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Balsamic Vinaigrette Experiment

Well, Thanksgiving is over. From what I can tell, the majority of my friends had a wonderful holiday. I am no exception.  It was a wonderful time with family and friends around our table.  We all were responsible for bringing an item to the table for the meal.  I chose to make a salad.  Thinking ahead to overstuffed stomachs and excessive amounts of tryptophan, my choice was to go lighter.

My decision was based on kale.  It’s the hot green right now, but besides that, it’s really delicious! Then I was led to dressing choice.  Balsamic was the way to go.  It is a rarity that I buy ready made dressing, and this time was no different.  I haven’t made any balsamic in ages, but knew I didn’t want the straight oil and vinegar.  Too boring.

So, I started experimenting.  I made a base dressing of two parts oil and one part balsamic. (I used half olive oil and half canola oil as my olive oil was almost out.) A little later, I had four different types of dressing! I will tell you most about the one I ended up using, but will describe the others in case you are interested.

Ingredients going in.

Ingredients going in.

Dressing after the blender.

Dressing after the blender.

Per the norm, measuring was at a minimum, but I tried to eye it and keep track as I knew I would be writing about it. So, here goes.

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

2/3 cup oil (stick to a neutral flavored oil such as canola, safflower, or a good quality olive)

1/4 cup natural apple juice (no sugar added)

1 heaping Tbsp coarse ground mustard

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

2 tsp brown sugar

1/2 tsp sea salt or kosher salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

Add all ingredients to a blender and blend well until the mixture well combined.  It will be quite light brown in color.  Longer it sits, the better it gets. So, let it sit a while before you eat it.

The salad itself was quite simple.

Kale

Butter lettuce

Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Fresh pear slices

Toasted pecans

I assembled on the plates, as not to bruise the pears and to have better presentation. I wanted pumpkin seeds to start with, but could not find them in my county. Ha! Didn’t think far enough ahead to get any. I will try this again and with the seeds.

The other variations I made had the following ingredients: I made tiny amounts and have no measurements here- so you are on your own. This can just be a starter for you.

1. First was the same oil and vinegar base (2:1. You can do 3:1 if it’s too tart for you)

To that, I added nutmeg, allspice, cumin, pureed pumpkin (leftover) salt, and pepper.  I would use probably 1/4 tsp of each of these spices and maybe 1/4 cup pumpkin.  Blend and let rest.

These other two were a little different.  I tried walnut oil instead.  Different and very much an autumn flavor.

2. 2:1 Walnut oil to vinegar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, lots of fresh cracked black pepper, quite a few dashes of bitters. (This one was really different, but I loved it).

3. Last was the walnut oil and bv, along with Dijon mustard, brown sugar, black pepper, and cinnamon.

Plated and ready!

Plated and ready!

Give some of these a whirl and let me know how they turn out! If they are too tart, just add a little more oil.  No problem!

Cheers, O

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Posted by on November 29, 2013 in Food, What's For Dinner?

 

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Getting Into Hot Water

The rain here in northwest Georgia this year has been tremendous. The crops in my garden have not. A few tomatoes and a few bell peppers and some okra. Cucumbers? Pfft. Too much rain can definitely be a bad thing. (However, I am not complaining.  I love the rain.)  What do I have the most of? Hot peppers. They are thriving. The irony is, my family, nor I, don’t really eat a lot of hot peppers. Such is life. So, what to do? Give some away and can the rest.

About a week ago, I picked 50+ peppers- jalapeños and cow horns.  The jabaneros aren’t ready just yet. I knew this was going to be quite a task, as peppers are tricky to work with. 

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The beginning of the crop.

The difficulty begins in the cutting. You must wear gloves for this and remember not to touch your face or skin! The capsaicin will get you for sure.  Peppers are much like onions, giving off vapors that can affect one’s eyes and breathing. I, of course, was no exception.  After about fifteen minutes, I had to crack the windows and back door to let some fresh air in. The coughing had commenced. Once the cutting was finished, I had to wipe down every surface I had come in contact with in the gloves.  The juice and seeds had managed to spread…

The jars were ready, the peppers went in, and the water bath began.  (10-15 min)

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Jars filled, ready for the hot liquid.

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Into the canner!

After 5 or 6 minutes, I could really smell the peppers in the air, which I thought was odd. Then I really started to sneeze and cough a great deal.  I glanced at the pot and saw a couple of seeds floating in the water, which was not good, but, curious. I stared to remove them, and saw a jar bobbing in the water! Thinking to myself, surely I didn’t not leave that much air space in the jar that it would float.  In all my years of canning, I have never experienced the problem shown below.  Two of my jars had broken on the bottom! The peppers were continuing to cook and the vapors were filling the air. Not sure why this happened.  I had the jars sitting on a rack, so that they were not touching the bottom of the pot. Funny thing is, I rarely use a rack on the bottom and have never had a problem.  One of life’s mysteries, I suppose.

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Oops!

