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.

Monday, October 31, 2011

An enticing brew of Turnip Greens Stew goes with the Halloween season

Halloween just feels as though it should call for a big, bubbling pot of stew. My mother always believed a wee trick-or-treater should have something warm in the belly before venturing out door-to-door.

An enticing brew of Turnip Greens Stew made the Southern Living September 2011 pages in the article about lightened-up Southern favorites. It stated that lean ham and fat-free broth offer the same good flavor as the original, heavier Southern staple but without the saturated fat. The beans boost the fiber content.

This turned out to be as tasty as can be. We had just brought in a new crop, from our garden, of our own green and red Bell peppers. These fresh-from-the-garden additions added to the flavor.

Our in-town grandmunchkin momentarily was due for trick-or-treat (a day early), so in advance of that, we enjoyed this hearty Halloween meal even though we weren’t the ones going door-to-door.

Turnip Greens Stew

2 cups chopped cooked ham (I used the lower-sodium variety)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 cups fat-free chicken broth (I used the lower-sodium variety)
2 (16-ounce) packages frozen chopped turnip greens (could also use fresh)
2 (15.5-ounce) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups diced onion, red and green Bell peppers, and celery (can use the frozen, packaged
variety or a combination of whatever fresh you have on hand)
1 teaspoon sugar (or sugar substitute)
1 teaspoon seasoned pepper

Sauté ham in hot oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add broth and remaining ingredients; bring to a boil Cover; reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally for 25 minutes. Makes about 10 cups stew.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Apple Crisp and a crisp, fall morning—just what we’ve been waiting for

I had a new cookbook and was rarin’ to go with some new ideas. I didn’t have to look further than the first recipe—a highly simple version of Apple Crisp . . . and me still with an abundance of fresh apples on hand. What’s more, these apples didn’t have to be peeled—the most time-draining portion of many apple recipes. Just wash, core, slice, and place in the dish.

The cookbook was from the Southwest Chili Peppers Nutrition Task Force and was designed to instruct people in some of the most basic ways of preparing fresh fruit and vegetables. For people who know that fresh is best but don’t know where to start, this colorful, spiral-bound volume presents one illustrated, highly simple yet interesting recipe suggestion for each item of produce.

I loved the simplicity of this Apple Crisp—loved the outcome, as well, but found I needed to increase the cooking time beyond what was specified. Likely my apple slices were a little too thick and just needed some extra oven time, but after the recommended 20 minutes, they weren’t tender. I merely covered the baking dish with a sheet of foil and let the apples steam without over-browning the topping. An extra 10-15 minutes gave them the doneness they needed. Then I removed the foil for the last few minutes so the Crisp could get . . . well, crisp.

What a good little bowl of breakfast bounty (I didn’t wait for the dessert part) on this “Fall-Seems-Here-to Stay” morning! Warmed and served with a sliver of sugar-free whipped topping crowning it, it got a Friday morning kicked off well.

Apple Crisp

4-5 medium apples (I used a combination of Golden Delicious and Gala)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
1/4 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides of a square pan. Remove the cores from the apples. Slice the apples. (Leaving the apples unpeeled adds to the nutritional value and is recommended, but some cooks might prefer to remove the peel as well.) Spread the sliced apples on the bottom of the pan. Cut the butter into small pieces and place in medium-sized bowl. Add the oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Using two knives cut the margarine into the mixture until it looks like small crumbs. Sprinkle the mixture over the top of the apples. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. (May need to bake longer, with a sheet of aluminum foil over the top, for at least 10 more minutes to be sure apples are tender. If you find you need to cover because of increased cooking time, be sure to uncover for a few minutes at the end to allow the topping to get crisp.) Makes about 6 servings.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Pumpkin-Apple Muffins with streusel topping transport me to Amish country

I had some fresh pumpkin left from yesterday’s dish; I also still had p-u-l-l-en-ty of fresh apples. So I tippy-typed an Internet search to find something that would combine the two.

Up turned a website, www.bbonline.com (Bed & Breakfast Inns Online), that listed the most memorable recipes of B&B’s nationwide. I loved it. Where can you find better, more original cooking than in a good ole B&B? I had to try some of their ideas.

This particular recipe, Pumpkin-Apple Muffins, was presented by Fields of Home Guest House and Cabins in Millersburg (Holmes County), OH. After reading this recipe and the promo about the inn ("Enjoy log-cabin comfort, quiet country fields, and flower gardens in the heart of Amish Country!”) I was ready to throw my toothbrush in a travel bag and head out driving for there. If you’ve ever spent any time in Amish Country, you know the meals make memories to linger the rest of your life. Sounded delightful!

But since traveling there wasn’t possible, my next-best option was to enjoy these muffins, which I proceeded to do. Simple recipe with the chopped apple folded in (Hubby did this part. He enjoyed himself so much over the weekend with his cooking spree when I was under the weather, he volunteered for more. Is he the perfect Hubby, or what?)

Well, these muffins turned out to be absolute sweethearts. The apple bits tucked into the spicy pumpkin batter were just exceptionally yummy. Then to top it all with that divine streusel—what can I say? This was a great Internet find. I’m depositing at least half of them into my airtight container to preserve in the fridge for Thanksgiving-week breakfasts. Apple and pumpkin will make a healthy start to the morning. And the rest? Hubby is already seeing to putting them away.

