Fast(er) Roasted Potatoes

Roasted Potatoes

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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)

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.

IMG_4673_stitch

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).

 

 

 

 

Guacamole

Guac

She showed up at Swing Night just about the same month as I did. Her porcelain white skin, pearly white teeth, spunky curly hair and youthful smile made for an evening of never ending dance partners. Plus, she was good, and always looked like she was having a blast without ever breaking a sweat. I admired her from a distance and our interactions were brief for weeks, until one particular night when Mystery Man  and I were working on a few steps off to the side of the dance floor.

The Charleston basic was proving difficult for me and my frustration level had hit an all time high. I secretly wondered why I was even trying, why I cared so much, and why I shouldn’t just leave and find some other hobby. But, he was being kind and offering tips, so I couldn’t just up and go without seeming very rude. So there I was struggling through it. Then Spunky Girl walked up. She watched for a minute.

“Oh, you mean like this?” she chirped, and banged out the step right then and there.

There are times in life when you make a choice.

For a split second I considered gathering my things, muttering something like “go ahead you two, knock yourselves out” and leaving, never to return.

I am so glad that split second came and went, and I stayed put. That was seventeen years ago. Spunky Girl became my Homey and together we have danced miles on the same floors (including the Charleston), met our husbands, graduated, started careers and had our children. My admiration for her started on the dance floor and continues to this day.

She likes to bring this Guacamole to our gatherings. I hope you have Homey you can share it with, too.
Guacamole
Ingredients:
3-4 very ripe avocados
1 small to medium red onion, finely diced
1 Anaheim chile, finely diced
1 lime, squeezed, (about 2 tablespoons)
1/2 lemon, squeezed (about 1 tablespoon)
cilantro to taste (about 1 tablespoon, chopped)
salt to taste
tortilla chips

Preparation:
•    Slice the avocados all the way around and pull apart. Scoop out the flesh and place in a food processor. Reserve the pits.
•    Add diced onion and chile.
•    Give the food processor two one-second pulses.
•    Add the lime juice, lemon juice and cilantro.
•    Pulse the food processor in one-second increments until the guacamole is the texture you prefer.
•    Remove from bowl with rubber spatula into a serving dish. Add the pits to the guacamole (this keeps it from turning brown so quickly).
•     Adjust cilantro to taste.
•    Serve with tortilla chips.

Notes:
This also can be made by hand in a large mortar and pestle set.

 

 

 

 

 

 

7 Ingredient Artichoke Dip

Art Dip

While it is cool to say we have posh British friends, that is not the reason we are friends with R & S at all. Ok, I take that back, some of the reasons have to do with their British-ness, but I am quite certain we would still be friends regardless of their birth country.  It all started roughly ten years ago when Mr. and Mrs. Air Force were being PCS’d (moved, in military terms) to England. Mr. Air Force learned there was a Royal Air Force chap within his offices who he should seek out for advice.

R & S agreed to give them tips on fitting in across the pond and Mr. & Mrs. Air Force returned the favor by introducing them to Swing Dancing.

Enter Mystery Man and I – fellow Swing Dancers of Mr. & Mrs. Air Force for years.

Our first impression of R & S was they were a little shy and to be honest, we had trouble understanding them at times with their accents and British colloquialisms. These things did not prevent us from getting to know them. We found it very interesting to be in their company and enjoyed learning about their culture and teaching them how to Swing Dance.

Mystery Man and R share a passion for technology and can talk for hours about hardware, software, apps…. S and I enjoy a bit of gardening, recipe sharing and can talk on and on about kitchen crockery and gadgets. But with all that in common, I think the real reason we are such great friends is because they are some of the most genuine people I know. Giving. Gentle.

Most Friday evenings they come over to our house for after dinner drinks and a chat, but only after my two children climb on them like jungle gyms, demand books to be read and are given the mandatory high-fives in all directions before bed time. My babies squeal with glee when I announce it Uncle R and Aunt S are coming over. R & S don’t have children of their own, but they have embraced ours with all the love they could ever give.

___

This is one of the many recipes S has shared with me and it continues to be a favorite for parties. I will typically throw it together a day in advance then transfer it to a small crock pot for the gathering. It can be served with crackers, a nice rye bread, tortilla chips or what ever your heart desires.

_DSC0137Art Dip2

7 Ingredient Artichoke Dip
Ingredients
1 14 oz can artichoke hearts (drained and chopped)
8 oz feta cheese (crumbled)
1 cup mayo
1/2 cup and 2 oz Parmesan cheese (I use Parmesan or Romano)
2 oz jar pimentos
1 large garlic clove (minced)
pinch black pepper
Preparation
• Preheat oven to 350 degrees
• Combine all ingredients and place in a 9” baking dish.
• Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until hot and bubbly.

Serve hot, or transfer to a small crock pot on low for more lengthy parties.