Sunday, April 29, 2007

Marinated Edamame Salad

The word edamame means, "beans on branches." The edamame bean is actually a green soybean that is harvested early while the beans are still immature. It is high in protein, fiber, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Even after boiling, they retain a crisp-tenderness and are quite delicious.
Marinated Edamame Salad

3 cups chicken broth
1 pkg frozen edamame beans, shelled
1 lb frozen corn
3 fresh, ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/3 - 1/2 cup chopped, fresh basil
1/2 cup oil
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp hoisin sauce
salt & pepper to taste
dash crushed red pepper flakes

Bring chicken broth to a boil and add edamame and corn. Boil on medium-high for about 10-15 minutes. Drain. Combine with remaining ingredients and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Greet Your Guests with Flowers

In the spring and summer months, I like to have flowers at my back porch door (which is the door everyone uses). I found this interesting vase at the Pepper Place Saturday Market, which, incidentally, starts May 12. It is a grapevine wreath with a jar woven into it. Since I don't have flowers in my yard yet, I bought this bouquet at Publix. It provides a cheerful and colorful entrance which hopefully will make everyone feel welcome and special.

My Aunt Betty and cousin Dana were here from Atlanta this weekend, so we used the opportunity to have a spend-the-night party with them and my aunts Margo and Maxine at my house. We had a time of fun and secret exploits. My Aunt Peggy joined us for breakfast and we had fried ham, biscuits, scrambled eggs, and smoked gouda grits. There were great ideas and philosophies shared, as well as on-site Pilates demonstrations. As I've said before, my aunts are really kooky and fun. They are also very supportive of me, my family, my blog and possible future endeavors, and my baby, Ally Gator.

Here they all are, left to right: Betty (holding Ally), Margo, Dana, Peggy, and Maxine:

I am very grateful to have such a sweet family.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Beer Bread

One of my favorite places to shop for cookware or gadgets is the Cook Store in Mountain Brook. It is located at 2841 Cahaba Road. Their phone number is: (205) 879-5277. It is a quaint, cozy store and an essential resource for any serious cook. It is also a wonderful place to buy a gift for a special cook. The front part of the store is devoted to handmade pottery/cookware, designed by various artists. The piece I am featuring today is a Bread Baker, (pictured above, lower left), crafted by Greg Schatz , of Nashville, IN. It is oven, microwave, and dishwasher safe. Included with the baker is a recipe for Beer Bread, which I just tried. It was very quick and easy to make. I bought an imported beer at World Market, simply because I liked the way the label looked and I thought it would look cute as a vase later. I know that sounds silly, but I am not a beer drinker and I didn't think it would affect the taste of the bread. It proved to be a little bitter, however. Next time I will probably try a mainstream light beer.

Beer Bread

3 cups Bisquick
3 tablespoons sugar
1 can room temperature beer

Grease bottom and sides of baker. Combine all ingredients and pour into baker. Bake at 350 for about 50 minutes.

The ladies at the Cook Store told me that it might overflow, so I poured some of it into a mini loaf pan. Next time I will fill the baker a little fuller because I would like for it to round out a little higher. I also added about 3 tbsp parmesan cheese, which is one of the variations listed on the recipe.

Combine all ingredients: This is how full I filled them. It rose about a third again as much.

I served it with grilled pork chops, grilled asparagus, and baked sweet potatoes. It was very moist. Even though I will not buy that brand of beer again, it really does make a cute vase.

The Bread Baker is also the perfect size for boxed bread mixes.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Happy Birthday Amby

Twenty-five years ago today, Amby was born. She weighed 7 pounds and 1 ounce.

She had lots of black hair. The nurses at the hospital kept slicking her hair down, so I took her into the bathroom, washed her hair in the sink, and let it be natural. Then I took this picture of her in my hospital bed:

She enjoyed swimming from a very early age:

She and her brother Zac have always been very best friends:

She is very artistic and creative. Many people do not know this, but she invented the colors plime, plint, and rosemotique.

