Tag Archives: easy

Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Mint

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Spring is about two months early here in Southern Oregon.  The weather is starting to warm up, the daffodils and crocuses are blooming, and the deciduous trees are already starting to bud out. I love warm weather but when it comes too early in the year, it comes with a large cost. The lack of precipitation in the form of rain and the lack of a snow pack in the surrounding mountains means that we are in store for another very dry year here in the Rogue Valley.

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With the seemingly early spring, many of my perennial herbs in my garden are ready to pick. What really caught my eye is that my mint has already poked through the soil and is about 6 to 8 inches tall. Mint is one of my favorite herbs and one of the easiest to grow.  I just love the aroma, taste and versatility of freshly picked mint.  From my own personal experience, if you plant just one little mint plant, it will be more than happy to try to take over your entire yard. That’s why when I grow mint, I plant it in its very own pot where it is safely contained and unable to grow freely where ever it chooses.  Once mint is established in your garden, it’s difficult to eradicate without the use of herbicides.  And those who know me, know full well that I don’t use herbicides in my garden. Ever…

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I currently have 4 varieties of mint growing in my yard.  Peppermint, Lemon Balm, Chocolate Mint and Spearmint.  I’m planning to add Apple Mint and Pineapple Mint to my little mint collection in the near future.

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Fresh snipped spearmint and Italian flat leaf parsley from my garden was used in my Israeli Couscous Salad with Roasted Tomatoes and Mint. For those who are unfamiliar with Israeli couscous, Israeli Couscous is a small semolina pasta also known as Pearl Couscous, Ptitim or Jerusalem Couscous. It’s mild in flavor and takes about 10 minutes to prepare. The little ball shape of Israeli Couscous makes it perfect for all sorts of soups, salads, main or side dishes. The next time you see Israeli couscous at your local grocery store or online, be sure to buy some.  It’s a quick cooking and very adaptable ingredient to have on hand in your kitchen pantry!  Enjoy!  Tessa

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups water
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup Roasted Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup roasted cherry tomatoes (see instructions below)
  • 1/2 cup feta cheese (crumbled)
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup fresh Italian flat leaf parsley (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives (chopped)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Begin by heating the olive oil in a 2 quart pan over medium high heat.  Add Israeli Couscous to the pan and stir constantly until lightly browned, about 4 1/2 minutes. Reduce heat and slowly add water.  Cook covered until water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.  Add remaining ingredients, toss lightly, then taste and correct your seasonings.  Add the mixture to a serving bowl. Serve at room temperature or chilled.  Makes 8 – 1/2 cup servings.

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes:  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  On a baking pan add 1 pint cherry tomatoes.  Toss lightly with 1 tablespoon olive oil.  Sprinkle with salt. Bake for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes collapse.  Remove from oven and let cool. Makes little over a cup. Use immediately or store covered in the refrigerator for a few days.

Roasted Cherry Tomato Vinaigrette: In a blender add the following ingredients and blend until smooth.  Makes about 1 cup.

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup roasted cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Use immediately or keep refrigerated in a tightly covered container for a few days.

Whole Grain Mustard

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Do you know that making your own mustard is ridiculously easy? Up until just a few months ago, I had absolutely no idea. I recently learned after reading a newspaper article in the Medford Mail Tribune by Jan Roberts-Dominguez titled an Advanced Lesson in Homemade Mustards. Growing up, the only mustard that could be found in our home kitchen was the bright yellow mustard sold in a jar made by French’s.  No offense to all you yellow mustard lovers but the mustard that I knew as a kid pales in comparison to the taste bud tingling spicy goodness that I am about to share with you.  And what makes my Whole Grain Mustard shine is the addition of a really tasty beer such as Southern Oregon Brewing Company‘s Nice Rack IPA.

A good homemade Whole Grain Mustard takes about 15 minutes of your time to prepare and then needs to sit around untouched for at least 48 hours to develop its wonderfully warm spicy flavors. When your mustard is ready, be sure to serve your homemade Whole Grain Mustard on sandwiches, sausages, pretzels or even use it as a base for sauces or salad dressings.  My favorite way to serve my homemade Whole Grain Mustard is to accompany it alongside some grilled brats and pints of some of Southern Oregon’s finest micro brewed beer. Now that’s pure bliss!

