31 August 2010

We love to grill out, especially on the weekends. Last weekend we received a quarter of beef, so we decided to have steaks on the grill. We actually did the entire meal on the grill: steaks, sweet potatoes, and zucchini. Here is the recipe we used for the sweet potatoes. I chose this recipe because so many of the others called for boiling or steaming the sweet potatoes before putting them on the grill. What's the point of grilling them if you are going to go to all that trouble inside?

Grilled Sweet Potatoes

2 large sweet potatoes, halved lengthwise
2 tbsp butter, softened
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
4 tsp honey, optional

Cut four pieces of heavy duty foil, about 18”x12”; place a potato half onto each piece of foil.
Spread cut side with butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fold foil over potatoes and seal tightly.

Grill covered, over medium-high heat for 50 minutes, or until tender, turning once.

To serve, fluff potatoes with a fork and drizzle with honey, if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

These were so good! I thought that I would need to add some salt and/or butter to them at the table, but they were perfect! So perfect, in fact, that we decided not to even mess with the honey. They turned out exactly like mashed sweet potatoes inside the skin. Yummy! And they actually took less time than what the recipe called for. So keep your eye on them.

We absolutely love sweet potatoes and will definitely be making these again before summer is over.

28 August 2010

If you have ever had freshly-squeezed lemonade, I don't have to tell you how good it is. If you haven't, take it from me, it is amazing. We had a nice summertime meal outside on our deck last night (grilled steaks, grilled zucchini, and grilled sweet potatoes), and I thought nothing would go better with it than homemade lemonade. I got this recipe from The Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, which I have borrowed from the library. (Yes, I sit around reading cookbooks I have borrowed from the library!)

Freshly-Squeezed Lemonade

3 cups cold water
1 cup lemon juice (5 large lemons)
½ cup – ¾ cup sugar
Ice cubes
Lemon slices

In a pitcher stir together the water, lemon juice, and sugar until sugar is dissolved. (Start with ½ cup sugar and then taste to see if it needs more.) Chill in the refrigerator. Serve in glasses over ice. Garnish with lemon slices.

Makes 1 quart.

The original recipe called for ¾ cup sugar, but I like my lemonade a bit tart, so I started with ½ cup and tasted it . I then added another 2 tbsp. Always easier to add more; quite difficult to remove some! That amount was just perfect, but I'm sure it will vary depending on the lemons. The lemons I used were quite large and it took five.

The only thing I didn't like about this recipe is that it didn't make enough! Jim and I easily could have gone through another quart, it was so good. But I had no interest in juicing another five lemons!

This is the perfect beverage for these last few weeks of summer. Enjoy!

27 August 2010

Someone gave us a bunch of cucumbers so I decided to try making refrigerator pickles. I had never done it before, but it seemed easy enough. I found this recipe and altered it a bit to my liking. Here is how I made them.

Refrigerator Dill Pickles

2 cups water
¼ cup white vinegar
1 tbsp pickling salt
4 sprigs dill
4 garlic cloves, halved
4 bay leaves
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1-2 lb. cucumbers, cut into slices or spears (the amt depends on how they are cut & how tightly you pack the jars)
4 half pint jars

To make the brine, put water, vinegar, and salt in a small saucepan and heat to boiling. Remove from heat.

Sterilize your jars by running them through the dishwasher and then not touching the insides or lip again. Pack each sterilized jar with prepared cucumbers, 1 sprig of dill, 1 clove of garlic, 1 bay leaf, and some of the mustard seeds. Pour the hot brine into the jars, filling the jar up to the inner lip (about ½” from the top). Screw on a lid and let them sit out on the counter for an hour or two to cool, then put in the fridge.

Your pickles will be ready in about a week, depending on how thick the cucumbers are.

Makes 4 jars of pickles.

The original recipe called for black peppercorns and red pepper flakes, but I left those out because I didn't want it too spicy. I'm glad I did, because they turned out a little spicy anyway. I sliced the garlic instead of just cutting it in half. That could be part of it. When I tried them and found that they were spicy, I strained all of the solids (mustard seeds, garlic slices, dill, and bay) out of the liquid so that they wouldn't continue to get spicier.

You can also use this recipe to pickle baby corn and carrots.

This was fun! I will definitely do it again next summer.

I'm linking this recipe us as part of The Garden's Bounty recipe blog hop series hosted by Savannah of Hammock Tracks.


Today's theme is pickles, preserves, or salsa.  These refrigerator pickles are a great way to use up all those cucumbers from your garden.  Check out these other great ways to preserve your garden's bounty below!

26 August 2010

I'm not posting a picture of the finished dish because well, it wasn't pretty. It tasted good, it just did not look appealing. I know how to make it look better, so I will do that the next time I make it and post a picture of it then.

This is a recipe from one of my cookbooks, Food & Wine Magazine's Quick From Scratch Italian Cookbook. I have several cookbooks on my shelf, but rarely do I make recipes from them. I have decided to include at least one new recipe from a cookbook each month when I do my meal planning. This is the one for August. I changed it just slightly, to fix the aforementioned ugly problem, and this is how I will make it next time.

Baked Pork Chops with Swiss Chard

1 lb. Swiss chard, stems removed, leaves washed and cut into 1” pieces
2 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1½ tbsp grated parmesan
2 oz. fontina cheese, grated
4 pork chops

Preheat oven to 450°. In a large bowl, toss the Swiss chard with 1 tbsp of the oil, ¼ tsp of the salt and ¼ tsp of the pepper. Place chard in a 9x13” baking dish. Sprinkle the parmesan and fontina over the chard.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Season pork chops with ¼ tsp salt and pepper. Brown pork chops on both sides. Place pork chops on top of chard in baking dish.

