Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spring Fever

I've got the fever ... to get out in the dirt! I took these pictures early this morning and my hands were freezing as time wore on. But today is supposed to get up in the mid 60's, so I'm heading out soon to clean up all my perennial beds. I'm going to pull around a tarp the take my giant scissors, cutting back all the dead top growth, and rake the beds. I've got a lot of wildflower seeds - mainly annuals - to reseed some beds.
"Glory of Snow" bulbs in my grass
I used our electric drill and a 1/2" bit to plant 100's of the above flower bulbs in our grass several years ago. I guess that's one way to aerate!
To the left of the above tansy plants are my first two perennial beds to the east of our front porch. Monte had brought the soil up from the woods. Wild raspberries came with the soil and I let them grow along with my flowers. So far they are the better producers of raspberries than the ones I've purposely planted. We freeze quite a bit of raspberries. The yellow flower heads of tansy dry beautifully.
Nights still freezing - frozen bird bath and old Sunflower head
I've not successfully planted sunflower seeds and gotten great plants. The chipmunks do the better job of planting birdseed sunflowers. All I have to do is pull out the extra hundreds!
The Herb Garden
I made herb labels several years ago out of Sculpey dough you bake in the oven rather than buy the expensive ones at the nursery. They're just tied with twine to bamboo poles. I could see the winter savory, thyme, sage, lemon balm, and oregano starting to send out green shoots. Behind this bed the tarragon, lavender, and sweet cicely bushes are popping up too. And then there's the crab apple tree ready to burst into bloom - by the end of the summer it's totally entwined with a clematis vine.
Chives readying to bloom
Autumn Sedum Joy beautifies the winter garden
Forsythia starting to bloom
Greenhouse garden seedlings started
I started my seedlings a bit late this year, but it'll be ok. There's broccoli, cauliflower, kale varieties, tomatoes, and then nasturtiums, clary sage, marigolds ... I've got to start basil, winter squash and more things next.
Clematis entwined in grapevine in greenhouse and green tomatoes
Grapevine needing to be pruned - starting to invade potted plants

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sterilizing Kitchen Sponges/Washcloths

Monte took off to run errands and I'm hearing a beeping in the kitchen. Nowadays all appliances ding or beep when done, or when the refrigerator is not shut tight, and my washer and dryer 'sing'. I just checked - he'd put a sponge in the microwave to sterilize. I've heard that some types of sponges could catch fire, so check on yours. We put dishcloths and sponges in microwave for 3 minutes to sterilize. Monte's mom, who was always bleaching hers to sterilize, loved that tidbit of info. So I'm passing it on.

Baked Cod Parmesan

Alaskan cod was on sale yesterday ... so what to make ... I was thinking of a homemade pasta dish. I made lasanga last week when Travis and Sarah came along with another young couple to stay a couple days and dye Ukrainian/Pyasanky eggs (check it out at my overflow blog). We made homemade lasanga pasta and it was THE BEST lasanga I have ever tasted - and they agreed. We were all rather silent savoring our first bites! UmmUmmGood!!!! I am going to make another homemade pasta lasanga this weekend, so I'll take pics and post.

I could have googled cod recipes, but looked at the few fish cookbooks I have instead. Several Fall's ago Monte and me visited Boston before heading up to New Hampshire. We walked all over Boston for several days and loved it. We were told, besides the historic trail, to visit the Legal Sea Food restaurant - we bought their cookbook. This cod recipe sounded good. I'm eating leftovers now as I'm posting this ... still good.

2 lbs cod fillets
1 C fresh chopped tomato or Marinara Sauce
2 Tb chopped fresh basil
3 Tb freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese
1 Tb olive oil

Preheat oven to 425. Place fillets in baking dish and cover with the sauce and basil and bake about 8 minutes. Add the grated cheese and dots of olive oil and bake another 5 minutes, or till the cheese melts.

The fish smelled rather fishy when I opened the wrapping. Unless I have fresh fish I always soak most store bought fish in some salt/ sugar/ and milk water. I'd read those will rid the fishiness of fish. After about an hour Monte thought it still smelled fishy so rinsed it well and soaked it longer in ice water with lots of lemon slices. I cooked it a bit longer - 10 and 10 minutes and never added the olive oil. This winter I've had fresh herbs in my greenhouse - so I had fresh basil. I'm guessing I added more marinara sauce and cheese, but don't know, I didn't measure - just put enough to cover all the fish.

The cookbook suggested serving it with rice and broccoli. I usually like a rice mixture with wild rice and needed to pressure cook it since it takes longer to cook. Broccoli grows very well here and I usually freeze at least 20 pounds every year - in 1/2 pound bags, now that it's just Monte and me. The cookbook also suggested that mushrooms and chopped peppers could be added to the fish topping. That sounds good too. I usually always stock lemons/limes, mushrooms, peppers, and marinara sauce.

