Sunday, August 22, 2010

Marinated Green Beans & Roasted Red Peppers

Have you been reaping the benefits of having a garden? Whether you have a garden, or have been frequenting your local farmer's market, there is no doubt about the variety of wonderful fruits and veggies that are available this time of year. It seems silly not to take advantage, doesn't it? This recipe is one of my favorite summertime recipes, especially when the green beans are in full swing. The combination of garlic, olive oil, and red wine vinegar is so addictive and refreshing on a hot day! I really hope you'll give it a might be just the thing to liven up a Labor Day cookout!

Marinated Green Beans & Roasted Red Peppers

3 large red bell peppers
2 lbs. slender green beans
3/4 c. olive oil
1/3 c. red wine vinegar
3 garlic cloves
lettuce leaves, for garnishing

Char peppers over a gas flame or broiler until blackened on all sides. Don't be afraid to let those peppers get black! That's what makes the skin come off, peeps! Enclose the peppers in a paper bag and let stand for 10 minutes. Peel and seed the peppers and cut into 1/2" wide strips. Don't be intimidated by this step...the skins practically fall off! Transfer to a large bowl.

Cook beans in a large pot of boiling salted water until crisp tender, no more than 5 minutes. Drain and transfer to a bowl of ice water to cool. Drain well, and add to the bowl of peppers.

Whisk oil, vinegar, and garlic in a small bowl. Pour over vegetables and toss. Season to your taste with salt & pepper. Cover and chill up to 6 hours. Line a large bowl or platter with lettuce leaves if desired, and place the beans and peppers in the center.

Mmmmm Mmmmm Gooooood!!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Creamy Frozen Fruit Cups or Popsicles

How do YOU spell summer?

I spell it P-O-P-S-I-C-L-E!!!

Nothing cools you down and pumps you up like a refreshing popsicle on a hot summer day, and since we are still in the midst of summer - ignore the fact that the children are heading back to school soon - there is no time like the present to have a little fun with some frozen delights.

These dreamy creamy desserts were originally made for muffin tins, but the popsicle is clearly the more divine way to eat them. Pick whichever way sounds like the most fun to you and indulge! ( I believe there is more flavor and less calories in the popsicles......don't ask me how that's possible......I just know it to be true in my heart.)

Creamy Frozen Fruit Cups or Popsicles

8 Ounces Cream Cheese
1/2 Cup Sugar
One Can Mandarin Oranges, drained
One Can Crushed Pineapple, drained
1/2 Cup Fresh Cherries, sliced, optional (or Maraschino)
8 Ounces Whipped Cream
1/2 Cups Chopped Pecans, absolutely optional

Beat cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Add pineapple and oranges and beat slowly until combined. Fold in whipped cream and cherries....and pecans if adding them. Line muffin cups with liners. Spoon mixture into cups.
Spoon mixture into Popsicle containers.


Remove from freezer 10 minutes before serving. I know it will be hard to wait the 10 minutes, because it's like torture for me, but it is worth the wait!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Swimming Cucumbers

Who loves cucumbers from the garden.....raise your hand?

All of YOU?!?! That's what I thought!

This recipe is the perfect way to add some"tang"to the ever-refreshing veggie. It is important however, that one likes the zippy sting of apple cider vinegar because it's what these cucumbers swim in.

This has been a family favorite among kids and adults for many years now, so....


If I haven't sold you on this recipe, check out Jen's favorite way to eat them here.


Swimming Cucumbers

One Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
One Cup Water
Two Cups Sugar
One Teaspoon Salt
One Teaspoon Whole Cloves
1-1/2 Teaspoons Celery Seeds
7 Cucumbers, sliced and cut
Two Sweet Onions, thinly sliced

In a saucepan over low heat, warm water, apple cider vinegar, and sugar until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat. Add cloves, salt, and celery seeds. Place cucumbers and onions in container and pour liquid over them. Store in fridge for a few hours to allow the flavors to mingle and for the cucumbers to soak up the 'tang'.

As with most marination, the second day is best. Also, once all the cucumbers have been eaten, simply cut up more cucumbers and soak them in the same "juice".....the deliciousness will live on! I think they call that...........recycling......

Let's Get Pickled!
Let's Get Pickled!
Let's Get Pickled!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Betty G's Loaded Chocolate Chip Cookies with Oatmeal

click on photo to enlarge, then begin the drooling process

When my childhood friend, Jen came to play for the weekend, she showed up with a perky plate of chocolate chip cookies. I had just gotten home from work and had not eaten dinner, so my resistance to the cookie was super, super low - I ate three. When I got up on Saturday morning and started my day with two more cookies I knew something had to be done, and soon. I hid them. I figured out of sight....out of mind and it worked!

