Little Green Tomatoes

Tiny Seeds of Goodness


Leave a comment

Sausage, Kale, and Orzo Soup

img_20190115_155841568

In the spirit of my focus on “Souping through January”, here’s a tasty recipe.  This soup is rich with winter vegetables, seasoned sausage, and lovely orzo, all swirling around in a delicious fresh-made poultry broth. The aroma speaks to home and hearth, and there is nothing quite like a warm bowl of delicious soup, crusty artisan bread, and a Belgian beer enjoyed on a chilly January evening.

Sausage, Kale, and Orzo Soup

  • ½ pound ground Sweet Italian Sausage or Chorizo, browned and drained
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled & chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled & minced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon ground chipotle
  • 1 teaspoon ground celery seed
  • 4 cups homemade poultry stock (see my Use What Ya Got Stock recipe via link)
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • ¾ cup uncooked orzo
  • 4 cups kale, rinsed, coarsely chopped, & drained
  • Fresh squeezed lemon juice, to taste
  • Shredded Parmesan, Asiago, or Romano cheese

Toss carrots, onion, and garlic with the olive oil in a heavy soup pot or dutch oven, and cook, uncovered, over medium heat, stirring frequently, until onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Some light browning adds flavor, but watch closely so that garlic doesn’t burn. Stir in the browned and drained ground sausage.  Stir in the salt, oregano, basil, crushed red pepper, chipotle, and celery seed. Continue to cook and stir for about a minute. Add the poultry stock, water, and orzo. Turn up the heat, cover, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low/medium and cook, covered, at a strong simmer until the orzo is tender (about 10 to 12 minutes). Turn off the heat. Stir in the kale. Allow to sit, uncovered, for about 5 minutes.

Ladle in to bowls, top with the shredded cheese and fresh squeezed lemon juice, to taste. A thick slice of warm, crusty artisan bread is a nice accompaniment! And if you have a favorite Belgian style beer, it will pair nicely. Enjoy!

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

img_20190115_170010705


1 Comment

To Juice or To Soup? That is the Question!

img_20190108_132440377

I’ve been contemplating embarking upon a juice fast.  I understand that there are many health benefits associated with juicing. But honestly, I am more of a soup girl. Homemade soup. Made-from-scratch soup. I find the textures, shapes, and colors of soup ingredients appealing. This time of year, a bowl or mug of warm soup just makes me happy.  And then there’s that awesome aroma of a pot of soup simmering on the stove.  Mmmmm. Need I say more?

I’m scrapping the juicing, and going for souping!

As part of my continuing efforts to further reduce the amount of processed and containerized foods in my diet, not to mention the sodium contained in both, I decided to try my hand at homemade stock.  Again.  I’ve made a few batches over the years, but never stuck with it, mostly because of time constraints and the fact that good stock needs to simmer for several hours on the stove top.  Back around Thanksgiving, with a turkey carcass looking pitiful in the roasting pan, I wondered if I could use my large slow-cooker to make some stock.  I googled “stock in slow cooker”, or something like that, and guess what?  Many, many other people have had the slow cooker idea long before it floated into my mind! Go figure.

I read through a bunch of recipes on-line and perused the stock information in my Joy of Cooking cookbook.  And then I decided that even if I hadn’t invented the idea of making stock in a slow cooker, that didn’t mean I couldn’t invent my own recipe!  Sometimes I just get in the mood to not play by the rules, and I guess I was in one of those moods, because I decided to name my recipe “Use What Ya Got Stock”.  I did (use what I had on hand), and the turkey stock was delicious.  I’ve made two batches of chicken stock since (using what I had on hand), and both times it was equally delicious. Using my own stock has taken my soup game to the next level.  I highly recommend it.  Here’s a basic list of ingredients I’ve used, and the process that worked well for me. Try it – I think you might  like it!

