Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What Was it Wednesday?

You’re looking at January 11, 2009.  That’s right!!  I’ve made it through 2008 and we are now on 2009.  Okay, peeps, what do you think?  Chili? 

**What was it Wednesday – where I attempt to work my way through my backlog of cooking photos.  Photos so old, I have no idea what they were.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Garden Tuesday – Oak Leaf Hydrangea

Oak leaf hydrangea

I know I’ve said it many times, but oak leaf hydrangea is my all time favorite flowering shrub.

oak leaf hydrangea

Just do a search on my blog and see it in all it’s gorgeous stages.

Right now, it’s white flowers are slowly turning to pink.


Did I mention that it’s huge???  Plus we have taken little offshoots of this original bush and now have 4 more bushes scattered through our yard.  There is no such thing as too many oak leaf hydrangeas.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Freezer Cucumbers

freezer cucumbers

I know.  I know.  There is a lot of repetition this summer.  But you know what, summer is all about repetition.  Every year, we face the same dilemmas.    What to do with all the gorgeous produce that we are bombarded with.  It’s a produce feast or famine.  We feast in the summer and famine in the winter.  So, I spend most of my summer trying to find ways to preserve the harvest so that in the winter, I can sit in my dining room, look out at the cold, dark winter sky, and transport myself back to now.   Well, now, minus the 96 degree heat.  That I can do without.

So, yes, I know I’ve posted these before, but some of you weren’t reading my blog then, and some of you may have forgotten, and some of you might not have paid any attention anyway!  So, pay attention.  Because these are good.  Real good.  Sometime in the middle of winter, just take a jar of these out of the freezer, pop them in the fridge to defrost, and then come back here and thank me.

Freezer Cucumbers

  • 7 c. thinly sliced cucumbers
  • 3 med. onions, sliced
  • 1 green pepper, chopped (I omitted)
  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. celery seed
  • 1 tbsp. salt

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.  Refrigerate for 24 hours.  Put in containers and freeze.  Great side dish in the middle of winter…just defrost and serve!  (Mine made about 3 1/2 pint jars).


This will be my entry for Two For Tuesdays!  Read all about it here at girlichef.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Weekend Wine Reviews #26

Trader Joe's Vinas Chilenas

Vinas Chilenas, Chile, Trader Joes, Reserva, Sauvignon Blanc, 2009, $4.49.  They say:  exotic floral aromas, with rich complex layers of citrus and crisp apple.  We say:  tart, crisp, citrus, light and clean.  Buy again:  Yes!!  Especially at $4.49!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Weekend Cat Blogging #264


When you are a 15 pound cat and 5 pounds of that is fur, this is how you spend the hot days of summer.  I believe that Smudge is dreaming of a magical place called Alaska, where all of his fur might come in handy. 



This will be my entry for Weekend Cat Blogging hosted by Nikita Cat.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Insalata Caprese Salad

Insalata Caprese Salad

I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking, “wow, Pam, didn’t you show us this salad last summer, and maybe even the summer before that?”  Please people, life can’t be all about the bright shiny new and untried!  Just stop and think for a moment about the daily repetition.  The day-in-day-out drudge.  Think how many times you have loaded your dishwasher, think how many times you have mowed the lawn.  Kind of makes my once a year Caprese salad look pretty good now, doesn’t it?!?!

There are as many versions of Caprese salad as there are grains of sand.  Actually, I have no idea if that is true, but I was feeling all zen like after my yoga practice and tend to use phrases like “grains of sand” when I’m in the zen zone. 

Insalata Caprese Salad

So, anyway, my Caprese salad is just fresh from the garden tomatoes (a must), fresh mozzarella cheese, basil, olive oil, salt and pepper.  That’s it.  I slice the tomatoes, layer them all fancy with the cheese and the basil.  Drizzle with a good quality extra virgin olive oil,  and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  



This will be my entry for Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum!


