Kay Wheeler Moore

Welcome to my blog

Hello. . .

The Newfangled Country Gardener is for anyone who has a garden, would like to have a garden, or who simply enjoys eating the garden-fresh way. I don't claim to be an expert; in this blog I'm simply sharing some of the experiences my husband and I have in preparing food that is home-grown.

About the author

Kay Wheeler Moore is the author of a new cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden, that features six generations of recipes that call for ingredients that are fresh from the garden. With home gardening surging in popularity as frugal people become more resourceful, this recipe collection and the stories that accompany it ideally will inspire others to cook the garden-fresh way and to preserve their own family food stories as well. The stories in this book center around the Three Red-Haired Miller Girls (Kay's mother and aunts) who grew up in Delta County, TX, with their own backyard garden so lavish that they felt as though they were royalty after their Mama wielded her kitchen magic on all that was homegrown. Introduced in Kay's previous book, Way Back in the Country, the lively Miller Girls again draw readers into their growing-up world, in which a stringent economic era--not unlike today's tight times--saw people turn to the earth to put food on the table for their loved ones. The rollicking yarns (all with recipes attached) have love, family, and faith as common denominators and show how food evocatively bonds us to our life experiences.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Breakfast this Royal morning reflects on a long-ago bed-confinment with a fairytale ending

On this day, as I’m preparing breakfast while I catch TV glimpses of the Royal Preoccupation, or Royal Wedding, happening at this hour, I joyfully reflect on that other wedding 30 summers ago. No different than millions of other onlookers, I, too, made mental reference to Prince William’s parents, Charles and Diana, and the “fairytale” nuptial that preoccupied millions in times past.

As I viewed that long-ago wedding on the morning of July 29, 1981, breakfast was being served to me as I lay bed-confined in pregnancy. The princess that I expected had been attempting to make her arrival too early; I was immobilized in an effort to keep her at bay just another hour . . . just another day until her October due-date. Watching the televised vows of Princess Di had been one of my main diversions that summer as I lay virtually without a flicker of movement and patiently and prayerfully waited for our red-letter event.

I “joyfully” reflect on the time surrounding that other wedding because all my confinement and immobilization, then and later, paid off. Our princess stayed put and was born at term, only two days before her due date. Although the joy was our own, private one, and not one shared by the world, I could swear that I heard the equivalent to those 5,000 bells at Westminster Abbey ring out at the moment of her birth. Today that daughter and her hubby are parents of their own little prince. God is good.

So what to feature in my blog on Royal Wedding morning? Breakfast, of course. A Royal “Huzzah” for Western Egg Bake, a breakfast casserole laced with lots of red and green bell peppers and green onions straight out of my garden. The recipe calls for purchased croutons, but I made my own with leftover homemade wheat bread that I sliced into cubes, seasoned, and toasted.

I found the recipe in a recent Kroger grocery circular and originally prepared it for Easter breakfast, with plenty of leftover slices to freeze and reheat. If you awakened at the wee (U.S.) hours this morning to see Kate walk down the aisle, you might need a good, sturdy pick-me-up such as Western Egg Bake to keep you propped up for the rest of the day.

You couldn’t pick a more healthy choice. Huzzah for the newlyweds! May God grant them a Christ-centered marriage that will withstand the world’s pressures and will endure long years until only death parts them. And Huzzah for health and foods fresh from garden!

Western Egg Bake

2 1/2 cups hot skim milk
1 1/2 cups croutons (either purchased or made from your own bread)
6 large eggs beaten (or 1 1/2 cups egg substitute)
2 cups sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup each red and green bell peppers, diced
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
1/2 cup turkey bacon (approximately 8-10 slices), cooked and crumbled
1/4 teaspoon each ground black pepper and salt substitute

Spray with nonfat cooking spray a shallow 1 1/2-quart ovenproof baking dish. In a large mixing bowl combine hot milk and l croutons. Let croutons soak for 10 minutes. Mix in remaining ingredients. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of one hour or overnight. If casserole has been refrigerated overnight, remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before you bake it. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until set. Refrigerate any leftovers. Serves 8.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Don't judge a weird-looking food by appearances; Supple Cabbage Salad is a sneaky gourmet feast

“If this isn’t the weirdest of the weird!” . . . not an unusual comment from Hubby any more when he sits down to the dinner table and curiously eyeballs whatever “blog food” I’ve hatched up to serve him for that evening.

I believe, however, that this time his eyebrow was raised a little more than was commonplace.

A purple, shredded melange awaited him. When he asked, and was told, what constituted the dinner selection, he looked even more askance. “Red cabbage, green cabbage, a red onion, a Granny Smith apple . . . ”, I explained.

We dined. Well, not only did Hubby help himself to a second serving, he returned to have Mystery Dish for lunch AND snack the next day. “Do you care if I eat the whole thing up?” he finally implored. I had scored a coup, no doubt about that.

The Mystery Dish was entitled Supple Cabbage Salad; quite frankly I prepared it as a means of using up leftovers. I saw that the recipe called for 3 cups shredded red and 3 cups shredded green cabbage. Half-heads of cabbage languished in the produce bin of my fridge; I was eager not to waste them. Granny Smith apples and red onion we always have around. I knew my paperback booklet, “Celebrating a Healthy Harvest”, would have a suggestion for these items; sure enough, it did. Nothing makes me feel more virtuous than when I figure out ways not to waste food.

I can’t say that the result was exactly a salad. Prepared in a skillet it definitely tasted better warm than it did cold. We heated it up in the microwave alongside the Chicken Cutlet with Pecan Sauce leftovers we had from our Easter entree.

I was with Hubby, however—difficult not to keep going back for more and more and more. No problem with doing that either, however. A single serving probably contained all of about 40 calories. If you can get past the “If this isn’t the weirdest of the weird!” reaction, it’s surely a dream dish!

Supple Cabbage Salad

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, sliced thin
3 cups shredded red cabbage
3 cups shredded green cabbage
1 large Granny Smith apple, cored and diced
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Heat oil in wok or in frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and cabbage. Stir-fry for two minutes. Cabbage should be slightly softened. Add vinegar and pepper; boil for one minute. Remove from heat, stir in apple, and serve. Makes 6 servings.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Delicate syrup is perfect for this fruit salad

Surely I could find some way to dress up my fruit salad. A beautiful serving of fresh fruit would be healthy and colorful on the Easter table, but I didn’t want it to be boring and predictable. I went out to the herb bed next to the back porch and plucked some mint springs to doll up the serving dish (using my mother’s sherbet bowls from her crystal stemware), but what else could I do?

