Sunday, November 6, 2011

Leftover Wild RIce

Friday night I had two friends over for dinner. I made Salmon, Rosemary Chicken Breasts and Wild Rice. Yummy. We had a lot of fun and opened two bottles of wine! But Saturday meant leftover salmon, chicken and rice.

I shredded the piece of salmon that was left, added that to half of the rice (about 1 cup) I had leftover , along with one beaten egg, and some dried dill. I made this mixture into little patties and fried them in a little olive oil until they were super crispy. They were wonderful!

Sunday there was still a batch of rice leftover and the rosemary chicken. I did the same with the chicken. Diced it up, added some more rosemary, a beaten egg and a little salt and cracked black pepper. Patties in the skillet until very crispy. Yummy! I'll have these for breakfast tomorrow!

Saturday, September 17, 2011


Last weekend was just too busy to cook. I had to cut the grass, and had a birthday party to attend. Although I did make some more of my Pickled Sweet Banana Peppers! I had two jars of the brine left so they were easy to make. The recipe for the peppers is at the bottom of this post.

I took a jar of them to a Pizza Party last Friday night. A friend was having a party and wanted to have a pizza buffet. I made small individual pizza crusts made with dough I purchased from a local pizza shop. Mione's is, in my opinion, the best pizza in this town. She had all the toppings on the counter when I arrived. I also brought a jar of the pickled sweet banana peppers, not even knowing how they would taste. I made them the week before the party and hadn't tasted them. They were wonderful! So I may make more if the garden will yield a nice batch of fresh peppers.

Everyone made their own pizza choosing from all the goodies on the table: sauce, basil pesto, cheese, hot and mild Italian sausage, fresh sliced green peppers, onion, mushrooms, jalapenos, pepperoni. It's so much fun to make your own pizza. You get exactly what you want and you can have all the pepperoni you want! Four pizzas went in the oven at a time, baked for about 7 minutes and came out hot and bubbly! The trick was remembering which pizza was the one you built! They were delicious and the Mione's crust did not disappoint ... crunchy and chewy at the same time. The kids adored making their own mini pizzas and at every last bite of their own creations.

One of the other guests made a dessert pizza: Brownie Pizza with all kinds of wonderful toppings. I'm not even sure what was on it but I do know it had chopped candy bars (maybe they were Snickers), m&m's, crushed pretzels, chopped pecans, mini marshmallows, and then it was drizzled with melted chocolate! Absolutely sinful, but delicious and a fabulous party dessert!

And of course, that wasn't enough so she also made Sweet Kabobs! Skewers threaded with strawberries, caramels, Oreo cookies, pretzels and marshmallows, also drizzled with melted chocolate. They were absolutely decadent and beautiful and made a very impressive presentation! I would recommend them for any party and the kids will love them! However, I will add that the gal who made them said she would leave the Oreos out next time. These would be wonderful using anything you like that would taste good with chocolate drizzle: fresh pineapple chunks, or banana chunks.

I made myself and extra pizza to go and just had it for breakfast while writing this blog. Yum! I love pizza for breakfast sometimes!

Here is the recipe for the Pickled Sweet Banana Peppers: Some of my peppers had ripened to a pretty red color and they look so pretty in the jar.

1/2 lb. of sweet banana peppers, seeded, sliced (enough to stuff 2 pint jars)
1 med sweet onion (like Vidalia), sliced thin
2 c. white vinegar
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
3 T. of pickling spice instead of the mustard and celery seed (you can buy a little bottle almost anywhere)
The pickling spice has more spices and will give you the flavor of bread and butter pickles. That's what I use.

You'll need 2 canning jars that have been washed thoroughly in hot soapy water and rinsed well.

Fill the jars with the sliced peppers and onions. Go ahead and pack them in tightly if you have to, but leave about 3/4" from the top.

Bring all the other ingredients to a rolling boil in a medium pot. When the liquid has boiled, ladle it over the peppers and leave about 1/2" of space in the jar. Be sure to clean off the rim of the jar so there is NO pickling liquid on it. Use a damp paper towel. Put on the lid and ring and tighten the ring so it won't leak. Now turn the jars upside down on a board, cover with a dark towel and let them sit for at least 24 hours. Done!

Hope you enjoy these! They will be wonderful on a pizza, on a sandwich, in salads or on hot dogs or burgers.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


Sounds like a kids game or a problem with your tummy! But Bubble and Squeak is a traditional dish from the United Kingdom and was originally a concoction made to use up leftover potatoes during food rationing times. But it's become a favorite, still using leftovers if you have them, and it's a wonderful dish for a brunch. Of course the dish can be made from fresh food too. You don't have to have leftovers to enjoy this hearty dish.

