Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Garden Tuesday - Lungwort


Lungwort (or Pulmonaria) is an early spring bloomer. It doesn't make a loud statement, it's one of those plants that you have to walk over to it and maybe even bend down a little to enjoy it. But you know, we can't all be flashy extroverts, now can we.

Next to the lungwort, see those ivy looking leaves? I'll give you a million dollars if you can correctly guess what that is. Of course, if I actually had a million dollars, you'd have to get in line, because I make statements like that all the time. So, you'd have to get in line behind my daughters, my students, and anyone else I've ever talked to. But anyway, do you remember my post from last October of the hardy cyclamen? It's the same plant, only now the flowers have died down and the leaves have stayed green all winter. In the heat of the summer, the leaves disappear and the plant goes dormant again until fall. I love quirky plants.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Cats Knowingly Smother Babies???

On the weekends, I read the paper. In case you think that is why I am so worldly, I must confess I only read the Lifestyle section. But I do read it, all the way through, so that has to count for something, right?

So, anyway, I'm reading the syndicated column called Parenting, by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and Dr. Joshua Sparrow. A mother is writing in because she is concerned that her pregnant daughter has 3 cats. 3 cats who have been the center of her daughter's life and are a little spoiled. She is concerned that the cats will be jealous of the baby.

The doctors begin their answer by talking about toxoplasma. The list some of the precautions that must be taken. So far, so good.

Then they address the issue of jealousy. Now, I agree the cats may be jealous, but there are ways to handle it. I suspect that there are lots and lots of people who have babies and cats. Of course you would never leave a baby alone with a cat, but really, you shouldn't leave a baby alone with any animal. Do the good doctor's give that kind of rational advice?? No! This is their response:

"Some cats will seek out the babies' mouths to smother them. It may sound heartless, but it would be better for the baby if your daughter would rid herself of the cats."

If they had worded this a different way. If they had said that cats like to cuddle and sleep on people and that they might accidentally lay on a babies' face, so you should be cautious. I would be okay with that. But to actually say that the cats are going to seek out the babies' mouth with the intention of smothering the baby, sounds ridiculous to me.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Serena by Ron Rash

Serena: A Novelby Ron Rash is probably not a book I would have chosen for myself. Well, that's kind of silly, because I obviously did chose it for myself. But not really, I let Publisher's Weekly chose it for me for the Notable Books Challenge. This is why I do these challenges, to step out of my comfort zone, to expose myself to a variety of books.

Obligatory summary from someone other than myself (because I couldn't write a good summary if my life depended on it):

The year is 1929, and newlyweds George and Serena Pemberton travel from Boston to the North Carolina mountains where they plan to create a timber empire. Although George has already lived in the camp long enough to father an illegitimate child, Serena is new to the mountains--but she soon shows herself to be the equal of any man, overseeing crews, hunting rattle-snakes, even saving her husband's life in the wilderness. Together this lord and lady of the woodlands ruthlessly kill or vanquish all who fall out of favor. Yet when Serena learns that she will never bear a child, she sets out to murder the son George fathered without her. Mother and child begin a struggle for their lives, and when Serena suspects George is protecting his illegitimate family, the Pembertons' intense, passionate marriage starts to unravel as the story moves toward its shocking reckoning.
Rash's masterful balance of violence and beauty yields a riveting novel that, at its core, tells of love both honored and betrayed.

There are several things that I liked about this story. First, the location is familiar to me. It takes place around Tennessee, Kentucky, and North Carolina, during the depression, with FDR trying to create The Smokey Mountain National Park. Second is Serena herself. She is a fascinating character, completely selfish and ruthless. While you admire her strength, you are appalled at her actions.

I give this 4 out 5.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging #199

I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul. - Jean Cocteau

This week's Weekend Cat Blogging is being hosted by Turkey Cats.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Grilled Lemongrass Beef

Grilled Lemongrass Beef

Do you remember when I mentioned that I got a side of beef? Well, I have tons and tons of beef in my freezer. What I've realized is that you have to sort of dig around to find creative beef recipes. Think about it. There are a zillion and one things you can do with a chicken breast, a sirloin steak...not so many. So I've been searching though my cookbooks especially regional and ethnic cookbooks looking to expand my horizon.

