Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Doesn't that just Beet all?

I'm a Southern farm girl...who doesn't like beets. I think I may possibly be the only person in my family that doesn't like them. Unlike my grown-up love for broccoli, my beet palate never developed in an enjoyable manner.

Since my husband enjoys them on occasion and my parents had plenty in their garden (which they are fun to harvest) I decided to be a loving wife and try my hand at canning/pickling beets.

1) Rubber Gloves are your friend if you do not want stained fingers
2) No matter how neat you try to be your kitchen will still look like you slaughtered something large.

It's definitely interesting to note the change during cooking. It goes from black lumps boiling in a pot that smells (as my friend Beth put it) like cooking dirt to an aromatic pot of jars that are truly a beautiful deep fuchsia color. I love the end result and while messy, it really is easy. I may (or may not) do some more. Why? Because I can and they are free...and if Armageddon happens I can choke down beets to survive. LOL

To Can beets:
Boil with parts of the tops (stems) on to reduce "bleeding". When soft, remove tops and roots. quarter or half depending on size. Place in clean hot jars. On stove boil 1 cup water, 1 cup apple cider vinegar, and 1 cup of sugar. If you have whole cloves, place about five in each pint jar. If you have crushed cloves use about a tablespoon in the boiling mixture. Once it comes to a boil, pour the hot liquid over the jars. (you may have to make more if you have a lot of jars. Mine did about 4 jars but I didn't pack the beets tight. Place lids and rings on. In a large pot or canner, place the jars completely submerged (to a 1/2 inche over the lids)and bring to a boil. Turn off and let cool slightly. Remove the jars and let cool and dry.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Menu Monday

Another week has passed in a flash. I feel like I missed two days because I slept it away thanks to a beesting and benedryl. I hate beestings and their affects on me! I was very fortunate it wasn’t a yellow jacket or something I’m more allergic too. I’m pretty sure it was a wasp and let me tell you, it hurt like the dickens! My arm is no longer swollen and other than a discolored bruise, you can no longer tell. (FIVE DAYS LATER…jeesh).

We made a lot of progress on the yard and pool this weekend the big garden leaves much to be desired. The morning glory vines that are reminiscent of the killer vines in The Ruins, have taken over out there. I tried picking beans Saturday morning and less than ¼ of the way down the vines were so thick they were tripping me and keeping me from finding my beans. Steve was supposed to take the weed eater through there but he was sidetracked by stringing up tomatoes. One of my new goals is to get a lightweight weed eater that I can handle so I don’t have to depend on him and his schedule. (because you all know I’m super impatient so it KILLS me waiting on someone).

My little garden is doing very well this year though. It’s driving me insane that part of my boxes are not planted but I’m reserving space for fall crops! I did get green beans canned last week and this week I’m going to work on canning some beets and tomatoes!

So what’s for dinner? A Very uncoordinated plan of things that probably do not go together but that’s okay:

Green beans and new potatoes and corn (probably served up with Turkey Melts)
Turkey Melts
Veggie Pizza
Baked Spaghetti
Biscuits, eggs, grits

I have a long weekend coming up, and I have lofty goals of yardwork/gardening but I have this dream in the back of my mind that I can and make preserves etc. I guess we shall see which one wins out!

Happy Summer ya’ll!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Coconut Cream Trifle

For my mom’s birthday (which falls at Father’s Day every year), I had planned on making coconut cream cupcakes. Due to a wedding I forgot we had to go to, I decided it would be a little simpler to make a trifle instead so I didn’t have to wait on cooling to ice etc. This turned out really well. It is SO rich. Mom claims it’s the best thing she’s ever eaten, but she may be a little biased and I’m not sure anyone loves coconut as much as she does.

This took a little longer than I expected just because of the cooling times for the cream. Assembling it is a breeze and would be awesome with some slivered almonds, chocolate chips or fruit like pineapple to give the layers more color and depth!

