Saturday, January 30, 2016

Friday Night Gorditas For the Win!

Hello, everybody! Mary here with a delicious recipe I've eaten many times but never attempted myself. I just loooooove to try out my iffy recipes on the Yankee Belle Cafe crowd, so be prepared for some culinary wandering!
But first, some pictures. 
Terrible photo but it made me smile so I'm putting it up. This is what happens when your little brother is sad because he's too little to play the guitar. You make it happen. 

Also, my fourteen year old decided to color her hair purple. (Not a picture of her. I have some great shots but I'm still having trouble uploading to facebook. I think there's some setting that I can't figure out. If anyone has any tips, let me know. :P Some do, some don't. Technology!)
This is where I used to be the children's librarian but it didn't look like this. Behold the powers of a state grant! I'm so excited about our children's section now. Instead of dreary brown and tan and dusty half-filled shelves, there is this! Bright, cheerful, full of books and toys. Our little town doesn't have a single indoor play area for children (not even a McDonald's) so this is just an incredible gift to the community!
 This is what happens when a 12 year old gets dish duty.... I hope there's a college major for bubble making.
I'm pretty sure little brother doesn't know what big brother has written on this box. 

And now for a recipe!
 There is something I love to eat when we go to Mexico. It's called "gorditas", which means "little fat ones" and I'm pretty sure that is a description of the food and not the person eating it but don't quote me on that. Anyway, gorditas come in many, many different styles and vary hugely from region to region.
 So, following the directions on the back, add four cups of cornmeal masa mix, 4 tsp baking soda and two cups chicken stock. Mix until it makes a thick dough. The baking soda will make it fluff up a little. Without it, you're making a hard tortilla. (Those are also great, but I had something specific in mind, so I added the baking soda.)
 Add two tsp of paprika. Some add salt here but the chicken stock and the baking soda has salt, so I just had 1/4 black pepper and 1/4 cayenne pepper.
 Make a ball about 4" inch diameter.
 Using another piece of foil, squash the corn meal mix flat, to about 1/4 of an inch.
You can make them look perfect but we weren't too bothered by rough edges so we didn't trim them at all. Stack them on a plate.
 Now, traditionally, we ate these heated on a tortilla cooker. But as I tried it, even using the lid of a pot, it just didn't taste the same. I'm not sure if I was missing an ingredient (my mother in law uses lard in a lot of food and I didn't have any lard, just olive oil, so that may be the difference) or if they were cooked outdoors and clearly my kitchen is not outdoors.
After cooking one side for several minutes on medium high heat (don't worry about burned parts, it should be similar to cooking over a fire), flip it over and put a lid on it to trap some of the steam.
 This doesn't look particularly special the smell of roasted corn meal had brought everybody into the kitchen! MMMMM.
The toppings we use are pretty simple, but you can really add anything. A lot of people top the gordita with shredded carnitas (shredded pork or beef). We use diced tomatoes, avocado, hard cheese, and a squeeze of lime.
 The gordita is crunchy but not too hard. If a fried flour tortilla for tradition taco is a ten on the hardness scale, this would be a six. The baking soda keeps it fluffy in the middle. More like a flavorful pita bread than a hard taco.
 Street vendors in my husband's home town often fry the gorditas and some of my kids prefer them that way. Really, isn't everything better when it's fried? Personally, I could eat them straight, just like this. They're really so tasty.
 Golden brown, fried to perfection... but I'm not as good at flipping them in the skillet so they get a little broken around the edges. (These are also pretty soft. Think a crispy pancake rather than a hard taco.)
 The hot gordita topped with chilled avocado, tomatoes, cheese and lime is a perfect mid-winter meal. Fresh but filling!
That's it for this week! I hope everyone is keeping warm as we head into February! Feel free to stop by my author page at Mary Jane Hathaway, my other author page at Virginia Carmichael, my blog The Things That Last or over on Huffington Post Books.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Fruity Chicken Salad

with Missy Tippens

I thought I'd share a new yummy chicken salad recipe with y'all today. The original recipe is Trisha Yearwood's Food Network recipe called Billie's Houdini Chicken Salad.

