Archive for June, 2011

June 28, 2011

Summer Flowers

Flowers can liven up any space, indoors or out, and I love having them around. Mary and I were out shopping one day and found a cheerful arrangement of flowers for the front walk. The only problem is that I don’t garden. Seriously, I love to learn new things but this is just not something I have mastered. Something got into me and I decided to tackle the project and it turned out to be so much fun! Plus, it has been fun to see it progress. It has been a few weeks and I haven’t killed them yet. Have you planted anything fun for this summer?


Petunias, Dahlias, and Agapanthus

Once again, MiricleGro is made for people like me!

Prepping for the holes…

I cut through the weed barrier fabric in an ‘X’ shape and folded it under.

Digging holes…

I added soil to each hole to help the plants live in our clay soil.

I used a knife to divide the plants in order to get more bang for our buck!

Happy Dahlia J

The finished border.

Our flowers growing in and all spruced up for the 4th!

Now all it takes is water daily and some fertilizer every few weeks. I am still experimenting, but this is a good start.

June 24, 2011

Goin’ Back to Cali

Ali and I spent the last week visiting our original hometown of Los Angeles. We had some fabulous adventures we want to share with you, so look out for that next week! Have a fabulous weekend!

Kelly & Ali

June 17, 2011

Sopa Azteca (Tortilla Soup)

Tortilla soup is something that takes many forms now-a-days. You can have chunky or silky, low-fat or not so much. This particular version is a new favorite of ours. This is a soup made super smooth with the use of a blender with all the chunks added to the bowl. I love that you can pick your own toppings and everyone gets what they want. I tend to like this a little spicier, so I add a couple different chili (ancho and guajillo) powders to the original recipe. Not everyone loves it that way, so if you stick with the traditional dried pasilla (negro) chile, you will get a smoky, sweet, mild heat. We make chicken stock on a regular basis and I often make this using that. I really do think the homemade broth makes a big difference, but you can absolutely use store bought with great results. Add this healthy comfort food to your arsenal!


Sopa Azteca

Adapted from Rick Bayless‘ Mexican Everyday

Serves 4 to 6

Recipe from Frontera Grill/Topolobampo

1 large dried pasilla (negro) chile, stemmed and seeded

One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice (preferably fire-roasted)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium white onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick

3 garlic cloves, peeled

2 quarts chicken broth

1 large epazote sprig, if you have one (I have not tried this yet but it’s on my radar)

4 (about 1 1/4 pounds total) boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

1 large ripe avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin and cut into 1/4-inch cubes

1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) shredded Mexican melting cheese (like Chihuahua, quesadilla or asadero) or Monterey Jack, brick or mild cheddar

A generous 4 cups (about 6 ounces) roughly broken tortilla chips

1/2 cup Mexican crema, sour cream or creme fraîche for garnish

1 large lime, cut into 6 wedges, for serving

Quickly toast the chile by turning it an inch or two above an open flame for a few seconds until its aroma fills the kitchen. (Lacking an open flame, toast it in a dry pan over medium heat, pressing it flat for a few seconds, then flipping it over and pressing it again.) Break the chile into pieces and put in a blender jar along with the tomatoes with their juice. (A food processor will work, though it won’t completely puree the chile.)

Heat the oil in a medium (4-quart) saucepan over medium-high. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until golden, about 7 minutes.

Scoop up the onion and garlic with a slotted spoon, pressing them against the side of the pan to leave behind as much oil as possible, and transfer to the blender. Process until smooth.

Return the pan to medium-high heat. When quite hot, add the puree and stir nearly constantly, until thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 6 minutes.

Add the broth and epazote, if using. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and season with salt, usually about a generous teaspoon (depending on the saltiness of the broth).

Just before serving, add the chicken to the simmering broth. Divide the avocado, cheese and tortilla chips between serving bowls.

When the chicken is done, usually about 5 minutes, ladle the soup into the bowls. Garnish with the crema. Pass the lime separately.