Martha Stewart would know, I decided, so I visited marthastewart.com and typed in “fruit salad” recipes. Out rolled all kinds of fruit-salad doll-ups. I chose the marinade that accompanied her Ruby Fruit Salad, which called for chopped plums, blackberries, and blueberries to take center stage. I used the fruit I had on hand—Granny Smith apples, bananas, kiwi, red grapes, and strawberries (For Hubby I always have to make up a small batch minus the strawberries, who develops severe gastrointestinal problems from the strawberry seeds. He can hardly be in the same room with a strawberry without pains developing, so I have to be very careful not to get these mixed in.)

The Ruby Fruit Salad dressing is a mixture of brown sugar and lime juice, in which the salad ingredients soak overnight. As the lime juice and brown sugar sit together, they create a delicate syrup that suits this fruit salad perfectly. Plus since the dressing acted as a preservative, I could cut up all my fruit (including the banana) the night before without anything turning brown. This saved bunches of time in the panic between church and lunch when I was trying to get the food ready.

Ruby Fruit Salad Dressing atop Fresh Fruit

3 tablespoons light-brown sugar (or brown-sugar substitute)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (from 1 lime)
2 cups seedless red grapes, sliced in half
3 kiwi, peeled and chopped
2 Granny Smith apples, cored and diced
1 large banana, diced
1 cup strawberries, stem removed, diced

In a large bowl stir together sugar and lime juice. Let stand 10 minutes for sugar to dissolve. Add red grapes, kiwi, apples, banana, and strawberries; toss to combine. Refrigerate up to 1 day. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired. Serves 4.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Garlic-Chive Mashed Potatoes a hit of a side dish, even with the particular

One version for the picky, one for the not-so-picky. This is how I’ve learned to manage food preparation when I wanted to try a new recipe out on the family. Not fair to deprive them of the foods they like just because I have a dish I’m itching to try, I reason. So where the mashed potatoes for Sunday’s Easter meal were concerned, we had a serving of the plain and one of the fancy.

In the February 2011 issue of Southern Living magazine I had earmarked a recipe for Garlic-Chive Mashed Potatoes, with garden-fresh chives and 4 ounces fat-free cream cheese swirled into the white fluffiness just before serving. I considered this a can’t-miss side for the Easter dinner. I mean, doesn’t every Easter dinner call for mashed potatoes? The ones at our house do. Our daughter particularly loves them—but she also loves them plain. She would be crestfallen if she sat down at the table to some substitute.

At our house Hubby is the grand poohbah of potato mashing. He knows the exact amount of time to whip them with the electric mixer, knows the exact amount of butter and milk to add, and knows the exact amount of pepper and salt (substitute) to shake in. So I asked him to peel a few extra potatoes to boil and mash. Then when he finished, I took half his whipped potatoes and added a butter-and-garlic mixture, the fat-free cream cheese, skim milk, chopped fresh chives, and salt and pepper.

The fluffy, rich side dish looked very tempting on the table in Grandmother Moore’s pretty silver-rimmed oval serving dish. But after all, it did have GREEN THINGS in it. The plain mashed potatoes in their clear bowl looked appetizing as well. Now everybody would be happy. I waited to see what transpired.

Guess what? Even the picky went for the new version. Garlic-Chive Mashed Potatoes was a hit with all. The plain version wasn’t neglected, but kudos went out loud and long for the experimental side dish. Success! I knew I had hit on a new winner in the potatoes category.

Garlic-Chive Mashed Potatoes

24-ounces (about 3 1/2 cups) cooked potatoes, mashed
1 tablespoon butter
4 minced garlic cloves
4-ounces fat-free cream cheese (I use Neufchatel)
2/3 cup skim milk
1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
salt (or salt substitute) and pepper to taste

Cook potatoes; mash to desired consistency. Meanwhile in a small skillet over medium heat melt 1 tablespoon butter; add minced garlic cloves and sauté for 1 minute. Transfer cooked potatoes to a large bowl. Add garlic mixture, cream cheese, milk, chives, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until mixture is fluffy. Makes 6 servings.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sneak in some veggies with cabbage in this Sloppy Joe mix

In yesterday’s Easter-egg hunt one of the best places to hide eggs was in the bulb of the emerging cabbage plants in the garden. As I studied the cabbage rows, I dreamed of the day a few weeks from now when we’d be hauling our own cabbage crop into the kitchen for one of my absolute fave dishes, Cabbage Sloppy Joes.

Almost immediately after I began planning my most recent cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden, I lined up Cabbage Sloppy Joes as one of my first recipes to include. Instructions involve adding finely shredded cabbage to some of the traditional sloppy joe ingredients. We sub ground turkey for ground beef. The addition of the cabbage plus a dab of brown sugar adds a sweet taste to the end-product.

In our most recent batch Hubby got the food-prep assignment since I wasn’t home from babysitting Grandmunchkin yet. He decided to put the cabbage through the food-processor to make it chop even more finely. When I arrived home and he had dinner on the table, I was shocked to realize it was Cabbage Sloppy Joes, because I didn’t recognize it without the decipherable shredded cabbage. He told me about his experiment of pulverizing the cabbage even more finely in the processor. Sure enough, same great flavor plus a smoother texture. He said next time he’d shred the onion, green pepper, and celery in the mix as well and add to the smooth consistency.

With hot summer evenings on their way, this meal represents a perfect way to avoid oven cooking and to stick with the stovetop to keep the kitchen cool. In case the idea of cabbage gets a yuk from family members, you can sneak some veggies down them by serving this delicious cover-up.

Cabbage Sloppy Joes

1 pound ground beef or ground turkey
1 1/2 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 medium onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup ketchup (we use the no-salt variety)
3 tablespoons brown sugar (or brown-sugar substitute)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
dash pepper
8 sandwich rolls, split

In a large skillet cook the ground beef (or turkey), cabbage, onion, celery, and green pepper over medium heat until meat no longer is pink and vegetables are crisp-tender. Drain. Stir in the ketchup, brown sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until cabbage is tender. Spoon 1/2 cup onto each roll. Makes 8 servings.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Roasted asparagus a simple, pretty, lovely Easter dish

Nothing says Easter food like asparagus does. I made this recipe several weeks back and thought I would save it for my last blog before the Easter weekend begins because it represented such a simple but yummy way to present one of those foods most synonymous with all things edible during this particular season.

