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Wednesday, 31 December 2014
Topic: Entertaining/Party
I had to go into the recipe collection for this re-post from January 2013-- because I want to make Hoppin'John for tomorrow's Brunch.
It just isn't New Year's Day without blackeyed peas and ham somewhere on the menu. For years, I'd make a crockpot-full for the Emergency Department while we worked the day shift on New Year's Day. But then I was introduced to blackeyed peas and ham in the wonderful recipe for Hoppin' John and I was a convert.
And Joe Spake's recipe for Hoppin' John is the best one to repeat!
Of course, eating blackeyed peas-and-ham is a southern tradition...and I've seen recipes for this without ham for vegetarians...same seasonings but add liquid smoke. And I've done this recipe with lentils and basmati rice and Indian seasonings, so traditions can be bent! Seasonings can be adjusted, new traditions made--after all, it's a New Year! 
Here's the re-post from January 2013: 

My good buddy, Joe Spake “the finest realtor in Memphis”-- has always been very liberal about sharing his wonderful recipes. I am including his very Southern recipe for “Hoppin' John” below. This is a “must do” for January—start the new year off right!Joe will tell you to serve over rice with cornbread!

Joe’s Hoppin’ John

1 pound dry black eyed peas
1 medium onion
1 green bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery
1 can minced tomatoes and peppers (like Rotel®)
2 tsp Dry Italian seasoning
1 tsp ground black pepper
2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 Tbs minced Garlic
2 tsp (or more) powdered Cajun seasoning (I like Konriko)
Tabasco Sauce to taste
4-6 cups cooked rice.

Wash and sort peas and soak in 8 cups of water for 8 hours, and pour off soaking water. Boil hamhock for 20 minutes. In a stock pot add all ingredients, except rice; stir, and add enough water to cover the mixture. Bring to a slow boil and cook 45 minutes, then simmer for another 30 minutes. [Note: I was taught as a child to cook until the peas literally fell apart- if you like the texture of refried beans, cook it longer than instructed.] When peas are tender, check seasons for your taste. Serve over rice, or mix in rice just before serving.


Now,of course I had to make Hoppin' John after reading his recipe and reading the accolades on his blog and FB page.


But—as usually happens—I had to modify to accommodate what I had in my pantry—and adapt a tad to my taste profile. So, here's what I ACTUALLY used.

Karen' s Hoppin' John

½ lb. Black-eyed peas, soaked overnight—Rinse, drain and then simmer in 1 quart of chicken broth with 1 can of Rotel diced tomatoes and chilis and the juice. Simmer with the lid on for a total of 2 hours. Add the ingredients below as you get them prepped.

2 tsp dried Italian seasoning blend, 1/4 (or more!) tsp cayenne pepper

½ onion, chopped, 4 cloves of garlic, minced, 1 bell green pepper, chopped, 3 stalks of celery and the leaves, chopped fine: Cook together in olive oil until soft Add to the pot.

Chop about 1 lb of precooked or leftover ham, add to pot.

When all this has simmered together, then serve over cooked, brown rice.




Posted by Karen at 10:34 CST
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Tuesday, 19 August 2014
Build a Better Burger
Topic: Entertaining/Party

Build a Better Burger

Everyone thinks they have the secret to a great burger, right? But I am going to suggest that, unless you are seasoning within the meat and forming your own patties, you have not yet reached that pinnacle!

Seasoning ground beef patties on the outside is great if you are making blackened, Cajun burgers. Blackening herbs are traditional French herbs de Provence with the addition of salt and cayenne pepper, then applied to the outside of the meat or fish, and fried or grilled over high heat. High heat “blackens” or scorches these externally applied seasonings giving the desired outcome. So, it's not a problem if that's what you want.

But if you are making a custom burger on the grill or pan, is that what you want? Or do you want a juicy burger, seasoned throughout the meat served on the perfect bun and with the perfect acoutrements, depending upon the final product you desire? ( Would you ever make a meat loaf or meatballs by just seasoning the meat on the outside?)

Here's a recipe from Julia Child re-printed on Food Network. Just reading through this recipe will make you re-think your approach to the humble hamburger.


