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best intensions

Trying something new, a Watermelon Cake
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August 7, 2020   No Comments

fig & plum compote

Timing is everything and my timing for the most recent fig harvest was not good. Not good at all.

I had about 5 days of using ripe figs from my 4 trees on Harmony Boards when I once again made the decision to temporarily close due to the alarming jump in Covid-19 cases and deaths in Arizona. What to do with all of the figs?!? Honestly, the birds are feasting like never before and Connor’s dog, Ellie, enjoys the fallen figs when she visits but I am still left with baskets full of ripe and overripe figs to deal with.

I had other ripening fruit I’d purchased for boards in my refrigerator, one of those being plums, so the best option was to make fig and plum compote. It’s quick and easy and will be great to put on boards once I start up again. I shared the process in stories on the Harmony Boards Instagram page, I’ve saved it in the highlights if you’d like to take a look. Please go give the page a follow if you haven’t already. One of the best ways to support small business is to follow and share from said small business’ social media pages. Instagram is where over 75% of my orders come from!

If you decide to make it, the compote is not only delicious as an accouterment on a charcuterie board but would also be fantastic on grilled pork, chicken, ham, etc. Add a tablespoon to a basic vinaigrette. Use as the base for a sweet pizza that includes prosciutto, peaches, chèvre or blue cheese, walnuts, and minced rosemary, topped with arugula. (now my mouth is watering) Or simply spread on your morning toast.

Fig & Plum Compote

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup of diced onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups trimmed and halved fresh figs
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped fresh plums
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Heat olive oil over low heat in a medium pot. Add the onions and reduce the heat to as low as it will go and sauté for 15 minutes, stirring often. Add the thyme, salt and pepper and continue to cook, stirring often for another 15 minutes until the onions are just beginning to caramelize. Remove from heat before the onions brown.

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July 22, 2020   5 Comments

halfway through 2020 …

Be sure to read to the end. I have a tip that will change your life if you love fresh flowers in your home!

Remember back in March when we were all stuck in our homes and cooking became THE thing to do? I was cooking, writing, snapping photos, and blogging like a madwoman.

Well here we are at the beginning of July, still, or once again, stuck in our homes but now it’s over 100 degrees outside and the last thing I want to do is cook. I’m only selling Harmony Boards Thursdays – Sundays, so there are often fruits and vegetables that must be used up on Monday. The solution to that is smoothies, soup, soup, and more soup.

At last count, I’ve posted over 80 soup recipes, so adding several more doesn’t seem like the thing to do. As I’ve shared before, to make a smooth and creamy soup with any vegetable; simply sauté some diced onion with diced celery and carrot, add the main vegetable of choice, such as asparagus- basil (photos above), pour in a box of chicken broth, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until said vegetable is tender, season, blend and enjoy.

I can’t have people over, so no use in firing up the grill, it’s too damn hot to turn on the oven and I’m still not 100% sure if I’ll be able to escape this nearly surface of the sun local on the 1st of August as I usually do. California may or may not allow us “Zonies” in and I’m not yet certain if my timeshare in Carlsbad will shut down again before I can get there. Yes, things are feeling not so wonderful here in the Hopkins’ Cave.

The one thing guaranteed to always make me feel better, to feel loved, and to feel human, is to have fresh flowers in my main living area. In the kitchen, breakfast room, and living room. If there are pitchers filled with gorgeous blooms, Arizona summers are tolerable. Barely, but barely is better than nothing!

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July 3, 2020   6 Comments

arancello, limoncello, candied citrus peel, oh my

In early 2010 I posted the recipe for Limoncello. It actually consisted of three posts because the process to make the sweet Italian liqueur takes nearly 3 months.

Limoncello circa 2010

After using bits of it here and there in dessert recipes and occasionally enjoying it as an after-dinner delight, the last of that batch was consumed in late 2019. That’s correct, it took nearly 10 years to get to the last drop. Limoncello is stored in the freezer, so no worries about it going bad, even 10 years later.

I doubled down with this year’s citrus crop and not only made a new batch of Limoncello but a batch of Arancello as well, which is the orange counterpart to the lemons used in Limoncello. (arancia is Italian for orange)

This go-round, I funneled both batches in smaller bottles that I can give away. As much as I love it, I do not need to have a supply of Arancello and Limoncello circa 2020 in my freezer when we ring in the year 2040!

Another difference between 2010 and 2020 is that I did not throw out the citrus peels after the final bottling stage, I candied them. Another fabulous byproduct is the sweet orange and lemon syrups left from the candying process.

To make the Arancello, follow the three-step directions of this recipe for Limoncello.

