Thursday, December 20, 2012

Tuna Noodle Casserole with Shitake Mushrooms

This is a really nice make ahead meal.  Even if you dont prepare everything ahead of time, just having the cooked pasta ready to go makes this a meal you can pull together in a snap.  Great for holiday time.

Tuna Noodle Casserole

1 pound noodles, cooked ( I am not particularly fond of egg noodles so I used this curly pasta)*
2 cans of tuna, drained and flaked with a fork
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup dried shitake mushrooms, soaked in 1 cup hot water, reserving liquid
1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
fresh grated parmesan cheese***

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In a large bowl, stir together first seven ingredients until well combined, including mushroom broth.  Spread into a small greased casserole dish.  Spread Parmesan cheese evenly over the top. Bake covered in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  Take off cover and let cook 15 more minutes.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


When I was a kid, I hated these cookies.  Hated them, bleghk, tooey, yuck. Now, I love them.  But I really love them because they are home made and they are the best Italian fig cookie I have ever made or eaten.  And the pastry dough for these babies is amazing.  I will use it ins ome other applications I think.  It is so tender and delicious.

My Mother prefers them without icing.  Me, well, it has to have icing! 

Italian Fig Cookie recipe followed almost perfectly from this recipe at Epicurious.

1 cup packed soft dried Mission figs (8 oz), hard tips discarded
3/4 cup raisins (3 3/4 oz)
3/4 cup mild honey
1/4 cup brandy
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated fresh orange zest
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup whole almonds (4 oz), toasted and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup walnuts (3 oz), toasted and coarsely chopped
For pastry dough
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks (1 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh orange or lemon zest
For icing
1 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice

Make filling:
Roast nuts until lightly golden.  Let cool and pulse until chopped in food processor.  Remove from processor   Pulse figs and raisins in a food processor until finely chopped, then stir together with remaining filling ingredients in a bowl. Chill, covered, at least 8 hours and up to 3 days.

Make dough:
Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add butter and blend with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until most of mixture resembles coarse meal with some small (roughly pea-size) butter lumps. Add eggs, milk, vanilla, and zest and stir with a fork until a soft dough forms. Halve dough and gather each half into a ball, then flatten each half into a rough 6- by 4-inch rectangle between sheets of plastic wrap. Chill until firm, at least 8 hours.

Form cookies:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Roll out 1 rectangle of dough (keep remaining dough chilled) into a 15- by 14-inch rectangle on a well-floured surface with a floured rolling pin.  Trim away rough edges and cut dough horizontally every three inches.  Make logs of fillings and place on dough sheets. Carefully fold up a side and roll over filling to enclose it, pinching edges together to seal. Turn rolls seam-sides down and press gently to flatten seams. Cut logs crosswise with a floured knife into 1 1/2-inch-wide slices and arrange 1/2 inch apart on buttered large baking sheets.

Bake cookies in batches in middle of oven until golden around edges, 14 to 18 minutes. Transfer cookies to racks and cool until warm, about 10 minutes.

Make icing while first batch of cookies bake:
Whisk together confectioners sugar, vanilla, and enough orange juice to make a runny icing.  Either pour icing over top or spread icing quickly with a knife.  Make sure you stop frequently to put on nonpareils because the icing dries fast.  Let cool completely before storing.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Pumpkin Soup

After it is all gone I discovered that the picture does not look so appetizing.  But this soup is awesome.  A friend of mine gave me the recipe.  Thanks Adele!  She had brought the soup to a potluck that I went to.  I was going crazy over it.

Those lumps are me being in a hurry to get this soup on the table.  Blend it in a food processor and you can make it thinner with chicken broth.  I don't mind it being thick but thin it to your desire.

Pumpkin Soup with Sage
The step of roasting the pumpkin is VERY important to the taste of this soup.  Whether it's canned pumpkin or fresh- it does not matter- roast it.

15 oz can or about 2 cups fresh pumpkin puree (no spices- just puree)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons butter
1 Granny Smith apple, chopped
1 large onion
1 to 2 quarts chicken broth
1 teaspoon sage
2 cups cream ( I used half and half)

Roast pumpkin in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  I turned the oven off and left it in there.  Mine was fresh pumpkin. 

