Monday, July 30, 2012

My 100th Post, A Dream Come True

Wow, I can't believe it!   My 100th post. Writing this blog has brought me such  JOY!   I wish I could throw a party to thank every one of my readers for making this dream a reality.  I wanted a very special topic for my 100th post so I decided since this blog was a dream come true for me I wanted to thank my readers. I'm a firm believer in following your heart and following your dreams.  I'd much rather know  I reached for a dream and failed than never to have tried at all :) 

 Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake
Cupids Cookies and Milk and Pops in Pearls

What has writing this blog meant to me..... well most of you know I have a son with autism. I've spent 18 years  focusing on getting him better.  He started out as a non-verbal toddler  (he didn't speak until he was 5 years old) with some scary behavioral problems.  At that time there wasn't much information available  about what I could do for my precious son.  I spent the hours he was sleeping scouring the internet for articles, for doctors, for therapists, for any ray of hope on how I could help this little boy. I spent any spare time I had in the library reading any book I could find on, or about autism.  I purchased books written by parents who had found ways to help improve the lives of their autistic child. I learned to read medical studies and papers about autism and the brain (not something I ever imagined myself doing as a home economics major) I learned quickly that I would need to be very pro-active and become my son's advocate. I became Vice President, then President of The San Antonio Chapter of The Autism Society of America. I did things, I endured things I never thought I was strong enough for, but I found out that if you love someone enough, you will reach deep inside yourself and find strength, hope, faith, and energy you never thought possible.  So the answer to that question is...
White Chocolate Keys to My Heart 
Writing this blog is  a victory for our whole  family because it means that my son has come so far that I can now take the time to pursue my dream without worrying about him.   To even be able to write this is a blessing I wasn't sure I would ever see.  It touches my heart, my soul and warms me to my toes to know that this day has come.  

I was talking to my BFF the other day and we were talking about what an exciting age we're at.  We've been through a lot and  we like the women we've become.  We're more confident because we've endured what life's thrown at us. We're more talented because we've taken the time to become skilled at our passions.  We are women of substance!  We still have so much to give and so much to share.  I suppose that's a big part of following your dreams.  Knowing that God still has so much in store for you.  Thank you so much for following me through  100 posts and being a part of my dream.  Never stop dreaming my friends.
This is the Halloween Holiday Recipe that won me a spot on "The Perfect Three" on The Cooking Channel, it will air this fall

So I want to thank all of my readers for helping me make this dream come true. May you all reach for your dreams and embrace them.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bite A Beautiful Blossom, Edible (Savory) Flowers

Edible flowers is a subject near and dear to my heart, because not only do I love to cook and entertain, but I'm also a certified floral designer,and a passionate gardener.  This subject feeds all my passions (pun intended).

I think to make things a little easier, I'm going to put edible flowers into two categories. Sweet & Savory.  There are some exceptions to this rule, like lavender. It's usually used in sweet recipes, but it's also one of the ingredients in Herbs de Provence.  This post will cover savory and we will cover sweet in another post.
There are a few warnings  that you should know about before jumping into the the wonderful world of edible flowers.
1). Never eat a flower if you're not certain it's edible. There are many flowers that are toxic or even poisonous.  
2). Only eat organic flowers that are grown for the purpose of eating.
3). Don't eat flowers that come from the florist, or floral department. These flowers are grown, and bred for the sole purpose of looking beautiful, and having a long vase life. As a result they are loaded with herbicides, pesticides, and chemicals not safe for human consumption.  

