Friday, June 26, 2009


We got our first tomato off the vine today!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Frozen yogurt of the raspberry variety.

I love, love, love summer. Not always the heat of summer, but certainly the fruit. I had snagged some awesome raspberries at Henry's last week and come Friday I decided on frozen yogurt to use some of them.
This was our dessert the other night after we had the horseradish marinated beef. I followed the instructions here at Food in my Beard, except for the making of the yogurt. I am ambitious, but only to a point on a Friday that is my lone day off for the week. Sometime soon I would like to try making my own yogurt, it just wasn't this day.

I started by allowing a 32 ounce container of fat free unflavored yogurt to strain in my mesh strainer lined with coffee filters.

I think I easily drained a cup of liquid off this container of yogurt.

For the raspberries, I simmered those with about a 1/4 sugar and a splash of water until they were soft. The raspberries themselves were so sweet, I only used enough sugar to sweeten the yogurt some. I got them into the fridge to cool while the yogurt completely strained.

Once both were cold/drained, I combined them and got them into my ice cream freezer.

The yogurt was really quite thick after draining and the raspberries had such a great flavor that it was delicious without freezing.

I let the Kitchen Aide do its thing for about 20 minutes, then froze the yogurt for another 45 minutes or so before scooping it up and serving.

It was a smooth, creamy, yummy end to our dinner. Next time I will and a splash of some alcohol like vodka to keep it somewhat soft. The leftovers in the freezing now are rock hard, making them hard to enjoy, unfortunately. But it was an effort worth repeating, next up strawberries.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Horseradish is a delicious thing.

Generally, when I want something yummy to go with beef, my mind goes to two options: Gorgonzola cheese or Horseradish.

Horseradish was one of those ingredients that I always shied away from early on in my adult life. Didn't buy it, didn't cook with it, just didn't deal with it.

I don't know at what point I really decided horseradish was something I needed to cook with, but I know my love of sushi, and of course wasabi, helped.

For my birthday back in April, I put together a buffet of appetizers and munchies, including this beef skewer recipe from Nigella I found on Iron Stef's blog. It features horseradish prominently, in both the marinade and the dipping sauce served alongside.

The only change I made in making it the second time around was to add parsley to the marinade since I have so much of it growing in my garden.

We had the beef grilled, not on skewers this time, with salad and a multigrain/seeded bread from Trader Joe's. The parsley was a good addition, added a little flavor without overwhelming the rest of the ingredients in the marinade. And definitely make sure you use port, it lends a bit of sweetness and when grilled caramelizes the meat and melds so well with the spice of the horseradish.

It was so good! This was quite the meal, I also made a raspberry frozen yogurt for dessert that I plan on posting later, tonight if I can manage it after clinic this afternoon. It's been a busy week for me, I won't have a day off until friday, after working 6 days straight between my regular job and working clinical hours for school. But I do have a few posts I want to get up here and hope to before we go to Disneyland for my niece's 5th birthday on Sunday, can't wait!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dear vegetable garden,

I wanted to thank you. I had started to doubt I had any kind of green thumb after failing to keep so many plants alive while container gardening in one apartment after another. You've proved me so very wrong on that count and I appreciate it.

Now a few words for each of you.

Dear Early Girl tomatoes,
You can stop growing bigger and start kicking out ripe tomatoes anytime now.

See that white thing you just bypassed? That's the fence, it indicates the end of your garden area. I can no longer guarantee your safety from the two wild and crazy dogs that run free in the yard.

Dear cucumbers,

Nice seeing you again. Was hard keeping track of you under all the tomato branches I moved off and onto the other tomato cage this morning. You are also delicious. Keep up the good work.
Also, see that little sprout there?

That's one of my eggplant seedlings, don't kill it, ok? You and the zucchini are pushing far too close for comfort.

Hello Parsley, You are growing well. I just need to start using you more. I promise I will.

And finally, thank you lettuce for proving I can grow things in containers and not have them die. I appreciate it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Screw you computer!