Nothing fancy about this simple but tasty side dish; in fact, I was absolutely amazed at the nothin’-to-it food preparation compared to how divine the finished product tasted. The booklet on which I rely, “Celebrating a Healthy Harvest”, says this method is designed for the oven but also can be used for the grill for extra flavor.

The oven-roasting makes the fresh asparagus tender down to the (often very tough) base and gives it a crispy, almost crunchy texture. It also yields for the asparagus a bright-green color—it will make your Easter table look spring!

A meaningful Easter to everyone—have a great day of worship and of acknowledging what the Lord has done for us. May it also be a wonderful time to fellowship with family and a happy occasion for cooking the garden-fresh way!

Roasted Asparagus

16 asparagus stalks, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. If desired trim off the bottom portion of the asparagus. This is not necessary for thin asparagus. Spray with cooking spray the bottom of a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan. Mix the oil, salt, and pepper Add asparagus spears and toss until spears are coated with the oil mixture. Place pan in oven and roast asparagus until it is tender, about 15 minutes. Serve. Makes 4 servings.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

No-fuss Red-Leaf Salad with Sweet-and-Sour Dressing ideal for Easter lunch

The time had arrived for a parting with the last of our garden’s red-leaf lettuce crop. The enjoyment we’d derived from it left us wishing we’d planted far more than we had. Fresh-from-the-garden lettuce leaves tossed into a green salad has to represent one of the best parts of God’s creation.

MyRecipes.com gave us the pièce de résistance with which to bid our lettuce crop goodbye for 2011. Red-leaf lettuce tossed with green peas, slivered almonds, turkey bacon slices, and mozzarella cheese was swathed in a terrific sweet-and-sour dressing pulsed in the blender. I loved the fact that the dressing called for diced green onion—plucked from our garden rows, of course.

This one, which we enjoyed with meals last weekend, is destined to be a repeat performer on our Easter lunch table on Sunday. It’s an easy, newfangled take on the proverbial green salad. My mother used to call tossed salad combination salad (haven’t heard that term in decades), but Red-Leaf Lettuce with Sweet-and-Sour Dressing truly is, to borrow my mother’s phrase, a winning combination.

Red-Leaf Lettuce Salad with Sweet-and-Sour Dressing

1 bunch red-leaf lettuce, torn
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
6 turkey bacon slices, cooked and crumbled
sweet-and-sour dressing (below)

Sweet-and-Sour Dressing

1/3 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
2 1/2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon diced green onion
1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

In a large salad bowl combine salad ingredients. Into a blender container pour in all dressing ingredients. Pulse blender until all ingredients are well-blended. Toss, chill, and serve. Serves 6-8.

Blueberries, oatmeal, walnuts, sweet topping: these muffin gems have it all

I could barely believe it: four years had gone by since I last made Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins. The notation on my recipe card recorded that I previously had baked these for our family to enjoy while we were on the way to Renée and Andy’s wedding in the summer of 2007. The roommate of our daughter was marrying her sweetie in Colorado Springs. Our daughter and son-in-law in the back seat and Hubby and I in the front of our car had munched on Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins while we motored up to the lovely setting for the nuptials.

Now the newlyweds are about to celebrate their
fourth wedding anniversary. Time to dust off the muffin recipe and prepare this delicious treat again. Far too much time had lapsed since we’d enjoyed these goodies.

I loved these muffins because they were stuffed with healthy blueberries, had some oatmeal and walnuts stirred in, and were topped with a dusting of brown sugar. (I cannot tell a lie: in my first recent attempt, I got distracted and left out the
1/2 cup brown sugar from the ingredients. I remembered to sprinkle the brown sugar on for the topping, but I knew the insides would be a little lacking. Guess what? They were just as good without it—at least that’s how Hubby consoled me. But I did turn around and make a remediated batch, since we knew Hubby’s brother would be in town last weekend. Wouldn’t want our guest to be served muffins that were less than the best.)

I have a few muffins left over, so I’ve stored them away to pop out for Easter-morning breakfast on Sunday. Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins make a dandy treat that suits for many occasions.

Oatmeal Blueberry Muffins

1 cup flour
1 1/2 cups quick-cooking oats, uncooked
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1 cup low-fat buttermilk (or 1 tablespoon vinegar mixed with enough skim milk to make 1 cup)
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed (or 1/4 cup brown-sugar substitute)
1/4 cup oil
1 egg, beaten (or 1/4 cup egg substitute)
1 cup frozen blueberries
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine flour, oats, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a medium mixing bowl combine buttermilk (or skim milk mixed with vinegar), 1/2 cup brown sugar, oil, and egg; add to flour mixture. Mix just until moist. Fold in blueberries and nuts. Pour batter into greased muffin cups to 2/3 full; sprinkle with remaining 2 tablespoons brown sugar. Bake 20-25 minutes or until done.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cornbread croutons, veggies give this quintessential Southern dish new twist

What could be more Southern than cornbread? A recent issue of Southern Living magazine featured a variety of quintessential recipes (such as cornbread, grits, collards, and shrimp jambalaya) highly identified with our region of the country. The magazine gave each of them a new twist to make them more appealing to today’s lighter palate.

One that caught my eye and immediately went into the “must-try” category was Panzanella Salad with Cornbread Croutons. I have been the Cornbread Queen ever since my first cookbook, Way Back in the Country, was released some years back and I traipsed from TV station to TV station in the promotion of it. During this interesting time I had to learn a new skill: preparing food under the glare of TV cameras. The programming person at each TV station requested that I make Golden Cornbread, one of my family’s staple recipes. I can’t tell you how many batches of cornbread I whipped up for the TV lights so I would have the finished product on display while I stirred up a demo batch.

As a result of this blitz I grew to the point at which I could make cornbread in my sleep. So, to get this new recipe started, I tested myself to see whether I could remember the oft-baked Golden Cornbread Recipe (find it on page 23 of my cookook, Way Back in the Country) by heart. Once I baked a pan of it and let it cool completely, I cut up the cornbread into the 1-inch cubes that this recipe required and then toasted these cubes briefly in the oven so their edges would be brown and crouton-like.

