Saturday, June 29, 2013

Farmers Market Saturday

Wait until you see the haul I made at the Farmer's Market in Galesburg this morning. So much awesome stuff. I could have bought so, so much more!

Three green tomatoes, three yellow tomatoes, 1.25 lbs. fresh green beans, snow peas, new potatoes, baby carrots right from the garden this morning, a pint of peaches (smelling awesome), a dozen pickling cucumbers, 3 regular cucumbers, 1 Japanese cucumber, a variety of summer & zucchini squashes, plus fresh parsley, picked this morning!

Plus cheese bread from the local bakery on Seminary St. in Galesburg. I also bought a small piece of baklava, which was awesome. Crunchy, honey, sweetness over all to quickly. Sorry, no picture of that. Though that bread smells amazing.

I sent those green tomatoes to my father-in-law because he loves them so much. I'm going to make those green beans tomorrow and the bag has fresh Kale for a meal. Off to the far left is the Japanese cucumber. I can't wait to use that.

Don't those new potatoes look great? Then I need to use those snow peas in a stir fry quick. I love fresh produce and can't wait to use one of those yellow tomatoes for tomorrow's lunch!

Then I bought a small bunch of fresh parsley (makes the stuff at the store look OLD). I put it in water with some fresh basil from my garden.

All my tomatoes have babies and I couldn't resist munching my first sweet banana pepper just the other day. I can't wait to plant more herbs and have a regular kitchen garden with several types of herbs.

A couple days ago, I worked with my Dad to build three 2x2x4 and I just have to figure out how I want to set them up in the space I've chosen. I may want to have a couple more garden beds latter, but I think three is a good start, plus I would still have the pots that I'm using this year.

But the farmer's market in Galesburg on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to noon, just a block off Seminary Street, right near my favorite health food store is going to be a regular trip for me. I can't wait for more fresh produce. So much I should have bought, but I try to buy what I'm going to use during a week.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Buffalo Chicken And Repeat Potatoes

I really was pretty sure about the potatoes, but the buffalo chicken turned out to be a great surprise. I've wanted to make buffalo chicken, but was afraid it would be too hot. After looking at several recipes, I discovered that most recipes seemed to be buy a bottle of buffalo sauce, LOL.

I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. I do as much cooking from scratch as I can and was disappointed not to find recipes for buffalo sauce right from my first google search. I really had to search it out to find out what was in buffalo sauce.

Then, it turns out, I'm out of Rooster sauce, my favorite go-to hot sauce. And, my bottle is not only empty, but totally gone. Oh well, but I had a hot Banana pepper from a few I purchased the other day hoping they weren't hot.

So, ideas start to form inside my head ...

Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a small saucepan. Add a finely chopped hot banana pepper, seeds included. Saute briefly.

In a measuring cup mix 3 oz. tomato sauce, 1/2 a sweet purple onion chopped fine, 6 fresh basil leaves minced, 1 tsp. minced garlic, 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar, 2 Tbsp. molasses, 1/2 tsp. Hickory smoked salt, 1 tsp. mild chili powder, salt and pepper. Mix and add to saucepan. Heat through. Taste and adjust flavors.

For chicken, in skillet add 1 Tbsp. canola oil and heat. Add trimmed and sliced chicken breast. Cook on one side until just releases from pan, then cook on second side. Once browned on both sides, add buffalo sauce from pan, reduce heat and allow to simmer about 20 minutes.

I had a very large chicken breast. Somehow I though I'd pulled a pkg. with two, but, this one was very large. I wasn't sure it would be enough chicken for both the hubby and me, but I shouldn't have worried. I added 5 hot dogs to the pan, just in case.

I also made a repeat version of Cheesy Bacon Oven Potato Crisps.

Slice 2 large or 3 medium russet potatoes into 1 cup water with 1 tsp. salt in large glass measuring cup. Toss all potatoes in salted water. Put measuring cup into a microwave for 5 minutes and let rest.

Mince 5 fresh basil leaves, 1/4 of a sweet red onion chopped fine, 3 Tbsp. cooked bacon (like "real Bacon"). Chop basil, onion and bacon together and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare large baking sheet with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray. Lay potatoes in a single layer on baking sheet. Top with basil bacon mix, making sure all potatoes have a little. Top everything with 1 cup Colby Jack grated cheese.

