Category: Food (page 1 of 2)

Enjoy Fall Cranberries with Sauce, Crisp and Cocktail recipes

Cranberries are a small, interesting fruit with a tart flavor that can be enjoyed in many dishes ranging from appetizers, sauce, stuffing, crisp, candy, and cocktails.  Cranberries have been reported to provide a wide range of health benefits, including control of chronic inflammation, chronic cardiovascular diseases and urinary tract infections (UTI).  This is attributed to the high concentrated source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients,  and vitamin C and vitamin E, which are important antioxidant nutrients.

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Background

These delicious little berries grow on a low-lying vine that requires special growing conditions, including acid peat soil and freshwater.  Cranberries typically grow in low-lying beds or bogs that were created by glacial deposits.  Modern cultivation practices use wetlands ponds and other water bodies.  The North American cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon, is the fruit recognized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as the standard for fresh cranberries and the cranberry juice cocktail.  It grows on trailing vines like a strawberry.

Normally, growers do not replant each year since an undamaged cranberry vine will survive indefinitely. Some vines on Cape Cod are more than 150 years old and still bearing fruit.  While Wisconsin is currently the major growth region for cranberries (>50%), they are grown throughout New Jersey, Massachusetts, Oregon, Washington, and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia and Quebec.  Other regions grow cranberries as well, including Delaware, Maine, Michigan, New York, Rhode Island, and the provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario.   Cranberries are typically floated in water for easy harvesting and there are no shortage of cranberry festivals across the country.

Recipes

Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce (prepare extra for the crisp recipe below)

I absolutely adore the tart flavor of cranberries and I associate this distinct flavor with fall and the winter holiday season.  Orange is a great complement to cranberry.  Preparing cranberry sauce is so easy.  Dump everything in a pot, heat until the berries pop and the mix thickens, transfer to a storage container.  Doesn’t get easier!

Here is a link to my favorite Cranberry Orange Sauce Recipe.  I didn’t have a zester handy at the cabin, so I had to use a peeler and slice the strips with a knife.  If you don’t have the right kitchen gadget don’t give up.  There is always an alternative.  The trick is to avoid the bitter pith (white part of the orange peel).  I recommend going light on the sugar addition.   For me the recipe specified just the right amount, but it’s always best to add to your desired sweetness level as berry sweetness can vary.

Wisconsin Cranberries

Wisconsin Cranberries

juice the orange

I love this kitchen juicer. Makes it easy to add juice to the recipes that follow.

Cranberry Orange Sauce

Mixing all of the Cranberry Orange Sauce ingredients over heat.

Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce

Fresh Cranberry Orange Sauce recipe at onceuponachef.com

Cranberry-Apple Crisp (Prepare using leftover cranberry relish or canned)

This is soooooo easy. Don’t overthink it.  Blend the cranberry sauce and apples to get a combination that you think will work for you.  You can use canned cranberry sauce, but I had about 1/2- of the recipe above leftover.  I prefer tart apples like Granny Smith or what I find to be just a bit sweeter, Honey Crisp.  I used 4 small-medium sized Honey Crisp apples.

  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • Butter a baking dish and fill with cranberry-apple mixture.  Add powdered sugar if desired to increase thickness of the sauce (I add 1 tablespoon).

For the topping, combine the following ingredients.

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 3/4-cup flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces (I melt the butter to make blending easier).

Mix topping and distribute over cranberry-apple mixture.  Bake approximately 40-minutes.  Let stand 5-10 minutes to thicken.  Enjoy as is or top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Apple crisp

Mix apples and cranberry sauce to achieve desired consistency. Add powdered sugar to thicken.

Cranberry Orange Apple Crisp

Top cranberry-apple mixture with oatmeal topping and bake.

Cranberry-Orange Crisp

Enjoy your cranberry-orange crisp alone or with vanilla ice cream.

Cranberry-Orange Infused Vodka

Celebrate fall and the holiday season with cranberry-orange infused vodka.

