Category Archives: Cooking creations

Make herbs and borders while the sun shines

I’m taking liberties today with an old expression about Hay.  Make hay while the sun shines means to take advantage of something, which is what this article is all about today.

Second to cooking, I love gardening. But… I hate weeding. So anything I can plant that replaces weeds and fills my attempt at a cottage garden is goodness.

Another thing I love to grow is herbs which compliments my cooking habit. Herbs love to grow and love it when you prune them.  The more you prune, the more you get.  And they fill in the spots weeds take.

Watching a Barefoot Contessa show, i saw she used chives as a border for her garden. Whoa – what a great idea.  Immediately (well about 2 weeks later) I went and bought a bunch of chives and planted a border.  The photo to the right is now 3 years into this and they are still growing strong and are lovely. Who knew chives made such pretty flowers – which are also edible.

Along with chives, I have cilantro that doesn’t think it’s supposed to die in the winter. It reseeds itself and pops up in the spring along with my asparagus.  Spring is not just about tulips and daffodils – it’s also herbs and food too.

My mission now is to fill in all the spots in my garden, not with annuals, but rather with herb perennials.  Which I can go cut any time. And they are not weeds.

Yay!

P.S. be careful if you decide to do this with mint. Unless you really like mint. A lot. I mean a lot.

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Instant Pot Yogurt – my newest passion

A year ago a good friend gave us an Instant Pot and we’ve been using it for cooking things quickly or making them tender. However, all the forums I watch kept talking about making yogurt. Being a skeptical sort, I thought it’d be too much work.

However, necessity is the mother of invention and I was down to my last bit of yogurt and by mistake I had bought another gallon of milk not knowing there was one in the fridge. Hm, what to do with so much milk. I didn’t want to create something fattening like custards, so I decided to give yogurt making a try.

Well, I haven’t looked back. Now, every Sunday I make a batch of yogurt. I use the “boil” method since I’m not using the fancy expensive milks that people recommend. It only adds an additional hour but saves me big dollars.

Half of it I keep “regular” style for my mom and half I strain to make really amazing Greek style yogurt. It is so creamy it doesn’t even need sugar or seasoning. I then get creative all week long looking for ways to use my yogurt.

The left over whey from straining the yogurt gets frozen in an ice cube tray, removed, placed in a freezer bag and then used in recipes that call for milk or buttermilk.

I always reserve a 1/4 cup of the yogurt to use as my starter for the next batch. All I need to do is buy milk but I am no longer buying yogurt of any kind. Kind of cool and I know what goes into my yogurt now.

You can add any additional flavoring you want “after” it has been made. Sometimes I’ll add Agave (instead of sugar) or homemade fruit jams – this batch has blueberries from my last year’s crop. My mom likes it better with vanilla or fruit.

You can search for various recipes on Google for Instant Pot Yogurt but even though they say use special milk, I just use regular whole milk.

My initial starter was some good Greek yogurt that wasn’t too old. I have yet to have it fail. Plus I have a pot that does so much more.

Addendum.

Several people asked me to add my recipe/instructions so here you go.

1/2 gallon whole milk
3 tablespoons fresh greek yogurt

Add milk to Instant Pot.
Click Yogurt button
Click Adjust button to boil
When boil turns off and converts to yogurt, remove inner pot
Cool until temperature of milk is 110 degrees
Add in yogurt and stir until completely incorporated – NOTE (this is your starter – after you make your first batch freeze 3 tablespoons for the next batch)
Reinsert into Instant Pot
Make sure it still says Yogurt – if it doesn’t click the Yogurt button
Click the adjust button – it may say 24 hours – click it again until it says 8 then click the + button and move it to 10 hours. I like 10 hours because it makes the yogurt tangy. Keep it at 8 if you don’t like tangy.

After 10 hours, remove the inner pot and put in the refrigerator for 6 hours. This “sets” the yogurt.  After that you can strain it like I showed above to make “the best creamy, Greek style yogurt” you’ve ever tasted. Really!

Enjoy

Weekends in the kitchen are my salvation

It’s the weekend.  The weekend before Thanksgiving.  That means braving the crowds in the markets to get ingredients for the coming Thursday dinner.

Walking down the aisles, gathering all my ingredients also means I get to see what’s fresh and different in the vegetables.  Today it was gorgeous leeks and butternut squash.  I immediately thought of a Butternut squash, leek, coconut and ginger soup to start the week off right.

We opted for a fresh turkey this year and it’s a nice small one.  I always prefer smaller turkeys.  They typically are moister.  If you have a large crowd coming, just buy two.  You won’t regret it.

