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.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Asparagus Mimosa blooms with color and rich flavor

This was just as pretty as it was healthy—a very nice touch to Hubby’s birthday dinner this past weekend. Asparagus Mimosa—doesn’t it just sound appealing? The name relates to the fact that the grated hard-cooked eggs have the look of yellow mimosa blossoms, according to the original recipe source.

The diced smoked sausage was an added extra to the fresh asparagus that had been cooked in boiling salted water, drained, and then plunged into ice water to make it crisp-tender.

We enjoyed this dish served both hot and cold. It was a great accompaniment to the grilled-chicken main course (more on that later this week). A little hot sauce (I used Tabasco) was the perfect crowning touch.

Asparagus Mimosa

1 pound fresh asparagus
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 grated hard-cooked egg
2 tablespoons sautéed finely diced spicy smoked sausage (I used turkey sausage)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
hot sauce

Trim fresh asparagus. Cook in boiling water to cover 1 to 2 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain. Plunge asparagus into ice water; drain. Toss with cider vinegar, olive oil, salt (I used salt substitute), and pepper. Place on a serving platter; top with grated hard-cooked egg, sausage, and chives. Serve with hot sauce. Makes 4 servings. (Source: Southern Living, April 2013)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Nicey, spicey–loved this squash and curry stew

A simple soup supper on a weeknight—with a soup packed with all kinds of goodness. That’s what emerged when I tried Yellow Squash and Curry Stew.

I’ve always loved the kicky spice of curry and was intrigued with the idea of combining it with yellow squash. I made my own vegetable broth instead of purchasing the canned variety; that contributed to the health factor. Hubby’s question when I served it: “Is anything about this not healthy?” Nada, nada.

Roasting the squash in the oven before pureeing part of it enhanced the flavor. And talk about colorful! This fairly danced off the table with its color burst. Fragrant, too! Wondrous aromas filled the house while the stew was cooking.

Yellow Squash and Curry Stew

2 pounds yellow squash, coarsely chopped
1 medium-sized sweet onion, coarsely chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided (or salt substitute)
3 cups organic vegetable or chicken broth, divided
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/2 cup torn fresh basil
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss together first 7 ingredients and 1 teaspoon salt. Arrange in a single layer in a 15-by-10-inch jelly roll pan. Bake at 450 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until vegetables are tender and lightly browned. Stir halfway through roasting process. Remove from oven; process 2 cups squash mixture and 1 cup broth in a blender or food processor until all is smooth. Divide remaining squash mixture among 4 shallow soup bowls. Stir together vegetable puree and remaining 2 cups broth in a 3-quart saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat; whisk in butter, lime juice, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Spoon broth mixture over squash mixture in bowls. Sprinkle with fresh herbs; serve immediately. Makes 4 servings. (Source: Southern Living, May 2013)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Charming chips give zucchini a new look

From the mixture for Roasted Veggie Tacos that I blogged about earlier in the week I still had some extra medium zucchini. I pulled into service a second recipe from my Kroger flyer and baked up some crispy zucchini chips.

These zucchini thin slices were tossed in a seasoned bread-crumb mixture, sprayed with cooking spray, and oven-baked, so all was healthy. After being flipped in the oven only once, they were nicely browned. They made a wonderful side for some turkey/mushroom burgers we had for dinner last night.

Hubby has decided that the mystery plant in his garden has turned out to be zucchini, so once the garden’s up, we should be growing our own of the veggie and have even more excuses for Zucchini Chips.

We liked these so much for dinner, we didn’t even need to smother them with ketchup. The seasoned breading made them plenty tangy. An easy, healthy side!

Zucchini Chips

cooking spray
1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated fresh Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or salt substitute)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup milk (I used skim)
4 medium zucchini, thinly sliced

Prepare oven to 450 degrees; grease two baking sheets with cooking spray. In a shallow bowl combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder, dried basil, salt, and pepper. Whisk to combine. Pour milk into another shallow bowl. Dip zucchini slices in milk and dredge them in breadcrumb mixture. Place coated zucchini slices on prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Spray the tops of the slices with cooking spray. Bake for 10 minutes or until slices are crisp and brown. Flip and bake for another 10 minutes or until chips are crisp and brown. For a pretty presentation serve pre-dished in small bowls lined with parchment paper or large cupcake liners. Refrigerate any leftovers. Serves 6. (Source: Kroger mymagazine)

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Glad recipe for Roasted Veggie Tacos with Avocado Cream caught my eye

If I weren’t writing a regular blog on cooking the country-fresh way, I totally wouldn’t have found myself trying this recipe for Roasted Veggie Tacos with Avocado Cream. I would have passed right by it. But I’m sure glad it caught my eye as a possible something to blog about. Hubby and I dined on these for dinner last night; they were superb.

A Kroger grocery flyer introduced this recipe to me. (More and more often I find these flyers to be great recipe sources.) Diced zucchini, mushrooms, red onions, corn, red peppers, cherry tomatoes, and black beans—all tossed in seasoned oil—are roasted in a pan in the oven until the items are tender. This mixture, with feta cheese and fresh cilantro, is spread on a warmed flour tortilla. A delightful avocado cream sauce is the garnish.

When I say that the stuffing makes an abundant amount, I’ll borrow a term from my husband’s mother—“It makes thousands”, Grandmother used to say when she stirred up a goodly amount of something. The recipe on the flyer said the entrée served 6, but that would be six people having four or five tacos each. We had “thousands” of the stuffing left over for several more meals. I’m looking forward to it.

