Archive for the 'food' Category

From the Garden to the Counter

The spider wort has taken over the porch border garden. Once I have a decent weather weekend I will go forth and do battle.

I’ve cut back a lot this year on growing edibles. In the past I’ve gotten carried away with all sorts of herbs and we almost never used some of them. There are others, like lemon balm, that we almost never use but since it’s thriving and happy it got to stay. 🙂 I have one cherry tomato plant and one red pepper (sweet) plant. I don’t think I have any other vegetable attempts.

parsely, dill, arugula, romaine, leaf lettuce

I was making some salads for us to enjoy in the intermittent hot weather. Aside: it’s been as crazy here as in other places in the world. For example: Wednesday it was 91 degrees in the afternoon. Saturday morning it was 41. Memorial day we did finally edge up into the 70s, but only late in the afternoon before it then started cooling down again. Here we are on Friday – HUMID and in the 70s and we’re due for thunderstorms (heads up, Honour). They are promising 80s on Saturday and – oh hallelujah! – 90s on Sunday. I’ve been sooooo COLD. Back to the salads! There are 3 types of lettuce: arugula, red leaf, and romaine. They were for my tossed salad. The dill and parsley were for the chickpea salad. Yummy!

Ready to cook. Fire pit at the ready, also 2 propane heaters if needed.

The Memorial Day weekend was, as I said, VERY cold and VERY rainy on Saturday and Sunday. Monday things finally started to dry and warm up. We had TEN PEOPLE on the deck for BBQ dinner. It was GLORIOUS! We’d not been together since Feb 2, 2020. So much hugging and smiling and laughing!! It was wonderful to be back together again. I got to show off my latest acquisition for the deck – my new ice cooler. 🙂 My sister and I had gone to an Antiques & Collectibles show back in April. This Italian ice cart caught my eye, caught my sense of humor, and I thought it would be perfect on the deck. When my husband texted back to say he AGREED, the deal was done. 🙂 He keeps saying “we’ll get a lot of use out of it” and I keep laughing and saying “oh my it is so kitsch that it is art and I LOVE it”. Seriously – it gives me such joy. I smile every time I see it. And yes – it is useful. It holds A LOT of ice. Deceptively so. We had 3 bags of ice in it for the BBQ and it looked paltry. But our drinks were cold!

No need for shade. We did light the firepit at dusk and it put out a good amount of heat and a LOT of beauty.

Let’s Talk About Food

table ready and waiting!

Food. Cats. Plants. The Weather. I think those are all still safe topics these days, although I do have a (completely misguided) coworker who would disagree about cats. His loss. BC often joins our video calls. 🙂 We like him anyway. Food – my family is most definitely a FOOD family. All the men enjoy cooking, with at least 2 of them into baking as well. You know I enjoy cooking and baking. Now that I stop to think about it, I’m not sure about the other females. They are absolutely fine cooks, I’m not sure if it’s something they “enjoy”. Funny how you can be so close to someone and still not know something that important.

slicing the rib roast

In our family our winter holidays are Chanukah and my husband’s birthday. Obviously these days we are not dining out very much but even so I was surprised when a friend asked me what *I* was doing for the birthday dinner. Moi? Excuse me but in OUR family it’s the MEN who cook the birthday dinners. My husband knew exactly what he wanted – a standing rib roast and potatoes au gratin – French style. He’s taken great pains to teach us that “au gratin” does NOT mean “with cheese”. It derives from the French for “scrapings” and is used typically to mean covered with crumbs (OR cheese). When HE makes the potatoes au gratin, it means that the potatoes have been drowned in butter and then baked. 🙂 Unbelievably delicious.

look at the garlic!!!! yum!

