Sunday, November 22, 2015

Thanksgiving Sides

It's crunch time, people!  By now, you've probably finished most of your shopping for the big day.  If you haven't, may the odds be ever in your favor.  I was at the store earlier today and it had me like, woah.  It was a mad house but not nearly as crazy as it will be Wednesday afternoon when I will invariably have to run to pick up at least one item that I thought I had but did not.  Happens every year.  And yes, I make a list.  I check it twice.  And then I fail.  No one's perfect, right?

If you're currently checking your list and realize that you may be short on a side or two, here is a list of some of my favorite holiday side dishes.  You're welcome.  They are all pretty simple and quick and parts, if not all can be made in advance and reheated the day of.  

We're less than a week away from the official kickoff of the holiday season and I could not be anymore excited! I love this time of year, and to me, Thanksgiving is a part of one big, long celebration! I know there are some of you out there who want Thanksgiving to have it's own holiday, and that's great, but I've already put my Christmas tree up and I feel like it's justifiable. Don't judge. 

There isn't much I love more than a Pepper family holiday. I come from a family of really good cooks and we are all so grateful for each and everyone one of our blessings, including food. I thought I would give you a little insight as to what a few of our Thanksgiving side dishes are. Feel free to add these to your families table. 

What are a some of your favorite thanksgiving sides? Leave me a comment to let me know! We're always looking for new dishes to try!

I come from a family of green bean lovers.  These are super easy and done on the stove top which means it doesn't use the oven which is already prime real estate on the big day.  Definitely one of my favorites!

As a Kentuckian, I feel that this delicious side should be included in every potluck meal.   The Pepper gang has a big ol' pan of this at every family function, normally made by my mom.  I know corn pudding sounds strange to you northerners.  Just go with it.  

In an attempt to introduce my family to a new vegetable for holiday gatherings, I made these.  In order to get my family to try a new vegetable it is a rule to include bacon and brown sugar.  Seriously, it's written in our family by-laws.  I never claimed we were a family of health nuts.  It's a holiday.  Relax. 

It's mac and cheese.  I don't think I need to explain it.  Crowd pleaser for children and adults alike.  Warning:  There will be no leftovers on this one. 

This is the newest addition to our family Thanksgiving.  It's slightly healthier than last year's dish with brown sugar and bacon.  This one does still include bacon though because to me, they are the new chocolate and peanut butter.  

Whatever you serve on Thanksgiving, remember to take the time to enjoy your family and cherish all the blessings that you have in your life.  I know I will! I wish you all happiness and joy throughout this holiday season.  

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Slow Cooker Vegetable Barley Stew

Soup season has arrived once again! I feel like we've been pretty lucky this year. It's November and the weather has held out pretty well. Hashtag blessed.  For some reason I'm not fearful of the changing of the seasons this year-- to be clear, I say that most years. By February I will want to rip my hair out and open a new credit card to pay for a tropical vacation. (Don't worry mom. I won't actually do that.)

I've been trying to come up with more meatless options for myself. I find this challenging because, well, bacon. And beef. And fried chicken.  And ribs. Don't get me wrong, I will never become a vegetarian (famous last words) but I'm forced to, and just should, cut back on the meat because America kind of scares me right now and locally sourced meat is expensive! I recently paid $15 for two organic, free range, boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Yowza! I have found that barley is a much more affordable way to get your protein.  I'm still convincing myself that I like quinoa. I want to like it, you guys. I really do.  I recently discovered a way I don't really notice it. Stay tuned for that! 

Growing up, my family would take at least one long weekend trip to Gatlinburg every year. I know what you're thinking--air brushed t-shirts, fringed and beaded, that read Bubba and Susan 4-ever, kitchsy candle shops (no one can have too many cat shaped candles), the greatest miniature golf courses,  and Christmas stores galore. Me though? I went for the food.  We would always stop at The Apple Barn on our way in (or out) of town.  Not only do they have fantastic apple fritters and apple butter, both their vegetable soup is the best I have ever tasted. It's tomato based and has a little kick to it. On top of that, it's pretty loaded with veggies.  This Slow Cooker Vegetable Barley Stew is my ode to the Apple Barn.  I have used as many organic vegetables as possible in the recipe and turns out, it wasn't that difficult to find them.  I had to head to the frozen aisle to find organic corn but it was well worth it.  The only item in this dish that isn't organic?  Green beans.  I'm not a fan of the texture of frozen green beans and my garden didn't produce nearly enough to can.  I did at least, find green beans in a pouch.  I'll call that a win.

This recipe makes a ton of stew.  It freezes beautifully or it will feed every single one of your friends. I love freezing soups and using them for work lunches throughout the next couple of months.  Just freeze them in single serve containers and place in the fridge the night before to thaw.  You're welcome for that little tip.  Now, pull out that crock pot and get to work!

Slow Cooker Vegetable Barley Stew

Serves: 100 (not really, but at least 6)

2 (13 ounce) packets green beans
1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes with the juice
2 cups cubed white potatoes
8 ounces baby carrots, roughly chopped
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 (12 ounce) bag of corn
2 teaspoons salt
1/2-1 teaspoon white pepper
2 teaspoon garlic powder
1 bay leaf
1 (46 ounce) bottle tomato juice
2 cups water
1/2 cup barley

Place all ingredients, except barley, in crock pot.  Cook on high for 6-8 hours.  Add barley at least one hour before serving.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

How easy

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Peach Basil Pizza

At one point over the summer, everything was coming up peaches! They were everywhere. Even The Peach Truck came to Lexington to share their goods with the Bluegrass state and boy am I glad they did! After standing in line for an hour, my mom scored a bazillion pounds of this magical, summer fruit. I decided to freeze a majority of them so that I'll be able to enjoy them during the winter of my discontent.

