Tuesday, May 29, 2007

A Sunday Picnic (and the Mystery Hole)...

On Sunday, Mike & I headed to a family picnic at Carnifex Ferry. There are few things I enjoy more than a Sunday drive, especially along the beautiful U.S. Route 60, so I was very excited about our day. We cooked a fabulous picnic meal - fried chicken, green beans with potatoes, corn on the cob, cornbread, cucumbers & tomatoes, with brownies for dessert. My sister fries the best chicken you can imagine - I actually felt sorry for the people I saw armed with their KFC buckets once we arrived at the park.

On our way to Carnifex Ferry, we passed by a popular WV tourist attraction....The Mystery Hole. Located just about a mile west of Hawks Nest State Park on U.S. Route 60, this mind-boggling place is only open during the summer season. For just $5 ($4 for kids), you are lead on a short & entertaining tour where the law of gravity has gone beserk. Mike & I had been once before, but it was a first time visit for the rest of our family. Ally was completely mystified & wanted so badly to come up with a logical explanation as to why the water trickled uphill, the ball rolled uphill & the chair hung on the wall while you were sitting in it. You also get to try walking upright through a room while gravity is pulling you to the right...it's a crazy experience. And just try to get up off that couch! After the tour we took a little time to browse through the gift shop for some original Mystery Hole souviners. As we were leaving, Mike said the place would be the perfect setting for a sequel to the movie "Wrong Turn" and I had to agree. There's a kitschy 1970's feel to the place & I think that just adds to its appeal. If you're ever in the area, be sure to stop by. Under new ownership for a few years now, the husband/wife team is doing a fantastic job with the place.

After a few other stops, we arrived at Carnifex Ferry. We ate our lunch & played a few ball games. Mike & I attempted to see-saw, which painfully reminded me that I'm not 8 years old any more. We had a fantastic day, returning home exhausted & happy.

Fried Chicken
Assorted chicken pieces (we use drumsticks & breast tenderloins)
1 cup self-rising flour
Garlic Salt
Salt & Pepper
Vegetable Oil

Heat vegetable oil in skillet (about 1/2" deep). Measure flour into a shallow mixing bowl. Add garlic salt until you can actually taste it in the flour. Rinse chicken (do not pat dry). Roll in flour/garlic salt mixture. Place in skillet, season with salt & pepper. Cook until golden & reaches internal temp of 180 degrees. Enjoy!

This is the chicken recipe that my grandma always used & it never lets you down. At family picnics, her chicken is always gone first. I've tried Christopher Kimball's method (with buttermilk, cornmeal, flour, etc.) and always return to this one. It will not disappoint.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Key Lime Chill

Key Lime Chill
I was excited to read that Rachel over at Coconut & Lime was having a recipe contest to celebrate her blog's third birthday. Not having a recipe that used both coconut & lime, I decided to tweak an existing recipe & see what happened. I wanted to do something with a key lime flavor but didn't have any key lime juice on hand. Then I remembered that I did have two packages of key lime cheeseball mix. Hoping my idea would work since I'd be serving this at our cookout later today, I got to work.

The end result turned out pretty well. The saltiness of the pretzel crust was a nice contrast to the tart filling, and the topping of toasted coconut & crushed macadmia nuts provided a nice texture. A cool dessert on the front porch is the perfect end to a hot summer day.

Key Lime Chill
1-1/2 cups crumbs from crushed thin pretzels.
4 -1/2 T. sugar
3/4 cup melted butter
1/3 cup sweetened coconut flakes
2 pkgs. (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1 container (8 oz.) Cool Whip® - thawed
2 packages Key Lime Cheeseball Mix (any brand – I used Tastefully Simple)
1/4 cup crushed Macadamia Nuts
1/3 cup Coconut Flakes, lightly toasted
•White Chocolate Chips (optional)

Mix the pretzel crumbs & 1/3 cup coconut flakes with 4-1/2 tablespoons sugar and the melted butter. Press the pretzel crumb mixture into the bottom of a 9" x 13" baking pan. Bake in a preheated oven at 350ยบ for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat the cream cheese & cheeseball mix together until smooth. Fold in the thawed whipped topping. Spread the mixture evenly over the baked, cooled pretzel crust. Chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. Top with crushed macadamia nuts & lightly toasted coconut. Drizzle with melted white chocolate if desired (I skipped this step).

