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12 posts from July 2019

07/31/2019

~ Deep-Fried Chicken Wings w/RedHot-Ranch Slaw ~

IMG_3110There's nothing earth-shatteringly new about deep-frying chicken wings in a vat of oil for 14 minutes a batch.  In fact, this post doesn't even include a pictorial recipe for deep-frying chicken wings -- or oven-roasted wings if that floats your boat.  If you and yours love wings, you already have your favorite method for preparing them.  This post is about transitioning your wing-fest from a pub grub bar nosh to a kid-friendly family-style sit-in-front-of-the-TV movie-night meal.

IMG_3059Back in the 1980's and '90's, our three sons frequently wanted chicken wings for dinner, which, in my mind, didn't constitute a proper dinner.  Conjuring up a somewhat-healthy, preferably-vegetable kid-friendly side-dish, to serve with wings wasn't easy -- if they had their way, I'd serve wings with mac and cheese and call it a day.  Coleslaw popped into my head quite by accident, and, it happened at one of our Penn State tailgates at some point back in the 1990's.

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d22a0d8d970cI remember setting the alarm to wake up at 4:00AM on that Saturday to deep-fry and sauce sixteen dozen chicken wings.  Later, while standing in the stadium parking lot watching the guys chow down on my wings, I noticed that instead of eating the carrot and celery sticks I'd packed, they were pairing the wings with a creamy, deli-style coleslaw -- a side-dish someone else had brought to our game-day potluck. My mind started to ponder a kid-friendly 'slaw I could sell to my kids.

IMG_3095Long story short:  I simply started by dicing the traditional celery and carrot sticks, tossing them into a bag of store-bought shredded coleslaw mix, then dressing the veggies with a concoction of store-bought Hidden-Valley Ranch Dressing spiced with Frank's RedHot Buffalo-Style Chicken Wing Sauce.  It's probably worth mention that, while my boys were ranch dressing fans (most kids are), blue cheese dressing may be substituted without compromise.  

Once I told my kids there was ranch dressing and hot sauce in their new-to-them side-dish, they didn't care what vegetables they were eating.  Wings had finally turned into an occasional dinner.

An easy-to-make kid-friendly coleslaw side-dish for wings, made from store-bought ingredients -- that adults will adore too.

IMG_30678  cups store-bought old-fashioned coleslaw mix (16-ounces)

1  generous cup peeled, quartered and very thin-sliced carrots

1  generous cup very-thin sliced celery

3/4  cup Hidden Valley ranch dressing, or your favorite brand of ranch dressing

1/4  cup Frank's RedHot wing sauce, or your favorite brand of wing sauce

IMG_3070 IMG_3070 IMG_3070 IMG_3070 IMG_3070 IMG_3070 IMG_3070~Step 1.  In a large bowl, place the coleslaw mix. Add the carrots and celery. Using a large rubber spatula, toss to combine. In a 1-cup measuring container, stir together the ranch dressing and wing sauce.  Add the dressing to the bowl.  Using the rubber spatula, thoroughly fold the dressing into the vegetable mixture, taking the time to make sure that all of the ingredients are enrobed in the dressing.  

Cover & refrigerate 'slaw for 2-4 hours or overnight:

IMG_3090Make a bed of slaw on each dinner plate & top w/sauced wings: 

IMG_3101Deep-Fried Chicken Wings w/RedHot-Ranch Slaw:  Recipe yields 6 cups cole slaw.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; 1-cup measuring container; spoon; large rubber spatula

6a0120a8551282970b01bb0990b2ab970dCook's Note: One of my favorite all-weather meals is a piece or two of crispy and nicely-seasoned roasted, grilled or fried chicken.  Pair it up with a well-appointed salad drizzled with creamy Ranch dressing and I can't resist it.  It doesn't require a culinary degree to figure out the same ingredients slapped between to pieces of bread is even better.  ~ Happy-Valley-Ranch Deep-Fried Chicken Sandwich ~

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019

07/28/2019

~ PA-Dutch Blueberry & Lemon-Custard Streusel Pie ~

IMG_2978A buttery-rich, crispy-topped streusel fruit pie is one of my favorite things, and, that, quite naturally, makes me one of those people who prefers a streusel-topped pie to a two-crust pie.  It's often said there are two types of pie eaters: those who prefer crust, and those who prefer filling.  I can honestly say I am neither.  I simply prefer streusel over a top crust because of the sweet-and-savory textural edge it lends to a fruit pie -- I can't resist those crunchy, buttery, crumbles.  

That said, how lucky was I to grow up in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania, known affectionately as Pennsylvania-Dutch Country.  In that area, the vast majority of bakers used various streusel recipes to top their fruit pies, coffeecakes and muffins.  For those who baked several times a week, it was common practice to mix up a big bowl of streusel topping, to have on hand in the refrigerator for use all week -- how convenient is that.  On another note, the Pennsylvania-Dutch are well-known for their easy-to-make sour-cream-custard pies, meaning: they substitute sour cream for the classic cream or milk when making their custard pies.

I adore those crunchy, buttery, streusel crumbles:

IMG_2957Pennsylvania-Dutch-Style Streusel Topping:

IMG_2924Streusel (STROO-zuhl) is the German word for "something scattered, strewn or sprinkled".  In baking, it is a crumbly topping for pies, coffeecakes and muffins.  It is basically a mixture of four ingredients (flour, sugar, butter and salt), but, it is not uncommon to find aromatic spices (cinnamon, cloves and/or nutmeg) and/or uncooked oats or chopped nuts added to it. Streusel is especially good on fruit pies (apple, blueberry, cherry, peach, rhubarb, etc.) where sweet and savory, rather than a mundane top crust, is a welcome, flavor-enhancing addition.  Streusel is also one of a baker's best kept secrets.  On a day where you don't have a lot of time for pie pastry making, or, you find yourself with an overabundance of fruitful ingredients, in less than five minutes, two pie pastries for one pie transition into two entire pies and no one is disappointed by it.  Happiest of endings.

You say "Pennsylvania Dutch", we say "Pennsylvania Deutsch:

Illo-06I am here to make it clear that Pennsylvania Dutch-style cookery does not belong solely to PA and it is not Dutch either.  The term "Dutch" was the early English settlers slang for the German word "Deutsch".  So:  When most people incorrectly say "Pennsylvania Dutch", they should be saying "Pennsylvania Deutsch", crediting the Germanic or German speaking immigrants from Germany and Switzerland for this cuisine.  The majority of these people were either Amish, Mennonite or Brethren, all of which were considered "Anabaptist". They were fleeing the mountains of Switzerland and southern German to avoid religious persecution and established several communities in the Lehigh Valley.  Why?  Thank William Penn for his free-thinking, open-door, equal-opportunity-for-all of any religion or race politics.  Pennsylvania set an example for the other colonies, who all had established an offical "state" religion. Pennsylvania.  The first to welcome people of all beliefs and walks of life?  You betcha, and amazingly admirable too.

IMG_2906For my all-purpose PA-Deutsch streusel topping:

6  tablespoons cold, salted butter, cut into cubes or slices

1/2  cup sugar

1/2  cup all-purpose flour

1/2  cup old-fashioned oats, not quick-cooking or instant

1  teaspoon ground cinnamon

IMG_2908 IMG_2908 IMG_2908 IMG_2908 IMG_2908~Step 1.  In a medium bowl, using a spoon, stir together the sugar, flour, oats and cinnamon.  Using a pastry blender and a sharp knife, "cut" the butter into the sugar, flour and cinnamon.  Stop "cutting" when it resembles coarse, pea-sized crumbs.  Set aside while preparing the pie as directed below.  Can be prepared and refrigerated 2-3 days in advance.