  • Purchase a 1.5L bottle of vodka.  Select the best brand you can afford.  I prefer vodka that is sold in a glass bottle.
  • Remove more than half of the vodka to make space for the fruit.
  • Add 3/4 cup sugar.  You can add more later if the infusion is too tart.  I prefer it tart.  The sugar dissolves easily, so I have never found the need to use a simple syrup.
  • It’s not necessary, but I do cut the cranberries in half before adding back to the vodka bottle.  Fill the bottle to the neck with cranberries.
  • Add the juice and zest of one orange.  Mix well.
  • Add  cranberries and vodka until the bottle is filled and all cranberries are submerged.
  • Be patient.  Wait at least 3-weeks for full flavor and color to develop.
  • Transfer into decorative bottles using layers of cheesecloth remove  cranberry seeds.
  • Enjoy with friends  or use as a cocktail ingredient for holiday parties.  See below for ideas.

note: I always try an extra infusion with the remaining vodka.  This year I added fresh basil.  This will be perfect in holiday Bloody Mary’s.

Cranberry orange infused vodka

Simple Cranberry Orange Vodka Cocktails

This vodka makes a great hostess gift when presented in a pretty bottle with a ribbon.  If you are ready for a simple cocktail, just shake on ice and serve in a martini glass with an orange twist.  Be careful, this is pretty potent! You can also serve this homemade aperitif with seltzer (lime seltzer is great), ginger ale, or orange juice.  Any combination of these mixers work great, so create a signature cocktail that’s just right for your party.

Cranberry Vodka Cocktails

left: Cranberry Vodka with lime seltzer water and a squeeze of lime juice; center: fresh squeezed orange juice with a splash of Cranberry Vodka; right: Chilled Cranberry Vodka.

Cranberry Sauce, Crisp and Vodka

What are your favorite ways to use cranberries?  Please share below.  I would love to try out candy recipes.

Thank you.

Laura

 

10 Easy, Low Mess, Transportable Tailgate Recipes

It’s fall and it’s football season.  You have tickets for game day.  Now it’s time to plan the tailgate menu.  Here is a collection of easy, low mess, transportable tailgate recipes to get you started.

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Tailgate Recipes

Image courtesy of skeeze @ Pixabay.

I selected the following recipes to please picky kids, satisfy grown-up appetites, minimize prep work on game day, eliminate the need for crock-pots and barbecues, keep utensil and serving -ware requirements simple, and to keep the mess to a minimum.  Sorry, no saucy wings in this tailgate recipe collection.

Tailgate Recipes

Appetizers

A wide variety of appetizer recipes is included here.  This collection will take care of those who like pizza, tacos, or even the classic corn dog.  I think every tailgate appetizer collection needs at least one dip, so be sure to check out the cheesy bacon ranch dip recipe.

Homemade pizza puffs from Cafe Mom.

pizza puffs

Sausage Roll Ups from Dreaming-n-color.

 

Cheesy Bacon Ranch Dip from Deliciously Sprinkled.

Cheesy Bacon Ranch Dip

Puffy Tacos from Plain Chicken.

Puffy Tacos - my favorite way to eat tacos! Only 5 ingredients - hamburger, taco seasoning, diced tomatoes and green chiles, cheese and puff pastry. Ready to eat in minutes!! Can make ahead of time and freeze for later. Great for tailgating and parties!

Corn Dog Muffins from The Pioneer Woman.

DSC_3034

Sandwiches

Appetizers are great for snacking, but it’s important to offer sandwiches in case guests have heartier appetites.  These recipes can be prepared in advance to minimize prep. work on game day.  The biscuit BLTs and empanadas can be wrapped in wax paper to make transport and eating while mingling even easier.  Tie the wax paper with ribbon in your team’s colors for even more team spirit.

Italian Pinwheels from Mother Thyme.

Italian Pinwheels | www.motherthyme.com

 

Fresh biscuit BLTs  from Country Living.

mini blts

 

Pulled pork empanadas from Singly Scrumptious.

