Easy Pea Salad Recipe

 I added yellow and red onions to this easy pea salad. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

I added yellow and red onions to this easy pea salad. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Easy Pea Salad Recipe

This is one of those quick and easy recipes that should be in the American Cooking Encyclopedia, it comes in handy for a variety of occasions. I have used this is as both a main salad as well as a side dish, both cold and warm. It’s best cold for a summer dish and warm for a winter side dish.

You can alter the ingredients to taste. I tend to add more celery and onions.

I also like that it takes only a small amount of mayonnaise to bring all ingredients together.

If I have a choice, I would let this sit overnight so the flavors marinate.

To mak

1 can drained peas

1 shelled hard boiled egg

1/2 cup chopped fresh celery

1/4 cup chopped yellow and/or red onions

1 tbsp mayonnaise

salt to taste

To make: Mix together. You can add a second egg if you want more egg and a dash of milk if you want more coating on the peas.

Cover and allow to marinate for a couple of hours or overnight for the cold version.

Serve immediately if you want it served warm.

Charlotte

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix

 My first batch of homemade hot cocoa mix being tested. It passed inspection with flying colors.

My first batch of homemade hot cocoa mix being tested. It passed inspection with flying colors.

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix Recipe

It's cold. Finally. Snow is still on the ground and the winds are blowing the skin temperature lower. Perfect time for a great drink like a cup of hot cocoa!

The first recipe I found was pretty basic and had none of the rich texture one gets from buying hot cocoa mix in fancy containers. After some research, I found this recipe from Alton Brown that includes a secret ingredient that makes all of the difference - cayenne pepper flakes.

I have now made this recipe a couple of times, once for gifts and the second time to have a supply for myself. 

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix Ingredients (for 5 cups of dry mix)

  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa (Dutch-process preferred); Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate is another option.
  • 2 1/2 cups powdered milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • optional - 1 pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste
  • optional - add baking chips like butterscotch or mint to the top
  • You can add other things like toffee bits, candy cane crumbs or candy baking chips to the mix as well as spices like cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice. Simply whisk the ingredients together. 

To serve, start with 2 tablespoons per 8 ounces of hot water. Mix a couple ounces of hot water in mix first, then add hot water to taste.

To mix well, I will measure the mix and water in a blender.

Homemade Hot Cocoa Mix Gift Idea

You can give it as a gift all on its own, or pair it with other yummy treats. Arrange it in a gift basket with a mug and sweet treats.

A canning jar is perfect for packaging edible gifts like hot cocoa mix although my preference is interesting glass jars with tight lids. Use a colorful ribbon and a gift tag with instructions.

Although I tend to see this recipe at Christmas, it's a nice gift idea for Valentine's Day, too and for any fall and winter birthdays.

Charlotte

 

Sweet Potato Recipes

 Select relatively straight sweet potatoes to preserve your fingers when cutting into strips.

Select relatively straight sweet potatoes to preserve your fingers when cutting into strips.

Sweet Potato Recipes

The argument started innocently enough. We tend to end up in the kitchen when any two of us are together and at this family reunion, it was hard to know who was responsible for cooking what dishes. As one of my brothers was rummaging through the pantry, he yelled out who had the yams.

My Uncle Tony, from Louisiana, was enjoying a cup of coffee at the end of the kitchen island and took exception to the orange tubers my other brother tossed over him. “Those are not yams,” he said, his charming southern accent at odds with how emphatically he made the diagnosis.

Yams are native to Africa and Asia, with the majority of the crop coming from Africa. They are related to lilies, and can be as small as a regular potato or grow five feet long. Yams have a cylindrical shape with blackish or brown, bark-like skin and white, purple or reddish flesh. Compared to sweet potatoes, yams are starchier and drier.

Part of the confusion comes from how USDA classifies sweet potatoes – “firm” and “soft.” The firm variety was the first to be produced in the U.S., so when "soft" sweet potatoes began to be produced commercially, there was a need to differentiate it. Since the "soft" sweet potatoes slightly resembled true yams, they picked up the name and became what you see labeled as "yams" in most U.S. grocery stores. Those are the sweet potatoes most used in sweet potato casseroles.

Baked Sweet Potatoes

I love to have those soft sweet potatoes around for snacks and to add to salads, nothing more, just a well-baked sweet potato. Pick the same sized- tubers so they all finish baking around the same time.

After washing and towel drying, cut an x in the center before placing in a 350F oven for about half an hour or until done.

Baked sweet potatoes are a traditional American fall recipe. However, I have a new favorite way to eat sweet potatoes-baked sweet potato fries.

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

You will need: Extra virgin olive oil, salt, black pepper, garlic powder and paprika. Parchment paper. Don’t forget the sweet potatoes!

