Baked Apple Pork Chops

This is another of those recipes I didn't make for years because I believed  butter was bad for you. I still don't make it often, but right now I have a large bag of small apples.

I'm thinking apple butter, apple fritters and these pork chops. 

Baked Apple Pork Chops

4-6 pork chops
1 egg, beaten
1 cup dry bread crumbs
4 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 apple, pared and sliced
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
sprinkle each of cinnamon, sugar
leaf thyme, celery flakes and chives

Dip each pork chop into beaten egg, then into bread crumbs. In a skillet, brown pork chops on both sides in melted butter. Place chops in a baking dish large enough to hold them. sprinkle with chopped onion, parsley, celery flakes and chives. Place sliced apple on pork chops. Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.
Pour a small amount of water in the bottom of the baking dish
Bake at 400 degrees for 30 - 40 minutes

Cranberry Sauce

Cranberry sauce has got to be one of the easiest-to-make parts of Thanksgiving dinner. It takes just minutes and practically cooks itself. True, it isn't shaped like a can with the pattern of the can along the sides, but I've been eating homemade for as long as I can remember, so I don't know why anyone would choose that anyway.

When I was a kid, my grandmother had a pomegranate tree. My sister and I would  peel them like an orange, so it was messy and took ages (and probably ruined our clothes). Looking back I realize that taking the time and care to fill a bowl with bright red pomegranate seeds was quite a lesson in patience for small children.

A few years ago though, I learned the trick of how to peel a pomegranate. Since it was so fast and easy, that year we had more pomegranates than ever. They started showing up in packed lunches, fall fruit salads and drinks. When the time came to make cranberry sauce, I decided to put some in with the cranberries and liked it so much that I've done it ever since.

Cranberry Pomegranate Sauce

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 bag cranberries
1/2 cup  pomegranate arils (or seeds)

Put sugar and water in a pan over medium heat. Once sugar is dissolved, add cranberries and pomegranate arils. Simmer gently for 10-12 minutes. The cranberries will make a popping sound as they cook.

Pumpkin Roll

This used to be a staple of my November baking. I think it's time I brought it back.

Pumpkin Roll

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup pumpkin
1 tsp lemon juice
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup powdered sugar
1 8 oz package cream cheese, softened
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 tsp vanilla

Beat eggs at high speed for about 3 minutes. Stir in sugar gradually. Add pumpkin and lemon juice. Stir together the flour and spices Fold into the pumpkin mixture. Spread in a greased and floured 15x10x1 inch jelly roll pan.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes. Turn out onto a towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. Sprinkle top with more powdered sugar. Roll cake and towel together. Cool.

Meanwhile, make filling: combine all 4 filling ingredients in a medium bowl. Beat until smooth. 

Unroll the cooled cake, spread with filling and re-roll. Keep refrigerated.

Homemade tortillas

This past weekend I finally got a chance to play with my newest kitchen gadget - a tortilla press.

I know you don't need a tortilla press to make tortillas. I made them before without one, but I was hoping to start making them more often - not to mention more *ahem* uniform, and progress to making corn tortillas and tortilla chips. As usual, I was motivated by a desire to create a healthier alternative to what was available in the shops.

I am fully aware there are those who will object to the use of  the terms 'healthy' and 'tortilla' used in the same sentence,  but a) I doubt they spend much time on this blog,  and b) I am not seeking perfection - just improvement. Since my tortillas come without additives and vegetable oils (yep. They're packin' lard. Heck. I may even try coconut oil if I run out of lard) I think they're an improvement.

We'll have to wait and see yet on the tortilla chips, but the flour tortillas turned out well. They are a bit smaller than what we're used to, but they pass The Kid taste test. The real test, of course, will be when he uses them to make his patented quesadillas that he won't let anyone make for him because they have to be done a certain way. How this varies from how anyone else does them, we have yet to determine.

1 1/2  cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons lard
1/2 cup warm water

Blend the flour, baking powder, and salt together.  With a pastry blender, fork or by hand, cut in the lard  until the ingredients cling together when you squeeze a bit in your hands. If it is crumbly, there isn't enough lard or it's not mixed in well enough. If it makes a hard clump, there is too much lard for the amount of flour.

