Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Bread is Not Optional

I do not have much to say just now except that school has been keeping us very busy. It is really in full swing now. I sat down this week and put all of my reading assignments on a calendar, and whew, it is a lot, verging on impossibility! I am doing my best to stay on top of things, but of course, there is always the tyranny of the urgent. The most pressing assignment is the one which will monopolize my time. I have to remember not to worry about tomorrow, for it has it's own worries, but to focus on today's assignments.

Which brings me to my kitchen. Of course, we have to keep eating (and that food calendar is very handy right now). Most days, we have sandwiches for lunch. And because bread is not optional for sandwiches, I took some time out last weekend to make Colonial Oatmeal Bread.

I make this bread for several reasons. First, it is wonderful. It is so tender and flavorful. Second, it is an escape; it takes me to my childhood when my dad would make this and we would eat buttered slices straight out of the oven while it was still warm (This was before the days when there were four bakeries in every neighborhood offering freshly baked breads of every variety.). When I am in the midst of five different theological books, each slightly out of my grasp at points, it is good to have something simple and good for which I can praise God. Third, because we just plain need bread for sandwiches, and I wouldn't rather have any other bread to get me through the day.

Colonial Oatmeal Bread
from my Dad
(I think the recipe originally comes from Good Housekeeping, 1981)
*I need to get my facts straight before I post. My dad told me that he had the recipe before 1981, and thus, any later copies were stolen from him.*

4 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast (two packages)
1/2 cup honey
4 tablespoons butter
2 1/4 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
2 3/4 cups all purpose flour (more or less)
4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup quick cooking oats
1 egg

In a medium bowl (or in a saucepan), heat the butter and honey until the butter is melted.  Remove from heat.  Add the water; the mixture should be warm (110-120 degrees). Stir in the yeast and let sit until bubbly, about 10 minutes (this is called making a sponge).

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine salt, 2 cups whole wheat flour and 1 cup all purpose flour. With mixer on low, gradually blend liquid into dry ingredients until just blended. Increase the speed to medium, beat two minutes, occasionally scraping bowl. Gradually beat in egg and one cup whole wheat flour to make a thick batter. Continue beating two minutes. Stir in oats, 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup all purpose flour. Knead till smooth and elastic. Use more flour if too sticky (I usually have to add about 2/3 cup more).

Place in greased bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Punch the dough down. Turn onto floured surface; cover with bowl and let rise 15 minutes. Shape into loaves and let rise 1 hour in greased 9 x 5 loaf pans.

Bake at 350 degrees, 35 to 40 minutes.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

In-Law Stories

I know what you're thinking. This blog post can go nowhere good. But, you know, with all of those negative in-law stories out there, I have a few good things to say. Really.


I love my in-laws. I know that I am blessed to have married such a wonderful man, and that he comes with such a wonderful family. That is not to say that we are similar. Sometimes it seems like we come from different planets! His family goes when mine stops. His family talks when mine is quiet. But the great thing is, his family brings a spice to my life.

His family, on Their Best Behavior

One of the first times that I knew this spark was in wedding presents. The two gifts from his family that stand out to me really make me crack up. First, there was a gift from his sister, Lauren. It was a spice rack (perfectly normal present, right?). It came with a note, addressed to him, "you're getting a nice rack" (and I cannot believe that I am sharing this with you.). I could never look at that rack in the same way. The other gift was presented to me at our rehearsal dinner. My father-in-law told me that they were giving me a piece of lingerie that was sacred to their family, in front of my family (who don't talk about such things in public). I am sure that my face was bright red, until I saw the "lingerie."

Can you see it? I'm wearing it over my dress.

A view from the back; I'm pretty sure Rocky Top is being played

Yes, our families are quite different. When it comes down to it, we are all human, and all created in the image of God. His family shows me a different, equally beautiful side of our creator. What an awesome commonality to share.

