Saturday, August 30, 2008

what all of my meals begin with these days

remember when i said i had a lot of peppers? i still do. as i type this, my lips are puffy and my eyes burn because i've made two dishes with hot peppers in them just today. and even if you wash your hands with soap, you shouldn't touch your face for a week after handling peppers. 

i've made foods that contain both hot and banana peppers almost exclusively for the past few weeks. a popular meal of late is scrambled eggs with peppers. we're talking 5+ times a week here, people. it's what i had for lunch today and probably the reason i don't need collagen in my lips. it's been a challenge to find variety when dealing with the large number of peppers, but i've been persistent. add to the fact that we were recently on a salad kick and you can imagine what today's post is about: taco salad! 

in keeping with my trend of raw meat close ups, i give you this!

this is a simple meal. i'll type out the recipe so you can add the items to your grocery list, but who care what goes in it!

using up peppers taco salad
1-2 jalapenos, diced
2 banana peppers, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1/2 lb ground beef
spicy seasonings of your choice (i used cumin and a mrs. dash spicy blend)
boston lettuce
1 can black beans, drained
1 can corn, drained
tortilla chips, broken
grated cheese

1. in a large pan, begin to saute peppers and onions
2. push aside and add ground beef, season with spices and brown
3. stir and remove from heat (omg, cooking!)
4. arrange lettuce leaves and top with um, everything else, amounts to your liking.


it's not rocket science, i'm aware. but if your jerk of a garden gave you peppers, peppers, and a few more peppers and not one plump, red tomato, you'd consider this a success worth blogging about.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


when i saw a version of this recipe here, i was inspired. it looked good and i wanted to have it right then. but i think it may have been midnight or later and i was not in any state to cook, nor did i have the ingredients. but i remembered this stromboli the next time we were at the grocery store and picked up my favorite fixin's. on a nice saturday afternoon, following a trip to the garden to collect basil, i set out on my first stromboli-making experience.

basil, olive & cheese stromboli (adapted from ryan's loose recipe)
1 package ready made pizza dough (or make your own!)
1/2 stick butter (or more...)
large handful fresh basil
3 tbsp garlic, minced
1 lb package mozzarella, sliced
1 c olive tapenade
1/4 c shredded paremsan
pizza sauce for dipping

1. in a food processor, blend butter, basil and garlic until basil is finely chopped
2. roll out pizza dough to 1/4 thick in an oblong square/oval shape
3. spread 3/4 of the butter/basil/garlic mixture over the dough
4. lay out slices of mozzarella across the dough
5. even spread olive tapenade over the mozzarella and dough and then sprinkle with parmesan
6. fold dough by one third, another third, and a final third to close (see pictures below)
7. brush the remaining butter/basil/garlic mixture across the top
8. on a cookie sheet or pizza pan, bake at 325 F until golden brown (about 45 mins to an hour)
9. slice stromboli across into 2 inch pieces and serve with warm pizza sauce

first i rolled out a package of wheat dough to about 1/4" thick. i'll tell you right now, this might be one of the times that i think this wheat crust choice was probably not as good as what a regular white crust would have been. sort of how egg salad and french toast should always be made with wonder bread type white bread, stromboli needs that puffy, doughy white crust on the inside. 

once i blended my garden fresh basil (purple and green) with butter and garlic, i coated the dough in low fat goodness. or buttery goodness. you tell yourself whatever you want to hear, ok?

cheese and olives...i believe we've talked about my feelings here.

you can see the two cheeses here and  olive tapenade with pimentos. i may have consumed a bit of tapenade right from the jar, so what you see here could be less than what the recipe called for. i can't help it. i have never been able to control it. it's why i used to get jars of olives and pickles as birthday presents. and i'm not kidding...i even got black olives in my easter basket once. but, i also got a black plastic rat in my easter basket once. and my parents let me search for it naked...a naked first easter basket search resulting in candy and a squeaky rat. so really, the olive thing seems pretty ok.


and here's how you fold stromboli: pick up and turn one third, then over again and fold the last bit up to close it. then coat the top with more fat free butter and basil. it's what makes it crisp and golden, so don't skimp.

ah, and this is what it looks liked when it's done! do you see those crispy herbs and the melty cheese peeking through? now i know that stromboli is not's barely more than pizza. but this looks good. 

like i said earlier, it's not nearly as puffy as some that i've had and i really think that's all because of the wheat crust. 

cheese and olives rolled in dough

the great thing about stromboli is that any "recipe" is really pointless. you add what you like. that's sort of my game for dinner anyway. my motto: pick your favorites and incorporate them. and also, don't put weird things in easter baskets and put a diaper on your baby!