To make the blueberry & lemon-custard streusel pie:

IMG_2936For the blueberry and lemon-custard pie:

1, 9", unbaked, pie pastry, my recipe for ~ Making Pâte Brisée:  Basic Pie or Quiche Pastry ~, your favorite recipe, or high-quality store bought

3  cups blueberries

2  large eggs, lightly beaten

1  cup sour cream

2  teaspoons unbleached, all purpose flour

3/4  cup sugar

2  teaspoons pure blueberry extract

1  teaspoon pure lemon extract

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

streusel topping, from above recipe

IMG_2927 IMG_2927 IMG_2927~ Step 1. Roll and fit one 9" pie pastry in the bottom of a (preferably glass) 9" pie dish.  Using a pair of kitchen shears, trim the pastry to hang slightly over the perimeter (about 1/8").  Using your fingertips, form a decorative edge around the perimeter.  Add the 3 cups of blueberries to the pie shell.  Set aside.

IMG_2938 IMG_2938 IMG_2938 IMG_2938 IMG_2938 IMG_2946 IMG_2946~Step 2.  In a 1-quart measuring container, whisk the eggs.  Add the sour cream, flour, sugar and all three extracts. Vigorously whisk again until thoroughly combined.  A smooth, drizzly, pourable custard mixture will have formed.  Slowly, and in a thin stream, drizzle the custard over the blueberries in the pie pastry.

IMG_2953 IMG_2953 IMG_2953~ Step 3.  Bake pie on center rack of 340º-350º oven (a scant 350º oven) 20 minutes.  Surface of pie will be starting to puff up around the perimeter and starting to dry out towards the center.  Remove pie from oven.  Using a large spoon, scatter the streusel evenly over top.  Return to oven and continue to bake 35-40 minutes, for a total of 55-60 minutes baking time.  Pie will be nicely browned and puffed up through to the center.  Remove from oven and place on wire rack to cool completely, 2-3 hours.

Finished pie, puffed up & beautiful, hot out of the oven:

IMG_2958Slice & serve at room temperature or slightly-chilled:

IMG_2998Can't wait to take a bite out of my slice: 

IMG_2989Streusel-Topped Blueberry and Lemon-Custard Pie:  1, 9" pie/8-10 servings.

Special Equipment List:  pastry blender; paring knife; pastry board; rolling pin; 9" pie dish, preferably glass; kitchen shears; 4-cup measuring container w/pourer spout; whisk; large spoon; wire cooling rack 

IMG_2898Cook's Note:  When it comes to blueberry desserts in general, the pairing of blueberries and lemon is a common -- the two just go hand-in-hand together -- it's irresistible. Bundt cakes are perhaps my favorite cakes to bake.  Even the words "bundt cake" sound warm and inviting.  Simply saying "bundt cake" evokes happy, fond memories from kinder, gentler times.  My ~ Glazed Blueberry, Lemon & Ricotta Bundt Cake ~ is, hands down their favorite bundt cake.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

07/25/2019

~ My Glazed Blueberry, Lemon & Ricotta Bundt Cake ~

IMG_2894Bundt cakes are perhaps my favorite cakes to bake.  Even the words "bundt cake" sound warm and inviting.  Simply saying "bundt cake" evokes happy, fond memories from kinder, gentler times. I'm not saying that humble sheet cakes and grandiose layer cakes don't have a place in this food world -- they do and they're delicious too.  I'm merely suggesting that bundt cakes have more gravitational pull (haha) than other cakes -- even an unembellished bundt cake will pull more people to the dessert buffet than the other cakes.  That said, more often than not, the base recipe for a bundt cake is a recipe for a tried and true, reliable and crowd-pleasing pound cake.  

6a0120a8551282970b01bb097d3e86970dA bit about pound cake ("quatre-quarts" in French, meaning "four fourths":  Originally, this fine-textured loaf-shaped cake was made with 1-pound each of flour, sugar, butter and eggs, plus a flavoring, most commonly vanilla. Nothing more, nothing less.  Over the years, variations evolved, mostly adding leaveners like baking powder and baking soda to encourage rising, resulting in a less dense cake.  Vegetable oil is sometimes substituted in place of some of the butter, to produce a moister cake.  "Sour cream pound cake" and "buttermilk pound cake" recipes substitute sour cream or buttermilk in place of some of the butter to produce a moister cake with a pleasant tang too.  My grandmother's pound cake recipe uses a bit of both.

IMG_2785The inspiration for today's pound-cake bundt-cake appeared in an issue of Eating Well magazine back in 2015.  What caught my eye about it was the use of low-fat ricotta cheese in place of low fat- buttermilk, sour cream or yogurt, which appealed to me (a lot).  I tried it and couldn't have been more pleased with the results.  After that, the recipe became pretty much my own, full-fat ingredients and all, which is resemblant of any random recipe for the common combination of blueberry and lemon flavored pound cake.  Yes, of course you can make this pound cake in a loaf pan, just cut the recipe in half and bake it for about 60-75 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.  No matter how you decide to make it, this is indeed the last blueberry and lemon cake recipe you'll ever want.

The last blueberry & lemon bundt cake recipe you'll ever want: 

IMG_2826For the dry ingredients:

3 1/2  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

4  teaspoons baking powder

2  teaspoon sea salt

4  cups ripe-but-not-overripe blueberries (20 ounces)

For the wet ingredients:

1 1/2  cups salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (6  ounces/1 1/2 sticks)

6  large eggs, at room temperature

3  cups sugar

4  teaspoons pure blueberry extract

2  teaspoon pure lemon extract

2  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2  cups whole-milk ricotta cheese

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing loaf pan

IMG_2876For the (optional but highly recommended) drizzly lemon-blueberry glaze:

1 1/2  cups Confectioners' sugar

2  teaspoons pure blueberry extract

1  teaspoon pure lemon extract

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3-4  tablespoons whole milk, 3 tablespoons will be needed, add the rest, in small increments, if necessary, to control consistency

IMG_2838 IMG_2838 IMG_2838 IMG_2838 IMG_2844~Step 1. Prior to mixing the batter in step 2 (no longer beforehand), in a medium bowl, use a fork to stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add two cups blueberries.  Using a rubber spatula, gently fold blueberries into the flour mixture.  Repeat with second two cups of blueberries -- this helps prevent berries from settling to bottom of cake when baking.

IMG_2829 IMG_2829 IMG_2829 IMG_2829~Step 2.  In a large bowl, place the butter, sugar, eggs and extracts.  On high speed of hand-held electric mixture cream these ingredients together, until fluffy and light colored, scraping down the bowl on all sides with the rubber spatula during the mixing process, about 1 minute.  Lower the mixer speed, add the ricotta cheese and thoroughly incorporate it.  Remove the mixer.

IMG_2847 IMG_2847 IMG_2847 IMG_2847~Step 3.  To incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, use a large rubber spatula to add and gently fold the flour/blueberry mixture into the butter/ricotta mixture in 2-3 increments. Transfer the cake batter to a 12-cup bundt pan that has been sprayed with no-stick spray.  Use the spatula to level the batter.  Place the pan on a baking pan that has been lined with a sheet of parchment -- this will keep the bottom of the cake from browning faster than the top.

