Friday, July 29, 2011

Bountiful basil

I dearly love the State Street Farmers Market in downtown Bristol. It's on the Tennessee side, but if you can make it to State Street, you can't miss it. My husband and youngest son love fresh green beans and there are no shortages at the market: greasy beans, half runners, bush beans and my husband's favorite, turkey craws.

Lately we have feasted on green beans, corn, cucumbers, yellow squash and zucchini. But two of my favorite finds this year were a beaded purple and white bracelet (look for those vendors under the permanent shelter) and basil plants. I bought two plants almost two months ago -- they were spindly little things that barely survived storms, hail and my inattention to keep them watered. Today they are towering, nearly three feet tall plants.

You can use fresh basil in any type of Italian sauce, with vegetables or sprinkled over sliced tomatoes and mozzarella for a caprese salad. I have so much basil that there is no way we can eat it all before it spoils. If you have a bumper crop of basil, dry some for later use. If you have an area with good ventilation, you can cut and hang the stalks. If you want to work a little faster, place basil leaves on a paper towel and microwave at 30 second intervals, turning them over each time, until they are dry. Store in a glass container with a lid.

Farmers markets are common in many towns today; check out what is available at your local market in the morning!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

No-Bake Cookies

I found this recipe in a worn folder that used to be either orange or red, but today it is ruddy and slightly torn. Oh, the treasures inside! Classic Pecan Pie. Amish Friendship Bread. Broccoli Salad. And this old favorite: No-Bake Cookies.

This recipe comes from a dear friend, Debbie Isom, who lives in Wise County. She made these cookies years ago for an open house at The Coalfield Progress and I was intrigued. How do you make cookies that aren’t baked? Well, they aren’t cookies in the classic sense. They are a hybrid creation – you cook them on the stovetop and drop them like candy onto waxed paper or aluminum foil.

I hadn’t made this recipe in many years. In fact, my youngest said he had never had them. Looking at the recipe I had to chuckle: My oldest had scribbled all over the recipe using a green glitter pen. There are hearts and checkmarks and more hearts written in the margins, along with her name, written in tentative cursive. Fourth grade, I’m guessing, and she is 16 now.

Don’t wait years to try this recipe. It is easy, nearly foolproof and makes a huge amount. I plan to make a batch for my husband’s family reunion in August. Because of its ease, it is a great recipe to make with children.

No-Bake Cookies

2 cups sugar
½ cup baking cocoa
½ cup milk
½ cup butter, margarine or oleo
Mix these ingredients together in a saucepan, bring to a boil over medium heat, then let cool slightly.
Add the following to the warm mixture:
½ cup peanut butter (creamy)
3 cups quick cooking oatmeal
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Stir ingredients to blend completely. Drop by rounded teaspoons on a cookie sheet or waxed paper. Let cool approximately one hour.
I used nearly 4 cups of oats to get the mix to the thickness I wanted. I also used chunky peanut butter (it's what I had in the pantry). Also, you can add 1 ½ cups of coconut flakes, if you like them.

Let the cookies sit until they are firm. They are chewy and chocolatey and sure to be a hit at with the reunion crowd next month.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Start Your Ovens: Rosemary Chicken

I’m having fun as I cook and eat my way through “Start Your Ovens: Cooking the Way it Ought’a Be,” the official cookbook of the Bristol Motor Speedway. It was developed by the Junior League of Bristol to showcase fantastic recipes by Junior League members, NASCAR drivers, their wives and others who have made terrific meals at BMS. In celebration of their efforts, and the 50th anniversary of BMS, I am giving away a copy of this book in a contest that ended Aug. 31, 2011.

This Grilled Rosemary Chicken recipe is exceptionally flavorful. If you have a backyard grill and a rosemary plant growing outside, you could enjoy this delicious meal for dinner tomorrow. No fresh rosemary? Stop by any grocery store – fresh herbs are commonplace.

To make Grilled Rosemary Chicken, you will need:

8 to 12 boneless skinless chicken breasts
16 ounce bottle Italian salad dressing
½ cup dry white wine
¼ cup soy sauce
¼ cup (rounded) packed brown sugar
2 teaspoons rosemary
1 teaspoon salt
! teaspoon pepper

Place the chicken in a deep plastic or glass bowl or in a large sealable plastic bag. (I use both -- put the bag in a larger container to avoid any spillage.)

Combine the salad dressing, wine, soy sauce, brown sugar, rosemary, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix well. Pour over the chicken, turning to coat. Marinate, covered, in the refrigerator for 8 to 10 hours, turning occasionally.

