Ma’s Garden

Delivery from Ma's garden, including her fresh picked garlic, basil, thyme, parsley,sage, savory and rosemary. The flowers were nice too!

Goodies from Ma's Garden and the farmer's market

Ma's Garden

Doesn't get any better than this!

My Ma can grow! She can grow everything and anything that Michigan will allow. She taunts me with amazing and homegrown produce…feeding my creative taste buds. She delivers ingredients that would make an experienced chef drool. I am now finding myself challenged to utilize the amazing ingredients she has gifted me so casually! My Super-Gardener has my attention and admiration! In the picture, from upper left to right: Dill, Sweet Basil, Oh so Wonderful Radish, a bowl of Michigan Blend Greens (and a bit o’ radish),
Sweet Basil, Cilantro (I love you mom, as I know how you grew it just for me!), More Michigan Blend Greens, Rosemary, Thyme and Savory…Where does one begin? Fish, Potatoes, poultry, beef, salads, marinades…Know…I have taken a moment to taste each herb and vegetable alone…my tounge danced and my brain raced! Can I cook fast enough to give these perfect ingredients the respect they deserve? Organic labels, watch out! You cannot begin to touch Ma’s Garden!

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Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Is there anything that says welcome home, and I love you more than the American classic, Chocolate Chip Cookie? With so many variations, chip and nut choices, one could make a hundred recipe versions of this most popular cookie. Adding peanut butter or cocoa powder to the dough can introduce many more options. Crispy or chewy, are also considerations in choosing your favorite recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies.

As the weather has been changing, and the school year has begun, I’ve been experiencing the urge to bake. Some of my favorite childhood memories, were of baking with mom in our home on Podunk. She taught me the basics about measuring, reading the recipe (usually the one right off the bag of chips), creaming the sugars and butter first, then slowly adding the flour mixture. Finally, stirring in the chocolate chips. spoonful, by spoonful, we would carefully fill the cookie sheets, being sure to leave enough room between each little pile of dough. Oh how our old house would smell as the first batch was ready to be cooled for eating. My little brother and father would usually be in the living room anxiously awaiting a plate of our masterpiece. I would proudly deliver the cookies while they were still warm and gooey.

This time in the kitchen with Mom, was time spent bonding and learning about each other. She was the teacher, and I was the student. Now, as an adult, I remember these moments fondly, and want to create the same moments with my boys. Caleb, my 4-year-old, is now in kindergarten and comes home at lunchtime. This leaves us with a few special hours together before his older comes home. We took advantage of this time to “surprise” his older brother by spending the afternoon making Calebs choice of cookies, Chocolate Chip of course.

It was an afternoon spent together, learning, teaching, lots of hugs and I was even told “we are good cookers, Mom”. Caleb was proud of his creations and immediately offered them to his brother, Cody, when he arrived home.

Today, I encourage you to take the time to make a memory and cook with your loved ones. Use your favorite recipe, or feel free to use the following, as I found these to be the perfect classic combination of chewy and slightly crispy on the outside.

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg 1 egg yolk
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

Directions
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.
Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.
Bake for 15 to 17 minutes in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Easy Vegtable Fried Rice

Not too long ago, I found an electric wok, hardly ever used and great quality at my local 2nd hand store. The price was a steal for the brand and condition. I did not want to become like my wok’s previous owner and neglect to appreciate it’s culinary genius. As I already had some beautiful red, green and yellow sweet peppers cut up in the refrigerator and carrot sticks from lasts nights vegetable tray, I was focused on making sure they would be the star in tonight’s dinner as produce like this should not be forgotten and let to turn into a science project. I had planned to use leftover chicken I had also grilled for last nights dinner (made extra, or so I thought), but my boys had already used it to make more Balsamic Chicken Wraps. So vegetarian we go! No disappointment to me, or my boys.

I had to do some research online, as using a wok of any sort is very new to me. I learned quickly that one must have all of their ingredients ready to add as the cooking process happens quickly. I also learned that fried rice is best with leftover rice about 2-3 days old. Shucks…I hadn’t planned for that! Luckily, I found a site that gave a tip if you didn’t have leftover rice and were making it fresh. After rice is cooked, spread on a large cookie sheet and put into freezer for about 30 minutes. It not only cools the rice, but helps it dry out. I have found out that the dryer you rice is the better for this dish. I did, however, find that after 15 minutes, I mixed and re-spread the rice as the corners were freezing and the middle still hadn’t lost its moisture.