Roasted Veggie Tacos with Avocado Cream

3 small zucchini, diced
1 cup fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 1/2 medium red onions, diced
1 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed (I used 2 ears fresh corn)
3 medium red peppers, diced
2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
2 cans black beans, rinsed
1/4 cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
4 1/2 teaspoons cumin
feta or goat cheese and freshly chopped cilantro, for topping
12-18 small corn or flour tortillas

Avocado cream:
2 large, ripe avocados, halved, pitted, and flesh removed
1 cup sour cream (I used fat-free)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine veggies, tomatoes, and black beans in a large bowl. In a small bowl whisk together olive oil, garlic, salt, and cumin. Toss with veggie mixture to coat. Spread evenly in a large roasting pan (or two). Roast, stirring every 10 minutes, until vegetables are cooked through and browned (about 20 minutes total). Meanwhile in a serving bowl mash avocado, sour cream, and lime juice until smooth. Stir in salt and cilantro to taste. To serve, warm tortillas and fill with veggies and avocado cream; top with cheese and cilantro. Refrigerate any leftovers. Serves 6. (Source: Kroger My Magazine flyer)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Peach Dumplings dessert a delicious reminder of upcoming garden season

The peach season is so near at hand, I couldn’t resist jumping the gun. Besides our “faithful four”—the four trees that are the regular peach producers in our garden—we have two new peach trees this year. They popped up from random seeds in the oddest places: one in a gravel walkway near our greenhouse and another near our back fence, far from our orchard area. Can’t wait to see what they do.

We have a few weeks to go before those green knobs that are showing up among the bushy leaves begin to yield yummy, cook-worthy fruit. But I saw a peach recipe I had to try, so I used a package of frozen ones and imagined what life will be like a few weeks hence when fresh peaches are piled high in our garden baskets.

Peach Dumplings was an easy recipe because it relied on packaged refrigerated piecrusts, rolled out and cut into 4-inch circles. Into each “bundle” went peach slices; the bundle edges were gathered around the peaches and pinched to seal. With the peach packets lined up in a 11-inch-by-7-inch glass baking dish, a syrup of sugar, melted butter, ground cinnamon, and water was poured over.

The recipe says you can substitute canned or fresh biscuits for the piecrust rounds. This was a great little dessert that assembled quickly and held a terrific promise of one of my favorite times of year—peach season.

Peach Dumplings

1 (14.1-ounce) package refrigerated piecrusts
1 (20-ounce) package frozen sliced peaches, thawed and divided, or 4 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unroll piecrusts on a lightly floured surface. Roll each into a 10-inch circle. Cut 5 (4-inch) circles from each crust. Roll each circle into an approximately 5 1/2-inch circle. Coarsely chop 2 cups peach slices. Divide chopped peaches among dough. Place fruit in center of each circle (about 1/4 cup per circle). Pull dough edges over peaches and gather in center. Pinch to seal and form a bundle. Place in a lightly greased 11-inch-by-7-inch baking dish. Arrange remaining peaches around bundles. Stir together sugar, next 2 ingredients, an 1/2 cup water until blended. Pour over bundles and peaches. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until golden brown; cool 10 minutes. Makes 10 servings. Can be served with sugar-free whipped topping. (Source: Southern Living, February 2013)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Fresh tomato and corn "Pico" and grits make delicious nest for poached-egg topping

I told Hubby he would laugh, laugh, laugh when he sat down to last night’s meal.

After all, when was the last time his dinner plate contained “porched” (as my mother called them) eggs? He decided I might have poached some eggs in early marriage. I was actually thinking I hadn’t dined on one since I was in kindergarten.

Anyway, the meal was a a Tex-Mex melange of some favorite things: cheese grits (who can beat it?), Pico de Gallo, poached eggs, and fried tortillas. The grits formed a birds’ nest for the remaining items.

Hubby looked at me as though I had made up the whole thing in a desperation dinner-time act, but I waggled in front of him the torn-out magazine page on which the combo was featured. “Just dig in,” I adjured. “You’ll be happy.”

The only part that took some assembly was the Pico de Gallo, which also was the element that added the most pizzazz. Fresh chopped tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, cilantro, sweet corn kernels, onion, and avocados came together quickly and were refrigerated for a couple of hours for the items to get acquainted with each other. A simple cheese grits recipe (everyone’s recommending stone-ground grits these days) cooked and thickened on the stove. A poached egg cooked to the desired degree of doneness (I like mine pretty non-runny) is the top layer.

This was cute as could be and made a wonderful entrée. Hubby wasn’t laughing when he asked whether we’d have leftovers the next night. But he sure was smiling real big when I said yes.

Cheese Grits with Poached Eggs

2 cups milk
1 1/2 teaspoon table salt (I used salt substitute)
1 cup stone-ground grits
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) freshly shredded pepper jack cheese
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
6 large eggs
Pico de Gallo (below)
tortilla strips

Bring milk, salt, and 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Gradually whisk in grits; return mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, 20 to 25 minutes or until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in cheese and butter. Cover and keep warm. Pour water to depth of 2 inches into a large saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and maintain at a light simmer. Add vinegar. Break eggs and slip into water, 1 at a time, as close as possible to surface of water. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes or to desired degree of doneness. Remove with a slotted spoon. Trim edges if desired. Spoon grits into 6 bowls; top with Pico de Gallo, eggs, and tortilla strips.

Pico de Gallo

1 medium tomato, chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup fresh corn kernels
1 garlic clove, pressed
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon table salt (or salt substitute)
2 avocados, coarsely chopped 

Stir together first eight ingredients. Just before you serve, stir in chopped avocados. Makes 1 1/2 cups. (Source: Southern Living, March 2013)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Broccoli-Cauliflower Casserole a terrific make-ahead side dish

This was one of the greatest veggie casseroles we can remember having. The title says Broccoli-Cauliflower Casserole, but I fudged a little and also added green peas and carrots into this veggie mélange. Honestly, you could toss any just about any fresh or frozen veggie; it would turn out just great.