As a matter of fact, I made it because I has these beautiful little jewels of cabbages in my garden. The heads were small, but fully mature so I picked them and Bubble and Squeak came to mind immediately. You might wonder why that came to mind first. I first saw Bubble and Squeak on the Food Network when there was a show called Two Fat Ladies. They made this on their show and I've been making it now and then ever since.

It's a very inexpensive way to feed a lot of people, too.

Here are the ingredients:

2 T. Canola oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
1 medium head of cabbage, trimmed and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
4 - 5 sausages, casings removed and browned in a skillet
4 - 5 medium potatoes, cubed and boiled until just done.
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Eggs - optional

So in summary, before I even give you the whole recipe, here's how it's done, just so you see how easy it really is.

Saute onions
Add and cook cabbage and carrots
Brown sausage
Boil potatoes
Mix it all together in a big pot

In a very large skillet, add the canola oil and saute the onions until they are softened, but not browned.

Add the chopped cabbage and the sliced carrots, stir, and keep covered over med-low heat, stirring frequently until the cabbage cooks down and is soft and sweet. If you like, you can leave the cabbage a little less cooked if you like a bit of crunch left in it. This should take about 15 minutes to get all that cabbage cooked.

In the meantime, while the cabbage is cooking, remove the casings from your sausages and cook in a large skillet, breaking it up until it's all browned. When it's finished, add about 3 T. of water to this skillet and scrape up all the browning in the bottom of the pan. This will add a ton of flavor. Just set this aside until the cabbage is done. I used sweet Italian sausages. You can use any kind you like. Bob Evans breakfast sausage would work - use one or two of those 12 oz. packages, depending how meaty you would like your Bubble and Squeak. I used 4 sausages because that's what I had in the freezer.

Also in the meantime, wash and cut up the potatoes and get them boiling - just like you would for mashed potatoes. No need to peel the potatoes - I never do. Cook until they are just tender. Drain into a colander.

OK, now the cabbage is cooked, the sausage is browned, and the potatoes are done. If your cabbage skillet is large enough, put everything into it and mix well. If not, then get yourself a larger pot, like a soup pot, and put it all in there.

Serve this on a buffet for brunch or on the side like you would corned beef hash. This morning I chose to spoon some into a skillet, turned on med-low heat to let it brown slowly, and broke an egg over the top. Put a lid on it and let it cook until the egg was done. This took about 5 minutes.

Get Bubbling! This dish is so good it'll make you Squeak!

Sunday, July 31, 2011


More Sweet Banana Peppers in the garden. They are definitely the most prolific crop in the garden this year. It's been so hot and dry, no matter how much I water, some of the crops are just not responding. But the banana peppers grow and grow!

You've all most likely heard of Pepper Poppers? You know, those appetizers you can get in so many restaurants where a jalapeno or poblano pepper is stuffed with cheese and then baked to within an inch of it's life.

With all these peppers, it came to me that I could make a sort of Popper Dip! As it turns out, it's wonderful! All hot and bubbly, it's a fabulous dip for a party, or just for yourself. I've been dipping it on melba toasts or pita chips while I sip on a glass of wine and cook dinner. Mmmmm. Yummy

Basically I took a crab dip recipe I have, tweeked it a little and substituted the crab with sliced peppers. Play with the recipe -- add cumin -- leave out the curry - double the garlic - leave it out entirely - add a diced jalapeno. Make it your own by using ingredients and flavors you love!

Here's how I made it.

1 8 oz low fat cream cheese (DON'T use fat free - it's awful!**)
1/2 low fat or fat free sour cream
1 T curry
2 T fresh thyme
1/2 t. smoked or regular paprika
1 c. grated cheddar cheese
1 T hot sauce (or to taste)
pinch of red pepper flakes (more to taste or leave out entirely)
2 cloves fresh garlic finely minced
8 large banana peppers, seeded and sliced into thin rings
Salt to taste

In the microwave, soften the cream cheese so it will be easy to stir. Add all the other ingredients and mix well. Put into a lightly greased oven safe dish and bake until bubbly - about 15 minutes or so. If you want to use the microwave cook on high for 3 - 4 minutes. Stir, and cook for another 3 - 4 minutes . Stir and cook for 3 - 4 minutes once more making sure the dip is nice and hot.

Transfer the dip into a nice bowl and serve hot with pita chips, tortilla chips, or crostini toasts. Your friends will love this! Enjoy!

** As I mentioned, don't use fat free cream cheese. I'm all for low fat and fat free products - I use them all the time. But fat free cream cheese tastes like paste! It's awful and there is nothing you can do to make it taste better. I once made a Boursin Cheese Dip out of it. I tried adding more garlic, more herbs, salt, I even added some soft butter to it to try to make it richer. Nothing worked. It still tasted like paste.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Lots of veggies picked today.
What to do? Make a fabulous vegetarian platter and add a beautiful piece of fish if you like!

