Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pear Ginger Walnut Muffins

I wish I had found this recipe a few months ago, then I would have been ready when my pears ripened.  The author says she makes the pear ginger sauce in larger quantities and freezes it for later use.  A tree full of ripe pears would definitely lend itself to that idea.  To make the whole muffin baking process less of an ordeal, I'd make the sauce a day or so ahead.  Of course, I had five kitchen projects going on at the same time, the day I made these, so the 'ordeal' part may be a little clouded by my multitasking. 
Mrs. T's Pear Ginger Walnut Muffins.  This recipe was entered in the Your Best Pear Contest on Food52.

Makes one dozen medium-sized muffins
Pear Ginger Sauce
makes 1 C
4 small, ripe pears, peeled, cored and diced~2 Cups
1 Tb unsalted butter
1/4 C sugar
2 Tb grated ginger
Heat butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  When butter is melted and frothy add pears, tossing with a wooden spoon to coat.
Add sugar, stirring to combine.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.
Add grated ginger and cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, until pears are soft and most of the liquid has evaporated.  Remove from heat and allow to cool for at least 15-20 minutes.
1 1/2 C all purpose flour-(I used 1C all purpose, 1/2C white whole wheat)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground ginger for batter + 1/2 tsp for topping
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/3 C sugar for batter + 2 Tb for topping
1/2 C+ 3 Tb unsalted butter, melted
1 C pear ginger sauce (recipe above)
1 C chopped walnuts for batter + 1/2 C for topping
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 400.  Grease or line muffin pan with paper cups.  Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda, 1 tsp ground ginger and salt in a bowl.  Whisk together eggs and 1/3 C sugar in a large bowl until combined well, then add butter whisking or blending with electric mixer until creamy.  Stir in pear ginger sauce, then fold in flour mixture.  Stir in 1 C of walnuts and divide batter among muffin cups.  In a small bowl, combine remaining 2 Tb sugar, 1/2 tsp ground ginger and 1/2 C of walnuts.  Sprinkle topping evenly on top of muffins.  Bake until muffins are golden and toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  Cool in pan on a rack 5 minutes, then remove muffins from pan and cool slightly.

Notes:  The ginger and pear really compliment each other.  I didn't add the topping, and they were still very good.  Perfect with that morning cup of coffee.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Night-Blooming Cereus

I received a few small clippings of this plant, from a friend, several years ago.  My instructions were to put the cuttings in water until they grew roots and then pot it.  I had never heard of a night-blooming cereus (SEER-ee-us), but all things green are special to me, and I welcomed my new plant.  I let the cuttings sit in a cup of water all summer, potted them just before fall, and hung the plant in the sun room for the winter.  That was several years ago.  Every summer it moves outside to enjoy the dry western air and intense summer heat. 
On the Cornell University site, I learned that a mature night-blooming cereus, (4-5 yrs old) will bloom at two week intervals from midsummer through autumn.  The first year it blooms, it might produce as few as two or three blossoms.  But blossom numbers and frequency usually increase dramatically the following years.  This month, for the first time, I've had three blossoms and as luck would have it, the first one bloomed while I was out of town.  The second one is about to bloom, so I'm watching it like a mother hen with her chick. 
These extremely fragrant blossoms will not open until after sunset, and it may be midnight before they achieve full display.  The blossoms are magnolia-like and quickly close at dawn, never to reopen again.  Cereus plants are happiest with eastern exposure and when midsummer temperatures rise above 90 degrees.  Their main requirement is direct sunlight for part of the day and well drained cactus type soil.  Living in Denver, I need to move this plant indoors before first frost, where it will continue to grow well, when placed near a sunny window.
On a trip to Florida, a year after acquiring my first night-blooming cereus cuttings, I was given a clipping from another friend.  In South Florida the Cereus grows as an ornamental vine upwards of 40', clinging to trellises and rooting almost wherever it touches the soil.  This second plant is a year behind it's Denver cousin, but still a vigorous grower.  Just knowing there will be a dramatic increase in blooms next year makes my heart sing.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Smoked Lentil Salad

I like lentils in anything;  in soups, mixed with rice, in grain salads, on top of green salads, even just by themselves with a lemony vinaigrette drizzled over them.  Now I have another way to eat them: Smoked. 
The next time you're doing ribs or chicken in the smoker, you have to try this.  This only takes ten minutes of smoking time, but you won't believe how much flavor that adds to the lentils.  The Sriracha Miso Mayo dressing complements the smokey lentils perfectly. 
I found this recipe on Food52. 
Smoked Lentil Salad with Sriracha Miso Mayonnaise
This recipe serves 6

