Saturday, December 31, 2011

Appetizers for The New Year

Spinach balls, spice-roasted chickpeas and stuffed mushrooms.
It's that time of year, when you enjoy more cocktail time than usual.  Here are a few appetizers you can make ahead of time.
I've been making these spinach balls for over 20 years.  Everyone loves them, especially me, simply because I can make them and freeze for later use.  I found this recipe in the Ft Lauderdale newspaper too many years ago to remember.
Baked Spinach Balls

2 packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 C chopped onions
2 cloves minced garlic
1 C oil (a little less)
2 C Pepperidge Farm herbal stuffing
6 eggs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp thyme
Thoroughly mix all ingredients. Refrigerate for an hour or two. Then roll into balls of desired size, I usually make them about an inch and a half.  Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, or you can freeze them, and bake as needed.  If frozen, bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, or til done.  These are excellent with meals or as  an appetizer.
I made these stuffed mushrooms  after I saw  Bernard Guillas create them on the Today show.  I didn't  have a ripe mango on hand, but they were still good. 

Baked cremini mushrooms with caramelized onions, mango and blue cheese.
  • For mushrooms
  • 16 cremini mushrooms, 2" cap
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • For caramelized onions
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/2 cup finely diced roasted red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup apple juice
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • For assembly
  • 1 mango, peeled, pitted, sliced into 16 pieces
  • 1/4 cup blue cheese

For mushrooms: Preheat oven to 400°. Remove stems from mushrooms. Clean mushrooms with dry cloth or brush. In mixing bowl toss mushrooms with remaining ingredients. Place mushrooms upside down on baking sheets. Cook 3 minutes. Set aside. Cool.

For caramelized onions: Melt butter in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté onions 2 minutes. Add remaining ingredients. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to boil. Reduce to simmer. Cook until liquid is absorbed.
For assembly: Divide caramelized onions equally among mushroom caps. Top each with one thin mango slice and blue cheese. Bake in oven 3 to 4 minutes, until blue cheese is softened, but not melted.
Serves 8

I am a big fan of garbanzo beans. These spice-roasted chickpeas are in the October 2010 issue of Bon Appetit.  They are great served like peanuts or on top of a salad.
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
3/4 tsp coriander seeds
1 15 1/2oz can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans) drained, rinsed,well dried
1 Tb extra virgin olive oil
pinch of cayenne
coarse kosher salt
  • Test-Kitchen Tip

    To make sure the chickpeas get crunchy, it's important to dry them thoroughly. Spreading them out on paper towels works well. 
    • Preheat oven to 400°F. Toast cumin seeds and coriander seeds in small skillet over medium heat until beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Cool. Transfer to spice mill; process until finely ground. Place chickpeas, olive oil, pinch of cayenne, and ground spices in medium bowl. Sprinkle with coarse salt; toss to coat evenly. Transfer to small rimmed baking sheet. Roast in oven until lightly browned and crunchy, stirring occasionally, about 35 minutes.
      DO AHEAD: Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Reheat in 400°F oven until warm, about 5 minutes, before serving.
      Wishing everyone a prosperous New Year filled with good food, good health, happiness and love!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Gingerbread Scones

Here is a simple, tasty way to start your morning.  This Gingerbread Scone recipe is really quick and easy.  By the time you're done cleaning up the dishes you've used in preparation, they are almost ready to eat.
I found the recipe at a couple of days ago.  Since I am not a fan of sugar on my food in the morning, I decided not to make the lemon icing that she drizzled on top.  Instead I pressed slivered almonds into the dough after I shaped it on the baking sheet.  With a few fresh berries on the side and a good cup of coffee..well...bring on the day.  URL to article:
Here's a photo of my Mandarin Orange tree.  90% of the fruit are ready to eat, so I've started twisting them sweet and juicy.  It was a small crop, only 16 pieces of fruit, but I can't tell you how satisfying it is to pick fresh fruit off a tree in your house, while you are looking out the window at snow on the ground.
The Meyer Lemons are just beginning to turn yellow If I remember correctly, they fully ripen in the middle of January, so check back then.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Using the Chipper Shredder

Thank goodness my husband decided to pull out the Troy Built Chipper shredder when he did, a couple of weeks ago.  Who would have thought we'd have so much snow on the ground this early?  Every fall we trim all the trees and shrubs, then shred them to use as ground cover for our perennials during the winter.
I also cover the the vegetable gardens with our fresh shredded chips.  We set the apple tree branches aside to dry out so we can use them in the smoker the following year.  Did you know you can use ornamental  apple branches in your smoker, such as Spring Snow? Well, you can.
At our fire side chat that evening, we had a spectacular moon peeking through the leafless tree branches, with the dried Hops still hanging on the Arbor.
Only a couple more weeks and the days will start getting longer:))))))))-- that is a BIG smile for longer daylight hours.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pre Winter Wonderland

