Spring Couscous Salad

Cous cous with asparagus and peas

Cous cous with asparagus and peas

If you haven’t made couscous before because it sounds fancy- schmancy and hard to make, you won’t believe how easy, and quick it is to make! This little pearly pasta is fairly healthy as well, depending how you cook it up.  And I think I did a pretty good job of keeping it fresh and light. [Read more...]

Perfect Glazed Easter Ham

Easter glazed ham

Glazed Easter ham

We keep our ham pretty simple and traditional at Easter.

I always like to learn about traditions and did some reading on how “ham” came to be what’s featured on many an Easter table every year.

Apparently back in the good ol’ days when everyone didn’t have an electrically-charged refrigerator in their kitchen, pork was cured throughout the long winter months and the first hams were ready…

Right around Easter!
Pineapple glazed Easter H am

I confess to you, we don’t eat a lot of pork in general at our household, except that magical food that unites us all in the culinary world – bacon.

If I were to purchase an entire whole ham, we would be partitioning it out into bags for the freezer the next week, so, I don’t usually get anything larger than a 10-pound ham, and I get the hickory-smoked version with the bone still in it.

Uncooked Easter ham

The spiral sliced hams are wonderful,but arguably let the ham dry out somewhat, as they have all this slices cut through them to the bone and man o man are they pricey as well! You can still make a great ham using this method without buying one though! here we go!

I also HAVE to do the traditional “cut the diamond shapes and stick a clove in the center of each one” thing.   It just makes it so pretty when you’re done.

I took my ham and using a large knife, cut through the layer of skin and fat on top about ¼ inch spaced one inch a apart.

Easter glazed ham

Next, I turned my knife around and angled it in a diamond with the other cuts. This is kind of fun to do when you get going.

Recipe for Easter glazed ham

Next, I stuck one clove in the center of each exposed diamond.  Sometimes the cloves are brittle and break so you can use a skewer or even the tip of a point knife to make a guide hole for the clove.

Cloves in ham

I pour one can of pineapple juice over top of the ham to keep it moist while baking.

Pour pineapple juice over ham

I get the 6-pack of 6 ounce cans and keep them handy for marinades so I just used one of these (you’ll need another two for the glaze).

Loosely tent foil over the top to seal it shut on your pan and put this in the oven on 350º for 2 hours, but depending on the size of your ham, follow the package directions.

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I took mine out every half hour for the first hour and ½ and used a spoon to pour the juices from the bottom of the pan over the entire ham, then covered it and stuck it back in to roast some more.

Easter Ham Glaze

While it’s baking, you can get the glaze made.

Dump two more cans of pineapple juice in a medium saucepan and add 8 ounces of brown sugar (or 1 cup or ½ of a 16-ounce package) and 2/3 cup of coarse ground mustard. That’s it. You don’t need to do anything fancy, unless, you want to be naughty and add a splash or two of bourbon.  That would be really good.

Recipe for Easter ham glaze

Take a whisk and mix this all up and then set it on the stove on medium high heat until it comes to a boil. Then turn it down a bit so that it simmers and reduces by half and gets thicker.   This should take about 20 minutes and if you remove it from the heat, it will thicken up even more.

Ham glaze

After one and one-half hours, your ham will look like the pale fleshy-pink and non-exciting thing that it is…but don’t worry.

Unglazed ham

Adding glaze to a ham creates a magical glossy wonder that fixes it up…and quick!

Take a brush and generously brush the sticky syrupy glaze all over every side of the ham.

Glazing ham

Make sure you even get the cut side with the bone if you’re using a half ham like me.

Glazing ham

Pop it back into the oven for 15 minutes and then take it out and glaze it again.

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You’ll want to do this every 15 minutes for another hour, or four more basting times.

Then take it out and use an electric knife or very sharp knife to cut the ham thinly down to the bone and all around the ham.

I think it’s rather beautiful don’t you?
Pineapple glazed Easter H am

I mean, who needs a centerpiece when you have this?

