Mediterranean Baked Squash

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A trip to a local Farmers’ Market recently yielded some beautiful late season summer squash – yellow crook-neck and deep green zucchini. By adding the yellow, red, and purple peppers plus herbs from our garden, this easy to bake dish is full of flavor as well as color. It is a ratatouille style dish but does not include eggplant. I made it twice last week, once for our table, and once to take to a choir potluck supper. It was well received at both places!

Mediterranean Baked Squash

2 large yellow squash, sliced in thin rounds

2 large zucchini, sliced in thin rounds

2 cups crushed tomatoes

1 Tablespoon olive oil, plus additional for drizzling on top

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 red pepper, sliced

1 purple or green pepper, sliced

1 yellow pepper, sliced

4 garlic cloves, minced

fresh basil, chopped

fresh or dried thyme

sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

a piece of parchment paper cut to fit inside of baking dish top

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray baking dish with cooking spray. Spread crushed tomatoes over bottom of dish.  Add olive oil, onions, and garlic and stir to blend.  Layer squash and peppers with alternating colors, starting at edges of the dish and working toward center, overlapping slightly.  Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and cracker pepper, basil and thyme.

Place parchment paper cut to fit inside baking dish on top of vegetables and bake for 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender but not mushy. Remove parchment and serve.

 

 

 

 

 

Avocado Soup

IMG_0789I have served avocado soup for bridal luncheons, as a starter for guest dinners, along with grilled chicken, and simply as a treat to enjoy as a light lunch all by itself or with chicken salad. There are many variations, but this one is adapted from The Best from Helen Corbitt’s Kchens, edited by Patty Vineyard MacDonald..  It is best served very cold.

Avocado Soup

3 ripe avocados

4 Tablespoons butter

4 Tablespoons flour

2 cups milk

2 cups half and half

Zest of 1 orange

1/2 orange to cut into small pieces for garnish

sea salt

Melt butter, add flour, and cook, stirring until it begins to bubble. Add milk plus half and half slowly. Cook, stirring until mixture begins to thicken and is very smooth. Set aside to cool while you prepare avocados  Peel and mash avocados, and add to the white sauce.  Stir in orange zest.. Carefully lower immersion blender into mixture and blend until smooth.  Chill, and serve with orange bits on top.

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Cinnamon Apples

IMG_0847Cool fall evenings call for autumnal dishes.  This is one of my favorite sides for roasted or grilled pork as well as chicken – and nothing makes the whole house smell better than apples and cinnamon browning in a little butter. You can use any variety of apple you prefer, but this photo gleams with the yellow skins of Ginger Gold apples. Of course you may peel the apples if you wish. Add brown sugar if you want a bit of sweet. You may even decide to use this as a dessert or a wonderful addition to brunch.

3 or 4 apples, cored and sliced.  Granny Smith or Ginger Gold work well.

2 Tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon good quality ground cinnamon (I use Penzey’s Indonesian or Vietnamese Cinnamon)

brown sugar (optional)

Heat a 10 inch heavy skillet,  melt butter, and add apples, tossing to coat in butter.

Sprinkle cinnamon over apples. Stir gently as apples cook just until softened.

Crocked Pot Roast

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Just about every time I use my crock pot, I wonder why I don’t use it more often. It is one of my favorite kitchen helpers!  I particularly like starting something early on a Sunday morning and opening the door when we are back home from church to the heavenly smell of good food ready to serve!  This recipe is my variation of one I found online at the Food Network Kitchen and has an extra step in the beginning of cooking that adds a whole world of flavor to the finish!  Although gravy is usually something I make after cooking meat and just before serving, this pot roast cooks the whole time in gravy prepared after browning the meat and before cook time in the slow cooker begins. It is a twist that I will try with other crock pot meats because it turned out so well. My family voted this delicious!

Cook’s Note:  I keep a tube of Amici tomato paste in the refrigerator to use for recipes like this that only need a few Tablespoons.  If you haven’t discovered these tubed products, look for them near the canned and jarred tomato products at your supermarket

Crocked Pot Roast

4-pound beef chuck roast

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2/3 cup flour, (1/3 cup used for flouring the meat prior to browing, 1/3 cup for gravy)

3 tablespoons olive oil

6 medium carrots, cut into 2-inch pieces

3 stalks celery, sliced

8 red potatoes, halved

1 onion, rough chopped

4 cloves garlic, mashed

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 cup red wine

3 cups  beef broth

2 teaspoons dried French Thyme (or try chopped fresh Rosemary!)

