Garden · Home · New Favorite

Layered Baked Ratatouille

Ratatouille is a vegetable side dish filled with wonderful flavors.  Every time I say the word ‘Ratatouille’ I have to smile and think of the Disney animated film Ratatouille. The young rat, Remy, dreams of becoming a famous French chef.  Such a funny film, great to watch with children, grandchildren or in the privacy of your own adult home…no one needs to know you’re watching a cartoon!

Celebrate after watching the film by enjoying the real deal!

LAYERED BAKED RATATOUILLE

2 cups (16 oz.) crushed tomatoes
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 small onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. fresh thyme leaves (or 1 tsp dry) (plus more for sprinkling)
½ tsp. salt (plus more for sprinkling)
¼ tsp. pepper (plus more for sprinkling)
2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced*
2 medium yellow squash, thinly sliced*
2 small eggplant, thinly sliced*
2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1” squares
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese, to top (optional)

  • Preheat oven to 375F.
  • Spread 1 tbsp. olive oil in the bottom of a 9 inch cast iron skillet. In a small bowl, mix the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, onion, garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into the base of your skillet.
  • Layer the sliced vegetables vertically around the skillet, packing them as tight as you can. (We find that it is easier to layer the zucchini, squash, and eggplant in the skillet and then go back in and tuck the red peppers within the layers after the other vegetables have been filled in.)
  • Season the top of the vegetables with additional salt, pepper, and thyme. Drizzle with more olive oil.
  • Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until bubbly and the vegetables are softened and starting to brown slightly.
  • Garnish with Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Recipe from Curiouscuisinere.com

Family · Family Favorites · Home

Scalloped Potatoes with Ham

Scalloped Potatoes with Ham in comfort food for the soul.  My Mother often made a version of Scalloped Potatoes with Ham and I have made in in the crock pot for years.  I wanted a new version, and loved this recipe.

While perusing the reviews, several people added additional seasoning to the sauce, parboiled the potatoes, added broccoli, etc.  This is a solid base recipe that you can use to get creative.  In the photos below, I did not cover the dish while baking and it took a solid hour to cook.  It is delicious ad comforting…just what we all need!

SCALLOPED POTATOES WITH HAM

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups milk
Salt & Pepper
1 tablespoon butter
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
4 large russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
12 ounces 1/4 inch sliced baked ham, cubed
2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a baking dish.
  • In a saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium high heat. Stir in flour and cook for 1 minute. Remove saucepan from heat and whisk in milk. Return pan to heat and bring to a simmer while stirring. When sauce has thickened remove from heat, season with salt and pepper and set aside.
  • In a skillet, cook onions in melted butter until golden brown. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Spread 1/3 of the white sauce in bottom of baking dish and top with half of the potatoes. Spread out half of the onions, ham, cheese and another third of the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. Continue layering ingredients, ending with the remaining cheese on top. Bake, covered, for 45 mintues.  Remove cover and bake another 15 minutes or until golden and bubbly.
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January 1, 2021

January 1, 2021

We made it! At 12:01 am on Jan 1, for the first time ever, Hindsight will actually be 2020.  Hindsight means it is easier to evaluate situations when we are looking back at them, and with perfect vision (20/20). 

2020 was a year filled with isolation, fear, skepticism, loneliness, tragedy, depression, addiction, brain fog, strife, injustice, sacrifice, and much more. We learned so much about ourselves and the tremendous strength and perseverance we hold in times of difficulty.

Turning the calendar to 2021 doesn’t change everything, but what it gives us HOPE.  Hope, by definition, is a feeling of expectation and desire for certain things to happen.

Which brings me to my favorite bible verse from childhood, Hebrews 11:1 (KJV), memorized in the southeast Sunday school room of our church in rural central Iowa, the Carlton Brethren Church

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

It’s as if this verse was ingrained in my mind for hope then and for this very moment. As we begin this year, my wish and prayers for 2021 are:

  • To experience peace
  • To be gentle with ourselves
  • To be kind and gentle with others
  • To be grateful for all we have
  • To breathe
  • To see the beauty around us
  • To stay connected
  • To remember what matters most in our lives
  • To experience rest and joy
  • To have good health and an end to the pandemic
  • To continue to see humor in the everyday things

Wishing you a Happy New Year filled with many blessings!

Home · New Favorite · Vegan · Vegetarian

Spicy Peanut Soup with Sweet Potato and Kale

Wonderful, yummy Spicy Peanut Soup with Sweet Potato and Kale is a new favorite.  I first enjoyed this soup at a Bunco gathering a few years ago and I asked for the recipe.  The source, Pinch of Yum, is a favorite site for my daughters and I and this recipe doesn’t disappoint.

