Marsh Edge Farm Notes

Marsh Edge Farm Notes:
Welcome to my farm blog. I don't have a farm, but I do everything possible to have fresh produce on my table all summer long, as well as can and preserve much of what I grow. I live on the edge of Tolland Marsh and three years ago began calling my home garden Marsh Edge Farm. I created a label to place on all my canned goods, and everything I preserve, from jams to saurkraut end up with one of my simple labels.

I have two gardens, one is a spring garden and the other is my summer garden. From each garden I usually can grow enough to keep me in fresh vegetables for the whole summer, as well as enough to can and freeze to last the winter.

I also grow many of the herbs that go into my dishes. One of my favorite things to do with all these vegetables is create recipes that my family will eat. That is what this blog is mainly about, the recipes I develop or create in my kitchen as I experiment. Hope you enjoy reading my farm blog, and I hope you will try some of my recipes.

Updates for 2014

After a few years of very bad crops, I have left behind the vegetable gardens for awhile. However, I have found that fresh produce is available throughout the summer at the many farmers markets in the area. Here is a list of some of the markets and farms I gather my fresh fruits and vegetables from.

Rockville Farmers Market: Thursdays from 10 to 1 at the courthouse parking lot.

Tolland Farmers Market: Saturdays from 9 to 12 on the green.

Coventry Regional Farmers Market: Sundays from 11 to 2 at the Nathan Hale Homestead on South St.

Wright's Orchard on South River Road in Tolland, CT

Larry Lemeks Berries on Goose Lane in Tolland, CT.

Johnny Appleseeds Peach Orchard on Old Schoolhouse Rd. in Ellington, CT.

Buell Orchards in Eastford, CT.

There are many other farmers markets throughout the state of Connecticut on different days as well as numerous roadside stands. Support your local farmers no matter how small and you will gain in health and well being by eating the freshest of the fresh.

A link to the Connecticut Farmers Markets for 2014
http://www.ct.gov/doag/lib/doag/marketing_files/2014/fm_listing_as_of_07-01-2014.pdf



Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Yellow Squash Cookies and Cucumber Pulp Crackers

This is more for my own use. It has been a wicked year for 2018. I have been burdened by a bountiful harvest of yellow squash and cucumbers. I went on a search for yellow squash cookies, and stumbled on another blog that offered what sounds like a very nice recipe. Here is the link. http://www.noordinarymomentsblog.com/2009/07/yellow-squash-cookies.html.

UPDATE!  I have tested this recipe. The flavor is more like a biscuit because of the low amount of sugar. I did not stick to the recipe however. Here are my changes.

2 cups white whole wheat flour - gives a more dense cookie.
2 tsp almond extract instead of vanilla extract
1 tsp. Cinnamon.
1 3/4 cup shredded yellow summer squash squeezed as dry as you can
1/4 cup zucchini squash again squeezed dry
Chopped maraschino cherries. - I used a whole 8 Oz. Jar.
1/2 to 3/4 cup thick cut sliced almonds - bought at a bulk counter

So why did I opt for cherries? As I tasted the batter, I just thought something was missing. I remembered the old fashioned thumbprint cookies with cherries and went looking in my cabinet for a jar of maraschino cherries.

My first batch on the cookie sheet, I put a 1/2 of a cherry on each cookie. The next batch I made with no cherries. I tasted the cookie with the cherry, noticed the biscuit flavor, but the bite with the cherry was awesome. The cookie with no cherry tastes good if you want a less sweet flavor. Then with the remaining cherries I decided to chop and mix with the remaining batter. They all are good, but the chopped cherries add a nice overall sweetness that was lacking.





There is another that I may also try. Here is the link for that recipe. https://www.thriftyfun.com/tf120391.tip.html
The comments are important to read because I think in order to get a nice cookie that isn’t too mushy, squeezing out excess moisture will probably make a cookie with a better consistency.

But how about all those cucumbers? Well, today I made crackers from the pulp. I juiced the cucumbers, and got 8 cups of juice and 3 cups of pulp from about 13 cucumbers. The juice will be used for powdered drink mixes, such as Country Time Lemonade and Lipton iced tea mix. I kept 2 cups in the fridge and the rest have been frozen in standard 1 pint canning jars.

So here is the link to the cracker recipe. http://www.provincialpaleo.com/homemade-vegetable-thins-crackers-paleo-aip-vegan/

A few changes I made was adding nearly twice as much garlic powder and onion powder, because mine are rather old. I also added about a teaspoon or 2 of dill seed. As I baked the crackers in accordance with the recipe, they were not getting crispy enough, so at the recommended 35 Minute bake time, I took the crackers out of the oven, took them off the cookie sheet, turned them over, shook on some sea salt, then laid them directly on the foil lined oven rack. I baked them an additional 15-20 minutes at 350F rather than 325F as the recipe stated. The finished cracker was somewhat crispy and pretty tasty.

