It Felt Like Spring on a February Morning in the Garden

Every once in a while a February day can bring uncharacteristically warm weather and sunshine. We had one of those last week and it set a record in our area. It was the perfect reminder that the spring season is getting a little closer every day.

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There are signs of spring all around if you look closely. A bud here and there. Maybe a  new green shoot or leaf bursting forth on branches and in the ground.

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That’s the thing about perennial gardens – they move through time with you in cycles. This is the time of year when everything starts to wake up and appear once again.

 

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Goodbye, December!

The beauty of winter came to visit before the holiday with a few quiet blankets of snow in mid-December. All you need is a little bit of a dusting of snow to feel the magic.

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A pine tree that sits in the back of the garden takes on a new role in the winter season with snow. What once sat in the background in summer and fall, is now transformed.

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It doesn’t take much to change how it looks and dress it up for the season. The powdery snow is the decoration that nature adds to the tree.

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Our contribution is some gold and crimson-colored ribbons as well as small, twinkling lights.

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So simple. So peaceful.

Best wishes for 2018 and Peace on Earth.

 

Let’s Say We Did November

So, the month of November slipped by without a check-in. That’s not to say it was a slow month. Not at all. Our Thanksgiving holiday was a lovely one filled with laughter, plates of sliced turkey and stuffing paired with a warm gravy boat.

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We have settled on a method that let’s the turkey come out perfectly brown every time. We soak large pieces of cheesecloth in melted creamy butter and add in fresh herbs like thyme and oregano, salt, paprika and garlic. This gets draped over the turkey as it cooks in the oven.

Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving!

Boo! A Minecraft Halloween

 

Nothing says Halloween like a Minecraft Jack o’ lantern!

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Looking for some ideas for today? Take a look at my most recent post for the Food section over at Parade for some delicious ideas for everyone. Just click on the link below.

https://communitytable.parade.com/619107/aliceknisleymatthias-2/sweet-and-savory-halloween-snack-ideas-for-the-trick-or-treaters-in-your-neighborhood/

Have fun!

BobbyFlay, Rachael Ray and the End of September

Time to decide that the summer season is over.

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After a cool end to the month of August, and a blast of heat in late September when we were back in school, we can say that even though it seemed a little off balance it is time to move on. This week brought us summer-like heat as the pumpkins were on display at the market.

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Here are two of my recent posts from the food section over at Parade that you can take a look at for some recipe ideas.

https://communitytable.parade.com/611267/aliceknisleymatthias-2/bobby-flay-and-rachael-ray-its-the-best-time-of-the-season-for-tomatoes-and-corn/

https://communitytable.parade.com/609965/aliceknisleymatthias-2/tips-for-variety-with-back-to-school-lunches/

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It was a productive growing season for the herbs this summer. The rosemary that hung out in a window box was really happy with that location. It got intense afternoon sun and the fresh sprigs tossed on chicken or pork on the grill infused flavor for many outdoor meals on the patio.

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Tomorrow we welcome October and all that is yet to come with fallen leaves, apples and pumpkins, and meals that reflect the change in season.

Recipe Ideas for Cherry Season!

School is out for summer vacation! Time to slow down, relax and make some great food. Right now, it is all about cherry season.

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Cherries, like any fruit, make a great pair with grilled meats. The sweetness of the fruit combined with the smoky flavor that comes from cooking meat on the grill is a dinner everyone around here enjoys.

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Extra-virgin olive oil, a splash of white balsamic vinegar, chopped cherries and strips of bright basil are the perfect topping for grilled pork chops for dinner out on the patio.

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The farmers’ markets have the cherries front and center right now at the stands. Pick some up for snacking or recipe ideas.

We like to lightly coat a crusty loaf of bread with olive oil and toast on the grill.

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When the bread is toasted, remove from the grill and cut into slices.  Layer a piece of creamy Brie cheese and a mixture of chopped cherries tossed with basil, extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of Kosher salt. Spoon the cherry mixture on top of the Brie and toasted bread.

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You can certainly swap out the Brie for goat cheese. Drizzle a good-quality organic honey on the goat cheese before adding the cherries.

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There are two ways to get the pits out of the cherries to start to work with them for any recipe. You can lean on them with some gentle pressure with the back of a kitchen knife or you can invest in one of these.

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That is a cherry pitter and it is super easy to use. Simply place the cherry in the plastic tube and squeeze the handle which will spear through the cherry and push the pit out from the middle of the fruit.

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It’s that simple. Repeat until all cherries are done. Sounds like the perfect job for the kids to help prepare a meal for the family.

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Of course you will want to use some cherries for a dessert now that dinner is outside.

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Pick up some frozen phyllo dough shells for dessert tonight. Place the pastry cups on a pan on the cool side of the grill with the lid closed. If you place them on a pan over a direct flame they will quickly burn.

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Macerate some cherries and blueberries in white balsamic vinegar and granulated sugar. Drain and spoon in the toasted phyllo cups and tear some mint leaves to scatter on top.

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Easy and delicious. Bring on summer!

Making a Memorable Burger!

The rain was falling just as we were getting ready to leave to join our school at the start of the parade route for the annual Memorial Day parade down the main avenue of the neighborhood.

