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Archive for the ‘Cooking And Baking’ Category

Every fall I am overwhelmed by a desire to surround myself by pumpkins and winter squashes, one of the most enduring symbols of autumn’s bounty.  Every year I make pumpkin soup.  Every year Mr. Homesteader eats the soup politely but, I must admit, not that enthusiastically.  Knowing his love of exotic flavors, I’ve tried lots of variations:  with cinnamon and sweetness, with ginger and curry, with southwestern flavors.  It was my most recent rendition of the perennial pumpkin soup, however, that won his heart and had him polishing off his soup in record time.  And it was the most basic I’ve ever made.  I present it to you here.  I know it’s basic, but he really thought it was good!

Pumpkin sizes vary so much and this recipe is so easy that I offer this recipe casually, with no precise measurements.  Begin by washing well and whacking in half one eating pumpkin or large winter squash.  Scoop out the seeds and stringy flesh. Save those seeds, cleaned free of the flesh!  Roasted, they’ll make great healthy snacks with lots of good omega-3s. Bake the pumpkin halves in an 350 degree F oven for about 30 minutes, depending on size.  If you can cover the pumpkin, put just a couple of tablespoons in the cavities where the seeds were located. If baking uncovered, fill each cavity about 2/3 full.  After you’ve baked the pumpkin for 10 minutes, add one  clove of garlic, unpeeled, to the pan and let it roast with the pumpkin for the remaining 20 minutes.

Scoop the roasted flesh from the skin, letting it cool a bit to make sure you can get every last bit.  Cut off the tough end of the roasted garlic and squeeze it into a cooking pot with the pumpkin flesh.  Add a splash of chicken, turkey, or vegetable stock and a splash or two of cream and/or milk.  Blend everything with a stick blender, in a food processor, or in a stand blender, adding more cream or milk to get a smooth consistency.  Season with salt and black pepper.  Add a pinch each or so of finely ground cayenne pepper, nutmeg, and rubbed sage.  Heat gently and serve.

Does your family eat pumpkin soup?  Do you have a favorite pumpkin recipe to share that you think Mr. Homesteader would like?  He’s mighty adventurous!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts and tweets are fair use, as long as you provide a full URL.


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squash blossom by Ozarkhomesteader

Tonight I wanted something light to go with open-faced chicken salad sandwiches.  I had beautiful fresh zucchini from the garden, babied through our first frost with a blanket.  I had cherry tomatoes but opted not to use them; instead I opened a can of organic diced tomatoes.  This soup is so simple but so good.  Add eggplant and you’d have ratatouille, but why not keep it simple for once?

Tomato-Zucchini Soup with fresh basil

serves 2-3

  • olive oil
  • about 1/3 sweet onion, sliced with the slices cut into strips about a half inch to inch long
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • two medium-sized zucchinis, cut into slices (or quartered lengthwise and then sliced if the zucchini is a bit bigger)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes, scant two cups
  • optional:  parmesan rind
  • splash of cream
  • finely shredded fresh basil, about 5-6 medium-sized leaves (okay to use dried, but it will change the flavor, and you’ll need to add it with the tomatoes)
  • salt to taste

Sauté the onions in a bit of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot, like a small Dutch oven.  After the onion starts to soften and color, add the garlic and zucchini.  Sauté until you get a little color on the zucchini.  Add the diced tomatoes and about 3/4 cup water and simmer for about 20 minutes, letting the zucchinis soften a little.  If you have a parmesan rind, feel free to toss it in during the simmering.  Now add the splash of cream and the finely shredded basil.  Add salt to taste.  Serve hot.

Do you have a favorite simple soup, either for the remains of Indian summer or for winter warmth?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photograph.

