Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Vazu Vases- Perfect for your Backyard Party!

I found Vazu vases on a local coupon site, and bought 4 offers, because I thought these were an amazing idea.  You can see them on Amazon, or at the Vazu webiste:

http://store.vazuusa.com/

Here they are in my backyard, where I used them to make the table pretty for a starters and wine party with my friends.  My friends thought they were glass!  They are so pretty, and yet you won't have  to worry about them at all.  They fold flat after you dry them out, and you can use them over and over again.  I'm thrilled with my Vazu vases.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Easy lunch today- turns out purple basil jam is amazing on bratwurst!  I put purple basil jam on one side of the buns, and brown deli mustard on the other- amazing!

Think of purple basil jam as pickle relish for grownups.  You will find it at Igourmet.com


My Tomatoes!

I'm so proud of my tomatoes.  They are doing really well this year.







Sunday, July 15, 2012

How to pack delicate food for picnics

Do you need to get your cookies to a party in one piece?  Transporting a delicate pastry?  Save that bubble wrap.  When you need to get something somewhere in one piece, bubble wrap it, tape it,  then place it carefully in a cooler or picnic basket.  Your food will get there in one piece.

Tomato Tart

Our fresh garden tomatoes baked in to a pie.  Sliced tomatoes were arranged in an unbaked crust, then the fruit was brushed with heated purple basil jam.  Finally, the pie crust was pushed down around the edges, and the tart was baked at 350 until golden brown.


Kiwi ApricotTart

The top picture shows the fruit arranged on the uncooked pie crust.  The fruit was then brushed with lemon curd.  Finally the pie crust was pushed down around the edges.

And here is the finished product!  Delicious.  Baked at 350 until the crust was light brown.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

More Tarts

Could there be anything easier?  Put a pie crust in your pie plate, arrange your fruit. brush lemon curd over the fruit, fold down the edges of the pie crust over the edges of the fruit, and bake (350)- till the crust is lightly browned.  How easy is that?  Top one is apricot raspberry, bottom is blueberry raspberry.



Thursday, July 12, 2012

Cookie Pancakes

This was just a spur of the moment idea- I bought some very thin cookies, with a short bread kind of consistency.  I thought they'd look pretty baked in to a pancake.  So I used Krusteaz chocolate chip pancakes, and when they were firmly set on one side, and I put the cookie on the uncooked upper side, and then flipped it and cooked it until it was done.  The key to this is using a very thin cookie.  These are really amazing!  You get the soft deliciousness of a pancake, AND a cookie crunch, all in one bite.  I was afraid the cookies would get soggy, or the pancake wouldn't cook thoroughly, but it just turned out sinfully delicious :-)


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Very Easy Pasta Salad

For lunch today I made pasta salad.
1 lb cooked pasta- al dente- you can use any medium/large pasta that will retain its integrity after cooking (you don't want something that will turn to mush)
1/2 a pint of cherry tomatoes - the small ones I leave whole (if I had had larger tomatoes I could have cut them up)
1 can pitted kalamata olives
1 can Trader Joes mild green olives, or some other pitted green olive
8 oz- 1 pound feta cheese- depending on how much cheese you like in your salad- crumbled
1 chopped onion, cooked until translucent
3 chopped green onions
Paul Newman's balsamic vinegar dressing- 1/4 C (or more or less, depending on how much dressing you like on your pasta)

Mix all ingredients together, and enjoy!

Looks good enough to eat, right?  This salad makes a great lunch, and it travels well.  I always make a big bowl, because the flavors are even better the next day.



Easy Nectarine Plum Tart

My kids said this was the best thing I ever made.  As it was so easy, I felt a little offended for a minute or two, but I got over it.

You will need one pie crust, unbaked.  I used Trader Joes.
2 oz lemon curd
One large nectarine - sliced in very thin sections (or enough nectarines to make sections to fill the pie crust)
One large plum- sliced in thin sections
And all you need is about 10 minutes for prep!

Line glass pie plate with crust.  Make a star in the center with some of the nectarine slices.  Continue with the star by outlining it with plums.  Finally, make an edge with the last of the nectarine slices.  Push the crust of the pie down around the edge so it's almost even with the fruit.  Heat lemon curd until liquid- it will cook very fast. Pour lemon curd over fruit- brush to cover fruit.  Bake at 350 until crust is light brown.  Let cool completely.  Serve with whip cream or ice cream.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Best Granola Cookies Ever!

