Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Planting Herbs

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Yes, it's finally here…planting time!  I always have two or three large pots on my back porch that contain herbs.  I love cooking with fresh, seasonal food and herbs make all the difference.  Yesterday, I picked up these small pots of three of my favorites ~ chives, rosemary and basil and can't wait to get them settled in their new home.  

I thought you might like a few other ideas, links and photos about herbs, so enjoy!

1.  This is a GREAT link for anyone planting herbs ~ Mistakes new gardeners make planting herbs.

2.  I LOVE this photo of herbs planted in an urn.

3.  Need to know how to grow ANY herb?  Here's a site that has it all.

4.  For some old school advice…The Farmers Almanac gives great information on when to plant, forecasts and gardening tips.

5.  Here's one of my pots that includes parsley and thyme.  My link also gives some tips for growing lettuce in containers.

6.  Don't forget to mark your plantings.  Here's my inspiration this year, so I'm grabbing some river rocks and a paint pen.  Happy, delicious times are right around the corner...

Happy Earth Day everyone ~ let's get planting!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Gnocchi with Ham & Peas

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This might just be the dish that starts a new tradition on our Easter brunch table.  Last week, we had a great time at the coast celebrating spring break.  We decided to travel back on Saturday so that we could spend Easter at home.  I normally cook a big, beautiful ham and serve it with fresh veggies and lot's of deviled eggs.  This year, I discovered just what little time I had left to prepare our traditional meal so I decided to make something a "little" different.
Gnocchi with Ham & Peas
I made this beautiful, creamy, delicious gnocchi and it was the star of the day!  Those tender little dumplings were perfect with savory ham, fresh peas all baked in a creamy sauce topped with cheese.  Of course, we still had deviled eggs and I made a sweet fruit salad to round out the menu.  It was a wonderful, new Easter Brunch that is destined to make a comeback!
Gnocchi for Easter
Gnocchi with Ham & Peas
1 tablespoon butter
1 medium size onion - diced
1 cup chopped ham - from deli or leftovers
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 cup chicken broth plus 1/2 cup water
1 package potato gnocchi – 17.5 oz. standard size
1 cup frozen peas - thawed
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 cup heavy cream or half & half
1 cup shredded parmesan or cheddar cheese
  • Preheat oven broiler to high.
  • Melt butter in large ovenproof skillet over medium heat.
  • Add onion and cook until translucent.  
  • Add ham and thyme. Continue to cook until ham is slightly brown on edges.
  • Pour in chicken broth/water and bring to a simmer.
  • Gently add gnocchi, stir until ingredients are mixed then cover and cook until gnocchi is tender - about 4 minutes.
  • Remove skillet from heat.  Stir in peas, lemon zest and cream. 
  • Adjust seasonings with 1/4 teaspoon salt and a generous pinch of pepper.
  • Top with cheeses and broil until golden and bubbly, approximately 4-5 minutes. 
  • To serve - sprinkle with additional cheese and chopped chives.
  • Cooks Notes ~ 
    • Gnocchi is a potato dumpling and can be found in the dried pasta or frozen section in most grocery stores.
    • I used deli sandwich ham, which I diced.  Using leftover ham would work wonderfully in this dish.
    • Any cheese can be used in the dish.  I had Parmesan and Cheddar on hand so that is what I used.  A single cheese or combination of 2 is fine to use.
Potato Gnocchi with Ham & Peas

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Farro Salad with Peas & Feta

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Lately, everywhere I look there are recipes that include farro.  I was not really sure what I thought about this little, brown grain, but decided to give it a try.
The verdict is in…I'm a FAN!  I did some research, a little investigating about farro, and here's a few facts ~
  • it's one of the oldest grains cultivated by humans.
  • originally discovered in the middle east but now it's now largely grown in Italy.
  • it's a great source of protein and fiber.
  • it has a rice-like texture and is easy to use because it absorbs whatever flavor its cooked with.
With this new found love, I plan on making many more salads and experimenting with farro in soup.  Tonight, we are having this salad with grilled chicken.  My taste tester, Hunter, has already requested that this be in his lunch bag tomorrow along with some chicken in a lettuce wrap!  You got it son…and I think I might just make one for myself.

Farro Salad with Peas & Feta

3 cups water
1 cup of farro
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of blanched sugar snap peas - sliced
1/2 cup feta cheese crumbles
1 tablespoon fresh chives - minced
1 tablespoon flat leaf parsley - chopped
1 garlic clove, grated
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked pepper
Salt to taste
  • Rinse and drain 1 cup of farro and place in pot with 3 cups of water along with 1 teaspoon of salt.
  • Cover and bring to a low boil for 15 minutes or until farro is cooked al dente (chewy.)  Drain and transfer to a medium size bowl.
  • Add onion, peas, feta, chives and parsley.
  • In a small jar combine, garlic, vinegar, olive oil and pepper.  Shake until combined.  Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.
  • Pour dressing over farro salad and toss to combine.  
  • Serve at room temperature. 
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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Roasted Oysters on the Grill

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This past weekend I think I pulled off the fastest dinner party ever!  It was a great success due to my friend Lori, her husband and their willingness to roll with my crazy, spur of the moment plan.  A very generous friend had given me 2 dozen fresh oysters, so I had dinner but wanted to share all this goodness.  I texted Lori, asked if they were interested and she said, OH, YES!  We added a few extras like fresh bread, melted butter, hot sauce and lemons. We snacked on delicious white bean dip (recipe is on the way) while the grill heated up.  The guys put on some tunes, lit the outdoor candles and set up the bar with chilled wines and cold beer.  It was an awesome night with great friends, delicious food, interesting stories and so much laughter that my cheeks hurt by the end of the night. 
I think this spring I am claiming "spur of the moment" as my motto…

Roasted Oysters
2 dozen fresh oysters - cleaned
2 sticks salted butter - melted
Lemon wedges
Hot sauce - Texas Pete is my choice
  • Heat grill to medium high.
  • Place cleaned oysters on grill - larger bowl side down.
  • Close lid and roast for approximately 6-8 minutes until shells begin to open.
  • Remove from grill.  Using a shucking or paring knife & gloves, gently pry open shells.
  • Run knife around shell, loosening meat, leaving oyster in shell, being careful not to spill any juices.  Place on platter.
  • Serve with lemon wedges, melted butter and hot sauce.
Check out these helpful links on Oysters...