The recipe is for general crispy vegetable crackers. I am certain if they were made from carrots or beets they would be crispy by following the recipe as stated. However, cucumbers and squash are quite a bit more watery, so extra time, or maybe a good squeeze to get out extra moisture changes the technique a little more.

UPDATE    

My second attempt came out much better than my first. The crackers are crispy and the dill flavor really comes through. Here is the recipe, so you don't have to follow the link every time, and what I did differently.

Ingredients
  • 1 cup green juice pulp, packed slightly
  • 120 g or 1 cup arrowroot starch
  • 53 g or ¼ cup coconut oil (mine was a soft solid), plus an extra teaspoon for greasing
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder (I used 1 teaspoon)
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder (I used 1 teaspoon)
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ cup cool filtered water (I used only 1 tablespoon of water)

Instructions
  1. Place a large sheet of foil on the middle baking rack and preheat the oven to 325F/ 160C
  2. Place the pulp in a food processor and process until broken up (remove any clumpy bits like apple peel)
  3. Add in the remaining ingredients except for the water and process until well mixed
  4. With the processor running, add in the water by the tablespoon until a dough forms
  5. Turn a half-sheet pan (46 x 33 x 2.5 cm or 18 x 13 x 1") over and grease the surface evenly and lightly with a pastry brush
  6. Place the dough on the greased surface and cover with a sheet of parchment paper large enough to cover the half-sheet pan
  7. Roll the dough until it is evenly 3 mm or ⅛" thick (uneven thickness will result in chewy parts)
  8. Score the sheet of dough with a knife into squares (I scored mine into 24 crackers)
  9. Place on the foil-lined middle baking rack and bake for 35 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned
  10. Remove from the oven and run a thin spatula between the crackers and the baking sheet to release the sheet of crackers (Note: the oil may run off the half-sheet pan, so remove it carefully without tilting too much! I have an oil-stained recipe notebook now!)
  11. Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool completely before snapping into individual crackers

MY CHANGES

I added 1 tablespoon dill seed to the mixture.
Here are my recommendations to get a crispier cracker. 
Cucumbers do not like to crisp up very well, so I squeezed as much moisture out of the pulp as I could, then put into food processor. 
For the cookie sheet, I did not put a thin layer of oil on it, but a medium one. Have to get the edges as well. 
When I rolled out the dough on the sheet, I really rolled thin, like about 1/8 inch. For some reason the cucumber pulp will not dry out unless it is super thin. This meant I had to get a second sheet to roll out the remaining dough.
Don't forget to score the dough before baking.
I placed both sheets in the oven at 325F. Baked for 35 minutes, then removed the crackers and broke them apart. Any crackers that were still moist, I turned over and put back on the cookie sheet, then baked for however long I needed at 350F. I checked the crackers every 5 minutes to see if some had crisped enough, removed them and kept putting the sheets back in. The entire time needed for this second baking could be anywhere from 5 minutes to as long as 30 minutes. Just keep checking for crispness so that they don't overbake.


Hope some of my past audience will find these links interesting and worth trying. It has been a very long time since I posted any recipes, but maybe I will get back into testing things out, getting creative, and sharing. Thanks for my audience if you check in for this latest blog entry.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Christmas Cookies to Leftovers - A few ideas from Christmas 2015

Christmas Table, 2015



It has been a long time since I last wrote in this blog. I have been very busy this year. I got my first book published called Facets: Homespun Poetry and Photography on New England under my writers name of Julyn S, Pride. I have also had several exhibits of my photography at art galleries and restaurants. Cooking has been at a premium, primarily consisting of a meat, a vegetable and a starch. The creative juices have been focusing on my poetry and art. So I have had very few ideas on food preparation for the year.

Christmas always lends itself to new recipes. This year was no exception. Our dinner included smoked macaroni and cheese, crockpot pulled pork, mashed potatoes, spoon roast, broccoli and cauliflower with cheese sauce, and salad. All were incredibly delicious.

My brother, Craig, has developed a recipe for smoked macaroni and cheese using a wood fired smoker. I have not gotten the recipe or technique yet from him, but it may come about again on Easter. For now, I have two recipes to share, and one interesting way to bake boxed brownies. Though the holiday is done for this year, these recipes can be used almost any time. I hope my readers had their own creative moments this holiday season. All it takes are a few changes from your own sense of taste, and the recipe suddenly becomes your own to share with family and friends.

