Saturday, December 6, 2008

Cleaning out the T'Day Leftovers

This is not the usual Turkey soup or stuffing casserole use of the Thanksgiving leftovers post. I bagged most of the leftovers and tossed them in the freezer - Greg will enjoy a small Thanksgiving feast again one busy night during the holidays, and I'll be glad I froze it!
One thing I didn't freeze was the leftover mashed potatoes. I just don't like the texture of them when they're thawed. So we ate them a few times last week, but I put a different twist on the last couple of servings.
I remembered when I was a kid and stayed with Grandma Regier over the Christmas break from school. She always had leftover mashed potatoes from our big family dinner, and would make them into potato pancakes for breakfast. So that's what I did, only these were a side for our supper of baked steak one night, then breakfast-for-supper the next.
They're pretty simple - just mix a raw egg into your potatoes, then plop them into a hot skillet with a little oil. They take several minutes to crisp up enough to be able to turn them. Just wait for it. If you try to flip them too soon, your pancake will fall apart. Then cook them several minutes on the other side. You want them nice and crispy.
For a little flavor, I added some roasted garlic to the potatoes and then garnished them with green onion the first night. The second night I just went ahead and stirred the green onion into the potatoes before I cooked them.
Now lest you think I tortured Greg by serving these two nights in a row, he actually asked to have them again. :o)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Soup Day! (part 3)

I had two meatless soup recipes that were new to us that I wanted to try.
Both looked good for the freezer as all ingredients freeze well, but since they were new recipes, I only made a single batch of each. Good thing.
The first is a pumpkin soup from Emeril. Greg was channel-surfing one night last week (don't you hate that?! Just pick and show and watch it, for Pete's sake!) and found Emeril making a fairly healthy Thanksgiving meal on the "green" channel. He humored me and left the TV alone while I watched the program. After seeing him make this pumpkin soup, I asked Greg if he would try it if I made some. He said he'd "try" it. That meant he was pretty sure he wouldn't like it, but again, he'd humor me.
So last night for supper I thawed some turkey mignons and warmed up some green bean casserole, along with a crunchy focaccia bread. While Greg grilled the turkey, I whipped up the pumpkin soup.
Emeril's Wegmeyer Farms Pumpkin Soup
Yield: 6 servings
1 (2 pound) pumpkin, halved and seeds removed and saved
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 plus a pinch freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
31/2 cups vegetable stock
3 tablespoons pumpkin seed oil
15 to 20 small sage leaves, fried
Method:Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the pumpkin cut side up on a parchment lined baking sheet. Season with 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper. Invert to the cut side down, and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Place in the oven and roast until the skin is golden brown and the pumpkin is tender, 50 to 60 minutes.
Spread the pumpkin seeds on a foil lined baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake in the oven with the pumpkins for the last 15 minutes of baking time, stirring once to prevent sticking.
Remove pumpkins and seeds from the oven and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, use a spoon to scoop the pumpkin flesh from its skin and set pumpkin aside until ready to use. Discard the skin. Set seeds aside for garnish.
Set a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and, when hot, add the cinnamon and allspice and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the onions, carrots, celery and ginger, to the pan. Saute, stirring occasionally, until lightly caramelized, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, reserved pumpkin and vegetable stock to the pan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook the soup for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.
Remove the soup from the heat and process with an immersion blender (*or in batches in a blender) until smooth. Season with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pinch of pepper.

I could tell immediately it had too much allspice, but I like to follow a recipe the way it's written the first time I make it, then I know what modifications to make next time. I did try to "doctor" soup with a few drops of white truffle oil in each bowl, but that didn't really help.
If you click on the link above the recipe, you'll be able to view a video of Emeril making this soup and see what he does differently from what's printed in the recipe. I should have watched it last night. The show this recipe was featured on will be aired again tomorrow night on the Planet Green channel.

Now for a much more successful recipe, Creamy Asparagus Soup. To get this recipe I simply Googled for it and looked at three or four before settling on this one.
Creamy Asparagus Soup
2 lbs asparagus
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
5 cups chicken broth
Leaves of 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp dry vermouth
A squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1 Cut tips from 12 asparagus 1 1/2 inches from top and halve tips lengthwise if thick. Reserve for garnish. Cut stalks and all remaining asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces.
2 Cook onion in butter in a 4 or 6-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Add asparagus pieces and salt and pepper to taste, then cook, stirring, 5 minutes. Add 5 cups broth, thyme, and simmer, covered, until asparagus is very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
3 While soup simmers, cook reserved asparagus tips in boiling salted water until just tender, 3 to 4 minutes, then drain.
4 Purée soup in batches in a blender until smooth. If you want a very creamy texture, you can put the purée through a food mill or press it through a sieve. Transfer to a bowl (use caution when blending hot liquids), and return to pan. (The hand blender meant I didn't have to transfer hot soup from pan to bowl to pan. I didn't strain or use the food mill at first, but after a few bites of strings from the asparagus, I changed my mind.)
Stir in cream. Stir in vermouth and a squeeze of lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (I did add the vermouth and lemon juice, but it's really good without it, so I'm going to say those ingredients are optional.)
Garnish with asparagus tips. Serves 4-6.
Adapted from a recipe in Gourmet magazine.