Seriously, is anything prettier?  Look at this picture when it snows to remember that summer will happen again. 

I did the normal things like cobbler and crisps and then the perfect inspiration hit. Pizza! Pizza? Yes.... Stay with me here. I was really trying to get into the sweet and savory thing and now that I have, I may die. The important question was, what would go on this savory pizza other than peaches? I once heard someone say, "if it grows together, it goes together." Well if that isn't the most genius information I have ever heard.  Immediately basil came to mind. And then goat cheese. And honey. And then basil oil. Yasssss, people. I just knew that I was goin to love this. And you know what? I did. Even my taste testers (the parents) liked it and they're not real keen on new fangled ideas in the kitchen. 

Now, I'm gonna let you in on a little secret. As much as I love making pizza crust, it takes some time. It's not hard but waiting for it to rise 45 times is just not in my schedule very often.  Luckily I found frozen pizza dough. Life changing. Fo real. It takes little time to thaw, slap it down on a pizza pan, top and bake. Cannot get much easier than that, can it? Here's another secret. Before you begin making your beautiful creation, poke some holes in the dough otherwise the middle of your pizza will look like it's hiding a bowling ball. How do I know this? Well, I learned it the hard way. I wish I would have taken a picture of that. 

I know that some of you are scratching your head, wondering why people keep messing with pizza. I wish I had an answer for you. I'm normally a pizza purist and I just like sauce and cheese. I'll shamefully admit though, that I am one of those people who will throw pineapples and banana peppers on my pie occasionally. Gasp! I know. Go ahead. Slap my hand. Frankly, I don't really think of this particular recipe "pizza", but I don't have a better name for it and since it's on pizza dough, I guess it technically is pizza. Feel free to rename it if you come up with a better idea.  Instead of a sauce base, I use a basil oil.  You can make this yourself.  It's a matter of infusing olive oil with basil. Easy peasy.  Then just add toppings as normal, bake and voila, pizza.

Peach Basil Pizza

1/3 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh basil, sliced, plus more for garnish 
3 peaches or 1 1/2 cups frozen or canned peaches, thawed and drained
1 quart water
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
1 frozen pizza dough, thawed

Preheat oven to 500 degrees

In a small sauce pan heat olive oil and basil over low heat.  Allow the oil to infuse for at least 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, if using fresh peaches, bring water to a boil in a sauce pan.  With a knife, score the bottom of the peaches, making an x shape, barely breaking through the skin of the peaches.  Gently place peaches in boiling water for 1 minute.  Remove from water and let cool for a few minutes.  Peel and slice peaches, removing the pit.

Stretch out the thawed pizza dough and place on a baking sheet.  When desired thickness is reached, poke dough several times with a fork.

Using a pastry brush, spread infused oil onto the dough, covering all of the dough, end to end. Reserve some for spooning over cooked pizza.*

Spread sliced peaches on the dough along with the goat cheese.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until dough has cooked through.

Remove from oven, drizzle with honey and more basil oil.

Eat all of it yourself.  Share with friends.  Enjoy!

*Cooks note:  You will have basil oil left over, most likely.  Put it in a jar with some balsamic vinegar, honey, mustard, salt and pepper.  Shake well.  Now you have a delicious dressing for a salad.  Throw some peaches and goat cheese into a bowl of lettuce.  Not bad, eh?

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Wilted Brussel Sprout Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

Fall.... The leaves are changing, the air is brisk, the Windows are open and aaahhchoo-- allergies. My spring allergies are a cake walk compared to the fall. I love this time of year though. Honestly I do.  Pumpkins are everywhere, mums are being planted, and Halloween is right around the corner. 

Halloween... It's a conundrum this year. It's on a Saturday which normally I would be a big fan of, but this particular Saturday is going to be nuts in Lexington. Why, you ask? Well, Keeneland will be packed to the brim with the Breeders Cup during the day. Have you been to Keeneland? You really should make the trip. It's gorgeous. Especially in the fall.  Plus, that evening is the UK/Tennessee game. So, do I buy candy or nah? I cannot have a bunch of leftover Halloween candy laying around because I WILL eat it. All of it. I have a strict rule about letting anything go to waste. Yes, even things that are not good for me. 

Can we take a moment and discuss the fact that pumpkin flavor/scents are taking over the world? I don't really understand the obsession. I like a pumpkin scented candle or pumpkin flavored dessert as much as the next person but scented cat litter? Chewing gum? Really? Let's take it down a notch, America. I'm aware we're the land of excess, but let's restrain ourselves with the pumpkin-palooza that is ev-e-ry-where.  Let me know the strangest pumpkin/fall scented item you've ever seen.  I get great joy from this. 

What do I suggest we focus on? Obviously, brussel sprouts. They're only my favorite thing ever. Do not rolls your eyes at me. Or stick out your tongue. Or make fake gagging noises. Brussel sprouts are delicious. I will admit that they are an acquired taste and they aren't for everyone but just try them! Puhleeeaaase? If you're thinking about making them for the first time, I recommend this recipe. Bacon, brown sugar slowly caramelizing as it roasts--'nuff said.

I was thinking about salads the other day. Mostly I was thinking about how bored I am with them. Fall is a great time to shake things up. It takes a little creativity to make food interesting this time of year. Especially the closer you get to winter. The seasonal, colorful vegetables of the summer become extinct, making way for the muted, yet equally beautiful fall and winter staples.  Squash being the most popular. Guess what else is a good cooler weather crop? Yeah. You're right. 