“Use What Ya Got Stock” – Slow Cooker Recipe 

  • 1 cooked turkey or chicken carcass – bones, skin, & cartilage with most of the meat removed (deli-rotisserie chicken carcass works nicely). Cooked down drippings and bits from the roasting pan can be used as well, unless they are super greasy.
  • Raw aromatic vegetables, cut in to large chunks. Remove peel or skin.  I usually have carrots, celery, onion, and garlic on hand, and I use all of them.  I use 1 onion, 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, 3 carrots, and 3 ribs of celery.  Adjust amounts according to the size of your slow cooker crock.
  • Fresh rosemary – 3 to 5 sprigs.
  • Bay leaves – 5 to 7 leaves.
  • Whole black peppercorns – about 10.
  • Dried tarragon – about a teaspoon.
  • Chili powder – about a teaspoon.
  • Cayenne pepper – about a half teaspoon.
  • Kosher or Sea Salt – about a teaspoon.
  • I had small amounts of some herb mixes that were past their prime in my spice cabinet, so I tossed what was left of them in to the crock as well.
  • Filtered water

Place the poultry bones, skin, etc. in the slow cooker crock. Distribute the vegetables, herbs, and spices in and around the poultry parts. Add filtered water to cover all ingredients and fill the slow cooker crock to about an inch from the top.  Place the lid on the cooker, and cook on high for 1 to 2 hours, then reduce temp to low and cook overnight – about 8 to 10 hours in total.

When done cooking, remove bones and what is left of the vegetables & undissolved herbs with a large slotted spoon and allow to drain in a colander placed over a large bowl or soup pot. After the liquid is finished draining from the colander, remove and discard the solid contents of the colander.  Add the remaining liquid stock from the slow cooker to the liquid in the bowl or soup pot, and allow to cool for about 30 minutes.

Place the cooled stock in the refrigerator – in glass container(s) – do not use metal containers, cover, and leave overnight.  The next day, the fat will have risen to the top and solidified, and can be skimmed off with a spoon and discarded.  The stock itself may be gelatinous (jelly like), and this is due to the collagen that has been extracted from the cooked bones. Collagen is not fat, and is a big part of what makes homemade stock so healthy and delicious. Pour or spoon the stock in to storage containers for refrigerating or freezing.

I store stock in 16 oz mason jars with plastic screw top lids in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 weeks.  I’ll typically use 32 oz (4 cups) of stock in most of my soups, so I’ve been keeping two mason jars to refrigerate for use in the short term.  Any left-over amount of stock is placed in freezer safe containers for use at a later date.


Leave a comment

Little Bits of Goodness – December 9

Pull up close by the fire my friends,

I’ll pour ye a cup o’ cider!

We’ll talk and we’ll laugh, we’ll toast, my friends,

Wassail – Waes Hael – Be Well, Good Health!

And Blessings to the Trees!

Wassail!  Lift ye cup o’ cider!

IMG_20181209_152458658.jpg

Wassail , from Old English waes hael, is a beverage made of fruit juices, most commonly apple juice or cider, and spices, slowly heated and served warm.  The Old English waes hael means “be healthy”.  The ancient tradition of “wassailing” included singing, toasting, and drinking the beverage – to the health of the villagers and to the health of the apple trees, blessing the trees in the hopes of bountiful harvests to come.  I like the idea of acknowledging and showing appreciation for the bounty that Gaia provides! For without that bounty, where would we be?

Holiday Wassail

  • 48 ounces apple juice
  • 48 ounces cranberry juice
  • 4 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves
  • ¾ cup brown sugar

Place cloves in a mesh tea basket.  Add apple and cranberry juice to a large saucepan. Dissolve brown sugar in the juices.  Simmer until hot over low heat with cinnamon sticks and clove basket. If you need to keep the wassail warm for an extended perior of time, transfer to pre-warmed slow cooker, low setting.

Serve in glass mugs and garnish with a fresh cinnamon stick & orange wheel.

Wassail can be stored in refrigerator for up to one week. Remove and discard cinnamon sticks and cloves prior to storing in refrigerator.

P.S. The house will smell like heaven!  This is a great beverage to serve for a holiday open house – your guests will be greeted with the delicious yuletide aroma upon arrival!


1 Comment

Little Bits of Goodness – December 7

Be kind whenever possible

It is always possible

– Dalai Lama –

IMG_0381 (2)

 Don’t forget you-know-who when you’re doing your holiday baking! Woof!

Peanut Butter Pup Cookies

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup oatmeal, plain, uncooked
  • ½ cup powdered buttermilk
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup natural peanut butter – with oil well incorporated (be careful NOT to use peanut butter that’s sweetened with xylitol – xylitol is toxic to dogs)
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup water

Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add peanut butter, honey, and eggs. Beat on low until well combined. Gradually add water, beating until dough holds together.