Folks, this is good! I garnished my lunchtime bowl with a dollop of sour cream. Yum! If you click on the link above the recipe, there are photos, too.

That's it for "Soup Day" for now. The freezer is well-stocked against these chilly and wet days we're having every week. As I sat and sipped my hot soup for lunch, I laughed at the rain!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Soup Day (part 2)

The other two soups I made ysterday are tomato/beef-based, but very different in flavors from each other.
The first one I put together was Meatball Minestrone. I got this recipe from Taste of Home or Country Woman (I don't remember which) many years ago. I finally made it for the first time last April. If you click on the name of the soup, you'll go to the post with the recipe. It is really good! This time I more than doubled the spices and that seemed right for us.

The other recipe is Fagioli Soup. This one came from a forum on a website, but I printed it 3 years ago, so I don't know if it's even available online anymore. I'm sorry I can't credit the person who posted it...
This soup is the one that Greg took to work for his lunch, and the other guys asked him to get the recipe from me for their wives. It smells awesome! At first I was reluctant to mix the Mexican spices with the Italian spices, but it really works.
Fagioli Soup
2 lb lean ground beef (or ground chicken or turkey)
2 lg onions
3 bell peppers (any color works fine - this time I used all green)
3 stalks celery
2 Tbs. minced garlic
1 banana pepper (optional)
3 small cans tomato sauce
2 cans Ro-tel tomatoes (I used mild)
2 Tbs. olive oil
8 beef bouillion cubes (I use a Tbs. or so of Beef Base)
4 C water
salt, pepper to taste
1 Tbs. cumin
1 Tbs. chili powder
1/2 Tbs. Italian seasoning (I was out of this, so instead used some dried thyme, basil from the freezer, and a little extra oregano)
1/2 Tbs. dried oregano
3 cans undrained red kidney beans or 2 cans red beans and 1 can white (I used 3 cans of black beans)
Saute onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic in olive oil. Add ground meat and brown (I brown the meat separately,drain, rinse, then add to the veggies.)
Add Ro-tel, tomato sauce, spices, water, and bouillion cubes. Heat to simmer. Add beans and cook 30 minutes. Serve.

There are a couple more recipes I didn't get to, but plan to make this weekend. Tune in next week for "part 3". :o)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Soup Day! (part 1)

The weather is chilly, blustery, and sometimes a little rainy today. It's perfect Fall weather. For making soup. So I did. Make soup.
I made a few old favorites and some new recipes, all of them destined for the freezer. Today I'll share the chicken recipes.
First up was Tuscan Chicken and White Bean. I got this one from an internet friend who posted it on a Yahoo group. I think it came from the Feb/Mar 2005 issue of Fast and Easy magazine.
This is a quick one to throw together, but it's really important to use fresh sage. I happened to still have quite a bit of sage out in the garden that I cut this morning.
(I know! Fresh herbs still in the garden in NOVEMBER! A little happy dance went on! Hope none of the neighbors were looking...)
If you don't have a fresh sage plant available, try to find it in the grocery. It's expensive, but makes all the difference in this soup.
There are leeks in this recipe, too. Leeks are usually gritty and sandy - make sure you pop those slices into a bowl of cold water for a little while so the icky stuff falls to the bottom.
Here's the recipe:

Tuscan Chicken and White Bean Soup
2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts, cut into 1/4" rounds (2 cups)
1 Tbs. chopped fresh sage (I use 2 Tbs.), or 1/4 tsp. dried sage
2-14 oz. cans reduced-sodium chicken broth (I used my homemade stock)
2 C water
1-15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 lb. roasted chicken, skin discarded, meat removed from bones and shredded

Heat the oil in a soup pot or large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring often, until soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in sage and continue cooking until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Stir in broth and water, increase heat to high, cover and bring to a boil. Add beans and chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 3 minutes. Serve hot.
6 Servings, 1 1/2 cups each
Per serving: 208 calories; 6 g fat; 15 g carbs; 3 g fiber

The next recipe was easy, but not nearly as quick to put together. This is the first time I've made it, but it's pretty tasty, and I'm sure will freeze great. This is a Paula Deen recipe - that explains the butter...

