At our house, we have a saying..."Don't yuk my yum!". We are trying to raise kids that aren't picky eaters by exposing them to many different kinds of food. It wasn't that long ago that one of my kids asked "Why can't you cook food like everyone else? Like tater tot hotdish?" The reason? It's not very healthy or creative and I think it's kind of gross. I don't cook like that. I like to use fresh, healthy ingredients to make great tasting good for you dishes. I've created this blog to share my favorite recipes with you.


Follow my kitchen adventures from using up vegetables from our weekly CSA box to baking and creative cooking.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Whenever we go to the mall, my kids beg me to buy them a hot pretzel.  Every time we walk down the freezer aisle at the grocery store, they ask for the frozen soft pretzels.  Sometimes I give in...they are pretty delicious, but they're kind of expensive.  The other day, I tried out a recipe I found for homemade soft pretzels and I may never buy soft pretzels again.  These are amazing.  Yes, they take a little time and there are a few steps involved, but I bet you could make a double batch and freeze the leftovers, reheating them in the microwave or oven.  This batch I made didn't last long enough for a visit to the freezer, so someday soon I'll have to make them again. 

Soft Pretzels
1 1/2 c. warm water
1 packet yeast
4 - 4 1/4 c. flour
1 T. sugar
2 t. salt
1 T. olive oil
8 c. water
1/2 c. baking soda
1 egg
Topping for pretzels:  sea salt, parmesan cheese, poppy seeds, italian seasoning

Dissolve yeast in warm water.  In large bowl, combine 2 c. flour with sugar and salt, adding yeast mixture.  Stir until smooth.  Add remaining flour and stir until a firm dough forms.  Knead on floured surface for about 5 minutes.  Coat dough ball with olive oil and cover.  Let rise in a warm place for one hour.  Punch down dough and divide into 12 equal pieces.  Roll each piece into 18 inch ropes and shape into pretzels.  Meanwhile, boil water with baking soda.  Boil pretzels for 30 seconds each and remove to greased cookie sheet.  Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with salt, poppy seeds, parmesan cheese, etc.  Bake at 425 for 12 minutes.  Serve warm. 

The girls and I had these pretzels for an afternoon snack and ate the leftovers with chicken wild rice soup for supper.  I topped them with italian seasoning and salt this time and would definitely do that again.

I had to look up why the pretzels were boiled in the baking soda before baking and basically the answer is that they turn out better that way.  The cooking process starts in the boiling water, the pretzels get chewy, and the baking soda makes them brown and crackly on the outside.  If you don't boil them, they will be bready tasting pretzel shapes, but they won't be pretzels.  Trust me, it's worth the extra step.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Cinnamon roll waffles...genius!

I have recently discovered pinterest, a social media site where people post cool things they did or like. I have found several recipes on pinterest that I plan on making in the future, but I started with this super easy one. 

The kids and I are off for almost two weeks for Christmas break and I like to make special breakfasts for them when I can.  This morning, I fired up the waffle iron and made these quick cinnamon roll waffles.  These took about 10 minutes total, including time to warm up the waffle iron. 



I'm not writing out a real recipe for these because they are so easy you don't need a recipe. 
Step 1:  Buy a can of refrigerated cinnamon rolls.
Step 2:  Heat up your waffle iron.
Step 3:  Spray your waffle iron with non stick spray.
Step 4:  Open cinnamon rolls and put one in each quadrant of your waffle maker.
Step 5:  Shut waffle iron and cook until done (my light shuts off when they're done)
Step 6:  Repeat with remaining rolls.  My package had 8. 
Step 7:  Drizzle with icing included in the package.
Step 8:  Eat. 

These were so simple and super yummy.  They would make a great breakfast for a time when the oven is full of other things, like Christmas Morning. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Caramels


My mom makes the best caramels.  I have found that no matter what the recipe, if it came from my mom, I can never make it as good as she can.  The same holds true for this recipe for "Light Caramels" (light what?  color?)  Years ago, this is one of the recipes that mom put in the church cookbook and I dig it out every year with varied success.  Sometimes they end up hard as rocks, sometimes they are perfectly melt in your mouth chewy.  This year my first attempt turned out more like caramel sauce than caramels.  It was taking so long to get to the right temperature that I just gave up and decided to try again later.  Don't get me wrong, eating this over ice cream or just with a spoon is delicious, but I prefer it as a candy.

These do take a while, with lots of stirring involved, so make sure you have the time to spend on these.  It's worth it in the end to have fresh, delicious caramels to enjoy and share with friends!


Light Caramels (I always double this recipe)
1 c. white sugar
1 c. heavy cream
3 T. light corn syrup
2 T. butter
1 t. vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a deep soup pan over medium heat.  Stir frequently (I use a wisk).  When sugar is dissolved and mixture is boiling, carefully set candy thermometer in place and continue cooking until temperature reaches 245 degrees of firm ball stage.  (I don't have a candy thermometer, so I keep a cup of cold water handy and when a drop of syrup forms a firm ball when  poured in to the water it is ready.)  This takes about 30-45 minutes.  It is very important to stir frequently and towards the end constantly to prevent burning the caramel.  Be careful not to over heat or the caramels will be very hard.  Pour into a well greased pan.  Cool, then cut into pieces.  Wrap in wax paper if desired.  Store in a covered container or freeze. 

On my second attempt, I put the ingredients in a large soup pot and was able to maintain a higher temperature without the mixture boiling over, so they didn't take as long, maybe 30 minutes.  Sometimes, I like to sprinkle the hot caramels with pecans before they cool for a little extra flavor and texture.  These caramels definitely aren't diet food, but for special occasions they are a nice treat!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

mmm...Fudge!


Every Christmas season I like to make fudge and caramels with my girls. We got a start by making a double batch of fudge and I think this is going to last us awhile.  It made a huge pan...my biggest sheet pan, must be 11 x 17 at least.  Cutting the fudge into about 1 inch square pieces makes 187 pieces.  I better give some away before we eat it all! 