Add the water all at once and quickly mix until the dough forms a mass. Knead by hand a few times, or until you have a soft dough that is no longer sticky.  Cover and let rest for about 5 to 10 minutes.

After the dough has rested, form 1 inch diameter balls. Shape into tortillas either in a press, or by rolling on a floured surface.

Cook on a griddle or cast iron pan for 30 seconds to two minutes per side, or until they are done. I have an electric griddle that I set on 450 degrees, but even at that temperature it didn't cook very fast.

Pumpkin Scones

If you haven't overloaded on pumpkin yet this fall, give this recipe a try. I've never made them with the white chocolate and nuts. Yet. There's always time....

Pumpkin Scones

2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup light or dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup chopped white chocolate (optional)
1/4 cup toasted and chopped pecans (optional)
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup fresh or canned pure pumpkin
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Egg Wash:
1 large egg
1 tablespoon milk or cream
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling the tops of the scones (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and place rack in middle of oven.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, spices, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Cut the butter into small pieces and blend into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or two knives.  The mixture should look like coarse crumbs.   Stir in the chopped white chocolate and pecans, if using.  In a separate bowl mix together the buttermilk, pumpkin puree and vanilla and then add the buttermilk mixture to the flour mixture.  Mix just until the dough comes together. Do not overmix the dough.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead dough gently four or five times and then pat the dough into a circle that is about 7 inches round and about 11/2 inches thick.  Cut this circle in half, then cut each half into 3 pie-shaped wedges (triangles).  Place the scones on the baking sheet.  Brush the tops of the scones with the egg wash and sprinkle a little Turbinado sugar on top, if desired.

 Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.   Transfer to a wire rack to cool. 

Makes 6 scones.

Hot Fudge Sauce

The sky is grey today and the temperature is dropping. It's about 40 degrees colder today than it was at the same time yesterday. The rain started this afternoon and the weatherman tells us that it's likely to turn to snow before morning.

Our first snow storm. Everyone knows what that means - hot....fudge? As in Sundae?

Sure. Why not?

 Hot Fudge Sauce

1/2 cup cream
3 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
pinch of salt
1/2 cup cocoa powder

Place cream and butter in a heavy 1 quart pan over moderate heat. Stir until butter is melted and cream comes to a low boil. Add both sugars and stir until they are dissolved. Reduce heat. Add salt and cocoa and stir briskly with a small whisk until smooth.

Drizzle it over some ice cream, and enjoy.


As I said about a month ago, my life has gotten exponentially busier (if I can put those words together that way) in recent weeks. I managed to keep up with the cooking for a while, but the past two weeks have been a  bit hit and miss - and lately, more miss than hit.

I really need to get my act together. For one thing, the complex meals I was used to back when I worked part-time no longer fit my life. At least not for now. Maybe someday I'll come home at the end of a 8-9 hour day and not need to put in another 4 or 5 (or 8) hours of work, but for now I need to plan simpler meals than I'm used to and actually follow through on it. Or at least be organized enough to spread multi-step meals over several days instead of all at once. Obviously I could do the more complex recipes on weekends, but I don't want to spend my whole weekends cooking either. I also need to do more planning and organizing and definitely do more cooking for the freezer.

First things first though - breakfast.  Weekend breakfasts are taking on new importance in our home since no one feels like eating at 6.30 which is the latest we can have breakfast and still get to work/school on time.

I decided on eggs since I had plenty of 'em. I diced up some ham, grated some cheese and chopped up a bit of green onion from the window sill. Toast would have been the usual, but Thursday night I set bread out to rise....but unfortunately, never actually put it in the oven. Oops. So I made biscuits instead.

I'm almost glad I forgot the bread the other day. Biscuits are a bit more effort than slicing a piece of bread and putting it in the toaster, but warm with lots of butter,  they were just right for a chilly and grey, fall morning.

I make them in the food processor now, so it's less effort than it used to be, and since I started making them with yogurt, they are even better tasting, too. The ones in the photo were actually a first attempt by my son when he was about 10. He wasn't too sure about the whole food processor thing, so he made them 'old school'.