Drain the chicken, reserving the marinade. Grill on hot coals until the chicken is cooked through, turning and basting with the reserved marinade occasionally. Yield: 8 to 12 servings.

Here’s the chicken, just getting started:

And after about 30 minutes, once it is cooked through:

I served the Grilled Rosemary Chicken with another terrific dish from “Start Your Ovens,” Broccoli Salad Supreme. It was fantastic! Happy Friday, all!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Start Your Ovens: Broccoli Salad Supreme

This is the first recipe I wanted to try after skimming through “Start Your Ovens: Cooking the Way it Ought’a Be.” The recipe is similar to other broccoli salad recipes I have seen and enjoyed – broccoli, raisins, onions and a dressing made from mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar. But the addition of roasted, salted cashews makes this version stand out. The nuts give the dish additional crunch and a memorable richness.

I hope you try some of the recipes from this wonderful book.

To make Broccoli Salad Supreme, here’s what you will need:

1 large bunch broccoli
I red onion, chopped
1 cup cashews
8-10 slices crisp cooked bacon, crumbled
½ cup raisins
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 to ½ cup sugar
2-3 tablespoons vinegar

Discard the tough ends of the broccoli stems. Slice the remaining stems into bite-sized pieces; separate the florets into bite-sized portions. Combine the broccoli, onion, cashews, bacon and raisins in a bowl and toss gently.

Combine the mayonnaise, sugar and vinegar in a bowl and mix well.

Add to the broccoli mixture and toss to coat. Chill, covered for 6 to 10 hours. Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

I did make some modifications to this recipe (big surprise, huh?). I used both broccoli and cauliflower, and I used dried cranberries instead of raisins. Readers of this blog know I am a firm believer in using what you have on hand! I also substituted plain yogurt for half of the mayonnaise – it’s much lower in fat, but still gives a creamy consistency.

The verdict? This recipe is one of the best salad ideas I have tried and a new favorite to share. One other note: The recipe says the cashews are optional. Wrong. Their crunch and richness makes this dish.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Two goodies from Gatlinburg, Tenn.

I recently wrote about our summer trip to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, Tenn., and the subsequent visit to the house where my grandmother was born and raised. Today it is an antiques store, called Yesterday’s Antiques.

When I visited there in 1999, I bought an inexpensive pitcher that is off-white and has colorful flowers. It’s nothing fancy or pricey, but I love the fact that it came from that shop. On our June 2011 visit, I bought a green Depression glass candlestick, with openings for two candles. I showed both to my parents over the weekend. They stopped in Bristol for a couple days, after having been to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, and before heading home to Norfolk, Va.

My mother liked the colorful pitcher – especially since it was full of cut yellow roses (her favorite flower). My dad was drawn to the green glass candlestick, noting that his parents had similar ones (scalloped pattern, but clear or beige glass) at the farm where he was raised in Sampson County, N.C.

Both these items were reasonably priced and fun trinkets to bring home and keep from our trip. We relive our travels through the wonderful keepsakes!

Monday, July 11, 2011

We just called it Divorce Casserole

This casserole (actually called Chopstick Tuna) is a bit of a legend in my family. The recipe comes from my grandmother, Grace Clabough Fakler, and was a favorite for many years. My mom had it in her own recipe box and made the casserole for my dad when they were newlyweds in the mid-1960s. My dad’s reaction – he left the house because he hated it so passionately.

My brother and I had heard the story of Chopstick Tuna and we started calling it “Divorce Casserole.” Once, in the 1980s, when my dad was traveling for work, my mom made the dish again and we LOVED it. It became the go-to dish to have on the rare occasions my dad was out of town.

No truth to the “divorce casserole” part of the story. I don't believe my mom ever tried this dish on dad again – they have weathered casseroles, children and plenty else and will celebrate their 47th wedding anniversary this summer.

My family loves this dish and its funny story, even at my dad's expense. I think it is a perfect combination of creamy and crunchy.

Chopstick Tuna

14.5 ounce can cream of mushroom soup
6 ounce can tuna, packed in water, drained
¼ cup milk
½ cup diced onion
½ cup diced celery
½ cup roasted, salted cashews
14 ounce can chow mein noodles
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons chopped parsley

Mix together the soup, tuna, milk, onion and celery in a greased 2-quart casserole.

Add ¾ of the can of chow mein noodles and the cashews.

