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, July 30, 2012

Tomato Panzanella a jumble of colors and nutrition

The tomatoes keep rolling in from our garden. The heat keeps pressing down without a break. Keeping the kitchen temps lowered helps make the house bearable on a sweltering day. This recipe meets a lot of needs in all those afore-mentioned regards.

Tomato Panzanella features cooked fresh corn kernels, gorgeous tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, and fresh basil. Some French bread (toasted in a countertop toaster, not by firing up the oven) gets tossed in.

Along with some fresh melon on the side, this dish made a welcome meal for Hubby and me on a recent mop-the-brow summer evening. The vibrant color of everything jumbled together added to our enjoyment. Cool and delicious!

Tomato Panzanella

1 cup cooked fresh corn kernels
2 pounds large heirloom tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon white cooking wine
1/2 (16-ounce) French bread loaf, cut into 1-inch cubes and toasted
1 English cucumber, sliced
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup torn fresh basil
salt (or salt substitute) and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Toss together all ingredients. Let stand 30 minutes. Add sherry vinegar; toss to combine. Makes 4 to 6 servings. (Source: Southern Living July 2012)

Friday, July 27, 2012

Surprise salsa looks great on the table--and it does surprise!

It was a surprise, all right—cantaloupe, watermelon, mango, red onion, cilantro, jalapeno, mint, and cucumber? All in one salsa?

I was enjoying Southern Living’s recent contest for readers to submit their very best summer side dishes. The contest included a “Best Surprise” category: something off-the-wall and unexpected that took the appraisers by storm.

The winning reader submitted her version of a “Sweet, Salty, and Spicy Watermelon Refresher”. She stated that the dish is a rehydrater on summer days and helps cleanse the palate from barbecue or other picnic fare. I had to try and see.  

We served this with grilled chicken at our July 4th luncheon. It made volumes and literally was as tasty a week later (having been refrigerated in an airtight container) as it was on firecracker day. I didn’t have the jicama called for but was able to locate everything else to toss into this colorful mix. And talk about a beautiful presentation on the table!

A winner by my estimation; I love surprises.

Sweet, Salty, and Spicy Watermelon Refresher

1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 jalapeno or 2 serrano peppers, seeded and minced
1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 small red onion, diced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh mint
1 small seedless watermelon
1 small cantaloupe
2 English cucumbers
1 jicama
2 mangoes

Combine lime juice and next 5 ingredients. Place red onion, cilantro, and mint in a large bowl. Dice watermelon and cantaloupe into 1-inch pieces; add to bowl. Peel and dice cucumbers, jicama, and mangoes; add to bowl. Stir in lime juice mixture. Cover and chill 20 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Makes 10 to 12 servings. (Source: June 2012 Southern Living)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Cukes in a flavorful soup keep things way cool

I always thought the saying was, “as cool as a cucumber,” but this Hot Cucumber Soup was a way-cool summertime dish.

A neighbor blessed us with some cucumbers from his garden. Besides cucumbers and onions in vinegar or diced up for a salad, what other recipes can a cook find that call for this particular fresh veggie item?

How about looking in my own cookbook? There on the pages of Way Back in the Country Garden (I had forgotten about this particular entry) was the Hot Cucumber Soup recipe. It used on-hand recipe ingredients and could be prepared in a jiffy. Can’t beat those qualifications.

Diced cucumbers and onions are cooked, along with some spices, in low-sodium chicken broth. To serve warm I added a scoop of plain yogurt and a bit of fresh mint for garnish. (Don’t skip the yogurt. I used the Greek variety—doesn’t everyone these days?) I waited for Hubby’s reaction.

“Cucumbers. In a soup? This is really good.” He clearly didn’t remember it from the first-time around, when I was taste-testing recipes for Country Garden, years ago. Well, clearly I hadn’t remembered it either. It made only enough for two servings, but I have more cucumber and the other ingredients, so we’ll repeat tonight.

Anything that doesn’t require heating up the oven qualifies as being “cool as a cucumber”.