White Bean Chili
1 pound dried navy beans
5 C chicken stock (again, I used my homemade, but canned is fine)
4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) butter
1 Tbs. minced garlic
3/4 C diced onion
1 1/2 C chopped green chiles (fresh or canned) (I only used 2 small cans since Greg's not a huge fan of green chiles in large quantities.)
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, finely chopped (I used pre-cooked chicken.)
1 Tbs. ground cumin
1 Tbs. dried oregano
1 to 2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. ground white pepper (I omitted - just don't have any)
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped (I'll add when I reheat)
Rinse beans well, cover w/ cool water and soak for 2 hours. Drain. Place beans in a large pot w/ chicken stock and bring to a boil over high heat. In a saucepan, heat the butter over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, and chiles and saute for 5 minutes. Add chile mixture to pot w/ beans. Add chicken, cumin, oregano, peppers, pepper flakes, and cilantro. Lower heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for approximately 1 1/2 hours. Serve w/ cornbread, if desired.

The reason I saved the cilantro to add later when I serve this soup is because I've never frozen fresh cilantro in a recipe. My instinct tells me this is best added fresh.
This soup has great flavor even without the cilantro, and I suspect will get better after sitting in the frig for a day.

Okay, so while I typed this, it started snowing outside. I picked fresh herbs from my garden this morning, and now it's snowing. Only in Nebraska...

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cream Cheese Mints

One of my favorite tasty tidbits to go along with wedding cake is cream cheese mints. We're having anniversary cake this weekend, so this week I made three batches of dough, and one afternoon, Greg's mom, Jan, and her friend, Rose came over to make mints.
They're really easy to make, and it doesn't take long to have several hundred done. Here's how we did it:
1 - 8 ounce package of cream cheese (do not use reduced fat or fat-free)
2 pounds confectioner's (powdered) sugar
1/4 tsp. flavoring (I used peppermint. If you use flavored oils, use lots less.)
To mix the dough, I used my kitchen mixer and dough hook. Start out on the very slowest speed and keep a spatula handy to use to keep the powdered sugar inside the bowl. It will want to spill over the edge.
When the dough starts to come together, you can increase the speed of the mixer.
Once there is no more loose powdered sugar, I stop the mixer and turn the dough out onto the counter. Knead briefly.
Now it's time to color the dough. You want to use paste/gel coloring. The liquid will make your dough sticky. Use a toothpick to put the coloring on the dough. Remember that like paint, food coloring gets darker as it dries.
Knead in the color until all streaks disappear. (I wore gloves to keep my hands from being colored, too.)
Once you're happy with the color, put the dough in an airtight container and chill in the frig. (I left it while I ate a little lunch and worked on another craft for an hour or so.)
Now it's time to mold the mints. You'll need granulated sugar and mint molds. (The gray molds in this photo are the same ones used for my wedding mints 27 1/2 years ago.)
Pinch off a small piece of dough. Try to make it approximately the size of the mold, but you can always add a little more, or pull some off if necessary.
Roll the ball in the sugar, this will keep the dough from sticking.
Then press into the mold.
I like to push it in, then use my thumbs to smooth out the bottom of the mint.
Turn the mint out onto waxed paper.Let dry for several hours, then turn over and let the underside dry for a few more hours.Pack in an airtight container, between layers of waxed paper. These freeze well.
Now go make some and enjoy!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Parle Vous...


Cassoulet (from Occitan caçolet [kasuˈlet]) is a rich, slow-cooked bean stew or casserole originating in the southwest of France, containing meat (typically pork sausages, pork, goose, duck and sometimes mutton), pork skin (couennes) and white haricot beans.

Awhile back I came across this recipe online, printed it out, and added it to my ever-growing stack of "recipes to try". Finally, last winter, I made it for the first time. Greg and I both really liked it, so it went into the "keep" pile. I have no idea who posted this recipe. I think it was someone on a freezer cooking email group I used to belong to, so my apologies for not being able to credit anyone.

This is a hearty dish, good for Fall and Winter. It's easy and cooks in the crockpot, so there's little effort or mess. Perfect for a busy day. And the leftovers freeze well.

Layer the following ingredients in a crockpot that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Don't stir. Cook on high for 4 hours, or low for 8-9 hours.
1 onion, sliced

3 carrots, sliced (I chopped up several baby carrots)
3 cloves, garlic, minced

3 cans Great Northern white beans with liquid

3 tsp. chicken boullion granules (I don't have that, so I used a very generous teaspoon of chicken base.)

