Friday, August 24, 2012

The Great Kitchen Remodel of 2012

Our Kitchen remodel is almost complete! There is only a bit of missing hardware and some plumbing rework to do along with buying something to cover our sliding door and perhaps the window. Wow, we began this project last April! We, mainly my husband, did almost all of the work ourselves. But must say I really do love it. I will post details soon because I know how much I used blog posts to think through my design and choices. But for now, I just wanted to invite you in to see the big picture. Come on in :-)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Salad of grilled peaches on a bed of baby lettuce with nuts and goat cheese

Salads are delicious.Salads with grilled peaches are spectacular! I just love the salads I have been putting together lately. I made Grilled Peaches on a bed of Spring Greens several times. Each one was just a little different so I will share a few ideas of various things you can add but it is really up to you. This is a versatile and crowd pleasing salad! 

By the way, these peaches are the little ones from my friend's tree so they look more like apricots. But they are really tasty little mini peaches and I am very grateful for my friend's generiosity!

Grilled peaches on a bed of baby lettuce and spinach with nuts and goat cheese

Spring greens, a mix of baby lettuces and spinach or whatever you prefer
Toss lightly with pomegranate vinaigrette, sweet balsamic vinaigrette or basic vinaigrette (see link or recipe below)
 You can place extra vinaigrette on the table.

Plate greens.
For Simple Fruit and nut mix, top with :                                
Grilled peaches*, about a half large peach per person
Dried cranberries or dried cherries
Toasted sliced almonds or toasted pecan halves

For Deluxe salad with fruit and nut, top with:
Chicken goes well with this salad

Thinly sliced red onions
Thinly sliced Red sweet pepper
Grilled peaches*, about a half large peach per person

Optional protein—Grilled chicken tenders or shredded chicken
Dried cranberries or dried cherries
Toasted sliced almonds or toasted pecan halves
Goat cheese crumbles, a TBSP or two per person
 *To grill peaches, get the grill to medium hot. While grill is heating, you may peel peaches. If you would like, you can leave the skin on. It comes off easily once grilled.
If you chose to peel the peaches before hand, a way to do it easily is to wash  peaches and place them in boiling water for 1-2 minutes then immediately into ice and water in a bowl. Remove from ice water and the skin will pull right off.

Brush cut side with canola or veggie oil and place peach cut side down on grill. Grill on medium for about 4-5 minutes, until begining to turn gold brown but not getting overly soft. You may turn larger peaches over and cook on the other side. If you like, once you turn them over you could brush them with whichever vinaigrette you are using in the salad.
Heat 1-2 minutes, until tender.

Sweet Balsamic Vinaigrette
2 parts balsamic vinegar- like raspberry balsamic (I usually use 4 TBSP)
1 part sugar, agave or honey (I usually use 1 ½ -2 TBSP)
Pinch of salt, pepper
1 part light olive oil (I usually use 2 TBSP)

What are some tasty salads you have had lately?

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Peach Crisp with Ginger Snap Topping

It feels more like summer to me for some reason. Perhaps because we finally took a break from endless remodeling to go on a few little hikes and have friends over for BBQ’s. But I know we are in the last third of summer, just before the students arrive, because our town is putting on West Fest/Bohemian Nights - a downtown music festival where the streets of Old Town become stages and there are huge concerts. And it is Free! For some reason or another, I have missed the last couple of years but I talked my husband into going last night.

