Deep in Figs

We have a fig tree in our backyard. It’s a wide-spreading, large leafed, Brown Turkey fig tree. We grew it from a cutting taken from my father-in-law’s tree. His grew his from a cutting taken from his mother’s tree. Someday, I hope my sons have their own fig trees, grown from cuttings taken from our tree. It’s a lovely tradition to cultivate a new generation of this heirloom tree to each new generation of our family.

Our Fig Tree

Our third generation fig tree, popular feeding destination for our mockingbirds and cardinals.

 Right now, we are in the midst of fig season. This is the first year that we’ve had enough rain to give us a good crop of these delights. Dan has been harvesting them in the morning and again in the evening, bringing in five to 10 each time! I’m giving them to friends, and putting them in smoothies, and trying to find as many recipes as I can to keep up with production.

A fig on our tree

This baby is ripe and ready for picking!

 (Last year, I froze most of them, thinking I’d make fig preserves later. I never did, and I still have a freezer full of figs. I think when fig season is over and I have no more fresh figs, I’ll start throwing the frozen ones into smoothies.) 

Figs go well with sharp cheese, nuts, bread, in cereals and salads, and on the grill wrapped in bacon. There are so many things you can do with figs!

Figs go well with cheese, nuts, bread, in cereals and salads, and on the grill wrapped in bacon. There are so many things you can do with figs!

I’ll share with you some of the recipes I’ve been making with our figs. Today’s tidbit is this luscious recipe for Fig Bruschetta I found on WhiteOnRiceCouple.com. It’s worth a click to just take a look at the gorgeous photos there. Please visit them and try this recipe for yourself.

Ooohh, this was so good! Figs light sweetness is wonderful in combination with the flavors of ricotta, pecans, honey, and thyme.

Ooohh, this was so good! Figs light sweetness is wonderful in combination with the flavors of ricotta, pecans, honey, and thyme.

 I meant to make it for an appetizer, but we ended up having it for dinner. (What? It’s sort of a cheese sandwich with fruit. And just too good not to indulge yourself!)

After we had eaten our fill of the bruschetta, we still had some of the fig puree, thyme, chopped pecans, and chopped figs left. I saved them for breakfast and mixed all that into bowls of creamy amaranth made with coconut milk. Yum-my! 

Amaranth is an ancient grain that has more protein, iron, magnesium, and calcium than most grains. It's a little pricey, but one cup dry makes three cups prepared! And you can pop these tiny grains like corn!

Amaranth is an ancient grain that has more protein, iron, magnesium, and calcium than most grains. It’s a little pricey, but one cup dry makes three cups prepared! And you can pop these tiny grains like corn!

Today I’m making fig and blueberry nondairy ice cream. Should be dreamy! I’ll let you know.

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Summer Minestrone

Wednesday, I made this for dinner. We had it for leftovers Friday. And I have two more meals of it in the freezer! It’s delicious. So many flavors, and so fresh.

My Summer Minestrone

 It’s Summer Minestrone from the August, 2014, Family Circle Magazine. Quick to cook, but took longer than 30 minutes to prep. Instead of the bullion cubes, I used about 8 cups of low-sodium vegetable broth. Loved the sausage in there, and all the veggies! Such a healthy meal.

Next time I make it, I will leave out the pasta. I didn’t add anything to the taste, and I’d rather fill up on veggies instead.

It cost me about $24 to buy the ingredients for this, and I figure that for the two of us, we’ll get about 5 or 6 meals out of it, including my husband having leftovers for breakfast Thursday morning. So this is not only a delicious and nutritious meal, it’s economical, too! Continue reading

Eating Like Grown Ups

Somewhere along the line, we got off track and I stopped cooking for my family. It was in those years of soccer and little league, when Dan was always the coach and I was team mom. On those short evenings when we had to hurry and do homework, then jump in the car as soon as Dad got home to go to practice, it was always so much easier to just grab something to eat along the way.