To make: Select relatively straight-growing sweet potatoes for easy cutting. Remove peel. Cut into slices, then cut again into ¼ inch wide strips.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Line a sheet tray with parchment. In a large bowl, toss sweet potatoes with just enough oil to coat. Sprinkle with three shakes each of seasonings and paprika. Spread sweet potatoes in single layer on prepared baking sheet, being sure not to overcrowd. Bake until sweet potatoes are tender and golden brown, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes. Let cool 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

If you want to make larger portions, for 5 sweet potatoes use 1 tablespoon of a combination of 1 cup salt, ¼ cup black pepper, ¼ cup garlic powder and ½ teaspoon paprika.

 Baked sweet botato fries are best served about 5 minutes after they come out of oven and cool.

Baked sweet botato fries are best served about 5 minutes after they come out of oven and cool.

As far as what my two engineer brothers made with those sweet potatoes they thought were yams, let’s just say it’s best that some recipes are not preserved for posterity.

Charlotte

Chocolate Mice Recipe

 Hershey kisses form the face of chocolate-dipped maraschino cherries with stems.

Hershey kisses form the face of chocolate-dipped maraschino cherries with stems.

Chocolate Mice Recipe

My bee buddy David turned 70 years old this year. To celebrate, his sons joined him for a weekend of fine dining, theatre and catching up on family stories, including a chocolate birthday cake with white icing decorated with, what else – bees.

There’s another passion in David’s life, besides his lovely wife. Three cats have found refuge at David’s house, each with a story sadder than the next one until you see them today, coats shiny as they happily lounge on the grass outside David’s basement office.

There is Shirley, a one-eyed calico suspected of being at least 18 years old who is the self-designated house greeter. Chatty Shirley will let you know it’s time to pick her up when she rolls over after telling you all about her day.

Then there is black Henry with yellow eyes, who hides from most people but who talks to me, especially when he wants inside the house. One time he led me to all house doors to see if I could let him inside. Unfortunately I didn’t happen to have a key and he let me know what he thought of my shortcomings by dashing off.

Finally, there is black and white Smokey, who played hard to get for 3 years and now won’t let David, or Henry, out of his sight. I, on the other hand, Smokey can easily do without and tries to, every time he sees me.

When I heard about David’s landmark birthday, I knew the furry family had to contribute – actually Shirley asked me, she has a lot to say every time she sees me – so I made one of my favorite gift treats, chocolate mice.

Chocolate Mice Recipe

You need:

Unwrapped Hershey milk chocolate kisses

Maraschino cherries with stems

Dark almond bark

Almond slivers

Storage container

Tin gift can

Wax paper

Paper Towel

 Chocolate mice close up include Almond slivers for ears.

Chocolate mice close up include Almond slivers for ears.

To Make Chocolate Mice

Drain cherries and place on paper towel.

Unwrap Hershey kisses.

Melt dark almond bark in microwave for 1 ½ minutes until melted. Dip cherries in chocolate until covered; place on wax paper to dry.

Add dab of melted chocolate to flat Hershey kiss; add 2 Almond slivers. Press against cherry. Allow to dry.

Store in air tight container.

 Photo 2:  Package chocolate mice in a tin container to keep the almond ears from breaking and add toy mice on top instead of a ribbon for a feline treat. (Photos by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Photo 2:  Package chocolate mice in a tin container to keep the almond ears from breaking and add toy mice on top instead of a ribbon for a feline treat. (Photos by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

How to Package Chocolate Mice

To make these even more special, I packaged them in a tin container. Make sure the tin is tall enough not to break the almond sliver ears. If you want to make sure they don’t move, you can use a tiny dab of chocolate to “glue” the mice to a cardboard bottom.

For fun, I added three catnip mice to the tin instead of a ribbon. The gift card was “signed” with the three cats footprints, a cat foot print stamp my cats have been known to use for their gift-giving. I added names just in case David couldn’t distinguish between one set of prints against another one but he seemed to know who had contributed to the birthday sentiments.

These also make wonderful Halloween and Christmas treats.

Charlotte

Baked Pears in Honey Recipe

 Ripe bartlett pears from my garden ready to bake after I drizzle fresh honey over them.

Ripe bartlett pears from my garden ready to bake after I drizzle fresh honey over them.

Baked Pears in Honey Recipe

The first batch of freshly picked Bartlett pears have safely arrived at their destination and have been rated “yumm” by one of my brothers. It has become an annual family tradition when I have fresh Bartlett pears to share. After seasoning them to start ripening, I carefully wrap each one in newspaper and bubble wrap and ship them off, timing them to arrive with at least a couple of them ripe enough to eat right out of the box. I know my brothers, they aren’t going to wait to have them cooked.

These are not just any Bartlett pears. These are pears not from a farm but from the semi-dwarf pear tree I planted by my driveway in 1983. I completely forgot I even had the tree until 2010, when the first crop of pears covered my driveway. Wasps had pollinated the tree that spring. That was also the year I added two bee hives to my garden, which looking back now appears redundant. Between the bees and wasps, the Stark Brothers pear tree has provided varying crops of pears every year. In 2012, the year of a drought, it was just one but it was quite a large pear. Now I know to pinch off some of the flowers to encourage yearly fruiting.

