Author Archives for dclarkabal

Meatless Monday

So watching The Chew several months ago; they were talking about meatless Monday’s. I pondered it a couple of weeks and then presented it to the family.  Abbi; my cohort in the kitchen was totally on board.  The guys Rich and Alex were not, they grudgingly went with us kicking and screaming – which made for an interesting adventure in trying to come up with recipes that everyone would like and be a little more supportive and at least a little excited for meals.  I will confess that when I first thought about doing this, I completely didn’t think this through entirely.  I was thinking only for dinner; it never even crossed my mind about breakfast and dinner.  That presented a whole new wedge in my thought process.  Rich is a contractor and Alex works construction with him.  Breakfast is super easy; Lunch is very difficult to come up with something yummy, filling and not a salad.   The guys pretty much eat sandwiches of some sort daily.  We have tried numerous veggie styled sandwiches; some were good enough to repeat, quite a few fell flat and will not be repeated.  I personally found it much easier for me; working in an office where I can use of a microwave to re-heat leftovers, or a veggie soup or something along those lines, I even like an occasional PB&J.

Meatless Muffuletta

4 crusty Portuguese or Ciabatta rolls – Also can use a crusty French bread

1 1/2 Tbs. Olive Oil

1 clove garlic

1 Jar Caponata

1 zucchini

1 yellow summer squash

½ tsp kosher salt

½ tsp ground black pepper

1 large ripe tomato, thinly sliced

6 ounces provolone cheese

1 Jar red bell pepper, roasted and drained

2 Cups baby arugula leaves

Hollow out some of the soft bread, so the filling fits.  Lightly brush the inside of the bread with olive oil.  Rub with garlic clove. Spread Caponata over the rolls, mashing any large chunks.

Using a vegetable peeler, pare both squash into paper thin ribbons.

Layer on bottom half of bread zucchini brush with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  Top with tomato slices, then provolone, then layer with peppers.  Layer yellow squash over peppers, then brush with oil salt and pepper.  Top each with arugula, put bread tops on; wrap each sandwich tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour (up to 24 hours) so flavors to meld.

Dinner we had a lot of fun with.  We found a delicious Eggplant Parmesan recipe and have had it several times now.  Before this; I never even purchased an Eggplant before.  While in high school I worked at a local Pizza place and I never liked the look of the Eggplant they used – It was a popular item, and I am sure it was perfectly fine it just did not look very appetizing to me.  It is so much crispier when it is freshly cooked at home.  While I thought going meatless would be healthier; we did not embrace that part of this endeavor; Eggplant Parmesan    has quite a bit of cheese and a yummy sauce.

Eggplant Parmesan

2 medium eggplant – medium slices – about ½ inch

¼ Cup flour

3 large eggs

1 ½ Tbs milk

2 Cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs

1 ½ tsp dried oregano

1 ½ tsp fresh thyme leaves

2 Cups vegetable oil for frying

12 ounces fresh Mozzarella thinly sliced

¼ Cup grated parmesan

2 Cup grated provolone cheese

Handful of fresh basil leaves

Sauce

2 Tbs olive oil

1 large onion

6 cloves of garlic crushed

1 ½ tsp red pepper flakes

1 ½ tsp sugar

28 ounce Can San Marzano plum tomatoes

Prepare eggplant; lay slices in a single layer on a baking sheet covered with paper towels. Sprinkle with salt on both sides; let sit about an hour. Rinse and dry

I use 3 glass pie plates – use similar

1 for flour salt and pepper; 1 whisk egg with milk salt and pepper; 1 with breadcrumbs, oregano salt and pepper.  Dredge each eggplant slice in the flour, shake off any excess. Dip in the egg and finally the bread crumbs coating both sides.  Heat oil in large skillet over medium high heat. Fry each piece till golden brown, roughly 3 minutes per side.

Making the sauce; heat the olive oil in a large skillet, add the onions and garlic, season with salt and pepper. Squeeze tomatoes into the onions. Reduce heat to medium and cook stirring from time to time until the tomatoes break down, around 10/15 minutes. Taste and season as needed.

Preheat oven to 350’

Spoon a quarter of the sauce on the bottom of a 9×13 baking dish.  Top with a layer of fried eggplant overlapping the slices slightly.  Top with a quarter of the mozzarella, then sprinkle with about a third of the Parm, Provolone and basil.  Repeat with remainder of eggplant.  Press firmly into the dish and bake until cheese is melted and bubbly. 35-40 minutes.  If you like a browned top, put under the broiler for a few minutes just before serving.

