Sunday, April 24, 2011

Squash and Spinach Casserole


This is GOOD.

A storm system has planted itself over us here in the Ozarks of Arkansas.  We've received a flood-causing number of inches since Friday night.  The days are dark.  I had to set the ISO on my camera at approximately 9 jillion.  So please excuse the grainy photos.

I started in on this recipe and then decided to blog about it.  So, before you can get to my photo steps...

You'll want to dice up an onion. 

Then, slice two yellow squash in half lengthwise.  Then, cut each half.  (Quarter the squash).  Then, cut the squash crosswise into half-inch slices. 

Confused yet?  Good!  :)

Thaw some frozen spinach.  SQUEEZE it as dry as you can.

Saute the onion in some olive oil until soft.  Toss in the squash, spinach, and seasonings. 

You'll end up with something like this...

Add some prepared cornbread,

mix it all up.

Then stir in a can of Cream of Mushroom soup.

Next, mix in a cup of shredded cheese.
(This is Monterey Jack.  You can use your favorite type.)

Spread it in a greased baking dish,
top with a 1/2 cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese
a 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese.

Bake it at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, until the cheese is yummy and brown.

Open up and say "aaaaaahh!"

Squash and Spinach Casserole
Serves 4-6

1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 yellow squash, quartered lengthwise and chopped into 1/2" slices
1 10 oz. box of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 8.5 ounce box of Jiffy cornbread mixed, prepared and crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 10.75 ounce can Cream of Mushroom soup (or Cream of Celery)
1 and 1/2 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese, divided
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Saute onion in olive oil until soft, about 10 minutes.  Add squash and spinach and cook until over medium heat until squash is soft, about another 10 minutes. 

Add salt and pepper.

Add in the crumbled cornbread and mix well.

Add in the can of soup.

Mix in 1 cup Monterey Jack cheese.

Spread in greased 8x8 baking dish.

Top with 1/2 cup Monterey Jack cheese followed by the mozzarella cheese.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes, or until cheese is well browned.

Linking up at...

Spring Cake Bars

Spring:  it's worth the wait. 
Bleeding Hearts

Lily of the Valley
Tiger Butterfly on Creeping Phlox

View from my kitchen window on this stormy Easter Day
(I zoomed over the weedy front please brush away any ideas of perfection!)

These cake bars are délicieux
They are light and delicate, just like the spring.

Timothy & I made them during a fantastic thunderstorm,
hence the bad lighting.  It was dark as night outside.

If you have a little kitchen helper, have the petit darlings mix together a box of cake mix, an egg, and 1/2 stick of melted butter.

Just until crumbly...

Press mixture into a greased 13" x 9" baking dish.

Then, whisk together the powdered sugar, two eggs,
vanilla, and softened cream cheese.

This is lumpy...but it still came out just fine.
Use your mixer if lumps freak you out.

Pour the egg mixture over the pressed crust.

Bake at 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until knife inserted in center come out mostly non-gooey. 

A Buttery Crust + Moist, Delicate Topping =
Unbutton The Top Button Of Your Pants. 


Spring Cake Bars
Makes about 36 bars
1 box white (or yellow) cake mix
1 egg
1/2 stick butter, melted

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 eggs
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese (softened)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine the cake mix, egg and butter in a large bowl.  Mix with fork just until crumbly.  Pat into a greased 13 x 9 baking dish.
Whisk together the remaining ingredients.  Pour over crust.  Bake at 325 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Breakfast Quiche

This was unexpectedly delicious. 

It would be a beautiful addition to your Easter breakfast table...

Breakfast Quiche
Serves 6-7

8-10 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped 
1 (9 inch) single refrigerated pie crust
6 eggs, well-beaten
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
Ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach - thawed, drained and squeezed REALLY dry*
1 1/2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped green onion
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cook the bacon (either in a skillet or in the microwave).  Drain excess grease and chop when cool.

Place the pie crust into a 9-inch pie dish and flute the edges.  Set aside.

In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, salt, black pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Spread the spinach into the bottom of the pie crust; top with bacon, Cheddar cheese, and green onion.  Pour the egg mixture over the filling, and sprinkle the quiche with Parmesan cheese.

Bake in the preheated oven until the top is lightly puffed and browned, and a knife inserted into the center of the quiche comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes.

*You don't necessarily have to use the entire box of spinach.  Also, if you don't have frozen spinach available, you can saute a large amount of fresh spinach leaves in a skillet that is just barely coated with olive oil.

