Summer Squash Casserole

IMG_0575Summer squashes come in all shapes, sizes, and colors -round balls or long, shiny zucchini, glossy yellow globes of  crookneck yellow squash, scalloped patty pans, and dozens of others. But growing up in East Texas, when gardeners talked about squash in summertime, it was always the crooknecks.  By the time they appeared on the dinner table, they were sliced, dipped in cornmeal, and fried along with chopped onions in bacon grease.  Once in awhile, a squash casserole showed up at a church potluck.  Just about every church cookbook, and all cookbooks featuring Southern Food will have some variation of this recipe. In our own church cookbook, it is billed as “pastor’s favorite.” This particular recipe is my adaptation of one found in Jan Karon’s MItford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader under the title Puny’s Squash Casserole.  Truth be told, you could use any thin skinned summer squash, but yellow ones make a lovely dish.

Yellow Squash Casserole.

2 Tablespoons butter plus enough to butter the baking dish

6-8 medium yellow squash, sliced into rounds

1 sweet yellow onion, chopped

2 large eggs

1 cup grated sharp cheddar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup crushed Ritz crackers or potato chips

Sprig of fresh rosemary or parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.Butter a 9 X 13 baking dish.  Steam squash and onions until tender, place in bowl and mash slightly with potato masher,  add butter and stir to melt butter. In a small bowl,  whisk eggs, cheese, salt and pepper, then add this mixture to squash before pouring into baking dish.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, remove from oven, and add topping.  Return to oven for 10-15 minutes to brown..Add garnish.

 

 

Peanut Butter Pie

IMG_0596July 15 is our youngest son’s birthday, and when I asked him what he wanted for his birthday he requested Peanut Butter Pie.  He developed a fondness for this cool, creamy dessert 30 years ago when he went with his best friend’s family to visit grandparents in Pennsylvania and Grandma Eshbaugh made it.  When he got back home, he asked me to make a Peanut Butter pie and through the years I have tried several versions.  This one seems to most like the Pennsylvania Grandmother’s recipe.  There are dozens of variations to be found in cookbooks and online, but this one is found in an old church cookbook given to us by friends in 1981.  It has very simple ingredients, is quick to put together, and if you like peanut butter you are going to love this pie.

Peanut Butter Pie

2 chocolate cookie crumb crusts ( make your own from chocolate wafers if you prefer, but I purchased Keebler crusts at HEB)

1 cup creamy peanut butter

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1 can Eagle Brand milk

2 cups Cool Whip (I used the extra creamy style)

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons vanilla

With electric mixer, cream peanut butter and cream cheese.  Add lemon juice and vanilla and mix, then fold in Cool Whip.  Pour into prepared chocolate cookie crumb pie shells, cover, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.  Serve with a spoonful of Cool Whip.  Add grated chocolate on top if you like.0

 

Melon, Mango, and Mint Smoothie

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Summer means cold watermelon slices in Texas – just one of the ways we try to beat the heat. Holiday get- togethers ,family gatherings, or simple suppers often include cantaloupe or watermelon as a side.  Cool, sweet, and juicy, there is no better way to eat melons than sliced and eaten fresh.  Some like to add a dash of salt.  We love a squeeze of lime juice.

Often, there are a few slices of melon leftover which are fine stored in the refrigerator for a quick, cool snack.  We also like to use melon in smoothies, so I thought I would post a simple recipe for a wonderful summertime breakfast smoothie.

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Melon, Mango, and Mint Smoothie

1 cup Greek yogurt

1 mango, seeded and scooped out

1 cup (or more) seeded watermelon pieces, or substitute any melon

1 sprig of mint, leaves stripped

1 Tablespoon honey

juice of 1/2 lime

Place all ingredients in blender jar and pulse until smooth.  Pour into a pretty glass and garnish with a thin slice of melon.

 

 

 

Root Beer Pulled Pork, Slow Cooked

IMG_0466If you haven’t discovered using your slow cooker for pulled pork, you will be surprised how easy it is to produce this tasty barbecue.  A list of simple ingredients  a crock pot left simmering on the counter, and voila! you have enough tasty barbecue for at least 12 hearty sandwiches. We like to pass a tangy cole slaw to heap on the bun along with the tender shredded pork. ,  http://kitchenkeepers.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/tangy-cole-slaw/

Root Beer Pulled Pork

2 pounds pork tenderloin

1  12 oz. bottle root beer

1 bottle of your favorite barbecue sauce

Spray bottom of slow cooker with cooking spray, place tenderloins inside, pour barbecue sauce and root beer over the top.  Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours.  When ready to serve, lift pork out and place on platter.  Pull, or shred, with a meat fork. Serve on toasted buns with a spoonful of sauce and top with cole slaw.  Serves 12

This is great to reheat for later.