Saute onions and carrots in butter until translucent   Add in apple and continue to saute.  When apple is a bit tender add in pumpkin, sage and broth.  Cover and simmer for about 40 minutes.  Puree the soup and add the cream.  Heat the soup just enough to warm it back up again.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Egg Nog Cookies

I dont know about you but Christmas has snuck up on me.  I spent many weeks not feeling well because of some respriatory infection.  It set me way back on Christmas preparations.  Geez I have so much to do.  I think I need to take a step back, relax and say to myself, "whatever gets done, gets done, and what does not, just let it go."

I have my family and they have me.  The presents are just extra.  So what if I don't get everything they wanted.  I will do my best.  Same for donations.  If I don't get everything done.  There is always tomorrow and really donation centers always appreciate things no matter what time of year.

And the one thing I did this year is, not put every stinkin' Christmas decoration up.  I put about a 1/3 of what I have.  Its all good.  

I also haven't been charmed by every cute Christmas project at every blog I go to.  Sometimes I just get so enamored that I have to make all these cute little things.  It takes up a lot of time.  Time that I could just be enjoying my children instead. 

One thing we did do this year was make cookies with Granny.  The kids and I went over to my Mothers house and made ginger snap cookies, peanut butter cookies and these egg nog cookies.  The kids really like making the tine marks in the peanut butter cookies.

I was a bit skeptical about how these cookies would turn out. I thought for the amount of eggnog that is in these cookies, you just won't taste it. Well, I was wrong. Seriously wrong.
These cookies are the bomb! Great flavor, rich, creamy and delicious. A fantastic addition to your holiday cookies.

Eggnog Cookies
adapted from this recipe at Taste of Home

1-1/3 cups butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 egg yolks
2 tablespoons eggnog
1/2 teaspoon rum extract
3 cups all-purpose flour

3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 to 3 tablespoons eggnog

Additional ground nutmeg for garnish

In a large bowl, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. About five minutes of mixing. Beat in egg yolks, eggnog and extract. Gradually beat in flour. Refrigerate, covered, for at least 2 hours.

Shape into 1-in. balls; place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake at 325° for 13-16 minutes or until bottoms are brown. Remove to wire racks to cool completely.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together for frosting.  Very slowly beat in enough eggnog to reach desired consistency. Spread over cookies; sprinkle with additional nutmeg. Let stand until set. Store in airtight containers.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Granola Bars

I am always looking at and trying recipes for granola bars.  I mean I like the one I make now but sometimes I am looking for more crunch or sometimes more sweetness, I want to change it up a  little so I keep trying them.  This last one was pretty good.  Though not crunchy, it had wonderful chewiness and the kids sure liked it.

Stir in whatever pleases you. We had leftover Halloween candy so I asked the girls if I could use their M and M's. They gladly offered them up as they really like them in the granola bars.

3 cups quick cooking oatmeal
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup raisins
3/4 cups M and M's
2 tablespoons crushed flax seed
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 - cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 325. Spray a 9x13 inch glass pan with cooking spray.

Stir all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Pour into prepared pan and spread out the mixture. Press down to make it even. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes in the pan then cut into bars. Place the bars on a wire rack and cool completely. Store loosely covered at room temperature.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cheese Stuffed Pretzels

The last time I made these babies they were gobbled up before I could even sneak a pic.  This time I squirreled some away so that I could take a pic the next day. While they look much better fresh out of the oven, I just had to post this because these are so worth sharing.

I stuffed some with cheddar and some with mozzarella.  All was eaten either way.  Everyone wanted to nix the ham.  Frankly, I have to agree- just cheese please.  Oh and plain was awesome too.


Adapted from this recipe at Gourmet.

1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar, divided
1/4 cup warm water (110–115ºF)
1 cup warm milk (110–115ºF)
2 1/2 to 3 cups all-purpose flour
slices of sharp Cheddar or mozzarella

6 cups water
4 teaspoons baking soda

1 to 2 tablespoons pretzel salt or coarse salt

Stir together yeast, 1 tsp brown sugar, and warm water in a large bowl and let stand until foamy, 5 to 8 minutes. (If mixture doesn’t foam, start over with new yeast.) In a separate bowl, stir remaining 2 Tbsp brown sugar into warm milk until dissolved.

Add 2 1/2 cups flour and milk mixture to yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a soft dough forms, adding up to 1/2 cup additional flour, a little at a time, if necessary. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead a few times to form a smooth ball. Transfer to a clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled and bubbles appear on surface, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 400ºF with rack in upper and lower thirds. Line two 4-sided sheet pans with parchment paper.

