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

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake

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This is not a difficult recipe, though it does take a few more bowls, and a couple pots/pans. If you simply follow the steps though, you really can't go wrong. It's very rich and falls into the "scrumptious" category!

Serving it warm is best. When cooking dinner, I would recommend putting this in the oven about 20 minutes before you eat. The prep time is about 20-25 minutes, so allow some time for this.

You could make most of it ahead of time, stopping just after you pour the batter into the pan. Then you'd simply have to sprinkle, pour, and place in the oven.

Hot Fudge Pudding Cake (Cook's Illustrated)

In a double boiler, melt and stir:
1/3 C Dutch processed cocoa
6 TB unsalted butter
2 ounces semi-sweet or unsweetened baking chocolate

While waiting for it to melt,

Add to a small bowl (bowl 1):
2 tsp instant coffee
1 1/2 C water

Stir to dilute, and set aside.

In a 2nd small bowl, add and mix together:
1/3 cup cocoa
1/3 C brown sugar

1/3 C granulated sugar

In a 3rd small bowl combine:
3/4 C flour
2 tsp baking

In a 4th medium bowl whisk together:
2/3 C sugar
1 TB vanilla extract

1/3 C whole milk

1/4 tsp salt

Whisk into 4th bowl:
1 large egg yolk

Add melted chocolate mixture to the 4th bowl. Combine ingredients.
Add flour mixture (2nd bowl) to the the 4th bowl, and mix well.

Lightly spray an 8" x 8" baking dish with cooking spray. Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.

Pour the chocolate batter (from 4th bowl) into the pan evenly.

Sprinkle the cocoa mixture (2nd bowl) evenly over the chocolate batter.

Pour the coffee gently on top.

Place pan in the middle of the oven for about 45 minutes, until the cake is bubbling and just starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Cool on a wire rack and serve warm over vanilla (or coffee) ice cream.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Eat the Meat (Day 2)

Pin It Tonight was our second "Eat the Meat" gathering. Three families came over to help us eat meat tonight (THANK YOU!!!). Not knowing what they'd want, I had all the meat and fixin's out...and let them grill what they wanted. Together we shared coconut shrimp, steak, Flank Steak Roulade, Grilled Herbed Chicken, salmon, hot dogs, and turkey breast. My nice, nice friends brought a green salad and a fruit salad to help balance out the meal. Yesterday we got our carbs in; today we had protein!

Still, we barely made a dent in what was left. So for the second night in a row, I sent them all home with baggies of meat. Afterward, I took a bowl full of meat to neighbors' homes and pawned the rest of the meat off on them passed out the rest of the meat to them.

Now to wait for the sales and re-stock....

But first I'll fix the freezer lock!

Flash Freezing/Vacuum Packing

Pin It Have you ever frozen a bunch of meatballs (or something else....berries, veggies, chicken breasts) and then tried to separate them? If you are simply putting the items in a bag and freezing them, all the pieces are going to stick together. It can be a pain in the rear to separate the pieces...especially if you only want to use part of the bag!

This is where flash freezing comes in handy. It's very simple to do.

The most important item is a jelly roll pan. If you have a lot of room in your freezer, any ol' pan will do. But the jelly roll pan is great when you just have a few inches at the top of your freezer.

Solid Foods

First you spread out your food evenly on the pan in one layer. Shake it up a bit, and you might be able to fit more on the pan. It's OK if the stuff touches a bit; the trick is one single layer.

If you are going to freeze raw meat, I suggest placing the meat in a simple non-zip baggie. That will keep the raw meat ickies away from your pan. It also helps if you will be vacuum packing* raw meat.

Next, place the pan in the freezer and freeze until it is rock hard (I usually leave it overnight). Don't forget about it though...or you'll get freezer burn!

Once it's all frozen, put the frozen food into bags....either freezer zip-style bags, or ones for vacuum packing. Squeeze all the air out of the much as humanly possible. Empty space in your bag allows for freezer burn.


To freeze sauces and liquids, place them in the regular ol' baggie. Place the baggie inside a more substantial container (yogurt container, Tupperware, etc.). Place the container in the freezer and leave it in there until it is solid.

If I have a thicker sauce, and have some "supportive" room in the freezer (door, ice area), I'll simply place the bag in the freezer, making sure it will stay upright on its own.

Once it's solid, leave the sauce in the baggie, and place inside a freezer zip-style bag, or one for vacuum packing. Again, squeeze all the air out of the much as humanly possible.

