Tag Archives: vegan

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.

Banana Avocado Mango Smoothie

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My “go to” breakfast or morning snack during the hot summer months is an ice cold Banana Avocado Mango Smoothie (aka BAM Smoothie).  I love preparing smoothies because they are good for you, quick and easy to make and most importantly, they’re portable.  After blending, just pour it in a spill proof container or glass, add a fat straw, and breakfast is served!  My Banana Avocado Mango Smoothie is made with a fresh banana, avocado, frozen mango chunks, and chilled unfiltered apple juice.  My BAM Smoothie is a simple combination of ingredients that is simply satisfying and tastes delicious.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium sized banana
  • 1/2 medium sized avocado (skin and pit removed)
  • 1 cup frozen mango chunks
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • stevia (optional, for additional sweetness)

Add all ingredients to a blender or a single serving blender cup.  Blend on high until smooth, about 30 seconds.  Serve immediately.  Pour into a glass, add a straw and enjoy!  Makes 1 serving.

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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.

Bean Salad and the Little Applegate River

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Yesterday morning Bruce and I took a drive to the Little Applegate River here in Southern Oregon. Bruce wanted to go on a 5 mile run along the Sterling Ditch Mine Trail.  As for me?  Oh heck to the no!  I had no interest in running. All I wanted to do was spend my morning in a leisurely fashion and exercising my camera…

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While Bruce was out running along the trails, I made my way down to the Little Applegate River.  The water was ice cold and crystal clear. The trees and plants growing along the banks were green and lush.

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What a lovely place to spend part of my morning. The sound of the water and the wind through the trees was so relaxing…

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Across the river from where I was standing was the remnants of a gold mining operation that took place over a hundred years ago.

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A branch of an Oregon Ash tree.

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Bruce on his way down the trail and towards the finish line.  Once he cooled down, we hopped back into the truck and headed back home.  I needed to get back in order to make my bean salad to share at a barbecue later on that day with family and friends.

My bean salad is a riff on a bean salad recipe that my mother had jotted down in the back of an old cookbook decades ago.  I made my salad a bit simpler and left out the green beans and Worcestershire sauce.  The reason for leaving out the green beans?  The recipe called for canned green beans…  Nope.  That was not happening.  I don’t buy canned green beans.  I won’t eat them.  I can’t stand them… And as for the Worcestershire sauce.  I was out.  No big deal.

My bean salad is a simple mixture of three kinds of beans, kidney, black and chick pea.  It’s tossed with red onion, red bell pepper, parsley and a sweet red wine vinaigrette.  It’s easy, delicious and a perfect side dish for a Memorial Day barbecue.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 15 ounce can kidney beans
  • 1 15 ounce can black beans
  • 1 15 ounce can chick peas (garbanzo beans)
  • 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/8 cup olive oil
  • seasoning salt and black pepper to taste

Begin by rinsing and draining the beans.  Add to a medium sized bowl.  Add red bell pepper, red onion and parsley.  In a separate bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients to make the sweet red wine vinaigrette.  Taste and correct your seasonings.  Add vinaigrette mixture to bean mixture and toss to coat.  Refrigerate covered for at least 4 hours before serving.  Makes about 6 servings.

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.

Mexican Style Pickled Vegetables

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Mexican Style Pickled Vegetables

If you love hot and spicy food, you are in for a real treat.  This unassuming little dish of pickled vegetables will fire up your taste buds.  My Mexican Style Pickled Vegetables is a wonderful combination of marinated bright orange carrots, crunchy cauliflower and smoking hot Serrano peppers.  I like to serve my Mexican Style Pickled Vegetables whenever I make homemade tacos, burritos or enchiladas.

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Serrano Peppers.  Use gloves when slicing these little bad boys…  Also, be sure to not touch your eyes or nose after working with these peppers.  Wash your hands well after working with the peppers.  Trust me.  You will not like what they will do to you.  I made that mistake once.  If you can’t handle the heat from the Serranos in the dish, you can dial it down by simply adding milder peppers instead.

My Mexican Style Pickled Vegetables is not only easy to make but vegan too.  Next time you serve Mexican cuisine at your home, be sure to make a batch of these pickled vegetables to serve along side your favorite dishes.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound carrots
  • 1 pound cauliflower
  • 3 Serrano peppers
  • 1 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbs minced garlic

Begin by washing and peeling the carrots.  Slice diagonally into 1/2 inch pieces.  Set aside.  Wash and cut the cauliflower into bite sized florets and set aside with the carrots.  Trim the tops of the peppers and cut into 1/2 inch sized pieces.  In a non reactive pan, add vinegar, water, sugar, bay leaves, salt and black peppercorns.  Bring vinegar mixture to a boil, stirring constantly until the sugar has dissolved.  Add garlic, Serrano peppers, carrots and cauliflower.  Cook for an additional 3 – 5 minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to a week.  Be sure to let the vegetables sit in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours before serving.  The longer it sits in the refrigerator, the spicier it gets.  This makes a pretty good sized batch, so feel free to cut the recipe in half.  Makes about a quart and a half of spicy pickled vegetables.

Radish Sesame Salad

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Radish Sesame Salad

Every year, early in the spring I plant radishes from seed in my little garden.   Since my garden is so small, I tuck the radishes rows between some of the slower growing vegetables such as broccoli or cabbage in order to utilize precious garden space.  Radishes are amazingly fast and easy to grow.  All they need is water and warm spring days.  Within 3 weeks after sowing the seeds, I am able to harvest crunchy little radishes for salads and snacks.

