Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Leftover Ricotta Cheese

I hate purchasing certain foods because I know I will only use a small amount and the rest will languish in the refrigerator. When it becomes unrecognizable, it will be tossed. I am fortunate. For me food is "cheap" entertainment. I can afford to toss a few things. That being said, every time I toss something, I can just hear my mother.
"Why did you let that food spoil? Food is just too high (Southern speak for 'It's expensive) to throw away. Baby, I don't care how much money you make, you just never know."
Now that you have "heard from my mother". I'll admit that I have a hard time tossing food. There are certain foods like, ricotta cheese, celery, and parsley that I have issues with. I know when I purchase them, most of it will be wasted.

A few days ago I purchased ricotta cheese to make Ricotta Chive Bread. I must say the bread was excellent, but left me with 1¾ cups of ricotta cheese.

Imagine how happy I was to find this recipe for Soft Scrambled Eggs with Fresh Ricotta and Chives. It also calls for chives and I truly have an "infinite" supply of chives. If you don't have chives, I say don't sweat it. You can omit them, use basil or oregano. Also, to make this a little more substantial, sauté some spinach and add eggs to the spinach. If you have parmesan cheese, don't be afraid to grate a little of it.

Soft Scrambled Eggs with Ricotta Cheese and Chives

Serves 2.


4 large eggs
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh chives
¼ teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon butter
½ cup ricotta cheese
1 small baguette or 4 slices of bread


1. Whisk together eggs, chives and salt.

2. Melt butter in a heavy medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add eggs and stir with a heatproof spatula or wooden spoon until eggs are almost cooked. Add ricotta cheese and stir until ricotta is almost mixed in. Clumps of ricotta should still be visible.

3. Toast bread and serve.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Pulses Are Having Their Day!


The United Nations declared 2016 to be the International Year of the Pulses. The goal is to heighten public awareness of the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of a sustainable food production system aimed at improving food security and nutrition. Hopefully, this action will create opportunities to improve worldwide utilization of pulses.

The US rarely uses the term 'pulses'. We generally prefer the terms 'beans, peas, and lentils'. Pulses, beans, peas, and lentils are leguminous (legumes) crops. They are a vital source of plant-based proteins and amino acids for people around the globe and should be eaten as part of a healthy diet.

Legumes are often consumed by vegetarians as a source of protein. When combined with a grain, they make a complete protein. Meaning, the provide all the essential amino acids in the correct proportions.

And my favorite thing about beans and peas. They are cheap! If you are on a budget, beans and peas are a good choice.

In support of the International Year of the Pulses, I am writing about lentils. If you are new to cooking dry beans, lentils are a good place to start. They do not require soaking and they cook quick, usually in about 30 minutes.

I found a recipe for Caviar de la Croix Rousse. When I find a recipe that refers to beans and caviar, I generally think of black-eyed peas, sometimes referred to as Texas Caviar.  Well, this recipes calls for French green  lentils or lentilles de Puy - one of my favorites. I did change a few things, so I am not sure mine is authentic. First of all, I used ham instead of bacon. I also added Dijon mustard, because I think it should go in just about anything. If possible, I would add some red bell pepper. I thought it needed a little color.

French Lentil Salad

Serves 4 to 6.


1 cup French green lentils
6 ounces ham
2 bay leaves
½ onion, cut in half from root to stem (so it holds together)
1 medium shallot, minced
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
2 Tablespoon minced parsley
Salt and black pepper, to taste


1. Sort lentils. Remove any rocks or other debris. Rinse lentils under running water. Drain.

2. Place lentils in a 4 quart saucepan. Add about three cups of water, ham, bay leaves, and onion. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until tender.

3. While lentils are cooking, make the dressing. In a small bowl combine shallots, Dijon mustard, olive oil, vinegar, and parsley. Stir to combine.

4. When lentils are cooked, remove onion and bay leaves. Drain. Remove ham and chop. Combine lentils and dressing; add ham and parsley. Stir. Taste for seasoning and adjust.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Get Youth in the Kitchen

Usually, when I write a post, it's a basic, quick and easy recipe. It is not my intention to give you overcomplicated recipes that take all afternoon and all your pots and pans to cook. And, yes, I do believe there is a time and place for those recipes.

