Picnic Food Safety

With picnic and cook-out season here-I thought it would be a good time to post some tips to keep your picnic safe.

Common Picnic Problems

Besides ants, the biggest concern at a picnic should be food safety. While most of us know to keep cold foods cold, and hot food hot, there are some basic things we should all do to insure a safe, happy day.

Away from home and refrigeration, it is can be tricky to keep foods cold until ready to serve. Bring plenty of ice and coolers for all perishable food. Keep food cold until you are ready to cook or eat it. Get food back into coolers as soon as everyone has finished eating.

Package raw meats extra carefully. Raw meat juices, spilling on salads, will make them inedible. Pack raw meats separately if you can, or on the bottom of the cooler in a leak-proof container. You might also consider bringing meats, like burgers, frozen to thaw on the grill or in the cooler. Smoked meats are safer than their non-smoked counterparts but both types can spoil. The ideal situation is to have one cooler only for raw meats.

Don’t make burgers on site. Outdoor prep is always tricky. Better to form burgers at home, where you can wash all surfaces, as well as your hands, thoroughly. If you make them there- bring disposable gloves and a lightweight cutting board to work on.

Never use ice for drinks that has been in contact with raw meat, or even if any raw meats have been stored in the ice. Keep beverage ice in its own cooler, or keep it bagged to insure it is clean and safe.

Solid blocks of ice melt more slowly than cubes, and make good cooler inserts for long, hot summer days. Also, keep coolers in the shade to offset the power of the sun.

Meat should be cooked thoroughly and ground meat is always more at risk for contamination. Make sure your fire is hot enough. Allow for chilly, windy days and pack extra coals or other fuel, to keep the fire hot throughout the cooking process.

Make sure you don’t put cooked meats on the tray that the raw meat was on. Also have different prepping and serving utensils for both the raw and cooked meats.

You can also precook meats (like chicken pieces or ribs), cool and chill until ready for dinner. Then just heat them up over the coals. This way you don’t have the worry of bringing along raw meats and you’ll spend less time cooking and more time having fun.

Mayo is not the evil purveyor of bacteria some people think. Mayo from a fresh jar, can actually retard the growth of bacteria. This does not mean you can leave the potato salad in the trunk for 3 hours because it has mayo in it. It just means that mayonnaise is not the culprit for food spoilage- bad handling was likely the cause.

While 2 hours is the maximum for food to be left out before being refrigerated again, use common sense. Obviously, on a 95 degree day that time is much shorter. Rather than one big bowl of pasta salad, bring several smaller ones that you can switch out. That way you always have cold salad that is safe. And bring plenty of serving spoons. It does no good to swap out the bowls of pasta salad for a fresh bowl, if you keep using the same serving spoon. Try to stay in the shade, too. Bringing some sort of canopy can keep food cooler than sitting in direct sunlight.

I am a big believer in a good hand washing being the best way to clean your hands- but you might not have running water where you are. Hand sanitizers are great when you don’t have hand washing as an option. I also bring a package of sanitizing wipes, in case a surface needs cleaning up, too.

If it is a hot day- you might want to have a large container, filled with ice, that you can put the bowls of salad into, to keep them colder. That way the salads are surrounded by the ice and stay cold a lot longer. You can use a small baby pool. I like to use a container designed for under the bed storage. Nice size.

In the end, it is about using common sense, and copious amounts of ice. Remember, that if you lose track of time, forget to put something back in the cooler or leave something in the trunk, it is always better to play it safe. When in doubt-throw it out.

Mini Strawberry Shortcakes

Mini Strawberry Shortcakes

These little shortcakes are as cute as they are tasty. You can have all the components ready, then just assemble when ready to serve.

Fun to serve at parties, picnics and cook outs. Because these are small, they work well with other desserts on larger dessert trays.

I made the shortcake base with a scone recipe, and used a small ice cream scoop to put the batter on the baking sheet. They ended up looking like little sandwich buns. 

I split them, and filled with sweetened strawberries. I replaced the top and added chocolate ganache and whipping cream to finish them off.

The scone is tender and not too sweet. Satisfying and light at the same time.

Mini Strawberry Shortcakes

The shortcakes
2 c. flour
1/4 c. sugar
½ t. salt
1 T. baking powder
1 1/4  c. heavy cream or 1 cup half and half
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Sift together dry ingredients and gradually add cream to form soft dough. Stir mixture until it just holds together. Using an ice cream scoop place batter on baking sheet a couple of inches apart. You should get about a dozen. Bake 10-12 minutes or until golden. Makes about 12. Cool on rack until ready to use.