1 bay leaf

1 tsp powdered thyme (I ran out to my herb garden and cut some fresh. Just throw the whole thing in - the leaves will fall off and the stems will be fished out later.)

3 sirloin pork chops, cut in half (I used 2 large-ish bone-in regular chops from a 'family-sized' package)
1/2 lb. smoked garlic sausage, cut in pieces (I used lean turkey sausage. Not as strong a flavor, but a little healthier)
1/4 lb. bacon, cut in small pieces (I used about half that much, and cooked it first)

Now put the lid on your crockpot and walk away. Don't stir this until you're ready to eat. And you'll be wanting to eat, since it smells so good as it cooks!

I'll use this as a one-dish meal since everything is included. That's the beauty of it. Only one crock to wash. We all love that!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Comfort Cooking

*(Goulash is a dish, originally from Hungary, usually made of beef, red onions, vegetables and paprika powder.[1] The name comes from the Hungarian gulyás (pronounced goo-yash), the word for a cattle stockman or herdsman.) Wikipedia

My mom was a very basic cook - a good cook, but she pretty much made only simple, mostly fast, easy, and economical dishes. She was feeding a family of seven on a limited budget, so we had lots of inexpensive hamburger, macaroni, potatoes, and chicken.
This dish, goulash, was a staple in our home. It's one of the first things I learned to cook, and when it was my turn to plan and prepare meals for the week, it was always on the menu.
There are tons of recipes for goulash, but this is how my mom taught me:
*Put water on to boil for macaroni. Cook pasta as soon as it boils, while the meat is browning. I used ziti here, but we always used macaroni when I was a kid.
*Dice onion and brown with the hamburger. I used about a pound of 90/10 ground sirloin here. I also added a big clove of garlic. (Mom never used cloves of garlic, though she did eventually discover garlic salt, and I always added a little of that.) While the meat cooks, stir and chop it into small pieces. When it is thoroughly cooked, pour into a strainer and drain the fat. Is there anything that smells like my childhood more than hamburger and onion browning on the stove? I think not.
*Drain the pasta and add to the cooked hamburger in the skillet. Oh yeah, we always made goulash in the skillet.
*Now add one can of tomato soup. Yes, I have sometimes made it with tomato sauce instead, but it's not the same. Use the soup.
*Next, I put in a dollop of yellow mustard and a squirt of ketchup. Yep, a dollop and a squirt. This is a recipe you make to taste, so start small and add more if you think it needs it.

I put in a little bit of salt, not much, since I'm using canned soup. Lots of fresh ground black pepper. Stir up, cook on low until heated through, and then enjoy.

When I was high school, I started putting my own personal twists on the traditional dishes Mom had taught me to make. Sometimes really good, other times not so much. One of the favorite changes I made to goulash was to add cheese. Just before serving, I'd put a few slices of Kraft American cheese in the pan and mix it up. Dad and the boys loved it. Tonight I simply shredded a little sharp cheddar over the top. Oh, and I added some chopped chives (from my garden, Tonita).
I don't know what made me decide this afternoon to make goulash for supper. I haven't made it in probably 10 or 12 years, but I'm glad I did. There was a hearty, hot meal on the stove when Greg got home from work.

It was served with fresh cucumber in Ranch on the side. (Mom would have sliced the cucumber and put it in white vinegar with sliced white onion. Yum. But Greg doesn't like the tang of vinegar, so he gets Ranch.)

I know many of my Adams cousins who read this blog have their own personal memories of Mom and goulash. There are tales of her telling stories about gypsies and such in relation to this meal. I don't know about that, but to all of us, goulash reminds us of our childhood.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

An Apple A Day

Recently I was gifted with a huge canner-full of "harvest" apples. I don't know what kind those are, but boy-howdy, they are tart!

You can see in the photo how they were not the prettiest apples in the world, and in truth, I did have to discard several whole fruits along with major pieces of many others. In the interest of "waste not", I did take the time to dig out bad spots and save as much as possible. I am, after all, Elsie's granddaughter. (I remember trying to toss out a very ripe strawberry once. Hoo! Never tried that again!)
Anyway, insects and spoilage aside, I got 8 1/2 cups of applesauce, to which was added about 1/4 cup of sugar to make it palatable. This will mostly be used to replace part of the oil in some baking recipe. (Note: Food mill = good investment)

I also got 14 cups of sliced apples to make into pies. Those are in bags in the freezer. The apples, not the pies.
But I will make pies with them.
In the future.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

More Zucchini Love

Last night I made lasagna, but instead of pasta noodles I used strips of zucchini. It'd been quite a long time since I did this last, so I worried if Greg would remember he'd liked it before. Guess so - he had two helpings. :o)
This is not so much a recipe as a technique for using the zucchini in place of noodles. Here's how it went: First, a giant zucchini. I've placed the regular-sized jar of spaghetti sauce next to it so you can see how bit the monster is. To the left you can see a little bit of the biggest knife I own. It, too, is huge.

