Tag Archives: freezer

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.

Sometimes it gets expensive to have such a low threshold of boredom.

I’ve always got to try new things, most often new recipes. As a result, my kitchen resembles a small grocery store. As long as it’s not too exotic, whatever the recipe ingredient, I’ve probably got it in one form or another. Come to think of it, most of our grocery expense is incurred by my habit of frequently purchasing a large variety of fresh produce, and that’s a good thing. I try to grow what I can in the summer, and buy what is available at the farmer’s market, but in February those sources aren’t an option, even in Alabama. The grocery store’s produce department is really cashing in on my habit, but utilizing a wide variety of produce makes such a difference in the complexity of my dishes.  We try to have a House Salad before dinner as many nights as possible, and plenty of veggies on the side, as well.

If you follow The Sticky Menu Plan you may have noticed that I rarely prepare the same recipe twice, but almost always have a plan for the leftovers. Epicurious magazine calls these “nextovers”, and I think that is a wonderful, fitting name for planning what’s next. Baked Ham makes for a glorious traditional Sunday dinner, but without a plan, that seven pound ham quickly goes to waste, especially in a small household like ours.  So what’s next?  Ham and cheese sandwiches get old fast and plain ham doesn’t freeze well at all.  That’s when I go exploring.  At last count, I had around 30 recipes featuring ham in my data base, and those are just the ones I have personally prepared, many are my own creation.  Can you imagine how many different ingredients are in all those recipes?  Creativity and a low threshold of boredom can get expensive!  That’s when my freezer inventory becomes important. Often, folks package foods for the freezer with the best of intentions, but somehow those meals just fall into a black hole, never to be seen again, but I guess that’s another subject.

Last week’s Baked Ham certainly didn’t go to waste at all.  It did serve as the traditional Sunday dinner, as well as evening sandwiches after we took Emily out for a birthday lunch on Monday.  However, that ham’s other scheduled meals for the week,  Asparagus and Ham Lasagna and Ham Tetrazzini, skipped the dinner table and went straight to the freezer along with a fair quantity of Fat-free Ham Broth and some Southern Style Pinto Beans.

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We celebrated Valentines Day quietly at home. One of my gifts to Michael was his traditional gift dinner of sautéd chicken livers.  If you know us, you know this dinner is a gift because of my extreme dislike of all things liver.  Michael surprised me with a beautiful bouquet of red roses!

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Wednesday I rescued some chicken from the fridge before it went out of date and turned it into a Chicken Cobbler. This version of chicken pot pie is always the perfect balance of filling and crust, at least for our taste. The leftovers reheated well on Thursday, too.

Friday’s Seafood Enchiladas were a bit of a disappointment. For some reason the filling was a bit dry and lacked flavor. I must have over cooked it. That can happen quickly, especially if you let yourself get distracted by a Friday evening glass of wine!

Speaking of Friday, it’s already Friday afternoon, again, and I’m a week behind, again! Well, it’s not because I’ve been sitting around doing nothing! I’ll be back soon.
Be thankful for what life gives you.

And my new favorite is…

Chicken and Gnocchi Soup!!  I recently met a group of friends for lunch at a popular chain restaurant where I sampled this soup for the first time.  (Okay, maybe I don’t get out much.) While the concept of the soup was intriguing, the presence of chicken and gnocchi was almost non-existent.  It was basically cream of chicken soup with a little bit of shredded carrot and a leaf or two of baby  spinach for decoration.  Needless to say, I was disappointed by that soup and felt challenged as a home cook to do better.  Although I may be blowing my own horn, I do think my version more than met that challenge.  I did cut back on the amount of cream in my recipe to let the chicken flavor come through as well as to reduce the amount of saturated fat, but one could certainly add as much cream as they liked. (Do you think the restaurant uses real cream anyway?)  At any rate, you won’t have to look hard to find the chicken or gnocchi here, and I think plenty of creaminess remains. As a bonus, a generous two cup serving is only 370 calories by my computer’s calculation.  I did leave out a bit of the broth in the bowl for this photo.

