Thursday, March 31, 2011

Garden Memories, Sunchoke and Arugula Salad

     I still remember the first time I had a sunchoke, or a Jerusalem artichoke as others call them.  I remember it's dirty, gnarled, and knotty appearance.  It looked so unappetizing, and quite frankly worthless.  Little did I know how wrong I would prove to be.  I was visiting my grandparents home and one of my brothers and I were wandering through Grandpa's garden.  Grandpa is gone now, but oh how I wish all of you could have seen his garden,  he loved that garden and it truly was legendary among us grandchildren.  I remember the rows of corn, tomatoes, berries, vegetables, and fruits.   It was so beautiful in the spring and summer, and the scents of the plants blooming were intoxicating.  During this visit we found a little patch of sunchokes, my older brother was immediately excited about our discovery, I however was clueless, I had never had one before.  So I grabbed several and took them home to experiment.

Fish Tacos

     Growing up my mother tried to make sure that we ate nutritious meals, she tried to make sure we always had a good solid meal on the table every night.  This recipe is one that I created years ago, it is a great weeknight meal, that is a snap to prepare, but tastes so good.  My mother taught me to let the flavor of the food to always shine through, when you use amazing ingredients like these the end result is always going to be good.  I have also found that this recipe is a great way to get children and fussy eaters to give fish a chance.  Try it for yourself, it will become a spring and summer staple in your home as it is in mine.   

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Its Tool Time....

     Being an only girl I have been completely spoiled in many ways, one way especially is when it comes to home repair.  Growing up anytime there was something wrong my dad & brothers fixed it.  Now as an adult I find myself having to fix things myself.  I can do the basics or home and automotive repair, but anything more advanced I have to admit causes trepidation.  I must say though as I learn to do some of these things it is very empowering.  There is definitely something to be said for being able to do things yourself.

     Some people tell me that I am a walking contradiction, that I tout the virtues of independence and self reliance, but still adhere to some pretty antiquated concepts in the realm of domesticity.  It is true, I won't deny the face that I want to be one of those "domestic do it all types".  Being in the kitchen in high heels, apron and pearls is completely me and I love it.  Some people find a kitchen and the home enslavement and oppressing.  To me being able to master the kitchen and organize the home is beyond liberating.

It was a dark and stormy night...Pumpkin Portobello Mushroom Soup

Some days are just those types of days, cold gloomy days where you want to curl up inside. It has been kind of a gray and gloomy day, or as Snoopy would say a dark and stormy night.  What do you fix on a dark and stormy night?  In my home soup and fresh bread with a salad.  To me that is the ultimate comfort food, after all who doesn't want a steaming bowl full of goodness?  This is a favorite soup recipe of mine, it is simple enough to make on a casual weeknight, or fancy enough to have as a first course on a fancy meal.  Give it a shot, it turns even some of the strongest pumpkin haters into aficionados.  Now I guess it is just time to curl up and see what is on Netflix.

Simplicity at it's Finest, Olive Tapenade

   Sometimes the best things are the simplest.  As a child I was usually in the kitchen every afternoon with my mom, she would be preparing dinner as I would recap the day's activities.  Mom would always have something ready in the kitchen to snack on until dinner was ready, as an adult I do the same thing.  I love to visit in the kitchen, its the best place to be!

Springtime Dessert, Springtime Lime Tart

     By now you have probably noticed a few of my taste preferences, so you know my love of all things citrus.  Orange, lemon, lime, I love them all.  To me nothing says springtime like a nice citrus dessert.  I really have to be in the mood for a rich dessert, but citrus desserts I am always in the mood for. 

     Tarts I love for so many reasons, one being that they are so easy!  Also they are so pretty, and you can really turn them into show stoppers for entertaining.   Everyone loves tarts, and this particular recipe is a show stopper, borderline addictive actually.