    Where do I find edible flowers?  That's probably one of your first questions. The best and most affordable place to find edible flowers is your garden, or windowsill.  Right now, just in the pots on my porch I have 8 types of organic edible blossoms.  The next easiest place is  the produce section of your grocery store.  They're usually with the fresh herbs. Check and make sure that they're fresh, and colorful.  If you're not happy with what you see, don't be afraid to ask the produce manager if he's got more in the back, or when he's expecting his next shipment.  Edible flowers online usually come in bulk, so unless your throwing a large party  this can be  expensive. Consider starting a flower/herb co-op with friends and neighbors, this is an especially good idea if you don't have a lot of room for gardening, or if you're a novice.  Then you can all share your edible flowers, herbs, and gardening tips over coffee in the garden :)
How do I use edible flowers in my recipes,  is probably the next question you have. This brings be back to the sweet and savory categories, but in my experience. I do have to say, use them sparingly.  Many sweet flowers have a strong flavor and aroma (roses and lavender  are two that come to mind) you want the subtle essence of flavor in your dish, you don't want to overwhelm all the other flavors.  You also need to be careful with roses and lavender because your recipe can take on a soapy flavor very easily. Even in savory dishes or salads, edible flowers should compliment the look and flavor of your dish. The reality is that most people aren't going to be excited about  eating an entire flower, so if you intend for it to be eaten (as opposed to garnish) think about using petals instead of the entire flower.
So our first category is going to be  Savory blossoms, this is by no means a be all, and end all list, I think I could write a book on this subject, so I'll just highlight some of my favorites.
herb blossom vinegar's

A good thing to remember is that all herbs have blossoms (eventually). The blossoms will have the same flavor as the leaves.  I love using herb blossoms to make herbal vinegar.  Here is link to the tutorial I did on herbal vinegar's.   http://shannonsshanonigins.blogspot.com/2010/12/great-gifts-homemade-herbal-vinegar.html 

Herb Blossoms- Chive-Basil-Thyme, just to name a few- blossoms will have the same taste as the herb leaf
Chive Blossoms

Nasturtium- bright flowers-  peppery taste


Borage-small blue & lavender flowers - cucumber taste
Salad with Borage blossoms

Marigold-  Also Called Calendula & Poor Man's Saffron-Yellow & Orange flowers - spicy to bitter taste

Carnation- Varied colors- Spicy, peppery, clove-like

Chrysanthemum -varied colors- slightly to very bitter. Only use the petals and blanch first for a milder flavor.

Lavender- lavender, blue or purple small blossoms-Floral
Freshly harvested lavender

Scarlet Runner Beans- Scarlet- nectar, bean like
Scarlet Runner Bean Blossoms

Snapdragons-varies- bland to bitter- mostly used as a garnish

Zucchini Blossoms-large orange and green buds- nectar, sweet

Zucchini Blossoms Stuffed with Amaranth 
By Cornelia Guest,

Here is a recipe from the Cornelia Guest Simple Pleasures Cookbook that I reviewed earlier this year

Zucchini Blossoms Stuffed with Amaranth 
By Cornelia Guest,

Serves 4

Total time: 45 minutes

Zucchini blossoms are so beautiful. This is so easy to make, and your friends will be very impressed. You can make the stuffing the day before so you can enjoy your friends, stuff the blossoms and have a great lunch. Amaranth is a gooey grain that works well as a stuffing. I serve this dish with iced tea with mint or a crisp white wine. Fresh tomatoes go well with the squash blossoms.
3 cups amaranth
1 medium onion
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 zucchini
1 small eggplant (you want to end up with 1-1/2 cups after its is cooked)
1 garlic clove
4 large blossoms per serving
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
1. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil and add amaranth. Simmer and cook until water is absorbed, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.
2. Quarter the onion and cook in 1 tablespoon olive oil for 30 minutes over medium heat until caramelized.
3. Dice zucchini and sauté in 1 tablespoon olive oil until soft, approximately 5 to 7 minutes.
4. Dice eggplant and garlic and sauté in 1 tablespoon olive oil for 10 minutes.
5. Mix the cooked vegetables with the amaranth and add parsley. Fill the squash blossoms with the mixture. Serve at room temperature.
So I've shown you how to make herbal vinegar's with herb blossoms and given you Cornelia Guest's recipe for Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms, what else can you do with edible blossoms?
1).  Sprinkle a salad or greens with a few colorful petals
2). Sprinkle colorful petals over a soup to give it a pop of color, texture, and taste.
3). Use flowers to garnish dishes that would otherwise be a little drab or lack color
4). Use yellow marigolds the way you would saffron to add yellow to soup and rice dishes.
5). Mince the colorful petals of herb flowers to make a beautiful and flavorful herb butter
6). Use Borage flowers to brighten lemonade, gin & tonic, or other beverages
7). Stuff Zucchini blossoms with a cream cheese and minced chive mixture.

