Monthly Archives: May 2011

Sweet-Tooth Saturday: Strawberry Shortcakes

Can there possibly be a dessert that says fresh strawberry-love more than an individual strawberry shortcake?!  Strawberry Shortcake is irresistable to me.  I adore the combination of fresh berries, still warm-buttered and sweet-shortcake and whipped cream.  It’s light and fresh and seems like it’s almost good for you.  Hmmmm….well, the strawberries are. 

 Strawberries are so luscious right now.  If you don’t already have them, go get some and make strawberry shortcake today.  Do it for yourself and those nostalgic summers of years gone by.  Remember?  The play outside all day-dad grilling hotdogs and burgers-potato salad-koolaid dinner…and then mom brings out the shortcakes days?  Yup.  According to my bible of cookbooks, Better Homes and Gardens, here’s what you’ll need to create 6 beautiful and yummy individual shortcakes:

  • 3-4 cups sliced, sugared strawberries
  • lemon zest
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • whipped cream

Preheat oven to 450F.

Clean and slice strawberries.  Place them in a bowl, add zest of one lemon and sprinkle with sugar.  I never measure the sugar, but I’m thinking I use about 1/4 cup.  Stir to combine and set aside to “macerate” until shortcakes come out of the oven.  I really like the freshness lemon zest adds to the strawberries, but if you don’t have a lemon, they’re still yummy without it.

Sift together: flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder.

Cut butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  (Use a fork or a pastry cutter for this.)

Mix beaten egg and milk.  Add all at once to dry mixture and stir just enough to moisten. 

Knead gently on a floured surface for 30 seconds.

Pat or roll to 1/2 inch thickness.  Cut 6 biscuits with a floured 2 1/2 inch cutter.  I like this one because it makes the shorcakes look like flowers.  (So adorable!)  It’s part of a set of nesting cutters of various shapes and patterns.  Re-roll the scraps as needed.  The last biscuit usually doesn’t turn out as nicely, but will still be tasty!

Bake on an ungreased baking sheet about 10 minutes, or until puffed and golden.  (You can spot the last two biscuits cut in the back row–not as pretty, but when covered with strawberries and whipped cream, no one else will know!)

Split and butter shortcakes while warm.  Fill and top with strawberries and whipped cream.  Serve and enjoy immediately!

Pretty, right?  Especially served on this cute little glass plate that looks like a lettuce leaf, handed down by my mom-in-law.  I like to use special dishes like this, even when it’s just us.  Why save them for company only?  Treat yourself to strawberry shortcake before strawberry season is over!  And then….pick any fresh fruit and make shortcakes!  Yummy!  I can hardly wait for Palisade Peaches!

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Mexican Lasagne

DH Michael and I both work for a greenhouse.  Today I had the day off, but he had to work.  In perennials.  Outside.  Did I mention it was a not-so-balmy 48 degrees and windy and rainy today?  Poor guy.  I figured he’d appreciate a warm dinner when he got home, and decided on one of his favorites–Mexican Lasagne.

Adapted from Rachel Ray’s recipe, this is quick, easy and yummy!  The original recipe has directions for a tomatillo sauce with avocado in it.  I always have my “world famous” tomatillo salsa on hand so I use that and have the avocado on the side.

I felt compelled to brighten a dreary day with sunny yellow iris from my garden–in my new turquoise vase!  I love how the colors look together, and I love how the vase holds just three blossoms.  Anyway…on with the ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1-15 oz can hominy, drained  (I like yellow for the color.)
  • 5-6 flour tortillas
  • 1/2 to 3/4 pound grated cheese (I use 4-cheese Mexican blend.)
  • 1 pint tomatillo salsa
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp coriander
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 TBSP olive oil to brown the pork
  • avocado and tomato for garnish
  • sour cream if desired

Preheat oven to 400F.  Heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add oil, pork, cumin, coriander and pepper.  Brown and crumble.

Add hominy and heat through.  Keep warm.

Place some tomatillo salsa in the bottom of an 8×8 pan.

Place a tortilla in the pan and tear up another to fill the corners.

Spread more tomatillo salsa over the tortillas, then 1/3 of the pork mixture–use a slotted spoon to avoid excess oil.

Add a layer of cheese.  Continue the pattern until the pan is filled.

Bake 15-20 minutes or until cheese starts to brown and is bubbling.

Cut into portions and serve with avocado, tomato and sour cream.

