Baked Scalloped Potatoes au Gratin


I love to eat.

Over the past few months I’ve developed a real passion for potatoes – any kind of potatoes – cooked any old way.
When dining out a few months ago I had a scalloped potato and ham dish that was scrumptious, and today, as the feel of Autumn is in the air I had a craving for that yummy dish. Comfort food.

So, I tried to replicate the dish at home. Here’s how I proceeded:

Start by peeling the potatoes and cutting them into slices about 1/4 inch thick. If they were large potatoes I cut them in half and then sliced them so each potato piece was approximately the size of a 50 cent piece.

Next I parboiled the potatoes for a very short time, just until they began to lose their hardness.

While the potatoes were cooking I melted some butter and sautéed chopped garlic and onions. No measurement – just use the amount you like for taste. If I were to guess I would say I had about 3 cups potatoes, 2 garlic pieces chopped, and 1/2 medium onion.

When the potatoes were very lightly cooked I drained them and mixed the garlic/onions with them. I then put them in 4 oven proof bowls I had purchased for Onion Soup au Gratin.

I then made a roux with butter, flour, milk, heavy cream, and a variety of cheeses. For this first attempt I used a combination of Cabot Alpine Cheddar, Dubliner, and Jarlsburg. Again, I didn’t measure anything, but would guess I used 2 tablespoons butter melted in the saucepan, then added 2 tablespoons flour and mixed before slowly adding approximately 2 cups milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream, stirring continuously. When that had thickened I added about 1 cup of diced mixture of the cheeses and stirred until the cheese melted.

Next I poured the roux over the potatoes in the baking dishes and finished it with a mixture of bread crumbs and grated cheeses sprinkled over the top.

Bake them in a 375 degree oven for approximately 45 minutes (until they are bubbly and the crust is browned).

I gotta’ say – it was a scrumptious dinner!

LEMONADE!

lemon

I don’t know about you, but I believe there is no more refreshing drink on a hot day than an ice cold glass of lemonade.

Since I have cut white sugar from my diet and have only been using maple syrup or honey as sweeteners I have struggled to find many summer time drinks that fit that requirement. Even fruit juices are loaded with added sugars. I drink a lot of water and tea, but I was craving a good tangy glass of lemonade.

So I did what any good Vermont-raised woman does and made my own! It’s so simple and exactly what I was looking for. Here’s the very simple recipe if you want to try it yourself:

1 part freeze squeezed lemon juice to 4 parts water ~ so if you squeeze 4 fresh lemons you might get 1/2 cup of juice and you would add 2 cups of water to that

Then stir in 2 – 4 TBLS of maple syrup (more or less to taste) ~ if you like a tangy lemonade use less and for a sweeter lemonade use more

Stir or shake vigorously and pour over loads of ice!

See, simple! One other tip – if you don’t like lemon pulp in your lemonade, strain the lemon juice before adding the water and maple syrup.

lemonade

While writing this post it occurred to me that this lemonade would be mighty tasty if it was poured over fresh frozen strawberries instead of ice cubes.

Or wait! What if I made a slushie out of the lemonade by putting it in the blender with frozen strawberries? Oh yes, I’m going to try that! I’ll let you know.

Ramps

Last Christmas I was gifted with a lovely cookbook by Katie Webster.
maple-cover-draft
If the cover isn’t enough to convince you of its loveliness, a quick glance inside would surely do so.

Katie Webster has created a lovely book with her superb photographs in and out of a Vermont kitchen. As a bonus she has included some fantastic recipes as well.

As often happens, I have taken the book off the shelf occasionally to peruse the recipes and enjoy Katie’s photographs. However, it wasn’t until I changed my diet a few weeks ago that I actually tried any of the recipes. Since eliminating processed sugar from my diet and only using maple or honey it made sense for me to go to this book when searching for a cake recipe for my mom’s birthday. The Maple Carrot Cupcakes with Coconut Cream Cheese Frosting (page 147) was the perfect choice. Then when my step-daughter’s birthday rolled around I opted for the Maple Apple Almond Torte with Maple Cinnamon Glaze (page 151).

