Saturday, August 30, 2008

Playing With My Food

A co-worker helped me define my love of cooking. She said it is my creative outlet. She's right. I did needlework in my youth. I still do flower arrangements when the desire strikes. But cooking is my best method of expressing myself. And I love to take ingredients I have around without any forethought and create something.

Today I did just that. I checked the fridge, the freezer, and the pantry and came up with boneless, skinless chicken breasts, sun-dried tomato pesto, and puff pastry that became what I like to call Pesto Chicken en Croute. I served it with mushrooms cooked in butter and Marsala and a salad. I'm still patting myself on the back for this one.


Pesto Chicken en Croute

2 boneless skinless chicken breast
1 tbs unsalted butter
3 tbs sun dried tomato pesto
2 tbs feta cheese
1 egg
1 tbs water
1 sheet puff pastry

Season the chicken breasts and cook in butter on medium high, until each side is browned. Set aside to cool. Mix water into egg. Roll out puff pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 12 x 12. Cut diagonally. Place each chicken breast into center of a triangle of pastry. Spread 1 1/2 tbs pesto on each breast and top with feta. Wrap pastry around chicken breast using egg wash to seal edges. Brush fully wrapped breast in egg wash. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and place in a preheated 400 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, until pastry is golden brown. Allow to cool 8-10 minutes before serving.

Marsala Mushrooms

3 cups sliced mushrooms (I used a combination of button and baby bellas)
2 tbs butter
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup Marsala

Melt butter in a non-stick pan and add mushrooms. Cook at medium heat approximately 10 minutes, until mushrooms have rendered juices. Add salt and cook another 5 minutes. Stir in Marsala and reduce heat. Cook on low another 5-10 minutes, until mushrooms have absorbed most of the pan juices.

I love these mushrooms. I always have Marsala around, and I always have butter. I sometimes throw in some fresh thyme, but the basic recipe is absolutely lovely and makes a wonderful side dish.

This made an easy, elegant meal...big presentation with little effort.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Operation Bakin' Fool


It's that time of the month when bloggers and bakers around the US do our part to say thank you to those wonderful men and women serving in the military overseas. Operation Baking Gals has moved far beyond what anyone imagined it could be and I am quite proud to take part.

This month I sent my cookies to the brother in law of MaryAnn at Meet Me In the Kitchen and as a fellow southerner, I felt it was my job to "represent."

The point of this is to send little reminders of "home" so I went with more comfort based cookies. I made a Chewy Oatmeal Cookie and Paula Deen's Thumbprint Cookies. And for the record...I used a pound and half of butter tonight! I love this because I can bake and not gain a pound! Although, there was not enough room for four cookies and I was forced (yes forced!) to eat them myself. Did I mention the amount of butter in these two recipes?

The Thumbprint cookies are a very basic dough rolled into balls mashed in the middle with your thumb. I filled mine with tart cherry and peach preserves.


I'll post the recipe for the oatmeal cookies at the bottom. These are a great recipe and can be enhances with currants, raisins, nuts, etc. I made the very basic recipe today and I have to say...I love the spicy sweetness of this cookie.

chewey oatmeal

I once again followed the advice of a military wife and layered paper towels with apple peel keep the cookies moist.

ready to go

The wonderful thing about this that I keep thinking about using these recipes again for Christmas. I'm going to bed soon so I can get up and make treats to take to work tomorrow. Do.Not.Laugh.

Chewy Oatmeal Cookies

1 c room temp butter
1 c sugar
1 c brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 c all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3 c quick cooking oats

Sift flour, soda, salt, cinnamon and cloves together and set aside. Cream butter and sugars until fluffy and add eggs, one at a time. Beat until smooth. Add vanilla. Add flour to butter mixture and mix until blended. Add oats. Refrigerate dough for at least an hour. Roll into 1" balls and place about 2" apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for approximately 10 minutes. Cool on sheet 3 to 4 minutes before transferring to wire rack to finish cooling.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Aftermath

I was a very poor hostess last night. I was so tired that I contributed little to the discussion of the book or other conversation. And I hadn't done as much housecleaning as I needed to. My guests, however, were quite gracious and never pointed out my failings. Good friends make great guests!