Pumpkin-Apple Muffins

2 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
3 teaspoons pumpkin-pie spice
1 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
2 eggs (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
1 cup canned pumpkin (I used fresh pumpkin puree)
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 chopped peeled apple
1/4 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon butter

In large bowl combine flour, sugar, pumpkin-pie spice, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. In separate bowl combine eggs, pumpkin, and oil. Make a well in the dry ingredients, then insert the moist ingredients. Stir together until dry ingredients are just moistened. Fold in apples. Fill greased muffin cups almost full. For streusel topping combine 1/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Over each muffin sprinkle 1 heaping teaspoon of topping. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. Cool in pan 10 minutes before you remove to a wire rack. Makes 12 muffins.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Easy to go a little nutso over this pecan-pumpkin sticky bun recipe

Normally the event would have left me tearful and despairing. I was using my last two cups of pecans produced from our own pecan trees—once so ample but recently rendered almost nonproductive because of drought and fickle weather conditions. I had hoarded the last batch like a miser and thought I might could hold onto it for my Thanksgiving pecan pie, annually made using my Nanny’s handwritten recipe. But then I saw these sticky buns in the “pecan issue” of a recent Southern Living magazine and had to try them. There went the absolute last of the last of my supply. The whole situation could have left me weeping.

But then Hubby found them—as he was picking up branches from the weekend’s strong winds and rain. “I’ve actually seen some brown nuts,” he reported rejoicing as he returned from the portion of our yard that’s on the south side of the house. Those trees usually are our nominal producers; they drop the smaller pecans that we usually let pecan-seekers take home for their own, since they fall near the public alleyway and we usually have plenty to spare.

But our prized paper-shell tree near the house has shown no signs of promise. We’ll take the tiny ones on the south side and get there first before the pecan-happy outsiders can stake their claim. My own fresh nuts for our Thanksgiving pie this year, even if we have to scrounge for a cup full!

Now to the Sticky Bun Pumpkin Muffins that prompted me to fork over the LAST of the LAST. Southern Living said this was from among the best pecan recipes its staff had ever tasted. I had to agree. Fifteen ounces of fresh pumpkin puree (I could also have used a 15-ounce can of storebought) made these little buns super-moist. A mixture of toasted pecans stirred into a butter/brown sugar/corn syrup topping went into the bottom of greased muffin cups; the pumpkin batter went on top of that.

On emerging from 25-minutes of baking, the muffins had to be turned out (the pan inverted) immediately, topping-side up. Then they cooled on a wire rack so that things could solidify. Any extra topping that remained in the muffin pan was spooned over the muffins so that not one drop of that sweet, gooey stuff was wasted.

Cute little muffins on the outside, smooth and spicy on the inside! I was glad I tried them—and even gladder that making them hadn’t had to bring on sackcloth and ashes after all.

Sticky-Bun Pumpkin Muffins

2 cups pecan halves and pieces
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (I used dark brown; worked just fine)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar (or sugar substitute)
1 tablespoon pumpkin-pie spice
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin (or 15 ounces fresh pumpkin puree)
1 cup canola oil
4 large eggs (or 1 cup egg substitute)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant. Stir halfway through. Stir together melted butter and next 2 ingredients. Spoon 1 rounded teaspoonful butter mixture into each cup of 2 lightly greased 12-cup muffin pans. Top each with 1 rounded tablespoonful pecans. In a large bowl stir together flour and next 4 ingredients. Make a well in center of mixture. Whisk together pumpkin, next 2 ingredients, and 2/3 cup water. Add to dry ingredients. Stir just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin pans. Fill three-fourths full. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center emerges clean. Invert pan immediately to remove muffins. Arrange muffins on wire rack. Spoon over muffins any topping remaining in muffin cups. Let cool 5 minutes. Makes 2 dozen.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Comfort food reaches new heights with this veggie-laden Shepherd's Pie

I always wondered what might happen. Then I didn’t have to wonder any more. A tummy bug laid me low for the weekend—my usual prime time for cooking and blog-readying. Too yucky-feeling to lift more than a finger, I was panicked. This was zero hour for stirring things up in the kitchen, yet there I lay, stretched out on the sofa, dishrag-limp. Plus I needed some mild comfort food to try to digest for my own well-being.

Hubby to the rescue—as always. My wonder-spouse who cheerfully dashes off to the grocery at the last minute to ferry home obscure missing ingredients so I can cook some blog item stepped up to the plate (pun intended?) He’d make some of the dishes I had had on my weekend wish list! Bless him!

No better food could have existed than Shepherd’s Pie, with the recipe furnished by a recent Kroger grocery circular. It was just what the doc ordered for my recovering system—and it contained some wondrous fresh veggies that helped make it a meal-in-one.

Carrots and onion wedges roasted in olive oil in a 425-degree oven until they were tender (Hubby says 20-25 minutes wasn’t quite long enough; he went for about 35). Then the meat mixture (we subbed ground turkey), its seasonings, cornstarch, and broth simmered in a skillet until thickened; the roasted veggies stirred into that. Atop all was a layer of mashed potatoes, which can be ready-made, leftover, or instant. In our case hubby found in the veggie bin several potatoes he needed to use up. Nothing makes him jollier than being caught in the act of preventing food wastage.

Hubby muttered a little about the logistics of the assembly process (his tendency would be to get all ingredients neatly lined up on the counter first, whereas I would just fling them from the shelf as needed). But after he got in the groove, he kinda found himself having fun—and took pride in the finished product. (A future foods blogger in the making?)

Shepherd’s Pie was soothing and flavorful—best of all, in this case, it was prepared by someone else, which says something about the relative ease of this recipe. Meat and potatoes—a true guy-thing that warmed this gal’s heart.