In the introduction Katie reminds readers of several reasons to choose maple over other sweeteners. The one that resonates most with me is:

It’s healthier than other sweeteners.
Unlike refined sugars, maple syrup has not been stripped of its micronutrients during production. It contains trace amounts of calcium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, as well as more than fifty known antioxidants. With a score of 54, it falls lower on the glycemic index than many other sweeteners. It has anti-inflammatory properties as well.

(page 17)

Those birthday treats were such big hits that I began to look for some other new recipes that would fit my new diet. In several recipes I saw something called ramps, which I had never heard of. So, I googled it and here is what I learned from www.wildedibles.com:

Ramps (Allium tricoccum), or wild leeks, occur at higher elevations in Eastern North America from Georgia to Canada. Their sharp flavor is characteristic of a combination of garlic and onion. Ramps are easily recognized by their 1 or 2 broad leaves measuring 1 to 2 1/2 inches wide and 4 to 12 inches long. Foraging ramps has long been a popular activity throughout their range. Historically ramps were regarded as a spring tonic in the Appalachians. They are widely celebrated by tens of thousands of ramp lovers who attend numerous ramp festivals every spring. Ramp festivals are partly responsible for severely impacting ramp populations throughout their range.

Avoid the deadly lily-of-the-valley which looks similar to ramps. While ramp leaves have a pungeant garlic odor, lily-of-the-valley has no odor.

ramps

You may recognize these if you spend any time walking in damp wooded areas.

Well, wouldn’t you just know that a few days later, on a bike ride on Kingdom Trails I came across some ramps! I picked one and smelled the root and stalk to make sure and there was no denying their distinctive smell. So, we brought a few home
ramps (2)

and I cut them up and sauteed them in a bit of clarified butter and . . . OMG they were delishious!

I am anxious to go get more and try them mixed in a garden salad, sauteed with other veggies, mixed into a batch of pesto. . .
you get the idea. I have become a ramp fan and love that a walk in the woods can yield something to add to the dinner table.

Cauliflower Breadsticks

This is one of those recipes you see on facebook occasionally. It sounded tasty to me, as I love cauliflower. and bread.

As usual, I created my own version of this based on what I had handy. You will need:

1 head cauliflower
2-3 eggs
herbs/spices of your choosing in whatever amount looks good to you
(parsley, basil, salt and pepper. . .)
garlic
onions or green onions (optional)
1 cup grated mozzarella (or whatever kind of cheese you like)
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

~Preheat oven to 400 degrees
~Start by using a food processor to ‘rice’ the fresh, uncooked cauliflower. Basically you will put pieces of the cauliflower in the food grinder/processor and chop it up until it is kind of like rice. It doesn’t take long.
~Add the spices, finely chopped garlic, 1/2 cup Mozzarella and 1/2 cup Parmesan, onions, and 2 eggs. Mix all ingredients well until it hold together when you squeeze it. You may need to add another egg.
~Spread out on parchment covered baking sheet about 1/4″ thick.
~Bake for about 20-30 minutes, then remove from oven and spread remaining 1/2 cup Mozzarella over the top. Return to oven and bake 5-10 more minutes until it begins to brown.

Fresh from the oven!

Fresh from the oven!

Slice into 1″ x 4″ sticks and serve warm with your favorite sauce.

Curried Parsnip Soup

As I mentioned yesterday, I am so thankful for parsnips! I think they are my all time favorite root crop.

Parsnips

We were having people over for a potluck on Saturday night and I was trying to figure out what I could do with the one and a half bushels of parsnips I’d just pulled out of the garden. Finally, I googled ‘parsnip recipes’ and found one for Curried Parsnip Soup and I thought MMMMMMM, that sounds really delish!

So, I am going to recreate my version for you here. Trust me when I say that you should feel free to mix it up to suit your own personal tastes or because you don’t have chicken stock, but you do have beef stock on hand. That is what makes a recipe uniquely your own, so don’t be shy that way.

I began with:

about 3 pounds of parsnips – peeled and chopped
1 large onion chopped
2 large cloves garlic minced

Melt 1/2 cup butter in a pan and sauteed above three ingredients until onions are soft
Add 4-5 cups liquid (chicken stock, beef stock) I used a combination of chicken stock and mushroom stock
and 2 teaspoons curry powder and salt and pepper to taste
Cook until parsnips are soft

Process through tomato/apple sauce maker
Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups heavy cream and warm slowly

Serve with a sprinkle of red pepper or paprika

parsnip soup - Copy