Smoky Zucchini and Yellow Squash

Sliced 1 med zucchini and 2 med. yellow squash into halves and then into slices to get half moon pieces. Place in a bowl.Toss to coat with:
1 T olive oil
1/4 tsp liquid smoke
1 t salt
Saute in a hot skillet until just tender. Remove to a platter.

Sliced Radishes with Tarragon
3 cups of sliced radishes. Slice radishes into 1/2 inch circles. (The radishes I used happen to be a giant variety that look almost like a red carrot, but any kind of radish will work.
1 T. olive oil
1 T butter
1 t. salt
1 T. dried tarragon
Dash of agave syrup or honey - maybe 1 teaspoon.

Saute the radishes in the oil and butter until they are just tender. Add the salt and the dried tarragon and syrup or honey. Stir for 1 minute and the set aside on the platter.

Baby Spinach with Garlic

Wash about 5 cups of baby spinach leaves and drain well. Saute in a large skittle with
2 T. Olive oil,
2 T dried garlic
1/2 t. salt.
Saute until the spinach has given off most of its liquid and evaporates from the pan. Set aside on the platter.

Mashed Potatoes with Garlic and Chives
6 small red or white potatoes- cut into quarters
Boil until they are tender.
Drain the potatoes. Add:
1/2 c. non fat canned milk
1 T butter
2 - 3 T. Greek Yogurt
1 - 2 cloves very finely minced or pressed garlic cloves
1 T salt
2 T. fresh chopped chives.
Mash all together until as smooth or chunky as you like. Add more milk or yogurt as desired for consistency.

Saute lightly salted salmon steaks in a skillet with a little canola oil. Cook for about 3 - minutes a side until done. Set aside on the platter.

Dill Cream
1/2 C. plain greek yogurt
1 t dried dill
2 t. tabasco sauce
1 t dried shallot or onion
1/2 t. salt.
Mix all in a small bowl and garnish salmon with it.

Now make yourself a plate from all the beautiful vegetables you just prepared!

Sunday, June 26, 2011


After harvesting only one eggplant, a little lettuce and a few peas so far this year, I had several large sweet banana peppers ready for picking! They will end up on a Sweet Pepper Pizza tonight with a base of a little low fat cream cheese, a little sausage and a few thin slices of red onion.

1 Homemade, or prepared 12 inch pizza crust
4-6 sweet banana peppers, cleaned and sliced into rings
1/2 medium red onion, sliced thinly
1 link of fresh (sweet or spicy) sausage, fried and crumbled (optional)
1 - 8 oz. low fat cream cheese
1/2 t salt
1/2 c. plain Greek yogurt
2 cloves finely minced garlic, or about 1 t. dried garlic (more to taste)
crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Olive oil to drizzle (optional)

If you are making homemade crust, prepare your crust and par bake it until it feels done, but lacks color.

In a small bowl, mix the cream cheese, garlic, salt and the yogurt together and spread on the pizza crust. Top the cheese with the sausage, sliced peppers, and onions. Drizzle with a little olive oil and sprinkle with a few red pepper flakes if you like.

Bake at 425 for about 6 - 8 minutes, until bubbly and brown.

My basil plants also needed cutting back. So I put most of it into a container of water to use from the counter all week, and the loose leaves will be made into a compound butter. Anything I don't use in a few days, I'll hang to dry.

1 stick unsalted butter, soften to room temp
1/2 chopped basil
2 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
1/2 t kosher salt

Add the all the ingredients to your food processor and whiz until just blended. If you don't have a food processor, just make sure everything is very finely minced when you blend it with the soft butter. Then put the butter into a airtight container and refrigerate.

Use this butter on anything! Melt a little on top of a char grilled steak. Spread on a piece of toasted crunchy bread, melt into a little cooked pasta for the kids!

Sunday, June 12, 2011


Are you making a stop at your favorite fast food place every morning for a breakfast sandwich? It's a filling and comforting meal at the beginning of the day, but if you think about what you are eating, and what you are paying for it, you may decide to change what you're doing about your morning meal.

An Egg McMuffin from McDonald's for example, has more than 300 calories, 12 grams of fat, tons of sodium and 235 mg of cholesterol, 78% of the daily allowance in this tiny sandwich! I don't know how many calories, fat and cholesterol are in a sandwich you would make yourself, but I can guarantee you it's no where near that high. I once ordered a McMuffin and watched the guy put it together. I saw him squirt something out of a squeeze bottle onto the muffin -- looked like about a tablespoon of something. I asked the gal what it was. She said it was butter.

Ok, that's it! I make my own from now on, or if I have to have one because I'm in a hurry, I ask for it with no butter. Here's how you can make your own breakfast sandwiches in a snap for the entire week. (By the way, check my post called This and That back in March to see a little gizmo I found to make eggs just like those in an egg mc muffin.)

