Author Archives: Melissa's Menu

About Melissa's Menu

Self-taught home cook. I love being in the kitchen, it brings me happiness and joy. In the kitchen, I can relax and let my creativity flow.

Market Vegetable Soup

This vegetable soup is also known as clean out the fridge soup. Every week, we go to our local farmers’ market and stock up on local produce. Why let any of that produce go to waste??

  

Before any of that produce in the fridge spoils, make soup! Sure, composting is nice and of course good for the environment, but wouldn’t you rather have delicious soup in your belly? For this batch, I literally cleaned out our fridge before shopping day tomorrow. 

Speaking of shopping, every week we go to one of our favorite markets. Either Easton Farmers’ Market (http://eastonfarmersmarket.com) or Emmaus Farmers’ Market (http://emmausmarket.com). If you don’t shop your local farmers’ market you should start! Local produce is better and most importantly, fresher! It hasn’t traveled cross country in the back of a truck. If you are lucky you will even begin to develop a rapport with the vendors like we have. I honestly look forward to grocery shopping. Can you say that?

Now, this more of a suggestion than a recipe. There are no exact amounts and it will change every time you make it. Talk about simple as well!! One tip, once all of the vegetables are in the pot bring it to a boil and then turn all the way down to low and allow it to simmer. The longer it simmers the more the flavors will develop.

For this batch, I started by dicing one large onion and six cloves of garlic. They went into my six quart dutch oven with a few turns of extra virgin olive oil to sauté over medium heat.

I followed with a bunch of carrots, some celery (which admittedly had been in the fridge way too long), several small heads of cauliflower, a few peppers, two different types of mushrooms, four yukon gold potatoes and two large handfuls of swiss chard. This is not necessarily a pretty soup. I just cut everything up and toss it in the pot. The mushrooms and Swiss chard went in last so they won’t overlook.

For the broth I used one quart of home canned tomatoes and four quarts of vegetable stock.  I like to keep the seasoning simple. Allow the taste of all the vegetables to shine. For this batch four bay leaves, salt, pepper and cayenne are all I used.

As a bonus, the house smells delicious!! There is no potpourri that can make a house smell as good a soup simmering slowly on the stove. So next time you think about tossing those vegetables into the compost, or worse, the trash give this soup a try.

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Pumpkin Granola Bars

Continuing with the annual pumpkin chronicles, I used the pumpkin purée from my last post to make some delicious seasonal granola bars. I took them on a weekend getaway and they were received with warm welcoming smiles.

   

In a large mixing bowl combine four cups of old fashioned rolled oats, one cup hulled sunflower seeds, one-half cup chopped cashews, one-half cup chopped almonds, one and one-half cups dried cherries,  and one-half cup cacao nibs. Sprinkle in cinnamon, ginger and allspice to taste. I used about one-half tablespoon of cinnamon and one teaspoon of the ginger and allspice. Time to play with your food! Toss well with your hands to combine the ingredients.

Next, mix in two cups of pumpkin purée and two tablespoons of shagbark hickory syrup. I realize not everyone has shagbark hickory syrup, so go ahead and feel free to substitute maple syrup. I prefer the shagbark because it is not quite as sweet as maple.

 
Once everything is well mixed, press into your favorite bar pan making sure it is tightly packed.  My  absolute favorite bar pan is this large stoneware bar pan from pampered chef. It is 10″ X 15-1/2″. Any pan around this size will work, but I have had the most success with stoneware for granola bars.

I bought mine here:

https://www.pamperedchef.com/pws/ginger759222/shop/Bakeware/Stoneware/Large+Bar+Pan/1445

   
Preheat oven to 350* and bake for thirty five minutes. It will come out a beautiful golden color. Allow to cool well on a cooling rack. I find two hours is about the right amount of time.

 
Once cooled well, flip out of pan and cut into bars. I do this by holding a large cutting board over the pan and turning it over. I cut into thirty six bars.

  
These bars have it all! Sweet and savory along with chewy and crunchy. Share with your friends or pack for snacks. They will keep well for two weeks in the refrigerator if you can keep them around that long.


One recipe? Two pumpkin products!