The squirrels in my garden have developed a taste for pears so it’s a race between who will get more pears by the time they are ready to pick. Squirrels, I have learned, don’t mind eating very green pears so they have a head start on the count. By the time the fruit was ready to pick this year, I used a light bulb changer and removed every single remaining fruit. They are now sitting in baskets in my cold utility room to get the ripening process started. Pears ripen from the inside, not on the tree.

This year, I also added a small container of honey to the pear packages so my brothers and their families could enjoy baked pears in honey. The recipe is easy and delicious.

Here are the instructions that went with the pears, including the recipe:

Bluebird Gardens Bartlett Pears 2017

These pears have survived daily squirrel assaults to be a treat on your table.

After getting picked, they were seasoned in 60F temperature for a week to start the ripening process. Pears ripen from the inside.

Once you receive yours, place a couple in the enclosed brown bag with an apple so the apple ethylene gases will complete the ripening. A pear is ripe when you gently press the top with a thumb and find it soft to the touch.

 Bartlett pears with honey baked, cooled and ready to taste. 

Bartlett pears with honey baked, cooled and ready to taste. 

Baked Pears with Honey Recipe

Cut the pears in half and place on a baking sheet (I cut a sliver off the other end so they sat upright).  Leave the skin on.

Using a measuring spoon or melon baller, scoop out the seeds.

Sprinkle with cinnamon and drizzle 1/2 teaspoon honey over each one. You can also add walnuts in the scooped out center.

Bake in the oven 30 minutes.  Enjoy!

Charlotte

Hot Toddy Recipe

 Basic hot toddy ingredients including honey from my bee hives.

Basic hot toddy ingredients including honey from my bee hives.

Hot Toddy Recipe

Not sure how I caught this cold but it's a great excuse to try a traditional remedy, a "hot toddy" drink.

I have had two in my life. The first was when I was working in England at the 50th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion. It had been raining for days. By the end of the week, I had to talk so much I ended up with laryngitis and soaking wet. After changing into dry clothes, my Navy team greeted me with a warm blanket and a hot toddy.

More recently, my bee buddy David brought it up the first time he heard my congested voice, noting that it also is great to encourage sleep. I rarely drink hard liquor but I thought it was worth a try to feel better. And it has an ingredient I have on hand, local  honey.

Hot Toddy Ingredients

  • 2 ounces whiskey 
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 4 ounces water (hot from the tap)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (we use the stuff in the plastic lemon)
  • 1 slice fresh lemon (if we don't have this we don't use it) (optional)

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place the whisky in a large microwave safe mug.
  2. Add the honey.
  3. Pour the hot water into the mug over the spoon you used for the honey to get off the last little drops.
  4. Add the lemon juice and stir well.
  5. Place the mug in the microwave for 1 minute or until it is piping hot, but not boiling.
  6. Add the lemon slice and serve.

Even if it doesn't work on your cold, it should help you sleep so you don't care about the cold!

Charlotte

Ice Storm Chicken and Veggie Rosemary Stew

 Fresh rosemary sprigs added at the end are the secret to this delicious chicken veggie stew.

Fresh rosemary sprigs added at the end are the secret to this delicious chicken veggie stew.

Ice Storm Chicken and Veggie Rosemary Stew

I just had some and, if I don't mind saying it myself, it was SO good. Simple, flavorful...I'm in love with fresh rosemary.

In the past, I have mixed my herbs but I decided to just use fresh rosemary I have been growing in a pot in my dining room. It's cold and icy outside; this potted herb is still happily growing so it was time to use some of it in winter cooking.

This is the basic soup recipe I use when I want to clean out my crisper. If you want a soup, add more broth, water or wine; I wanted something hardier so I'm calling this a stew.

Ice Storm Chicken and Veggie Rosemary Stew Recipe

2 cans vegetable broth

3 cut up medium carrots

3 diced celery stalks

1 diced medium onion

1 cup water

1 tsp sea salt

Half of a diced green pepper (this was left over from a salad)

Cook on low until the vegetables are cooked, about half an hour or so.

Add I baked chicken breast, cut up into small pieces

3 3-inch fresh rosemary sprigs

Cut up mushrooms - I forgot to add those, will next time. 

Continue cooking on low until chicken is integrated into the vegetable mixture and the rosemary blends in, about 5 minutes. Serve.

Makes 4 hearty servings.

I can imagine this with other vegetables - broccoli, green beans, zucchini leaving the fresh rosemary as the star. I'm loosing weight so now carbs - no peas, potatoes, pasta, rice - although those could be added if you wanted something with higher levels of energy.

 Ice-covered redbud tree January 14, 2017 in my garden, which is why I'm playing in my kitchen.

Ice-covered redbud tree January 14, 2017 in my garden, which is why I'm playing in my kitchen.

