Monday, April 25, 2011

Fiesta Bison Bake

This last week was the entree week with cooking creme for the Real Women of Philadelphia contest. I made a video for a Santa Fe burrito over a week ago and submitted it but still wanted to come up with another idea.

So here it is: Fiesta Bison Bake!

Check out the video and recipe here:

It is a bit of a play on the classic frozen macaroni and beef I loved when I was younger. It had macaroni and tomatoes and beef and cheese. I changed it up to use the cooking creme to smooth out the texture of the shredded cheddar and make everything super creamy. I changed the tomatoes to diced tomatoes with green chiles to add some heat. And I changed the ground beef to ground bison to change up the flavor a little bit. Plus, everyone says that bison is leaner than ground beef. It all gets tossed together and then baked in the oven for a bit. Nothing too difficult, but lots of great flavor and texture!!!

My husband said that he really enjoyed this one. He was telling me how he always looks forward to macaroni and cheese-type dishes and is always disappointed. The texture is never quite right and there never seems to be enough cheese to hold everything together. Not with this recipe! He was munching on it from the second I stopped filming, which is the greatest complement ever!

So go try out the recipe. It is great for anyone that likes a little bit of a kick!! If you want to take the idea in a different direction, then you can use plain diced tomatoes with the Italian Cheese and Herb cooking creme or even diced tomatoes with basil and oregano and the savory garlic cooking creme. All great ideas based on the same concept. Just change it around to make it work for you and your family.


Yay!! It is strawberry time! I made sure to make some time this year to visit Washington Farms to pick my own strawberries. Last year I didn't make it out there and was so disappointed! That wasn't going to happen this year.

I made time on Saturday morning, when the weather people said it would be a perfect day. Well, it was rainy and misty all morning (of course). Since I know how easy it is to get side tracked and the season isn't very long, I made the 40 minute drive out there anyway. This was my first time to the Loganville farm, I have always gone to the one in Watkinsville in the past. It wasn't too difficult to find at all, it was just a bit of a drive from my house.

I quickly gathered my two gallons of strawberries and seriously contemplated picking more. They all just looked too good! I decided that I would stick with the two I had and then if I use a lot of them in the next few weeks, then I would still have some time to get back before all the strawberries were gone.

So here are a few things I have made with the strawberries so far:
- Mixed greens salad with strawberries, mushrooms, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar
- Strawberry sherbet: I used a recipe from the Williams-Sonoma Desserts cookbook I found at the used book store last week. This turned out great!!! It is nice and smooth and doesn't leave a film in your mouth like some of the homemade ice cream recipes out there. I saw a waffle cone maker in the clearance section of Macy's and couldn't walk by it. So I made waffle cone bowls which were perfect with the sherbet.

I washed and hulled a bunch for freezing because even though strawberries are a good fruit for you, I don't think I can eat 2 gallons all by myself before they go bad. My husband will eat a few here and there, but it is mostly up to me. I think I am up for the task!!!

I have a few other ideas rolling around in my head for the strawberries. It is dessert week in the Kraft Philadelphia Real Women contest so I have a feeling strawberries will be making an appearance.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

2011 Vegetable Garden

YAY!!! My garden is now officially ready for this season. I got the area tilled and added 33 large bags of soil (yes, thats lots of soil!!!) two weekends ago. And this past weekend, I filled it up with lots of pretty young plants!

Here is a rundown of what I am anxiously awaiting:
early girl tomatoes
grape tomatoes
solar fire tomatoes
black beauty zucchini
crook neck squash
red bell peppers
green bell peppers
sweet potatoes

I planted early girl and grape tomatoes last year and they thrived throughout the summer. I did not have any luck with the heirloom tomatoes (which never grew), the big boy tomatoes (I only got a couple of decent specimens out of this plant), or the roma tomatoes (which always went rotten before ripening and when I tried to pick them while green and ripen inside, they never changed color. So I chose to have two each of the early girl and grape tomatoes. Then I couldn't resist trying one other type. I went with the solar fire tomatoes, which are supposed to be very heat tolerant. We'll see how they fare this year.

I haven't had much okra in the past, mostly the fried kind. But last summer at the Lilburn Farmers Market, I picked up some fresh okra...and LOVED it!!! I roasted it in the oven with some garlic, butter, salt and pepper. Could not have been more perfect. So when I saw okra plants, I just had to buy some. I am really looking forward to the okra and hope mine is just as good!

I am not sure how the sweet potatoes will turn out, but I figured it was worth a shot.

