Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cucumbers and Onions - One Of Our Favorites

Did your family have a recipe of some kind for  cucumbers and onions in vinegar?  Seems these recipes exist around the world.  When our kids were all at home, this was one of their most favorite sides that I would make.  They would eat a whole bowl full at one meal.  Since there was all that delicious vinegar goodness left in the bowl, I would simply peel and slice more cucumbers and onions and add it to the brine.  More for the next day!

I made these a couple of weeks ago when the family came over for dinner, and nothing has changed - they were devoured.  We all love them, except for Dan.  He is not a fan of anything made with vinegar.  I know, I don't understand it but that's the way it is.  He doesn't like salad dressings, most condiments and NOTHING that he even suspects has vinegar in it.  Let's face it, we all have something we don't like.

This is a dish that I grew up with and many of you probably did too.  My great grandmother, grandmother and mother all made these, especially in summer when there were plenty of fresh cucumbers.  There are a myriad of recipes available, some using mayonnaise, while most use vinegar, oil and sugar.  That's what I am accustomed to.  I tried to find the history of this dish and where it originated, but it seems to exist in some form everywhere.  

Cucumbers originated in India. where a great many varieties of cucumber have been observed. They have been cultivated for at least 3,000 years, and were probably introduced to other parts of Europe by the Greeks or Romans. Records of cucumber cultivation appear inFrance in the 9th century, England in the 14th century, and in North America by the mid-16th century.  Wikipedia

Cucumbers and pickling have been traced back as far as 4400 years ago.  There are references to Cleopatra believing that pickles enhanced her beauty and Julius Caesar was also a fan.  The Bible has several references to cucumbers, so we know they have been around a good long while.  George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were also reported to be lovers of pickles.  Amerigo Vespucci, for whom our Country is named. was a pickle salesman.  I mean, other than Dan, who doesn't love a good pickle?  

Even though this recipe uses fresh cucumbers and onions, it is still a form of "quick" pickling because it involves vinegar.  Vinegar is a preservative and immigrants coming to America usually traveled with quantities of pickles because they were nutritious and would not go bad on the long ocean journey.  If you want some interesting reading, Google the history of vinegar.  At least I thought it was interesting.

Science now knowns that cucumbers contain anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.  Not only do they taste good, they are good for you!   Pickles also contain probiotics which are helpful to the digestive system.   It's nice to know that pickles are actually good for you!

Here is what you need to make a batch of these cucumbers and onions.

3-4 whole cucumbers, peeled and sliced
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
fresh cracked black pepper
1 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil

I made these in a 1 1/2 quart Pyrex dish that we received as a wedding gift almost 43 years ago.  Yes, it's practically an antique, but it has a lid and that means I can store leftovers in the refrigerator.

First, peel and slice the cucumbers and onions.  Generously salt both sides of the cucumbers and onions, mixing them up with your hands or a large spoon to make sure they are all salted.  Let them sit for about 1/2 hour.  (I don't rinse mine but I do drain any water off that comes out of the cucumbers.)

Place the cucumbers and onions in the container you plan to serve them in.  For this size container, I mixed 1 cup cider vinegar, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup vegetable oil.  Mix thoroughly with a whisk until the oil is combined with the vinegar.  Pour over the cucumbers and onions and refrigerate.  These can be served anytime, but if they marinate for a while the cucumbers absorb more of the flavor.

If you want to use white vinegar, or red wine vinegar, that is your choice.  I prefer the slight sweetness apple cider vinegar adds to the flavor and it's the way we always made them.   You know, it's the way I prefer them.  You make them however you want.

I am sitting here looking the the picture as I type and it is literally making my mouth water wishing I had a big bowl of these to have with dinner.  Looks like there is a project in my future.  Hope you give these a try.   If you didn't have these growing up, you may not know what you have been missing.  Mm mmm mmmm.  

