Sunday, August 24, 2014

Mushroom and Swiss Chard Risotto

Comfort food in August.  Sometimes you just need it.  It doesn't make any sense.  It's 90 degrees yet I yearned for something hearty that would warm my soul.  You would think my soul would be sweating like the rest of me, but it wasn't.

The grocery store that I shop at has a lot and I mean A LOT of 10 for $10 sales and thank goodness it does.  It helps this single girl save SO much money (which is the reason I haven't really been blogging much in the first place).  Food is expensive.  Oh, who am I kidding?  Everything is expensive.  If only  my hourly wage could reflect the price of a gallon of milk. Ha ha…  good one, Aim.  This week they had mushrooms for $1.  Baby Bella mushrooms for a dollar.  Wha????? (I left the T out on purpose, don't be alarmed.  It's for emphasis on what a phenomenal deal that was.)

To me, mushrooms in themselves are a quintessential comfort food.  I could put them in anything and they just make it a heartier dish.  When I toyed around with the idea of being a vegetarian they were definitely my "meat".  I think I've explained before how I may have been successful with that but, bacon--oh, and steaks.  I need my iron, people!

I would love to say this would be a great Meatless Monday meal but I used chicken broth.  Veggie broth would work just as well, but I do recommend making your own like this one.   Don't even get me started on some of those store bought broths.  Seriously.  Don't. Get. Me. Started.  Ok, I got started--kind of.  I'm just saying, most households have everything they need to make a delicious broth.  Make a pot and store it in the freezer in individual containers.  Voila, you always have broth!  Most importantly you know exactly what is in yours.  I'm not sure how much time y'all have to read labels at the store but you should do it.  Gross.  No words should have that many consonants together.  Ok.  <takes a deep breath and steps down off soapbox>

Back to this creamy, decadent, comforting and surprisingly easy risotto.  So many people are intimidated by risotto. I was the same way and to make myself feel better I would say it's super pretentious and I'm not so why should I try it?  It's not difficult, it just requires attention and a lot of stirring but in the end it is completely worth it.  Don't say you can't do it.  You can.  Trust me.  I'll walk you through it. And it will no longer be pretentious.

Mushroom and Swiss Chard Risotto

Serves 4


2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup diced onion
16 ounce package mushrooms, sliced
1 bunch swiss chard, stems removed and roughly chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
5-6 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon thyme
1/3 cup parmegianno cheese, shredded plus more for garnish
Olive oil

Heat a couple of tablespoons olive oil (enough to cover the bottom) in a large sauté pan over medium low heat.  Add the garlic, onion and mushrooms and sauté for about 5 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and thyme.  Add in the swiss chard and cook for another five minutes or until it has wilted down.  Place the arborio rice in the pan.  Stir and let toast for four to five minutes.

Start adding the broth 1 to 1 1/2 cups at a time, stirring very often.  Once the broth has absorbed into the rice, add more.  (this is where risotto becomes tedious.  Hang it there!) It will take around 20-30 minutes for the rice to completely cook and you might not use all of the broth.   Taste it to make sure the consistency is correct and to adjust the seasonings.  Remove from heat and stir in the cheese

Serve as a main dish for four or a side dish for six and enjoy that warm belly feeling that is oh so comforting!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Memaw's Peanut Butter Cookies

I have many memories of my great grandmother.  Some of the memories I wasn't even around for and some of them leave me confused. Most often Memaw is described as a "character".  I'm not sure if this word is Kentucky specific or not but we use it a lot.  There are some fascinating, hilarious stories that are told of this lady that had a heart of gold.  She taught me how to knit, not very well though.  No one could come close the creations this amazing woman made from yarn.  Baby blankets, booties, hats--they were all beautiful and made with love.   Memaw was never afraid to speak her mind.  She would tell you exactly what she thought about every situation whether you wanted to hear it or not.  Even though she has been gone for several years, I can still hear her voice.

For most of my life, Memaw lived in an assisted living wing of a nursing home.  My cousins, sister and I would spend the afternoons racing on the patio.  She would always start us off with "One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and four to go!" On rainy days we would find a random wheelchair and race down the hallways and she would always give us change to get a coke out of the machine upstairs.  She would feed us apples dipped in sugar--yes, dipped in sugar and she always had hard candy laying around for us to get hopped up on.  

I'm not sure why I remember peanut butter cookies when I think of her.  No one else seems to have even a vague memory of this.  I don't even particularly like peanut butter flavored food but one night last week I HAD to have some.  Isn't it strange when you get a craving for something you really don't love? Luckily, these are the easiest cookies you will EVER make.  Ever.  I promise. 

The absolute worst thing about making anything with peanut butter is that is sticks to everything and it's just a pain to clean up.  I'm gonna let you in on a little tip.  Non-stick spray.  Spray it on the rubber scrapper/spatula AND the measuring cup.  Easy as pie--er, cookies.  Whatever.

Memaw's Peanut Butter Cookies

Yields about 36 cookies


2 cups peanut butter
2 cups sugar plus more for decoration
2 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a medium bowl combine peanut butter, sugar, eggs and vanilla.  Mix well.  

Roll dough into a one inch ball and place on a cookie sheet.  Flatten with a fork and sprinkle with the extra sugar.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 8-10 minutes.  Let cool on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Freezer Breakfast Burritos

Warning: It is August. Summer is almost over. The hustle and bustle of back to school shopping is upon you. How did this happen? It feels like it was JUST April.  

I have bittersweet emotions about fall being right around the corner. On one hand I'm excited about football, the leaves changing (and blowing off the trees the next day), pumpkin flavored everything, the fall meet at Keeneland and the general coziness that goes along with this season. On the other hand I'm terrified that the next polar vortex is right around the corner. I am definitely not ready for that. I'm completely scarred from last winter. I guess I can't worry about snow, ice and frigid, below zero temps and instead just attempt to enjoy the rest of the summer. 

