Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Cozy Comfort Food

Today marks the first day of comfort food season, a.k.a. autumn. What better time to share one my favorite comfort food recipes, mac and cheese!
Surely you’ve heard it said that a cooking recipe is just a guideline. That statement lends itself perfectly to macaroni and cheese. The goodness of this classic is as unique and creative as the cook who prepares it.

Feel free to use the recipe below exactly as is or mix it up a little and substitute all your favorite ingredients (or whatever ingredients you happen to have in the pantry) to make it uniquely and expressly your own. Go ahead, play with your food! ~~Joy Bell

Need some help getting those creative juices flowing? Here are some suggested opportunities for personalizing:

Cheese-You don’t have to use the cheeses listed in my recipe, I find it’s best to stick with the cheeses you normally buy.
Pasta-Any pasta that will grab the gooey goodness of the cheese is fair game.
Seasoning-Add your favorite spices and seasonings. If spicy is your thing, add some cayenne!
Topping-While the buttered fresh breadcrumbs are a deal breaker in my household (almost more important than the cheese), you don’t have to follow my lead, I’ve seen folks crumble potato chips on top of their macaroni and cheese and it’s really quite tasty!
Add-Ins-This is a great place to get creative with your recipe. Throw in some stewed tomatoes, ham, chicken or veggies.

Basic Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 pound campanelle pasta shells, cooked according to package directions
  • 3 cups milk, warmed (not boiled)
  • 8 tablespoons butter, separated
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 ounces light havarti cheese, shredded
  • 4 ounces Gouda cheese, shredded
  • 4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1-tablespoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  • Melt 6 tablespoons of butter in large pot and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. While stirring, add warm milk and cook for a couple minutes longer (until thick and smooth).
  • Remove mixture from heat and add cheeses, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Add cooked pasta and stir well. Pour into a baking dish.
  • Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and combine with fresh breadcrumbs. Once breadcrumbs are thoroughly coated with butter, sprinkle on top of macaroni and cheese and bake in oven for approximately 30 minutes (until browned and bubbly).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

In A Pickle

As the days get shorter and the nights longer I find myself clinging to the dwindling days of summer. Tomato plants are ready for their last harvest and squash of every variety pour out of baskets at the farmer's market.

As much as I look forward to the crisp air and deep hues of autumn, I feel compelled to enjoy the few days of summer that West Virginia has left to offer.

We'd like to help you enjoy them too! In the true spirit of summer, here is a quick and delicious recipe that will serve up perfectly along side whatever it is you’re cooking on the grill tonight.

One bite of these crisp, sweet and tart pickles will remind you that it is, in fact, still summer. ~Joy Bell

It’s Still Summer Refrigerator Pickles

  • 1 cup vinegar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon pickling spices
  • 6-7 Kirby Cukes, sliced
  • Place vinegar, sugar, salt, garlic and 1 tablespoon pickling spices in a saucepan and cook on medium-low heat until sugar and salt dissolves.
  • Place cucumbers in a jar, pour vinegar mixture over top of cucumbers and place lid on jar.
  • Store in refrigerator at least 4 hours before enjoying.
Cooks Note: Can be stored in the refrigerator up to 48 hours. A variety of seedless cucumbers can be substituted if you cannot find Kirby cucumbers.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Fresh Tomato Soup

If you're in a region of the state that didn't get inundated with rain this season, those green orbs that you've been patiently watching all summer are probably starting to slowly turn from subtle orange to bright red. A sure sign that you're soon to be up to your ears in tomatoes. If you're like me, the first week of tomatoes is an absolute delight, tomato sandwiches, tomato salads, tomato sauce, my husband even eats the tomatoes right off the vine, like an apple. Then the plants seem to go into overdrive and we can't keep up with them! Although I only grow a few tomato plants each year it seems they alway produce more than we can consume and a lot of them end up rotting before we can eat them. That won't be the case this year.

We recently visited one of my good friends and her husband who served this incredibly delicious tomato soup for lunch. After polishing off my second bowl, I asked for the recipe. My friends husband George, who is from Czechoslovakia, proudly produced the recipe. There was only one problem, it was in Czech! After a good laugh his wife translated it for me and also informed me that she harvests many of her tomatoes each year just for this soup and then freezes it to enjoy during the winter months.

