Tag Archives: food blogger

Easy Lentil Chili

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One evening after work last week, Bruce and I had quite the discussion on how we wanted to eat healthier meals in the New Year.  We talked about eating more vegetarian dishes and avoiding white bread, white sugar and most the most damaging thing of all, fast food.  Our conversation was not about making any resolutions, it was all about making some positive lifestyle changes.  I particularly liked that idea for I don’t believe in resolutions.  I know that when I make New Year’s resolutions, you can bet that I will break them within a few short months.

One of the challenges with cooking healthy meals in our home is finding dishes that both Bruce and I will enjoy.  For instance, I love ingredients such as kidney beans, green peas, fresh picked asparagus and mushrooms.  Bruce on the other hand, will not (knowingly) eat those foods.  He considers them taboo.  And trust me…  He has quite the list of “taboo” ingredients.  So, in order to accomplish preparing a meal that I know that Bruce will like, I sometimes have to get really creative and super stealthy.  That sometimes means chopping the forbidden ingredients into smaller pieces, not telling Bruce what he is “really” eating unless he asks and putting the focus on creating fabulous flavor profiles that distracts his attention.  In other words, out of site, out of mind is the key when preparing a dish for Bruce.

While shopping at Trader Joe’s last week I found a package of precooked lentils in the produce section of the store.  Fortunately, after about ten years of marriage, Bruce has finally warmed to the idea of eating lentils.  Unlike Bruce, I have always loved lentils and with our busy lives this precooked ingredient was something that I just had to try.  I figured that the precooked lentils would be delicious in salads or soups for lunch during the work week.  This evening, I opted to put the lentils in a quick chili for dinner.  As a result, I am glad that I did.  Bruce absolutely loved it!  And the cool part about all this was that he did not notice that he just ate a meal that was hearty, and high in fiber and iron.  And, as a final double bonus, it was vegetarian and cholesterol free!

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My Easy Lentil Chili is super simple to make, incredibly flavorful and tastes great with fresh baked cornbread and a leafy green salad on the side.  Garnish my Easy Lentil Chili with some shredded cheddar cheese, a little dollop of light sour cream, a spoonful of salsa and a sprinkling of fresh chopped cilantro.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 – 17 oz. package Trader Joe’s Steamed Lentils (about 2 1/2 cups, cooked)
  • 1 cup onion chopped
  • 2 tsp canola oil
  • 1 – 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (or more if desired)
  • 1/2 cup brewed coffee
  • 2 Tbs flour (whisked with 1/2 cup stock to make a slurry)
  • 2 Tbs extra dark cocoa powder
  • 1 Tbs dark chili powder
  • 1 Tbs brown sugar (or to taste)
  • 2 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Sriracha sauce (or to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • Top with shredded cheddar cheese, salsa, sour cream or fresh cilantro (optional)

In a medium sized pot on medium flame, cook onions in canola oil until onions are translucent. Add 1/2 package of lentils, vegetable stock, coffee, flour slurry, extra dark cocoa powder, dark chili powder, brown sugar, garlic paste, cumin, sriracha, thyme, salt and pepper.  Turn down the heat, cook uncovered on low for about 30 – 40 minutes stirring occasionally, taking care not to burn the chili.  Add remaining lentils and cook covered for an additional 15 minutes.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Ladle into bowls and garnish with cheddar cheese, sour cream, salsa and/or chopped cilantro.  Makes about 4 servings.

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Smoked Salmon Dip

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASmoked Salmon Dip

It’s late October and I’m having a tough time giving up my warm weather habits…  I’m resisting the impending cold weather as long as I can.  Even if it is a bone chilling 32 degrees outside, I still prefer to order my latte over ice early in the morning on my way to work.  I know that once I start to order it piping hot, I’m going to be drinking it that way until the warm weather arrives again in the spring.  I look at it this way, we still have at least another week of glorious warm weather here in Southern Oregon and I am going to take advantage of it.  That means getting outdoors and enjoying the bright sunshine while it is still here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASmoked Chinook Salmon

While preparing my Smoked Salmon Dip for an appetizer for a dinner party later this evening, I spied some cedar waxwings in one of the trees outside my kitchen window.  I immediately stopped what I was doing and grabbed my camera.  Cedar waxwings are sleek crested medium sized birds that frequent my neighborhood in the fall of the year.  They arrive in large noisy flocks to eat the fruit off of the flowering crab apple tree in the back of the yard.  Cedar waxwings are distinctive for they look like little bandits with dark black masks streaked across their faces.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACedar Waxwing

Another way of identifying a cedar waxwing is by the glossy dark grey wing feathers and bright yellow tip on its tail.  Cedar waxwings are similar to Bohemian waxwings but are smaller in size.