My first recipe is just a basic sugar cookie. I searched many sites for one that I liked and I found one on Food Network. I will first post the original recipe, then my changes to create my own uniquely flavored sugar cookie.

Christmas Cutout Sugar Cookies - The Food Network    


Ingredients                                                     

4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Colored Icing, recipe follows 



Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a bowl, stir together flour and baking powder. In another bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy and light. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture, a third at a time to make a stiff dough. Divide dough into 4 pieces. Roll out a portion of cookie dough to 1/4 inch thick. Cut out shapes using cookie cutters. Place on lightly greased or nonstick cookie sheets. Bake until lightly golden, about 10 minute, rotating baking sheet halfway through cooking time. Cool completely on pans about 5 minutes, transfer to cooling racks and cool completely before decorating.
Colored Icing:

1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar

1 1/2 tablespoons water

3 to 4 drops food coloring, plus more as needed

Colored sprinkles, optional

In a small bowl, mix sugar and water to form a thick, smooth icing. Stir in food coloring to reach desired shade. Drop icing onto cookies using a small teaspoon and smooth with the back of the spoon. Make additional bowls for additional colors.

Additional multi-colored sprinkles can be added on top of icing before it dries for more decorative cookies, if desired


June's Adapted Christmas Cutout Cookie Recipe

 Ingredients
4 cups all purpose flour                             
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup UNSALTED butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2-4 tablespoons Half and Half or Light Cream
Honey
Maple Syrup
Colored Sugar


Directions:

1.) Preheat Oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
2) Mix flour, baking powder and sea salt in a bowl.
3.) Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. This takes time because there is no salt in the butter. 
   I think it took me about 6 minutes until I was satisfied that the butter and sugar was creamed.

4.) Add eggs and vanilla extract and mix well.

5.) Knead the dough with your hands if it is too dry to stick together. Add Half and Half a tablespoon 
     at a time to get the dough to stick together. The dough ends up being a lot like shortbread, which  
     is why I liked the recipe so much.

6,) Roll out the dough a little at a time to 1/4 inch thickness, on the shiny side of Freezer Paper. 
     This was a discovery I  just made as I was rolling out the dough. Lift your cut out shapes with
     a spatula. By pulling them off the paper with your hands, the cookies will tear.
 
7.) Bake cookies for 8 to 10 minutes. Check after
     8 minutes because sometimes you roll the  
     dough too thin and it bakes quicker. 

 8.) Let cool.






9.)   Mix a 1 to 1 ratio of honey and water in a coffee cup.

10.) Mix a 1 to 1 ration of maple syrup and water in another coffee cup. 

11.) Brush on either the honey mixture or the maple syrup mixture on a cooled cookie.

12.) Sprinkle colored sugar before the cookie dries then shake off the excess sugar onto a 
       creased piece of wax paper. Once the sugar is dry, you can pour back into its jar. 


 Cranberry Brownies

Ingredients:

A boxed brownie mix, family size to fit 13 x 9 pan
1 1/2 cup Fresh cranberries
Powdered sugar


Directions:

1,)Follow directions on box. Before baking, fold in cranberries. I usually bake my brownies in an 
    11  x 7 pan.

2,) Bake for about 45 minutes. The cranberries make it a little moist so it takes longer to bake.

3.) Cool, then cut brownies to desired size. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.


Stuffed Shells with Leftover Mashed Potato

This was a try it recipe that I decided might taste good. As I viewed the 2 cups of leftover mashed potatoes from Christmas dinner, I wondered what I could do to use them up. I am not keen of reheating mashed potatoes, and I just didn't feel like making a Shepherds Pie, so I thought "Maybe it would taste good, almost like a pierogi, if I used jumbo shells and baked it." So this is what I did, and it was amazing. You have to try this one. Kids would probably even eat it, that is how good it is.


Ingredients:

12 oz. box of jumbo stuffed shells
2 cups leftover mashed potatoes
1-1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
5 strips fully cooked Hormel bacon, original, torn into small pieces
1/8 - 1/4 cup additional 2 % milk
1 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
parsley or oregano to add color and flavor
1/4 cup melted Smart Balance buttery spread, Original

                                                                                    Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

1. ) Cook pasta according to directions on box. Drain and rinse in cold water. Set aside.
2. ) With a hand mixer, mash cold potatoes with milk to make very smooth.
3.)  Add bacon and cheddar cheese to remashed potatoes. Mix well.
4.)  Add onion powder and salt to potato mixture and mix well.
5,) Stuff shells with a large spoonful of mixture.
6.) Pour melted butter over shells and bake for
      40-50 minutes

Enjoy these recipes. They are all very good. Happy cooking. Hope to see you sooner than a year. With the next book being written, I still may not have much time to keep up the blog. Be assured, though, that there will be future recipes, just maybe not every week. Thanks for reading and have a terrific 2016.