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Ozarkhomesteader's Pepper Jelly

 

Like a brilliant jewel, pepper jelly made with red chiles and cranberry juice tantalizes for fall feasts and Christmas presents.  I’ll post the full recipe in a couple of days.  It’s incredibly easy and oh-so-delicious with cream cheese and crackers, on cornbread, or even as a sweet-sour-and-hot drizzle sauce for chicken, fish, or vegetables or a dip for egg rolls, spring rolls, and other appetizers.

 

Perfect for Holiday Gifts

 

How hot do you like it?  Discuss.  🙂

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader

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When doctors and nutritionists point to the healthiness of the “Mediterranean diet,” too many people think, “Oh, I can eat lasagna loaded with cheese and meat and be healthy.”  I do believe that there are times for lasagna, but I know that even made with whole grains and organic products or even spinach that it’s still not health food.  Still, people from the Mediterranean do know how to eat to live.  To celebrate the start of fall, we had a great Italian soup made with fresh garden ingredients:  minestrone.  I served it with crostini with pesto and garnished it with some petite Italian turkey meatballs, but you could leave those out and go entirely vegetarian instead.

Minestrone is health in a bowl if you make it properly.  I started by cooking some navy beans with garlic and a parmesan rind until the beans were al dente.

trombetta squash

  • 1-2 cups cannellini or navy beans, cooked
  • 1/2-1 sweet onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, minced
  • 1-2 cloves minced garlic
  • 2-4 cups fresh, seeded tomatoes (retain and use juice) or diced canned tomatoes
  • 1 small zucchini, cut into chunks
  • 1-2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth

Cannellini beans are more traditional, but the navy beans substitute just fine.  You can easily find canned cannellini beans too.  My next step was to sauté a small diced onion while I diced a carrot and minced a stalk of celery.  Then I sautéed the carrot and celery alongside the onion.  As the trio begin to cook, add a clove of minced garlic.  Next add 2-4 cups fresh or  quality canned, chopped tomatoes, seeded but with juice retained and added to the soup.  If you have any good zucchini, as we did, cut it into chunks and toss it in.  Add back in the beans with any remaining cooking liquid.  Add up to 2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth.  Simmer over low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 20-30 minutes.

I served petite turkey meatballs on top of the minestrone.

  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs (oregano, rosemary, basil)
  • 1 teaspoon crushed fennel seed
  • pinch crushed red pepper
  • pinch salt
  • 1/3 pound ground turkey (or lamb, beef, or chicken)
  • 2-4 tablespoons whole-grain bread crumbs
  • splash of broth sufficient for forming meatballs

I minced 1/4 cup onion and sautéed it in olive oil until the onion took on a little color.  I added a clove of minced garlic just long enough for the garlic to get the harsh flavor out.  Then I mixed the onion and garlic with about 2 teaspoons of dried Italian herbs (rosemary, oregano, basil), about a teaspoon of crushed fennel seed, a pinch each of crushed red pepper and salt, and 1/3 pound ground turkey.  Add 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup whole-grain bread crumbs.  Mix and add a splash of minestrone broth or chicken broth.  Using a teaspoon or small cookie scoop, form petite meatballs and cook in olive oil over medium heat, turning to brown all sides.

Minestrone

Serve minestrone in a broad bowl, placing meatballs on top, and garnish with fresh grated parmesan cheese and chiffonaded fresh basil.  Add whole-grain crostini to work with the beans to increase the protein.

Fall makes me crave warm, healthy soups.  Do you crave soup as temperatures drop?  What’s your family’s favorite fall soup?

Copyright 2010 Ozark Homesteader.

