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Archive for the ‘cooking’ Category

Fewer than seasons past, but more than enough to make many jars of cranberry sauce, cranberry jalapeño jam, and fill my freezer for my winter baking and cooking needs. Yum! I just love having a nearby cranberry bog right here in Kennebunk.

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Two hot food trends for 2019 had been reported to be soups and mushrooms, and you’ll get no argument from my good friend Timmy, who’s my fave mushroom mogul in my neck of the woods. A true nature lover, Tim has been playing in the dirt and working on his green thumb, longer than he can remember, and seldom does he come to visit without bringing me a sack of his most recent foraging trips. Yum & lucky me! 🙂

His love of mushrooms, and living off the land led him here to Maine some 30 years ago where he bought a broken down old, neglected farm. The land around his farm was the deciding factor for his purchase, where he now primarily forages wild mushrooms and grows a plethora of healthy fresh mushrooms, organic veggies and some cut flowers.

With such a varied selection of mushrooms you’d be hard pressed making your selections… pink, grey, golden oyster mushrooms, shiitake, pioppino, lions mane, nameko and so many more! With all this harvesting to do, Tim keeps pretty busy supplying his long list of local restaurants from Boston to Maine. And then of course, there are his good friends he graces regularly with all of this fungi goodness, too! LOL

So, some of my ‘sack’ went into a large pot of mushroom spaghetti sauce and some into a fave soup, Mushroom Chick Pea & Veggie.

Now I realize it’s still 87 degrees here today, but I’m a planner! And before we know it.. I’ll be thrilled to have many containers of this scrumptious tummy warming, heart healthy soup in my freezer for those not so far off ( unfortunately!!) chillier evenings.

Mushrooms are a wonderful substitute for meat in a vegetarian and vegan recipes and are touted worldwide for their health benefits. What better way to use mushrooms than in a delicious soup loaded with healthy veggies?

One of the things I love about this soup is it’s flexibility. You can easily substitute whatever you like for so many of the ingredients. For example, you could use oyster mushrooms in this soup and substitute chicken for the chick peas ( if you’re not doing vegetarian or vegan), use bok choy instead of spinach, and make it very Asian. Or you could use a different vinegar, perhaps, Balsamic and leave out the soy sauce, use tomatoes instead with some chard and cippollini onions and adjust the seasonings, to make it more Italian. And it’s vegan and gluten-free too!

* 1/2 cup chopped onion

* 4 cloves minced garlic

* 1 cup sliced assorted mushrooms

* 1-2 tsp fresh ginger, minced

* 1/2 cup chopped carrots

* 1/2 cup other veggies ( like peppers, celery, sweet potatoes or whatever you like)

* 1/2 cup cooked chick peas

* 1/4 tsp cumin

* 1/2 tsp ground black pepper

* 1/4 tsp white pepper

* 1/4 tsp cinnamon powder

* 1/4 tsp cayenne

* 2 tsp soy sauce

* 2 tsp rice vinegar

* 1-1.5 tsp sugar

* 2 cups vegetable broth

* 5 cups water

* 1 cup spinach, chard or bok choy, roughly chopped

* 1/4 tsp sea salt

* cornstarch to thicken (optional)

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, garlic and a pinch of salt and cook 3 minutes or just about translucent, stirring occasionally.

2. Add mushrooms and cook, and mix for 3 minutes or until they start to get golden.

3. Add ginger, carrots and veggies and cook 3-4 minutes

4. Add chickpeas and spices and cook another 3 minutes.

5. Add soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, broth and water. Partially cover and cook 20 minutes. Add in the spinach or other greens. Cook for 2 minutes. Taste and add sea salt if needed. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer another 15 minutes. Garnish with fresh herbs of choice or scallions serve it hot.

6. *** If you’d like to thicken, mix 2 tsp cornstarch in 2 TBL water and mix into the soup in the last 5 minutes of cooking. Makes 4 servings.

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….. the start of scrumptiousness… just picked carrots for the cake.

……. carrot cake from the garden… yumma! 🙂

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There is something about fresh eggplant that is so appealing to me. I’m not sure if it’s all the colorful varieties and various shapes that draws me … but the deep shiny plum hooks me every time! It’s just a gorgeous vegetable.  

The family arrives tonight for vacation. I cannot wait! 🙂 Plenty of laughter, plenty of catching up.. and plenty of big appetites. So last night, as expected, my phone rings…

“Hey Ma, can you make a tray of eggplant parm for dinner tomorrow night”? Ayup, I knew they’d all be tired and hungry after the long trip north. Kids! ❤

So early this morn I headed to the farm for some fresh eggplant, zucchini, herbs and of course.. tomatoes to prepare the eggplant parm for them. But at the last minute once I got back to my kitchen decided instead on making a tray of ratatouille manicotti with meatballs and sausage instead. An easy dish to prepare, fewer carbs and just plain delicious! Two trays are now made.. one traditional manicotti filled with ricotta and spinach.. the second, filled with only eggplant ratatouille. And for my fussy eater.. one small eggplant parm casserole.. or I’ll never hear the end of it! LOL
There’s no question in my mind, they’ll polish off every last bit of dinner, so it’ll be an easy clean up. Best of all for me though, will be looking right into their eyes and to see their smiling faces again while knowing I grew everything that will be bringing those smiles to their faces. 🙂 The dessert will be a surprise!