IMG_2866 IMG_2866~ Step 4.  Bake cake on center rack of moderate 325º oven, 1 1/2 hours, or until a cake tester inserted into the center in several spots comes out clean. If, anytime after the first hour of baking, top appears to be over-browning, place an aluminum foil sheet loosely atop cake.  Remove from oven, place on a wire rack and cool cake, in pan, 60-75 minutes.  Use a paring knife to loosen cake around outside and inside perimeters.  Invert onto wire rack to cool completely, 3-4 additional hours -- this dense cake needs time to cool.

IMG_2881 IMG_2881 IMG_2881 IMG_2881 IMG_2881~Step 5.  To prepare the glaze, in a small bowl, stir the sugar, extracts and 3 tablespoons of milk.  Add additional milk, if and as necessary, by teaspoonfuls until a smooth, drizzly consistency is reached.  Cover with plastic wrap and set glaze aside for about 15 minutes -- this will ensure an extremely smooth glaze.  To glaze the cake, transfer the glaze to a measuring container with pourer spout, a pastry bag, or, a plastic squeeze bottle (my favorite). Using a back and forth motion, slowly drizzle the glaze over the surface of the cake.

Allow the glaze to "dry" (harden up a bit -- about 2 hours):

IMG_2889Slice, serve & savor the love only a bundt cake can give:

IMG_2898My Glazed Blueberry, Lemon & Ricotta Bundt Cake: Recipe yields 1, 10" bundt cake, and, depending on how thick or thin you slice it, 16-20 servings.

Special Equipment List: fork; large rubber spatula; hand-held electric mixer; 1, standard-size 12-cup bundt pan; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; parchment paper; aluminum foil; cake tester; wire cooling rack; sharp paring knife

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4be9486200bCook's Note:  Blueberries are a fruit best served cooked.  Simmer down and read on.  When it comes to eating fresh, perfectly-ripe, high-quality, locally-grown berries hand-to-mouth, there are three seedier-types I enjoy more -- blackberries, strawberries and raspberries (in that order).  I love blueberries, but, it's my opinion that the blueberry is enhanced by cooking. ~ Love is Blueberry Oatmeal-Crumble Cookie Squares ~, and, this recipe, which contains two full pints, is loaded with blueberry flavor.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

07/22/2019

~ Love is a Blueberry, Lemon & Ricotta Pound Cake ~

IMG_2801Blueberries are one of seven native North American food plants grown on a large scale and cultivated commercially. Before I go any further, I should mention the other six:  concord grapes, cranberries, strawberries, corn, beans and squash.  This means these plants were in existence before any of our immigrant ancestors arrived in this new world and the Native Americans were eating them and creating their own uses for them long before they introduced them to the original Colonists.  That said, blueberries were domesticated entirely in the 20th century and it did not take long for this "very American berry" to gain the unconditional love of the entire world.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3782a21200dThree types of blueberries supply over 90% of the market:  lowbush, highbush and rabbiteye.

Lowbush varieties (marketed as "wild blueberries" or "huckleberries") are very small, are harvested by machine and are sold almost exclusively to processing plants who make and sell blueberry products like "wild blueberry pie filling" or "wild blueberry preserves". While this sounds like they'd be at the top of the blueberry class, their flavor is actually disappointingly bland.

Highbush blueberries are the result of the hybridization of wild native plants. They are picked by hand and are sold fresh, representing over two-thirds of the total blueberries sold in our markets everywhere.

Rabbiteyes, which are native to the Southeastern United States were/are called rabbiteyes because the berries turn pink before they turn blue -- the eye color of a white rabbit. They are very similar to highbush blueberries, which are native to northeastern North America. Rabbiteye bushes get quite high, up to 20 feet, and, they bloom earlier in the year than the highbush, which sadly, makes them susceptible to Spring frosts.  Highbush are smaller than rabbiteyes and were called highbush simply because they were/are taller than low bush varieties.

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3980d7d200bHighbush blueberries are what my husband Joe grows in our Central PA backyard.  The berries are larger and plumper than rabbiteyes and the fruit is juicier with a thinner skin. Their quality is compromised very little by freezing them (which is great for me because, every year, I have a lot to freeze), while the rabbiteye berry skin tends to get tough when frozen.  Rabbiteyes, eaten out-of-hand are a bit sweeter, but in my opinion: highbush berries are truly the best variety for the best price.

When selecting blueberries, it is noteworthy that size is not an indication of flavor, shrinkage is. Always choose blueberries that are plump and look like they are ready to burst. Berries that have begun to shrink and wrinkle, while usable, will be less flavorful.  AND, no matter what variety you choose to use, be generous -- cooked blueberry anything should be bursting with berries.

IMG_2784Yes, of course you can make this pound cake in a bundt pan, just double the recipe & bake it for about 1 1/2 hours: 

IMG_2875The inspiration for this blueberry pound cake appeared in an issue of Eating Well magazine. What caught my eye about the recipe was the use of low-fat ricotta cheese in place of low fat- sour cream or yogurt, which appealed to me.  Past that, the recipe is pretty much my own, full-fat ingredients and all, which is resemblant of any random recipe for blueberry-lemon pound cake -- the combination is common.  Yes, of course you can make this pound cake in a bundt pan, just double the recipe and bake it for about 1 1/2 hours, or until a cake tester comes out clean. 

IMG_2730

For the dry ingredients:

1 3/4  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

2  teaspoons baking powder

1  teaspoon sea salt

2  cups ripe-but-not-overripe blueberries (10 ounces)

For the wet ingredients:

3/4  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (6  ounces/1 1/2 sticks)

3  large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2  cups sugar

2  teaspoons pure blueberry extract

1  teaspoon pure lemon extract

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1  cup whole-milk ricotta cheese

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing loaf pan

IMG_2732 IMG_2732~ Step 1.  Just prior to mixing the cake batter in step 2 (no longer beforehand), in a medium bowl, use a fork to stir together the flour, baking powder and salt.  Add the blueberries.  Using a rubber spatula, gently stir the blueberries into the flour mixture -- this will help to prevent the berries from settling to bottom of the cake when baking.

IMG_2737 IMG_2737 IMG_2737 IMG_2737~Step 2.  In a large bowl, place the butter, sugar, eggs and extracts.  On high speed of hand-held electric mixture cream these ingredients together, until fluffy and light colored, scraping down the bowl on all sides with the rubber spatula during the mixing process, about 1 minute.  Lower the mixer speed, add the ricotta cheese and thoroughly incorporate it.  Remove the mixer.

IMG_2748 IMG_2748 IMG_2748 IMG_2748~Step 3.  To incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, use a large rubber spatula to add and gently fold the flour/blueberry mixture into the butter/ricotta mixture in 2-3 increments. Transfer the cake batter to an 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" x 2 1/2" loaf pan that has been sprayed with no-stick spray.  Use the spatula to level the batter.  Place the pan on a baking pan that has been lined with a sheet of parchment -- this will keep the bottom of the cake from browning faster than the top.

IMG_2758 IMG_2758~ Step 4.  Bake cake on center rack of moderate 325º oven, 60-75 minutes (1 hour - 1 hour, 15 minutes), or, until a cake tester inserted into the center in several spots comes out clean. If, during the last 15 minutes of baking, the top appears to be browning to quickly, loosely cover with an aluminum foil sheet.  Remove from oven and cool, in pan, 25-30 minutes prior to inverting onto a wire rack cool completely, about 2-3 hours.

