Fall Fare

Like most people; I can only assume; when the weather starts to cool off the urge to start up the oven definitely takes over.  It not only helps take the chill out of the house and makes the house smell yummy!  It saves you from starting the furnace sooner than you want to.  

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Photo above taken by: Steve Fernandes – I LOVE this photo!!!

Before we built the home we live in today, we lived in a much smaller home where the only form of heat we used was a wood stove.  That makes for VERY chilly mornings and even chillier evenings when we got home from work; at least until you got the stove going.  I think that is where my love of cooking started especially when the air changes. I would cook anything that would keep the oven going for a few hours; just to get the house as warm as I wanted.  Sometimes it would get so hot we always ended up opening a window.  Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner was definitely worth 2 or 3 windows AND the front door. I am not complaining I really liked my little home. 

Since living in New England my entire life we have always had a wood stove; fireplaces are pretty but very inefficient.  When we started the new house I was MOST concerned we wouldn’t be having a wood stove or fireplace.  What no wood to cut, split, stack and clean up after. I did have many sleepless nights and brought up the subject quite often.  Well I am converted now, the whole house is radiant floor heat by propane and I would NEVER go back willingly to wood.  There are no cold spots in the house, no cold floors, no cold anything; the whole house is the same temperature.  We do keep the bedrooms colder than anywhere else and the ceramic tile in the bathrooms are AWESOME!!!  But my love for cooking was born out of wanting to be warm!   

Today being the first full day of Fall and boy can I tell; Not only are the leaves turning and dropping; I swear the color of the trees in the swamp just up the road from my house are almost at peak. I have already cooked a Roaster Chicken, a Ribeye Roast, made chicken stock for the freezer, took all the tomatoes that I haven’t done anything with from the garden and braised some Chicken thighs with them plus even more just this week.  I haven’t done anymore baking since all the zucchini & banana bread that I made a couple of weeks ago. BUT I did just make a Sam’s Club run today and bought some flour and sugar.  I must also take a trip to the local orchard up on Norway Hill to pick some yummy macintosh apples.  I can almost smell the apple pie and crisp cooking.

Tonight we are having Boneless Center Cut Pork Chops with apples for dinner and I might just have to make some chocolate chip cookies for dessert.  A couple of years ago my husband and I had a “who can make the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie challenge”.  Not a great thing to do if you are watching your weight.  It probably took us a month of both of us making cookies every week; it might have been even longer, I honestly can’t remember.  While his cookies LOOKED better than mine, I won the taste portion – Though I can’t remember how long it took us I do remember who won; funny thing is he seems to think he won.

Bad picture but awesome cookie!

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Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies – How I make them!!!

2 Cups flour plus 2 Tbs All Purpose flour

½ Tsp Baking Soda

½ Tsp Salt

5 Tbs unsalted butter – room temperature

5 Tbs Margarine – room temperature

1 Cup brown sugar

½ C Sugar

1 large egg Plus 1 egg yolk

2 Tsp Vanilla

1 Cup more or less semisweet chocolate chips

 These make about 18 large cookies – Bake at 325’ for about 15 to 18 minutes

Large cookies – take about ¼ cup of the dough into a ball, split the ball in half and take the jagged edges of the dough and place them side by side sticking them together with the jagged edges facing up; place on either a parchment covered cookie sheet or spray the cookie sheet with cooking spray.  Do not overcook but cool them on the sheet, once cooked remove using a metal spatula.  

Rich watching his cookies so they come out perfect!

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Viking Stove – Bedazzled

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Before

During

During – My adorable husband

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After

Everything needs a little freshening up after a decade of hard work; we have been in our home that we built for 10 years now.  Thankfully it was built by a very detail oriented hardworking perfectionist; my husband; so the quality of material and attention to details that we put into our home has stood the test of time.  I lovingly say that the home was built with his sweat, our blood (I helped where I could) and my tears!  We personally freshen up by vacationing in the Caribbean if not every year definitely every other year.

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Over time homes need a new coat of paint, maybe some re-arranging or updating.  A few rooms recently received a fresh coat of paint; I am in the process of re-designing my daughter’s room from what she picked out when she was 12 to an adult bedroom. Here is a small glimpse of what I have done so far a long way to go but it’s a start.

