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creamy corn chowder with bacon

We arrived home from our haunted vacation (which I will tell you all about in a post to come later this week) yesterday afternoon to cool rain, a yard full of blooms, and an empty, empty refrigerator. Our dinners before we left consisted of this delicious corn chowder, which I meant to freeze some of for when we came home. It didn’t happen. We slurped bowl after bowl, and before we knew it, the whole batch was gone.

With corn in season, this is a perfectly sweet summer dish. It’s easy, flavorful, and (theoretically) freezes well if you can bear storing half for a later date.

First, you’ll need corn. Sweet yellow or white cobs are easy to come by in the summer months. For potatoes, I like to use half yukon golds and half sweet potatoes—the combination blends nicely with the sugary bursts of corn kernels. You’ll also need one yellow onion (any variety would do—I used vidalia), some garlic, flour, chicken broth, half and half (or heavy cream, if you’re feeling naughty), and bacon to add a little meatiness.

Slice the bacon strips into 1/4″ pieces with a sharp knife.

Mince the garlic…

…and give the onion a quick dice.

Wash the potatoes. Skin the sweet potatoes, and give both varieties about a 1″ dice.

And finally, carefully slice the corn kernels from the cobs.

Is there anything prettier than sweet summer corn? I think not.

Fry the bacon pieces over medium-high heat until they begin to crisp. We’re going to make the chowder in the same pot, so make it a large dutch oven or another large pot (just not non-stick, please).

Remove the bacon with a slotted spatula and let it drain on a paper towel. Shoo away the man of the house before he picks the plate clean.

Add the onion and garlic to the rendered bacon fat. Saute for about 5 minutes, or until the onion becomes tender and lightly browned….

…like so.

Add the flour to the pan…

…and toss quickly to coat the onion. Be careful that the flour doesn’t begin to burn.

Immediately pour in the chicken broth and some water and stir quickly, scraping all of the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the potatoes, corn…

…and the bacon. Don’t forget the crispy, salty, lovely bacon! Give the pot a good stir and let simmer over medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork-tender.

Pour in the half and half and season with salt and pepper to taste. Let simmer for another 5 minutes to bring the whole thing up to serving temperature.

Serve with a warm, crusty bread for sopping up all that creamy broth.

I can’t decide what I like most about this dish. The sweet corn? The tender bites of potato? The hint of rich bacon flavor?

Eating it. Just eating it is what I like best. Someone kick me for not saving a bowl of this for dinner tonight. I’m no good at delayed gratification.

-RDG

Creamy Corn Chowder with Bacon

Makes 8-10 bowlfuls. Serve with a warm, crusty bread for dipping.

  • 6 strips of bacon
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 4 yukon gold potatoes
  • 6 cobs of sweet yellow or white corn, removed from the husks and rid of the stringy bits
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 pint (2 cups) half and half
  • salt and pepper to taste

Grab a large cutting board and a sharp knife to prep your ingredients. Slice the bacon into 1/4″ pieces, dice the onion, and mince the garlic. Wash all of the potatoes and peel the sweet potatoes. Chop both varieties into 1″ cubes. Carefully slice the corn kernels from the cobs.

Preheat a large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat (any large pot that is not non-stick will do). Add the bacon and cook until crispy, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel using a slotted spatula. Reduce heat to medium and add the garlic and onion to the rendered bacon fat. Saute for about 5 minutes or until the onion becomes tender and slightly browned. Turn heat back up to medium-high. Toss in the flour and stir quickly to coat the onion. Be careful not to burn the flour. Immediately add the chicken broth and water, stirring to release the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Stir in the potatoes, corn, and cooked bacon. Simmer for about 20 minutes over medium heat, or until potatoes are fork-tender. Stir in the half and half and add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 5 minutes more to bring up to serving temperature. Ladle into bowls and serve with a hunk of crusty bread.

heeeere’s jenny…

signing off for a week or so. Because all work and no play makes Jenny a dull girl, we’re headed a little south and a little east to have a visit with our favorite relatives.

I will be back very soon, as long as I am not kidnapped by evil twins, murdered with an axe, or slowly driven insane by cabin fever.

Take care. And if you don’t hear from me within 7 days, send a search party.

-RDG

beth’s spinach quiches

You may recall my recent freak-out in the kitchen. Nothing sounded good, all of my cookbooks morphed into a language that I couldn’t read, and my creative culinary brain was kaput. I sent out a desperate S.O.S. to you all for help. I needed recipes. New recipes! Inspired recipes! Tasty recipes! Anything other than what I already had! I’m going to stop using exclamation points now!

