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Friday Recipe Exchange: What’s in the Pantry?

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The sun is peaking through the clouds after two days of excellent rain. A little thunder, a steady drizzle and snow in the mountains, perfect Colorado fall.

Tonight’s recipe exchange was prompted by a friend of mine who recently lost her husband. I was working at her house and she asked me to come into the kitchen and began going through her pantry, freezer and refrigerator and filling a bag for me with things she didn’t think she’d be able to use. She doesn’t really like to cook much and cooking for one can be a challenge. That’s when I had an idea. I asked her if I could come over every once in a while and cook for her and use up a lot of these amazing ingredients. Her husband was a bit of gourmet, so the whole kitchen is filled with mouth-watering things.

What sold her on the idea was my desire to just pop in, look around the kitchen and come up with something on the spot based on what ingredients sparked my imagination. She thought that sounded like fun and I agree. One of the things I’m really looking forward to is using the black rice. I’ve never cooked with it before.

So for tonight, I went looking through my recipe files to find the ones that started out as a “whatever is in the pantry” meals. They are rarely the same thing twice, but I put the basics in a recipe.

Here are a few:

Pineapple and Bacon Fried Rice is one of the reasons I keep Ponzu Sauce on hand. Click here for that recipe and click here to see all of JeffreyW’s photos and recipes for a variety of fried rice dishes (including the one pictured above).

Pasta is always a great base for a quick dinner.  Here is my Pasta Rustica, (basic recipe here), that can include any number of items from your vegetable drawer or freezer.

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Of course JeffreyW has a great photo of Beef and Broccoli. Yum.

Spicy Beef and Broccoli (click here) is one of my favorite dinners to make with sirloin. And it’s great if you forgot to take the meat out to thaw until late. There is also a full menu, recipes and shopping list at that link.

I thought I hated vegetables, until I had Stir Fried Vegetables in a Bread Bowl, (recipe here) at a local restaurant. Quick and easy, serve over rice or noodles if your basket weaving skills are minimal (that would be me).

Finally, the weekly dinner menu starts with a basic recipe that you can jazz up with whatever you have on hand, Beef Vegetable Soup and Apple Pumpkin Butter. Menu, recipes and shopping list are here.

What are your go-to “raid the pantry” meals? Are there ingredients you always keep on hand for quick dinners? What’s on the menu for the weekend? I’m not sure there will be a recipe exchange next week, I’m hosting a dinner. Stay tuned…

For tonight’s featured recipe, I kept it as simple as it gets. If you can’t find pineapple salsa, JeffreyW has a recipe for it.

Frijoles Ananás

  • 2-15 oz cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 16 oz pineapple salsa
  • 1 tsp to 1 tbsp chili powder (start with 1 tsp and add more to taste)
  • 1/4  tsp to 1 tsp cayenne pepper (start with 1/4 tsp and add more to taste)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

To serve:

  • 8 oz shredded cheddar
  • 6 to 8 taco size tortillas, warmed


Add beans, salsa and spices to a saucepan, bring to a low boil for 1 minute, reduce heat and let simmer 10 minutes, add cilantro and simmer for 5 additional minutes. Serve with cheese and tortillas.

If you want to make it a one-pot meal, add corn or cubed zucchini to the mix for a complete dinner. Serves 4 generously.

That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend – TaMara



Vegetable Beef and Barley Soup

DSC_1180 (1600x1060)The local market ran a big sale on beef roasts, we bought a few to vacuum seal and freeze but be saved one out for use.  The croutons are from the loaf of beer bread we made a few days ago and they worked fine.  I had a bottle of Marsala out and, on a whim, deglazed the pot with it after browning the meat.  It added an interesting note to the finished soup.

Friday Recipe Exchange: Feed a Cold


I have been fighting a cold this week and all I want is orange juice and homemade soup. So, of course, that’s the theme for tonight’s recipe exchange. Soups. And there are plenty on the blog, because both JeffreyW and I love soup. Just search on soups and you’ll come up with almost 300 entries.

Here are few selections:

Cream of Chicken Soup, click here.

From Joshua D (Yutsano), Cauliflower Beer Cheese Soup, click here.

From JeffreyW, three soups:

     Vegetable Beef Soup, picture above and recipe here

     Moroccan Spicy Lamb Soup, recipe here

     Parmesan Potato Soup, with Bacon, click here

What’s cookin’ in your kitchen this weekend? What must have recipe gets you through cold season?


Tonight’s featured recipe takes very little effort, so you can have quick and easy homemade soup for a weeknight dinner or when feeling under the weather.

Tortellini Soup

  • 2 cups water
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 8 oz sliced carrots
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes (or equivalent fresh)
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 1 tsp oregano, crushed
  • 1 tsp basil, crushed
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach, rough chopped
  • 20 oz pkg frozen tortellini
  • 4 oz grated Parmesan

large saucepan

Add all ingredients to saucepan, except spinach, tortellini & Parmesan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat & let simmer for 15 minutes. Add tortellini and bring to boil again, reduce heat, let simmer 10 minutes, add spinach and let simmer additional 5 minutes, until tortellini is tender. Serve with Parmesan garnish.

