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Friday, June 13, 2014

Spanakopita, baklava and creativity

Last week I really wanted some spanakopita so I got the ingredients at the store and finally made it last night. It *really* hit the spot! We had it with grilled squash, and chicken breast sautéed in olive oil and seasoned with TJ's Everyday spice grinder blend.  

I was cooking for two and had some phyllo dough leftover, so I made an impromptu almond baklava. If you make the recipe below, you will have dough leftover. I highly recommend making the baklava. It's delicious and keeps well. 

It is wonderful to feel my culinary creativity returning!

Spanakopita 
1/2 pkg phyllo dough, thawed
1 stick butter, melted
Frozen spinach, one box or 1/2 of a 1lb. bag, thawed and squeezed dry
1/2 block of feta, crumbled, about a cup
1 tbs. Italian seasoning
Black pepper, to taste 
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. 

Mix spinach, cheese, seasonings and about half of the beaten egg until well combined. 

Lay a sheet of phyllo dough on a cutting board and brush with butter. Repeat two more times for three layers. Cut lengthwise into three strips. 

Put a tablespoon of spinach mixture about an inch from the bottom of one of the buttered phyllo strips. Fold the bottom inch over the spinach, then roll up, flag-style, to make a triangle. Place seam side down on the prepared baking sheet. 

Repeat until all the spinach is used up. It made 9 triangles when I made it, but it could vary a bit.  Brush the tops of the triangles with butter and bake until golden brown. 

Cool slightly and try not to stuff them all in your face at once. 




Almond Baklava

phyllo sheets leftover from the recipe above, or about 1/4 of a package, thawed
1 cup finely chopped almonds (you can use whatever nuts you have on hand)
Honey
1/2 stick melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 and thoroughly spray an 8x8 brownie pan with cooking spray. 

Lay a sheet of phyllo on the bottom of the pan, folding the edges over. Neatness does NOT matter, just make it roughly the same size as the bottom of the pan. Brush with butter. Repeat. 

On every third layer, after brushing in butter, drizzle a good amount of honey over the dough before folding the edges in. 

When you've used up about half of the dough, sprinkle the nuts evenly over the butter and drizzle with honey before folding the edges over. 

Continue layering until you are out of dough, making sure to put honey on every few layers. Brush the top with butter. 

Bake at 350 until golden brown. Cool slightly before slicing. Store at room temperature, if you have any left. 




Sunday, May 18, 2014

Quiche!

It's been ages since I posted, so I thought if share what I made today: quiche!!  It's a personal favorite and I make it differently every time, depending on what I have on hand and what I'm in the mood for. 

Today's version is a store bought crust filled with provolone, chopped fresh broccoli, an onion sautéed with half a pound of snipped bacon, and a half-dozen eggs mixed with house seasoning and a splash of half-and-half. 350 for an hour or so yields this loveliness. 




Monday, December 2, 2013

Changes

A lot has changed since my last post. 

I originally left to work on writing a cookbook. However, I ended up getting  separated and am now nearing the end of a divorce. 

I really didn't think that living alone would affect my cooking at all. I cooked for two when I was married, so how different could it be to cook for one?  I learned quickly that it's a LOT different!

At first I lived mainly on defrosted meals from Trader Joe's. In the area I live, that really is the best option for prepared meals. It was convenient during the time that I spent nearly every free moment packing, reorganizing and planning for the move. 

But it got old fast. The food was tasty and convenient; but there isn't much variety, and it doesn't taste like home. So I grabbed fast food one night. Easy peasy. So easy that it got old as well. 

And so I've started cooking again. The hardest part is having to do everything myself, because when you live alone there is no animal known as "you cook and I'll clean". But even that is a small price to pay for how much better I feel when I do cook. 

Cooking had always cleared my head. The routine tasks like chopping veggies give me time to think that is beneficial and productive in way that thinking while going for a walk or sitting quietly is not. It's also a creative outlet, and sometimes even an outlet for frustration if pulverizing anything to bits is involved. 

But mostly it makes me feel good. Emotionally and physically. 

What I've been making most lately is comfort food and long-standing favorites. Things like tortilla soup and quiche and chicken Alfredo. 

Tonight I made salmon patties, greens, corn and sourdough bread broiled with butter and parm. It was delicious and so very worth it. 


Sunday, April 21, 2013

No posts in a while...

I've not posted in a while because I've been busy writing a book! How exciting is that?!

Hope to be back soon!!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Grillin'

Yesterday we had absolutely gorgeous weather here in KY. So instead of a fussy Easter dinner spread, we grilled out some of our favorites!

The menu included BBQ burgers, corn on the cob, baby bella mushrooms, sweet onions and zucchini, all prepared on the grill. Plus BBQ baked beans, and macaroni salad. It was scrum-dilly-licious. And leftovers were amazing for lunch today.

