Friday, July 22, 2011

No words needed

Hungry yet? A FEW of the reasons why I love the food in Texas . . . Tex Mex is the bomb. . .fried catfish, fried okra, hushpuppies, pinto beans. . . CB's Sandwich Shop for the old-fashioned cheeseburgers (family, diner environment . . .it was my dad's favorite and it's ours) . . . OH MY!!!!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Apricot Wine Spritzer to Cool You Off!

Need some "inspiration" to cool you off on this HOT, HUMID day? Here's a quick easy recipe for a wine spritzer.

Apricot Wine Spritzer
Your favorite wine glass
Apricot Nectar
Your favorite white wine (I used Riesling. . .I think Pinot Grigio would also be nice!)
Plain mineral water (Perrier, Mendota Springs, Apolinaris, etc)

Take your wine glass, fill halfway with ice, and then apricot nectar so it fills half of the glass. Add your wine (1/4 of the rest of the glass) and mineral water (1/4 of the rest of the glass). OILA! That's it - SO SIMPLE it's ridiculous! ENJOY!! STAY COOL!!!!

Monday, July 18, 2011


Are you a basil pesto lover like I am? Well, I'm glad to hear it! We just harvested a lovely "batch o' bunches o' basil" from our garden! Perfect timing for me to make some pesto!

Please note: I make my basil pesto "dry" so I can freeze it or put it in the fridge (it will last almost one week-the basil might discolor but this will happen when it is frozen as well. . .this does not take away from the taste or the appeal whatsoever!). I add the olive oil as I use the basil pesto "paste"- do not freeze the pesto with the olive oil already mixed in!

I think this is a great way to have a "sauce" ready for a quick mid-week meal and it stores well in the freezer!

Jen's Basil Pesto

Bunches o' Basil, triple-washed, stems and all! (I have found that if you don't grow your own basil, Asian stores sell bulk basil and some of the Asian growers/stands at the Madison Farmer's Market - Downtown also sell basil by large bags full) - enough to fill the bowl of a large food processor - DO NOT pack the basil in the bowl, though!

2-2/12 cups raw pignoli nuts (pine nuts) - you can also use raw walnuts, which I love as well

6-8 cloves garlic, peeled

8 oz grated Parmesan cheese - deli grated Parmesan is a good choice, or you can use already grated cheese found in the pasta sauce section of your grocer store, no worries!

*I do not add any salt as the Parmesan cheese has enough of a salty taste

Place all of these items in your food processor and chop until well incorporated and mixed together. The mixture will resemble bread crumbs when it is the right consistency - crumbly, somewhat dry. If you want to add more basil at this point, you sure can. I know some people like a really green pesto . . .so . . .feel free to add more after the first batch of ingredients has been combined!

This makes a large batch of basil pesto! I spoon this dry mixture into approx (7) small round Gladware containers and place in my freezer until ready to use (the individual serving size, like what you would put an individual serving of salad dressing in). You can unthaw the night before in your refrigerator. Add olive oil to reach the consistency that you enjoy to make a lovely sauce for pasta - just toss with your al dente noodles in bowl and it's ready to eat . . .top with more Parmesan. I also use pesto as a bruschetta topping, topped with freshly grated Parmesan and chopped tomatoes. Bueno appetito!

Garden Harvest #2 from the Z Garden

Just a glimpse of the second harvest of greens beans and peas from the Z Garden . . . MMMMMMMMMM! I love summer and summer veggies! My hubby, Ali, does fabulous job at planning our gardens. And taking good care of them. Me? Well I like to choose what veggie plants we'll have and then I like to pick the veggies/herbs when they are ready. I'm not so good at the "in between care" or planting or cultivating. I'm glad he likes to do these things, as our gardens give us yummy goodies to eat! We should be harvesting 900 zucchinis and cucumbers and tomatoes soon - GOODNESS I've never seen such GINORMOUS zucchini plants! EEK! And we think we have curtailed the pesky rabbits. Silly rabbits. . .Anyway, here's a wee glimpse of our harvest. . .how to decide what to make with them!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Curry . . .In a Hurry! :)

By definition (thank you, a curry is a spicy dish of oriental, especially Indian, origin that is made in many ways but usually consists of meat or fish prepared in a piquant sauce. Curry powder is a spice mixture with many different spices that are combined together, three of which usualy are turmeric, coriander, and cumin.

As a lover of Indian cuisine, it is sometimes a bit daunting to me to cook. So when I discovered a recipe for Ginger and Tomato Shrimp Curry (which my family really enjoys), I thought, why not tweak it and make it with chicken? That is what I did for tonight's dinner. I am sharing this pretty quick and easy Indian-inspired curry dish in hopes that you will enjoy it as well.

Tomato and Ginger Chicken Curry

olive oil (a few Tablespoons, enough to cover the bottom of your pan)

(1) package Trader Joe's Curry Chicken Tenders, approx 1.6 pounds, cut into big bite pieces (yes when I use "short cuts" I will be sure to let you know - they are already marinated in a yummy curry, very fragrant and I love that they are ready to use!)

(1) medium yellow onion, peeled and diced

(1) jalepeno pepper, diced with seeds (now if you like it a bit spicier, feel free to add more!)

(5) cloves garlic, minced

1/2-1 t. turmeric powder (remember this can stain, so be aware!)

