Thursday, September 30, 2010

New Blog address

This blog is moving to a new address....  Check out
There will be a few changes and a few new things, too.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Grilled Peaches with Goat Cheese and Blackberry Cider Reduction

     Last Friday night was the From Farm to Fork: A Taste of Local Foods event in Lincolnton.  There was a really good turn out.  If you weren't there, you really missed out.  So many great things come out of Lincoln County and the surrounding area.  If you weren't there, here is a partial list of what you missed.
Fresh salsa and chips
Honey and Honey Butter
Beef Brisket
Pork Roast
Roasted corn on the cob
Muscadine Jelly
Blackberry Cider
Peaches, Pears, and Apples

If you did go, leave me a note/comment and tell me what you enjoyed or liked about the event.  Before leaving my husband and I got a few goodies for ourselves to take home.  We got a ham roast from Grateful Growers Farm, muscadine jelly from Woodmill Winery, blackberry cider from Leatherman's Farm.  I also got a bag of peaches from Davis and Son Orchards as a thank you for helping out that night. 

Here is what I decided to do with my peaches and the blackberry cider for a snack on Saturday afternoon.

2 peaches (halved and pitted)
2 tablespoons of goat cheese
1/4 cup blackerry cider

Preheat grill to 400 degrees.  Pour cider in a small sauce pot and heat on medium heat until it has reduced.  It should easily coat the back of a spoon.  Spray cut side of peach with cooking spray and lay cut side down on grill.  Leave for about 3 mintues or until you have the desired grill marks.  Remove from grill and arrange on a plate. Top with goat cheese, drizzle your cider reduction over it,  and finish with the basil.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mark your calendars for this coming Friday night, August 6th.

 From Farm.....

                                                               To Fork.

          A Taste of Local Foods

An Agricultural expo, highlighting local foods provided by local farmers and industries.
Come sample the local fare to see what's grown in Lincoln County.

Cooking Demos
Activities for children and adults
Samples of various local foods

Friday, August 6th
James Warren Citizen Center
Lincolnton, NC

For more info call the Cooperative Extension  704-736-8452

Stuffed Veggies

2 Bell Peppers
2 Zucchini
2 Yellow Squash
1/2 Cup uncooked rice
1 lb sausage  (I HIGHLY recommended getting the Italian sausage from Grateful Growers Farm.)
3/4 to 1 cup tomato sauce (my recipe is here.)
1/2 cup shredded cheese
salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Brown the sausage and drain any grease. Set to the side
3. Cook the rice according to package directions.
4. Wash and dry your veggies.  Cut the tops off of the peppers and discard along with the seeds and membrane. Cut your squash and zucchini in half lengthwise.  To keep your veggies from rolling around when you put them in the pan slice just a little bit off of the pepper with a knife and use a vegetable peeler to remove one strip of skin from the uncut side of the zucchini and squash. 
5. Place the zucchini and squash only in a 9x13 baking dish and put in to the preheated oven for 10 minutes. 
6. In a large bowl combine the cooked rice, cooked sausage, and tomato sauce and stir.
7. When the 10 minutes are up remove the zucchini and squash and use a spoon to hollow out the halves.   Season the hollowed out halves with salt and pepper.
8.  Spoon the rice, sausage, and tomato sauce mixture in to all of the vegetables.
9. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.
10. Remove from oven, sprinkle with shredded cheese and return to oven until the cheese is melted.  Approximately 5 minutes.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Grilled Pizza

I've joined a group on Facebook called Mario's Weekend Cooking Challenge.  Mario is the host of Living Today which is a radio show on the Martha Stewart Channel on Sirius/XM.  Once a month he enlists the help of a chef to provide a recipe and everyone in the group makes it on the weekend following it being posted.  The chef is available to answer questions on the designated Saturday that we cook and everyone is on Facebook posting pics and questions and chatting.  So far I have participated in two of the Cooking Challenges.  My sister, Erin, and I did my first one together.  It was a Mexican Chocolate cake.  Boy was it good, but look just awful when we tried to get it out of the bundt pan.  It was salvaged though.  We turned it into individual trifles with whip cream and raspberries. Nom!!  (See bottom for a pic of the trifle.)

