Pine Nut Vinaigrette

Pine Nut VinaigretteGiving Thanks for Dad
If there is one thing I know it’s that my family isn’t normal. From the outside looking in, we may seem like your typical family of five. But, in reality, we are more than a few degrees off-center. The following is the most recent example.

Like most other families during the shelter-in-place order, we have been spending more time outside enjoying our backyard. The more we were out there the more it became obvious that our backyard space was in need of some serious help. So for the last month, that’s what we have been doing—little by little. It started with a fire pit that the family gave me as a birthday present. And, quickly turned into a much larger home improvement project culminating in the building of an outdoor bar.

The bar happened because we were sitting around the fire pit one night and I got thirsty. I mentioned that it would be cool to have a bar outside ‘cause I was feeling lazy and having to walk to the kitchen was just too far. This is where things got kinda nutty. Ideas and possible designs were thrown out for consideration. The kids were in on it, too. (I know. Great parenting. The kids are designing a bar. At least they learned some rough carpentry skills. That’s good, right?) Everything came together when I remembered the Mexican tiles and sink we had sitting in the garage.

Seventeen years ago I was pregnant with twins and my husband and I, knowing things were never going to be the same again, went on a vacation to Peurto Vallarta as the last hurrah before the boys showed up. While we were there we found a tile shop downtown that was filled with the most amazing Talavera tiles and sinks. I forced my husband to haul a sink and about 40 tiles home on the plane in a backpack with the idea that we would use them in the bathroom of our new house. That never happened. They sat in the garage until we moved into our current house ten years ago where they sat in the garage again until last month.

Long story (sort of) short, the tiles and sink are now part of a lovely and very sturdy (my love has a tendency to over-engineer) outdoor bar that looks like a Mexican cantina complete with a palm roof. The plan was to get it done by Father’s Day and we did. Naturally, I assumed we would be toasting Dad and breaking in the new bar with tacos and margaritas. I was wrong. So, so wrong.

When asked what he wanted to have for his Father’s Day feast my husband declared that he wanted his favorite dinner in the world, Thanksgiving. In June. In 90 degree heat. Do you know how hard it is to find Thanksgiving stuff in June? During a pandemic?

The turkey was the easiest part. I roasted two turkey breasts, mashed some potatoes, and baked the stuffing outside of the bird. We even had pecan pie thanks to my daughter. My sister, the smart one, was in charge of the green beans and made something that was more in line with the weather and the time of year. She got a bunch of green beans, steamed them, and dunked them in cold water to stop the cooking and keep them crunchy. She then dried them off and spread them on a platter, scattered some sliced cherry tomatoes around, and topped them off with a tasty Pine Nut Vinaigrette. It was the perfect way to cut all of the richness and carbs of Thanksgiving in June. In our Mexican cantina…

Pine Nut Vinaigrette
Adapted from Six Seasons: An New Way with Vegetables by Joshua McFadden Read more…

Preserved Roasted Peppers

Preserved Roasted PeppersPick A Peck
Whenever I plant a veggie garden I always include peppers. Bell Peppers are a must-have as are any spicy peppers like jalapeños or Fresnos. Planting peppers presents a problem as they can be as prolific as zucchini under the right conditions. I am a big fan of Thai chilis but anyone who has ever grown them in their garden knows that one plant can produce hundreds of chilis. I mean, I like spicy but that’s a bit too much. So what to do with all those peppers?

Trading with friends, neighbors, and co-workers is always an option—even better if you trade for something they grew that you didn’t. But, sometimes there are still too many. So, I end up preserving them.

You have two options when it comes to preserving peppers. You can make pickled ones quickly in the fridge like these or you can roast and can them for use at a later date. Both have their merits, though if you want more versatility as to what you can do with the peppers, roasting is the way to go.

I love preserved roasted peppers. You can use them in sandwiches or in salads. You can chop them up with some tomato for a tasty bruschetta or add them to your favorite pasta dish.

Below is one of my favorite ways to preserve peppers. It comes to us courtesy of Hank Shaw of Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook and it is one of my favorite resources for pickle recipes as well as other off the beaten path ideas. I like to add a clove of garlic to each jar to add just a little bit more flavor. Definitely check his website out if you are so inclined. In the meantime, if your pepper plant cup runneth over, try this recipe to get things under control…

Preserved Roasted Peppers
Adapted from Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook

Our method of preserving peppers is to roast them over an open fire, then preserve them with a little salt, oil, and vinegar. Roasted peppers are delicious. They make great appetizers and go well in sauces, stews, sandwiches, and simply draped over roasted or grilled meat.

This recipe can be used with any variety of pepper, sweet or spicy. Read more…

Sesame Ginger Noodle Salad

Sesame Ginger Noodle Salad

Sunday Morning Hazards
Sometimes my mouth gets me in trouble. Sometimes I agree to things without thinking. Sometimes it’s worth it.

Last Sunday morning, we were couch-surfing after a tasty French toast breakfast and the Pioneer Woman was on the TV (because the Food Network is always my daughter’s first choice unless any of the Harry Potter movies are on). I wasn’t really paying attention but I had a vague idea that it was on in the background. Our plans that day revolved around a woodwork project for the back patio so I was trying to figure out my plan of attack. It was then that I heard my husband announce to the room” I want that for dinner!” and I stopped everything that I was doing to take a look.

It is rare that a member of my family tells me exactly what they want to eat without any prompting from me. Usually, there is a lot of back and forth about what sounds good? What do we have in the fridge? Etc..So when someone says I want that, it’s kind of a big deal. I said yes without hesitation. I was already planning on going to the store anyway so no biggie…right?

This, of course, was all before I spent the next 6 hours crouched down staining two by fours in the sun. When we finished our project and it was time for dinner I was less enthusiastic about our dinner plans and promises I made. Thankfully the recipe came together easily and went well with the pork chops I threw on the grill. Even better it made enough to cover lunch the next day. (This recipe actually makes a lot. It would be perfect for a potluck…when we can do that again!) In fact, it was even better the next day.

I wasn’t better the next day. I was walking like the tin man….

Sesame Ginger Noodle Salad
Adapted from The Pioneer Woman on the Food Network
Yields 6 servings Read more…

Turmeric Pickles

Turmeric PicklesNothin’ But Time
So here we are at the end of May still with a lot of time on our hands. If you planted a veggie garden at the beginning of all this, time may not be all that you have on your hands. My tomatoes have been going crazy, and even more so with the recent heat. I don’t have any actual tomatoes yet but they are definitely coming. What I do have are cucumbers.

I love cucumbers. I use them in salads, obviously, but I really like to use them by slicing them up and putting them along with a fresh mint sprig in a pitcher of water to keep in the fridge. The cold cucumber water is especially refreshing on hot days.

The best use for an over-abundance of cucumbers is, of course, pickles. These Garlic Dill Pickles are my favorite but sometimes the same old thing gets, well, old. My sister is big into pickling and has a number of favorite recipes—but the one I think she uses the most is the turmeric pickle recipe from the Mustard’s Grill Napa Valley cookbook that we highlighted for one of our Cookbook club dinners. Mustard’s is a Napa Valley icon and, since things seem to be opening up in those parts, it might be worth a trip in the weeks to come…

In the meantime, try these pickles if you have the inclination. They are excellent when made with both cucumbers or zucchini which means you will always have a way to handle an over-producing garden. I like to add a dried chili in there for a little extra kick….

Turmeric Pickles
Yields about 4 Cups
Adapted from Mustard’s Napa Valley Grill Cookbook  Read more…