Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

If you live in the Northeastern U.S., you may be familiar with the number 1, most hated, invasive weed in the region, Garlic Mustard. It is a member of the mustard family, but has a distinctive garlic aroma when the leaves are crushed.

Garlic Mustard in the Wild

Garlic Mustard in the Wild

This weed is a non-native plant that was introduced from Europe back in the late 1800’s as a culinary herb. But it has gotten out of control and is taking over our woodlands, and strangling out our native plants. As a result, many communities are hosting Garlic Mustard Pulling Parties, where people are encouraged to gather for the day to yank out these pesky plants by the wagon load.

I didn’t know that you could eat Garlic Mustard until I recently saw a recipe for Garlic Mustard Pesto. Apparently all parts of the plant are edible, to include the sweet tasting flowers and the tap-root, which resembles the flavor of horseradish. Having lived for a few years in Italy, I am an aficionado of Italian Pesto; the traditional recipe using basil and garlic. And since we have patches of the Garlic Mustard growing exuberantly along the fringes of our woods, I decided I would reduce the infestation by eating some of it. You know the old expression, “If you can’t beat it, eat it.”

I checked out a few recipes online and picked bits and pieces of several recipes to come up with a recipe that suited my taste. I prepared it for the first time last night, and it was surprisingly delicious. I’m going to show you how I made it.

A mess of greens, as we say in the south, and my sous chef, Bayley

A mess of greens, as we say in the south, and my sous chef, Bayley

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

2 cups (packed) garlic mustard leaves. Pick greens from an unsprayed area and make sure you wash them well.

4 ounces pine nuts

3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped (or 2 tablespoons wild spring onions)

4 ounces extra virgin olive oil

16 ounces penne pasta

3 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano is preferred)

Salt to taste

Ingredients for Garlic Mustard Pesto

Ingredients for Garlic Mustard Pesto

Directions

I started by picking off all the leaves and tossing them in a sink full of water. After swishing them around really well, I scooped them out by the handful, and squeezed all the water out of the leaves. I packed them really tight into a measuring cup.

You need two cups of firmly packed leaves.

You need two cups of firmly packed leaves.

It was about now, that I realized I didn’t have any chives. Well, I thought, this recipe is all about “the wild thing”, and we have plenty of wild spring onions sprouting everywhere, providing the llamas hadn’t eaten them all. (Our llamas love feasting on spring onions, as evidenced by the miasma of onion stink on their breath). So I grabbed my scissors and headed down the hill to harvest a clump. I had read a while back that the green tops of the wild onion were tasty in recipes, but to scale back on the amount, as they have a stronger flavor than the domestic variety.

Wild spring onions. Use only the green tops

Wild spring onions. Use only the green tops.

I had no idea what I was doing, but I decided that I’d go for 2 Tablespoons of the wild onions instead of the 3 tablespoons of chives. I minced them finely and tossed them in the food processor along with the 4 ounces of extra virgin olive oil and ran the food processor until the greens were finely chopped.

Next I added the pine nuts and processed the mix until it had the consistency of a paste.

Add 4 ounces of pine nuts.

Add 4 ounces of pine nuts.

At this point I transferred the mix to a mixing bowl and stirred in the parmesan cheese. I thought the pesto was a little too thick, so I added another tablespoon or two of olive oil until the consistency was right, and tasted it for salt.

Garlic Mustard Pesto.

Garlic Mustard Pesto.

WOW! Now, I must admit, I was prepared to hate this stuff. But, boy, was I surprised. It was delicious. It tasted a lot like traditional pesto, but it had a little zing. The garlic mustard leaves by themselves remind me of arugula, a little bit bitter and peppery. And this flavor came through very subtly in the pesto.

Now I couldn’t wait to boil up the penne and enjoy this taste of the wild.

Dinner is served.

Dinner is served.

I’m glad I don’t have to hate those pesky weeds nearly so much. Now I just need to find a way to love dandelions.

Feel free to give this a try, and let me know what you think.

