Thursday, August 29, 2013

Summer Orzo Salad

Do you ever have "one of those weeks"???? Well, we have had two of those weeks! First, it all started with the day I went to the dentist to get a tooth fixed, and 4 hours later, broke a tooth on the opposite side of my mouth. What are the odds? Then...the biggest hit... Truckin' Man was on his way home, after driving how many miles in the week, only to be 3 miles from home and have someone pull out in front of him. First accident for him ever, so pretty upsetting. Of course, when you are a truck owner, you have no management team to handle all the paperwork for you, but he finally has all the paperwork taken care of. Now, he has to have down time for his repairs. Then... the most traumatic event... My camera died!!! It was a good camera, and did it's time, but when you love taking pictures as much as I do, it just hurts! Well..... since Truckin' Man is home for repairs, he went shopping for my birthday present a few days early, and guess what?? A new camera! I am so excited to learn how to use it. I know what great pictures this camera will take when I learn it, since it's pretty much the same as my bloggy friend Tammy has.  Tammy is over at Our Neck of the Woods, and I absolutely love her photo's!  I am hoping that things are going to be turning around now, and we can have some smooth sailing for a while!

Here is the next recipe I wanted to share with you that is in my seasonal, garden fresh, series! I do love this salad, it is one that I look forward to all summer. I had originally found the recipe on the food network site, but it is gone now. So, I had to try and put this together from memory. I am usually not to good at remembering all ingredients, it seems like I always forget something! But, we loved this. It may have been our most favorite, ever! Truckin' Man didn't even complain about me sneaking squash into another dish!

Summer Orzo Salad

12 ounces orzo pasta
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow squash, grated (you can use zucchini, too)
1/2 tsp lemon pepper
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Cook orzo according to package directions. When pasta is al dente, drain well and rinse. Pour into bowl, and toss with extra virgin olive oil.  Set aside.

Heat olive oil in skillet over medium-high heat.  Add onion, and green bell pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add yellow squash to pan. Add lemon pepper to vegetables.  Cook, stirring often, until the squash is just starting to brown. Remove from heat immediately. Add vegetable mixture and lemon juice to orzo, toss until veggies are completely combined with orzo. Add salt to taste. Add more extra virgin olive oil, if desired. Garnish with parmesan cheese.

Serve room temperature or cold.


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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Homemade Hummingbird Food

I absolutely love our little hummingbirds! Years ago, when Truckin' Mans parents lived here on the farm, Mom fed about 30 hummingbirds. That's a lot! With having some patience, I am starting to get them coming back to the farm. Our best attempt to count, has us believing we have 6 regulars right now.

I mentioned yesterday that the next couple posts are going to be seasonal recipes. While this isn't a recipe for me or you to enjoy, our little feathered friends love it!

I feed them about 4 cups of food or nectar each week. I have never bought the store "stuff", I always make it myself. I make a batch of 4 cups on the weekend, and put out 2 cups on Sunday. Then I switch out the feeders on Wednesday, with the remaining two cups. Sometimes the feeder is already empty when I get out there. Other times there is still plenty left, like this week.

I suppose the difference in how much they consume is really dependent on what is blooming for them to eat. It's easy to help them have nectar close by. Just wash your feeders out regularly. More often in the hottest periods. You don't want any bugs or mold in there.

The thing that I am the fussiest about with their food, and my own food, is I will only use cane sugar. If the bag doesn't say "Cane Sugar", I am not buying it. 

Hummingbird Food
4 parts water
1 part sugar

In large pot, bring water to a boil. Stir in sugar.  Boil for two to three minutes.  Let cool.

Once liquid is cool, pour into bird feeder. 

Store extra food in jar in the refrigerator, for up to one week.

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Beans 'n Greens (with Swiss Chard)

For the next couple posts, I am going to be sharing recipes that are using 
fresh veggies and fruits that are in season. Hope you enjoy them!

Each year I try raising a new veggie in the garden. One that I have never eaten or cooked with before. Just my way of having a little adventure in the garden each year. Some years it works out well, other years.... not so much. This year is a hit! I planted Swiss Chard this spring. Not only is it one of the few seeds that didn't wash away in our floods, it didn't get choked out when the weeds took over. It is a survivor. I think it may be a bit heartier than our lettuce, but I also got really lucky!

It's grown. It's a beautiful crop. Then the dilemma. What do I do with it now??? A friend loaned me her cook book that was put together with some CSA farmers for exactly this purpose. To help give idea's with local and seasonal produce. Score! So, Bean's 'n Greens it was.

Still skeptical. I prepared the dish. I even made prepared dried beans, which I have rarely done. I LOVED it. It was tasty, and healthy. You really could taste the healthiness of the dish. Bigger bonus yet? Truckin' Man loved it too! He did read my mind though, and comment about what a good addition bacon would be. But, we are going to leave this as a meatless dish, and just enjoy it as is!

