Friday, June 14, 2013

Creamy Chickpea Dip

I bought these two big cans of organic chickpeas on sale and I was so excited. (Sales, sometimes give me a little thrill. ;)) But they have been sitting in my cupboard for a while and I thought to myself, I gotta do something with them already. And I thought a creamy dip would be nice with some cut up veggies. To make your dip extra creamy, peel your chickpeas. I know it sounds a little labor intensive but I find it meditative. (Maybe that's even weirder than peeling the chickpeas, lol.) Either way, enjoy and have a fantastic weekend!

  • 3 cups chickpeas (about a 29 oz. can, drained and rinsed)
  • 7 oz. full-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon grape seed oil
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • garlic powder
  • paprika
  • sea salt
  • a handful of sorrel leaves, minced

Using a hand blender or an immersion blender, puree your chickpeas, add the yogurt, oil and lemon juice and continue blending until nice and smooth. Add in the sorrel and the seasonings, adjust as needed. If you don't have an sorrel on hand, don't worry and just add in some lemon zest. Makes a nice big bowl, perfect for a party.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hot Honey & Vanilla Coconut Milk

You wouldn't believe that summer begins next week, as here on the east coast, it's chilly and rainy as ever. When I attempted to take Daisy out for her walk this morning, she refused. She takes some steps backwards and then shakes her head, "No". It doesn't happen every time but when it does, I can't help but laugh out loud and attempt to coax her down the stairs by assuring her I will keep her covered with the umbrella. (Sometimes, she still refuses.) She really is Miss Daisy, as most of the time she gets her way and we go back inside until the rain lets up, lol. With this day and evening as raw and clammy as it is, I needed something warm to drink, with a promise of summer and when I think of summer, I think of tropical coconuts! This is a creamy, sweet and a little peppery drink that's just perfect for a beating-rain-against-the-window type of night, such as tonight. Enjoy!

  • 12 oz. coconut milk, (the drinkable, milk substitute type)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon coconut milk (the condiment type, in a can)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon honey or more to taste
  • 1/3 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • fresh ground black pepper

In a pot, combine all of the ingredients and heat on medium heat, until steaming hot. Adjust the sweetness as needed. Garnish with extra pepper, if you like. Serves 1. Double the recipe as needed.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Fun Salad Greens

It's almost summertime and that means it's salad time! And if you are a little weary of the spring salad mix sitting in your fridge, you can always make your salad a little more interesting and fun by adding in some fun salad greens, which are not typical and add so much more personality to a salad. These are nice grown right in the garden, as some of these are perennials or in pots. With fun salad greens, you want to experiment but in most cases, less is more and mix with mild lettuces such as a butter lettuce for the best flavor. In some salads, just a single leaf, minced, adds a nice flavor. And you may want to use some as just a pretty garnish, either way, they will make your salads more exciting! Enjoy and happy salad making!

A few fun salad greens to consider...

Lemon Gem Marigold: The word lemon is in the name but the lemon is not so prominent in flavor. They taste like a mix of bitter grapefruit pith along with a slight citrus freshness-along with that taste of greens. You can separate the flower and just use the petals but I think the most interesting flavor is in the whole flower. And the leaves may be the best part, very nice mixed into a salad. Garnish with a few flowers for a nice touch.

Lemon Balm: As the name states, it's lemony and fresh at first with a strong ending of bitterness. This would be nice used sparingly along with a roasted piece of fish on the side.

Salad Burnet: A little reminiscent of cucumber skin...You want to just use the actual leaves with this one, as the stems are a little tough and you want to use the mature leaves as the little clusters of new growth are bitter. (Not enjoyably so.)

Nasturtium Leaves: These are nice while you are waiting patiently for the flowers to bloom and are craving a little peppery and bitter bite to your salad. They are beautiful and striking in a salad.

Corsican Mint: If you are a mint lover, you will love these ever so tiny leaves, as they are so concentrated in mint flavor. They are so pretty and delicate and would be just gorgeous strewn around the outside of a plate as a garnish.

Lemon Verbena: A great lemon-lime flavored leaf, that's not overwhelming and would be pleasant in a salad with more of it, if you are a fan of lemons and limes.

