Veggies

Dear Husband delayed his trip to the lake long enough to visit the Farmer’s Market with me this morning. I wanted his help in deciding what veggies we would eat this week. We ended up with the standard veggies, nothing exotic. I know that we will be having corn on the cob this Sunday, and that some time in the coming week we will do stuffed green peppers. I’ll make the first loaves of zucchini bread for the freezer. I’ll plan our meals around the rest.
Here’s a look at what I brought home:
Veggird 2.JPG
Corn, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli, red and green bell peppers, melrose peppers, pickle cucumbers, green onions, tomatoes, zucchini, peaches, red raspberries, sunflowers, glads, eucalyptus and apple cider donuts! Oh, and plain cheese curds. I would have had to make several trips to the car with that load.
It was a lovely way to start the day. *S*

Nine days???

Could it really be nine says since I last posted? I’ve certainly thought about posting, but my days have been full, so the ideas haven’t made it to the page.
The egrets and herons returned around the seventh of May. We don’t have huge numbers of them yet, but I have the pleasure of seeing at least one of them each time I go out. I have seen the big gray herons in flight several times, and they always remind me of pterodactyls.
Up until this week we had a long run of gray weather without the rain. This week we have finally gotten the rain. I made a trip to Morris, Illinois last Tuesday, and was pleasantly surprised to see that about 90% of the fields between Yorkville and Morris were planted, and many even had corn 4-6 inches tall. I know that many of the Midwestern states have had so much rain that the farmers haven’t been able to get into the fields. We seem to have been a little area short on precipitation, so I’m not complaining. What I don’t care for is being drop-kicked from the 60s to 90 degrees overnight!
Despite my post on being frugal, I bought a sewing machine! I have been concerned that my beloved Singer 301A would eventually go kaput, and not be repairable. I’ve sewed on that machine for more than fifty years, and adore it! I thought that it might be wise to have a newer machine as a back up, before Dear Husband and I retire. The new machine couldn’t be more different. The Singer is a straight stitch portable machine made of iron. While I can drop the feed dogs to stipple quilt, it was never really intended for that purpose. The new machine is computerized, has a built-in dual feed system and an 11 inch opening through which I can feed quilts. There is a built-in needle threader. It has more than 100 stitches, an alphabet and numbers, and pattern memory. I can arrange for the needle to stop in the down position and there is a knee lever for lifting the presser foot. It’s possible to run the machine without using the foot pedal. Most women who sew today take a lot of this for granted, but it’s all new to me! I hope the learning curve won’t be too steep.
I’ve planted all but two of the plants I picked up in my first garden shopping trip. The last two to go in were purple fountain grass, along the back of the bed next to the garage wall. If I had planted them a month ago, it would have been a lot easier, but this week I had to work around iris that were ready to open, and the last of the tulips. I asked DH to bring a chair and sit where he could keep an eye on me as I planted. I was afraid that I would get into a position I couldn’t get out of. Luckily, the plants went in well, and with the use of the shovel handle, I was able to maneuver myself out of a tight spot and back onto my feet. I’m sure that his presence was what made that work. Had he not been there, I’d still be waiting for a hand out of the garden! *G*
I believe that eight to ten iris were blooming yesterday. One was open for a couple of days, and then it was a domino effect. It must have been just warm enough, and sunny enough to move them along on Tuesday. I have a lot of dark colored iris: navy, purple, burgundy, bronze, contrasted with yellow and peach. There’s no rhyme or reason. If I see one I like, I try it, and they almost always multiply for me. They are at the top of the list for my favorite flowers.
We are going to celebrate my oldest granddaughter’s seventh birthday today. Her birthday was last week, and they did a party for the kids, but the adults are gathering this weekend to celebrate. Last weekend was so popular there wasn’t enough time to fit everything in. I was tickled to hear that GD1 wanted to be the Cake Boss. To further this goal, I bought her a Nordic pan that lets you create filled cup cakes that resemble a soft serve ice cream cone in shape when they are assembled. The top and bottom are baked separately, and then pudding or frosting or even ice cream can be spooned into the indentation in the bottom half. I doubt her mother has the time to cook with her, but I thought it might be something that GD1 and I could do this summer. It interests me that it’s not the eating of the cupcakes, but the baking of them, that appeals to her.
Tomorrow is Memorial Day. I hope that those of you who have been around for our wars will help our younger generation understand why we choose to remember those who have fought on our behalf.