My Viking stove which I can safely say with good authority has done probably the most work in our home without a lot of attention; other than regualr cleaning I did just have to replace the igniter’s in both ovens; but so far that is it.  I first fell in love with my stove when I saw it in a magazine over 20 years ago. I ripped it out of the magazine and started a file folder of must haves.  Another idea I saw in a magazine 10 years while we were designing/building. Unfortunately I didnt rip it out which I kick myself for; it took me 10 years to get it built but it was totally worth the wait.  If you look at the above photo of my daughters room the bookcase is actually a doorway to a fairly large storage area.  I LOVE it my husband did an awesome job.

When we decided to build; it was actually always the plan when we bought our first home; it just took a lot longer than, at least I anticipated.  I had 2 stipulations to building.  We build a kitchen around my stove and we don’t end up in divorce court. My words verbatim “if I can’t have my stove, I don’t want the house” I fought long and hard and I can honestly share with you; it could have gone either way on both counts!

For those of you who have built their own homes and had a “budget” I use that term loosely; I have yet to meet ANYONE who has come in on or below their “budget” When it comes time to purchase appliances; there is not a lot of money left.  My husband begged me to not buy the Viking, he tried everything in his power to back out of this stipulation, offering to buy me two stoves and put then next to each other; leaving space for it to come later.  I being so damn stubborn put my foot down; needless to say he will concede today that it was a great decision.

While sitting here writing about my Viking it reminds me of the character that was in love with his typewriter played by Greg Kinnear in You’ve Got Mail LOL – I have issues.

Most people when they come over LOVE my kitchen area and of course my Viking; I have had a few people ask if I actually cook like that; trust me I do!  Just this weekend our good friends who spent the weekend with us asked if I used all 6 burners. Yes I do!  A lot of people want to cook on my stove; come on over – since starting my cooking class; many people have now cooked on my Viking.

Probably my most often cooked and family favorite meal is a Roaster Chicken with mashed potatoes, steamed carrots, frozen peas, butternut squash and pan gravy!  My mouth is watering right now!  Here is how I prepare most all of my birds for the oven.

I use kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper and Adobo inside and out – liberally!  I never stuff any of my birds; Turkey or Chicken with dressing.  I always use onions and apples sliced up and placed inside the carcass.  It makes for awesome tasting gravy.  I also take the water from the veggies I cooked and add it to the pan drippings to help make the gravy – I swear by it!

Baking Breads & Pickling

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Yesterday I spent the day baking and pickling!  While I would love to tell you everything was from my very own gardens; we did not have a very successful harvest this year.  We have decided to remove the majority of the soil from our raised beds and start over; it may sound pretty drastic; but I spend too much time & money on the beds for them not to provide me a little something to help feed my family and friends.

I was able to use up my own cucumbers to make a dozen jars of Kosher dill pickles – we mostly use them for sandwich’s & burgers.  I would like to thank a couple of my husbands employees for their Zucchini and Green beans; which I made 36 various size loafs of zucchini bread and was able to make a couple of jars of dilly beans for the very first time.  I buy Banana’s every week at my house so I always have those on hand; they do not always get eaten in time so I will put the brown banana’s in the fridge, If i cannot get to them fairly soon I throw them in the freezer until I am able to make Banana Bread.  Because my son does not like nuts there are always 2 loaves made.  I think he does that so he gets his own loaf; just saying!

Several years ago a friend of mine; who is a trained chef; gave me her mom’s zucchini bread recipe.  The last few years I have tried to cut out some of the oil to make it slightly less fattening; apples sauce works out quite nicely.  I have also never made just one batch, when I make zucchini bread I make 4 batches at a time and usually times this by 2.  It freezes VERY well!  This year i made a total of 7 batches with what I had on hand; well actually not on hand, I took inventory Friday night of what I had planned on making and made a listing of what I needed to pick up.  I think I should invest some time and effort into raising chickens for all the eggs we go through – Ya I don’t see that happening anytime soon; I have a crazy dog who would put a kabash (sp?) on that, plus I am not shoveling ANY chicken shit…

While I was out getting my supplies on Saturday morning I ran into the cutest little old lady, we were standing there looking at the canning items left; note to self get your stuff together when they first arrive in the stores.  We started up a conversation about them not having what either of us needed.  Why I thought she was cute was her comment “I think there are a lot of new people thinking they can pickle” I immediately told her I have been doing this for years, I was even chuckling to myself thinking why did I need to defend myself for being in that aisle. I have pickled cucumbers, salsa, tomato sauce and spaghetti sauce over the years. I do enjoy the pickles the most. I gave away all my spaghetti sauce, we didn’t like the taste, my in-laws loved it. The garden salsa was very good, however there is nothing like fresh garden salsa. I had never had nor heard of dilly beans; probably because I am not a fan on green beans so I have never grown them, so I didn’t ever need to find out what to do with them. I am not too sure they turned out, only because they do not look like the ones I have tried. we’ll see in a couple of weeks.

