What’s Cooking

Cooking

One thing I do, and do well, is cook. Check out Studly’s waistline if you don’t believe me. Yet it has always frustrated me to read a delicious sounding recipe and then have to figure out what to serve with it. Beans or peas? Fried or boiled potatoes? To salad or not. You get the idea. We’re not talking rocket science, but a clue or two from those big-buck chefs, whose books I constantly buy, would sure help.

So today don your aprons and grab those skillets because we’re taking a giant step to ease the burden of the overworked woman.

Every month a new menu will be posted. Please feel free to email me your thoughts, suggestions, or your favorite recipes. We’re all in this cooking thing together and might as well help out each other.

July’s Choice

I always love when friends drop in, especially if they bring gifts like homemade ice cream. Introducing HL Carpenter, longtime friends who love to cook, be sassy, and are a terrific writing team. The kitchen is yours, ladies.

We have a confession to make. Sometimes…sometimes here in Carpenter Country we are not actually sitting at our computers all day working diligently on our next book. That’s right. Sometimes we…we go OUTSIDE! Into the SUNSHINE!

One of those special occasions took place in early May when we headed out to the u-pick field. Because we are serious blueberry pickers, we brought home enough berries to enjoy a few bowls fresh-from-the-field, to put a couple of handfuls on top of cereal, and to make biscuits, bread, buckles, cheesecake, coffee cake, crumbles, cobblers, donuts, muffins, pies, pancakes, scones, and ICE CREAM!

Are you screaming yet for blueberry ice cream? Us too. In fact, we’re going to take a break and sample a bowl. Here’s the recipe in case you want a break from your own busy day. You will need an ice cream maker (ours makes about 1½ quarts) and a blender or food processor for this recipe.

Homemade Blueberry Ice Cream

1½ cups fresh blueberries, washed and dried (slightly less than a pint of fresh, or you can use frozen berries if you drain them well)
1 pint (2 cups) heavy whipping cream
1 cup milk (whole or reduced fat, your choice – coconut milk is a delicious substitute)
½ cup sugar (more or less to suit your own sweet tooth — or teeth)
½ tsp. vanilla extract

Place rinsed blueberries in the blender or food processor and process for a minute or less.

Add the whipping cream, milk, sugar, and vanilla extract to the pureed blueberries in the blender.

Process 10-20 seconds, just until mixed – not too long, or you’ll have whipped cream.

Pour the mixture into the ice cream maker and churn for 20 minutes.

If you like soft, milkshake-type ice cream, pass out the spoons and dig in. For firmer ice cream, scoop the ice cream into a container and freeze two hours.

Okay, break’s over – back to work!

HL Carpenter is a mother/daughter author duo who write family-friendly fiction from their studios in Carpenter Country, a magical place that, like their stories, is unreal but not untrue.

When they’re not writing, the Carpenters enjoy exploring the Land of What-If and practicing the fine art of Curiosity. Learn more about HL’s multi-genre books, enjoy gift reads, excerpts, and find out what’s happening in Carpenter Country on their website.

Stay connected on Pinterest, Google+ and Twitter.

June’s Choice

Some people claim breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I believe that’s true, but it doesn’t mean you have to stuff yourself with mountains of borderline healthy food. This menu is satisfying, delicious and won’t cause a coronary. For a more festive morning or brunch add Mimosas. The recipes are gauged for two people. The amounts are easily adjusted if you are serving more.

• Scrambled Eggs with Feta and Chives
• Fresh Fruit Salad
• Croissants
• Jam or Jelly
• Orange Juice
• Coffee, Tea, or Milk

Scrambled Eggs with Feta

Scrambled Eggs with Feta and Chives

4 large eggs
2 tbsp. feta cheese, crumbled
Freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp. butter, you may need a little more
2 tbsp. fresh chives or 1 tbsp. dried

Crack eggs into a medium-sized bowl. Scramble well with a fork.

Stir in the feta and pepper.

Add butter to a medium-sized frying pan. Melt over medium heat. Pour in egg mixture and then carefully scramble. Be sure to flip the eggs so the cheese melts.

Sprinkle on the chives. Heat through and then serve.

Fruit Salad

Photo courtesy of Brenda Godinez Unsplash

Fresh Fruit Salad

1 apple, cored and sliced
1 pear, sliced
1 banana, peeled and sliced
Lemon juice
1 kiwi, peeled and sliced
10 seedless red grapes, cut in half
Small handful blueberries
Small handful raspberries

In a glass serving bowl, combine the apple, pear, and banana. Sprinkle with lemon juice to prevent the fruit from turning brown. Gently stir. Add in the remaining fruit.

Cover with plastic wrap then set in the refrigerator to chill until time to serve.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with laughter and seated around a well laden table!

Sloane

May’s Choice

I like to mix up our meals with foods from different countries. Not only adds variety, but sparks dinnertime conversation. This menu is a traditional Polish meal farmers and hill people enjoyed. You know, sometimes peasant food really is the best!