Here are a few things I learned while making this mouth watering salad:  when trying to measure hot bacon grease, don't use plastic measuring spoons. You are welcome.  I recommend transferring all of it to a bowl. Also, make sure you wipe down the sides and bottom of the skillet really good. You're probably going to use this pan again when you quickly saute the sliced brussel sprouts and you probably don't want to be putting out a fire in the process.  Use a mandolin or food processor to slice the brussel sprouts. It will take you a while to slice these with a knife but if you're hand is starting to get lazy, go ahead and give it a workout.  Just BE CAREFUL.  That's really all I got. 

Wilted Brussel Sprouts Salad with Warm Bacon Dressing

Serves 4 

6 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled, grease reserved
1 pound brussel sprouts, sliced
1 gala Apple, julienned 
1/2 cups toasted walnuts, roughly chopped 

For the Dressing

3 tablespoons bacon grease
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons honey

Preheat a skillet over medium low heat. Feel free to use the same skillet that bacon was cooked in. Quickly saute brussel sprouts for about 4 minutes, stirring often.  Remove from heat and transfer to salad bowl. 

Add apples, walnuts and bacon bits. 

Combine the dressing ingredients into a jar. Shake to combine. Pour dressing over the brussel sprouts and toss.

Enjoy as a delicious side with any meal! 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Classic Beef Stew

Per usual, it's gone straight from summer to winter here in the bluegrass state, so I figured there was no better time for beef stew.  Seriously, guys.  It was rainy, cloudy and in the 50's over the weekend.  Yes, I realize that's not actually winter weather but when it was in the 80's last week--well, it feels COLD. 

 What is it about beef stew that warms the soul?  It may be the quintessential winter meal.  Warm, meaty, comforting.  I just want to curl up with Dolce and some blankets while wearing sweats and watching Netflix after I eat this. See what I mean?

Beef stew wasn't something my mother ever really had in her dinner rotation.  Pot roast? Yes.  Roast chicken?  Check. Vegetable soup?  Obviously.  But never beef stew, which confuses me as to why I find it in my cool weather menu constantly.  My favorite thing about cool weather foods is how most of them always taste better the next day. Why is that? I'm sure there is some scientific answer that a genius has figured out and that I totally wouldn't understand if it was explained to me. I'll stop questioning it and just enjoy this beef stew for lunch tomorrow. And maybe the day after that. I heart leftovers.  For those you you who don't, this also freezes beautifully. 

I have seen so many variations on beef stew--served over buttered noodles, on top of mashed potatoes (uh, yum), but for me, I prefer my beef stew sitting on top of biscuits. What? You haven't tried that before? I suggest you get to the kitchen right now to make these biscuits. Once you've made them a few times you'll be able to make them in your sleep. I recently made 120 for my cousins wedding rehearsal. To say I have the recipe memorized is an understatement. They're soft and chewy with a little crispyness to the bottom layer. Delish! I wonder what it would be like on top of cheese grits? Note to self: try this. Soon. 

No matter how you serve up this stew, just make sure you make it. It basically says I love you. In one pot. Not having a thousand dishes to wash also says I love you. That's the best kind of love. 

What's your favorite stew and what's your favorite way to serve it? Comment and let me know! 

Classic Beef Stew

Total time: 3 hours

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 1/2 pounds stew beef
1 cup yellow onion, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons worchestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 heaping tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon dried thyme
32 ounces beef broth
2 cups water
1 1/2- 2 cups carrots, roughly chopped 
1 1/2- 2 cups potatoes, roughly chopped 
1-2 cups frozen peas

Heat oil in a stock pot over medium heat. Add half of the beef and cook for about 5 minutes or until all sides of beef have browned. Remove from pan and transfer to a plate. Repeat with the other half of beef.  

Return beef to pan with onion and continue to cook for about 5 minutes or until onion starts to become translucent. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and thyme. 

Add the worchestershire sauce, tomato paste and flour.  Mix well, scraping up the goodness from the bottom of the pan. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes. 

Pour in beef broth slowly.  Add water. Mix well. 

Reduce heat and simmer for at least 90 minutes. (The longer it simmers, the better it is)

Add carrots and potatoes.  Turn heat back up to medium. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat back to simmer and continue cooking for at least an hour. 

Check seasonings and adjust as needed.

Add peas about 10 minutes before serving.  

Ladle into a bowl of biscuits, mashed potatoes or simply nothing at all. Enjoy your warm soup belly. 

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Fudgalicious Brownies

You guys. How is it the end of September already? Where did my summer go? For that matter, where did my year go? An entire year, and just like that, it's almost over! I'll write a post about my hiatus from blogging (and life in general) within the next few weeks to let you know what I've been up to. 

We're entering the all pumpkin everything season but all I can think about are these brownies. Goo-ey, fudgy, chocolate-y goodness. I can't even deal with keeping these in my house. I will eat them all. An entire 9x13 baking dish. Fo shizzle. So I bake them and force others to eat them. Friends, co-workers, parents--it doesn't matter who eats them as long as they don't sit around my house, tempting me with their fudgey deliciousness. I hear them calling my name. Constantly. 

I'm very particular about my brownies. I like them with more of a fudge texture. Anything else, as far as I'm concerned, is cake. And if I wanted cake I would bake a cake. Therefore, this recipe makes my perfect brownie. It's my family's go-to recipe and originated with my great-grandmother, Anna Katherine Pepper, or Memaw as we called her. 

Memaw was a character. She was very strong-willed and opinionated. She tried to give away my parents' cat when I was born (allegedly). There are many stories of the matriarch of our family that end in laughter but she was also an extremely generous woman. She would give you the clothes off her back or a bed to sleep in if you didn't have one.  Her thumb was very green. She grew such beautiful flowers. Most of my memories are set in an assisted living facility having wheelchair races in the hallway, but I do have some memories of her house in town where my cousins and I would spend hours on the front porch swing with her while she scared the living day lights out of us with her dentures. I told you most of the stories ended in laughter. So, in honor of the time of year when all of my grandparents would make a mass exodus to Florida in order to avoid any winter-like conditions, make these brownies. I promise you won't be sorry. 