So, I cleaned the jars off under hot running water and quickly brought a fresh batch of water to a boil. Plan B was to use a vegetable steamer in the bottom.  It worked like a charm and held the weight of the jars beautifully.

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Plan B!

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Finished product. Beauties!

In the end, the result was beautiful.  My eyes eventually stopped watering and my coughing and sneezing subsided. The peppers were so pretty and now I have lots of gifts to give.

Have you had a disaster in your kitchen this summer? Tell me about it!

Cheers, Olivia

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Food, Garden, Kitchen

 

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Trying a New Vinaigrette

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This, ladies and gentleman, is one of the best salads I’ve made and had in a very long time. Tired of the mundane oil & vinegar or ranch that I often eat, I was ready for something fresh and different. I browsed around on the net and came across a couple of salads that looked yummy. Of course, based on what I had and what I liked, I combined and modified them. The salad has a multitude of flavors, combining far east, the South, Southwest and turning into nothing less than American. Here is the end result of my experiment.

Ingredients for the salad:

butter lettuce
spinach
corn
avocado
bleu or gorgonzola cheese
blueberries

As usual, there is very little measuring with me. I just put each salad together on the plate rather than tossing it and prepared it for either one, two, or three people at a time. I put the greens down first, then sprinkled the rest of the ingredients on top.

You can roast the corn on the grill or on the stove top. I chose the stove top. The kernels went into a medium hot dry iron skillet and were stirred occasionally to obtain the blackened edges. Do not use any oil, butter, or liquid. The purpose is to brown, not cook/fry the corn. Keep an eye on it. You want the kernels to be darkened but not burned to a crisp. They can go from browned to burned in a flash. The day I took this picture, I used frozen corn. A different day, I used fresh, but just made sure to have as little liquid as I could in the skillet.

Here is the dressing. It can be halved or doubled at your leisure. It should not be a problem.
1/2 c. olive oil
2 Tbsp. white wine vinegar (or white balsamic vinegar)
4 Tbsp. lime juice
2 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. chili garlic sauce (Sriracha)
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cumin

Mix and drizzle over the top of the salad. You could toss it in a big bowl as well, but the presentation seems prettier when the ingredients aren’t damaged in the toss.

This would be a great addition to a low carb diet. There is very little sugar in this. The greens, avocado, and blueberries are loaded with nutrients and the berries with antioxidants. The addition of [local] honey and the chili garlic sauce will help with sinuses and allergies.

A couple of good variations would be adding some toasted nuts or seeds or changing up the fruit. Other berries or citrus would be a yummy substitute.

Probably my favorite part of this salad is the avocado and the Sriracha. The little bit of heat is such a nice addition. It makes so many things so much better or so different! I could go on and on. That’s a post for another day.

Enjoy! Let me know how it goes for you. Olivia

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2013 in Food

 

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Dinner Delivery for New Parents

There are more babies being born around me than I can count. As I’m making my way around to see the new bundles of joy, I am attempting to do what I can to make these first few days a little easier on my friends. Last night, I went to visit a pair of my long time friends who just welcomed their first into the world, a little girl. She is not quite a week old. This first couple of weeks can be quite a challenge for new parents. All of them that I know welcome a helping hand or a prepared meal. I prepared a meal for them and based on my tastes and theirs being very similar, here is what I came up with:

  • Risotto with chicken, mushrooms, and truffle oil
  • Roasted carrots and parsnips
  • French bread
  • Bottle of Chardonnay

And for Mama to snack on later:

  • Sectioned oranges
  • Bunch of seedless grapes

Here are a few notes on the preparation:

With just a little butter and truffle oil, saute the onions and garlic first for a few minutes, then add in the mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms are about halfway cooked through. I used a rotisserie chicken from the grocery for this. Shred some in the skillet and remove from heat.

In a different pot, prepare the risotto as directed on the package. Make sure your broth is hot and keep stirring the risotto. I added in a cup of white wine and a little more truffle oil. I also took a scoop of the vegetable mixture and stirred in while cooking as to start blending the flavors. When the risotto is almost finished, add in the remaining chicken and vegetable mixture. Stir and let rest just a minute. The heat here will cook the mushrooms thoroughly, but still have them looking lively.

The carrots and parsnips were easy. Slice or cut them as you wish. Place in a baking dish. Drizzle with a little olive oil, fresh chopped thyme and rosemary, and a sprinkle of brown sugar. Salt and pepper if desired. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes or so. Just until they start to shrivel a bit. That will leave them with a little firmness.

When planning for this type of meal, think about their needs. Do all the preparation for them and have it ready to serve and/or easy to reheat. Also, Mama will be ravenous, especially if breastfeeding. Fresh items are best. Fruits, veggies, nuts, etc. She needs lots of nutritious meals and snacks.

Apologies for lack of pictures. In my haste, I forgot to take them.

I hope this inspires you make pleasing dishes and do good things for those you care about.

