Sunday, November 21, 2010


American Thanksgiving...and 
Grandma's Green Beans 
(sort of...)

We all have special family traditions, especially at holiday times.  (Although I loved my grandmother's green beans any time, any place!)  This is a recipe that's familiar to most of us, in one form or another, a Green Bean Casserole.  (Believe it or not, we saw it pre-packaged at the discount store the other day.  That's just WEIRD.)

Normally, it looks pretty much like this, though I'll admit I've jazzed it up a bit--made it a little more grown up and somewhat healthier than the version I grew up with.  (Still can't do without those French's Onions, though...)

Instead of regular canned green beans, consider preparing fresh ahead of time, cooking them till tender by steaming or (gasp!) boiling.  We get organic ones from our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), which delivers fresh vegetables and fruit (and sometimes meat) to our door.  I've also used canned organic beans, and that works just fine, too!

You'll need about 4 cups of beans to make enough to share with the family...

Give this a try!

4 C. or two cans of green beans, preferably organic

1 large can of cream of mushroom or cream of celery soup--regular, fat free, or "Healthy Request" if you like (*or make your own, it's not hard!  See the recipe below...)

1 small can of organic mushrooms OR 1 C. of raw mushrooms, saute'ed in butter or canola oil or a mix.

1 1/2 C. grated sharp cheddar cheese--if you've got access to organic cheese, great.  (Or grate...)

1 T. fresh garlic, minced (the jarred stuff will do, of course)

A splash of white wine--like 1/4 to 1/2 cup.  Dry-ish wine is probably best, but I've used Rhine with no complaints...

A squeeze of fresh lemon juice.  Trust me, you'll like it...

Dash of sea salt, if you wish...

And yes, all right, one small can of French's Onions.  Yum.  Don't eat too many out of the can...

Grate the cheese, if you haven't bought already grated.  I love my old Salad Shooter!  (They cost a tad more now, but if you grate much (carrots, cheese, whatever) you'll like it too.)

 Mix the green beans, cheese, and soup together in a large bowl...

A handful of the onions are good in the mixture, too!  (OK, 2/3 cup, if you like measurements...)  Add the garlic, wine, lemon juice, and salt and stir.

Pour into a large, greased flat pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for a half hour, sprinkle on more onions (YES, more) and bake for 5 more minutes or till the onions are golden brown.  

Two of my godchildren request this every Thanksgiving, and it's all gone by the end of the meal!

(And yes, you're right, that illustration didn't actually go with this recipe, I forgot!)

* Homemade cream of mushroom soup

1 lb. fresh mushrooms, chopped
1/4 C. butter or butter and oil mixture, not margarine.  (Have you read the ingredients on margarine??  I don't THINK so. )
1 sweet onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T. flour (we get organic white/whole wheat flour)
4 C. broth (chicken, vegetable, whatever.  Swanson's makes a quite good organic chicken broth!)
1 C. cream or half and half
salt and pepper to taste.

Saute mushrooms, onions, and garlic in butter till tender, add the flour and stir over medium heat for about a minute.  Remove from heat and add the broth, return to heat, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and continue to stir for about 2 minutes.  Add the cream, whisk, but don't let it boil again.  Voila, cream of mushroom soup!

(If you use celery chopped fine, then of course this is cream of celery soup!)

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Kielbasa and Kraut Medley

Another oldie but goodie...


Joseph fixed dinner last night, while I curled up by the chiminea he got for me, reading a new Kelly Armstrong book by a warm, crackling life good, or what?!  He chatted with an old friend on the phone as he cooked, then when he brought the plates out by the fire, told me he'd taken photos, just as I've been doing for the new shared food blog.

Hooray!  I said "then you can write it up for Starving Artists?"--and lo, he did, and you'll find it below!  This is one of my favorite cool-weather dinners, hearty and somewhat German in flavor, savory with meat and onions and fruit...YUM. 

Somehow, eaten by the fire on a lovely November evening, cooked by my love, it tasted even better than I remembered!

Kielbasa & Kraut Medley

4 6-8” kielbasa (about 2 lbs)
2 C sauerkraut
4 small apples (Jonathans are good), cored and sliced
1 large onion, quartered and sliced
Olive oil, coconut oil, or bacon grease.