Parents (Mine above, his below)

His family has been generous to take an interest in my life. They have been incredibly supportive of my blog, and I don't know, but I wonder if more of my in-laws read my blog than my own family! I recently received a long letter from my aunt-in-law, with several recipes and the stories behind them. She requested that I try them to see what improvements or changes I would make. One of the recipes jumped out at me because I have been wanting to make it for a while. So here it is: Pumpkin bread. But you know, I couldn't leave it like it was. So here it is:

Bourbon Buttermilk Pecan Pumpkin Bread (A recipe in progress*)

1 cup sugar**
1 cup brown sugar**
4 eggs
2/3 cup vegetable oil
15 oz. pumpkin puree
3 1/2 cups flour (I mix half/half whole wheat and all purpose)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/4 teaspoon ginger
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup bourbon
1 1/2 cups pecans, chopped

In a large bowl, mix the first five ingredients. Add half of the flour, stirring until just combined. Mix in the bourbon and buttermilk. Add the rest of the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices, stirring until combined. Fold in the pecans.

Pour into two greased 9x5 loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour 10 minutes, until a tester comes out clean (check at 1 hour).

*I am not completely happy with this recipe as-is. I'll keep working on it and let you know when I get it to where I love it!

**The original recipe called for 3 cups of sugar. If you prefer your bread sweeter, by all means, add more sugar!

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Monday, September 21, 2009

One question...

What do fall Saturdays mean to you?

I think about Fall festivals and produce at the curb market in every color of orange and golden yellow. I think about going for a leisurely walk through the neighborhood, when all of the shops are opening their doors and displaying evidences of the coming season in their windows. There's something serene about the cool nip in the air on a fall Saturday. There's something wonderful about sleeping late, comfortable in the warmth of your bed covers, or waking early to enjoy a good cup of coffee. There are the smells, the flavors, that have withheld themselves since last Christmas; full of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, pumpkin, sweet potato, winter squash, and gourds. I think that it is the newness and freshness of everything that is so enjoyable. It has been a whole year since we have enjoyed fall in this capacity!

There is one thing, however, that I have neglected to mention. One very important factor. That would be SEC football. Yes, I know that college football exists across our great nation, but not really in my world. The world of Southern football has been a recent addition to my life. You see, I went to a smaller school, with a football program that is more likened to high school caliber. Don't get me wrong, I went to the games and I enjoyed them, but it's just not the same. I never really experienced a big college football game until after I had graduated. Having married a University of Tennessee graduate, and with a brother in the Auburn University Marching Band, my world has been invaded by SEC football from all sides.

One great thing about not having an alumna allegiance to a particular school is that I can cheer with my friends for their teams. Although I do hold Auburn football closest to my heart, I will cheer with my husband for UT, my dad for the University of Alabama, and, more recently, with new found friends for Georgia.

In case you've never experienced it, a large part of college football is tailgating. It is usually a potluck of everything good. Depending on how serious the tailgaters are, they might drive up with a full trailer carrying a grill, Flat-screen T.V. (or two), large igloo coolers of beverages of choice, and hundreds of sides and goodies, or, like my family, things are a little simpler with a couple of small coolers of fabulous ham sandwiches, kettle chips, and some cookies or brownies.

Although we are too far away to enjoy the tailgating experience of fall Saturdays, we have been able to enjoy watching the football games and excellent food with fellow (stranded) SEC fans. We recently spent an evening watching football with our Georgia fan-friends, enjoying some amazing home-made pizza. I contributed a batch of one of my all-time favorite brownie recipes.
Peanut-Peanut Butter Brownies

27 ounces, weight Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips, Divided
3 ounces, weight Unsweetened Chocolate, Chopped
3 sticks Plus 2 Tablespoons Butter, Room Temperature, Divided
1 cup Sugar
3 whole Eggs
1½ Tablespoon Vanilla Extract, Divided
½ cups Plus 1 Tablespoon Flour
1½ teaspoon Baking Powder
½ teaspoons Baking Soda
¾ teaspoons Kosher Salt, Divided
1½ cup Chopped Salted Roasted Peanuts
1½ cup Chunky Peanut Butter (not Natural)
1 cup Powdered Sugar
¼ teaspoons Ground Nutmeg
1½ Tablespoon Whole Milk

Part 1: Brownies

Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan. Line the pan with parchment paper, leaving 1-2 inches to hang over the sides. Grease the parchment paper.