 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Vegetable Dishes with Tolland Cookbook Club - Mar. 16, 2015

 Preview for my entry that will be updated during the week.  I will add photos, and add the recipes brought by the members of the cookbook club.

It was our monthly cookbook club gathering at the Tolland Library on Mar. 16, 2015.  This months theme was vegetable dishes, which is rather hard at this time of year.  Most of our favorite summer choices lack flavor when we head for the grocery store for our weekly groceries.  Though I try to stick with in season produce, which means primarily root vegetables for the winter, I often times substitute frozen vegetables for fresh when I want to try a recipe. 

I chose a cookbook from the library put out by Williams Sonoma.  It is part of the Time Life books series.  The book, entitled Vegetables, (link) has some wonderful recipes in it, but what drew me to it was one recipe that sounded quite delicious.  I tested the recipe out last Friday, and it was as good as I thought it would be.  For my first entry, I share the recipe called Sweet Potato Pudding, which is good in the winter with a simple soup and bread, or as a side dish with turkey or ham at holiday time.  For my part, I would definitely make this again, and I would also choose to serve it to company.  It is elegant and hearty at the same time.

                                              Sweet Potato Pudding
Prep. time - 45 minutes
Cook time - 30-40 minutes
Servings - 4 to 5

   


Ingredients:                                         
3 sweet potatoes, about 1 1/2 lb. (750 g)
     total weight.
1/3 cup (3 fl oz/80 ml) heavy (double)
     cream (see note at end)
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons bourbon ( I used 
      Jim Beam)
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ceylon cinnamon (link)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
salt 
pecan halves for topping, optional 

Directions:

1.) Preheat oven to 375*F (190*C).  Butter a 1-1 1/2 qt. (1-1.5-1) souffle dish.

2.) Place the unpeeled sweet potatoes in a large saucepan, add cold water to cover and bring to boil over high heat.  Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until tender, 30-40 minutes.  Drain and let cool.  
     
      Microwave directions - Place potatoes on dish, and microwave from 12-15 minutes till tender.  
                                             Turn over halfway through cooking time.



3.)  Peel the sweet potatoes. 











 


4.) Transfer to a food processor                                
fitted with the metal blade 
and puree.   






 

 5.)  Add the cream, eggs and                    
      butter and process to blend. 
 







 6.)  Add the bourbon,
       lemon juice      
       and zest, nutmeg, cinnamon
       and ginger and process again
       to mix.  Season to taste with salt
       and process for a few seconds to
       blend the ingredients.






7.)  Spoon into the prepared dish.
       Place in a large baking pan and
       pour in hot water to reach
       halfway up the
       sides of the dish.
       Important:
     Do not get any water in
        the pudding.




8.)  Place in the oven and bake
      until puffed and golden brown 
      on top about 40 minutes.
      Garnish top
      with pecan halves
      if desired.   Serve hot
      directly from the souffle dish.





      Slice up and enjoy with family and friends.  It is also good cold, and if you don't add the salt, it has a sweet enough taste to actually be a dessert.  The texture was extremely creamy and held its shape when cut and served.



Note:  The use of double cream is rather difficult in the United States.  You have to create it yourself with existing available similar ingredients.  You can substitute a homemade version of double cream, (link) or become creative as I did.  I bought Chobani plain greek yogurt, and added 1 1/2 teaspoons to heavy cream and mixed the two to make 1/3 cup.  By using yogurt, I had to add about 10 minutes to the cook time, but I believe it did make the pudding very creamy with that hint of sweetness. 


_______________________________________________________________

                                        Chinese - Style Vegetables 
                                            
Prep time:  25 minutes
Cook time: 2-4 minutes
Servings:  4

Ingredients:

1/4 cup (2 floz/60ml) cold-pressed sesame oil
     or safflower oil
3 tender celery stalks, trimmed and cut
     on the diagonal
1/2 lb (250 g) green beans, trimmed
     and cut on the diagonal
6 cauliflower florets
     cut on the diagonal
6 broccoli florets
     cut on the diagonal.
1 small bok choy, leaves cut into
     thin slivers.
1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) vegetable stock,
     heated (I used Emerils organic)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup (3 oz/90 g) pine nuts
     or almonds

Directions:   

1.)  Warm the oil in a large wok or frying pan over medium heat.  Add the celery, beans, cauliflower
       broccoli and bok choy and stir until coated with the oil.  

