Thursday, October 30, 2008

First Hard Freeze

Fall's first hard freeze in our area of north central Indiana means that all remaining vegetables must be harvested and stored. Cheese sandwiches (usually sharp cheddar on wheat bread) with home grown tomatoes on top, broiled until the cheese is bubbly and the tomatoes hot and soft, are only a memory now.

The abundance of eggplant and zucchini in this year's garden
caused me to search past recipes for inspiration. My sister-in-law Gail's recipe filled the bill.

Gail's Greek Vegetable Skillet Serves 4
1 lb. ground beef
2 med. onions, thinly sliced
2 med. cloves garlic, minced
1/2 lb. muchrooms, sliced
3 med. tomatoes, cut in wedges
1 small eggplant, cubed or sliced depending on type
2 med. zucchini , cut in 1/4 in. slices
1 med. green pepper, chopped ,
1 T. salt, more or less
1 t. oregano, fresh or dried
1 c. cooked rice
1/4 c. chopped parsley
Brown meat, then onions, garlic, mushrooms and cook until tender. Add tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, green pepper, salt and oregano. Cover and simmer 25 minutes stirring occasionally. Stir in rice. Cover and cook 5-10 minutes more. Sprinkle with parsley.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Spice Rubbed Pan Seared Pork Chops

I've hit my stage of life where I am concerned about how much things cost. Today I went to the store with every intention of getting a nice pork tenderloin for dinner and serving it with corn I had from the farmer's market. However, when I arrived at the store, I learned that pork tenderloin was $15! I couldn't bring myself to buy it. Plus, it was about 1 1/2 pounds more than my recipe calls for*. So, I scoped out the meat department and settled on thin cut boneless pork chops.

I applied the same rub I was going to use on the tenderloin to the pork chops. The corn takes about 10 minutes to cook (or less) and the pork chops probably took about 5. It was a quick dinner that looked great in just minutes! The pork had lots of flavor made up of spices just lying around the kitchen. I think the meal ended up being about $7 total--and there are leftovers for at least one more meal for two. I had some avacados lying around and whipped up a classic avacado and tomato salad on the side for just me.

Recipe adapted from Ellie Krieger

Spice Rubbed Pan Seared Pork Chops
5 boneless pork chops, thin cut
1 t kosher salt
1 t cumin
1 t dried thyme
1 t dried oregano
1 t ground corriander
1 t garlic powder
1 T olive oil

1. Heat oil over medium heat in a large (preferably non-stick) skillet.
2. Meanwhile, mix together the spices.
3. Sprinkle the spices over the chops and press into meat with a dry hand.
4. Put meat in the pan and cook for 3-5 minutes, turning once until golden brown on both sides and cooked through.


*I know you can freeze meat and use it later, my freezer, however, is a meat graveyard.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008


We've still been getting summer veggies from the CSA, which usually include eggplant, peppers, zucchini and tomatoes. What to do with these? Our friend Pam shared this delicious ratatouille recipe.
1 1/2 lbs. eggplant, peeled if thick-skinned
1 green pepper (or 2)
2-3 large zucchinis
1/3 c. salad oil
1 c. sliced onion
1/3 c. tomato sauce
1/4 t. salt
1 t. thyme
1 clove garlic, minced
3 T. flour
28-oz can whole tomatoes, drained
1 lb jack cheese
Slice eggplant, zucchini, and pepper into thin, circular slices. Saute onion in a bit of oil until cooked but not brown. Add garlic for about 1 minute. Stir in oil, tomato sauce, salt, thyme, garlic, and flour and cook just a bit until it makes a thick sauce. Add drained tomatoes and cook until incorporated into the sauce. Break up the tomatoes while they are in the pan.
Layer in a 13x9 inch glass baking dish: first, 1/2 of the tomato sauce, then 1/2 of the eggplant to cover an entire layer, then 1/2 the zucchini to cover the entire layer, then 1/2 the pepper scattered around. Then put half the cheese and repeat with sauce, eggplant, zucchini, pepper, and cheese on top. You can sprinkle some Parmesan on top of the jack to add a little extra flavor as well.
Bake at 400 for 50 minutes. At 40 minutes, cover lightly with a sheet of foil to prevent burning. Enjoy with bread or served over rice. Makes about 4 servings.

Sorry, I forgot to take a picture after it was baked!

Acorn and Rock Soup

You take some rocks from the yard and some acorns that fell from the oak tree. Get a bowl from your play kitchen and put them in. Stir it with a spoon and squish some crunchy leaves inside, pick a little rosemary from the garden. Shake a lot of pretend cinnamon on top and put it in the pretend microwave. Stir it and stir it and stir it.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies

Paula Dean always makes rich and delicious looking dishes. For the same party, I wanted to make a chocolatey dessert. I wanted to use the free box of Betty Crocker cake mix I had lying around but I didn't really want to make cake. I didn't know what to do.

