Author Archives for dclarkabal

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.
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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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