Sweet Tart Pomegranate Sauce

I'm not a trend setter or a trend follower but I make an exception when it comes to the exotic fruits showing up in plentiful supply at my local supermarket. If you have not yet sprinkled a bunch of fresh Pomegranate seeds on your salad, give it a try! They are quite delightful.

And, so is the plant. Dwarf Pomegranate Trees grow happily in a sunny window. Laden with bright orange flowers, producing edible fruit about the size of a silver dollar.

Sweet Tart Pomegranate Sauce
Serve on chicken, turkey or pork.
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped, fresh basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed dried oregano
  • Salt to taste
  • Garnish with 1/2 cup Pomegranate seeds

Heat chicken broth, pomegranate juice and balsamic vinegar in a skillet.

Add cornstarch, brown sugar and seasonings.

Bring to a boil; reduce and simmer until sauce thickens.

Garnish with Pomegrante seeds (officially called Arils.)


Breakfast Cookies

For years, now, people have been preaching about how breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Especially if you're trying to manage your weight. I didn't understand this. Where I'm concerned, eating does not occur to me until later in the day. And, I'm talking real late. I can get up at 6 and not feel hungry until noon, or later. But, the thing is... once I start eating I don't stop nibbling until I go to bed.
Being the pseudo-scientist that I am, I decided to test this out. I forced myself to eat within 20 minutes after crawling out of bed. And, this is what I discovered: It works.

Dammit all! I'm thinner now than I was during the skipping breakfast years. Though the big problem is finding something palatable to eat first thing in the morning. Nibbling on a breakfast cookie generally does the trick.

Yummy Breakfast Cookies

Mix it up:

  • 3/4 cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/3 tsp. Salt
Stir it in:

  • 1/2 cup Butter
  • 1/3 cup Dark Brown Sugar
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla
  • 1 Egg
Grab that wooden spoon & add...

  • 1.5 cups Oatmeal (not cooked)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped Apples
  • 3/4 cup Craisins
  • 1 cup shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese*
Bake for 15 minutes @ 375 degrees.

Good to go. These work particularly well for me because I'm too impatient to make breakfast. I stick these in my pocket and gobble them up while I'm walking to the stables. Horses like 'em, too.
* I'm a cheese lover. Therefore I love this recipe. If you're not much of a cheesehead substitute nuts and favorite dried fruits for the Cheddar cheese.

Introducing CHEFS Wine Club!


Small Batch Raspberry Jam

My first Raspberry harvest! Don't they look yummy?

Unfortunately, this is the ENTIRE raspberry harvest ~ 7 berries. Oh, well.

Flowers are my forte, they're so easy to grow. Fruits and veggies, I've discovered, are a much bigger challenge. This summer I've harvested 5 tomatoes, 3 zucchini and 1 lemon cucumber with a bug inside.

Plus 7 raspberries. So, things are looking up.

Are you a jam lover? I used to be. These days, I'm spoiled rotten by homemade spreadable fruit though I still call it jam. Sounds nicer.

Small Batch Raspberry Jam
* This recipe takes about 20 minutes, stays fresh in the frig for about 6 weeks.

Over low heat, dissolve 1 packet unflavored gelatin in 1/3 cup water.

Stir these goodies into the saucepan and bring to a boil:
3 cups fresh raspberries, 3 tbs honey, 2 tsp lemon juice, 2 tsp lime juice.

Hey! Nobody told you to stop stirring! Reduce heat, cook for 5 more minutes. Poor into jam jars and refrigerate.

* No pectin, all fruit, quite yummy, must be stored in the frig.
** Yes, you can use this recipe with other fruits, but why would you want to?


Mediterranean Garden Salad

Big Bruiser Heirloom Tomato*
Feeds at least a dozen guests

I spoke excellent French the whole time I was taking French classes in South Dakota. Then I went to France, where people really speak French, and realized how badly I'd been taken on those tuition payments.

It was remarkable how consistently I screwed up deciphering the menus. One evening, my entree turned out to be a tomato the size of my head. Whenever I get together with old friends they tease me about my big tomato night. :)

I didn't know such great, big goodies were available here until I arm wrestled another shopper for this 3-pounder at the Farmer's Market.

* The actual name is the Marvel Stripe Heirloom Tomato, which generally tips the scales at 2-3 pounds.

How did this happen?
Garden zucchinis, apparently, are over-achievers no matter what kind I plant. This 1.5 pound giant was lurking under the vines in my (alleged) miniature veggie garden.