From first slice to last slice, this is indeed...

IMG_2823... the last blueberry & lemon pound cake recipe you'll ever want: 

IMG_2811Love is a Blueberry, Lemon & Ricotta Pound Cake:  Recipe yields 1, 2-pound, 12-ounce pound cake/10-12 slices. 

Special Equipment List:  fork; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; 1, 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" x 2 1/2", 1 1/2-quart loaf pan, preferably glass; 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pan; parchment paper; aluminum foil; wire cooling rack; cake tester

6a0120a8551282970b022ad3786da7200dCook's Note: Blueberries are a fruit best served cooked.  Simmer down and read on.  When it comes to eating fresh, perfectly-ripe, high-quality, locally-grown berries hand-to-mouth, there are three seedier-types I enjoy more -- blackberries, strawberries and raspberries (in that order).  I love blueberries, but, it's my opinion that the blueberry is enhanced by cooking. ~ Love is Blueberry Oatmeal-Crumble Cookie Squares ~, and, this recipe, which contains two full pints, is loaded with blueberry flavor.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

07/20/2019

~ Pucker Up for a Very Blueberry and Lemon Cobbler ~

IMG_3052Blueberry cobbler is simply the easiest fruit cobbler to make.  As fruits and berries go, blueberries are not only a super food, they are super user friendly -- they don't have to be peeled, pitted, sliced or diced prior to using them.  They come ready to go -- they are one quick measure or weigh away from being ready to add to whatever you're making or baking.  That said, the combination of blueberries and lemon together is delightful -- the two go hand-in-hand together.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4be94cf200bBlueberries are one of seven native North American food plants grown on a large scale and cultivated commercially (with three types of blueberries suppling over 90% of the market:  lowbush, highbush and rabbiteye).  The other six:  concord grapes, cranberries, strawberries, corn, beans and squash.  This means these seven plants were in existence before any of our immigrant ancestors arrived in this new world and the Native Americans were eating them and creating their own uses for them long before they introduced them to the original Colonists.  That said, blueberries were domesticated entirely in the 20th century and it did not take long for this "very American berry" to gain the love of the entire world.

Blueberry cobbler -- a very berry American cobbler.

IMG_3032A bit about cobbler:  Cobbler is almost always associated with a baked, deep-dish fruit or berry dessert that emerges from the oven with a semi-crispy top that has been made with a batter, a biscuit dough or a pastry.  There is no right or wrong topping for a cobbler -- it depends on your preference, where you live, and/or who taught you how to make cobbler.  Cobbler recipes have been printed in European cookbooks since the 19th century and were originally main-dish, protein-based meals. Cobblers in the US originated in the Colonies because the English settlers were unable to make their traditional suet puddings for lack of ingredients and proper equipment. The name is said to derive from the finished product looking like a rough cobblestone street.

And this goes together faster than I can eat the blueberries!

IMG_30041 1/2 pounds blueberries (24-ounces)

4  ounces salted butter (1 stick)

1  cup pancake mix

1  cup sugar 

1/2-3/4  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1  cup milk

2  teaspoons pure blueberry extract

1  teaspoon pure lemon extract

1  teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Sugar 'n Cinnamon

6a0120a8551282970b0240a495efb1200d 6a0120a8551282970b0240a495efb1200d~ Step 1. Place the butter in an 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish/2-quart casserole -- I like clear glass because I can keep an eye on the baking process.  Melt the butter in the microwave. Tilt the dish to evenly coat the entire bottom with the melted butter.

IMG_3011 IMG_3011 IMG_3011 IMG_3011 IMG_3011~Step 2.  To make the batter, in a large bowl, stir together the pancake mix, sugar and cinnamon.  In a 1-cup measuring container, stir together the milk, blueberry extract, lemon extract and vanilla extract.  Add the milk mixture to the pancake mix mixture.  Using a large rubber spatula, stir until a thin, semi-lumpy batter forms -- trust me, lumpy is a good thing.

IMG_3021 IMG_3021 IMG_3021~Step 3.  Pour all of the batter into the baking dish right on top of the butter. Do not be inclined to stir the batter into the butter. Spoon/distribute the blueberries evenly over the batter. Generously sprinkle the top of the berries with Sugar 'n Cinnamon.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350º oven 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool to desired temperature, 2-4 hours.

IMG_3031Note:  While the cobbler is baking, the blueberries (or any fruit) are going to sink to the bottom of the baking dish.  At the same time, the batter is going to bubble and bake up to the surface in random spots across the surface.  The cobbler will be golden and will spring back slightly when touched in center.  Walk away.  Cool at least 20-30 minutes.

Serve steamy-hot, slightly-warm or at room temperature:

IMG_3038Pucker Up for a Very Blueberry and Lemon Cobbler:  Recipe yields 8-12 servings.

Special Equipment List:  1-cup measuring container; large rubber spatula; 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish/2-quart casserole, preferably clear glass

IMG_2978Cook's Note: I grew in the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania, known as Pennsylvania-Dutch Country.  In that area, the majority of bakers used various streusel recipes to top their fruit pies, coffeecakes and muffins.  On another note, the Pennsylvania-Dutch are well-known for their easy-to-make sour-cream-custard pies, meaning: they substitute sour cream for the classic cream or milk when making their custard pies.  Try my version of ~ PA-Dutch Blueberry & Lemon-Custard Streusel Pie ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos Courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

07/18/2019

~ My Mexican-Style Ground Beef & Chorizo Meatloaf ~

IMG_2713Meatloaf.  Say the word aloud in the company of family or friends, or even culinary professionals -- you'll find that almost everyone wants to share a fond memory, tell an interesting story, or, recite a favorite recipe or three.  Beware of the soul who has no affection or appreciation for meatloaf. Once a Depression-era meal born out of pure necessity, it enabled savvy home cooks to stretch precious protein in order to feed more people.  That said, everyone will nod in agreement that, nowadays, meatloaf can be whatever you want it to be: an economical family-style comfort meal or a gourmet culinary masterpiece, in the style of almost any culture, and, fit for any king.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8ebc36f970bA bit about meatloaf in America: American meatloaf originated in the form of scrapple, a grainy-textured mash of ground pork scraps and trimmings mixed with moistened cornmeal prior to baking in a loaf shape.  Scrapple has been served by German-speaking Americans in Pennsylvania (the PA Deutsch) since Colonial times. From this somewhat unappetizing, born-out-of-necessity beginning, savvy home cooks adopted the concept of combining ground meat(s) with milk-moistened bread, egg, onion, salt and pepper, thus, evolving, great-tasting, old-fashioned comfort food. Because cows were butchered before Winter, bacuse feeding them over the cold months was both difficult and expensive, the first modern recipes for meatloaf contained just ground beef.

As is the case with traditional American meatloaf recipes, a quick search for Mexican-style-, Texican-Style-, Tex-Mex- or Southwestern-meatloaf recipes will yield more recipes than ever imagined.  Let's be clear though, meatloaf is an all-American invention, and, the same is true for all Mexican-style recipes for meatloaf -- none of them are authentic, meaning, meatloaf is unheard of in Mexico. There are no authentic or classic recipes for meatloaf in the Mexican food world.