Just seven ingredients!
 Fudge (I doubled this recipe)
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup evaporated milk (I used 2%)
1 12-oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 7-oz. jar marshmallow creme
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
chopped nuts and heath bits (or whatever topping/mix in you like)

Combine sugar, butter and milk in saucepan, bring to full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Continue boiling 5 minutes over medium heat, stirring. Remove from heat, stir in chocolate until melted. Add marshmallow creme and vanilla, beat till blended. Either stir in nuts/heath bits or sprinkle them on top after you pour into greased 13 x 9-inch baking pan. Let cool and cut into 1-inch squares.
That's a big pan of fudge!
Last year I used mint chocolate chips for one batch I made and it turned out delicious.  Next time I may add some mint extract instead of the vanilla...something different. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Peppermint Bark

The time has come for some holiday baking.  On Sunday, the girls asked me if they could help me in the kitchen for awhile and they each picked out a recipe.  Anna picked out Peppermint Bark, which hardly counts as baking.  The hardest part was probably opening and crushing the candy canes and I made her do that part. 

Only three ingredients, how simple is that?
Peppermint Bark (you could cut this in half easily for a smaller batch)
1 box candy canes (12 in the box I used)
2 bags of dark chocolate or white chocolate chips (I used dark)
1 t. peppermint extract

Open and break up candy canes.  Melt the chocolate in the microwave.  I stirred it every 30 seconds, it took about 2 1/2 minutes.  Stir in extract.  You could also stir in the tiny smaller pieces of candy cane, too.  Pour onto wax paper, foil or greased cookie sheet.  Press in bigger pieces of candy cane.  Cool (not refrigerate), then break into pieces. 

In the past, I have made this with white chocolate chips, but they are not my favorite, so I tried dark chocolate chips.  Definitely better, in my opinion.  I will probably have to make these again before Christmas next week...these definitely aren't going to last that long.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Amazing Black Bean Soup

As I stared into my cupboards this morning planning my weekly menu, I found a bag of dried black beans that had been there for awhile.  With those beans in mind, I started searching the apps on my phone for a recipe that I could use them in.  Normally, I would just soak them overnight, simmer them until they were done, then freeze them in baggies for use with tacos and in soups.  Today, I was looking for something different.  I found exactly what I was looking for on my Epicurious app. 

This soup is not a weeknight soup unless you have done some work ahead of time.  The beans need to be soaked either overnight or quick boiled and soaked for a couple hours.  This worked out perfectly for a Sunday afternoon at home.  While the whole process took several hours, a lot of that time the beans were just sitting on the stove soaking.  Total hands on time was probably about 45 minutes, divided between beginning, middle and end.


Black Bean Soup (makes 6 servings)
1 lb. dried black beans
8 slices bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, diced
1 red or green pepper, diced
1 T. minced garlic
1 minced jalapeno or serrano, depending on how hot you want it (I had roasted serranos so I used one of those)
1 1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. dried thyme or 1 t. fresh
1 bay leaf
1 can diced tomatoes (14.5 oz),  do not drain
6 c. or more chicken broth (I used boxed this time)
 2 T. chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, juice squeezed out

Pick over and rinse beans.  For quick cook method, put beans in a pot and cover with 2 inches of water.  Bring to a boil, then shut off heat and let sit for an hour or two.  For slow cook method, cover beans with 2 inches of water and refrigerate overnight.  Either way, when beans are done soaking, drain and rinse them. 

Cook bacon in big soup pot over medium high heat, stirring occasionally until crispy.  Drain all but 1 T. of fat off the bacon, then add the onions, garlic and peppers along with the thyme, oregano and bay leaf.  Cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until onion is softened, about five minutes.

Add beans, tomatoes and chicken broth, and simmer, partially covered, stirring occasionally, until beans are very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.  Discard bay leaf and stir in cilantro and lime juice. 

Even though it is the middle of December, our CSA membership to Red Goose Gardens came in handy once again.  I was able to raid the freezer for thyme, peppers and serranos and could have used some tomatoes if I had thought of it. 

I served this delicious soup with warmed flour tortillas, using the tortillas to scoop some of the stew out of the bowl.  It would also go well with some kind of quesadillas or just plain tortilla chips.

Next time I will cook this in a crock pot after the sauteing step, which will make this soup even easier.  If you like brothy soup, use more chicken broth.  We tend to like stews at our house, so I don't use a lot of broth or water in soup recipes.  The six cups I called for is half of what the original recipe said and it's about perfect for a really thick bean soup.  You could probably skip the cilantro with little effect, but the lime is my own addition and really adds something to the flavor.  I also added the can of tomatoes because I thought it would go well in this recipe and I was right.  If you don't have the tomatoes, you could go without.

My family absolutely loved this soup.  The kids inhaled their bowls and asked for more, wondering when I was going to make it again.  I agree that this is probably one of the best dinners I've made in a long time. 
I can't want to make this again soon and will make sure to double the recipe next time so there are some leftovers.  Yes, we ate a whole bag of dried beans for supper. Don't worry, as part-time vegetarians, we keep a supply of beano in the closet.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Grandma Huck's Vegetable Soup

As I was looking through my recipe box for something to make for supper tonight, I found an old recipe card that Phil's Grandma Huck gave us quite a few years ago.  One side has her recipe for Pumpkin Blachinda, the other has the recipe for Vegetable Soup.  It  happened that I had everything I needed to make the soup, so I thought I'd give it a try.  The results were delicious, although my husband and children made jokes about the color all though the meal.  Because the recipe calls for beets and the cabbage I used was purple, the soup was a pinkish purple and did look kind of gross.

I followed the recipe as written pretty closely, though I used less liquid than called for and proportionally more chicken broth and less water, and added an onion for some extra flavor.  The recipe also called for a lot of canned vegetables and I had fresh or frozen versions so that's what I used. 


Grandma's Vegetable Soup
1 T. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 c. chicken broth
6 c. water
2 medium potatoes, diced
1 can diced beets, drained (I steamed about 5 medium yellow beets and added them instead)
1 can diced carrots, drained (I steamed a bunch of carrots with the beets and added them instead)
1/2 c. rice, uncooked
1 can tomatoes (I had some frozen tomatoes that I used)
1/2 small cabbage, shredded
1/2 c. cream (I used lowfat evaporated milk)

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a big soup pot.  Sautee onion in oil until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add water, broth, vegetables and rice, cooking for about 20 minutes, until vegetables are soft.  Stir in cream and add salt and pepper to taste. 