It's too cold and dangerous to be outside because of the ice storm so I'm enjoying reading a book and playing in the kitchen. I'm lucky to have written this recipe down immediately after making it or I would not have remembered the ingredient amounts later. Friends and family know that's a regular hazard when enjoying meals at my house, they may never enjoy the same one again because I like to experiment.

Oh, I have recipe books. I collect recipe books and have some classics, from my Mother's Betty Crocker cookbook to the American Cooking Encyclopedia. I enjoy reading them. Much more fun to chop, mix and see what I can cook up on my own without a prompt - most of the time.

Ice Storm Chicken and Veggie Rosemary Stew is delicious the next day, too.

Charlotte

 

 

 

Winter Hardy Chili

 This chili uses ingredients from my garden. Add glass of milk and a cold winter day to appreciate.

This chili uses ingredients from my garden. Add glass of milk and a cold winter day to appreciate.

Winter Hardy Chili

Do you have a favorite, secret chili recipe?

There are people who do, even places that hold chili cook-offs where winning dishes have top secret ingredients such as chocolate, beer, peanut butter or – well, if I told you it wouldn’t be a secret any more.

I recently met someone who also has quite an array of ingredients she offers as chili toppings, from the standard sour cream, grated cheese and crackers to shredded chocolate, peanuts and crumbled potato chips. My personal favorite, which I haven’t tried yet, was fresh diced red onions but then I love red onions on practically anything, especially the ones I grow myself out of my refrigerator crisper. It’s more like liberating those poor things that tend to sprout before I have a chance to use them in salads.

I have a lot of creative fun with my favorite chili recipe, a derivative from one a friend shared from her days in Washington D.C. Over the years, I have simplified her fancy recipe so that it is ready to eat as soon as it is made, and still flexible if you want to get creative and add other ingredients. It also can be cooked longer by adding liquid - tomato paste, red wine, more tomatoes. For example, if you first saute garlic with onions and green peppers, this will be sweeter. If you put the garlic in with the tomatoes and beans, it will be more salty.

If you should be invaded by a herd of teenagers, add an extra can of beans to extend the recipe with a dash of extra seasonings. I once only had extra canned tomatoes and added those and that made this into a delicious thick soup. As I said earlier, very versatile.

This makes 6-8 half cup servings if you’re not adding more to it:

Charlotte’s Chili Recipe

1 cut up medium yellow onion

1 cut up medium green pepper

2-4 cloves of garlic to taste

1-2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 lbs ground chuck

1 can red pinto beans

12 oz defrosted or canned tomatoes, or 1 can stewed tomatoes

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp salt

Mix red pinto beans and tomatoes in a pot with chili powder; set aside.

Cook onions in extra virgin olive oil until clear; add green peppers, garlic and ground chuck. Cook on low until brown. Strain to remove extra grease. I use a colander inside a mixing bowl and let it drain. Mix with beans and tomatoes until warm. Add salt to taste.

Serve as is or add a few saltine crackers or a handful of oyster crackers. Wait until it cools to dig in.

Charlotte

 

 

 

Honey Butter Cinnamon Icing

 Honey butter cinnamon icing almost ready to use.

Honey butter cinnamon icing almost ready to use.

Honey Butter Cinnamon Icing

I like to use honey in cooking but only if I don't heat it up . Heat destroys the beneficial enzymes in honey so that tends to limit how I can use it in my kitchen. 

When I was asked to bring a desert to a function, I decided to try to find something that could incorporate a little honey from my hives and I came across this interesting recipe for an icing. The cinnamon tempered the sweetness and the honey is used at room temperature.

The confectioner's sugar has an interesting reaction to adding the honey. At first it appears the mixture needs additional moisture. Once the honey is incorporated into the confectioner's sugar, it starts to smooth out against the bowl sides so be patient.

Honey Butter Cinnamon Icing Ingredients

·       1 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar

·       1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

·       1 tablespoon honey

·       1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Mix at first on low in a bowl with a hand beater until incorporated and smooth.

Spread on cupcakes, cookies or cakes.

 Honey butter cinnamon icing-covered bite size cupcakes ready for a Christmas party.

Honey butter cinnamon icing-covered bite size cupcakes ready for a Christmas party.

Nice way to use some of my honey in a little holiday baking!

Charlotte

Fall Pea Salad Recipe

Fall Pea Salad Ingredients from Bluebird Gardens.

Fall Pea Salad Recipe

This is an easy to make and delicious pea salad and side dish. It reminds me of some of the recipes in one of my favorite recipe books, In the Kitchen with Rosie.  I make it several times a year with different added ingredients. For fall, I use my last of the season cherry tomatoes, which ripened inside and have a little tang to them.

Here is the basic Fall Pea Salad Recipe:

1 can of peas

1 hard boiled egg

1 stalk of celery

1 tablespoon of mayonnaise

a dash of salt

To make, drain the can of peas and place in a container.

Cut up the stalk of celery into small pieces. I cut the celery stalk in half, then cut the halves yet again but chopping up the first halves works well, too. It's a matter of preference.

 Divide a washed celery in half before chopping into smaller pieces.

