Time to plant?

>> Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Well ... here in the chilly northeast, it's probably better described as time to dream about planting. Here and there some brave plants are poking their heads out of the ground. Wandering around our yard the other day, I snapped a few shots and began thinking about what I would plant in our raised beds this summer.

Most of what I plant we either eat fresh, or I can/freeze to take us through the winter. While we're still enjoying our delicious homegrown produce from the pantry, there's nothing quite like enjoying those vegetables when they're fresh.

Here's what I usually plant and how I use each one:

  • Carrots - a couple of long rows of carrots allows us to enjoy some fresh during the summer, but they also store quite well for a few months. I usually harvest them after the first frost (which makes them sweeter), clip off the green tops and scrub them clean. Then I store them in my refrigerator crisper drawers where they stay fresh for about 3 months.
  • Green Beans - I stagger my plantings of bush-style green beans. That way we can enjoy a constant supply of fresh beans (steamed and sprinkled with crispy bacon bits!), and still have a good amount to can later in the summer.
  • Cucumbers - while I know there are lots of wonderful things to do with cukes, we grow them to eat fresh. We just can never get enough! When I was growing up, my mom and I made dill pickles one year, and sweet pickles other years. Too much work IMHO!
  • Pumpkins - I love to grow small/pie pumpkins. They are a hearty vine plant and are ready for picking and storing late in the fall ... in plenty of time for holiday baking. Pie pumpkins are easy to cook up and freeze for lots of delicious winter pies.
  • Zucchini - this is the plant that produces more than any family can use, no matter how many or few plants you put in. We chunk and grill zucchini in foil packs along with fresh carrots and chunked onions. Delicious! I also shred and freeze 1 and 2 cup portions for winter cakes and breads.
  • Green Peppers - these we eat fresh.
  • Onion - I plant 1 or 2 lbs of onion sets every year. Long about late July or early August it's time to thin out the green onions (great for adding to grilled veggies) so the rest have room to expand and grow. Before the first frost I pull the onions, clean off the greenery and lay the onions outdoors on a flat surface to dry. Then I store them in a mesh bag in the basement for 3-4 months of winter.
Every year I experiment with other new plants ... some are successful and others aren't. I tend to plant herbs and a cherry tomato plant or two in containers near my kitchen door.

So dream with me! What plants are you planning on for this summer? Do you just plant for fresh eating, or do you also store for the winter?

Watch here for some veggie recipes!



>> Thursday, March 26, 2009

A friend asked for a good shortcake recipe today, and I was glad to share our family favorite. I never think about serving strawberry shortcake until summer, but even with frozen strawberries this can make a good treat.

OVEN: 450 degrees

2 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
Dash nutmeg

Combine these ingredients and cut in 1/2 cup butter. Add 1 egg and 1/3 cup milk. Mix well with fork.

Turn out dough onto floured board. Knead gently. Pat evenly into greased 8" round cake pan. Bake 15-20 minutes. Let stand in pan on rack 5 minutes. Turn out to cool on rack.

Split cake and fill with sweetened strawberries. Top with fresh whipped cream.


Chicken with Honey Mustard

>> Wednesday, March 25, 2009

This dish was a favorite of mine from a local restaurant. Since I couldn't afford to go out to eat every time I had a hankering for this tasty chicken, I came up with a recipe that comes pretty close.

In a large fry pan, saute until tender: 2 Tablespoons butter, 1 large onion (chopped), sliced mushrooms and diced celery. Remove vegetables from pan and set aside.

In the same pan, cook 1/2 chicken breast per person. Brown on both sides. Add 1/2 cup water and 1/2 cup red cooking wine to pan with chicken. Cover and simmer, turning chicken once. Top with onion mixture and 1 to 2 teaspoons of honey mustard per breast. Cover and continue to simmer until tender.

Sprinkle with grated mozzarella ... cover and heat until cheese melts. Serve hot with your favorite wild rice recipe. Serves 6-8.