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

Sprinkle seas salt and pepper over roast and rub into both sides. Put 1/3 cup of the flower on a plate and coat the meat, turning to coat. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large iron skillet. Brown the roast until brown on all sides  Transfer the roast to crock pot and tuck all vegetables around the sides.

Add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to the skillet over medium heat. Add tomato paste and stir until the oil is smoothly blended with tomato paste and turns a lovely deep red, about 1 minute. Add 1/3 cup flour and stir, then add wine, stirring as it thickens. It is OK if there are some lumps. . Add the beef broth,, thyme, allspice, 1/2 teaspoon salt and a pinch of pepper and bring to a simmer, whisking, until the gravy is smooth and thickens slightly.Pour the gravy into the slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 6 hours.

Remove the roast to a shallow dish or platter, then lift out vegetables with slotted spoon and add to serving dish. Ladle a spoonful or two over meat, and put the rest into a small pitcher to pass at the table.

IMG_0800Yum!   The return of Sunday dinner!

One Pan Herbed Chicken Dinner

IMG_0846This is a great go-to recipe for family meals or anytime you want to spend more time with the people in your kitchen than you do preparing a meal and cleaning up!  It can also be adjusted for quantity easily.  This is a large pizza pan which was perfect for 8 chicken breasts, with potatoes alongside. Add a green vegetable or a salad if you wish, but the idea is to keep things simple.

One Pan Herbed Chicken Dinner

8 boneless skinless chicken breast

1/2 cup olive oil  – drizzle in more if you need it.  The idea is to coat the chicken and potatoes

8-10 small red potatoes,  halved

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano – remember if you use dried herbs instead of fresh, you must reduce the amount

garlic salt

freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Put chicken in the bottom of a large bowl. Add potatoes, sprinkle with garlic salt, then pour olive oil over all. With your hands, turn the pieces of chicken and potatoes to coat thoroughly, adding more olive oil if ecessary.  Scatter the chicken and potato pieces in a large baking dish, or cookie sheet with sides. Top with chopped rosemary, oregano, and a few grinds of pepper. Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven, uncovered.

Experiment with other herbs – chopped fresh basil or dried thyme with some thin lemon slices added while baking.  There are many variations!

Mahi Mahi Poached in Olive Oil with Tomato, Olive, and Rosemary Salsa

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Before I was married (over 50 years ago!), I rarely ate fish cooked any way but fried.  My personal favorite was fried shrimp. Mother avoided most fish, but loved fried catfish. My parents owned a small cafe where my father cooked delicious foods, but I don’t remember his ever serving seafood other than fried fish and shrimp. Daddy loved fried oysters, and liked to make oyster stew with fresh oysters when he cooked at home, especially at Christmas. I still enjoy fried oysters, shrimp and catfish with hush puppies. But now, we enjoy a variety of fresh fish cooked in many ways.  For quick family suppers, my go-to methods of preparation are grilling and baking.  We grow fresh herbs in our garden, so often have fish paired with fresh dill, rosemary, or thyme. When This recipe was originally published Coastal Living. I did a search and found several versions online. I had never poached fish in olive oil before and wanted to try it  The results were delicious so it won’t be the last time I use this combination of flavors or this method of cooking.  The following is the way I adapted the Coastal Living recipe.  And yes, we do live on the South Texas Gulf Coast.

Mahi Mahi Poached in Olive Oil with Rosemary and Tomato Salsa

2 (4-6 ounce) Mahi Mahi filets

2 cups olive oil

sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

4 Roma or Compari tomatoes (small, but not cherry tomatoes), halved

2 Tablespoons capers

1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped

1 Tablespoon champagne or white wine vinegar

2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary

2 sprigs of fresh rosemary

Heat olive oil in flat sided deep skillet.Place tomatoes in oil, cut side down, along with 1 sprig of rosemary.  Cover and simmer gently for about 10 minutes, or until tomatoes are tender  Remove tomatoes to plate to cool.  Rinse fish and pat dry before sprinkling with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Lower fish carefully into flavor infused hot olive oil and poach  8 to 10 minutes or until fish is cooked through and flakes easily with fork. Remove from oil and place on serving dish.

While fish is cooking, put tomatoes in bowl and mash with fork or a few swirls of an immersion blender.  Add capers, chopped Kalamata olives, chopped rosemary, and vinegar.  Spoon this mixture over fish in serving dish and garnish with a whole sprig of rosemary.