Brown the kielbasa well in a little bit of oil or grease.  Remove from pan, add onion and cook until glazed.  Add apples and cook until slightly browned.  If you’re drinking beer or hard cider while cooking, you can add a little of that.  Add kielbasa and kraut.  Stir up well, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Serves six--or makes wonderful leftovers!


(Of course I have to nib in and add my thoughts on this...)

You  can use turkey kielbasa (or smoked sausage) if you're watching your fat intake--tastes great anyway--and tart apples are definitely marvelous in it.  (This isn't the place for sweet, bland, mealy apples that fall apart when cooked!  You want that tart-sweet flavor.  We like to buy local Jonathans, as  mentions, organically grown if possible.) 

I like sweet Bavarian sauerkraut in this, the kind with caraway seeds, if I haven't made my own--and that I haven't done in a lot of years!  The above illustration was painted 30 years ago, from a batch of my own home-canned Bavarian-style stuff--it still hangs in my kitchen today, a lovely reminder of those years.  (It's gouache and sepia ink on a warm tan matboard background.)

Making sauerkraut is dead easy, as far as the process goes, but it can be a tad tricky.  The right temperature range and careful cleanliness are needed to insure proper fermentation. 

When my late husband and I lived on our little back-to-the-land farm and I canned mountains of stuff from our own organic garden, I made some of the best and worst I've ever tasted--and one memorable batch that was in the root cellar when it flooded, and came out smelling of kerosene from the lantern that decided to float.  Needless to say, that batch didn't get tasted--it didn't even make compost!  Ewwwww...

According to The Joy of Cooking--still my favorite cookbook!--sauerkraut's healthful qualities were recognized as early as 200 B.C. when workers on got a daily ration as they worked on the Great Wall of China.  It appears it was first mentioned in America in 1776, and as expected, it was primarily eaten in German communities.  (Sauerkraut literally means "sour cabbage," in German.)

I couldn't find my old recipe--it was NOT in The Joy--but this site comes close:

Remember, sauerkraut gets milder with cooking--in the wonderful dish above, it just adds a lovely tang.  If you think you hate sauerkraut, you may find differently when you try this recipe!

We hope you enjoy this hearty dish as much as we did--great with hard cider or a rich lager like Sam Adams, too...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Oooh, nooooooo....

We got a catalog from King Arthur Flour yesterday--their baker's catalog holiday edition.  EVIL!!!

I am pretty careful about using organic flour and other ingredients, so not interested in the mixes and all--but oh, all those wonderful TOOLS.  Bread bowls.  Mixers.  Tart pans,  Springerle rollers.  Silicone rolling pins.  Giant spatulas...

I'm in love!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Garlic Mashed Cauliflower

Another oldie but goodie...
Garlic Mashed Cauliflower
If you’re watching your carbs, give this a try instead of potatoes!

cauliflower, originally uploaded by Cathy (Kate) Johnson.

Yes, I know this is normally garlic mashed potatoes...but for those who are trying to cut down on carbs and also up your intake of cole-family vegetables, this is LUSCIOUS! Looks pretty much like the old standby, too...

We get a fresh head of cauliflower and cut it up into small florets–what you don’t eat raw, that is. (I can’t keep my hands off of it--you may hear me crunching away right now--but there’s always plenty left...) Steam until tender with just a bit of water, then drain off the excess liquid. (Yes, of course you save that for soup stock!)

Mash with a potato masher–we’ve got the old-fashioned hand-operated kind, but you can use an electric mixer or food processor, if you prefer. I just like quiet in the kitchen!

My good old masher! (One of several--I like antique kitchen tools...)

Add at least a tablespoon of minced garlic (lots more if you're garlic nuts!), sea salt*, fresh ground pepper and a tablespoon full or two of butter. Yes, real butter--organic if you can find it!

We use about 3/4 to a cup of cheese, sometimes freshly grated reduced-fat (part skim, that is) sharp cheddar, sometimes a bag of pre-shredded Italian cheeses with herbs, if we catch them on sale. You can skip the cheese altogether, of course, or add a non-dairy substitute if necessary--I hear they melt better now. Mix that in while the cauliflower is still hot, and if you like, return it to the burner to continue melting the cheese.