Recipe

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

  • 2 cups (packed) garlic mustard leaves. Pick greens from an unsprayed area and make sure you wash them well.
  • 4 ounces pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped (or 2 tablespoons wild spring onions)
  • 4 ounces extra virgin olive oil
  • 16 ounces penne pasta
  • 3 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese (Parmigiano Reggiano is preferred)

Directions

  • Toss mustard greens, chives, and olive oil into food processor. Run processor until leaves are finely minced.
  • Add pine nuts and process until it resembles a paste.
  • Remove paste from processor and place in a mixing bowl.
  • Add Parmesan cheese and salt to taste.
  • Serve over cooked penne pasta.
  • Sprinkle with additional parmesan if desired.

Read Full Post »

Full rack

I am not a gourmet cook by any stretch of the imagination. But, I do like to try new recipes. I’m constantly being bombarded by mouthwatering recipes, streaming over Facebook, or beckoning me from the pages of a magazine. And I succumb…

This invariably leads to me having to buy a new spice or condiment to make the new dish. If I were asked to name my greatest strength and my worst fault, I think the answers would be the same. I am organized. Not quite to the OCD level of organized, but maybe not so far off.

I like things to be arranged alphabetically whenever possible. And spices lend themselves to that very well. Except when you accumulate so many that they wind up all over the kitchen.

My very first spice rack was a gift from my dear Road Warrior, on our very first Christmas together, 40 years ago. It held 18 bottles of spice and it served me well for several years.

Old spice rack

Then I had a couple of racks that sat on the kitchen counter that held an additional 24 bottles. Plus there were two 2 tier lazy susans in the cupboard above the microwave that stored who knows how many more bottles. Each spice cabinet was alphabetically arranged, but I could never remember which cabinet was hiding the particular spice that I needed. And I always had to drag out the ladder to see what was lurking in the top cupboard.

I’ve been pondering on a better system for a couple of years. It seems like all the spice racks on the market assume that 12-18 spices is all you should ever need. (At present, I have a total of 63 bottles of different spices). I soon realized that I was going to have to be creative and come up with a design of my own. I scoured the internet for ideas, and took a bit here and a bit there and finally found all the pieces I needed to make my perfect spice system.

One thing I wanted to eliminate was the backup spice bottle. You know, you’ve got this spice rack with its own decorative bottles. So you’re getting low on cinnamon, you buy a jar and dump it in the decorative bottle, and you still have a quarter of a jar left in the ugly grocery store tin, so you put it in the cupboard till you need more. So you’ve now got duplicates on top of the 63 original spices.

Yikes!

So I found these wonderful 6 oz. bottles that will hold just the right amount. Actually, I first saw these bottles at Target. This is what they sell their own brand of spices in. After Googling awhile, I finally located them. They are called French Square Bottles.

4 bottles

The shelves are actually photo ledges. Google to the rescue again. And I used a clear glossy label and my own llama logo to create the name tags.
I actually have a little room for expansion, so for right now, there is just enough room to display photos of the real spices in my life….my pups…. Mayzie and Bayley.

photoSONY DSC

Read Full Post »

Pecan tarts

I’m a child of the south and IMO there is not a better desert in the world, especially around the holiday season, than a pecan pie. And not only is it a delicious and elegant dessert, its darned easy to make. And that ranks high on the list in my book of recipes.

I have a llama trek scheduled for tomorrow, and so today I am preparing the picnic lunch. I cook a 4 course lunch that I call “trail gourmet”; starting with an appetizer, followed by a soup, then a sandwich buffet with a side salad, and finishing with a home cooked dessert. It’s now the first of October and the leaves are starting to turn. It’s a great time to serve some of my favorite fall recipes.

I have adapted the traditional pecan pie into an individual tart. I always have to be careful in choosing and preparing my trek lunches so that they can survive being carried 4 miles on the back of a llama. Mostly I have been successful. I have had the occasional batch of cupcakes get turned on their heads, but I still continue to whip them up from time to time.

These pecans tarts never fail to impress. They do look really amazing, but they are so, so easy to make. The ingredient list is short:

2/3 Cups chopped pecans
1 Cup packed brown sugar
2/3 Cups light colored corn syrup
2 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
2 large eggs and 2 large egg whites, lightly beaten
2 9” inch pastry crusts

ingredients

I must confess. I have never made pie crust from scratch in my life. I think Pillsbury does just fine with their refrigerated rolled crusts. But if you are a traditionalist, by all means, make your own crusts.