The berries

2 lbs. strawberries, sliced thin

1/2 c. sugar, or to taste

Combine berries and sugar in medium bowl and place in fridge until ready to use. Berries should be in the sugar for at least a couple of hours and can even be prepped a day ahead to allow the juices to come out of the berries.

The ganache

1 c. semi sweet chocolate chips or 6 oz. semi sweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 c. heavy whipping cream.

Combine both in double boiler or in microwave and heat until mixture is just warm enough to melt the chocolate. Stir until smooth.

The whipped cream – use whipped cream, sweetened or unsweetened according to your taste.

Assembly: Slice the caps off the tops of the shortcakes. Place a generous spoonful of the sliced berries on the bottoms of the shortcakes and spoon some of the strawberry liquid over them as well. Place the tops of the shortcakes back on and spoon on a dollop of the chocolate ganache. I let me get to room temperature so it didn’t drip down exactly as I had planned. Top with some whipped cream and serve. Makes about 12.

Mom’s Breaded Chicken

Mom’s Breaded Chicken

With the holiday weekend upon us, I thought I would share this recipe again. It always brings back great memories of childhood picnics/cookouts with my family. I love this recipe and I hope you do, too.

I looked forward to the big family picnics we had when I was a kid. My Dad and I would go early in the morning to pick out our favorite location, and get tables arranged. Then he would start a fire in the grill and make us bacon and eggs in the cast iron skillet.

Everyone started arriving soon after that. Well, not everyone. My Mom, and one of my aunts, would always come a little later. That is because they were finishing up the breaded chicken that was always a part of these picnics. She wanted it to be served nice and warm.

It would have been breaded the day before. My mom felt that when you breaded the chicken ahead of time, it seemed to help the breading to stick better. I do it the same way today.

This isn’t fried chicken. The breaded chicken is lightly browned in a skillet, then finished off in the oven. It is crispy on the outside and nice and juicy inside. It is also a lovely memory for me of time spent with family. Here are the directions for how she made it.

Mom’s Breaded Chicken

Chicken pieces, I often use a whole bird, cut into pieces, or just thighs and drumsticks.

salt and pepper to taste

flour

Parsley

Paprika

Garlic powder

eggs

Milk

Bread crumbs

oil

Pat chicken pieces dry. Season with salt and pepper. In a bag, combine flour- about ½ c. per 8 pieces of chicken should be about right. Season flour with a little salt and pepper.  In bowl combine milk and eggs with the rest of the seasonings, including more salt and pepper. I use 1 egg with enough milk to make a thin batter for every 4-5 pieces of chicken. Keep in mind that the size of the pieces matters. Wings will need less batter than legs. Place bread crumbs in a shallow dish or in a plastic bag. Place a few pieces of chicken in bah with the flour and shake to coat, dipping off the excess. Then dip chicken pieces (1-2 at a time) in egg mixture, turning to moisten completely. Then place in crumbs and turn or shake to coat evenly. Repeat with remaining chicken until all of it is breaded.

At this time you can cover and refrigerate the chicken for several hours or overnight if desired. You can also go ahead and cook it right away. Mom suggests you bread the chicken the night before so it will stick better, but hey, you’re an adult, do what you want.

To cook the chicken, heat ½- inch of oil in a heavy skillet and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Foil a roasting pan and then place a rack inside. Once the oil is hot, brown the chicken pieces several at a time, turning to brown evenly. Place the browned chicken on the rack in the baking dish and continue to brown remaining chicken. Place chicken in oven and bake until chicken is cooked and juices run clear when chicken is poked. Cooking time will vary depending on the size of the pieces, how much you browned them and how many you are cramming in one pan. Baking time will be about 45 minutes. Check a large piece of chicken, near the middle of the pan to be sure.

This is a real summer favorite and the baking on the rack helps fat to drip off, giving you fried chicken flavor with fewer calories. This chicken can be served hot, warm or cold.

Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad

Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad

I make broccoli salad pretty often. It is one of my favorites. Sometimes, I like to switch it up a little by adding cauliflower. The result is a salad that has a great mix of flavors, colors and textures.

