Wednesday, June 30, 2010

At the Beach

I'm at Panama City Beach this week, eating wonderful food, and mainly doing nothing.  My brother-in-law is also a foodie and a good cook, so he is making wonderful dinners.  I'm doing my part by making some of my recipes for lunch.  I have made the party chicken salad that I blogged, also have made Paula Deen's fried okra salad.  I served that with the most marvelous chicken wings.  Mix 1 cup regular coke with 1 cup brown sugar and 1T soy sauce and pour it over 4 pounds of wings.  Bake them for 3-4 hours at 325 degrees and enjoy.  Warning:  either put a disposable aluminum pan in your regular baking pan or line the pan with one solid piece of heavy duty aluminum foil.  I spent an hour soaking and hacking the sugar glaze off my pan.

I have another trick for you...the secret ingredients for the best mango salsa in the world (besides good, ripe mangoes), is a dash of white wine and a dash of tequila.  My brother-in-law says that kinda breaks down the mango a bit and it gives it a hint of flavor that you don't expect.

And, yes, I know the the hurricane is on the other end of  the Gulf of Mexico, but the weather in the Florida Panhandle is awful.  Thank goodness we have a screened porch, so we have not been completely cooped up by the rain.  Today was the worst day, so hopefully it will start to improve.  We have had part of each day without rain and have managed to do some fun stuff..including finding an antique/junque shop  where I got, of course,  a set of dishes....for $ to come later.

So, you will hear from me again next week, complete with photos of the food and wine we have enjoyed during our rainy beach week.

Until then, happy cooking and eating.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Morning Walk

I have started a ten minute walk in the morning before breakfast. I can handle ten minutes and the walk is in the shade and I am revved up and ready for breakfast. The other day I took photos along the way so I could share my walk with you. Let's go.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ravioli with Roasted Vegetables

Here is another recipe I got off of a favorite food blog, Debbie Does Dinner Healthy.
This is a really nice, light meal, for the summer.

Ravioli with Roasted  Vegetables
Adapted from and DebbieDoesDinnerHealthy.blogspot.

1 head of garlic
3-4 zucchini
(7 or 8 plum tomatoes)
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. italian seasoning
Salt and pepper to taste
1 package cheese or meat ravioli  (I used whole wheat/four cheese from Buitoni)

Preheat oven to 450. Cut off top of head on garlic. Place in a piece of foil. Drizzle with a little bit of oil, season with salt and pepper. Close foil tightly and place on baking sheet. Slice zucchini into 1/4 in. circles or strips. Cut tomatoes in half lengthwise, remove the seeds and juices. Place both on baking sheet. Drizzle with the rest of the oil, season with salt, pepper and about 1/2 of the italian seasoning.  Roast for 20-30 minutes. 
(I cut the zucchini  into strips during prep so it would be easier to chop for the sauce.  I scooped out the tomato seeds and pulp with a spoon.)

Roast all of the veggies until the zucchini and tomatoes are softened, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and turn off heat. Leave the garlic in the oven for about 20 more minutes. Coarsely chop the zucchini and tomatoes when they are cool enough to handle. Place in a small bowl with any of their juices. When garlic is done and cool enough to handle, squeeze it out of the peels into the same bowl.

Cook ravioli according to package directions, reserving the pasta water. Heat a saute pan sprayed with a bit of cooking spray. Add the vegetable mixture, 1 T tomato paste and a pinch of sugar. . Drain the ravioli and add it to the veggies, along with enough pasta water to make a bit of sauce.  Stir in some chopped parsley. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.  I thought the touch of tomato paste and the bit of sugar deepened the flavor of the zucchini.  Give it a try!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Blueberry Scones

You have to try these scones.  Click on the photo and it will take you to HoneyB's recipe.  I am not even going to repeat the recipe here...her blog and her photos are so great, you need to get the recipe straight from her.

I made her version of the recipe, using a whole grain drink for the milk and using regular CoffeeMate French Vanilla.  And, yes, the dough was way too wet, so don't pour all the liquid in at once.  Also, you probably can bake the scones on a regular baking dish.  And, since I don't like icing I did not use the glaze, but while they were warm I did sprinkle granulated sugar on them (through a sieve) to give them a bit of a glaze (a local restaurant does that to theirs).

I think you could also vary them by changing the flavor of Coffeemate, as well as putting different fruit inside.  All in all a great, really easy recipe.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Second Blog

My attention is a bit split right now.  I have opened a new blog to record my progress and so my kids can see some family history as it unfolds in the digital scrapbook.  So if I don't post as much, rest assured I am still cooking.