Ah, the giant knife and a strainer-full of zucchini "noodles". If you click on the photo to enlarge you'll see the kosher salt I sprinkled liberally all over them. This draws out the water, thus the strainer. I only left these about 15 minutes - next time I'll prepare them earlier in the day and let them drain lots longer. The finished product was still a bet wet.

Here I have rinsed the salt from the noodles and am patting them dry. See how perfectly sliced they are? No? Well, neither are my fingers, which is what would have happened had I striven for perfection. Believe me. I have scars to prove it.

Ah, the final layer. Here is where you just use your favorite lasagna recipe and assemble as instructed, though obviously using the zucchini instead of pasta.
(Have I mentioned often enough so far that we're using the zucchini in place of noodles?)

And here it is, folks! It was yummy and juicy and I really liked the texture of the noodles, but it didn't have a "squashy" taste.
Let me know if you try it - I'd be interested to hear what you think.

Holy Mexican Caviar, Batman!

This post was written in August 2008 and never published. I must've been wanting a photo of the finished product. Here you go anyway - put this on your list of stuff to make next summer! (Feb. 1, 2011)
With all the rain we had in the Spring (and my procrastination), the tomatoes and jalapenos were planted a bit late and are just now, today, giving forth of their fruits. And look how many fruits they put forth!
I've been patiently waiting for these lovelies and I know just what I'm doing with part of this first batch. Wanna hear? Yes? Good - because I'm telling you. :o)

When our families were here for supper one Saturday night a few weeks ago, I made a new-to-me recipe that was a huge hit, and I'm making it again.

It's called "Mexican Caviar" and it is deee-licious:

Prep Time: 10 Minutes

Ready In: 6 Hours 10 Minutes

Yields: 32 servings


2 large tomatoes, finely chopped

5 green onions, chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 1/2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar

1 (4 ounce) can chopped green chile peppers

1 (2.25 ounce) can chopped black olives

1 teaspoon garlic salt

1 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS: In a medium bowl, mix together all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight before serving. Serve with tortilla chips.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Light Supper

It's been so hot here that it's tough to think about cooking in the late afternoon. Last week I came across this recipe and thought it'd make a nice light supper. The only change I made was to use some leftover pork meat instead of the ground turkey. Next time I'll leave out the salt - didn't need it with the teryaki sauce.
(I'm not able to load the photo right now - I'll try again tomorrow...)

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 Cup finely chopped onion
1 lb ground turkey breast
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon garlic salt
1 12 oz bag of broccoli slaw
1 small can drained water chestnuts
½ Cup Yoshida's Teriyaki Sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Approximately 15 Butter Lettuce leaves (you can also use iceberg lettuce leaves)
1. Place oil into a large 5 qt skillet or other large pan over medium heat. When hot, add onion and cook for 5 minutes to soften. Add ground turkey, salt, pepper and garlic salt. Brown and crumble until cooked through.
2. When turkey is cooked, stir in broccoli slaw, water chestnuts, teriyaki sauce and sesame oil. Cook for another 10-15 minutes or until heated through. Reduce heat to low until ready to serve. Serve spoonfuls inside lettuce leaves. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I Dream of Zucchini

So far I've picked 6 zucchini from my garden. Six mutant zucchinis. One day they're just little babies, a few inches long. Two days later they're the size of a small child. Okay, maybe not that big, but these puppies are BIG. The first two were sliced lengthwise and frozen - I'll use them in place of noodles for lasagna. Yes, Greg eats it. Yes, he likes it.
The last four of the monsters plucked from the mother ship were shredded and bagged for the freezer. TWENTY-SIX cups of shredded zucchini. We'll be enjoying that in breads and muffins for quite awhile.

I did save a few slices of the last zucchini so I could make this recipe from Tyler Florence. Obviously we like zucchini in baked goods and in place of pasta, but I'd never had it raw, so I only made a tiny version of Tyler's dish and had it for supper last night before I left for work. Okay, now I can't wait to make it again, and to serve it to Greg.