1/2 pound green lentils
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
In a large bowl mix the lentils, cumin, onion and garlic powders;  then add enough boiling water to cover the lentils and soak, covered for 20 minutes.
For the Sriracha Miso Mayonnaise thoroughly mix:
1/2 C mayonnaise
1/4 C white miso paste
1 tsp Sriracha sauce
Cover and refrigerate.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 TB garlic, minced
1 cup yellow onion, medium diced
3 celery stalks, medium diced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil on medium high heat.  When the oil begins to shimmer, lower the heat to medium, add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.  Add the onion, celery and kosher salt, cover and cook for 3-5 minutes until the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally.  Stir in the carrots and the drained lentils.  Add the vegetable broth, adjust the heat to high and bring to a boil.  When it comes to a boil, immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered for 20 minutes, until the lentils are just tender and most of the water is absorbed.  At this point you can spread half the lentils on each of two rimmed sheets to come to room temperature.  I just leave them in the pan to cool.
Smoke half of the lentils for 10-15 minutes.  I make a small foil tray with sides and fill with half of the lentil mixture, which turns a light pink when smoked.  Allow the lentils to come to room temperature, then combine  with the reserved lentils.  Gently add the mayonnaise and refrigerate, covered, until well chilled.
After being chilled, the original recipe has you add:
1 C small diced cucumber
1 C small diced tomatoes
1/2 C small diced sweet onions
a few grinds of black pepper
I've made this several times and have always stopped after adding the mayonnaise.  I think it's delicious at that point.  We've used it as a dip with pita chips, and even pureed half of it in the food processor for a more creamy dip.  This is one of those dishes where the whole is greater than the sum of it's parts.



Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mount Rushmore

Bob and I drove to South Dakota last week to visit Mount Rushmore.  This iconic national park represents the first 130 years of America's history through four faces carved in Granite.  Truly an engineering marvel, it's amazing to me that none of the 400 workers involved with this project during the 14 years of carving from 1927-1941, died.   
Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor was working on Stone Mountain in Georgia, when historian Doane Robinson came up with the idea of carving the likenesses of famous people into the Black Hills region to draw tourism to the area.  After several site and idea changes between the two men, it was Borglum who decided the sculpture should have a more national focus and he chose four presidents.  
Ranger Jerry guided us along the Presidential Trail and highlighted the history of Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills.  Here are the Presidents in order and what Borglum considered to be their contribution to America's history:  
#1 George Washington was the Foundation
#3 Thomas Jefferson for Expansion
#26 Theodore Roosevelt for Development
#16 Abraham Lincoln for Preservation
Each face is 60' tall and each eye is 11' wide.  Washington's nose is 21' long and his mouth 18' wide; all other noses are 20' long.   90% of the work was done with dynamite and the drill was a jackhammer.
We caught a glimpse of the Lakota Chief Crazy Horse sculpture while we were in the Black Hills.  It is also an impressive piece of work.
September is great camping weather; cool days and even cooler nights.
However, it is unusual to wake and find a couple dozen wild turkeys on the lawn outside your tent.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pineapple Tomatillos

I totally love this new tomato that I'm growing this year.  Now I understand why a tomato is really a fruit, this pineapple tomatillo has a strong fruity flavor.  I started two plants from seed in early spring and they are exceeding my expectations.  Their little pastel lanterns are an adorable decoration in the garden.
I've grown regular green tomatillos for several years and expected all tomatillos to grow to be the same size.  I found that is not the case.  Pineapple tomatillos are much smaller, about the size of a garbonzo bean.  But don't be fooled by their size, they pact a lot of flavor into that tiny fruit and are definitely worth growing in your garden.
I usually pop a few in my mouth while I'm filling the vegetable basket for the evening, but tonight I think I'm going to add some of them to a new kale salad I've made.  
This Garlicky Kale Salad recipe is from Whole Foods.  I found it through  I grow curley kale and tuscan kale, so I used both in the salad, and it's surprisingly good.
Lake Valley Seed  is one of five local seed companies here in Colorado.  I'm sure you can find them online.  I believe the only way you can have these tasty garden treats is to grow them yourself, because I've never found them in any local store or Farmers Market.


 1 bunch raw kale, washed, de-stemmed and dried
 2 Tb tahini
 2 Tb apple cider vinegar (or water)
 2 Tb lemon juice
 2 Tb Bragg’s liquid aminos (tamari or soy sauce would work)
 4 Tb nutritional yeast
 2 tsp minced garlic
 sprinkling of white sesame seeds as a garnish
Cut kale into bite size pieces and place in a large bowl.
Puree all ingredients except kale and sesame seeds in a blender or food processor to blend the dressing.
Pour dressing over kale and massage into the kale with your hands until all pieces of kale are coated.
Let the salad sit in the fridge for an hour or so to marinate.
Sprinkle on some sesame seeds before serving.
This Kale salad is unbelievably tasty just the way it's written.  But since I have them, I added a hand full of pineapple tomatillos sliced in half, and it was even better with this tiny burst of fruit flavor.  It's worth growing this tomatillo just to add to this salad. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Bites

Recently we had five wonderful days with my son Jason and his wife Caroline.  After a short local hike on the North Loop Trail in Golden where we saw some mule deer, we came home to watch some college football. 
Having leftover cooked chicken, we made these Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Bites for one of our appetizers.  This tasty recipe is from Little Mommy, big Appetite.comSo few ingredients for such a great appetizer.