Author: Julia Child

Recipe type: Main

Cuisine: French, Beef

Prep time:  10 mins

Cook time:  15 mins

Total time:  25 mins



  1. In a large pan over medium heat, add 2 tbsp butter and cook the onions slowly for about 10 minutes (until very tender but not browned). Place in a mixing bowl.

  2. Add the beef, soft butter, seasonings, and egg to the onions in the mixing bowl and beat vigorously with a wooden spoon to blend thoroughly. Correct seasoning. Form into patties ¾ inch thick. Cover with waxed paper and refrigerate until ready to use.

  3. Just before sauteing, roll the patties lightly in the flour. Shake off excess flour.

  4. Add 1 tbsp butter and oil to a pan over moderately high heat and when you see the butter foam begin to subside, saute the patties for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, depending on how you like your hamburgers (rare, medium or well done).

  5. Arrange the patties on the serving platter and keep warm for a moment while finishing the sauce. Pour the fat out of the skillet. Add the liquid (broth, wine or water) and boil it down rapidly, scraping up the coagulated pan juices, until it has reduced almost to a syrup. Off heat, swirl leftover butter into the sauce until it is absorbed. Pour the sauce over the hamburgers and serve.


Now that you've read that recipe, think about how you might season your ground beef forming the seasoned meat into patties yourself.

I usually make 2 lbs of ground beef into 8 patties. So, I might take the easy route and put my ground beef into a large bowl. Add an egg, some Worcestershire sauce, a packet of Lipton's dry onion soup mix, maybe toss in some fresh parsley and hand mix. Then I'll divide the thoroughly mixed blend into quarters in the bowl.

Once you have quarters, then each quarter is divided into 2 patties.

Place these on a waxed paper-covered plate with waxed paper in between layers, cover and refrigerate until grilling or pan-frying. You can make patties the night before a party and be ready for company the next day!

Once you make burgers by seasoning the patties throughout the meat with your personal blend of seasonings and “secret ingredients” (maybe even changing the MEAT!!!), and forming your own patties...you'll truly make the best burger!

Posted by Karen at 18:44 CDT
Updated: Monday, 25 August 2014 21:05 CDT
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Friday, 6 June 2014
Make a Banana Split Pie (lower carb, of course!)
Topic: Entertaining/Party

Happy Birthday to my husband! 

Of course, a birthday celebration is in order, and that would normally include a Birthday Cake! But we are always trying to lower those carbs and --by the way--he already had an Atomic Cake from staff at work!

So my mission is to create a celibratory, but not too heavy or carb-y--Happy Birthday dessert.  It's hot, my husband and nephew and a good friend have been making hay for hours and still have more work to go--likely birthday dinner will be late or even deferred until tomorrow. But you have to have something to put a candle on!

So, here's a Banana Split Pie that should fit the bill.

 Banana Split Pie

Make and bake a 9 inch pie crust and cool.

Next, mix  4 oz softened cream cheese with 1 Tbsp milk and 1 tsp vanilla. Add to that, 1/2 of an 8 oz. container of  thawed Cool Whip.

Spread this mixture on the bottom of the baked and cooled pie crust.

Thinly slice 1 ripe banana and layer this on top of the Cool Whip mixture.

Next, whisk together 1& 3/4 cups milk and 1 box of Sugar free, instant Chocolate pudding.  Whisk for about 2 minutes, then spread on top of the banana layer.

Finally, top with the remaining 1/2 carton of Cool Whip. If you want a little fancy, then put this into an icing bag and pump into a pattern on top of the chocolate layer. Or you can just spread on top and even sprinkle some slivered almonds on top if you'd like. 







Posted by Karen at 17:29 CDT
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Sunday, 15 December 2013
Do a couple of nice things for yourself...
Topic: Entertaining/Party

This is one of the most difficult times of  the year in terms of time- management and demands on your time, isn't it? Yet, it's important to remember to treat yourself while you're addressing all of your family and friends' needs.  

Here's an easy recipe for your breadmaker to do--for YOU..

Make  yourself a nice comfort bread--just a little demi-loaf-sized.


