What's on My Food?

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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday Blessings

Hi Boys and Girls!

Ahhhh...the joy of Sunday mornings...No, I don't mean sleeping in or even breakfast in bed, although that would be Heaven! I am talking about a cool breeze and taking a walk just as the sun is coming up. That is pretty amazing. We are in the throes of summer and a cool breeze is rare! I put on my walking shoes and sun hat along with my favorite walking music, Mano Chao http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clandestino and took off for my 3-mile walk. It was good.

Upon arriving back home, I noticed how inviting my back yard was. There must have been something in the air this morning. I grabbed my camera to see if I could capture some of the experiences for you!

This little guy is a Bordered Patch butterfly I believe. He is sunning himself on the Mexican Lime tree.http://www.thedauphins.net/bordered_patch_life_cycle_study.html Go to this site and see pictures of the stages of his life. Yup! That caterpillar is all over our yard. Well, I think the butterfly is beautiful.

Another experience was watching the newly hatched Giant Swallowtail. I missed him hatching by a few minutes! Next picture is him drying off. They flutter their wings back and forth slowly so their wings can dry before taking off exploring.
Well, by this time I was on the hunt for more exciting life in my yard. I nearly jumped for joy when I discovered the Garden Spider. Yes, this is his/her name. To think I used to be deathly afraid of spiders! My screams when finding a spider could shatter crystal! But these guys are my friends!

This looks like a male but there must be a female close by. If you have any plants with flowers you will want some of these spiders in your yard. They LOVE grasshoppers. And grasshoppers suck the life out of my roses, turk's cap and even my lavendar! So, I was thrilled to find this guy. For many years we had tons of them in the yard and then they disappeared. We do not spray our yard with pesticides. I don't know why they left, but I am sure glad they are back.

In fact, I was so excited, I got the butterfly net and captured a grasshopper for his breakfast. It is amazing what hate can drive me to do! I held the disgusting, sap-sucking grasshopper by both hind legs and placed him in the web! By the time I picked up my camera, I had missed the show.

That grasshopper was all wrapped up but I could still see him wiggling inside. Oh, I am so sadistic! By the way, this Garden Spider is not harmful to humans. And did you know each evening the male and female eat their web (and whatever is in it) and build a new one in the morning? I read that their web is so strong, it is used as a fishing net in some countries! I can tell you that I have walked into one and did not break it! Creepy.
I could not resist taking a picture of the Mexican Spider Lily in my moonlit garden. I planted this night blooming plant so bats and large moths can have nectar at night. The scent is very attractive to night critters.

Now, doesn't this look delish? When the morning heats up, the blooms fade. http://www.epimediums.net/Catalog/Current/Detail/05563.html
There are so many spider lilies, I could be wrong about this one. So, if anyone knows I am wrong please let me know.
My morning walk around the yard would not be complete without a picture of my side kick, Angie. She loves it outside and does not run away. 
Oh, I must share my dinner with you. It was great and so easy!
I had fresh tomatoes and zucchini from the Farmer's Market here in New Braunfels. http://www.farmersmarketonline.com/fm/NewBraunfelsFarmersMarket.html 
Roberto loves pasta so I wanted to give this a try. You will not believe how good raisins and pecans are when sauteed!
Here is the recipe. Sorry, no picture but find the recipe and picture in Real Simple, July 2010.
The recipe called for walnuts but I substituted pecans. I also added the fresh tomatoes. I think you will like it.
That's all for now. In the meantime, shake your booty for at least 15 minutes each day. Your booty will thank you for it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Summer is Basil Time

Hi Boys and Girls!

It is summer and you know what that means....BASIL!! But first, I want to show you a picture of last night's dinner.
Looks good, right? It was so easy...All ingredients are organic and the blueberries are from my yard. Everything can be purchased at your local grocery store.
  • roughly tear bite-size pieces of lettuce (red tipped or Rommaine
  • chop up one peeled orange
  • slice several strawberries
  • toss in blueberries
  • Make a salad dressing of 1 TBL olive oil, 1 TBL vinegar (I used homemade rosemary/garlic but any light vinegar will work). Whisk this in a small bowl with a wire whisk until creamy.
  • Pour over salad and serve!
Now for the basil. My bumper crop of 3 basil plants are about to bolt. http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/vegetable/what-is-bolting-what-it-means-when-a-plant-bolts.htm
So, that means it is time to make pesto! Pesto can be used for many things. Dipping French bread into pesto and downing with a nice red wine is HEAVEN! But you can also use pesto as your base for margarita pizza. http://papamurphys.com/?gclid=CI_7vs3TuaICFQ0hnAodfmFJ4g You can make it like Papa Murphy's or make it even better with the pesto as your tomato base.

First cut basil leaving more to grow. Wash and rinse basil to remove bugs. I like using the salad spinner.

