Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Gettin' Dilly With It

  Does the play on words make you want to start singing "Gettin' Jiggy With It" or what?  For some reason, I couldn't keep the song out of my head when I decided to make my annual jar of pickles.  Ahhh pickles.  I think pickles are either a food people totally love or hate.  I happen to love them.  Justin does not.  So, this jar is all mine until I start to get sick of the ginormous Ball jar hanging out in my fridge.  Then, I'll divvy them up amongst friends and family.  Those who love pickles are always requesting my annual crop.  I adapted this recipe from my mother's.  She said she got the recipe from a friend (Jane Underwood).  Regardless, you can tweak the recipe however you please.  If you want to make them more spicy, add more peppers.  I used serrano peppers for a nice kick.  If you don't like the spice, leave them out.  If you like your pickles sweet, don't add as much salt.  No matter how you do it, it is a win!

Hot Refrigerator Pickles
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup salt
1 quart white vinegar
1 quart water
3 tablespoons pickling spice (I add on small jar of Tone's brand)
1 tablespoon mustard seed
30-40 sliced cucumbers (I used persian cucumbers because they are so cute!)
3 large sprigs fresh dill (which did not make it into the photo, but are present)
3 cloves garlic smashed
3 serrano peppers with the tops cut off and slit down the middle

Bring the sugar, salt, vinegar, and water to a boil.  Cool for 10 minutes and poor over the cucumbers.  Add the dill, garlic, mustard seed, and peppers.  Refrigerate for 2-3 weeks and then enjoy.

P.S. I got the giant Ball jar from Super Target.  It is the 1 gallon Ball collector's jar for only $14.79.  After the pickles are gone, I plan to wash this puppy out and make it a decoration item in the kitchen. I love it!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Best Nachos Ever!

  As a child growing up in Iowa, I looked forward to the summer sweet corn season all year long.  We would eat corn on the cob until we were almost sick of it and then enjoyed nature's bounty throughout the winter months with frozen corn.  Now an adult living in Kansas City with road side farmstands far from reach, I cherish the sweet corn crop even more.  Sorry Kansas, your sweet corn doesn't cut the Iowa stuff that is grown in the richest, blackest, most fertile soil in the world.  Last week, we were craving the good stuff; however, my patience got the best of me and I bought some from the grocery store.  It was pretty good and we didn't complain, but we are really looking forward to hitting up some farmstands when we are back in Iowa this weekend.

For those of you who have corn coming out your ears, or you just want to change you palate up a bit from the traditional corn on the cob, I highly suggest this recipe-- Crazy Corn Nachos.  I got the recipe from some family friends, the Schwark's, and am not really sure about it's origins.  These nachos are a little rich, cheesy, and not only corny, but crazy good. 

Crazy Corn Nachos
1 Bag tortilla chips
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup corn cut off the cob (or you can use frozen if it is not corn season)
4 oz. can diced green chilies
1 cup sour cream
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1-2 teaspoons chili powder
1-2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 pinch cayenne pepper
Salt & pepper to taste
4 slices crisp bacon, crumbled
2 cups shredded monterrey jack cheese
1-2 diced green onions for garnish

Saute red pepper, onion, and corn until soft.  Stir in the green chilies.  In a bowl, mix the sour cream, cream cheese, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, and black pepper.  Fold the cream cheese mixture into the sauteed vegetables.  Place your chips on a platter.  Cover the chips with sauce, bacon, and cheese.  Broil until the cheese is melted and garnish with green onions.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer Time Risotto

  I think risotto tops my list with mashed potatoes in the world of starches.   I heart a good risotto! The creamy goodness makes me hungry just thinking about it.  The funny thing is, I used to be really scared to make it for a couple of reasons.  The first reason being, it takes a little bit of attention.  The second, all of the fancy-shmancy chefs are making it.  Both complications were resolved earlier this spring when I decided to finally just do it already:)  After my first batch of lobster risotto, which is way more complicated than this little gem, I got over my fears.  With a glass of wine handy to enjoy while stirring and realizing that I don't have to be a celebrity chef to do this at home, I've fallen in love:)  Really, it isn't that difficult and you, yes you can make it too.

Summer Time Risotto
4 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
4 tablespoons butter (divided)
1 shallot finely chopped
1 zucchini sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 yellow squash sliced into 1/4-inch thick slices
1 cup frozen peas
1 box organic chicken stock
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 cup Arborio rice
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the 3 tablespoons olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter to the pan; swirl to coat.  Add the zucchini and squash to the pan; cook for 5-7 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.  Gently stir in the peas.  Remove from heat and set aside.

