Apples anyone? Here’s something new…

Gingersnapple Sheet Pie. Not quite a pie, and not quite a bar cookie, this unusual dessert combines the best flavors of fall. A cool apple topping is layered over a soft ginger cookie crust, chilled until firm, then cut into squares.  Served warmed or cold, this recipe literally came to me in my sleep!

Or maybe you’d prefer an Apple Cobbler warm from the oven. This ones a little different with browned butter and vanilla bean. Try it with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream on the side for a sweet creamy contrast.

These apple offerings are the result of our annual trip to Scotts Orchard, just north of town.  It’s a trek I drag Michael on each fall.  I just can’t resist fresh from the farm produce and regularly bite off more than I can chew.  I then have to find ways to use all that bushel of seasonal goodness.  With the apple harvest, some recipes are just a given.  Apple Pie Filling is always stashed in the freezer, just waiting for a crust. I almost always slow cook a batch of Apple Butter, followed by a batch of Apple Butter Cinnamon Rolls.

Along with my usual freezer stash of pie filling I tried another new pie recipe this year, Warm Apple Buttermilk Custard Pie.   I found that it’s best chilled in the fridge for a few hours to set up really well, but then warmed a bit in the microwave to serve each slice.  This one’s a keeper!  Try it for breakfast with a dollop of vanilla Greek yogurt.  No, I don’t eat leftover pizza for breakfast,  but this pie has fruit, eggs and buttermilk.  I’d call that breakfast food.

A couple of dinner recipes were recent stand-outs.  If you follow this blog you might recall that I postponed (moved the sticker down the menu calendar) Zippy Summer Shrimp. Well I finally made it, and that recipe is a keeper as well. I don’t recall where the original recipe came from, it was just in my files, but I tweaked it just the tiniest bit to resemble a shrimp dish served at Pappa Joe’s restaurant in Apalachicola. Success!  I served it along side fettuccine bathed in Lite Alfredo Sauce. That combo will be showing up on the menu calendar again soon.

Another new recipe that turned out well was Garlicky Cheese and Mushroom Stuffed Chicken. Wow! Talk about flavor! This is not your usual bland boneless chicken breast. Some of the cheese did seep out, but I just plopped it back onto the chicken. I suppose you could avert this issue by cutting a pocket into your chicken breast rather than booking it, but I find that process frustrating. I can never get enough filling into those tiny pockets. The choice is yours.

Well, I started this post with dessert and finished with the main dish. Maybe we should start eating that way! Be thankful for what life gives you.

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Vacation’s over and it’s time to get back to work

We’ve been back over a week now, and I found it hard to get back into the swing of things. When one is privileged enough, or should I say spoiled enough, to spend time in their happy place it can be hard to give it all up and come back to the real world. But here I am!

I’ve been in kind of a rut, cooking wise, so I’ve decided to try something new. what was previously “Tour the World Tuesday” will now become “Try Me Tuesday”. I plan to try a new recipe or ingredient every week.  That may be a challenge!

This past week’s new recipe was Meatball Casserole. I think that recipe could use a little tweaking. Michael thought the meatballs were a little dried out, and I agree. I may try that one again, but instead of layering the meatballs on top I’ll bury them under a layer of pasta and sauce.  They should stay moister that way.

I guess I must have been on a casserole kick last week. Tuesday’s entree was a Chiles Rellanos Casserole. We’ve had a bumper crop of jalapeno and cowhorn peppers this year, so I used those rather than the canned variety. Roasting and peeling all those peppers was a bit of work, but the flavor was excellent, well worth the effort. I think in the future I’ll roast some from the grocery store to prepare this dish if I don’t have any left in the freezer. I had planned to have leftovers from this meal, but we liked it so well that there wasn’t enough left for a full dinner. Tacos were a quick addition.

There’s another new dish on the horizon for Fishy Friday. I had planned to try Zippy Summer Shrimp last week, but Michael wanted his Mexican fix instead. I can’t say he had to twist my arm. Anyway, that recipe is on the menu again this week. That sticker just jumped off the page and onto next week’s calendar. After all, that is what The Sticky Menu Plan is all about.

Be thankful for what life gives you.

Zoodles anyone?

I have a new toy to play with, a spiralizer! These gadgets have been around awhile, but it’s new to me. I’ve had tons of fun playing with recipes that use it.

My first experiment was oven baked sweet potato curly fries. Let’s just call that a learning experience. Those fries were too skinny and turned out like tasteless potato chips.  I think I used the wrong sized blade. My second effort, Zoodles, or zucchini noodles, was much more successful. I can see those noodles as a replacement for traditional pasta in any number of recipes.