Something about a white winter wonderland, everyone wants it,  especially for Christmas Eve, but this is too early.  It's not officially winter until December 21st,  and that's two weeks away. 
I've brought in all the cushions or covered those that stay out so they are protected from the extreme outdoor conditions.
But when the sun is out and it's reflection causes the snow to sparkle, you can't help being in awe of the beauty.  
We are already ahead of the curve as far as snow totals for this time of the year.  If this is any sign of the rest of'll be hearing about it...from me. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Butterscotch Candies

Had lunch in Lodo today, which is slang for Lower Downtown in Denver.  When I left the restaurant they had single wrapped root beer barrels in a bowl at the front door.  Do you remember those?  Almost immediately my thoughts were of my Grandmother and the small grocery store on Main Street we had in New Hartford, Iowa when I was a little girl.  For some reason I was inspired to make butterscotch pieces.   
I came home and searched through my recipes for Butterscotch Hard Candy, which I had planned to make many years ago but never got around to.  It doesn't take much- butter, sugar, light corn syrup, water and white vinegar.  However, I did discover that both of my candy thermometers were broken, but I didn't let that ruin my plan.
After boiling the mixture, you pour it into a buttered foil wrapped 10" x 15" pan and let it slightly harden for 3 minutes, then score it.  Let it cool completely and break the squares apart.  The candy melts in your mouth,  just the way I remembered.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Kale Pesto

I'm really excited about my latest discovery.  I have been making pesto with basil, parsley, cilantro, spinach, even broccoli for years, but never thought of this.  Sure, I add Kale to salads, soups, stews and even started making Kale chips this year, which are incredibly good.   While searching for another way to incorporate this nutrient dense vegetable into my daily life, I found a Kale Pesto recipe on  Apparently there were over 3,000 people who took the October Unprocessed Challenge.  Which meant they pledged for 30 days to eat no processed foods, and this recipe was posted on Day 5 of the Challenge to inspire.  It inspired me alright.
Here I have washed, spin dried and torn about 12 Cups of fresh Kale.  Another reason I love this recipe is that all the ingredients, except for the Kale, are roasted first.  Roasting vegetables, nuts, even some fruits, really brings a rich flavor to the dish.
Kale Red Pepper Pesto

Makes 1-1/4 cups

  • 1/2 cup Pecans, roasted
  • 1 medium Red Bell Pepper, roasted
  • 1/3 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 to 4 large Garlic Cloves, roasted- I went w/ 6 cloves
  • 4 cups packed green Kale Leaves
  • Sea Salt and freshly ground Black Pepper
Wash, dry, and remove any tough stems from the kale.
In a food processor, make the pesto by blending the kale with the roasted pecans, roasted pepper, and roasted garlic. Once it’s smooth, gradually pour in the olive oil and blend until it’s fully incorporated.

 Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  I love the taste of Cumin, so I added 1/2 Tb.
 I made three batches of pesto, sealed them in 1/2 batch portions and put them in the freezer.  For dinner that night, I tossed a few Tablespoons of pesto with whole wheat spaghetti, added some roasted chicken and a good dose of shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano.  My taste tester loved it:)

Note: I wrap the spin dried kale pieces in a clean dish towel to remove all the moisture.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Baking with Whole Grain Flours

As much as I don't want summer to end, I do enjoy the little chill in the air that inspires baking again.  When it's 95 degrees for over 50 days of your summer, you can't tell me that anyone wants to turn on the oven for any length of time.  I discovered this book at the library, and while reading through it one night, I knew I was going to order one the next morning.
There are so many more types of flour besides white and whole wheat. Some of them you've probably never heard of:  Amaranth, Barley, Buckwheat, Corn, Kamut, Multi grain, Oat, Quinoa, Rye, Spelt, or Teff?  The author has put together a wonderful assortment of recipes with a separate chapter highlighting each of these flours.  It includes everything from cookies, scones, cakes, crackers, breads, waffles, muffins, pancakes, granolas, biscuits, tarts and more.  I've been acquiring all these new flours and look forward to baking with them.  This will help ease the pain of my gardens going to sleep for the winter.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Cranking out apple pies

On Saturday I made a Caramel Apple pie for my sweeties birthday.  The recipe was from the Good Morning America recipe contest of 2001.  The winning baker was Marsha Brooks from Carmel, Indiana and she called her pie Crunchy Carmel Apple Pie
For me it's the best, easiest  Caramel Apple Pie you can whip upThis pie  is so good.   Just how good was it, you ask?  Good enough for me to make two more on Sunday, so I could freeze them.

