[Review] The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook belongs in every home in the Bluegrass State

Maggie Green’s The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook is the only cookbook that has ever migrated from my kitchen into my bedroom.

There’s just too much interesting material to keep this book near the stove.

The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook is filled to the margins with everything you need to know about food and cooking in Kentucky. Green, a dietitian and culinary specialist originally from Lexington, expresses an appreciation and love of Kentucky’s culinary side throughout the 368 pages of The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook. Green’s plainspoken writing, from the anecdotes accompanying many of the more-than-200 recipes to the step-by-step instructions for each dish, is injected with a contagious passion for food that makes her first book an engaging work. Her easy-to-follow style will appeal to all levels of cooking expertise.

Green’s emphasis on buying local food and seasonal produce is one of my favorite components of The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook. Green is very commonsense about the importance and ease of eating locally at a time when the message can get lost in pretension. The most effective way Green teaches about seasonal, local cooking is by separating her recipes by the month in which the main ingredients are in season. For example, a recipe for oven-baked pumpkin butter is in the October chapter, while a recipe for rhubarb crisp with granola topping is in the May chapter. The book also provides an index of Kentucky farms and food producers and charts showing the availability of seasonal produce. These components can help any Kentuckian incorporate more local food into their recipes.

And the recipes, by the way, are good. Very good. Green covers every meal of the day, along with providing menu ideas for bigger gatherings, such as the Kentucky Derby or Oktoberfest. I have waited to review The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook for a couple of months until I could actually make some of the dishes. Sometimes, I felt like Green wrote this cookbook just for me. Most of her recipes include basic pantry items that I usually have on hand. So far, nothing out of the cookbook has been difficult to prepare. The dishes aren’t super fancy or intimidating, and that’s how I like them. All of the creations seem to be destined for a family dinner, a holiday party, or a backyard barbecue, food that is to be enjoyed with the people you love.

My favorite dish so far is the Crunchy Pecan Granola. I’ve made it twice, and there’s a request for round three. Each batch makes seven to eight cups, so granola used sparingly and kept in an airtight container has lasted about a month in my two-person household.

Crunchy Pecan Granola

(from The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook)

Ingredients

  • 4 cups old-fashioned oats
  • 2 cups chopped pecans (I’ve substituted walnuts and almonds and it tastes great)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons canola or flax seed oil
  • 1/4 cup Kentucky sorghum or molasses
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup or Kentucky honey
  • 1 cup raisins or dried peaches or cherries, optional (I’ve used a mix of golden and regular raisins — DELICIOUS)
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut, optional

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the oats, pecans, cinnamon and salt. Toss the mixture with the oil, sorghum and maple syrup.
  3. Spread the mixture on the prepared baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and stir in the optional dried fruit and coconut.
  5. Cool and store in an airtight container.

(Buy your own copy of The Kentucky Fresh Cookbook here. Learn more about Green and her company, The Green Apron Company, here.)

A musical fruit recipe (part 2): This soup will kick you in the throat.


Oh, beans. How I love thee.

 

I’ve bombed every new recipe I’ve tried in the past few weeks.

My banana bread was dry. My fancy mac and cheese was bland. And there is a container pushed to the back of the refrigerator that holds the worst Thai chicken I have ever tasted.

These failures have made me revert back to more simple recipes that include one of my favorite recipes – beans.

I revisited the following recipe that I adapted from Your Highness of All Things Domestic, Martha Stewart.

The majority of the ingredients in this soup are cabinet staples. It’s easy to throw together and hard to mess up. Plus, it only takes one pot to put this recipe together.

Throat-Kicker Sante Fe Soup

Adapted from MarthaStewart.com

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ½ teaspoon of paprika
  • 2 cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 can of corn with bell peppers, drained
  • 1 can of diced green chilies
  • 2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 16 ounces low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup of water
  • Salt and pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cilantro (optional)
  • Shredded cheese, sour cream (optional)

Instructions

  1. Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a big pot. Throw in the red onion and bell pepper, and cook until softened.
  2. Dump garlic, chili powder, cumin, cayenne pepper and paprika into the pot with the onion and bell pepper. Cook for about one minute until the mix is fragrant, stirring often.
  3. Pour tomatoes, corn, green chilies, black beans, chicken broth and water into the pot. Stir to combine. Bring the soup to a boil, and then lower the heat to bring the soup to a simmer.
  4. Season soup with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cilantro (if that’s your prerogative – there’s a healthy faction of people who hate the stuff).
  5. Cover soup, and simmer for 30 minutes. This gives all the ingredients a chance to get acquainted.
  6. Serve soup with sour cream and cheese, if you’re so inclined.

 

 

 

Bits and pieces: Google recipe search, military mess halls and other food news from the web, 2.28.11

 

  • Military mess halls provide hearty, down-home meals for the men and women serving our country. Unfortunately, many of the food options are unhealthy and can do more harm to our troops than good. (Slate)
  • Under the “Can’t Make These Things Up” file, a British ice cream parlor is offering breast milk ice cream. It’s called “Baby Gaga.” (Reuters)
  • Ale-8-One, a Kentucky-brewed soft drink, will offer a caffeine-free version of the beverage. I was introduced to this drink when I covered news in Winchester, Ky., where Ale-8 is based. I’m not a fan, but lots of folks are. (Courier-Journal)