Mixed Back Pick Up – Please Read

I will be handing out mixed bag fundraiser orders at 8 am at the studio. See you there!

Nikki

HELP! My Chili is Too Hot

chili

I should start by explaining my absence in writing.  In a word it is called – HARVEST.  I can’t really describe it.  It takes every waking spare moment of my summer.  Doug had planted around 120 tomato plants alone.  There were several times that I thought I was caught up only to turn around and see an actual wheel barrel of produce in my living room.  A WHEEL BARREL.

My freezer is full of unbaked pies, snow peas, green peas, sweet potatoes, roasted tomatoes, frozen green beans, beats, tomato soup, carrots, spinach, peppers.  I have jars of tomatoes, pickles, jams, jellies, salsas, jalapenos.  It is a good thing it is fall because I have no more freezer space and I have 4 freezers.

I can now breathe, reclaim my house, and my life.  It will now be worth it.  Today, as our weather took a turn into cold and rain, I made a chili with canned tomatoes, peppers, and onions from our garden.  It is very good however, I used a chili powder that was a little too hot.  This isn’t the first time this has happened to me, and I bet it may have happened to some of you too.  So, it seemed like a good time to share some tips on how to save your chili when it is too hot.

Now, an obvious fix if you have the ingredients and time is to double it up omitting the chili powder in your second batch. Then, combine with the chili that is too hot –   I see the odds of this working out as low simply because we don’t have the time or the ingredients.  But, it will work.

I prefer to add things to cool it down.  This requires minimal time and you more than likely have these things on hand.   Adding starchy ingredients will absorb heat – like beans.  So if you taste your chili prior to adding beans, keep in mind the beans will actually take the heat down.

If you add beans and you know you have a “situation” on your hands feeding the chili to anyone, you can do the following:

-Add sugar (white or brown) 1 tsp at a time.  This works and it is what I do.

-Add a squeeze of fresh lime or lemon juice – I usually will add this if I have it on hand

-Add a decent wine vinegar 1 tsp at a time.  This also works, but I prefer the sugar method.

Next, serve your chili with sour cream, shredded cheese, and avocados.  Adding these will take the heat down considerably.

That’s it! So, don’t freak out or worry if your chili comes out too hot.  You can fix it:)

Lesley

Grilled Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts (that don’t suck)

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What could be more at the center of the plate for people trying to shed a few pounds than boneless skinless chicken.  The problem is who wants to eat a dried out grilled piece of boneless skinless chicken breast……eeewwwwww not me.

There is hope fellow calorie-counters.  There are a few things you can do to so your chicken doesn’t “suck”.

1.  Place your raw chicken in a zip-lock bag and beat it with a rolling pin until it is about 3/4″ thick.  The uneven nature of these make it very hard to grill without overcooking part the thinner part.

2.  Take an hour to brine the chicken.  I used 4 C water, 3 T kosher salt, 3 T sugar, peppercorns, 1 sliced lemon and a few garlic cloves (peeled).  Stir the salt and sugar into hot water to dissolve then add the other things and let it come to room temp)

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3.  Brush with olive oil and grill on med-high for about 4 minutes per side or until done.

I swear, by following these easy steps, your chicken will be good and won’t suck at all:)

 

 

Buttermilk Brownies – Passing Recipes Generation to Generation

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This post is for Sandy.  Sandy was my friend, Tammy’s, mother who lost a battle to cancer very recently.  Sandy and I had a special connection.  She was a really genuine person, and she was full of opinions.  She was so fun to talk to. Sandy, without a doubt, consumed more of my apple butter than any other person. She loved the stuff.  I received an email from her once that said something to the effect of, “I’ll kick your A** if you don’t get over here with some of that apple butter”.  I wish I had kept that email.

Sandy had a brownie recipe that she frequently made for her family.  My friend Tammy sent me the recipe asking if I could make them and then teach her how. Passing recipes from generation to generation is one of my favorite things about cooking.  My daughter calls her favorite mac & cheese “Great Grandma’s mac & cheese”.  I was pregnant when my grandmother died.  It makes me smile every time she asks for it.  I have the cookbooks of my grandmother and great aunt, and if the house was burning down, I’d carry them out.

I can’t eat chocolate, so I can’t tell you what these brownies taste like.  To me, they seem very much like a sheet cake.  I was so happy when her family said they were on the money.  Sandy’s granddaughter,Sam, says they are very good with M&Ms and whipped cream, and I suppose that would be true.

Here is the recipe – The key is to measure everything in advance.  You work pretty steadily putting it together. I added a few more instructions than what was given to me:)

Sandy’s Brownies

1 stick butter

1 C water

1/4 C cocoa

1/2 C oil

2 C flour

2 C sugar

dask of salt

1/2 C buttermilk

2 eggs

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 400.  Grease and flour a jelly roll pan.  Combine flour, sugar, salt in a boil – set aside.  Combine first 4 ingredients in saucepan. Bring to a boil and then pour over the bowl with the flour and stir.  Add the rest of the ingredients and blend..  Pour in the prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes.  Ice immediately.

Icing:

1 stick butter

1/4 C cocoa

1/2 C buttermilk

1 lb powdered sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

dash of salt

Combine powdered sugar, vanilla, salt in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Combine first 3 ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Make this icing when your brownies are in the oven.  As soon as you take the brownies out of the oven you pour this icing all over the brownies without spreading with a knife.

I hope these brownies can now live on for Sandy’s family, and I’m honored to have known her.

 

Healthy Recipe Kick Off – Gyros, Barbacoa, Pizza Logs

I’ve not blogged as much lately.  It isn’t because I haven’t been cooking.  I’ve just been debating on what to write about.  So, in the spirt of my own weight loss goal this year, I’m going to post some of my favorite health recipes.

“Heathy” seems to have many definitions depending on who you talk to. I’ve tried more eating plans than I want to admit to.  Those who know me well can laugh now.