 It was great fun seeing some of the bands we know play, like You, me and Apollo. I loved greeting friends here and there and people watching. Our town may seem a bit homogenous but there are so many interesting folk out in old town for any celebration. Families with kids riding on dad’s shoulders, groups of teens all excited to be out together on a summer evening, a young girl in dreadlocks dancing quite well with a hula hoop, but only half of our usual college students who dominate old town during the school year so it seemed like a very different crowd. We even braved the big stage area and heard a fun band, Euforquestra, as the crowds began to gather. We got a nice spot on the edge, so I did not feel too claustrophobic and I had a curb to stand on so I didn’t feel like I was in a pit of people. I am vertically challenged, as my very tall husband says J. The main concert was so much fun. It was Michael Franti and spearhead. The music was very diverse- jumping around from hip hop to rock to folk to sort of reggae to I-am-not-sure-what but it was all positive and upbeat-lots of social justice, peace and love J What was most fun was how he involved the audience, having people on stage with him, walking into the crowds and calling all kinds of people to come up and dance.  We left a few minutes early, missing an on stage proposal from what I hear, but we wanted to get out before the crowds. But oh my, the crowds were intense, so many people outside the stage area trying to hear so that we had to push our way out. It was hard work so it was good to have some nice left over peach crisp to sweeten the end of the evening!

I made peach crisp for dessert when my son and his girlfriend came over this week. Peach crisp is another staple of summer for us. Crisps are so simple to make so it is easy to throw them together on a weeknight.  I like that they have so much more flavor than pie or cobbler. If I am going to treat myself to some extra calories I want to really enjoy every bite!

  I use a basic crisp recipe for this but add crushed ginger snaps. The gingery crunch goes well with the sweet peaches.
Here is a larger version of this recipe
 Peach Crisp with Ginger Snap Topping
Serving Size  : 6-8   
  5 Cups or so  Peaches - Peeled & Sliced*
  1/2 (-2/3) cup Sugar, depending on ripeness
  2-3 TBSP Corn Starch (or if preferred, use tapioca according to package instructions)
  1 tsp.  Cinnamon
  1-2 TBSP Lemon Juice
½ Tsp.  Almond extract, Optional

             Basic Topping:     
 2/3   cup Brown Sugar
2/3 Cup Flour
5-6   TBSP Butter, Slightly softened
2/3 cup crushed ginger snaps**

2 TBSP flaxseed meal, optional

1/2 cup Chopped Nuts, Pecan, Walnut Or Almond, optional

1  Tsp.  Cinnamon, optional

Take butter out of fridge to soften. Pre heat oven to 375F.
Blend together sugar, spice and 2 to 2 ½ TBSP cornstarch. Place peaches in a bowl and mix in sugar cornstarch.  Mix well and let sit for 15 minutes. Add lemon juice and extract. If there is an excess of juice, you may add another couple of teaspoons of corn starch.
In another bowl, prepare topping by blending sugar and flour. Use a pastry cutter or two table knives to cut slightly softened butter into bowl. Cut butter in until there are small pieces of butter throughout but do not over mix till completely blended together, just sort of like very lumpy oatmeal.  When it is crumbly and coarse, mix in crushed cookies, nuts and cinnamon.

       Pour peaches into an oversized deep dish pie pan or a 9" by 9" baking pan. Sprinkle on topping. Cook in 375F degree oven for approximately 25 -30 minutes. Remove when bubbly and browned.
Serve warm with Ice cream.

*To peel  peaches easily, wash and place them in boiling water for 1-2 minutes then immediately into ice and water in a bowl. Remove from ice water and the skin will pull right off. BTW, use Freestone peaches to keep pitting easy.
**To crush cookies, you can use food processor, blender or with a mallet. Simply place in heavy plastic Ziploc or regular closed bag and gently hit them with mallet, hammer or other blunt, heavy object J until crushed. It does not have to be completely uniform or pulverized, small pieces are okay.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Peach Salsa

Celebrate Peaches!

It is peach season here in Colorado!  They grow awesome peaches in Colorado and my friend, who has a peach tree in her back yard, let us pick a pail of peaches. They taste wonderful and fresh and they are really little and cute J I am happy to get to experiment with ways to use all these little gems.

So for the next few posts, I will be celebrating Peach week, or Peach month as I already have at least three recipes to share!

First up, peaches make a great salsa! I love this one because the flavor comes from all  of the fresh ingredients melding together.

This salsa, of course, works great with tortilla chips but it also is a delicious accompaniment with grilled fish or chicken. I made my blackened salmon along with brown basmati rice and topped it with peach salsa and they were awesome together!