That was when my children’s taste buds started to rebel against good, healthful food. I got so very tired of hearing, “Yuck! I’m not eating this!” when anything I made did not resemble mac and cheese from a blue box accompanied by frozen sticks of possibly poultry or feasibly fish. I know I should have been stronger and made them eat better, but I was tired. Ask any mom of youngsters. They are all tired. And if someone said to me, “Don’t cook. Let’s do what’s easier.” I didn’t have the energy to fight them too much.

As the kids got older, we continued our take-out tradition. By then we were deeply entrenched in the habit. Thankfully, as the kids became adults, so did their tastes. We ate a lot of take out, but it was mostly from local restaurants, not fast food. No one minded at all. And family time is much nicer when everyone can have their favorites.

But now we are living in an Empty Nest, just the two of us adults. Thankfully, I have a husband who is a bit of a foodie and will try anything. It’s more of a miracle that I am excited to try all the new foods we’ve been exploring. 

What got me started cooking (mostly) every night is a study our small group did at the beginning of this year. It’s called The Daniel Plan. I got really excited about the Food chapter. That is where I learned why some of the things I’ve always eaten are so bad, and why some of the things I thought were so hard to eat enough of are so good. Continue reading

MeeMaw’s Orange Chocolate Chip Cake

When Hubby and I got married and his family and my family converged to become Our Family, one of the things included in that merger was our old family recipes. This weekend, I got to try one of Hubs’ mom’s recipes.

He had mentioned that he wanted an orange chocolate chip cake for his birthday. I Googled and found Ina Gartner’s sumptuous recipe, only to discover that what Hubs meant was he wanted the cake his mom used to make.

So I called my sister-in-law and got the recipe. It’s a brownie type cake with no icing or glaze. It doesn’t need any. It’s very moist and oh-so-good!

Funny that in 30 years of marriage, this is the first I’m hearing of this cake. Wonder what else I’ve been missing?

Meemaw's Orange Chocolate Chip Cake

MeeMaw’s Orange Chocolate Chip Cake

Preheat oven to 250°F  (Yes 250°. You cook it low and slow.)

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt

Mix the above dry ingredients lightly together in bowl and set aside.

  • ½ cup shortening
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbsp grated orange peel (You’ll need two large oranges.)
  • 1 cup soured milk*
  • 1-12 oz bag chocolate chips (I like to use Nestlé’s semi-sweet Tollhouse chips.)

In a large bowl, cream together shortening and sugars with a fork. Beat in eggs until creamy. Mix in grated orange peel then soured milk. Add flour mixture slowly, stirring as you do. Don’t over-stir. This stuff is more like muffin batter than cake batter, so over-mixing might make it less fluffy. Lastly, stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour batter into a 13×9 cake pan that has been greased and floured. Bake for 50-65 minutes at 250°F until golden and done. (The recipe says 50 minutes, but at that point, mine was still pretty wet in the middle. 65 minutes was perfect for mine.)

Hubs says his mom used to make this as a Bundt cake. Sister-in-law said she tried it, but it didn’t work for her. I might try it next time, just to see.

Let me know if you make this and how you like it!

*Prepare soured milk by mixing 1 tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar into 1 cup of milk. Set aside for about 15 minutes to sour.

Cookies for Breakfast!

Got to admit, this is what I had for breakfast this morning. (What? They’ve got eggs & flour in them, same as eggs & toast or pancakes, right? Cue Bill Cosby’s “Dad is great! Gives us chocolate cake” bit.)

After I posted my chocolate chip cookie recipe (below), my son J texted me, “Do we have the stuff to make cookies?” I thought that was quite the coincidence, but no. Seems J’s sweet girlfriend Andi read the blog, and it made her crave the cookies. So of course, J jumped to his feet to make some for her.

No, seriously. He’s just that kind of boyfriend, and it thrills me no end! I’m happy to say both my boys have learned much from their father about how to treat their woman. They are such caring boyfriends. Makes me happy, and makes Hubby proud.