Tonight I had some french lentils so I made the wonderful Warm French Lentil recipe by Ina Garten.  It’s got some unusual ingredients – you cook the lentils with an onion stuck with cloves and a turnip.  There is something about that combination that gives the lentils a lovely flavor.

A container of fresh Greek Yogurt came home as well and it inspired Greek Grilled Chicken with Dill and Yogurt sauce.  That will go great with the lentils.

Finally, I made the cranberry and orange relish along with a traditional cranberry sauce.  This will give them both time to age nicely in the fridge.

Helping me in the kitchen is a glass of Silk from Menage a Trois.  This is the first time we tried it and it won’t be the last.  It’s luscious and smooth. The name fits it.

After a tough week dealing with all kinds of crisis situations, the kitchen is my savior.  The smells are amazing. I already feel better.  Now, if only my sons could be here for the holidays all would be good in the world.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  Take the time to enjoy good food, family and hug everyone you can while you can.

The Dinner Stars were in Alignment

Tonight my husband and I had a wonderful dinner. While traveling. That we cooked ourselves. And we sat back and realized that this dinner was part of a wonderful food journey we’ve been on now for several years.

My husband came from a long line of old fashioned, meat and potatoes cooks. I came from a family of amazing cooks. He has said I have dragged him into a new world of food adventures. I don’t think any dragging occurred at all. What happened is he discovered flavors. He discovered food passion. He found out it is possible to be utterly amazed at the smallest thing in the food world.

Tonight was an example. We are out of town staying at a timeshare while we work and learn. It has a nice kitchen and I always bring my “vacation cooking bag” with essential spices (in little packages that I learned to make from my friend Lindsay Garrison), olive oil, vinegar, etc.

When we went shopping for items to make lunches and a couple of dinners is when the fun began. Meat is so expensive any more that it was really fun to find some nice little lamb chops at a really reasonable price.

Then he and I walked around planning out the menu based on what nice fresh ingredients we found.

I passed the fresh pasta area and saw Roasted Mushroom Ravioli which looked simple and sounded like a good match for the lamb.

Garlic jumped in the cart – well because it was garlic.

A lovely French red wine joined the party because it looked nice enough to stand up to a nice piece of lamb.

I needed some fruit and there were fresh slices of watermelon. For me now, watermelon is not just the fruit – it’s also the the rind, which I turn into Chutney. And that also sounded like a good foil for the lamb.

Ok, fast forward to dinner. With the chutney now made and in the fridge, it was time to start the dinner.

We love to watch food TV shows and as I browned the lamb chops I thought of a show by Alton Brown where he pontificated about the Maillard Reaction – which to old cooks like me meant what happens when you brown meat. There is a fine line between browned to perfection (where you get the wonderful sugars and caramelization) and burnt. This lamb along with the four cloves of crushed garlic were close to that perfection.

While the lamb was in the oven to finish them off to a nice medium rare, I put on the ravioli and deglazed the pan drippings from the lamb browning with the lovely French wine we found for dinner.

Once it was all done, we sat down to eat and we both stopped after a few bites and realized we had created a perfect dinner. Everything went together. There was harmony in the tastes. Each bite demanded more.

We stopped. We looked at each other. And started smiling and laughing. It was a perfect moment. Just the two of us. A perfect dinner we created together. Amazing flavors that blended so well as to give you goosebumps.

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There are several good lessons here. 1.You can create an amazing dinner anywhere. 2. Half the fun of cooking is sharing it with someone who loves it as much as you. 3. Sometimes the high price of one ingredient pushes you to another which turns out to be magnificent.

It was so perfect I had to blog about it.

Recipes with “hm” directions

First off, it’s been a while and I promised my very few readers I’d start blogging on my cooking and crafts site again. So, here we go, the first article for 2016.

A friend of mine asked me for my lamb dressing recipe and when it came to the part of putting in the cinnamon, I said “till the rice turns brown.”  Or in other recipes, as my friend Anne says, “until it looks right.”  One of my favorites is sprinkle the salt starting from the back of the pot towards the front, keeping your hand level to the pot, and jiggling it just a bit.  Yes, really. That’s how my grandma taught me to add salt to a pot roast.  LOL.

Now I am trying to put together a cookbook for my family and I realize many many of my recipes are done a certain way, that I remember and was taught, and are not written down.  It’s going to take me hours of trying these recipes I’ve made for years, making  note of how much I am using, so I can put together a recipe for someone not near enough for me to show the “shake from the back to the front” technique and others as well.