Hot Cucumber Soup

2 teaspoons butter
1 cucumber
2 cups chicken stock (I used lower-sodium variety)
2 green onions
1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt (try a sodium-free variety)
pinch nutmeg
2 teaspoons fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons plain yogurt

In large saucepan melt butter. Peel cucumber and cut in half lengthwise. Remove seeds and cut cucumber into thin slices. Sauté for 2 minutes. Chop onions; add them to the pan along with chicken stock and spices. Simmer 5 minutes. Serve hot topped with yogurt and mint. Makes 2 servings.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Peaches and pecans in coleslaw? Outtasight good.

I just adore coleslaw of any stripe, so when I found out I could make it with the additions of peaches and pecans, I was thrilled.

In my frequent summer dilemma of what to do with the peach crop, a recipe that used several peaches in a slaw-type setting was welcome indeed.

The magazine article that featured Peach-Ginger Slaw showed them served alongside homemade Hush Puppies. So we HAD to have Hush Puppies as an accompaniment. The only thing else I needed in this summertime tableau was a red-and-white-checked cloth. CHECK! I have my grandmother’s 70-year-old vintage one, with colors just as perky as they were in her day. This cloth of many memories was the perfect backdrop for serving these two treats.  

The addition of peach slices seemed to mellow out the tanginess of the slaw dressing. The nuts crunched up the mixture. A summer delight, just as I figured it would be.

Peach-Ginger Slaw

1 cup chopped pecans
3 tablespoons pepper jelly
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/3 cup canola oil
1 (16-ounce) package shredded coleslaw mix
2 large fresh peaches, unpeeled and coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 10 to 12 minutes or until toasted and fragrant. Stir halfway through. Cool completely (about 10 minutes). Meanwhile, microwave jelly in a large microwave-safe bowl at high 15 seconds. Whisk in vinegar and next 2 ingredients until all are blended. Gradually add canola oil in a slow, steady stream. Whisk constantly until mixture is well blended. Add coleslaw mix and toss gently. Gently stir in peaches. Stir in pecans; add salt or salt substitute to taste. Serve immediately or cover and chill up to 8 hours. Stir in pecans and salt to taste just before serving. (Source: Southern Living, July 2012)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Tomato-and-Okra Cornmeal Cakes are prizes for being sneaky

Every morning we square off against the birds in our pursuit of vine-ripened tomatoes from our garden. Huge black birds watch those vines scrupulously. Let one green tomato get the slightest hint of a blush on it, and the birds swoop in for a tasty treat. 

I had to be sneaky, but by looking carefully near the ground, where they weren’t so obvious to the hungry winged creatures, I rescued about 1 pound of small, slightly pinkish tomatoes so I could make this divine recipe. I lined my finds up on my window ledge until they ripened to a pretty red in color.

Tomato-and-Okra Cornmeal Cakes were just as cute as they could be and so imaginative. They might have been designed to be appetizers, but Hubby and I made full meals out of then for several evenings in a row. 

Besides the okra I tossed in some chopped yellow squash for the cornmeal patty. Pimiento cheese is my middle name, so turning up a cheese spread for the second layer wasn’t tough at all. (The source of this recipe says that in this step, you also can use whipped cream cheese or goat cheese.) On top went the rescued tomatoes, which were just gorgeous all sliced up. Fresh basil from my herb patch crowned it all.

Big black birds, you lose! Hubby and I win big; this was a great dish! 

Tomato-and-Okra Cornmeal Cakes

2 cups plain yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large egg (or 1/4 cup egg substitute)
1/2 cup water
1 garlic clove
1/2 pound fresh okra, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1/4 cup canola oil
kosher salt (or salt substitute)
1 pound small tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
fresh basil leaves
pimiento cheese spread of your choice