At 47 years old, I’ve decided if I can’t look at my doctor and tell her with a straight face my plan to lose weight, I should maybe consider my alternatives.  I know so many people who do well cutting out carbs.  This doesn’t work for me.

So, all reasonable and moderate roads have led me to Weight Watchers.  Don’t freak out, I’ll still post other things, but I’m on a mission to “splurge” less and exercise more.  I have loads to learn about living in moderation.

I have looked at WW in the past.  I struggled with the feeling that I couldn’t cook my own food.  Also – I like to experiment in the kitchen and make changes to recipes. You can do this with WW today.  The app they have is amazing.  It has really come a long way.  On top of that, I’ve found some pretty cool fellow bloggers that have posted recipes that have not made feel like I’m “dieting”.

I’m about 3 weeks in to this and heading in the right direction. I think it is working because i am ready mentally and I totally plan my food out.

I put lots of effort into researching and trying recipes.  I want to share the results with you.  I want to share recipes I’m really enjoying and will make it onto my list of being point-worthy. They will go in my WW survival list.  I’m not pretending to have created these recipes.  I’m just sharing in an effort to help someone one else who is looking for some ideas.  Many of these you can serve without warning your dinner guests and family members that you are dieting.

So with that said, here is my first round of recipes with points. I’m following the Points + program.  I am losing weight eating these recipes.  Don’t forget to measure your ingredients!

The first recipe I’ve posted before.  It is really a go-to for me:

Turkey Gyro

Turkey Gyros with Feta.  I double the recipe for the meatballs and cook all of them.  Then, I freeze them in bags of 2 so I can make these gyros for a quick awesome meal.  So, hold on to your hat.  2 meatballs are only 3 points (P+).  I use Kronos pita/flatbread.  I love these.  They are not a pita pocket.  They are 4 points.  I add 1 oz of feta cheese – 2 points and “OPA Feta Dill Greek  Style” yogurt dressing.  This is  1 point per tablespoon.  (Click here to see dressing)

I’m telling you, these are delicious.  I’ve had about 4 of them this week.  I count 9 or 10 points for this depending on how much dressing I use.

Next, Is a Pork Barbacoa.  This is another skinnytaste recipe.  This is ingenious.  She has combined peppers, coke zero, brown sugar to make a slow-cooker dish to knock your socks off.  If you like sweet + heat, try this one. This is 5 points for 3 oz.  You can eat this on a bun, or on rice, or in a wrap. I’m making it for Sunday dinner this week.  It is a keeper!  You should go to this site if you are following WW.

20140215-200815.jpgHere’s one that will be a hit with your whole family.  My daughter loved them. In fact, she requested them for dinner tonight. They are “Pizza Logs” from Emily Bites.  These babies have 2 points each.  They would be great as a party food too if you can heat them and serve them immediately.  Check out her site.

20140215-195605.jpgTonight I made Garlic Shrimp in Coconut Milk, Tomatoes, and Cilantro.  Click here for this recipe.  This is also on Skinnytaste.com.  There is 7 points in a serving.  I added it over 1 C of brown rice which was 5 points.  1 C of Jasmine rice is 7 points.  So, eat the brown rice if you like it.

I’m experimenting with black bean burgers, and I’ll post the results soon.  In the interim, try the Morningstar Farms black bean burgers.  Click here to see the package.  These are 3 points, and then I add the a wedge of Laughing Cow spreadable cheese which only adds 1 point.  I like these on toasted light english muffins (3 points) or Sara Lee Delightful buns (2 points).

So, here are my favorites in the first 3 weeks.  I’ve also had several baked sweet potatoes (2 points for 1/2 Cup).

Talk to you all soon.

Lesley

Fettuccine with Sausage and Mushrooms in Tomato Cream

pasta

It is the dead of winter in Kansas City.  The time of year I really don’t like to put it mildly.  We had plans tonight to have dinner out with my parents, but it was not to be.  We had freezing drizzle which turned to ice which turned into an evening of cancelled plans.   Reports of highway closings and overturned vehicles.  We are now “in” for the evening and perhaps longer.  I don’t like not being able to leave my house.  I don’t cope with it well.  I think I get this from my mother:)

However, as I was watching the weather on TV and the coverage of everyone rushing to the store to buy things before the weather turns really bad, my mood turned.  I thought about how relieved I was not to be in those grocery store crowds.  The fact is that the Kingsley’s could eat for a very long time without having to go to the store if needed.  This is the center of many conversations our friends have when they are here.  Comments are made similar to “If I am ever going to be stranded, I want to be stranded here”.  We have a good set up to deal with a big winter storm.  We have a huge wood burning fireplace and plenty of food.  Plenty is an understatement.  In fact, I’ve been trying really hard to eat out of our freezers for the past few weeks with barely a dent of progress.

Fueled with my improving mood, I headed to the kitchen to make something for dinner.  I poked through the refrigerator and found the following:  button mushrooms, sweet Italian sausage, parm, and cream.  In the pantry, I have pasta of every shape.  I grab a pack of fettuccine.  I have 1 qt jars of tomatoes from our garden and some dehydrated tomatoes in the freezer.  Oh yeah, this is coming together.

Fettuccine with Sausage and Mushrooms in Tomato Cream

1 lb sweet Italian sausage, ground

2 Cups sliced button mushrooms

1 Qt canned tomatoes

couple handfuls of dehydrated or oven roasted tomatoes

2 tsp dried basil

1/2 C Heavy Cream or Half & Half

Parm – shredded or shaved

Fettuccine (or whatever you have)

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Boil a pot of water – cook pasta

In a large skillet, cook sausage until browned, toss in mushrooms and cook a few minutes until the mushrooms soften.  Add a jar of tomatoes with their juice, crushing the tomatoes with a wooden spoon.  Add dried tomatoes and basil.  Let this simmer until the mushrooms are cooked, the dried tomatoes are plump.