Even with my love for Tyler Florence and his delicious recipes, I did make a couple of minor changes in my version, and I know what I'll do different next time. Those notes are in parentheses in the recipe.


Carpaccio of Raw Zucchini

2 zucchini (about 1 1/2 pounds total), sliced into paper-thin rounds

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 lemon, juiced

1 young leek, white and light green parts only, sliced paper-thin into rings and thoroughly cleaned (I used thin slices of red onion because that is what I had.)

1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as chervil, dill, chives, and chive blossoms (I used dill and chives - cut from my garden. Yea!)

1 cup ricotta cheese

Fresh mint leaves, for garnish, optional

Shingle the zucchini slices in a single overlapping layer on a platter. Dust with salt and pepper, then drizzle with a 3-count of olive oil and the lemon juice. Put that into the refrigerator for about 10 minutes to give the flavors a chance to get into the zucchini. Now scatter the leeks over. Sprinkle with the herbs. (I mixed the herbs with the ricotta cheese. Next time I'll just scatter the herbs over, and forget the ricotta altogether. It wasn't necessary.)

Garnish garnish with the ricotta cheese and mint leaves, if using; serve.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Some Herb Love

I just LOVE being able to run out to the garden and snip those fresh herbs for my recipes. This year I have dill, thyme, sweet basil, sage, and oregano. There is also mint and lavendar in separate parts of the garden. I need some tarragon, but haven't found any this year.

Now I wish I could show you a photo of a beautiful herb garden, but there isn't one. At least not in my yard. :o) I planted most of the herbs on one end of the vegetable bed, with the sage and oregano coming back from last year where I thought I was going to have an herb bed. Maybe next year...

What I can show you is this lovely photo of some dill and basil that I picked at lunchtime. They were used in the sauce in this recipe for salmon sandwiches. The difference in flavor between fresh and dried herbs is astounding. I'll choose fresh as often as possible.

I've done a little www research for recipes and will be trying some new ones to share with you in the next few weeks. I would love to hear about your favorite recipes using fresh herbs. Anyone?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Garlic-Rosemary Mushrooms

One night last week I made these as a side dish. I'll be making them again - and often. I used half a pound of button mushrooms since it was just the two of us, and adjusted the rest of the ingredients accordingly. The rosemary came from my garden. I just love being able to run outside and snip fresh herbs for my recipes!
(This recipe is from EatingWell)

GarlicRosemary Mushrooms
Makes 4 servings, about 3/4 cup each
1 ounce bacon (about 1½ slices), chopped
1 ½ pounds mixed mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake (stemmed) and portobello, cut into ¼-inch slices
2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or ½ teaspoon dried
¼ teaspoon salt Freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ cup dry white wine

Cook bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until just beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Add mushrooms, garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost dry, 8 to 10 minutes. Pour in wine and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Nutrition Information
Per serving: 87 calories; 3 g fat (1 g sat, 1 g mono); 8 mg cholesterol; 8 g carbohydrate; 7 g protein; 1 g fiber; 316 mg sodium; 795 mg potassium.
Nutrition bonus: Potassium (23% daily value).

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Chicken with Tarragon Cream Sauce

This recipe came from a South Beach Diet recipe web site so it's healthy and low-fat. Instead of cream I used 2% milk. I wanted to use fat-free half and half, but the store was out of it and I didn't care to drive all over town to buy some. The 2% worked fine.
This was moist and tender, and the sauce was mild, but tasty. Plus, it's easy!

Chicken with Tarragon Cream Sauce
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves (about 2 pounds)
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup light or fat free cream
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon or 3/4 teaspoon dried
Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt butter with oil. Brown chicken breasts on both sides. Reduce heat and cook, covered, 15 minutes, just until chicken is cooked through. Transfer chicken to a serving platter; tent with foil to keep warm. Add cream to skillet, scraping up brown bits. Stir in mustard and tarragon. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, 5 minutes until sauce thickens slightly. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour sauce over chicken. (I found it was salty enough just by lightly salting the chicken. The sauce didn't need any.)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Roast Sticky Chicken

Greg wanted to make a rotisserie chicken on the new grill last weekend, and we feasted on this succulent bird one night for supper.

He used a recipe I got from the Busy Cooks Web Site many years ago. It used to be on, in their freezer-cooking section, but I think that is long gone.

I have made this many times in the oven, and whichever way you choose to cook it, you won't be disappointed. It has always made a juicy, tasty bird. (BEN - YOU NEED TO TRY THIS!) Just make sure you put the rub on the day before and let it sit overnight. Trust me. It's much better that way.

