Stuffed Garden Peppers

IMG_0735If you think ground meat and rice stuffing when you think of stuffed peppers, these peppers will surprise you.  Typically, a savory stuffing with some variation of beef and rice is stuffed into green Bell peppers before baking. For this version, I wanted to use Gypsy peppers from our garden.  They are only slightly spicy, and can be eaten when they are pale green, or, as here, brilliant shades of orange and red. They are smaller than most of the sweet peppers we get, and can be stuffed whole, or cut in half and filled for appetizer portions. I used a combination of goat cheese, garlic, and herbs, also from our garden..

Garden Peppers Stuffed with Goat Cheese

6 small red and orange sweet peppers (packaged mini peppers will do if peppers don’t grow in your garden!)

8 ounces goat cheese

2 cloves of garlic, diced

6 large basil leaves, chopped

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh oregano

olive oil

sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash peppers and pat dry before slicing off stem end and removing seeds. In baking dish, pour enough olive oil to spread over bottom of pan. Add peppers, turning to coat and spreading olive oil inside and out with your fingers.  Mix cheese and herbs with salt and pepper to taste, then use a small spoon to stuff into peppers. Add a sprinkle of sea salt over top of peppers.  Bake for 15 or 20 minutes, or until peppers are fork tender. This is a wonderful light supper when served with a salad, but is also a beautiful addition to grilled meats..

 

 

Zucchini Noodles

IMG_0709Zucchini is one of the summer squashes I use most often.  This harks all the way back to the late 70’s, when our sons were all elementary school age and we lived on Deep Valley Trail in Plano, Texas.  Our back yard was unfenced and sloped down to a small creek where they fished for crawdads and got alot of jeans muddy.  This part of the yard seemed to be always full of boys and other than the wisteria vine which twined over our back porch, did not lend itself to much gardening.  The side yard, however, turned out to be perfect for a small raised bed vegetable garden.  In those years I had not yet developed my passion for growing herbs, but I did very well with Zucchini.  One summer, I remember the Zucchini harvest yielded more than enough for us and all the neighbors.  I remember making these squash fried, steamed, and baked.  I made Zucchini pickles and Zucchini bread and muffins.  But I had not learned about the amazing little kitchen tool called a vegetable spiralizer  I ordered one online a few years ago, and it is not only a great tool for increasing the variety of things you can do with all kinds of vegetables, but it is actually fun to use!  My grandchildren love to help me use it.  It has several different blades producing different shapes, and the noodle nest you see in this photo is a happy result. .The noodles are made by inserting the squash horizontally, attaching one end to the handle that does the turning and securing the other at the blade end of the spiralizer.  This is what the one I ordered looks like, but there are other fancier (and more expensive models).  You could also use a box grater or mandolin.

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5 or 6 medium Zucchini squash, washed and ends trimmed
2 teaspoons sea salt
3 Tablespoons butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 onion, chopped
1/3 cup flaked Parmesan
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Using a vegetable spiralizer, grater, or mandolin, cut Zucchini into strips that resemble noodles. Place in colander and sprinkle with the 2 teaspoons salt. Toss, and let drain for 39 minutes  Bring a large pot of water to boil, add zucchini and remove after 1 minute.  Drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking.
Melt butter in wok or large frying pan, add chopped onions and garlic, cook 1 minute, then add drained zucchini and cook, stirring for about 5 minutes, just until the squash is tender.  Even with these noodles, we like ours al dente!  Add salt and pepper to taste and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Fresh basil shredded on top is a tasty garnish.  This is also wonderful with pesto or marinara.

Click here for a previous post for zucchini ruffles.

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Fried Okra

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In East Texas in the 1940’s and 1950’s  I grew up eating many more fried foods than I choose to eat now.  That means most of the okra I grow in my garden will wind up in gumbo or roasted whole, both delicious and healthy.   But fried okra will  always remain as a favorite comfort food for Joe and me, and our children love it, too. So occasionally, I slice a batch, sprinkle with salt and pepper, add some chopped onion, toss in cornmeal, and fry it in oil, not bacon drippings (the traditional choice of cooking fat).  We really don’t use enough bacon to save the drippings in a container on the back of the stove like my Mother and Grandma did  This is one of those foods I have cooked for so many years and with varying amounts, according to how much okra I had. So it seems odd to produce a recipe, but if you really want to know….