When your pasta is done and drained, add the cream to your sauce to finish it.  Top your pasta with the parm.

This is a really good dish and it easy to make.  Now, having your own canned tomatoes and roasted tomatoes is certainly a plus.  These are some of the gems of my preserved foods.  If you don’t have these things on hand, you can use a jar to tomato or spaghetti sauce and still make a tomato cream sauce.  I’ve done it both ways.

Tonight, I may be trapped inside, but I have visions of crocus, daffodils, and hyacinth will be poking up from the dirt soon.

Stay warm -

Rolls….Struggles and Triumphs and a Return to my 5th Grade Science Project

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Rolls had been kind of sensitive subject with me.  I of course love them, but they have not been my specialty.  There, I said it.  My mother is hands down the roll-maker in our family.  Every holiday meal at my house, she brings them and everyone loves them. She has the “touch” to make them and try as I might, mine are never as good.

Now my interest in baking bread goes way back.  In fact, in the 5th grade, my friend Trissy and I conducted our science project for the James Lewis Science Fair on the ideal temperatures for dough to rise.  I find this hysterical actually.  We got a 1st place ribbon.  We had little loaf pans of dough rising outside, in the oven, on the counter, and in the refrigerator.  In, 2013 you can “google” this topic and see that dough will rise at various speeds at a wide range of temperatures.  It seems 80-90 degrees is ideal.

Over the last 10 years, I have made every roll that sweeps the Internet promising to be easy or quick or foolproof.  Most of them went straight in the trash. Admittedly, I do have very high standards for rolls, and nothing shy of my mom’s will do.

I found this all very frustrating.  My mom said last week, “it isn’t magic”. Well, I was starting to wonder!  Her comment did get me thinking….right back to the 5th grade science experiment.  Perhaps, the temperature in my kitchen is the real issue.  I used to make rolls at the house we lived in previously.  It was a smaller kitchen and would really heat up.

With Thanksgiving a few days away, I decided to ask my mom to come over and watch me make rolls.  I really wanted her coaching and to solve the mystery of why my rolls just don’t turn out as good as her rolls do.  I had printed 2 recipes.  One of the recipes she didn’t want to try because it was made with whole wheat flour. Hear me out.  I do agree with her that whole wheat flour makes a heavier roll, at least in my experience.  We decided to use recipes with all-purpose flour.

We landed on 2 recipes to try today.  The first was out of a cookbook, my first Good Housekeeping cookbook, given to me in 1982 by my parents.  The second is a refrigerator dough that I found on thekitchn.  It is called – “Potato Dough Rolls”.

Click Here for the recipe.

We made both of these rolls today.  We went with the hypothesis that the dough would rise better with a warmer area. We really focused on the temperature and humidity around the dough as it was rising.  Our method was to keep two pots of water boiling on the stove and turned on the oven to around 175 degrees.  We put the dough on the stove so it was kept very warm and moist.

Here is a picture of the set up.

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The conclusion?  I’m so happy to tell you that it worked.  I made rolls that were delicious.  I’m going recommend the recipe I got of thekitchn.  As I mentioned, this is a refrigerator dough.  This means that after you mix up the dough,  it goes in the refrigerator for atleast 2 hours but up to 3 days.  This means, you could make this dough on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday of Thanksgiving week and then on Thanksgiving, you will need to shape the dough, let it rise 1 hour and then bake them.  So, that is pretty wonderful.  Also, there is no kneading necessary.  I also love that.  This went just as the recipe was written.

So – remember, you want to make a place where you can achieve 80-90 degrees with some humidity for your rising time.

Here is one more pic……

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I hope you find this helpful, and that you have wonderful rolls on your table this year.

Lesley

Cherry Cheesecake in a Jar

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My friend and cooking pal, Elizabeth Elson, called the other day and said, “I sent you a “pin” and we have to make these.  It was something like 21 deserts in a jar.  I’ve seen some of these before, but not made any.  Not sure why.

Desert in a jar is a great idea for several reasons.  I know I would be much more likely to grab one of these at a dinner than take a piece out of a big cake/pie. These are really the perfect size.  I got these jars at Price Chopper, and I have also find them on Amazon.

The cheese cake in a jar is pretty easy.  First you need to make a basic graham cracker crust which is just graham crackers and butter.  The recipe is on every box of graham crackers.  You don’t need to bake it in the jar, just press it in the bottom.

Next, make a cherry filling:

Cherry Pie Filling:

from food network

4 cups fresh or frozen tart cherries
1 to 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 tablespoon almond extract (optional)

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Place cherries in medium-sized saucepan and place over heat. Cover. After the cherries lose considerable juice, which may take a few minutes, remove from heat. In a small bowl, mix the sugar and cornstarch together. Pour this mixture into the hot cherries and mix well. Add the almond extract, if desired, and mix. Return the mixture to the stove and cook over low heat until thickened, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and let cool. If the filling is too thick, add a little water, too thin, add a little more cornstarch.

Let cool completely

Then, I used a no-bake cheesecake filling.

No-Bake Cheesecake Filling

16 oz cream cheese, softened

1 TBSP lemon juice

1/3 – 1/2 C sugar

1 C heavy cream

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In a food processor, blend the cream cheese and lemon juice.  Then, add the whipping cream and blend until thick and creamy.  Add sugar to taste.  I used closer to 1/2 cup.

I used a pastry bag and piped the filling on top of the graham cracker crust. You could spoon it in as well. Then, just top it with the cooled cherry topping.

These didn’t last long.

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Elizabeth also made pumpkin, cherry, and blueberry-peach desserts in a jar.  I’ll be posting those soon.  We wanted to see if we could freeze them in the jar and then bake them.  I can’t wait to see if it works.

Thanksgiving Countdown – 11 Days

I have made most holiday dinners in our family for nearly 15 years now.  I love cooking big dinners.  I’ve had so many people over the years tell me, “I just couldn’t cook a big meal”.  Well, with some planning, you can.  Really, it is as much about organizing as cooking.