The addition of bacon also adds a wonderful smoky flavor. Certainly, feel free to omit the bacon for a vegetarian salad.

With or without the bacon, this is a great salad.

I make this salad year round, but more often during the spring and summer. I also like to bring it to picnics and cook outs. Everyone seems to like it.

So if you are looking for a salad to bring to your next cook-out,  you might want to try broccoli and cauliflower salad.

Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad

1 small head cauliflower, trimmed and broken into bite- sized pieces

2 broccoli crowns, cut into bite- sized pieces

1 sweet pepper, seeded and chopped

1 c. shredded cheese- I used a sharp cheddar

8- 10 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped

1/2 cup of mayo – or more according to your taste

salt and pepper to taste

Steam the cauliflower and broccoli until just tender/crisp. About 5 minutes in a microwave steamer, 6 minutes in a conventional steamer. Place in a bowl to cool down then combine with remaining ingredients and stir to combine well. Adjust seasonings, if needed. Serves 6-8.

Combine veggies in a large bowl.

Add cheese and bacon

Sage Advice

Fresh Sage

Sage deserves better. It is a wonderful herb, but I think it doesn’t get used enough. Like rosemary, sage has strong flavor, and can overpower a dish if used too liberally. The secret is to use a light hand with sage. Dried sage has a more concentrated flavor than fresh. If you haven’t cooked with sage lately, maybe you should.

Traditionally used in poultry stuffing, sage is wonderful with meats, stews, and soups. It can also be used with shellfish and other seafood. Sage pairs nicely with cheese, and in dips, in poultry seasoning, sausages, and with any wild game, especially venison. I love to add sage to winter squash soup and pumpkin dishes, too.

A fun addition to any plate is fried sage leaves. Just drop a few leaves in a pan with a small amount of hot oil. They crisp right up.

Sage is also one of the easiest herbs you can grow. It is a hardy perennial that thrives in a sunny location, although it will tolerate some shade. Deer seem to leave it alone, too. The reward is fresh sage leaves all season long. You can freeze or dry sage leaves for use year round.

So here are some recipes for using sage. Enjoy!!

Scotch Eggs

Scotch Eggs

1 1/4 lbs. bulk country style or herb sausage

1 t. sage

1/2 t. thyme

1/4 t. cayenne pepper

4 hard cooked eggs, peeled

1/2 c. flour

2 raw eggs, beaten

1-c. fresh bread crumbs

vegetable oil for deep frying

Combine sausage and flavorings and mix well. Divide into 4 equal portions and flatten. Place an egg on each flattened sausage piece and press sausage to completely cover each egg. Dredge eggs in the flour, and then dip in the eggs. Roll in the breadcrumbs and fry in 2 1/2 inches of oil (heated to 350 degrees until well browned. This will take about 10 minutes. Drain. Keep warm until served. Makes 4.

Breakfast Sausage

   Breakfast Sausage

2½ lbs. ground pork or turkey (leave on a little fat)

1 T. dried sage

2 t. salt

2 t. pepper

1 t. dried marjoram

½ t. dried thyme

¼ t. allspice

¼ t. nutmeg

¼ t. dry mustard

⅛ t. cloves

pinch of cayenne pepper

⅓ c. warm water

Mix  herbs and spices with water  and let stand  10 minutes. Add the water and spice mixture to the meat and blend thoroughly. Form into patties, and chill or cook immediately. Patties can be fried or baked. This sausage can also be frozen for later use. Makes almost 3 pounds.

Dressing/Stuffing

1 c. sliced mushrooms

¾ c. diced celery

3 T. minced onions

2 T. chopped parsley

4 T. butter

4-5 c. bread cubes

salt and pepper to taste

¼ – ½ c. turkey or chicken broth if making dressing

Sauté vegetables in butter until tender. Add bread and seasonings and toss to coat. Stuff into turkey just before cooking or add broth and place in covered casserole, cooking for 45 minutes to an hour at 350 degrees. When making stuffing allow ¾ c. per pound of turkey. You may want to stuff the bird and still make extra dressing for the next day. When making dressing be sure to cover the pan well to keep the dressing from drying out.

