Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Mustard Caper Sauce for Broccoli or Brussels Sprouts

I happen to be one of those people who likes vegetables, so a little salt and pepper, and a bit of butter, and I’m good to go. But, if you’re one of those people who likes vegetables dressed up a bit, you are going to be over the moon once you taste this sauce. It was created with broccoli in mind, but it’s equally good over sautéed brussels sprouts. This is one of those things that is so good that it’s hard to stop eating it. It‘s also incredibly simple to put together, and company worthy. How often does that happen? Mustard Caper Sauce for Broccoli or Brussels Sprouts

6 T. butter (not unsalted)
1 T.

Dijon mustard
Juice of half a lemon
Pinch of
white pepper
2 T. capers

Place butter, mustard, lemon juice, and pepper into a medium pan over medium heat. As the butter melts, whisk ingredients together until blended. Add capers, stir to combine, and pour immediately over cooked broccoli and serve. This makes enough to cover up to one pound of broccoli or brussels sprouts.

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Monday, April 29, 2024

Garlic Butter with Fresh Herbs

It’s a rare day when I don’t have a crock of garlic butter in my fridge. I love to make it up fresh every week, finding multiple uses for it as the days progress. It’s delicious on vegetables, makes garlic bread an easy fix, and when buried in the center of a patty of ground beef ready for the grill, adds flavor and yields a juicy burger. I think you will find that it will serve you well this summer, providing you with many uses throughout, making cooking less of a chore, while amping up the taste of a variety of foods.

Garlic Butter with Fresh Herbs

1 c. butter, softened,
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 T. minced fresh parsley
1 T. minced fresh chives
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice

In a medium mixing bowl, beat together all ingredients with a hand mixer. Using a rubber spatula, scrape into a container, cover, and store in the fridge until ready for use.

To make garlic bread, cut a baguette on the diagonal in slices about 1 inch thick. Spread copious amounts of garlic butter on each slice, and top with a mound of cheese. Slide into the broiler until the cheese has melted, and then enjoy.

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Sunday, April 28, 2024

Death in le Jardin by Ian Moore, Reviewed

Prior to reading Death in le Jardin, the fourth in the Follett Valley Mystery series, I had not been acquainted with this series or author Ian Moore. It took me no longer than reading the first page to absolutely fall in love with the characters, the writing style, and the anticipation of what was to come.

 Insouciant, middle-aged Richard Ainsworth is living the sweet life in Saint-Sauver in the Follet Valley, a quiet French backwater, puttering around his posh B&B with sidekick gal pal, former bounty hunter, and possible assassin, Valérie d’Orçay and her pampered Chihuahua, Passepartout.

 When the housekeeper of their B&B is charged with murdering her brother-in-law, who was at one time her fiancé (gotta love the French) life gets complicated. Their investigation sends them to a rather bizarre garden town/commune filled with a variety of strange and dodgy people.

 In addition to being a wonderful and complex mystery, the story is very atmospheric. The descriptions were so vivid and detailed that I felt as if I were there right along with the characters. The characters themselves are rich, well developed, quirky, and strange, you name it, and you’ll find it in this book.

 At this point I might add that there is no need to have read the previous books in this series (although you will definitely want to), as this stands quite well on its own.

 I can’t remember the last time I had such a good time reading a book. It was a wonderful bonus that I was surprised by the conclusion of the mystery. Wonderful.

 It is scheduled for publication on June 6th; you can preorder here.

 Many thanks to NetGalley, Farrago Publishing Co., and author Ian Moore for the advanced digital copy in exchange for an honest review.

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Friday, April 26, 2024

Orgy in a Barn

Okay, here’s the thing. Knowing that I am going to need a lot of cocktails to get me through the baseball season, I decided that I was going to find one signature cocktail for the entire summer of 2024. I chose a cocktail that I found online called Sex on the Farm because it sounded refreshing, included cranberry juice and orange juice (that I knew I would freshly squeeze), and just seemed to be exactly the flavor profile that I was looking for.
What happened was, when I went to make this cocktail I had completely forgotten the measurements of the ingredients, and ended up quadrupling the amount of peach schnapps!! I also decided to use the juice from a Melissa's Ojai pixie tangerine because they are so deliciously sweet, instead of orange juice, and both of those changes took this cocktail over the top. It is magnificent! As a consequence, I figured that I really needed to rename the cocktail with a nod to the original, but giving it something of my own, ergo the Orgy in a Barn cocktail was racily born. Try it! (The cocktail, not the barn orgy. That would be rude and perhaps off-putting for the animals.)
Sex at a Farm Stand

 1½ oz. vodka

2 oz. peach schnapps

2 oz. cranberry juice

2 oz. freshly squeezed Ojai tangerine juice

 Give it a stir and pour it over ice in a glass. Garnish with a wedge of tangerine, and a stemmed cherry.

