How Does Your Garden Grow {plus a pesto recipe}?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Last weekend I shared the great spread of lunch and dinner that included many items from my family's garden and the farmer's market.  Today I thought I'd share some pics from our garden and a recipe using one of my favorite items out of the garden this year. 

There is just something about fresh garden vegetables that taste so much better than store bought.  My family's garden has had a few struggles this year.  The weather being the biggest hurdle.  It has been unseasonably hot and the heat has taken it's toll on a few of the plants.  With some tender care, we're getting a pretty good crop.  I'm sad the spinach didn't make it but loving the fresh basil.  I'm anxious for the tomatoes and corn to get past their slow start but loving the cucumbers and zucchini. 

I do think we may be growing some 4H or County Fair award winning squash though.  This picture above is ONE plant.  That's my nephew thrown to help you gauge size.  The arrow is pointing to Izzy, who was locked out this day for eating peas faster than we could pick them.  You'll recall she was locked out last month for eating raspberries.  Those have since died off, so now she has turned her attention to the pea plants.  The pods hang at just the right height for her to get those teeth on!

My favorite thing growing in the garden this year is basil.  Just walking by that row in the garden smells amazing.  I could eat pesto on just about anything.  I think it is one of those things that people either love or not at all.  If you fall in the love category and find yourself with some fresh basil, I suggest you make some pesto.  It's super easy to make and tasty too!

Fresh Basil Pesto
·         2 cups basil leaves (packed into cup)
·         ½ cup grated parmesan
·         ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
·          1/3  cup pine nuts
·          two garlic cloves, crushed
·          salt and pepper to taste
Pulse basil and pine nuts in food processor.  Add garlic and pulse a few more times.  Scrape down the sides of the food processor in between as needed.  With food processor running, slowly add olive oil.  Add parmesan, salt and pepper and pulse until blended.  Store covered in refrigerator. 

Not sure what to do with your fresh pesto?  Add to fresh cooked pasta for a quick and easy dish.  I threw in some fresh mozzarella pearls and tomatoes.  How's that for quick and easy?

What veggies or herbs are you growing this summer?  Any favorite recipes with those items? 
Sharing this post with the Marvelous Monday link party.

An Afternoon With Joy

Monday, July 23, 2012

I'm so behind with keeping up with the rest of the Sundays With Joy group.  I just want to do right by Joy and try each and every single one of her fabulous recipes.  I may be turning into a bit of a Joy super  stalker fan.  I follow Joy's blog, facebook page, instagram feed, and now in a group dedicated to making a recipe from Joy's cookbook every week!

This weekend I actually made LAST week's recipe and THIS week's recipe.  Please don't tell Joy, I don't want her to be disappointed in me. 

So I actually was thinking, what would it be like to have Joy as a guest.  Would I do right by her preparing a great meal?  Would Izzy scare Joy with her over zealous greeting?  Maybe and most likely yes but wouldn't it be swell anyway!

This past Saturday, my sister and I started our day by going to the local farmer's market.  I was a bit crabby as my sister texted me at 7:15 but it was worth it to get there early and have the best pick of everything on display.  I really love the variety our market offers.  Between there and my family's garden, I feel blessed to have the freshest and best fruits and veggies, even breads and cheese too.  We made quite the hall at the market and put on a great spread for our family in the afternoon.  Here's a list of our afternoon smorgasbord:

  • Homemade crostini using basil/tomato sourdough bread from the farmer's market.
  • Pasta with homemade pesto using basil from my family's garden.
  • Caprese kabobs using tomatoes and mozzarella from the market/basil from the garden.
  • Corn on the cob from the market with garlic butter/parmesan using corn and garlic from the market.
  • Cucumber salad using fresh picked cucumbers from the garden.
  • Two varieties of fresh local cherries from the market
  • Pesto dip for crackers or crostini using the homemade pesto. (will share my recipe later)
  • Meat and cheese platter with wasabi gouda and garlic dill cheese curds from the market.
To top off the day, I also made last week's Sunday's With Joy recipe, Zucchini and Potato Pancakes. 

I made a fresh basil and lime garnish to top off these wonderful pancakes!  This recipe was amazing, I loved them!  They were simple to make with few ingredients but they pack a great flavor.  The zucchini was fresh from the family garden.  I hate to brag but my addition of the basil sour cream and lime really was a hit! 