When experimenting with atypical salad greens such as these, make sure you look at the tags and talk to some knowledgeable people at the plant nursery to be sure that they are edible and start with very small amounts, as they can upset sensitive stomachs.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Basic Chicken Salad

Last week, I didn't have time to make dinner one evening and it was quickly declared a "rotisserie chicken day!" And I made a bee line for the rotisserie chickens coming right out of the oven, piping hot. As my day started getting better, (I had the most perfect cup of iced coffee) I got a little silly and asked the nice guy behind the counter to pick out the "nicest, most juiciest, fattiest looking chicken" and I laughed. Good thing for me, he shared my sense of humor and said, "This is the nicest, chicken I've ever seen." I laughed and it was one of the tastiest, juiciest rotisserie chickens, I've ever had. (I'm serious.) As a young girl, I would cringe and want to hide under my moms skirt, as she would point out with her finger which chicken she wanted or which kielbasa or even stuffed cabbages she wanted to take home but here I was, doing the same, lol. And as always, with a rotisserie chicken dinner, come the leftover chicken breast, sometimes nice over a green salad the next day or in a salad itself, like here. Enjoy!

  • leftover chicken breast
  • 1/3 cup minced celery, reserve some leaves for garnish
  • 1 heaping tablespoon minced red onion
  • pear infused white balsamic vinegar or any fruit infused white balsamic vinegar 
  • 3 heaping tablespoons mayonnaise, a little more as needed
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper

Let the onion sit in the vinegar while you prepare the rest of the salad.  Pull apart the chicken breast and roughly chop. (Makes about 2 cups.) Give your red onion a quick rinse with cold water and add to the chicken along with the other ingredients. Adjust the seasoning as needed. I like to serve the salad with Belgian endive leaves, just perfect to hold a spoonful of creamy salad. Serves about 4.

Monday, June 10, 2013

In Love with Sea Holly

Was I so excited about Fridays' post that never my computer screen went blank. Completely blank. It wasn't until my miracle-making genius brother-in-law fixed it. I still don't know how it was up and running over the weekend but it was amazing, as I thought I would have to be bringing this little guy down to the recycling center tomorrow. But alas, it's been saved along with Fridays' post. I hope everyone had a nice weekend and has an even better upcoming week!

Last year, I fell in love with lupine, so deeply in love that I ended up getting another plant. This year out of the two, only one returned, which I'm so grateful for the one. She feels happy and right at home. This year, the looker that made me turn my head a few times is "Sea Holly." I am not only in love but obsessed with her look, spiky and in-your-face beautiful, a true off-beat beauty that will add lots of personality to the garden. I'm so excited to be planting her. She is still in the pot, as I'm nervous where to plant her, as she does not not like to be moved once planted, as I'm learning from her tag and some of the garden forums. And I'm a little bit of a mover, moving some of my flowers from place to place, until I feel it's the right spot. So, I'm having a little performance anxiety here, lol. Isn't gardening suppose to be relaxing? ;)

Eryngium 'Sapphire Blue' Sea Holly likes full sun but I'm planning to give her a home in my part-shade garden and crossing my fingers, hoping for the best. (I think I get enough sun to keep her happy, I'm hoping.) Sea Holly grows about 28" and spreads out about a foot and a half. She likes soil with good drainage. Happy planting, (maybe not today on the east coast, as it's drizzly and a little chilly out. It's perfect weather for chicken and leek soup.)  I can't wait till some planting weather comes along!

                         Aren't the sea holly babies so cute? I'm so in love/obsessed...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Spicy Grilled Mullet

Finding a fish grilling basket is harder than I thought! I scoured a few places by me, I figured, with it being grill season they would be a staple but none were to be found. I finally found one at one of my favorite places, West Elm! They came to the rescue, once again! And it was on sale too! I was so excited. When I go there, I get lost and it's just a inspiration filled time, where I find myself wanting to redecorate our little cabin, to make it modern and super fresh. But then I take a deep breath and focus on the goal. "Fish grilling basket Mary-you are here for a fish grilling basket." And did I find a great one! It has a flexible wire; not limiting what it can hold to just a flat fish, has a removable, wooden handle and I know I'm going to put it to good use, not just for fish but veggies too. I'm so happy I found it early in the season. Grilling fish can be intimidating and using aluminum foil feels more and more wasteful, than convenient. To a happy grilling season and finding fish grilling baskets on sale! ;) Enjoy!

