Friday, April 18, 2014

The Proof is in the Pudding

Good Friday.

8:00 P.M.

I am still debating my Easter menu.

I had thought that I had pretty much established that I didn't want to go with a traditional baked ham dinner.

Then, someone was looking for a recipe using poblano peppers.

And, I remembered a Ham and Poblano Corn Pudding that I had made last summer.

At that time, I paired it with some grilled chicken.

But, corn puddings are traditionally a savory side dish on southern Easter tables guessed it...ham.

The proof in this pudding is that I am still as confused as ever.

Ham and Poblano Corn Pudding

(adapted from Bon Appetit)

2 large poblano chiles
2 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen), divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup butter, melted, and slightly cooled
1 teaspoon kosher salt
large pinch of baking powder
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup corn masa mix
1 cup of ham, cut into thin strips, or cubed
1 cup Manchego cheese, coarsely grated

Preheat the oven to 500F.
Place the whole peppers on a sheet pan and drizzle with oil to cover.
Roast for 10-15 minutes until the skins are completely wrinkled and the peppers are charred, turning them occasionally.
Remove the pan from the oven.
Immediately place chiles in a medium bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand 10 minutes.
Peel and seed chiles; cut into strips.

Reduce oven temperature to 350F.
Butter a 9x13 baking dish.
Combine 1 1/2 cups corn, eggs, melted butter, salt, and baking soda in a blender and process until almost smooth.
Transfer mixture to a mixing bowl and add sour cream, masa mix, ham, cheese, chiles, and 1/2 cup of remaining corn.
Pour pudding into prepared baking dish.
Bake until corn pudding is puffed and golden brown in spots on top, about 40 minutes. (Serves 12)

New Traditions Are Rising

Do you have your Easter dinner menu planned and ready to roll this weekend? Making a big baked ham? Roasting lamb? Deviled eggs? Asparagus? Hot Cross Buns? Lemon Pie? Strawberry Shortcake?

I don't yet know what will land on our table. It is just Hubs and me. I have a small ham, but don't know if I really want to go with a traditional dinner. We could do brunch with cinnamon rolls and soft-boiled eggs, or spiced pecan waffles and bacon, or pancakes and Heavenly Scrambled Eggs. I picked up some fruit that could be tossed into a salad. Later, in the evening, we could have one of Hubs' favorite meals, pizza. But, that is pretty much every Sunday menu for us; will I feel as if I missed out on a holiday meal? Do I want to make a pan of Chicken and Spinach Cannelloni? or find a small prime rib? or make the Ham and Asparagus Lasagna that I shared at South Dakota Magazine this week? Do I want to rise up to a new tradition for my Easter dinners?

What are you serving this Easter? If, like me, you are still indecisive and trying to plan, go check out the Ham and Asparagus Lasagna. It might be your solution for a new holiday tradition.

Ham and Asparagus Lasagna at South Dakota Magazine

Monday, April 14, 2014

National Grilled Cheese Month

April is National Grilled Cheese Month. I am not sure who decides these things, but food bloggers from coast to coast are jumping on the bandwagon, and like they say, "If your food blog friends jumped off a cliff while eating a grilled cheese sandwich, would you?" Evidently, I would. More grilled cheese can't be a bad thing, can it?

I don't know that I have ever met a grilled cheese that I didn't like. From plain, old yellow plastic Kraft singles between slices of white bread, to Jalapeno Garlic Tilapia Panini (YES! paninis are grilled cheese sandwiches), to Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Spinach and Bacon, to a batter dipped Mozzarella and Caper Grilled Cheese, to a Mushroom and Provolone Patty Melt (OK, this might be pushing the definition of grilled cheese), to a Tuna Panini (with bacon!), and the multiple meaty layers of Our Favorite Panini, all that toasty, gooey, cheesy, sandwiched goodness speaks to me. I want it in my belly.

In addition to considering a panini to be a type of grilled cheese, I also lump Monte Cristo Sandwiches into this category. Monte Cristos are usually batter dipped and fried instead of actually grilled, but the filling of thinly sliced turkey and ham combined with melty cheese makes a truly delicious sandwich. I especially love when they are served with jams and jellies for dipping. The combination of the sweetness with the smoky meats and salty cheeses is delectable.

