Thursday, September 22, 2016

Care Package Party...

Are you missing a fledgling who has flown the coop? 

If so, I'll bet you're not alone. So, why not invite your child's school chums' moms over for a casual dinner and and Care Package Party? This is a great way to gather the old group to commiserate and celebrate while putting together a package that will let your kids know that everyone back home is thinking of them as they move into this next stage in life.

When I held such a gathering I went with a collegiate theme, trying to emulate what I imagined our college kids may be doing. To keep it simple I ordered our local favorite, Pagliacci Pizza and salads and served drinks in these fun Stemmed red plastic cups {because moms deserve a stem}. 

You may be tempted to buy these stemmed red cups with the fancy glass stem, but I don't recommend it. I ordered some of them and most of the glass stems broke off right away, and I was left with just a plain old red solo cup and some bad glue. 

I also encouraged everyone to wear their kids school logo gear. 

To get ready for the party I picked up some medium flat rate priority mail boxes from the post office, USPS will also deliver them to you for free. I also bought some of these petal envelopes from Paper Source. I set them out on the dining table, with each students name on the outside of the envelope and on their box. After dinner we sat at the table and passed around the stationary so every mom could write a short, personal note to each kid.

Next, we filled the boxes, the group effort made the it easy to put together a premium pack of love. 

Of course, what goes in the package is completely up to the imaginations of the collected guests. It was fun to see all of the different things people brought...

I had made a little pouch of goodies earlier in the day, including inspiring messages that I printed out on my computer and then cut into ribbons.

I found these cute little egg plants at Home Depot, and slipped in the inspirational notes "Be a good egg" and "Bloom where you are planted". These are so great, you crack open the top, water them, put them on a sunny sill and wait for the pansies and marigolds to bloom!

Mini~hand sanitizers, I tagged with "Keep it Clean" came from CVS Pharmacy.

Flashing Skull and Pumpkin rings with the message "do something scary everyday" were a seasonal sensation.

I bundled them up in cello bags with a little sizzle and labeled them with a personalized message to each friend. 

This evening was a definitely a win~win. All the mom's had fun getting caught up and sharing stories of how our kids were doing, and the kids scored with a fun box jam packed with goodies and sweet wishes from their {mom} friends back home. 

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Turmeric water recipe...

Click onto any health and wellness site these days and you will probably find yourself reading about the massive health benefits of Turmeric which is rich in powerful Curcumin. Turmeric has been found to be a strong anti~inflammatory and anti~oxidant agent. Studies show that inflammation can lead to cancers, metabolic syndrome and Alzheimer's disease. In addition it is has been said to treat cancer, lower cholesterol, prevent heart disease, heal wounds and bruises, aid digestion, support brain health, balance moods and prevent depression, it's even said to improve skin and hair health.... what a powerful little rhizome! 

Turmeric is also quite delicious. It has been a popular spice and remedy in Indian cultures for over 4000 years. It's bright orange color is what tints curries and it is often referred to as Indian Saffron. You can bring turmeric into your life with essential oils or capsules, but recently I've been finding this knobby stem {that grows underground} at Trader Joe's and on Amazon Fresh.  

Turmeric is in the ginger family, but the flavor is much more mild. To me it tastes like a flavorful carrot, a bit more spicy, earthy, herbaceous and a little bitter. Peeled and chopped, this colorful root adds a crunchy goodness to salads it also tastes great in sautés and tagines. If orange fingertips bother you be sure to wear gloves while chopping, there's a reason why turmeric is used to dye Buddhist robes "saffron yellow". 

One day I was craving a little of that unique taste and it's health benefits so I decided to try brewing up a little turmeric water..... it turned out to be absolutely delicious. These days I always have one of my favorite Luminarc pitchers with this refreshing, flavorful water sitting in my refrigerator door. With that added boost of flavor, I find I am drinking more water than ever and the 2 liter size makes it easy for me to make sure I am drinking at least my recommended daily amount. 

To make it I drop about a tablespoon of peeled and chopped fresh turmeric into a heat~safe pitcher and then add about a cup of boiling water and let it steep for 1/2 hour or so. After that, I fill the pitcher to the top with filtered water and it's ready to drink.

Speaking of Tagines, I just love these miniature Tagines I found on Amazon, they add an exotic element of blue and white to the table when I use them as salt cellars. They come from an America~Tunisian company here in Washington state called Le Souk Ceramique, I dare you not to fall in love with their ravishing hand~painted designs. 

                                                             Here's to your health! 

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Homemade Thousand Island Dressing for Crab Louis....

The green, salty waters of the Salish Sea can be kind and generous, this year it has offered a bountiful supply of crabs in the waters that run through the San Juan Islands. When Captain Splendid called to say our trap runneth over the other day I immediately thought of the delicious creamy, tangy, fresh, flavorful Thousand Island Dressing I could make to top a classic Crab Louis. 

This dish is the best of both coasts, since Thousand Island dressing originated in the far North East corner of the country {history below} and Crab Louis is said to have been developed on the west coast in the early 1900's, though there is ongoing discussion as to if it was invented in San Francisco, Seattle or Spokane, Washington

I am a big believer in homemade salad dressings. They take minutes to prepare and taste so much better than any bottled dressing. The fresh vegetables and quality refrigerator staples used in this dressing make a delicious concoction to liven up salads and sandwiches or to use as a dip and it will last for a week in the refrigerator. I originally published this recipe when I served it with one of my favorite appetizers, Duck Rumaki {duck breast and jalapeno pepper slices wrapped in bacon, yum.... fantastic with margaritas}. But I love it so much on Crab Louis I decided it was time to share it again {see recipe at bottom of post}.