Seriously though, here in Kentucky, the kids will head back to school in a couple of weeks and I thought I would give you another post to ease the chaos of the mornings. Introducing Freezer Breakfast Burritos!  It's my newest addition to my weekday morning breakfast line-up. 

How easy is it to pull something out of the freezer and throw it into a microwave for a couple of minutes? I promise, that will take less time than sitting in line at the drive-thru. Plus, it's slightly healthier and being a burrito makes it convenient. It's a cute little hand held package.... I just called a burrito cute. 

Of course this is one of those recipes where the ingredients can be switched up for your preferences. The burrito is your oyster. (Q: How many times have I used the oyster line in this blog? A: too many) I decided to go with sausage, peppers and onions, eggs and cheese. Sounds somewhat tex-mex-i, right?? Throw on some hot sauce and you've got yourself a morning fiesta! Ole! 

Freezer Breakfast Burritos

Makes 8 burritos

1 pound sausage
1 green pepper, diced
1 small onion, diced
8 eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon garlic powder 
2 heaping tablespoons sour cream*
2 tablespoons butter
8 tortillas
Shredded cheese
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

In a large skillet heat oil over medium to medium low heat. Add green pepper and sauté for about 5-7 minutes. Add onion and sauté for another 5 minutes or so. Break up sausage and cook with the green peppers and onion until browned and cooked through.  Remove from pan and drain off the excess grease. Wipe skillet with a paper towel and place back over medium low heat. 

In a mixing bowl, beat eggs. Mix in the garlic powder, salt, pepper and sour cream.  Melt butter in the skillet and pour in the eggs. Stir and scramble until cooked through, about 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, tear off 8 sheets of wax paper and place a tortilla on each sheet. Place 2 tablespoons of shredded cheese lengthwise on each tortilla. Top with 1/4 cup sausage and 1/4 cup egg. Fold the ends of each tortilla in, tuck one long side of the tortilla over and roll. Wrap each tortilla in the wax paper, place in a gallon size plastic freezer bag, label and place in freezer. 

To re-heat tortilla:  Remove tortilla from wax paper. Place on microwave safe dish or paper towel and cook for 2 minutes. Let cool and enjoy! 

*Could also use 1/4 cup milk or heavy cream

Friday, August 1, 2014

Bacon, Lettuce and Fried Green Tomato Sandwiches with Cajun Mayo

Fried green tomatoes, bacon, spicy mayo, crispy lettuce…. is your mouth watering yet?   My garden is exploding with green tomatoes and I have been itching to get out there and grab a couple of 'em.  Fried green tomatoes are one of my favorite summer, southern treats.  

A quick internet search will provide thousands of different recipes for these crispy, fried delicacies and everyone seems to have their own opinions of how they should be prepared and eaten.  The most popular way to serve them is simply with a side of remoulade, and eaten with a fork and knife.  I think they should be eaten sandwiched between a soft, warm, toasty bun with crispy bacon, spicy cajun mayo and some cool, refreshing lettuce.  My, oh my.  

I've had an obsession with sandwiches lately.  It's an obsession that needs to stop.  All. The. Bread.  Seriously, it's addicting and I love it and it's not terribly good for you.  I actually feel kind of sorry for bread.  It's really been getting a bad reputation lately with everyone including that big, long, chemically named product in it that also happens to be used in the making of yoga mats, as an ingredient.  Don't get me wrong, we should all know what is going into our food and be as healthy as possible but sometimes, I wish I didn't care so much. 

Anyway, my garden this year has been a fabulous learning experience.  I started everything from seed, indoors and once the weather was nice enough and the plants had become stable enough, I planted them in the 2 raised beds that my dad helped me build from scrap wood.  The first thing that I've learned is that I need more beds because zucchini plants take up a lot of space.  Speaking of zucchini, there aren't many families who need 8 zucchini plants.  In my defense, I didn't think that all of my seeds would germinate.  They did.  And they thrived.  I had 19 plants total, half of which I gave away.  The garden has kept me busy and I look forward to having plenty of canned items waiting for me this winter, long after the garden has sadly gone away.  Eventually I will get around to posting some pictures and more of what worked and some things that didn't.  

For now, grab some green tomatoes and make this sandwich.  You won't regret it. 

Bacon, Lettuce and Fried Green Tomatoes with Cajun Mayo

Makes 4 sandwiches

Fried Green Tomatoes

2 large, green tomatoes, sliced
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 egg
Vegetable Oil

Heat about a 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. In a medium bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, white pepper and some salt.  In another bowl, beat one egg.  Dip each slice in the egg and dredge in the cornmeal mixture, coating both sides.

Once the oil has heated, place slices in the skillet, cooking for about 5 minutes on each side or until the tomatoes are golden brown.  Remove from skillet and place on paper towel lined plate.

Cajun Mayo

1/2 cup mayo
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 1/2 teaspoon cajun seasoning
Hot sauce to taste

In a medium bowl, mix together mayo, ketchup, vinegar, cajun seasoning and a few dashes of hot sauce.

Bacon, Lettuce and Fried Green Tomato Sandwiches

8 slices of bacon, cooked
4 bun, toasted
Fried green tomato slices, halved
Shredded lettuce
Cajun Mayo

Split toasted bun and slather with the cajun mayo.  Add shredded lettuce and top with 2 slices of bacon and 4 halves of fried green tomatoes.  

Serve these up with some crispy potato chips and delicious, dill pickles. A perfect summer sandwich! Enjoy!