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

American King James Version
We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic:  Numbers 11:5

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pork Butt At It's Finest - Low and Slow

Pulled pork, slow roasted, with tons of flavor - is there anything better?  Perhaps not.  I made this pork butt on Memorial Day and used a recipe I found at  It's a keeper and we will be having this again and again.  It's an easy recipe that produced wonderfully seasoned, super tender pork that made us sad when it was gone.  It may sound like an odd combination to you, but it creates a wonderful bark on the pork butt that has a sweet barbecue flavor.  Yum.  Yum.  Yum.  Wish I had some right now.

Recently while watching Bobby Flay, he gave an explanation of the difference between barbecuing and grilling.  Barbecuing is done low and slow, grilling is high heat and fast cooking.   Makes sense doesn't it?  This beautiful pork butt was cooked low and slow and was worth the time it took.  Here is what you need.

1 4 pound pork butt
whole garlic cloves (I used 5)
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/4 cups apple juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper

First, make slits all over the pork butt and insert a whole garlic clove into each slit.  If you like lots of garlic, go for it and add more.  I like mild garlic flavor in barbecue, so I used 5 whole cloves.
Just peel off the paper wrapper on each clove and shove them down into the slits you made in the meat.

Now, place the pork butt in a dutch oven or greased casserole that has a lid.  Let it sit at room temperature for 1.5 hours.  After 1.5 hours, spoon any Worcestershire sauce in the bottom of the pan back over the pork butt.

Using your hands, press the brown sugar onto all sides of the butt making sure it sticks to the meat.  Go slow and press hard.

Pour the apple juice down the side of the pan so  you don't knock any of the brown sugar off the butt.  Cover tightly.

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes.  Place the pan with the pork butt in the oven and IMMEDIATELY reduce the temperature down to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.  Remember, LOW and slow.

The roast will take about 4 hours until the meat is fall apart tender.  *Here is where I did something a little different.  At 3.5 hours, I removed the pan from the oven.  We turned the gas grill on low heat and put a foil packet of hickory chips on the grill.  You soak the chips in water for several hours so they will smoke, then place them in aluminum foil and seal the top by folding the foil over.  Oh, it gives the meat such a good flavor.  Nothing like a good smoke flavor, like the barbecue we grew up with.  I put the whole butt on the grill and let it cook for about 45 minutes (low heat on one side, meat on the side with no flame) and then removed it to a platter.  At this point, you can pull the pork using two forks and sort of shredding it, or do as I did and slice it.

The pork butt was served with our favorite barbecue sauce, Sweet Baby Ray's, which is tomato based and has just an undertone of spice to it - not too much, just right.  The pork was so flavorful and delicious that it really didn't need any sauce as far as I was concerned.  Fantastic.

Summertime is a great time for serving meat that has been cooked low and slow.  You can make sandwiches or serve it sliced.  It's great for picnics or easy Sunday dinners.  Either way, it's worth the effort.  Give this recipe a try.  It has been approved by the whole family.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

The memories of childhood summer swirl around cook outs, picnics, friends, swimming, laughter, ice cream and fireflies.   Games of tag and kick the can, hide and seek and whiffle ball.  Those were golden days.   donna

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Speculoos (Biscoff) Gooey Butter Cake

How many of you like, no I mean love, windmill cookies?  You know what I'm talking about right?  The brown spicy cookies shaped like a windmill that we all ate as children (probably as adults too).  Well, I LOVE windmill cookies and always have.  Not only is the shape intriguing, but so is the awesome gingerbready, spicy taste.  Yum yum.  Windmill Cookies are called Speculoos cookies in the Netherlands.  Amazing what a little research will tell you.

My daughter and her family were living in Dallas and she kept asking me if I had ever had Biscoff or Nutella.  I couldn't figure out what the heck Biscoff was nor Nutella.  No, I had never had it.  She told me it was a spread somewhat like peanut butter.  I am not a big peanut butter fan (unAmerican, I know), so I don't usually look at the nut spreads at the grocery store.  She kept insisting that I needed to try them both.  Well, one day I gave in and purchased some Nutella thinking we would try and figure out what all the fuss was about.  Helloooooooo, maybe best stuff ever.  That is until I bought some Speculoos Cookie Butter (aka Biscoff spread).  Holeeeeeeeee Moly, this stuff is downright sinful, dangerous and beyond delicious.