A delicious cream sauce prepared with low-fat cream cheese and a flavorful, crisp topping help make this recipe a wonderful side dish. Hubby and I enjoyed our favorite meat loaf as an entrée; this veggie casserole just made the meal.

Broccoli-Cauliflower Casserole can be prepared a day ahead, refrigerated, and then baked just before dinner.

Broccoli-Cauliflower Casserole

1/2 cup plain dry bread crumbs
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, divided
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons Italian seasoning, divided
1 (16-ounce) package frozen broccoli florets, thawed
1 (16-ounce) package frozen cauliflower florets, thawed
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, chopped (1 cup)
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon garlic salt (I used garlic powder)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 1/4 cups milk
4 ounces (1/2 packages) cream cheese, cubed (I used low-fat)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl mix bread crumbs, 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese, 2 tablespoons melted butter, and 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning. Set aside; cut into bite-sized pieces any large broccoli or cauliflower florets. Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir about 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir in flour, remaining 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, garlic salt, and pepper. Add milk; cook and stir until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Add cream cheese and remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese; cook and stir until cream cheese is melted. Add vegetables; toss gently to coat. Spoon into 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with crumb mixture. Bake 40 minutes or until casserole is heated through and top is browned. Makes 10 servings. (Source: www.mccormick.com)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Fresh parsley: greeting spring, now ready to accent Lemon Parsley Chicken

I’m so tickled about my parsley; I really am. This year marked the first winter I’ve braved leaving it in the ground to see if it actually would return in the spring. I didn’t dig it up and put it in a cozy pot to overwinter but just kept it in its regular habitat up near the back porch step and let it freeze back.

As the ground began to warm, I saw the first green fuzzy tops of the parsley sprigs barely inching their heads up over the dirt. They survived! Now, several weeks into spring, they’re multiplying and attempting to regain their pre-winter bushiness.

I wanted a dish that would showcase this fresh product that I could simply walk out my back steps and trim. Through an Internet search I turned up this simple entrée that made a terrific weeknight meal. It was light and low-cal. The fresh parsley and juice and zest from a fresh lemon gave it the most terrific flavor. I added a sack of frozen hash-brown potatoes from the freezer and mixed some parsley snippings within as I cooked the potatoes on the stovetop.

The chicken (a low-fat dish, of course) was unbelievably moist and tender. Sometimes the most simple recipes, prepared with fresh products, are the very best.

Lemon Parsley Chicken 

4 (5-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts
zest of 1 medium lemon
juice of 1 medium lemon
1/4 cup freshly chopped parsley
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray a shallow baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Lay chicken breasts in baking tray (I pounded mine with a meat mallet to flatten them a little before I baked them.) Squeeze lemon juice over chicken. Sprinkle parsley and freshly ground black pepper on top. Roast for 20 minutes or until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Makes 4 servings. (Source: http://lowfatcooking.about.com)

Friday, April 12, 2013

Fresh Veggie Pizza a healthy alternative for Pizza Night

Friday night usually lends itself to being pizza night, since that’s frequently the time a little pizza-adoring munchkin visits our house on a routine basis. But how to make that pizza a healthy one is a constant challenge.

I loved running across a recipe for Fresh Veggie Pizza. Whole-wheat crust and some favorite veggies as a topping made it a wonderful choice.

Yellow squash, zucchini, mushrooms, Roma tomatoes, and green peppers first were sautéed in olive oil before I piled them on the prepared pizza dough that had baked in the oven for several  minutes to set it. 

Mozzarella and grated Parmesan went on as the top layer before the whole thing returned to the oven for about 15 minutes. The finished product was a pizza success story!

Fresh Veggie Pizza

1 pound frozen whole wheat or white bread dough, thawed (I used refrigerated pizza crust)
2 medium zucchini or summer squash, sliced
1 medium yellow, red, or green sweet pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil or cooking oil
1 1/2 cups sliced fresh mushrooms
2 green onions, sliced (about 1/4 cup)
2 plum tomatoes, sliced
1 (8-ounce) can pizza sauce 
1/2 cup pitted, coarsely chopped green or black olives
1 cup shredded mozzarella, provolone, or Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. For dough: Place thawed bread dough on lightly floured surface; let it rest 10 minutes. Roll into a 12-inch round on a lightly floured surface. Build up edges slightly. Transfer pizza circle to a greased baking sheet. Using the tines of a fork, prick dough over entire surface. Bake about 8 minutes or until crust is set but not browned. Meanwhile, for veggies: in a large skillet cook and stir zucchini or squash and sweet pepper in hot oil for 3 minutes or until crisp-tender. Add mushrooms and onions. Cook and stir 2 minutes more or until just tender. Remove from heat. Stir in tomatoes. Spread pizza sauce on hot crust to within 1 inch of edge. Using a slotted spoon, spoon zucchini mixture over sauce. Top with olives. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake about 15 minutes or until crust is brown and cheese is melted. Makes about 6 servings. (Source: www.recipe.com)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Pasta-Chicken-Broccoli Bake a jewel among new casserole recipes

Sometimes the ole casserole recipe file just needs a little inspiration. I was happy to find this new idea, which used 4 cups of healthy chopped broccoli and turned out just delicious. 

The addition of chopped red bell pepper, plus the spinach tortellini, made this dish oh-so-colorful. Chopped pecans in the topping, along with crushed crackers, gave some additional crunch.

This was designed to be baked in a long oblong baking dish, but I divided it into two smaller ones, so we had one to eat and one to freeze for later. 

