It is a glorious day in Kentucky on this September morning. The temperature is in the 60’s today, yes, I said 60’s!!! I am in H E A V E N. This is my kind of weather. My windows are wide open and the September breeze is sweeping away the stale air-conditioned air in my house. I am actually wearing a light sweater as I am typing this post! Can you believe it? Before I go any further I am compelled to give this song to you to listen to while you read. September Morn by Neil Diamond. This is a beautiful video that will surely get you in the right frame of mind for the arrival of autumn, which arrives on September 23. Yeah!!
Flowers are turning to seed, leaves are turning colors and vines are withering. Many of the plants are entering into the harvest stage of their existence. While blooms are no longer providing color and blossoms, they are now supplying nourishment to the wildlife in the garden. The coneflowers and black-eyed susans are now a banquet for the finches and the petunias and marigolds, while fighting to hold on to the final days of summer, are about to be replaced with pansies and chrysanthemums.
This has been an odd year in my garden, while some plants produced masses of flowers and herbs, my tomato and pepper plants were under-performers. That is the way of gardening though isn’t it? Each year you learn a little bit more than you knew before. You never get bored because you never know what to expect and that is one of the reasons I love it so much.
Beautyberry Bush and Sedum
The bumblebees love Sedum
One of the plants that I look forward to each year is the Beautyberry Bush. Just look at that color, it is absolutely fabulous. The birds will soon be noshing on those colorful berries and the Sedum flowers will transform into a mass of crimson.
My Creamy Tomato Basil Soup is by far my all-time favorite tomato soup recipe. Throw away those cans of condensed tomato soup because once you taste this soup, you will never want another can of that other stuff, unless you are making a casserole or something, then in that case, carry on. This soup is, in a word, fantastic. It is the perfect blend of tomato, basil, sweetness, a little spice and rich cream. I often make soup for myself in anticipation of freezing portions of it for future meals when I do not feel like cooking but this soup never-ever-EVER makes it into my freezer. I eat every single spoonful of it and each day when I reheat it and take that first bite I close my eyes and savor the flavors and whisper-oh…my…gosh! I mean each time it is like the first time, if you know what I mean. A-mazing.
Creamy Tomato Basil Soup
Since I started this blog back in February I have made many recipes to post and I have eaten a wee bit (ok, a whole lot more than that!) of my creations. They have been fabulous and I have enjoyed them all. Needless to say, because of my indulgence (I did it all for you), my body has seen better days, ok, let’s just say it, I have put on a wee bit (ok, a whole lot more than that) of weight and I am now determined to eat more soups and vegetables and I will cut WAY back on breads and desserts. So long for now high in sugar and carb treats, I miss you already.
Creamy Tomato Basil Soup
My Creamy Tomato Basil Soup is satisfying, which is a definite must for me when I am trying to eat better and cut back on desserts. If I am going to devote myself to soups and vegetable heavy meals they must be high in flavor. This soup is loaded with garlic, onion and tomato flavor and gets a hint of spice from the tabasco and black pepper. The recipe calls for a cup of heavy cream but that is for the entire pot of soup, divide that between 6 to 8 servings and that really isn’t that bad and the benefit in the flavor and satisfaction departments (think big picture) far outweighs the fact that it is not high on the “healthy” list.
My Summer Squash Quick Bread is crowned with a thick layer of Brown Butter Glaze and is perfect for summertime. This moist bread is lightly flavored with cinnamon and nutmeg and just tastes like a sunny summer day, or at least how I think a sunny summer day should taste!
Most of us are familiar with the classic Zucchini Bread, usually made with our abundant crops of the slender forest green squash, but how many of you have ever tried Summer Squash Quick Bread using the beautiful pale yellow, buttery summer squash? I think we tend to overlook these little beauties when it come time to whip up a loaf of sweet, delicious quick bread so I decided to use a portion of my crop and make a wonderful loaf of Summer Squash Quick Bread with Brown Butter Glaze.
I just have to say that whomever came up with the idea of browning butter to use in recipes is a genius. Who knew that by allowing butter to slowly change to a warm golden brown color would completely change the flavor into something slightly nutty and altogether fantastic?
Summer Squash Quick Bread with Brown Butter Glaze
I must admit that I am kind of particular when it comes to my loaves of quick bread, I like them tall, I like a good rise, I like a dome. Not too much to ask is it? This recipe gives you enough batter to make one really nice and tall loaf with enough batter left over to make a large “Texas-sized” muffin. If you prefer smaller (shorter) loaves you will have enough batter to make two loaves, just adjust your bake time accordingly. I have put a note on the recipe regarding this.