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In all my excitement over that silly soup I’ve jumped ahead of myself here. Let me back up to the beginning of the week with Sunday’s supper of Stuffed Cabbage Rolls. I hadn’t made those in quite some time and had forgotten how satisfying they are. Cabbage rolls do take a little bit of work since you have to craft each portion individually, but the softened cabbage leaves are very forgiving and the assembly really takes very little time. The flavor of the cabbage seems to sweeten as it bakes, encasing little individual meatloaves. Of course, a second pan of cabbage rolls went into the freezer for another night.

As one meal went into the freezer another came out. (Gosh, I wish I could keep the dishes rotating like that. My freezers wouldn’t be so darned full!)  Meatless Monday’s made ahead meal was Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini. I did have to add some extra Marinara, also from the freezer, as the pasta seemed to have soaked up all available moisture in the freezing process.

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When you make Stuffed Cabbage Rolls, only the large outer leaves of the cabbage are required, and the larger the leaves the better. This leaves quite a bit of extra cabbage. Now you have two choices: you can serve extra cabbage on the side or save it for another day. This time I chose the later and on Tuesday we had Corned Beef and Cabbage. We don’t usually have corned beef until St. Patrick’s Day, but why not? I sometimes find myself trapped by tradition. How dumb is that? And besides, I love corned beef sandwiches.

I think I have mentioned before that our dogs may be just a little bit spoiled, haven’t I? Well, Bella has been battling food allergies, but one of the things she can eat is pork. Boneless pork loins go on sale often and are easy to cut into strips to dehydrate into dog treats (keep refrigerated). We have been eating a lot of pork lately! Thursday’s dinner was Pork Carnitas, courtesy of Bella. Carnitas have just a hint of citrus flavor and a melt in you mouth texture. the recipe is a two stage process, so after I have completed the first stage I split the pork into batches and freeze some for later. There I go filling that freezer again!

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Friday was an exercise in flexibility. My intention was to fix Bay Scallop Po’Boys, but a trip to the seafood counter came up empty handed. Frozen scallops weren’t an option either, as I wasn’t willing to invest $27.00 in the bag that was available! Nothing else in the seafood counter looked particularly appealing, so I decided to just forgo “Fishy Friday” for the week. So now what? Back to that pork loin. I had ground the end pieces and meaty chunks that didn’t lend themselves to being cut into lean strips. Waste not want not! I’ve been mulling a new recipe over in my head and decided to try it out. Pork Stuffed Acorn Squash attempt number one was the result. Let me just call it a work in progress. The recipe shows promise, but this first effort came out dry and the spice blend was definitely off. Next pork loin I’ll try again, but until I get it right I won’t post a recipe.

If you follow this blog, or at least read it on a regular basis, you may realize that I’m a week behind, AGAIN. This current week the menu has been rather boring and uneventful, so I may just forgo it all together and try to get a jump on the next week. I do need to be more prompt. The only excuse I can offer is that we old retired folks get kind of busy sometimes. (WINK)
Be thankful for what life gives you.

I don’t like “Resolutions”

To me, making a resolution implies that there is something wrong, something I need to fix. I know I’m not perfect, no one is, by why spoil all the wonders of a New Year by concentrating on what needs to be changed? Many of us spend too much time worrying about what we should be doing instead of enjoying all we could be doing.

I do look forward to the New Year, though. To me, it’s like I’ve been given a great big box of new crayons with which I can color my life any way I choose. I don’t need a coloring book, either, just a clean pad of paper. Any kind will do! So let’s get a fresh new calendar and some more stickies and start coloring in our new menus, shall we?