So last weekend the challenge was grilled pizza.  I had never grilled pizza, nor had I ever made my own dough.  I was kinda scared of doing both.  Who wants to go to all the trouble, not have it turn out right and then just have to order out?  Not me!  So when I started, I had a back up plan.  (Granted... it was called Pillsbury Refrigerated Pizza dough. But whatever.)  It made me feel better. 

Normally the cooking challenge takes place on Saturday.  But my Saturday was already full, so I opted to do it on Sunday.  My husband and so weren't at home, so I got started on making the dough.  Less than 5 minutes in I had a HUGE mess.  My mistake was not mixing the stuff together in a bowl.  That had been my original plan but something (the devil on my shoulder?) told me that I should do it on my cutting board and just make a deep well in the flour mixture and add the water and yeast to that.  I'm sure it works for most, but not for me.  A wall of flour collapsed and water and flour went everywhere.  After cleaning up I decided to look in my pantry for some pizza yeast I remembered buying sometime back.  After locating it I was back in business.  Only this time I didn't have to wait for the dough to rise.  The Fleischmann's Pizza Crust Yeast website has a recipe for pizza dough that is perfect for grilling and it's super easy to make.  You don't have to wait for it to rise.  You can find the recipe here.  I added fresh chopped rosemary from my herb garden before mixing and that really made the pizza.

My toppings when grilling were Fontina cheese, my own homemade sauce, cherry tomatoes, basil and olive oil.  This was the best pizza I've ever put in my mouth.  And who knew it was so easy?    And although I wasn't able to follow the original recipe, I was able to save dinner and find a faster method that I will be sure to use again. 

P.S.  The Pillsbury dough is still in my fridge waiting to be used.  :-)

Here is my homemade sauce recipe.  As you will notice, I don't use onions or garlic.  As I've been told, it's a sin that I don't like them.  But I don't, so I don't use them.  But if you do, then add them.  I would chop the onions and cook them down in a little olive oil and add the garlic to that.  When the onions are soft, add the ingredients below

Mandi's Homemade Sauce

4-5 lbs Tomatoes
Salt (to taste)
1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons Agave nectar

Peel and seed the tomatoes.  The easiest way i know is to boil water in a pot.  Cut an "X" thru the skin of the tomato on the bottom.  Drop it in the pot of boiling water for a few seconds and then remove to a paper towel to dry and cool.  When they are cool enough to handle the skin will slip right off. 
Next, cut the tomatoes into quarters and remove all the seeds.  When all the seeds are removed, chop the tomatoes and add to a pot and cook them down on medium heat.  The salt, balsamic vinegar and agave nectar are going to be added to your taste.  It's going to depend on your tomatoes.  I'd start with the measurements above and taste it. 

The sauce is great on pasta, in stuffed peppers or zucchini and on pizza.  If you are going to use it on pizza, you will want to cook it down a little further than if you were just going to use it on pasta so it will be thicker.

Mexican Chocolate Cake as a Trifle

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Red, White and Blue (Cheese) Potato Salad

Yesterday I needed a quick side dish for supper. As with everything now days, I am waiting till the last possible minute or running out of time, so quick is the story of my life. I had some small red and white potatoes just begging to be turned into potato salad. Since today is the 4th, I was feeling a very festive and decided to run with the red and white theme. One problem, I didn't have any blue potatoes (yes, there are blue potatoes) and I didn't think blueberries would be appropriate (or taste very good). That left me with one option. BLUE CHEESE. Granted... it's not really blue either. It's white with green mold and really doesn't look very appetizing. I've never been a big fan of blue cheese, but I thought i would give it another try. I'm sure glad I did. The resulting potato salad was amazing, if I do say so myself.

Red, White and Blue (Cheese) Potato Salad

2 lbs Red and white potatoes
1/2 tsp Ground Mustard
1 hard boiled egg
Blue Cheese
1/4 to 1/2 cup Mayonnaise (Duke's is the only kind for me, but if you are an odd bird you can use whatever you like)

Make sure your potatoes are the same size and cut them if they aren't. Place in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until done. I also boiled my egg with the potatoes. When the potatoes are done drain them and add back to the pot. Peel and chop your egg and add it back to the pot along with the mayo, ground mustard, salt and pepper. The amount of mayo you add will be to your own judgement. I didn't really measure this. Add a little, see how it looks, taste it and then add more if needed. Mix together and then add crumbled blue cheese and mix again. Serve warm.