Zucchini Bread – recipe bake 350′ – timing depends on what size pan you use
2 eggs
1/2 C vegetable oil
1/2 C apple sauce
2 C sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
Mix all the above together well
add the below
1 pkg vanilla pudding
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 C flour
2 C shredded zucchini

Labor Day Weekend – Two states, Two families, Two days.

For the last 4 Labor day weekends Rich and I have gotten up very early on Saturday to drive to West Warwick, RI for a weekend full of Golf, Food, Parades and a lot of Laughs with our adopted Portuguese families.

You know how you have friends, you also will have some lifelong friends; ones you can just pick up where you left off and no one is upset that you haven’t been in touch in a month or so.  Then you have friends that are more like family. Our buddy Steve and his wife Barney are part of a very large extended Portuguese family; and they have all adopted Rich and I; at least over Labor Day Weekend.

The family home is a duplex comprised of a brother and sister growing up in the same house since they were very young and later in life splitting the house in two.  The brother and his family grew up on one side and the sister and her family on the other.  They have lived like this for close to 60 years if not longer.  There are cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, friends, neighbors; generation after generation that stop by; probably around 60 to 80 people stop by on Sunday throughout the day. I love how they all greet each other; everyone and I mean everyone gets a kiss on the cheek and a hug. They do this when you arrive and when you leave.

Saturday we play in the Golf tournament which is in Memoriam of Steve’s sister-in-law that passed away 10 years ago.  This is followed up by a steak or chicken dinner & raffle at a local Portuguese Club – similar to our VFW’s.  They tap the keg Saturday night; and to make sure that it is working properly; of course we have to test it. Sunday morning is set up day – tents, chairs, flags, crock pots and coolers.  Rich took over the job of hanging the American and Portuguese flags on the front of the house; this is where we watch the parade from and take the “family” group picture.  I help wherever I can and also sometimes help “shake” the crock pots; must be a family term.  I will be booking our hotel for next year soon before they all fill up.

Portuguese food is something of a mystery to me. They tend to cook their food for a very long time. I peck at Steve all the time when we eat at each other’s places. We have come to an understanding; I like my steak medium rare and let’s just say he doesn’t.  They make Cacoila (pronounced Caserla); and Chourico several different ways. They have a white pizza, a red pizza and a potato dish with Chourico and onions.  Most are passed around by the Matriarch’s of the families the two Irene’s, or whoever they enlist to do the task.  I lovingly refer to them all as the food pushers.  They crack me up with Donna do you want a Caserla; which I do like but you can only eat so many of them, they walk by with Chourico which they have made into little pigs in a blanket. Not the usual BBQ fare that I am used to; you never walk out of there hungry!

This year we had to rush back on Sunday for a BBQ at my Uncles house.  His 3 brothers were in town. One lives close by (my Dad) one from CA and the other from FL.  It has been 20 years since they have all been together in the same spot; that is very sad to me. Everyone is getting a little older and traveling a little less; but I hope we can make it happen again soon!

We arrived at the BBQ late; we did make sure to tell them that we had a prior engagement in RI. When we did arrive I was happy to see many cousins and their children albeit just before they left; but it was still very nice to see them for a minute for a quick catch up chat.