To begin my day, I hit the farmer's market for tomatoes and peaches for my dinner. I also picked up a watermelon Then it was off to the supermarket for the rest of my groceries. And then I hit the liquor store.

At home I cleaned and then began the dinner prep around noon. I made the Pesto Palmiers which were TDF!!!! I mixed up the crust for Peach Delight while the palmiers were in the oven. While the crust baked, I made the peach glaze. Then I toasted the bread for the panzanella.

I mopped, vacuum, dusted and set my table just before I began plating the appetizers. I put the chicken on to cook when the first guest arrived. Somewhere in between, I chopped the veggies for the panzanella, finished the dessert, prepped the chicken, ran an errand and took a shower.

Technically, everything went smoothly. Oh! I forgot to give a shout out about the wine. I picked up Yellow Tail Sparkling White and it was absolutely lovely.

I just had panzanella for lunch...even with soggy bread, it's great.

Here is the final menu:

marinated mushrooms
pickle spears
pesto palmiers
Yellow Tail Sparkling White wine

Honey Curried Chicken
Ina Garten's Panzanella
sparkling water

Peach Delight


Peach Delight

For the crust:
1-1/2 sticks butter melted.
1-1/2 cups self-rising flour
1-1/2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts
Mix ingredients & press into a 13 x 9 pan. Bake at 375 for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool completely.

2nd layer:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2-1/2 cups powdered sugar
8 oz. container Cool Whip
Beat together, cream cheese & sugar
Stir in Cool whip & mix well. Spread over cooled crust.

3rd layer:
4 cups peeled & sliced fresh peaches
Overlap peach slices in a decorative design over cream cheese layer. (I just overlap in rows until it is completely covered.)

1 cup sugar
4 tbs. flour
3 tbs. peach jello powder
1 cup water.
Mix sugar, flour & jello powder. Place in a small saucepan. Pour in water.
Cook & stir over medium heat until clear & thickened. (This only takes a couple of minutes) Set aside & cool. (I cool this in a bowl in the refrigerator)
Spread evenly over the sliced peaches.

* Make the crust & glaze first to allow them to cool.

This recipe came from Robin (cookfun) on the Contessa's Kitchen board. I made two simple changes to her recipe. I used 1/4 cup peach brandy and 3/4 cup water for the glaze and I used black walnuts in the crust which gave tremendous flavor.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I'm Bored, I Tired, I Can't Sleep

Well, it's three a.m. and I can't sleep. I can't find anything on tv. I've been through my cookbooks, looking for something to serve my book group tonight and still don't have a set menu.

I stopped and picked up a Rug Doctor on my way home from work and cleaned my upholstery and the carpet in my living room. The sofa seems to be drying nicely, but the big, comfy chair is still quite damp. I cleaned my front door after that. I dusted. Then I watched Thursday night's episode of Burn Notice. Goodness. I really love that show!

Since I can't sleep, I played a game on the computer and watched an episode of The Sarah Connor Chronicles on Hulu. Am I rambling? I'm really tired right now. I have a book I can read, but I'm afraid it will be very good and I won't want to put it down.

My tentative menu for book group:

Appetizers--marinated mushrooms, olives, nuts, basil palmiers
Dinner--Honey Curried Chicken and Panzanella
Dessert--Peach delight

I need to pick up some wine...I may go for Proseco. I'll ask at the liquor store.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Barefoot Blogging...California Grilled Pizza

The bonus recipe this month was chose by Rebecca at Ezra Poundcake and sounds wonderful. Unfortunately, I won't be contributing to this one. I don't have a grill and I'm working crazy hours this week. But check out here to see how everyone else's came out.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Bad Hair Day

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am pretty low maintenance. Slap on a little foundation and concealer. Maybe some powder. Since I always look like I slept in my clothes, I don't try to iron them anymore. And my fine, straight hair. Usually worn in an easy bob.

Today was not such a good day. First, I don't go in to work until late so my timing is off. I've been distracted. I got dress out of the shower wearing jeans and an embroidered white knit sweater. The first problem, then, was keeping Prissy away so that the white sweater remained white.

