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, December 31, 2012

Cranberry cookies with “everything in them” go into the win-column

“I believe your cookies were a whole lot better than last year’s. What were those that had everything in them?” Our well-meaning neighbor truly did pay me a compliment in the aftermath of our cookie delivery to his home. He was referencing these Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies, which I believe represented my crown-jewel food item to prepare during the recent holidays.

“Everything in them” was right. Besides chopped fresh cranberries they also contained white-chocolate chips, white raisins, grated orange peel, and quick-cooking oats. Only the addition of the proverbial kitchen sink would have made them more chock-full.

They were healthy, flavorful, and stayed fresh for days—made a bunch (6 dozen) and held together well during baking. Plus, they just looked like Christmas, right? I usually like to try out new recipes from year to year and each Christmas start anew in my holiday baking, but I already know I plan to file this recipe away for a repeat in 2013.

Cranberry Oatmeal Cookies

1 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs (or egg substitute)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups quick-cooking oats
1 cup raisins
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh or frozen cranberries
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1 package (12 ounces) vanilla chips (I used white chocolate chips)

In a mixing bowl cream butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time; beat well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and baking soda; add to the creamed mixture. Stir in oats, raisins, cranberries, and orange peel. Stir in vanilla chips. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Cool on wire racks. Makes 6 dozen. (Source: Taste of Home 2010)

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A delight of a sandwich filling—Red-Pepper Chicken Salad

The magazine featured it as an appetizer, but for a chicken-salad fan as I am, it looked like a bona-fide sandwich filling. I quickly made a batch of this Red-Pepper Chicken Salad mixture and served it for a meal.

Another December dining solution taken care of! The recipe called for chopped cooked chicken, toasted pecans, green onions, and cilantro. Red-pepper jelly gave it a delightful kick.

The recipe was called “Chicken Salad Pitas”, but I served it on some wheat sandwich slims and sliced an avocado as garnish. Best to follow what the recipe says and let it chill for 4 hours, but in my haste I skipped the “chill” step and spread it on the sandwich buns immediately. Excellent!

Red-Pepper Chicken Salad

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup red-pepper jelly
1/4 cup minced green onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
2 cups finely chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 cup finely chopped toasted pecans
salt (or salt substitute) and freshly ground black pepper to taste
24 mini pita pockets, halved (I used sandwich slims bread)
1 bunch fresh watercress

In a large bowl whisk together the first 6 ingredients; stir in chicken and next 2 ingredients until blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and chill 4 hours. Fill pitas with watercress and chicken salad. Serve immediately. Makes 4 dozen mini pitas. (Source: Southern Living December 2012; featured as Chicken Salad Pitas)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Lentil Soup—what December night doesn’t seem ideal for a soup meal?

Seemed like sort of an old-fashioned thing to do—Lentil Soup. But Hubby was of a mind to devote some time in the kitchen, we had a package of lentils, and it seemed like a good ole soup night (what evening in December doesn’t qualify for being a soup night?)

He had to look no further than the lentils wrapper for a good recipe—one that called for carrots and celery as well as 1 pound of dry lentils. Toss in a ham bone for flavoring and let the mixture simmer on the stove for 1 1/2 hours.

Turned out to be a marvelous meal—warm, filling, and best of all—made by Hubby. What cook of the female variety doesn’t appreciate an offer such as that when the Christmas to-do list seems overpowering? Loved us some Lentil Soup.

Lentil Soup

1 pound dry lentils (washed)
8 cups water
3 1/2 cups beef broth
1 smoked ham bone
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrots
3 onions, chopped coarsely
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 bay leaf

In a 6-8 quart pot combine all ingredients; simmer soup, lid tilted, stirring occasionally for 1 1/2 hours. Discard bay leaf and remove meat from ham bone. Chop meat and stir into soup. Makes 6 to 8 servings. (Source: package of Jack Rabbit-brand Lentils)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Butter box underside reveals how-to's for spicy fish tacos

These fish tacos were just the best. Sweet-and-spicy tilapia was nestled on a bed of coleslaw with a sour cream/lime/cilantro sauce drizzled over it. Corn tortillas, of course, formed the packaging.

Something about fish tacos provides a nice break in the pre-Christmas fare. The meal was easy to drum up on a busy December night. Hubby was all agog and was very remorseful when the supply ran out. A carved-up avocado was just the right garnish.

The recipe hailed from another most unlikely place—the underside of my Land O Lakes unsalted butter box. I was just about to toss out my box when I noted that the underbelly of it had writing on it. On the perpetual hunt for new recipes, I thought just maybe . . . yes! The recipe said “Sweet & Spicy Baked Shrimp Tacos”. I had tilapia on hand and decided to sub it for the shrimp. Great substitution but would love to try it with shrimp sometime.

Sweet and Spicy Baked Shrimp Tacos

Spice mixture:
1/3 cup sugar (I used sugar substitute)
3 tablespoons firmly packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons plain breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted (tested with Land O Lakes brand)
1 (16-ounce) package uncooked thawed medium shrimp (I used 1 pound fresh tilapia)

1/2 cup sour cream (I used fat-free)
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 teaspoons chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

16 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
2 cups coleslaw mix

Heat oven to 500 degrees. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil; set aside. Combine all-spice mixture ingredients in a small bowl. Dip shrimp in butter and then in spice mixture. Place onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 5 to 6 minutes or until shrimp are pink and coating is bubbly. Meanwhile combine all sauce ingredients in small bowl. To assemble tacos, stack 2 warmed tortillas onto each individual serving plate. Top with 1/8 of the baked shrimp and 1/4 cup coleslaw mix. Drizzle with sauce. Makes 8 tacos. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Tex-Mex Cornbread Salad celebrates 500th blog entry

How does one celebrate a 500th blog post? I remember when I noted that a blog I was entering that day was #365 and that I had completed a year’s worth of entries in The Newfangled Country Gardener. Seems like just the blink of an eye ago.

But pressing on down the road, today I’m marking number 500; that’s half of 1,000! Lots of good recipes tried out and nourishing food consumed. (Hubby would say, “And lots of trips to the grocery store for me!” True. Lots of encouraging “attagirl”s on his part, as well.)

Today’s entry, Tex-Mex Cornbread Salad, truly is one of the best items I’ve featured here. A hearty, healthy bowl full of goodness—a bit of it straight from our current garden. In almost mid-December, tomatoes still grow on their vines (we covered them in last night’s cold snap.) Happy to be able to haul a few in and toss them into this salad, which has a tangy vinaigrette dressing and cornbread made with taco seasoning.

