June 28, 2012
This is incredibly easy and refreshing! With the hot summer weather, I love flavorful non-alcoholic drinks- like mango and mint lemonade, fruit tea, and I thought, why not a mocktail with passion fruit? I love passion fruit and the summer weather is a perfect occasion for it! You may not have worked with passion fruit before, they have a wonderful flavor. Their drawback, though, is that they are a little labor intensive to get the juice from and their yield is quite low. But, with a little bit of time and effort, the reward is worth it! You might think a tropical fruit like this is very sweet, but that is not the case. You'll most likely find that it's tart and adding a little sugar makes it just right. This mocktail adds a little bit of sugar and also some rose water.
Passion Fruit and Rose Water Mocktail
6 (or more) passion fruits
1/2 tsp rose water
1 tsp sugar
In a small cocktail glass of your choice, the one in the picture is a champagne saucer that holds roughly 8 ounces, combine 2 ounces each of the passion fruit liquid and the chilled seltzer. Enjoy! This would make a festive start to a dinner party. I'm sure you can substitute a lovely champagne or prosecco for the seltzer and that would be delicious as well. As a nursing mom, with limited opportunity to drink at the moment, I will have to wait and try that a little later!
June 24, 2012
I love a good chicken salad- but a really good one- with high quality fresh chicken and a lot of other wonderful ingredients, including some fresh fruit. I was recently inspired by the beautiful fresh cherries that are in stores right now, not only are they gorgeous, they are absolutely delicious, too! I like chicken salad that has grapes, so I thought, why not cherries?! The result is terrific- we took it to the beach for a picnic with some friends!
Chicken Salad with Cherries
1 cup chopped celery
25 cherries (red), pitted and cut into small pieces (a little less than 2 cups once chopped)
1/2 cup walnuts, roasted at 350 degrees for 12 minutes, then chopped
1 8 oz. can on water chestnuts, drained, rinsed, then chopped
1 3/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breasts (roughly 3 halves)
1 cup mayonnaise (Duke's first choice, Hellman's second)
2 Tbsp lemon juice, freshly squeezed
1 1/4 tsp curry powder
freshly ground pepper
Our lovely beach picnic this morning included my pimento cheese, served with celery sticks and club crackers, yum! The pimento cheese recipe may be found in this post, link below:
Our cherry pitter is from Williams Sonoma:
I can also not say enough good things about a sunscreen we started using recently, it's Kiss my Face sunscreen sun spray lotion, spf 30. Here's my usual beef with sunscreens- some of them have the consistency of toothpaste and it's literally impossible to get them successfully on a squirmy toddler. I don't particularly like the spray kind- I mean the aerosol cans, I don't like the smell and I feel like I am going to asphyxiate while I apply it. This is a spray, but not an aerosol spray, and it's consistency is pretty liquid, so it spreads evenly. Finally, and perhaps the most important, it dries and soaks into the skin pretty quickly, so your total time sunscreening is greatly reduced. I am so over waiting for my sunscreen to dry! Anyhow, we're really fair and we've been very happy with this sunscreen. You can get it at whole foods or order it from drugstore.com:
June 19, 2012
1 1/2 lb. ground lamb
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced or put through a press
3 Tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
2 tsp sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup uncooked Jasmine rice
3 Tbsp tart dried cherries, measured, then chopped
2 bottles grape vine leaves
4 or more cups of water
juice of 1/2 or 1 lemon
1 or 2 8 oz. cans of tomato sauce
First, assemble the filling. In a medium bowl, mix together the filling ingredients. The tart dried cherries are a tribute to one of my favorite Persian dishes, rice with sour cherries, yum! When my Dad makes these, sometimes he adds pine nuts and dried apricots. For this amount of filling, I think you'll need between 1 1/2 to 2 jars of grape leaves. If you're unfamiliar with grape leaves, you can buy them at the supermarket, they'll probably be near the bottled olives. Remove them gently from the jars and rinse them with water, they'll most likely be packed in a brine that you'll want to gently rinse, but you don't have to be extremely thorough. Because they are wet, using a colander may be helpful for the leaves. Separate them, they'll be delicate, and do your best not to tear them. Some may already be a little imperfect, either having holes or tears, set these aside, they have their uses, too.