So, rice is working, giving me plenty of time to re-consult the internet and to prep my veggies. On 1 plate I have sliced red, yellow and green sweet peppers. This was easy as they were already sliced and cleaned, I just made the slices a bit thinner and shorter for the recipe. I julienned the already made carrot sticks. Then, I happened to have a fresh pint of mushrooms, I removed 2 big ones, wiped clean with a damp paper towel and sliced about 1/4 inch or so. Onion was next, I have fresh red onions from Ma’s Garden that had to be involved (many recipes call for scallions, but I used what I had with no regrets). Peeled, cleaned and halved. The red onion was sliced thinly and also put on the plate of veggies.

Next, I got out a small bowl and added 2 eggs. A dash of pepper and salt was added before I mixed with a fork. This too, was set on the table next to my wok.

I pull out the bottle of soy sauce and get my wooden utensils ( one with a flat edge and one is a spoon, no recipe secret, just what I have that will not scratch the wok)

Oil….Well, I did wonder why in my research Olive Oil was not mentioned…but peanut, sesame, and vegetable oil were always mentioned. OK, I’d rather use my vegetable oil instead of my expensive alternatives. You only use a couple of TBS anyways….

Now, I check my table to be sure all the ingredients are in place. So, now, I begin to cook!

Recipe yields about 4-6 servings or 6 cups total prepared Fried Rice

Ingredients:

1/2cup each of Yellow, Green, and Red sweet pepper sliced about 2″/ 1/4″ (substitute with what is available)
1/3 cup frozen peas (set in a small bowl and let defrost a bit)
1 whole large carrot juilenned into 1 1/2 inch pieces (about 3/4 cup)
2 large white mushrooms sliced (about 1/3 cup)
4 Cups cooked and cooled rice
2 eggs lightly mixed and seasoned with salt and pepper
Soy Sauce (about 2 TBS to taste)
2-3 TBS high temperature oil (vegetable oil works fine)

Heat electric wok to highest setting, add about 1 1/2 TBS oil. When just beginning to smoke slightly, add carrots, stir and cook about 30 seconds. Add peppers, cook about a minute more stirring constantly. Add Mushrooms, cook another minute and remove vegetables to a bowl.

Add more oil if needed, pour in eggs, softly folding. Remove when done but still moist…make sure they are chopped up into small pieces.

Add remaining oil if needed, then the rice and onions. Let sit for 2 minutes or so, breaking up any clumps. Toss and keep frying to get rice a bit crispy. This may take 6-8 minutes with occasional tossing. Add bowl of vegetables and eggs. Add Soy sauce around the pan, about 2 TBS. Toss until all is hot, remove to serving dish and serve immediately. Leftovers are wonderful for lunch the next day.

Macaroni and Cheese Soup with Bacon – Kids in the Kitchen

Courtesy of Caleb, future independant man who can cook for himself. Note: I'm still working on cleaning up after himself!

Tonight, after his first dinner, Caleb was hungry again. My growing 4 year old insisted he wanted a soup, so we searched the cupboards for something to his liking.

Lately, I have really concentrated on letting my boys really be a part of our meal making. We’ve had failures, such as Cody’s idea of making one giant pancake with all of the batter, and some great success too. Tonight, my 4 yr old, Caleb is the star.

Macaroni and cheese soup with bacon. Ummm, well, it’s a winner right away!

Note, he gobbled it up right away and is now in Carb-Coma!

Ingredients:

1 Can Cambells Cheddar cheese soup
2 Cups cooked Macaroni
1 Can milk
2 splashes of chicken broth to thin
2 TBS real bacon bits plus some for garnish
Salt and pepper to a 4yr old’s taste

Combine all ingredients until hot. Pour into bowl. Have a wrestling match while soup cools, eat like crazy and then take a bath!

Honey Dijon Pork Chops

succulent and juicy Center cut pork chops with a sweet and savory Honey Dijon Sauce. Served with grilled corn on the cob and Dijon Butter with Thyme for Green beans. A meal to impress!

These are absolutely the BEST Pork Chops I’ve ever eaten! Tender and flavorful, but its the sauce made with honey, Dijon mustard, wine, fresh sage and thyme that makes this a dish impressive enough to compete with your favorite restaurant! I would happily pay for this dish at a fine dining establishment and walk away knowing I just got my money’s worth.