Spiced Applesauce Cake

>> Monday, March 23, 2009

OVEN: 350 degrees

Another great use for applesauce. Cake is not a favorite of ours, but this moist, spicy dessert is an exception to that rule. We enjoy it with or without any glaze or icing.

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup sour cream

1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (I use 1 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp cloves and 1/2 tsp nutmeg)
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
1/2 cup currants (optional)
1 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup applesauce

Cream together butter and sugar. Beat in egg and sour cream until blended. Stir together the next 7 ingredients and add these alternately with the applesauce to the creamed mixture, beating only until blended.

Place batter into a well-greased 10-inch tube pan and bake for about 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Allow to cool in pan. Remove to serve. Drizzle with favorite glaze or icing if desired.


Apple Walnut Bread

Every fall we either pick, or purchase at the local farm market, way too many apples. I then can way too many quarts of applesauce! Thus, I'm always on the look-out for great recipes that use applesauce. This bread machine recipe is a family favorite. Easy to make and delicious toasted for breakfast or sliced fresh with a tasty pork roast dinner, you can't go wrong with this one.

6 oz applesauce
3-5 ozs apple juice
3 Tablespoons butter
1 large egg
4 cups bread flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Measure all ingredients into bread pan. Select dough setting if you want to bake the loaf in your oven. Shape dough into a greased, large loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Choose your Basic or Sweet Bread setting if you want to bake the loaf in your bread machine.


Beanless Mexican Dip

>> Sunday, March 22, 2009

March Madness is in full swing around here. Our family has always enjoyed good college hoops (GO S.U.!!). One of our favorite game-time snacks is this variation on a traditional Mexican bean dip.

1 - 15 oz can Hormel No Bean Chili
1 - 8 0z brick cream cheese (softened)
Shredded cheese for topping (we really like shredded Monterey Jack/Colby mix)

Spread softened cream cheese evenly in bottom of a glass 8 x 8" baking dish.

Spread No-Bean Chili over top of cream cheese layer.

Sprinkle shredded cheese evenly over top of the chili layer.

Cook in microwave oven for 3 minutes at high power (until cheese begins to melt and chili bubbles through). Serve with favorite tortilla chips.


Ultimate Blog Party 2009

>> Saturday, March 21, 2009

Running March 20-27th, the Ultimate Blog Party is a great way to meet lots of other bloggin' moms out there in the "momosphere"!

Ultimate Blog Party 2009

Of course I'm joining in on the fun by offering the only prize any self-respecting recipe blog would offer ... CHOCOLATE!

This container of Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Malt Balls will make you drool!! Crispy malted milk centers enrobed in pure Ghirardelli Milk chocolate. Enter my drawing by emailing me no later than 6 pm ET on March 27th. The winner will be notified on March 28th by email. Only those with a Continental US address will be eligible to win.

Point your browser at the Ultimate Blog Party over on the 5 Minutes for Mom site to find out what others are doing for the party. I'm hoping to win something exciting as well.

My personal favorites are:
1. 58 – Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer
Provided by: Moms Who Think

2. 68 – $30 gift certificate to Christian Book Distributors
Provided by: A High And Noble Calling

3. 86 –$25 Gift Certificate to Close To My Heart
Provided by: ThatGirlBlogs

Other favorites would include #69, #88, #89, or #109. What would you pick?

Before you head over to check out all the great prizes, be sure to bookmark my blog and invite your friends to join the drawining for some delicious chocolate!!


Strawberry Julius Smoothie

I've been searching for great smoothie recipes for over a year now. I came across this one on one of the Sonlight Forums last week and thought it sounded wonderful! Hats off to Farmermom for what sounds like a yummy treat!

In your blender add ...
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar
Splash of vanilla
1 Tablespoon egg substitute (or one egg white, if you trust your egg source)

Blend for about 20 seconds. Add six ice cubes and blend until smooth.


