Saturday, July 31, 2010

Apple Cobbler

I just spent a relaxing week at the beach with my husband and family and I'm looking forward to blogging all about it within the next few days, but before I even got to upload my vacation pics to my computer, you know I had to get back into the kitchen... my kitchen.  There's no place like home.

We got up bright and early to pack up the car and head back home (our vacation spot was a mere 90 minutes from home) and we arrived in time to run all of our favorite errands (grocery shopping, library, Costco) before noon.  As much as I enjoyed eating out at fun restaurants at the beach, I was craving some grilled foods.

We grilled our usual this afternoon:  Nathan's beef franks, shrimp seasoned with Old Bay, filet mignon (small portions, since I don't eat much beef), chicken kebabs, and a nice corn and squash saute (compliments of my mom).  As I loaded our groceries into the fridge I noticed we had a few old Gala apples in our fruit drawer.  I cut up a few and had them as a snack with some cheese while I enjoyed a glass of The Show Malbec (which I tasted for the first time back in June at the Joel Gott Wine Dinner).  Then it hit me... I'd make a cobbler!

My kitchen was a mess and I couldn't find my camera, so I whipped this one up and just snapped a photo with my BlackBerry (above).  I wasn't sure how it would turn out, but my mom, brother, husband and I ate the entire cobbler in one sitting.  I whipped up some fresh sweetened cream on the side (because I didn't have any ice cream) and it was really nice.  Best part?  It's super easy and you can use this technique with almost any fresh or frozen fruit.  The star ingredient is self-rising flour (but if you live up North and can't find it in the grocery store you can make your own).  It's a great last minute dessert.  I've done this with blackberries, blueberries, cherries, and peaches.  I've adjusted the spices and sugar to suit the fruits.  Who doesn't like fresh fruit baked into a sweet, buttery crust?

Try this one.  Even if you're a non-baker, you can do this!  Keep it in the fridge until you're ready to serve dinner, then let it bake during the meal.  Serve it hot from the oven with some vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream and you'll be a rock star.

Apple Cobbler
a Keeley Original, based on a traditional Southern technique

3/4 stick of butter, melted (6 tablespoons, please use real butter)
3/4 cup self-rising flour (if you don't have any, make your own)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
3/4 cup milk
3 medium apples, peeled, cored, and diced (I used Gala, any apple suitable for baking will do)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour melted butter into the bottom of a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. 
Whisk together the flour, sugars, and spices.  Whisk in the milk.  Pour this batter over the melted butter.

Spread apples evenly over the batter.  Do not stir.  Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until crust is golden brown.  Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Ocean City, MD, 2009

I'll be taking a few days away from the blog for a much-needed vacation.  I have so many posts in mind, but they'll have to wait until next month!

This time around we've rented a condo, so we'll actually be able to store and cook our own food.  While I'm looking forward to going out to all my favorite restaurants, I also love that we'll be able to serve basic home-cooked food and snacks while we're away.  (Good thing calories don't count on vacation!)  Plus, our rental is pet friendly, so Milo and Zelda get to tag along.  We also enjoy full-service vacations (like cruises), but it's also great to have access to a washer and dryer and be able to bring the pets.

I spent the bulk of today preparing for our travels.  Here's the rundown:

Food prepared/cooked for the trip:
Homemade Salsa (had to use up all the tomatoes and jalapenos in the garden prior to our departure)
Beef and Bean Empanadas (Keeley eating beef?!  Recipe coming soon.)
Banana Bread

Wines purchased for the trip:
The Show Malbec, 2009 (about $13)
Dry Creek Dry Chenin Blanc, 2008 (about $9)
Murphy Goode Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 (about $13)

Beach reading:
Little Bee: A Novel by Chris Cleave
August issues of O, The Oprah Magazine and Better Homes and Gardens

I still have a bunch of things to do (bathe the dogs, give dogs their meds, pick up my meds from the pharmacy, pack!), but fortunately we're not traveling too far, so I'm not stressed.  The only downside?  It's predicted to be 100 degrees tomorrow with a heat index of like 105.  Good thing I like summer!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Blueberry Scones

I've been cooking and baking so much this summer that I can't blog fast enough to document it all!  I love all this fresh produce.  If I'm not growing it in my own garden, I always make sure I pick up fresh fruits and vegetables at the beginning of every long weekend (I have a four-day work week in the summer) and use up each and every bit of fresh produce over the weekend.  That means we're enjoying fresh produce with breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  All of this makes up for the fact that we eat pizza and other forms of takeout after working long hours on weekdays.