This made a large pot, probably 8 big bowls of soup, so it will feed a small crowd.  I know I will be happily enjoying it for lunch at least one day this week.  For added flavor and heartiness, you could add some cubed beef with the onions.  I'll probably do that next time.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Remembering Grandma Val with Peanut Butter Blossoms

Today is the 11th anniversary of the death of my mother-in-law, Valerie Huck.  It is also my daughter, Anna's 10th birthday.  Ten years ago, on the day Anna was born, we were happy that she could share her special day with the Grandmother she never got to meet.

To remember Grandma Val today, Olivia (who turned 8 last week), asked to make cookies.  Phil took this opportunity to bake with the girls while I got the last of my weekend homework done.  At first, they followed a recipe they picked up in the grocery store last night.  That one turned out way too salty, so they tried again with a recipe I've used over and over from "Cookies for a Year of Celebrations", a cookbook I got from my own Grandmother before I got married. 

While Phil was mixing up the second batch of dough, the girls got tired of helping and went to go watch a movie.  Before she left the room, Olivia said "you got this dad?".  She wanted to make sure he could handle it without her, I guess. The second batch turned out great and I am happily munching on a huge plate of my favorite cookies right now. 
The aprons the girls are wearing were made for their grandma by her mom when she was small.  Phil's apron was also made by Grandma Rose for Val when she was an adult. 
Peanut  Butter Blossoms (This is easily doubled, but 48 cookies is plenty)
1 1/4 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
3/4 c. creamy peanut butter
1/2 shortening
3 T. milk
1 T. vanilla
1 egg
1 3/4 c. flour
3/4 t. baking soda
1/4 c. sugar
48 unwrapped Hershey's Kisses

Heat oven to 375.  Mix together brown sugar, peanut butter, shortening, milk and vanilla.  Beat at medium speed until will blended.  Add egg, then beat until blended.  Combine flour and soda, then add to shortening mixture, beating a low speed until just blended.  Roll dough into 1 inch balls and then roll the balls in the sugar.  Place on baking sheet  2 inches apart.  Bake for about 10 minutes.  Immediately after removing from oven, place one Hershey's kiss in the middle of each cookie, then move the cookies to foil or wax paper to cool. 

This is one of my favorite holiday cookie recipes, but of course, it can be enjoyed all year 'round.  Happy eating!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cranberry Nut Bread


I am a sucker for quick breads.  I love banana bread, pumpkin bread and zucchini bread.  Last night, I made a double batch of cranberry bread, inspired by the abundance of cranberries in the grocery store.  I found the recipe on the back of the bag of cranberries.  These will be a great breakfast on Thanksgiving morning, maybe with some egg muffins

Orange-Cranberry-Walnut Bread (Makes 2 big loaves or 4 small ones)
4 c. flour
2 c. sugar
3 t. baking powder
2 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 1/2 c. orange juice (I used fresh squeezed because I had oranges, but not orange juice)
4 T. vegetable oil
2 T. grated orange peel
2 eggs, well beaten
1 bag of fresh or frozen cranberries (3 c.), roughly chopped
1 c. walnuts, coarsely chopped.

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Add juice, oil, eggs, and orange peel, mixing until blended.  Stir in the cranberries and walnuts.  Pour into 2 greased 9 x 5 loaf pans.  Bake for about an hour or until toothpick comes out clean.

Now that I have tried the bread, I would recommend a few things:  add more orange peel, and either fewer cranberries or more sugar, as this is pretty tart.  These would also make great muffins and probably freezes well also.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Homemade Pumpkin Pie

Editor's note:  I removed the pie recipe from this post.  I don't know what's wrong with it, but it's gross.  The crust recipe will work for any recipe you find elsewhere. 

Because I planned ahead this year, I was able to make a pumpkin pie totally from scratch.  As I discussed in a previous post, I got a bunch of pie pumpkins and kobocha squashes from Red Goose Gardens.  I baked them all and froze the pulp in 1 c. portions for future use.  When I thaw the pumpkin, I dump it over a strainer and let the extra liquid drain out in the fridge overnight. 

Until last summer, I had always been afraid of pie crust. It was one of those things I could buy at the store so why make it?  I looked online for an easy recipe and found this one, from about.com for Hot Water Pie Crust.  I have made it four or five times and it always comes out flaky and delicious.  Don't be afraid, just give it a try! 

Hot Water Pie Crust
14 T. shortening (I use Butter Crisco Stick)
1/4 c. hot water
1 T. milk
1/2 t. salt
2 1/4. c. flour

Put shortening in large bowl and whip it a little with a fork.  Pour the milk and hot water over the shortening. With a fork, whip the shortening and liquids  until it comes together, a minute or two.  This will make a mess with water spraying everywhere, so keep a towel handy.  Add flour and salt, stirring with a fork until the dough forms.  Divide dough into two balls and roll out each ball between 2 sheets of wax paper until it fits in your pie pan.  I usually freeze one for later and use one now.  Remove wax paper from one side of wax paper and lay in pie plate, wax paper up.  Carefully peel off the wax paper, patching as necessary. 

This pumpkin pie recipe is a result of a lot of research.  I must have read at least a dozen different recipes, looking for one that used fresh pumpkin and that used only ingredients I had.  This makes a huge pie, so use a deep dish pan or two smaller ones. 

**RECIPE REMOVED...EXPERIMENTATION IN PROGRESS**
Thanksgiving is still three days away and I have to look at this beautiful pie in my fridge until then.  It may not make it to my parent's house intact...

Monday, November 14, 2011

Roasted Squash with Pasta

I shared my love of Lynne Rossetto Kasper in a previous post.....she is a cooking goddess.  I try to listen to her radio show every Saturday at 2:00 and if I miss it, I listen to the podcast later.  I have learned a lot about cooking from her.  She always has great ideas about how to use up ingredients in the fridge and comes up with creative, delicious recipes.  I have her cookbook "How to Eat Supper" on my counter at all times, and refer to it frequently.  Along with delicious recipes, she also includes great stories about the history of using a certain food product or advice on alternate ways to cook things. 

I have an abundance of squash this fall and while they are mostly spaghetti squash, which I will post about another day, once I have perfected my recipe, butternut squash is my favorite.  Butternuts are the ones that are light brown in color and kind of long with one end skinny and the other fat.  Like most squash, they are hard to cut into, but with a little effort, they can be peeled, seeds scooped out and cut into small chunks for roasting.  Sometimes, you can even buy them in the store already cut into chunks, although they are probably more expensive that way and who knows what preservatives are on them.   

