Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cilantro Hummus

Fresh Herbs . . .  and a Cilantro Hummus Recipe

I love growing and using fresh herbs in my recipes.  I think they are one of the easiest things to grow.  I have most of mine in the garden itself, but also have a few in pots.  I am sure many of you do the same thing.

However, I have never mastered growing them inside and being able to use them during the winter months . . . I might try that this year.

I am not one to purchase fresh herbs at the store very often either.  I just like the idea of going to my garden and snipping off what I need.  However, there is one exception and that is the herb I use most (well, probably because I can not grow basil in the winter . . . otherwise it would probably be the herb I use most!!!).   Anyway, the herb of choice year round for our family is CILANTRO!!!  

I use it in several recipes and in the coming winter months I will share how I get that summer garden fresh taste with fresh cilantro.  It is not all that expensive and relative easy to put your hands on when the snow is flying and the  wind chill is hovering under that big goose egg!!!

But, right now I have a recipe I found on Tasty Kitchen that I absolutely love and hope you do too!!  It is Avocado Cilantro Hummus . . . and let me tell you, it is addictive.

Follow the recipe below as a base.  I have made it many times and each time I start with this recipe and then alter it a little.   A lot depends on the size of the avocado, the size of the garlic clove – how salty you personally like things . . . get the picture.  So, whip up a batch this weekend and play with it –I have always liked the finished product.

Avocado Cilantro Hummus

15 ounce can Garbanzo Beans, rinsed and drained
1 large Avocado, peeled and pit removed (I usually use 2 unless
   it is really large (but, we like the avocado taste)
1 small Clove Garlic
1 bunch Cilantro (I chop off the leaves in front of the little tie
  thing that binds it together and toss the stems)
3 tablespoons Lemon Juice
3 tablespoons Tahini
1 tsp. Salt
4 tablespoons Olive Oil

Combine all ingredients except olive oil in food processor or blender.  Pulse the mixture for a few seconds to chop everything up.  Turn the food processor on or start the blender and then stream in the olive oil until completely combined.  Then, adjust as I suggested above.

We use it with pita chips, tortilla chips, carrots, celery or other veggies.

We also put it on a tortilla and put a little cheese, some fresh spinach with that bagged cut up brocolli slaw mix and have as a wrap.

Be creative and enjoy!


Linked to the following parties:
Amee's Savory Dish Fit and Fabulous Fridays

Saturday, September 24, 2011

My Changing Garden Canvas

This time of  year, when the weather begins to get cool at night and the morning brings dew on the grass, I start to think about putting my flower and vegetable gardens to bed for the winter.  I often take a cup of tea with me as I walk my yard and garden and look at the things I think I got right this year, and, take notes of the things I want to change next year.


Isn't that what gardening is . . . a new canvas every spring!!  It allows for us to dream in the winter, and, plot and plan what we might do next year!!!  Be it in a vegetable garden, flowerbed or a pot or two; gardening is always something to think about when the cold and snow come our way.

I was thinking this morning as I was outside about how the canvas of my flowerbeds change over the summer.  And, I seem to think, this time of year gives me the least color.  So, my mission over the winter this year is to locate perennials (that is what I plant In my beds) that bloom from August till frost.  Right now I have my trusty Phlox and some Mums and Sedum.  Well, there is a little Black-eyed Susan still blooming but most are done!

I came up with a progression of my garden canvas and wondered how many of you have the same plants blooming in the same rotation?  Following is a listing of the plants – look them over and let me know if you have any different ones that fill your canvas over the summer.  I would love suggestions (or plants for that matter, if you have extra when you divide them!!).

I start in April and this list runs in order up until now – and, what I have blooming now will probably last until frost:

Ornamental Chives
Black-Eyed Susan

Take a walk around your garden this weekend and see how your canvas has changed!