Since it was a weeknight and since quick and easy are my mantra, I looked through Quick & Easy Vietnamese: 75 Everyday Recipes. What I found was grilled lemongrass beef. It was excellent! I made the marinade in the morning and let it marinate all day.

Grilled Lemongrass Beef
Serves 4 - 6

1 pound boneless beef, such as tri-tip or sirloin
3 tablespoons finely chopped lemongrass
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1 tablespoon chopped onion or shallots
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

15 to 20 bamboo skewers, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes

Slice the beef thinly into strips about 2 inches long and put into a bowl. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a mini processor or blender and blend until fairly smooth. Add a little water if necessary to move the blades. Pour the marinade over the beef and toss to coat. Set aside for 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate for up to a day.

Thread the beef on skewers. Heat your grill to high. Place the skewers on the hot grill and grill about 1 - 2 minutes per side.


This fabulous use of lemongrass will be my entry for this week's Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Anna from Anna's Cool Finds.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Roasted Tenderloin of Beef with Roasted Tomatoes

Roasted Tenderloin of Beef

This is supposed to be Tyler Florence's version of turf and surf. The turf is this lovely thick cut filet mignon steak and the surf is his ultimate spicy crab salad. Unfortunately, I can't find lump crabmeat here, or when I do find it, it costs a fortune. So, turf with no surf. I imagine that the ultimate crab salad would have been delightful, but this steak was mighty fine without it.

This is pure genius. I would have never, ever thought of roasting the tomatoes with the beef. Or, of even serving roasted tomatoes with a steak, but this is why Tyler gets the big bucks and I am a lowly special ed teacher. I can't step out of the meat and potatoes box without someone to hold my hand. Hold my hand, Tyler.

Roasted Tenderloin of Beef (without the Spicy Crab Salad)
Serves 4

4 center-cut beef tenderloin steaks, each about 2 inches thick (about 2 pounds total)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pint vine-ripened red cherry tomatoes, washed and dried

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Put a cast iron or ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat and get it hot. Drizzle in a 2-count of oil. If you choose to tie the fillets, take a piece of butchers twine and wrap it around each fillet twice to form a nice round shape. This will help the meat retain its shape while cooking. Sprinkle the beef all over with salt and pepper and sear for about 3 minutes on each side, until well browned. Shove the beef to the side and add the tomatoes to the pan; drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and stir gently to coat. Now put the pan in the oven and roast until the beef is rare and the tomatoes burst, 7 to 8 minutes. (Add 2 more minutes for medium rare, 5 more minutes for medium.)

This tasty Tyler dish will be my entry for this week's Tyler Florence Fridays.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Lemon-Buttermilk Sherbet

Lemon-Buttermilk Sherbet

In honor of spring, I decided to pull out the trusty old KitchenAid Ice Cream Maker Attachment and the also always reliable Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments. Since this was purely spur of the moment and I didn't feel like leaving the house, an ice cream made from pantry/fridge staples was called for.

Voilla! Lemon Buttermilk Sherbet. 5 ingredients and the hardest thing you have to do is grate some lemon zest and juice a few lemons. This was wonderful, light and refreshing. While I was eating this, I was paging through trying to decide what to make next. He has a whole section on accompaniments, which I haven't even started on. He suggested pairing this with his Creamy Caramel Sauce, which I think would put it so ridiculously good and over the top that I can't stop thinking about it. My next ice cream will have an accompaniment!

Lemon-Buttermilk Sherbet
Makes about 1 quart

1/3 cup water
2/3 cup sugar
1 medium lemon, preferably unsprayed
2 cups buttermilk
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)

In a medium saucepan combine the water and the sugar. Grate the lemon zest into the pan. Heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and let it come to room temperature, then place the syrup into the fridge until thoroughly chilled.

Whisk the buttermilk into the syrup and then whisk in the lemon juice. Freeze in an ice maker per instructions.

