Monday, July 30, 2012

Spicy Citrus Grilled Corn

Let me start by apologizing for the dark picture. By the time I realized how much we loved this new recipe, there was one ear of corn left and I had to get a pic quickly before it got devoured!

So I'm in Sam's with my daughter and her fiancé a week or so ago, and while we're looking at other items, I can hear the dialog on the televisions in the next section over. Now I cannot see the tv, so I have no idea who the chef was, or any specifics. But the recipe he mentioned sounded worth trying.

I tried to find the recipe, but found TONS of recipes for it. None of them agreed on the seasonings. All of them involved leaving the corn husks on (because apparently, that's how you grill corn.) Well my dad always did it that way too, but I hate messing with charred corn husks. So, in true Leni fashion, I threw out the rule book and decide to try it my own way. This was a collaboration between me, my husband and so-close-to-the-wedding-we're-almost-giddy-son-in-law. They did the cooking, I gave direction and advice. We make a pretty amazing team, let me tell you!

Suffice it to say, I don't think we'll ever eat regular corn again. We're already preparing for cold weather, trying to figure out how we could make a similar dish in the oven with frozen corn.

Leni's Notes:
~We used Extra Hot Indian Chili Powder. It's hot. So if you use regular chili powder, you won't get the same kick, but that might be a good thing. ;o)
~Extra lime juice will cut down the heat of the chili, so keep some on the table for folks to adjust the spiciness of their corn.
~Don't shy away from that charred look on the corn. It gave it some amazing flavor.
~This has a little kick, but is not overwhelming. Young children might not like it. (Though mine would have liked it at a young age.)
~Might I suggest putting out some wet washcloths on the table? This is a messy one, which is a sign of a good food in our house.

12 ears of corn

3/4 C salted butter
3 tsp. chili powder (see note above,) adjust to personal taste
1 Tbsp lime juice, plus extra for the table

~Peel all of the corn, place in a large enough stock pot to allow you to cover it with water.
~Cover with water and turn on high. The idea is to get it good and steamy, not necessarily boiling. I suggest turning it on and then going out to get the grill ready, we cooked the sausage while the corn heated up.
~In a small pan, melt butter and mix in the chili powder and lime juice.
~When the corn is good and hot and soaked, (maybe 20-30 min) pull out with tongs and place on grill over low flame.
~Immediately start basting the corn with the butter mixture. Turn, baste, wait, repeat.
~When it starts to get charred, you're about done. The amount of time it takes will depend entirely on how hot your flame is. ;o)
~Let cool slightly before serving, it improves the flavor.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Party Cupcakes

Aren't these pretty?? The pinterest title for these caught my eye, because who wouldn't want to try  insanely moist and decadent chocolate cupcakes? As it happened, I was planning a bridal shower for my daughter who is a bit of a fan of chocolate, and I was going for kind of a retro black & white look for decorations. 

I found the flower cups at Walmart. I love how they turned out, but I will say that if you are looking for a pure white decoration, these yellowed in the oven. If they had been for a wedding, I would not have been pleased. (Now if I could find them in bright yellow, they'd make adorable Brown-Eyed Susans! But I digress.)

You'll want to serve a big glass of milk or water with these, as they are really rich. These got an enthusiastic thumbs-up from all the women at the shower and later from the hubby and kids at home.

Leni's Notes:
~I doubled the recipe, and then put one standard size ice cream scoop of batter in each one. This netted us 5 dozen cupcakes.
~If you made a standard cream filling, these would totally be a Hostess cupcake knock off. Seriously.
~There was black raspberry dip on the table, I am assured it was a perfect compliment to the cupcakes. ;o)
~I made two substitutions on the frosting, and one instructional change.
1. I detest corn syrup. I used agave instead, worked great.
2. For reasons I cannot fathom, our little local grocery does not carry cream. I had half & half at home. It worked.
3. I ended up melting down the frosting for the leftover cupcakes, and I poured it over the top like ganache. It made for a beautiful glossy finish, and it let it melt down into the paper liner.
~Because I made so many (seriously, there were cupcakes everywhere!) they lasted a couple of days. I noticed that they started to dry out pretty quickly, like by the end of day two. Melting the frosting over the top helped to seal them up and keep them moist.
~The batter will be very runny. PLEASE do not adjust it! You didn't mess up the proportions.
~Next time I make these, I will add some instant coffee granules to the boiling water before I add it into the batter.

