Monday, November 17, 2014

Tradition to Adopt: Stewed Okra and Tomatoes as a Thanksgiving side

Stewed Okra and Tomatoes (serves 4 as main, 8 as side)
Its about time for me to share this recipe... although I made it back in early September with a HUGE sack of Okra a friend brought to us and the last of our garden's tomatoes, it really would be a DELICIOUS Thanksgiving side dish. Also, most recipes I found call for frozen okra and canned tomatoes, so you really can make this year-round.

I've always thought of Thanksgiving as an important holiday for Americans to celebrate our "meltingpot" cultural heritage, and okra is an amazing food that does just that. Originating in modern-day Ethiopia, okra was most likely brought to our country by enslaved Africans (like most delicious southern food). It's also called "gumbo" although it's more likely that you've heard this word in context of soups thickened with okra rather than references to the vegetable itself. Aggie Horticulture writes of the name, "Both of these names are of African origin. 'Gumbo' is believed to be a corruption of a Portuguese corruption, quingombo, of the word quillobo, native name for the plant in the Congo and Angola area of Africa." This dish definitely has its roots in the Cajun and Creole traditions of the south... plus, a version of stewed okra and tomatoes recipe found in Indian cuisine as well. What's more meltingpot than a vegetable and recipe that immigrated to the US from multiple parts of the world? Definitely a contender for a new Thanksgiving side dish tradition.
Confession: Okra's hairy-sliminess isn't always palatable to me... but this recipe breaks down the okra and makes it a smooth texture, plus the flavor of it and the tomatoes comes out beautifully. My grandmother used to make this and for a long time it was the ONLY way I'd eat this vegetable.

What You Need:
2 cups of quartered/cored fresh tomatoes (2 cans of whole tomatoes will do..if you use canned, the Neely's, who I LOVE, of Food Network say to add in the tomato juice from the can, too)
2 cups of sliced okra (I had fresh but a bag of frozen works, too)
1 diced yellow onion
4 slices of bacon + the bacon grease
salt and pepper to taste
if you're feeling frisky... a tsp of red pepper flakes

What To Do:
Start by frying your bacon in your heavy bottomed dutch oven or cast iron pot. While it's cooking,  chop the onion, okra, and tomatoes.

Remove the bacon, and sautee' the onion in the bacon grease until it's transluscent. Add in the okra and sautee for about 2 minutes, adding in the tomato and sauteeing for 2 more minutes. Chop the bacon into small pieces to be added back into the dish.
Pour in the chicken stock or water, add in the bacon, and let simmer for 1-2 hours until the flavors have combined adn the vegetables have broken down considerably. It will be thick and smooth in texture, with some okra pieces still in tact. Salt and pepper to taste here, and add in the red pepper flakes if you're going spicy.
Serve over rice and eat up! What's a traditional dish on your family's Thanksgiving table you think other people should adopt?


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Welcome Wagner to the World!

There's been radio-silence from Mess of Greens, but I promise it's for a great reason... I've been enjoying motherhood every day since February 25th.



I've got several great recipes and photos to share, but just haven't had time to tell you about it all since when I'm not at work these days, I've got this little guy in my arms. Isn't he dreamy?

Coming soon... a Bourbon Peach Ice Cream that's my new favorite, and an attempt to use summer's bounty in a new way by trying my hand at Sweet Corn Ice Cream. Refreshing? Yes.
Tasty? Definitely.
Innovative. For sure.
My favorite ice cream flavor ever? Maybe not.

To quote my favorite radio personality, Ira Glass... Stay with us.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Perfect Biscuit Search #2... Bon Appetit


 I'm not gonna lie, these biscuits turned out pretty well. Flaky, buttery, thick enough to serve with a slab of canadian bacon or egg.... Bon Appetit's Pies and Thighs biscuits didn't disappoint me as I continued the search for the world's perfect biscuit. (Ok, obviously this is NOT an objective category, but I have a flavor/texture/look combination that I'm going for here, and I won't stop until I find it.See other attempts with Flying Biscuits here and Sister Shubert ones here.) The people in my family aren't really buttermilk biscuit people, but it's definitely a southern food group all on it's own, PLUS the photo in BA just looked SO GOOD and pretty close to my vision of perfection so I needed to try it.

