Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Summer Vegetable Gratin

***I was so excited when I opened the July/August 2008 issue of Cooks Illustrated magazine. I saw this recipe and knew that I had to try it...especially with all of the fresh summer produce that's available.

I got to visit the Trussville Farmers Market recently, where I bought some beautiful veggies...yellow squash, red tomatoes, green tomatoes, and heirloom tomatoes. So, this was the perfect time to make this gratin. If you're ever in the area, you should definitely stop by Andy Kemp's booth. He's with A & P Farms out of Gallant, AL and Starkville, MS. He had a wonderful assortment of fresh great prices! He even let me sample an heirloom tomato...I had never had one!
The Trussville Farmers Market is open from 2 - 6 on Tuesdays (across the street from the Trussville Antique Mall).

The mixture of squash, zucchini, and tomatoes in this dish is delicious...and very healthy. You'll REALLY enjoy this one! I'll certainly be making it again.***

6 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb zucchini, ends trimmed and cut crosswise into 1/4 thick slices
1 lb summer squash, ends trimmed and cut crosswise into 1/4 thick slices
***2 lbs of only zucchini or only summer squash can be substituted***
2 tsp salt
3 large ripe tomatoes sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 yellow onions, cut in half and then thinly sliced from pole to pole
black pepper to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves minced
3/4 cup bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 minced shallots (about 2 medium)
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 400. Place the oven rack in the upper middle position. Brush a 9x13 pan with 1Tbsp of olive oil and set aside.

Combine sliced zucchini and squash with 1tsp salt in a large bowl and then transfer the salted veggies to a colander set over the bowl. Let stand for about 45 minutes, the veggies will release about 3 Tbsps of liquid.

Arrange tomato slices in a single layer over double layer paper towels and sprinkle evenly with 1/2 tsp salt and let stand for about 30 minutes. After that time, place a second double layer of paper towels over the tomatoes and press firmly to dry them.

Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions, 1/2 tsp salt and black pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and dark golden brown, about 20 minutes. Set onions aside.

Combine garlic, 3 Tbsp olive oil, black pepper to taste and thyme in a small bowl. In a large bowl, mix the zucchini and squash in half of the garlic oil mixture.

Pour zucchini and squash in the greased 9x13 pan. Arrange the caramelized onions in a single layer over the squash. Place the tomato slices slightly overlapping in a single layer over the onions. Spoon the remaining garlic oil mixture evenly over the tomatoes.

Bake 40 to 45 minutes, tomatoes will have started to brown around the edges and the vegetables are tender.

Mix breadcrumbs, 1 Tbsp oil, Parmesan and shallots in a bowl. Remove baking dish from the oven and increase heat to 450 degrees. Sprinkle breadcrumb mixture on top of tomatoes. Bake about 5 to 10 minutes more, the gratin will be bubbling and the cheese will be lightly browned.

Sprinkle with basil and let rest for about 10 minutes are room temperature before serving.

Red Pepper Variation: Replace 3 roasted red peppers, skinned and cut into 1 inch pieces for 1 lb of the squash (do not SALT the roasted peppers). The Parmesan cheese can be substituted with one cup shredded mozzarella.
Source: Cooks Illustrated magazine; July/August 2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bahama Mama!

***I can't believe I haven't made a single post since July 20th...I apologize! Things have been extremely busy at work. So busy, that I only had time to actually cook dinner one night last week...I know, that's pretty bad, huh? Our dinners consisted of fast food and restaurants. I spent every evening working on a ginormous project for work. I finished it today...but now I get to start on another one! But, I've got some great recipes coming up, so please don't stop reading! After next Tuesday (the due date), I should be finished with these big projects (at least for a little while).

After such a busy week, I think it's only suitable that I post one of my favorite drinks...quite the The "Bahama Mama" has always been a favorite of mine. It reminds me of sitting on the beach in the Bahamas, watching the sunset....Ahhh, to be there right now!