Divide a washed celery in half before chopping into smaller pieces.

Personally I prefer the crisp celery pieces to be in larger pieces because I like the crunch but if you want them smaller, go for it.

 Celery pieces can be any size you like, I like mine big enough to enjoy the crunch.

Celery pieces can be any size you like, I like mine big enough to enjoy the crunch.

Also chop up one hard-boiled egg into smaller pieces and mix with the peas and celery.

 Leave the hard boiled egg pieces in larger chunks so you can still see them in the salad.

Leave the hard boiled egg pieces in larger chunks so you can still see them in the salad.

This is my stash of the last of my cherry tomatoes. Most were green when I brought them in, and some are past their prime. I like to add them to this salad for color and the little bite they add to the other ingredients.

 These are the last of my cherry tomatoes, picked the night before the first hard frost.

These are the last of my cherry tomatoes, picked the night before the first hard frost.

I cut the cherry tomatoes in half, then slice them once more and mix them with the rest.

Add a dash of salt, mix again, and then add the tablespoon of mayonnaise. The less you use, the better, this only needs a little bit of mayo so if you want to cut back, start with a teaspoon and add if you want more.

 Finished fall pea salad with the last of my cherry tomatoes. So good the next day, too!

Finished fall pea salad with the last of my cherry tomatoes. So good the next day, too!

If you need to stretch the servings, you can add another can of peas, more celery and eggs. Mix the added ingredients before you add more mayonnaise, you may not need any extra.

Once all mixed, you can serve or store in refrigerator for later use. I also like this fall pea salad the second day, when all of the flavors have had time to mix.

This is also a refreshing summer salad or side dish, and in spring I add a few native violets, that version is very pretty. Great little salad to throw together when you have last-minute visitors, too. Enjoy!

Charlotte

Honey Garlic Butter Salmon Recipe

 This is even better the following day, after the juices have settled in. Good cold, too!

This is even better the following day, after the juices have settled in. Good cold, too!

Honey Garlic Butter Salmon Recipe

I'm back from 10 days in Italy, inspired to do something more than just grill my salmon in garlic salt and douse with lemon juice. Don't get too excited, I am not aspiring to be a chef, I just want to try my hand at giving my food a little easy, extra flavor.

This recipe is very simple and delicious. Honey Garlic Butter Salmon is ready in under 20 minutes, then broiled, or grilled, for that extra golden, crispy and caramelized finish. Most of the time it is cooking so there is plenty of time to set the table and toss a salad while you wait to place it under the broiler for a couple of minutes before serving.

This recipe is for 2 1/2 pounds of fresh salmon, Since I only purchased one pound, I made the sauce in a microwave dish by estimating smaller ingredient amounts. Heat up on low or defrost, not on high or you may get a lot of smoke. Trust me.

 Honey Garlic Butter salmon calls for basic ingredients we all should already have.

Honey Garlic Butter salmon calls for basic ingredients we all should already have.

Honey Garlic Butter Salmon Recipe Ingredients (for 2.5 lbs of salmon)

  • ¼ cup butter
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 4 large cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (juice of ½ a lemon)
  • 1.2kg | 2½ pounds side of salmon
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Cracked pepper, to taste (optional)
  • Lemon slices (to serve)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
 So easy, add your salmon to aluminum foil that can cover the whole slab.

So easy, add your salmon to aluminum foil that can cover the whole slab.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat oven to 375°F | 190°C. Line a baking tray or baking sheet with a large piece of foil, big enough to fold over and seal to create a packet or 2 long pieces of foil over lapping each other lengthways to create your salmon packet, depending on the width of you fillet.
  2. If your fillet is uneven, slice it to even-width pieces so it will all cook evenly.
  3. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low-medium heat. Add the honey, garlic and lemon, and whisk until the honey has melted through the butter and the mixture is well combined.
 Add the butter, honey and garlic mixture to the salmon and make sure it's well coated.

Add the butter, honey and garlic mixture to the salmon and make sure it's well coated.

4. Place the salmon onto lined baking tray and cookie sheet. Pour the butter and honey mixture over the salmon, and using a pastry brush or spoon, spread evenly over the salmon. Sprinkle with a good amount of salt, about 2 teaspoons, and cracked pepper. Fold the sides of the foil over the salmon to cover and completely seal the packet closed so the butter does not leak.

 Fold the salmon and mixture tightly-sealed in the aluminum foil to seal in flavor as it bakes.

Fold the salmon and mixture tightly-sealed in the aluminum foil to seal in flavor as it bakes.

5. Bake until cooked through, about 15-18 minutes, depending on the thickness of your fish and your preference of doneness.

6. Open the foil, being careful of any escaping steam, and grill or broil for 2-3 minutes on medium heat to caramelize the top.

7. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately with lemon slices. Excellent served warm or cold or for any of the four seasons in the year. Really yummy!

 Another great excuse for using my fresh parsley from my pot garden.

Another great excuse for using my fresh parsley from my pot garden.