The recipe billed it as kid-friendly—an added plus. We look forward to pulling the next round from the freezer. This dish was truly yummy.

Pasta-Chicken-Broccoli Bake

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth (I used the lower-sodium variety)
1 1/2 cups half-and-half (I used skim milk)
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 cup (4 ounces) freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 (20-ounce) package refrigerated cheese-and-spinach tortellini
4 cups chopped broccoli
4 cups chopped cooked chicken
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
15 round buttery crackers, crushed (I used Ritz hint-of-salt)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt 1/2 cup butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat; add onion and next 2 ingredients. Sauté 5 to 6 minutes or until tender. Add flour and stir until smooth. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Whisk in broth, half-and-half, and white wine. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly for 6 to 8 minutes or until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat; add 1 cup cheese and next 2 ingredients. Stir until cheese melts. Stir in tortellini and next 2 ingredients. Spoon into a lightly greased 13-inch-by-9-inch baking dish. Stir together 1/2 cup grated cheese and next 3 ingredients. Sprinkle over casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until bubbly. Makes 6 to 8 servings. (Source: Southern Living, December 2012)

Friday, April 5, 2013

Happy for also-rans to be used in colorful, healthy salad

Asparagus had been on the Easter dinner list, but another menu plan rose to the surface. The asparagus was left over. So was a bunch of broccoli crowns that didn’t get used. A few tomatoes that wouldn’t be fresh much longer also filled the fruit-and-veggie bin. Enter the power of the Internet search. What would happen if I hunted for a recipe that used asparagus, tomatoes, and broccoli—all leftovers?

I found a home for them in Cold Pasta Primavera, which took these healthy offerings and suggested that I also add some black olives plus some chopped red and yellow peppers. This tossed salad mixed around some whole-grain linguine (I subbed this for the called-for primavera twists) and a light dressing was excellent. It wiped away my guilt for not getting the expensive asparagus bunch onto the Easter table. A great main-dish dinner meal for Hubby and me.

It made a monster amount, which means we get to enjoy another serving. So glad the asparagus became an also-ran and we got to enjoy it this way.

Cold Pasta Primavera

1 (10-ounce) package primavera twists (I used whole-grain linguine)
1 can asparagus (I used 1 bunch fresh asparagus)
1 1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1 cup cherry tomatoes (I used 3 Roma tomatoes, diced)
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 yellow pepper, diced
1 can sliced black olives, drained
1 small bunch broccoli flowerets

1 cup vegetable oil (I used extra-virgin olive oil)
1/3 cup salad vinegar
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
freshly ground black pepper

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cold water. Drain olives and asparagus and set aside. In 3 tablespoons water microwave broccoli flowerets on high for 2-3 minutes (until flowerets are bright green) and drain. If you are using fresh asparagus, do this same preparation for asparagus. In serving bowl combine pasta, asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli, olives, cherry tomatoes, and peppers. Combine dressing ingredients and pour over vegetables. Mix thoroughly and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. Serves 4-6. (Source: cooks.com)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Fruit and white chocolate combine for a yummy cobbler

I can tell you that this cobbler was just about the best Easter dessert ever. The base of the cobbler was mixed berries; its topping was white chocolate chips combined with a cake-mix layer. I never had seen a fruit cobbler that featured white chocolate and thought this sounded plenty Easter-y. It was!

The fruit that went into it was mostly fresh peaches (frozen from our yield this past year. How excited we are to see the fruit trees in our garden start to bud with the promise of a wonderful crop this summer!) I added to the peaches some frozen mixed fruit from a bag I had in the deepfreeze. (My recipe said you can use whatever fresh or frozen fruit you want as long as it measures 2 cups.)

With the slow-cooker sprayed with nonstick spray, first went in the fruit layer, with vanilla and brown sugar on top. A box of yellow cake mix, melted butter, and white chocolate chips were stirred together and crumbled on top of the fruit layer. The mixture cooked on high for three hours—totally a fix-it, forget-it operation that yielded a moist, delicious delight.

So glad to have the reminder of a promising peach season contained in this gem of a dish.

White Chocolate/Mixed Berry Cobbler

1 package yellow (or white) cake mix
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
2 cups fresh or frozen mixed berries
3 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/4 to 1/2 cup brown sugar
non-stick cooking spray
whipped topping, optional (I used sugar-free)

Spray the inside of the slow cooker with non-stick cooking spray. Into the bottom of the slow cooker pour the mixed berries (or whatever fruit you use). Pour the vanilla and brown sugar on top of the berries. Add water. In a bowl mix the cake mix and butter until mixture looks crumbly. Mix in the chocolate chips. Pour the cake mixture over the mixed berries layer in the slow cooker. Cook on high for 3 hours. Makes 8 servings. (Source: www.slowcookeradventures.com)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Grape and Feta Salad is naturally sweet and vitamin-loaded

This salad just about emptied the refrigerator, in a totally wonderful way. Green leafies, fruit, veggies—all things good for you, with a lively topping of nuts and vinaigrette dressing woven around it. Grape and Feta Salad is one of our best-ever, to my way of thinking.

I was looking for a different kind of salad that would use a bunch of fresh radishes that were lying around the vegetable bin and needing to be used in a food dish. I did an Internet search for salads using radishes and turned up Grape and Feta Salad, which called not only for my radishes but the contents of several other partial containers of items that awaited use.

Other than the perquisite chopping time, this vitamin-loaded salad was quick to prepare. Need to fill out the Easter menu with a colorful and nourishing side dish? This will do it for you.