If you want to check on what I am doing with the digital project:

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mini Quiches

My daughter taught me this recipe and it is the only way I really like eggs in the morning.  I make up a pan and freeze them and then can have a nice protein hit before I load up on cereal and fruit carbs!

Mini Egg & Spinach Quiches

Crescent Roll Dough (can)...I used the new round ones
eggs (maybe about 1 egg per 3 pastry cups)
frozen spinach (thawed and squeezed out)
parmesan cheese
a little milk.

Grease your muffin tins.  Preheat oven to 350.  On a floured board, roll out each roll into a circle that will fit into the muffin space.  This is time consuming, but worth it!

Mix your eggs with a little bit of milk.

Put about a T of spinach into each cup.  Top with about a tsp. of grated parmesan cheese.

Pour some egg mixture into each cup. 

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the egg is nice and set and pastry is brown.

Can be frozen and then each tart microwaved for about 1 minute to thaw and warm for a quick breakfast.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fruit Cobbler Idea

We just went to a local restaurant for Father's Day Brunch menu.  For dessert we choice blackberry cobbler.  It was a very unusual take on cobbler and I loved it.  No photo, sorry.  This is my take on how to assemble it:

Get a muffin pan or indivicual custard cups.  Line them with pie crust (I would use refrigerated, cut into circles).  Make your choice of fruit filling The filling recipe I would use is here. Spoon a portion of filling into each shell (unbaked).  Bake these little pies in the oven.

OK, you are thinking...what is cobblery about this.....the trick is, you serve them upside down.  Get it?  Cobbler is generally a pan filled with fruit filling, topped with crust.  So by serving it upside down, you have the crust on the top.  Not sure how they kept the filling from running out all over the plate while it was brought to our table.......

I grew up eating homemade cobblers from wild blackberries, with a homemade pie crust topping, and the one at the restaurant tasted pretty much the same. All the cobblers I have seen since childhood have crumbly, heavy crust that is good...but nothing beats a nice pastry crust.

During a google search I turned up two contenders:
Here is a cake version of  from The Pioneer Woman Blog.  Photo is the link.
Deanna's Corner Cooking Blog also had a recipe for individual cobblers  that looked worth trying.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Nostalgic Salads

My tastebuds had a trip down Memory Lane this past week at our monthly Bunko Group.  The hostesses brought out two classic salad recipes (at least to my southern taste buds), plus the always yummy brocolli slaw.  Thanks to Stephanie, I now share the recipes with you.

George Washington Salad
2 small boxes of cherry jello ( dark cherry is best if you can find it. But have used regular cherry, cranberry or combined the two.)
2 cups boiling water
1 large can crushed pineapple
1 can cherry pie filling

Mix jello in water. Add undrained pineapple and cherry pie filling. Let set until firm, even overnight, then “ ice” with topping.
1 8 oz. Cream cheese
1 8 oz. Sour cream
½ cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
½ cup pecans, chopped

Broccoli Slaw

1 large head of cabbage ( or 1 pkg. of angel hair cabbage)
1 large head of broccoli ( or 2 packages broccoli cole slaw)
1 chopped red onion( I use 1/3 of that or omit entirely)
1 box or raisins ( or ¾ of container)
1 can peanuts ( or ¾ of container). Add at last minute

Mix together. Dress with Marzetti’s Cole Slaw Dressing ( about ½ - 2/3 of the jar)


1 ½ cups cooked rice ( regular rice, not instant or 10 min)
2 Tblsps. Salad oil ( I used olive oil)
1 Tblsp. Cider vinegar
½ tsp. curry
Combine and refrigerate overnight. Next day, combine and blend into rice mixture:

2 ½ cups cooked, cubed chicken
1 cup chopped celery
1/ cup chopped green pepper
1 10 oz. Package tiny green peas—uncooked
½ cup mayo

Friday, June 18, 2010

Asian Dumplings

Trader Joe's has the most wonderful chicken filled Thai dumplings in a lovely big bag in the freezer.  I have been doing the 'panfry' suggestion and it is messy and they never get very crisp.  So the other day I decided to make a clear soup and use the dumplings in that. 

I dumped a quart box of chicken stock into a pan, brought it to a boil, and added julienned carrot sticks, leftover green beans and probably some other things...kind of empty the fridge of wilted stuff.... and the dumplings.  When the dumplings were deemed cooked, I ladled the soup up with cilantro. 

