Terra Incognita III - Homemade Ketchup

One of my 'big plans' last summer was making ketchup from my own tomatoes. There was one slight problem though -  the lack of cooperation on the part of my tomato plants. We had enough tomatoes for eating, but not the bumper crop that I would have needed to make a decent batch of ketchup.

In the end I compromised and started with store bought tomato paste. I bought the good stuff though - organic tomatoes in a jar rather than a can, and cultured it for added health benefits.

I looked at a number of recipes, both in Nourishing Traditions and in various places online, but knew I'd found what I was looking for when I saw this recipe.

I used the recipe as is, other than leaving out the mustard, since I didn't have any on hand. It smelled so good as I was mixing it, I almost wanted to eat it with a spoon.

A few days later, it was ready to eat. My family's verdict: good stuff :)

Broccoli Salad

I know it will snow again - in fact the forecast says we'll be getting some next week. But the days are getting longer, the sun is higher in the sky, and it's feeling like spring to me. I've packed away my sweaters and brought out the sandals. Even my menus are transitioning to more warm weather food. Lately, I've been craving soup less, and crunchy salads more.

Most of the time it's a big green salad, but occasionally, especially when we grill hot dogs or burgers, I like this one. The first time I had it was at a family potluck when two guests brought it. Even with double the amount, there was none leftover. The two salads had slightly different ingredients, so I combined what I liked best about each and came up with my own. Again, it's a small amount for my small family, but is easily adjusted

Broccoli Salad

Large head of broccoli, trimmed and divided into bite-size pieces and briefly blanched to be crisp and bright green
1 small red onion, finely diced
6 slices bacon, fried and crumbled
1/2 cup sunflower seeds (Some recipes use cashews or other nuts)
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2-3/4 cup plain yogurt (I use yogurt since we don't like mayonnaise)
1 Tablespoon honey
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Combine the broccoli, onion, sunflower seeds, and cranberries in a large mixing bowl. Mix the  yogurt, honey, and vinegar together and pour over the other ingredients.

Toss and refrigerate. For best results, add the bacon just before serving.

Chicken and Artichoke Casserole

I don't think there is anything like a casserole when things are busy. One of my favorites is Chicken and Artichoke casserole. It can be made in the oven, or in a crock pot to make things even easier. And since our whole family likes artichokes any excuse to have them is welcome here.

Years ago when we were traveling, I had something like this in a restaurant. I figured it wouldn't be that difficult to make something similar, and this is what I came up with. I have a small family, but we get enough for dinner one night and lunches the next. Adjust the amounts as needed.

The ingredients:
chicken breast
chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste

Melt about two tablespoons butter in a wide frying pan. Cut the chicken into serving sized strips. Add them to the butter and brown them slightly. Remove from the pan and place in a casserole dish or crock pot along with the artichokes.

Slice the mushrooms and add them to the pan (along with more butter, if needed) and cook for a few minutes until they soften. Stir in two tablespoons of flour. Cook over low heat for a few minutes to make a thick paste.

Gradually add a pint of chicken stock (homemade if you have it), stirring continually to avoid lumps.

Pour over the chicken and artichokes. If not using a crock pot, bake 350 degrees until sauce is thickened and chicken is done.