• Polish Sausage Studs Style
• Sauerkraut
• Boiled Potatoes
• Bakery Rye Bread
• Butter
• Horseradish
• Cold Beer

Polish meal Kielbasa and sauerkraut

Polish Sausage Studs Style

4 pounds fresh Polish sausage links*
Water

Remove sausage from the refrigerator at least 1 hour before cooking.

Fill a stockpot approximately three-quarters with cold tap water. Bring to a boil over high heat.

Add sausage and cook for 10 minutes once the water starts to boil. The sausage should rise to the top in about 5 minutes. Transfer meat to shallow roasting pans. Clip the connecting casing.

You can stop here and finish cooking the sausage the next day. Be sure to cover and refrigerate the meat.

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Allow the sausage to rest 10-15 minutes so the juices are reabsorbed into the meat.

Cut the links into 1½ – 2 inch pieces. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove pan from the oven. Turn sausage pieces and then bake for another 15 minutes.

*When shopping, calculate ¾ pound raw sausage per person.

Sauerkraut

1 jar or bag sauerkraut
5 slices bacon, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
½ tsp. ground thyme
2 cups chicken stock

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Pour sauerkraut into a colander. Rinse in tap water several times. Squeeze out most of the moisture and fluff with a fork.

Fry bacon until crisp in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Set pieces on a paper towel.

Add onion to the pan and sauté until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Do not brown the onion, it will be bitter. Be sure to scrape in all the bits that cling to the side and bottom of the pan.

Return bacon to the saucepan. Add sauerkraut. Sprinkle thyme over the mixture. Mix well. Cook 3-4 minutes over moderate heat.

Stir in stock. Cover and bake in the oven 30 minutes or until sauerkraut is tender, but still has crunch. This could take as long as 2 hours, depending on the brand you use. Add more stock if necessary, to keep the sauerkraut moist.

This dish is best if prepared a day in advance and reheated in 325°F oven for 20 minutes.

Boiled Potatoes

1 red potato per person
1 tsp. butter per potato
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Fresh parsley, chopped

Peel a strip of the middle of the potato. Drop in a saucepan and add water to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Lower temperature so the water is at a medium boil. The potatoes are done when fork tender.

Drain water. Stir in butter, pepper, and parsley before you serve.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with friends, laughter, and seated around a well laden table!

Sloane

April’s Choice

Another quick and easy meal that is sure to impress your family and friends. Serve with sliced tomatoes and orzo. Be sure to drizzle plenty of sauce over the pasta.

Photo courtesy of Allen Pixabay

Sauteed Sea Scallops

1 lb. sea scallops
1 ½ tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
2 tsp. garlic, chopped
Freshly ground pepper to taste
¼ cup dry white wine
1 tsp. chives, snipped for garnish

Have everything measured and ready to go before you start cooking. This recipe only takes a few minutes so you must be prepared.

Preheat oven to 210° F.

Rinse and pat dry the scallops.

Add olive oil and butter to a frying pan set on medium-high heat. Add the scallops when the foam subsides. Sear 2 – 4 minutes per side. Make sure they are golden edging into brown before you turn them.

Add garlic when you turn the scallops.

When they have reached the proper color, remove the scallops to a bowl and set in the oven to keep warm while you make the sauce.

Spoon out the garlic from the frying pan. Skim off some of the fat that has floated to the top. Carefully add the wine, all the while scraping in any browned pieces on the sides and bottom of the pan. Cook until the mixture reduces by about ⅓.

Lay the scallops on a bed of orzo either on a platter or individual plates. Lace the sauce over the dish, top with chives and serve.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with laughter and seated around a well laden table!

Sloane

February’s Choice

A meal fit for a king that takes a little time, but is well worth it. Add a chilled bottle of Riesling for a festive evening.

• Stuffed Pork Chops
• Steamed Asparagus
• Homemade Applesauce

Pork Chops

3 loin chops
Stuffing
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ cup chicken stock, maybe a little more

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Slice a large pocket in each chop. Pack in stuffing. Use toothpicks to hold pocket closed as much as possible.

Heat oil in a medium-sized skillet until it shimmers over medium-high heat. Add chops and brown on each side 2 -3 minutes.

Add a little stock to an ovenproof dish. Lay chops in dish. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake 35 minutes.

Stuffing

This recipe may be prepared a day or two in advance. Stop at the baking point, cover with foil, and refrigerated.

1 package bread stuffing cubes plain or seasoned
½ pound breakfast sausage in a tube or bulk
8 tbsp. butter, melted
1 rib celery, chopped
½ medium onion, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1½ tsp. dried sage
1½ tsp. dried thyme
2 cups chicken stock, maybe a little more

Empty bread cubes into a large bowl.

Fry sausage, breaking into small chunks, until lightly brown.