Melt 2 sticks of butter, 1 2/3 cups of chocolate chips and 3 ounces of unsweetened chocolate in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until melted and smooth. Let this mixture cool until warm.

Use a spatula and stir the sugar, eggs and 1 tablespoon vanilla extract until just mixed. Mix in the folded chocolate mixture.

Sift the 1/2 cup flour, baking soda, baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt into the chocolate mixture and stir until just combined.

Mix together another 1 2/3 cups chocolate chips, the chopped peanuts and the remaining 1 tablespoon flour. Fold into the chocolate mixture.

Pour into the prepared baking pan and bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees. The center of the brownies will still be soft, but do not overbake.

Part 2: Peanut Butter Icing

Using a hand mixer, blend peanut butter with 6 tablespoons of butter. Add the powdered sugar, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, nutmeg, milk and 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract. Mix well.

When the brownies have cooled, spread the icing over the top of the brownies with a spatula. This can be a little messy, but just make sure that the icing is evenly spread over the brownies.

Refrigerate until slightly cool.

Part 3: Chocolate Ganache

Microwave the remaining chocolate chips with remaining 4 tablespoons of butter, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth.

Pour the ganache over the top of the icing and spread with a spatula.
Refrigerate until the ganache is set. Cut into squares and serve.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Creating a Food Calendar

I'll apologize in advance. In the theme of starting a new school year, this blog post is highly instructional, a bit long winded, and although it does have a lot to do with food, it is not a recipe. Therefore it is lacking the lovely food photos usually displayed. I hope that you'll be just as happy with a photo of us on the first day of school.

Several of you have asked about constructing a food calendar. It's a basic process, but I'll try to paint a picture for you here and to give you insights into my "creative" process. But before I begin, here are a few pointers.

Pointer 1.) Do not plan to cook every night! I recently read a magazine article that gave menus for every night for an entire month; how overwhelming! This is real life here. Plan for leftovers.

Pointer 2.) Limit yourself. I'll explain more on this below, but limits are good. They push us to become better cooks.

Pointer 3.) Be aware that someone may ask you to dinner and threaten to interrupt your calendar. Fellowship is so important! People should come before schedules. Try to be willing to move things around, or if you've already bought the ingredients and, say, the meat is going to go bad if you don't cook it that day, invite them to your house for dinner! Real life has interruptions!

Some very helpful aids.

The Process:

1.) Create a blank calendar using a program such as Microsoft Word or Publisher. You can start with as little as one week and up to six months. Think of this as your canvas.

2.) Go ahead and throw on there any food-related special events, occasions or holidays. If you have a Supper Club at your house once a month, put that on there. If you are hosting Thanksgiving, that would be good to include as well.

Look at these beauties! Please don't leave them on the shelf! (Ignore that Pat Conroy library book!)

3.) Pick three to four nights a week that you want to cook. I have tried both, and right now I am on the three night plan (Monday, Wednesday and Friday). Next, limit yourself and choose a genre or theme for each cooking day. For example, for the next four months, we will have soup each Monday, breakfast for dinner each Wednesday, and a seasonal meal each Friday in our household. Here are some other genres you can employ: international cuisine night, meatless meal night, seafood night, crock pot meal, etc.

One point of limiting is to encourage you to try some new dishes. If we are having soup every Monday night, we don't want to eat the same soup over and over again. So, I have to branch out and look for new soups to try.