To fill them, take a grape leaf and lay it on your folding surface, with the interior of the leaf facing you. If there is still a stem attached at the bottom, just pinch it with your fingers to remove. Place a small amount of filling near the base of the leaf. Your first step in folding is pulling the bottom portion over the filling, as shown in the picture. Next, you fold in the sides. Depending on the width and shape of the leaf, you may need to also fold in the sides of the top of the leaf. Finally, your last step is to roll the grape leaf forward toward the top of the leaf. Look at that! How wonderful does that look?
I used a Le Creuset dutch oven to cook these, but really, any pot with a lid that will go on top of the stove will do just fine. First, remember the imperfect grape leaves we talked about? Torn pieces and leaves with holes? Use those to line the bottom of the pot, so the grape leaves you've so lovingly folded don't stick to the bottom and come apart. Next, place your folded grape leaves, with the opening on the bottom, in layers in the pot. This next part will depend on how many grape leaves you're making and the dimensions of your pot. Add water until it's partially covering the top layer of grape leaves. Then, pour over one or more cans of tomato sauce. Next, squeeze 1/2 to 1 lemon over the whole pot. Cover with the lid. Simmer on the stove, covered, for 45 minutes to 1 hour, checking to see if more water is needed. Test a grape leaf to see that the meat and rice are completely cooked. You may enjoy these right away, a delicious accompaniment is greek style yogurt, either plain or mixed with dill, garlic and lemon juice. Or, you may refrigerate them and then reheat them as you eat them. I think you'll find these a savory, tasty treat!
On the cruises that my parents went on, my Grandmother went on one as well. While on the trip, she acquired a gold coin, which she had made into a necklace pendant, which she gave to me. Making these prompted me to pull it out of the jewelry box and wear it while I enjoyed them!
June 13, 2012
These are not only tasty, but you can make them ahead of time! Who doesn't love that? Plus, because the salsa is made in a blender, you don't have to spend time chopping the ingredients. Ditto for the brisket sauce, you use a slow cooker for the brisket and you just throw the seasonings in the crock pot. Very, very low prep time! Then, when it's time to serve them, you just heat up some tortillas, shred and heat the meat, top with the salsa and enjoy!
Let's start with the Avocado Salsa. This is like a guacamole, but so much more! It's heavy on the avocados, but it also includes tomatillos, so it's not quite as thick and creamy as guacamole. Plus, it has a hearty helping of lime, not only in the lime juice but also in lime zest, so it's got a fresh, bright taste. This is wonderful paired with this brisket, or as a salsa with chips.
2 medium avocados
1/2 serrano chile pepper (with seeds)
1 large garlic clove
1 1/2 oz. shallot
zest of 1/2 lime
1 1/2 Tbsp lime juice (fresh squeezed)
6 fresh mint leaves
1 1/2 Tbsp cilantro leaves
1/4 cup water (possibly a touch more if your avocados are large)
1 tsp sea salt
A few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
Assemble the ingredients and add to your blender. Save the avocado for last, since you want to prevent browning. Did you know that lime juice prevents the avocados from browning? Blend, if your blender seems to be getting stuck, consider tapping the sides lightly or adding more water. You want it somewhat thick, but not so thick that a) you can't blend it and b) it won't be a good consistency. I store it in a glass ball jar in the refrigerator. Enjoy as a taco topping or with some chips!
Ancho Chile Brisket
2 1/4 beef brisket (trimmed of excess fat)
2 whole ancho chiles
1 medium yellow onion, cut into rough chunks
2 garlic cloves (peeled, left whole)
1/2 stick cinnamon
1 whole clove
1 Tbsp ground coffee
1 bay leaf
2 Tbsp sea salt
A few grinds of freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup lime juice (fresh squeezed)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1 cup red wine
1 6 oz. can tomato paste
In a slow cooker (hooray for crock pots!) place all of the ingredients except the brisket. Turn the power on, select low heat for an 8 hour period. The heat will start and you'll need it to help the tomato paste dissolve into the other liquids. While that's happening, trim any excess fat off your brisket. Cut the brisket into about 6 pieces and once the tomato paste has dissolved sufficiently, place the brisket in the mixture. Using a fork, arrange all the ingredients so that the brisket, chiles and other large pieces are at least partially covered with liquid. Place the cover on the slow cooker and let it go for 8 hours!