  • 4 whole mullets, cleaned and gutted
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • juice of 1/2 a lime
  • Sriracha sauce
  • coriander seed, crushed
  • ground ginger
  • turmeric
  • curry powder
  • chili flakes
  • fresh cilantro
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper
  • coconut oil for basting

Mix your coconut milk, lime juice, Sriracha sauce and spices. Add in a little at a time and adjust the seasoning accordingly. Cut up the lime and toss into the marinade. Score your fish and pour the marinade over them. Make sure to rub the marinade into the insides of the fish also. Allow to sit overnight, up to a day. You want to use fresh fish for this recipe. Place them in your fish grill basket and grill away. You want to grill at a temperature of about 350-400 degrees and baste with a little coconut oil so it doesn't stick. Grill for 30 minutes per each side, turning after every 15 minutes, until the fish gets nice and crispy. Serves 4.

Just a little tip: Don't flip your basket like a burger on the grill but (with caution) remove it from the grill, holding it in the horizontal postion, lowering it to your side, so the fish are facing the ground and with a turn of the wrist, flip and bring it back up and place on the grill, otherwise (as I learned) your fish will slide all over the place.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Pinto Beans with Spinach

A side of beans is a nice warm weather staple. But they are usually laden with sugar, (which I love but it doesn't help my waistline whittle away or the sugar cravings I get after having a helping, as I help myself to some more, lol) A great remedy for this is making my own pot of beans and I like to toss in some spinach to up my greens intake. This is nice served as a side dish at a barbecue or served with rice as a main meal for your meatless meal nights. These are especially good-room temperature. Serve with a creamy avocado wedge sprinkled with cayenne pepper or top with a fruity balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!

  • 1 pound pinto beans, soaked overnight
  • 5 cups water
  • 4 cups roughly chopped, tightly packed spinach
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 sliced bacon, minced
  • 1 cup chopped red onion, (about 1 medium onion)
  • a few inner celery stalks, chopped
  • cayenne pepper
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper

In a Dutch oven, combine the olive oil, bacon, onion and saute on low heat for about 5 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the beans and give them a good stir followed by adding the water, celery and spices. Bring the beans up to a boil on high heat, then lower the heat to a low setting and cook for about an hour and a half, until the beans are nice and tender. Remove from the heat and stir in the spinach, until wilted. Adjust the seasonings as needed. Serves about 6 or more. This makes a nice, big pot of beans.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Mason Jar Love - Snapdragons, Solidago & Asters

So...I feel a little late on the mason jar trend but better late than never. I just can't get enough of them! I'm obsessed with making sun tea in them, using them as drinking glasses and of course, using them as vases! Why not spoil yourself today and make yourself a little bouquet (or a really big and gorgeous one) of flowers? You deserve it, for simply being you! Enjoy!

In this mason jar, you'll find snapdragons, a little solidago in the center and asters in the background.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Lemony Chopped Cauliflower & String Bean Salad

Do you ever look at that bag of frozen cauliflower and inspiration strikes? It doesn't happen often but when it does, you gotta go with it! I thought it would be nice with string beans (another bag that was lurking in the veggie bin) and lemony sorrel leaves. And you want to use Bella Di Cerignola olives because they aren't too strong, yet add a nice flavor. This is quick salad to make that goes great, especially with grilled fish. I added the peppadews last minute and it made all the difference, making it so much more flavorful and colorful. Enjoy!

  • 3 cups cauliflower florets, cooked until tender
  • 1/4 pound string beans, chopped and blanched
  • 4 Bella Di Cerignola olives, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1-2 cloves fresh garlic, smashed and minced
  • a few sorrel leaves, minced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • sea salt
  • ground black pepper
  • peppadews*

Take your minced garlic and allow it to sit in the vinegar, while your veggies cook and you prepare the rest of the salad. To save time, I cooked the cauliflower and used a hand held strainer to drain it, so I could use the water to cook the string beans. Rinse off your veggies with cold water and drain well. Into the vinegar, stir in the olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and ground black pepper. Combine all of the ingredients and adjust the seasoning as needed. Serves 2-3.

*not pictured