Today the star of the show is fresh blueberries!  No, I don't grow my own, I just pick 'em up from my local Costco.  I live very close to New Jersey, the blueberry capital of America, so my berries are local, even if I buy them at the store.

I'm perfectly content eating fresh blueberries as-is.  Especially when they are perfectly dark blue, unblemished and plump.  But my husband seems to be a berry-hater, unless they are incorporated into baked goods, so I went back to a recipe I discovered when blueberries were out of season.  Yes, you can use frozen berries, but please, please, please use fresh if they are in season.

This recipe comes from Tyler Florence on The Food Network (my free weekends consist of cooking, baking, reading about cooking and baking, and watching food programs).

These scones are easy to make if you have a food processor.  If you don't, you can use a pastry cutter or two forks to mix the butter into the flour, but don't handle the dough too much or your scones won't be flaky and fluffy.

I love that these are drop-style scones.  This means I can have a batch in the oven and a pot of coffee brewing before my husband is finished walking the dogs.  After making this recipe a few times I've decided that the glaze isn't necessary, but if I made it again I'd use lemon instead of orange. 

These are a great start to your weekend.

Blueberry Scones
from Tyler's Ultimate

2 cups unbleached flour, plus more for rolling berries
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, chilled and cut in chunks
3/4 cup buttermilk or cream
1 egg
1 pint fresh blueberries 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  

In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar; mix thoroughly. Cut in butter using 2 forks or a pastry blender. The butter pieces should be coated with flour and resemble crumbs.

In another bowl, mix buttermilk and egg together, and then add to the flour mixture. Mix just to incorporate, do no overwork the dough.

Roll blueberries in flour to coat, this will help prevent the fruit from sinking to the bottom of the scone when baked. Fold the blueberries into batter, being careful not to bruise. Drop large tablespoons of batter on an ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until brown. Cool before applying orange glaze.

Orange Glaze: 
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2 oranges, juiced and zested
To prepare Orange Glaze: combine butter, sugar, orange zest, and juice over a double boiler. Cook until butter and sugar are melted and mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and beat until smooth and slightly cool. Drizzle or brush on top of scones and let glaze get hazy and hardened.

Friday, July 16, 2010


It's summertime and my garden is in full bloom!  Back in May I planted cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes, poblano peppers, jalapeno peppers, red peppers, chives, basil, rosemary, cilantro, green beans, and thyme.  In addition, my sage from last year came back and it's HUGE.  So far everything has been doing well except the green beans (they're pretty scrawny) and the cilantro (it's tall and leggy without many leaves).  It's July so I'm picking tomatoes every day and my basil plants are very mature, so at my house that means it's time from bruschetta! 

I use plum tomatoes because they aren't as watery as other varieties.  They seem to have more "meat" than other tomatoes, if that makes sense.  Of course, you can use any tomatoes you have on hand.

My mom and I love to enjoy bruschetta on freshly toasted baguette as an appetizer or even as a light meal.  it's super simple:  tomatoes, basil, garlic, olive oil.  No need to turn on the oven (you can toast the bread in a toaster or even buy premade garlic toasts).

Basil is one of my favorite herbs.  It adds a fresh note to our pasta sauces and it's great served as-is in bruschetta.  It normally runs about $3 for a handful of fresh basil in the grocery store, but I grow my own, so it's practically free and always fresh.

I make my bruschetta fresh and in small batches.  I let it sit in the fridge for an hour or two before serving to let the flavors mix.  I always eat it within 24 hours.  This version is so much better than that jarred stuff at the grocery store.

from Keeley's kitchen

4 Roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
a handful of fresh basil (about 15 leaves), chopped
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil 

Put the tomatoes in a medium-sized bowl.  Add 3/4 teaspoon of salt (more or less to taste).  Add basil, garlic, olive oil and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper (more or less to taste).  Refrigerate for at least one hour and serve with freshly toasted baguette.  (If you opt to serve it with store-bought garlic toasts, reduce the salt in the recipe.)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bacon Mac and Cheese

It goes without saying that this should be consumed in moderation, right?  Wait until you have some friends over before you attempt to whip this one up.