Just really cute...

...and really fun. We both find humor in odd things, sometimes to the point of hysterical laughter, and have had unusually funny things happen to us. Sometimes people think we are weird. Maybe it's genetic.

One day, a very important person came into her life who would become the standard that no other person she dated could ever measure up to. That was Nathan.

She and Nathan were married in September of 2005. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

A bittersweet time for her dad...

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

her brother....

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
...and for me.
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I love being around her and I have so enjoyed watching her grow up to be the amazing person that she is.

Happy Birthday Amby.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Salmon en Papillote

The term, "en papillote" (pronounced: pap-uh-loht or pa-pee-yawt), simply means "in a paper wrapper". The paper wrapper is made of parchment which is cut into a heart-shape and folded around the ingredients. This creates its own steamy chamber which allows all the flavors to infuse while the salmon cooks. It is very easy to do and it makes a great presentation for company. The vegetables are blanched ahead of time because the actual baking time for the salmon is short. This can be done with other types of seafood or fish, and can include other vegetables, also.

Salmon en Papillote

1 cup fresh green beans
2 salmon fillets
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
fresh lemon slices

Steam green beans until crisp-tender. Cut a piece of parchment about 22" long. Fold in half. While folded, cut into a 1/2 heart shape. (Illustration to follow). Open and spray heart with cooking spray. Place each fillet onto the right half of the heart. Sprinkle salmon with salt, pepper, and dill. Melt butter and combine with vanilla. Pour over top of the fillet. Top with lemon slices, too, if desired. Fold heart in half again. Starting at one end, make small folds aroungd the edges of the paper until you work your way around it. Place in a baking dish and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes, or until salmon flakes in the center. Cut the top open and serve.

Steam green beans until crisp-tender. Trim ends and cut into small pieces:

Fold parchment paper in half:

Cut into a half-heart shape:

Open the heart and spray with cooking spray. Place ingredients on the right half of the parchment heart:

Begin to fold the edges all the way around.
This will take folding over several times until it stays folded.

Continue folding all the way around. It will look like this:

Bake and enjoy!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Squash Casserole

Summer squash is high in manganese and vitamin C, and a good source of many other nutrients, including vitamin A, magnesium, riboflavin, and folate. It is naturally high in fiber and low in calories, fat, and sodium. This is an unusually good version of squash casserole. The recipe, which I altered slightly, was given to me by a friend many years ago. It takes a little prep time, so be sure to plan ahead.

Squash Casserole

1-1/2 pounds yellow squash, sliced and boiled until crisp-tender
3 tbsp butter
1/4 cup chopped green onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped banana pepper
1 can sliced water chestnuts
1 cup sour cream
1 egg
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
salt & pepper to taste
1 sleeve ritz crackers, crumbled into fine crumbs

Drain squash well in a colander. Saute onion, peppers, and celery in butter until tender. Add all other ingredients and mix well. (Note: It takes alot of salt, at least for me it does.) Pour into a greased 13x9 inch baking dish. Top with cracker crumbs. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Boil squash until crisp-tender:

Saute onion and peppers until tender:

Bake until it is golden brown:
I think the banana peppers and the water chestnuts are what make this recipe so good.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Homemade Rolls with a Twist

When I make homemade yeast rolls and have a little extra time, I like to braid the dough before I bake them. They not only look more special, they actually seem to taste better. For those of you who do not have a bread machine, I recommend that you get one. There are many possibilities for uses for this dough recipe, such as rolls, loaves, cinnamon rolls, cheese danish, pepperoni bread, homemade pizza, and garlic breadsticks. The list is endless.

This is my basic roll dough recipe with the addition of sharp cheddar cheese.

