Thursday, October 27

Ginger Crack Cookies

My friend Meesh introduced me to these yummy little gems. I will even give her credit for renaming these from Ginger Crackle Cookies. They are super addictive. And, after being out quite a bit on vacation this month, I decided to whip up a batch to bring into the office upon my return.

If you like spicy, molasses-y cookies, these puppies are for you. 

This recipe makes a few dozen (3-4 I think), but you can freeze the dough. Get to the point where you've rolled them into balls. Place the rolled balls on a cookie sheet and slip it into the freezer. Once they are frozen, you can put them into a freezer bag and back into the freezer. Then just pluck them out and bake at your whim.

3 3/4 cups sifted flour (can use wheat flour too)
3 tsp ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp baking soda (if you use baking powder, like I did by mistake once, it comes out less crackled and poofier)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves

3/4 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup molasses
1 TBSP cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 325F.

Sift together flour, ground ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, salt and ground cloves.

Cream together butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time and beating well. Add molasses and cider vinegar. Blend well.

Add the flour mixture into the wet ingredients. Form into 3/4 to 1 inch balls and roll in granulated sugar. 

Bake at 325F for 10-12 minutes or until the tops just start to crack. 


Tuesday, October 25

Apple Crisp

Apple Crisp ready to bake
Ah Fall. It's my favorite time of year. Warm days with crisp nights. Pumpkins, apples and changing leaves. What's not to love?

Over the weekend, we went apple picking. I was actually surprised at the variety of apples still available, considering it's a bit late in the season.

Never the less, we were able to easily fill our peck bag with Cortlands, Macouns, Empires, Mutsus, Mac Spur and a few others. Of course we snacked as we picked, one of the fun things about apple picking. You have to taste them as you go, right? ;)

With a mix of fresh eating apple varities and enough that do well for baking, we brought our mini-hoard home. I opted to make a apple crisp that was mighty delicious.


10 cups all-purpose apples, peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup water

1 cup quick-cooking oats (I didn't have any so I used crushed Special K, worked great)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degree C). Place the sliced apples in a 9x13 inch pan. Mix the white sugar, 1 tablespoon flour and ground cinnamon together, and sprinkle over apples. Pour water evenly over all. Combine the oats, 1 cup flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda and melted butter together. Crumble evenly over the apple mixture. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 45 minutes.

Serve: with vanilla ice cream.


Saturday, September 10

Latin-Inspired Braised Pork & Rice

Over the last month or so, work has consumed my time. Then there was the rain and hurricanes. The garden and house in general didn't get much attention. But I did do some cooking.

For whatever reason, the idea of slow cooked, shredded bits of meat have really appealed to me. Maybe it was the rainy days or the cool spell of weather.

I love latin cuisine and the flavors of those dishes. Pork is a very typical meat used in those recipes. So I was inspired to create something that included all of these things. I didn't really follow a recipe, but I'm sure that there is something out there that is not that different from this.

Braised Pork & Rice
2-3 lbs pork (I used bone-in country ribs but use what looks good)
1 large onion (large dice)
1 red pepper (large dice)
1 jalapeno (diced small, remove seeds - depending on how hot you want it)
2-3 cubenelle peppers (diced)
2 cans whole tomatoes (cut into 3rds or 4ths) + liquid 
4 large cloves, smashed with back of the knife
1 packet Goya Sazón with Coriander and Annatto
2 TBSP cumin
1 TBSP dried oregano
2 TSP dried cilantro or parsley
1 TBSP chili powder
1 can black beans, drained
1 can red beans (or kidney), drained
3 TBSP oil
Fresh cilantro or parsley

Add about 3 TBSP oil (olive, canola, etc) to a large pot and let it get hot. Add cumin, dried oregano, dried cilantro, chili powder and packet of Sazón with Coriander and Annatto to wake up the flavors. Pat your pork so it is dry (this will help it get browned easier), season with salt and pepper on all sides. Slip it into the hot oil and spices and let it get brown. Once you have the pork browned on all sides, remove and set aside.

Add onions to the pan and saute until they start to go a bit translucent. Then toss in the garlic and all the peppers. Cook until the peppers get softened. Add in the tomato and liquid from the cans. Stir to combine. Place the pork you had set aside in the pot and make sure it is covered with liquid. You might need to add a little water or broth to bring the liquid level up over the pork.

Place on a low heat and cook until the pork starts to fall apart (about 3-4 hours). 