Ingredients:
1 white cake mix baked per instructions
1 15oz can of Cream of Coconut
½ cup sugar
2 tbs cornstarch
2 cups heavy cream
¾ cup powdered sugar
1 tsp coconut extract
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 bag shredded coconut

Directions:

Bake Cake per instructions and set aside to cool. (I used a bunt pan).

In a 350 degree oven (I did this while the cake was cooking), spread the shredded coconut on a cookie sheet. Bake in oven for 7-10 minutes, stirring every few minutes. Be careful. It burns easily. Set aside to cool.

In a medium sauce pan over medium heat bring coconut cream, sugar and cornstarch to a slow boil. Stir constantly. Reduce heat to medium low and stir until mixture is slightly thick. Pour into a glass bowl and let cool. Stir occasionally to release heat to cool it faster.

In a stand mixer, beat cream until whipped. Once stiff peaks have formed halve the mixture. Place one half with half of the cooled coconut cream mixture, folding together and refrigerate until assembly. Whip the other half for a minute more adding the coconut extract and powdered sugar till blended. You can store this in the refrigerator as well until needed.

To assemble: Stir the condensed milk into the coconut cream mixture (the half that doesn’t have the whipped cream in it). Set out all your layers: Cake (cubed), coconut Cream, Whipped coconut cream, whipped cream, toasted coconut. Start your layers in your trifle bowl with cake. Pour 1/3 of the coconut cream. Sprinkle with toasted coconut. Add 1/3 of the whipped coconut cream, sprinkle with coconut and then 1/3 of the whipped cream. Repeat 2 more times, topping with the remaining toasted coconut. Refrigerate for a few hours before serving for best taste.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Menu Monday

Another week has passed. Where does the time go? One minute I’m sweating over weeds in a garden and picking beans, the next I’m back at work on a Monday wondering what I’m going to prepare this week. I have no time to cook in the evenings with all this gardening going on!

I did get a chance to bake this weekend for father’s day. I made my father a squash pie and my mom (it was her birthday) a Coconut Cream Trifle. I will get those recipes posted soon!

I’m going to attempt to make these items this week as I need to cook out of the freezer to make room for all the veggies I need to put up as well as cook some of these veggies!!

Menu:
Buttermilk chicken Tenders
Garlic Roasted Chicken
Chicken salad (made from roasted chicken leftovers)
Fried Cabbage
Squash Pie (I have filling left over so I just need to make or buy a crust)
Squash Fritters
Japanese Stir Fry (Homemade)
Grilled cheeseburgers with homemade coleslaw
Zuchini Bread (for breakfasts)
Veggie Gratin
Green Beans with Potatoes (have some getting soft) and corn (from a can)
Glazed Sautéed beets and carrots

What’s In the garden this week?
Beets and carrots (from Mom’s garden)
Onions
Squash
Zucchini
Green beans
Salad tomatoes
Cucumbers(will have them by the end of the week)

Fruit in Season: Peaches, blueberries and Blackberries

Also, It's the first day of SUMMER!! Happy Longest Day of the Year!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Peach and Blueberry Sonker

I promised I would list every version and concoction of the Sonker through the summer. This one is not much different then the previous post but here it is. I am trying to clean out my freezer to make room for fresh preserves. I found a lone package of peaches frozen from last year. The package was small so not enough to do the traditional peach sonker but I mixed it with a pint of blueberries and some vanilla for a flavorful purple pie full of antioxidants and southern goodness. I can not express the simple goodness of this pie. I put this together with hardly any time while waiting for my ingredients to cook for my zucchini casserole. Both items went in the oven together. I turned the oven off when I took the casserole out and let the pie finish baking as the oven cooled down. When we were done with dinner, the pie was ready! How perfect can you get for a summer dessert?

Ingredients:
2 cups sliced peaches
1 pint blueberries
2 sticks of butter
2 cups of sugar
2 cups milk
2 cups Self Rising Flour
1 tsp vanilla

Directions:

In a 350 degree oven, melt butter in 9 x 13 casserole dish. When butter is melted, whisk in sugar and flour. Slowly whisk in milk and vanilla. When there are no lumps spread fruit evenly across surface. Bake for 45 minutes.

