November 30, 2018
Color Me New England
There is nothing as beautiful as the colors of fall in New England and in my estimation an artist pallet cannot compare to the blending of colors created by Mother Nature. This is my favorite time of the year and I always know that Fall is just around the corner when the shrub in my perennial garden begins to quickly turn from the green of summer to a flaming bright red.
We received the shrub many years ago as an anniversary gift from my son and his wife. At that time it was a potted plant that looked lovely adoring the fireplace in my living room. When I noticed that it was getting rather tall, I planted the shrub in my garden. Little did I know what a beautiful and meaningful addition it would be in my garden.
The Botanical name of the plant is Euony alatus, but the common name is The Burning Bush, relating to the biblical story of Moses and the Burning Bush. If you are familiar with the bible version or perhaps you recall seeing the Hollywood take on the story featured in the Charlton Heston movie “The Ten Commandments.” In the biblical narrative the Burning Bush is the location at which Moses was approached by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt on into Canaan.
Now here is the amazing part of this shrub! A few weeks ago on a Thursday the shrub was green and when I rolled up the shade on Friday morning it was the brilliant shade of red, as you see in the photo. I kid you not! THE MIRACLE OF NATURE!
The premature brisk air of the beginning of the month not only was refreshing, but tended to snap you out of the laziness of the hot days of summer and with the busy holidays ahead that is a good thing, as Martha Stewart would say. But we did not expect the heavy snow, sleet and freezing rain and high winds that followed, which had altered the landscape somewhat and instead of viewing the beautiful colors of Mother Nature,for a few days we were looking at dirty sand covered snow and a lawn covered with snow instead of those beautiful colored leaves. Oh well, thank the lord that was my only problem as my heart aches for the terrible horrific disaster caused by the wildfires in California. Please set aside some of that Christmas gift spending money to donate to a legitimate California Relieve Fund in your area.
Back from my tea break, and back to the reality of the fact that I am seriously very late with this update and the only excuse I can offer is that the everyday responsibilities of life just seemed to get in the way. But while I was in the kitchen, I checked my iPad and read some of my messages and there was one from my son who lives in upstate New York, with some photos of the snow that he has been shoveling and plowing for weeks now, with this comment “I am sick of the snow and if you can’t beat the snow, hang in and have fun with it. We are going skiing because I have cabin fever.” So ironic, because he actually lives in a beautiful log home and formerly lived in Florida, similar to the characters in the old television sitcom “Green Acres”-ok, ok, many of you were probably snug as a bug in a rug watching cartoons at the time, an have no idea what I am talking about! The program was about the trials and errors of a couple from the city, that moved to the country starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor. Yes, shows like that were entertaining, not so with some of the violent and ridiculous reality shows that are on today. We get enough reality and violence in our news.
Son's snow covered log home and property!
In this update, I had planned to share the many recipes that I developed using vegetables from my garden and my son-in-laws garden. However because Thanksgiving was only a few days away I decided to hold off sharing all the recipes this update and instead share a few of my families Thanksgiving favorites over the years and a special sweet potato recipe that I worked on for my youngest daughters families Thanksgiving, that as a guest,I shared. The sweet potato recipe was so tasty and very nutritious and most of all very easy and can be prepared a day or two before the big day. To late for this year to try the recipe, but because sweet potatoes are not only delicious, but are very nutritious and should be served more often, they are a wonderful side dish anytime of the year.
The early frost came without much notice, and unfortunately, I did lose some of my basil and eggplant and tomatoes and I am hoping that my herbs are still intact and hopefully I will be able to prepare them for drying, because purchased herbs are very expensive and I use a good amount of herbs for my homemade salt free blends and for other culinary purposes. My garden in years past was the main source of ingredients for my products used in my cottage business “Marianne’s Herbal Hutch” that I had for many years. It was a good deal of work, not only tending to the garden, but developing all the products and participating in various shows and speaking engagements
I was working as Program Director of Sterling House Community Center at the time, were I was responsible for creating programs of interest for children and adults. One such program was “The Herbal Gathering” which was comprised of a wonderful group of women who worked hand and hand with me each year to offer a wonderful herbal luncheon, which was a sell out the day it was announced.
