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Monday, 28 July 2014
Using an Indoor Stove Top Grill Pan
Topic: Education and Values

Using an Indoor Stove Top Grill Pan

Summer! And EVERYTHING should be easy!

Or at least dinner every night ought to be!

We are now blessed with abundant fresh vegetables, so salads of all kinds are possible. And, the outdoor grill is accessible for cooking outdoors. It's very easy to make a quick marinade and put your choice of meat in a ziplock bag or glass pan , add the marinade and place in the refrigerator until you come home from work. (See posts from last month about making marinades from herbs you're growing now.)

But, sometimes, we don't have time for the outdoor grill, even when it just involves turning on the gas outlet. Or maybe, you live in an aprtment or condominium that does not allow outdoor grilling. No worries!We can still put together a very savory, grilled dinner in the house using a “stove top grill pan.

In the picture below, I show marinated boneless chicken thighs grilling on a stove top grill pan.


The indoor, stove top grill pan can be used for anything you might grill on the open grill outdoors. Of course, you won't have the option of smoky flavors. But you will have the opportunity to still have those lovely grill marks!

Stove Top Grill Pans are readily available in homegoods stores. To use the pan, apply a light coating of oil, then heat it over a medium-high to high heat  on a large burner so the entire pan becomes equally hot. Sprinkle a little water to test for a hot pan before you put your food on it. The water should sizzle, then it's ready--(this is the same as testing for heat before you make pancakes on a flat skillet!) Make sure you cook all meat and fish to appropriate internal temperatures, this is ensured by using a large burner under the grill pan and by leaving the meat until it's cooked to half-depth of the meat before you turn it. Generally the food is turned only once.

Interestingly, with a grill pan, after cooking the meats (or vegetables) you can de-glaze the pan with a little white wine or lemon juice by boiling the liquid down. Then, drizzle the juices over the main course, increasing the flavor. For example, if you make marinated kebabs with vegetables, then serve over rice or quinoa or lentils, you can de-glaze the pan with some lemon juice. When you plate the kebabs, drizzle the juices over the kebab meat and vegetables to increase the flavor.

I started the de-glazing when the chicken thighs were already grilled, by drizzling lemon juice into the pan, allowing the meat to be glazed in the process of boiling the juice. My marinade was simple lemon juice and olive oil (2 tbsp each), generous oregano, basil, and salt and pepper—all in a Ziplock bag with the boneless, skinless chicken thighs in the refrigerator all day.

Below you'll see the plated, grilled chicken thighs with a side of quinoa and rice and a simple salad of mixed greens and cucumber.

Simple Summer!



Posted by Karen at 15:10 CDT
Updated: Monday, 28 July 2014 15:16 CDT
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Friday, 18 July 2014
Moroccan-Inspired Red Lentil Soup
Topic: Recipes

Mid July already...

the garden's bursting with fresh vegetables, we've just finished the Francophile menu of Bastille Day. Too much typical American grill country and classic, western European food, so, my taste buds started to crave a change.I had a taste for a super-savory and still healthy soup,so I made this wonderful ...

Moroccan Inspired Red Lentil Soup--full of exotic spices, guaranteed to kick lunch or dinner up a few notches. Maybe add some pita, feta cheese cubes and olives on the side?

 Moroccan Inspired Red Lentil Soup

Start with:

2 medium yellow onions, chopped, 4 cloves of garlic, minced, 2 chopped carrots, 2 stalks of celery, also chopped.

In a heavy soup pot, saute the above in 2-3 Tbsp olive oil.

Cook vegetables over low heat until onions are translucent, add more olive oil if needed.

Add a large can (28 oz) of petite diced tomatoes and the juice.

Stir in the following dried spices:

2 tsp ground Coriander

1 tsp. Cumin

1 tsp. Ground Tumeric

1 tsp. Spanish Paprika (“sweet” not hot)

1 tsp. Cinnamon

1 tsp. Salt

Several grinds of fresh black pepper

½ tsp. Red pepper flakes

1 Tbsp. dried Parsley and/or equal parts Parsley-Cilantro blend (or can substitute finely chopped fresh)

Add 7 cups of water and 2 cups of sorted, split dry Red Lentils.

Combine ingredients and bring to a boil, then lower heat and cover.

OPTIONAL: Add 1 cup of cooked, finely chopped ham or smoked turkey or keep it vegetarian.

Simmer the soup about 1 to 1-1/2 hours until the lentils are soft. Add additional water if it seems too thick.

Finally, run the immersion blender through the soup for about 10-12 pulses to puree part of the soup for a thick, serving texture.



Posted by Karen at 13:52 CDT
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Saturday, 12 July 2014
A Rose by any other name...
Topic: Crafts



A fragrant rose is one of the few things that will stop me in my tracks. 





