August 28, 2013

Queso blanco dip

I first ate queso blanco dip at a local Mexican restaurant and loved it. Ever since then I've wanted to make it at home, but I wasn't sure what cheese to use to make it melt and have the proper consistency. Plus I figured it was full of a lot of ingredients that I probably didn't want to use anyways. Then I saw this recipe and was excited to give it a try. I changed the recipe a bit and found a nice organic white American cheese at our grocery store's deli that only had a few ingredients in it. You need to use American cheese so that it melts properly and becomes smooth. Once the dip comes together, it is hot, smooth, creamy, and flavorful. It's a cinch to make, too!

I made this dip to go along with the tacos my husband requested for his birthday dinner recently. It was a special treat, but it makes a lot of dip, so we'll be eating it again. This recipe will make enough for 4-6 people to eat as a side, snack, or appetizer. It's perfect to go along with your next taco night or as a party, movie night, or game day snack. Serve with corn chips.

August 19, 2013

Crabapple mostarda

Part of my goal when I started this blog and changing my diet was to begin preserving my own food. I think that canning is gaining in popularity again as people are striving to eat more locally. For me, it's a great way to practice my homesteading skills, preserve the harvest, and try new things like this crabapple mostarda. I had never heard of mostarda before and I didn't even know that you could eat crabapples. I received a copy of Preserving Wild Foods (I really love this book. It's divided into habitats and that really appeals to the cook and biologist in me) for Christmas last year and it has a recipe for crabapple mostarda that I found very intriguing. Plus, my in-laws have a tree full of lovely crabapples that were up for grabs. So making this mostarda was meant to be. I must give props to my husband who was instrumental through the candying process. This recipe is not quick, and, in fact, takes about 6 days in total. Most of the photos were taken by him as he was the one who heated up the syrup each day. Each day the crabapples turned lighter color and the syrup turned darker.

Mostarda is an Italian candied fruit with mustard that is often served with roasted meats or cheese plates. I plan to use at least one jar as a garnish/side to our roasted heritage turkey this Thanksgiving. Crabapples are very tart so they are really lovely for the candying process. Choose firm crabapples. Aside from the mustard seeds, they are spiced with some black peppercorns and cinnamon stick. The original recipe called for horseradish root rather than black pepper. However, I was unable to easily find fresh horseradish root, so I improvised. I also proportioned the recipe up to make more mostarda because we had about 3 pounds of crabapples. This recipe made just under 6 pints. The jars are perfect for bringing as a hostess gift, placing on your fall/winter holiday tables, or giving as a unique homemade gift.

August 15, 2013

Skillet zucchini biscuit pie

Zucchini, zucchini, zucchini..... It's here in full force and ready to be made into all sorts of dishes! I had this zucchini biscuit pie from Cinnamon, Spice, & Everything Nice bookmarked to try since last summer. I was excited to try it and it didn't disappoint. I decided to make it in a skillet because I love to use my cast iron skillet whenever possible, really. The biscuit is filled with Parmesan cheese, sliced fresh zucchini, and fresh basil. It's really flavorful and delicious and makes a nice light dinner or lunch with a side salad. I must say that I love how yellow mine turned out - it's from the awesome fresh pastured eggs I used. Their yolks were so deep yellow/orange and really quite beautiful. A sure sign of a good egg!

While it's called a pie, it reminds me more of a quiche or cake as there's no crust and it contains a few eggs. This recipe will make enough to serve about 4 people as a main dish. Feel free to experiment with this recipe - you can change up the veggies, herbs, and cheese to make all sorts of different flavor combinations. If you have some yellow squash, it would be lovely to replace some of the zucchini with it to vary the colors. 

August 12, 2013

Slow cooker barbeque black-eyed peas

In an attempt to be more frugal and also to eat less processed foods, I've been using dried beans more than ever before. I almost always used to use a can of beans when I needed them, and while those still come in handy sometimes, using the slow cooker to make beans has become one of my favorite discoveries. I use it to make pinto or black beans for in tacos and burritos quite often, and now to make a version of baked beans that doesn't require me to turn on the oven. I've always liked black-eyes peas, but don't really eat them very much - so I decided to use them for this dish. You could use other beans as well such as navy. These beans are a great side dish for a summer picnic and go great with all sorts of grilled summer foods like burgers, sausages, hot dogs, and more. This recipe will make enough to feed a crowd.

August 6, 2013

Lemon-zucchini cornmeal cookies

Do you ever experience this: you think up an idea for a recipe and decide to type it into Google, only to find that hundreds of other people have already thought of the same idea?? This happens to me somewhat frequently, and is exactly what happened with these cookies. I was thinking about a way to incorporate zucchini into a cookie and thought that lemon would be a nice way to compliment the zucchini and flavor the cookies... I was a little surprised to see that Martha Stewart already has a recipe for such a cookie, and so do a lot of other blogs, etc. Oh-well.... It's probably pretty difficult to create a recipe from scratch that is completely unique. So I used Martha's recipe as a guide to make my cookies.

I rarely make cookies outside of the holiday season, but I was trying to think up a way to use up some zucchini into a sweet treat that wasn't zucchini bread. These cookies were a winner. I used a medium grind cornmeal in mine, which gave them nice texture, but you can use fine cornmeal if you don't want any crunch factor. The cookies were soft and chewy and really moist from all the zucchini. This recipe will made about 18-20 cookies.