PROJECT RECIPE: Basil Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

I love this time of year. It’s prime time for fresh veggies. You won’t find them any fresher for the next couple months. And it never fails that I find myself at least a few times over the summer with a too much of something from my garden or someone else’s. I never complain. I love fresh garden vegetables no matter where they come from.

A friend of my mom’s (and fellow kale-lover) sent me a huge bag each of blue curled scotch kale and leaf lettuce.

The kale disappeared quickly. And when I ran across a recipe for homemade buttermilk ranch salad dressing, it couldn’t have been more timely.

This is truly the way to enjoy fresh lettuce. This dressing is UNBELIEVABLY good. Don’t just take my word for it. Try it. The link is below.

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Def a keeper. Like, “I am licking my plate” keeper.

I found this recipe for Basil Buttermilk Ranch on Food52.com. I LOVE that website. If you don’t subscribe to their email updates, you should. And I have the Food52 cookbook on my kindle. The concept is every week, the creators of the website pick an ingredient or type of food, generally based on the season–for example, this week it’s the best use of fresh herbs. Or it might be asparagus or ice cream. Anyway, people submit their original recipes, and the creators pick some recipes to try. The best ones are featured on the website. It’s a great resource if you find yourself with too much of something like I mentioned. You can find a whole bunch of recipes for strawberries, or whatever in one place. And because the recipes are vetted by Amanda and Merrill, who created the website, you can bet your ass they are bomb recipes.

Just like this one was.

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I REALLY wish I had a better picture of it. The problem was, I kept gobbling it up before I remembered to take any pictures. It is so good, it even elevated this humble take-out garden salad, that I used the last of it on. It’s time to make some more–STAT!

It’s perfect because I usually end up throwing out buttermilk because I buy a quart when I need a cup for a recipe. What do you do with the leftover? I certainly don’t drink it. Yuck. But it is oh-so-delicious in this dressing. I know what I’ll be doing with my leftover buttermilk from now on out. I even had everything I needed to make this dressing on hand, and you probably do to. Score.

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Weeknight Italian: Tomato and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

A lot of nights, we all need something light and fast for hectic schedules in hot weather. These types of meals lend themselves easily to Meatless Monday dishes, since there’s no meat to cook or fuss with.

Such was last night. I made Tomato and Goat Cheese Bruschetta for a quick dinner for the two of us.

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It was amazing. I love these kinds of meals because they feel so casual, and it’s really all about the food. I’ve never been to Italy, but I imagine meals are long and drawn out, good wine and good conversation, and the freshest food you can imagine.


I am lucky to have a greenhouse just down the road from me that sells tomatoes at the local grocery store and farmers market for the times before my plants start to come in. These tomatoes from Gritt’s Greenhouse are FAR better than the styrofoam-tasting out-of-season mealy tomatoes you find in the grocery store. I don’t even waste my money on those. It’s important to use good quality tomatoes for this recipe, since they are the star of the dish.

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Tomato and Goat Cheese Bruschetta (serves 3-4 as a meal)

  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 1/2 large red onion, chopped
  • 3 or 4 cloves + 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tb extra virgin olive oil + more for brushing and goat cheese
  • 2 Tb fresh rosemary, chopped fine
  • 1 Tb fresh basil, chopped fine
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 Tb good balsamic vinegar
  • 4 oz. goat cheese
  • 1 medium loaf Italian Bread (I used a rosemary loaf)

In a large skillet, heat 2 Tb olive oil and add onion and garlic. Cook a few minutes until onion begins to soften and turn translucent. Add tomato and cook a few more minutes, stirring occasionally until it begins to soften. Add wine, balsamic vinegar, herbs and salt and pepper, and stir well. Cook about another 15 minutes until juices have mostly evaporated and tomatoes are softened completely. Meanwhile, in a small bowl mix the goat cheese and the last clove of garlic (go easy since this is raw garlic–a little goes a long way. You can omit this altogether if you prefer) and 1 Tb olive oil. I microwaved the goat cheese for about 10 seconds to make it easier to mix. Slice the loaf into 3/4 inch or so thick slices (I got 16 slices plus the small ends). Brush both sides of the bread lightly with olive oil and arrange on the grill (or use a grill pan or place under a broiler). Grill each side 4 minutes or so until golden brown and crusty. Remove from the grill, spread each piece with the goat cheese mixture and top with the cooked tomato mixture. Pour (another) glass of wine and enjoy!