Fried Okra

4 cups okra pods – small ones, not longer than about 3 inches

1/2 onion, chopped

salt and pepper

1 cup cornmeal, or enough to dredge okra

Remove stem and small amount of pointed end of okra, then slice in 1/2 inch rounds.  Add to a bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Add chopped onion and toss.  Heat an inch of oil in cast iron frying pan. Fry okra in small batches to allow crisp browning.  Remove each batch with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.  Serve immediately

We like ours just like this, but you can spice it up a bit by slicing in a jalapeno pepper or mixing in some cayenne pepper or other seasoning with the cornmeal.  Also, since dipping sauces are so popular, you can try mixing a little mayo with lemon juice and garlic powder or serve with Ranch dressing on the side.

Marinated Cucumbers with Basil

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A variation of sliced cucumbers seasoned with salt and pepper and covered with vinegar, my new favorite side for grilled fish, meats or sandwiches is this delicious Marinated Cucumber and Basil.  This is derived from a Japanese style pickle which uses Shiso instead of Basil. Shiso is an aromatic Asian herb which is becoming more popular but I do not have a good source for it, and I love basil. I added a just picked glossy jalapeno pepper, and the result was a perfect combination of sweet and heat served with a crunch.  If you can’t take the heat, leave out the pepper, but be sure to try this. Try the marinade on carrots, radishes, onions, or almost any other summer vegetable.  I like zucchini rounds!

Marinated Cucumber and Basil

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

3 Tablespoons sweet  Mirin, a Japanese rice wine

1 Tablespoon sea salt

2 English cucumbers

1 seeded, sliced jalapeno pepper

8 or 10 large fresh basil leaves

Mix sugar, vinegar, Mirin, and salt in glass or pottery bowl (non-reactive).  Whisk until salt and sugar are dissolved.  Slice cucumber very thin.  Wash and pat basil leaves dry, then stack them and roll them. You may shred with a small sharp knife or cut across with kitchen shears..  Add cucumber slices and basil to marinade, tossing to cover as well as possible.  They will shrink as they marinate.  Cover and refrigerate for several hours.

 

 

Lemon Cream and Berry Delight

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For Ben’s birthday I made Peanut Butter Pie –  no baking, no heating up the kitchen.  For Joe’s birthday last week we enjoyed another cool sweet for the birthday “cake.”  I found a recipe for this layered dessert in the most recent Food and Wine magazine, titled Lemony Layered Cheesecake.  It does have mascarpone cheese, but is more light and fluffy than any cheesecake . It looks complicated and would certainly be elegant enough to grace a table for guests, but by some clever application of plastic wrap, it turns out like magic  Oh yes,  it is absolutely delicious!  This combination works well especially when berries are in season, but other combinations are great, too..  Try using the  cream paired with raspberry preserves spread between layers of chocolate wafer cookies, or mix apple butter with the mascarpone, layer with ginger snaps, and sprinkle with minced crystallized ginger.

Lemon Cream and Berry Delight

1 1/2 cups mascarpone cheese

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup homemade*  or purchased lemon curd

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

20 whole graham crackers

Berries for topping’- blueberries, raspberries, or strawberries

Line a 9X5 inch loaf pan (I used pyrex) with plastic wrap, leaving 5 or  inch overhang on all sides. In bowl of electric mixer, combine mascarpone and cream and beat on medium speed until smooth and beginning to be firm . Don’t over beat.  Fold in lemon curd and 1/8 teaspoon sea salt.

Spread a thin layer of lemon cream over the bottom of plastic wrapped pan. Arrange a layer of single graham crackers on top of this, breaking some to cover.  Repeat the layers of cream and graham crackers 5 or 6 times until you have just enough cream to spread on top.. Wrap the dessert with overhanging plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

When ready to serve, remove from refrigerator, unwrap top pieces of plastic wrap, place flat serving dish on top and invert pan.  Remove all plastic wrap, decorate with berries as you wish, and serve, adding berries alongside.

*see my recipe for lemon curd in a November 3, 2011 post

 

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.