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Thin sliced crunchy red radishes…

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My Radish and Sesame Seed Salad is one of my favorite ways to prepare fresh picked radishes from my garden.  It’s vibrant in color and has wonderful Asian inspired flavors.  Next time you plant a garden, try sowing a few radish seeds.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients

  • 3 cups thinly sliced red radishes
  • 2 Tbs Mirin (sweet cooking wine)
  • 2 Tbs sesame oil
  • 2 Tbs rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp black sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tsp salt or to taste
  • fresh cilantro, green onion or chives for garnish

Thinly slice the radishes with a mandolin or sharp knife.  Set aside.  In a medium sized bowl whisk together the Mirin, sesame oil, rice vinegar, black sesame seeds, ginger, garlic and salt.  Add radishes and toss.  Place in the refrigerator and let marinate for about 45 minutes.  Garnish with fresh cilantro, green onions or chives.  Makes 4 servings.

Spring Green Salad with Strawberry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

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Spring Green Salad with Strawberry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette

I’m so excited!  Spring has finally arrived in Southern Oregon!  According to the calendar, “technically” it’s still winter.  According to what is happening in my backyard, the calendar is way wrong :)…

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A crocus blossom… One of the first flowers to make an appearance in our backyard early in the season.  I love the bright orange stamens and the purple and white streaked petals.  I have them planted in many places in our yard.  Some reside in pots, some are tucked under bushes and trees.  Crocuses grow only a few inches tall and come back every year during the month of March.

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This is a shot of some pansies that I have planted in a hanging pot on my back patio.  Pansies are a regular staple to our yard in the spring and fall.  Every time I look at them they make me smile.  I enjoy the bright and cheerful colors outside my kitchen window.

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A close-up shot of a pansy blossom.  I was thrilled to capture this image with my camera.  Through the lens of my camera, I was able to see this amazing amount of detail on the flower.  I can’t see this level of detail even with my reading glasses on.

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A tulip poking its way through the soil.  I look forward to a big vase full of bright red blossoms on our dining room table in a short couple of weeks.

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Purple crocus.  What’s not to like about that deep rich indigo color?

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Even the koi fish in our pond are starting to surface for the first handfuls of feed of the year.  This is Pumpkin…  He’s one of the original fish to live in our pond.  He’s almost 2 feet long and about 10 years old.  I remember the day when Bruce and I purchased him.  He was about 4 inches in length and shared a plastic bag with four other fish on the trip home. Several years later, we now have a total of 8 koi fish happily living in our pond.

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Whenever I think of spring, one of the first things that come to mind is fresh picked strawberries.  I purchased a couple of pints of strawberries the other day and one of the things that I wanted to do with them was to make a spring like strawberry vinaigrette.  My Strawberry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette is a wonderfully pink colored salad dressing made with fresh strawberries, red wine vinegar, local honey, Dijon Mustard, canola oil and poppy seeds.  It’s a delicious vinaigrette to serve drizzled over a plate of fresh picked greens and sliced strawberries.  Enjoy!  Tessa

Strawberry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette Ingredients:

  • 1/4 pound strawberries (cleaned and hulled)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbs honey or to taste
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 tsp poppy seeds or to taste

Add strawberries, red wine vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard and canola oil to a blender.  Blend until smooth.  Taste and add salt and pepper if needed.  Splash more vinegar into the dressing if you want… Mix in the poppy seeds.  Makes 1 cup or 16 – 1 Tablespoon servings.  Store in a tightly covered jar in the refrigerator for up to 3 or 4 days.

Green Salad (per serving)

  • 2 cups fresh lettuce
  • 1 thinly sliced radish
  • 2 strawberries (hulled and quartered)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced radicchio
  • 1 Tbs Strawberry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette (or to taste)

Assemble by placing salad greens on a plate.  Arrange radishes, strawberries and radicchio on top of the greens.  Drizzle greens with the Strawberry Poppy Seed Vinaigrette.  Makes one serving.

Sesame Seed Beer Bread

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Sesame Seed Beer Bread

Beer Breads are some of my favorite loaves of bread to bake.  They’re easy, require few ingredients and taste delicious.  For years I have made the same Whole Wheat Beer Bread and it has always been my “go to” recipe.  “Go to” until now…  My favorite Whole Wheat Beer Bread recipe now has to share the spotlight.  I have a new recipe that is equally delicious but with a different spin.  I call it Sesame Seed Beer Bread.  It’s made with all purpose white flour, Oregon brewed beer, and black and white sesame seeds.

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My Sesame Seed Beer Bread has a pretty black sesame seed speckled center with a lovely mixed sesame seed top crust.

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It slices nicely and goes great with leafy green salads and piping hot bowls of soup.  I had a couple of slices toasted this morning for breakfast.  It’s easy to make and tastes fabulous!  Enjoy!  Tessa

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 6 Tbs sugar
  • 1 Tbs black sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 12 oz beer
  • 1/2 Tbs black sesame seeds
  • 1/2 Tbs white sesame seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp olive oil

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix together flour, sugar, 1 Tbs black sesame seeds, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a medium sized bowl.  Add beer and mix until lumps are gone.  Don’t over mix.  Add mixture to greased 9 x 5 inch baking pan.  Sprinkle top with 1/2 Tbs black and 1/2 Tbs white sesame seeds.  Drizzle with olive oil.  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until done.  Makes one fabulous loaf!