What I have been Reading Wednesday...How to Cook Everything

     I have made no secret of my love of cookbooks.  I know I have way more than most people will ever need, but I love having my cookbooks.    I love the ideas and creativity that these cookbooks spark inside of me.  I am often asked what I think is a good cookbook for a novice cook, this is one of my favorites for a cook just starting out.  This is a cookbook that teaches the basics, what food is all about, the basic techniques and the basic flavor combinations.

     As with anything, to be really good at cooking one must practice, and one must build a strong foundation of knowledge.  I am always amazed how many people want to jump to the complex and fancy recipes before learning the essentials.  This book will teach the essentials, the fundamentals.  After working through this book you will have the confidence to move on to the fancier recipes, and those recipes will make sense this time when you try them.  I definitely encourage you to check out this cookbook, you will find it far more useful than you ever anticipated.  This book also makes a great graduation gift or bridal shower gift, just don't forget to get one for yourself.  Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Be Yourself! Love From Scratch Roast Chicken

     So many times we cook or eat things because we feel that we should, not because we want to.  Life is meant to be savored, do what will make you happy.  For me my cooking style leans to almost an elegant southern dinner party type of cooking.  I love that, for others fusion cooking is their passion, experiment, try different things, see what sparks for you.  Sometimes in life, whether it be in fashion or cooking we get so caught up in trying to be perfect that we lose sight of being just perfectly ourselves.  When do we know we are good enough?  When do we know that we have found ourselves?  Why do we try so hard to be that which we are not, and resist so desperately what we really are? 

Grocery Store Fun, Spicy Shrimp Mango Salad

     I actually love to go grocery shopping, I know, I know, I've said that numerous times.  I feel that the grocery store is a place for my creativity to run wild, there are endless possibilities of what to create.  I am trying to save money like everyone else, so I try to cook whatever is either fresh and in season, or on sale.  Today shrimp and mangoes were a super buy so I made sure I purchased them.  Both are so easy to use, and taste amazing.  I think tonight I will have this salad for a light dinner, tomorrow I will probably make shrimp tacos with mango salsa to change it up a little bit. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Food Dislikes...Top 5 Disliked Foods

     I like to think of myself as easy-going and low maintenance.  I am pretty easy to please, there are very few things that I just will not eat, but when I say I will not eat those things I mean it.  It is not even that these are odd and horrible foods, actually for a lot of people they are their favorite foods, but for me they are the top five do not touch foods.  I am frequently asked if there are foods that I don't eat, or steer clear of, so let me share the with you.

It's all in the Apron & Grandma's Dinner Rolls

Pink Cottage Rose Josephine Apron

Grandma's Apron

By Tina Trivett

The strings were tied, It was freshly washed, and maybe even pressed.
For Grandma, it was everyday to choose one when she dressed.
The simple apron that it was, you would never think about;
the things she used it for, that made it look worn out.

She may have used it to hold, some wildflowers that she'd found.
Or to hide a crying child's face, when a stranger came around.
Imagine all the little tears that were wiped with just that cloth.
Or it became a potholder to serve some chicken broth.

She probably carried kindling to stoke the kitchen fire.
To hold a load of laundry, or to wipe the clothesline wire.
When canning all her vegetables, it was used to wipe her brow.
You never know, she might have used it to shoo flies from the cow.

She might have carried eggs in from the chicken coop outside.
Whatever chore she used it for, she did them all with pride.
When Grandma went to heaven, God said she now could rest.
I'm sure the apron that she chose, was her Sunday best.

High Heel Love

     Are these not fabulous?  Who doesn't love a great pair of high heels?  These ones are the newest ones to my collection, and I have to tell you I am in love with them!  They are so comfortable, no really they are, and much more supportive than most high heels.  These shoes do require a pedicure, so make sure your toes are in tip top condition.  I have to admit that shoes are a passion of mine as they are for most women.

