Tuesday, August 31, 2010

10 Fruits & Veggies That You Don't Need to Buy Organic

A trip through the Produce Dept at the grocery store always leaves me wondering if "organic" is really necessary.  I care as much as anyone about food safety.  I ran across the following list of fruits and veggies that don't need to be organic on I-Village:

          Sweet Corn
          Sweet Peas

Most of these have either a pod or thick skin that protect the fruit or veggie inside from pesticides or pests.  Others are grown quickly and don't attract pests or grow underground.

Keep this in mind for your next trip through the produce department at your grocery store.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Summer Squash Saute

This is the time of year when gardeners find themselves with more zucchini and yellow squash than they know what to do with.  I found this recipe on McCormick.com and it sounds like a great way to use some of that summer squash in a very flavorful way.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow squash (cut into 1/4" thick slices)
1 medium zucchini (cut into 1/4" thick slices
1 tsp Rosemary leaves
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp Sea Salt
1 cup grape tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes

Heat oil in large nonstick skillet on medium-high heat.  Add squash and zucchini; cook and stir 3 minutes.

Sprinkle with rosemary, garlic powder, pepper and sea salt.  Cook and stir for 2 - 3 minutes or until vegetables are tender-crisp.  Remove from heat and stir in tomatoes.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Steamed Vegetables

We are really a family of veggie lovers.  One of our favorite ways to prepare veggies is to steam them.  I have a basket that sits inside a saucepan.  I add enough water to the pan to come just to the bottom of the steamer basket.  Fill your pan/basket with broccoli, cauliflower, or green beans and sprinkle with salt.  Add  2 Tbsp butter and cover.   Cook over medium high heat for about 20 minutes.  Your veggies will be tender and delicious.

As a twist, I will often add two chicken or vegetable flavored bullion cubes in the water.  This adds just a touch of extra flavor to your veggies.

Or . . . add a sprinkle of your favorite seasoning - Lemon Pepper of Citrus Basil are two of my favorites.  This is a great way to flavor your veggies if you're looking for ways to reduce salt in your diet.

New Windsor Fair & Rodeo -- This Was One Angry Bull!!!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Rodeo Cowboys had a Tough Night

I've had the pleasure of attending the New Windsor Fair & Rodeo for my entire life.  I grew up in New Windsor, and it's just an annual event that cannot be missed.  Catching up with old friends and sharing this little piece of my childhood with my own kids can't be beat.  If you ever have the chance to attend, it will be well worth the trip.

This year, the cowboys were beat up on by the broncs and the bulls.  There were way too many cowboys who hit the ground (or mud as it was this year).  The rodeo clown was the best ever!  Who doesn't love a good laugh?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Spicy-Apple Chicken

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (cut into bite-sized pieces)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove (minced)
1/4 tsp dried ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1/4 cup apple juice
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 Tbsp ketchup
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 Tbsp water

Place olive oil in a large skillet or grill pan.  Heat to medium-high heat.  Add chicken and cook over medium high heat until lightly browned.  Remove chicken from skillet.  Add remaining ingredients, heating over medium heat until well mixed and dissolved.  Add chicken and bring to a hard boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.  If you prefer a thicker sauce, combine 1 Tbsp water and 1 Tbsp cornstarch in a separate bowl and add a little at a time to reach desired consistency.

Serve over hot rice.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

New Windsor Fair & Rodeo was a Blast!

We're back home from our weekend trip to New Windsor for the annual fair and rodeo.  As usual, we had a great time and I'll post some pictures in the next few days.  For now, all I can muster is a picture that I think sums up how we all feel tonight.  Christian fell asleep in Great Grandpa's arms.  He was certainly interested in the rodeo, but just couldn't stay awake any longer . . .

We had so much fun, but we all came home entirely exhausted!  There will be more pictures and details to come.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Peachy Pork Chops

This year the peaches have been wonderful!  Our family has eaten peaches in a number of different ways, including Peach Pork Chops.  It may sound a little crazy, but it was really good.

1 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 boneless pork chops (1" thick)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup Peach Preserves
2 cups fresh peaches (peeled and sliced)
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1 Tbsp honey mustard
1 Tbsp cider vinegar

Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium heat.  Season the pork chops with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper.  Add the pork chops in a single layer to the saute pan and brown for 2 minutes per side.  Remove the pork chops from the pan and set aside.  Add the broth and cook over high heat, scraping up browned bits from the pan.  Reduce the heat to low.  Peel and slice the peaches.  Stir together the peach preserves, two cups peaches, ginger, honey mustard, vinegar and remaining 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper in a bowl.  Stir the peach mixture into the pan.  Return the pork chops to the pan and baste with the jam mixture.  Cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes.

This would be great served with corn on the cob.  That's one of my favorite foods!  I think it just may be one of my grandson, Christian's favorites too.  Take a look at the pictures and video on Paul & Katy's blog of Christian eating his corn on the cob.  Just click on the link to The Presson Family Blog.   This is too precious to miss!

Luke & Emily are Seniors!

Luke and Emily started their senior year of high school today.  They are really excited, and so am I!  I have to admit, I really wasn't sure we'd make it to graduation day.  Day by day we would  do homework and special projects, and it seemed like graduation day was so many "mountains" away - there were so many more projects and so much homework.  Now, we have 179 more school days to complete, and my youngsters will graduate.