Shepherd’s Pie

3 carrots, cut in 1- or 2-inch pieces
1 onion, half-diced and half cut in rough wedges
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt (or salt substitute), pepper, and dried Italian herbs, to taste
1 pound ground beef (I used ground turkey)
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/4 cups beef broth
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 cup frozen peas
3 cups mashed potatoes (ready-made, leftover, or instant)

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Place carrots and onion wedges in baking dish; toss with olive oil, salt, pepper, and herbs. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes or until fork-tender. Meanwhile brown the ground beef, diced onion, and garlic in a large skillet. Drain excess fat. Combine beef broth, cornstarch, Worcestershire sauce, and spices in a separate bowl. Pour liquid over meat; simmer over medium heat until rich and bubbly. If desired chop roasted vegetables into smaller pieces. Add peas and roasted vegetables to meat mixture; pour into a casserole dish. Top with prepared mashed potatoes. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown. Serves 6.

Monday, October 24, 2011

You won’t forget these novel Bell-pepper chips with delicious stuffing

Our green Bell peppers have really been showing off among the garden rows. Our garden looks as though a second spring has arrived. Pitiful-looking green-pepper plants that barely held their heads up through the summer drought now are bushy and thriving. Yesterday Hubby brought in a bushel basket of them. I had just the recipe I had been saving for this moment.

Pepper and Chicken Nachos were just the most adorable things—pictured in the July 2011 Southern Living issue that told us how to put our farmers’ market finds to good use. In July, because of the drought, we had no green peppers in sight, but what’s happening now makes up for that shortage.

The green-pepper wedges (I tucked in a few red ones for variety as well) were soaked in a flavorful marinade, chilled for 15 minutes, and then grilled until they were tender. A chicken-pea stuffing (the meat shredded from a Kroger deli chicken) went atop them, with cheese and cilantro on top of that.

Hubby just devoured these; although originally meant for appetizers, he made an entire meal out of them. He found the stuffing of the novel nacho “chips” to be highly filling and nutritious atop the healthy pepper.

Green peppers, we missed you months ago but are happy to have your hopeful yield during this fall season.

Pepper and Chicken Nachos

4 garlic cloves, pressed
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 medium-sized Bell peppers, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cups chopped deli-roasted chicken
1 (15 1/2-ounce) can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
1 (7.5-ounce) package sliced sharp Cheddar cheese
1/3 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves

Preheat grill to 350 to 400 degrees (medium-high) heat. Combine garlic and next 5 ingredients. Reserve 3 tablespoons garlic mixture. Pour remaining garlic mixture into a large, shallow dish; add peppers; turn to coat. Cover and chill for 15 minutes, turning once. Remove peppers from marinade. Reserve marinade for basting. Grill peppers, covered with grill lid, for 8 to 10 minutes or until peppers blister and are tender. Turn occasionally and baste with marinade. Preheat broiler with oven rack 4 inches from heat. Combine chicken and peas with reserved 3 tablespoons garlic mixture. Place peppers in a single layer on a lightly greased rack in an aluminum-foil-lined broiler pan. Quarter cheese slices. Top each pepper with chicken mixture and one cheese quarter. Broil 4 to 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Remove from oven, sprinkle with cilantro, and serve immediately Makes 4 servings.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How can you drink a caramel apple? Smiling all the way, with this fruit slushie.

I had purchased a Thanksgiving prep book from Taste of Home magazine. I mean, if Taste of Home can’t hatch up some dandy recipes for that great food-fest holiday, who can? Page after page of divine-looking ideas met my eye until . . . I saw it—a recipe and a photo for Caramel-Apple Slushies!

My hubby is the smoothie-slushie king of the universe. I can envision him standing atop a giant blender, his arms outstretched, proclaiming, “I’m the king of the world!” (See what Leo started in Titanic?) Anyway, I knew just exactly for whom this recipe was created.

An apple from our farm-stand supply was peeled, sliced, and put into the blender, along with thawed apple-juice concentrate, sugar-free caramel topping, lemon juice, and ice cubes. I called my resident Smoothie King in to be sure I was pressing the right buttons. “You for sure don’t want any bit of ice left,” he directed me to blend a little longer as I made my first-ever of these concoctions. When the finished slushie went into a chilled glass, I drizzled on a bit more caramel-flavored topping and added a thin apple slice for garnish.

“It tastes just like drinking a caramel apple,” the king reported after a few gulps of the new creation. Exactly the goal, according to the Taste of Home recipe. In the Caramel-Apple Slushie I’d found a new fall favorite for entertaining.

Caramel-Apple Slushies

1 medium apple, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup thawed apple-juice concentrate
5 teaspoons carmel-flavored ice-cream topping (I used Smucker’s brand sugar-free)
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
7 ice cubes
additional caramel-flavored ice-cream topping, optional

In a blender combine the apple, apple-juice concentrate, ice-cream topping, and lemon juice. Cover and process until blended. Add the ice cubes, cover, and process until smooth. Pour into chilled glasses. Drizzle with additional caramel topping if you desire. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Apple-pear cobbler with an oatmeal muffin on top—that's the idea of this great dessert

Baked apples and baked pears—doesn’t that sound as though it would be a divine combination in a cobbler? Then top it with a crust that tastes like a warm oatmeal muffin—how absolutely scrumptious!

That was what I thought when I read the recipe for Caramel Apple-Pear Cobbler with Oatmeal Muffin Crust. I couldn’t wait to get it all whipped up and ready to stick into the oven. The results indeed were heavenly—as good as it gets where fall desserts are concerned.

One of the neat things about this cobbler idea is that its topping, the Oatmeal Muffin Crust, can just as easily be used to make regular oatmeal muffins. If you take the batter and spoon it into greased muffin cups in a muffin pan and alter the cooking time just slightly, some flavorful muffins will appear from the oven. But as a top layer for the combined apples and pears, it was just too good to be believed. Dig down past the oatmeal-muffin layer; you’ll find some tender apples and pears that have been merged to make a terrific filling.

