Category Archives: Vegetables and Fruit

Frank’s RedHot Sunflower Seeds

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If you ever peeked into my refrigerator, chances are that I have a big bottle of Frank’s RedHot Sauce stowed away on the refrigerator door.  Actually, I have a whole door shelf dedicated to spicy hot sauce mixtures and blends.  I love hot sauce.  I love spicy food.  Bruce thinks that I am crazy because I love that lingering burn from hot peppers.  Little does he know, I’m perfectly fine…

My fondness for fiery food began when I was about 10 years old.  I did not want to eat the bland and boring dishes that the other kids in my family were eating, I wanted what the adults were putting on their plates.  Things have not changed.  Now when someone asks me how hot I want my food, my typical response is “make me cry”.

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The other day while shopping at a wholesale food/restaurant supply store, I stumbled across a container of Frank’s RedHot Seasoning blend in the spice aisle.  I’ve never seen it in a regular grocery store before so I think it’s something that is meant to be sold to restaurants and commercial food establishments.  Frank’s RedHot Sauce is a delicious blend of an aged variety of red cayenne peppers, vinegar and garlic.  I use Frank’s RedHot Sauce in and on so many dishes that I prepare.  And, when I first discovered that spice blend, I knew I had something amazingly delicious in my hands.  I could not wait to get home and try it out!

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As soon as I got home, I opened the lid of the container, poked my finger into the spice mixture and tasted it.  It had that same Frank’s flavor that I knew and loved but it was in a dehydrated form perfect for sprinkling on french fries, homemade potato chips, popcorn, chicken or whatever my little heart desires.  I then put the spice blend in a shaker for an even better distribution of flavor on my dishes.

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My Frank’s RedHot Sunflower Seeds are a simple combination of three ingredients.  Raw shelled sunflower seeds, an egg white and Frank’s RedHot Seasoning blend.  That’s it.  Plus, it’s so easy to make, you can have a pound of these delicious little snacks knocked out in about 15 minutes.

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These little sunflower seeds are packed with serious cayenne flavor.  You can adjust the flavor level to suit your taste buds by adding or minimizing the amount of Frank’s RedHot Seasoning that you choose to use…  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a medium sized bowl whisk the egg white until frothy.  Add the raw sunflower seeds and Frank’s Seasoning blend.  Go easy on the seasoning the first time out…  You can always add more at the very end.  Toss and coat well.  Grab a large cookie sheet and spray with non stick spray.  Add the sunflower seed mixture to the cookie sheet spreading out the sunflower seeds evenly.

Place the cookie sheet on the highest rack in the oven.  Bake for about 7 to 10 minutes.  Stirring the sunflower seeds often.  Carefully taste a seed or two before removing from the oven to make sure you get the desired crunchiness and toasty color (they’re hot!).  Remove from the oven, shake more Frank’s Seasoning on the sunflower seeds if desired, let cool and place in an airtight container.  Lasts about 5 – 7 days.

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Straw-Ber-Ita Fruit Pops

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Sometimes the most interesting recipes come from trying to figure out what to do with leftovers from the day before…  Two weeks ago, Bruce and I had a backyard barbecue at our home with family and friends.  I love to entertaining guests but I don’t care for dealing with any kind of leftover fruit trays, appetizer platters or main dishes.  After the last barbecue we had at our home, we had more than a boat load of fresh strawberries, melons and assorted fruit.  After our guests left for the evening, I begrudgingly peeled the rinds off the melons, hulled the strawberries and tossed all the remaining bits of fruit in the freezer.

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When freezing fresh fruit for use at a later date, be sure to place them single layer on a cookie sheet. Once the fruit is frozen, remove the fruit from the cookie sheet and toss in a releasable plastic bag.  Curious as to why?  The deal is, when you throw all the fruit in the plastic bag first, you end up with a big ball of frozen fruit that is all stuck together like a brick.  It’s a pain to break apart and to deal with.  Trust me.  I learned that lesson the hard way. This cookie sheet technique makes the fruit not stick to each other in the freezer and makes it easy to grab a handful of fruit whenever you need it.  Leftover frozen fruit chunks from fruit trays is great for smoothies, sorbets, and boozy little fruity concoctions such as my Straw-Ber-Ita Fruit Pops.