Mediterranean Garden Salad:
  • One big ass heirloom tomato
  • As much ripe zucchini as you need to get rid of.
  • Fresh Mozzarella and Feta cheeses
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Sprinkle with fresh basil and mint leaves (chopped very fine.)


Lavender Cookies

French Lavender (Lavender stoechas, zone 8) grows fast by seed in a sunny window, with true flowers vs. narrow sprigs.

All Lavender is edible but most of them don't taste that great. Grow English Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) if you plan to cook with it.

Lavender Cookies
1.25 cups butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour
4 tablespoons fresh lavender flowers, crushed

Cream together butter, sugar and eggs. Mix in the flour and lavender flowers. Spoon onto a cookie sheet. Bake about 15 minutes @ 350 degrees F. (You might as well double the batch right now because you know in your heart that you want to...)

Forced Tulips and French Lavender spend their days sunning themselves on my deck. Both warm their toes, indoors, at night.


Glazed Baby Vegetables

I've been deputized, by Sandy, to host Easter dinner. Clearly I am slipping. For years, I've suckered her into doing all that hard work.

This, of course, has inspired a cleaning frenzy, indoors and out. It's also prompted me to stir up a few side dishes recipes that take no time at all.

Easter Side Dish: Sweet Baby Veggies
1/2 lb. miniature carrots
1/4 lb. miniature zucchini
1/4 lb. patty pan squash
3 tbs. butter
2 tbs. dark brown sugar
Sprinkle with lemon pepper and chopped fresh chives

Steam veggies to crisp-tender. Melt butter and brown sugar in a stir-fry pan. Toss baby vegetables for about 5 minutes, until warm and nicely glazed.


Cornbread Skillet Breakfast Recipe

This oven-baked beauty is a real stick-to-your-ribs kind of breakfast. Great fuel for a full day of fun on the ski slopes. Works best with a heavy, cast iron skillet.

Cornbread Skillet Breakfast Recipe
1/2 pound bacon
1/2 pound Italian turkey sausage
1 cup diced yellow onion
1/2 cup red bell pepper, chopped small
1 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
6 farm fresh eggs
1/2 cup cream cheese
1 cup skim milk
12 oz. premixed cornbread, with 1 tablespoon flour

Cook bacon, sausage and onions. Toss in the peppers for the last few minutes of cooking time. Prepare cornbread mixture, adding 1 tbs. flour to adjust for high altitudes. Give cast iron skillet a good spritz of nonstick cooking spray. Pour half the cornbread batter into the skillet. Add the cooked meat and veggies. Whip the eggs, milk and cream cheese together. Pour over the meat and veggies. Cover with the Cheddar cheese. Top this delightful mess with the rest of the cornbread batter.

Bake @ 400 degrees (F) for about 30 minutes.

* In the mountains, cornbread and other quick breads can sometimes brown too quickly on top, before the batter underneath is completely done. Cover loosely with aluminum foil for the last 15 minutes.


Natchitoches Meat Pies

I may live in the mountains, but I dream of the Deep South. I have family in New Orleans and I've spent a whole lotta time enjoying the downright crazy lifestyles of the folks who call Louisiana home.

So why would I bastaradize their time-honored tradition of the fried meat pie? I didn't! My aunt did.

For as long as I've known her, this life-long resident of Metairie, LA. has been trimming the fat off Louisiana cooking. (In this case, not much fat at all.)

Natchitoches Meat Pie
* The real Natchitoches meat pie is a hand-held, oil-fried masterpiece of flavors. Aunt Florence lightened this up with ground turkey vs. beef, baked vs. fried, pre-made puff pastry vs. homemade pie crust. So, I guess when you get right down to it, this thing tastes nothing at all like that famous pie. :)
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped green onions
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 large red bell pepper, diced
  • 1-2 tablespoons flour
  • Hot pepper sauce, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Puff pastry sheets
Cook turkey, pork, yellow onions, with the garlic and olive oil in a heavy skillet. Half-way through this cooking process, toss in the peppers and green onions. Spice it up however you please. Stir in the flour.

Drain any excess liquid from skillet, allow mixture to cool. Spoon this delightful mess onto a puff pastry sheet, roll it up. (Or, use puff pastry squares to create individual pies.) Brush with a mixture of egg and water. Bake @ 375 (F) for approximately 35 minutes.

Until the real ones are available west of the Mississippi, this recipe will have to do.

Cool place to stay in Natchitoches.


High Altitude Yeast Bread

Behold the fruits of my labor. 7 hours of labor, to be exact. Rocket science is child's play compared to baking yeast bread at high altitude.

Everything encourages yeast breads to fail at high altitudes. Yup, everything: dry air, thin air, aggressive kneading, water softeners... your apron is probably causing trouble, too. Yeast breads are just that temperamental high in the mountains.