The title says ‘spicy’ but with one chopped jalapeno, it was not hot at all.  If you truly want it hot, I would suggest adding 2+ jalapenos.  With this batch, I only added the curry powder, but next time I will add the tumeric.

This soup is Vegan and Vegetarian.  If you would like protein, adding some shredded chicken would be delicious.  It’s fall y’all, and I’m cooking up a soup storm!

SPICY PEANUT SOUP WITH SWEET POTATO & KALE

2 tablespoons olive oil
half an onion, diced
1 jalapeño, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 14-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes1
14-ounce can light coconut milk
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon curry and/or turmeric
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
1/4 cup peanut butter
1–2 cups kale, stems removed, chopped

  • Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat and add the onion, garlic, and jalapeño. Saute until soft and fragrant.
  • Add sweet potatoes. I like to brown them a little bit with the aromatics to get them nice and flavorful.
  • Add tomatoes, coconut milk, water, spices, and peanuts. Simmer until sweet potatoes are fork-tender.
  • Add peanut butter and kale. Simmer until everything is thick, creamy, and delicious. Top with more peanuts and a little cilantro if you’re obsessed like me.

NOTES

Instant Pot: Cook everything except peanut butter and kale on high pressure for about 3 minutes with a quick release. (Sometimes I reduce the liquid when I make it in the Instant Pot by a cup or so, and then just add more as needed when it’s all done. But that is optional – it should work fine either way.) Stir in the peanut butter and kale after cooking. Voila!

Slow Cooker: Cook everything except peanut butter and kale on low for 6 hours. Stir in the peanut butter and kale. Don’t cook the sweet potatoes too long or they’ll fall apart on ya! Just cook until they pierce easily with a fork.

One last note. This recipe is inspired by an amazing West African recipe called maafe, or groundnut soup. I did what I always do and changed/added some ingredients based on what I love and what I had on hand (kale, jalapeño, coconut milk, cilantro, etc.) making it more of a cultural mash-up. That’s why I’m not calling it a proper West African peanut soup even though those are its roots.

Freezer Meal Version

Freeze Together:
3 cups chopped sweet potatoes, fresh or frozen
jalapeños, minced
half of an onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
1 14-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
1 14-ounce can coconut milk

  1. Instant Pot Instructions: High pressure 8 mins + 10 mins natural release
  2. Slow Cooker Instructions: High setting 6 hours
  3. Final Step: Stir in 1/4 cup peanut butter, 1/2 cup chopped peanuts, and 1-2 cups chopped kale. Add water to thin to desired consistency.
  4. Check out our full freezer meal posts with all recipes and instructions here!

Recipe from Pinch of Yum

Family · Home

My Favorite Things … What’s Keeping Me Sane

Living through a Pandemic was certain not on my wish list but here we are. While I try to keep an upbeat attitude, my first inclination is go dark but I’ve learned that doesn’t accomplish a thing.

Keeping busy with things that interest me is key. I have a long list of ‘to-dos’ that I have been ignoring so … get on it, Cathy! There is yardwork and garden preparation, closets to be cleaned, Shutterfly books to finish, genealogy research to be done, etc. I try to accomplish a little of this each day but self-care and personal connection is most important.

This is day 13 of self isolation except for a very protected trip to get my allergy shot (extreme tree pollen allergies) and porch delivery of my Mom’s chicken and noodles to my girls and their families.

Each day the weather cooperates, I try to go on a long walk. Seeing neighbors outside playing with their children, sitting on their front porch or simply waving to neighbors warms my heart.  The two best experiences while walking were 1) encountering a family of dinosaurs with Mom and little daughter in full dinosaur costumes and Dad in a mask; 2) completing a chalk lava field drawn by a child on their sidewalk.  I love to see such creativity!

Talking with my girls and my grandchildren is saving me, too.  My grandchildren are ages 6, 4, 3 and 1.  The opportunity to read books, have dance parties, and just play via video chat is a wonderful capability that we all can enjoy.  Talking with friends, Virtual yoga with my Hot Flash yoga pals, virtual happy hour with our local winery, and family Zoom sessions also help to keep me connected.

I’ve not been to the store since Friday, March 13 but I have plenty to eat.  My Mother taught us to always have a full pantry and freezer and now is the time to use it!  To conserve on eggs, I’ve shifted my daily egg to a breakfast cake I’m loving with a dollop or yogurt!



BREAKFAST CAKE


2 mashed bananas
1.4 cups oatmeal
2 beaten eggs
3 cups berries (fresh, frozen or canned/drained–even less works just fine)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

  • Mix together and placed in greased pan (about 8×10″) and bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. Cut in squares.
  • I heat a square of breakfast cake in the microwave for 20 seconds and then add a dollop of Greek Yogurt. So yummy!