With the few that stuck around we spent the last hour or so sharing some funny stories; some were cooking gone wrong stories I wanted to share.  I am sure these have not only happened in my family. My husband was making gravy once; I am not sure where I was but he called me to ask how to make it. I told him how to make it using flour; he kept adding more and more and it just wouldn’t thicken – ummm it wasn’t flour; he grabbed the confectioners’ sugar – no gravy in the house that night.  At least he tried!  One also shared her oopsie moments – she had 2 very similar ones with very different results. Adding flour by mistake to peanut butter fudge; my uncle kept telling her that she had to have forgotten the sugar, fudge was supposed to be sweet; they threw that away. The other she added confectioners’ sugar to a chocolaty treat that should have been flour; she was going to a function and didn’t have time to remake so took it with her; the funny part is when people were asking her for the recipe.  She said she gave them the correct recipe – I wonder if they still liked them…

Because I knew we were going to be late I actually had the pleasure of hosting the 4 brothers and 2 of their wives for dinner Thursday night.  We had a wonderful evening filled with good food, lots of laughs and a lot of love as someone proclaimed. I will treasure that night forever!

Cooking Class – My sous chef sucks – she doesn’t but it made for a funny story

So far so good!  I have had 4 cooking classes in my home and I have had a lot of fun sharing how I cook with others.  My first class was a trial run to see if I could have that many cooks in the kitchen, you know how that saying goes “Too many cooks in the kitchen…” I feel that 4 students plus me and my sous chef, I will come back to the sucks part… it is a term of endearment; trust me.  3 students worked well and since this initial class was with my friend that urged; more like made me start pursuing this adventure, we talked a lot about what we could do, shouldn’t do and fine tuning the class for moving forward.  I have only put the word out via Facebook I am not entirely sure how or if I should branch out into other media.  I have had good luck so far, yes I know it is still early but I am going to stick with this for a bit.

Buzz on the street is this is a great idea, some wish they lived closer to attend, another friend wants me to take it on the road; she lives several states away.  I had a girlfriend stop over yesterday morning and thinks “I have something here”.  The people who have attended have so far have really enjoyed what I have shown them and loved the food we make together and that we all sit down in the dining room and eat together.  I have had several return customers, which I think is one of the biggest compliments I can get.

What has amazed me is some of the simplest things that I have been cooking for years; some people have never tried.  The first class was Chicken with Honey Beer Sauce, Smashed Potatoes, and roasted Asparagus and then we took it over the top and made Crème Brulee.  The food was all excellent; the class did exactly as I had shown them.  The surprising part to me is they love asparagus but never buy it because they didn’t know how to cook it properly. I hadn’t even typed up the “recipe” for roasted asparagus; I take it for granted that everyone does this.  I think the BEST part of this first class was making the Crème Brulee and 2 students while making it were thinking to themselves, I am NOT eating that.  I  practiced my voila moment; I pre-made the recipe so they could brulee and try it”  My punch line was ruined by my sous chef LOL I wanted to say “and with the magic of television” and bring out the already made dessert  blah blah blah!  The joke was spoiled almost within the first hour of class.  We all had a good laugh though.

My second class was One Pot Pasta; I think everyone needs this simple delicious recipe in their back pocket.  It comes together quick and you can pretty much use up what you have in your fridge/pantry.  We first threw it together while hanging out on the patio, Abbi (my daughter) came in and threw everything into the pot and we cooked it on the side burner of our grill.  PERFECT!!!

Mexican was my third class, this I felt was more chopping than actual cooking; I felt a little bad about that afterwards. This is all new to me so I hope the ‘students’ give me another chance. While what we made was excellent, we chopped a lot!!!  We made fresh garden salsa, avocado mango salsa, guacamole, black bean tostada and churros.  If you have never made churros at home – YOU HAVE TO!  They are just plain yummy – that is only if you like warm Mexican doughnuts covered with cinnamon and sugar…

Churros Recipe:

1 Cup water

2 TBS brown sugar

½ tsp Salt

1/3 Cup unsalted butter

1 Cup flour

2 Eggs

¼ Cup white sugar

1 tsp Cinnamon

Preheat about 2 inches of vegetable oil in a frying pan.  In a paper bag mix white sugar and cinnamon and put aside.

In a 3 quart sauce pan add water, brown sugar, salt and butter heat to a boil. Remove from heat and add the flour. Mix until well blended.  In a separate bowl mix the eggs and vanilla together and add to the flour mixture. Stir well blended and completely mixed in.  Fill a pastry bag already fitted with #1 large star tip.  Add dough to the bag  you will want to test your oil by squeezing a little dough in, if it doesn’t bubble up immediately, wait until your oil gets a little hotter.  Once hot enough; squeeze about a 4 inch doughnut into the oil.  Depending on what pan you are using; you should be able to get about 3-5 donuts into the pan.  Cook for about 2 minutes or so per side.  They should be brown on all sides and cooked through but just until cooked, let them drain on a rack for a bit  before adding them to the sugar, cinnamon mixture.  Enjoy!!!