The problem with our meal arises with cooking the beef. My sister and brother-in-law like the meat to be moo’ing when we bring it to the table. While I don’t like my meat well-done, and I do like beef carpaccio, the rare ribs in these pictures are too rare for me. Not a problem because I can always toss mine in the microwave if necessary or, as in this case, have my slices cut from the ends of the roast. You can see the end, covered in garlic. Oh my – nirvana. 🙂 The beef just melted. My apologies to the vegetarians reading this. I don’t eat meat very often so when I do I really enjoy it. I’m not sure if you can tell from the pictures, but each rib must have been nearly 2 inches thick. Four ribs. Only 3 fit on the platter. 🙂 Each couple ended up splitting a rib (and not finishing it) so we all had wonderful leftovers as well.

Can we eat NOW?

My brother-in-law asked what kind of bread my husband wanted for the meal, and of course the answer was salt sticks. 🙂 My contribution was the steamed vegetables and the dessert. I knew my sister and I would be tempted to keep picking at the meat & potatoes, so I tried to distract us with 2 bowls of vegetables. One had only cabbage (we all like cabbage) and the other had broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and brussels sprouts. They may have deterred us a trifle but seriously, given the options, which would YOU have picked at??? Not to mention the salt sticks. 🙂 For dessert I made a cranberry/orange/apple cake. A friend wrinkled up her nose like “that’s a birthday cake????”. In our family, yes, we always have at least one sugar-free dessert for the menfolk. I gave my husband a choice of different fruit pies, tarts and cakes and that was the winner. I still had some sugar-free espresso ice cream which tasted great on top. Keeping in the birthday spirit we added whipped cream as well.

Very tasty loaf cake – moistness from the apples and juice

Now one of us doesn’t eat fruit. In anticipation of these meals where 3 of us would happily eat apples & cranberries & oranges, I sliced the chocolate pecan pie into individual servings and froze them back on Thanksgiving. SHE had the pie. 🙂

chocolate pecan pie

She’s Singing My Song

My sister sent me this link today about Holiday Dinner Planning. Of course it applies to ANY dinner planning these days. I’ve written before about the challenges I face trying to invite my long-time group of friends to dinner. And that is WITHOUT the person who can’t eat nightshades (which I only learned to my dismay at my Come See My New Kitchen party). My husband pointed out that they also forgot to mention the people who bring their own food without having mentioned it or cleared it with the hostess first. 🙂 I believe that I’ve also mentioned that showing up with unexpected entrees that you expect to be served at that meal is actually a bit rude. Aren’t you glad you aren’t invited to my house for dinner? SO many rules!!! But enjoy the song because, oh my goodness, it’s right on the nose! (Of course at THIS point in the pandemic, I’d be DELIGHTED to be throwing a party no matter WHAT food challenges I face.)

Sugar-free Pistachio Ice Cream

Your pistachio ice cream, dear!

Pistachio is definitely NOT my flavor choice for ice cream. Many, many years ago my husband told me that his FAVORITE ice cream flavor WAS pistachio. It’s hard enough finding sugar-free ice cream, but trying to find interesting sugar-free flavors is darn near impossible. The most exotic flavor I have found is butter pecan. Otherwise it’s vanilla. Or occasionally vanilla/chocolate/strawberry. Several years ago I attempted to make pistachio ice cream using a short-cut recipe I found online. What I created was a solid block of pistachio ice. I shelved the project until I might have an ice cream maker.

First step – adding the whipped cream to the sweetened condensed milk and flavoring

Ever since I discovered Tagatesse, I have been trying new recipes and taking old favorites and seeing how they would work with Tagatesse instead of sugar. [ Reminder: Tagatesse uses tagatose, and can be substituted 1-for-1 for sugar. At the moment the major problem is that it is costing me around $40 for a 1 lb. box. Ah, the things we do for love. ] I don’t remember what article I saw that made me think maybe it was time to try again to make pistachio sugar free ice cream.

Adding in some nuts

I found MANY sites that discussed making ice cream without an ice cream maker, and using only 3 or 4 ingredients. That’s my kind of recipe!! I ended up checking several sites, and all called for at least these 3 ingredients: heavy whipping cream, sweetened condensed milk, and vanilla. Easy, peasy, except for the amount of sugar in sweetened condensed milk. That sent me on a search to see if I could make my own sweetened condensed milk using Tagatesse. Of course, since we know EVERYTHING is on the internet, I found one. It was simple, I had the ingredients, and the only downside was the need to stir it for 30 minutes as it cooked. I made the condensed milk using the Tagatesse and let it cool.