What are some memories of your grandparents? I would love to hear them!

Fudge-a-licious Brownies

2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
4 eggs, beaten
1 1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. 

In another bowl, mix eggs and sugar until combined. Add vanilla and oil, slowly and mix well. Stir in cocoa powder. 

Mix the dry ingredients into the oil mixture. 

Pour into a 9x13 pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. *

Let cool before cutting. 

*cooks note: there are times it has taken longer than 45 minutes for these brownies to bake. I tend to leave them a little gooey in the center. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Breakfast Toasts

My new favorite breakfast consists of a piece of toast, a poached egg, avocado and anything else I can find in my fridge. Definitely hot sauce--Cholula chili lime. You guys. Have you had this? Run to the nearest store and buy it--RIGHT NOW. Sorry for yelling. I just love it that much. 

Avocado toasts is something I normally take to work for breakfast, sans egg because I don't always have time to poach an egg. Like this morning for example. I was lucky to get out the door wearing clothes. But when the morning runs smooth I can luckily manage to poach an egg. It just takes a little organization and time management which again, depends on the day. 

I have gotten into this habit of buying a loaf of sourdough bread at the farmers market every week.  Bread is a dangerous item for me to keep in my kitchen because I'll eat an entire loaf in a day and a half.  You know how they say everything in moderation? Yeah, I don't know how to do that. For example, this past weekend was my birthday and not only did I not moderate anything, I lived like a queen-- everything in excess. It was ugly. It's moments like these that make me glad I don't own a scale. All I can say is pasta. And desserts. And deep fried appetizers. And that's how I rolled for my birthday weekend. I'm not proud.  

I feel like I was attempting to make a point about bread. Ohhhh yeah. Since I sometimes scarf down a loaf in a couple of days, I tend to not buy bread very often and when I do, I try to buy a sprouted grain or a non-gmo bread. It makes me feel better about the "toast" part of this breakfast. I have even been known to use a frozen, gluten free waffle.

So this isn't as much of a "recipe" as it is a tutorial. Yes, it says serves one and yes, I make two eggs and two pieces of toast. For myself. Go ahead. Judge me.  Basically, throw some bread in the toaster (or oven), open your fridge and have at it.  I've used pimento cheese before.  Yeah.  I went there.  I am a southerner after all.  The basics are toast, avocado, egg.  Simple right? From time to time I'll throw on some slices of tomatoes or I'll saute some kale or spinach. Consider this piece of toast your blank canvas. The breakfast will give you the fuel you need to get through your morning. 

 Feel free to fry your egg if you don't have luck poaching but I'm including an article from the Huffington Post of Julia's poached egg tutorial.  You can do this.  You know how they say practice makes perfect?  They're talking about poaching eggs.  Trust me.  I've had MANY failed attempts.  Many.  Eventually you'll get it.  Hang in there, buttercup. 

Breakfast Toast

Serves 1

2 eggs
2 pieces of bread, toasted
1/2 avocado
Hot sauce for garnish

Heat water in saucepan over medium to medium low heat.  Once it starts to bubble, reduce heat to a slight bubble.  Pour in a splash of vinegar.  Place whole egg in water for 10 seconds.  Remove with slotted spoon.  Crack egg in a small bowl.  With slotted spoon, stir water in a circular motion.  Gently place egg in swirling water.  Let cook for about 5 minutes or until the white of the egg is set. Remove with slotted spoon to a paper towel lined plate.  

Meanwhile, toast the bread.  Remove from toaster.  Place on a plate.

Spread avocado onto toast.   Place egg on avocado.  Top with hot sauce.  


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Summer Succotash

If your garden and farmers market is anything like mine, it's exploding with fresh corn, zucchini and peppers right now.  Saturday morning trips to the Farmers Market are my favorite--seeing all the beautiful produce, the people strolling along with their coffees, the brightly colored flowers. It's all so comforting to me.  

With all the rain that we've gotten in the Bluegrass State this year, I was beginning to worry about all the babies I planted in my garden. I was fearing that everything may drown. Luckily, we've had a little reprieve and we're getting back on track.  The cucumbers are out of control, the zucchini is starting to take off and I even spotted a tomato started to redden! 

The combination of corn and zucchini is a classic summer pairing. They are both quick and plentiful this time of year. What's better than a quick side that can be thrown together in about 15 minutes? One that's fresh, local and healthy, of course! In addition to corn and zucchini, I added onion, Lima beans and a mild chili pepper. Feel free to throw in any veggie your heart desires. Versatility is just one great part of this recipe. And summer. And life. 

Summer Succotash

3 cups fresh corn (about 5 ears) frozen would work too
1 medium zucchini, roughly chopped
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 chili pepper, roughly chopped 
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup frozen lima beans, thawed
1 teaspoon coconut oil
4 tablespoons tomato chipotle butter
Salt and pepper

Heat coconut oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini, onion and chili pepper. Cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and lima beans. Cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in corn and butter. Season with salt and pepper.   

Serve with your favorite grilled meat or over pasta! 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Spice Rubbed Chicken Quarters with Alabama White Sauce

This past weekend the course of my life was forever altered. How, you ask? If you must know, I experienced Alabama White Sauce for the first time. It was one of the most joyous, yet saddest moments of my life, knowing that for 38 years, I have been missing out on this secret that Alabama had been keeping from the rest of the country until the past couple of years. If people have known about this longer than that, please don't tell me. It will break my heart.