It is that time of year again! Autumn. My absolute favorite time of year. When leaves change color and pumpkin spice takes over! This recipe creates two pumpkin spice products when it is finished. Two for the price of one!! A simple syrup for using in chai, coffee or anywhere else you want a hint of pumpkin spice and a pleasantly sweet pumpkin purée for use in baking.

 
Isn’t it beautiful? Now imagine the smell!! The ingredients of the pot are as follows: four cups of water, two cups raw cane sugar, one small sugar pumpkin-peeled and chopped, and eight cinnamon sticks. Also add nutmeg, ginger and allspice to taste.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for at least an hour. The longer you simmer, the more flavorful the simple syrup will be.

  

Allow to cool. Once cooled, strain. The liquid is your sweet and savory simple syrup. This recipe yielded one quart jar and one pint jar. Use this to add the flavor of the season to coffee, chai, smoothies, or whatever else makes you happy. I had some in my oolong tea this morning and it was delicious.

  
Don’t throw away the solids in the strainer!! Remove the cinnamon sticks, then put the pumpkin to the blender and purée. This is your slightly sweet pumpkin purée. This recipe yielded one pint jar. Use this for baked goods. I plan on making pumpkin granola bars. Watch for the recipe in a future blog.

  
This was my first concoction. A clean out the blender smoothie for breakfast on the go. I added twelve ounces of water, one scoop of vanilla protein powder, one-quarter cup of rolled oats, a handful of spinach, and a few generous dashes of cinnamon. Blender is cleaner and the belly is happy!


Welcoming 2015!

Happy New Year everyone! For all of you I wish a healthy, happy and peaceful 2015. Now, let’s talk New Year’s Day traditions!

Here in Pennsylvania, it is traditional to eat pork and sauerkraut. I have never understood the logic so yesterday I went searching for the answer. This is the best I found:

http://seriouseats.com/2014/12/good-luck-food-new-year-pork-sauerkraut-lentil-herring-collards-hoppin-john.html

Now that I have read the story behind the tradition it makes perfect sense. In short, pigs scratch forward symbolizing moving forward in the new year. Cabbage was in abundance, so sauerkraut was the perfect pairing. The tang of the kraut balances the richness of the pork so nicely.

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I always make mine in the slow cooker. I find it keeps the pork tender and juicy. Dry pork is not happy pork! Two quarts of our homemade sauerkraut, two tablespoons of brown sugar and twelve ounces of my husband’s home brewed hard cider go into a six quart slow cooker. Feel free to substitute store bought sauerkraut if necessary but I would rinse it first to control the sodium level. You can also substitute any apple cider, with or without the alcohol. Stir well to combine. Make sure all of the brown sugar dissolves.

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We share New Year’s dinner with my family and I love leftovers, so this year we bought a six and a half pound pork roast. I already have plans for the leftovers! Before adding it to the crock pot salt and pepper the roast on all sides and sear well. Once seared on all sides nestle into the sauerkraut fat side up. As the fat melts, it will baste the pork. Turn on low for seven to eight hours until it reaches an internal temperature of 165*.

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Next, to make gravy with the pan drippings. I had chicken bone broth in the fridge, but you can use any broth or stock you have on hand. I added two cups of broth and deglazed the pan well. Next I mixed one tablespoon of corn starch into a few tablespoons of water until well dissolved. Add into the gravy and whisk well over medium high heat until thickened to desired consistency. This will take about ten to fifteen minutes of constant whisking. I seasoned with salt, pepper, and thyme.

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This is my exquisitely fancy gravy boat! Travels so well! In all seriousness, I got about a cup of gravy from the drippings and my hubby raved over it. I think he may drink the leftovers if I don’t use them fast enough.

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You can’t have gravy without mashed potatoes right? I served my dairy free mashed on the side. Simple to make and delicious. Peel, cut and boil two pounds of potatoes until fork tender. Remember, always think leftovers. The amount can be adjusted depending on need. A trick I learned recently is to mash the potatoes before adding anything to them. Once mashed nicely I add a dash of plain almond milk, tablespoon of earth balance butter substitute and one half cup non-dairy sour cream. If you are not dairy free feel free to use milk, butter and sour cream. Stir until nice and creamy.

