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vinegar-free vinaigrette

Last week, Chef Kevin Binkley of Binkley’s, Café Bink, Bink’s Midtown, and Bink’s Scottsdale, was the guest teacher at Les Gourmettes. Kevin is once again up for the James Beard Award for the Best Chef: Southwest. Fingers are crossed!

Everything he made was, of course, amazing! The thing that I really enjoyed though was a simple, thick, tangy, creamy vinaigrette made without any vinegar. Strange but true and truly delicious.

strawberry arugula salad

Kevin served the vinaigrette over a salad of arugula, strawberry slices, goat cheese and pistachios. I’ll be serving the same salad for our Easter dinner on Sunday.

Speaking of Easter Sunday, if you haven’t colored your eggs yet, hold off one more day because tomorrow I’m posting a new way to decorate eggs and a bunch of Easter Menu ideas.

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April 16, 2014   1 Comment

coconut cream pie

For the past six weeks Connor has been working at Mark Tarbell’s The Tavern. He is the dishwasher and although they feed him dinner, he has not gotten the one item he sees that he really wants… the coconut cream pie.

So of course, I made it for him. That’s what moms do.

thumbs up

He gave it a thumbs up.

I have plenty of photos to accompany the crust making part of the recipe. But my dad was here while I was making the filling. He can be very distracting, so no photos of that part, sorry.

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April 15, 2014   1 Comment

weekend doings

april yard

How was your weekend?

patio blankets

I spent mine deep-cleaning my house and preparing my backyard for the harsh summer conditions. The first order of business was to bag up all the patio throws and blankets we use on chilly fall and winter nights and store them in the rolling crate-ottoman.

summer patio

While I was at it, I vacuumed the rug and dusted off all the furniture – a never-ending battle!

snailvine

One of the prettiest things blooming in the backyard is the Lavender Snail Vine (Vigna caracalla) that is completely covering…

vine covered arch

… the rusty arch at the far edge of the patio.

canna lilly

I discovered the first Canna Lily (Auguste ferrier) of the summer. It is a promise of things to come.

not soon enough

Another nearly weekly activity is the cleaning and refilling of the hummingbird feeder.

bean cleaners

I have tried all sorts of ways to clean the bottle, from bottle brushes to pipe-cleaners, but the most effect method I’ve found is this: Fill the bottle about half way with hot tap water, add a tablespoon of bleach and then a handful of dried beans. Shake and roll the bottle and the beans will clean the sides better than any bottle brush known to man.

rinse well

Next, triple-wash the bottle and then wash it again to make certain that you’ve gotten all traces of the bleach out of there before filling it with sugar syrup. I use a mix of 1 cup sugar to 4 cups water.

hungry hummer

I’m barely able to turn around from hanging it up before the hummers get back at it.

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April 14, 2014   1 Comment

Friday funnies

summer

Not much to add to this one, it was 98 degrees on April 10, 2014 in Phoenix, Arizona. It should be about 84 degrees!  #toosoon  #notready  #wedontneednorecordheat

google

I know I’ve said it before, but I swear I spend 39% of my life looking for things I’ve put “somewhere” in my house.

listening

Yup!

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April 11, 2014   No Comments

on a dare

Yesterday morning I opened my computer and did what I do each morning. I checked my email, I made sure my blog post posted correctly and then I went on Facebook. The first thing I saw on FB was a post from my high school and FB friend, Cynthia.

fbpost

Did you see that? A dare was issued to me on social media. I had to try this recipe now! I was dared! So yes, I made it. And yes, it’s pretty great. Although there were some serious omissions on the original recipe…

… such as the importance of placing the bottom round of dough onto parchment paper or a baking sheet before adding the filling. Let me tell you, it is impossible to move the dough with the filling on it from the counter to a baking sheet! But no worries, I suffered through that error and I’ve rewritten the recipe to reflect such an important detail.

sunflower spinach pie

I also amped up the filling to my liking and added other little details that were obviously done on the original recipe but not mentioned in the instructions, such as using an egg wash and placing seeds on the center section.

baked

All in all, a great recipe that just need a bit more explaining and details. And it really is easier than it looks to make. It would be perfect for Easter! Trust me, you can do it!

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April 10, 2014   2 Comments

snack attack

chipotle powder

This is a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa that I modified. These nuts are addicting… don’t say I didn’t warn you!

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April 9, 2014   1 Comment

mayo and dairy-free chicken salad

avocado chicken sandwich

Yesterday’s classic minestrone soup was quite the hit, so how about another recipe with ingredients that anyone can find in any grocery store?

avocado

This easy chicken salad has only 5 ingredients and none of those five is mayonnaise, sour cream, or yogurt… no dairy and no mayo!

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April 8, 2014   6 Comments

soup for my dad

Upstate Minestrone Soup

When I was cleaning my dad’s house last week, I came across a large envelope with a dozen copies of a page from a cookbook.

dads recipe

One of the recipes on the page was outlined. I decided to take a copy and make the soup for him for our Sunday supper.

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April 7, 2014   5 Comments

Friday funnies

The Friday funnies this week have a theme.

lucky

This is what I would have said if you asked me how my day went either of the last two days.

dads house

That is because for the last two days, two full days, I spent all day at my dad’s house cleaning. My dad is a hoarder. He hoards recyclable items; plastic storage bags, plastic grocery bags, paper bags, boxes, sour cream and the like containers, frozen food containers, rubber bands, junk mail, etc.

12 seconds

He is spending three days and nights at his church on a Lenten retreat. The only time I can get in and successfully clean his house is when he is away. Otherwise, he watches me like a hawk and argues with everything I try to get rid of.

insanity

So, cleaning is the theme today…. yeah, good times!

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April 4, 2014   6 Comments

what to do with leftover mussels

leftover mussels

I don’t know if you noticed just how big that bag of mussels was in yesterday’s post. There were over 140 mussels in it! I steamed them all on Sunday and then made another meal out of the leftover 60 or so mussels for dinner on Monday. I’ll get to the recipe shortly, but first I want to share a new favorite ingredient of mine with you – capers packed in sea salt.

capers in sea salt

Most capers we see in the U.S. are packed in a vinegar brine after curing. Often the brine overpowers the wonderful fresh caper flavor. Capers packed in sea salt are more flowery, more like flower buds, which is of course what capers are. The caper plant, Capparis spinosa, can be found all around the Mediterranean Sea and spreads its long, spiny branches over rocks and open into beautiful white flowers with long purple stamens.

I used the capers directly from the jar, with the salt clinging to them, for this recipe. I didn’t use additional salt for the dish, just the salt that was already present on the capers. For a salad or another dish where not as much salt is needed, the capers need to be cleaned of their salt. To do so; cover the salt-packed capers with water. Swish to remove any clinging salt and let stand a minute to let it settle to bottom. Lift out capers with a sieve, and taste. If still too salty, repeat the process.

I bought the capers while I was in Canada last summer and have looked for them here, but haven’t run across any yet. You can find them easily on Amazon.

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April 3, 2014   No Comments