Once the pork is done, use a slotted spoon and take out all of the solids. If your pork has bones in it, carefully remove the bones and any fat or connective tissue that remains (there shouldn't be much of that left). Skim off any fat floating on the liquid. 

Now to make the rice. Pour out the liquid that remains. You'll want about 4 cups of liquid to cook the rice - but you want a bit left over afterwards so measure out the liquid you have from cooking the pork. Use about 2 cups (or can use more if your liquid measures over 4 cups), and then add another 2 cups of water. Place back in the pan and bring to a boil.

Once the water is at a boil, add 2 cups of rice. Stir and cover and let cook for about 20 minutes or until the rice is done. Once the rice is done, stir in the remaining pork liquid (ha that sounds funny). Then add your shredded pork mixture, black beans and red beans and some black pepper. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed (you might want to add not only more salt & pepper but a dash of cumin, etc). Sprinkle with some freshly chopped cilantro or parsley.

Serve with slices of avocado, a dollop of sour cream or a sprinkle of your favorite Mexican or Latin cheese.

Wednesday, July 6


My newest obsession is Chimichurri. So good. And good on almost everything. Last week we marinated some chicken in a bit of it before tossing the chicken on the grill (and then drizzled more over after it was cooked). We enjoyed it on some fresh bread from the Farmers Market. It was super tasty on a grilled chicken salad (in place of salad dressing). And it's super easy to make, especially this time of year.

This is my variation:

1 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley
1 bunch cilantro
3/4 tbsp oregano (fresh)
3-5 garlic cloves (I also threw in some garlic scapes since I had them on hand)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup vinegar (red wine, apple cider, or plain)
(optional) 3/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper or hot sauce

Combine all ingredients in food processor. Blend until looks like pesto. Refrigerate for at least a couple the flavors a chance to mingle and get all yummy. Makes about 3 cups (???? this is a guess) but it stays well in the fridge or you can freeze it up.

I think I'll try this next on one of our homemade pizzas.  Or on pork. Or on grilled burgers. Yes. Yes. Yes.

Wednesday, June 22

Too Much Chocolate Cake

Monday was a coworker's birthday and I offered up to bring in something sweet and delicious. I debated making these Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cupcakes as something new (and deadly delicious!) to try. In the end I went for a tried and true. But I will definitely have to give these suckers a try. I also found a recipe for Chocolate Chip Caramel Cookies that look tasty too.

I ended up making the ultra-reliable Too Much Chocolate Cake. Definitely give this one a spin. It's super easy, and even more delicious. And, the fun thing about it, is that you can mix up the flavors a bit and give it your own twist.

Sunday, June 12

Links: In the Garden/In the Kitchen

In The Garden:
How to turn a pallet into a garden. Neat idea, especially for small spaces.

An idea I will be trying! EngineeredGarden shows how to use upside down tomato cages to prop up squash.

In The Kitchen:
Truly easy homemade cheese.

Apple dumplings that look delicious and chic.

Need to defrost meat you have sitting in your freezer? Try a hot water bath.

Chilled Double Chocolate Torte - the no-bake version, sounds perfect for hot summer days.

Leek toasts with blue cheese from the goddess at Smitten Kitchen.

Yum. Falafel & Tzatziki.

June Gloom Means Bloom

The cucumbers are starting to flower (along with the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant). Garlic is starting to scape now (and the shallots continue to do so as well). My succulent plant I purchased for my desk at work has flowers starting to open (sweet!) which means I'm not killing it (yet). Yay! And one little picture of baby bunny bum, munching away on grass in the yard. It may be June gloom and hard to get out in the yard to do much but, at least there are good things happening. :)

Also if you are interested in succulents, I found instructions on how to fluff your succulents when they start to get overgrown.

Monday, June 6

Shallot Scapes

End of last week, I noticed that our shallots had flower buds. This being the first time I've grown shallots, I wasn't sure what to do with them.

Today I did some research to see if you treat them like garlic scapes--cutting them off and noshing on them. There was not a lot of info at first in the books that I had or immediately online, but the deeper I dug, I found that quite a few suggest taking them off. Which, makes sense.

The reason you remove them from garlic is so that the plant puts the energy into the bulb, not the flower. And garlic scapes are tasty.

The question is what will shallot scapes taste like? I'll have to let you know after dinner tonight. ;)

Sunday, May 22

First sunny day in over a week

After a week or more (it sure felt like more) of rain and gray skies, I was super excited to get back into the garden today. I started off by heading to the nursery to pick up some plants.

I picked up this cute little succulent for my office, and I love the kitschy pot I got for it too. They also had bigger ones that resembled tea kettles.