Roll out sheets.  Cut rectangles out and place your cheese slice on top.  Fold dough over onto itself and seal all around.  Crimp sides to keep them together. Keep lining them up on a sprayed baking sheet before you go to the baking soda boil.  The baking soda boil is completely necessary for the pretzel taste.

Bring water (6 cups) to a boil in a 4- to 5-qt saucepan. Reduce heat and stir in baking soda. Make sure your baking soda is completely dissolved. Cook pretzel bites in batches in gently simmering water, turning once, until slightly puffed, about 20 seconds. Transfer with a slotted spoon to sheet pans. Salt with pretzel salt.

Bake until puffed and golden-brown, about 15 minutes (cheese may ooze slightly- and dang that's a nice little snack for the cook!).

Serve warm or at room temperature with dip.

Honey Mustard Dip

1/2 cup mayo
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup honey

Mix the ingredients together and use for dip.  This stuff is awesome.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Cranberry Bliss Oatmeal Cookies

Below I had collected some of my favorite cranberry recipes because its Cranberry Time here in the USA.  The cranberry bliss bars picture is not the greatest.  Really they disappeared before I had time to give them a proper photo shoot.  So now I updated the pic and here it is:

If you want the recipe for these luscious bars, click here.

Since I really like the flavors in these bars, I decided to give them a try using an oatmeal cookie as a base.  I like them.  They came out pretty good. WOuld I make them again.  Yes!

Cranberry Bliss Oatmeal Cookies
I used the Vanishing Oatmeal Raisin Cookies from Quaker Oats as my base.

1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 6 tablespoons butter, softened
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)
3 cups Quaker® Oats (quick or old fashioned, uncooked)
3/4 cup Craisins®, chopped
1/4 cup candied ginger
1/2 cup white chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, beat butter and sugars on medium speed of electric mixer until creamy. About five minutes. Add eggs and vanilla; beat well. Add combined flour, baking soda, ginger and salt; mix well. Add oats, white chocolate, ginger and Craisins; mix well.
Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets.
Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Cool 1 minute on cookie sheets; remove to wire rack. Cool completely. Store tightly covered.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Pumpkin Gouda Soup

Oh my!  This is liquid gold.  Best. Pumpkin. Soup. Ever.

I had it last year at a Christmas Pot Luck, thank you dear friend Sandy, you rock the house.  Check out her fabulous blog and podcasts here at Quilting for the Rest Of Us.  I knew it was on my to do list but I kept thinking of other things to make. Finally, after a year, I made it.  Don't wait that long.  Trust me.  This is a do again real soon.

Pumpkin Gouda Soup
Recipe adapted from here at Taste of Home

4 bacon strips, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken broth
5 cups pumpkin puree
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 cup half and half
1 cup shredded Gouda cheese

In a Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon; drain, reserving 1 tablespoon drippings. Saute onion in drippings until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.

Stir in the broth, pumpkin, salt, nutmeg and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Cool slightly.

In a blender, process soup in batches until smooth. Return all to pan. Stir in cream; heat through. Add cheese; stir until melted. Yield: 9 servings (2-1/4 quarts).

If you used heavy cream  then it is 214 calories per cup.  Not bad.  I used half and half so it is less and tastes just as great.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Ham and Potato Soup

I have found a great site that I wanted to share with you:  Personal Life Media.  It's a site that has podcasts on everything.  My favorite that I listen to all the time is Inside Out Weight Loss.  Renee Stevens has wrote a book by the name, Full-Filled and she also offers free podcasts on working toward the goal of ending everyone's weight loss struggle.  They are some pretty powerful podcasts.  In the beginning I listened to several of them over and over again.  There are over 200 though.  Renee Stevens website is here.  The podcast site is here. And Personal Life Media home page is here.

These podcasts have helped me to shift my attitudes about weight loss.  It has made a significant difference in my life.  Not just for weight loss but also my personal life.  I have made many small changes.  I kind of looked at it like this, the changes are like a wave building in the ocean, gaining momentum. And these things do build on each other.  I hope you can get some wisdom from listening to these podcasts, I know I definitely do.

Ham and Potato Soup
Recipe adapted from AllRecipes.