Another facet of limiting your genres is to give you some structure and guidlines as you develop your calendar. You will only have to look in one section of a cookbook to find all of the breakfast recipes. It is also freeing because you will know generally which days are busier than others, and you can plan the easier fare for the busier days. For me, I have class on Mondays and Wednesdays evenings, so they have easier preparation nights (theoretically). I do not have class on Fridays, so I can spend more preparation time and get my fill of seasonal fall and winter fare.

4.) Here comes the fun part: choose your menus! Pull out all of your favorite cookbooks. Go to your favorite blogs. Go to If you want to challenge yourself, pull out the cookbooks that you don't normally use. Using them as a guide, go through and fill in your calendar.

I usually do not note where I found the recipe or idea for the meal; for example, I might have run across a Shrimp and Grits recipe in a magazine and put it on my calendar. When it's time to cook that meal, however, I have no recollection of which cookbook or website or magazine inspired that night's menu. This is usually not an issue for me because I have no quams about finding a new Shrimp and Grits recipe to use. However, if you have a specific recipe that you want to try, it is a good idea to note the recipe source on your calendar.

Printed internet recipes, magazine clippings, photocopies of my mom's handwritten recipes, and notecard recipes from my grandmother are organized in notebooks.

5.) Print out your calendar and hang it on your refrigerator, but remember that things might change around. Be willing to mark through menus, or move them to the next day. Friday night meals might be pushed to Saturday night or Sunday lunch. You might not even get to a meal; throw that meat in the freezer for a later date!

I know that this seems like a long process, but if you're to this point, then you're pretty much done! Use your calendar to make out your grocery list each week!

Here is a sample month (click to make it larger):
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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Free Apples

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were walking through our neighborhood and saw this:

We had seen the table (and an accompanying sign that said "Free Apples") a few other times, but there had never been any available bounty. This time, however, the table was full of apples. These apples were the kind that you don't see at the grocery store; they had bumps and bruises and lopsided parts. Nevertheless we stuffed our pockets full and snagged as many as we could hold in our hands and headed home.

It didn't take me long to know what I would do with my new found bounty. I was talking about it before we even reached our front porch. I would make apple butter, loaded with spices and sugar and just delicious. By 2:00 the next day, I had two beautiful jars of apple butter to put away in the pantry, and one container in the refrigerator to eat immediately.

This recipe was developed from several others; I primarily went off of my mother's pear butter recipe which I have made in the past, but I also referred to Elyse's recipe at Simply Recipes and some posts on the web. I read several posts on a message board about cooking apple butter in the oven (after the initial 20 minute cooking). This resulted in a gorgeously dark and rich apple butter.

By the way, you can use several different kinds of apples, particularly those that you would use for a pie, crisp or baking. Stay away from Golden or Red Delicious.

Apple Butter

2-3 pounds apples, peeled and cored and sliced
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup water
zest and juice of one lemon
1-3 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon cloves

Place the apples, vinegar, water, lemon juice and zest in a large oven-proof pot. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour the cooked apples into a blender or food processor and blend until well pureed.
Return the pureed apples to the pot, measuring as you go. For every cup of blended apples that you have, add 1/2 cup brown sugar.* Add the spices to the pot. Cover the pot and put the whole thing in the oven. Cook for 2-3 hours at 300 degrees, stirring every half hour. When you stir the pot, taste for sugar and spices; you may want to add more depending on your preferences.

Store in the refrigerator, or seal in canning jars to store for months (or years) in your pantry, give away for Christmas gifts, etc. If you're not familiar with canning process, The Pioneer Woman gives step-by-step instructions here.

*You might want to go easy on the sugar to begin; you can always add sugar as you go.

Oh, and "thank you" to our kind neighbors, for sharing your apples.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Southern at Heart

This is quickly climbing my favorite cookbooks list:

This cookbook has lovely stories and the recipes are fun to read. "Fun to read, you say?" Well, it's fun to compare other southerner's recipes with my own and those of my family. Southern cooking is an art form. It's a way of life. It will always point to home.