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Grilled Pizza

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The weather has been so nice the past few days with warm temperatures and sunny skies.  I decided to take advantage of this much needed change by firing up my grill.  It was a night of the boys coming and going, so I knew they'd be hungry once they hit the door.  My dinner choice was perfect - grilled pizza!  I picked up some prepared dough, got several toppings ready and made some pizza sauce.  Making a pizza on the grill may seem intimidating but truthfully, it's really, really easy and the outcome is crazy delicious!
Grilled Pizza
Prepared pizza dough  - or homemade dough, recipe is here
Homemade Pizza Sauce - 
  • mix together - 1 8oz can of tomato sauce, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/4 teaspoon dried basil, dash of red pepper. 
Fresh mozzarella cheese - sliced or shredded
Grated Parmesan cheese
Toppings  - cooked sausage, pepperoni, hamburger, sliced onion, mushrooms, peppers, olives 
A Southern Soul | Pizza Dough
Make dough into a circle or really, whatever shape you can!  Just call it "rustic"
  • Clean grill grates and set for direct cooking on high.
  • Prepare toppings and set aside.
  • In a small bowl, pour approximately 1/2 cup of olive oil.  Using tongs to hold, roll a paper towel to use to oil grates of grill.
  • On a lightly floured board, gently shape dough into a circle.  Let rest for 5 minutes.
  • When grill is hot, use tongs with paper towels to oil grates.
  • Using a pizza peel or cookie sheet dusted with flour, transfer dough onto grill.
  • Close top of grill and cook for 2 minutes.  Check dough and if needed, turn so that all sides are cooked.
  • When edges are cooked, remove dough from grill and place grilled side up on peel or cookie sheet.
A Southern Soul | Pizza from Grill
  • Spoon on tomato sauce and using the back of a spoon, spread to edges of pizza.  Note ~ do not "over sauce."
  • Lay slices of mozzarella cheese or sprinkle on top of tomato sauce.
  • Add other toppings.  Note ~ don't layer on too many toppings or pizza will become soggy.
  • Gently slide pizza back onto grill.  Lower heat to medium.
  • Close lid and cook for approximately 2 to 3 minutes until bottom crust begins to char and cheese is bubbly.
  • Remove from grill, let rest for 1 to 2 minutes before slicing.A Southern Soul | Grilled Sausage Pizza
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Monday, March 31, 2014

Southern Pound Cake

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It's time for true confessions…I have about 15 different Pound Cake recipes and I love them all.  Some are tried & true, passed down from generations of wonderful cooks and some are new, with inventive flavors.  It really doesn't matter to me, I just can't help it, I love 'em all.  
Southern Pound Cake | A Southern Soul
Today, I'm sharing one that stands out in my collection.  Several years ago, I received this recipe from my neighbor friend, Roy.  He brought it over, asked me to make it and volunteered to be the taste tester!  After a couple of tries and tastings, we decided I had the perfect recipe.  There's no crazy secret or special baking method used here.  With great ingredients & a little planning, this cake turns out perfect every time.  The best part is, it has a crunchy, buttery top but is moist, rich and absolutely delicious in the middle.  Sometimes I catch folks just sneaking extra pieces of crust to go along with their slice of deliciousness. 
This is Southern Pound Cake at it's best.
A Southern Soul | Pound Cake

Southern Pound Cake
3 cups sugar
2 sticks unsalted butter - room temperature
1/2 stick vegetable shortening (1/2 cup)
5 large eggs - room temperature
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups A/P flour sifted
dash of salt
1 cup whole milk

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Add butter and sugar to mixing bowl and cream until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs one at a time, mixing well.
  • While mixer is on low, add vanilla and dash of salt.
  • Alternate adding flour and milk - starting and stopping with flour.
  • Pour batter into buttered, floured tube or bundt pan.
  • Bake for approximately 1 hour or up to 1:15 hours.  Check if done with a cake tester or wooden skewer.
  • Let cool for 15 minutes then gently remove from pan.
A Southern Soul | Pound Cake
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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Roasted Asparagus

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Sometimes, simple is best.  That's definitely how I feel about asparagus.  I think those beautiful long spears are without a doubt, most flavorful when it's roasted.
Roasted Asparagus | A Southern Soul
I love how the tips get a little brown and crunchy but the middle is still tender.  With just a few other ingredients and a really hot oven, you've got a delicious side dish in under 15 minutes, but here's fair warning, you better make a big batch...they tend to get snagged before dinner is served.
Asparagus with Salt & Pepper | A Southern Soul
Roasted Asparagus

1 large bunch of fresh asparagus
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Wash and dry asparagus.  Trim ends.
  • Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  • Place asparagus on tray and lightly drizzle with olive oil.  Gently roll the asparagus in oil to coat.
  • Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  • Roast in hot oven for 9 minutes or until tips are browned.
  • Remove from oven, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.
Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan | A Southern Soul
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