Ready to head to the freezer

The next day I attempted the ice cream. I’d ordered pistachio flavored extract online. I tried to pick the one that looked the ‘best’ and substituted it for most of the vanilla. I also bought pistachio nuts and ground up several of them to add to the ice cream and to sprinkle on top. I mixed everything together and then waited the requisite hours.

I served a portion to my husband. The verdict: A+ for taste, A+ for color & texture, C for sweetness. He thought it was way too sweet. Sigh. I gave the rest to my brother-in-law, who has more of a sweet tooth than my husband. His verdict: A+ for texture & color, A+ for sweetness, C for flavor. He said it tasted like almonds. I swore to him that there were no almonds. He went and did research and discovered that the vast majority of pistachio flavorings were almond based. According to the ingredients on the extract I used, it claims to have only pistachios, no almonds. What is a simple pistachio ice cream maker to do? Make less-sweet pistachio ice cream for my husband and make coffee ice cream for my brother-in-law. Problem solved. 🙂

Ready to be scooped!

Nature’s Sense of Humor

This, my friends, is a carrot on a red paper plate. It was one of the baby carrots in my snack pack the other day. It may have been every bit as edible as all the other carrots in the pack, but somehow I could not bring myself to take a bite. Would you? 🙂

La La La La La

tall canna lily front garden

Isn’t that what you say when you cover your ears so you can’t hear what someone is saying to you? La la la la la la la. I do NOT have the energy today to deal with macro issues: return to school? presidential election? senatorial elections? college football? eating out? La la la la la la.

1st mushroom sighting

The first sighting of the mushrooms. They look harmless, don’t they?

Unfortunately for me, my little micro concerns were also difficult this week. Sigh. So no cat pictures today – still a little bit too sad about GC for that. Which leaves me only the garden and yard for an escape. Oh – and food. There is always food, right?

crustless quiche

crustless vegetable quiche

Let’s do food first. My husband has been cooking. His new obsession is making pot stickers from scratch. I can assure that yes, you CAN get bored with eating pot stickers. The last two times he suggested it I vetoed the idea. That got me homemade pasta with sauce (oh yum yum yum) and a delicious flatbread pizza. I also got a crustless quiche. You can tell from the photo that he LOVES cooking tomatoes. I’m not as fond of cooked tomatoes as he is but at the moment they are still preferred over yet more pot stickers. The night he made the pasta he made a tandori sauce to go on it. Out of this world delicious. Remember Snuffles, the treat loving dog from Quick Draw McGraw? That describes the 4 of us having dinner. My brother-in-law is usually the bread baker, as I’ve told you. His breads are beyond compare. He was busy all day, however, so baking the challah fell to me. It was good, but it convinced me to get myself a bread thermometer. I worried about it being under-baked so I gave it more time than I thought it probably needed. I’d rather have it that way, even though over-baking means leftovers dry out faster.

Ahuva's challah

That is a 5-strand braided challah. Haven’t done one in years and so my strands were not as evenly thick at the end of the braiding.

The local news reported today that July was the hottest month on record for New Jersey. As everyone commented – tell us something we DIDN’T know. When I was a young lass, maybe all the way up to my 30s, NJ summers were my favorite weather. Hazy hot & humid did not faze me. Now that I am older, I have more empathy for those who complain about NJ summers. The humidity wipes me out. I learned in Arizona that temperatures above 100 are probably more heat than I enjoy, but I can go up into the 90s and have no problem if it is dry. I finally understand the phrase “it’s not the heat it’s the humidity”. Yes, it’s the humidity. And the dratted no-see-ums that are eating me alive every time I water the plants. My legs are covered with scratched bites and scabs. My legs look like the legs of a grade schooler (if there were still such a thing as grade school – oh wait – do NOT go there). My wonderful husband heard me moaning every night after watering the plants and bought me mosquito netting pants!!!! They do work! The problem, I think, for me is that I sweat so heavily from the humidity, that it is still attracting them through the pants. The number of bites is greatly reduced but I still got bitten the other night. I think I’ll try spraying the pants with insect repellent and see if that makes any difference. I could try to get up early when there are fewer bugs about but mostly I get up that early to make sandwiches.