Perfect Glazed Easter Ham
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 12
 
Ingredients
  • 1 ham, hickory smoked 8-10 pounds)
  • 30-40 whole cloves
  • 3 (6 oz.) cans pineapple juice (or 2¼ c.), divided
  • ⅔ c. Whole grain mustard
  • 1 c. Brown sugar
  • Optional ½ c. Bourbon
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Cut diamond shapes in ham by using a large sharp knife to score down about ¼ inch all the way across the ham where it will be exposed. Angle the knife and go back across the ham to make diamond shapes.
  3. Poke a clove in center of each diamond. Use the tip of a skewer or pointy knife to make a hole to stick the clove in if necessary.
  4. Pour one six ounce can (or ¾ cups of pineapple juice over top of ham laid in a 9 x 13 baking dish.
  5. Tent the dish with foil and bake ham for 2 hours making sure to baste it with juices from the pan every half hour.
FOR THE GLAZE
  1. mix remaining two cans of pineapple juice (or 1½ cups) together with brown sugar and mustard (and bourbon, if using) in medium saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. When sauce boils, turn it down and simmer it until it reduces by half. Around 15-20 minutes.
  3. After ham cooks for two hours, remove and brush with glaze all over all sides then return to oven for fifteen minutes
  4. Repeat this three times for and hour or four glaze times.
  5. Let ham I rest 15 minutes before carving

Mini Carrot Cake Cookie Cups

Mini carrot cake cookie cups

Mini carrot cake cookie cups

These little cookie cups are just one little bite, perfect for Easter and are kid and adult friendly alike.

For the adult and the child, one can limit oneself to one delicious little bite or eat two or three to make a normal cookie size. Kids will love the little cupcake-looking cookie bites, and they won’t even realize they’re eating spring carrots that have been grated into them and healthy oats as well!

Carrot cake cookie cups
It’s the best of both worlds …..

Vegetables…..and cookies!

One word of advice here, when you grate your carrots (it took about four large carrots for this recipe), make sure you use the smaller holes on your box grater instead of the large ones you might usually use to grate cheese. They should be thin little wisps of carrots. If you use the smallest holes, you might end up with mush so try them all and aim for the little wisps. You can see the difference below.

Grate carrots for carrot cake

Once you get those grated, it’s a simple mix of dry ingredients.

Dry ingredients carrot cake

And another mix of wet ingredients. Add them all together and mix in the carrots, nuts and the oats.

Wet ingredients

Then scoop them into mini muffin tins.

Scoop carrot cake cookies

You can use cute spring liners, but if you put them straight into a sprayed muffin tin, the edges get crispier and more cookie – like.

Bake them in a 350° oven for about seven minutes.

Bake carrot cake cookies

Then check them with a toothpick. If it come out clean, remove them and let them cool about thirty minutes. If it doesn’t come out clean, check them again in 2-3 minutes.

Carrot cake cookies cool

Whip up the simple cream cheese frosting and pipe it on top when they cool.

Frost carrot cake cookies

To make them extra cute, sprinkle them with orange sprinkles.

image

And then, top them with a green M & M or a jelly bean to look like carrots.

Carrot cake cookie cups

M & M even makes a carrot cake version right now.

Carrot cake m & m's

Perfect!

Happy Easter baking everyone!

Mini Carrot Cake Cookie Cups
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
 
Ingredients
FOR THE COOKIES
  • 1 c. butter
  • ¾ c. brown sugar
  • ¾ c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 c. flour
  • 2 c. oats
  • ½ t. baking soda
  • ½ t. baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 t. cinnamon
  • 1 t. ground ginger
  • ½ t. nutmeg
  • 2 c. oats
  • ½ c. carrots, finely shredded
  • ½ c. Chopped walnuts or pecans (Optional)
FOR THE CREAM CHEESE FROSTING:
  • 4 T. butter (1/2 stick)
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • Optional – orange sprinkles and green jelly beans or M&M’s
Instructions
COOKIE DIRECTIONS:
  1. Preheat oven to 350º
  2. Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy
  3. Add eggs and vanilla and beat about one minute
  4. In a medium-sized bowl, add flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and mix with whisk
  5. Add half of dry mixture to butter/sugar mixture and beat about 20 seconds. Repeat with other half of dry mixture.
  6. Turn mixer to low and add carrots, nuts (if using) and oats.
  7. Line muffin tins with baking cups or spray with baking spray.
  8. Using two spoons or a small cookie scoop, fill trays ⅔ full
  9. Bake in oven 7 minutes. Check center of one cookie with to see if toothpick comes out clean
  10. Cool at least 30 minutes.
CREAM CHEESE FROSTING DIRECTIONS:
  1. Combine butter, cream cheese, vanilla, and powdered sugar in a large bowl and beat with a hand mixer until fluffy
  2. Spoon icing into a piping bag or baggie with corner cut off and pipe onto each cookie cup. Sprinkle with orange sprinkles and top with green candy to make carrot “stem”

Check out what other wonderful food bloggers made that are kid friendly for Food Network’s Sensational Sides this week!

