Summer Recipes on Our Gravel Road

In August, most of our meals revolve around what comes in our weekly CSA share and what’s in season at the grocery store. Since many fruits and veggies are available for a very short time, I’ve been cooking family favorite recipes rather than trying new ones. That’s why today’s post is a parade of the previously published recipes that have been prepared in our kitchen lately.

1. Today's post is a parade of the previously published recipes that have been prepared in our kitchen lately using seasonal produce.To use up tomatoes, sweet peppers, and jalapenos we’ve been making double batches of this delicious summer salsa. This summer’s new twist has been to cut the corn off two ears of sweet corn, microwave it for a minute, and add it to the salsa. How can something good for a person be so sinfully good?

2.  Today's post is a parade of the previously published recipes that have been prepared in our kitchen lately using seasonal produce.

Summer heat’s been great for the basil in my herb garden. I’ve lost count of how many batches of pesto we’ve made. We make non-dairy basil pesto, which is as tasty as the regular version.

3.  Today's post is a parade of the previously published recipes that have been prepared in our kitchen lately using seasonal produce.Most of the pesto goes in the freezer to be used throughout the winter. But some of it gets added to pesto pasta, to which we add summer vegetables that need to be used: zucchini and grape tomatoes are two faves.

4. Today's post is a parade of the previously published recipes that have been prepared in our kitchen lately using seasonal produce.Peanut chicken stir fry is another summer favorite at our house because we can add whatever veggies are available. Our favorite is Joni’s Cashew Chicken, garnished with peanuts instead of cashews. You can find other stir fry recipes by typing “chicken stir fry” in the Gravel Road search box.

5. Today's post is a parade of the previously published recipes that have been prepared in our kitchen lately using seasonal produce.With peach season going strong, we’ve been eating a lot of peach pie for dessert. This morning I made two for supper with friends tonight. This fresh peach pie recipe can’t be beat.

So what’s cooking in your late summer kitchen? Leave a link to your favorite recipe in the comment box if you like.

Three Thoughts for Thursday

Italian Wedding Soup, leftovers, and stir fry–perfect meals for Thanksgiving week other than Turkey Day.You know how all the Thanksgiving week attention is focused on the Turkey Day meal? Well this year, we discovered how important the before and after meals are by inadvertently serving the perfect dishes on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.

  1. Perfect supper the day before Thanksgiving: Italian Wedding Soup.
  2. Perfect food for the day after Thanksgiving: Leftovers, especially tapioca fruit salad for breakfast.
  3. Perfect Saturday supper the night before the company leaves: stir fry with l-o-t-s of veggies. Cashew Chicken for instance.

What are your perfect meals for before and after Thanksgiving? Leave a comment.

Kung Pao Chicken for Two

Kung Pao Chicken

Today’s recipe injected a ray of sunshine into February’s winter-induced gloom at our house. It comes from Deborah Vogts’ Country at Heart blog, which features recipes by many of her fellow authors. Bonnie Doran submitted the original recipe for two. Other than adding more vegetables and cutting down the amount of oil, my version is the same as original. By the way, this recipe not only received Hiram’s coveted seal of approval, but he’s also declared it his new favorite meal. Which means, from now on I’ll be doubling the recipe!

Kung Pao Chicken for Two

1/2 pound boneless chicken breasts (about 1), cubed
1 egg white
4 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 bunch green onions, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup red sweet pepper cut into bite-sized pieces
1/4 cup grape seed oil
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1/2 cup peanuts

In small bowl, combine chicken, egg white, 3 teaspoons cornstarch and 1 tablespoon soy sauce; mix well. Refrigerate 1 hour.

Blend remaining corn starch, soy sauce, sugar , and dry sherry.

In wok or dutch oven, heat oil. Stir chicken mixture and spoon into hot oil. Stir-fry until chicken turns white, about 1 minute. Remove chicken to plate lined with paper towels and drain. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon oil. Add red pepper and cooked chicken; stir-fry 1 minute. Add sherry mixture to chicken mixture. Stir over high heat until mixture is coated with a light glaze. Stir in peanuts, scallions, and sweet red pepper. Serve immediately. Serves 2.