3 1/2 cups peeled and diced potatoes
2 ribs celery, diced
1 large finely chopped onion
3/4 cup diced cooked ham
3 1/4 cups water
2 tablespoons chicken bouillon granules
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon ground white or black pepper
5 tablespoons butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk

Combine the potatoes, celery, onion, ham and water in a stockpot. Bring to a boil, then cook over medium heat until potatoes are tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in the chicken bouillon, salt and pepper.

In a separate saucepan, melt butter over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour with a fork, and cook, stirring constantly until thick, about 1 minute. Slowly stir in milk as not to allow lumps to form until all of the milk has been added. Continue stirring over medium-low heat until thick, 4 to 5 minutes. Stir the milk mixture into the stockpot, and cook soup until heated through. Serve immediately.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Cranberry Recipes

Since I am feeling like a train ran over me (lung thing), I thought I might want to get something on my blog before you all think I dropped off the face of the earth.  The following are a couple of my favorite recipes that use cranberries.

I love cranberry time! These are some of my favorite cranberry recipes.
Cranberry Bliss Bars- while this is not a hot picture, these bars are the bomb!  LOVE them.

Cranberry Macarons

Cranberry Pistachio Fudge
Pistachio Cranberry Icebox Cookies

Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake
Cranberry Salsa   

Monday, November 5, 2012


VICTORY!  I have tried to make these rolls before and I break them all the time.  I just gave up.  Haven't even tried for ten years.  I have really wanted to do a Buche Noel but the thought of doing the roll made me shrink in horror (I know it is a little dramatic but why should my daughter be the only one who gets to be dramatic?).

My Mom is not a traditional kind of birthday cake girl.  She is more of a less sweet cake kind of girl.  I decided to make the dreaded pumpkin roll.  I have a lot of pumpkin here.  It was kind of obvious. I had to do it.

Guess what? I broke it.   Ugh.  Here Mom, here is your birthday blob cake.  Ha!  No way.  MUst make it again.  This time with more strategy.  So I did.  And voila.  I did it. I did it, I did it, I diiiiid it.

It was delicious.  And while this may not be the most low in calorie cake, there is much less of it so that means less temptation at other times.  Plus, without the frosting, it is pretty low in calories.  So by itself, it would make a great low cal, snack cake.

Pumpkin Roll
via Libby's- no they did not pay me or send me pumpkin- this is purely self motivated.

1/4 cup powdered sugar (to sprinkle on towel)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup LIBBY'S® 100% Pure Pumpkin

1 pkg. (8 oz.) cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
6 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla bean seeds

Preheat oven to 375° F. Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan; line with wax paper. Grease and flour paper. Sprinkle a thin, cotton kitchen towel with powdered sugar.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt in small bowl. Beat eggs and granulated sugar in large mixer bowl until thick. Fold in pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture. Spread evenly into prepared pan.

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. (If using a dark-colored pan, begin checking for doneness at 11 minutes.) Immediately loosen and turn cake onto prepared towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool on wire rack.


Beat cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar (or a little more), butter and vanilla in small mixer bowl until smooth. Carefully unroll cake. Spread cream cheese mixture over cake. Reroll cake. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.

Be sure to put enough powdered sugar on the towel when rolling up the cake so it will not stick.

My tip:  Place the sugared towel over the jelly roll pan, then place a flat board, baking sheet, whatever you have and flip it.  There is no guess work that way.  Thne push it off and roll away. Or roll right on it.  I have a flat baking sheet that works really well for this.
I think a buche de noel is in my future.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Chicken Barley Soup

I am way behind in my posts.  All I want to do is sew.  Like a mad frenzy.  Sew, sew, sew.

I wanted to tell you about this pretty amazing article on Oprah that was written by Martha Beck .  Go there, read it.  I was definitely moved by it.  It is called, "How To Believe In Yourself".  Here is a little snippet of the article. "Since you can't control other people's thoughts, and since neither people nor their thoughts are perfect, there's no point in living life based on your fantasies of other people's fantasies about you. Got it? Excellent. I'd stop right now, except for one thing: Emotionally, we nonpsychopaths are built to care what others think of us. It's part of our social-primate biology. Our brains are like those surgical theaters with glassed-in observatories. We operate under the constant scrutiny of an imaginary audience. Sociologists call this audience our "generalized other." Some generalized others give us a daily dose of support and inspiration; some can be witheringly cruel. Sadly, even if yours is flat-out evil, you can't just will yourself to be indifferent to it. Happily, I've found a way to get it out of your mental business."

