Food and Garden Dailies started as a way to record my family's favorite recipes. It has come in handy many times when I'm asked for a recipe. I simply email a link to the blog! But I couldn't just stick to recipes. The kitchen is tied to the garden in so many ways...and so I let you into my ever changing garden as well.

If you're interested in my all-time favorite recipes, check out this post first: My Favorite Recipes

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Freebies For Friends

Pin It
My garden peaks in June, so I'm really trying to get it cleaned up so I can simply enjoy that month without a lot of work. As I'm weeding (a daily chore!) I'm finding a lot of little starts from last year's plants. Before I pull thin them out completely, they are yours for the asking. Right now I have:
  • Foxglove (variety of colors)
  • Creeping Jenny (spreading plant with bright yellow flowers)
  • Columbine (not sure what colors...)
  • Tomatillos (necessary for this enchilada sauce)
  • This rosy-red perennial (bottom right) that I can't find the plant tag to...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Minty Mojitos

Pin It Tonight we celebrated the first of three end-of-the-school-year events. In our family we all follow the academic calendar, but have slightly different start and end dates. Today was Brian's last day. We're on a warm and sunny streak of weather (please stay around!!) so it seemed fitting to make a batch of mojitos. ( be honest we were desiring these over the weekend but discovered we were out of rum. The liquor store --yes, there's just one!-- is closed on Sundays and holidays, so we had to wait....)

I never really know how to make good mixed drinks. Thankfully there's google. I googled "killer mojito recipe" and found this promising recipe. I liked that this blogger had been trying and tweaking different recipes and finally came up with what she thinks is a killer mojito. So I printed out the recipe and did what I could with it. If you look closely at her recipe and what I made below, you will see there are differences. Hers calls for some ingredients I didn't have on hand, and well, I'd already sent Brian to the store twice!! I do want to try hers sometime, as I appreciate someone who has played around and tweaked things to his/her liking.

So tonight we invited some friends over for an impromtu happy hour, which turned into a potluck feast of leftovers. (You know you have good friends when they're willing to eat your leftovers!) Before getting to the food, we set out all the ingredients on the patio table and got to muddling and mixing. Here is what we did:

Minty Mojitos

Prepare ahead: Simple Syrup
In a small saucepan mix heat until sugar is disolved:
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
When the sugar is dissolved, add one cup of mint leaves. Leave the leaves in the syrup for 30 minutes. Strain the syrup, and then refrigerate. This simple syrup should be enough for 8 glasses of mojitos. You can save and refrigerate any leftover syrup to use another time.

Crush some ice (if desired...cubes work too!)
Making the mojitos:
To make one mojito in a 12 ounce glass:
Pour in 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of the simple syrup and 6-12 mint leaves (I did 12).
Muddle* with a blunt instrument.
Add several ice cubes or crushed ice and muddle a bit more.
Add 1 1/2 - 2 ounces of rum, 1 ounce of freshly squeezed lime juice (about 1/2 a lime) and stir vigorously.
Top off the glass with club soda and garnish with a sprig of peppermint.
Taste and adjust as needed.

*The idea of muddling is to press and bruise the peppermint, releasing the essential oils.

Do you have a killer mojito recipe? I'd love to hear what you do!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Grilled Chicken with Sesame Noodles

Pin It
Today was a great food prepping day. I made five batches of the Herb Mustard Chicken for an end-of-the-school-year BBQ for Linfield's chemistry department (students, faculty, and families), two batches of Cajun-Curry Chicken, and I tried a new recipe for tonight's dinner.

Tonight's dinner was delicious! It was spicy, yet flavorful. Sometimes that's a hard balance to find. Many times spicy sauces are just a bowl of heat, without much taste. This was a killer sauce: little bit of sweetness from the brown sugar, a bit of nuttiness from the sesame oil and peanut butter, and some zing from the hot sauce.

I like spicy foods, so it's rare that I will suggest using a little less heat. In this recipe, I'd use about 1 1/2 tsp of the hot sauce if you like foods moderately spicy; 1 tsp if you like it fairly spicy, and so on. Feel free to start with a little, do a taste test, and add a bit more until it's to your liking. Now, it might matter what kind of hot sauce is used, because all brands are not equal in their hotness. The above suggestion would work with any brand. Since you're making the sauce, you may as well make it to your liking!

Grilled Chicken with Sesame Noodles
(Cook's Illustrated)

Classic sesame noodles can be a tricky dish, with gummy noodles, dry chicken, and bland sauce. We developed a few techniques to avoid those problems. Here's what we discovered.

