Archive | September, 2012

End of Summer Garden

29 Sep

It’s the end of the summer….And that makes me unbelievably sad. It took me 3 weeks, but I have finally accepted it. And now I am ready for fall!

I had a great gardening year this summer. All four of my tomato plants produced a lot of fruit, and my basil has never been bigger.

The garden from the backside

Above is the garden from the backside- jalapeno on the bottom, tomatoes along the right, WALL of basil in the back!! Oh and my little mint pot on the left 🙂

Full view in front of garden

Above and below you can see how tall the basil is. I am roughly 5 ft 4 so you can see that some of the basil is over my head.

Basil is 5 feet tall

Below are some of the Early Girl tomatoes, and in the background you can see some green romas.

Fresh tomatoes on the vine

From the farmers market…..

Some great farmers market heirloom finds….

This is my FAVORITE heirloom tomato ever……the Ox Heart. It is most delicious with not that many seeds. Perfect with some kosher salt.

My favorite – the OxHeart

I’ve had a bowlful of these on my counter since July……it’s great to just pop a couple in your mouth whenever you want.

Bowlful of Babies

Sadly, I have started to pluck off future flowerblooms from my tomato plants since they’ll likely never get a chance at full bloom. But it’s been a great summer and I look forward to next April when I am consumed with selecting next summer’s plants and getting the garden ready to plant 🙂

Le Sigh………bring on the fall apple and pumpkin flavors!

Ice Cream Pie

27 Sep

Hurry up! It’s still warm outside to enjoy this awesomeness!!!

This is an old family recipe that my mom’s been making all my life. Everyone LOVES this treat in the summertime. I watched my brother, Pat, take down FOUR pieces in one sitting this past summer….it was quite impressive I gotta say.

My mom used to make it with Starbucks Java Chip ice cream – coffee ice cream with chocolate chips. But they no longer make that flavor – so we improvise!

This couldnt get any easier…..Make an oreo crust, dump ice cream in, and make sauce for top! It’s fabulous and so yummy when it’s hot outside. There are also different variations on ice cream….strawberry, vanilla, chocolate, coffee, mint chocolate chip…..you can really use any flavor you like! However, I recommend using premium ice cream.

Above is the cookie crust…..below is the softened iced cream poured into the crust. I used coffee ice cream and made my own “chips” by grinding up chocolate chips in the food processor and incorporating.

Next is the homemade chocolate sauce. You can cheat by buying store-bought sauce, but it wont sit right on the pie and wont adhere. (You will see pics of it later on – my mom tried to use it a couple times recently in a pinch.)

You can see how the sauce lays thickly on top of the pie. It is supposed to look similar to this.

Here is the side view of the pie as we devoured it.

Here is a slice of an ice cream pie my mom made this summer. You can see how her store-bought sauce doesnt adhere well to the pie.

Below is what remains of a Dulce de Leche ice cream pie my mom made this summer. Our family’s favorite was the Java Chip cake with oreo crust…..but sometimes, it’s a really really tough choice when the Dulce de Leche with vanilla oreo crust is offered as well. In that case, we mostly choose to have a SLIVER OF EACH 🙂

I cant tell you how simple and delicious this ice cream pie is. I encourage you all to come up with your own option for flavors and report back to me!! I am thinking about trying a strawberry version next summer.

If you are an ice cream lover – this is for YOU!

Ice Cream Pie

Pie Ingredients:

  • 18 whole oreos (approx)
  • 3 tblsp melted butter
  • 1 quart (or more) of ice cream (choose your flavor), softened a little

Sauce Ingredients:

  • ½ cup sugar
  • Small can evaporated milk
  • 2 squares bakers chocolate

Directions:

Crumble oreos in processor or blender until they are crumbs. Mix with melted butter and press into 9” pie plate. Freeze and then fill with ice cream (flavor of your choice).

Put back in freezer to harden and then make sauce.

Combine chocolate, sugar, and evaporated milk in saucepan. Stir and cook on stove until thick – it will take a while and feel like nothing is happening, but will suddenly thicken and come together. Chill the sauce for a couple hours. Spread over top of pie. Voila!

