He Went Out to Starbucks and Came Back with a What?

Kids reach a certain age and they want a bit more independence. They want to be able to stay up later or go someplace with a buddy or a small group as a team. You give them a little bit of freedom and hope they act responsibly.

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This summer has been about someone walking with friends to a local Starbucks a number of blocks away. So far so good. Give him a little money and he and his friends return home again with some change for Mom.

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Until this week when he came home from the Starbucks run with no change and this guy.

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Not far from Starbucks is a 99-cent store. I guess I never thought to say, “By the way, don’t continue walking to another store and get a fish.”

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Now we have a new member of the family happily swimming in what was formerly a Pyrex bowl used for cooking in the kitchen. It is now this guy’s water world with two cobalt-blue feathery trees to swim around.

Here’s hoping the fish from the discount store is a hearty specimen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July is Flying By

It’s the end of July and summer is slowly slipping by. The Shasta daisies have stood tall and are now getting ready to give way to the August showing of flowers.

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Grilling time is turning out the burgers and hot dogs that are a symbol of the summer dining experience. There is nothing like the air filled with what is sizzling on the grill during the warm-weather season.

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We planted some leftover plants from extra trays that we got this spring and they are doing so well in their space at the edge of the dining patio where we are enjoying our summer meals. The buds and flowers are bright and plentiful around our dining area.

 

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The flowers are in bloom and create a lovely border where we sit and have meals.

If you want some tips on how to grill the best hamburgers for your family check out my post at Parade about turning out the most delicious hamburgers for your summer dinner.

http://communitytable.parade.com/524975/aliceknisleymatthias-2/grill-like-an-expert-on-national-hamburger-day/

It’s Time for Summer Flavor

The backpacks brought home what was left in the desks at school. Crumpled papers, books with ragged covers and markers that haven’t seen their tops in some time.

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The basil we grew on the counter in the kitchen is now living happily outside. Basil thrives in summer heat and is an ingredient that pairs well with summer meals. The leaves can be chopped and added to pasta dishes or as a last-minute finish to pizza made on the grill.

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Pizza on the grill is a summer favorite around here. It’s easy to make and a fast way to get dinner on the table.

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You can find pizza dough in the refrigerator section of your market. The key is to lightly coat the dough with olive oil before starting to shape it. This will make it easier to work with by making the dough less sticky to the touch.

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Place dough on the grill and watch for bubbles to start to form on the surface. When the bubbles appear, turn the dough to the other side so that both sides are grilled. After a minute or so add sauce and cheese and slide pizza to the cool side of the grill to allow the cheese to melt into the sauce. Finish with a shower of chopped basil.

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Summer is the time for tomatoes and basil is a delicious partner on the plate with some milky mozzarella and a good quality extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar. You can also mix the ingredients in a blender along with toasted pignoli nuts and serve tomatoes and cheese with a pesto.

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A caprese salad is a summer favorite served with a crusty loaf of bread and a glass of wine. Be sure to add salt to the slices of tomato as it brings out the flavor of the tomato. Place the tomatoes on paper towels before adding salt because the salt draws out the juices of the tomato. This simple step will help avoid a soggy salad.

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The Shasta daisies are starting to bloom just in time for the Fourth of July weekend. It’s time to switch to summer schedule and menu ideas!

 

 

The Outdoor Dining Season is Officially Here!

Have you been taking advantage of the strawberries in the market? They are bursting with flavor and ready to use in recipes like a light salad with goat cheese, or as a dessert, with a simple syrup and a few torn mint leaves.

You can take a look here in my post at Parade and get ideas for dining at the table outside now that al fresco dining is here.

http://communitytable.parade.com/503590/aliceknisleymatthias-2/bright-breakfast-and-dinner-ideas-for-strawberry-season/

Don’t wash strawberries in advance and store in the refrigerator. This creates an environment for bacteria and will result in moldy fruit.

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Wait until you’re ready to use the strawberries for a recipe and give them a soak in a water and vinegar mixture for about two minutes. Remove the berries with a strainer and allow to dry on paper towels. Read more about this method over at NPR.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14540742

Get your grill ready for making meals with a few easy steps. The best time to scrape down the grates of the grill is right before you put food on the grill when the surface is super-hot. Scrape again when the last piece of food comes off the grill.

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Meat and vegetables can be enhanced with flavor from a marinade or barbecue sauce. There are jars of these available at the store but they are generally high in sugar content. You can easily make your own barbecue sauce to brush on the food on the grill. Take a look at my post at Parade on the topic and you can make delicious meals all season long.

http://communitytable.parade.com/507507/aliceknisleymatthias-2/up-your-grilling-game-with-homemade-bbq-sauce/

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Read the following post to get your grill ready for outdoor cooking or get started choosing a grill if it is your first purchase. There are tips to help you make a selection for the kind of grill that would suit your lifestyle.

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http://communitytable.parade.com/506608/aliceknisleymatthias-2/the-simple-trick-to-getting-the-best-grilling-flavor-this-season/

Get to the farmers’ market or plant some fruits and vegetables that you can use in recipes as the summer season starts to bring relaxed days of outdoor dining our way.