Peach Salsa

1 ½- 2 cups Fresh peaches, peeled and diced

 ½ cup Red onion, minced

Juice from half a lime + 1 TBSP lemon juice (or all lime juice)

½ cup Cilantro, chopped

2/3 – 1 Jalapeno, minced very fine

1 Scallion ( green onion) , finely sliced 

1/3 cup Red pepper, diced

Lemon pepper and salt sprinkle to taste

Optional—2 tsp grated ginger, 1 tsp. garlic, pressed

All of these amounts are only suggestions, use more or less of any of them.
Peel peaches by placing washed peaches into pot of boiling water for a minute or two. Using slotted spoon, place peaches in a bowl of ice water. Remove and pull skin off. Half and then dice peaches.
Blend everything else together.  Let it sit for an hour or so. Serve with chips or over chicken or fish and rice.
I will leave you with a Colorado sunset.
This is the view from the end of our street, just a few steps away from my house. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Pomegranate Balsamic Vinaigrette

        I want to share an incredible salad dressing that has made salad eating even better this summer.  It is pomegranate vinaigrette. This vinaigrette is sweet, tangy and delicious. I have served it several times and each time it has had rave reviews. But I think the best was when I made it the other night for my friends and my husband. My friends and I were using bread to sop up the last bit of dressing when my husband picked up his bowl to down the last swallow. Okay, maybe not the best dining etiquette  but it made me feel pretty good that he enjoyed it that much. Another plus, he keeps asking for salad for dinner! Good for all of us.
Pomegrante dressing with a little teaser of our counter and tile
It is really quite easy to make this exceptional vinaigrette. It does take a bit more time than more typical vinaigrette but it is worth it. The thing that takes some time is making a pomegranate reduction but it makes about 1 3/4- 2 cups of pomegranate syrup.
Do remember the pomegranate molasses I made last year?  This recipe uses a pomegranate reduction but you don’t have to reduce quite as much as for molasses, just more like a thickened syrup. I like to make a decent sized batch since it gets used up quickly in dressing or as a glaze or syrup on many things.

Vinaigrette can be blended by whisk, shaken in a jar or, for the most stable, made in a blender. I think this vinaigrette seems to be better at staying together than most but using the blender will even increase its consistency.

This pomegranate dressing is great on a simple salad such as this one -

Spring greens, garden fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and toasted almonds or try it with Spinach with fruit (strawberries or apples or peaches) and nuts.  You can toss the greens and dressing in a large bowl before plating and adding other toppings or you can drizzle dressing on salad at table.

Pomegranate Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/4   cup pomegranate syrup**
2 Tablespoons pomegranate or raspberry flavored balsamic vinegar or regular balsamic with a pinch of sugar
½ tsp. lemon pepper with salt, optional or salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil, prefer light

In a jar or a blender, blend pomegranate syrup and balsamic vinegar, lemon pepper or salt and pepper to season.  Mix really well, blender is great for this but whisk or shaking jar will work well too.  While whisking, pour a thin drizzle of olive oil into pom/balsamic mix and blend thoroughly.  

** Pomegranate syrup

4 cups pomegranate juice
½-2/3 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat pomegranate juice and sugar on medium till sugar has dissolved. I use ½ cup sugar first and taste later to see if I want to add more. Once sugar is dissolved lower heat to med-low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally for about 40 -50 minutes or until it has reduced by half to about 2 cups. You can reduce to 1 ½ cups for a thicker more flavorful sauce.  It will be thicker as it cools.  Once it has reduced enough, remove from heat and let it cool. Place in container and refrigerate. This will keep for a few weeks—about a month.

 Okay, let me close with  a few photos we snapped this week.
Cool looking barn Northern Colorado
There is an osprey nest near a pond right in town.

We took a ride up into the mountains by our house,
 here is the view near Glen Haven,CO
This young hawk has been hanging around our yard for the last few weeks.