Desserts

Cookies and brownies are easy desserts for a tailgate.  However, I love theme food and think it’s fun to offer desserts in the spirit of the game.

Chocolate Football Pretzel Rods from Sarah’s Bake Studio.  I love the idea of sprinkles in your favorite team’s colors.  Go Team!

Chocolate Football Pretzel Rods

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Footballs from Life, Love and Sugar.

Eggless Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Footballs - perfect for a Super Bowl Party and College Championship party!

 Tailgating Essentials

No tailgating party is complete without coolers, tables, chairs and serving wear.  It always fun to find forks, knives and cups in your team’s colors.  Dollar Stores and party stores can be a great place to shop for these items.  I love the multi-functional items below.   A backpack cooler that serves as a seat!  A folding table that has a beverage bucket and drink holders.


Grilled oyster recipes that everyone can enjoy

Raw oysters are great, but try grilling/broiling with spinach, garlic & Parmesan or Chorizo & cheddar. Don’t like raw oysters? Try these recipes.

As a kid, I spent a significant part of my summers down  in Gulf  Shores, Alabama.  We loved slow-living on the bay, fun times with family and good friends, and the delicious Gulf Seafood.  Shrimp, stuffed flounder, and crabs were fantastic, but my younger brother and I were HUGE fans of raw oysters.  One summer, during a side trip to New Orleans, my parents couldn’t get the trays of raw oysters to our table fast enough.  My favorite dinner as a ‘grown up’?  A wedge salad with bacon and blue cheese accompanied by at least one dozen oysters with lemon, horseradish and hot sauce.  Mmmmmmm!

While not everyone appreciates the slimy texture of oysters like I do, it is possible to prepare oysters that everyone will enjoy.  There is something primitive about cracking open the shells.  Throw a few on the grill and enjoy.

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Spinach Parmesan Grilled Oysters

Chorizo Jalapeno Cheddar Grilled Oysters

Where to buy oysters?

We found a local grocery store that often carries oysters.  I definitely recommend that you call ahead and order in advance.  You don’t want to prepare a menu only to find out oysters are not available.  Unfortunately, I am speaking from experience on this point.

The guys at our fish counter always give us a few extra.  They are typically priced by the dozen and usually one or two of the oysters are not good (won’t open or they are stinky when you open them).  Request that they pack the the oyster in a bag on ice.  Once you arrive home, be sure to open the bag when you place them in the refrigerator so the oysters can breath.

The old myth of ‘R’ months.

There is an old myth that specifies the best time to eat oysters is during months that contain an ‘R’ (e.g. September through April) .   This is related to the potential for increased bacterial growth in the water during the warm summer months.  Oysters are filter feeders that have the potential to concentrate microorganisms or related toxins.  While levels of certain naturally occurring marine bacteria (e.g  Vibrio) are higher in coastal waters during warm weather months, they may still be present during colder months.  Most consumers are not susceptible to infection by Vibrio .  However, individuals  with certain illnesses or health conditions should only eat molluscan shellfish that is cooked.  Grilling is the perfect way to reduce risk of bacterial contamination regardless of the month.  Cooking oysters with heat can kill harmful bacteria and viruses.  While mussels, clams, and oysters can be safe to eat year-round if prepared properly, it is also important to ensure that they are harvested legally to ensure a sustainable supply.

Preparing to chop spinach and garlic

Oyster preparation tips and tools.

Writing with many years of oyster eating experience, I have learned a few lessons.  Some easier than others.  One of the best tips was to clean the the oysters and place them in the freezer for 10-20 minutes just before ‘shucking’ or opening.  This works really well.  All the strong parts of the oyster holding the shells together contract. If you stick an oyster shucker knife where the shells are connected, they are much easier to pry apart after exposure to freezing temperatures.   In addition to a good shucker,  I also recommend a good pair of penetration-resistant gloves.  Those oysters are always shifting, even when you think you have a good grip on them with a solidly placed kitchen towel.  Be safe!

 

 

 Grilled oyster recipes and dinner.

