Friday, September 19, 2008

Simple Supper: Country Sausage with Peppers and Onions over Fried Polenta

Doesn't get much simpler than this - - a perfect weeknight fall meal with all of the comforts of 'home cooking'! Yes, this recipe involves frying and sausage, so it might not want to be a weekly staple. But it's a great break from grilled chicken!

My grandparents had come back for the Kutztown Market with some fabulous locally-produced sausage; so we tried this Italianized take on classic sausage with peppers. Enjoy!

Country Sausage with Peppers & Onions over Fried Polenta

Cook one package of instant polenta as directed. Pour polenta into 2 mini-loaf pans, top with shredded cheddar cheese and refrigerate until firm.

In a large frying pan, place 1 lb. of fresh sausage, one sweet onion (cut into slices) and one red pepper (cut into strips). Add a few shakes of worcestershire sauce, two minced cloves of garlic, 1 tbps. dried basil and 1 tbsp. dried oregano. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cook over high heat until sausage is cooked through. If it looks the sausage is starting to dry out, add a little bit of water to the pan.

In a separate sauce pan, heat up jarred or previously prepared tomato sauce (we're putting up a recipe for homemade sauce, soon!)

In a separate small frying pan, heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil. Slice chilled polenta in 1/2" slices and fry until both sides are golden brown. Place three pieces of polenta on a plate.

Slice sausage into 4" strips. Place one strip of sausage overtop the polenta. Add sauteed peppers and onions. Spoon prepared sauce on top.


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Butterfly hunting in our tiny backyard...

So, although Petticoats Advance is a family-run farm, my husband and I actually just purchased and live in an 1880's era rowhouse in Baltimore City. We're one of the lucky ones - - we have a HUGE backyard for a city property AND a garage. :) We just finished re-seeding the grass and planting a new flower bed and are planning on mulching everything this weekend. (If you can't tell, we're trying to get ready for our open house in a few weeks!). Most of the perennial plants are new and we're hoping they'll 'weather the winter' and fill in next spring. I thought I'd share pictures as the backyard starts to evolve. :)

Our flower-filled backyard is one of our little respites in the 'big city' - - and another way we bring a little bit of the farm "home"... It's a great place for a cup of tea in the morning or a glass of wine with friends in the evening!

I actually work out of my home most of the week (as an educational technology specialist), so I caught these cute pics of our 'butterfly hunters' out back at lunchtime today. Thought I'd share!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

DELICIOUS: Sweet-Potato, Apple and Walnut Muffins

Since the start of fall is just around the corner and I had picked up a 1/2 peck of locally grown apples, I was in the mood for Apple Muffins and looking for a new recipe. While stumbling around through sites online, I came across this recipe on Apparently, the recipe originated from the Louisiana Sweet Potato Commission. The Lousiana Sweet Potato Commission has a whole host of recipes on their site, so I'm looking forward to investigating new ways to use the veggie (outside of baked sweet potato fries - - which are also fabulous...).

I'd never thought of using sweet potatoes in apple muffins and was intrigued - - especially since it cut the sugar content in half (and cutting down on mid-morning energy crashes because of high-sugar breakfast is always a good thing, right?). These were/are delicious!! Paired with fresh fruit, breakfast has been healthy - - and nutritious - - all week.

I used fresh sweet potatoes (boiled and mashed), although the recipe says you could use canned. I'm thinking this recipe might also be good with pumpkin? I like to heat the muffins before eating but my husband swears they are just as good room-temperature. I also froze a bunch to use later this fall... and will let you know how the frozen ones keep. Enjoy!!

Sweet Potato, Apple and Walnut Muffins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. If using fresh sweet potatoes, peel and slice 1 large sweet potato. Cut into cubes and place in sauce pan. Cover with water until approximately 1 inch above sweet potatoes. Boil until fork tender. Drain and mash.

In a bowl, sift together 1 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 1/2 tsp. of baking soda and 1 tsp. of cinnamon. Set aside.

In large bowl, mix 3 tbps. of canola oil, 3/4 cup light brown sugar, 1 egg, 1 egg white, 1 15 oz. can or 1 cup of mashed sweet potatoes, and 1/2 cup of skim milk.