We also served with homemade applesauce, but somehow I managed to forget to take a picture of that and my plate. Sorry! I was so involved with all the conversation around the table it completely slipped my mind. That is the sign of a good holiday meal!

Now, please tell me about your traditions in the comments, and again Happy New Year!


Thanksgiving Preparation at our favorite Farmers’ Market!

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Yesterday was a beautiful day to take in the Easton Farmers’ Market. The peace candle has replaced the statue in the circle and it was a beautiful, although chilly, morning. This was the last open air market day of the season. After a break next weekend, the market will be moving indoors until spring. It was also a great day to start getting ready for Thanksgiving.

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First stop? Our favorite breakfast place-Quadrant Book Mart and Coffee House. Before shopping for Thanksgiving inspiration some nourishment was definitely in order. Nothing is worse than food shopping on an empty stomach, right?

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This is, by far, the best cup of coffee Easton has to offer. Black pumpkin brûlée for me and decaf with cream and sugar for the hubby.

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I decided on the market omelette, which is almost always my choice. This one featured asparagus, roasted tomatoes, artichokes and goat cheese with a side of multigrain toast. It was an exceptional way to start our adventure.

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We were fortunate to make it out early before the market was super busy. These pictures would have looked very different a few hours later!

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This is always one of my first stops at the market and this week was no exception. Primordia Mushroom Farm always has the freshest and most diverse selection of mushrooms. We decided two pounds of their beautiful trumpet mushrooms will have a place on the menu for Thanksgiving. I plan on roasting them simply in olive oil, salt and pepper to allow their natural flavor shine through. We also left with a pound of shiitakes. Thanksgiving, after all, is not the only meal this week.

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Our next stop was Sholl Orchards, where the first order of business was six gallons of apple cider. Yes, six! Some for the turkey brine and the rest my hubby will be working his home brew magic on. Soon, we will have hard apple cider! We also picked up four quarts of potatoes and some apples. Thanksgiving dinner would not be the same without some vegan mashed potatoes. My sister is vegan, and my son and I avoid dairy, so all of our side dishes are vegan to keep it simple.

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After running the cider and beginning of our bounty to the car, our next stop was to see our favorite baker at Saxman Breads. We left with two loaves of rustic italian bread for stuffing and bread crumbs. I couldn’t resist a loaf of the farm grain as well, since it is my absolute favorite bread. Sorry, you only get to see his back.

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Since cranberry sauce is not my strong point, we decided on some Eat This heirloom cranberry compote. I love their jars and will be serving it as is.

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At Salvaterra Gardens we picked up butternut squash for the vegan butternut squash lasagna and greens-red russian kale, lacinto kale and rainbow swiss chard for vegan creamed greens. This Thanksgiving menu is coming together quite nicely!

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Next, at Blooming Glen Farm, I picked up some beautiful little carrots. These will be roasted whole in a maple glaze.

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After a quick stop at Wegman’s for some grocery staples, nothing picture worthy there, we headed to Koch’s Turkey for the star of the Thanksgiving meal. This year we have decided to stray a little from tradition. We are going to brine and then smoke turkey breasts and thighs instead of doing a whole bird. We picked up five pounds of each and some giblets for gravy.

We spent some time talking with some of the employees and discovered they are certified humane, and the turkeys are fed an all natural diet of non-GMO corn and soy from their own farm as well as other local farms. They are hormone and antibiotic free as well. We are lucky to have this farm close to home so that we can go visit and buy direct. By doing so, we save a ton of money and get the freshest turkey. In the past we always bought from one of their farmers’ market stands. We were very surprised at how large an operation it really is.

Stayed tuned for my Thanksgiving post to see how the menu turns out! We definitely have all the best, freshest, local ingredients we could find. I am thankful to all the local farmers who keep us well fed at Thanksgiving and all throughout the year. We really are fortunate to live in an area where we have these farmers and their crops available to us!

