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Magic Salad Ingredients

Palisade Peaches, garden tomatoes and basil

If you are lucky enough to live in Colorado, as I am, you may know that Palisade Peaches show up in the grocery store once a year around August or September.  The first Palisade Peach of the year is just about as delicious as the first tomato out of the garden.  (Well, almost.)

Every year at the hubby’s school they do a fund raiser, and he gets a case of these babies straight from the grower–the Cox family. 40 perfectly round, fuzzy, juicy, sweet orbs of love.  Yum.   The western slope of the Rocky Mountains apparently has the perfect conditions for growing peaches—hot and sunny during the day, but nice and cool at night.  BTW—this is also the perfect venue for growing certain types of grapes, and there are some fantastic vineyards out on the Western slope–go wine tasting.  Do it now.

At the exact moment the tomatoes in the garden began to ripen, Palisade peaches arrived, and thus the Magic Salad, as the hubby calls it, was born.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium to large peach, chopped into ½ inch pieces.  If you can get a Palisade peach for this, do it!  If you sadly live in a different part of the country, do your best to get a locally grown peach in season.
  • 1 – 1½ cups of tomatoes, chopped ½ inch pieces.  You can use any kind of salad tomatoes—I usually use a mix of different colors and sizes, just to add a bit of visual appeal.
  • Drizzle of good balsamic vinegarWe happened to have some excellent aged balsamic flavored with black cherry from Seasons Taproom in Bethlehem, PA. 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil
  • Arugula  – 1 to 2 ounces, or enough to make a bed for each salad.  From the garden, of course!
  • Good feta cheese, crumbled – about 4 ounces.  If you live in Denver, get the Greek feta at Pete’s Market on Holly & Cedar.  They have four varieties there—Greek, Domestic, Bulgarian, and French.  They are all good, but I prefer the Greek for a crumbly texture and Bulgarian for a more creamy texture.  Greek is good for this salad, because it crumbles nicely, and it’s a little sharper and saltier—counterbalances the sweetness of the peaches and tomatoes nicely.
  • Basil chiffonade, about 2 tablespoons.  Chiffonade is a really pretty French word that means “made of rags”. How does everything sound prettier in French?

Make it:

  • Put the peach and tomatoes in a medium bowl.  Drizzle with just enough balsamic vinegar to coat.  Toss.
  • Season with salt and pepper.  Toss.
  • Drizzle with olive oil to coat.  Toss.  If you have other stuff to work on, this can sit, refrigerated, for about ½ hour.  Just stir it up every ten minutes or so.
  • Lay a bed of arugula in four wide bowls.
  • Spoon the peach/tomato mixture over arugula.
  • Top with feta, then basil.

Happy Hubby

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Crunchy Avocado, Spinach & Goat Cheese Sandwich

Crunchy Avocado, Spinach & Goat Cheese Sandwich

Last night with dinner, we had a delicious whole grain bake at home loaf of bread.  We only ate about half of it, so the rest, of course, was destined for sandwiches…but not ordinary Boring Sandwiches…  I have two gigantic wine barrels full of mint in my backyard, so that served as further inspiration.  The rest are just some of my favorite ingredients.  Happy Lunch! (more…)

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Summer is upon us, and our gardens are starting to reward us for making it through yet another long winter of tasteless store bought fruits and veggies. Pea pods are starting to plump, holding sweet little round orbs of love.  Tomato and pepper plants are starting to grow excitedly from little baby seedlings into botanical toddlers.  Strawberries and raspberries are ripening at a mad pace–we’d even have cherries this year if the giant dog would do anything about the thieving squirrels!

The hubby came in with a big beautiful bowl of strawberries from the garden tonight, so – obviously – daiquiris are in order!  Nothing says summer like an ice cold beverage, and I love celebrating the garden by drinking it.  This recipe is kind of a daiquiri/mojito hybrid (even better!), nothing like the syrupy pink slushee drinks served at bad chain restaurants across the country.

Hooray summer!

Summer Strawberry Mint Daiquiris
(makes 2)

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh strawberries, hulled
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed mint (Optional–if you don’t have mint in your garden, don’t go out and buy it for this drink.  It’s very subtle, and not worth spending $5 to get the 1/2 cup you need for two drinks.  If you have it in your garden, you know you have some to spare.)
  • 2 limes
  • 3 oz. rum (or to taste)
  • sugar to taste (or none at all!)
  • ice (more…)

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My world doesn’t abide by standard 9 to 5 rules.  I run a small business, work as a freelance graphic artist, and have a large crazy dog who needs more supervision and attention than a 9 to 5 family could provide.  (Boy did he luck out finding suckers like us!)  In addition, the Hubby works four nights a week, so much of our quality time happens in the afternoon.  Rather than having a nice dinner out once a week, which seems to be the American norm, we tend to do lunch out instead.