Every Blooming Thing!

April has certainly played with us as far as feeling like spring has arrived. We had some warm sunshine mid-month and even had a day that flirted with 80 degrees. But this week, which ironically was spring break for public school kids, had us digging out warm jackets again and long-sleeve thermal shirts to wear under baseball uniforms for the Friday night game.

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Yet the flowering trees and riot of blooms from daffodils and colorful tulips is a reminder that we are headed in the right direction. Perennial herbs are bursting forth to get us thinking of ways to use them in recipes that will be enjoyed outside on the patio this season.

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The potted indoor herbs help us during the stretch of time from when the leaves drop from the trees to when they begin to produce white and bubble-gum pink flowers and sprout green leaves once again.

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The chives are back and are being chopped and sprinkled over weekend eggs for breakfast and added to mayonnaise for fresh flavor to spread on crunchy baguette slices for the kind of lunch that the guys enjoy. It also adds an herbal note to salad dressing.

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An easy go-to dinner during the warmer months is grilling a flank steak and grabbing a handful of herbs to mix with extra-virgin olive oil. The herb and olive oil mixture is poured over warm slices of steak from the grill and there is usually just about nothing left after hungry guys are served after a day of summer activities.

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Rosemary is not a plant that can remain outside through the cold months in our planting zone. It gets dug up and planted in a pot to join some other herbs inside to allow our kitchen to make dishes with fresh herb taste during the winter season.

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Rosemary sprigs are tossed in hearty stews and soups and the leaves just fall off into whatever is cooking in the pot. It lends a woodsy background flavor and the stems can simply be removed after cooking time.

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Rosemary mixed with olive oil, a bit of honey, and Dijon mustard is a favorite with slices of pork tenderloin.

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That pot of rosemary is heading outside next weekend since Mother’s Day is the safe-from-frost date in our planting zone. We also picked up some basil for the season to get started making warm-weather dishes.

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So we begin to spend more time cooking and dining outside. A hot grill and an icy-cold Mike’s Hard lemonade and all is well for al fresco dining and conversation.

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We are ready!

Get Some Ideas for Easter Dinner Like an Easy Baked Ham and More

Easter arrives early this year in the month of March. The daffodils are exploding to celebrate the arrival of the season.

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Many people serve a baked ham for Easter dinner. You can get an easy-to-make recipe from Tricia Yearwood that she shared recently on an episode of her show Tricia’s Southern Kitchen. Read about it in my post at Parade from this week.

http://communitytable.parade.com/490270/aliceknisleymatthias-2/hands-down-the-easiest-baked-ham-youll-ever-make/

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Asparagus has arrived at the farmers’ markets and you can get inspired to make some for Easter dinner and other side dishes in my post about side dishes in another post at Parade. There are recipe ideas for a bread pudding with chives and a cheese rosti that uses sharp cheddar cheese.

http://communitytable.parade.com/489902/aliceknisleymatthias-2/4-fresh-ideas-for-your-easter-feast-side-dishes/

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You can also get some ideas for after the meal with some sophisticated cupcake variations that the whole family can enjoy in another post from Parade that appeared on the site this week.

http://communitytable.parade.com/490559/aliceknisleymatthias-2/easy-to-make-dessert-ideas-for-easter-dinner/

We will have an early Easter egg hunt and sit down to a brunch of Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise sauce, grilled asparagus, hash potatoes, and a sparkling punch with bright yellow slices of lemon.

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The table next to the reading chair in the den is filled with garden catalogues that arrive the entire month of March. Reading through them brings thoughts about the upcoming growing season.

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The herbs will slowly return in the garden and all the buds on the hydrangeas are the promise of future puffy blooms. Remember to never underestimate the power of a single bloom of any flower in a glass.

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This hyacinth for the Easter dinner table welcomes with the perfume from the flowers as soon as you walk through the front door.

Happy Easter!

 

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4 Ways to Eat Green for St. Patrick’s Day

Corned beef and cabbage not your meal of choice for St. Patrick’s Day? That’s fine. You can get your green into gear with some dishes that use spinach and herbs from my post over at Parade.

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There are recipe ideas that are easy, healthy, and green. Spring is just about here and any one of these dishes will get you ready for the growing season ahead. Easter is early this year and one of these recipes would also work for the holiday table.

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Head over to Parade and take a look at the recipe ideas from the blog Healthy Seasonal Recipes, BlogHer, Better Homes and Garden, and Food Network’s Ina Garten.

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Visit the post here.

http://communitytable.parade.com/488181/aliceknisleymatthias-2/4-unusual-and-healthy-ways-to-eat-green-for-st-patricks-day/

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

 

A Dish for Leap Day Dinner

Hats off to all the leap-year babies. You celebrate a birthday every year but only see it on the calendar every four years so make it a good one.

After some serious shoveling this season there better not be another reason to see that shovel come out again!

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The indoor flowers are looking good. The hibiscus has glossy, green leaves but didn’t give the usual cotton-candy-pink blooms it usually gives on dreary winter days.

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There have been several versions of a dish that popped up in the newspaper and in two recent cookbooks that were added to our kitchen collection.

