Sandi is blogging from the WhistleStop Cafe kitchen. It's all about good home cooking; food, family and fun. Thousands of posts . . .

~In the south and around the world.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Summer = Salads

Summertime in Alabama... Sheesh!!
How about a fresh salad? I eat salad everyday. Not very exciting, I know. I eat salads because they are light.... I can't imagine if I had a burger and fries everyday at lunch. I really do love a good crunchy salad. This salad with fresh strawberries and purple curly basil was pretty enough to get onto the blog. (most don't)I used my special extra virgin olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar from Pienza. With a big glass of lemonade, it was enough to cool me off.

What is your favorite thing to put on a salad?

Y'all stay cool!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Southern Style Pedicure?

Have you seen this new way of getting a pedicure? Some upscale salons are using Doctor Fish so that people can get an environmentally friendly pedicure. These fish feed off of the dead skin on feet~ leaving your heels and toes soft as a baby's bottom.
I can't imagine paying extra for this! This has been going on in the south for years. We just never thought of it as a spa treatment.

I have always hated the feeling of dangling my feet in the lake. The little crapie would swarm... I think they were looking for bread crumbs and my toes just were in the way. Still, not a feeling I liked.

Maybe the catfish farms could open up a spa on the weekends.

I'd rather go to the corner salon, Nail Princess, any day.
Y'all enjoy!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sunday Slow Bakers

We are coming to the end of our Sunday Slow Baking; we have been making our way through Gina DePalma's cookbook 'Dolce Italiano'.

This week Cindy Ruth at Baked Alaska selected Taralli. What??? I had no idea what these were. The recipe calls for flour, wine, and olive oil. I didn't give it much hope... but being a dedicated slow baker I decided to give it a try. They are actually an Italian pretzel~ with a little extra kick.

Taralli with Red Pepper and Oregano
4 1/2 cups flour
2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbs kosher salt
1 Tbs sugar
1 Tbs oregano
1 cup plus 2 Tbs white wine
1 cup olive oil

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add the wine and oil, beating until the dough is soft and velvety. Cover the bowl and allow to rest for 2 hours, or refrigerate over night.

Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large pot add 1 Tbs salt to about 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil.

There is a process of making the Taralli. First roll the dough into thin ropes about 5 inches long. Fold them into a ring. Drop the rings into the water and wait for it to rise. Scoop out with a slotted spoon and set on paper towels to dry. Finally, bake for 25-35 minutes, until crispy brown.
I can see why Nonna's have such beautiful hands, when rolling out the dough, the olive oil soaks in. The whole kitchen smells wonderful. I can only imagine how exciting it is for children to help make their own Taralli... when they float to the top of the boiling water it is magic!
I wish I had smell-a-blog (has that been invented yet?). These hot out of the oven are amazing. Buon Appetito Y'all,

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dilly Beans

It has been hot and humid here in Alabama!
Are you looking for a way to Beat the Heat?
If your garden is turning out lots of green beans this is the answer to your problem. Dill Pickle Beans~
Little dilly beans are my favorite. I was determined to find out how to make them. Now, I am not big on all the effort that goes into canning vegetables... but I will go to the trouble to make some refrigerator pickles. These don't last long!
Dilly Beans
2# fresh green beans
2 Tbs mustard seed
3 Tbs kosher salt
4 Tbs fresh dill weed
1 tsp crushed red pepper
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 cups water
2 cups vinegar
2/3 cup sugar

Wash and stem fresh green beans (use the tender string less kind). Quickly blanch beans in water with 1 Tablespoon salt, cook them for about 5 minutes until they are crispy tender and still bright green. Drain and cool. Place beans upright in containers. Divide spices evenly into each container. Boil 2 cups water and vinegar with salt and sugar, pour hot liquid over beans. Seal in an airtight container or a jar with a tight lid. Store in the refrigerator. Allow to sit at least 2-3 days before serving.
I bet you can't eat just one!
Y'all enjoy,

Monday, July 21, 2008

Cookin out

We were cooking out with friends just last night...

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Slow Sunshine Baking

Our task this week for our Sunday Slow Bakers is a Citrus-Glazed Polenta Cake. The citrus and the yellow polenta in this recipe make me think of sunshine. We all need a little sunshine!This week has reminded us, in several ways, that friends and family are our constant source of sunshine.
Life is short ~seize your joy.
"Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude."

So now on to the polenta... which we have discovered is really a fine yellow cornmeal. Italians use it in baking, but also in a creamy grits-like dish. Isn't that funny?
It does make a yummy torta.

