Chicken Enchilada Dip

This easy appetizer is great with or without the chicken.  It can also be paired with a salad and eaten as a meal.  It’s a great make-ahead, because it refrigerates and freezes well.

 

2 c. cooked, shredded chicken
2 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 c. shredded cheese
1 t. minced garlic
1 ½ T. chili powder
1 t. ground cumin
1 t. oregano
cayenne pepper to taste
1 can black beans, drained (Feel free to leave these out if you don’t want them.)
4 green onions, chopped
10-oz. can chopped green chilies

Mix cheeses together; add seasonings & mix well.

Cover & refrigerate overnight.

Heat in slow cooker, in microwave, in oven or on stovetop until ingredients are warm and gooey.

Serve with tortilla chips or sturdy vegetable dippers.

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Tomato-Basil Soup

For the cooking classes I teach at the Mooreland Free Fair each summer, I always try to highlight some fresh, in-season produce since Indiana has such fantastic garden fare in August.  Even though our overall harvest has been a bit lackluster so far this season, our basil has been beautiful.  I am not sure how many times I’ve made this soup (or a version of it) this summer, but it’s been quite a few.  Today’s batch was generously garnished with some yummy queso fresco.  Mmmm!

2-3 T. oil or butter
1 sweet onion, diced
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes (or 2-ish cups fresh, diced)
1/2 c. fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons
1 t. salt
1 t. sugar
1 (15-oz.) can chicken broth (about 2 cups or so)
1/2 t. freshly-ground pepper
1/2 c. half & half or whole milk

In oil, saute onion until translucent.

Add tomatoes, basil salt and pepper; bring to a simmer.

Add broth and pepper; stir.

Blend until smooth.  (Make sure to cool mixture adequately if pouring into a blender with a plastic pitcher.)

Stir in half & half; add more salt and pepper if needed.

Corn and Zucchini Medley

Yum, yum and YUM!

2-4 sliced bacon, sliced
2 c. diced zucchini
2 c. corn
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1/4 c. shredded cheese
pepper to taste

Fry the bacon in large skillet until cooked.  Drain and set aside, reserving  1 T. of drippings.

In reserved drippings, saute zucchini, corn and onion until tender-crisp.  Add garlic and saute for additional minute.  Season with pepper, if desired.  Top with bacon and cheese.

Rainy Season

It has been approximately 60 hours since it last rained here at Country Haven.  According to our informal calculations, that’s the longest stretch of dry weather we’ve had since mid-June when our three-week drought broke.  We’ve received over 20 inches of rain in 6 weeks.  That’s a lot of water.  A couple more inches are forecasted for tomorrow morning.

Blah.

We have repeatedly mowed between the rows in our gardens to keep the weeds down until it was dry enough to actually run the tiller through.  Potatoes are rotting in the ground, green beans are molding on their bushes, pepper plants are yellowing, squash plants are wilting.  I mowed down our first two plantings of green beans yesterday; the leaves were the color of lemonade.  Poor things were probably glad to be put out of their misery.  I usually have more than 120 quarts of green beans canned by now.  This year, I’ve put up twenty-seven.

And our pepper plants!  To get a better look at a growing pepper, I gently moved aside some of the spotted, yellow leaves on one of the scrawny plants, and three of its leaves dropped to the ground, reminding me of Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree.  Poor, pitiful thing!

Fortunately, we planted way too much of almost everything, so it will be enough to have something every week until the first frost hits.  We keep re-planting, too, using next year’s seed that we bought to save shipping costs on next year’s garden.  I don’t know if this amounts to optimism or foolishness; time will tell.

In spite of the tendency to focus on all of our loss this year, I cannot help but be thankful for all that we have.  In some parts of the world, these conditions would have a direct and possibly dire effect on the nutritional needs of the growers.  We are so fortunate that this is not the case with us.  Even without having the extra produce to can and freeze for the winter, we can rest assured that our bellies will be fed nonetheless.  And, without the extra income that we hoped our abundant harvest would bring, we know that our bills will still be paid.

What a blessing.

Better-with-Bacon Summer Squash

Summer squash is often the gift that keeps on giving in our neck of the woods.  And, even though I have dozens of tried-and-true recipes on-hand, I find myself looking for new ways to prepare it.  This is especially true because one of my kiddos pretty much loathes the stuff.  She will eat it when it’s served, but only because she’s hungry.

Since so many things are better with bacon, we’ve added it to our summer squash this year in the hopes of finding another recipe that we can all get excited about.  Even if it doesn’t pass muster with her, I look forward to having this with some fresh corn on the cob and thick-sliced heirloom tomatoes.

You can use any type of summer squash in this recipe:  zucchini, yellow squash, patty pan or even 8-ball zucchini.  It really doesn’t matter.  This can even be served with rice or over pasta if you want to bulk it up a bit.

4-6 strips bacon, diced
2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
2 small yellow squash, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese, if desired

In large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp.  Remove bacon and carefully drain grease, keeping 2-3 tablespoons in skillet.

In the bacon drippings, saute summer squash and onion for 6-8 minutes or until crisp-tender.  Add minced garlic and stir for 1-2 more minutes until garlic is cooked.

Sprinkle with cheese if you want (and why wouldn’t you?).

Shredded Zucchini Saute’

6-ish c. shredded zucchini
1 T. cooking oil
1 T. minced, fresh basil
salt & pepper to taste
2 t. butter
2 T. grated Parmesan cheese

Squeeze moisture out of zucchini by wrapping in a cotton towel and twisting to remove moisture.  Scrape zucchini into a bowl.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add zucchini, basil, salt and pepper.  Saute’, stirring often until crisp-tender–maybe 5 or so minutes.

Dot with butter and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Deep Bed Mulching…Check!

Even though it ended with me completely drenched from the rain, I am thrilled to have deep-bed mulched almost all of my section of the back garden this afternoon.  It was a lot of work, because I waited too late in the season to do it (which meant having to mow or pull the weeds I’d allowed to get out of control).  And, to be honest, I was slightly tempted to mow the whole thing and just till it under.  BUT, it took me two years to convince Dave to leave a section of dirt for me to try my “hippie” approach for enriching the soil, reducing weeds and retaining moisture.  We’ve had remarkable success in this test area in the two years since I started it, but Farmer Dave is still reluctant to let go of time on the tractor for the rest of our garden space…and I completely understand.  I like driving our old John Deere 2010, too!
Today, I basically unrolled a huge round bale of hay that has been decaying at the edge of our woods for a number of years.  I then spread the rotting hay over the area that I had just mowed.  In some areas, I put down sections of newspapers under the hay, too, providing an additional barrier against the thistles that I’d allowed to establish.
In the past, I’ve mulched with grass clippings, soiled hay from our chicken coop and truckloads of dead leaves.  It’s a lot of work on the day we mulch it, but the energy it takes to maintain is almost nothing for the majority of the growing season.  Our plants stay moist in dry weather and don’t become overrun with weeds when the rains hang on.
For most of the rest of our gardens, I mulch in between rows after planting as opposed to covering the entire space each year.  This is still greatly beneficial, but driving that heavy tractor over it at the beginning and end of every season seems to undo some of the weed barrier and soil aeration that the deep bed mulching allows.
I ran out of hay before I could totally finish, but I know that, with all of the rain we’ve had, there will be plenty of grass clippings this week to fill in the gap.  It really feels good to have such a big job done!