Monthly Archives: January 2010

Rustic Tomato Stew

This is one of my hubby’s favorites.  This is often what he requests when I ask “honey, what do you feel like for dinner tonight??”.  It is thick, rich, easy to make, vegetarian, and hearty enough to be the main course!!  I love that you can enjoy it in the heat of the summer or in the harsh cold of the winter.  A simple green salad and a  full-bodied red are great accompaniments with this classic!

Pappa al Pomodoro

Servings 6-8

1/4 c EVOO, plus 2 T

1/2 large onion chopped

10 cloves of garlic, diced

1 t chipotle pepper flakes (or more, to taste)

6 oz very dry (hard as a rock works best) sour dough bread cut into 1/4″ cubes

3 # roma tomatoes, blanched, peeled and coarsely chopped

1 1/2 c chicken stock

lots of freshly ground pepper

1 c fresh basil leaves, torn

1/2 c grated parmigiano-reggiano plus more for serving

Heat 2 T oil in a med stock pot.  Add the onion and sweat it for about 5 min.  Add the garlic and hot pepper and cook until soft and translucent.  Add remaining oil and bread.  Let the bread slowly take up most of the oil, this should take about 5 min.  Do not break apart the bread cubes with aggressive stirring.  Add tomatoes, stock and black pepper.  Cook for about 15 min.  The soup should be very thick and the bread pieces should be more like baby dumplings now.  Remove from heat and stir in the cheese.  Garnish with a drizzle of evoo a basil leaf and some parm/reggiano shavings.

For a vegetarian meal, just sub in a good quality veg broth for the chicken stock.

Bon Appetit!

Ginger mojito

Normally high maintenance drinks are ‘off’ the menu at 488.  This is the one and only exception to the rule.  You will have to work hard for this refreshing, thirst-quenching delight, but I promise you there is nothing better on a hot summer day!  My mouth is watering already!

Ginger Mojito

Peel from 4 large limes (green part only, use a veg peeler to remove in 2 inch long strips)

1 c freshly squeezed lime juice

8 1/4 inch thick slices of peeled fresh ginger

1/4 c sugar

30 large fresh mint leaves plus 10 or so for garnishing

1 c Brazilian rum

5 c ginger beer or ginger ale (don’t get the cheap stuff in a plastic bottle!)

Combine the lime peel, lime juice, ginger, sugar and 30 mint leaves in mortar.  Use muddler or pestle to crush the lime peel, ginger, and mint leaves together.  Transfer to a large pitcher.  Stir in the rum.  Cover and refrigerate.

Right before serving add the ginger beer.  Serve over ice and garnish with mint sprigs.


Bestest Pesto

Bestest Pesto!

Whats better than Pesto?  Huh, no really?!  We used to buy ours from Costco by the truckload!  Not anymore!

Your jaw would have dropped to see how many (33) basil plants I had in the garden last year.  Each growing about 30 or more inches tall!  That is a LOT of sweet basil!  Oh, and I also had about 10 globe and 10 thai basil plants!  What did that mean for my summer?  You could most often find me in the kitchen whipping up big batches of pesto!  It smelled so good all summer long and I never tired of the process!  I love that I can pull a bag out of my freezer even in the depths of winter and be reminded of summer and all of those beautiful plants!

The recipe I have posted is just a guide.  Adjust the ingredients to suit your taste.  I rarely measure anything when I make it now…I just go by how it looks, smells, and feels.  As it should be!

Bestest Pesto

4 c fresh basil leaves

10 garlic cloves

1 1/3 c mixed pine nuts and pistachios

1 1/4 c evoo

1 1/4 c freshly grated Parmesan and Romano cheeses

2 t chipotle pepper flakes

Place the basil, garlic, pepper and nuts together in a food processor.  Add the oil while the machine is processing.  Add the cheese and mix briefly.  You may have to do this in two batches depending upon the size of your food processor!

Oh, you can buy the pistachios shelled at Sams!  Saves a good bit of time and energy!

Bon Appetit!!

Vanilla Extract

My hubby is a home brewer.  I know, I know, what does this have to do with making vanilla extract?  Be patient and keep reading…he started to brew seriously about 5 years ago.  In the spring of 2006 he decided to brew his first batch of vanilla porter.  To make the beer he had to buy a LOT of beans!  We weren’t thrilled by that thought– knowing how much just one bean costs at the grocery store.  So we went in search of a cheaper bean outlet!  EBAY, we love you!  We found the most amazing organic beans at a fraction of the cost.  Of course, we bought a huge quantity because we love vanilla and wanted to take advantage of the ‘deal’ that we had found.  With some of the left over beans we decided to try our hand at making vanilla extract!  It honestly couldn’t be more simple, and if you are patient, I promise that it will be worth it!  Ours has been ‘steeping’ since 2006 and is fragrant, flavorful, and beats the hell out of those plastic bottles of vanilla that we used to buy for a healthy sum at the grocery store.

Oh, and by the way, Andy’s vanilla porter was so DELICIOUS I wanted to pour it over ice cream!

Vanilla Extract

1 c Vodka

3-4 vanilla beans cut into 1/4 inch pieces

Put the beans and vodka into a kerr (canning) jar and place in the cabinet for long-term aging.  You can probably start using the vanilla after 12-18 month, but it will get much better after more time.  So, again, BE PATIENT!

Don’t forget to throw your used (seeded) beans in with a splash of vodka.  The more beans, the better!