So, let’s get ready together.  If you are cooking, try and have your menu settled in the next day or so.  I’m going to post my menu tomorrow.  Do you need help planning the menu?  Send in your comments/questions, and I am at your service.

Also – Here are some things to check off your list before the end of this weekend if humanly possible.

-Give your house a good cleaning if you are having the event at your house.  You can touch it up as you go, but you don’t need a big cleaning project while  you are trying to cook.

-Sharpen your knives.  If you don’t have good knives, get one:)

-Purchase things you know you need.  For instance, there are a few things I always buy at William Sonoma, and I’ve done that already.

-Ordering anything from a store, bakery, etc?  Get that done now, and check it off your list.  I have my heritage turkey on order from The Local Pig.

-If you use cloth napkins.  Get them out and pressed.

-Clean your fridge out.  Throw away things that should not be in there and wipe it down good.  Trust me, this one pays off the week of Thanksgiving.

-Plan your table setting.  Do you need to order flowers or purchase candles?

This list will get us going.  I’ll be posting helpful hints, and some of holiday recipes until the big day arrives.

Looking for a recipe?  Let me know, and I’ll help you.

Talk to you all soon,

Lesley

12 Days until Thanksgiving…..My Thoughts on Brine

Heritage

 

12 days to go until Thanksgiving.  I wanted to bring up the subject of brining your turkey.  If you are buying a traditional turkey at your local grocery store, I encourage you to brine your bird.  Here’s why….As meats are cooked, they lose up to 30% of their moisture.  If you have every had a dry piece of turkey or chicken, odds are it was not brined.  It really works and it will be worth your efforts, trust me on this.

There are different kinds of brines, but the all have the same goal of making the meat more juicy.  Basically, we are increasing the moisture of the bird before we cook it.

There are lots of recipes for brines.  A basic  ”wet” brine has 2 gallons of water, 1 C Kosher Salt, 1/2 C Brown Sugar.  Now you can add all kinds of things from bay leaves, pepper corns, ginger, etc…

William Somona sells a brine in a jar that looks like this:

Also, the brining bags are very nice at William Sonoma.

With a “wet” brine, you bring your water to a boil, add sugar, salt, or brine mix and then cool it after the salt dissolves into the water.  Then you add ice and cover your bird completely.

This takes a really large pan.  You can also use a clean cooler which saves on your fridge space.  Your turkey must be thawed by Wednesday AM so you can get it in the brine.  Turkeys take days to thaw safely in the fridge.  The key is that your keep adding lots of ice and keep it really cold.  It should soak in the brine 12-24 hours and must be well rinsed before cook.

There is also a dry brine which looks like this:

A dry brine is really like a rub.  I used this dry brine last year and just bought more for this year.

This year I ordered a heritage turkey again this year.  A heritage turkey is not raised in a factory and has lived longer than most of the birds in the grocery store. The turkeys have developed more fat and don’t need a brine from what I have read.  I brine it anyway.

Tip for a Really Good Turkey:

After your turkey is rinsed, pat it try with a paper towel and put butter under the skin.  Then, baste with butter every 30 minutes while it is cooking.  In the cavity of the bird, I put a cut up lemon and fresh herbs. If you don’t have the wings tucked under, you might need to cover them with foil at some point to prevent them from over-browning.

These are really the basics of a serving up a turkey that will WOW your guests.

Tomorrow, Elizabeth and I are making deserts in jars.  I can’t wait to show you how the day goes.

Be sure to check out my Thanksgiving page for recipes for your feast.  There is a drop down at the top of this post.

Lesley

Chili………I’ve made this twice in two weeks!

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With the first hint of fall, I can’t wait to make chili.  I made this last week, and then again this week.  If you read chili recipes, you know you can find them with a wide variety of ingredients that don’t sound like they belong in chili.  I have to try many of these, because, you just never know!

This chili has many traditional ingredients, with the addition of cocoa powder, coffee, beer, and brown sugar.  I think it is fantastic and it has a nice depth to it.  You can use a different kind of bean if you like.  You can use 2 kinds of beans if you like.  I also made skillet cornbread and we topped it with shredded cheddar.

A bowl of this is the perfect fall/winter dinner.  I hope you like it.

Chili with Coffee, Cocoa, and Beer

adapted from Food52

1 to 2 tablespoon canola oil

2 pounds ground meat (I used the thick ground beef for chili)

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 Bottle of beer (I used Boulevard Wheat)

14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes (I used a qt jar of my garden tomatoes)

1 cup beef stock

1 cup coffee

16 ounce can tomato paste

1 tablespoon cocoa powder

1 chopped jalapeno (I used one I had frozen from the summer)

½ cup brown sugar

1 tablespoon heaping of cumin

1 teaspoon heaping of coriander

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

1 16oz can pinto beans (or kidney)

1 15oz cans white beans

  1. In large stock pot or dutch oven, heat oil over medium and brown the meat.
  2. When meat is lightly browned, throw on the onions.
  3. Add beer plus, tomatoes, beef stock, coffee and tomato paste.
  4. Add sugar, spices and beans. Simmer for an hour.
  5. Add white beans and simmer for another hour.
  6. Top with your favorite chili toppings

If you make this, let me know what you think!

Lesley

You might also like:

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White Chili

Thanksgiving Sides cont….Green Bean Bundles, Green Bean Casserole, and Spinach Gratin

My last post included side dishes for Thanksgiving that were primarily orange. Now, I’m moving on to green vegetables.   As I gave an option in the orange veggies for some updates on long-standing traditions like sweet potato casserole, I want to share with you some updates with green beans.  Now, you may love green bean casserole made with canned soup, but here is a different version that is the one I really like.

All of these recipes green bean recipes can be made a day ahead.

I found this Green Bean Casserole on the Kitchen Parade blog years ago.  I’ve added onion to her recipe.  It is so much better than the frozen green bean with canned soup casserole.