2.)  Raise the heat to high, add 1/2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) of the stock, the soy sauce and red pepper  
      flakes.  Stir constantly until the vegetables are barely tender, 2-4 minutes, depending on
      how well done you prefer them.    When the stock evaporates, add only enough
      remaining stock as needed to prevent sticking.  

3.)  Taste for seasoning and adjust with more soy sauce and/or pepper flakes.  Stir in the 
       pine nuts or almonds (if using almonds, coarsely chop them) and serve.

Opinion of this recipe:  For my personal tastes, I would either reduce the celery or leave it out entriely.  I found it to be far stronger than I expected it to be.  Other than that, another change I might make is using sesame seeds in the recipe.  The sesame oil does create a nice sesame flavor, but I just happen to love using seeds in my cooking.  

Serving suggestion:  Buy the Thai Peanut Sauce Powder mix, and add to unsweetened coconut milk.  Stir fry thin strips of chicken, and mix with the peanut sauce.  Serve with jasmine rice and the vegetables.  

________________________________________________________________
      
For my last offering to the club, I used a recipe from another William Sonoma cookbook, also from the Time Life Books.  This recipe book is excellent during the farmers market season of May through October.  It uses the freshest, tastiest ingredients.  Cooking From The Farmers Market.  (link)
can be used throughout the winter by using frozen vegetables or opting for out of season vegetables.  I have added winter alterations to the recipe.  I am sure it will taste much better in season.  I made these quesadillas and brought them to the group for a taste test as well.

Quesadillas With Heirloom Tomatoes and Sweet Corn Salsa  

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Servings:  4

Ingredients:  
2 lb. (1kg) assorted heirloom or                               1/4 cup (1/3 oz/10 g) chopped fresh cilantro
   other tomatoes. (I used plum
    tomatoes and vine ripened)
    coarsely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon salt                                                    1 or 2 serrano chiles, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon ground pepper                                         2 cloves garlic, minced
4 ears of corn, white or yellow                                  2 tablespoons lime juice
   or a mixture, husks removed
   (I used 3-4 cups frozen corn)
2 tablespoons canola or other                                     1/2 teaspoon chili powder (I used 
   light vegetable oil                                                        Mexican style Chile Powder)
1 large, ripe avocado, halved,                                     8 flour tortillas, each about 10 inches
   pitted and peeled and cut into                                       (25 cm) in diameter
   1.2 inch (12mm) dice                                               1/2 lb (250 g) Monterey jack or other
1/2 cup ( 3 oz/90 g) minced red onion                        mild cheese, shredded

Directions:
1.)  Prepare a fire in a charcoal grill. 
                 WINTER DIRECTIONS:  Use an electric grill (link)

2.)  Place the chopped tomatoes in a bowl and add 1 teaspoon of the salt and 1/2 teaspoon of the pepper.  Stir to mix and set aside.

3.)  Brush the ears of corn with 1 tablespoon of the oil.  When the coals are medium-hot, place the corn on the grill rack and grill, turning often, until tender and lightly bronzed, 8 - 10 minutes.  Remove from the grill rack and let cool.
                  WINTER DIRECTIONS: Mix frozen corn with oil.  Add 1/2 to 1 teaspoon liquid smoke. 
                                                             Grill until browned and tender.

4.)  In a bowl, combine the avocado, onion, cilantro, serrano chilie, garlic, lime juice, chili powder, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper.  Cut off the kernels from the corn cobs (or just add the grilled frozen corn) and add to the avocado mixture.  Stir to mix 

5.)  In a frying pan over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil.  When it is hot, place 1 tortilla in the pan and cook until the edges begin to curl slightly, 1-2 minutes.  Sprinkle with some cheese down the center.  Using a spatula, fold the tortilla in half and press down on the top.  Cook until the underside is golden brown, about 30 seconds, then turn and continue to cook on the second side until golden brown and the cheese has melted, about 30 seconds longer.  Remove from the pan and keep warm.  Repeat until all the tortillas are cooked.  

Tip:  If you happen to have a George Foreman grill, you can reduce your cooking time by using it to cook both sides at the same time. You might even be able to use a waffle maker, but you would have to experiment. 

6.)  Spoon several tablespoons of the tomatoes and the corn salsa inside each quesadilla and serve at once.  

Opinion of this recipe:  I LOVED it.  I would have liked a bit more smokey flavor, so when I make it again, I will use perhaps 2 teaspoons of liquid smoke.  This is a real keeper, and the tomato/corn salsa mixture makes a wonderful dip for chips, as well as a spread on crackers.  Of course, serving in the heated and browned tortilla shells is the best way to enjoy this recipe.