Ok, maybe that's hyperbole.  I haven't tasted your granola cookies, after all.  Maybe yours are the best.  (If they are, please send me the recipe)

But here's a really good recipe, that uses Love Crunch, my youngest daughter's favorite granola.  It is a chocolate granola with bits of dried strawberries and raspberries in it.

Please do not blame me if you eat them all.

You will need:
1/2 cup butter, unsalted
2/3 cup sugar (I use a turbinado)
1 large egg
3/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp coconut flavoring (if you have it- it's not absolutely necessary)

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 cup flaked coconut
1 and 1/4 cup Love Crunch (chopped up, so there aren't any large clusters)

Cream together butter, sugar and flavoring, then add egg.

Now add all the other ingredients, and stir till well mixed.

Drop by the teaspoon onto a parchment lined cookies sheet.  Bake at 375 for approximately 12 minutes- ovens will vary, and some people like their cookies more done.  Let cool before moving cookies.


Love Crunch has dark chocolate, dried strawberries and dried raspberries in it- so as you eat the granola cookies, occasionally a delicious burst of berry will hit your taste buds!

http://www.amazon.com/Natures-Path-Premium-Chocolate-11-5-Ounce/dp/B006J4MAKY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1341873738&sr=8-1&keywords=love+crunch

Is Lip Balm a Food?

I found this wonderful lip balm, and since you do sort of end up eating whatever you put on your lips, I'm going to mention it!  I bought lavender, grapefruit and vanilla.  It's got super ingredients, and it's made by a local small business.  I found a coupon for this business on one of those sites- like Groupon, and Living Social.  And I'm so glad I did!  Listen to these ingredients: white beeswax beads, candelilla wax, carnuba wax, illipe butter, cocoa butter, grapeseed oil, coconut oil, castor oil, grapefruit essential oil:

http://www.uprisingbotanicals.org/

Now I did make my own lip balm (using beeswax and vanilla), with my girls, for fun, but it's so much easier (and cheaper) to just buy some from Uprising Botanicals!  I am looking forward to trying their other products.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Easy Napkins and Placemats

Having a large gathering over for lunch or dinner?  Planning to cater a relative's wedding?  Let me introduce you to My Drap- a fantastic line of napkins and placemats that come on a roll(in several sizes).  I love these. The napkins can be washed about 6 times, and after that you can recycle them in your yard waste can.  I think you could also laminate the placemats- I've been thinking about doing that, since I've got a laminator and I'm not afraid to use it!

I got my My Drap at Amazon, and always when they were on sale.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=bl_sr_home-garden?_encoding=UTF8&field-brandtextbin=MYdrap&node=1055398#/ref=sr_pg_1?rh=n%3A1055398%2Cp_4%3AMYdrap&ie=UTF8&qid=1341766181

To give you some idea of sale prices, I paid 13.64 for my last purchase of placemats, 10.45 for my last buy of luncheon napkins (7.9 by 7.9 and 25 on a roll), 9.43 for the last dinner napkins I got (15.8 by 15.8 12 napkins per roll).  I also bought some cocktail napkins but I can't find the price I paid.

I have pictures of the blue gingham placemats I used on July 4th, with a bright red napkin.  I also took pictures of some of the different napkin rolls I bought.

Here's the way to fold the napkin in picture:

http://www.napkinfoldingguide.com/19-diamondpouch/


 Aren't these great looking placemats?  But they ARE really thin- which is why I think I could laminate them.  They would probably not stay put in a windy location- though you could weight them down with silverware and plates and such.  But I think the corners might whip up.

Here are rolls of various sizes:

The pink gingham are cocktail napkins, the blue gingham are the placemats, the brown are the large dinner napkins, and the light blue are luncheon napkins.  Even though they are rolled, they come off perfectly flat- I did not have to iron the placemat you see in the top photo.  It comes off the roll just like that!

Got Parts?

My beloved Sunbeam breadmaker insert was starting to flake teflon- not a Good Thing, as Martha might say.  So I looked around the net for parts, and I found this great place:

http://www.thepartsbiz.com/

It might not be the cheapest, but it was the cheapest I found.  I ordered 2 inserts and 2 paddles, just so I would have my next replacement on hand.  This place seems to have parts for everything!  And since I hate sending things to the landfill, I definitely want to get parts.  Shipping was quick, and the goods were well packed.  I'm a fan.