Have you guys had this stuff yet? I swear it's liquid heaven. Honestly, I would consider eating a sock if it had been drenched in this tangy, zippy sauce.  Who knew that mayo, vinegar and horseradish could become something that I would dream about. 

But this spice rub.... It's the perfect compliment to the sauce. Smokey, slightly spicy and delicious. You don't even need the sauce (you actually do. You don't want to miss out on this). 

Chicken leg quarters are one of my absolute favorite meats to grill. It's simple, straightforward and super delicious, and not to brag, but I'm really good at grilling them. I don't know how or why this has happened but after 18 years of grilling I finally caught on. Here is where I add my disclaimer: I only cook on a gas grill. I don't have patience for charcoal even though it tastes so much better. Also, use a meat thermometer.  Always. Unless you're truly a pro. <end disclaimer> Here's how simple it is. Heat both sides of grill. Turn one side off. Place leg quarters on cool side of grill skin down. Go distract yourself for 20 minutes. Flip chicken. Go distract yourself for another 20 minutes. Remove chicken from grill. Let rest for about 5 minutes. Anyone can do this. As long as you're an adult capable of lighting a grill, you got this. Promise. 

What's your favorite thing to grill in the summer? Do you have any fantastic tips that you'd like to share? Leave a comment and let us know!  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to run to the store to pick up more chicken leg quarters. While I'm doing that, you can throw together this rub and some white sauce and make your own chicken. Save me some!! 

Spice Rubbed Chicken

2 chicken leg quarters
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon cumin
Pinch of white pepper
Pinch of cinnamon
Fresh cracked black pepper

In a small bowl combine salt, garlic powder, smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin, white pepper, cinnamon and black pepper. Rub on chicken and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. 

Preheat both burners of a gas grill on high. Once grill has preheated, turn off one side of grill. Place chicken, skin down, on side of the grill with no flame. Grill on the first side for 20 minutes. Flip and grill for another 20 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 170 degrees.

Big Bob Gibson's Alabama White Sauce

Courtesy of Big Bob Gibson and Paula Deen

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon sugar

Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Mix well

Dunk Chicken in Alabama White Sauce and change your life immediately!


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Watermelon Lime Agua Fresca

The dog days of summer have arrived here in Kentucky.  At this moment, I have to say, I'm not mad at it.  After all the rain we've had lately it's kind of refreshing to see and feel the sun.  Speaking of refreshing, this Watermelon Lime Agua Fresca is a drink you will definitely need to help you cool off in this heat and humidity.  

Last week at the Lexington Farmers Market I picked up a beautiful, sweet, farm fresh watermelon.  I was overjoyed with my purchase.  Until I got home.  Looking at this monstrous melon sitting on my counter, I began to wonder what I was thinking when I bought an entire melon.  I'm only one person! Normally when I make these food faux pas, I just end up sharing with my parents or some friends.  Of course they had just bought one too.  Just my luck!  Never fear.  I can figure out how to use this.  It's what I do.  I can't stand letting anything go to waste.  I chopped up half of it and ate it for breakfast for a few mornings.  I have to tell you.  It was the perfect way to start the days.  What to do with the other half though....  Decisions, decisions.

I contemplated cutting it into wedges and grilling it because I have seen that repeatedly on Pinterest.  I just couldn't get excited about it though.  Hot watermelon doesn't sound appealing to me.  Especially right now.  I am absolutely sure that I will try it at some point this summer because it does intrigue me.  Plus, I am constantly being proved wrong when I find something I don't think I'll like, i.e brussels sprouts and lima beans.

As soon as I heard the forecast for this weekend, I immediately knew how I would use the rest of this beautiful fruit.  I would need something to keep me cool and hydrated this weekend and what better than a flavored water?  Simple, thirst quenching, delicious.  Did I mention simple?  Water is my drink of choice.  I drink it all day, every day, but sometimes it's nice to mix it up a little with citrus, berries or melon.  The best thing about this recipe is that you can just throw everything into the food processor or blender.  See?  Easy.  I just chunked up the melon, squeezed a few limes and threw in some sugar.  Pour it into a pitcher, add water and top off with some fresh mint.  Are you salivating yet? 

I know you just read the word sugar and I'm guessing you gasped out loud.  Everything in moderation.  I used free trade organic cane sugar.  Feel free to substitute honey or skip the sugar all together.  Whatever floats your boat.  Or your pool raft.  I could use a pool right now.  I guess I'll just have to settle for a cold beverage.  What are you waiting for?  Go hydrate yourself!

Watermelon Lime Agua Fresca

4 cups watermelon, roughly chopped
1/3 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
3 tablespoons sugar, more or less to taste
4 cups water
Mint, for garnish

In food processor or blender, pulse the watermelon, lime juice and sugar.  Pour into a serving pitcher. Add water.  Stir.  Garnish with sprigs of mint.  Enjoy!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

White Truffle Mashed Potatoes

Today's post is sponsored by Epicurean Butter. 

Decadent, delicious, sinful, dreamy, delightful..... Oh hey there. I'm just jotting down some words that describe these white truffle mashed potatoes. These are the things dreams are made of. Seriously. And it's all because of butter.  

What can I say about butter that hasn't been said before? It's my opinion that butter is proof that God loves us. Well, butter and bacon. Mmm... Bacon. I should stop before I get side tracked and make this about bacon. Nothing should even attempt to upstage these butters. I mean it. Nothing.  There are a plethora of flavors to choose from, both savory and sweet you're bound to find at least 1 or 15 to fall in love with. 

I had never tasted anything truffle flavor until earlier this year when I experienced truffle fries and oh my goodness where had these been all my life? They were so good that I cried a little. And then I was disappointed that I had lived without this awesomeness for 38 years. Well, no more! Truffles for everyone! We can all splurge occasionally, right? 