Ingredients for the Pie:
1 pastry crust for a deep-dish pie 9" (homemade or store bought)
1/2 Cup sugar
3Tbl all purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp salt
6 Cups thinly sliced peeled apples
1 recipe crumb topping(see below)
1/2 Cup chopped pecans
1/4 Cup caramel topping
I decided to use my handy dandy apple peeler/corer, which took me half the time to ready apples for two pies than it did the day before when I hand cut apples for one pie.
Ingredients for Crumb Topping:
1 Cup packed brown sugar
1/2 Cup all purpose flour
1/2 Cup quick cooking or regular rolled oats
1/2 Cup butter

Directions for the Crumb Topping:  Stir together brown sugar, flour, rolled oats.  Cut in 1/2 Cup butter until topping is like coarse crumbs.  Set aside.
Directions for Pie: In a large mixing bowl, stir together the sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt.
Add apple slices and gently toss until coated.  Transfer apple mixture to the pie shell. 
Sprinkle crumb topping over apple mixture. 
Place pie on a cookie sheet so the drippings don't drop onto your oven.  Cover the edges of the pie crust with aluminum foil. 
Bake in preheated 375 oven for 25 minutes.  Then remove foil and put back in for another 25 to 30 minutes without foil.
Remove from oven.  Sprinkle pie with chopped pecans then drizzle with caramel on top.
Cool on a wire rack and enjoy warm or at room temperature.  It's exquisite with vanilla ice cream on the side.
The peeled and cored apples, waiting to be cut in half and tossed with the dry ingredients. 
Since I only have two glass pie pans, I can only make two at a time.  Then I cut the pies in half and sealed them my vacuum sealer.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Fall Snow Storm

In the late evening of October 25th,  and for the next 18 hours the Denver Metro area received an average of 8.5" of snow.  It was the first fall snow storm.
Everything that should come in the house did, the grills were covered and the patio cushions were put away.
An early AM photo with another eight hours of snow ahead.
Bob, clearing a path to the back for our fussie dog.
The meteorologists are telling us the temperatures will be in the 60's by this weekend, so there may still be a few good days left in the hammock this year.
 I'm sure the grill will be up and running in a day or so.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

My watering can fetish

I know I might worry about the garden a little more than most, but having  my watering cans staged and filled throughout the yard gives me some peace of mind.  You never know when a plant might need a splash of water, and me without a hose.
Those that know me might even say I have a watering can fetish, that's okay with me.  There are so many options when it comes to watering cans. 
Notice here I have the old glass 1/2 gallon milk containers in a metal carrier.  I love that bit of nostalgia.  I recently emptied those and put them away for the winter.  Don't want the bottles to crack from freezing.
And this bright green can really does a stand out job near the eggplant.  I know we are at the end of the growing season,  and I am thankful that it did last through October.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Apple Cinnamon Oat Squares

I found this apple bar recipe on Whole Foods website, quite tasty and very moist.  I wrapped each individually in plastic and placed them in the freezer.  They defrost nicely overnight in the refrigerator and can be zapped in the microwave for a bit to warm.

Apple-Cinnamon Oat Squares

Serves 16

If you're always looking for a new way to eat oatmeal, how about on the go? You can enjoy these tasty squares warm, at room temperature or even cold for breakfast or a snack. They're simple to make ahead and keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator so you can grab and go throughout the week.


2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 1/2 cups steel cut oats
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup raisins(I use cranberries)
1/2 cup ground flax seeds (not whole flax seeds)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 (about 1 pound) Pink Lady apples, cored and grated-( Use whatever apples you have.)


Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Transfer to a foil- or parchment paper-lined 9-inch square baking pan, press down and smooth out the top and bake until firm and golden brown, about 1 hour. Let cool in pan; cut into squares and serve warm or at room temperature.