Note:  Ooops, I forgot to mention that this is also quite good WITHOUT cheese, for those who are watching their fat intake closely...I edited the entry!

For a really delicious treat–if you can wait that long!–plop it in a greased casserole dish, then tuck it into the oven set at 325 degrees till it’s brown on top.

Oh. My. You won’t miss potatoes...and your family will be requesting this for special occasions, mine does!


We’ve switched from regular salt to sea salt, for health reasons, and use a fraction of what we used to--I still love it, but J. needs to watch his blood pressure. If you want to give sea salt a try, good old McCormick makes a sea salt grinder you can buy in the grocery store–or even from Amazon! You can’t refill it, though.

Roland Sea Salt is romantic as the dickens...”collected from the warm waters of the Mediterranean,” tra la. (I couldn’t taste the Italian flavor in the cauliflower, though!) You can read more about the company, which advertises that they bring the world to you, at Use this crystalline stuff in the coarse form in dishes where it will dissolve on its own, like soups or stews, or grind it fresh, for best flavor...

If you can't find it in your local grocery store, you can find IT on Amazon, too...
Roland Sea Salt Coarse Crystals from the Mediterranean Sea - 26.4 oz

And a good grinder’s a necessity, if you use this type of sea salt! I found a couple of likely ones on Amazon–isn’t it amazing what you can find there now? Not just books any more! This one looks like a pretty decent one: Kyocera Ceramic Fine Mill, White Top

J. found an old pepper mill at a thrift store that worked just fine, like my masher, though, so look in antiques malls and thrift stores is a great way to find tools that do exactly what you need, without the bells and whistles--which means without the noise or the electrical use, either.

Let us know what you think of this, if you try it! We love feedback

And by the way, I used the Uni-ball Signo white gel pen and inexpensive Pelikan gouache for the cauliflower--it's on Canson Mi-Tientes paper.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fried Green Tomatoes!

Since I's the original Fried Green Tomatoes post 
from 2008!

Guilty Seasonal Pleasures–

Fried Green Tomatoes!

We’ve said this series would be healthful, frugal, and delicious...and hey, two outta three ain’t bad!  Fried green tomatoes are a pleasure of my childhood, a delightful, nostalgic and savory vegetable that lets me enjoy the last of the tomatoes before the frost (if I can wait that long!).

I’ve been eating these delightful late-season vegetables for 50 years, and enjoying every bite. They’re mostly a Southern and Midwestern treat, so I’m told, and they’ve certainly been part of my family’s repertoire in the kitchen since we came over the Appalachians on horseback!

If you’ve ever read Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, a poignant and funny novel by Fannie Flagg, or seen the movie that it spawned–naturally, called Fried Green Tomatoes–you have some idea of the mystique involved here.

I’ve introduced my husband to these old-fashioned goodies and now he craves them as much as I do! I’ve cooked them over an open fire for friends, and hooked a whole new generation on my family tradition.

They’re not easy to get, unless you can grow your own. My garden area has gotten so shady the tomatoes refused to set, last time I tried. You won’t find them at your supermarket (unless you’re in certain areas in the South, at any rate!) I’ve begged the people at the local farmers’ market to bring some in for me, but usually they forget, or swear no one will buy them if they do. I’ve asked my oldest friend if I could have some green ones from their garden and she said “We don’t PICK them green!!”

Turned out she was horrified by the whole idea...

Some years I have to do without, but oh my, THIS year. The family celebrates birthdays together, and we’re trying to keep it simple and affordable–so I said that all I really wanted was some fried green tomatoes...

My eldest godchild Ann--she who shot the photo of us that I used in the banner, above--came through for me, in spades! A glorious bag full of heritage tomatoes, all ready to slice and fry...and then my cousin Keith chimed in and said we could come pick some from his garden, all we had to do was ask. You better believe I asked!! And while they were off on vacation and not needing to pick their garden, we helped ourselves to a few extras to extend the season...delicious!

Look for firm green tomatoes–if they’ve begun to get soft they’ll be difficult to slice and they may fall apart in cooking. For the two of us, 3 or 4 smallish green tomatoes are plenty.