Wouldn’t this be a colorful item on a Christmas bring-a-dish table? You’d snare compliments galore. Pleased also that my #500 blog features a recipe from the Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services. These great cooks and recipe innovators have been the source for so many great entries in this feature. A big thank-you to them for all their healthy, fresh ideas.

Tex-Mex Cornbread Salad

1 egg white (I used 1/4 cup egg substitute)
1/2 cup skim milk
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour 
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon no-salt taco seasoning
cooking spray

Vinaigrette dressing:
1/4 cup cilantro, minred
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/2 cup olive oil

2 cups romaine, roughly chopped (I used spinach)
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped red onion
2 avocados, chopped
1 (15-ounce) can corn, rinsed and drained
2 cups chopped red bell peppers

Cornbread: preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix egg white, milk, and oil. Mix dry ingredients together and then combine with liquid. Spray an 8-inch-by-8-inch pan with cooking spray. Pour cornbread mixture into pan; bake at 425 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Whisk together all ingredients for the vinaigrette dressing; refrigerate. In a glass bowl or trifle dish layer the salad ingredients. Start with romaine and continue with black beans, tomatoes, onion, avocado, corn, and bell pepper. Drizzle the dressing on top of the salad. Toss. Top with cornbread cubes. Makes 13 1-cup servings. (Source: Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Plenty to love about Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

Spaghetti squash has always fascinated me—the concept of a veggie that can be cooked and scraped to resemble spaghetti. I love the idea that you can eliminate the carb-prone pasta element by subbing spaghetti squash as the base of this meatball dish.

Plus this recipe, which I found as a make-ahead feature, is great for just that: some weeks ago I froze an extra batch to thaw and serve for those  “December meals”, when no one can find a spare moment to cook.

The mock spaghetti created by the strands of squash was light and had far more flavor than boiling up some pasta would. We really loved this dinner—and will again in a few crazed days when we unfreeze and warm that second serving.

Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

2 (2 1/4-pound) spaghetti squash
2 pounds ground chicken (I used ground turkey)
4 green onions, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons salt (or salt substitute)
2 minced garlic cloves
2 tablespoons hot olive oil
1 (24-ounce) jar tomato-basil pasta sauce
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
Parmesan cheese

Cut spaghetti squash in half lengthwise; discard seeds. Bake squash, cut sides down, on a lightly greased baking sheet at 400 degrees for 1 hour. Cool 10 minutes. Combine ground chicken or turkey, green onions, parsley, Parmesan cheese, and salt. Shape into 24 (2-inch) balls. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Scrape inside of squash to remove spaghetti-like strands (about 6 cups). Cover and chill squash and meatballs for up to 24 hours. Cook garlic cloves in hot olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; stir occasionally, for 1 minute. Add sauce, tomatoes, and meatballs; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 10 minutes. Microwave squash, covered with plastic wrap, at high for 3 minutes. Stir fresh basil into sauce; serve over squash. Top with Parmesan cheese. Makes 6 servings. (Source: Southern Living, September 2012)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Slow-cooker Chicken-and-Squash Casserole helps slow down at least part of life

“Slow things down!” That cry seems to emerge again and again as the holiday steamroller begins its annual procession toward us. All we really want for Christmas is more time—and more time to savor our experiences.

I liked a recent magazine feature that rounded up some good slow-cooker recipes. While activity elsewhere is at a fever-pitch, preparing the family meal doesn’t have to be. Throw some healthy items into a slow-cooker and let that kitchen appliance put at least part of your life on a crawl.

We enjoyed Chicken-and-Squash Casserole that featured slices of yellow squash and zucchini and cooked chicken with a sauce layered around it. It can be left simmering all day. At mealtime you’ll thank yourself for getting this little jewel assembled hours beforehand. (In a pinch, the meal also can be layered into a casserole dish and baked in the oven on 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.)

Chicken-and-Squash Casserole

2 pounds yellow squash, sliced
1 pound zucchini, sliced
1 large onion, chopped
1 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
4 cups chopped cooked chicken
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of chicken soup
1 (8-ounce) container sour cream (I used fat-free)
1/3 cup chopped fresh basil
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups soft, fresh breadcrumbs
3 cups (12 ounces) shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/3 cup (1 1/2 ounces) shredded Parmesan cheese

Place first 3 ingredients in a large microwave-safe bowl. Cover tightly with plastic wrap; fold back a small edge to allow steam to escape. Microwave at high 8 minutes or until squash is tender; drain. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drain tomatoes well. Press between paper towels. Stir together tomatoes, chicken, and next 4 ingredients. Layer one-third each soup mixture, squash mixture, breadcrumbs, and Cheddar cheese in a lightly greased 6-quart slow cooker. Repeat layers twice. Top with Parmesan cheese. Cover and cook on high 4 hours or until bubbly and edges are golden. Uncover and cook on high 30 minutes. Let stand 10 minutes before you serve. Makes 6 servings. (Source: Southern Living, November 2012)

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies—a winner during this holiday “span”

Pumpkin here, pumpkin there. Pumpkins get tossed into the mix everywhere during this holiday span of time.

But into chocolate chip cookies? I had never heard that one before (although I loved my Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins on Thanksgiving morning.) I was very glad this recipe turned up when I did an Internet search to see what pumpkin goodies were “trending” this season.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies were so delightfully moist, soft, and chewy. Hubby thought they were unique and a great idea. Since they contained a healthy element of fiber (the recipe also called for 1 cup oats), did that give him a good excuse to sample a few extras from the cookie plate?

He thought so.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg (or 1/4 cup egg substitute)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup quick-cooking oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup fresh pumpkin puree (or canned pumpkin)
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

In a bowl cream butter and sugars until they are light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla. Combine the flour, oats, baking soda, and cinnamon; stir into creamed mixture alternately with pumpkin. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 12 to 13 minutes or until cookies are lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool. Makes 4 dozen. (Source: www.tasteofhome.com)

Monday, November 26, 2012

The green and the crunch of this broccoli recipe just made the lunch

This was my best-est Thanksgiving holiday find—Broccoli with Garlic Butter and Cashews. It was an easy side for the TG buffet and helped fill that necessary broccoli quota, where we probably all lag behind.

The crunch of the cashews and the tangy sauce made this memorable—a great go-together with turkey and dressing, or with anything.

I prepared it with fresh broccoli, but the recipe provider says frozen could probably be used in a pinch.