Eat and be happy.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Farfalle with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Cream


Okay, to see who's paying attention...guess which book this came out of. If you didn't guess The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh then you really haven't been playing along at home. I can't help it. There are over 1,000 recipes in this book, all quick and easy.

This was very good. The combination of the crushed tomatoes and the cream gives a rich sauce. I didn't have any bow tie pasta so I had to use fusilli, the bow tie would have been prettier. Fusilli always reminds me of cold pasta salads at picnics. I also didn't have any fresh basil, so I just chiseled off some of my frozen, perfect. You can find the recipe in the cookbook, on-line, and down below. You really have no excuse not to make it, do you??

Farfalle with Sausage, Tomatoes, and Cream
Serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 cup chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree
1/2 cup whipping cream

1 pound farfalle (bow-tie pasta)
1/2 cup (packed) chopped fresh basil
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sausage and crushed red pepper. Sauté until sausage is no longer pink, breaking up with back of fork, about 5 minutes. Add onion and garlic; sauté until onion is tender and sausage is browned, about 3 minutes longer. Add tomatoes and cream. Reduce heat to low and simmer until sausage mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid. Return pasta to same pot. Add sausage mixture and toss over medium-low heat until sauce coats pasta, adding reserved cooking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if mixture is dry. Transfer pasta to serving dish. Sprinkle with basil. Serve, passing cheese separately.


This will be my entry for this week's Presto Pasta Nights hosted by Aquadaze of Served with Love.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Real Food For Mother and Baby by Nina Planck

Last year I read, Real Food: What to Eat and Whyby Nina Planck and loved it. After reading that book, I started buying real food: grass fed milk and beef, full fat yogurt and cheese, organic vegetables. Her premise (and it's one that's shared by many) is that it's not real food that's bad for us it's processed foods. The ingredients on my full fat organic yogurt is milk and active yogurt cultures. That's it. The ingredients on the low-fat non-organic yogurt that a fellow teacher was eating, had about 10 items, 6 of which I didn't even know what they were.

Nina Planck's publisher contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in previewing her new book Real Food for Mother and Baby: The Fertility Diet, Eating for Two, and Baby's First Foods and I said sure. I'm never one to pass up a book, even though the baby train has left this station.

The chapters are:

What is Real Food?
The Fertility Diet
Forty Weeks
Nursing Your Baby
First Foods

I really enjoyed this book, even though, it doesn't necessarily apply to me. But it does because everyone needs to eat better. Eat healthy, whether you are eating simply for yourself, a baby, or cooking for a family. For those of you that it does apply to she gives detailed information about what part of the baby is developing when and what you need to eat to help it along. She gives excellent advice on nursing and baby's first foods.

If you are, or are thinking about getting pregnant, I highly recommend this book. I plan on giving my copy to a special science teacher at school who is about 6 weeks pregnant. If the whole pregnancy thing doesn't apply to you, then I highly recomment her Real Food book.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Weekend Cat Blogging #198

"Of all God's creatures, there is only one that cannot be made slave of the leash. That one is the cat. If man could be crossed with the cat it would improve the man, but it would deteriorate the cat." - Mark Twain

Yes, I know the piece of some sort of plant got in the way, but it is getting harder and harder to get a picture of Patchouli that is not a blurry movement shot. There is just too much going on in the spring garden to sit still, you know! This will be my entry for this week's Weekend Cat Blogging hosted by Samantha Black and Mr. Tigger at Life From a Cat's Perspective.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Presto Pasta Nights #105

PPN #105

I am so excited to be hosting the 105th Presto Pasta Night round-up! I urged all of you to enter, since it was my spring break, and you knew you were jealous, and you didn't disappoint! You have definitely kept me busy!

Tagliatelle with Fine Beans and Mushrooms
First up was Holler from Tinned Tomatoes with Tagliatelle with Fine Beans and Mushrooms. Isn't it gorgeous! Note to self...remember to shave parmesan cheese instead of grating, it looks so much nicer.

Baked Tortellini
Beth from The Seventh Level of Boredom brings us some baked tortellini that is definitely not boring.