Zucchini Casserole II

I use zucchini and squash in various ways: zucchini bread, fried squash cakes, zucchini crab cakes, squash pie, calico squash casserole, stuffed zucchini parmesan and even Zucchini Almond Biscotti.

This year I am on a mission to expand my repertoire for this versatile, healthy and abundant vegetable. First up for the year? A new version of a simple zucchini casserole.

Ingredients:
4 ½ cups peeled zucchini cut in cubes
1 can Healthy Request Cream of chicken soup
1 container of light sour cream (8 oz)
4 large carrots peeled and coined
1 medium white onion chopped
1 stick of butter
1 sleeve Ritz Wheat Crackers
1 small can of French’s Fried Onion topping
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Boil Zucchini until just tender. Meanwhile, sauté carrots and onion in butter until tender. Drain zucchini. Remove carrots and onions from heat. Add soup and sour cream, salt and pepper directly to carrots and onion mixture. Stir in zucchini. Crumble ¾ of the crackers into mixture and stir gently. Pour into a greased casserole dish ( I used an 8 inch round corning ware soufflé dish). Top with the rest of the crackers crumbled and the can of French’s Onion topping. Bake at 350 for about 35 minutes.

Menu Monday-Zucchini Edition

So my garden is flourishing. I even picked my first tomatoes this weekend. Granted they are salad tomatoes but a tomato is a tomato! We also pulled up most of the cabbage this weekend so they didn’t bolt in the high heat like the rest of my broccoli did. I think I have three broccoli plants left and a few small heads of cabbage. Even more squash and zucchini came in though. I’ve been giving cabbage and zucchini and squash away by the bag full. I’m just not ready to go into canning/freezing mode. I need to make Saur kraut but I don’t have the time. I will rely on the fall crop for that I suppose. We only need a good dozen cans to get through the winter anyway and that doesn’t take that many heads to get.

Our small garden is ready for its second round of planting which I will be working on this week. Until that is done, I will be cooking our produce instead of worrying about preserving it. I’m not quite sure I can keep up with the yields but I’ll give it the old college try. This is a week full of garden goodness:

From the Simply In Season Cookbook:

Vegetable Pasta Salad pg 109
Squash Fritters pg 122
Italian Zucchini Pie pg 136
Zucchini Cookies
Zucchini Brownies

Meatloaf
Baked Chicken
Fried Potatoes

Fried Cabbage

Towards the weekend I’ll probably do some more homemade Cole slaw and grilled burgers too.

What’s on your menu this week? Are you reaping the benefits of your garden or local farmer’s market yet? I have to admit I haven’t been to the farmer’s market in two weeks thanks to my garden though I really need some filler ingredients that I don’t grow. That is definitely on the agenda next weekend.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Quick Garden Update

Just wanted to do a quick touch base. I've had a busy few weeks between getting the pool open, dealing with an overgrown jungle of a garden with all the rain and storms we've had, in-laws in and our shopping extravaganza etc.

Over the weekend we picked several cabbage and about 6 zuchini per day. Last night we have even more cabbage ready, collard greens ready, and we picked 10 zuchini and 16 squash! HOLY MOLY. I'm not ready to preserve this stuff yet! It's too early, my freezer isn't cleaned out.

I'm physically pulling my hair out, giving away produce and fixing meals from the freezer to clean it out.

Oy Vey. But I'm here. and Kicking and while Steve is out on semester break from school we are definately spending time together and working on the yard etc. Don't worry, I'll be back with a few recipes soon and hopefully pictures shortly after that as we should be getting my laptop fixed soon so I will have better access!! YAY!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Menu Monday

I actually have NO IDEA what I'm making this week because I spent the whole weekend working in the garden and shopping. (my life is terrible right?)