From the garden the recipe called for red onion, a yellow bell pepper, tomatoes, and cucumber. How I look forward to some of those items being abundantly arrayed in my own garden a few weeks hence! (The tomato crop looks as though it will be particularly vast. As I gaze out my patio door, I see row after row of Hubby’s tomato stakes gleaming in the sun.)

We loved the honey-and-lemon vinaigrette that tied this unusual mixture together and gave it a slight Italian accent. I forgot to say that besides the other items in this somewhat unorthodox combination, the recipe also called for Hubby’s favorite condiment—black olives. I’ve always read that cornbread salad is a guy thing and that the heartiness of it makes it a man favorite. Truly, Panzanella Salad with Cornbread Croutons was a Hubby-pleaser through and through.

Panzanella Salad with Cornbread Croutons

One pan cornbread (made from your favorite recipe), cooled completely
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 small red onion, diced
1/2 cup olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon honey
salt (or salt substitute) and pepper, to taste
3 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 cucumber, quartered and sliced
1/2 cup black olives, sliced
1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut cornbread into 1-inch cubes. Bake in a single layer on a lightly greased cookie sheet 15 minutes or until edges are golden. Stir halfway through. Meanwhile saute bell pepper and onion in 1 tablespoon hot olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until pepper and onion are crisp-tender. In a large bowl whisk together lemon zest, lemon juice, honey, remaining 7 tablespoons olive oil, and salt and pepper. Stir in onion mixture, tomatoes, and next 3 ingredients. Add toasted cornbread cubes and toss to coat. Serve immediately. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Monday, April 18, 2011

This dessert has no reason to blush; berries, sugar-free contents do it proud

What an unexpected surprise! Hubby’s brother paid us an overnight visit as a stopover on a business trip. We involved ourselves in lots of good catch-up conversation and some grandkid bragging and photo-swapping, of course.

What to serve for this delightful stop-in? Something from the Chickasaws, naturally, since these two brothers are proud citizens of the Chickasaw Nation. Because it seemed to be a springtime recipe, I had been saving my “Blushing Berry Bliss” recipe card gathered from the last time I visited the Chickasaw Nutrition Services building in Ardmore and collected some new, free inspirations. This multilayer dessert (which boasted all of 90 calories per serving!) seemed a perfect food to graze over while the three of us chatted well past our normal bedtimes last evening.

The recipe starts with a purchased sugar-free angel food cake, cut into cubes and soaked in orange juice and vanilla. Layers of the cake are alternated with layers of mixed berries and then sugar-free vanilla pudding folded into sugar-free whipped topping. (Any reason to wonder why the calorie-count adds up only to 90? Fortunate, since Hubby’s comment was, “I could just eat up the entire bowl of this thing.” The ample bowlful would be great served at a party or a potluck event.)

The mixed berries can be fresh or frozen, but the important thing is that they “blush” so their color can soak the surrounding white cake layers. The recipe needs to refrigerate several hours, or overnight, so all this wonderful marinating and soaking action can transpire.

The recipe, and the impromptu visit from a valued family member, both were pure bliss. “Blushing Berry Bliss” lived up to its name.

Blushing Berry Bliss

1 (10-ounce) sugar-free angel food cake, cubed
3 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cup skim milk
2 (1-ounce) packages sugar-free instant vanilla pudding
1 1/2 cups sugar-free whipped topping, divided
2 (16-ounce) packages mixed berries, frozen, thawed, drained, or
4 cups fresh mixed berries

Place cake cubes in a large bowl. Mix orange juice and vanilla in a small bowl. Drizzle orange juice mixture over cake; toss to coat. Pour milk into another large bowl. Add pudding mixes Beat with a wire whisk for 2 minutes or until well-blended. Gently fold in 1 cup of the whipped topping. Place half of the cake cubes into a 2-quart serving bowl. Top with half the berries and half the pudding mixture. Repeat layers. Top with remaining 1/2 cup of whipped topping. Cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate until set. Makes 20-1/2 cup servings.

Friday, April 15, 2011

What got this “Wow!” of “Wow!”s from Hubby? Not chocolate decadence but greens casserole!

After being my accomplice for all the 212 blog entries I’ve completed, Hubby has sampled every dish I’ve prepared before I entered each recipe. That’s a lot of taste-testing in more than a year—and a lot of “attagirl!” affirmations on his part.

I can’t think of any recipe in those 212 that Hubby hasn’t complimented—some more vociferously than others, of course, but Hubby always been free with the superlatives. Makes my job as chief cook and apprentice food blogger much easier, I must say.

But for him to be forthcoming with the remark, “This has to go down as my all-time favorite of anything you’ve cooked”, I had to take notice. “You mean one of your favorites?” I queried. “No, the ABSOLUTE favorite.” Well, that’s sayin’ somethin’, for sure.

Mind you, this wasn’t Chocolate Decadence or some sicky-sweet multilayer dessert he was puffing. It was none other than today’s blog subject, Greens Casserole with Mozzarella. Perhaps this happened because his own greens from his own garden (and the tail-end of them, mind you) represented the impetus for the recipe. But Hubby kept bragging and gushing and going back for more casserole. At one point he suggested that this was THE DISH I needed to bring to the next family gathering. At another point he walked into my office crunching a tortilla chip and murmuring, “This would make a good dip, too.”

Well, onto this attention-getting recipe, which took the last of the last of our 2011 crop of collard greens but was a fitting sayonara to them. It merely was a mixture of wilted greens, a sauce of milk, butter, flour, and cheeses and a topping of dry bread crumbs with Mozzarella cheese sprinkled on. I baked it in a 7-inch-by-11-inch casserole dish. It didn’t last long. (Recipe source: www.nikibone.com) Using my own homemade chicken broth, skim milk, part-skim (instead of whole-milk) ricotta cheese, and whole-wheat bread for the dry breadcrumbs were the redeeming health features, besides of course, the fresh-from-the-garden green leafies. As we know, collard greens provide anticancer properties and offer an excellent source of vitamins B6 and C, carotene, chlorophyll, and manganese. One cup of collard greens provides more than 70 percent of the recommended daily allowance for vitamin C.

Bye-bye, collard greens. You’ve been a blast and taught us a lot and been the star of our winter garden. We’ll for sure remember you at the time of next year’s plantings.

