Mushroom Risotto (Gluten Free)

Mushroom Risotto

(Click here for Mushroom Risotto PDF)

The musty, damp air. Songbirds belting their tunes. Tender wildflowers peeking through the rich soil. These things all lead me to one thought. It’s mushroom season!

Let me come clean right now. I hate mushrooms. At least, that is what I thought. For. Years. They are slimy. They taste like dirt. They make my teeth squeak.

Then Mystery Man and I dined at Artist Point, a restaurant at the Wilderness Lodge at Disney World. He ordered the Smoked Portobello Bisque. After listening to the chorus of yummy slurps and ‘Mmmmmms,’ I asked him for a taste.

So is this what mushrooms are supposed to be all about? It was pleasant. Actually, more than pleasant. Meaty, mouthwatering, deep flavors aroused my tongue. In a possibly trendy, probably hipster (but I don’t know, I’m not that cool) word, Umami.

This was the beginning of a whole new culinary road. Mushrooms. I started considering menu items that contained them. I never again dismissed a recipe that called for them. In fact, now I cook with them often, and this is one of my favorite side dishes. (I serve it with Pan Fried Pork Chops or Steelhead Trout).

 

 

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Fast(er) Roasted Potatoes

Roasted Potatoes

Click here for – Fast(er) Roasted Potatoes

His scent was that of a printing press. Inky. Mixed with a bit of Old Spice. An earthy undertone brought it all together in a warm blanket of protection. Consistency. He was my short, solid, bearded, refuge. He was my Dad.

Certain memories of him are in full, vibrant color. The sounds fill my ears like a wave of warmth. I can easily  trick my brain to go there.  On his lap of his La-Z-Boy recliner. The orchard. The garden.

Especially the garden. Every time I bend over the sink and wash potatoes I go to him in the garden.

It was a damp day, but he needed the soil to give way to the shovel. If we waited, the new red potatoes would get too big. The earth too hard. So I stood by the empty bushel basket and waited for him to bring up the first blade-full of dirt. The soil gave way and little burgundy gems peaked out to the daylight. I eagerly fell to my knees and plucked them out.

He moved on down the row and brought up each mound of dirt, his smile getting bigger all the way. It was a good crop. I scooted on my little bottom and knees, filling the bushel basket handfuls at a time, pushing the dirt back into place with my bare hands.

He stood at the edge of the garden. Sweaty. Smiling. Admiring the full basket of labor. I stood up and he looked in my direction. His eyes went from my head, to my filthy hands, to my soiled clothes.

With a smirk, he said, “Your Mother’s going to kill me.”

Finish tilling garden

 

Corn Casserole (Gluten Free)

Corn BakeAs I got older, my time at our family gatherings slowly shifted from playing hide and seek in corn fields and playing backyard baseball or kickball, to sitting with the adults and quietly taking in their conversations. The topics varied widely, but always included how much rain we had (or hadn’t) gotten, who was doing what at church, and some type of hometown or national politics. They pretty much broke all the social rules of conversation and usually things went well. But, when they didn’t, my sister and I would start talking loudly and dramatically about the current (and highly fictional) price hike in cans of creamed corn.  This cue became a family joke, and usually got the job done. But inevitably someone (usually Grandma) would fall for it and we would have to explain. Not only did “creamed corn” come up at every family gathering, this dish made an appearance, too. I have adapted it from my Aunt’s recipe to make it gluten free, and it is still as tasty as ever.

Corn Casserole (Gluten Free)

Eggplant Parmesan Bake (Gluten Free)

Eggplant Parmesan Bake

View and Print Here Eggplant Parmesan Bake

Grocery stores usually inspire me. Like last week, when I had no intention of making Eggplant Parmesan, and a big, beautiful, deep purple specimen caught my eye in the produce department.  I had to have it. I had to make it. I had to eat it.

There was a time when grocery stores struck fear in me. Like years ago, as a child, I took refuge under the cart just in case one of the giant ‘cost cutter’ cardboard scissor signs fell from the ceiling and cut me in half.  Or, when Mama ran over Bunny. My precious Bunny. Oh, who is he? Read on, my friend.

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Bunny travels. Half Dome was a favorite.

I suffered from Conductive Deafness until I was four. Just days after my first surgery Mama and I went about our usual business, which included a stop at the chicken farm for fresh eggs. The barn was lined with chickens and we stood in the market space just on the other side of a windowed wall. Mama chose her eggs, paid the lady, and turned to hand the carton to me. That was my job. To carefully carry the eggs to the car. Only I didn’t reach for the carton this time. I was horrified. Awed. Overwhelmed. I looked at her with wide eyes and asked, “Mama, what is that noise?!”  “Those are the chickens.” She replied. “Chickens make noise?” It was the first of many hearing-world revelations.