I do know I have a ton of zuchini and cabbage so the menu will include:

Zuchini bread and Fried Cabbage. LOL

the rest will look something like this:

Turkey Pot Pie (made two last night, so one will be dinner on Tuesday)

Baked Spaghetti with Spinach Wheat noodles

Hamburgers

Grilled Cheese with Bean Soup

We shall see though. This is DH's last week off of school (semester break) so we are trying to get this stupid pool cleared up and the garden worked on. I'm sure I'll be back to some cooking next week, especially since we are starting to get vegetables in that have to be prepared/put away. My kitchen and I will be getting REAL friendly here soon.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Blueberry Sonker

Growing up, I always looked forward to peach season. I LOVE peaches. They are probably one of my favorite fruits. There was something else about peach season I loved: Dessert. My momma was never one to bake desserts often. She could bake, don’t get me wrong, but it was for special occasions. She was a busy woman with two unruly girls to raise, gardens, farming, house and yard and a family business to deal with. So baking desserts wasn’t high priority and truth be told, none of us needed it anyway.

Oh the peaches though. We would get a box on the way home from the beach and we would have peach EVERYTHING. Peach ice cream, peaches in milk, peaches on cereal and Peach Cobbler were the highlights of childhood summers (okay, that and watermelon but that’s an entirely different story). My momma made the most delicious peach cobbler that she called Easy Pie. Boy was it easy. It was one of the first things I remember making with her and it can be added to and changed at ease (a little vanilla, a little cinnamon and nutmeg, a mix of berries etc).

Since I’ve grown up, I still make it but have learned a few things. It’s not just peaches that go well with this dish. It’s any soft fruit. I’ve also recently discovered (thanks to my momma) that this pie has a real name. Fruit pies made like this are called Sonkers. Sonkers is a name completely indigenous to the Mt. Airy, North Carolina area and expands out from there. (That’s Mayberry, as in Andy Griffith to ya’ll). They actually have a Sonker Festival every year complete with Pies of all size and fruit, blue grass music etc. that benefits one of the historical homes in the area.

There are several variations of the traditional Sonker and some argument about what the original was! Some use old biscuits and juicy blackberries. Still other’s make a deep dish fruit pie with dumplings. The most well known is the Easy Pie version.

I’m THRILLED and I am TOTALLY going to go this year. October 2nd. Mark your calendars if you are anywhere close to the area or planning a trip to “my neck of the woods.” I will report back on all the various ways of the Sonker and what is my favorite (though I doubt I will find one to rival my Momma’s but that’s pure sentiment…just don’t tell her that!)

Blueberry Sonker

Ingredients:
2 cups Sugar
2 Cups Self-Rising Flour
2 Cups milk
2 sticks of butter
1 pint Fresh Blueberries

Directions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place butter in a 9 x 13 casserole dish. Melt butter in heated oven. Whisk sugar into melted butter (right in the dish). Add Flour. Slowly whisk in milk. Pour fruit evenly over the top.

Bake for about 40 minutes or until bread is golden brown on top. Enjoy!

As I play with different versions of the Sonker I will definitely post them!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Menu Monday (day late)

Yesterday was Memorial Day, so instead of posting for Menu Monday, I used the holiday to remember those who are brave enough to die for us and spend time with friends. I had intended to work in the garden but unexpected rain prevented that course of action. This week is full of comfort foods with a focus on green vegetables and using what I have plus fresh foods from the farmer’s market.

Memorial Day: Grilled Steaks and Zuchini sticks, potato salad, and blueberry cobbler (and chocolate chip cookies, but I didn’t make them so I can’t claim them! LOL)

Chicken Pot Pie

Broccoli Casserole with Roasted chicken

Spinach Gratins with Turkey Meatloaf

And I always have a back up plan if I don’t feel like a certain meal one night. This weeks back up plan are two items I didn’t get to make this past weekend:
Blueberry Pancakes
Grilled cheese with leftover Bean soup (it’s in the freezer).

Baking:
(maybe, I don’t think I will have time)
Mint Chocolate Chip Brownies
Or
Orange Chocolate chip Scones