Don't forget to pick your fresh parsley for the garnish!

Charlotte

Cucumber Onion Salad

Cucumber and onion salad.

Cucumber Onion Salad Recipe

Of all of the things I have in my garden, ladybugs and cucumbers are a must. One of the summer flavors from my teenage years was a cucumber salad my mother used to make. It was so refreshing, especially on hot Illinois summer days!

I decided to try to replicate that recipe only adding my homegrown onions to the dish. This time, i measured the ingredients, trying to remember the combination of sweet and savory. Here are the marinade ingredients that should be mixed in a pan prior to boiling:

1 cup apple cider vinegar

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

Mix in a pan and bring to a boil.

Cucumber and onion salad marinade.

While the marinate is cooling, slice cucumbers and onions. For this recipe, 3-4 cucumbers will work, depending on the size of the cucumbers.

One medium regular yellow onion will work, or maybe a sweeter red onion would also be a good choice to add color.

Pour the marinade over the sliced cucumbers and onions; mix. Let sit overnight.

I like to give it a toss every once in awhile. Don't know how much of that was out of curiosity or hope that this would turn out well.

Cucumber and onion salad mixed.

And the verdict?

It was delicious, said several friends who came over for a working dinner. Guess my 40-year old memory isn't so bad after all!

Charlotte

PS You can also re-use the marinade for several days. Just keep adding cucumbers and onions as you deplete the supply.

Simple Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe

Simple Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe

Every kitchen should have as standard issue an ice cream maker. Not the old-fashioned kind with a hand crank that requires adding ice, it should be one with an electric motor that produces ice cream in 20 minutes so one can finish another chapter of that great book one is reading. Don’t look at me, those are my niece Rachel’s requirements for an excellent home ice cream maker.

Since I was given one as a gift, I haven’t had to go shopping for one but I have felt grateful the machine passed Rachel’s standards. This is our favorite ice cream recipe and yes, we have tested several, all in the interests of achieving a higher culinary standard.

You’re welcome. 

Simple Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe

 Ingredients:

*¾ cup sifted cocoa powder

½ cup sugar

**1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar

A pinch of salt

***1 cup whole milk (or skim or powdered milk)

2 cups heavy whipping cream

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Other Possible Recipe Alterations

Miniature chocolate chips

Spearmint flavoring

Fresh strawberries

Fresh bing cherries

*Rachel and I have experimented with a variety of cocoa powders, our favorite is Hershey Special Dark Chocolate, “a blend of natural and Dutched cocoas.” It has a paper red ribbon towards the bottom of the container, usually only available at a big box grocery store.

**You can also use either dark or light brown sugar; the darker brown sugar gives the ice cream a richer flavor.

***We experimented with cutting calories with the milk, substituting skim milk and prepared powdered milk. The lighter milks made the ice cream not as rich, which was fine with me. I preferred something lighter for at least summer.

Other Possible Flavor Alterations

 In terms of alterations, we have also tested adding miniature chocolate chips and substituting a spearmint flavor for the vanilla to make a mint chocolate chip ice cream. I was told by Rachel’s father that it was delicious, I never made it to the tasting step.

I did, however, taste test adding chopped Bing cherries in one batch and cut up fresh strawberries in another batch and would recommend those combinations.

 My niece Rachel refreshing her ice cream-making skills whipping up a chocolate ice cream batch.

My niece Rachel refreshing her ice cream-making skills whipping up a chocolate ice cream batch.

How To Make Simple Chocolate Ice Cream 

In a medium bowl, sift together the cocoa, sugars and salt. Add the milk and ,using a hand mixer on low speed, or a whisk, beat to combine until dry ingredients are dissolved.  

Stir in the heavy cream and vanilla, or add another flavoring at this point.

Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours or overnight.

Turn ice cream maker on; pour the mixture into the frozen freezer bowl and let mix until thickened, 15-20 minutes. The ice cream will have a soft, creamy texture.

 Chocolate ice cream is ready when it starts shaping into mounds.

Chocolate ice cream is ready when it starts shaping into mounds.

Add chocolate chips in the last minute or so. If you are adding fresh fruit, add that by hand and mix with a wooden spoon.

If you want a firmer consistency, transfer ice cream into an airtight container and place in freezer for a couple of hours. Remove from freezer about 15 minutes before serving.

 Makes about 5 cups (10 ½ cup servings) 268 calories per ½ cup serving, not counting anything else you may add.

Oh, don't worry, you will!

Charlotte

Easy Corn Bread

 Bluebird Gardens honey on freshly-baked corn bread - yumm!   

Bluebird Gardens honey on freshly-baked corn bread - yumm!

 

Easy Corn Bread Recipe

It was one of those Missouri spring days, warm at midday but cold by evening, reminding me there could still be a frost. I had painted all day – bee hives, bird houses, inadvertently even my neighbor’s two dogs. Hard to miss them now, they both are wearing hot pink tails after brushing against my paint projects.

