Monday, September 5, 2011

Grilled Summer Squash - Easy

Kid Rating:  Not their favorite.
Do Again:  Yes, for me.

I've made this twice within the past few days because, well, I have a lot of these growing in my garden.  And, it's so quick and simple.

Summer squash
salt (I used Kosher)
parmsan cheese (from block)

Slice squash to desired thickness.
Spread a thin coat of butter on both sides.
Grill on medium direct.  Turn every 2 minutes until desired texture is reached.

Sprinkle with salt.
Sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese.
I only thought of the cheese after putting in on the
raviolis.  Bonus discovery!  Yum!
The cheese really makes the dish splendid.  I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked it.  I guess the kids will have to grow into it.  For now, it's a nice lunch while the kids are in school.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Tomato Soup with Basil

Kid Rating:  3 out of 3 like it
Do Again: Yes

My initial tomato soup post was mostly an experiment.  Here is a clearer recipe, although I still have a few kinks to work out.  The end result is delicious.

I'm excited about this because the tomatoes and basil are from my garden.  (I never really liked tomatoes until I had some from a garden).  They smelled wonderful and were yummy as I nibbled on a few pieces during preparation.  I even thought I may not add sugar because they are so sweet.

I'm also excited because I used my pressure canner for the first time.  I canned my own tomato soup!  Maybe it sounds silly to be happy about that, but there is something satisfying about learning these new skills.  I'm thankful to friends and neighbors who let me tag along to watch, help, and learn during their own canning sessions.

You came here for a recipe, didn't you?

15 tomatoes, various sizes (makes about 7 1/2 cups pureed and strained)
1 medium onion
2-3 cloves of garlic, pressed (or a few dashes of garlic powder)
Basil leaves (I used about 21 fresh) --  dried is good, 3T+
2T sugar
1T butter
1T flour
1t Kosher salt
Special equipment:  food processor, although it's not required. You could use a blender in smaller batches or mash the tomatoes with a potato masher in the pot while they are cooking.

1.  Chop tomatoes, remove stems and blemishes
At this point, you have a variation of procedures.  I put the tomatoes with seeds and skins in a food processor then strained them later after they cooked a bit.  Some people remove the seeds and skins first.  Here is a method for that on this link:   Someday, I'd like to just leave the seeds and skin for the extra fiber.  My family seems to prefer the smoother texture for now.

2.  Puree in a processor if available.  Add the onion and garlic to one of the batches.

3.  Put pureed tomatoes/onion/garlic in pot and heat to boiling, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Starts off foamy.
Turns a nice red.
4.  Strain if desired.  I have a sieve that allows the pulp to go through but keeps most of the seeds back.  I do it in batches.  Return soup to pot.  (No picture).

5.  Ladle some soup into a smaller bowl/cup.  Add the 1 T of flour to it and stir until smooth.  Return it to the pot.
Adding flour to a small amount of soup.
Add more flour for thicker soup.
6.  Chop basil leaves (layer, roll, and slice).  Add sugar, butter, and salt.  Reheat.

My first pressure-canning experience!  It seems silly
to have only 3 pints for that huge canner, but I was
so proud, like a toddler taking her first steps.
(13 psi, 15 min.)
Family Review:
11 y.o. - Likes it.
10 y.o. - Likes the flavor and aftertaste and would eat it slowly (she has an aversion to smooth textures like soups, pudding, and yogurt).
6 y.o. - Loved it.  He started helping himself to the leftovers in the container.  I asked if he'd like a bowl.  "Yes!"
Hubby - He'll have to wait until we open one of the jars because our 6 y.o. ate his portion, too.  -I'm sure he'd like it  ;)
Me - Loved it, too.

Next time:  Maybe I'd scoop out the seeds before pureeing, then I wouldn't have to strain and could keep the skin pulp.

Question:  Why are the seeds removed anyway?  I Googled the question and only came across that it's a personal preference.  I've read comments that people think they are bitter when bitten into while eating tomato soup. I don't remember ever chewing my tomato soup.  You?  I have chewed chunky salsa, though, with chips, etc. Aren't seeds left in there?  Texture is probably the biggest deciding factor.


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sauteed Summer Squash and Zucchini (Sans Zucchini)

Kid Rating:  1 out of 3 liked it
Do again:  Yes, at least some variation of it

I didn't have any zucchini on hand, but I did have an ample supply of crook-neck yellow summer squash from my garden. The following recipe is based and tweaked from Andie Mitchell's blog, "Can You Stay For Dinner?"