I was inspired at the grocery store when I found some beautiful center cut boneless pork chops. The next aisle had sauces and marinades. Lawrey’s Honey Dijon marinade caught my attention. I picked it up, then sat it down. Why couldn’t I make my own? I have honey, I have Dijon in the refrigerator. After a couple of days of playing with the recipe in my head, my mom brought over some fresh Sage and Thyme from Ma’s Garden. With my plan pulling together, all that was left, was to pick up a good bottle of white wine. Here is probably my most impressive dinner yet, I hope you enjoy!

Recipe yields 4 servings

Ingredients for Honey Dijon Pork Chops

4 center cut pork chops cut about 1 1/2 inch thick (bone in or out)
EVOO
Sea Salt and Fresh ground Black Pepper to taste
2 Cups white wine
1/3 cup Dijon Mustard
1/4 cup Honey
2 TBS fresh Sage or 1 TBS Dried Sage
1 TBS fresh Thyme or 1/2 TBS Dried Thyme

In a large good quality frying pan, heat 2 TBS EVOO on high. Drizzle more EVOO on both sides of the pork chops, salt and pepper both sides and place into hot pan. Sear the first side until it gets golden brown, about 2 minutes. Turn and repeat on the second side. Remove pork chops and lower heat to Med-high. Add 2 cups of white wine, honey and Dijon mustard. Whisk together in pan, getting the yummy brown bits off the bottom. When mixture comes to a boil, add fresh herbs, give a stir, and then add pork chops back into pan. Cover tightly and simmer for about 30 minutes or until chops are tender. When chops are done, remove to a plate. Bring the remaining sauce to a quick boil and whisk until it thickens to a sauce (not a thick gravy). Pour sauce over chops and Serve with Grilled Corn and Dijon Butter and a serving of Thyme for Green beans.

Directions for Dijon Corn

Grill 4 corn cobs (you may steam or boil if desired)
The last few minutes of cooking time baste with mixture of 2 TBS soft butter and 2 TBS Dijon Mustard. If you are steaming or boiling you corn, remove from heat and baste with brush the Dijon butter mixture.

Quiche

Left: Ham, Spinach and Cheddar Cheese. Right: Ham, Swiss, Spinach, Roasted Red Pepper and Rosemary


It’s my day off and the kids return to school next week. They were kind enough to let me sleep in, but when I awoke, they were already asking me what I was going to make for lunch. It was only 10am but I suppose their breakfast cereal was quickly dissipating in their stomachs. Luckily, I have a plan.

My grocery store, Plumbs, had double pie crust on sale for only $.99 this week. I of course eagerly added this to my cart as I was on a budget this week. Who am I kidding, I’m always on a budget. My menu is usually centered around what is on sale.

Today, I pulled the pie crusts out of the freezer and began the very quick process of making Quiche. Once you have a basic recipe, the options are endless! I made 2, since my oldest had a friend over and teens can  sure eat a lot. The first one was pretty basic, I used ingredients that I knew the kids liked, although, I successfully managed to add spinach. My second one, was more for my taste and included spinach, swiss cheese, roasted red pepper and Rosemary.

So, what exactly is Quiche? I decided to educate myself as it was happily baking in my oven. The following information was found on Wikipedia:

In French cuisine, a quiche (English pronunciation: /ˈkiːʃ/) is a baked dish that is based on a custard made from eggs and milk or cream in a pastry crust. Usually, the pastry shell is blind baked before the other ingredients are added for a secondary baking period. Other ingredients such as cooked chopped meat, vegetables, or cheese are often added to the egg mixture before the quiche is baked. Quiche is generally an open pie (i.e. does not contain a pastry covering), but may include an arrangement of tomato slices or pastry off-cuts for a decorative finish. Quiche may be eaten for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, depending on local customs and personal tastes.