Chocolate Eclair Cake

>> Monday, March 16, 2009

A family-favorite, especially as a hot summer dessert. Requires a little bit of advance preparation, but well worth it!

1 - 3 oz package instant vanilla pudding mix
1 - 3 oz package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 - 8 oz frozen whipped topping, thawed (Cool Whip)
1 - 16 oz package graham crackers
1/4 cup milk
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup white sugar
2 Tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

- - - - - - - -

In a large bowl, combine vanilla pudding mix and 1 1/2 cups cold milk. Whisk together well. Fold in 1/2 of the whipped topping and beat with mixer for 2 minutes.

In a greased 9 x 13" baking dish, spread a layer of graham crackers on the bottom of the dish. Spread vanilla pudding mixture over crackers. Then top with another layer of graham crackers.

In a large bowl, combine chocolate pudding mix and 1 1/2 cups cold milk. Whisk together well. Fold in 1/2 of the whipped topping and beat with mixer for 2 minutes. Spread over the layer of graham crackers. Top second pudding layer with another layer of crackers.

To make topping: In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine 1/4 cup milk, cocoa and sugar and allow to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat ... add butter and vanilla. Mix well and cool. Pour topping evenly over graham cracker layer and refrigerate until set. Serve.


Crunchy Apple Dessert

This delicious treat tastes very much like an apple pie sundae that Friendly's used to serve. We eat it often in the fall, but it's great year-round.

OVEN: 350 degrees

1 1/2 cups Bisquick
1 cup sugar
1 egg

- - - - - - - -

Mix ingredients together and cut in 2 Tablespoons of butter until crumbly. Reserve 3/4 cup of the crumb mixture. Press remaining into an 8 x 8" baking dish.

Coarsely chop 3 peeled and cored apples. Sprinkle over top of crust. Combine 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, 1 Tablespoon sugar and 1/2 gteaspoon cinnamon. Sprinkle over apples. Top with the reserved crumb mixture.

Bake for 25 minutes in a glass dish.

MAKES: 6-8 servings

Serving Idea: Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.


Ginger Snaps

This recipe is a perennial favorite in our house. Perhaps even more so than chocolate chip cookies!

OVEN: 350 degrees

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup canola oil
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 Tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon

- - - - - - - -

Combine sugar and oil ... mix well. Add egg and beat well. Stir in molasses. Combine dry ingredients and add to creamed mixture. Mix well. Shape into 3/4" balls ... roll in white sugar. Bake 10-12 minutes. Remove from rack to cool.

MAKES: 2-3 dozen cookies


Ham and Pasta Salad

>> Sunday, March 15, 2009

The perfect complement to anything you cook on the grill. An easy dish to toss together in the morning for an afternoon picnic.

2 cups broccoli florets - steamed until tender, cooled
1 10 oz box pasta bows - cooked & drained (or substitute your favorite pasta)
1 lb cooked, smoked ham - cut into julienne strips
2 Tablespoons finely chopped onion

- - - - - - - -

Toss all ingredients with your favorite Parmesan Italian dressing. Cover and refrigerate 4-6 hours.

Homemade Parmesan Dressing:

Stir together the following -
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons parsley
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
2 Tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 medium clove garlic, crushed.

Makes: 6-8 servings


Beef and Broccoli

A slight variation on a Chinese buffet favorite. This dish is a snap to prepare when using an electric wok.

1 lb boneless chuck roast
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, chunked
1 can Cream of Broccoli soup
1/4 cup water
1 Tablespoon soy sauce
2 cups broccoli florets

- - - - - - - -

Pre-heat wok. Add room temperature oil to hot wok. Slice beef into thin strips and sear quickly in hot oil until just browned. Add onion and garlic, cook 5 minutes, stirring continuously. Stir in soup, water and soy sauce. Heat to boiling. Add broccoli. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer 5 minutes (until broccoli is tender).