What I learned: In terms of what I'm personally shooting for, these biscuits were a little too buttery, but the texture was divine. When I try this recipe again, I could probably use shortening and solve the buttery issue pretty quickly... FYI, Bon Appetit DID NOT LIE when they said they'd found the secret to tender, fluffy biscuits... and the secret is this: don't over-mix. Want more that just a secret? Keep reading.

Bon Appetit Pies-N-Thighs Biscuits
Makes 8-10 2 1/2" Biscuits ( I made a 1/2 recipe from what BA suggests and made them smaller in diameter)

What you Need:
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt 
1/2 teaspoon sugar ( I used truvia because of the whole gestational diabetes thing and sacrificed NOTHING)
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more to keep it from sticking as you roll/press the dough out 
3/4 cups (1.5 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces 
3/4 cups chilled buttermilk
 1 egg, beaten (for the top of the biscuits)

What to Do:
Obviously, as in nearly all baking, preheat your oven to start with to 375. Then, of course, start with your dry ingredients.BA says to put them all into a food processor and blend them, but of course I had some trouble with my food processor as I was trying to make it all happen (Ok, it was user error.... I may have forgotten to put the blade in. sheesh.) so I almost used the sifter, but either way, you want to get all your dry ingredients mixed thoroughly together.


If you haven't already cut up the butter... then do that, obvi. In your food processor (or you COULD do it the old fashioned way...with your hands) add in the butter and pulse it lightly (or smush) until you've got some lumpy, pea-sized pieces of butter and flour all mixed together. Don't over do it or you'll end up with too warm butter, says BA. Put the mixture into a bowl and slowly add in the buttermilk, mixing it in with a fork.
Like this. See, the dough will get just wet enough without being TOO wet. BA says that the dough should look "shaggy"... I guess I see it. ;)
 
From there, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press it into a ball with your hands lightly until it's all together. (Don't do this too much..the more you mess with dough, the tougher it gets) Then, press it out onto the surface (or use a rolling pin. whatevs) until it's about 1 1/4" thick or maybe even a little thicker.  Use your biscuit cutter... one that's about 2"-2 1/2" (I FINALLY have my grandmother's biscuit cutters! It made me think of her just to look down and see them in my hands!) and cut out your biscuits. It's ok if you have to reshape and press out the dough a few times until it's all used up (again, just don't overdo the kneading and pressing)

 once you've greased your baking sheet, put the biscuits on it and then slather them with a little bit of the beaten egg. This really isn't a necessary step, but man, it makes them look so purty when they brown on top. ;)
 SEE? Let them cook for 30ish minutes, and voila'! You'll have a pretty excellent version of a buttermilk biscuit to serve with just about anything. We went with canadian bacon and eggs, and then had one more to grow on with homemade plum jelly. it was a great start to a Saturday.



EASY jalepeno poppers.

Tonight's the SuperBowl, and even though I don't give two hoots about NFL football, AND I ended up with food posioning, I'm not eating anything tonight, but last week we had a fun party and made these poppers. Perfect for the Super Bowl or really anytime you need an easy, delicious, (did I mention easy?) appetizer! You only need a few ingredients a little prep time and you can make it happen!
Easy Jalepeno Poppers
Serves 6-8

What you need:
8 strips of bacon
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
16 Fresh whole jalenpenos (or frozen ones that have been thawed)
2/3rds Block of Cream cheese (preferably NOT light cream cheese.. I'm pretty sure it's too melty)
1 bunch of diced green onions 

 
What to Do:
Start by mixing the cheddar cheese, green onions, and cream cheese together and set it aside.