Broccoli with Garlic Butter and Cashews

1 1/2 pounds fresh broccoli, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/3 cup butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar (or brown-sugar substitute)
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup chopped salted cashews (I used unsalted)

Place the broccoli into a large pot with about 1 inch of water in the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil; cook for 7 minutes or until broccoli is tender but still crisp. Drain and arrange broccoli on a serving platter. While the broccoli cooks, melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Mix in the brown sugar, soy sauce, vinegar, pepper, and garlic. Bring to a boil; remove from heat. Mix in the cashews; pour sauce over the broccoli. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings. (Source: allrecipes.com)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sweet news for grits-lovers: Sweet Potato Grits

A good serving of grits warms the hearts of many of our family members. My delight was boundless when I discovered a new recipe for Sweet Potato Grits. I couldn’t imagine any improvement on the old standby cheese grits recipe I had treasured all these years. But the addition of sweet potato got my attention.

This recipe called for shredded smoked Gouda cheese instead of the usual cheddar. No baking of a casserole was required. The mashed sweet potato was stirred into hot cooked grits at the end of the cooking cycle.

The information accompanying the recipe touted the sweet potato as an official super food: One medium-sized sweet potato has 438 percent of the daily requirement of vitamin A, 37 percent of vitamin C, and only 105 calories. Sweet news, for sure.

Sweet Potato Grits

2 cups milk
1 cup uncooked regular grits
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded smoked Gouda cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
garnish: fresh cilantro sprigs

In a large saucepan over medium-hgh heat bring milk and 1/2 cups water to a boil; gradually whisk in grits. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until thickened. Stir potatoes and next 4 ingredients into grits. Makes 6 servings. (Source: Southern Living October 2012)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Lucky the person served Good Luck Greens and Peas with Ham

“Good Luck” is in the name of this recipe; whoever gets a taste of this dish is lucky indeed. Collard greens and black-eyed peas, along with a slice of ham, simmer in a slow cooker for 6 hours. The aromas that emerge from that slow cooker are unbelievable.

At the end of the cooking time, the meal that is produced would be terrific for Thanksgiving week, as a Thanksgiving side, or to freeze a batch for those crazy-busy days that are about to descend on us.

The recipe suggests serving the ham alongside the greens, but I diced it up and stirred it back into the greens and black-eyed peas. Delicious!

Good Luck Greens and Peas with Ham

1 (32-ounce) container vegetable broth
1 (16-ounce) package frozen black-eyed peas, thawed
1 sweet onion, cut into eighths
1/4 cup apple-cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons country-style Dijon mustard
1 (5- to 6-pound) smoked, fully cooked semi-boneless ham (I used a ham steak)
1 (1-pound) package shredded fresh collard greens

Place first 5 ingredients in a 6-quart slow cooker. Stir together brown sugar and mustard; rub mixture over ham. Place ham in slow cooker. Cover and cook on high 6 to 7 hours or until ham is tender. Uncover and add collard greens. Cover and cook on high 1 additional hour or until tender. Slice ham and serve with greens mixture. Makes 8 servings. (Source: Southern Living November 2012)

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Veggie Chili: Who can pass up this healthy fall meal?

It’s quick. It’s healthy. It’s colorful. It’s fall-i-fied. What more could anyone want in a meal suggestion?

This Veggie Chili called for fresh zucchini and yellow squash. Add diced tomatoes and kidney beans and a few other stir-ins and you have yourself a hearty meal that you’ll be heartbroken to see disappear!

A slice of cornbread is a great addition alongside a bowl of this edible treasure.

Veggie Chili

2 large zucchini, chopped
1 large yellow squash, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1 pound ground turkey, browned and drained
1 (1.25-ounce) package chili seasoning mix (I used Kroger Original Chili Seasoning Mix, lower-sodium variety)
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained (I used the no-salt-added variety)
1 (16-ounce) can kidney beans, undrained

Sauté zucchini, squash, and onion in hot oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat 3 to 4 minutes or until tender. Add salt and browned and drained ground turkey; cook 1 minute. Stir in chili seasoning mix, tomatoes, and beans; bring to a boil over medium-high heat; reduce heat to medium low and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Makes 6 cups. (Source: My adaptation of a Veggie Chili recipe in Southern Living October 2012)

Monday, November 12, 2012

A little light feast in this green-bean dish

I certainly know one recipe that, Lord willing, will be on my Thanksgiving table.

We test-drove Green Beans with Lemon and Garlic last night for dinner. The recipe showed up in my most recent Sam’s Club flyer. The feature was called “The Light Feast” and recommended ways to eat healthy over the holidays without giving up great taste.

Fresh green beans are stir-fried until tender/crisp and then tossed with lemon juice, salt, pepper, maple syrup, and garlic. The toasted nut and lemon-zest topping go on at the end.

Hubby and I agreed: what a great new way to prepare green beans! The toasted nuts give it a Thanksgiving-y twist; the lemon makes it light, and the maple syrup stirred in just does what maple syrup is supposed to do. This recipe’s a keeper!

Green Beans with Lemon and Garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon sea salt 
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
2 tablespoons maple syrup (I used sugar-free syrup)
4 cloves garlic, minced
zest of two lemons
1/3 cup pecans, chopped and toasted

In a large skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add green beans and cook until beans are still crisp, about 10 minutes. Add lemon juice, salt, pepper, and maple syrup. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute longer. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with lemon zest and toasted pecans. Serve hot. Makes 6 servings. (Source: SamsClub.com/healthy living)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Homemade Blackberry Syrup a superb extra touch

Just a little extra touch, this Blackberry Syrup, that made our pancakes extra super. Yes, best prepared with fresh blackberries, which the produce aisle of the grocery store certainly can provide. But this time of the year, we’ll simply wait on fresh berries until our blackberry vines have their winter’s nap and ideally bear abundant fruit as they did at the start of this summer. For now, frozen blackberries, thawed, make a good substitute.

Truthfully, I never imagined myself being able to stir up my own homemade Blackberry Syrup, but Southern Living helped me out with a terrific recipe in its “Food Gift of the Month” feature. It recommended bottling this up in a glass swing-top bottle as a hostess gift or party favor.

The blender-processed blackberry puree is run through a wire-mesh strainer so that the pulp and seeds are removed. (A few stray seeds actually escaped and made their way into mine, but the syrup didn’t suffer any for it—made it like a version of warmed blackberry preserves.) A delight on pancakes or waffles, although the magazine also says to serve it on biscuits, fruit salad, or cobbler.

Blackberry Syrup

3 cups fresh blackberries (can sub 1 16-ounce package frozen blackberries, thawed)
1 1/4 cups sugar (or sugar substitute)
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Process blackberries in a blender until smooth. Stop to scrape down sides as needed. Press blackberry puree through a fine wire-mesh strainer into a medium sauce pan. Use back of a spoon to squeeze out juice (about 1 1/2 cups). Discard pulp and seeds. Add sugar and remaining ingredients to blackberry juice in pan. Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat. Stir occasionally. Boil, stirring occasionally, 1 to 2 minutes or until sugar is dissolved and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and cool slightly (about 30 minutes). Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes about 2 cups. (Source: Southern Living, July 2012)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Can't get enough of this Caramel Apple Coffee Cake

Yes, it was involved—uber involved, you might say. Lotsa steps to this coffee-cake wonder. But you want a breakfast dish that says fall with a big flourish—you got one right here!

