Saturday, August 30, 2014

Creamy Polenta with Summer Squash Saute

I love the simple and tasty.  I've said many times here on the blog that sometimes it amazes me how just a few very simple ingredients can taste so wonderful. And when those ingredients are some you grew yourself, even better!  I didn't actually grow the squash, but my mom did and she gave it to me.  The basil is ALL mine!!  Can't live without that stuff.

This is a quick and easy summer dish.  It goes great as a side dish along side some grilled chicken, or keep it meatless and serve it with some salad and a baguette

Creamy Polenta with Summer Squash Saute
for the polenta:
3/4 cup polenta (or cornmeal; not instant)
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

for the saute:
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 small zucchini, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
2 small yellow summer yellow summer squash, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
3 cloves minced garlic
salt and pepper to taste

1/4 cup fresh basil, chiffonade

Bring chicken broth to a boil and whisk in polenta.  Reduce heat to low and stir polenta as it thickens.  Depending on how coarse the grain it, it may take 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in cream and cheese.  Check for seasoning and salt and pepper to taste.

Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large frying pan, over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook about 30 seconds, stirring constantly.  Add in zucchini and squash and cook about 5 minutes until it starts to brown a bit.  Reduce heat to medium-low, add a couple tablespoons of water and simmer until desired doneness; about 3-5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve polenta on a rimmed plate or wide bowl.  Spoon squash saute over the top of the polenta and top with fresh basil.

SOURCE: Adapted from Eating Well

Monday, August 25, 2014

Caprese Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

Silly camera is broken so today I bring you these peppers via iPad photo. That's just how we're rolling today.  Remember these peppers from last summer?  Well I had the same problem a few weeks ago....more peppers than I knew what to do with. I still love red peppers, although a couple of my children have fallen out of fondness with them (hopefully only for the time being).  So, it was up to my hubby and me to finish them off.

I don't have a "real" garden this year, but I managed to plant a couple tomato plants and some basil in our flower beds.  Tomatoes and basil are two of my most favorite things to eat in the summer, when produce is at it's finest. I try to eat it as much of it as I can, WHILE I can.  So these peppers, and anything else I can get my hands on, are stuffed with tomato-y basil-y goodness!  You'll love 'em.

*A note on the mozzarella and pesto: I like to use fresh buffalo mozzarella, or just whole milk mozzarella.  It can be pretty soft and hard to shred, so I just break it up with my fingers.  I also love making my own pesto, especially when I have my own basil plant, but sometimes I don't have a need for all of it at once.  If you need to store it longer than a week or two, you can freeze it in smaller containers (4-5 oz), or even in ice cube trays; just pop it out of the tray once it's frozen and put the cubes into a ziploc freezer bag.

Caprese Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups chicken (or veggie) stock
4 sweet peppers (red, yellow or orange)
3/4-1 pint cherry (or grape) tomatoes, halved
2 Tbsp. basil pesto (use this recipe or use store bought)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese, plus more for topping
fresh basil leaves, shredded, for garnish (optional)

Add quinoa and chicken stock to a medium-sized sauce pan.  I you have a fine sieve, rinse the quinoa first.  Bring to a boil, cover and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cook 15-20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. 

Slice peppers in half, lengthwise, and remove seeds. Place, cut side up, in a baking dish and cover with foil.  Bake, unfilled, for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and remove foil.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl, stir together the cooked quinoa and the pesto.  Add in tomatoes and 1/2 cup of the mozzarella and toss.  Divide mixture evenly between each of the pepper halves and top with about a tablespoon more of the mozzarella.  Cover again with the foil and stick it back in the oven to bake for another 10-15 minutes. I like my peppers more crisp-tender so I tend to bake for less time, but if you like your peppers soft bake longer and check for doneness.  Remove the foil the last 5 minutes or so for the cheese to brown a little bit.  Serve warm.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Crock Pot Ham Beans

I thought this recipe deserved a re-post.  It has been on my blog since I began, in 2008, but didn't even have a photo or description of it!

This is one of my favorite childhood recipes I remember my mom making often. I'm not sure how often we had it with cornbread, at least until later in life, but either way if was one of our favorites.  Beans are incredibly easy to prepare and knock the socks off any commercially prepared beans if you ask me.  Whenever I buy a ham, I like to stick the bone in the freezer, making sure to leave some meat on it, so I can have it for these beans.  If you don't happen to have a ham or ham bone, you can usually get a ham bone, or ham hock, from your local butcher or in the deli section of your grocery store.

I love that these beans are made in the crockpot, for two reasons especially this summer.  First of all it so, so HOT!!  I don't know if I'm just not as tough or what but I am having a hard time dealing with the heat this year.  The other is that we now get out of church at 6pm on Sundays, and the crockpot seems to be the way to go.  These beans start long before church and are waiting for us as we walk in the door.

These beans go great with either rice or cornbread.  My hubby loves the rice, I love the cornbread so I usually make a little of each.  Try this Maple Cornbread or even this Skillet Cornbread if you don't have a favorite yet.

Crockpot Ham Beans
1 lb. red beans (pinto work too)
1 meaty ham bone
1 onion, large diced
salt and pepper
water or chicken stock

Soak beans in crock pot over night. (NOTE: I buy my beans in the bulk section of my grocery store.  They tend to be more fresh, so I don't soak them overnight.  They also cook up faster than those prepackaged.)  The next moring, drain beans and rinse.

Put beans back into crockpot; add ham bone, onion and enough water or broth to come about 2 inches above beans (Don't worry if ham bone sticks above water a bit.)

Cook on high about 2-3 hours, then on low for another 3-4, or until beans are tender.  Turn off crock pot and remove ham bone.  Pull off  any ham from bone and stick it back in with the beans.  Salt beans to taste and serve warm.
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