Thursday, November 20, 2008

Back from the dead (or graduate school), and just in time for yummy fall harvest recipes…

The number one thing I’ve learned about graduate school and this blog: Graduate school is not conducive to writing a cooking blog. Seems pretty obvious, right? I think I just had higher expectations for myself, but I should have known that school demands outweigh almost all other demands.

Despite the busy-ness of school, I have actually been cooking quite a bit (demands for eating good food are still high on the priority list for my husband and me). I had planned to post recipes over the last few months, but alas papers, books, and more papers have gotten in the way.

But I’m back in the spirit of the holidays (thanks to a couple nudges from friends and family). Thanksgiving is one of my favorites--because of all the good cooking and food and family--and this recipe is perfect for post turkey consumption. It’s basically like combining apple crisp and pumpkin cake into one dessert. I hadn’t made this recipe in seven years, but it’s just as good as I remember--and I tweaked it a little bit to suit my fancy. Hope y’all enjoy-- I’ll have a whole month of cooking and blogging bliss over Winter Break--so watch for more recipes pre-Christmas.

Pumpkin Apple Crumb Cake
Adapted from Cooking Light, October 2001

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons melted butter
¼ cup old-fashioned oats
¼ chopped walnuts (or pecans)

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup Pumpkin Puree
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
Cooking spray
2 cups thinly sliced apples (whatever your favorite cooking apple is will do, I used Winesaps…you need about 2 medium/large apples)

Preheat oven to 350°.
To prepare crumbs, combine 3 tablespoons flour, brown sugar, oats, and nuts in a medium bowl; pour in melted butter and work in with your fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal. Set aside.
To prepare the cake, beat the granulated sugar and the next 7 ingredients (granulated sugar through egg white) with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Combine 1 1/4 cups flour, baking powder, soda, and salt in medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Alternately add the flour mixture and buttermilk to the sugar mixture, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix after each addition.
Pour batter into a 9-inch round cake pan coated with cooking spray. Arrange apple spokelike on top of batter. Sprinkle with crumb mixture. Bake at 350° for 55 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack.
As pictured, pour batter into 8 individual mini pie pans coated with cooking spray. Arrange apple spokelike on top of batter. Sprinkle with crumb mixture. Bake at 350° for 30-5 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes on a wire rack.
Also pictured:
Top with homemade whipped cream (½ cup heavy whipping cream, ½ Tablespoon of sugar, and ½ teaspoon vanilla whisked together)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Good Things to Come...

It’s been weeks, literally weeks, since I’ve had a kitchen, not just my own kitchen, but any kitchen, to cook in. And I’m really tired of it…but good news is that good things are to come. My mom and dad are bringing me fresh veggies from their garden this weekend, and come Monday I will be in my new house in the bluegrass, and ready to try out cooking in my new kitchen.

It’s been a long move to get to KY—and I’ve been living out of a suitcase since July 19—I’m ready to be settled again, and I’m ready to cook again.

Here are some pictures of good things to come…my father-in-law is working on this big ol’ pig cooker/barbeque/smoker, as you can see in the picture. He’s welded it out of an old oil drum—and if I could explain what has taken place to get it to this point, I would—but I haven’t got a clue. But do expect photos from a whole hog barbeque once the weather is cold enough.

And the green beans are called “greasy backs”—and were photographed in my parents’ garden—part of the goodies they will be bringing me this weekend.

And so as not to leave you without a recipe, I’m including a chocolate cake my mom made last weekend for my husband’s and my belated birthdays from this summer…it was delicious! It wasn’t just any chocolate cake either—it was a Buttermilk-Mexican Chocolate Pound Cake. Not to mention it was a big hit late night at the Fries Fiddlers’ Convention…(Did I mention that I was asked if she is single? In all seriousness, I did learn how to cook from my mom—it comes to me honest).

Expect more blogs, and more cooking in the weeks to come…

Buttermilk-Mexican Chocolate Pound Cake

1 (8-oz.) package semisweet chocolate baking squares, chopped*
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1/2 cup chocolate syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
Garnish: powdered sugar

1. Microwave chocolate baking squares in a microwave-safe bowl at HIGH 1 minute and 15 seconds or until chocolate is melted and smooth, stirring every 15 seconds.
2. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer 2 minutes or until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating 5 to 7 minutes or until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow disappears after each addition. Stir in melted chocolate, chocolate syrup, and vanilla until smooth.

3. Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Pour batter into a greased and floured 10-inch tube pan or a 12-cup Bundt pan.

4. Bake at 325° for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center of cake comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes; remove from pan to a wire rack, and let cool 1 hour and 30 minutes or until completely cool. Garnish, if desired.

*2 (4.4-oz.) packages Mexican chocolate, chopped, may be substituted for semisweet chocolate baking squares. Omit ground cinnamon, and proceed with recipe as directed.

From Southern Living, APRIL 2007

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Broke-Down-in-West-Virginia Blackberry Cobbler

After a couple of weeks away, I have many adventures in cooking, camping, moving, and music to post here, but I’ll start with this one.

