Week 1: What To Make With Squash Blossoms

22 May

In the summer our garden is overflowing with tomatoes, the only thing that rivals the tomatoes for sheer abundance is the zucchini and squash. With zucchini and squash come the blossoms.  My mission this week was to come up with a dish for squash blossoms. Most people, including myself have not had a lot of experience with cooking or eating the squash blossoms. The only recipe I know is stuffing them with a cheese mixture and frying them. I wanted to do something a little out of the box and a little healthier for you. The only pasta I had on hand was a macaroni rice noodle. You really could use whatever is your favorite kind of pasta. I also thought that instead of making a traditional spaghetti sauce this would be a great alternative. I was really happy with how this tuned out. It took a little work peeling the tomatoes but was totally worth it!

Squash blossom tips:

Ultimately, you want to use squash blossoms the same day they are picked. If that is not possible, put them on a paper towel in an airtight container. Don’t squish them!  Take care of your ingredients and they will take care of you.

Squash blossoms, Zucchini, and Tomatoes over Rice Pasta

Serves: 4-6

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

4 small-med. zucchini, halved lengthwise, and sliced

8 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped

A pinch of red pepper flakes

7 very fresh squash or zucchini blossoms, pistils removed and cut lengthwise into thin strips

Handful fresh basil leaves

2 Tablespoons half and half

Salt and pepper to taste

freshly grated Parmesan

1# rice pasta

Salt for your pasta water

First put a large pot 3/4 the way full of water on high and bring to a boil. Add Pasta and salt, cook until al dente’. Once you cooked the pasta, drain and set aside, keep warm.

In a large skillet over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and saute’ until fragrant, about 5 minutes or until golden. Add the garlic and zucchini and saute’ until the zucchini begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and red pepper, cover and simmer until the tomatoes have cooked down and the zucchini are tender, about 10 minutes. Add the squash blossoms, basil leaves and cook uncovered, stirring until flowers are wilted, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove from heat and stir in half and half.

Spoon half of the sauce into a warmed serving bowl, Add the pasta, top with remaining sauce and toss well. Add the Parmesan for flavor.

Adapted from: Savoring Tuscany by Lori De Mori


Seasonal Recipes

22 May

Summer is upon us and I am so excited about all the new vegetables that we are getting out of the garden. Each week I make a new recipe to put in the CSA boxes for Ray and Ashley of Rose Creek Farms. I am very fortunate to live with them and get all the access I want to the fresh produce. Over the summer I will be featuring a weekly recipe according to what is in abundance in our garden. I hope you like them.

I’m Back!!!

19 Sep

Hey Everyone!

It has been a long time since I have written anything. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking/baking. Quite the contrary. I have done a lot with food. A lot of seasonal cooking. I think I am quite done with egg-plant, squash, and zucchini. Cooking seasonally has proved difficult. After a while you start to wonder if there is anything different you can make with the same items. It has been a growing period for me. I just haven’t managed to take anything I have made and share it with you all. I recently had someone comment on my blog and say how she liked it and hoped I would continue to write. I think that was just what I needed. I am going to put more effort into sharing with you my adventures in the kitchen.

I am excited about the cooler weather and all the different vegetables we will get. Lettuce… Oh, how I have missed you. I am really going to try to make an effort in writing more. So, I have something I need you to do. If you like something I write or a recipe or anything about it, please comment. It helps to know someone out there reads and appreciates your work.

Hanging Cupcakes and Cupcake Wrappers

20 Apr

Ever thought of hanging cupcakes for display?

Last weekend my roommate was married…Sigh.

For her wedding the mother of the Bride wanted cupcakes. So, somehow I was put in charge. I tried avoiding it, I was going to help my sister coordinate the wedding. I didn’t want to do the food this time. I can’t even figure out how but I was put in charge of the cupcakes. I had a team of wonderful helpers that there is no way in the world I could have pulled it off without them. Now understand this… The mother of the bride used to do all the food for all our weddings. She was amazing!!! So she had a very high standard that I had to live up to. She doesn’t like the same thing twice so I couldn’t just do a regular cupcake stand. She had already done that. About a week before the wedding I was still pondering over how I was going to display the cupcakes.

