catering business in Buffalo, NY for years. Anyway, years ago Wanda served a fabulous Clam Zucchini soup as a first course and I asked for the recipe. I was out of luck because she didn’t share recipes. That was a shame because, as a new cook at the time, I certainly could have learned a lot from her. I vowed to myself that day that I would always share and so I have.

Nancy and I belong to the North Carolina Writers Network and Netwest. Glenda Beall, Netwest Coordinator, wrote a post about sharing recipes and included fellow writer Peg Russell’s yummy Rum Cake. Click on the above link for Peg’s recipe.

A friend of ours, David Dabney, owns a beautiful antebellum tour home, The Martha Vick House, in Vicksburg, Mississippi. He tells a wonderful southern story of recipe sharing in the Vicksburg cookbook, Ambrosia, which is out of print now but can be purchased from used booksellers on the internet.
Ambrosia is a coffee table cookbook filled with rich food, gorgeous pictures, amusing stories about the south, and is an excellent tour guide of the city of Vicksburg. Vicksburg’s finest cooks share their recipes for entertaining for special occasions throughout the seasons.

David’s mother had a wonderful cook named Esterine for forty years. In those days ladies entertained with bridge clubs at home and served lunch. Esterine made a scalloped oyster dish that the ladies loved but she had no recipe. Everything was just pinches or dashes of this and that. All of the ladies wanted the recipe. One day they caught her in a good mood and she gave them the recipe. They were very proud of themselves for finally getting her to share her secrets.

About a week or so later, Esterine was at the Piggly Wiggly doing David’s mother’s marketing and one of the ladies was in line with her. The lady said, “Esterine, Honey, I did those scalloped oysters just like you told me to, but, you know, they didn’t taste like yours.”

Esterine drew herself up and said, “I didn’t ‘tend for ‘em to be.”

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Have You Ever Thought of Entering a Cooking Contest?

Have you ever thought of entering a cooking contest? Some of the big contests offer large dollar prizes. There are three major national contests: The Pillsbury Bake-Off, the National Beef Cook-Off, and the National Chicken Cooking Contest.

The Food Network shows the cooking contests from time to time. I happened to catch the Pillsbury Bake-Off the other night. It was exciting to watch the contestants compete for the grand prize, which is now up to one million dollars.

It reminded me of the time I was the Mississippi finalist in the 40th National Chicken Cooking Contest. I was awarded an all expense paid trip to the competition where participants are introduced to the audience as the state winner. With a banner draped over your chest, you walked out feeling very much like "Miss America". Everyone had their very own kitchen. A flag was provided that each contestant could raise or lower, indicating whether they were available for conversation and questions while preparing their dish.

My dish was Chicken Breasts stuffed with Goat Cheese. Goat cheese in 1993 was a fairly exotic ingredient. Many people stopped by my booth with questions.

We lived in Vicksburg, Mississippi at the time and our city newspaper’s food editor, Laurin Stamm, accompanied me, along with my husband Meakin, to the contest. She actually presented my dish to the judges for tasting. Although I did not win the grand prize, she said they "didn’t leave a bite."

It was an experience of a lifetime and the contests treat you like royalty. I won’t soon forget it. If you have ever considered entering a contest, I think the key is to send in as many recipes as you can. Your odds are much greater that way and you never know which recipe will be the most appealing to the panel. There are many smaller contests, which is how I originally got started. I urge you to give contests a try. You never know what might happen.

Here is my entry. Goat cheese is easy to obtain at any grocery store. For the health conscious, goat cheese or chevre has half the fat of cheddar, cream cheese or Brie. Although in appearance it resembles cream cheese, its wonderful tang sets it far apart.

Recipe: Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Goat Cheese, Sun-dried Tomatoes & Rosemary
Excellent served with Green Beans and Sautéed Cherry Tomatoes

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts halves (1 1/2 lbs)
4 oz. fresh goat cheese
4 whole sun dried tomatoes (not packed in oil)
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped or 1 1/2 teaspoons dried
1 very finely minced clove of garlic
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
2 tablespoons melted sweet butter
Mushroom sauce - recipe follows

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pound chicken breasts between sheets of plastic wrap to a thickness of 1/4" using mallet. Bring 2 cups of water to boil; add sun dried tomatoes & remove from heat. Let soak 4 minutes until soft. Remove from water, pat dry & finely chop. Combine tomatoes with goat cheese, rosemary & garlic. Spread cheese mixture lengthwise over center of each chicken piece. Roll chicken up & tuck short ends in and secure with toothpicks. Dip chicken in egg, allowing excess to drip into bowl. Roll in bread crumbs, shaking off excess.

Place chicken in baking dish that has been lined with aluminum foil. Pour 2 tablespoons melted butter over chicken & bake until cooked through, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven.
Remove toothpicks from chicken, cut rolls crosswise into 1/2" thick rounds. Fan chicken on plate, spoon mushroom sauce over & serve immediately. Serves 4.

Mushroom sauce

Sauté 1 cup fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced, in 1 tablespoon olive oil in a non-stick 10" skillet over medium high heat until tender. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth & 1/2 cup dry white wine (or substitute more chicken broth) to mushrooms & reduce until about 1/3 cup remains. Remove from heat & add 1 tablespoon cold sweet butter. Stir to blend.

Cooks tip for making homemade bread crumbsThere is a real advantage to making your own crumbs instead of buying the pre-packaged ones, which can have an unpleasant preserved taste. Use full tasting bread, like a sourdough or a French baguette. Simply tear the bread into small chunks and grind in a food processor or blender. For a more delicate crumb, trim the crusts first.

Recipe previously published in The 1993 Chicken Cookbook, a Dell publication.