In between music festivals (Clifftop and Galax Fiddlers’ Conventions) my husband’s truck broke down in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. Luckily we were on our friends’ 60 acre farm in a really beautiful area that backs up against the Cranberry Wilderness. It was really a blessing to be there instead of a state park or on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. We were definitely being looked after! So after I was done being upset and pouting (I wanted to get on our way to Galax), I decided to make the best of my time by picking wild blackberries—of which there is an abundance on their land. I spent about an hour picking around a pound and a half of blackberries up and down their road (I'm pictured on their land above), while my husband and another friend who was also visiting (B) went to get a part for the truck. So when I got back to the house, I figured we could all use a treat, and I made a blackberry cobbler. There is nothing special about this recipe, it is really simple, but it goes to show that you can just make do with what you have. And boy was it good.

Blackberry Cobbler

1 ½ pounds blackberries (maybe around 4 cups….wild are best)
1 ½ cup Self Rising Flour
1 ½ cup Sugar
1 ½ cup Milk
1 Stick (half cup) Butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Once oven temperature is reached melt butter in a large cast iron skillet or baking pan.

In a medium bowl stir together the flour, sugar and milk; batter will be slightly lumpy.

Pour mixture on top of melted butter in baking pan. Do not mix butter and mixture together.

Drop blackberries on top of batter

Bake for one hour or until golden brown.

Friday, July 25, 2008

"I Like Pork" and Camp Cooking

Last night my closest colleague, H, had a going away party for me. When I expressed my excitement over the country ham biscuits she recalled that one of the first things I said to her was "I like pork." I don't really recall it being one of the first things I said, but I certainly make my love of hog meat clear whenever appropriate!

In addition to those fantastic biscuits, she also made yummy cupcakes. I went through a cupcake obsession phase for awhile (not that long ago really)--and back in January I was in D.C. with H for a conference and spent a few (or maybe it was several) hours traipsing on foot around the city looking for the perfect cupcake shop. I never found it. (And apparently, it opened about a month later, in Georgetown, and was on the front page of the Washington Post Food Section--H brought the paper in for me to see). So "me and my cupcakes" are a bit of a joke now.

I did find an amazing recipe the other night in Taste of Home magazine for Lemon-Basil cupcakes, and plan to make them as soon as I have my new kitchen settled in...

Speaking of my new kitchen and moving and all that, I realize that it may be a little annoying that I'm not posting any new recipes, but this week I haven't been cooking (not since Monday--due to dinner parties/engagements and the such), and despite the great food I've been eating, I'm a little annoyed that I haven't been able to cook...I just don't like being this busy (although I take full responsibility for booking all said engagements)!

BUT, this weekend I will be cooking--but on a Coleman camp stove. My husband and I are headed to a fiddlers' convention (where we will basically stay up all night playing old time music--and I'll call a square dance Saturday night)...SO I plan to make a low-country dish that comes from my husband's family down in coastal South Carolina--it's called Chicken Purlo or Chicken Bog--I'm not sure that I spelled either of those correctly. But check back in on Monday, I should have a picture and hopefully a great recipe that can be made, with relative ease, even in the campground.

Happy weekend!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

More food from friends...

As my husband and I are getting ready to leave ol' Virginie, we have had several requests to come to dinner by friends and colleagues...and I'm not complaining!

Last night we went over to our friends' house (D and L) about an hour north of where we live. My husband has known them a long time through playing mountain music, and they have a beautiful spot in the Blue Ridge.

L fixed an amazing meal--she is a southern cook hailing from the Piedmont area of my own native North Carolina. This was the salad she made...yum...and only a very small part of a huge amazing meal that left me very full! Unfortunately the rest of my pictures from the meal didn't turn out (the lighting wasn't right), so this will have to suffice.

This photo is a shot of the view from their kitchen window. It's heavenly.

I love the mountains,
and I love to eat.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Zucchini Bread with Raisins and Walnuts
and smothered in butter…

There was a piece on NPR today about zucchinis and summer squash being the curse and blessing of home gardeners. I tend to agree—basically zucchini and other summer squash varieties are plentiful. Sometimes too plentiful—as in you can’t even get your friends and neighbors to take any more. But the author of the piece (Julie O’Hara) claims she will never find herself filled with “squash ennui” as she calls it. Instead, she finds new and interesting ways (not just the same old sautéed or fried option of the south) to use what is actually a very versatile vegetable.

Check out O’Hara’s piece “Summer Squash Gets Some Respect” complete with recipes at:

And so, it just seems appropriate that last night I ate dinner at my mother-in-law’s house, and she made some really amazing zucchini bread—with raisins and walnuts. Smothered with a nice slab of butter, I can’t imagine wanting anything else in the heat of garden season.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Success! Making a Blackberry Wine Reduction and Frying Okra

As promised, I am back today with pictures and recipes from last night's kitchen adventures. I made two great dishes from the food that J and L gave us over the weekend, and I've chronicled them below:

1. Grilled Filet Mignon wrapped in applewood smoked bacon, topped with gorgonzola cheese, blackberries, and a blackberry-wine reduction (the above picture doesn't do it justice!)