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This is one of those dinners I just pulled together with stuff I had on hand. I’ll definitely keep it in the summer rotation, especially as I start getting tomatoes from my own back yard. You could even experiment with different cheeses, like using a thin piece of mozzarella in place of the goat cheese mixture. Either way, it’s a fabulous quick and light dinner, or would make a great appetizer.

Crispy fried green tomatoes with sour cream dill sauce

I heart fried green tomatoes.

I was “so-so” toward fried green tomatoes until I had The Greenbrier‘s version in their Fried Green Tomato Sandwich.

Now, I look forward to the first few that appear in the Capitol Market every year in late spring so I can make them like this:

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I like them crispy and hot and fried in bacon grease. The outside is perfectly brown and crunchy and the inside is tart and smushy.

As I was making these, I decided they needed a sauce, so whipped up a quick sour cream and dill sauce, and it was HEAVEN.

Here’s how I make them:

Crispy Fried Green Tomatoes

  • 1 firm green tomato
  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup cornmeal (I used stone ground hickory king white cornmeal*)
  • 1 tsp dried garlic
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 2-3 Tb bacon grease or extra virgin olive oil

Heat grease or olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat until hot (but not smoking if using olive oil). Pour buttermilk into a small dish. You may need to thin it a bit with 1 Tb water if it is particularly thick like mine was. Mix cornmeal and spices in a separate shallow dish or plate. Slice tomatoes about 1/4 inch thickness. Pat dry with a paper towel and dredge each slice in the buttermilk then the cornmeal mixture. Gently shake off any excess cornmeal so that the slice has a very light and even coating. Place in the skillet and repeat with the rest of the slices. I can fit a whole tomato in one large skillet, but don’t overcrowd the slices so they are really touching each other. Now the most important step: DO NOT TOUCH THEM for a few minutes. Don’t flip them. Don’t check them. Don’t shift them around in the skillet. Don’t touch them. Resist it. After 4ish minutes (which feels like an enternity) check them. If they are perfectly golden brown, flip them and fry them on the other side for slightly less time, maybe 2-3 minutes. You will be rewarded with perfectly crispy, delicious fried green tomatoes if you leave them alone once you put them in the skillet.

* I get my cornmeal and flour from Reed’s Mill in Second Creek, West Virginia. You can buy cornmeal stone ground from either open-pollinated or hybrid corn.

Sour Cream and Dill Sauce

  • 2 Tb all natural sour cream (read the label–it should only have about 3 ingredients)
  • 2 Tb whole milk
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp dried dill
  • 1 or 2 garlic cloves, finely minced

Put all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk until the lumps are gone and its well mixed. Makes enough for 1 fried green tomato.

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That time of year again: dealing with deer destruction

Say that three times fast. Dealing. With. Deer Destruction.

Now that I’ve been blogging for a few years, occasionally I’ll look at what I posted time time of year over the past few years. Two years ago, just like now, the Delicious Potager was being victimized by some deer with discerning palates. It’s just part of living in West Virginia. Everyone I know that has had a garden has at some point had to do battle with those furry, four-legged plant destroyers.

There’s not much you can do. Some people say getting a dog is a sure fire way to keep deer out of your yard. That’s not feasible for everyone. The Division of Natural Resources will issue crop damage permits for landowners to kill deer that are destroying crops. But I live in city limits, so no dice. Over the years, I’ve tried every DIY tactic, like putting soap in a pair of panty hose and hanging them around the perimeter of the garden. I’ve also tried scattering human hair around the garden. And I’ve tried stringing fishing line around the garden, so when deer walk into it, it startles them. None of these things worked.

Currently, I plant marigold around my vegetable plants. They “supposedly” repel deer because of their scent, but that hasn’t worked. They do have other benefits like repelling other pests such as nematodes, horn worms and squash beetles, as well as small animals such as rabbits.

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Look at these tomato plants! The one on the right is a West Virginia ’63 variety that already had little green tomatoes on it. All gone now. I have never grown this variety before, but I thought I would try them since this year (actually this week) is the state’s sesquicentennial. The variety was developed by West Virginia University. At least the plants are still viable–so far.

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The deer even sampled my hostas, which are supposedly “deer resistant” and ate some of the buttercups. I find it odd the deer ate buttercups because they are toxic to animals. As a matter of fact, horses and cattle are not supposed to graze in fields with buttercups, and you shouldn’t handle the plants and then touch your pets without washing your hands. I hope that deer got sick from eating those!

This deer also ate just the top part of a whole row of potato plants. Thank goodness the plants are still alive, and that’s one crop they won’t get to.

