Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Apples apples everywhere!

Nothing better in the fall than apples picked fresh from our own trees! We have three apple trees: Jonagold, Gala, and Golden Delicious. Above is a shot of our laden down Gala :-)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Apple cake

I actually prefer a much bigger piece than this!

I’ve tried lots of versions of apple cake, and my favorite by far is still the one my mother makes! RuthAnn Lavin is a terrific cook and baker, and this recipe just can’t be improved upon. You’re welcome to share your recipes with me, but Mom’s is still the best :-)

Apple Cake

3 eggs
1-3/4 c sugar
1 c oil
1 t baking soda
2-1/2 c flour
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1 t vanilla
1/2 c chopped nuts (I like walnuts)
4 c chopped apples (about 3 medium)

In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together until light. Switch to a wooden spoon and stir in the rest of the ingredients in the order listed. Makes a very thick batter. Grease a 9×13 pan and bake at 350 for 1 hour.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Crostini with lentil topping

"Crostini" means something along the lines of "little crusts" in Italian. Really, it’s just a cool name for stale bread! It’s fun to make different toppings to try on small toasted pieces of bread, and serve them along with soup or stew, as an appetizer, as a side dish with any nice Mediterranean main dish. This lentil topping is really good with lamb. You might want to try the onion-marinated grilled lamb with it! Add some greens with the lemon-garlic salad dressing for a really special time with your busy family. They’ll sit down and relax for a change!

Make the lentil spread ahead of time, and then you can just toast the little bread pieces in the oven, spread them with the topping and serve immediately.

Crostini with Lentil Topping

1 c lentils (we like red lentils, but any will do)
Water to cover
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 t thyme
Onion, diced

Bread slices, toasted

Simmer lentils till soft, about 20 minutes. Drain water, but reserve it. Add lentils and the rest of the ingredients to food processor and beat to smooth paste. Add reserved water as needed to make the paste fluffy. Serve on toasted bread slices.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Whiskey peanut fudge

Oh.My.Gosh. I can’t wait to have the opportunity to make this amazing dessert! Thanks to Have Cake Will Travel for this treat. The claim, and I believe it: "this fudge will cure what ails ya"

And it's really fast and easy. It better be, when there's an open whiskey bottle involved. Smirk.

Image: Have Cake Will Travel

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Mediterranean Diet Pyramid

I’ve seen this Mediterranean diet pyramid in several books now, and I finally decided to have a look at the website of the company that came up with it. Very interesting reading!

The Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet was created by Oldways as a response to the prevalence of ‘no fat’ diets in the early 90’s. Low-fat was a mistake promoted in the 1988 Surgeon General’s report and the 1990 Dietary Guidelines and Food Guide Pyramid. Oldways’ alternative response to this no-fat propaganda was the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid. Fats should be “good” fats, which are mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated, with olive oil as a prime example. Oldways doesn’t attack the models being offered to the public, but merely offers a better alternative that was more science-based and incorporated good fats (mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated), such as olive oil.

Here’s a PDF file from Oldways of the pyramid that you can print out or just examine if you’d like!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Baked jambalaya (OAMC)

Here’s a delicious Once A Month Cooking treat for you: jambalaya that you’ll eat with a fork instead of a spoon! You can double, triple, or whatever this recipe to make multiple batches. The recipe below makes enough to feed an average family of four. I like to add something green to the meal on the day it’s served.

For a refresher on how OAMC works, visit the link above. Go here for more OAMC recipes.

Baked Jambalaya

1/2 c celery, chopped
1/2 c green pepper, chopped
Scallion, chopped
Clove of garlic, minced
1/2 lb kielbasa, cooked and sliced
1/2 lb ham, cooked and diced
1/2 t thyme
1/2 t oregano
1 t paprika
1/2 t cayenne pepper
1/2 t cumin
14 oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 c broth (your choice)
1 c long grain rice

Mix everything together in a large bowl. Put into a 9 x 13 baking dish and cook covered at 375 for about 45 minutes to freeze for later or 60 minutes to serve immediately. Rice will be slightly undercooked at 45. Freeze covered.