I got most of the herbs all situated.  Pic on the left is Dill, Rosemary and Sage. There's either Parsley or Cilantro in there too (I forget). I am always disappointed with how strawberries do in the strawberry planter, so this year I decided it would be a fun to try herbs in it instead. Thyme, Tarragon, Vietnamese Cilantro and Curry Plant are in the middle pic. And on the right is my Oregano (which I repotted today) along with some Parsley, Chives and Cilantro which I started from seed.
Below are the beds. Left pic: Lettuce, Beets, Beans. Middle pic : Tomatoes (Early Girl, Brandywine & 2 Roma), Basil, Cubenelle peppers. Right pic: Cucumbers, Fairytale Eggplant, Ancho peppers, Jalapeno peppers, Parsley, some baby herbs.

The hubs started to clear out an area as well. On the right you can see what he has done and on the left you can see the type of progress that he made. Stupid rocks are everywhere. I'm going to put the pumpkin, zucchini and leeks (I think) here.

The Shallot and Garlic seem to be doing well. I think they all got a good growth spurt with all that rain.

Below is the flower garden area. I picked up a butterfly bush to plant...we'll see how it does. I also found licorice plant--YAY! It's great cover and once it gets going, it's awesome. Low care, etc makes it even better. I also got these funky purple and white splattered flower...I think it's a type of verbena. I have to look again at the name of it. The salvia and delphiniums are coming back strong. I'm amazed how HUGE the lupine is again this year. I thought it was a biannual, so I wasn't expecting too much from it. Damn rabbits keep nibbling on it though. Grr. As you can see in the last pic, it's starting to get read to bloom. Woot. That's always a good sign. :)


Monday, May 16

Semi-Volunteer Cukes

At the end of last season, the sea of cucumber plants were dying back and there was one that had gotten kind of nasty as it was starting to rot. I left it because I kept meaning to go back and pick it up with something that wouldn't get the liquified cuke all over me. But, that never happened. In March, when the snow all melted, I finally picked up what remained--a papery shell filled with seeds.

This year, the cucumbers are going in a different bed so I thought, "What the heck, let's see if these seeds do anything." I roughly planted them in the new location, just tossing them into the bed, and covered them with soil. This past weekend, to my surprise, there are about 13 of these little cuke plants! I think they are Armenian Yard Long variety. At least I think that was what the cuke was that had been left behind. If it ever stops raining, I will need to divide them up a little. Whatever was digging around in the beds has spread the seeds around too much, and a few are coming up on top of each other.

There are also a couple cuke-looking plants coming up in the bed they were in last summer. I'm keeping an eye on those to see what they turn out to be...they might just be weeds, but they look a lot like cuke seedlings. If they are, I'm hoping they one of the other varieties. But, we shall see.

Sunday, May 8

Mother's Day Puffed Cauliflower Cheese

For Mother's Day I made Puffed Cauliflower Cheese to go along with some BBQ Chicken and grilled asparagus. I love cauliflower and feel it's underused. So I went looking for an interesting recipe to try. I was really tempted to try a souflee, but I got a bit chicken. I still haven't attempted one yet.

I made a few changes to the recipe. I sauted some onions and garlic in the butter. And when I steamed the cauliflower I threw in a smashed garlic clove. During the cheesy roux making process I threw in a few red pepper flakes. Everyone was happy with the result. I think this is a recipe I might play with a bit.

Give it a try.

Wednesday, May 4

Homemade Cheez-Its

This recipe for Homemade Cheez-Its looks pretty good. Might need to try it out in the near future. :)

Sunday, April 24

Tasty Links: Growing Tomatoes

How to plant tomatoes from seed.
Starting tomatoes from seed.
Should you prune out tomato suckers?
Tomato companion plants
Who knew you should plant tomato plants on their side?
Some good tips on transplanting plants grown from seed.
Martha Stewart's How to make a cold frame. Want to build one of these this year.

How the garden grows

Shallots and Garlic
Getting excited about the outdoors! Seedlings are doing OK. Afraid some are getting a bit leggy due to lack of sun. It's rained a lot the last few days, but that's good for the stuff that's in the ground already. Tulips around the mailbox are showing flower buds, so hopefully we'll have some pretty color from them in the next few weeks. Daffs are up and blooming.