Our Little Cake Boss

Our oldest granddaughter’s birthday is in May, and we will celebrate with her soon. We were surprised to find at Christmas that she is interested in crystals. When I heard about this, I thought she was into the multi-faceted, shiny stones that you might see in jewelry, but she is more interested in rocks. Her grandfather not only increased her collection of crystals, but found boxes for her to store and identify her rocks. He’s gradually helping her to expand this interest, so I wouldn’t be surprised to find him giving her rock hammers and things of that nature when she is older. One of Dear Husband’s sons has trained in Geology, so we might need to have him arrange a crystal-hunting trip one day.
While I know very little about crystals (although I’m learning more every day thanks to my granddaughter), I do know a thing or two about cake baking and cupcakes. Dear Husband’s daughter announced that GD1 wanted to be a Cake Boss when she grew up. There is a show on TV called “Cake Boss.” We’d never seen it, and made it a point to watch one day. I have no idea how my granddaughter saw this show, or what about it appeals to her, but it’s resulted in frequent bouts of cupcake baking.
I think I have the perfect gift for her. Sur La Table is a chain of stores featuring things for the kitchen, the grill and the table. I was surfing through their newest catalog and discovered a pan to use to make filled cupcakes. Envision the shape of a small ice cream cone from Dairy Queen…..the kind with a sugar cone. This pan will create the bottom piece with an indentation that holds a couple tablespoons of pudding or other fillings, and a top that looks like the swirled ice cream. The pan will bake six sets at a time. Bake, cool, fill, top and dust with 10x sugar and you have an amazing dessert! This is a Nordic Ware pan, so it should be good quality, and long lasting..
I figure I need to buy the cup cake pan to offset the rocks that Dear Husband will be giving her. I hope my step-daughter will still be speaking to me after a few rounds of these cupcakes. Perhaps we can have a baking day at Gramma’s! YES!!!
Do you suppose that this will be the child who carries on the sugar crisp recipe for the family?

Parsnips, Anyone?

I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a parsnip. I thought they looked like a turnip or a rutabaga. I was surprised to find that they look like tan carrots.
Dear Husband was browsing through a soup cookbook that called to him, and found a recipe for roasted vegetable soup. I tried the recipe today, and it’s very simple. I halved red tomatoes and seeded them. I halved a large onion, two carrots, and two parsnips. I seeded an orange bell pepper and cut it into strips, and peeled five cloves of garlic. (The recipe called for three, but we like garlic.) I roasted the veggies cut side down on a baking sheet that had been sprayed with Pam, until they began to brown, about 40 minutes
The recipe didn’t give me any guidance, but I lifted off the charred skin of the peppers and tomatoes. Everything went into the blender in two batches, with some chicken broth to make it easier to puree. I added seasonings, and heated the soup on the stove to a boil. I used a little more chicken broth to de-glaze the pan, and I think that added a LOT of flavor. At that point, you cover the pan, and simmer the soup for fifteen minutes to let the flavors blend. This soup smells wonderful while it’s cooking. Even my step-son was lured in to try it!
You could make this a bisque by adding sour cream or cream or half and half, but we wanted to try the recipe unaltered the first time around. It’s good. I’ll make it again, and add it to my list of soups. DH suggested that we could add small pasta shells next time. I get the feeling that HE wants to cook, but he wants ME to do the work! lol
Now I have to look for more parsnip recipes. We have a bag of them in the refrigerator. Too bad they don’t sell them one at a time! *G*

Just ONE ingredient

Why is it that when you want to try a new recipe, it seems that you are always lacking just one ingredient?
I am a new subscriber to Cook’s Country magazine. I’ve been a part of the America’s Test Kitchen family for a long time, but I’ve used the cookbooks and the Cook’s Illustrated magazine.
So, my first issue arrived and I sat down to browse through it. YUMMY recipes, a lot of comfort food, not especially oriented toward someone on a diet, but great older recipes updated. There were several recipes I wanted to make immediately!
No….I need smoked paprika for the paprika potatoes. Hmmmm, no half-and-half for the cheese sauce for the broccoli. Darn! I need HOT Italian sausage for the “Quick Sunday Gravy,” Dutch-processed cocoa and milk chocolate chips for the chocolate pudding. Ooops…that’s two ingredients. Oh nevermind, it calls for heavy cream, too. I don’t think I have clam juice in the pantry to do the popcorn shrimp, and there are no Granny Smith apples for the apple fritters!
I’ve been told that if the local grocery store runs out of anything, they could call on me, but I can see that I’m falling down on my motto of “Be Prepared!” I don’t mind having to wait on most of this, but the potatoes and fritters are really talking to me! *G* Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t have all the ingredients.