The week before Christmas went by in a blur of freezer food, soups, and leftovers, but by Christmas Eve Eve, (Friday night), all the preparations were complete and it was time for Michael and I to relax and enjoy the holiday. Since we would be splitting Christmas Eve and Christmas Day between Emily, Aaron, and their families, Friday night was just for us.  We splurged on a decadent dinner featuring Perfect Prime Rib with its ebony crust that guards a perfectly pink and juicy interior.

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Creamy, Cheesy, Au Gratin Potatoes were an equally perfect side dish, festively rich for a holiday dinner.  A good Gruyere cheese provides a velvety texture that isn’t matched by other varieties of cheese, but gruyere can be a little pricey and sometimes hard to find.  While these potatoes are easy enough to prepare any night of the week, I save them for special occasions.

Both Christmas Eve at Emily’s and Christmas Day afternoon at Aaron’s were just as they should be. Comfortable and relaxed holiday celebrations full of family, fun, and fabulous food. Both of our children have inherited the cooking gene and neither they nor their families will ever starve.

Monday was a travel day for Michael and I, as we had to make the short trip home from Aaron’s. The easiest dinner option then was Drippy French Dip Sandwiches made with the leftovers from that Perfect Prime Rib. You know, although I have good intentions, Monday is rarely Meatless, but I do try to make up for that another day in the week. That’s what the stickies are for!  I can slide them around at will.

Tuesday we stayed in the comfort zone with more freezer food. This time a couple of bowls of White Chicken Chili just magically appeared on the dinner table. I love it when that happens!

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After Wednesday’s Mexican restaurant visit, I once again took the easy way out and visited the freezer for Thursday night’s dinner. I think I see a pattern beginning to develop here, don’t you? Anyway, with meatballs in the freezer Meatball Subs are never far away. Pull out a couple of sub rolls, a little Homemade Marinara, add a little cheese, and dinner is served. If you want to try to pretend to be healthy have a House Salad first, but if you don’t have time, I won’t tell!

Now I’m preparing for the New Year.
Saturday, New Years Eve, is a big day around these parts, but not for the reason you might think. The University of Alabama is in a semi-final playoff game for the College Football National Championship. Roll Tide! After the game is over we’ll begin our New Years celebration with the rest of the world to usher in 2017. Michael and I always stay home for all those festivities. We live a way out of town and don’t care to take our chances with all the post midnight drinkers on the roads. We’ll have our own festivities, thank you, starting with football food and ending with a glass of bubbly.

New Years Day dinner is pretty much the same every year, rooted in Southern tradition.
The main attraction is always pork. Folklore has it that because pigs root in a forward motion consuming pork will keep your life moving forward. Foul, however, will have things in your life up in the air and flying away. Don’t ask me what beef will do for you. I don’t think that long ago our Southern ancestors wanted to kill the milk cow! So as not to tempt fate, I always serve pork on New Years Day. Our favorite is a Herbed Pork Rib Roast.

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Another traditional new years dinner item is black eyed peas, but I substitute the pink eyed purple hull peas we grow in our own garden. Those were common in the Old South, as well, representing coins and bringing good fortune. They say the Yankee soldiers left those alone, along with the collard and turnip greens in the fields because they didn’t think those peas or greens were fit for human consumption. Little did they know!   Eating the field greens are supposed to bring folded money, and who couldn’t use a little more of that?   Cabbage may sub in for the field greens for Michael, as he’s not fond of those.  I’m going to cook some collards for myself, just because I do like them.  One way or the other, we’ll both eat greens!  I’m  looking forward to a happy and prosperous New Year and wish you all the same. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Be thankful for what life give you.