This Not Quite Monte Cristo has all those wonderful flavors but skips the traditional batter dipping in favor of simple grilling. Deli ham and nutty Gruyere cheese are layered between dense white bread that has been slathered with a spiked strawberry jam. Yes! Spiked jam. I used my homemade strawberry jam (made with strawberries from my backyard) and a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon. It is a grilled cheese suitable for celebrating National Grilled Cheese Month.

Not Quite Monte Cristo
(adapted from Food and Wine)

1 cup strawberry jam
1/4 cup Cabernet Sauvignon wine
20 slices of dense white bread (Cottage White or Potato Bread are nice)
8 ounces thinly sliced deli ham
10 slices Gruyere Cheese
softened unsalted butter

Combine jam and wine in a small saucepan over medium heat.
Bring to a simmer to blend flavors and then remove from heat; allow to cool slightly.
Heat a large skillet or griddle.
Spread 10 slices of the bread with the jam mixture.
Top with the ham and the cheese and close the sandwiches.
Lightly butter the outside of the sandwiches and cook over moderate heat until toasted and the cheese is melted.
Cut in half and serve right away. (Serves 10)

Friday, April 04, 2014

Take It, or Leave It

Last year, a group of friends and I headed to St. Paul, Minnesota to attend Pink's concert in her Truth About Love Tour. This was my second concert with the fabulously fearless performer. I love the power of her voice, the raw emotion of her lyrics, and the energy of her shows. She is an incredible artist, and did not disappoint us with her top notch performance.

After the concert, we spilled out into the streets with thousands of other music lovers, and the masses, naturally, filled the nearby watering holes. To say that the businesses were crowded is an understatement. It was standing room only as we darted from one establishment to the next in search of a table, some nourishment, and refreshment. We visited with a few other friends that had made the trip to the concert and ultimately decided that our best course of action was to get a cab and head back to our hotel. The crowds were brutal, and we were hungry. At the hotel, we could order a pizza and open the bottles of wine each of us had smuggled in our suitcases. Simple plan, right?

It wasn't so simple. It was March and there were bitter cold windchills that night. Of course being the practical women that we are, we were dressed for a pop concert, not the winter weather. First, we all tried standing together and hailing a taxi. A couple cars stopped and rolled down their windows, but when we named our hotel that was only a few blocks away, they drove off. Really. They decided to leave us standing there in the cold. After awhile, we took turns trying to get a cab to bless us with the privilege of being their fare while the rest of the group stood just inside the doors of a bar to keep warm. It wasn't just cold. It was miserable. And, the taxicabs kept, one after another, driving away.

Finally, one friend comes running into the warmth of the bar and grabs us. Another friend has scored a ride for us! Awesome! We can't believe the luck! We all piled into the dark sedan with a slight, young man behind the wheel. Then, I noticed there was no meter. There was no radio to connect this car with a dispatch office. This was not a cab. This. Was. Not. A. Cab. Yikes.

There were four of us and only one of him. A couple of these women worked out regularly and one handled all her farm chores in addition to her full-time job of nursing. Additionally, we all were empowered by the music of Pink. We could handle this. There was nervous laughter about our predicament and jokes about how he had better not be taking us to the country to kill us because we could kick his butt. It was a tense moment as the driver made a u-turn, but it wasn't to kidnap us, it was only so that we could arrive on the right side of a one-way street in front of our hotel. In the end, he dropped us off at our front door, provided some lively chit chat about the concert scene in St. Paul, and almost sheepishly asked for only $20 for the ride. We were safe. We ordered pizza. It was all just a story to tell about our wild night with Pink.

Still, we couldn't believe the number of legitimate taxi drivers that either didn't stop at all or drove away as soon as they learned our destination was not a big fare. I had no idea when presented with take it or leave it, they would leave us there on the curb. I am incredibly thankful for kind, random drivers that venture out to make a buck or two after crowded concerts and save the day. (And incredibly thankful ours wasn't a serial killer.)

Like a St. Paul cab driver, I can take or leave most Chinese food. I find many menu items too sweet, too salty, too...not suiting to my tastes. Given the option to take it or leave it, I leave it. Except for Kung Pao. It is the dark sedan that saves the day for me. The extra heat of the dried peppers really makes the difference for me in these dishes. An area steakhouse is owned by a Vietnamese family, and Kung Pao is included in their menu. You guessed it. I don't leave it. I take it. Almost every time we dine there.

