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Sunday, August 25, 2019

Summer Sensational: Yellow (Straight Neck) Fried Squash Rings

 Summer's super awesome selection is enough to fill a Culinarian's eyes and heart with amazement and bliss.  I love this time of year, because with a surplus of veggies and fruits, come floods of creativity and ideas to help utilize the 'spoils of war' that gardening and gardening with friends can bring!  A family friend, Vee, brought me some of his yield, as he had more than he knew what to do with.  His wife was at capacity for now, so I gladly accepted his bounty.  Not all of my garden items  are faring well and this haul filled in the blanks perfectly.  He also brings me messes of  fresh and delicious greens in the cooler, fall months.
 The above recipe is a result of the gifts pictured below and will soon become a favorite of yours.  I used a two step system of breading for this recipe to help the squash retain its shape, texture and crunch!  Once your station is set up, the rest goes quickly.  They taste amazing fresh from the paper towel and also at room temperature.
There is an almost limitless array of dipping sauces to accommodate this crunchy gem, I opted for ketchup and Boom Boom Sauce.  Sweet  Chili Sauce is also a good choice! Next time, I'll probably make some Cauliflower Egg Rolls w/ Awesome Sauce Sauce as accompaniment, it's magic!  Well, back to the recipe, you're sure to enjoy and make it a part of your summer sensational lineup!  This is a great recipe for the kids to assist in, easy to handle and a fun shape! These guys are right up there with onion rings and can be served together for a fantastic crunch fest! For UBER crunchtacity, use Panko instead of Italian bread crumbs!!!

Recipe:
2 medium to large straight neck squash, the bottom halves, about 3 c.
cookie cutter or small hollow gadget , large enough to press out center of squash
3/4 c. buttermilk, fat free if desired
1/2 tsp.onion powder
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1 egg
1/2 c. water
2 c. seasoned flour
1 1/2 c. Italian bread crumbs
canola or vegetable oil for frying
paper towels for draining
SPST (Salt and Pepper to Suit Taste)
Instructions:
Rinse and pat dry outer skins of squash.
Cut largest part of squash into about 1/4 inch slices.
Stack into piles and press out center with cookie cutter/gadget.
Pour buttermilk into medium bowl and blend in onion and garlic powders.
SPST.
Fold and toss squash in buttermilk blend.
Prepare Breading Station:
Pour seasoned flour and bread crumbs into 2 separate shallow vessels.
Beat egg with water and SPST.
Arrange dishes in the order, buttermilk, seasoned flour, egg wash and bread crumbs last.
Starting with buttermilk coated slices, dredge in seasoned flour, shaking off excess, dip in egg wash and toss to coat in bread crumbs. You are now ready to fry!
Once oil has reached 330 to 350*F, carefully add breaded slices, not crowding the cooking vessel.
Cook until rings float and are golden brown, about 3 minutes per batch.
Drain on paper towels.
Serve with desired dipping sauces.
Yield depends on how many squash you want to serve, 2 medium will yield around 16 rings.








Fresh bounty of  veggies: clockwise from left: yellow squash, okra, green beans, poblanos, jalapenos, tomatoes, peppers and corn!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Lemony Guava Beignets w/ Raw Honey Drizzles

I ran across some fresh guava fruit at the supermarket and jumped at the chance for me and my family to experience exotic and common foods in their original form.  We've had many beverages that contained guava, but never in pure form , as a stand alone drink.  They were small and fragrant, exuding an almost surreal amount of tropical delight, filling our noses with its fruity perfume, screaming 'take a bite, I am bliss'.  Alas, the smell for me was the best thing about the purchase, until I came up with this recipe.  The taste was that very unlike its aroma, quite bland, slightly watered down.
 The seeds that ran along both sides, although labeled as edible, were decidedly too risky considering the cost of dental work, past and future, so I pressed them through a strainer, to discard them altogether. 
I felt the guava could use some help in the flavor department, so I added fresh lemon zest and the juice.  It brightened its profile considerably.  I then added 2 tbsp. of raw cane sugar to cut the off putting taste and a pinch of Himalayan pink salt.
I substituted the guava mash into my beignet recipe in place of water and fried them as usual.  I drizzled the still hot beignets with raw organic basswood honey and showered them with some powdered sugar.  They were a hit.  This recipe changed my mind.


I look forward to trying them again, because they are incredibly nutritious and harbor healing properties and benefits for your digestive/immune systems and skin, even helping to control blood sugars, cold and cough relief, dysentery, even scurvy, plus many more amazing and superfood qualities!  Maybe the next batch will help me see why they have been coined the "Fruit of the Gods". There are many different types,  I purchased the yellow fruited cherry guavas.  I need more experience with these, so the jury is still out, I want to find some that taste more like it smells. Until then, full steam ahead for a tropical and Creole taste bud adventure that is this dish!