The mixture is great with sugar-free ice cream or sugar-free whipped topping. All the thanks go to www.myrecipes.com, which reprinted the instructions for this wonderful cobbler from the September 2004 issue of Southern Living.

Caramel Apple-Pear Cobbler

3 large Granny Smith apples, peeled and sliced (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup butter
3 large pears, peeled and sliced
Oatmeal Muffin Batter (see below)
Garnish: toasted pecan halves

Combine first three ingredients in a large bowl. Stir to coat apples. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add apple mixture; bring to a boil and cook, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Add pears to skillet and cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Spoon the hot fruit mixture into a lightly greased 10-inch (8-cup) deep-dish pie plate or shallow 2-quart baking dish. Spoon Oatmeal Muffin Batter evenly over fruit mixture. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Garnish with toasted pecan halves if you desire.

Oatmeal Muffin Batter

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup uncooked regular oats
1/2 cup chopped dates (I subbed raisins)
1/4 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
3/4 cup milk (I used skim)
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large egg, lightly beaten (or 1/4 cup egg substitute)

In a large mixing bowl combine flour and next 5 ingredients. Make a well in center of mixture. Stir together milk, melted butter, and lightly beaten egg; add to dry ingredients. Stir just until moistened. (If you want to use the batter for oatmeal muffins, spoon batter evenly into lightly greased muffin cups in a muffin pan. Fill them 2/3 full. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Makes 10 muffins.)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Way-unusual pea cakes pack the protein with fresh veggies on the side

Can anything good emerge from a can? When garden fresh tomatoes and homemade slaw form an accompaniment to what a canned good yields, certainly good things happen. This recipe sounded so weird, it lured me to try it just to see what turned up. Black-eyed Pea Cakes with Heirloom Tomatoes and Slaw—has anybody except the staff of Southern Living magazine, source of this unusual dish in its August 2011 issue, ever heard of such a thing?

Well, Hubby and I have now. Over the weekend we took the plunge and now are great appreciators of this terrific menu item. Hubby even poured sugar-free syrup on his pea cakes; I can’t say I went that far (the finished product amounted to a cross between pancakes and cornbread), but I definitely enjoyed them, especially when I piled on tomatoes (we used Roma instead of beefsteak tomatoes) and the slaw (recipe calls for fresh broccoli slaw, but I still had some of the slaw left from the Lemon-Apple Coleslaw from a few days back, so I stuck with it. (But below I’ll reprint the original recipe with the broccoli slaw instructions included.)

I just loved the black-eyed pea cakes, that look like pancakes but are much more substantial—a dish straight out of the South.

Black-eyed Pea Cakes with Tomatoes and Slaw

1 (15-ounce) can seasoned black-eyed peas, undrained
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 (6-ounce) package buttermilk cornbread mix (I used Betty Crocker brand)
1 large egg, lightly beaten (or 1/4 cup egg substitute)
1/4 cup fat-free sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons Southwest chipotle salt-free seasoning blend (I used Mrs. Dash brand)
1 teaspoon salt, divided (or salt substitute)
1/3 cup fat-free sour cream
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons sugar (or sugar substitute)
1 (12-ounce) package fresh broccoli slaw
2 large heirlooom tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (I subbed Roma tomatoes)

Coarsely mash peas with fork. Stir in garlic, next 4 ingredients, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir until blended. Spoon about 1/3 cup batter for each cake onto a hot, lightly-greased griddle. Cook cakes for 2 minutes or until edges look dry and cooked; turn and cook 2 more minutes. Stir together 1/3 cup sour cream, next 3 ingredients, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Stir in broccoli slaw. Place each cooked cake on a serving plate; top each with tomato slices. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top with slaw; serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fun cones piled with healthy apple filling

I’ve had this one in my “Kid Fun Ideas” binder for many a day. Just completing a visit with those “kids” for whom I keep the idea file, I had to put together these Apple Pie Cones for them, especially since I still had numerous apples from my apple bushel basket that I acquired on our recent farm-stand visit.

The idea behind this treat (courtesy www.foodnetwork.com) was to use some fresh apples to bake up an apple filling and then to stuff it into an ice-cream cone. Sugar-free whipped topping went atop the whole assemblage.

I used 8 large baking apples (a combination of Granny Smith and Golden Delicious) that were peeled and chopped, then stirred with cornstarch, vanilla extract, apple-juice concentrate, brown sugar, and raisins. All this cooked in a baking dish in the oven for 40 minutes—the first 20 of that time covered with foil and the last 20 uncovered. By the time 40 minutes have passed, the mixture is the consistency of regular apple-pie filling. At that point it’s ready to fill up the cones. (The website says this recipe is courtesy Wayne Brachman, Retro Desserts, Harper Collins Publishers 2000).

We shared these finished cones with the grandkiddos, but cones bring out the kid in any person, so the big kids—Hubby and I—enjoyed this healthy treat as much as any younger person could.

Apple Pie Cones

8 large baking apples 
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup apple juice concentrate, thawed
1/4 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup dark or golden raisins
8 ice-cream cones
whipped topping

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Peel, core, and cut the apples into 3/4-inch chunks. In a medium bowl whisk together the cornstarch, vanilla extract, apple-juice concentrate, and brown sugar. Add the apples and raisins; toss. Transfer to a 2-quart baking dish. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 20 minutes. Uncover and bake for 20 minutes more. Stir occasionally to ensure even cooking. The mixture is done when the apples are just tender and the filling is clear and thickened. Set aside to cool a bit. Scoop warm filling into the ice-cream cones and serve, topped with whipped topping.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Little Thanksgiving in sandwich form—Turkey Burger Patty Melts

I have been using them oh-so-sparingly—my tiny horde of pecans—all that remains from the last big pecan production of our favorite tree. Who knew that the fall of two years ago would be the last time our prized pecan, a giant paper-shell producer up near our side door, would shower its blessings on us for a long while? 