I definitely recommend splurging on the white truffle butter from Epicurean, or any of them, for that matter.  Tuscan Herb, Tomato Chipotle, Scampi, Maple Syrup, Orange Honey, Black Truffle, Garlic Herb and many more. I was beyond excited when I came home to a delivery on butter sitting on my front porch.  I'd say I was on cloud nine--if that cloud was made of butter.  As of publishing this post, other than the white truffle, I have only used the Tomato Chipotle and I have used it on everything.  I mean, everything.  I've scrambled eggs with it and oh my goodness!  Ridiculously delicious doesn't even begin to describe it.  I also spread it on bread, toasted it and made a tomato sandwich which was simply mouthwatering.  I just drooled.  Last but certainly not least, I slathered some of it on farm fresh, grilled sweet corn.  It sent that corn into another universe.  I am so excited to create recipes with the rest of my shipment!

Sometimes I get very particular about the texture of my mashed potatoes, depending on my mood. There are times I like them with the peel which I think takes them to the rustic side. However, with these white truffle mashed potatoes, I wanted them silky smooth so I peeled them and ran them through my food mill. A ricer or mixer would work also or just mash the holy crap out if them by hand.

I'm betting that these mashed potatoes will be the perfect addition to your holiday meals.  Or tomorrow's dinner. Or lunch. Or breakfast. What I'm saying is, you need these white truffle mashed potatoes in your life and you shouldn't wait until the holidays to try it. 

White Truffle Mashed Potatoes

6 cups white potatoes, peeled and cubed
3/4 cup whole milk
3 ounces white truffle butter
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1-2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
Pinch of white pepper
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place potatoes in large pot. Cover with water, about 10 cups. Bring to a boil over high heat. Continue to boil until potatoes are fork tender, about 25 minutes total. Remove from heat and drain. 

Return to pot and mash in white truffle butter, butter, milk, salt, white pepper and black pepper.  Transfer to a serving bowl and top with another pat of butter. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Simple Summer Living

Summertime and the living is easy.  I find it to be true that the simple things are the best things--the dew on the early morning grass, the Orange, pinks and reds of a sunrise or sunset, a light breeze with the windows open, the smell of the rain, the bright blue sky on a summer day, the laughter and squeals of children playing.  I could go on. For a while. But I'll stop.

I'm not quite sure what it is about summer that makes life seem so simple. Is it the extra hours of daylight? The fact that you don't have to spend 10 minutes layering outerwear so you can avoid frost bite? Have you noticed that no one seems to be in that big of a hurry during these warmer months?  I wish I could bottle this feeling into some sort of elixir to enjoy in February when I'm nearing my breaking point of snow and winter. 

Not only does life seem to slow down and become simpler in summer, but so does the food I eat. The abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables are stunningly beautiful with their bright, bold colors. Again, the simple things are sometimes the most beautiful.  It's so easy to light the grill and throw on some chicken, beef or pork. To roast corn on the cob over an open flame and chop up a quick salad.  Easy peasy.  Can't get much simpler than that!

During the course of this year, I have been making an effort to eat in season, organic and to grow some of my own food. At times it can be a challenge but just when you think you can't eat another Brussels sprout, the citrus pops up in season.  I have fallen madly in love with kale and it's many health benefits. I rekindled an old affair with broccoli and even managed to choke down some beet juice which actually isn't too bad as long as you include some apples and can get past the "earthiness" which in reality I assume means "tastes like literal dirt", which I haven't found appealing since the age of five.   I have no qualms about in season eating during the summer months though.  Fresh, sweet corn, juicy tomatoes, crisp cucumbers and don't even get me started on the zucchini and green beans

I think it's time for a challenge. Try living off the "land" for a week. Visit local farmers, roadside stands and farmers markets. If these places don't inspire you to make creative, healthy dishes, well, then I don't know what will. Just try it. Please? And report back. I'm pretty sure you'll be on the road to feeling like a million bucks!

My absolute favorite summer meal consists of fresh green beans, corn on the cob and a sliced tomato. It screams summer to me. They are the quintessential foods for the month of July.  Simple, colorful, delicious.  Saute onions and garlic in butter, or even better, bacon grease, until soft.  Throw in green beans and simmer in a little chicken broth until beans are done to your liking.  If you're like my mom, you'll left them go for hours.  If you're me, 30 minutes will do ya.

I can't get enough of summer and I wish it would stick around forever.  How do you live simply?  Are there summer traditions that you keep? What are those must have summer foods for you?  Do you grow your own garden and if so, what are your favorite crops?  Leave a comment or drop me an email to share!  Enjoy the remainder of your summer and remember to take time to smell the roses, to sip iced tea on the patio and enjoy your friends and family during these lazy, hazy days of summer when the living truly is easy. 

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

When it comes to Mac and Cheese, it seems there are two different camps: saucy and baked. I come from a long line of baked mac and cheese fans. It's the way my grandmother made it. As far as I'm concerned, as long as there are noodles and cheese, it can't be bad. I've never met a mac and cheese that I didn't love. Can I get an amen? 

If you've been around Fork Heart Kentucky for any amount of time, you can see that my gom-gom's recipes are quite important to me.  Go ahead and add this one to the list. She was a pretty special woman and people rave about this particular dish.  You don't have to tell anyone in my family whose recipe this is when they see it in the buffet line--everyone already knows. 

I've said it before and I'll say it many, many more times, but I love how food brings out memories or can strike up a conversation. A week or so ago I was "watching" Astronaut Wives Club with Cara (I saw 'watching' because she lives in Florida) and one of the wives was making a salad with gelatin and mayonnaise.  I'm pretty sure Cara was grossed out because she said "jello and mayo"? That immediately brought back a memory of eating lime jello with Gom-gom at Biancke's back home in Cynthiana. It is such a vivid scene. She would sit there, drinking her decaf with her sweater draped around her shoulders. Man, I miss those days.  And yes, she would spread mayo on her jello salad and it was delicious. I prefer it with lime over the other flavors. Hey! Don't knock it till you try it! 