Today I chose to make a batch of western omelet eggs (without cheese) but you can use your favorite combination of ingredients. Use a little bacon, or leave out the meat all together and use your favorite combination of vegetables with some cheese, or just plain eggs. I'll make some more combination suggestions at the end of this post. I stopped in at a Dutch Country Market over the weekend and found some beautifully lean, fresh ham for $3.25 per pound (just a few pennies more than the cost of one mc muffin.) It was still hot when they sliced it from the whole ham.

3 slices of deli ham, diced (about a cupful)
1/2 of a green pepper, diced same size as the ham
3 - 4 T. of chopped onion, diced about the same size as the ham
1 T butter (the same amount that's on one McMuffin!)
6 eggs
2 T water
Choice of bread - English Muffins, Kaiser roll, whole wheat toast, etc. (I cut out the center of thick rolls to cut down on the amount of bread I'm eating. I use two centers for another grilled sandwich at another time. 2 rolls equals 3 sandwiches.)

Fry up the ham, peppers and onions in the same skillet all at one time on medium heat until the ham browns a little. While it's browning up, crack the 6 eggs into a bowl and whisk with the water. (To make this even more healthy, use 3 whole eggs and 4 egg whites. Discard or freeze the yolks.) Pour the eggs over the ham mixture and stir gently until the eggs are done to your liking. Remove from the heat just before they are done.

You now have a pan full of eggs that's enough to make about 5 - 6 sandwiches. Just store the eggs in a plastic container. Each morning, warm up a portion and you have a fresh sandwich that you can make and run with. Eggs warm up really well in the microwave in about 15 seconds. You could even make up all the sandwiches at one time and wrap them individually in foil or in a sandwich bag. Then take one out of its wrapper and wrap in a paper towel in the microwave for about 20 seconds to freshen it up when you want one.

So not only are you saving a ton of calories, fat and reducing your sodium intake, you are saving a lot of money. Five Egg McMuffins cost about $15.00. The whole pound of ham $3.25 (I used about $.81 worth), rolls (about $.35 each), 6 eggs (about $.17 each) and I already had a pepper and onion in the house. That's about $4.00 for five or six sandwiches. And it all took only about 15 minutes to chop everything and cook it. Since I didn't use all the rolls or all the ham I bought I'll freeze the rest for another time. Although I'm not a cheapskate, I am a penny pincher.

Give it a try making your own to improve the nutritional value of what you are eating and save some money.

Here are some other combinations you could try, and they would all be just as good without the bread. By the way, you don't need any salt with most of these because some of the ingredients are already salty, like the ham and any cheese you might use. So don't salt unless you have to.

Asparagus tips and Swiss cheese
Scallions and mushrooms
Spinach and mushrooms
Mushrooms and Swiss cheese or cheddar cheese
Shrimp with muenster and a hint of tarragon
Herbs - try and handful of parsley with a tiny bit of fresh oregano
Cheddar cheese and onions
Sausage and mushrooms (use turkey sausage)
Green peppers and onions
Or try the works! Sausage, onions, cheese and green peppers!

If your using cheeses use just enough to flavor the eggs to avoid adding too much fat.

One of the things I hope to accomplish by writing this blog is not only as a release of my passion for cooking, but to give other people ideas on how to be creative in every day cooking and how to save time and money as well as eating healthier. The more you cook with different ingredients, the more you learn about how different flavors go together, how the same technique of cooking can be used for so many recipes.

Until next time!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Springtime in the Garden

Before you read the rest of this post, you should know that I want to apologize for taking so long between posts. Busy-ness, time, and laziness have all taken a part in my neglect to post more often. But here is the latest post I wrote, more than two week ago and failed to post until now.

Also, I have taken a new attitude and realize that I don't have to post all of my most intimate thoughts about food and food preparation to publish a post. I can just post recipes that I've run across or created myself. This particular post was actually written three weeks ago, and I haven't publish it. Why? I have no idea. The Laziness excuse is somehow ringing true. Or maybe I'm busy. don't know. Anyway, be prepared for narrative, with my deepest thoughts about food and its preparation, or just a recipe only.

The herbs have begun making their way to my cook pots and baking pans. Today, I picked some chive blossoms and parsley. Aren't they pretty? I have a ton more coming so I'll be sure to go out every day and pick the open blossoms. The ones that don't get used fresh will be dried and stored in airtight jars. I'll make Chive Blossom Biscuits with the blossoms, and mince the parsley for the freezer unless I have a chance to use it fresh first. I'll use a good buttermilk biscuit recipe and lace with chive blossom petals and some chopped parsley. The blossoms have a light oniony flavor, but somehow deeper than that. The scent of something more savory comes across when you pick them. I know it sounds weird, but when I pick them it makes me wish I had a char grilled steak drizzled with some melted butter that's been infused with chives and a fluffy baked potato with sour cream (low fat) and chives.