Grape and Feta Salad

1 head iceberg lettuce, rinsed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces (I substituted red-leaf lettuce)
1 head leaf lettuce, rinsed, dried, and torn into bite-sized pieces (I substituted torn spinach)
2 carrots, sliced
8 ounces broccoli florets, chopped
5 radishes, chopped
3 roma (plum) tomatoes, diced
1 pound red seedless grapes, sliced
1 cup sliced almonds
1 5/8 cups crumbled feta cheese
1 cup Greek vinaigrette salad dressing (your choice of prepared, low-fat dressing)

In a large serving bowl toss together the iceberg lettuce, leaf lettuce (or substitutions), carrots, broccoli, radishes, and tomatoes. Place the grapes on top. At this point if you wish, you may chill the salad until serving time. Just before serving sprinkle in the almonds and feta cheese. Toss with the salad dressing to taste, if desired. Makes 8 servings. (Source: allrecipes.com)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Spiced muffins with crunchy topping headed for the Easter breakfast table

With a name that contains the word gingerbread, this recipe seems as though it would be relegated to Christmas. But I know what muffins will be on my Easter-morning breakfast table! These Gingerbread Muffins with Spiced-Nut Streusel are wonderful treats that are seasonless. Addition of the applesauce (and I stirred in some shredded apples as well) contribute to the moistness of this melt-in-your-mouth goodie.

The recipe appeared in a magazine article that featured lightened-up versions of old faves. The recipe says that it calls for half the standard amount of sugar and butter and that the applesauce and coffee add moisture without the extra calories. Instead of 1/2 cup applesauce I finely chopped one small apple and put it in a 1/2-cup measure; then I finished filling the cup with the remaining applesauce. Loved the random bits of shredded apple as I bit into my muffin.

These muffins freeze extremely well. The streusel topping is the crowning touch. Hubby was all a-twitter about these. I had to quickly get my plasticware tub filled with the to-keep muffins wrapped and stored in the freezer before he inhaled them all.

Gingerbread Muffins with Spiced-Nut Streusel

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup chopped crystallized ginger
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar (or sugar substitute)
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 large eggs (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
1 cup hot brewed coffee
1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
12 paper baking cups
vegetable cooking spray
Spiced-Nut Streusel

Spiced-Nut Streusel:
1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup chopped lightly toasted pecans
1 tablespoon butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare Spiced-Nut Streusel by stirring together brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and cloves in a small bowl; stir in pecans and melted butter until mixture is crumbly. For muffins process flour and next 5 ingredients in a food processor until ginger is finely ground (about 1 minute). In a large bowl beat butter at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until the mixture is creamy. Gradually add sugars; beat until light and fluffy. Beat in applesauce until all is blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition. Combine hot brewed coffee and molasses in a 2-cup glass measuring cup. Add flour mixture to butter mixture alternately with coffee mixture. Begin and end with flour mixture. Beat at low speed just until blended after each addition. Place 12 paper baking cups in a 12-cup muffin pan. Coat cups with cooking spray. Spoon batter into cups. Fill almost full. Sprinkle tops with with Spiced-Nut Streusel. Bake at 350 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center emerges clean. Remove muffins from pan to wire rack and cool 10 minutes; serve warm. Makes 1 dozen. (Source: Southern Living January 2013)

With a name that contains the word gingerbread, this recipe seems as though it would be relegated to Christmas. But I know what muffins will be on my Easter-morning breakfast table! These are wonderful treats that are seasonless. Addition of the applesauce (and I added some shredded apples as well) contribute to the moistness of this melt-in-your-mouth goodie.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Wholesome, vegetable-rich chicken soup is a guaranteed soother

Hurry spring, for real! We are SO over the plaints of winter—upper-respiratory woes that sneak in to steal our joy. For weeks our kitchen island has been lined with over-the-counter remedies and implements for salt-water gargle. Yuk!

But I’m here to report that chicken soup truly is the best solution, just like everyone’s grannies told them. This recipe, Granny’s Best Chicken Soup, didn’t originate with my granny but through an Internet search one evening when Hubby was in the throes of another sniffle. To the veggies called for I added some fresh green beans and green peas. 

This chicken soup indeed was a soother. We all felt better instantly. The fresh-made chicken stock was good by itself (inhaling it as it cooks is supposed to be just what the doctor ordered.) We recommend this even if everyone around your house is in the pink of health. It makes enough to freeze and store a batch for the next time you need this most basic of wholesome dishes.

Granny’s Best Chicken Soup

4 quarts cold water
1 (4- to 5-pound) chicken, quartered
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 to 5 stems parsley
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons salt (or salt substitute)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Measure water into a large soup pot and add all the ingredients. Slowly bring to a boil over medium heat, then immediately reduce the heat and simmer for 3 hours. Use a spoon to frequently skim the soup as well as possible. Remove from heat and cool. Skim fat from the surface and strain the soup. Wash out the soup pot and return the strained stock to the pot.
Remove and discard bay leaf and parsley. Mash the carrots, celery, and garlic and stir them into the soup (or leave them whole, as I did). Remove the skin and bones from the chicken, chop the meat, and add it to the soup. (If the chicken meat has completely fallen apart, that's OK, too; just use as is, with bones removed.) Heat and season to taste with additional salt and pepper. Makes 12 servings (Source: http://www.yankeemagazine.com/recipe/for/grannys-best-chicken-soup/1347)

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Blueberry Coffee Cake a healthy Easter-morning suggestion

On our spring break trip, which involved multitudinous miles of car travel, I wanted us to have a stupendous breakfast nibble.

The magazine in which I found the recipe for Blueberry Coffee Cake included it in the “lightened-up” category. Fat-free milk and fat-free yogurt, along with a generous addition of healthy blueberries, helped make this a guilt-free baked delight as the miles rolled along.