In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a gentle simmer.  Keep warm over low heat.  In a Dutch oven over medium heat, melt the remaining olive oil and butter.   Add the shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes or until translucent.   Stir in the rice, and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly in order to lightly toast the grains.  Stir in the wine; cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring constantly.  Stir in 1 cup chicken stock.  Cook and stir until the liquid is absorbed.  Continue adding stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of the chicken stock is absorbed before adding the next.  Add the vegetables; cook 1-2 minutes or until combined and everything is heated through.  Remove from heat; stir in the Parmesan cheese. 

You can serve this dish totally on its own or along side a lovely piece of grilled chicken, pork, or fish.  Don't be afraid to make risotto!  It is totally worth the tender, loving care!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Colorful Fruit Salad

  I've been meaning to post the recipe for this salad for quite sometime; however, I haven't had it on the menu for a while.  I stumbled across the idea from the Rainbow Salad recipe in Bon Appetit magazine back in January.  I loved the idea of using a variety of fruits and veggies after eating several heavy holiday meals.  Originally following the recipe to a "T" I made a few tweaks to lighten the salad up for summer, ingredients that are in season, as well as appease my husband's palate;) 

For the dressing, I used the same ingredients from the post back in June. It includes 1/4 cup olive oil, 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon finely minced shallot, salt, and pepper.  The rest of the salad includes one head chopped Romaine lettuce, once diced mango, one chopped pear, one Pink Lady apple chopped, a squeeze of lemon juice to keep the fruit from browning, and goat cheese. 

I served this with my lightened up Fettuccine Alfredo (still tweaking this recipe); however, I would suggest taking advantage of the grilling season and serving it with chicken, pork, or fish.  You could also add almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts, bulk up the portion and serve the salad as the main entree. It is so refreshing and unique I suggest you put it on your summer recipe list!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Keeping the Oven Off Challenge

While planning my menu for this week, I had one goal in mind...keeping the oven off all week.  With temps soring into the upper 90s to 100 degrees, it just makes sense to conserve the energy and not use my oven.  My sister, Amy, suggested I post my menu mainly because she is curious about how I lighten up some of these traditionally very heavy/ rich recipes:)
Mon. 7/18           Fettuccine Alfredo w/ Rainbow Salad
Tues. 7/19           Left-overs
Wed.  7/20          Chicken & Veggie Kebobs w/ Herbed Quinoa
Thurs. 7/21         Left-overs
Fri. 7/22             Crazy Corn Nachos, Grilled Jalapeno Poppers, & Watermelon Sorbet

The fettuccine alfredo and herbed quinoa will require the use of the stovetop, but I think that's okay as it doesn't heat up the entire kitchen.  Hopefully, this will give you all some tips to beat the heat as well!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Summer BBQ Tour: Part III

  The City Market has been on my Kansas City "bucket list" for quite sometime.  I usually cannot get the Bear out of the suburbs unless there is a pretty good reason.  This weekend, I told him I wanted to go on one of my "adventures."  So, we went out into the 100 degree heat and discovered some of our wonderful city.
The market had pretty much everything I have always envisioned an outdoor market would entail.  There was Italian deli, complete with a fresh meat counter, barrels of olives, an assortment of various pickled salads, and Italian sweet treats.  I have always wanted to visit such a deli and was absolutely delighted! 
There were rows of vendors selling fresh produce and spices at insanely reasonable prices.  Several artsy shops, markets of all worldly descents, bakeries, and restaurants.  We chose to dine at Winslow's BBQ.

I had not heard of Winslow's before, but they did not disappoint.  The service was outstanding and the Today Show has rated them one of the top rib joints in the country.  We split a combo platter complete with ribs, pulled pork, smoked sausage, and burnt ends.
The rub and smoked flavor was infused throughout the meats and the BBQ sauce.  What I appreciated most about the meal, was the lean meat.  Sometimes, I find BBQ to be more fatty than meaty.  This was not the case at Winslow's.  Even the ribs were packed with a lovely smoke ring and more meat than fat.  Yum!
  After lunch, we browsed the rest of the market and visited part of the Steamboat Arabia Museum.  Since we were looking for free activities, we did not tour the whole museum.  We will save that for another adventure.