I have one place left for something else, but I can't seem to make a final decision on what to put there. Should I try onions again (they did not seem to do well for me last year)? Or butternut squash (I only got one good plant from it last year)? I saw spaghetti squash plants that seemed interesting, as well. Hmm....I better decide soon!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sauteed Poleta

I was trying to come up with some savory ideas for the next Atlanta Underground Market and decided to try out some sauteed polenta triangles. You start with prepared polenta and let it set in the fridge. Then fry it up on both sides to make it theory, anyway.

When attempting to figure out the ratio of cornmeal to water/milk I found that the numbers varied to all sorts of extremes. There was the Paula Deen recipe that called for 1/3 cup plus 4 cups liquid. My Better Homes and Garden cookbook said 1 cup cornmeal plus one cup liquid. Other resources online and in my cookbooks fit every spot in between. This was extremely frustrating. I didn't want to waste my time by choosing a ratio that just would not work for me.

I didn't go with the one to one ratio just for cost reasons. If that worked the best, then that would entail lots and lots of cornmeal. Even though I have a 5 pound bag from a grainery in North GA, I wasn't sure if I wanted to go so far as the one to one ratio.

So in the end, I went with a 1:4 ratio...1/2 cup cornmeal plus 1 cup milk and 1 cup water. I heated the liquids to a boil, then slowly added the cornmeal and cooked until thickened. I poured the polenta into a 11x7 inch glass baking dish that had been coated with cooking spray. It came about 1/2 inch or so up the sides. I put a foil cover on and stuck it in the fridge for a day.

I heated a few tablespoons oil in a skillet and went to sauteing the cooked polenta, which I had cut into triangles. The pieces did not crisp up as I had intended. Perhaps I need to make another coating on the outside to make them nice and crispy.

In the end, the sauteed polenta tasted alright, but was nothing spectacular. Adding cheese on top might help, but I don't think I want to go in that direction any longer. I changed focus and will be using my cornmeal to make cornmeal crepes instead. I like that idea much more and a test run turned out just right. Then I can fill the crepes with some pulled pork or black eyed pea gumbo or even some pimento cheese. I love that idea much more for the upcoming market. I want to think a bit more about what side I want to serve with my crepes. Not using electricity makes things a bit more difficult. If I did have access to electricity, then I would easily make my own fries or tater tots. But that is a bit more difficult to do with a butane burner. So I will need to spend some time thinking it over. I have two weeks to get it just right in my head.

Two Potato Casserole

Can't decide between baking potatoes and sweet potatoes as a side dish? No need to worry since this casserole uses both for the nutritional benefits of each. Kraft Philadelphia cream cheese with milk makes a great sauce without adding a lot of fat. A layer of bread crumbs and parmesan cheese top off this wonderful side dish that is easy enough for a family night in but looks great enough for company!
  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 50 minutes
  • Total time: 60 minutes
  • Servings: 6
  • Ingredients:
  • 1 baking potato, sliced thin
  • 1 sweet potato, sliced thin
  • 4 ounce(s) of Kraft Philadelphia 1/3 reduced fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup(s) of milk
  • 3 tbsp. of butter
  • 2/3 cup(s) of grated parmesan cheese
  • 2/3 cup(s) of dried bread crumbs
  • 1 salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a large casserole dish with cooking spray.
  2. Prepare the sauce by combining the cream cheese and the milk. Warm in the microwave if necessary to get a smooth consistency.
  3. Add a layer of white potato slices, and then a layer of sweet potato slices. Season with salt and pepper. Add half the butter. Pour over half the sauce. Sprinkle with some of the parmesan cheese.
  4. Repeat the layers of potato, sweet potato, butter and sauce. Top with the remaining parmesan cheese and the bread crumbs.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven for 50 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Cover with foil if the topping starts to brown too much. Cool slightly before serving.