A hot cup of canned New England Clam Chowder and homegrown salad was on the menu but something was missing. I brushed off my recipe box and found my dog-eared, all-time favorite corn bread recipe.

When I travelled for work, it was fun to try the variety of textures and flavors of corn bread from different regions. I thought of myself as a bit of a connoisseur, not that it was worth a hill of corn to anyone but me. Two criteria determined that the corn bread was not up to standard: some crumbled when cut open; others were far too dry.

After maybe far too much testing, I have decided I prefer mine simple yet flavorful, something with the right combination of corn taste and moisture. No gravy or jam, I still wonder at the cook who slathered a spicy cheese on a square of corn bread in Washington D. C., then broiled it. It wasn’t bad with the salad but I have always wondered what the cook was trying to hide. In my world, the corn bread has to taste good on its own before I enjoy it with my favorite additive, drizzled with honey, preferably freshly-harvested.

Here is my favorite corn bread recipe. You can substitute just water if you don’t have milk, and using eggs whites instead of a whole egg makes them just a tad lighter. Stay true to the ingredient amounts to get the right texture and moisture. If you add a smidge more of flour than the recipe calls for will make the corn bread dry. Also watch the timing, you don’t want to over bake.

Charlotte’s Easy Corn Bread Recipe

Ingredients:

1 ? cup flour

? cup corn meal

? cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

? teaspoon salt (optional)

1 cup skim milk

? cup vegetable oil

2 egg whites of 1 egg beaten

To make, heat oven to 400F. Prepare baking pans; I like to bake in cupcake pans. This recipe will make 12.

Combine dry ingredients. Stir in milk, oil and egg, mixing dry ingredients until moist.

Pour into baking pan. Bake 20-25 minutes until light golden brown and wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Serve warm.

You can also freeze these. I place them on a cooling rack in freezer until frozen, then store in a plastic bag so I can remove individual servings when I need them.

Charlotte

Green Juice Punch

I suppose there are worst reasons than color to pick a recipe but I was looking for a Christmas green and red punch recipe with natural ingredients. Mom had one of those classic recipes,  a wonderful lime punch but I couldn't find it. Besides, as I recall it had a lot of soft drinks and I wanted something using more natural ingredients including honey. 

This one also has lime sherbert, not always easy to find in December so double-check that you can find some before counting on making this for a special event.

For one large bowl of Christmas Juice Punch:

1 large can pineapple juice

2 cans thawed orange juice

1/2 cup honey

1/4 cup lemon juice

1 bottle club soda

Lime sherbert 

Cherry ice cream (optional)

To make, combine orange juice, pineapple juice, honey and lemon juice. Before measuring out honey, spray measuring cup with coating so honey comes out easily. Mix well. 

When ready to serve, add scoops of lime sherbert. Pour club soda over it all slowly because it will fizzle. 

 My beekeeping friends Cheryl, left, and David, right, "volunteered" to keep the punch bowl filled at a neighborhood Christmas open house in 2015. Tough duty!

My beekeeping friends Cheryl, left, and David, right, "volunteered" to keep the punch bowl filled at a neighborhood Christmas open house in 2015. Tough duty!

This recipe originally called for cherry ice cream and cherries but cherries fell to the bottom and were lost in the presentation. Fun to scoop them out later when I was cleaning the punch bowl but a bit of a waste in terms of adding a holiday splash of color.

This batch had a good 10 cups leftover after an afternoon drop-in for 25 people.

I have to confess, I drank my share. It was really good and would make an excellent green punch for St. Patrick's Day March 15, another big day for our local campus Missouri University of Science and Technology. It used to be an engineering-focused campus with St. Patrick, the patron saint of engineers. The St. Patrick's Day festivities live on.

Charlotte

Rabbit Rolls Recipe

Here is my Rabbit Dinner Rolls recipe, which I understand is an old-fashioned angel biscuit recipe, replete with instructions on how to make the rolls look like rabbits. These will be lighter if made with all white flour but I mixed half white and half wheat.

Rabbit Dinner Rolls

2.5 cups *white all purpose flour

2.5 cups *whole wheat flour

*you can use all white flour, I mixed them to give the bunnies a little color. Wheat flour makes the rolls more dense.

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1 tablespoon salt

1/4 cup sugar

1 cup chilled vegetable shortening

2 cups buttermilk

2 ¼ tsp active yeast (one package)

1/4 cup warm water

1 egg, beaten (optional)

Directions:

Empty active yeast into warm water. Allow to sit for 10 minutes.

Mix dry ingredients together.

Cut in shortening with two knives until shortening is in tiny pieces and dissolves into the mixture.

Add buttermilk and yeast mixture. Mix until all ingredients are "mushed" together into one big ball of dough.

Cover. Chill for 1 hour.

To Make Rabbit Rolls:

Liberally dust a cutting board with flour and knead 4-5 times until dough is easy to handle.

Roll into a biscuit-size oblong shape with a narrow end for a face. Roll smaller round dough piece and attach withdab of milk as a tail.