Amy’s Skillet Chicken Pot Pie

¼ c. olive oil

2 T. butter

1 sweet onion, chopped

4 parsnips, peeled and sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

1 small bunch kale, center ribs and stems removed, leaves chopped

Kosher salt

freshly ground pepper

¼ cup all-purpose flour

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

2 T. sherry

½ small butternut squash, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 1½ cups)

½ of a roasted chicken- meat removed from bones, torn onto bite sized pieces – about 1½ cups of meat

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

1 large egg

Place a rack in upper third of oven; preheat to 425°. Heat oil in a deep 12-inch cast-iron or other heavy ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, about 4 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add parsnips, garlic and sage to skillet and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add kale and season with salt and pepper. Cook, tossing often, until wilted, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle flour over. Cook, stirring constantly, for 4 minutes. Stir in broth, 1/2-cupful at a time, then add squash. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until squash is just softened and broth is thickened, 8-10 minutes. Add chicken to skillet, stir, and season with salt and pepper. Unfold pastry and smooth any creases; place over skillet, allowing corners to hang over sides. Whisk egg and 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl. Brush pastry with egg wash; cut four 1-inch slits in top to vent. Bake pot pie until pastry is beginning to brown, 15-20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375° and bake until pastry is deep golden brown and crisp, 15-20 minutes longer. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Spiced Yellow Split Pea Soup

1 lb. yellow split peas, rinsed

8 c. stock or water

2 c. chopped onion

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

3 potatoes, peeled and cubed

½ lb. sliced green beans

1 T. parsley

2-3 t. hot pepper sauce

1 t. chopped fresh sage- or ½ t. dried sage

1 t. dried thyme

1 t. ginger

1 t. cumin

1 t. turmeric

½ t. white pepper

2 cups diced ham

Salt to taste

Note: you can use 1 teaspoon liquid smoke if omitting meat.

Combine peas, water or stock and simmer, covered, about an hour, stirring occasionally.  Add remaining ingredients, except salt, and cook, covered, over low heat for about 60 minutes. Add salt to taste. Freezes well. Serves 6-8.

Poultry Seasoning

¼ c. dried parsley

3 T. dried marjoram

3 T. dried rosemary

3 T. dried thyme

2 T. dried savory

1 T. celery seed

1 T. dried sage

2 t. dried oregano

2 t. dried basil

1 t. ground allspice

1 t. fresh ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Store in a cool, dry place to maintain freshness.

Sage Rolls

¾ c. milk

½ c. sugar

1/3  c. butter

1 t. salt

2 packages active dry yeast

½ c. warm water

4½.-5 c. bread flour

½ c. chopped green onion or chives

1 T. dried sage

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Heat milk to almost simmering, being careful not to bum. Stir in sugar, butter, and salt. Cool milk to lukewarm. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Set aside. Place 2 cups of flour in a large bowl. Add the milk mixture, and beat together. Stir in yeast mixture, sage, and eggs. Beat with an electric mixer for 4 minutes. Gradually stir in enough of the flour to make a soft dough that leaves the sides of the bowl. Tum dough onto a floured surface  and  knead  until the  dough  is smooth  and elastic, about 8 – 10 minutes. Place the dough in oiled bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover, and allow dough to rise until doubled in bulk, about 45- 55 minutes. Punch dough  down, tum  onto  a floured surface, and cover with the bowl. Allow the dough to rest 15 minutes. Divide dough  into 24 – 32 pieces, depending  on the size you like. Shape dinner rolls as desired. I like to roll pieces into 6 inch ropes, and then tie them into a loose knot. Place the rolls onto greased  baking sheets, allowing them room to grow. Cover, and let rise until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Bake rolls in a 350 degree oven until golden brown, 15- 18 minutes.

Mini Picnic Quiches

Mini Picnic Quiches

These tiny quiches pack a lot of flavor. They are also a great take along for picnics and cook outs. Since you can eat them hot or cold, they make a nice food for road trips, too.

The quiche recipe is made up of three parts- the crust, the filling and the custard. They are baked in muffins tins and each recipe makes a dozen. I have two crust recipes- including a gluten free crust that is made from rice and zucchini. There are three filling choices, but you can get creative and make a number of different variations. The custard is pretty straightforward- half and half, eggs and seasonings. I make a couple of batches at a time and then freeze some for later.

