About Mary Ann

Kitchen Keepers is a blog for sharing good memories, good stories and good recipes. I have been asked to record family recipes which have been favorites for many years, adding to their story every time they are prepared and enjoyed as well as those newcomers which have their own story. Since I believe growing and preparing your own food is not only a pleasure but an art which is worthy of passing on, I am pleased to begin. Gathering around our table has been so much more than providing physical nourishment for me. For as we gather, whatever the table shape may be, we form a circle, a place of conversation and knowing and caring. Expressing our gratitude for the provision of food and family, giving thanks for bread and baker, we enter a sacred space. .

Cantaloupe 5 Ways

Summertime in Texas encourages cool meals. We have been thankful that so far hurricane season has not produced bad storms in our area. Rain has been unpredictable – flash floods in Houston and only a few showers here and there for us. So it is dry and unbearably hot. Air conditioning helps, and so does having cold foods on the table for meals. Salads are included often. Also, melons are favorites in our family, Watermelon and cantaloupe are part of my earliest childhood memories of summer in Texas. Both sets of my grandparents grew melons at one time so we had plenty. I can close my eyes and taste the sweetness of fresh melon, even the sensation of their juices dripping on my chin!  When Joe and I were growing up in East Texas, both watermelon and cantaloupe got a sprinkling of salt before we ate them. My family even added pepper to sliced cantaloupe.

The cantaloupe slices above are special because they grew in our own garden. All these years later, I have learned to love the taste of a squeeze of lime juice on melons, and like to serve them in a variety of ways as an addition to meals. You can always add melon to a breakfast smoothie, but consider trying  –

  1. Cantaloupe wrapped in a thin slice of prosciutto – wonderful with Italian food.
  2. Cantaloupe, watermelon, and other fresh fruits like peaches or pineapple, sprinkled with a spicy seasoning like Penzey’s Pico Fruta. The spice and heat makes the sweet of the melon even more mouth watering.
  3. Coarsely chopped fresh melon and berries drizzled with poppy seed dressing.
  4. Chopped melon along with kiwi slices scattered on top of whipped cream on a dessert Pavlova.
  5. Chunks of melon as a surprise element in green salads. One recipe is below.

Spinach Salad with Melon and Mint

1 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup olive oil

1 Tablespoon sesame seeds

1 Tablespoon poppy seeds

2 Tablespoons honey

1 (10 ounce) bag baby spinach leaves

2 cups cubed seeded watermelon

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

1 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    In a small bowl, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, vegetable oil, sesame seeds, poppy seeds and honey. Set aside.In a large serving bowl, combine the spinach, watermelon, onion, pecans and mint. Toss with the dressing just before serving.

 

 

Snickerdoodles

 

While most of the requests for cookies in our family are for Chocolate Chip, Joe talks about 2 favorite cookies – Molasses and Snickerdoodles. I don’t think I have ever made Molasses cookies that taste as good as he remember the ones his Aunt Sally made, and I have not made Snickerdoodles in a long time. Recently I decided I needed to make his favorites more often. But to be honest, the ones in this pictures were destined to send to church for the VBS kids last week. I saved enough for him though! Recipes are everywhere for this old-fashioned cookie with a strange name. My Treasures from the Bend cookbook published  by the Ford Bend Junior Service League includes a comment about the history of the cookie.

(No one knows exactly where this whimsical name originated, but similar recipes date back to ancient Rome and were popular in medieval and Renaissance Europe. Eighteenth and nineteenth century American cookbooks contain similar recipes for “jumbles.” Some suggest that the “snicker” portion of the name comes from the Dutch “snekrad” or the German “Schnecke,” both meaning a snail-like shape.)