 Polish Babka

(makes 1 demi-loaf in the breadmaker)

Set up and prep your breadmaker container with a little spray oil.

Combine the following ingredients together:

¼ cup (½ stick) butter, melted

¼ cup pure cane sugar

2 egg yolks

Mix well.

Add- ½ cup warm milk (temp betw. 90-110 degrees)

½ cup golden raisins

Put the above mixture as the first layer in the bread maker.

Next, add 2 cups of flour (bread flour or all purpose flour) as the next layer.

Make a well in the middle of the flour, add:

¼ tsp of Bread Machine or Rapid-rising yeast (check the date to make sure it's fresh!)

Here's a picture with your layers and well in the breadmaker.

 Start the breadmaker on the “Sweet” bread setting (2h 50 min) or you can use the “Basic” setting (3 h) and use Light or Medium crust.

This makes a very dense, small loaf. 1 slice is substantive especially topped with fresh sweet butter or Farmers cheese or cream cheese-- (and a better choice than a bagel in terms of carb count!)


And, in case you need reminding--did you plant an Amaryllis bulb or two? Maybe you still have your bulbs in the garage from last year- or you've bought some new bulbs? In any case, if you re-pot and water now, in about 3-4 weeks--when the snow is really flying--these blossoms will be there to greet you!




Posted by Karen at 15:55 CST
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Tuesday, 12 November 2013
A Turn of the Seasons: feed the birds, make Bittersweet Brownies
Topic: Entertaining/Party

A Turn of the Season

An early artic blast threw a nasty reminder that Autumn may be briefer than hoped-for and Winter is close at hand. We received some early snowfall dusting accompanied by wind and temperatures in the teens. While we are expecting a short reprieve later in the week, I don't expect it to last for long. The garden now looks like this... (we left the kale in hopes it might stand the cold a little longer, but its pretty frozen today).




That also reminds me to ask you to make sure you're feeding your birds now. If not, your trees are fair-game.




But these woodpeckers are quite willing to use a suet feeder and the female cardinal, in this picture from yesterday afternoon, looks happy to know the feeder is plump with chow.


The turning of seasons...always a bittersweet passage, not for the faint of hearts.

Seems like the perfect day to fill the house with chocolate fragrance, so why not try something fitting like this?

Bittersweet Brownies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, prep a 7”x11” or 8”x8” cake pan.

Melt together :

1 stick of butter

6 oz. semisweet chocolate chips

Remove from stove , add:

1 tsp. Vanilla extract

½ cup pure cane sugar

1 tsp. Instant coffee granules

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup all-purpose flour

½ tsp baking soda

When batter is mixed, you may add additional chocolate chips or toasted nuts, if desired.

Turn batter into the prepped pan and bake 25-30 minutes until done. 

Cool, slice, sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Enjoy in a warm house,looking out through frosty windows as the sun sets at 4:30!

Posted by Karen at 16:04 CST
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Friday, 18 October 2013
Gluehwein and Savory Strudel: Get ready for cold!
Topic: Entertaining/Party

Mulled Wine (Gluehwein) and Savory Strudel

This is unquestionably the time of the year when you will get a chill you just can't shake...

Maybe you were out raking leaves with the blowing wind, or just running through the mist to the mailbox for the mail, or taking the kids out for trick-or-treating in the cold, or you just got your flu shot and you're one of those who feels a “mini”flu hit them.

Or-maybe you were lucky and “no chill for you” but you'd like a recipe for the imminent Winter months or to reward one of those hard-workers doing yard chores on the weekend--

How about making mulled wine, which is called “Gluehwein” in Austria and Germany? And, because you should never drink on an empty stomach—make a savory strudel to accompany it?

I can just see you calling your hubby and the mini-army of guys raking leaves on the block over to your front porch—and serving this “hot toddie” and its accompanying snack! A well-deserved "thank you" for keeping the neighborhood beautiful!

As always, you can adapt these recipes to your tastes and your ingredients!



  "Gluehwein" or 

Mulled Wine

1-750 ml. Bottle of red wine (any will do, including that sweet red wine you want to get rid of!)