Cheese Rolls

4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
6 tbsp sugar
1 stick butter, sliced into about 6 pieces
1 cup water
1 egg
2 pkg rapid rise yeast
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

Combine ingredients and process in bread machine on dough setting. After first rise, remove dough and divide into 16 portions. Divide each of the 16 portions into 3 portions. Roll each into a rope. Pinch the top ends together and braid. Then pinch the bottom ends together and pull pinched ends to the back. Place on greased cookie sheet. Brush with egg wash (one beaten egg mixed with about 2 tsp water). Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.

Divide dough into 16 equal portions:

Divide each portion into 3 balls:

Roll them out and pinch them together at the top:

Begin braiding from the top down and pinch the bottom ends together. Then tuck the ends under the roll and place on the pan.

After you have shaped and placed the rolls, brush with egg wash mixture. Allow to rise in a warm place with no drafts for about an hour.

This is how they look finished: For the cheese rolls, I sometimes like to brush them with melted butter and sprinkle a generous amount of parmesan cheese on top.
I made another batch without cheese, so I added a couple of teaspons of dill to the egg wash and brushed it on. Then I sprinkled poppy seeds and sesame seeds on top.

These rolls are a great way to use your creativity and try something new, and they are a perfect accompaniment for most any meal.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Uncommon Spring Tablescape

We have several azalea bushes that are presently in full bloom, so I decided to take advantage of that and use them for a spring tablescape. I wanted to use clay pots instead of vases, so I pulled out some old ones and decided to paint them. It turned out to be a great project.
Items needed:
flowering stems in varying lengths
clay pots (old or new)
acrylic paint
disposable sponge brushes
moss (Michaels or Hobby Lobby)

I started out by painting the pots. I diluted the acrylic paint with water, making it somewhat translucent. I started with a green and wiped it down with a damp cloth. I repeated that same process with white, and then ended with brown. It gave the pots a funky look. You could use whatever color you want. If you don't like your result, simply wipe it off and start over.
This is how they turned out: I soaked the oasis in water for a few minutes:

The oasis easily slices with a knife to fit into the pots. I used a large piece in the middle and small pieces on the sides for stability:

I combined the stems I had into groupings according to color. I pushed the stems into the oasis, then covered the oasis with the moss.
The flowers in the middle pot (pictured below) had particularly long stems, so I pulled off the leaves and tied them with a ribbon, giving it the look of a topiary.

This is an easy and inexpensive way to create a very colorful tablescape.
Note: Azaleas wilt a little after 24 hours, so if you use them, put it together the day of your event.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Fettuccine Alfredo with Grilled Chicken

This recipe comes from Betty Crocker's International Cookbook. I have made it many times and the alfredo sauce rivals any I have ever had in a restaurant. I like to use fresh fettuccine, which takes only about 3 minutes to cook. The sauce comes together quickly, too. For us, I doubled the sauce and used 1-1/2 packages of pasta, but still used just four chicken breasts. Doubled, it serves 8.

Fettuccine Alfredo with Grilled Chicken

3-4 chicken breasts
Newman's Own Oil & Vinegar Dressing
8 oz fettuccine, uncooked
1 stick butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp salt
dash of pepper

Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper and marinate for about an hour in Newman's Dressing. Grill chicken and slice.
In a medium pot, bring water to boil with about 2 tsp olive oil and cook fettuccine until done, 3-4 minutes, if fresh. Drain or remove with a pasta spoon.
Meanwhile, heat butter and cream over low heat until butter is melted. Stir in cheese, salt, and pepper. Keep on low heat until pasta is ready.
Place chicken on noodles and pour sauce over it.

The sauce is ready in about 3 minutes:

Cook the pasta al dente:

Gil grilled the chicken for me and it was perfect:

I found this kalamata olive boule at Western in Mt Brook. It originally came from Edgar's Bakery. Finding it is what inspired me to make this meal and it went with it beautifully.

Yes, it is high in calories. No, it is not the way we eat every night. We eat healthy most of the time. But it's ok to splurge every once in a while. I promise that the flavor of this sauce is worth every calorie.