Saturday, May 23, 2009

Strata Spanikopita

I was looking for what to make for dinner and decided to create something that pays tribute to my favorite appetizer, spanikopita. Perfect for brunch as well, this bakes up fluffy and full of vibrant flavor and color.

10-12 slices of Texas style toast, cubed
8 eggs
4 cups milk
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. pepper
Olive oil
1 pkg. fresh spinach or 1 box frozen, thawed and drained
1/3 cup red onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbs. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
8 oz. feta cheese, crumbled
2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced

Spray a 9x13 baking dish with nonstick spray. Spread 2/3 of the cubed texas toast in the bottom. Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt, thyme and pepper. pour 2/3 of the egg mixture over the bread in the 9x13.

Saute the onion and garlic for several minutes in a skillet and then stir in the spinach, lemon juice and nutmeg. Saute for several more minutes until heated through and spinach has wilted. Spread spinach mixture over the bread and egg mixture in the 9x13. Crumble 2/3 of the feta cheese and chopped tomato over the spinach mixture. Spread the remaining bread cubes over the top and pour the remaining egg mixture evenly over the top. If the bread looks too dry, pour a little milk over the dry spots. Spread the remaining 1/3 of feta and tomatoes over the top. Let sit on the counter for 1 hour and then bake in a 375 degree oven for one hour or until the center is set. It will puff up considerably.

Variation: Add some cooked and cubed chicken breast in with the spinach layer if you like.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Summer Carrot Soup with Ginger Essence

The taste and body of this soup will have you savoring every spoonful. So simple and elegant, it's perfect for a brunch or summer dinner. I serve with a mixed green salad and parmesan crisps. And yes, it's even better the next day so feel free to make ahead and gently reheat.

2 lbs. organic carrots (typically sweeter)
4 1/2 cups water,
2 tsp. salt
5 inch piece fresh ginger, approx.
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup dry white wine
Additional water

Cut tops from carrots and peel them. Halve and cut into one inch pieces. Place in pot with water and salt and cook at a gentle boil until they are soft, 30 to 40 minutes. Meanwhile, grate the ginger over a fine grater into a fine sieve placed over a bowl. Press down on the grated ginger, until you have 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of ginger juice. Set juice aside.

Once the carrots are soft, transfer carrots and remaining water to a food processor and process until smooth. Careful when processing hot foods. Add cream and 1 tablespoon of the ginger and process again. Return to pot and add wine and additional water (if needed, you probably will need) to reach desired consistency. This is not a thin soup. Gently bring back to low boil, taste and add remaining ginger juice if desired. Serve.

Notes: You can reserve some cooked carrot, slice it, and place on top of soup with a drizzle of cream for a nice presentation. You may also reduce the amount of cream if you are looking for less fat calories.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Coffee Crumb Cake

I love anything that has coffee in it. This cake is so dense and moist, and not to sweet. It's a great breakfast treat when you have company or to snack on when getting together with friends for a game of cards. You can make it in a 9x13 or divide it into 2 8x8 cake pans and freeze one for later. Freezing one is the only way I can keep myself from eating the whole thing!

2 cups brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups flour
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 c. warm coffee
1 tsp. baking soda
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 tsp. vanilla

Mix the sugar, salt and flour together in mixer bowl. Cut the butter into the dry ingredients, making fine crumbs. Take out 1 cup of the crumbs and set aside. Dissolve the baking soda into the coffee and add to crumb mixture. Add egg and vanilla. Stir until combined, the batter will be thin and a little lumpy. Pour into a greased 9x13 cake pan. Sprinkle the reserved cup of crumbs evenly over the top. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Try not to overbake.

Note: I use a mixer but you can also mix this by hand.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Canned Roast Beef

Can the right cut of beef and you will have roast that is tender, delicious and quick. I use it to make beef and noodles, (homemade egg noodles that I make with my mom) and for meat in a quick vegetable soup. It's also divine heated in the skillet with onion and peppers for hot roast beef subs. My mom has been teaching me to can and I have been having a ball with it. I have so many ideas to try! I shop around for the beef, when I find it on sale that's when I can. This recipe is for 7 quart jars because that's how many my canner holds. Always follow all the instructions that come with your pressure canner. In the summer months some towns will have canning kitchens at schools and etc. where you can go to can your goods. Check around to see if you have one in your area.

16 lbs. of raw chuck roast or rump roast.
7 glass canning jars with rings and lids.