Feed Me Phoebe: Mushy Pea Toasts with Mint
Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Roasted Asparagus with Parmesan Crust
Big Girls, Small Kitchen: Chocolate Milk with Homemade Chocolate Syrup
Bacon and Souffle: Kid-Friendly No-Boil Quick and Easy Mac and Cheese
Weelicious: Italian Asparagus Sticks
Devour: 5 Kid-Friendly Cupcakes
Cooking With Elise: 6 Kid-Friendly Sensational Sides
Dishin & Dishes: Mini Carrot Cake Cookie Cups
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Cream of Mushroom Soup (for Zola)
Red or Green: Busy Mom’s Chicken Tacos
Domesticate Me: Cheesy Baked Penne with Chicken and Broccoli
The Sensitive Epicure: PB&J and Apples Rice Paper Roll-Up (Gluten-Free)
FN Dish: Side Dishes Your Kids Will Love

The Beatnix Cafe

The_Beatnix_Cafe.JPG

The_Beatnix_Cafe.JPG
The Beatnix Café is an eclectic little café on the Southeast corner of NW 13th Street and Robinson Avenue (fronting on 13th Street) owned by my dear friend Sandra Ceballos.

If you happen to walk into The Beatnix Café, you will experience her smiling face and sweet countenance immediately.

You might say this review is partial, as Sandra is my friend, but you might also say that I have tasted her cooking, and she makes a wicked-mean green sauce. In fact, I’m hoping I can pry that recipe out of her hands in return for this write-up. I will be sworn to secrecy.

I will take the secret to my grave.

I promise.

Shoot, I am not beneath bribery for a fabulous green sauce recipe, plain and simple.

Tucked right in the middle of a beauty salon and Floral and Hardy florist (I love this name!), The Beatnix is a quaint little neighborhood spot for locals to stop for a quick breakfast , lunch, or my favorite – the coffee and tea offerings.

Recently remodeled into a mix of whimsical vintage and charming Bohemian, The Beatnix is a fun hangout as well, for those who want to start their morning by utilizing the free wifi at the computer station facing out onto the street while sipping a frothy cup of chai or to snack on a sandwich wrap for lunch.

The breakfast menu at Beatnix ranges from breakfast burritos to muffins, to the Beatnix Bongo Bar – an all natural-made-in-house breakfast bar made of oatmeal, pecans, almonds, sesame and flax seed and peanut butter among other things. Or you might pick from a deli sandwich, wrap, soup or salad at lunch with offerings like The Cool Cat Reuben or the Groovy Grilled Chicken Wrap.

There will also be a daily offering such as Chicken Quesadillas, Mexican Torta on toasted bolillo bread, or Chile Rellenos with homemade Hot Sauce.

You’ll notice a south-of-the-the-border touch at The Beatnix, something new that was introduced when Sandra took over ownership, and we can only hope she continues to throw some of these in more and more as time progresses to add some new flair while keeping old favorites around as well.

The daily offering might include a homemade red sauce and, avocados are always welcome as an addition to any item, a fact that I am deeply thankful for.

We usually go for breakfast on Saturdays, and we love the straight-forward breakfast burritos served up by The Beatnix. I add avocado to mine and ask for the spinach wrap. Mr. Wonderful sticks with the original burrito and both come filled with sausage and egg. Here’s the kicker – if you get the breakfast burrito, I insist you try something.

You MUST order the previously mentioned green sauce.

Do you hear me? There is no choice here so just do it.
I mean, I really am not being bossy. I just hate for anyone to miss out on this!

You’ll thank me when you do.

The green sauce is a blend of avocado and some sort of mildly spicy goodness and it’s just delicious. The four of us at our table just kept spooning it into our burritos after each bite. And if you go for lunch and you happen to be fortunate enough to be there on a hotdog day? Get it on your hotdog!

There are numerous coffee and loose leaf tea choices so be patient and wait, like I did, for your Madagascar vanilla tea to steep in a French press contraption.

Or if coffee is your thing, order an espresso or latte and enjoy sipping it while you eat. Sandra and her staff have been taking care to get schooled in the ways of becoming baristas and he coffee drinks are ever improving.


Or for you Redbull fans, try this instead. And iced Yerba Mate with Ginseng and Guarana. It comes in both the hot or cold variety and is made with healthy soy. You won’t be picking yourself up off the floor 2 hours later after this bev.
Yerba Mate Beatnix Cafe

I hope you’ll give The Beatnix Café a try soon.