Friday, August 22, 2008


husband did a small task at home - sending some files to me at work on a email program that did not allow him "drag and drop" all 14 files in at once. this means he was forced to add each file individually to gmail. oh, the horror. and after all of this work, he requested a thank you card. being the giver that i am, i spent time crafting a new design (since we all know he doesn't like to send or receive any card that he has previously seen).

so, i emailed him the card below (note that the image quality is much better in original format) and this was his response:

"I just got my thank you card
It isn't your best work"

the nerve!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

i've been gone

fresh picked basil (would you like yours with a side of praying mantis?)

it's true, i've been gone. busy and traveling and "my" garden knows it. technically, husband has the green thumb and the desire to plant and grow things...but we share in some of the duties, including the eating. regardless of whose garden it is, we've both been gone and have neglected our poor, overgrown plot of land.

before we left, though, we made a trip to see what nature had made for us. much to our disappointment, not a single tomato was ready. we're not talking we've got a few plants and three or four tomatoes...we have twenty-two different plants, all bulging with fruit. green fruit. and as i write this, over a week later, they are still green and hard as rocks. other gardens in the area (it's a community plot) have tomatoes. bright red all for the taking. well, for their taking. i can't walk up to the fence a pluck a few from someone else's land.

but you know what we do have? peppers. hot ones. so many hot peppers that i don't have a clue how to use them all. we've got some drying on the roof, some sitting on the window sill and hundreds still on the plants. i've used a few to cook with and they were tasty. picked early, the jalepeno peppers aren't too hot for me to eat. i've paired them with onions and the pretty banana peppers we've got, too. and i've got loads of anaheim and serrano just waiting to spice up dishes in the future.

pretty peppers picked for palauna 

unfortunately, it seems the deer that may or may not be eating our ripened tomatoes (there's no proof that this isn't happening) are also feasting on green peppers, because every time we go to the garden another baby bell pepper has been devoured. that dang nature and it's cruel circle of life!

and speaking of nature (which i've been for the last 4 paragraphs), i saw some of it's work up close.  i screamed like a little girl when i was dutifully picking basil and plucking the flower heads and a praying mantis the size of texas decided to join me. get your own garden!

last, the prized vegetable of our garden thus far - a giant zucchini. you can see husband's hand for scale. it was big. i made it into fried zucchini cakes and don't have any pictures to show for it. but i do have some meals ready for blogging and as soon as i can get my last-days-of-summer lazy act together, you'll get some new posts.

Friday, August 8, 2008

leafy thank you

husband required a thank you card the other day and requested something new. something he hadn't seen or used before. i rememberd some pictures i had taken a few months ago of trees and sky and a bunch of other random things and went in search for the right one.
i found what i was looking for in this one:

power lines just scream nature

i know it seems surprising. it's not that great of a picture and nothing about it really says "thank you!" but i liked those little leaves just off center, branching out from the bunch. so i dropped it into illustrator, cheated a bit and live traced it, and then spent some time cleaning up the edges and removing those unsightly power lines.

i liked the silhouette style and am still loving on the yellow, black and white color scheme, so i used yellow text and printed on crisp white stock. i know it looks creamy in the pictures above, but these next few are more true to life.

all cleaned up and looking grood

also note my attempt at a backdrop. it's baby steps here, ok?