That's what my husband is yelling at the TV. More specifically the Wii. And even more specifically the EA Active program it is running.

We've started a diet and regular exercise recently, and since we have the Wii fit board (which we at one point swore we would never buy) we are making use of it for the exercise part of things.

The nice thing about the EA Active is it has Bob Greene on board with his 30 Day Challenge. He is Oprah approved so it has to be good, right?
Well, so far we think it is. The first 30 days have a set exercise routine that you can change the intensity on. Good thing for us, I was/am still more of an athlete then my husband, so we can do out different levels of work outs. At the end of a workout we are sweating and tired. Exactly what I expect.

However, despite all the wonderful things T can say for the program, there is one downside:

Perky, animated trainers.

Perky, animated trainers that spout inspirational comments at random.

Perky, animated trainers that also tell you to get going when it thinks you are slacking off towards the end of your sets.

We both have had a few choice words for those trainers and their perky ways. We'll see over the rest of the first 30 days how much their perky ways and exercises whittle our waistlines down to what they should be. Marriage has been great for us, not so much for our weight!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Brined and beered chicken

Wanted: Brine for chicken. Must add delicious flavor to meat with a touch of lemon flavor.

I am trying to master a brine with lemons off my tree. I love lemon with chicken, I think it's a great combo. I adore using a brine with meat. My family has used a brine on turkey for Thanksgiving for years now, and I refuse to acknowledge any other way to make a turkey. There is no other way. Period.

So brine on chicken for the grill? Makes perfect sense. And Beer Can chicken with a brine(d?) chicken just makes sense. So this morning I dropped a chicken into some brine, let it hang out for about 6 hours, then we grilled it up.

Unfortunately, no noticeable lemon flavor. Still a good brine, and the beer, as always, kept that chicken moist.

Along side I grilled up some purple asparagus and made a cucumber tomato salad with the first cuke out of my garden.

He was a handsome and tasty little fellow, especially when paired with some heirloom tomatoes. (Still not from my garden. Boo! Come on tomatoes!)

Purple asparagus is really good, it has a milder taste then green, and more flavor than white asparagus. It isn't that I don't like white asparagus, I just think it doesn't taste green.

All in all, a delicious dinner. Brine/chicken recipe below!

My Beer Can chicken

For Brine:

1/3 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup salt
1/2 cup fresh herbs of your choice, coarsely chopped (I used parsley and sage)
3 cups water
Juice of six lemons

Combine salt, sugar and herbs with water in small saucepan on stove top. Bring to slight simmer to allow the sugar and salt to dissolve and to incorporate the flavor of the herbs. Remove from heat, add lemon juice and allow to cool completely. If you are in a hurry, you can use half the water to dissolve the salt and sugar and add the remainder in cold at the end to bring the temp down faster. Ice cubes also help, just don't over do it or you will dilute the brine.

Pour over a whole chicken in a ziplock bag and allow to sit for at least 4 hours, more is always better. (I've been known to let Turkey sit in a brine for 3 days).

When ready to cook, preheat grill to about 700 degrees. If using a gas grill, start with all burners on, if using charcol, distribute coals for indirect heat.

Remove chicken from brine and pat dry. Using a can of beer of your choice, open beer and remove about 1/3 to 1/2 of the can and place chicken on top of can.
Grill at top temp for about 15 minutes (or directly over coals) then turn off burners as needed for indirect heat (or shift chicken away from direct heat) and finish cooking for 35-45 minutes, until juices run clear or a meat thermometer reads about 160 degrees in thickest part of the breast. (The temp on my grill read about 400 degrees for the remainder of cooking)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

First Harvest.

Monday proved to be a good day in the garden, I was able to harvest my first zucchini! A lovely little thing, it grew so rapidly, I only noticed it was there on Sunday, and I was outright shocked at how big it already was. The rest of its current brethren are only about the size of small limes, so how this one escaped my attention, I don't know.