This made me wonder how many other recipes have been lost to families because we were distributed all over the place and no one was left to show us just the right motion, just the right amount of seasoning, just the right touch.

The same applies to how long something cooks.  For me, many recipes are when it “smells right.” You know, those of you who bake, that the oven emits just the right smell at just the right time, and even if you have set a timer, that has not gone off yet, you know, and your nose knows, that the tasty item is done. You just know.

For those of you who cook “the way grandma or your mom taught you” my challenge to you is to go put those recipes down on paper. Especially if you are the last one standing who knows the secret wiggle of the hips, or motion of the arms, that make that traditional recipe come out right.  Your family will thank you!

Science experiment – herbs, spice or how to really annoy a cat

We have cats.  We love our cats.  Our cats love us.  However….one of them is having some serious ‘sharing’ issues and his response is to spray everywhere in the house.  And he is our favorite cat. So, removing him is not an option.  I’ve tried every trick in the book to get him to stop but none have worked.

guiltyoreoThis has inspired tonight’s science experiment.  After spending quite a bit of time searching on Google for home remedies I came across several that talked about creating a spray made from vinegar, spices and herbs.  The herbs of “choice” are lavender, rosemary, and lemon grass, and the spice is cinnamon.

Taking several cuttings of the herbs from my garden and about 3 tablespoons of cinnamon, I boiled about 2 cups of water and poured it into a container with the herbs and cinnamon.

At this point, I performed an experiment.  I walked up to all the cats (we have 4 – don’t ask why so many – we are house sitting my mom’s cat) and showed them the container.  Always hopeful for a treat, they all walked up to the container and immediately raised their head and moved away very quickly.  Winner winner, we have a winner.

After straining the mixture through cheese cloth into a spray bottle, I added 3/4 cup of vinegar and will go around the house, spraying the baseboards and areas of repeated attacks by my annoyed male cat.

By the way, it doesn’t smell bad to humans at all.  In fact my husband thought I was making a curry. LOL.

I will report back later as to whether or not my humane treatment to deter my cat’s spraying worked. Or not.

August Kitchen Projects

This month, lots of things in my garden are coming in and need to be picked. Every year I try to get creative and do different things. This year is no exception.

First off, I have a grape vine growing Suffolk Seedless Grapes. They turn a really nice red color and unfortunately have become very popular with wasps. It has become apparent I will lose the race if I try to wait until they are fully ripe. Just last week, I lost 7 clusters to the evil winged monsters. So, I decided to harvest them ahead of schedule. Here’s what I did as kitchen experiments with the grapes.

For one half, I pickled them. Yep, pickled them. The ingredients are vinegar, sugar, rosemary, chopped garlic, and red pepper flakes. I found the recipe on the American Public radio station website. Were they successful. Well, my husband loves martinis. He usually puts olives in them. Not anymore. Now it’s pickled grapes. I’m worried I’ll not have any left over for me to eat.

The next grape experiment was making raisins. I had my dehydrator out for tomatoes, which I’ll talk about in a bit. I took the other half of the grapes and put them on the racks to dry. Sweet isn’t an adequate word to describe the taste. Oh my goodness. Now, I’m trying to figure out which I like more – pickled or dried grapes. Next year, after installing some kind of netting to ward off the wasps, I’ll try both. Or maybe some wine. Who knows.

Now, on to the last experiment. I love sun dried tomatoes. This year I have a bumper crop of tomatoes so I quartered several and put them in the dehydrator. That’s not new. What was new is what I did with the dried tomatoes. I found a recipe that I sort of followed that layered the sun dried tomatoes in a jar, in the following order: one layer tomatoes, add in some chopped garlic, some dried oregano, some kosher or sea salt, a layer of basil leaves, then repeat again the same items to the top of the jar. Note – the basil leaves are from my garden too. Pour olive oil to cover the entire mixture. Again, this was awesome and I can’t decide if I like the tomatoes or the flavor-infused olive oil best. Truly, a grand experiment.

It is pretty cool to harvest food from your garden and then create wonderful tastes in the kitchen using those ingredients. I just love summers and the fruit of our labors in the yard.

Here’s links to the recipes I found using Google to help me with my experiments.

Pickled grapes: http://www.publicradio.org/columns/splendid-table/recipes/app_pickled_grapes.html

Olive Oil and Dried Tomatoes: http://www.scordo.com/2009/08/recipe-homemade-sun-dried-tomatoes-olive-oil.html

Ciao y’all