That’s it for this week. I’ll try and have a Bixby update later…he’s been sleeping a lot the last two days, so I’m thinking, growth spurt.  – TaMara


Cheesy-Lemon Cauliflower

I’m focusing on vegetables for Thursday’s recipe exchange. The lemon juice really brings out the flavors in this one.

Cheesy-Lemon Cauliflower

  • 16 oz cauliflower crowns
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ½ onion, chopped
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ tsp curry
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 oz shredded cheddar
  • 1 lemon, quartered


Add cauliflower, 1 inch of water and ¼ cup lemon juice in saucepan, bring to a boil and cook until cauliflower is just tender. Drain. In saucepan, melt 1 tbsp butter, sauté onion until golden, then add flour, stirring until smooth. Add milk, seasonings and cheese, stir until well mixed and smooth. Add cauliflower, stir well. Reduce heat and let simmer on low, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

Thursday Recipe Exchange: Garden Vegetables

This photo by JeffreyW was one of my favorites this week.
A hummingbird and a hummingbird moth eye-to-eye.

I seem to have gotten into a routine with the new clients and my old job that’s working. It is feeling less like I’m going down the rapids and more like a fast running stream. I hope soon it will be a bit less hectic and I can get back to actual cooking. Luckily for me it’s summer and fresh food is easy to come by and little cooking is necessary. I’ve been enjoying fresh tomatoes, cucumber, onions, watermelon, peaches, squashes and more.

I prefer them with very little prep, only occasionally cooking them.  Squash Confetti is one recipe I like because it’s quick and easy (recipe here) and doesn’t heat up the kitchen. But, I understand that when you’re staring down your second bushel of zucchini and overrunning tomato plants, you start to look for something different to do to make things interesting. I was lucky to have a nice recipe drop in my lap this week that will serve as the featured recipe tonight.

Being so busy, I was happy to see a great recipe in my email from American’s Test Kitchen. I thought it sounded like something you all would appreciate.

Summer Vegetable Gratin

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound zucchini , ends trimmed and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (see note)
  • 1 pound summer squash (yellow), ends trimmed and sliced crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick slices (see note)
  • 2 teaspoons table salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes (3 to 4 large), sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 medium onions , halved lengthwise and sliced thin pole to pole (about 3 cups)
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 large slice white sandwich bread , torn into quarters
  • 2 ounces Parmesan cheese , grated (about 1 cup)
  • 2 medium shallots , minced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves

1. Adjust oven rack to upper-middle position and heat oven to 400 degrees. Brush 13- by 9-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon oil; set aside.

2. Toss zucchini and summer squash slices with 1 teaspoon salt in large bowl; transfer to colander set over bowl. Let stand until zucchini and squash release at least 3 tablespoons of liquid, about 45 minutes. Arrange slices on triple layer paper towels; cover with another triple layer paper towels. Firmly press each slice to remove as much liquid as possible.

3. Place tomato slices in single layer on double layer paper towels and sprinkle evenly with 1/2 teaspoon salt; let stand 30 minutes. Place second double layer paper towels on top of tomatoes and press firmly to dry tomatoes.

4. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are softened and dark golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Set onions aside.

5. Combine garlic, 3 tablespoons oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and thyme in small bowl. In large bowl, toss zucchini and summer squash in half of oil mixture, then arrange in greased baking dish. Arrange caramelized onions in even layer over squash. Slightly overlap tomato slices in single layer on top of onions. Spoon remaining garlic-oil mixture evenly over tomatoes. Bake until vegetables are tender and tomatoes are starting to brown on edges, 40 to 45 minutes.

6. Meanwhile, process bread in food processor until finely ground, about 10 seconds. (You should have about 1 cup crumbs.) Combine bread crumbs, remaining tablespoon oil, Parmesan, and shallots in medium bowl. Remove baking dish from oven and increase heat to 450 degrees. Sprinkle bread-crumb mixture evenly on top of tomatoes. Bake gratin until bubbling and cheese is lightly browned, 5 to 10 minutes. Sprinkle with basil and let sit at room temperature 10 minutes before serving.

JeffreyW has been doing some fun things with the bounty from his garden: Grape Jelly and Ripe Jalapenos. What have you been doing with your fresh vegetables? How is the fall harvest looking? Anything you’ve just had enough of yet?

Christmas Eve: Turkey Dinner with Traditional Side Dishes

Bald Eagle 1 5 12

Bald Eagle from my hike the other day. Wish I had my camera, not just my cell phone

Would we still have turkey if it had become our national bird  instead of the Bald Eagle?