Thank you to everyone who responded to my momentary lapse into crazy. And those of you who just thought “momentary? Girl, you certifiable” are likely correct. But I am proud to say that I have my mojo back. My brain has kicked back into recipe overdrive and I’ve been cooking up a storm. A delicious, lick-your-fingers storm.

The recipe that got me back on track was from my dear reader Beth. She sent a sweet email with three recipes attached, and from the moment I spied this first one, I knew it was meant to be in my belly.

These little quiches are so quick and easy, and yet they don’t skimp on flavor. You’ll need spinach (thawed from frozen is fine), milk, bisquick, chives, ham, sharp cheddar, and a little salt and pepper.

And eggs. Pretty, pretty eggs.

Crack them into a large bowl…

…beat and toss in the Bisquick.

Stir. Lumps are a-okay in Bisquick world. In fact, they’re encouraged.

Throw in the rest of the ingredients and mix well.

Pour into 12 muffin cups that are greased well with cooking spray (a Pyrex glass measuring cup or small pitcher work well for pouring). Alternately, you could pour the whole mixture into a greased 9″ pie plate.

Bake at 375F for 25-30 minutes until the quiches are puffy and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool for a few minutes before serving. These also freeze and reheat exceptionally well. They’re also great cold!

So simple, so delicious, and so the savior of my culinary soul. These little quiches would be perfect for a picnic, a potluck, or to stash in the freezer for a rainy day lunch.

Thank you, Beth, for the wonderful recipe. And to all of you loverly readers who sent in recipes and words of encouragement, I am more appreciative than you know. I have no idea why you read this silly, silly blog, but that you do keeps me going, even in times of culinary disaster.

xo

-RDG

Beth’s Spinach Quiches

  • 6 Eggs
  • 1 cup Milk
  • ½ cup Bisquick
  • ½ tsp crushed, dried rosemary or 1 tsp of diced fresh
  • ½ tsp of Garlic powder
  • 1 10pz pkg of frozen Chopped Spinach (thawed, rinsed and squeezed of all water) or 2-3 cups of fresh spinach sautéed
  • 1 cup Mozzarella cheese (I often use more cheese and mix types)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Beat together eggs, milk, Bisquick, and seasonings, until well blended.  Stir in Spinach and cheese.  Pour into lightly greased 9 inch pie plate or into 12 greased muffin cups.  Bake for 30-40 minutes (25-30 for muffin cups) or until knife inserted near the center comes out clean.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

This quiche freezes and reheats well and tastes better the longer it sits.

Can be modified to other types of quiche using whatever kinds of veggies, egg substitutes, cheese or meat you have.

My adaptations: I substituted 1 tablespoon fresh minced chives for rosemary, used sharp cheddar instead of mozzarella, added 1/2 cup diced black forest ham, added salt and pepper to taste, and omitted garlic powder because most of my spices are either buried in the garden, lost the diaper pail or hiding under the bed.

mexican lasagna

This dish began with a baby. Our dear friends were expecting a little “it” any day, and I went into a minor panic that I hadn’t made them anything to keep in their freezer. When they arrived home with that little bundle, I wanted them to be able to eat a home-cooked meal without actually doing the cooking part.

The only things I remember from the evening we brought our daughter home from the hospital are 1) how flippin cute she was, even as a newborn, and 2) the hamburger pie that my mother-in-law had left us in the fridge. When you are sleep deprived, have lived on hospital food and candy bars for days, and are stuck in the otherworldly universe of “new parent,” there is nothing better than finding dinner waiting for you.

But I didn’t want to cook something expected. It needed to be comforting but not blah, creative but not bizarre. I consulted a few similar recipes, but they were all lacking in one way or another. I ended up going off the map and making a creation of my own, without guidance or even a clue what I was doing.

The result was more delicious, more satisfying that I could have imagined. Between the layers of handmade tortilla, melted cheeses and fire-roasted tomatoes was something beyond bliss. This was comfort food of mammoth proportions.

Ordinary items from the grocery store, tortillas from Trader Joe’s, and a few things that I had on hand all came together in one star-crossed, meant-to-be meal. This is the most non-fancy dinner that I can think of, and yet I would prefer it to dining at the best new restaurant in town.

So what made it so magical? What transformed this pan of regular stuff into tiny square slices of crack-cocaine?