I also develop recipes for our local foods program. Those recipes also follow the same basic, quick, and easy method.

This year something extra exciting has happened. The interest in youth and cooking has grown exponentially. My Facebook posting on youth and food, received over 150 hits, more than any other posting. I thought 'I am on to something here'. More and more people are realizing the value of teaching children to cook. Learning to cook is a life skill. It builds confidence. Just watch a child smile when you tell them how good their dish tastes. Learning to cook builds reading and math skills.

Even very young children can perform tasks in the kitchen. Check out this reference from Clemson University on age appropriate food preparation tasks for children.

This is a recipe from our latest local foods brochure.  It is for orange and honey roasted carrots. You can use baby or regular carrots. If using regular carrots, your child may need help with peeling and cutting.

Orange and Honey Roasted Carrots

Serves 4.

1½ pounds carrots
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 orange, zest and juice
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 to 2 Tablespoons honey

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
2. Wash and peel carrots. Slice diagonally into about 1-inch pieces.
3. Arrange carrots in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Coat with olive oil.
4. Remove about 1 teaspoon of zest from the orange. Cut orange in half and remove the juice. Combine zest, juice, salt and pepper. Pour over carrots. Stir to combine. Cover tightly with foil.
5. Roast until crisp-tender, about 10 minutes.
6. Remove foil and increase oven temperature to 450°F.
7. Roast, uncovered until carrots are tender and browned in spots, about 10 minutes longer.
8. Drizzle honey over carrots. Stir to coat the carrots.

Note: Citrus zest may be slightly bitter. If desired, the zest can be omitted.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Breakfast Counts!

I've been reading a lot of articles on families eating together. Studies show that eating together has numerous benefits. Children consume healthier diets, more fruits and vegetables, more dairy. Eating together is also a time to talk, about the food, your day, and your nosy neighbor. (Admit it, not all table conversations are polite.)

We humans dine, while other animals eat. Food is more than a group of nutrients. It's talking, listening, passing down traditions, learning manners. Have you ever noticed that most famous TV shows always have a dining table?

Ok, the table is important, but dinner is just too hard for you right now. Rest easy. Breakfast is also a chance to get together. You may not sit at the table as in the old days. You may eat around the kitchen stove, over the sink. Whatever. Just try and share a few pleasant words with your family.

Here is a 'recipe' to get you started. It is based on a recipe from Bon Appetit, Ricotta Toast with Pears and Honey. It's simple and the ricotta mixture can be mixed the night before.

I made my version with cream cheese. It's a common ingredient in many American households.

Cream Cheese Toast with Fruit and Nuts

Serves 2 to 3.


4 ounces cream cheese
2 Tablespoons honey or jam
2 to 3 slices of whole wheat bread, toasted
fruit, apple, pear, peach, about ½ cup per person
¼ cup, nuts, toasted and chopped


1. In a small bowl, stir together cream cheese and honey or jam.

2. Toast the bread. Spread  cream cheese mixture onto bread. Slice fruit and place on top of cheese. Top each piece of toast with about one tablespoon nuts.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Snacking at the Office

Eight hours or more in the office and dinner is a couple of hours away. Yes, sometimes you gotta snack at the office.

Apparently, I am not the only one snacking at the office. The percentage of energy Americans derive from snacks has doubled since the 1970's.

In the US, snacking has evolved into an actual meal category. Sales of snack foods have reached more than $64 billion dollars. Food companies have developed an almost endless array of snacks. From savory to sweet. Think potato chips and jerky. Oreo cookies ring a bell?

So why all the snacking?

We are on the move more. We consume less traditional meals around the table. Consumers are asking for snacks that are portable, easy/fast, value priced, healthy, delicious and shareable.

While I agree with this list, I have a few requirements of my own. I want a snack that makes me happy. Broccoli is out, but broccoli with ranch dip is a possibility. I also want some nutritional value and I want it to hold me over until dinner.

Here is one of my favorite snacks to make. It has chocolate - I'm happy now. And I use dark chocolate to get more antioxidants. A mixture of nuts, because I like the crunch. 