Another very nice, light lunch.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


I finally understand the allure of style, that is.  It all started when I began to seriously do this blog and saw all the lovely frames and buttons and decorations.  I wanted a fancy border on my blog...but how to get it??  I noticed a little logo in the border of my niece's blog, so I found Cutest Blog on the Block, and got my free background.  Then I discovered  Leeloublogdesigns, and get a monthly free desktop design.  But I wanted to be able to manipulate all these cute elements myself!
Leelou website raved about Memory Mixer software, so I researched it.  I was impressed with all the reviews, so went on Amazon and bought a disk.  Not noticing which version it was....just that it was cheap.  I started using it and it would do nothing.  So I emailed their customer and tech service, they told me Version 1 was completely outdated and the upgraded me to Version 2  and walked me through learning to do the things I wanted to do (the published instructions are not sufficient).  Thanks to Shawn and Debbie for their endless patience.

Now, I have long wanted to toss out all the boxes of old, curling photos in my closets, collected before the advent of digital cameras.  I think about putting them in an album, but nobody, including me, would look at them.....

I also have so many stories my mother told me to pass on to my children, plus all those tales my grandchildren need to know about their parents......

So I am going to choose the best photos in the boxes and create a digital album/journal.

This is my first attempt at a page for that journal.....I did not realize I could crop the scanned photo to get rid of all the white space,  pretended that it was supposed to be there.

I tried again.
But I have to go back into Adobe and adjust the photo, the top one is so much better...

(and, believe it or not, I have that dress she is wearing hanging in my closet right is blue)

So if NanCooks blog entries seem a bit sporadic and attention has kind of moved elsewhere for awhile.

A Special Cake

My oldest grandson, Harrison,  just turned 8 years old and for his birthday he got a dream come true....a giant oreo!!!

  His Mom alway makes fabulous birthday cakes for her three boys, and this one was no exception.  She made the Williams-Sonoma Sandwich Cookie Cake, the most challenging one she has tried so far. 

Serious made-from-scratch magic was required and Lindsay was up to it, with some assistance from Jason, as well as an audience of 5 (three kids and 2 dogs). Ultimately, this cake consisted of two layers of rich dense buttery chocolate brownie baked with intricate designs sandwiched around about an inch of vanilla butter cream icing.

No cake mixes or canned icing involved, so you know right there it is going to be good. The process started with brushing both of the pans with melted butter and then 'flouring' them with cocoa powder.  The cakes baked up perfectly and the intricate design came out great. The filling was butter cream icing.

This cake was not only wonderful to look at, it was decadent, rich and delicious.

Downside:  the specialty pans  were extremely difficult to clean,....each little detail had to be individually scrubbed out and the edges were uncomfortably sharp. Regardless, this cookie pan set will be seeing more action.

(edited from original post by Jason)

Oreo cake photo.

Fresh Spring Rolls

I love it when I see a fresh spring roll on a menu.  You know, not the crispy fried things, but the lovely fresh stuff wrapped up in rice paper and served with an asian dip with a kick?  Well, thanks to the internet and Everyday Food, I finally figured out how to buy the rice papers and to make these rolls.  Everyday Food had a 'meal tip' months ago suggesting you roll julienned raw veggies in a rice paper.  The photo looked so good.

So....I found the wraps at the local Earth Fare.  They keep forever, of course, but I always forget about them.  Anyway, here is a veggie wrap I created.  Not gorgeous to look at, but it tasted good.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Yummy Bread

A new local farmer's market has opened here.  It began on a vacant lot near the Lynx tracks last year for very local farmers and others to sell their wares.  This year it managed to rent the empty Trolley Barn (we scrapped the trolley when we built the Lynx commuter train line).  It is still on the Lynx Line, but has good parking and big air blowers to keep customers cool, as well as a roof.  There is a local knife sharpener truck parked right outside.....

Anyway, I stopped by and bought some homemade okra pickles and also visited the stand with local bread.  Big, beautiful round loaves.  This one was stuffed with cheese and sausage.  When I got it home and sliced it in half for lunch, it did not have very much sausage in it, so I ended up making a sandwich from some spring greens and other fresh vegetables, and some salami, all drenched in vinaigrette.  A very yummy lunch.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Plant with a History

This acuba plant grew from a cutting my mother gave me when we bought this house, 26 years ago.  She rooted several cuttings and we planted all of them; two lived, one at each corner of the deck, which was fortunate.  Her acuba plants were absolute monsters, but that was probably because my dad was a gardener/farmer and he raised quail and used droppings for fertilizer.  That stuff was powerful.  I had an interesting childhood.............he also at one time raised bantam hens and I had problems adjusting to a world of store bought chicken and eggs when I got married.......

Anyway, when we move in a few years, I will take cuttings with me and hopefully they will live.  I did not inherit my parents' green thumb.  Not that I make an effort....grass makes my skin itch. And I hate being out in the sun. 