June 12, 2011

Steak Salad for Supper

A trip to the farmer’s market left us with piles of early lettuce, arugula, French radishes and tomatoes. Instead of spending $100 on each of us getting a nice Filet, we bought one ½ pound beef tenderloin filet for $12 at the “nice” store, since we are hardly going to cook it. The question was whether to grill the steak or pan fry. I wanted this to be almost raw, a quick sear on each side to make a crust, so I didn’t know if the (disappointing Jenn-Air) gas grill would get hot enough. So I pulled out my old trusty cast iron pan. I figured, searing hot, 2 minutes per side, to break down the fat and get a nice crust. And, frankly, it came out perfect.

Prep your salad by washing and drying your lettuce. Make salad dressing by combining 2 T. good olive oil plus 1 ½ t. sherry vinegar, a crushed clove of garlic and salt and pepper. Shake well and set aside until later. You can do all this ahead and chill while you take a nap after the Farmer’s market!

After your nap, cut up tomatoes, radishes, cabbage and measure your capers and shave the Parmesan. We like to lay all the ingredients out in our salad bowl.

Next, trim off the silver skin (that the expensive store left on). Crush some peppercorns, with the heavy cast iron pan. The heavy pan will keep the pepper from flying away! Preheat the pan until SUPERhot on high. Add 1 T. Canola Oil and spread around the pan. Cover the steak with the crushed pepper and some Celtic salt. Press onto the meat so it stays on. Put the steak in the pan fat side down (on its side) for 2 minutes. It will smoke, don’t worry, just turn on your fan. Flip and cook 2 minutes per side. Let steak rest for 5 minutes.

Toss salad. Slice steak against the grain and into super thin slices.

Add cooked steak to the top of the salad. YUM!


June 8, 2011

Weeknight Dinner: Chicken Fried Rice

There are some meals that you just go back to over and over again; this is one of mine. I started making this in college because my best friend, Robin,  LOVED fried rice and we were looking for a way to make a healthy version at home. I started with this recipe from Tyler Florence but, as usual, I didn’t have all the ingredients, so I improvised. Since then, I have tweaked it and made it my own. Though I often throw in extra vegetables I have laying around or make substitutions, this is my favorite combination. The keys to this recipe are the fresh ginger and Hosin sauce, other than that, play around. We often cook extra chicken or beef on the grill to have on hand for lunch or so we have it available for recipes like this. You could also use shrimp or rotisserie chicken to make it easy. I like short grain brown rice for this, though it is traditionally made with white rice, there is enough flavor that people don’t notice the substitution. Plus, I think the brown rice gives it a nice bite. This is such a versatile recipe and super easy to make!


Chicken Fried Rice


2 cups short-grain brown rice

4 cups cold water

1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and sliced in 1/2

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon sesame or olive oil

1 teaspoon Mongolian Fire Oil (optional)

4 scallions, sliced thin (reserve some of the green part for garnish)

1 (1-inch) piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 cup sugar snap peas, chopped

1 cup pineapple, cubed

½ red bell pepper, chopped

1 egg, lightly beaten

¼ cup orange juice

3-5 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce

1 ½ tablespoons hoisin sauce

2 chicken breasts, cooked and chopped

In a pot with a tight fitting lid, add the rice and 4 cups cold water. Put in the ginger and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside for about 10 minutes. (I usually use a rice cooker so I don’t have to watch it, but you can prepare on the stovetop).

While the rice is cooking, prep the vegetables and chicken. Try to make all the pieces roughly the same size so they cook evenly.

Heat a wok or large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot, pour in the sesame oil. Add the scallions, ginger, and garlic; stir-fry for 1 minute until fragrant.

Stir in the vegetables and orange juice leaving out the pineapple and cook for about 2 minutes.

Stir in the chicken to reheat, about 1-2 minutes.

Remove the ginger from the rice and add the rice and pineapple to the wok; stir everything together and break up any clumps of rice.

Add the soy and hoisin and stir some more.

Pour in the egg and stir-fry until cooked, about 1-2 minutes. Taste for seasoning and add more soy sauce if needed.

Stir in the additional green onion and serve.

