Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pimento Cheese

I used to think that I did not like pimento cheese. Not sure why, but it might have had something to do with the fact that my Dad liked pimento cheese stuffed celery. The addition of celery to anything pretty much ruins it for me! One day a friend offered me some that she made at home. That was pretty tasty! She used this recipe, and gave it to me. I have made it several times and have come up with a version that we really like at my house.

Gathering all the ingredients:

All mixed up:

Pimento Cheese 

1 block of cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 block of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 block of Monterrey Jack cheese, shredded (pepper jack is also great)
1 cup mayo
1 jar of pimentos, drained
1/4 cup onion grated (including the juice)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp black pepper
1 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs lemon juice

In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add remaining ingredients and mix well.

****I have found that grating my own cheese for this recipe results in a much smoother and creamier spread and Kip and I both prefer it if I grate it vs. using already shredded cheeses.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken and Dumplings happen to be one of my favorite foods and top the list as far as comfort foods go. Growing up in the south, I think almost every one has their own version of them too. My version is the way that my Grandmother always made them. She really didn't make them all that often, just at holidays, but they were really something to look forward too. No holiday meal was complete without her dumplings. That is one of the traditions I have brought to my in-laws' get togethers too.

Now Granny always made hers with the turkey that  would be baked on a holiday. I have adapted my recipe for chicken, everything else is still the way that she taught me.

The ingredients are simple; flour, Crisco, broth, milk, butter and cook shredded chicken.

This is one of those recipes that I just by feel, I don't really have exact measurements, but I start with about 2 cups of all purpose flour and roughly 1/2 cup of the Crisco.

Before I start the dumplings, I prepare my pot by adding a couple of quarts of chicken broth, a cup or so of milk and a stick of butter. 

Using a fork, you are going to work the Crisco into the flour until the flour is crumbly. At this point you will add cold water to the flour mixture, about 6-8 tablespoons. You will mix in the water until a dough forms. You can add a little more water,a tablespoon at a time if needed or if it gets too sticky, you can add a little more flour.

Once your dough is formed, you will put the dough onto a floured work surface. I usually divide the dough in half because that is what fits on my mat. You only want to knead the dough a  few times, if you overwork it, you will have tough dumplings.

Now here is where dumpling enthusiasts part ways...some prefer the thick dumplings, but we like them really thin. I will roll out the dough as thin as I can get it and then cut it into strips. 

Making sure that your broth mixture is at a soft boil and then gently drop in the strips of dumplings. Cook for several minutes until dumplings are done. Add in the chicken and stir gently.

And then you end up with a bowl of absolute deliciousness. As a kid nothing beat the day after Thanksgiving when we had dumplings to eat for breakfast. I have to divide the leftovers here at home, to make sure the other person doesn't eat them all! 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Egg Rolls

This week I received cabbage in my Bountiful Basket. The first thing I though of was making egg rolls. I started with one package of egg roll wrappers, cabbage, carrots and a seasoned meat mixture. In these rolls, the meat is ground turkey, but I often make them without meat. You can also used chopped shrimp, crumbled tofu, or ground pork.

Mix the cabbage, carrots and the meat mixture, if using, until well combined.

You care going to start by laying the egg roll wrapper with one point toward you. Scoop some of the cabbage mixture onto the wrapper.

Roll the point facing you to the center of the egg roll.

Tuck in the corners, making sure that no filling is poking out.

Rolling away from you, keeping the roll fairly tight. If they aren't tight, then they will come apart when you are cooking them.

You will have this small point left. Using a small pastry brush or your finger, apply a small amount of water to the entire point, then finish rolling. The water will help it adhere to the rest of the egg roll, forming a seal.

At this point you are ready to cook them in a pan of hot oil. Drop them in, cooking until golden brown on both sides.

When I make egg rolls, I make the entire package or even two so that I can freeze the rest of them for later. Egg rolls aren't that hard to make, but can take a few extra minutes to get everything chopped up and ready to go. Having them in the freezer means that I can pull out what I need for dinner that night.

Dinner was lettuce wraps and egg rolls.

Egg Rolls

1 package of egg roll wrappers
2-3 cups of shredded cabbage
1-1 1/2 cups of shredded carrots

Optional: meat mixture
(ground turkey, ground pork, tofu crumbles, or chopped shrimp cooked with equal parts hoisin sauce and soy sauce and 1 tbs of ginger)

Combine all ingredients and scoop onto the center of an egg roll wrapper. Only pull out one wrapper at a time so they don't dry out.

Drop egg rolls into hot oil and cook until golden brown on both sides.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Weekly Menu and Bountiful Basket

I have missed the last two Bountiful Baskets because I was out of town. I was so happy to get one this week. The above picture contains my regular basket plus the lunch box add-on pack. I also got a 8 lbs of strawberries as an add-on and most of them are in the dehydrator.

I sit down and make my meal plan as soon as I get home with my basket to make sure that nothing goes to waste. Here is my menu plan for this week using my produce:

***Lettuce Wraps and Egg Rolls (using the butter lettuce and one head of the cabbage).
***Baked chicken with a Lemon Caper sauce and Roasted Fennel (using the fennel)

Taco Salad (using the rest of the lettuce and tomatoes) topped with a Cilantro Lime dressing (using a couple of limes)

***Hot Ham and Cheese sandwiches with homemade potato chips (using 1 or 2 potatoes) and cole slaw (the other cabbage)

Spinach Artichoke Pizza

Cheese Burgers on the grill with potato salad (using the rest of the potatoes) and corn on the cob

Beef Stroganoff

I plan the main dishes and then add more veggies and side dishes when I am actually cooking based on my mood for the day!

Apples, plums, melon, grapes, oranges peaches and pears will be eaten with breakfasts or lunches.

Carrots, small tomatoes and snap peas will be eaten with lunches.

The rest of the limes will be zested and dried and then the juice used to make limeade.

The celery will be chopped and frozen to make soup stock.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Bees and Honey

Isn't that beautiful? The golden color lets you know that this is going to be good, and the flavor does explode on your tongue. A feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds. I love honey, always have, but this is extra special honey. This honey was made by my Dad's bees and harvested by my Dad. And this jar is all mine!

Dad has been a bee keeper for a couple of years now and I hope to follow in his footsteps in the next year or so. I have always been fascinated by these little creatures and can't wait to get started with my own hive. I have to say that my Dad is a pretty cool guy, we have lots of the same interests and he is pretty much a walking encyclopedia on all of his hobbies.

Here is a picture I took of one of his hives with his girls coming and going.

This was a container of beeswax that still had some honey in it and Dad set it out for the bees to work and  get the  rest of the honey out. And work they did! It stayed full of bees and I was surprised to see the different varieties of bees in the mix. In addition to all of his honey bees, I also saw bumble bees, a yellow jacket or two and a couple of different wasp looking ones.

I have not planted a lot of flowers in the past, but this year, I added a lot of flowers in pots and built a new flower bed. I did this with the hopes of attracting bees and butterflies to my garden area.  It seems to be working, every time I go out to take a look at everything I always see lots of bees. the past few days have brought a large number of butterflies too. I caught this picture of a bumblebee working a flower.

 I love that they will let me get so close to them to let me observe them at work.