Cut the jalenpenos in half and de-seed them to get rid of most of the hotter than hades spiciness. If you have smaller peppers, you'll also want to cut your bacon in half so that you don't have the peppers double or triple rolled.

Fill the jalenpenos with the cheese mixture and then wrap with the raw bacon. Hold them together with solid wooden toothpicks (the kind with plastic tips won't do because they may melt) it turns out that we forgot toothpicks (pretty essential to this recipe) so we used skewers. It worked fine, but toothpicks are probably better!

 Put them on a cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 25 or so minutes. Or until the bacon is cooked through but tender.
I promise... They. Are. So. Good.
Some bites may make your mouth fiery (so fiery you'll wish you had a glass of milk) but truly, so, so, delicious!
I forgot to take a photo of the plated, pulled apart poppers... but i promise, even though this doesn't look like much, it was SO delicious. (also, avoid over-filling the jalepenos with the cheese mixture... Or maybe avoid using fat free cream cheese...

Friday, January 31, 2014

Hummingbird Cake with Cream Cheese and Pecan Frosting (for the health nuts & the diabetic pregnant ladies)

It turns out that I've acquired gestational diabetes during this whole pregnancy thing. Considering that for the first 6 months when I gave up diet coke, I took up fruit juice and sweet tea, AND that I couldn't get enough of chocolate milkshakes, it doesn't seem particularly surprising (but it is absolutely the. pits.) I keep having these crazy sugar cravings, which I've kept at bay with sugar-free, fat free jello pudding, but sometimes all I can think about is a giant funfetti cupcake or an oreo blizzard. 
 
We were having a dinner party for some people we're aggressively pursuing as friends (my New Year's resolution) the weekend before my 31st birthday and I just felt like I couldn't possibly serve them PUDDING, so I decided to try my hand at a healthy-ish version of a cake I'd had my eye on since I got this cookbook for Christmas. 
On top of this, the polar vortex also had me wanting something that reminded me of warmer times, so the Classic "tropical" hummingbird cake that I've heard about my whole life, seemed like the way to go and then I found a splenda-based recipe online. Turns out that a little splenda and applesauce can make a cake a little better for you.
Who says the pregnant diabetic lady can't have her cake (and eat it, too?) ;)

Hummingbird Cake
Serves12

What You Need:
For the Cake
3 Cups All Purpose Flour (I bet cake flour wouldn't be bad, either)
3 Eggs (beaten)
1 Cup natural/sugar free Applesauce (or one cup vegetable oil if you want a lighter, less healthy cake)
1/4 Cup Splenda (Or 1/4 Cup granulated sugar)
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1 teaspoon baking soda 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup 1% buttermilk 
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
2 cups diced bananas

For the Frosting
2 (8 ounce) containers fat-free cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup light butter
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp banana extract
3.4 Cup Splenda  
1 cup chopped pecans

What you do:
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and grease and flour two round cake pans.
 Start by mixing all of your dry ingredients in a bowl (ideally the one that attaches to your mixer). This definitely includes the cinnamon, sugar, flour, etc.
In a small bowl, beat together eggs, buttermilk, and applesauce; pour into dry ingredients, and stir until it's all moistened. Don't beat it, but do make sure everything is all mixed together really well.
 You'll then need to chop and add in your fruit... this can get clumpy quickly, so add it in a little bit at a time!
  