You will put me one step closer to getting that recipe.

The Beatnix Cafe
134 NW 13th Street
Oklahoma City
OK 73103
604-0211

Need directions to The Beatnix Cafe? Here’s a map to help you!

The Beatnix Cafe on Urbanspoon

My Little Greenhouse – Part Two

Greenhouse

Greenhouse

Here are a few new things Mr. Wonderful has done in the greenhous.

(Read My Little Greenhouse Part I here)

There is a pegboard for my gardening tools at the end.

pegboard greenhouse

I don’t need to dig through the shed anymore to find my favorite trowel.  There is a giant scoop for scooping dirt into seed trays.

IMG_2599

We are still trying to devise a way to store my mixed potting soil somewhere inside. Maybe a pull-out drawer or bin?

There are places and spaces on the pebbled floor for pots and saucers.

IMG_2593

There will be plenty of room to pull other pots inside to protect them from any nasty weather that might upset their apple cart.

There are plastic drawers to store garden ties, markers tape or gardening gloves. We opted for plastic to protect against frequent water spraying happening inside.

organization shelves

This is perhaps the thing I am most excited about inside though, although EVERYTHING tends to excite me about the greenhouse.

Mr. Wonderful, being the ever proficiently wonderful guy that he is, set me up inside with a watering system.

The thought of dragging a hose inside the door every day was a little disheartening, so he hooked up a quick connect to our hose.

Then he cut a hole at the bottom of the greenhouse and put another hose inside with just the end sticking out. Both ends have a quick connect on them so that I can snap them together in a flash before I head into the greenhouse to water.

water system greenhouse

Once inside there is  a wand that hangs from one of the shelves.

IMG_2596

The wand has a “mist” setting that is absolutely perfect for watering delicate seed trays and seedlings.

sprayer collage

And guess what? After planting 700 flowers Saturday afternoon?

I have little babies coming up.

IMG_2590

How exciting is that?!

greenhouse

I love our little greenhouse!

Honey Mustard Chicken and Potatoes

Honey mustard chicken and potatoes

 

Honey mustard chicken and potatoes

“Spring” and “Cleaning” tend to go hand in hand, and what better time to clean out your pantry than spring?

This is one of those dishes that has already become a family favorite with us.
Honey mustard and chicken
It started with me scrounging around the pantry and refrigerator to see what we had on a night we sorely needed groceries.  You know, one of those nights where you think about combining odd things in your kitchen because you have nothing else left?  Like “Hmmm, I wonder if fish sauce, agave nectar and orange marmalade would be good?”

Nahhh, probably NOT!

So I started opening cupboards to see what I could add to chicken for something different.

Two things we always have as staples in our pantry are good mustard and honey. My mom brings us enormous jars of local honey from where she lives in Michigan. She gets them dirt cheap, as in $8/jar or something.

On the note of mustard, I am not really fond of plain old yellow mustard except occasionally on a soft pretzel or when at a ballpark on a hotdog, but even then I always prefer good mustard over it. I tend to favor a good Dijon or Whole-grain country-style mustard as my choice and had a jar of each hanging around at home.

Most people know what Dijon mustard is but whole-grain is perhaps a little less known. Whole grain is, just like it sounds. The mustard seed is left whole and it really adds to the sharpness of the mustard. The flavor is much deeper and lends beautifully to saucing meats like chicken or pork, so I mixed both kinds of mustard together and began working on flavoring a sauce to cook my chicken, potatoes and one lone red pepper and onion I found hanging out in the vegetable bin.

It is so simple to put this dish together.   I am not going to show you every little step to insult your intelligence.
Before and after honey mustard chicken

Just lay 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs in the bottom of a 9 X 13 baking dish.  Add in about 20 small to medium sized potatoes. You could use small red potatoes or yellow potatoes. The ones I used were about the size of a ping pong ball.
image

Cut them in half and tuck them in between the chicken.  It’s ok if they all don’t fit on the bottom of the pan.  Then slice up one large yellow onion and one red pepper into thin half circle slices. Scatter them evenly over top of the chicken and potatoes.
image
Now – make this simple sauce by adding ½ cup of Dijon mustard and ½ cup of whole-ground mustard, one cup of honey and a splash (about a tablespoon) of balsamic vinegar. Stir it up with a whisk and pour it evenly around the baking dish.  Top it with foil and bake it in a 400º oven for about an hour or until you can stick a fork in the potatoes and the largest one you can find is soft.
image
Add a nice green salad or a green vegetable side dish and toast up some bread and you have a beautifully rustic and delicious meal for your family.
Honey mustard chicken n potatoes

I hope yours enjoys it as much as ours did!