Happy gardening,


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Moink Balls

Italian Meatballs Wrapped in Bacon.  How can you go wrong with that?  I think I'm having Kansas State Fair withdrawal.  I know I have been talking about the fair a lot lately and I promise this will be the last time, at least for a little while.  My family and I partook in all the usual fair foods last week. We had Pronto Pups, beer battered cheese curds, burgers at the Beer Garden, bloomin' onions, Tacones, Kriebel's brats, and a red velvet funnel cake.  The one thing I wanted to try, the thing I heard more people talking about, was the "Moink Balls", but every time we went by the stand the line was too long.  Moink Balls are an Italian Meatball wrapped in Bacon and smoked.  "Moo" for the beef and "oink" for the bacon, clever huh?  On Saturday the last day we were there the kids and I got in line because I knew it was my last chance.  It was long and wasn't moving at all, so we moved on and I didn't get Moink Balls. So here is my disclaimer - I don't know if these taste anything like the Moink Balls at the Fair, maybe someone who had some can let me know. We thought these were great!

I went online and did a search and came across a video from the Today show of two guys with a grilling cookbook called BBQ Makes Everything Better.  They were making a basket weave of bacon to encase some sausage that they were going to grill.  They then went on to discuss their Moink Balls.  I knew I liked these guys.  I will probably have to get their cookbook. My recipe is adapted from theirs.  They said to use Italian Meatballs. I don't know if the cookbook has a recipe for meatballs from scratch, but I used mine.  I also used my quick and easy BBQ sauce.  Their recipe said to use BBQ sauce and mix it with grape jelly.  My sauce is pretty sweet so I just used that.  You want a sweet sauce so that it caramelizes onto the bacon.  Okay, enough rambling, here is the recipe.
Moink Balls

For the meatballs
2  pounds ground beef, (I used ground round)
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup dry Italian bread crumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons white wine
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
2 teaspoons dried Parsley
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

For the BBQ Sauce
1 cup ketchup
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Other Ingredients
1 pound bacon (We used Farmland Hickory Smoked Bacon, didn't need the entire pound)
25 toothpicks, soaked in water for 20-30 minutes.
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

To Make the Meatballs:
Place eggs in a large bowl and beat slightly.  Mix with Italian bread crumbs and ground beef.  In a small bowl mix the rest of the ingredients and add to the ground beef mixture.  Mix well, but don't overwork.  Form the mixture into meatballs.  I use a 1 ounce cookie scoop so mine are uniform.  It is about 2 tablespoons meat per meatball.  We got 25 meatballs from our mixture.

To Make the BBQ Sauce:
Combine all the ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Bring the mixture to boiling, reduce the heat and let simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.  Makes about 1 1/2 cups sauce.

To Assemble the Meatballs:
Cut the strips of bacon in half.  Wrap the half strip of bacon around each meatball and secure with a toothpick.  Combine the brown sugar and cayenne pepper in a small bowl.  Sprinkle mixture on the outside of the bacon wrapped meatballs.

Smoke the Moink Balls over indirect heat.  It will take about 1 hour.  During the last 15 minutes of smoking baste with the BBQ sauce. 

One last look-go make them!



Linked to the following Parties:
Family Fresh Meals and her link party for Grilling Recipes
Our very own Weekend Potluck.
Gooseberry Patch Headed to the Fair Link Party

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Hot Italian Sausage and Corn Chowder

The official start of fall is just around the corner. I love the crisp air in the morning, and the anticipation of all that fall brings.  When the temperature starts to fall a little I'm ready to make my first pot of soup for the season.  I tend to make heartier soups because in my family "soup is not a meal." That is a quote from my husband Dan.  This Italian Sausage and Corn Chowder is a crowd pleaser.  If you are making this for kids or a crowd that your not sure if they like spicy foods definitely use the Sweet Italian Sausage.  But, if your not afraid of a little heat try the spicy, it is delicious. 
Hot Italian Sausage & Corn Chowder