 

 

Cheese, Apple, and Amaretto Omelet

 

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I love the farm fresh eggs I get from All We Need Farms in Needville, TX.  I never get tired of finding new ways to use them.  Last Saturday I made our version of this omelet from a recipe found online in several places and also in one of my favorite cookbooks:  Breakfast in Bed Cookbook, which features recipes from Bed and Breakfast Inns in the Northwest U.S. and British Columbia.  This one is served at Blackberry Inn in Seal Rock, Oregon.  Even if you can’t drive the Pacific Coast Highway north and have a stop there, treat yourself to a visit to Seal Rock here:  www.sealrockor.com/1900_s.html

Notes for assembling ingredients:  If you prefer, substitute 1/2 teaspoon of almond extract for the Amaretto.  Choose apples that are firm and sweet but slightly sharp.  We like apples that are available now called Ginger Gold, an apple with the bite and rich taste of just harvested fall apples. If the name Ginger Gold is unfamiliar, that’s because it is a recent addition to the list of apple varieties. It was discovered growing among the twisted uprooted trees in a Virginia orchard in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Its ancestors are the Golden Delicious and Albermarle Pippin apples.

Cheese, Apple, and Amaretto Omelet

OMELET

4 eggs

2 tablespoons half and half

dash salt & pepper

1 Tablespoon butter for cooking omelet (if you choose, you may spray the pan with cooking spray)

FILLING

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons sugar

1 large golden delicious or Ginger Gold apple, peeled and sliced

1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract

Cook’s note:  I added an extra tablespoon of amaretto in order to have a little syrup left to pour over the omelet on the plate.  If you

1 1/2 ounces cream cheese

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 Melt butter in a small skillet. Stir in sugar and sliced apple and saute until apples are tender. Remove from heat and add liqueur or extract. Keep warm.

Beat together egg, half and half, and seasoning. When ready to cook omelet, melt  butter in omelet pan and pour in egg mix.

Cook, pushing raw egg to outside edge, when eggs are set, with a slotted spoon, spread apple mixture over eggs and dot with cream cheese.  Slide onto serving plate and divide for 2 servings.  You may prefer to cook half of the ingredients first, repeating with remainder for a second omelet if you want 2 individual servings. If you have used extra Amaretto for flavoring, drizzle this over the top of omelet.

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Zuppa Toscano

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September is here, school has started, fall colors are showing up all over, and although our temperatures certainly don’t reflect it yet, I begin to think of Pumpkin Spice coffee, refresh my supply of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg, and pull out our favorite soup recipes. The first time I had this soup, it was at a local Olive Garden, and in my opinion it remains as one of the best items on their menu.  There are many recipes for it to be found online and in various cookbooks, including one that claims to be the Olive Garden copycat recipe. which uses chicken bullion cubes and water.  I prefer my version, using herb seasoned chicken broth, and Tuscan Kale from our garden.

Zuppa Toscano

1 pound Italian Sausage (we like spicy, but use mild if you prefer)

4-6 Russet Potatoes chopped

1 large onion, chopped

1 Tablespoon red pepper flakes

4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed before mincing

4 cups Chicken Broth

2 cups Tuscan Kale or ruffled kale, leaves stripped from tough center stem, then stacked and rough cut. If you like smaller pieces of the green, stack the leaves, roll them together and shred into thin strips

1 cup heavy whipping cream

Crumble sausage and brown in large soup pot or Dutch oven. Cook and stir until browned. Add chopped onions and garlic and cook until onion softens. Add chopped potatoes and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Pour in chicken broth and cook until potatoes are fork tender, about 20 minutes.  Add kale and cook several minutes. Tuscan Kale has a thicker leaf, but if you use the ruffled kale generally found in supermarkets, cook for only a minute or so. Slowly add cream and cook until heated through. Serve with breadsticks or a loaf of peasant bread such as Ciabatto.

If you would like to make this using your slow cooker, here are the modified directions:

Brown sausage and add chicken broth, garlic, potatoes, red pepper, and onion in slow cooker.

Add chicken broth,covering the vegetables and meat.  Cook on high 3-4 hours (low 5-6 hours) until potatoes are soft.

Before serving, add kale to the pot, stir, cover, and cook on high for 30 minutes.  Add cream and continue heating for a few minutes until heated through.  Serve and enjoy!

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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