I found the post on Pinterest, which led me to this page. Enjoy!

Insanely Moist and Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes

from Modern Day Baker by Nick Malgieri

makes 18 cupcakes
2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 oz unsweetened chocolate, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 cup boiling water
8 tbsp (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream

Set a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F. Line a muffin tin with paper cupcake liners.

For the cupcake batter, stir the sugar, flour, baking soda and salt together in a mixing bowl. Set aside.

Put the cut up chocolate in a large mixing bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Let stand for 2 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Whisk in the butter, then the eggs, one at a time, whisking after each addition until smooth. Whisk in the vanilla and sour cream.

Whisk in the flour and sugar mixture in 3 separate additions, whisking until smooth after each.

Divide the batter equally among the cavities in the pans, spooning it in. Bake the cupcakes until they are well risen and feel firm when pressed in the center with a fingertip, about 20 minutes.

Cool in the pans on racks for 5 minutes, then transfer the cupcakes to racks and cool completely before frosting. If making the frosting below, start it while the cupcakes are cooling since it also needs time to cool.

chocolate fudge icing
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup light corn syrup
12 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted
6 tbsp unsalted butter, very soft
1 tsp vanilla extract

Combine the cream and corn syrup in a small saucepan and whisk well to mix. Place over low heat until simmering and pour into a bowl to cool to lukewarm, about 110F.

Add the cooled cream mixture to the melted chocolate and whisk until smooth. Distribute the butter in small pieces all over the top of the chocolate mixture, then whisk it in smoothly. Whisk in the vanilla. Cool the icing until it is firm enough to spread. (I chilled mine in the fridge for 20 minutes and then stirred it and let it sit on the counter until firm.)

Use a small offset spatula or knife to spread some of the icing on each cupcake.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Bridal Shower Time

My oldest baby is getting married! The bridesmaids and I hosted a bridal shower for her this weekend, so I thought I'd share what we served and how we decorated.

Since the bride and groom are big fans of the movies, we put together a movie theme. I was able to find a great book called Kisses that was full of photos and quotes from black and white movies. We used those for decorations and place mats. I was thrilled that the first thing guests did was walk around the table trying to identify all of the actors and movies! ;o)

I set up an Amazon wish list on my account with a large selection of movies that they love but do not own. (Cary Grant, anyone?) 

Here are some pictures, and the menu is down below.

The wall behind the gift table was covered with photos from movies and a "Happily Ever After" plaque.

Place settings included a unique black and white movie photo and a mini packet of microwave popcorn.
The popcorn buckets were full of movie candy and dvd movies that we used as prizes for games.

The bridal party at the food table. Bride Moriah on the right, Maid of Honor Noelle on the left and Bridesmaid Julie in the middle. The other Julie wasn't able to attend, due to being in another state. ;o)

We tried to keep the menu simple but yummy.

Meatballs with barbeque sauce
Maple Dip with Honey Wheat Pretzels
Pumpkin Dip with Ginger Snaps
Black Raspberry Dip with Chocolate Pretzels
Veggie Pizza Appetizers (Recipe to come)
Insanely Moist and Decadent Chocolate Cupcakes (Recipe to come)
Pina Colada Punch (Recipe to come)
Iced Water Bottles

We did a quiz that consisted of movie quotes, requiring players to name the movie, and for bonus points, the movie couple. 

We also did the toilet paper bridal gown game. That was great fun. ;o)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Crockpot Spinach Artichoke Dip

I have a special weekend edition for you! We hosted a bridal shower today, and this was one of the new recipes I tried. It was a huge hit. My daughter Noelle insisted that I send it to our family recipe email account immediately. ;o) One guest said that it was comparable to Applebee's version. Good news, since that was the bride's favorite!