 

Caprese

IMG_0465One of the simplest summer salads is this most beautiful and flavor filled Italian favorite It is a family favorite, and I can (and have!) eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Insalata caprese (salad of Capri) consists of freshly sliced tomatoes and mozzarella topped with basil leaves and a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper.  In Italy it is usually served as antipasto rather than as a side salad. The classic recipe has only olive oill, but we enjoy adding a splash of aged balsamic vinegar.  Home grown tomatoes and full fat mozzarella guarantee a satisfying, refreshing plate of goodness.

Caprese

3 large, ripe tomatoes.

3-4 slices mozzarella

fresh basil leaves

olive oil

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

balsamic vinegar, optional

Slice tomatoes thinly and arrange on large plate. Cut mozzarella into triangles or slice if using ball of mozzarella.  Add to tomatoes and garnish with whole basil leaves.  Drizzle olive oil over the top and add salt and pepper. Pass balsamic vinegar.

 

 

Fresh Peach Coffee Cake

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There is no doubt that fresh peaches are best sliced and eaten without any thing added and certainly without cooking.  But  if you have more ripe peaches than you can eat that way, be sure to try this delicious coffee cake.

Fresh Peach Coffee Cake

1/2 cup white sugar

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 cup  flour

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 cups peeled and sliced peaches

 

For topping:

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons white sugar

2 tablespoons chopped pecans

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 Tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F . Grease and flour a 9 inch square baking dish, or spray with Baker’s Joy.

In a large bowl, cream 1/2 cup sugar and 1/4 cup butter. Stir in Greek yogurt, almond extract, vanilla, and eggs. Mix in flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Spread 1/2 the batter into the baking pan. Spoon oh peaches, and top with remaining batter.

In a small bowl, mix topping ingredients. Cut in butter to make crumbly mixture .  Spoon on top of the batter. Bake 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

 

Sauteed Mixed Greens

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The two kinds of kale, collards, and Swiss chard in this dish all came from our garden! We have a very small vegetable plot, with only 2 or 3 plants of each of the leafy greens, but that provides plenty for us.  Also, greens in this area winter nicely so these were from last fall’s garden.  Greens are cut and come back as long as you leave the roots in the ground, meaning they will happily grow new leaves to be harvested soon.

Mixed Greens

1 large bunch collard greens

1 large bunch kale, Tuscan or curly kale, or mixed

one bunch of Swiss Chard

3 tablespoons olive oil

6 -8 cloves garlic peeled and minced

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

3 Tablespoons Meyer lemon juice, or to taste* see cook’s note

a few dashes Tabasco sauce

Rinse collard greens and kale well, drain and strip off tough stems, separating collard leaves and kale leaves since you cook collards first. Rolling several leaves together at the same time, cut leaves into 1/4-inch strips. You should have about 8 packed cups.

Heat the olive oil in large skillet or wok, add the garlic and cook, stirring, 30 seconds. Add half of the collard greens and cook, tossing and turning, for about 30 seconds, then the remainder of collards.  Add  kale and cook stirring, for about, 1 minute, until it begins to often. Add the Chard and cook, stirring constantly, for about 10 minutes, until all  greens are tender. The point is to begin the cooking with the toughest leaves, adding the more tender leaves last.
Season with the salt, pepper, and lemon juice, and a few drops of hot pepper sauce.
Serves 4.

*Please note:  I either use fresh Meyer lemons or frozen Meyer lemon juice, which is sweeter than regular lemons since Meyers are a cross between orange and lemon. If you use regular lemons, you will probably want to half the lemon juice.

Blackberry Cobbler

IMG_1829When I was a little girl, my Grandma Terrell and I could walk down one fork of the dirt road that led up to their house and pick buckets of blackberries which grew wild between the roadside and the barbed wire fence where cows were pastured. I loved picking the berries, the inevitable chigger bites, not so much.  We ate freshly picked berries sprinkled with sugar. Grandma made jars of blackberry jam and jelly, blackberry pies, and blackberry cobbler.  Today we can still find them along fence rows and roadsides, but in our suburban life, that is what they are – a find!  We sometimes find fresh berries at the Farmer’s Market, or wait for them to go on sale at the supermarket. Out of season, frozen berries can be used.

This cobbler was made from berries shared with me which were picked by my good friend near her house. We like the crispy results of using regular pie crust instead of making a cakey batter for topping.  As you see in the photo, I made a very rustic lattice top crust from purchased refrigerated pie dough. Since fruit pies and cobbler are the very best when eaten soon after they come out of the oven, I had to photograph this cobbler quickly!