mosquito netting pants

You may laugh but everyone who has seen them or heard me talk about them has asked where they can get them (search on mosquito netting pants)

I came home from making sandwiches yesterday and went to pull into my driveway. And I stopped. There was a man from the utility company walking out of my driveway and 5 orange cones IN my driveway. I rolled down my window and looked at him, and asked “What are you doing?” He explained that he had cleared it with the man in the house (*grin* I said – my husband, he said – I didn’t want to presume, I said – wise approach these days). The apron of the driveway was damaged when we got the new gas and electric to the house back in February or whenever it was. They are finally getting around to repairing it. He said we couldn’t drive on it for 3 or 4 days. That means no convertible – it is in the garage. Too bad, because the temperatures are only supposed to be in the 80s for the rest of this week. Of course, the humidity is also supposed to be in the 80s. It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.
driveway before and after

Last year I mentioned that I should plant lots and lots of canna lilies because the butterflies seemed to really enjoy them. I have only seen 2 butterflies this year so far. I showed you the monarch butterfly on the butterfly weed. There has also been a black swallowtail I’ve seen periodically. The swallowtail seems to check out everything but the things I planted specifically to make butterflies happy. It seems to really like the echinacea. I saw it today checking out the herbs, tomatoes and superbells, but it flitted away before landing anywhere. Camera-shy I guess.

black swallowtail butterfly on echinacea

Black swallowtail butterfly

I planted 2 gardenias this year – one in a hanging pot and one in a pot along the front walk. I believe that the one in the hanging pot was burned out by the hot weather, after managing to produce 2 flowers in the late spring. The one along the walk has produced one full bloom. It does smell heavenly.

gardenia

Gardenia

Not only has it been humid, we’ve gotten a lot of rain. The fun part is when it rains in the evening so I don’t have to brave the no-see-ums and can skip watering the plants. Apparently it has been even wetter than I realized. This week my neighbor’s lawn has sprouted mushrooms. Every day they have gotten larger and larger. There must be a good story to write there but at the moment I only have the illustrations. 🙂 If they get much larger they are going to cross the line from impressive to creepy.

mushrooms day 2

okay, a little wider, but still not too creepy

Then of course there are the canna lilies. The “rescued” cannas have been thriving in the pots along the walk. FINALLY one of the ones I planted has begun to bloom. I get very impatient in the spring. Even knowing things will grow, I don’t want a lot of empty space that needs weeding and looks neglected. I cram way too many plants into one area. I have this gorgeous stupendously tall canna right smack in the middle of the lawn garden. Beautiful. BUT – crammed in that spot are 2 Rose Mallows, perennials that are in the hibiscus family. One of them was doing quite well before the canna began shooting up. The other is nestled under a canna leaf. When I can brave the biting-bug-filled lawn to go there, I rearrange it to be in front of the leaf. But somehow it always resets to under and behind. I hope it is sufficiently rooted to survive.

Mushrooms day 3

There are actually 5 of these things in the yard. These 2 are about 6 inches across at a minimum.

I like so many flowers, and I’ve now got so many perennials. I want MORE rudbeckia laciniata hortensia, but I’m not sure where I can put them. I will have to pull out the firecrackers or chop down the variegated grass. Or pull out the rudbeckia laciniata (single bloom rudbeckia). That might work, except I also have the goose neck flowers there and I added the swamp milkweed as well. Sigh. Maybe I should put a border garden along the walk? That gets lots of sun.

rudbeckia after the rain

Rudbeckia laciniata hortensia after the rain. do you see the HUGE mushrooms?

