Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Black Red and White Chicken Chili

It's pleasant outside, but it's still December, so chicken chili is in order!
I used this recipe from days past.  Yumm.
So this is the change up (because there's always a change up):
Do not drain the beans - the whole shebang goes in!
1 can of black beans, 1 can white beans, 1 can of spicy red chili beans, 1 ear of corn- cut from cob, 1 big can of diced tomatoes, 3-4 chicken breasts cut into chunks and cooked in the pan with a can of chicken broth, 4-5 gigs of datil pepper sauce, 1 tsp, dried garlic chips, 1 tsp dry onion flakes, bring to a boil and turn down to low. Top with cheddar cheese and sour cream and  corn tortilla chips.
David's girlfriend made cornbread cornie sticks in my new cast iron corn form.  Nice!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Easy Garlic Dill Pickles

Easy Garlic Dill Pickles

1 qt mason jar

3-4 pickling cucumberes

3 cloves garlic

8 sprigs fresh dill

1 T coriander seeds

1 T sugar

1-1/2 T kosher salt

2/3 cup white vinegar

1 cup water
  1. Quarter the cucumbers lengthwise, or cut into 1/4 inch chips. Cut garlic cloves in quarters
  2. In an extra mason jar or covered container, combine coriander seeds, sugar, salt and vinegar.  Tightly close lid and shake vigorously until sugar and salt is dissolved.  Add 1 cup water to the mixture.
  3. In the clean mason jar, tightly pack the sliced cucumbers, sliced garlic, and sprigs of dill.
  4. Pour the brine mixture over the cucumbers.  Tap the jar on the counter to release air bubbles and top off the jar with extra water if any cucumbers are exposed.
  5. Place the lid on the jar and screw on the ring until it is tight.  Leave the jar in the fridge for 24 hours before tasting.  The pickles last a month in the fridge.
Did you know that 5,200,000 pounds of pickles are consumed annually in the United States?  That's nine pounds per person!

Chocolate Cake - Best Ever!

I have been very sick with bronchitis and pneumonia, and after a doctor visit yesterday and a whopping dose of everything, I had a spurt of energy, so I sanitized myself and hit the kitchen.  Yesterday David's girlfriend Amanda and I baked a cake.  We chose a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, Better Homes and Garden's 9x13 The Pan That Can, called Our Best-Ever Chocolate Cake.  Instead of using their recipe for Chocolate-Sour Cream Frosting (we are not the sour icing type), we made basic cocoa icing from the recipe on the Hershey's Cocoa box. The icing recipe makes too much, so I'm giving the recipe, halved. This cake is moist and soft and terrific, and I'm not wild about chocolate cake.  The icing is wonderful as always.
You can tell when David has been hitting the cake. He doesn't like the edges.

3/4 cups (1-1/2 sticks) real butter, room temp (I use salted)
3 eggs, room temp
2 cups all-purpose flour (I use Gold Medal)
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Hershey's)
1 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 cups sugar
2 tsp. vanilla (I use real vanilla - make my own)
1-1/2 cups milk (no milk, so I used half and half)
By the way, it is a MORTAL SIN to used low fat milk in baking, so I probably reserved myself a spot in Heaven for using half and half milk. Same goes with baking with fake sugar or fake butter, or to skimp on the salt.

Allow butter and eggs to stand at room temperature for a half hour.  Lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking pan, set pan aside.  (I used canned spray veg oil.) Preheat oven to 350F (glass calls for 325F).  Do NOT turn on the convection oven fan for bready items, as it results in Sahara Desert dry cakes and breads. Experience speaks!

In medium bowl stir together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; set aside. Because I like a soft textured cake, I stirred with a whisk, then sifted the dry ingredients one time.  

In a large bowl (I used my fabuloso Kitchen Aid Mixer) beat softened butter on medium to med-high speed for 30 seconds.  Gradually add sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time, beating on medium speed until well mixed (3-4 minutes). Scrape sides and blend another 2 minutes.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.  Beat in vanilla.

Alternately add flour mixture and milk, beating on low after each addition until blended before adding more.  Beat on med-high an additional 20-30 seconds after everything is blended and then spread into prepared pan.

Bake 35-40 minutes, testing with a toothpick to the center.  If it comes out dry, it's ready.  Place pan on wire rack until completely cooled, then spread icing on top.

I made cupcakes with this same recipe. If you want cupcakes, this recipe makes 30 big cupcakes (I should have split them further into 36, some were oversized) in regular-sized cupcake tins, using Christmas liners in May because that's how I roll.  Less baking time needed - 25 minutes  at 325F worked for me.  Keep an eye on things!

(This recipe is one-half of the one on the Hershey's box.)
1/2 stick real butter, softened (I use salted)
1/3 cup Hershey's Cocoa
1-1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup milk (I use half and half)
1/2 tsp vanilla (I use real vanilla, homemade)
3-4 T corn syrup added to the mix will make the cupcake tops look shiny.

Stir cocoa into softened butter. (Never soften butter for icing in microwave - it changes the integrity of the butter, making a runny icing.) Alternately add powdered sugar and most of the milk, beating on medium until it is spreading consistency.  Add remaining milk if the icing seems stiff.  Finally, add vanilla and corn syrup, mix again.  Makes perfect amount of delicious soft, fluffy icing for a sheet cake or a truckload of cupcakes.