I think my son was testing my food boundaries since I was testing his with being meatless one day a week.  He started requesting meals with Mushrooms.  I have never been a fan of them; it’s a texture thing and an old childhood no-no thing.  I have tried several versions of mushroom dishes; some I did not mind others; I am ALL set with.   We tried butternut squash lasagna that called for 2 cups of sliced mushrooms.  We also tried portobello mushroom burgers.  I did not care for either, the guys actually went back for seconds.  Just goes to show different strokes for different folks.

My Daughter’s last week in America for a year

My beautiful little girl is moving to Japan for a year to teach English as a second language in a private Buddhist High School.  I guess she isn’t little anymore.  She is very bright, has an awesome personality and is beautiful inside and out.  She has been my motivation to start this blog, instrumental in getting my cooking classes off the ground and keeping me motivated;  she has also started gathering all my recipes and cataloging them, to hopefully someday write a cookbook.  Mind you I have always wanted to write a cookbook but only to give to my kids when they finally go out on their own.  Who knows this might actually get done.

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I am on vacation this week to spend some quality girly time with her.  Monday was a massage, lunch out and mani/pedi’s. I will let her pick out all of our menus this week since she will be missing many of her favorites while away.  I must admit I have never thought about Japan as a travel destination; I have never researched anything about their culture, their cuisine, or their interests.  I have since googled where she will be teaching and the city on the coast where she will be living.  She will be 4 hours from Tokyo by bus; it is only about an hour by how the crow flies calculations.  I had NO idea Japan was so well known for their mountains and skiing!  Who knew; I mean I watched the winter Olympics when they were in Nagano; but I guess I never really thought too much about it after that.  Now we are thinking of planning a ski trip to Japan this winter.   Here is an interesting fact I read about Japan and skiing; there are more than 500 ski resorts to choose from in Japan — that’s as many as the United States, in a country a fraction of its size; again who knew!!!

Last night she wanted mashed potatoes and gravy.  Something so simple in our world yet not a lot of potatoes in Japan; I will be an expert on Japan by the time she is ready to come home.  Unless they decide to keep her; I don’t want to think about that!!!  She is sitting across from me right now and chimed in she wants mac and cheese.  Again something so simple but cheese is not readily available.  Mind you she could probably locate a place to purchase these simple staples here at home; but she is going to be on a budget and might have to do without a few of her fav’s.  BUT just think of what she gets to explore culinary wise.  Sushi galore; rice in every fashion; fresh fish – though she is a bit nervous to have it delivered to her on a plate with the head still attached.  Guess she will be on a foodie adventure of her own!  I can’t wait to Skype with her about her likes and dislikes.

Classic Mac & Cheese

6 Tbs unsalted butter

1 medium onion diced fine

6 Tbs flour

1 Tbs Dijon mustard

1 Quart milk

1 Large sprig of fresh thyme plus 1 tsp chopped thyme leaves

1 bay leaf

2 cups extra sharp cheddar cheese – grated

1 cup Monterey jack – grated

1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1.2 tsp Tabasco sauce

Kosher Salt & Freshly ground black pepper

1 Lb elbow or other small pasta

2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs

1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano – grated

I like the mac and cheese baked with the crust on top, for some strange bizarre reason my family does not.  I have covered half the shells with the topping leaving the other half naked just to keep the peace.

Large pot of water to boil over high heat, generously salted – add pasta once bubbling and cook per package directions.

In a dutch over or heavy duty pot, melt the butter, add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook stirring with a wooden spoon until softened 4 to 5 minutes, Ass the flour and cook 1 to 2 minutes until slightly darker. Stir in the mustard. using a whisk gradually add the milk whisking constantly. using the wooden spoon again, add the thyme sprig and bay leaf pinch of salt, come to a simmer, turn to low and stirring frequently let the flavors meld about 10-15 minutes.  Remove the sprig and bay leaf. Add the cheese till melted, add Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drain cooked pasta – add drained pasta to the cheese sauce stir till combined.

Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish, pour pasta mixture into dish.  Meanwhile in a separate bowl add the bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese, chopped thyme and olive oil and mix well.  Cover the cheesy pasta and bake in a 400′ oven for about 15 minutes.  Let set 5-10 before digging in.