Nutella is chocolate and hazelnut spread.  It's wonderful.  Speculoos Cookie Butter, which is sold exclusively at Trader Joe's and is a product of the Netherlands,  is ground up windmill cookies (called Speculoos) and mixed with a myriad of oils to make it the most deliciously spreadable concoction on the face of the earth.  What genius thought this up?  If you don't have a Trader Joe's, look for Biscoff.  (The label says it is "a deliciously unusual spread reminiscent of gingerbread and made with crushed biscuits").  Okay, works for me.  On the side of the jar it says "All you have to do is taste it to understand!"  Now THAT is the understatement of the century.  It says you can spread it on pancakes or waffles, peanut butter and cookies, sandwiches, serve on ice cream, dip pretzels or celery in it.  What don't you do with something this delicious?"  Good question.  You could put this on just about anything and make it taste even better, just eat it by the spoonful or make this gooey butter cake that is 1. amazing, 2. amazing, and 3. amazing.  Get the point?

If you have never had gooey butter cake, get to the grocery as fast as you can and get all the ingredients it takes and make one immediately.  Yeah, it's that good and that's just plain gooey butter bake.  I have made Paula Deen's pumpkin gooey butter cake and Plain's Nutella gooey butter cake  (recipes on my blog) and they are out of this world.  But, Plain Chicken's Speculoos (Biscoff) gooey butter cake is to the moon and beyond.  Here is what you need:


1 14.5 oz yellow cake mix
1 egg
8 Tbsp. butter, melted


1 8 oz. package cream cheese softened
1 cup Speculoos Cookie Butter (Biscoff)
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
8 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 1 pound box, powdered sugar (that is 3.5 generous cups)

Mix the yellow cake mix with 1 egg and 8 Tbsps melted butter.  Press in the bottom of a 9x13 cake pan.  Set aside.

Make the filling by beating the softened cream cheese and Speculoos Cookie Butter (Biscoff) until smooth.  Add the 3 eggs, vanilla and melted butter.  Mix thoroughly.  Add the powdered sugar a little at a time and mix until it is all incorporated.

Pour the filling over the crust mix in the 9x13 pan and do everything within your power not to eat it before you bake it.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes.  The very center should still be a little "unset".  It will continue to bake when you remove it from the oven.  Let cool, cut into squares and serve.  Listen to the raves and requests for more (that's if you don't eat it all yourself)!

I am sitting here noshing on a little square and drinking a cup of coffee while I type this just so I can try and tell you how OH EM GEE good this is.  I wish you were here so I could share some of it with you.  It's worth the drive believe me (or at least a trip to the store).

The slightly gingerbreadish flavor of the cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, allspice and whatever other flavors are in the Speculoos (windmill) cookies makes this gooey butter cake just about indescribable.  If you've had windmill cookies you know what I am talking about, only difference is this cake is creamy and spicy with a fabulous crust, not hard and crunchy like windmill cookies.  You owe it to yourself, your family and everyone you know to try this recipe.  I'm not kidding.  They will all thank you.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Childhood memory.  My mom always liked Fig Newtons (ugh) but sometimes we could talk her into Windmill Cookies.  That was a happy day.  Who knew somewhere down the road they would become the most delicious spread ever made?    donna

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dutch Oven Pot Roast With Onions, Potatoes and Carrots

Well, that weekend certainly flew by now didn't it?  Wow.  Here it is Monday once again and there were errands to run and projects to work on and of course, dinner to be made.  Do you have favorite meals from childhood that you consider comfort food or "go to" meals?  Today was one of those days when I wanted something fabulously delicious (at least in my book), so I decided to make pot roast in my dutch oven with carrots, onions and potatoes.  This was one of my all time childhood favorite meals.  It was usually served for Sunday dinner in our house, but who said it's only for Sunday?  I decided to make it Monday dinner because I had the time, a roast in the freezer and it was what I wanted.  I cook, I make the menu.  Dan has to go along for the ride.  He didn't seem to mind at all! And, it's doctored up a bit from the ones we had at home.