Blackberry Cobbler with Lattice Pie Crust

5-6 cups fresh blackberries

1 cup sugar

4 Tablespoons flour

2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest

2 pie crusts, homemade or purchased – used Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts

1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.  Place blackberries in large bowl, add lemon zest, sugar, and flour, and toss. Lightly butter 8X12 baking dish and pour in blackberry mixture.  Cut both pie crusts into 1-inch strips and roughly weave across top.  Make egg wash by scrambling the egg, then brushing over crust.  This does not have to be perfect – the crust will come out rusttic, golden brown and delicious!

Serve with vanilla ice cream or a dollop of whipped cream if you wish.
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Bake for 1 hour or until crust is golden.

Allow cobbler to cool at least 1 hour before serving

 

The Real Dill

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 In Texas, we consider dill a cool-weather annual. Plant this herb in the fall, typically mid- to late October, and you can begin harvesting leaves around eight weeks later. It prefers temperatures between 40º and 78º F, but you’ll find mature plants are frost-tolerant.

Our dill harvest is usually over long before we have much to pickle. To preserve dill for the cucumber or okra harvest yet to come, cut fresh dill fronds and bloom heads into segments  2 to 3 inches in length. Fill a gallon-sized glass jar with the dill segments and completely cover with white vinegar (or your pickling vinegar of choice). If the jar has a metal lid, be certain to cover the jar first with a double layer of plastic wrap before screwing on the metal lid. This will prevent corrosion. Place the jar in a cool, dark place until you’re ready to start pickling your harvest. By then, your pickling vinegar will be well flavored and can be used as directed in a favorite recipe. I found this information in  a Texas Gardener magazine article.

One of our family’s favorite “real dills” is pickled okra. To use the preserved dill and vinegar as described above, use this recipe for small batches of pickled vegetables. We also like to add sliced jalapenos.

Basic Pickling Liquid

2 cups dill infused cider vinegar
1 cup water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 whole cloves garlic
3 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
1/4 cup equal parts mustard seed, black peppercorns, coriander seed, dill seed and lightly crushed red pepper (approx. 2-1/2 teaspoons each)

Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive saucepan and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Pour hot liquid over clean, prepared vegetables, add some of the reserved dill leaves and stems from the dill vinegar, and refrigerate until well flavored.

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Meyer Lemon Loaf Cake

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I love this lemon cake.  My husband has decided it is favorite cake.  I like it because it doesn’t call for 7-Up or lemon jello or lemon extract, just fresh Meyer lemon juice.  Since we have an abundant harvest almost every year from our one small Meyer lemon tree, I really like using the juice in zest!   I adapted the recipe for specific use of the Meyer lemons from Ina Garten’s recipe on her Barefoot Conntessa Food Channel program.

Mary Ann’s notes:

I juiced lemons and put juice in the freezer last year, as well as freezing some lemons whole, so we are still using last year’s fresh juice.  If you do this, a good way to have small amounts of juice available for cooking is to freeze the juice in ice cube trays or mini muffin baking sheets.  If you need zest, a whole frozen lemon zests even more easily than unfrozen ones.  The “naked” lemons can then be thawed and used even though they are very mushy.

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Before a predicted hard freeze in December, we harvested what we thought were all of this year’s lemons.  Last week after some foliage had been cut and removed,we discovered one solitary lemon which my granddaughter Skye picked to add to our photos for this post. I will harvest on a much more as needed basis in the future.

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Meyer Lemon Loaf Cake

2 sticks butter

 1/2 cups sugar (2 cups for batter, 1/2 cup for simple syrup)

4 large eggs

1/3 cup grated Meyer lemon zest 

3 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice, divided

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Glaze:
2 cups confectioners’ sugar, sifted

3 1/2 tablespoons Meyer lemon juice

 

Set out butter, eggs, and buttermilk to allow to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 350 degrees . Grease and flour 2 (8 1/2 by 4 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch) loaf pans. You may line the bottom with parchment paper, but this is optional.


Cream room temperature  butter and 2 cups sugar with electric mixer on medium until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and the lemon zest.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. In another bowl, combine 1/4 cup lemon juice, the buttermilk, and vanilla. Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately to the batter, beginning and ending with the flour. Divide the batter evenly between the pans, smooth the tops, and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.

Combine 1/2 cup granulated sugar with 1/2 cup lemon juice in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until sugar dissolves. When the cakes test done, remove from oven and  allow to cool for 10 minutes. Remove the cakes from the pans and set them on a rack set over a tray or sheet pan; spoon the lemon syrup over them. Allow the cakes to cool completely.

For the glaze, combine confectioners’ sugar and lemon juice in a bowl, mixing with a wire whisk until smooth. Pour over the tops of the cooled cakes and allow the glaze to drizzle down the sides.
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