The greenhouse this year hasn't given me the germination rate I wanted so I need to get some seeds in the ground. I've planted 4 beds of peas, 60 plants in each bed. I also got the garlic and the shallots in the ground. I hope to get some beans planted today. And if I can manage, I'll get some lettuce and radishes in the ground over the weekend too.

This morning I made some Bran Flax Muffins. Had a craving for some carbs but didn't want to eat bread or pasta. The were yummy. Kind of carrot cake, but not as sweet, and crunchy with nuts and flax seeds. These muffins are a pretty health alternative, and have 1/2 the regular, flour of regular muffins. It called for ground flax seed and oat bran instead of so much flour, and are chock full of grated apples and carrots, walnuts, almonds, raisins, and dates. The apples and carrots replaced most of the fat you'd normally use. This recipe called for only 2 T. of vegetable oil.I know most people don't keep oat bran or ground flax on hand. But this recipe is worth going to an organic shop to pick up a bag, and make these muffins for breakfast. Once you have the oat bran and ground flax seed on hand, you can make 2 or three batches of the muffins. They are so good for your, you should try them. Just don't eat them all in one day!

Here's the recipe. I got it on line.


1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. ground flax seed ( I added about 1/4 c. whole seeds too)
3/4 c. oat bran
1 c brown sugar
2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
2 t. ground cinnamon
3/4 c skim milk ( I used non fat evaporated milk because that's all I had)
2 eggs, beaten
1 t. vanilla extract
2 T. vegetable oil
2 c. shredded carrots (about 3 large carrots)
2 apples, peeled and shredded (I didn't peel them)
1/2 c raisins
1 cup chopped nuts (your choice, I used walnuts and almonds cuz it's what I had)
1/2 c. chopped dates (optional - I added them cuz I had them)

Preheat the oven to 350
Grease muffin pans or use papers

In a large bow add all the dry ingredients down to the cinnamon. Stir together
Add all the wet ingredients, blend together.
Stir in the apples, carrots, nuts and raisins (and dates if you use them)

Fill Muffin tins 2/3 full.

Bake 15 - 20 minutes, until toothpick comes out dry. I used smaller muffin tins so 15 minutes did it. A jumbo muffin tin may require 20 minutes or more.

The rest of my day was spent in the garden getting everything planted. did get more peas done and a nursery bed of string beans. My husband likes to take them out of this bed and move them to a permanent place. That way we can try to germinate a lot of seeds and have enough to move into permanent places.

I once read in a gardening magazine that you could use old cds to scare pests away. So I tied old cds to our garden cage covers to help keep the baby bunnies and birds out of the freshly planted beds and digging up the seeds. We'll see if it works. (Since that time my husband told mne he didn't like those. They "disturb" the peace of the garden with all their movement and glimmer. So now I write on them and use them as plant markers and stick them in the ground to mark the beds with what I've planted. I actually like these as plant markers. Use a Sharpie and your cd markers will NOT fade.

Ta Ta for Now (TTFN).

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Nothing special to blog about today. I've made several meals during the week which I neglected to photograph or write down the recipes.

One night I sauteed some very thickly sliced mushrooms until they were still somewhat firm and let them cool down. Sauteed some cut up asparagus spears with a little garlic and ginger and let them cool down a little too. Fried up some turkey bacon nice and crispy. All this topped a bowl of crisp romaine lettuce with a little honey mustard dressing. YUM!

I just bought a little gizmo at Walmart. It's a microwave egg poacher. I've always wanted one to make my own Egg McMuffins. The ones you get at McDonald's aren't too bad for you, but they aren't as healthy as the ones you can make at home. I notice one day when the guy was putting my sandwich together that he squeezed something from a bottle onto the muffin. I asked what it was. It was butter! So now if I do indulge in an Egg McMuffin while I'm out, I ask for it with no butter. Anyway, all you do is crack an egg into each side, add a 1/2 t. water to each side, microwave for 1 minute 20 seconds and let it stand for a minute. I use whole wheat english muffins, nice lean canadian bacon, and low fat cheese slices. Easy to make and quick too!

I was thinking about my Soups Nights from last season, already planning next season. I tried to think of all the different kinds of soup I've made. I don't know if I've remembered all of them, but here are the ones I could remember:
Chicken Paprikash Soup, Mexican Caldillo, Chicken Noodle, Vegetable, Beef Vegetable, Shrimp and Corn Chowder, Chili Soup, Tuscano with Sausage and Kale, Swedish Meatball Soup, Italian Wedding Soup, Stuffed Pepper Soup,Patty Pan Squash Bisque with Crab and Curry, Cream of Potato, Seafood Paella Soup, Green Bean Soup. 15 kinds that I can remember and all of them were made from scratch.