My speech therapist sat across from me. She had pulled a chair around to my side of the table and crouched down to me and smiled. My legs swung back and forth and I bounced my pink stuffed bunny on my lap. She asked me what it’s name was. “Buh-honey” I replied. “Do you mean ‘Bunny’? She asked. I nodded.

In the car on the way home, I held Bunny by the hands. His head wobbled a bit, and I made him nod ‘yes’ and shake ‘no’. I murmured his name. “Buh-honey.” I shook his head ‘no’. Louder, I tried again. “Buh-honey.” Once again, I shook his head ‘no’. Three more times. The same result. I looked out the window and watched a couple of corn and bean fields hurry by. We were almost home. Back to my friend on my lap, I tried again. “Bunny.” He nodded ‘yes!’

Sweet Potato, Apple, Cranberry. Perfect Trifecta.

Sweet Potato Side2

Because I have an undying love for apples, I have decided to continue the trend and share another recipe featuring these autumn beauties. 

The other day I was talking with a friend and she mentioned how overwhelming it can be in the produce department with all the new apple varieties. “What ever happened to Yellow Delicious, Red Delicious and Granny Smith?” While I agree that it can be confusing, please remember that in general, apples are apples. I know, I know. I am about to be burned at the stake by foodies near and far. But, I really do think that some of us (even me, on occasion) get hung up on the small stuff. This is the time of year apples are cheap, so if you haven’t heard of that-variety-over-there before, pick one out, take it home and give it a taste. Is it sweet? Sour? Bitter? Crunchy? Soft? Most importantly, do you honestly like it?

My friend listened to my answer, smiled, then asked if I could just help her skip to the end of the process and tell her what to buy. I figured she is not alone, so I put together this list to help.

 There are over 7,500 apple varieties.

I have scavenged my local grocery stores and listed the most widely available here in the mid-west.

* Indicates variety can be used for either baking or sauce, but they appear in the category where they perform the best.

Baking Apples

*Braeburn, *Cortland, Fuji, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Melrose, Mutsu, Northern Spy, Pink Lady, Rhode Island Greening, Rome Beauty, *Winesap

Sauce Apples

Gravenstein, Ida Red, *Jonamac, *Jonathan, Liberty, *Maiden Blush, McIntosh, *Newtown Pippin (should be cold-stored for 1-2 months before eaten to reduce bitterness), *Snow

AND NOW FOR THE RECIPE…

Sweet Potato Side

Sweet Potato, Apples & Cranberries

Makes 4 (small) servings

Ingredients:
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bit-sized pieces
1 medium granny smith apple, cored, peeled, and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
2 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 1/2 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

(sugar and cinnamon for dusting)

Preparation A:
• Mix all ingredients together.
• Place in a Ziploc brand steamer bag and seal.
• Microwave on high for 8-9 minutes or until sweet potatoes are fork-tender.
• Allow bag to stand for 1 minute before pour contents into a serving dish.

Dust with sugar and cinnamon to taste.

OR

Preparation B:
• Mix all ingredients together.
• Place in sauce pan and add 1/4 cup water. Cover.
• Steam over medium heat for 20 minutes or until sweet potatoes are fork-tender.
• Remove from heat and let stand for 1 minute before transferring to a serving dish.

Dust with sugar and cinnamon to taste.

Ohio Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn

In the dead of winter I sometimes stare out my back window at the crusty, white land. The trees are bare and seem to shudder in the cold as the wind cuts across the pond and ice crystals dance on the frozen surface.

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It’s hard to believe that just a few months prior we were grilling out, picking tomatoes fresh from the vine and nibbling away at ears of sweet corn dripping with salted butter. I often wonder how this frigid landscape can possibly be transformed back to the lush green habitat of the grey heron and family of mallard ducks. As I sit there, with my warm cup of coffee and thick sweater, and I am thankful that back in August we stood over boiling pots of water and shucked one-hundred-fifty-six ears of corn. I slide on my slippers, hold my breath for the blast of cold and open the garage door.  I shuffle out to the freezer and back again as fast as my feet can carry me and I carry a bag of gold. Ohio sweet corn. In the dead of winter.

I pull a sauce pan from the cupboard, break up the frozen treasure, and add butter and salt. When it is finally steaming hot, I take a bite and I am transformed. Sometimes all the way back to my childhood with visions of my Dad hard at work in the garden. The chill of winter is temporarily forgotten.