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In addition to leftover fruit, I found myself with several cans of Straw-Ber-Ita’s floating around in the ice bucket the next day.  Straw-Ber-Ita is a margarita-like alcoholic beverage made by Anheuser Busch.  It has a refreshing strawberry lime flavor and is “supposed to” mimic the flavor of a strawberry margarita.  Frankly, they remind me of those fruity little wine coolers that were so popular in the 1980′s.  As an alcoholic beverage, they are a bit too sweet for my taste but they do work amazingly well in my Straw-Ber-Ita Fruit Pops.

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My Straw-Ber-Ita Fruit Pops are super easy to make and taste great on a hot summer day.  Enjoy!  Tessa

*****Note:  These fruit pops contain alcohol.  Please enjoy these fruit pops responsibly.  Do not serve Straw-Ber-Ita Fruit Pops to people under the legal drinking age and/or to children.*****

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound frozen fruit chunks (I used strawberries, watermelon and mango)
  • 2 8 ounce cans Straw-Ber-Ita’s
  • Stevia to taste (optional)

Toss all ingredients in a blender.  Pulse until the fruit is broken down to fine bits.  Pour mixture into frozen Popsicle molds.  Add Popsicle sticks.  Freeze until firm and serve.  Makes about 10-12 frozen fruit pops.

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Shredded Romaine Salad with Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShredded Romaine Salad with Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette

It’s been a very long while since I picked up my camera and even thought of logging onto my food blog.  It’s not because I’ve lost my passion for cooking, or that I’ve burned out or that I’m the laziest person that I know…  It’s just that my day job has completely devoured my personal life for over a year and I can now say that it’s finally starting to wind down. I look forward to regularly getting back into my kitchen and creating healthy (and sometimes not so healthy but totally worth it) home cooked dishes for my family and friends.  I also look forward to catching up on what’s been happening at all my favorite food blogs.  And with all that said, I’m happy to say that I am thrilled to be back.

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Even though I have been busy all year, I still found time to tuck some fresh herbs and flowers in my garden earlier this spring.  This season I’ve added a variety of  herbs including curled parsley and nasturtiums.  The nasturtiums are from seeds that I gathered last fall and the parsley was from starts that I found down at the Grange.  I prefer to grow my own herbs.  First of all, I know that they are grown organically (I know, because I refuse to use sprays or pesticides), and second, it saves me a bunch of money.  Oh, and third, you can’t get any fresher herbs than hand picked straight from the garden.

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Nasturtiums are edible annual flowers that I love to add to salads for bright cheerful color and a peppery flavor.  They also make gorgeous garnishes on appetizer trays and desserts.  They are easy to grow and require very little attention.

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Today I want to share with you a simple delicious Shredded Romaine Salad with a tangy Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette.  Green salads are an every day part of my family’s diet and this green salad is now one of my new favorites.  This salad is super easy to make, bright in flavor and can be served alongside a variety of dishes.  This salad was inspired by a salad served at one of my favorite restaurants, the Jacksonville Inn in Jacksonville, Oregon and the Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette recipe was adapted from Epicurius.  Serves 4.  Enjoy!  Tessa

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Ingredients:

  • 1 large head romaine lettuce
  • handful fresh picked parsley (washed and minced)
  • several fresh nasturtium blossoms (washed and lightly chopped)
  • Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Begin by washing and drying the romaine lettuce.  With a sharp knife, cut the romaine lettuce into thin strips.  Loosely toss and place onto salad plates (about two cups of lettuce per plate) and garnish with minced parsley and nasturtium blossoms.  Lightly drizzle with Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette and add salt and pepper to taste.  Serve immediately.

Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette

Ingredients:

  • Zest of a large lemon
  • Juice of a large lemon
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 Tbs white balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/8 tsp white pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley

Whisk all ingredients together and store in a jar with a tight fitting lid.  Shake well before serving.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.  Makes about 1 cup.

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Broccoli and Spinach Bisque

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Years ago, while growing up, if I wanted to have a bowl of soup for lunch, it came out of a small bright red and white can.  It was called Campbell’s…  Our family always had Campbell’s condensed cans of cream of mushroom, chicken noodle or tomato available in the cupboard ready to add water and heat up.  Back then, I thought that it tasted great for I did not know any better.  Homemade soup was pretty much nonexistent in our diets because we never made it at home and we rarely ate at what I would call a “sit down restaurant”.  And if we did, I would always order a green salad instead of soup.

I was first introduced to making homemade soups after I moved out of the house in my late teens.  I learned how to prepare soups while working my way through college as a short order cook.  As a short order cook, I discovered how easy, inexpensive and delicious homemade soups can be.  In the commercial kitchen, I learned how to make bean soups, cream soups, vegetable soups, noodle soups and so much more.  I strongly believe that my education in the restaurant was as valuable as the high priced education that I received in college.

