Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Farm Chicks' cookbook a treat

I really enjoy looking through a pretty new book, and a new one the library acquired has kept me quite busy in recent days, thumbing through the pages and dreaming of food I could cook or crafts I could make.

The book is "The Farm Chicks in the Kitchen" by Teri Edwards and Serena Thompson, regular contributors to Country Living magazine. The pretty, hardback edition is filled with beautiful photographs, recipes, craft ideas and stories from the pair, founders of the Farm Chicks Antique Show in Spokane, Wash.

The book starts with brief first-person stories by the authors telling about their lives and how their antique show evolved. I enjoyed reading about Serena's childhood spent in a hippie gypsy wagon and Teri's stories of growing up in a large family and raising her own girls with a love of cooking.

By the time I had read their stories, I was eager to see their recipes. Let me just say, I'd love to be invited to stay at either Teri's house or Serena's house and sample some of the their food.

The personal notes and striking photographs make the recipes more appealing. For instance, Serena's children request her cinnamon rolls on their birthday. Teri always made Cheesy Potato Soup for daughter Allie when she visited from college. Elaine's Farm Style Chicken Salad Sandwiches recipe came from friend Elaine who made them for the authors at their first antiques show. In a side note they describe how the sandwiches were wrapped in wax paper and stacked on a huge platter. "We were inspired by her old-fashioned presentation and have enjoyed rediscovering the great wrapping wax paper makes."

Scattered throughout the cookbook are craft ideas as well. One page is devoted to place makers made from items found at a flea market. Another suggests making aprons from old sheets.

I also loved the stories of people the two met as they traveled the area looking for antiques.

In other words, there's more to this book than the recipes. But boy are the recipes enticing.

It was very difficult for me to choose a recipe to try in this cookbook because I want to cook so many. I actually bought the ingredients for two, Cherry Breakfast Swirl and Apple Puff Pancake.

I ended up making Cherry Breakfast Swirl, and I'm glad I did. It's a very simple recipe and doesn't take much time at all to assemble. The end result is a very pretty treat that is great for breakfast or any time! Although it was still delicious the next day, I thought it was best just after it was baked.

Make sure to look for this book the next time you're at the Wilson County Public Library. It would also be a fun one to own.

Cherry Breakfast Swirl
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) softened*
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour*
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 21-oz. can cherry pie filling
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
Prepare the batter: Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a large jelly-roll pan.

Cream the sugar with the butter in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and almond extracts and the eggs. Reduce the mixer speed to medium-low and beat in the flour and baking powder just until blended.

Bake the cake: Spread two-thirds of the batter in the prepared pan; the batter will look insufficient and will spread very thinly. Scatter spoonsful of the cherry filling over the top and dot with tablespoonsful of the remaining batter. Then, using the back of a spoon, flatten each little mound of batter just a bit.

Sprinkle on the sliced almonds. Bake until the cake is lightly browned, 28 to 30 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Store in the pan, covered with plastic wrap, up to 3 days.

Makes 20 servings.

*I used 11/2 sticks of butter with good results. I also used self-rising flour and omitted the baking powder.

"Farm Chicks in the Kitchen"

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Tasty cookie

I read way too many cooking magazines. In fact, I read so many that I often forget whether that new salad recipe I wanted to try was in Light and Tasty or perhaps Food Network Magazine. And did I see a recipe for that new pasta dish in a fall edition or a spring edition of Southern Living? Or was it at Christmas?

Until recently, I used to keep the entire magazine on my cedar chest. I'd fold back the magazine to reveal the recipe I wanted to cook. But what if there were two magazines in the book I wanted to try? And what do you do when the stack of magazines gets way too high?

I eventually started tearing pages out of magazines that I don't want to keep, and now I have a stack of ripped out pages I keep tucked away in one of my cooking notebooks. One day I'll get organized. One day ...

While thumbing through a stack of these pages recently, I found a recipe for Oatmeal Toffee Cookies that I had saved from the December 2008 edition of Cooking Light. My children enjoy recipes made with toffee bits (found with the chocolate chips at the grocery store), so I had saved the recipe, intending to try it after Christmas. That was a year and a half ago. Oh well ...

I finally made the cookies last week, and, as predicted, my children loved them. So did my husband. The buttery taste of the toffee is delicious with the oatmeal. It's a simple recipe that mixes up in a just a few minutes. I love having recipes like this that I can make at the last minute for dessert or a bedtime snack. Nothing fancy, nothing complicated.

The cookies didn't last long at my house, and I've had requests for more already.

Oatmeal Toffee Cookies
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour*
  • 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup almond toffee bits
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, oats, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended (about 5 minutes). Add vanilla and egg; beat well. Add flour mixture; beat just until combined.

Stir in toffee bits.