This fall was supposed to be THE YEAR for a great pecan harvest again, but all that was foiled by this past summer’s drought. We're very dubious about what kind of pecan crop we’ll see this year. I’m down to only a few cupsful in my stash that I keep in my freezer. Only the most appealing project causes me to dig in. Actually I was saving the last tiny batch for Thanksgiving and Christmas baking—no more than for just a couple of pies.

Then arrived the Southern Living October 2011 issue—all about pecans. No fair! So many tempting things to try; so few pecans (and they’re SO expensive at the grocery store). What weakened my resolve occurred when I saw the recipe for Turkey Burger Patty Melts. 

I’ve already blogged about my yearning for all kinds of burgers. This featured recipe had some great combinations—ground turkey mixed with chopped, toasted pecans and Gorgonzola cheese plus seasonings. The bread (recipe called for sourdough, but I used some whole-grain sandwich bread I had on hand) was spread with a cranberry sauce-Dijon mustard combination. Over the warm meat patty went a slice of Monterey Jack cheese. Last went on pieces of fresh arugula (I used pieces of fresh spinach instead). The whole combination was skillet-toasted on both sides. 

So I gave in and yielded up the 3/4 cup chopped, treasured pecans required by the recipe. It was tough to part with them but so rewarding! Hubby called this creation “Thanksgiving in sandwich form”. So true—it had turkey, cranberry sauce, nuts, and even spinach—tastes that remind one of the Thanksgiving table. Preparation was a wee-bit time-consuming (first toast the pecans, then broil the meat, then toast the entire sandwich), but the good news was that the same skillet could be used for all three stages with no clean-up in between.

We had some good eatin’ out of these patty melts, but after this, the pecans go back under lock-and-key for sure. No more sacrifices until my annual holiday pecan pie!

Turkey Burger Patty Melts

3/4 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 pounds lean ground turkey
2/3 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1 teaspoon garlic salt (or garlic powder)
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup canned whole berry cranberry sauce
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
12 sourdough bread slices (I used whole-grain bread)
6 (1/4-ounce) Monterey Jack cheese slices
3 cups loosely packed fresh arugula (I used fresh spinach)

Heat pecans in a small nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Stir often. Heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until pecans are toasted and fragrant. In a large bowl combine ground turkey, next 3 ingredients, and pecans. Shape into 6 (1/2-inch thick) patties, shaped to fit bread slices. Cook patties in a large, lightly greased skillet over medium heat for 5 to 6 minutes on each side or until done. Stir together cranberry sauce and Dijon mustard. Spread 1 tablespoon cranberry mixture on 1 side of each bread slice. Layer 6 bread slices with Monterey Jack cheese, spinach, and turkey burgers. Top with remaining bread slices. With cranberry mixture side down, cook sandwiches in batches on hot griddle or in a lightly greased skillet over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until sandwiches are golden brown and cheese melts. Makes 6 servings.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Fresh apples, lemon perk up traditional coleslaw recipe

The huge bushel basket of apples (both of the cooking and eating variety) seems to be getting no smaller. I brought it home from our recent farm-stand visit and have used numerous apples for dishes as well as have given several away, but the pile seems to be enlarging! So once again I’m on the hunt for apple recipes—not a bad position to be in, since the apple is the signature fruit of fall.

This recipe for Lemon-Apple Coleslaw from myrecipes.com is an enjoyable mixture that is a cross between traditional slaw and apple-laden Waldorf Salad. Tossing apples and lemon rind into the traditional shredded carrots/cabbage mixture brought delightful results. I love the apple-y crunch that the apple addition brings. With the use of a food processor to do the chopping, this slaw gets done fast. Chilling for 1 hour before you serve is recommended for the dressing to permeate. 

My food-processor blade chopped up the veggies fairly fine; the photo that appeared with the online recipe showed the cabbage and carrots in longer shreds than mine turned out. This is an appearance-only matter; to me, the flavor of the finely ground carrots and cabbage (with the apples still left in fairly large chunks, skin on) was smooth and tangy.  

I’ve never met a variety of coleslaw I didn’t like. I was happy to have this one (which myrecipes.com says appeared in Southern Living in Feburary 2005) to add to my idea stash.

Lemon-Apple Coleslaw

1 small cabbage, shredded (8 cups)
2 apples, chopped (I used the Golden Delicious from my barrel of mixed varieties)
2 carrots, shredded
1/3 cup mayonnaise (I used the lite variety)
1 tablespoon sugar (or sugar substitute)
2 tablespoons minced onion
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/4 teaspoon pepper

In a large bowl combine cabbage, apples, and carrots. Whisk together mayonnaise and next 6 ingredients; toss with cabbage mixture. Cover and chill for 1 hour.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A dish you don’t see every day—Stuffed Patty-Pan Squash

