Food, Recipes

Vegetarian Delight

Over the years with no one home but two, most of my friends have quit cooking dinner opting for takeout or restaurants.  That works for me every now and then, but I still enjoy preparing the evening meal because there are so many  things to try.  That makes the hubby very happy as he’d rather eat at home any day!

Another friend and her hubby are the same, so every week or so we share a meal.  They are not meat eaters which at first made meal planning a challenge, but it has gotten easier and done creatively, those meatless meals are downright tasty.

IMG_0566For ideas, I go no farther than these two cookbooks loaded with recipes to suit any palate.  There’s no chance I’ll ever get through the two!

The last dish tried was a mushroom/asparagus/cannellini bean combo that was so tasty not a bite survived.  Of course, meat lovers could add chicken or pork to go with it, but when something is as good as this it’s really not necessary.  Enough said, I’ll share the recipe!

Polenta with Asparagus, Mushrooms & Cannellini Beans

1 1/2 c. vegetable stock

1 1/2 pounds mixed mushrooms, thickly sliced

2 T. olive oil

1 bunch green onions, including as inch or so of green, thinly sliced

1 garlic clove, minced

15 oz. can cannellini beans

1 brunch of asparagus, steamed or roasted

1/2 c. Parmesan (serve on the side for a vegan friend, otherwise add it to the cooked polenta)

1 T. butter (can be left out)

chopped basil, parsley, chives or marjoram for garnish

Make the polenta using a packaged mix or yellow cornmeal cooked with water over a double boiler.  While it is cooking, do the chopping and mincing required to prepare the sauce.  

Heat olive oil in a large saute pan.  Add the mushrooms, season with sea salt and pepper and saute for about 5 minutes over medium heat. (It may be necessary to do the mushrooms in 2 batches depending on the size of your pan.)  Add most of the scallions and garlic and cook for another minute. Then pour in the stock and add the beans.  Simmer until the mushrooms are tender, about 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, add the butter and the remaining scallions to the mushrooms.  IMG_0455Spoon 1/2-3/4 c. of polenta into the center of a plate.  Arrange asparagus around it and spoon the sauce over the polenta. Garnish with chopped herbs.

What I like about this recipe is that it’s pretty easy to fix and all you really need to go with it is a hearty, crusty bread to use for soaking up the liquid.  Don’t be surprised when appreciative moans accompany this dish!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind 

Desserts

Strawberry Treat

Who can resist sweet and juicy strawberries bursting with flavor?  Not me, nor can I  resist making an all time favorite dessert which came to me via a high school boyfriend’s mother.  That means I’ve been making it for a long time!

There are surely fancier strawberry concoctions, but for delicious, this one rivals any.  Heck, just looking at the picture makes me want a bite right now!  If you want to join me, here’s the very simple to make recipe.

Mrs. Ames’ Strawberry Dessert

3 cups strawberries, sliced and sweetened with sugar (I also add a tablespoon or two of Amaretto which adds the unexpected to the berries).  Set aside until ready to use.

Cracker crust

2 c. cracker crumbs (I use unsalted Nabisco crackers)

3 egg whites

1 c. sugar

1 t. vanilla

1/2 t. baking powder

1/2 c. chopped pecans

Beat egg whites until fluffy.  Add vanilla,  gradually add sugar and continue beating until stiff.  

Fold in baking powder, finely ground cracker crumbs and chopped pecans.  Pour mixture into lightly buttered 9″ pie pan and bake at 325 until lightly browned.  This takes about 30 minutes.  Cool completely.

To serve, top the crust with strawberries and slightly sweetened whipped cream.  (I often put the berries on the crust a couple of hours before serving to let the juice soak in.)

If this dessert is as popular at your house as it is at ours, you will be making it again and again.  Enjoy!

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Joining 

Share Your Cup Thursday

Full Plate Thursday

Entertaining, Food, Random

From the Kitchen

OK, you know the table is set so what’s for dinner?

I had in mind a chicken dish served over polenta, but Houston temperatures have been a little wintery which made me think of comfort food, something warm with crusty bread.  What eventually came from the kitchen was somewhere between a stew and a soup which one of the dinner guests cleverly suggested calling a “stoup”!

The dish proved to be a simple one that took little time to put together.  If you are like me, that’s always a plus and makes the recipe worth sharing, that is if I can remember all the ingredients.

