Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Vineyard's Citrus Cooler

The Vineyard's Citrus Cooler

My dear friend and neighbor Tracy Laverty ( you can visit her great design blog at  spends every summer at their family’s summer house on Martha’s Vineyard, off the coast of Massachusetts.  I love hearing Tracy tell stories of picking fresh blueberries on the lane, sailing trips out on the ocean, cookouts on the beach and new culinary delights she tried.  Plus she always has a great story to tell with a famous person or two.  Like when President Obama and his family stayed in the house next door!  One of their favorite things to do while on the island is to visit to the local farmer’s market. They always pick up fresh beautiful fresh flowers, fruits and vegetables and this amazing and refreshing citrus cooler.  So fresh they squeeze the citrus fruits right before your eyes.  Tracy treated me to a glass and showed me how they make it on Martha's Vineyard.  If you don't have time to make the simple syrup...just stir a tablespoon or two of sugar into the citrus juices, add ice and enjoy a taste of the Vineyard! If you want to make a whole pitcher full of the Citrus Cooler, simply squeeze equal amounts of lemons, limes and oranges into a pitcher and sweeten with simple syrup or granulated sugar, add ice and water to taste!

½ a lemon
½ a lime
½ an orange
3 tablespoons simple syrup
ice and ice cold water

Simple Syrup:

4 ¾ cups water
2 ¼ cups sugar

In a sauce pan combine water and sugar and boil gently for 10 minutes.  Cool and store in refrigerator for up to 2 months.  Squeeze half a lemon, half a lime, half an orange into a pretty glass.  Stir in 3 tablespoons, more or less to taste, simple syrup.  Fill glass half full with cubed ice and fill glass with ice cold water.  Add a cute paper straw and stir well. Enjoy immediately.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Roasted Red Pepper and Artichoke Crostini

Roasted Red Pepper and Artichoke Crostini  
I like to buy pre-sliced baguettes to make this great appetizer.  But you can slice them yourself or even make them your self.  Check out my baguette recipe in the "Breads and Jam" section of my blog.  This crostini is perfect along side a nice bowl of soup and or a salad as well as standing alone.  
1-2 baguettes, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
a pinch or two of dried herbs
14 ounce jar artichoke hearts, not marinated, drained
8 ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
4 ounces green chilies
juice from half a lemon
scant pinch red pepper flakes
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup Parmesan cheese

First, lay sliced baguette pieces out on a large rimmed baking sheet.  Mix the olive oil, garlic salt and herbs together in a small bowl.  With a spoon put a little olive oil mixture on top of each baguette piece and spread it around with the back of the spoon.   Next in food processor, pulse artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, green chilies, and lemon juice until chopped.  Next add red pepper flakes.  Saute this vegetable mixture for 10-20 minutes.  Stir in mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese and mix until combined.  Spread a little roasted red pepper and artichoke mixture on each baguette piece and place baking sheet under broiler for a minute or two watching all the while so they don't burn.   Tops with bubble and brown.  Remove from oven and garnish with a little fresh thyme.  Serve while hot.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Watermelon and Feta with Mint

Watermelon Checkerboard Salad

With the world turning green again, we are all gearing up for summer!  Hip Hip Hooray!   Watermelon is a favorite summer staple and this refreshing appetizer salad adds another fun twist on it's traditional serving ideas.  It's just so beautiful!  We had a salad like this on a Caribbean cruise once and I simply loved the artistic element with such a unique flavor combination.

1/4 of a watermelon cut into 1/2 inch squares
block of feta cut into 1/2 inch squares
fresh mint leaves
a couple fresh limes, squeezed

Arrange watermelon and feta on a platter in a checkerboard pattern and garnish with mint leaves.  Drizzle with fresh lime juice.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Sweet Pulled Pork Fresh Mex

Sweet Pulled Pork Fresh Mex 
I love making these Pulled Pork Salads or Burritos on a regular basis.  It's the perfect thing for serving a big group of family or friends.  For best flavor you should make the pulled pork and black beans a day in advance.   (And I'm all over anything I can make a day in advance!)   The Cilantro Dressing and the Pico de Gallo can be made a day in advance as well to cut back on last minute preparations.  I love this as a salad, but you can wrap it all up burrito style if that is what you are craving.  Either way the flavors are fantastic!  Here are all the elements you'll need to make an amazing Fresh Mex dinner for your friends and family...  

