Thursday, May 12, 2016

Freezer Defrost Day

It's freezer defrost day here at the castle.
Which means the interesting menu choice of pear smoothie in a pirate cup for breakfast, onion & goat cheese appetizers with mixed frozen berries for lunch.
Sorry, sad little icy lime popsicles, you have to go. 
Here's some tomato soup that directs me to add . . .
what, exactly?  Cod, maybe?  Why would I add cod?  And if not cod, then . . . ood?  What, pray tell, is ood?
This soup definitely needs something.  So in go some cubes of "basil-lemon drizzle," also unearthed from the back of the freezer.  The things you discover on freezer defrost day.
What, freezer defrost day is not a real holiday?  I have to remove my party hat and proceed as if it were a perfectly ordinary day?
Carry on.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Grapefruit-Orange Breakfast Shake

It's National Grapefruit Month!  Hurry and make this yummy breakfast smoothie, before the month is over.
This shake is not too sweet and filled with fiber, as it uses the fruit itself and not just the juice.  Recipe comes from a book I am really enjoying, called A Good Food Day:  Reboot Your Health with Food That Tastes Great by Marco Canora, with Tammy Walker.
Canora is a chef who found himself overweight, pre-diabetic, suffering from gout, etc. due to his poor eating habits.  Kind of like the shoemaker's kids who don't have shoes, it seems that many professional chefs spend their waking hours making good food for others yet neglecting their own diets.  This was true for Canora.  Lucky for us, he made some healthy changes and shares his real-life wisdom in this book.
I am still reading the breakfast chapter, but he's already got me buying steel-cut oats and chia seeds and putting stuff like cilantro in my smoothies.  Someone take my temperature, quick.

1/2 grapefruit, peeled
1/2 orange, peeled
1/2 t. vanilla
1 T. honey
1 c. ice
1/2 c. plain yogurt (Canora recommends full-fat plain Greek yogurt; I use fat-free regular plain yogurt)

Put everything in your super duper blender and whirl away.  (Note:  I blend the grapefruit, orange, vanilla, and honey first, in one batch, then add the ice and yogurt and blend again.  I find when I put honey in the blender at the same time as anything frozen, the honey just congeals into a sad little ball at the bottom and refuses to mix well.  Poor little honey.)

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Roasted Carrots with Maple Syrup

This is one of those recipes that tastes way better than it should.  You look at the list of ingredients -- carrots, olive oil, garlic, salt & pepper, maple syrup --  and think, yeah, so?  But something about this combination is irresistible.  I think it's the sweet of the maple syrup matched against the saltiness of the salt.  Kind of like chocolate-covered pretzels, if you can let your brain go there.  
Plus it's super easy to put together.  You start with a bag of pre-peeled baby carrots, toss with olive oil and garlic and salt and pepper, and boom!  Into the oven it goes.  Perfect for a busy school night, or an afternoon snack, or company dinner.  Just about any time, I say.
In fact, I would like to announce this humble carrot dish as my favorite 2015 recipe discovery.  Tied with sunshine apricot preserves.
Good stuff.
Eat your carrots.


2 lb. bag peeled baby carrots
3 cloves garlic, peeled and mashed, plus 8 cloves, not peeled
3 T. olive oil
salt and pepper (I like to use sea salt)
1/4 c. maple syrup

Heat oven to 450 degrees.  Put parchment paper on a rimmed baking sheet.  Dump carrots onto pan.  Then add the garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper and mix it all together.  (If you have little ones, you can let them mix everything up with their [very clean] hands.)  Roast for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so.  Carrots are done when they're fork-tender and a bit browned.  Remove from oven, put in a serving bowl, and pour the maple syrup over.  Taste and see if you want to add more salt or pepper.  Serves six. One hundred fifty calories each serving, according to the Sept./Oct. 2006 Hallmark magazine, where I got this recipe.

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Guess the Favorite

So which of this week's culinary experiments were the favorites, the ones I'll be making again?
Was it this apple thyme jelly, thyme courtesy of Kahuna's garden?
Or maybe this baked oatmeal, made with last summer's apricots retrieved from the freezer?
Or how about this homemade cranberry juice?

Do you have your pick ready?  You sure?  You want to call a friend to confer? 
Okay.  Here goes.
I can tell you straight off the apple thyme jelly was a big fat fail.  I followed instructions to the letter, but this still turned out verrrrry gummy and not at all what a jelly should be.  Someone more experienced at making jelly without adding pectin probably could have made this work.  But me?  All I can say is errrgh.  Not good.
The baked oatmeal was promising.  But the recipe I followed was too sweet, and it had 1/4 c. of oil in it to boot, so not as healthy as I'd like for a breakfast food.  I won't be making that one again, either. 
The homemade cranberry juice?  We have our winner!  It was easy and tasty and just plain fun to turn November's unused frozen cranberries into juice concocted by my very own self.  The juice made with these directions is a tad on the sweet side, so think of it as a lightly concentrated version and add plenty of ice and a bit more water when you serve it.  The recipe is from Drinks Without Alcohol by Jane Brandt.


1 lb. fresh cranberries (mine were frozen), rinsed and stemmed
  (NOTE:  when you rinse frozen cranberries they will stick together in a lump and will not want to be corralled into your pot without at least a few skittering onto the floor.  Heads up.)
2 c. sugar
6 c. water
Put all the ingredients into a large pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for five minutes, until cranberries have burst.
Spoon into a sieve that you have lined with cheesecloth, set over a bowl to collect the juice.
 Smash cranberries against the side of the cheesecloth to extract all the liquid you can.
Cool and drink over ice, or put into straight-sided jars to freeze, making sure to leave enough room at the top for it to expand (about 3/4-inch should be plenty).
Happy day from our home to yours.