Make-Ahead Fresh Green Bean Casserole

by:  Kitchen Parade

Sauce:

3 T butter, unsalted

8 oz mushroom caps (fresh / rough chop)

1 small onion, finely diced

1 t kosher salt

1/2 t black pepper

6 cloves of minced garlic

1/2 t dried thyme

1/4 C flour

1.5 C chicken stock

1/2 C dry white wine

1.5 C cream

2 T sherry

BEANS

2 lbs fresh green beans, trimmed and cut

1/4 C cornstarch

TOPPING

1 C panko bread crumbs

2 T melted butter

ground pepper

2 C canned fried onions (that was the best part of the old casserole…right)

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Sauce:

1.  Toss the green beans in corn starch…placed in a greased 9×13 pan

2.  Saute onions & mushrooms in a large pan in butter for about 10 minutes until they are cooked and the liquid has evaporated.  Lightly salt and pepper

3.  Add garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant.  Sprinkle mushrooms with flour and stir until combined.

4.  Start adding chicken stock a little at a time letting the liquid absorb each time.  Stir in the wine and cream.  Simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.

5.  Add sherry and salt & pepper to taste

6.  Pour mushroom sauce over green beans in casserole dish.  Make sure to cover all the beans.  You can stop here.  Once cooled, you can cover with plastic wrap and foil until you are ready to bake.

7.  When you are ready to bake, remove plastic and cover with foil.  Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

8.  Make the topping by melting the butter and saute the panko crumbs for a couple of minutes.  Add the panko, stir and turn off.

9.  Bake the casserole without (in foil with no topping) for 30 minutes.  Stir and put back in for 50 minutes uncovered.  Add topping and bake 10 more minutes.

I don’t have a photo of it, but I’ll take one this year.

This green bean casserole is just lovely and is a nice modern version of the classic version we grew up on.

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Green Bean Bundles are also super easy and very pretty.  I made these last year and they were a big hit.

Image 14

Green Bean Bundles:

Green Beans

Brown Sugar

Bacon or Pancetta

1.  Blanch your green beans (This means place them in boiling water for 2 minutes, then into ice water)

2.  Place them on a cookie sheet and wrap each bundle with a piece of bacon or pancetta.

3.  Sprinkle each bundle with a little brown sugar

4.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes

These can be totally made the day before your dinner.

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The last option for this post is a Spinach Gratin by Ina Garten.  I have made this many times, and it is very good.  You can assemble a day ahead which is nice. Then you just have to pop it in the oven when you are ready for it.

Spinach Gratin:

Ingredients
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
4 cups chopped yellow onions (2 large)
1/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups milk
3 pounds frozen chopped spinach, defrosted (5 (10-ounce) packages)
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese
Directions
Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 15 minutes. Add the flour and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes. Add the cream and milk and cook until thickened. Squeeze as much liquid as possible from the spinach and add the spinach to the sauce. Add 1/2 cup of the Parmesan cheese and mix well. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Transfer the spinach to a baking dish and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan and the Gruyere on top. Bake for 20 minutes until hot and bubbly. Serve hot.

OK, now you have 3 good options for a green vegetable for Thanksgiving dinner.

Thanksgiving Kick Off – Sweet Potato Casserole, Oven Roasted Carrots, Caramelized Butternut Squash

I have added my Thanksgiving Page where I will collect posts containing recipes you can use around your Thanksgiving table.

I guess I decided to start with orange food today for some reason.  I love all three of these and they find their way to my table on a repeat basis.  The sweet potato casserole is not the one you might have had as a kid with marshmallows.  We can skip that in my opinion.

I found this in a Cook’s Fall Entertaining Guide in 2007 and it is my favorite.  I love the addition of the streusel topping rather than marshmallows.  Serious upgrade.

Sweet Potato Casserole:

Sweet Potatoes

7 pounds (6-8 medium) sweet potatoes

Streusel

1/2 c of all purpose flour

1/2 c dark brown sugar, packed

1/4 t salt

5 T butter cut into 5 pieces (room temp)

1 c pecans

Filling

5 T melted butter

2 t table salt

1/2 t ground nutmeg

1/2 t ground pepper

1 T vanilla extract

4 t lemon juice

granulated sugar

4 large egg yolks

1 1/2 c half-and-half

———————————————-

1.  Poke sweet potatoes several times with a paring knife then bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour to 1.5 hours .  They are done when you can easily squeeze them with tongs.  Remove from oven, cut in half and allow to cool for 10+ minutes.

2.  Reduce oven to 375 degrees

3.  Butter a 13 x 9 baking dish.  Pulse flour, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor until blended.  Add the pieces of butter and pulse 1 second – 6 -8 times.  Transfer to a bowl

4.  Scoop flesh out of sweet potatoes and transfer half of the potato flesh to food processor.  Using a spatula, smash the sweet potato remaining in the bowl.  (you should have 1″ chunks)

5.  Add the melted butter, salt, nutmeg, pepper, vanilla, and lemon to the food processor and process until smooth, about 20 seconds.  Taste for sweetness and add granulated sugar to your desired taste.  Add yokes.  While the food processor is running, stream in half-and-half and process until blended.  Transfer to bowl with sweet potatoes and mix.

6.  Pour filling into prepared baking dish and spread into an even layer using a spatula or knife.  Sprinkle with stresuel, breaking it down into even pieces.  Bake 40-45 minutes and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Oven Roasted Carrots -

No need to wait for Thanksgiving to have them.  I make them about once a week!

You can use long carrots or get those cute little baby carrots with the tops (not the generic baby carrots in a bag!

You can keep the whole or cut them on them on the diagonal.  The key is that they are about the same size so they cook evenly.  The smaller the carrots, the less time it will take for them to cook.  Plan about 2 large carrots per person.