Glorious fall apples, fresh from our farm-stand visit, formed a layer atop the coffee-cake batter. Easy streusel topping and caramel sauce layered onto that. The sumptuous streusel topping contained the first pecans from our prized paper-shell pecan tree, which was anything but productive last season. We’re thrilled to greet this year’s pecan harvest, even if it’s not huge. Nothing like fresh, chopped pecans on a from-scratch coffee cake.

Caramel Apple Coffee Cake

2 tablespoons butter
3 cups peeled and sliced Granny Smith apples (about 3 large)
streusel topping
caramel sauce
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
2 large eggs (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
2/3 cup milk (I used skim)
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet over medium-high heat melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add apples. Sauté 5 minutes or until softened. Remove from heat; cool completely (about 30 minutes). Meanwhile prepare streusel topping and caramel sauce (recipes below). Reserve 1/2 cup caramel sauce for later use. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar. Beat well. Add eggs, one at a time. Beat until blended after each addition. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Pour batter into a greased and floured shiny 9-inch springform pan; top with apples (I used a regular 9-inch cake pan and used a spatula to remove the layer from the pan after the cake baked.) Drizzle with 1/2 cup caramel sauce; sprinkle with streusel topping. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. Cover loosely with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning. Bake 25 to 30 minutes more or until center is set. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes; remove sides of pan. Cool completely on wire rack (about  1 1/2 hours). Drizzle with remaining caramel sauce.

Streusel Topping

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar (or sugar substitute)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)

Stir together all ingredients until blended. Let stand 30 minutes or until firm enough to crumble into small pieces.

Caramel Sauce

1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup honey

In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat bring ingredients to a boil. Stir constantly; boil, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and cool 15 minutes before you serve. Store in an airtight container in refrigerator for up to 1 week. To reheat microwave at high 10 to 15 seconds or just until warm; stir until smooth. Makes about 1 1/2 cups. (Source: Southern Living, September 2012)

Friday, November 2, 2012

A reset on Sweet Potato Fries—with a great outcome!

Thousands of ideas abound on the best recipe for Sweet Potato Fries. In this blog I’ve already tried out one of them. But the quest continued. From our most recent farm-stand visit I had brought home some absolutely lovely, enormous sweet potatoes. Although I they could have ended up in a huge variety of dishes, giving Sweet Potato Fries another stab kept calling to me.

What did the cooking queen, Paula Deen, have to say about the matter? I had never looked up her Baked Sweet Potato Fries recipe before, but you can bet she had some good advice. The photo at left was the result. Two secrets: her House Seasoning mixture, which can be used on many food items, and baking the fries on a parchment-lined cookie sheet to prevent burning. I also experimented with my crinkle-cutter to give a uniform look.

The cut strips of sweet potato are tossed in olive oil; then a tablespoon of the House Seasoning recipe, along with 1/2 teaspoon paprika, is sprinkled over them for tossing again. Into the oven they go for 20 minutes, to be turned after the first 10 minutes. The result was a set of perfectly browned and delightfully seasoned Sweet Potato Fries. I think they were my best yet. I tried a little bit later and left off the parchment paper on the cookie sheet. Bad idea—too-brown and occasionally burnt potatoes resulted. Don’t skip the parchment!

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

olive oil, for tossing
5 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch-long slices, then 1/4-inch-wide strips, 
using a crinkle-cutter
1 tablespoon House Seasoning (recipe follows)
1/2 teaspoon paprika

House seasoning:
1 cup salt (or salt substitute)
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a sheet tray with parchment. In a large bowl toss sweet potatoes with just enough oil to coat. Mix House Seasoning ingredients and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months. Take 1 tablespoon of the House Seasoning and use it to sprinkle onto the potatoes. Add paprika. Toss. Spread sweet potatoes in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Be sure not to overcrowd potatoes. Bake until sweet potatoes are tender and golden brown, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes (I turned after 10 minutes). Let cool 5 to 10 minutes before you serve. Makes 3 to 5 servings of potatoes. (Source: www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/paula-deen/baked-sweet-potato-fries-recipe)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup a showstopper

Butternut Squash Soup isn’t typical fall fare for us, but when we picked up some butternuts from our farm-stand stop, I immediately thought of a recipe I’d seen in a magazine. Once stirred up this fall soup was a showstopper for sure.

The peeled and cut squash, along with carrots, onion, and some other additions, cooked in a Dutch oven for about 20 minutes and then were processed in a blender until they were smooth. The one teaspoon of orange zest added to the mixture, plus the one tablespoon honey, sweetened it up.

“Don’t we have any more of this?” queried Hubby, as he warmed the last soup mug full of Butternut Squash Soup and downed it. Made me very glad I found this little gem of a recipe.

Butternut Squash Soup

2 carrots, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 sweet onion, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 (3-pound) butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
6 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 cup heavy cream (I used whole milk)
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon orange blossom honey (I used regular honey)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (I used salt substitute)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
garnish: smoked paprika, olive oil

Sauté carrots and onion in hot olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat for 8 to 10 minutes or until mixture is lightly browned. Add squash, broth, and orange zest; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer 20 to 25 minutes or until squash is tender. Stir in cream and next 5 ingredients. Cool slightly (about 10 minutes). Use blender to process mixture until it is smooth. Garnish as desired (I sprinkled on the paprika). Serve warm. (Source: Southern Living September 2012)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

These “Better Nachos” were the absolute best!

So-o-o-o good! They were called “Better Nachos”—the “better” part of the title relating, I suppose, to the make-your-own chips, the fat-free refried beans, and the from-scratch taco seasoning.

But truthfully, I don’t know when I’ve dined on better nachos, even in some of my fave top-drawer Tex-Mex establishments. I even have a little bit of the bean layer left and keep using it as a dip with veggies, even though the chips are long gone.

The taco-seasoning mix itself (made from ingredients listed in the Better Nachos recipe) is a keeper. This recipe calls for 1 1/2 tablespoons of the mix; I have the rest preserved in a sealed bag for another time.

The end topping of the fresh mini tomatoes and lettuce, which I obtained from a roadside farm stand, added a healthy touch.