Some recipes I want to try for next season: Mushroom with Barley or Cream of Wild Mushroom, Cauliflower Soup (one of Mom's recipes), Morrocan Soup with Lamb, Stuffed Cabbage Soup, Catfish Soup, Smoky Chicken with Cider Soup, and Chicken Cacciatori Soup, Savory Bean and Spinach, and maybe a Plantain Soup that looks really good. I also have a recipe for a Spicy Green Tomato Soup with Crunchy Pancetta. Another way to use of some of those green tomatoes at the end of next season! The more unusual ones will likely be the small pot, not the "main event".

I spent a good part of my Saturday in the greenhouse starting seeds. Two weeks ago I cleaned up the greenhouse and got all the seed pots ready. Nearly 200 seed pots later, I've got tomatoes, eggplant, two kinds of peas, green beans, 2 kinds of green peppers, jalapenos, poblano peppers, cucumbers, zuchinni, fennel and lima beans started. I still need to get some pole beans and a couple of melon plants started. I don't particularly like growing the melons. They are usually pretty small or end up wilting on the vine. But my husband does use up whatever turns into a nice little melon in smoothies for breakfast.

This afternoon, I hope to get outside and put some carrots, radishes and lettuce directly in the ground. I haven't told my husband yet but I don't want to plant any corn this year. We use a lot of space to grow the plants and get very little yield, and the ears are usually pretty inferior. They taste good, but they are often tiny and not formed well. I'd rather grow more peas and carrots and other veggies that I like to freeze for winter use. I've even thought maybe this year I would grow lots of extra herbs to dry, package and maybe give away and/or sell.

That's all for today. We're off to a Coastal Bays/Surfrider Foundation Event early this afternoon at Seacrets. For our $15 a piece, we'll get a meal and a good time. Then home to start more seeds!

Sunday, March 6, 2011


We just had our last Soup Night of the season. In October, we'll start up again. I'd been toying with the idea that maybe I'd lay off Soup Night for one season thinking maybe it was getting old and I was getting tired. But we had such a nice crowd last night, and it was so much fun, that I just tossed aside the thought of laying off Soup Night for the coming Fall season.

Not only did we have a fun crowd last night, the soup I made was a pretty big hit ... bigger than I thought it would be. Stuffed Pepper Soup. I've made other soups that start out as a "stew" and end up as a soup. I just made my favorite recipe for Stuffed Peppers as usual, and thinned it down, and spiced it up to make it into a soup. My stuffed pepper recipe is deadly easy. I wish I could remember exactly how I made it, but here is my best recollection.

By the way, you can just your own version of stuffed peppers. To make it soup, just crush up the meat after it's cooked in the peppers, and slice up the cooked peppers to put back into the soup. Thin it down with a little water or chicken stock until it's the consistency you like.

My recipe was for a fairly large crowd, so you can cut everything in half or even quarter it. I used a mixture of ground turkey and ground beef, but you can use whatever you like. Some people like the combo of beef, pork and veal. Turkey makes it a little healthier, beef lends flavor.

2 cups of rice (cook per directions on package - makes about 4 c. of cooked rice)
6 large green peppers, cut in half.
2 pounds lean ground turkey
1 pound lean ground beef
1 T. dried garlic flakes
1 T. dried onions
1 T. salt
1 T. cracked black pepper
1 t. ground coriander
6 26 oz. cans of condensed tomato soup
(The store brand is just as good as the brand name and much cheaper and it's not name in China)

Wash the peppers, cut them in half (so you have a top and a bottom), and clean out the seeds and ribs as much as possible. Leave the stem in so there is no hole in the top half. Set aside the prepared peppers.

In a very large bowl, combine the cooled cooked rice with the ground meats and all the seasonings. mix well, buy try not to squish the meat too much. It changes the texture and makes it hard when cooked if you mush it up to much, so toss it more than mix it. You mixture should have a very nice aroma from ingredients you added. If you aren't sure, take a little tiny piece of the meat and cook it in a small skillet so you can taste it. Add more of any seasoning you like at this point.

In the bottom of your soup pot, pour one or two cans of the soup. Rinse each can with just about 1/2 c of water and pour into the pan. Don't use too much water - you can thin the soup down later if it's too thick.

Now, fill each pepper half with the meat mixture and place into the soup pot. No need to overfill. When the first layer is complete, add two more cans of soup rinsing each can with a little water.
Place a second layer of filled pepper halves, and now add all the rest of the soup.

There should be plenty of meat left. You can make tiny meatballs to add later (which I did), or you can make fist sized balls with the rest and put that into the soup pot as well.

Place the pot over medium low heat until it begins to bubble. Turn the heat down very low. NOW BE CAREFUL. Because you are using canned tomato soup, with has starches and sugars in it, you will have to scrape the bottom of the pan fairly frequently so it won't scorch. I used a long handled spatula. Be careful not to knock around the stuff peppers too much - you want the meat to cook inside the peppers to pick up flavor. As soon as it starts to bubble, turn the heat way down and simmer very gently, stirring frequently, until the peppers are soft, but not mushy and ready to fall away from the stuffed meat.

