Monday, September 28, 2015

Naples Grape Festival

This past weekend we took the kids to the Naples Grape Festival. If you don't know about the Naples Grape Festival, I will tell you.  Naples Grape Fest claim to fame is that they have the Worlds Best Grape Pie Contest. "Grape Pies were created in the 1950's and credited to longtime Naples resident Irene Bouchard."(Naples Grape Fest ). 

The official grounds for the festival are at the high school.  Lots of people selling antiques and garage sale stuff line Main Street. Everything you can imagine jewelry, painted glass, sewing crafts, oils and incense, wood works. Lots of places to park, all at about 5 dollars per car.

Everything Grape is at this festival.  Grape taffy, grape frozen custard, grape suckers, grapes and wine (of course).  If we didn't have the kids, I am sure we would have done some wine tasting.  A couple huge tents in which to taste.  One at the Festival grounds and another put up by a winery.  As you can imagine there are lots of wineries in the hills of Naples.  It is prime, Finger lake Region, grape country.
Grape Taffy

Amazing grape frozen custard.

Deep Fried Pickles
There were also some local food trucks there that the kids have enjoyed previously.  They decided to share an order or Mac and Cheese.  It went pretty well.  It was kind of like feeding fish.  Threw in the food and a frenzy and flourish of energy ensues. Here is the before and after.


Our kids don't really get the opportunity to go to festivals.  It's not generally our thing.  So this time we decided to treat them to some "festival food". A bloomin' onion, a corn dog...

There was a couple Henna tattoo artists at the festival.


If you want to bring your dog...  I did see a few dogs there. A few tiny dog varieties.  3 Great Danes.  And one of those great danes I saw sitting on a womans lap.  I was not quick enough with my camera. An Italian mastiff. A few pit mixes.   Its very crowded there though.  The choice is up to you.  My dog would have been overwhelmed.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Healthy Meatless Stuffed Peppers

This is a great, light meal- full of flavor and texture and deliciousness. Very 5:2 friendly.  And I am all about 5:2 Diet.  I have lost a total 22 pounds since Fathers Day.  Which may not be a lot to some but for me it is a milestone.  I don't lose weight very easily.  This plan is totally working for me.  Just recently though I hit a plateau so I switched it up to every other day. Dr. Krista Varady is the pioneer of that one. The Every Other Day Diet.  My husband has been doing her plan since Fathers Day.  He has lost 32 pounds.  Wow!

If you want to read more about it go here to James Clear for an excellent article outlining why it works. Or you can watch the documentary from the BBC from Dr. Mosley.  He later wrote the 5:2 Diet Book.

I am totally sold on it.  Works for me.  I can eat basically what I want most days and fast for 2 or so days a week.  Even on the fasting days its fun for a foodie.  Trying to find delicious, seriously low cal meals that fill your belly.

These peppers totally fill the bill.  I made them last week and I am making them again tonight! It may be a lot of steps but it is totally worth it. 

Healthy Meatless Stuffed Peppers
Makes six stuffed peppers.

1/4 cup dry quinoa
2 tablespoons black beluga lentils
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
4 basil leaves
4 large tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup asiago cheese
1 small onion
1 red bell pepper
2 teaspoons avocado oil (or whatever oil you use)
7 green bell peppers (1 for chopping the rest for stuffing)

In a small sauce pan combine quinoa and beluga lentils with 2 cups water.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cover.

In another small sauce pan add tomatoes, garlic, salt, and basil. Bring to a boil and gently simmer uncovered until tomatoes are falling apart. Once the tomatoes are tender, puree gently.

While those are simmering away, chop up one green bell pepper, red bell pepper and the onion. Preheat oven now to 350F.

Once the quinoa and belugas are done, transfer to a bowl.  In that same pot sauté the peppers and onions until soft and tender. Transfer to the same bowls as the belugas and quinoa.

Cut tops off of peppers and scrape out the innards. In a pot with a little bit of water, steam the peppers until the are just soft.  The green color will lose its brightness and they will be a little flexible.  