If you want to freeze meat with a marinade (like the chicken breasts to the right), you'll follow the same steps above. Just put the meat in with the sauce. Often I will first put these in a zip-style bag (as opposed to the baggies). Once they're frozen I open up a little bit of the zip top (allowing the air to be sucked out of the bag) and place this smaller bag into a freezer zip-style bag (or one for vacuum packing).


Sometimes I want to freeze a whole pan of something (casserole, mac 'n cheese, enchiladas, etc.). To do this, I get out a baking pan and line it with foil (heavy duty does work better; regular strength will work too!). Fill the pan with your food. Cover the pan with its lid or a sheet of foil. It doesn't have to be wrapped tight. Just a simple cover. Place the pan in the freezer, keeping it level (so the contents won't spill out). Freeze until solid.

Once it's frozen, turn the pan over, tap on the glass (OK.... I gently bang it on the counter a few times) until the casserole pops out of the container. Keep the foil on it. Wrap it tightly in heavy duty foil or saran wrap. OR....put it in a bag for vacuum packing.

If you've used foil/wrap, label the outside and stick it in the freezer.

If you're vacuum packing the container, put the container in the bag. A 9" x 13" or 8" x 8" casserole will need the wider 11" FoodSaver bag roll. A smaller 11" x 7" pan will fit in a smaller 8" Foodaver bag roll.

When you are vacuum packing a casserole dish, leave PLENTY of room at the top. A 9 x 13" casserole will need a bag about 20" long.

So, in a nutshell....all there is to flash freezing is this:

1) Place food on a jelly roll pan in a single layer.
2) Freeze until solid.
3) Place in a zip-lock style bag (or FoodSaver bag)
4) Remove all air.
5) Seal bag.
6) Label the bag (contents/servings/directions/date).
7) Freeze the bag!

Vacuum Packing

If you are doing a lot of freezing, I highly recommend getting some sort of vacuum packing/sealing machine, like this FoodSaver model I have. It sucks all the air out, seals the bag, and protects the food in the freezer much longer than an ordinary container that allows more air inside.

Because the FoodSaver bags can be pretty spendy, I make sure to use them over and much as possible. By placing my raw meat in a thinner/cheaper baggie, I'm keeping the meat from touching the bag, which keeps the FoodSaver bag cleaner (still needs to be completely washed though). I never re-use bags that have had raw chicken in them. I'm just not comfortable with that!

If you are vacuum packing something you'll want to use a few times (like meatballs), make sure you add 1" on to the length of your bag for each extra time you plan on getting into the bag/cutting it. So if you want to get into your bag of berries 3 times, you'll need to add 2" on (the final time you'll have nothing left in the bag!).

There are SO many advantages to using a FoodSaver (or other vacuum packing system) when you freeze foods. I'll have to devote an entire post to getting the most out of your FoodSaver!*

*It took me about 9 months, but here is that post!


Pin It My yard in mid-winter is waiting. Waiting for clean up (the weeds really need some attention), waiting to be cut back (those that weren't cut back in fall), waiting for growth, and waiting for color. Oh, how I miss the color!

This white metal planter, by our front door, is now a home for the pinecones that Tahoe brings home on his daily walks. Being a good retriever of things, he happily carries one along, depositing it right on the front step upon returning home. Every few days I gather his cones and place them in the basket. At least it's not empty!

Here are some of the colors I'm waiting for:

Still kickin'!

Pin It In the backyard, I'm trying to cover my boring fence with some vines. Other than a couple types of clematis, it's hard to find a hardy blooming evergreen vine for this area. One tender perennial is this star jasmine. It's a beauty when in bloom, and the scent is heavenly. But, it's known to kick the bucket during hard freezes. We dipped down to 26 last week, and the jasmine is still alive. We're expected to get down to 19 degrees Monday, and 16 degrees I'm curious to see if it will survive temps that low.

Also calibrochoa that is planted by my back patio. For whatever reason, calibrochoas LOVE this spot. I've planted them all over the yard, and it is only in this particular spot that they thrive. Last year's calibrochoa nearly made it to spring. This one seems to be even hardier. Only time will tell....

mid-January (above)

September 2007 (below)

Flank Steak Roulade

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This is another dish inspired by a visit to Entree Vous, one of the many meal preparation kitchens. These flank steak roulades, or pinwheels, not only taste great, but they have such a nice presentation on a platter.