Both Luke and Emily have grown to be young adults Eddie and I can be proud of.  Working our way here seemed like such a long journey, but looking back, the time really flew by.  Emily wants to go to Culinary School and Luke is thinking about teaching Physical Education and hoping for a volleyball scholarship.  I really believe watching them graduate will be one of my proudest moments.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

French Green Beans with Butter and Herbs

1 lb thin green beans (trimmed)
1/4 cup red onion (chopped fine)
3 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp parsley (chopped fine)
2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
2 Tbsp tarragon or basil (chopped fine)
2 Tbsp chives (chopped fine
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon wedges

Bring a large pot of salty water to a boil.  Prepare a large bowl of ice water.  Boil the beans for 2 minutes.  Plunge them into the ice water to stop the cooking and set the color.  Drain the beans and pad dry on a cloth or paper towel.

Heat the butter over medium-high heat in a large saute pan.  Cook the onions until translucent, about 2 - 3 minutes.

Add the green beans and saute for 2 - 3 minutes, stirring often.

Add all of the herbs and some salt and pepper and toss to combine.  Cook for 1 minute more.

Serve hot or at room temperature, with lemon wedges.  This serves 4.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Growing an Avocado Tree

Okay, the "Plant Nut" in me is coming out.  I saw an article on Vocalpoint that tells how to grow an Avocado Tree from seed.  This is something I plan to try right away.  I'll let you know how it turns out.

After you eat an avocado, place three toothpicks into the seed, each going in a different direction.  Suspend the seed in a cup with the pointed end up, and add water until it covers the bottom of the seed.  Place the cup (and seed) in the sun and water it for as many days as necessary to grow one long root.  Then, remove the toothpicks and plant it in a large pot.  In two months, your avocado tree should be three  feet tall with massive leaves!  It's a great home science project that your kids will love.

Pound Cake Peachy Style

2 cups sugar
4 eggs 
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups peeled and chopped peaches

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Butter a 10" tube pan and coat with sugar.  In a large bowl, cream together and butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition; stir in vanilla.  Sift together 2 3/4 cups flour, baking powder and salt.  Gradually stir into the creamed mixture.  Coat the chopped peaches with 1'/4 cup flour; fold peaches into the batter. Spread evenly into prepared pan.  Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Allow cake to cool in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Mushroom Sauce Idea

I ran across this suggestion on the Vocalpoint website today.  This is one I plan to try.

When adding mushrooms to dishes, pour ½ cup fully brewed English breakfast tea into a pan of sautéing mushrooms for a rich sauce.

Mini Loaded Potato Bites

15 new red potatoes
4 oz Cream Cheese (softened)
2 Tbsp Sour Cream
2 Tbsp shredded Cheddar Cheese
4 slices of bacon (cooked and crumbled)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh chives

Cook potatoes in boiling water in large saucepan 15 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, mix cream cheese, sour cream and Cheddar cheese.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Drain potatoes.  Cool and then cut in half.  Cut small piece from the bottom of each potato half so it will sit flat.  Place on platter and top with cream cheese mixture, bacon and chives.

Serve while still warm.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Tomato-Cucumber Salad

4 small tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 small cucumbers, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/2 cup Italian Dressing

Arrange tomatoes, cucumbers and onions on a plate.  Drizzle with dressing.

This is another perfect hot weather recipe.  No cooking required.  It's healthy and low calorie too.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Creamy Layered Peach Squares

This is the perfect recipe for dessert on the hot summer nights. . . and right now peaches are in season!

2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup sugar (divided)
1/2 cup butter (melted)
12 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese (softened)
1 tub (8 oz) Cool Whip (thawed and divided)
3 large fresh peaches (peeled and sliced)
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1 pkg (6 oz) Jell-O Raspberry gelatin
2 cup ice cubes

Mix crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar and butter in 13 x 9" pan; press onto bottom of pan.

Beat cream cheese and remaining sugar in medium bowl until well blended.  Whisk in 1 1/2 cups Cool Whip; spread over crust.  Top with peaches.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Add boiling water to gelatin mix in large bowl; stir 2 minutes until completely dissolved.  Stir in ice cubes until melted.  Refrigerate 5 minutes or until thickened.  Whisk in remaining Cool Whip; spread over peach layer.  Refrigerate 4 hours or until firm.

Garnish with fresh raspberries and peach slices.  

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

What An Interesting Day

Today, I took my daughter to visit the Culinary Institute of St. Louis.  She is a senior in high school and hopes to one day have her own cake shop.  She is very artistic and she likes to cook, so I'm sure she'll do well.

What a beautiful school we saw today.  It's all new - the first group of students started in July.  The building is shiny and new.  The floors and wall sparkled and the classrooms were so nicely decorated.  They have five kitchens, and they are fabulous.  All stainless steel, every appliance you can imagine, and everything in its place.  Absolutely gorgeous!  I wanna go!!!  All of their courses are culinary related - culinary math, culinary marketing, culinary writing . . . After 20 months, students graduate with an Associates Degree with culinary emphasis.

All was great . . . right up to the part where they started talking tuition.  Yikes!  It's more than most 4-year degree programs at other universities.


Chef's Pasta Salad

1 lb bow tie pasta
2 cups diced ham (or even try bacon)
2 large tomatoes (diced)
12 oz salad greens
4 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 cup olive oil for vinaigrette
2 Tbsp for salad
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 hard-cooked eggs (finely chopped)
Freshly ground black pepper for salad
4 Tbsp cider vinegar
1 tsp salt for vinaigrette

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions or until it is al dente.  Drain and transfer to a large bowl, and toss with 2 Tbsp olive oil.

While the pasta cooks, make the vinaigrette.  Whisk the mustard, vinegar, sugar, and slat together in a large bowl.  While whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and set aside.

Add the vinaigrette to the pasta and toss to coat.  Add the ham, cheese, tomato, parsley, and greens and toss to incorporate.

Transfer the pasta salad to a serving bow.   Sprinkle the egg on top, season with salt and pepper, and serve.