5.30.2013

Smoky Cheddar Cornbread Poppers


These Smoky Cheddar Cornbread Poppers were a huge hit at a recent cook-out we hosted.  And it wasn't because everyone was wasted ~ that came later.  They are a great alternative for those who do not eat meat (moi) or who do not like cream cheese (my cousin Chad).


If you're a loyal reader, you know about Chaddy Choo Choo.  If not, you can learn about Chad (and see photos!) here.  He's like my brother, really.  We look alike, we laugh alike, we think alike, and we drink alike.  And he is one of only a small handful of people who can send me into a painful, ugly, breath-stealing belly laugh.  He's truly one of my very best friends in the world.  I think it's really saying something when you would still be friends with the people in your family even if you weren't related to them.


At the cook-out (or "barbecue" as they say here in the south, even if it doesn't involve any sort of slow cooked animal or coleslaw), I made poppers from a recipe I found thru Pinterest.  It is on a site called Oh Bite It (which is a kick-ass blog name).  Here's a link to her original recipe.  Chad and I found them to be pretty but really bland, so we experimented until we found what we think is a perfect balance of sweet heat, corn, and spice.


In this recipe, I've listed a boxed cornbread mix as an "ingredient," but feel free to make your own from scratch.  I use Krusteaz brand, and it is (I think) a 15 oz box.  I prefer the regular cornbread mix but you can use the honey cornbread flavor if you like sweet heat.


Smoky Cheddar Cornbread Poppers
Makes 30-40 appetizers

15-20 jalapenos (depending on the size)
1 box cornbread mix (I use Krusteaz)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ancho chili powder
1 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. salt
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed
1-1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese, divided
chopped cilantro for garnish (optional)

Pre-heat oven to 400*.

Halve jalapenos lengthwise.  Taking a small spoon (or even a grapefruit spoon), carefully scrape out the seeds and ribs.  Don't touch your eyes before washing your hands well or you'll be screaming bloody murder from the pain.

Make the cornbread mix according to boxed directions.  Add garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, and salt and whisk.  Stir in corn and 1 cup cheddar.

Fill each pepper half with cornbread mixture, paying attention not to overflow.  Place on sheet pan coated with cooking spray. (You may need 2 pans)

Bake for 17-20 minutes, or until cooked through.  Top with remaining cheddar cheese and broil until melted.




5.14.2013

Preventing Weeds in Your Garden ~ Organically



I've spent every spare minute the past few years weeding the damn garden.  About 3 years ago, I got the brilliant idea of spreading straw down to prevent weed growth.  Well, little Miss Dumbass here had no idea you were supposed to get "special" straw that had been treated or something.  Therefore, I had a beautiful garden full of grasses growing and strangling my veggies.  And I've been battling it since.

With help from my husband, I planted my gorgeous tomato plants (31 in all), sweet peppers (12), and hot peppers (6).  Normally, I get overly ambitious and creative, which was really fun when I actually had time to devote to it.  Now that free time is something I feel I'm much lacking, I took a deep breath and resolved to be simple.  In the past, I've grown everything - radishes, cucumbers, cantaloupes, watermelon, pumpkins, zucchini, peppers, onions, garlic, and tomatoes.  This year I went basic with just tomatoes and peppers.

Tomato plant

Hot pepper plants

After planting, lay newspaper down everywhere.  Make sure to have the hose on and ready nearby to spray the papers as you lay them down.  If not, you'll be cursing loudly enough to disturb the neighbor's dogs as you chase the damn sports section all over the yard, trying not to trip on the rails of the garden or trample plants.  Trust me, I know.

Use the regular printed papers, not the glossy ones.  Newspapers are now printed with vegetable-based ink so you won't be contaminating your pure soil with lead ink or anything.

Wet the newspapers as you lay them

I bought some organic wood mulch at Lowe's.  Lucky for me, it's the cheap shit mulch (less than $3 a bag), I guess because it breaks down so quickly and isn't treated with dyes or preservatives.  It's literally just shredded Cyprus.  I spread it to about a 1-2" thick layer.