I am not a big fan of chocolate cake (but cocoa icing is the bomb), so I was very surprised at how extremely delicious this cake turned out.  It is the Best Ever Chocolate Cake recipe!  Maybe I'll have a piece with my coffee for breakfast.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Datil Pepper Sauce

Datil Pepper Sauce in the Crock Pot
Datil peppers are easiest to pick at night, because when the sun goes down, they lift their leaves and you can see each and every pepper hanging on the trees like bright little green, yellow and orange christmas ornaments.  I picked a cup last night and added it to the big baggie I keep in the freezer with previous harvests.  My datil peppers are not seasonal, but an ongoing process, they just keep bearing and bearing with each pepper in a different stage of development.  If you wait until they all turn orange, this will trigger the plant to stop bearing, so I just keep picking and picking.

Today is an at home day, but I have a lot to do, and hanging around the stove all day to stir stir stir is not in my schedule.  I don't have time or desire to sandblast the pot after it's cooked all day either, as the sauce tends to stick on the bottom if you don't give it attention every ten minutes.  Enter crock pot!  (insert angelic harp music) This is my fourth crock pot in 30 years, the Rival Smart Pot Crock Pot, a 7-quart programmable genius of a crock pot!  I'll give it two big thumbs up for the programmable timer. Choose 4 or 6 hours for High, and 8 or 10 hours for Low.  After the time is up, it switches to warm for four more hours to keep dinner hot until everyone is home.  The only thing I would change is, I prefer a big thick heavy lid, not this thin thing with a metal rim.  I find that the heavy glass ones keep a water seal, which is the basis of how a crock pot works (heat is a given).  This one requires a bit of pressure and I have an old dark colored beach towel that I fold and place on top to weigh it down.  That is my only complaint and since I have said this, I will look on ebay for an oval corningware type lid that may fit.

The peppers and onions and other secret ingredients were introduced to the magic blades of my wonderful and amazing Ninja XL Master Prep Blender.  Any other blender is a gravy grinder compared to this workhorse!  If the house was on fire and I had to grab one small appliance from my kitchen, it would be this blender.  So I put the raw vegetables in and zip zip zip, everything was done in an instant.  After I dumped this into the pot, I added a little vinegar (I was going to add vinegar to the pot anyway) to rinse the solids out, then to wash the blender, I gave a little squirt of Dawn, followed by a half blender of hot water.  Zip zip zip, rinse rinse, zip zip, rinse.  Done!  I love this way of washing a blender.  It's genius!  The blades in the Ninja are razor sharp and this simple wash trick saves me from injury, as I've cut myself on it before.  

By 7am, the mouth watering recipe was cranking away in the crock pot. I've made it often enough that a recipe or measuring isn't necessary.  I plan to use both the 6+4 hour (10 hours total) HIGH cook time.  My backup plan is, if it isn't cooked well enough (as I normally cook it for ten hours on the stove), then I will pull out the big guns and finish it off in the pressure cooker.  Wish me luck!  Too bad you can't scratch and sniff the computer screen.  This smells so good, I want to swim in it!

I filled 13 half pint jars and 4 pint jars and every single lid popped in, so they are canned and good on the shelf for a couple of years I guess.  Recipients of my hot sauce tend to return the jars with a plea to please refill, so I have a variety of jars hanging around.  I will, as long as my plants keep producing!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Beef Short Ribs Dinner

Short Ribs - Squash - Rice

I made short ribs before and everybody wanted more!  This time I bought three packs totaling 12 short ribs (Why do they put them in such small packages?) on sale at Winn Dixie and the total was around $12, a buck apiece.  I followed this recipe that I posted here before, but doubled the sauce and onion.

In addition to the short ribs, I made a pot of mixed summer squash and zucchini squash.  Here's how I fixed it tonight:  1 large green zuke, 1 large yellow crookneck squash, 1/2 onion, 1 slice bacon, salt and pepper.
In saucepan, fry bacon and onion until bacon has rendered its oil and is crisp and crumbles.  The onion should be just clear with some brown.  Add sliced squash, seasonings, and bring water about 3/4 up. The squash will cook down into it.  I like mine cooked for about 15-20 minutes so it's a little mushy.

I made a pot of white rice to go with this.

It'll be ready in about 45 minutes and I'm losing my mind because it smells sooooo good!

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Skateland had a big jar of giant, soft, twist-your-face and lock-your jaw sour pickles.  They sold for a nickel a pickle - what a deal!  I spent a lot of nickels at Skateland, and looking back I wonder if my sister and I went there for the skating or for the pickles.  There were the regular serious skaters, one older guy with greasy black hair comes to mind, whirling around the curves to awful organ music,  He could skate at full speed and squat with one leg out, never failing to both disgust and impress.  Because of the sleazy/rough guys and girls that went there for some serious skating and flirting, we called this place Snakeland.  I think their organ music is one reason I don't care for professional basketball and baseball today.