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon soda
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup milk
2 heaping tablespoons plain yogurt (I use Fage)

Heat oven to 450 degrees.
Measure dry ingredients into food processor bowl, or mixing bowl if you're not using a food processor.

Cut in butter by pulsing in the food processor, or by hand with a fork, until mixture looks like meal.

Whisk yogurt into milk. Add the yogurt/milk gradually adding just enough to make a soft, pliable dough. Knead a few times, either on a floured surface, or in the processor.

Roll or pat (I pat) about 1/2 thick. Cut into rounds and bake on ungreased baking sheet, 10-12 minutes.

Molasses Sugar Cookies

I was given this recipe years ago by a family friend. It's the perfect cookie for this time of year. They are like a gingersnap - but without the 'snap'

Molasses Sugar Cookies

3/4 C butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 egg
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt

Melt butter and allow to cool. Add sugar, molasses and egg. Beat well.

Sift together flour and spices. Mix thoroughly into butter mixture. Chill.

Form into balls and roll in sugar. Place on greased baking sheet and flatten slightly. Bake at 375 degrees for 8-10 minutes.

Easy Beets

The end of summer is always a busy time for me, but this year it has been exceptionally so. My life took an unexpected turn in mid-August and for the past few weeks there has barely been enough time (or energy) to cook food, let alone write about it.

A couple of weeks ago, though, as I was rooting through the refrigerator looking for a vegetable that hadn't wilted out of neglect, I spied a couple of beets that I decided had finally been taking up space in the drawer too long.

I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them. I think I'd intended to grate them for salads, but since I was baking bread that day, I decided to roast them. While they were roasting, I googled around for ideas and in the process learned that pickling them wasn't as difficult as I'd expected it to be. In fact, according to every recipe I looked at, it was quite easy. 

So I pickled 'em. And it really was dead easy. 

I cleaned and trimmed the beets and put them in a small casserole alongside the bread while it was baking. They took a bit longer then the bread, about 45 minutes. 

When they were done, I set them aside to cool a bit while I made the brine. Since I only had two beets, I only made a small amount of the brine.  

When the beets were cool enough to handle, I peeled and sliced them, and packed them into a quart canning jar and poured the brine over them. They were so easy and turned out so good, I've already had to make another batch. 

Brine ingredients: 

1 c sugar
1 cup vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 t salt
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole allspice
2 whole cloves

Boil all brine ingredients together for about 15 minutes. Pour over beets. 

Allow to cool to room temperature, cover and refrigerate. If possible, allow the flavors to develop for 3 or 4 days before eating. 

One recipe said that you could put hard boiled eggs in the brine for a few days to make pickled eggs. I haven't tried that...yet. But I intend to when I get a chance. 

Breakfast Casserole

I first had this casserole at a Christmas Party at my son's school. Instead of the usual afternoon parties, they have a big breakfast party and invite the family. A few families brought variations on this casserole, but this one was my favorite. I've since made it for visiting family and it's always been popular. 

I usually use freshly shredded potatoes, though I have bought frozen hash browns when I've been crunched for time. The original recipe didn't call for baking the potato 'crust' separately, but I found I like the potatoes to be a bit crunchy. 

This recipe is for a 9 x 13 inch pan, which is quite large for just us, but it keeps and reheats well, so is nice to have for quick breakfasts on busy mornings, which will again be the theme around here in a few days. It can also be halved easily. I also think it lends itself well to variation. One option I plan to try is use jack cheese instead of cheddar, and add green chili. 

Sausage and Egg Casserole

1 pound bulk breakfast sausage
3 cups shredded potatoes, well rinsed and drained
1/4 cup melted butter,
12 ounces mild Cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1 16 ounce container cottage cheese
6 large eggs

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.

Stir together the shredded potatoes and butter, and press evenly into lightly grease a 9x13 inch square baking dish. Bake for about 15 minutes or until crust is set. Leave it longer if you want it crispy - less or not at all if you don't.

Meanwhile, cook the sausage over medium-high heat until evenly brown. Drain and set aside. Mix the cheddar cheese, onion, cottage cheese, eggs and sausage. Pour over the potato crust.

Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into center of the casserole comes out clean. 