So yesterday J made these cookies for Andi…and he let us have a few. They are so big and fluffy, I just couldn’t pass them up this morning. Now Andi and I are wondering if this would work for other things, like say I blog about ironing. Andi reads it and says, “Sigh, that reminds me. I have a few shirts I need to iron, but I just haven’t found the time.” Will J jump up and do it for her?

Never underestimate the influence of a good woman, nor the willingness of the man in love with her.

Better Chocolate Chip Cookies

If there’s one thing I can make really really well every time, and there’s really only one thing, it’s chocolate chip cookies. 

I get a lot of compliments on my cookies. People seem to think they are something special. I started making them when I was a teenager, and taking them to rock bands that I liked. I still do that from time to time. Mostly I make them for my kids…and myself. To tell the truth, our favorite part is the dough! 

I use the Toll House® recipe on the back of the NESTLÉ® Chocolate Chip package, but with a couple of changes. The first change my mom made back in the 60’s. Toll House cookies are amazing, but they tend to be flat, not fluffy. So Mom added more flour, adding 2 ½ cups instead of 2 ¼ cups. That gave the cookies more body.

When I started making them for my family, I changed the two sticks of butter or margarine to one stick of Butter Flavored Crisco® (both equal 1 cup). The Crisco fluffs the cookies up quite a bit!

Here’s our changed recipe.

Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 2½ cups all-purpose flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 sticks of butter or margarine 1 stick Butter Flavored Crisco sticks (1 cup)
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 375° F.

2. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in medium sized bowl. Mix lightly with a fork. In a large bowl, with a fork or electric mixer (I use a fork. Easier to clean up afterwards, and you won’t over-mix them.) Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract in large bowl until creamy. Add eggs and beat well. Gradually beat in flour mixture. (I dump it all in at once.) Stir in chocolate morsels and nuts (optional). Drop by rounded tablespoon onto lightly greased baking sheets. (I take a stick of butter and use it to grease my Air-Bake cookie sheet. The Air-Bake sheet keeps the bottoms from burning. You only have to grease it before the first batch. It’ll stay greased after that.)

3. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. 

Pan Cookie Variation: Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Prepare dough as above. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Makes 4 dozen bars. 

Slice and Bake Cookie Variation: Prepare dough as above. Divide in half; wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. Shape each half into 15-inch log; wrap in wax paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.* Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices; place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 5 dozen 

* May be stored in refrigerator for up to 1 week or in freezer for up to 8 weeks. 

Dirty Soda Cans Hazardous to Your Health?

I was all set to blog about the dangers of drinking from soda cans before you wash them off. It has to be hazardous to your health to drink from a can after rats have peed on it and cockroaches have scurried across it in the warehouse, right?

Turns out, there aren’t really that many dangers. I mean, it’s unlikely that you will die or even get sick if you drink out of a soda can that you didn’t wash off first. At least, according to two trusted sources, Snopes and Myth Busters. Even the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (aka the CDC) don’t have anything on their site about what I presumed might be a health hazard.

And that’s good. One less thing to worry about.

I mean, I wouldn’t neglect at least wiping the top of the can off before I drank out of it, just to be safe.

At our house, we keep the soda cans that won’t fit into the refrigerator on the floor of the garage. I don’t think there are many rats in our garage (I hope not!) but I know there are a couple of mice, and just possibly a few (dozen) bugs. And they might be walking across our soda cans when they take their midnight strolls. Maybe even stopping for a potty break atop one of the cylindrical aluminum insect outhouses. Even if our garage was free from creepy crawlies, it’s pretty dusty out there.

And who knows when the stock boy at the grocery store who stocked the shelf with my Vernor’s Ginger Ale last washed his hands?!  *shudder*

So I wash the tops of my cans, and the side where my mouth is going to be, before I open the can, just for my own piece of mind. Even if it just gets the dust from the garage off, a little soap and water never hurt anyone or anything.

Except…be sure to rinse it well before you open it. Last Tuesday I didn’t, and soapy ginger ale ain’t no good for nobody. Yuck.