And I’m submitting it for Souper Sundays (Soup, Salad, or Sammie) hosted by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sweet and Tart Slaw Dressing

Sweet and Tart Slaw

Have you ever stopped to contemplate slaw?  Slaw is kind of weird.  I mean, no one ever goes around saying, “Boy, I wish I had some slaw today.”  Yet, it’s always there, just kind of plugging along.  For me, it’s usually an afterthought, that little Styrofoam container tossed in at the last minute in the Kentucky Fried Chicken bag. 

And since you are stopping to contemplate slaw, think about all the slaw ramifications.  Do you like yours creamy or vinegary?  Sweet or sour?  With or without onions?  Purely cabbage, or some carrots, what about broccoli?   See.  Slaw is a complex thing.  A wonder.  (You’re looking at it in a whole new light, now aren’t you?)

My whole slaw contemplation came about because my CSA gave me 5 heads of cabbage.  So, I’ve been eating lots of slaw lately, you might even say I’ve become a slaw connoisseur.   I’ve learned a few things:  One – I prefer a vinegar based slaw, two – I like mine sweetish,  and three – lovage is amazing in slaw, it gives it a huge flavor boost.   Seriously, if you can find some lovage (what, you aren’t growing it in your herb bed?!), chop up a little in your slaw.  It’s really strong, so go easy until you know you like it. And last, but not least, my new favorite slaw dressing from Sara Fosters:  Fresh Every Day: More Great Recipes from Foster's Market.  Equal parts vinegar and sugar, that is the magic formula!  She has this to go on a zucchini slaw, which I will try later when my CSA gives me 324 zucchinis.

Sweet and Tart Slaw Dressing

  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a jar, and shake until the sugar dissolves.  Use immediately or refrigerate for up to a week.

This will be my entry for Side Dish Showdown created by Cinnamon Spice & Everything Nice!

Cookbook Used:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What Was it Wednesday?

You’re looking at December 30, 2008.  Kind of hard to guess this one!

***What Was it Wednesday – my attempt to work my way through my backlog of cooking photos.  Photos so old, I have no idea what they were.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

Greek Beef Meatballs


If there is one herb that is underutilized in my herb bed, it has to be oregano.  Which is so sad, because oregano grows like mad.  Seriously.  It grows and spreads like mint.  It might even be in the mint family.  If I wasn’t so lazy, I would open up another window and Google it and find out for you, but I am, so I will just leave you wondering.  Unless one of you fine readers want to look and leave it in the comments. 

So, anyway, my point is, that when I find a recipe with fresh oregano, I make it.  No questions asked.  And since I bought a side of beef last year and got,  I kid you not, 61 pounds of ground beef, if the recipe calls for ground beef, I make it.   (By the way, I am down to 29 pounds of ground beef!)  So, you can imagine my utter delight when I find a recipe that calls for ground beef, fresh oregano and fresh mint, it is the trifecta of my overflowing ingredients!

Greek Meatballs

What I found was Greek Meatballs in The Whole Foods Market Cookbook: A Guide to Natural Foods with 350 Recipes .  What I love about this recipe, besides the taste, is that it uses roasted red peppers to make the ground beef go further.  At first it seemed like a really large amount of peppers, but trust me it was balanced.  These were so good.  I served them in a pita with some lettuce and a little yogurt drizzled over them.  These would be great to keep in the freezer and take out for lunch or a quick dinner.  I also imagine that if you didn’t have 29 pounds of ground beef in your freezer, you could substitute ground chicken and make it even lower in fat.

Greek Beef Meatballs

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh oregano, leaves only
  • 1/8 cup chopped fresh mint, leaves only
  • 1/2 cup finely minced parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic minced (1 1/2 teaspoons)
  • 1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers, drained, patted dry, and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lemon pepper (I just used regular pepper)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350.  Mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl.  You want to blend until the cheese has no large crumbles left.  Using a 2-ounce scoop (1/8 cup) roll into 16 balls and place on a large baking sheet.  Bake for 25 minutes or until the meatballs are browned and cooked through.



This will be my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Chris from Mele Cotte.

