Ginger Lemonade

Made this today for our week at the lake! Sure beats the pants off those powdered pouches!  Since my kitchen is tore apart from all the prep I am busy doing today, I’ll let Grandmother’s Musings deliver the recipe that is sure to beat the heat and delight the kiddies 🙂

Grandmother Musings

Refreshing lemonade to make at anytime of the year, but especially to cool off when the temperatures rise.

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup sugar (can reduce to 3/4 cup)

1 tbsp chopped, fresh ginger

1 cup water (for simple syrup)

1 cup Lemon Juice

4 cups Water, Cold to dilute

DIRECTIONS:

1. Make simple syrup by heating the sugar, adding a tablespoon of chopped, fresh ginger, and water in a small saucepan until the sugar is dissolved completely.

2. While the sugar is dissolving, use a juicer to extract the juice from 4 to 6 lemons, enough for one cup of juice.

3. Add the juice and the sugar-water to a pitcher. Add 3 to 4 cups of cold water, more or less to the desired strength. Refrigerate 30 to 40 minutes. If the lemonade is a little sweet for your taste, add a little more straight lemon juice to it.

4. Serve with…

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Eat Fresh, Not Subway.

I came across some interesting info at 100 days of real food.com and could not help but share.  Subway boasts that their food is fresh and eating healthy off the menu is easy.  However, like most food offered for convenience, it’s highly processed.  Do yourself and your family a favor and skip the sandwich chain right up.  There are better options available when you are on the go, try to stay local and explore small deli’s and mom and pop eatery’s. Still not convinced?  Check out these facts:

Baked Mostaccioli

    What’s a party without pasta?  Time and again I am greeted by a familiar few standards on the buffet station while celebrating graduations, birthdays, and other happy events; beef sandwiches, fried chicken, and baked pasta.  These mainstays are available at many local catering venues and usually all taste exactly alike, which is ok if you want your food to just blend into the blur of the backyard party season.  However, if you’re ready to break the mold and have your fare stand out, this recipe is perfect!
A blend of tradition with just enough of a twist to make it unique, guests will rave about your baked mostaccioli whenever they eat another all year long.  My favorite aspect is that you can customize the ingredients to offer not only a better tasting pan of pasta but a better for you main dish as well!  The cottage cheese mixed with an egg is my mother’s way of making baked pasta and mom always knows best! 

INGREDIENTS:

METHOD:

  1. Cook pasta according to directions on box.  You want al dante pasta, not too soft. 
  2. Brown sausage and add sauce. Heat until warm to blend flavors, take off heat and allow to cool.
  3. In a medium bowl mix cottage cheese and egg together until combined, then mix in ricotta cheese.
  4. Now the fun part, the layering!

To a lightly greased 9×13 pan add enough sauce to cover the bottom of the pan

Add 1/2 of the cooked pasta evenly

Cover pasta with sauce

Layer 1/2 the cottage cheese/ricotta mixture

Cover with a healty layer of mozzarella cheese

Begin the process again with a light layer of sauce

Spread the remaining sauce over the pasta

Spread the remaining cottage/ricotta cheese mixture over the sauce

Top with a generous amount of shredded mozzarella

Cook in a preheated 350 degree oven covered for 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to cook until cheese is golden, about 15 more minutes. Allow to set for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Before I had a chance to take the “after shot” of my pretty pasta, it was gone.  It didn’t last at the party for 20 minutes!  Hope yours goes over just as well.

Strawberry Banana Trifle

Dessert is a favorite word in my vocabulary!  Cakes, cookies, tarts, pies, puddings; they all have a special place near and dear to me.  Baking is the first culinary adventure I embarked on, while standing on a chair in my mother’s kitchen stirring pudding to make pies.  After some time, I graduated to cookies and my hunger for knowledge kept me testing out more and more recipes for sweet treats.  Baking is common tradition shared in families, and mine is no different.  The most fabulous pound cake ever is made into lambs every Easter by my godmother and covered with a unique cream cheese like frosting.  She bakes, then freezes the cakes; which I think contributes to their dense, silky texture. The recipe is not mine to share, and even with it my results have never achieved lamb cake status.  Some recipes are all about the method.  I have included the Joy of Cooking pound cake recipe; which is very similar and always bakes a nice cake.              
Today, I am mixing a little of all my favorite aspects of dessert and offering a trifle recipe to take along to your next party, or serve at home to loved ones.  This dish is a constant in my repertoire
 because I can make parts of it when I have time and not have to spend too long on the day I wish to serve.  Since it’s June and strawberries are in season and gorgeous, I went with Strawberry Banana; however feel free to mix the fruit choice up to your tastes or whatever looks best in the produce department. Blueberries, raspberries, peaches, cherries; these all work wonderfully! This also works great served in individual portioned glasses, parfait style. 