1  pound hot Italian Sausage (use Sweet if you don't like spicy food)
1  medium onion, finely chopped
4  garlic cloves, minced
1/4  cup flour
2  cups chicken broth
4  cups half & half
3/4  teaspoon thyme
1  teaspoon basil
1/2  teaspoon marjoram
1/2  teaspoon oregano
1/4  teaspoon red pepper flakes
1  red bell pepper chopped
1/3 cup celery, finely chopped
1/3 cup carrot, shredded
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 inch dice (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups frozen corn
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
green onions, sliced for garnish

Cook sausage in a dutch oven over medium heat until browned.  Remove sausage from dutch oven and set aside.  Drain excess grease leaving about 1 tablespoon.  Add onion and saute 3-4 minutes until tender. Add garlic and saute another minute.  Add flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly.  

Slowly whisk in chicken broth and half & half.  Bring to a simmer. Add thyme, basil, marjoram, oregano and red pepper flakes. 

Add red pepper, celery, carrot and potatoes.  Return the sausage to the dutch oven.  Continue simmering for 25 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. 

Add corn and continuing simmering 5 minutes or until the corn is tender.

Season with salt and pepper.  

Ladle into bowls and garnish with sliced green onion.



Linked to the following parties:
Gooseberry Patch Soup and Stew Round Up
Six Sisters' Stuff Strut Your Stuff Saturday
Mandy's Recipe Box Totally Tasty Tuesdays

Friday, September 16, 2011

A Chance to Win

Our first gift to you . . . in honor of my partner!!!

Do you ever feel like there are times in your life when things happen and you have no idea they will work out so well?  You are kind of blindsided – reminded that sometimes things just happen for a reason?

Well, my partnership with Kim is one of those times.  Kim and I knew each other from social clubs and church.  We had worked together on various committees.  We could have that wonderful 5-minute conversation in Dillon’s to catch up on the family.

But, I never would have thought, that through a casual conversation at our church one day, that I would find someone who shares my passion and humor in life.  She loves to cook in large quantities, she loves to look for new recipes and she makes me laugh hysterically!!!  Oh, and she is really nice to be with – especially in the kitchen!

So, to say thank you to her, and to honor her love of the Fair, we are giving away a nice little pewter dish for putting an appetizer in at your next gathering!!!

 All you have to do is "like" our Sunflower Supper Club" page on Facebook. 
We will draw a winner from all the people who “like” our Facebook page on Monday evening.  And, if you have a minute, let us know what your favorite fair food is . . . mine is a funnel cake with powdered sugar!!

Be sure and “like” our page and enjoy the rest of the fair!!!


Friday, September 9, 2011

Phyllo Pizza with Fresh Tomatoes, Pesto and Red Onion Marmalade (And My Ramblings About The Kansas State Fair)

It's that time of year once again.  The Kansas State Fair has officially started. When I pick the kids up from school the same question every year is...When do we get to go to the fair?  It doesn't matter that it has been the same since we moved back to Kansas 8 1/2 years ago.  We don't usually go on opening weekend.  Dan and I will go on Monday during the day when there is free admission with your Dillons plus card.  After school we'll take the kids because it is dollar day.  They aren't allowed to ride rides, they have to wait for ride-a-rama which is all day Wednesday.  The kids have school in-service that day and we spend the whole day into the night at the fair.  Both Dan and I will also spend a day with the younger girls when they go with their school classes.  They aren't allowed to ride rides that day either, only educational things allowed- teachers orders.  We can't even eat a Pronto Pup that day. (I have it on pretty good authority that Dan has been known to sneak away and get one.)  All told we will probably make 5 or 6 "official" trips to fair.  Of course I'm not counting the nights we might sneak over after 9, when you can get in for free, for a late night snack and maybe a visit to the Beer Garden.  We have always loved the fair and when we didn't live in Kansas we always tried to make the county fairs where we lived.  I know a lot of people hate it when the fair is in town, but we have always enjoyed what it has to offer.