Monday, August 4, 2008

oh yes, this really was as good as it looks right here.

the last hurrah to our dinner with friends was dessert (isn't it always?). i remembered my promise to husband to make a chocolate version of mini cheesecakes and since i didn't really want plain chocolate cheesecake, i went with the next best thing: chocolate crust and topping, paired with some caramel and pecans. also known as turtle cheesecake, or, when your mouth fell in love with the most perfect little dessert.

i used the same cheesecake recipe from my white chocolate raspberry babies but did make a few changes for the crust because i used chocolate grahams. i figured they'd be a bit sweeter and i also noticed they were covered with sugar crystals (which my plain grahams were not), so i dropped the sugar down to just under 1/4 c. 

i had some leftover crust mix this time (i didn't exactly measure the graham crumbs) and without having more tins to fill, i just set it aside. when husband came to the kitchen to check my progress, he seemed shocked that these crumbs might go to waste. so he filled up a tall glass with milk, got a spoon, and sat down with that bowl of leftover crumbs. i asked him if he knew that it was cookies, butter and sugar. he said of course he knew that and proceeded to lick the bowl clean. 

so, the one without the sugar buzz (me) filled up the tins with cheesecake goodness and baked away.  i think in my rushed state, i left them in the oven a bit too long. they came out extra puffy and deflated to a more sunken state than last time. i wasn't all that worried because i knew i'd be loading them up with toppings galore. 

for both the chocolate and caramel drizzles, i used the same "recipe": heat heavy cream and pour over broken valrhona 71% dark chocolate and unwrapped milk caramels (separately, of course). i didn't really measure either amounts, just poured in a bit of hot cream and stirred briskly - if they needed more, i added more. i struggled with the caramel because it was so darn hard to melt and finally handed it off to husband. i came back to find the most glorious, creamy caramel in all of the world. 

with my toppings ready, i set off on turtlizing the cheesecakes. first the chocolate (with a minute or so pause to allow it to set up), then the caramel (which thankfully doesn't set up) and finally a nice sprinkle of pecan pieces. it was all i could do not steal one right then.

omg caramel!

um, these were good. they were 10 times (or more) better than the raspberry version. best right out of the fridge, they were perfectly cheesecake-y, chocolate-y and delicious. the extra dark chocolate drizzle was so great against the sweetness of the caramel and crust and the cheesecake was just the right texture to pull it all together. i want to say i will make these again, but i am afraid that i might not ever be without turtle cheesecakes if i do. mouth full, nodding in agreement, husband requested  a standing order of these as he would like to consume one per day for possibly the rest of his life.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

i cannot live without you, new mustard friend

along with the beet salad, i figured i should serve some meat and potatoes to our friends when they came for dinner. i wanted to do some sort of skewer (of course) and to make the pioneer woman's crash hot potatoes (which i did, and they are a fantastic hit every time i make them). i browsed through all of my recent cooking light and rachel rays but found nothing calling out to me that i hadn't already made, so i went online. it just so happened that smitten kitchen, a blog i really like, had just posted a garlic-mustard glaze. it looked so good, with bits of whole mustard seeds, that i decided to look no further.

more marinated raw meat

garlic-mustard glaze (smitten kitchen adapted from bobby flay)
1/4 c whole grain mustard
2 tbsp dijon mustard
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce (i always use tamari)
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
2 tsp spanish paprika
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

1. whisk all ingredients together, cover, and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes

for our steak skewers, i waited 30 minutes, then put my pieces of steak in mixture to marinate for about 45 minutes. 

this glaze it ridiculous. i love love it and will use it again on other meats. the most important part is the whole mustard seeds - you can't even use country style or spicy course ground dijon. it all comes together with those mustard seeds stuck to everything, being all flavorful and crunchy. i fell in love with this newfound mustard and have since been eating it on everything (even turkey hot dogs seem gourmet with this stuff).

unfortunately, our meat wasn't so special. the outside flavor was great, but out darn little baby grill was harboring some hot spots and really did some damage to the once juicy inside of the steak. i place half the blame on a chewy meat selection and half on the mini grill that has some compensation issues. it wasn't the worst thing in the world, but it makes me want to make this glaze again so i can enjoy it on a better piece of meat.