Thank God I’m a country girl!

When you live in the country you get the benefit of having a farmers’ market nearby (almost everyday).  It’s not uncommon to find roadside stands throughout the rural areas offering fresh fruits, veggies, eggs, jellies, honey, apple cider, maple syrup, and fresh-baked goods. 

This old farm wagon has served as our local produce section for quite sometime.  It’s here, that I have bought some of the best sweet corn, apples, peaches, and berries in my area. 

Last week these cherries were calling my name.  As we pulled off the highway we found another couple sampling them.  My first question “Are they sweet?”  They told me they were, and they were particularly happy with the black cherries.  I too am partial to black cherries so I bought a quart as I intended to ( at a very reasonable  price $3.00 a quart). 

The cherries are delicious, and we’ve been snacking healthy all week.  I can’t wait to see what makes its way to the wagon next.

Happy Hour!

Happy Hour at our house involves more than just a cocktail, it involves a great dinner created by two foodies who appreciate each others abilities to prepare, and devour.  And prepare and devour we did! 
 
The plan had been set in place earlier in the day with the standard question of “What’s for dinner tonight?”  It doesn’t matter who asks the question, what’s more important is who answers it.  I don’t know about you but sometimes it seems to be a painstaking task just trying to decide what to make for dinner.
 
After careful consideration of weighing our choices a plan emerged.  My husband would grill a couple of strip steaks, top them off with onions and mushrooms sautéed in olive oil, and throw some crumbled Stilton’s blue cheese on top.  He even decided to get out the sizzle platters for the occasion.
 
Happy Hour wouldn’t be that without a cocktail so I made a  giant white wine Spitzer.  I prefer to make these using (wine) ice cubes made with my favorite white wine.  Now keep in mind that alcohol doesn’t freeze entirely, if at all.  It depends on the sugar content, so the cubes have a slushy consistency.  After putting the cubes in a large wine glass add your favorite sparkling water.  I used a diet cranberry-raspberry.  Garnish with your favorite fruits.  I used a wedge of lemon, and some fresh raspberries from our garden.  Ooh, so refreshing, and low in calories.   I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Needless to say he did a superb job, and it’s a darn good thing the wine Spitzer was low cal!

Cottage Cheese & Black Raspberry Muffins

It’s been a hectic week.  I haven’t had time to bake, or any “me” time.  So tonight when I got home from work, and my father in-law told me he had dropped off a pail of black raspberries, I was happy.  This meant that I could create.  Use those fresh berries to make something unexpected.

So here is the unexpected.  Cottage Cheese & Black Raspberry Muffins. 

The recipe is an adaptation of mine.  The muffins are light colored and have a heavier consistency.  They are almost cake like. The berries don’t get lost in the muffins – their flavor is prominent.

2 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. vanilla
2 eggs
1 tbls. milk
1 c. cottage cheese
2/3 c. sugar
1/2 soft margarine
2 c. berries

Mix (with a mixer) all wet ingredients.  Then add all dry ingredients.  Lastly, fold in berries.  Bake @ 400 degree oven until toothpick comes clean when testing center muffin.  Sprinkle with granulated sugar.  This recipe makes about 16 muffins.

Besides the muffins, I froze 5 quarts of berries.  I’m told theirs lots more berries to pick so I’m thinking homemade black raspberry wine is on my list of to do’s this summer!

Brown Sugar & Pumpkin Spice Coffee Cake

 

The other night I had that urge to bake something. Baking isn’t the hard part for me. Trying to narrow down what it is I’m craving, if I can find a fairly simple recipe, and if I have all the ingredients I need to make it is a bit more tricky.  As I got out my cookbooks and leafed through the pages one thought came to mind as my eyes landed on a recipe for Easy Coffee Cake. When was the last time I had coffee cake?
 
The recipe I discovered met my criteria. Simple, I had all the ingredients, and it would satisfy my craving with a little fine tuning.

The recipe is as follows:

1 1/2 c. flour
3/4 c. sugar
2 1/3 tsp. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. shortening
3/4 c. milk
1 egg
1 tbls.  pumpkin pie spice (my adaptation)

Blend all these ingredients together and pour into a greased baking pan. The recipe didn’t specify what size pan to use so I used one approximately 9×7 in size.

 In a separate bowl mix the following ingredients until crumbly:
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. flour
3 tbls. margarine
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (my adaptation)

Sprinkle the brown sugar mixture on top of the cake mixture and bake at 375 degrees for 25-30 minutes.

The cake was delicious. The pumpkin pie spice really paired well with the brown sugar, and of course a cup of coffee. I was extremely happy with the texture and flavor, and it put smiles on the faces of those I shared my treat with!

 
 
This post  can also be found on my other blog http://thejoyofcaking.blogspot.com

Stuffed Peppers – Winging it

The other night I decided to make stuffed peppers for supper (never made them before).  I had bought a variety of colored peppers a few days before and noticed a couple were starting to soften  - since baking them was going to soften them anyway, I decided that was a good way to use them up.  I didn’t pull out a cookbook, or look on-line for a recipe when I decided to make them, instead I just decided to wing it.  Typically, I’m not real comfortable winging it.  I prefer to have something to refer to, but what did I have to lose?  A few already softening peppers…

To start, I put some olive oil in a frying pan.  Then I crushed some garlic, diced yellow pepper, and  added rice to the oil. When the rice turned light brown I added some diced canned tomatoes, Italian seasoning, and black pepper. 

After adding the tomatoes I threw some grated parmesan cheese on top.

