Tomatoes and Basil

Last year we planted a herb window box for the first time, and now I can’t do without fresh herbs. We have basil and oregano this year, and I may buy a cilantro plant. they need different light levels, so they can’t all three be in the same box. Oregano and basil shared their box very well last year.

If you have fresh basil and tomatoes, bruschetta is a quick and easy appetizer. Cut up the tomato (don’t worry about the skins or seeds, it’s fine), and saute it in olive oil with several basil leaves, ripped up. If you’re feeling spicy, toss some red pepper flakes in for good measure.

Toast French bread lightly, and then add the cooked tomato and basil mixture. Top with mozzarella or feta and heat under the broiler until the cheese melts. (I used feta).

What summer foods are you fixing now?



Kiss my Shrimp and Grits

I’ve not been around much lately, been busy writing, and seems like there’s never any time with two teenagers at home. School is finally out and I feel like I can breathe.
I’ve been in the mood to cook, and the kids both went to a camp last week so I cooked shrimp and grits since neither of the kids like it. it turned out wonderfully, so I thought I would share the recipe.

I used this recipe:

The difference is that I used 3/4 pound of shrimp, I omitted the bacon completely, and sauteed the veggies in olive oil instead. As you can see, we still had plenty of shrimp. The grits were very very creamy and didn’t set up hard like usual. I think the half and half helped with that. I used yellow stone ground grits. Yes, that’s butter and cheese swimming on top, just swimmingly.


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Recipe Time — Apple Crisp

New feature: Monday Munchies!  (Recipes, meal ideas, munchies, and all around good food!) Whoo hoo!!!

It’s that time of year again, when apples are plentiful. I am absolutely in love with an apple called the Mutso, or the crispin. You can find out more about the Mutsu here.

We haven’t seen these apples in the grocery stores, but every fall we drive to an orchard about an hour from our house in Hendersonville, North Carolina and we buy a half-bushel of Mutsu apples.

I would describe the Mutsu as sweet, tart, and crisp. It’s not as sour as a granny smith apple, but not as mushy like a red delicious.

This year, we weren’t sure when we would go. One weekend we planned to make the drive, but the orchard’s Facebook page said they did not have any Mutsu in stock but they expected more that week. the second weekend we were planning to go, we thought about passing because it was raining, but we checked their Facebook page again. With the orchard urging  that they had very few Mutsu and they wouldn’t last through October, we decided to go ahead.

The trip was worth it. I still love the Mutsu.  Last night I made an apple crisp. It was quick and easy. Here’s the recipe:Apple crisp

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup quick-cooking oats

1 cup flour

1/2 cup butter, melted

3 cups apples (2 large or 3 small), peeled, cored, and chopped

1/2 cup white sugar

2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray non-stick spray on an 8 x 8 pan.Combine everything except apples and place half of the mixture in pan. Spread apples on top. Top with the remainder of the topping.

Bake 40 – 45 minutes until golden brown.

Now, as you will notice, my topping looks a little bit dry. I used margarine and mixed it in without melting it, so I didn’t think it spread as well. Don’t make my mistake. Whether you use butter or margarine, melt it.

Having said that, the apple crisp was a big hit for three out of four at my house, and the fourth doesn’t much care for fruit. I consider that a win.


Cube Steak with Blue Cheese

I love some cubed steak. When I was younger, I lived with my grandparents, and they loved cubed steak on Sunday morning before church. I remember lying in bed and hearing my grandfather beating the steak with a meat tenderizer. My grandmother dusted it in flour and fried it crispy. She would serve it with homemade biscuits and sawmill gravy.

I make cubed steak at my house about once a month, and it’s one of our favorites. While I can make homemadecubed steak biscuits, usually these days I buy frozen. I don’t make gravy, but sometimes my husband does.

We love cubed steak, but with the flour and frying, it’s not the healthiest, and it takes a while to get the oil hot, bread the cube steak, and then cook. Not to mention the mess.

Here’s a yummy alternative. Spray a broiler pan with nonstick spray.  Cut the cubed steak in small pieces, about two or three inches square, or a slightly larger rectangle. Lay the cubed steak out over the broiler pan. Dust with coarse cracked pepper.

Broil on high for about five minutes, until the top darkens and is edged in black. (You have to get past the gray stage). Take out, flip each piece over with tongs,  top with blue cheese crumbles, and broil again. Take out after about five minutes, when cheese has melted and edges look crispy.

To make this work, you have to like blue cheese. It’s good with cracked pepper alone, and I usually leave some that way for my son. I think you could top with Heinz 57 or a thicker steak sauce if you didn’t want the blue cheese but wanted to add flavor.

Easy Homemade Strawberry Shortcake

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2014-04-08 20.26.45 2014-04-08 20.16.15It’s coming on strawberry season here in South Carolina, and one of our favorite desserts is strawberry shortcake.

Last year I started making the cake part of strawberry shortcake from Bisquick, and it’s a quick and easy dessert that even a non-baker like me can do.

(Now, don’t be a Bisquick snob. You can wave your hand over this flour mixture and the most fabulous things happen! Our joke is that if you are using Bisquick, you have to tell it what you are making, and it will magically adjust.)

You can find the directions on the back of the Bisquick box, but I change it up a little bit.

Heat oven to 425.

Mix 2 1/3 cups Bisquick mix, 2/3 cup milk, 3 tbsp sugar, 3 tbsp butter or margarine melted

Mix these ingredients together until a wet dough forms. I add a splash more sugar, enough so that the top of the batter is covered.  It’s maybe 1/2 cup of sugar total.

Drop the dough in biscuit sized bits onto a baking sheet or stone (I use a stone), and cook for 12-15 minutes.  The ingredients above make about 6 little cakes. You may want to experiment with the sugar levels. The first time we thought the basic recipe wasn’t sweet enough, hence our additions.

For the strawberries, cut them up and sprinkle with a bit of sugar or honey. For the topping, we use Cool Whip Lite, but you can also whip your own cream if you have time on your hands. If you’re a busy working mom throw a dollop of Cool Whip or ice cream on the top and mission accomplished.

Share your favorite spring desserts in the comments.