In a large bowl whisk together first 3 ingredients. Whisk together egg and 1/2 cup water; add to cornmeal mixture. Whisk until smooth. Smash garlic to make a paste. Stir okra, jalapeno, and garlic paste into cornmeal mixture. (Batter will be thick and will thicken even more as it sits, so add water, if needed.) In a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat, heat 1 tablespoon oil. Into skillet pour 1 tablespoon batter for each cake; gently flatten the batter into a 2-inch cake. (Don’t overcrowd the cakes in the skillet.) Cook 2 to 3 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles. Turn and cook 2 to 3 more minutes. Transfer cakes to a paper-towel-lined plate. Season with kosher salt and pepper. Keep cakes warm in a 200-degree oven. Repeat procedure with remaining batter and oil. Spread each cake with about 1 teaspoon pimiento cheese. Top with arugula, tomato, basil, kosher salt, and pepper. Makes 16 appetizer servings. (Source: Southern Living July 2012)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Peaches and chicken atop rice make a simple, light summer entrée

Summer dinners are so a challenge. Keep it light, keep it simple, avoid firing up the oven, give it the flavor of summer, use fresh-from-the-garden if at all possible. No pressure.

This meal suggestion was a good compromise. Part of the cooking time involved the oven but only for 15 minutes. The chicken was sautéed on the stovetop and finished in the oven to avoid drying it out in the skillet preparation. Peaches combined with the chicken broth created natural juices, so the chicken stayed moist.

These were our garden-ripened peaches, of course, but the farmers markets are a good peach source. The unusual addition of peaches gave the chicken a sweet, fruity taste. We served these Basil-Peach Chicken Breasts over rice, but the recipe suggests it atop couscous or quinoa as well.

Basil-Peach Chicken Breasts

4 skinned and boned chicken breasts (about 2 pounds)
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt (or salt substitute)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
12 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
1 cup reduced-sodium fat-free chicken broth
4 large peaches, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 2 cups)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use salt and pepper to season chicken on both sides. In a large ovenproof skillet cook chicken in hot oil over medium-high heat 2 minutes on each side or until chicken is browned. Remove chicken from skillet; reserve drippings in skillet. Reduce heat to medium. Add shallot to hot drippings in skillet and sauté 3 minutes or until tender. Add ginger and garlic; sauté 45 to 60 seconds or until fragrant. Add basil, chicken broth, and peaches. Return chicken to skillet and turn to coat. Bake 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until chicken is done. Makes 4 servings. (Source: Southern Living June 2012)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Summer squash makes a good oatmeal muffin better

I’ve always loved zucchini bread and zucchini muffins, but thanks to a friend’s generosity, yellow summer squash was what lined my refrigerator shelves.

Was a summer squash muffin something you do?

A brief Internet search turned up a recipe for these Oatmeal Summer Squash Muffins. A little oatmeal and a little whole wheat flour (my recipe said you could make the entire 1 1/2 cups of flour whole wheat if you wanted to skip the all-purpose-flour route) were nice additions to make this food item super-healthy.

Hubby and I enjoyed these for Saturday morning breakfast; then they were destined for freezer bags to be popped out for road trips or another time.

Oatmeal Summer Squash Muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
scant 1/2 teaspoon mace
1 egg (or 1/4 cup egg substitute)
1 cup milk (I use skim)
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 cup grated summer squash or zucchini

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium-large bowl combine flour, oats, baking powder, salt or salt substitute, cinnamon, and mace. In a medium bowl combine egg, milk, oil, and honey. Mix well. Add moist ingredients to dry ingredients; stir just until moistened. Gently fold in squash. Fill lined or well-greased muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into center emerges clean. Makes 12-14 muffins. (Source: www.modernbeet.com, as adapted from the cookbook, Simply in Season)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Happy ending for countless tomatoes--Mexican Tomato Soup

Tomatoes line my window ledge, my kitchen island, the shelves of my refrigerator. A banner tomato year . . . I’m seeking to find happy endings for all them.

I couldn’t have picked a better place for some of these tomatoes to land than Mexican Tomato Soup. To begin with, the recipe calls low-sodium tomato juice. No-brainer. Boil a bunch of these red jewels, season, and strain. Tomato juice at the ready (the exact tomato juice recipe is found in my cookbook, Way Back in the Country Garden). Then it asks for a couple of extra tomatoes, cored and halved and added to a chicken-broth-and-tomato-juice base. A couple extra tomatoes (how about a couple hundred extra ones?) are no problem.

