Friday, May 31, 2019

The Deck Garden 2019

Continuing my tradition of spending $300 on supplies in order to yield $25 worth of fresh produce, I got my deck garden planted this week. I am awaiting the arrival of a trellis so that I can plant my gourds, but other than that, it seems to be finished. It was nice to have a normal day after so many months of upset.
Naturally, I will be adding to this in the next couple of weeks, during which time I also plan to buy plants for the covered portion of the deck (the lanai). I thought buying 12 40-pound sacks of potting soil would be enough, but it would appear not. So, back to the garden center I head midweek.
I decided to do something different this year. Instead of growing plants that I can easily buy at the grocery store relatively cheaply (carrots, radishes, scallions), I decided to grow a wider variety of tomatoes, including heirlooms, as well as green beans, and cauliflower.
I cut back on the number of herbs that I normally grow, because I found that they were taking up space and I wasn’t using them (fennel, dill, sage, thyme). I may change my mind when they all go on sale for 50% off at a pop-up garden place that I frequent, but other than that I am growing massive amounts of basil and parsley, because I use massive amounts of basil and parsley. I also have rosemary that I overwinter every year. 
My newest, perhaps most exciting addition, is ginger. I ordered it from Baker’s Heirloom Seeds in Manchester, MO, and, as it is suited for my region, I’m hoping for the best. I use a lot of ginger in Asian cooking, so I’m interested in having the freshest of the fresh.
 I’ve been watching British garden shows on BritBox, and so decided to add more flowers to the garden, so this year I am growing a beautiful multi-pedaled pink Morning Glory, as well as zinnias, petunias, impatiens, and purple Cathedral Bells. The latter is a first for me, and I’m hoping it produces. 
What I also learned from the British gardening shows (and what should have been obvious to me, but somehow wasn’t), is to LABEL the plants, and I did so with these wonderful Zinc Plant Markers that come with their own carbon pencil.
I also decided to have a bit of fun, and grow gourds. Believe it or not, this was the most difficult decision I had to make, because there are so many varieties available. I truly found some amazing things, including the "R"-rated Elever Pumpkin that resembles male genitalia. Don't believe me? Click here (but first, have the kids and grandma leave the room).
Unlike last year, I seriously hope to keep you updated on my deck garden throughout the summer. I feel very fortunate this year that May has been seasonal. Last year, we moved into May and it immediately hit 90° and stayed there until October.

What do you have growing?

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Thursday, May 30, 2019

Baked Olive Cheese Dip

Brace yourselves my olive-loving friends, here is a recipe that is going to knock your socks right into the next century. I know there are a lot of you who love olives as much as I do, and if you are one of those people, stop what you’re doing and make this dip. Two kinds of olives and three kinds of cheeses make this loaded with flavor! Factor in scallions, garlic, and pepperoncinis, and you have a dip that is hard to stop eating. This is a good one my friends, from the brilliance of Martina McBride and found in her latest book Martina's Kitchen Mix. I have made so many recipes from this book that it’s looking pretty tattered. If you don’t have it, get it!
Baked Olive Cheese Dip
From Martina's Kitchen Mix

1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1 c. shredded pepper jack cheese
¼ c. mayonnaise
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ c. roughly chopped green olives
½ c. roughly chopped black olives
1/3 c. rinsed, diced
2 scallions, finely chopped (about ¼ c.),
plus more for garnish
Dried pepper flakes, for garnish
Crackers, toasted bread slices, or tortilla chips

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a medium mixing bowl beat the cream cheese with the mixer at medium speed for two minutes. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, pepper jack, and mayonnaise. Beat at medium speed just until blended. Add garlic, green olives, black olives, pepperoncinis, and green onions, beating just
until combined.

Transfer to an
8” baking dish and bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with crackers, toasted bread slices, or tortilla chips. Garnish as desired.