So, no surprise when my nephew brought in this beautiful and highly fragrant rose. We had to immediately make 2 pints of rose sugar from its healthy petals. 
If you happen upon a beautifully fragrant rose or other flower, I'd advise you to do the same, Stop what you're doing and preserve those petals in a glass jar with pure cane sugar for a real culinary treat. 




You'll need 3 items:

Freshly picked, clean, organic, fragrant flower.  Pluck the undamaged petals only, lay out on a piece of waxed paper 

Clean and dry glass jar with a wide mouth. Those leftover glass pickle jars work well. Re-label with your own homemade labels or file labels  or even use your business cards,

Pure cane sugar.
Assembly is easy. Layer sugar, alternate with rose petals. Make sure they're clean and dry. They'll dehydrate further in the sugar.  
Cover, store in your pantry. The scent and flavor will permeate the sugar in a couple of weeks.
Delicious in tea, sprinkled on your homemade cookies or rolled on outside of truffles or other candies for the holidays! 






Posted by Karen at 11:30 CDT
Updated: Saturday, 12 July 2014 20:00 CDT
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Saturday, 28 June 2014
French Inspired!
Topic: Education and Values


My subconscious mind has been focused on France while I practice flute for next month's Bastille Day recital, and think about what menu to have. It also didn't hurt to have a facebook friend post beautiful streetscapes from her recent stay in Paris to keep the inspiration going.

So, I guess it's no surprise that I felt like a “French dinner” should be my Birthday dinner yesterday and thatI'd walk around the farm and see what other French inspirations I have incorporated.

I did make Alton Brown's recipe for Coq au Vin which takes many hours but is worth the results! You can find his recipe on the Food Network site.



And, I made this lovely Boulevardier Cocktail which is: 1.5 oz Rye Whiskey, 1 oz. Campari, 1 oz. Sweet Vermouth and



can be shaken over ice and served straight-up or over lots  of ice which is my choice.

Finally, I created a lower carb, Almond nut crust, French tart-inspired cheesecake for my “Birthday Cake”




French Tart Cheescake w/ Almond Nut Crust 

Using a prepped tart pan (8”):

Process 1 cup of sliced almonds to crumbles in a mini-food processor.

Mix with 1 Tbsp softened butter or butter-and-canola oil spread

Press into the bottom of the tart pan and bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

Make the filling, using a hand mixer, combine:

12 oz softened cream cheese

½ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt

1 fresh egg

½ cup of pure cane sugar or Stevia-sugar blend

½ tsp each vanilla and almond extracts

Spoon mixture on top of the roasted nut crust, bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes until set. Remove and chill until serving. Can add a squirt of whipped cream when you serve if desired. Makes 6-8 servings.


Then, I walked around outside and realized that trips to France inspired the wrought iron (actually wrought aluminum-no painting!) little garden fences and the streetlight that lights our barbeque area. But I know that real “French inspiration” is tucked into the subconscious mind and influences how I visualize many things. After all, the French have inspired our civilized society and our quests for truth, beuuty, and knowledge whether in art, music, literature, philosophy, medicine, sciences. And so I go back to practicing French Baroque flute pieces...




Posted by Karen at 15:19 CDT
Updated: Saturday, 28 June 2014 15:21 CDT
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Friday, 20 June 2014
Dry flower petals!
Topic: Crafts

June ! 

The month of graduations, weddings, anniversaries... your garden blooming with flowers!

It's filled with so much activity, that it's easy to "forget" to do something extra.But, I am here to remind you of one of the easiest Summer crafts to do with materials that you'll have readily available thanks to all of those celebrations and your garden...

Drying flower petals !

There are many ways suggested, but I am concentrating on the easiest today because I also know you have no time to deal with an activity.

Whole bouquets

These can be removed from the vases (or if they were hand held bouquets, they may be ready to go directly to the hanging step.).  

Clip all wet stem and leaf material off. Tie kitchen twine around the dry part of the stem near the base of the flowers. Invert and hang upside down in  a cool, dark, and  NOT humid place. I like my laundry room area in the basement.You can even clip the tied bouquet strings onto a hanger and hang it on your drying rod, away from the clothes. 

It wll take weeks to  the fully dry a bouquet but you won't have time to work with the flowers until Fall anyway.  Then, snip off the flowers from the stem and create a floral potpourri! You can add scented oils and create your own "house blend."

Flower Petals 

This is much quicker than drying whole flowers.

Remove clean, dry, non diseased or damaged petals from flowers. Roses work extremely well and come off with a firm snap using your thumb. Otherwise, use small, sharp scissors. Remove each petal individually. You don't want to macerate or bruise the petals. 

Next, place the petals in between sheets of newspaper on a flat surface in a cool, dark, NOT humid,  place. The petals should be a single layer thick with newspaper under and over.  Leave them alone and check for dryness weekly, should take 1-2 weeks depending on your humidity. This is the best chance for retaining color, as other methods such as sun drying or microwave will bleach out more color. 

