Monday, August 26, 2013

Corn~n~Tater Microwave Cooking Bag

One of the best things about being a food blogger is tasting new recipes and trying out products. I was sent the Corn - n -Tater Microwave Cooking bag a while back and once I started using, it became a regular in my kitchen.
Corn~n~Tater Microwave Cooking Bag
Microwave Bag & Cookbook

I live alone so cooking veggies for one is sometimes difficult. But, I insist of buying fresh produce and enjoy a great variety. One of my favorites is sweet potato.

With my new microwave cooking bag all I need to do is dampen a paper towel and roll up a sweet potato. I then place the wrapped food inside the microwave bag and cook for 3-4 minutes depending on the size of the potato.  No need to prick the potato before cooking.

My sweet potato comes out perfectly every time.

I have also used the micro bag for green beans, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, sugar snap peas and carrots. Because your veggies are in a paper towel, there is no clean-up and the bag does not need to be washed very often. The special lining (blend of cotton and bamboo) is antibacterial and odor resistant, and will NOT mold.

I'm thrilled with this need cooking tool and might even take it with me when I travel. Many hotel rooms have microwave ovens and I bet it would be great for reheating pizza or a hot sandwich.

Check out and order your own microwave bag at Homecooked Shortcuts.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Searching for Fresh Peach Pie in Georgia

A Slice of Peach Pie
I’ve noticed that coming across a slice of peach pie on a dessert menu or a whole pie in a bakery is practically impossible.  Having developed a real craving for the summertime treat, I set off on a ten-day trip to the Peach State - Georgia. 

I uncovered great stories- like how the public and private sectors of the city of Columbus worked together to develop their river into an urban whitewater rafting course. Woo-hoo; the ride was terrific.

I met interesting people like original Freedom Singer, Rutha Harris and learned of bridge builder Horace King in Albany.  I visited fun attractions like Tank Town, where I drove a tank, basked in the beauty of Callaway Gardens, and fished on West Point Lake in LaGrange with top bass pro fisherman Keith Poche.
Driving a Tank

I toured historical sites such as Andersonville- site of a Civil War POW camp and Warm Springs, where I saw the bed that FDR died in. I even stopped by Jimmy Carter’s boyhood home and HighSchool. 
The Famous Peanut of Plains, GA

FDR's Bed in the Little White House, Warm Springs, GA

Boy, did I eat. I ate in more fabulous restaurants than my waistline could hold, but day after day I struck out-- no pie. Peach Cobbler was fairly easy to find, and I ordered it. Sadly, each time I found cobbler made from canned peaches.

Then, one morning I came across fresh peach topped French toast at the Bitter Brick in Columbus. The dish made a yummy breakfast, but was not as yummy as my imagined pie.

Peaches and Creamy Pie
At lunch on day number eight, I found a peaches and cream pie at Blue Ridge Grocery.  Hooray! The dessert was absolutely delicious- with a graham cracker crust and wonderful crunchy topping, but it wasn’t the real fruit pie I was searching for.

Tim Mercier in his orchards.
On the ninth day of my trip, I toured Mercier Orchards, famous for their apples, and was overjoyed to find they also grew some peaches.  Tim Mercier, the owner, personally gave me basket of beauties to take home. He also informed me that peaches don’t sweeten up after they are picked, like apples do.  The real problem with peaches, he said, “is that their shelf life is a maximum of two weeks. “

So here’s the reason for the lack of fresh peach pie: peaches must be picked at the right time  - when sweet enough - and consumed or processed within days. 

Fortunately the next day my itinerary called for me to return home with my goodies.  Then,  on the twelfth day of peach pie hunting, my true love came to me.  I made myself a deep-dish delight.
Georgia Peaches

I prepared the crust using my food processor, and then blanched the peaches in boiling water for about 30 seconds.  The skins practically fell off..  I sliced them and added a bit of lemon juice, almond extract and a dusting of sugar, flour and cinnamon. 

Plus, a bonus for my efforts:  the recipe made enough filling so I froze an extra batch for another pie – to fix and enjoy sometime before those pipers coming piping.
My Homemade Fresh Peach Pie


 Makes 1 nine-inch deep dish pie and enough filling to freeze for another pie.  Use half the filling ingredients when making only one pie. 

1 cup sugar
1/3 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ripe peaches (about 5 pounds)
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Pie crust - homemade or package

1.  Line a 9-inch pie plate with a double thickness of aluminum foil using 2 pieces.

2.  Mix sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt into a small bowl.

3.  Drop peaches, 3 or 4 at a time, into boiling water; leave for 15-30 seconds.  Lift out with a slotted spoon.  Peel off the skins, cut in half; remove pits, then slice (you should have 10 cups).

4.  Place peaches in a large bowl; sprinkle with lemon juice and almond extract; toss lightly.  Sprinkle with sugar mixture; toss gently to mix.

5.  Spoon filling into foil-lined pie; wrap foil snugly around to enclose completely.  Place in freezer.  Once frozen you can remove the pie plate, label and return to freezer.

6.  Roll out piecrust to fit the bottom and sides of the 9-inch pie plate. Fill with remaining peach slices.

7.  Roll out remaining pie crust and cut into 10 strips.  Weave over top of pie, turn edge under and flute the edges.  Brush top with milk and sprinkle with sugar. 

Bake in a hot oven 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then lower the over to 350 degrees and continue to bake- 35-45 minutes longer or until the pastry is golden and juices bubble up near the center.  Cool one hour.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Tasting Caesar's Gluten and Wheat Free Pasta

When given the opportunity to test Caesar’s gluten and wheat free frozen products I readily accepted.  How can you go wrong with dishes created from all natural ingredients that include no artificial flavors, additives, preservatives or artificial colors? Their entrees contain no wheat, barley, rye or oats and or trans fat.
Caesar's Frozen Cannelloni 

As you might expect, upon returning from a ten-day trip I didn’t have much to pick from in the refrigerator. Therefore, I opened the freezer and chose Caesar’s Vegetable Lasagna. Following the instructions, I placed the container in my toaster oven and let it bake for an hour. How easy is that? While it was baking, I caught up on a pile of mail. 

About 45 minutes later, tomato aromas began to permeate through the kitchen. I was looking forward to eating, but honestly expected the frozen food to be bland. Wrong! The lasagna tasted like Italian food should- nice and tangy. The texture was a bit creamy but I honestly liked it. And, the portion was perfectly sized.

Package of Cheese Ravioli- Feeds Two
Later in the week my friend Colleen came over and I prepared dinner, compliments of Caesars.  I simply dropped cheese ravioli into simmering water and then added sauce. Yes, I took it easy - the sauce came from a jar. I also cooked a package of Caesar’s Beef Cannelloni in the microwave.  The cannelloni was full of ground beef and even tasted better than the lasagna. 

I’ve never tried gluten free products before, but these meals did not skimp on flavor or texture.  I will look for Caesar’s products in the freezer section at the grocery store and plan to keep a stash at home for those days when I don’t feel like cooking. 

Disclosure:  Many thanks to Caesar's Pasta for sending my products for review. Thumbs up on these gluten free products.