Creamed Spinach…don’t judge me

When I was younger, one of the most popular cartoons on TV was Popeye. My little brother wanted to be Popeye when he grew up. He was constantly begging our mom to buy him canned spinach even though she knew he wouldn’t eat it.

Finally, the big day came. Mom bought spinach. She went to heat it up, but P said no, Popeye ate it straight out of the can. In the hopes of teaching someone (my brother) a valuable lesson, she opened the can and P took a huge bite. It did not go down well. He immediately threw up all over the kitchen.

So, what have we learned here? Listen to your mama and don’t eat spinach straight out of the can. Eat it like it is served at the fancy steakhouses. Pretend you are part of the Rat Pack.

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This may be an acquired taste.

creamed spinach in pan unmixed

bowl of creamed spinach

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fresh spinach or 10 oz frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • ¼ cup onion minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • 2 ounces cream cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon seasoning salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • Wash and dry spinach if using fresh. Remove any tough stems and roughly chop.
  • Cook spinach in a pan with olive oil over medium heat until wilted and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove from pan and place in a strainer to drain.
  • Add onion and butter to the pan and cook on medium low heat until onion is softened. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer while stirring until smooth. Simmer 1-2 minutes or until thickened.
  • Squeeze any excess moisture out of the spinach. Add back to the pan and stir to combine. Heat through and serve

*****From the Recipe Box:

G did not like this, not even a little bit.

I know it’s a lot of work for a side dish, but what the heck. Make it when you have time.

I like it over a baked or mashed potatoes.

Like I said, don’t judge me, it’s really good.

and remember: Stop wasting your life away doing nothing. Big kiss, Lynn

Glazed Carrots

G and I took the grandson and sous chef extraordinaire to the American Legion for dinner the last night he was here. J loves their chicken fried steak. We all had glazed carrots on our plates. What surprised me was how much everyone loved the glazed carrots.

My Grandma used to make the kids glazed carrot coins long, long ago.

Ingredients

  • bag of baby carrots  or any sliced up carrots
  • ½ cup of butter
  • ¼ cup of light or dark brown sugar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • parsley for garnish

Instructions

  1. Put carrots, brown sugar, and butter in a pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally so they don’t burn.
  2. Once the liquid reduces and becomes like a glaze, season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve once they are tender.
  3. For garnish, you can sprinkle in some chopped parsley, thyme, rosemary, or other herbs (optional).

*****From the Recipe Box:

Believe it or not, these carrots don’t take long to cook, but I still put a lid on them for a smidgy bit. J’s already planning on these for Thanksgiving.

and remember what Ken Keyes said: To be upset over what you don’t have is to waste what you do have.  Big kiss, Lynn

Porchetta Part 2

On April 18th of last year I shared a recipe for faux porchetta I got from the neighbors who found it at Bon Appettit.  As much as we loved it, it wasn’t enough.  I kept thinking about apples and pork, so I decided to do a little experimenting.

Today was the day things came together to form the perfect mix.  I roasted a small pork butt.  The porchetta could not be easier.  While the meat was resting, I got out the rest of my ingredients:

1 Fuji apple, sliced thin

1 to 1 1/2 cups shredded cabbage

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce

S & P to taste

I put approximately 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet.  I added the apple slices and brown sugar to the pan and sauted them on medium high for about 5 minutes.  I added the cabbage at this point and sauted for another minute or 2 before adding the sweet chili sauce.  I wanted the pork roast to rest on the apple mixture.

I must say both G and I were totally pleased with the results.  I’ll continue to work with this but I’m not quite sure what I’d do to change it.

 

* From the Recipe Box:
As you can see from the picture, I forgot to grind the fennel seeds.  Both G and I agreed nothing got lost in the lack of grinding.  So, if you want to take the “lazy butt” method to the next level, don’t grind. I also think it intensified the fennel flavor a bit more this way.  I won’t be grinding again.
Don’t forget what a great sandwich this makes.
and remember:  I’m making changes in my life, so if you don’t hear from me, then you are one of them.  Big kiss, Lynn

Risotto in the Oven

The first meal my Italian daughter-in-law made for me was risotto.  I don’t know where it had been my whole life, but I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.  It was amazing.  The best part about risotto is how creamy it gets.  I’m never sure if I should use a fork or a spoon.  Yes, of course I use a spoon: I don’t want to miss a single grain.

According to D, it’s the warm broth that makes all the difference.  I decided it was time I learned how to make this fabulous dish.  I don’t understand how something as hard as rice grains can end up so smooth and creamy.  Lots of people use it as a side dish,  but for me it’s the main course all the way.  I don’t need anything else on my plate, but if you want to throw in a little asparagus and a few green peas, I’m happy.