Three Bean Salad

 Sometimes I think that I'm so busy trying new things, I forget about the 'classic' or 'everyday' recipes. Last weekend was one of those instances. I'd been trying at least one new recipe everyday, all week and I felt we needed a break. Not to mention I needed a break from the kitchen. I decided on hamburgers, corn on the cob and three bean salad. The salad could be made well ahead of time, and everything else cooked outside on the grill.

I wanted 'plain, ordinary' three bean salad with the sweet and vinegary taste I was familiar with. I did make one change, however. Since I am not too keen on kidney beans,  I swapped those out and used artichoke hearts instead. I used frozen green beans and canned chickpeas for convenience, and artichoke hearts in salt water rather than the marinated variety. I cooked the green beans briefly - about 3 minutes, then drained them and rinsed them with cold water to cool them quickly and keep them bright green.

What I ended up with was 'Three Bean Salad When One of the Beans is Artichoke' or 'Two Bean and Artichoke Salad'. Of course if you like kidney beans, you can always add them back in, or add another type of bean you prefer. As always, change the ratios to suit, but this is what I used.

Bean Salad

green beans - about 10 ounces by weight
Chick peas, 15 ounce can, drained and rinsed
Artichoke hearts (9.9 ounce jar), quartered
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 cup vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
salt and pepper to taste

Mix beans, artichokes and red onion in a bowl. Combine remaining ingredients in a jar. Shake well and pour over bean mixture. Chill for several hours or overnight to combine flavors.


This is one of our favorite summertime desserts, and with cherries in season right now, it's the perfect time to make it. 
It isn't very photogenic - at least mine isn't. Fortunately, it tastes much better than it looks. 

I have tried a number of recipes, but found I like Julia Child's version the best. I reduced the sugar slightly, since the original version was too sweet for me. I also leave the pits in the cherries, but you can use pitted if you prefer.


1 1/4 cups milk
1/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup flour
3 cups cherries
1/4 cup sugar
Cream for serving 

Whisk together the milk, sugar, eggs, vanilla, salt and flour making sure there are no lumps. Pour a 1/4 inch layer of the batter in a buttered baking dish. Place in the oven and bake just until batter is set. Remove from the heat and spread the cherries over the batter. Sprinkle on the 1/4 cup of sugar. Pour on the remainder of the batter.

Bake at 350 degrees for about for about 40-45 minutes. The clafouti is done when puffed and brown and and a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. 


This recipe combines two ingredients plentiful this time of year - and answers the question, "What else can I do with all this zucchini?"


* 3 zucchini squash, cubed
* 1/2 cup chopped onion
* 2 to 3 tablespoons butter
* 1/2 cup chopped green New Mexican chile, roasted, peeled, stems removed
* 2 cups organic whole kernel corn 
* 1 cup heavy cream
* 1/4 cup grated Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese

Sauté the zucchini and onion in the butter until the squash is
tender.Add the chile, and corn, Simmer the mixture for 15 to 20
minutes to blend the flavors. Add the cream and heat through. Add the
cheese and heat until the cheese is melted.

Serves: 4 to 6

My New Favorite Brownies

One of the things I like to do occasionally is revisit old recipes and update them with healthier ingredients, like using butter or coconut oil instead of vegetable oils or shortening, or real whipped cream in a recipe that called for..that other stuff or even adding the fat and egg yolks back in to recipes that were 'lightened'. 

In the process, I think I discovered my new brownie recipe.  I used to make these a long time ago, then switched to another recipe that I used for years. It's chocolatey without being too sweet - and if you're a regular reader, you know how I feel about that. It also makes that smooth, crunchy crust on the top that was missing from the recipe I was using. It's also quick and easy since it's made with chocolate chips. 

As usual, I used Ghirardelli. The packages are no longer 12 ounces, so I used a full bag and part of another. You can add nuts if you like, or more chocolate chips to the batter before baking to make chocolate chip brownies. 


2/3 c. butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
4 tablespoons water
12 ounces Ghirardelli 60% dark chocolate chips
2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Butter 13 X 9 inch baking pan. Combine butter, sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat until butter is melted. Remove from heat, add chocolate chips and vanilla. Stir until smooth. Transfer to large bowl. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Blend  in combined dry ingredients, and additional chips or nuts if you're using them.  Spread in prepared pan. 
Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. 
Cool and cut into squares. 