I have a slow cooker and I use it often, but today I wanted a roast cooked in the dutch oven the "old fashioned" way.  Cooking in the dutch oven gives food so much flavor and makes a roast super tender.  I buy my meat from a local farmer at the farmers' market.  All his meat is grass fed, all natural, no hormones or antibiotics added and it is processed locally.  It is fabulous, lean beyond belief and so flavorful that it is reminiscent of childhood days.  It seems that so much of the meat sold in grocery stores today is somewhat flavorless, but not his.  

Here is what you need:

2 tsps extra virgin olive oil
1 3-4 pound chuck or shoulder roast
salt and pepper
2 large onions
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
3 garlic cloves chopped
2 cups low sodium beef broth
6-7 large carrots
3 pounds potatoes

The roast was a 4 pound shoulder roast that I had purchased a while back and put in the freezer.  I knew it was there waiting for just the right day and time to make its appearance.  Today was that day.  First, I defrosted it in the microwave.  Now to begin.  It's important to sear meat to help it retain its flavor and keep all the important juices in.  I put about two teaspoons of olive oil in the bottom of the dutch oven and let it get screaming hot.  Salt and pepper both sides of the roast and place it in the bottom of the plan.  Listen to that sizzle.  Boy oh boy, does it smell good.  Let is sear for a couple of minutes until it is brown and flip it over.  Sear on the second side until brown and remove the roast from the pan to a plate.

Slice two large onions in half top to bottom and cut each half into eights.  Throw the onions in the pan and saute until translucent.  Put the meat back in the pan and add about 2 cups of low sodium beef broth and 3 cloves of chopped garlic.  Toss in 4 or 5 sprigs of fresh time, put the lid on and place the dutch oven in a 350 degree oven for one and one half hours.  (don't peek)

While the roast is in the oven, peel 6 or 7 carrots and cut into chunks.  Peel about 3 pounds of potatoes and cut into chunks also.  I like to use what my grandmother called "irish" potatoes.  Back in those days we had red potatoes and irish potatoes.  (We didn't have Yukon golds, fingerlings or any of the fancy varieties we have to choose from now).  These will go in the pan at the end of the 1.5 hours cooking time.  Put the lid back on the pan and continue to cook for at least one more hour until the vegetables and meat are tender.  Remove the pan from the oven (it's heavy and hot, use pot holders), slice the roast and serve with the carrots and potatoes.  The onions have pretty much disintigrated at this point, but add soooooo much flavor to the pan juices, meat and other vegetables.

You can see the roast peaking through all the vegetables.  I wish you could enjoy how incredible this smells.   Oh so wonderful.  Garlic, onions, potatoes, carrots, thyme and beef filling the air, making your mouth water.  The beef was so tender you didn't even need a knife to cut it.  Yum!

We had a green salad with radishes right out of our garden and cornbread.  Talk about childhood memories.  Dan just kept saying over and over how good it all was.  Made it all worthwhile and there are leftovers!!

Next time you are in the mood for some delicious comfort food, give this recipe a try.  There are alternatives to a slow cooker.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

A favorite childhood memory:  Mashing up the potatoes cooked with the roast and putting some of the pot liquor over them and the carrots.  One of my all time favorites.  It's the little things.  donna

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Green Pea And Chickpea Salad With Mint

On Monday, we talked about being tired of eating the same old salads over and over.  Recently we ate at a local restaurant that uses local produce as much as possible.  I had catfish and for my side I chose a cold dish that was made from sweet green peas, chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and mint.  It was delicious - cold and crunchy.  Mm Mm Mm.  I do love green peas!

You know me, I decided I would try to replicate this dish and I must say, I think I hit it right on the nose so to speak.  It's super easy and involves NO cooking at all which is great for hot summer days.  I threw in some grape tomatoes because I happened to have some, but the original dish did not have tomatoes.

