Summer Slow Cooker Shop, Chop, and Drop Soup: Ham + Lentil with Parmigiano-Reggiano

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So many slow cooker recipes indicate a “dump and cook” method, but then taste like that’s exactly what you did. (I’m not eating any food from a recipe that includes the word “dump”!)  We all wish this simple cooking method worked in just such a way–especially during the hot summer months. In truth, many meals need a bit of pre-sautéing or browning before that long simmer or they are, to my palate, steamed to death and all the same color–the very reason some good cooks tell me they tried a slow cooker once and gave it away soon thereafter.

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Whole Wheat Biscuits and Gene’s Sausage Gravy for Father’s Day

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Brunch, and maybe especially Father’s Day brunch, is one of my favorite meals! This post is dedicated to my father-in-law, Gene Morgan, a good cook who makes the very best of all Sausage Gravies.

Gene, after a lifetime career in nearly every sector of the grocery store arena, knows the food business.  Just ask him about how long green beans are picked before they’re canned, when a melon is ripe, where sugar beets are grown in the world, how coffee is stored in the warehouse, or what H.E.B. actually stands for.  He’s a fair hand in the kitchen, too, and can keep dinner coming. In fact, the man can bake when he wants to. What he’s really famous for, however, is his sausage gravy.  Well, that and being just about the biggest Illini (University of Illinois) fan in the state of Illinois. He once sported an Illini ROOM in the house, in fact, all decorated and gussied up by his wife, my mother-in-law, Lorna, who joins right in year in and year out with the Illini devotion.

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INSTANT POT: Barbecue Beef Sandwiches with Coleslaw and Spicy Pickles

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My friend Helen came over last week for an Instant Pot (IP) demonstration and to share a quick lunch we would make together. Well, actually I prepped; SHE cooked! Helen thought she wanted an Instant Pot–or similar–but needed to see it up close and personal before she made a final decision.  While she enjoyed the Cream of Pea Soup with Scallions, Mint, and Sharp Cheddar we made, she was interested in meat main dishes–thinking she’d like to skip using the stove once in a while. It’s a wonderful idea, especially come summer, but not something I’ve done a lot of.  I tested chicken recipes for America’s Test Chicken last year (see their new book!) and the rest of my electric pressure cooking has been vegetarian or oh-so-close. Just working my way through the process, I’d guess, but it was definitely time to branch out. By the way, she went home and ordered her IP! YAY!

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Best Summer Sides from More Time at the Table

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Grilled Zucchini and Corn Salad

This week marks the beginning of weekend picnics, warm holiday get togethers, nights in the backyard, weeks at the beach, days at the cabin, and all kinds of thrilling grilling on your balcony or patio!  For fun, I ran through my TOP FAVORITE original summer sides on More Time at Table and brought them all together in one place just before Memorial Day.  I’ll keep perusing my files and as I find other luscious things I think you’d like, I’ll stick them in.  Be cool!

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Cherry-Almond Breakfast Scones for a Royal Wedding Morning (Jammies Allowed!)

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Scones bring to mind something akin to a slow-paced and leisurely ambling sunny afternoon with time for a visit to the local tea shop or maybe a hour or two on the porch with a friend who happens to like to bake. Perhaps there’s a can’t-put-it-down novel to read while you nibble and sip or a string quartet playing in the next room…  (Sigh, sigh.)

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Mother’s Day Bluebarb Pie with Violet’s Pie Crust

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Chris, left and Violet, right

I think of Violet as my loving friend Chris’s mom because that’s who she was to me. Of course Violet was VIOLET. And if you lived in Atwood, Kansas (population 1,222), you knew who that was.  You knew her rather well indeed if you happened to be a member of Atwood United Methodist Church where she directed the choir, organized many church suppers, and was the leader of the Altar Guild for oh-so-many years.

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Easy Chicken Enchiladas with Instant Pot Bacon Pintos, Abuelita’s Rice, and Avocado Salad

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When it comes to Cinco de Mayo cooking, I’ve got these things going for me:

  1. I lived in way southern Texas (San Antonio) for four years. Hot is my only comment.
  2. Southern Colorado has been our home for most of twenty-two years.
  3. I’ve studied cooking more than a few times at the Santa Fe School of Cooking.
  4. My late dear friend and brother-in-law, Alfred Barrionuevo, was from Mexico and began his professional career as a chef. If you were in the kitchen with him, he was the teacher, and he had extraordinary passion for his cooking. Not only that, his much-loved mother–fondly called “Abelita”–passed on her simplest and best “Mexican” rice recipe to my sister, who then gave it me –nothing written down, you know. My version is in this post.

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INSTANT POT: Cream of Pea Soup with Mint, Scallions, and Sharp Cheddar

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                   Stove top version included in the printable recipe below.

A few years ago, next-door neighbor Mike brought over a big dish of peas with pearl onions and fresh mint for the Easter potluck (he did that again this year as peas and mint–mushy or not– are a standout comfort spring bonus with lamb) and Easter Monday I discovered he’d left a big bagful in my fridge. It seemed time for some sort of pea soup and you’ll find that post here.  I loved that soup to death, but had sort of forgotten about it in the interim. It wasn’t split pea, though it might have been its third cousin twice removed.  Not dark and smokey with bacon, nor a homey thick, tummy full soup you’d want in the thick of winter, this was pea soup gone light and bright–and it was a gorgeous hue. (What are mushy peas?)

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Italian-Style Braised Leg of Lamb

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above: braised, cooled, chilled overnight, sliced and covered in its sauce right before warming in oven for serving the second day

Lamb, the meat of any-time-of-the-year special occasions, happy summer grilling, and winter warming stews, is the quintessential meat despite the infamous quote from, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,”

Aunt Voula: What do you mean he don’t eat no meat?

[the entire room stops, in shock]

Aunt Voula: Oh, that’s okay. I make lamb.

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