Tag Archives: recipe ideas

Ready for the Forth?

Before I get started, it looks like someone may have hacked into this account. If you received a post about a new recipe for homemade Marinara, that post didn’t come from me! I’d like to know if you did receive it.

Anyway, every year, our Forth of July menu stays pretty much the same, just as do Thanksgiving and Christmas. You know, ribs, potato salad, cole slaw, and corn on the cob. Same old, Same old. Maybe it’s time to change things up a bit.

Let’s start with the protein selection. Grilling is still a requirement. After all, it is the Forth of July! Do your kids love their hot dogs? Make those hot dog buns do double duty with Bacon Cheeseburger Rolls. No need to buy a second bag of hamburger buns. The way these all-in-one burgers fit right into those hot dog buns help your condiments stay put. No sliding off the bun.  And besides, this presentation is kind of fun!

Not a fan of red meat?  How about trying Grilled Bruschetta Chicken? Fresh basil and home grown tomatoes are both coming into season about now, so use them to pack fresh flavor into not so boring chicken breasts.  For the juiciest chicken, take it off the grill just before it’s done and tent it with foil.  Carry-over cooking will take care of the rest.

Now, about that potato salad…Gotta have it, right?  Let’s twist it up a bit and cut out some of those carbs with UnPotato Salad. While this salad still has that old fashioned potato salad taste, the base of it is actually cauliflower, but you’d never know it. Amp up that potato taste and texture by mashing one boiled potato into the dressing. If you’re a mustard fan you can add that, as well.

And now for the kid’s favorite Mac ‘n Cheese. Let’s twist that up a bit, too by serving Mac and Cheese in a Bacon Bowl. Any recipe for mac and cheese will work here, but I like my Low Guilt Mac and Cheese. It’s super creamy, but stands up well in the bowl, Bacon bowl, that is.

Cole slaw?  Turn it green by serving a crispy Broccoli Salad in creamy sweet and sour dressing instead.  Crumbled bacon and dried cranberries or raisins add interest to the palate.  I think the key to this salad is cutting the broccoli into small bite sized pieces. Larger florets are difficult to manage without a knife, and who wants to cut their salad?

If you prefer your broccoli hot, try Grilled Broccoli.  The slightly caramelized florets carry a subtly smokey flavor, punched up by a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and a squeeze of lemon.  You just can’t get this flavor out of your oven!

That corn on the cob?  Try using grilled corn cut off the cob instead of the canned corn called for in a batch of Southern Caviar. This addictive appetizer recipe does make a large amount, but it stores well in the fridge IF you have any left. Try using diced homegrown tomatoes instead of the recipe’s canned “Ro-Tel” for a wonderful fresh taste.

Of course, no Forth of July celebration would be complete with out dessert! The possibilities are endless. One of our favorites is Fresh Fruit Custard Ice Cream. I make it with whatever seasonal fruit looks the best at the farmer’s market. Dark cherries are available at the grocery this time of year, too. Finely dice or puree the fruit for the best result, and don’t forget the secret ingredient, vodka! Just a tablespoon doesn’t change the taste or make the ice cream alcoholic, but makes a dramatic difference in the texture. Your ice cream scoop will thank you!

Have a happy and safe Forth of July, and don’t forget to be thankful for what life gives you.

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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.

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.

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.

Where have I been?

Well, I can’t exactly say, but what I can tell you is I’ve developed a couple of exceptional recipes along the way. Of course, when I say “developed”, take that with a grain of salt. Yes, some I’ve hatched from scratch, but some are a compilation of several other recipes that I’ve modified to suit our tastes or what I have on hand.

I’ve been playing with my electric pressure cooker quite a bit lately. It does make life easier when I can crank out “roasted” chicken for recipes and a batch of Rich Chicken Stock all in the same afternoon. I took advantage of all that chicken in a couple of recipes, both for the table and the freezer.

The first of those recipes was Chicken Stuffed Shells Florentine. While I visualized the recipe calling for ground chicken to be spiced with Italian Sausage Seasoning, I started with my pressure cooker shredded chicken and added the spice blend after the fact. That method was acceptable, but I think the chicken would have carried better flavor if I had stuck with the original ground chicken plan, seasoning the chicken as it cooked.

Kicked Up Chicken Enchiladas got a little boost with the addition of some steamed broccoli.  I know, it sounds a bit strange to add broccoli to a dish of Mexican origin, but it was quite good. Those enchiladas are on the spicy side to start with, but the broccoli added a little something to keep them from being just so plain.   I should have dipped each corn tortilla into the sauce  to soften them before filling, but frankly, I just forgot to write that common procedure into the recipe. Because I didn’t do that, all my enchiladas cracked open.  I’ll have to write that step into the recipe… Lesson Learned.

The last of the pressure cooker chickens didn’t go to waste either.  There was just enough left for a batch of Baked Chicken Salad. That recipe was given to me years ago by an old friend, Linda Keen. The original recipe called for water chestnuts, but Michael doesn’t care for those, so I substitute diced red bell peppers. Take your pick.  This recipe is an excellent excuse to buy a bag of potato chips!  You’ll need them for the topping, but it’s kind of like when a recipe calls for wine.  You don’t need the whole bottle of wine for the recipe, so what do you do with the rest of the bottle?  Well, what will you do with the rest of those chips?

Rounding up the wonderful world of chicken was a new recipe, Mushroom Chicken Piccata with Penne and Asparagus. Oh My, is that stuff ever good! It may just be one of my new favorite springtime dishes. I know asparagus is now available year-round, but to me, it’s just different in the spring when it hasn’t been shipped up from Chile or where ever, so to me, fresh asparagus + lemon + chicken = Spring!

No, we haven’t just eaten chicken all this time, those dishes just seemed to flow together for this post!  It’s been so long, I could’t possibly bore you with all we’ve had on the menu lately.  Now that grilling season’s rolling around again you might want to think about setting up a Brat Tub. We did recently, and then we knew for sure that summer was on its way, at least in Alabama. We always grill the whole package of brats and throw the extras in the fridge for lunches later in the week.

If you’re lucky enough to catch a good roast on sale Perfect Prime Rib is a treat we usually reserve only for holidays and special occasions, but who can argue with $4.99 a pound? The next day’s French Dip Sandwiches can’t really be called “leftovers” can they?  Don’t forget to make True Au Jus with that roast so you’ll have something to dip those sandwiches in.  The thick piles of thinly sliced roast will just melt in your mouth.

Pork didn’t get left out of the picture this past month, either.  Boston Butts went on sale for $.99 a pound!  That just screams smokey Pulled Pork Barbeque.  The only problem with that recipe is it makes enough to feed a small army, more than Michael and I can possibly consume, even allowing for leftovers.  There I go filling the freezers again.

Loaded Lentil Soup was a warm and filling Meatless Monday menu item, although I did cheat just a bit by sneaking in a little andouille sausage to start the pot off. That Cajun sausage packs so much flavor! A little goes a long way, so while the soup was technically not meatless, meat was not the main protein. Who’s counting? Sometimes it’s the thought that counts, right?

With Easter coming I’m on a new quest…”The Search for Sensational Sides”. It seems that every year it’s the same old thing with the Easter Ham: Mashed Potatoes, Green Bean Casserole, Deviled Eggs, and maybe my favorite but fattening Broccoli Casserole, and on and on. You get the picture. While traditions certainly have their place and I can’t just ditch them all, I’m in search of something new. Maybe not all at Easter Dinner, (children need roots), but mixed in, some then and some to add interest to that leftover sliced ham another day. Hmmm, a new challenge. I need that! Check back!

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.