Here's my version…

3-4 chicken breasts--skinless, boneless
1-½ cups plain Greek yogurt (I used 2 small containers but probably needed a third)
1 cup seedless grapes, cut in half if they're large (mine were small, so less work!) :)
½ cup roasted, salted almonds, chopped
½ cup roasted, salted pecans, chopped
½ cup dried cranberries
1 large apple, peeled and diced (I used a wonderful new apple I've discovered called Opal apples)
½ of a sweet or red onion, finely chopped (I used a Vidalia-type onion)
Drizzle of honey

Add chicken to boiling water and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Then remove from the pan and let it cool. 

While that simmers, do the prep work. First I washed the grapes. Then I realized I didn't have roasted nuts so tossed them with olive oil and kosher salt and roasted them. And believe it not, I didn't burn them!! (very rare) :)

Once chicken is cool, either dice or shred it. I diced but ended up kind of wishing it had been shredded.

Here's one of the Opal apples. I love them! They're sweet but not too sweet for those who like tart apples.

The nuts are done! Now chop them.

Once everything is chopped, stir in the yogurt, onion, apples, cranberries and nuts.

And don't forget the grapes! Drizzle with honey and then season with salt and pepper to taste.

A huge bowl of deliciousness.

The Greek yogurt makes a healthy version of chicken salad. But once I tasted it, I decided that maybe next time I would add a little mayonnaise for a bit more creaminess. I'm used to chicken salad with mayo so this felt like it was lacking a little something. Next time, I think I'll add a ½ cup mayo.

Serve on crackers or bread or my favorite--croissants. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Baklava: Super Easy Nut Pastry, Upstate Style!

Ruthy here, with a family favorite... and a twist!

When I posted this pic on facebook, several folks mentioned that it brought back memories of friends or neighbors or relatives...

I'd never had baklava until I worked as a waitress at a local Greek restaurant... The owner's mother made a lovely baklava and Greek-style rice pudding, and I love learning from cooks who've got their hand in the pot of other cultures... but you know me, I like to play it my way!

My kids weren't big honey-lovers, so here is the famous and popular (well, famous in our house!) New York Style Baklava, an easy peasy recipe from our place to yours:

1 sleeve frozen Phyllo dough
2 sticks butter, melted

Nut mix:
1 cup almonds
1 cup walnuts
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Finely chop almonds and walnuts, mix with sugar and cinnamon.

*RUTHY TIME SAVER TIP: I use my food processor and finely chop a whole big bag of almonds and walnuts that I buy at Sam's Club, add 2 cups sugar and 3 teaspoons cinnamon mix and freeze in plastic container or 1 gallon freezer bag. Then when you make baklava, you just scoop out 2 cups of mix, already prepared and perfectly fresh!

Thaw phyllo (fillo) dough. Double line a 13" x 9" pan with aluminum foil (I use heavy duty)

Drizzle a little butter in pan, lay 3 sheets of phyllo (sometimes it tears, no one will know!) dip pastry brush in butter and gently brush phyllo with butter.

Repeat, then sprinkle about 2/3 cup nut mix over the second layer.

Repeat, ending with phyllo dough on top. Generously butter top fillo dough, and gently "score" the top layer of phyllo with a sharp knife in diamond or squares or triangle shapes.

Bake at 350° for about 30 to 40 minutes until golden.

Remove from oven, allow to cool about ten minutes, then slowly drizzle hot syrup over the top, allowing it to sink into the perforations.

2 Cups Real Maple Syrup
1 teaspoon or so cinnamon

Heat until hot, but no need to boil. Drizzle over warm baklava.

Allow to sit for about 10-15 minutes, then eat warm or cool.

Baklava stays fresh for days, the syrup seals the pastry-rich freshness in.

Next month we're going to do Isabo's version of baklava... Isabo is helping run the kitchen at the fictional Double S ranch in Gray's Glen, Washington... It's a fictional kitchen, but boy she knows her way around, enough to keep a whole bunch of cowboys happy.

Our moon....

Clouds have prevented me from getting a pic of the four planets in alignment, but I got this lovely moon shot, so I was happy. And the coyotes had two "runs" behind my house that night, one for a hunt and the other just because they wanted to sing to the moon.

We got a dusting of snow... last week was the first time our plow man had to come. THE FIRST TIME!!!! That's crazy talk around here. But this dusting is picturesque, isn't it?