Make a sachet or “Tea ball” filled with assorted spices—including: crushed cinnamon stick, star anise, cloves, dried orange and/or lemon peel)

2 tbsp honey (acc. to your taste)

Optional: ¼ c dried raisins, ½ tsp almond extract (this is a nod to Swedish glugg and yes, I used it in my batch)

Also Optional (though I did put it in my batch): Additional 1 cup brandy or Schnapps (this is a nod to German holiday festivals)

Heat to warm, cut off the heat and allow the spices to permeate the liquid for several minutes before serving as a warm beverage. Reheat as needed but keep under boiling. You can also put this in a small crockpot.

Serve in punch cups or small thermal hot cups.

Savory Strudel

Keep it simple !

Defrost a sheet of premade Puff Pastry, roll it out on a floured board.

Fill with your choice Cheese slices and sauteed vegetables.




I used: Swiss cheese, 8 slices.

1 onion, sauteed in olive oil until translucent

then added:

2 cans of sliced mushrooms, drained and cooked with the onion

1 tbsp. Flour

Italian blend seasonings, salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Line a pan with parchment paper.

Roll out your sheet of puff pastry. Layer 4 slices of cheese down the middle.

Top with vegetable mixture. (You can use the equivalent amount of ANY cooked and drained vegetables or –even try something wild like sauerkraut and shredded corned beef—use your imagination!!!)

Top with remaining slices of cheese.

Rollover the sides of the puff pastry. Cut slits on top as shown in the picture above.

Bake at 400 degrees until the crust is browned about 18-20 minutes.



Let it set outside the oven about 5-10 minutes.

Cut into slices and serve with that amazing warm wine drink you made!

Posted by Karen at 18:33 CDT
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Friday, 27 September 2013
It's all about the BOWL!
Topic: Entertaining/Party

It's all about the BOWL!

Presentation” is what I'm reminding you about in today's blog.

We all know how important it is to present yourself for important occasions. We set the stage and our audience's expectations by “making a good first impression” and “capturing attention.”

Why? Because what we have to say is important. Our point in being at that location is significant.

In a way, so it is with our meals together. The point, of course, is our mutual sharing of food, but it will speak more forcefully if served on an appropriate stage.

Lately, Ive found myself enamoured of the chunky, artsy “bowl.” I'm a cruiser of TJ Maxx Homegoods and Marshall's and thrift stores and “junk-tiques.” It's amazing the wonderful, mismatched, one-or-two of a kind objects of art you can uncover. And when put together, they create a collection, right?

I am going to show you a number of photos of typical “bowl meals” and some meals you might not have thought about serving in a bowl, but they end up displaying so well, you might find yourself trying it.


Shepherd Pie


Pasta with a Chicken- Mushroom Sauce



 Roast Beef with garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed greens





Burrito Casserole with a dollop of sour cream



 Curried Chicken with sauteed kale and Raita (cucumber salad)


I think you get the idea--and maybe you'll try your next dinner in an artsy bowl, too! 


Posted by Karen at 22:31 CDT
Updated: Friday, 27 September 2013 22:33 CDT
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Friday, 11 January 2013
Redecorating while you clean!
Topic: Entertaining/Party

It's hard to imagine that we're solidly into January already. The days already seem to be getting longer. The chickens want to hang around the backyard and horse pen until after 5 PM when they were tucked in for the night by 4 PM just a couple of weeks ago.

So, also our interior environments must evolve. It's time to take down all the interior Christmas decorations and clean. It was nice not to dust the mantels for a month--just wait until you see what's accumulated!

Then,  once the decorations are removed--oh how lifeless the house seems...

So, my proposal to avoid the shock of non-glitzy mantels and bare tabletops is...just push into the next season and keep the lights going!

Just swap out your evergreen garland for some floral or vine-y silks and your faux plants with live ones!

Here's an example of my living room fireplace, now re-done post Christmas. The little white lights (from the Christmas clearance racks) replaced colored lights, floral garland replaced pine garland.





And here's an example of the centerpiece on the porch's breakfast table...from faux holly to a potted floral plant. See the before and after below. The flowering house plant, Kalanchoe, was a gift from a friend in October. I moved it to the side of the soaking tub in the bathroom during the holiday season. And now it's back as a centerpiece--African violets or cyclamen would also be a pretty choice.