Laksa Fried Noodles
Have I ever told you that I love the name Daphne. I really do. It sounds so happy. Daphne should be happy, very happy with her Laksa Fried Noodles. I also love her blog name: More Than Words.

Fettuccine Baked with Cottage Cheese
I try to learn something new every day. I would like to thank Rachel at Tangerine's Kitchen for teaching me my new lesson for the day. When I went to check out her entry for Fettuccine Baked with Cottage Cheese, I paused when I was reading through the ingredients. It called for 3 cups of grated Paneer. I had no idea what Paneer was. It turns out it is an Indian cheese, similar to cottage cheese.

Mushroom Lasagna
Next we have Nic from Lemon and Cheese who brings us Mushroom Lasagna with Hollandaise from Leiths Vegetarian Bible. This looks like a quick and easy lasagna (which are words you don't usually associate with lasagna!)

Saffron Spiced Pasta
Kitchenetta from Got No Milk shows the sincerest form of flattery in her rendition of a Persion Saffron Spiced Pasta with Split Peas, originally posted by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast.

Garden Puree
Gilli at So So Simple Food brings us a Garden Puree from Tyler Florence no less! I've encouraged her to joing Tyler Florence Fridays. Go check out all the ways she uses this wonderful puree.

Round Steak with Fetuccine
Katherine from Smoky Mountain Cafe, just a hop skip and a jump away from me, brings us Round Steak with Fetuccine from Giada. Giada originally called for beef short ribs, which sad to say, are darn near impossible to find around here. She made a fabulous substitution and I can't wait to try it.

Salsa Verde Lasagna
Be still my heart. Ben of What's Cooking? brings us Salsa Verde Lasagna. There is only one thing I love more than tomatillos and that's cilantro. Put them together in a dish, and I am yours. Yours. Forever.

Store Cupboard Pasta
I sat here for quite awhile trying to come up with a Romeo pun for Juliette at A Little Foodie, but alas, my creativity has deserted me. Luckily for us, her creativity is in full swing as she brings us Store Cupboard Pasta. Just look at what she made from ingredients on hand!

Rotini with Butternut Squash
Joanne (one of my favorite blogger friends), from Eats Well With Others brings us a whole lot of comfort with Rotini with Butternut Squash in a Gorgonzola Cream Sauce. The title alone is enough to know it's good!

Pasta al Tonno
Up next from The Sweet Kitchen
we have Pasta al Tonno or Pasta with Tuna Sauce for you that don't speak Italian! This is one of those great meals that you can whip up on a weeknight from pantry staples. In other words, my kind of meal!

Fettucine with Sausage, Garlic and Mushrooms
I'm a little miffed with Nancy from The Dogs Eat the Crumbs. She begins her post by talking about a cookbook that I DON'T have. And then she goes on to make this utterly wonderful Fettuccine with Sausage, Garlic and Mushrooms. I accept no responsibility for my next purchase from Amazon. It is all Nancy's fault. Shame on you.

Spicy Lamb with Shrimp Paste
I love Rita from Mochachocata-Rita . I really do. All of her dishes are so pretty and they sound so yummy. Check out her Spicy Lamb with Shrimp Paste and see what I'm talking about. Admit it..you love her too. Though you might be a tad bit jealous of her photo taking skills. I'm just sayin.

Porcini Tortelloni
Brown butter and sage, those words bring a leap of joy to my heart. I love brown butter and sage. Ruth at Once Upon a Feast, and the esteemed creator of this pasta event, brings us Porcini Tortelloni with Brown Butter and Sage. Just imagine how that brown butter and sage is going to taste when she starts cranking out some homemade pasta, which she is going to show us every step of the way, so that when I get my pasta attachment it will be smooth sailing.

Salami Pasta
Pasta and salami have become a favorite of mine, so I was really excited to see an entry from Dharm at Dad ~ Baker & Chef for The Salami Doth Make the Difference. This looks amazing and I will definitely be trying it. You know what else I'm going to try, yep, guessed it, doth! Why don't we use doth more often? Expect to see doth in my future posts.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Ravioli
You know what I love about hosting? Well, besides getting first hand looks at all the dishes. I get to discover blogs that for some reason I have not stumbled upon yet. Such was the case with Suzanne at Sex and the Souffle. Suzanne brings us Roasted Butternut Squash and Goat Cheese Ravioli, which I am soooo going to make!