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Today, I want to share with you an easy to make Broccoli and Spinach Bisque.  It’s made with fresh organic broccoli, spinach and leeks in a good quality chicken stock with a hint of white pepper and fresh grated nutmeg.  Instead of using heavy cream with a ton of fat and calories, I’ve lightened it up a bit with some 2% milk.

“Toto, I’ve a feeling that we’re not having Campbell’s anymore”.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound broccoli florets
  • 2 cups leeks (white and light green parts only, chopped)
  • 5 cups fresh spinach
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 1 quart Chicken Stock
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 4 Tbs butter
  • 4 Tbs flour
  • 2 cups milk (2%)

Begin by cooking the leeks in 1 Tbs butter in a large sauce pan.  Cook over medium flame until translucent, stirring constantly taking care not to burn.  Add broccoli, chicken stock and salt.  Cover and cook until broccoli is tender.  Add spinach, grated nutmeg and white pepper and cook a few minutes more.  Meanwhile in a medium sized sauce pan cook butter and flour mixture (making a roux) until a light golden brown.  Add milk, whisk constantly and cook until thickened.  Add milk mixture to broccoli mixture.  Puree with hand blender and cook for a few more minutes.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Ladle into cups or bowls and garnish with chopped green onion or chives.  Makes 2 quarts or about 8 – 1 cup servings.

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Sweet Potato Bread

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Some people like to collect stamps, some people like to collect trading cards.  Me?  I like to collect different types of pantry ingredients.  For example, I don’t have just one or two bottles of vinegar in my cupboard, I have well over a dozen different varieties of vinegar.   When it comes to throwing together a quick or an exotic meal, I have all my bases covered.  My pantry is chock full of wide range of ingredients that would make most discerning home cook squeal with delight.  However, I make it a point to avoid purchasing pre-made mixes or boxed dinners.  Finding a box of “Hamburger Helper” sitting in my cupboard is as likely as me becoming the next new swimsuit model for Sports Illustrated.  Just not happening…

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One of the random ingredients sitting on the pantry shelf was a little can of organic sweet potato puree.  I have to tell you that when I bought it puree, I had no idea what I was going to do with it.  I’ve never used canned sweet potato puree before, so I simply wanted to taste it and see how it compared to sweet potato puree made from scratch.

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I was surprised to find that the canned sweet potato puree tasted really good.  The sweet potato puree was creamy, sweet and is reminiscent of cooked pumpkin.  It also made a decent substitute for canned pumpkin and it saved me about an hours worth of time if I decided to prepare it myself.  With all that said, I still stand behind my opinion that fresh ingredients always tastes better than canned.  However, there is no shame in using a good quality canned ingredients.  I just did, and I was pleased with the results.

My easy to make Sweet Potato Bread is light, moist and has the wonderful flavors of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger.  It’s great sliced for a quick breakfast on the go or as a snack with a warm cup of tea.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 15 ounce can sweet potato puree
  • 1 cup canola oil
  • 4 eggs
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 3 1/3 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 2/3 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cloves

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Lightly grease two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch baking pans.  In a medium sized mixing bowl add the sweet potato puree, canola oil, eggs, water and vanilla.  Mix well.  In a separate large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves.  Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients.  Mix well.  Divide mixture between the two baking pans.  Bake in oven for about 60 to 70 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on wire racks, slice and serve.  Makes two loaves.

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Egg Drop Soup

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Fall is one of my favorite times of the year.  I love it when the leaves on the deciduous trees in my neighborhood turn canary yellow, fiery orange and bright red.  Fresh picked apples, pears and pumpkins are some of the last crops sold at the local farmers markets as the late summer harvest winds down.  Remnants of my little garden will be tossed in a compost bin and added back to the soil next year.  Seeds will be saved.  Pots need to be scrubbed and cleaned and tomato cages need to be stacked.  In a few short months, the seed catalogs for next year will be in my mailbox.  Can you believe it?  I’m already planning next year’s garden.