Mix all the ingredients, then top with remaining chow mein noodles.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 20-30 minutes, until bubbly and browned on top. Serves 4-6. I can't predict the effects on your marriage, but I think it is delicious!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Start Your Ovens: High-Octane Tomatoes

This recipe seems perfect for the official ccokbook of the Bristol Motor Speedway! High-Octane Tomatoes are easy to prepare, fun to eat and have just a splash of alcohol. This recipe was one of the first ones that really drew me into “Start Your Ovens: Cooking the Way it Ought’a Be” by the Junior League of Bristol.

With fresh tomatoes available at area farmers markets, grocery stores and backyard gardens, consider making this recipe soon. The book says: “These tomatoes will be the hit of your next cocktail party.”

High-Octane Tomatoes

60 grape tomatoes
1 tablespoon kosher salt, or to taste
Vodka to cover

Remove the stems from the tomatoes. Place the tomatoes in a sealable plastic bag. Add the salt. Pour enough vodka over the tomatoes to cover. Seal tightly. Marinate for 8 to 10 hours, turning occasionally; drain. Serve in a glass or silver bowl with wooden picks.

Yield: 20 servings.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Chicken in wine in the slow cooker, 2.0

I tried my hand at coq au vin in the slow cooker recently, after seeing a recipe in a favorite cookbook. It wasn’t as fancy, or involved, as the original recipe, but the results were delicious – red wine, thyme and garlic gave a great depth of flavor.

To try it yourself, you will need:

8-10 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 medium onion, cut in wedges
1 cup carrots, in bite-sized pieces
6-8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1 cup red wine
½ cup mushrooms (canned is fine; just drain first)
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt and pepper

Place the onion and carrots in a 6-quart slow cooker.

Cook, drain and crumble the bacon. Place the chicken pieces over the carrots and onions, then top with garlic, mushrooms and bacon. Pour red wine over all.

Top the mixture with salt, pepper and sprigs of fresh thyme. Yes, these sprigs came right out of my tiny herb garden.

Cook on low for about 7 hours. This dish is excellent with pasta or rice. I used mini fusilli.

This dish was terrific – the chicken was fall-apart tender and had a delicious flavor thanks to the wine, thyme and bacon. Try it soon!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Summer fun in the yard

My in-laws bought us a fire pit for our wedding anniversary in June. I assembled it in the livingroom floor because I figured if I lost a screw in the yard, it would be gone for good. We had several rainy days and the pit sat on the back patio; but last week, my teenaged daughter couldn't wait any longer and we set it up in the yard.

We had a dozen or so stones left from the flower bed we demolished -- they were used to make a ring under and around the pit. Add a couple of comfy chairs and a cool beverage, and we had the makings of a great evening. I was glad to christen the fire pit, but my youngest child quickly got bored and went inside. My daughter held on for much longer, but around 10:30 p.m. she announced she was ready for bed -- and left me to tend the fire.

Don't tell anyone, but I enjoyed the quiet and a bit of stargazing as I waited for the last embers to burn down. My husband and I enjoyed another fire on Saturday -- without any rush. And the wood for the fire was free, from our severe storm in April.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Start Your Ovens cookbook giveaway

I am a longtime cookbook collector who always has an eye out for great local recipes. While meeting a friend for coffee in Bristol, I spied this collection by the Junior League of Bristol, Va/Tn: “Start Your Ovens, Cooking the Way it Ought'a Be.” I bought two copies, gave them away as gifts, then bought more.

Thank you to the Junior League of Bristol for putting it together. Many thanks also to track owner and philanthropist Bruton Smith, who underwrote the second printing of this book.

Please note, I sought and obtained permission from the Junior League of Bristol to reprint some of the recipes and to give away a copy of the book. This promotion is strictly for fun and aimed at highlighting delicious local recipes. I’ll give away a copy of Start Your Ovens, in celebration of the Junior League’s efforts and to coincide with the August race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

This book appeals to race fans, food enthusiasts and anyone who loves to collect cookbooks that tell the story of a region. It is chock full of recipes from famous NASCAR drivers and their spouses, local restaurants and historical observations about Bristol Motor Speedway: The World’s Fastest Half Mile.

To enter for the prize giveaway, you can do the following:

** Leave a comment on this post asking to be registered;

** Go to Google Friend Connect and add me, then leave a comment on this post saying you have added me;

** Follow me on Twitter, then leave a comment on this post saying you are following me;

** Follow me on Twitter and RT this post with the hashtag #startyourovens; or

**Try one of the recipes from the book and leave a comment on this post letting me know the results.

You will be entered once for each action -- just be sure to post and let me know.

I will post recipes from the cookbook each week through the end of August. The contest will end Aug. 31 and I will draw for a winner who will receive a copy of the book by mail.