So, while the house may initially seem barren when the Christmas decorations get put away, quickly dust and replace with a new season of fresh-and-home-y.




Posted by Karen at 11:51 CST
Updated: Friday, 11 January 2013 12:30 CST
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Saturday, 22 September 2012
A Great Fire and Roast Beef Dinner
Topic: Entertaining/Party


You know what happens when the first chill hits my house, don't you? I grab a sweatshirt and bring in some firewood and start a fire. There's nothing "earthier" to me than the sight, sounds, and aroma of a fire in the fireplace.

We're lucky to have enough wood around the farm to keep us in supply for both the fireplace and wood furnace. And both the fireplace and wood furnace keep the natural, renewable resouces in balance--the wood furnace in particular is very energy-efficient. If you are ever looking for other options other than gas/oil and you have access to renewable woods on your property, please look into wood stoves. And, for counter-balance, don't ever waste your money on a wind turbine (long, expensive story for another blog).

Meanwhile, I have a lot of other activities this weekend, including re-potting the houseplants I placed outdoors in order to bring them back inside before the weather gets too cold. I have an orange tree that I bought at a home improvement store in the Spring when it was a little stick of a plant--it's a now a good-sized bush!

So, always looking for a great, homestyle dinner without having to do much prep, here's a recipe for ROAST BEEF and GARLIC ROASTED POTATOES

done in the crockpot to let you work on other projects!  Serve with sauteed kale greens for a colorful and healthy, home-styled dinner.

Roast Beef with Garlic Roasted Potatoes

2-3 lb. chuck roast (with or without bones)

1 can of diced tomatoes

Prep crockpot with spray oil or rub with olive oil. Place meat in the pot and pour the can of diced tomatoes over it.

3 or 4 small potatoes, cut up

2 tbsp olive oil

2-3 large cloves of garlic, chopped

Toss the potatoes, oil and garlic together. Spoon onto both sides of the roast.

ADD- a few sprigs of fresh rosemary and a little chopped parsley.

It should look like this picture below. Cover and cook for 8 hours.





When done, remove roast to a serving plate and cut into serving portions. Plate the meat. Then remove potatoes with a slotted spoon and add to each serving plate. Then add your favorite green vegetable side.

Here, I show the roast beef with sauteed kale greens. These were sauteed with a little olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper and a couple dashes of nutmeg. They are "crisp-tender" and a good contrast to the beef and potatoes.


(SPECIAL NOTE: If you have cooked more meat than needed, remove the extra meat to a bowl. Using 2 forks, shred it and add some salsa and cheese to the meat and use it for a superb beef enchilada filling for another meal.)





Posted by Karen at 09:56 CDT
Updated: Saturday, 22 September 2012 09:59 CDT
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Wednesday, 18 July 2012
Ice Cream, anyone?
Topic: Entertaining/Party

Been very busy--like everyone else, it seems this Summer. So, when I found this Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker in my kitchen cabinet, I couldn't wait to pull it out and treat myself to some really good and really easy ICE CREAM.


It's very easy. First, freeze the insert in the freezer overnight. Then place it in the machine and add your ingredients. Turn it on and in about 20 minutes, you've got up to 1 and a half quarts of ice cream. Too much for a couple of people, so I elected to make a quick pint or so of strawberry ice cream. 1 pint of cream, 4 oz of crushed (over-ripe) strawberries with the juice. If you want it sweeter, add a pack or two of Stevia.


Don't stop with strawberry, try any crushed fruit.


And don't stop with cream when ice MILK or Yogurt will also make a nice icy dessert.


In fact, don't stop with dairy bases, you can also make nice fruit ices or savory SORBETS--dig into those interesting palate cleansers--don't stop with desserts!


In fact, once you have your ice cream maker out, try every frozen concoction you can think of--they will all be great.  It's going to be one, long, hot Summer.  I will share more recipes as the Summer lingers, but get your machine out now and don't miss a moment.



Posted by Karen at 22:10 CDT
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