I hope now that the ordeal with our rain garden is over Tom and I can start actually enjoying our garden! One of the many things we like about it is being able to pick fresh salads every day in season. I’m going to be really sad when it gets too cold to do this.
Since I took these photos, this monarch has hatched and is on it’s way to Mexico right now if it has not run into misfortune along the way. I’ve helped raise a bunch of caterpillars this year by providing habitat and I’m really happy about that!
Since I welcome caterpillars to my garden, I get species I really want as well as caterpillars that eat some of the greens I want to eat. One of my strategies is to plant enough to share. I also like to encourage beneficial insects that prey on garden pests.
At this time of year, if I want to use Cilantro in a recipe I can’t just go to the garden and pick what I need. Usually when I buy a package of fresh Cilantro from the store, there is a lot more than the recipe calls for in the bunch. In the past, if I have time I have pulled the leaves off the extra Cilantro and frozen it. Cilantro is best used fresh, but frozen is better than dried (I’ve tried that too). I have heard of preserving fresh basil, another herb that is just not the same when not fresh, in olive oil and freezing it in ice cube trays. I decided to try that with today’s leftover Cilantro.
I’m making a recipe for Valentine’s Day today from a book that Tom and I were sent as a wedding gift from an anonymous giver – Tequila Chicken from “Barefoot Contessa Family Style” by Ina Garten. I had to juice enough limes, lemons and oranges to make a cup and a half of juice and I have a lot of pulp left. Citrus and Cilantro taste great together – what would happen if I pulverized the leftover Cilantro with the leftover pulp and froze it in ice cube trays to flavor future recipes? I’m already going to have to wash half my kitchen implements today – colander, salad spinner, garlic press, juicer, salad dressing emulsifier, George Foreman grill, mortar and pestle, etc. so what is one or two more?
Oh yeah that works, and it’s a lot less time-consuming than stripping all the leaves off the stems. I added 1 TBSP of grapeseed oil to help it stick together. I even have a fun little citrus wedge ice tray to freeze the mixture in! In the future I’m going to have a lot of fun adding these little wedges to soups, dressings, marinades, stir-frys, pilafs, sauces and who knows what else. I guess I just made Cilantro pesto, which is probably already a thing.
Last fall Tom and I had our first party at our house. It’s a shame that my photo of the drinks table didn’t turn out because I served some cranberry orange tea punch in Tom’s amazing mid-century modern punch bowl with molded decorative ice floating on top. I froze cranberry juice to make the ice and as a garnish I included fresh cranberries and orange slices. I had some fruit left over so I froze the remnants. I knew I’d think of something to do with them eventually.
As Valentine’s Day approached, I decided to make something in my Mom’s vintage heart copper mold. Tom likes gelatin (I’m not using Jello brand, there is nothing wrong with it but I shopped at Aldi, so I guess it’s proper to say “gelatin” and not “Jello”) and fruity flavors seemed to be something that would complement the chicken. I cooked the leftover orange slices and cranberries to make an infusion to use as the water in the gelatin recipe. That should pump up the flavor! I froze it until ready to use and then made the gelatin with it.
After filling the heart mold I put some of the leftover gelatin in the glass footed cups below. I remember my Mom getting a whole set of dishes in this style in the 1970s from Liberty supermarket. As I recall there were parts of the set that you could get each week if you spent a certain amount. Mom got tumblers in two sizes and plates in two sizes too. How do you like my space age retro hand mixer? It belonged to my Grandma and Grandpa Hasenfratz. It’s a little beat up looking but it works and I love it! I appreciate being able to incorporate retro items handed down from family members in my cooking. It wouldn’t be as meaningful or as much fun without them!