Place dough on large sheet of parchment paper & cover with a second large sheet of parchment paper.  Using a rolling pin, roll out until dough is about ½ thick.  Slide parchment with dough on to a large cookie sheet and chill in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Remove dough from refrigerator, remove top parchment.  Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Using a bone shaped cookie cutter (or any fun shape(s) of your choice), cut out cookies and place on a  parchment-lined baking sheet.  You can also use a cap from a soda or water bottle to make small rounds. Gather up extra dough pieces and roll out again or roll into small balls and flatten with your thumb. Use up all that luscious dough!

Bake 1 hour. Cool on rack.  Recipe makes about 20 bone-shaped cookies, 3” long.

Cheese Please Doggie Snacks 

  • 1 cup oatmeal, plain, uncooked
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ cups hot chicken broth, low sodium or no-salt
  • ½ cup powdered buttermilk
  • 1 cup (4 oz.) grated cheddar cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 1 cup wheat germ
  • 3 cups whole wheat flour

Combine oatmeal, oil, and water (or hot broth) in a large mixing bowl.  Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in powdered buttermilk, grated cheese, salt & egg. Add cornmeal and wheat germ. Mix well.  Add flour, about a half a cup at a time, incorporating well each time. After all the flour is incorporated, knead 3 to 4 minutes to make a very stiff dough.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roll out dough to about ½ inch thickness. Using a bone shaped cookie cutter (or any other shape(s) of your choice), cut out snacks, placing on lightly greased cookie sheet. You can also use a cap from a soda or water bottle to make small rounds. Gather up extra dough pieces and roll out again or roll into small balls and flatten with your thumb. Use up all that luscious dough!

Bake for 1 hour at 300 degrees. Turn off heat and leave the snacks in the oven for 1 hour or longer.  Recipe makes about 2 pounds of snacks.


1 Comment

Remembering Ricky

IMG_20181031_153303439.jpg

I found this delicate little bird’s nest last week, lying in the yard under one of the Willow Oaks.  I say “found”, but it really seemed as though it was placed there for me to see.  Such a tiny little work of art, with a tiny little oak leaf laying perfectly along the bottom, the entire inside lined with Ricky’s fur.

Ricky left more than his fair share of German Shepherd fur strewn about the house and the yard during shedding season.  After he died this summer, I gathered and scattered the fur he left behind on his bed. I dropped some under the Apple Tree, where he loved to pick up apples and eat them.  I scattered some under the Maple Tree, where we laid him in the shade when he couldn’t walk anymore.  I scattered some among the Creeping Phlox, where we would find him laying amongst the lavender flowers, even though I would grumble and scold him for crushing my treasured “purple flowers”. He would turn his ears and look away, as if to say, “Mission accomplished!  You’re here, standing beside me, paying attention to me.  That’s all I ever wanted.”

I held some up in the palm of my hand, at twilight, and let the breeze take it. 

And now, in late October, two weeks after the remains of Hurricane Michael blew through and tossed trees and limbs to the ground, this tiny nest is resting, intact, on the grass, as if it just fluttered down from its perch in the tree.  Carefully and lovingly crafted by a mother and perhaps a father to be a snug, cozy cradle for their little ones.  Did the tears flow when I picked it up and realized what was in it?  Oh yes, they did.  And then I smiled.  Remembering Ricky.  💖

celtic-knot-e1541018773990.png

011IMG_20180325_145133294

 


Leave a comment

Colors of Earth – Persistence

On this last day of October, the sun is warm, the sky is clear blue, and the crickets are singing in the shady spots.  Almost overnight, warm tones of burgundy, burnt orange, and gold have begun to show in the tree tops.  But many of the beauties of summer remain steadfast – Colors of Persistence.

Lantana and Blue Chip Buddleia – blooming profusely since May.  A popular source of nectar for pollinators – butterflies, moths, bees, and hummingbirds – always a busy place in summer!  Shade and cover for the little Blue Tailed Skinks and Toads.

Mint, contained in a pot for sanity’s sake, & still flavoring my water, along with a little fresh lemon juice.