Rose Petal Jam

Before last summer I'd never made any kind of jam or jelly. I'd cooked up some strawberries and peaches and made freezer jam, but it just isn't the same thing as a proper jam or jelly. Then I had a bumper crop of grapes (nearly 30 pounds from a single over-achieving vine) that there was no way we were going to get through before they spoiled.

We ate some, used some of them to make wine (fail) and the rest I made into grape jelly. I'd never made any kind of jam or jelly, so I did a lot of reading then tried it out with crab apples first. With each batch I learned from my mistakes and gained confidence to try making marmalade, and then eventually something, at least to me, more exotic.

While researching how to make jelly, I ran across a recipe for rose petal jam with intentions of trying it 'someday'. One of my favorite things about summer is cooking with flowers, so, when my roses started to bloom, I began collecting petals.

I used some of my own, some from a friend and purchased some dried culinary blooms.  I used a combination of varieties and an approximation of this recipe and was rewarded with a pint of jewel-colored, fragrant rose-flavored jelly. 

Rose Petal Jelly

1 3/4 cups water
1 oz rose petals
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons powdered pectin
1 cup sugar

In a medium saucepan, bring water up to a rolling boil. Add rose petals and boil 1 minute.  Cover the saucepan, turn the heat off, and steep the rose petals 30 minutes.  Strain the water through a cheesecloth-lined sieve, making sure to wring the cheesecloth to squeeze all the liquid from the petals. Transfer the rose water back to the saucepan.

Stir in the lemon juice, then whisk in the pectin and sugar until dissolved.  Bring to a boil on high heat and boil 5 minutes, stirring frequently.  Pour into sterile jars and allow to cool to room temperature. Store refrigerated.

Garlic and Rosemary Pork Chops

For years I followed the standard advice about nutrition and dutifully cut back on meat and just about eliminated fat - especially saturated fat. This meant leaving behind many foods from my childhood, including this one I learned from my Italian grandmother. Now that I know meat and (saturated) fats are good for us, it's happily back on the menu. 

There is no real recipe, just pork chops, garlic, rosemary and a little salt and pepper. 

Add butter, garlic and rosemary to a large, shallow pan. Heat it gently so that they don't burn

Add the pork chops and cook slowly, allowing them to infuse with the flavors of garlic, rosemary and butter

Continue cooking until the pork chops are done.


Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake

I was given this recipe many years ago by a relative. It's an easy, simple cake that requires no frosting so is great for picnics or lunch boxes.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake

1 3/4 C boiling water
1 c uncooked oatmeal
1 c lightly packed brown sugar
1 c granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 3/4 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 T cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
12 ounces chocolate chips

Pour boiling water on oatmeal and let it stand 10 minutes. Add sugars and butter and stir until butter melts. Add eggs and mix well. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Pour batter into greased and floured 9x13 inch pan. Bake 350 degrees for 40 minutes

(Not My Usual) Chili

Our weather has the characteristics of a roller coaster this time of year. We'll have several days of temperatures in the 80s, then suddenly the clouds roll in, the temperature drops about 40 degrees and our lawns and gardens get some much needed water. Occasionally it will be in the form of snow, but this year it's been all rain.

Besides watering the garden, another thing good about cooler days is the opportunity to enjoy some of our favorite cold weather foods again before hot weather is here to stay. One of our regular favorites is chili. I recently changed the way I make it after trying a friend's version at a potluck. It was so much more popular with my family than mine is, I thought it was worth a try. It's a bit different and not very authentic I'm sure, but my family likes it, so that's what counts.

I made a few changes, like using fresh tomatoes, or substituting red peppers instead of green, but basically it's the same:


In a large pot, brown:
1 lb ground beef
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, chopped

Add the following and simmer for about an hour:
1 (16 oz.) can kidney beans, undrained
1 C. water small can diced tomatoes (I use fresh tomatoes if they are in season, or tomatoes in a carton
4 oz tomato sauce
1 T chili powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 diced red pepper
1/2 C frozen corn
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (I skip this because my chili powder is on the hot side)

Optional, to serve: grated cheese, chopped onions, avocado, sour cream, and  tortilla chips.