Once the mixture was ready I  hollowed out red, orange and yellow peppers and filled them with the mixture.  These colored peppers are a little less pungent than green peppers, and are slightly sweeter.   I added about 2 tablespoons of water (had I been thinking when I drained the tomatoes I could have saved the juice, and added that instead of water) to each pepper.  I arranged them in a greased baking dish and added a little water in the bottom of the dish as well.  I baked them at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes. 

As I was making the peppers I thought of all the different fillings you could use to stuff peppers.  Bread stuffing, sausage, ground beef, beans, corn,  a variety of  spices, different cheeses, the possibilities – endless. 

We ate them as a side with our baked chicken and bread stuffing.  They were a good addition to our meal.  How do you make your favorite stuffed peppers?  Willing to share your recipe?

A pastry chef – I’m not. But hey, it sure tasted good.

I envy you bakers that throw together a pie crust like there’s nothing to it.  I’ve seen your crusts -  no flaws, perfect thickness, and edges.  That’s what I classify as a true form of art.  

I, on the other hand, wrestle with pie crusts every time I make them.  I realize my difficulty comes from how infrequently I make pies, and quite possibly my lack of patience. 

This weekend was no exception.  I decided to whip up a Strawberry Glace’ Pie.  I made the  pie crust, and as usual, became frustrated as I struggled to get the dough to form a nice round circle to fit in my pie plate.  Once the crust landed in the pie plate I had to refrain from using bad words as I realized it didn’t fit in the plate evenly, and would need some serious patching.

I had to remind myself I was  just going to eat this pie and I wasn’t looking to win a blue ribbon at the county fair. Everything would be all right… 

As the crust  baked I concentrated on making the filling.

Once the crust  and filling were ready I poured the filling into the crust.  From this perspective things looked so much better.

With all that said, here is what made it all worth the aggravation.

And regardless that the crust wasn’t perfect, it sure tasted good!

Quacks and clucks

I’ve said it before, it’s the simple things in life that make me happy.  Our ducks and one of our roosters enjoyed the nice weather today.  They are took turns bathing in their water dish.   We are raising them for fun and eggs, not meat.  I have to admit they are much more entertaining than I ever thought they would be.

 

This little guy we call Foghorn Leghorn after the cartoon character created by Robert McKimson.  He is the only rooster  that has shown any interest in crowing so far – and when he does crow, he puffs his little chest out like he’s a big bad chicken.

Jam Fest

Strawberry Freezer Jam

 

When I was a little girl my mother would make homemade strawberry freezer jam every year.  She made it after she would take us to pick locally grown berries.  I remember it was nearly impossible for her to make enough jam to get us from one June to the next without running out.  The more she made, the more we ate.  Some days, in desperation (if we had run out of jam and she forgot to take more out of the freezer) we would take it out of the freezer and proceed to spread it on our morning toast.   

My mother has since passed away but I will not let her strawberry jam legacy die.   Every June, I too prepare for the annual jam fest.  Last night I pooled all of our fresh grown strawberries together (that I had temporarily put in the freezer)  to see if I had enough to make a batch of jam.   Luckily, I had plenty of berries to make my first batch of jam, and the good news is there are enough for another batch.   

As I was making the jam my hubby noted how much sugar goes into it.  He’s right.  2 cups of crushed berries to 4 cups of granulated sugar.  That is a lot of sugar, and probably explains the reason I’m so attached to this sweet little confection.   

In memory of mom – jam fest 2010!  

The baking buzz

 

You know how you feel when you’ve had too much caffeine?  That’s how I felt Saturday afternoon after I got a new cookbook.  As I flipped through the pages from one recipe to the next I became more and more inspired.  Suddenly, I had my second wind and was ready to bake.    It was either that, or mow the lawn.  What would you rather do?

Rye bread is one of the things I’ve been wanting to make for a while now. We bought caraway seeds and rye flour some time ago.  However, it seems like I haven’t had the energy, time, or the right recipe to make bread.  Typically, if I’m craving homemade bread I get out the old bread machine and let it do the work for me.   It hasn’t always been that way.  It’s something that I discovered started happening after I received the bread maker as a gift. 

Saturday was different though.  I knew it was all or nothing….  The dough went together quite quickly, the recipe was straight forward.  During the bread making process I also found the time to make chocolate chip cookie bars and watermelon ice (see my previous posts) and my time  was well spent.

The bread turned out wonderful.  We’ve eaten nearly a whole loaf, and froze the other for a day when I just don’t have the baking buzz.   

And here is the finished product!

Change and Watermelon Ice

I’ve spent a good share of tonight trying to perfect my blog.  Needless to say, I’m still not satisfied.  I searched through all the photo’s I’ve taken and tried to narrow it down to some of my favorites so I could use one in the heading.  After picking a photo I had to decide what theme it worked the best with – this is all very time-consuming .  I’m sure you all know exactly what I’m talking about.   If you continue to notice changes on my site – please consider it my creativity hard at work and hang in there.

On a positive note, I did make a great a very refreshing dessert (Watermelon Ice) that we had as an after dinner treat .  It’s  a nice complement to a heavy dinner. 

The recipe:

6 cups of cubed (seedless) watermelon

1 tbls of lemon juice

3 tbls of confectioners’ sugar

1/4 tsp salt

Puree’ all ingredients in blender.  Pour into freezer safe dish and freeze solid.  Take out of the freezer about 10 minutes before serving.  I garnished mine with a fresh strawberry and a wedge of lemon that you can spritz on the ice for a little extra kick.