This is a picture I posted on instagram that afternoon.  It really was an impressive display and we had enough for lunch, dinner and leftovers for the next day.  I made the comment to my family that afternoon, "this is how I imagine I'd eat if I lived in the Mediterranean"!  That was the truth, it was such a relaxing afternoon with great food and great company.  It was an olive oil and garlic filled day!  I think Joy would approve too.  Until the time came for dessert and I was totally behind on making this week's recipe, Espresso Granita with Sweet Lemon Cream.

The recipe would have made the perfect light ending to this lunch and dinner.  Unfortunately I didn't make it as is or on time.  I made my own take on granita with a tart margarita flavor and lemon lime cream.  It was just enjoyed the next day instead.  Granita is pretty fail proof and who am I kidding, I fell pretty darn fancy saying granita!

I'll post some pictures of the granita when I can.  I should say IF I can, another busy work week for me!  I hope you all had a good weekend and are ready to face the week.

Do you have any favorite farmer's market items?  Or maybe at home garden goodies?  Fresh is always best, don't you think?

Blue Raspberry Beach Cupcakes

Friday, July 20, 2012

In case you missed my guest post last week on Shaken Together, check out my latest creation....Blue Raspberry Beach Cupcakes.  It's a short cut recipe, using a box mix to save a little time.  I usually make my cupcakes from scratch, please excuse my cheating just this one time.  The blue raspberry flavor was a success, my godchild already requested the flavor for his birthday cake next month!  So technically I guess I will be cheating again!  O.K. I'm a cheater, deal with it!

Blue Raspberry Cupcakes:
1 classic white cake mix
1- 3 oz. box berry blue Jello-O
4 large egg whites
1 1/3 cup milk
2 Tbs. vegetable oil

Line muffin tins with cupcake papers.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.  Stir all ingredients together.  Mix on medium speed for 2 minutes.  Pour batter into prepared cups.  This recipe will make about 30 cupcakes.  Bake 18-20 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting.

Blue Raspberry Buttercream:
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup shortening
1 1/2 tsp. raspberry extract
4 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbs. milk
food coloring of choice

Mix butter and shortening together with paddle attachment of stand mixer until smooth and creamy.  Add powdered sugar 1/4 cup at a time, mixing in completely and scraping down sides of bowl after each addition.  Mix in raspberry extract and milk, using additional milk to reach piping consistency if needed.  Stir in blue food coloring depending on shade of blue desired.  Pipe frosting on cupcakes and decorate as desired.

These Blue Raspberry Cupcakes would be fine with a cute straw stuck in like these.  If you have a little more time and maybe want to get the kids involved in the decorating, I suggest you try making some candy clay.  I first discovered candy clay in the book, Cupcakes, Cookies & Pie, Oh, My!  They have so many creative ways to decorate with candies but I liked the idea of making my own candy, shaping and molding it into all sorts of cupcake decorations.  It's easy to make and is tasty too!

Candy Clay (from Cupcakes, Cookies & Pie, Oh, My!):
1 12 oz. bag chocolate chips or
1 14 oz. bag Wilton Candy Melts
1/3 cup light corn syrup

Melt candy in microwave.  Stir after every 10-20 seconds and continue to do so.  It won't take more than 1 minute to melt.  Stir corn syrup and melted candy together.  It instantly thickens together.  Wrap the mixture in plastic wrap and let set for several hours. 

You can start with the candy melt color you wish to work with or add in food coloring once set up.  To work into shape or color, simply knead the clay with your hands.  This is where the kids will have fun creating their own candy masterpieces!  If the clay gets too soft from the heat of your hands, wrap in plastic wrap and allow to set up.  Clay can be rolled out thin between sheets of wax paper and then cut with a knife into shapes you like.  If you have small cookie cutters, those would work great too.  Colors can be stacked or mixed together too.  This candy clay is so fun to work with!

If you want to make a beach theme like I did, cover some of your frosted cupcakes in graham cracker crumbs to look like sand.  I did small groups of cupcakes, but you could do a large layout will all or most of your cupcakes too.  Set your sand cupcakes closely together and then line one side with unfrosted cupcakes.  Get the unfrosted cupcakes as close together as you can, when finished, you want them to look like one set of waves.  Pipe frosting along cupcakes to make continuous waves.  I used Wilton tip 1G and love how the waves turned out. 

What cupcake theme would you like to see next, any ideas?

Favorite Things Friday {#3}

Friday, July 13, 2012

I have been absent from blogging as of late.  I keep up the best I can with all my favorite blog reading and end up being so jealous of the multiple posts going on.  Oh well, such is life.  I do what I can and thank the readers I have for hanging on anyway!  Here are some of my favorite things right now.