Other flavor combos:

–       Chocolate Oreos with java chip ice cream and chocolate sauce

–       Vanilla oreos with dulce de leche ice cream and caramel sauce

–       Strawberry ice cream with berries and chocolate sauce

–       Chocolate oreos with mint chocolate chip ice cream and chocolate sauce

Pesto

23 Sep

I LOVE PESTO.

Love it. It took me 32 years to understand it….but now that I do, I cant get enough of it! Typically, I grow at least 9 plants of basil every summer and in late September I whack them all and make 15-20 batches of pesto to freeze for the wintertime!

Pesto is so easy. It’s adaptable. There are so many variations: basil, arugula, red pepper, parsley, sun-dried tomato, spinach…etc. There are variations on nuts you can use instead of the traditional pine nuts: pistachio, walnut, almond, sunflower seed….etc. You can also vary the types of cheese! Pesto is great!

Ingredients

I stick with the traditional pesto though. Recently, at one of my farmers markets, there was a vendor selling basil for “$2/a bunch”. I said “how do you quantify a bunch?” to which she replied – “as much as you can carry with your hands.” I made out like a bandit and instantly knew I was making pesto! Look at this pile of basil!!!!!!! You can practically smell it, cant you?

Pile of Basil

Closeup

The hardest part about making pesto is trimming all of the basil.

Here are all the ingredients dumped into the food processor. It’s as easy as that – dumping everything together into the food processor. Read the recipe to see my secret ingredient.

And here it is 2 minutes later all ground up into a paste:

Here is another closeup because this stuff is off the hook.

There are a couple people who are FANS of my pesto (My brother Pat and my friend, Jeff). So I am always sure to freeze several containers and give them out when I see them. I ALWAYS have containers of it in my freezer to either take with me to someone else’s house or to enjoy in my own. It is so awesome to have some fresh garden pesto on a dreary January day…..I think my brother and I are the only ones I know who can just eat spoonfuls of this stuff. Isnt that gross? So gross, but so good!!!!!

And here was the recent grilled pizza I made with this pesto on this day. It was so darn good. I feel like the vendor had a couple strands of Lemon Basil mixed into the regular Genovese Basil because there was a bright lemony taste!

I just hacked 3 of my 5-foot tall 9 basil plants this past weekend and made about 18 batches of pesto. Here are my tall plants – in the garden and then some of them hacked down waiting to be plucked apart:

Here is the assembly line of ingredients to make it easy to dump into the processor and keep moving.

What in the world does 18 batches of pesto look like? Well, to me it looks like heaven….

39 containers of deliciousness….

Pesto Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • 2 medium garlic cloves
  • ½ cup parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 anchovy (optional)

Directions:

De-stem and wash all basil leaves and dry thoroughly. Place in food processor with pine nuts, garlic, parmesan, and salt/pepper.

Turn food processor on and grind until it forms a thick paste (about a minute). Now, you may not want to add the anchovy. And you dont have to! But it adds another dimension to the flavor and makes it richer. I really enjoy it – it does NOT taste like anchovy at all.

Drizzle in olive oil while food processor is still running and run for another 1-2 minutes. Done!

Supper Club – Thai!

16 Sep

Whew – what a week….Sorry I’ve been absent for a while. Work has been occupying my time. Anyway, Last weekend was John and Jeff’s turn to host Supper Club – THAI FOOD! I absolutely LOVE thai food so I was definitely excited.

We walked in the door to some authentic thai music and a slideshow of travel pics from Thailand (google does wonders!) on the tv. And out came the appetizers.

They were delicious! The first one was Satay Chicken – minus the sticks and long pieces of chicken. It was served with a peanut sauce that was to die for. We couldn’t get enough of the peanut chicken. I snagged the recipe so I could make at some point in the near future.

He also served us the most amazingly fresh and delicate thai basil shrimp spring rolls with a peanut-hoisin sauce. Look at how fresh they look. I think these were the unsung dish of the night – John really outdid himself.