Torta di Polenta
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup polenta
1 tsp salt
4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup olive oil
A lemon, lime & orange
2 cups confectioner's sugar for the glaze
Preheat oven to 325°

Zest the fruits and set aside, combine dry ingredients and set aside, grease and flour a spring form pan. In a medium bowl, beat the eggs and granulated sugar until they have tripled in volume. Beat in the zests. Alternate adding dry ingredients and oil. Pour the batter into the springform pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes until cake pulls away from the sides. Cool for 15 minutes before removing the sides of the springform pan.

While the cake is cooling make the citrus glaze. combine 2 cups confectioner's sugar and 1 tablespoon of juice from each of the zested fruits. Whisk until smooth. Drizzle over the polenta cake.

This is an interesting cake~ almost like a sweet cornbread. Very Dolce Italiano!
buon appetito y'all~

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Centerpiece of the Month~ July

For the month of July, I decided to do something different for the Centerpiece of the Month. I spent time scouring the blogs to find some great centerpieces for 4th of July celebrations. You won't believe what I found.
First a close up of what was on my table~

Inspire Me Crafts created a 4th of July Centerpiece of festive flags.
There was a baseball theme at Tray Bella . Now that is a fun way to use those baseballs laying around the house.
The party at Cottage Affairs included some dominos! Next time Bill and I will be over~ and maybe bring a squash casserole for dinner. We play a mean game of Mexican Train Dominos.

For the FINALE~ PalmaBella takes the cake... with a centerpiece of cupcakes. Any blogger can appreciate the effort it took to get this shot!

You know that labor day is right around the corner... maybe these will give you some ideas.

Y'all send in your centerpieces for August!


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Fry it~

There is still more squash! But the good news is that I am getting to the end.
I have used some of our Onion Ring Batter to fry some yellow squash. These are tasty little treats! I fried them in just a little olive oil. That is heart healthy... no reason to feel so guilty.
Another quick 'fried' recipe is for squash croquettes. I only used a hot skillet, not a bath of grease. These are perfect with a pork chop... now that is some good eatin'!

Squash Croquettes
3 cups cooked yellow squash
1/2 cup diced ham
2 Tbs fresh basil
1 cup ground ritz crackers
1/4 cup flour
2 eggs
salt & pepper

Place cooled squash and ham in a bowl, combine with crackers and flour. Beat eggs, then fold into squash mixture. Form into 3 inch patties. Fry until golden.

Y'all enjoy!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Sweet Slow Baking

Our chore this week for the Sunday Slow Bakers was a Sweet Apple Omelet. In her cookbook, Dolce Italiano Gina says "if you've never had a sweet omelet, you are in for a treat" She's right! This made a perfect late breakfast on Saturday morning. It was a nice change from our typical ham and cheese omelets.

I was excited to see that I was going to finally get to use my Brunello grappa. I bought this in Italy, and luckily this bottle made it through the bottle smashers at the Birmingham airport.

Sweet Apple Omelet
2 medium apples
3 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 Tbs Grappa
2 Tbs butter
1 Tbs honey
5 eggs
Slice the apples. (I didn't peel mine) Saute in olive oil until tender. Add sugar and cinnamon shaking to coat the apples. Remove from heat. Add grappa then return to low heat to cook off the alcohol.
In another skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and make a thick omelet with the eggs. When the omelet is cooked through, fill with apples. Fold over and slide onto a plate dusted with confectioners' sugar.
Top with a mixture of melted butter and honey. Serve immediately.
Mmmmm y'all that was good!

We have found out just this week that Gina, our Slow Travel Stella, is battling a nasty illness. This comes at the peak of her career when she should be able to sit back and enjoy the sweet life.
Once again we are reminded that we need to make every day sweet... starting with a sweet apple omelet.
Y'all enjoy!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bake it~

One of favorite ways to eat squash is just cooked with sweet onions in a little butter. We call it squishy squash. Bill will tell you that I could eat this every day. He is not as excited about my good deal on a bushel of squash as I am.

We also love a good squash casserole. This is an easy recipe that can be made ahead and frozen.

Squash Casserole
3 cups squash
1 sweet onion
1 cup cheddar cheese
1 cup crushed saltines
1/2 cup ranch dressing
3 eggs
Salt and pepper to taste

Saute squash and onions until tender. Allow to cool. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Beat in eggs last. Pour into a 9x13 baking dish. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

You can bet I have a couple of casseroles in my freezer right now.
Y'all enjoy!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Grill it~

I had already gotten out some chicken sausages to grill for dinner. That was before I rushed off to buy the bushel of squash!