Greens Casserole with Mozzarella

1 1/2 pounds collard greens, washed and trimmed
salt (or salt substitute) and freshly ground back pepper
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup skim milk
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup ricotta cheese, whole milk or part skin
3 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
2 ounces Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Butter a 1 1/2-quart baking dish or casserole; preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut out and discard the tough stems from the greens; cut out thick center ribs. Rinse all the greens and shake off any excess water; chop them into 1/2-inch pieces. In a large skillet cook the greens over low heat; add them by handfuls and stir them down as they wilt. Add 1/2 cup of water if the greens seem dry; then cover the skillet and braise for 10 to 15 minutes or until tender. Pour off any liquid left in the skillet; then season the greens to your preference with salt and pepper. Transfer greens to a bowl and set aside. Heat the broth and milk in a saucepan, just until bubbles form around the edge of the pan. In the large skillet melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and cook, stirring for one minute. Add the hot broth mixture all at once and stir over medium heat until the sauce is smooth and thickened. Whisk in the grated Parmesan and ricotta. Stir the greens into the cheese sauce; pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and then sprinkle the grated mozzarella over the top; bake for 20 minutes or until the sauce is bubbling and the mozzarella is melted and lightly browned. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Collard Greens and Tomatoes: my previously nonexistent collards repertoire grows by leaps and bounds

Part of Hubby’s admonition about knowing “when to fold em” in terms of harvesting garden crops such as the collard greens at just the right moment involves finding quick outlets for the basketful of goodies he brings in.

Smiling like a Cheshire cat, he may tote in this container full of fresh produce and feel pleased as any successful gardener might, but inwardly I’m cringing. What now? I groan to myself. I don’t want to waste this lovely produce that God has provided for us, but how can I possibly cook everything before it ruins?

The website, www.nikibone.com, I’ve been bragging about saved the day again with Collard Greens with Tomatoes. Virtually any cook already has these simple ingredients on hand. The collards/tomatoes mixture made a great side dish. I’ve gone from a lifetime of never having much association with this wonderful veggie to becoming a daily companion of inventive ways to prepare it.

A word about the “rinse-well” portion of the recipe. One can’t over-rinse. Just as I was about to tear these tender collards into bite-sized pieces and throw them in the pan, a wee visitor crept onto the handle of my spoon. A mini garden worm had made his way into the house with the basket of veggies. He had managed to hide himself in a crevice of a collard leaf during my vigorous cleansing of the leaves under the faucet. Now, sensing danger as his leaf-home was destined for the heated pot, he was fleeing for his life. Busted! But t’was a lesson to me: rinse vigilantly; don’t lightly brush by that stage. After all, this is the G-A-R-D-E-N we’re talking about!

Collard Greens with Tomatoes

2 pounds collard greens, washed and cut or torn in bite-sized pieces
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning, or a combination of basil, oregano, and rosemary
1 (14-ounce) can no-salt-added tomatoes, chopped and drained, reserving liquid

Rinse torn leaves well; do not dry them. Put in a large pan and let greens wilt over medium-low heat. Add Italian seasoning and chopped tomatoes; continue to heat for about 5 minutes. Add as much of the liquid from the tomatoes as you want. Heat for about 4 more minutes or until mixture is hot. Serves 4.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Breakfast treats filled with raspberries and topped with fun sprinkles—pure delight

Poor little bush looked rather pathetic as we loaded it into our Walmart cart. It was just a stick protruding from a pasteboard container with a little dirt surrounding it. Would someone really pay good money for such a paltry item? And the good money was half off of its original $5 cost. Nothing wrong with ’em, we were assured. Leaves just got blown off in the March winds. We’d done well with Walmart rescue plants before. We planted this little raspberry vine among some fellow fruit vines in the backyard garden and hoped for the best.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t wait for the rescue job to take hold. Raspberries were on my mind, as was a recent recipe in “Celebrating a Healthy Harvest” for raspberry breakfast muffins. I was drawn to the fact that you sprinkle on top some decorating sugar just as you might if you were decorating sugar cookies. The fresh raspberries (from the grocery produce section) stirred in made these little breakfast treats pure delight. Hubby wanted to consume the whole basketful, but I stored some Sugared Berry Muffins away in a sealed container and put them in the freezer to pop out for Easter-morning breakfast next week.

Time will tell whether our pathetic little stick of a raspberry bush will bud out and catch up with its big brother and sister berry bushes out there. When it does, we’ll be ready for it with a great recipe to show off this delicious red fruit.

Sugared Berry Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 egg, lightly beaten (or egg substitute)
1 1/4 cups skim milk
4 tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup fresh raspberries
2 tablespoons decorating sugar (or sugar substitute)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 12 medium muffin cups with cooking spray. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. Stir in egg, milk, butter, and vanilla just until blended. Gently fold in raspberries. Divide batter among 12 muffin cups. Sprinkle decorating sugar crystals or sugar substitute, such as Splenda, over the top of each muffin. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin emerges clean. Remove muffins from muffin tin and cool on a wire rack. Makes 12 servings.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Mess o’ Greens Salad with Warm Pecan Dressing: a great way to bid farewell to our winter garden

Hubby says the secret with gardening is knowing when to roll ’em and knowing when to fold ’em. As far as the collard-green yield from our winter garden was concerned, the time definitely had arrived to fold ’em.

These delicious greens that practically were a foot-wide in some spots across the leaf were in their waning days. Leaves were on the verge of growing tough and yellow. The weekend that just passed seemed to be a good time to amass all those collards recipes that I blogged about uncovering on the Internet last week and to get to cookin’ while, as the advertisements go, supplies last.

My first task was to prepare Mess o’ Greens Salad with Warm Pecan Dressing, a delightful salad that used up an amazing amount of the collards plus some of our red-leaf lettuce that also has seen its glory days in our winter garden. (Recipe was from the Internet collection of www.nikibone,com, that I mentioned earlier.) Besides combining these two foods that we have been blessed with this season, the recipe also called for toasted pecans. As I’ve mentioned before, we have a big bucket of pecans in our freezer from the last time the dozen pecan trees on our property had their big output. This meant that all the key ingredients of this salad were home grown right here on our little spot of earth—just like our ancestors experienced in the olden days.

