Treasured gifts

The stones I have with me today are very special treasures to me. These were all gifts to me from a dear friend who has her own magical shop on etsy. Aside from the properties each stone carries, I always think there is extra magic when the stones were gifted.
Chalcopyrite, also known as Peacock Ore – A stone that aligns all chakras and connects you with ancient wisdom.
Quartz point – One can never have enough quartz in my opinion. A stone of clearing and magnification.
Pyrite – A stone of abundance and manifestation.
Amethyst – Brings calming energy.

Fried squash

Fried Squash | The Lush's Blush blog
Fried Squash

In the south, we fry stuff. I know that low fat, no gluten, no animal protein is all the rage these days and I applaud those of you making these healthy food choices.

I love fried stuff though. I love my deep fryer.

In the summer months fried squash is a favorite in our household. Sadly I didn’t plant any squash this year, but I was given some and so I fried it up first thing!

Here’s how you do it.

Slice your squash (or zucchini) as thin as you can. You may choose to use a mandolin to make them extra thin, but I don’t use that myself. Whisk an egg in a bowl and place squash pieces into egg then pour enough milk to cover squash.

Put about two and half cups of flour and a 1/4 to 1/2 cup of cornmeal into a big ziplock bag. Sprinkle in a couple of pinches of salt and a grind or two of cracked black pepper.

A few at a time place your milk/egg coated squash into flour bag and shake shake shake! Place flour coated pieces on a plate. I think the secret is to let the flour coated squash sit for a few minutes before you fry it. It helps the breading to stick better.

Heat up your deep fryer (or a pan with canola oil) and slow (and carefully) fry squash a few at a time. As soon as you dip them out of fryer, place them on a paper towel lined plate and sprinkle with kosher salt.

Serve immediately! They are yum, yum, yummy! You can also use this same method to fry okra or fried green tomatoes.

Fried okra | The Lush's Blush blog
Fried Okra

Pickling experiments

okraA friend of mine asked me the other day if I had ever made pickled okra. I said I hadn’t and he offered me some okra to give it a try.

Okra is one of those funny foods. People either love it or hate it. I love it fried or in a gumbo. This week I read a really great article about eating raw okra, but I just don’t think I’m that brave.To be honest, I’m not even sure I’m brave enough to eat it pickled, but I wanted to try it since my friend gave me the okra. I recently made a Sriracha pickle that was really good and my friend said he thought that might be good with the okra so that’s what I did.Since the okra skin is very thick I’m thinking they need to sit a while and pickle.My friend also gave me an entire bag of fresh banana peppers so I thought, what the heck, let’s pickle those too. I also think these need to sit a while before we give them a try.

pickles
All kind of pickles!
sriracha pickled banana peppers
Sriracha Pickled Banana Peppers

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Classic recipes make a comeback

I love to try new and different foods, but there’s something about old school classic recipes that are comforting. And every once in a while you may also run into a classic recipe you’ve never made before.

Last week I did just that. I was making out my weekly menu and grocery list and found my Mamma’s old Betty Crocker cookbook circa 1976. The book is quite useful if you’re a novice in the kitchen as it has lots of of helpful tips on basic food preparation.

In my search for a chicken dish to prepare I came across the recipe for chicken cacciatore. I have always heard of chicken cacciatore, but never made it myself so I thought I would give it a try.

The dish is comprised of lightly fried chicken simmered in a tomato sauce and served over either rice or pasta. We served ours on a bed of angel hair spaghetti. I also had some lovely squash and zucchini from my godfather’s garden which we sautéed in some olive oil with salt, pepper and a little Italian seasoning. It made for a nice accompaniment to the rich tomato sauce and chicken.

If you don’t have a copy of the Betty Crocker cookbook, you can find the recipe here. The newer

version of the recipe calls for fresh mushrooms though we followed the 1976 version which used canned mushrooms. My fiancé made a disapproving face at using canned mushrooms, but after they simmered for 45 minutes in the sauce, I’m really not sure you could tell the difference.

Another old favorite we enjoyed last week is what we always called hamburgers in a basket. I remember this recipe from my childhood though I hadn’t thought of it in years. My schedule has been hectic the last few weeks with rehearsals for the upcoming play I’m in and my dad graciously agreed to fix dinner so I could eat quickly after work and head to rehearsal. I remembered this old standby and he whipped it up for us.

You simply make out hamburger patties and put them in a foil packet topped with sliced potatoes, onions, green pepper and carrots. Season liberally with salt, pepper, garlic powder or any other preferred seasoning. Close up the foil packet, place packets on a baking sheet and cook for one hour in a 375-degree oven. It’s not fancy, but let me tell you, it’s delicious and simple to prepare.