* Rinsing the cooked noodles well eliminates lots of starch, which can turn the cold pasta gummy.
* Tossing the pasta with the sauce directly after rinsing keeps the pasta moist.
* Grilling the chicken over high heat lets it cook through before drying out.
* If traditional Asian sesame paste is hard to find, a combination of peanut butter and sesame oil makes an excellent substitute.

If you prefer, you can substitute 12 ounces dried spaghetti for the Asian noodles.

Serves 4 to 6
3 cloves garlic , minced
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1/2 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons hot sauce (I used Tapatio Salsa Picante...see above note)
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/4 cup peanut butter
Table salt
1 pound fresh Asian noodles
6 scallions , sliced thin

1. Bring 4 quarts water to boil over high heat. Meanwhile, whisk garlic, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce, brown sugar, and oil in small bowl. Toss chicken with 3 tablespoons garlic mixture in bowl. Puree remaining garlic mixture and peanut butter in blender until smooth.

2. Add 1 tablespoon salt and noodles to boiling water and cook until al dente. Drain well, rinse under cold running water until cool, and drain again. Toss noodles, peanut sauce, and scallions in large bowl. Adjust seasonings.

3. Grill chicken breasts over high heat until cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Slice chicken and serve with noodles.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

No more yard waste guilt...

Pin It
Our local waste company, W.O.W. (Western Oregon Waste) does a great job with our trash and recycling removal. We put it out and they pick it up. But as an avid gardener without a truck, at least half our garbage is yard waste.

I didn't feel so guilty about putting it in the trash as I was sure it would simply break down because it was all natural. At least I thought that way until someone told me that our garbage is placed in a huge plastic liner at the landfill, where natural yard waste isn't given a chance to naturally break down. It just takes up the same amount of space as the garbage.

Thankfully, just as I was having a bit of trouble with this guilt, W.O.W. is finally giving our community the option of a yard debris container which will be picked up every other week. FINALLY! I am thrilled that my yard waste won't take up any more room at the landfill. It can become compost, mulch, or some other organic material. Though it costs about $10 a month more, our waste bill will remain virtually the same, since we can now order a smaller garbage can or opt for service every other week (as opposed to weekly).

Happy Mother's Day, Swallows!!

Pin It The little swallows who built a nest in our clematis vine are the proud new parents of five little baby swallows. I'm trying my hardest to get a good picture of them. Each time I go out, I have to shake the vine so the mama (papa?) will leave the nest. Then I lift some branches and stick my head into the vine for a close up look. They are soooo little!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I Love Cook's Illustrated!

Pin It I come from a family that cooks. We usually had home cooked meals made from scratch; not a lot of boxed, pre-made foods. In my own family, it's still that way. We like to share recipes and give cookbooks as gifts. Somehow, I went for most of my adult life (so far) without knowing about Cook's Illustrated. How could that be?? They're not new...the magazine has been around for 16 years, and America's Test Kitchen (by the same folks as CI) has had a cooking show on PBS since 2001.

It wasn't until a few years ago when I saw my first issue of Cook's Illustrated at my friend's home. That began my love for this magazine and its recipes. I bought a one year subscription, but yearned for more. I found a bunch of back issues on ebay. Don't count on getting an incredible bargain....these magazines seem to be in demand and therefore the bidding can be competitive! I was quite happy to purchase about half of their back issues through ebay. I thoroughly enjoyed reading through them all, and was on a quest to buy them all.

During that quest I found out about the on-line subscription to Cook's Illustrated. For an annual fee of $34.95 you have access to the past 16 years of recipes, along with all the great illustrtations and product/food reviews. It's a bargain, especially if all (or most) of this is new to you. They even give you a 14 day free preview to see if it's worth it (of course, you must remember to cancel within that time or you will be charged for the full year).

How to make the most of a one year subscription? I started going through each issue, looking for recipes that might appeal to our family. As I looked at the on-line version, I had a word processing document open at the same time. I simply copied and then pasted each recipe into my document. You're probably thinking this was very time consuming. I'm not going to was! When I was done with a copy/paste session, I made sure to mark which issue I was up to. That way when I resumed the process I knew where to start. Eventually I made it all the way through the current issue.

My next step was to print and organize them. Some of you might be fine without the printing. It was a laborious chore. But, when I cook I want the recipe right in front of me. When I'm searching for a recipe, I prefer to thumb through recipes, rather than read off of the computer.

I set up my paper in landscape view with two columns. This allowed me to cut them into 5 1/2" x 8 1/2 " pages, and eventually put them in small binders. But we're jumping ahead here...