I really enjoyed this recipe, but I will be trying another.  This one needed a little more depth.  Since I am a total lazy butt, I owe it to myself to search out the easiest, I mean the best.  I didn’t have a recipe so I combined several I found on-line, but why wouldn’t I try one that cooks in the oven first.  Hello!

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

5 cups simmering chicken stock, preferably homemade, divided

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup dry white wine

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup frozen peas

1 pound blanched asparagus

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the rice and 4 cups of the chicken stock in a Dutch oven.  Cover and bake for 45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is al dente. Remove from the oven, add the remaining cup of chicken stock, the Parmesan, wine, butter, salt, and pepper, and stir vigorously for 2 to 3 minutes, until the rice is thick and creamy. Add the peas and asparagus, stir until heated through.  Serve hot.

 

*  From the Recipe Box:

We’re back to easy-squeezy.  Why do you have to stand over a burner and stir the rice?  Why not bake it it the oven if you can?

Considering how easy this was, it was so good.

and remember:   The older you get, the earlier it gets late.   Big kiss, Lynn

Cauliflower and Potato Soup

My grocery shopping elves bought me the most beautiful cauliflower.  They know what I like without even asking, so I received a wonderful haul of vegetables.  Unfortunately, G does not feel the same way about veggies, so I ended up with a mini glut of the ones he particularly dislikes.  As a result, I decided it was time to make my mom’s potato soup.  But, what’s the fun of making soup if you can’t hide things in it?
I included a Potato, Cauliflower and Corn Chowder recipe in December, but this one is a bit different.
INGREDIENTS
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • 1.5 lb. russet potatoes (I do not peel potatoes for anything)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (I used chicken because that’s what I had)
  • 12 oz. evaporated milk
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika (I used regular ground paprika)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • freshly cracked pepper
  • 4 oz. medium cheddar, shredded
  • 3 green onions, sliced

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Dice the onion and add it to a soup pot along with the olive oil.  Sauté the onion over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until softened.
  • Peel and dice the potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Cut the cauliflower into small florets. Add the cubed potatoes and cauliflower florets to the soup pot along with the vegetable broth. Place a lid on top, turn the heat up to high, and bring the pot up to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to medium-low and let it simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes and cauliflower are extremely soft.
  • Add the evaporated milk to the soup. Use an immersion blender to purée the mixture, or allow it to cool slightly, then transfer the soup in batches to a blender to purée. Blending hot liquids is extremely dangerous, so make sure to let it cool until warm first (adding the evaporated milk will help bring the temperature down), and drape a towel over the lid of the blender as added protection against unintended splatter.
  • Once the soup is puréed, season with smoked paprika, salt, and freshly cracked pepper. The amount of salt needed will vary, depending on the salt content of the broth used.
  • Place the soup back over medium heat and allow it to heat through. Once hot, begin stirring in the cheese, one handful at a time, until it has fully melted into the soup.
  • Serve the Cheesy Cauliflower and Potato Soup with sliced green onions on top.

*  From the Recipe Box:

The green onions really add a pop of flavor to each bowl, so I don’t suggest skipping them, but G is not a green onion fan so we added bacon to his.  I also added some crispy fried onions that were pretty nummy.
and remember:  When you see crazy coming, cross the street.  Big kiss, Lynn

Caprese Salad

I made the most amazing salad for dinner the other night.  I know, I know, everyone knows how to make a caprese salad, but wait.  Look at this beauty.  I used small mozzarella balls, grape tomatoes that I halved, micro greens for garnish and to top it all off, balsamic reduction.  OMG!!!

You’re thinking, Lynn, get a grip, but I want you to realize how wonderful a plate of veggies can be.  Sometime you just want something light and refreshing.  I’m not a good meat eater, so after a day or 2 of having meat, I want something light.  G had this with a pork chop, but this is all I had for dinner and I was totally full and happy.

I bought individually wrapped mozzarella balls at Costco.  They are so cute.  They actually come 3 mini balls in each package.  The only problem I have sourcing ingredients is the micro greens.  I currently pick them up at Trader Joe’s, but I don’t know how long that will be an option for me.  Unfortunately, I’m currently housebound.  I’ve had some absolutely incredibly loving helpers, but it’s hard to expect them to go to TJ’s for micro greens.  If anyone knows of any here on my Island, please let me know.