If you have a breadmaker with teflon, keep an eye on it.  I had never read all the reviews on Amazon- because my machine was a gift, but it appears that no matter how careful you are you'll need to replace the insert at some point (usually between 1 and 2 years- no matter how careful you are).

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Green Olive bread

For this recipe I used the Trader Joe's green olives that come in the pop top can.  They don't have the "bite" of  the green martini-type green olives- but I'm sure either olives would be excellent.

I used both Krusteaz Italian herb bread, and Hodgson's Mill European cheese and herb bread- both types of mixes worked great.

For this very simple recipe you chop up 15 green olives, and reserve them.  Prepare the bread mix in your bread maker according to directions, but add 1/8 cup of poppy seeds (or more, if you like).  Sunflower seeds can also be added if you like them.  Mix the bread mix one mix cycle, and then add the chopped olives.  Use a silicon spatula to get the olives to mix in, if they get pushed to the side.

Do NOT bake the bread in the breadmaker.  Instead, take the mixed dough and put it on a cookie sheet topped with very lightly floured parchment paper.  Shape it in to a boule.  Let it rise.  I let mine rise between 40 minutes to 1 1/2 hour.  Flour the top of the bread (or not, sometimes I forget this step- and it still comes out fine), and put it in a 400 degree oven.  Bake until it is evenly a medium brown.  Let it cool before cutting.  This bread is excellent broiled and topped with mozzarella and bruschetta topping- in fact, save that parchment paper covered cookie sheet and get an extra use out of it by making the bruschetta bread right away!

The addition of the green olives makes the bread moist, without interfering with the crumb profile- the bread still has a delightfully small, delicate crumb, and the green olives also (imo) give nuance to the taste.  I just love this easy, tasty addition.  And I hope you will too.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sof'ella Vanilla Bean Cookies

At our Big Lots they had Sof'ella vanilla bean cookie mix for 3 bucks- so I bought some.  And it was great- so I went and got more.  All you need to add is 1 egg, 1 tsp of water, and 6 tbs butter.  I also like to add dried fruit, or nuts, and this last time I added Super Seedz- pumpkin seeds mixed with cinnamon and sugar.  They're delicious in these cookies:

http://shop.superseedz.com/shop/catalog/browse?sessid=MXSqrn1jpMLSruU2XgAsGQJgZQ6hVBR2oLs7opwyUZYFBcg1Mu3AWhxDS5HzB8zF&shop_param=

Those super seeds are great right from the bag too!

The cookies are almost gone, but I'll see if I can't rescue a couple and take their picture.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Need to use up some shrimp cocktail?

So I made a bucket of shrimp cocktail (long story) using the giant plastic tub of wild shrimp you can get at Costco in the refrigerated fish section.  I had mixed it up with a bottle of Trader Joe's cocktail sauce.  I had a good cup, maybe a cup and a half left over.  So I thought- why not shrimp cocktail quiche?  It turned out really well.

You will need:
some shrimp cocktail- I used between a cup and a cup and a half- sorry, I didn't measure- and I picked it up with a slotted spoon, so most of the liquid was left behind

1 unbaked pie crust- I used Trader Joe's frozen (I know I could make my own, but I'm lazy)
3 eggs
1/2 cup mayo
1/2 cup half and half
1 heaping TBS cornstarch (I use organic)
pepper to taste- I used 1/2 tsp
Add fresh dill, or dried, if you like the taste
1 1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used Trader Joe's Mexican Blend)

Mix everything but the shrimp with a whip until creamy, then add the shrimp and blend.  Pour in to crust.

I have a shrimp cookie cutter- and if I make this for company, I'm going to bake a shrimp pastry crust "cookie"- and put it on the top of the quiche with some sprigs of fresh dill.

Bake at 350 for approximately 45 minutes- I probably do mine a little longer, because I love the top to be a full golden brown

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Salmon Frittata

I cooked a whole sockeye salmon last night - bought at Costco, sliced in to steaks(poached in cream, with spices). So today I'm using up some of the leftover meat in a salmon frittata.

I used two of those amazing pretzel buns from Costco- sliced them up, and diced them, and put them in two buttered pans.  So basically the bottom of the pan was covered with a single layer of bread crumbs. I use fish shaped pans- which are approx 13 by 8- but some of that is head and tail, so the effective area is probably that of an 8 by 8 pan. I sauteed 1 cup of diced Maui onion, then added pepper and garlic gold granules (so add garlic to taste- or garlic gold). In a bowl I used a whip to combine 7 eggs, 2 cups of flaked boneless salmon, the onion mixture, 3/4 cup half and half, 3/4 cup shredded cheese (I use the Trader Joes Mexican blend), and then, because it was leftover, I added a little more than a cup of asparagus risotto (the kind from Costco, by Framini- we had that last night with Salmon steaks and salad).  I poured the salmon mix over the bread crumbs in two pans, topped them with about 1/8 cup of shredded cheese each- and put the pans in the oven (400 to start).