INGREDIENTS:

    • 2 loaves of pound cake cut into cubes. (The loaves can be made in advance or you can purchase from your local bakery.)
      • 2 pints heavy whipping cream, made into whipped cream
    • 1 serving crème patisserie (I usuallly make this the day before I am serving the trifle. The pastry creme should be used within three days of preparation.)
  • 1 lb. fresh strawberries sliced and allowed to sit with 1 teaspoon of sugar mixed into for 20 minutes.
  • 4 ripe bananas, sliced with a small sprinkle of lemon juice to keep from turning brown


METHOD:

  1. Apply a small amount of crème patisserie to the bottom of a deep bowl.
  2. Layer the first loaf of pound cake, distributing evenly through the bowl.
  3. Spread the sliced bananas on top of pound cake; leave a few pieces aside for garnishing.
  4. Spread the crème patisserie in a thick layer on top of the bananas.
  5. Layer the second loaf of pound cake, distributing evenly.
  6. Spread the strawberries and their juice on top the second layer of pound cake, leaving a few slices for garnishing
  7. Top with an even layer of whipped cream, using all of it.
  8. Garnish with remaining fruit.
  9. Allow Trifle to sit for at least 3 hours before serving.

 

 

Southwestern Chicken Chili

Busy weeknights are a common place occurrence at the Jennirific house.  Sometimes dinner makes it into the crockpot in the morning and sometimes it just doesn’t.  I am sure we all have those days. 
This recipe is a go to for me because it turns out wonderfully no matter which method I am able to apply to it, crockpot or stove top.  Packed with veggies, protein, and fiber this meal will keep the family fueled through all their activities!

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 fresh jalapeno chile peppers, seeded and chopped (you may increase amount to taste)
  • 2 medium chopped red, green, and/or yellow bell pepper
  • 2 15- to 15-1/2 ounce cans Great Northern, pinto, or cannellini (white kidney) beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15 ounce can Black Beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 1 pot of Pot of Gold Bouillion
  • 1 lb chopped cooked chicken* (see note below)
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped.
  • Shredded Monterey Jack cheese (optional)
  • Broken tortilla chips (optional)

STOVE TOP METHOD:

  1. Add olive oil to a 4 quart or larger stock pan along with chopped onions.
  2. Sauté onions until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add garlic and jalapeno pepper and continue to sauté, 1 minute
  4. Add bell pepper, beans, cumin, salt, chicken stock, and bouillon.
  5. Allow to come to boil
  6. Add chicken, cover, and reduce heat to a low simmer.
  7. Cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  If chili seems too thin to your taste, remove lid while cooking to help reduce the liquid and thicken the chili.  The chili will continue to thicken after cooking, do not reduce all liquid.
  8. Stir in about ½ cup of chopped cilantro
  9. Serve, garnish with cheese and chips if desired.

Finished cooking and ready to serve!

CROCKPOT METHOD:

  • In a slow cooker stir together the drained beans, chicken, onion, sweet pepper, jalapeno pepper, garlic, cumin and salt. Stir in chicken broth.
  • Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 5 hours. If desired, top each serving with shredded cheese and broken tortilla chips.

*A note regarding adding cooked meat into recipes.
For this recipe I usually cook boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the same pot I will cook the chili in.  This allows the chili to soak up all the flavors left over from the cooked chicken.  That being said, you have to season the meat before cooking.  A simple sprinkle of black pepper, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder will give your meat a great flavor and ensure the dish you are adding it to also has a great taste.  Meat without seasoning equals bland food as an end result. 

Seed Selection – Sow What?