As I printed them, I kept them in big orderly stacks. Next came the cutting. I used a scrapbooking trimmer to do a precise cut. Once each small group of 6-8 papers was cut (or whatever your trimmer will do) I did not stack those. They had to remain in two organized stacks because the left side of the paper was p. 1, the right side was page 2, then back to the next left side (page 3) and so on.

Organizing the binders was the next step. After careful consideration I ended up with five binders, or books. Below is how they are divided and subdivided:

Book #1
  • About Food
  • Drinks
  • Snacks
  • Fruit
  • Italian
  • Pasta (Stuffed/Filled)
  • Pasta
  • Pizza
  • Greek
  • Indian
  • Soup
  • Sandwiches
Book #2
  • Asian
  • Stir Fry
  • Sauces, Dips, Marinades
  • Seafood
  • Side Dish
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Vegetables
Book #3
  • Chicken (Sauteed)
  • Chicken (Oven)
  • Chicken (Grilled)
  • Beef (Steak)
  • Beef (Ribs)
  • Beef (Burgers)
  • Beef (Roasts)
  • Beef (Misc.)
  • Pork
Book #4
  • Breakfast
  • Breads (Savory)
  • Breads (Sweet)
  • Muffins
  • Pastries (Savory)
  • Pastries (Sweet)
  • Appetizers
Book #5
  • Dessert
  • Cake
  • Cheesecake
  • Pudding/Mousse
  • Cobblers/Crumbles
  • Pie
  • Cookies
  • Bars
  • Fudge/Toffee/Candy
  • Frozen Dessert
Some of the recipes could have easily gone into more than one category. I simply had to make the best choice for each one. Someday I may add a page at the front of the section that says, "See also...." and then list similar recipes.

I took my two large stacks and started putting the recipes into page protectors. I've found this size made by C-line, Century, and Avery. While the binders (Avery) haven't been hard to find (most office stores carry them), the pages were kind of hit and miss. I initially bought them at our local Staples store. When I returned to buy more, they were out of stock for a long time. I don't even think they were offered in their catalog! Eventually they turned up again. Now, I live in a small-ish town, so if you're in a metropolitan area, they might be easier to find! Or, you may decide to go the route of an 8 1/2 x 11 binder, which will be easy-peasy to find!

As I put the pages into the protectors, I started filing them into their appropriate sections. Eventually I had five easy-to-use custom cookbooks full of recipes I would love to someday make.

As for my collection of CI magazines...I still have them. They're tucked away on a shelf in plastic magazine racks. I do love the magazine. They're charming, delightful, and full of great information. But as a whole I find them hard to search through. They do create an annual index, which is helpful, but it also means I must look through 16 of them to find what I'm looking for. For me, being able to organize them to my liking, with personally selected recipes works best.

Here are some recipes I've featured on my blog that came from Cook's Illustrated:

Lemon Chiffon Cake
The Best Pumpkin Pie
Cheesy Basil-Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Sesame Chicken Bites
Hot Fudge Pudding Cake
The Best Pie Crust
Baked Macaroni and Cheese
Berry Cobbler
Flaky Buttermilk Biscuits
Pecan Crusted Chicken  (well, officially from Cook's Country, their sister publication)
Smoky Scalloped Potatoes
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
Peach Crumble
Grilled Chicken with Sesame Noodles
Perfect Pecan Pie

Garden Arch and Trellis

Pin It I've always wanted an arched trellis entry into my garden. There are so many wrought iron ones I see at garden shows that are just gorgeous. I wish I were talented in this way, as the price tags are a bit beyond my budget... Still, I admire them!!

A couple years ago, I noticed our plum trees really needed to be trimmed. The branches were so low that they were hiding the garden plants beneath them. I trimmed it so the lowest branches were right about fence height (6') allowing them to still be used as part of our privacy screen. After trimming them, I had so many branches! They were all different sizes and because they were freshly cut, they were quite pliable.

Immediately I knew I wanted to make an arched trellis above the side yard gate. What I didn't know was how I would anchor it and put it all together. Off to the big box building/garden store I went! I scoured the aisles, not knowing what I was looking for, but knowing that when I saw it, I'd know it!

Finally I found these iron posts by the garden trellis section. The idea is that you wouldn't have to place your wooden trellis posts into the earth (where they wear away over time...). You'd put the wooden trellis post right into the iron post. The iron post could be pushed down into the ground, supporting your wooden trellis. These iron posts came in a couple sizes, so I bought some to play around with.

When I got home, I placed the iron posts in the ground, one on each side of the gate. I wanted my arched trellis to be visible on both sides of the fence, so I used four of the iron posts (2 on each side of the fence).