A simple dressing that combined balsamic vinegar, oil, and honey and was warmed on the stove was poured over the greens after toasted pecans fragrant from the oven were stirred into the vinegar mixture. The recipe says to serve warm; drizzling the dressing over the collards/red-lettuce wilted the greens slightly and made them tender for salad-eating.

Good things can’t last forever; the winter garden has to be cleared out to make way for the plantings of the spring and summer. We are thankful that some of those “good things” found their way to our table in the form of this wonderful new favorite.

Mess o’ Greens Salad with Warm Pecan Dressing

6 cups fresh collard greens, about 1 pound
6 cups other greens (mustard, turnip, red-leaf lettuce), about 1 pound
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped or broken, toasted

Wash greens well, dry thoroughly, then remove and discard the long stems. Tear the greens into salad-sized pieces and place in a large bowl. In a small bowl combine the vinegar, honey, and mustard. Set aside. In a small skillet heat the oil until hot but not smoking. Add the vinegar mixture and pecans and cook; stir regularly, for 2 to 3 minutes. Pour over the greens; serve at once. Makes 4-6 servings.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Grilled wrap recipe found on almost-discarded bag makes for a great weekend supper

Recipe inspirations crop up in some of the most random places. Before I tossed a plastic wrapper that had contained shredded Cheddar cheese, my eye caught a recipe for Grilled Chicken Barbecue Wraps. It appeared on the back of the plastic sleeve that was about to be destined for the trash can since I had used all the cheese.

Hmm, it calls for fresh tomatoes, I mused as I read the ingredients. I probably could ad lib a little and add some lettuce, since I still have in abundance the red-leaf lettuce from my garden. Sounded like a good Saturday-night supper to me—quick and easy after our day-long stint in the flower and vegetable gardens.

The recipe called for grilling the actual wrap after it was assembled and stuffed with marinated shredded chicken breasts, cheese, tomato, and lettuce. I used my countertop grill for the experience. You might want to be sure your grill is exceptionally well-oiled with spray cooking oil before you attempt the cooking. Mine wasn’t terribly well-prepared, so the actual cleanup took longer than the cooking. Fortunately, since I cooked, Hubby cleaned up, so the tasks were equally divided, but next time I’ll remember to take a lot more care with the cooking spray.

However, we WILL have a next time, because the novel way of preparing these delicious and healthy wraps made this nearly discarded recipe a definite winner.

Grilled Barbecue Chicken Wraps

1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons bottled Italian dressing
1/2 bottled barbecue sauce, divided
4 (10-inch) flour tortillas
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 cup lettuce, torn into bite-sized bits
a little extra barbecue sauce to drizzle over the tops of wraps after grilling

Heat grill to medium heat. Brush chicken with Italian dressing. Grill chicken 6 to 8 minutes on each side or until done. For the last few minutes of cooking brush with 1/4 cup sauce. Shred chicken. Spoon remaining sauce down centers of tortillas; top with chicken, cheese, tomatoes, and lettuce. Fold in opposite sides of tortillas; roll up burrito-style. Grill wrap, seam-sides down, 8 to 9 minutes, or until wrap is golden brown. Turn after 5 minutes. Place on serving plate. If desired, drizzle a little extra sauce over tops of wraps. Makes 4 servings.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Salsa-Stuffed Collards a south-of-the-border twist of an exotic favorite

Collards, collards, collards. When you have as many as we do growing in our garden—with huge, green, healthy leaves that are almost a foot-wide—you have to be resourceful in looking for recipe ideas. And as Hubby says, "We also need to use these up quickly before they get too mature!"

I simply Googled “recipes for collard greens”. On the Internet appeared screen after screen of recipes entitled “Veggie Side Dishes—Collard Greens” from the website called Nikibone.com. I was agog at the dozens of ways to prepare this vegetable with which I never had fraternized much previously.

I promise you I won’t go extreme and try each one for this blog, although doing so would be tempting. I spotted nothing in the assemblage that didn’t seem terrific. But (partly because I needed to use up some ground turkey in the fridge) I did settle on “Salsa-Stuffed Collard Greens” as my first attempt. I did so because this calls for the greens to be rolled up around a meat filling (think of the popular Greek recipe for dolmades, in which a stuffing is rolled around a grape leaf); our collard leaves are so wide, they seemed as though they were great candidates. Hubby and I love Greek cuisine; this recipe with the collards seemed like a south-of-the-border twist on an exotic favorite.

That’s the part at which my process almost fell apart. (Emergency blog? I started to panic as my first few efforts at rolling the collard leaves derailed.) The recipe asks the cook to rinse the fresh-from-the-garden leaves, lie them flat, and cut out the bottom portion of the center vein, and cook the leaf in boiling water for about 5 minutes. At the end of the 5-minute boiling-water bath, the collard leaf had withered into a small ball that barely filled a tablespoon—hardly suitable for lying flat and stuffing. Five minutes clearly was too long to boil the leaves. Instead I merely dipped each in the boiling water just long enough for it to soften and become un-crispy; then I quickly spirited each over to waiting paper towels. I spread each leaf out to dry and blotted the tops to remove excess liquid. This will work; no emergency blog needed, I tried to reassure myself.

The whole process was a bit time-consuming and something I definitely wouldn’t attempt for a dinner-in-a-jiffy, but the look of all the stuffed collard leaves nudging each other in the bubbling sauce and the resulting wonderful flavor of the end product made everything worthwhile. Plus the stuffing made enough to fill at least an additional half-dozen leaves, so I can make up another batch in a few days.

In later blogs watch out for such goodies as Greens Casserole with Mozzarella, Mess o’ Greens Salad with Warm Pecan Dressing, or Collard Greens with Tomatoes. Your horizons will be expanded as mine have been. Who knew the humble collard was so versatile?