Tuesday she is finishing up any outstanding projects she has going on, then off to Nashua for the final purchases for her trip. We plan to go to Kennebunkport Wednesday – I love the scallops from The Clam Shack on the bridge.

clark old family photo

My husband is originally from California and moved here when he was a freshman in high school. One of 6 kids most well-traveled; as their mother; originally from MA drove 5 of the kids in the family station wagon across country every summer; stopping at every monument, cemetery and camping ground along the way. When my husband met me, NH my whole life and had only driven to FL though numerous times in the back of our family camper.  After dating for several months, planned a trip to Maine; a cute bed and breakfast in Kennebunkport for the weekend!  I loving sea scallops and being from New England had to stop at The Clam Shack for some.  We ordered, they called our number and Rich went up to get them; the guy pushed the tray towards him and Rich looked at them, then me, then pushed them back towards the guy and said “I’m sorry we ordered scallops” I could not stop laughing.  They were huge OMG delicious and exactly what we ordered.  Rich had never seen a scallop so big; being from CA and a large family, it was his first time having a REAL fried scallops.  He was hooked!!!   We have been back a few times; but I have been craving them for too many years now. So excited to be going tomorrow and sharing them with Abbi.  Oh and Rich and Alex our son is going to take the day off to go with, I told you he was hooked.

Thursday is day of rest, Friday Abbi has a mandatory orientation meeting. so I am going to tag along and run to IKEA while she is there.  I am also re-doing her room; I know it sounds insane to be re-doing her bedroom when she is not going to use it for an entire year, but I wanted a project to do, in my spare time mind you, where I can use my passion for decorating.  If I had an unlimited budget I would do my whole house over, so for now I am settling for the only “empty” room in the house.  Plus she picked out everything in it when she was 12, It needs to turn into an “adult” bedroom. I picked up some drapes that I fell in love with, they are neutral in color but have a silky textured polka dot – they are SO cool, I cannot wait to hang them.

Saturday we dropped her off at the airport.  She was super nervous for this trip, it was a combination of being SO far away, for SO long and she is actually going to be in her very first apartment all by herself.  I know she will be awesome over there, actually wherever she goes she will be awesome.  But I can totally understand her emotions.  I held it in for as long as I could but when I was hugging her goodbye; we both broke down and I didn’t want to let her go.  I put my big girl panties on and I did.  I am SO VERY happy for her and could not be more proud, but I will be looking into tickets to go see her as soon as I can – UPDATE: Received confirmation she landed safely in Tokyo…

Earlier I mentioned the cooking class I am doing; there have been 3 classes so far and the next one that is already full is my homemade pasta three-ways.  fettuccine alfredo, spaghetti ragu bolognese and ravioli al uovo.  It has been requested and I am excited to report that when Abbi gets back we will be planning a sushi class or two.  How much fun will that be? However I must confess I am not a lover of sushi; actually I am a little afraid of it.  BUT as my quest to like wine has worked out very well; I vow here and now to make an effort to try to like sushi.  THIS is HUGE for me!!!  I hope I can report back that I have concurred my fear.  Keep your fingers crossed!

Killington Wine Festival

Last weekend we went to our 3rd Killington Wine Festival I guess you can say when we set our minds to do something we kind of go all out.  I mentioned our quest to like wine in my initial post; what better way than to go to a wine festival where they have over 200 wines and over 40 vendors.  I must admit I am enjoying a glass of Pinot Grigio while writing this post.

Invited by our very good friends who have a condo at K-ton; and now a home close by and them knowing we were wine virgins but we were on a mission; we went to our first wine festival and let’s just say since they are not wine virgins, they had a game plan as they have been to this festival several times before.

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When you arrive you get a bag with a small wine glass, pen and booklet with all the wines and vendors listed with a space to make notes. Our first year our veteran wine friends were going to start with all the whites and then walk around tasting all the reds.  Rich and I came up with our own plan since he likes reds and I like whites.  I would try all the whites and he the reds.