Cookbook Used:

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Weekend Wine Reviews # 25

Dog Point Vineyard

Dog Point Vineyard, 2008, Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, $19.99.  I may not know much about wines, but I do know that I love a good New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  They say:  the bouquet - Ripe citrus and tropical fruits underpinned by a
degree of minerality and a hint of basil.  The palate - Fresh, concentrated and full bodied showing excellent balance between fruit and acidity.  We say:  Herby, grassy, citrus, light and tasty.  Buy again:  yes!


Happy Father’s Day!!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Weekend Cat Blogging #263


Smudge demonstrating the amount of energy around the Sidewalkshoes household in the heat of the summer.



This will be my entry for Weekend Cat Blogging hosted by Othello at Paulchens FoodBlog?!.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Smoking 101 – and a Vinegar Sauce

One Friday afternoon a friend asked me what I was planning on doing over the weekend.  I replied, “sitting on the back porch and smoking something.”  When he looked at me with a funny smile and a raised eyebrow, I realized what I had said. 

But you all knew what I meant, right?  Yep, smoking something.  It’s not grilling, it’s smoking, infusing the food with a wonderfully smoky flavor with a low heat.  It’s pretty easy, the smoke does all the work.  Now, some of you may pooh-pooh me because I use a gas smoker, but hey, it’s easy, and I’m all about easy.  I thought I’d give you a crash course in smoking and finish it off with a lovely vinegar sauce.  First of all, I highly recommend : Smoke & Spice: Cooking with Smoke, the Real Way to Barbecueby Cheryl Alters Jamison and Bill Jamison.   It’s what I use all the time.

These instructions are for a gas water smoker.

First you may want to do some sort of dry rub.  Usually you put this on the day before and let it marinate over night.

Wood chips, which have been soaked for at least 30 minutes go into a bowl.  (These were apricot from a tree someone cut down).

Another bowl is lined with aluminum foil (for easy clean up) and filled with water.  The water is what helps keep whatever your smoking moist.


This is what it looks like inside.  At the bottom is the gas flame, with the wood chips on top of that, then the water, and then the food.  You will notice that I have 2 empty shelves.  Do not let this happen to you.  If I had been thinking, I would have had some other foods ready to smoke, like some salmon or mushrooms, or something, anything!

All closed up and ready to begin.

Don’t you wish you could smell it?  And that’s it.   With a water smoker you don’t baste or mop because you don’t want to be letting the heat out.  You do have to open the bottom door to check on the wood chips and replace if necessary or add more water, but other than that, the smoker does all the work for you.

Mine, all mine.

Now, once you take your gorgeous hunk of  meat out of the smoker, what are you going to put on it.  I am not a big barbeque sauce fan.  I prefer my meat naked.  (Yeah, I’m probably going to get some interesting searches with that line).  I like the flavor of the meat and smoke to shine, not the sauce.  But I had always been curious about a vinegar sauce, so I tried the Vaunted Vinegar Sauce from the cookbook.  It was perfect!  As a matter of fact, I now keep a bottle in my fridge and use it on all kinds of things, from salads to sandwiches!

Vaunted Vinegar Sauce

  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar or packed brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne or hot red pepper flakes

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, stir to dissolve sugar.  You can serve this at room temperature or chilled.  Keeps indefinitely.

Makes about 2 cups.



This will be my entry for Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum!

Cookbook used:

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sweet Basil Vinaigrette


Well, if your climate is anything like mine, you’ve already made your first basil harvest of the season.  I learned a couple of years ago that you are supposed to harvest your basil about once a month.  By harvest, I mean go out and cut it down until it’s only about 4 inches tall, leaving a few bottom leaves.  It feels cruel and heartless, but your basil will respond with love and glee and by the next month with be a foot tall again ready to harvest!  I usually get four good harvests from my basil:  June, July, August and the final one in September. 

The beauty of basil is that it keeps remarkably well in a vase on your counter or tabletop.  So I just bring my harvest in and use it as I need to, and while I’m using up my vase of basil, out in my herb bed, it’s busily putting forth it’s next harvest! 

And let me ask you this, is there any better predictament to be in than a fresh vase of basil on your counter sitting right next to a bowlful of plump organic heirloom tomatoes?  I’ll answer that for, there isn’t.  I remembered seeing a basil vinaigrette in Fresh Every Day: More Great Recipes From Foster's Marketby Sara Foster, which she used on a heavenly fried green tomato salad. 