Now, on to my recipe.  When I decided to do a post today I thought I would do something that paid homage to the fair, like a Pronto Pup.  However, nothing I could make could compare to the deliciousness of an official Kansas State Fair golden brown Pronto Pup.  I'll save that post for the dead of winter when it's really cold and we all want to be outside enjoying gorgeous weather like we have had the past few days. Caroline's friend gave us some beautiful home grown tomatoes and I figured these would be the last tomatoes of the season for me.  This recipe showcases them and the light flaky crust of the phyllo dough is a nice change of pace.  I used a base of basil pesto and my red onion marmalade.  If you have never caramelized red onions you are in for a treat.  They are fantastic on a burger with some crumbled blue cheese.  Yum!  Here's the recipe for the pizza I made. 
Phyllo Pizza with Fresh Tomatoes, Pesto and Red Onion Marmalade

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
salt & pepper to taste
10 phyllo sheets (1/2 the box)
Olive Oil-to brush between phyllo sheets
Grated Parmesan cheese, ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons (10 tablespoons)
1/3 cup Pesto, homemade or prepared
2 vine ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced (use 4-5 Roma if fresh not available)
1 cup Italian Blend Cheese
Italian Blend seasoning (or use 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, and ¼ teaspoon dried thyme)

To make Red Onion Marmalade:
Heat a skillet over medium heat and add olive oil.  Add thinly sliced onion and brown sugar.  Turn heat to medium low and saute onion for about 15-20 minutes, until dark brown and tender.  Add Balsamic vinegar and crushed red pepper flakes.  Continue cooking for 2 to 3 more minutes until thick and syrupy.  Season with salt & pepper.  Set aside to cool.

Brush a 15” x 10” baking pan generously with Olive Oil.  Lay a sheet of phyllo in pan.  Brush or spray phyllo sheet with olive oil.  Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese.  Repeat with the rest of the sheets of phyllo, brushing or spraying each layer and sprinkling with 1 tablespoon Parmesean cheese. When you get to the final sheet of phyllo, top with 1/3 cup pesto sauce. Spread sauce over phyllo sheet leaving about 1 inch exposed.  Top with 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese, red onion marmalade, thinly sliced tomato, Italian blend seasoning (or dried oregano and thyme) and Italian blend cheeses.  Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes until edges are golden brown.  Let sit about 5 minutes before slicing.

Couple (OK a few) Cooks Notes: I went through a lot of brands of Balsamic Vinegar before I found a reasonably priced one that I liked.  It was on a recommendation from Cook's Illustrated I believe.  I do know that whatever brand of vinegar you use you want it to say "Product of Italy."  (Same for Olive Oil.)  Here is the kind of Balsamic Vinegar I use.  

I found it at Walmart and like I said it is very reasonably priced.  I think Dillons carries it as well.

Here is the Italian Blend Seasoning we use.
We got it at Sam's Club and it is great on all kinds of things.  I've also included the amount of dried oregano and thyme to use if you don't have anything like this. 

One other thing...You would think I am getting some compensation for recommending all these products.  If you don't have one of these handy olive oil sprayers you need to get one.

I just use this to spray in between my phyllo sheets.  It saves time, fat and calories.  You will use a lot more oil using a brush and olive oil in a dish.

A note about Phyllo Dough.  If you've never worked with it before it is very light and delicate.  It is sold in the freezer section and there are 2 rolls in a box.  This recipe uses half of the box.  Thaw in the fridge when you are ready to use.  It is recommend that when you use it, keep the dough covered with wax paper or plastic wrap and a wet towel to keep it from drying out.  I have never had a problem with that with this recipe, because it goes pretty fast if you are using a sprayer.  You might want to do that if you are brushing the individual layers.

Thanks for taking the time to visit today.  Maybe I'll see you at the fair!



Linked to the following fabulous parties:
Katherine Martinelli Best Last of Summer Recipes

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Easy Weeknight Fish Recipe

It is hard to believe I am posting a fish recipe.  You see, my husband has raised beef cattle for more than 30 years.  I have a freezer full of some of the best beef in the country and we eat beef a lot!!!  And, I might say, I like it that way.