Cranberry/white cheddar cheese with sliced pears dusted with Fruit Fresh, cinnamon and stevia, with a glass of Italian spumante malt beverage
Salad greens with Creamy Mustard Vinaigrette (also from the Barefoot Contessa book)
Tequila Lime Chicken
Strawberry/Cranberry/Orange Jello with fresh raspberries and whipped topping
That was fun to make and even more fun to eat! Looking forward to taking care of those leftovers…
I worked really hard the last couple of weeks to get ready for our first party that we’ve hosted as a married couple (aside from our wedding reception). I’ve been gradually moving my stuff in to our home which had already been Tom’s home for quite awhile. In preparation of getting married, Tom gave away some of his old furniture so that we could combine our furniture and use what was most useful and most to our taste. We both have a lot of hand me down furniture so whatever we do is going to end up pretty eclectic. We both have a fondness for Mid-century Modern design and that is the base style of Tom’s house so we are gradually going to go more in that direction as we decorate. We haven’t moved any larger furniture pieces from my condo yet so a couple of rooms are a bit empty for the time being. That worked out well for the party because there was space to set up card tables and TV trays to make a game area.
Eventually we will add bookshelves, my aquariums and perhaps bean bag chairs to make this kind of a reading/writing/meditation room. The plants really help get the right mood started.
We plan for this alcove to eventually hold a Mid-Century Modern storage and display shelf unit. We haven’t decided yet whether to custom build it or buy parts, but what we have in mind is something that looks mod and takes the place of a china cabinet with both open and closed areas for storage and display. For temporary use, I put up a couple of card tables to use for a food overflow and game table and used metal display racks that I use for craft shows to display banners that I sewed together a few years back. While making those and two related table runners I rubber-stamped some of the fabrics I used. I set up my lava lamp and made some small floral arrangements here and there to try to tie the colors together. One of the guests gave us the lovely pumpkin full of candy as a housewarming gift. We love it! The serving tray was my Mom’s from the 1970s – it’s a souvenir from Rockhome Gardens, a tourist attraction in Illinois that we visited when I was very young on one of our many Sunday drives. I’m going to blog about how I made the faux clock candle sconces soon so stay tuned for that!
Here is the main food table. I put together a simple veggie and dip tray and the guests were starting to fill the rest of the table with food they brought. We were blessed with lots of food!
Tom and I love the 1970’s-looking nature mural on the wall and we are not planning on changing it. I displayed some felt crows I made last year with some faux flowers and Colonial Candles from Schnarr’s Hardware.
I made some turkey chili with black beans and butternut squash. I set up a cheese fondue in my rice cooker set on warm (since I don’t have a fondue set) and served it with bread cubes and cut up sausage kept warm in an electric skillet. In this photo you can see a couple of pieces of the retro glassware I like to collect. That was a hobby my Mom and I shared – she loved looking for Mid-Century ceramics and I loved looking for Mid-Century glassware. Neither of our collections was particularly complete or cohesive because we just bought when we saw something we liked for a bargain price. More items from our collections will appear in our house as Tom and I work on it. My collectibles inspire me a lot in my design work and I like to have them around me and put them to use if I can.
I set up fondue chocolate in my potpourri crock pot and served it with dunking cookies, grapes, marshmallows, pineapple and strawberries.
My photo of the drinks table didn’t take – a shame! But I’ll get it next time. I want to show off Tom’s really cool Mid-Century punch bowl!
Kombucha is a fermented tea drink that contains a lot of probiotics. I attended a lecture on fermented foods recently and decided it sounded interesting. The lecturers recommended trying small amounts of Kombucha at first until your digestive system gets used to it. Here is a really refreshing drink to try.
Sometimes when I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to use vegetables or herbs before they go bad, I stick them in the freezer for soups, casseroles, sauces, pizza and things like that. I had a can of salmon, some rice and Quinoa mix and wanted to make a casserole, so I looked in the freezer and found some spinach, parsley, green beans and sweet peppers. Perfect!
4 cups cooked rice or quinoa, or a combination of both
1 can salmon
1 can low-fat cream of mushroom soup
4 slices hot pepper yogurt cheese (or other cheese of choice)
First cook the rice and/or quinoa. I cooked mine with homemade vegetable broth for extra flavor. Place the cooked grains in a large bowl and stir in the cream of mushroom soup, without water added. Open the can of salmon and drain the juice into the grain mixture.
Spray a large glass baking dish with cooking spray and arrange vegetables and herbs over the bottom of the dish. Pick apart the salmon to find the vertebrae and discard those. Arrange salmon pieces on top of vegetables. Cover all with grain/soup mixture. Top with cheese slices. Cover dish and bake in oven for 45 minutes at 350 F degrees.