Roast Sticky Chicken
4 tsp. salt (we use kosher)

2 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. cayenne powder

1 tsp. onion powder

1 tsp. thyme

1 tsp. white pepper (we use black)

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 large roasting chicken

1 C chopped onion

In a small bowl, thoroughly combine all spices. Clean chicken well, and pat dry. Rub spice mixture into chicken, both inside and out, distributing evenly and deep into skin. Place in a zipper bag, seal, and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to roast chicken, stuff the cavity with onions, and place in a shallow baking pan. Roast, uncovered, at 250 degrees for 5 hours (yes, 250 for 5 hours). After the first hour, baste chicken occasionally with pan juices. The juices will begin to carmelize on the bottom of the pan and the chicken will turn golden brown. If the bird has a pop-up thermometer, ignore it. Let chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving.

This is a great way to roast a large chicken ( or 2) for planned leftovers. If your chicken has not been frozen, you can put the rub on, bag and freeze, then thaw and roast. Or you can roast, carve, and freeze the cooked meat.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pot Roast, Southwestern style

This is the second time I've made this excellent recipe for crockpot chuck roast. The sauce is a little labor-intensive, but so worth it. The recipe comes from Kalyn's Kitchen - linked on my sidebar.
I served it with refried beans, fresh homemade guacamole, sour cream, and shredded cheese.


Southwestern Pot Roast Cooked in the Crockpot

(Makes about 4 servings, recipe created by Kalyn)

3 lb. boneless chuck roast, trimmed of visible fat

1 can reduced sodium beef broth 1 cup + 1/4 cup your favorite salsa (I used Pace Picante Sauce - mild

steak rub or your favorite seasoning for steak to rub on meat before browning

1-2 tsp. olive oil for browning meat
Put beef broth in a small saucepan, removing any fat that has collected on top in the can. Boil until the broth is reduced to 1/2 cup.

While beef broth is reducing, trim all visible fat from chuck roast. You may need to cut the roast into several pieces to remove big pockets of fat. Rub pot roast on all side with steak rub (or your favorite seasonings for steak.) Heat olive oil in heavy frying pan (pans that aren't nonstick will give the best browning.) Brown roast well on all sides. Don't rush this step because browning provides flavor, and I think it's especially important in crockpot cooking. When roast is browned on all sides, put pieces of meat in crockpot, arranging them in a single layer.

Pour reduced beef broth into frying pan and use a metal turner to scrape off any carmelized bits from the browned meat. Add salsa and stir into broth, then pour salsa/beef broth mixture over pot roast.

Cook on high for one hour, then turn to low and cook 3-4 more hours, or until meat is very tender when pierced with a fork. (You could also cook for a longer time on low setting. If you don't have a slow cooker, cook in a heavy dutch oven on stovetop at lowest setting for 2-3 hours.)

Remove meat from crockpot and pour sauce into small saucepan. (If there is a lot of fat on top of the sauce, spoon it off or use a fat separator to remove the fat. You may not need to do this if you did a good job trimming.) Put meat back into crockpot to keep warm, then add final 1/4 cup salsa to the sauce and simmer until reduced to about 1 cup.

To serve, slice meat across the grain and serve hot, with sauce spooned over the top. I also think this meat would be great served as a filling for tacos or burritos.

Thursday, April 3, 2008


This recipe has been in my notebook, forgotten and untried, for at least a few years. Last weekend I had an opportunity to sort through the notebook and it was rediscovered. I made it Saturday for supper and was glad I kept it. It made enough for supper for four of us, and Greg and I each got a bowl for lunch on Monday.
It came from either Taste of Home or Country Woman magazine.

First I'll copy the recipe as it was printed, then in my notes at the bottom I'll give you the changes I made so I could use what I already had on hand. The only thing I purchased to make this recipe was the ground beef - only because I didn't have any thawed.

Meatball Minestrone

1 pound ground beef

1 egg, beaten

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/4 cup dry bread crumbs

1 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. pepper

1 15oz. can tomato sauce

2 1/2 cups water

1 15-1/2 oz. can kidney beans with liquid

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. dried thyme

1 cup sliced celery

1/4 cup uncooked elbow macaroni

1/4 cup chopped parsley

In a mixing bowl, combine beef, egg, onion, crumbs, salt, and pepper. Shape into 30 1" balls. In a large saucepan, brown meatballs on all sides. Drain excess fat.

Add remaining ingredients except macaroni and parsley; cover and simmer 20 minutes. Add macaroni; simmer 10 minutes or until tender. Stir in parsley.

Yield: about 2 quarts Can be frozen.