Bake potatoes for 20 minutes until crisp and cheese is melted. Serve Cheesy Bacon Potatoes with Buffalo Chicken and ranch dressing on the side.

This is a request repeat for the potatoes. I do have to admit that the first batch with real bacon slices fried and chopped on top had better bacon flavor. I made two baking sheets of those and had a small amount of leftovers, but they disappeared quickly. There are no leftovers today from either the potatoes or the chicken.

I'm looking forward to Hatch pepper season to give my Buffalo chicken a different twist. Meantime, I highly recommend putting some herbs in pots for your kitchen. I have used basil from my garden in three separate meals and the taste difference from dried is really pronounced.

Last week I made Potato Noodles (rather like egg noodles, but using leftover homemade mashed potatoes) with a fresh Basil pesto sauce. I had very little leftovers from that dish as well. The difference between fresh pasta, especially egg noodles, can make you wonder if the package of egg noodles you purchase from the store are even the same concept, or even from the same planet.

I know, the basic concept is that homemade noodles take a lot of time, but you could put the dough together on a Sunday in about 20 minutes, roll in plastic, and then simply roll the dough out on a week night and boil. Fresh pasta easy. And, once you do, you'll realize how really simple they are. Like the potatoes today. The microwave does half the work for you while you prepare the buffalo sauce.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How not to paint your patio Iris Blue

Or what happened to my poor project, which is at this moment dripping wet.

I took my sewing table apart to finally begin spraying the bottom of the table, the legs and assorted parts. I had a brand new can of Krylon in Iris Blue satin finish that I started painting with. Being that Sunday started hot and humid, I was working in very light layers, giving the paint plenty of time to dry before moving to the next coat.

There were a lot of screws holding this all together. I believe they are sitting in a puddle on the patio table. I had put the larger piece on a pair of saw horses topped with my piece of plasti-card I use to keep the patio clean. I had sanded down the rusty spots and wiped the surface clean, then put on a light layer of blue.

Laid out an old plastic table cloth and put the legs and other parts to be painted on there. I had given one side of each of the legs a light coat of paint and was checking them. Since the metal is less absorbent than the wood, the paint was taking longer to dry.

I was just getting ready to give the first section of the top another coat and was prepping the paint (shaking the can) when it slipped from my hand and went flying. Before I could do much else, blue paint was spraying everywhere (yes, I have blue toes).

So, Sunday while shopping I purchased a new can of Iris blue Krylon spray, but rain has kept me from finishing my project. I may have to bring everything into the basement and finish it there.

This is the top and the sides of the table-to-be. But, it's going to have to be dry for me to finish the top, so the top is probably going to be done inside. Once I get this finished, I'm going to re-arrange some sewing room tables and sewing machines so that I can sew while watching my big machine embroider.

I am also planning to replace a plastic 3-drawer bin with a wooden dresser. Did I mention my sewing room is also my dining room? So I think replacing as many plastic pieces with real wood pieces will pull the whole room together.

I am also going to place an APC battery back-up in the dining room and plug my computerized machines into that to prevent damage from electrical serge's. I do tend to turn the strip that the machines are on now off during thunderstorms, just in case, but this would give me just that little bit extra insurance.

I also recently dyed my hair and used a new brand. I'm not sure if I should say Oops, or Wow. But, it's really blonde, looking like I just spent my summer on a beach every day. I wasn't sure how this would come out, but I was definitely not expecting this pale of blonde.

All I can say is that this product promised grey coverage (no I didn't just admit to grey hair, really) and I think it worked a little better than I planned.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Corn Tortilla Bake

It started with a jar of Sweet Corn Salsa, which gave me an idea about making a corn tortilla bake, so here's what I did. One ear of corn, husked & rinsed, cut a bit of the bottom off to make it flat, then trim the kernels off with a sharp knife. Add about a half cup of chopped celery and let those saute until celery is tender. Empty Salsa into bowl and add hot corn mix, stir, set aside.

