Saturday, July 12, 2008

My Attempt at Key Lime Pie

I am not a big citrus dessert fan. Lemon bars, cake, and pie just don't do much for me. My Mom loves Key Lime Pie and she recently sent me a subliminal message by cutting out a Key Lime Pie recipe out of a magazine and leaving it on the kitchen counter. So I gave in...

I honestly do not know what magazine it was out of, but I believe it was out of Woman's Day. My only negative things to say about it are that the pie didn't stay on the springform pan too well. it almost slid off. I think that this is because the recipe didn't call for enough butter in the graham cracker crust so it didn't stay together well. Mine also didn't turn out with as dark of a green tint as the picture out of the magazine did. I do not believe that this affected the taste.

You can easily make this recipe reduced fat by replacing things like cream cheese, sour cream, etc with their reduced fat or fat free options. Since I don't eat a lot of citrus desserts, I do not know if this is considered a great recipe. I think that it does taste good. It is tart (which I believe it is supposed to be) and very rich. My favorite part is the whip cream/sour cream topping. I guess that is evidence of my dessert preferences. :-) My mom absolutely loved this though and already wants me to make another.

Key Lime Pie
adapted from Woman's Day Magazine version

7 graham crackers, crumbled
1 1/2 TBL butter, melted (I suggest using a little more to hold the crust together)
3/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tsp grated lime zest
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
16 oz cream cheese, softened
1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup sour cream
1 cup whipped topping (I used Cool Whip)
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

- Combine graham crackers and butter in a bowl. Mix well.
- Spray a 9 inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Press the crumb mixture into bottom of the pan.
- Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.
- Combine the lime juice and zest into a microwave save bowl. Sprinkle with unflavored gelatin.
- In a large bowl, cream the cream cheese until well softened. Add the sweetened condensed and blend well.
- Microwave the lime juice mixture for 20 seconds. Add to the cream cheese mixture and blend well
- Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes
- Remove pie from refrigerator. In a medium sized bowl, mix whipped topping, sour cream, and confectioners sugar. Spread on top of pie.
- Refrigerate pie for 2 hours before eating. I found that the longer it stays in there, the better it will stay together.
- If you want to make it pretty, garnish with some thinly sliced limes.

Enjoy! Until next time...

How I Spent My Afternoon

Mom and I found a vendor at our Farmer's Market that sells some of the best corn we have ever had.  Our family went through 2 dozen ears of it last week.  This week we got 52 ears of it with the plans to freeze some and of course eat some too.  So far I have gotten through half of the corn and plan to do the rest tonight.  I shuck it and clean it and blanch it for a few minutes in boiling water.  I then cool it in cold water and cut it off of the ear.  I place it in quart size freezer bags.  A quart size freezer bag should be enough to feed the 6 of us.  I just love the fresh vegetables of summer...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Zucchini Bread

One of my favorite parts of the summer is all of the fresh produce options that are out there. My sister Lindsey and her husband Joel have a garden and one of the plants that they have that always produces a lot of vegetables is zucchini. One of the fun ways that I like to use up this surplus is to make zucchini bread. This super easy recipe is from my grandmother, Memaw. I honestly do not know where she originally got the recipe, but I remember her making this years ago when I was little. The zucchini and then the addition of the pineapple keep this bread really moist. The recipe makes two loaves and I have also made muffins with it before. It is very inexpensive to make...especially if you already have the zucchini.

Zucchini Bread
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 cup crushed pineapple with some juice
2 TBL vanilla extract
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 cups flour
2 cups grated zucchini

- In a medium sized bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon
- Grate zucchini to equal 2 cups. I find that it typically takes 2 large or 3 medium zucchini.
- In a large bowl beat the eggs
- Add the sugar, oil and vanilla and beat together
- Stir in the pineapple, zuchinni, and nuts
- Add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients 1/3 at a time. Stir well after each addition
- Distribute evenly between 2 greased loaf pans
- Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Just watch until it is firm on top and bounces back when you touch it.

My favorite way to serve this is to spread a little bit of butter on top. Yum!!
Enjoy! Until next time...

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Gorgeously Green

I just finished reading Gorgeously Green by Sophie Uliano. I first heard about her on Oprah before I stopped watching the show. Another post another time... I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it was so informative. The book is super easy to read and Sophie kept me engaged throughout the entire book.