Chicken and Barley Soup

8 chicken thighs, skin and fat removed
2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
2 cups pearl barley
1 pound mushrooms, chopped
4 carrots, diced
2 ribs of celery, diced (add in leaves as well)
1 large onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
1 quart chicken broth

In a casserole dish or a 9 x 9 pan arrange thighs in a single layer.  Sprinkle with poultry seasoning and salt.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake until just shy of done- about 140 F.

In a large soup pot, put 2 cups of barley along with about 2 quarts of water. Add in bay leaf.  Cook barley covered until tender.  This will take about 45 minutes.  While barley is cooking, prepare vegetables, chopping all.  Add all the vegetables and garlic into barley when it is nearly tender.  In a frying pan saute mushrooms in butter. until golden.  Add to soup pot.  When chicken is cooked add in the juice of the chicken.  Chop chicken into bite sized pieces and add to soup.  Add in extra broth if desired or just add a few tablespoons of chicken soup base.

(If my side yard where my herb garden wasn't  soaked I would have added a couple tablespoons of parsley as well.)

Friday, October 26, 2012


The smell of curry leaf is utterly intoxicating to me.  I always look for Indian recipes that include curry leaf.  I life to smell it before I put it in the frying pan and then as it is cooking I like to inhale the aroma as it heats up.  So good.

I love having my curry plant too.  To go over to the plant and pluck off the leaves I need is ultimately satisfying.  If you are unfamiliar with curry leaf- it is an herb used in Indian cooking.  It is NOT what curry powder is made of.  Matter of fact it is not even one of the ingredients in curry powder.  At least not here in the USA.  If you would like to see the plant, click here.

I saw this recipe on Saveur.  It looked really fabulous and since I had the ingredients on hand (or was going to buy at our market that day) it was a must do!


Really, Indian food is all about stir fry of vegetables with fragrant aromatics.  I haven't met a vegetable yet that hasn't been enhanced by the aromatics of Indian cooking.  Though I have not always been a fan of fenugreek, the taste is growing on me.

Gujarati Cabbage
largely adapted from this recipe at Saveur

8 cups green cabbage, cored 
and shredded, I used cone cabbage and Savoy
Kosher salt, to taste
2 tablespoon peanut oil
2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. asafetida
2 tsp. cumin seeds
10 fresh curry leaves
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 plum tomatoes, chopped
3 Italian frying peppers, seeded and thinly sliced crosswise
1 serrano chile, thinly sliced

5 tbsp. roughly chopped cilantro

1⁄4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. sugar

Toss cabbage and salt in a bowl. Let wilt for 1 hour. Squeeze excess liquid from cabbage; set aside. 

In a frying pan saute mustard seeds, asafetida, cumin, and curry leaves; cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add cabbage, turmeric, tomatoes, peppers, and serrano; cook, stirring, until cabbage is crisp-tender, 6–7 minutes. Stir in cilantro, lime juice, and sugar. Season with salt; cook 5 minutes more. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Green Tomatoes and Salsa Verde

What do you do when you get a whole lot of green tomatoes at the same time?  Now that is a good question.  I have made green tomato jam before, well, actually a couple times because frankly it is just that good. But how much jam can you have?

I have made fried green tomatoes before, at least once per summer.

But now I have a new favorite with about six containers in my freezer to prove it.  Salsa verde.  Now, before you go getting your panties in a ruffle, I know salsa verde is traditionally made with tomatillos.  And yes, I make that and I love it.  But why not green tomatoes?  They are green and I turned them into sauce- thus salsa verde.
Then I used them for this great idea for zucchini and mushrooms  enchiladas.  An idea that came from here. A good idea in fact- they were quite tasty.  If you want to follow the recipe, hop on over to Closet Cooking.
I collected some ingredients that I would normally throw into tomatillo type salsa verde. But I added a few more things.

Salsa Verde, Green Tomato style
This recipe will make enough salsa that you can freeze about 3 cups of it and have some for this dish as well.  If you do not want so much, halve it or quarter it.