You can always jazz it up with some different seasonings if you prefer. I would probably add a dash or two of Tony Cachere’s Creole Seasoning if I were making it.

In a real pickle

Homemade Grape Leaf Pickles

Who doesn’t like a pickle? Ok, well, I’m sure there are some who don’t, but that’s OK, more for us!

Summertime is in full swing and my cucumber vines are producing like crazy. I’m pretty excited about it because I love to can pickles.

This year I am growing a regular green pickling cucumber as well as a white cucumber. Both of these varieties look great in jars.

My biggest problem is making sure to check the vines thoroughly every day, otherwise I end up with a cucumber the size of a zucchini and too large to can. I have had quite a few that were almost too big, but I hated to waste them so I sliced them into spears to can.

So far this year I have made several different kinds of pickles and at the rate my vines are producing, I’ll probably make a few more kinds before summer is over. I have made a few batches of a spicy dill pickle, grape leaf pickles and I tried a Sriracha pickle as well.

I prefer salty, sour and spicy pickles. I’m not a sweet pickle fan, but my Dad does like bread and butter pickles so I will probably make a batch of those for him. The spicy dill pickle is really simple to make and the recipe is actual for a small batch so it’s great if you just have a few cucumbers from your own garden or the local farmers market. You can always increase the recipe to make a larger batch.

This year I’m also attempting to make some pickles the really old fashioned way — in a stone crock. My Mamma bought this crock at an auction a number of years ago and it has been sitting in our basement every since. Last year, at my friend’s suggestion, I made a jar of fermented pickles. They were very different, but delicious and fermented foods are supposed to be very good for you. I’m hoping my pickles fermented in the crock will turnout well.

Grape leaf pickles are my personal favorite, but that wasn’t always the case. I remember as a child we always canned green beans, tomatoes, stuffed peppers and pickles every summer. We normally just made dill pickles or sweet pickles, but one year Mamma wanted to make grape leaf pickles. Everything my Mamma ever cooked or prepared was normally delicious, but something didn’t go well with the pickles and they were terrible. It was a family joke for a long time. A few years after that, I tried some grape leaf pickles that my cousin had made and they were delicious. Now they are one of my favorites.

I couldn’t find a recipe online that I liked for the grape leaf pickles so I dug out all of our cookbooks from area churches to find one. The recipe is super simple. Put two grape leafs and a few grapes in jar then pack with cucumbers (I did some jars of whole and some sliced.) Make a brine with 10 cups water, 2 cups vinegar and 1 cup pickling salt. Heat to near boiling. Pour hot brine over pickles in jars Gentle shake jars to remove air bubbles. Top with heated lids (bring lids to boil in a small pan of hot water) and then add rim to jar. Put jars in a near boiling water bath for 5 minutes. Carefully remove jars from water (you can buy a special tool to lift jars out with) and place on a rack to cool. You will hear the lids make a popping noise when they seal. I would let the pickles pickle for at least three to four months before eating.

Grape leaf pickles do tend to be on the salty side and not everyone likes them. My dad and fiancé

Spicy Garlic Dill Pickles

both dislike them, but my great Uncle Ken and I love them so I made a special batch this year. I was particularly proud of the labels I made for my jars. I found a picture of my Mamma and me when we were canning pickles a few years ago and printed that out to use as the label for the jars.

Speaking of labels, if you like to can and give your canned goods away as gifts, there are tons of free label templates you can find online to make your canned gifts look really nice. Add ribbons or other extras to make them even more special. Most people realize the time and effort it takes to can and it’s not something a lot of people do anymore so most will consider a home canned gift a very special treat.

Taking time to breathe

This morning I watched a video tutorial on a meditative breathing technique. It made me realize something very sad. I don’t take time in my life to breathe.

We have to breathe to live, obviously, but I do find myself in the middle of the workday, stressed about a deadline or other work related thing, and I realize I am literally holding my breath.

Not only am I not taking time during the day to do some deep breathing, I’m even holding my breath for some unknown reason. Wow. Very big revelation and it’s something I’m probably not alone in.

Our lives are so busy and most of us are running around trying to get to work, picking up kids from school, fixing dinner and all the other stuff of life, but are we truly breathing and nourishing our bodies with the breath of life?

I’m moving breathing to the top of my to-do list.

And a huge thank you to China Brooks for her wonderful insights on her YouTube channel, live Periscope feeds and her blog!