This my dear friends is summer on a plate.  All I did was slice the tomatoes, smoosh some goat cheese on top and drizzle with the vinaigrette.  Love.

Sweet Basil Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 5 to 7 fresh basil leaves, cut into thin strips
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Whisk together the vinegar, lime juice, basil and salt and pepper.  Slowly whisk in the olive oil until it is incorporated.  Can be refrigerated for up to one week. 

Makes 1 cup



This will be my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Rachel from The Crispy Cook.

Today’s recipe came from:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

PFA – A Public Foodie Announcement

Today’s What Was it Wednesday has been preempted by a PFA.  The  reason?  Because I could readily identify the photo taken on 12/21/2008.  It is two jars of basmati rice.  Apparently I decided to clean out my pantry over Christmas break. 

My announcement:  clean out your pantry.  Take a few minutes, or hours, or days, and really clean it out and organize it.  You’ll be amazed at what you find.  Just think of the money you’ll save by not buying the same thing over and over again, when you already have it in your pantry.

Isn’t it funny that when I bought this rice, I was organized enough to decant it into a jar and cut and tape on the label, but not organized enough to check and see if I already had some in the pantry?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Garden Tuesday – Trumpet Honeysuckle


Sure you could grow regular honeysuckle.

Or you could grow this lovely coral colored variety called Trumpet Honeysuckle.


Mr. Bunny prefers this.  He feels the color compliments his skin tone nicely.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Pam’s Bistro Salad

Bistro salad - or not!

I have a confession.  I have absolutely no idea what a bistro salad is.  I imagine it is a main dish salad that you eat while sitting at a bistro.  Since I have never been to a bistro, this is all just hearsay.  My definition is that it is a main dish salad with an egg on top.  Stick an egg on top of salad and I am immediately transported to an outdoor cafe, with a slight breeze, and a glass of perfectly chilled white wine.  This is how my imagination works.


So, anyway.  I have bunches of lettuce from my CSA.  So I needed a salad ASAP.  I had some pork sausage and some eggs and an extremely lethargic attitude.  This is what I did.  Tore up the lettuce into bite sized pieces and placed in two bowls.  Browned pork sausage in skillet.  (Yes, my sausage looks very brown.  This is what happens when you sit down on the couch to play a level or two of Plants Vs. Zombies  on your iPod while the sausage browns).  Remove sausage with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Fry an egg in the sausage fat.  Sprinkle sausage on lettuce and top with egg, drizzle with a little hot chili vinegar.  Butter some sourdough toast, open a bottle of wine, and feel the breeze.


This will be my entry for Souper Sundays (Soup, Salad, or Sammie) hosted by Deb at Kahakai Kitchen.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Blackberry Vs. iPhone Vs. Droid

Some of you may have noticed the new Amazon ad that I have on my sidebar.  You might have thought that it was me just trying to get a few more pennies to offset my out of control cookbook addiction.  And while that part of it doesn’t hurt, I really am excited by this ad.  Because you may not know this, but…..

I am a cell phone junkie.

There, I’ve announced it to the world.  I follow cell phone news the way some people follow the stock market.  Everyday, I fret over the merits of one phone over the other.  I contemplate:

  • Why doesn’t Blackberry have fun apps?
  • Can I get an early upgrade?
  • Will Verizon get the iPhone?
  • Should I get the HTC Incredible or wait for the new Droid?
  • If I wait for the new Droid, should I get the Droid 2 or the Shadow?
  • Will I miss Blackberry email?

See?  Being a cell phone junkie is tough.  The whole playing field changes practically daily.  So, when I learned that Amazon was going to start offering cell phones, it was like manna from heaven for me.   Another place to read, to dream, to check out reviews, perchance to purchase. 

Anyone else a cell phone junkie?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Weekend Cat Blogging # 262


A back porch is not complete without a kitty cat on it.



This will be my entry for Weekend Cat Blogging hosted by Breadchick and LB at The Sour Dough.  This is the 5th anniversary so let’s have everyone participate!!!