Monday, May 31, 2010

Salads: Getting Dressed

There are so many great recipes for homemade salad dressing that I almost despise having to purchase it at the grocery store. If the ingredients are already in my refrigerator, spice rack, or herb garden, it is more economical to mix some up in the kitchen. The only part of making dressing that doesn't thrill me is pulling out my heavy blender, then trying to find a container to store the leftover dressing in, and finally, cleaning the blender. Then I found this wonderful little vinaigrette mixer which looked like it could solve those issues.

The Herb n'Serve is basically a small battery operated mini-blender just for making salad dressing or marinades. Not only is it a fast way to create a concoction, but here is what I really love- after blending your dressing, you simply remove the carafe from the blender and store the dressing in the container (which also has a lid.) This little blender also came with a booklet full of recipes for easy dressings and marinades. As someone who is generally not big on having a lot of kitchen gadgets (we don't have space to store them) I have to say this little device is really worth it. It is not as powerful as a blender, but has enough power to get the job done. It's also not as loud as a blender. The only con is that it does require an astounding quantity of 6 AA batteries to work, which came included in the box. But since it only takes ten seconds to mix up some dressing, I can't imagine they would need frequent replacement. Generally, it's a great little convenience. The fact that you can mix up the dressing and it can go from fridge to table is my favorite thing about it.
spinach and strawberry salad- recipe here

*Disclaimer: Although I was given this item for free to review on my blog, I was not paid to do so and my opinions of the item are 100% my own.

Do you notice anything funny about this bag of already triple-washed spinach?

Well, I like the "no artificial ingredients" label. I would hope there is nothing artificial in there. But what really got me is the "Rinse before serving" instruction which would make this quadruple washed. Just how dirty was this spinach? After pulling some weeds and twigs out of the bag, I'll tell you- they weren't kidding about rinsing!

This is a dressing that I served at a recent barbecue, and it was so well loved that the leftovers went home with guests:

Celery Seed Dressing

1/2 small onion, diced
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dried mustard
1/2 tsp. celery seed
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/4 cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup cooking oil

Blend all ingredients except cooking oil in blender. Then, add cooking oil, blend once more, and refrigerate until use. Makes a little over one cup of dressing.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Church Suppers and Recipe

Who knew that Taste of Home just published a new recipe collection devoted to the always timely matter of church suppers? Without thinking twice, I grabbed it from the New Book section for further investigation. At our small church we have a lot of freedom to bring whatever dish we want to a carry in, so I've pretty much settled into a pattern of bringing a few select favorites in a constant rotation every year. In other words, if more than one person compliments me on it, it's coming back again. We also tend to do themes for church meals, such as soup and salad dinner, outside picnic, fellowship breakfast, etc. so it's easy to come up with an idea within the theme. This book looked like a good way to peruse new ideas, but of course I wasn't strictly thinking of potluck dishes. When I saw a picture of this cherry cheese torte, it looked like a winner for any occasion. It was very easy to make, not too heavy for the warm temperatures that we're getting now, and a great use of canned sweet cherries.

Cherry Cheese Torte

2 packages (3 ounces each) ladyfingers
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 cup plus 1 tsp. sugar, divided
2 tsp. vanilla extract, divided
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. grated lemon peel (I omitted- and it was fine without it.)
2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 can (21 oz.) cherry or blueberry pie filling, or 1 quart if using your own home canned filling.

Place a layer of ladyfingers on the bottom and around the sides of an ungreased 9-inch springform pan. In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese, 1 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla until smooth. Add lemon peel and juice; mix well.
In a small mixing bowl, mix cream until it begins to thicken. Add remaining sugar and vanilla; beat until stiff peaks form. Fold into cream cheese mixture. Spread half over crust. Arrange remaining ladyfingers in a spoke pattern on top. Evenly spread with the remaining cream cheese mixture.


Top with pie filling. Cover and refrigerate in pan overnight. Remove sides of pan just before serving. Serves 12.



