What to Do With All Those Cucumbers!

Yesterday was National Zucchini Day…or National Hide Your Zucchini in Your Neighbor’s Car Day. I’m not sure of the correct title, but that’s just not my problem this year. Those nasty squash beetles have taken care of that. CUCUMBERS! That’s my problem. They’re everywhere! So, I’m trying to see just what I can do with those wonderfully prolific little fellows.

The obvious choice, other than slicing them and eating them with salt or dicing them in a salad, is pickles. But who wants to go to all that mess trouble. I did find a recipe for refrigerator pickles that was, well, not a piece of cake, but fairly easy.

DSC00244I found the recipe at smittenkitchen.com.blog and tried to link to it, but I personally hate going to one site thinking I’m going to get a recipe only to have to click and wait on three others. Here’s the recipe:

4 or 5 large cucumbers, sliced

1 large sweet onion, thinly sliced
1/4 cup Kosher salt

1/2 to 3/4 cups sugar (I used 1/2 and wish I’d used 3/4)
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon celery seed

In a medium bowl, combine the cucumbers, onion and salt. Mix well. Cover the mixture with ice. Let stand at room temperature for two hours. In a pot, bring sugar, vinegar and spices to a boil. Drain cucumbers and onions. Add to vinegar mixture and bring almost back to a boil. Remove from heat and pack into two pint-sized jars. You can store the pickles in an airtight container for up to three weeks in the fridge. They will begin tasting pickled in just a couple hours.

I just tasted mine. They are good, but I’d recommend reducing the salt to 1/8 cup and adding sugar to equal 3/4 cup. Just my personal taste.

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SO, that got rid of a few, but what’s next? I made a cucumber salad. I found the recipe in several places so I don’t have an original source, but mostly used the Taste of Home recipe.

Ingredients

  • 4 cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 cups (12 ounces) sour cream
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup snipped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
It was okay. I would recommend more cucumbers because…well, that’s what you’re trying to get rid of, and because this made a little more “dressing” than I thought it needed. Unless you are taking this to a pot luck dinner, I’d suggest halving the recipe. It is not great left over. The dressing gets runny after sitting overnight in the fridge. It is kind of cute to serve in a little sherbet glass or a tea cup, though.
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The last recipe I made is one I tried last year, and it is still my favorite. It is also extremely versatile; you can make it as plain or fancy as you like. I got this recipe here: kitchenjoyblog.com.

Ingredients:

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely diced

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

sliced white sandwich bread, about 16 slices

sprigs of dill for garnish

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Directions:

  • In a medium bowl, mix together the cream cheese and mayonnaise until completely incorporated. Add garlic powder, salt, pepper, chopped dill, and diced cucumber. Spread on 8 slices of sandwich bread. Top with sprigs of dill, then close sandwiches with remaining bread slices.
 I tried to link you up, but couldn’t. Her pictures are so much prettier than mine. I adapted this in several ways. First of all, I used an extra cucumber and reduced the mayo a bit. If you are making the roll up that I’m going to show you, I suggest leaving out the mayo completely. It doesn’t hurt the flavor and makes the mixture more spreadable.
First, I rolled out my bread slices with a rolling pin, and don’t tell my grown up kids because we tried to convince them the crusts were the best part of the bread, but I removed them for these little sandwiches and rolled that bread out FLAT! I spread the filling between two slices and cut each sandwich into 4 squares and then halved the squares to make bite-sized tea sandwiches.
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To make a gluten free appetizer, simply slice cucumbers and top with a dollop of the spread. I topped one slice with a sprig of fresh rosemary (I would have used dill, but I forgot to grow it this year) and another with paprika and yet another with curry powder. All were delicious.
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Finally, you can reduce or eliminate the mayo and make a low carb tortilla roll up. In the picture, I used the standard recipe, and you can see that it’s a bit runny for finger food and doesn’t hold together as well as I’d like. I did refrigerate the roll for an hour before cutting, but it was still a little messy. Tasted wonderful, though.
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I think the best option would be an assortment platter.
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There you have it! Great ideas for using those cucumbers, but I’m telling you…we still have cucumbers.
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So, if you live in my neighborhood, be sure you lock your car doors!

