spiced cocktail nuts

spiced cocktail nuts

As a kid, I used to love those mixed nuts that came in a big can. My mom would buy the one with the peanuts, cashews, brazil nuts, hazelnuts, and pecans. We each had our favorites. I would fight one brother for those enormous brazil nuts and the other for hazelnuts, but my absolute favorites were the cashews. Both my mom and I loved them. When the can eventually got passed to my dad, he had to settle for the peanuts and almonds. The pecans were almost always left on the bottom.

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rosemary orange olive oil muffins

I don’t often make regular-sized cakes. It is well-documented here that I prefer to make cupcakes, muffins, or other miniature-sized desserts. I find them to be more portable and, as a result, easier to serve at social gatherings. Also, I love how cute they look and that they come out of the oven in individually-sized portions. However, I decided to make a “proper” cake when I ran across this recipe since I had featured olive oil muffins not that long ago. So why did I post a picture of muffins at the top of this post, you ask? Where’s the cake? Well, read on…

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tuscan mashed potatoes


I was inspired to cook mashed potatoes using olive oil instead of butter after I tasted the rich and creamy Olive Oil Smashed Potatoes at Birreria, the rooftop beer garden at Eataly in New York City. These Tuscan mashed potatoes have a great flavor from the olive oil, roasted garlic, and rosemary. Obviously, using a good quality extra virgin olive oil is the key to this recipe. Omitting the cream will result in a healthier dish, that is both vegan and gluten-free, with a more distinct olive oil flavor.

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breakfast ham and egg tarts

breakfast ham and egg tarts

Looking for something simple, yet elegant to serve at your next Sunday brunch? Why not try these breakfast tarts? They’re so easy to make and very versatile, too. The tart shells may be blind baked the night before and covered loosely with a tea towel or parchment paper and kept at room temperature. Then, in the morning, just fill the shells and bake. I have served these tarts with various fillings (prosciutto, sautéed mushrooms, bacon), herbs (chives, thyme, oregano), and cheeses (parmesan, Gruyère, fontina), and get rave reviews from friends and family every time. With less time spent cooking, I get to spend more time with my guests. Continue reading

my urban vegetable garden


Chris & I devoted most of the last week of August working on our new garden.  Chris tilled and leveled the soil and removed some tree roots left by two huge trees in preparation for the placement of four new raised beds he built.  I had it fairly easy; I was in charge of  selecting, buying and planting all the vegetables and flowers.  I included flowers around the vegetables to add splashes of color amidst all of the green foliage.  I also transplanted all the herbs that were scattered around in different pots to a single raised herb bed.  Now most of my herbs – French tarragon, Greek oregano, Italian parsley, rosemary, sage, lemon thyme, and garlic chives are together.  I also have basil but I read that it is the perfect companion to tomatoes so I planted them together in a separate pot.  The basil is supposed to keep insects away and even enhance the flavor of the tomatoes.

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Slow Roasted Tomatoes


Over the last week, I harvested over a pound of beautiful tomatoes, and I want to preserve  some of them for use later in the week.  Ignoring the stifling summer heat, I turned on my oven and roasted my tomatoes for close to 2 hours.  I was rewarded for my long, hot and sweaty wait with the sweetest, and arguably, the most intense tomato flavor I have ever tasted.  The slow roasting method really brought out the sweetness of the tomatoes, giving them a slightly caramelized, candy-like flavor.  Imagine how good it would be to squeeze the roasted garlic on a piece of crusty bread with a spoonful of roasted tomatoes garnished with sprigs of thyme.  Yummy!

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my edible garden

As you can probably guess, I’m obsessed with gardening at the moment.  I’ve been enjoying my flower garden for the last month so now I turned my attention to my edible garden.   I like the convenience of growing and cooking with fresh herbs.  They grow with little care and attention.  However, I’ve neglected them for the last year and I needed a herb garden makeover.  The rosemary, oregano, and lemon thyme were repotted to plastic containers and moved to the corner alongside my beloved meyer lemon tree.  The pineapple sage was saved from the chopping block and repotted since I couldn’t part with the sweet scent of its leaves.  Plus during the summer, it has lots of little red flowers.   I added a small cilantro plant and some chives.  This year, I am also trying my hand at growing jalapeño peppers and two varieties of tomatoes – Sweet 100s and Yellow Pears.  If everything goes well, I should be able to start harvesting tomatoes in late July through the fall.
Could this be the beginning of my own locavore movement?  At least, I have the makings of some fresh organic salsa with the jalapeños, cilantro, and tomatoes.

Meyer Lemon

I’ve had this meyer lemon tree for about 5 years.  The first couple of years, it produced about 10-15 lemons total.  Once I started to apply some citrus food, it was happy and started to produce more and more fruit.  I’ve harvested about 75 lemons from each of the past few growing seasons.  I juice the lemons and store them in one-cup increments in a ziploc bag in the freezer.  It’s never been easier to make lemon curd and lemon bars.

Jalapeño Peppers

I planted a six-pack flat of jalapeño peppers I bought at Lowe’s for $1.98.  I wasn’t sure how this endeavor would turn out as the tall, gangly seedlings were barely able to stand on its own.  Now, four weeks later, I can see some buds forming.  I hope it develops into actual edible peppers.

Tomato

It looks a little silly to put a big huge cage over two little itty bitty tomato plants, but hopefully they’ll just shoot up and bear little clusters of edible fruit in a couple of months.  It’s so exciting to grow my own tomatoes instead of buying mealy tasteless ones from the grocery store.  I read online that growing basil next to tomatoes makes it taste better, although it was unclear if the article was referring to the tomatoes or the basil.  I think I need to make another trip to Lowe’s for basil.

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