I like recipes that have menu suggestions.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Quinoa Salad

We had Easter supper at Travis and Sarah's home, along with some of their friends. Sunday evening is usually open house. We've been there many times; spending the night since Travis has Monday's off of work. Hospitality is something they truly practice. Everyone is told the meal's theme and are to bring something to share.

Sarah cooked a ham and scalloped potatoes for this meal. Emily brought a apple pie and green beans. Amy brought bread and ice cream. Stevo brought watermelon and drinks. I brought some of my homemade wine and a quinoa salad.

Cook and chill (like 20 minutes - and I like to toast the quinoa in the pan first) -
1/3 C quinoa
2/3 C water
Then mix in -
1 C cherry tomatoes halved or chopped tomatoes
1/2 C diced cucumber
1/4 C diced onion (I did a lot of green onions since I have them growing in my greenhouse - or use lots of chives)
2 Tb lime/ lemon juice
1/2 tsp grd cumin
salt and pepper
1 avacado
Serve over spinach

Since we were serving buffet style and extra people, I did some things different besides extra amounts. I added some balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I'd precooked the quinoa at home and added in the juice and cumin. The rest I chopped and added that afternoon before supper. I'd periodically stir it adding in some spinach, come back and stir in more spinach, then add the avacado right before supper. We did put the extra spinach to the side if anyone wanted to add more to their plate.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Cocolate Pudding"

OK . . . This may sound totally weird . . .
But it's actually pretty good! I need to credit Mitra Ray from her Juice Plus email for the recipe. I'm making the recipe smaller for just one or two servings.

1 avacado
1/8 C unsweet cocoa
1/4 C agave nectar or maple syrup
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt
(water, coconut milk, rice milk ... to thin it if needed)
Blend this till creamy.
Garnish with fresh fruit.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Banana Bread (+ Sandwiches)

You should see my recipe card! It was covered in plastic, which has been somewhat melted away in places and the paper is yellowed. It came from a neighbor friend of my mom's when I was very little. I've tried other banana bread recipes and this is still my favorite. Whenever bananas are turning dark brown to black I make banana bread, or put them in bags in the freezer till I'm ready to make it.

1 scant C sugar
1/4 C melted unsalted butter
1 egg
2 med bananas
Mash the bananas with a fork in a bowl along with the above ingredients. Add -
2 C flour (whatever I've got ground in the freezer - often oat or barley flour, sometimes kamut or spelt - I try to not use wheat for everything, and soda breads and muffins and cookies ... don't need the gluten of wheat for rising)
1 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
(1/2 C nuts)
Bake in greased loaf tin about 1 hour at 350.

For my Spring Tea I spread the banana bread thin slices with Nutella. I thinly sliced a Granny Smith apple and put it in lemon juice added to water for a bit to help keep them from turning brown cuz we weren't eating them right away. With the apple slices in the middle put the two 'nut-buttered' slices together to make a sandwich.

Use banana bread for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches too. What other possibilities? . . .

Meringue Cookies

A family favorite for years has been Raspberry Kisses - meringue cookies made with raspberry jello for the flavoring. I've always wanted to try making them without having to use the jello. I still need to find a raspberry flavoring/extract, but these are the basics for meringue cookies -

2 egg whites at room temp
1/2 C + 2 Tb sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Whip egg whites till they hold a soft peak. Add the sugar slowly till stiff and glossy. Fold in flavoring with a rubber spatula. Other flavorings? -
1 tsp cocoa powder or
2 Tb ground hazelnuts or
1 Tb dark brown sugar or
1 Tb ground unsalted pistachios ...

Most recipes suggest piping these 1" apart on parchment paper. Bake till crisp and dry at 250 for about 1 hour. Cool completely before removing them from the baking sheet. OR you can shape an indentation in the mounded unbaked kisses with the back of a spoon, for adding a filling to when cooled. I just mounded them on the parchment.

Piping would have made them even. For the tea I stuck two meringues together with jam.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cranapple Rolled Grains (Oatmeal) Cookies

I filled a large tin with these cookies. Monte's always asking for homemade cookies and these are going to become regulars. I made them for my Spring Tea.

3/4 C unsalted butter
1 1/4 C sucanat sugar (unprocessed dehydrated sugar cane)
1 Tb molasses
1 lg egg
1/4 C milk
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1 C whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 C rolled oats (I used 1 C each rolled oats, barley, and rice)
1 1/2 C dried cranberries (could use dried cherries, or raisins)
3/4 C dark chocolate chips
1 C applesauce or chopped apples (the first thing I found in my freezer was pear sauce instead of applesauce, so used it)(I make applesauce from our crabapples and freeze it)
(1/2 C chopped walnuts or pecans)

2" rounds (I usually make them smaller) on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 375 about 12-15 minutes.