All Those F Words

July… the perfect time for all those F words. Like Fourth. And Fun. Family, Fireworks, Food. And the perfect time for a casual, laid-back celebration, even if you do it on the 7th instead of the Fourth.

 

Science-Viscosity fun

Science-Viscosity fun

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And art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And on to getting ready for a family get together. We found a great way to simplify the serving line. Punch a hole or two into the side of your paper plates, and tie the napkins and tableware to the plate; it saves time and space in addition to upping the cuteness factor. Speaking of cuteness.

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Elle loves drawing and painting, so I thought we’d use some of her talent to decorate and learn at the same time. She said she had studied several artists at Espy Elementary, but she was not familiar with Georgia O’Keefe. We looked at her career and some of her work on the internet and decided to try to use some of her techniques for our celebration.

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I always report on our failures as well as our successes. This was a success in that we learned and experienced, and Elle did beautiful work, but I had read about a technique to use under glass plates. It involved printed vintage-look tissue paper ironed between waxed paper. I had done it before using the tissue paper and thought it should transfer to the coffee filters we used to paint our flowers. If it had, it would have been a beautiful thing to put on our serving pieces, but it didn’t. I ironed and pressed, but it didn’t stick. Elle took her art work home, and, well, I didn’t quite know what to do with mine.

I’m past the stage of hanging things on the fridge. 🙂

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Food

Star shaped fruit pizzas designed by Elle add to the patriotic theme, as do the “sparkler” chocolate dipped pretzels and the fresh strawberry yogurt cake.

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I was able to use the flag she made and some Japanese lanterns in with the red, white, and blue garland for the deck rails. And, I was glad I didn’t have time to involve her in making that garland. I used three plastic table cloths from the Dollar Tree, cut them in half, placed one on top of the others, and then slit all three layers to within 5 inches of the top. Then I braided the strands and knotted them together. It turned out okay, but was more time consuming than it was worth. It did withstand the wind for several days, though, so I won’t totally cross that off the list.

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Another thing we did was play work with balloons. We filled the red, white, and blue ones with water and froze them to use in the cooler…a festive way to keep drinks cool. The activated glow sticks under the ice made it really pretty at night.

DSC00225   DSC00191Those were some tough balloons!

 

 

 

 

 

 

And we planned a water gun game using golf tees and ping pong balls.

SISTERS

SISTERS

Family

A visit from an aunt and uncle from Washington made this Fourth of July Freedom celebration a special time. We missed having Lance and Carley here, but were so glad to have the rest of the family together.

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Saint manned the grill and, with Elle’s assistance, shot a few fireworks off without a visit to the ER, so, all in all, I’d say all our F words were good ones.

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                                 Fun, Family, Food, Fourth, Fireworks!

Lavender Cream Scones

Scones or muffins, what’s your preference? It’s a hard decision for me, but here’s what I think; Muffins are best to bake ahead, freeze, or even to eat the next day, however, right out of the oven, a soft, warm scone just can’t be beat! And, the good news is…I now, officially, have a new favorite scone recipe. I played with a couple of recipes for other pastries and came up with this melt-in-your-mouth Lavender Cream Scone.

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It was almost as easy as snipping lavender from a plant.

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That’s the first thing I did. I snipped flower buds and a few sprigs of the leaves and chopped them. I used about 2 teaspoons in the recipe that follows.

Lavender Cream Scones

2 cups flour

1/2 cup sugar

1 Tablespoon Baking Powder

5 Tablespoons butter

3/4 cup heavy cream

2 Teaspoons lavender buds and leaves (less if dried)

1/2 Teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup white chocolate chunks

Glaze

2 squares white chocolate

2 Tablespoons heavy cream

Directions:Place cream and lavender into a small sauce pan and heat until almost boiling (scald). Add vanilla and set aside to cool.  Mix first 3 ingredients. Cut butter into small chunks, add to dry mix, and cut in with pastry cutter until butter pieces are pea sized or smaller. Add the cool cream mixture and stir with a fork. Fold in chocolate bits and divide the dough into two balls. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and pat the two balls out onto the paper forming two circles about half an inch thick. Use a knife to partially slice each circle into six triangles. Bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes. Let cool completely. Mix 2 squares white chocolate candy coating and 2 Tablespoons cream and melt in microwave. (Twenty second increments, stirring) Drizzle onto cooled scones.