Finish tilling garden

 

Corn 4

Processing Sweet Corn

Bring deep pots of water to a rolling boil.

(If you have an electric kettle, it comes in handy. Fill it, set it to a boil, and use this water to top off the pots as needed.)

Shuck the ears of corn and remove as much silk as possible.

Place as many ears of corn in the pot(s) as you can without crowding. Making sure the entire ear(s) are submerged.

Boil for 3-4 minutes. Remove immediately to a rimmed baking sheet.

Let cool for about 10 minutes.

Using a cutting board and knife (or your favorite cutting tool over a bowl) remove all the corn from the cob. Here is the most important part: Get all that  juice from the cob. To do this, stand the cob on end in a large bowl. Starting from the top, hold a knife at about a 45 degree angle and scrap all the way down. Rotate the cob and repeat until the entire ear is finished.

Portioning and Storing

Our family will eat 1 1/2 cups corn, as a side dish, at an average meal. I prefer using 1 quart Ziploc freezer bags.

Measure amount of corn into bag – and don’t forget to add some of the juice from the bottom of the bowl in each one.

Close the bag 3/4 of the way. Lay it down on a flat surface and press the corn out, filling the bottom corners of the bag and working as much air out of the top as possible. Seal the bag completely. Label month and year with a Sharpie.

I like to press the bags as flat as possible and stack in a box.

Place in freezer.

NOTE: 13 Dozen ears of corn yielded 93 bags of corn (1 1/2 cup each).

 

 

 

 

Prosciutto Wrapped Stuffed Figs

Figs1 Meeting people on the dance floor can be a little strange.  You see them on the dance floor. You smile. You might dance beside them. Heck, you might just dance with one another, but forget their name just as fast as a tuck turn. It takes time to build a friendship when chatting in short spurts in the seconds between songs. Just after Mystery Man and I married we met another Swing dancing couple who recently moved to the area. Through the fits and starts of communicating at dances we learned we had a lot in common. ‘Mr. Zoot Suit’ and ‘Vintage Thread’ were also recently married, had a vintage wedding, and a big band at their reception – just as we did. We were surprised and quite lucky to have met them and the friendships continued to grow. Just a year later we vacationed together at a beach outside of Charleston, South Carolina.  Mr. Zoot Suit’s folks had graciously donated a week of their time-share on the shore. We took full advantage of not only being in a beach hot spot, but the culinary hot spot of Charleston. Sun and sand by day, gourmet restaurant by night. We happened upon a local eatery called Al Di La and took a chance it might be good food – after all, their tagline was ‘A Northern Italian Trattoria’. Mystery Man and I are pretty much open to any culinary experience, but Mr. Zoot Suit is not – he is more of a meat and potatoes man. So, we figured we couldn’t go wrong with Italian fair. figs2 Our appetizer arrived at the table – Prosciutto Wrapped Stuffed Figs, and Mystery Man and I dug in with instant delight. Wanting to share this Heaven-on-a-plate, we offered some up to our friends. To our shock and disbelief, Mr. Zoot Suit was just as delighted with the dish as we were, and instantly ordered another round. The server obliged with the very last serving – it was a seasonal dish and we were quite lucky to have had it. Prosciutto Wrapped Figs First, figs have a very short ‘season’ here in the Midwest. They are shipped in from California and you have to be on your produce ‘game’ to get them before they go mushy or moldy. I happen to have several friends who know of my fresh fig obsession and text me whenever they spy them. Next, get the best prosciutto money can buy – don’t worry, we only need twelve slices for the twelve figs we bought – and that is nowhere near a pound. Your deli counter specialist will gladly sell it to you by the slice. I purchased this at Dorothy Lane Market and it is so yummy! Fig Gallery 1 Gather your ingredients and equipment. Figs, Gorgonzola cheese, prosciutto, a muffin tin and foil.  Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Cut foil into squares and line each recess of the muffin tin.  Using a paring knife, cut the stem off of the fig in a circular motion (like you would hull a strawberry). Widen the opening with your pinky finger to make room for the cheese filling – being careful not to tear the fig down the side. Fill the fig with Gorgonzola and wrap the prosciutto snugly around. Place one fig in each muffin tin recess. Fig Gallery 2 Bake about 20-30 minutes, or until the prosciutto is slightly crispy around the edges and the cheese is bubbling. Note – you can stuff and wrap in advance! Complete all the steps and wrap (tightly! you don’t want things to dry out) your muffin tin in saran wrap. Refrigerate for up to a day and bake as directed.