I must admit that August is not one of my favorite months of the year. I mean, it is hot and humid and it is thirty-one days l- o -n- g. By this time of the year I am usually just puttering about in the garden pulling weeds, cleaning out the potting shed, shaping up the boxwoods, clipping damaged limbs from the dogwoods and dead-heading the flower beds. I don’t get into anything too heavy, I keep it slow and easy. Just meandering causes you to break out into a heavy sweat in this weather.
The August garden is supplying glorious blooms and color. The Coneflowers, Zinnias and Black-Eyed Susans have been amazing this year. My gardens are popping with color and I just love watching the bees, butterflies and finches dine on the blossoms.
“Whilst August yet wears her golden crown,
Ripening fields lush-bright with promise;
Summer waxes long, then wanes, quietly passing
Her fading green glory on to riotous Autumn.”
Michelle L. Thieme, August’s Crown
As gardeners, we have worked since early spring for this moment, the harvest season. Our baskets and wagons are full of vegetables of every kind and our vases are filled with blooms. We cook and we preserve, feast and share. My August garden has said goodbye to my feverfew, turned to seed and spread over the bare spots in the garden and left to sleep throughout the Autumn and Winter. My petunias have certainly seen better days and no amount of pruning and dead-heading can stop them from fading. The Clematis is covered with funny fuzzy seed pods and the Spider Flowers are busy producing seed pods that grow fatter with seeds by the day, they know what time of year it is. The strawberry season has come and gone but as I was taking pictures this evening I found a little stray berry nestled among the foliage.
I am in desperate need of comfort. Have you ever had one of those weeks, (or months in my case), when everything goes wrong? I have been thrust in the middle of a full blown crisis at my house. I have had issues with appliances, work, myself and now my computer and I am just about at my wits end. So, instead of allowing myself to participate in a full-blown pity party, with me as hostess, I headed to the kitchen and made myself some psychology in a bowl, or rather a pie plate. Sorry, I just had to get that off of my chest. Anyway, on the the comfort!!
This is the ULTIMATE Chicken Pot Pie recipe. I mean seriously. I have made many pot pies throughout my cooking career and this recipe is by far the best. I adapted the recipe from Rebecca Rather’s All-Sold-Out Chicken Pot Pie recipe in The Pastry Queen cookbook.
Individual Ultimate Chicken Pot Pies
There is nothing quite as comforting as a delicious thick and rich chicken gravy filled with tender chicken and vegetables and topped with golden, flaky cream cheese pie crust. I would not lead you astray, you must make this chicken pot pie.
Is there anything so wonderful as walking into a kitchen filled with the aroma of freshly baked blueberry muffins? There is just something so welcoming about home-baked muffins. As soon as the muffins are cool enough to remove from the pans I am overcome by the urge to pull up a chair, pour a cup of freshly brewed coffee or tea and with butter knife in hand, spread the almost too hot to handle bread with sweet creamy butter. Don’t you just love it when you can actually see the little streams of melted butter oozing their way into the crevices and over the steaming blueberries as the pat s l o w l y disappears into the muffin? Bliss.
Best Blueberry Buttermilk Muffins
I have eaten many a blueberry muffin in my time and I am going to say that THESE are the absolute best by far. They are packed with blueberries, which, by the way are healthy are they not? I mean, they are an antioxidant rich fruit, which must make these muffins in some small way good for us. Right? Okay, a nutritionist would most likely disagree with my reasoning, but you can’t will them all. Pick your battles people, pick your battles!
Blueberries tend to be on the tart side sometimes and many other blueberry muffin recipes I have tried have not been flavorful enough, ( and by that I mean sweet!) for my taste. I like a nice balance between the sweet/tartness of the blueberry and the muffin itself, a cross between a cake and a muffin if you will. I want my plump little blueberries enveloped in a moist, sweet, fragrant, light and fluffy muffin. While these muffins are made with buttermilk they are not too “tangy” if you know what I mean. Sometimes buttermilk can be a wee bit overpowering to a delicate blueberry muffin. These muffins are perfection.