This could be assembled and refrigerated up to one day ahead. Just let it come to room temperature before baking

Note from me: I used
Kalamata olives that I rinsed, as well as blue cheese-stuffed green olives. It was wonderful! Use whatever olives you happen to have on hand, any of them would be good in combination.

If you want an olive snack that is quick and easy, try these Blistered Olives.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2019

"Yuletide" Dinnerware by Rosina-Queens...This Week's Find

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that this is certainly not the time of the year to talk about Christmas, it is way too early. You’re right, of course, you’re right. But this week’s find (that was hardly a find because I knew it was there), is my mother’s set of Christmas dishes. I’m not sure exactly when she bought them, but I believe they go back about 30 years. She wanted a set that was different from what everyone else had (At that time Spode “Christmas Tree” was all the rage.), spotted these locally at Stix, Bayer & Fuller (later Dillards), and bought the entire service for 12, including completer pieces. When it came to fancy dinnerware, my mother did not mess around. She also bought a set of gold flatware, service for 12.
You can bet I wrapped each piece very carefully as I was unpacking the server in the, now empty, dining room. It took multiple trips, and more than a dozen boxes to ensure it got home safely.
As you know from looking at my holiday tables, I tend to opt more for whimsy than I do for elegance, but I will certainly be paying tribute to both of my parents this holiday season, that will surely be a difficult one.
This set from Rosina-Queens is called “Yuletide. Beautiful, isn’t it? For those interested, you can occasionally find it, in limited availability, on Amazon.

To see my previous find, click here.

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Sunday, May 26, 2019

BBQ&A by Myron Mixon, Reviewed

Mr. O-P was the grill master in our house and he had a lot of barbecue books upon which he relied. I am truly sorry that he is not around to see this one, because I’m sure it would quickly become his new favorite. BBQ&A by Myron Mixon tells you everything you ever wanted to know about barbecue. This book is the Bible, my friends. If you know absolutely nothing about grilling, barbecuing, different cuts of meat, how to treat those different cuts of meat, how to smoke, how to make sauces, how to serve, even how to butcher a hog, this book is going to tell you.
You will learn the difference between smoking on a smoker and smoking in a pit. You will learn the different kinds of barbecue, and what they are. You will also find within some of the most amazingly delicious smoking and barbecuing recipes around. In addition to recipes for meaty main dishes, you will also get delicious ones for side dishes like coleslaw, corn bread, and baked beans (the peach baked beans are amazing!). You will even find recipes for wonderful desserts.
On Friday I shared his recipe for basic barbecue sauce, but you will also find recipes for vinegar-based barbecue sauce, tangy sweet sauce, and Carolina mustard barbecue sauce. Personally, it’s worth the price of the book alone to get the recipes for the sauces. There are also recipes for chicken and pork glazes, both of which are super good. If you like meat rubs like I do, you will find many in here.
With Father’s Day just around the corner, this book should be on your “must buy” list. Dad is going to love it, but if he isn’t the one at the grill or in your house, buy a copy for yourself. You can get a copy by clicking here.

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Disclaimer: I was provided with a complimentary copy of this book by Abram Publishers as a part of Abrams Dinner Party of which I am a member.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Asian Cucumber Salad

Yesterday I gave you an amazing recipe for barbecue sauce; if you haven’t seen that post you can see it here. Today I’m going to give you a delicious, light, summery salad, that, while it is Asian and goes well with all kinds of Asian foods, it also pairs wonderfully with any type of barbecue. Barbecue sauce can be rich, making food a bit heavy. That food needs to be lightened up with a salad, and this is the one. This is easy to make, light, refreshing, and so delicious, even people who aren’t all that keen on cucumbers are going to enjoy it. This recipe can be doubled, tripled, quadrupled, whatever you need to do to make it for whatever size crowd you happen to be hosting, works. I think you’re going to find it to be quite addicting. This is going to be my “go to” salad of the summer.
Asian Cucumber Salad

2 large cucumbers, halved lengthwise, seeded,
and sliced into ¼” half rounds
1 t. salt
¼ cup
rice vinegar
2 T. granulated sugar
1 T.
sesame oil
1 scallion, white and green parts, minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
½ T. ginger root, finely minced
1 T. minced
Melissa’s Fire Roasted Red Bell Peppers
1/8 - ¼ t.
dried pepper flakes

Place the cucumber slices into a colander, sprinkle with salt, and set aside to drain for at least 1 hour.