______________________________________________________________________

Some of the other recipes offered at the meeting follow.  I have not tried any of them, but a few, such as the Fresh Mushroom Soup, and Bell Peppers stuffed with Rice, Spinach and Sun Dried Tomatoes sound interesting.  No photos will be added unless I make the recipes to update later.

                            Bell Peppers Stuffed with Rice, 
                  Spinach and Sun Dried Tomatoes      
Prep time:  25 minutes
Cook time: 30-40 minutes
Servings - 4 if using large peppers
                  8 if using extra large peppers by splitting in half.


Ingredients:
4 large green, red or yellow bell peppers
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup sun dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
3 to 4 cups cooked long-grain white or brown rice (used 2 cups)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (Used the oil from the sun dried tomatoes)
1 tablespoon minced fresh Italian parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 large bunch spinach, washed, trimmed and
   coarsely chopped (Used 5 oz container baby spinach)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350* F
Slice off the tops of the bell peppers and remove the seeds and membranes.  Plunge the peppers into a pot of boiling water and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until slightly softened.  I have often skipped this step, because the peppers end up being too mushy when you bake them.  If you do use the boiling water, then immediately put the cooked peppers into ice water to stop any further cooking.  This may keep more strength to the pepper as well as tenderize it just enough.  Set aside cut side down to drain.

Chop the tomatoes and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the spinach, garlic and tomatoes and cook until the spinach is wilted, 2 to 3 minutes.  Add the rice, parsley, salt and pepper and stir to combine.  

Fill the peppers with the rice mixture and place upright in a baking dish.  Add a few tablespoons of water to the baking dish, cover and bake until the filling is hot and the peppers are tender, 30 to 40 minutes.  Serve hot.  

One additional adjustment that was made was instead of using water, add a 16 oz. can of tomato sauce.  Other things you can do is use tomato juice for a less thick sauce, and I have even added a little vinegar to tomato soup and used that as well.   There are many variations you can do depending on your tastes.


                    Fresh Mushroom Soup 

Ingredients:      
3 tablespoons butter                                      2 1/2 pints (6 cups) vegetable stock
1 onion, finely chopped                                2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
1 shallot, finely chopped                              4 tablespoons sour cream
1/4 cup white wine                                       salt and pepper to taste
1 lb 9 oz. mushrooms, sliced                        2/3 cup light cream or whole milk
3 tablespoons all purpose flour 

1.)  Melt half the butter in large skillet over medium heat.  Add mushrooms and season
      with salt and pepper.  Cook for 10 minutes until golden brown, stirring occasionally.
      Remove from heat.
2.)  Melt the remaining butter in saucepan, add onions and shallots, cook 2-3 minutes
      until just softened.  Stir in flour and cook for 2 minutes.  Add wine and stock, 
      stir well.  
3.)  Set aside about 1/4 of the mushrooms.  Add remainder to stock pot.  Reduce heat, 
      cover and cook gently for 20 minutes stirring occasionally.
4.)  Allow soup to cool slightly, then puree.
5.)  Stir in remaining mushrooms, cream and parsley.
6.)  Ladle into bowls, swirl in sour cream, garnish with chopped parsley.  

Next month we will be meeting on April 20 at 6:30 p.m at the Tolland Library.  The subject will be CHOCOLATE!!!   I do believe this particular session will be very popular, and I can count on lots of samples being brought.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

American Holidays - Thanksgiving Potluck - Dedicated To My Sister Melanie Welch


Brother Craig carving the first smoked turkey we ever had.  ca. 2006
     Happy Thanksgiving!  It is the one week that I look forward to every year.  I love the cooking and warmth of this American of holidays.  We have always gone big with Thanksgiving since I was born.  Our Thanksgivings have always been a shared experience with family and friends, and we all participate on some level.  Either we are the hosting house, or we bring our own creations to the table.  We have had as many as 40 people at these family celebrations, and our table even today usually has at least 15 sitting down to share the wonders of this delicious holiday.  It is the one time of year when all the family and friends sit down in shared companionship to show our thankfulness for our many gifts and graces we are given every year by our Lord and by the ever giving life of the land. 
     Thanksgiving is the holiday to celebrate a successful harvest.  We have always canned many of our spoils from the summer, from pickles to relishes to vegetables.  We also love to bake and freeze many things to be brought out throughout the winter.