Then, there was the hair. I spent 45 minutes trying to do something with it this morning. I blew it dry with the round brush but it was crazy, fly-away and would not curl properly. So I pulled out the curling iron. Nope. And it kept tickling my face. So I pulled out old reliable, a butterfly clip. Nope. I had a rooster comb thing working on top and the sides were so tight my eyes looked like I had a bad face lift. I tried again. And again. And again.

So I wound up with a pony tail. (After having thrown brush,comb, and butterfly clip across the room.) A too tight, uneven, crooked pony tail sprayed into submission with extra hold hair spray. My head hurts. My shoulder hurts. I can't remember brushing my teeth. If I didn't wear a headset at work, I might have opted for a headband, but the point is moot. If I didn't have to go to work today, I would have just planned on staying indoors.

What do you do on a bad hair day?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Barefoot Blogging...Panzanella

This week's BB recipe is Panzanella from the Barefoot Contessa Parties cookbook and was chosen by Melissa at It's Melissa's Kitchen. Can you believe that there are almost 100 of us?!

I've been avoiding this recipe for one simple reason...I knew I would love it. No, I'm not a masochist, I just have no self control. This recipe has so many things I love...tomatoes, cucumbers, bread, onions, basil, bread, capers, bread...Since I came home from visiting my parents with enough tomatoes to feed an army and a few cucumbers, it seemed providential that this was the recipe for this week.


by Ina Garten
Barefoot Parties

3 Tbs olive oil
1 small loaf French bread cut into 1 inch cubes
1 tsp kosher salt
2 large ripe tomatoes cut into 1 inch cubes
1 cucumber unpeeled, seeded, sliced 1/2 inch thick*
1 red bell pepper seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 yellow bell pepper seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
1/2 red onion thinly sliced
20 large basil leaves coarsely chopped
3 Tbs capers drained


1 tsp finely minced garlic
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
3 Tbs champagne vinegar
1/2 c olive oil*
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large saute pan and add the bread and the salt. Cook over low to medium heat tossing frequently for 10 minutes or until nicely browned. Add more oil if needed.

Whisk together the vinaigrette and set aside.

In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, red onion, basil and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Salt and pepper if needed.

Like most Ina recipes, I halved this one had enough for four large servings. Since I was only making a half recipe, I only used a red pepper. I peeled my garden fresh cucumber and used extra virgin olive oil for the vinaigrette. I really did not think it needed any additional seasoning.

The next time I make this (and I will make this again), I will use less onion. It just seemed a bit overpowering.

Check out the what the other Barefoot Bloggers had to say about this recipe here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Why I Hate Rachel Ray

It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she has reached the saturation point in the American media. Nor does it have to do with her disgusting peppiness. No, the reason I hate RR has to do with her recipes.

They look great, taste fine, and are incredibly easy to make. But after it's done and the meal is complete you are left to face the devastation that is your kitchen. To get meals done in 30 minutes, the temps are high causing a lot of spatter. A LOT. Then there are the pots, pans, knives, cutting boards etc to be dealt with.

I have made a few of her recipes I really liked. She taught me to cook broccolini. I make a turkey burger based on one of her recipes regularly. But tonight I made the Chicken Piccata Pasta Toss which was tasty...and messy. And I've made her Chicken Provencal which was okay, but I had to stop in the midst of cooking to mop my floor.

Why, oh why can't I have a staff to clean up when I get through cooking?!


I have a birthday coming up. A big one. A ZERO birthday. And I'm thinking of throwing myself a party. Should I? What should I serve? Should I serve dinner or snacks? I'm open to all suggestions. Any thoughts?

Sunday, August 10, 2008


I spent the week-end with Mom and Dad. They had a spaghetti dinner waiting on me when I got there Friday evening and then we sat out on the screened in porch and chatted until after 8. Next we watched the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. I'm not a huge fan of the Olympics, but I love the parade of athletes and all of the little known facts that come out.