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Thursday, April 25, 2024

Spinach, Beet, and Pear Salad with Raspberry Mustard Vinaigrette

Did I mention that I bought a lot of lettuce? Yeah. I bought a three-pack of hearts of Romaine, a head of iceberg lettuce, and a bag of baby spinach. I outfoxed myself by storing it all neatly in the vegetable crisper rather than scattering it recklessly around the fridge. As a consequence, I thought I needed lettuce, so I went to the grocery store and I bought a three-pack of hearts of Romaine, a head of iceberg lettuce, and, you guessed it, a bag of baby spinach. That’s a lot of greenery.

To keep things from getting routine in the salads that I’ve been having every day (and honestly, if it would help get rid of the lettuce, I would have one at breakfast), I’ve been experimenting with different ingredients. As is the case with most salads, the dressing is the star of the show, but this combination of ingredients is not only delicious, but it is highly nutritious with the spinach, beets, walnuts, and pears. It’s also beautiful, and makes a lovely presentation.Spinach, Beet, and Pear Salad with Raspberry Mustard Vinaigrette

Fresh baby spinach
1 Melissa’s Bartlett pear, peeled and thinly sliced.
1 8-oz. pkg.
Melissa’s steamed baby beets, thinly sliced.
Handful of broken walnuts
Blue cheese, as much as you like

Raspberry Mustard Vinaigrette:
¼ c.
canola oil
¼ c. raspberry balsamic vinegar
2 T. grated shallot
1 T.
raspberry jam

1 t. Dijon mustard
1 t. sugar
Pinch of salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients into a
mini food processor, and process until emulsified. If you don’t have a mini food processor, you need to get one. You can use them for so many things, and they make salad dressing like nobody’s business. When you use one of these to make salad dressing, it quickly emulsifies, and stays emulsified; there is no separation in the fridge.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Salsa and Guacamole Kits Make Cinco de Mayo Prep a Breeze

You may recall when I told you about Melissa’s Produce’s wonderful salad kits. (If you have yet to read that blog post, you can find it here). They also offer a Potato Leek Soup Kit that you can read about here. You may not be aware that they also have salsa and guacamole kits. Today, I was really missing summer, and wanted to taste the delicious produce that I generally find myself harvesting from my garden in late July. No problem! All I did was take the ingredients out of the container, follow the directions, chop! chop! chop! and in no time I had the most delicious salsa and guacamole ever. What remained of the kits (butt ends and seeds of the tomatoes, skins from the garlic and shallots, avocado skin and pit, as well as the juiced limes) all went into my compost bin, so not a smidgen was wasted.
I set the seeds from the jalapeño aside to dry so that I can plant a couple of them in what I hope will be my own salsa garden this summer. I have pretty much decided (aside from my citrus trees, of course) to grow salsa ingredients because I love it so much, plus there’s so much you can do with tomatoes, jalapeños, and onions.
This kit does not come with cilantro, so if you like that addition, you’ll have to add it yourself. I did remove the seeds from all but one of the tomatoes so as not to make it too juicy. I also like to add a little pinch of cumin to mine to give it that little bit of je ne sais quoi. Simple, delicious, healthy. The next time you’re at your supermarket, look for these wonderful kits. You won’t be sorry. What an easy way to ready yourself for Cinco de Mayo!

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

I have a confession to make. I will often use dry ranch mix to make ranch dressing. It’s quick, it’s easy, and let’s face it, when you want ranch, you want ranch! Unfortunately, I made the mistake of buying the spicy version of the ranch mix, and I didn’t like it at all. Because I wasn’t about to run out to correct my error I decided to make my own. Yes, this is a tiny bit of trouble, but the freshness is out of this world.

Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

½ c.
Duke’s mayonnaise
½ c. sour cream
½ c. buttermilk
1 T. dried dill
1 T.
dried minced onions
1 T. dried parsley
1 t. garlic powder
¼ t. Everything But the Bagel seasoning
¼ t. freshly ground black pepper
1/8 - 1/4 t. kosher salt
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice

Place all ingredients into a mini food processor, and process until combined. Failing that, place all ingredients into a medium mixing bowl, and whisk the heck out of it. Store in the refrigerator in a covered container for no longer than two weeks.