Picnic Quiches

 Crust Options:

Rice Zucchini Crust (Gluten free)

1½ c. shredded zucchini

1¼ c. cooked rice (white or brown)

1 egg

¼ c. Parmesan cheese

Crouton Crust

3½ c. garlic-cheese croutons, about 5 oz., ground

1/3 c. melted butter

Fillings:

 Mushroom and Onion

1 medium onion, chopped

Oil

8 oz. mushrooms, cleaned and chopped

3-4 oz. cheddar cheese, shredded or cubed fine

In skillet cook onion in oil until lightly browned. Add mushroom and cook until mushrooms are golden. Cool and combine with cheese before using.

Spinach and Bacon

12 oz. bacon, cooked and crumbled

10 oz. package of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

4 oz. Swiss cheese, shredded

Combine all ingredients. Set aside until ready to use.

Confetti

1 ear corn, cooked and kernel cut off the cob- about ½ cup

½ c. mined fresh sweet pepper

¼ c. chopped green onion

4 oz. shredded cheese- I like a sharp cheddar in this filling

 Custard:

1c. half and half

3 eggs

½ t. each basil and salt

1/8 t. each garlic powder, pepper and paprika

Directions

Grease 12 muffin cups (3 inch). Prepare crust of your choice by mixing crust ingredients together. Pat 2 tablespoons of the crust mixture into each muffin cup. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-12 minutes. Cool before filling. While baking and cooling crusts, prepare filling of your choice and make the custard.

Spoon 2 tablespoons of filling over each cooled crust. Spoon about 3-4 tablespoons of the custard over the filling. Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Cool on wire racks, chill completely before packing for your picnic.

Growing and Cooking With Chives

Chive Crepes with Crab Meat Filling

What’s not to love about chives? This allium family herb is an easy to grow perennial. With little effort, you will be rewarded with onion flavored leaves and blossoms year after year.

When the chives are first up in my garden I want to use them in everything. They will be around all season, but that first Spring harvest is always my favorite.

Their delicate onion flavor goes well with so many dishes. I enjoy cooking with the blossoms, too. Anyplace you might use green onions, you can use chives. I add them to dips, salad dressings, soups, veggie dishes. You get the idea. Same thing with the flowers. Toss them in any dish where you want a mellow, onion flavor. I have a friend who likes to dip the blossoms in batter and deep fry them.

Chive Crepes with Crab Filling

Chives add a pretty color and wonderful flavor when used in crepes. I made a crab filling, but you could fill them with any number of savory ingredients. This is a great dish for brunch, lunch or breakfast.

3/4 c. flour
1/8 t. salt
3 eggs, beaten
2 T. melted butter
3/4 c. milk, approximately
1/3 c. fresh chives*
Butter or oil for pan

In blender mix together flour, salt and eggs until smooth. Add butter, milk and chives and blend until batter consistency is that of cream. Let stand for 30 minutes before using, or can be refrigerated, covered, overnight. Mix well, just before using.
Heat 6 or 7 inch skillet. Brush with butter or oil and pour in about 2 teaspoons of batter, tipping pan to cover bottom of pan completely with batter. Cook until edges start to brown, turn over and cook until lightly browned (about 1-2 minutes per side.)
Crepes can be made day ahead or even frozen between sheets of waxed paper and frozen. Makes 12.

When ready to serve: Crepes can be filled ahead or guests can fill their own
* You can use other combinations of fresh herbs like parsley, thyme, cilantro.

Crab Filling – enough for 6-8 crepes

2 T. butter
1/2 c. minced onion
3 T. flour
1 c. milk
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (6-oz.) can crab meat, drained, or 1 c. cooked shrimp
1 c. shredded mild cheese, I used Fontina
Chopped chives

Heat butter in skillet and cook onions until tender. Add flour and mix well. Stir in milk and seasonings and cook until sauce is thickened and bubbly. Stir in seafood and heat through. Spoon some of this mixture onto a crepe. Add some cheese and roll up. Garnish with chopped chives. Makes 6-8.

Chive Butter

I also like to make Chive butter. The recipe is pretty simple.

3 T. snipped chives

½ t. lemon zest

1/2 c. (1 stick) softened butter

Mix all ingredients until well combined. Chive butter can be stored in a jar, or wrapped in plastic wrap and chilled or frozen until ready to use. Good with fish, poultry, carrots, and potatoes.

Chive Blossom Vinegar

Chive Blossom Vinegar

One of the ways I preserve my herbs every year, is by using them to flavor vinegar. It is easy to do and you’ll have great flavored vinegar to use all year round. You can use the vinegar in salad dressings or in marinades and sauces. Chive blossom vinegar is one of my favorites. I often use white wine vinegar but you can use red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar or even white vinegar. The blossoms give the vinegar a beautiful color, too.