Balsamic Reduction:

2 cups balsamic vinegar

1 cup Ruby Port (it must be Ruby, not Tawny)

1 large tablespoon brown sugar

Combine all in a saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and continue cooking until sauce has reduced to 1 cup.  This should take about 45 minutes to an hour.  You will want to use it on just about everything.  I keep it it a squirt bottle.  It will last quite awhile, unless you are like us and use it on everything.

*  From the Recipe Box:

I originally included this reduction recipe in Sept. 2018, but it deserves to be included twice.  Trader Joe’s and Costco each sell a good reduction as well.

and remember:  The Dalai Lama said it best:  Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries.  Without them, humanity cannot survive.  Big kiss, Lynn  ( I thought of this quote after reading about the woman who was making brown bag lunches and leaving them out for people who needed them.  About the teacher who drove by each of her student’s houses and held up a sign that said “I miss you”.  About the hot meals at rest stops being made for the truckers.  Ultimately, it’s about the people on the front lines:  the doctors, nurses, EMT’s, grocery workers, your help at the drive up window, truck drivers.  A huge thank you one and all and a major big kiss!!!!!!)

Asparagus Cheese Tart

Another recipe from the Costco Magazine.  They had me at asparagus this time.  I’ve mentioned my 2 favorite foods are watermelon and asparagus, so you know I’m in.  This one looked totally la-di-da and yet super easy.  Our favorite nephew, his wife and daughter were here and it was voted a total winner.  Our 2 year old great niece even helped roll out the puff pastry dough and grate the cheese.

This is a really nummy nibble.  I will be making it all year, or at least as long as I can get fresh asparagus.  Look at the intensity on her face as she grates the cheese.  Isn’t it more important  than the squiggly cut puff pastry?  Yeah, I think so.  I wish you could have seen her piercing the pastry with a fork.  It sort of reminded me of the Psycho shower scene.  She was into it.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

1 tablespoon flour

1 sheet (about 8 ounces) frozen puff pastry, thawed

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 cup grated Gruyere Cheese

1 pound medium asparagus, trimmed

S and P to taste

Sprinkle flour onto the work surface, roll out the pastry dough to a 14 x 9 inch rectangle.  Trim the dough for neat edges, then transfer to a parchment lined baking sheet.  Score the pastry dough lightly with a 1-inch border on all sides.  Pierce the interior dough with a fork.  Bake until light golden, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove the pastry from the oven and sprinkle with the cheeses.  Place the trimmed asparagus on the interior of the tart, alternating with ends and tips.  Drizzle the asparagus with the olive oil, scattering thyme on top and season with salt and pepper.

Bake until puff pastry is golden and asparagus is tender, about 15 minutes.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Makes about 6 servings.

*  From the Recipe Box:

This recipe was from the March 2020 Costco Connection.  I get really good recipes from that publication.

G would like to see twice the cheese on the tart.  We like our cheese.

Even with a 2 year old sous chef, it turned out fabulous.  Appearance isn’t everything.  Let these kids help people.

and remember:  Erin go Bragh my darlings.  Big kiss, Lynn

 

Potato, Cauliflower and Corn Chowder

Long before it was trendy, we were a cauliflower eating family.  When G was going to college and working nights, C the MP and I would have cauliflower with melted cheese for dinner.  He was 3 and it’s what he always asked for.   I thought he had incredibly good taste.

My mom used to make potato soup on a regular rotation, so I’m not surprised how many potato/cauliflower soup recipes I found in her binders.  My dad loved potato soup.  Hello, he was born in Idaho.

  • 12 oz bacon sliced into 1/2″ pieces
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 4 medium russet potatoes peeled and chopped into 1/2″ thick pieces
  • 1 medium head cauliflower cored and chopped into florets
  • 6 cups warm water
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper or to taste
  • 2 to 3 cups corn kernels cooked from fresh or frozen
  • grated cheddar cheese for sprinkling

  1. Cook bacon in a 5 1/2 quart heavy-bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven over med/high heat until browned. Remove bacon with slotted spoon to paper-towel-lined plate.
  2. Pour the bacon grease into a bowl. Spoon 3 tablespoons of bacon grease back into the pot and discard the rest. Add diced onion and sauté 5 min or until soft.
  3. Add chopped potatoes and cauliflower, 6 cups warm water along with 4 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste. Stir and bring to a boil. Add 1 cup cream, reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook until potatoes are cooked through (about 15 min).
  4. Meanwhile cook your corn. Drain and cover to keep warm.
  5. Puree the soup in batches in a blender until completely smooth (making sure your blender has a little breathing hole at the top so you don’t create a suction vacuum from the hot liquid. Return soup to the pot and season to taste (for an adult soup, we add another 1/2 tsp cayenne). To serve, ladle into warm bowls and garnish generously with bacon bits, cooked corn kernels and fresh parsley.