8 cups quartered green toamtoes
4 cloves garlic
1 large onion, chopped roughly
1 yellow bell pepper (this will help with the color)
1 jalapeno, more or less depending on your heat preference
3/4 teaspoon epazote (if you dont have this just omit)*
3/4 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon cumin seeds**
1 tablespoon oil

In a dutch oven or a heavy bottomed pot, saute onion until translucent.  Add cumin seeds and toast lightly.  Then add all the rest of the ingredients.  How easy is that.  Cover the pot and let it all cook for about an hour.  You want your green tomatoes to be tender.  Puree once it is all cooked.  Use salsa in recipes that call for salsa verde.

*  epazote is an herb used in Mexican cooking.  It is actually stink weed dried up.  It is pretty powerful stuff so you just want to use a little.  It really lends a lot of flavor and makes things taste mroe authentic.

**  cumin seeds are worth any time it takes you to find them. They are nice and fresh and give lots of flavor.  If you want them ground, just grind them in a spice grinder and voila, ground cumin with lots of POW.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Chocolate Pumpkins


Take pretzels and smother it with peanut butter.  Lay it out on wax paper an stick it in the freezer. After about a half of an hour, dip into melted white chocolate (or Melt type chocolates that you get at the craft store).  Freeze again.  Melt the next batch of white chocolate and add the stems by placing some on a knife and touching the top of the pumpkin where the stem would go.  Hey, it's not fancy but I think they came out cute.  Little hands in our house loved this project and most certainly ate up the results.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Black Bean Salad and Cardboard Bikes

It's bittersweet time of the year for me when tomatoes come to an end.  Tomatoes are one of the stars of summer - are they not.  You just can't find a good tomato in the winter.  But at the same time I love Fall and I love the cooler weather.  I know- no one around here is in love with winter.  They all swoon in the summer.  Save for a few people, I think I am the only one.

With some of the last tomatoes, I made this salad.

Black Bean Salad
I could rename this, the disappearing salad.  It was gone in a flash.  With a nice piece of grilled chicken and some corn bread, this makes a nice side!

1 can black beans
1 avocado, cubed small
1 cup corn
1/3 cup scallions, sliced thin
6 roma tomatoes
1/4 cup minced cilantro
1/4  cup red onion
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 jalapeno, minced
1 garlic clove, minced

Mix all together and let stand at room teperature to let the flavors marry.

Check out this bike- its cardboard.  Read about it here on Yahoo.

 Israeli inventor Izhar Gafni holds his cardboard bicycle as he poses for a photo in Moshav Ahituv, central Israel September 24, 2012. The bicycle, made almost entirely of cardboard, has the potential to change transportation habits from the world's most congested cities to the poorest reaches of Africa, Gafni, an expert in designing automated mass-production lines and an amateur cycling enthusiast, says. Picture taken September 24, 2012. To match ISRAEL-CARDBOARDBIKE/     REUTERS/Baz Ratner (ISRAEL - Tags: ENVIRONMENT SPORT CYCLING SOCIETY)

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Scalloped Tomatoes


Pardon my absence as I have been a bit under the weather lately.  I had this head cold which moved into a respiratory thing.  I felt like doing nothing.  And I hate feeling like doing nothing.  Makes me feel like such a slouch.  Aside from this annoying cough, I am on the mend.  Must drink lots o' liquids.

This is so easy peasy and so crazy delicious. You will be coming back for more.  I know that a lot of the tomatoes are almost gone.  But if you have some you want use up in a quick jiff- this recipe is your winner.

Scalloped Tomatoes
You will notice my measurements are very "roomy".  So nice to do what you like with this recipe.  Having melted cheese smothered all over tomatoes - you just cant go wrong.

1/2 cup of onions, minced
1/2 loaf stale bread (cut into cubes) or croutons will do in a pinch
1 teaspoon Italian seasonings (or a combination of garlic powder, basil and oregano - or make up your own- consider this dish your palette)
8 to 12 ounces of cheese, grated (I like Swiss but I had it with Monterey Jack as well)
6 - 8 cups of tomatoes
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
you could even get crazy and add a bit of olive oil if you like.

Preheat oven to 375F.  Stir these wonderful flavors directly in the 13 x 9. Pop in the oven and bake for about 40 minutes.  OMG my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Bigger Zucchini Cake

Best. Zucchini cake.  Ever. The original recipe was from Bon Apetit. I have made it a million times.  Okay well, maybe not a million but a lot.Unfortunately it only makes a 9 x 9. I have played with the recipe and adjusted it because I wanted to save myself the hassle and make a 13 x 9.  But I changed a few things.  I had to reduce the eggs ('cause I ran out and because the thought of 6 eggs seemed a bit much)and I did reduce the oil just because, really 1 1/2 cups?  So with all the fluid adjustments. I upped the zucchini quotient a bit to make up for the lost liquid.  And it came out good.  I am doubtful you could taste the difference between the two.  