I started by placing my largest and strongest branches directly into the wooden posts. I kept adding branches, tying them with jute (all I had) as I went. When the branches were built up in all four spots I had a bunch of sticks in the air. I gently shaped them into an arch, tying them to hold in place.

Now that the framework was set, I needed to make sure it would stay. The jute would rot away over time, so I replaced those knots with galvanized wire. To stabilize the trellis I used galvanized U-shaped nails (these come in various sizes) to nail the trellis to the fence posts.

In the end I had a lot of little twigs left. I used them all! I started to make curvy loopy shapes within the trellis, just for some visual interest. Every now and then these little ones break off, but they're easy to replace.

At first the arched trellis was a bit spindly. It wouldn't be until the following year (when I trimmed again) that it became more substantial. I planted clematis at the base of each side, with hopes that it would eventually cover the entire arch. Two years later, my clematis is almost to the top. In a year or two it will look even more beautiful!

The beauty of this is it was virtually free. There was the initial cost of the posts, some galvanized wire, and nails, but other than that...the materials came right from my yard. If you don't have a tree to trim, ask your neighbors for their trimmings! It will save them a trip to haul it away.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Lemon Chiffon Cake

Pin It Tomorrow is my turn to bring dessert to our book group. I love it when it's my turn because it's always a good excuse to try something new and decadent. I really enjoy lemon flavored desserts, but my family isn't so keen on them....a great excuse to bring something lemony tomorrow! So, I went searching through my Cook's Illustrated recipes (their recipes are always winners!!) to find something new.

Upon reading this recipe I was a little intimidated. CI goes into such detail about why you should do things a certain way that can make you second guess yourself...wondering if your cooking skills are up to the task. But...rather than be intimidated by such detail, I think you should be thankful to have it! So many other recipes would tell you to whip your egg whites until you have stiff peaks...but CI takes it a step further telling you it's better to over-whip than under-whip. When it doubt, information like that is really helpful!

I also enjoyed reading the history of this recipe. They explained that so many modern chiffon cakes simply weren't the right texture. So they went back to the late 40s and looked at an old (but very popular) Betty Crocker recipe. Using that recipe, they applied knowledge gained from Great Cakes by Carole Walter and determined that how you separate and add your eggs can make a big difference. This may be more than the average cook wants to know, but I really love to read little tid-bits like this. I guess it gives me more confidence.

The one thing I didn't have was an angel-food pan. Instead I used my Pampered Chef bundt pan. The directions call for you to immediately turn the pan upside down suspended from a bottle. Well, my pan is 1) too heavy for that, and 2) doesn't actually have a hole inside the pan. So I simply turned my pan upside down on a plate and left it there for two hours. I used a dinner knife to go around the edges of the pan, loosely lifting at the cake each time the knife went in.

The cake came out easily enough. But on top were some custard-gel like blobs instead of feathery cake. CI had warned me if my egg whites weren't stiff enough, that this would happen. From my pictures you should get an idea of peaks that weren't stiff enough. The blobs easily came off, leaving a lumpy-bumpy top of the cake. So I took a serrated knife and evened it out, which is why my bundt shaped cake is flat on top!

Taste test: Since this is for book group, I didn't cut into the cake yet. But I did have my scraps and some icing left in the bowl. The cake has a light lemon taste to it, but the real flavor comes from the glaze. I'm looking forward to a slice of it!

Lemon Chiffon Cake
(Cook's Illustrated)

If the egg whites to be whipped are not at room temperature, set them in a pan placed in hot tap water and stir them until they are tepid. Coconut is very nice as a variation for this cake. Add 2/3 to 1 cup lightly packed sweetened flaked coconut, lightly chopped, to the batter before folding in the egg whites.

Serves 12

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/3 cups cake flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon table salt
7 large eggs , 2 left whole, 5 separated
2/3 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 large lemons , zested, then juiced to yield 2 tablespoons strained juice

1. Adjust rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk sugar, flour, baking soda, and salt together in large bowl (at least 4-quart size). Whisk in two whole eggs, five egg yolks (reserve whites), water, oil, lemon juice and zest and vanilla extract until batter is just smooth.

2. Pour reserved egg whites into large bowl; beat at medium speed with electric mixer until foamy, about 1 minute. Add cream of tartar, increase speed to medium-high, then beat whites until very thick and stiff, just short of dry, 9 to 10 minutes with hand-held mixer and 5 to 7 minutes in KitchenAid or other standing mixer. With large rubber spatula, fold whites into batter, smearing in any blobs of white that resist blending with flat side of spatula.