 Recipe:
1 c. unbleached AP flour
1 stick butter, unsalted
4 large eggs
2/3 c. guava paste
2 tbsp. water
2 tbsp. raw cane sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla
zest and juice of one lemon
Oil for frying
Honey for Drizzling
Confectioner's Sugar for dusting

Melt butter over medium high heat, add paste, water, sugar and bring to a boil.
Remove from heat and vigorously stir in flour, until a sticky ball forms, that pulls away from the sides of saucepan.
Add eggs, one at a time, stirring aggressively until incorporated.
Add vanilla and lemon juice/zest and incorporate.
Fry in heaping teaspoon fulls, careful not to crowd cooking vessel.
Drain on paper towels.
Transfer to Serving Dish.
Drizzle and Dust!

I forgot to get a photo in before I prepped the guava, so I pulled a stock photo from the internet that looks like the fruit I had.







Ninja Foodi Sensei: Prosciutto Wrapped Brie w/ Raspberry Chipotle Fruit Spread

This recipe  was a cinch using my Ninja Foodi and the results are in...Fantastic!  You will obviously have to be a fan of ripened cheese and Italian Style ham, but I don't think that will be a problem.  I used a store bought specialty fruit spread from Sam's Choice, which completed the circle with it's sweet and heat, pairing nicely with the creamy textures of the Brie and the saltiness of the prosciutto.
I used items from my herb garden and garden as garnitures for a bright and colorful presentation.  This recipe pairs well with warm, crusty breads, crackers, crudites and fruit.  Don't forget the wine! Prep is a cinch and the rest is smooth creamy, crispy and delicious history.

Recipe:
1 wheel of Brie
1 pkg. 3 oz.  Prosciutto or 6 slices
olive oil for brushing

Instructions:

Arrange slices of prosciutto in an overlapping fashion.
First, imagine the work area is a clock.
 Start with a piece at 12 o' clock, then place the second piece at 6, overlapping the bottom half of slice with the other.
Continue by adding a slice facing 3 o clock, the another at 9.
The last two pieces are to be added midway between the 12 and 9, then add the remaining slice between the 3 and 6.
Center wheel of cheese over the portion of the ham 'clock' where they all overlap.
Begin to fold the slices in, starting with the 12 o'clock, this way the flap is secured under the other slices and keeps the wheel from oozing cheese or the slices from peeling away, compromising its presentation.
If there are spots where the cheese is not covered, simply tear off small portions of the flaps to cover it completely.
Brush the wheel with olive oil and place in the Ninja Foodi on the rack.
Press the crisper button and set temperature to 400*F.
Set timer for 5 minute increments.
Check after each 5 minutes to see how the crisping is going.
The exterior should be crisped by the time the 15 minutes is up.
Let stand for several minutes before handling and use caution.
Arrange as desired and cut out a small section ro release the cheese.
Use a small sharp knife to cut portions of the prosciutto and cheese together.
Serve with crackers, warm breads, crudites and freshly cut fruits.
Serves Many.




Saturday, July 20, 2019

Spread it Like Jam

Photo taken in Clarksville, Va.
This entry is simple and just for you
It's about loving yourself and what you do
About taking the time, to enjoy your view
About accepting the differences, between me and you
Maybe taking those walks, put off for days
And expressing your desires in varying ways.
Make your tomorrows today, and your laters right now
Unleash your inner artist, some way, somehow
Loving thy neighbor and lending a hand
Teaching your doggy a new command
Wearing that color, you think is all wrong
Go to karaoke, pick a random song.
Support an organization, recycle, reuse
Turn the cannots into some can do's.
Give a compliment to a stranger, hold the door for a change
Try to smile instead of grimace, this world is your stage
Let the sunlight in, instead of shutting it out
'Man up ya Pansies', don't stand there and pout
Try a new recipe, cook something wild
Grab a coloring book, love your inner child
Watch a magic show, a circus will do
Catch the matinee at a theater near you.
Love the skin you're in, our flaws and all
Not everyone was meant to be skinny or tall.
Be an ear to be lent, let some steam off sometimes
Have a coffee or Boba, you've gotta unwind
Love the moment it takes to think about rest
An afternoon nap, when your schedule lets
Bake some goodies like cookies, maybe bake some loaves
Give the gift that keeps giving, it will come back in droves.
Stock is skyhigh, from Love's demand
Laugh as loud as your lungs can stand
Model your actions, with kindness and respect
Give out the Love, you plan to get
Love is the answer, Love is the key
Love is what binds us, you and me
Take time to be peaceful, put quarrels aside
Accept different cultures, with arms open wide
Make each day our best day, we can't go wrong
Hand in hand with Love, is where we belong.
Spread it like jam.