  • The terms 'instant' and 'rapid rise' yeast are relevant to people who live at the bottom of the hill. High altitude baking requires patience. Let yeast percolate slowly in the 'frig for a few hours.
  • Use bread flour vs. all purpose flour.
  • Water softeners fiddle with yeast magic, try bottled water. (I use sparkling water since it's always in my 'frig.)
  • Terra cotta planters or terra cotta saucers make great bread pans.

Artisan Bread Recipe
4 cups bread flour
2-1/4 teaspoons instant rapid rise yeast
3 teaspoons honey
10 ounces bottled, filtered, or sparkling water
3 teaspoons salt

Create a liquid yeast mixture: Combine 1/4th of the flour and ALL of the yeast, honey and water. Refrigerate for a few hours.

Now the fun begins...
Mix the rest of the dry ingredients with the liquid yeast mixture. Let rise for 30 minutes. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes. Knead it by hand. It's great exercise. (Just try it on a timer, if you don't believe me. 10 min. is a long time!)

Create a humid environment:
Fill your largest casserole dish with hot water, stick it in the oven.
Put bread dough on upper oven rack, let rise for about 2 hours.
Humidity + clay baking pan = 1 perfect loaf of bread!

Knead gently, let dough rest for 15 minutes. Repeat. Give terra cotta pot or saucer a non-stick spray. Let dough rise about 1 hour.

Brush with egg white and water.
Bake @ 400 (F) for about 1 hour.


Chop Chop Salad Recipe

I should have been born a man ~ my favorite meal is steak and fries.

So, I was pretty excited when we went to Ruth Chris Steakhouse last week.

If you've ever flown anywhere, you've probably spotted their ads in the flight magazines. Ruth Chris claims to serve the best steak you'll ever have the pleasure of eating.

They do! Though, it's a little anticlimactic.

They serve their steaks on a platter of sizzling butter. I mean... really... melted butter makes anything taste fabulous.

What truly impressed me was their signature Chop Salad. It was so delicious I begged and pleaded until the server literally threw up his hands, sat at our table and wrote out the recipe.

* The key to this yummy salad is to chop everything into tiny pieces. Refrigerate for about an hour after mixing with the dressing.
4 cups Romaine lettuce
1/2 cup fresh spinach
1/2 cup radicchio
1/4 cup red onions
* Chop these ingredients into thin slices.

1 cup mushrooms
2 hard-boiled eggs
1 small can hearts of palm
* Chop these ingredients into small pieces.

1/4 pound crisp-fried bacon
1/2 cup blue cheese

1/2 cup plain croutons
1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
Crispy fried onions

1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
1/8 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
2 tablespoons lemon juice

It is out of this world...


Red Wine Currant Sauce

Currants are colorful, fast-growing, perennial shrubs.
They'll thrive in most gardens (zone 3)

Hmmm... I thought to myself ~ As I nervously stirred a tiny pot of sauce for the New Year's Eve dinner...

It didn't need to be stirred but doing so kept me from making small talk with a couple of strangers. (It also prevented me from strangling their 2 year old bratty boy!)

I used to be pretty good at small talk. I give it a shot but if the other person has taken on the role of part-time fencepost, I immediately switch gears and entertain myself. (Which is what I did last night and I had a marvelous time.)

My aha! moment came while stirring this Red Wine Currant Sauce and pondering how good it could be if currants were more popular. It's hard to find them fresh, though dried currants still make a very tasty sauce.

Currants are gorgeous, fast-growing, USDA zone 3 shrubs. They put forth bright beautiful tart red berries that hang from their branches like clusters of grapes.

If you don't have it in ya to become the farm girl that harvests these luscious berries for jams and pies, fear not.

Every bird in the county will thank you for adding this ornamental shrub to your garden! (They'll thank me, too, 'cause that's exactly what I intend to do!)

Red Wine Currant Sauce
Serve it on duck, pheasant, beef and pretty much anything else under the sun.
* Or, just stir up a pot for the hell of it! It's a great diversion if you're trying to get along with a woman who refuses to converse!

Create a stock by simmering these goodies for at least 30 minutes:
2 cups low sodium beef broth
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup red currant jelly
1/4 cup dry red currants (in stores, near the raisins, if you're lucky.)
* salt to taste

Use this combo to thicken your sauce:
Melt 1/3 cup butter
Mix in 1/3 cup flour
Add to the stock

* Currants are very popular in Europe - the secret ingredient in all sorts of decadent goodies, like this fabulous French Chocolate Cake.