My husband hated raw oysters.  However, during a trip to  Gulf Shores , he discovered he could enjoy oysters after sampling grilled oysters at several restaurants.  Oysters were readily available and so began our quest to mimic and finally create our own grilled oyster recipes.

Currently, my family has two favorite grilled oyster recipes.  The first recipe is to top the oysters with chorizo, jalapeno, and cheddar cheese before grilling.  The second recipe uses garlic, spinach, and Parmesan.  The possibilities are endless.  Chop, top, grill and eat.  Modify as desired.  Use any fresh herbs or vegetables you might have available in your garden.  As I am writing, I think I need to try a summer Caprese versions.  Basil, tomato, garlic, and fresh mozzarella.

I love to use a kitchen chopper to help with slicing and dicing of all of the ingredients.  I precook chorizo or any other meat.  Other than that, we throw veggies and cheese on the oysters and barbecue until the cheese is very well melted.   Oysters should be cooked thoroughly  at this point.  Do not overcook or the oysters will become dried out and tough.  I threw breadcrumbs on top of the garlic, spinach, and Parmesan topped oysters. There was too much moisture for the crumbs to brown.  Therefore, I recommend browning the breadcrumbs in advance so they are crispier and soak up the moisture.

Serving a grilled oyster meal

I have only  one oyster grill pan to date.  This was used for the chorizo jalapeno cheddar oysters I used a disposable aluminum pizza tray filled with coarse sea salt.  ‘Plan B’ was very practical and looked great.  Just make sure the trays fit on your grill before you load them up with the oysters.

Oysters can be served as an appetizer.  I typically serve them alongside  a salad for a perfect meal.  On this particular occasion I was able to prepare a snap pea sprout salad with red onion, tomatoes, cucumber, and carrots from the garden.  I splashed the salad with a simple vinaigrette dressing.

Hope you grill a few oysters and help someone else discover the delicious flavor of oysters.

Laura

Snap Pea Sprout Salad



Parchment paper cooking: Eat a healthy fish dinner & spend more time with family

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Life happens fast.  We all have too many things we need need to do: work, sports, school activities, help with homework, etc.  Our lives are also filled with a long list of the things we want to do: spend quality time with friends & family, read a book, take a bath, travel, spend time working on a hobby, etc.  For me, family time has become more  critical than ever as I realize my son is growing up way too fast.  How did he get to high school already?

We also want to eat healthy and save money.  All of these conflicting desires and demands can really stress out a parent.  Let’s figure out a way to slow down the clock, hear about our kid’s experiences, achievements, and challenges over a healthy, easy, budget-friendly meal.  Here is a quick and easy cooking technique for shrimp and fish that will allow you to spend more time with your family and friends.

A couple of years ago, my husband and I enrolled in a cooking class at a nearby farm.  We had a chance to try several different fish recipes and cooking techniques.  I immediately realized that ‘en papillote’ had the potential to change my life in the kitchen.  This fancy French term?  It describes an easy cooking method for healthy food with minimal clean-up!  Count me in!

I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen.  My kitchen experiments have not always turned out as planned and are never perfect, but  this is real life and I don’t recall a time when my family has ever turned down a meal.  The recipe outlined below works well with shrimp and any sturdy white fish such as orange roughy, tilapia, haddock, sole, or halibut. Buy whatever your budget allows.  I purchased a pack of individually wrapped tilapia filet (6) for about $10 at Target.

I really like the flexibility of this recipe.   It allows you to use what you have available for marinade or toppings.   It can be varied easily to make this part of a regular meal rotation without boring everyone’s taste buds.  If you keep a bag of fish filet in the freezer, you can make this last minute to avoid expensive food delivery or an unhealthy drive through visit.

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Plan an Oktoberfest celebration for family and friends

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Planning guide for Oktoberfest

OKTOBERFEST!  The best fall party of them all!  This is a perfect time of year to enjoy beautiful fall weather with family and friends.  Attending Oktoberfest in Munich Germany is on many people’s Bucket List (mine too).  For good reason, the party (originating from a wedding celebration) has been a tradition since 1810.  The official event in Munich typically takes place between mid-September and early October (Official 2017 dates: September 16th-October 3rd).  It’s time to start planning your Oktoberfest event.