All you need is a clean jar, chive blossoms and vinegar (5% acidity). The acidity is listed on the label. For every cup of blossoms add 2 cups of vinegar to the jar. Close the jar and put it in a cupboard for a couple of weeks, or longer. When ready to use, strain out the blossoms. Pour the strained vinegar through coffee filters or layers of cheesecloth to get out any sediment. The end result is clear and quite pretty. Store in a cool, dark place for best color and flavor.

Freezing Chives

An easy way to preserve your chives is just to freeze them. Take freshly washed and dried chives and chop them up. You can use a knife, scissors or food processor. Place the chopped chives on a tray or baking sheet and place in the freezer to harden a bit, before transferring to a freezer container or freezer bag. By pre-freezing them before packaging, you keep them from clumping up and freezing into a green lump.

Blossoms just starting to open

Growing Chives

When growing chives, a sunny, well drained spot is preferred, but chives will tolerate some shade. They prefer to be in the ground, but I have chives that are in pots and thriving. I even have chives that popped up in one of my hanging baskets. They return every year.

Chives require little maintenance, but there is one annual clean-up job: stem removal. At first glance, chives looks like just leaves, but there are stems in there. Each purple chive blossom that appears in Spring is on a stem. While the stems are edible, they are also tough and woody, compared to the leaves. I like to remove the stems once the chives are finished blooming. Even in a large clump of chives, this job only takes about 5 minutes.

First, identify the stems. They either have a chive blossom on them- or they will have a brown tip from where the blossom was removed. When you touch a stem, you’ll be able to tell right away that it is tougher than the leaves. Pinch the stem between your fingers  and run your fingers down to the base of the stem. Give a little tug and the stem pops right out. Repeat this with the rest of the stems. Kind of boring, but only take a few minutes. Once done, your plant will be all tender leaves.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Mini-Pies

Peanut Butter and Jelly “Pies”

These little pies are a fun way to take peanut butter and jelly on the road. They are just cut out circles of pie crust, filled with peanut butter and jelly, sealed, then baked.  Very easy to make, and a fun cooking project for kids as well as adults.

I prefer home made pie crust, but use store bought, if you like.

A nice treat, these little pies can be a snack, breakfast, lunch or even a dessert.

They are also great to take along for picnics and road trips. You can fill them with just jelly, if you like. I have filled them with peanut butter and a few chocolate chips for a fun dessert. You can use almond or cashew butter, if you prefer.

Get creative and have fun.

Peanut Butter & Jelly  Mini Pies

1 (15 oz.) package pie crusts or homemade crust for 2 pies*

1 egg

1 T. water

½ c. peanut butter

½ c. preserves, any flavor

Powdered sugar, optional

Preheat oven to 400-degrees. On lightly floured surface roll out one of the crusts into a 12-inch circle. Using a 2½-inch round cookie cutter cut out about 12-14 circles, re-rolling scraps and set aside. Roll out second piece of dough so you will have about 24-28 circles altogether. Beat together water and egg and set aside. Place a circle on work surface and place 1 teaspoon each of peanut butter and preserves in the center. Brush edges of the circle with egg wash. Place second circle on top and press edges together to seal. Prick crust with a fork a few times. Repeat with remaining circles. Place “pies” on lightly greased baking sheets and bake for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on wire rack and dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

Martha Stewart’s Pie Crust Recipe

2½ c. flour

1 t. salt

1 t. sugar

2 sticks (1 cup) butter, very cold

About 6 T. ice water

Combine dry ingredients and cut in butter to resemble coarse crumbs. Using a fork to mix the dough start to add the ice water a tablespoon or 2 at a time until mixture just holds together. Wrap and chill until ready to use. Makes 2.

Parsley Lover

Parsley

Parsley is one of those herbs everyone seems comfortable using- and with good reason. The clean, green flavor goes well with so many foods. Even people who rarely cook with herbs, seem OK using parsley. Because it is used so commonly, I think it often gets overlooked. Parsley is loaded with Vitamin C and chlorophyll for starters. It is also easy to grow.