Saturday was a quiet morning just sitting around talking. Dad went down to the garden and came back with a basket full of grapes and I promptly set about making myself sick. We decided to eat a late lunch at Nikki's and then head over to the farmers' market.

I love Nikki's. I ate far to much there. I had liver and onions, fried green tomatoes, and the famous slaw with a big fluffy roll. Mom had rutabagas, turnip greens, fried green tomatoes, and zucchini with cornbread and Dad had the veal cutlet with fried green tomatoes, turnip greens, slaw and cornbread. Then we headed to the farmers' market where we picked up cantaloupe, watermelon, and peaches. I also just had to have some lemon cucumbers.

Sis had her in-laws over for dinner last nite and then came to Mom and Dad's after. They live less than a mile apart, but Mom is not able to negotiate the stairs at Sis's house. While Mom, Sis, and I sat at the kitchen table and talked, Dad and BIL watched the Olympics.

Sis and I threw together quite a fine meal today, with left-overs from her dinner last night and a pork roast I cooked this morning. Sis came in with Bird's Nest Slaw, baked potatoes and corn on the cob. I had cooked a pork shoulder and made a cucumber and tomato salad. I also cleaned out the fridge and found enough dibs and dabs to make succotash. It was a huge success. The nieces kept going back for more.

I made a sugar free chocolate pie and pulled a pound cake out of the freezer that I served with fresh sliced peaches sprinkled with Splenda.

I got home tonight around seven, and have been dealing with Prissy since. She left me a present just to let me know that she was not happy I had left her.

The good news is that I came home with a peck of tomatoes. Yeah! Tomato sandwiches for everyone!

Friday, August 8, 2008


I came in to work this morning to find a shopping bag full of cucumbers. Does anyone want some pickles?

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

More Pickles and a Cure for the Sinus Headache

I came home from work today with a sick headache. The kind that leaves you wanting nothing more than to crawl into bed in a dark room and cry. Unfortunately, today is day four of the pickle making process and I had work to do.

And I made an amazing discovery. A vinegar steam will knock a sinus headache into next week. Seriously. There is, of course, one unfortunate side effect...the coughing, spewing, watery eyes, and burning lungs.

Hey! If it works, it works!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Help! I'm Beggin' Ya!

I've got all of these cherries and peaches and I've been searching the web and perusing my cookbooks for something to do with them. The truth is...I really just want to eat them, but they will go bad before I'm done (I would hope!)

So, what would you make with a big bag of cherries and a basket of peaches?

Saturday, August 2, 2008

More Saturday Stuff

I forgot to mention that I finally made it to the farmers market this morning. I got heirloom tomatoes and little yellow tomatoes, and peaches, and watermelon, and green tomatoes.

When I got home, I decided to clean out my freezer. I didn't throw anything away, just organized it all so I could see what I had. And I had forgotten the chicken carcasses I had frozen to use to make stock. I tossed them in the soup pot with celery, onions, carrots, a clove of garlic, salt and pepper and covered the whole thing with water. So now the place is filled with the aroma of chicken. And I have room to put it in my freezer!

I feel a southern fried dinner coming on. I've got okra and green tomatoes that I can fry and serve with cornbread and sliced tomatoes. And peaches for dessert. Did you just hear that? It was the sound of my ateries clogging!

I've Enlisted


I am now a member of Operation Baking G.A.L.S. founded by Susan at Becoming Doughmestic. Bloggers around the country bake for the troops and send off their packages at the same time.

I discovered this in the wee hours this morning and emailed Susan to join. I woke up to her response telling me there was still time to get my package off today if I was interested. I was. So at first I made a batch of Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies but decided that summer in Iraq was not the best time for chocolate chips. So I whipped up a batch of my friend Ginny's amazing Ginger Snaps. Once they cooled, I headed off to the post office, making it just in time! Whew!

Here they are, just prior to being packaged.


This was great fun and I would encourage everyone to send a soldier something they made themselves.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Hello! Hulu!

I've been watching old episodes of WKRP in Cincinnati and laughing until I ache. I had forgotten just how funny television could be. I just caught one of the funniest episodes of tv of all times, the flying turkeys.