I'm busily finishing my third Grace Haven book, there are three Ruthy books releasing in March, "Back in the Saddle" (3/16), "More Than a Promise", (3/18) and "Toss the Bouquet", a "Year of Weddings" novella collection.

Watch here and other blogs for some delightful recipe and book giveaways through February! I'd love to pull your name out of the cat dish!

Multi-published, best-selling author Ruth Logan Herne pretends to be normal because she knows it makes folks just plain feel better, but she knows the truth... she loves the crazy, fun people in her head, she loves writing sweet, inspirational stories, and she's generally happy if the possums leave the cat food on the porch alone.

Her needs are few! :)

She loves making new friends on facebook, or stop by Ruthy's Website...

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Of Blizzards and Bean Soup

If you are part of the cyber-connected world, you could not have missed that the East Coast/Mid-Atlantic region was hit by a storm this weekend. When a natural disaster hits the news centers, it tends to become national news.

Here in NYC, the Blizzard of 2016 was the second highest snowfall on record, beat out only by 1/10 of an inch in 2006.

I remember the 2006 storm fondly. We had several days off from school. No such luck this time. Between the blizzard falling on a Saturday, and the smartly-imposed ban on all traffic, most of the roads were clear by Sunday afternoon (unless you live way out in the outer boros).  So school was open on Monday. Walking was a whole lot of fun (NOT!), but the city was functioning smoothly despite the mountains of snow.

Back on Sunday, I was looking for some good, soul-warming food. I'd been meaning to make up a pot of Tuscan White Bean Soup for a while, so that's what I did.

I didn't follow any recipe, just threw in what seemed right.

I started with carrots and celery diced, added low-sodium vegetable broth, and a can of cannellini beans. I like to buy  Eden Organics because they are packed with seaweed. They're low in sodium, but it's natural sodium from the seaweed, not from some chemical preservative.

 I threw in some garlic and dried herbs to taste - thyme, oregano, and rosemary.

After simmering awhile, I tossed in a mix of greens - chard, spinach, baby kale, etc.,  and cooked a few minutes to wilt the greens.

It was that simple.

I topped it with some shredded cheese to serve - because what doesn't taste better with shredded cheese melting into it?

Ever since Virginia's post on baking the perfect Boule, I've been craving bread. I found this fabulous loaf at my local produce store. Look how glossy and full of air pockets it is! I figured Virginia would approve.

All in all, a very satsifying and hearty meal.

What's your favorite blizzard food?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

An Appetizing Meal

Well, now we know which teams are going to be in the big game. 
After months of football, it's come down to the Denver Broncos and the Carolina Panthers. Two very deserving teams. And I'll be honest, I love Peyton Manning. Although, Cam Newton has definitely captured my interest.

Just yesterday morning it hit me that in only two weeks, football will be over.
A sudden sadness fell over me. Do I sit and watch every game? No. But there's just something right about hearing the roar of a game in the background on weekends. 

Subconsciously, I must already be gearing up for the big game, because Saturday night's dinner consisted solely of appetizers. And I did it all with stuff I had on hand.

We had classic deviled eggs. 
Great anytime, but especially when you have a surplus of eggs.

Brie-Stuffed Mushrooms.
I can hardly think of a time when I wouldn't want these, but when you have a package of mushrooms that are down to their last couple of days and Brie leftover from New Years, it's definitely time.
You can find the recipe here.

And then we had these.
Bacon-wrapped shrimp.
I'd been dying to try this recipe for a while, though I'm not sure what I was waiting for. I always have shrimp in the freezer and bacon in the fridge. No special ingredients required.

To make them, you simply wrap raw, peeled and deveined shrimp (preferably large to jumbo variety) in half a slice of regular-sliced bacon, securing the bacon with a toothpick.

Lay them atop a wire rack that's been placed over a baking sheet and set aside.

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Melt 1 stick of butter, add a tablespoon of chili powder and blend well. For those of you who aren't fans of spicy food, you're in luck. Chili powder isn't hot, merely full of flavor. You can also add some finely minced garlic or garlic powder, if you wish. I decided this after they were cooked.

Brush the wrapped shrimp with half of the butter mixture, then bake until bacon is cooked, 5-10 minutes. 
Remove from oven and brush shrimp with remaining butter mixture.

Easy peasy. 
And delicious, too.

Do you ever have appetizers for dinner? What are some of your favorites?