You can make these in any tart tins that you may have on hand, but since I want these to be ruggedly transportable, I use 3” aluminum disposable tart tins. They also fit perfectly in a standard muffin tin. You need to experiment with dough cutters you have on hand to find just the perfect size for your tart tin. My goldfish glass works perfectly with its 3 ¾” rim.

cutting dough

Place the crusts in the tins and ease them into place.

Next—divide the pecans evenly among the tart cups.

nuts in shells

Lightly whip the 2 eggs and 2 egg whites with a wire whisk and then add the brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla and salt. Stir well with the whisk until it is well mixed and the sugar is dissolved. Spoon about ¼ cup of filling into each tart. You don’t want the filling to overflow the pie crust.

To make these little pies look really special, I like to decorate them with little pastry cut outs.

Here, I am using a maple leaf design. You can find these wonderful pie press cutters online. The ones I have are made by Paula Deen. William Sonoma has them as well. They generally come in sets of 4 with different holiday designs.

Look for ones with the spring plunger. It makes a world of difference when you are trying to pop the little pieces of dough out of the cutters without mangling the designs.

It also helps to dip the cutter into flour first.

SONY DSC

dough leaves

I place one leaf on each little pie. Here they are ready for baking.

ready for baking

Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or until the pastry is lightly brown and the filling is puffy.

Don’t be alarmed if the tarts come out of the oven looking like erupting volcanoes. As the lava cools, the tops level back out and the major earthquakes disappear.

Remove the tarts from the muffin tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Once prepared these tarts can be stored in an airtight container for several days.

Pecan tarts

Now just wait for the compliments. Yum.

Read Full Post »

soup

Ever just have the TV on for background noise? Our TV is on anytime one of us is in the house, but we rarely actually sit down to watch anything. Such was the case last week when my attention was captured by a chef showing us how to make gazpacho. So what’s so exciting about that? Gazpacho is gazpacho. But there, my friend, you are wrong. This was Watermelon Gazpacho, and it was weird enough that I stopped what I was doing to watch him toss the garden into a blender.

I was in the market for a new and refreshing lunch recipe, as a good friend of mine was coming over to give me a hand with doggie hygiene…..dental hygiene…..for dogs……

My friend is a retired dental hygienist (for people) who has been scaling her own dogs’ teeth for years. She offered to drive an hour and a half out to the farm to clean my two dogs’ choppers. She does this without anesthesia. Mayzie, the bearded collie, behaved like an angel. But I didn’t expect anything less of her. She is a perfect lady. Bayley, the year and an half golden doodle, on the other hand, wasn’t quite so easy. But with Bayley on her side, and me laying fully stretched out on top of her, we were able to keep her still enough to finish the job. Both dogs were over and done with in less than half an hour and it saved me at least $600 over having the vet do it.

Bayley and Mayzie

So the least I could do was to make lunch. I served the Watermelon Gazpacho and Cucumber Tea Sandwiches. And the soup was DELICIOUS!

I checked out a dozen or more recipes online and combined bits and pieces of several recipes to come up with my own signature dish. I’m going to show you how I made it. It’s super easy.

Ingredients
2 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and cut into wedges
1 medium bell pepper, seeded and chunked
1 English cucumber (about 1 pound) peeled, seeded and chunked
4 stalks of parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
Extra basil leaves for garnish
3 cups of watermelon, cubed (I used a small, round, seedless melon)
2 peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt and dash of pepper
Feta cheese for garnish

You can use a food processor, or a heavy duty blender. I used my Vitamix that we bought at a state fair back in the 80’s. It’s a work of art, don’t you think?

vitamix

First, assemble all of your ingredients. Remember, there is no substitute for the freshest and ripest veggies and fruits.

ingredients

Peel and seed the tomatoes. No cutting corners here. Peeling and seeding is not an option.

tomatoes

tomatoes

Peel and seed the cucumber. I like to use the long English cukes, because the seeds are really tiny. But particularly if you are using a regular cucumber, you need to remove the seeds. It’s easy. Just quarter the cucumber lengthwise, and cut the ridge off along with the seeds.

cucumber

Chop the rest of the ingredients and set aside.

chopped ingredients

melon

Throw the tomatoes, bell pepper, cucumber, garlic, basil and parsley into the blender and blend until smooth.

in blender

Continue to blend and add the peaches.