Yup, just what I thought. So, here is a basic recipe for Quiche. Let your imagination and taste buds create your own version, or use mine

Ingredients for 1 Quiche

1 Frozen pie crust (or make your own if desired)
1 cup grated cheese (cheddar, swiss, mozzarella, gryue, etc..)
1/2 cup cooked meat (ham, bacon, sausage are common)
1/3 cup spinach (thawed and squeezed of juices, or canned and squeezed of juice. Fresh is wonderful too)
Up to 1/3 cup Additional chopped veggies, such as sautéed onions, roasted red pepper, mushrooms sliced. Careful not to add too many vegetables, as it can make the Quiche runny.
1 Tsp Fresh herbs (optional) I used Rosemary, but Parsley, Cilantro or Thyme would be nice too.
4 eggs beaten with 1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, place pie crust in oven to pre-bake for 10 minutes, remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes. Place meat, veggies and cheese in crust and pour egg/milk mixture over combination. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, lower heat to 350 degrees and finish baking for about 35 minutes or until eggs are set. Cover the edges of crust with aluminum foil if it begins to brown too much. Let cool for at least 5 minutes, slice and serve.

1 pie yields 6 servings

Easy Baked Meatballs

 

Roll mixture into 1 inch balls

How many times have you been at a potluck where there is a crock-pot of frozen meatballs in BBQ sauce? For me, too many times! They don’t taste right to me, I’m not even sure there is real meat in there! My children really enjoy spaghetti and meatballs. I have, in the past, made complicated mixtures that are fried, turned often and leave me a slave to the stove for at least 30 minutes. Relief at last! I have an easy solution to your meatball fears! Let’s just mix and bake. Toss them with your favorite pasta sauce, I recommend Roasted Tomato and Green Pepper Pasta Sauce or add to a BBQ. Even better, put on a skewer and quickly grill with pineapple, green peppers and onion basted with BBQ sauce. 

Note: Make extra and freeze. Can be quickly defrosted, save yourself some time on another night!  

Recipe yields about 24 meatballs 

Ingredients: 

1 lb of lean ground beef
1/2 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
1 tsp dried parsley ( 1 TBS if using fresh)
1 tsp dried chives (better yet, fresh, then 1 TBS)
1 Egg
3 splashes Worcestershire Sauce
Salt and pepper to taste 

Mix all ingredients by hand and make into 1 inch balls. Place on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray and place into a pre-heated 425 degree oven. Bake for 10 minutes, turn meatballs, cook an additional 8-10 minutes. Toss with your favorite sauce or eat plain. Yummy!

Roasted Tomato and Green Pepper Pasta Sauce

Once you've made this sauce, you'll never go back to the jar again!

  

Oh how the bounty of fresh produce keeps spilling over into my kitchen. I was given a bag of fresh Roma tomatoes, Cherry Tomatoes and some Green Peppers at work yesterday fresh from her garden. Oh how happy I am! Every since I made my Creamy Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup I have been eager to use my new-found roasting method in a pasta sauce. I saw a recipe on a co-bloggers post that has really inspired me, Two Guys with an Appetite, I encourage you to visit as they have some great ideas too! This is how I made my Roasted Tomato and Green Pepper Pasta Sauce.  

Please note: If you are trying to increase your and your childrens vegetable intake, this is the sauce for you! Hidden carrots, less salt and no sugar, and no preservatives make this a wonderful recipe for your family. Please consider making a double batch as this freezes very well!  

Recipe yeilds about 3 Cups Sauce  

 4-6 servings of pasta and sauce  

Ingredients  

7-8 Roma Tomatoes halved and not seeded
1 pint of cherry tomatoes halved
1 med-large red onion peeled and cut into chunks
2 Sweet Green Peppers seeded and cut into chunks
5 Garlic cloves peeled
2 Carrots peeled and sliced about 3/4 inch
1/3 cup quality EVOO
1 tsp dried Oregano
1 tsp dried Basil
Sea salt and Pepper to taste  

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees  

Place all veggies and Garlic onto a large jelly roll pan. Pour EVOO all over and add seasoning. Toss to coat with your hands (your best kitchen tools). Turn Roma tomatoes cut side up and roast in oven for about an hour. Turn garlic and onions about 3/4 way through cooking time.  Remove from oven and let cool for about 15 minutes. Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend on high until you have a chunky sauce. Add a bit of EVOO if desired. Sauce should be thick, not watery.  Add to a medium sauce pan and simmer on low until hot again, serve over your favorite cooked pasta and toasted Italian Bread from Jimmy John’s. They sell a whole loaf of their bread for only $.27 out the door! Brush with a little EVOO, Sea Salt, Fresh Ground Pepper , toast in a 350 degree oven for 8 minutes, turn and finish toasting for about another 8 minutes. For a garlic toast, rub, while still hot with a peeled garlic clove.