What’s great about making your own mustard is that the flavor combinations are endless and you can make it as hot, creamy, spicy or as sweet as you want.  All you need to start is some good quality mustard seeds, liquid for soaking such as wine, beer or vinegar, toss in some spices, add something sweet such as sugar or honey and a sprinkling of salt.

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Yellow mustard (also called white) seeds are on the left and brown mustard seeds are on the right. Notice that the yellow mustard seeds are nearly twice the size than the brown mustard seeds. They are also a lot less pungent in flavor than the brown mustard seeds. I personally like the brown mustard seeds better because of the heat factor. Look for mustard seeds in the bulk foods section of your favorite specialty or natural food store. If you can’t find it locally, you can always resort to shopping online. Once you learn how to make your own Whole Grain Mustard, it’s doubtful that you will want to use store the bought varieties ever again. Thank you Jan Roberts-Dominguez for the mustard lesson and the inspiration!  Enjoy! Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 cup yellow mustard seeds
  • 3/4 cup beer (I used Nice Rack IPA)
  • 3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tbs sugar
  • 3 tsp garlic paste
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste

In a non reactive bowl or jar (glass, plastic or stainless steel) add the mustard seeds, beer, and vinegar.  Make sure that the seeds are covered in liquid.  If you need to add more liquid, use equal parts beer and vinegar.  Just be careful, you don’t want your mustard to be too watery. Place the mustard covered in a cool place for 48 hours.  Add the remaining ingredients and place in food processor. Blend mustard for about two minutes or until you reach your desired texture. Taste and correct your seasonings.  Place mustard in clean jars with a tight fitting lid and store in the refrigerator for up to a few weeks.  Makes about 2 3/4 cups.

***Recipe adapted from Jan Roberts-Dominguez

Cream of Chicken Soup

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I can’t believe that it has been about six months since I’ve share a single recipe from my kitchen. Well, I’m still here and not a day went by that I didn’t think about it. I have to tell you that a lot has happened over the past year. I’ve watched my son graduate from college at the top of his class and then turn around and head off to law school in Washington D.C., I’m nearing the end of an incredibly challenging software implementation at my work, and Bruce took me on an amazing and much needed vacation to Hawaii.  Now after all that mind boggling activity, I am happy that I am finally getting reacquainted with writing about food and my DSLR camera. Oh, and I almost forgot to tell you. I am in the midst of planning my little garden for this year and I am also teaching myself how to knit.

Now back to the kitchen…  I’m sure that you heard me say this before but, I am going to say it again. I love homemade soup.  Not just one type of soup, but all kinds of soups.  And, one of my favorites is Cream of Chicken soup. I like to enjoy a cup of Cream of Chicken soup served with a fresh green salad loaded with brightly colored vegetables or with a half sandwich piled high with thinly sliced ham or turkey. In my opinion, soup made from scratch is cheaper, tastier and depending on the choice of ingredients can be a much healthier option than store bought or what you get from a restaurant.

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Whenever the weather is cold outside or I am in need of something that is simple and soul soothing, a cup of my homemade Cream of Chicken Soup is just the ticket. My Cream of Chicken Soup has a lovely velvety texture with bits of tender chicken and onion with a hint of thyme, turmeric and bay leaf.

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What I really like most about my Cream of Chicken soup is that my sweet husband Bruce loves it! He tells me that he likes the creaminess of the soup and that I make sure that it has plenty of bits of chicken in it. I know that if I can please Bruce with my Cream of Chicken soup recipe, I have a winner on my hands.

It’s feels great to be back in the kitchen.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1/2 onion minced
  • 1 – 2 tsp canola oil
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper or to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric or to taste (I tend to use more, I love turmeric!)
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • minced parsley for garnish

Begin by chopping the chicken thighs into small tiny bite sized pieces.  Set aside. In a large heavy bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid over medium high heat add the canola oil and onions. Cook for a few minutes, stirring constantly until the onions are cooked through and opaque. Be careful not to burn the onions. Add the chopped chicken and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until the chicken is lightly golden brown.  Add the chicken stock to deglaze the bottom of the pot.  Add thyme, white pepper, bay leaf, garlic, turmeric and salt. Cover and the bring mixture to a gentle boil, cooking for another 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl make a slurry of the flour and milk.  Whisk well to remove any lumps.  Remove the lid from the soup, and take out the bay leaf and any thyme sprigs.