To me, southern cooking is embodied in the summer by fresh vegetables, cornbread muffins (Lula's recipe), the best seafood (often a competition among my uncles) and my dad's fig ice cream. Winter brings the same divine Dressing casserole, Lala's Corn Pudding, Sweet Potato Casserole and Smoked Turkey to our Christmas and Thanksgiving tables each year. The list goes on, and hopefully I will be able to share some of my family's southern recipes with you.

The interesting thing about Matt and Ted Lee is that they are not originally southerners. They were born in New York City and moved to Charleston during their Pre-Adolescent years. When they returned to NYC, it became evident that southern heritage and cooking had a strong hold on their hearts.

If you read the Lee Bros. cookbook, you will discover that they began a southern shipping company after they tried selling boiled peanuts in New York. This launched them into a world of southern food, and they began developing their own southern style. The book is full of classic southern recipes, many from South Carolina Locals and more their own take on those classics. I loved comparing their pear chutney recipe with my own and I cannot wait to try their grits casserole. Their buttermilk sweet potato pie, however, was quite possibly the sole reason that I could not wait to buy this book. Of course, the book has a recipe for boiled peanuts, too.

Boiled peanuts are quintessentially southern, and are sold at many gas stations and road side stands throughout the south. Despite my love all things southern, I had never made boiled peanuts, and really did not eat them unless I was with my friend Becky who always bought them from a man in the mall parking lot. We had a few friends over for a barbecue this week, mostly southerners, and I decided that it was time. I made boiled peanuts. And for just a few hours, I was home.

Boiled Peanuts

From the Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook

2 pounds raw peanuts, unshelled
1 1/2 cups salt, plus more to taste
4 gal. water, plus more as needed

In a 3-gallon stockpot, dissolve ½ cup of salt in 2 gallons of water and add the peanuts. (The peanuts will float, but you can keep most of them submerged by using a dinner plate as a cap.)* Allow the peanuts to soak for 8 hours or overnight.

Discard the soaking water. Fill the pot with 2 gallons of fresh water and the remaining cup of salt. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, and cook at a low boil, covered, for 5 to 8 hours. Keep the water in the pot at roughly the same level with hourly additions of 2 cups water until the peanuts are soft. (South Carolina-style peanuts are very soft, but some cooks prefer them al dente.)

When the peanuts have boiled for 3 hours, check them for texture and saltiness. Allow a peanut to cool, then crack open the shell to get at the kernels inside. If you find them too salty, remove some brine with a ladle or small pot and replace it with an equal amount of fresh water. If the peanuts are not salty enough, add salt in ¼-cup increments, turn off the heat, and let them soak for an hour to absorb the salt. If the peanuts are too crunchy for your taste, boil on. It can take as long as 12 hours if you prefer them mushroom-soft. Sample them every hour.**

When the peanuts are cooked to your satisfaction, turn off the heat and cool for 1 hour. Drain and eat immediately or store (in the shell) in a sealed container in the refrigerator or freezer. Boiled peanuts will keep for a week in the refrigerator, and for several months in the freezer.

*I used a steam basket turned upside down over the peanuts to keep the peanuts submerged, and used it during cooking too.
**Mine were perfect at 6 hours.

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Sunday, September 6, 2009

Grilled Panzanella and Peaches

Whenever I come across a recipe for Panzanella, I don’t linger too long. For some reason, it has never appealed to me! All of that bread, in a salad? I guess because I have never been a crouton person, it just never occurred to me to pay any attention to it. It just doesn’t sound good to me. Well, I was wrong. It is good. It is very good. I couldn’t stop eating the croutons out of the bowl of leftovers!

The recipe for grilled peaches is below as well. We served ½ peach per person (with ice cream), but you could just as easily serve a whole peach per person. They were that good.

I hope that you have a wonderful Labor Day. Enjoy your day off of work, knowing that we are very blessed to have the freedoms that we have in this country, including the freedom to work. We are able to pursue education and to choose our careers and professions. What a great blessing.