FYI - Choose smooth yellow squash and not
the bumpy ones.  I waited too long to cook them.
2 T olive oil (I used Extra Virgin)

1-2 tsp butter
2 tsp herbs de Provence (a mixture of thyme, marjoram, savory and rosemary -- or just use your own favorite herbs)
2-3 cloves of garlic, pressed
(1/3) medium red onion (I wished I had used more)
2 summer squash (or 1 zucchini, 1 summer squash)

I like thicker slices of zucchini and squash -- more firm.
Heat pan, medium heat.
On one side, melt butter and add onions.
On other side, add olive oil, garlic, and herbs.
Heat for a few minutes (2-4).
Spread herb mixture and add squash.
Cook and stir frequently until desired lack of firmness firmness is reached. 

Family Review
11 y.o. - liked it
10 y.o. - didn't like it (but she loves my Brussels sprouts, collard greens, sweet potatoes, and broccoli, so I'm not too worried)
6 y.o. - didn't like it, but at least he tried it without much fuss
Hubby - liked it
Me - I enjoyed it, but it needed more onions.  I really like the added sweetness the onion provided.

Grill idea:  Instead of sauteing, I may grill the pieces and baste with the herb-and-garlic-infused oil.

Lastly, I wanted to share this favorite quote.
What if you woke up today with only the things you thanked God for yesterday...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Growing My Own

Corn. Cantaloupe. Our own pumpkins for Halloween.

That would have been my list a couple of years ago if you were to ask me what I would like to grow in a garden.

Now, after my veggie-quest, there are so many more on my list, and I have been working hard putting in garden in time for Spring planting. We live on a slope and had had to put in a couple of retaining walls and filled in with soil.

Here's what is planted:
Brussels sprouts (actually, they'll be planted for Fall)
collard greens
jalapeƱo peppers
squash: summer and spaghetti
sugar snap peas
Swiss chard

Upon finishing the garden, neighbors offered their garden plot for our use. My kids are planting corn, watermelon, cantaloupe, and giant sunflowers. I'd also like to plant some pumpkins in front of my house.

Where's the cabbage, THE veggie that started the quest? I know, I know. I'll see if I can squeeze it in among my kids' garden. I do want to put in a square-foot garden plot in the one non-slopey area in our back yard that has sunlight -- cabbage could go in there, but that may have to wait until next year.

I wonder how many more "discovered" vegetables I'll want to plant by then.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sauteed Swiss Chard w/Parmesan Cheese

Kid Rating: 2 out of 3 liked it ... initially (see "Family Review" below)
Do Again?: Yes (I really liked it, with exposure they'll like it, too)

Adapted from, click HERE.

2 T butter
2 T olive oil
1 T minced garlic (I used two cloves)
1/2 small red onion, diced (I used 4 scallions)
1 bunch Swiss chard (I cut out the thicker red stems and left them out completely) - layer leaves together, roll, and cut 1/2 inch strips (can see technique HERE from my collard green post).
1/2 c dry white wine (I like Holland House's cooking wine)
Squeeze of lemon juice
2 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese (at least 2 T - YUM)
Salt to taste (cooking wine has salt added to it - FYI)

1. Melt butter and olive oil together in large skillet over med-hi heat.
2. Stir in garlic and onion, cook about 30 seconds until fragrant.
3. If you choose to keep the chopped stem pieces, add them and the white wine now, simmer to soften stems about 5 min. Otherwise, just add the wine and immediately go to #4.
4. Stir in chard leaves. Cook until wilted (doesn't take long).
5. Stir in (squeeze in) lemon juice and cheese.
6. Season to taste.

Here comes the sample bite!

Served with yams - recipe HERE.

5 y.o. - Eagerly took the sample bite. Looked at me. Ran to garbage can.
10 y.o. - Eagerly took the sample bite. Looked at me. Two thumbs up. She really liked it. But, when I put some on her plate, she became repulsed when she realized there was cheese in it.
11 y.o. - Dutifully took the sample bite. Glances at me. "Pretty good." (Me, happy and astonished at his compliment, "Pretty good?!"). Him, "Yeah. Sort of." Then, after giving him his dinner plate, he said, "I don't think I like it."
Hubby - "I dunno." But he ate it.
Me - I really, really liked it and finished my kids' servings.

Next time: Each person can add their own cheese if they want it.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Parsnip Pancakes Improved

Kid Rating:  1 1/2 out of 3 like them
Do Again:  yes -- they are good and will win the kids over

Recommend:  food processor

I finally invested in a food processor!!!!  I had bloody knuckles the last time I shredded parsnips, it also took 20 minutes.  Grrrr.  This time with the processor:  less than one minute PEOPLE!  All blood retained.

1 pound parsnips, peeled and shredded (buy small to med)
1 large carrot, shredded
2 scallions (just under 1/4 cup, finely chopped)
1 egg (or three)
1 T flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 T vegetable oil

(Next time:  maybe have a side sauce to drizzle on them)

scallions from my garden

1.  Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
1a.  Drop first egg on floor.
1b.  Absentmindedly add second egg to shredded parsnips and stir while realizing you forgot to steam the shreds first.
1c.  Put shreds into colander and rinse egg from them.
2.  In a steamer or colander set over a pot of boiling water, steam the parsnips and carrot for 5 minutes or until softened but not mushy. Set aside to cool slightly. 