Melt butter in a medium size skillet. When the foam subsides add the celery and onion. Sauté 3-4 minutes, be careful not to let it brown.

Add sausage and vegetables with all their juices to the bread cubes. Mix well.

Beat egg in a small bowl. Pour onto stuffing. Sprinkle sage and thyme across the top. Mix well.

Stir in chicken stock until mixture is very moist, but not soupy.

The following is your stopping point if you prepare this recipe in advance.

For Stuffed Pork Chops:
Spoon the mixture into a dish, cover and refrigerate no longer than 2 days.

To Bake as a Side Dish with Another Meal:
Spoon the mixture into a baking dish, do not pack in, and cover tightly with foil. Refrigerate the stuffing until you are ready to bake it but no longer than 2 days.

To Freeze:
Spoon the mixture into freezer bags, label, and pop in freeze no longer than 3 months. I use several small bags that will serve 2 at a single setting.

No matter which route you take, remove stuffing from the refrigerator/freezer early in the day to allow it to come to room temperature.

To cook the stuffing as a side dish, preheat the oven to 350°F. Bake for a half hour. Remove foil and continue to bake until the top is brown.

Steamed Asparagus

1 bunch asparagus
½ cup chicken stock
¼ cup dry vermouth or white wine
Water
2 tbsp. butter
Metal vegetable steamer

Add chicken stock and dry vermouth or wine to a medium size saucepan. Insert vegetable steamer, then add water to just below the bottom holes.

Snap off the ends of the asparagus and trim the spears to fit your saucepan. Add spears and cover. Bring to a boil over medium heat, adjusting the heat to a strong simmer. In 4-5 minutes the asparagus should be crisp tender.

Lay asparagus in a serving bowl. Spread the butter over them and serve.

Homemade Applesauce

6 lg apples cored, peeled, and coarsely sliced*
1 cup sugar
4 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. lemon juice
1½ tbsp. soft butter

Combine all ingredients except butter in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat, cover pot, and simmer 15 – 20 minutes or until apples mash easily with a fork.

Stir in the butter.

Mash with a potato masher. For a smoother texture pour the sauce into a blender or food processor and puree for a minute or so.

Turn into a serving bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve. This recipe also freezes well.

*Mix it up with a variety of apples to improve the flavor. Use six different types.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with friends, laughter, and seated around a well laden table!

Sloane

January’s Choice

January is National Soup month. Far be it from me to let this month fly by and not share one of my favorite recipes with you. So, enjoy a lovely bowl of hot soup with fresh bread and a glass of wine. An ideal start to a good evening.

Asparagus Soup

Photo Courtesy of Monovareni Pixabay

Cream of Asparagus Soup

2 lbs. fresh asparagus
6 cups chicken stock
7 tbsp. butter
1⁄2 cup flour
1⁄4 cup dry sherry
3 tbsp shallots or scallions, chopped fine
2 egg yolks
3⁄4 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. butter, softened
White pepper to taste*

Slice off the asparagus tips and set aside. Trim off 1⁄4 inch or so from the bottom ends of the stalks and discard. Chop the rest of the spears into 1⁄2 inch lengths.

Use a medium-sized saucepan to bring the chicken stock to a boil. Drop in the tips and lower temp to medium-low or soft boil. Cook tips until just tender, 5 – 8 minutes. Drain the stock into a bowl and spoon the tips into another one.

Melt 5 tablespoons of butter in a 4 -5 quart saucepan over moderate heat. Stir in the flour. Lower heat and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Be careful not to let this roux brown or the soup will be bitter.

Remove pan from heat, let cool 30 seconds or so. Pour in stock. Stir constantly with a whisk to thoroughly blend the stock and roux. Return pan to moderate heat and stir until this soup base comes to a boil, thickens, and is smooth. Lower the temperature and simmer gently.

Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet. When the foam subsides, stir in the stalks and shallots. Toss them in the butter over low heat for 4 minutes or so. You only want to soften them so don’t allow them to brown. Stir this mixture into the soup base, add sherry, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or until asparagus is tender.

Purée soup in a blender or food processor. Pour into a strainer set over the pot. Stir with a spoon or spatula to extract soup from the pulp. Discard pulp.

Whisk the egg yolks into the cream. Stir in 5 tablespoons of hot soup at a time until you’ve added about 3⁄4 cup. Reverse the process and slowly whisk the now-warm mixture into the soup. **

Bring soup to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the softened butter 1 tablespoon at a time. Taste and season with pepper if necessary. Add the asparagus tips.

Serve from a tureen or in individual bowls.

This recipe makes 6 bowls.

*No need to buy white pepper if you don’t have it. Use black pepper only a little more as it is not as strong as white pepper.

**This may seem like extra work, but if you don’t do it the yolks and cream will curdle.

May you enjoy all the days of your life filled with laughter and seated around a well laden table!

Sloane