The good news is where there is good BBQ, I can always drag the Bear on another adventure.  It was a blooming good time!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Market Fresh Pizza

Pizza is one of my favorite foods. Since going gluten-free, it has been somewhat of a challenge to find a good gluten-free crust my husband and I can both agree on. Most tend to be very sticky, appear to cook up crispy and soft, but then lend themselves to tasting a little gummy in the middle and rock hard on the outer edges. After experimenting with making my own and failing, trying many other brands available and failing, I've finally found a reliable source- Chebe! Chebe brands are offered in the Midwest at most local Hy-Vee grocery stores in their organic or healthfood department. Thus far, Chebe is the only brand that lends itself to costing, acting, and cooking itself the most to its gluten filled counterpart. For this recipe, I used the pizza dough mix.

My Market Fresh My Market Fresh Pizza was inspired by a recipe featured this month in Cooking Light magazine, originally called "Local Farmer's Market Pizza." With the use of fresh corn, the recipe reminded me of a pizza version of a long lost recipe I have for Crazy Corn Nachos (recipe coming soon). I added some of my own fresh herbs and bacon because I like bacon. I also roasted my tomatoes.  Trust me, this is worth the extra little bit of roasting and really brings out the sweetness of the tomatoes.

Summer Market Pizza

2 roma tomatoes, sliced and roasted

1 T. extra-virgin olive oil

2 C. thinly sliced onion (I used red onion, but anything you have will do)

1 t. chopped fresh thyme

1 t. chopped fresh oregano

2 C. thinly sliced red bell pepper

2 minced garlic cloves

1 C. fresh corn (I used frozen because the corn was looking a little picked over)

6 slices center cut bacon, cooked crispy and crumbled

¼ t. salt

¼ t. fresh black pepper

1 package fresh pizza dough (I used Chebe, gluten-free pizza crust mix)

5 oz. fresh, sliced mozzarella cheese

1 C. shredded mozzarella cheese

2 T. chopped fresh basil

1.       Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  While your oven is pre-heating, slice your tomatoes and places them on a baking pan lined with a sheet of foil that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Next, roast your tomatoes for around 30 minutes or until they start to appear to look like sun-dried tomatoes. 

2.      While your tomatoes are roasting, prepare your dough and let rise.  Meanwhile, heat a large non-stick skillet over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan.  Add 2 cups onion, thyme, and oregano.  Cook until the onions begin to caramelize, stirring occasionally.  Add the bell pepper and garlic; cook until the peppers begin to soften.  Add corn, salt, and pepper.  Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the corn is heated.  Finally add your crumbled bacon.

3.      Roll dough into a 16-inch circle.  Remove the tomatoes from the oven.  Place dough on a pizza pan or whatever pan you have available for cooking pizza.  Sprinkle the 1 cup shredded mozzarella.  Next, top with corn mixture.  Then, arrange the mozzarella slices and roasted tomatoes evenly over the topping.  Bake at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until the crust is browned and the cheese is bubbly.  Remove from oven and sprinkle with the fresh basil.  Cut and bon appetite! Serves 6-8 slices depending on how you like to cut your pizza.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cheesecake Ice Cream

  Say hello to my new little friend. 

Growing up, my family always enjoyed homemade ice cream.  We didn't have one of the old fashioned, rock salt kind of ice cream makers, but we did have a stellar little guy similar to the one I bought on Wednesday.  I had long forgotten about those days until a couple of weeks ago when the girls at Ladies Lunch were talking about making their own ice cream.  This little guy happened to be on sale for $26 at Target this week.  I wouldn't really call it an impulse buy because I told Justin that I really wanted one and had been thinking about it.  Maybe just a lucky buy?  I don't know.  I was so excited and had to share my recipe inspired by Food & Wine magazine.  The recipe on the website is called "Once-a-Year Cheesecake Ice Cream."  The original ingredients their recipe called for were a little on the richer side, so I decided to challenge myself by lightening it up a little.  So here goes!

Sara's Lightened Up Cheesecake Ice Cream

1 8 oz. block of light cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup light sour cream
1 cup fat-free half and half
Pinch of Salt
Juice of 1/2 of a lemon
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

1.  In a medium mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese at medium speed until soft and smooth.  Gradually add the sugar, beating well until combined.  Beat in the sour cream and then the half and half.  Add the salt, lemon, juice, and vanilla and beat until silky and smooth.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight to ensure the mixture is cold.