Sweet Pulled Pork

You can throw everything in the crock pot and cook for 6 hours if you are going to be out for the day.  You'll want to make this a day in advance for the best flavor.

3-4 lb. pork loin
1 cup orange juice
2 cups brown sugar
26 ounces chunky salsa
¼ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons vinegar

In large oven proof, heavy pot stir orange juice, brown sugar, salsa, ketchup and vinegar together.  In heavy skillet over medium high heat, brown roast on all sides.  Place roast  in pot with sauce. Put the lid on and place in 350 degree oven and cook for up to 2-3 hours.  Meat is done when it falls apart and shreds easily.  Shred pork into sauce.  

Cilantro Rice

1 tablespoons butter                     
½ onion chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups uncooked rice
5 cups water
4 teaspoons chicken bouillon
½ cup cilantro
1 can green chilies
¾ teaspoon salt
zest of 1 lime and juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons sugar

Melt butter in large saucepan. Add onions and garlic and sauté until soft. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until rice is tender.

Black Beans

Incredibly flavorful and healthy these back beans are a hit.  Plan ahead to make this recipe as the beans need to soak overnight or all day then simmer for 1 ½ hours, unless you want to use the canned beans.  Make this a day ahead to cut down on prep work.  

1 lb. dry black beans  (or 30 oz. canned black beans)
1/3 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
bunch green onions, greens and whites chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 green pepper
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoons oregano
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt

2 teaspoons fresh ground pepper

Place dried beans in large pot and cover with water. Let sit for 8 –12 hours.  
Simmer beans for 1 ½ hours, add more water if needed to keep the beans covered. Do not drain cooked beans.  While beans are cooking, sauté onions, garlic, green pepper, jalapeno, tomato paste, vinegar and seasonings in olive oil for 20 minutes.  Add vegetables to pot of cooked beans and simmer for 30 minutes until thick.  If you’re using canned beans, place beans and liquid in a medium pot, stir in sautéed vegetable mixture and heat thoroughly. 

Pico de Gallo 
2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and halved
2 green onions, whites and greens, roughly chopped
½ red onion, roughly chopped
½ cup cilantro
¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice
½ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Place all ingredients in food processor and pulse until finely chopped.

Fresh Lime and Cilantro Dressing

This is my homemade ranch dressing recipe made with buttermilk, tomatillos, lime and cilantro!  Love it over the Fresh-Mex Salad!

1 ½ cups mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup milk or buttermilk
scant ½ teaspoon coarse salt
fresh ground pepper
½ bunch fresh cilantro
3 tomatillos
1 lime juiced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Refrigerate until thickened.  Assemble salad.  Brown tortillas over a hot flame, if you are using them.  Add a bottom  layer of lettuce on top of tortilla.   Add a scoop of hot Cilantro Rice,next add the Black Beans, add some Sweet Pulled Pork, Pico de Gallo and Fresh Lime and Cilantro Dressing.  Garnish with grated cheese, chopped avocado, or guacamole and sour cream.  Serve with a favorite tortilla chip on the side. mmmm....amazing!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Fresh Strawberry and Cream Cheese Pie