After it's cooked for 8 hours, shred the meat, mix with some of the sauce, and serve with warm tortillas and the Avocado Salsa. If you don't plan to eat it right away, just place the meat and sauce in a container together and refrigerate. When you are shredding the meat and mixing in some sauce, you'll need to taste it as you go along. You may find you like more or less sauce.
I hope this helps you have a nice meal without a lot of active cooking time! We enjoyed it this week and I was able to make it fairly quickly while both kiddos were in the den.
June 9, 2012
Although we've recently moved and just had a new baby, I still have hopes and dreams of having a little bit of gardening in our lives this spring and summer. However, my plans are much less grand than last year- for a few reasons. First of all, our little girl is not quite yet 5 weeks old and the 2 1/2 year old is quite a workout! Secondly, we are now renting our house, so doing things like installing our own garden beds in the backyard is not really feasible. But I am undaunted! I will not let these things (completely) thwart my dreams of homegrown heirloom tomatoes, hot peppers and fresh herbs!
My Father (here he is with the new baby) is quite a gifted gardener, he grows all sorts of things, arugula, herbs, even a fig tree, which, this year, he pledges to guard more closely against bird thieves. What I truly love, though, about my Dad's gardening, is that it is much more free form and creative than mine- I planned those garden beds last year within an inch of their lives and meticulously germinated and transplanted things like a train schedule (I'm told my control freak side is occasionally endearing), whereas, my Dad actually has a section of his garden that is designated for 'volunteers.' This very well describes what is so great about my Dad, his point of view can be so unique. His 'volunteers' are plants that grow from the compost added to the pots. An example 'volunteer' could be the seed of a melon my parents enjoyed for breakfast one day, that has now decided to sprout and bloom. And that's a 'volunteer,' love it!
http://www.botanicalinterests.com/ but they are also sold at Whole Foods (but, the selection will vary from store to store). You may also buy plants for your gardening ambitions, which is absolutely great, too. Why do I like to grow them from seeds? First of all, your selection of things to grow is so much more diverse- I am not going to be able to find plants of speckled roman or green zebra tomatoes anywhere- nor will you be able to definitively determine the use or non use of chemicals- and since I plan to eat these and feed them to my babies, I like them as chemical free as I can get (I use organic soil and no commercial fertilizer). Finally, and probably the most joyful part of the experience, seeing these plants grow from a tiny seed into something that is not only beautiful, but gives you jewel like fruits is simply divine!
I wish you happy and beautiful gardening this summer, no matter how you go about it!
For more La Dolce Duchessa gardening posts, look here!
June 2, 2012
I have been LOVING knitting and sewing things lately! Making them in anticipation of our baby girl was so, so much fun. I'd love to share them with you!
This is a mint green hooded sweater, my first project. Instead of buttons, I used ribbon ties, which I think look great. The ends of ribbon may be easily finished by melting them ever so gently with a match- a trick I learned as a ballet dancer in my teens- you didn't want the ends of your pointe shoe ribbons unravelling! Just be careful not to melt it too much, it can turn a darker color than the ribbon. If you're nervous about this step, practice on a spare piece of ribbon. This yarn is just acrylic baby yarn, I think the brand was Bernat.
Now, I love knitting, but I also love sewing, too. However, I will say this about knitting, it's more portable- I have knitted in the waiting room at doctors' appointments, at the car dealership, etc., which, you can't do as much with your sewing projects. Sewing is a bit messier, too, the pieces of thread and scraps of fabric, and you need a table and a work area for your sewing machine. With knitting, you can do it nearly anywhere, and all you need is your yarn and needles.
I was inspired to make our baby girl some things for her nursery, also, I bought some lovely upholstery fabric with coral embroidered on it, and I have made a quilt and also drapes for the nursery. The quilt took longer than I thought, but I think the effect of the hand stitching around the embroidery already on the fabric is really lovely!
I hope these projects inspire you! It is not as hard as it looks, and the satisfaction and enjoyment you'll experience are well worth the effort! And, no one else will have one that is just like it.
For an original La Dolce Duchessa pattern for a Lace Baby Sweater, click below!