Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hearty Bean and Bacon Soup

Ingredients -
1lb bag of dried Great Northern beans (rinsed and soaked overnight per directions)
20-25 baby carrots (chopped in thirds)
1 small onion (chopped)
32oz. Chicken broth
Pepper and salt
5 slices bacon
Olive oil
Chopped Kale (about five large leaves, stems removed)
1 russet potato (peeled and diced)

In a heavy bottom pot or Dutch oven add the beans, broth salt and pepper.  (a little extra water may be required) Bring the beans to a boil, and then reduce heat to simmer - covered.
In a frying pan add five slices of bacon.  Cook slow on simmer turning as needed.  (Don’t cook too crisp)  Remove bacon and set aside.  When cooled chop the bacon and add to the beans.
Add chopped onion and carrots to the bacon grease with a bit of olive oil. (Tbsp?) Sprinkle a little salt and pepper.  Cook until onions are softened.   Add the onions, carrots, kale and the diced potato to the simmering beans.
Allow to simmer for a couple hours, then enjoy!
I simmered for a couple hours then turned it off until the next day.  I heated it for my lunch and dinner for everyone knows soup and stew are better the next day!

Monday, October 14, 2013

South Carolina Peaches for the Freezer

Source Photo
Summer is synonymous with peaches in South Carolina.  California is the only place in North America that grows more peaches than South Carolina- and they may be a square mile or two larger than our little diamond shaped state.

We bought, packed, preserved, froze, jellied, and ate over three bushels of peaches this year.  I wish we had done a couple more…
This blog entry is going to show you a method that is as simple as it gets for freezing peaches for smoothies.  (We love our peach smoothies too, and I’ll show you how we use the frozen peaches to make great peach treats on a future post very soon.)
First wash the peaches very well using a vegetable scrubber, then either dry or set the peaches on a rack to air dry completely.
When the peaches are dry, prepare a “dunking booth” to keep the peaches from browning.  I simply use a casserole dish.  The mixture for the dunking is found on the package of Fruit Fresh, and I add a couple tablespoons of lemon juice as well. 
Cut the peaches in half going through the stem portion on top.  Slightly twist to separate the halves, remove the pit, and scrap lightly with a spoon.
Dunk the peaches; let them sit for about a minute, then transfer to a freezer safe tray cut side up.
Place in freezer until completely frozen through. I usually let them set 24 hours, then put them in freezer bags.  Once you get them in the bag and you get ready to seal it shut, insert a drinking straw into the last little section open.  Suck the air out of the bag of frozen peaches and seal the bag.  It’s not completely vacuum sealed, but it does help keep freezer burn at bay.
When you need a couple peaches for a smoothie, just reach in and take a few out and reseal.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Chili-Lime Corn on the Cob

My last post showed a very simple and easy way to enjoy the fresh bounty of corn on the cob, but this is my favorite way to cook and season this wonderfully delicious grain.  It is an easy process and can be done on the grill or in the oven.

Corn on the Cob, shucked and cleaned
½ stick butter
1 Tbsp. Chili powder
1 Tbsp. Lime Juice

What to do:
Preheat oven or grill to 350-375 degrees.

In a small microwave safe bowl melt butter then add the chili powder and lime juice and mix well. 
Place an ear of corn on a sheet of tinfoil.

Brush the ear with the butter mixture, then wrap up in the tinfoil.
Repeat for all the ears you will be serving.
Place the wrapped ears on the grill or on the oven rack. (you can place them on a baking sheet in the oven if preferred)
Roast for 25 minutes.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Summer fare - Corn on the Cob

What are some of the things that just say – SUMMER – to you?  As for me there are a few – peaches, watermelon, fresh tomatoes, and a favorite - CORN on the COB!!

There are so many ways to cook it too. I just learned how to microwave it in the husk. I was very skeptical at first, but now.... I’m singing a different tune.

This method is super for when you need to cook just a few ears for dinner.

Cut the corn on the wide, stalk end of the ear.  Cut into the bottom row of kernels in order to free the cob from the husk after nuking.

Place corn, still in the husk, on a microwave safe plate and cook for four minutes in the microwave.

When the time is up, remove the corn.  ** Use an oven glove or dish towel because this corn is HOT!

Using the towel, squeeze the top end of the cob. Apply pressure to release the cob from the husk.  It will slide out and be silk free (or very few). 

Add butter, salt and pepper to taste.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Tomato-Basil Jam

Love tomatoes – check.  Love basil – check.  Love jam – check.  Love tomato and basil together – check.  Love tomato, basil and jam together – Say What?
I was scanning through a Better Homes and Garden Canning magazine I purchased this spring when I came across the recipe for Tomato-Basil Jam.  It had a picture of it spread onto some toasted sour dough bread….  I had to try it.  I am so thankful that I did!