*  From the Recipe Box:

Lazy butt time:  I used precooked bacon.   I put 3 tablespoons of butter in the pot instead of bacon grease to saute the onions.  I did not peel the potatoes, and I did use Yukon Gold.  I thawed frozen corn and dumped it in at the end.  I used the bags of cauliflower-ettes from Costco.  I did not use a stand blender; I used my immersion blender.  Are you seeing how much time I saved you?

and remember:  Life is so damn short, for god’s sake, just do what makes you happy.  Big kiss, Lynn

Corn Chowder

Hooray, it’s time to enjoy the corn harvest in Western Washington.  Yes, we’ve been enjoying fresh corn for about a month, but this is different.  Today, it’s soup weather.  So, say it with me, HOORAY!  You all know how much I love soup and since we’ve been having some interesting weather, it seemed like the right time.  We had a thunder and lightning storm that was almost biblical in its intensity the other day.  Wow!  When your town makes CNN reporting for this kind of weather, you know it was impressive.

But, as usual, I digress.  All I really wanted to acknowledge was it’s time for soup.  I just found out corn chowder is a favorite for one of my favorite people, so it’s time to find the perfect recipe.  This is basically Ina Garten’s chowder recipe with a few additions.  She’s my hero, what can I say.  My favorite sous chef gave me a hand with all the chopping.  He’s turning into a soup fan as well.

4 slice bacon, chopped

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cups chopped onions

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

6 cups chicken stock or broth

1 pound white potatoes, Yukon Gold for example, unpeeled and cubed to a 1/2 inch dice

5 cups of corn, approximately 5 ears fresh or a pound or so of frozen

1 cup half-and-half

1 heaping cup grated cheese, I use a combo of Jack and Cheddar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a large stockpot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon and olive oil until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.

Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and turmeric and cook for 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cob and blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. (If using frozen corn you can skip this step.) Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half and cheddar. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cheese is melted. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper. Serve hot with a garnish of bacon.

*   From the Recipe Box:

G said it needed more bacon, so we used 8 slices.

The turmeric really added a yellow vibe to the chowder.

and remember:  Fake it until you make it.  Big kiss, Lynn

 

 

Kool-Aid Pickles (Why wouldn’t you?)

I was watching Andrew Zimern’s Bizarre Foods the other day and he was touring the Mississippi Delta.  The Hunka-hunka and I took Route 61 through the Delta a few years ago as well.  I love the Blues and wanted to feel the origins.  We did not stop for Kool-Aid brined dill pickles like Andrew did, but we did see them and it made me go “HUM?”.  I’m married to a non-pickle eater.  I know, where did I go wrong?  He doesn’t like mustard either.  What can I say?

Since I love both flavors, I decided I should do some experimenting even if it was just for me.   Colorful dill pickles/summer time, a match made in heaven.   Kool-Aid dills are called koolickles in the South.  Clever.  I looked at half a dozen recipes before I discovered they are all basically the same.

                (Before and after)

Ingredients

  • 1 jar (32 ounces) whole dill pickles, undrained
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 envelope unsweetened Kool-Aid mix, flavor of your choice (Cherry turned out to be my favorite)

Directions

  • Drain pickles, reserving juice. In a small bowl, combine the reserved juice, sugar and Kool-Aid, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
  • Slice pickles; return to jar. Pour juice mixture over pickles. Discard any remaining juice.  Cover and refrigerate for 1 week before serving. Store in the refrigerator up to 2 months.

Most online recipes suggest starting with a gallon jar of pickles.  I used a half gallon, because I didn’t need that many koolickles in the house. Simply drain the brine into a clean jar, add in a packet of cherry Kool-Aid and 2/3 cup of sugar.  Shake the jar until the sugar dissolves.  I used sliced dills for maximum surface exposure and I thought they would look good on a hamburger patty; I wanted as much surface as possible to receive the cherry Kool-Aid.  Return the sliced pickles to the pickle jar or a wide mouth Mason jar, and place it in the fridge for at least one week and up to a couple of months.

and remember what Muddy Waters sang about the Hoochie Coochie Man:

The gypsy woman told my mother
Before I was born
I got a boy child’s comin’
He’s gonna be a son of a gun

Big kiss, Lynn

Electric Mud was my first blues album and damn but I loved it.