Once everything is all mixed together, pour everything into your two floured cake pans.PS: if you taste the batter at this point you may think to yourself "Geez! this is waaaay too sweet! Thanks, splenda. ;) but as the cake cooks somehow the sweetness fades and you end up with something akin to a more tropical banana bread sweetness.
 Once those two babies are in the oven and baking, (cook them for about 25-30 mins or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean) get started on  your DELICIOUS cream cheese frosting. This involves whipping the fat free cream cheese, the 1/4 cup of splenda (maybe add in a pinch or two more to make it a little sweeter) and the butter together.
 Once it's fluffy, add in your extracts and whip a bit more. NOTE: this WILL NOT mix together very well, or whip if the butter and the cream cheese aren't already at room temperature. Trust me. Also, once it's done, don't refrigerate it while you wait for the cakes to bake and cool... you'll get a MUCH harder version of the frosting, which makes slathering it on the cake MUCH harder.
 Once the cakes have finished cooking (and you've tested them for done-ness) go around the edges with a thin knife and flip them over onto a cooling rack. Let them cool for at least 20 minutes. this will keep you from many, many frosting headaches (melty frosting, the soft, warm cake mixing into the frosting, etc)
 Obviously, you'll want to slather some frosting between the two cakes to help them stick together.. also, add in a handfull of pecans for good measure and crunch.
 Cover your cake with all that delicious cream cheese frosting and then garnish with the pecans.
 It turns out that this cake is reminiscent of a carrot cake for some people... a carrot cake made with tropical ingredients. Also, take heed.. the applesauce makes the cake a little heavier than oil might. So, while you get a healthier version, you sacrifice "lightness". I didn't mind one bit.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Grilled Peach and Balsamic Swirl Ice Cream

 
The weather's been crazy-cold all over the south this week... people stranded on highways in Atlanta, Birmingham folks  travelers having to sleep in hotel lobbies... but here in the Delta it's been grey and just SUPER cold. There's ice on Deer Creek and the poor ducks have had to make a little swimming hole for themselves.
And all this cold made me wish for a recipe I made over Labor Day weekend that oozed summer...I can't say it'd be particularly fun to make right now since it depends on grilling-weather, but just remembering it's flavor makes me think of warmer days and green grass.
So, for your own warmer-weather memories...the recipe for Grilled Peach Ice Cream with Balsamic Swirl. (let's be clear... we're talking grilled peace ice cream NOT grilled peaches WITH ice cream. there's a difference and it's important.)

Grilled Peach with Balsamic Swirl Ice Cream
What you need:
6 ripe peaches
3 Cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla
Olive oil spray
1 cup balsamic vinegar

What you Do:
Get your grill all fired up (charcoal or gas, it makes no difference, but what you want is a good hot fire!) Slice your peaches in half, take out the pits, and spray with the oil lightly.
 
Once the grill is ready, place them face down for at least 5-10 minutes... the hotter your grill is, the less time your peaches will need, but if they're grilled more slowly, you'll get great grill marks AND they'll be cooked through.


Once your peaches have a nice brown grilled look (this brings out SUCH a great sweetness to the fruit!!) put them in a food processor and puree them into a fine pulp. Add in the lemon juice and you can add a teaspoon or so of sugar at this point, but the fruit will be so sweet that there's really no need.

You'll want to make sure to put the pulp into the freezer or refrigerator until it's entirely cool (otherwise the warm fruit will WRECK your ice cream consistency and take ten times longer for it to freeze.)
When the peach puree is cold,  get started on the ice cream part of the recipe.... in a bowl, mix together your milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla. pour it into your ice cream maker. When it looks a little slushy (so, not soupy and liquid anymore, but not entirely frozen) pour in your peach puree and let it mix in. 

to Pack the ice cream and add in the balsamic swirl, use a storage container: Make a layer of ice cream, add a layer of balsamic swirl, then another layer of ice cream, then the swirl, etc. Finish with a spoonful of swirl and cover with wax paper, pressing down to keep the air out. Seal it up, and put it in the freezer to harden for at least 30- 60 minutes before serving. Serve with a sliced grilled peach wedge!

I totally apologize for the weird look of my final photo... it was HOT as Georgia Asphalt in July this day, and I was a little impatient to serve it, so it *may* not have entirely hardened... and then it immediately started to melt when I took it outside to our picnicking guests. Even if it was melty, it was DELICIOUS and I plan to make it a warm-weather ice cream staple. I think you should add it to your recipe box, too!