While thought of as more of a garnish by some, the flavor can often brighten up a dish. Parsley goes well with meats, veggies, pasta, rice and more. I sometimes use it as a base for pesto. It is also essential to add when making soup stocks.

Since the leaves are so tender- you don’t need to cook parsley to use it. In fact, you should be careful not to overcook it in dishes. Adding chopped parsley right at the end of cooking, most times, is best. It will add a fresh flavor and a burst of green color to your food.

There are three main types of parsley- the flat leaved or Italian parsley. This is the best one for cooking. It has so much flavor. There is also the curly leaved type. This one is cute and often best suited for garnish. Tasty, but not nearly as much flavor as its flat-leafed cousin. The third type is root parsley. This one produces a pretty big tap root that is great for using in soup stocks. The plants are dug up and roots are used fresh- or frozen for later use.

Here are some recipes featuring parsley.

Parsley Linguine

Parsley Pasta- Linguine

1 c. flour

2 T. chopped fresh parsley

1 egg

1 T. oil, (optional)

2-4 T. water, if needed

Combine the ingredients in a food processor, then let the dough rest before rolling. Once you are ready to roll out your pasta, the shape is up to you. You can hand roll the pasta, and cut into noodles. I use a pasta maker to roll the dough, and then a cutting attachment for linguine. Fresh pasta cooks fast. Cook in boiling water 1-2 minutes. Drain and toss with butter, oil, or your favorite sauce.

Zucchini Soup with Herbs

2 medium onions, chopped

2 T. oil or butter

2 qts. chicken or vegetable stock

6 cups cubed zucchini

¼ c. raw brown or white rice

2 T. flour

1T. oil

½ c. fresh chopped parsley

2 T. fresh basil, chopped

1 t. oregano

½ t. thyme

salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onion in 2 T. oil or butter until slightly browned. Add stock, zucchini, and rice. Simmer until rice is cooked, about 40 minutes for brown, or 15 – 20 minutes for white rice. In small bowl combine flour with remaining oil and blend until smooth. Add a little hot soup and whisk until smooth. Pour flour mixture into the soup then add herbs and other seasonings. Simmer for 3 – 4 minutes and serve. Serves 6 – 8.

Parsley Potatoes

2 lbs. potatoes, I prefer Yukon Gold or red-skinned

2-3 c. chicken or vegetable stock

4 T. butter or oil

½ c.  fresh chopped parsley, or a bit more to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

Prep potatoes: Peel potatoes, if desired. Large potatoes can be cut into quarters, medium potatoes in half. Small potatoes can be left whole. You want them in chunks about 2 inches in size. Place potatoes in a pot with the stock. Over medium heat, bring to a simmer. Cook, uncovered, until the potatoes are tender and most of the liquid is cooked off. Reduce heat so they don’t scorch. Add butter, parsley and seasonings and cook over low heat until the butter has melted. Adjust seasonings and serve. Serves 6.

Grow Your Own

Lets look at growing parsley for a minute. Parsley likes a sunny location, but will tolerate some shade and does very well in pots and hanging baskets. Its fern- like leaves can be planted among flowers and look quite nice.

Parsley is a biennial. That means it produces only leaves the first year. The second year it makes flowers and seeds, then dies. For my part of the world that means I get a harvest of parsley leaves all summer long. Right up until frost I am harvesting. When Spring arrives it sprouts early, with beautiful leaves. Soon after it will produce flowers and seeds. Since I know the plant is going to die anyway I harvest all the leaves that second year – as soon as they start emerging – and freeze and dehydrate them for later use. This gives me a great harvest early in the year.

General Use

Parsley holds most of its flavor when dried and freezes great, too. In milder climates, parsley may defy the odds and produce for a third year, before making seeds.

Don’t discard those stems, either. While the leaves and small stems are chopped up for fresh eating, the stems can be used to flavor stocks. I often freeze them- then add to the pot when making a stock. Too tough for eating, they are still full of flavor and are getting strained out anyway.

The tradition of using a sprig of parsley to garnish a plate was not just to decorate the plate. It was placed there to be nibbled as a way to freshen your breath after dinner.

So don’t dismiss parsley as just a garnish. It really is a great, simple and clean tasting herb that can brighten up most any dish it is added to.

Rosemary

Fresh Rosemary

I love cooking with rosemary. It adds such a wonderful, unique taste to foods. Rosemary has a spicy flavor with pine notes. It is a strong flavor, though, and needs to be used with a light hand. Subtle is the key to successfully cooking with this herb.