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As I work my way through our very abundant zucchini harvest this summer, I thought I’d post a few of my fave zucchini recipes. As well as zucchini, I am picking a bowlful of zucchini flowers pretty much daily that I feel the need to use in a productive way. Though the zucchini flowers do not have a lot of flavor on their own, their vibrant color makes them a great addition to many dishes, in addition to just stuffing them.

This week I made this creamy risotto using up some of my zucchini, summer squash and zucchini flower buds… along with a leftover ear of corn on the cob in the frig just screaming.. ‘use me up!’ LOL I also added just a spoonful of basil pesto made fresh from the garden that really added a bright note to the dish.

If there is one thing I have an over abundance of growing here, besides zucchini.. it’s the basils. I am constantly picking basil before it flowers and often make a batch of pesto to garnish a bowl of soup, to toss with hot pasta or to stir into a risotto, such as this one. If you do not have your own supply of fresh basil on hand, you could use a good quality store brand pesto instead. ( for shame! 🙂 Just a mere spoonful of pesto is all that is needed in this dish. If you use too much, it will take over and all you’ll end up tasting is basil, and you’ll lose the summer fresh flavor of the zucchini.

2 TBLS unsalted butter

2 TBLS olive oil

1/2 cup finely chopped red onion

1 small shallot, minced

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

3/4 cup dry white wine.. I used Pinot Grigio

5-6 cups vegetable or chicken broth, warmed

1 1/2 cups finely diced zucchini ( or summer squash, cousa, pattypans etc) (1/2 ” dice)

10-12 zucchini flowers, stamens removed & diced

1 ear, steamed corn on the cob, cooled and kernels removed

1 heaping tsp basil pesto

1 tsp lemon juice

Sea salt & ground pepper

To finish….

1 TBLS butter

1/3-1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Place the olive oil and half the butter in a saucepan and heat until sizzling over a medium heat.

Add the onion and shallot and cook until translucent, stirring often, about 5 minutes.

Add the rice, and stir to coat the rice completely with the oil mixture. Cook for an additional 3-5 minutes, stirring often.

Add the wine to the pot, stir to mix and continue cooking over medium heat until the wine has been absorbed.

Add a large ladleful of warm broth and continue to cook, stirring constantly.

Halfway through the cooking period, or 10 minutes, add the diced zucchini.

As each addition of broth has absorbed, add another, stirring until the rice is just slightly firm to the bite.. about 20 minutes.

With the last addition of broth, add the chopped zucchini flowers, corn kernels, pesto and lemon juice.

Stir to mix, and season with sea salt and ground pepper.

Cook another 3 to 4 minutes, then remove from heat.

Stir in the butter and grated Pecorino cheese, stirring until the cheese has completely melted into the rice.

Serve immediately with some rosemary focaccia bread and a fresh garden salad as a stand alone meal. I served it as a side with grilled salmon. Either way, it’s just plain yummy! Enjoy.

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Every summer when the vegetables in my garden burst into color, it’s hard for me to think about eating anything else.

I still remember sitting in the middle of my dad’s victory garden, where each vegetable seemed a work of art, creating my own private pageants by lining up the eggplants, zucchini and peppers, arranging them — then re-arranging them as the light bounced off their shapes, sizes and colors.

Once I tired of my game, I would help myself to an impromptu picnic, the ripe tomatoes, radishes and carrots still half covered with dirt. And today, I still conduct these pageants… and still enjoy biting into the first pulled carrots.. dirt and all. After all, which man-made image can surpass the silhouette of a plump purple eggplant, a pear shaped yellow pepper or even a bulbous garlic? And what of the elongated cylindrical zucchini? Or.. that perfectly rounded juicy first tomato off the vine. But in today’s fast paced world, most rarely pause to appreciate them.

More often, they arrive in our kitchens swathed in paper and plastic and are sliced, diced, squeezed, chopped, julienned.. even puréed, becoming secondary components of larger dishes.

Since I love ❤ examining these miracles of nature, I use every excuse to create dishes where I can keep my vegetables whole. Crazy I know LOL.. but hey, that’s just me.

But think about this for a moment.. by leaving vegetables whole, scooping out the center, then piling back complementary ingredients, a new and nourishing relationship is born. Sometimes, the outside indicates the inside. But even though zucchini traditionally cries out for onions, and peppers and tomatoes; mushrooms provoke Parmesan, shallots and bread crumbs; and sweet peppers propose meat, tomatoes and garlic, when we travel afield… you begin to realize the choices and combinations are endless and flavor synergies are limited only by our imaginations. And if you are imagination stumped hop over to my other blog here for some new ideas.

Nature’s bounty can produce parades of stuffed veggies for your tables, from the plethora of various squashes, to eggplant and even tomatoes! Plus offering you some tempting new items for your menus, rather than just plain old boring steamed zucchini, for next to pennies if you plan right. Stuffed vegetables– the summer’s bounty–can make any meal a special event and so healthful too!

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