Beans 'n Greens
1 lb. Dried Black-Eyed Peas
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp dried thyme leaves
3 bay leaves
1 large bunch Swiss Chard, chopped ( I used about 3 cups)
salt and pepper

Sort peas to remove any stones. Rinse. Fill large pot with 6 cups water. Add peas. Bring to boil. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, and allow to stand for one hour. Drain.

Add 4 cups water back to pan. Add 4 cups of the black-eyed peas. (Reserve remaining pea's for another dish).  Bring to simmer.  While peas are simmering, heat butter and oil in a skillet. Add onions and garlic; saute with thyme and bay leaves until onions are tender. Remove from heat.

After the peas have been simmering for thirty minutes, add the onion mixture and the chopped Swiss Chard. Cook for another thirty minutes.  Test peas for doneness, simmer longer if necessary. When peas are tender, remove bay leaves. Add salt and pepper to taste. Don't skimp on the salt!!!


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Thursday, August 22, 2013

French Toast Bread Pudding Muffins

Last month, Stacey made the trip from the cities to visit for the weekend.  We invited her down since we needed help with hostessing at my dad's retirement party.  I like to try out new recipes when she is visiting. It's a change for me to cook for more than two, and since Stacey doesn't cook much, it's extra fun for me to make different types of recipes.

Since we were gong to have a busy schedule with my dad's party, I really had to take the opportunity to make something fun for breakfast.  I new it was going to be the muffins I had found on Pinterest. Heather's French Press had shared French Toast Bread Pudding Muffins. That's right. All that breakfast goodness put into a muffin.

They are delicious. Moist. So much breakfast goodness baked into one little cup!  We did have a little problem with the bread pudding sticking to the paper liner, so next time I think I will try greasing the muffin tin. My other tip for you is, while the muffins are baking, make some bacon!

French Toast Bread Pudding Muffins (Adapted from:  Heather's French Press)

1 loaf English Muffin Toasting Bread
4 eggs
2 cup milk (I use 2 %)
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Cut loaf of bread into small cubes; put in medium bowl.  Set aside.  In another bowl, whisk eggs, milk, maple syrup, vanilla, and cinnamon. Pour egg mixture over bread cubes. Let set 15 to 30 minutes, or until most of the egg mixture has been absorbed.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners, or grease tins. Fill each tin 1/2 to 3/4 full.  Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes.


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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Meyer Lemon Chess Pie

"Back in the day", I used to bake so many pies. All from scratch, crust and filling. I baked so much,  that my bestie would even credit my lovely toned arms, to all the pie crusts I would roll out. I don't remember making that many, but she talks about it to this day. Who am I to argue? But, then... I got lazy. First came premade pie crusts, then finally I just started buying the pies already made. Along with all that, there went my lovely toned arms!

Fast forward a "few" years. I was the lucky winner of a pie baking kit from Anne at From My Sweet Heart. She is such a baking inspiration, and now I have all the tools I need to get back in the pie baking groove and believe me... Truckin' Man is lovin' it!

The first pie I made was a Meyer Lemon Chess Pie. I had never even heard of a Chess Pie before, so I had to dig into the history of that a little bit. Chess pie is definitely a southern thing, explaining why I had never heard of this before.  If you want to read a little more about Chess pie, click here.

As I have said before, and I know I'll say it again, they just make things taste really really good in the south! This pie was so delicious! The big change from any pie I have ever had before is the addition of cornmeal. It really gave the pie a lovely texture. We both loved this pie. Truckin' Man loved it because it was sweet enough. I loved it because it wasn't to sweet! It was perfect! My crust rolling skills still need some work, but I will get them back!!

Meyer Lemon Chess Pie

1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp yellow cornmeal
3 eggs (farm fresh are best!)
3 Tbsp Meyer Lemon juice
2 1/2 tsp grated Meyer Lemon zest
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until thoroughly blended, and light in color.  Add cornmeal to butter mixture.  Stir until combined.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.  Add the Meyer lemon juice, Meyer lemon zest, vanilla and salt.  Mix until thoroughly combined.

Pour filling into pie crust.  Bake 35-40 minutes.**  Pie is done when a knife inserted in the center, comes out clean.  Cool for at least one hour. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before serving. 

**Note: I suggest using a pie shield or aluminum foil to protect your crust from getting to brown and crispy!

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Sunday, August 11, 2013

A Day of Local Sightseeing

It's a very rare day that we have a day with no work, on or off the farm. But, Truckin' Man thought we were due, I agreed. He left the planning up to me.

First, we went to a local county fair, but there wasn't much going on there. 

So, down the road we went to a car show. Lot's of fun cars.

This was my favorite.

 We stopped for a lunch and ice cream, and ate along side an oat field.

Next off to a small park.

 Old stairs to the top of the bluff. We didn't test their weight capacity, and went one at a time.