Rather that serving individual composed salads I decided to do a Crab Louis bar so everyone could make their own perfect plate. First up was the classic salad with crispy, chopped romaine lettuce,  tender butter lettuce, hard boiled eggs, yellow bell pepper slices, tomato wedges, chopped celery, plus slices of hearts of palm, just to make it extra decadent. The classic version often includes asparagus spears as well. I tossed the lettuce in the dressing, then put the other ingredients on top and drizzled them with more dressing and sprinkled on some salt and pepper. 

Next in line was heaps of sweet, fresh Dungeness Crab meat, there was no need to hold back on this night. In general, I recommend offering at least 1/2 crab per person, but more is always welcomed. 

Thankfully, I had some pro-pickers in the kitchen who quickly freed this tender meat from the bright red shells, click on How to Pick a Dungeness Crab  for a great tutorial. 

Then, just because it was the end summer and I had some succulent tomatoes from my friends garden, I decided to also offer The Best Taste of Summer Salad, to balance out the feast. 

Finally, a bowl of that tasty dressing and a bowl of pickled jalapeno slices for those seeking a little more spunk. 

So, here is the recipe, it makes just under 2 cups of dressing. 

Thousand Island Dressing

1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup chili sauce (ketchup style)
1 medium to large sized shallot
1 stalk celery (cut 2" pieces)
1-1" slice of red pepper
1 quartered hard boiled egg

Put all ingredients, except the egg, in blender. Cover and blend on a medium setting until vegetables are coarsely chopped (just a couple of seconds). Add egg. Cover and blend just until egg is chopped (another second).

The history of Thousand Island Dressing:

This dressing is reported to have originated the small resort town of Clayton, NY in the Thousand Island area on the St. Lawrence River between Canada and New York State. The wife of a fishing guide, Sophia La Londe, created the dressing at the Clayton Herald Hotel. The owner of the Waldorf-Astoria in NYC was said to have summered at the hotel. He brought the recipe back to the big city and it has been enjoyed and copied ever since!

I hope you have a chance to try this, I promise it will bring your salads and sandwiches to a great new level!!  

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Peaches, tarragon and buttermilk ice cream...

Farmer Splendid has done an amazing job with our orchard up in the islands. In particular, this year, I've been beyond thrilled with abundance of peaches. But, it's also been a little overwhelming because I can't stand to let a single morsel of the mellow, honey goodness of these fruits go to waste. Well, as they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and it didn't take long for me to find a uniquely, delicious way to preserve these beautiful orbs with ease so we can enjoy them all year long. 

My mother planted a fruit tree for each of us when we were born, a peach tree for me; a five~varietal apple tree for one of my sisters and for the other an apricot tree. We moved away from that property many years ago, but it was something special to grow up there, with our own personal birth~trees to sit beneath and watch grow, not to mention enjoying the fruit they provided. 

I'm not sure if that is why I like peaches so much, I don't think so. That mellow, golden goodness and the beautiful fuzzy skin is pretty universally irresistible, isn't it?

I first made this dessert for a lunch with friends one day, it was sort of an unusual combination of ingredients, peaches, Cointreau liquor, tarragon, salt and pepper, but it was a big hit.  

So, I decided to do it on a large scale and freeze them, it turned out to be a beautiful thing. 

I've printed the large scale recipe below, but you can make a smaller batch with ease, just add the ingredients to suit your taste.

First of all, I sat down at the picnic table on the deck and halved and peeled 50 peaches, cutting out any brown areas. After cutting them in half I was able to pull off the skin with ease just using a paring knife. If your find it hard to peel your peaches you can cut an "X" in the skin and plunge them in boiling water for a couple of minutes, after that they skins should slip off without a problem. 

Next, I added the juice of 7 lemons. Have you ever used these wooden citrus reamers? They make it easy to extract the juice of citrus fruits, also you can use the pointed end to bruise the skins and release the volatile oils in cocktails. 

Next, I poured 2 cups of Cointreau, an orange flavored liqueur into the bowl, and then I chopped up a cup of fresh tarragon leaves and sprinkled them in. The anise like flavor of the tarragon marries perfectly with the rich, mellow sweetness of the peaches. The Cointreau and lemon juice provide a nice, bright tang and help to preserve the peaches and maintain their color. Finally, a tablespoon of salt to bump up the flavor of all of those delicious ingredients. 

After gently stirring all of the ingredients together I spooned the peaches and sauce into 4 gallon sized freezer bags, sealed them

and double bagged them, and put them in the freezer.

For Farmer Splendid's birthday dinner a couple of weeks later, I pulled out a bag of the peaches and whipped up a batch of this amazing buttermilk ice cream recipe from Smitten Kitchen. 

When thawed, the flavors of all of those ingredients had melded together to create a succulent sort of a cold summer soup with nice hearty hunks of peaches. The ice cream offered a creamy, tangy swirl of goodness to each of the bowls and a sprig of fresh tarragon offered just the right amount of fresh greenery. I passed the peppermill for those how wanted to add one more element of flavor to this tasty combination. 

Splendid Peaches and Tarragon Recipe

50 peaches, peeled and halved, any brown spots removed
1 cup fresh Tarragon leaves, coarsely chopped
1 Tablespoon salt
2 cups Cointreau {or another orange liqueur}
Juice from 7 lemons

optional: fresh ground black pepper

Serve fresh or spoon the mix into zip lock freezer bags and freeze until ready to use. 
This recipe will probably serve 40 - 50 people depending on the service size.

island note pad
peaches, tarragon and buttermilk ice cream, a taste of summer