I must admit, I had to learn to love rosemary. The first time I cooked with fresh rosemary, I used too much. I ended up with lamb chops that tasted like menthol cough drops. I decided I didn’t like rosemary. Eventually, I tried it again and decided I had been too quick to dismiss rosemary.

Rosemary pairs well with lamb and pork. I like it in tomato sauce and it goes great in breads and baked goods. It also goes well with poultry and is an ingredient in poultry seasoning.

I grow rosemary in pots and bring the pots in for the winter. I live in a climate where rosemary may- or may not- survive winter. I don’t take the chance. It is easier to just bring the potted plants in for winter. I keep them in the basement, under grow lights. That way I have the added bonus of enjoying fresh rosemary year round. If you live in a more temperate area, you can plant rosemary right in the ground. It needs a fair amount of sunlight and well drained soil. Rosemary really is easy to grow.

So here are a few of my favorite rosemary recipes.

 Rosemary Oatmeal Bread

5-5 ½ c. flour

1 package active dry yeast

3 T. fresh rosemary or 1 T. dried, chopped

1 ½ t. salt

1 1/3 c. water

¼ c. milk

¼ c. molasses

¼ c. butter

1 egg

1 c. old fashioned oatmeal

In large bowl mix 1 cup of the flour with yeast and salt. In small pan heat together next 4 ingredients until warm. Pour into bowl with flour mixture and beat 2 minutes. Stir in 1 cup additional flour and egg and beat 2 minutes longer. Stir in oatmeal and 1 cup more flour and stir, adding enough flour to form soft dough. Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead, adding flour as needed until dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough on a greased bowl, turning to grease top and cover, allowing to rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
Grease a large baking sheet and set aside. Punch dough down and divide in half. Shape each half into a ball and place on prepared sheet. Cover with towel and allow to rise until doubled, about 1 hour. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until done. Loaves are done when they sound hollow when tapped lightly. Makes 2 loaves.

This versatile dough can also be shaped into loaves and places in 8×4-inch greased loaf pans. Baking time will remain the same. Dough can also be divided into 24 equal pieces and shaped into dinner rolls. Bake rolls at 375 for 15 minutes.

Rosemary Biscuits

3 oz. cream cheese, cubed
1 ¾ c. biscuit mix, like Bisquick, I use homemade.
½ c. milk
2 t. minced fresh rosemary or ¾ t. dried

In mixing bowl cut cream cheese into biscuit mix until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in milk and rosemary and stir until soft dough forms. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until dough holds together, about ten times. Shape dough into a 6-inch square and cut into 4 3-inch squares. Cut each square in half diagonally and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 400-degree oven for 10-12 minutes or until light brown. Makes 8.

Cranberry-Rosemary Vinegar

This is a favorite food gift of mine. It is so festive and it tastes good, too.

All you need are bottles with corks or screw top lids. If using corks, be sure they are food grade. You’ll also need cranberries, bamboo skewers, fresh rosemary and vinegar- 5% acidity. I use red wine vinegar. Other vinegar will work, too. If you use white vinegar or cider vinegar they will pick up color from the berries and turn a pretty reddish shade. Not as red as with the wine vinegar, but still very pretty.

Since I bring my rosemary plants inside for the winter, I have access to fresh rosemary. Your local grocery store probably has some in the produce department. You can use other herbs, if you can’t find rosemary.

Make sure the skewers will fit in the bottles. Cut them down to fit, if needed. Skewer the berries on the skewers leaving a little room on the top of the skewer. If your cranberries are really big, test to make sure they will fit the neck of the bottle. The skewers keep the berries from floating around.

Place a few sprigs of rosemary in each bottle and then add the berry- filled skewers. Pour in the vinegar, leaving a little room for the cork. Sometimes you need to add a little more vinegar the next day as some will absorb into the cranberries and the skewers. I make decorative labels and give them as gifts. Ready to use in a week.

Poultry Seasoning

¼ c. dried parsley

3 T. dried marjoram

3 T. dried rosemary

3 T. dried thyme

2 T. dried savory

1 T. celery seed

1 T. dried sage

2 t. dried oregano

2 t. dried basil

1 t. ground allspice

1 t. fresh ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Store in a cool, dry place to maintain freshness.

Rosemary Oatmeal Bread