In a 9 x 9 baking dish pour the tomato sauce. Place steamed peppers into dish and measure out a 1/4 cup of pepper/quinoa mixture into peppers.  Sprinkle a tablespoon of asiago and then layer another 1/4 cup of pepper quinoa mixture.  Then another tablespoon of asiago cheese.  If you like sprinkle some cracked pepper over top.  Cover with foil and place in the oven for about 30 minutes.

About 100 calories per pepper.

Monday, September 21, 2015

French Pumpkin Soup

I love my pumpkin soup with gouda- its by far one of the best pumpkin soups I have ever had. But I like to try new things and branch out a little into different tastes and such.  I decided to try this pumpkin soup to change it up a little.  I found it here on this blog, Bunky Cooks. A great food blog to be sure.
 Looks like some kind of agate, doesn't it?

French Pumpkin Soup

Adapted from this recipe at The (ex)Expatriates Kitchen

1 5-6 pound pumpkin (Galeux D’Eyesines)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, sliced (white and light green parts only)
1 yellow onion, diced
2 sprigs rosemary, chopped
3 sprigs thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped sage
1/2 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
8 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup half and half
1 tablespoon sugar, optional
grated fresh nutmeg, to taste
salt and pepper to taste

First, get a sharp knife. Cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out seeds. Cut the halves into manageable chunks, then cut away the outer rind. Dice the flesh into 1-inch cubes. It's really not so hard if you have a good chef's knife.

Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot, medium heat. Add the leeks, onion and herbs and sweat the aromatics until translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the pumpkin cubes and the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and let simmer until the pumpkin is tender, about 20-30 minutes.

Puree using an immersion blender. Swirl in the butter and the half and half. Add the nutmeg, then taste and adjust the salt and pepper as needed. Use the sugar if you like a slight sweetness to your soups.

If you can, make this soup a day in advance.  It is much better the next day when the flavors have had a chance to marry.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Beet Hummus


Because I love beets and I love hummus, of course I had to try this.

I liked it but I didn't love it.  I am a purist, though, when it comes to hummus.  Lots of garlic yes!  But nothing out of the usual, just garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon, olive oil, salt and garlic.  I don't like red pepper hummus.  A lot of people do.  The sweet potato hummus, it's good... But it's not hummus. All that aside, I would make this again.

Beet Hummus

1 can hummus (15 ounces)
2 garlic cloves
1 cooked beet (very tender)
salt to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon white vinegar
juice of half of a lemon

Place garlic in the processor first.  Add everything else except for oilve oil.  Add it in when everything else is fully blended and smooth. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Mothers Walnut Cake

I found this recipe years ago in a Taste of Home Magazine.  It was a hit at our house.  I have made it several times over the years. For some reason I thought I blogged about it.  When I went to get the recipe from my blog, I could not find it. Now, it is on my blog.  Here it is. 

You really must make this cake if you like walnuts.  It is so good.  Very rich, buttery and nutty tasting. If you like walnuts, this cake will have you at your first bite.

It is named Mother's Walnut Cake and ironically it is my Mothers favorite cake.

Mother's Walnut Cake
I have made it with all butter and the mix of butter with shortening too.  Either way- so good. I make a two layer cake and freeze the third layer for another day.
Source: Helen Vail, Glenside, Pennsylvania, Taste Of Home, pg. 35, March 1998 © 2015 RDA Enthusiast Brands, LLC

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups ground walnuts

2 packages (one 8 ounces, one 3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup butter, softened
5 to 5-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/3 cup walnuts


1.  In a large bowl, cream the butter, shortening and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; gradually add to the creamed mixture alternately with buttermilk and vanilla. Beat on low speed just until combined. Stir in the walnuts.

2. Pour into three greased and floured 9-in. round baking pans. Bake at 350° for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

3. For frosting, beat cream cheese and butter in a large bowl. Add sugar; mix well. Beat in vanilla until smooth. Spread frosting between layers and over the top and sides of cake. Sprinkle with walnuts. Store in the refrigerator. Yield: 12-16 servings.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Crumb Topped Zucchini Muffins

I am still going nuts over zucchini.  Seems every summer I can not get enough of the stuff.  But the season is drawing to a close.  Had to get in some desserts before the zucchini is finished.  Only a few more days left of summer...