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Pear Slushie

Delish!  That's all there is to say about this cold, lemony pear slushie.
If you have a pear, some orange juice, and a lemon or lime, you probably have all you need to make some refreshing deliciousness of your own.
The website for USA Pears provides you with all you'd ever want to know about pears, including lots and lots of pear recipes.
You'd like a pear slushie, you say?  Excellent choice.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Pear Sauce

If you're an applesauce fan, I'm willing to bet you'd love this pear sauce. 
Just get your hands on six pounds of pears (got way more than that here),
chunk 'em up into a pot of water and lemon juice, then cook for 20 minutes or so before smashing everything up with a potato masher.  Then you add some sugar, vanilla, lemon peel, and salt, cook a bit more, and voila!  A lovely, chunky, lemony potful of pear sauce, which you can ladle into jars and freeze for later.  Yummy.
It is not always, easy, by the way, to tell when pears are ripe.  For those green ones, above, I usually just watch and wait until they turn golden.  But even that is not always foolproof.  Fun fact I found out today from the book Simply in Season (which is crammed with recipes for fruits and vegetables):  Pears are ripe "when the flesh surrounding the stem yields slightly to gentle pressure."  Good to know.


6 lb. pears, peeled and chunked
2 c. water
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons; save peels for grating)
1/2 c. sugar
2 1/2 t. lemon peel
1 T. vanilla
1/4 t. salt
Combine pears, water, and lemon juice in large pot.  Cover partially and simmer until pears are very soft, about 20 minutes.  Smash with potato masher. 
Stir in sugar, lemon peel, vanilla, and salt.  Cover partially and cook over low heat until mixture is the texture you want (not that long).  You can remove the cover if you want to cook off some of the liquid.  Cool slightly, spoon into jars leaving about one-inch of space if you're going to freeze.  Makes 4 - 5 pints.
Fyi, eating pears smothered with hot fudge sauce will help you forget about the other 50 pounds of pears you've got to do something with.  Just sayin'.

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Roasted Tomatoes

The hunger-inducing aroma of garlic is wafting throughout the house -- waft, waft, waft -- and I can hardly wait to snag a spoonful of these delicious, delicious roasted tomatoes.
I've been roasting our garden tomatoes for the last five years, ever since I first discovered the recipe on Notes from a Cottage Garden blog. 
One of the beauties of roasting tomatoes is that the flavor becomes super concentrated -- the essence of tomato.
Also, since they cook down in volume, three or four pans of tomatoes contract into a couple quart-sized Ziploc bags that can be easily stacked in the freezer, ready to pull out midwinter to amaze your taste buds.  Not to mention  your dinner guests.
We usually serve these over pasta.  But they're pretty delicious just slurped from a spoon.
Check out Notes from a Cottage Garden's roasted tomato recipe here.
Happy roasting.


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Hot Fudge Sauce

Raise your hand if you love hot fudge sundaes.
Me, me, me, me, me!
This outstanding recipe is from David Lebovitz's highly entertaining book, The Sweet Life in Paris.  It's a memoir about his life in France, sprinkled with recipes, many of them chocolate.  This particular one came from his friend Nancy Meyers, a Hollywood director and screenwriter, who makes a mean hot fudge sauce.  Not kidding.
So even though we are a tad past National Hot Fudge Sundae Day (July 25), do your sweet tooth a happy little good deed and whip up a batch of this yumminess.
 You will thank me in the morning.

3 T. butter (I used salted; recipe calls for unsalted)
1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 c. unsweetened cocoa-powder
1/3 c. heavy cream
pinch of salt

Put all ingredients in a small pan; stir over low heat until the butter melts.  Keep cooking and stirring for about three more minutes, until all is melted and smooth.
Can be refrigerated for one week; you can reheat it in the microwave.


Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Plum Fruit Leather

Plum jam?  Check.  Made two batches.
Plum sauce, to use on chicken or ribs?  Check.  Made the delicious recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
And still . . . a tree full of plums.
So today's project?  Plum fruit leather.  You just pit the little suckers, pop 'em in a saucepan with a bit of sugar (about 2 T. per each cup of plums), smash them up a bit with a potato masher, and cook over medium heat until mixture is just about boiling.  Then, in batches, puree in a blender until mixture is smooth.  If you want, at this point you can put the pulp through a fine wire strainer for extra smoothness.
Now tape plastic wrap onto a cookie sheet and pour the puree onto the wrap -- it should be about 1/4-inch thick.
Cover plum puree with cheesecloth, clipping it tight with clothespins, and set outside in the sun.  I'll bring this in tonight so the critters don't get it, and set it out again tomorrow.  According to the Sunset Cook Book of Favorite Recipes II, where I got this recipe, it should take 20 to 24 hours to dry.

"When fruit is firm to touch, try peeling fruit sheet off plastic (fruit is sufficiently dry when whole sheet can be pulled off plastic with no puree adhering . . .)"  Sunset also says that after you roll them up and seal them in plastic, you can refrigerate for four months or freeze for up to a year.

Can't wait. 
If this turns out to be wonderful, I know what I'll be doing for the next few days.

Anyone else inundated with summertime fruit?  What are you making?

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Sparkling Roasted Lemonade

Lemons, wearing a hat of sugar, then roasted with water and vanilla bean added -- should morph into the most delectable lemonade ever, yes?
Sadly, no.  The results tasted so bitter from the peel, it was all Kahuna and I could do to gag down two sips worth.  Then . . . down the drain it went.  All of it. 
Iced tea, anyone?