Wash the jars in very hot soapy water and let dry, I do not pack raw beef into hot jars. Trim most of the fat from the beef and cut into one inch cubes. (roughly) Fill jars with the raw beef but do not pack them tight, leaving one inch headroom at the top of the jar. I find I get between 1.8 to 2 lbs of beef in each jar. Add one teaspoon of salt to each jar and pepper to taste. Wipe the tops of the jars to remove any residue before you place the lids on. Make sure to follow your pressure canners instructions and remember to boil your lids before you use them. Cook at 11 pounds of pressure for 90 minutes, again following your canner's instructions. You will be glad to have this on your shelves!

Note: You do not add any liquid when you can raw beef, it makes it's own beautiful broth. I have always wondered how it would turn out if I added 1/4 cup red wine to each jar though...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Cinnamon Candied Popcorn

When I was a kid there were candy stores that sold different flavors of candied popcorn. Candied popcorn is like caramel corn but instead of a caramel coating, you would have some other flavor. I remember looking in the glass cases and there would just be a rainbow of colors. There was cherry and blueberry and my favorite, cinnamon. Oh, and the smell: it was divine, I remember it perfectly. Now, there is not a store like that to be found and my cravings have been going unfed. After sifting through a lot of recipes I finally came up with my own version. I've made it as one of my Christmas gifts the last two years and it is always the first thing that's gone. It's worth the work to make and will keep for a month or two in a ziploc bag. I hope that you give this one a try and let me know if you enjoyed it.

6 quarts of popped popcorn. (pop in a Stir Crazy or on the stove, do NOT use microwave popcorn.)
12 ounces of cinnamon red hot candies
1/2 c. butter
1/2 c. water
1/2 c. light corn syrup
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. or 1 dram of cinnamon oil. You need oil, not extract, you can find it at

Preheat the oven to 250ยบ. Butter a large roasting pan and add the popcorn to it. If you want you can put the popcorn in the oven to warm while you are preparing the candy coating, but it's not necessary.
Pour the red hot candies into a 2 cup measure and then start adding sugar to the candies, stopping to shake it down into all the nooks and crannies until the sugar reaches the 2 cup line.
In a heavy skillet, bring the candies, sugar, butter, water, corn syrup and salt to a boil. Boil, stirring constantly for five minutes.
Remove from heat and add the baking soda and cinnamon oil. Stir well and stand back to avoid the steam that will come up from the oil, some people are sensitive to it. I like to add the oil outside if possible or open a lot of windows so that my house doesn't smell like cinnamon forever.
Pour over popcorn and toss quickly with a buttered wooden spoon to distribute the candy coating evenly.
Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
Remove from the oven and pour out onto parchment paper or a clean granite or marble counter. Break up the larger clumps as it is cooling and then store in ziploc bags or a plastic container once completely cool. If you like cinnamon, watch out, this is addictive!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

An Outsanding Georgia Winery

I normally only post recipes in this blog but I thought that this was a food worthy subject. Last night a new acquaintance and neighbor of mine called and asked me to go to a wine and cheese tasting with her. It was very impromptu, but my dear husband was happy to watch the kids (God bless him) so I went. The tasting was held by the community we live in and among the different vendors attending there was a Georgia winery. What a treat the evening turned out to be.

Never having experienced a formal wine tasting, I was mesmerized. I knew that there were some vineyards in Georgia but, for no certain reason, I never tried any of their wines. Let me just say, I was very pleasantly surprised. The attending winery was the Boutier Winery. They have a store front in Acworth, GA,, but their actual vineyards are in northwest Georgia Being a Georgia winery they could hardly go without making a beautiful Peach Chardonnay, which for two consecutive years, earned a concordance gold medal at the Indy International Wine Competition. The Peach Chardonnay has also won best in class! They also earned a silver medal for their Elegance Vin Rouge, a unique blend of syrah, cabernet sauvignon and merlot, and a bronze medal for their What a Great Pear, a pear wine aged in coffee beans.

Now, honestly, I never even knew that there was an Indy International Wine Competition, but I was still impressed! And, the proof is in the pudding, or in this case the wine, which was outstanding. Their Peach Ice Wine blew me away. I learned that ice wines are harvested right after the first hard freeze or frost to make the flavors more intense, or at least I think that is how they put it. The Peach Ice Wine had a chocolate aftertaste, and it was divine. Because of how it is made the alcohol content in the ice wine is much higher, almost elevating it to a liqueur so it would be great as a dessert wine or in place of a cognac or brandy. I tried some of their reds and whites and brought a bottle of their Cabernet Franc (2005) home for my hubby as an early birthday present. If you like strong reds, this one has a incredible fig aftertaste, I could not stop sipping it.

If you are any kind of wine connoisseur I highly recommend checking out any of your local or state wineries. If you ever hear of a tasting for one of them, I encourage you to go! You will not only be supporting local business but you will be supporting something that is made in America! And, it's educational. Great job Boutier Winery!