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The recipe uses the idea of eggs for dinner which usually means easy and inexpensive! The dish is called shakshuka and there seem to be many versions using some combination of ingredients like eggplant or zucchini, onions, garlic, and plum tomatoes. There are also spices that can be added like chili peppers, cumin, or paprika.

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Shakshuka is traditionally served as a breakfast for a spicy start to the day in North Africa and the Middle East. You would find it served with Indian nann or another type of Middle Eastern flatbread.

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The main idea is to build a tomato sauce with whatever ingredients you want and using the sauce to hold each cracked egg to poach in the tomato sauce. The skillet is placed in the oven to finish cooking. Don’t worry if the yolk of one of the eggs breaks. It will still taste delicious.

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This recipe from Melissa Clark over at The New York Times uses crumbled bits of salty feta to melt into the rich tomato sauce.

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http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1014721-shakshuka-with-feta

The seasonings were dialed back a bit in our kitchen since the guys aren’t super-spicy eaters. We served our shakshuka over a bed of cous cous with triangles of toasted pita bread. The guys were skeptical about the eggs-for-dinner concept but the shahshuka won them over.

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These kind of eggs will be here in a few short weeks.

Tonight you have an extra night in the kitchen for the year. Shake it up and do something different.

 

Bring on the Avocado and Be Super-Bowl-Ready with Food and Drinks

The first month of 2016 is coming to a close.

Everyone is gearing up for Super Bowl Sunday. Do you know when the most avocados are sold? Many might say Cinco de Mayo. The answer is the week leading up to the Super Bowl because of all the guacamole that is made to feed the groups gathering to watch the game.

The January/February issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray featured an avocado smash on toast. Use a fork to mash avocado, minced garlic, and fresh lemon juice in a bowl. Try the avocado mash on crunchy toast. We like to snip some chives for garnish and a mild onion flavor.

Super Bowl Sunday is the perfect time to use a let-the-guests-serve-themselves approach to entertaining. It’s an easier way for the host to feed a group as you put everything out for people to make a plate when they are ready to eat.

Make sure the paper plates, napkins and cutlery are at one end of the table as an obvious starting point to start to move down the table of food items offered for the party.

Take a look at one of my recent posts over at Parade where you can find ideas from a New York City based caterer who has just opened a new food venture with Mario Batali in Penn Station. She shares her recipe for a beergarita to make a new cocktail for you and your Super Bowl party guests.

Read about how she sets up a sandwich bar with a variety of breads, meats, cheese and toppings. Guests can make their own sandwiches using a variety of ingredients so everyone has the exact game-day sandwich that they want to snack on while watching the event.

She also shares her idea for using store-bought or homemade tortilla cups, macaroni and cheese, and guacamole to make small-bite appetizers. So good!

http://communitytable.parade.com/474401/aliceknisleymatthias-2/these-super-bowl-cocktails-eats-are-guaranteed-winners/

Maybe you like Super Bowl Sunday for the teams that are playing or the food that is served. Read the tips over at Parade and you’ll have some great party food for your game day. Have fun next weekend with these recipe ideas.

What were things like last weekend?

You can have the best party tips and recipes in place. When it comes to the weather and hosting an event timing is everything!

Food and Cocktail Ideas for the Last Week of 2015!

The wrapping paper has been thrown out and if you have kids in the house you probably invested in new batteries this past week.

We had a spiral ham for Christmas dinner as we usually do each year. If you have leftover ham with the hambone, do yourself a favor and make a soup. There is such a treasure of flavor in meat bones that it would be a waste if you didn’t cook with it. Extracting the properties of the hambone can help make an easy-to-whip-up stock to use as a base for a soup with vegetables and small bits of the leftover ham.

Place the bone in a large pot along with chopped carrots, celery, onions and garlic. Cover with cold water and start to warm everything in the pot. Just as the pot starts to reach a boil, lower the flame and allow to simmer for several hours. Letting a broth of meat bones and vegetables boil makes for a cloudy broth. Don’t let it reach a boil and keep the broth clear in appearance.

Do you have some leftover fruit that you want to use up soon? Slice strawberries and keep other berries whole and add them to your freezer in sealed plastic bags. Drop the frozen fruit in champagne glasses to work as pretty ice cubes to keep glasses of the bubbly chilled for your party guests this New Year’s Eve. It’s so easy and the colored frozen fruit make cocktails look festive.

You must have some candy canes still around from the holiday festivities. At this point, if the kids haven’t eaten them, those red and white treats can make cocktail hour even better for you and your guests for New Year’s Eve. Candy canes and a good quality vodka can make candy-flavored-infused cocktails to make spirits bright.

Check out my post from Parade and try your hand at using leftover candy canes for desserts as well as cocktail choices to usher out the holiday season for 2015. Don’t underestimate what the kids’ fare can contribute to the adult enjoyment of the conclusion of the season.

Take a look at this Parade post from last year for candy cane ideas and make the most of what is in your house as the new year inches toward the midnight hour and brings us new opportunities and experiences.

http://communitytable.parade.com/248001/aliceknisleymatthias-2/5-uses-for-leftover-candy-canes-and-candy-cane-vodka/

Happy New Year to one and all!