Now toss in the watermelon. You have a choice here. Do you want it slightly chunky, or smooth? I wanted a little texture of the watermelon, so I only pulsed the machine a few times.

Then I stirred in the vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper so as not to further mash the watermelon. Check it for seasoning according to your taste.

Place the soup in the fridge for at least 3 hours until it is chilled.

One of the recipes I found suggested sprinkling Feta cheese on top. Initially I was a little conflicted about the addition of the Feta, but I had some on hand, so I did a taste test with and without, and “with” won hands down. If fact, it totally “made” the soup.

soup

So take my word for it and give it a try. Just be sure to crumble the cheese up really fine and just sprinkle on a light dusting.

This is a recipe that begs for summer fresh ingredients, so try it now and enjoy before the season ends.

Read Full Post »

To begin, start with one goldendoodle and add 20 inches of fresh, clean, new fallen snow.

Mix well for two minutes.

(Please accept my apologies for the orientation of this video. The Road Warrior left town with the camera, so I had to resort to my iphone for video. I held the phone wrong. Click on the little square at the bottom right of the video to view full screen, and hit escape to return.)

Enjoy

pupsicle

Read Full Post »

How to cook the Perfect Boiled Egg.

Good Golly, Miss Molly! Boiling an egg is certainly not an “eggs-acting” science, but few topics disagree so much over the proper technique. Add salt/don’t add salt; add vinegar or baking soda/don’t add vinegar or baking soda; put the eggs in boiling water/put the eggs in cold water; cover the pot/don’t cover the pot; boil the eggs until done/take them off the heat and let them steep; use older eggs/use the freshest eggs possible. What’s a body to believe?

About the only thing that everyone is in agreement on is that really fresh eggs are more difficult to peel than eggs that are at least a week old. If you are buying your eggs from the grocery store, this is rarely ever an issue. By the time eggs hit the shelf, they are often already 30 days old, and the expiration date may be 30 days after that. But if you are lucky enough to raise chickens and collect freshly laid eggs, or have a source for farm fresh eggs, then you know firsthand the “eggs-asperation” of trying to peel boiled eggs without ending up with a mangled mess.

There is a scientific reason for this, and if you are really geeky and want to know the chemistry behind it, you can Google it and study up on it. There’s a whole PH thing going on, but basically, as the egg ages, the egg starts to shrink and the air space between the egg shell and the membrane will get larger, making it easier to peel. So there. Bottom line, if you can let your fresh eggs sit in the fridge for a week or two, all the better.

Since Easter is coming up soon and you may be planning to boil up some Easter Eggs to dye, I thought I would share with you the technique I use for boiling eggs that yields nice yellow yolks without the green tinge, whites that are not rubbery, and eggs that are easier to peel.

There are still many variables that may affect your outcome: how many eggs you are boiling, the size of your pot, the size of your eggs, and your altitude, for instance. But this is what I do.

1. Bring your eggs to room temperature. This helps minimize the eggs cracking as they heat up.
2. Place the eggs gently in a large pot so that you only have one layer of eggs.

Eggs in pot

3. Cover the eggs with cold water so that you have an inch of water covering the eggs.

SONY DSC

4. I put a handful of salt in the water. I don’t think this actually helps the eggs peel better, (as many people believe) but if an egg happens to crack in the pot, the salted water will cause the white to coagulate quickly, thus sealing up the crack so you don’t lose more egg white.

SONY DSC

5. Bring the water to a boil. Just as soon as it reaches a true rolling boil, immediately take the pot off of the heat, and place a tight fitting lid on top of it.
6. Get out your timer and let the pot sit for precisely the recommended time. For small to medium eggs, 12 minutes will do, large eggs should sit for about 15 minutes, and super-duper large eggs should sit for 18 minutes. By following this procedure, you prevent the yolks from getting too hot, which is what causes the green tinge. (Another chemical reaction, if you need to know).
7. As soon as your timer goes off, pour off the hot water and rinse the eggs in cold tap water. Place the eggs in a large bowl, cover with ice cubes and then cover with cold water. Leave the eggs alone for 10-15 minutes or until the eggs are completely cold to the touch.

SONY DSC

8. The easiest way to peel them is to lightly tap them on the counter until the shell is crazed all over. Hold the egg under cold running water and start peeling from the round end where the air sac is.