Fried Green Tomatoes with Spicy Bacon Ranch

Fried Green Tomatoes with Spicy Bacon Ranch Sauce

A traditional southern favorite gets a little hotter thanks to spicy ranch dressing mix and Kraft Philadelphia cream cheese. A perfect way to use those green tomatoes and a great addition to a Southern-inspired meal. Remember if you don't have buttermilk, simply make sour milk using 1 tablespoon vinegar and fill to 1 cup with milk. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes before using.
  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Total time: 20 minutes
  • Servings: 6
  • Ingredients:
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 1 cup(s) of buttermilk
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup(s) of fine ground cornmeal
  • 1 tsp. of salt
  • 1/4 tsp. of pepper
  • 3 large green tomatoes, sliced
  • 3 tbsp. of oil, if necessary
  • 8 ounce(s) of Kraft Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounce(s) of sour cream
  • 1 ounce(s) of packet spicy ranch dressing mix
  • 1/2 cup(s) of milk
  1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy. Set aside on paper towels to drain, then chop into small pieces. Leave the bacon grease in the skillet.
  2. While the bacon is cooking, prepare the coating for the tomatoes. In one shallow dish, combine buttermilk and beaten egg. In a second shallow dish, combine the cornmeal, salt and pepper. Dip the tomato slices in the buttermilk mixture then the cornmeal mixture, making sure to coat the tomatoes completely. Place in the hot bacon grease, adding more oil if there is not enough to fry the tomato slices. Cook until golden brown on both sides. Place on a paper towel to drain and continue until all slices have been fried.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the cream cheese, sour cream, spicy ranch dressing mix and milk. More milk can be added if you prefer a thinner sauce. Stir in the bacon pieces.
  4. Serve the warm tomato slices with the spicy bacon ranch sauce.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

2011 Spring RevFest

This past Saturday I was invited to the 2011 Spring RevFest hosted by RevCoffee in Smyrna. It was a 12 hours festival of music, crafts, food and lots of fun! There was free face painting (as seen above), pottery painting, all sorts of bands, and vendors selling things from cigar box guitars to pottery to jewelry to soaps, etc.

I had planned on stopping by RevFest sometime on Saturday afternoon and sticking around to hear some of the bands. But it didn't quite work out that way (in a good way!!!). A friend of mine had given some of my cake truffles to her sister who then passed some along to Nick, the owner of Rev Coffee. He really liked the truffles, especially the Drunken Raspberry ones. I got a text message from my friend around 10 in the morning asking if I could bring by a bunch of truffles to sell.

So I went into hyper drive...getting a whole bunch of truffles ready as fast as I possibly could. I got the truffles made and the car loaded up and my husband and I headed over to RevFest. We got there a little after 1:30 in the afternoon since it was on the other side of town. They set up a small table inside by the door for me so that the chocolate wouldn't melt. I had a great time meeting people and trying to be more vocal in my sales pitches. I learned that I need to grab people's attention because (like myself) a lot of people are focused on 'their mission' (whatever it may be...getting coffee, looking at the pottery, heading to the bathroom, simply escaping the sun and heat...etc) and they didn't notice the cake truffles. But once I got their attention I got a lot of good feedback.

Everyone that tasted the truffles loved them, including Nick who grabbed some off my display platter here and there. Several people took my cards and even told me I should make sure that they start selling the truffles at the shop. I would absolutely LOVE to start doing that. Every step I take is a huge one in the right direction to achieving my dream. I am slowly gaining a customer base and hope to grow even more. I've just got to keep on truckin' and working hard and it will all fall into place!!!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Real Women of Philadelphia Season Two

Well it has finally arrived: Season Two of the Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese Cooking Contest. This first phase involves the choosing of 16 finalists based on video recipe submissions within specific categories. The themes include appetizer, side dish, entree and dessert with either cream cheese or the brand new Kraft cooking creme. Those 16 are invited to Savannah for a live event at the end of June where one finalist from each theme will be chosen to be the host for the second phase of the contest. Oh and did I mention that the four hosts also win $25,000 dollars?!?!?! The hosting job seems like a lot of hard work, but also appears very rewarding. The hosts from season one did a great job and really kept the motivation and light hearted nature going throughout the second phase of the contest and even still today.

I submitted one video this weekend and had planned to make another, but other things got in the way. So my submission for the appetizer was 'Caramelized Onion and Apple Pizza Bites.' I take pizza dough and spread it out into a 12x16 inch baking pan. Then add 1/3 reduced fat cream cheese, caramelized onions and apples and top with feta cheese, basil, oregano and parsley flakes.

Check out the recipe and video here:

Samples Abound!

So rather than let the excess truffles I made for the Atlanta Underground market go to waste, I decided to get creative. Here's what I did:

Some of the truffles were sent to my brother and to my parents to see how well they survive the trip. I haven't talked to my brother, but my mom said they arrived in one piece. That is a lot better than I thought they would. I was assuming they would be shattered from all the bouncing around. But apparently the mini cupcake boxes I have them in keep them fairly secure. My mom's only suggestion would be to put some packing material between the two boxes inside the shipping box. I also need to see how much it would be to send via FedEx rather than the Post Office. I used a medium flat rate shipping box and could only fit two dozen truffles in the box with a bunch of packaging. The cost per box was almost $11. That seems a bit cost prohibitive at the moment, but if I can find a cheaper method of shipping I think I will be in good shape.