Taking a break from gardening for the season, I joined the local farm's basket plan for $15 a week.  It's like Christmas every week, pulling this and that out of the basket.and discussing how we will cook a new vegetable we've never tried.  Last week it was patty pan squash and orb squash.  They were delicious!  I sliced the patty pans and grilled them in the oven under the broiler with olive oil and sea salt, adding a splash of balsamic vinaigrette.  The orbs were sliced and cooked in a pot with onions, salt, pepper and butter...regular squash fare.  Back to the basket...We have received about a pound of pickling cucumbers each week, some small, some large.  I have three weeks' worth and decided to try my hand at sour pickles.  I read a bunch of recipes online, picked and chose what I'd like.  Two recipes influenced me the most Fermented Pickles and Hungarian Sour Pickles.   Here's what I ended up doing:

   - no no no bad bad bad-


Bread and dill not added yet.
The lid is not tight, just sits on top
Cut the tips off and give each pickle a 2" slice down two sides, then stand on end in glass container.  I had a few empty spaces and tucked raw okra in to keep pickles from floating.  And because I like the speecy spiciness of Wickles Pickles, I tossed in two hot datil peppers, fresh off my pepper bush and tucked fresh dill about.  Mix everything but the dill fronds in water, making sure to melt the salt, pour over pickles, making sure that all pickles are under water.  Add the bread, lay a frond of dill on top.  Once waterlogged, the spices will sink (probably overnight) and then if the pickles start to float to the top, I'll place a saucer on top to hold everything underwater.   Add a loose lid to the top or just a dish, as the yeast in the bread will spread and the jar will need to burp (at will)  

Because I wanted more sour pickles, I added a bit more salt than the usual half sour pickle recipe, therefore my pickles will take a bit longer to set.  I am placing the pickle jar on our shady screened back porch for a week to ferment (and stink).  The water will get bubbly and turn cloudy, burp and stink.  After a week, I will taste, then either allow it to wait a few more days or, if they're ready, place in the fridge for eating.  I cannot wait to make grilled cheese and mustard sandwiches and serve with a big sour pickle spear.  My mouth waters and jaw clenches at the thought!

A WEEK LATER: The outcome was a jar of fermented mush!  oh how awful.  Only the okra was the right consistency, but it had a fermented okra beer taste that was oh so disgusting.  Tossed it all out and started over with a recipe from this Saturday's basket.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Italian Wedding Soup

This is my low carb version of creamy italian wedding soup. We love this soup and it's so so easy to make.

1 box (quart?) chicken broth
1 head cauliflower (or a bag, frozen)
1 pint heavy cream
1 pound sweet italian sausage
3 cloves garlic
1 big onion
a pot full of chopped curly kale
salt, pepper

Here's what you do:
*Pour the entire box of chicken broth into a medium pot, break up cauliflower and place in pot, cook on medium/high then medium/low until cauliflower is tender/smooshie.
*While that cooks, chop onion and garlic, set aside.  Then chop the kale in big pieces like you'd cut romaine for a ceasar salad.  It may feel tough now, but it gets limp and is easy to spoon once cooked.
*Put a swirl of olive oil in a big pot and heat, then add the peeled sausages, breaking up into large chunks, about 3/4 inch each.  Keep stirring so it doesn't stick and toss in a chopped onion and chopped garlic.  Once this is cooked, turn down to low.  Drain excess oil if necessary.
*Smash cauliflower in the chicken broth with a potato masher.  It doesn't have to be creamed, but pretty well smooshie, which thickens the soup.  Throw this into the pot with the italian sausage and stir.
*Add water to bring pot to half full.  Add salt and pepper to taste.
*Pack kale in until no more will fit in pot. It will cook down!  Cook on med heat until the kale is soft and cooked down into the liquid (maybe a half hour or more).
*Add pint of heavy cream.  Never allow any soup with milk product to boil!  It will turn grainy.
*Now serve!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Southern Pork Pot in the Pressure Cooker

Southern Pork Pot in the Pressure Cooker
I have this wonderful basket of vegetables on my kitchen counter, just waiting to be cooked.  On top was a pint of fresh okra, and beneath that were white boniato sweet potatoes that I grew myself.  Both are pretty much southern fare, so I decided to do a little mix/match and create a meal.

I put a small pork roast in the pressure cooker to be browned a bit in hot oil, lid off.  Next went a couple of cups of water, a personal sized can of tomato juice, and a big bowl of cut up vegetables: a huge white sweet potato with skin, cut into wedges, one big carrot, a small onion, about a dozen spears of sliced up okra, two very ripe tomatoes, a 6 ounce can of tomato juice, salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, and celery seed.  I have no idea how it will taste, but most of my creations are usually pretty good.

prepared ingredients
browned pork roast on top of veggies and liquids
  I closed the lid, brought the fire up to start the pressure, which pops up the safety lock.  Once the lock is up, the steam is focused on the little rattler on the top of the pot.  It sounds like a train rattling down the tracks to me.
It smells wonderful!
After about a half hour of puffing, I'll turn off the burner and let it cool down for about fifteen minutes.  The safety lock (a little metal stick that keeps the lid securely shut) will retract and then I can open the lid and serve dinner.  I like a pressure is the polar opposite of a crock pot, but just as wonderful.  Okay - Once finished, I fished out the solids from the pot and added corn starch to make a thin gravy.  Dinner was VERY good.  Too strange for David who doesn't care for any southern veggie, but Mark, Amanda and I dug in.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Homemade Kettle Corn

a giant kettle korn setup - not my kitchen
Today as Mark and I watched the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lose to the Saints, I took a kitchen break and whipped up my own version of kettle corn.  Here is my recipe:

You will need-
mid-sized pot with lid
popcorn oil
popcorn salt
big bowl
large spoon


  • In a mid sized pot with lid over high heat, swirl enough butter flavored popcorn oil to mostly coat the bottom of the pot.
  • Add 4 kernels of corn and cover.  Wait to hear four pops.
  • Add 1/4 cup popcorn kernels, cover and swirl just a few seconds to moisten the corn.
  • Immediately add 2 teaspoons sugar.
  • Cover and shake pan over high heat until popping stops.
  • Dump into big bowl and give a few shakes of fine popcorn salt (to taste).  Stir well with a large spoon.
I have a glass top stove and it worked fine.  In fact, I think shimmy-shaking the pan was much easier on the smooth surface.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Fifteen Bean Soup

Celebrate the onset of Fall with some 15 Bean Soup. Yay for Fall!