One of the last portraits of Melanie, ca.2012
   

 This year, we are missing one very important person to the event.  My sister, Melanie, has always
been the hostess every year for many years.  She lost her lengthy battle with cancer this past July.  We are still gathering at her house with her family this year, but her empty place at the table will be keenly felt.  Our brother, Craig, will do most of the cooking this year.  I have been asked to bring a few side dishes and sweet treats. So this particular blog entry is dedicated to my sister Melanie's memory, who's cooking prowess was always admired by many co-workers, girl scouts, church associates, family and friends.  We are thankful that we had 48 years of her presence.

        Thanksgiving at my house in 2009.  My dad is on the far right.  He passed away in 2013 from lung cancer and a blood infection, at 87 years.  On the far left is Melanie, shortly after her successful battle with breast cancer.  Her last bout began in 2012 as a soft tissue sarcoma.  Of course, our mom also died from cancer in 1998.  The remaining table from left to right is Melanie's youngest Sarah, our brother Craig, the love of my life Michael, me, and an old family friend Randy.  All will be there this year except Mel and my dad.
     Many of the recipes we love to make include pumpkin and maple syrup.  It is a New England tradition to always have some dish with maple products in it.  Connecticut has a few sugar houses, but the majority will be found in New Hampshire and Vermont.  I am choosing two recipes this year that use maple products, Maple Fudge and Pumpkin Tart with Maple Cream.  If I have time, I will add one more recipe, Maple Cinnamon Bread.  If I can't make it this week, keep looking.  I may add the recipe next week.  

     Most of the cooking will be done on Tuesday and Wednesday.  I am bringing the following dishes this year.  So, from New England, and the great state of Connecticut, here are my offerings for the Thanksgiving table this year. 
                                 
                  Appetizer - Savory Three-Cheese Ball   
                                     Heart Healthy Recipe - Lower Fat   



Ingredients:       

 1 cup (4 ozs. finely shredded reduced fat cheddar cheese - I use Cabot 50% cheddar
 1/4 cup soft style light cream cheese such as Neufatchel
 2 tablespoons fat-free ricotta cheese
 1 tablespoon finely snipped fresh chives
 1 tablespoon chopped roasted red peppers (such an Mancini)
 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
 1 1/ 2 tablespoons poppy seeds

Directions:

     In a medium bowl, stir together the cheddar cheese, cream cheese and ricotta cheese until well mixed.  Stir in the chives, peppers Worcestershire sauce.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 4 to 24 hours.
     Just before serving, shape the cheese mixture into a ball.  Roll the ball in the poppy seeds.  Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes.  Serve with your choice of crackers or vegetable sticks.
       This recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups or 12 servings.  Double recipe for large gatherings.

Variation:  Using the same recipe, rub a coating of smoked paprika on shaped cheese ball, then roll in chopped almond slices.  This makes a smoky flavored spread, almost like smoked gouda.  Excellent.  Like it even better than with the poppy seeds.
  
===========================================             Sweet Treat - Maple Butternut Fudge     




 Ingredients
 

2 Cups Maple Sugar available from Mount Mansfield Maple Products in Vermont
1 Cup A or B grade maple syrup  

    Best Maple syrup at Rivers Edge Sugar House in Ashford, CT                                            
1 Cup Whole Raw Milk- Can get at Highland Park Market in Coventry, CT.
2 Tbsp Butter
1/2 Cup Butternuts available from Vermont
  or use Walnuts.  I actually used pecans.
 

Directions
Boil sugar, syrup and milk together until mixture reaches 235* F.
Pour into bowl, place cut butter to melt and cool to about 110 degrees F.

Stir until it shows a grain in the fudge, perhaps 6-10 minutes.
Add Butternuts, (or walnuts if you can't find Butternuts) and pour quickly into a buttered 8 x 8 pan. Makes 24 small pieces.


     The main step to getting a nice smooth fudge is to mix the cooled fudge to a dough like consistancy.  As you stir, the mixture will become heavier and harder to stir.  When it gets to the point where you can't put a spoon through it any more, then it is ready to put into the pan.  In order to add nuts, you will have to knead them into the dough.  
Properly mixed consistancy.


You have to  press the fudge into the buttered pan after kneading about 6 times.  This will make a very creamy fudge, which is what you want. 


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                      Side Dish - Whole Cranberry Sauce

Ingredients: 
   
1 12 oz bag organic cranberries
1 1/4 cup sugar
1 cup 100% orange juice
1 tblsp. grated orange peel

Directions:
Combine all ingredients into a medium saucepan.  Mix until sugar is no longer gritty.  Bring to a full boil, and boil on medium low heat until berries pop, around 5 minutes.  Place mixture into a serving dish, such as corning ware, and allow to cool.  Place in refrigerator until ready to serve.  This sauce gets better the longer it is made ahead of time.   I usually try to make it a week before Thanksgiving.
                     