So I had a lot to live up to and I didn’t even want to do it. I was busy with other things. I did next what I know to do… get help. So I went to one of my friends and asked if she had any ideas of how to display the cupcakes without doing the same ol’ same ol’ cupcake cake. She jokingly said “hang them”. We laughed and she said she was joking. I knew she was joking but it got me thinking… I couldn’t get the thought out of my head so I googled it and found very little help due to the time and budget I was on. I finally found a picture of cupcakes hanging from a small tree. It looked like the cupcakes were in a metal ring of some sort and ribbon glued to it then hung from the tree. Instantly my mind started racing. What could I buy that would fit the cupcakes perfectly in them? I tried a few things before I thought of the rings of canning jars. I had also decided it would be crazy to try to hang over 300 cupcakes so I wanted to either buy cupcake wrappers or make them for the cupcakes that weren’t hanging. I ended up making them due to it being much cheaper.

So I ended up going shopping a couple days later to get all the stuff I would need. I got 48 lids and 70 sheets of 12″ x 12″ scrapbook paper for the wrappers and lots of ribbon. A couple of girls and I stayed up late drawing the pattern on the backside of the paper getting 5 wrappers out of each paper. Giving us 350 wrappers. The next morning a whole crew of girls came over to help me finish it off. Next, we glued ribbon around the rings of the lid so that it wouldn’t look like a jar lid. We then cut long strings of ribbon. The longer the better so that you can always adjust the length of how long your cupcake would hang. Then put the cupcake in the ring and put the center of a piece of ribbon on the bottom and figured out where we would need to glue the ribbons to the ring to let the cupcake sit just right. Once we had one ribbon marked we could use that for a pattern and mark the other ribbons. Once all the ribbons were hot glued to the lids we tied the ribbons to a hanger so that they wouldn’t get all tangled for the next day. We had a total of 48 cupcake hangers.

So the day of the wedding we stuck dogwood branches that had just been cut in a pot and secured it by tying the branches together at the bottom and putting tons of rocks in the pot around the branches. So we had our lovely little trees that we stuck on the tables and started hanging the ribbons on the branches. After all the ribbons were on we started putting the cupcakes in the holders. a huge gust of wind came along and blew our lovely little tree right off one of the tables. I wasn’t going to let that take me out though. I had gotten this far and I was not backing down. So we moved the tables up right next to a tree and tied OUR tree to a real tree. Wala… no more blowing over.

I was extremely happy with how it turned out and the mother of the bride loved it. After all the hard work it paid off. So I am glad I got pushed into making the cupcakes I had a really fun time once I got into it. I was also working with an amazing woman who is going to be moving to Mexico soon so I got some good quality time with her. I love a challenge and the hanging cupcakes were a challenge that I feel like I conquered with lots of help and support.
I hope this helps for anyone looking to hang cupcakes.

Living Life on Purpose

30 Mar

I know this is a food blog but I have thought a lot lately about what it means to live life on purpose and I wanted to share a little with you.

My days almost always looks the same. I have a routine that I do each day and I am comfortable with it. There are a couple of curve balls I get thrown but I mostly catch them and keep going. I get so busy sometimes and don’t ever have time to stop and think about what I am doing. I watched the clip of Rob Bell’s Shells movie and what got me thinking the most is “What have I said Yes to, so that I can say No to other things.” I have a hard time saying no to people. If someone asks me to do something rarely do I say no. So then my schedule is booked. Even if it is good Christian busyness, if that’s not what God wants me to do than why am I still doing it?

Still I do the same things over and over with little variety. Sometimes I expect different results or I want to change and be different

Rarely do I actually do something that is different.