Happy 4th of July!!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Life is Peachy!

For Father's Day, the plan was to grill peaches to go with the rest of the lunch my sisters and I had prepared. There was one problem that stood in our way. The peaches I had bought the day before were just not quite ripe enough that they pulled away from their pits as easily as we had hoped. So at my house this past week, we had more peaches than we knew what to do with. Luckily Martha Stewart helped me out. The latest issue (July 2010) of Martha Stewart Living had a few peach recipes in it and while I was home with my son on Thursday, I decided to attempt one while he was napping.

Since the temps have been in the 90's lately, my choice was a no brainer. Peach Granita. (Basically a peach icee.) What could be better on a hot summer day?

Peach Granita

1 ½ lbs ripe peaches (peeled, pitted, and coarsely chopped)
½ cup water
¼ cup sugar (more may be needed if your peaches aren’t very sweet)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon course salt
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh basil (optional)

PurĂ©e peaches, water, sugar, lemon juice, and salt in a blender; add more sugar to taste. Transfer to an 8 inch square baking dish. Freeze for 2 ½ hours, scraping with a fork every hour (mixture should be icy and fluffy) Stir in basil.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Farm Fresh Salsa

1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1 bell pepper (mine was purple, but choose what you like)
2 ears of corn
cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
-- --- -- --- --
Dice the zucchini, yellow squash and bell pepper and then saute in a pan with the olive oil until they just begin to get tender. Remove from heat and store in the fridge until chilled. Remove the corn kernels from the cob and halve or quarter the cherry tomatoes. When the sauteed mixture is chilled remove from the fridge and add the tomatoes and corn. Toss with red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste. Let it hang out and the flavors combine for at least 15 minutes. Serve with your favorite tortilla chip.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sheldon's Lunch

I have just recently come to the realization that my love for cookbooks started a young age. One of my favorite books as a child was Sheldon's Lunch by Bruce Lemerise. One of the reasons I loved this book so was because at the back there was a recipe for blueberry pancakes. I must have thought this was an oddity or something spectacular and difficult to make because I do remember showing it to my mom and asking if we could make them. She made pancakes a lot for us when I was growing up. We would even get the occasional "Mickey Mouse" pancake. (Mine always had raisins for the eyes and mouth. Yes, I love raisins in my pancake.) Knowing what I know now blueberries wasn't really mixing it up any.

Now as a parent I find myself very busy and rarely have time to read anything other than the books my son brings to me when he wants to crawl on my lap and listen to me read. It takes a lot to keep my attention these days too, so that could be part of the reason I seldom make time. I tend to start novel and get 3/4's of the way thru them and I just put the book down, never to be touched again. This is not the case with a cookbook though. I rarely find a cookbook I don't like. I have tons of them and some I have never cooked from. But I love thumbing thru them and reading the recipes and imagining the possibilities. Currently I am reading Jamie's Food Revoloution. I love his show on the Food Network and I caught a few of the episodes from his show here in the U.S. I recommend you pick up the book. The recipes are great and there are lots that I intend to make. I love what he's trying to do with this book. We should all take heed and follow his words.

Now for the quick and easy cherry tomato salad that I had for supper tonight. I visited my sister in Raleigh this past weekend and she took me to the farmer's market there where we had breakfast and then browsed while sipping a muscadine slushy. I picked up these orange and red tomatoes there. The basil is from my herb garden. I love finding different things to put my herbs in.

Cherry Tomatoes (halved)
Olive Oil
Red Wine vinegar
basil chiffonade
salt and pepper

I didn't measure. Just put everything in a bowl mixing to your tastes and then enjoy.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Chorizo and Herbs

My dinner tonight is brought to you in part by Grateful Growers Farm. I picked up some of their chorizo at our local farmers market the other weekend and decided to make breakfast burritos for supper tonight. I must say, that while I was browning the chorizo, it too all my restraint to not eat it straight from the pan. After it was browned I drained it and scrambled some eggs and added some green chilis to them. Served on a tortilla and sprinkle with a little cheese and you have a mighty tasty meal.