Whisk the vinegar and sugar together until dissolved, then whisk in the sesame oil, scallion, garlic, ginger, pepper flakes, and red bell pepper.

RINSE (I cannot emphasize this enough! If you don’t rinse these thoroughly, your salad is going to be too salty.) the salt off the cucumbers, place into a large bowl, drizzle the dressing over, and toss to coat. Refrigerate for one hour prior to serving.

An equally delicious cucumber salad, but with less zing is this Sweet Corn and Cucumber Salad.

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Thursday, May 23, 2019

Barbecue Sauce

It is one of my favorite seasons of the year, barbecue season! And I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get the urge to barbecue and have no barbecue sauce at hand. I hate running out to the store for just one item, so I have learned to make my own sauce. I have already shared a local recipe for Sugarfire Smoke House Coffee Barbecue Sauce (that will always remain one of my faves), but a new candidate has emerged in the form of this basic barbecue sauce recipe from my new favorite barbecue book, BBQ&A by Myron Mixon. I whipped some up yesterday afternoon, and grilled some St. Louis-style pork steaks. Dinner was amazing! This sauce is so good I could eat it with a spoon. I won’t, mind you, but I could. You’ll feel the same way. Try it!
Barbecue Sauce
BBQ&A by Myron Mixon
2 T. onion powder
2 T. garlic powder
2 cups ketchup
2 T. paprika
2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup dark brown sugar
2 T. honey
2 T.
maple syrup
2 t. kosher salt
2 t. freshly ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients of the base in a blender; pulse until thoroughly combined. Pour into a medium pot. Over medium heat, stir continuously until the sauce is heated through. Do not allow it to boil. Remove from the heat and use the sauce immediately, while hot.

If saving for later use, allow the mix to cool, then pour it into a large bottle or container. Store in the refrigerator for up to six months.

Makes 3 1/2 cups

If you want to give the Sugarfire Smoke House Coffee Barbecue Sauce a try, click here.

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Monday, May 20, 2019

Mystery Cookies

I made the Chocolate Chunk Cookie recipe from the Genuine Pizza book from which I gleaned last week’s Marinated Olives recipe. I love that this pizza book has more than just recipes for pizza in it. I changed the recipe up a bit, and it is mine that you will see below.
Mystery Cookies
Adapted from Genuine Pizza

2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into several pieces
¾ cup +2 tablespoons granulated sugar
¾ cup +1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, cold
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3½ cups all purpose flour
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
1½ teaspoons baking soda
12-24 miniature
Snickers, Milky Way, 
or Three Musketeers bars, unwrapped

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line 2 cookie sheets with
parchment; set aside.

In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, until fully incorporated. Pause the mixer motor to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl between each addition. Add the vanilla and mix to incorporate.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, and baking soda until combined. Add the flour mixture to the butter-egg mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Do not over mix

Using a cookie scoop (see note below) scoop dough into your hand, and roll into a ball. With your thumb, shove an unwrapped miniature candy bar into the ball, and roll again to seal. Place two inches apart on parchment-lined cookie sheet and flatten slightly. Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, or until they are golden brown and about 1/2 inch thick. Remove from oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool. Allow to cool completely, then transfer to a container with a lid and store at room temperature for up to a week.

NOTE: If you use a 2-ounce cookie scoop, as directed, you will get 24. For larger cookies, use a 4-ounce ice cream scoop, bake for 28-30 minutes, yielding 12 cookies.

Everybody seems to love Chocolate Chip Cookies, as do I, but this recipe for Panera Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies is one of my favorites.