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On the flip side, fall marks the beginning of the cold and flu season.  People walking around with sniffles and barking coughs become increasingly noticeable.  At the grocery store, over the counter cold remedies and boxes of tissue seem to fly off the store shelves.  Hand sanitizer and constant hand washing does help in the prevention of colds but, sometimes there’s no avoiding it.  Once you got it, you’ve got it.  We’ve all had it.  Unfortunately, most of the time, you just have to let it simply run its course…

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One of my favorite dishes to prepare while dealing with the common cold is Egg Drop Soup.  My Egg Drop Soup is similar to what you may find at your favorite Chinese restaurant.  My Egg Drop Soup is slightly different for I like to add finely chopped carrots, celery and use galangal root instead of ginger.  It’s easy to prepare, mild in flavor and has a wonderful soul soothing chicken soup like quality about it.  I love curling up on the couch with a good book and wrapping my hands around a warm little cup of my Egg Drop Soup.  Egg Drop Soup certainly won’t cure your cold but it may help you feel just a little bit better.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart chicken stock (reserve 1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup celery (chopped fine)
  • 1/2 cup carrot (chopped fine)
  • 1 slice dried galangal root
  • 1/8 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 1/4 Tbs cornstarch
  • salt to taste
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 or 2 tsp low sodium soy sauce (optional)
  • chives or green onion for garnish

In a medium sized saucepan over medium high heat add 3 cups chicken stock, celery, carrot, galangal, and white pepper.  Bring to a slow boil.  Cook until the celery and carrots are tender.  Meanwhile, in a separate bowl mix together the cornstarch and 1 cup of chicken stock.  Add cornstarch mixture to soup and stir well.  In a small bowl lightly beat eggs.

Now, grab a spoon and stir the boiling soup in a single direction.  Slowly add the egg mixture to the soup stirring gently.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Remove galangal root.  Add soy sauce if desired and garnish with chopped chives or green onions.  Makes about 4 – 1 cup servings.

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Angel Hair Pasta With Roasted Indigo Rose Tomatoes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAngel Hair Pasta with Roasted Indigo Rose Tomatoes

Last week I paid close attention to the weather forecast and as a result I went out to my little garden and stripped all my tomato plants of any and all tomatoes that had color.  According to the weatherman on the television, summer was officially over.  After what I witnessed yesterday, I should have known better.  You know what I’m talking about…  For example, the meteorologist tells you in the morning that it is going to bright and sunny and by mid afternoon, you wished you had brought an umbrella.

Well, when it comes to the weather, sometimes I need to remind myself that Mother Nature can be very unpredictable.  After picking all those tomatoes, I ignored my garden thinking that it was over and done for the season.  Nope.  Not even remotely close… When I walked out to the garden yesterday, I was astonished at what I saw.  There were dozens of tomatoes ready to picked once again.  The first thing I thought was, great!, I will have fresh tomatoes for lunch and dinner!  The second thing I thought was oh, shii…take mushrooms, there are so many tomatoes left out on the vines and I have a lot of work to do!

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Do you see what I mean?  Most of the tomatoes will be made into a sauce, some will be roasted, and some will be frozen.  Some will be given away, and some will be eaten fresh.  You get the picture.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining.  I’m happy to have them.  You will however, hear me complain this winter when I don’t have any fresh picked homegrown tomatoes to eat.

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These are Indigo Rose Tomatoes.  They are small in size, red in color and with a splash of dark purple.  These tomatoes are another favorite of mine.  They are great roasted, sliced fresh in salads and can even be stuffed with chicken or tuna for wonderful little bite sized appetizers or a light lunch.  They are also really pretty and different looking than your average red tomato.  A wonderful way to prepare Indigo Rose Tomatoes is to roast them and then toss them with some angel hair pasta, baby spinach, fresh basil, olive oil and fresh grated Romano cheese for light and flavorful dinner.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup roasted tomatoes (see recipe below)
  • 4 ounces dried angel hair pasta
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach
  • 1/8 cup fresh basil sliced thinly
  • 1 Tbs olive oil or more as needed
  • 1/2 tsp garlic paste
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Romano cheese (more if desired)
  • garnish with fresh basil

Cook angel hair pasta according to manufacturer’s direction, drain and set aside. If needed, drizzle a bit of olive oil over the pasta to keep it from sticking.  Heat a saute pan over a medium high flame.  Add roasted tomatoes (with the juice), olive oil, baby spinach, basil, garlic paste, red pepper flakes and cook until the spinach begins to wilt.  Add the angel hair pasta and cook until heated through.  Add additional olive oil if desired.  Add salt and pepper.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Place on serving platter, top with Romano cheese and garnish with fresh basil.   Makes 2 servings.