6a0120a8551282970b0240a4746b1b200dIt's worth mention that aside from the bright-to-tawny red color, Mexican chorizo and Spanish chorizo are not the same, so, purchase with precision.  Mexican chorizo is a fresh, ground-pork sausage with spices added, ranging from mild to spicy -- sold loose or in a casing, it is raw and must be cooked before eating it. Spanish chorizo is a dried and fully-cured or semi-cured chopped-pork sausage with spices added, ranging from mild to spicy -- sold in a casing, fully-cured is fully-cooked and can be eaten as is, while semi-cured requires cooking prior to eating.

Ground beef & chorizo together = Mexican-Style perfection. 

IMG_2628For 2, 2-2 1/2 pound meat loaves:

2  pounds lean or extra-lean ground beef (85/15 or 90/10)

1  pound ground Mexican chorizo sausage

2  extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

4  ounces saltine crackers (1 sleeve of crackers from a 1-pound box), crumbled by hand into small bits and pieces, not processed to crumbs.

1  cup milk

3  tablespoons salted butter

3/4-1 cup whole corn kernels, shaved from cooked or grilled corn on the cob, or, well-drained canned corn kernels

3/4-1  cup thin-sliced green onion, white and light green parts only

3/4-1 cup small-diced green bell pepper

3/4-1  cup small-diced red bell pepper

1/2-3/4  cup minced, fresh cilantro leaves and some tender stems

1  tablespoon chili powder

1  tablespoon ground cumin

2  teaspoons sea salt

1 1/2-2  teaspoons coarsely-ground black pepper

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing loaf pans

IMG_2637 IMG_2637 IMG_2637 IMG_2637~Step 1.  Place ground beef in a large bowl.  If the sausage is in casings, remove the casings then place the sausage in the bowl with the ground beef.  Using a fork, lightly beat the eggs and add them to the meat.  Using your hands (it's the most efficient), thoroughly combine the two.

IMG_2648 IMG_2648 IMG_2648 IMG_2648 IMG_2648 IMG_2648~Step 2.  Using your fingertips, crush the crackers into small bits and pieces, letting them fall into a medium mixing bowl as you work. Add the milk and stir to combine. Set aside about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow the crackers to absorb all of the milk.  The mixture will be thick, chunky and pasty -- just perfect.  Add the cracker mixture to the meat/egg mixture, and once again, using your hands, thoroughly combine.

IMG_2631 IMG_2631 IMG_2631 IMG_2631 IMG_2631 IMG_2631~Step 3.  In a 10" skillet melt butter over low heat. Add the corn kernels along with the bell peppers and green onion.  Season with the chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Adjust heat to medium- medium-high and sauté until peppers are softened but still crunch-tender, 3-4 minutes.  Stir in the cilantro, remove from heat and cool 30 minutes.  

IMG_2672 IMG_2672 IMG_2672~Step 4.  Add the cool but still-warm vegetable mix to the meat mixture.  Using your hands, thoroughly combine -- thoroughly!

IMG_2686~Step 5.  Spray 2, 1 1/2-quart loaf pans* with no-stick spray. Divide meat mixture in half, form each half into a loaf shape and place one in each pan.  If you have a kitchen scale, now is the time to use it. There will be 4-5 pounds meatloaf mixture.  Using your fingertips, pat and press mixture flat into the pans. *Note:  My mom always baked meatloaf in glass pans.  The advantage is being able to see how fast the loaves are browning.

IMG_2687 IMG_2687~ Step 6.  Bake meatloaves on center rack of 350° oven for 1 hour, 15 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer placed in the the thickest part of the center reaches 168°-170º.  Loaves will be bubbling and juices will be running clear.  Remove from oven and place, in pans, on a wire rack to cool about 15 minutes.  Use a spatula to remove loaves from pans.  Slice and serve hot or warm, or, cool to room temperature and refrigerate.

Without a doubt, as delicious as it looks:

IMG_3349Served w/Mexican-style adobo rice & pico de gallo: 

IMG_2703My Mexican-Style Ground Beef & Chorizo Meatloaf:  Recipe yields 2, 2-2 1/2 pound meatloaves.

Special Equipment List:  fork; 1-cup measuring container; cutting board; chef's knife; 10" nonstick skillet; nonstick spoon or spatula; 2, 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" x 2 1/2", 1 1/2-quart loaf pans, preferably glass; kitchen scale; instant-read meat thermometer; wire cooling rack

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d27640d2970cCook's Note: The fabulous '50's may be gone forever, but they are certainly not forgotten.  Remember the stainless steel diner in your hometown that served up a thick slice of mouthwatering meatloaf smothered in a smooth, rich pan gravy alongside a big scoop of fluffy mashed potatoes? Remember meatloaf day in your school cafeteria with stewed tomatoes and macaroni and cheese?  Remember the Swanson frozen meatloaf dinner slathered with a thick brown gravy and French fries?  I fondly remember each and every one, but, mostly, I remember my mom's "special" meatloaf, and:  ~ I Love My Mom's Old-Fashioned All-Beef Meatloaf ~.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

07/15/2019

~A Bit About Mexican Cotija & Queso Fresco Cheese~

IMG_2616Americans love Mexican food.  Americans love it so much, we'd all vote for a taco truck on every street corner.  That said, when it comes to Mexican food, we Americans have quizzically wed ourselves to using cheddar or Jack cheddar cheese as toppings in or on nachos, quesadillas, refried bean dip, tacosburritos, enchiladas, chili con carne, etc. Most of us are guilty as charged and I am no exception.  Shredded cheddar is in my refrigerator at all times, and nine out of ten times, it's going on something Tex-Mex.  American kids and adults alike love cheddar, every grocery store in even the remotest regions sells it, and I'm not here to change your mind about it.

Choosing between two items that look identical is tricky. 

Setting our cheddar aside, in recent years, thanks to Mexican food being featured on many TV food shows, high-quality non-chain Mexican restaurants serving authentic Mexican-style dishes have begun popping up in communities, or within reasonable driving distance of communities, who've never tasted anything but Taco Bell before.  Happily, the American palate has become quite sophisticated about Mexican food.  Because of and in conjunction with all of the above, two beloved, real-deal Mexican cheeses have become readily available in American markets (and I couldn't be happier to have them at my fingertips): cotija cheese and queso fresco cheese.

Cheese 101.  Because of aging, no type of cheese is the same across the board -- that applies to cotija and queso fresco too.

Blessed are the cheesemakers.  They make hard, dry, grating cheeses; firm, moist, sliceable cheeses, and; soft, gooey, spreadable cheeses.  They make blue, white and yellow cheeses. Some cheeses are aged for years, others for a few months, and, some aren't aged at all.   They make herby, spicy, fruity and/or nutty cheeses.  They make mild, aromatic and strong, stinky cheeses.  They make cheese from the milk of cows, goats and sheep -- sometimes it's pasteurized and sometimes it's not.  There are a thousand+ varieties of cheese in this food world -- some are mass produced, some are specialty, some are artisan and some are farmstead. There are cheese societies that come up with cheese standards and government organizations that enforce cheese laws.  Yes, thanks to the cheesemakers, we live in a very cheeesy world.

Mexican cheese producers are no different from any other cheese makers, but, today I am limiting my Mexican cheese topic to two of their most popular, new-to-us-Americans, varieties, cotija and queso fresco, and, both of these rising stars fall into the category of "crumbly cow's milk cheese".