3.  Transfer vegetables to a medium bowl and add the scallions, third egg, flour, baking powder, and salt.  Stir until well combined.
4.  In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 1/2 tsp of oil over moderate heat. Using a 1/4 cup measure (I used an ice cream scooper -- my grandmother's), spoon mixture into skillet.  Cook for 2 minutes per side or until golden brown.  Transfer first batch to a large baking sheet (I sprayed with cooking spray).
5.  After finishing the batches, bake the parsnip pancakes for 7 minutes or until they are heated through and lightly crisped.
Press into scoop - pack down.
This helps keep the pancake shape without
shreds falling apart too much.

Made 12

Family Review:
11 y.o. - Not his favorite, but eats it.  (I think a sauce on it may help).
10 y.o. - "They were okay.  If they were served, I would eat them."
5 y.o. - No
Hubby - Liked it.  They went over much better than last time.
Me - I really liked them.  Not mushy.  Fresh tasting.  Mild.  Some of the fajita sauce dripped onto them, and it tasted good.

Idea for next time:  add a sauce or different seasoning, try a flavored oil or butter to cook in (butter could burn - careful).

Food Processor Love

Too expensive. Takes up counter space. I don't cook much anyway.

Those were my reasons for not purchasing a food processor sooner.

It takes too long. It's a pain and hassle (to chop/shred/slice).

Those were some of my excuses for not cooking.

A few weeks ago I was preparing parsnip pancakes and shredded my knuckles. The shredding took 20 minutes. I was grumbling, "I'm getting a food processor. I don't care how much it is, I'm not putting up with this anymore."

Within a couple of days I bought this:
Better Homes and Gardens
WalMart - $99
I've prepared dough with it and shredded cheese. And those parsnips? Less than one minute (that's right, uh huh, that's right).

This is how I feel about having a food processor:

It's such a big difference to have the right tool for the job.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Swiss Chard with Caramelized Onions

Kid Rating:  2ish liked it (didn't try it on the 5 y.o.)
Do Again?  Yes, but slightly modified

Chard leaves are mild (not too bitter) and can be used raw in salads (usually younger leaves) or cooked.
Recipe based from, click HERE

1 lg yellow onion, chopped (I used a red onion)
2 T olive oil (I used 1 T butter, 1 T olive oil)
1 tsp brown sugar
1 bunch red Swiss chard, rinsed and chopped
{I had about 12 leaves, which didn't seem enough for the chard:onion ratio.  It cooks down; I would double the leaves.  Also, I used the same chopping technique as with collard greens.  You can see that HERE (scroll to the pictures).}
1/4 cup Kalamata olives, rinsed and sliced
2 T capers, rinsed
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt (I used kosher)
Dash of pepper
Squeeze of lemon (don't use a whole lemon like allrecipe suggests) suggests using a cast-iron skillet.  I used a regular pan (hard-anodized nonstick).

-Cook onions slowly in oil over med-hi heat (not too hot) until they begin to brown.
-Stir in sugar and continue cooking for a few minutes.
-When onions are brown and tender, stir in chard and olives.  Cook until chard is slightly wilted (covered).
-Stir in capers and salt and continue cooking until chard is completely wilted (up to 3 minutes, depending how wilted they were before).
-Season with pepper and squeeze lemon juice over top.

I should have doubled the
amount of leaves.

The stems are blechy raw but a
little better when cooked.  I'll
leave them out next time.

Love the onions!  I may do a
medley of different onions
next time for fun.

I put in the chopped red stems
before the leaves to give them
a head start in cooking.  I'll just
leave them out next time.

See how it's mostly onions?
More chard next time.
Family Review:
5 y.o. - didn't give to him to try, let me get the recipe right first
10 y.o. - She "loved it!" and asked for more.  HOWEVER, she only liked the greens and not the onions, olives, nor capers.  (Maybe if I minced them or blended them into a sauce one of these times...).
11 y.o. - "I didn't really like it, but if I had to eat it, I'd eat it."
Hubby - "No."
Me - I really liked it except for the red stems when raw.  They were kind of okay when cooked, but I'll just leave them out for now until I get the recipe right.  The olives and capers were great, but I seem to be the only one who enjoys them.  The chard had a softer texture than the collards.  I'm surprised I was okay with that, but I'll try to cook them less next time.