Then, I assemble
the rest of the ingredients...virgin olive oil, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and garlic.

We love garlic
so I always add more than the recipe calls for. Recipe to follow.
Measure the rinsed and spinned basil into a measuring cup. The basil needs to be packed down in the cup.

After all the ingredients are placed in your blender or food processor, puree until this becomes smooth. Stop and stir the basil mixture. Be careful not to stir while the puree is spinning...it will splatter on you and may break your spoon or spatula. The recipe calls for walnuts but I substituted pine nuts. I used Parmesan cheese and increased the garlic.
I made one batch at a time and put the mixture in a freezer bag. I needed help from hubby to keep the bag open. I labeled the bag Basil Pesto, 6/10. So, in December when I am craving some pesto I can go to the freezer and see the date when this was made.

Here is the recipe.
Easy Basil Pesto
(Adapted from Southern Herb Growing)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 or more cloves garlic
2 cups fresh basil leaves, hard packed
1/4 cup lightly toasted walnuts (optional)
1/2 cup grated Romano or Parmesan cheese (optional)
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and purree. Use immediately for best flavor. Pesto can be frozen in small containers for later use. To have tablespoon-sized portions ready to use, freeze in ice cube trays. Package in plastic freezer bags to keep from drying out.
Yield: 2 cups

Have fun! Tell me how you like it. What do you have in your garden now? What are you doing with all your tomatoes? Herbs? Cucumbers? Beans?

Until next time...spend time getting dirt under your fingernails.

Friday, June 11, 2010

It All Started With Asparagus!

Hi Boys and Girls!

Yes, that delish veggie asparagus started the whole thing: What to make for dinner?

That age-old question pops up every day. Well, today was no different. However, I did have asparagus in the fridge.

I went to Costco the other day and discovered fresh asparagus from Washington State. You read this web site and you will do what I do...buy all I can and freeze it for winter recipes. http://www.washingtonasparagus.com/ I knew it would not be available for long so I bought a big package. That evening I steamed some to go with grilled salmon. Oh so good! OK, what to do with the rest....

  • So, today I boiled two eggs, chopped them and chilled in fridge;
  • opened a can of chicken breast meat (from Costco) drained of course;
  • cut up leftover spaghetti pasta into small pieces;
  • sliced fresh tomatoes from the garden; and,
  • I steamed the asparagus and cut into 1/2 inch slices;
  • All this got tossed with 1 head of Rommaine lettuce, roughly chopped.

The finishing touch was my homemade dressing:
  • 2 TBLS of Kirkland Extra Virgin olive oil http://www.costco.com/
  • 2 TBLS of rosemary garlic vinegar (my own)
  • Whisk until creamy and pour on salad.
Oh man what a treat!

Of course, a glass of Clean Slate was the perfect wine for this dinner. This wine comes from Mosel Valley, Germany. Water rushing over slate gives this wine a unique, fresh taste. It is somewhat hard to find. When you do find it, buy a case and let me know about it!

I didn't even need bread although fresh bread from The Groumage in New Braunfels would have been fabulous. http://gourmagetx.com/  They will bake the bread for you 30 minutes before you arrive to pick it up. Oh, it is so good you may just add butter and eat it all before dinner...that is, if the bread makes it home!
Oh, have you tried their fresh blueberry scones?

So, there you have it...a dinner based on one key ingredient...a veggie!
When you hit your farmer's market Saturday, keep an open mind. It only takes one ingredient to be the base of a great meal. Be open to something new and different. Beets? Oh my...have you grilled these yet??

Until next time, keep your hummingbird feeders fresh. Those hummers are on the move and building nests. They are hungry!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Getting Back to Basics

Hi Boys and Girls!

We are in the age of aquarius...uh-oh...I am showing my age! Really, we hear a lot about "going green," "getting back to basics," "living a green lifesyle," "quality of life rather than quantity," and on and on. What does all this mean? Well, from my viewpoint, we as humans are seeking a simple life filled with all that is good and things that truly make us happy. Look at the revolution of cooking meals together? Hasn't that really made a resurgence? You know in your own life it has. Turning the TV off during dinner and playing a board game after dinner keeps the family interacting. Well, we do see a change in our world...Speaking of world...how about the quilting world?

My world was rocked last weekend! I attended a 2 1/2 day machine quilting seminar with the Mother of Machine Quilting, Harriet Hargrave http://www.harriethargrave.com/. She is the guru of quilting and I am in awe of her work. Harriet is sort of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_Cady_Stanton of the quilting world. That may seem like comparing apples to oranges to many of you but just think about it. Thirty year's ago machine quilted quilts were not accepted for judging at the Houston International Quilt Festival http://www.quilts.com/. All of you young'ns out there may not realize it, but machine quilting is relatively new. Elizabeth Cady Stanton initiated the first women's rights movement in 1848. Where would we women be today without women's suffrage? She was a daring woman!