Whatever it is that snuck into my planters now has flowers. I can’t wait to see what I’m growing. I thought that purple-edged leaf vine was a sweet pea vine – that’s what I was calling it in my head. But it’s not, according to my search. According to my search I have no idea what it is, other than beautiful. I also have no idea what to tell the lad who cuts my grass. I’m tired of moving pots and putting them back. I think I’ll tell him to just ignore the grass under the vines. *laughing* There isn’t really any grass, is there? My lawn is really nothing but weeds. 🙂
vines in the grass

tall canna lily and rose mallow

Rose mallow, canna lilies and dahlias

I Grew A Salad

romaine lettuce before picking

Ready to harvest

My romaine lettuce did GREAT!!!! It was large enough and healthy enough that I could make a salad without having to add lettuce from the store. 🙂 I had 3 radishes that COULD have gone into the salad but we ate them. 🙂 I have a lot to learn still about growing vegetables. I crowd them, and mix mismatched sun-types in the same pot. It’s very encouraging, however, when I actually get it right and end up with viable produce! The lettuce appeared to be very happy in a pot of its own, hanging off the porch railing. I’ll plant another!

radishes and lettuce fresh from the garden

My harvest!

The celery isn’t quite ready but you can see that it IS looking very celery. The fun thing about celery is that it grows above ground so I can track the progress. With my radishes I sort of poke around in the dirt if they are not showing through. And yes – I do see that little weed in there that needs to be pulled

it's almost celery

Almost ‘real’ celery

I’ll need to grow more lettuce so that I can make another salad, this time with the grape tomatoes!

grape tomatoes on the vine

grape tomatoes on the vine

RADISHES!!!!!

2 radishes

Radishes!

I have radishes!!!!! I grew them from seed!!!! REAL RADISHES!!!! 🙂 They even tasted good. I am soooooo impatient and that made me do a very dumb thing. The first radishes I tried to grow I had in the same container as the cilantro. I knew the minute I finished seeding that it had been a mistake. Radishes need sun and my experience with cilantro is that it wants very little sun. My radishes had been growing for WEEKS. I figured there MUST be a radish down there somewhere. I pulled one up.

first radish

The First Radish

It was the saddest excuse for a radish you’ve ever seen. Yes, there was something radish-red at the end of the leaves, but it was as skinny as a root. It was maybe a half an inch long and probably not even 1/4 of an inch in diameter. In disappointment and despair I pulled the 5 of them up and tossed them. I could see that the ones growing out there in the sun were doing much better. I think that had I just left those 5 little ones alone for awhile (or killed the cilantro and not the radishes), they’d have grown up. I got another empty container, filled it with soil and seed starter, and planted MORE RADISHES!!
Plant a radish, get a radish, never any doubt, That’s why I love vegetables, you know what you’re about!

Radish leaves and onions

Look at those radish leaves!!! (the other cups have onions – i know – a mistake to have them there)

I was, I am, Naive

Spur of the moment berry pie

Spur of the moment berry pie – yes, I cheated on the lattice because I didn’t have much crust available and I was lazy

Silly me. I thought we were actually moving forward. I thought that living here, I was free from the fear of being burned in ovens, free from the fear of being killed for expressing my religious beliefs. I thought that we were finally moving past the racial hatred. We’d elected a black president – didn’t that show that the majority of us were finally not letting skin color determine what people could or couldn’t do? I thought that all of the anthems of the 60s had grown into our psyches, that we wanted peaceful coexistence. Well, I was wrong, wasn’t I? I am in agony watching my country self-destruct, crash and burn. What’s covid19 compared to what we can do on our own? I escape where and when I can. Because human beings need to find hope, need to find life, need to find the positive no matter how dark the sky. So I cook and bake and garden.