Leni's Notes:
~I mixed this up and refrigerated it a couple of days ahead of time. Being that it was completely chilled, I didn't think it would warm through in 2 hours, so I popped it in the microwave for a couple of minutes first. (Yeah, I used a
~This was just enough to fit into our itty bitty 1 quart crock.
~Quartered artichoke hearts are found in the canned vegetable isle. I thought I'd save you the trouble, since I sure couldn't find them!
~We served these with Tostitos Scoops.
~We had a 16 oz container of spinach, and I ended up just throwing it all in. Didn't seem over spinach-y to any of us.

You can find the original recipe at Get Crocked. Looking forward to trying more of her recipes.

  • 2 - 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, (softened)
  • 3/4 c. half and half
  • 1 tsp. onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 10 oz. bag frozen cut spinach, thawed and well drained
  • 13 oz. can quartered artichoke hearts, rinsed, drained and chopped
  • 2/3 c. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1. Combine the cream cheese and half and half in a bowl until well blended. 2. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well.
3. Pour the mixture into the crock pot.
4. Cover. Cook for 2 hours or until thoroughly melted.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Quality Ingredients

Then there are the days that Leni does not cook. It's going to be in the 90's the next couple of days, and I'm recovering from heat exhaustion, so cooking is not a huge priority for me today! Thankfully, I have some meals stored up in the freezer and my family shall not starve. ;o)

I've been pondering for a couple of weeks the topic of Quality Ingredients. The conclusion that I've come to is that this means different things to different people. Certainly it has meant different things to me during various stages of my life. There are a lot of factors to take in. The amount of money available to spend, what is accessible in your area, culture (both where you live now and how you were raised,) and what you are trying to accomplish.

At this stage of life, my philosophy is to buy the best I can afford, because I want the best quality taste and the healthiest finished product I can manage. That doesn't always mean I can buy the best of the best, I still have a house full of teenagers to feed, and I could go broke just on food! But I can make simple changes like coconut oil instead of shortening, butter in place of margarine, fresh lemonade rather than soda. 

There have been times where due to my health, my major challenge was just to put a meal on the table. Any meal. Anything at all. During those times, I kind of wished I held stock in the Tyson Chicken company, because we were certainly doing our part to support their business! Not what I would picture as health food, but I felt like I made the best choice I could given the circumstances.

In the early years of our marriage, money was the driving factor. Let's face it, there are times when it really doesn't matter what we eat as long as our bodies register it as food!

When we were in Bible College, we had a teacher who had been a lumberjack in Maine in his early years. Mr. Lanpher never stopped being a lumberjack! He was the sweetest man. He used to work for local farmers, and one of the things they let him do was glean the fields. (Are you familiar with that term? They let him go through and gather what the machines had missed, and he could just take the food.) He supplied the students on campus with fruits and vegetables as long as he had them to give. He would stop by my house daily and pound on the wall next to the door so I'd hear him. By the time I got to the door, he was always gone, but there would be a bag full of produce. Money was tight in those days, but we ate like kings. We couldn't really afford meat, but we had a huge pot full of steamed potatoes, carrots and onions every night, with a side of cucumbers and tomatoes. He always kept us supplied with apples, also. Another teacher brought me bags and bags of rhubarb. I'd say we ate pretty well for starving college students!

So when a young cook asks me for tips, I always tell them to buy the best they can afford, and to shop around. You never know where you're going to find that treasure! Living in Western New York, we are blessed with weekly farmer's markets in local towns and the Public Market in Rochester. The last time we were at the public market, we found a company selling spices. I was thrilled to discover that he grinds all of his own spices! No fillers or MSG added. I found Lemon Pepper without food dye in it! "If you want something custom, just call my shop, I'll whip it up for you." The prices were great, the product was top quality. I sure wasn't going to find that at Walmart!

Same thing goes for meat. Honestly, I'd rather have one ounce of good quality meat than a pound of injected meat or additive filled goo. 

My children were raised on a diet free of preservatives, dyes, additives, etc. We did this to handle their ADHD symptoms. Hard? Yes. Beyond hard. But worth it. When they got older and were able to start trying some of the stuff they'd been missing out on for years, they all had the same reaction. "You can taste the chemicals in this. That's all you can taste!"  True enough. ;o)

"Real food tastes real good!"  