This Baked Macaroni and Cheese is not controversial, unlike the jello.  This is something we can all agree on (I hope). Cheese, noodles, eggs, milk. Can it get any easier than that? You want more good news? You can make it in advance and bake when you're ready to eat! I just keep making this day better for you, don't I?  

Baked Macaroni and Cheese

1 pound elbow macaroni, cooked according to package directions
7 eggs
3 cups milk
1 (16 ounce) block sharp cheddar, sliced
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

Cook noodles according to package directions, making sure to salt the water. 

Meanwhile, whisk together the eggs and milk. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. 

When noodles are cooked and drained, add half of them to a 9x13 baking dish. Top with half of the sliced cheese. Cover with remaining noodles and again with the remaining cheese. Pour the egg and milk mixture evenly over the noodles. 

Bake in a 375 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the egg mixture has set. 

You can make this the night before and bake it an hour before serving. 


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Egg Kisses

We're looking forward to Independance Day around here with these Egg Kisses filled with fresh fruit. Strawberries and blueberries turn this elegant but easy dessert into the perfect red, white and blue! They also bring back childhood memories for me as mom regularly whipped these babies up.  I absolutely love how food can evoke so many memories and great ones at that!  Who has bad memories surrounding food?  I certainly don't. 

I know what you're thinking right now.  You're saying to yourself that these look really difficult to make.  Fortunately that is not the case.  With a stand or hand mixer, these egg kisses can be whipped up in about 20 minutes.  When using a stand mixer you can actually leave it and come back to check on it every few minutes.  I threw in a load of laundry and washed some dishes.  I'm a multi-tasker. The most difficult part of this dessert is waiting on them to finish in the oven.  They are baked at a very low temperature and depending on the humidity wherever you are, can take anywhere from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours.  That's the downside.  The upside?  You'll have a light, refreshing summertime dessert.  Serve them up with your favorite fresh fruit and you are all set!  I love using summer berries in mine and had picked up some beautiful blueberries and the last of this seasons strawberries from the farmers market.  Have I ever mentioned how amazing the farmers market is here in Lexington?  It's worth a visit if you live anywhere nearby. 

One of my favorite holidays is Independence Day.   I always have and always will love the way my family celebrates this festive event.  Lately we all gather at my aunt and uncle's farm which just happens to be my mom's old homestead.  I am so thankful that we have been able to keep this special place in our family.  My uncle builds a big bon fire that is used to roast hot dogs and later, to roast marshmallows for s'mores because honestly, what kind of a cookout doesn't have s'mores?  I once met someone who had never in his life experienced s'mores and what?  I digress. The rest of the meal is made up of simple foods like baked beans, deviled eggs, and watermelon with a few random salads thrown in there.  All in all, it's the perfect family dinner.  

When we were younger, and my grandparents were still around, the family owned a farm that had a creek that travelled through it.  That was our spot for all summer gatherings.  Uncle Lemmie would bring out the fishing boat and take us all for rides while the rest of the family would fish from the "shore" which was really just a dry creek bed.  Of course every 4th of July was capped off with some fireworks.  I have such fond memories of my childhood and I'm so fortunate that my family continues to make memories.  

What are some of your traditions for summer holidays?  Let me know!  I love hearing from you guys!

Egg Kisses

Yields about 24 

6 egg whites, room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
1 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 225 degrees.

Place egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Beat until foamy.

Add cream of tarter and vanilla.  Begin adding sugar about 1/4 cup at a time until fully incorporated.

Continue beating on a high speed until stiff peaks form.

Transfer to a plastic bag with a piping tip attached.

Pipe the egg whites onto a foil lined baking sheet or spoon them on, making sure to form a well in the center.  I suggest about 2 inches in diameter.

Place baking sheets in oven.  Reduce temperature to 200 degrees.  Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  This could take a little longer depending on the humidity in your area.  

Try to refrain from opening the oven for the first 1 1/2 hours.  When the egg kisses feel dry and are not longer sticky, they are finished.  They should easily pull away from the foil.

Top with fresh fruit and enjoy!

Sweet and Spicy Broccoli

I feel like I really needed to say something outrageous in the opening sentence of this post since the word broccoli is in the title. I failed. Miserably.  I haven't been able to find a reason to get excited about broccoli since I was about 10 years old and only then if it were smothered in cheese and buttery, delicious crackers.  The times, well they're changing. Roasting broccoli has given this sad, soft, overcooked side dish a new life and I, for one, could not be more excited! 

I'm making every attempt to eat seasonal and to eat local.  I've been shopping less and less at the national retailers and spending more time tracking down local, organic and in-season ingredients. In Lexington and many parts of Kentucky, this is extremely easy to find. Lucky for me I've  spent less time tracking and more time enjoying the beautiful bounty provided by Kentucky's wonderful, friendly farmers.  I enjoy my weekend mornings at the farmers market in downtown Lexington and always look forward to the goodies I will find each week. 

In addition to eating local, I've set a goal to eat at least one green item every day. It sounds a lot easier than it has been for me due to my obsession with desserts lately.  I actually love green vegetables: zucchini, Brussels sprouts, kale, lettuce, collards, green beans and most recently, mustard greens, thanks to Katie Lee (yes, I know there are other green veggies. Just listing the ones I partake in regularly) I knew I needed to add broccoli to that list so I decided to join the cool kids and roast some for dinner one night. I saw a bunch of posts for broccoli with lemon and parm and that sounds amazing but this particular night I was leaning in a different direction. I needed something sweet and savory. Not only just savory but something with a kick and I knew just the thing: red pepper flakes. I am in love with the flakes. I put them on pizza, greens, potatoes.... I could go on but I won't. Instead, I'll just post this recipe.