A bit about cotija (coh-tee-ha) cheese:

IMG_2622Cotija is a Hispanic/Latin American-style full-fat cow's milk cheese, named after the town of Cotija in the Mexican state of Michoacán, and used mostly in Latin American-style dishes.  When the cheese is young and fresh, it is very white, moist and salty, bearing an immense resemblance to feta cheese -- this is the type of cojita found in American markets.  That said, with aging, which causes the moisture to evaporate, it becomes hard and much tangier, like Parmigiano-Reggiano, which has earned it the nickname, the "Parmesan of Mexico". Originally aged for 3-12 months, nowadays commercial producers add an enzyme to speed up the process.  Cotija cheese, like feta, when exposed to the heat of an oven, softens, but doesn't have the properties to melt to an ooey-gooey state.

A bit about queso fresco (kay-soh fres-koh) cheese:

IMG_2607Queso fresco, which means fresh cheese in Spanish, is a mild-flavored all-Mexican-style cheese, and, is the traditional, most-used cheese throughout Mexico. Resemblant in appearance to cotija, it too is made from cow's milk -- raw milk for use in Mexico and pasteurized milk for distribution in the USA, which behave differently when exposed to the heat of the oven, with the American version melting to a creamier state.  That said, because queso fresco is a fresh cheese with an aging process of just a few days, its shelf life is short and should be used within 5 days. When queso freso is tossed with a a bit of Parmesan, it's a great substitution for the somewhat harder-to-find cotija.  That said, in a pinch, feta cheese can be substituted in most recipes with little-to-no compromise.

Try them on my Grilled Mexican Sweet Street Corn (Elotes)...

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c8874bf0970b... or my Warm Mexican Sweet Street Corn Cups (Equites):

6a0120a8551282970b01bb092a9963970d"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipes, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

07/13/2019

~ Adding Olives to Mexican or Mexican-Style Dishes ~

IMG_2554Olives in Mexican food?  It's controversial.  So-called experts will flatly state that olives in Mexican food make the dish Spanish, not Mexican, meaning "don't".  That said, with some of the largest concentrations of green olive trees in the world being located in regions throughout Mexico, areas bordering Texas, and, the Guadalupe Valley in Northern Baja California, common sense would and should lead one (it did me) to a different conclusion, meaning, if you are an olive lover, "go for it".  Just know, a Mexican dish you added olives to can't be peddled as "authentic" or "classic" Mexican" -- olives render the dish "Mexican-style", or, "Mexican-American fusion food".  

A good deal of research on this subject revealed to me:

IMG_2583 2It's not that Mexicans don't eat olives, they just don't put them on tacos, or use them in dishes accompanied by, or wrapped in, tortillas.  Mostly, they eat olives as snacks, add them to salads or drop them into alcoholic beverages -- who doesn't love a jalapeño- or cotija cheese-stuffed olive eaten out of hand, added to a salad or in their martini.  It's also worth noting that, for a time, during the colonial period, 1521-1821, the Spanish government forbade the planting of olive trees and/or groves in New Spain (as Mexico was named during this period), which, quite possibly, is the sole reason why olives aren't present in vintage family recipes and classic Mexican dishes that have been handed down from generation to generation -- olives were forbidden fruit.  It's also (understandably so) very plausible that Mexican resentment toward the Spanish government in general caused many Mexican cooks to refused to cook with and serve-to-them, their beloved fruit. That said, olive trees did make their way into Mexico (read below), they exist in Mexico today, and, nowadays, Mexicans do, on occasion, just like the rest of us, eat and enjoy olives.

Green olives are not indigenous to Mexico, but they are no stranger to Mexico or the Mexican people or Mexican cuisine.

5b46bd3b30abb.imageWild olives (oleaster) once grew all over the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia, but bore little resemblance to the modern olive tree until about 5,000 years ago when it was cultivated in Crete and Syria into what we are familiar with today.  Once established, olive trees flourished in Spain, Tunisia, Morocco, and other Mediterranean countries for thousands of years, and, were featured in many culinary specialties. The Spaniards were the first to realize this fruit could have international appeal and took the first cuttings to Peru in the early-to-mid 16th century.  From there, Franciscan Monks introduced olives to Central America, then smuggled them North, where olive trees thrived within the walls of their missions of Mexico.  In 1769, olive cuttings were planted at the San Diego Mission where they found yet another happy home in California.

Americans might love black olives, but, they're not even a part of the small part olives play in a Mexican kitchen.  Black olives are an all-American addition, catering solely to the American palate.

IMG_2603"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

07/10/2019

~ Texican Tomato, Cucumber and Green Olive Salad ~

IMG_2583Olives in Mexican food?  It's controversial.  So-called experts will flatly state that olives in Mexican food make the dish Spanish, not Mexican, meaning "don't".  That said, with some of the largest concentrations of green olive trees in the world being located in regions throughout Mexico, areas bordering Texas, and, the Guadalupe Valley in Northern Baja California, common sense would and should lead one (it did me) to a different conclusion, meaning "go for it".  While a Mexican dish with olives in or on it can't be labeled "authentic", the addition of olives is fine.  

A good deal of research on this subject revealed to me:

IMG_2552It's not that Mexicans don't eat olives, they just don't put them on tacos, or use them in dishes accompanied by, or wrapped in, tortillas.  Mostly, they eat olives as snacks, add them to salads or drop them into alcoholic beverages -- who doesn't love a jalapeño stuffed olive eaten out of hand, on their salad or in their martini.  It's also worth noting that, for a time,  during the colonial period, 1521-1821, the Spanish government forbade the planting of olive trees and/or groves in New Spain (as Mexico was named during this period), which, quite possibly, is the sole reason why olives weren't used in vintage family recipes and classic Mexican dishes that have been handed down from generation to generation -- olives were forbidden fruit.  It's also (understandably so) plausible that Mexican resentment toward the Spanish in general caused many to flatly refuse to cook with and serve them their beloved fruit. That said, olive trees did make their way into Mexico anyway (read below), they exist in Mexico today, and, nowadays, Mexicans do, on occasion, just like the rest of us, eat and enjoy olives.

Green olives are not indigenous to Mexico, but they are no stranger to Mexico or the Mexican people or Mexican cuisine.

Wild olives (oleaster) once grew all over the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia, but bore little resemblance to the modern olive tree until about 5,000 years ago when it was cultivated in Crete and Syria into what we are familiar with today.  Once established, olive trees flourished in Spain, Tunisia, Morocco, and other Mediterranean countries for thousands of years, and, were featured in many culinary specialties. The Spaniards were the first to realize this fruit could have international appeal and took the first cuttings to Peru in the early-to-mid 16th century.  From there, Franciscan Monks introduced olives to Central America, then smuggled them North, where olive trees thrived within the walls of their missions of Mexico.  In 1769, olive cuttings were planted at the San Diego Mission where they found yet another happy home in California.

Americans might love black olives, but, they're not even a part of the small part olives play in a Mexican kitchen.  Black olives are an all-American addition, catering solely to the American palate.

IMG_2550For the Texican-style chopped salad:

1-1 1/2 cups quartered and sliced cucumber, peeled or unpeeled, your choice

1-1 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half

3/4-1  cup coarsely-chopped deli-salad-bar-style green olive mix, preferably one containing garlic and sun-dried tomatoes

1/2 thinly-sliced scallions

1/4-1/2  cup queso fresco cheese crumbles + 1/4-1/2 cup additional crumbles for garnish

For the red wine vinaigrette:

1/2  cup vegetable oil 

1/4  cup red wine vinegar

1-2  tablespoons sugar, to taste

1  teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

The difference between cotija and queso fresco cheese.