1 lb bag dry 15 bean soup
1-2 lb smoked ham hock
2 palmfuls real bacon bits
1-2 cups onion (chopped)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can chicken stock
1/2 tsp chili powder
1 slosh wine
1 stick carrot (slices or chunk)
1 stalk celery (slices or chunk)
garlic clove (minced)
1 slosh of my homemade datil pepper sauce 
I start by THROWING AWAY that nasty fake pork flavoring packet.  I am all about the quick cooking method, so today I brought the beans to boil 3 quarts of water.  They don't tell you to, but I switch out the discolored water (it looks brown to me, plus this is the passy-gassy part) for chicken stock and water. I eyeball it to add the water level back up to where it was before I dumped it out.  Next, I toss in everything elso on the list.  Cook for a couple of hours, stirring every so often so it doesn't stick to the bottom of the pot, and voila!

How about some corn bread to go with that??

Pumpkin Ice Cream

In a large pot, cook on medium until sugar is melted, but not boiling:
1/2 large can Pumpkin Pie Filling (already mixed up, not packed pumpkin)
3 cups half and half
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp cinnamon
Whisk 1 egg in a large glass bowl, then 
Add 1 cup of the hot pumpkin mix in a slow stream, whisking the entire time.
This tempers the egg.  Scrambled egg in ice cream would be totally grody.
Strain this back into the pot, catching any lumps, stirring the pot well.
Rinse the strainer and pour/strain the entire pot of pumpkin/egg mix back into the bowl.
Allow to cool on the counter until it is cool enough to be refrigerated overnight.
Mix in ice cream maker, following freezing directions of your machine.

It's been a while since I made homemade ice cream and I assembled my Kitchen Aid machine with the frozen mixer bowl, the beaters, etc, poured in the cooled ice cream mixture and THEN turned the machine on.  WRONG!!  The beaters wouldn't budge!!!  Start over.  I poured the liquid into the original bowl, scraped the frozen ice cream (yummy!) that had adhered to the freezing walls of the ice cream maker bowl and tossed into the batter bowl, assembled empty frozen bowl, turned batters ON and then streamed in the ice cream.  Perfecto!

After the ice cream finished, I moved the still soft mixture it into a tupperware bowl and swirled in a ribbon of pumpkin pie filling for added interest before popping it into the deep freeze to harden.  Now, won't that be good?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Chili - Wishing for Winter

It's 31F on Beech Mountain this morning.  Apopka was 74F.  Nonetheless, Fall shall be forced onto the State of Florida with a good old fashioned pot of chili!  I don't use a recipe and just shake this or that into the pot.  This is tonight's recipe, which ended up a hair too speecy-spicy for my tasted, but it was delicious.  This is about what went in the pot:

1 pound of lean ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 large can crushed Italian tomatoes
1 small can small cuts tomatoes
1 can Chili Beans with medium chili sauce, undrained
1 can Great Northern Beans, undrained
1 can Niblets Corn
1 packet McCormick's Original Chili Mix
2 tiny packets of red pepper flakes/seeds from Pizza Hut
1 tsp Penzey's Spices Minced Garlic
1 tsp Penzey's Spices Forward! spicy blend
2 T Marty's homemade Datil Pepper Sauce

Needed saltines to calm down some of the fire, but meow meow, it was yummy.
Come on, winter!  We are ready!!

Sunday, September 23, 2012


Printed from COOKS.COM

2 to 3 lb. short rib of beef, cut into serving pieces
1 lg. onion
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 c. catsup
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. vinegar
Brown ribs in heavy skillet. Place in baking dish. Place onions over ribs. Mix catsup, vinegar, chili powder, paprika and salt together. Pour over ribs. Bake covered at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes to 2 hours or until tender.
While we wait for the ribs to cook, I will tell you the story of how I got my wonderful cast iron dutch oven.  It was 1991 and I was driving home from the grocery store on a Saturday morning, where I wrote a check for ten postage stamps, potatoes and a roast for dinner on Sunday.  I wished I had a dutch oven to cook the roast.  A short cut took me past a good garage sale.  (I don't even like garage sales!)  You know the kind, something catches your eye and you slow down?  I hit the brakes when I saw a rusty old cast iron pot with the lid leaning on it.  In it was yard dirt and a scraggly pink and yellow blooming lantana.  Sinful!!  (This was before Home Depot started selling stinky old lantanta like it's some exotic flower, when we all know it's just a weed that grows wild in cow pastures.)  The price tag - $5.  I didn't have a nickel, but I had postage stamps!  In exchange for a $2.90 book of stamps, I got this terrific dutch oven.  I took it home and dumped the weed in the trash.  After a good scrubbing with a a few SOS pads, I re-seasoned it (takes a few times) and this has been a great addition to my kitchen, getting regular Sunday workouts!
Ninety minutes later...

Mark's dinner, served on a lunch tray in front of the TV.  It's football season.