So, I’ve done some research, and I’m going to try yet another home remedy for keeping deer away: a spray made from eggs and hot peppers. I’m not setting my hopes too high because it seems like nothing works.

Here’s the recipe I’m going to use on my plants. It’s a combination of a couple different ones I found on the web.

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups of water + 1 gallon
  • 4 gloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup diced hot pepper

Crack the eggs into a blender and add the two cups of water. Add the diced peppers and garlic. Blend all together until well mixed. Strain through a mesh strainer and pour into a garden sprayer and add 1 gallon of water. Place the sprayer container outside in the sun for 24 hours or so until it gets funky. Spray liberally on plants once every 2-3 weeks or when smell wears off. You can use hot sauce or red pepper flakes in place of the hot peppers.

Supposedly this will last 2-3 weeks. We’ll see.

WINNER! Coconut Oil giveaway

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The lucky number from randomizer.org was 5. Congratulations, Kitty!

Shoot me an email at jennelle.harper@gmail.com with your addy and I’ll get that coconut oil on its way to you ASAP.

Thanks so much to you all for the blog love on my first give away! I’ve got a couple other things up my sleeve, so keep coming back for more FREE STUFF.

I’ve got an itch to can

Just look at my sad larder.

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It’s practically empty. I’m out of tomatoes. I can never seem to put up enough to last me all year.

I should mention canning and food safety. I need to toss the three quarts of pickles I have left and can some more. They are two years old, and the level of brine in them is too low for me to trust eating them. Keeping botulism and other nasty microorganisms at bay depends on making sure the environment inside the jar is not suitable for it to grow. The right proportion of air to contents is important. That’s why when canning, you must follow the directions on how much headspace to leave in the jar. I don’t store my jars with the ring on because I want to be able to easily see if a seal has been compromised. Also, storing jars with the rings on can cause some rings to rust, making them unsuitable in come cases for future use.

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Every year, I can tomatoes, applesauce and jam. I have been canning pickles every other year. A few foods will last two years, but most need to be eaten within a year. About the only thing that I’ll keep more than one year is anything pickled. Jam is probably okay, too. Most definitely eat any meat product within a year.

A couple years ago, I made some pickled red onions that were wonderful on grilled cheeses and hamburgers. I haven’t had any for a while, so I’m thinking about canning some of those. I also would like to can some soups and tomato-based sauces to use this winter. I am comfortable with hot-water bath canning, but am still getting used to using a pressure canner. Many soup recipes need to be pressure canned, so I might have to try some of those, depending on what vegetables I have an abundance of.

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Look at all these empty jars waiting to be filled with something delicious.

My father in law told me the blackberry vines are absolutely loaded. In a couple weeks, they should be ready. I always can tons of those. And my mom’s blueberry bushes are so full they are breaking over. If they hold up to ripen, I’ll probably have lots of berry concoctions canned by the time fall rolls around.

No complaints here.

A coconut oil giveaway! Because everyone loves free stuff.

Every time I get an email or a little notice from WordPress saying I have a new follower, I am just completely bowled over. I was thinking that I should show my appreciation by giving you guys a little gift. 

I have been thinking about doing a giveaway for a long time. But I was having a hard time trying to decide WHAT to giveaway. Last night, I was cooking dinner; making “Beef” and Broccoli. And it hit me as I was scooping coconut oil into my wok, and rubbing a little on my elbows as I stood at the stove. This is what I would give away.

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I’m giving away a 16-ounce container of Nature’s Way Extra Virgin Coconut Oil because I LOVE this stuff and more people should know how great it is.

I’ve been using for a little over a year for everything from stir-fry to greasing baking pans to baking.

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Coconut oil in a hot wok: The start of a great Asian meal.

It’s perfect for stir-fry because coconut oil can withstand very high heat without burning or smoking, unlike olive oil. The only other easily available oil that can do that is canola, and I’ve stopped using it because it’s exclusively made from GMO crops. It imparts a slight sweet coconutty taste, so it’s perfect for Asian cuisine that relies heavily on coconuts in recipes. It generally has the consistency of shortening, but turns to liquid very quickly (sometimes in a very warm room). I’ve learned that when baking, you must have your cold ingredients like eggs or milk at room temperature, or they will harden the coconut oil back into solid form. But other than that, use it just like oil or butter called for in the recipe. It’s also the best thing I’ve found for greasing muffin, loaf and cake pans. When you’re finished greasing the pans, just rub what’s leftover on your hands or elbows–it’s also used for for skin care (says so right on the label). In fact, many people use it daily in place of lotion.