Noodle Stir Fry

Noodle Stir Fry

Vegetable season is here, and I’m constantly looking for recipes that can be easily adapted to use whatever produce is in our weekly CSA share. When sugar snap peas, my favorite stir fry veggie of all time, I pulled out a recipe for Noodle Stir Fry that was in the Hy-Vee Season’s Magazine and gave it a try.

The original recipe is gluten-free, as it calls for soba noodles, made with buckwheat. Since that’s not an issue at our house, I used thin spaghetti noodles and vegetables on hand. The original recipe made 8 1 1/4 cup servings, but this one makes about half as much. We liked it, especially the heat provided by the crushed, red pepper flakes.

Noodle Stir Fry

6 ounces thin spaghetti noodles
4 tablespoons almond butter
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, divided
1/2 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 cups fresh broccoli florets
1 pint sugar snap peas, strings removed
1 red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, cut into bite-sized cubes
2 cups cabbage or bok choy, trimmed and thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain. Rinse with cold water. Drain again. Set aside.

For sauce, put almond butter, water, vinegar, soy sauce and red pepper flakes in a gravy shaker. Shake well and set to the side.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil in very large skillet or wok. Add broccoli; stir-fry 2 minutes. Add peppers, peas, and cabbage; stir-fry 4 to 5 minutes or until crisp tender. Pour vegetables onto a large platter.

Add remaining oil to pan. Add chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes or until no longer pink. Add vegetables, noodles, and sauce to skillet. Cook and toss gently 2 to 3 minutes or until heated thoroughly. Serve immediately.

Peanut Chicken with Cherry Tomatoes

Today’s recipe was born of desperation. Desperation to find a new way to use the abundance of cherry tomatoes in our CSA bag every week. Apparently, since several other gardeners have mentioned plentiful supplies of the little things, this summer’s heat was perfect for a bumper crop for gardeners who watered their plants.

Those of you in that predicament may want to give this dish a whirl. It’s not a new recipe, but the latest twist on one of our favorite stir fry dishes, Joni’s Cashew Chicken. Consider serving it over brown rice, our newest bow to healthier living, but put the rice pot on the stove earlier than regular rice. Brown needs at least an extra 10 minutes of cooking time or the end result will be watery and unpleasantly chewy. (Don’t ask me how I know this.)

Peanut Chicken with Cherry Tomatoes

3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons peanut butter
3 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons peanut sauce
4 tablespoons sesame or peanut oil
1/2 cup raw peanuts
1 whole chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
3 cups onions, cleaned and quartered, with layers separated
2 cup peeled carrots, sliced into thin, one inch pieces
2  cups sweet red pepper, washed, seeded, and cut into half-inch pieces
2 – 3 cups cherry tomatoes, washed and halved

Sauce: Combine soy sauce, peanut butter and honey in a 1 cup measuring cup. Heat in the microwave for one minute on high. Stir until peanut butter is mostly melted. Add peanut sauce to mixture and set it aside.

Turn burner to high and heat 1 tablespoon of oil in large frying pan or wok. Add peanuts and stir for one minute, until they begin to brown. Spoon them onto paper towels to drain.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in pan. Add vegetables, except for the tomatoes, one kind at a time, at one minute intervals. (Add the thickest first and work down to thinnest. In this mixture, the order was carrots, peppers, onions.) Pour cooked vegetables into a large bowl.

Heat final tablespoon of oil in pan. Turn burner to medium high and add chicken. Stir until meat is completely cooked and begins to brown.

Add vegetable mixture and stir for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and stir for 1 more minute. Pour sauce over all and stir until the stir fry ingredients are coated and sauce is bubbly.

Spoon mixture onto a bed of rice and sprinkle with peanuts. Serve hot.

Summer Veggie Stir Fry Medley

Summer vegetables are stacking up in the refrigerator at an alarming rate thanks to our weekly CSA share. So I’m getting desperate creative at coming up with new ways to disguise serve veggies at mealtime.

The other night, I combined a zucchini, a couple red and yellow peppers, and a bag of yellow string beans (aka: the contents of the vegetable crisper) to create a stir fry Hiram and I loved. To top it all off, I was able to use fresh herbs from my new herb garden, the contents of which are growing like weeds despite the heat.