Chicken Stoup

4 boneless chicken breasts, halved

flour, salt and pepper

1-2 T. olive oil

1 onion, coarsely chopped

10 garlic cloves, minced

diced tomatoes, 28 oz. can

carrots and mushrooms, sliced*

4-5 bay leaves

1/3 c. each white wine and chicken broth

1-2 t. red or white wine vinegar

*Use your own judgement as to how much.  I used a heaping handful of baby carrots and 1 c. of mushrooms.

Dredge the chicken breasts in flour seasoned with salt and pepper.  Brown in olive oil.  Remove chicken to a plate and add onion and garlic to pan.  Cook until onion is soft and lightly browned.  Add wine and broth and cook for a few minutes until liquid has been reduced by half.  Add remaining ingredients and place browned chicken on top.  Cover the pan and cook until chicken is tender.

Place the chicken in warmed bowls.  Add 1-2 t. wine vinegar to liquid and spoon over the chicken breasts.  To add a little color, embellish with coarsely chopped spinach leaves.  That was an afterthought since I didn’t have parsley or basil.

Serve with crusty bread and a simple green salad.  Makes 6 servings.

Whether for friends or family, Chicken Stoup will get moans of appreciation.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

Food, Holidays

Keeping It Going

Just as the dishes and the dryer hose pumpkins are a staple at Thanksgiving, so is cornbread dressing made just like, well almost like, Mom used to make. For that matter, I think she made it the same as my grandmother, so I like the idea that this dressing has been around for a long time.

I’m not sure how Mother made her cornbread, so I rely on this recipe in my trusty Southern Living cookbook.  Can you tell it has been around for years and is much used?

Country Cornbread 

1 1/2 c. cornmeal

3/4 c. flour

2 t. baking powder

1 t. salt

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 c. milk

6 T. shortening

Preheat oven to 400. Combine the dry ingredients with eggs and  milk.  Spoon shortening into a 10″ skillet (I use an iron one) and heat in the oven until the shortening is melted and the skillet hot.   Pour the cornbread mix into the skillet and bake for about 20-25 minutes.

Now for the dressing which combines a few simple ingredients.  I usually make it a day ahead of time so the flavors are well blended.  

Though the main ingredient is the cornbread, Mother always crumbled a few leftover biscuits into the mix.  If I don’t have biscuits, I toast a few slices of bread and then make cubes or crumbs.  That seems to work just fine.

Cornbread Dressing

1 round of cornbread plus biscuits or bread cubes

1 lb. sausage

1 c. each celery and onion

3 eggs

1 t. poultry seasoning

salt and pepper to taste

1 c. Craisins (that’s my touch)

3-4 c. chicken stock

Brown sausage with celery and onion.  Add to crumbled breads. Mix in remaining ingredients being sure to add enough stock to  make the dressing nice and moist.  Spoon into a large casserole dish.  Bake at 350 until the dressing is heated through and the top is a bit crispy.

Though much of the dressing disappears at the Thanksgiving table, there’s always enough left over to put it on turkey sandwiches the next day.  I’ve even made soup out of the remains.  It was quite good, but dang, I can’t remember how I did it!

OK, enough words.  It’s time to get on with making the dressing. If you have a favorite dish for Thanksgiving, do tell.

is so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

 

Food, Random

It’s a Puffball!

For several days something that appeared to be a mushroom sprang up in the yard and got bigger and bigger and bigger until it was larger than my head.  Thinking to trash it before it took over, I pulled it off the ground and was blown away by how much it weighed.  When I started looking at it, trying to recall my limited mushroom knowledge, the first thing I noticed was it didn’t have any gills.  

Curious now, I took it inside and cut it in half to find that it was dense from top to bottom.  Now, really puzzled, I posted this photo on Facebook and asked for someone to identify it.  Immediately, several Maine folks informed me it was a puffball mushroom that was deliciously edible.

I wasted no time experimenting, first sautéing it in butter to get a feel for the taste.  It was quite mild with a very nice flavor.   Since then it has been used in scrambled eggs and spaghetti sauce and added to stir fried veggies, all of which worked beautifully.