Second chop half a large red pepper, half a large yellow pepper and a whole hot banana pepper (carefully seeded) and saute until tender (I also used to small yellow squash, chopped). While the peppers are sauteing, mince 3/4 cup beef (or use 1/2 lb. lean ground beef) and add to 1 lb. ground turkey. 

Mix together until combined and then season with 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. ground oregano, 1/2 tsp. Canadian steak seasoning, 1/2 tsp. mild chili powder and 1/2 tsp. ground cumin. Chop one small sweet onion into 1/2 inch chunks and soak in ice water with a pinch of sugar. Heat skillet med.-high and add a little canola oil and saute onions until translucent. Add meat and cook breaking up into small pieces. When mostly cooked through add 1 can, 15-oz., black beans, drained and rinsed and heat through.

Prep a baking dish with a circle of parchment and a little spray oil. Cut half your tortillas in half and leave the rest whole. Begin layering by placing a whole tortilla in the middle and arranging half slices, cut-side in, around the edges.

Layer 3 tablespoons corn mixture, then 3 tablespoons pepper mixture, then evenly cover with meat mixture. Top with 1/4 cup grated Mexican cheese blend.

Repeat layers, pressing down after each, until you have either filled your desired pan or run out of materials (be sure to leave enough tortillas for the top). If you use a springform pan, you can cut parchment to go around the sides and layer until you run out.

I could only put three layers in my cake pan, but I have a small supply of aluminum dishes for freezing leftovers, so I put a smaller casserole together for either my kids or another meal (although usually I send several pre-mades to one kid or another).

I moistened the final layer and topped with 1/2 cup cheese. Then baked it for 40 minutes at 350 degrees F. I put my cake dish on a pizza pan to keep my oven clean (I have yet to meet anyone who volunteers to clean the oven).

I think this came out very well. I served it topped with sour cream. You could add lettuce and tomato or toss a salad.

Corn Tortilla Bake
1 ear fresh sweet corn, husked, kernels removed from ear
1 jar (14.75 oz) Sweet Corn Salsa
1/2 cup celery, chopped small
3 to 4 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
1 medium Roma tomato, diced
1 medium sweet onion, 1/2 inch dice, soaked in ice water 15 min. with pinch of sugar
Half 1 large red pepper, chopped small
Half 1 large yellow pepper, chopped small
1 hot yellow banana pepper, seeded, chopped small
Optional: 2 small yellow squash, chopped small
1/2 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. Canadian steak seasoning
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. mild chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 30-ct. pkg. corn tortillas
1.5 to 2 cups grated Mexican blend cheese, divided
1 small high-sided casserole dish or springform pan
parchment paper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking dish with parchment sprayed lightly with cooking spray.
Husk and wash 1 ear of corn. Cut a slice from the bottom, stand on flat end and remove kernels with a sharp knife.
Heat medium skillet with 1 tbsp. canola oil. Chop celery. Put corn kernels and celery in hot skillet and saute until celery is tender. Pour salsa into small mixing bowl and add hot corn, stir to blend. Set aside.
Dice a Roma tomato. Dice a small sweet onion and half fill a 2 cup measuring cup with ice & water, add one pinch sugar and diced onion, let stand 15 minutes.
Chop red, yellow and banana peppers fairly small. Reheat skillet with 1 Tbsp. canola oil and add tomato. Let cook 1 to 2 minutes then add peppers and cook until tender. Pour into small mixing bowl, set aside. (You could mix these with the corn mix, saving a step and a bowl).
Mix ground meats together in a small mixing bowl with seasonings until just blended. Reheat the skillet with 1 Tbsp. canola oil. Drain and saute onions until translucent. Add meat mixture and break into small pieces as it cooks. Drain black beans and add to skillet once meat is mostly cooked. Heat through.
Cut 10 to 15 corn tortillas in half, leave remainder whole. Center 1 whole tortilla in middle of bottom of dish and line sides with cut pieces. Add 3 heaping tablespoons corn salsa, spread, then pepper mix and spread. Then an even layer of meat mix, topping that with 1/4 cup cheese. Start over with tortillas and repeat twice.
Top with final layer of tortillas, dipping them in meat juices to soften, then arrange 1 whole one in center, cut ones on edges, cut edges facing inside. Top with 1/2 cup of cheese and bake at 350 degrees until cheese is melted and tortillas are crispy, about 30 to 40 minutes.
If in springform, let set briefly before unmolding, then remove parchment lining from sides before serving.