Oh, my. These were seriously delicious! I may or may not have eaten enough of these to send my Paleo friends into Glutiac arrest.  #soworthit

If you try these, let me know what you think. They beat out the key lime ones I made earlier as well as gingerbread, cranberry, and strawberry. In fact, they just replaced pumpkin as my favorite scone ever!

Low Carbin’

I wish I could tell you that reducing carbs and Splenda from my diet has resulted in a monumental weight loss. I can’t! In all fairness, I have not followed the prescriptive plan, and when I did that before, years ago, I lost weight substantially. I also wish I didn’t enjoy cooking and eating quite so much. I can’t! I wish I enjoyed exercise more at all. I don’t!

What I can say is that I have noticed fewer headaches and a lot less aches and pains in general as I have reduced the carb laden foods and Aspertame sweeteners.

One of the reasons I find the restrictions difficult is the lack of snacks and treats available. I mean, sometimes a girl just needs to grab a bag of crunchy chips or a bag of chocolate ones. (chips)

Last week I pinned a recipe for a sweet treat I thought I would try. I found it here:

http://simplecountryhome.com/2013/07/22/peanut-butter-cups/

I made them using these few ingredients plus a combination of sweeteners that I didn’t picture.

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I softened 1/2 cup of Coconut Oil in the microwave. I didn’t want it totally liquid, just stirable.

Then I added 1/2 cup of Cocoa

1/4 cup of Coconut Sweetener plus a packet of hardwood Xylatol. I liked this combo for sweetening.

1/4 t. vanilla

A scant pinch of kosher salt.

I found it easy to mix all this if I rested the bowl in a pan of warm water.

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You can taste and adjust the sweetness/saltiness at this point.

Next, I spooned a bit into these heart shaped molds I got to make fudge for our grand daughter, Carley, at Valentine’s day because she specifically requested fudge at Christmas and didn’t get it. She also hasn’t gotten it for Valentine’s Day…yet.

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I just covered the bottom, and then I added a dab of peanut butter.

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And finally, I spooned more chocolate over the top. And I sprinkled a few bits of sea salt on top.

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These went into the frige for solidifying. And they popped right out of the mold into cute, little heart-shaped candies. This recipe made 12 good sized candies with a little leftover chocolate mix, to which I added a bit of peanut butter and swirled. And ate. As soon as it hardened immediately. From my lack of patience I learned an important lesson. This stuff is delicious! And you don’t have to waste spend time making pretty little cups. You could just mix up the chocolate, add some peanut butter, mix, and pour into a buttered bowl to harden. Yay!!

I have enjoyed one or two a day. They really help the deprivation. 🙂 And they have about a carb to a carb and a half each, depending upon size and according to my unscientific, mathematically challenged figures. Which may also contribute to my lack of weight loss. 😉

Enjoy!

WIP to Finished…I think

Stick a fork in it. It is done! For now, at least.

This has definitely been a work in progress and a joint effort for Saint and me. And it has been fun. Mostly.

I have rounded up some before and after pictures to share.

BEDROOM BEFORE

BEDROOM BEFORE

 

BEDROOM AFTER

BEDROOM AFTER

 

DINING BOOTH BEFORE

DINING BOOTH BEFORE

 

DINING BOOTH AFTER

DINING BOOTH AFTER

KITCHEN BEFORE

KITCHEN BEFORE

 

KITCHEN AFTER

KITCHEN AFTER

 

 

OLD FLOOR

OLD FLOOR

 

NEW FLOOR

NEW FLOOR

NEW BATHROOM SHELF

NEW BATHROOM SHELF

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UPDATED BUNK AREA

UPDATED BUNK AREA

CHALKBOARD PAINT on FRIGE and SPICE RACK

CHALKBOARD PAINT on FRIGE and SPICE RACK

 

 

OUR SHABBY COASTAL THEME

OUR SHABBY COASTAL THEME

I’ll elaborate more on the campingcapers.wordpress.com blog post. Thanks for stopping by, she’ll be on the road soon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cauliflower Cheddar Chowder…low carb and delicious!

If you enjoyed the low carb side dish we made over the campfire this summer,  recipe for that here, http://campingcapers.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/camping-side-dish-loaded-cauliflower/

you are going to LOVE this recipe!