We had to let our apps digest a bit before starting on dinner. So we enjoyed the Thai Picture Slideshow. Pretty soon, dinner was served!

We had Asian BBQ steak that had a marinade made of sriracha and fish sauce (amongst other flavors) that was absolutely delicious. It was the perfect amount of spiciness.

We also had Pad Kee Mao – which translates to “drunken stir fry” with pork. It was delicious and full of delicate thai flavors like basil and spicy pepper.

And on the side, John made a delicious cucumber salad with cilantro and jalapeno and rice wine vinegar. It was so refreshing and yet so simple. I really really enjoyed it!

Since John bought a 200-pack of chopsticks, we felt compelled to at least try using them. Even though we are all TERRIBLE at using chopsticks 🙂

After we completely stuffed ourselves and took turns picking random 80s and 90s songs to play on YouTube, dessert was served. Or so I thought…

Jeff put out this little plate of 4 interesting-looking cookies or pastries or something. We didn’t know what to make of it but we tried one! It was weird. It was supposed to be a mango thing. But the texture was so bizarre and the taste was lacking. Then we found out that it was a joke – John bought them for Jeff and they knew they were weird!

Then, of course we had to play with them a bit…..

So then Jeff went to assemble our real dessert – fried bananas with coconut ice cream. It was not only visually stunning, it tasted AWESOME!!! It was the perfect way to end a delicious dinner.

Here is a closeup – delicious and crispy on the outside, soft and sweet in the middle. That’s what she said!

And afterwards we relaxed, as you can tell by these shots of Austin….

Hahahahahahaha well done boys! It was an awesome night of food and laughs. Next month: Mexican at my house!

Dillas

2 Sep

My brother and sisterinlaw, Julie and Pat, have been bringing these delicious veggie quesadillas to our summer pooldays for years.

Ingredients

They are so simple and yet so tasty. They are filled with different veggies and varying degree of spiciness. So you can easily customize and adapt to your audience.

Everything set up for assembly

I dont know why, but they call them “dillas” for short – so we have all adapted the name.

Deorated half

Closeup of inside

They are rather simple to make – just take a little bit of time, between chopping up the vegetables and cilantro and then assembling. It really is best to assemble them the day before so that they meld together. And hey, look at it this way – it’s one less thing you have to do the day of a get-together or party!

Folded Over

Wrapped up and labeled

This recipe makes about as many tortillas as come in a standard package – for me, it was 10. These things are huge. I customized them for everyone who was at Supper Club Summer Picnic Night (spicy or non-spicy) and labeled them all. That’s why this recipe is great – it’s so customizable!

Make sure to cook them low and slow on the grill. I cooked mine a bit too quickly and I didnt get a good enough melt on the cheese.

Once they are done, we usually cut them into thirds or fourths and put them on a platter for everyone to snack on. They dont need any condiments, although you can certainly use some if you like. These are DELICIOUS!

(I didnt get any action shots because we ate them too fast to snap any pics! Just imagine melted cheese and veggies…..yum!)

Dillas

Ingredients:

  • Flour tortillas (Mission brand seem to be the best that we have tried)
  • BBQ sauce (I use Sweet Baby Rays)
  • Chopped green onions
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Sliced avocado, pretty thin
  • Roma tomatoes, sliced thin, seeds removed
  • Chopped jalapenos or chiles (fresh or from can)
  • Jack cheese slices (I buy the pre-sliced ones that are kind of medium slice, and use about a slice and a half per tortilla)

Directions:

Schmear BBQ sauce on tortillas. Place all other ingredients just on one half of tortilla so it can be folded over.

Fold tortilla in half and after making each one, wrap in plastic wrap separately. Store overnight (preferred) or use immediately.

These are best if assemble the day before grilling so flavors are allowed to mingle.

When ready to cook, brush with butter and then place on medium-high grill. Grill on low heat until cheese is melted, about 5 minutes or so. Make sure to flip over during grilling.

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