Jen left around noon on Sunday and a few hours later I rediscovered the cookies hidden in the cupboard.


It was like Christmas morning in July! As excited as I was to be reunited with them, I was now alone in my house with a plate full of cookies loaded with mucho chocolate chips. I didn't stand a chance. After I indulged in yet another sinful cookie, I knew I had to share them with the world, so I immediately emailed Jen to get the recipe while I crunched on one last cookie (had to be absolutely certain they were blog-worthy). I thought she told me the recipe came from our other childhood friend, Jen, who now lives in Vermont.

When I finally received the much anticipated email, I noticed the recipe was actually Vermont Jen's mother's cookie recipe, which made perfect sense. Betty was always a great cook and baker when we were growing up and everything she made tasted like it just fell from heaven's kitchen. I felt honored to have Betty's recipe in my possession, as I hope now you feel honored to have it in yours!!!

Happy Cookie Making!!!

Oh....and this little number does NOT get filed away under Healthy.... it falls somewhere between Yum Mee! and Oh My!

Betty G's Loaded Chocolate Chip Cookies with Oatmeal

1-1/2 Cups Flour
One Teaspoon Baking Soda
One Teaspoon Salt
One Egg
1 1/2 Tablespoons Vanilla
1-1/4 Cups Butter
3/4 Cup Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Sugar
3 Cups Quaker Rolled Oats
2 Cups Semi-sweet Chocolate Chips
3/4 Cup Chopped Pecans

Heat oven to 375 degrees.

Beat together butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, salt, and baking soda. Gradually add to butter mixture, mixing well until blended.
Add the oats, chocolate, and pecans.

Bake 9-10 minutes for a chewy cookie. Bake 11-12 minutes for crispy.

Below is what crispy looks like.....

Makes 72 cookies EXACTLY!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

It's a Funky Fruit Tasting Party!!!

So, it was time for another Food Tasting Party and half our food tasters were partying elsewhere. Getting all of us together this summer has proven to be a challenge so we expanded our list of party-tasters to men and managed to gather four of them to join Carrie, Shelly, Patty, and I for a Funky Fruit Food Tasting.

Welcome Bob, Chris, Brian, and Brad!!!

There were all sorts of odd, beautiful, flashy, deformed, speckled, horned, and spiky fruit for our eyes to behold, which was fun, but we were there to taste some fruitage, so let's get started!
Let's begin with the star of the show, shall we? But WHO was the star of this Funky Fruit Show?

No one would argue that the Cherimoya was the runaway hit of the party - the only fruit to make it into everyone's top three.

It's velvety flesh is a delicious custardy blend of banana, pineapple, and strawberry. Mark Twain was once quoted as characterizing it as "deliciousness itself". It's said to be considered a romantic fruit that the Incas used as an aphrodisiac and fertility enhancer. I know everyone at our little soiree was feeling the love for the Cherimoya!

As you can see from the dissected photo, there is a plethora of black seeds in this fruit. Much like a seeded watermelon, you have to work for this delicacy. Everybody at the table seemed to agree it was worth the trouble.

Sounds like a "star of the show," right? Well, maybe.

But what if a tropical fruit named Durian showed up at the party by way of our special guest, Shelley? What if the moment it was removed from it's cooler, it's foul odor completely enveloped the room? An odor so repelling that it's banned in most hotels and airports in Asia. And yet, some people find the fruit to be quite fragrant. Some describe this fruit as a rich custard highly flavored with almonds and claim it to be an aphrodisiac as well. Interesting.......

This little porcupine of a fruit received lots of attention at the party. Try as we did to ignore him, his odor demanded our attention. We let him stink up the whole house - saving him for last - before we cut into him. We were all very excited to try this fruit because despite the smell, we had come to the party open-minded and ready to try some funky fruit. Shelley LOVED the Durian and liked it raw as much as she liked it in coconut milk over sticky rice. If she loved it, certainly there was a chance we would like it, right?

Believe it or not, the foul smell tripled in intensity once the first cut was made and the Durian had everyone's attention again.

Cherimoya who?

Ok, let's cut to the chase. Yuk! We all hated it. H.a.t.ed. i.t. BUT, most of us agreed to take more than one bite, because Carried noticed that with each bite, the taste got a little better, but not good enough. Chris posed the question, "The first people to eat hungry were they that they thought to eat this stinky fruit?" Many more questions followed along with much laughter and discussion.