I like dried fruit for sweetness and the chew. Depending on how I feel, I might add something for flavoring, vanilla, candied ginger. If it's a grown up snack, a liqueur, such as amaretto or orange can be good additions.

French Chocolate Bark

Makes 10 to 12 pieces.


½ cup nuts, toasted and chopped, your choice
7 ounces dark chocolate
¾ cup dried fruit, chopped, your choice
1 teaspoon vanilla, optional


1. Preheat oven to 300°F. Spread nuts on a baking dish or cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

2. Place half the chocolate in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for 20 to 30 seconds. Stir and continue to heat in 30 second increments until the chocolate is melted. Add the remaining chocolate and vanilla.  Allow to sit at room temperature, stirring occasionally.

3.  Pour chocolate onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Spread to desired thickness.

4. Sprinkle nuts and dried fruit onto chocolate. Gently press nuts and fruit into chocolate. Set aside until completely firm, about 1 to 2 hours. Break into desired sizes.

Source: Adapted from Back to Basics from The Barefoot Contessa.

Lastly, don't forget plain fruit for snacking. Yes, fruit does make me happy. Apples, pears, bananas, peaches, and oranges are extremely portable.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

I too Sing America

I thought about this post a little before the 4th of July and around the time of the murders in South Carolina. At that time writing about food seemed trivial. After all, what did I have to say? What could I contribute?

What I really wanted was to go to bed and cry. But if there was any chance that I could help, I needed to pull everything together and go back into the world.

I am a daughter of sharecroppers and descendant of slaves. That does not make me special, but it does mean that I may not see the world as others. We are apart of the fabric of this country. Our blood has spilled to protect it.

As a nation, we seem to have lost our ability to sit together and discuss our commonalities and our differences. We don't always need to agree, but we do need to listen and respect different viewpoints.

This week, I am offering a recipe and a seat at the table of brotherhood. For as Langston Hughes, wrote, I, too Sing America.

This is a recipe for Crunchy Roast Chickpeas with Za'atar.

Za'atar is a Middle Eastern flavoring blend consisting of dried thyme, marjoram or oregano, sumac and toasted sesame seeds. One of my students told me that typically, bread is dipped in olive oil and then in za'atar. Similarly to the way Italians dip bread. She also told me that everyone makes za'atar differently and the good stuff is made at home. Since I have no idea how za'atar is supposed to taste, I headed to my local Middle Eastern store and purchased some.

Crunchy Roast Chickpeas with Za'atar


1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon za'atar


1. Drain and rinse chickpeas. Spread on paper towels to dry. This should take about an hour or so.

2. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place chickpeas on a rimmed baking sheet. (Note - I used my cast iron skillet and it worked just fine.)

3. Bake at 400°F for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Coat with olive oil. Sprinkle za'atar over chickpeas. Place in a serving dish and eat as an appetizer.

4. Chickpeas should be crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

I liked za'atar, although I did find it to be a rather mild seasoning. I think next time, I will try it on peanuts. You can take the girl out of the south, but you can't take the south out of the girl.

This recipe is from the blog, "Rose Water & Orange Blossoms" by Maureen Abood. It is a wonderful site. Please check it out.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

It's That Time of Year

Rhubarb Time!

As you know, I love rhubarb. You get to eat it for dessert and still count it as a vegetable. But please don't tell the food police. Rhubarb desserts are usually a little tart, which means they pair well with ice cream. You knew there was a motive for my love of rhubarb. Rhubarb also pairs will with strawberries. Remember, they are both spring crops. Things that grow together, go together. If you want to test this idea, here is a recipe for strawberry rhubarb pie.

The rhubarb plant is a perennial, meaning it will return next year. It produces large leaves, with long stalks that resemble celery. When preparing rhubarb, discard the leaves and use the stalks. Rhubarb has a strong, tart flavor and is usually consumed, cooked with sugar.

Since I cannot allow you to have a rhubarbless year, this is my first rhubarb recipe for 2015. Yes, there may be more.

Rhubarb Orange Sauce

Makes 2 cups.


1 cup orange juice
½ cup sugar
3 cups sliced rhubarb


1. Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan.

2.  Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until rhubarb is falling apart and sauce is thickened, about 20 minutes.

3. Serve sauce with ice cream or yogurt.