Better Nachos

6 corn tortillas
1 (15-ounce) can refried beans, fat-free
1 (4-ounce) can green chilies
1 1/2 tablespoons taco seasoning, made from the following:
     1 teaspoon dried onion
     1 teaspoon chili powder
     1/2 teaspoon cumin
     1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
     1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
     1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
     1/4 teaspoon oregano
3/4 cup reduced-fat Mexican blend cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. On each tortilla spray a small amount of vegetable oil cooking spray. Cut each tortilla into 8 wedges (like a pizza). Place wedges on a cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Make the taco seasoning from the dried onion, chili and garlic powders, red pepper, cornstarch, and oregano. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of this mixture (keep the remainder of the seasoning in a sealed bag) to the refried beans and green chilies. Stir well. Spread a layer of bean mixture on each chip; sprinkle with cheese. Place chips on a baking sheet and in the oven to broil until cheese is melted. Top with lettuce, tomato, and salsa if desired. Makes 4 servings of 12 chips each. (Source: Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pumpkin makes its way into a new “bottomless” pie recipe

Pumpkin rules and reigns this time of year. Over the years, what haven’t I made with pumpkin? My pumpkin recipe files are full indeed, but not long ago I did stumble on a new one.

To me, any recipe for a “bottomless” dessert (i.e., not requiring a crust) receives a shout-out. This Bottomless Pie, baked with fresh pumpkin and pecans, was simple and pulled together in a heartbeat (with all the heart-healthy substitutes, it was good for the heart as well.) 

Since Hubby adores pumpkin pie for breakfast, you can bet this food item went quickly since it became a breakfast, lunch, and dinner accompaniment. The pumpkin-pie-spice-flavored whipped topping was an extra little delight. 

Bottomless Pie

cooking spray
1 cup pumpkin, fresh purée or canned
1/2 cup bakery mix, low fat
1/2 cup sugar substitute
1 cup evaporated milk, fat free
1 tablespoon margarine
1 3/4 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
2 egg whites (or egg white substitute)
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)
1 1/2 cup whipped topping (lite or sugar-free)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Use cooking spray to spray a 9-inch pie plate. In a medium bowl stir until blended the pumpkin, bakery mix, sugar substitute, milk, margarine, 1 1/2 teaspoon of pumpkin-pie spice, vanilla, and eggs. Add pecans; pour into pie plate. Bake on bottom third of the oven for 35-40 minutes or until knife inserted in the center emerges clean. Cool completely, about 1 hour. In a small bowl mix whipped topping and 1/4 teaspoon pumpkin-pie spice. Garnish. Makes 8 servings. (Source: Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services)

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Lemon Poppy Seed-Zucchini Bread

Farm-stand find: fresh zucchini. Now for some creative way to use it. I remembered that Southern Living had featured a most enticing recipe for Lemon-Poppy Seed Zucchini Bread. It was proposed as a food gift, since the mini loaves as suggested make such nice last-minute gifts: take-alongs for a hostess present or tuck-ins with a casserole for a recuperating friend.

I loved the idea of combining zucchini, poppy seeds, and lemon zest for a taste treat. Other than a few minutes to shred the zucchini, which I did in a blender, this mixture pulled together quickly. The mini loaves, baked in 5-inch-by-3-inch pans, were just darling. Hubby and I had trouble having any left over for gift-giving, however. They were easy to slice and tote as snacks for one of our road trips. Freezing some extras and thawing later were easy as well. Cute, cute, cute and a yummy change from traditional zucchini bread!

Lemon-Poppy Seed Zucchini Bread

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/3 cups sugar (or sugar substitute)
3 large eggs (or 3/4 cup egg substitute)
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup sour cream (I used fat-free)
1 cup shredded zucchini
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 teaspoons poppy seeds

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. With a heavy-duty electric stand mixer beat butter at medium speed until butter is creamy. Gradually add sugar; beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time; beat just until blended after each addition. Stir together flour, salt, and baking soda. Add to butter mixture alternately with sour cream. Begin and end with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until mixture is blended after each addition. Stir in zucchini and next 2 ingredients. Spoon batter into 3 greased and floured 5-inch-by-3-inch loaf pans (about 1 1/3 cups batter per pan). Bake at 325 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until a wood pick inserted into center emerges clean. Cook in pans on wire racks 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks and cool completely, about 30 minutes. Makes 3 (5-inch-by-3-inch) loaves. (Source: Southern Living August 2012)

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cinnamon Stewed Apples—will do these more often!

Want to get your fall groove on? This simple dish will do it for you.

Six apples (the recipe calls for Granny Smith, but I used whatever kind was in our most recent farmer’s market pickup) peeled and chopped with some spices, apple juice, and brown sugar simmered on the stove for 45 minutes. That’s all! The result smelled beautiful, looked great, and was a perfect side dish for whatever else I was serving. It accompanies pork, ham, chicken—or even chicken salad. Sounds like an odd combination, that latter item, but chicken salad is what was for dinner over the weekend. The stewed apples were just terrific with it. My bet is that they’d taste as good straight from the fridge as they do warmed on the stove.

Hubby’s query was, “Why don’t we do these more often?” Good question. The recipe can double easily and will keep in the refrigerator about a week. The sauce may appear thin when you remove the dish from the stovetop, but on standing it thickens nicely.

An apple a day (or a serving of these spicy stewed apples) keeps the what’s-for-dinner doldrums away. At least that’s my take on the old apple saw.

Cinnamon Stewed Apples

6 cups chopped peeled Granny Smith apples (about 2 pounds)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar (can use brown-sugar substitute)
1/4 cup apple juice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan. Cover and cook over medium-low heat 45 minutes or until apple is tender. Stir occasionally. Let stand 5 minutes. Makes about 2 cups. (Source: www.myrecipes.com)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Good and Good for You in this nontraditional guacamole recipe

We walked into a food demo just as the goodies were being dished up for the audience. What luck! The demo item for the day was Good for You Guacamole, made with crumbled feta cheese instead of some of the traditional guacamole trappings such as mayo and sour cream.

The recipe also featured diced-up tomatoes and a tablespoon of lemon juice. I eagerly downed my sample and knew I had to seize this recipe and try it soon.

The next night for dinner I planned chicken fajitas and used this healthy guacamole as a topping for the chicken strips inside a tortilla. Hubby kept saying he couldn’t believe how much he liked this version of guacamole. I was certainly glad we had  wandered into the food demo the day before!

Good for You Guacamole

3 avocados, roughly chopped and mashed (1 1/2 cup mashed)
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 cup tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)

Mash avocados in a medium bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Refrigerate and serve with chips (or however you desire). Makes 12 (1/4-cup) servings. (Source: Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Spinach-Apple-Bacon Salad—a have-to-prepare

Beautiful, healthy, colorful salad—as basic as you can get, but we enjoyed the flavorful simplicity. Hints of fall weather, of course, make the apple everyone’s best friend in whatever menu item you might choose. So these lovely, crunchy apples were a natural ingredient for this dish.