It was probably this little guy, spreading his little strawberry-blonde love all over town.

Welcome to the world, Beckett Flynn. You are dearly loved, even at four days old. And you have inspired a recipe that will be gracing the freezers of parents-to-be for years to come.

Mexican Lasagna

This dish freezes and reheats exceptionally well, which makes it perfect for double batches. Makes 1 9×13″ pan, or about 12 servings. If you prefer a bit more spice (I do), you can up the taco seasoning to 1 1/2-2 packets.

  • 1 lb ground turkey or ground beef
  • 1 (15 ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes with green chiles
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 2 (4 ounce) cans diced green chiles
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans refried beans
  • 1 (6 ounce) can sliced black olives
  • 8 large flour tortillas (preferably handmade—most better grocers will carry them)
  • 1 1/2 cups grated pepper jack cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • sour cream for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 425F. In a large skillet, brown ground meat. Drain fat. Add tomatoes, taco seasoning and water. Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat.

In a bowl, combine the refried beans, diced green chiles and black olives. Stir. Blend the two grated cheeses together in a separate bowl.

Coat a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray. Spread half of the bean mixture evenly into the bottom of the pan. Cover with two of the flour tortillas. Spread with a third of the cheese mixture, then cover with half of the meat mixture. Cover with tortillas once again, then layer the remaining beans, two more tortillas, 1/3 of the cheese, the remaining meat mixture, the remaining tortillas, and the remaining cheese. Bake for 15 minutes or until heated through and bubbly. Let cool 5 minutes before serving. Top with a dollop of sour cream if desired.

sour cherry pie with cream cheese crust

I didn’t grow up in a cherry pie family. My folks somehow always served deserts with a little less Americana attached: rhubarb crisps, blackberry pie, chocolate-dipped strawberries. I had never even tried the stuff until a few years ago simply because it wasn’t on my dessert-deliciousness radar.

But when I was pregnant, most of the 50 pounds I gained came from the refrigerated desserts section at the grocery store. 6.7 of those pounds were due to slices of cherry pie. Not even good cherry pie—it was the gooey, gloppy, too sweet junk stuffed between two pieces of dry, over-baked crust. I don’t know why I liked it. I don’t know why I ate it. I don’t know why I ended up in that same section night after night, tossing aside plastic containers full of Boston cream and apple tarts to reach the very last piece of cherry goo. And when I found it, there was nothing you could do to prevent me from inhaling that sucker while watching Gilmore Girls reruns.

I still watch the Gilmore Girls reruns. But I no longer buy cherry pie at the grocery store–no, siree. I am proud to say that I make a killer cherry pie, and it is neither gloopy nor gloppy. It has no artificial anything, no crumbly crust, and it tastes fresh and summery. You want to make this pie. You need to make this pie.

First, let’s get the crust started so it has time to refrigerate while we’re making the filling. You’ll need two packages of cream cheese and two sticks of butter, both at room temperature. Cream them together in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Slowly add some flour and mix just until the ingerdients have incorporated evenly.

Remove the dough from the mixer and shape into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Boom. Crust done.

For the filling, you’ll need pie cherries (sometimes called “sour” cherries—they can be found frozen most times of the year and fresh during the summer), sugar, cornstarch, vanilla extract, lemon juice, and a bit of salt.

Combine all of the ingredients together in a large saucepan and stir. Place over medium heat, stirring frequently.

As soon as the cherries begin to emit some juices the mixture will become more liquidy. When this happens, turn up the heat to medium-high, still stirring frequently. Within a few moments it will thicken and look remarkably like pie filling. Remove from heat.

Halve the crust, leaving the other half in the fridge, and roll out into a large disc that is about 1/4″ thick. Don’t worry about the thickness too terribly much—pie making is not an exact science.

Lightly press into a greased pie pan and trim the edges. Prick several times with a fork to prevent shrinkage.

Pour in the filling…

…and then roll out the remaining crust and place over the top.

Pinch the edges together with your fingers, or could could crimp them with the tines of a fork.

Perfect.

Wait, no—not perfect. We need to let heat escape from the pie so it doesn’t explode in the oven.

Now it’s perfect. I like to use a cookie cutter to make a design in the middle, but you could also make a few slits with a sharp knife.

Bake in a preheated 350F oven for 50-60 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown and no longer doughy looking.

Gorgeous, dahling.

This pie belongs on the 4th of July.

I like to serve it with a little scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.