June 6, 2011

Learning French Gardening

AKA Container Gardening

Our local florist, Sturtz and Copeland, offers a variety of gardening classes. This week we took the French gardening class. We learned that there are three fundamental aesthetics for plants in container gardening: thrillers, fillers, and spillers. The thrillers tend to add height and interest to your pot and can be positioned in the center or off-center, depending on the pot. Fillers, like they sound, are the meat of the arrangement. They add volume, color, texture, etc. to your container. Fillers can be chosen to complement your container, the surroundings where your pot will live, or the other plants you are using. Spillers are what they are: trailing, pretty, cover the pot a little and soften the edges. The first decision you have to make is where your pot is going. This will dictate what kind of plants can live in your area. You can play around with containers that fit your space and taste. Most containers use annuals, but you can certainly play around. Basically, you can be as creative as you want with these guidelines in mind. Some of the best tips we learned were:

  • In order to keep the weight of a large pot down and not waste “good” soil, you can use large pieces of Styrofoam as filler in the bottom of the pot. Start with a few pieces of terracotta for good drainage and then add the Styrofoam. You really need about 12″ of soil for annuals.
  • Use good potting mix and remember to water and fertilize your pots. If you feel comfortable, you can mix water crystals and a time release fertilizer like Ozmaocote at the root level into the soil. Or, if you are like us, you might go to Costco and get the giant size of Miracle-Grow potting soil and the fertilizer that attaches to your hose. I would love to feel comfortable mixing my own soil concoctions, but getting the pots done at all is an accomplishment.
  • Utilize the rule of three. Think three fillers, three spillers, and alternate them. Really, when it comes to plants, remember to use odd numbers.
  • Don’t be afraid to spread out the roots of your plants! You need to make sure they are ready to grow normally and not in circles like when they are root bound.
  • Read the tags on your plants so you know which ones to choose. Just knowing what size your plants will get will help you to gauge how many and what types of plants you need.
  • Lay your plants out in your pot once the soil is prepped to gauge the best composition. Play with it and have fun!

These are our creations in progress:

We will post updates as our French Container Gardens fill in and mature!

Mary & Kelly

June 5, 2011

We Won’t Take A Dime If We Ain’t Earned It.

It’s Sunday Funday and its time for the ‘Song of the Week’!

Today’s song is ‘Way Out Here’ written by David Lee Murphy, Casey Beathard and written and performed by Josh Thompson. The song peaked at #15 on the Hot Country Songs Charts.

Find it on Josh Thompson’s Debut album also titled ‘Way Out Here’

This song describes the America I live in, we live in and we should keep living in. Based on exactly what Teddy Roosevelt described:

“Americanism means the virtues of courage, honor, justice, truth, sincerity, and hardihood. – The virtues that made America.”

Teddy Roosevelt


June 2, 2011

Burgers and Buns

In preparation for the holiday weekend, Friday at lunch I pulled together some hamburger bun dough. I know this seems insane, since I work full time. If I didn’t have a KitchenAid, I wouldn’t do it. It only took about 15 minutes to do.

Instead of letting it rise, punching down, etc. I put the dough in the fridge to be dealt with later.

The buns are from Peter Reinhart’s book “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread.” I chose version 2 only because I didn’t have any whole milk in the house but I had some buttermilk. I think I would like to try the recipe with whole milk because I thought these came out a little crumbly, but I live at altitude. But, it’s totally worth making these even if it is the only bread you make.


Homemade Hamburger Buns

4 ¼ c. unbleached bread flour

1 ½ tsp. salt

3T sugar

2 tsp. instant yeast

1 large egg, slightly beaten at room temperature

¼ c Butter, margarine or shortening at room temp.

1 ½ buttermilk or whole milk at room temperature

1 egg wisked with 1tsp water until frothy, for egg wash

Sesame or poppy seeds for garnish

  1. Mix together flour, sugar, salt and yeast in the electric mixer. Pour in the egg, butter and 1 ½ cups plus 1T water. Mix on low speed with the paddle attachment till all flour is absorbed and the dough forms a ball. If the dough seems very stiff and dry, trickle in more water until the dough is soft and supple.

  2. Mix on med. Speed with the dough hook adding more flour if necessary to create a dough that is soft, supple and tacky but not sticky. Continue mixing for 6-8 minutes. The dough should clear the sides of the bowl, but stick slightly to the bottom. Dough should pass the windowpane test and register 80°F. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
  3. Ferment at room temperature for 1 ½ or 2 hours or until double in bulk (the length of time will depend on the room temperature).

  4. Remove the fermented dough, turn onto a floured board and divide into 12-3 oz. pieces. Shape pieces into tight rounds. Mist the dough lightly with spray oil and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Allow to rest about 20 minutes.