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A pair of cedar waxwings deciding on which juicy berry they are going to pick first.  The one on top of the photo is a juvenile.  You can tell by the lightly mottled brown feathers on its breast and back.  By next spring its plumage will look like the mature adult perched on the branch below.

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Cedar waxwings are without a doubt, greedy little birds.  They are in the trees as soon as the sun comes up in the morning, and they stay throughout the day, gobbling up as much fruit as they can fit into their bellies.  It’s amazing to see how many berries one single bird will gulp down.  Within a few short weeks all of the fruit will be stripped from the trees.  Regardless of what the calendar says, that in my mind, officially marks the end of the warm summer months…

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After snapping a few photos of the cedar waxwings, I resumed preparing my Smoked Salmon Dip.  My Smoked Salmon Dip is light, flavorful and easy to make. It’s made with good quality smoked Oregon Chinook salmon, fluffy cream cheese, light sour cream, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, fresh squeezed lemon juice, hot sauce, salt and pepper.  My Smoked Salmon Dip tastes amazing on crackers, toasts, chips and even fresh vegetables.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 6 ounces smoked salmon
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup light sour cream
  • 1 tsp horseradish
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • a few dashes hot sauce (optional)
  • salt to taste
  • garnish with bits of smoked salmon or fresh snipped herbs

Begin by placing the cream cheese, sour cream, horseradish, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper and hot sauce in a medium sized bowl.  Using a hand mixer, whip the cream cheese mixture until it is light and fluffy.  Be sure to use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl to make sure that the mixture is well incorporated.  Break apart the smoked salmon into smaller pieces removing the skin or any bones.   Add smoked salmon to the cream cheese mixture and blend well.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Keep chilled.  Place in a dish and serve.  Garnish with bits of smoked salmon and herbs.  Makes approximately two cups.

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.

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…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATrionfo Violetto Beans

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.

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.

Lemon Cucumbers and Peanut Sauce

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALemon Cucumbers and Peanut Sauce

I’m curious…  Have you ever heard of or seen lemon cucumbers before?  The reason that I ask is that I have to tell you that lemon cucumbers are my all time favorite variety of cucumber.  Every year I grow one or two plants in my little garden and for about 4 months during the summer, I get big handfuls of tennis ball sized sweet little cucumbers.  This year, due to lack of garden space, I had to grow my lemon cucumber plants in a pot.  They did surprisingly well and I will be sure to try that method again next year.

One of the ways I like to eat lemon cucumbers is to slice them into thin slices and dip them into a creamy homemade peanut sauce.  I could eat lemon cucumbers and peanut sauce all day if I could… I first was introduced to peanut sauce by my grandmother many years ago.  She always seemed to have a small bowl of peanut sauce on the table at family barbecues and meals.  I loved to drizzle it on many Indonesian dishes such as pork satay, nasi goreng and gado gado.   Many years later, I’ve taken peanut sauce a step further and put it on pizza, tofu tacos and turkey burgers.  Peanut sauce is so versatile and delicious!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALemon Cucumbers

Lemon cucumbers resemble lemons with the yellow color and oval shape.  What I like about lemon cucumbers is that you don’t have to peel them for the skin is paper thin and you can eat them like an apple.  After picking them, you will notice that the cucumbers have a bit of a rough exterior.  All I do is wash them well and rub off the small little stickers or spines with a damp cloth that grow on the outer skin of the cucumber.   Once cleaned up, the skin is smooth and the cucumber is ready to eat.  Lemon cucumbers are delightfully mild and delicious.  Lemon cucumbers have a short shelf life as compared to the green cucumbers that you see in the store.  Once picked you have to eat them within a day or two.  Maybe that is why they are hard to find except if you grow them yourself or visit a farmers market.  Lemon cucumbers taste great sliced up in salads, on sandwiches or in a pickle.  If you get a chance to purchase or grow lemon cucumbers, be sure to make some of my peanut sauce for dipping!  Enjoy!  Tessa

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Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 tsp. garlic paste
  • 1 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 lime (juiced)
  • 1 Tbls. Indonesian soy sauce
  • 1 Tbls. sweet chili sauce
  • regular soy sauce (optional, to taste)
  • sambal oelek or red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Lemon cucumbers (regular cucumbers can be substituted)

Grab a medium sauce pan or saucier.  Find a whisk.  Add all ingredients to the pan and cook on low heat for 20 – 30 minutes, whisking constantly.  You want the flavors to marry and the sauce to thicken.  Taste it.  If it is too sweet for your liking, add some soy sauce.  If you want it spicier, feel free to add some sambal oelek or some red pepper flakes.  Remove from heat and let it cool.  Pour into a serving dish.  While preparing the peanut sauce, wash and slice the cucumbers.  Serve cucumbers with the peanut sauce.  Makes nearly 1 1/2 cups.

Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARoasted Heirloom Tomatoes

My little garden is a well planned garden.  It’s a lot of work but it’s completely worth it.  In comparison to other people’s gardens, my garden is small, efficient and in my opinion, for its size, it kicks some serious butt.  By the time spring rolls around, I know exactly what is getting planted and where.  What’s even worse is that I am extremely picky about the tomato plants that I grow every year.  If you don’t believe me, just ask Bruce.  I have limited space so I have to choose my plants wisely.  I make a list and I stick to it.  When it comes to tomatoes, I like a variety of shapes, colors and flavors.  This year I chose Green Zebra, Early Girl, Pineapple, Sun Gold, Aunt Ruby’s German Green, Sweet 100, Lemon Boy, Japanese Black Trifele, Mortgage Lifter, Caspian Pink and Moskovich.  That’s my list and I’m sticking to it.  Until today…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATomato Plant

I prefer to do my gardening early in the cool hours in the morning.  I hand water my plants everyday and inspect every one for pests or other possible plant problems.  Everything that I grow is organic and free from pesticides or sprays.  Sometimes, the veggies that I grow are not as pretty as store bought but I don’t care.  Pretty is not everything.  What’s important is that what I grow in my garden is safe for my family to eat.

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My tomatoes are ripening and I just realized that have an alien specie in my garden.  The tomato that you see is not what I intended to plant.  This little unripe tomato completely threw my well planned orderly universe on it’s side.  This tomato was supposed to be a Green Zebra.  Green Zebras are my son’s favorite.  That is why I planted two plants.  This is no Green Zebra and frankly, I was a bit miffed.  Either someone switched tags at the nursery where I bought it or the seeds were switched at birth.    Fortunately I have a backup.  As for the alien specie, it took me about an hour of internet time to figure this one out.  This tomato is called Stupice.  Yes, Stupice.  Go figure.

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One of my favorite ways to prepare tomatoes from my garden is to oven roast them.  It’s easy to do, they taste freakingly amazing and once they are roasted, they are so versatile.  Just toss them in your favorite pasta dish or blend them up for a delicious sauce.  They also taste great on pizza, in soup or even in scrambled eggs.  The possibilities are endless!

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Just toss the tomatoes in olive oil, salt and pepper.

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And roast them…  Roasted tomatoes are seriously delicious.  As for the Stupice tomatoes,  I don’t know why I was having such an issue… Stupice have a wonderful sweet and tart tomato flavor.  It’s highly likely that Stupice will find a place in our little garden next year and possibly in the many years to come.

Ingredients:

  • tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Cut tomatoes in half or into large chunks and remove the tops.  If the tomatoes are small, then there’s no need to slice them. Gently squeeze out some of the seeds.  Toss lightly with olive oil, salt, pepper.  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 and toss in the refrigerator.  Use within a few days.  Can be frozen for later use.  Note: if you don’t like the skins on the tomatoes, just pull the skins off after cooking.  They pop off pretty easily.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Blueberry Bread

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlueberry Bread

Yesterday morning while Bruce was opening the mail he noticed that our natural gas bill was unusually low as compared to years past.  He was concerned, shouted out to me and asked me what I thought of it.  Well, the answer was easy.  Our kitchen stove uses natural gas and I have hardly cooked anything for the family over the course of the past month or two.  If it was not for fast food, roast Costco chicken, or frozen dinners the members of my family would have starved to death…

I’ve been working long hours lately and I’ve rarely spent time in my kitchen.  My refrigerator, coffee maker and microwave have been the only appliances that have been put to use.  My stove, ovens and stand mixer have been idle and collecting dust.  My camera has remained in the closet and has not been touched.  By the time I get home in the evenings all I want to do is sit on my couch in complete peace and quiet.  I stopped reading my magazines, books and favorite food blogs.  I’ve hardly checked Facebook and ignored my personal emails.  Feral Kitchen has been mothballed and a good home cooked meal has been nonexistent in our home.  On the bright side, I know that these long hours are temporary and life will be back to normal before I know it.  I look forward to getting back into the kitchen.  Cooking makes me happy.

Well, all things considered, today is a brand new day.  Today is different.  Today, I have a day off!