To serve: Allow to thaw overnight in the fridge first or place directly in the oven at 375 until heated through.

Image: MorgueFile

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Carnival time!

The Make It From Scratch Carnival is being held at It's Frugal Being Green today!

Pasta and feta salad

This combination is good warm or cold! It takes very little time to make, and is very tasty because of the concentrated nature of the ingredients. This makes a nice main dish for a vegetarian meal, or a flavorful side dish salad if you really want to go all out! We usually have it as a main dish, along with some good bread, and maybe some sliced tomatoes.

Pasta and Feta Salad

1 lb small shells or spiral pasta

8 oz bag of mixed Mediterranean or spring greens
1 c sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, chopped
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 c Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Salt and pepper

Boil up the pasta in salted water. Drain well. Put the salad greens in a large bowl, and toss with the warm pasta to wilt the greens a bit (if you want it warm); otherwise, allow the pasta to cool first. Add the chopped tomatoes with most of their oil, the cheeses, and the salt and pepper. Toss together and serve.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Monday, September 21, 2009

Super-fast version of Fettuccine Alfredo

Fettuccine Alfredo is one of those foods that we just have to eat, even though we know it’s loaded with fat! Sometimes you’ve just got to say So what? and go for it. This is a very fast and easy version of the Italian treat, and must be served immediately, so make sure that everything else is very simple. It goes well with a tasty fish like salmon if you wish, although it can also be a fine main dish on it’s own. Oh, but a green salad is a necessity.

Super Fast Fettuccine Alfredo

1 lb fettuccine

2T butter, melted
2/3 c heavy cream
Salt & pepper to taste
3/4 c parmesan cheese, grated
Parsley or basil for garnish

Boil up water in a large pot and cook the pasta for about 12 minutes to al dente. Drain the pasta, reserving a bit of the water. In a serving bowl, toss the pasta with the melted butter, and then add the cream, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle with the cheese and turn to coat. Garnish and serve!

Image: public domain

Friday, September 18, 2009

Onion-marinated lamb

You can marinate this dish in your fridge for a couple days as long as the meat is fresh! The more onions, the better :-) We had this lamb with grilled corn on the cob and fresh tomatoes with basil. Salted olive oil for dipping the tomatoes…yum!

Onion-Marinated Lamb

1 – 2 lbs of lamb
Salt and pepper
Red onion, diced fine
Clove of garlic, crushed
1 – 2 c red wine (cooking wine is fine)

Throw all the ingredients into a zip-loc bag or a covered shallow dish. Let marinate for up to two days. Grill, being careful not to overcook.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Lemon curd topping

Cooking Light has a fabulous basic recipe for Lemon curd. Maybe you don’t think lemon curd is anything to get excited about, but I sure do! It’s great stuff to serve with Strawberry shortcakes for a little taste twist, and Cooking Light also has a Lemon-Almond cake for Passover that uses the curd. It is often used as a topping for scones or English muffins, and can be used in making or topping various pies. I could easily eat it straight out of the bowl!!

Lemon Curd
Joan Nathan, Cooking Light, April 2008

1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1. Place sugar and eggs in a medium bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until blended. Gradually beat in rind and juice. Spoon mixture into a heavy-duty saucepan over medium heat. Add butter to pan; cook 5 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly (do not boil). Spoon mixture into a bowl. Cover surface with plastic wrap. Chill thoroughly.
Yield 2 cups (serving size: 1 tablespoon)

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fast and delicious chicken cacciatore

You will have more than enough time while the spaghetti is boiling to put together a wonderful chicken cacciatore dish, as long as you’ve done the once a week food preparation! If not, this can still be a thirty minute meal: just chop up the veggies while you pre-cook the chicken, and then start the pasta while you put the sauce together quickly. Either way, it’s an easy and fast meal.