I adore this crust, and I use it for everything—pot pies, fruit tarts, quiches. It’s not the traditional buttery, flaky crust found in most pastry cookbooks. It’s more solid, but tastes a bit creamy from the addition of the cheese and still melts in your mouth. Plus, it’s incredibly easy to make.

And the filling. Oh, my, the filling. The cherries retain some of their original tart flavor so it’s not overly sweet. The fresh, slightly sour flavor compliments the creamy crust perfectly.

My name is Jenny, and I have been clean of the refrigerated desserts section for 15 months, two weeks and eleven hours.

Unfortunately, I’ve been on homemade sour cherry pie for 2 days, 3 hours and….right now.

Sour Cherry Pie with Cream Cheese Crust

Pie cherries, or sour cherries, can usually be found in the freezer section of better grocery stores or canned on the baking aisle. In the summer you can find them fresh at farmers markets and gourmet grocers. If you do use fresh sour cherries, be sure to wash, stem and pit them first. For canned, rinse and drain. Makes one 9″ pie.

Special Equipment: stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, rolling pin.

For the crust:

  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese at room temperature (not reduced fat or light)
  • 2 sticks salted butter at room temperature
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour

Cream together the butter and the cream cheese in the stand mixer. At low speed, slowly incorporate the flour and mix until the dough has come together and all the flour is incorporated. Form dough into a ball, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

For the filling:

  • 6 cups fresh or frozen pie cherries (or “sour” cherries)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 pinch salt

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently. Once the cherries lose some juice and the mixture becomes more liquidy, increase heat to medium-high, still stirring often. Bring the mixture just to a boil and then remove from heat.

To assemble the pie:

Preheat oven to 350F. On a lightly floured surface, roll out half of the dough (leaving the other half in the refrigerator) into a round disc that is a little less than 1/4″ thick. Grease a 9″ pie pan with cooking spray or butter and lightly press in the crust from the middle outward. Trim the edges to fit the pan and prick all over with a fork to prevent shrinkage. Pour in the prepared filling.

Roll out the remaining crust in the same way and place over the top of the pie. Trim the edges and pinch them together with your fingers or crimp with the tines of a fork. Make a few slits in the top crust with a sharp knife or use a cookie cutter to remove a piece of the crust from the center. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until crust is golden and no longer doughy looking. If edges are becoming too brown, cover the edges with foil and continue baking.

Let cool for at least 1 hour before serving. Top with vanilla bean ice cream if desired.


burg’s potato salad, sort of

On my way to dinner, I had no idea that I had just entered myself into a contest. My cousin was home from school for the weekend, and my aunt had invited the family over for a barbecue. “Bring a side,” she said. I obliged, whipping up a recipe for potato salad that I had been wanting to try from Molly Wizenberg’s book. Unbeknownst  to me, sitting on my passenger seat was a loaded bowl—a light, fresh potato salad that would go face-to-face against it’s counterpart: the mayo-laden, sweet pickle-strewn, over-egged variety that is served everywhere from here to Maine. The gloves were off.

I can’t say that I wasn’t nervous, seeing my duplicate contribution to the party staring at me from the buffet. Sometimes I wish I could go to gatherings anonymously—people expect the world of your potluck dishes when you write about food. This was so different from every potato salad that I had ever made (chock-full of herbs, easy on the eggs, sans pickles), that I wondered for a moment what people would think. Did I salt it enough? Was there enough ranch? Mayo? Too much dill?

Not only did it smack the competition right upside the head, it did so in style. This salad is beautifully colored, and requires only a minimal amount of ingredients. The recipe comes from Molly’s father Burg, and the “sort of” comes from my inability to precisely follow any recipe I encounter.

You’ll need some red potatoes (some call them “waxy” red potatoes), a few eggs, ranch dressing, mayo, a load of fresh dill and one bunch of green onions.

Cover the potatoes in cold water and give them a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and cook them uncovered for about 15 minutes, or until mostly tender when pierced with a knife. Transfer the potatoes to a colander and run them under plenty of cold water, then stick them in the fridge to finish cooling.

Carefully cover the eggs with cold water and bring to a gentle boil. Once the water begins to boil, remove the pan from heat, cover and let sit for “exactly 12 minutes.”

Here’s the major difference between Ms. Wizenberg and me: she speaks in exact, precise measurements. She says “gently place” and “exactly 12 minutes.” I say “throw,” “about,” and “remove the eggs from heat whenever you remember to do so.” God bless her.