IMG_2394 IMG_2394 IMG_2558 IMG_2558 IMG_2558 IMG_2568~Step 1. To prep salad, slice, dice or chop ingredients as directed, placing all in a medium bowl as you work.  To this point, salad ingredients can be prepped, covered and refrigerated 2-4 hours prior to dressing and tossing.

IMG_2545 IMG_2545 IMG_2562 IMG_2572~Step 2.  To prepare the vinaigrette and dress the salad, in a 1-cup measuring container with a tight-fitting lid and a pourer top, place the oil, vinegar, sugar and oregano.  Place the lid on the container and vigorously shake it until ingredients are combined.  Add 4-6 tablespoons of the vinaigrette to the salad.  Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the dressing into the salad.

Note:  This refreshing relish-esque salad, goes great with grilled chicken, steak, ribs, and fish or seafood too.  Got leftovers?  Pull or slice the the protein into bite-sized pieces, toss it into the salad and stuff it into pita pockets for lunch the next day.  There's more.  If you want to serve it as a starter course to a sit-down meal, spoon it atop a bed of crispy lettuce chiffonade -- it's dressed to pucker-up, briny perfection.  That said, because it's marinated, it's best served within 12-24 hours, so, don't make more than you and yours can eat in within that time frame.

This refreshing chopped relish-esque, condiment-type salad...

IMG_2580... pairs great w/chicken, ribs, steak, fish or seafood (pictured here w/Southwestern Cheese-Topped Corn & Bean Pudding):

IMG_2589Texican Tomato, Cucumber and Green Olive Salad: Recipe yields 4-6 cups side-dish salad.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 1-cup measuring container w/tight-fitting lid and pourer top; large rubber spatula

IMG_2426Cook's Note:  With a few cuisine-appropriate substitutions, this salad can be transitioned to pair with food from any number of cultures.  For example:  To prepare ~ Greek-Style Chopped-Salad w/Red Wine Vinaigrette ~, use a kalamata black and green olive blend, red onion, feta cheese and Mediterranean oregano (in place of  green olive and sun-dried tomato blend, scallions, queso fresco and Mexican oregano. Or, to make it Italian, go with basil and small, fresh mozzarella balls.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

07/07/2019

~Southwestern Cheese-Topped Corn & Bean Pudding~

IMG_2511From chicken and ribs to rib-eye, flank and skirt steaks, during the months of July and August and into the Fall, the food that comes off our grill is frequently alla the American Southwest.  My family craves those bold flavors, and, my Southwestern-style corn and bean pudding, a spin-off of my Midwestern-style baked corn casserole is my go-to side-dish.  Placed on the table next to a crispy garden salad full of just-picked tomatoes and cucumbers: there's no need to call my family to the table twice.  Serve an in-season fruit cobbler for dessert?  They'll follow me anywhere.

IMG_2503Fresh vs. canned corn.  Without compromise, either is great.

You do not need fresh sweet corn to prepare this.  Without compromise, canned corn actually works really well.  In fact, it works so well, I don't hesitate in the least to use it so I can make this casserole any time of the year, and, I'm using canned corn today, so you can see just how easy it is to prepare it that way.  That said, if your are so inclined to make it using fresh corn, substitute:

4 cups whole corn kernels (shaved from 3-4 ears of freshly-picked & blanched corn)

2  cups of my recipe for ~ Country-Style Downhome-Delicious Creamed Corn ~

IMG_2455

2  15 1/4-ounce cans whole-kernel corn, well-drained

1  14 3/4-ounce can cream-style corn

1  15 1/2-ounce can black beans, rinsed and well-drained

1/2  cup thinly-sliced green onions, white and light green parts only

1  4 1/2-ounce can green chiles, drained of excess liquid

1  cup heavy or whipping cream

2  jumbo eggs, beaten

2  tablespoons Wondra Quick-Mixing Flour for Sauce and Gravy

1  tablespoon sugar

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

1/2  teaspoon black pepper

3-4  ounces finely-shredded Colby & cheddar cheese blend , for topping casserole

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing casserole dish

IMG_2460 IMG_2460 IMG_2460 IMG_2460~Step 1.  In a large bowl, place creamed corn.  In a small colander, drain the whole corn kernels, then rinse and drain the black beans, followed by freeing the green chiles of excess liquid.  Place each in the bowl with the creamed corn as you work, followed by the green onions. 

IMG_2469 IMG_2469 IMG_2469 IMG_2469 IMG_2469~Step 2.  In a 2-cup measuring container, use a fork to whisk together the cream, eggs, flour, sugar, salt and pepper.  Add the cream mixture to the bowl of vegetables.  Using a large rubber spatula, fold the vegetables to evenly distribute them amongst each other.  Add and thoroughly fold the whisked cream mixture into the mixed vegetable mixture.

IMG_2480 IMG_2480~Step 3.  Spray a 2-quart, 8" x 8" x 2" casserole with no-stick cooking spray.  Transfer the mixture to the prepared casserole dish.  To this point, casserole can be placed, covered with plastic wrap, in refrigerator several hours in advance of baking.  Return to room temp about 1 hour prior to baking according to the following directions:

IMG_2486 IMG_2486 IMG_2486~Step 4.  Bake, uncovered, on center rack of preheated 350 degree oven, about 1 hour.  Casserole will be golden brown and puffed up throughout.  Remove from oven and allow to rest about 2-3 minutes prior to serving, just long enough for it to stop bubbling and settle a bit.  Top with a layer of cheese.  Return to oven and bake 1-2 additional minutes, just until cheese melts without browning.

Patience -- allow to cool 4-5 minutes -- tick, tock...

IMG_2531... prior to slicing, scooping & serving.

IMG_2520Stick a fork in it & enjoy a very Southwestern kinda day:

IMG_2530Southwestern Cheese-Topped Corn & Bean Pudding:  Recipe yields 8-12 side-dish servings.

Special Equipment List:  small colander; large rubber spatula; 2-cup measuring container; fork; 2-quart, 8" x 8" x 2" casserole; plastic wrap (optional)

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c6d67804970bCook's Note:  When I'm cooking sweet corn on the stovetop or on the grill, I always make more than I need.  Why?  Once I remove the kernels from the cobs, I use them in several recipes in place of canned corn.  To learn ~ How to: Shave Corn Kernels Off the Cob with No Mess ~, just read my post!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

07/04/2019

~ A Simply-Scrumptious Summer Strawberry Cobbler ~

IMG_2378 2Fresh strawberry cobbler with home-churned strawberry ice cream, made the old-fashioned way, is going on our picnic table tonight.  A few years ago that I realized strawberries make superb cobbler.  I experimented on a whim and it turned out great.  It was so successful, I tried this same recipe, substituting pineapple for strawberries that same Summer, meaning:  I gained cobbler confidence.   I don't know why it surprised me, strawberries contain a lot of citric acid, so, their own natural flavor makes them perfect for the relatively-fast turn-around in the oven required for a traditional cobbler.  The moral of the story is: pretty much any juicy fruit or berry will work fantastic in this recipe, so, use what you've got and don't look back.  Be like me -- cobbler confident.