This Kung Pao Chicken isn't quite the same as that famous at The Homesteader, but it is a very good home-cooked version. Dark sesame oil adds a flavor hit to the dish. Instead of the broccoli and red onions that I often see along side the chicken in a Kung Pao dish, this recipe includes crisp snow peas and red peppers. It is colorful, flavorful, and quick for a weeknight meal. Take it, or leave it.

(adapted from Cooking Light)

2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound boneless-skinless chicken breast, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup water
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons corn starch
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 large red pepper, cut into strips
1 cup snow peas, trimmed
2 tablespoons chopped dry-roasted peanuts (cashews are good, too)

Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Add onion; saute until softened. 
Add garlic; cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly.
Add chicken; saute until chicken begins to brown.
Combine water, soy sauce, corn starch, brown sugar, fresh ginger, and crushed red pepper flakes. Stir until sugar is dissolved.
Add mixture to pan, bring to a boil.
Add bell pepper and snow peas to pan; cook until crisp-tender and sauce thickens.
Sprinkle with nuts and serve with rice.  (Yield: 4 servings)

South Dakota Magazine Recap

Since I am trying to get back into swing of blogging, I should probably also bring you up to speed with my South Dakota Magazine columns. It looks like aside from a couple quick mentions, it was last March when I did a full recap of those recipes. Wow. Time flies when you are...ummm...well, let's just do the recap and see what I have been up to over at South Dakota Magazine for the last year.

I shared my tired and true method for Chicken Fried Chicken and admit that while I crave a plate of this buttery-cracker-crumb coated chicken fried chicken with garlic smashed potatoes and buttermilk gravy, plain old fried chicken just isn't My Thing.

My pizza loving husband wrinkled his nose at the suggestion of head cheese pizza, but devoured my Artichoke, Spinach, Tomato and Salami Pizza.

I was very tempted by the architecturally beautiful chicken coops and baby chicks at the farm supply store, but knew my lazy side was better suited to shredding a rotisserie chicken for Chicken and Black Bean Burritos.

My weather report from last April sounds much like the first verse of the chorus I am singing again this year as I gave up on the sun and looked from a warm orange glow from Clementine Muffins with Orange Honey Butter.

Potato and Spinach Hash with Fried Eggs highlights my love of putting an egg on anything and everything.

My bulging pantry holds many of the ingredients for Garlic Spaghetti with Beans and Arugula, and the rest come from my summer garden.

Chile-Rubbed Pork Loin and Black Bean Salad was my suggestion to keep food poisoning away from your Father's Day cookouts.

I love a good fire on the patio and believe there is no better sweet treat to end a summer evening than a gooey marshmallow and chocolate s'more. Bringing that toasty process to a savory appetizer is pure perfection with Mozzarella S'Mores.

Watermelon and Cucumber Salad is for those expert watermelon thumpers that can choose a perfectly ripe fruit. I, unfortunately, have some trouble in this area.

It doesn't matter if a Pressed Sandwich of antipasti fillings gets smushed in the bottom of the summer picnic basket.

Tomato and Mozzarella Burgers are one of the delicious versions of garden burgers that make it on my plate with the summer tomato harvest.

For the first time ever, I advocated not to tell Roger about the added vegetables in my Zucchini Meatballs. I am not one for hiding vegetables, but in this case, I made an exception.

Poblano and Corn Crab Chowder uses the last of the seasons' sweet corn and a roasted pepper from the garden to bridge the seasons of summer and fall.

I just can't wrap my taste buds around the smoothie trend, but am willing to hop on the quinoa bandwagon with Quinoa with Corn and Zucchini on my plate.

Pumpkin Gingerbread with Warm Caramel Sauce is one of my favorite fall comfort foods, even when I a sinus infection gets me down.

Halloween was made more ghastly with Worm Sandwiches. Strips of hot dogs boiled into curls and bathed in ketchup are stuffed into bun for a fun meal.

Autumn Yogurt Parfaits are a simple breakfast for Thanksgiving morning. Just enough to ward off the hungries, but leaving plenty of room for turkey and dressing.

I am thankful for so much, and one of the simple things on that list is leftover turkey for Poblano, Ham and Turkey Quesadillas.

I am not a gadget person, but I make 2 exceptions in my kitchen. I must have a food processor and a mandolin slicer. These handy items make preparing Pecan-Crusted Chicken and Au Gratin Potato Stacks a breeze.