Chicken Cacciatore

1 to 1-1/2 boxes of spaghetti, broken in half

Pre-cooked chicken

Olive oil
Onion, chopped
Garlic clove, minced
1-1/2 c peppers – green, red, yellow – chopped
16 oz tomato sauce
1/4 c dry red wine
1 t dried oregano or 1 T fresh
1/2 t dried thyme or 1-1/2 t fresh
Salt & pepper
Extra herbs for garnish

While the water comes to a boil and you cook the pasta, prepare the sauce. Put oil and veggies into a covered casserole and microwave for 2 minutes at a time until softened. Add Tomato sauce, wine, and herbs and cook for about 8 minutes until slightly thickened. Add chicken
when almost done to heat through. Serve over pasta.

Image: Public Domain

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cucumber and tomato salad, Greek-style

Cucumbers and tomatoes together are a wonderful thing, but when you add green olives and feta cheese…heaven! I toasted 2 thick slices of pumpernickel bread and cut them into croutons, but you can use store-bought croutons if you don’t have the time to do this.

Greek-Style Cucumber and Tomato Salad

2 slices of pumpernickel bread

1/4 c olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
1 t fresh garlic, smashed
3 T fresh basil, chopped
Salt and pepper

Large tomato, chopped
Large cucumber, sliced medium (I like the long English cukes)
1/2 c green olives
1/2 red onion, sliced very thin
4 – 6 oz feta cheese, crumbled

Toast and cube the bread, and let it sit out to get stale if you’ve got time. Whisk the olive oil through the salt and pepper together in a small bowl. In a serving bowl, gently toss the tomato through the cheese. Pour the dressing over and toss again. Add the croutons just before serving or to each individual plate.

Image: Stock.xchng

Monday, September 14, 2009

Jack Daniels' barbecue sauce

Amazing stuff! We enjoyed it over the Labor Day weekend at a restaurant that shall not be named, because they don't share their recipes. I started with some ideas that I scrounged up online, and started experimenting. Hey, it was a hardship, but someone had to do it! This is the version we like best:

Jack Daniels' barbecue sauce

1/2 c Jack Daniels
1/4 cup onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup ketchup
3 T apple cider vinegar
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup molasses
1/2 t Liquid Smoke
1/4 t Tabasco sauce
1 - 2 T tomato paste
Salt and pepper to taste
More Jack Daniels

In a heavy saucepan, combine the Jack, onion, and garlic. Saute about 10 minutes on medium low heat. Add the remaining ingredients through the Tabasco sauce. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add tomato paste and continue simmering. Add salt and pepper and more Jack if you want a stronger flavor (who doesn't?). I added an extra shot.

Tangy lemon-garlic salad dressing

This will wake your mouth up! If you have an hand-held wand beater or use a food processor, you can make a creamy emulsion from this mix. Even if all you do is whisk it together, I think you’re gonna like it. A lot!

Lemon-Garlic Salad Dressing

2/3 c olive oil
Lemon, zest from half and all the juice
1 – 2 cloves of garlic, diced
Salt and pepper

Grate half the zest off the lemon, cut it in half, and juice it into the olive oil. Add the rest of the ingredients and either whisk together or use a immersion beater to create an emulsion.

Image: Stock.xchng

Friday, September 11, 2009

Gorgonzola dressing for green salads

Gorgonzola is blue cheese from Italy. You can substitute any other type of blue cheese, like roquefort, if you can’t find gorgonzola locally. Use romaine or bib lettuce with this dressing…it will overpower the flavor of any greens, so don’t waste the expensive stuff!

Gorgonzola Dressing

1/4 c gorgonzola cheese
1/4 c milk
1/4 c sour cream
Large garlic clove, smashed
Salt and pepper

You can mix the dressing ingredients by hand, or blend them with a food processor if you want a smoother dressing. Toss with romaine or bib lettuce.