After gaining some confidence with the Zoodles and researching plenty of recipes on the web, I branched out a bit with Zoodle Tomato Pie, another success. Somewhat quiche like, this dish would work as a light vegetarian main dish but would also be good as a side. I might be tempted to sneak in some cooked, crumbled bacon or Italian sausage the next time.

Once I start playing with new recipe concepts I have a hard time stopping. It does take a little repetitive refinement to get a new recipe just right. My second cut at Zoodles turned up as a side to one of my favorite dishes, La Marina. La Marina combines grilled chicken with shrimp in a creamy mushroom sauce. I usually serve a side of grilled veggies and some sort of rice with this entree, and I have to admit I prefer that combination. Zoodles are jut too light and don’t carry the sauce like rice does.

And speaking of new recipes, how about some Maple Pecan Ice Cream? This one started out to be Butter Pecan, but the maple syrup just kind of jumped out and into the pot.  I let it stay.  The maple flavor isn’t overpowering, but it’s definitely there. I’ve got a secret ingredient that I put in all my ice creams…vodka! Since alcohol doesn’t freeze, the ice cream has a creamy but firm texture that is easily scooped. The vodka is undetectable, no boozy flavor or effect.

I try as hard as I can to cook seasonally, and made one more trip to the farmer’s market this week.  I almost missed the boat on summer squash for the year.  Only one stand was selling any, and the 10 pounds I purchased cleaned the guy out.  After I prepared this year’s batch of Summer Squash for the Freezer, I made some Squash Fritters for dinner. I suppose that recipe name is misleading. Most fritters are fried, I bake these. I just prefer to skip the mess of deep frying, but they would probably be more flavorful that way.  The recipe wouldn’t have to be changed, just the preparation.

The night we had the Squash Fritters I also made a pot of Southern Seasoned Green Beans, cooked with onions and a little bacon grease. Isn’t everything better with bacon? It seems that here in the South it is!  I do depart from the Southern ways with this recipe though.  My mother in law would have cooked the beans until they were very, very soft.  I prefer to leave a little bite to my beans.  It’s a fine line.

Michael got lucky this week. No, not THAT kind of lucky! I mean that instead of his usual one dessert for the week, I made him two. The grocery stores were all featuring sweet cherries, so I took the time to bake a Little Fresh Cherry Pie for Two. When you are only cooking for two a standard sized pie can often go bad before you eat the whole thing. That’s often the case here, since I rarely eat sweets. Scaling down recipes solves that problem nicely. I need to try to do that more often.

Before I go, I have a question for you. Where does a big dog sit to watch the news?

Anywhere she wants to!

Be thankful for what life gives you.

My New Favorite “Convenience Food” is

Refrigerated Tortellini!

With a bag of these little gems in your fridge, and maybe a little imagination, you can have dinner on the table in the time it takes to pop the tortellini into a pot of boiling water.  Try a couple of these recipes…

One of my favorite Meatless Monday dinners is Three Cheese Tortellini with Roasted Red Peppers, Zucchini, and Spinach.  It’s colorful, (which means lots of vitamins), quick, and easy.  Not to mention delicious.  I usually top this with a little extra grated fresh Parmesan cheese, but that’s optional.

 

Another favorite, especially this time of the year when ripe garden tomatoes are abundant, is Fresh Tomato, Spinach, and Tortellini Soup. One usually thinks of soup as being cold weather fare, but this soup is so light and fresh I can happily eat it year-round. My most often chosen tortellini is the three cheese variety, but any flavor will work. The choice is yours.

While browsing through my tortellini recipes I found this one for Ranch Broccoli and Tortellini Salad. I haven’t made that one in a while, but I do have a head of broccoli sitting in the fridge, just waiting for an assignment. That salad sounds like a Meatless Monday candidate to me. I might even sneak in a little crumbled bacon.  Whoops!  No longer Meatless.

Well, as good as they are, I can’t eat tortellini at every meal. I tried two new recipes this week. One was a big success and the other a total failure. The failure, Achiote Pork Torta, won’t be mentioned on this blog again. I’m not even going to try to tweak that recipe. Let me tell you about the success…

While we were at a club warehouse store I stumbled upon a jarred butternut squash pasta sauce. It was on clearance at a really good price, so of course I brought some home. I could figure out something to do with it, right? After researching butternut recipes on the web and, as I often do, combining a few, Vegetable Lasagna with Butternut Sauce was created. Oh My Goodness, is that stuff good! While the recipe is written using fresh butternut squash, the jarred sauce makes it a lot faster and easier to prepare. We are going to that store again today. I hope they still have some!  If not, I like that veggie lasagna well enough to start from scratch.  That is, if I can find butternut squash this time of year.  Maybe in the freezer section?