Remove the finished peppers and fist sized meat balls if you made them to a very large platter. Now I took the meat out of the peppers and smashed each ball with a potato masher and added it back to the soup pot. Do this will all the meat that was in the peppers. If you made fist sized meatballs, cut these up with a knife into smaller chunks, like small meatballs, or you can just smash all of them. Your choice. I personally made tiny meatballs which were added at this point to cook so there would be meat all through the soup, but then meatballs for something to bite into.

Take the cooked peppers on the platter and cut them into thin strips and put them back into the soup along with the tiny raw meatballs if you made them. Simmer the soup for another 20 minutes or so to make sure the little meatballs are cooked and again, making sure the bottom of the pan doesn't scorch. If you didn't add raw meatballs, here the soup is finished.

I also served Braunschwieger Dip, Celery Cream (fresh celery pureed with low fat cream cheese), Cheddar and Swiss Cheese with crackers, a Sharp Cheddar Cheese ball, black olives, and a home made cucumber salad with home made dressing. Bread and butter too.

The simple cucumber salad dressing was made with 3 T of sunflower oil, 1 T. rice wine vinegar, 1 t. dill, 1 t. dried onions, salt and pepper to taste and 1 t. sugar. Spin it up in a food processor, or just mix really well with a fork and pour over cucumbers that have been sliced very thin, salted lightly and let to drain for about an hour and drained very well. Adjust any of the ingredients to your taste - use another herb if you don't like dill, or leave the herb out all together. The one thing I know about salad dressings - a vinaigrette is usually a 3 to 1 ratio. 3 T of oil to 1 T of lemon juice or vinegar. 3 cups of oil to 1 c. of lemon juice or vinegar. Change up the kind of oil you use, the kind of vinegar you use, add any flavorings you like. Depending on the salad, I add things like Dijon mustard, anchovies, bacon bits, dried basil, tarragon, fresh garlic. Make any flavor you like, just remember the 3 to 1 ratio for the base.

I also made a smaller pot of Cream of Potato Soup which also turned out pretty good for a vegetarian version. Actually, it was pretty tasty! I normally use some chicken stock to make potato soup, but this time I didn't. I added some coriander, a little dried tarragon, some dried leeks, shallots and scallions (a combination mix I bought) and just a pinch of red pepper flakes which brought the soup to life.

So Soup Night will go on. As long as we have wonderful friends who enjoy coming, we'll keep on make soup!

Thursday, January 13, 2011


It's not the first time I didn't know what to make for dinner. And it won't be the last. But that's when I turn to going into the fridge, freezer and pantry and try to get creative. I promised myself I wouldn't buy anything at the grocery until I started using up what I already have on hand. So here are three dishes I made with whatever I had on hand.

I used my usual recipe for salmon patties, but I added about 3/4 c. shredded mozzarella. What a difference it made! They were so much better than I'd ever made them before. The low fat mozzarella added a depth of flavor that can't be beat. Just bread crumbs, an egg, salt and pepper, with a dash of dill.

I love using canned salmon for patties and for things like casseroles that have salmon in them. A nice salmon steak deserves to be prepared and served on its own, not smooshed up into a casserole. Some people say you can eat the bones, skin and all in the canned salmon. I don't like to do that so I remove most of the skin and all the bones I can find. They ARE soft enough to eat. The canning process really breaks them down and they are said to have tons of calcium. I tried to eat them once by smooshing up the bones into the salmon, and although the taste was fine, I couldn't get past the "gritty" texture the bones left in the dish. So I always remove them now. Here's how I make them.

Salmon Patties (makes 4 patties)

1 14 oz. can of pink salmon
1 c unseasoned bread crumbs
2 eggs - beaten
1 c. shredded mozzarella
1 T chopped parsley
1 t. dried dill
1 t salt
1 t pepper
more breadcrumbs for coating
1 T olive oil for sauteing.

Clean the salmon of all the skin (or not) and of the bones (or not). That is up to you.

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients gently until mixed well, but not turned into mush. I used a large ice cream scooper to make the patties. This is a good size and makes them all the same size. You can make them smaller if you like and get 8 patties out of the batch. Form each scoop into a fairly tight pattie, and coat with bread crumbs.

Heat a large skillet to medium with just a little olive oil. Put all the patties into the skillet and brown each side slowly. Cooking on heat too high will only burn the cheese in the patties, so be sure to keep the heat evenly medium. These are really good on a sandwich bun with a little tartar sauce. You could also make a white sauce seasoned with salt and pepper and add a big handful of peas to the sauce, and serve over the patties.