Once the petals are dry, store in an airtight container--glass jars are great. 

They'll be ready for you to float in your fountain for a romantic party, to make potpourri from, or...my favorite idea... make some floral scented sugars. This is done by layering fragrant petals between pure cane sugar in a glass jar (see Oct 26, 2013 post for details for geranium scented sugar)







Posted by Karen at 09:00 CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 13 August 2014 21:19 CDT
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Sunday, 8 June 2014
Herb based Marinades--the joys of the growing season!
Topic: Garden

Fresh herbs--the joys of the entire growing season!

I hope you have lots of these peeking up at you--whether the marvelous, woody perennials or the newly planted annuals--they are all up and growing wherever you are in any zone now. (And, if not, it's not too late to plant them!)


It's also time to use these fresh herbs daily and what better way to include them but in Herbal Marinades.

Marinading and grilling are made for each other--



And, if you have a mini-food processor and a basic recipe plan, there is no end to your personal creativity with this culinary "art" medium. Every culture has its own marinades and you can "fuse" concepts and make an original  multicultural style. 



My basic plan for Marinades using Fresh Herbs is to select:

Approximately 2 parts olive oil, to 1-2 parts acid-based liquid, a bit of salt, and several handfuls of fresh herbs, adding extra spices to your personal plan.  Put the whole batch into a mini-food processor, pulse several times and then you have your herbal based marinade. Always marinade food in the refrigerator and don't add any tenderizers beyond simple fresh ingredients, also don't over-salt.  ALWAYS marinade food in a non-reactive pan such as glass, Pyrex, stainless steel.

Oil--I usually choose olive oil, though you can use canola oil, or even combine canola and sesame if doing Asian inspired marinade.

Acid based list: Wine, any citrus juice (orange, lemon, lime), vinegars, Yogurt and kefir (yes, these are acidic!) , mustard or other spices that are processed into acids, usually vinegar. You can mix within the list, too.

Herbs: Almost every fresh herb will work alone or in combinations to create a great marinade. Don't forget everyone's favorites: garlic, onions, shallots.

Spices and Zests: likewise, this list is endless from dried pepper blends to exotic spice blends. Added or not to your herbs. 








 In  the final picture below, I've made a marinade for a 3.5 lb boneless leg of lamb which I plan to indirect grill. Marinade is a great idea for this lean cut of meat.

I have used 1/2 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard,  about 1/2 tsp.salt, a couple large cloves of garlic,  and a couple handfuls of fresh herbs: sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano and even a little mint (I rinsed and stripped the leaves only from the stems.) Pulse several times in the mini food processor, pour over the entire lamb and refrigerate.

I let this marinade overnight--and then will indrect grill for Sunday dinner.

With a fresh tomato, greens and feta salad, some quinoa and lentils--sounds good to me! 





Posted by Karen at 15:41 CDT
Updated: Sunday, 8 June 2014 16:03 CDT
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Friday, 6 June 2014
Make a Banana Split Pie (lower carb, of course!)
Topic: Entertaining/Party

Happy Birthday to my husband! 

Of course, a birthday celebration is in order, and that would normally include a Birthday Cake! But we are always trying to lower those carbs and --by the way--he already had an Atomic Cake from staff at work!

So my mission is to create a celibratory, but not too heavy or carb-y--Happy Birthday dessert.  It's hot, my husband and nephew and a good friend have been making hay for hours and still have more work to go--likely birthday dinner will be late or even deferred until tomorrow. But you have to have something to put a candle on!

So, here's a Banana Split Pie that should fit the bill.

 Banana Split Pie

Make and bake a 9 inch pie crust and cool.

Next, mix  4 oz softened cream cheese with 1 Tbsp milk and 1 tsp vanilla. Add to that, 1/2 of an 8 oz. container of  thawed Cool Whip.

Spread this mixture on the bottom of the baked and cooled pie crust.

Thinly slice 1 ripe banana and layer this on top of the Cool Whip mixture.

Next, whisk together 1& 3/4 cups milk and 1 box of Sugar free, instant Chocolate pudding.  Whisk for about 2 minutes, then spread on top of the banana layer.

Finally, top with the remaining 1/2 carton of Cool Whip. If you want a little fancy, then put this into an icing bag and pump into a pattern on top of the chocolate layer. Or you can just spread on top and even sprinkle some slivered almonds on top if you'd like. 







Posted by Karen at 17:29 CDT
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Saturday, 24 May 2014
Asparagus and Feta Cheese Quiche
Topic: Garden

More Asparagus!

How lucky was I to walk out to the garden to water some transplants and find plenty more asparagus ready for picking. Enough so, that I plan to grill asparagus to serve with a little lemon butter --alongside steaks on the grill tomorrow.