I was browsing the new Food Network Site (which now has pictures! finally) and I came across this recipe for Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies. Again, they were really easy, and a big hit! The only thing is that they take a bit of time to sit in the refrigerator because the dough is so unbelievably thick.

Chocolate Gooey Butter Cookies

1 8oz bar of cream cheese (I used lowfat) at room temperature
1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 egg
1t vanilla extract
1 box pudding in the mix chocolate cake mix (I used Betty Crocker Triple Chocolate)
Confectioners sugar

-Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
-Cream together the cream cheese and butter
-Add the egg and extract and beat until mixed
-Add cake mix and mix until just combined
-Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours
-Roll 1 T of dough into a ball and then roll in powdered sugar
-Set 2 inches apart on a cookie tray
-Bake for 12 minutes, the cookies will be moist and gooey


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cherry Turnovers

I wanted to make something special for a family/church friends party last weekend. I looked through my recipes for a qualifying dessert. Something different was on my mind--and something with a touch of fall.

I finally found a recipe I cut out from Everyday Food last year. The recipe looked easy enough--but it used puff pastry, something I had never worked with before. I found the recipe about six hours before I had to attend the party--and I still had to do the shopping.

It took me two stores to find the puff pastry--and then it was frozen. I was supposed to thaw the pastry for 30-40 minutes before starting and then roll it out into a larger rectangle still folded--but I didn't have time and my rolling pin doesn't respect me. So I skipped that step. The only thing this did was cause the turnovers to be bigger (what's the harm in that?!). Everyone tried to be good and take only half, but they always went back for another one later.

These turnovers were amazing. My original plan was to make some cherry and some apple, but lack of time and interest in a second dessert choice for non-cherry lovers changed my mind. The dessert was easy to make, despite the newness of the puff pastry. I will gladly make these for any party!

Cherry Turnovers
1 box (17.25oz, 2 sheets) frozen puff pastry (Pepperidge Farm has some near the pie crust in the freezer section)
3T flour, plus more for dusting
1 bag (12oz) frozen cherries (I recommend breaking these down a little with a fork when you mix them with the sugar)
1/3cup sugar
1T lemon juice
1 large egg yolk mixed with 2T water (for egg wash)
2 to 3T Raw sugar (also known as sanding sugar or finishing sugar) *I used raw sugar and I think it made a nice difference in look--use more than you expect
Small bowl of water and pastry brush or small rubber spatula

-When you decide to make the recipe, start thawing the puff pastry.
-In a medium bowl combine cherries, flour, granulated sugar, and lemon juice; toss to coat.
-Unfold one sheet of puff pastry on a lightly floured board or table.
-Mix together the yolk and water for the egg wash and set aside
-Preheat the oven to 375
-Cut into 9 equal squares with a sharp knife (really you can cut into any size you want, but this was the easiest for me--just make sure that between the two sheets you end with an even number)
-Mound the cherries into the center of one square leaving a border on each side. Brush the edge with water.
-Cover the first square with another square and press down the edges to stick. Use a floured fork to crimp the edges.
-Set aside on a cookie sheet (you may want to spray this sheet, I lost a little of the pastry to the pan)
-Repeat the process until you have made all the turnovers.
-Brush the tops of the pastry with the egg wash and sprinkle with raw sugar (apparently if you let the egg wash drip too much the pastry won't puff)
-Use a sharp knife to cut 3-4 slits in the top of each
-Bake for 30-40 minutes until golden brown and filling is bubbling

Serve warm, or at room temperature - they are equally as delicious!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Pasta Sauce in a Bag - New Product

While I was at the store trying to come up with a quick dinner idea that I could make mid-week after 9-11 hour work days, Bertolli's Sauce in a Bag caught my eye. My main problem with jarred pasta sauce or even the kind in the refrigerator section is that there is always way too much of it. I end up with half a jar left that just sits in the fridge.

As a result, I have been leaning on canned tomatoes that have different Italian spices in them--but it just doesn't cut it. It really is the kind of meal that I would only serve to myself if I was in a bind.

Bertolli's Sauce in a bag changed this for me! I got the Summer Tomato and Basil sauce in the bag. It was just about enough for 2. It heats in the microwave (WITHOUT SPLATTERING!) for 90 seconds. I paired the sauce with some light Buitoni refrigerator section 4 cheese ravioli. I also got some garlic breadsticks from the freezer section.

Everything came together in twelve minutes and the dinner was delicious. I thought that th Bertolli Sauce tasted a lot more like homemade than the kind in the jars. It was fresh and flavorful and had a lightness to it.