Here is all you need to make this dish.

1 16 ounce bag frozen green peas (or fresh peas if you have them, 16 oz. would be 2 cups)
1 can chick peas (garbanzo beans) drained and rinsed
a handfull of fresh mint leaves
1 lemon
some good extra virgin olive oil

First, let the frozen peas thaw.  I just let them sit on the counter until they were no longer frozen.   Place the green peas in a bowl along with 1 can of drained and rinsed garbanzo beans (chickpeas).  With the extra virgin olive oil, make about 2 rounds over the bowl of peas.  I would guesstimate that at 1 tablespoon or so.  Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon and pour it over the peas.  Roll the mint leaves all together and chiffonade them by starting at one end and making very thin slices of the mint with a sharp knife.  Sprinkle the mint over the peas.  Mix all the ingredients together and you are done.  Easy right?  If you want to add salt, add it very sparingly.  Personally, I don't think salt is needed.  The sweet green peas and the crunchy chickpeas are so good with just a subtle hint of mint and the tang of the lemon juice.  (I am not a fan of eating a big mint leaf, it's just not my thing, but I do love the subtle flavor of this dish).  If you want to add some grape tomatoes, just slice them in half and throw them in.  Mix with the rest of the ingredients.

This is a quick and easy salad that will work for all the hot summer days to come.  I served it with a beautiful pork butt that I cooked low and slow.  I will share that recipe with you soon.  It makes fabulous pulled pork!

Give this easy recipe a try and I hope you will enjoy it.  It's a different salad you can serve and ever so tasty.  Mm Mm Mm.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Peas are a good low calorie source of protein. A 100-calorie serving of peas (about ¾ cup) contains more protein than a whole egg or a tablespoon of peanut butter and has less than one gram of fat and no cholesterol.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Gluten Free Peach Crisp

Whenever we have family over for dinner, I always make dessert.  Our son in love cannot have gluten because he was diagnosed with  Celiac disease several years ago.  In case you are not aware, gluten is lurking in many, many products that you would never think about, not just bread and pasta.  Be sure to read the label of any food product you buy.  Wheat is NOT the only thing containing gluten, so it is necessary to learn to read food labels for all the hidden gluten containing ingredients.  Fortunately there are many more gluten free products on the market today than when he was first diagnosed.  That makes it easier for everyone who has to live gluten free.  Even many more restaurants are now offering some gluten free fare.

For Memorial Day, I made a peach cobbler for the majority of the family because fresh peaches were in at the farmers' market.  It's just not fair for everyone to be enjoying something decadent while Chris can't, so I have been trying lots of gluten free recipes.  Thankfully, Bisquick now has a gluten free baking mix that is good and has lots of recipes on the box.  That way you don't have to buy a bunch of specialty flours to bake with.  Trader Joe's also has gluten free oats.  Yay!!  Did you know oats have gluten in them?  They do.  Gluten is in so many prepared food products.  You have to learn to read food labels and know all the terms that could mean gluten is in the product.  The good thing is, many labels now say "gluten free" which is a big bonus.  Trader Joe's has a list of all gluten free products in their market.  I just carry it with me and check the list to make sure a product does not contain gluten.  Talk about helpful!

Anyway, I  made this peach crisp in an 8x8 baking dish, so that is what the recipe is for.  You will need gluten free Bisquick baking mix and gluten free oats.  Make sure the label says gluten free.

Here is what you need:

4-5 cups sliced peaches, sweetened to taste
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/2 stick butter

Peel and slice peaches, enough for 4 - 5 cups.  Sweeten to your taste with sugar and let sit while juice develops.  Place peaches with juice in an 8x8 pan, sprinkle with cinnamon.  Slice the butter into very thin pats and randomly place over the top of the peaches.


1 cup gluten free Bisquick baking mix
1/2 cup gluten free oats (make sure they are gluten free)
1/2 cup sugar
1 stick butter, room temperature
pinch of salt
4 TBSP cold water

Put the Bisquick, oats and sugar in a bowl and mix with a fork.  Cut the stick of softened butter into the mixture using a pastry cutter or fork(or your hands) until it forms pea sized pieces.  Add a pinch of salt and the cold water one tablespoon at a time, mixing with a fork until it clings together  Spread over the peach mixture in the baking pan.