The recipe arrived in my Kroger grocery circular. Spinach-Apple-Bacon Salad—It was a have-to-prepare. The honey/Dijon mustard dressing was delightful to toss around it.

Give it a try! It worked for us!

Spinach-Apple-Bacon Salad

1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons honey
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Royal Gala or Granny Smith apple, cut lengthwise into 16 slices
8 cups baby spinach
sliced red onion
sliced button mushrooms
2 slices center-cut bacon, cooked until crispy (I used turkey bacon.)

In a small bowl combine first 6 ingredients (water through pepper). Stir with a whisk to make the dressing. Place the apple slices in a large bowl. Spoon 2 tablespoons dressing over apples; toss to coat. Add spinach, mushrooms, onions, and remaining dressing. Toss to coat. Crumble the bacon and sprinkle over the top of the salad. Refrigerate any leftovers. Makes 4 servings.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Quite a breakfast gets jump-started with Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Pancakes

When you have a little punkin in the house, the best thing to do is to stir up some Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Pancakes. At least that’s what we thought this past weekend when a little one was present for some grandparent fun time.

We also had some pumpkin puree, too, from a farmer’s-market find. Nothing to do but to get those pancakes quickly turning golden on the pancake grill.

I liked this recipe from the online site, acozykitchenprintablerecipes. It specified that you dot on the chocolate chips once the pancake batter was starting to cook on the griddle (instead of stirring the chips into the batter before scooping it on to cook). This made the chocolate chips more evenly spaced (and more decorative and apparent to the diners, especially the little one).  

We had ourselves quite a breakfast! I’m telling you, these were terrific.

Pumpkin Chocolate-Chip Pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup buttermilk, shaken
1 egg (or 1/4 cup egg substitute)
1/2 tablespoons of butter, melted and cooled slightly
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. In a medium bowl sift together the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. In a measuring cup (or small bowl) measure out the buttermilk. Add the egg and lightly beat. Next mix in the pumpkin puree until it is completely blended. Pour in the slightly cooled melted butter; mix some more. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. The batter should have some small-to-medium lumps. Heat up your griddle or cast-iron skillet over medium low heat and brush with 1 tablespoon of butter. Scoop the batter, using a 1/4-cup measure, to the warm skillet. Top each pancake with desired amount of chocolate chips. Cook until small bubbles form on the surface of the pancake; then flip. Cool on opposite side for about 40 seconds or until golden brown. Transfer done pancakes to a baking sheet. Place them in oven to keep warm. Proceed with the rest of the pancakes until you’ve gone through all the batter. (Makes about 10 pancakes.) Serve with warm maple syrup. (Source: acozykitchenprintablerecipes)

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Eggplant Chicken a sure winner

Still in the possession of some eggplant from our last farmer's market run, I found this delightful Eggplant Chicken recipe on cooks.com. 

The chicken breasts were o-so-tender after I had pounded them with a kitchen mallet so that they baked in a nice flat layer under the eggplant slices.

I made my own breadcrumbs by whisking some whole-wheat bread in the blender and adding some Italian seasoning.

I didn’t have the Provolone cheese as the recipe specified, so I used some grated Mozzarella instead. The casserole was terrific and extended itself for several night’s meals.

Eggplant Chicken

2 whole chicken breasts, skinned, boned, halved, and flattened, with excess fat removed
1 small eggplant, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch slices
1/2 cup flavored bread crumbs
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs, beaten (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
4 slices Provolone cheese
1/4 cup grated cheese (I used Parmesan)
1/2 cup tomato sauce
2 teaspoon olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh parsley for garnish

Lay out chicken in prepared casserole dish. Dredge eggplant in flour, then egg, then breadcrumbs. Top each chicken breast with eggplant slices. Top with tomato sauce, grated cheese, then Provolone cheese, and olive oil. Garnish with parsley. Bake in a preheated 425-degree oven for 20 minutes (I left it in for 25 minutes for doneness.) Remove from casserole with spatula. Serve on heated plates. Makes 6-8 servings. (Source: cooks.com)

Monday, October 1, 2012

A day of being “walled about with apples” produced these apple-bran muffin beauties

I’ve always loved the expression “walled about with rain”, a line from one of my favorite historical novels, The Child from the Sea. On Saturday we were  “walled about with rain” from sunup to sundown. My planned day of gardening tasks had to be set aside, but who’s complaining? Our sun-parched land was so grateful for the soaking moisture.

Instead, I became “walled about with apples”. The drop in temps and the sure sign that fall was at hand got me grabbing up every apple I could find and stirring up apple goodies. How fall-ified the house smelled with apple things baking.

We loved these Apple Bran Cereal Muffins, the recipe having been procured from the Chickasaw Nutrition Services a few days before. Finely chopped apples and bran flakes were the key elements in these tasty gems. Interesting: the recipe called for 1/2 cup applesauce, which I didn’t have on hand. I merely inserted a diced, peeled apple into the blender and pureed it until the apple was a nice mush. I poured in a tablespoon of water, a sprinkle of sugar substitute, and dash of nutmeg. Instant applesauce to use as an ingredient! No emergency trips to the store; no opening a can. This helped make the muffins plenty moist; they turned out beautifully golden.

Pulling weeds could wait while we luxuriated in the smells and tastes of welcomed fall.

Apple Bran Cereal Muffins

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
2 cups bran flakes
1 cup skim milk
1 egg white (I used 1/4 cup egg substitute)
1 cup apple, cored, finely chopped
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 12 muffin pan cups with cooking spray. In a large bowl mix flours, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. In another bowl mix cereal and milk; let stand 3 minutes. To the cereal mixture add egg white, apple, applesauce, brown sugar, and margarine. Mix well. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients. Stir until moistened. Spoon 1/3 cup batter into each muffin cup; bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Makes 12 muffins. (Source: Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services)

Friday, September 28, 2012

Inspired by farmer's-market trip, Eggplant Parmesan is wonderful meal

Time for a farmer’s market trip; we arrived home with some lovely eggplant, among some other items.

I wasn’t just spilling over with recipes for fresh eggplant, but an Internet search turned up more than 250 of them from allrecipes.com

This one for Eggplant Parmesan with Easy Homemade Sauce made a delicious meal. I’m glad it yielded bunches so we have plenty left over for tonight.

It directed me to peel the eggplant and slice it into 1/2-inch rounds. A simple breading (which I made by blender-whisking pieces of wheat bread and Italian seasoning) coated the slices after they were brushed with olive oil. A quick homemade tomato sauce went over the breaded slices as they were baked in the oven with Parmesan and mozzarella cheese on top. I boiled a handful of eggless noodles to serve with the eggplant/tomato dish.

