Tag Archives: garden

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.

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.

Angel Hair Pasta With Roasted Indigo Rose Tomatoes

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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

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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.

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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.

Lemon Cucumbers and Peanut Sauce

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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!

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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.

Snow Pea Slaw

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Early this morning, barely after finishing my cup of coffee, I grabbed my metal pail off the pot rack and headed straight out the back door to my little garden…  My reason?  My snow peas are finally ready to pick!  Every spring I plant snow peas in March and by mid May I have plenty to add to stir fries and salads.  Sometimes, I may even have extra to share with family and friends.  Snow peas prefer cool wet weather and by the time summer rolls around, they stop producing and the vines quickly wither away.

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My favorite variety of snow pea is the Oregon Sugar Pod II.  It’s a hardy variety of snow pea and is fairly resistant to pests and disease.  It’s a prolific producer of beautiful 3 – 4 inch long pods that taste wonderful raw or cooked.

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This year I planted my snow peas in large pots and I supported them with tomato cages.  Once the snow peas are done for the year, I swap the peas out for my favorite heirloom tomato plants.  Growing below the snow peas are edible yellow pansy blossoms.  Behind the peas in the raised boxes are some newly planted heirloom tomatoes.

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Snow peas climb using their tendrils…  Tendrils grow quickly and wrap around anything that will support them.

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The beautiful white pea flowers quickly produce tender green pods.  Within a couple of days, this pod will be ready to pick.  Sometimes my snow peas never make it into the kitchen.  They taste delicious right off the vine!

A few feet away from my garden I planted some giant allium bulbs.

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The round purple flowers are just stunning!  They grow over three feet tall and bloom from May through June.  This is the third year that the allium bulbs have bloomed.  I hope they come back and bloom again for us next year.

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While I was picking the snow peas, I noticed that some of my purple cabbage was ready to harvest.  I planted only 6 heads of cabbage this year but I am starting to think that it was a bit much…  Fortunately, cabbage has a fairly long shelf life in the refrigerator as compared to other vegetables such as lettuce and spinach.  I picked the largest head and thought it would be wonderful in a Snow Pea Slaw.

My Snow Pea Slaw is a fresh combination of snow peas, purple cabbage and an Asian inspired sesame dressing.  It’s easy to make and tastes wonderful!  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 pound snow peas
  • 1/4 pound purple cabbage
  • 1/8 cup canola oil
  • 2 Tbs rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbs sesame seeds (I used black and white mixed)
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar (or to taste)
  • 4 – 5 drops sesame oil (or to taste)
  • salt and pepper

Begin by slicing your snow peas lengthwise into this strips.  To make the process go faster, stack two or three snow peas on top of each other and then slice.  Set aside.  Thinly slice the purple cabbage into similar sized pieces as the snow peas.  Add cabbage to snow peas in a medium sized bowl.  In another bowl, whisk together the canola oil, rice vinegar, sesame seeds, sugar, sesame oil, salt and pepper.  Add dressing to the snow pea and cabbage mixture.  Mix well and serve.  Makes approximately 2 – servings.  Keep refrigerated for up to 4 hours.

Herb Salt

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Herb Salt

It’s spring in Southern Oregon.  The perennial herbs and plants have pushed through the soil and the chives are ready to bloom.  Lately, I’ve been experimenting with making my own flavored salts.  Last week it was a Serrano salt made with some leftover Serrano peppers that I had sitting in the fridge.  I liked the flavor but it did not have as much heat as I had hoped.  I will try again.  Next time with triple the amount of Serrano peppers.  I like heat and lots of it.  So, I look at it this way.  What is the point of Serrano salt if it does not set your taste buds on fire?

Early yesterday afternoon as I was tending to my pots of herbs on the back patio, I was inspired to make my own Herb Salt.  Buying pre-made flavored or herb salts can be ridiculously expensive and there was is no reason that I could not make it myself.  So I did just that.  I made my own Herb Salt.  My Herb Salt is a simple mixture of fresh picked sage, oregano, rosemary and kosher salt.  That’s it…

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Purple Sage

I just love the color of this sage.  Any variety of sage will do in the recipe for Herb Salt.  Just be sure to pick only the leaves and rinse and dry the leaves well.