A soup for summer

Those of you with gardens or access to the local farmers market will soon have your hands on delicious fresh tomatoes and I have just the thing for you to make with them — gazpacho!

Gazpacho is a soup made from puréed fresh vegetables and served chilled. I first had gazpacho when I worked at the Piedmont Club. Our chef Alex made the most delicious gazpacho with just the perfect amount of spiciness. The idea of cold soup may throw you off guard a bit, but it is a delight on hot days like we’ve been having so far this summer.

Gazpacho is very simple to make and you can follow a recipe, or throw some of your favorite veggies in a blender to make it your own. The original concept hails from Spain and in addition to fresh veggies, bread is also often added to give the soup a little more thickness.

Tomatoes on a counter at Nina’s friend’s house in Spain.

My sorority sister Nina lives in Zaragoza, Spain, where gazpacho is very popular.

“Everyone uses a different recipe, I for example don’t add day old bread and add a couple of veggies not necessarily needed, plus I like it strong so raw garlic for me is a must!” Nina said. “In general, I tend to put in maybe a kilo of tomatoes, (Spain always has some unwritten rules about which are better for gazpacho, which for stews, which for salad, but I don’t pay much heed), half a glass of olive oil and another half of vinegar (generally white or apple, not balsamic but whatever floats your boat), then I add half an onion, some celery, a green and red pepper and cucumber. Oh, and a clove or two of garlic, but some find it too strong so maybe take out the ‘vein’ or ‘heart’ from the middle. Blend in blender. Add parsley if you want. It’s very ‘whatever I can find in the fridge’ and I don’t even look at it as a soup, to me it’s a drink. A refreshing, delicious and filling drink. It’s safe to start with having at least four to five medium to large tomatoes. Also, people here are insistent on peeling everything (I’ve literally seen people peel grapes), so apparently you’re meant to peel the tomatoes beforehand but it’s such a messy process for me that I toss in the chopped tomato with the skin on.”

Be brave, I say, and follow Nina’s lead by coming up with your own concoction of lovely fresh veggies blended into a beautiful cooling soup.

If you’re ready to try some gazpacho but are short on fresh tomatoes, my friend Donna shared the recipe below, it uses mainly tomato juice. Donna said she had this soup somewhere and it was delicious so she asked for the recipe.

If you’re really feeling adventurous, my sorority sister Lauren said her mom made a fantastic mango gazpacho recently. That recipe is below as well.

Nina gathers her veggies to prepare some gazpacho.

Donna’s Favorite Gazpacho
• 1 1/2 cups tomato juice
• 1 beef bouillon cube
• 1 tomato, chopped
• 1/4 cup chopped cucumber
• 2 tbls chopped green pepper
• 2 tbls chopped onion
• 2 tbls wine vinegar
• 1 tbls vegetable oil (I use olive oil)
• 1/2 tsp. salt
• 1/2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
• 3 drops red pepper sauce
Accompaniments: Herbed croutons, 1/3 cup each chopped cucumber, tomato, green pepper and onion.
Directions: Heat tomato juice to boiling. Add bouillon cube; stir until dissolved. Stir in remaining ingredients except accompaniments. Refrigerate several hours. Serve with accompaniments. Makes five servings of about 1/2 cup each. Donna said, “I also add garlic. I started out with this recipe, but prefer more vinegar and hot pepper sauce. Purple onion is nice or even green onions instead of the onion they mention. Enjoy!”


Lauren’s Mom’s Chilled Mango Gazpacho
Ingredients:
• 3 mangos, peeled, pitted and roughly chopped (about 3 cups flesh)
• 1 1/2 English cucumbers, peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
• 1 red bell pepper, halved, cored and chopped
• 1 cup light coconut milk
• 1/2 cup vegetable broth
• 3/4 inch chunk fresh ginger
• 1 to 2 teaspoons red curry power, to taste (optional)
• 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
• 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
•2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, plus whole leaves for garnish
• kosher salt and ground black pepper, to taste
Directions: In a blender, combine 1 cup of mango, 1/2 of the cucumber, 1/2 of the bell pepper, coconut milk, vegetable broth , ginger, curry powder, pepper flakes and vinegar. Puree until sooth, about 1 full minute. Add remaining mango, cucumber, bell pepper and two tablespoons of mint. Pulse several times to just finely chop, but not puree. Refrigerate, covered, for at least two hours. Stir well before serving. Garnish with additional mint. Makes six servings.

Reprinted from Kitsey’s Kitchen column in the Yadkin Ripple.