Fresh Strawberry and Cream Cheese Pie

Hi everyone!  Hope you all had a fun Spring Break!  I am SO happy Spring is here and with it a whole new group of wonderful foods to enjoy.  This is our grandma Carroll Thomas' recipe for the most positively scrumptious strawberry pie ever!  It has a hidden layer of cream cheese that is so delicious with the strawberries. Ok, you might say after reading the ingredients... "It has jell-o in it!  How can it be that good?"  Now, I know it goes against my cooking etiquette to use “foods” like Jell-O (I inherited that trait from my grandmother) but this pie is an exception.  Just one bite and you’ll want to make it every chance you get!  I admit, SOMETIMES  life calls for a store bought pie crust dough.  However, they just don’t taste as good as a homemade crust.  Pie crust are one of those things you can make on a whim out of basic ingredients in the morning and have a fabulous dessert ready for dinner that evening.  So here's my favorite recipe for a pie crust, but you can use a store bought crust if needed.  Have your pie crust baked and ready to go before filling it with the cream cheese and strawberries, as these are not baked in the crust.  Hence, the name "Fresh" Strawberry and Cream Cheese Pie! Hope you enjoy making this all Spring and Summer long!

 2 Perfect Pie Crusts 
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1 scant teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cold butter
4-6 tablespoons ice water
1 egg white, slightly beaten

In food processor, mix flour and salt slightly.  Dice cold butter, and toss gently in flour, careful of sharp blades.

 With mixer running add ice water, 4 tablespoons is usually sufficient, by the tablespoonful until mixture comes together in a loose ball.  Remove from processor and divide dough in half. 

Form each half into a flat circle, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for a half hour. If you are just baking 1 pie freeze one round of pie dough for later. Flour the counter top, and lay out a large piece of plastic wrap.  Place dough on floured piece of plastic wrap  Roll out between two sheets of lightly floured plastic wrap into a large circle.  Lay circle in pie pan and form into crust.  Crimp edges and poke holes with a fork in bottom and side of crust.  Brush crusts with egg white.  Bake at 400 degrees for 8-15 minutes or until crust is golden brown.  As oven temperatures vary watch crusts closely for an exact baking time.  Remove from oven, cool and fill with cream cheese layer and then with the strawberry filling. Filling recipe makes 1 pie. 

Cream Cheese Layer
6 ounces cream cheese
1/3 cup powdered sugar

Strawberry Filling
2 lbs. fresh strawberries, halved or quartered 
3 ounce box strawberry Jell-O
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoon cornstarch
2 cups water
2 tablespoons lemon juice

With an electric hand mixer, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar and whipping cream until smooth.  Spread on bottom of baked and cooled pie crust.  Set aside in refrigerator.  In saucepan mix Jell-O, sugar, cornstarch, and water. Bring to a boil and boil gently for 3 minutes. Add lemon juice and stir with a whisk. Place saucepan in freezer for 45-60 minutes, and whisk every 10 minutes until mixture has just set to a very thick syrup.  If it set too long, stir the jello and stir in the strawberries anyway, it will still turn out great.  While Jell-O mixture is thickening, wash strawberries, remove green tops and slice lengthwise.  Stir strawberries into thickened Jell-O mixture and spoon into pie shell.  Refrigerate until set and serve with sweetened whipped cream.   

Monday, April 21, 2014

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

We just got back from out trip to Solomon's Island!  We had a great time!  We ate our share of fresh seafood...some delicious rock fish, fresh oysters, Maryland crab, took a nice hike to the sea shore and through a bald Cyprus swamp.  The kids enjoyed collecting sea shells and fossils on the beach.  Although we enjoyed dining out, I am really craving some good home cooking!  Here's a favorite fresh and healthy hummus appetizer or snack that we like at our house. I added roasted red pepper to the classic hummus for a more colorful and flavorful version.  Hummus is a great dip for cut vegetables or as a spread on wraps.  It is so healthy and flavorful.  Love the red pepper!