I want to live each day with a purpose. I want to make a difference in this world. I don’t want to be so busy that I can’t take time to think about what I am doing. I want to wake up every day knowing that what I am doing that day is exactly what God wants me to do. Then not fill up what is free time with unnecessary things that only distract me from doing God’s purpose.

That means…I need to know what God wants me to do.

That means… Talking to Him

That means… Listening to Him

That means… Saying Yes

That means… Saying NO

More often than not I know what God wants me to do. The hardest part is to do it. Once I do it though, I have joy beyond any understanding.

When I think of living life on purpose I think of waking every day with a vision for something different that day. Something exciting that we get to do for God and for everyone around us. If I wake up with God’s purpose for my life and I live it that day than I am happy. Which inevitably makes everyone else around me. And… Happiness is contagious!!! Take it day by day. You will fail at it. I do it all the time. Just go to bed asking God to give you the grace to do His will tomorrow. Then wake up and know that His mercies are new everyday and He loves you beyond measure and wants the best for you. Then go and do…

3 layer Vertical Layer Cake

28 Mar

Ok, so I know my title is a little confusing. Just hang in there and hopefully I can show you want I mean.

I was asked to make a wedding cake for a friend about a week before she wanted it. Just in case you didn’t know, that is very late to start thinking about a wedding cake. I wasn’t really sure what to do. As I stood in a massively long line with my sister waiting to purchase 1 item. I stood there waiting… I was thinking about the wedding cake. The theme of the party was a mexican feista so I knew I wanted it to be fun and colorful. Then it came to me…I knew what I would do. I would make a cake that has vertical layers instead of horizontal layers within each layer.

I don’t know why I make things harder on my self seeing as the wedding was in a week and I had never even heard of a vertical layer cake nonetheless made one myself. So I got home and googled vertical layer cake I came to this wonderful site which was a life saver. This all took place Saturday.  http://iammommy.typepad.com/i_am_baker/2011/02/vertical-layer-cake-tutororial.html.> Now I still didn’t know how it would work stacking them on top of each other but I have this nack for making things hard on myself instead of easier. I just knew how I wanted it to turn out and then I went from there. My friend wanted red velvet cake and I decided on a vanilla cake for contrast in flavor and color. The frosting was a no brainer. It had to be cream cheese icing.

Tuesday I headed to Jackson to for all the ingredients and accessories I would need. Next, I headed down to our local library where I could check cake pans out. I wanted to do a 3 layer round cake. Seeing that the round cake pans were rented out I had to switch directions and ended up with heart pans. I worked again on Wednesday so Thursday I went grocery shopping for our house and then came home to start baking the cakes. I got half of the cakes baked before I had to go to a meeting.

Friday came too soon and I still had so much to do. So I got all the cakes made and in the freezer, Next  I went to work on the icing. I made 5 batches of it and ended up using only about 3 batches. After the cakes were frozen I took them out and my awesome roommate (who is moving out in less than a month due to some guy steeling her heart. I guess he is more important than me. 🙂 ) came down with some water for me and helped me cut the cakes. It was definitely a chore and I am so glad I had her brain. We stuck the cakes back in the freezer to help them meld together.

I wish I had pictures to show you the process but I pretty much followed I Am Mommy’s directions except a for a few things. It was a huge help having those pictures. If I started to explain it here It might make your brain shut down. I really don’t even know how to explain it unless I had pictures which I don’t have due to it being such a last minute project and not having time.

After waiting a bit I started icing the cakes and my other most wonderful best  friend Amy (her blog http://rcvhighlander.wordpress.com/)  came to help me with the decorating part. She is amazing an artist who is like super busy. So when I can get her help I never worry about how it will turn out. Although it might be a bit late. 🙂  All I have to do is tell Amy what I want it to look like and she helps me turn the plain white cake into a masterpiece. I had a picture I found on the internet of some embroidery on the yolk of a dress that I wanted to make the cake look like. She is so much more artistic than I am and as long as she puts her tip down first I can manage to get mine on there too.

I was really happy how it turned out. Whenever I am with Amy we always have the best time. We have known each other so long that we don’t even remember meeting. I guess we were only 3. I am so grateful that I am surrounded by the best people on the face of the planet.