I think it took more time to write this recipe out than it did to make it, or at least it feels that way. Because there are only two of us at home at the moment, I have a half a pan of leftovers. I think that I will break the casserole up, add a little liquid and more cheese and heat until the cheese just gets melty and dish is heated through (probably 20 min).

I think you could also assemble this on a pizza pan just making a base of whole tortillas layering in filling materials and topping with more tortillas, then topping the whole with 1 cup cheese. I think I would soft the tortillas for both the top and bottom as in an open dish, the juices have no where to collect and soft them as they bake. Now that I've thought of this, I'm going to have to try that next.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Sunday Memories

On the weekends with my late husband, we used to grill out a lot. Not on a gas grill, but on a charcoal Weber kettle grill. We'd grill a couple of things at a time to maximize the charcoal.

My late husband used to make a homemade BBQ sauce that was so awesome, all my kids want a version of it to use on their own grills or roast meats. I remember some of it because he made this mix for me when I couldn't eat the overly sugared BBQ sauces available.

So my late husband made a sauce based on chunky salsa. He was trained as a cook and his mother used to regale his chicken parmigiana. He had some training in high school for cooking and he could cook all kinds of things from chicken to seafood.

Paul's Homemade Barbecue Sauce
1 jar of Chunky Salsa Sauce (use your favorite)
1 cup of Ketchup
1/2 cup Brown Mustard or Yellow Mustard
1/2 Red Wine
Approximately 1 tsp. each: Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Spanish Paprika, Oregano, Parsley, Basil
1/2 tsp. each Sage, Red Pepper Flakes
3 Tbsp. Apple cider vinegar (maybe a little less, I'm working from memory)
He'd put this all in a large bowl and mix it until completely blended.
When I started making this myself, I added molasses and rooster sauce instead of hot pepper flakes.
Everything in this sauce is mixed to taste. He used chunky salsa as the base because I liked a chunky BBQ sauce. I used to have a lot of trouble with sugar which is why we could not use a standard bottled sauce with tons and tons of sugars.

We would take a small portion of this and use it as marinade for the items to be grilled, then once chicken or pork was almost cooked through, then we'd start basting with the sauce and turning until meat was glazed and cooked through.

This BBQ sauce is so completely adjustable. You can use regular tomato sauce instead of ketchup and then add sugars and acids in your preference. But, he would use this with chicken thighs and they would be awesome, to the point that my son, who would be his step-son, still remembers this BBQ sauce.

Now that's saying something ...

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Projects in Progress

I have been slowly making progress on projects on my list. I picked up a handful of wood chairs, one missing the seat caning. I had purchased outdoor fabric and pet screen to replace the caning. I think it came out well.

I have a little fabric left to make a small cushion and then it will find a home in my sewing area.

Another project awaiting my attention, the replacement for my moose soap jar. I have the drill out to work on a sewing table so I will get the hole drilled in it's lid as well as the lid of my "sharps" jar for discarded needles and pins.

I suppose you can see a theme running through here. I guess it started with the new dishes.

I found this vinyl that coordinates with my blue and white dishes. I already have some on top my sewing table for my big machine. I want to put my smaller machine up to sew while the big machine embroiders and found this table in my Dad's shed.

I've already started by sanding the top and pulling the plastic sides off. Now I need to unscrew the legs and paint the underside, the table legs and glue the vinyl to the top. The white duct tape is to replace the edging. I also purchased new glides for the legs.

My Mother's Day roses are also blooming. I thought this one would be yellow but I think the white looks beautiful. This is the second one to bloom. The first one opened a beautiful peachy red; of course I missed the first bloom.

But, I've got more blooms coming. Also looks like I've got a bit of weeding to do. I've also got a bit of potting to do as I came home with a flat and a half of impatiens and petunias. I also have a wandering jew and a pineapple that I've rooted.