I am not growing a traditional zucchini variety, this one is called Eight Ball. Same wonderful dark skin in a cute, little round package. It, like the other variety of items growing in my garden is unique in some way, I have white cucumbers, tiny currant tomatoes, small dwarf eggplant, and these rotund zucchini.

In celebration of my harvest, I threw a very quick dinner together that night. I had spent the day doing online classes for work then moved on to cleaning house, so I was exhausted by the end of the day. Thankfully, I had some turkey meatballs from Trader Joe's in the freezer and a new jarred pasta sauce to try out.

My Mom discovered this sauce recently, made with heirloom tomatoes and the only sweetener is organic evaporated cane juice. We gave it a whirl, simmering the meatballs in it until everything was hot and tossing it with whole wheat penne. I added some fresh basil and parsley from my herb garden to finish it off.

As for the zucchini, I tossed it with some olive oil, salt and pepper and roasted it in the oven at 425 degrees.

The results were wonderful. I would have to say the Eight Ball is a little sweeter then your standard zucchini, it could have been my choice to roast it, or it could be inherently sweeter. It was delicious though.

The sauce was also very good. Nice tomato taste and not too sweet. One I think I will look for again for these nights I need a quick dinner.
I am thinking for the next zucchini(s) of thick slices grilled up with some salt and red pepper flakes. The round shape seems like it would lend itself nicely to a sandwich as well, maybe panini.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Lemons, lemons, and more lemons.

When we were looking at houses last year, we saw quite a few with a variety of stuff in the backyard. Some had lemon trees, a couple had avocado trees, one even had a very overgrown fig tree.

The house we finally had an offer accepted on had what we thought were a lemon and a lime tree. Turns out they are both lemon trees, and we have more lemons then I ever imagined I would. And I am hurriedly finding ways to use them.

One thing I was introduced to by my father in law in Limoncello. It's a very popular thing now, I've stumbled it all over the interwebs. Heck, even Danny Devito got in on it and has his own brand.

My father in law loves the stuff, so we are taking advantage of that and making some for him for his birthday. I got it started on Tuesday.

It's really easy, well, at least so far it is. I zested 8 lemons and dumped a bottle of Everclear (151 proof) over them, the set it into the dark of our bar to marinate away.

Here is our before, and after from the other day. The alcohol is taking on a fab yellow hue and lemony smell. It still needs about 40 more days of stewing time, which will actually put us beyond my father in law's birthday, but I think he will understand.

The other thing I've done with lemons lately was make a cake for the husband's birthday. This was another Epicurious recipe and I went with lemon since I had 8 lemons sitting in my fridge with no zest. Unfortunately, I only left myself with a few hours to put this cake together, so I didn't make my own lemon curd. I used half store bought, half made by my mother in law.

Whipping the egg whites didn't take long at all and the cake came together easily. My only issue was the bake time. I set my timer for 15 minutes and when I checked at 14 minutes, the cake was done, likely a little over done. I might actually increase the amount of batter as well, the cakes are meant to be thin, but I really thought they were too thin, I wouldn't double the recipe, but likely would make 1 1/2 recipes for the batter. I wanted a little more height to the whole cake.

I did follow a recommendation left by one of the recipe reviewers and after letting the layers cool some, I popped them in the freezer for about 15 minutes to left them firm up a bit and make it a little easier to slice the layers in half.

I used the homemade lemon curd in the frosting/filling and the store bought in between the layers. I also used a jar of raspberry preserves I had in the fridge between two of the layers for a little variety. The raspberry was a great addition, and the frosting? To die for. I love mascarpone anyway; adding lemon curd and sweetened whip cream took it over the top. It is great on it's own. Or with the addition of a spoon. For the eating.

The end result was delicious, my husband loved it.
I don't have piping bags, so my frosting has a rough look to it, but no one held it against me.
I will be making it again, next time with my own lemon curd, I have some lemons to spare.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Tacos de pescados y carne

My husband's birthday was yesterday, so even though we are officially celebrating tonight with dinner out and a cake I have baked and crumbed hanging out in the fridge, I didn't want to be remiss about making something good for dinner.