The blueberries are antioxidant-rich; the recipe is said to contain only 219 calories a slice. I think this would be a great Easter-morning goody as well, as we plan ahead for a holiday breakfast or brunch.

Blueberry Coffee Cake

1 large egg (or 1/4 cup egg substitute)
1/2 cup fat-free milk
1/2 cup plain fat-free yogurt
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar (or sugar substitute)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
2 tablespoons sliced almonds
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl whisk together first 4 ingredients. In another bowl sift together flour and next 3 ingredients. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture just until dry ingredients are moistened. Toss 1 1/4 cups blueberries in 1 tablespoon flour; fold into batter. Pour into a lightly greased 9-inch springform pan. Sprinkle batter with remaining 1/4 cup blueberries. Stir together 2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, sliced almonds, and cinnamon; sprinkle over batter. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in the center emerges clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes; remove sides of pan. Makes 10 servings. (Source: Southern Living January 2013)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Taco Salad with fresh veggies ranks high among time-honored food favorites

In trying to find the most on-trend recipes and the freshest new ideas for the table, I tend to forget my old standbys. This week a trip to a Tex-Mex restaurant at which I dined on a really excellent taco salad prompted me to pull out a recipe from days gone by—truly the best at-home-made taco salad I’ve ever tasted.

That was in the pages of a recipe book called The Food Chronicles, compiled by my longtime co-worker Ann Criswell from the best of her recipes during her legendary tenure as Houston Chronicle foods editor. She often brought this salad to serve her fellow laborers; it was a crowd-pleaser.

Layers of fresh lettuce and tomatoes, South-of-the-Border seasoned ground beef (I used ground turkey), chips, and tomatoes-and-green chilies cheese sauce (the latter two layers served warm) make this recipe a mouth-watering delight. So glad I ventured back to find this familiar favorite to liven up our dinner table.

Taco Salad

1 1/2 pounds lean ground beef (or ground turkey)
1 cup chopped green bell peppers
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
salt (or salt substitute) or freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chili powder
6-8 dashes ground cumin
1 (1-pound) box pasteurized processed cheese spread loaf
1/2 (10-ounce) can tomatoes with green chilies
1 head lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
2 medium-size tomatoes, chopped
1 (6-ounce) bag corn chips, crumbled

In large skillet brown meat well; then drain grease. Stir in bell pepper and onion. Add salt and black pepper. Brown a few minutes more. Stir in chili powder and cumin. Meanwhile, melt cheese in a saucepan over very low heat (or in microwave); then stir in tomatoes with green chilies. In large bowl layer in this order: lettuce, chopped tomatoes, corn chips, hot meat mixture, and hot cheese mixture. Serve immediately. Makes 4 to 6 servings. (Source: The Food Chronicles)

Monday, March 4, 2013

Eager for spring? Spring Salmon and Vegetable Salad brings in the season.

Not rushing the season or anything (our temps still say otherwise), but a serving of this crisp green Spring Salmon and Vegetable Salad certainly did remind us that wondrous spring is right around the corner.

The most recent issue of Southern Living popped into my mailbox a few days ago; this recipe that featured broiled salmon nuggets and a refrigerator-crisper bin of items such as asparagus, radishes, and edamame really called to me to jump into immediately. Not only was this jewel prep-time fast, it also was a bright garden full of health and flavor.

The Creamy Herb Dressing made from buttermilk, mayo, and fresh herbs was the crowning touch on this menu item, which was pulled together in 20 minutes, just as the magazine article advertised. Perfect time-frame for my life!

Spring Salmon and Vegetable Salad

1/2 pound fresh asparagus
1 cup sugar-snap peas
1 1/4 pound skinless salmon fillets, cut into 2-inch chunks
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used salt substitute)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
6 cups chopped romaine lettuce hearts
1/2 cup uncooked shelled fresh or frozen edamame, thawed
1/4 cup sliced radishes
Creamy Herb Dressing (see below)

Preheat broiler with oven rack 6 inches from heat. Snap off tough ends of asparagus. Cut asparagus into 1-inch-long pieces; cook with sugar-snap peas in boiling salted water for 2 to 3 minutes or until crisp-tender; drain. Plunge into ice water; drain. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper; broil on a lightly greased rack in a broiler pan for 3 to 4 minutes or to desired degree of doneness. On a serving plate arrange lettuce, edamame, radishes, asparagus mixture, and salmon. Drizzle salad with dressing.

Creamy Herb Dressing:
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (such as mint, dill, and chives)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt (or salt substitute) and pepper (to taste)

Whisk all ingredients together. Chill 30 minutes.

Makes 4 to 6 servings. (Source: Southern Living, March 2013)

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Black-Bottom Pumpkin Pie, served lovingly

The way to my Hubby’s heart during the recent season for honoring our beloved ones wasn’t a dessert of strawberries (he’s allergic) or cherries (he doesn’t like) or anything red-themed. Just give him something pumpkin-y, thank you. He doesn’t mind that pumpkin is more often associated with that Other Holiday.

So his crown-jewel dessert was Black-Bottom Pumpkin Pie, which Hubby has proclaimed must be on the dessert table for all holidays from now on. How can you beat a crust of crushed graham crackers, gingersnaps, and pecans, with a layer of chocolate chips and toffee bars over that?

Then, the filling—a pumpkin cream layer, much like that of a banana cream or coconut cream pie. A whipped topping, with maple syrup stirred in, crowned the whole thing—chocolate shavings added.

Love at first sight, and then the second, and during multiple servings thereafter.