Monday, July 8, 2019

Pasta Bake Ninja

I just love love love my Ninja Foodi!  It truly has single handedly made my oven a lonely soul.  I love that my slow food recipes have been sped up dramatically.  I love that I can set it and walk away, being free to do other things.  Normally, I'm always leary of getting too far away from the kitchen, especially when I have recipes that require hours of simmering, braising or baking.  With my Ninja Foodi, the specific functions do their thing and even turns itself off.
I rarely use the oven because now I can crisp and roast, air fry and sear or saute, all in the same pot.  The pressure cooker aspect is a beast!  At first, I was somewhat nervous, afraid I'd do something wrong and cause an explosion to level the house, like a scene from the Die Hard or Lethal Weapon series lol, but of course that was me being apprehensive from lack of experience.  After I read my  manual many, many times over, I felt I had gathered the strength and prowess to manipulate this sophisticated new toy and the rest is delicious history. 
My go-to on an easy night is often a pasta bake.  I add the cooked ingredients and top it with cheese and set it on 'air crisp' for about 3 1/2 minutes and reveal a masterfully browned, ooey, gooey, one pot, one dish meal, that can't go wrong. Just throw in a salad and some fruit and your labors for dinner are done!  I brown the beef and veggies in the Ninja and make the sauce, but I still like to do my pasta on the stovetop, I fear the dreaded over cooked pasta!  My Ninja has instruction for pasta and even rice, but I feel most comfortable doing them as a sidecar, as opposed to an all in one deal.
If you are shopping for a new gadget or appliance, definitely consider this guy, I knew we were meant to be.  I've cooked everything from air fried or roasted chicken to pig tails and "Pad BowThai" Pasta in this vessel and I keep getting better and better at it.  Make the Ninja Foodi a part of your wish list and be glad you did!  

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Greens Machine!

Growing greens at home can be a time and money saving venture.  Aside from adding some natural beauty to your surroundings, growing greens, especially for fresh salads and components to smoothies, can be an enriching and nutritious endeavor, easy enough for the kids to not consider work! Plus kids respond well to foods they help cultivate!  When children know where their food comes from, it builds awareness and appreciation for the efforts put into growing the foods we love.  I found it key to instill in my girls the origin of the fruits and vegetables in the supermarket. They knew from an early age, that food starts first as seeds in dirt and grows, not magically waved into existence as mature, ready to eat food. Strawberry Shortcake videos and movies helped along the way too.  "How a Garden Grows" is one of our favorite songs from the series. It's awesome when our children can learn and be entertained at the same time, the lessons are more likely to stick. 
The above greens are some I grew in a vintage sink, leftover from a remodel years ago.  The basins are nice and deep, able to hold lots of fertile organic soil.  The drains in the bottom help to keep the soil from getting soddy and too moist.  I positioned the sink on stands about 1 foot from the ground.  It's in the back yard, where the morning sun hits the greens first thing.  I water them in the evenings to avoid scorching the tender leaves.
I used a sweet gourmet greens seed mix and also some micro greens from the brassica family.  I like the mixed variety because it contains at least 6 different types of greens that would otherwise have to purchased separately, saving time and money.  If they grow too big for micro, simply add them to your salads for added superfood and antioxidant power.  Texture and color are everything when it comes to a nice salad and this mix hits all the right notes, just throw in some other garden goodness like cucumber, tomato, fresh herbs and carrots. I have some colorful carrots growing too! I am so excited, as it's my first time and I love the bursts of color they'll add, from fresh salads to pot roast!  Recipes to follow. 

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Plum Crazy!

Plums, which are a part of the stone fruit family, are in full swing and the getting is more than good, it's great!  These beautiful and delicious treats came from a local man's home, and were free to pick.  My children and I enjoy plums regularly, and being in season makes for a sweet deal and satisfying snack, especially when chilled just a bit. Plums are loaded with vitamins, minerals and benefits your body can use.
Plums are great for helping the body to absorb iron.  They have measurable amounts of vitamins C,  copper and vitamin K.  Dried plums are prunes, even though we hardly think of them as such.  Soluble fiber in plums is a good part of  managing weight and also stabilizing blood sugars.  The antioxidant properties found in these guys, like the ones found in blueberries, can help fight off free radical that damage cells in the body, in turn are fighting off certain cancers!   Not bad for something that can fit in the palm of your hand huh!?
Ask around your neighborhood, you may be surprised what free gifts in the form of fresh fruits and vegetables that are literally ripe for the taking!
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Smokinhotchef
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