Honey Mustard Chicken and Potatoes
Author: 
Recipe type: Main Dish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Ingredients
  • 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 20-24 small red or yellow potatoes, sliced in half, skins on
  • 1 large onion, slice thinly
  • 1 red pepper, sliced thinly
  • ½ c. Dijon mustard
  • ½ c. Whole ground mustar1 c. Honey
  • 1 T. Balsamic vinegar
  • ½ t. Salt
  • ¼ t. Pepper
  • Optional: 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary or 1 t. Dried
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°
  2. Layer chicken thighs, and potatoes in bottom of 9 x 13 baking dish.
  3. Scatter peppers and onions over top of all.
  4. Mix up remaining ingredients and drizzle evenly over all.
  5. If using fresh rosemary, place sprigs around too of all and push into sauce. If using dried, mix into sauce and our over as usual.
  6. Top with foil and bake 1 hour.
  7. Remove foil and return to oven for 20 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.

See what other fabulous food bloggers made when they cleaned out their pantries this week in Food Networks Sensational Sides challenge! Feed Me Phoebe: Artichoke Hummus Napa Farmhouse 1885: Spaghetti and Meatballs Red or Green: Sea Bass with Spicy Asian Ginger Sauce Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Quinoa Citrus Mango Avocado Black Bean Salad The Heritage Cook: Chile Tortilla Soup Cooking With Elise: Glorious Greek Salad Dressing Devour: Clean Out the Pantry Night Weelicious: Greek Nachos Virtually Homemade: Garlic Rosemary Pizza Crust Bites Domesticate Me: Fiesta Baked Eggs with Farro and Black Beans Taste With The Eyes: Mom’s Vintage Potato Salad Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Rice and Beans Casserole The Sensitive Epicure: Salmon and Brown Rice Casserole (Gluten-Free) Daily*Dishin: Spicy Chipotle Chicken Pasta with Crunchy Roasted Black Beans FN Dish: Pantry Clean-Out Sides

Cauliflower Steaks with Curried Coconut Puree

Cauliflower steaks puree

Cauliflower steaks puree

This recipe is simple.  And it’s also healthy but it bursts with flavor!
Cauliflower steaks
You use every bit of a head of cauliflower when you cook it. Check it out!

First off, take your head of cauliflower and cut just a slice off of the end of the stem, as it usually is a bit grungy looking. But leave the rest of the stem in-tact.  Using a small paring knife, slice off and remove the leaves from the stem.
Cut cauliflower stem

Then, flip the head of the cauliflower over and slice down through the entire thing, starting at about 1/4 inch off the center to the right.

Cut cauliflower steaks
Cut right down through the stem.
Cauliflower steak cut
Now take one of the halves of the cauliflower and cut through it again making about a ½ inch slice.
Cut cauliflower steaks

The slice of the cauliflower will look like a tree when laid flat.
Cauliflower steaks 2
You can probably easily get 3 good slices this way. If your cauliflower head is giant, you can even get four.

Hold onto those extra flowerets that fall off the sides because we’re going to use those.

Now drizzle about a tablespoon of olive oil into an oven proof skillet. Using a large spatula, gently ease your cauliflower steaks into the pan. Bring it up to medium-high heat.  Sprinkle the tops of them with salt and pepper.
Pan roast cauliflower steaks

Cook them for about five minutes then gently lift up one with the spatula to see if it’s browning.  If it is, again gently flip it over and brown the second side (of each) for another five minutes or so. Don’t forget to salt and pepper the other side.
Pan roast cauliflower steaks

Then take the pan and stick it into a 350º oven and bake them for an additional 15 minutes to get good and tender, which will give you just the right amount of time to make the puree.
Pan roast cauliflower steaks

Remember your reserved cauliflower flowerets?

Put those into a small saucepan of water and bring it to a boil.  Pop a lid on the pot and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Drain off the water and add in ½ cup of light coconut milk and ½-1 (depending on how strong you want your curry flavor) teaspoon of curry powder, ½ teaspoon of salt and ¼ teaspoon of pepper.  Put this in a blender or food processor.
image
Whir it up until it’s super smooth and pureed and creamy.
Blend cauliflower puree
To serve, pour a third or a fourth of the puree, (depending on how you cut your cauliflower) onto a large plate or bowl.
image
Smooth it out with the back of a large spoon.
image
And lay one beautiful cauliflower steak right on top of it.
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Sprinkle it with cilantro.
Cauliflower steak photo

Isn’t it pretty?
Cauliflower steak picture

With each luscious bite of roasted cauliflower steak, make sure you scoop up a creamy bite as well of the curry sauce.