3. Pour batter into large tube pan (9-inch diameter, 16-cup capacity). Rap pan against countertop five times to rupture any large air pockets. If using two-piece pan, grasp on both sides with your hands while firmly pressing down on the tube with thumbs to keep batter from seeping underneath pan during this rapping process. Wipe off any batter that may have dripped or splashed onto inside walls of pan with paper towel.

4. Bake cake until wire cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes. Immediately turn cake upside down to cool. If pan does not have prongs around rim for elevating cake, invert pan over bottle or funnel, inserted through tube. Let cake hang until completely cold, about 2 hours.

5. To unmold, turn pan upright. Run frosting spatula or thin knife around pan's circumference between cake and pan wall, always pressing against the pan. Use cake tester to loosen cake from tube. For one-piece pan, bang it on counter several times, then invert over serving plate. For two-piece pan, grasp tube and lift cake out of pan. If glazing the cake, use a fork or a paring knife to gently scrape all the crust off the cake. Loosen cake from pan bottom with spatula or knife, then invert cake onto plate. (Can be wrapped in plastic and stored at room temperature 2 days or refrigerated 4 days.)

Glaze for Chiffon Cake
(Cook's Illustrated)

Since lumps in the confectioners' sugar don't dissolve completely in the liquid, they really show up once the cake is glazed. Unless you are certain that your sugar is lump-free, better to sift it. Before you glaze the cake, the crumbs must be scraped.* With a fork or paring knife, gently scrape all the crust off the cake. To keep the serving plate from being smudged with glaze, slip small pieces of waxed paper beneath the cake edge all along the bottom. If making the milk variation, stir in one-half teaspoon of lemon juice to cut the intense sweetness.

Makes enough for 1 chiffon cake

4 tablespoons unsalted butter , melted
4 - 5 tablespoons orange juice , lemon juice, milk, or coffee**
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

Beat butter, 4 tablespoons of the liquid, and sugar in medium bowl until smooth. Let glaze stand 1 minute, then try spreading a little on cake. If cake threatens to tear, thin glaze with up to 1 tablespoon more liquid. A little at a time, spread glaze over cake top, letting excess dribble down sides. Let cake stand until glaze dries, about 30 minutes. If you like, spread dribbles to make a thin, smooth coat.

*Obviously I missed a few crumbs!!
**I used 4 TB lemon juice.

Added on 5/4/09: Oh, my goodness, this was gooood! So light and moist. While the cake as a whole is a little sad-looking, the slice on the plate looked just fine. I also need to admit that I did butter & flour my stoneware pan. It's not as seasoned as my other stoneware pieces (which get frequent use) and until it gets more seasoned (darker in color/more non-stick) it needs a bit of help. After making this recipe I read that you should not grease your pan (which is probably why that step is not mentioned in the recipe). Many sources said that by greasing your pan, the cake will fall. Somehow I escaped this problem!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Need help identifying this perennial flower...

Pin It Last year I saw this in my friend's yard, and loved it because it was an early bloomer (March!). She shared it with me, but didn't know its name. I'd love to know what it's called and would appreciate any help you could give me. Thanks!!
Added May 2: I posted my query on Dave's Garden on their plant identification forum. Within two minutes I learned that it's pulmonaria: David's Ward variety. Now I know!

I promise to never....

Pin It
  1. Use landscaping fabric again. It seems like a good idea. It really does. You put it down to keep the weeds from coming through. What they don't tell you is that soon (much sooner than you think!) the weeds will start growing on top of the fabric. You see, once you put down the fabric, you place a layer of mulch on top so no one sees the fabric. Well....weeds grow in mulch just as easily as they grow in dirt! And, how the heck are you supposed to add compost to your plants? If you put in on top of the paper/mulch, it just sits on top and never amends the soil. Here's a bit of my landscaping fabric peeking through. There is a nice layer of dirt that has accumulated on top of it. I find it, I'm tearing it out. The weeds are going to come with or without the fabric. Save yourself some money!!
  2. Plant mint in the garden. This was one of the very first garden lessons I learned way back when we first married. It needs to be contained so it doesn't take over your whole yard.
  3. Plant Creeping Jenny in the yard. This one will be used in containers only. It wasn't a fast creeper, but after five years it was quickly starting to take over. It grows right over low-growing plants and can smother them. I've dug out about 3/4 of mine in the past couple weeks.
  4. Plant campanula punctata (aka Cherry Bells) in the garden. This one is even worse than mint. It was really hard to eradicate! There are many types of campanula, and not all are invasive. In fact, one of my favorites, Canterbury Bells, is a type of campanula. It's a keeper!

Canterbury Bells