I immediately thought of the readers of WV Living Food and wanted to share this recipe. How nice will it be to pull a delicious tomato soup out of the freezer on a cold winter night and enjoy a little bit of summer along side a piping hot grilled cheese sandwich? Once you taste this soup, you'll never eat tomato soup from a can again! But don't save it all for winter, enjoy some now along side a great summer salad. ~~ Joy Bell

George's Tomato Soup

  • 6 large tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 large onion/finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 small cube chicken or vegetable bouillon
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • salt, pepper and brown sugar to taste
  • parsley/finely chopped
  • Place tomatoes in boiling water for 5 - 10 minutes, remove from water, remove skin, puree in blender. Add 1/2 cup of water to the mixture and set aside (should produce approximately 8 cups of tomato mix).
  • In a large pot, melt butter, add onion and cook until translucent. Add flour to the cooked onion and cook while stirring for an additional 1 - 2 minutes.Add the tomato mixture continuing to stir to avoid the creation of lumps.
  • Season with soy sauce, salt, pepper and brown sugar to taste. Boil for 20 minutes, during the last minute of boiling, add the finely chopped parsley.

Cobb Salad

  • 4 cups romaine lettuce/chopped
  • 2 grilled boneless chicken breasts/chopped
  • 1/4 cup crumbly blue cheese
  • 5 slices crisp bacon/crumbled
  • 3 hard cooked eggs/chopped
  • 1 medium tomato/diced
  • 1 avocado/diced
  • 1/2 red onion/diced
  • Place lettuce on a serving platter.
  • Layer remaining ingredients on top of lettuce.
  • Serve with your favorite dressing.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Green With Envy

Other than those that are green, the array of the colorful produce available for my gastronomic enjoyment is surely gaining an inferiority complex.   It seems every time I reach for my apron, I am getting ready to prepare something green!

Before I move on to the rest of the colors that the summer has to offer, I wanted to share with you the recipes that have gotten all the other vegetables so riled up.  

I have a very small garden outside my kitchen door where each year I grow tomatoes, various herbs, mint and basil.  My basil plants are so full and bushy that I took the opportunity to make pesto.  In my opinion, there is nothing more tasty,  versatile and screams summer like bright green basil pesto.   Toss with pasta or drizzle over slices of toasted baguette to nibble on while you enjoy a refreshing glass of wine on a warm summer evening.  

Basil Pesto

  • 4 cups basil leaves/washed
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts/toasted
  • 1/2 cup parmesan/grated
  • 2 garlic cloves/minced
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • Puree all ingredients in a food processor, add more olive oil as needed to reach desired consistency.
  • Serve immediately or freeze for later use.
Peas...every kids nemesis come dinner time.  Unless of course they've had them fresh out of the garden. Fresh from the garden and prepared properly these emerald gems are hard for anyone to refuse.  Thankfully Chef Dale Hawkins reminded me of my love for fresh peas when he sent me a bag full of them on a recent CSA delivery.  After I spent a bit of time coaxing all of them from their delightful pods, I enjoyed them in Chef Hawkins recipe for Fresh Pea Salad.

Fresh Pea Salad

Ingredients Mint Dressing:
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 2 cup dried dates, pitted
  • 1/2 small serrano chile, stem removed
  • juice and zest of one lemon
Directions Mint Dressing:
  • Puree mint, dates, chilies, and lemon jusice and zest in a food processor or blender.  You can thin this out to desired consistency by adding water a little at a time.  
Ingredients Salad:
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh peas
  • 1 small head romaine or mixed lettuces cut into shreds
  • 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds
  • fine grain sea salt
Directions Salad:
  • Cook peas in salted boiling water for approximately 20 seconds, the key is to not overcook them.  Immediately after cooking, submerge them in an ice bath.  When ready to serve, toss the peas, lettuce and pumpkin seeds together with 1/2 of the mint dressing and salt to taste.
Anyone who grows mint in their garden is undoubtedly left scratching their head each summer wondering what they are going to make with the abundance of mint that has threatened to take over their garden.  Wonder no more!  Try this refreshing mint tea recipe I recently found in Gourmet magazine.  It's a little work, but well worth it!