2.  Poor mixture into your ice cream maker and follow the directions for your machine according to the manufacturer's instructions.  If you like your ice cream a bit softer, you can serve immediately.  If not transfer the ice cream to a container to harden up.  Enjoy!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Summer BBQ Tour: Part Deaux

  I don't know why we didn't ever find this place earlier since living in the Kansas City area, but RJ's Bob-Be-Que has got it goin' on!  Literally just down the street from Johnny's BBQ is RJ's.  RJ's is run and owned by Robert (Bob) Palmgren, a formally French trained chef.  His secret rubs and sauces have a classic smoky BBQ flavor, with a secret Cajun style kick.  Hence the very Cajun or Creole play on words in the Bob-Be-Que name of his restaurant.

What I truly love about the places we've visited on our Summer BBQ Tour is that we see the boss in action.  Bob is literally smoking the meats, frying the fries, seating guests, and waiting tables just like the rest of his employees.  It isn't very often you get to see a BBQ legend right before your very eyes.  It truly makes you feel that every guest is getting special 5-star dining treatment.

The decor pays tribute to John Wayne and the many BBQ contests in which Bob has featured his famous BBQ.  We thoroughly enjoyed the old country music playing in the background as we anxiously awaited our meal of burnt ends. 

One thing I have learned since living and experiencing BBQ in Kansas City, is to order the burnt ends.  Burnt ends are the tasty little morsels of brisket that get a little extra double smoking treatment.  If you love beef, smoked meats, and BBQ you really can't go wrong with ordering burnt ends.  I feel it is almost a true test of the restaurant's BBQ technique, which RJ's did not fail!  All around, Justin and I have decided that this is our new favorite spot!  All stars on our rating!  You've got to try it!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Another Fantastic 4th

 Does this cake sing, "America the Beautiful" or what?  Every 4th of July, my sisters and I try to get together for celebration.  This year, was complete with a weekend of fun transporting between State Center, IA, where my dad lives, and Ames, IA where my sister, Erin, lives.  The Bear (a.k.a. Justin) kicked the weekend off with my dad and stepbrothers Brett and Brandon in a golf tournament.  Many congratulations to them for placing 4th and to Brett for winning the longest put!  Good job team!  The ladies spent the day at the pool for some relaxation and time with Sylvie and Gavin. 

  These pictures were pre-swim trip.  Sylvie was all poses.  Gavin, on the other hand, was a little cranky that morning and didn't feel like smiling.  Being that I am not a morning person, I guess I can't blame him.  Ha!

We celebrated the 4th at Erin's apartment.  Sadly, my sister Amy, Brandon, Brett, and the kids could not make it.  But that didn't stop us!  We had plenty of snacks, burgers, sparklers, and fun with my dad, Brenda, and Frankie and Gary. 

This is my dad totally rockin' sparklers and his Tommy Bahama shirt!  I love it!
  And no summer party would be complete without a pitcher of Raspberry-Peach Sangria!  I used this recipe with the addition of fresh mint leaves.  I must say, the mint added an unbelievable amount of freshness!  Perfect for summer!

All-in-all it was a wonderful, relaxing weekend.  It was so good to see everyone and celebrate with family.  I hope you all enjoyed your holiday as much as we did!

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Land of Ham

When I think of Tennessee, or most of the South for that matter, I think of smoked hams.  I still get kind of a kick out of the fact that you can find hams hanging in grocery stores, Wal-Marts, and even gas stations.  It just cracks me up! 

I also apologize for the late posting recapping the trip.  I got back Monday and have been cleaning the house or running errands all week.  My mother and I also did not really have the need to follow any sort of a menu, as we dined twice at Sassafraz.  My grandfather's favorite restaurant in town.  Sassafraz is a local favorite for most people in Union City, Tennessee.  It certainly has one of the more posh menus in town and is a cut above the other fried fair you normally find down South.  On Saturday, I ordered the Blackened Risotto special.
Then, I had dreams about it!  It was so creamy, tasty, and full of seafoody goodness.  My mother laughed when I told her this, so we went back and low and behold, it was on special again Sunday!  Yeah!  Double enjoyment!

Other shenanigans, included plenty of stops to all of the roadside attractions we never really ever got to see because we were always in a huge rush to get to my grandfather's.  Since there was no rush, we stopped in Rocheport, Missouri.  Rocheport is located along the Kitty Trail, near the Missouri River off Interstate 70.  The homes are well preserved and there are the most adorable little antique and gift stores located in its downtown.  Rochport is also located in the heart of Missouri wine country and home to Les Bourgeios Vinyards. 

So we stopped, tasted, and purchased some wine for the weekend.  All in all, it was a great trip with plenty of "horsing" around:)