This recipe is inspired by the rich, creamy bacon macaroni and cheese that I experienced at Lord Hobo in Cambridge, Mass. last month.  I knew I wasn't going to drive eight hours to experience this mac and cheese again (well, at least not anytime soon), so I figured I'd attempt to make my own version at home.  Mine is different, but I think it's just as good.

I ran into a few challenges in creating this recipe.  First, I think Lord Hobo used Barilla Mezzi Rigatoni in their recipe.  I also know that my local grocery store sells this pasta.  Of course it went on sale last week and was all sold out.  Great.  So my patient husband drove me to three other grocery stores until we found this pasta.  I'm a perfectionist.  I can't help it.  I'm sure medium shells will do if you can't find Barilla Mezzi Rigatoni.  When I found the right pasta, I bought three boxes.  Just in case.

Next challenge was finding applewood smoked bacon.  My husband thought it would be hard to find.  Believe it or not, Oscar Mayer makes a version and not only did my grocery store had it, I got it for $1.99 with a rain check (normal retail is $5.99/pound).  And yes, I did purchase 6 pounds of bacon and put the rest in the freezer.  I love Oscar Mayer bacon.  I don't eat it every day, but if I'm going to eat fatty meat, it may as well be the best.

For the recipe, I reflected on my Cheesy Baked Shells with Broccoli.  The method is similar, but the broccoli is replaced by bacon and I made a few minor additions.

Bacon Mac and Cheese
a Keeley original 

1 pound Barilla Mezzi Rigatoni pasta (or any other sturdy, small pasta) 
3 tablespoons butter 
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour 
3 cups milk  I used1%
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh chives
2 cups grated sharp white Cheddar

1 cup grated fresh (soft) Asiago or cheese of your choice I added a little Parmesan, too
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
fresh ground pepper

5 slices of thick cut bacon, cut into small pieces and cooked until crisp (I used Oscar Mayer Applewood Smoked bacon)

Heat broiler. 

Cook the pasta according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 4 to 5 minutes.

Add cheese and stir until melted. Stir in the nutmeg and 1⁄4 teaspoon pepper.  I add more pepper.  Just taste as you cook.

Add the pasta, cooked bacon, and chives and toss to combine. Transfer to a broilerproof 2 quart baking dish.  Broil until golden, 3 to 4 minutes. 

Serves 6 as a side dish or 4 as an entree.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Buttermilk Pancakes

 These pancakes are so good that I ate them for dinner... twice.  In one week.  Last week was a tough week.  Oh, and last Friday morning I had them for breakfast with blueberries.  Yes, I like them that much.

I've learned that good bakers always have buttermilk in their fridges.  Of course, if you don't have buttermilk, you can make your own by adding one teaspoon of distilled white vinegar for each cup of milk.  Just let it sit for 10 minutes, then move forward with the recipe.

This recipe is a slightly modified version from Sarah at Short Stop.  Her recipe can feed at least 6 people, but I cut it into 1/3 to serve my husband and I.  I also triple the amount of sugar in the pancakes.  I'm not a sugar fiend, but I liked these pancakes a bit sweeter.

Here's the recipe as it was originally posted in Sarah's blog.  Keep in mind that I think it will serve 6.  My comments are in red.

Buttermilk Pancakes

3 cups flour
4 tablespoons sugar (I would add more sugar)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups buttermilk
3/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup butter, melted

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl, beat together buttermilk, milk, vanilla, eggs and melted butter.  I use a whisk and beat the wet ingredients while slowly pouring in the butter.  It keeps everything nicely mixed.  Keep the two mixtures separate until you are ready to cook.

Heat a lightly greased griddle or frying pan over medium heat.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture, using a wooden spoon or fork to blend. Stir until just blended together. Do not overmix! Scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/3 cup for each pancake. Cook on both sides until golden brown. Serve with butter, syrup, and powdered sugar or fruit preserves.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ali Baba Chicken

Why is this called Ali Baba Chicken?  My husband told me it reminds him of the chicken kebabs at a local Middle Eastern restaurant, Ali Baba.  Is this recipe authentic?  Probably not.  Does it taste good?  Yes!  Plus it's easy, so add it to your summer grilling list.