Patty-pan squash had always fascinated me. I had seen the little round, scalloped, somewhat flattened veggies on display at farmers markets and was curious about them. What would they taste like? How did one cook them? I heard various versions of how-to’s described but never had tried any out.
Then at the most recent outdoor farm stand we visited, I finally succumbed. Two varieties were present—one, a pale yellow-green and another, deep golden with green flecks. They just looked so . . . well, like fall. I knew that with a little online help, I could turn up some cooking instructions.
Cooks.com helped me out with this recipe that used a filling of chopped onion and celery, tomato soup, and crushed cheese crackers, plus the cooked innards that have been chopped and stirred back in. Hubby and I snack on lots of Ritz Hint-of-Salt crackers, so we always have those around. The key was cooking the patty-pans until they were soft enough to scoop out but not so soft that they cratered and couldn’t hold up to the stuffing process (think the doneness of a green Bell pepper just before the meat mixture goes inside).
The recipe didn’t say to, but to me, almost anything tastes better with a little cheese on top. Some shredded Italian-blend cheese worked just fine dusted atop the baked patty-pans. The two different colors of squash made a unique contrast in the dish. Crumb topping and the cheese made the patty-pans look appealing and taste like one’s own personal squash casserole. Mixing in the touch of tomato soup gave them a good flavor.
I was really pleased with myself for pursuing this original recipe and thought Stuffed Patty-Pan Squash would be a nice addition to a Thanksgiving table (and prompt an exercise of “name-the-vegetable”). It’s definitely a dish you don’t see every day.
Stuffed Patty-Pan Squash
6-8 patty pans
2 tablespoons butter
3-4 tablespoons chopped onion
3-4 tablespoons chopped celery
4 tablespoons tomato soup
salt (or salt substitute) to taste
10-12 cheese crackers, crushed (I used Ritz Hint-of-Salt round crackers.)

Wash and trim squash. Drop in boiling water and simmer until squash are about half done. Drain and cool. Spoon out centers. Leave shell of about 1/2-inch in thickness. Do not cut through to bottom. Chop removed centers and set aside. In skillet melt butter; sauté onion and celery until they are soft. Add chopped centers, tomato soup, salt, and pepper. Mix and then add enough crushed cheese crackers to thicken filling (thick enough to stuff). Fill shells with mixture. Sprinkle a handful of crushed cheese crackers over tops. Bake at 350 degrees until squash is done (about 20 to 30 minutes). (I topped the baked patty-pans with about 1 cup Italian-blend shredded cheese.) Makes 6-8 servings.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Multiple good uses for fresh Mushroom Brushetta topping

It was one of the last recipes remaining to be cooked from my “Celebrating a Healthy Harvest” book, which features two recipe ideas for almost every veggie and fruit around. I’ve checked off almost every item and blogged about them in this column. Very few untested ones remain. Yet I’d been unable to find an occasion for Mushroom Bruschetta, an appetizer.

But when I studied the recipe, I realized this mushroom dish, sautéed with onion and seasonings, could be just as good a topping for burgers or for chicken and rice as it would be spread on French or Italian bread, as the recipe specified. I decided to get some fresh mushrooms, cook them up, and just see where this topping landed.

Wow, was this a sensational dish! (courtesy Chickasaw Nutrition Services, which published the cookbook). Actually the topping landed on all of the above mentioned items except for burgers, but I promised myself that it would be a do-again next time I have some turkey burgers on the grill. The blending of the mushrooms and onions (I actually used red onions) along with the curry set the stage for a tremendous mixing of flavors. This grew better with each day it had “leftover” status. The picture above shows the topping on French bread slices that had been toasted in the oven before I added the mushroom spread. I certainly could see this as a party dish.

I was sorry I had held off trying Mushroom Bruschetta, but it had been worth the wait.

Mushroom Bruschetta

1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 pound button mushrooms, diced
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/2 cup fresh parsley (or 2 tablespoons dried parsley)
1 loaf Italian or French bread

Heat oil, pepper, and curry powder in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the mushrooms, onions, garlic, and oregano. Cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until desired doneness. Remove the pan from the heat; mix in the vinegar and parsley. Cut bread into 16 half-inch slices; toast. Place 2 rounded tablespoons of mushroom mixture on each toast slice; serve. Makes 12 appetizer servings.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Pumpkin in chili? Be ready for possibly your best chili recipe ever.

Tailgate time! Although I already have my menu planned for our upcoming tailgate lunch at our alma mater’s Homecoming game, I couldn’t resist the attractive Kroger grocery flyer sent out to promote tailgating recipes.

Pictures showed Pumpkin Turkey Chili filling a slow cooker and ready for the gameday crowd. I had to look twice at the title: Pumpkin Turkey Chili. Whoever thought to use pumpkin as a chili ingredient? Pumpkin I had plenty of on hand, thanks to our garden. But what would this ingredient do to a chili mixture?

I’m pleased to report that this turned out to be possibly my all-time fave chili mix. The addition of the 2 cups pumpkin puree added a smooth texture and slightly sweet flavor. Note that this is a beanless chili. The combination of the diced tomatoes, ground turkey, chopped onion, chopped yellow and green peppers, pumpkin puree, chili powder, salt, and pepper was all anyone could ever want in a pot full of chili.

Please remember to allow four to five hours for this to cook on low in the slow cooker. My big mistake, at first not having paid close attention to the cooking instructions, was in thinking initially that this was stovetop chili and could be stirred up in time for dinner, so I dashed to the kitchen in late afternoon to get it together. Wrong! Slow-cooker cooking time was what was required. Glad I quickly subbed something quick for dinner and took my time in getting the Pumpkin Turkey Chili ready. The slow, low cooking works wonderfully on getting this mixture to blend in a taste-tempting way.

Yes, pumpkin does belong in chili! You’ll see what I mean.