In the past I have been the first person to change the channel, turn the page or surf to another website if anyone started talking about environmental topics. The phrase "going green" would grate on my last nerve. Over the past few months I have done some research and in conjunction with reading this book have come up with my own opinion on all of this "going green" stuff flying around out there.

Do I think that the world is going to come to an end and that all of the ice in the world is going to melt because of global warming? No. Do I think that we need to do a better job at eating more natural foods, conserve energy and eliminate some of our waste by recycling? Yes...absolutely. It is insane when you think about the amount of highly processed foods that we eat. We are ingesting so many foreign chemicals into our bodies that they don't even know what the long term effects are going to be. I do not think that we have seen the tip of the iceberg on the diseases that some of our young people will have years down the road.

So how do I feel is the best way for me to go green? (And everyone is different)

1. Eat as many natural, organic foods as you can. These foods have been grown and treated without pesticides and hormones. I feel that one of the most important changes that I have made in my family is by switching to organic milk. My nieces drink a lot of milk and by switching, I have saved them from having a lot of unneeded growth hormones, etc in their milk. This is also important with vegetables because these are grown without the addition of pesticides. Buying organic can be very expensive so I encourage to look for sales and start out slow on purchasing things. I started with milk and have gradually gotten to where about half of my purchases are organic now.

2. Purchase as much local product as possible. By purchasing food from local farmers and companies you are buying things that are grown better than the mass growing factories. (which many times means that you are accomplishing #1) You are supporting local businesses and your local economy and are decreasing the amount of energy that is spent to get product to you. For example, when something is shipped from CA to VA.

3. Conserve as much energy as possible. I have made small adjustments in the way that I do things around the house to try to conserve energy. The easiest thing is to turn off the lights in rooms when you are not in them. Unplug any unessential appliances when not in use. Switch to the energy conserving curly light bulbs. And on a travel note...carpool when possible. If someone is going to the same place, why drive separate cars??

4. Recycle, Recycle, Recycle! Much of the trash that goes into the landfills will still be around for years and years to come. I promise, it is not painful at all to keep those water bottles and drop them off at the recycling center. (By the way why are you using a lot of water bottles?? Buy a reusable container!) It would surprise you to find out how many things you can actually recycle. Anything that you can do with this helps!

Well I hope that I haven't sounded too crazy with this stuff. I would have thought so a couple of months ago. I definitely see the importance of certain aspects of this now. The two key concepts with all of this is that we want the best possible things going into our bodies and then we don't want to blatently waste things like energy and things that can be recycled. It actually does make me feel very fulfilled by doing these things. I feel like I am making a difference (as small as it is) in the world and that I am hopefully helping to make a difference in my nieces lives by giving them better foods to eat.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

House Update

I finally have basement walls!!!! Hopefully things will start moving along faster now!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Chicken Cacciatore

I love watching the Food Network and am always up for trying something new from shows that I watch. I recently watched an episode of Everyday Italian where Giada made Chicken Cacciatore. I have never made this dish before and I was very surprised. It was delicious. Of course, I made a couple changes but I am really happy with how it turned out. I think that one of my favorite parts of the dish are the capers. They add a great pop of flavor and they are good for you too! This has definitely been logged in my book of repeats.

Chicken Cacciatore
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

4 chicken thighs
2 chicken breasts with skin and backbone, halved crosswise
2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
1 cup all purpose flour, for dredging
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
6-8 fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 cup white win
2 (14.5 ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes with juice
3/4 cup chicken broth
4 tablespoons of drained capers
Red pepper flakes
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 lb linguini (or really any other pasta you enjoy)
Grated parmesan cheese

- Sprinkle the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Dredge pieces in flour.
- In heavy saute pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and saute just until brown. This usually takes about 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate.
- Add the bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, and garlic to the pan and saute over medium head until the onion is tender.
- Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes (to taste)
- Add the win and simmer until reduced by half. This takes around 3 minutes
- Add the tomatoes, broth, capers, and oregano.
- Return the chicken to the pan and submerge in the sauce. Bring sauce to a simmer and continue simmering over medium-low heat until the chicken is cooked through. (About 30 minutes)
- Remove chicken to a platter. Boil the sauce until it thickens slightly
- Shred chicken and serve over pasta. Spoon sauce over chicken and sprinkle with the basil and parmesan cheese.