Here it is...there are tons of different ways to make these. This recipe is one of the simplest and tastes the most authentic...enjoy!***

1 part orange juice
1 part pineapple juice
1 part coconut rum
1/2 part grenadine
Sliced oranges and cherries for garnish

Fill your glass with crushed ice. In a separate pitcher, mix orange juice, pineapple juice, coconut rum, and grenadine. Stir well. Pour over ice. Add orange slices and cherries as garnish.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Peach & Blueberry Cobbler

***This cobbler is one of the best I've ever had...thanks to a secret ingredient that I discovered while making the Danish Pastry Braid. Okay, okay...I'll tell you what it is...cardamom. Now, it isn't the cheapest thing on the spice aisle (although it still isn't THAT expensive, don't worry!), but it's worth every penny in my opinion. You've got to give it a try if you've never used it before. It does have somewhat of a strong flavor, so use it sparingly the first time around. It goes perfectly in baked, fruit desserts...among many other things.

Last week, I happened to have some fresh Clanton peaches and a pint of beautiful blueberries. I got to thinking that a peach and blueberry cobbler would be perfect. I found THIS recipe over at Not Quite June Cleaver...absolutely delish!***

1 stick butter, halved
1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cardamom
1 cup milk
4 ripe peaches, sliced
1 pint blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Melt a half stick of butter in a 9-inch square baking dish. Melt the other half and mix with self-rising flour, sugar, vanilla, cardamom, and milk.

Mix all ingredients but the fruit and the butter you melted in the dish with a whisk until smooth. Pour into dish. Add fruit.

Sprinkle the top with a sugar/cinnamon mix before baking to make it a little crispy on top.

Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes or until golden on top.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sauteed Chicken in Mustard-Cream Sauce

***Here's a second yummy recipe from the Everday Food: Great Food Fast Martha Stewart cookbook. It was quick and easy to make, and the cream sauce was just right.***

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (6 ounces each)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine, or chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon dried tarragon (or 1 tablespoon chopped fresh)

Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken; saute until cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes, turning once. Transfer to a plate; keep warm.

Pour wine into hot skillet; cook, stirring, until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Whisk in cream, mustard, and tarragon. Cook, whisking, until thickened, about 2 minutes.

Pour any accumulated chicken juices into sauce. Right before serving, drizzle cream sauce over chicken.

Source: Everyday Food: Great Food Fast by Martha Stewart Living magazine

Friday, July 18, 2008

Chicken with Cranberry Sauce

***Wow...this was good! I recently got the Everyday Food: Great Food Fast cookbook by Martha Stewart Living magazine. I have to say that I really love this cookbook. When it comes to cookbooks, I am a photo kind of girl. I like a lot of pretty, color photographs to go along with the recipes. This book doesn't disappoint. There's a beautiful photo for every single recipe...and there's 250 recipes! They are arranged in the book by season, which is really nice. And to top it all off, all the recipes are pretty simple and most of them can be prepared in about 30 minutes. It has quickly become one of my favorite cookbooks.

This recipe caught my eye. It seemed like an interesting combination...chicken and cranberries. I couldn't find fresh cranberries, so I had to use dried cranberries from a bag. However, they worked good too! This dish was a little sweet and savory all in one. It went especially well with the mashed sweet potatoes posted I said in that post, it almost felt like Thanksgiving!***

2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
Coarse salt and ground pepper
4 bone-in chicken breasts (8 ounces each)
1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon dried sage
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup cranberries (I had to use dried cranberries...they were just as yummy!)
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch (mixed with 1 tablespoon water)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon butter, 1 teaspoon thyme, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Rub evenly under chicken skin. Place on a rimmed baking sheet; roast skin side up until skin is golden brown and meat is cooked through, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt remaining tablespoon butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook onion, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes. Add sage and remaining 1/2 teaspoon thyme; cook 1 minute. Add broth; simmer until reduced to 1 1/2 cups, 10 to 15 minutes. Strain mixture; return to saucepan.