I started playing around with the idea that, if cauliflower is a good substitute for potatoes in that recipe, perhaps it would be just as good in the loaded baked potato soup that I love to make in winter. I made a cauliflower soup using a soup starter, earlier, and though it was good, I can’t say that I loved it. Guess what! I loved this one! I only wish I had thought of it last week when the temps were below zero and the ground covered with snow and ice.

Today’s beautiful sunshine did not make this one bit less tasty, and the bacon and garlic made the house smell wonderful.

I started with 8 slices of bacon, which I chopped and put in the bottom of my soup pan to brown. Let me stop here and add that, next time, I will cook the bacon in my skillet and transfer it to the soup pan. It stuck to the bottom of my pan a bit and didn’t brown as thoroughly as I like. It was still fine. I added two cloves of garlic (chopped) and a stalk of diced celery, and about a fourth of a cup of chopped onion after the bacon had browned a bit.

DSC00005I stirred constantly until the garlic and celery were translucent and the bacon was nice and brown. I sat that aside while I steamed a head of cauliflower. I did it stove top, but you can easily use your veggie steamer or microwave. When the cauliflower was tender, I mashed it with a fork. I didn’t want to puree it because I wanted little chunks like potato chowder.

DSC00007Next, I moved the bacon back onto the burner and added the cauliflower. When it was all mixed together and heating, I poured in one and three fourths cups of chicken broth, a cup of milk, and a cup of heavy whipping cream. For potato soup, I use all milk, but replacing one cup of milk with the cream cut the few carbs in half! And it helps with thickening. When that was heated and smelling really good, I added 2 cups of shredded cheddar, salt and freshly ground pepper, stirring until the cheese melted.

I garnished with a  green onions and a few bacon bits I had reserved, and BAM! That’s all, folks. Easy, fast, and really, really good.

DSC00009Here’s the recipe in a nutshell:

Cauliflower Cheddar Chowder

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower-steamed and mashed

8 slices bacon-cooked and crumbled (reserve a Tbs. grease and a few bacon crumbles)

2 cloves garlic-chopped

1 or 2 stalks celery-diced

1/4 to 1/2 half chopped onion, depending upon taste

2 cups chicken stock

1 cup milk

1 cup heavy cream

2 cups shredded cheddar

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook bacon, remove from skillet, drain and crumble. In a large soup pan, saute garlic, celery and onion in a tablespoon of the grease from the bacon. Add the mashed cauliflower and most of the crumbled bacon to the garlic mixture and heat together. Add chicken broth, milk, and heavy cream. Cook until soup is hot but not boiling. Add Cheddar, salt and freshly ground pepper and continue to heat and stir until cheese has melted. Garnish with the reserved bacon bits and sliced green onion on top.

 

Quick and Easy Low Carb Appetizer

It’s not too late! This takes only a few minutes prep time and a bit of “resting” time. Yes, you really could mix this up before your New Year’s Eve celebration TONIGHT!

DSC00002PECAN, OLIVE, BACON CHEESE BITES

Ingredients:

2-8 oz cream cheese (softened)

1/2 cup chopped green olives (pimento stuffed)

1/2 cup Kalamata olives (chopped)

1 or 2 green onions (chopped)

8 slices bacon (fried crisp, drained, chopped)

1 cup chopped pecans

DIRECTIONS:

Mix all ingredients in large mixing bowl. I use a fork and my fingers rather than a mixer. Shape into a large ball and refrigerate. This can be made a day or two in advance. When ready to serve, scoop out a teaspoon sized heap and roll it into a ball. Continue until all mixture has been used. Insert a toothpick into each one for easy handling.

I don’t have an exact carb count on this, but all the ingredients are extremely low in carbohydrates. Sometimes, I toast whole pecans and place one half on each side of a ball…kind of sandwich style. For those not watching carbs, I add a ring of snack crackers around the plate. Your guests have options. 🙂

I have great memories of New Year’s Eve celebrations when our kids were growing up. We would have several families with kids over to eat and play games. Now, we traditionally get together with our best friends for a quiet evening of cards, snacks, and welcoming in a New Year. This year we are going to their house, and the food…well, I can guarantee there will be enough for a crowd. I’m promised there will be several low carb options, so no excuses for me! I hope you and your family have a fun celebration planned, and that you have a very blessed 2014!