Polenta Stuffed Chard

I really like Swiss Chard and I’m pretty sure it’s for reasons other than the gorgeous rainbow-colored stems. Pretty sure.

Signal Mountain Farms Swiss Chard

No matter why you eat it, chard is good for you and brightens up the kitchen. Especially on the messy, rainy night we made this Polenta Stuffed Swiss Chard that Neal heard on NPR the other day.

Polenta is similar to grits but it is yellow cornmeal and a more medium grind. You need to allow a bit of time for this recipe because the polenta needs to chill but the actual hands on time is pretty minimal.

Mushrooms seemed like a natural addition to this recipe so I re hydrated some shiitake mushrooms and used the mushroom water to make the polenta to increase the depth of flavor. Add the mushrooms in at the end of the cooking.

The recipe calls for removing the stems before pouring the boiling water over the chard. Next time I might wait and cut the stems out of the wilted chard as our chard tore a bit. Of course, that could be because I misread the recipe and actually boiled the leaves instead of just pouring the water over. 🙂

wrapping up packets of polenta was really quite fun!

Because our chard leaves tore we had to manipulate a few leaves together at times but it worked just fine.

so colorful!

I think we used more sauce to top the chard than originally called for but it seemed just right to me. I baked ours for 20 minutes instead of the 10 called for and skipped the broiler. The polenta is cold going into the oven and 10 minutes was just not enough time to heat it through.

cheers!

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Lebanese Stuffed Peppers

We made these Lebanese Stuffed Peppers from Cooking Light recently. The recipe states that the traditional recipe uses ground lamb but they chose to use ground sirloin instead. We had ground lamb in the freezer and I tend to get frustrated with recipes that try to Americanize an ethnic dish too much so we used ground lamb from Sequatchie Cove Farm.  (Granted, there are some ingredients that you just can’t find locally and I’m not opposed to substitutions but ground lamb is pretty common these days).

These bell peppers are from Signal Mountain Farm.

Against my better judgement we followed the directions for microwaving the peppers before stuffing. I think this just really made them watery.  I think the best way to cook peppers before stuffing is to cook them in a dry, hot cast iron skillet. Turn them frequently so they brown on all sides. This gives you much better flavor.

I never have beef broth (because the only broth I have is what I make and beef bones don’t find their way into my kitchen too often). Normally I do have lamb broth but not tonight so I substituted veggie broth throughout the recipe. No need to use bland water when you have broth!

I initially didn’t realize that the lamb went into the peppers raw. I think that works much better than precooking the meat as I’ve done in the past. I’d advise basing the doneness on temperature, not just time however. We cooked our lamb peppers to 155 degrees. I’d take sirloin out at about 160 degrees.

The sauce cooks down a good bit so I ended up adding another cup of tomatoes to the pan. The flavors were still good and we had just the right amount of sauce.

Parsley is another thing that I never have. I see it called for a good bit but I just don’t care for it and therefore don’t keep it around. I don’t think we missed anything.

Overall I think they turned out well…

cheers!

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Sunday Market! 7-15

Cantaloupe, watermelon, and potatoes – farmstand without a name

Okra – Hazelrig Farm

Blueberries, zephyr squash, zucchini, peppers, and celery – Signal Mountain Farm

Corn – Flat Top Mountain Farm

Those melons are beyond what a house of two can possibly eat in a week but I have no self-control this time of year at the market. Once the cantaloupe and watermelon is gone for the season it’ll be a whole year before I get any more! I must stuff myself silly eat a reasonable amount now, right? Sigh…I suppose there are worse things I could bring home than 2o lbs of melon, eh?

The market haul will now no longer fit into 1 basket and it also no longer fits into 1 picture. Not a bad problem.

Cherry Tomatoes AKA The reason I am able to suffer through the heat of summer – Signal Mountain Farm.

I recommend keeping these on the kitchen counter and eating handfuls every time you walk through the room. I remember walking through the garden with my grandfather when I was little and eating tomatoes straight off the plant. This was against the instructions of my grandmother that I wash the dirt off first. Who has time to wash the dirt off when there are tomatoes to eat?!? There is just nothing better than a sun warmed tomato straight off the vine.  Luckily my grandfather never told my secret 🙂

October beans – from a farmstand without a name. Really, how can you resist a hot pink speckled bean?

Not pictured is my now weekly purchase of goat cheese from Bonnie Blue Farm. I was buying the garlic herb variety but now I get the plain because it not only makes a fabulous addition to tomato salad but it also is a great substitute for cream cheese. I also tried a new variety this week – raw goat milk gouda. It’s hard to take a picture of cheese when you tear into it before unloading any of the other produce. crazy good!