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June 26, 2020   No Comments

Thai wraps

As has been our tradition for over 20 years, Peggy, Anne, and I get together for our birthdays. Peggy’s is in the winter, mine is in the fall and Anne’s is in the summer. Most often we go to a restaurant but with social distancing still of large concern, gathering at my house, in the pool to be exact, seemed like the best option. Yay for sun and chlorine!

Peggy was in charge of dessert along with our joint gift and card. I was in charge of dinner. It’s summer and it’s hot, so something cool and refreshing, that we could enjoy while wading the pool, seemed like the way to go. PLUS, I’ve been dying to try out the new floating “Harmony Board” I purchased several months ago.

I used pre-cooked sticky rice from Costco. It comes in an 8-pack and can be found in the same aisle as the dry rice. It takes only 90 seconds to heat in the microwave. I used 2 packages for this meal.

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June 15, 2020   4 Comments

easy-breezy chile mac & cheese

June 3, 2020   3 Comments

chicken thighs

I often prefer cooking chicken thighs over chicken breasts. Thighs are juicy, more flavorful, and don’t dry out. I use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs most often.

The thing I don’t like about using skin-on chicken pieces is all the extra skin that is left on when you bring them home from the store.

Use your kitchen shears to trim off all that extra skin and discard.

This dish comes together in a snap, it only takes about 15 minutes to prep and is in the oven for about 45 minutes while you prepare the rest of the dinner. I like to serve the thighs and their rich herb sauce over couscous.

When you use the side of your chef’s knife to lightly smash the garlic cloves, you are looking for each clove to break up slightly, making each clove come apart into 2 or 3 smaller pieces. You don’t want to obliterate them, use a light touch.

Please don’t be alarmed by the expiration date on the package, this photo is off a post from nearly 6 years ago.

You can purchase the pancetta at Trader Joe’s. It comes in a convenient 4-ounce package and already diced into the perfect size. Simply open the package and scatter over then chicken when called for.

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June 1, 2020   3 Comments

easy paper-snowflake craft

I honestly can’t recall the last time I posted a craft. You may recall that I used to host craft parties at my home each spring and fall from 2012 – 2014. My last party was nearly six years ago on October 12, 2014. How does that much time go by so quickly? I decided to get crafty for my son, Connor’s, birthday dinner and make some paper snowflakes out of brown paper lunch bags.

I had purchased a huge package of the lunch sacks at Smart & Final to use at Chanté and Cody’s wedding, but that project was abandoned, leaving me with 250 paper bags. I knew that they would come in handy one of these days!

This was the tablescape for Connor’s intimate family Birthday Dinner. Recipes in the coming days.

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May 28, 2020   No Comments

up your box cake mix game

My son, Connor, celebrated his 29th birthday on Sunday. He requested a chocolate cake. Even though I hate to bake, I generally make cakes from scratch. Instead, I decided to use a box mix and share a secret on how you can use a cake mix and make it as rich and fancy as any scratch cake.

To do this, you are going to substitute and increase these basic cake mix add-in ingredients.

  • Use the same amount of milk or half-and-half in place of the water.
  • Substitute the same amount of melted unsalted butter for the vegetable oil.
  • Increase the number of eggs from 3 to 5. Follow the directions on the box for mixing and baking.

Another change I made was to use one 8-inch cake pan, a 6-inch cake pan and a 4-inch ramekin in place of the usual two 8-inch round cake pans.

Of course the baking times for the smaller pans needed to be adjusted.

Once the cake layers were cool, I sliced off the tops to even them out and then cut each cake layer in half horizontally.

Next, each layer was spread with chocolate pudding purchased at Trader Joe’s, leaving about 1-inch bare.

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May 26, 2020   5 Comments

handmade crackers

I must admit, making crackers at home doesn’t seem like something one needs to do. There are so many delicious cracker varieties to choose from, why bother?

Turns out, crackers are quick and easy to make, so if you don’t feel like hopping in the car if all you need is a few crackers, why not make your own? You most likely have everything needed in your pantry. Flour, sugar, salt and olive oil along with a little cold water. Add Parmesan and fresh rosemary and you can have fancy handmade crackers.

There are several toppings you may sprinkle on the crackers before baking. I used my Fresh Italian Herb Salt, but use whatever you prefer.

I also used my cool cactus rolling pin because I have no idea when I’ll ever use it to make cookies. It didn’t leave any sort of markings since the dough is not smooth or soft enough to hold a pattern. Oh well, I tried. I guess sugar cookies are going to have to be made after all.

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May 22, 2020   3 Comments