Bake at 350 degrees until brown.  Serve.

This is a really easy recipe and is quite delicious.  Chris certainly enjoyed it.  He even topped it with home made ice cream.  If you want ice cream with your peach crisp and don't have home made, Chris eats Breyer's vanilla as it is gluten free.  Be sure and check labels before consuming other flavors.

There are more and more people being diagnosed with gluten intolerance due to easier tests.  Did you know one of the reasons for the increase in gluten intolerance is because wheat in the US now has up to 400% more gluten due to genetic modification?  Yes, it makes better pizza crust and bread, but it is causing lots of problems for a lot of people.  And please, don't self diagnose.  If you think you have a problem, consult a physician before going gluten free.  Gluten is important in our diet and to our health.

If you have gluten intolerance or Celiac, I hope you will give this recipe a try and that you will enjoy it. It's just nice to have something sweet that doesn't taste like sawdust ( that's what lack of gluten can do).  Gluten can be a good thing for many and a real problem for some.  As we become more aware and there are more gluten free products on the market, it will make life easier, especially for the household chef.

Everyday Donna

Things to remember:

“After I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I said yes to food, with great enthusiasm. . . . I vowed to taste everything I could eat, rather than focusing on what I could not.” 
 Shauna James Ahern

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Peach Shortcake

One of the best things about summer is when fresh peaches appear at the farmers' market.  We made a trip Memorial Day weekend and I could smell them before I got inside the vendor's area.  Boy, was I excited.  Peaches surely smell like heaven, ergo:  heaven must smell like peaches.  The wonderful fragrance of peaches is something I look forward to each and every summer.  More than the fragrance of peaches, I look forward to eating fresh, sweet, delectable peaches anyway they can be fixed.

For Memorial Day I made a peach cobbler for us and a gluten free peach crisp for our son in love.  I will post that recipe tomorrow.  The gluten free peach crisp is delicious by the way.  Dan is not a major fan of cooked fruit.  He will eat peach cobbler, but he prefers peaches just sliced and sweetened, eaten mostly over ice cream.  Since we had family coming for dinner this weekend, I decided to make shortcake to have with our peaches.  This recipe is from Paula Deen and it is oh so good and really easy.

Here is what you need:

4 cups Bisquick baking mix
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tbsp melted butter
1 1/2 tsp almond flavoring (I used vanilla)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease a 12 cup muffin tin.  Mix all the ingredients together and pour into the muffin tin.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until brown.  Remove from oven and they look like this.
They look almost like popovers, but are sweet and soft like a big biscuit and they pair with the fresh sliced peaches beautifully.  I just peeled and sliced a big bowl of peaches and sweetened them with sugar and let them sit so the sugar would help draw the juice out.

When it was time for dessert, I sliced a shortcake in half and put sliced peaches and lots of juice on the bottom half of the shortcake.  Put the top on and added a few more peaches.  I made some fresh whipped cream and put a big dollop on top.  Dan added a big scoop of vanilla ice cream to his.  Whatever floats your boat.

I like the idea of the individual short cakes instead of one big cake so it doesn't get all soggy from the peaches and juice before we can eat it all.  You could use any kind of berry on these shortcakes.  How good would they be with fresh blackberries on them when they come in?  Oh my!

If you love peaches as much as we do, you will want to give this recipe a try for sure.  Oh, the pleasures of summer and all the wonderful fresh foods and fruits to enjoy.  It's a wonderful world we live in.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

There is nothing like a warm summer day full of sunshine, toes in the grass, eating a fresh, ripe, juicy peach while the juice runs down your arm.   May be the closest we will get to heaven on earth.  donna

Monday, June 4, 2012

Grilled Romaine Salad - My New Fave

Happy Monday to you all.  Do you ever get tired of the same old salads over and over?   I sure do, so this weekend I tried something new and I have to tell you it is now my new favorite salad.  I had seen Bobby Flay grill romaine on his show on the Food Network and I wondered how it tasted.  Let me tell you, it's easy, super tasty and it will be made again and again in this house.   I put my own little spin on it and our dinner company LOVED it which made me glad I tried it.