For us, eating lunch out is actually quite nice.  Unlike 9to5ers, we are generally not in a hurry during lunch.  We aren’t running out between phone conferences, grabbing the fastest thing on the block.  We don’t have business meetings over lunch–there are no laptops and no sales pitches.  Instead, we have the luxury to take our time and read the paper, maybe do the crossword puzzle.  Our tabs tend to be pretty low, since we aren’t tempted by the wine list, and since lunch is served in smaller portions, it’s cheaper. Often we spend less on lunch out than we would have spent buying lunch fixings at the grocery store.  It’s also a great way to try that trendy new spot you have been curious about, or that crazy ethnic restaurant with the menu you can’t pronounce (the one you are a little afraid of, but still intrigued by) without blowing a lot of money or time on dinner.  I am a big fan of lunch.

On the days when we eat at home, however, our fallback plan is sandwiches. (more…)

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FondueWe better celebrate.

There’s nothing quite like a big pot of gooey, warm, melty cheese.  It’s not the healthiest thing you can eat, but one must indulge once in a while.  Cheese just so happens to be my absolute favorite thing to eat ever.  Too bad I can’t figure out how to grow it in the garden.

Enjoy.

Ingredients:

  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1-1 ½ cups dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons Kirsch*
  • 1 pound Gruyere, Emmenthaler, or Jarlsberg cheese, grated (or a combo of two or all three)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Salt & pepper

* Also called Kirschwasser, a liquor made from a particular kind of German sour cherry.  Available in most liquor stores–a pint will last many many fondue nights.

Directions:

  • Warm your fondue pot to low heat.  You could also use a heavy ceramic bowl warmed in the oven, or place the pan over a warmed hot plate after cooking.
  • Rub the inside of a medium stainless sauce pan with the garlic.  (Most recipes tell you to throw the garlic away after this step, but I say throw it in the pot!  Just don’t eat it later.)
  • Toss the cheese with the cornstarch and nutmeg in a bowl until cheese is thoroughly coated.
  • Place the pan over medium heat on the stove, and add the wine and the Kirsch.  Bring to a slow boil.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low, add the cheese to the wine, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until cheese is melted.  If it’s too thick, add more wine until it’s the desired consistency.  If you have wine left over, don’t let it go to waste…  😉
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Carefully pour into your fondue pot on low heat—keep an eye on it and stir occasionally so it does not scorch on the bottom.

Serve with bite sized pieces of:

French Bread
Rye or Pumpernickel Bread
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Apples
Pears
Grapes
Dates
Pretzel Sticks
Bread Sticks
Ham
Salami

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Hams on the Smoker

The Hubby has a smoker–one of those big ugly black cylindrical barrel-looking grills.  He is a master at pulled pork and beer can chicken.  He has smoked turkeys for Thanksgiving, and they have been divine.  This past year for Turkey Day, we decided to try our hand at making ham, and it was amazing!  You have never seen meat devoured so quickly!  10 pounds was gone in a matter of minutes.  So naturally, when Easter rolled around this year, and we found out we’d be having family in town, we got excited to recreate that delectable dish.

Last weekend, I set the Hubby on a quest for fresh ham–that is, raw uncured pork leg.  He called our go-to grocery store, where we got the meat last November.  The very nice man in the meat department told him, “I am sorry, sir.  We only carry fresh ham for holidays.”  Ummm…  have you heard of Easter???  So he made another call.  At the buy-in-bulk store, the very nice man in the meat department referred him to the deli.  So he made another call.  And another.  And another.  The best answer we got was that it could be ordered for us, and that it would be here in three to four days.  (And that it would cost three to four times what we paid for it in November.)  Not gonna work.  Fresh pork has to be cured in order to turn it into ham.  We cured the 10 pounder for 5 days. (more…)

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While turning my beds over this past weekend, I found a small crop of carrots that somehow managed to escape last year’s harvest.  Those stubborn little things survived the winter and were just waiting for me like an impatient child. “It’s about time,” they said, “It’s been freezing out here!”

Carrots for Soup

OK, admittedly not the prettiest carrots you've ever seen, but they will make great soup!

These carrots had, indeed, frozen and thawed, frozen and thawed, frozen and thawed, over and over throughout the winter.  As a result, the skinny ones were flimsy, and the large ones were very woody in the middle.  I couldn’t possibly chop them up to put on a salad, but they had too much life left to be doomed to the compost bin.  The solution?  Soup!  Soups and stews are always a great way to take advantage of veggies that aren’t bad, but aren’t quite at their freshest, either.

Yesterday it snowed, and the temperatures dipped to a chilly 32 during the day.  It seemed the perfect time to turn my tenacious carrots into a belly-warming dinner.  I happened to also have a head of not-so-fresh cauliflower on hand, so I supplemented my carrot crop with some of that, but you could easily make this recipe with 4 cups of carrots (or 4 cups of cauliflower).  Although I think 2 teaspoons of curry powder is just about right for this amount of soup, you will probably want to add 1 teaspoon and taste it before dumping the whole amount in–we tend to eat spicy!  (more…)

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