==============================================================

    Dessert -  Pumpkin Tart With Maple Cream

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, cubed
3 to 4 tablespoons cold water
1 can (15 ozs.) solid pack pumpkin
2 eggs
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Maple Cream (recipe at end)

Directions:
1.)  Combine flour, granulated sugar and salt in medium bowl.  Cut in butter with pastry cutter or 
      two knives until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Stir in water with fork, 1 tablespoon at a 
      time, until dough holds together.  Shape dough into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate 
      30 minutes.

2.)  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Roll out dough into a 12 inch circle on lightly floured surface  
      with lightly floured rolling pin.
      (I use parchment paper, but you can use a linen napkin or pastry cloth.)  
      Place dough in 10 inch tart pan with removable bottom.  Trim excess dough 
      from edge of pan.  

3.)  Combine pumpkin, eggs, maple syrup, brown sugar, cream, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger and 
       nutmeg in large bowl; mix well.  Pour into prepared tart pan.  

4.)  Bake 20 minutes.  Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.  Bake 30-35 minutes or
      until filling is set.  Test with very thin sharp knife.  If it comes out clean, filling is set.  
      Cool completely on wire rack.  

                                      Maple Cream

     Beat 1/2 cup whipping cream in large, chilled bowl with electric mixer at high speed until soft peaks form.  Add 1 1/2 tablespoons maple syrup; beat at lowest speed until just blended.  Add 1/4 cup sour cream (I used light sour cream); beat until well blended.  Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until chilled.  Add dollops of cream on the pumpkin tart before serving.  

 ==================================================================

     It should be a loving and happy celebration, and we will set a place at the table for Melanie.  She is away for now, waiting for the rest of us to join her.  She always loved to travel and see new places.  We know she is experiencing the best trip one can ever have in life, and she is now traveling with our mom and dad.  
     May your travels bring you delights and joys as you meet up with your own best peeps, whether they be friends, family, a soup kitchen, or a restaurant.  Take this day to celebrate with those you love the most.  Do us a favor.  Enjoy the day totally with your family.  Say no to shopping.  There is plenty of time for that after this most sacred of family holidays. Nothing is more important than sharing a complete day with family and friends.  You never know if they will be with you to share again next year.

                  Happy Thanksgiving!!!!!!!!!   
 
 
   Melanie's favorites

Roasted Butternut Squash with Sage and Cranberries
Serves 4 to 6


Ingredients:
1 medium butternut squash
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Fine sea salt and ground black pepper
2 medium onions
2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
4 tablespoons dried cranberries or cherries

Method:
Preheat oven to 375°F. Peel squash and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out seeds from the center and discard. Cut
squash into large chunks. Coat with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until well caramelized.
Peel onions and cut into large chunks. Coat with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season to taste with salt and pepper and spread on a second lined baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until well caramelized. When squash and onions are done, toss with sage and cranberries. Serve immediately.

Our Mom's Best Carrot Cake

1 ¾  cups cooking oil
¾ cups whole wheat flour
1 ¾ cups white flour
4 eggs
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups carrots, grated
1 cup pecans

Beat oil and sugar. Add eggs. Sift flours, baking soda and powder. Blend in with egg mixture. Fold in carrots and pecans. Place in 2 greased & floured loaf pans. Preheat oven to 350°
and bake for 1 hour. Makes 2 loaves. Great with cream cheese frosting (recipe below). Time to Prepare: 1 ½  hours.


Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 oz package cream cheese
1 stick butter
1 16 oz box confectionery sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

Blend all ingredients with an electric mixer to spreading consistency. Time to Prepare: 20 minutes.

Scalloped Carrots Casserole

Ingredients
  • 12 medium carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick (about 4 cups)
  • 1 Medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 Cup butter, divided
  • 1/4 Cup all - purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Dash pepper
  • 2 Cups milk
  • 2 Cups shredded cheddar cheese (8 ounces)
  • 3 whole slices wheat bread, cut into small cubes
Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Place 1 in. of water in a large saucepan; add carrots. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 7-9 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain.
  2. In another saucepan, saute onion in 1/4 cup butter. Stir in flour, salt and pepper until blended. Gradually add milk. Bring to a boil; cook and stir 2 minutes or until thickened.
  3. In a greased 11x7-in. baking dish, layer half of the carrots, cheese and white sauce. Repeat layers. Melt remaining butter; toss with bread cubes. Sprinkle over top. Bake, uncovered, 35-40 minutes or until hot and bubbly. Yield: 4-6 servings.