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Sunday, May 19, 2019

Taste of History Cookbook, Reviewed

Part cookbook, part history lesson, part companion to PBS’ss Emmy award-winning series, A Taste of History, the Taste of History Cookbook by German born award-winning restaurateur and chef Walter Staib is a real winner. This book joins the list of six others that Staib has written including the City Tavern Cookbook, featuring recipes from his award-winning restaurant, City Tavern in Philadelphia, a recreation of the original 18th-century tavern.
In this book, Chef Staib shares with us 150 of his favorite recipes from the television series. Each one has step-by-step cooking techniques, is beautifully photographed, and accompanied by the chef’s personal tips and history of the recipes.
Staib makes re-creating these American classics recipes easy with his simple instructions, and helpful advice.
Dishes go from the simple (Chicken Noodle Soup) to the sublime (Stuffed Pheasant, Curried Shrimp, Guyanese Duck Curry, Baked Stuffed Sturgeon). They are also wonderful recipes for mouthwatering soups, salads, side dishes, and desserts.
If you grew up in the ‘70s when I did and used to see cans of Campbell’s Pepper Pot Soup on the shelves in your grocery store and wondered what on earth that soup was made of, now you can re-create your own using Chef Staib’s Philadelphia Pepper Pot Soup recipe that he pairs with corn bread. While the main, traditional, ingredient is tripe, you can get the same delicious results by substituting pork shoulder. Having tried this recipe and satisfied my curiosity, I can highly recommend it.
The Buttermilk Biscuits and Brown Bread took me back to my grandmother’s kitchen. Coconut Bread Pudding and Boston Cream Pie to my mother’s; both equally beckoned. The homemade Ketchup (to last 20 years), first published in the cookbook in 1745, I found one of the most intriguing, and is next on my list of recipes to try. Obviously it will be time consuming and a labor of love, but considering my late husband was a professor of 18th century literature and history, I cannot allow myself to pass this one by.
The desserts will have your mouth watering. The photos make the desserts leap off the page. Pistachio Financiers, Moravian Sugar Cake, and Strawberry Linzer Torte will have you heading for the kitchen and reaching for your apron.
I don’t think I’ve ever had such fun reading a cookbook. I also don’t think I have ever learned as much while reading one as I have here. I thoroughly enjoyed the history lessons and personal insights from Chef Staib. In addition, I have added City Tavern to my list of places to visit the next time I’m in the Philadelphia area. Look for this cookbook at your local store or get it here from Amazon.

Disclaimer I received a complementary copy of this book from hatchet book group in exchange for an honest review.

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Thursday, May 16, 2019

Mediterranean Pilaf

Despite its well-worn, splattered, and tattered appearance, one of my favorite cookbooks is Marlene Sorosky’s Cookery for Entertaining, first published in 1979, and one that I purchased shortly thereafter. What I didn’t know until I married Jim, in 1995, was that he did the same thing. Both of our copies were equally annotated, and we liked many of the same recipes. One of those recipes is this one for Mediterranean Pilaf, as flavorful as it is versatile. It’s featured in the cookbook with shish kebab, and it goes very well with that, but it is also a tasty and colorful side with ribs, chicken, pork chops, and ham. It takes well to being turned into a salad; chicken and vegetables stirred in turn this into a wonderful main dish meal.

This is a recipe that you are going to want to keep close at hand in your permanent repertoire. I can’t tell you how many times I have turned to this when I was looking for something a little extra special by way of a side dish. I have adapted it slightly from the original, for ease of preparation.
Mediterranean Pilaf
Adapted from Cookery for Entertaining

3 cups chicken broth
1½ cups uncooked
basmati rice
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
 ½ cup seedless
golden raisins
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon curry powder
1½ tablespoons soy sauce

Place all ingredients into a 1-quart sauce pan. Bring mixture to a boil, cover and cook over low heat 20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed and rice is tender. Makes 8 servings.

Cilantro Rice is another of my favorites, and equally versatile.

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