Event Budget

This party can be as simple/complicated and budget-friendly/expensive as your heart and bank account can manage.  Smaller is simpler, but Oktoberfest provides a great excuse to mingle family, friends, and co-workers.  Just be sure to ask for help.

As the size of the party increases, consider asking guests to bring appetizers, entree, desserts, or beverages to share.  Many guests love the challenge of preparing a special, party-appropriate dish.

Invitations

Evite is a great way to send out a party invitation.  It’s easy to set-up and allows you to review guest RSVP’s quickly and easily.  You can even ask guests to sign up for food or beverage contributions.  This feature makes it easy to ensure your guests will have adequate food and beverage and prevents having too much of any one item.

If Evite doesn’t work for you e-mail is an easy option.  Hard copy invitations dropped in mailboxes or formal written invites sent by mail also work, but they do require a bit more planning.

Venue or Location

You driveway, patio, or yard provide a perfect venue for Oktoberfest.  If it’s cool build a bonfire or have baskets filled with blankets and extra sweaters to keep guests comfortable.  Tents are part of traditional Oktoberfest celebrations.  Don’t have a tent?  Consider borrowing a tent from a neighbor.  Tents and tables can be rented, but this will add significant cost to your party budget.  Another option is to decorate your garage or open your home to guests.  You might also consider renting a picnic facility in a nearby park.

Beverages

Oktoberfest food and drink

In my opinion, the guest list is the top priority.  Next in importance?  Food and beverages.  To keep the party simple, enlist the help of your crock pot, family, and friends.

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When life gives you lemons? Make dinner, dessert and cocktails!

I adore lemons.  I love the yellow color; they always make me feel happy and bring a smile to my face.  I also love the smell of the blossoms and fruit and cannot get enough of the flavor.

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay (Hjalmar18).

When we lived in our little Spanish Bungalow in Long Beach, CA we had a lemon tree in our front yard.  I loved walking past it numerous times each day enjoying the smell and activity of the bees buzzing busily around it.  When we moved back to the Midwest, one of the things I missed most (besides milder winter weather, of course) was my little lemon tree.

Several years ago, my son gifted me with a lemon tree for Mother’s Day.  I loved this little tree, but it did not like indoor life in my home.  After about 1-year nearly all of the leaves had fallen off and it certainly wasn’t flowering or bearing fruit.  I almost threw my little lemon tree away, but decided it couldn’t hurt to place it outside on our porch for the summer.  The sunshine and fresh air breathed new life into my resilient little tree.  A couple of years later, summers outdoors and winters indoors, it is healthy and now it has two lemons ripening.

There are approximately 50 varieties of lemons.  They range in flavor from sweet to sour and in acidity.  They are grown all around the world and are thought to have originated in northeastern India.
The ancient Egyptians are credited with ‘inventing’ lemonade around 500 AD.  However, only the Pharaoh and royal family were allowed to enjoy the beverage.  In 1630, a lemonade soda (lemon juice, honey, and sparkling water) was first sold in Paris.  Through the 1840’s demand for lemons grew as a cure for scurvy.  This debilitating disease was caused by a lack of Vitamin C and significantly impacted sailors and miners during the California Gold Rush in the mid 1800’s.  This demand for lemons resulted in the many California lemon groves, some of which still exist today.  Even in current times, many websites suggest that increasing consumption of fruits like lemons decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion, increased energy, and lower weight.

And now that you have learned a little bit about lemons, let get to the recipes!

Dinner

Lemon Chicken is a quick and easy meal for a weeknight.  Add a salad and rice or pasta and you have a perfect meal. Continue reading

A Beginner’s Guide to Canning: Preserve Your Food in Jars

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Canning is a great way to preserve fruits and vegetables for later use.  When I was growing up my mom made delicious plum jam, but she did not can or pickle any vegetables.  No canning mentor for me.  Thank goodness for the internet!