Black-Bottom Pumpkin Pie

1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup cinnamon graham cracker crumbs
1 cup crushed gingersnaps
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels
2 cups whipping cream, divided
2 (1.4-ounce) chocolate-covered toffee candy   
     bars, finely chopped (such as Heath bars)
3/4 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 large eggs (or 1/2 cup egg substitute)
4 egg yolks
2 cups milk (I used skim)
1 cup canned pumpkin (I used 1 cup fresh pumpkin puree)
1 tablespoon vanilla-bean paste (vanilla extract may be substituted)
1/2 cup maple syrup
garnish: semisweet chocolate shavings

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. Cool 10 minutes. Stir together graham cracker crumbs, next 2 ingredients, and toasted pecans until blended. Press crumb mixture on bottom, up sides, and onto lip of a lightly greased 10-inch pie plate. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until crust is lightly browned. Transfer pie plate to a wire rack and cool completely (about 30 minutes). Microwave 1 cup semisweet chocolate morsels and 1/2 cup whipping cream in a small microwave-safe bowl at high 1 minutes or until melted. Stir at 30-second intervals. Spoon chocolate mixture over bottom of pie crust; sprinkle candy bars over chocolate mixture. Cover and chill 1 hour or until chocolate mixture is set. Meanwhile whisk together sugar and flour in a heavy 3-quart saucepan; add eggs, egg yolks, and milk. Whisk until blended. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, for 8 to 10 minutes, or until a pudding-like thickness is achieved. (Mixture will just begin to bubble and will hold soft peaks when whisk is lifted.) Remove from heat; whisk in pumpkin and vanilla-bean paste. Transfer to a bowl. Place heavy-duty plastic wrap directly on warm filling (to prevent a film from forming); chill 30 minutes. Spoon pumpkin mixture over chocolate; cover and chill 8 to 24 hours or until filling is firm. Beat remaining 1 1/2 cups cream at high speed with an electric mixer until mixture is foamy; gradually add syrup. Beat until soft peaks form. Spread or pipe over pie. Garnish if desired. Makes 6 to 8 servings. (Source: Southern Living, November 2012)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Vegetable enchilada pies made a terrific dinner on a special occasion

Talk about a great meal! I’ve already mentioned how Hubby and I dined in for Valentine’s night and avoided the packed restaurants (and ideally, the flu bug). We decided to partner to prepare our own meal. This was the delightful main course.

We really enjoyed these pies with the accompanying homemade enchilada sauce (sauce made twice as much as we needed, so we froze the remainder for another use).

I’ll be quick to state that we did eliminate the dried hibiscus flowers, which the recipe listed as optional. Didn’t have them on hand, although the recipe says they can be quickly obtained at Hispanic markets. The black beans plus the chopped vegetables made the enchilada pies very substantial; the beans gave the enchiladas a meaty texture.

This was a terrific entrée that actually assembled into more than the four pies projected. We had leftovers for several days; the food item only got better as the time went by.

Vegetarian Enchilada Pies

1 (2-ounce) package dried hibiscus flowers, picked through (this ingredient is optional)
1 cup thinly sliced sweet onion
1 1/2 cups chopped bell pepper
1 1/2 cups chopped zucchini
1/4 cup olive oil
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained, rinsed, and mashed
1 tablespoon sugar (or sugar substitute)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup vegetable broth
12 (6-inch) fajita-size corn tortillas
1 1/4 cups (5-ounces) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Enchilada Sauce (recipe below)
1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco
toppings: sour cream, chopped red onion, fresh cilantro leaves

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bring flowers and 2 cups water to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove pan from heat; cover and let stand 5 to 8 minutes or until flowers are plump. Drain flowers and coarsely chop. Sauté flowers, onion, and next 2 ingredients in hot oil in a large skillet over medium heat 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in beans and next 4 ingredients; cook, stirring often, 2 minutes. Pour broth into a shallow dish. Dip 4 tortillas, 1 at a time, in broth. Place tortillas 1-inch apart on a foil-lined 15-inch-by-10-inch jelly-roll pan. Divide half of hibiscus mixture among tortillas; top each with about 2 tablespoons Monterey Jack cheese and 1/4 cup warm Enchilada Sauce. Repeat  layers once. Top each stack with a tortilla. Spoon 1/4 cup Enchilada Sauce over each stack. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until bubbly. Sprinkle with queso fresco and remaining Monterey Jack cheese. Serve with Enchilada Sauce and toppings. 

Enchilada Sauce

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup chili powder (yes, this is correct—1/4 cup)
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup minced onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 (8-ounce) cans tomato sauce (I used salt-free)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/4 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

Cook first 2 ingredients in hot oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir often, 2 minutes. Stir in onion; cook, stirring often, 3 minutes, or until tender. Add garlic; cook, stirring often, 1 minute. Stir in remaining ingredients and 3 cups water. Cook, stirring often, 15 minutes or until thickened.

Recipe makes 4 servings. (Source: Southern Living, January 2013)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Simmering sweet potatoes spice up this beef stew

Sweet potatoes seem to be the current darlings of foodies, so no surprise that something so standard as beef stew gets a sweet-potato infusion. This spicy version was wonderful indeed.

Cubed butternut squash also was a new (to me, at least) stew ingredient. I even threw in a little leftover zucchini. We let Spicy Beef Stew with Sweet Potatoes cook overnight in the slow-cooker. What an amazing aroma greeted us the next morning! Stew for breakfast? We were tempted but waited (barely) until later in the day.

The magazine source featured a recipe for Herbed Biscuits to accompany the stew. Partners in paradise, I’d say. This made a tough-to-beat combination that we just loved.