Add cranberries and sugar; boil until berries burst, 5 to 8 minutes. Whisk in cornstarch mixture; return to a boil. Cook until slightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat (sauce will thicken as it stands). Season with salt and pepper. To serve, spoon sauce over chicken.
Source: Everyday Food: Great Food Fast cookbook by Martha Stewart Living magazine

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

***I must have been in a holiday sort of mood the other night, because I made sweet potato puree and chicken with a cranberry almost felt like Thanksgiving...hah. Anyway, this is one of my favorite ways to prepare sweet potatoes. I found THIS recipe over at 101 Cookbooks, and used it as inspiration...I did change it up a little bit.

And did you know that the sweet potato ranks #1 in nutrition?? I found the following info @

"The reasons the sweet potato took first place? Dietary fiber, naturally occurring sugars, complex carbohydrates, protein, vitamins A and C, iron and calcium. The sweet potato received a score of 184; the vegetable ranked in second place was more than 100 points behind with a score of 83. The numbers for the nutritional sweet potato speak for themselves: almost twice the recommended daily allowance of vitamin A, 42 percent of the recommendation for vitamin C, four times the RDA for beta carotene, and, when eaten with the skin, sweet potatoes have more fiber than oatmeal. All these benefits with only about 130 to 160 calories!"

How cool is that??***

3 large sweet potatoes, cleaned and left damp
1/2 - 3/4 cup milk or heavy cream
2 Tbsp. butter or margarine
Salt & Pepper
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup light brown sugar (add more or less to your liking)
1 Tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350F. Pierce each potato 2 - 3 times with a fork. Put the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until tender to a fork tip, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cool until warm enough to handle, 10 to 15 minutes. Peel and discard the skin. Place the peeled potatoes into a medium sized bowl and mash with a potato masher.

Meanwhile, pour the milk (or cream) into a 2-quart pot, add the vanilla and brown sugar; stir and heat over medium heat just until hot. Remove from heat. Slowly pour the mixture over the potatoes (in small increments), stir, and add the butter and cinnamon. Keep adding the milk mixture until you achieve the desired consistency.

Stir well. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Cornflake-Coated Pork Chops

***This is an incredibly easy dinner idea. I found this in the new "Southern Living" Homestyle Cookbook. The prep was quick and the results were very good!***

2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons milk
5 cups cornflake cereal, crushed (about 2 cups crushed)
6 boneless pork chops (about 3/4-inch thick)
2 teaspoons lemon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 large lemon, halved
Garnish: halved lemon slices

1. Stir together eggs and milk in a shallow dish. Place cornflake crumbs in a separate shallow dish. Sprinkle pork evenly with lemon pepper, salt, and garlic powder. Dip pork chops in egg mixture, and dredge in cornflake crumbs. Place chops on a lightly greased rack on a baking sheet.

2. Bake at 350° for 30 to 35 minutes or until done. Squeeze lemon juice evenly over chops, and garnish, if desired.

Source: "Southern Living" Homestyle Cookbook

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Broiled Mahi Mahi with Parsleyed Tomatoes

***I recently got a great cookbook called "Southern Living Homestyle Cookbook." I highly recommend's wonderful. One of the first recipes that I've tried in the book is this broiled mahi mahi dish. I was very pleased with the results. As I've mentioned before, Brad and I love Greek-style food, and this is certainly in that category. It's packed with flavor...from the tomato/onion mixture on bottom, to the tender fish and cheese sprinkled on'll definitely enjoy this one!***

2 medium onions, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup white wine
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon pepper, divided
6 (6- to 8-ounce) mahi-mahi fillets
1 (4-ounce) package crumbled feta cheese
Garnish: lemon slices

Sauté sliced onions in hot olive oil over medium-high heat 8 minutes or until tender. Add chopped tomatoes, next 4 ingredients, and 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes. Set onion-and-tomato mixture aside. Place fish in a single layer on a lightly greased rack in an aluminum foil-lined broiler pan; sprinkle with remaining 1/4 teaspoon each of salt and pepper.