My next raid had to do with my serious craving for pasta earlier this week. Since I try to avoid eating a lot of pasta, I used wheat pasta which actually has some nutritional value and I've read is good for you in moderation. I found some frozen spinach, some stems I saved in the freezer from some swiss chard I cooked this past summer. (I think I've mentioned in a previous blog that I am quite thrifty. I don't throw anything away if I know I can use it and now I had a use for the swiss chard stems I trimmed. They were a little too "woody" to eat as is, but they were great in the pesto.) I made a fairly typical pesto with garlic, pecorino, parmesan, salt, pepper and toasted walnuts. Basil pesto has a much stronger flavor than this pesto does so it's one kind of coating I don't mind using with wheat pasta. I happen dislike wheat pasta with red sauce - I just don't like the way they taste together. A smidge of tobasco sauce and enough salt and pepper and maybe a little extra pecorino to adjust the seasoning. Some sauteed shrimp with only salt and lemon on top.

Chard and Spinach Pesto on Whole Wheat Linguine
Makes 4 - 6 servings

First, I'll go ahead and admit I forgot to take a picture of my finished pasta. I lifted this picture from the internet, but it looks just like my pasta did!! Really, it does! I was so hungry I just dove right in and ate all the evidence! I served it with some sauteed shrimp on top, seasoned with just a little salt and pepper. Here's how I made it.

1 cup thawed and drained spinach
about 1/2 c. cooked chard (use all spinach if you don't have any chard)
3/4 c. parmesan cheese
1/2 c. pecorino cheese (use all of one kind if you don't have both)
1 Big handful of toasted walnuts (use pine nuts if you like)
1/2 c. olive oil
3 - 4 cloves garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
2 - 3 drops of tobasco (optional)

chicken broth (low fat, low sodium)
1 lb. whole wheat pasta (linguine, fettuccine, spaghetti, any kind you like)

In a large pot, put up water to boil to cook the pasta. Add a good tablespoon of salt to the water and cook pasta to your liking. I like mine with just a little bite left in it. In the meantime:

Put all the ingredients except the chick broth and the pasta into a food processor. Whiz until smooth. I've kept the olive oil to a minimum so it may turn out pretty thick. If it is too thick, add a little chicken
stock , or you can add a little of the pasta cooking water. It should be the consistency of a thick spaghetti sauce. Taste the pesto and re-season with more salt and/or pepper if necessary.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and put back into the cooking pot. Now add the pesto and toss to coat well. If the pesto is still too thick to mix in, add a little more chicken stock. You can serve this just like it is, or add some sauteed shrimp, grilled chicken breast or a nice piece of grilled tilapia or other white fish.

This morning I raided the refrigerator yet again since we're leaving for vacation. We needed to use up the leftovers so they wouldn't turn into science projects while we are gone. And besides, I didn't want to leave all my odds and ends in the refrigerator for the house sitters.

I had a bowl of rice, and a bag full of veggies which contained a lot of green and red peppers. I was going to make a veggie and rice frittata. Then a recipe I saw on line the other day came to mind for rice balls. I really like those but I decided to make rice cakes instead. (The rest of the veggies in that bag will turn into a vegetable stew later this afternoon - carrots, celery, cucumbers. I'll add some potatoes and mushrooms to it along with a can of diced tomatoes and a whole bunch of herbs and spices..)

Rice Cakes with Sweet Peppers and Cumin

3 cups of cooked rice
1 1/2 c. chopped green and red sweet peppers
1/4 of a large sweet onion, chopped or 1 small onion, chopped
3/4 c. grated swiss cheese
3/4 c. grated cheddar
1 c. bread unseasoned crumbs
3 t. chopped parsley
2 t. cumin
2 eggs
1 T Olive Oil

In a large skillet saute on low heat, the chopped peppers and onions until they are soft, about 5 minutes. While they cook, put all the other ingredients into a large bowl and mix well. Add the cooked peppers and mix well again. Form the rice cakes in your hands using about 1/2 c. to 3/4 c. of the mixture for each cake. Now, in the same skillet that you used to cook the peppers, place the rice cakes in the skillet on med low heat. No extra oil is needed to cook them. Cook them slowly like this until they are very brown on both sides. Don't try to turn them until the first side is really brown or they will just fall apart when you try to turn them. Flip and cook for another 5 - 10 minutes, as brown as you like. I like mine nice and brown. The rice gets crispy and has a wonderful nutty flavor while the inside is creamy and cheesy. We just ate them plain for breakfast. They would make a great side dish. If you make them smaller, about the size of a golf ball, they would be great appetizers too.

When we're back from vacation, we'll probably want to eat light so I'll raid the freezer. It's full of vegetables from the summer harvest. It's only two months until we start seeds out in the greenhouse again, so we need to eat up whatever we've got out there! I have a lot of squash in the freezer - I think I'll make a bisque out of it with some curry and flaked fish or crab meat.