Monday, July 09, 2012

Pork Tenderloin with Pan Sauce

I have got to share a recipe with you that I found on Pinterest. The recipe is for Pork Tenderloin with Pan Sauce. We make pork tenderloin all the time, it's somewhat of a convenience food for us. I'm always looking for ways to (literally) spice it up so it's not just humdrum pork again. Nothing humdrum about this! Amazingly, I already had all the ingredients in my house, which I always love in a recipe.

We buy our tenderloin in a vacuum packaged two-pound size. Perfect, because it leaves leftovers for the sandwiches mentioned below. ;o)

Leni's Notes:

~Double the pan sauce, everyone wanted extra of that.
~Do not fall to the temptation to replace the red wine vinegar with apple cider vinegar. (The second time I made it, I didn't have quiet enough red wine vinegar. You could really taste the difference.)
~Suggested side dishes: baked potatoes, egg noodles.
~Veggie: cooked carrots with butter and parsley.
~For a lovely leftover sandwich:
  Butter a roll, and grill the bread.
  Remove the bread and add 3-4 slices of leftover tenderloin. Turn now and then, til warm and browned.
  Place meat on bread, and in same pan, place about a tablespoon of leftover pan gravy. Stir til warm.
  Pour gravy over meat, enjoy.


I linked it above, please do go an peruse the site and see what else Chef Mommy has to offer. I made no changes to the recipe, but the text is here just in case you can't get to that site at some point in the future.

1⁄2 cups olive oil
1⁄3 cup soy sauce
1⁄4 cup red wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
1-2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1-2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
2 tsp dry mustard
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 1-lb. pork tenderloin (silver skin removed)

Combine all marinade ingredients and reserve 2-3 Tbsp. Place the pork tenderloin and marinade in a Ziplock bag and let marinate for at least 3-4 hours.
 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a hot skillet over medium-high heat, sear each side of tenderloin for 2-3 minutes. Place in the oven and cook uncovered for 30-40 minutes or until the meat has reached 160 degrees. Let rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing.

Pan Sauce:
Pan scrapings from pork tenderloin
1/2 cup of chicken broth
2-3 tbsp of pork marinade (thoroughly mixed)
1-2 tsp butter

Meanwhile, place the skillet back on the stove over medium heat. Add the chicken broth and scrape up all the browned pieces from the bottom of the pan. Add the marinade and let it boil down for 2-3 minutes. Add the butter and remove from heat stirring until butter has melted. Pour over the pork tenderloin.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Cayenne Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

Running late, but here I am! I was inspired and cooking today after a week out of the kitchen. I have a bunch of new recipes to share, but I guess I'd better follow through on my promise of Dinosaur Bar-B-Que's Cayenne Buttermilk Ranch Dressing.

This is the dressing they use on the Fried Green Tomatoes, and the House Greens. Turns out they also use it on a couple of sandwiches that I desperately need to go back and try. For research, of course. I'm doing it all for you! (I thought my husband supported my culinary efforts, but he just shook his head 'no' when I mentioned that the Dinosaur would still be open if we left right now...)

So I headed off to the public market last week, got a bunch of spices and came home to create this treat. I started off by making the basic Creole Seasoning, which has since been used on a bunch of different items!

Leni's Notes:
~ Excellent for dipping. I used it in many places that I might have used bleu cheese dressing in the past.
~ If you have a lot of 'dippers' in your family, double up the recipe.
~ If you want it to have a little more zest, you can add in more creole seasoning til it suits your taste.

Recipe, straight out of the Dinosaur Bar-BQue Cookbook:

1 1/4 C mayonnaise
1 C buttermilk
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tsp. minced garlic
1/4 C finely chopped chives
1 Tbsp. lemon pepper
1/4 C freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese
1 tsp kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. Creole Seasoning

Whisk all the ingredients together in a bowl.
Pour into a container with a tight lid, and store in fridge til needed.

(Makes 2 1/2 Cups)