Friday, September 21, 2012

LIMONCELLO- Simple Syrup Day

There was no sugar in the house on the week my Italian Limoncello was due to be sweetened, so we waited.  It doesn't matter, because the wait isn't an exact science.  Today is September 21st, and in forty more days we will have liquer!  I need to find some pretty gift bottles like these...
To make Simple Syrup, I brought 4 cups of water and 3 cups of sugar to a boil, stirring the whole time. Boiling isn't really necessary, but I to be sure the sugar was melted completely, hitting the boiling point gives me comfort.  Once I was satisfied the syrup is blended, I cover the pot and put it aside to cool all day.

Fearing discoloration, I picked out the vanilla bean before adding simple syrup to the alcohol and lemon peels that have been soaking for 50 days now.  A taste test was pleasing.  I have a cold and it cleared my sinuses!  Let's see how it tasted in 40 days. I guestimate the perfection date to be sometime around the first of November.   I'll keep you posted.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Cabbage Boil

I started with a smoked turkey sausage link, a half a bag of baby carrots, a couple of small onions and a half teaspoon of caraway seeds - all tossed into a pot with 2 tablespoons of sizzling oil in the bottom.  Stirred that around until the onions were clear and covered all with water, adding about 12 mini potatoes, salt and pepper.  Cooked that until the carrots and potatoes were almost soft, then topped it all with a cut up head of cabbage, more salt and pepper and dotted with butter.  Popped on the lid and let it cook and steam another ten minutes until the cabbage was done.

Yumm. Throw some leaves in the air...I'm ready for FALL!

Lean computer monitor on right side.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Flank Steak with Onion and Tomato

Brown/sear flank steak in 3T vegetable oil in a large pan.  Lower the heat to medium and toss in 2-3 large thinly sliced onions, 3 chopped garlic cloves, 2 bay leaves, a whole datil pepper, 1 1/2 tsp cumin, cracked pepper, sea salt, and a large can of stewed tomatoes with juice, plus an additional 2/3 can water (or beef broth if I had some).  Cook on a very low boil for 30 minutes, add a good slosh of red wine and simmer for an hour.  Thicken slightly with corn starch and serve over white rice.

I didn't have a recipe...I just put together what sounded good to my taste.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Simple Trick to Separate an Egg Yolk

My high school friend Jacques owns Dixie Egg Company.  He posted a FaceBook video today with a cool new trick he just learned on on how to separate an egg using a water bottle. Of course the FB post won't work here, so directions are:

Break an egg into a small bowl. Squeeze some air out of a clean, empty water bottle,  hold the mouth of the bottle against the yolk and release the squished bottle gently to suck up the egg yolk. Voila. Now pop that yolk into the recipe you're working on.

Here is a link to a news article about a recent donation to Second Harvest.  Jacques is a good egg!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Garden Dinner

Chicken Thighs, baked (not from garden, but I could hear a rooster crowing while I was there)
2 small Eggplants from my garden, cut in half and baked face down in the pan with the chicken
Okra from my garden cooked with stewed tomatoes (canned)
A few slices of the most perfect avocado, purchased from the fruit stand.

A piece of chicken, half an eggplant, a scoop of okra and tomatoes, plus a couple of slices of avocado and I was so full.  Mark liked it too.

Tomorrow morning we are having avocado spinach apple smoothies.  Yum!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Italian Limoncello

Today I started a batch of limoncello.   I used a dozen lemons that I peeled with a potato/apple peeler, taking off the yellow in long yellow strings, but leaving the pith intact on the fruit.  Peeling was a breeze!

The lemon skin strings, a split vanilla bean, 1.75 liters of vodka and a pint of Everclear all went into a one-gallon glass container that I bought at Target.  Because the lid doesn't fit tight, I put a sheet of plastic wrap over the top and then lidded the container.

Now we just have to wait 40 days (Sept. 11th), giving the jar a swirl every now and then.  The next step will be to make a simple syrup: mix 3 cups of sugar into 4 cups of water, boiling for a few minutes in a saucepan to melt the sugar.  After the simple syrup has cooled, this will be added this to the mix in the jar.  

After another 40 day rest (Oct. 21st), separate the solids with a strainer.  I plan to bake a lemon cake with some of the infused lemon zest, saving the rest in the freezer to use in mixed drinks.  Strain again, this time through a coffee filter before bottling them as gifts.  Most people keep their limoncello in the freezer, but I've read that it won't go bad at room temperature.

I had a bowl of skinned lemons after the first step, so I cut them in half and juiced them with my hand held lemon squeezer.  It goes quick if you have a husband with big strong hands to do the work.  The juice from a dozen lemons filled one ice tray.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Thai Grilled Eggplant

Eggplants and Sweet Peppers from my garden.
HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY!  I visited my garden today and picked some vegetables.  Cooking vegan for my daughter in law is a bit of a stretch for me to find nutritious and tasty meals that suit the whole family.  Mark grilled hot dogs for the carnivores.   In addition, I made Quinoa Veggie Salad.  The sweet and sour honey-lemon-mustard dressing is my fav, and the flavor of avocado and cucumber together just perks my taste buds.

If you like eggplant, you'll love the simple deliciousness of this Thai-inspired grilled eggplant.   The next time I make this, I'll add a variety of other grill-worthy veggies like sweet peppers, onion and squash.