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I don’t remember having creamy tomato soup that often as a kid, but I do remember how comforting a can of Campbell’s could be as I moved out on my own and couldn’t afford much else.  Today creamy tomato soup still speaks comfort to me, but I quit that red can long ago in favor of brands that have fewer artificial ingredients.  The “natural” and organic brands are pretty expensive, so how about just making our own creamy tomato soup at home?  This recipe will let you use up some of that bushel of tomatoes that showed up in your CSA basket, that caught your eye at your local farmer’s market, or that mysteriously appeared in your garden or on your doorstep.

serves 2-3

Ingredients

  • 1/3 medium sweet yellow onion, diced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • about 1 medium carrot (2 if the carrots don’t taste too carrot-y), diced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 2 1/2 cups (or more) of fresh or home-canned peeled tomatoes, as many seeds as you can removed (but keep the juice)
  • pinch of salt (more to taste after you cook everything)
  • pinch or two of sugar
  • tiny, tiny pinch of allspice or nutmeg
  • 1/2-2/3 cup whole milk (or more, to taste) or cream, if you’re feeling decadent
  • optional:  garnish with fresh herbs

In a non-reactive, heavy-bottomed pot with the lid on, sauté the onions over low heat in the olive oil and butter until the onions just barely start to color.  Add the carrots and let them get a little color too.  Remember to keep the lid on to retain the moisture.  Add the tomatoes, salt, sugar, and allspice or nutmeg and simmer the soup on low heat until the tomatoes start to break down and the carrots are soft.  Purée using a stick blender if you have one.  If you don’t have a stick blender, let the mixture cool a bit and then blend it in a stand blender or food processor or even run it through a hand-crank food mill.  Bring back to a simmer and add the milk.  Be careful not to boil after you add the milk, or the soup will curdle! Taste and add salt if needed.  Serve hot with a grilled cheese sandwich (or turkey-ham and cheese, like we used).

Have you developed a favorite comfort-food recipe?  If you serve tomato soup, what do you serve with it in your home?

Remember to check out the Homestead’s first ever giveaway.  You could win a Dutch oven, just for saying you’re interested.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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I started our summer squash late this year, but we’ve still ended up with bushels of it.  Last year I posted about summer supper squash pancakes, and earlier this year I offered a can-less version of squash casserole.  Of course, you can always sauté squash with onions, but why not go a little crazy and come up with a few more variations?

Earlier this week we had squash roasted with sweet onions, pimento pepper, a little chile pepper, and strips of turkey ham.  The recipe is simple; just cut the onions into chunky slices (half the onion and then quarter and separate into leaves), toss with a little oil, and give them a head start them roasting at 400 degrees F while you cut the squash into nice chunks, the pepper into dice or slivers, and the ham into strips.  Once everything else is prepped, toss it in with the onion, season to taste, and roast for about twenty minutes more.  You can sprinkle fresh, chiffonaded basil or another fresh snipped herb across the top.  I served ours as a side dish with spinach oyster soup, balsamic fig and bleu cheese salad, and crusty grilled bread.  My husband said he could easily enjoy the squash dish as the whole meal. Of course, this squash dish with that characteristic Southern drawl used a lot of squash, but I still had a lot more.

What to do?  How about squash stir-fried with Asian flavors?  This dish is still based on onions and squash, but it’s definitely different from traditional Southern squash.  Begin by slicing a sweet onion into thin slices.  Stir-fry the onions in a blend of walnut oil, peanut oil, or vegetable oil and a tablespoon or two of toasted sesame oil.  While the onions fry, cut your squash into chunks and sliver some crystalized ginger (yes, the candy ginger!), about two whole pieces per small squash (yielding a couple of tablespoons or three of slivered crystalized ginger).  Add the squash and crystalized ginger slivers to the stir-fry along with a splash of good soy sauce and, if you want, a splash of hoisin sauce.  Sit fry until a few pieces of the squash start get brown goodness.  I served our Asian-flavored squash with citrus-glazed broccoli and ginger-sesame salmon.  

What’s next?  I’m thinking squash with scallops and grits and perhaps some yellow squash muffins on the side, with cheese to make them a savory addition to supper.  I’m also planning on trying the squash relish that reader Regina posted for me in the comments of this squash post.  And this fall without a doubt I’ll be making some squash dressing to go with chicken or turkey.

How do you use your squash bounty?  What’s the weirdest thing you ever did with squash that tasted good?

