Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Potato & Spinach Fritata


I am not a breakfast eater and never have been. This has always been puzzling to both my Mother and my Husband--they wake up ravenous and can't wait to get to the kitchen.  And of course, there is "They". You know, "Them"? The ones who rule our lives and tell us, among other things, that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. 

I am not only not hungry when I first awake, I can't even smell. All I want is a cup or three of hot English breakfast tea with scalded milk. 

However, I love breakfast food--eggs, bacon, grits, toast, oatmeal, French toast, so I make breakfast for dinner on a regular basis.  I especially enjoy it on gloomy days and we have had a lot of those lately.  And the groundhog told us that spring was just around the corner!

Here is a cheesy potato and spinach frittata I made. I served it with broiled red grapefruit and toast with jam for a comforting supper.

Potato & Spinach Frittata
3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and diced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil (more if needed)
1-10 oz. box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
6 eggs
1 cup 1/2 and 1/2
1 cup Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
Salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat olive oil in a 10-inch iron skillet, or other oven proof skillet, over medium heat. Add the potatoes and onions. Cook and stir, until the potatoes are browned and barely tender, adding more oil and adjusting heat as necessary.

Remove the potatoes from the heat and top with the spinach.

Beat together the eggs and 1/2 and 1/2, with the addition of salt and pepper, to taste. 

Pour the egg mixture over the potatoes and spinach and top with the cheese. Sprinkle the top with paprika.

Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Chocolate Pudding & Homemade Whipped Cream

Valentine's Day is the only holiday I know of which catches so much grief. Some are downright antagonistic towards it. I can understand people not involved in a relationship feeling a little depressed about the public reminder. I've been there myself. But for people who are in good relationships to go out of their way with such declarations as, "I don't need any stinking holiday", "my boyfriend shows his love to me all the time", "it's just a marketing stunt" and so on, I ask: Why the hostility?  If you choose not to celebrate, I promise no one would notice any more than about any other holiday (which are just as heavily, if not more marketed) you may or may not choose to recognize.

The lady doth protest too much, methinks. -- Shakespeare. ??

Anyway, my husband and I like Valentine's Day. It is a kitschy little winter holiday without any pressure at all. We keep it very simple and it is fun to exchange flowers, chocolates, books, music, and mushy cards as reminders of romance.  We will have dinner together, at home, and be grateful for the other.

For dessert tonight, I made chocolate pudding with real, homemade whipped cream. The pudding recipe states it is for 6 servings but we'll see about that. I will grab 2 spoons and take the whole bowl to eat in front of the TV. See I told you we are romantic.

Chocolate Pudding
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
Pinch of salt
3 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract

In a heavy saucepan, stir together the cocoa, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Over medium heat, gradually stir in milk.  Cook and stir constantly until the mixtures reaches a boil. Continue to cook and stir for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Pour into a serving bowl and place plastic wrap directly on the surface of the pudding to keep a skin from forming.

Whipped Cream
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Whisk the cream with a wire whisk or electric mixer until peaks begin to form. Stir in the sugar and vanilla. Continue whisking or beating until desired  consistency is reached. Be careful not to beat too much or you will turn it into butter.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Crock Pot Gumbo

The best Southern Gumbo I've ever eaten comes from my own Mother's Alabama kitchen. After we visited several years ago and she had cooked it, I asked for her recipe, which she happily provided.

It was some time later, when I made it at home myself, that I realized what a true labor of love went into Mama's huge pot of gumbo.  I was over that stove for hours! I thought I would never be done. Every step seemed to take forever. 

I was quite happy the day I made a truly tasty gumbo in the crock pot and have made it several times since. It may not be as excellent as Mama's, but it is still very delicious.

The secret to an authentically flavored gumbo lies in a deep, dark, rich, mahogany colored roux, which is an art in itself.  Mary, of Deep South Dish gives an excellent tutorial explaining roux, and a method for making it in the oven.

Another essential in gumbo is what Cajun cooks refer to as their trinity--onions, celery, and green bell pepper. And thirdly, okra. Any combination of meats and seafood can be used. I use chicken, sausage, and shrimp. Lucky you, if you have access to fresh seafood--load it up, oysters, crab, you name it. 

Crock Pot Gumbo
1 lb. kielbasa sausage, sliced
1 lb. boneless chicken
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3 stalks celery, sliced
3 plump cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. sliced okra (frozen is fine)
1/2 cup roux
1/2 cup water
1 tsp. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 quart tomatoes, undrained

Layer ingredients, in order given, into the crock pot but don't stir. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour. Lower heat to low and continue cooking for 7 hours.

About 10 to 15 minutes before serving, add:
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce, such as Tabasco

Cook until shrimp are done but not overcooked. Adjust seasonings, including the addition of salt and pepper to taste.

Ladle into soup bowls, top with a scoop of hot rice, and pass the hot sauce.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Baked Pineapple

We were originally introduced to this simple and delicious dish, over 20 years ago, by a family friend. It was always their family's signature contribution to a multi-family 4th of July picnic. It is surprisingly tasty with barbecue.

Over the years, I came to know this as a pretty popular dish in the South, often served with Easter ham.  Alice made it for part of her Christmas dinner, which also included ham and I have been wanting more since I ate it at her house. I recently made it as part of a vegetarian meal which also included sauteed cabbage and baked sweet potatoes.

I have seen slight variations of the recipe, crushed pineapple in some, much more sugar in others, bread crumb topping. This is the recipe that was given to us. It calls for pineapple chunks and Ritz crackers so that is the way we always make it in our family.

This baked pineapple is sweet and tart, cheesy, crunchy, buttery and simple to make. Try it soon; I think it may become traditional in your family too.

Baked Pineapple
1-16 oz. can pineapple chunks
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tbsp. flour
3 Tbsp. reserved pineapple juice
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 1/2 cups (1 sleeve) crushed Ritz crackers
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Drain pineapple, reserving 3 tablespoons of the juice. Lay the pineapple chunks evenly in the bottom of a baking dish.

Combine the sugar, flour, and reserved pineapple juice in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat until the sugar has melted. Pour mixture over the pineapple. Sprinkle with the cheddar cheese.

Top with crushed Ritz crackers. Drizzle melted butter over the crackers.

Bake for 20 - 25 minutes.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Avocado & Bacon Sandwiches

My mouth started watering when I saw this sandwich on Pinterest. I followed the link to the blog, Panini Happy.  Blogger, Kathy drizzled olive oil on rustic bread and toasted it in a Panini press. I had a  loaf of LaBrea Bakery French bread, freshly baked at Harris Teeter, which I decided not to toast and I used butter rather than olive oil. Pritchard Parker opted out of the butter because he thought the bacon and avocado provided adequate fat. True, but nonetheless, the butter really works. 

These simple sandwiches were surprisingly wonderful. The squeeze of fresh lime juice and sprinkling of sea salt really added the final touch.  I served them with the Citrus Salad I already wrote about. It was a supper we were still talking about days later. 

Avocado & Bacon Sandwiches
Bread, your choice
Butter or olive oil, if desired
Ripe avocado
Crispy bacon
Fresh lime
Sea salt

Spread butter or drizzle olive on bread. Toast if desired. Top with bacon and a generous amount of avocado, smashing it onto the bacon. Top with freshly squeezed lime juice and sea salt.