15 ounce can or approx. 2 cups canned chickpeas, drained, reserve liquid
7-8 ounce jar roasted red peppers, drained
1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste or ground sesame seeds)
1 clove garlic, minced
6 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons liquid from chickpeas
Dash coriander
dash cumin
                                               dash cayenne pepper                                                   

Using a food processor or blender and blend all ingredients together and let stand at room temperature ½ hour before serving or cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Spring Chicken Ragu

Spring Chicken Ragu
Hi friends! We are headed out to Solomon Island, Maryland today with the kids (and the bikes) for a little spring break trip over the weekend.  Before I go I want to share one my favorite Spring meals...Spring Chicken Ragu.  It is so perfect for Easter and Mother's Day because it's beautiful, flavorful and fresh.  This is one of those recipes that I have made over and over again.  I don’t know who to attribute the recipe to, I found it in Elle magazine probably 20 years ago and I am pretty sure I came across it in a Martha Stewart book as well recently.  But it’s delicious and has been a family favorite through the years...and  I have made only a few changes. :)

4 (3/4 lb. each) whole chicken breasts bone in and split, skin removed
salt and fresh ground pepper
4 teaspoon olive oil
6 cups water
7 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
8 canned plum tomatoes, seeded and quartered  
24 baby carrots
1 lb. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces
2 leeks, well cleaned and cut into ¼ inch rounds
2 cups fresh or frozen peas
handful fresh parsley
16 ounces egg noodles, cooked according to package directions

Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper.  In large heavy pot, heat olive oil and brown chicken on both sides cooking about 7 minutes total.  Add water, chicken bouillon, and tomatoes, bring to a boil and cover.  Simmer 20 minutes. Remove chicken and set aside.  Add carrots and cook until almost tender, about 5 minutes. Add asparagus and leeks  and cook until tender, about 5 minutes.  Pull chicken from bone and shred into large bite sized pieces. Return chicken to skillet and heat thoroughly.  At this point you'll want to season with more salt and some fresh ground pepper, to taste.  Add peas just before serving.  Garnish with parsley and serve hot over egg noodles with some crusty bread.  I like to serve it with the Herb Country Bread.;postID=3277893670673435393;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=13;src=postname

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Layerd Carrot Cake

I admit, I have been making a lot of cakes lately.  I promise "Let them eat cake!" isn't exactly the motto I live by, but a festive carrot cake seemed like a perfect fit for Easter dinner.  This is a version of carrot cake, even your kids will enjoy!  I was thinking about decorating the cake with little carrots made of bright orange and green frosting, but the idea of whipping up even more frosting for this cake seemed ridiculous.  So, I made a little carrot garnish out of a shaving of carrot and a tiny piece of parsley instead.  I loved how it turned out!  This cake is baked in a13x18 inch rimmed baking sheet, the rim is about 1 inch high.  By cutting it into three equal parts you can make a beautiful layer cake.  However, if you need something fast and easy, leave the cake in the pan, frost it for a sheet cake, served "family style!"   You can even make this cake a day in advance, which is huge time saver!  

The Carrot Cake
2 1/2 cups flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups grated carrots
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 cups canola oil

Grease and flour a 13X18 rimmed baking sheet, or jelly roll pan.  In large bowl combine flour and spices.  Add grated carrots to flour mixture.  In bowl of electric mixer whip sugars and eggs until thoroughly combined.  Slowly add oil while mixer is running and whip until thoroughly combined.  Add flour and carrots to the sugar mixture and mix until dry ingredients are incorporated thoroughly. Pour into prepared pan.  Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. When cool.  Cut into cake into three equal sized strips of cake.

Using two spatulas carefully move one layer onto a cake platter.  Spread a layer of frosting on top of it.  Repeat for all three layers.  Trim cake sides if needed.  Frost remainder of cake.  Cut cake on a slant making each piece a triangle, as large or as small as desired.  Garnish each piece after it has been cut, just before serving.

Cream Cheese Frosting
16 ounces cream cheese, softened slightly
10 tablespoons butter, softened slightly
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

In electric mixer, whip all ingredients together until smooth. 