It’s so delicious.

Best wishes,
Katie

 

 

.

Cauliflower Steaks with Curried Coconut Puree
Author: 
Recipe type: Side dish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 3
 
Ingredients
  • 1 large head cauliflower
  • 1 T. Olive oil
  • 1½ c. Water
  • ½ c. Light coconut milk
  • ½-1 t. Curry powder
  • ½ t. Salt
  • ¼ t. pepper
  • Cilantro, for garnish
  • More salt and pepper for sprinkling steaks while cooking
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Trim leaves and a slice off the end of the stem of the cauliflower head and discard.
  3. Starting with the cauliflower flower side up, slice (1/4 inch off the center line) through the head all the way through to the stem.
  4. Make another cut moving your knife ½ inch over to make a slice that is ½ inch thick. Continue cutting steaks until you have three or four, depending on how large the cauliflower is.
  5. Over medium high heat, heat olive oil in large oven-safe skillet and gently, using large spatula, lay the steaks flat in the pan.
  6. Cook 3-5 minutes in each side until cauliflower is turning golden brown.
  7. Place skillet in oven and cook 10-15 minutes more until cauliflower is tender.
  8. Bring water to boil in medium saucepan until boiling.
  9. Add reserved cauliflower flowerets and reduce heat to good simmer. Put lid on saucepan and cook 10 minutes.
  10. Drain water.
  11. In blender or food processor, add flowerets, coconut milk, curry powder and salt and pepper. Purée until very smooth.
  12. Spread evenly on three or four plates with back of large spoon.
  13. Top each plate with a cauliflower steak.
  14. Sprinkle cilantro over each.

 

My Little Greenhouse

Katie Johnstonbaugh

Katie Johnstonbaugh

Last weekend some friends came over to help Mr. Wonderful put up the base on a new greenhouse he bought me.

Greenhouse

He had purchased it a couple weekends back – it looked fairly simple and while I was super excited about the thought of a greenhouse, well, it looked like it might not quite stand up to our insanely unpredictable Oklahoma winds.

I should never have doubted the Wonderful guy for one minute.

He had plans for this greenhouse. And they didn’t involve the world “Simple”. I love the way the man thinks and how he does things just right. I greatly admire how he takes something and makes it better. I wish I had a mind like that….

He started out by building a base and our friend Dean brought him four heavy duty steel rods that bolted onto the insides of the baseboards and Mr. Wonderful drove them about a foot into the ground, or maybe two…

Photo Mar 20, 5 16 46 AM

 

Once that was down, a layer of light weedblock went down inside, followed by pebbles and a rubberized walkway down the center.

Photo Mar 23, 1 11 43 AM

He also added a bookshelf turned on it’s side as the base of what will be a potter’s bench.

potters bench greenhouse

He elevated it by putting palettes underneath it. I will put stray pots, bags of dirt and seed and other potting stuff in those shelves. After he gets the walls up, he will add a pegboard on top of it for my garden tools and gadgets.

Next he put timbers up the corners to support the sides of the greenhouse and also two in the center of where the walls will be.

Photo Mar 23, 1 53 38 AM

My job was screwing these onto the base with the electric cordless drill.

Photo Mar 23, 1 53 59 AM

Power-tools makes a gal feel SO liberated! See that drill hole? It was my very TOUGH job to put a screw in each one of those that he drilled for me.

Except he had to stop me and show me how to make the screws go in straight, and OH, there was also that issue of the lost screwdriver tip that somehow disappeared off of the face of the earth.

Someday it will turn up in the darndest spot, I tell ya.

At this point I left to go in and fix dinner, and when I came out…he had shelves built!

greenhouse shelves

The next day when I got home from work, he had the metal frame up, which will house the plexi-glass segments.

Photo Mar 25, 3 52 53 AM (1)

Stay tuned as we keep working on The Greenhouse.

And yes, the two little white fluff cottonballs were right there trying to claim it as their new doghouse…

Bubba

Isn’t Mr. Wonderful the most WONDERFUL person ever?  He knows what makes me happy, it seems…

Photo Mar 25, 3 51 43 AM

MrWcollage

Soon there will be glass (plexi) sections in all those framed windows. I’ve already got trays waiting to be filled.