Image: Stock.xchng

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Carrot raisin slaw

The July/August 2008 issue of Hannaford Supermarket’s recipe magazine had a great carrot slaw recipe in it. Mike and I went to a cookout on Sunday afternoon with the Grill Team, so I decided to make this as my offering. It was a big hit. Although I made it their way for the party, for my own family I would have to cut the amount by half, and that would still probably make it through 2 meals. Here’s my smaller version:

Carrot Raisin Slaw

1/4 c orange juice
1 T red wine vinegar
2 T canola oil
1/2 t ground cumin
Salt and pepper

10 oz bag of julienne-cut carrots, or shred your own to equal about 4 cups
1/3 c golden raisins
Scallion, thinly sliced
1/4 c fresh parsley, chopped

Whisk the oj through the spices together in a small bowl. Combine the carrots through parsley in a larger bowl and toss with the dressing. That’s it!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Lamb skewers with Greek sides

If you cube your lamb small, it will cook very quickly and stay quite tender! Add some Greek sides and some lemon to dowse everything, and you’ll be in tastebud heaven. Besides the Greek accompaniments listed below, we added fresh asparagus to the mix, doing it on the grill as well. Yum! This can all be done and ready in thirty minutes.

Lamb Skewers with Greek Sides

Large cucumber, sliced medium
1 c plain yogurt
1/2 c fresh mint, chopped
Salt and pepper
2 lbs of lamb leg or shoulder, cubed
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Greek black olives
Pita bread, halved
Lemon, cut into thick wedges

Slice up the cucumber, chop the mint and mix together with the yogurt and seasonings.
Toss the lamb cubes with olive oil and season them before skewering them. Cook on a hot grill, turning every few minutes until seared on the outside and still pink inside.

Remove lamb from skewers onto each plate. Serve with the cucumber salad, olives, pita and a wedge of lemon. Drizzle the lamb with the lemon and stuff whatever portion of the feast you wish into the pita.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mandarin Orange Chicken (OAMC)

Here’s another delicious Once A Month Cooking treat for you: slightly sweet chicken, warm and bubbly that goes beautifully with a simple spinach salad. This serves my family of four with the addition of the salad, and sometimes rolls if everyone’s really hungry!

For a refresher on how OAMC works, visit the link above. Go here for more OAMC recipes.

Mandarin Orange Chicken

1 T olive oil
2 c fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 T flour
1/2 c scallions, sliced
1 c chicken broth
3 oz frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1 c long grain rice
1 lb boneless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped
11 oz can of mandarin oranges, drained

In a large sauce pan, saute the mushrooms for a few minutes. Sprinkle the flour over them and stir. Stir in the scallions through rice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook covered for about 30 minutes if you are planning to freeze the meal, 45 minutes to serve immediately. The rice will be slightly undercooked at 30 minutes. Stir in the cooked chicken and the oranges, and package to freeze.

To serve: Thaw overnight in the fridge or heat on low until thawed. Return to a sauce pan and heat on the stovetop until the rice is finished.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

Monday, September 7, 2009

Warm comfort food with no recipes!

I’ve decided that we’re having something pseudo-Italian tonight! Mike and I stopped into Trader Joe’s over the weekend and picked up their wonderful Tomato Bruschetta. Yes, I could make bruschetta, but I really like Trader Joe’s variety, and the label assures me that there’s nothing in there I don’t want.

Still, instead of getting real fancy with the meal, I’m keeping it simple and using my extra time for length of cooking instead of elaborate preparations. Here’s what we’re having, no recipes needed:

Baked potatoes with olive oil and bruschetta
Butternut squash with butter
Broccoli and mushrooms stir-fried in olive oil

It takes about an hour to cook the potatoes and the squash in the oven, so I’ll probably throw them in around 5 and drink wine until 5:45. Then I’ll attempt to do the stir-fry and have it ready at the right time! Wish me luck ;-)

Image: Stock.xchng

Friday, September 4, 2009

Grilled vegetables with chipotle-lime sauce

Oh. My. Gosh. This vinaigrette sauce kicks up the flavor of vegetables so much that I even willingly ate zucchini…and I never willingly eat zucchini! We had an all-grilled meal the other night, consisting of sausage, buns that were toasted on the grill, and a wonderful mixture of vegetables that were later doused in this great sauce.

Leave the sausage out and have a vegetarian meal if you’d prefer! With or without the meat, the whole combo can be ready in thirty minutes, easily. If you’ve done once a week food preparation, and your veggies are already cut, your meal can be ready in about 20 minutes!