Salsa-Stuffed Collard Greens

12 large, fresh collard green leaves
1 pound lean ground beef (or ground turkey)
1 cup finely chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 cups hot cooked brown rice
4 cups salsa (mild, medium or hot), according to taste (I used mild; recipe was plenty spicy)
4 tablespoons taco seasoning mix
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thoroughly wash collard leaves; gently shake off excess water. Lay leaves flat to cut out bottom portion of center vein; do not cut leaves in half; keep leaves whole. Dip leaves one at a time in boiling water; remove immediately as soon as the leaf softens (30-45 seconds at the most. Do not leave in water more than this.) Repeat until all leaves are cooked. Spread cooked leaves flat on paper towels to drain. Blot top side. In large skillet cook the ground beef, onion, and celery together until beef is done and onions and celery are soft. Drain fat; stir in rice, taco seasoning, and 2 cups of salsa. Add salt to taste. Mix well. On each flattened collard leaf place about 1/2-cup filling. Spread evenly. Fold in left and right sides of the leaf about 1 inch. Starting at the unfolded end of the leaf, roll up the leaf and enclose the beef mixture. Repeat until leaves all are filled. Place stuffed leaves in a buttered, 3-quart baking dish; cover with remaining two cups salsa. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes. Top with cheese; bake 5 more minutes. Serve hot. Makes 6 servings.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Mature quickly, little apple tree! Roasted Apples with Berries stirs the imaginations.

A big ole gap like a snaggled-toothed smile existed along the front row of our garden. The lineup went like this: pear tree, peach tree, peach tree, blank spot. Some time ago a peach tree had died there and had not been replaced. Elsewhere in back yard we also have a plum. We’ve never tried apples, but all the other fruit trees now are mature and producing well. What fun to have our own apples! Hubby decided to give it a try, so over the weekend he filled the gap with one. Time will tell.

To stir our imaginations about what delights might await if we could walk to our garden and bring in our own apples like we soon (ideally) will our peaches, I hatched up a batch of Baked Apples with Berries. This capitalized on the bounty of berries that fills the produce aisles of grocery stores right now. Hubby’s strawberry allergy prevents from indulging in that wonderful fruit, but he can indulge with all the rest. (How can a strawberry seed irritate his digestive system but a blackberry seed doesn’t faze him? Go figure, but we just go with the flow.)

This dish combines raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries—everything that’s on his green-light list—and stuffs them down into a hollowed-out cavity in a Granny Smith apple; all that bakes for 45 minutes. After baking the wonderfully soft apple interior combine with the roasted berry mixture for some terrific flavor. Remaining berries are mixed with yogurt, honey, and cinnamon, poured over the top, and served warm, with extra berries sprinkled on top.

The recipe called for four servings; we had so much of the yogurt-berry topping left over after the apples were downed that Hubby enjoyed it for a great low-cal dessert last night (or, next time we could have baked six apples instead of four and used the entire topping amount in six).

Now that the snaggled-toothed gap in the garden has been filled, bring on the apples!

Baked Apples with Berries

1 cup fresh blackberries
1 cup fresh raspberries
1 cup fresh blueberries
4 large Granny Smith apples, washed
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup fat-free, vanilla-flavored yogurt
2 teaspoons honey

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Starting at the stem, core apples about three-quarters of the way through the apple. Make the hole more than 1-inch wide. Spray baking dish with cooking spray; place hollowed-out apples in the dish. Combine berries; pack berries very firmly into the opening in each apple. Set extra berries aside. Bake apples until soft, about 45 minutes. Divide remaining berries in half. Crush half the berries; then mix them with yogurt, cinnamon, and honey. Serve apples warm with yogurt topping and extra berries sprinkled on top. Makes 4 servings.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

See what you get when you merge standby pie recipe with healthy fruit already on hand?

I really had to see it to believe it. The Dallas Morning News recipe section featured an “add-a-fruit” idea to make old standby favorite recipes more healthy. To one of my favorite pies in all the world—chess pie–the newspaper column suggested adding one of my favorite fruit in all the world—blueberries. Much as I loved the flavors of each, I couldn’t imagine blending them.

Furthermore the blending process seemed odd. The recipe said to puree 10 ounces of frozen (you could use whole, fresh blueberries as well) blueberries and spread this layer on the bottom of a prepared pie crust. (I always have frozen ones on hand because we use them on our breakfast cereal.) Then stir up the traditional chess pie mixture (which features cornmeal and vinegar) and pour it over the blueberries. How would this work? The blueberry puree wasn’t heavy enough to stay on bottom to make a separate, distinct layer. When I poured the liquid chess-pie mixture over the blueberries, the bottom layer rose to the top. Originally I envisioned cutting into the pie that contained the blueberries as a surprise layer on the bottom. Now, from the looks of things, the blueberries would cook up indistinguishable from the chess. I prepared for a bummer and was ready to send the Dallas Morning News an email of complaint.

Was I in for a surprise? Layers did occur in the baking; however, they reversed themselves. What I retrieved from the oven after baking finished was a pie that was solid purple on top but, on carving into it, had the nice golden chess layer on the bottom. What a hoot! Both layers solidified just fine. And the flavor of the fruit on top of the chess was indescribable. The addition of a tiny sliver of sugar-free ice cream or cool whip (the merest teaspoon is all that’s needed; don’t go overboard, as I cautioned Hubby) is a crowning touch.

The email of complaint drafted in my head turned into the draft of an email of congratulations. I was so thankful for the “add-a-fruit” to old favorites for the recipe column. For the blueberry vines Hubby planted in our weekend of gardening I had high hopes. Once they spring forth with succulent berries, I have my first recipe ready for them.

Blueberry Chess Pie

1 prepared pie crust
1 (10-ounce) package frozen blueberries, thawed
1/4 cup sugar (or sugar substitute such as Splenda)
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk (I used fat-free)
2 eggs, lightly beaten (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon cornmeal
1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
blueberries and mint leaves (optional garnish)
sugar-free ice cream or whipped topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place blueberries in blender container and puree. Stir in sugar substitute. Set aside. Place blueberries in blender container and puree. Pour blueberry puree into prepared pie crust. Combine sweetened condensed milk, eggs, butter, vinegar, cornmeal, and salt. Pour over blueberry puree. Bake for 50 minutes or until knife inserted in the center emerges clean (I actually had to bake mine for 1 hour until it was fully set.) Cool completely. Garnish with berries and mint leaves if you desire. Serve with sugar-free ice cream or whipped topping if you desire. Serves 8.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Fish goes in salad all the time now! A great go-together with our red-leaf lettuce

Still looking for ways to use our harvest of red-leaf lettuce from our garden, I returned to my Prevention.com article suggesting 450-calorie-and-under quick meals, the same source of the unique Salad Pizza a few blogs back. Hubby is always pushing the cholesterol-lowering “more-fish-more-fish” mantra, so I lit on the recipe for Surf or Turf Salad (you have the option of adding strips of fish fillet or flank steak). I had some tilapia fillets in the fridge, so this was a handy idea.