Monday, May 21, 2007

Grilling Season

Nothing says summer like the smell of charcoal. We have a great gas grill, but on Sunday I went out & got a plain kettle-style charcoal grill. Mike & I spent the afternoon outside cooking dinner & sipping ice-cold lemondade. Shiloh was never far away; I think he instantly assumed he was partaking of our meal since we were cooking it on his territory. We cooked a simple meal - ranch flavored chicken breasts & red potatoes, along with corn on the cob. It was absolutely delicious; the chicken was moist & tender & the potatoes were soft inside with a slightly crispy crust on the bottom. And the only thing we had to clean up afterwards were a few plates, utensils & glasses. Here's to the start of some fabulous grilling & lazy summer evenings.

Ranch Chicken & Potatoes
1 pound B/S Chicken Breasts (B/S = boneless/skinless)
6 red potatoes
2 Tablespoons EVOO
1 Packet Hidden Valley Ranch Dip Mix

Slice potatoes into 1/4" thick slices. Place in Ziploc bag along with 1 Tablespoon EVOO. Add 1 Tablespoon ranch dip mix, shake to distribute evenly. Shake out onto 2 pieces of aluminum foil. Fold into two packets, place on ready grill. Cook until tender.

Rub remaining tablespoon EVOO onto chicken breasts. Sprinkle each breast with 1/2 teaspoon dip mix. Add to grill about 15 minutes after starting potatoes. Cook until chicken reaches internal temp of 180, turning once.

Our market's fresh corn didn't look great, so I got Green Giant from the freezer section. I thawed 4 ears & they were ready to add to the grill along with the chicken.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Interview Meme

The Interview Meme post I saw on Cucina Bella looked like fun, so I had to jump in. Sarah sent me these questions…

1. You are relatively new to food blogging. What made you start your blog and what are some of the goals you have for it? I love to cook & also to share my favorite recipes & attempts in the kitchen. I also enjoy writing, so I started this blog as a way to bring my favorite interests together. My goal is to challenge myself & hopefully to inspire & entertain whoever reads my blog.

2. How did you learn to cook and who were your biggest influences in learning? My mom & my great-grandma were my biggest influences in cooking. I was always watching & “helping”. I also learned a lot by reading different cookbooks & experimenting with the recipes that captured my interest.

3. You recently wrote about hot dog night and a canasta game and the hot dogs really caught my eye. What do you put on your hot dogs and why that combination? I eat my hot dogs with chili, slaw & onion. I’m not really sure how that combination came about – it’s what I’ve grown up with. It’s interesting how hot dog toppings vary depending on where you live – I know people in Ohio who’ve never heard of putting slaw on a hot dog.

4. How would you characterize your cooking? Some people are more into "whole foods" while others prefer the convenience of "semi-homemade." Where do you fall? I think I fall in the middle. I’m trying to move away from processed foods & want to use more organic ingredients. Most of my future recipes will reflect that. I’m also a nostalgic cook – a lot of my best memories revolve around food & I like recreating those meals & desserts.

5. When you aren't blogging, what do you do? I love reading & also enjoy digital scrapbooking, antiquing, traveling, spending time with my 7 year old niece, Allyson & our crazy beagle, Shiloh.

1. Leave a comment saying, "Interview me."
2. I will respond by emailing you five questions. Beware, I'm not shy of asking personal questions! Please make sure I have your email address.
3. You will update your blog with the answers to the questions.
4. You will include this explanation and offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Easy Chicken Quesadillas

We wanted something quick & easy for Sunday dinner. Just getting back from a wonderful week at the beach, we were both to tired to fix a big meal. Mike loves chicken quesadillas & we had the ingredients on hand, so that's what we went with. They are very easy to make & don't take much time. I usually serve these with Spanish rice or sweet corn cake (my favorite).

Chicken Quesadillas
1 pound chicken breast tenders, cut into 1" pieces
1 can Campbell's Cream of Chicken Soup
KRAFT Mexican Style Shredded Four Cheese - 2 cup bag
Flour Tortillas - 8 (soft taco size)
Chunky Salsa
Sour Cream

Brown chicken in non-stick skillet. Add soup & 1 cup of cheese. Stir until cheese melts. Place 1/3 cup chicken mixture onto tortilla, roll up enchilada style, place in baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes. Serve with salsa & sour cream.

Pics to come