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My last class, just this last Thursday night was homemade pasta, bolognese, alfredo and ravioli.  First off I had 5 people for this class.  A very good male friend of mine put up a stink that the class was full before he knew about it, he is not on FB so I let him in; why not try to see if I could handle more cooks in the kitchen.  Plus he had been to 2 of the 3 classes I had previously.  Side bar – He enjoys cooking and is a good cook, so when our families were hanging out one night, I mentioned to him I was starting a cooking class; he was very interested.  When he said he was coming to my second ever class – I was very nervous for him to come, I mean he knows how to cook and well, what could I possibly “teach” him.  Apparently something; as he had signed up for the next 2 classes.

While I was really excited for this class, there is nothing like homemade pasta.  We made a wheat pasta dough and a white pasta dough.  Everyone was skeptical of the wheat; only because they have tried several of the ones on the market; never overly impressed.  They loved this one; so much so that I received an email from an attendee around 8:45 am the next morning that she had bought the roller and pasta cutter set for her Kitchen Aid that she has never used.  I love it!!! Then I received a message on my class FB page that one of the ladies not only purchased the roller/cutter set, she purchased a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, I think Kitchen Aid should give me a little kick back for having this class.  I think I was a little over ambitious taking on so much in the allotted 3 hour class I set up.  The star of the show, I feel did not get its just dessert.  The Ravioli Al’ Uovo was saved for last and there was so much going on and my house was full and oh my messy; picture flour EVERYWHERE; I missed an important step by boiling the ravioli before putting it in the sauce, don’t fret I just ended up cooking it in the sauce, but that meant that it did not get the sauce poured over it at the time of serving.  SO I will definitely do a homemade pasta class again, and soon, I will have to break it up though. I will make sure that the ravioli gets its own class and we will make a couple of different fillings.

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Raviolo Al’Uovo Recipe: this is Ann Burrell’s recipe from her cookbook

2 Cups Ricotta Cheese

1 Cup freshly grated  Parmigiano Reggiano cheese plus more for garnish

¼ Cup fresh Italian Parsley

2 Large eggs plus 8 egg yolks

Kosher Salt

Flour as needed

Your favorite pasta dough recipe – if you don’t have one I can post mine

8 Tbs unsalted butter

2 Cups chicken stock

¼ Cup fresh sage leaves – Chopped

Crumpled Prosciutto – optional / not really

In a bowl combine Ricotta, Parm, Parsley and 2 whole eggs, mix well and season and salt.

On a clean floured work surface, lay out two sheets of pasta about 12 inches long, Brush lightly with water.

Equally space 4 dollops of the ricotta mixture; using a spoon make a nest or small hole in the center of each dollop.

Carefully separate the remaining eggs and put a yolk in each nest.  If you break one scoop it out with a spoon.  You want to be careful not to break the yolk.

Cover the ricotta nests and egg yolk with another sheet of pasta.  Use your index fingers to press around each ricotta nest to seal the edges, then use a large cookie cutter or fluted ring cutter or if you can, use a roller cutter, I am not that good.   Repeat – placing the completed raviolis on a well-floured cookie sheet.

Bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil.  In a large saute pan, melt half the butter and add half the chicken stock. Season with salt and toss half the Sage in.

Add 4 of the ravioli into the boiling water and cook for 3 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the ravioli from the water to the chicken stock pan and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer to serving plates and spoon a little extra of the sauce on each and garnish with crumbled prosciutto if desired.

Now for my Sous Chef Sucks comment!  She totally doesn’t!  She is one of my dearest friends and we always have a great time when we get together, which is fairly often and I love it!  She stopped over one night; we were going to go out and grab something to eat locally.  Had a glass of wine – too many so we stayed in.  Now we needed to eat something so I looked around the house to see what I could throw together.  We decided to make roasted butternut squash risotto.  That might sound a little ambitious being pretty late by now and a couple of glasses of wine later but that is how my house rolls!  We do crazy meals at a whim at times.  KP as some of you following this will know; was cutting up the butternut squash and me being me, her cuts were not very consistent LOL. Yes sometimes I am a little neurotic about my cuts.  Not that I have had any formal training I just know that the more consistent your pieces are they will cook at the same time and be the same throughout.  So I proclaimed that my sous chef sucks – jokingly.  Try saying that 3 times fast.  Then add some wine – Not an easy thing to do!  We laughed SO hard and have been laughing about it ever since.  This was before I started my blog and my classes.  We really wanted to use it somewhere, but when Abbi googled it – a lot of unpleasant things came up and she thought it best that we not be affiliated with the like.  I am still laughing about it now!