Chipotle-Lime Vinaigrette Sauce

1/2 c olive oil
1/4 c lime juice (2 limes)
1 T chipotle peppers (in adobo sauce is fine), chopped fine
1 clove of garlic, smashed
2 t ground cumin
Salt and pepper

Whisk ingredients together really well, or use a blender. Drizzle over grilled or stir fried vegetables.

Grilled Zucchini

Peel zucchini and cut into lengthwise “planks”, about 1/4 inch thick. Rub with olive oil, add salt and pepper, and cook directly on the grill over medium heat.

Image: Stock.xchng

Thursday, September 3, 2009

To blanch or not to blanch?

If you’re scratching your head and saying, “Blanch? What’s that?”, you’re not alone! This step in the freezing process seems to have fallen out of favor with a lot of people, but there are some very good reasons to reconsider it. At this time of year, when the produce is pouring in (our apple trees are heavy laden!), one of the best ways to save some of that goodness is to freeze it, especially if you have a dedicated freezer available. We’ve got a big old monstrous upright freezer, and I love it to pieces.

So what is blanching anyway? It’s the process of quickly boiling and quickly cooling your produce before bagging it up to freeze. Here’s an explanation from the University of Missouri Extension website:

Blanching, or scalding vegetables in boiling water or steam for a short period of time, is a must for almost all vegetables to be frozen except onions and green peppers. It slows or stops the action of enzymes. Up until harvest time, enzymes cause vegetables to grow and mature. If vegetables are not blanched, or not blanched long enough, the enzymes continue to be active during frozen storage causing off-colors, off-flavors and toughening.

In addition, blanching cleanses the surface of dirt and spoilage organisms, brightens the color and helps retard loss of vitamins. It also wilts or softens vegetables and makes them easier to pack.

Blanching time is crucial and varies with the vegetable and size of the pieces to be frozen. Under-blanching speeds up the activity of enzymes and is worse than no blanching. Over-blanching causes loss of flavor, color, vitamins and minerals. Follow recommended blanching times for specific vegetables.

So, maybe if you’re going to be using that produce within a couple of weeks, you can get away with simply throwing it unblanched into the freezer, but for my money (and nutrition!), I’ll take the extra step and make sure that the corn stays sweet and doesn’t get tough. And freezing is still faster and easier than canning any day! :-)

Check out the University of Missouri Extension website for more specifics on how to and how long for each vegetable and fruit. There are also tips on how to cook them up after you’ve frozen them. Great website!

Image: MorgueFile

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Cherry tomato chutney

This is an excellent accompaniment for chicken or fish! Spicy sweet, and pretty to look at. Grape tomatoes are fine to use instead of cherry tomatoes if you'd prefer.

Cherry Tomato Chutney
Olive oil
Shallot, chopped
2 c cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 t cardamom
1/4 t turmeric
1/4 t coriander
Red pepper flakes to taste
1 T lime juice
Salt and pepper

Heat oil and cook the shallot until soft. Add the tomatoes ad the spices and simmer for a few minutes until tomatoes soften. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve cool or room temperature.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lime and basil shortbread

Last month, I was all about Lemon and lavender shortbread. That's because the lavender was blooming in our garden :-) Now that it's past, I've turned my attention to other taste combinations, and one that I really like a lot is lime and basil. We've still got basil coming in strong, so I'll probably be making this several more times this season.

I used my favorite basic shortbread recipe again this time, and added in the clipped herbs and lime zest.

Lime and Basil Shortbread

1 c butter
1/2 c confectioner’s sugar
1/4 t vanilla extract
Lime zest grated from 1 lime
1/4 c fresh basil, chopped
2 c flour
1/4 t salt
1/4 t baking powder

Cream the butter and sugar together. Add the vanilla. Stir the lime zest and the basil with the dry ingredients, and stir them all into the butter mixture. Pat it into a square or round pan. Bake at 350 for 20 to 25 minutes. Slice the cookies while still warm. Allow to cool completely.