Cookies

The Girl Scouts have Dear Husband’s number!
Our household ordered seventeen, that’s right SEVENTEEN, boxes of Girl Scout cookies this year. Of course, it’s for a good cause, and they are freezeable. (Thank God!)
Our oldest granddaughter is a Daisy. I don’t even know what a Daisy is, but it’s part of the GS system. She was introduced to her first sales experience with the cookies this year. Grampa, not to be outdone by other members of the family, bought ten boxes from her.
We have always purchased cookies from the daughter of a member of my quilting bee. (I know….too confusing. Just keeep reading! lol) This year, DH bought seven boxes from her, still a major purchase.
Dear Husband was wise and put most of the cookies in the freezer right away. For me, out of sight, out of mind, is the way my craving operates. Better to have the cookies tucked away, where I am unlikely to be browsing for a snack. I’m happy to say that I’ve had about a box and a half in just about a month, a record for me!
I was shopping yesterday for our weekly groceries. I had gone shopping without a list, which is a first for me. I’m always prepared with a list that is generated by the meal plan for the week. DH had six things on the list at the refrigerator, and mentioned that he’d really like some ice cream, too. He’d read the list to me the day before, and I could remember all of it.
I knew I needed fresh fruits and vegetables, lunchmeat, quart-sized storage bags, and the ice cream. As I passed the bakery, I was SO tempted to browse, but I am on a kick to use up what we have in the house. I was actually thinking about the two boxes of lemon bar mix in the pantry. It never occured to me to think about the GIRL SCOUT COOKIES!!
I’ll be prepared for desserts and snacks for months to come!

HOT DATE, DEUX!

Imagine my surprise when Dear Husband turned to me and asked if I cared to go grocery shopping with him! I had been wanting to take him to a local chain that carries almost everything Italian. We finally made that trip, and it was fun to see him checking out the aisles. I believe that he could have happily spent three hours shopping!
So, we went again today. This time I had several new recipes in mind, and it was the perfect place to get the ingredients. I have never cooked with fennel. At this store fennel is called “California anise.” I think fennel might be one of the ingredients that gives a vegetable broth depth and complexity. I plan to make my own vegetable broth for soup later this week. I need to read up on using fennel, so that I know how much to use, and whether to use the lacy greens or just the bulbous part.
We found a pasta called “mafaldine” that might work in a pasta dish I want to do. I’ve found a lightened version of Bolognese sauce to try later this week. I bought several small eggplants and plan to roast them for this casserole using Bolognese sauce, cubed eggplant, crumbled Italian sausage and mafaldine. The pasta is a long strip that has a ruffle on one long edge.
I have a new recipe for bread pudding for dessert on Valentine’s Day. This one calls for coconut milk. We found cans of it in two of the ethnic sections. I could see the wheels turning as Dear Husband looked at all that was offered and though about how he might use things we don’t normally have in our pantry.
We’re going to make saganaki one evening, and one of the deli men talked us into trying a cheese other than Kaseri. I’m too lazy to look up the name. I’ll let you know what it is if it turns out to be good! *G* We also bought Gruyere for something called a “Grape Pickers’ Skillet” that’s in the February “Cuisine at Home” magazine. My only other experience with Gruyere is in fondue.
It was fun! We so rarely get to shop together it was novel to spend the time wandering through the store. I’m delighted to have some new things to try. DH helped me bring in all the goodies, and put lots of them away for me. It’s been a pleasant day, one I hope we’ll repeat occasionally.

The Mouse and Me

I was cleaning the kitchen Sunday and discovered that “something” had taken bites out of a plum tomato on my kitchen counter! I had just two tomatoes and had put them in the fruit bowl to make more room on the counter.
I showed the tomato to Dear Husband, as evidence of at least one BRAZEN mouse in the house. I set the other tomato back in the bowl, and used bleach on the counter.
Monday……the top of the tomato was chewed away.
I need a cat.