I'll try to put the picture up. Because the whole thing turned out GREAT,and it was so easy! I'm totally making this for company. My kids say it tastes like a crab cake crossed with a quiche.

400 degree oven, reduced to 300 after 15 minutes- cook frittata until nicely browned.  Then get a piece before your family eats it all.  



I'm sure you could use canned salmon, tuna or crab for this, just as easily as freshly cooked salmon. I just had a rather large chunk of salmon in my fridge.  Salmon salad sandwiches tomorrow!

Rancho Gordo Christmas Limas

I picked up some Rancho Gordo Christmas limas, and wanted to cook them, so I came up with this recipe:

  (a little something I call, let's throw a bit of the fridge and the pantry in our stockpot)-
I soaked them for 7 hours- be sure to keep them covered with water, but not more than just covered. Then I sauteed onions in a large saucepan (2 chopped maui onions) in a mix of bacon fat, olive oil and coconut oil, then I added Trader Joe's flower pepper (a blend of pepper and flour petals- like lavender and rose), some Garlic Gold granules, some balsamic vinegar salt, and then I added 2 large ribs of celery, sliced- but the skillet was already off, then I added that mixture to a large stockpot that I could put in the oven and dumped in the beans with their soaking water, some chicken broth, some good cabernet (about a cup), several small chopped pork breakfast sausages, 1/4 cup of diced bacon, and a small container of cream of celery soup (Pacific Natural Foods Organic cream of Celery).  Then bake it at 350- for a few hours, until it all blends perfectly.

It smells really really good. I think you could do these with any type of dried beans.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

While looking for matzoh recipes- I found this.  A little music to play while you are cooking up matzoh recipes:

http://www.isrealli.org/20-things-to-do-with-matzah/
I have really fallen down on the job this year.  Now that it's summer, I'm finally cooking a lot again.  My lunches this year consisted of cheese and crackers and fruit, PBJ sandwiches, or Amy's frozen burritos.

Because I was eating a lot of cheese and crackers, and because I like matzoh crackers, I bought a 5 lb box for only 2.97 (on clearance) at Costco.  Turns out it's harder to eat 5 lbs of matzoh crackers than you might think.  So I'm looking for recipes that use matzohs.  Today:

http://smittenkitchen.com/2009/04/chocolate-caramel-crackers/

Don't those look amazing?  I can't wait to try them.  I also found a pizza recipe that looks pretty good, and I'll be trying that tonight as a starter, before we eat some ravioli.  I'm just going out now to buy pizza sauce and mozzarella.

Tomorrow morning we'll try matzo brei (eggs and crumbled softened matzo).

It's going to be a real matzoh odyssey until my giant box is gone.  I will post a picture of the box- because it's pretty impressive (in my opinion).


Monday, January 16, 2012

Bread Bread Bread

So around our house, lately, I've been using my bread machine for proofing the bread, and then I've been baking it in the oven artisan style. It's so easy! And it's so good I find I'm baking quite a lot. A hunk of bread, a chunk of cheese and an apple- and that's lunch! A really good lunch.

I've use Krusteaz sourdough bread mix and Krusteaz Italian herb mix. Both have yielded delightful results. I buy them at Amazon- and they end up being about 2.50 a box. Since you only add water, that's a great price for a loaf of bread.

I proof my loaf in the breadmaker until the cycles are over- and just before it would begin baking I turn it out on a foil topped cookie sheet, which I have floured with organic whole wheat flour- just dust the foil with flour. I like whole wheat flour best. Then I flour the top of the loaf- just a dusting- and score the top of the loaf (about 1/4 inch deep) across the top. I bake at 425 in a preheated oven until the top is a nice deep brown. I am hesitant to put an exact time- because it varies loaf to loaf- but it's about 25 minutes. Toward the end sometimes I wait by the oven until I get just the color to the crust I want.

My mom suggested rolling the loaf before baking in a mix of wheat berries, sunflower seeds, poppyseed, fennel and caraway, with some large grained salt- and I'm going to try that next.