The 3 photos along the bottom are part of my “embracing native plants” scheme.  I stopped using any kind of herbicide or pesticide in 2001.  Considered to be weeds by many,  I find them to be beautiful.  I’ve no idea what the tiny purple flowered plant is, but it seems to be co-existing nicely with the Clover – maybe they’re working together to put nitrogen back in to the soil?  Daisy Fleabane, center photo, pops up along the fringes of mown lawn, along the creek buffer, amongst the gone-to-seed asparagus, at the base of the grapevines.  The tiny daisy-like flowers persist from June until the first hard freeze.  Cradling the Cedar logs – Creeping Charlie (Ground Ivy), spreading profusely in the shady spots, where nothing else wants to grow and hold the soil.  Ok, I admit, this one is out of control as soon as you blink your eyes!  But it persists here in the Southeast for much of the winter, holding the soil in place during winter rains, lending a bit of green to the winter landscape, and bursting in to a carpet of lavender flowers in Spring.  I’ve found that it even appears to choke out Poison Ivy.  And, since its tendrils remain on the ground, it doesn’t become a nuisance by climbing up into the shrubs and trees.  I spent many hours, dollars, and more energy than I care to admit waging battle on Ground Ivy in the past – pulling, raking, tilling, boraxing – you name it, I tried it.  I’m much happier now that I choose to see its positive attributes, instead of just the negative ones.  Perhaps there is a lesson in that for all of us, in other areas of life?

IMG_20181031_131620571

And, here, much loved Impatiens and Licorice are still bursting out of the flower box at the kitchen window!  Greeting me in the morning while the coffee brews, brightening my thoughts while I slog through the pile of dirty dishes, providing an anchor point for the Brown Box Spider’s delicate web, and attracting insects for the Blue Tailed Skinks to  hunt from the window sill.


1 Comment

Aaahhh – Autumn!

IMG_20180824_084429968

Autumn mornings: sunshine and crisp air, birds and calmness, year’s end and day’s beginnings.

~ Terri Guillemets 

This morning was a lovely, quintessential autumn morn – cloudless bright blue sky, crisp clear air, warm sunshine, a light breeze rustling the leaves. The only thing missing – autumn leaves – colored leaves.  Most of the trees and shrubs are still clothed in green. At first glance it still looks like summer!

But the birds know.  Gone are the Hummingbirds and the Wood Thrush – they have moved to their winter homes.  The bright yellow Gold Finches have donned their winter plumage.  The Blue Jays, Robins, and Eastern Bluebirds are flocking together.  This morning I counted six Blue Jays in and under the Willow Oaks, feasting on the tiny acorns.  There was a bustle of activity on the lawn, the edge of road, and the neighbor’s front lawn, as a good-sized flock of Robins and Bluebirds landed and fanned out – visiting the water saucers, looking for tasty morsels on the ground, and picking the tiny seeds out of the chickweed that I haven’t pulled out of the flower beds.

I’ve been an admirer of the feathered ones for as long as I can remember.  I am continuously amazed by them.  There is always something new to learn from observing them, listening to them, and just being aware of them.

This year, even though we have a small stream running through our property and a large pond down the road a ways, I decided to put out some water saucers for the birds and the critters.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the number and diversity of visitors!  Cardinals, Robins, Gold Finches, Purple Martins, Sparrows, Bluebirds…. butterflies…..beautiful Blue Mud Daubers….even a Rabbit standing on her tiptoes!

Who would have thought that such a simple offering would draw such a crowd?

 


3 Comments

Pasta Inspiration

I was inspired yesterday.  Inspired to prepare and consume wholesome, simple, delicious food! After watching the first episode of Samin Nosrat’s Netflix series, Salt Fat Acid Heat , I rummaged through my frig and pantry to see if I had the necessary ingredients for one of my favorite pasta dishes.

Although not the incredible aged Parmigiano-Reggiano from Italy that Samin featured on her show, I had shredded Parmesan in a plastic pouch from the grocery store.  High class all the way, baby!! Although not fresh handmade pasta – also featured on the show, I had a box of average, run of the mill fettuccine in my pantry. I did have a nice fresh bottle of Italian Carapelli Oro Verde EVOO. And a can of California ripe olives. The stars were aligned!  The pasta prep could begin!