Carrot Garnish

Take a baby carrot and a hand grater and peel a small piece of carrot.  Place carrot on top of  each piece of cake.  Take a small piece of parsley and place at top of carrot.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Chocolate Easter Eggs

Chocolate Easter Eggs
I had my first Finnish chocolate as a foreign exchange student in Finland and it's been my favorite ever since!  Finnish chocolate doesn't get the same attention as Swiss chocolate, but it's equally as delicious, if not better!  (Of course I am a little partial! )  At Easter time, Fazer makes one of my favorite chocolates of all time, the Fazer Mignon.

 Imagine... the most delicious hazelnut chocolate you've ever tasted.  Poured into a real egg shell.  Imagine... holding a real looking and feeling egg in your hand and upon cracking it, instead of finding a runny or hard boiled egg, finding a solid chocolate egg inside! It's quite magical!  What a fun thing for every Easter basket!  Of course you can buy these over the internet around Easter, or if you are really lucky, in Finland, but I wanted to try making the Fazer Mignon at home!  Here's how I did it!   
Chocolate Eggs
3-4 large (real) eggs
1 package milk chocolate or semisweet chocolate chips
6 tablespoons butter

Cut a hole 1 cm in diameter into bottom of  raw egg.  Poke sharp object inside hole to break the yolk and shake to remove insides.  Rinse out egg shell and let dry.  Melt chocolate and butter in top of double boiler and stir until smooth.  Support egg shell in a tiny bowl so that it is stable enough to sit upright on it's own with hole pointing upwards.  Pour chocolate into dry and empty egg shell.  Allow to cool completely.  Plug hole with a little Royal icing and allow to dry.

Royal Icing 

1 egg white
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
2 pinches cream of tartar

In electric mixer, beat the egg whites with 1 cup sugar and cream of tartar.  When smooth add remaining sugar 1 cup at a time. Mix until smooth and creamy.  Keep damp cloth over the bowl to prevent hardening.  With a knife cover the hole in the egg shell with royal icing.  Smooth out and let dry.  Let chocolate eggs set up in the refrigerator.


  The "Finnish"-ed Product!  

         Hyvaa Paasiastia!  (translation...Happy Easter! )

Friday, April 11, 2014

Mile High Strawberry Shortcake

Mile High Strawberry Shortcake

Last year for Spring Break we visited Assateague and Chincoteague barrier Islands, off the coast of Maryland and Virginia.  Ever heard of the wild ponies of Chincoteague?  Remember the children's novels, Misty of Chincoteague, King of the Wind, and others by Marguerite Henry?  Well, here is where these stories take place.  And yes, there are real herds of wild ponies running around the island of Chincoteague!  How they came to the islands is still a bit of a mystery, although one legend theorizes is that a Spanish ship carrying horses and treasure sunk off shore and the ponies found their way to the island.  It was so fun, especially for my daughter who had read these books, to see the real thing!  We took a few bike rides and a boat ride around the island giving us a nice sense of the simple way of life on these little islands.  We saw how oysters are "grown" out on mounds in the bay and enjoyed several fresh oysters, an acquired taste, in local restaurants.  We ate our way through the local diners on the islands, as one gastronomical wonder caught my eye.  An amazing, tall, strawberry cake.  It had a beautiful top full of whole strawberries.  And that was the moment of inspiration for this cake!  All thanks goes to the wild ponies of Chincoteague and an unknown baker who baked a beautiful cake.     

The Cake
2 sticks butter, room temperature
3 cups flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 1/3 cup buttermilk, room temperature

Strawberry Filling
4 pounds fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced 
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Cream Filling
3 cups heavy cream 
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Strawberry Garnish 
  1 pound whole strawberries, washed and dried

     Preheat oven to 350 degrees, with rack in center position.  Using two 9 inch round cake pans, trace shapes of cake pans onto parchment paper.  Cut out 2 round circles to fit in bottom of pans.  Cut two long strips of parchment paper to fit around sides of pans.  Butter the two 9 inch round cake pans.  Stick parchment paper onto inside of pans. Butter parchment paper and dust with flour or spray with bakers spray with flour.  Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  In electric mixer, beat butter and sugar on high speed until light and fluffy.  Scrape down sides and beat again.  Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition.  Beat in flour mixture alternating with buttermilk beginning and ending with the flour.  Beat in vanilla.  Divide batter between cake pans and bake about 40 minutes.  Transfer to wire racks and let cool in pans for 20 minutes. Run a butter knife around sides of cake pans and invert onto racks, slowly remove parchment and cool.