1 t. chili powder

1 t. freshly grated ginger

(6) kaffir lime leaves (optional - can be found at a local Asian market - used to flavor, a bit non-edible like bay leaves)

1 can crushed tomatoes

2 large, fresh Roma tomatoes, chopped

2 T. tomato paste

1/4 cup or so of water

zest and juice of (1) lime

1/4 cup - 1/3 cups fresh cilantro, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Garnish: the greens of fresh scallions, finely chopped

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat olive oil (use enough to cover the bottom of your pan, a few tablespoons). Add the chicken tenders and cook for about 4 minutes on each side. Turn the heat down to medium and add the onion, jalepeno, and garlic. Saute for about 4 minutes, or until onion is tender and translucent. Add the turmeric, chili powder, ginger, lime leaves, chopped tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, and water. Simmer for about 5 minutes or so. Stir in lime zest and juice and cilantro. Season according to your tastes with salt and pepper.

Serve over white jasmine or basmati rice (cooked according to rice directions) and garnish with scallions. This is a nice dish paired with a dollop or two of plain, organic yogurt on the side to cool your palette . . . or. . .if you're ambitious use the yogurt to make a raita as an accompaniment! DELISH!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Spaetzle. . .where do I begin? Spaetzle took my heart quite awhile ago . . .and has had my heart ever since I ate it for the first time. . . I believe it was on my German trip with my high school German class when I was a sophomore (1986). It's a yummy, doughy German-style noodle/dumpling that, to me, it so simple to make and you can turn it into so much goodness!

I have German heritage, I was born in Bitburg, Germany in September 1970 (yes, that's lil' ol' me when I was about a year old in the picture above in a German dress and fancy leather "walking shoes"!) when my parents were stationed there in the Air Force (they loved living there and fell in love with it and I latched on to their enthusiasm to learn as much as I could about the country/town they fell in love with), and I consumed myself with learning German all four years of high school and all four years of college (I lived in Heidelberg, Germany from fall of 1988-early summer 1989 while I was a freshman in high school, studying at an International University: Schiller International University). And living in Wisconsin and considering Wisconsin my home, Wisconsin has alot of German influence as well.

I would love to share a simple spaetzle recipe with you. . .The options on how you can serve it are ENDLESS!


2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup milk

1 c all purpose flour

1/2 t salt

dash of pepper and nutmeg

To boil the spaetzle: 2 quarts water and 1 t salt

To serve, simply: 2 T butter, melted (I use European style, non salted butter!) and fresh chopped parsley (just a teaspoon or so to garnish)

Mix eggs, milk, flour, 1/2 t salt/pepper/nutmeg (batter will be thick). Heat water and 1 t salt to boiling. Press batter through a large-holed colander a few tablespoons at a time or place batter on a cutting board and "cut" the batter into the boiling water with a large, sharp knife. Stir once or twice to prevent sticking. Cook until noodles/dumplings come to the surface and are tender, approximately 5 minutes. Drain. Drizzle with melted butter and fresh chopped parsley to garnish.

*You can pan fry these noodles once they have cooked in the water and drained in butter in a saucepan, cooking until noodles become a bit crispy on the bottom! We have also served them with a yummy homemade mushroom sauce, you can use them like "regular" noodles in homemade macaroni and cheese and bake it in the oven to make it crunchy . . . YUM YUM YUM! See, the possibilities are endless.*

This is such an easy, foolproof recipe! I hope you'll give it a try!



Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Taco Tuesday. . .Oh, ok, well it's Wednesday! Taco Pasta

Ok, yes, it's actually Wednesday instead of Tuesday. . .but here's a fun way to change up Taco Tuesday . . .with a
. . .PASTA!

I am posting the recipe according to how I made it. . .with my tweaks included. A few other suggestions are at the end of the recipe!

(I did 1.5x the recipe as I have a hungry family sometimes!)

Taco Pasta

1 lb ground beef/ground turkey/ground chicken
8 oz dry pasta noodles
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
(1) 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can chili beans (or black beans or pinto beans), drained, but reserve 1/2 of the liquid for the sauce (I don't like to discard if I don't have to - seasoning is in the sauce if you're using chili beans!)
4 T taco seasoning
3 oz. cream cheese, cubed (can use "light" cream cheese, aka Neuchatel cheese)
1/2 c. sour cream (can use "light" sour cream)
salt and pepper to taste

Garnish options: 1/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese, two chopped scallions, a few T. fresh, chopped cilantro, 1-2 T. of fresh, chopped jalenpenos (depending on how spicy you'd like it!)

Bring to boil a large pot of water for the noodles. Cook pasta according to package directions. When al dente, drain. . .reserve 1/2 c. of the pasta water. Set both aside.

In the meantime, in a large skillet, cook the ground meat over medium high heat until it is no longer pink. A few minutes before the meat is cooked through, add the chopped onion and garlic (here you can add chopped green or red peppers - amount in options below). Cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add in diced tomatoes (drained), beans (drained) and taco seasoning (and another other additions, like in options list below) and let simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Stir in cream cheese cubes, sour cream, reserved liquid from can of beans, and reserved pasta water, allowing cream cheese and sour cream to melt and incorporate into a sauce. Once this happens, add in the cooked pasta. Season with salt and pepper to taste, lightly "tossing" ingredients together, simmering over medium low heat 3-5minutes to reduce the sauce a bit. Sprinkle with garnishes. . .serve! MMMMMMM Enjoy!

Options: You can totally make this a vegetarian option by omitting the meat and adding more veggies. . .frozen kernel corn for example. . .chopped red or green peppers (1/4 cup approx, add when you add onions and garlic) . . .The options could be endless! :)