Pumpkin Turkey Chili

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup green Bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup yellow Bell pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound ground turkey
1 can (14.5-ounce) diced tomatoes, no salt added
2 cups pumpin puree
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 dash salt (or salt substitute)
1/2 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup fat-free sour cream

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion, green Bell pepper, yellow Bell pepper, and garlic until tender. Stir in the turkey and cook until evenly browned. Pour meat mixture into slow cooker. Mix in tomatoes and pumpkin. Season with chili powder, pepper, and salt. Cover and set on low. Cook for 4-5 hours. Serve topped with Cheddar cheese and sour cream (I had no sour cream on hand but know it would have been a plus). Refrigerate any leftovers. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Sweet potato fries are all the rage; here's a healthy take on them

I mentioned that the food demonstration we observed this week when we visited the Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services had more goodies in store besides the marvelous Autumn Spice Cake that we sampled after the demo.

Also amazing were the Southwest Sweet Potato Fries and the dipping sauces that accompanied them. Food Demo Specialist Kathy Bean sliced some sweet potatoes into strips (similar to the size of restaurant fries) and then placed them in a zip-top bag that contained spices. The spices consisted merely of cumin and a Southwest chipotle seasoning (the one she used was produced by the Mrs. Dash brand of salt-free seasoning).

Several shakes of the bag to evenly distribute the seasoning over all of the potato wedges—then the potatoes were arranged onto a cooking-spray sprayed pan. After I returned home from seeing these prepared and from sampling them, I had to try cooking these myself. After I baked the potatoes for about 20 minutes in a 425-degree oven, as the recipe instructed I turned them once and cooked the other side of the fries during the remaining cooking time (15 to 20 minutes).

The Southwest kick these oven-baked fries had to them by having been dredged into these two simple seasonings was incredible. These were terrific by themselves but were even better with the homemade dipping sauces that Kathy had arrayed on the counter. The one I chose to try with the Sweet Potato Fries was Honey Mustard Sauce, featured below. I tried the fries warm straight from the oven and cold straight from the fridge after I had stored them a while. I found them to be good warm or cold, if you can believe it.

Kathy had extolled all the health benefits of sweet potatoes, not the least of which was the fiber aspect (one serving of the sweet potato fries, with a serving estimated to be about 10 fries) was 5 grams of fiber. Oven-baking them instead of frying in oil on the stove gave them a zero-gram fat and cholesterol content with only 85 grams of sodium. She spoke of how sweet potato fries are becoming a popular restaurant menu item.

Now, with this recipe for Southwest Sweet Potato Fries, appreciators can make their own, the healthy way.

Southwest Sweet Potato Fries

2 pounds sweet potatoes
2 teaspoons no-salt Southwest chipotle seasoning (prepared with Mrs. Dash brand)
1 teaspoon cumin
cooking spray

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Cut each potato into 4-inch chunks; then cut chunks crosswise into strips. In a large zip-top bag mix Southwest and cumin seasonings. Add potatoes and toss until coated. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Arrange potatoes in a single layer. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Turn once until potatoes are lightly browned. Makes 6 servings.

Honey Mustard Sauce

1/2 cup light mayonnaise
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine ingredients in a bowl. Chill. Makes 10 1-tablespoon servings.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A 70-calorie cake slice! Who, after sampling Autumn Spice Cake, can argue with that?

We had just finished Hubby’s regular eye exam and had wandered in to pick up some recipes before we hit the road. The Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services building, across the street from the eye clinic, always has some intriguing new recipe cards laid out in its kitchen demo area. I usually sweep through, see what offerings are new since our last visit to the Ardmore, OK, campus, and with my free recipes in hand make a quick exit.

To my surprise a cooking demo was under way. Food Demo Specialist Kathy Bean was in the demonstration kitchen area and was stirring something in a bowl. A small audience on several rows of chairs was intently absorbed. Wonderful aromas invaded our nostrils the moment the door into the building opened. We slipped to the back of the room so we could peek over heads to see what was cooking. When I heard the words, “70 calories a slice”, my ears definitely perked up.

Kathy was mixing the batter to Autumn Spice Cake and was describing to the listeners the ingredients. Part of Kathy’s job is to help citizens of the Chickasaw Nation, of which Hubby is a proud member, to learn to cook and eat healthier. She was promoting the benefits of using skim milk instead of whole, using applesauce as a sweetener, and using sugar substitute instead of regular sugar in the cake batter. Also into the batter went bran flakes, raisins, orange peel, mashed carrots, grated carrots, and whole-wheat flour, among other ingredients.

The mixture was poured into a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan to bake. Once it was removed from the oven, Kathy used a fork to poke holes into the top of the cake. Then she drizzled orange juice on top and sprinkled the top with chopped pecans. Cutting the cake into 24 servings (the cake square I sampled was a tiny bit larger than 2 inches on all sides) each square contained 70 calories (as well as only 2 fat grams, 0 cholesterol, 70 mg sodium, 12 carbs, and 1 gram fiber). The orange-juice topping made it plenty sweet. (We can live without that traditional cream-cheese frosting that so often appears on carrot cakes!) Seventy calories! Just as I was, other members of Kathy’s audience were murmuring about how sweet the cake tasted when they sampled it. Clearly no one felt deprived at all.

Kathy’s assistant, Rhonda, let me take a photo of the demo cake (pictured above left) just before she cut it. Hubby and I certainly were glad we made the little detour to pick up recipe cards before we headed back to the Metroplex. (In the next few days I’ll share with you two more healthy recipes that Kathy taught us while we watched.)

