a view from the laundry pile…

…it's all about perspective.

Garlic: That Positively Pungent Perennial

It seems I’ve always had somewhat of a passion for cooking, even though I frequently grumble about having to do it. Several years ago, when I needed a little extra money (like I still don’t?) I put together a very rustic cookbook entitled “Garlic: That Positively Pungent Perennial.” I was quite proud of this little book when I got it done and sold them, locally, for $5 each. I kept one copy for myself, of course, and here are a few tips and recipes from it.

My favorite way to eat garlic is…well, all of them BUT I, particularly, enjoy baked garlic. I can use it right out of the skin as a spread for freshly baked bread or stir a teaspoon or two into soup – and it freezes very well (so make lots!).

Photo by simplyrcipes.com

Photo by simplyrecipes.com

ON BAKING GARLIC: There are several different styles and designs of actual “garlic bakers” on the market. They’re relatively inexpensive (especially if you were like me and made my own…did I mention I used to be a potter?), make great gifts, and most people welcome them, even if they’ve never baked garlic before. If this is not in your budget, or you cannot possibly squeeze one more gadget into a drawer or cabinet for fear of kitchen shrapnel destroying the whole room when it finally blows, or just wouldn’t use it enough to warrant the cost, use a regular baking dish. I think the advantage of a baker is that the design (usually made of clay) cooks the garlic more evenly and keeps it moister.

If you decide to get a garlic baker, follow the manufacturers instructions. If you don’t, here’s a basic recipe when using a baking dish:

  • 4 bulbs (or “heads” – not just cloves) of Garlic
  • 4 Tbs. EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) – or whatever Olive Oil you have on hand
  • 1/4 cup Water or Stock

Preheat the oven to 350F. Peel the outer husk off the garlic bulbs leaving the cloves intact (ie: don’t separate them). Slice off the tops (the pointy end) just to expose the top of the garlic cloves by about 1/8″ inch. Prick the top of each clove several times with a knife, going about 1/2 way down into the clove. Arrange the garlic heads in a (small as possible to hold them all) baking dish and drizzle with the olive oil. Carefully pour the 1/4 cup of water around the heads and bake, covered with foil, about 1 hour. When the cloves are cool to the touch, take them apart and either peel away the rest of the husk or squeeze the cloves out of the “shells.”

NOW, what to do with all this golden goodness? Of course I have ideas. I always have ideas…

GARLIC BUTTER COOKING CUBES

  • 4 Heads Baked Garlic
  • 1/4 cup Butter, softened to room temperature

Mash together the garlic and butter, mixing well. Drop by large spoonfuls (about 2 Tbs. each) into ice-cube trays and freeze them. When frozen, pop them out into a freezer bag. You’ll always have garlic butter readily available and, with soups and stews, no need even to thaw. Just drop the cube right in the pot as your cooking. These are also great to sautee or fry up vegetables or meats. They’ll store up to 6 months in the freezer.

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ASPARAGUS WITH GARLIC BUTTER (Serves 6)

  • 1 lb. Asparagus Spears, cleaned and peeled
  • 4 Tbs. Olive Oil
  • 1 to 2 Garlic Butter Cooking Cubes (thawed)
  • Juice of 1/2 Lemon (appx. 2 Tbs.).
  • 4 Tbs. sliced Almonds (optional)

Cut the asparagus into 1″ pieces. Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil and add 2 Tbs. of the Olive Oil. Add the asparagus and boil for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water then cover with cold water and set aside. In a large frying pan add the rest of the Olive Oil and Garlic Butter Cooking Cube(s). Add the drained asparagus and cook only until it’s hot. Then transfer it to a serving dish. In the same frying pan, cook the almonds until they’re lightly browned. Add the lemon juice, stir, and pour over the asparagus. Serve right away.

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EASY GARLIC AND PARMESAN DRESSING (Makes 1 cup)

  • 3/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 Tbs. Baked Garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/8 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/4 cup Red Wine Vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1/8 tsp. ground Black Pepper

In a small bowl or lidded jar, add all the ingredients, mixing well. Keep refrigerated until you’re ready to use.

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Merry, Happy, Joyous!

wish me

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Those “in between” times

It’s not like my camera is an extension of my arm or anything (yet) but I do try to carry it with me as much as I can to give my clicker finger a regular workout.  When my schedule gets busier, though, I have a harder time finding time to take photos so I try to make the most of the moments in between everything else that’s going on.

Yesterday I had appointments, for most of the afternoon, but they all seemed to be about 30-40 minutes apart and I couldn’t see running home only to get there and have to turn around and leave again. What a perfect opportunity to practice my photography. About half-way there (wherever the next “there” happened to be), I’d stop and jump out of the car, take a few photos, and off I’d go to my next destination.

It’s been cold and rainy here (I know, how unusual for winter in the Pacific Northwest…) but I got lucky with a few breaks in the clouds that made for some interesting photos.

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Everything-but-the-kitchen-sink Dip

I love this dip. It’s quick, easy, and the ingredients are most of the things I normally have on hand — and it tastes good! (Seriously, does it get any better?). I use it as my “stand-by” for parties and such when I can’t come up with something else or I just don’t have the time to fuss with something fancier.