2 ½ lbs. ripe tomatoes, peeled (I used Roma’s)
¼ cup of lemon juice (bottled works best for Ph levels)
3 Tbsp. of fresh basil, snipped
3 cups of sugar
3 Tbsp. powdered fruit pectin for low/no sugar recipes

What to do-
To peel tomatoes, cut an 'X' on the bottom before placing in boiling water for thirty seconds.

Remove from the boiling water and dump in an ice bath.

Drain and peel

Remove seeds and core

Finely chop the maters
Seed, core, and finely chop tomatoes (after peeling!). Measure 3 ½ cups of chopped tomatoes and place in a 6 qt. stainless steel or heavy non-stick pot. 
Use kitchen scissors to snip the basil
Bring the ‘maters to a boil stirring occasionally then reduce heat, add lemon juice and basil. Cover and simmer for about ten minutes. Still stirring occasionally.
Next, in a small bowl combine pectin and ¼ cup of sugar, then stir into the tomato mixture.  Bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly!  Add remaining sugar and return to a full rolling boil.  Boil hard for about a minute (still constantly stirring) then remove from heat.

Skim ‘foam’ off top of mixture with a metal spoon. 
Put hot jam into hot sterile half-pint jars.  Leave a 1/4 inch head space.

Process in a hot water bath (boiling water completely covering the jars) for five minutes, make sure to start timing AFTER the boiling begins.
Remove to a rack and allow to cool.  Yield: 5 half-pints
Enjoy on some nice toast with a slice of mozeralla!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Cuke and Corn Salsa

A wonderfully cool, and refreshing tomato-free salsa made with the summer’s fresh veggies.  This works for those hot summer picnic’s / BBQ’s or just for a light snack at the house.  *Note – Although I did not add it to this recipe, the next time I make this salsa I will add a diced avocado.

3 ears of fresh corn, husks and silks removed
1 lg. cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
4 green onions, sliced very thin
2 Tbsp. fresh thyme (or ½ tsp dried)
Zest and juice of one lemon (no seeds please)
Salt and pepper to taste.

What to do-
With a sharp knife, saw down the ear of corn to remove the fresh kernels. (I usually do this in a large bowl as it helps keep the kernels from finding their way to the floor.)
In a medium bowl, mix the corn kernels, celery, green onions, cucumber, thyme, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Combine well adding salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with pita or tortilla chips.


Friday, June 7, 2013

Irish Soda Bread

While cleaning up a box from mom and dad's house (yes, I still have boxes from that long ago to sift through...) I came across a handwritten recipe for Irish Soda Bread in my grandmother's handwriting.  I read the recipe and thought, "Today is a perfect day to make some bread."  So off to the store I went to pick up the few ingredients that I required.  This is an easy bread to make.  It is not a 'sweet' bread, but it is a very good bread for breakfast with a touch of marmalade.  It is also good in the evening with a little butter and a cup of hot tea. 

3 ¾ cups of whole wheat flour (plus 1 Tbsp. for currants)
1 tsp. baking soda
4 Tbsp. sugar  (I used Splenda)
½ stick unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch cubes
1 cup of currants
2 cups of fat free cultured buttermilk
1 large egg
1 Tbsp. orange zest
1 tsp. Kosher salt

What to do-
Preheat the oven to 375 and prepare a baking sheet (lightly grease or as I did use silicon baking mat)

Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and (sweetener) in a bowl.  Add in the cubed butter and blend well with a pastry cutter.  (Or do as I did and use the Kitchen Aid with the paddle!)

Beat the egg, and then mix with the buttermilk and orange zest.  Slowly add this to the flour mixture and mix well.

In a small bowl mix the Tbsp. of flour with the currants, and then add to the dough, stirring well.

Drop the mixture onto a floured surface and knead slightly into a ball, adding a little flour here and there as you deem necessary.  It is a sticky mess, but well worth it. 

Place the ball onto the baking sheet and then using a sharp knife cut and ‘X’ over the top of the ball.

Bake for 50 minutes, then place on rack to cool. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Summer Squash Bake

 YAY!  Summer is here!!  I love this time of the year because of all the fresh local produce like summer squash!  This squash came from one of our local county farms.  Now with that said, I don’t know much about the farming practices of this farm.  I don’t know if it’s GMO laden, or what herbicides, if any, are used or anything else.  I just know that I did support my fellow community member and his family. 
Whether you know the farming practices or not, you still have to wash the food.  I did so in my sink and scrubbed and rinsed after soaking it in a vegetable bath.  Then I went to work preparing what would end up as a side dish on our plates for the next two nightly meals.