Cheers, O.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2013 in Food

 

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Steelhead Trout

Just a quick post about last night’s dinner here at the cabin. It was a yummy St. Patrick’s Day meal. Tired of the same old hum-drum fish preparation of lemon, dill, and the like, I started searching in the cabinets for a new combination of things to marinate it in. Here’s what I came up with and as usual, there’s no recipe, just tossing some things in together:

Burbon, lemon juice, Bragg’s Liquid Aminos(or soy sauce) and canola oil. Ideally, it should sit for a couple of hours. Mine did not sit for that long, but turned out very nicely. I grilled it on medium heat, about 4 minutes on each side, skin on.

With it I served Klondike Gold potatoes smashed with butter, sour cream, chives, fresh chopped garlic, sea salt and cracked pepper. Skin was left on.

I threw together a spinach salad with a dressing similar to ranch, but having dill and chopped onion added.

The fish was definitely the star. A bit of sweetness, lots of smoky flavor, and a slight crunch on the surface. Made for a dynamic quick meal.

Cheers!

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The final product, served with a Shiraz Cabernet.

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2013 in What's For Dinner?

 

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Dan Dan Noodles via F&W

This recipe came to me via the Food and Wine email and I had perfect opportunity to try it. I have a friend that has recently moved to rural northwest Georgia from Tibet. We have been spending quite a bit of time together and she loves having me over to her house to cook meals and watch movies among other activities. She is trying her best to make food like that of her homeland, but it is hard to come by the same ingredients and she sometimes becomes frustrated. The day following a meal at her house, I got the F&W email and decided to try to give her a little taste of home, if only similar.

See the recipe here.

I did manage to find all of the ingredients in my local market, which was a relief. I took everything over there and commenced on making the meal. I asked her to prepare her mein noodles as she does at home and asked her if these ingredients looked familiar. They did and I could see a sparkle in her eye as I was bringing everything together.

She does not have a food processor or blender as of yet, so I chopped all of the ingredients by hand and used a whisk. It worked just fine. It was beautiful as well.

 

After using the skillet for the first cooking, I browned some pork chops in the peanut oil with just a little salt and pepper. Once they were nicely browned with the perfect crunch, they were set aside for a few minutes. Before serving the noodles, we put them in the skillet so that they could soak up all of the leftover oil and goodness. I thinly sliced the pork with her magnificent Chinese cleaver and placed over the top of the noodles. We poured the sauce mixture over the noodles and pork then topped with green onions cut on the bias and a squeeze of lime.

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This was one of the best dishes I’ve made in quite a while. My friend loved it. Not quite like home, but close enough. She loved it so much that she wanted to cook it a second time this week for her husband’s family. And so, we did. The second time, we used a blender, hoping to get the consistency described in the recipe. However, I must say, we were both disappointed with this method. The flavor was quite different and the second dish did not compare in beauty. We decided that next time, we would revert to the original, more time consuming method.

Let me know if you try it or have already.

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2013 in Food, What's For Dinner?

 

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Using the Coconut Oil

Ah, Pinterest, you have struck my fancy again. A few days ago, I was perusing the pictures and came across a post that I, myself, have posted about in the past. See that post here. 52 Uses for Coconut Oil started out as a list with more uses for coconut oil than I thought I could ever use. As it turns out, readers have added 70+ more uses to her list. Glancing at this made me realize that I bought a jar of it quite a few months ago and had not used it yet. I decided it was time. I will preface this list with the fact that I’m not really a coconut person.  It’s growing on me.  The taste and smell of the oil are faint, so I can handle it.

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Here’s what I’ve done with it this week:
1. Facial moisturizer. After I washed my face, before going to bed, I slathered it on. It soaked right in. The next morning, I looked like a new person. My skin was very hydrated and more plump.

2. Additive to coffee.
From what I can see, others are consuming it in lots of ways. I thought I would try it in my coffee. I drink mine with only half & half. I added just a little amount of the oil, about half of a teaspoon, give or take. It added just a hint of flavor.

3. Cat food additive.
During these dry months, it’s important to keep pets hydrated so they aren’t scratching dry skin. You can lead a cat to water, you know. I melted just a little of the oil in the microwave and drizzled it over their food. They didn’t seem to mind at all and ate all of it. (Of course, cats can be finicky, so easy does it on the amount.)

4. Leather Moisturizer. I’ve got a pair of ropers (cowboy boots) that I’ve had for over ten years.  The toes were a little scuffed up and I couldn’t put my hands on my shoe polish at the time. So, I rubbed a little c. oil on it and it fixed them right up.  Not the same as a polish and buff, but definitely hydrated them and brought them to a better state.

5. Lip moisturizer.  Works just as well as it did on my face.

6. Scalp conditioner. With the air being dry lately, My scalp around my forehead  has been the same. In the morning before my shower, I rubbed some on my scalp and let it soak in for about ten minutes, then just washed as usual.  Worked like a charm.

What have you been doing with it?

Cheers, Olivia

 
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Posted by on January 11, 2013 in 3 Ways, Food, House, Pets

 

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