I have been making this recipe for a couple of years, probably since about 2009, when we first started getting our weekly CSA deliveries.  Squash is one of those items that I didn't have much experience with at first, but I have come to love it and have dragged my children kicking and screaming with me.  Along with using butternut squash, the recipe has a few added bonuses:  one, it is a great way to use up greens, which we always seem to have a lot of and two, it has fresh herbs in it, and you know how I love those



Sweet Roasted Butternut Squash and Greens Over (Bow-Tie) Pasta
(From How to Eat Supper by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift)
3 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 large onion, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 big handfuls of washed, dried and chopped greens (Lynne recommends escarole or endive, but I use kale, spinach or chard)
1/3 tight packed cup fresh basil leaves, torn (I used my frozen stash)
16 large fresh sage leaves, torn
5 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped (I used the jar of minced garlic)
1/3 c. olive oil
1/4 t. red pepper flakes (careful, it could get spicy quickly!)
1 T. brown sugar
sat and pepper
1 pound pasta (Lynne recommends bow tie, we like radiadore or penne, you pick...something bite sized)
1/2 c. half and half (I have been using low fat evaporated milk with great results!)
1 1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 450, putting a large sheet pan in the oven to heat up as well.  Mix together squash, onions, greens, herbs, olive oil, red pepper flakes and brown sugar in a big bowl, salt and pepper generously.  When oven and pan are hot, carefully dump the veggies on the pan and spread out.  Bake for about 25 minutes, turning the veggies a few times.  Once the squash is tender, turn on the broiler for a few minutes to caramelize the vegetables, watching closely so they don't burn.   Meanwhile, boil the water for the pasta and cook until tender.  I like the pasta for this recipe to be pretty firm, otherwise it turns mushy with the squash.  Drain pasta.  Scrape vegetables and pasta into large bowl and add half and half and cheese, tossing to blend.  Serve with more cheese on top, if desired. 
The squash I used this time was huge, so I used two pans.  I plan to use the leftover squash as a pizza topping one of these days. You could also just make the roasted vegetables and serve them as a side dish for a holiday meal! 
One thing I do with this recipe to make it more weeknight-friendly is roast the vegetables on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon and keep them in the fridge until later in the week.  I just heat them in the oven while the pasta is cooking and follow the recipe from there.  This recipe also reheats well and actually tastes better as leftovers.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Hosting Thanksgiving this year?

I love Lynne Rossetto Kasper.  She has a great show called "The Splendid Table" on MPR (Minnesota Public Radio) and she writes great cookbooks.  I have her old cookbook, "How to Eat Supper", but am excited to get my hands on a copy of her new book, "How to Eat Weekends".  As I posted previously, I have an issue with cookbooks.  I love to read them, but hate to follow them.  Lynne Rossetto Kasper has proven to be the exception to this rule and I plan on posting another day about her Butternut Squash Pasta and her Corn Chowder, both of which see pretty heavy rotation at our house. 

I rant about Lynne Rossetto Kasper today because I found this great guide to planning your Thanksgiving Dinner on her website.  If you are hosting Thanksgiving this year or just want to read about hosting Thanksgiving, check out her handy little chart by clicking on the icon below.  I hope you enjoy her as much as I do. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A little dessert

Phil and I are both on the Friends of the Library Board.  Last week, we held an event honoring those who donated money to the library.  We have done this for four years in a row now and every year we do a different theme.  This year's them was "Reading and Recipes", and most of our recipes were taken from books found in the library.  I volunteered to bring three recipes to go on the "Cookbooks" table.  One would think this would be easy.  Grab a cookbook and pick a recipe, right?  But I have a problem.  I love to read cookbooks and cooking magazines, but actually following a recipe is really hard for me. If I'm looking for a certain recipe, I look online.   I view cookbooks as more of a resource or a starting point.  I get ideas for what to make from the cookbooks and then usually go make up my own recipe.

After a lot of thought, I decided on three items.  I made deviled eggs (we have an abundance of eggs), vegetable pizza and mini cheesecakes.  I had a whole cookbook on deviled eggs and actually managed to follow a recipe for those.  Well, some of them.  I decided to freestyle a little and made up my own recipe for about half of them.  The veggie pizza was a result of a little research and experimentation and the cheesecake recipe was a combination of a few different recipes.  I wasn't going to write about any of these but the cheesecakes looked so pretty on the platter, I just had to share them.  With the holidays coming up, these might be a great treat to bring with you to dinner parties. 


Easy Mini Cheesecakes (Makes 48 mini muffin cups or 12 big muffin cups)
Crust:  oreos or mini oreos, depending on what size you are making (could also use vanilla wafers, or whatever your favorite cookie is)
2 bricks cream cheese, room temperature
2 eggs
1/2 c. sugar
1 t. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.  Put liners in muffin cups.  Put one oreo or mini oreo in each cup and crush with a spoon. (You could also crush them in a food processor first then put them in the cups.)  Blend together cream cheese, vanilla and sugar.  Make sure you use a mixer and blend well, otherwise the cheesecakes will have chunks.  Mix in eggs until just combined.  You could also stir in some mini chocolate chips at this point.  Pour over the oreo crumbs.  Bake for 15-20 minutes, depending on the size, until just set. 

When cooled, top with chocolate chips or fruit.  I looked for fresh berries for the garnish, but they are out of season so had to settle for kiwi.  They turned out delicious anyway.  Make sure you store them in the refrigerator.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Our Daily Breakfast...

I could spend a long time ranting about the goodness of steel-cut oats, but I'll try to keep it short.  I have never been a huge fan of oatmeal, but steel cut oats have changed my mind.  When you think of oatmeal, you probably think of the flattened out flakes that take a few minutes in the microwave to cook.  Steel cut oats are different than that.  They look like rabbit food...pellets, really. 

Every Sunday afternoon or evening (if I remember), I make a big pot of steel cut oats.  I divide them into 5 individual containers for Phil to take to work and put the rest in a big container for me and the girls.  This provides breakfast for the whole week.  This small amount of planning ahead makes a quick weekday breakfast.  It's as easy as pouring a bowl of ceral...scoop some in a bowl and heat it in the microwave.  Add milk and it's a nice hot breakfast. 