Whisk the flour and milk slurry into the soup. Reduce heat, stir constantly and cook until the soup has thickened and the flour taste has disappeared (about a half an hour). Taste and correct your seasonings, add additional chicken stock if necessary.  Ladle into cups or bowls and sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley for garnish.  Makes about 2 quarts or 8 servings.

Grilled Cuban Oregano Chicken

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This last spring while shopping for plants for my garden I stumbled upon a Cuban Oregano plant.  I’ve never seen or heard of Cuban Oregano before and it was so much different looking than the Italian or Greek Oregano that I have growing in large pots on my back patio.  The leaves were thicker, almost succulent like and they were lighter in color than the variety I use for Italian and Mediterranean dishes.  What I also noticed is that it had a wonderful herbaceous smell and flavor that would be perfect with chicken, pork or even lamb.

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Do you see how thick the leaves are?  They are fleshy and soft to the touch, almost velvety in nature.  I picked a few sprigs and thought of making a marinade for some chicken that I was going to prepare for dinner that evening.  I tasted one of the leaves first to get an idea of how much to use.  It was fairly aromatic and had a lovely flavor.  With that in mind, I was thinking of making a marinade that had a Mexican or Latin American profile.  That meant lime juice, cilantro and garlic would be great in addition to cumin, pepper and onion.  I pulled together my ingredients and marinated the chicken for about 4 hours before tossing on the hot grill.  Luckily, I wrote down my recipe for it turned out fabulous!  Both Bruce and I loved it!  As a result, this marinade is a definite keeper.  Chop up any leftover chicken and fill warm corn or flour tortillas for delicious soft tacos for a quick and easy dinner the next day.  Enjoy!  Tessa

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Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup onion
  • 1/3 cup lime juice
  • 1/3 cup cilantro
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 1/2 Tbs Cuban oregano
  • 4 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper (or to taste)
  • 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • garnish with lime wedges and sprigs of Cuban oregano

Toss all ingredients except for the chicken in a blender.  Blend for a few seconds until all the ingredients are mixed well.  Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for at least 4 – 6 hours before cooking.  Place chicken on the barbecue or grill pan on medium high heat.  Discard marinade.  Cook chicken, turning occasionally, until the juices run clear or the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees. Remove from heat and let chicken rest for about 5 minutes prior to serving. Serve with lime wedges and garnish with the Cuban oregano.  Makes about 8 servings.

Rustic Tomato Marinara

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First of all, I owe my family, friends and coworkers a big huge apology.  You see, I will not be giving away my excess homegrown tomatoes from my garden to them ever again.  It’s not that I don’t like to share or that I am a stingy person or that I like to hoard my garden produce.  It’s just that I need the tomatoes because I have learned how to make my own homemade Rustic Tomato Marinara Sauce from scratch. And in my opinion, this Rustic Tomato Marinara sauce is worth apologizing for.

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The key to this delicious sauce is freshly picked, perfectly ripe heirloom tomatoes.  This bucket full of lemon boy’s, early girls, green zebras, pineapples, mortgage lifters and a handful sweet millions was used in my Rustic Tomato Marinara.  What makes this sauce “rustic” is that I did not peel the tomatoes or seed them before tossing in the pot for cooking.  I say, so what, who cares?  A stick blender takes care of the tomato skins and as a result there’s very little waste and a fantastic tomato flavor.

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My Rustic Tomato Marinara is one of those recipes that works better by taste and feel rather than following the recipe exactly.  Why?  Every variety of tomato is different and some cook faster than others.  Also, you can add whatever blend of spices and herbs you like.  If you like it spicy, add some red pepper flakes.  It’s all about you and your taste. The next time you have an overabundance of tomatoes, make some Rustic Tomato Marinara.  Enjoy! Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon tomatoes (about 5 pounds, quartered)
  • 2 onions (chopped)
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1 cup wine (I used red table wine)
  • 1 cup fresh basil (chopped)
  • 1 Tbs fresh oregano
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • about 2 – 3 cups water
  • 5 cloves garlic (minced)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 – 2 Tbs sugar (optional)