Are there any vegetables you've fallen out of love with lately? Have you tried reinventing them by roasting or grilling? Let me know what you've come up with!  

Sweet and Spicy Broccoli

1 head of broccoli, chopped

1 tablespoon canola oil 
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (more or less depending on the level of spiciness)
1/4 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 

In a small bowl, combine the oil, red pepper flakes and brown sugar.  Add the chopped broccoli to a ziplock bag and pour the oil mixture into the bag.  Shake well.

Transfer the contents of the bag onto a foil lined baking sheet.  Roast in the oven for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Sausage and Cheese Strata

You guys. Host a brunch this weekend and make this Sausage and Cheese strata. On second thought. Don't host a brunch. Just make this and save it all for yourself. 

I come from a long line of casserole lovers--broccoli casserole, corn pudding, chicken casserole, and growing up I always looked forward to family functions because I knew I would always leave full and happy (read stuffed and miserable because I just never knew, I mean know, present tense, when to stop).  Then came a very dark time in my life when I shunned the casserole. I felt they were outdated, old fashioned and frankly, I was embarrassed by the amount of casseroles my family ate. I guess I just fell into the wrong group with food snobs or maybe they were uninformed. Since moving back to Kentucky, the prodigal daughter has returned to her love of casseroles--well, some of them. Sweet potato casserole always has and always will gross me out. It's a texture thing. 

One casserole I am definitely on board with, is the breakfast variety. I have never met a breakfast casserole that I didn't like and I have had some interesting examples show up. For instance, someone I know uses stove top in their breakfast casserole. You read that right. Stove top. Weirdly delicious. My absolute favorite breakfast casserole though, is my Gom-gom's Sausage and Cheese Strata. Savory sausage, cheese and creamy eggs baked into two layers of bread. I mean, what? If that's not heaven in a 9x13 baking dish, I don't know what is.

It's hard to believe, but Gom-gom has been gone now for almost twenty years. We're so fortunate to be able to keep our loved ones memories' alive through the items they left behind. I'm so grateful that she had so many handwritten recipes. Sometimes I'm not grateful that she wrote them on random pieces of envelopes, old checks and scrap paper. I would have loved to have been able to frame some of them for my kitchen. Oh well.  I'm just thankful that I can keep her with me! What are some of your favorite family recipes?  Were you lucky enough to have handwritten recipes you can frame or show off in your decor?  Let me know!

Notice the multiple colors of ink used on this recipe

Cheese and Sausage.  Yum!

Sausage and Cheese Strata

4 eggs, beaten
3 cups milk
11-12 pieces of bread
1 pound of sausage, browned
8 ounces shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

Butter a 9x13 baking dish. 

Lightly butter each piece of bread. Place one layer of bread in the bottom of the baking dish. Cover with half of the sausage and half of the cheese. 

Place another layer of bread in the dish followed by the remaining sausage and cheese. 

In a mixing bowl, mix the eggs, milk, salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Pour this mixture over the bread, sausage and cheese. 

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes or eggs have set. Let rest for at least 10 minutes before serving. 

Serve at your next brunch with fresh fruit or store in the fridge and break the fast with it all week.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Artichoke Bruschetta

Lexington is overflowing with fabulous sites, sounds and of course, food. I'm not going to lie, I do a terrible job of sightseeing in my own town but if you ask my opinion, I'll tell you exactly what businesses or events you should hit up while in town. Recently I found a new favorite Lexington activity: Talon winery on a Friday night.  They have a great selection of wines, live music and the scenery, well, that just speaks for itself

That's kind of pretty, right? 

Are you wondering exactly what this post is about yet? I think you're all used to my rambling by now. 

Artichokes. Sometimes I crave them. In a dip form. With mayo and cream cheese and Parmesan cheese and garlic. Creamy, dreamy deliciousness. I happen to be craving it right now. 

So those ingredients basically make up Artichoke Brushcetta. It's easy to throw together and can be served at room temperature. The artichoke mixture can be made a day or two ahead, stored in the fridge and then baked the day you're planning on devouring this two-bite finger food. And yes, devour is an appropriate word. 

I used jarred artichokes but canned or frozen would work too. You might want to marinate the frozen artichokes in a little vinegar or lemon juice to give them the tangy-ness of the jarred and canned variety. Feel free to use fresh too. Then come over to my house to teach me how to work with fresh artichokes. They intimidate me.  Another note for you: use white bread. Plain sandwich bread is perfect for this. Go ahead and knock yourself out with the fancy bread if you need to or already have some on hand, but don't buy it especially for this recipe. Should I have changed the name to redneck bruschetta since it uses white bread? Never mind. 

Artichoke Bruschetta will be a perfect addition to your next cocktail party or a night hanging with your friends at a beautiful winery. Go ahead. Eat, drink and be merry!

Artichoke Bruschetta

1 (12 ounce) jar marinated artichokes, drained and roughly chopped
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup parmigiano cheese, grated
1 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Pinch of salt
Black pepper
24 pieces of white bread

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a food processor or mixing bowl, mix cream cheese, mayo, cheese, garlic powder, salt and pepper.  Stir in the artichokes.  

Spread 1-2 tablespoons of the cream cheese mixture onto slices of white bread.  Place on a foil lined baking sheet.

Bake in oven for 20 minutes or until bubbly.  Remove from oven and let rest for a few minutes.  Transfer to a cutting board and cut in halves or quarters.