Ma’s Meatloaf – Revised

Sometimes, you just want real home-style comfort food. You crave real mashed potatoes, a side of veggies, and of course, Mom’s meatloaf.

People seem to have mixed feelings about Mom’s meatloaf, either it was wonderful, or it was dreaded. I am in the first group. My mother’s meatloaf was always favored and quickly devoured. It’s obviously an American favorite since, Banquet has made a TV dinner out of it,complete with instant mashed potatoes and corn. Consumers craving a bit of home purchase this frozen dinner hoping to experience their childhood memories of comfort and family to be sadly disappointed that the meatloaf doesn’t even have baked ketchup on top! Not to mention, the potatoes are wet with water! I am here to propose a new attitude about our “old school” meatloaf and make it more appealing to the current generation. Please note, I will not leave out the beloved Ketchup on top!
My mom used to make meatloaf as did most of our mothers. She did a good job, it was very well liked and Dad always enjoyed Meatloaf sandwiches the next day (assuming there were leftovers). This was among the first meals my mother taught me after omelets, oatmeal, salads and I think scalloped potatoes and pork chops. To this day, I usually make my meatloaf like mom did, and my family has always loved it. Tonight, I wanted to veer away from the usual, using the concept of incorporating more vegetables into my children’s diets, not to mention mine. So tonight I experimented and to my surprise, an amazing success! Take my advice and make 2 and freeze one, since you are chopping your veggies and got the ingredients out, save time for another night.This is how I tricked my family into eating lots of hidden veggies in one of their favorite dishes.

Ingredients for 1 meatloaf – double if freezing another

1 lb ground beef
1 cup chopped bread ( I used Jimmy Johns leftover french bread)
1 med red onion (finely diced)
1 stalk celery (finely diced)
2 mushrooms (finely diced)
1 large carrot grated
2 big squirts of ketchup
2 squirts of Dijon Mustard
1 egg
2 Healthy dashes of Garlic powder
Salt and Pepper to taste
Fresh Herbs from My Ma’s Garden (improvise if your Mom does not have a green thumb)
1 TBS finely chopped Fresh Sage
1 TBS finely chopped Fresh Parsley
1 TBS finely chopped Fresh Rosemary
3 sprigs of Fresh Thyme removed from woody stem.
Extra Ketchup for topping the meatloaf

Blend all ingredients in a medium bowl with hands and shape into a loaf form. Place into a bread pan, pour ketchup over the top to cover and bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes. Let rest for five minutes, slice and serve.

Creamy Roasted Tomato and Basil Soup

It’s that time of year here in Michigan, seems there are more tomatoes than one can use fast enough. BLT’s, Salsa’s and Salads are often staples on your menu if you too, are blessed with the abundance of our seasonal produce. But what do you if your garden is still bursting or your counters are full with ripe tomatoes begging to be part of your next meal. Short of canning (a task that does not appeal to me), I’m quickly running out of ideas. As I was visiting other blogs I ran across a recipe I couldn’t wait to try! Inspired by another co-blogger’s post, Roasted Tomato Soup. I decided that fresh basil from Ma’s Garden must be a Co-star to what is now, my very favorite soup to compliment my grilled cheese

Share with me, your favorite tomato recipes, I would love to hear your input or suggestions, as I’m sure there will more from the garden soon!

Ingredients:

4-5 large ripe tomatoes (about 4 1/2 lbs) halved and seeded
1 large Vidalia onion peeled and cut into chunks
3 garlic cloves peeled
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
4 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
EVOO
Salt and pepper to taste

On a large baking sheet, place halved and seeded tomatoes, onions and garlic. Pour about 2 TBS EVOO over the top, salt and pepper lightly. Toss and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour. Turn onions and garlic about 2/3 way through cooking time. Remove pan from oven and let tomatoes cool. Carefully, peel skins from tomatoes right on the cookie sheet so not to lose any juices. Roughly chop tomatoes removing the top piece where the stem was. Pour all contents of baking sheet into a stock pot with chicken broth. Bring to a low boil then turn back heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add chopped basil and cook an additional 10 minutes. With an emulsion blender, very carefully blend until smooth. If you do not have an emulsion blender, do small batches in a blender. Be sure to let liquid cool first. Reheat in stock pot on low, slowly stir in heavy cream, simmer for another 10 minutes careful not to bring to a boil.

Serve with toasted bread and freshly grated parmesan cheese if desired.