Several years back, my husband and I decided to rent a community garden space to grow vegetables (check out one of my early posts on our farm plot).  We paid ‘rent’ for a 30’X30′ plot and got to work.  We started planting in late April-early May and by the time late July rolled around we had a bumper crop of vegetables and the bounty continued through early October.  We shared much of the harvest with friends and family, but we still had tons of veggies left-over.

In an effort to save our harvest for later use (think dark, cold winter days; I knew we would want to mentally escape), I scoured the internet and book stores for good canning references, magazines, and guidelines.  I had heard about the dangers of canning (exploding jars and food poisoning) and was honestly quite intimidated.  After reading the basics, it seemed manageable and I decided to give it a try.  I loved the process and the reward.  I hope you will follow the steps I have outlined below to get started on your own canning journey.

Step 1:  Collect recipes and tips

I recommend purchasing a good canning/preserving reference book.  Food safety is extremely important when canning and good quality resources outline critical procedures for produce preparation, processing, and storage.  Books, magazines, and Pinterest are great places for inspiration.  If you are interested in a particular fuit/vegetable, search the internet for recipes.  I highly recommend that you read the reviews.  Many recipes do not follow proper, safe canning procedures (for example, my beloved Blue Ribbon Pickle recipe) and usually this comes up in the comment thread.  If you are not sure, follow recipes in a canning reference book.  The book I got started with is the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  I do not recommend modifying or tweaking recipes.  They are designed to ensure appropriate conditions for canning and the quality and safety of your final product.

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A simple recipe for a quick and healthy Alfredo sauce – 3 variations to add variety to your menu

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Why healthy Alfredo sauce?

I love to cook and I love the idea of preparing healthy meals.  I have been following the 21-Day Fix eating plan on and off for just over 1-year.  It helps me balance portion sizes and  the right mix of food groups.   I feel great when I stick to the plan, especially with some exercise.

I try to eat healthy, but comfort food tastes great and sometimes it’s just good for the soul after a stressful day.  Fettuccine Alfredo is one of my all-time favorite comfort meals.  The traditional recipe uses butter and heavy cream and this is served over pasta.  Unfortunately, the comfort feeling doesn’t last long and tends to turn into a bloated feeling and state of guilt for me.  Fear not, comfort food can be adapted into a healthier, feel better version.  I have tried several ‘healthy’ Alfredo sauce recipes and have found the recipe provided in the link below to be a great base.  Think of the recipe as a really nice blank canvas.  You are the artist who gets throw on the color and design the finished product exactly to your taste.

Don’t get me wrong,  I love carbs too and can’t give them up.  However, I do try to manage my carb intake (that little yellow box is way too tiny fellow 21-Day Fixers!).  I recently purchased a spiralizer and really enjoy using it to prepare ‘zoodles’ (zucchini) or even better yet, daikon radish noodles.  Seems strange (pungent smell), but perfect base for a creamy sauce.  Even better than pasta with a creamy, heavier sauce.  Try it!

How do you prepare a satisfying meal with a healthy Alfredo sauce?

A great 21-Day Fix version of Alfredo sauce.  Check out this great link.

Ingredients for a basic  Alfredo sauce:

  • 1-1/2 cup 2% cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 4 Tablespoons low fat milk or almond milk
  • spices (garlic powder, salt, pepper) can be added if you don’t follow the variations outlined below; go light with the salt as the base flavor can be salty from the Parmesan

Instructions for Alfredo sauce preparation:

  • Mix  cottage cheese and Parmesan cheese in a saucepan or dutch oven (I LOVE my Dansk Kobenstyle cookware)
  • Heat on medium-low, mixing just until the Parmesan cheese melts.  Temperature is key.  Be patient (I know this is hard after a long day of work).  Be warned, if you overheat everything separates.  Please be patient, it really only takes a few minutes.
  • Allow to cool slightly and carefully transfer the sauce  to a blender.  Ensure bottom is attached tightly to prevent leaking.  I’m thinking about trying an immersion blender the next time I prepare this recipe, which is probably next week!
  • Puree the Alfredo sauce in the blender, adding the milk to get the desired consistency.  Don’t make it too watery, you have another opportunity to add more milk when you reheat the sauce.
  • Transfer the sauce back to saucepan or dutch oven, add any protein or vegetables that you may have prepared (see quick meal tips and recipe variations below).
  • Serve over pasta, zoodles , or Daikon radish noodles.

