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Italian Peasant Stew

A perfect Christmas soup, what with those reds and greens. Also a perfect antidote to all that sugar I know you’ve been nibbling.

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I first had this soup at a family get together a few years ago. One of my aunts made it. It’s a hearty and meaty stew. Typically I try to stretch meat in soups but this is one that I usually leave as is.

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Italian Peasant Stew
Adapted from Taste of Home
1 pound bulk pork sausage*
2 onions, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 t cayenne pepper
3/4 t fennel seed, crushed
1/2 t basil
1/2 t oregano
1 quart diced tomatoes, undrained
1 quart chicken stock
1 quart white beans (whatever you have on hand)
10 oz frozen spinach, chopped, no need to drain
2 cups shredded chicken
Salt to taste

*or use Italian sausage and skip the fennel

Brown sausage and onions. Add garlic the last minute. Add seasonings, stock, tomatoes, and beans. Simmer 30 minutes. Add chicken and spinach and through. I like to make this a few hours ahead and then leave it sit on the stove til supper, reheating if necessary. The extra time blends the flavors beautifully.

Serves: 10

Raisin Filled Cookies

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You didn’t think I’d leave you hanging without at least one new cookie recipe did you? Good.

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Well here it is. My dad’s favorite. A soft, cake-y sort of cookie with a nutty raisin filling. Nobody in my little family eats these except me so I have to give most of them to my dad!

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Raisin Filled Cookies

Adapted from The Mennonite Community Cookbook

1/2 cup softened butter

1 cup sugar

1 egg

1 t vanilla

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 t baking powder

1/2 t baking soda

1/4 t salt

1/2 cup milk

Whole raisins

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat well. Mix flour with baking powder, soda, and salt. Add to creamed mixture alternately with milk, starting and ending with flour. Divide into two discs and wrap in plastic. Chill at least 3 hours.

While it’s chilling, make the raisin filling (below) as it needs to be cooled before assembling the cookies.

When the dough is chilled, roll out one disc to just about 1/8 inch thick (a tad more). Cut out with a circle cutter (I use a 2 1/2 inch) and place 12 on a parchment lined sheet. Continue cutting until you use all of that dough. Wrap scraps back up and chill again. Dollop a teaspoon of raisin filling on top of each circle. Roll out other disc of dough to just under 1/8 inch thick. Cut out circles and lay them on top of the filling. Gently press down the sides. Gently press a raisin into the center of each cookie. Chill scraps again and then roll those out and repeat the process.

Bake at 400F for 9-10 minutes or just til golden on bottom. Browning on the tops means they are overbaked. Cool on wire rack before storing in airtight container. These freeze just fine.

Yield: about 30 3 1/2-inch cookies

Raisin Filling

1 cup ground raisins

1/2 cup water

1 T flour

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Cook everything together until thick, stirring constantly. Cool.

Weekly Menu for 12-15-2014

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Last week I made a batch of marshmallows and posted the above picture on Instagram. It wasn’t until someone commented on my blog post from ages ago that I remembered I wrote about them! Here’s the post if interested.

My Montana-living brother comes home tomorrow night. He’s babysitting the chitlins Tuesday evening and he requested honey baked chicken. So honey baked chicken it will be.

I also have a whole chicken in the freezer that I want to roast to have cooked chicken on hand. Some will go in a soup over the weekend and the rest back in the freezer.

Didn’t put a very big dent in the carrot stash last week. Then Brad accidentally bought me 5 pounds (I asked for 1…to make carrot sticks for an event which we didn’t end up going to due to sickness) at the grocery store so I have THEM to use up too. I hesitate to serve homegrown carrots to people who aren’t used to them because they ARE different. So, more carrots this week when possible. Maybe I’ll just serve carrot sticks every day for lunch. The kids will love me.

Believe it or not, I’m getting tired of baking cookies. There are still a few kinds I’d like to make. We’ll see if it happens. (One thing I have s-l-o-w-l-y learned: make half-batches so there aren’t soooo many cookies. I love the variety but we can only get away with so many!)

Monday: Sausage Sweet Potato Bake, Salad with Blender Dressing

Tuesday: Honey Baked Chicken with Baked Brown Rice, Green Beans

Wednesday: Sweet and Sour Lentils over leftover rice, Broccoli

Thursday: Cheeseburger Roll, Green Beans

Friday: Slow Cooker Balsamic Pork, Mashed Potatoes, Sauerkraut, Cooked Carrots

Saturday: Italian Peasant Soup, Baked Butternut Squash Fries

Sunday: Corn, Bacon, and Potato Chowder, Bread

Desserts: Lemon Raspberry Zucchini Bread, perhaps more cookies

Odds and Ends: Sourdough Bread, Everyday Bread, Roast Chicken

Weekly Menu for 12-8-2014

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The house is festive, we had company twice this past weekend, and I’m in Christmas mode! Will wrap gifts soon.