     Combine sliced strawberries and sugar in a bowl. Stir in lemon juice and a pinch of salt.  Let stand for 30 minutes.  Puree half of the strawberry mixture in a food processor or blender.  Stir sliced strawberries and pureed strawberries together in one bowl and set aside.  Whip cream until soft peaks form and add sugar, vanilla and cream of tartar. 

  Slice cakes in half horizontally.  Place one bottom piece of cake cut side up on a cake platter.  

 Spread 1/3 of the sliced strawberry mixture over bottom layer of cake.

Top with 1/4 of the whipped cream mixture.  Add another layer of cake cut side up and repeat with layers of strawberry mixture and cream.  When you get to the last piece of cake.  Place cake cut side down.  Spread top of cake with remainder of  the whipped cream mixture.  Garnish the top of the cake.  Trim one strawberry at a time, by cutting off 1/4 of the strawberry at the leafy green end.  Arrange strawberries cut side down in a tight formation on top of cake. Refrigerate uncovered for at least 2 hours before serving.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Honey White Oat Bread

Honey White Oat Bread

     My husband and I went to hear the Nora Struthers Band play the other night at this wonderful art deco era theater in Frederick Maryland, called The Weindberg Center. It's such a small theater that you really get to be up close to the performers.  It's such a fun place to attend concerts!  Since it's such a small theater and audience, the performing artists usually come out to the foyer after the performances to mingle with the crowd.  It was really fun to meet Nora, (ya, we're pretty much on a first name basis now.)  It's such fun change of ambiance from the Kennedy Center In downtown D.C!  The Nora Struthers Band was fantastic! Nora has an amazing voice and they have some talented banjo, mandolin, fiddle and drummers in the band.  If you ever get the chance to hear them in person I would highly recommend it!  Check out some of their great tunes here...  My favorites are Jack of Diamonds, Travelin' On, Bike Ride.  You can check them out playing these awesome tunes live on youtube. 
     A special old friend and neighbor, Connie Robinson and I have a lot in common...we are both busy moms, play stringed instruments, love to cook and bake and have a knack for getting ourselves into larger than life home and garden projects.  Connie and I played in a string quartet together for many years.  We always dreamed of putting together a bluegrass band, with me on banjo and Connie on mandolin, but with family, church responsibilities and a reality check, a dream it remains!  With our growing families, one thing we did a lot of was cooking and baking. Connie comes from a long line of family bread makers, and always knew when I needed a loaf of her hot-out- of- the- oven, homemade bread, and a visit. Connie shared her family recipe for this delicious bread.  It's definitely one of our favorites.  My kids can enthusiastically eat an entire loaf, hot out of the oven, with butter and honey or jam when they get home from school.  Luckily the recipe makes two loaves so there is fresh bread for Dad when he gets home from work.  One day, Connie and I will get around to some banjo, mandolin and fiddle music together, after a good visit and a loaf of Connie's Honey White Oat Bread.   

2 cups boiling water
1 cup old fashioned oat
4 ½ teaspoons yeast
1/3 cup warm water
1 tablespoon salt
½ cup honey
2 tablespoons melted butter
4-5 cups flour