If you have interest in any of the stops we made today, here are website links for those I could find:

Quadrant Book Store and Coffee House-
https://www.facebook.com/QuadrantBookMartCoffeeHouse

Easton Farmer’s Market-
http://eastonfarmersmarket.com

https://www.facebook.com/EastonFarmersMarket

Primordia Mushroom Farm-
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Primordia-Farm/532651676815561

Scholl Orchards-
http://www.schollorchards.com

https://www.facebook.com/schollorchardsPA

Eat This-
https://www.facebook.com/eatthisyum

Salvaterra Gardens-
https://www.facebook.com/salvaterrasgardens1

Blooming Glen Farm-
http://www.bloomingglenfarm.com

Koch’s Turkey-
http://www.kochsturkey.com

Sadly, I could not find a website for Saxman Breads, but find them at Easton, Emmaus and Macungie Farmers’ Markets.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I hope you find yourself surrounded by the people, and food, you love!


Crock Pot Pulled Pork

Warning! This post is not for my vegan followers!!!!

This recipe makes pulled pork easy. With about half an hour of prep time, mouth watering, savory, delicious pulled pork is ready by dinner time! Bonus? The house smells fabulous in the meantime.

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Start by slicing two onions and four cloves of garlic and placing them in a six quart crock pot. This will be the foundation for the pork. Add one cup of water. There should be just enough water to cover the onions.

Next, make the dry rub. I use one cup brown sugar mixed with one tablespoon of cayenne, two tablespoons cumin, two tablespoons garlic powder and two tablespoons onion powder. Mix together and add salt and pepper to taste. Feel free to improvise and use your favorite dry rub.

Use half of the dry rub to coat a five pound pork shoulder on all sides. The remaining half can be stored in a mason jar until the next time you need it. Place the pork shoulder, fat side up, in the crock pot. This will allow the fat to melt away and baste the pork all day.

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Cook on low for ten hours, and this is what waits for you when you walk in the door after working all day. Or, if you have been home all day, it is waiting for you at dinner time.

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Remove the pork and the onions from the crock pot and separate. The onions can be used as a condiment or mixed back in with the pork. They are so flavorful after simmering away all day. Be sure to leave the liquid in the crock pot.

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Using two forks, pull the pork into bite size shreds. Once the pork is pulled, add back into the crock pot with the juices. Stir well to combine.

While pulling the pork, separate out the fat and the bone. I have no suggestions for the fat, except to get rid of it. However, the bone will add delicious flavor to soup or stock.

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Now it is time to eat! Of course, this pulled pork is great for sandwiches topped with some creamy coleslaw, but get creative! It is also excellent for loaded baked potatoes or nachos.


Simple Summer Sauce

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In the summer, I love to make nice chunky tomato sauce with whatever local vegetables I can get my hands on. The farmers’ market has been kind and supplied me with the perfect ingredients.

Start by heating two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in your favorite pot over medium heat. I use a six quart dutch oven so I have plenty of room to work with.

Dice one large sweet onion and three large carrots. Add into the dutch oven, salt well and sauté until the onion is translucent.

While the onion and carrots sauté, finely mince four to six cloves of garlic; depending of how much garlic you prefer. My family loves garlic so I use six cloves. Add into the dutch oven and sauté until fragrant.

Two green peppers, diced, get added in next. Continue to sauté until all of the vegetables are beginning to get tender.

Strain six quarts of whole tomatoes and add to the vegetables. I used canned tomatoes from our pantry; whatever you have in your pantry will work. Stir well and break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon.

Add in one cup of your favorite red wine. I had a beautiful bottle of Merlot on hand that my husband’s coworker, a winemaker, had given us. Always cook with a wine you enjoy drinking and you can not go wrong.

Bring to a boil and immediately turn the temperature down. The sauce should barely be at a simmer. Continue to simmer for two to three hours. This gives the flavors generous time to marry and also allows the sauce to thicken. Stir occasionally.

Add in some fresh thyme, basil and oregano. I used fresh picked from my herb garden, but herbs from the farmers’ market, store bought, or in a pinch dried herbs will work also. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

As is, this makes a nice chunky sauce. If you prefer a smoother sauce, use an immersion blender until it reaches the desired texture. The recipe makes enough for three batches, one to enjoy and two to freeze for future enjoyment.


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