More cookies this week! Made 8 batches last week. Whew. Fortunately most of them made it to the freezer to pull out for get-togethers. Those cookies plus the variety I got at the annual cookie exchange with my girlfriends last week made quite an impressive platter for friends last night!

The carrots really ought to be dug in the garden as the ground is freezing and I’m too lazy to figure out some sort of mulch to put over them. So, they are on the menu several times to try to use some of what I already dug.

Monday: Venison Roast, Mashed Potatoes, Broccoli, Pickles

Tuesday: Cabbage Hamburger Casserole, Cooked Carrots, Sourdough Bread, Applesauce

Wednesday: Tomato Basil Bisque, Grilled Cheese on Sourdough, Pickles, Carrot Sticks

Thursday: Baked Lentils with Cheese, Green Beans, Applesauce

Friday: Spaghetti with Vodka Cream Tomato Sauce, Green Beans

Saturday: BBQ Chicken, Baked Corn, Cooked Carrots, Broccoli

Sunday: Our small group is taking a meal to some international folks – not yet sure of a menu other than cookies for dessert!

Desserts: Why, cookies, of course

Odds and Ends: Yogurt, Everyday Bread, Sourdough Crackers, Granola, Sourdough Bread

Weekly Menu for 12-1-2014

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(Above: Chocolate Coconut Neapolitans)

It’s time to get your cookies on! I have three batches down, about a dozen more to go. I will regret that.

Monday: Friendship Soup, Pumpkin Muffins, Pickles

Tuesday: Venison Steaks, Sweet Potato Fries, Green Beans, Coleslaw

Wednesday: Sausage Veggie Soup, Sourdough Bread, Waldorf Salad

Thursday: Macaroni and Cheese with Stewed Tomatoes, Broccoli, Applesauce

Friday: Sausage, Sauerkraut, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Saturday: Hosting our niece’s birthday party – I don’t have to cook

Sunday: Hosting our small group so there will be a variety of appetizers. I’m not sure yet what I’ll do.

Desserts: Cookies (possibly Angel Whispers, Chocolate Drops, Gingerbread Men, Peanut Blossoms, Raspberry Ribbons, etc)

Odds and Ends: Sourdough Bread, Sourdough Crackers, Everyday Bread

Weekly Menu for 11-24-2014

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“Put yis on me mom.”

And holiday gatherings begin! I’ll be baking pies this week.

I’m hoping to get another wheel of cheese made this week. We are hosting a large shindig at the end of December and with any luck, I can serve homemade cheese!

I still have the sourdough baby but have some questions. It doesn’t seem to be as sour as I’m reading about and wondering if I can liven this one up or try starting my own. It works (as in, the bread tastes fine and it rises) but it doesn’t taste all that sour. Suggestions from you pros?

Monday: Chicken Gravy over Waffles, Simple Green Salad

Tuesday: Pork and Sauer Kraut, Mashed Potatoes, Green Beans

Wednesday: Rohrer Dinner (3 pies and Cranberry Relish)

Thursday: My mom’s family gathering (2 pies and Stuffing Balls)

Friday: Venison Roast, Homemade Noodles, Broccoli

Saturday: Honey Baked Chicken with Baked Brown Rice, Green Beans

Sunday: Chili Pie, Broccoli

Desserts: besides pies, maybe Blueberry Squares and definitely Pumpkin Roll for Brad’s birthday

Odds and Ends: Cheddar Cheese, Bread

Rice and Beans

Perhaps I should begin a series called How to Solve the Boring Lunch: Simple, Fast Fixes for the Noon Meal.

Along with Sautéed Curried Anything, I often make rice and beans for a quick lunch.

As long as there are some toppings, the kids devour this. I love it plain but sour cream and cheese make it even better.

The cayenne I’ve been using lately is just dried cayenne peppers that I ground up. The stuff is HOT. Use whatever form of heat you like…cayenne pepper, hot sauce, etc.

I have cilantro that volunteered in the garden. It’s slowly freezing out but I pick the wilted leaves and eat them anyway.

This dish can be made in about 10 minutes, including prep. Easy, peasy.

Measurements are approximate. I never measure this sort of thing!

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Rice and Beans

Olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped bell pepper
1 cup prepared salsa
2 cups leftover rice
1 cup cooked dry beans
1/4 t cumin
Sprinkle of red cayenne pepper flakes
Sour cream
Grated cheese
Cilantro

Sauté the peppers and onions lightly in the oil. Add the salsa, rice, beans, cumin, and red pepper. Heat through. Garnish with sour cream, cheese, and cilantro.

Serves: 3?

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