Party #3

I’ve been a social butterfly this month! It started with a Christmas dinner with my quilting bee December 3rd. They always help me to get into the Christmas spirit, so it’s great that our dinner is always the first Friday of December.
The second party I got to attend was a very posh gathering in a subdivision called “Falling Water” The houses are grand, and the landscaping is awesome, and everything that doesn’t move is lighted! We had a wonderful time, and our hosts made sure that Bears afficionados wouldn’t miss the game! Just to the south and to the east in Indiana, roads were closed due to a winter storm. We celebrated for about ninety minutes before we decided that we needed to make the trek home.
This morning, the woman who leads my exercise class is having her annual Christmas party for the class, right after we exercise! It’s a lot more fun than it sounds. We all bring something to share, and she and her husband provide quiche, sausages, juice and coffee. They have a lovely home and our class loves to visit with them.
I decided that I would take a Praline Pull-apart Bread. It’s rather like a cross between cinnamon rolls and Monkey bread. I rolled frozen white dinner rolls in butter and then in a mix of sugar and cinnamon, and placed them in an Angel Food cake pan. you sprinkle pecans over them, and set them in the refrigerator to thaw overnight.
This morning, Dear Husband woke me when he was ready to start his day, and I finished the preparations for the bread by whipping cream and adding cinnamon and brown sugar to it. The mixture is poured over the rolls and then it’s baked for an hour. It sits for ten minutes (can’t you tell we are sitting as we speak?) and then it’s turned upside down onto a serving platter.
I’m really looking forward to this party. I like my classmates and really enjoy having the time to chat with them. Even people who are not a part of the current class will attend this party, so I’ll have the chance to catch up with old friends.
Isn’t that the best kind of party?

Sarah’s Italian Sauce

For the longest time I have wanted to try Dear Husband’s mother’s recipe for red sauce, but for some reason, it’s just never happened. I announced my intent last January, thinking we could cook together before boating season arrived, but we just couldn’t seem to find a weekend where we could play in the kitchen. I wanted DH’s guidance and memories as we put together this sauce.
Dear Husband’s mother was Sicilian. When she wanted a sauce for her pasta, she made it from scratch. No Prego or Ragu for her! When DH and I married, I became the guardian of the Italian Sauce recipe.
A few months ago I bought some of the ingredients, and thought I’d give it a go. Then, Mother passed away and thoughts of the red sauce were put aside for a bit. FINALLY, last Monday, I decided that I would just do it last week, and got out my crock pot.
I started out the morning by browning a package of pork neck bones and Italian sausages. I put the browned meat and bones into a large crock pot, added all the other ingredients and let it simmer all day long. I’m sure Sarah cooked hers on the stove, but you have to be careful to diffuse the heat, or avoid stirring the burnt crust on the bottom of the pan into the sauce.
I doubled the recipe with the intent of using half of it that night, and freezing half of it. I was very pleasantly surprised by the taste of this very meaty sauce. We used it over rigatoni, and it made a very simple but satisfying supper. This sauce could easily be turned into an Italian ragu with the addition of a soffritto (a partially-fried mixture of chopped onions, celery, and carrots).
Here’s Sarah’s recipe:
2 small cans tomato sauce
2 small cans tomato paste
1 or 2 lbs. neck bones (pork only)
1 6 quart sauce pan with a cover or a screen
2 Tbsp. olive oil or corn oil
1 Tbsp. good Greek oregano
1 or 2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp sugar (can omit)
Options: 5-6 mushrooms, sliced, 1/4 of a green bell pepper, sliced, Chicken, Italian sausage or hamburger can be added to the pork bones, but you will need a larger pot.
In your large sauce pan, brown neck bones, and other meats if using, in oil. Season with salt and pepper. When the meat(s) have been browned, add the tomato sauce and tomato paste. Rinse the cans and add the rinse liquid to the pot. The pot must be 3/4 FULL of liquid. If there is not enough liquid from rinsing the cans, add more water.
Stir with a wooden spoon until the liquid begins to boil. While stirring, add all the spices/seasonings and any mushrooms or green peppers you want.
Lower the heat so that the sauce simmers, and simmer for four hours, stirring occasionally. Remember not to stir up the crust from the bottom of the pot, or the sauce will taste burnt. Cover the pan with a splatter screen to allow steam to escape but prevent splatters.
Remove the neck bones from the sauce and use the sauce as needed.
I doubled the recipe, and cooked it in a crock pot on low through out the day. I omitted the sugar to begin with, but Dear Husband taste tested it and said it needed the sugar, and I agreed. DH feels that it could use a little more salt.
Cook’s Illustrated did a study of beef stew and determined the best way to make it taste really beefy was to add mushrooms. You could add mushrooms to this sauce, but I think the neck bones make it meaty enough. I added two links of Italian sausage, and next time plan to add the entire package of five links.
When it was time to discard the bones, we discovered that the tiniest of neck bones can be very hard to find. Spend time in your search, to be sure you get them all.
Sarah advised removing the Italian sausage from the cooked sauce, but we left it in. DH calls this sauce “gravy,” and tested it by putting a heel of Italian bread into it.
Give this a try. Don’t wait twenty years to do it, as I did.