Coconut oil is so healthy too. It’s very high in saturated fat, but not to worry, it’s the healthy kind of fat. The kind of fat that lowers your cholesterol, boosts your immune system and gives your metabolism a little kick.

Seriously, what’s not to love about this stuff?

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So enough about how great this stuff is! How do you win?

Subscribe to this blog and leave a comment below for one entry. Tweet a link to this blog entry and leave a comment telling me you did for a second entry. And share this blog entry on Facebook and comment telling me you did for a third entry. The giveaway closes at 12:01 am, June 19th. I’ll use Randomizer.org  to pick a winner and I’ll announce the lucky commenter that day.

The Fine Print: Sorry, this giveaway is open to US addresses only. I love Nature’s Way Coconut Oil so this giveaway is sponsored exclusively by ME. The company has in no way sponsored or is representative of this post.

Good luck!

PROJECT RECIPE: Healthy Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies

I’m always looking for homemade breakfasts that are “grab and go.” And that the Hubs likes.

I figured cookies for breakfast was a no-brainer.

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These cookies are not what you were expecting. Exact quote from the Hubs.

PROJECT RECIPE verdict: Eh. They’re okay. I don’t think I’ll keep this recipe. The cookies are a little dry. I think they’d be good with jam or pumpkin butter on them. They are not overly sweet at all. I think the flavor is pretty good actually, but neither one of us were bowled over by these.

How I changed the recipe: I cut it in half, because it seemed like it made a lot. Also, I didn’t have raisins, so I omitted them. I don’t really like raisins anyway, so I wasn’t heartbroken.

What caught my eye about this recipe was 1) the fact that they are cookies for breakfast. I mean, c’mon. and 2) wheat bran. I have some wheat bran that the guy I buy flour from sent me to try. I don’t use it often, and when I see a recipe that calls for it, I just have to try it.

Here is the link to the original recipe.

Vacation Detox Soup

I love vacation. Who doesn’t?

But the thing I hate about vacation is feeling all puffy after a few days of eating (and drinking) with abandon.

So, I was on vacation last week. Eating and drinking with abandon. And the number one thing on my list for when I got back was a detox.

Not a crazy “Beyonce-lemon juice-cayenne-maple syrup” detox. Something a little more doable. I was looking at what foods I could add that are good detox foods, and you pretty much can’t go wrong with vegetables–lot’s of vegetables.

That, and the fact that when I got home from being gone a week, I was overrun with arugula and kale that really needed picked. Greens are one of the top foods for detoxing the body, so I was in business.

I’m a huge fan of soups for lunch, so I thought the easiest way to get it into my meals now that I’m back to the grindstone was to make a soup.

Kale and Lentil Detox Soup (makes 4 servings)

  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 small cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 quarts of vegetable broth
  • 2 big handfuls (about 3 cups) arugula, chopped
  • 2 big handfuls of baby kale, chopped
  • 1 cup dried green lentils
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large pot on medium heat and add the onion and garlic.

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Cook until softened a bit. Add the broth and bring to a simmer.

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Adding frozen homemade broth

Add the lentils and simmer for 10 minutes or so with the lid on the pot.

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Add the greens and stir well, and replace the lid. Simmer for another 10 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. (I added them at the same time and didn’t chop the greens. When I make it again, I’ll do it this way since the lentils took a little longer to soften up than the greens did to wilt. Chopping the greens will make them wilt faster.) Remove from heat and let cool a few minutes. Puree with a hand blender to desired consistency. I left mine a little chunky.

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Mmm. Detox lunch.

This soup was so ridiculously good. But, I love kale, so if you really like kale, this is right up your alley! I ate it for lunch with a salad made from black seeded simpson lettuce, “baby” baby kales and radishes from my garden, and tarragon vinaigrette.

A couple other things I did Monday morning to get the detox rolling was to start my day with warm lemon water. Drinking a cup of warm water with about a tablespoon of freshly squeezed organic lemon helps to flush toxins out of your system and stimulate your liver and kidneys. You should try to drink it 30 minutes before you drink or eat anything else. I did read that detoxes sometimes eliminate dairy because it is harder to digest. I did swap out some plain unsweetened almond milk for my morning coffee instead of half and half, and I cut back on the cheese on my salad. I could not give up my daily greek yogurt, though. A little dairy is almost as good as cutting it out altogether, right?

I’m already feeling less puffy.

*Disclaimer – I’m no dietician or nutritionist, just an eater.