But, every now and then, one has to venture into unknown territory.  In the past, I have never cooked fish because I did not think I could do it justice.  But, our son brought some halibut back from a trip to Alaska and I thought I better get with the program.  After a few grilled meals, I thought a new approach would be a nice change.  I stumbled onto this method and let me tell you . . . Katie bar the door, we have had fish once a week since.  It is so easy and so good, I just had to share it with you.  I hope you enjoy the ease and tastiness as much as we do.

I have used halibut, tilapia, salmon and trout with the lemon version and
only salmon with the orange version.  Go crazy and mix it up – let me know what you think and your own twists to the concept.  What follows is the bare bones minimum – and it is just fine in a pinch.

But, don’t forget. . . .   EAT BEEF   whenever you can!!!

Recipe:  For Lemon version

3 lemons
Lemon juice (bottled is fine)
Mrs. Dash Lemon Pepper ( a must)
Fish Fillets of choice (3 – 5 depending on skillet size)

There you go – that is all you need.

Slice and place lemons in bottom of skillet (see picture).  Pour enough lemon juice in bottom of pan to bring level of juice up to almost top of the lemon rind.  Place fish fillets on top of lemons and sprinkle Mrs. Dash over fish. 

Turn burner on medium, cover skillet with lid and steam for 5 – 7 minutes or until fish is done. 

For the Orange version I just replaced the lemons with oranges, orange juice for the lemon juice and orange marmalade mixed with a little soy sauce to put on top of the salmon instead of the Mrs. Dash.  That was it.



Monday, September 5, 2011

Little Surprises in Life...

 Do you ever feel like in this world we live in that there are not many surprises left in life?  We seem to be able to google any fact, watch anything on Youtube and correspond through the phone, e-mail, Facebook and Twitter, just to name a few!  So, sometimes I think there is not anything left to surprise me.

But then, every so often something does come along and just makes me smile.  Nothing big mind you – no lottery check in the mail, no invitation to the Royal wedding last spring, no one stopping by to volunteer to clean my house for the rest of my life!

But the little things in life, aren’t they what make us smile?  I tend to find the little things that make me smile often have to do with friends, family or nature.  Well, that is what happened to me last week. 

For fun this spring, instead of planting geraniums or periwinkles in all of my sunny spots, I planted some ornamental sweet potato plants.  They have risen to the occasion this hot summer and provided me with some wonderful color.  Their beauty without any blooms was well worth their place in the garden.

My little surprise came when I went to water my sweet potato pots one day.  To my amazement I saw a bloom!  Much to my surprise they bloom in late summer – who would have thought.  It was just what I needed to put a smile on my face as I stood in 107 degree heat and watered them for the 50th day in a row (well, it seemed like it).

I stopped and smiled and thought what a wonderful little treat – a bloom where I thought there would be none!  Isn’t that what makes us smile – little surprises that warm our heart and leave us with a good feeling.

Be that little bloom this Labor Day weekend.  Surprise someone and make them smile – be their little sweet potato!


Friday, September 2, 2011

Jalapeno Popper Dip

Are you ready for some football?!?  We are at our house.  We are off to Kansas City and Lawrence this weekend to watch Hutch High and The Jayhawks.  I just love this time of year!

Whether you will be headed to a football game or just home enjoying the weekend.  Here is a great dip to enjoy over the holiday.

I know that doesn't look very exciting....

But this dip is delicious.   You will LOVE it if you like Jalapeno Popper's. Which I am in LOVE with.  The dip has bacon in it so it has the flavor of a bacon wrapped jalapeno.  You can also put sausage in it and that is yummy as well.

Even that doesn't quite do it justice, but trust me.