Surf or Turf Salad made for a highly unusual recipe combination—the addition of peeled and chopped apple besides some of the more typical salad ingredients. I don’t know how to describe it other than to say that the sweetness of the apple balanced off the fish (which is found in salads all the time these days) and also the tart balsamic-vinegar dressing. Loved having apple in a tossed salad! Not sure I’ve ever sampled such a mix of flavors before. I had on hand everything the recipe called for except carrots, so I subbed a little red cabbage I needed to use up. When I say I had everything on hand, I’m especially proud to report that two of the ingredients—the red-leaf lettuce and the green onion—were seconds within reach, as I walked out my back door to my garden and was back within two-minutes’ time. As my mother might have phrased it, the produce was so fresh, it could “rise up and slap you.”

Now that’s one slap in the face I don’t mind at all!

Surf or Turf Salad

12 ounces fish fillet or flank steak
1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/8 teaspoon pepper
4 cups red-leaf lettuce, torn into salad-sized bits
1 cucumber, chopped
1 pint halved grape tomatoes (or 4 Roma tomatoes), chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 apple (any variety), peeled and chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 small red onion, chopped
3 tablespoons green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/8 teaspoon pepper

Sprinkle fish or flank steak with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper. Grill 5 to 6 minutes per side. Combine lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, apple, bell pepper, and red onion in bowl. Whisk green onion, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper. Pour over salad and toss. Top salad with thinly sliced fish or steak. Makes 4 servings. (400 calories per serving).

Monday, April 4, 2011

Pumpkin pancakes that jump-started our outdoor planting agenda never go out of season

The plastic container I set out to defrost clearly was marked “Beef Broth”. I had made my broth from scratch and needed it now for a recipe that called for beef stock to be added.

But when I pulled back the lid after the container had thawed, what I uncovered was anything but broth. It was pumpkin puree—stored in the freezer after I had cooked the innards of all my Thanksgiving pumpkins late last fall. I had failed to change the label on the container that long ago had held something else.

Wow, here we were in springtime, with thoughts far away from autumnal dishes. Yet Hubby is no respector of seasons where pumpkin pancakes are concerned. What would get his Saturday morning of garden work off to a grand start better than pumpkin pancakes on the griddle? My surprise defrost of pumpkin puree found a home. Soon Hubby trailed in, lured by the aroma of one of his favorite breakfasts being flipped out onto warm plates. The delighted look on his face told me this serendipity of finding pumpkin puree instead of beef broth in the airtight plastic bowl was a fortunate find.

After all, as I’ve mentioned before, I couldn’t maintain this blog without Hubby’s extreme willingness to dash off to the supermarket at a moment’s notice to track down an emergency ingredient or to interview countless grocery clerks as to the whereabouts of some obscure (to us) item such as wonton wrappers. Anything I can do to say thanks to my helpful Hubby, I’m glad to do.

Those pumpkin pancakes, unexpected on my agenda, paved the way for our weekend’s planting of cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, strawberries, blueberry and blackberry bushes, red peppers, and jalapenos, among other garden fare. An overnight rain was perfectly timed to get all those seeds and starts well-watered.

Delicious pumpkin pancakes that gave the weekend its boost kept us both revved up like Energizer Bunnies until the last spade of dirt was shoveled.

Pumpkin Pancakes

2 cups pancake mix (I used fat-free Bisquick)
3 tablespoons brown sugar (If using brown-sugar substitute, such as Splenda brand, use 1 1/2
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
1 cup pumpkin puree, mashed
1 egg (or 1/4 cup egg substitute)
spray oil

In a separate bowl mix together the milk, pumpkin, and egg. In another bowl mix together the pancake mix, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Stir the flour mixture into the pumpkin mixture just enough to combine. Spray oil on the griddle. Heat griddle over medium-high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the pan. Use about 1/4 cup for each pancake. Flip the pancake when the bubbles begin to pop and bottom is brown. Brown second side; serve. Makes 6 servings.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Red-leaf lettuce on a pizza? You can bet the garden on it.

We just couldn’t get enough of our very own, garden-grown red-leaf lettuce, so I dug out another recipe that would assure that I’d be dining on it for the next several days.

For more than a year I’d just been staring at my torn-out Prevention magazine page that gave the directions for Salad Pizza. I just couldn’t fathom it—salad atop golden-brown pizza crust? As my hubby remarked when he bit into this entree last evening, “Are you sure this thing doesn’t have meat on it?” At the outset I puzzled over the same matter. Except for browning the pizza dough in an oven for 8 minutes, the resulting “pizza” wasn’t even warmed. How did this work?

Yet Prevention vowed that a somewhat sizable helping of the pizza contained only 410 calories even when served with a 5-ounce glass of red wine (in our case, a 5-ounce glass of sparkling red grape juice.) And our wonderful fresh lettuce formed the base of it all.

Besides enjoying dining on more of the lettuce, Hubby liked the finished product because it called for 1/4-cup walnuts sprinkled over it. No one can deny that the walnut is the Grand Pooh-Bah of cholesterol-lowering nuts—supposedly even better for a person than the more tasty almonds, pecans, or pistachios. But walnuts seem bitter and bland to me. I go for the tastier but less power-packed nut snacks.

In this melange, however, the walnuts are sprinkled on as pizza toppings alongside feta cheese, tomatoes, green onions, and the like, so they absorb the flavors of that which is around them. Walnuts provided a crunch to the topping that made this dish all the more unusual.

Dining on this amazing pizza made us sad we hadn’t planted more red-leaf lettuce; it’ll be gone all too soon, but my new, memorable recipe for Salad Pizza will prompt us to put in more lettuce rows next year.

Salad Pizza

1 13-ounce package refrigerated pizza dough (tested with Pillsbury brand)
2 cups torn red-leaf lettuce
3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
1/2 diced small red onion
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup chopped green onion
2 tablespoons dried herbs (I used a mixture of Italian seasoning and parsley)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)

On nonstick baking sheet pat pizza dough into a thin circle or rectangle. Bake according to package directions. Let cool. Top with torn lettuce, tomatoes, onion, cheese, walnuts, green onion, and herbs. Combine olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt substitute. Drizzle over entire pizza topping. Makes 4 servings.