Mini Quiche Lorraines

Every potluck or brunch I go to there's mini quiches that are store bought. I wanted to make homemade ones for my Spring Tea. I make a regular sized quiche lorraine a lot - I even have the recipe in my cookbook, but I've never made mini quiches. One of the tea books I'd gotten from the library had mini quiches for their teas. I think I googled mini quiches too and was able to read about and see some differing processes for making them. Here's my process -

Quiche Dough
6 Tb unsalted butter
4 1/2 oz cream cheese
2 C flour
pinch of salt
Mix the dough together and divide into 4 dozen balls (about 1") and refrigerate at least 1 hour.

I flattened each ball with the back of a glass and with a small roller, rolled them thinner. The outer edges of the circle can be split apart for easing them into the small muffin pans. Press them down into the mini tart holes. I cut off any excess at the top. I pricked the bottom of each tart, and put several pie weight stones in each. While working on another pan, I chilled each in the freezer (or refrigerate for a longer time). Prebake the quiche shells in a 375 degree oven about 5 minutes, cool and gently remove stones. Return to the pans and fill with quiche filling and bake again.

precook about 4-6 pieces of bacon and finely crumble
finely grate some cheese - I used colby jack
Sprinkle about 1/2-1 tsp each of bacon and cheese into each mini quiche shell
Beat together
4 large eggs
1 C cream
1/2 tsp each salt & pepper

Ladle this mixture over bacon and cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-35 minutes, or till set.

Mini Croque-monsieur or Broiled Grilled Ham and Cheese Baguettes

A long title for this post! I think the French title for the sandwich was in a tea book I had from the library. It was an easy sandwich to make for my Spring Tea party. And everyone really liked these.

These sandwiches are at the back of the plate
Baguette 1/4" sliced
Spread half with Dijon mustard & mayo the other half
Gruyere (a swiss) cheese
Ham (black forest)
Butter both outsides of sandwich
Can put more cheese on the top is you want
Broil till golden

I filled a large cookie sheet with these, using 1 1/2 baguettes - my homemade ones from my French Bread recipe in my cookbook, utilizing fresh ground whole white winter wheat.

Spring Tea and Ukrainian Egg Crafting

I did another Tea party with an Evite to a variety of people and offering needlefelting of styrofoam eggs and learning Ukrainian/Pysanky egg dye as crafts. I posted a lot of pics of the day on my Overflow blog.

For this tea I made scones again - this time the recipe from my cookbook that includes eggs, as do most scones (except the scone recipes I posted from my Valentine tea recipes). I still cut them out with a small round cookie cutter for smaller scones. I made the tangerine lemon curd again since that was such a success. I made some desserts this time: cookies, merengues spread with jam between two of them, and the winner was ... banana bread spread with Nutella and Granny Smith apple slices - made as a sandwich! I made the square pan bread again, and I made the egg salad and chicken curry sandwiches, since they were the most favored before. But I also made some baby quiches and a grilled ham and cheese sandwich (actually broiled), that were well received. I did veggies and dips again too.

I'll post recipes separate.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dieting for Lent

I wrote about dieting early January - that's always a January topic. I did a diet last fall and lost 20 pounds. It's a Ketomist HHCG oral spray - 2x/day. I only put back on 5lbs over the holidays. If I would exercise more that wouldn't have happened. I hardly exercise and know I should.

I decided to give it another round for Lent. I think it can only be bought through someone's site - I have a link on my sidebar. I never would have done it originally if it wasn't for a trusted person's testimonial and I went in and purchased through his link. You're supposed to read an article by a Doctor in Rome who runs a clinic for obese people wanting him to monitor them. It tells of his protocol and his clinic gives injections of the HCG. When I'm on the site, I read everything. I copy and pasted the recipe suggestions into a document I could easily access on my desktop. After looking through the recipes I knew I could do it.

Lent is often a time people do like to choose something to eliminate for awhile. Maybe some people, like me, hope to develop new habits. I did start exercising more - and am now looking forward to the nice weather of Spring and Summer to help me exercise more and make it a habit that I can't live without during Winter! In my January post I mention one type of exercise I adopted because it's only 15 minutes (actually 18) - I can easily do that!

I didn't restrict my diet as much this time around since I didn't have much more to lose. And during Lent, Sabbath's are never a fast day - so each weekend I'd have a day of eating pretty normal. But the reality of life is needing to get used to smaller meals and proportions. We do eat pretty good foods. I've always been a label reader - avoiding transfats, dyes, high fructose corn syrup, and long lists. I look for good fats and lots of fiber. I start getting headaches if I consume too much of processed, unnatural foods - basically non-foods, and too much sugars.
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