Michael won’t deny the fact that he is a dessert junkie. I try to prepare some sort of dessert for him once a week. This week it was a cheery batch of cherry ice cream. I used my recipe for Fresh Fruit Custard Ice Cream, which is very versatile. Any fruit can be used, fresh or frozen. I most often stick to strawberry, cherry, or peach, but I’ve been toying with the idea of trying to make butter pecan. We’ll see!

I just got a new “toy” in the mail.  I’ll tell you all about it next week, after I’ve had a chance to work with it.

Be thankful for what life gives you.

I’m not Peter Piper, But

I’ve been picking peppers by the peck! Or so it seems. I’ve searched the internet for ways to use them all and combined a few ideas into two new recipes. Roasted Jalapeno-Tomato Salsa with Fresh Cilantro is more intense than your common grocery store condiment. It took a bit of tweaking to get the balance of peppers and fresh cilantro just right, and that’s still a matter of personal preference. When you make this recipe, I suggest you start small with those two ingredients and work your way up.

The second new recipe was for Jalapeno Cornbread Poppers, They were fun to make and fun to eat. I don’t think the peppers would freeze well, but I wonder how they would turn out on the grill? We may need to grill something this week just to find out. I’ll have to check my freezer inventory to see what’s available.  Some sort of pork might go well with the Poppers.

Michael and I have both been working overtime. Working overtime, you ask? Aren’t you retired? Well, yes, we are both retired from paying jobs, but we’ll never stop working. Anyway, while I’ve been playing with produce Michael’s been busy laying flooring. He finally finished the last room, and I must say he’s done an excellent job. Do you think I could get away with handing him a paint brush next?

All this work hasn’t left much time for day-to-day cooking, but we’ve managed.  We took the day off last Sunday, just to relax.  New York Speidies took no time to grill, and since they came from my freezer stash they took no time to prepare.  While I was poking around in the freezers I came up with some Cauliflower Baked Shells and Cheese.  I had frozen our two portions in a foil container, so all I had to do was pop it in the toaster oven. With the combination of pasta and cauliflower, this was the perfect side for that night’s dinner.

 

For Meatless Monday another round of my Roasted Vegetable Medley went straight from the garden to a sheet pan in the oven. The eggplant was so fresh I didn’t even bother with the pre-salting and rinsing business. There was none of the bitterness that eggplants tend to develop in storage.  More Homemade Marinara Sauce and some Cheese Grits also came out of the freezer to complete the meal.

Tuesday I went back into the freezer and pulled out My Best Meatloaf. That provided us with leftovers for the next couple of days, which we didn’t mind at all. By the time we finished working it was too late to cook a meal from scratch.

 

By Friday Michael had finished all but the trim on his flooring project and I was at a stopping point in processing the produce. It was time to start cooking again. I decided to try a new recipe that was published by one of my grocery stores. Now usually, recipes from the stores that push their products are pretty good. They want you to purchase that product again. Not this time! Bayou Shrimp, Beans, and Rice was a definite flop! Sadly enough, the recipe made a huge pot of the stuff and I’m afraid it will all go to waste. It was that bad. Maybe if I had left the shrimp out….

Oh well, this coming week will be less busy, although the tomatoes are picking up again and the peppers haven’t quit. Now I just have to pull a few stickies and put them on the calendar for my Sticky Menu Plan.

Be thankful for what life gives you.

Peaches and Zucchini and Corn…Oh My!

And tomatoes, too!
Summers’ bounty is keeping me busy, but I’m not complaining. I love it! To me, there are few things more satisfying than produce that comes straight from the farm, or better yet, my own garden. This year’s strawberry crop was lacking, to say the least. The weather was too cool and rainy for sun-loving strawberries, but all that rain set the stage for a splendid summer season.

I don’t grow my own peaches, but we are fortunate enough to have a peach orchard not too far from here. You can’t buy peaches much fresher than that unless you pick them yourself! Luckily, when you purchase a large basket of peaches not all of them ripen at the same rate. That gives me time to relish a variety of peachy desserts. I always prepare some of our old favorites like Fresh Fruit Cobbler and Fresh Fruit Custard Ice Cream.  Try the two of those together…warm juicy cobbler topped with cool creamy ice cream melting down the sides. That’s a bowl full of summer!

 

There are many more peach recipes on the Desserts page of this site if you’d like to check them out.  My newest is Peachy Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce. I find it hard to let this decadent caramel sauce cool enough not to scorch my tongue, but trust me, it’s worth the wait. If you’re short on time though, purchased caramel sauce will work.  Warm it a bit in the microwave if you like.