I am ready for Fall though.  I really like Fall.  It is my favorite season.  I am looking forward to all the butternut squash, spaghetti squash and pumpkin! Yahoo!  Seems I can never get enough of that.  By the time I use all that I store in my freezer, it is time for strawberries again!

Crumb Topped Zucchini Muffins

Crumb Topping:
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons caramel extract
2 1/2 cups unpeeled shredded zucchini
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 (4 serving size) package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Crumb Topping:  Stir together the sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt until well combined.  Whisk in melted butter.  Mix in flour just until combined.  Spread out on cookie sheet.  Let dry.

Muffins:  Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease muffin pans or line muffin pans with paper towels.

Shred zucchini and set aside in a colander.

Mix dry ingredients: vanilla pudding mix, flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and flour.

Squeeze out zucchini and add the eggs.  Mix dry ingredients into tthe bowl and stir just until combined.

Spoon into muffin cups evenly.  Sprinkle with crumb mixture.  Bake at 350F for 35 to 40 minutes.  Cool for ten minutes and remove from pan.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Rhubarb Lentils

I encouraged my daughter, being the Vegetarian she is, to try the lentils on a chip with sour cream and cheese.  Like, how can you go wrong?  But alas, she tried one and was not having any more of it.

I personally loved it but I like vegetables.  Let me rephrase that, I love vegetables.  But I didn't always, so, I will be patient as her taste buds grow up.

Rhubarb Lentils
I got the idea from a cookbook I have been looking at.  Its called Locavore. Though I seen a very similar recipe here on My Recipes. I didn't want a soup but rather a thick stew kind of thing.  

2 cups water for boiling
1 cup dried petite green lentils
1 tablespoon oil
2 cups finely chopped celery
1 1/2 cups finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 cups chopped rhubarb (about 12 ounces)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

sour cream

In a saucepan sauté onions and celery in oil.  Once the onions are translucent, add in the water and lentils.  Add the remainder of the ingredients except for the tomato paste and cook until lentils are tender.  Add in past and bring to a boil again.  Remove from heat and serve with a dollop of sour cream.

 Anyela's Vineyards in Skaneateles NY- Finger Lakes Region.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Moroccan Zucchini Bread

This bread has the flavors of Morocco.  Smoky cumin, roasted pistachios, red bell pepper, garlic, parsley, red chili pepper flakes...  We really enjoyed it.  I liked mine for breakfast with a little butter and tomatoes on the side.

Zucchini Bread with Moroccan Flavors
Adapted from this recipe at My Recipes.

3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
Biga (recipe below), at room temperature
1 cup grated zucchini (about 4 oz.)
About 4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
3 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup finely chopped unsalted roasted pistachios
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, toasted and coarsely ground
1 1/2 teaspoons hot chili flakes
About 1/4 cup cornmeal

Make biga the night before you make this bread.  Combine 1 1/2 cups bread flour and yeast with about a cup of water.  Add more water until you get a soft dough. Let sit for 12 to 24 hours.

The next day...
Add 3/4 cup cold water to the biga along with the zucchini, 3 cups bread flour, whole-wheat flour, and salt. Beat with paddle attachment on low speed, or stir with a heavy spoon, until well blended. Gradually beat or stir in 1 1/2 more cups bread flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until mixture forms a soft dough.

Switch to a dough hook and beat on medium speed until dough is smooth and elastic and pulls cleanly from sides of bowl but is still slightly sticky, 6 to 8 minutes; or scrape dough onto a lightly floured board and knead by hand until smooth and elastic but still slightly sticky, 7 to 10 minutes.

Knead in parsley, bell pepper, pistachios, cumin, and chili flakes and beat in with dough hook or knead in by hand just until incorporated (after mixing in by hand, place dough in a bowl).

Cover bowl with plastic wrap; let dough rise at room temperature away from any drafts, until doubled, 2 to 2 1/2 hours. Gently fold dough over a few times to expel the gas.

Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rise again until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Or for a slow rise, chill at least 8 and up to 12 hours; let come to room temperature, about 3 hours.