Autumn Spice Cake

cooking spray
1 cup skim milk
1/4 cup margarine
1 cup bran flakes
1/3 cup applesauce
1/4 cup canned carrots, mashed (could use fresh)
3/4 cup carrots, grated
1/3 cup raisins
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar substitute
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons orange juice
1/4 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-inch-by-13-inch pan with cooking spray. Place milk and margarine in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 1 minute or until margarine is melted. Add cereal and let mixture stand for 5 minutes. Add applesauce, mashed carrots, grated carrots, raisins, orange peel, and vanilla. Mix well. In a separate bowl mix flours, sugar substitute, baking soda, and cinnamon. Add flour mixture to the wet mixture. Mix well. Spread into the 9-inch-by-13-inch pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Using a fork poke holes into the cake in 1-inch to 2-inch spaces. Drizzle orange juice on top of cake. Sprinkle top with pecans. Makes 24 servings.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Like eating candy atop a delicious fall loaf—Praline-Apple Bread

Can you imagine a layer of praline candy that crowns a bread absolutely packed with the goodness of fresh apples? That was the happy outcome of a new find—a recipe for Praline-Apple Bread. I was prowling around the Internet to see what I might still turn up for some more fall apple fixin’s. This 2009 listing on www.myrecipes.com caught my eye. Saturday morning-type fare, it seemed to call to me. Wow, was it a wonderful addition to our weekend!

In following the recipe I made an interesting substitution. The secret to a moist bread was said to lie in the 8-ounce container of sour cream to be added to the mix. I had on hand only about 1/3 of the 1 cup of sour cream necessary. Hubby had some fat-free vanilla yogurt that he uses for his smoothies. His sacrifice of his yogurt (that I added on top of the existing sour cream to make a 1 cup measure) kept him from having to make an emergency dash to the grocery. I normally am not very gutsy when (off-the-cuff) subs are concerned and don’t like to take risks for fear of a bad outcome, but if moistness was the goal, then yogurt seemed that it might add that attribute.

I shouldn’t have worried. This turned out to be a terrific loaf with the smoothest texture and most amazing flavor imaginable. And the butter/brown sugar topping, stirred to a 1-minute boil and then poured over the bread once-removed from the pan, hardened into a glaze that was like biting into a creamy praline. (The recipe said this appeared two Septembers ago in Southern Living.)

We dined happily ever after.

Praline-Apple Bread

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, divided
1 (8-ounce) container fat-free sour cream
1 cup granulated sugar (or sugar substitute)
2 large eggs (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1 1/2 cups finely chopped, peeled Granny Smith apples (about 3/4 pound apples)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake 1/2 cup pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan for 6 to 8 minutes or until pecans are toasted and fragrant. Stir after 4 minutes. Beat sour cream and next 3 ingredients at low speed with an electric mixer for 2 minutes or until blended. Stir together flour and next 3 ingredients. Add to sour-cream mixture. Beat until just blended. Stir in apples and 1/2 cup toasted pecans. Spoon batter into a greased and floured 9-inch-by-5-inch loaf pan. Sprinkle top with remaining 1 cup chopped pecans. Lightly press pecans into top of batter. Bake loaf at 350 degrees for 60-65 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into center emerges clean. (After 50 minutes of cooking shield top of bread with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning.) When loaf is done and before removing it from its pan, place pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then remove bread from pan to wire rack. For glaze bring butter and brown sugar to a boil in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat; stir constantly; boil 1 minute. Remove from heat and spoon over top of bread. Let cool completely, about 1 hour. (To freeze, cool bread completely, wrap in plastic wrap, then in aluminum foil. Freeze up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature.) Makes 1 loaf.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Okra-Shrimp Beignets a novel way to enjoy a combo of some faves

I love okra. I love shrimp. I love beignets. Who ever would have imagined that a recipe existed that combined all three?

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw that Southern Living, in its September 2011 feature on Lowcountry fare, ran this recipe for Okra-Shrimp Beignets plus Fresh Tomato Salsa and Cilantro Sour Cream condiments. This was a have-to-try and turned out to be one of the most fun items I’ve ever cooked and served.

Easy, easy, easy. Chop the shrimp, slice the okra, dice the green pepper, onion, and jalapeño. Add egg, flour, and heavy cream (I subbed skim milk) to make a batter. Drop the batter into hot oil and deep fry. Even with making the salsa and sour cream, this entire process took no more than 45 minutes (the recipe says 47, but I was a little more speedy).

At this stage in the game the diners around our table are getting a wee-bit bored with okra, but it’s out there in the garden still bloomin’ like crazy. Having a delightful new recipe to try sent me out to the okra plants with renewed enthusiasm. The fresh jalapeno was in the row next to the peppers; the fresh onion was from our garden of weeks ago.

We were so entranced, we could have turned around and made a fresh batch of these beignets the next night. Topped with the fresh salsa and sour cream mixture, the whole ensemble made a memorable meal.

Okra-Shrimp Beignets

Peanut oil
2 cups sliced fresh okra
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium onion, diced
1 large egg (or 1/4 cup egg substitute)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup heavy cream (I subbed 1/4 cup skim milk)
1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 pound unpeeled, medium-sized raw shrimp, peeled and coarsely chopped
Fresh Tomato Salsa
Cilantro Sour Cream

Pour oil to a depth of 3 inches into a Dutch oven; heat to 350 degrees. Stir together okra and next 8 ingredients in a large bowl until all are blended. Stir in shrimp. Drop batter by rounded tablespoonfuls into hot oil. Fry, in batches, 2 to 3 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on a wire rack over paper towels. Serve with salsa and sour cream. Makes about 30.

Fresh Tomato Salsa

4 large plum tomatoes, seeded and chopped (about 2 cups)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely diced
3 tablespoons finely diced red onion
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
salt (or salt substitute) and pepper to taste

Stir all ingredients together. Chill until time to serve.

Cilantro Sour Cream

1 (8-ounce) container sour cream
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
salt (or salt substitute) and pepper to taste

Stir all ingredients together. Chill until time to serve.