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Snack Attack

I confess to being a snacker.  I fill up quickly at a meal, then get hungry a couple of hours later.  Of course current thinking is that eating frequent, small meals is the key to weight control, but the key to this is what you snack on.........

I have already had an affair with wheat thins, then I moved on to blue tortilla chips.  What do these two items have in common..........salt!   And salt tells your brain: just one more chip (or cracker)....then one more...then just one more again.  And your clothes get tighter and tighter.

So I have been on the hunt for healthy snacks that fill me up with just a few bites maybe each hour.  I went through a phase of raw almonds, then moved on to roasted almonds (no salt), then I discovered cocoa powder covered almonds.  And chocolate covered espresso beans also slipped in there.

For Christmas, my daughter gave her Dad her famous trail mix.  I helped him eat it and guess what happened after a week or so?

It's empty......

Oops....well, I stared at the empty cannister for about a week, then went to Trader Joe's and got a selection of things I like in trail mix.  Made a trip to Harris Teeter for those cocoa almonds.  And mixed.  A lot.  This should last for awhile.  And it is so good (although I did leave out the M&M's to hubby's sorrow....I mean it is meant to be healthy.  And guilt-free.

This mix contains roasted almonds, cocoa almonds, sunflower seeds, pepitas, dried blueberries, cherries and cranberries, and some healthy low fat granola from a box. 

So I can walk by the pantry now and grab a handful and get my snack fix without feeling guilty.

Friday, June 11, 2010

No Soaking Needed!

How would you like to easily save the labels from special bottles of wine...or all your bottles of wine?  You've thought about it.....but soaking labels and watching them shred is too discouraging.  What if I told you to forget the water and the razor blade???  Not possible, you say.  Well..................

I follow a blog called Food, Wine and Modpodge.  Katie P. is a genius!  Go to this blog posting and learn the magic of a wine bottle with label, a warm oven, and then the label on a nice sheet of paper in your keepsake notebook!!!  Of course, Katie outdid herself using her wine label collection.  I'm keeping mine in a notebook for now. 

Note:  the clip art wine label to the left came off of  my favorite go-to place for clips.  I was so excited to see this particular clip art rendition, because this is my favorite white wine in the world.  Not that I have had it since my last meal at Im Rosengarten in Oberursel, Germany in 1991.  It was pretty much the house wine at our neighborhood trattoria and we drank a lot of it.  Of course, it is very expensive here in Charlotte NC!!!  Oh, well, at least I have the label on my blog!!! 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Fresh Picked

The garden is starting to feed us!

Fresh picked today:

First blush on Early Girls:

 Our first bell pepper:

Jalapenos are looking good:

Lots of little green strawberries, so hopefully we won't have just one ripe berry at a time.

More cucumbers just about ready. (We planted the long, thin seedless kind)

The squash blossoms have struggled on the damp ground, but some new ones are emerging to replace them.

 We planted zucchini where the broccoli failed.

We added Italian parsley, sweet basil and Mexican basil to the herb barrels. We are waiting for our herb man to get Genovese, our favorite. The Mexican basil is a nice discovery, though, it smells of cinnamon.
If anyone has a suggestion for how to use this new variety, I am all ears!

Guest Blogger

Monday, June 07, 2010

Miscellaneous Mondays

Misc #1
I got this recipe for weedkiller  off of Simplify Me with Tips and Hints (Yahoo Group)

(Those cracks in the driveway and walkways at my house can stay weed free this year; I hate spray poison. 

 Mix together:
1 cup of vinegar
1 tablespoon of regular liquid dish soap
1 cup or water

This mixture can be made stronger by using less water. It is the vinegar that will kill the weeds. Remember that it will also kill your grass, flowers or any other plant that gets sprayed. The reason for the soap is to
thicken up the mixture so it will stay on longer. Works best if applied during midday.

Misc #2: 
Vidalia onions (Vidalia, GA)  seem to have competition: the Palmetto Sweet Onion and the Edisto River Sweet Onion (South Carolina).  They are smaller and whiter and have a more delicate skin.  The crop is small this year...70 acres and they are only available in SC grocery stores.  Vidalia onions used to be scarce and now, supposedly they are available all year round here in the south (some of them aren't so sweet, though.....)