I have been making this dish for eons.  Well, since the early ‘90s actually, which, most days, seems like eons ago.  I used to follow the recipe to a T. Now I am lazy and tend to avoid / combine a couple of the steps.  Main reason – I absolutely abhor peeling and seeding tomatoes, and will do just about anything to avoid that task.  Besides, I like the skins and the seeds – they add flavor and texture.  So, for correctness sake, I’ve included the recipe in its original form.  If you choose to make the dish, you can make the call on how you want to handle the tomatoes.  I do not peel nor seed my tomatoes, I simple cut them into large chunks and cook them along with the peppers and garlic.  I will tell you that I have used fresh heirloom tomatoes, cherry/grape tomatoes, even canned tomatoes, and have been pleased with each.  Yesterday I used a package of Wild Wonders Gourmet Medley , and I love the variety of colors and flavors they brought to the dish.

IMG_20181016_185922591

Pasta with Broccoli and Tomatoes

  • 1 lb fresh broccoli
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes
  • 1 large sweet red paper, cut into chunks
  • ½ lb spaghetti, fettuccini, or penne pasta
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 can ripe olives, pitted and sliced
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped Italian parsley
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese

Cut broccoli into small florets with about an inch of stem. Peel the remaining stems and dice into small pieces.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add salt and submerge tomatoes for about 10-20 seconds. Remove. Peel and seed tomatoes; cut in to large pieces.

Add broccoli to boiling water and cook 3-4 minutes, until just tender.  Remove and plunge into a bowl of ice water to stop cooking and to retain the bright green color.  Drain and set aside.  (Note: in my current lazy state, I eliminate this step and simply drop the broccoli in to cook with the pasta about 5 minutes before the pasta will be al dente).

Add a few drops of olive oil to the boiling water, drop in the pasta, and stir.

While pasta is cooking, warm olive oil in a skillet with garlic and red pepper flakes.  When hot, add tomatoes and sweet red pepper chunks.  Cook for several minutes over low to medium heat.

When pasta is just about done, return the broccoli to the water to warm, then pour pasta and broccoli into a colander.  Transfer to a large warm serving bowl. Add the tomato mixture, black olives, parsley, black pepper and toss.

Serve with plenty of freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese and crusty Italian bread.

Generously serves 2 to 3 hungry folks. Cibo delizioso!!


3 Comments

As I See It

Monsoon Sunrise, photo by SharonIMG95201808309506103795HDR

When you arise in the morning,

give thanks for the morning light,

for your life and strength.

Give thanks for your food

and the joy of living.

If you see no reason for giving thanks,

the fault lies in yourself.

 ~ Tecumseh

Earth Prayers from Around the World

 

Stymied, waylaid, paralyzed, sad, disappointed, angry, hopeless, helpless.  Dismayed.

I have found myself feeling all of the above at many times over the last several months –

 for Us, Now

for Earth and All of Her Inhabitants, Now

for the Future

for the Young, the Old, the Middle Aged

for Those who have worked tirelessly for close to a century to try and repair the damage that was and is being done

for those of Us who have the choice to make better decisions, but who choose not to

for Those who don’t have choices

for Those who don’t have the opportunity to learn

for the Innocents whose wisdom and voices are ignored

I was quite taken by the beauty of the Monsoon Sunrise that my friend Sharon was lucky to witness and photograph.  She graciously shared it with me.  I kept going back to her text message – looking at the photo again and again.  It was speaking to me.

Initially, I intended to focus this blog on Goodness – as I see It. I had no intention of giving space to the opposite.

I do hold the belief, however, that Light is defined, to some extent, by Darkness.  Likewise, with Right & Wrong, Love & Hate, Kindness & Aggression, Peace & War, and…………Good & Evil. Reasoning then, that acknowledging the Dark allows the Light to shine even brighter; that witnessing Wrong may move Us to take action for Right.

So, going forward, I’ll be giving some space in this blog to the opposite of Goodness – as I see It and feel It – as background and contrast to Goodness.  It is my hope and my belief that this will allow the seeds of Goodness to germinate profusely, create great and strong networks of root structures, grown en masse, and thus create an inhospitable environment for Evil, or whatever you wish to call the opposite of Good.

And, so it is that my dear friend’s photo of this unusual and beautiful sunrise has been softly speaking to me.  I hope it speaks to you too.

There are always two voices sounding in our ears – the voice of fear and the voice of confidence.  One is the clamor of the senses, the other is the whispering of the higher self. 

~ Charles B. Newcomb