Steel Cut Oats (I quadruple this recipe for our family)
1 c. steel cut oats
3 c. water
cinnamon
brown sugar
raisins

Put the oats and water in a big pot.  Bring to a simmer and turn down so it doesn't boil too rapidly.  Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until it comes together like oatmeal should.  Remove from heat.  Stir in cinnamon, brown sugar and raisins to your taste.  Eat immediately or divide into containers and refrigerate.  To reheat, microwave for about 2 minutes. 

I like to cool this down a little with some soy milk before I eat it.  When I eat this for breakfast, I am not hungry for hours.  I even sometimes have a hard time eating my lunch because I'm still full. 

I have tried adding pureed pumpkin to this and have also cooked diced apples with the oats.  Both turned out well, but we prefer the brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins. 





Friday, November 4, 2011

Homemade Tomato Basil Soup

The colder weather is here.  One of my favorite things about fall and winter is being able to enjoy all the delicious soup and stew recipes I have collected. One of my new favorites is a homemade tomato soup that actually has a lot more vegetables in in than just tomatoes.  I am not usually a fan of tomato soup, but a while back, I tried someones tomato basil soup and fell in love.  I immediately went home and started searching for a version I could make myself.  
Once again, the food network website pulled through for me, providing a relatively simple and very delicious recipe that my family loves.  This recipe calls for canned diced tomatoes, but I have also made it with fresh and frozen tomatoes, all with great results.  If I use canned tomatoes, I use the fire roasted for a little extra flavor.  The original recipe called for a lot more olive oil and some butter, but why add extra fat to a healthy soup? 

Not as red as traditional tomato soup, but don't let the color fool you, this is delicious!

Tomato Basil Soup (This makes enough to feed the four of us with no leftovers)
2 (14-ounce) can chopped tomatoes (or the fresh/frozen equivalent)
3 T. extra virgin olive oil
Salt and  pepper
2 stalks celery, diced (with leaves)
2 small carrots, diced
2  onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced (I use the jarred stuff)
2 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup chopped basil leaves (I used my frozen stash from this post
1/2 cup heavy cream, optional (I used low fat evaporated milk)

Preheat oven to 450. Strain the chopped canned tomatoes, reserving the juices, and spread onto a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, to taste, drizzle with 2 T. of the olive oil and roast until caramelized, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a saucepan, heat remaining olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the celery, carrot, onion and garlic, cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the roasted chopped canned tomatoes, reserved tomato juices, chicken broth and bay leaf. Simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove bay leaf.  Add basil and cream, if using. Puree with a hand held immersion blender until smooth.

I think this recipe would also be great if you added some peppers (red, green, yellow, or orange), a potato or a little cauliflower as well.  As I do with all my recipes, I will continue to experiment with this one. 

I usually serve it with a plain old grilled cheese sandwich or garlic toast.   Enjoy!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Eggplant!

When we first started getting weekly vegetable boxes from Red Goose Gardens, we were a little overwhelmed.  There were a lot of items in those boxes that we were unfamiliar with.  I posted about tomatillos a few weeks ago, which was one of the veggies that puzzled me.  Another vegetable I had no experience with was eggplant.  Maybe it's growing up in the midwest, maybe it's living in the United States, or maybe it's just my family, but I had never tried eggplant before 2009. 

I decided that with my two small children, if I make it look yummy, they would eat it.  I was right!  I bread it, bake it, cover it with homemade marinara and cheese and bake it some more.  Served with or without pasta, it is delicious.  My kids say it tastes like chicken nuggets, and one of them even claims my "Eggplant Parmesan" is her favorite supper.  


Eggplant Parmesan
1 large eggplant (or a few smaller ones), cut into 1/2 " slices
1 c. breadcrumbs (see this post for how to make your own)
1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. milk
salt and pepper
1 c. Marinara sauce (I make my own, check it out!)
1/2 c. mozarella


Mix breadcrumbs with parmesan and a little salt and pepper.  Mix eggs and milk.  Heat oven to 400.  Spray a large cookie sheet with nonstick spray.  Dip eggplant slices in egg/milk mixture, then coat in breadcrumbs.  Lay on cookie sheet.  Bake for about 20 minutes until they start to brown.  Put a spoonful of  marinara and some cheese on top of each one and bake for about 10 more minutes, until the cheese is melty and browning. 

Depending on my mood, I may or may not serve this with whole wheat spaghetti and more marinara.  Sometimes, if I'm in the veggie mood, it's served with broccoli and some other vegetable.

I have also frozen the breadcrumb coated eggplant slices with success, but you have to peel and blanch them for about a minute before you dip them in the egg/milk mixture.  I then freeze them on a cookie sheet then put them in a baggie when frozen. 


We got about two dozen small eggplants one week this summer, and I had a hard time figuring out what to do with them.  They were too small for parmesan and I already had three baggies of that in the freezer.  I took the advice of Jaclyn at Red Goose Gardens and roasted it and froze it in meal-size portions.  I wash it, dice it up into 1/2 inch cubes, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted for about 45 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  I froze it in baggies and plan to use it in pastas, on pizzas, etc.  I hear it kind of tastes like mushrooms.

That's the eggplant on the left.
As is the case with a lot of items in our weekly vegetable delivery, the eggplant will last far into the winter.  When I want a quick and healthy supper, I can just pull out a baggie of eggplant and have parmesan or mix the cubes into marinara.  Can't beat the taste of summer all year 'round.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Basil!

 
I wrote about my love of fresh herbs a few weeks ago in this post.  This love is relatively new, but I now grow many of my own herbs throughout the year.  Basil is one of my favorite herbs.  I grow a little of my own, but will buy it in bulk if I can find it.  For about 6 weeks this summer, we got huge bundles of it in our boxes.  In addition, I also bought an additional two pounds early in the season.  I do several things with this basil.  First, I make pesto.  Second, I make marinara sauce. If there is any leftover (and there often is!), I freeze it. 




Basil Pesto
4 c. fresh basil leaves (make sure they're pretty, with no brown spots and unwilted)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
4-6 T. olive oil
1 t. lemon juice
1/3 c. walnuts

In food processor or blender, combine 1 c. basil, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and walnuts.  This gets all the non-herb ingredients mixed together.  Add more basil as the basil is combined.  Add a little water if you have trouble blending it together.  Use fresh or store in the freezer. 

Freezing pesto is super easy.  I put it in ice cube trays or mini muffin cups and throw it in the freezer.  When they are frozen, I put the cubes in baggies.  These keep forever and are great for a quick meal.