Why am I rambling on like this, because keeping active and doing something you love helps to stabilize your thoughts and is food for your brain. A few months ago I met one of the woman at the market and she confided in me and told me she credits that program for helping her to come out of a very bad emotional problem.
As promised, I am going to share a few of my recipes encumbering some of the vegetables harvested from our gardens and two of the first vegetables that I picked were the zucchini and the peppers and surprisingly both are excellent using the same procedure and even the same type of stuffing.when preparing both stuffed peppers or zucchini. I also like to use couscous in place of rice in my stuffings. Just follow the recipe for the stuffed tomato from my last update and replace the spinach with a different vegetable or cooked chop meat. Be creative and do your own thing.
Along with my son’s message about the snow on my iPad he also sent some photos of some of of the produce from his garden. In two years, he and his wife have created a beautiful productive garden with a bevy of beautiful vegetables, on what I like to call virgin land in the country with clean air and fertile soil and they have become great cooks experimenting with all the wonderful vegetables they grow.
I am so proud to say that all my children, two daughters and two sons are all excellent creative cooks. I personally credit my mom who was a wonderful cook, with my fascination with cooking, and hopefully I can take a little credit for the actions of my children. I said it before and I will say it again, “Invest in your children with love and understanding, and you will collect dividends all your life.”
Crock Pot Slow Cooker Stuffed Peppers-photo was taken in late Summer. when we were still using the sun porch! Really miss that in the winter-thought of making it a four season porch, but remembering the saying "There is a time and place for everyting " we decided not to.
6 large bell peppers
1 pound lean ground beef, pork or turkey
1 ½ cups brown rice, cooked
1 whole egg and 2 egg whites, lightly beaten
½ cup Parmesan cheese
2 tbls. Fresh parsley, minced
¼ tsp. salt
½ tsp. Black pepper
1 28 ounce can Progresso Tomato Sauce
½ tsp. garlic powder
Combine the ground meat, cooked rice, egg, and egg whites, cheese, parsley, salt and ½ teaspoon of the black pepper in a large bowl.
Poke a hole in the bottom of each pepper-I use a skewer. Spoon the mixture into the peppers, but do not pack tightly. Stand peppers upright into the crock-pot slow cooker. Combine the tomato sauce, garlic powder and the remaining black pepper in a large mixing bowl and spoon some of the sauce over each pepper and pour the remaining sauce into the crock pot-slow cooker. Cover and set on low and cook for 7 to 8 hours.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Slice zucchini in half verrically and remove seeds. Stuff with the above mixture.
add a small amount of broth. chicken or beef if you prefer or tomato sauce to baking dish and add the zucchini and bake for approximately 30 minutes. Turn off oven and sprinkle with shredded cheese and place back in heated oven to melt.
Actually you really do not need a special recipe for stuffed zucchini, because there are so many variations, although the steps to make it are simular to other stuffed recipes. They all work, however I suggest that you do your own thing and just try different ingredients. Trail and error. that is how I come up with most of my recipes.
Now on to a few of our favorite family Thanksgiving recipes-the reason they are our favorites is that they all can be made the day before, refrigerated and cooked Thanksgiving Day.
The following recipe is my version of the famous green bean casserole developed by the Campbell Soup Company. I simply reinvented it in the eighties when I was writing my newspaper column and it was a big hit!
My Not So Famous Green Bean Casserole
2 ¾ cups Kitchen Basics No Sodium Chicken Stock
1 10 ounce package fresh mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
1 Tbls flour
1 Tbls butter or Smart Balance
1 cup 2% or skim milk
8 cups green beans, may be fresh, frozen (thawed), or canned.
3 cups French Fried Onion Rings
Seasonings to taste, I simply use black pepper
½ cup Cheddar cheese, optional
Simmer mushrooms in chicken stock, until tender. Meanwhile melt butter or Smart Balance in a large saucepan. Add flour to pan and cook on low stirring to blend for a few minutes. Do not brown flour. Add milk and cook until thickened. Add mushroom mixture and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring frequently until completely blended. Add green beans and onions, stir until thoroughly mixed. Fold in cheese, if using and sprinkle with extra onions-I usually buy a large package of onions, so as to have enough crunch on top for all servings.