12 Carrots

2-3 T good olive oil (you can even use garlic or tuscan olive oil)

1 T kosher salt

fresh ground pepper

chopped herbs like italian parsley, dill, rosemary if desired

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees

Rub the prepared carrots in olive oil and place on a rimmed backing sheet. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and herbs.

You want to make sure the carrots are in a single layer on the sheet.  Spread them out!

Bake about 20 minutes (turning occasionally) or until they start caramelizing.

Fantastic!

Caramelized Butternut Squash

My third orange veggie that is great on Thanksgiving is Butternut Squash.  Now, if you really can’t stand the thought of cleaning and cubing a squash, you can find it at places like Costco already cubed for the holiday:)

This is from the original Barefoot Contessa Cookbook.

2 medium butternut squash

6 T melted butter

1/3 c light brown sugar, packed

1.5 t kosher salt

1/2 t fresh ground pepper

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.

Cut squash in half and remove seeds.  Cut the squash into cubes smaller than 1.5 inch.  Toss them with melted butter, brown sugar, salt, and pepper.

Place in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 45-55 minutes turning occasionally.

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OK – There are 3 nice options for orange veggies.  Mac and Cheese is also awesome and orange, but will be on a separate post.  I’ve decided this year of this group, I will make the sweet potato casserole.  Just typing this made me crave it.

My Favorite Lasagna

20131003-165756.jpgAs much as I like a lasagna with ricotta and mozzarella, I must tell you this is my favorite. My love affair with this dish started with the Lasagne Verde Bolognese recipe in my first Dean and Deluca cookbook. This is still one of my favorite cookbooks and I have many:)

This lasagna has both a meat sauce and a white sauce. There is tomato in the meat sauce, but it is not a tomato sauce.  It is a meat sauce.  There is no egg, ricotta, parsley, basil, or mozzarella.  It is rich and complex and wonderful.

I made this as written for years, which, is an epic experience.  You see, the Bolognese sauce calls for beef stock which I would make from beef bones.  This takes a day.  Then, I would make the Bolognese sauce which is about a 4-5 hour process.  I used to have “stock days” and make tons of homemade stock and freeze it.  Since then, I think box stock has gotten pretty good.  So, that is the first step I cut out.  I also omit the chicken livers in the original recipe, but feel free to add them.  There is something so divine about this meat sauce.  It is almost creamy.  But, it takes time for the flavor and texture to develop.  You can’t rush it.  Sometimes I make this sauce the same day as the lasagna, and sometimes I make the sauce the day before, but it in the refrigerator and remove the fat on top.

Let’s talk now about the white sauce.  I know that the French Masters of sauce making added nutmeg to their bechamel (white sauce).  But, I really don’t care for it.  So, I leave out the nutmeg.  If you like nutmeg, add it back in yours.

For the noodles, they call for “par boiled” lasagna noodles.  I use the no-boil.  I think they work great in this recipe.  The key is to press down on the noodles when you layer them.  You also need to start with sauce at the bottom of the lasagna pan as the first layer.

I’m listing the Bolognese Sauce first, and then the Lasagne recipe.  This will fill one lasagna pan.

Bolognese Sauce

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cups minced yellow onions
1/2 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced celery
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound ground beef (preferably ground chuck)
1/2 pound ground veal
1/2 pound ground pork
2 cups tomato sauce – I use a large can of my garden tomatoes
1 3/4 cups beef stock
1 cup dry white wine
DIRECTIONS:

1. Heat olive oil over moderate heat in large saucepan. Add onions, stir, and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes, until onions are wilted and light golden. Uncover and continue cooking for another 15 minutes, until onions are golden and lightly caramelized. (Watch carefully, so the onions don’t burn.) Add carrot, celery, kosher salt, and pepper, and cook for 5 minutes.
2. Add ground beef, veal, and pork and crumble with the back of a wooden spoon. Cook until meat is no longer pink. Cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Add tomato sauce, 1 cup beef stock, and white wine. Stir well and simmer, uncovered, over low heat for 1 1/2  hours. (The sauce should barely bubble.) Add remaining beef stock, stir, and continue simmering for another 1 1/2  hours. Adjust seasoning if needed.
Note:  You can finish this with a splash of cream.

Lasagne:

INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup flour
2 1/2 cups milk, heated almost to boiling
1 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano
1 box of no-boil lasagna noodles
1 1/2 recipe of sauce bolognese (9 cups)

DIRECTIONS:

1. Make a roux by melting 1/4 cup butter in a medium saucepan over moderate heat.  Add flour. Cook roux gently for 2 to 3 minutes, whisking constantly. Do not let color change. Add hot milk slowly, whisking constantly, and cook for about 25 minutes over low heat. Do not stop whisking or stirring. Cook until the sauce has consistency of very thick cream. Season with salt & pepper.
2. Mix Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino Romano in a small bowl.
3. Melt the remaining 3 tablespoons of butter. Grease bottom and sides of a 9 inch by 11 inch by 1 1/2  inch pan well. Spread 1 cup of the sauce on bottom of pan.
4. Place 3 lasagna noodles on bottom of pan; they will overlap slightly. Spread about 1 3/4 cup of sauce bolognese evenly on noodles. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup of cheese mixture. Repeat this 4 times. Place last 3 noodles on top, spread remaining sauce over all, and sprinkle with remaining cheese. (The lasagna may be assembled up to this point 2 days in advance and stored in refrigerator, covered. Bring to room temperature before cooking.)
5. When ready to cook, pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake on top shelf of oven for about 20 minutes, until top is light golden brown. Let sit for 5 minutes and serve.

——————————————

My advice – Make this lasagna.  The sauce can cook while you are doing something else in your house.  It just needs an occasional stir.  This makes a great main dish for a Sunday dinner with some rolls and a salad.

If you have any questions, let me know.  If you try it, I’d love to hear what you think.

I’m off to the kitchen.  Doug just covered the counters in tomatoes and peppers again.  I kinda want to slap him, but I know it will be worth it later.  He is pulling up the garden.  Fall has arrived.