Things started out well. We used the usual wine terms fruity, dry, bold, peppery etc.  Also listening to our friends you don’t have to drink all they pour; they do have a place to pour out what you don’t drink. This is a very valuable lesson if you take nothing else away from this post. About halfway through, I think, we started to use what the wine industry would probably cringe at for descriptions. One I particularly like that I wrote was “Yuck” the women apparently looking over my shoulder thought that was hysterical and wanted to know which one I thought was yucky!  Side note about the yucky wine, we went to a friends house a week or so after and the “yucky” wine was on their counter, I being polite gladly drank a glass or two.  It’s not so bad now I have had it a few times over the last few years… We did get the biggest laugh when we got home the next day and re-read what we wrote.  Rich wrote on one of them and I quote “Donna likes, she must be drunk” towards the end of the book we started using buy and don’t buy instead of going into any great detail.  Even that small amount of wine adds up over the 4 hour period they give you

We also learned another valuable lesson that first year – what you can sell and buy in Vermont you cannot always find in the state of New Hampshire.  So the second year we went we, a little more educated I would say, we asked can you get any of these in NH. If not can you buy them online and ship to NH? Not a bad thing that we didn’t have as many to try this year, though we did learn quite a bit about different regions and growing conditions making a world of difference in the taste of wine even the same wine year to year, again probably not new news to anyone who is a novice but we are new and still learning.

This year our son came with us for his first wine festival, he is definitely a fan of the reds; can anyone tell me why some peoples teeth and lips turn purple so much faster than others when drinking red wine? I just don’t understand. Rich and Al walked around to all the reds this year, after awhile they did start to take some notes. Nothing as funny as my first years notes…

I also have another question if anyone knows the answer, why is it so hard to get wine into the state of NH. is it an old boys network, is it because we have state liquor stores?  I think it costs money to sell wine to certain states, Is NH more expensive?  I have tried some very good Finger Lakes Region wine and talked with the maker and he was trying very hard to come to NH.  I must find out why and how to resolve this!

There is a group of about 9 of us that attended the festival; we try to cook out at the condos after and it doesn’t really work out as well as we envisioned; before drinking wine for 4 hours.  I think we need to come up with another plan. Maybe something made in a crock-pot or a lasagna already made just pop it in the oven.  We definitely give it the ole college try; who knows we will probably try to cook out again next year!

I have always loved cooking with wine and if there is ever a bottle left over; direct quote from Dave “just because you open it, doesn’t mean you have to finish it” He and his wife also attend the festival every year.  I do try to use whatever is left over fairly quickly so it doesn’t sit for too long.  IF there is a leftover bottle of red I will make Beef Stew or an au jus for steak. I have a crock-pot recipe I use and an oven one.  It cracks me up that the oven one I use is dubbed the “quick beef stew” from my husband.  He has NO idea it still takes me an hour or so to assemble and peel and cook all the veggies.  Apparently that is fast for him since it is done in an hour and half versus cooking all day.

3 lbs boneless beef chuck

Kosher Salt freshly ground black pepper

3 Tbs olive oil – add more when needed

3 Cups diced onions – about 2 medium

4-5 Large cloves of Garlic minced

2 bay leaves

2 tsp dried thyme

3 Tbs flour

1 Cup red wine – or more if that is what you have

2 Cups water

3 Cups of Veggies:  Potatoes – Carrots – Turnip are my go to for Beef Stew

Heat oil in dutch oven trim and cut beef into 1 inch bite size pieces, generously salt and pepper. in batch’s, do not crowd, brown beef on 2 sides and set aside in a dish until all are done.  You want a nice dark brown crust. Add more oil if needed.

Reduce the heat and add the onions and garlic stirring until softened.  Add the bay leaves and Thyme stirring for about 30 seconds.  Stir in the flour and then the wine and water.   Return the beef and all juices to the pan.

Take a large sheet of heavy duty tinfoil and press down until it almost touches the beef; press against the sides, crimp the foil around the rim for a tight seal. Cover and place in a 450′ oven for an hour and 15 minutes.

Peel and cook the veggies either by boiling, steaming or sauteing.  I boil mine; remove the pot from the oven, carefully remove the foil; add the cooked veggies cover with the foil and cover let sit and meld for about 15 minutes or so.

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I am almost done with my glass of wine and it is time for me to make dinner since Alex just came out of the den and asked what’s for dinner.  His FAVORITE thing to say to me…. If he ever moves out on his own; he will MISS me…

Eating from my Garden

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While I am not a great gardener; as you can tell by the photo I just took, one garden looks great the other not so much! I do try to do my best.  Before I buy what I want to plant, I make a listing of everything we tend to eat and the herbs we use a lot.  I used to start the seeds in the house but I have been buying my plants for probably the last 10 years. I find it easier, kind of the instant gratification that I tend to need. Nothing like spending the day laying out all the plants, planting them and voila a garden!!!  I always plant the staples to make homemade salsa, green peppers, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, onions, garlic of course, and cilantro. As well as things I can go out harvest and make a yummy salad or grab some herbs for seasoning our dinners; chives, thyme, basil, parsley, sage and rosemary are my favorite go to herbs.