But today...I made a great Asparagus Feta Cheese Quiche! Enough for brunch and extra in case some one stops by randomly for a glass of wine!

 Asparagus- Feta Cheese Quiche

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Make or defrost a 9 inch, deep dish piecrust.


Steam 1 cup volume of ¾ inch pieces of fresh asparagus. (Easiest way is microwave for about 2 minutes with about 1 tsp of water in a covered microwave-safe bowl.)

Combine in a 2 cup measuring cup: 4 fresh eggs and add sufficient milk to equal total volume of 1 ½ cups. Place in a bowl and whisk together.

Add 5 oz. crumbled feta cheese (the cheese is packaged in this size.)

Now add the asaparagus to the egg mixture and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.

Pour the filling into the piecrust and place in the oven.

Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees until the quiche is fully set.

Serve warm for brunch, lunch or a meatless dinner. I have a quick chopped vegetable salad with a simple lemon juice and olive oil dressing alongside.

Refrigerate leftovers immediately.

Another option is the serve chilled slices of this quiche as a fancy appetizer or interesting first course for a dinner party, topped with a yogurt dressing.

Yogurt dressing:

3 Tbsp Greek plain yogurt , 1 Tbsp lemon juice, 1 Tsp. finely minced onion, salt and pepper.

Posted by Karen at 10:59 CDT
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Saturday, 17 May 2014
Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I don't often post dessert recipes, but this is a kind of backlash for my sister. Apparently one of them (you know who you are) posted a recipe on social media for a 3 layer carrot cake smothered in frosting all over and in-between the layers!

I love my sister. I have to save her from this madness with my recipe for her that will substitute for that carrot cake...a new recipe that will give her all the great flavors--but be better for her.  I know, she'll want the spicy fragrances, the richness, the texture...the cream cheese frosting. But I don't want her to go into a carb coma. (Even a little slice of a three layer carrot cake is ridiculous, isn't it?)

So here goes...



Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spray-oil prep an 8” x 8” baking pan.

Combine in a mixing bowl:

2 eggs

½ cup pure cane sugar

1 cup of canned pumpkin

Next, combine the following, then add to above:

1 cup all-purpose flour, sift again even if labeled pre-sifted

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp. Pumpkin Pie Spice blend (or cinnamon, with dash of cloves and nutmeg)

½ tsp. Salt

½ tsp. Baking soda

When thoroughly mixed and smooth, pour into the prepped pan.

Bake 30 minutes.

Cool at least an hour.

Then spread with the following Cream Cheese frosting:

Combine 4 oz. cream cheese with 2 Tbsp. Butter and 1 tsp vanilla extract.

Soften these at room temperature, but you can also microwave about 15 seconds to soften to easily mix-able texture.

Add 1 cup of confectioners' sugar and stir until smooth and spread-able.

Frost the pumpkin cake when it's cooled.

Sprinkle top with a little cinnamon or Pumpkin Spice blend or even some roasted, chopped pecans as desired.

Pumpkin's not just for Halloween! Try it!



Posted by Karen at 18:49 CDT
Updated: Saturday, 17 May 2014 18:53 CDT
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It's Asparagus Time!
Topic: Garden
It's Asparagus time-- what a healthy, high fiber and low calorie, nutrient dense vegetable.


Finally, your garden asparagus are shooting up and ready for picking almost daily, right?
In Germany, it's time for Spargelfest (asparagus=Spargel), where restaurants try to out-do each other with their creative takes on asparagus dishes. Their prize asparagus is often the "white" asparagus, which it the  same asparagus but picked from under mulch while it's still white, before its exposed to sunlight.They are milder, but require more prep time because they need to be peeled before cooking. 
I'm fine with using the green asparagus and cooking them as easily as possible, saving my time for creative dishes.
For me, cooking asparagus means steaming, either in a steamer on top of boiling water on the stove --or--easier yet--in a glass dish with a little bit of water in the microwave for a few minutes.
Here's a great little breakfast-brunch dish:
Asparagus with Scrambled Eggs on Toast
 (for 2) 
Steam 8-10 asaparagus spears and keep hot.
Toast 2 slices of rye or pumperknickel bread
(I found a bread that swirled both)
Scramble 4 eggs in scant olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Make yogurt sauce as follows:
3 Tbsp. Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tsp finely minced onion
Salt, freshly ground pepper
Butter the toast. Divde between 2 plates.
Arrange 4-5 asparagus spears on each toast slice.
Spoon half of the eggs next on each. 
Top with half of the yogurt sauce on each

Doesn't that look delicious?
And that same yogurt sauce would go very nicely on a vegetable dish, maybe drizzled generously over a platter of boiled potatoes and asparagus ???


Posted by Karen at 10:16 CDT
Updated: Saturday, 17 May 2014 18:51 CDT
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