Delicata Squash with Butter Flavored Olive Oil and Cinnamon Sugar

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This is my new favorite squash.  My post starts with a funny story.  Last weekend Doug harvested a whole bunch of veggies from our garden, put them in the pack of his truck and brought them to the house.  It was an impressive haul.  Doug looks at me and says, “I don’t know about that watermelon.  I keep watering it and it just isn’t getting any bigger”.  I say, “Well, the issue is that it is a squash”.  It was so hard to say with a straight face.  Oh wait, I didn’t.  I have been wanting to grow Delicata since I read “Animal Vegetable, Miracle”.  We ordered the seeds this year, and now I have about 50 of them in my kitchen.

This squash is commonly called the “sweet potato squash”, and I see why.  I does taste like a sweet potato.  You can either eat the skin or not.  It is a cream color with green stripes.

20130925-201506.jpgTonight, I roasted them in the oven with Butter-Flavored Olive Oil and cinnamon sugar.  I got the oil at Heaving Olive Olis.

Here is what you do.  Wash the squash, slice in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds.

Slice the squash 1/4″ thick.  Toss in olive oil and cinnamon sugar.  Bake on 425 until golden brown.

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You could use melted butter or any oil oil to make this.

I have several other recipes in mind to make with this tasty squash.  Keep checking back!

Marinated Peppers with Serrano Honey Vinegar

20130923-223014.jpgHello.  I’m briefly coming up for air.  I have been heads-down in my kitchen for weeks with our harvest.  Gosh, I can’t wait for it to get her and then I can’t wait for it to be over…lol

I really love marinated sweet peppers. Recently, I learned that you can make these and they will hold in your refrigerator for up to a year!  AND – they don’t need to be “processed” or “canned”.  After a weekend of processing over 100 pounds of tomatoes, this is music to my ears.

I saw a post by Hank Shaw who has a fascinating blog. I love it. Anyway, did I say that I REALLY love that I could make these and not have to boil the jars?

You should read his full article.  It is really interesting.

First, you need to roast the peppers.  Now you can do this on a grill, right on the burner of your gas range, or on a sheet pan under a broiler.

If you them in the broiler, cut the peppers and remove the seeds and stem.  Then lay them skins up.  Drizzle with olive oil and kosher salt them broil until the skins are turning black.

20130923-223140.jpgThen, right after you take then out of the oven, place them in a paper bag or glass bowl and close it up.  Let them completely cool.  Then, the skins will peel right off.

20130923-223031.jpgBefore placing them in the jars, I let them set in Serrano and Honey Vinegar from Heavenly Olive Oils & Vinegar for a few minutes.  I love how the sweet and hot flavor of this vinegar blends with the peppers.  You could also use red wine vinegar or any other vinegar you like. I added enough vinegar in the bottom of each jar to cover the bottom of the jar and then added the peppers and vinegar.  I left a little room at the top for a cap of olive oil.  This helps keep air out.

I used the “freezer” canning lids bc the screw on vs. using the tradition canning lid and band.  I love the freezer lids.

So, these jewels will last in your fridge for months.  These would go great on several recipes I’ve posted like the Italian Salad and the Bruschetta.

You can just take what you need from the jar and put it back until next time.

Trust me, if you have peppers right now, you should make these and have them through the winter months.

Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter

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As I was looking for new and different things to do with tomatoes last week, I ran across this recipe on the Food52 website. It originated from a book called Essentials of Italian Cooking by Marcella Marzan and it is a sauce for pasta with 3 ingredients – tomatoes, onion, butter.  I’m totally not kidding.  It is fantastic and I froze several batches to re-heat in the winter season.

I made this for Kate today, and she really liked it.  It is a simple sauce that really highlights the true flavor of fresh tomatoes.

Here is the recipe for a single batch:

2.5 pounds fresh tomatoes

5 Tablespoons butter

1 onion, peeled and sliced in half

Salt, to taste

———————————————–

Directions

Wash non-watery tomatoes (I used san marzano) from our garden.   Blanch them in boiling water, then ice water to peel.

Place peeled tomatoes in a sauce pan and add the onion and butter.  Bring to a boil, and then simmer for about 45 minutes.

Here is what mine looked like when I started cooking the sauce.

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I served this with a nice parmesan reggiano and tossed it with some spaghetti.  You should use it up within a few days or you can freeze it for later.

Oven-Roasted Tomatoes

This is something I really was glad I did with my tomatoes last year and I’m so glad I did.  I used up every last one of them.  This is so easy, it is almost silly.  You can do trays of these at a time and use lots of tomatoes!

The key is to make sure your tomatoes are about the same size.

I take small tomatoes.  The ones that are larger than a cherry tomato, but not really a slicing tomato work great, and I cut them in half or thirds.

Then, you drizzle with olive oil and Kosher salt and roast in a 200 degree oven for 12 hours.   I put them in after dinner and let them go all night.  The cooking time will vary according to how small you cut the tomato.  I store them in the freezer and add them to pasta, pizza, chili…..anything I want to add an intense tomato flavor.

They will be flat and dehydrated when they are done, but not crispy.  Crispy is not the goal.

Here are some in my oven.

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This is an awesome way to preserve those summer tomatoes to make them last through the year.  Totally worth the small amount of effort they require.

Peaches and The Fruits of My Labor

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I have spent many hours in the last weeks canning.  It is that time of year that I’m trying to preserve massive amounts of produce.  My friend Elizabeth, and I are getting very skilled in the art of canning.  I need to tell you that I wanted to learn to “can” years ago.  I asked my grandmother, and she said “Oh, Hunny, it is really nothing”.  Well, I was so intimated and afraid of killing someone with botchalism at a Sunday dinner.  I didn’t really learn until Doug started gardening and I needed to do something.  I am so much more comfortable with canning now.   I have learned over time that there are some good ways to “check the seal” on your jars.  These precautions should be taken before you eat an home-preserved jar of goodies.