Pour mixture into a 3-quart buttered/Smart Balanced casserole dish and bake in a 350 degrees F. oven until hot about 25 to 30 minutes. Or place uncooked casserole covered in the refrigerator overnight and cook as above for Thanksgiving Day.
I am never without a sweet potato dish for Thanksgiving and sweet potatoes are one of my favorite winter root vegetable. Not only are sweet potatoes delicious, but are also very nutritious Sweet potatoes come neck to neck with carrots when it comes to Beta Carotene content and are also a good source of potassium and a good source of Vitamin C and a sweet potato supplies almost half of the daily recommended allowance of this free radical fighter.
Sweet Potato Casserole
3 cups sweet potatoes, cooked and mashed
⅓ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
⅓ cup milk
2 tbls. Butter or Smart Balance. chilled
1 tsp. Vanilla
½ tsp. salt
2 egg whites, slightly beaten
½ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
¼ cup all purpose flour
2 tbls. Butter or Smart Balance, chilled
⅓ cup pecans, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Scrub potatoes and pierce with fork in several places. Cook in microwave until tender, or place scrubbed and peeled potatoes in a large saucepan covered with water and simmer until tender.
Mash potatoes and combine first seven ingredients in a bowl, and stir well. Spoon sweet potato mixture into an eight-inch square-baking dish coated with cooking spray. Combine one half-cup brown sugar and flour in a bowl and cut in the chilled butter or Smart Balance with a pastry blender or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal, stir in chopped pecans and sprinkle over sweet potato mixture. Bake for 30 minutes. Or assemble casserole as directed, cover and place in refrigerator overnight and bake on Thanksgiving Day. serves 4-double for a larger serving.
Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole
4 medium sweet potatoes,cooked and mashed-cooking suggestions in previous recipe.
4 medium apples, sliced
2 tbls. Butter or Smart Balance
1 tsp. Brown sugar
¼ tsp nutmeg, optional
1 tbls. Maple syrup, or to taste
¼ cup apple juice
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. Cinnamon
Pecans, chopped, to taste
Prepare sweet potatoes as previous recipe and mash. Add next 4 ingredients and stir vicariously until smooth. Peel apples and slice as for pie. Add the apple juice to a saucepan and add the apples and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Simmer until tender, but not soft. Drain and cool apples and cut slices in half. Fold apples into sweet potatoes and place in baking dish that has been rubbed with butter or Smart Balance. Mix topping ingredients and sprinkle over top of casserole. Bake for 30 minutes or assemble as directed, cover and place in refrigerate overnight and bake Thanksgiving Day.
Last, but not least our must have for every Thanksgiving dinner over the years, because it is a kid pleaser. I enjoyed making it because it was so easy and I got help from the grocery store!
1 8 oz. pkg. Non-fat cream cheese
1 egg plus 2 egg whites
1 pkg. Jiffy Cornbread/Muffin Mix
1 can cream style corn
2 ⅓ cup fresh, frozen or canned corn
1`cup skim or whole milk
2 tbls. butter or Smart Balance
1 tsp. Salt
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
In large bowl blend room temperature cream cheese, eggs, sugar. Add all of the remaining ingredients and blend well. Pour into a 13 x 9 baking pan that has been sprayed with butter flavored cooking spray. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until set. This recipe will serve 12 to 16 people. I would always double or triple the recipe and it was gone in seconds.
We also like Overnight Mashed Potatoes- back in the day it was a newbie, but you can find the recipe in any cookbook or on the internet.
My granddaughter shared a photo of her and her college friends annual Friendsgiving dinner.They all make a dish for the dinner and create this fabulous feast. She made the corn pudding from the above recipe that I sent her-it is on the right in the middle of the right side entrees.
If you would like to send a photo to my Creative Corner of you or your child’s creative endeavor, food, art, craft, decorating idea, or just an interesting photograph, send to May@HealthyCookingForToday.com.
Disclaimer-HealthyCookingForToday is to supply my readers with timely researched medical information and suggestions for healthier food choices and recipes and is not attended to give medical advice, which should be obtained from your personal physician.