This experience causes me to think back to the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic and the hardship of those times.  What did our ancestors do in quarantine, usually with a multitude of children and no chance of grocery delivery or the care of today’s modern medicine.  My Grandma Susie would be slaving over a hot wood cookestove in a very tiny house, with 4 little kids running underfoot.  To my knowledge, no one in our family died during that time but I do not know who may have contracted the disease, either.  

A friend shared with me that her Grandmother had written a journal during the time of the Spanish Flu and she has been reading it.  It prompted her to start a journal for her grandchildren.  What a great idea! I am not a journal kind of person, but this is such a unique time in our lives, that I think it is important to document what this experience has been like.  Perhaps we can actually learn from our mistakes in the future.

In closing let me thank everyone who is sacrificing their own safety to care for the people of the United States. You are our true heroes!

God Bless and Stay Well!

 

Family · Garden · Home · Home

Our Robin Adventure

May 7,  I stepped onto my front porch and noticed a few unsightly weeds hanging from my front porch light.  I pulled them down and went about my day.  The next morning, lo and behold, there was a beautiful nest perched on top of the porch light.

I marveled at the intelligence of Mama and Papa Robin, selecting a nest site that was under the cover of the porch and warmed by the light 24x 7 because they built the nest over the light sensor!

On May 12, the eggs started to appear, first two, then a total of 5.  The Colorado May weather was unusually cold so Mama was on the nest most of the time.

 

Mama Robin lays her eggs May 12-15

Excitement was building as our family watched the Robin’s nest with great anticipation.  The grandkids were so excited to see photos and watch the wonder of nature.

Fifteen days later the eggs started to hatch, one by one.  To be able to see (never touch) these sweet babies up close was amazing.  The nest was too tall to actually look into the nest, iphone photos and video to the rescue (centering of the photos was often an issue).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mama and Daddy Robin were consumed with feeding these hungry babies and they became very protective whenever we stepped out on the porch, swooping by and touching my hair to give warning.

Eleven days after the first hatch, two of the babies flew from the nest.

June 8: Two babies prepare to leave the nest

Mama was talking to them and away they went.  A few days later the last two babies also left the nest.  Their soaring abilities were very good and I hope they have learned to soar and be safe.

In the meantime, the grandkids are disappointed that the birds are gone, as am I.  Thank you, Mother Nature, for the great adventure and we hope we’ll have the opportunity again next year.

Below is a link to a short video of our Robin Adventure.

Family · Family Favorites · Holidays · Home

Thanksgiving Family Favorites

And these are a few of my favorite things!  Wishing you all a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends.

CRANBERRY RELISH

CRANBERRY BREAD

PUMPKIN PIE

The Best Ever Pumpkin Pie

PUMPKIN BREAD

PUMPKIN BARS

QUINOA WITH ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH, PINE NUTS, FETA

ROASTED BRUSSEL SPROUTS, CINNAMON SQUASH, PECANS & DRIED CHERRIES

TURKEY AND DRESSING

TURKEY VEGETABLE SOUP

Czech Heritage · Family Favorites · Holidays · Home · My Roots

Cherry Kolaches, our Christmas Day Tradition

The gifts are wrapped, the house is decorated, and the baking is done. This year I thought I’d take a break from making Kolaches for Christmas Day until I mentioned this to my family. WHAT? BREAKING FROM TRADITION? So, I will not break the tradition and made them today.  The truth is I love them as much as my daughters and their families.

This year I used my Mother’s Foundation sweet dough which she used for cinnamon rolls and Kolaches. My KitchenAid mixer makes easy work of making bread instead of taxing my arthritic wrists. The past several batches of bread I’ve made from standard flour have been too dense, so I decided to try King Arthur’s unbleached bread flour. I loved the result with a very light sweet dough that melts in your mouth.

The cherry filling started with a bucket of frozen sour cherries I purchased at the Farmer’s Market last summer. img_8562

There is nothing better than the taste of those cherries. Truly, I could eat a bowl of the cherry filling and forget the bread dough!

I also make a dozen chocolate kolaches which started as a request by one of son-in-laws, now a family favorite as well.  I simply put chocolate chips (or this year a dove milk chocolate square) in the middle of the dough ball and then pinch it closed.  Let it rise to double in size then bake. When you remove from the oven, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar.

img_8552

Another tradition for our Christmas Day celebration is the Nordic Kringla.  Turns out Kringla is a big hit with my 3 year old grandson and 1 year old granddaughter.  My 6 week old grandson has yet to weigh in…but next year…

Wishing all a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful and healthy New Year!