Be like me -- cobbler confident.

IMG_2369A bit about cobbler:  Cobbler is almost always associated with a baked, deep-dish fruit or berry dessert that emerges from the oven with a semi-crispy top that has been made with a batter, a biscuit dough or a pastry.  There is no right or wrong topping for a cobbler -- it depends on your preference, where you live, and/or who taught you how to make cobbler.  Cobbler recipes have been printed in European cookbooks since the 19th century and were originally main-dish, protein-based meals. Cobblers in the US originated in the Colonies because the English settlers were unable to make their traditional suet puddings for lack of ingredients and proper equipment. The name is said to derive from the finished product looking like a rough cobblestone street.

And this goes together faster than I can eat strawberries!

IMG_23424  cups hulled and 1/4"-thick sliced strawberries (24-ounces sliced strawberries)

4  ounces salted butter (1 stick)

1  cup pancake mix

1  cup sugar + 3 additional tablespoons sugar to macerate strawberries

1/2-3/4  teaspoon ground cinnamon

1  cup milk

2  teaspoons pure strawberry extract

Sugar 'n Cinnamon

IMG_2346 IMG_2346 IMG_2346 IMG_2346~Step 1.  Hull and 1/4"-thick slice the strawberries as directed, placing them in a medium bowl as you work.  Add the 3 tablespoons additional sugar.  Using a large rubber spatula, fold the sugar into the sliced strawberries and set aside, to macerate, about 5-10 minutes (no longer than that).

IMG_4768 IMG_4768~ Step 2. Place the butter in an 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish/2-quart casserole -- I like clear glass because I can keep an eye on the baking process.  Melt the butter in the microwave. Tilt the dish to evenly coat the entire bottom with the melted butter.

IMG_4772 IMG_4772 IMG_4772 IMG_2354~Step 3.  In a large bowl, stir together the pancake mix, sugar and cinnamon.  In a 1-cup measuring container, stir together the milk and strawberry extract.  Add the milk mixture to the pancake mix mixture.  Using a large rubber spatula, stir until a thin, semi-lumpy batter forms.

IMG_2358 IMG_2358 IMG_2358~Step 4.  Pour all of the batter into the baking dish right on top of the butter. Do not stir the batter into the butter.  Using a slotted spoon, spoon/distribute the strawberries evenly over the batter. Generously sprinkle the top of the berries with Sugar 'n Cinnamon.  Bake on center rack of preheated 350º oven 35-40 minutes. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool to desired temperature, 2-4 hours.

IMG_2366Note:  While the cobbler is baking, the strawberries (or any fruit) are going to sink to the bottom of the baking dish.  At the same time, the batter is going to bubble and bake up to the surface in random spots across the surface.  The cobbler will be golden and will spring back slightly when touched in center.  Walk away.  Cool at least 20-30 minutes.

Serve steamy-hot, slightly-warm or at room temperature...

IMG_2384w/old-fashioned strawberry-custard ice cream:

6a0120a8551282970b022ad37bb114200dA Simply-Scrumptious Summer Strawberry Cobbler:  Recipe yields 8-12 servings.

Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 4-cup measuring container; 1-cup measuring container; large rubber spatula; 8" x 8" x 2" baking dish/2-quart casserole, preferably clear glass

6a0120a8551282970b01bb09adfbfd970dCook's Note: Here's a pie I seldom get the chance to make because, after making strawberry shortcakes, a batch of   strawberry preserves and  strawberry dessert topping, I rarely have strawberries left.  That said, I keep this super-simple go-to recipe in my repertoire for times when I do have a few cups of seriously-ripe strawberries at that "use 'em or lose 'em" stage.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)

07/02/2019

~Greek-Style Chopped-Salad w/Red Wine Vinaigrette~

IMG_2426When tomatoes and cucumbers are ripe for the picking, small side-salads accompany our dinner almost every evening.  Our seasonal herbs du jour always determine what cuisine-style I'll lean toward -- dill for Eastern European, basil for Italian, thyme for French, cilantro for Tex-Mex, and, oregano for Greek.  Once that's decided, the cuisine-appropriate embellishments easily fall into place.  It's a pretty straightforward process, but, no matter what I decide, my all-purpose super-easy-to-make red wine vinaigrette pulls it all together -- you'll rarely find my refrigerator without it.

This refreshing relish-esque salad, goes great with grilled chicken, any type of steak, pork chops, and fish or seafood too.  Got leftovers?  Pull or slice the the protein into bite-sized pieces, toss it into the salad and stuff it into pita pockets for lunch the next day.  There's more.  If you want to serve it as a starter course to a sit-down meal, spoon it atop a bed of crispy lettuce chiffonade -- it's dressed to pucker-up, briny perfection.  That said, because it's marinated, it's best served within 12-24 hours, so, don't make more than you and yours can eat in within that time frame.

This refreshing chopped relish-esque, condiment-type salad... IMG_2422... pairs great w/chicken, steak, chops, &, fish or seafood.

IMG_2392For the Greek-style chopped salad:

1-1 1/2 cups quartered and sliced cucumber, peeled or unpeeled, your choice

1-1 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half

1/2-3/4  cup coarsely-chopped Greek deli-salad-bar-style pitted-olive mix, preferably one containing garlic

1/4  cup thinly-slices red onion, slices cut into 1" lengths

1/4  cup feta cheese crumbles + 1/4 cup additional crumbles for garnish

For the red wine vinaigrette:

1/2  cup vegetable oil 

1/4  cup red wine vinegar

1-2  tablespoons sugar, to taste

1  teaspoon dried Mediterranean oregano

IMG_2394 IMG_2394 IMG_2394 IMG_2394 IMG_2404 IMG_2404~Step 1.  To prep salad, slice, dice or chop ingredients as directed, placing all in a medium bowl as you work.  To this point, salad ingredients can be prepped, covered and refrigerated 2-4 hours prior to dressing and tossing.

IMG_2410 IMG_2412 IMG_2412 IMG_2420~Step 2.  To prepare the vinaigrette and dress the salad, in a 1-cup measuring container with a tight-fitting lid and a pourer top, place the oil, vinegar, sugar and oregano.  Place the lid on the container and vigorously shake it until ingredients are combined.  Add 4 tablespoons of the vinaigrette to the salad.  Using a large rubber spatula, gently fold the dressing into the salad.

Toss w/chicken, steak or shrimp -- chopped salad sammies: 

IMG_2437Greek-Style Chopped-Salad w/Red Wine Vinaigrette:  Recipe yields 3-4 cups chopped salad and 3/4 cup dressing.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; 1-cup measuring container w/tight-fitting lid and pourer top; large rubber spatula

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c877664f970bCook's Note:  Chopped salad, also referred to as chop-chop salad, comes to us Americans in many forms. ~ Jumbo Shells Stuffed w/ Shrimp Chop-Chop Salad ~ is one of my personal ways to turn this salad into finger food.  These yummy little appetizer-snacks, like my deviled egg creations, go to a lot of Summer picnics and a few early Fall tailgates too.  The best way to describe them is individual and portable portions of chop-chop salad, and, most people can't keep their hands off them.  They can contain anything your heart desires, as long as the ingredients play well together and are chopped into small morsels prior to judiciously drizzling (not drenching), with a cuisine-appropriate dressing or vinaigrette just prior to spooning the salad into the cooked and well-drained pasta shells and serving chilled.  

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2019)