My husband spread the word at his work that there were truffles available and I got several orders there.

I brought in a bunch of truffles to work and started handing out samples. Rather than just leaving the truffles in the hallway where anyone can grab as many as they want anytime, I walked around with the box making sure to give out the flavor list and my information. I was pleasantly surprised by the positive reaction that I got. I sold a bunch of truffles on the spot. But I also made some good contacts. Two people are planning engagement/wedding parties in the summer and said they will be getting in touch with me as the time gets closer. I already delivered an order yesterday as a birthday present and it evidentally went over extremely well. And my fliers are all over the place.

While talking about my truffles someone that works down the hall from me asked me to make her some mini muffins for her daughter's birthday party, in addition to some of the truffles. So I whipped up some apple strudel muffins for her one night last week.

In walking around my building at work with the truffle samples, I learned that Relay for Life was happening last Friday night here at Emory. They asked me to stop by, and my husband and I brought a bunch of truffles. I donated about 100 truffles for the team to sell to add to their donations. It seemed like a win-win situation for everyone. They get more money towards their total and I get more people to try my samples.

So as upset as I had been that the weather kept a lot of people away from the market, I was able to turn it around. I got a lot of good attention for my truffles and it forced me to be very vocal, which is very different from my normal personality. I also made enough money to make up for what I lost in the market. I am no longer in the hole, which is a good feeling. I can get a good start again now and really start pushing my truffles.

Sometimes things just happen for a reason and something that does not turn out the way you like could actually be a blessing in disguise.

Lilburn Farmers Market

Finally the time I have been waiting for has come...opening of the Lilburn Farmers Market vendor registration. This was originally my main starting point for farmers markets (until I learned about the Atlanta Underground Market) and is still my primary goal. It is close to my home, allows baked goods without the requirement of a professional kitchen and seems like a great way to get my foot in the door and start branching out and earning more customers. I submitted my application the middle of last week and have been on pins and needles waiting to hear back. I have no clue when they will be letting people know if they are accepted or not, so I could know in a few days or a few weeks. The suspense is killing me!!! It would mean so much to me to be a part of the farmers market and I would have a wonderful time baking and sharing my creations with people.

My planned offerings include my cake truffles, which are always a big hit. My only worry is how well they will survive in the Atlanta summer heat. I also have my pie maker which makes 4" mini pies. As of the moment I plan to skew more towards sweet pies, though I am tempted to work out a chicken pot pie recipe. It all just depends on how much time I have to devote to getting that just right.

Of course I can make all sorts of cookies or brownies, but I think I will focus my attention on my s'mores. They were a huge hit a few weeks ago and I see a lot of potential there. I just need a second creme brulee torch because when you refill it with butane it needs to rest for 5-10 minutes before using. So if I have two in rotation, I will be good to go. Rather than graham crackers, I make my s'mores with sugar cookies. And I make homemade marshmallows. I plan on making plain marshmallows, along with toasted coconut and possibly cappuccino flavored versions. Then also have other add-ons like peanut butter, bananas, a variety of jams, perhaps a premium chocolate. If I get a good response then I can add cinnamon and chocolate cookies as well. I really love the idea and think it would go over well at the Lilburn farmers market. It is a great treat for kids and adults and the option to customize the treats should be a good draw.

But for now, I just have to wait to see if I am accepted.

Real Women of Philadelphia Cookbook

YAYAY! The time has finally come for the unveiling of the Kraft Real Women of Philadelphia Cookbook to be available ( This huge cookbook contains recipes from cooks all around the country who competed to be included in this book. They chose appetizers, side dishes, entrees and desserts, all containing Kraft Philadelphia Cream Cheese. Some are time crunch recipes that can be done quickly. Some are 'make to impress,' perfect for that dinner party you've been planning. All are great additions to your recipe repertoire.

Be sure to check out my award winning 'Make to Impress' appetizer: Crab Turnovers using a cream cheese dough and Old Bay seasoned crab meat. I don't have my hands on a copy yet, so I can't tell you what page it is on, but once I get my cookbook I will be sure to let everyone know.

If you are interested in purchasing this book, visit the link at the beginning of the post, or go to to get your book for $29.50.