1.  24 hours after process, press the lid on the jar.  If it moves up and down at all, place that jar in the refrigerator and consume within 7 days.

2.  Before you open your jar, re-check the lid and then remove the screwband.  You should be able to pick up the jar by only holding the lid.

3.  When you open the jar, you should have to break the seal and you will hear that noise.  Smell the contents to make sure it smells like what you put in there.

We had some seals fail on a batch of green beans last year.  The seals popped down and then back up.  I can tell you that after one day with a failed seal the smell was awful.  My mom had told me, “you’ll know if something is bad”.  She was right.  Even though this was upsetting to Doug, I was glad that it was so obviously bad.

When canning foods, I am not ready to alter recipes or experiment.  It is important that the acidity be right for preserving.  So, I tend to use recipes that are tried and true.  I also do basic boiling water canning, not pressure canning yet.  If you are wanting to learn, start simple.

 This summer, the peaches have been fantastic.  Here are a couple recipes I have made with the peaches in my kitchen that will be served around my table in the coming year.

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Peach Salsa

(Ball Canning Book)

6 cups peaches – peeled, pitted, and diced
1 1/4 cups red onion – diced
4 jalapeno pepper – diced (leave seeds if you want heat)
1 red pepper -diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro – chopped
1/2 cup white vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
3 cloves garlic — finely chopped
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup fresh lime juice

Simmer all ingredients for 5-10 minutes.  I added the cilantro at the end.

The jars need to process in boiling water for 10 minutes.

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Peach Jam

Ball Canning Book

Makes about 6 – 8 oz jars

4 Cups finely chopped, peeled, pitted peaches

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 package (1.75 oz) powered pectin

5 C sugar

———————————————————

Prepare jars.

Combine all ingredients expect sugar and bring to a boil.  Add sugar and return to a full rolling boil for 1 minutes.  Skim any foam off the top.

Pour into prepared jars, wipe down, and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes.

This morning, I had an english muffin with peach jam for breakfast.  It really was heaven, and I think I’ll have it again tomorrow.

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One-Flip No-Press Burgers with All The Fixins

I had dinner at my friend’s, the Byergo’s, house.  It was the 4th of July and Tony made his “One-Flip No-Press” burgers.  The were awesome and it made me laugh at all the flipping and pressing I do when I cook burgers.  So, I made my own One-Flip No-Press burgers tonight because we had some beautiful tomatoes and I made some refrigerator dill pickles that were wonderful.   I got the recipe from Food and Wine and we love them.  Doug also grew the cucumbers and the okra we had in our dinner tonight.

Dill Pickles  - Use within one week of making

1 1/2 cups distilled white vinegar

1/4 cup sugar

4 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

3/4 teaspoon dill seeds

2 cups hot water

2 pounds  cucumbers, sliced 1/4 inch thick

3/4 cup coarsely chopped dill

3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

——————————————————

Dissolve the salt and sugar in the hot water.  Stir until dissolved.   Add vinegar, mustard, coriander, and dill seeds.  Let the brine cool.  Wash and slice your cucumbers to about 1/4 inch thick.  Toss the garlic and fresh dill into cucumbers and then add the cooled brine.    Cover with plastic wrap and chill 24 hours before enjoying.

pickles

Here is the yellow tomato grown with great care by my hubby.

yellow tomato

And here are my One Flip No Press Burgers with Grilled Okra:

burgers

Now, I really needed to read more on this topic because Tony makes a great burger.  Could it be the one-flip no-press technique?  While I resisted the urge to keep flipping,  I honestly liked the burger Tony made better.  I found this fascinating and super in-depth article by Alton Brown called “The Burger Lab:  How Often Should You Flip a Burger While Cooking”.   According to Alton Brown, there are “nervous flippers” and “one flippers”, but really there isn’t too much difference in the outcome.  Shhhhh…..Don’t tell Tony.  He makes a mean burger and I can’t wait to have one at his house again.  This time, I’ll be finding out what he puts on them.  I”ll bring the tomatoes and pickles:)

Garden Update and Cowgirl Boot Cookies

The weather has made this gardening season really late for us.  It seems Doug has been working his you know what off out there for months with little return.  But here it comes.  Here are some photos I took this morning.

As you may or may not know, we have gone from 20ish chickens to 100.  Doug with the help of several friends (thank you Patrick Elson) expanded the chicken coop/run.  We do have, once again, more roosters than I think we need.  Doug is going to think the herd he promises.  That last rooster about did me in.

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And here is a shot of Doug with his flock.

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Here are some garden shots:

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Here is a beet when it is ready to be picked:

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We pulled up our first potatoes of the season this morning:

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We brought in a good load:

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Last year I wasn’t sure what I would really use over the winter, and I feel I have a much better handle on it this year.

I made some zucchini bread today to freeze, and froze some shredded zucchini.  The bread freezes well.  I make it in mini-loaves which is about the perfect snack size for Doug.

I cooked, peeled, sliced, and froze some beets which will be great with salads or as a side dish.

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Here are some links to some good recipes I posted last summer for beets, zucchini and okra.  If you have not tried the grilled okra, you should.  It is really good.  I did try it using splenda for the sugar, and it worked just fine.

GRILLED OKRA

ZUCCHINI CASSEROLE – My photo doesn’t do this justice.  I need to remake it,  Everyone loves it.

FRIED OKRA

ROASTED BEETS 

I have given away some of the white scalloped squash this year also known as “pattypan” squash.  Almost everyone looks at me and says…”What do I do with this?”.  So, stay tuned.  I’m gonna tell you.

We should have tomatoes soon and lots more peppers among other things.

So, that’s how it is going.  No canning frenzy yet but it is just around the corner.

I’ll leave you with my first attempt at Cowgirl Boot Cookies.  These were requested by a friend for a shower.  So cute.

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TTYL,

Lesley

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