  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 4-5 tablespoons prepared pesto sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Thai chili sauce
  • 2 eggplants
Preparation:Slice the eggplant in thick, flat slices (do not peel) and place on grill, basting with the herb mixture.  Reserve half of the mixture for topping.  Allow eggplants to grill for about 15 minutes, or until done.  Drizzle with remaining herb mix and serve hot.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Taco Pasta

Saw this, looks good. Haven't tried it. Taco Pasta What You Need: 1 pound ground beef 8 ounce small pasta shapes 1 small onion, chopped (or 1 Tbsp minced onion flakes) 1 clove garlic, minced 1 cup salsa 1 packet taco seasoning 3 ounce cream cheese 1/2 cup sour cream Salt and pepper Shredded Cheese for topping Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook pasta according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water. Set aside. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook the ground meat and onion over medium-high heat until no longer pink. Once the meat is cooked through, drain off the excess fat and mix in the garlic. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Mix in the salsa and taco seasoning and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir in the cooked pasta, cream cheese, sour cream and reserved pasta water, and continue stirring until the cream cheese is melted and the sauce is well blended. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top with shredded cheese and more sour cream and salsa if desired.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day Carrot Cake

I saw this recipe and had the ingredients on hand and baked this to celebrate Father's Day. Mark is happy! The change ups I made were: baby carrots instead of whole carrots, raisins instead of craisins, add salt.  The icing required about a cup more powdered sugar than the recipe called for, and to give a good round flavor, I added a half tsp. vanilla.

I chopped a one-pound bag of carrot minis in my amazing Ninja Blender, then added in the walnuts for a quick whirl or two to chop them up. Although it cooked up fine, the mix seemed a little wet so I would suggest to only use 3/4 bag of carrots next time. On checking the batter taste, I added 3/4 tsp salt, which was not in the recipe. The icing tastes delicious with the OJ concentrate in it.

Isn't it funny that a man who detests the texture of coconut loves carrot cake?  I adore coconut, but don't care for the texture of carrot cake at all, opting instead for light fluffy white cake with tons of coconut on the icing!  One day I will make myself one, freeze the slices individually and enjoy coconut cake for a couple of months.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Pasta Puttanesce

Yep, an old favorite of mine, Pasta Puttanesce...Pasta of the whores.  It's easy, it's fast, and most comes from cans.  In Italy, the prostitutes were only allowed to shop one day a week, so the clean ladies didn't have to mix with them. They would buy lots of canned foods to last the week and made this delicious soup/stew to smell so good and call in the fellers. Just as we aren't prostitutes, WE ARE NOT AN ANCHOVY LOVING FAMILY either. You cannot taste the fishies in the mix, but without them, it is just tomato sauce soup. I was out of capers, so I sliced up five green olives (the cocktail type) for that salty flavor.  This time the pasta I chose were little bow ties.  Top that with some good parm cheese and some fresh basil and you have what we had.  Yumm.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

I'm one Smokin' Momma!

Yep, it's Mother's Day.  My sons and daughter in law are due here for supper and I am out to create some good eats in the Smokin Tex 1400 electric smoker.
I put in a combination of orange and mesquite woods (soaked an hour in water first), then added 12 marinated chicken thighs, two racks of ribs marinated in a combination of dry rub followed with some of my homemade datil pepper sauce (watered down a lot), plus three token mild pork sausages just because they were in the freezer begging to be let out and looking lonely.  The sausages come out halfway through the smoking and I plan to add a dozen ears of corn in the husks.  I have them soaking in a combination of water and the remnants of the chicken marinate and a good slosh of vegetable oil. I will not open the husks at all, which will allow the corn to remain moist and will only have a mildly smokey flavor.  Once cooked, the silk is easily removed.  I don't know why folks make such a big deal of pulling back the husk, removing the silk, soaking in water and oil, recovering with husk which is frankly a whole lot of unnecessary work.

Vanessa's on a medically prescribed meat free diet right now, so I am cooking additional protien - black eyed peas and brown/wild rice.  I harvested a bunch of Swiss Card, which I'll wilt in garlic infused olive oil.  I might make a carrot and raisin salad and a potato salad too.

David is supposed to come over early and he and I are going to try out the recipe for homemade Snickers bars, a favorite candy bar for both of us.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Blueberry Jams and Blueberry Basil Vinegar

BLUEBERRIES! It was a fun hour of picking and Mark and I ended up with about 20 cups of blueberries for $18. We brought them home, rinsed and found only 2 green berries, not bad.
After canning today, I still have about six cups of blueberries left.
The first thing I did was to start some blueberry basil vinegar. Doesn't that sound dreamy? After four weeks of a swirl every day or two, I'll strain off the fruit and we'll have blueberry goodness to mix with oil and sprinkle on our salads. Is your mouth watering too?
The next recipe I did was Blueberry Citrus Conserve. I thought of how much daddy loves blueberries and how much he and momma both love orange marmalade. What a wonderful combo! I ended up with six half-pints.
Finally, I made some Mixed Berry Jam. I increased the recipe to use six cups of blueberries and two cups of strawberries that I had purchased at the height of Plant City Strawberry season and sugared, then froze. I didn't want it too sweet, so I reduced the sugar to 4 cups instead of 6. Running short of smaller jars, I canned three pints and about 2/3 of a quart jar that will go right into the fridge once it has cooled. The sweetness is perfect and the flavor of the strawberries and blueberries is 50/50, only a mild disappointment as I wanted more blueberry flavor, but a taste test on a slice of toasted buttered farm bread confirmed absolute deliciousness!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Easter's a Hopping Time!

The Easter Bunny came!
More on the jars in my other blog, There's A Cricket In The Corner. I made six.