I didn’t have worlds of time to get dinner on the table, so I was glad this stirred up rather quickly. A great selection with our fresh-from-the-garden eggplant.

Eggplant Parmesan with Easy Homemade Sauce

1/2 cup Italian-seasoned bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 pinch red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 eggplant, trimmed, peeled, and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1/2 cup olive oil
1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 1/2 (6-ounce) cans water
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried parsley
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon brown sugar
sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 (8-ounce) package fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Grease an 8-inch-by-14-inch baking dish. In a shallow bowl mix seasoned bread crumbs, 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, and red pepper flakes. Brush eggplant sliced with olive oil; press into bread-crumb mixture to coat. Lay slices onto a baking sheet; bake in the preheated oven until browned and tender (about 15 minutes). Remove eggplant; reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees. In a saucepan whisk tomato paste and water; place over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Stir in basil, oregano, parsley, garlic, brown sugar, sea salt, and black pepper. Place eggplant slices into prepared baking dish; overlap the slices. Spoon tomato sauce over eggplant; top with mozzarella cheese and 3/4 cup Parmesan. Bake in the preheated oven until cheese is melted, about 15 minutes. If desired broil for 1 to 2 more minutes to give the cheese topping a golden color. Let stand for 5 minutes before you serve. Makes 6 servings. (Source: www.allrecipes.com

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Nutritious meal-on-the-go—the colorful breakfast rollup

I love the way this recipe item was billed—as a nutritious, on-the-go breakfast treat for kids on school mornings “when singing ‘Kumbaya’ around the breakfast table just isn’t going to happen”, the magazine stated.
At our house we don’t have any racing schoolkids, but as grandparents we do plenty of breakfast “inhaling”. Lots of other meals, too. 

The photo on these Sausage-Egg Rollups (which I adapted and called Sausage-Egg-Tomato-Avocado Rollups) looked as though it would be a good comfort-food dinner item. Hubby sure gave it his heartiest “Like”. The addition of the chopped tomato and avocado brought the garden into it and just mellowed it out even more.

I loved the recipe’s suggestion about wrapping these in parchment for easier handling and then for freezing by popping them in a zip-top plastic bag. They keep in the freezer for about a month, it states—a great idea when company’s expected.

Sausage-Egg-Tomato-Avocado Rollups

1/2 pound ground pork sausage, browned and drained (I used turkey sausage)
5 large eggs (I used 1 1/4 cups egg substitute)
1 tablespoon milk (I used skim)
pinch of salt (or salt substitute) and pepper
3/4 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
salsa of your choice
6 (6-inch) fajita-sized flour tortillas
chopped tomato
chopped avocado

Scramble eggs in nonstick skillet over medium heat to desired consistency. Divide sausage, scrambled eggs, cheese, and salsa equally among the 6 tortillas. Spoon ingredients down center of each tortilla. Add chopped tomato and avocado. Roll tortillas up. To make ahead, wrap in parchment paper. Chill in a zip-top plastic bag up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. If frozen thaw overnight in fridge before reheating. To reheat microwave at high 1 to 1 1/2 minutes. If freezing add tomato and avocado after you thaw and not before you freeze. Makes 6. (Source: Southern Living September 2012)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A veggie dressed-up topping for the standard spud

The prosaic baked spud got a makeover with the addition of some healthy, crunchy toppings.

In a recent issue of Southern Living readers were encouraged to think outside the spud with some “good-for-you” subs for the typical sour cream and cheese potato-toppers.

Roasted Vegetable Loaded Potatoes was the suggestion (out of four very good ones) I chose to try. I’ve never seen a baked potato emerge so dressed in its Sunday finest.

To a potato baked the standard way (I bake mine in the microwave, although some people prefer them cooked in the oven) you add chopped fresh cauliflower and Brussels sprouts along with sliced red onion, olive oil, and salt and pepper. All gets roasted in the oven for 25 minutes.

After all that’s done, I tossed in some raisins and walnuts and lite bottled vinaigrette dressing. This made a delicious, unusual side that was heaping with health and texture.

Roasted Vegetable Loaded Potatoes

3 cups chopped fresh cauliflower
2 cups sliced fresh Brussels sprouts
1/2 medium-size red onion, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or salt substitute)
basic baked potatoes
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup chopped toasted walnuts
2 tablespoon lite bottled Italian vinaigrette

Preheat over to 400 degrees. Toss together first 6 ingredients on a lightly greased 15-inch-by-10-inch jelly-roll pan. Prepare potatoes as directed. Bake cauliflower mixture with potatoes, 25 minutes or until cauliflower is brown. Stir once. Toss with raisins, walnuts, and vinaigrette. Spoon over potatoes. Makes 6 servings. (Source: Southern Living, September 2012)

Monday, September 17, 2012

Open foil packets to reveal a simple, dramatic salmon-and-green beans meal

Impressive! What a memorable presentation when you unfurl this entrée, Salmon Baked in a Foil Parcel with Green Beans and Pesto, to reveal a sumptuous, steaming, one-dish feast of fish and a fresh veggie.

The AARP’s recent magazine had as a dinner feature this easy-to-assemble delight. I liked the fact that this dish had enough panache for use at a dinner party but was simple and basic enough for a quick weeknight meal.

A little lemon juice squeezed on top of the fillet and some quality green pesto are all the adornments needed. In the interest of time I subbed some lemon-pepper seasoning for the green pesto. That seasoning in itself made the duo plenty tasty.

Opening the parcel at the dinner table is dramatic. The salmon and green bean combination is an excellent pairing. And we all need to eat more fish!

Salmon Baked in a Foil Parcel with Green Beans and Pesto

2 handfuls green beans
2 salmon fillets (4 ounces each), skin on, scaled, and bones removed
olive oil, as needed
sea salt (or salt substitute) and freshly ground black pepper
1 lemon
2 heaping tablespoons green pesto

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Trim the beans by cutting off the stalk ends but leaving on the wispy tips. Halve the lemon. Take a yard of aluminum foil; fold it in half. Bring the narrow sides together to make 2 layers. Put a handful of green beans in the middle of the folded aluminum foil. Lay a salmon fillet, skin-side down, across the beans. Spoon a heaping tablespoon of green pesto on top. Drizzle with olive oil, squeeze the juice from one of the lemon halves over all, and season with salt and pepper. Pull the aluminum-foil edges together and scrunch them up to seal the parcel. Repeat these steps to make your second salmon-fillet parcel; place both foil parcels onto a sheet pan. Put the sheet pan in the oven and cook the parcels for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and let it stand for 1 minute before you carefully unwrap and check that the salmon is cooked through. Serve the parcels either on plates as they are or carefully unwrap them before you serve. Makes 2 servings. (Source: AARP The Magazine, September 2012)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Grilled tomato sandwich yummy to the last Goud-a bite

A grilled-cheese sandwich always will be one of my great loves. Give me a grilled cheese for lunch and I’m a happy camper any day. If I can’t figure out what to order on a restaurant menu, grilled cheese is my default button. 