Okay, so first of all, I can take no glory on the actual grilling of the steaks--that was done by my husband, which he claims it is the easy part. AND it was nice to be able to focus in the kitchen instead of running in and out of the house to flip or check on the steaks. By the way, we don't use a gas grill--it's strictly charcoal for us.

I did a little research yesterday on wine and port sauces to figure out what would work best in paring the steaks with with the sweet blackberry wine that J and L brought us. I settled on a recipe that had three basic ingredients: port (in my case blackberry wine), vinegar, and mustard. Then I added a few other ingredients for extra flavor--onions, butter, and basil. It ended up being really good, not too sweet and not too acidic either--the wine and vinegar really balanced each other out. I added the gorgonzola cheese, as blue cheeses seem to go well both with fruit and with steak, and it really brought the dish together. I added the bacon for an additional smoky flavor, but it also really brings out the flavor of the steak --and it is another food that goes well with blue cheeses. And well, I love bacon with just about everything (even chocolate)! The blackberries were mostly for garnish, but also tasted good!

2. Corn and Tomatoes with fresh basil and cream, topped with Fried Okra

I found a recipe on called "Cajun Corn and Tomatoes with Fried Okra" and modified it (I also can't quite figure out what was "Cajun" about it). I changed the amounts of corn and tomatoes (based on what I had, it could be modified again, of course, dependent upon what you have in your own kitchen) and I changed the batter for the fried okra (I tried the way they suggested and it didn't work well at all).

This was actually my first experience cooking okra. I know it is commonly associated with the deep south, or the coastal south, but I know of folks in the mountains who also grow it in their gardens and either put it in soups or pickle it. It originated in Africa and was brought over during the slave trade in the eighteenth century. Apparently, Thomas Jefferson noted it was "well established in Virginia" around 1781 (my source for that was wikipedia, not always reliable, but it seems likely to me in this case). I have acquired more of a taste for okra in the last few years, so I am going to continue trying out different recipes with it--I want to try a beer batter for frying it (and also my fry daddy), and I also plan on making a "real" Cajun dish--i.e. gumbo or something of that sort, sometime this fall.

Lastly, Thanks to J and L for supplying the food for this amazing meal. I only wish they had been there last night to eat it with my husband and me! I will certainly be cooking up some fresh veggies and meat for them the next time they come to visit in Lexington!

Filet Mignon with Gorgonzola Cheese and a Blackberry-Wine Reduction
(Serves 2 to 4)

2 6-ounce filet mignon or beef tenderloin steaks
4 slices applewood smoked bacon

For the reduction:
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped yellow onion
½ cup blackberry wine
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon stone ground mustard
1 teaspoon fresh chopped basil
½ tablespoon butter

For Garnish:
¼ cup gorgonzola cheese
Fresh blackberries (optional)

To prepare steaks:
Wrap the sides of each steak with two slices of bacon. Secure bacon with toothpicks.

To make the reduction:
Whisk together the blackberry wine, balsamic vinegar, and mustard in a small bowl. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until golden in color. Slowly pour the wine mixture down the site of the skillet with onions. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until reduced to around ¼ cup. Add the basil and butter. Continue cooking until mixture is reduced to 2 or 3 tablespoons.

Meanwhile, prepare grill (medium-high heat). Grill steaks to desired doneness, about 5 minutes per side for medium-rare.

Top each steak with 1/8 cup (2 tablespoons) gorgonzola cheese, one tablespoon (or so) blackberry-wine reduction, and garnish with a few blackberries.

If you are not into grilling or just don’t feel like making the effort to light charcoal and sit around and wait, you can also sauté the filets like this: Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle steaks with salt and cracked pepper. Sauté steaks until medium-rare, about 4 minutes per side. (If you chose this method, you can leave any remaining drippings in the pan and continue with the reduction sauce in this skillet, just add the onions right in after you take the steaks off and continue with this recipe.)

Corn and Tomatoes with Fried Okra

(Serves 4)

1 yellow onion, sliced thin
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil plus additional for frying the okra
1 ½ cups fresh corn kernels including the pulp scraped from the cobs (cut from about 2 ears of corn)
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup light cream
1/4 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste

1/4 pound okra, rinsed well and patted dry
cornmeal seasoned with salt and pepper
1 large egg
2 tablespoons milk or cream

Heat the butter and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat; add the onion, sauté, stirring occasionally, until it is golden. Add corn, tomatoes, basil, cream, and water, and cook the mixture over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and keep the mixture warm, covered.

Cut the okra into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Whisk together the egg and milk in a medium blow. Add okra, folding to coat. In a separate bowl, toss the okra with the cornmeal. In a deep skillet heat 1/2 inch vegetable oil over moderately high heat until it is hot (but not smoking) and in it fry the okra in batches for 2 to 4 minutes, or until golden. Transfer the okra with a slotted spoon as it is fried onto paper towels to drain.

Serve the corn mixture topped with the fried okra.