My changes: I baked the meatballs for 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven instead of browning in a pan. While they baked, I prepped the rest of the soup ingredients.

I only had a 20-something ounce can of crushed tomatoes, so I used that, and cut the amount of water back to 2 cups. Made for a richer soup.

I doubled the amount of oregano and thyme, and even that wasn't enough. Next time I'll quadruple it, or more.

I used black beans instead of kidney. Didn't have any kidney beans, and I don't like them anyway. And Angela said black beans are better for you, anyway. :o)

Skipped the parsley and we topped the soup with shredded Parmesan.

Greg and I discussed some options in addition to, or instead of the meatballs. He thought some Italian sausage would be good, and I was thinking some chunks of Kielbasa would add some depth of flavor.

We just had a hard roll with this, but it would be really good with garlic bread. Mmmm...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Cup o' Salad

Here we have a very delicious spinach salad in what Giadia DeLaurentis calls a "frico cup". It's a pile of parmesan cheese that was melted in the oven, then shaped in a muffin tin to make a little edible salad bowl. (I wish I'd gotten a photo of the bowl-shape, but I was more interested in the salad...)
I began with her recipe for the spinach salad: fresh spinach cut in a chiffonade, thin-sliced red onion, and sliced almonds. Then I added some sliced fresh mushrooms and dried cherries.

I made my own balsamic viniagrette dressing instead of using her citrus dressing. It was really simple, just one part balsamic vinegar (I used the 18 year-old stuff we bought at Pike Place Market), two parts olive oil (extra virgin), and a teaspoon of crushed garlic. Put it all in a little jar with a lid and shook it up. Oh. My. That aged balsamic vinegar is a little sweet, and thick, and oh, so tasty.

I know not everyone has aged balsamic, so if you use some that is a little "younger", it will be a bit tangy, but still good. I found a wonderful viniagrette recipe website here. I'm thinking the strawberry sounds good...

Here's the recipe from Giada's Food Network page:

Spinach Salad in a Parmesan Frico Cup

Recipe courtesy Giada De Laurentiis

For the Parmesan Frico Cups:

1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan

For the Citrus Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon orange juice

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon orange zest

1 teaspoon honey

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

For the Spinach Salad:

6 ounces baby spinach leaves (about 6 cups)

1 orange, cut into segments

1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

Special equipment: a silpat mat, a muffin tin, and a small drinking glass

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

For the Parmesan Frico Cups: Place a silpat mat on a baking sheet. Place 6 (1/4-cup) mounds of Parmesan cheese on the mat and gently tap down until each mound is flat and 4 1/2 to 5 inches in diameter. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden and bubbly. Working quickly, use a thin spatula to transfer the Parmesan Frico to a muffin tin. Gently place a small drinking glass on top of the Parmesan Frico to mold it into the shape 1 of the muffin cups. Let cool until firm, about 5 minutes. Continue with the remaining Parmesan cheese.

For the Citrus Vinaigrette: Combine all the ingredients in a jar or a tight-sealing plastic container. Shake to blend.

For the Spinach Salad: In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients. Drizzle with vinaigrette and toss to combine. Divide the salad among the Parmesan Frico Cups and serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Tonight we had fish tacos for supper. I wanted to do a post about those, but we ate them up before I got a photo. I used tilapia and the marinade and sauce recipe from Guy's Big Bite. I wasn't a huge fan of the sauce, but the marinade was much better than just sprinkling the fish with some spices. I didn't bread the fish, and just sauteed the pieces in a skillet.
These were placed in corn tortillas with the sauce, some shredded cabbage, some crumbled queso fresco, and homemade guacamole.
I LOVE good guacamole. This means made fresh, and I prefer that it be a little bit chunky. I'm okay with diced tomatoes, but I don't put them in mine since Greg wouldn't eat it if I did. My method is simple, and one I developed as I tried different recipes.
First off, make sure your avocadoes are ripe. That means a little bit soft when you give them a gentle squeeze, but not too soft, and keep the squeeze really gentle. I cut the fruit in half, remove the pit, and scoop into a bowl with a spoon.
Add finely diced red onion (white onion works, but I prefer red). Diced finely, remember, unless you're running it through the food processor.
A splash of lime juice - I prefer fresh, but bottled will do.
A sprinkle of salt - trial and error here. Just remember you can always add, but you cannot remove...
If I have fresh cilantro, I'll chop some finely and toss it in.
Mash it together with a fork. Let it sit awhile before scarfing it down - lets the flavors "marry". My guacamole is smooth, not spicy, and so VERY yummy!

Oh, and avocadoes are GOOD FOR YOU! YEA!