Some spices, green onions, lime juice, a little boiling and simmering. Add some deboned chicken strips. Not many minutes later (just long enough for the chicken bits to cook), a tangy soup dish awaits. The recipe also calls for making your own tortilla chips out of leftover tortillas. A great way to use up some that hang around in the refrigerator. Chunks of cheese and avocado are hearty additions.

Hubby and I enjoyed this dish on a Saturday night. Since Saturday is approaching again, I commend this to your weekend.

Mexican Tomato Soup

6 (6-inch) corn tortillas
2 tablespoons canola oil, divided
2 medium tomatoes, cored and halved
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 (32-ounce) container reduced-sodium fat-free chicken broth
2 cups low-sodium tomato juice
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 1/2 pound skinned and boned chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
4 green onions (white part only), thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 cup crumbled fresh Mexican cheese
1 medium avocado, chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush 1 side of tortillas with 1 tablespoon oil; cut tortillas in half. Stack tortilla halves and cut crosswise into 14-inch-wide strips. Arrange strips in a single layer of a lightly greased baking sheet. Season with salt and pepper. Bake 15 minutes or until golden. Stir halfway through. Cool. Meanwhile heat a nonstick skillet over high heat 2 minutes. Add tomato halves and cook (turn occasionally) 10 minutes, or until tomatoes are charred on all sides. (Tomatoes may stick.) Transfer to a food processor. Sauté onion in remaining 1 tablespoon hot oil in skillet over medium heat 3 to 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic; sauté 2 minutes or until fragrant. Transfer onion mixture to food processor with tomatoes; process until smooth. Cook tomato mixture in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally, 5 minutes or until thickened. Stir in broth and tomato juice. Add bay leaf and next 3 ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered and stirring occasionally, 20 minutes. Add chicken; simmer, stirring occasionally, 5 to 7 minutes or until chicken is done. Discard bay leaf. Stir in green onions and next 2 ingredients. Season with salt (or salt substitute) and pepper. Divide Mexican cheese among 4 to 6 soup bowls; top with tortilla strips. Ladle soup into bowls. Top with avocado. Makes 4 to 6 servings. (Source: Southern Living July 2012)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Layers of colorful sweetness: berry delicious

The moment I saw it on the magazine cover, I knew that it HAD to be my dessert for the recent holiday. Red berries, blue berries, white ice cream, and red velvet cake with berries baked into the batter. How could I lose? I didn’t have to put a single decoration (although I did) on my table and this sweet concoction would have been accessory enough.

Red Velvet-Berry Cobbler was served in clear, deep goblets so the colors would shine through. The magazine included a cake recipe, which I’ll print below, but I confess that I used a store-bought cake mix that I happened to have in the pantry. However, that didn’t stop me from including the berries with the batter as the recipe said to do.

The magazine also added a recipe for Cream Cheese Ice Cream (since red velvet layer cake almost always features Cream Cheese Icing). The recipe made only a quart, but we put it in our big electric freezer (countertop freezers are available for sure, but we don't own one) and churned it just like it was a gallon of traditional homemade vanilla.

You save a few berries of each color (I used raspberries and blueberries and avoided strawberries because of Hubby’s aforementioned challenge with strawberry seeds) to layer in-between the cake and ice cream segments.

This was dessert perfection at its finest. Missed it for July 4th? This combo will add festivity to any meal in the good ole summertime.