4-6 various summer squash/zucchini varieties
1 large red onion, sliced
2 slices 100% whole wheat bread, toasted
½ cup Trader Joe’s Fat Free Feta
Olive oil
Granulated garlic, salt and pepper to taste
Cooking Spray

What to do-

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and spray an oven safe baking dish with non-stick spray.  In your food processor, bullet, Ninja or even bean grinder, process the toast into bread crumbs.
Slice squash and place in a large mixing bowl adding small amounts of olive oil as you fill it with the sliced squash.  Slice the onion and place the slices in the bottom of the sprayed dish.  Drizzle or brush a little olive oil onto the slices of onions covering the bottom of the dish.  Add salt, pepper and garlic granules to the squash and stir.  I use my hands mostly here in order to not beat-up the slices to badly with the spoon.

Layer the squash slices in the dish on top of the onions.

Once the mixing bowl is empty of squash and the baking dish is full, there should be a bit of olive oil and seasonings in the bottom of the bowl. Add the bread crumbs, Feta and stir it well.

Spread this bread crumb mixture over the top of the squash and bake for about 40 minutes. 
Note – I added shredded parmesan cheese to the dish when I took it out.  Next time I will probably use a ½ cup of shredded mozzarella instead and place back in the oven for about five minutes.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Spinach and Broccoli Frittatta

Ahhh… Summertime for a teacher means time for a great relaxing breakfast.  This meal is a quick, tasty and healthy meal that serves two (or one person for two days!!).

3 eggs
2 egg whites
2 leaves fresh basil
1 green onion, sliced and divided
¼ cup of onion, chopped
½ cup fresh broccoli crowns, rough chopped
½ cup baby spinach, chopped
Two mushrooms, sliced or chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

What to do –
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a bowl crack and whip eggs and egg whites

Heat an 8 inch iron skillet over medium high heat and add oil.  Once hot, add onions, mushrooms, red pepper flakes, basil and half the green onion, cook for a couple minutes to soften. 

Reduce heat to medium low and add spinach and broccoli stirring for a minute or two before adding egg mixture.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

Allow to sit on stove top for a couple of minute, or until the edges of the skillet start to solidify.

Remove from eye and place in preheated oven for about 10 minutes.  Keep an eye on it as ovens can vary.
Once the frittata is set (firm, check by giving it a little shake) remove from oven and serve.  (Sometimes when using cheese, I like to flip the broiler on for about a minute to add a little brown to the top of it.

Cut into quarters, serve topped with a tablespoon of your favorite salsa.



Monday, June 3, 2013

Quinoa Veggie Bites

It’s the first REAL day of summer vacation for school teachers in my part of the world.  That means I have had the whole day off to be domesticated.  It was a really peaceful day at home even though I was busy.  Natalie was at Camp PEE DEE PRIDE which is put on by the local Sheriff’s Department. 
It will be a busy few weeks for her as she follows this camp up with two others in June.  That leaves me with a little time to organize, and clean in the house while also planning some great healthy meals.

Tonight’s Meatless Monday utilized the summer squash from local farmers.  Unfortunately I have no idea if it is organic or not, but I washed it well and feel better for having supported a fellow community member. 

1 ¼ cup Quinoa
2 ½ cups Chicken Broth (Reduced Sodium)
Fresh Thyme (couple of sprigs)
Fresh Basil (about 4 leaves, torn into pieces)
½ cup chopped red onion
1 cup chopped summer squash
4 baby carrots chopped
1 green onion sliced thin
Salt, pepper and granulated garlic to taste
1 fresh broccoli crown, chopped
1 egg, beaten

What to do-

Prepare quinoa with the chicken broth, basil and thyme, cooking for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, chop the other veggies, beat an egg, and spray a mini-muffin pan with cooking spray.

Next, sauté the remaining veggies in a frying pan with just a little olive oil to soften them.
Dump the quinoa into a mixing bowl and fluff by stirring.  Add the softened veggies and allow mix to cool for a short bit.  (Long enough to work with bare hands)

Add the beaten egg mixture to the bowl and work the mix completely blending all the ingredients.  Add salt, pepper and garlic to taste.
Using your hands roll quinoa mixture into little balls and place in the mini-muffin tins. Yield is about 24 bite size morsels.
Bake in a preheated oven at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.

Serve with a bit of your favorite marinara sauce for dipping.