Mulch laying in process

Mulched beds done

Mulch covering
Summary:

  • Till the garden, pulling any weeds
  • Plant your lovely fruit and veggies
  • Lay newspaper down everywhere, wetting as you go
  • Cover in mulch - 1-2" layer
  • Cross your fingers this freakin' works

I seriously need this to work.  I imagine just pulling a few random weeds here and there, perhaps between the pavers or along the outside where the newspaper couldn't reach all the way.  In my fantasy, this garden looks exactly the same as it does in these photos, except with big bountiful, gorgeous plants, bursting with fruits and vegetables.  And I laugh in the face of weeds seeking to choke my lovely plants.  Muah-ah-ah!!

5.03.2013

Apple Spice Hand Pies with Cinnamon Cream


Why are little girls so mean to each other?  My 8-year old daughter and I were on a field trip with school together and were having a great time.  At the end of the day, we were to all meet in a central location.  My daughter sat on a brick half-wall next to a girl in her class and Girl Scout troop.  They were chatting and having fun.  Along comes (well, hobbles, as she has a broken ankle) another girl in their class, who is also in their Girl Scout troop.  My daughter's friend asked her if she could sign her leg cast, and she said yes and handed her a Sharpie.  Then my daughter asked her if she could sign her cast.  The girl looked her square in the eyes, cocked her head, hand on her hip, and said, "Um, no."

My daughter hung her head for a second, shrugged her shoulders, and then started doing some clapping rhyme thing with another kid.


So what did I do as mama bear observing this?  I took this snotty princess of a little shit and knocked her off her crutches and instigated a roar of laughter from all the other third graders.


Not really.  I actually bent down and whispered in her ear, "If you ever shun my daughter again, I'll come into your house in the middle of the night and hit your mom in the face with box of Fruit Loops while she is sleeping."


Would I do that?  Nah.  Although I wanted to.  Badly.

But what I wanted to do more was have a little chat with her mom, who is equally as much of a diva, and explain to her that she's doing her little girl a disservice of leading by example.  I can speak from experience because she doesn't talk to me much less look at me at any Girl Scouting event.  You can just tell she was the oh-my-god-whatever cheerleader chick in high school who had way more friends than I did but none of them were actually real.


So my poor, sweet, loving daughter and I came home and made some Apple Spice Hand Pies.  And ate several of them each.

The best part?  The cinnamon cream sort of melts and gets all creamy and gooey.  Like a cherry cheese danish with apples in a hand pie form.  Unreal.



Apple Spice Hand Pies with Cinnamon Cream
Makes 16

4 Granny Smith apples
2 T. butter
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/8 t. cloves
1 c. brown sugar
1 T. cornstarch
1 T. vanilla extract
pinch salt
8 oz. cream cheese, room temp
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
4 pie crusts, uncooked
1 egg
3 T. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 425*.  Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.

Peel and chop apples.  In a large skillet, melt butter over med-high heat.  Saute apples for 5-10 minutes or until beginning to soften.  Add cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves and saute 1 minute to bloom the spices.   Add brown sugar and saute 3-5 minutes or until syrupy.  Make a slurry with the cornstarch and 1 tablespoon water.  Add to apples and cook 1 minute, or until thickened.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract.

While the apples are cooling, whip (by hand or with a mixer) the cream cheese with the powdered sugar and cinnamon until light and fluffy.  Set aside.

Using a 5" biscuit cutter or similar (I use a funnel), cut rounds of the pie dough, rolling scraps as necessary to make 16 rounds.  Fill rounds on one side with 1-2 tablespoons of apples, leaving a 1/4"-1/2" edge.  Dollop 1 teaspoon or so of the cream cheese mixture on top of the apples.  Dip your finger in water, run along edge, and fold over pie dough to seal.  Crimp with a fork by rolling the fork so the twines push down on the border.

Beat egg with 1 tablespoon water.  Mix sugar and cinnamon in separate bowl.  Brush tops of hand pies with egg wash.  Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, rotating and switching pans halfway thru.