Now, I never really thought about grilling lettuce did you?  Somehow it did not sound like there was any way it would be good.  The picture in my mind was super soggy lettuce.  Ugh.  Plain grilled lettuce maybe not, but if you doctor it up this way it is fantastic!  It still has crunch and a bit of a smokey flavor from the grill, the parmesan cheese adds some nuttiness and saltiness, the tomatoes add a wonderful sweet flavor and the tangy balsamic drizzle is over the top!

Here is what I did to make this salad.  I had three heads of Romaine (you know how it comes in a package of 3), so I used them all since there were a lot of us here for dinner.  Cut the romaine down the middle  from top to bottom keeping the root end in tact so it doesn't fall apart on the grill.  Lightly coat the inside and outside of each half of the romaine with good extra virgin olive oil using a brush.  Put it on the grill for about 2 minutes on each side, just to get a little char and some grill marks on each side.  Remove from the grill and place on a plate or in a 9x13 pan.  I alternated the top and bottom of the lettuce slices for interest on the plate.

I had grated about a cup of fresh parmesan cheese and sprinkled it over the cut sides of the romaine as soon as it came off the grill.  The lettuce is just warm enough that it will melt slightly.  I had about a cup of grape tomatoes and I sliced them into small rounds and scattered them over the romaine.  You know, lettuce and tomatoes go together like peas and carrots.

Now, to make the balsamic dressing to drizzle over the lettuce.  Place about 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil in a bowl.  Add 1 tablespoon of good balsamic vinegar to the olive oil.  Make a paste from 1 large clove of garlic.  To do this, mince the garlic and place some salt on a cutting board.  Using the broad side of the knife blade, mash the garlic into the salt over and over until it forms a paste.  Add the garlic paste to the olive oil/vinegar mix.  Add a pinch if salt, lots of black pepper, and a tsp of sugar.  Mix vigorously with a whisk or fork until the balsamic vinegar combines with the olive oil.  Simply drizzle the dressing over the cut heads of romaine using a spoon.  That's it.  Your salad is ready and is it ever good!

I cut the long pieces of romaine in half because it makes a BIG salad for one person unless that is all you are having (which would not be a bad thing believe me).  There were a couple of pieces left after dinner and I put them in a corning ware dish and saved them for today.  It was just as good today as it was yesterday.  Yummo!

Next time you are wanting a different kind of salad, this is the one for you.  The  combination of flavors is outstanding.  There is the salty parmesan with the tangy vinaigrette combined with the sweet tomatoes and crunchy, smoky lettuce.  (I do recommend fresh parmesan over the grated kind in a jar.  It has a different texture and I don't know if the pre grated kind will melt).  Words will just not describe this salad to satisfaction, you are just going to have to give it a try.  Let me know what you think.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Don't be afraid to try new things when it comes to food, you may discover a new favorite.

Friday, June 1, 2012

New Summer Decorations

Hooray, it's FRIDAY!  Are you looking forward to the weekend?  We sure are.  The weather is absolutely fabulous today.  The temp hovered around  70 and it was so nice not to roast so early in the summer season.  It has been awfully hot awfully early.  We got some much needed rain and our garden is looking fabulous.  The squash are blooming, there are some green tomatoes on the vine and some little peppers on the pepper plants.  It won't be long until we will be enjoying some yummy produce directly from our yard.

All of our spring decorations were changed over right before memorial day.  Remember my spring/Easter decorations on this cabinet?  I had a wreath and a small banner on the wicker arch and a beautiful bunny and a little blue bird on the cabinet top.  You can find it in an earlier post if you don't remember.  Well, spring decorations have been put away, and we moved on to our summer Americana theme to celebrate our patriotic holidays, the upcoming Summer Olympics and presidential election.  Actually, I just really love Americana and these events gave me an excuse to make some new decorations.  It really doesn't take much for me.