I use the pesto plain on hot pasta with a little parmesan cheese.  I also use it to punch up tomato-based pasta sauces on occasion.  My favorite way to use it is as an alternative to pizza sauce.  Top it with parmesan, chicken, black olives, sun dried tomatoes, onions, etc.  Delicious...

While it is certainly easier to buy a can of spaghetti sauce at the store, none are as good as homemade.  I like to think that my recipe is pretty easy, and a little work at the front end pays off huge with this amazing sauce: 


Homemade Marinara Sauce
1-2 T. Olive Oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
2 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes (I use fire roasted) OR the equivalent in fresh tomatoes (I have several bags frozen from abundant times, so I sometimes use those)
1 T. minced fresh rosemary
a pinch or two of red pepper flakes
2 c. fresh (or frozen) basil, chopped
salt

Heat oil in large pot.  When oil is hot, add onion and garlic, cooking until softened and fragrant.  Add in tomatoes, rosemary and red pepper. Cook for about 30 minutes on a low simmer, stirring regularly.  As the sauce starts to cook down and come together, add the basil.  Cook for about 15 more minutes, tasting for salt and maybe more pepper. 

I serve this over pasta chunky like it is or will use my immersion blender to make it nice and smooth.  Sometimes I cook it down even further and spice it up a little more and use it for pizza sauce.  More often, I freeze it in meal-sized containers and serve with pasta or eggplant parmesan. 

Freezing basil is easy.  I make sure it's clean, then put it in baggies and freeze it.  Sometimes I spread it on a cookie sheet first and then put it in baggies after it's frozen, but the end results are the same.  I use it in any cooked recipe that calls for basil.  It will not turn out as fresh and green as fresh basil, but the taste is the same.  I can't tell the difference, and it's a great way to carry over the taste of summer well into the winter.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Pumpkin Bread

Last weekend I baked the three kabocha squashes we got from our delivery from Red Goose Gardens.  I did a little research on them and discovered that they are a great substitute for pumpkin in most recipes, so I decided to bake them. 
Kabocha squashes.  I had three of them about the size of a baby's head.  Together, they made 6 cups of puree. 

To bake the squashes, I washed them, then just threw them in a 350 oven for about an hour.  I let them cool a little, then cut them in half, removed the seeds and stringy stuff and then scooped out the flesh & mashed it with a fork. 

I froze four cups in two cup portions for later baking adventures.  With the 2 cups I didn't freeze, I made pumpkin bread.  It's that time of year when the smell of baking pumpkin the the spices that go with it is just so delicious.  This recipe is totally stolen from simplyrecipes.com, which always seems to have the exact recipe I'm looking for.  I made it my own by altering the spices a little, adding brown sugar and substituting plain yogurt for some of the oil, but the basic recipe is theirs. 

Pumpkin Bread (Makes one loaf.)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 t. of salt
1 c. sugar (I used half white sugar and half brown sugar)
1 t. baking soda
1 c. pumpkin purée (or squash)
1/2 cup olive oil (I used plain yogurt for half of the oil)
2 eggs, beaten
1/4 c. water
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. ginger
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda. Mix the pumpkin, oil, eggs, 1/4 cup of water, and spices together, then combine with the dry ingredients, but do not mix too thoroughly. Stir in the nuts.  Pour into a well greased  9x5x3 inch loaf pan. Bake 50-60 minutes until a toothpick poked in the very center of the loaf comes out clean. Turn out of the pan and let cool on a rack.


Tastes and smells like fall!  I doubled the recipe and froze one of the loaves for later.  Iwent out of town for a few days and looked for the extra loaf in the freezer when I got home, only to find it gone.  Phil and the girls had eaten it for breakfast.  Guess I'll have to make more!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

We're popping!

This post could just as well be titled "Things I could buy but I make them instead".  My goal today is to share my recipe for Jalapeno Poppers, but in order to get there, I need to talk about bread crumbs first.  Why buy a can of bread crumbs in the store for $2 when you can make your own out of the heels and leftovers of the bread in your fridge and freezer?  I save up these leftovers until I have quite a few pieces.

I usually try to dry them out a little by putting them in a low oven or leaving them on the counter for a day or two.  When they get a little crispy, I just put them in my food processor and grind them until they are crumbs.  This tray of bread made about 2 c. of crumbs. 

I freeze the crumbs in a big baggie and take them out as needed.  I use them for meatloaf filler, eggplant Parmesan, breading chicken or, in this case, jalapeno poppers.  

Jalapenos are not something I usually buy, but we have been getting an unusually large number of them in our weekly boxes from Red Goose Gardens.  As I showed in this earlier post about tomatillos, I sometimes roast them for later use or use them in salsas. 

Since Phil and I both like to order Jalapeno Poppers in restaurants, I wanted to find a recipe for baked poppers that would still be delicious but not so bad for us.  I hit the nail on the head on the first try with this recipe from Emeril.  I have made it many times and the only problem is that sometimes what I think are jalapenos are serranos and they are way too spicy for me to eat on their own like this.  Luckily, Phil doesn't care if I take a bite and decide they're too spicy, he'll eat my leftovers. 

This recipe is a little putzy, especially if you don't have the "Essence" herb/spice mix on hand, but it's easy to mix and the end results are delicious.  As I stated, this recipe is 100% stolen from the Food Network's website, so  Emeril gets the delicious credit for this one. 

Baked Jalapeno Poppers
12 fresh jalapeno peppers, halved lengthwise, stems, seeds and membranes removed
6 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 c. grated Monterey Jack or mozzarella cheese
1/2 t. cumin
1/2 t. cayenne, or less, to taste
2 large eggs
2 T. milk
8 t. Essence, recipe follows
1 c. dry breadcrumbs
1/2 c. flour

Preheat the oven to 350. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.  In a bowl, cream together the cream cheese, Monterey Jack cheese, cumin, and cayenne.  In a small bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, and 2 teaspoons of the Essence. In a shallow dish, combine the breadcrumbs and remaining 4 teaspoons of Essence. In a third dish, combine the flour and remaining 2 teaspoons of Essence. Spread 1 tablespoon of the cheese mixture into the middle of each jalapeno half. One at a time, dredge in the flour, dip into the egg mixture, then dredge in the bread crumbs, pressing to coat. If necessary, repeat the process. Place the coated peppers, cut side up, on the prepared baking sheet and bake until the filling is runny and the crust is golden, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately with ranch dressing.