I'm starting to get quite a collection of little house plants ... an English ivy, a hydrangea, a poinsettia from Christmas, plus my new babies. My potted garden outside is also moving right along. I used some of my fresh basil with some homemade potato noodles, and have seen little tomatoes starting to form. My peppers are also beginning to bloom!

Now to be patient ...

Monday, June 17, 2013

Texas Ranger Beans and Family

As if working a sale for two days wasn't enough, we decided to have my sister and her family down while we packed the entire sale up. Half the work of having a sale is figuring out what to do with the pieces that didn't sell.

And, to keep my Dad busy while I was doing some cooking, they opened the sale and even sold more things on Sunday. My Dad is in the blue to the left. In the very back is my Mom, resting in the cool shade of the garage.

LR (Low Rider) and Harley had the best idea staying comfy on the sofa inside the house with the air on.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen I was busy mixing up Texas Ranger Beans and peeling potatoes for mashed potatoes, marinading steaks and prepping hamburger patties. My nephew made himself useful by starting my grill, your basic Weber charcoal grill. We set up for center heat with the sides left for cooler cooking.

Insert smell of freshly grilled corn here ... We had a very nice Sunday dinner with plenty for all the kids, no matter what age they were.

Texas Ranger Beans
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tsp vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)
2 tsp mild chili powder
Dash Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 cans (15 oz.) beans w/pork
1 lg. onion, sliced and cold water soaked 20 min.
Optional: Molasses and Jalapeno (we only added molasses)
Mix everything together up to the beans.
After soaking onions, saute until tender and just beginning to brown on the edges. Add to sauce.
Add beans to sauce and pour into a baking dish.
(My Mom says to heat them on the stove and then bake them, so you could do that if you wanted)
I used a low, slow cook method with the oven set at 300 degrees. I made a double batch, so everything fit in a 9x13 baking dish. These probably baked slow for about 2 hours, coming out with a deep mahogany color on top.

When these get going, your whole house smells like southern BBQ. I think these would also be great in a cast iron dutch oven left in the coals from lunch so they would be ready for dinner. Add some easy hamburgers or use the marinade from the Secret Pork to season some steaks.

And, finish off with fireworks. Saturday night, after the More on 34 sale, Altona had fireworks at the local elementary school. We were going to drive up to my in-law's house (they are right next to the school), but honestly, I was sleeping long before fireworks started.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day & Secret Lunch Pork

Happy Father's Day to my Dad, all my friends who are Dad's and to everyone else's Dad, too. Where would we be without them? Who would come help move your furniture in the worst weather to a new house? Or come out to help change your tire? Or even to just help you build or fix something? Don't we all lean on our Dads, even just a little.

I have been incredibly busy the last couple days deciding to run a Garage Sale during More on 34, a sale that runs the length of Route 34 through Illinois from Sandwich to Galesburg. So, not only did I have three of my kids here, I had my parents as well.

I cleaned out part of a house I want to sell and they cleaned out their garage. It's a good thing they did too, because my sale looked really skinny without theirs!

Unfortunately, I was so busy either setting stuff up, selling stuff or cooking for people that I forgot to take any pictures of anything. So here are my apologies because I do think a blog needs good pictures. And, I could have had some great ones, like my Dad running around Friday in a large sun hat, my youngest walking my Mom's pups, or Jessica blowing up a large Coca-Cola couch.

This morning all was quiet until the train rolled through bellowing for the crossings. All the kids are asleep, all the bargain seekers have gone home and my parents and the pups also went home. It's just me typing away here and Steve on his computer in the office and cups of steaming coffee.

Now comes the next job. Packing everything in boxes to go somewhere, anywhere, as long as that is not back into my garage, their garage or either house. Some things will stay, of course, like my 1893 hump-back travel trunk with original paper and sticker, or my wicker and copper basket I used for bubbles at my wedding.

Things that aren't coming back? Lots of old stuffed toys, purses, coffee cups, various antiques and collectibles that have no homes here or there, some collectibles I tried to sell for a friend. And, just an assortment of odds and ends. Those are going, along with a LOT more odds and ends from another house, to be sold at an auction house.