I find it so gratifying going out into the garden and grabbing some zucchini and summer squash slice them up and cook them on the grill.  Sometimes in a foil packet sometimes just in rounds on the grill always with olive oil, onions and or garlic and Kosher salt and fresh black pepper.  I am very grateful my family likes that I cook them to al dente, not a fan of the over cooked mush that I see on occasion.

My husband and I have had a garden in some fashion for 25+ years (my favorites are raised beds hand downs) I am almost embarrassed to say that out loud, you would think that after that many years I wouldn’t lose a plant or an entire crop as I have on occasion. Not positive it is always entirely my fault; I water, weed, fertilize and do what I can to nurture them, if something is looking amiss I research what it needs and try to rectify the problem.  I am not always successful. Some years we have an abundance of tomatoes; next year it will be cucumbers, one year carrots.  I don’t change how I plant them; we do change where in the garden we plant them. So I am at a loss. I am going to go with the wonderfully ever changing New England weather we have.

I will confess; much to my husbands dismay; I have banned corn from our raised beds, while I love corn on the cob it takes up a lot of real estate and the harvest from our gardens over the years isn’t really worth it. If my husband had his way, he would have an acre of corn.  I didn’t actually say no to this, I just told him he needed to find his own acre somewhere else.  This year he now has found another plant that we have had a tremendous amount of luck with over the years so now he is focused on growing potatoes; my carpenter husband is now proclaiming he wants to be a potato farmer.  Sometimes you need to just nod and smile. I think he thinks he can make vodka; he doesn’t even like vodka; I am the one that drinks it. I have never heard of New Hampshire based vodka but I guess you never know unless you try.

New this season Potato garden!

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We all LOVE potatoes; fresh from the garden potatoes are definitely worth a spot in your garden at least once. I think my favorite way is roasting them in the oven or even on the grill.  Olive oil, Kosher Salt, Freshly ground black pepper and Rosemary – YUM!  My husband made a new larger raised bed for his potatoes, his plants are looking better than some of mine. You just never know!!!

There is a door into the shed that is off of my potting bench – It was a very ugly green that I have no idea why we even owned the color of paint. It was driving me nuts for a couple of years now, I decided a few weeks ago that I was going to paint it.  I figured it was not going to be seen by anyone but me and whoever helps me in the garden, so I decided to go a little crazy for me.  I did use a famous motto about gardening but changed it to Potatoes for my husband.  He loves it!!!!

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I love taking a medley of veggies from the garden; carrots, potatoes, beets and butternut squash, chop them up add olive oil and Kosher salt fresh cracked black pepper and put them out on the grill on one of my old cookie sheets.  Turn them a couple of times and they taste just amazing.  They are wonderful side to any meat you want to pair them with. Sweet smoky flavor that melt in your mouth.

When I do have too many vegetables to eat and give away before rotting, I do pickle my cucumbers. I also will make tomato sauce or I chop and seed them and freeze so I can add to just about anything soups, stews or sauces. I make garden salsa all the time and I have canned batches of that over the years; I used to send my daughter to college with a jar or two.  I am not entirely sure what to do with the bazillion jalapeno peppers we get, I do use them but while we like some heat in dishes, we are not super heat lovers.  I do end up bringing quite a few of them to work to share. This year I will need to look up what to do with them!

If we could grow avocado’s I would be in garden heaven – we LOVE guacamole and the only thing I need to buy from the store is the avocado, I guess that isn’t too bad!

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Fresh Garden Salsa 

6 tomatoes (Roma)

1 Green Bell Pepper

1 Onion

2 Jalapeno Peppers

5-6 Cloves of Garlic

1 Lime, Squeezed

Fresh Cilantro chopped

Kosher Salt

Fresh ground black pepper

Balsamic vinegar

1-2 packets of sweet and low

Dice and seed the tomatoes and set aside to drain while you dice the peppers and onions, press the garlic, and chop the cilantro. Mix everything together add a dash of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste and a packet or two of sweet and low.