Drop dough by tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart on 2 baking sheets coated with cooking spray.

Bake at 350° for 11 minutes or until lightly browned.
Cool on pans 1 minute. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks.

Cooking Light

* I used self-rising flour and omitted the baking soda and salt.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Strawberry season is one of my favorite times of the year.

I've loved strawberries my whole life and have found joy watching my children and now my granddaughter take delight in biting into a fresh strawberry grown in Wilson County soil.

I've picked strawberries several times this season and bought them from two area strawberry farms. The ones I purchased at Saturday's farmers market are almost gone, so I'll be back to a farm before the week is over to stock up again.

My family loves to eat strawberries unadorned, but we also enjoy them in salads and desserts. And I love that my daughter takes strawberries to school with her lunch.

I've especially enjoyed eating unsweetened strawberries with lite whipped topping and angel food cake this spring. I got the idea after eating the dish at Wilson Medical Center's cafeteria. I don't feel guilty when I mix this treat to take back to work for my afternoon snack.

Sunday afternoon, I mixed up a smoothie using some of my fresh berries. I tried the smoothie with lemonade this time instead of orange juice, which I normally use. It was very good and not too sweet, although you might want to add a teaspoon of sugar if you want it more like a milk shake. I thought at the time how good it would be for breakfast.

If you haven't tried our locally grown berries this season, I urge you to support our local farmers and drive out to one of the farms and give the strawberries a try.

Strawberry Smoothie
  • 6-7 large strawberries
  • 6 oz. container strawberry yogurt, frozen*
  • 4 oz. lemonade or orange juice
Place ingredients in blender and blend until combined.
*It was not easy to remove the frozen yogurt from the container. I let it sit in a bowl of hot water briefly so it could thaw enough to come out of the carton. Next time I might let the juice be the frozen ingredient.

Easy Strawberry Treat
  • Angel food cake
  • Fresh strawberries, sliced
  • Lite whipped topping
Break up angel food cake into bite-size pieces. Add a little whipped topping. Top with strawberries. Add a little more whipped topping to cover. Stir if desired or eat with layers.
Make this recipe according to how many servings you need. I’ve made it as a single serving in a small bowl and for the family in a glass dish.
This dessert is a better if it sits for about 30 minutes. (But I usually can’t wait that long to eat it!)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Twist on salsa

Maybe you've noticed from my recipes that I don't cook Mexican-style foods.

Outside of the occasional Old El Paso taco dinner kit, I just don't experiment. Why? I don't like many of the spices in Mexican dishes, and I especially don't like salsa. Not only do I not like to eat it, I don't even like to smell salsa when my husband puts it on his eggs or my daughter eats it with a plate of chips. I buy it for them, but I don't eat it.

But earlier this semester, my daughter needed to make a dish for a project in her Spanish class at school. Last year, we had much success with a Mexican-styled rice that I've made several times now for the family (me included), so I was game for a new project. She wanted to make salsa and found a recipe that used black beans, black-eyed peas and corn.

We liked the idea of using fat-free Italian dressing in the recipe, although the ingredient surprised us, but we immediately decided to eliminate the black-eye peas and double the black beans instead.

We also used a bag of Steamfresh corn instead of canned corn because we like it so much, and we bought mild Rotel tomatoes and green chilies instead of spicy. I make a slow cooker dip with Rotel, ground beef and Velveeta, and it's not too spicy for me, so I reasoned it would be OK in our salsa as well.

It takes about five minutes to make this delicious salsa. So even if you didn't have plans to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in any way today, you can now. Just stop by the grocery store at lunch and pick up the ingredients.

The mixture of colors, tastes and textures has a lot to do with why I like this recipe so much. It's totally different from anything else I make, and it's so nice to be different every now and then. The crunch of the corn and green beans is such a nice balance with the tender beans. And the spices from the dressing and tomatoes were perfect for my taste. If you like things spicier, buy the spicy version of the tomatoes.

This is a chunky dip and needs a sturdy chip for dipping.

We made the salsa again a few weeks ago for a second Spanish class meal. Anna's teacher requested the salsa again. I took it as a compliment.

This recipe makes a whole lot of salsa and would work very well for a party.

Black Bean and Corn Salsa
  • 2 (15 oz.) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 12 oz. bag Steamfresh Super Sweet Corn (cooked according to package directions
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (I’ve used both yellow and purple)
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper (gives color but fine without it)
  • 2 10 oz. cans mild Rotel tomatoes with green chilies; drain one only
  • 1/2 cup fat-free Italian dressing (I use Wish Bone)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
In large bowl, combine rinsed beans, corn, onion, bell pepper and tomatoes (drain one can only). Mix in Italian dressing and garlic powder. Cover and refrigerate for several hours, but it’s delicious as soon as you make it!
Serve with a sturdy chip.