I’m taking the week off from canning. I made Champagne Mustard from Food in Jars last night (it’s actually supposed to be white wine mustard but I had the champagne and, well, that’s just how it went down). It takes a month to cure so we’ll see how that turns out. It smelled delicious going into the jars last night but was crazy bitter. The recipe notes say the bitter flavor will mellow.

I had lots of plans for freezing and canning today but I just couldn’t do it. I needed a day of reading in a room far from the stove and canning pot, you know?

cheers!

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It’s been busy…

Goodness! I’ve been so busy cooking and creating and putting up that I haven’t exactly had time to write about anything.

20 (twenty!) quarts of sauerkraut, 8 pints of roasted corn salsa, and 5 half pints of blueberry butter

The cabbage for the sauerkraut came from Signal Mountain farm as did the blueberries for the blueberry butter. The corn in the salsa is from Rainbow Hill Farm. The variety of this corn is Luscious and Rainbow Hill is growing it as it is available in organic seed. Their farm is not certified organic yet but they are making strides! It was delicious but the ears are a bit small.  The tomatoes and onion in the salsa came from the market but neither farm appears to have a name.

15 bags of purple hull peas for the freezer

These peas came from The Dekalb County Farmers Market in Atlanta. They are local to that area and I’ve decided the Dekalb Market is my best option for buying peas in bulk as I’ve had bad luck with my pea ventures in Chattanooga. If you are anywhere close to the Dekalb Market you must check it out. It is an international market with the most amazing selection of just about everything. The prices are wonderful as well.

Sometimes I get so caught up preserving and putting away that I forget I can enjoy the goodness right now. Luckily I don’t forget for too long…

Blueberry butter…who needs bread??

Blueberry butter is something I just discovered this week in a new preserving book, Food in Jars. It is a more sophisticated version of jam. There is less sugar and the addition of lemon zest, nutmeg, and cinnamon give it a spicy flavor. Delicious!

cheers!

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Puttin’ up…

That’s a mess of beans! Sunday afternoon we put up about 5 lbs of beans, bell peppers, and shiitake mushrooms. The beans need to be briefly blanched before you freeze them. (Refer to this post for more information  about blanching). I love these purple beans. It’s too bad they turn green as soon as you cook them.

We quartered these peppers and put them in the freezer. No need to blanche or treat them; just toss them in a freezer safe bag. Let them thaw briefly when you are ready to use.

I love having a jar of dried mushrooms in the kitchen. They are great to toss in to a sauce or soup to ramp up the flavor. Of course, you can always rehydrate them and use like fresh. The stems are great to add to the stock bags you have in the freezer (you do have bags of chicken bones and veggie scraps for stock, right??) We just chop the tops off and leave in the dehydrator over night.

Sigh…I love seeing the freezer and pantry fill up with goodness!

cheers!

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Squash Casserole

Squash casserole was the highlight of our high school lunches. It was a pretty typical southern recipe that involved boiled squash and a good, buttery cracker topping. A friend gave me a recipe from Southern Living a few years back and it replicated what I remembered pretty well.

However, I now want a slightly healthier version (healthy squash casserole…an oxymoron, perhaps?). I used the Southern Living recipe as a (very) loose base. I started with about 2 lbs of squash that I chopped to a fine dice and cooked in the skillet with onion and red bell pepper. Boiling leeches so many of the nutrients from a vegetable and I also thought it might be nice to keep the integrity of the squash and not boil it into mush.

This squash is from Signal Mountain Farm.

Let the squash mixture cool for a bit and then mix with 2 eggs and just a bit of mayo (maybe 1/8 of a cup) and some sharp cheddar cheese.  Spoon this into a casserole dish and bake at 350  for about 30 minutes.

Yep, I skipped the topping all together. Just doesn’t seem necessary.

What you get is part squash casserole and part squash custard. Not your traditional casserole by any means but a (slightly) healthier, very tasty adaptation!

(It’s not the most photogenic dish but I wanted you to see the texture)

cheers!

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Zucchini with Baked Eggs

I may have mentioned that I’m not a Food Network kind of girl. Other than Iron Chef I’ve not found much there that captures my attention and even Iron Chef can be a bit…much sometimes. However, I found myself flipping through Food Network magazine the other day while waiting somewhere and I came across this recipe that just looked so good! It takes a bit of prep work to prepare the zucchini but the actual hands on time is minimal. These lovely green and golden zucchini came from Signal Mountain Farm. I prefer the golden zucchini over the standard green. The flavor just seems better to me.

Start by grating the zucchini. I ended up using about 3 1/2 of these. Toss the grated zucchini with a tablespoon of salt and put in a colander to drain. It is amazing how much liquid will drain out of the zucchini! Let it sit for about 30 minutes and then press with a spoon to remove the last bit.