So far so good with no ill effects which led me to think about a soup.  Now, that was a real winner.  The hubby went so far as to say it was the best mushroom soup he’d ever had and that’s something since he loves the one we learned on one of our Foodie Adventures with Michael Salmon.

Quite honestly, to make the soup I just started throwing ingredients…celery, a couple of small potatoes and baby carrots…in the pot and simmered them in chicken stock.  For seasoning, I used a garlic/herb mix, onion powder, dried fire roasted tomatoes, salt and pepper.  When the veggies were tender, I added about 5 cups of puffball, broken into small pieces, and let it cook for a few minutes longer.  While the cooking continued, I used an immersion blender to puree the mix.  At the last minute a cup or so of milk was added.  

Now, for the taste test….scrumptious!  It was just the right thickness with flavor that made taste buds sing.  I don’t know whether or not I’ll ever be lucky enough to have another puffball volunteer in the yard, but my fingers are crossed because I have ideas for a few more things to try.  If you’ve had experience with this unusual mushroom, do share.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Food, Tablescapes

Just the Two of Us

For the first time in several weeks, it’s just the hubby and me at home.  That means some relaxed moments on the porch enjoying the sunset over Rockport Harbor.  The days are getting shorter now, and the colors are deepening as summer begins to wane.

When it’s just the two of us, life is pretty simple.  Breakfast is a bowl of cereal or a smoothie or this time of year a blueberry muffin to go with coffee.  Lunch is whatever, maybe a sandwich, maybe hummus with crackers and cheese.  Nothing fancy for sure.

When it comes to dinner, it’s still simple, but a bit more effort goes into making it more than a stand up meal.  Always, there are flowers gathered from the garden or from the side of the road.

Whatever dishes are used are meant to complement the runner or placemats that are on the table.  This night they were from Dollar Tree which is a great place for picking up new pieces inexpensively.  No tears are shed when a plate gets broken!

It was a piece of cake to finish this table by adding accessories that repeated the colors in both the plates and the cloth.

As silly as my kids think it is, I always use cloth napkins.  Maybe it’s my contribution to saving trees and reducing what goes to the landfill!  Besides, it’s so easy to tuck them into a napkin ring which makes their presentation a bit more special.

So, that’s the table.  Now, what about dinner?  More often than not, we have seafood which is local and fresh. 

One of our favorites is scallops, likely to have been brought in from the sea that day.  They are at their best when seared quickly on each side to preserve their sweet goodness.  This night they were served over corn risotto with a simple green salad on the side.  It doesn’t get better than that!

So, there you have it, just the two of us enjoying a relaxed night at home with a few touches that make it seem a little special.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Joining

Tablescape Thursday

Share Your Cup Thursday

SaveSave

Tablescapes

Olive Oil Cans & A Corkscrew

Ordinarily whatever happens to be on the dining room table inspires a dinner, but this time around the reverse was true.  I really wanted to make lobster risotto for our gourmet group which made me think an Italian theme would be a nice accompaniment. After looking around to see what would work to make that happen, these old olive oil cans  and an antique corkscrew from a Florence flea market got the table started.

From there creating a look with an Italian flair got pretty easy.  Of course, I couldn’t resist adding a few bottles of flowers from the garden.    All were on a beautiful handwoven textile made with threads as fine as a strand of hair.

There was no question about what dishes to use.  The colors in the centerpiece made these harlequin patterned ones the perfect choice.   These are among my oldest, and I never tire of using them as they lend themselves to such a variety of accessories.  Here the plate is on a copper toned charger which added a touch of texture.

Also from Italy, Cortona I believe, are my favorite napkin rings cast to depict a variety of herbs.

Because I’m not a real rule follower, I like mixing and matching.  This time I chose to do that with flatware.

My rule for setting a table is to keep it as simple as possible for the comfort of guests so I avoid using more pieces than are required for the meal.  Here only a bowl for the risotto and a salad plate were necessary.

Keeping it simple doesn’t mean sacrificing warmth or interest which together welcome guests to your table.

A word about the lobster risotto or any risotto for that matter.  Many people steer away from risotto thinking it has to be made  just before serving.  Not so!  You can make it ahead of time saving enough liquid to add at the last minute.  Then all you have to do is heat until all the liquid is gone, dish it up and serve.  That takes all the stress away.

i so appreciate your visit and the comments you leave behind

Joining

Tablescape Thursday