How to Oven Roast Tomatoes

This is a simple recipe that will yield some flavorful tomatoes for soups, stews and sauces.  Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Cut tomatoes in half or into large chunks.  Gently squeeze out some of the seeds.  Toss lightly with olive oil, salt, pepper.  I added some sprigs of basil and rosemary for some flavor.  Arrange tomatoes in a single layer on a foil lined cookie sheet (for easy cleanup).  Bake for 45-60 minutes depending on the size or variety of tomatoes.  Cook until the tomatoes start to shrivel and get a bit of color or until your liking.  Remove from oven, let cool, remove basil and rosemary, place in plastic bags and toss in the refrigerator.  Use within a few days.  Can be frozen for later use.  When freezing the tomatoes, measure the roasted tomatoes and juice in one cup portions and place in sandwich bags.  Lay the sandwich bags flat in your freezer in order to maximize your freezer space.

Note: if you don’t like the skins on the tomatoes, just pull the skins off after cooking.  They pop off pretty easily.

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Fava Bean and Ham Soup

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFava Bean and Ham Soup

I can’t even believe it.  It’s starting to feel like autumn.  The mornings are cool and the days are getting noticeably shorter.  As I look out my kitchen window, I see that the leaves on many of the trees are starting to turn yellow and some are even beginning the fall drop.  My garden is starting to wind down and the tomatoes are slower to ripen.  With the official start of fall in a few days, the first fall frost is likely to happen later this month or early October.  Once the frost hits, my summer garden is pretty much done for the season.  After that, no more fresh picked organic tomatoes, basil, beans, cucumbers or summer squash.  Bummer…  I will have to wait until next year for the convenience of fresh picked veggies or spend big bucks at the local co-op to get my organic fresh  vegetable fix.

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A bucketful of some of the last of the cherry tomato crop…  If you never have had home grown cherry tomatoes you are missing out big time.  Home grown cherry tomatoes taste so different than the ones you may find at your local store.  They are thinner skinned, juicier, sweeter and pack some hard core flavor.  One of my favorite things to do while watering my garden in the evening is to stand next to one of the cherry tomato plants and pop handfuls of these little red gems in my mouth.  They are so delicious!

While looking for some dried Lima beans at the grocery store yesterday, I ran across a bag of Bob’s Red Mill fava beans.  I’ve never cooked with fava beans before.  Fava beans looked like large Lima beans so I thought that I would give them a try.  Fortunately, the fava beans were shelled so I did not have to deal with the tedious task of shelling them myself.  All I did was to rinse them well and to pick through them to make sure that there was no debris mixed in with the beans.  I then soaked the fava beans in cold water for about 4 – 5 hours to soften them up.

My Fava Bean and Ham Soup is made with roasted tomatoes, bell pepper, celery, carrot and onion and then simmered in a good quality chicken stock with herbs and spices.  It’s a wonderfully hearty and flavorful soup that’s perfect for a cool fall day.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried fava beans (shelled, picked over and soaked at least 4 hours)
  • 1 cup onion (chopped)
  • 1 cup celery (chopped)
  • 1 cup roasted tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup bell pepper (chopped)
  • 1 carrot (chopped)
  • 1 tsp canola oil
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1/2 pound ham (chopped)
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • garnish with fresh chopped parsley

Place a large sized heavy bottomed pot or a dutch oven with a tight fitting lid on the stove.  Turn heat to medium high and add canola oil, onions, bell pepper, celery and roasted tomatoes.  Cook, stirring constantly until onions are translucent.  Add remaining ingredients, cover, and turn stove down to simmer.  Cook for 2 – 3 hours until the fava beans are tender or to your liking, stirring occasionally.  Remove bay leaf.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Makes about 4 – 6 servings.

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Green Bean Tomato Salad With Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreen Bean Tomato Salad with Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette

I’ve never seen purple colored “green beans” at the grocery store before and when I saw the seeds for the Trionfo Violetto Beans in one of my seed catalogs earlier this spring, I knew that I had to grow them myself if I wanted to try them.  When it comes to planting vegetables in my little garden every year, I try to grow plants that tend to be uncommon or hard to find at the store.  As for the Trionfo Violetto beans, they certainly fit the bill…

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A big handful of fresh picked Trionfo Violetto Beans.  I absolutely love the dark purple color.  What’s so interesting is that when you slice them, they have a vibrant green center.  While picking my beans one morning, I was startled to see a large purple and green dragonfly sitting on a stem in the middle of the vines.  I’ve seen dragonflies in our backyard around our koi pond but never on the garden side of the house.  This one was big!  Its wingspan was easily 4 inches across.  I did not have my glasses on so I was way closer to the dragonfly than I would have liked.  As soon as I recognized what it was, I pulled my hand slowly away from the beans (taking care not to freak out, scream at the top of my lungs and wake up the neighbors) and ran straight back into the house to grab my camera.