Oh, and enjoy the remaining vestiges of summer. It really is supposed to last until September 22, but it’s not looking too promising around here.

Grilled Panzanella

From Ina Garten

Good olive oil

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded and sliced 1/2-inch thick

1 large ripe tomato, cut into 1-inch cubes

10 large basil leaves

3 tablespoons capers, drained

1 red onion, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds

1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 3 large pieces

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 3 large pieces

1/2 baguette, cut into 1-inch thick slices

Prepare a charcoal grill with hot coals. Brush the grilling rack with olive oil.

In a small bowl, whisk together the garlic, mustard, vinegar, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Set aside.

Place the cucumber, tomato, basil and capers in a large bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss together. Set aside.*

When the grill is ready, brush 1 side of the onion slices and the peppers with olive oil. Place them, olive oil side down, on the grill and cook for 4 minutes. Brush the other side with olive oil, turn them over and continue cooking an additional 4 minutes. Remove the vegetables from the grill and place on a cutting board. Slice the peppers 1/2-inch thick, separate the onion rings and add them both to the cucumber mixture.

Brush the bread slices on both sides with olive oil and toast them on the grill until golden.** Add them to the cucumber mixture. Pour the reserved vinaigrette over the vegetables and toss together. Serve warm.

*To minimize the number of bowls needed for our al fresco meal, I poured the dressing over the cold veggies before bringing them outside.

**I cut the bread into crouton-sized cubes before tossing them into the salad.

Grilled Peaches

Vegetable oil, for brusing (we used olive oil because we already had a bowl of it available)

2 peaches, halved and pitted

3-4 tablespoons brown sugar

Good ice cream

Brush the cut side of the peaches with oil. Place cut side down on the grill over medium-low heat and replace the lid on the grill. Allow the peaches to cook for about 4 minutes. Brush the other sides of the peaches with oil and flip the peaches over. Sprinkle the brown sugar on the cut side of the peaches. Replace the grill lid and cook for 8-10 minutes. Serve with ice cream.*

*I recommend dulce de leche or a good vanilla ice cream. A homemade lavender ice cream sounds divine, and we enjoyed it with butter pecan ice cream that our guests brought.

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Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tuscan Lemon Chicken

I haven't had much blog-time today, but I wanted to go ahead and give you the next recipe as promised, sans bells and whistles. It does call for a flattened chicken, which requires channeling your inner Julia Child and cutting out the backbone. If I can do it, you can too.

Tuscan Lemon Chicken

From Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics)

*I would highly recommend watching Ina’s Back to Basics episode, “
Fired Up,” for her instructions on flattening a chicken; alternately, ask your butcher to do this.

1 (3 1/2-pound) chicken, flattened

Kosher salt

1/3 cup good olive oil

2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (2 lemons)

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)

1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary leaves

Freshly ground black pepper

1 lemon, halved

Sprinkle the chicken with 1 teaspoon salt on each side. Combine the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, rosemary, and 2 teaspoons pepper in a small measuring cup. Place the chicken in a ceramic or glass dish just large enough to hold it flat. Pour the lemon marinade over the chicken, turning it in the dish. Cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Turn the chicken 2 or 3 times while marinating.

When ready to grill, prepare a hot charcoal fire on 1 side of a grill (or turn a gas grill on low heat). Spread most of the coals across half of the grill. Place the chicken, skin side up, on the opposite side of the grill and place the dish you used for marinating on top of the chicken to weight it. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes*, until the underside is golden brown. Turn the chicken skin side down, weight again with the dish, and cook for another 12 to 15 minutes*, until the skin is golden brown and the chicken is cooked through. Place the lemon halves on the cool side of the grill, cut side down for the last 10 minutes of cooking. Remove the chicken to a plate or cutting board, cover with aluminum foil, and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Cut in quarters, sprinkle with salt, and serve with the grilled lemon halves.