Misc #3
From Desperation Dinners comes this tip: 
Filling manicotti....cooked manicotti can be easily filled using this trick:
Put the filling in a gallon-size, zip-top plastic bag, snip off one of the corners and squeeze the filling into the noodle; fill one side, then turn it around and fill the other.
(I have always be scared of manicotti but love to eat it, so this is going to happen in my kitchen)

Misc #4
It is Iced Tea Season....and a pinch of baking soda added to steeping tea will take out tannins.  Herb tea also makes a nice iced drink; just remember to make it stronger than you do for hot tea.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Tacos X 3

My absolutely favorite South of the Border dish is fish tacos.  I have had really good ones when visiting Texas, but this last visit I failed to get my "fix".  So I decided it was time to try and make my own at home.  I thawed two pieces of Swai Fillets (from Sam's).  I took the first fillet, cut it into smaller pieces, did the "shake, dip and shake" thing (flour, then egg, then panko crumbs) and fried them in Fry Daddy.  Shredded some cabbage and made an asian type tartar sauce I found online.  I used white flour tortillas for a sort of a wrap. Those green leaves are cilantro that I kept for over a week.  Find out how here!  Although the sauce on this taco was not very Mexican, it was really good with the fried fish pieces.

So I still had another piece of fish.  This time I marinated the fish for a couple of hours, grilled it in my Cuisinart rotisserie rack, mixed the leftover asian tartar sauce into shredded cabbage, and used white corn tortillas.  To attempt to make a crispy shell,  I sprayed them on both sides with oil, heated til crisp in a hot skillet and folded.  Although the fish was healthier, we kinda like the fried version better......

The final taco meal was lunch.  I had leftover black beans from the grilled taco meal and decided to try another method of making a crunchy taco shell to fill with the beans.  This time I sprayed yellow corn tortillas with oil, folded them over a roll of foil and baked in a slow oven til crunchy. 

Marinade for Grilled Fish for Tacos                               Sauce for Fish Tacos
2 T white vinegar                                                           1/2 cup mayonnaise
2T lime juice                                                                  1/4 cup hoisin sauce
2 t lime zest                                                                    2 T sweet pickle relish
1 1/2 t honey                                                                  1 1/2 t lemon juice
2 cloves garlic
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t chile powder
1 t Old Bay seasoning
1/2 t pepper
1 t hot pepper sauce
Mix and then whisk in 1/4 cup oil.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

I'd Like to Meet Grumpy

I follow this blog, The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch and I would love to meet Grumpy! This post from a few days ago, ended with a sentence that cracked me up and sent me back down "Memory Lane".

Grumpy appears to be a hard man to please in the culinary department.  In her post on Shoyu Chicken, Grumpy said "It is very edible".  Hey, HB, that is more of a compliment than my Mom ever received from my Dad........

I was raised back in the 50's and 60's by a salesman father and a stay-at-home mother, Ed and Lois McLeod.  My dad also had a small "farm" in the backyard (fruit trees, vegetables, blackberry vines, scuppernong vines, bantam hens...)  Anything my Dad grew or shot with his shotgun, my mom cooked.  She canned, she froze, she was an incredible cook.  Night after night while growing up, near the end of the meal my Mom would say, "That was a mighty good meal, Mrs. McLeod.....Thank you, Mrs. McLeod".  My Dad, busily cleaning his plate would look up and say....."Well, I'm eating it, aren't I?"

Just had to blog about this!!!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Tabby Tuesdays

You will notice I changed the photo for the link to Tabby Tuesdays.  It was a cartoon, but I decided to put a photo of Calvin, the star of Tabby Tuesday.  He belongs to Turtlegirl, who has a knitting blog.  He and his brother, Ripple, appear every Tuesday in her blog and they have a lot to say.  I met Turtlegirl at Charlotte Knitting Guild back when I knitted obsessively like I cook and blog now.  (I go in cycles).  She is a very prolific knitter and completes many beautiful projects.  You will enjoy visiting with Calvin and Ripple every Tuesday. 

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

How Does Their Garden Grow?

From this....

to this!

Jenni and Kory's garden is coming along in leaps and bounds, it's amazing how fast it grows once it gets going! We've been enjoying fresh picked lettuce for a couple of weeks already.

Kory brought in the first beautiful squash today - it will be marinated along with vidalia onions for kabobs to go alongside orange rosemary thyme chicken on the grill. Cucumbers are up next!

We also have jalapenos, one lonely bell pepper, and lots of green tomatoes - both the cherry and full size.

However, with successes come messes - our broccoli had to be scrapped entirely, it was fine one day and then suddenly something came along and ate the leaves to almost nothing. After that the broccoli heads, which were tiny anyway, just sort of petered out, so Kory pulled them out.

          Bye-Bye Brocolli

Our strawberries also not doing well yet - we are not sure if it is because they are just the first few berries, or if we don't have enough sun on our berry patch. So far the berries are tiny and mushy, and we haven't had a good one yet.

 It's about to really start ramping up, and I am eager and waiting with all kinds of ideas!

      I Love My Garden

Guest Columnist