Being short high heels have always been a necessity for me, I need all the help I can get with my height.  Heels really do make me feel as though I have a spring in my step, and power in my stride, but each pair of shoes has to earn its place in my closet.  One nice thing about living in a place with limited space is that you do have to prioritize what earns a spot in your closet.  These shoes also go with so much and I find myself reaching for them frequently.  Although to be honest I do the same with my hot pink satin reels with ruffled trim, perhaps I justify too much?  Wear what you enjoy and rock them,  and I do happen to have a rewards card I can use towards another pair, and I think this red pair is calling my name, what do you think?  And in case you are wondering, yes I do cook every day in the kitchen in high heels.  Really is there any other way to cook?  Plus I think I look pretty cute in my high heels and aprons in the kitchen, it is me and I love it.

Thoughts on Breakfast in Bed...

     I love to have people visit, and I want all of my guests to feel comfortable and at home.  As I have mentioned I am redecorating my home, and trying to make things as inviting as possible.  I really try my hardest to make things just perfect for people when they come into my home.  I try to be a perfect hostess, but as we all know perfection sometimes is a journey more than a destination.  I know we all see the magazines and commercials of people lounging in bed and leisurely having breakfast.

Arugula, Peach & Prosciutto Salad

     Lately I have been loving arugula.  I have been having at least one arugula salad a day for the past several weeks.  Usually for my salads I mix one part spinach to one part arugula for my salad greens.  If you have not had arugula before it has almost a peppery taste to it.  It is great fresh in salads, or wilted, or it is also great in soups.  Definitely give this a try, it has so much more flavor then other greens.  I hear so often people saying that they do not like salad, or that lettuce is just for rabbits.  If I had iceberg lettuce salads I would not like salads either, who would find that at all appetizing?

     The key to salads is to make them flavorful and delicious, then eating healthy is not a chore.  Also arugula and spinach are so much healthier for you than iceberg lettuce could ever dream of being.  I have always loved salads, but I have always been quite particular about what greens I use.  I find the spinach and arugula salad to be the best combination for me, some people like to use baby greens, use whatever works best for you.  The great thing with salads is that you get to make them however you want, it is always nice to have a recipe that you can alter and make however you want.  This is also a great way to start out a healthy meal, or also a great lunch to take to work and enjoy.  It will make a salad lover out of you yet!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Why do we Cook? Five Spice Turkey Wraps

Five-Spice Turkey & Lettuce Wraps Recipe     Why do we cook?  What is the goal behind our cooking? Do we even have one?  Are we eating merely for survival?  Do we eat for entertainment, do we pay attention to the nutrition and quality of our food?  Sadly I fear that for most people dinner is a chore instead of way to enjoy and reflect on the days activities.  I know we are all busy, I know that we all have lots of responsibilities and sometimes one more thing to do just seems like way too much to handle.  Sometimes it seems like to really relax we do need to add that one last chore so we can have those nice relaxing evenings that we all look for at the end of the day.  If we can just find a half hour we can have a meal that our families will love and that we can be proud of.  I will admit that I was very spoiled growing up, as I have mentioned before I always had family dinner at the end of the day, and I can not even begin to express how much that means to me.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What I have been reading Wednesday...Domino the Book of Decorating

     Lately I have been really trying to revitalize my apartment, to really turn it into a sanctuary.  I really do believe that a person's home is their castle, their retreat from the world.  I want my apartment to be just that, my refuge, where I want to be, and where others want to come visit.  This book has been serving as a reference on transforming my apartment. Domino: The Book of Decorating; a room by room guide to creating a home that makes you happy.  This really is a extremely useful book for many reasons, which I will discuss.

     Have you ever looked at a home decor book and thought that it was just unrealistic, or impractical to recreate?  You know those books, the ones that are borderline Sci-Fi, because you know that they are from a completely different parallel universe where those things just don't happen, especially for young women on a budget.  I love this book because it doesn't just focus on those who have the money for a top to bottom makeover.  They teach where to get the most bang for your buck, where to spend the most, and where to save a buck or two.  Also I love the suggestions for the DIY projects.  Also they show how to mix and match different design styles to come up with your own signature style.  The two styles that I am mingling in my apartment is the shabby chic style and french parisian.  Or in other words, grown-up, but super girly.  I will definitely have to post some pics when I have completed the transformation.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Meyer Lemons...Springtime Meyer Lemon Cheesecake

     This is what I want for my patio, its a dwarf meyer lemon tree.  Isn't it pretty?  Don't you just smile looking at this?  Look how many lemons the tree can produce!  I could have so much fun with all of the meyer lemons.  If you have never tasted a meyer lemon recipe it tastes like a cross between a lemon and a mandrin orange.  It has a nice sweet fresh taste to it, I particularly love to use it in desserts, as it adds a greater depth of flavor to recipes. 