One of the most challenging parts is getting the flank steak thin enough to roll. I pound and I pound and I pound. I simply do not make any progress. If the steak is too thick, it won't roll easily. So, taking tips from my chicken habits, I simply slice them in half horizontally. Not only does this make them thinner, it gives me another working surface!

Rolling and tying can be frustrating unless you go into this project knowing you will lose some of your filling. No need to fret. Just stuff it back in there the best you can. It's also a given that no matter how long you cut your cotton string, it won't be long enough. Don't bother starting over. Just tie it off and start again. It may not look as pretty as a professional chef's, but in the end a knot is a knot is a knot.

Flank Steak Roulade

Pound (or slice) a flank steak so it's about 3/8" thick.*

Spread on top**
1/2 C- 1 C Gorgonzola cheese
1/2 C fresh spinach
1/4-1/2 C chopped green onions
1/8-1/4 cup roasted red peppers

Roll up into a long, skinny log, and tie closed with cotton twine.

How to tie it all up? I've found it easiest to cut off a really long piece of common household cotton string. How long? 4-5 feet or so. Seriously. Place one end of your steak roll under the mid-point of the string. Tightly make your first tie. Then let one piece rest on the meat, and wrap the other around. When the two ties meet on top, twist around, and bring the other string around the roll. Each time you come up, pull tightly, twist the strings and continue. (If that confuses the heck out of you, here are some great directions on tying food logs together with pictures!)

Pour Worcestershire sauce over the roll, and sprinke cajun seasoning over the meat.

Place in a baking pan. Preheat oven to 425 degrees cook uncovered for 10 minutes. Bring the temperature down to 350 degrees, cooking for 30 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the beef is 165 degrees. (Grilling instructions below)

To freeze ahead: Place in a simple (non-zip) bag. Flash Freeze. Then place in a zip-loc bag, removing as much air as possible (or vacuum pack). Place back in the freezer. Thaw (about 24 hours) before cooking.

*Flank steaks are usually thickest in the middle. To cut thin, angle your chef's knife so you are skimming off the thickest part of the steak. Cut with the grain.

**The amounts can vary depending on your taste. I find I don't really measure...I simply spread out the ingredients on the steak.

Sadly, all of these flank steak rolls were part of my freezer disaster last night. So, I cooked them up today, and am hoping that they taste decent once they're re-frozen, thawed, and heated.

I will say that straight out of the oven they were pretty tasty! (After taking the steak rolls out of the pan, there was plenty of tasty drippings. I mixed this with some plain, cooked steak slices -another freezer victim- and served them up for dinner as well.)

Added the evening of 7/21/08: Yesterday I cooked up all but on of the rolls. Tonight, since I was grilling for our "Eat the Meat" gathering, I thought I'd try grilling these to see how that would work. To grill them, I cooked each side (4) on high for a couple minutes each to sear them, retaining the flavor. Then I turned the heat down to medium and just cooked them until they were done to my likeness. I lost track of how long they were on the grill, but it had to be at least a half hour or so.

Flavorwise: I preferred the grilled version to the baked. The ends weren't as dried out, and the cajun flavoring was more subtle. My neighbor, Stacy, who was over, preferred the oven version. She liked the stronger, saltier flavor that the meat absorbed as it was cooked in the drippings.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Eat the Meat (Day 1)

Pin It Well, one of my greatest food stockpiling fears came true today...I woke up and found the door to the outside freezer had been left open last night. Immediately I knew when it had happened....I'd gone out last night to get some walnuts for a recipe. All evening I kept looking at the walnut container, thinking, I should put them back in the freezer. But I didn't. When I went to put them away this morning, I found the door open. If only....

Sadly everything in there had thawed. I quickly got out a meat thermometer and checked the temps. Thankfully the warmest, thinnest cuts of meat were a smidge under 40 degrees...the cutoff for food safety temps.

After taking it all out and putting it in the fridge (so it wouldn't re-freeze....a food safety no-no), I figured out that I could cook up about 1/3 of it, and re-freeze the cooked meat. Some of it was already cooked (like meat in a sauce, chicken enchiladas, casseroles, packs of shredded meat, etc.). There were steaks, hot dogs, burgers, shrimp, etc.

With Brian gone for the rest of the week, I needed a plan. There was simply no way I could eat all that meat! (Actually, he wouldn't have been much of a help was a LOT of meat!) So, I emailed friends inviting them over Sunday and Monday nights. I'm calling these "Eat the Meat" gatherings.