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This summer while visiting my dad, I had a chance to go to the heart of cast iron cookware in the United States:  the Lodge Outlet in South Pittsburgh, Tennessee.  (No, I do not have a relationship of any kind with Lodge; I just like their American-made, last-several-lifetimes products.) The Lodge Outlet is located on the edge of the Appalachian Mountains, near Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Birmingham and Huntsville, Alabama.  It’s right where Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia come together.  Its location no doubt was influenced by its proximity to the Tennessee River and the iron-producing region of the South that stretches from Chattanooga to Birmingham.  Lodge has been manufacturing here for more than a century, and Lodge’s products will last for centuries if you take care of them, making them some of the most eco-friendly housewares available.

The outlet has cast iron galore!

And the outlet has accessories, like walnut chargers.

And they carry a lot of enameled cast iron now too, although I think it’s made in China instead of in the US like everything else in the outlet.  I love the colors, but I try to avoid Chinese products.

Except I may not be able to resist this casserole dish.  Resisting, resisting . . . .

The outlet room is less pretty (thus no photo), but it’s my absolute favorite, because everything is at a really good price.  It’s tempting, and you know you’re getting a good deal.  And then your cart will start to look like this:

And you may start to worry about whether you’re buying too much, but then you see this sign:

Great!  I’ll keep shopping.  And then you get to the check-out counter and discover if you spend six more dollars, you’ll get twenty dollars worth of merchandise for free.  And you do.  And then your cart looks like this:

I’m not a “shopper” by nature, but I have a really hard time restraining myself at the Lodge Outlet.

Some of the things I bought are for gifts, like these 2-and 3-quart Dutch ovens, which will be wedding gifts.  They were half price but aren’t seconds; Lodge is just changing the design slightly.  I love the idea of giving an enduring gift like a Dutch oven to a couple who likes to cook and eat; they can pass it down to their children and their children’s grandchildren.

I bought some things to keep too–shhhhhhhh.  Don’t tell Mr. Homesteader.  I’ve already used them around him, but I don’t think he’s recognized that they’re new.  Check out this great Dutch oven or skillet lid that doubles as a skillet itself but will also fit in the toaster oven, so I can make my deep-dish whole-grain pizza in the summer without heating up the whole house. Of course, I also really like small cast iron for when you’re not cooking for a whole crew.  Check out my papa bear lid/skillet with my new baby skillet and lid.I have used this little fry pan so many times since I brought it home.

It’s not only cute; it works well!

I can have a perfect over-easy fried egg on buttered toast in about 4 minutes, and I can come up with 4 minutes on all but my busiest work mornings!

The lid that fits the little skillet also fits this nifty little pot with legs.  I picked up two of them as my freebees, but I wish now I’d gotten more.  They’ll be perfect for making individual servings of the chili-cheese-cornbread bake this fall and winter.

Imagine lifting the lids on little bread puddings in these tiny cauldrons!

I also got two more of these wonderful cast-iron plates that work for fajitas, for starting fish on the stove top and then finishing in the oven, and for smaller versions of my thinner-crust whole-grain pizza.  I think these “plates” are indispensable, especially with the walnut charger, which makes it so easy to go from oven or stovetop to table.

And ultimately I could not entirely resist the enamelware.  I bought this trivet.  My kitchen is white with red accents, so this trivet is perfect!

And I got a couple of more things that were neither wedding gifts nor for me.  They’re a gift for one of you, my dear readers.  And they weren’t on sale or from the seconds area, but that’s okay, because months ago I said that a camping Dutch oven would be my first giveaway.  Watch for me to post it tonight or tomorrow morning!  I didn’t want readers to miss it in this long post.

Do you have a favorite outlet for an American-made product that warms the cockles of your heart?  Have you ever been to the Lodge Outlet?

If you want to know more about using Dutch ovens, check out this recent cook-off, this beginner’s recipe, and this roasted chicken recipe.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader, including photographs.

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