Brownie Mania!
The Chocolate Chip Cookie/Double Stuff Oreo/Fudge Brownie thing is cooked and our house smells like heaven! I think David will love this!
Sangria in the fridge! I followed this recipe and it tasted amazing. I can't imagine how much better it will be after resting in the fridge overnight!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Easter Dinner

Turkey in the Crock Pot
Mashed Potatoes
Ginger Ale Carrots
Collard Greens
Deviled Eggs
Dinner Rolls
Strawberry Trifle
Cookie Dough/Oreo/Brownie Bars

TURKEY - I am cooking an 11-pound bird in the crock pot. Aunt Louise and Uncle RP told me years ago that it worked great, which it does. I miss Uncle RP, and so in his honor and to honor my sweet Aunt Weezy, the turkey's gonna hit the crock pot! I'll cook mine in my big crock with the lid on and I cover that with folded up beach towel. I'll use an old dark colored one, because the last towel I used discolored. If your bird is a little too big for the pot, just cover with heavy duty foil and then the towel. The turkey goes on at 6AM and my job is to ignore it all day. Dinner will be ready at 2PM. I have done it before, but found these directions online and, sans the celery and carrots, it looks like it'll be pretty tasty.

MASHED POTATOES - No brainer. Peel, boil, mash Yukon Gold Potatoes with cream and butter, sea salt and white pepper. We have an ancient potato masher that belonged to my mother in law. It is special to me.

GINGER ALE CARROTS - I love ginger. I do all kinds of acrobatics in the kitchen, but grating ginger is at the bottom of my list. When I saw this recipe, I knew it would taste great!

COLLARD GREENS - Grown in my organic community garden. Clean and cut it up, add a pound of raw smoked apple wood bacon (cut up), onion, salt, seasonings. It'll just be a simple reheat on Easter Sunday.

DEVILED EGGS - Paula Deen has my recipe! I sometimes add a slice of stuffed olive for pretty, or a shake of paprika or parsley.

ANGEL FOOD/STRAWBERRY TRIFLE - I love's the best of all sweets: vanilla pudding, strawberries, whipped cream and angel food cake.

COOKIE DOUGH/OREO/BROWNIE BAR - My sister Kat says this is amazing. I might have to make it for the kids. Who am I kidding? It's for me!!

I'll probably skip the cookie dough thing on Sunday, but posted it here for future reference. If I can get off of work for our family reunion, I may make it for this, but not for the contest as this isn't from scratch.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Spinach and Swiss Cheese Quiche


2 regular Pet Ritz pie crust
Little bit of softened butter
2 c. heavy or whipping cream
5 large eggs
3/4 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1/8 tsp. nutmeg

If you have Fox Point Seasoning, use that instead of salt
12 slices Swiss cheese, cut into small chunks
2 tbsp. minced onion
2 tbsp. butter
1-1/2 cups chopped spinach

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spread little bit of soft butter over pie crusts, then put half of the spinach and cheese in each crust. In bowl, mix with fork or wire whisk, cream, eggs until well blended. In a saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter; add onion and cook until tender. Into cream mixture, add seasonings, butter and onion. Pour mixture into pie crust. Place on sturdy foil covered baking pan (one that won't warp when heated). Bake 15 minutes; turn oven to 325 degrees (you may need to cover the crust with a foil jacket to protect it from over browning) and bake 35 minutes longer or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Weekly Menu and Handy Online Menu Gadget

Like It? I found this weekly menu pad at Jo Ann's Fabric store last week. I'm a lister, so this makes me intensely happy.

I also found a really terrific site called My Fridge Food to go to when you just can't figure out what to cook with what's on hand. Just check off what's in your kitchen and it'll show you a pile of recipes you can make with what you have.

Last night was Thursday and I made Meatballs and Gravy, Noodles, and Broccoli.
Mixed some garlic powder, onion powder, and Sunny Paris (salted) seasoning, along with a quarter packet of brown gravy mix into ground beef. Make little meatballs and pan fry in a swirl of olive oil. Remove balls, drain oil, then mix the remaining gravy mix in the pan (with a bit of oil and crumbles still there). Add a T of corn starch to make up for the gravy mix you used. Add 1/2 tsp finely diced garlic. Once the gravy's ready, add the meatballs back in. Serve over boiled and buttered noodles (shake on some parsley flakes for pretty). I had steamed broccoli too. Mark loved dinner.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

I took a rock hard squash and hacked it in half the long way with my big heavy meat cleaver. After removing the seeds and pumpkin stringy stuff with a grapefruit spoon, I coated the insides with olive oil and baked face down in a 350F oven for about an hour. After letting it cool on the counter, the outer shell looked puckered and loosened. It lifted easily it off the well-cooked meat.

Into a deep pan I put:
all the soft cooked squash
6 ounces of cream cheese
1 can of chicken broth
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp onion powder

I tried squishing it all together with a potato masher, but even after it was heated through, it was lumpy. My handy stick blender did the trick. Smooth and tasty!

With this we shared a baked turkey thigh and some romaine salad with grape tomatoes.

Vanilla sheet cake with homemade cocoa butter cream icing for dessert.