Pasta Alfredo with Grilled Chicken

We grill outdoors all year long here, in fact, one of our 'family traditions' is to have something from the grill for New Year's Eve dinner. Outdoor cooking doesn't really get going until spring, though, and when it does, one of the first dishes we bring back for the season is Pasta Alfredo with Grilled Chicken.

It's quick and easy to make and takes advantage of whatever vegetables are on hand. This time of year we make use of the early asparagus that is appearing in stores. This is another of those recipes I never measure, but here are the ingredients and amounts for a small family like mine:

one large chicken breast, cut into strips
cream - approximately 12 ounces
2 ounces butter
1/4 cup grated parmesan
a mixture of vegetables, cut into appropriate sized pieces

While my husband cooks the chicken outdoors, I put on a pan of salted water for the vegetables and pasta, and start making the sauce.

I've tried various methods for making Alfredo Sauce, but this method, which I actually heard on a radio cooking show, produces the best results I've found. Pour the cream into a shallow pan and heat on medium until the cream is cooked down to a thick consistency and yellow color.

While the cream is reducing, add the vegetables to boiling water in stages, starting with those, like carrots, that take the longest to cook. The pasta I use takes four minutes, so I reserve that until the sauce is nearly finished.

After about 20 minutes, the cream is reduced, the vegetables are nearly finished and it's time to pull everything together. Add the pasta to the boiling water, then stir the butter and parmesan into the sauce. Just before the pasta is completely cooked, drain the vegetables and pasta and add them to the sauce to finish cooking.

Spoon into serving dish, top with the grilled chicken and serve with more grated parmesan.

Kale and Sausage Soup

I seem to be one of those people who never gets tired of soup. Now that the weather is getting warmer I know it won't be long before hot soup is off the menu. Until it's just too hot, I'm fitting it in as often as I can. This simple soup is one of my favorites, and is similar to the Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana.

Kale and Sausage Soup

1 lb good quality bulk Italian Sausage
4-6 slices of bacon, cut into pieces
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups chicken stock
2 large potatoes, cubed
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 bunch of Kale

In a large pan or stockpot, saute sausage and bacon for a few minutes, until bacon is cooked and the sausage has lost most of its pinkness. Add the onion and garlic and cook a few minutes more, until onion is translucent and the meats are cooked through.

Add stock and potatoes and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, or until potatoes are soft.

Add cream and kale, and heat until warmed through. Serve topped with freshly grated parmesan cheese, and a loaf of crusty homemade bread.

Terra Very Incognita: Tapping My Maple Trees

Late last winter I discovered that trees other than sugar maple could be tapped and the sap turned into syrup. I was very excited to try this with our two silver maple trees, but it was too late in the winter for me to gather supplies and try it before spring. At the time it seemed a long time until the next winter.

But of course, winter arrived, although it didn't feel much like it. We had many days of 60 degree temperatures in January but eventually it got down to business, dropping both the temperature and quite a lot of snow.

Warmer days returned and last week I began my experiment. We started with a single tap in one tree just to see what would happen.

The next day we did another and then the following day we tapped the second tree. We only collected sap three days total and ended up with two gallons of sap that looked like this:

That isn't a lot of sap when you consider that even with sugar maple trees it takes about 40 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup, but we decided for our initial venture it was enough. Really, we just wanted to try it and see what happened. We also didn't have time to spend days tending a pan of bubbling sap all day.

We boiled the sap in our biggest stock pot on the backyard grill. I'd read it's better to do it outside since there is so much evaporation and the steam can be sticky.

At the end of six hours our two gallons of sap reduced to the point where it covered the bottom of our stock pot to the depth of about two inches. At this point, I transfered it to a smaller pan and brought it indoors so that I could keep a closer eye on it.

Another hour or so of boiling and we were left with about six ounces of golden colored syrup.

It's very sweet and the flavor is quite different from syrup from a sugar maple. We're looking forward to trying it on pancakes later this week.