This is the original post here.

3 cups all purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 cup olive oil (not extra-virgin)
2 cups golden brown sugar
5 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 cups coarsely grated zucchini

Preheat oven to 350F.  Spray a 13 x 9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.

In a small bowl whisk together dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.

In a larger bowl combine oil, brown sugar, vanilla and eggs. Mix in dry ingredients just until incorporated.  Fold in zucchini.  Pour into 13 x 9" and bake for about 55 to an hour. Let cool, then frost.

Here are some pics from McCracken Farms, the CSA we did this summer/fall. This last time we were allowed to take a pumpkin for each family member present and a pie pumpkin for each family member as well.  The kids loved this.  They really like going out to the farm. Here are some pics from their pumpkin patch.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Quick and Easy Cassoulet

So, if you have some beans laying around and some tomatoes laying around, and maybe some kielbasa or sausage of some sort.  Now in the true sense of a cassoulet, you would add duck. I was interested in adding the duck.  I wanted quick and easy not foo foo! Not that I wouldn't eat duck because I most certainly would but it is not always very economical.
Pair it with a nice salad and you have a great meal!

Like I never knew cassoulet was pronounced with a hard 't' at the end.  I have been saying cassoulet like this- cass-o-lay.  When I should have been saying cass-o-let.

1 cup navy beans or whatever beanage you have laying around
4 large tomatoes
1 cup onion
2 cloves garlic
2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon oil
2 small bay leaves
2 sprigs parsley
1 teaspoon thyme (if you have fresh even better- two sprigs)
1 kielbasa (roughly equivalent to four links)- I brown it first before adding it to the pot

Add all together if you like in a crock pot and let it go on low while you are working or whatever.

Or you can saute the onions in oil until golden, then add the garlic and cook for one minute more.  Add in tomatoes, beans, salt and pepper to taste, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, chicken broth and sausage.  Cook for 30 minutes or so on a gentle simmer. 

The big news of the day... I finally have a microwave again!  Wahoo.  You see it has been non functional since April.  Yes, April!  My husband is a good man but he is not a good handy man.  Matter of fact he is not even a handy man. His talents lie elsewhere... 
He did need a little help though.  Thankfully my Dad is handy man of the century!  My Dad can fashion his own tools and find unique ways of solving problems.  And then he is a total perfectionist to boot.  So things get done very nicely.  Very professionally- matter of fact- better than most professionals!

Nonetheless, I am very proud of my husband.  Seeing him in handy man action just gets my motor running!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Stuffed Peppers with Beef

Lately all I want to do is sit and sew.  I don't feel like going anywhere.  I just feel like sewing.  Start the day out with a nice walk and then sit down at my sewing machine.  I go upstairs and I see some laundry that needs to be put away and then I think geez I really need to empty out my hamper, take it down stairs.  Then I get down stairs and think, oh yeah, I forgot I had a ton of laundry to do.  So I throw in a load and think, okay, now I will go upstairs and sew.  Then I have to go to the bathroom and I realize the bathroom needs a cleaning.  On and on it goes all day.  At the end of the day I realize I have not done any sewing, just chores all day long.  Ugh, so I try again the next day and guess what?  The same things happen. Different room, different mess.

I am not complaining though.  Well, I guess I kind of am.  But my thought right after that is always how grateful I am for what I have.  And really I am.  I try to count my blessings often.

Stuffed Peppers

6 peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
6 roma tomatoes or 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup water
1 clove garlic, crushed
4 leaves of basil
1 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pound lean ground beef
1 cup cooked long-grain rice or Black Thai rice
shredded mild Cheddar cheese, about 1/2 cup

Preheat oven to 350F. Cut tops off peppers; remove seeds and membranes.Place in baking dish (casserole type dish), cover with foil and bake.  This will pre-bake your peppers a little.  You don't want to do it too much.  Bake until they kind of slouch a little.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat until hot. Saute chopped green pepper (from tops) and chopped onion for about 5 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, water, crushed garlic, basil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Simmer for about 10 minutes. In a large mixing bowl, combine egg with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. Gently stir to blend; add ground beef, cooked rice, and 1 cup of the tomato mixture. Mix well. Stuff peppers with meat mixture and place back in baking dish. Pour remaining tomato mixture over the stuffed peppers. Bake at 350° for 55 to 65 minutes. Top stuffed peppers with a little shredded Cheddar cheese just before peppers are done; bake until cheese is melted.