Scrape dough onto a oiled board or counter,  knead briefly to expel air. Divide in half. With lightly oiled hands, gather each half into a ball, then stretch and tuck edges under to shape into a smooth oval with slightly tapered ends (about 8 in. long and 4 in. wide in the center). Place loaves on a well-oiled surface, cover loosely with plastic wrap, and let rise at room temperature until they're slightly puffy and hold the imprint of a finger when lightly pressed, about 1 1/2 hours.

Place loaves on greased sheets and place on oven rack in lower third of a 450° regular or convection oven.

Spray 3 to 4 squirts of water on floor or sides of oven, taking care not to spray near heating element or light bulb, then quickly close door.

Bake bread, spraying twice more at 5-minute intervals during the first 10 minutes of baking, until crust is well browned, 35 to 45 minutes total.
10. Transfer loaves to a rack to cool for at least 1 hour.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Hatch Corn Salad

Have you heard about Hatch Chilies?  The New Mexico Chile " a group of cultivars of the chile pepper, initially developed by pioneer horticulturist, Dr. Fabián Garcia, at New Mexico State University in 1894, then known as Las Cruces College and the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts. These peppers were selected to have a "larger smoother, fleshier, more tapering and shoulderless pod for canning purposes. "  According to Wikipedia.  They are the chilies you find in the can at the grocery store.

Our local grocery store had them this year and told people to come and get them.  I did, of course, being the foodie I am.  And I roasted them up, used some and froze the rest.  This corn salad is one of the things I made with the chilies.
It really is prettier with some red peppers in it or even orange but all I had was yellow. Too matchy, matchy.
Hatch Corn Salad

2 cups corn
1/2 cup red onion
1/2 cup bell pepper, preferably a contrasting color
1 hatch chili, roasted and diced

1/2 teaspoon sugar
juice of one lime
1 tablespoon avocado oil or some other mild oil
salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine.

Hatch Chile Roast

Roasted under the broiler. Place in a pot or container with a lid while still hot. The steam will help loosen the skin from the pepper.

Gently pull away skin.

With the back of the knife, swipe away the seeds.
Chop, divide into bags and freeze.  All ready for your recipe this winter.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Cube Steak and Porter

Wanted to share with you this cube steak recipe and tell you about this great bbq sauce.  I am going to share a secret with you about me and meat.  When I first lived on my own, I really had no idea how to cook different kinds of meat.  If I bought a cut of beef I would invariably screw it up and it would come tasting like nothing and being really chewy or downright unpalatable.  That is when I really started learning how to cook.  I turned to recipes.  I figured recipes would have the answer about how to cook things because they promised to deliver this wonderful end product in their recipe.  So that is really when I learned to cook.  Have I made steak since then? Never.  Yes, never because I knew I would kill it. Okay I made hanger steak once... that was not a good idea.

Fast forward to today.  I bought some cube steak.  I was afraid of cube steak.  My Mother cooked it a lot when we were young so I was familiar with it.  But no, I had never cooked it.  ABout a month ago I made some.  I watched  afew You Tube videos on how to make it.  One was this teriyaki style- cooked for 30 minutes.  And the other was onions, garlic and bay leaf cooked for 30 minutes.  Both very flavorful I must say.  But I wasnt, like, wowed by them.

Monday, I decided to do from memory what my Mom did.  Flour those cuts of beef and fry them on high heat, fast, like, really fast. How did it go.  Swoon.  Why have I waited so long!

Cube Steak

1.  If you don't buy it pounded, pound the heck out of some round steaks.

2.  In a shallow bowl, mix flour with salt and lots of pepper.

3.  Place steaks in bowl and generously cover with flour.  Alternately, if you are gluten free, corn starch or arrowroot powder works really well too!

4.  Heat a skillet on medium high heat until a drop of oil dances on it.  Add butter and swirl it around the pan.  Add in steaks and keep the heat like that.  Cook until the top has turned a different color- kinda gray brown and you can see the sides are cooked.  Turn and heat for about 2 minutes.  Done!

5.  Flavor with your favorite barbeque* sauce.  Enjoy.

Hint, don't crowd the pan because you want the heat to get around it adequately.