We’ve all heard the nursery rhyme about Mary and her gardening prowess.  What really made that garden grow though was diversity.  In today’s plant kingdom, diversity is losing the war being constantly waged upon it.  More and more we see that fields rolling with amber waves of grain, corn, or beans that have been planted from a relatively small and homogenized list of seeds available from catalogs or large distributors.  This affects the whole scale of agriculture reaching from the large corporate owned farms to the backyard gardener.  With so few options being utilized we’re giving up regionally-developed differences in plant DNA and losing out on what makes eating, and growing, local so unique.

“Why is where we buy our seeds an important topic?  We eat and grow plenty of crops; I see everything in my grocery produce department.  Isn’t that diversity?”

Some have asked me questions of this ilk when I climb off my soapbox and engage in real conversations regarding food.  I tell them how genetic diversity protects our food supply, often using The Great French Wine Blightas a prime example. In today’s modern seed market mostly what is found is Hybrid Seeds.  They have been bred with an emphasis on yield at the expense of hardiness, resistance, and inability for farmers to save seeds to be replanted next season.  Reliance on these seeds also enforces the use of chemicals in fertilizers and pesticides and requires lots of water often times leading to irrigation systems that do harm to the land.   

This National Geographic infographic by John Tomanio is staggering. Using the metaphor of a tree, it charts the loss of U.S. seed variety from 1903 to 1983. And what you see is that we’ve lost about 93% of our unique seed strands behind some of the most popular produce. No strong root system for this tree.

Heirloom seeds, sometimes referred to as open pollinated seeds, are genetically diverse and have been handed down throughout generations.  Typically, heirlooms have been developed over time for optimal response to their local climate and soil by virtue of being hand-selected for particular traits.   These varieties produce a plant with better flavors and hardier profile. Growing heirlooms gives farmers and gardeners a role in maintaining the biodiversity of our planet. While hybrid seeds have been bred to resist particular diseases, there are occasionally threats that could possibly wipe out entire crops when a new disease arrives, due to the lack of diversity in varieties commonly planted. Every time an heirloom seed is planted, that seed stock is regenerated, maintaining that gene pool with its own taste, growth habits, and resistance to disease and insect pests.  The renewed effort by many gardeners’s to keep heirloom seeds alive is a vital tradition that hopefully will continue to grow not just in the U.S. but worldwide.

The Bird is the Word – Brined Grilled Chicken

Chicken dinners have been gracing tables for centuries, usually as a luxury or to mark special occasions. I’ve heard tales of proposals of marrige being made after a hearty roast chicken meal or grisly stories of eating an old feathered friend of the yard when their glory days had past.
Today, chicken is a everyday food enjoyed by the masses and we serve it in a multitude of styles. In short, we take it for granted and often deny the attention to details that a great bird deserves.  Let’s take the time and treat chicken like royalty today.  The results might just win you hearts and admirers!

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 3-4 lb whole chicken
  • ½ gallon of water
  • ½ cup kosher salt
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • ½ tsp crushed peppercorns
  • ½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 head of garlic, sliced on the bottom to expose cloves
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar

METHOD:

  1. Combine all brine ingredients in a large pot.  Bring to simmer to dissolve salt and sugar.  Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.  (You could also use your crockpot for this step)
  2. Add chicken to brine in large pot (or removable crock), weighing down with a plate over it if necessary to keep submerged in liquid OR combine brine and chicken in a 2 gallon freezer bag and refridgerate. (A gallon bag may work depending on the size of your chicken)
  3. Brine chicken for at least 12 hours, but no longer than 48 hours.
  4. Preheat/Start the grill.
  5. Remove from brine and place chicken on a v-rack with a roasting pan under it.
  6. Add 2 cups of water and 2 cups of the brine mixture to the roasting pan.
  7. Cover pan tightly with foil, cook for roughly an hour at high heat.  Check occasionally, adding water if needed, rotating bird, or moving pan to adjust for hot spots on grill.
  8. Cook the last 15-20 minutes with foil removed in order to achieve a nice golden skin.
  9. Remove from grill and allow chicken to rest uncovered for 5 minutes.
  10. Carve and enjoy!

Other methods of cooking can be in a preheated 450° oven following the grilling instructions OR in the crockpot on high for 4-6 hours with NO liquid added, just the chicken.  Don’t let that chicken carcass go to waste either!  You can store it in a sealed bag in the freeze and use it to make Stock from Scratch!