Anyways, it was a lot of work but also a total blast! The only part I don’t really like is the cleaning everything up.

I did get a few pictures taken while we were decorating  the cake and the finished product.

Here they are…

Life in a Fine Dining Restaurant

20 Dec

One of my life long dreams have come true. I am getting to work in a professional kitchen in a fine dining restaurant that uses the freshest possible ingredients. Even writing this I cannot believe that this has happened to me. I have not gone to cooking school or really had any background in this at all. I am truly thankful that God has given me with this opportunity. It has been a totally different experience for me that i never thought I would get to do. The first two days were totally crazy.They were some of  the busiest days we’ve had since I have been there. Let’s just say I got quickly acquainted with the cooking world.

On day two Chef sent me to her office so she could “talk” to her cooks. I must have stood there open-mouthed like I have never heard that strange language.  She ended up firing the woman I was working under because she never had her station set up properly and was taking major short cuts. So day two I was working the salad and dessert station with Felicia coming over and showing me how to do things properly. It was a crazy night. I felt like I was thrown in a completely dark room and told to organize everything.  I should have had a note-book so when she told me to pick up a duck salad I could write exactly what was in it. Unfortunately I wasn’t that brilliant. I just had to try my hardest to remember them and not get them mixed up. By the end of the night which wasn’t untill 12:30 I was thoroughly done. For one I normally don’t stay up that late even doing nothing but being on the cement for 9 1/2 hours working was exhausting. Felicia looked at me at the end of the night and told me to go home and get some sleep. You must have been able to see how tired I was because all the staff kept asking if I was tired. They said I got thrown in the heat of it. I was glad that they were saying this instead of  “Oh this is just a normal night, you should be here when we are busy.”

That was 4 months ago. I am now much more accustomed to craziness of the kitchen, the late nights, the tasting of bizarre foods at bizarre times, doing one mundane task for hours on end, and taking the blame for something I didn’t do, or did do.  Guess what? I like it all. I feel like I am learning a lot from working there. One thing that is hard for me is being fast and still making it look good. I know I have gotten faster but not as fast as I or chef would like.

Last weekend we catered a holiday party for an airline company for 1,000 people. We made a ton of food. We came back with a lot of food because a plane with 200 people didn’t come due to being stuck in Indianapolis because of snow. I told  chef about our church feeding the homeless the next day and asked if our church could have some of the food. Looking very relieved she told me to take it all. It was awesome because the Memphis gatehouse had been planning on feeding the homeless that day and it seemed like God did that for us. Starting with so much snow that people couldn’t make it to the party….. us having a lot of extra food….. sending a lot of people who needed food….. the ladies not having to make spaghetti…..hence it being shrimp! Isn’t our God amazing!

For the most part the staff is pretty nice. One guy asked me if I was a Mormon. I thought that was funny. I told him no just a devoted a Christian. I tried explaining about our life but nobody can even comprehend it and it doesn’t fit in one of their religious compartments. So I guess a Mormon was the closest possible thing they could come up with. I do wear black pants and lite weight white shirt so that must have added to their conclusions.

I do not know how long I will be working there. I do know I want to learn everything I can while I am there.  It definitely has been an adventure though. I am glad I get this opportunity. I would never have thought that this dream would actually come true. I don’t know if I will ever own a restaurant but I know I love to make creations with food, I love to feed people, I love to watch them eat, I love to hear my nephews talk about how good Auntie Laina’s food is. I love taking care of people through food. Eating is a universal task that everyone must do and I love to make each meal an experience for them. I am really fine with not opening up a restaurant. I know for the rest of my life I will be taking care of people and feeding people is one of my ways of showing my love. I do know I want whatever kitchen I have to always open for hungry people.

I know that this is a long post and I don’t normally write long posts because I don’t normally like reading long posts. Esp. if there are no pictures. 🙂 So I apologize if I completely bored any of you. Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!!!