SONY DSC

9. Now enjoy a perfectly cooked egg. Beautiful creamy yellow yolk with no green ring and a nice tender white that is not at all rubbery.

SONY DSC

Finally, I can enjoy my lunch. Yumm!
Thanks, my dear little chickies!

chickens

If you have a tried and true recipe for boiling eggs, let’s hear it.

Read Full Post »

plate of cookies

It’s not too late to make an extra special Christmas gift for your doggie friends. Bayley and Mayzie want to share the recipe for their favorite cookie.

Mayzie and Bayley dressed as "Sandy Paws"

Mayzie and Bayley dress as “Sandy Paws”

To make these treats, I press their paw into each cookie.

Paw Print Cookie

Just kidding. But they did serve as models for me to make the paw print press.

cookie press

cookie press 2

I used Sculpey Polymer clay to form the cookie press. This clay is available in any hobby store, easy to work with and then just hardens in your oven.

Dogs love these cookies. We made up several batches to give to all our doggie friends for Christmas presents. They do have wheat flour and corn meal in them, so if your dogs have any sensitivity to these ingredients, then you might want to use a different recipe.

THE RECIPE — Makes about 7 dozen

INGREDIENTS

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups quick cooking oatmeal
1 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon brewer’s yeast
½ cup dry milk powder
3 tsp beef bouillon granules
3 cups water

DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Grease a cookie sheet.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine white flour, whole wheat flour, oatmeal, cornmeal, garlic powder, brewer’s yeast and instant milk. Stir in 2 cups water. Mix the ingredients well using your hands. The dough should be very stiff. Gradually mix in the remaining 1 cup water to make a bread-dough consistency.

3. Form dough into balls and press with the bottom of a drinking glass. or roll out to a ¼ to ½ inch thickness on a floured board and cut with a cookie cutter. Place the biscuits on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake the cookies 45 minutes, turn oven off completely but do not remove the biscuits. Let the biscuits sit in the oven overnight or for 8 hours. Store biscuits in an air-tight container.

So here we go. Let’s make some Paw Print Cookies.

These cookies cool in the oven overnight or for 8 hours, so it’s a good idea to start making these in the evening.

Start by combining all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

dry ingredients

I found that when using the paw print press, the oatmeal gave too much texture to the dough and the pressed paw print wasn’t all that clear. So I ran the oatmeal through a food processor to grind it up a bit.

Whole oatmeal

Whole oatmeal

ground oatmeal

ground oatmeal

Don’t grind it as fine as flour. It should still have some texture to it.

As for the brewer’s yeast, you don’t have to add it if you don’t want to, but it is purported to have a lot of health benefits for dogs, from a shinier coat, less shedding, enhanced immune system, and a flea preventative. When I went to the health food store to buy it, it was only available in a huge tin, but the sales person showed me a product made just for dogs called “Pet Guard yeast and garlic powder”. I use 2 tablespoons of this powder rather that the 1 tablespoon brewer’s yeast and 1 tablespoon garlic powder. And you can sprinkle this on the food everyday for added benefits.

PetGuard

Once you have all the dry ingredients in the bowl, stir them up well.

Now add the 2 cups of water and start squishing.

mixing dough

This is a great way to get out some of that holiday frustration that you’ve been holding in. The dough is very stiff and my hands get really tired before the dough is finally mixed. Start gradually adding the remaining cup of water until all the flour is incorporated.

Roll the dough into little balls, about the size of a walnut.

balled dough

These cookies are not going to spread or rise, so you can place them close together. Just allow enough room for pressing them flat.

I use the bottom of a glass to flatten the balls to a thickness between ¼ inch and ½ inch. Then I press each cookie with the paw print press.

flattened dough

If you don’t have a paw press, you can leave the cookies just like this. Or you can roll the dough out to the same thickness and cut with a cookie cutter. I have a 3½ inch dog bone cutter that I sometimes use.

bone cookie cutter

Put the cookies in the 300 degree oven and cook for 45 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the cookies inside overnight. They will still be soft at the end of the baking time, but by morning, they will be hard and crunchy, just the way your pup will like them.
plate of cookies

R-R-R-Ruff Ruff (Yum Yum)

Read Full Post »