Harriet Hargrave is the first woman to have a quilt accepted for judging at the Houston Quilt Festival that was machine quilted! That was a big thing and caused quite a stir in the quilting world! Trail Blazer...that is what Harriet was and still is. She was a brave woman!

Well, this machine quilting seminar was sponsored by Common Threads in Waxahachie, Texas. http://www.commonthreadsquilting.com/ Not only is this a fantastic quilt shop, it is in the cutest, old town you would ever want to visit! http://waxahachietxcoc.weblinkconnect.com/cwt/External/WCPages/
This is really a cool town! Just look at this beautiful courthouse. This is an old, historic town.

 I am getting off track, right? And you are saying, "What does this have to do with getting back to basics?"
Well, I will tell you. Harriet Hargrave is old school. She believes if you are going to do something, do it right. My dad ALWAYS said that! Harriet has been sewing all her life and learned from her mother. Where they differed is in the quilting world, Harriet's mom was a hand-quilter and Harriet wanted to use her sewing machine. And so it goes...brilliant minds with different ideas. But they both had a common ethical thread or value of quilting...do your own work and do it well. And so evolved the mission of Harriet Hargrave: to teach the love of quilting using a sewing machine. Here is the dedication in her book Heirloom Machine Quilting: As always, this book is dedicated to my mother for the love of quilting and sewing that she shared with me throughout my life, and to the many thousands of students who have shared their time with me these past 25 years of teaching. Together we have brought machine quilting to standards of skill that we couldn't have imagined in the beginning. This sounds like a dedicated person to me. You can find this book on Amazon. Be sure to purchase the 4th edition. You can experience the workshop like I did but without Harriet. She actually taught the book.

The retreat center where the workshop was held was actually in Milford, about 20 minutes south of Common Threads. It is a lovely house with lots of beautiful rooms, a full kitchen (off limits to us in attendance), dining area, massage room and a huge work area.

Each room had a theme. This picture is the Thirties Theme. There was also the Civil War theme, Thimbleberries theme, Batik theme and a lot more. Each bed had a homemade quilt. The bathrooms were spacious and shared by 4 roomies. All the food was homemade and served to us in the dining room. We did not even have to take our plates to the kitchen! Boy, it did not take us long to start loving that!

The work area was huge. This picture only shows 1/3 of the space. Work chairs were provided so we did not have to bring our own from home. This is very important especially for machine quilting. Often we sit for hours at our machines and lose track of time. Harriet suggested we stop, look up and out the window for a few seconds and then get back to work.

Each day started with breakfast at 8 am. Then Harriet started her
lesson at 9 am. We stopped for lunch and dinner. The evening lesson stopped at 9 pm. But one night it went on until 9:30 pm. The first half day was mainly lecture. I took 10 pages of notes! Harriet started with the basics which is constructing the quilt properly. Accurate 1/4" seam allowances are crucial. See my earlier blog lesson on this.
Harriet discussed how we as quilters are pushed too fast to get a project done and start on another one. This is business. Quilting is a billion dollar industry. But in the pressure to finish one project and start another project many quilters leave out an important step...the quilting! So what do we do? We pile up quilt top after quilt top until we finally give them to a long-arm quilter to finish for us. Are we really quilters if we do this? Technically, the answer is no. We have become piecers. Nothing wrong with this except that we lost something along the way. We lost the reason we went into quilting in the first place.

If you love fabric, sewing, quilting whether it be with machine or by hand, you know the relationship between your hands and fabric. It is almost spiritual. You become "one with the cloth." In our rush to finish a project so we can start another one, we have lost this lovely relationship with the skill of quilting.

Quilting gives a quilt life. The soul of quilting is quilting yourself.
A lot of my quilting friends say they hate binding their quilt. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buCKs-Fgvb4

This video on YouTube will show you how to bind a quilt. Well, some people hate this part of the construction. I love it. To me it is the final stage and my way of saying good-bye to this quilt that has been my friend for months. Yes, I have cried during this stage!

It is hard to describe what an enlightening weekend I had with Harriet Hargrave. She not only taught me the basics of machine quilting but also gave the real story behind batting, threads, needles and the fabric world that we all love.
 No, I will not be quilting my own quilts right away. Some of us made a commitment not to start another project for 6 months! Yes, you heard correctly....This does not mean no shopping! Of course, we can continue to work on our current projects. But the theory is this: if you start another project machine quilting will be pushed back a bit more. Each day it is pushed back makes that pile of unfinished quilts a little higher. So, I made that commitment. I want to own my quilt that I started. I want to say "I created this work of art from the beginning to the end."
Thank you Harriet Hargrave!

So go out there and do what you love doing! Make it yours...if it is worth doing, it is worth doing right.
Until next time...call your mother, give something away that you really love, stop and smell a flower,
feed the squirrels, take your kids to the park, love yourself!