 Very pretty up top. Looks like back in the day before budget cuts, it was probably well groomed.

The Natural Bridge.

 The other side!

We ended the day at a drive-inn for dinner and a root beer!

Looking forward to our next day off!

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Veggies are Ready!

It has been a hard season on our garden. A lot of seeds were washed away in our rains and floods. Then the weeds took over. And, when I say they took over, they really did. With some weeds at 7 foot tall, I had called the garden a loss, but Truckin' Man wasn't so easily discouraged. So, with his help, we got our garden back, and we are now pickin' some beautiful veggies! I couldn't be happier!

 The garden is a little smaller than it was in the beginning of the season, but at least it is under control!

 The Swiss Chard held on through it all. 
Now to find some recipes and try my new food of the season!

 Beautiful Green Bell Peppers!

 Call me weird, but I think this cabbage is beautiful!

 Cute little pan squash.

 The pumpkins are REALLY far behind, but hopefully they will be ready in time.

 My one and only spaghetti squash.

 The first tomatoes! So excited!

 The beans we replanted, are coming along nicely!

I hope that the growing season keeps going for many many weeks! No early frost this year, please!

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Buttery Garlic Ranch Pretzels (AKA Crack Pretzels)

Is it right to share a recipe with you when it is for something I can not keep in my house? I think so!! I have been making these pretzel's for years now. The girls that I used to work with, at the bank,  would know these as "Lori's Pretzels".  
Anything Lori brought in for our food days, never lasted long!

These pretzels are just so simple, and so good! Honestly, I can't keep them in my house! I have made several batches recently for some parties, and I just want them out! Why? If they are in the house, they disappear. Gone. No where to be found. Why? You eat them. Addictively.  One handful after another. Salty, buttery, garlicky, ranchy.....Need I say more?

This is not a healthy recipe.  The party I took them to this weekend had a lot of healthy eaters attending. When the first lady asked me for the recipe, I was afraid to tell her, thinking she would set her pretzels down and walk away. Nope. She didn't care. She was already addicted and 
kept on eating.

Try 'em. Let me know. Can you eat just one???

Buttery Garlic Ranch Pretzels (AKA Crack Pretzels)

16 oz. bag Mini Pretzels
4 oz. Orville Redenbacher Buttery Flavor Popcorn Oil
1 oz. package Hidden Valley Ranch Dip Mix (Original)
2 tsp garlic powder ( I use 3 tsp since I love them really garlicky)

Pour pretzels into large mixing bowl. Toss with popcorn oil, until pretzels are coated with the oil. Sprinkle the dip mix and garlic powder over the pretzels. Toss again until all the ingredients are distributed over all the pretzels. Spend a couple minutes doing this to be sure everything is evenly distributed.

Pour onto large cookie sheet and let dry for several hours.  Once dry, store in airtight container.

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Monster Cookies

I am excited to be part of a great group of bakers led by Cynthia from Feeding Big. This group is appropriately named "Fill the Cookie Jar"! Each month there will be a new theme to the cookies that we all bring to "Fill the Cookie Jar". How could I pass up this opportunity?! If you are interested in joining in, and helping fill the cookie jar, please contact Feeding Big here.

For our first month, the cookie theme is Kids Favorites/Back to School. Thinking on that topic, it only took me a minute to remember the Monster Cookies that my mom used to make for us. When mom made them, it was a HUGE batch. I can remember her having to mix the recipe with her hands, because the huge amount of cookie dough her recipe made. She also used a ice cream scoop to portion out her cookies for the baking sheet!

I downsized the recipe quite a bit, so that we aren't eating these out of control.  We don't want to start looking like Cookie Monster!  I will share my mom's recipe below, as well as my downsized recipe! You might notice that I bumped up the chocolate amount in my recipe, just a tiny bit. Can't go wrong with a little more chocolate, right???

I just loved having one of these cookies with a bowl of frozen yogurt!

Monster Cookies (downsized recipe)

3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tbsp vanilla
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup M & M's
1 cup chocolate chunks (or chocolate chips)
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)
4 1/2 cup oatmeal

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine dark brown and white sugar, butter, and eggs. Mix well.  Stir in vanilla and baking soda.  Add peanut butter, M & M's, chocolate chunks, and nuts.  When mixed, add oatmeal and mix well. Drop rounded tablespoonful onto ungreased baking sheet.  Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.  Cool on cookie sheet for several minutes, then move to cooling rack to finish cooling.

Monster Cookies (Mom's full size recipe)

1 dozen eggs
1 pound butter
2 pounds brown sugar
4 cups white sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
3 pounds peanut butter
8 tsp baking soad
18 cups oatmeal
1 pound chocolate chips
1 pound chopped nuts
1 pound M & M's 
1 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients and mix as best you can in a large roaster or dishpan.  Use ice cream scoop and dip out one scoop of batter for each cookie.  Place on cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees until light brown.

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