I would take a picture, but a pot of soup doesn't look very interesting. Everything tastes great!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Salmon with a Quinoa Veggie Salad

Salmon and Quinoa Veggie Salad

Quinoa Avocado Crunchy Veggie Salad

Adapted from: The Diva Dish


1 C. dry quinoa (cooked and cooled)

½ C. cherry tomatoes, sliced

1 avocado, diced

1 C. spinach, chopped

¼ C. cilantro, chopped

1/2 C. sweet onion, diced

2 small cloves garlic, chopped

1 stalk celery, diced

10 baby carrots, diced

½ cucumber, peeled, seeds removed, diced

For the dressing:

Juice of 2 lemons

zest of 1 lemon

2 tsp. dijon mustard

2 tsp. olive oil

2-3 tsp. honey

1/2 tsp. cumin

dash of salt and pepper

Salmon on Wilted Spinach

In pan:

A good swirl of olive oil, almost sizzling

2 nice sized salmon filets

Penzey’s Sunny Paris seasoning

Salt, pepper


Put the filets into the hot oil and sprinkle with lemon juice and a good shake of seassoning.

Flip, and add same again. Once cooked through, set aside and in the hot pan:

2 C. spinach

Leave the spinach in the pan about a half minute until it starts to wilt.

Place spinach on the plate and top with salmon.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sausages with Onion and Peppers

1 sliced bell pepper
1 sliced big onion
swirl of olive oil
Cook above in lidded pan with
4 sausages on top until onions are clear
and sausages are puffy/popping
Set aside meat and add:
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 cup canned crushed tomatoes
Heat back up with meat on top again.
Serve in hot dog buns.
It's like going to the fair!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Marty's Make Do Dump Cake

Typical Dump Cake:
1 can cherry pie filling
1 can pineapple tidbits with juice
1 box vanilla cake mix
1 stick butter

What do you do when you don't have tidbits? You Make Do!!

Into a greased 9x14 pan, layer:
1 can cherry pie filling on the bottom
1 small 12-ounce bag of frozen blueberries
3/4 cup pineapple juice
1 box (dry) vanilla cake mix
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
Crumble 1/2 cup brown sugar
Cover with 1 stick of butter in slices

Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.

Smells terrific! Looks terrific! Tastes terrific! The fruit was sweet and tart and the cake part was buttery nutty sweet. A wonderful combination! We each had a square while it was still warm because we just couldn't wait for this cake/cobbler/crisp to cool. This would have been even more amazing if it was topped with vanilla ice cream!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Super Bowl Food Day

Inspired by Super Bowl Sunday, Mark went shopping at Costco for some supplies. He ran into lots of friends and claims I missed some great pre-game fun, even calling me a party pooper! I think Mark enjoyed grazing on all the snackies and shopping without old kill-joy saying "no, no no - we are fat, fat, fat".

We planned to snack on bbq mini weenies and cheese and crackers, but we had skipped lunch and were so hungry, we sat down for dinner at kickoff and left the snackies in the fridge for another day.

Mark cooked burgers on the grill. We love Costco's fresh hamburger, already formed into patties.
buns, condiments, lettuce, tomato, pickles
bright orange shredded carrot salad with raisin/walnut/mayo
wavy potato chips with a vat of Costco spinach dip

I drank a glass of beer, half - because booze makes me sleepy, and fell asleep anyway. I never even saw the first touchdown! Mark woke me up for the halftime show, I peeked from under heavy lids at a very mature looking/acting Madonna singing nicely and went right back to sleep. Poor man, I'm such bad company...Not a party girl.

Mark bought his favorite, a humongous red velvet cake, from Costco that we never cut. I might cut it into 2-slice packs and toss them into the freezer for future desserts.

We were rooting for the Giants, who beat the Patriots. The Giants' coach was fired by Jacksonville Jaguars after a couple of really good, but just not good enough, years. Now the Jags are at the bottom of the barrel and the Giants have been Super Bowl contenders twice. I'll bet Wayne Weaver's kicking himself around the corner! ...Cake anyone???

present: Marty Mark. David had a burger and disappeared.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

My neighbor Cathy came over for dinner tonight and afterwards we baked TWO pineapple upside down cakes; one for Cathy's adult twirling team and one for us to share. Oh they smell so good!

For topping:

· 1 can sliced pineapple, reserve juice for batter

· 3/4 stick unsalted butter

· 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar

For batter:

· 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

· 2 to 3 teaspoons ground cardamom

· 2 teaspoons baking powder

· 1/4 teaspoon salt

· 3/4 stick unsalted butter, softened

· 1 cup granulated sugar

· 2 large eggs

· 1 teaspoon vanilla

· 1 tablespoon dark rum

· 1/2 cup pineapple juice

· 2 tablespoons dark rum for sprinkling over cake

Special equipment:

· a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Make topping:
Cut pineapple crosswise into 3/8-inch-thick pieces. Melt butter in skillet. Add brown sugar and simmer over moderate heat, stirring, 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Arrange pineapple on top of sugar mixture in concentric circles, overlapping pieces slightly.

Make batter:
Sift together flour, cardamom, baking powder, and salt. Beat butter in a large bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, then gradually beat in granulated sugar. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla and rum. Add half of flour mixture and beat on low speed just until blended. Beat in pineapple juice, then add remaining flour mixture, beating just until blended. (Batter may appear slightly curdled.)

Spoon batter over pineapple topping and spread evenly. Bake cake in middle of oven until golden and a tester comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Let cake stand in skillet 5 minutes. Invert a plate over skillet and invert cake onto plate (keeping plate and skillet firmly pressed together). Replace any pineapple stuck to bottom of skillet. Sprinkle rum over cake and cool on plate on a rack.

Serve cake just warm or at room temperature.

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