Photo Mar 25, 3 50 28 AM

Incidentally, it pays to shop around for these. I looked here at several stores and these same trays ran $8 and up.  I found them here and they were $1.65 a piece. Even with shipping they ended up being right around $2.

I cannot WAIT to fill them…and place them on the shelves in the finished greenhouse!

More updates coming later! 

How to Prepare and Cook an Artichoke

Artichokes

Artichokes
So, we finally tackled it yesterday.

We cooked up some artichokes. There were big HONKING artichokes on sale here at our local Sprouts store. I could not walk away from them.

And let me tell you, I have an ENTIRE new respect for each bowl of spinach artichoke dip I may order for the rest of my life. I can only imagine what it took to get those darling little chopped artichoke hearts that reside therein masked in all their creamy goodness.  I will always picture an assembly line of poor sweating folks, peeling away the layers to get enough artichoke hearts to make one recipe.

steamed artichokes

It’s a little bit of a tedious process to prepare them. I know somewhere there is a magical artichoke “hearting” machine that simplifies the maddening technique of clipping, chopping, peeling and paring but we wanted to be old-fashioned and just learn the good ol’ hard way.

So we did, and forty minutes later we had three beautifully steamed artichokes that we started snacking on.

Mr. Wonderful: “That’s it? That little bit on the leaves?”
Me: “Well, until you get to the heart, yes”.

There was a prolonged absence until we peeled 58 leaves, dipped them into Sriracha-infused mayonnaise, (which incidentally probably completely did away with the health aspect of artichokes), but was INCREDIBLY good.

artichoke sriracha

Oh wait, you COULD opt to use melted garlic butter, but then again….the health benefits?(Then we pulled away another 27 tiny worthless leaves, peeled out the choke and finally got to the heart.)

Mr. Wonderful: “Well, that was a fun experience. Not sure if I’d buy one to do it again”.

(Don’t tell him, but I WOULD.)

So, let me show you what we learned.

Take your artichoke and give it a good rinse. Then if any of the leaves have sharp point ends with thorns, you can snip them away.

Snip artichokes leaves

It just looks pretty that way too. But honestly, if I ate these all the time, (which could most certainly become a habit), I think you could totally skip this part.

Once you get your leaves trimmed, use a sharp hefty chef  knife to chop about one inch off the ends.

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Also, cut the stem down to about an inch. If you desire to be waste-less, you can even eat it, but we decided we didn’t want to go that far. It’s a bit bitter. But if YOU do, peel off any leaves and then using your peeler, peel off a bit off the top layer of it. It will make it a bit more tender.

peel artichoke stem

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Take a pot large enough to fit all your artichokes in and insert a steamer basket in it. (I got this one for a couple dollars at my local TJ Maxx store I think).

steamer basket
Add a cup or so of water so that the water doesn’t touch the artichokes, but so they are suspended on the basketover it.

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Place your artichokes in the pot on the steamer basket. IF you like you can add in some lemon slices or a sprig of your favorite herb under the basket as well for flavor.

Pop on the lid.

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Crank up the heat on a burner on your stove and put the pot on it. When you see that the water is boiling and the steam is going good inside the pot, turn it down to about medium heat. Let it go for 30 minutes making sure your water doesn’t completely steam out.

When it’s done, your artichokes will have changed to a more avocado’ish green color.

steamed artichokes pot
And here is how you eat them.

Peel off one leaf. Dip it in a ramekin of mayonnaise.

dip artichoke in mayonaisse

But only the little part on the end with some meat on it.

artichoke leaf

Using our top or bottom teeth, we scraped that little meaty end of the leaf with our teeth. This got us a tiny bite of artichoke and mayo. Mmmmm. (You can also choose to use melted or very soft butter and add minced garlic or garlic powder for extra goodness).

scrape artichoke with teeth
We got a little bored with the plain mayo and added in a little drizzle of srirachi and mixed it up.

Sriracha mayo

You can also add lemon zest or chopped herbs to make your mayo more interesting.
We kept going until our leaves become very soft and tender and small.

artichoke heart

We decided these weren’t worth trying to get any meat off of them and just pulled them out.

Then, we stared curiously at this fuzzy mushroom shaped thing.

artichoke choke
Now what?