One last note:  the chard was not as fresh as they could have been.  You can see from the photo they are slightly wilted (leaves should be spread out more).  They were beautiful at the market, but I couldn't get to cooking them right away (a week+).  I bet it would make a big difference to have fresher leaves.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Parsnip Pancakes

{Here's a link to an improved and more-approved version of this recipe:  Click Here.}

Kid Rating:  0 out of 3 like them, but 2 out of 3 will eat them
Do Again:  Yes, because they are delicious, and I believe the kids will acquire a taste for them.  One condition, the shredding is time-consuming (20 min.) and painful, so I would prefer to do these with a food processor.

Parsnip pancakes look like hash browns, but they don't taste like hash browns.  I'm wondering if that is what threw my family off.  I love the light, sweet flavor that has a hint of gingerness.

My friend made these for us for brunch, and I thought they were fantastic.  I wanted to eat the whole tray of them.  My batch paled in comparison (I don't think I steamed them correctly), but I thought they were still good.  They are definitely worth trying, again, and helping my kids get used to the new flavor.

1 pound parsnips, peeled and shredded (buy small to med)
1 large carrot, shredded (I used 1 1/2 medium sized)
1 shallot thinly sliced (original recipe* calls for 2 scallions)
1 egg 
1 T flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (I used Kosher)
1 T vegetable oil (I used light olive oil)

Parsnip stubs:  I did not like shredding the
darn things.  I shredded my thumb in the
process and vowed it's time to invest in
a food processor.

I sliced up the stubs, steamed them for 5,
and munched on them while finishing
the rest of the parsnip recipe.
1.  Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
2.  In a steamer or colander set over a pot of boiling water, steam the parsnips and carrot for 5 minutes or until softened but not mushy. Set aside to cool slightly.  (My friend put her batch in a big, metal colander in a dutch oven pot with boiling water and lid for 5 minutes, which is what I should have done).
I didn't steam them correctly.  I was afraid the
holes were too big, so I put them in the colander.
Then the lid didn't fit, and the steam escaped.  :-P
I think the steamer holes would have been fine. 
3.  Transfer vegetables to a medium bowl and add the scallions shallots, egg, flour, baking powder, and salt.  Stir until well combined.

4.  In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 1/2 tsp of oil over moderate heat. Using a 1/4 cup measure (I used an ice cream scooper -- my grandmother's), spoon mixture into skillet (may have to do in batches).  Cook for 2 minutes per side or until golden brown.  Transfer first batch to a large baking sheet (I sprayed with cooking spray).

After adding scoops, I flattened them and
patted the loose sides in.

5.  After finishing the batches, bake the parsnip pancakes for 7 minutes or until they are heated through and lightly crisped.

They are a beautiful color (which the photo
doesn't do it justice), pale white with specks
of bright orange (except for the ones I overcooked).

11 y.o. - ate it, didn't like it
10 y.o. - ate it, didn't like it, she says she doesn't like cooked carrots
5 y.o. - spit out first bite (didn't like it -- ya think?)
Hubby - was expecting hash browns but was okay with it when once he knew it wasn't supposed to be hash browns.
Me - I liked it although not as much as when my friend made them.  I really liked the steamed sliced stumps.

Next time:
Use scallions, steam correctly, lower skillet heat, maybe use a different cooking oil, and get a food processor!

*"Parsnip Pancakes with Scallions" from Reader's Digest Eat Well, Stay Well, 1998, p. 89.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Easy Baby Lima Beans

Kid Rating:  2 out of 3 will eat them
Do Again:  Sure

{8-31-12 Update:  I really like this other recipe (click here) but I haven't tried it on frozen Lima beans, yet.}

I tried lima beans once as a kid.  Once.  Then never again until today.  I based the recipe from  I would describe them as mashed potatoes in a bean.

In 1/2 cup serving, you get 5 g fiber, 6 g protein, 15% needed Vit.C, 8% needed iron, and 4% needed calcium.

1 pound bag frozen baby lima beans, rinse
1-2 tsp butter (optional)
1/2 cup chopped onions
1 1/2 cups of water*
1 1/2 tsp Better Than Bouillon* (chicken)

*sub with broth if you have it

Melt butter in sauce pan (or use cooking spray, a different oil, or water)
Saute onions a few minutes until they begin to brown/soften

Add the water and bouillon (or broth).  Bring to a boil.           Add lima beans (and more water to just cover them if needed -- I didn't need to).                   Return to boil.                    Reduce heat to LOW.  Cover.  Simmer 30 min.

Family Review
11 y.o. -- He'll eat them (but probably not request them)
10 y.o. -- Seemed to like them.
5 y.o. -- Nope.
Hubby -- Favorable towards them.
Me -- Nice flavor.  Smooth and creamy.  The texture caught me off guard, but once I likened them to mashed potatoes, I was fine with these nutrient-packed beans.  I'll make them again to have a variety.

Cooking less my help.

The package listed 240 mg of sodium (ingredients:  beans and salt), and the bouillon also has sodium.  I didn't need to add more salt to the recipe.  If you grow your own beans, a little salt may be desired.