So.  Was Michael a happy camper when this plate was served to him tonight?  Yeaaaaahhhhh!  Of course, he added additional hot sauce.  I enjoyed it just like this–all warm and cheesy and spicy.  Mmmmmmm….yummy!

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Traditional Tabbouleh

Traditional in the Middle East, but not my tradition until recently, after the gift of a package of Bob’s Red Mill Bulgur Wheat from a friend.  I’ve been enjoying this healthy and hearty salad so much, this definitely won’t be the last time I make it.  It’s light and yet surprisingly satisfying–a perfect lunch.  I’ve expanded on the traditional recipe as I’ve gotten to know the flavors better, serving it with red and yellow pepper spears and as of today, crumbled feta!  Yummy!  But I digress….let’s get the basic tabbouleh going so you can get to know it and embellish it with flavors YOU like!

Just look at the good, healthy stuff in this salad.  I started feeling healthier just gathering the ingredients:

  • 2 cups bulgur, presoaked for an hour
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh parsley, finely minced  (FYI, the original recipe calls for 3 cups.)
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 3 green onions, finely sliced
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper, ground
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seed, ground
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 3 TBSP lemon juice
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled and sliced
  • 1 head romaine lettuce
  • 3 TBSP olive oil

To presoak bulgur, place 2 cups bulgur in a bowl.  Pour 2 cups water over bulgur and let stand for one hour.

While bulgur soaks, prepare and measure parsley, mint, tomatoes, onions, and spices.

Using a wooden spoon, gently mix the soaked bulgur, tomatoes, onion, parsley, mint and spices.

Add the lemon juice and chill for and hour to blend the flavors.

Before serving, toss with olive oil.  Serve on romaine and top with cucumbers, salt and pepper.

I tried it like this, and decided peppers–yeah, peppers would be good.  And they were.  And then I thought, feta and cukes are yummy–let’s try feta.  Yummy!  The longer (within reason!) the tabbouleh hangs out in the fridge, the more the flavors blend and the yummier it is.  The bulgur has a chewy texture, giving the salad it’s heartiness.   Give tabbouleh a try, see what you would add to it, if anything!

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Sweet-Tooth Saturday: Lovely Lemon Bars

Lemon bars are super pretty, aren’t they?

Turns out they’re super easy besides!  I bought some lemon pie filling the other day as a back-up in case I couldn’t find lemon curd.  The lemon curd was found at Safeway, so I had a jar of lemon pie filling pining away to BE something bigger than itself.  It even provided a handy recipe idea on the inside of its label.  Only 5 ingredients to create lovely lemony yumminess–how could I resist?!

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-23 oz jar Private Selection Lemon Fruit Filling
  • 2 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Mix flour, butter and powdered sugar in a bowl.  I use a pastry cutter to incorporate the butter evenly.

Use fingers to press in ungreased 8×12 pan (recipe says 9×9 pan), building up 1/2 inch on edges.  Bake 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat eggs and lemon filling until light and fluffy.

Pour over hot crust. 

Bake 25 minutes or until surface bubbles thoroughly.  Cool.

Sprinkle with powdered sugar (use a small sieve to distribute evenly), and cut into squares and serve!  Refrigerate any leftovers.

Yummy!  Lemon bars are the perfect light dessert–not overly sweet, and the perfect finish to dinner.  Enjoy them plain or dress them up with a raspberry sauce made with fresh berries, lemon zest and a bit of sugar….and possibly a splash of  raspberry liqueur–oh my!

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Basil Lemonade

It has been a wet and chilly and windy spring here in Western Colorado.  I’ve been craving soup and drinking hot coffee instead of the frozen lattes I usually order this time of year.  I’ve been wearing layers.  And socks.  My tomatoes have been shivering and not growing much–in my greenhouse.  Waaaaaaahhhhh.

Today the sun came out and the wind became a gentle breeze.  I wore capris and a t-shirt and sandals–no socks!  I worked in the garden!  In honor of suddenly-spring, I craved a cold and refreshing drink–basil lemonade!

This is not the lemonade in the drink cooler made from the dried-stuff-in-a-packet of your childhood picnics.  This is lemonade from a real lemon, spiced with the grown-up flavor of real basil.  Oh yeah.

You’ll need:

  • a lemon
  • fresh basil–I’ve got about 7 leaves here
  • a packet of sweetener–I like stevia
  • a nice drinking glass
  • a muddler–you can use the handle-end of a wooden spoon
  • a citrus reamer  ( I use an antique one that catches the juice.)
  • a small strainer

Place the basil and sweetener in the bottom of a glass and use the muddler to break up the basil leaves–releasing their oils.  (The sweetener’s crystals assist in the breaking up.)