Hint 1: you can make it hotter by leaving the pith and seeds in the jalapenos or milder by removing them before chopping.

Hint 2: By seeding the tomatoes your salsa will be less watery

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Avocado, Tomato and Mango Salsa

1 Ripe Mango peeled, seeded and diced

1 Ripe Avocado peeled, pitted and diced

4 Medium tomatoes diced

1 Jalapeno seeded and minced

½ Cup fresh cilantro

3-5 Cloves of Garlic

Kosher Salt

2 Tablespoons of fresh lime juice

¼ Cup chopped Red Onion

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

In a medium bowl combine the mango, avocado, tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro and garlic.

In a small bowl add the onion and lime juice, let it site for 5 minutes, whisk in olive oil, season with salt.

Fold the dressing into the salsa and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.

My roasted potato, carrots and rosemary are almost ready for dinner….

Mangia Mangia!!

Party on the Patio

So my husband and son made us the most amazing patio for entertaining a few years ago.  We entertain pretty regularly whether it is a last minute, hey come on over for a glass of wine  a cold beer or maybe some of my yummy Cosmo’s.  We put out several different kinds of cheese, some sort of salami/ham and our favorite onion crackers. We also tend to  grill up some sausage or pepperoni and slice it up for everyone to share. I think I always have on hand the ingredients for my Caprese salad which everyone loves so that is another staple at my house.
Patio
For larger gatherings; Birthday’s, Graduations, Holidays or a Going away party (daughter moving to Japan) with a few weeks to plan I love making Potato Salad, Pasta Salad, Boston Baked Beans to name a few.  I do have a few tricks I would like to share.  I have some chafing dishes that I put out and always have a hot one going for the beans and cooked meat but I also put ice in the bottom tray of one or more of them to keep my salads cold, it works out pretty slick, you do have to replenish the ice occasionally but at least you know no one will get sick from them sitting out for a bit.  Also another trick I love is to take one of the college sized refrigerators we have and I put it out by the grill (someday my outdoor kitchen dream will become a reality) I keep all the meat we are going to be cooking as well as the cheese, onions, tomatoes, pickles, condiments etc. in it. I can put things out there a day or so ahead;  it not only saves a lot of running back and forth to the kitchen fridge the day of; it also saves room in my kitchen fridge for the salads.

I do ask that people bring an App, Side or Dessert to share and hope for the best weather.  Everyone has their own staples they turn to for BBQ’s so I love to see what people bring and it is always a variety. It is always nice to try others; you never know when you might want to ask for the recipe.

I do have a very funny story that I have told many times over the years. This is one recipe you probably won’t be asking for.  The first time my husband met one of my now very good friends I will call her PN we were at my still very dear friend KP’s house having a BBQ. The 3 of us girls were in the kitchen, the table had all the salads and fixings set up and my husband was making his plate.  He put some potato salad and pasta salad on his plate, he tasted one of them and proclaimed “ah that taste like dirt” I swear PN and KP whipped their heads around asking which one so fast my husband stopped in his tracks.  I looked pointed at him and said with my ‘don’t you dare’ voices. “Don’t say a word” he proceeded to walk to the ranch dressing and doused PN’s pasta salad.  She was like “it was mine” we laughed SO hard and still do to this day.  For a short while she was trying to salvage her “dirt salad” but thankfully she has moved on to yummier pasta salads.  By the way it had dill in it which in my opinion is why it tasted a little too earthy. Dill is one of those herbs you need to use sparingly or you could end up with dirt salad.

Easiest Potato Salad Several Potatoes of your choice – red skinned I leave on the skin, others I peel 2-3 Hard Boiled Eggs cooked and peeled 2 Celery Stalks Extra Zesty Italian Dressing Mayo Chives or Scallions I boil the potatoes whole and slice up after cooked; still warm I put the cut up potatoes in a zip loc bag and add the Italian dressing; just enough to make sure a small amount of dressing gets on all the potatoes. Once cooled I put add everything to a large serving bowl and mix well.