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This morning while out shopping for groceries for the week, I spied two pounds of fresh picked blueberries.  They were just gorgeous!  Bright blue, fat and juicy.  Without hesitation, they went straight into my shopping basket.  I knew what I wanted to do with them.  I wanted to make some blueberry bread for breakfast and maybe even share some with coworkers during the busy work week.  The rest will be packed in my lunch and the others will be made into a tangy blueberry ginger vinaigrette.  If the vinaigrette turns out the way I want it to taste, I will be sure to share the recipe with you sometime soon.

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I love blueberries!  I love the flavor and color.  What’s funny about blueberries is that I refused to eat them as a child.  How weird is that?  I find it so interesting how my palate has changed as I’ve aged.  I’m curious, has that happened to you too?

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My blueberry bread is packed with fresh plump blueberries and is not too sweet.  A slice or two is great with a cup of coffee or tea.  Any leftover loaves are perfect for sharing with friends and family or as a hostess gift.  Makes 3 delicious loaves.  It’s good to be back.  See you again soon!  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tbs baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 tsp lemon extract
  • 3 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large mixing bowl mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, canola oil, and lemon extract.  Add blueberries to the wet ingredients.  Now add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.  Mix until moist and lumpy.  Don’t over mix.  Add mixture to 3 greased 4 x 8 loaf pans.  Bake for 1 hour or until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on wire racks before slicing.  Makes 3 fabulous loaves!

Beet, Chevre and Radish Crostini

Beet, Chevre and Radish Crostini

As a child, I despised beets.  Hated, hated, freaking hated them…  From what I understood is that beets came out of a can and no amount of money, begging or bribing could get me to eat them.  No way, never, nope, nuh uh, not happening…  Ever.

And then I grew up…

It was only a few years ago when I rediscovered beets.  In my opinion, beets now taste delicious.  Beets are beautifully colored, richly flavored and earthy.  I can’t believe I just said this out loud.  I like beets. I like them roasted, baked or sliced on a green salad.  Red or golden beets.  Either is fine with me.  Even better is that my beets that I prepare for my family are freshly picked and don’t come out of a can.  I just wash and scrub them well, cut off the tops and toss them in the oven.  After they are cooked, I peel them, slice and serve.  All I do is give them a hit of fresh cream butter or olive oil, cracked black pepper and salt.

I got the idea of blending beets and chevre from a recipe for a Roasted Beet and Chevre Spread in a cookbook called “Dishing up Oregon” by Ashley Gartland.  What a lovely cookbook!  Great photos and fabulous recipes from some of Oregon’s finest cooks.

For those who do not know what chevre is, chevre is a delightfully creamy and complex flavored cheese made from the milk of goats.  I loved the mixture of beets and chevre and decided to adapt the recipe for a delicious Beet, Chevre and Radish Crostini.

Locally grown red beets ready to be baked…

Chevre from the Mama Terra Micro Creamery in Williams, Oregon.  The absolute best chevre I have ever tasted in my life.  The cheese is made from the milk of a small herd of Nubian goats.  If you see this cheese in the store, do not hesitate.  Buy it.  It’s outstanding.

Fresh picked local organic radishes. Bright, crisp and peppery.  Simply delicious!

Beet, Chevre, and Radish Crostini garnished with chopped chives from my herb garden.  The beet and chevre mixture is a vibrant pink and the thinly sliced radishes adds a wonderful crunch and a peppery flavor to the little toasts.  I sprinkled the chopped chives on the top of the toasts for a flavorful garnish.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound beets (I used 2 medium sized red) washed, scrubbed and tops removed.
  • 8 ounces fresh creamy chevre cheese
  • 2 tsp olive oil (or more if needed)
  • 2 tsp white balsamic vinegar
  • salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • 3 or 4 thinly sliced radishes (I used a mandolin and then sliced again with a sharp knife to achieve the shredded effect)
  • fresh chives for garnish
  • 1 loaf baguette bread

Begin by washing and scrubbing your beets.  Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Remove the beet tops and put the beets in an oven proof pan.  Add a little bit of water (about 1/3 of a cup) and cover tightly with foil.   Bake for one hour or until beets are fork tender.  Remove from oven and let cool.

When beets are cool enough to handle, peel the skin off, quarter them and toss in a food processor.  Blend well, scraping the sides.  Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and chevre cheese.  Pulse until well incorporated.  Add salt and pepper.  Add additional olive oil if the mixture is too thick for your liking.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Remove from food processor and set aside.  Can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for a day or two.

Slice baguette bread into 1/2 inch slices and toast on a grill pan or barbecue.  Spread beet and chevre mixture on top, add radishes and garnish with chives. Makes about 2 cups of beet and chevre mixture and a couple dozen toasts.