The "leftovers" were sealed in an airtight bag and given to Shelley to take home. Despite the disrespectful things said about him, her love remained true for the Durian. ♥

So! Who was the star of the Funky Fruit Show? Well, I guess that depends on your perspective. We all gushed over the Cherimoya but we'll never be the same after meeting the Durian, so.....

Those weren't the only two fruits showcased at this party, so we'll just transition from the "stinky" fruit to the Ugli Fruit. The Ugli fruit is just that....ugly. It's appearance is a cross between an orange and a grapefruit that's lopsided, blemished, and discolored. The Ugli fruit is a perfect example of why we shouldn't judged a book by it's cover. Once his peel is easily removed, the Ugli fruit reveals his very sweet and citrus taste inside.

Bonus Feature: NO seeds.
Highly recommend this fruit - kids love it!!

And then there's the Kiwano "Horned" Melon that looks cool, sharp, and horny on the outside. We couldn't wait to cut this guy open, and as you can see, we were not disappointed - sooooo pretty! But guess what? He was all flash and not much flavor. It was like eating the most boring, drab, dull cucumber ever! He was a bit of a disappointment.

But the beautiful Asian Pear did NOT disappoint! As pretty as an apple and as sweet as a pear, this darling fruit was simply refreshing and smile-inducing. Like the apple, once you bring it home from the store it's ready to waiting around for it to ripen.

What do you think about the plums below?


They're not plums....they're called Red Velvet Apricots. Yea....Whatever!!! They look like plums, they feel like plums, they taste like plums, but they're called Red Velvet Apricots. Okay.

My favorite of the day was the Atualfo Mango which boasts a spectacular flavor that melts in your mouth. I've never been a crazed fan of the mango, but this mango could have me running for president of the Maniacs for Mangoes Club. More than half of the party goers gave this "Alfonso" mango (as Chris calls it) top three honors.

Then there was Papaya, Plantains, Coconut, Apricots, Mini-Bananas........all very good.

We did not actually taste-test the Quince, but Patty made a delightful Quince Cherry Crumble that we topped with freshly whipped cream. The quince is similar to the pear and the apple and has an acidic and bitter taste in its uncooked form, so you don't just pick and eat them. You cook them in water until they soften and become much sweeter. They are commonly used in crumbles and cobblers due to their likeness to the apple.

And then there was the canned fruit. You know it's not going to be as good as fresh chilled fruit, but you've got to try it.

The Lychee was a big hit - a pear/grape montage that's refreshing and fun - perfect for a Martini, right Bob?!?! Bob could take any fruit of the day and create a drink by adding rum, name it, to make himself a tasty drink.

Rambutan tasted like it would fit right in with fruit cocktail and many found it's flavor favorable.
The Jackfruit tasted like baby food and Chris did NOT like it. Bob thought it was grrrrreeat!!! Chris's first experience with the jackfruit was in a dish with chicken and curry and he found the lightness and sweetness of the jackfruit a perfect compliment to both chicken and curry. Turns out, he wasn't so crazy about it straight up.

If you want to know more about some of these tropical fruits click here.

Of course there was wine and lots and lots of fun conversation! We look forward to the next party....what will we taste?!?!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Zucchini Patty Pancakes

Okay! I just found my new favorite zucchini recipe and I owe it all to a lovely lady named Phyllis! She was nice enough to share this gem with me a few weeks ago and then my friend Patty gave me zucchini from her garden last week, we are!

Had I known the flavor would make my heart smile the way it does, I would have been ON IT the very day she placed the sacred instructions in my hands. But, now I know how delicious they are and how little effort it takes to get them from zucchini to zucchini pancake.

You will love the flavor and lightness of this savory pancake as it comes off the griddle, and that love will double in intensity when you re-heat it the next day, because it is one of those special treats that tastes just as good, if not better, the next day.......


Eat 'em with your hands, stack 'em up and cut 'em up with a knife, slather 'em with spaghetti sauce and call it dinner....whatever you want.....the sky is the limit with these perfect little patties!

Zucchini Patty Pancakes

1-1/2 Cups Grated Zucchini (Dry on paper towel)
2-3 Tablespoons Minced Onion
1/4 Cup Parmesan or Asiago, or Romano, or all of them!
1/4 Cup Flour
2 Eggs, beaten
2 Tablespoons Mayo
Salt & Pepper

Mix together and drop into hot skillet with olive oil. Cook until set and brown.

Take one more good look at your new favorite zucchini recipe.....