Believe it or not, this recipe was the first time I grilled boneless, skinless chicken thighs.  When I was growing up my mom always baked chicken thighs with Lowry's Seasoned Salt.  She'd pull of the skin, season them, and bake them in a glass Pyrex dish.  They were good and healthy, but they seemed so plain because we ate them all the time.  In adulthood I fell into the same boneless, skinless chicken breast trap that so many of us do.  But I must agree with those who say there's something special about chicken thighs.  They are just as easy to cook as chicken breasts, but they are moister and richer.  I think each cut of chicken has its place.  If you think you only like white meat, I urge you to try this recipe.

I used metal skewers.  If you decide to use bamboo (wooden) skewers, please be sure to soak them for at least 30 minutes before adding the chicken.  Otherwise, they may catch on fire.

We serve this chicken with grilled vegetables or roasted broccoli and rice pilaf or jasmine rice.  The leftovers would be great stuffed into a pita with some fresh veggies.  Last time we made this there were no leftovers.  It was that tasty.

Ali Baba Chicken
Keeley-style, inspired by use real butter

1.5 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks (about 2 inch pieces)
5 cloves of garlic, minced
zest of 1 lemon, plus the juice of 1/2 lemon
3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon cumin

Cut chicken into chunks and place into a large, zip top bag.  Add remaining ingredients, close bag and massage the chicken to get the marinade easily distributed.  Place in refrigerator for one hour (in the meantime, soak your wooden skewers, if using).

Thread the chicken onto skewers.  Grill for about 4 minutes per side over direct or until chicken is done.  I prefer to grill on charcoal, but these also can be done on an indoor grill, a gas grill, or even roasted in the oven at 425 degrees.  Just make sure the chicken is completely cooked before serving.

Serve with rice or in a pita, with vegetables.

Serves 4

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Best of Boston, Pt. 2: Lord Hobo

The hubs and I took a road trip to Boston to visit our college friend Allison back in June. It was a long drive (7 hours) for a 3 day weekend, but it was well worth it. We saw so much and ate so many good meals in two days, that I'll have to do a series of posts about our experiences. Here's Part 2:

Lord Hobo is a gastropub (as in a bar that also serves real food... I know, it was a new word for me, too) in Cambridge.  My husband was impressed by the huge selection of beers (the list looked like a wine list at a good restaurant), but I'm not a beer drinker, so I opted for a cocktail and an entree. 

The spot is really casual.  It's on a corner in a neighborhood and it's essentially an oversized bar.  Well, I guess it's a bit better than your average neighborhood bar because the bathrooms were nice and we had real napkins.  But I digress...

Allison recommended the macaroni and cheese.  Now, I thought I knew all about mac and cheese.  I've learned to make a great traditional version for holidays, and I also do a nice Cheesy Baked Shells and Pasta as a weeknight meal.  I figured it would be good, but just normal.

I wanted my husband and I to order two different menu items so I could try more than one entree.  After some discussion, it turned out that three out of the six people in our party just had to have the Macaroni and Cheese with Applewood Smoked Bacon (it's also available with lobster).  I am so, so happy that I ordered my own.  This is not something you want to share.

The sauce was perfectly thick and creamy and had that really sharp cheese taste that I prefer.  I'm guessing it was some combination of sharp cheddar and parmesan.  The chef used mezzi rigatoni instead of traditional macaroni, which was an excellent choice.  The rigatoni were large enough to get filled with cheese and some of the bacon actually made it's way into the holes in the pasta.  The bacon was thick cut, lean, and smoky.  It almost reminded me of a smoked pork chop or a barbecued rib (minus the sauce). 

You know you've eaten a great meal when you think about it for days afterwards.  The best part is that it was only $10.  I paid as much for the entree as I did for the drink.  Yes, it was all worth it.  Every.  Single.  Calorie.

My next quest is to make this at home.  I think I already know the basics, but the key will be finding the right brand of bacon.  Wish me luck!

Want to hear more about our Bostonian culinary adventures?  Check out Part 1.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Low Country Boil

Today marked the beginning of a five-day weekend in our household.  Both my husband and I are planning to spend the Independence Day holiday weekend at home with family and friends and enjoying some good summertime food.  After spending half the day at the wine shop, grocery store, and Costco (believe it or not, we love running errands together, particularly if they involve food shopping), we were ready to go to work on our dinner.