*Essence (Emeril's Creole Seasoning):

2 1/2 T. paprika
2 T. salt
2 T. garlic powder
1 T. black pepper
1 T. onion powder
1 T. cayenne pepper
1 T. dried leaf oregano
1 T. dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.


Obviously this is too many for the two of us, so I try to make them when we have company or when we are at the lake.  Hopefully, they reheat well because about half the pan is leftover in the refrigerator.  Lunch anyone?  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What to do with Tomatillos?


We have been getting loads of  tomatillos in our CSA boxes from Red Goose Gardens for the past few weeks. In Spanish, the word for tomatillo (tomato verde) literally means green tomato.  They are usually about the size of a golf ball, so a little smaller than most tomatoes.  They are used often in Mexican cooking and I tend to stay with that theme.  90% of the time, I make salsa verde out of the tomatillos.  First, I remove the papery covering, wash them and roast them in the oven to get good flavor out of them.

I roasted hot peppers at the same time, used a few for the recipe and froze the rest for later.  Not sure what I'm going to use them for, though.   
When they are cooled enough to handle, I make them into salsa verde.  There are many recipes for this out there, but this is my favorite: 

Salsa Verde
1 1/2 lb tomatillos
1/2 c. chopped white onion
1/2 c. cilantro leaves (I leave this out if I don't have it)
1 T.  lime juice
1/4 t. sugar
2 Jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded roasted (I roast them with the tomatillos)
Salt to taste

Place tomatillos, lime juice, onions, cilantro, chili peppers, sugar in a food processor and pulse until all ingredients are finely chopped and mixed. Season to taste with salt. Store in refrigerator or freezes well in baggies. 

This salsa is often eaten with chips just like any other salsa, but I think it's a little sour for that.  As I said in a previous post about Chicken Enchiladas, I most often use this salsa as enchilada sauce.  This time, however, I used it as a base for Chicken Tomatillo Stew.  This recipe is a combination of recipes I found online, so I have a hard time citing my source.  My biggest influence is probably simplyrecipes.com once again. 

Chicken Tomatillo Stew
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 t. cumin
1 t. coriander
2 c. chicken stock (I had homemade but boxed or canned is fine)
2 c. salsa verde (you can buy this rather than make it)
1 t. oregano
2 T. chopped cilantro

Heat about 2 T. of oil in a big soup pot over medium heat.  Add cubed chicken, seasoned with salt and pepper.  Brown chicken on all sides.  Remove chicken.  Heat a little more olive oil in the pot, then add the onions, cumin and coriander, cooking until onions start to soften.  Add back the chicken, then add chicken stock, tomatillo sauce and oregano.  Heat to simmering, then cook for about 20 minutes longer until chicken is done.  Stir in cilantro right before serving.  Serve over rice and topped with sour cream to cool down if the spice from the jalapenos in the salsa verde is a little much for you.


I forgot to remove the seeds from the peppers before I made the salsa so ours was pretty spicy.  I think the girls had just as much sour cream as stew in their bowls, but they both said they liked. it.  Everyone agreed that this recipe can be added to our regular rotation.  It's a great way to use all that salsa verde in the freezer!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Muffins for Breakfast!

I woke up yesterday morning in the mood to bake.  Olivia had a friend sleep over and I promised them I would make "Egg Muffins" for breakfast.  This recipe is one that I use with my students often.  It is easy, relatively inexpensive (especially with our fresh eggs) and pretty dang delicious.   The other day Phil came home with a magazine full of recipes and pointed at this one and said we should make it.  I had to laugh, because I make it all the time, just not at home.  I was happy to share this recipe with my family. I was hoping for leftovers to put in the freezer, but the five of us easily devoured 24 muffins, with Olivia claiming she ate 7. 

Egg Muffins (makes 24)
1 can of flaky biscuits (8 biscuits)
6 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. milk
1/4 c. bacon pieces or chopped ham (bacon is better)
1/4 c. shredded cheddar


Preheat oven to 400.  Spray muffin tin or cups with olive oil or nonstick spray.  Separate each biscuit into 3 layers and flatten each layer like a pancake.  Lay each pancake in a muffin tin, these will be the crust.  Sprinkle in a few pieces of bacon or ham.  Combine eggs and milk in a glass measuring cup with spout.  Pour egg mixture into muffin tins.  Top with cheese.  Bake for 20 minutes. 


These little silicon muffin cups are so cute and easy.  This kids love them and I love that they wash up nice, nothing sticks to them and they don't take up much space in the cupboard. 
 After the egg muffins were devoured, the girls asked for muffins.  I decided on banana chocolate chip because they're super easy and I know the kids love them.  I almost always have bananas in the freezer that are past their prime, but are still great for recipes.  I either make smoothies or shakes out of them or save them for baking. 

This is a recipe straight out of the Betty Crocker Cookbook I got for a wedding gift.  Once in a while, Betty gets it right, especially with the baking recipes.  I still use the chocolate chip cookie, banana bread, apple pie and apple crisp recipes from this cookbook as well.  The cookbook has spent so much time on my counter the pages are stuck together and some are missing.  I may have to go on ebay or amazon to find a replacement once of these days...

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins (12 muffins, but I always double it and freeze some)
3 medium mashed ripe bananas
3 T. vegetable oil
1 large egg
1/3 c. sugar
2 c. Bisquick
1/2 c. chocolate chips

Heat oven to 400.  Grease bottoms of muffin cups.  Beat bananas, oil, egg, and sugar until blended.  Stir in Bisquick, then chocolate chips until moistened.  Divide evenly between muffin cups.  Bake about 15 minutes until golden brown.


Combined, these two recipes made a great start to the weekend.  I honestly wish I had the time and energy to bake like this all the time.  I'll have to settle for getting my fix on weekends and making double batches to get me through the week.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Our chickens provided our supper

All eight chickens eating supper to make my supper!
 I am not a farmer, but I have chickens.  Eight of them.  If these chickens produce eggs at the rate they're supposed to, that means we'll be getting about 50 eggs a week.  That's a lot of eggs.  So far, we have been able to stay on top of them by using or selling them, but I'm thinking that eventually, there's going to be a backlog of eggs in my refrigerator.   Want to buy a dozen?  My kids charge $2 and split the proceeds as their fee for collecting the eggs and making sure the chickens have food and water. 