Also the lemons make excellent sauces and I have found that the flavor complements fish and seafood very nicely.  Recently I made meyer lemon fish tacos that were amazing.  There are so many different flavor combinations that are possible with the meyer lemon.  You can go sweet or savory, acidic, or spicy.  I want to share one of my favorite meyer lemon recipes with you.  This is one of my favorite desserts, especially with spring and summer coming up.  This is the perfect end to a nice Italian dinner, or any dinner for that matter.   Try it for yourself!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Learning from the great ones....The Great Julia Child

savvyhousekeeping beef bourguignon
     Some recipes are just legendary, this recipe is one of them.  This recipe is perfect for a nice Sunday dinner, it does take some extra work, but it is work it.  I guarantee that it is a recipe that you will want to make again ad again.  I know that I have featured this recipe before, but I want everyone to try this recipe.  Its also a dish that gets better and better as it ages, so the leftovers are amazing!

     I have made no secret of the fact that Julia Child is a true inspiration to me.  I admire her passion for cooking and food, but also her commitment to make cooking accessible to everyone.  Her recipes are amazing and her attention to detail is unparalleled.  She focuses on teaching you the techniques, and why the techniques are that way.  I definitely encourage anyone to try a Julia Child recipe, you will definitely notice the difference.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Easy Weeknight Dinner...Broccoli Leek Thyme Soup

     I love grocery shopping, it always sparks my creativity.  The possibilities are really endless, do I want to sweet, or savory, healthy or decadent?  I can not help but notice some of the other shoppers I see, I feel so bad when I see some of the other carts.  So many times I see an overflowing cart with a mother and couple kids in tow buying the groceries for the week.  What is in the cart?  I am glad you asked, the carts are full of soda, chips and processed foods, completely devoid of any produce, or fresh ingredients.  I can not help but wonder if this is why childhood obesity is an epidemic. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

In my dreams...

     We all have dreams, Disney even coined the phrase, "a dream is a wish you heart makes."  What wishes is your heart making?  Are your dreams coming true?  I have so many dreams right now, there are so many things that I would like to achieve.  Dreams are exciting, it gives you something to reach for, something to work towards.  I am working hard to achieve my dreams, sometimes I will admit I feel awfully far from it.  I want so much to become successful in the culinary field.  I love cooking, and I feel that food that is cooked from scratch and with love is always going to show through in any recipe that you make. 

Awesome Gadget...Garlic Zoom XL

Chef'n GarlicZoom XL Rolling Garlic Chopper, Avacado     What a cool gadget!  This is one of my new favorite toys, a good friend of mine gave me this as a gift, and it is amazing!  This is the Garlic Zoom XL.  Clearly this is designed to be used for garlic, but there are so many other uses for this.  It is also great to use for mincing herbs, grating cheese, shredding chocolate.  So many uses, and the clean up on this is a snap.

     Kitchen gadgets are a fetish of mine, but some are more hype than performance.  This is a gadget that I can wholeheartedly recommend.  You will get so much use from it, and will be glad that you have it.  As someone who cooks a lot I love that this make so many things so much easier.  Also my hands don't have the odor that you usually get from mincing garlic or shallots, this gadget eliminates that.  As a girl living in an apartment, space is a premium, each gadget needs to earn their space in my drawers.  This I can say has earned a space of honor, I use it all of the time and what a luxury it is for me, and what a time saver it is.

     What gadgets are helpful for you?  What gadgets make a huge difference for you?  What do you think I should try next?