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Monday, April 22, 2024

Lemon Cake with Lemon Buttercream and Raspberry Filling

Have you ever come across a recipe over which you become completely obsessed? That happened to me a couple of weeks ago. I had spotted a lemon cake with lemon buttercream frosting that I could not get out of my head. I decided that a thin layer of raspberry preserves would be superb between those layers of frosting, and I became obsessed with making it; it haunted my every waking hour. Despite my obsession, I couldn’t bring myself to make it because I knew it was going to be a project. Over the weekend I simply could not take it anymore, so I made the cake. It took me five hours! FIVE!  It is a good one, I was right about the raspberry filling, but never again am I going to make this cake. In fact, I don’t think I’m ever going to make another cake again. There are four bakeries within a 5-mile radius of my house. Why should I make cake? But if you want to, here…
Lemon Cake with Lemon Buttercream

and Raspberry Filling

Adapted from sprinklebakes

 3 c. sifted flour*

2½ t. baking powder

½ t. baking soda

½ t. salt

1 c. butter, room temperature

1¾ c. granulated sugar

3 large eggs, room temperature

2 t. vanilla extract

1 c. whole milk, room temperature

1 heaping T. lemon zest (about 2 lemons)

1/3 c. fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)

Raspberry Preserves

Lemon Buttercream Frosting (recipe below)

  Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray the heck out of three 8-inch cake pans with Baker’s Joy; set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

 In stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes, scraping down as needed. On high speed, beat in eggs and vanilla until combined, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients just until combined. With the mixer still running on low, add the milk, lemon zest, and lemon juice and mix just until combined. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be a little thick.

 Pour batter evenly into cake pans. Bake for around 21-26 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling. The baked cakes are fluffy, but they are not thick—about 1 – 1.5 inches.

 *Sift before measuring

 Lemon Buttercream Frosting

1 c. butter, softened

1 heaping T. fresh lemon zest

¼ c. freshly squeezed lemon juice

5 c. confectioners’ sugar

2-3 drops yellow food coloring

 In the work bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat together butter, lemon juice, and lemon zest until thoroughly combined (about 2 minutes.)

 Scrape the mixture down from the sides of the bowl before setting it on the low speed and adding the 5 cups of confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup at a time.

 Once combined, increase the speed to medium-high and mix for another 30-45 seconds until the frosting becomes light and fluffy. Add the food coloring and mix until combined.

 If the mixture is too thick, add more lemon juice; if the mixture is too thin, add more confectioners’ sugar, 2 T. at a time until desired (spreadable) constancy is reached.

 To assemble:

On whatever plate you intend to proffer your cake, place one layer top side down. Spread a layer of raspberry jam on top of this layer. Then, on the top side of your second layer, slather on some frosting. Carefully invert one layer over the other, so that the frosting and jam “kiss.” Continue this process with the remaining layer, and then frost top and sides of your cake. If you intend to pipe rosettes on the top, or do other type of decorating, you will make need to make one and a half times the recipe for frosting.
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Friday, April 19, 2024

Slow Cooker Chicken Curry

When I get in the mood for curry, and I do, nothing is going to satisfy me until I have made a big pot. This is the easiest way to make curry that I can think of, because it is all done in the slow cooker. Other than dicing the chicken, it’s all just dump and stir. If you’d like, you can dice onion, and add it to this, and/or grate (or mince) some fresh ginger into the mixture. Add what you like to make it your own. It’s very good, and very satisfying. Serve it over rice and top with chopped scallions, minced cilantro, or a sprinkling of dry red pepper flakes. Do what you like; you honestly can’t go wrong.
 Slow Cooker Chicken Curry

 2 lbs. chicken thighs, diced

1 chicken bouillon cube

1 2.1-oz. pkg. dry chicken noodle soup mix

1 T. instant minced onions

3 T. curry powder

Pinch cayenne

1 10.5-oz.  can cream of chicken soup

6 oz. coconut milk

1 c. whole milk

1/2 c. heavy cream

2 t. cornstarch

1 pkg. frozen peas and carrot mixture

Spray the bottom of a slow cooker with PAM. Place diced chicken in the bottom of the slow cooker. Crumble the bouillon cube over the top, and sprinkle the dry package of chicken noodle soup overall.

 In a small mixing bowl whisk together minced onions, curry powder, cayenne, chicken soup, coconut milk, whole milk, heavy cream, and cornstarch. Pour over chicken, and give everything a good stir.

 Cover and cook on low for 5 to 6 hours until done. One hour before cook time is up, stir in frozen vegetables. Serve over rice.