Penne with Smoked Gouda, Bacon and Leeks
Marye at Baking Delights enthralled me with smoked gouda. Then she enthralled me again with bacon. Want to be enthralled? Check out her Penne with Smoked Gouda, Bacon and Leeks.

Oven Toasted Mac and Cheese
Every single time I host one of these things, I almost forget myself. For my entry, I bring you mac and cheese kicked up a creamy notch.

And that's all folks! Thanks for all of your entries! Next week's host is Aquadaze of Served with Love. Send your entries to aquadaze (at) rediffmail (dot)com and cc ruth (at) 4everykitchen (dot) com. For everything you need to know be sure and visit Presto Pasta Nights.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Tyler's Ultimate Green Salad

Green Salad

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Oh! Nuts, asking me if I would be willing to preview some of their products. They asked if I would be interested in any nuts or dried fruits. I told them to let me think about it.

No, I didn't!!! I said, yes of course, here is my address, thank you, thank you, thank you. So, now I am the proud recipient of Turkish Pistachios, Macadamia Nuts, Almonds and Dried Raspberries. Expect to see lots of yummy, nutty goodness in the future.

As I sat, eating my way through the bag of pistachios (do I even have to tell you how good they are), I browsed through Tyler's Ultimate: Brilliant Simple Food to Make Any Time. You know how sometimes it seems like everything falls into place? Well, that happened. Staring up at me was a recipe using pistachios and dill (which I had a huge bunch of, needing desperately to be used up).

It was amazing. Wonderful. So much better than my plain old salads. I loved the vinaigrette, the sugar and honey adding a little sweetness. The salad was perfect with the grapes and the pistachio nuts and the addition of the dill was great. I would have never thought to add dill, but it added another flavor component to an already flavorful salad.

Ultimate Green Salad
(Serves 4)
6 cups mixed arugula, mache, and Bibb lettuces (I just used Bibb)
1 cup green grapes (I cut them in half)
1/4 cup pistachios
handful of fresh dill sprigs

Combine the lettuces, grapes, pistachios, and dill in a bowl. Pour the vinaigrette over all and toss.

Tyler's Ultimate Vinaigrette
makes about 1/3 cup
1 shallot, finely minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon honey
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the ingredients in a jar and shake to emulsify.


This will be my entry for this week's Tyler Florence Fridays.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sauteed Swiss Chard

The lovely and talend Swiss Chard

I have to admit, I first bought Swiss chard because it was just so pretty. I mean look at it. It's a work of art all wrapped up in a good-for-you green vegetable. Looking at it, cooking it, buying it, chopping it...it makes me happy every step of the way.

My favorite way (until now) to cook it was to heat up some olive oil, toss in some garlic and some red pepper flakes until fragrant. Add the Swiss chard and saute until tender. This makes a yummy dish. But I found something even yummier. When I saw this recipe in (yes, I know, not again) The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh (I promise you, they are not paying me anything to constantly mention their cookbook, though if they were to offer me some money, I would gladly take it...hint..hint..nudge..nudge). It was my same method, only with half butter, half olive oil. Oh my. What can I say? This was wonderful. The butter added just a bit of creaminess and flavor. No use searching for any better sauteed Swiss chard recipe this is the best.

Sauteed Swiss Chard
Makes 4 servings

1 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Pinch of dried crushed red pepper
2 large bunches Swiss chard, stems trimmed, leaves cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips

Melt butter with oil in heavy large pot over medium-low heat. Add garlic and crushed red pepper. Sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chard; stir to coat. Cover; cook until tender, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Season to taste with salt. Transfer to bowl and serve.

You can also find the recipe online here: Sauteed Swiss Chard.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Garden Tuesday - Shades of Green

Oak Leaf Hydrangea

In honor of St. Patty's Day, I bring you shades of green from my spring garden.

Korean Spice Bush

Garlic Chives

Some sort of wild flower


Virginia Bluebells