I just sliced one of the larger yellow squash and marinated it for a short time in our WhistleStop Marinade. I threw it on the griddle with my sausages and some asparagus.

Y'all need to try these sausages from Costco. Chicken with spinach, fontina cheese, and garlic. They are quick and oh so easy. Add a salad, and you have a full meal.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

.39 ¢

I am doing the happy dance!

At our local 'Food Smart' squash was only .39 ¢ a pound.
I bought $3.90 worth.

That is squishy squash, squash casserole, grilled squash, squash k-bobs, fried squash, squash fritatta ...

Help me with some ideas!

I'll be posting a bushel of recipes.

Y'all enjoy!

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Red Velvet

I posted where our good friend Coy brought a red velvet cake for our 4th of July ~Declaration of Attendance party. It was a work of art! I have had several requests for the recipe.
While he hasn't given me his secret family recipe (yet); I do have Dad's recipe from The Original WhistleStop Cafe Cookbook. This is the way red velvet was made at the cafe for years. We talked about how you have to add the vinegar at the very end... so now I am wondering if this is where he got his 'secret' recipe??

Red Velvet Cake
1/4 pound butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2 Tbs cocoa
1 Tbs red food coloring -mixed with 1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 Tbs cider vinegar

With an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until light. Add eggs one at a time and continue to beat. Add baking soda to buttermilk. Alternately add cocoa, food coloring mixture, flour mixture and buttermilk. When batter is well mixed, add vinegar. Pour into 2 lightly greased 9 inch cake pans and bake at 350° for about 25 minutes. Cool before icing.

Cream Cheese Frosting
1/4 pound softened butter
8 oz softened cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla
1 pound confectioners sugar
Cream together butter and cream cheese. Add vanilla and confectioners' sugar mixing well, frost cooled layers.

This red velvet cake had pecans in the icing... which I think made it PERFECT.
but then...I like nuts!
Y'all enjoy~

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Red, White, and Good friends

We had a great 'Declaration of Attendance' party last night. Luckily the rain held off... although the mosquitos didn't. July in Alabama~ Thank goodness for the sangria.

We had some good eatin', everyone brought something to go in the Low Country Boil. Shrimp, Corn, Sausages, and Potatoes. 2 huge pots. Yum!

We had great southern desserts. Rhoda brought her yummy coconut cake, and Coy made a red velvet cake. I will be begging them for those recipes and post them soon. Bill is still talking about the desserts!Now that is red, white, and blew!
Hope y'all had a happy 4th of July~

Thursday, July 03, 2008

4th of July!

I see where last year I posted on our Low Country Boil for the 4th of July. Geesh~ we must be in a rut! We are having the very same thing this year.
It is all about tradition!

For years my family has spent the 4th of July on the beach. I found some old photos that brought back memories. We'd have matching tee shirts or hats, and lots of fun. Flying kites on the beach, the mullet toss, and fireworks. Like everything else, it gets harder as the kids get older and spread their wings. getting together is not as easy when we are spread all over.
The year Bill and I married we had the whole family down for the 4th. Yours, mine, and ours. This is the McMichael clan.
This year we are having our big party on the 5th... and have insisted on a 'Declaration of Attendance'. We hope to have a fun crowd. Of course we will have our pots of potatoes, corn, sausages, and shrimp... and lots of napkins.

Y'all enjoy your 4th!

Good Friends~Good Food~Good News

Many of you who sit at the WhistleStop Cafe kitchen table with me know my friend who is Just a Beach Kat. Y'all know that Kat has recently been to Birmingham for a breast biopsy, from the same doctors whom I have known 'intimately' at UAB.

Rhoda is also a 'B' friend from the Birmingham area, and while Kat and George were in town, treated us to reservations at their favorite new Italian restaurant GianMarco.
Italian?... whoo hoo!
We had a wonderful time, although our poor little waiter didn't seem to share in our joy. We laughed and talked all night long. You know bloggers are going to show up with cameras.

Did I mention the food? Great Italian food right here in Alabama. We started with a wonderful salad with gorgonzola and walnuts.

The guys all ordered the spaghetti with meatballs
I had a veal scollopini with a lemon caper sauce over polenta.

Kathy had shrimp scampi over polenta... in the background you can see that George had to take drastic measures with that plate of spaghetti.

Definitely good food and a fun chance to get together. The best news is that Kat's biopsy is benign. We are all thrilled!

Now we need to get together at the beach just for the fun of it.
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