I decided to try a Low Country Boil.  It's a southern-style shrimp boil and typically includes some combination of smoked sausage, potatoes, corn, and shellfish.  I didn't have a recipe, but I've read a few recipes and I've watched Paula Deen on The Food Network, so I figured I'd make my own version of Low Country Boil, Delaware-style.

We figured this would be a great celebratory meal, since we're celebrating the four-year anniversary of the adoption of two of our family dogs:  Zelda, our Papillion, and Jonesie, my mom's Mini Dachshund.  Both dogs were adopted on July 3, 2006 from the Delaware SPCA.  No, the dogs didn't get any low country boil, but they did beg as we enjoyed each bite.

I didn't have any crabs, plus we aren't fans of picking out crab meat.  My husband is from Maryland and we both love Old Bay, so I figured I'd throw some of that in.  We always have kielbasa in the fridge, so that was a go.  Corn was on sale for 17 cents an ear, so we threw it in, too.  We had shrimp in the freezer and a past-it's-prime bag of fingerling potatoes in the pantry.  Beyond that, I just started cooking.

First I cut up and browned one pound of kielbasa.  I used my favorite, Hillshire Farms Lite.  It doesn't give off much fat, so I added a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to keep it from sticking.

Then I removed the kielbasa from the pot and added some chopped garlic.  Garlic makes everything taste better.  I made sure not to cook the garlic for more than 60 seconds because I didn't want to burn it.

Next came the fun part.  I dumped in a cocktail of clam juice, water, old bay, and tomato paste.  I also threw the (thoroughly scrubbed) fingerling potatoes into the pot of cold broth.  I brought it up to a boil and let it roll for about 20 minutes.  The broth has a great layered flavor.  It's surprisingly flavorful, considering that it's mostly water.  It's not to salty, not spicy, but rich and savory.

Next I threw in some corn (and a little more Old Bay, for good luck), added the kielbasa back to the pot, and cooked it another 10 minutes.

Finally, I threw in the shrimp (and a little more Old Bay), put the lid on for three minutes, then it was party time!

I invited my mom over, we popped open a bottle of Pinot Grigio (the hubs had some craft beer from our Boston trip), and we got down and dirty with the Low Country Boil.  All that was left was a pile of shrimp tails and corn cobs.  The juice from this boil was so good that we poured it into our bowls and then sopped it up with crusty bread. 

This meal took less than 45 minutes from start to finish and it was restaurant-quality.  We pulled it off for less than $20 and it would have cost much more if we had gone out.  I recommend this for casual entertaining, or any day you just want to celebrate summer.  My husband doesn't even love seafood and he enjoyed this.  Just make sure you try to eat it all in on serving... I'm not sure this would be great reheated.

Low Country Boil, Delaware-Style
a Keeley original
serves 4

1 pound kielbasa (I use Hillshire Farms Lite, you can use any smoked sausage)
4 ears of corn, cut into thirds (use fresh, if possible)
1 pound of small red potatoes (or baby yukons, or fingerlings... any waxy potato suitable for boiling)
1 pound raw, deveined, tail-on shrimp (I buy them in the frozen section, 21-24 count per pound)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
8 cloves of garlic, minced
1 12-ounce bottle of clam juice
1 quart of water (plus more, if needed)
1 tablespoon of tomato paste
1/3 cup of Old Bay (plus more, to taste)

Cut the kielbasa into chunks and brown over medium-high heat in a large stockpot with 2 tablespoons of oil.  Remove kielbasa from pot and set aside.

Reduce heat to low and cook garlic for one minute.  Deglaze the pan with clam juice, water, tomato paste, and Old Bay.  Immediately add potatoes to pot.

Cover pot loosely with its lid and boil potatoes on high (or medium-high) for 20 minutes or until they can be pierced with a fork.  (Don't overcook the potatoes, you'll be cooking them a bit more as the recipe continues).  Keep an eye on the potatoes and add more water (to barely cover potatoes) as necessary. 

Add corn and cooked kielbasa to the pot.  Add more Old Bay, if desired.  Cover and cook for an additional ten minutes.

Add raw shrimp and cook for three minutes, or until shrimp is just pink.  Add more Old Bay, if desired.  Serve in shallow bowls and ladle the broth over each serving.  Crusty bread is great for sopping up the juice.
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