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Creeping cucumber flower with tiny fruit already forming
Creeping cucumber flower with tiny fruit already forming

There's still not a lot new coming out of my kitchen these days. Well, not a lot that's photo-worthy. But there are a few things I'd like to share.

Peach season is in full swing right now. Though the crops from the southernmost states have stopped, Tennessee and South Carolina peaches are still going. I made a peach galette recently (I won't talk about the crust) using this filling recipe from Epicurious. I made a few modifications that really took this filling to the next level. It was crazy delicious. I just added half a teaspoon of ground ginger and a 1/2 cup of dark brown sugar.

Summer also means cucumbers and watermelons, so don't forget that both make excellent chilled soups.

First, there's my watermelon gazpacho  recipe (the rare tomato-less gazpacho). I cannot say enough great things about this soup. It is fantastic.

Next is this chilled cucumber soup recipe from my friend, Hedy. She actually just brought me a cucumber from her garden this weekend, so this is on the menu for the upcoming week!

Last is a soup to use with that bounty of squash that's coming in, squash soup with avocado lime cream. This year has been a good one for squash and I know a lot of people who are overrun with them. Tip for them: this soup freezes well and tastes great warm, too so put some up for winter!

When we bought this house last summer, I knew that I would have to give up on growing tomatoes altogether. I have fought squirrels for many years and not only would I have to fight them here, too, but there's just not enough sun to grow much of anything. However, there are lots of "wild edibles" here, including lamb's quarter, mountain mint, dandelions, greenbrier, sassafras, wood sorrel, and chickweed. I haven't really tried much with them, but I was happy to find a number of creeping cucumber vines all around the property. The squirrels and deer don't seem to be interested, so that's great for me (as long as I get them before they turn dark, which is when they become poisonous). Creeping cucumber is a very delicate light green vine with flowers that are shaped like English ivy or maple leaves. The small yellow flowers (very small) grow into small fruits that look like teeny tiny watermelons but taste like delicate sweet cucumbers. The mature fruits are about the size of a jelly bean.

Lastly, I have really, REALLY been enjoying my Hamilton Beach waffle maker, (which I mentioned on Bites). It comes with a recipe booklet that contains a number of waffle recipes, but I love the Buttermilk Waffles recipe so much that I haven't even bothered to try any of the others. I haven't been able to find it online (the recipe on the Hamilton Beach site is not the same), so I thought I'd share it here. I hope it's okay with them! It's just so good and versatile. The waffles are crisp on the outside and tender inside and the flavor is good for either sweet breakfast waffles or for savory waffle sandwiches. The recipe yields 6 waffles (usually), so I store several in the fridge and warm them in the toaster oven later for sandwiches.

Buttermilk Waffles
from Hamilton Beach
yield: 6 waffles (in the the previously mentioned waffle maker)

1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk*
6 tablespoons butter, melted (and cooled, slightly)
2 eggs, lightly beaten

*before assembling everything, prepare your buttermilk first by placing 1 1/2 tablespoons of lemon juice in a 2-cup measuring cup and filling the rest of the way (to 1 1/2 cups) with regular milk and stir and let sit for about five minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir in buttermilk, butter, and eggs stirring until thoroughly mixed (batter will be thick). Pour one pre-measured scoop (for your waffle maker) into the middle of the waffle maker. Close lid and cook 6 or 7 minutes until brown (time may vary by waffle maker). Batter can be thinned with up to 1/2 cup of water if necessary.

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Now that my kitchen is functional (and I’m getting deliveries from Green Bean Delivery every other week), I’ve been busy in the kitchen. I have several great recipes with mediocre photos to share, but I thought I’d do a round-up of others’ recipes I’ve either made or tasted recently and really liked.

romanescoRoasted Romanesco. The romanesco is a broccoli/cauliflower hybrid that is milder and tastier than either of the two. I got one in a Green Bean Delivery box and cooked it up using this simple recipe from The Kitchen Snob and it was great! This is a particularly good recipe to try when having guests since the vegetable looks so great on a plate. And they were definitely better than roasted cauliflower steaks. I just can’t seem to roast them at home so they taste like the cauliflower at Etch.

Baguettes. During the recent snow/ice storms, we were stuck in our house for nearly a week. Our driveway was covered in a thick sheet of ice. The steepness was great for sledding, but not so much for getting out without possibly careening into a tree. So I decided to make some bread in anticipation of actually running out! My friend, Amy at Fearless Homemaker has made these baguettes often and loves them.