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4 great recipe ideas for leftover ham

Links to recipes are provided below. Enjoy!

 

Over the weekend, we enjoyed another fantastic barbecue.  We had family over, so we grilled lots of food including a double-smoked ham with apricot glaze from Ray ‘Dr. BBQ’ Lampe’s Slow Fire Barbecue guide.  That is not a mirror image below; we threw two hams on the smoker.  A couple hours into the low and slow smoke, we covered the hams with a simple glaze prepared by blending apricots in syrup, ketchup, soy sauce and molasses.  What great flavor.  We also grilled salmon and asparagus.

 

 

 

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When we first started ‘farming’ at a community garden, we purchased our plants at home centers and nurseries once the garden was ready for planting.  Last year, we decided to grow our own plants from seed in order to have more variety.  I have tried starting seeds indoors in the past with little or no luck.  They either dry out too much with the heat or stay too moist and get moldy.   I needed an easy, fool-proof method that doesn’t demand so much attention.

We picked up a gardening magazine last winter, which had an article on winter sowing.  It was something I had never heard of, but sounded easy enough and made sense.   Plant the seeds and stick them outside in mini greenhouses.  They will germinate when the conditions are right.  When they grow large enough for transplanting, they are already hardy and ready for outdoor conditions.  We decided to just go for it and  tried this with several plants last year with very good luck.  We have greatly expanded our options this year and look forward to sharing our seedlings with friends and neighbors.

This winter, in the darkness of the post-holiday blues, we began our search for vegetable, herb, and flower seeds.  In January, we planted cabbage, brussel sprouts, spinach, corn, onions and one of my absolute favorites…..lavender.

In February and early March, we planted some native woodland perennials and a few annuals including Canada lilies, blackberry lilies, Virginia blue bells, Dutchman’s breeches, ramp or wild leeks, Celedine poppies, Icelandic poppies, Oriental poppies, columbine delphinium and two that bring back great memories.  Jack-in-the-pulpit reminds me of Brownie and Girl Scout hikes in the woods, while Hollyhocks remind me of my grandfather and grandmothers’ house.  Their alley was filled with hollyhocks in so many colors.

I can’t wait for April.  That is when we will start the tomato, cucumber, squash, and pepper seeds.

List of supplies:

Very simple instructions:

  1. Drill or poke holes into containers.  You need several drainage holes on the bottom and also holes on the lid to allow water to enter your mini greenhouse.  You can recycle old food containers, but we find Rubbermaid containers are sturdier, making it easier to transport seeds from home to the garden.  We clean and re-use.
  2. Fill the container with 2-3 inches of seed starting soil.
  3. Distribute seeds and cover with seed starting soil.  Don’t bury the seeds to deep, just a light covering (about 1/2-inch).
  4. Water or place in tray with water, so soil absorbs water through drainage hole.  Replace lid and place in a sunny spot.
  5. Patiently wait for the seeds to germinate.  If moisture is not accumulating on the lids, you will need to water.
  6. Once spring arrives and the seedlings start to grow, you can remove the lids during warm days.  Be sure the lid is replaced to protect them from cold night time temperatures and risk of frost.
  7. When the plants grow too high to fit into the container it is a good sign they are hardy and ready for transplanting into the ground.

Step 1: Drill holes in tops and bottoms of mini-greenhouses.

Step 2: Collect soil, seeds, and signs.

Steps 3-5: Distribute seeds, cover with soil, and water.

Step 6: Wait for seeds to germinate and open to allow them to get comfortable with the weather. Close at night if it’s cold.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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