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!