With kitchen scissors, cut two long “ears” and shape to remove the pointed tip. Using a toothpick, add a line inside each ear. Add two holes in the front for eyes. Brush with egg for a golden finish.

Bake at 400F for 10-15 minutes until golden brown. These freeze nicely.

How do you eat your rabbit rolls – ears or tails first?

Charlotte

Rabbit Rolls

The picture of the “easy to make” rabbit rolls was too cute to quickly be thrown together. The idea, however, stuck with me long enough that I had to try.

As a bunny lover going back to my first stuffed toy, a little music box rabbit, the idea that I could nestle a yeast roll that looks like a rabbit in a pile of salad made me smile. I also know that a number of do-it-yourself online projects and recipes are made by professionals with years of experience and a good half dozen or more assistants. Few things are as easy as they are made out to be.

Sure enough, this bunny roll recipe making the rounds started to collect disclaimers. These are made by an experienced professional chef, the first one said, suggesting we really should not be attempting to do this at home. I looked at the picture again. This may mean it will take a few dozen tries to even come close to having rolls have a shape, let alone look like a rabbit.

The second disclaimer was that it takes more than cutting the dough with kitchen scissors to make the rabbit ears. I noticed that the first time I saw the recipe, cutting the ears only made the rolls look more like cats than rabbits. The key was in the length of the cut and adding a center indentation so that they look more like rabbit ears.

The last disclaimer was that even though the picture of the rolls was with a particular recipe, the recipe was not the one the professional chef with years of experience had used to make the sample bunny rolls. The rabbit rolls in the original picture had been made out of an, as of yet, unidentified pastry dough recipe.

I will share my Rabbit Dinner Rolls recipe, replete with instructions on how to make the rolls look more like rabbits than cats although cat rolls will come in handy around Halloween.

Charlotte

Homemade Taco Seasoning

Homemade Taco Seasoning

There's something about grey rainy days and tacos.

And taco salads.

Every since we moved to North America, making homemade tacos was as nostalgic as leafing through old favorite vintage recipe books.

I make my taco salad without a shell using lettuce as the vessel that holds all ingredients in one place.

When I toss the homemade taco seasoning together, I make two batches. I suppose I could make more but the last couple of times I was out of one or another ingredient. If I ever get everything I need in hand, I will easily make a generous helping and store it in an air tight jar.

Homemade Taco Seasoning (two servings)

1 TBSP chili powder

1.5 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp black pepper

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp onion powder

1/4 tsp dried oregano

If you want a little more heat, add 1/4 tsp pepper flakes.

Mix. Divide in half and use with 1 lb of browned ground hamburger. Cook on low with 1/2 cup of water for about 10 minutes.

Cool enough to use in taco shells or on a taco salad.

And to think of all of the years I purchased a serving for around $2 in a little sealed envelope...

Charlotte

Fruit Cup Surprise

One of my favorite restaurants in town is known for their cupcakes. Cupcakes and Cravings, actually, is a charming combination deli, bakery and catering but especially sweet treats.

Tracy Pierce, Cupcakes and Cravings, Rolla, MO owner, does a lovely job with our monthly community catered lunches. We like healthy food with normal serving sizes so soup and half a sandwich and a little fruit is one of our winter menu staples. In summer, we have a salad instead of soup and fruit. Sometmes it's cut-up canteloupe, other times Bing cherries or blueberries.

For our January 2015 lunch, Tracy decided to treat us to, out of season but a personal favorite, strawberry and raspberry fruit cups. I didn't get to try the fruit cups until I had it for dessert after dinner.

Do you see them?

Tracy stuffed the larger raspberries with white chocolate chips, which helped sweeten the less than ripe berries.

What a great, and easy way, to take a fruit cup up a notch!

Did I mention I love surprises???

Charlotte

Leftover Scrambled Eggs

It's been a long day. I forgot to eat lunch and now I'm hungry and tired. Reminds of the days after we used to have pajama parties. Borderline cranky, and now I'm reminded I should have cleaned out the refrigerator yesterday.

Nothing like jumbling it all together and making a meal out of it.

Leftover Scrambled Eggs

Dab of extra virgin olive oil in flying pan.

Half a handful of diced onions. I cleaned out the yellow, white and red onions I harvested last fall.

Chopped up tomato. There was probably 3/4rths I still could use.

Sliced mushrooms. Five, not counting the one I munched on.

Six eggs, lightly beaten with a fork.

Pieces of torn parsley.

Sea salt.

To make:

Heat up olive oil on medium low. Add onions, mushrooms and tomatoes and toss until mushrooms turn brown.

Add eggs and mix. Gently toss to cook all the way through.

Add parsley pieces and salt.

Serve 1/3 on a plate with small salad. Save the rest for tomorrow's breakfast and lunch. Oh, and add a strawberry. I found one in the back of the crisper.

The key is to cook vegetables first, add the eggs last. I don't think I have ever made this the same way twice.

Excuse me now, it's dinner time!

Charlotte