Dinner Menu: Stir Fry Orange Chicken and Broccoli

It’s snowing here – well, raining at the moment, but snow by the evening. Never mind my garden is planted with tomatoes, three kinds of peppers, tomatillos, and zucchini, all raised in the house nursery over the past few months. Sigh.

It’s Colorado and we are always prepared for snow, so I’ve got everything ready to be covered and protected as the weather turns. Just not how I expected to spend the latter part of my week.

Cold weather puts me in the mood for some spicy favorites. This is from 2017:


orange-chicken-dinner

I’m not big on deep frying anything, but I love orange chicken so I wanted to find a way to make it so it was still crisp without all the oil and breading. I found the perfect ingredient to produce that result: potato starch. I’ve been using it for a while now and it makes the most perfect Oven Baked Chicken – I’ve been substituting it for the bread crumbs, combining it with crushed rice chex – I’ll post an updated recipe on that technique this week.

I thought it might have the same effect on pan frying chicken pieces. It did. Crispy, light and flavorful. Of course top anything with enough orange sauce and I’m there.

On the board tonight:

  1. Pan-Fried Orange Chicken
  2. Rice or Rice Noodles
  3. Steamed Broccoli

Continue reading

Dinner Menu: Baked Gnocchi in Fire Roasted Tomato-Basil Sauce

This is an elegant dinner that looks like it took you all day to prepare.  From start to finish I cooked the asparagus and gnocchi in 1/2 hour.  The strawberry bread takes an hour to cook, but it’s a breeze to put together.  So if you feel the need for something special, but still easy, this one could be for you.

On the board tonight:

  1. Baked Ricotta Gnocchi
  2. Broiled Asparagus
  3. Loaf of good crusty bread
  4. Strawberry Bread

Years ago, Christmas Eve is spent eating good food at friends’ Mark and Larissa’s house. Mark’s mom is from Italy and Larissa’s mom is from Japan, and luckily for me, the subject always turns to food from both countries. This year we talked about ravioli, gnocchi and fish in salt domes. I have to confess I’m not a fan of gnocchi. Should be good, right? – potato goodness, covered in sauce. What’s not to love? It just isn’t a favorite of mine. Maybe because I’ve never had it fresh I am missing out. But after we discussed how to make it fresh, well, I don’t think I’d be making it anytime soon. Then I saw a recipe for Ricotta Gnocchi and it sounded good and best of all, easy.  So I’d thought I’d try it. This is what I came up with and it quickly became a favorite of my guests.

Baked Ricotta Gnocchi in Fire Roasted Tomato and Basil Sauce

Sauce:

  • 28 oz fire roasted crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (or 1 tbsp fresh chopped)

Add ingredients in saucepan, bring to a low boil, reduce to low and let simmer while preparing gnocchi. Continue reading

On This Earth Day: Revisiting Killing My Lawn

Since it’s Earth Day and we are facing an extreme high fire danger day here on the Front Range of the Rockies, with record heat and drought, I’ve been thinking a lot about my decision to kill 3/4 of my front lawn. Thought it was worth updating you on what will be its second summer. All of my low-water/butterfly/hummingbird plants survived the winter, minus one daisy plant.

As they are all perennials, this summer will probably be one of minimal growth, but still lots of showy flowers. Next year I expect it to quickly become a jungle. Which is why I did minimal planting, in pretty groupings.

Last fall and this spring has been the real payoff – minimal work to maintain. I trimmed up a few plants this spring, I let the leaves from fall just compost right into the mulch and I’ve pulled minimal weeds (damn you bindweed). And now that the plants are established, the weekly watering I did last summer will be reduced to an “as needed” basis.

I will update with photos as soon as things pop – usually mid-June here (I’m still waiting for lilacs, everything has been late this year. Although my pussy-willows were full of bees today, so yay!).

But for now, let’s revisit how I killed my lawn and revitalized my soil in ways I could have never anticipated. (The worms! The worms!)

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It began innocently enough with laying out an outline of what might be nice and a promise I’d think about it for a while. Two weeks later, phase 1 is complete.

This was the beginning, outlining with bricks to see how I’d lay out the new yard

My goal was to create an excellent soil base to replace what is now pretty much cement hard clay. The previous owners used a chemical lawn service for at least a decade, that left the soil depleted and hard as a rock. Over the past four years, I’ve been amending it with compost, manure and aeration. A record drought this summer proved that none of those measures were enough to reinvigorate the lawn and the soil was still like granite. Continue reading

That Spring Feeling: Lemon-Raspberry Tarts

Spring has finally made an appearance and blueberries and lemons are calling to me.  First up, Lemon Tarts

When I was in Paris I was on the hunt for tarts – specifically lemon tarts and strawberry tarts. Strawberries were out of season, so I had to settle for raspberry. The lemon tarts were by far my favorite. They had a shortbread tart (the raspberry ones were pastry) that worked well with the tart lemon filling.  I’ve upped the game this week by adding a dollop of raspberry fruit spread (just fruit and sugar).

Lemon Tarts With Raspberry Topping

Lemon cream filling

  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Toppings:

  • Raspberry fruit spread

or

  • whipped cream and fresh raspberries

Combine the egg yolks, sugar, cornstarch, water, lemon juice, lemon zest and butter in the top of a double boiler set over, but not touching, boiling water. Cook, stirring, until thick and creamy, about 5 or 6 minutes.  Cool thoroughly before putting tarts together. Continue reading