Heath Starts Here Program
Per serving (1 square): 140 calories (50 from fat), 6g total fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 0mg cholesterol, 25mg sodium, 20g total carbohydrate (4g dietary fiber, 7g sugar), 3g protein

Smells like tomatoes in my kitchen

Tonight's expected low is 30, so I spent a good amount of time picking tomatoes, peppers, raspberries and apples today.  HELP!!!!  It's a bit overwhelming.   
Fortunately I had some pretty fall mums to gaze at while I was outdoors.
This is a dwarf burning bush.  When it starts growing in the spring it's covered in dark green leaves that change into this brilliant red in the fall. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Greenhouse

About 9 years ago, I bought a small,  portable 8' X 8' greenhouse.  I used it that first winter, before I really knew what I was doing, and haven't used it since.  The time has come to use it.  I put it up this past week over a portion of the garden.
Doesn't it look like the tomato plants are trying to bust out of the house?  This picture makes me laugh, like they are trying to make a break for it.  We were really close to freezing last night.  I have 5 other tomato plants that I had to wrap individually, only because they have so many green tomatoes on them that I am not ready to give them up.  Usually, at this time of the year I would just let them go.  
We'll see what the difference is between those on the outside that I wrapped in sheets and those on the inside of the greenhouse.  My daily high temp should be 70 degrees for the week.  I'm thinking of leaving the frame in place all winter, but taking the exterior walls down.  This way I'll get the moisture in the ground, and given the right conditions I may be able to get some vegetables growing in my own green house early in the spring when I put the exterior walls back up.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Apple Almond Gingerbread

As I've mentioned, I have a lot of apples in my yard, so I am always on the hunt for something new to do with them.  I tried this Apple Almond Gingerbread recipe from Whole Foods.  WOW!!  It's really good.  Supposedly it freezes well. 

Apple Almond Gingerbread
5 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for greasing
3/4 cup slivered almonds, divided*
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons lowfat buttermilk
1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 1/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 Fuji or Gala apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped 
Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease an 8-inch loaf pan with butter.  Put 1/4 cup almonds in bottom of pan and then rotate pan to distribute them around the bottom and sides (they'll stick to the greased pan); set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together buttermilk, molasses, sugar, butter, vanilla and egg.  In a second large bowl, combine flour, ginger, baking soda and remaining 1/2 cup almonds.  Add apples and toss well.  Stir flour mixture into molasses mixture and then spoon batter into pan.  Bake until cooked through and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.  Let cool in pan for 30 minutes and then invert onto a plate and serve warm or at room temperature.


I used two apples instead of one, and since there were 3/4 Cups of almonds in the bread, I used almond extract instead of vanilla.  I replaced 1/2 Cup of the wheat flour with spelt flour.
Delicious!!  You might even think you're eating chocolate bread.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The apples are abundant

The apple tree is loaded right now with deep beautiful crimson red fruit.
Apparently I haven't been using them fast enough. Time to get into action.
This morning I picked a bowl full and washed them so that I could core and slice them for the dehydrator.   
Slicing them uniformly and very thin insures they will dehydrate at the same rate.  Even at that, 6 trays of apple slices takes about 9 hours.  Every hour I would rotate the bottom tray to the top. 
Without touching, they were side by side when the process started.  You can see how much they shrink as they dry.  
Ta da... organic, wholesome, delicious sweet apple slices.  Ready to take on a hike, a boat ride, put in a bowl of oatmeal, or just snack on while you're daydreaming in the hammock.
Hard to believe that a dozen apples can be reduced to 8 1/2 ounces in a vacuum sealed bag.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Wheatberry and apple salad

This is my favorite Wheat berry salad.  I discovered this recipe in the April  2007 issue of Eating Well Magazine.
According to the magazine, If you are looking for a recipe to turn your friends and family into wheat-berry fans, this is the one.  I agree.

1/3 C freshly squeezed orange juice
1/3 C dried cranberries
3 C cooked, cooled wheat berries (master recipe to follow)
1 large Fuji apple, unpeeled, diced
1/2 C toasted pecan halves, toasted and coarsely chopped
3 Tbl raspberry vinegar
3 Tbl extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1.  Combine orange juice and cranberries in a small bowl.  Let stand for 15 minutes.
2.  Combine wheat berries, apple and pecans in a large bowl; stir gently.  Drain the cranberries, reserving the juices.  Stir the cranberries into the wheat berry mixture. 
3.  Whisk the reserved orange juice, vinegar and oil in a small bowl until combined.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour over the salad and stir gently to coat.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to combine.  Serve cold or at room temperature.

Note:  any red apple will do.  I usually use two apples- 1 green 1 red.  However, since red is in my yard right now, I used two red apples here.

Master Recipe:  Wheat Berries

2 Cups hard red winter-wheat berries
7 Cups cold water
1 tsp salt

1.  Sort through wheat berries carefully, discarding any stones.  Rinse well under cool running water.  Place in a large heavy saucepan.  Add water and salt.
2.  Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  Drain and rinse.  To serve hot, use immediately.  Otherwise, follow the make-ahead instructions.
Makes about 4 1/2 Cups

You can freeze cooked wheat berries and pull them out as you need them.