Give the dill a fine little chop…

…and mix it in with the mayo and ranch dressing. Cover and stick in the fridge until we’re ready to use that sucker.

Crap. See why I said “whenever you remember?” Because I forget things. And I cannot in good conscience give you instructions that I myself have not followed.

After the 12 minutes, remove the eggs and run them under cold water until they’re cool to the touch. Stick them in the fridge for a spell to ensure they’re totally cooled.

Chop the green onions…

…and the cooled potatoes into rough 1″ chunks.

And oh, the eggs. Is there anything prettier than an egg? I go through phases where I want to raise chickens for eggs. And then I remember that I don’t really like chickens. Or anything with wings, for that matter. Birds freak me out. So then I just go to the grocery store.

Give them a nice chop.

Combine the potatoes, green onions, eggs and a pinch of salt. Give it a good stir.

Mix in the dressing, cover, salt and pepper to taste, and refrigerate overnight. Yup. It’s a make-ahead sort of deal. But after tasting it both before and after it’s overnight stint in the fridge, I can tell you that it’s just fine either way.

See? Gorgeous.

I just adore the contrast of the red potatoes and the dill. This salad is surely pretty enough to serve for company.

And what I loved most? The flavors. Lightly seasoned dressing with hints of ranch, tender potatoes and perfect little pieces of egg that were, despite all my attempts to make them otherwise, perfectly cooked.

Summertime is calling. Make this cool, crisp potato salad for your next barbecue and watch as people devour it and snub that poor, ugly yellow potato salad, leaving it to wither in the heat.

-RDG

Burg’s Potato Salad, Sort Of based on Molly Wizenberg’s (a.k.a. Orangette) recipe from her book, A Homemade Life.

  • 2 pounds red waxy potatoes
  • 4 eggs
  • 6-8 scallions (green onions, usually one bunch in the grocery store)
  • 3/4 cup mayonaise (not light, please)
  • 1/4 cup ranch dressing (not light, please)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
  • Salt and pepper to taste (I found it needed quite a bit)

Wash the potatoes, place in a large pot, and cover with water plus one inch. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered for about 15 minutes, or until potatoes are tender when pierced with a knife. Transfer potatoes to a colander and run plenty of cold water over them. Place in the refrigerator until completely cooled.

Gently place the eggs in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a gentle boil, then remove from heat, cover, and let sit 12 minutes. Remove eggs from heat and run lots of cold water over them. Place in the refrigerator until completely cooled.

Stir together the mayonnaise, ranch dressing and dill in a small bowl. Chop green onions, leaving out the darker green pieces. Shell the eggs and roughly chop. In a larger bowl, combine the potatoes, chopped eggs, and chopped green onions. Stir. Pour in dressing and stir to coat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight*.

*If you can’t do this it should be fine as long as your eggs and potatoes are thoroughly cooled before using. If you want to sort of “half” make it ahead of time, make the dressing the night before (mayo, ranch, dill). This will at least give the flavors in the dressing time to come together.

s.o.s.

I’ve been feeling dreadfully uninspired in the kitchen. My cookbooks all look the same. My recipe cards must be in Greek, and the aisles of the grocery leave me feeling nothing but blah. My pots and pans are sitting (gasp!) clean in their rightful places. I’m afraid they’re going to develop a complex.

I’m sure you’ve been here before. We’ve all been stuck in eating ruts, whether it’s making the same dish night after night, ordering the same greasy chinese, or suppering on crackers and yogurt because we just can’t muster the spark to create something delicious. But when you’re a food blogger, not cooking can put a serious dent in your culinary ego.

But you, my lovely readers and the reason for my internet existence, can help me out of it. Riddle me this:

What are your favorite recipes? What have you been cooking lately? What have you been dreaming about cooking lately? What are some recipes that you have stumbled across that have smacked you over the head and screamed, “cook me NOW”?

I need help. This is my 911 call. Only you can save me from this dry, barren wasteland where my creativity used to blossom. Leave your recipe, a link to your recipe, or even an idea for a recipe (I’m desperate) in the comments or email them to me at jenny (at) rainydaygal.com.

I will love you forever, kiss your feet, do your dishes for a month. I need to cook! Saute! Roast! Bake! Grill! Or else I will wither away and melt into a Jenny-shaped puddle on my kitchen floor. Here Lies Jenny Miller. She cooked once. And then she died.

-RDG