It has been raining on and off for what seems like weeks here in Lexington. Weeks. In between the downpours it is hot and humid. Unbearably humid. This morning I woke up and my windows were fogged up, (I’m talking humid), and when I see fog I tend to go into hibernation mode I want to burrow and I crave warm, cozy, yummy things. Like this Italian Wedding Soup. This is my all time favorite soup. It could not be easier to make and every time I have served it, (shout out to all of my girlfriends who attended my Valentine’s Day luncheon-Becky, Janey, Laura, Lisa, Lori and Sharon) it has been a hit.
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese
Is there anything better than freshly grated Parmesan cheese? Pillowy, billowy, creamy, salty meltiness that it is. Okay, I know that meltiness is not a word but it is just so fitting don’t you agree? When you top a steaming bowl of this Italian Wedding Soup with the Parmesan cheese magic happens. The cheese melts and blankets the meatballs with smooth and creamy deliciousness. Really, it does.
Italian Wedding Soup with melting Parmesan cheese.
“Big Mac” Sliders are miniature versions of the original Big Mac hamburger. With the copycat Big Mac sauce and your own fresh ingredients you can make these wonderful little burgers for yourself. I love a slider don’t you? They are the wee (excuse me, I am still not out of my Outlander obsession) versions of our favorite sandwiches and because they are “wee” eating more than one is more than acceptable, it is expected.
“Big Mac” Sliders
I must say, these are the cutest little burgers I have ever seen. I don’t think I have ever called food “cute” before but, I mean look at them, they are ADORABLE. The original Big Mac is made on a sesame seed bun, (I do love a sesame seed bun) but I couldn’t find tiny ones so I settled for plain slider buns. With or without the sesame seeds these Big Mac Sliders are fantastic and every bit as tasty as the fast food burger.
The countdown is officially on, the fourth of July is one week away. Summer rolled in last Sunday and brought the heat and humidity along with it and now it is time to prepare for all of the July 4th festivities. Picnics and cookouts, parades, festivals and fireworks, it is so nice to celebrate being an American isn’t it? We decorate with bunting and flags, balloons and streamers. Red, white and blue can be seen everywhere. As a little girl I looked forward to all of the activities of the day and could hardly contain my excitement for the grand finale, the fireworks. I remember sitting on a blanket, staring into the sky and uttering the oohs and aahs along with the crowd. It was heavenly.
To celebrate the 4th of July I decided to give a patriotic twist to the All-American chocolate chip cookie. Did you know that the chocolate chip cookie was invented sometime in the 1930’s by Ruth Graves Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn, in Whitman, Massachusetts? We all owe her a debt of gratitude for her dearly loved cookie recipe, which is still printed on the Nestle chocolate chip packages to this day. Thank you Mrs. Wakefield!!
Chocolate chip cookies are wonderful any day of the year and they are especially nice if you decorate them.
July 4th Chocolate Chip Cookies
Aah, the 4th of July and summertime. Summertime and the 4th of July. I don’t know why I like saying that so much but it is somehow soothing to me as I softly chant it to myself. Try it and see if you find yourself reminiscing about days gone by.
Here is a little music to get you into the right frame of mind.
I usually use semi-sweet chocolate chips when I make chocolate chip cookies but this time I wanted a smoother, sweeter chip so I used milk chocolate chips. I could not be more happy with the results, in fact they are so good that I may never go back to semi-sweet again! The milk chocolate seems to enhance the buttery flavor of the dough and the salt is highlighted in the BEST possible way. Almost like salted caramel.
Summertime recipes that feature fresh from the garden ingredients make me happy-and proud. There is just something special about walking through the garden and picking or cutting fresh vegetables and herbs and taking them into the kitchen to create a flavorful meal, there is such a sense of accomplishment. I used the last of my sweet peas in my Bacon Cheddar Ranch Macaroni Salad as well as chives from my herb garden.
I enjoy growing green peas because their flavor is beyond compare. Beyond. Sweet, tender, buttery. Also, they are one of the first things you can plant in early spring. After spending a few months indoors where all I can do is dream about gardening, March finally arrives and as soon as the ground is thawed I am planting peas in anticipation of sunshine and warm spring breezes.
Sweet green peas
Freshly picked peas
I am always looking for new ways to use my fresh vegetables and this year I used some of my peas in my Bacon Cheddar Ranch Macaroni Salad. I try to keep something prepared for times when I am too busy to cook and this macaroni salad is one of my new favorites. It is great paired with sandwiches and burgers or it makes a perfect light dinner by itself.