The lettuce and beets I direct sowed are now sprouting up. My nice, neat rows were disturbed by the birds though. Annoying but I'll sort that out once the seedlings are a little larger and when it's time to thin them out. Today the sun in shining and it's rather nice so I've put the nasturtiums out for their first exposure. They're getting huge and tall, and will need to be planted soonish. They're starting to flop over a bit. But as they tend not to like being transplanted, I'm hesitant to move them to a larger pot before planting, even though I think that might be what they need.

Garlic Bed
Salvia coming up

The shallots and garlic seem to be doing well. I'm also happy to see the saliva plants coming back. I wasn't sure if they would. The year before last I had bought a variety that didn't survive the winter. Delphiniums are also starting to come back up. It's exciting to see the little bits of green poking through the soil.

The lupine seems to be flourishing as well. I'm not sure if it will flower spectacularly like it did last year, but only time will tell. I did try to toss seeds around in the fall in the hopes that I'd get some self-sowing action, but so far, it doesn't seem like that worked. I might end up getting another plant or two so he's got some friends.

Sunday, April 17

Hello Little Seedlings

One week after getting my seeds started, I'm able to see some progress! It's exciting and hopefully I'll be able to keep them alive and see them through. Still waiting on the Ancho chilies to pop up, along with the cilantro and parsley come to the party. But it looks almost all of the beet seeds I've planted have germinated, which is cool. Last week I also direct sowed some lettuce seed and beet seeds, but have yet to see anything popping up in the beds. It doesn't help that the birds keep shifting the soil around there looking for their worm snacks.

Beans sprouting 
Roma Tomato Sprouts
Mortgage Lifter Tomato sprouts
Basil is starting to sprout.

Friday, April 15

Things are blooming

The first daffs are almost ready to show
off their flowers
The forsythia has popped.
Yay for pretty flowers.

Sunday, April 10

Garden Prep

After an insane week at work, and having to continue into the weekend, I'm happy to say I was able to get some gardening fit in as well.

Yesterday, I cleaned dead marigolds, dahlias, and licorice plant out of the far bed, as well as cutting back the dead stems from the salvia and delphinium. I saw some little bits of green around the salvia, which is exciting.

I also found who I think was the culprit that was nibbling at my garlic sprouts. He hung around for a few hours. Thankfully, we put up some fence. I had figured that since they don't tend to like garlic and onion, they would be safe. I was wrong. Oh well.

Little bunny was mostly going after the grass, which is fine by me. He can have it as long as he stays away from my(our) veg.

Thursday when I came home from work, there were two bunnies (I like to call them bunges), in another part of the yard, mowing away at the grass.

We spent some time picking up the oodles of sticks that had come down over the winter in the various storms. I tried not to get too frustrated considering none of the trees that these sticks were once part of are on our property. Such is life. (Drives me batty in the autumn too when I have to pick up 15 bags of leaves).

Today, I was able to get even more done, which was great. While hubby raked out the backyard, I got some seeds planted.

Beet Seeds. They look a little
 like Grapenuts!

Herbs: Cilantro, Parsley, Chives and Basil. I already have thyme, mint and oregano that will come back. The oregano is already starting to, which makes me happy.

Veg: Roma tomatoes (bush variety), Mortgage Lifter tomatoes (an indeterminate heirloom), Ancho/Poblano peppers, Beets (Detroit Dark Red variety), and Green Beans (Kitchen King, a bush variety).

Flower: Nasturtiums.

We'll see how they do. I have good luck with the herbs, but less with the veg plants. Worst case, I'll just buy plants like I'm expecting I will have to do anyway.  I tend to forget about them or not pay enough attention. Hard to baby seedlings when you're working 60+ hours a week.

We also got the veg beds prepped with some conditioning stuff tilled in. I went ahead and sowed some lettuce seeds in there. I also tried sowing in some beet seeds to see what happens. There was a parsley plant from last year that seems to have survived the winter. I transplanted it (as I had to take it out to be able to turn the bed properly), and we'll see how it does. The garlic that I ripped out in the fall (which was the remains of a trial experiment our first year here), which some how came back. We found a leek trying to come up in the bed that they were in last year as well.

The weather was so beautiful this weekend, it's hard to imagine that it still isn't safe to plant many things here yet. I'm resisting temptation, but getting this stuff done has definitely fulfilled part of that drive.

Saturday, April 2

Damn you Mother Nature

Funny April Fool's joke.

Thursday, March 31

Recipe: Butternut Squash Risotto

Slightly modified risotto recipe from Lidia Bastianich's "Lidia's Family Table". Key to this is to stir a lot as the result is creamier and yummier (tip: use a wooden spoon with a thicker handle for more comfort).