Snickerdoodles

2 3/4 cups flour

2 teaspoons cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup butter, softened

2 eggs

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 Tablespoons sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix flour, cream of tartar, soda, and salt together. Combine 1 1/2 cups sugar with butter and blend. Add eggs and mix until smooth. Add dry ingredients and mix well to form a dough. Shape dough into 1 inch balls. Roll balls in mixture of the cinnamon and 2 Tablespoons sugar. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until light brown. Remove from oven and cool on rack. Makes 4 to 5 dozen.

 

Marinated Vegetable Salad

Summertime is a good time for grilling. This marinated salad keeps well for several days in the refrigerator, and is a delicious side for any grilled meat, chicken, or fish. Don’t let the long list of ingredients discourage trying it. There is little preparation involved other than some minor chopping and opening the variety of canned vegetables.

Marinated Vegetable Salad

Note:  all canned ingredients need to be drained before adding.

1 red onion, sliced

1 cup sun dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped

15 oz. can petite green peas

15 oz. can white corn

15 oz. can french style green beans

15 oz. can bean sprouts

12 oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts

10 oz. can bamboo shoots

10 oz. can sliced water chestnuts

12 oz. jar marinated roasted red peppers, coarsely chopped

3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives

1 bottle Italian salad dressing, or make your own with oil, herbs, and vinegar.

Combine all ingredients except salad dressing in large bowl with lid. Toss well.

Add salad dressing and toss lightly to coat. Refrigerate several hours or overnight, tossing or turning bowl occasionally. Keeps well and is a great addition to potlucks.

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken with Lemon Butter and Sundried Tomato Sauce

Dressing up grilled chicken is easy. The hard part is deciding which great recipe to use. I recently overheard a comment about Chicken Bryan, a dish served at Carraba’s Italian restaurants. When I researched online, I found numerous versions. We keep most of these ingredients in our pantry or in our garden.  Flavors of the melted goat cheese and tangy sauce made this a new favorite.

Chicken topped with Goat Cheese, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Lemon Butter Sauce


1 small yellow onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons butter for saute of onions and garlic, more added later to sauce

1/2 cup dry white wine

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

2/3 cup cold butter, sliced

1 1/2 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon salt 

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

extra virgin olive oil (for brushing chicken)

8 ounces goat cheese, room temperature, cut into 6 thick slices

Saute garlic and onion in 2 Tbsp. butter in a large saute pan over medium heat until tender. Stir in wine and lemon juice, increase heat to medium high, and simmer until reduced by half.

Reduce heat to low and stir in cold butter, one slice at a time. Stir in tomatoes, basil, kosher salt, and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.

Brush chicken breasts with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Grill chicken and remove from heat. Immediately place equal amounts of cheese on each chicken breast. Spoon prepared sun-dried tomato sauce over chicken. Serve with pasta.

 

 

 

Wagyu Flat Iron Steak with Herb Butter

We began a few months ago to host a neighborhood Farm to Table group which means deliveries are made weekly to our front courtyard, then picked up by neighbors who have placed orders. We have a number of local farmers and producers who offer a variety of locally made or raised foods. Our most recent addition to this group of vendors is a family who owns a Wagyu cattle ranch in Jackson County, southwest of our area. This beef is primarily grass fed but finished on hormone-free, non-GMO feed and is known for its marbling and flavor.  We ordered flat iron steak and prepared it in the simplest way – a quick sear in a hot iron skillet, then topped with butter blended with shallots and fresh herbs from our garden, an adaptation of a classic French accompaniment called maitre d’ butter. There is a similar recipe from Saveur online. Results?  My family’s version of a Michelin star!

Wagyu Flat Iron Steak with Herb Butter

Flat Iron Steak – We used 2 1/2 pounds for 6 adults. Tailor the amount to the portions you need – 6 to 8 oz. portions are average.

salt and freshly ground pepper

cooking oil

 

For the Herb Butter –

8 oz. unsalted butter

1 medium shallot, diced

1/3 cup roughly chopped fresh basil leaves

2 Tablespoons chopped tarragon or Mexican Mint Marigold (tarragon does not grow well in our area, so I always use the latter herb  because we have a lot of it in the garden.)