Kitchen Sink DipEverything-but-the-kitchen-sink Dip

Ingredients

  • 2 (8-oz) packages Cream Cheese*
  • 1 Tbs. Milk*
  • 1/2 cup Mayonnaise*
  • 1/2 cup Catsup*
  • 1/2 cup Sweet Pickle Relish* (or chopped sweet pickles)
  • 1/2 cup chopped Green Olives*
  • 1 small Onion, diced
  • 1 Green Pepper, diced
  • 1 small clove Garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs. Horseradish*
  • Dash of Worcestershire*
  • Pinch of Dry Mustard*
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

*The beauty of this particular recipe is that you can use, pretty much, whatever you have on hand. If you only use Miracle Whip, use that. If you only have wet mustard, no dry, use that. Only have light cream cheese? No problem!  I’ve also used re-hydrated onions and frozen green peppers when I didn’t have fresh. Most people have never tasted this before (they won’t know the difference!) so, use what you have available.

Directions

  1. Soften the cream cheese to room temperature (or microwave unwrapped cream cheese in a microwave-safe bowl for appx. 20-30 seconds).
  2. With a hand mixer, in a medium bowl, beat all the ingredients except the pickles, olives, onions, and peppers.
  3. When everything is very smooth, fold in the rest.
  4. This is best if refrigerated for a couple of hours or overnight (though not necessary!)
  5. Serve with crackers (I like the wheat squares the best), crudites (veggies), squares of yummy breads, or chips (heck, I think it might even be yummy on a sandwich as a spread!).  
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“Christmas Crack” (aka: Cracker Toffee)

I found this recipe online a few years ago but never tried it (the ingredients, alone, should’ve been enough to draw me in sooner — mostly because I love to try “unusual” recipes…). Then I saw it in a friend’s post on Facebook last week and I tried it at a cookie exchange this past weekend! I had no choice but to try it myself. It was calling to me.

I’ve heard it called many different things but, my FB friends “Christmas Crack” name was, by far, the best — only because she’s a quiet, little church-goer who, to the best of my knowledge, has never said a swear word in her life. And to hear her call it this really did make me laugh out loud. So, this delightful concoction has a new, ‘permanent’ name in my (cook) book. 

blog 2Christmas Crack

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup unsalted Butter (no subs on this, now, use butter)
  • 1 cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 cups Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 40 Saltine Crackers (I had none and, being the Queen of “what I have on hand,” I used 1 cellophane of Club Crackers and it turned out just fine — and I’ve heard of people using Matzo crackers, too).

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Line a 15 x 10 OR 12×17″ cookie sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray.
  3. Lay a flat layer of crackers out on the foil.
  4. Melt the sugar and butter until a boil it starts to boil.
  5. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5-6 minutes or until the mixture has thickened and the sugar is completely dissolved.
  6. Pour this mixture over the crackers and spread to evenly coat.
  7. Bake this for 8-10 minutes OR until the toffee becomes bubbly (I think it took about 5 minutes in my oven).
  8. Take the pan from the oven and let it sit 3-5 minutes. (This will be HOT and liquidy – please be careful!)
  9. Sprinkle the chocolate chips, evenly, over the whole pan.
  10. Once they’re softened and start to melt, spread the melting chocolate evenly over the whole pan.
  11. At this point, if you want, you can add chopped nuts, sprinkles, chopped marshmallows, small candies (or chopped up candy canes?) – anything that you’d like to add as a topper (I like chopped ice-cream nuts, myself).
  12. Let it cool until hardened (either on the counter or refrigerator).
  13. Break into pieces and enjoy!  Ho! Ho! Ho!
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Goood Morning!

There’s something to be said for getting up early…however, I’ll keep it nice and just say there’s a lot going on while I’m normally at home, sleeping, in my nice, warm bed.

blog1It was a crisp, cool winter morning here in the Pacific Northwest and, for whatever reason, I was inspired to go out and take a few photos. blog 2

The sun had just come up, the wind was whipping the waves up to the shore, and it was a beautiful start to the day.

blog 5It sounds kind of weird but when I walk on the pier it makes me feel like I’m in some kind of movie — the most interesting things seem to happen on piers in the movies. For example, when I walk on them, at night, the theme from Jaws always runs through my head…and I feel a need to walk down the very center while Fred rolls his eyes at me.

blog 6The cormorants were also feeling the chill in the air and decided to warm up in the morning sun. They had the right idea.

blog 3I took a few more photos, then had to get on with the rest of my day. Thanks for sharing a bit of my morning with me. Let’s do it again, soon.

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Quick and Easy Microwave Peanut Brittle

Every year, at the holidays, I make “care packages” for various family members and friends, trying to include some new recipes and “old favorites.”  One of my growing favorites is the peanut brittle. It’s so easy to make, it ships very well to those far away, and everyone seems to really love it. My secret to making it extra special? I use honey roasted peanuts. Here’s the recipe.

Quick and Easy Microwave Peanut Brittlebrittle

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 cups Honey Roasted Peanuts
  • 1 cup White Sugar
  • 1/2 cup Light Corn Syrup
  • 1 Tbs. Butter
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla (or extract)
  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda

Directions:

  1. Grease a cookie sheet (non-stick is best) with butter (not non-stick spray).
  2. In a glass microwave-safe bowl, combine the peanuts, sugar and corn syrup.
  3. Microwave, on “high” for 6-7 minutes, stirring it once at 3 minutes.
  4. Stir in the butter and Vanilla and microwave for another 2 minutes.
  5. Remove from the microwave (this will be HOT so use care — and hot pads!) and quickly stir in the baking soda. The mixture will look slightly “foamy.” Pour onto the buttered cookie sheet and spread quickly with the back of a spoon. Here’s where I toss in another of my own ideas; when the brittle is starting to cool BUT not so hot it sticks to everything (you’ll know the difference when you try this), take an oven hot pad/pot holder and put it in a plastic sandwich bag. Use this to spread the brittle nice and thin — the plastic will keep the hot pad from sticking and the hot pad will keep you from burning your fingers on the hot brittle (yes, I’m quite proud of myself for coming up with this…).
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