Recipe for stuffed peppers serves 6.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Weight Watcher Wednesday: Stuffed Peppers

Lots o' veggies.  The key is lots o' veggies.  Honestly, I know my husband prefers the beefy ones but I liked these better.  They had a lot of flavor.  The black rice isnt necessary but it added nuttiness to the pepper.

Stuffed Peppers
Recipe adapted from Food Network Robert Irvine- you can find it here.

6 large bell peppers, tops removed and seeded
4 tablespoons canola oil
1 white onion, diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 teaspoons freshly chopped garlic
2 zucchinis, diced
2 cups cooked Thai black rice
2 large tomatoes
1 cup diced red and green peppers
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup Savoy cabbage, chopped (this gives it a lot of flavor)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 

Wrap the peppers in aluminum foil, and bake in the oven until tender, but not falling apart, about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.Or you can drop them into some boiling salted water and take them out when they are just a little wilted.  I prefer the oven method because it is one less pan to clean and I am all about one less pan to clean.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions, mushrooms and garlic and saute until the mushrooms are golden brown. Add in the zucchini, tomatoes, red and green peppers and continue to cook until the vegetables are tender. Combine this with the cooked rice in a bowl. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and stir in the tomato paste. Remove from the heat and fold in the cabbage. Spoon the vegetable mixture into the cooled peppers. Transfer the peppers to a heat-proof serving dish and top with a little Parmesan if desired.  I didn't have any at that moment so I did them without the cheese. Bake until the peppers are heated through, about 20 minutes.

Calories- about 230 per pepper.  And there is a lot of eating in that huge pepper.  Serve with a nice salad and some lighter style dressing and you have a meal for under 300 calories.  Wahoo!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Apple Pie, Take One

My Mom is the best apple pie maker around.  I have never needed to make apple pie because she has always made it so perfectly and just when I wanted it.  I did want to see if I could do it.  And of course I can, but I need to work out some kinks.

There are some factors in apple pie making.  The biggest factor is the apples themselves.  Different apples will yield different results.  Cooks recommends different apples and they have a whole process for perfect apple pie.  Which I am sure I will try some time but for right now I didn't want to go through all their steps.

The second factor is baking time.  Too much and you could have apple sauce.  Too little and you will have country apple pie.

Then there is also temperature, which can be a major factor.  I wonder if I had the right temperature.  I think I did 350F.  Which probably was my problem.  I think I need to follow someones recipe- because some times my Mom's tried and true way does not work for me because she really doesn't even think about it.  Where I need explicit directions the first time.

The crust... well that was good.  I have used it before. Here.

So here is what I did.  Feel free to give suggestions and comments on what I can improve.

I used all 20 ouncers.  I received them in my CSA.  While I love eating a few with salt on them (yes, salt on my 20 ouncers- not all apples, just if they are tart).  



2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 cup cold vegetable shortening (preferably trans-fat-free)
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 to 7 tablespoons ice water
1 tablespoon sugar


4-5  20 ounce apples
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

For Crust:  Blend together flour, butter, shortening, and salt in a bowl with your fingertips or a pastry blender (or pulse in a food processor) just until mixture resembles coarse meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps. Slowly drizzle ice water evenly over mixture and gently stir with a fork (or pulse) until incorporated.Once it forms a ball easily, stop adding water and mixing.

Turn dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap.  Pull in sides of wrap as you form it into a disk, tucking the plastic neatly all around.  Chill until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 2 days. 
Roll out two rounds of pie.  One for bottom and one for top.
For Filling:  Slice apples, I did eighths.  And mix with flour and sugar and cinnamon.  Mound up in the pie crust.

Place second round of pie dough over top, pinch all around sides.  Cut vent holes in top of pie.

I brushed with egg and sprinkled with course sugar. Add foil around edges to prevent them from burning.

Bake at 350F?  I think this was my big mistake.  Because by the time the crust was done, I had apple sauce for filling.  I recommend 425F  But do consult someone else's wisdom.