The recipe for Shrimp Scampi with Chicken Sausage and Spinach was requested by a magazine reader after it was mentioned in short blurb in the holiday issue. Unfortunately, it took me over a month to finally get it together for him.

Beet and Romaine Salad eases my sad mourning of the loss of garden tomatoes during the winter. The bright color of beets and flavor of the mustardy dressing combine with the greens for a wonderful salad.

I don't shun the Blue Box mac and cheese, but do favor the grown-up version of Tortellini with Corn and Bacon. It is pure comfort food.

The Crock-Pot slowly braises my Corned Beef and Cabbage each Saint Patrick's Day, but I am still not a fan of the vegetables cooked in that broth.

And, finally, we come full circle to my most recent South Dakota Magazine column with a recipe for Salsa Verde as I dream of green in our continuing snowy winter.

It has been a widely varied year of recipes, and I am hoping I can continue to share even more here On My Plate and at South Dakota Magazine

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Knock, knock.

Knock, knock.

Who's there?


Banana, who?

Knock, knock.

Who's there?


Banana, who?

Knock, knock.

Who's there?


Banana, who?

*are you sighing in exasperation yet?*

Knock, knock.

Who's there?


Orange, who?

Orange you glad I didn't say, "banana?"


OK. Really.

Knock, knock.

Who's there?


I am back.

So far, 2014 has been a busy year, and I can't believe that I haven't yet shared anything on the blog. As always, so much has happened. So much good food has been consumed. So many recipes have been tried. But, as always, the first thing that gets plucked from my to-do list when things get hectic is blogging. Hopefully, this will bring me back to share for awhile. Let's celebrate. Let's celebrate with cake. Orange Yogurt Cake. Lately, I have been making my own yogurt, and this cake puts it to good use. It is dense and rich, yet bright with the flavor of citrus. Orange you glad I am back On My Plate?

(adapted from Cooking Light)

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/8 teaspoon crushed saffron threads
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 egg white
1/4 cup plain yogurt
6 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons orange marmalade
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier (orange-flavored liqueur)

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a small saucepan, bring orange juice to a simmer.
Remove from heat and stir in saffron; let stand 10 minutes.
Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
Beat sugar, egg, and egg white with a mixer until thickened.
Add yogurt, beating well. 
Gradually add olive oil and orange juice mixture, beating until well blended.
Add half of the flour mixture to sugar mixture, beat until just blended.
Add remaining flour and combine.
Spoon batter into a 9-inch round cake pan that has been coated with cooking spray.
Bake at 350F for 40 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean.
Cool in pan on wire rack for 5 minutes.
Remove from pan; cool completely on wire rack.
Combine marmalade and liqueur in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Remove from heat; strain through a fine sieve directly over the cake; discard solids.
Spread marmalade mixture evenly over the top of cake, allowing excess to drizzle down sides of cake.
Garnish with fresh fruit, mint, and grated orange rind. (Serves 12)

Monday, December 16, 2013

I Bet That Just Killed You

I have been doing a little holiday baking recently.

I know.

Every year, I tell you that I don't like to bake, but then I share a recipe for some delectably sweet baked good.

I am a conundrum.

But, here is the twist, one of the treats I find myself whipping up most every Christmas isn't actually baked. There is no oven involved in the recipe for Peanut Butter Bon Bons.  It came from my mother sometime in the early 80s, and I suppose you could call it semi-homemade because one of the ingredients is a tub of ready-to-spread vanilla frosting. When I recently shared that secret with a friend, she exclaimed, "I bet that just killed you."


I have no problem with taking a short cut here and there in the kitchen, as long as the end result is good. And believe me, Peanut Butter Bon Bons are good. So good that I can't imagine a Christmas without Peanut Butter Bon Bons On My Plate.

1 can ready-to-spread vanilla frosting
1 cup peanut butter
1/4 cup butter (I use unsalted.)
2 cups graham cracker crumbs (If I am crushing my own, I assume 1 package is 1 cup and do 2 in my food processor.) 
Chocolate candy coating for dipping
Candy decorations, if desired

Cream together frosting, peanut butter and butter until well combined.
Gradually add in graham crackers until fully mixed.
Using a small cookie scoop, portion the peanut butter/graham cracker mixture into 1-inch balls.
Roll the portions into 1-inch balls.
Chill for at least 1 hour or up to a day or 2.
Dip in melted chocolate candy coating.

Allow to dry on waxed paper for a few hours.
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