Bake until the pork chops are just done, about 10-15 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 4 servings.

The reason it turned out so ugly is because the original recipe did not call for browning the pork chops before adding them to the baking dish. You were just supposed to put the raw pork chops right on the chard. I thought it was kind of weird, but I did it anyway. It came out tasting just fine, and they cooked through completely in the time indicated (18 mins.), but the pork chops were really pale and not appetizing to look at. I was afraid that if I posted the picture of them, no one would want to make it! Which would be a shame, because it really was a tasty dish.

I had never had Swiss chard before and this was an easy recipe to try it out with. I got the red chard; apparently you can buy green too. The chard does lose a lot of water during cooking, so if you buy the red, don't be alarmed by the pinkish liquid in the bottom of the baking dish. At first I thought it was blood from the pork chops, but soon realized that it was from the chard. I really liked it. I would say that if you like spinach, you will probably like Swiss chard. The chard cooks way down, like spinach does when you cook it. Here is a pic of it when I first put it in the baking dish:

Pretty! I was astonished when I pulled it out of the oven. I was like, "Where did it all go?" It cooks down until there's just enough to make a nice little bed for each pork chop to sit on.

I didn't have fontina on hand (forgot to put it on my list), so I just added a bit more of the parmesan than called for. Probably wasn't the best idea, as it turned out a bit on the salty side. Next time I will get the fontina and try it that way.

So check back to this post in a month or two and hopefully you will see a pretty picture of a pork chop sitting on some brightly colored Swiss chard!

24 August 2010

A couple of weeks ago we were getting ready to go on vacation and I realized that I had a plethora of garden tomatoes that would go bad while we were gone unless I did something with them. I decided to try making my own spaghetti sauce. I had never done that before, but it seemed easy enough. I started with this recipe from Food.com (formerly Recipezaar), and this is what I came up with.

Homemade Spaghetti Sauce

8-10 medium-sized tomatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 green onions, chopped
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp dried basil
1 tsp Italian Seasoning (I use Penzey's Tuscan Sunset)
1 (6 oz.) can tomato paste
1 tsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 cups water

Place tomatoes in a large pot and cover with water. Bring water to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and place tomatoes in an ice water bath to cool.

Meanwhile, heat oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add onion, green onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Saute until the onions are translucent. Add oregano, basil, tomato paste, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir to combine.

Peel the skin off the tomatoes and cut into quarters removing the top stem area and all of the seeds. Add to pot and mash with potato masher. (If you like your sauce with no chunks at all, put tomatoes in a blender or food processor before adding to pot.) Stir tomatoes into pot and add water. Reduce heat to a low simmer. Let simmer for approximately 2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Use immediately over hot spaghetti or in lasagna. Or let it cool, then freeze for later use.

Makes 4 cups.

I didn't change a whole lot about the recipe I started with. It called for peppers, which I left out of course. I like how it called for green onions; it gave the sauce pretty little bits of green without the peppers. It also called for pizza seasoning, which I didn't have. I didn't have mushrooms on hand when I made this, but I would definitely add them the next time I make it.

Since we were leaving for vacation, I froze mine. It fit perfectly into two 2-cup containers. Can't wait to try it!

Here it is served over spaghetti with meatballs. Yummy!

07 August 2010

This is a Taste of Home recipe I tried last night.

Ginger Chicken Stir Fry

1 egg white, beaten
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp cornstarch
⅛ tsp white pepper
1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1” pieces
1 tsp cornstarch
3 tbsp rice vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tsp sugar
1 tbsp plus 2 tsp peanut oil, divided
3 green onions, cut into 1” lengths
½ cup canned bamboo shoots
½ cup canned water chestnuts
3 tsp fresh ginger, minced
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
Hot cooked rice

In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the egg white, soy sauce, cornstarch and pepper. Add chicken; seal bag and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

For sauce, combine the cornstarch, vinegar, soy sauce, and sugar until smooth; set aside.

Drain chicken and discard marinade. In a large skillet or wok, stir-fry chicken in 1 tbsp oil until no longer pink. Remove and keep warm. Stir-fry onions in remaining oil for 2 minutes. Add bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, and ginger; stir-fry 3-4 minutes longer or until vegetables are crisp-tender.

Stir sauce mixture and add to the pan. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Add chicken and heat through. Sprinkle with almonds. Serve with rice if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition Facts:
Serving Size: 1 cup stir-fry (calculated without rice)
248 calories
12g fat (2g saturated fat)
63mg cholesterol
748mg sodium
7g carbohydrates
2g fiber
28g protein
Diabetic Exchanges: 3 lean meat, 1-1/2 fat, 1/2 starch.

This was yummy! I made a few changes to the original recipe. It called for green peppers, which I don't like. But this recipe is nice in that you can pretty much do any kind of vegetable you like. I also added the water chestnuts. I saw them at the store when I bought the bamboo shoots and thought they would be good in it. The recipe said to chop the bamboo shoots, but I forgot and it was fine the way it was. I also increased the sauce by a half, because it just didn't look like very much when I made it. Next time I will double it (as written above), because it would be nice to have enough to put over the rice. But I will keep the vinegar at 1 and a half because I thought the sauce was a tiny bit heavy on the vinegar.

I will definitely be making this again.