Slowly mix in flour mixture, stirring until moistened. Do not over mix.

Fold in 1 3/4 cups of chopped tart apples, 1/3 cup of walnuts and 1/3 cup of raisins. Spoon batter into paper-lined or baking spray-coated muffin tin. Bake approximately 20-25 minutes (or until done!).

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fall Open House: The Invitation

Just thought we'd share the invitation we're using for our Napa-Inspired open house. Very simple - - scrapbook paper, a few computer-printed pictures and raffia. Enjoy! :)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Easy Fall Entertaining: Napa-Inspired Open House

My husband and I moved into our "first new house" a few months ago, and are just starting to feel settled. To celebrate, we're throwing an afternoon open house on October 5th. We honeymooned in Napa earlier this summer, so it just felt natural to throw a Napa-inspired open house! Here are some of our party inspirations:

Since people will be coming and going all afternoon, we're planning to keep the decorations simple (the house is supposed to be the attraction, after all!) and the foods easy-to-manage. We love the idea of grilled pizza, bruschetta, meat and cheese plates, apple tartlets and soup "shots." Of course, we can't have a "Napa-inspired" party without wine, so we're planning to have a bunch of our favorite vintages on hand (and some microbrews for the beer-drinking crowd.) 

Stay tuned for pictures of what we come up with! If you have thoughts, ideas or recipes to share to help us plan, we'd love to hear them! 

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Inspired Cooking: Barbeque Grilled Chicken Salad

I don't know about you, but I think Thursdays are the toughest nights to motivate myself (or my husband) to cook. Walking in the door around 7 p.m., the last thing I want to do is kick off my heels and decide what's for dinner. It's not actually cooking the meal that's exhausting - - simply figuring out what to cook drains me faster than training for a marathon. And the "what" is usually determined by how fast (and easily) can it be done - - - hmmmm.... frozen pizza? Spaghetti with jar sauce? Cereal?

Not that we don't like pizza, spaghetti or cereal, but we've often found throwing a salad together is the healthiest - - and most satisfying - - choice. We team up: I chop and slice veggies, my husband grills/cooks/sautes the protein. 20-25 minutes later, dinner is on the table. Of course, the salad changes every time because it's dependent on whatever we have in the fridge. The grilled barbeque chicken salad below is one of our favorites!

On another note, we were (pleasantly?) surprised to see that shiitake mushrooms were featured as the "power food" for the latest addition of Body + Soul. It's funny because our last two entree recipes featured shitake mushrooms as key ingredients! According to the magazine, these mushrooms are high in fiber protein, as well as contain potassium and zinc. Apparently, shiitakes can help boost your immune system if you're fighting an infection or staving off a cold. Who'd have thought? If you haven't checked out the magazine, you should definitely take a look at their online website.

We especially liked's advice for breaking out of a food rut (and the recommendation seems timely given that Thursday is often too-tired-to-cook night!):

You don't have to be a trained gourmand to turn average, boring meals into inspiring creations. Just ask Sally Schneider, author of the "The Improvisational Cook." Her suggestion: "Tackle a few base recipes that lend themselves to many other things. For example, you can transform slow-roasted tomatoes into sauce, soup, jam, or a condiment." If you want to have a little more fun in the kitchen, don't be afraid to make a few mistakes. Plan an experimental night to take an easy recipe that your family already loves and change only one or two ingredients. When things go awry -- and they will --chalk it all up to the learning process. After all, Schneider says, there's always tomorrow night.

Guess we'll have to check out The Improvisational Chef! Here's to many more inspiring creations...

Grilled Barbeque Chicken Salad

Preheat your grill.

Lightly glaze all sides of 2 chicken breasts with honey barbeque sauce, Indian barbeque seasoning (if you have it!), pepper, worcestershire sauce, and garlic. Let sit for 10 minutes.

In large bowl, combine lettuce, diced celery, diced carrots, cooked corn, diced onion, shredded cheddar cheese, black olives, sliced tomatoes and coarsely chopped cilantro. Set aside.

In small bowl, combine honey barbeque sauce and light ranch dressing. Stir.

Grill chicken. Once done, slice into strips and place atop salad greens. Serve dressing on the side.