And, I am not only going to NOT worry if the make me any money, I am also going to be relieved it's gone! (Watch a couple episodes of hoarders, you'll be planning to clean the basement next, promise.)

And, just because you might need a recipe fix, and because I am always cooking something:

Secret Lunch Pork
1 to 2 lbs. pork tenderloin, sliced very thin 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 to 2 tsp. Canadian steak seasoning
One large glass baking dish
One skillet
A little oil for the skillet, like Canola
Tongs and a splatter screen (if you don't have one of these go to Dollar Tree and get one)

Into the large glass baking dish, pour your soy sauce and Canadian Steak Seasoning and mix it up with your fingers, a fork or a whisk. As you slice very slim pieces of pork, completely submerge them into the marinade. These only need to set 20 minutes, but can be put in the fridge to set longer.

Heat the skillet, add about a tablespoon of canola and let it get hot (not smoking). Using tongs, add pork a piece at a time, covering with the splatter screen. They will slow the heat briefly, but once they start sizzling, flip them over. Just as before, they will sweat a little, slow the heat, then once they begin sizzling, put them in a dish to keep warm.

Once you've cooked everything in your baking dish, you can serve with as sandwich meat, being thin makes great hot pork sandwiches, some whole wheat bread, mayo, lettuce, tomato. Or you can use them with a side dish like Cole slaw.

And, for dessert you just need a big tray of Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble Bars ... once I figure out the recipe, I'll write it up, as I made it up from about three different recipes somewhat as I went along. It's just one of those things I can do and almost always comes out something delicious (we won't talk about the ones that weren't, really).


Thursday, June 13, 2013

Rustic Meatball Casserole

I really love it when I pull leftovers out of the fridge and my hubby gets excited about them. I'm sure I'm not the only one to say it's leftovers for dinner and the family says "oh" and not in the excited way. But it was good the first night and even better the second.

Before we start with the major players, let me tell you, this is a long, long recipe and you need a second recipe (for the meatballs) in order to make this one. That said, I think I will start with the meatballs.

These are similar to my regular meatball recipe with the exception that I used beef and pork, mincing them by hand. You can get ground, I just had some leftover steak trims that needed a place to go.

Homemade Meatballs
1 lb. ground turkey
1 lb. lean ground beef
1 cup TVP, dry
3/4 cup very hot water or broth (I find the broth gives more flavor)
1/2 cup oatmeal
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup grated squash, zucchini or yellow, squeeze all the water out
2 to 4 green onions, chopped
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3/4 tsp. each onion powder & garlic powder
1 Tbsp. dried parsely
Optional: 1 tsp. hickory smoke salt, 1 tsp. ground sage, 1 tsp. dry oregano ... use flavors to enhance the dish
Put TVP* into 2 cup measuring cup and pour hot broth over it and allow to rehydrate briefly.
In large bowl combine all ingredients, including rehydrated TVP. Mix quickly together until fully combined. Over-handling will make these tough.
Spray a drip pan with cooking spray and line the bottom with foil. Evenly divide meat into 12 to 15 meatballs. These are going to be tennis ball size (you can make smaller ones). Space evenly on drip pan and bake at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes, or until baked through.
If you are going to use these for something besides this casserole cook them at least an hour. You could cook them for 30 minutes, just enough to get them started and firm.

These make awesome meatball sliders topped with cheese and are excellent in spaghetti. All the guys here love them. And, they never notice the vegetables inside.

*What's TVP? Textured vegetable protein. I usually pay about 3.50 for 16 oz. dried tvp. I use it to expand the available meat in a recipe allowing me to get away using smaller portions of better quality meat and still feed everyone, especially when cooking for teenagers and hungry husbands. You can leave it out and increase the oatmeal to 3/4 cup.

Now for the casserole ...