Jalapeno Popper Dip

2  (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1/2  cup mayo
1/2  cup sour cream
2  cups Colby/Jack shredded cheese (8 ounces)
1  (4 ounce) can diced green chilies, undrained
4-5  jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced, I like to use about 1/2 cup of the jarred picked ones. I find the "heat" varies so much in the fresh jalapenos from the market.
6-8 strips of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1  teaspoon Frank's hot sauce
1/4  teaspoon garlic
1/4  teaspoon cumin
3  tablespoons butter, melted
1  cup Panko bread crumbs
1/2  cup grated Parmesan cheese

Mix softened cream cheese with the mayo & sour cream. Stir until smooth. Add the cheese, chilies, japalenos, bacon, hot sauce, garlic & cumin. Stir and place in a greased dish. I use my 9" pyrex.  

Melt butter in a small bowl and mix with Panko and Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over the dip. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes until it is bubbly and the top is golden brown.


Update: The last few times I've made this, I have cooked the bacon and set aside. Then with about 5 minutes left in the oven I crumble the bacon and spread it on top of the dip. I like how it stays crisp. 


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole

As Julie and I planned our menu for September we thought that cooler days just had to be around the corner.  Well, if the last few days are any indication, it isn't getting cooler yet.  I am ready for fall and all the dishes that I don't make in the summer when it is hot. As much as I hate to say it, I am kind of getting sick of "cook out" food.  My inbox and facebook has been full this week of pasta salads, beans and other summertime dishes to celebrate this last summer weekend.  Well, I have moved on for this year. 

When I think of fall food I think of soups, apple cider, pot roast, pumpkin, squash and casseroles just to name a few.  I know there are people who are just not "casserole people," but I love them.  Also, it might be the convenience of a one dish meal,  just add a salad and your done.  I also like that they can be done earlier in the day and then I just have to pop it in the oven on a busy school night.  This Chicken Cordon Bleu casserole recipe that I'm sharing with you is perfect when you want a comforting meal that is kid friendly.  It's great to take to a new neighbor or a friend who's just had a baby.  It's simple and doesn't have any "exotic" ingredients. The original inspiration for this casserole came from Cook's Illustrated, but they used potatoes and I thought my family would prefer pasta.  Also, there is not a canned cream soup in sight, which I really like.  When my family was younger I seemed to use a lot of canned soups, maybe everyone used them more.  Dan used to guess which kind of canned soup was in any casserole I made.  I like that I'm not using all those preservatives and sodium, and it tastes better!

Chicken Cordon Bleu Casserole
For the casserole:
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon white pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
6 tablespoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup heavy whipping cream or whole milk
2 cups Swiss cheese, shredded (8 ounces)
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 - 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast, cooked and chopped
8 ounces ham, cubed
1 pound pasta (I use rotini, but penne or any other short pasta would work)

1 ½ cups panko bread crumbs
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup freshly chopped parsley
3 tablespoons butter, melted

Boil pasta in a large pot of salted water until it is just shy of al dente.  While your pasta is cooking, melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion, thyme, salt and pepper.  Cook about 5 to 6 minutes, or until the onion is soft.  Add the garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant, stir continuously so it doesn’t burn.  Add the flour and keep stirring for another minute.  Slowly whisk in the chicken broth and the whipping cream or whole milk.  Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer until the mixture is slightly thickened.  Be sure and whisk frequently so it doesn’t scorch on the bottom.  When thickened, remove the saucepan from the heat and add the Swiss cheese, dijon mustard, and cayenne pepper.   Check your seasonings and add more salt and pepper if necessary. 

Mix the cheese sauce with the cooked pasta, chicken, and ham.  Place in a greased 9 x 13 dish. 

For the topping:  Melt the butter and mix with panko, parmesan cheese, and parsley if using.   Sprinkle on top of the casserole.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for about 25-30 minutes or until casserole is bubbly and the topping is browned.  



Linked to the following parties:
Addicted to Recipes Scrumptious Sunday Link Party
Everyday Mom's Meals Church Supper