Here’s my recipe, but don’t be afraid to substitute with vegetables and herbs threatening to overtake your refrigerator and garden!

Summer Veggie Stir Fry Medley

1 zucchini or summer squash, peeled and cut into half-inch cubes
1 pound green or yellow string beans, snapped and cut into 1 inch slices
1 red or yellow sweet pepper, cut into 1 inch chunks
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons olive oil

Heat oil in wok or skillet on high, then turn down to medium-high. Stir fry beans for 2 minutes. Add squash. Stir fry until the outside of the squash starts to soften and then add peppers. Stir fry for 2 minutes longer and then add garlic, rosemary, and thyme. Mix well and sprinkle salt over the top. Stir fry 1 more minute and serve hot.

Peanut-Lemon Stir Fry

Last week and this week, our CSA share has included one of my favorite summer treats – sugar snap peas. Often, I stir fry them solo in olive oil, with a dash of crushed garlic and kosher salt added at the last minute.

But I also like to make them part of a main course, so last week I threw together this peanut-lemon dish using whatever was in the fridge. My, oh, my it was so tasty that we’re going to have it again tomorrow night. I’m already drooling at the thought. So give it a try and leave a comment about what you think.

Peanut-Lemon Stir Fry

1 chicken breast, cut in bite-sized pieces
2 cups sugar snap peas, with tops cut off
1 medium onion cut in wedges or 2 bunches green onions, cut in small pieces
1 sweet red pepper, cut into chunks
1/2 cup raw peanuts
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons Thai peanut sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine lemon juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic and red pepper flakes in a bowl. Add chicken and marinate in refrigerator for 1/2 hour or longer.

Put peanuts in a small cake pan and roast in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Cool.

In a small bowl mix together the broth, peanut sauce and corn starch. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in skillet or wok, medium high. Add peas and stir fry for 1 minute. Add pepper and stir fry for another minute. Do the same with the onions. Pour all veggies into a bowl. Heat remaining olive oil and add chicken (but not the marinate). Stir fry until chicken is thoroughly cooked.

While chicken is cooking, add 1/2 cup of marinate to the broth mixture. Stir well. Add mixture to the skillet, stirring constantly, until it bubbles and turns clear. Add vegetables to the skillet, stirring until they are hot and coated with sauce. Sprinkle peanuts on top and serve over rice.

Honey-Mustard Pork Stir Fry

A couple weeks ago, my refrigerator was overflowing with stir fry veggies. But when I went to get chicken breasts from the freezer, we were all out. I rummaged around and came up with a small package of boneless pork chops.

Hmmm.

A a new stir fry meat deserved a new marinate. After some searching, I settled on a honey-mustard marinate meant for grilling. I cut the chops into thin strips and let them marinate for several hours in the fridge.

Hmmm.

How to keep the honey from burning during the stir fry process? I would broil them while stir frying the veggies.

Hooray!

It worked like a charm. So well, in fact, it’s time to share the recipe with you. Give it a try and see what you think. And if you modify/improve upon it, leave a comment so others can try it, too.

Honey-Mustard Pork Stir Fry

1/2 cup honey (I cut this to 1/4 cup and liked it better)
1/4 cup Dijon mustard (regular mustard also works)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, crushed

Whisk ingredients in a bowl. Cut 2 lean boneless pork chops into thin strips. Marinate them in the honey-mustard mixture for at least 30 minutes or as long as you like.

Wash veggies and cut them into bite-sized pieces until you have 4 – 5 cups. We like pea pods, broccoli, cabbage, green onions, carrots, and sweet peppers. Set aside.

Arrange pork strips on a broiler pan. Broil for 5 – 7 minutes. Pour the marinate into a sauce pan. Heat to boiling and let boil 2 – 3 minutes. Remove from oven.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive or peanut oil in a wok or frying pan. Stir fry the vegetables, starting with the hardest, thickest ones (carrots and broccoli) and adding the softer, thinner ones last. Then add pork and stir fry one minute. Add as much marinate as you want and bring it to a boil.

Serve on a bed of rice. Delish!