Tonight I had the help from 4 families and a lot of neighborhood kids. Tomorrow I'm hoping for more!

There are much greater catastrophes in the world. I'm sighing a bit, shaking my head, ticked that I hadn't yet fixed the latch on the freezer. It pops open easily...which is why we had a latch on it. The latch broke, and I bought a replacement, which is sitting on top of my microwave oven. Yeah, had I fixed the latch, had I put away the walnuts....I'd still have a freezer full of meat and main dish meals. *sigh*

So, if you're around....5-7 Monday night....I have meat for you to eat!

(picture: Cooked Pesto Parmesan Chicken! I'll slice it up for pasta or something. Maybe make sandwiches out of it.)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Yvonne's Done-to-Death Apple Bread

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On a message board I frequent, the ladies have talked for years about this apple bread. I copied the recipe and had it sitting in my "To Try" file for a loooooong time. Silly me. This is one that I should have made immediately...especially considering I usually have all the ingredients on hand.

It is moist, sweet (without being too sweet), nutty, and crunchy on top. Very tasty. Very very tasty!

As for its name, there is a story behind it. The recipe comes from Yvonne who claims that every time she made this apple bread, she was inundated with requests for the recipe.

There are some people who don't share their unique, raved about recipes. They choose to keep it "in the family" so they are the only ones bringing it to events. Others won't share because they're afraid that someone will substitute ingredients, change it "just a tad", use a different technique, and then tell everyone the origins. Sometimes these new creations are changed so much they don't have the same taste, texture, or appeal as the original recipe.

Perhaps Yvonne should have kept the recipe to herself. You see, after giving it out to others, the apple bread showed up EVERYWHERE. Everyone was making it and in her circle of friends it was so popular that it wasn't quite as special as it once was. Yvonne's apple bread had been "done to death."

So, here for your next tasty treat, is the infamous "Done to Death" Apple Bread.

Yvonne's Done-to-Death Apple Bread

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease bread pans well.

Mix together:
3 eggs, slightly beaten
2 C sugar
1 C vegetable oil
1 TB vanilla

Add and mix well:
3 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon

Add and mix well:
4 C chopped, pared, cored apples (about 3-4)*
1 Cchopped pecans

The mixture will be very goopy.

Spoon into pans (full sized or mini loaf pans-- or muffin pans)**

Mix topping together and sprinkle over batter:
2 TB sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Place in oven, and cook until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Baking times:
Full sized loaf pans: 70 minutes
Mini loaf pans: 50 minutes
Muffin pans: 30 minutes

Cool on wire racks. Run a thin knife around the edges to loosen the bread. Remove bread from the pans, and cool thoroughly on the wire racks.

For storage I prefer to wrap with aluminum foil. The bread has a crisp top, which gets soggy when stored in an air-tight container. They still taste great, but I miss the crunchiness of the top!

I've successfully frozen these in heavy duty foil.

*Granny Smiths are my baking apple of choice. They're tart and hold up well in baking.
**This recipe will make 2 full sized loaf pans- or 8 mini loaves- or 48 muffins.


Friday, January 4, 2008

Marinated Flank Steak

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This understated title and simple marinade makes a killer steak. This has long been one of our summer favorites. In fact, I'd say this steak might just make our Top 10 Favorite Dinners list, if we ever got around to creating a list. Every time we serve it at a BBQ, the guests gush over this one. It's soooooo easy, and sooooo good. Only recently have I started to freeze it ahead of time, so all I have to do is defrost, grill, slice, and enjoy!

Though the recipe calls for flank steak, we've also made it with sirloin, and will be trying it with chicken soon.* Flank steaks used to be a bargain cut, but in the past few years I've had a hard time finding it under $7 per pound. Since petite and top sirloins (even good, thick cuts) go on sale for $3.49/lb. frequently, we've been making more often with the sirloin. Last week, however, I found flank steak on sale for $4.49/lb. and bought eight steaks. I would have bought more, but I'm really running out of freezer room! I marinated four and made something else (see tomorrow!) with the others.

Marinated Flank Steak (San Francisco Encore)

1/4 C soy sauce
1/4 C honey
1/4 C dry white wine
1/4 C thinly sliced green onions
2 TB grated onion
2 TB balsamic vinegar
2 TB sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp ginger

1-2 flank steaks

Combine all ingredients, except the steak/s. Pour over the steak and marinate overnight. Place the steak on a hot grill & cook 4-5 minutes per side, basting with the marinade. Slice thinly on the diagonal & serve.