Squeeze the juice from a lemon and strain it into the glass.

Fill glass half-full of ice, add chilled water, stir and enjoy.  (Strain out the basil, if you want.)

Ahhhhhhhh……yummy!  I love how refreshing this lemonade is with the extra mmmmm of basil.  I’m liking it so much, I went to the greenhouse today and bought extra basil to plant! 

The mint in the garden is doing what mint does, so I’m seeing mojitos in the near future…..

What’s your favorite summer refreshment?

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Mama Celine’s Refried Beans

My Midwest parents moved to New Mexico years ago and embraced all things Southwest–the decor, the landscaping and the food!  Mom was quick to find new friends who cooked traditional foods, asked for their recipes and, being a good mom, shared them with me!  I love these refried beans–so much better than canned and super easy to make.

The fun red chile bowls and woven placemats are from The Pink Store–a great place for Mexican and Central American this-and-thats, and a spectacular restaurant featuring amazing food, seriously dangerous margaritas and wandering Mariaches.  It’s across the border in a little town called Palomas, run by friends of my parents.

  • 2 cups dry pinto beans, picked over for little stones, etc.
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 medium yellow onion, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced or put through a garlic press (Mom’s recipe said 2 cloves, but we REALLY like garlic!)
  • 1 small can chopped green chiles (optional, but yummy!)
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup milk

Place pintos, water, onion and garlic in a large pot.  Bring to a boil, put lid on, and turn off heat.  Let soak for 2 hours.

Return to heat and boil for 3 hours–until beans are tender.  Keep the lid on, so beans won’t boil dry.  (Your kitchen will be smelling really garlicky!)

Drain and mash beans to the consistancy you like.  I use a potato masher and leave some beans whole.

Add butter and milk, stir to combine and continue cooking until absorbed.

Add green chiles, if using, and salt to taste.

Spoon into a bowl, get out some tortilla chips and Ole!

These beans are great by themselves (and with cheese on top!) with chips.  Serve them as a great side dish for Mexican entrees like Pulled Pork Enchilada Bake, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Slow Cooker Carnitas, Fajitas Fantastico, Freakin’ Fabulous Fish Tacos, or Especialidad de la Casa Enchiladas!  They are also a delicious ingredient in Music Fest Pitas. Yummy!

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Asparagus, Prosciutto, and Mushroom Pasta

I admit it.  I’m a Food Network junkie.  The engaging chefs/hosts make me feel like I, too can create beautiful culinary creations that will wow my family and make me the rock star of the potluck.  So it was just another day, and I was listening to Anne Burrell describing the best gnocchi recipe ever(!) with the perfect sauce.  The sauce made me say, “mmmmmm!”  I couldn’t help myself!  I decided I could adapt her recipe to what I had in my garden and could find at the store without compromising the essential idea or the yummy factor.  I was right.  I was too lazy the other day to make the gnocchi and served it over linguini instead–I already had it in the pantry–but I’d like to try the gnocchi one of these days. 

  • 1 1/2 cups asparagus, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • olive oil–enough to cover the bottom of a large skillet
  • 3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • pinch of red pepper flake
  • 1/4 pound prosciutto, cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • 2 cups cleaned and sliced mushrooms  (Go for some fancy-schmancy ones–my grocery had shitakes–yummy!  A little note–shitake stems are tough and need to be discarded or saved to flavor a broth, but should not go into a recipe.)
  • salt
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 TBSP butter
  • parmesan, finely shredded, and chopped chives to garnish
  • 1 package pasta, cooked according to package directions

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Blanch asparagus in salted, boiling water until cooked, but still crispy and green.  Immediately remove to an ice bath to stop the cooking process.

Add mushrooms, lightly salt them and cook until tender, an additional 3-4 minutes.

Add asparagus and chicken broth.  Cook until broth is reduced by half.

Add butter and swirl through the sauce until melted and combined.

Add cooked pasta to the pan and toss to coat with sauce and distribute asparagus, prosciutto and mushrooms.

Serve on plates, garnish with parmesan and chives.  Enjoy!

Yummy!  This sauce comes together in about the same time it takes to cook the pasta–starting after the asparagus is blanched.  We had enough for 5 generous servings. 

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