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Rosemary

I use lots of rosemary in my kitchen.  It’s readily available for I have a large bush growing on the side of my home.  I pick fresh rosemary all year long and I use it many Mediterranean inspired dishes.   The needles of the Rosemary plant went into the salt mixture…

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Oregano

And finally, oregano…  I have plenty of fresh oregano growing in one of the big pots on my patio.  It’s now starting to take over and beginning to compete with the other herbs in the pot.  It may be time to start transplanting it or even giving some away to friends and neighbors.  Fresh picked oregano tastes fabulous in marinara sauces and other Italian dishes.  It also lends a nice flavor to my Herb Salt.

My Herb Salt is easy to make and can easliy adapted using other types of herbs.  I chose to use rosemary, sage and oregano this time.  I also have parsley, basil, thyme and tarragon that needs to be experimented with.  That’s for another day…

Sprinkle Herb Salt instead of plain sea salt on pork tenderloin, lamb chops or chicken before tossing on the barbecue or grill for a delicious flavor.  It can also be used in soups, stews and sauces.  So the next time you have some fresh herbs that need to to be snipped, be sure to make some Herb Salt.  Enjoy!  Tessa

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup kosher salt (coarse)
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed rosemary
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed oregano
  • 1/3 cup loosely packed sage leaves

Note:  You can use more or less herbs if you choose.  You can also change up the types and ratios if you want.

Begin by washing and drying the rosemary, oregano and sage.  Be sure to use only the leaves and not the stems.  Add salt and herbs to a food processor.  Pulse and then spread onto a small cookie sheet.  Bake in a 225 degree oven for about 35 minutes or until the herbs are dry.  Stir occasionally. Remove herb salt from oven and let cool.  Add herb and salt mixture back to food processor and pulse lightly until desired consistency.  I kept my herb salt a little coarse rather than fine. Store Herb Salt in tightly covered container in a dry place.  Makes about 1 cup of herb salt.

And a final note.  Be sure to save your leftover spice jars.  They can be washed, reused and filled again.  Just peel off the label, wash and dry well, fill with your new spice blend creation, and add a new label!

Chicken Pak Choi Stir Fry

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Chicken Pak Choi Stir Fry

I was so thrilled to have my son come home from school to visit last weekend.  I don’t see him too often but we do skype or email to keep in touch. I like using skype because I can actually see him while we talk but sometimes the quality of the connection can be poor. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining…  I simply prefer talk to someone in person than use technology to do it.  Good or bad, having a face to face conversation beats a phone or email converstation hands down.

Whenever my son is home he can always bet on home cooked meals surrounded by friends and family.  No sandwiches, pizza, frozen dinners or anything that bears the slightest resemblance of college student food.  I can’t say that I blame him.  I would feel the exact same way.  I know because, I walked in those same shoes many years ago.

I made my Chicken Pak Choi Stir Fry for a quick lunch as my son was packing his bags to go back up to the University.  It’s made with chicken, ramen noodles and a large handful of chopped pak choi fresh picked from my garden.  Pak choi is an Asian variety of green leaf vegetable similar to cabbage or turnips.  It cooks quickly and lends a wonderful flavor and texture to many Asian dishes.

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Pak Choi growing in my garden.  I planted two varieties of this Asian leafy vegetable, a small purple leaf Pak Choi and a large white Bok Choy.

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Bok choy.  This grows more than twice the size of the pac choi.  It is also slower to bolt.

Pak choi or bok choy can be found in many grocery stores and at farmer’s markets.  It’s a cool weather crop so it’s more likely to be found in the fall, winter and spring months.  My Chicken Pak Choi Stir Fry takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.  What I like about it is that It’s inexpensive and a great option for a quick lunch or weekday dinner.  My son liked it and I hope that you do too!  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 package ramen noodles
  • 1 cup cooked chicken
  • 1/4 onion (chopped)
  • 1/4 red bell pepper (chopped)
  • 1 large handful of Pak Choi (coarsely chopped)
  • 1 Tbs Indonesian soy sauce or Kecap Manis
  • 1 tsp canola oil

Begin by boiling 2 cups of water in a sauce pan.  Add ramen noodles.  Save the seasoning packet for another day.  Cook ramen for only for three minutes.  Remove from heat, drain and set aside.  Meanwhile, bring a wok or large fry pan to medium high heat.  Add canola oil.  Now add the onion and bell pepper and cook until the onion is transluscent (about a minute or two).  Add cooked chicken, ramen noodles, pak choi and Indonesian soy sauce.  Cook another few minutes until the chicken has heated through and the pak choi has wilted.  Don’t over cook.   Remove from flame and serve.  Makes one serving.