Sweet Cornbread

Did I ever think that I would buy a box of Jiffy mix?  That very cheap, small, blue box that sits on the grocery store shelf collecting dust–no way!  Well my dear reader I changed my tune several years ago after eating a rather unimpressive meal at a chain restaurant.  The only food on my plate that I really enjoyed was the cornbread.  I liked it so much that I told the server I thought it was delicious.   Over her shoulder, as she was walking off with our empty plates, she mentioned that Jiffy was responsible for the cornbread.  WHAT?!  Yep, I learned through this very nice gal that it was just 1:1 ratio of Jiffy cornbread mix and Jiffy white cake mix-made according to the recipe the boxes.  I wasn’t sure that I believed her, so I stopped at the store and tried it for myself.  She wasn’t making it up!  So easy and really delicious on its own or with chili or stew.  Guests just rave over my cornbread…even the VEGAN version!!  Thank you Jiffy!!

Sweet Cornbread

Servings 8 (?)

1 box Jiffy cornbread mix

1 box Jiffy white cake mix

2 eggs

1/3 c milk

1/2 c water

Mix all ingredients together.  Try not to eat too much of the batter!  Pour into a greased baking pan.  Bake according to the time/temp provided on the box.

Alterations to this recipe:

For spicy cornbread:  add chopped green chilis, japs, or hotter pepper as you like!

Corny cornbread:  add frozen or canned corn.  You will want to cut back on the water that you add to the mix if you use corn or it will take forever to cook and have an odd texture.  Throw some cheese on top to make it really good!

For vegan cornbread:  Skip the eggs.  Replace the milk with soy milk. In a separate bowl mix together 2 T ground flax seed and 2 T water.  Let sit for a minute or two.  The consistency should be similar to egg, if not adjust the water/ground flax seed accordingly.  Add to the mix and follow the remainder of the prep directions according to the box.  I absolutely LOVE the vegan cornbread!  The flax seed gives the sweet mix a nutty flavor and helps keep the cornbread nice and moist!  YUM!


Amaretto in a canning jar! Ready to be stored for a few months!

Another delicious libation recipe from dear Celine!  Now if I can only get her amaretto cheesecake recipe…WISH ME LUCK!  Oh, make sure to taste the lemon rind when you are finished soaking it in the amaretto.  I think you can find a creative way to use it in a dessert or even as a garnish in a savory dish or appetizer!


2-750 ml bottles or KERR jars with lids

2 c H20

2 1/2 c sugar

Rind from 1 lemon

2 2/3 c vodka

6 t almond extract

2 t vanilla extract

1 tsp chocolate extract

In a sauce pot add the water, sugar, and lemon rind and bring to a boil.  Simmer for 20-25 minutes and cool.  Add the remainder of the ingredients.  Bottle and Reserve!


Kahlua stored in Stranahans bottles! Look at the great color and the vanilla seeds on the sides of the bottles!

We have the most awesome neighbors here at 488.  You will hear Celine’s name often as she is a wonderful and creative cook and good friend.  She and her husband Doug often enjoy lively conversations about politics, building, farming and life over a refreshing beverage with Andy and me.  One afternoon she poured a small glass of Kahlua for each of us.  This is not normally something that either of us would choose, nor enjoy…but boy did we!  It was fantastic and HOMEMADE!!  She willingly gave up the recipe.  Andy and I whipped up a batch just as soon as we were able.  We couldn’t believe how simple it was to make and then all you need is a couple of old liquor bottles (or like) for aging.  We have a couple of 8 month old bottles in our liquor cabinet as I type.  Maybe I will end my afternoon with a little nibble of this sweet, brown liquid!?!  Cheers!


2-750 ml bottles

4 c H20

4 c sugar

1/4 c instant coffee

1 qt vodka

1 vanilla bean

Boil the water and sugar for 5 minutes and add the coffee.  Boil another 5 minutes.  Turn off heat.  Add the vodka and vanilla bean and let cool.  Bottle.  Leave alone for a long time (at least 6 months).  Drink with delight!

Kahlua Chili

My mother-in-law, Brenda, makes this AMAZING chili.  A few years ago, after much begging, we finally convinced her to share the recipe.  Our tradition is that we make it on the day of the first snowfall of the year.  It is sooo  delicious, we are often found making it just as soon as the thermometer drops below 60!  Serve it with sweet cornbread!  Check out my other posts for the cornbread and kahlua recipes!

Kahlua Chili

Servings 4-5

1-2 T EVOO

1 large onion chopped

3-4 garlic cloves diced

2# ground beef

1 red bell pepper chopped

1 large can of crushed tomatoes

1 small can of tomato paste

1 t dried marjoram

1 t ground oregano

2 t cumin

3 T chili powder

salt to taste (1 t is probably good)

1 t cayenne — or more if you like it HOT!

1 can chili beans with the sauce (we like it hot)

1/2 c kahlua

Sweat the onions in the oil in a stew pot for 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, bell pepper, chili powder, hot pepper, salt and herbs.  Stir well and cook for another 5 min or so.  Add the ground beef and brown.  Add the crushed tomatoes and paste.  Cook for another 5 min.  Add the chili beans, cover, and cook on low for 20 min or so.  About 5 min before you are ready to serve, add the kahlua and stir in well.

Top with green onions, sour cream, cheese, and/or cilantro

Don’t forget the Beano!!


Roasted Garlic

My husband and I eat roasted garlic like candy!  Yep, sometimes we STINK!

Roasted Garlic

Preheat oven to 350 or 400 degrees F

If preparing a head:  just slice off the top of the head to expose a small portion of all of the cloves.  Place it cut side down in a pan coated with a drizzle of EVOO, a dash of sea salt and a sprinkling of Chipotle Pepper Flakes.  Bake for 30 minutes, give or take.  When ready, the cloves will slide right out of the skin.

If preparing pre-skinned cloves:  Just thow the cloves in a pan, drizzle with evoo, sprinkle with pepper and salt as desired.  Bake for 25-30 min or until they turn tan in color.