1/2 teaspoon pink Himalayan sea salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Rub steaks generously with salt and pepper and set aside to let rest for at least 30 minutes at room temperature.
In a low flat bowl, blend butter, shallots, salt, pepper, and herbs with a fork. Set aside until serving time.
Heat 2 Tablespoons oil in a 12″ cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 steaks and cook, turning once, until seared to your preference for doneness – about 4 minutes on each side for medium rare, 5-6 minutes each side for medium to medium well. I use 2 skillets and repeat for additional steaks adding more oil as necessary. Transfer steaks to serving platter and let rest for 5 minutes. To serve, top each steak with 2 tbsp. of the herb butter. I use a small ice cream scoop to make this quick and simple.

Oatmeal Mango Muffins

As I have mentioned before, I have a favorite breakfast cookbook that features recipes from various Bed and Breakfasts on the West Coast. I have made oatmeal muffins from one of their recipes that we liked which included peaches.I learned in Indonesia that mangos work well when peaches are not available. (We had a mango tree in our back yard there.) So since I had no peaches but several ripe Ataulfo Mangos, I chopped them into the batter for our muffins – a new breakfast favorite!

1 1/4 cups flour

1 cup rolled oats

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

2 Tablespoons molasses

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup peeled, chopped fresh mangos

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, mix wet ingredients and add to dry ingredients. Mix just until blended. Batter will be lumpy. Stir in mangos. Fill greased muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes or until muffins are done.

Pappardelle with Peas and Prosciutto

This pasta dish wins on several levels:  it is delicious, simple to prepare, and beautiful on the table! I cooked it in a large copper bottom saute pan and served it in the same pan. Add a loaf of crusty French bread and a simple green salad.

Pappardelle with Peas and Prosciutto

16 ounces Pappardelle

4 ounces chopped prosciutto

2 cups frozen peas

4 Tablespoons butter

1 cup Greek Yogurt (use sour cream if you prefer)

1/2 cup heavy cream

salt

pepper

ground nutmeg

coarsely shredded or flaked Parmesan cheese to pass at serving

Assemble all ingredients. This dish is quickly prepared, so you want to have everything you need ready.

Cook pasta according to package instructions. While pasta is cooking, make the sauce.

In a saute pan, combine yogurt, cream, and butter. Heat over medium heat, stirring. As soon as the mixture is hot, turn off heat and season to taste with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Put peas in a colander, set over sink. When pasta is ready to drain, pour the boiling pasta water over the peas, then add peas to cream mixture. Finish draining pasta in the same colander, then add to the pan along with prosciutto. Toss to coat with sauce. Serve from the pan and pass grated Parmesan at the table.

 

 

 

Greek Meat Balls (Keftedes)

Keftedes

Last week’s Greek soup led me to another Greek dish I have wanted to try: Greek Meatballs, or Keftedes.  Since a couple of family members are eating gluten free, I experimented with using Gluten Free bread crumbs and Gluten Free flour for dredging. The flavor was wonderful, but I think the gluten free items made the meat mixture a little looser, and also a bit harder to brown. I hope to try these again and see if my theory is correct. I will also try the optional cooking method, baking the meatballs in a very hot oven.

My favorite ingredients, and the things that added unique flavor to these meatballs were the fresh herbs added to the meat mixture (mint and parsley).  I also made homemade Tzatziki sauce which was a perfect addition to the plate of meatballs and warm flatbread.  Tzatziki recipe coming up next week!