BTW – KP told me I was too wordy last post – let’s see how she likes this one!

Thanks for all the support – I am having a blast!

Eating Out – Some of our Favorites

While I do love to cook at home; I also really enjoy going out.  I don’t mind hitting a fast food or a chain once in a while, I am still fairly picky at which ones I will go to. My fast food go-to is McDonald’s (I won’t even stop at the others) I love their filet-o-fish.  I recall my high school softball coach asking me if I was on a diet when we would stop there after away games.  Who knew back in the 80’s that fried fish filet would be considered “diet” food. I have already spent more time on this subject than I wanted to; but I have to also mention my kids’ growing up would not let me stop at any fast food restaurants while out and about running errands.  Who knew I was bringing up such foodies at such a young age.

We are a family of four foodies and we know it!  While we, for the most part, are definitely a meat and potato kind of family; we do love to venture out once in a while.  When in Paris my husband ordered tongue one day for lunch;  that is just plain crazy in my book.  I did not try the actual tongue but the gravy was freakin’ awesome!

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We tend to go out at least once or sometimes twice a week; there are a few local restaurants that are my favorites.  My number one choice; if we can get in is The Pearl Restaurant and Oyster Bar; love the atmosphere; the bar tender; the appetizers and my favorite entree Lemongrass Chicken over jasmine rice and seared greens OMG YUMMY!!!  We have Lee Mt Fuji for sushi, for my husband.  They used to have the most delicious wings at The Waterhouse – I am going to bug them until they bring them back on the bar menu.  Nicola’s in Keene is always delicious and we love MT’s in Nashua.  Buckley’s in Merrimack is always great for a steak. But the best steak within 2 hours drive for us is Capital Grill.  I have no idea how they can be a chain but we have been several times and with Eduardo being our waiter each time, the food is awesome, our waiter is wonderful and fun and even the manager/co-owner is getting to know us.  We have only been there 4 times in the last 3 years. Apparently we make an impression – LOL…

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I used to think we were a super odd family; well we probably actually are; but I see more and more of “us” out and about now.  When whatever we order is put in front of us, if it looks amazing; we have to wait and make sure to get pictures of everyone’s dish.  Over the years I have never really done anything with these photos; I now add them to our photo albums, I should have been doing this all along.  It brings back such fond memories and also inspires us to try to re-create certain dishes.  The Pearl has an appetizer Pan Fried Chicken Dumpling’s – I now make a version of Chicken Dumplings.

While on vacation, we tend to always head South to somewhere in the Caribbean; we try to always rent a house, cottage or like.  And since we are still bringing our kids and paying for them, we try to save a little money and bring quite a bit of food with us so we can cook in.  I even pack a cooler with a little dry ice for frozen meat.  Trust me if you have a kitchen it is worth it, sometimes you just want to stay in and relax instead of finding a place to eat.  Or at least we do, especially after sitting on a beach all day.  If you do bring anything from the US please make sure to keep it in the USDA packaging.  We ran into a problem once and our cooler got confiscated; we tried to re-pack everything so we could fit everything in a small cooler.  We did get everything back and they kept everything frozen for us it just took a couple of days.

I do need to mention Paris in here first.  I have heard so much about French cooking and chefs in Paris being the best.  I don’t think we had the culinary experience that other’s tend to have.  We only had one memorable dinner out and it was in a hotel restaurant down the road from the apartment that we rented.  We did have another memorable eat, we were on the town, starving and tired from walking ALL day; Army Museum, Napoleon’s Tomb and the Rodin Museum.  We grabbed a bite as we walked to the Arc de’ Triumph.  It was ham, cheese, sliced hard boiled egg and pickles.  While it looked super dry, it was absolutely delicious.  Not sure if it was because we were all super hungry, very tired or if it was just that good.