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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Not Caesar, But Still a Pleaser Salad Dressing

I’m old enough to remember when servers would come to your table, crack an egg into a large wooden bowl, and thus begin their creation of the freshest Caesar salad dressing that you can imagine. This would then be tossed with crisp greens, served on chilled plates, and not a remnant of dressing remained behind in that bowl. I love Caesar dressing, but call me squeamish, I don’t like the idea of raw egg. That’s where this salad dressing comes in very handy. It can be made two ways, with the mayonnaise, or by substituting the mayonnaise with olive oil if you’re not looking for a creamy version. Me? I prefer it with mayonnaise. No, it isn’t Caesar, but it is darned good. Now, dig out that wooden bowl and crisp up some greens.
  Not Caesar, But Still a Pleaser Salad Dressing

½ c. Duke’s mayonnaise
¼ c. grated fresh Parmesan
1 clove garlic
½ t.
½ t. anchovy paste
½ t. champagne vinegar
1½ t. Dijon mustard
1½ t. Worcestershire sauce
Juice of half a lemon
¼ t. salt
1/8 t. freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients into the work bowl of a
mini food processor, and blend until combined.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Creamy Ham and Potato Soup

For Easter (remember it?) I decided that I wanted to make myself a ham dinner, so I bought myself a small ham, and I am talking tiny. But, like the fishes and the loaves, this ham seemed to last forever. I had ham and eggs, ham salad, ham sandwiches (both hot and cold), ham steak, I was half out of my mind with ham, and I do believe I was starting to oink. This, thankfully, is the last of it, in this tasty ham of potato chowder.
Creamy Ham and Potato Soup

Slightly adapted from smalltownwoman.com

 2 T. olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 stalks celery chopped

1 carrot, sliced into thin rounds

1 3-lb. bag Melissa’s Peewee Dutch Yellow potatoes, halved

2 c. cubes fully cooked ham

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ t. onion powder

2 T. chopped parsley

3 c. chicken broth

3 T. butter

3 T. flour

1 c. whole milk

Salt and pepper

 In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat oil. Add onion, celery, carrot, potatoes, and ham. Sauté until the onions become translucent, approximately 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic, onion powder, and parsley; cook for 1 minute.

 Stir in the chicken broth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce and simmer until the potatoes are tender, approximately 15 minutes.

In a skillet, melt butter and whisk in flour. Whisk over low heat for 3-4 minutes. Slowly whisk in the milk to make it creamy and remove any lumps. When thoroughly mixed and thickened, slowly whisk or stir into soup. Simmer until warm and season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Monday, April 15, 2024

Mushrooms au Gratin

I’ve mentioned before that I watch a lot of Italian television. I also watch a lot of French television. The fact of the matter is, I watch a lot of international television, far preferring it to most of what America has to offer. I do so because I am a subscriber to MHz Choice. I am not affiliated with them in any way, I just absolutely love their programming. The other day I was watching “Les Petits Meurtres d’Agatha Christie (The 70’s)” when I noticed that commissaire Annie Greco (who loves food as much as I do) ordered mushroom au gratin. This is the first time I had ever heard of that dish. Sure, I’ve had potatoes au gratin, but mushrooms? Mushroom lover that I am, this sounded so good, and something that I absolutely had to try. I got to thinking about how I would make this dish, and came up with the following. It is so decadent! It’s good on its own — you only need a small amount because it is rich — it is also excellent as a topper for a baked potato, particularly if you are using a large potato as a meatless main dish. You might also consider spooning it over baked chicken. This is a must try. I’m not kidding you. 

Mushrooms au Gratin

2 T. butter

8 oz. crimini mushrooms, sliced

Melissa’s dried shiitake mushrooms

Melissa’s dried oyster mushrooms

2 scallions, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

¼ t. seasoned salt, more or less to taste

1/8 t. ground black pepper, more or less to taste

2 T. flour

2 T. chopped fresh parsley

c. grated Gruyere cheese

Preheat oven to 400° F. Spray an au gratin dish (or any other shallow baking dish) with PAM; set aside.

Hydrate dried mushrooms according to package directions. Drain, and roughly chop; set aside.

In a medium skillet, sauté fresh mushrooms with butter over medium-high heat. Add scallions and sauté another 1-2 minutes. Add chopped hydrated mushrooms and garlic, and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in wine and cook down until half has evaporated.

 In a small bowl, blend together sour cream, salt, pepper, and flour. Stir into mushroom mixture. Heat through, transfer to your prepared baking dish, sprinkle with chopped parsley and cheese, and bake for 10 to 15 minutes until the cheese has melted, and it is bubbly around the edge. 

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