**Substitute fresh spinach for fresh kale that has been trimmed away from the center stem and chopped.  

Recipe adapted from here

Friday, April 15, 2011

Lemon Pound Cake with Lavender-Lemon Icing

A cake to celebrate that it's finally SPRING!

But first, a story.

Last week, my friend Caneel over at Mama Me Gluten Free posted a recipe about a yummy Peach Poppyseed Cake that is inextricably connected to memories of her late grandmother.

That made my own food/grandmother memories start exploding like fireworks in my mind.   

My daddy's mother, Momma Merle, was one of the most beautiful, gracious, patient, kind, gentle, and loving women on the face of the planet. 

Momma Merle in 1940
(17 years old)

The further I step into adulthood, the more I realize the amazing depth of her character and conviction of her faith.  Her life was not easy.  But despite her hardships, she was one of those women in whose presence you were able to breathe a little more deeply.  The aura surrounding her invited your heart to sit down and rest, "for pity's sake", as she would say. 

I could (and did) tell her everything.  She would sit in her armchair, sipping on either sweet tea or coffee, and I would sit at her feet and lean on her legs as she stroked my hair.  I can still smell her Ponds cold cream and her Tea Rose perfume.  Her East Texas drawl made me want to curl up into a ball in her lap; hearing it on the phone gave my soul a desire to crawl through the telephone wires just to be with her.

Momma Merle and Papa Pete
June, 1997

My blood pressure is dropping just by thinking of her. 

I inherited my serious addiction to dishes and creating a lovely home from both my mom and my Momma Merle.  My grandparents were never wealthy; Momma Merle scrimped and saved and bought many "dime-store" sets of china.  When I visited her, I would walk through the house, intensely looking at each cup and saucer, each spoon and embroidered napkin, running my fingers over them and memorizing every detail.  Until she could no longer walk because of Parkinson's, Momma Merle would stroll with me and tell me the story behind every piece.

I wouldn't trade these memories for all the proverbial tea in China.

When I was in college and just beginning to express an interest in cooking, Momma Merle began sending me her recipes.  I didn't always make the wisest decisions during those years (*sigh*), but thankfully I had enough smarts to save these family heirlooms written in her spidery handwriting.  

In October 2005, as she lay despondent and dying in a nursing home in Tyler, Texas, Chris and I stood by her bedside and I whispered into her ear that I was pregnant with our first child.  We didn't even know for sure was too early to even begin taking tests...but I had "that feeling" in my heart and wanted to share it with her before she passed.  She squeezed my hand.  I kissed her gorgeous forehead and ran out in the hall to cry. 

Life is sweet.  Life is hard. 

But were it not for the hard parts, would we appreciate its sweetness?

May I encourage you:  if you have a living grandparent who is dear to you, will you please look at your calender or Orbitz or Hotwire right now and make arrangements to go visit them?  I would do anything to visit with my grandparents (and my daddy) today.  To show them my boys.  To share my life with them.

Now, back to the cake.  This is Momma Merle's recipe.  I just added lemon zest and juice to the batter and then coated it with a lavender glaze. 

Last month I shared that we are doing a small addition to our home. 

The guys are out there working hard, and yesterday the sheetrock was delivered.

Right as I was in the middle of preparing this recipe and photographing each step, the builder knocked on the door and said they were going to have to bring the 12-foot long sheets through the house.  All 40 of them.  

So five burly (but very kind-hearted), older construction gentlemen were passing by my kitchen on the way to the addition.  I was catching snippets of conversation concerning fishing, the weather, guns, and power tools.

So you might know that I felt a wee bit conspicuous taking photographs of my mixer. 

"What in the world are you doin', woman?"

"Oh!  I'm a food blogger!" 

"A what?"

"A food blogger!  You know, I take pictures of my recipes and post them on my blog!"

"What the heck's a blog?"

Having gone through this hypothetical conversation in my mind, I just went ahead and put the camera down and made the cake, thinking sweet thoughts of Momma Merle the whole way through. 

(But not before capturing this series of photos...)

View of part of my living room from the kitchen...

I doubt those guys would have really noticed me after all. 

But still...  :)

Lemon Pound Cake with Lavender Icing
Makes two 9" x 5" loaves or 1 bundt cake

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
3 cups sugar
1 8 oz. package cream cheese, softened
3 cups cake flour, sifted
6 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Zest from half a lemon
Juice from half a lemon (about 5-6 teaspoons)

Cream butter and shortening together.  Gradually add sugar - about 1/3 cup at a time, beating well (on medium speed) after each addition.  Add cream cheese and beat until light and fluffy.  Alternately add eggs and flour, beginning and ending with flour. 