Caprese Salad

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Fresh Mozzarella Slicing Tomatoes 3-4 Leaves of Fresh Basil 1-2 Cloves minced Garlic ¼ Cup Olive Oil Kosher Salt & Fresh ground Black Pepper French Baguette Slice and bake crostini size pieces of the baguette – no need to add anything to them, make sure they are slightly browned, try not to go too far with them, they are still fine crunchy but I like them slightly chewy for this Slice the same amount of tomatoes and mozzarella as well as the crostini’s to end up with the same number of pieces.  As little or as many as you like, depends on number of quests and what else you are serving. in a bowl or 1 cup measuring cup put the olive oil, minced garlic and chopped basil, let it sit a little bit for better overall flavor I stack the mozzarella and tomato on a platter/plate; salt and pepper them then drizzle the yummy oil you made over all of them.

You can serve this alongside the crostini’s for small gatherings where everyone is sitting down. I prefer for large parties where people are walking around  to take the already seasoned mozzarella/tomato’s and take a large platter covered with crostini’s and top with a slice of yummy mozzarella and tomato slices and then you can grab one and keep walking. Enjoy!

My Obsession with Garlic

I think as you start to truly enjoy the taste of food you tend to want more flavor, you want and think everyone should flavor all that they cook with at the very least salt and pepper.  I have found my one true food obsession and it is with garlic.  There are very few dinner items that I make that do not involve garlic in some form or another.  I love chopping it, pressing it, smashing it and leaving it whole.  Roasted garlic is just awe inspiring to me and so useful in many ways.  So much so that a few years ago I planted 40 cloves, they were not huge bulbs come harvest time but they were oh so tasty and we had enough for many months.  Towards the end they were drying out a little, so the next year I decided to peel each clove and freeze them; two and half hours of my life UGH!  While this worked nicely they lasted close to a year, the only down side was they were only good for pressing.  The flavor never really left them so that worked in my book. I decided the 3rd year I would plant 80 cloves and leave some whole, freeze the rest.  I thought I had a great plan unfortunately due to the crazy New England winters I lost them all.  Utter devastation in my house over the loss of garlic.  This year I planted 80 cloves again alas only 40 survived.  I will figure this out someday!  Thankfully Garlic is readily available so I can and do always buy it from the market.

A friend mentioned she was reading my last post and makes garlic mashed potatoes she never thought of flavoring the water at the beginning with garlic, she said she was totally going to try it that way, I hope she likes it.

A shocking thing to me is I have come across a few recipes that do not have garlic in them, not sure why that is, maybe the person making the dish is not obsessed with garlic as we are. Maybe they do not think it is necessary, maybe they are allergic, is that even possible???  But being me I just have to deviate and add at least SOME garlic to almost everything.

I do find that when a recipe asks for 2-4 cloves I tend to add 4-8.  I don’t think that is a bad thing, my son jokes that we are immune to garlic which is why I have to add more.  I am totally OK with that!   My daughter just reminded me of our running joke that no vampires will be coming to our house anytime soon!

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Basil Pesto – SO YUMMY!

6 Ounces of washed and dried basil leaves, stems removed

4 Ounces of pine nuts

6-8 Cloves of Garlic

2 Ounces of grated parmesan cheese

Olive oil – Salt and Pepper

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Combine first 3 ingredients in a food processor or blender, pulse to combine. Add olive oil until you get the consistency you like, finish by adding the parmesan cheese a little salt and pepper pulsing until combined.  Enjoy with and/or on just about anything!

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One–Pan Pasta – Great for week night meal; we have also made this on the grill’s side burner!

 1 lb. Linguine

1 lb. Cherry or Grape tomatoes halved

1 Onion diced

4-6 cloves of Garlic

½ tsp. crushed Red Pepper Flakes

6 Cups Chicken Broth

1 bunch of Basil

Olive Oil

Kosher Salt

Freshly ground Black Pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

Combine pasta, tomatoes, onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, basil, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt, pepper and the chicken broth in a large straight sided skillet

Bring to a boil over high heat, boil mixture, stirring and turning pasta frequently with tongs, until pasta is al dente and broth has nearly evaporated.  About 9 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Divide among 4 bowls and garnish with basil.  Serve with Parmesan cheese.

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Eating Through the Freezer

What busy week it has been. We have had a golf tournament, welcome home party and a college graduation party.  Not a lot of time to grocery shop let alone do a lot of cooking. Pretty much quick meals each night. Even when we don’t have time to be adventurous we still want to eat something yummy.  So busy weeks end up with something you can throw together fairly effortlessly. Steak, garlic mashed potatoes and roasted asparagus is one of my fav’s.