So get out in the garden and start looking at flowers in a whole new light. Edible flowers are a sure fire way to impress your guests when entertaining, and a wonderful way to make your dishes and recipes more beautiful.
I would love to hear how you have used edible flowers in your recipes, or answer any questions you may have about edible blossoms.

Friday, July 06, 2012

Shoo Fly, No Bugs Invited

We've all been there, wonderful people, delicious food, beautiful setting and ..... bugs.  With summer entertaining (and summer bugs) in full swing, I thought it would be nice to look at some pretty ways to say shoo fly.

1). Keep it natural.  The easiest and most natural way I've ever seen to keep bugs and bees out of your drink. It's one of those "why didn't I think of that" things :)  If you need a larger slice for a larger glass, you can always use grapefruit slices.
2). Keep it contained.  If you can, use a container that keeps your beverages enclosed. Especially with a sweetened drink, like this strawberry lemonade, this keeps the bugs out, with no way to get in :)  Target has a nice selection  http://www.target.com/c/beverage-dispensers-service-serveware-kitchen-dining/-/N-5xtqi
3). Cloche it!  Cloches were originally used to cover tender seedlings from frost.  Today we use them to display just about anything.  This is a great way to keep the bugs out, and freshness in.  Granted this is one extraordinary cloche with a marble base and etched glass, but it's a beautiful piece you'd be proud to pass to the next generation, or give as a wedding gift. From Classic Hostess  http://www.classichostess.com/etchedpatisseriecloche.

Here is a clever and inexpensive way to turn Terra Cotta pots into cloches. Use a a non-toxic paint (only on the outside) and use a rope (knotted inside) for the handle.  I love this!
4). Cover it like a lady.  Use doilies & lace edged hankies  with beads or buttons sewn around the edges to cover glasses, cups, & pitchers. This is something that ladies have been doing for centuries, and I think it's pretty and practical. Note how embroidery hoops lined with muslin are used in a similar way in the top photo.
5). Use cupcake liners. What a great way to keep bugs and bees out of your glass. With cupcake liners coming in many sizes and designs, you can really have fun with this one.
Here's another way to use cupcake liners with mason jars. This is just too cute <3  You can use this for individual salads, soups, and side dishes too, just skip the hole for the straw.
7). Put a lid on it!  I love these fabric lids, here is the tutorial from The Farm Chicks http://thefarmchicks.typepad.com/farmchicks/2011/08/food-covers.html
 Apothecary jars with lids have yet another purpose, use them as serving bowls
8). Screen it.  Look for vintage screens like these at flea markets and antique shops.
I love this wicker and screen serving dish. It's less than $20 including shipping at home decorators collection  http://www.homedecorators.com/P/Entertaining_Wicker_Tray_and_Cover/910/

9). Put it in a safe, a pie safe :)  Pie safes are wooden cabinets with screen doors.  They've been used for centuries to keep food safe from bugs.  You can find these at antique stores and flea markets.  If you can't, consider replacing wood panels on a cabinet with window screen fabric. It can be found at any hardware store.  This is a large Pie safe and you could keep an entire buffet in this cabinet.
This pie safe would look great on anyone's porch or patio. A piece like this would be great if you like to entertain outdoors.  This pie safe has screening on the sides, and in front. I think I need my husband to build me one just like this :)
Here is a small tabletop pie safe.  This is made from galvanized tin, but it's size would make it quite portable, and easy to move around.  So here's to a Summer of bug free food, I hope you learned a few ways to keeps the bugs at bay :)