Spiced Beef Stew with Sweet Potatoes

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
1 (32-ounce) container beef broth (I used lower-sodium variety)
1 (3-pound) boneless chuck roast, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt (or salt substitute)
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds small sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 sweet onions, cut into eighths
2 cups cubed butternut squash (about 1 pound)
2 cups frozen whole-kernel corn, thawed
2 celery ribs, sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons ancho chile powder (I used regular chili powder)
1 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried thyme

Whisk together first 2 ingredients until mixture is smooth. Sprinkle beef with flour, salt, and pepper; toss to coat. Cook beef, in batches, in hot oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally, 10 to 12 minutes or until browned. Place in a 6-square slow cooker. Add sweet potatoes, next 8 ingredients, and broth mixture. Cover and cook on high 6 to 7 hours or until tender. Makes 8 servings. 

Herbed Biscuits

1/2 cup cold butter, cubed
2 cups self-rising flour
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 cup buttermilk

Use pastry blender or fork to cut butter into self-rising flour until mixture resembles small peas. Add chives, basil, and pepper. Add buttermilk and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly 3 or 4 times. Pat or roll dough to 3/4-inch thickness; cut into squares to form 15 biscuits. (I used a round biscuit-cutter.) Place on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes or until biscuits are golden. Makes 15 biscuits. (Source: Southern Living November 2012)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Sweet Potato Fruit Salad made a sweet menu item on Hearts and Flowers Day

Blame it on flu season. But several Valentine’s Days ago Hubby and I made a pact. After waiting for service for nearly an hour in a crowded restaurant lobby in which we were shoulder-to-shoulder with countless potential flu germs, we decided then and there: no more restaurant meals on Hearts and Flowers Day.

We’d either do take-out or cook and dine at home. Valentine’s Day falls smack-dab in the middle of a highly germ-rife time of year. I began collecting recipes for a dine-at-home Valentine meal for 2013.

As I searched for a salad, I couldn’t pass up this one: Sweet Potato Fruit Salad. I never had encountered the idea of adding cooked, cubed sweet potatoes to a standard fruit (ambrosia-type) salad. This recipe was featured on an old calendar that I recently had been given.

The tossed items are ensconced in a beautiful cinnamon/brown-sugar/sour cream dressing. This menu item was a true love gift for Hubby, who adores sweet potatoes and would be happy to have them added to most anything served.

Sweet Potato Fruit Salad

3 medium sweet potatoes, cooked, peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 bananas, sliced
2 apples, dced
1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained and juice reserved
1 1/2 pounds (2 cups) seedless grapes, cut in half
2 oranges, sectioned
1 (3 1/2-ounce) can coconut
1 (8-ounce) carton dairy sour cream (I used fat-free)
3-4 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine first 7 ingredients except reserved juice; toss gently. Set aside. Combine sour cream, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons reserved juice to reach desired serving consistency for dressing. Serve over salad. Chill until time to serve. Makes 10 servings. (Source: Texas Utilities Electric Company calendar, 1986)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Pumpkin and Apple Waffles—yum, yum, triple yum!

Hubby says that truly, these were the best waffles he’s ever eaten. They were tall and puffy and gave the impression of eating a light cake loaded with a spicy pumpkin and apple mixture. We certainly give Pumpkin & Apple Waffles our enthusiastic votes.

Some apple bits sprinkled on top were the perfect garnish under the sugar-free syrup.

The batter stirs up thicker than do most waffle mixtures, but the high, cake-like product is the delightful result.

Pumpkin & Apple Waffles

1 cup whole-wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 eggs
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (fresh or canned)
1 medium apple, finely chopped and divided
1/4 cup milk

Preheat waffle iron. In a small bowl combine flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and cinnamon. In a separate bowl mix eggs with sugar. Add to the dry mixture (note that at this stage, the mixture will be very dry). Fold in the pumpkin and half of the chopped apple. Add milk. Combine all into a thick, moist batter. Add batter to prepared waffle iron—about 1/4 cup batter per 4-inch waffle—and cook until waffles are done. Use remaining chopped apple to garnish cooked waffles. Top with maple syrup (we used sugar-free). Makes about six 4-inch waffles. (Source: Recipe appeared as “Coach Nicole’s Pumpkin & Apple Waffles” in recipes.sparkpeople.com)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Can’t ask for better busy-night dinner idea than Black-Bean Mushroom Quesadillas

These Black-Bean Mushroom Quesadillas were quick to prepare, tasty, and healthy. Who could ask for a better dinner idea on a busy night? (What nights aren’t?)

A can of black beans (draining and rinsing them removes a great deal of the sodium content) mixed with chopped bell peppers, sliced mushrooms, and chopped spinach and then sautéed forms the innards of these browned, whole-wheat tortillas. I plopped on a goodly portion of reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese before I folded the tortillas over to brown the back sides.

A little sliced avocado, salsa, and sour cream on the side, and Hubby and I were ready to sink ourselves into this delightful evening meal.

Black-Bean Mushroom Quesadillas

cooking spray
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 chopped red bell pepper
1 cup sliced mushrooms
1 1/2 cups fresh chopped spinach
6 whole-wheat tortillas
3/4 cup shredded, reduced-fat cheddar cheese
salsa, optional
sliced avocado, optional
fat-free sour cream, optional

In a large skillet over medium heat spray pan with cooking spray. Add black beans, peppers, mushrooms, and spinach. Cook for 3-5 minutes. Remove vegetables from pan. Lay a tortilla in the pan; cover one half of the tortilla with 1 tablespoon cheese. Top with 1/6 of vegetable mixture. Cover with 1 tablespoon cheese; fold tortilla over. Flip after cooking 2 minutes. Repeat steps 4-5 with the remaining tortillas. Makes 6 servings. (Source: Chickasaw Nation Nutrition Services)