The menu is set for Saturday.  I’m doing an Orange Glazed Turkey.  The sides will be Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Oven Baked Stuffing, Green Beans with Bacon and Onions, Spinach-Raspberry-Walnut Salad and Homemade Cranberry Sauce.  Appetizers will be Tomato-Basil Crostini, Chips w/Dip and a Raw Vegetable tray.  Dessert will be a Dark Chocolate Torte with a Dark Chocolate Ganache (this recipe with a chocolate ganache* instead of confectioner’s sugar) and Fruit Pie Cookies.

I’m still trying to decide if  I’m going to mull cider or not.

I’ll add more recipes as I go along.


*Chocolate Ganache

  • 6 oz dark chocolate
  • 6 oz heavy cream

Double boiler (I use a metal bowl over a saucepan with about an 1 inch of water)

Place chocolate and cream in top of boiler, bring water in bottom half to a boil, reduce heat to med-high and let chocolate melt, stirring occasionally. When completely melted, remove from heat and stir until cream and chocolate are completely mixed. Let cool and pour over cooled cake.

Memorial Day Grilling Menu

Here’s a grilling menu that is a nice change from BBQ, burgers and steak (not that there is anything wrong with any of that!).  The grilled pears are a real treat, especially with the melted butter baste.  If the weather cooperates, why cook inside when you can cook your entire meal outside?

  1. Honey Glazed Chicken
  2. Grilled Vegetable Wraps
  3. Grilled Pears

Honey Glazed Chicken

  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • ¼ tsp dry mustard
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1/8 tsp salt & pepper
  • 4 boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Mix together honey, zest, mustard, garlic, salt & pepper. Brush chicken breasts with oil and grill over medium-high heat. After 10 minutes, turn breasts over. After 5 additional minutes begin to brush with sauce. Turn and brush every 5 minutes until breasts are cooked through (approximately 20-30 minutes total cooking time).

Grilled Vegetable Wraps

  • 1 red sweet pepper
  • 1 yellow sweet pepper
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 summer squash, cut lengthwise (¼” thick)
  • 1 small onion, cut into thin rings
  • 1 tomato, cut into thin wedges
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • ¼ cup Ranch Dressing
  • 4 tomato or spinach flavored flour tortillas
  • 2 oz shredded pepper jack cheese
  • ½ cup snipped cilantro

grilling basket or foil

Seed & slice peppers into thin strips. Toss peppers, squash, onions & tomato with oil. Grill in grilling basket or in foil packet until vegetables are tender-crisp, about 8 minutes. Spread ranch dressing on each tortilla, sprinkle with cheese & cilantro, place ¼ of vegetables in each tortilla and wrap up. If you like you can then toast rolled up tortillas on the grill until cheese melts.

Grilled pears

4 pears, cut into 4 wedges each and place on skewers & grill for 5 minutes, brushing lightly with butter during grilling.

White House Spring Garden

It’s that time again.  The First Lady Michelle Obama and local students have planted the spring garden.  The full story is here.

Here’s the map of the garden.  Love all the peas….and I’m wondering what the Thomas Jefferson Bed has in it.

On Assignment

EDIT from TaMara:  I’m reposting this because these are some beautiful photos and this is when everything went kaplooey.  So if you missed it first time around, it’s summer and time to enjoy repeats.

TaMara asked me if I would do a diary on our pitiful veggie garden.  We are not avid vegetable gardeners but there is an itch to put something into the ground.  Mrs J is more into flowers so that’s where her main energies go but she found some time earlier to put some tomatoes and peppers out.  My hand in the enterprise is minimal, tilling prep and hauling mulch from the big pile we have right next to the plot.  The garden plot is a kinda sorta raised bed.  I dug it out pretty deep a few years ago and amended the soil with about 30 bales of peat moss and a trailer load of good compost.  It represents the best dirt we have on our whole place save for the containers scattered about on the patio.  We like the tomato cages.  Made from a roll of wire that was left over from a concrete pour.  We reuse the same ones every time we have tomatoes, keep them in a shed overwinter.

Here’s the progress.  Mrs J set the plants out 8 May so we are looking at a month of additional growth from then:

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Finicky Eaters, Chapter One

A friend and I were running errands today, one of which was at the local Asian market.  This prompted, as it always does, a great discussion on different types of food.  I’m forever picking things up and wishing there were directions on how to cook it or what it is good for.  There’s this big, prickly fruit, bigger than a pineapple that I always want to know what to do with it.  My friend can tell me somethings, but others she’s at as much of a loss as I am.  We talk about regional foods, like, oh, SPAM…or fish flakes and dried squid. 

This leads us to talking about finicky eaters.  Today she shared a great idea that her kid just loves.   When she makes mac ‘n cheese, she boils cauliflower with the macaroni adds her cheese sauce and finishes up by baking it in the oven.  It’s now a family favorite.

There are lots of ways to get creative with familiar recipes to help the finicky eater.   Adding a variety of vegetables to meatloaf, making a hearty vegetable broth to add to soups or stews.  Up the nutrition and introduce subtle new flavors.

There’ll be more tips for finicky eaters as we go along.  And later this week I’ll dig out my favorite mac ‘ n cheese recipe and post it.  Cauliflower optional.


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