snowing cherry blossoms

Snowing Cherry Blossoms in April

Ahhh, my garden. I relieve my stress in my garden. The weather wasn’t being very kind. We had such a mild winter, and an easy April, that I was lulled into believing I could plant seeds and get things in the ground before May 15, the “official” last frost date. Son-of-a-gun if we weren’t having frost warnings on May 13th or whenever it was. Seriously???? I had to cover my tropicals, tarp the plants in pots, tarp whatever I could cover. Even so, the cover blew off one of my mandevillas. It is only just now beginning to recover. I’ve been spraying the roses and clematis with Neem oil, because the roses have black spot and they are interwoven with the clematis. I’ve been spraying the walk and the pots with that disgusting “repel all” to keep the deer and squirrels away. OMG, that stuff is vile. It had better repel those dratted squirrels because it certainly repels ME. Ugh. I was so proud of my radishes and then discovered the dratted squirrels digging in that pot. I don’t know how I’ll know when my radishes are ready for eating. I have lovely green leaves above, but when do they indicate lovely red radishes below??? I need to do more reading.

our local 'gang' of 4

The local Gang of 4 and I exchanging stares

I’ve been cooking and baking. You know how I love the 90-minute French bread recipe? I think I found one I love even more. The 40-minute hamburger roll recipe. I found this just about 2 weeks ago. The first time I made hot dog rolls. SO GOOD!!!! Yesterday I just casually whipped up a batch of hamburger rolls. We ended up having sandwiches for dinner instead of salad. You absolutely MUST try this recipe – fantastically easy and wonderfully delicious!!!

40 minute hamburger rolls

40 minute hamburger rolls – so easy and SO GOOD!!!!

I’ve also made wheat berry salad and cold sesame noodles, a berry pie, and a chocolate chip loaf cake. The loaf cake was a new recipe for me. I needed to make a quick, easy dessert for dinner, plus I needed to make it sugar-free. I’d made one several weeks ago but, as many people noted in the comments, my chips all sank to the bottom of the pan/cake. This new recipe is so rich and moist that the chips do NOT sink. Definitely a keeper/repeater recipe. I need to tinker a little bit more with the sweetness because I use Allulose instead of sugar, and add in a very generous tablespoon of Truvia as well. I thought there were almost too many chips (I used sugar-free chips) but when I said that my sister looked at me as if I was crazy :). One night my husband made an incredible Chinese food meal – home made wontons. So good!

homemade chicken wontons

homemade chicken wontons (not shown – the chicken fried rice and the beef and broccoli)

The garden is starting to bloom, and I did massive weeding this past weekend. Many of my perennials ARE returning and I added more this year as well. I’ll try to focus on the garden, and not share my darker thoughts with you. Working in the garden IS how I deal with stress, so trust me when I say that I’ve been super-vigilant – even dead-heading flowers and digging out the weeds from the cracks in the sidewalk. 🙂 Soon there should even be flowers to share.

cold sesame noodle

cold sesame noodle

40 minute hot dog rolls

40 minute hot dog rolls – look how well they came out even though this was the first time I tried this recipe

The Gang of 4 in action

The Gang of 4 in action

A Family of Food

Oreo Cheesecake Bar

Oreo Cheesecake Bar pre-cutting

My husband loves to cook. He loves watching cooking shows, reading cookbooks, and creating marvelous yummy entrees. I like to cook MUCH more now than I did prior to renovating the kitchen (it’s so EASY and fun to cook in the new kitchen) but I consider myself more of a baker than a cook. Naturally our son both cooks and bakes. He will often send me photos of his meal or of some treat he’s baked. His specialty seems to be baking for his coworkers. I think it began innocently enough. A good friend there had a birthday. This friend apparently loved the movie (Mean Girls) from whence we get “On Wednesday we wear pink!”. My son baked a birthday sheet cake and frosted it with pink icing. His coworkers devoured it. I think the next birthday was someone who likes bread, so my son baked a gorgeous challah. Also devoured. His office has pot luck meals at holiday times so my son has brought in potato latkes (devoured) and challah (devoured). I know he’s brought cookies and biscuits as well. Hope they all have memberships at a gym. This week’s office birthday treat was Oreo Cheesecake bars. They were apparently a big hit – devoured. 🙂 Now if I can only teach my son to take food photos as great as his baking!

oreo cheesecake

Yes it IS blurry but it still looks yummy!


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