Eh, I didn’t love them. But it’s not the fault of the recipe. Somehow (perhaps the arid conditions in our house because of the heat being on all the time), the dough was too dry, so we had to add water. I also had trouble mixing the dough initially (almost burned up my mixer’s motor). My husband swears he did not measure inaccurately, but anyway, the result was a bread with overworked dough that resulted in a tight crumb (like sandwich bread). So I wasn’t blown away. But if made properly, I can see how this bread would be really great. It’s a huge recipe, though (makes four loaves), so keep that in mind.

Freekeh with Brussels Sprouts, Apples, Cranberries, Cherries and Pecans. This is the dish that Beth of Eat. Drink. Smile. brought to our Nashville Foodbloggers post-holiday potluck. I loved this dish. I’ve got to skeedaddilydoo over to the store and get some freekeh, though. I’ve never had it before and certainly never bought it. But it is fantastic. Plus, I’m always up for a new way to use Brussels sprouts.

Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Empanadas. My favorite dish from the foodblogger potluck was Tracey of Single Grrl in the Kitchen’s empanadas. Oh, man, these things were good. I snagged several to take home afterward, too.

Also at our potluck, Angela of Spinach Tiger brought some of her famous biscuits as well as this triple layer chocolate fudge cake and Phillip of Southern Fatty brought these delicious ginger beer cupcakes.

I’ve also made a really great Brussels sprouts salad (several times), some fantastic waffles, and a “cookie salad” (my contribution to the foodblogger potluck). Those are the recipes I plan to post soon (I hope).

There’s not a lot of really creative cooking going on in my kitchen right now. I’m packing up infrequently-used gadgets and gear and trying to creatively use only what’s in my pantry and freezer so that I won’t have to move it. When cleaning out, I realized I had a ridiculous amount of rice. White rice, brown rice, white basmati rice, brown basmati rice, Forbidden rice, short grain rice (for sushi or paella), and jasmine rice. And, of course, a “wild rice blend.” My rice habit is worse than my pasta habit!

So now you know why rice is the center of this recipe, one I adapted to use with my new slow cooker from Hamilton Beach, the Set 'n Forget® 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker.
slowcookerricepudding (Small)First, let me tell you about this slow cooker. It is awesome. Right out of the box, I knew I liked it when I saw clamps that keep the lid on for transport. I’ve owned three different slow cookers and none have had this feature! I’m glad someone finally thought of it. Also, even though there are several settings (not just one knob for “off – low – high”), it was very intuitive and easy to use. I got everything going for my recipe without even opening the user guide. I also love the removable crock for washing. Best of all is the programmable timer. It’s a nice feature to be able to determine the time for your slow cooker to turn off if you’re going to be away from the house for a while and you don’t want your food to be overcooked.

Next, the recipe. Slow cooker rice pudding. I’ve never made rice pudding before, but I’ve enjoyed it when other people have made it. I’ve also been looking for “treats” for the rest of the Eats family that are a bit healthier than cakes and cookies. So this worked out perfectly. I used this recipe as my guide and realized that I could make it even easier by using So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage Nog instead. There’s also a pumpkin spice version and a chocolate mint version and any of the three would work just as well (note, though: these are limited edition flavors only available in the fall and holiday season; other times of the year, you’ll need to follow the original recipe or just put some So Delicious in the freezer for emergencies!). The finished product wasn’t quite sweet enough for a treat, but that was quickly remedied with a drizzle of maple syrup. I added some toasted slivered almonds for a little crunch, too. But I bet pistachios would be even better. This was a great treat for the members of my family that always like a little sweet after dinner. It’s satisfying without being junk food!

Slow Cooker Rice Pudding
serves 4
adapted from With Style and Grace

½ cup basmati rice
1 can light or regular coconut milk
¾ cup So Delicious Coconut Milk Beverage Nog
1 cup water
Maple syrup or agave nectar
Optional: toasted slivered almonds, walnuts or pecans or ground pistachios

Pour all ingredients in the slow cooker, stir and cook on high for 2 to 2 ½ hours. Serve warm and drizzle with maple syrup or agave nectar and top with toasted nuts or ground pistachios if you like a little crunch or texture for your pudding.

For more recipes, check out the hashtag #slowcookermeals on Twitter. There are also lots of chances to win your own Hamilton Beach Set & Forget® 6 Qt. Programmable Slow Cooker!

And be sure to check out all the great new products from So Delicious. The frozen treats (holiday editions available exclusively at Whole Foods), whipped topping, yogurt, creamers, and milks are all fantastic. I have loved everything I've tried. Sign up to get coupons so you can try them for yourself!

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Disclosure: Hamilton Beach provided the slow cooker free of charge. So Delicious also provided free samples in advance of market availability of their holiday line of products. Opinions expressed in this post are solely my own and were not influenced by either organization. I only advocate for brands and products I truly like.