Buffalo Chicken Quinoa Bites
makes 24 bites

1 C cooked quinoa
1 egg
1/4 C finely chopped onion
1 C cooked, shredded/chopped chicken
1/4 C buffalo sauce
1/2 C shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 C panko bread crumbs
1 tsp  minced garlic
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all the ingredients together.
Spray a mini muffin tin with nonstick spray.
Scoop the mixture into the muffin tin, fill to the top, and press down to compact the mixture.
Bake for 25 minutes.
Serve with blue cheese or ranch dressing. 
The Florida Gators won their second game of the season and we were having a celebratory fire in the back yard.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

It can't be fall yet....

What happened?  We were only gone a couple of days.  Upon returning I find aspen leaves on the ground.  That's not suppose to happen until fall.
The dwarf burning bush has turned red.  Okay, I know today is the first official day of fall according to the calendar.  But with temperatures being the way they have been, it really doesn't seem like it should be fall.
That, and the fact that I'm not ready to give up on everything that is growing in my garden right now, is why I'm not calling it FALL just yet.
But I will continue to use the apples that are ripening on my tree.
Too many apples == apple juice.  Unfiltered, fresh pressed, no preservatives, just plain good apple juice.  Because really, how many apple pies can you freeze?
I like how the layers settle, but shake well before pouring.  You don't want to loose out on any of those fresh nutrients.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Apples, Cucumbers and Tomatoes

I'm trying to keep the garden in check, so yesterday I did more canning.  Since my water bath canner only holds 5 quarts at a time, I'm trying to pick and plan accordingly.  
While the tomatoes processed, I readied 4 quarts of cucumbers, soon to be pickles, so they could go into the water bath as soon as the tomatoes came out.  I had quite the system going.  This year I'm canning in larger jars, but fewer at a time.  I'm finding this more enjoyable and not as overwhelming as a whole day working at a frenzied pace in order to get it done.
Today I spent a couple of hours making pies.  Not just any pie, but our very favorite Caramel Apple Pie.  I'm sure you've heard someone say "this food was to die for."  Whenever I hear that phrase it makes me go... hmm.   Personally, I don't believe there is any food that is worth dying for.  But if I was a person that believed there is such a food, it would be this pie.
I first wrote about this pie recipe on my 10/28/2011 blog titled Cranking out apple pies.  In checking for the link to my earlier post, so that I might add it to this post rather than re-writing the recipe, I discovered a note from Marsha Brooks, the woman who shared her award winning recipe and I am honored that she read my blog.
My plan was to make four pies, so first I measured out the ingredients for all the pies before I started to core and peel the apples.  Being organized really helps me in the kitchen, especially when making quantities of something.  Here I've got the crumb topping ingredients portioned out and ready to go.
The sugar, flour, cinnamon and salt are measured and waiting to be tossed with the 6 cups of apples.
Caramel sauce and chopped pecans with their appropriate measuring cup needed per pie are standing by.
 I like to cut my apple slices into smaller pieces.
I thought it might be worth a try to put a pie crust in one of my stoneware dishes, and bake it that way.  Who says a pie needs to be in a certain shape?  It'll taste just as good, and I didn't loose any of the juices over the side of the pan.
And yes, I baked an apple pie in a pumpkin pie dish.  Twenty four cups of apples later.. half of a five gallon bucket..I've made a dent in my apple inventory.  

Friday, September 14, 2012

Barley Salad w/Parsley & Walnuts

Barley is such a wonderful grain;  it's very user friendly and can be served warm or at room temperature.  Similar to wheat berries, it is a nutrient rich grain that has a slightly chewy texture.  Barley is a good source of fiber,  selenium, tryptophan, copper, manganese, and phosphorus, while being low in calories.  I usually add 1/2 cup of hulled barley to my soup pots throughout the winter.  I found this healthy, make-ahead, vegetarian salad on
Barley Salad with Parsley and Walnuts
serves 6

    1 1/4 cups pearled barley
    1 cup walnut halves
    3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
    1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    1 garlic clove, minced
    1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
    Salt and freshly ground pepper
    1 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
    1 cup ricotta, crumbled
Preheat the oven to 350°.  In a large saucepan of boiling salted water, cook the barley over high heat until tender, about 25 minutes.  Drain the barley and rinse under cold water to cool thoroughly.  Drain again, shaking out the excess water.
Meanwhile, spread the walnuts in a pie plate and toast for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden and fragrant.  Transfer to a cutting board and let cool.  Coarsely chop the nuts.
In a large bowl, whisk the lemon juice with the olive oil, garlic and lemon zest and season with salt and pepper.  Add the barley, parsley and ricotta and toss gently.  Add the toasted walnuts, toss again and serve.

Notes:  I cooked the barley for 45 minutes rather than 25, and used feta cheese instead of ricotta and it was delicious.  I had it for breakfast the next morning, after all it is a cereal grain, and enjoyed it just as well cold.