If you are ever near Fairfax VA you must stop and try Coastal Flats appetizer Deviled Eggs.  I don’t even like them normally but my sister-in-law told me I had to try them I LOVED them and actually crave them on occasion.  I tried to find their recipe so I could try making them at home – so far no luck!!!

Here is a listing of some notable favorite that we wish we could go to again!  Barbados was my first island experience; my husband and I went there on our honeymoon 25 years ago this December.  We were young, no money and not necessarily foodies.  I will admit I did have culture shock for the first 3 days.  Never going anywhere but Florida and Montreal I thought that the entire island was supposed to be as beautiful as all the pictures.  The ride from the airport to our maybe 3 star hotel; was not what I pictured.  I am so grateful I lasted past those first 3 days.  It is as beautiful as all the pictures.  I feel you need to stay on an island to get the “feel” of the island.  Which is why we are not huge fans of cruising; we have only been on one and we did have a great time, there were 33 of us for a 50 year wedding anniversary event; which a cruise is the perfect venue for that.

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We took the kids to Barbados a couple of years ago; we spent 12 glorious days in the most beautiful condo we have ever rented.  We cooked in each morning and most lunches if we were on our beach.  Dinner was a different story – most memorable was Champer’s – so good we went back twice. I had had Barracuda in the Bahamas many years before,  at a local fish fry on the beach made by natives; there was a mystique about whether it is safe to eat.  The local fish lore that was told to me was that you can only catch barracuda on a certain side of the island when the tide was coming in when there was a full moon; or something along those lines. I ate it anyway and it was delicious.  I saw it on the menu at Champer’s and had to go there and try it again.  I was not disappointed; it was as good as I remembered.

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Tortola was our most recent trip and the food did not disappoint, while we did cook in quite a bit; the meals out were wonderful.  BananaKeet Café has the best dinner sunsets, the Sugar mill was excellent from app’s to dessert. Myett’s closest to us was a good find for our first night in town. D Best cup had a wonderful breakfast right next to the Marina we frequented.  Nice when you have to go early to meet the boat when going out for a day cruise. Pussers Landing, in the same harbor, for their potato chip tower. Dove Restaurant and Wine bar had wonderful dinners and desserts – their homemade ice cream is wonderful.

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Barbados is around a 6 hour flight and Tortola is not the easiest to get to; most take a flight to St Thomas and a ferry to Tortola.  It makes for a very long travel day; not my favorite; which is why I add a couple of days to our vacations, just to make up for travel days.  Well at least that is how I sell it to the fam.  I just love being on vacation. For a “close” to New England culinary delight, I would head to Turks and Caicos Providenciales. If you can; get a direct flight; you could potentially be sitting on the beach with an umbrella cocktail in about 4 maybe 5 hours. Our condo came the usual island magazines as most all places we stay have; but they also had a Dining Guide Magazine; I believe every island, maybe even every tourist location, should have one.  We had a blast looking through the magazine and the beautiful pictures and deciding where we would go out to dinner.  Our budget went to pot that trip, but we enjoyed every minute of it.  I will admit in some instances the food did not live up to the pictures, but it got us out of the condo and spending money.

I think it could be very lucrative creating such a magazine, oohh maybe I should write one up for New Hampshire, if there isn’t one already.  OMG how much fun would that be going around New Hampshire eating and taking photos of food; my husband; who LOVES to critique: would love being a food critic. I must look into this!  Top of my fantasy list is to eat my way through Italy – I hope someday I will be able to write about that!!!

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This weekend was spent boating on Winnipesaukee with some good friends of ours.  Saturday was spent sitting on the boat and playing in the water; lunch was a few sandwich’s that we picked up at a close by deli before heading out for the day.  We had dinner reservations in Laconia at O’s Restaurant.  The plan was to head back to the boat slip and everyone shower and dress for dinner. 9 of us went by boat for the 45 minute ride to a Marina that we tied to boat up at and walked a short distance to the restaurant.  Dinner was awesome!!!!  Actually the entire trip was excellent. That is like a way of living I could get used to.  I just can’t afford it – Yet!!!!  We had a cheese plate made up for everyone to share and we had lovely wine for the ride.  We ordered their Kobe Beef Pop’s and homemade Chips (similar to the chip tower we had on Tortola) for the table.  My filet was AWESOME – it just about melted in my mouth. Unfortunately no one had room for dessert. The ride home was just as wonderful!

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!!