The AARP magazine (one of the benefits of being that “certain age” is that you get to read this classy publication) recently featured an upscale G.C. that takes a healthiness detour. It combines grilled tomatoes with shredded Gouda over whole- wheat bread sautéed in olive oil. The Tomato and Gouda Grilled Cheese Sandwich is touted for its health benefits because it says cooked tomatoes have more healthful antioxidants than do raw ones. 

This made a wonderful lunch option for us. I was happy to eat it open-faced without the top layer of bread. This menu item was ready in minutes and was yummy to the last Goud-a bite. 

Tomato and Gouda Grilled Cheese Sandwich

1 medium vine-ripened tomato, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices (I used several Roma tomatoes)
3 ounces Gouda
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for brushing the bread
Kosher salt (or salt substitute) and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices whole-wheat bread

In a large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add the oil; swirl to coat. When the oil is hot, add the tomato slices; season tomatoes with salt and pepper. Cook until softened, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer the tomatoes to a plate. Use oil to brush the bread on both sides. Set 2 or 3 tomato slices onto 2 of the bread slices. Grate Gouda over the tomatoes; top with the remaining bread. Wipe out the sauté pan and place it over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the sandwiches; cook until the bread is golden brown, about 2 to 3 minutes. Turn the sandwiches over and grill to brown on the other side, another 2 to 3 minutes. Serve immediately. Serves 2. (Source: AARP The Magazine, September 2012)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Caramel Apple Muffins and promises of fall refresh the heart

What pleasant thoughts get conjured up by a magazine feature entitled “Apple Delights”! Who doesn’t feel hopeful reading about a variety of ways with apples? Fall and the promises it holds suddenly feel a lot closer when a recipe for Caramel Apple Muffins sits on my kitchen counter with ingredients for it gathered.

Muffins from this recipe appeared on the cover of the September issue of Southern Living magazine. Darling little muffins that resemble real caramel apples, with a nut-sprinkled caramel glaze on top and little twig handles for decor, were so appealing, I had to bake them first thing.

A basic muffin batter with 2 cups diced apples fills muffin cups, with a cinnamon topping sprinkled on before all is baked. Once removed from the pan these muffins remain top-side down. You melt the caramels and dip the bottom side of the muffin surface (yes, I did a double-take on that one, too!) and then roll this surface in nuts. I decided to forego inserting sticks or twigs and enjoy these without the dress-up, but the idea is cute indeed.

Not long after those delicious-beyond-words muffins popped out of the oven, our part of the world experienced a refreshing cool spell that put everyone in a better state of mind. Fall and its promises and Caramel Apple Muffins—they make the heart sing.

                                                               Caramel Apple Muffins

1 (8-ounce) container sour cream (I used fat-free)
1 cup sugar (I used sugar substitute)
2 large eggs (I used egg substitute)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used salt substitute)
2 cups peeled and diced Granny Smith apples
1 (14-ounce) package caramels
3 tablespoons whipping cream
1 cup chopped lightly salted roasted pecans (I used walnuts)
wax paper
food-safe twigs or craft sticks

Cinnamon topping:
1/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tablespoon butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl prepare cinnamon topping by combining brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Cut in butter with a pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles coarse meal. Set topping aside. Beat sour cream and next 3 ingredients at a low speed with an electric mixer 30 seconds or until all is blended. Stir together flour and next 3 ingredients. Add to sour-cream mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended. (Do not overmix.) Stir in diced apples. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 12-cup muffin pan. Fill muffin cups three-fourths full. Sprinkle with cinnamon topping. Bake at 375 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes or until muffins are golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in center emerges clean. Immediately remove from pans to wire racks; cool completely (about 30 minutes). Microwave caramels and cream in a microwave-safe bowl at high 1 to 2 minutes or until mixture is smooth. Stir at 30-second intervals. Let mixture stand, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until thick enough to coat muffins. Quickly dip bottom three-fourths of each muffin into caramel mixture; roll bottom half of caramel-coated portion of muffin in chopped nuts. Place muffins, caramel sides up, on lightly greased wax paper. (If caramel mixture begins to harden before you’ve dipped all the muffins, microwave mixture a few seconds to siften.) Insert food-safe twigs or craft sticks into caramel-covered portions of muffins. Makes 1 dozen muffins. (Source: Southern Living September 2012)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Colorful salad pizza is a meal in one

I had a new kitchen utensil and was eager to use it. My daughter had been to a party that featured cooking gadgets and had bought for me a chopping instrument to smooth out ground meat or turkey crumbles (see below). Accompanying my purchase was a featured recipe. Hubby and I were keeping the grandmunchkin over the weekend; I knew he liked pizza. I thought this salad pizza would be a good way to encourage his veggie intake.

It encouraged the rest of us as well. Wow, what a great dish—and an easy one. Refrigerated roll dough formed the crust. After browning the dough in the oven the cook piles on a sour-cream layer and then a cooked ground turkey mixture that has been stirred with salsa and seasonings; then the healthy toppings. After the crust nothing else gets baked. A wonderful, colorful meal is ready in minutes. 

Mexican Fiesta Salad Pizza

2 packages (8-ounces each) refrigerator crescent rolls
1 1/4 pound lean ground turkey
1 1/4 cups medium thick and chunky salsa
1 (1-ounce) envelope taco seasoning mix
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 cup sour cream (I used fat-free)
2 cups thinly sliced iceberg lettuce
2 plum tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 green onions with tops, thinly sliced
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup pitted ripe olives, coarsely chopped
additional salsa (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Unroll crescent dough; separate into 16 triangles. Arrange 14 of the triangles in a circle on lightly floured round baking stone (I used a regular, rectangular cookie sheet) with wide ends even with edge of baking stone and points toward the center. Place the remaining two triangles in the center; pinch seams to seal. Roll dough to create a smooth surface. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until dough is golden brown. Remove from oven; cool completely. In 12-inch skillet, cook ground turkey over medium heat 10-12 minutes or until it no longer is pink. Break turkey into crumbles. (Recipe recommends using a Mix ’n Chop cooking utensil that is sold by the recipe source, The Pampered Chef.) Drain if necessary. In a medium bowl combine salsa, seasoning mix, and garlic; mix well. Add to turkey in skillet; toss to coat. Spread sour cream over crust. Spoon turkey mixture over sour cream. Top with lettuce, tomatoes, onions, cheese, and olives. Serve immediately with additional salsa, if desired. Makes 8 servings. (Source: The Pampered Chef.)