Grab a large pot and saute the onions in the olive oil until they turn translucent.  Meanwhile, wash and remove stem scars from tomatoes. Quarter the tomatoes, making sure that all the tomato chunks are somewhat uniform in size.  Add tomatoes, wine, water, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper to the pot, Cook on low uncovered for 2 – 3 hours, stirring often.  Add garlic near the end of the cooking process.  Using an immersion or stick blender, blend sauce until smooth or desired consistency.  If the sauce is too watery or thin, cook the sauce longer to reduce or if it’s too thick, add more water.  Taste your sauce, add sugar if necessary.  The purpose of the sugar is to cut the acidity of the tomatoes. Correct your seasonings.  Remove from heat.  Use sauce immediately or cool and put into plastic containers to freeze for later use.  Makes about 2 – 2 1/2 quarts.

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Green Zebra Vinaigrette

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Every spring and summer I dedicate time to plant a vegetable garden.  Those who have a vegetable garden knows full well that having one takes quite a bit of work.  Fortunately, my garden is small in size.  It consists of 2 – 5′ by 8′ raised beds, a 3′ by 6′ planting strip and 5 large half barrel containers.  Chances are that you’ll find me in my garden every night after I come home from work.  I generally spend about 20 minutes a day watering, weeding, and tending to my vegetables and herbs.  It may be an effort but I love it.  Gardening is one of those activities that is productive, therapeutic and good for the soul.  Not to mention, the ultimate reward is delicious fresh picked vegetables and fruit for you and your family.

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Everything that I grow in my little garden is organic.  That means I don’t use bug sprays, processed fertilizers or non-organic composts.  I prefer it that way.  I’m far from perfect but I do try my best to feed my family healthy foods free from chemicals and pesticide residue.  So I do take the extra time to pull weeds or deal with garden pests the old fashioned way by plucking them off the leaves by hand.  Planting, weeding and watering is the easy part of gardening.  Dealing with the garden pests such as snails slugs or beetles is not.  It’s not my favorite part of gardening but, left unchecked, those annoying little pests can destroy your precious plants within a few short weeks.

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Every year I plant several Green Zebra Tomato plants in addition to the dozen other varieties of heirloom tomatoes.  Green Zebra Tomatoes are my son’s favorite variety of tomato so I grow at least three plants just for him.  Green zebras are immensely flavorful and have a beautiful green color.  And, don’t let the bright green color fool you.  The green tomatoes that you see are perfectly ripe and ready to eat.  After growing many heirloom varieties for many years, I have learned to pick my tomatoes by touch and feel, and not by color.  Why?  Heirloom varieties come in a variety of colors such as yellow, green, orange, red and even black.  When picking tomatoes, I gently squeeze the fruit to check for ripeness.  If it’s too firm, it remains on the vine until it’s ripe and ready to be brought into my kitchen.

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My Heirloom Tomato Salad with Green Zebra Vinaigrette is a simple combination of ingredients that packs some serious summertime flavor.  Don’t worry if you can’t find Green Zebra Tomatoes…  My the tomato vinaigrette can be made with any kind of tomato you wish. Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 4 – 5 cups Heirloom Cherry Tomatoes (mixed)
  • 3 – 4 Tbs Green Zebra Tomato Vinaigrette (See recipe below)
  • Sprigs of fresh snipped Basil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Begin by washing and stemming the cherry tomatoes.  Cut in half.  Arrange on 4 salad plates.  Garnish with the fresh basil.  Drizzle with Green Zebra Vinaigrette.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Makes 4 salads.

Green Zebra Tomato Vinaigrette:

  • 4 – Green Zebra Tomatoes (quartered, about 10 ounces)
  • 1 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 1 shallot (finely chopped)
  • 2 Tbs White Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tsp Garlic Paste
  • 1 tsp Honey
  • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbs Fresh Parsley (minced)
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • garnish with sprigs of basil

Grab a small saucepan and heat 1 Tbs olive oil on the stove over medium high heat.  Add tomatoes and shallots and cook about 10 minutes stirring constantly, be careful not to burn.  Remove from heat and add the white balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic and honey.  Use an immersion or stick blender and add olive oil slowly until the mixture is smooth.  Add salt and pepper.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Stir in the minced parsley.  Cover and chill.  Makes about 1 cup.  Keep refrigerated in a tightly sealed container for about 3 – 4 days.

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.

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.

Shredded Romaine Salad with Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette

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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.

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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