*We found that it took a bit longer than this, more like 18-20 minutes per side. The weight of your pan will also be a determining factor in the cooking time.
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What's on Your Grill?

Hold on summer, you only have a few more days to go!

I don't know about your hometown, but it has been feeling a bit cooler in our neck of the woods. Not that I am complaining; I have already told you about my love for the change in the seasons, but at least let summer make it until Labor day!

Speaking of Labor day, one of our country's great grill-fest holidays, are you planning on throwing something on the grill? Will you have the all-American fare, or do something unconventional? You don't know yet? Well, I'll give you a couple of ideas!

We had a couple of good friends over for dinner this past Monday night. They were great company; providing good conversation, developing a deeper friendship and being very patient as we tried our hand at a few new recipes for the grill. If you don't have Labor day plans, and don't mind veering from the traditional burger and baked bean recipes, try these. I'll be giving you one recipe a day for the next few days, so that your Labor day grill repertoire will be complete and completely fabulous!

Oh, and maybe you can help me coax Summer to hold on until then.

The Menu:

Appetizer: Artichoke Bruschetta
Entree: Tuscan Grilled Chicken and Panzanella
Dessert: Grilled Peaches with Ice Cream

Artichoke Bruschetta

Half of a Baguette
1 can Artichoke Hearts
15 Basil Leaves
1/4 cups Ricotta Cheese
1/4 cups Asiago Cheese, Grated
Kosher Salt
Olive Oil For Brushing
1 Garlic Clove, Halved

Slice the baguette into 8-10 rounds. Set aside.

Drain the artichoke hearts. Cut the hearts in half lengthwise, and then cut each half into three pieces. Put the chopped artichoke hearts into a small bowl. Roughly chop the basil and add to the bowl. Add the cheeses and mix to blend. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare the grill to low heat. Brush one side of each baguette round with olive oil. Place the oiled side down on the grill for 3-4 minutes, until the underside is toasted. Remove the rounds from the grill and rub the toasted side with the cut garlic slice. Brush the other side of the bread with oil and place face down on the grill. Top the rounds with the artichoke mixture and close the lid, so that the artichoke warms slightly while the bottoms of the bread toast (3-4 minutes). Remove to a plate and enjoy!

Once the second side of the bread is toasted, you can always move these to indirect heat, keeping them warm until you want to enjoy them.
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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Packing a Road Trip Picnic

This past weekend, my husband and I went on a trip to our Nation's Capital. I had never been to Washington, D.C. until this outing, and it did not disappoint.

Whenever we go on road trips, we generally try to stay away from fast-food stops. So, even on trips that just take a couple of hours, we pack a "road trip picnic," which can be eaten in the car or carried on sight-seeing strolls. This is what we brought on this trip:

Ham and provolone sandwiches with mustard and Claussen pickles on French rolls
Sea Salt and Cracked Pepper Kettle Chips
Home-made Kettle Corn
Dried Fruit
Apples and Bananas
Cherry Chocolate Chunk cookies
Provolone cheese, goat cheese and Wheat Thins
Dry roasted peanuts
Bottles of water
A bottle of wine (to enjoy at the hotel after a long day of walking)

When you pack your road trip picnic, make sure that you only have enough refrigerated items that you can eat within 10 hours or so, or that you don't mind tossing anything that has not been eaten. Alas, we had to throw away some perfectly wonderful goat cheese and provolone.

Also, when you are packing, you don't want to have to do a lot of cooking. I made the kettle corn the day before our trip, and put together the sandwiches right before we left. Everything else, I picked up from the store or bakery or pulled out of our pantry.

If you take a road trip picnic, here are a few other items that you will want to remember to pack in your picnic basket:

Cheese knife
Cutting board
Extra Ziploc bags
Trash bags
Wine bottle opener
Plastic cups (for the wine)
A kitchen towel or a few paper towels
A couple of freezer packs in your cooler

Do you take road trip picnics? If so, what do you pack?

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