This cabinet sits inside our front door and is the first thing you see when entering the house.  It is also visible from the living room and the kitchen, so I always like to have something special on it for each season.  On the top of the wicker arch sitting on the cabinet, I made a paper cone wreath in the colors of our flag.  The plaque beneath was made on one of my $5.00 unfinished cabinet doors I found at the Habitat store.  The USA letters came from JoAnn's which I painted, and I highlighted them from behind with some glittered red #40 ribbon that is gorgeous!

The wreath is made on a piece of cardboard from a shoebox and the cones are two sided scrapbook paper that was on sale 5 pieces for a $1.  Total cost for the wreath was $3.00.  I bought 5 pieces of red, 5 white and 5 blue.  That's my kind of price.  Cone wreaths are all over the blogosphere these days.  Most of them are made from the pages of old books or sheet music and I love the way they look.  Since I wanted patriotic colors, I turned to scrapbook paper.  You could also use construction paper, it's just a littler more matte than the scrapbook paper.

To make the wreath, I measured the area where it would hang and drew a circle on a piece of cardboard with a smaller circle in the middle.  After doing that, I decided I would not cut the middle out like a regular wreath, so I simply marked the center of the circle so I would know where I would place the ends of the cones.
Scrapbook paper is 12x12, so I cut each piece into 4  6x6 squares.  Using a ruler, mark 6 inches to the center vertically and horizontally and cut along the lines.  The next step is to roll your cones and you can make them pointed or round, your preference  I liked pointed.  Place a dot of hot glue on the underside of the point where it is rolled around the middle of the cone and hold until set.

To place the cones on the cardboard backing, I started with navy blue at 9 and 12 o'clock.  Then I placed red and white cones alternately back around to the navy blue and hot glued them to the cardboard.  I would recommend laying out your pattern before you begin gluing the cones down.  Paper will tear if you have to move it after gluing it down.  
Ack, I forgot to rotate the picture when I edited it.  So, just look at it sideways and you will get the drift.
Now, it's time to fill in the circle.  Place more red cones next to red, and more white next to white on the cardboard and then glue them down.  Then, you will make a top row by placing cones between the ones on the bottom row.  Lay them out first, then glue them to the bottom cones.   You just sort of have to play it by ear here.  To finish the wreath, I used a big star cookie cutter I have and traced a star on a white piece of scrapbook paper for the middle.   The star covers where all the cone points come together and it looks sort of unfinished.  I put some Mod Podge on the star and sprinkled it with white glitter and glued it to the center of the wreath when it dried.  Ta da!  Done.
You may figure out another way to do your wreath, but this is what mine looks like completed.  It's inexpensive and quite showy, don't you think?  Not bad for $3.00 plus tax.

The red plaque underneath was simply spray painted and then I stamped a line from "America" that says "from every mountainside let freedom ring."  I wrote down patriotic lines that I could think of before deciding on this one.  Even had to sing a bunch of songs through to come up with lines, but it was kind of fun.  Of course, there are some stars stenciled on it!  You know me and stars.   After looking at it, I decided it needed some blue, so I used navy blue acrylic paint and simply followed one of the raised edges on the panel.

The USA letters were $2.99 each at JoAnn's and were all white.  I painted them barn red, ivory, and navy blue and sat them on the cabinet top after they dried.  That glittery red ribbon just ties everything together and of course, it SPARKLES!  What could be better?

Here's a close-up of the vignette.  I like that wicker arch so much, I couldn't bear to take it down after Easter.  It adds height to the cabinet, but is still open and airy and present many decorative possibilities.

I hope this will give you some ideas for things you can do that won't cost a lot of money, but will add beauty and interest to your home.  Be sure and join me next week, we are going to be talking food which everyone enjoys and must have.  I've got some good recipes and summertime ideas for you.  Have a great weekend.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

Surround yourself with things you love and they don't always have to cost a lot of money.