Some people use an egg batter, some dip in egg and then flour, some like cornmeal, some dredge in breadcrumbs, some mix seasoned breadcrumbs and’s up to you.  (Or your grandma's recipe...) This last batch I sliced thin–less than a quarter of an inch lets them get crispy–and just used seasoned, unbleached flour. (If you have a wheat allergy you could experiment with cornstarch, cornmeal, rice flour, soy flour, or whatever you usually use.)

I fry ours in a mixture of healthful canola or olive oil and--OMG--a bit of bacon grease for down-home flavor. So shoot me!

And of course, if we refer to my cooking method as “sautéing”rather than the dread “frying,” then of course it’s perfectly healthy and acceptable, at least according to a diet group I once belonged to!

So we’ll just forget the F-word for now (that would be “fried”...)

Heat the oil in a heavy iron skillet, if you have one, carefully place the thin, dredged slides of tomato in it, sauté till brown, turn them and do the other side, drain on paper towels to get most of the, er, oil out, season with sea salt and fresh-ground pepper, if you like, and enjoy!

Why “guilty seasonal pleasure” when talking about a vegetable? There's some controversy about these vegetables, though mostly I found recipes and references online saying they're good for you.  But the fact is that tomatoes are nightshade family members. Your arthritis may complain, as mine does when I eat too many tomatoes–ripe or green!–or potatoes, as far as that goes. 

Oh well. Caveat emptor!  Family tradition and taste buds are satisfied for another year, and I’m willing to suffer a bit.


If you’ve got more than bounty you can deal with, green tomatoes make fantastic chutney, relish, or yes, even ripe tomatoes if you bring ‘em in before the frost and let them ripen, either in the basement (some people pull them vines and all before the frost, and lay them on newspapers), the kitchen window, or in the fridge for slow ripening.

(And yes, I had to hurry this one in so this may not be the place you'll find us in the future--the season's about over, and we had our first hard frost last night.  Couldn't wait to share it with you!)


And this year, I have two green tomatoes from our CSA!  Yum....

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Adjusting our CSA deliveries...

...that's  Community Supported Agriculture, which delivers a box of fresh organic stuff every other week.  We've found it a good deal and we much prefer to eat organic if we can.  We used to garden, but that's not much of an option any more... order to get free delivery, you need to order the medium box which is WAY too much to deal with for two people--fresh stuff has to be dealt with or eaten fairly quickly, and I was overwhelmed.  Can't possibly eat that much, and I don't have time for canning and freezing that much either...

...but you can also order the small box, with meat.  So far that's working better, we ordered a pound of bison, which is grass fed, no hormones, and delicious.  (STILL have a lot of stuff to deal with in the next couple of days least the carrots will keep!)  We got spinach, pak choy, green beans, broccoli, green tomatoes, ripe tomatoes and more...I see a big old stir-fry in our immediate future!

Unfortunately the delivery guy managed to give our bison to someone else yesterday...hope they remember next time they owe us TWO!  (I'll bet someone was really, really happy with yesterday's delivery!  Hey, free food!)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Starving Artists...moving to Blogger!

starving artists 2, originally uploaded by Cathy (Kate) Johnson.

We've been doing the Starving Artists entries on my Live Journal for a couple of years...this was our first post in the series, started in 2008.


We still haven't settled on where or how, but getting a huge backlog of WHAT...we just keep cooking and experimenting!  (J's in the kitchen making spiced rum applesauce, even as we speak!  Smells heavenly...)

On the blog, we'll be concentrating a lot on food that's:

* Frugal
* Healthful
* Quick and easy

and MOST important--


We like food! We're adventurous, too, so you may see some fairly exotic fare here...(or there, wherever we end up.)

My eldest godchild, professional photographer Ann Brown, shot this photo of us a couple of years ago--we both loved it for those silly grins! (Here's her website-- --if you're anywhere near KC, MO and you need some wonderful photos done, check her out!) j. suggested this version of the chef hats, and I incorporated some of our art with Photoshop--that's his Cholula bottle!

Ann's a good cook, too, and when I asked if I could use the photo for our logo, she told me SURE, as long as she can contribute the occasional recipe! Guest chefs sounds like a great idea, to me.

Yes, I've got lots of other projects, what with the book, teaching, the rehab house and life in general, but this is something (else) fun that we can do together!

And hey, ya gotta eat!
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