Greek Meatballs (Keftedes)

1 pound ground beef

1 pound ground pork

1 cup breadcrumbs

1 egg

2 large onions, finely chopped in food processor

1/2 cup fresh parsley, minced

1/2 cup frresh mint, minced

2 heaping Tablespoons Penzey’s Greek seasoning (optional: 2 Tablespoons dried oregano)

4 large garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground black pepper

 

Oil for frying

flour for dredging

Combine all ingredients except the cooking oil and flour in a very large bowl. Using your hands, mix the ingredients, folding over from the bottom and kneading for about 5 minutes. The mixture should be smooth and well combined. Cover and refrigerate overnight or a minimum of 2-3 hours.  Shape meat into ball, dredge in flour and place on a parchment or foil covered baking sheet.  In a heavy skillet (I used 2 iron skillets), heat enough oil to generously cover the bottom of the pan, adding more as needed. Cook the meatballs in batches, uncrowded in the skillet, reducing the heat to medium during cooking. I found that 10-12 meatballs at a time worked best. Brown well on both sides, making sure they are well cooked through. Remove to paper towel covered baking sheet and repeat the process until all meatballs have been cooked. Serve as an appetizer, or on a platter with a stack of flatbread as an entree.  Makes at least 4 dozen meatballs. Optional method of cooking:  Preheat oven to 450 degrees and bake on a lightly greased baking sheet for about 20 minutes or well browned.

 

 

Fasolada

The recent gap in blog posts is due to a serious health issue for my husband meaning necessary time away from my computer. I probably missed the posting more than my readers, but I did get some time in the kitchen. Here is one of the results.

I have never traveled in Greece but I love to cook and eat Greek food. I think one reason is my own feelings are mirrored in the Greek philosophy of hospitality – well said in a recent Costco publication sent to members.

“Greeks are known for their hospitality; they don’t like to let people leave without giving them something to eat or drink. It’s considered an expression of love to cook for friends and family…And eating in Greece is a ritual, never rushed. It comes with the whole package of food, wine, ouzo and conversation. It’s the Greek way.”

This soup will go on our favorites list. It is my version of one I saw in the Costco article which gave credit for the recipe to Laura Langston.  I served it for a Sunday night supper with crusty bread. As with many soups, it tasted even better the next day for lunch.

Fasolada

3 cans Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 cup plus 3 Tablespoons olive oil

2 large onions, chopped

5-6 celery stalks with leaves, chopped

6 medium carrots, peeled and sliced

3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced

28 ounces passata, or tomato puree

6 cups of water (add more if the soup begins to thicken more than you like)

1 teaspoon salt or to taste

freshly ground black pepper to taste

juice of 1 lemon, plus 2 lemons to wedge and offer at serving

1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley served as topping

crumbled feta cheese served as topping

Add 3 Tablespoons olive olive oil to large soup pot and heat over medium heat. Saute onions, celery, carrots, and garlic for 2-3 minutes. Add beans, tomato puree, water, 1/2 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for an hour. Add juice of 1 lemon. At serving time, top each bowl with chopped parsley and feta cheese. Pass lemon wedges. Makes 8 large servings.

 

 

 

Roast Chicken and Root Vegetables

When I want to put a simple but hearty meal on the table for a family gathering, I like to use one pan dishes like this one. Any combination of veggies can work, but an assortment of root vegetables sprinkled with salt and chopped rosemary from the garden is one of my favorites. I you do not have a large baking pan like this one, do the same thing in 2 smaller Pyrex dishes. This recipe serves 10.

Roast Chicken and Root Vegetables

10 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

3 -4 cups small red potatoes

2 red onions cut in large pieces

6 carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks

3 parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks.

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/3 cup olive oil (add more if needed to coat all vegetables).

Spray a large (commercial size) baking pan with cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Pat the chicken breasts dry with paper towel and line sides of baking pan. Brush with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper

In a large bowl, toss vegetables with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pour into center of rows of chicken, filling in spaces around the chicken. Sprinkle all with chopped rosemary. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until chicken is done and vegetables are fork tender. If you wish, put the pan under the broiler for 2 or 3 minutes to brown the chicken breasts. Serve in pan or remove to large platter with one or two fresh rosemary sprigs as garnish.