Rustic Meatball Casserole
1 medium sweet onion, like Vidalia, sliced thin and soaked 20 minutes in cold water with a pinch of sugar
2 bunches of kale, washed and torn into small pieces, tough stems removed
3 small or 1 medium yellow summer squash, chopped 1/2" cubes
1/2 cup celery, coarsely chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped 1/2" dice
1/3 cup Canadian Bacon, precooked, chopped fine (you can sub. a 3 to 4 slices bacon, crumbled)
2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced (apx. 1 tsp.)
2 cans (14.5 oz.) tomatoes, okra & corn, 1 can drained (reserve broth) and 1 can undrained
2 cups Italian cheese blend, grated
6 to 8 large meatballs (roughly half the meatball recipe)
1 pkg. (16 oz.) tortellini, cooked in reserved juice & water (filling flavor your choice, I used cheese)

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a large casserole dish and lid with cooking spray.

Spray large skillet with cooking spray and heat medium-high. Add onions and cook until just tender. Begin adding kale a little at a time and cover, letting each addition cook down before adding the next. Once all kale cooked remove about half to a small bowl.

Leaving a little onion and kale in the skillet add the garlic and cook just 30 seconds, then add green pepper, squash, celery and bacon. Cook until celery and pepper tender. Add kale back to pan. Add 1 can drained tomato mix and 1 can undrained tomato mix and let all cook through.

This smells awesome.
I drained my cooked vegetable mix and added juices to the cooking liquid for my tortellini to give it more flavor. You don't need to do this, although draining the vegetables does help to keep your casserole from becoming to wet.

Cook tortellini in lightly salted water and reserved juices. Drain and place in medium bowl. 

In your sprayed casserole dish, you now want to assemble in layers starting with drained vegetable mix, 1/3 of mix in the bottom of the dish. Add 1/3 tortellini, then 1/2 to 3/4 cup cheese blend sprinkled over top. Second layer repeats the first, topping with cheese. Third layer uses last 1/3 of vegetables and then place your meatballs around the outer edge of your casserole dish. Now add remaining tortellini and top everything with remaining cheese.

Cover with your sprayed lid or tin foil sprayed with cooking spray and bake for 30 to 45 minutes covered. Remove cover and bake 15 minutes more until bubbly and golden.

This can be made ahead and frozen, or made in the morning to bake in the evening. Leftovers also reheat well. I evened them out in the dish and topped with more cheese.

While this was baking ...

I sprayed the very bright gold light fixture in my kitchen with hammered copper. I also sprayed the switch and plug covers.

It looks so much better with the more antique looking coloring. The bright gold was just too harsh with my wall color. Now to get the ceiling washed and painted.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

More Rhubarb

I love this season when produce from gardens begins to emerge just waiting for you to take it into the kitchen and transform it into something delicious.

Can you get more delicious than strawberries and rhubarb? How about if we add cream cheese and struesel? With my kids I usually only need to mention fruit and sugar. If I say Danish, I'd better not have my hands to close.

Yesterday, I had some strawberries and rhubarb to use up and knew my kids would just love some warm Danish, so I pulled together a couple of recipes, made a few twists and came up with this. And, yes, it was delicious and I'm sure that dish is empty this morning.

Strawberry Rhubarb Struesel Danish
2 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. baking powder
6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, frozen (frozen works best)
1 heaping Tbsp. cream cheese
3 Tbsp. milk, very cold
1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
1 cup rhubarb, chop in 1/2 inch pieces
5 to 6 large strawberries, fancy sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. Vanilla
1 Tbsp. half-n-half
1 Tbsp. coconut oil
2 Tbsp. butter, unsalted
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
1/2 cup Oatmeal
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut shreds
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

If you are going to bake this today, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Preparing a baking dish by lining it with parchment. I  using cooking spray in the dish to help hold the parchment, I also lightly spray the parchment with cooking spray. Set this aside.

Crust for this dish from Joy the Baker Cookbook "easy, no-roll pie crust" (p. 72). No need to mess with perfection. Assemble crust ingredients. My butter was not frozen so I cubed mine. In Joy's recipe she grates the butter making very small pieces which will make a very tender crust later. Whisk flour, salt, sugar and baking powder. Add frozen butter to flour mix and use your fingers to incorporate. Whisk milk and oil together and add to flour mix all at once. Use a fork to combine. This will be really shaggy and doesn't need to for a ball or be kneaded. Pour flour mix into prepared baking dish and press evenly into the bottom of the dish and up the sides. The trick here is not to handle it too much, just quickly get it in place and chill.