Red Velvet-Berry Cobbler

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 1/4 cups sugar, divided (or sugar substitute)
6 cups assorted fresh berries (can choose from among blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, or strawberries)
1/2 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
2 tablespoons red liquid food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together cornstarch and 1/2 cup sugar. Toss berries with cornstarch mixture. Spoon into a lightly greased 11-inch-by-7-inch baking dish. Use an electric mixer at medium speed to beat butter until fluffy; gradually add remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Beat well. Add eggs, 1 at a time. After each addition beat until just blended. Stir in red food coloring and vanilla until blended. Combine flour, cocoa, and salt. Stir together buttermilk, vinegar, and baking soda in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. (Mixture will bubble.) Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk mixture. Begin and end with flour mixture. After each addition beat at low speed until blended. Spoon batter over berry mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center of cake topping emerges clean. Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Layer scoops of Red Velvet-Berry Cobbler, ice cream, and fresh berries in glasses. Top with sprigs of fresh mint; I topped mine with sprinkles. (Source: Southern Living July 2012)

Monday, July 9, 2012

Broccoli, glazed pecans make tasty coleslaw toss-ins

“This is the best slaw I’ve ever tasted.” Hubby is forever long on effusive superlatives, but I knew he truly meant this one when over the weekend he bypassed several eat-out dinner possibilities just so he could return home to put some of this Broccoli Slaw with Candied Pecans on his plate.

The recipe featured broccoli florets, coleslaw mix, golden raisins, a mayo/red wine vinegar dressing, and the crowning touch—roasted glazed pecan pieces.

It offered a healthy crunch, a smooth dressing, and pecan sweetness—definitely a unique coleslaw.
Gone too soon, Hubby murmured. I agreed.

Broccoli Slaw with Candied Pecans

1 pound fresh broccoli
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/3 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 small head napa cabbage, thinly sliced, or 1 (16-ounce) package coleslaw mix
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 (3.5-ounce package) roasted glazed pecan pieces

Cut broccoli florets from stems; use a small paring knife to separate florets into small pieces. Peel away tough outer layer of stems. Finely chop stems. In a large bowl whisk together mayonnaise and next 6 ingredients. Add cabbage, raising, and broccoli; stir to coat. Cover and chill 1 hour. Just before you serve this, stir in pecans. Makes 6 servings. (Source: Southern Living June 2012).

Friday, July 6, 2012

Four and twenty tomatoes (well, almost that many) baked in a pie

A very special adult son’s visit to his parents’ house called for a dish beyond description. Fresh tomatoes from the garden and an enticing new recipe for tomato pie was just the combination.

We wanted our son, in town on a business trip, to enjoy some of the yield of our overpoweringly fertile tomato vines. Gorgeous red tomatoes were starting to line our window-ledges and countertops as Hubby marched them in from the garden rows. They got a home in this Old-fashioned Tomato Pie after the July 2012 issue of Southern Living featured some new, creative ways to work with tomatoes that are just-ripened.

In a flaky pie crust and garnished with fresh herbs and filled with a delicious cheese mixture, the pie was devoured in a hurry. The straight-from-the-vine tomatoes first were laid out on a paper towel, salted (salt substitute was used), and left to stand for 10 minutes to rid them of excess water so the pie wouldn’t be soggy.

We had quite a celebration; this pie of pies easily could have been the dessert course, since the tomatoes represented such sweet goodness.

Old-fashioned Tomato Pie

2 1/4 pound assorted heirloom tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided (I used salt substitute)
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, divided
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 cup assorted chopped fresh herbs (such as chives, parsley, and basil)
1/2 cup freshly grated Gruyere cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 
1/4 cup mayonnaise
pie crust recipe of your choice (source furnished one, but I used my own tried-and-true version)

Line prepared crust with aluminum foil; fill with pie weights or dried beans to keep the crust from bubbling up or shrinking. Place on an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove weights (or beans) and foil. Bake 5 minutes or until browned. Cool completely on baking sheet on a wire rack (about 30 minutes). Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Place tomatoes in a single layer on paper towels; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Let stand 10 minutes. Meanwhile sauté onion and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper in hot oil in a skillet over medium heat 3 minutes or until onion is tender. Pat tomatoes dry with a paper towel. Layer tomatoes, onion, and herbs in prepared crust. Season each layer with pepper (1 teaspoon total). Stir together cheese and mayonnaise; spread over pie. (I sprinkled a little extra grated cheese on top.) Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until lightly browned. As you bake, shield edges with foil to prevent excessive browning. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature. Makes 6 to 8 servings.