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Instructions told us to take a spoon and using the flat side of the spoon (instead of the pointy end), gently go around the fuzzy side (opposite the stem) and scrape out the fuzzy cottony threads that filled the top of it. Oh yes, these fuzzy threads are called “the choke”.

scrape out choke
No idea why, but I supposed if you ate them you would most certainly choke.

Once they are all cleaned out, guess what?

choke of artichoke
This is the “heart” of the artichoke.

artichoke heart

And this is the part that is chopped up in that famous dip that you get, or put on pizza, or in salads or pasta.

And let me tell you that after all that, I am DARN glad that there are nice frozen bags of artichoke hearts available to me at my grocery store.

And you can cut it up and dip it in something yummy as well.

But we just used the stem…because it needed to be good for something right?

Photo Mar 23, 5 34 45 AM And we checked this “how to” off of our list.

Sweet and Savory Potato Stacks

sweet and savory potato stacks

sweet and savory potato stacks
Easter is but a mere few days away, and inspired by last year’s Scalloped Sweet Potatoes recipe, I continue to think that sweet potatoes are a MUST to serve alongside a ham or lamb roast for Easter.

sweet and savory potato stacks

I played with this recipe yesterday and I think it’s a huge success.

Partly crispy, partly tender, this combination of Yukon Gold potatoes, mixed with sweet orange potatoes, not only tastes fantastic with its coating of garlic and thyme infused olive oil, but it is rather beautiful don’t you think?

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Start out by chopping up 3 garlic cloves into bits, and while you’re at it, go ahead and measure out 2 heaping tablespoons of fresh thyme. Just pull the leaves backward off the stem and they’ll pop right off! If you don’t have fresh thyme, substitute a teaspoon of dried as it will be much stronger.

Add ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil into a small sauce pan and turn the heat on medium-low (you just barely want this to simmer). Add in your garlic and thyme and simmer about 3 minutes then turn off the heat.

garlic thyme

Peel 3 sweet potatoes and 3 Yukon Gold potatoes (you could use Russet too!) that are roughly the same size and shape. Using a mandolin, slice them thin, like a thick potato chip, and put them separately into bowls.

sliced potatoes Drizzle half of your garlic and thyme-infused olive oil on top of each, making sure to spoon out the garlic and thyme as evenly as possible.

Now get messy and take your hands and dig deep into the bottom of the bowl and toss the potatoes around to coat them thoroughly with the olive oil, garlic and thyme. You can use a spoon if you are that OCD type like Mr. Wonderful but THINK of the benefits of an olive oil bath on your hands!

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Do the same exact thing with your sweet potato bowl.

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Then pull out a muffin tin or two. You’ll need to make 12 of these.
Begin by layering in one yellow potato slice on each bottom of each muffin tin.

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Try to use the ones that fit almost perfect. Save the larger ones for higher up in the muffin tin as they’ll fit better.

Now lay a sweet potato slice in right on top of the yellow potatoes in each muffin tin.

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Every two or three slices, stop and salt and pepper your potato slices lightly. Nothing is as unsatisfying as an unseasoned potato!

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Keep layering until your potatoes are gone. If you stack them up over the top of the tin, it’s okay as they will shrink somewhat when they bake. Don’t forget to salt and pepper the tops!

When you’re done, top each stack with a little sprig of thyme just to make it beautiful.

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And pop the tray into a 425º oven for about 30 minutes.

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You will want to check them at 20-25 as all ovens vary. You want them to be tender but the top to be sizzling and just starting to crisp around the edges.

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Wouldn’t these platters just be gorgeous to serve for Easter this year? I just think they are the fanciest and most charming looking little bundles of goodness.

sweet and savory potato stacks

And when you bite into one of them, you get sweet…

sweet and savory potato stacks

And savory.

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And pure deliciousness.
Potato stacks

Sweet and Savory Potato Stacks
Author: 
Recipe type: Side Dish
 
Ingredients
  • 3 yellow potatoes (like Yukon Gold)
  • 3 sweet potatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 T. fresh thyme (or 1 t. dried)
  • ½ c. olive oil
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 425º
  2. In small saucepan over medium-low heat, add olive oil, garlic cloves and thyme. Barely simmer 3 minutes and remove from heat.
  3. Using mandolin or knife, thinly slice potatoes and put each kind in separate bowl
  4. Pour half of the olive oil mixture over each bowl and toss potatoes to coat
  5. In muffin tin, layer potatoes, one color at a time until all potatoes are used in each tin, making 12 stacks.Every 2-3 potatoes, salt and pepper each stack.
  6. Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes until tops are beginning to crisp and insides are soft.