If you're wondering what to do with the left over whipping cream, well, it's strawberry season so use your imagination. :)

What are some of your favorite ideas for pot luck dishes?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Seasonal Blessings

It feels like a season of extremes here in the east. Warm summer-like days arriving back-to back-with the cold and wet. Flip flops one day, rubber boots, the next. I'm delighted to have strawberries so early this year, and to have such a bountiful crop of berries for jam and freezing. Strawberry pie, here we come!
(I'm not posting a recipe for this pie because although good, it wasn't the best I've ever tried. If you have a GREAT strawberry pie recipe, e-mail me! Maybe we can share.)

There is no better morning than one spent tidying the garden, keeping the edges clean from encroaching weeds, hoeing around the large green heads of lettuce. Yes, keeping things tidy can be fulfilling. Now only if they would stay that way. The farm fields to our east and north are filled with a few cole crops and an abundance of herbs. You can smell the cilantro in the air when they are harvesting it. My cousin the herbalist (mentioned in a previous post) says we are getting healing just from smelling them all around us. Hmmm...let me take a deep breath.

Somehow, I managed to actually take advantage of the weather by planting string beans right before a big rain. That saved me from having to put in the rest of the irrigation right away. But with corn going in next, I'll be setting up hoses this weekend for certain.

Each year I try to make room to grow something new. To make the room, I grow a large quantity of something that we use often one year, preserve it, and then scale back the following year and use the space for something new. For instance, this year will (hopefully) be a better tomato year so I won't need to grow as many next year. Then, that space can go to something new. This year, the string beans are new, as are the raspberries.

This will also the the first year at our house that we will have cabbage, as the one other time we tried it, it became a battle of man versus cabbage worm. It is a complete surprise that we are growing healthy cabbage this year.

The bird houses in our yard are operating at full occupancy rate. It's always such a delight to walk by one and unexpectedly hear the tiny "cheep cheeps" of new life inside. It's so precious that I've tried to get video of it on my camera, but all beaks are silent when the camera is near.

no vacancy

On the homefront, I plan to make strawberry jam soon, start shopping for bathroom vanities (our bathroom has always been one of the more finished rooms in our house), and attend a birthday party for a special little girl who is turning one. What do you buy a one year old? Well, anything that makes noise or does something once you push a button. Come to think of it, that sounds like things the Mister likes, too!

I'll be back next time with a recipe, and a review of something new and interesting that I came across. I'll just give you a hint- think salads.

lettuce, cabbage, and more lettuce

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

May Meanderings

What beautiful summer-like weather we've been having lately. It is hard to stay inside the house when the sun and warmth finally arrive. After working outside in the heat, I made some rhubarb punch to refresh us with supper.

2 cups finely chopped rhubarb
4 cups water
3/4 cup sugar
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup ginger ale

Pour water into a sauce pot, and then add sugar. Stir until sugar is disolved. Add rhubarb, and bring to a boil. Once mixture reaches boiling, boil for two minutes and then remove from heat. Strain rhubarb, and allow juice to cool to room temperature (about 2 hours). Pour juice into a pitcher and add lemon juice, orange juice, and ginger ale. Serve over ice.



Does anyone know what type of irises these are? *edited- Chinese New Year bearded irises- thank you Diana!*


These were the only flowers planted at our house when we bought it. They were so uncared for and crowded that it took me two years to make them bloom. Imagine my surprise when for the first time they rose out of the ground as nearly as tall as myself and put on a dazzling display. And they multiplied!

We are getting ready for a mother's day barbecue at our house. Once a year we try to clean up the construction mess as best we can and allow our mothers to visit without hard hats and safety gear. It is a lot of work. We shop vac the drywall dust and splinters up from every corner, remove cobwebs in places we never look, and present a mowed lawn and weedless garden for just one weekend. And then, after the visit, we go back to tearing the house up. This summer we'll be camping out in the living room while the Mister rebuilds floor trusses in two more front rooms and finishes installing sheet rock. We are hoping that after this season, we will have the front half of our house completed. It won't be finished in the sense that we can put down carpeting and start decorating, but it will be rebuilt, insulated, and of course structurally sound. When I can say the words "Half of our house is done" it will really be a red letter day!

Oh, it was also three years ago today that we officially moved into this house. It's easy to remember because it was our wedding day!

This was us becoming "young marrieds" at 39 (The Mister) and 35 (me). It was worth the wait.

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