I thought this was going to be a quiet week…

Not!!!
The only difference between my schedule and that of you folks who work a forty hour week is that you get paid to work and I pay for you to work. This last week was filled with nothing but back to back appointments, and The Sticky Menu Plan had to do its job. Thank goodness it did. Not one single fast food bag graced our trash can.
I don’t remember what I originally had in mind for our Sunday supper, but more of that Beef Stroganoff came out of the freezer.
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I have been trying to whittle down the freezer contents for some time now. I’m afraid I’m way behind schedule for my usual summer freezer defrosting and inventory. By doing a periodic assessment of my freezer contents I almost never have food go to waste.  if you would like to keep your own inventory, click here: Inventory0001
Meatless Monday’s planned dinner was a total wash and this is why. I really do not like it when people do not stand by their word. Case in point: I ordered a potato ricer from a company selling on Amazon. They advertised that the ricer would arrive on Friday or Saturday. With joyful anticipation I posted that I would be making Ricotta Gnocchi on Monday. I even made a batch Of Fresh Ricotta Cheese for the recipe. The ricer did not arrive as promised, but on Sunday and email informed me that it would ship on Tuesday. Tuesday! Really? By the time the darned ricer got here the ricotta would be dead.  I seriously considered canceling the order, but I guess that would be cutting off my nose to spite my face.  OK, Michael, here comes another batch of Ricotta Pancakes, and Ricotta Stuffed Zucchini were substituted for Monday’s gnocchi dinner, plus another container of those stuffed zucchini cluttered up the freezer again. I can’t win! That freezer will never be less than full.
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By the time the darned potato ricer arrived the ricotta was long gone and I wasn’t about to make another batch. I’ll put that off till next week. I did learn a new recipe, though, Spaetzle, or German Dumplings. I’ll post that recipe and where it came from next week as well. Until then,
Be thankful for what life give you.

Think I’ve gone AWOL?

Nope! I haven’t been absent without leave, I’ve been putting up Cream-Style Corn for Freezing, and lots of it! This is an old fashioned recipe that came from my good friend Carol. For years, we would park our children out under the willow tree with baskets of corn and make them shuck it and pull out all the silks. Now, the kids are grown and Carol and I are no longer neighbors, so the work fell to Michael and I, and it takes a while. We didn’t mind though. That sweet summer corn will taste pretty darned good this winter. Leave that runny canned stuff to the grocery store. I can add milk to this if I like, but I’ll know I’m eating corn.
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We did take one day off from putting up the corn and the last of our tomatoes to go visit Carol and her husband, Randy, in their new lake home. Can you see the horns of envy sprouting from my head? While we were there they gave us a big bag of garlic they had harvested before moving from their old house. Every once in a while I do something smart. This time I had the presence of mind to have Michael take the toaster oven out to the screened porch so I could roast some of that garlic. Now the neighborhood is perfumed by roasted garlic, but not my whole house! I have a full pound of delicious roasted garlic butter in the freezer, along with a bag of roasted cloves and a cup of puree. I think I’m set in the roasted garlic department for a while and I still have some fresh, too. Oh, and I planted some. A gift that keeps on giving.
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Peaches are still in season in Alabama, and almost every time I go into our little independent grocery store a basket of them seem to jump into my cart. Did you know peaches have legs? Well, it seems that around here they do! They keep jumping in my grocery cart, and I keep having to find new things to do with them. Well, this is another old family recipe for Peaches and Cream Pie. Of course, I changed it just a bit. I can’t help myself.
I’m still learning to use my pressure cooker. This week’s experimental recipe was Mexican Barbecued Chicken.  It doesn’t look like much in this picture, but it was very flavorful. I learned that with a pressure cooker, much like a slow cooker, you don’t need to add extra liquids. I corrected this recipe to reflect that fact. The leftover chicken wound up in the freezer instead of on a sandwich as intended. That was the evening we went to visit Carol and Randy. What kind of hard choice was that?
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Thursday evening’s Grilled Veggie Skewers went well with Quick Brined Pork Chops.  I just wish I had prepped extra vegetables for Friday’s Spicy BBQ Shrimp. We wound up playing “clean out the fridge” for sides, which really didn’t do justice to those yummy shrimp at all. I could have at least thrown a potato in the oven to bake! Call me “Lazy”! Sometimes I deserve it!
Be thankful for what life gives you.