With it raining every night for the last week, seems like forever I went for the quick sear in a skillet and finish them off in the oven method for the yummy Rib Eyes.  Not my favorite way to cook them, I would much rather just season them (my go to steak seasoning is Adobo) and off to the grill.  But by doing them this way I was able to use some leftover red wine that was sitting on the counter.  One of my good friends favorite saying is “just because you open it, doesn’t mean you have to finish it” hence the leftover bottle of red wine. While the steaks are resting (very important and don’t skip) heat up the skillet and add the wine to deglaze the pan scraping up all the yumminess and letting it simmer down to more than half.  I also usually add beef stock or a beef bouillon it makes a great au jus that adds even more flavor to the beef.

With no time to grocery shop this weekend, I decided this week we will be eating our way through the fridge and freezer.  I actually like to do this every few months or so.  It is a great way to clean out both and to try to come up with meals with what we have on hand. It also saves quite a bit of money when you had so many things happening over the weekend and are a little low on cash.

Taking a quick look around we will be eating chicken, Italian sausage, a pork loin and even some beef tenderloins at some point this week.  I think I am pretty OK with this!

Bye for now; have a great short week – Happy 4th of July

Roasted Asparagus

Either cut off or snap off the tough ends of the asparagus. Coat with olive oil, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. Place on a sheet tray with sides and cook on 350’ for about 15 minutes.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Wash and cut up your favorite potatoes, cover with cold water, add 2 to 4 minced garlic cloves to the pot, generously salt the water and bring to a low boil for about 10-15 minutes or until fork tender.  Drain and put them back in the same pot.  Add a heaping table spoon of sour cream, 4 tablespoons of butter and a little milk.  Mash until they come out how you like them.  I don’t mind them a little lumpy on occasion.

My Family of Foodies

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I love to cook, eat, and share what I make and I have recently started teaching cooking classes in my home.

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My favorite part of my home is my kitchen island.  So much great food and many wonderful conversations have been around the island that my husband built.  I have always been a firm believer that making and eating meals together makes for closer relationships.  Even when my children were younger and into all kinds of activities, we made a point to eat at least one meal together everyday. Now that they are older, 21 & 23, and currently still living at home, we have more meals together than apart. I love how they are now an instrumental part of the food planning and preparation.

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My son has been the “picky” eater part of the equation, which at times has been very trying for me.  So much so when he was around 8 and was pitching a fit about having to eat one of my standard favorites, spaghetti no less, I convinced him, kicking and screaming to make the gravy (sauce).  I told him that squeezing the garlic press would make him feel better.  That night all I can say is; it worked.  He had 2 helpings of the food he hated.  Nowadays he is still not a fan of the pasta spaghetti but loves all other kinds of pasta.  He is currently testing my personal boundaries by requesting Lamb, Veal and Mushrooms which I did not grow up eating but I can’t be a self proclaimed foodie without at least testing my comfort zone.

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My daughter while I knew she loved most foods, pretty much surprised me at how adventurous she had become.  While away at college in her sophomore year she spent a semester abroad, lived in an apartment which did not have a meal plan.  She had a crash course in picking out and cooking meals for herself. She was hooked and has been on her own foodie quest ever since.  My husband and I went over to Paris on her spring break.  I could not believe how much she had grown.  Out to dinner one night she asked our waiter what was his favorite meal, that is what she ordered and loved it.  I almost fell out of my chair, wonderful to see but I am not sure If I could have done that.  I am learning from her as much as she has from me.  I will admit I was not so thrilled when my double Political Science and German major proclaimed she wanted to move to the Caribbean and open a restaurant. She is currently off to live in Japan for a year to teach English as a second language.  I cannot wait for her to come home and teach me how to make Japanese food.

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My husband and I started our lives together with the knowledge of good tasting food and we could make some very good meals together, nothing too fancy or exciting but well made meals.  We are now self proclaimed foodies and are on a quest to eat and share great food whether we are alone or with a group of family and friends.  We love to try new recipes and look for new restaurants with good reputations of having well prepared delicious tasting food.  Whether we are home or on vacation, which is mostly in the Caribbean, we seek out and crave amazing food.  We are also now looking into pairing wine with our yummy food.  While in Paris realizing they do not have our kind of beer nor cocktails, we needed to start to like wine.  One of the highest things on my bucket list is to eat my way through Italy, I refuse to go until I can enjoy a glass of wine with dinner.  I think we are safe to go now!

My hope is to inspire you to have your own food adventures, it is never too late to try something new.

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