CHERRY KOLACHES, our Christmas Day Tradition

Mom’s Foundation Sweet Dough

2 cakes (Packages) yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup lukewarm water
1 cup milk
6 tablespoons shortening (I used unsalted butter)
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
6-7 cups flour (I used 6 cups King Arthur Bread Flour)
3 eggs, beaten

  • Dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in lukewarm water. Set aside to soften and rise.
  • Scald milk.  Add shortening, sugar and salt; cool to lukewarm. Add 2 cups flour to make a batter.  Add the yeast mixture and beaten eggs, and beat well.
  • Add remaining flour or enough to make a soft dough. Knead lightly and place in greased bowl. Cover and let set in warm place, free from draft.  Let rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
  • When light, punch dough down and shape in balls about the size of a walnut and place on a greased cookie sheet. Let rise for 10 minutes
  • When risen, push the centers of balls down and fill with cherry filling (or filling of your choice).  Let rise again.
  • Bake at preheated 400 degree oven (375 degrees for convectional oven) for about 7 minutes or until golden brown.

Cherry Filling
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup juice from cherries
3 cups pitted tart red cherries (water pack)
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon red food coloring

Combine 3/4 cup sugar with cornstarch.  Stir in cherry juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, till mixture thickens and bubbles; cook 1 minute longer.  Add remaining sugar, cherries, butter, and food coloring and cook until thickened. (Mixture will be very thick.)  Let stand while preparing bread dough for Kolaches.

Reference:

KOLACHE … Bohemian Heritage and Christmas Tradition

Family · Garden · Home · New Favorite · Vegan · Vegetarian

Roasted Tomato, Sausage and Pesto Sauce

Fall brings the bounty of tomatoes, basil and much more. Older daughter, Megan, told me about a roasted tomato and pesto sauce she made. I tweaked it a bit to serve my tastes. I love the idea of adding pesto to a rich, red tomato sauce. It was delicious and definitely a new recipe for my collection.

ROASTED TOMATO AND PESTO SAUCE

1 pound Italian sausage, cooked and drained
3 cups roasted tomatoes and peppers, cooled and blended (recipe below)
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
3-4 garlic cloves, diced
Cube of pesto (about 1/3 cup)
26.5 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes, chopped or blended
1 cup water
1 tablespoon fresh, chopped basil
1 pound cooked pasta (I used bow tie pasta) and 1 cup of pasta water
Parmesan Cheese (optional)

  • Core and slice tomatoes. Halve and remove seeds from peppers.
  • Arrange the tomatoes and peppers on a heavy cookie sheet (I line with parchment paper).  Drizzle with Avocado oil and sprinkle with sea salt or kosher salt.
  • Roast at 400 degrees until the edges of the vegetables start to char and are cooked through.
  • Blend the mixture to a smooth consistency.
  • Cook and drain the sausage. Drain and set aside.
  • Sauté onions in olive oil and when almost cooked through, add the garlic. Continue to salute until garlic is cooked through.
  • Add roasted tomatoes and peppers, pesto, San Marzano tomatoes, water, basil and sausage.
  • Heat thoroughly.
  • Add 1 cup of pasta water to sauce. Stir.  Add drained, cooked pasta, and stir to mix thoroughly.
  • Serve with Parmesan cheese.
Family · Family Favorites · Home · My Roots

Halloween Memories

Halloween on the farm was a far different experience than my current city experience. Childhood costumes were simple, always with a hot plastic or rubber mask. Note our fancy trick or treat bags! We couldn’t run from house to house but instead our parents drove us to our neighbors farms.  We collected wonderful home-made goodies while our parents visited for a while.  At the end of the night, we visited 6 to 8 houses but came home with luscious home-made popcorn balls, cookies, caramel apples, and full size candy bars.

Halloween on the Farm about 1959

My children never experienced the wonders of home-made goodies, ruined by the scare of Halloween candy tampering.  None-the-less, they had a wonderful time running from house to house in our suburban neighborhood yelling ‘trick or treat’ and collecting their Halloween bounty. Masks were not a favorite (thank goodness) but costumes were pretty traditional and fun. Our AT&T office hosted a family Halloween party letting the kids gather treats at each office and cubicle. Good times!

Sarah Mom Megan Halloween 1990

Fast forward to 2015 and grandson, Evan’s, Halloween experience.  His favorite character today is from the movie FROZEN and we were fortunate enough to find the darling OLAF costume on Amazon.com.

Evan as Olaf

Evan has been to his first corn maze and is in awe of the amazing (and sometimes scary) Halloween decorations. He’ll be out gathering treats in the neighborhood and celebrating with his little friends.  As his little 3 year old girlfriend says, they’ll be out ‘Candy Tricking’.  Love this age!

Next Halloween we’ll have a baby girl in our family joining the Halloween fun. We’ll anxiously await the arrival of ‘lil pumpkin in November.

Wishing you all a safe and wonderful Halloween!