 

While you’re on the Dessert page, check out my Chocolate Zucchini Cake . I like to make cupcakes and freeze a few for later. As good as these are, Michael and I can’t eat our way through all 24 before they go bad.  I have shared these with Kaij and Kelton.  I just don’t mention the zucchini and they don’t seem to notice.

If you go to the box on the right hand side of this page and do a search for “zucchini” you’ll find a wide range of recipes.  There’s everything from Apple Zucchini Bread to Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini and more.  It takes a lot of recipes to use up all that squash!  I just keep on cooking.

My Roasted Vegetable Medley takes advantage of everything growing in the garden, plus a little more. It’s good served over any kind of pasta or Cheese Grits, but I especially like it paired with Ricotta Gnocchi.  Top it all with a little Homemade Marinara and Meatless Monday’s dinner is ready.

It’s corn season, too! We go to Brown Farms for that every year. I buy a couple dozen ears and we spend an afternoon putting up Cream-Style Corn to enjoy all winter. This years’ crop was sweet and juicy thanks to all those spring rains. In fact, that corn is so sweet you’d swear I added sugar to the pot but I didn’t. It’s the best corn I’ve gotten in several years.

And then there’s the tomatoes.  We’re fighting that pesky squirrel again and I’m afraid it’s a losing battle.  Michael surrounded the garden with chicken wire and then put bird netting over the top of it all, but that darned squirrel gets in anyway.  I don’t know how he does it.  He only takes the ripe tomatoes, so Michael has been picking them just as they start to turn.  I wish we could leave them on the vines a little longer, but thanks to our “friend” that’s not an option.  Too bad he won’t try the jalapenos!

I’ve been making a couple of kinds of Homemade Marinara Sauce and freezing that as well. Some sauce is plain and some is thickened with our eggplant. I sometimes blend the Eggplant Marinara till its smooth. There’s another veggie the kids don’t know they are eating.
While I’m at it, I’ll turn some of the tomatoes into Pizza Sauce and I can’t forget Michael’s favorite Fresh Tomato Soup. I freeze the soup as a concentrate and add milk or broth when I cook it. Forget that stuff in the red and white can. This is so much better, either served as soup or in a recipe. Try Fresh Tomato, Spinach, and Tortellini Soup if you’d like a little variety in your lunch menu.  Of course, there’s still nothing better than a good old summer tomato sliced up and sprinkled with a little salt.

 

I almost forgot the peppers!  We grew two kinds this year, jalapenos and cowhorns. The cowhorns are a little spicier than the jalapenos. I combined the two, added a red bell pepper for color, and made a few jars of Pepper Jelly. The pepper jelly is good served over a block of cream cheese to spread on crackers.

Well, that’s about it for the produce patch this year. Now I just have to stop myself from going to buy out the farmer’s market. There’s no telling what kind of trouble I could get myself into there. Hmmm…some pink eyed peas might be nice!

Be thankful for what life gives you.

Thank Goodness for Freezer Food!

Michael and I have been very, very busy with a new project. We decided to rip up a large portion of our well worn, (well worn out!), carpet and replace it with solid hard wood. Learning any new skill takes a great deal of time, probably exponentially more than one would ever anticipate, at least for us. Anyway, putting down a new floor and doing it right doesn’t leave a lot of time for scratch cooking. Thank you Freezer Food!

Zucchini-Tortilla Casserole is one of our favorites. It’s one of those dishes that, while you’re making one, you might as well do two, and it freezes well to boot.  I freeze it in the baking dish that it will later cook in, then, after it’s frozen, use a hair drier to free the frozen casserole from that dish and  package for the freezer.  I also often use disposable foil containers.  It’s a simple thing to choose a meal from my freezer inventory, ready to pop straight into the oven.

Soups and side dishes, like Slow-Cooked Baked Beans, that I intend to heat stove top, are often frozen in recycled plastic containers like those that lunch meat come in. Again, they benefit from air-tight packaging after the contents are frozen. Having many of my sides frozen in identically shaped packaging makes them stack efficiently in the freezer, but I have one more trick up my sleeve. I corral like packages in reusable grocery bags to keep them organized and easy to retrieve from my chest freezer.

My little raised bed of tomatoes, squash, and peppers is off to a great start this year! I’m looking forward to putting up lots of Homemade Marinara and Freezer Tomatoes to get me through the winter.  Until then I have zucchini to deal with.  You should see the one that got away.  While we were working on the floor I neglected to the check the garden, as nothing had produced anything yet.  When I finally wandered out there to check I found a whopping four pounder…three pounds, fourteen and five eighths ounces to be exact.  Most of the time, by the time a zucchini gets that large it’s inedible, but this one was fine.  I scooped out the seeds and grated the flesh for zucchini bread.  Yumm!  Now, what to do with his cousins?

Be thankful for what life gives you.