For the BBQ burgers, we used hamburger parties we had in the freezer from having a cow slaughtered. Sounds brutal, but the meat is so much tastier than what you can get in the store. We sprinkled them liberally with BBQ rub and grilled them until they were meduim-well. The rub we had made up in the cabinet is the one we use most often: basic barbecue rub from The Barbecue Bible cookbook. Highly recommended!! It's good on everything. Make the whole recipe and put back what you don't use for other recipes. It keeps very well.

I like grilled veggies prepared very simply so that you can really taste the veggies and not just the preparation. I quartered and skewered the onions, skewered the mushrooms (stem to cap), and sliced the zucchini in half lengthwise. Then I drizzled them all with oil (canola, because we were out of olive), sprinkled with house seasoning, tossed them until they were coated and cooked them right on the grill until crisp-tender. There is no need to wrap them in foil - they get a better grilled flavor if the smoke and flames touch them.

For the corn, I would normally toss them right on the grill in the husks. But the ones I got yesterday were already husked, so I wrapped them in foil, sprinkled in a bit of salt, and grilled them that way. Fresh corn doesn't take long - maybe 5 minutes. You can put butter on it before the foil, but I find it melts off on the grill, so we prefer to butter it after.

The BBQ baked beans are the Neely's recipe. Easily Google-able, and easily the best baked beans I have ever had. I have used the recipe for years now and it's one of the only recipes I've never been inclined to tweak. Baked bean perfection!

The burger buns and macaroni were not homemade. They were sourced from a local butcher shop where we got the smoked pork for the baked beans. But hey - they rest of it was homemade and we love their macaroni salad.

Disclaimer on the pics: we don't usually use foil on the grill. However, our well-used grill was in pretty rough shape last year when we closed it for the season and we totally forgot about that until we opened it up for the first time yesterday and realized the grate had gotten rusty over the winter and was not usable. But we were hungry and not inclined to go shopping for a new grate, so we slapped some foil on it, poked some holes in the foil so the delicious smoke could get through, and went with it. Honestly, it didn't taste any different than when we cook the food right on the grate...it even had grill marks!!

Here's to a long and happy grilling season!!





Monday, March 18, 2013

Lemon Pepper Tilapia

Simple food is so yummy! Tonight I did a baked lemon pepper tilapia without that chemical-laden, high-salt lemon pepper seasoning. And it was so much better.

Obviously you can do this with any fish, and with lime instead of lemon. We had it with roasted cabbage (left over from last night) and Parmesan potatoes au gratin.

Enjoy!!

Lemon Pepper Tilapia

1 lb. tilapia filets
2 tbl. butter, thinly sliced
2 lemons, thinly sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400.

Spray a 13x9 pan with Pam. Lay the filets out in a single layer. Top filets with butter slices, salt, and then lemons. Top with black pepper.

Bake 25 minutes.


Parmesan Potatoes Au Gratin

10 russet potatoes, peeled, rinsed, and sliced thinly
2 tbs. butter, cut into chunks
Milk
Buttermilk
Parmesan

Preheat oven to 450.

Spray 8x8 pan with Pam. Put a single layer of potatoes on the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Top with butter. Continue layers until you run out of ingredients. Pour milk in the corner until it is 1/2 way up the potatoes. Pour buttermilk in the corner until it almost to the top of the potatoes, but not covering them.

Bake uncovered for 40 minutes or until almost tender. Remove from the oven. If making the fish, drop oven to 400 at this point.

Sprinkle liberally with Parmesan and put in the oven for another 20 minutes, or until potatoes are completely tender and Parmesan is lightly browned.







Sunday, March 17, 2013

St. Patty's Day Corned Beef

So today, in honor of St. Patty's Day, I put corned beef in the crock pot for the first time ever. And it turned out really yummy! We had it with spicy brown mustard (we are inexplicably out of Coleman's) buttermilk mashed potatoes, roasted cabbage and Hawaiian rolls. Can't wait to have the leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

**Please Note: As you can see from the pic, the cabbage is overcooked. I would recommend *not* sitting down to play with your phone while its roasting. You just might forget about it - it happened to me. Haha! 'Twas a bit crispy, but still delicious.

The whole thing was very simple, more of a method than a recipe. But I'll share what I did below. Enjoy...and Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

Crockpot Corned Beef

Remove corned beef from package and place fat-side up in a crockpot. Pour 1 inch of water in the bottom of the crock. Sprinkle with seasoning packet (included). Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.


Mashed Potatoes

Peel and dice 8 russet potatoes. Cover with water, add a tablespoon of salt, and boil until tender (test with a fork). Drain and put in a large bowl with 1/2 a stick of butter and a generous splash of buttermilk. Beat with a mixer or a potato masher, adding more buttermilk as needed. The amount of buttermilk needed will vary, depending in how much water the potatoes absorbed. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Roasted Cabbage

Slice a head of cabbage into 1" thick slices, from stem to top. Do not separate the leaves - leave them in planks/cross sections. Place cabbage planks on a cookie sheet. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with house seasoning (or salt and pepper) and bake at 450 until lightly browned in the edges and tender in the center.