  5. Line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment or a Silpat. Gently press down on the rolls to form desired shape. Transfer to the sheet pans.

  6. Mist tops of the dough with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Proof the dough at room temperature for 60-90 minutes or until it nearly doubles in size.
  7. Preheat oven to 400°F. Brush the buns with the egg wash and garnish with poppy or sesame seeds if desired.

  8. Bake the buns for approximately 15 minutes, or until golden brown and register just above 180°F in the center.

  9. Buns should cool for about 15 minutes before serving.

Gourmet Burgers

Burgers are one of those things that you can make into whatever you want. There are endless combinations and ideas for what you can make them out of, stuff them with, or top them with. Take these as options as suggestions, but make them your own. Be as creative as you can!

Serves 6

2 ¼ Lb. Ground Beef

Salt & Pepper



Shredded Parmesan Cheese for Frico

Blue Cheese

Onion Jam



Homemade BBQ Sauce (Stay Tuned…)

Divide the meat into 6 oz. portions. Shape into balls then press into hamburgers gently trying not to compact the meat too tightly. Make a slight indentation with your thumb in the middle of each patty (one side only). If possible, let rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Season the patties with coarse salt and pepper. Grill over high heat for 4-5 minutes, flip and cook on the other side for 3-4 minutes. Remove from grill and let sit covered for 5 minutes before serving. Top with any combination of ingredients that suits your fancy! Some suggestions: BBQ with Blue Cheese or Onion Jam with Frico. What are your favorites?

To make Frico, heat a nonstick pan over medium heat. Add ¼ c. of cheese to the center of the pan. Let cook until the cheese firms up enough to flip it over. Take a spatula and gently flip the frico, let crisp on the other side. Remove from pan and let cool on a Silpat or parchment. The frico will be pliable when warm and you can place it over a bowl or cup to shape it for other uses. For burgers, just let cool into a disc to be placed on top.

Burger with frico and onion jam…yum!

Do your life to spice up your burger or do you prefer something more traditional? Tell me about your favorites!!


June 1, 2011

Great-Grandma’s German Potato Salad

This recipe is a long time family favorite from my great-grandma. She emigrated from Hungary in the early 1900’s with her mother and 8 siblings. With another family with 9 kids, they made the tough journey through Ellis Island to St. Louis to join the fathers who had already come to America to work. It really is quite the story with the 18 children all miraculously being well enough to make it through Ellis Island at the same time. Then on the train trip, the mothers got off the train to get some food for the children and the train left without them. None of them spoke English, but as always told in the family, “panicked mother is a universal language” and they were somehow reunited, and here we are four generations later. Anywho…back to the recipe!

According to my aunt, Great-Grandma always said if you are making this for children; add a little extra sugar to cut the tartness of the vinegar. I never liked traditional potato salad since I am not a huge fan of mayonnaise, but this was something I always looked forward to. I love the crunch the celery and onion added to the soft potatoes. Not to mention, bacon makes everything better! The sweet and sour dressing is a childhood memory that always brings back memories. I remember making it with my grandma and lots of us helping. Always such fun! It is a little time consuming, but worth the effort as it makes a large amount and keeps well. Let us know what you think!


“Grandma always used to make this for picnics with fried chicken. I remember when I was too little to like the potato salad, Grandma would leave a few boiled potatoes out for me, and sprinkle them with salt.”


German Potato Salad

10 Small Potatoes

1 Onion

2 Celery Sticks

2 t. Salt

5 Slices Bacon

½ c. Water

½ c. White Vinegar

4 T. Sugar

2 T. Flour

2 T. Parsley (finely chopped)

Boil potatoes for 45 min. Drain and allow to stand covered for 30 minutes. Chop the bacon, fry until crisp, then drain on paper towels. Pour off half the grease. Add to it water, vinegar and sugar. Thicken sauce with a slurry of the flour and a couple tablespoons of water. Finely chop the celery and onion. Slice the cooled potatoes and combine with vegetables and bacon in a LARGE bowl (trust me on this one). Pour the dressing over the potato mixture and mix gently, trying not to break up the potatoes too much. Add the chopped parsley. Taste and adjust seasonings. Can be served immediately while warm or made ahead and refrigerated.

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