For Squash:
1/2 - 1 lb butternut squash, cleaned and diced
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1-2 tsp dried thyme
1-3 TBSP ground sage or 3-4 leaves fresh, crushed and shredded

For Risotto:
5-7 cups water or stock (heated to almost a boil - keep it hot and near your risotto pot)
1/4 cup Olive Oil
10 oz or more minced onion, leek, shallot, etc.(can pick one or combine) (2 cups or more)
2 cups Arborio or Carnaroli Rice
1 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon salt
1-3 TBSP ground sage or fresh
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, or 2-3 tsp dried thyme

For Finishing:
1/2 - 1 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese or Grana Padano
Freshly Ground Pepper
2 TBSP EVOO or Butter
Pepper & Salt to taste

Put diced butternut squash in bowl. Add 1/2 the thyme, season with salt and pepper and add just enough olive oil to coat. Place in 400F oven for 25 minutes (I like to put mine on a rack that keeps it off the baking tray to help heat circulate). Then place under broiler for 5-10 to brown a little more if needed. You can also drizzle with a little maple syrup or agave syrup to help sweeten up the squash.

Saute 1/4 cup oil, onions and 1/2 tsp salt, and about 1 TBSP sage over medium heat. Cook slowly and stirring frequently with wooden spoon until they take on a golden color (8-10 minutes). Add 1/2 cup water/stock and cook until ALL water is gone (5-10 minutes), and only glistening onions remain.

Once water is gone, add rice, raise heat to medium and stir, to coat with oil. Cook for 3-5 minutes to toast the rice (don't let them scorch or color). Add wine and stir until liquid is gone. Add 1 1/2-2 cups of hot liquid (enough to barely cover the rice). Add remaining 1/2 tsp salt....stirring often at first and then constantly as mixture thickens. Adjust heat to maintain a very gentle perking. When can see the bottom of the pan and all liquid is absorbed, add another 1 cup of liquid. Stir to blend, often as thickens. Add 2 cups liquid...and continue until consistency is reached.
(You should have added at least 5 cups if hot liquid).
Taste and check for seasoning of sage...add more if desire. (I usually stop after or around this step--after adding 5 or so cups--but you can keep going.)

Remove from heat, stir in 1-3 TBSP olive oil and grated cheese. Add in squash. Taste & season with salt and pepper.


Wednesday, March 30

Recipe: Turkey & Bean Chili

On cool Spring evenings (and throughout the Fall and Winter), a nice pot of chili is perfect. It's great to make over the weekend and have it for the week ahead. It's great on its own (topped with cheese, guac, sour cream, or whatever you like), over egg noodles, in a baked potato, and on hot dogs (chili dogs) among other things. We've even once turned it almost into a tex-mex style Shepard's Pie.

Note below, that you can make this hotter or not at all hot, depending on how you like it.

1 lb ground turkey (or beef, or omit for veggie chili)
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 can pink beans
1 onion, diced (can also add some leek)
2-5 cloves garlic, smashed/diced
1 bay leaf
4-5 carrots, peeled and diced into rounds
1 small bell pepper (green or red or any color)
1-2 jalapenos, diced (if don't like heat, remove seeds and white ribs inside)
1 little can tomato paste
1 15.5oz (or so) can tomato sauce
garlic powder
chili powder (add more or less to your taste. If you want it really hot you can add hot sauce or red pepper flakes)

1. Add a little olive oil or canola oil to a hot pan. Saute onions, and once starting to turn translucent, add garlic.
2. Add jalapeno and bell pepper. Add about 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp chili powder, 1 bay leaf and 2 tsp garlic powder. Stir to distribute spices evenly.
3. Add ground turkey (or beef, or skip this step if making veggie version) and saute until cooked through.
4. Add carrots and tomato paste and stir to mix in well.
5. Add tomato sauce, beans (including water...if would rather strain them, then use a LARGE can of tomato sauce).
6. Stir well, and add 1 tbsp cumin, 1 tbsp chili powder and 2 tsp garlic powder again. Stir well to combine. Taste and add salt and pepper or adjust seasonings as desired.
7. Cook on low heat for at least 30 minutes but up to 2 hours. Allow steam to evaporate a little while cooking to thicken chili. If gets too thick, add a little water or stock.
8. Serve and enjoy! Good topped with a little mexican blend cheese, avocado, sour cream. Great alone, on pasta, on baked potato, etc.

If doing a veggie version, you can add whatever veggies you like to this. It's a very flexible dish and that makes it an easy way to make it chock-a-block full of veggies.


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