Aren't they pretty?  I learned early on in this process that the chickens with white feathers lay white eggs and the chickens with brown feathers lay brown eggs.  Since the brown chickens aren't all the same color brown, we have a variety of egg colors. 

It won't be long before I have enough eggs for a baking binge, and I'm working up to it.  Banana muffins and chocolate chip cookies have been in my thoughts lately, so look for those recipes soon.  

Until I really get the urge to bake, though, I am going to make do with supper.  Tonight's supper was a fritata.  When we first started getting our vegetable boxes from Red Goose Gardens a couple years ago, I was always looking for a way to use up the greens we got every week.  I discovered an easy, flexible fritata recipe online somewhere and have definitely made it my own.  Now that my goal is twofold, using up eggs and greens, I have even more reason to make this delicious meal.  I have served it for breakfast, lunch and supper.  It is good hot and at room temperature.  Whatever I do to this recipe, it turns out delicious, so just throw in what you have and don't worry about it. 


Fritata
1 T. Olive Oil
1 small potato, washed and diced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 small onion, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
1 small green pepper, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced (I use the stuff from the jar)
(if I have some zucchini, I will thin slice it an throw it in as well)
1/2 c. chopped ham
2-3 c. greens, washed and chopped (spinach, chard, beet greens)  frozen works too
handful of chopped basil
1/4 c. shredded cheese (swiss, cheddar, pepperjack, whatever you like)
6 eggs, beaten
salt
pepper
1/4 c. milk or half and half

Heat oven to 400.  On top of stove, heat oil in oven proof skillet on medium.  Add potato, onion, pepper and garlic.  Cook, stirring often, until the veggies start to get soft, about 5 minutes.  Add ham, greens and basil.  Cover the pan to let greens wilt.  Cook, stirring often until the greens have shrunk down.  Turn off heat.  Top with cheese, then dump in egg mixture.  Slide into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until the eggs are done. 


This goes well with nearly any fruit or vegetable side.  I have been known to cut up a melon, make a salad or heat up some frozen vegetables to go with it. In the spring, asparagus is an amazing match for this dish.  Tonight, we had Kale Waldorf Salad, also a result of an online search for ways to use up greens.  Kale is a sturdier green and I prefer it raw rather than cooked.  This salad is best on the second or third day after the flavors are blended, so plan ahead.  It lasts for a few days, so don't be afraid to make a lot, I eat it for lunch often lately.  The recipe is vegan and does not use mayonnaise, but the dressing is still creamy and delicious.

Kale Waldorf Salad (borrowed from the Whole Foods Website)
4 cups packed finely chopped raw kale, preferably dinosaur kale
1 large red apple, chopped, divided
1 cup thinly sliced celery
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped, divided
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons raisins or craisins, divided
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons water, more if needed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon sea salt

Place kale in a large bowl. Add half the apple to kale along with celery, 1/4 cup walnuts and 1/4 cup raisins. Put remaining apple in a blender along with remaining 1/4 cup walnuts, remaining 2 tablespoons raisins, mustard, water, vinegar and salt. Purée until well combined and slightly thick, adding water if needed to thin. Pour dressing over kale salad and toss to combine. 

Kale Waldorf Salad
Ok, I admit it.  Eating all these vegetables has me craving some chocolate.  I just ripped open a bag of dark chocolate chips and dug in.  Hey, dark chocolate it supposed to prevent heart disease or something, right?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

An easy weeknight dinner

Confession time.  I grow my own herbs.  In the prime of summer, I love sitting on my front porch with my basil, chives, cilantro, sage and rosemary plants and enjoying their wonderful aromas.  If Phil is sitting with me, I run my hands through the plants and quiz him to see if he can tell which herbs are which by their smell.  Now that it's fall, I have brought in the sage and rosemary to enjoy for a little while longer. Not only do we get two nice plants to make the living room look pretty, we also get delicious flavors for our meals.    I don't use them very often, but when I do, it's totally worth the effort of watering a plant twice a week.  Other herbs are waiting in the freezer to be used over the winter.  I made a ton a basil pesto for pizzas and pasta and have just plain frozen basil, parsley, thyme, rosemary and cilantro waiting to be thrown into a recipe as well. They don't look as pretty after they've been frozen, but they taste them same, which is way better than dried. 

 
Sage and Rosemary
 It's a proven fact that I love to cook.  I also love to eat really good food.  Sometimes, I either don't have the time to cook a big meal or I don't have the desire to spend  a lot of time in the kitchen.  Tuesday nights are like that at our house.  We've been at work and school for two days, our shorter nights of sleep are catching up with us and the to-do list is getting longer and longer.  For all of those reasons, tonight's supper revolved around a bag of frozen cheese ravioli and a big handful of fresh sage. This super easy recipe is one of my creations, so it bears my name :). 

Vicki's Cheese Ravioli with Sage
1-2 T. olive oil or butter (I use a combination)
4 garlic cloves, minced (I used the stuff out of the jar)
a big handful of sage leaves, washed and chopped
1/4 c. white wine or chicken broth (tonight I used chicken broth, but I prefer the wine version)
1 bag of frozen cheese ravioli or tortellini
1 pre-cooked chicken breast, shredded or cut in a tiny dice (we had roasted chicken for supper last night, so I just saved some.)
1/2 c. half and half
1/2 c. shredded parmesan cheese
salt and pepper

Heat a nonstick skillet on medium heat to melt the butter or heat the oil.  When the oil is hot, add the garlic and the chopped sage.  Cook until garlic and sage begin to brown, but don't burn them.  It takes maybe three minutes.  Add frozen ravioli and wine or broth to the skillet and cover.  Stir occassionally, cooking for about 10 minutes, or until the ravioli is no longer frozen.  Add chicken and cook for a few more minutes.  Just before serving, pour in the half and half and cheese.  Keep stirring.  As the half and half and cheese heat, they will melt and combine into a creamy sauce.  Add salt and pepper if you like and serve. 

It's not the healthiest meal I cook and it's not going to win any awards, but we all like it and it's super easy to throw together if you have all the ingredients.  To make up for the lack of vegetables in the main dish, I served it with a big lettuce salad with lots of veggies mixed in.