Cook the drained zucchini in the skillet with onion. I also added a bit of purple bell pepper – the first bell pepper I’ve had this year! (also from Signal Mountain Farm). As you cook the zucchini it will release even more water. Apparently zucchini are a persistent sort of vegetable. Drain this from the skillet as needed. You can add a bit of salt to taste but go sparingly. Remember that tablespoon of salt earlier? Yeah, it doesn’t all go away with the water. Also add a bit of grated nutmeg. Why would you buy powdered nutmeg when you can grate these cute things?

Once the zucchini has just started to brown remove from the heat and let it cool for about 5 minutes. Spread the zucchini into an even layer in the skillet.  Then, use the back of a spoon to create 4 little wells in the zucchini. Crack an egg into each well and grate some Parmesan cheese over the surface. Bake at 350 until the eggs are set to your liking.

cheers!

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Brussels Sprouts

Until recently I had never seen Brussels sprouts on the stalk. I’m pretty sure I had no idea that’s how these baby cabbages grew. I like cabbage a lot.  I can’t seem to muster up quite such strong feelings for the Brussels sprout, but I’m trying! This is the best way I’ve found to cook them. Probably because it involves bacon 🙂

The freshest Brussels are going to be found still on the stalk. Check out your stalk to make sure you have enough to actually make a serving. There are not always as many Brussels on the stalk as you think. We got just enough for 2 servings from this stalk. These Brussels came from Signal Mountain Farm.

Start by cooking some bacon in the skillet. While that’s cooking, slice the Brussels off the stalk and then cut in half through the stem end. Remove the bacon from the skillet and add the Brussels and diced onion. (You may want to skim some of the bacon fat off first, depending on how fatty the bacon was). Cook until the onions and Brussels are nice and brown. Dice the bacon and add it back to the skillet and you’re done!

cheers!

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5 Spice Salmon and Green Beans

I really try to avoid boiling vegetables. You lose so many nutrients and boiled vegetables tend to be so plain. (Peas and beans being the exception here). So, with all the green beans coming in now I’m challenged to find new ways to serve them. This is a Fine Cooking recipe that I especially like since it only uses 1 pan. The green beans here are from Signal Mountain Farm.

This recipe calls for Chinese 5 spice powder. You can certainly buy this at the store but I prefer to make it. You never know how long those spices have been sitting on the self losing flavor day by day. A spice grinder is really a must for the kitchen. Spices lose their flavor quickly so the more you can grind fresh, the better.

My 5 spice recipe came from this book: The book is gorgeous and has a wealth of information about every herb and spice. (trust me…you need this book!)

5 spice powder is fennel, star anise, cloves, red pepper, and cinnamon. Toss it all in a spice grinder and it’s done.

The marinade for this salmon is 5 spice powder, honey, soy sauce, and garlic. The best way to prepare garlic for a marinade is to grate the garlic. It creates a garlic pulp that basically disappears into the marinade. Also, the bits of garlic you get with chopping tend to burn when you cook your dish.

Measuring honey can be a pain trying to scrape all the sticky honey out of the measuring cup. This tool has been a life saver. You get every bit of honey out and you can measure several different liquids at the same time.

Marinate the salmon for about 15 minutes. While that is marinating, top and tail your beans and toss them with a bit of sesame oil and 5 spice powder. Spread them on a foil lined baking sheet and cook under the broiler for about 3 minutes.

Remove the pan, stir the beans and add the salmon to the pan, pouring any extra marinade over the fish. Place the pan back under the broiler for another 3 minutes then remove to stir the beans and adjust the fish if necessary to ensure even cooking. A final 3 minutes under the broiler should be enough but certainly check the fish and finish to your liking.

We served this with polenta to help soak up some of the yummy juice left on the pan.

cheers!

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Roasted Cheddar Cauliflower

My grandfather swears that he went to school with 2 girls named Ellie Fant and Emma Tate. I’ve never quite been able to decide if he was teasing me or not. Surely not, I thought, but then I changed schools and there was a girl named Callie Flowers. Maybe people really don’t say names out loud before they sign the birth certificate.

Can you guess what vegetable we had for dinner this week? 🙂

I have terrible, nightmare inducing memories of being forced to eat a plate of cauliflower covered in melted velveeta cheese. I’m trying to repair my relationship with cauliflower but it just isn’t going so well. However, my husband says this was a great way to cook it so I’ll spare you my opinion since I’m apparently biased.

We got this cheddar cauliflower from Signal Mountain Farm. It doesn’t taste any different from the usual white variety but it is a bit prettier.

Toss the cauliflower with oil and salt and pepper and spread on a baking sheet. Roast at 415 degrees for about 30 minutes (really, just roast to your liking). Quick and easy and, if you like cauliflower, I understand it’s delicious! 😉

cheers!

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