After dinner I worked in the yard a little around the house and noticed my herbs needed to be trimmed so I decided to make another batch of pesto. This time I just used a little bit of all the herbs I have growing. Rosemary, sweet basil, boxwood basil, greek oregano, lemon thyme and dill. I added lime juice and zest, walnuts, grated parmesan, olive oil and a little salt. Now I have a great spread for sandwiches or topping for pasta.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Grateful Growers Farm in eastern Lincoln Co

Last weekend me, Erin, Tristan and Ali went to the Farmer's Market in Denver. It was my first time going to that one and I loved it. My main reason for going to Denver was to get some pork from the Grateful Growers Farm. Freedom Farms sells the pork at Denver Market for Grateful Growers. If you haven't tried their pork, you should.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


I didn't make it to the Farmer's Market this week. Instead we took Tristan and Ali to Tweetsie yesterday.
So today I decided to make pesto with the basil from my herb garden. The plant was getting a little bushy and I needed to use the leaves before something else got to them first. Normally you put garlic in pesto but I did not today. Two reasons for this: 1, I didn't have any and I was NOT going anywhere to buy some and 2, I wanted my 13 month old to try the pesto and garlic is pretty strong so we will add it in gradually for him. (I'm not a huge garlic fan anyway, so I didn't miss it.) Here is the recipe. You don't have to be precise. I never am.

1 cup of washed basil leaves
1/4 cup of grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 pine nuts (I used walnuts since that is what I had)
3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Grate your cheese first and add it to your food processor with the nuts and garlic and blend. Add your basil and blend some more. With the processor still on, slowly add your olive oil. When it's done it should look like the picture below. Just add to pasta, bread or fish.

Finished Pesto

Here is a picture of Tristan eating the pesto with pasta. He loved it!


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Farmer's Market Day & Grilled Shrimp and Strawberry Salad

Today I headed to the local farmer's market to get some strawberries and mixed greens to make a salad for dinner tonight. The strawberries are from Houser Farms and the mixed greens came from Reba's Ridge Farm. I also picked up some white radishes and bib lettuce. Below is the salad I made. It's a salad I normally eat when we go to Firebird's for lunch. I think it actually turned out better than when I eat out. Probably becuase of the great local produce! I am really getting into this farmer's market thing. Everything tastes so much better when it's local and in season.

Grilled Shrimp and Strawberry Salad

Shrimp (larger shrimp is best)
Salt and pepper
Mixed Greens
Jicama - cut into sticks
Spiced Pecans
Sliced Strawberries
Goat Cheese Crumbles
Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing


Clean, devein and remove tails from shrimp. Skewer shrimp and sprinkle shrimp with salt and pepper on both sides. Grill until done (Approxomently 3 minutes per side). While shrimp is grilling, toss all salad ingredients together in a large bowl and divide among plates.Remove shrimp from grill and divide evenly among plates, placing on top of salad. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Texas Two-Step

I made this salad last night and it turned out really well. I listen to the Martha Stewart Channel on Sirius Radio and got the recipe from a guest on the Living Today show. As with everything, I left out the onions. I don't eat onions. PERIOD. And I just noticed I forgot the shredded cheese. But it didn't tasted like it was missing anything, so I don't know that I would add it next time. I highly recommend this salad. It was SOOOOO YUMMY and super easy.
Texas Two Step Salad
(by Laura Pensiero)

Makes 4 to 6 servings

12 ounces torn Romaine lettuce leaves
1 cup black beans (cooked and drained or canned, rinsed and drained)
1 cup corn kernels (grilled and removed from the cob or canned, rinsed and drained)
1 cup diced roasted red peppers
12 ounces barbecue chicken cut into bite-size bits
6 ounces shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese
2/3 cup Chilled Avocado Dressing (see below)

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and toss with dressing. Serve immediately.
Chilled Avocado

Makes 1 ½ cups

Pulp from 2 ripe avocados (about 7 ounces each)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons minced red onion
¼ cup low-fat mayonnaise
pinch cayenne or more if desired
½ to ¾ cup water (more, if necessary to thin)
salt optional
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro and/or ¼ teaspoon ground cumin

Combine the avocado, lime juice, onion, mayonnaise and cayenne in the work bowl of a food processor; pulse to blend. With the motor running pour the water through the feed tube, adding just enough to thin to a thick liquid consistency. Adjust seasoning with salt and chill until ready to serve.