If you are not going to get fancy with your strawberries, you could put both fruits in one bowl. Since I wanted my strawberries in a pattern, I put rhubarb in a measuring cup with 1/4 cup sugar, stirring to coat and set aside to macerate. I put the strawberries in a small bowl, sprinkling sugar in layers and set them aside to macerate.

Create the filling: In a medium bowl place cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, half-n-half and coconut oil. Blend together with a fork until smooth and fully incorporated. Set this aside until needed.

In small bowl combine butter & coconut oil. Mix with a fork to combine, then add oatmeal, coconut, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Mix until everything is evenly moistened.

Once you have the struesel made, it's time to assemble your Danish. Take your crust from the refrigerate and top it with your cream cheese mixture, spreading evenly side-to-side. Top with rhubarb.

Then take your strawberries and place them on top of the rhubarb, reserve the sugar syrup in the dish for the end.

You don't have to get this fancy with your fruit, I just wanted to have some fun with this. If you mixed your strawberries and rhubarb together, reserve the sugar syrup created while they macerated to drizzle on top of the struesel.

Top with struesel mix, breaking it up into small bits and spreading randomly on top of the fruit. Drizzle with the juice created by macerating fruit. I had some Demerra sugar on hand, so I sprinkled a little of that on top to.

Put Danish into 350 degree oven and bake 35 to 40 minutes. This is still going to look a little liquid when it comes out, but trust me, it does set up once cooled. The struesel topping should be a golden brown and crisp. Cool on a wire rack until well set up. Use parchment to remove from baking dish, cut and serve (with some fresh coffee!!).

I am already considering more fruit combinations to use with this. The crust is perfect. The struesel giving you crunch on the top and then the tang of rhubarb and sweetness of the filling. I am going to try to reduce some of the sugar in the next one. I did not have eggs for the filling, but used some coconut oil instead and am so happy with the results I might not go back to eggs in the filling.

You could set up crusts ahead of time if you wanted to make this for company breakfast or a brunch. The fruit and filling come together very quickly, but you could make them both ahead and keep all in the fridge until ready to bake (I'd let the filling warm up a little to make it easier to spread).

The next best thing to having fresh Danish ...

Leaving a clean kitchen behind! And, this is my after shot. I try to wash as I go to avoid having huge piles of dirty mixing bowls and forks. And, it is so nice to come home from running chores and finding a clean kitchen to make dinner in.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Saturday Flowers

Part of what I love about the end of May and beginning of June? Irises!! I love my irises and having cut flowers on my dining table.

Today I have bouquets of irises in my living room and dining room. The pale purple ones are from my garden and are incredibly fragrant with hints of grape.

The extra large yellow ones and the deep purple ones are species plants rather than common ones. I really love these dark purple ones. These are from my mother's garden. The recent storms completely knocked her yellow ones flat. Rather than let them rot on the ground, I cut them and brought them home.

I couldn't resist saving this one bloom that fell off while trimming for vases. I put it in my little watering pitcher in my kitchen window.

My tomatoes in pots are growing like crazy. They were so little when I planted them. They are now about a foot tall and still going. This is a good warm spot somewhat protected from the wind a little bit. I did have to move my peppers to the patio and out of the winds from the last round of storms.

Fortunately the storms have moved along so I was able to take a trip to Milan for Amy's Shower. Amy is expecting her second daughter within the next two weeks. I made a onesie in green baby knit with ladybugs flying around. I also pulled a pile of ribbons and trims from my stash and made a lace baby bonnet. I wrapped everything in pink tissue paper along with some diaper rash cream, lotion, body wash and lavender baby oil gel.

Beautiful cake ... white and chocolate marble with very sweet frosting.

Amy Cutting Her Cake

I Drool Red White and Blue
Serena modeling the bonnet I made
Soon to be Big Sister, Serena
I had lots of fun while being able to catch up a little with Sue, Amy and Ray.

 And, here on the way home, being able to see those dark grey storm clouds moving on east. I could still see signs of water in fields and creeks well above their normal level along the way. Now, I'm off to clean my kitchen and take a peak at my tomatoes and peppers!