Prepare 2 bread pans by greasing pans.  Cut out pieces of parchment paper to fit the bottom and sides of bread pans and stick them to the greased pan.  In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with dough hook, or in a large bowl combine 2 cups boiling water with the oats and let stand 30 minutes.  In a separate small bowl combine yeast and 1/3 cup warm water and let stand 10 minutes.   Add salt, honey and melted butter to the oat mixture.  Stir in yeast. Stir in flour, enough to make the dough not too sticky.  Knead in electric mixer 5-10 minutes, or knead by hand 10 minutes.  If the dough is sticking too much to your fingers and the counter, then sprinkle counter top with flour and knead until dough reaches a nice dough consistency.  Oil, or grease large mixing bowl. Rub dough around in bowl to cover with oil, this prevents a crust from forming while rising.  Cover with a damp dish cloth. Let dough double in size.  Divide dough into two equal portions, shape into a loaf and place in pans. Sprinkle top with a pinch of dry oatmeal.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Let dough rise until top of dough reaches an inch or two above the edge of the bread pan.  Bake for 45 minutes. Brush the top of each loaf with butter and share with a friend!

Spring Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

Spring Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

In our backyard at the home where I grew up lies a rhubarb plant underneath a peach tree.  
Every spring it would burst forth with pink stalks of red rhubarb and wait to be harvested.  Rhubarb Crisp...Strawberry Rhubarb Pie...Rhubarb Jam... were annual delicious rhubarb creations.  This Strawberry Rhubarb Jam is no exception.  Super easy and fast too.  I love homemade jam, don't you?

3 cups hulled and sliced strawberries, divided
3 cups rhubarb, thinly sliced
3 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups sugar

In a medium glass bowl combine half of the strawberries, rhubarb, lemon juice, vanilla and sugar. Stir and let stand at room temperature for 30-60 minutes.  Pour half of the fruit into heavy medium sauce pan and bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat to LOW and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Add remaining strawberries to the jam.  Simmer another 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool.  Fill 3, 8 ounce freezer jars with jam and refrigerate or freeze, or give to someone special or serve on homemade bread or serve on pancakes or serve with scones or biscuits or muffins or... 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Live Easter Grass

Bring in the Spring!

Easter Grass Centerpiece
Hi friends!  This time every year I love growing Easter Grass for gorgeous centerpieces on Spring tables.  It is so easy to grow and so fun for kids too.  We have loved doing this every spring since my oldest child was a little tyke.  So when it's still cold outside and you are yearning for a little sunshine and green grass, bring Spring inside!  You and the kids will love watching the grass grow!  A fun idea is to place Easter eggs, figurines or chocolate rabbits (in wrappers or packaging) on the wheat grass just after if sprouts.  The grass will grow up around it, making it look like a secret garden has grown around the egg!  Or just let the grass grow wild. These make adorable center pieces and are perfect for Easter.  There are so many fun ways to display the Easter Grass depending on the container you use.  Be creative!

What You'll Need to Grow Live Easter Grass

Empty decorative pot or container that is leak proof
(If you are using an Easter Basket, line it with plastic wrap to make it leak proof)
bag of VERMICULITE from the florist shop or nursery
(this is what The Little Red Hen would grind into flour, you may have some in your food storage)


One week before Easter, line the sides and bottom of the basket or container that you want to grow grass in with plastic wrap, unless the container is already leak proof.  Pour vermiculite in up to TWO INCHES BELOW THE RIM.  

Sprinkle a layer of wheat over the vermiculite.  Slowly, pour water into the basket or container until it is BARELY visible beneath the wheat.  There will be no need to water it again. 

  Place a piece of plastic wrap loosely over the top of the wheat.  Place basket in a sunny spot, like on a window sill, but not in direct sunlight. 

 After 2 days the wheat will begin to sprout and grow.  Remove the plastic wrap when grass is 1/2 inch tall.  At this point you could place an egg on top of the grass, and the grass will grow up around the egg.  Easter Grass will be grown within a week. 

  After grass has grown you may want to spray grass with a spray bottle of water when it starts wilting.  After grass has grown you can move your centerpiece from the sunny spot and place it anywhere you like.   Hope you enjoy Easter Grass at your home this year!

I found these darling egg candles and nests at Williams-Sonoma last year.  I just love everything they carry! Click here to see this years Easter collection,

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