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Pour batter into greased and floured pan(s).

Bake for one hour and 15 minutes* or until a wooden toothpick insereted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pan for 10 minutes.  Remove from pan and let cool on wire rack. 

Glaze with Lavender-Lemon Icing.

*I made two 9 x 5 loaves and had to bake them for closer to an hour and a half. 

Lavender Lemon Icing
3 tablespoons Lavender Sugar (see below)
Zest from half a lemon
Juice from half a lemon (5-6 teaspoons)
1 cup sifted powdered sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/8 cup milk (added in small increments)

Mix together all ingredients except the milk until a very smooth (but thick) consistency is reached.  Add the milk a teaspoon at a time until the desired consistency is reached, adding more milk for a thinner glaze and less for a thicker glaze. 

Glaze pound cake, slice, and enjoy!

To make the Lavender Sugar...

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, grind 2 tablespoons of sugar with one tablespoon of culinary lavender blossoms.  (You can find them here.)

Enjoy this.

And please go kiss your grandmother if you can.
Linking up over at Sweet As Sugar Cookies...

Thanks, Lisa, for the invitation and for hosting the party...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Roasted Artichokes

Confession time:  this is my first attempt at roasting artichokes.

My experience with artichokes to date has been 1) using canned hearts, and 2) using the whole ones for decorating purposes only. 

And after I photographed all of these steps I found out that I trimmed them incorrectly.

But you know what?

If this is how erroneously-trimmed artichokes taste, I'd gladly do it again.  They were delicious!

Start out by lopping off the thorny tops (about an inch or two).

Slice each artichoke in half.

Keep a cut lemon nearby and rub the juice on the sliced artichoke.
It keeps discoloration at bay.

Now, slice each half into half....
(Translation:  each artichoke will be quartered.)

Bring 12 or so cups of water to a boil.
Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice...

and two teaspoons of salt to the water.

And add the quartered artichokes.
Boil for 5 minutes, until tender but firm.
(Set a timer; over-boiling them could be disasterous.)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Drain artichokes. 

Place them in a bowl and add 2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil,

1/2 teaspoon salt, and

1/4 teaspoon pepper
(and 3-4 teaspoons of minced garlic).

Stir really well.

Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, and
bake for 30 minutes, stirring several times.
While the artichokes are baking,
chop a handful of fresh parsley.

Remove the papery skin from a clove of garlic.
(Trick:  just smash the clove with the side of your knife and then you can peel the skin right off.)

Oohhhh...sad little naked clove. 

Mince it.

In a large bowl, place the garlic, parsley
and the zest from about 1/2 a lemon.


Remove the artichokes from the oven,
 and toss with the parsley mixture.

And serve.

To eat the artichokes, peel off the outermost leaves. 

Then, draw the more "meaty" end through your teeth, extracting the yummy part.  The closer you get to the center of the artichoke, or the "heart" the more there will be to eat.

Discards the spent leaves in a dainty little pile on your plate.

(There are a myriad of dipping sauces you can accompany with roasted artichokes such as:
Hollandaise Sauce
Asian Peanut Dipping Sauce.)

Roasted Artichokes
4-5 servings

5 medium artichokes
1 lemon, halved
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large garlic cloves, minced (about 3-4 teaspoons) (this will be divided)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (start with about a handful of leaves)
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest (zesting half a lemon will equal about a teaspoon)

Trim artichokes (cut off the thorny tips; about 2 inches).  Leave most of the stem on.  Quarter each artichoke.

As you work, rub the surface of the artichokes with half a lemon.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large stock pot, bring about 12 cups of water, the lemon juice, and the 2 teaspoons of salt to a boil.  Toss in the artichokes and boil for about 5 minutes, until firm but still tender.  Drain and pat dry.  In a large bowl, mix the artichokes with the olive oil and remaining salt and pepper.  Also toss in 3 teaspoons of the minced garlic.  Stir well. 

Line a baking dish with parchment paper.  Roast the artichokes for 30 minutes, using tongs to carefully turn and stir the artichokes every 10 minutes during the baking time. 

Return to bowl and stir with the parsley, lemon zest and remaining teaspoon of finely minced garlic.

Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Slightly adapted from:  The Joy of Cooking