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Once we met our group, the raindrops stopped and we were happy to close our huge umbrella and carry it behind the elementary school marching band. The brass instruments pierced the air with the sounds of Yankee Doodle and the drums pounded away as everyone walked behind the school banner.

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After we marched to honor those who fought for our freedom, everyone wanted hamburgers and fries. They had worked up an appetite but the cover on the grill had pools of water in the crevices of the cover. Not the inspiration to get outside and start grilling!

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We decided it wouldn’t be the official kick-off to summer without burgers cooked outside on the grill. Maybe the weather conditions weren’t ideal. It didn’t matter. We went ahead as planned and got the most important ingredient for the chef at the grill ready to make dinner!

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We’re looking at you, Mike!

We like to assemble our burgers and pop them in the freezer for a bit. This keeps them from falling apart when they hit the hot grill grates which have been brushed with a light coating of cooking oil.

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Once the burgers have achieved a nice char on the outside, they get placed on the other side of the grill where a cooler zone is set up with no direct flame underneath. Place a sheet of aluminum foil for the burgers for easy clean up and to catch the drippings as they are topped with thin slices of cheese.

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Split the hamburger rolls and lightly toast the insides face down on the grill. This is not the time to walk away! The rolls will toast quickly.

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When the burgers come off the grill, take the toasted hamburger rolls and dip in the drippings of the burgers for a little more flavor before putting the burgers in the rolls to serve.

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For more burger ideas take a look at my most recent post in the Food section over at Parade.

https://communitytable.parade.com/589234/aliceknisleymatthias-2/build-a-better-burger-this-holiday-weekend/

Grilling season has arrived!

 

Recipe Ideas for Leftover Easter Candy

We did not hide chocolate bunnies for the egg hunt this Easter since there was the added pressure to find them before they had a chance to melt in the 80-something degree weather.

What a wild ride the daffodils had in the month of April! When they first burst forth through the soil, for their return in the garden, they were covered in a layer of snow. Eventually they got to bloom in a sunny day or two.

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By the time Easter rolled around, the temperature was above 80 degrees when the kids were hunting for eggs in the bushes and trees. April can sure fluctuate with the temperature and our hopes that warm weather is here to stay.

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We’ve had more chilly days than sunny days as we look back on April. Yesterday was a trip up the thermometer again for a taste of summer complete with a baseball game and hot dogs.

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A bonus for a sultry afternoon when the lilac tree and hyacinths are blooming? The fragrance is intensified and carried through the warm breeze. Cooler temperatures don’t bring this added way of enjoying these flowers.

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Many of the other perennials are filling in the gaps and starting to change the landscape. It’s such an energy-filled time of year as there is something new to see and observe every day.

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Was the Easter bunny generous with your baskets of candy this year? If you find yourself with a large supply of leftover candy there are ways to use it up with some creative recipe ideas.

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Peeps can make use of their fluffy texture and help you create favorite desserts like S’mores or they can be used as toppings for spring-season cupcakes. Jelly beans can brighten batter for cookies or cupcakes for rainbow-colored treats that are easy to make so kids can help make them in your kitchen.

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Have an ice cream party and set up a toppings bar with sprinkles, shaved coconut and broken bits of chocolate from leftover bunnies. Gather leftover chocolate bunnies and melt them down gently in a saucepan to spoon as a hot sauce for chilled scoops of the kids’ favorite ice cream.

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We did our annual Eggs Benedict Easter brunch with poached eggs and Canadian bacon on toasted English mushrooms with Hollandaise sauce. One of the first spring herbs to return are the chives and they are chopped and scattered on our brunch dishes.

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Read all about how that leftover Easter candy can be used to make desserts the whole family will enjoy in my latest post over in the Food section at Parade.

https://communitytable.parade.com/582581/aliceknisleymatthias-2/recipe-ideas-for-leftover-easter-candy/

 

 

 

 

The Reign of The Waldorf Salad

Some recipes have real staying power. Take the unassuming Waldorf salad named after the New York City hotel that first served the dish at the Waldorf-Astoria in 1896. The salad wasn’t created by the hotel chef but by the maître d’hôtel Oscar Tschirky.

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The Waldorf salad is made up of a few ingredients and has seen many different versions created through the years using added ingredients like raisins or tart cherries.

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Long before the dawn of celebrity chefs Tschicky was educating diners at the New York hotel’s dining room about food and wine topics. He was a presence in the dining room and was just as well known as the society people who dined there.

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Tschirky’s recipe, which later appeared in a cookbook of his, used apples, sliced grapes and slivers of celery tossed in a creamy mayonnaise and served over a bed of greens. It seems that chopped walnuts were added at some point and the rest is history.

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The Waldorf-Astoria is closing the famous hotel doors to accommodate renovations to make way for new condominium units. You can continue to dine on the salad that remained a menu item for decades for hotel guests by making your own Waldorf salad at home.

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Try this recipe from The New York Times and get a taste of what has been served in a New York City hotel dining room for all these years. Add some fresh herbs and you can serve this salad all year long.

https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1018585-the-original-waldorf-salad?action=click&contentCollection=Food&module=RelatedCoverage&region=EndOfArticle&pgtype=article