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I was amazed that he was still there in the same spot when I got back! I was fortunate to snap a few photos before he flew away.  He was camouflaged extremely well and was very similar in color to the bean plants.  I’ve been out to the garden several times since and unfortunately I have not seen this beautiful dragonfly again.

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Do you see what I mean about the Trionfo Violetto Beans?  They are really beautiful and very unusual.  What I found is that once you cook the Trionfo Violetto Beans, they turn green just like a regular green bean!

In addition to the gorgeous Trionfo Violetto Beans, I grew some Kentucky Wonder Green Beans.  The Kentucky Wonder variety of bean is similar to the type of green beans you will find at the grocery store.  They are your basic “all purpose” green bean.  You can put them in salads, cook, can, or freeze them.  They are easy to grow and produce an abundance of smooth green pods.  I have to say that for the first time growing pole beans, I was fairly successful with strong plants and a decent sized crop.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreen Bean Tomato Salad With Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette

My Green Bean Tomato Salad with a Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette can be made with pretty much any variety of green bean.  In this recipe I used the Kentucky Wonder green beans and cherry tomatoes that I grew in my garden.  The Green Bean Tomato Salad With Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette is wonderfully tangy yet slightly sweet.  The bright colored tomatoes make this vibrant green bean salad a stunning side dish. It’s easy to make, fresh and delicious.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 pounds green beans trimmed and cut into 1″ sized pieces
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 3 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 Tbs champagne vinegar
  • 1 Tbs shallot (minced)
  • 2 tsp mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine)
  • 1 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Begin by boiling a medium sized pot of water with a big pinch of salt.  Add the green beans and cook for about 5 minutes or until tender.  Don’t overcook.  If you do, your beans will look gray and not a pretty bright green.  As soon as the beans are done, immediately place them in a medium sized bowl of ice water.  The ice water stops the cooking process and cools the beans.  Remove ice cubes and drain well.  Meanwhile whisk together in a small bowl, olive oil, champagne vinegar, shallot, mirin, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper.   Taste and correct your seasonings.  In a medium sized bowl lightly toss the beans and tomatoes with the Dijon vinaigrette.  Add to a serving dish and serve chilled.  Makes about 3 servings.

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Triple Chocolate Banana Bread

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATriple Chocolate Banana Bread

I don’t know about you, but whenever I have any overripe bananas that need to be saved, I just toss them in the freezer to be used at a later date.  Once frozen, bananas are perfect for making banana bread.  Until yesterday, I had no idea how many bananas that I had stashed in my freezer.  This morning, I counted at least 2 dozen stray frozen bananas.  It’s no wonder stuff keeps dropping out of the freezer every time I open the freezer door…

It’s been quite a while since I baked anything and I had a bunch of bananas that needed to be used up.  Baking loaves of triple chocolate banana bread was the just the ticket to using up that freezer full of bananas. The chocolatey aroma that emitted from my kitchen was nothing short of heavenly.  It reminded me of rich chocolate brownies…  My triple chocolate banana bread is a riff on my chocolate banana bread recipe with the addition of miniature dark chocolate chips.  Seriously, how can anyone go wrong with three different chocolate ingredients in a banana bread recipe?  You can’t.

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Triple Chocolate Banana Bread cooling on a rack…  Looks like cake.  Tastes like cake.  Technically, it’s a quick bread.  It’s moist and dense.

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Do you see hints of mini dark chocolate chips throughout the bread?  Using miniature chocolate chips provides an even distribution of dark chocolatey goodness throughout the loaf.  Got bananas?  Love chocolate?  Make some Triple Chocolate Banana Bread.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 3 – 4 RIPE bananas (peeled and mashed well)
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg (beaten)
  • 1 tsp chocolate extract (essence)
  • big pinch of salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup extra dark cocoa powder
  • 4 oz miniature dark chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Grab a 4 X 8 loaf pan and spray it with non stick cooking spray.  In a medium sized mixing bowl mix the mashed bananas, butter, sugar, egg, and chocolate extract.  In a small bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, extra dark cocoa powder and miniature dark chocolate chips.   Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix well.  Spoon the mixture into the baking pan and bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool on a wire rack.  Slice and serve.

*** If using frozen bananas be sure to thaw them first and to peel them well.  Frozen bananas once thawed are mushier than fresh.  That’s why they work well in banana bread.

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