I recently found the recipe for some fish tacos, on Epicurious, that seemed to fit the bill. And for the Birthday Boy? Carne de ranchera, beef tacos, with beef prepared and marinated at our local mexican grocery store. He just doesn't do fish.

Although, he did recently try a bite of crab and agreed to let me make crab cakes. Coming soon I hope.

I picked up some tilapia fillets, no mahi-mahi in yesterday.

I let them sit in their deliciousness while I prepped the toppings. A side note, I ended up only having 3-4 teaspoons of chipotle chile powder for the fish marinade and it was enough. So don't fear if 5 teaspoons sound like a lot, feel free to cut back to taste. I have remedied my situation and now have fresh supplies of both chipotle and ancho chile powder. All is right in my kitchen.

I also only made the Southwest slaw and Mexican Crema from this particular recipe. In addition I made a very quick mango salsa and marinated some red onion slices in an orange vinegar with some cilantro.

Of everything, the one thing everyone wanted more of were the onions and the crema. All dinner long the crema was passed back and forth. The onions were gobbled up. Complaints were made that the onions were gone.

I have complaints today, because I slacked when it came to pictures. There was a point when my husband put a beer in my hand and we were talking with the family and whatnot, and somehow I ended up with only this one picture of a lone taco:

Best part? It's a little out of focus. I was eager to get back to eating, they were so very good. Also, no mango salsa pictures, oh well, I blame the one Pacifico I had.
How about a close up of the onions?

That's one red onion sliced with 1/2 cup vinegar and 2-3 tablespoons of cilantro. Just prep them and allow them to marinate for at least 30 minutes, longer is better, they just soak up the vinegar and are wonderful, both on the fish and carne tacos.

And here is the quickie recipe for a mango salsa, it is really easy.

Mango Salsa

4 ripe mangos, diced
1-2 jalapenos diced (I decide based on how warm the jalapenos are and who I am feeding)
2 limes, juiced (about 2 Tablespoons of juice)
2 tablespoons Cilantro chopped
1/2 red onion, diced.

Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive bowl and let sit for at least 30 minutes to allow flavors to come together.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


I've been wanting dumplings for a couple of weeks now and I had the time yesterday to make some. Well, several some, about 100 of them to be more precise.
I pulled the recipe from here. The only difference was mine didn't have rice wine in the filling, so I dropped the amount of cornstarch I used to account for the lower moisture content. I doubled my recipe and used about 2-3 teaspoons of the cornstarch.
A side note about the blog Delicious! Delicious! I stumbled across it a few weeks ago and read through the archives. It is well written and enjoyable, however, she doesn't seem to be updating it anymore. More's the pity.

Here is my filling before adding it to the pork. Delicious is its name. I kept the two separate initially to taste for seasoning.

A pound and change of ground pork, waiting for the addition of Delicious.

After introducing Delicious to its new friend Pork, I spent a couple of hours folding little dumplings. After a while I cheated and only folded in three large pleats. I don't think anyone noticed or cared and the work went much faster.
Dexter thought he could help, he got spray bottle of water to the face and went off to pout.

Cooking was fast. I browned them on their side instead of the bottoms, easier and I didn't have dumplings tipping over.

We had them as a main dish for dinner, along with a stir fry mix of snow peas, oyster mushrooms, white mushrooms and a little baby bok choy. I topped the veggies off with a prepared black bean and garlic stir fry sauce.

Mention dumplings and people are eager to come over for dinner, we finished off 6 dozen last night.

Looking at that crispy little dumpling there is making me hungry. Delicious and Pork got on very nicely together. Good news for me is I have more uncooked gyoza in the fridge, lunch is calling!

Monday, June 1, 2009

A preview

Gyoza for dinner tonight. Also, I have a new camera! Very exciting times here.