< ----- 4 flank steaks, 6 chicken breasts ready to freeze

* While the chicken wasn't bad, it wasn't all that great. This is definitely best with beef.

Pesto Parmesan Chicken

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This is a relatively easy recipe that was inspired by a dish from Entree Vous. Since I'm always looking for more recipes that call for pesto, I was eager to try making this.

Pesto Parmesan Chicken

6-8 thinly sliced* skinless boneless chicken breast halves
1 C pesto sauce (recipe here)
1 1/2 C finely grated Parmesan cheese

Place the chicken in a bowl and pour the pesto over the pieces, covering well. Place the Parmesan in a shallow bowl. One at a time, place the chicken pieces in the bowl of Parmesan, spooning cheese onto the top to coat.

Place the coated pieces in a baking dish. Bake at 350 degrees or until thoroughly cooked.

*Because many chicken breast halves are very thick, I usually slice them horizontally to make them thinner. They grill/bake faster, and the outsides don't tend to get as dry while waiting for the thick middle part to cook.

If freezing, line a jelly-roll pan with waxed paper, and place the chicken pieces on it. Flash-freeze. Once completely frozen, place inside a freezer bag, squeezing all the air out of it (or vacuum pack it), before putting it back in the freezer.

Serving suggestions: Serve with pasta, adding a little extra pesto sauce and Parmesan cheese on top. Chop up and use as a pizza topping (on a white sauce garlic-y pizza).

Green Beans with Pecans

Pin It Here's another simple vegetable dish that is easy to throw together at the last minute for any dinner, including a holiday dinner.

Green Beans with Pecans (San Francisco Encore)

Prep ahead of time:
-wash and trim 2 pounds of fresh green beans
-mince 4 TB of shallots
-mince 3 TB of fresh parsley

Steam until just tender, but still firm:
2 pounds of fresh green beans

In a skillet, saute until softened:
3 TB butter
4 TB minced shallots*

Add, and brown lightly:
1 C pecan halves

Stir in:
3 TB minced fresh parsley

Toss to coat and heat thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper

*I didn't have shallots on hand, but substituted green onions instead. Worked out well!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Chicken Tequila Fettuccine

Pin It Happy New Year! Not being a fan of Black-eyed Peas, we skipped the traditional holiday meal and made pasta.

I came across this recipe sometime last year from This is a great southwestern twist on the classic Fettuccini Alfredo. The cilantro and jalapenos give it a little kick without being too spicy. It definitely has a kid-friendly flavor.

Tonight I made it for our meal exchange. I found it very easy to make in bulk (4 x the recipe) and would definitely consider making it for a large group. It wasn't as time consuming and labor intensive as some recipes can be.

Chicken Tequila Fettuccini

1 1/4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Pour over chicken and set aside:
3 TB soy sauce

In a medium saucepan, saute over medium heat for 4-5 minutes:
1/3 C chopped fresh cilantro
2 TB minced garlic

2 TB minced jalapeno peppers (seeds, membranes, and's really not spicy!)
2 TB butter

1/2 C chicken stock 3 TB tequila 2 TB fresh lime juice

Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until reduced to a paste-like consistency. Set aside.

In a medium sized skillet, saute
1 TB butter
1/4 red onion, chopped *

1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced

1/2 yellow bell pepper, thinly sliced

1/2 green bell pepper, sliced

1 lb fettuccini

When the peppers and onions have softened, add the chicken and soy sauce. Toss and add the reserved tequila/lime paste and cream. Bring to a boil. Gently simmer until chicken is cooked through and sauce is thick. Toss with well drained fettuccini and garnish with cilantro. Serve.

*This nifty little gadget shown in the onion picture helps make nice neat onion slices. It pierces the onion and allows a knife to cut between the tines, making nice even slices. When I'm chopping an onion, I first slice off the top, and remove the onion skin. I leave the end (w/roots) on until the very end. This keeps the onion together, making it easier to work with. I then cut slices one way (as shown) and then turn the onion 90 degrees to make perpendicular cuts. (The onion will resemble one of those "blooming onions" from Outback Steakhouse.) Then I turn the onion on its side and start cutting the ends, getting nice little chopped onion pieces.