Makes: 4-5 servings

Serving Ideas: Serve over favorite rice or hot, cooked noodles.


Whole Wheat Oatmeal Blueberry Bread

This is a perennial holiday favorite. We often include a loaf of this bread in our Christmas treat bags shared with family and friends.

OVEN: 350 degrees

1 cup quick oats
1 cup milk
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
6 Tablespoons canola oil
1 cup white flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour (I use white wheat flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon

- - - - - - - -

Beat together the first six ingredients. Add in the rest of the ingredients and stir until just moistened. Fold in one cup frozen blueberries.

Divide batter between two medium loaf pans.

BAKE: 50-60 minutes.

Leave in loaf pans 5-10 minutes after removing from oven. Then remove from pans and cool on rack.

Serving Idea: Drizzle your favorite icing over top for a yummy brunch bread.


Apple Walnut Muffins

OVEN: 400 degrees

We make this recipe so often we have it memorized! The muffins taste especially good with Potato Soup.

2 cups flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 egg
2/3 cup milk
3 Tablespoons oil
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup coarsely grated, pared apple

- - - - - - - -

In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. In a small bowl - beat egg; add milk, oil and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients until flour is moistened. Fold in walnuts and apple. Spoon into greased muffin tin.

BAKE: 20-25 minutes.

Cool on rack.

Serving Idea: Re-heat and melt butter over top for a delicious morning treat.


Shrimp & Corn Chowder

This one is easy to make but tastes like you spent hours!

2 teaspoons canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, sliced
1 cup diced ham or kielbasa
3 Tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon Thyme
3 cups milk
1 - 16 oz package frozen corn
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 cup brown Minute Rice
1 1/2 cups cooked frozen shrimp, chopped

- - - - - - - -

Heat oil in large cooking pan. Add onion, celery and ham/kielbasa and cook until tender. Stir in flour and Thyme. Add milk, broth and corn. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Stir in rice and shrimp. Return to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer five minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let stand five minutes.

Makes: 4-5 servings

Serve with: Favorite wheat or whole grain crackers


Potato Soup

Perfect for those cold winter days. The ultimate definition of "comfort food".

3 Tablespoons butter
2 medium onions, diced
4 cups potatoes, diced
2 large carrots peeled and diced
3 cups milk
4 cups chicken broth
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 teaspoons Basil

- - - - - - - -

Melt butter in large cooking pan. Add onions and cook until tender. Add chicken broth, potatoes, carrots and seasoning. Cover and cook gently until potatoes are tender (15-20 minutes). Stir in milk and crumbled bacon, bring back to a simmer. Thicken as desired with potato flakes or flour/milk paste.

Makes: 8 servings

Serve with: Homemade bread and chunks of extra-sharp cheddar



Starvin' Guy Chicken Pie

>> Saturday, March 14, 2009

A standard in our home. Empty your 'fridge of left-over veggies to add variety.

OVEN: 400 degrees

1 chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth
1 1/2 cups peeled, cubed potatoes
1 1/2 cups sliced or chunked carrots
1 - 10 oz can Cream of Mushroom soup
1 1/2 Tablespoons flour
2 cups cooked, diced chicken
Dried Thyme to taste

- - - - - - - -

Melt 2 Tablespoons butter in a large cooking pot. Cook onions and garlic until tender. Add chicken broth, potatoes and carrots. Bring to a boil. Simmer 10-12 minutes until carrots are tender. Remove from heat. Stir together soup and flour and add to broth mix. Stir in chicken and mix well. Pour into a 1 1/2 quart casserole dish.

Biscuit Topper:

1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sage
2 Tablespoons butter
1/3 cup milk

- - - - - - - -

Combine flour, baking powder and sage. Cut in butter until tiny pieces. Stir in milk and form a ball. Roll out on a floured bread board to fit the top of the casserole dish. Lay over top of casserole mixture and prick with a fork.

Bake: 20-25 minutes

Serve with: Tossed greens salad



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