Mint Tea

2 quarts of water
10 mint sprigs, leaves pulled off and cleaned
1/2 cup sugar

Bring water, mind, and sugar to a boil in a large saucepan, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes.  Cool completely, about 1 hour.  Strain through a sieve into a large pitcher, pressing on and then discarding mint.

~~Joy Bell

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

National Gingersnap Day

Today is National Gingersnap Day and the perfect opportunity to share with you one of the best gingersnap recipes I've ever come across.  I fell in love with this recipe while visiting a bed and breakfast in Asheville, North Carolina with my husband.  They were set out for guests in the afternoon and when I bit into one, I was immediately reminded of my grandmother and her daily afternoon ritual.  Each afternoon around 1 p.m. she would make a cup of hot tea and enjoy it quietly with a few gingersnaps. I’d watch her dip them into her tea and then let them melt in her mouth. Following in her footsteps, that is precisely how I now enjoy my gingersnaps (or my tea- depending on how you look at it). The gingersnap recipe at the Red Rocker Inn brought me such wonderful memories that I couldn't leave without it so I asked the owner if she would share it with me. She was kind enough to say yes!  I've made them several times and enjoy them especially during the holidays but regardless of when I've made them, I have never been disappointed! These are fantastic gingersnaps and when you eat them it's possible you just might feel like you had an English grandmother too!---Joy Bell

Red Rocker Inn Gingersnaps


 12 tablespoons margarine
 2 cups sugar
 2 eggs
 ½ cup molasses
 3 ¾ cup flour
 2 teaspoons baking soda
 2 teaspoons cinnamon
 2 teaspoons cloves
 2 teaspoons ginger


 Cream margarine and sugar together
 Beat in eggs
 Add molasses and sifted dry ingredients
 Mix well
 Roll into 1” balls dip in granulated sugar
 Place on greased cookie pan and bake in a 325 degree oven for 10-12 minutes

Note: Since this recipe is from a bed and breakfast, it makes 85 cookies! Often times I’ll cut it in half, unless of course I’m making it for large groups.

~~Joy Bell

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Firefighter's Breakfast Feeds 1200

On the second Sunday of each month Kingwood's Volunteer Fire Department serves buckwheat cakes (and don't call them pancakes!), scrambled eggs, biscuits, gravy, sausage and bacon to folks who travel from near to far to enjoy the all-you-can-eat feast. Each month 1200 people on average come to the Community Center to enjoy the good food. Can't wait until the annual Buckwheat Festival to get your buckwheat cake fix? Then mosey on over to Kingwood on the second Sunday of each month--you'll want to make it an annual outing!

Personally, I like having firemen serve me breakfast, but if you want try your hand at the cakes that put Kingwood on the map, then enjoy this delicious recipe! -- Nikki Bowman

(Recipe makes 8-12 cakes)

In a large bowl, mix 1/2 cake household yeast (or 1 cake Fleishman's Yeast or 1 envelope dry yeast) and 1 teaspoon salt into one quart lukewarm water.

Let stand a few minutes and then add 3 cups, or enough buckwheat flour to make a stiff batter. Cover and let stand overnight (or at least 4 or 5 hours).

When ready to bake the cakes, dissolve 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and 2 teaspoons sugar in 1 cup hot water. Stir into batter, then add about 1 cup or enough warm water to make a thin batter. Bake on a hot griddle.

Save at least 1 cup of the batter for the next baking. (It will keep in the refrigerator for about a week) To renew, add 1 pint lukewarm water, 1/2 teaspoon salt and enough buckwheat flour to make a stiff batter. Cover and let stand overnight (or at least 4 - 5 hours)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Chef Heath Finnell's Ribeye Perfection

While interviewing Chef Heath Finnell of Cafe' Bacchus in Morgantown for a story in the summer issue of WV Living Magazine, I asked him where he liked to eat when he wasn't turning out fantastic dishes for his patrons.  Expecting him to want someone else to do the cooking for once, his answer surprised me,  "I love to hang out in the backyard and grill," says Heath.   

With summer just around the corner (and fathers day too) I asked Heath if he would share some of his grilling techniques with the readers of WV Living and I'm so glad he said yes, I think you will be too.  

~~Joy Bell