#1 The best dog sitters EVER!
The last few weeks have been a bit of a struggle for me.  I had some long days of extra hours at work which means Izzy would have several long days home alone.  Not the case when she has her "grandparent's" house to go to.  My parents have helped me out so much, letting Izzy have mini vacations at their house where she can go swimming, help in the garden, and go on long walks around the trails my Dad made out in the field.

She's happy and that makes me happy!

#2  My first guest post!
I had my first guest post for another blog this week.  Check out the cupcakes I made for Keri, Blue Raspberry Beach Cupcakes, HERE!  I adapted the recipe from a cake mix, {gasp!} for the first time.  Though I enjoy making cupcakes from scratch, it was a time saver so I could spend more time on the decorations.  Thanks to Keri for inviting me, I had fun. 

#3 Thrift Gift Exchange

a punk, a pumpkin and a peanut

Some wonderful bloggers set up a mass gift exchange among bloggers across the country.  Those of us that enjoy thrifting have a $10 limit to go thrifting for their partner.  I'm on the search for something (or things) perfect for Jenn from Passenger Seat Perspectives! 
#4 Supportive Friends and Family
I did something a month ago that I haven't done in many (14is) years.  I worked on my resume.  Not exactly the "what I did on my summer vacation" story I would prefer but it happened.  I had the opportunity to apply for a position within the organization I am currently working.  It was a bit of a nerve racking experience to say the least.  There were over 300 applicants and I was lucky enough to be invited in for an interview on Monday.  Business suit clad, I arrived with a ton of nerves (to say the least)!  It's a strange feeling walking into your place of employment as a visitor.  Sadly I got the dreaded phone call from HR on Wednesday morning.  I'm not going to lie, there were tears.  As much as I was disappointed, I was also relieved to have that month of wondering and worrying behind me.  There was a mass text sent out and the replies that came back were all wonderful, supportive and a good reminder of the amazing people in my life!
#5 WEEKENDS (real non-working weekends)
Or see #1 and #4!  I actually have a semi-real weekend.  I'm off today and Saturday and don't have to be back in to work until Sunday afternoon.  I'm going to enjoy every minute of it.  I'll try to post some of my weekend fun on Instagram (I'm still loving Instagram!). 
Sorry if some (most) of this post appeared a bit pity party-ish.  It's been a long week.  Don't forget to check out my beach cupcake guest post, they were so much fun to make.  Maybe Izzy and I need to head to the beach this weekend.  How does that Zach Brown Band song go? 
"I got my toes in the water, ass in the sand
Not a worry in the world, a cold beer in my hand
Life is good today, life is good today?"

Sundays With Joy ~ Cool Down Edition

Sunday, July 1, 2012

How could you possibly improve on a plate of dark chocolate and raspberries?  It's not easy but you can.  You add chunks of each to a smooth fudgey pudding mixture and freeze it.  What you get are Chocolate Raspberry Fudge Pops, another Joy Wilson creation (check out Joy's book here).  Sounds easy right?  So where does the hard part come in?  Getting those stinking pops out of the molds!  I checked with my other Sundays With Joy gals to see what recommendations they might have on molds.  I was told as long as I run them under warm water, I'll be fine.  I was told small cups/popsicle sticks would work too.  I was convinced I needed some molds so off I went.  Bed, Bath and Beyond and Target were both a bust.  Unless I wanted to spend over 20 bucks to get the instant-freeze maker thingy that only made 4 at a time.  It has a name but I can't recall it.  I then happened upon some at my grocery store.  These here in two different sizes to give my first attempt at homemade fudge pops a success or so I thought.

The small ones came out after running under warm water like I was told but the ends were melting already by the time I got them out.  Fine if you are going to eat them right away, not fine if you need to get a photo from every possible angle you can.  The large ones were even harder to get out.  I ran them under water but the handle still pulled out on me, so now what?  I'm hoping the sticks re-freeze and I will be able to get them out eventually. 

See, these fudge pops are quite tasty and I don't want to waste a single one!  Especially because it is like 1000 degrees out as I type this.  O.K. maybe not 1000 but in the 80's, close to 90's and humid.  This was also another great way to use some of the raspberries from the family garden.

 Don't forget the four-legged friends during those hot days.  They may enjoy a frozen treat too!  Izzy enjoys Purina Frosty Paws.  I have a recipe to make some homemade dog friendly treats I need to try.  I know I have a great taste tester when I do.

Have a recipe or tip for staying cool in the summer heat?  I'd love to hear it.

Don't forget to check out what the rest of the Sundays With Joy gals thought of these fudge pops.  Carrie at Bakeaholic Mama hosts the link HERE.

P.S. What do you think of the new blog look?