Broil 5 inches from heat 8 minutes or until fish flakes with a fork.

Spoon onion-and-tomato mixture evenly onto a platter; top with fish fillets. Sprinkle evenly with crumbled feta cheese, and garnish, if desired.

Source: "Southern Living Homestyle Cookbook"

Saturday, July 5, 2008

A Lil' Bit of Cupcake Fun!

RED, WHITE, and BLUEberry cupcakes!

Brad and I had a fantastic day yesterday, celebrating the Fourth of July. We got to explore a place called "Old Cahaba" in Selma, AL. I've included some info HERE.

The first state capital of Alabama was established at "Old Cahawba" in 1820. Today, only ruins remain, but you can't help but imagine what took place there as you walk through the historic old town. One of the neatest things is that the Cahaba River and Alabama River flow into each other right next to Old Cahaba.

My favorite thing was walking under the huge, beautiful mossy trees. They are massive in size, and look so beautiful with the breeze flowing through their branches. Here's a photo that Brad took in Selma during one of our visits...

Now, on to the cupcakes! I had a batch of the red velvet cupcakes from Sprinkles Bakery in my pantry. Sprinkles is a famous bakery out in California, and I adore their can find them at Williams-Sonoma. I got to thinking that the RED cupcake mix and WHITE icing would be perfect for the holiday. I added red sprinkles and a cute little blueberry to the top of each cupcake so that they would be red, white, and blue! They were even better with homemade vanilla ice cream. Here's another photo...

Last weekend, my cute-as-a-button niece Dakota got to spend the night with her "Aunt Les" (a.k.a. me)! This was her first time spending the night away from home. She was an angel the entire time, and we had a lot of fun! I always look forward to baking with her. It reminds me of all the time that I spent with my Grandmother when I was little, baking all sorts of cakes, cookies, and other desserts. I think that's one of the main reasons I love cooking so much.

After an entire day playing at the waterpark and riding rides at Alabama Adventure (tons of fun!!!), we made the cutest little pink cupcakes with sprinkles that night. Dakota did a great job helping, didn't she?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Chicken Georgia...My Way!

***A few months ago, I had lunch at this wonderful little cafe in Huntsville, AL. I can't remember the name of it, though. I ordered their "Chicken Georgia." I thought the combination of peaches with chicken sounded different, but really good. They served a chicken breast smothered with a delicious mixture of peaches and pecans.

After Googling "Chicken Georgia" I just couldn't find anything that was like what I had in Huntsville. Paula Deen has a Chicken Georgia recipe on The Food Network's site, but it had mushrooms and just wasn't what I was looking for.

The following recipe comes very close! You would think that the peaches and pecans would make this dish too sweet, but the basil and garlic really keeps it on the savory side. Enjoy!***

***Also, I am so excited to enter this recipe into Joelen's Fruit Frenzy blogging event! Be sure to check out her awesome site at: Joelen's Culinary Adventures.***

1 Tbsp EVOO
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon seasoned pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 cup orange juice
3 fresh, sliced peaches
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried leaf basil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup chopped pecans

Heat EVOO in a skillet over medium-high heat. Season chicken with salt and pepper. Add chicken to skillet and brown on both sides...until chicken is almost cooked through (it will continue cooking in next step). Remove from skillet and place on a plate.

Next, add a little more EVOO to the skillet if needed; add garlic and saute for 30 careful not to burn it! Combine orange juice and peaches with brown sugar, cinnamon, and basil and add to skillet. Return chicken to the mixture. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 15 to 20 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.

Place chicken on a plate, placing the peach mixture over each chicken breast. Top with chopped pecans.

Serve hot!