I tried a Porter.  I am so new to the wide world of beer I don't even know the difference between a porter, ale, lager, etc. If you want to learn more about what is out there, check out this link here.  I will tell you about this beer.  It went really well with the cube steak and heavily spiced cabbage, and corn salad that I ate for dinner.  I don't think I would like it, say, kicking back and hanging out with just a beer.  Or even with a handful of popcorn.  It has strong flavor and for me personally I like it with something. 

*The amazing barbeque sauce that I used here (and you can kind of see it in the background of the beer photo) is called Chef Lermans, Smoldering Chipotle Hot Sauce.  It can be found here in the Southern Tier/ The Finger Lakes region of NY or you can order it through the link. 

Friday, September 4, 2015

Eureka Ketchup

If I were a company I would not be sharing this with you!  But since I am not a company and probably will not make tons of money, mass producing my ketchup, I will share it with you.  Cause I am nice like that. 

You want to know why this ketchup makes me so dang happy that I want to shout EUREKA!  Because I hate buying ketchup!  My one daughter goes threw it, like, well, Ranch dressing.  You know all the stuff that is loaded with chemicals and lots and lots of sugar.  Oh, and have I mentioned corn syrup, high fructose syrup and fructose (can you say more sugar?).  Bonus besides having much less sugar it also tastes fabulous! 

While I liked previous ketchups I made with lots of different spices in it, my daughters did not.  So this is like finding the jack pot.  They like it, its economical and I get to control what is in it!

I started out making this recipe for Batch #1.

3 pounds Romas
1 can tomato paste
1 large clove garlic
1/2 cup vinegar
1 tablespoon molasses
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 1/2 teaspoons citric acid
1 tablespoon arrowroot powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon beet powder
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder

Then, I moved to this recipe for Batch #2. Which you will find as my final recipe this year.  I think... Because, the "do I have enough ketchup" obsession thought keeps running through my head.  Okay, for now, it is my final batch of ketchup.

Both are good.  But Batch #2 has even less sugar which, of course, is a good thing. 

You might ask why I add xanthan gum.  It helps keep everything mixed up.  You don't have to add it to yours, but you probably will need to shake things up a bit before you serve it.



Equipment Needed

Hand held strainer with small holes... like this.
Smallish size pot that you can whack the strainer on to extract the sauce from the tomatoe peels and such.
canning jars 8 or 9 of them
canning lids
canning rings 
canning pot
canning reacher "arm"
measuring cups
and of course measuring spoons and measuring cups

9 pounds Roma tomatoes (pretty near a peck)
3 can tomato paste
1 1/2 cup vinegar
3 tablespoon molasses
3 teaspoon xanthan gum
3 teaspoons citric acid
3 tablespoon arrowroot powder
3 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons beet powder
3 tablespoon Kosher* salt
3 tablespoon garlic powder
3 bay leafs

Wash and clean the tomatoes. Core the tomatoes. Cut away any bad spots. Cut in half, squeeze it a little as you are placing it in a large pot that you plan to cook it in. 

Add in vinegar, bay leaves and molasses.  Cook until those tomatoes are falling apart on a gentle simmer. Like 30 minutes for more.  You want it mushed and you want some of the liquids to evaporate.  So don't put a lid on it.   

While that is happily cooking away, gather the ingredients that you are going to need and the equipment.

Discard the bay leaves. Blend all the tomatoes.  As you blend each batch pour through strainer.  Use a spoon to run along the bottom of the strainer to keep the liquid falling through.  Once most of the liquid is drained away, give the strained a good whack on the side of the pot you are emptying into.  This will force the juice away from the skins and seeds.  Pretty soon you will have this clump of seeds and skin that just jumps around in the strainer when you whack it.  That is when you know you have pulled enough of the good liquid away. 

Once you have extracted all the juice, heat it again.  This is when you are going to add your other ingredients.  Whisk each ingredient in to avoid clumps.  Bring to a boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Stirring frequently.

Use a measuring cup and pour the beautiful ketchup liquid into the Mason jars. Place lids on and screw them down with the bands, place in canner.  For any remaining jars pour the liquid and rest one of the lids on but don't screw down with one of the bands.  It may seal.  But you don't want a seal like this.  You want a seal in the canner with all the heat and boiling water.  

Process jars for 15 minutes.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015