Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Garden Tuesdays At It's All Gouda

Howdy Folks! I’m jumping on the Garden Tuesday bandwagon. Marjie gave me the idea, and she got it from Pam at Sidewalk Shoes. Since Marjie is located in the Eastern part of the US, and Pam represents the South, I’ll pitch in with Pacific Northwest garden offerings.

Okie dokie, let's take a peek at my yard. Spring is underway in the Pacific Northwest, but today is a typical rainy Tuesday. Although it's soggy today, Mama Nature has been teasing us with some gorgeous sunshine, and in turn the plants are starting to awaken from their slumber.The Rhodedendrons and Azaleas are still sealed up tight, but there is color abounding in the yard.The tulips are just starting to open. Those that have survived getting tramped by basketball heaving, soccer ball kicking, scooter riding heathens, that is.These Old Gold variety shrubs in the front yard are one of my favorites. Every spring, the new growth sports a brilliant bright yellow color that contrasts so lovely against the green. This type of shrub also throws all year long that wonderful evergreen scent associated with Christmas.Moss and Lichen abound out here as you can see on this vine maple in my front yard. I always think of little leprechauns or fairies when I see all the feathery moss and lichen painting my trees.They love the rainy climate. Uh, the moss and lichen that is. I don't know about the leprechauns and fairies. Ahem.In just a few weeks, though, this will be gone due to kids climbing trees and other monkey type behavior.

In the backyard, the little garden is continuing to impress me. I’ve got carrots that are ready for harvest that I planted a couple months ago as an experiment. I follow the Throwback at Trapper Creek homesteading blog maintained by the amazing and wonderful Nita. She’s a master at gardening, and does so year round out here in the PacWest. I got the inspiration from her to try out some “nontraditional” planting times, and had great luck with carrots. Ah, I wish I could just channel her knowledge into my brain. Lord knows, there’s plenty of room rattling around up there.The sage seems to like the wet, and is sprouting may lovely yellow and green hued leaves just begging to find their way into my cooking pot.This little chive sprout took me by surprise today. I think I’ll let it run its course.

So, that’s the latest in my yard. How does your garden grow?

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Perfecto Pita Panini!

Peter might have picked a peck of pickled peppers, but Paula will please your palate with a perfecto pita panini! How’s that for a lip loosener? Today’s recipe originally started out to be a pizzazzzy pita pizza, which satisfied my son’s lunch craving, but I just was in the mood for something different. Enter Perfecto Pita Panini ... mmmm, yummy. I used the thick flatbread style pita rounds that you fold in half instead of splitting into a pocket.These are so easy to make, and you can use whatever your little tummy cries out for as the filling. I wanted to use up some odds and ends, so mine is a lovely combo of leftover pizza sauce, shredded mozzarella cheese, crisped pepperoni, shaved roast turkey, and roasted red pepper strips. It was sooooo good. I made this on my new little George, which I find myself using quite a bit these days.Significantly more affordable than a panini press, this little powerhouse of a counter-top grill has made everything from grilled cheese to sausage to lamb chops to shrimp to French toast in my house. The non-stick surface makes clean-up a snap. I’m really pleased with it. ANYWAY ....

Here’s all you need:

Flatbread style pita rounds (these are the thick ones that you fold in half instead of split in half)
1 tablespoon of pizza sauce (you could use a nice ranch dressing or cream cheese instead)
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese (shred yourself – it melts and tastes better)
5 thin strips of roasted red peppers (you could leave out or substitute with something else like tomatoes or pickles or spinach, etc.)
1 teaspoon chopped fine red onion
1 serving of thinly sliced roast turkey (use whatever you like ... chicken, roast beef, etc.)
4-6 slices of pepperoni – crisped up in the microwave (gets rid of the grease that way)

Warm up your George or oven or grill pan. Lay out your flatbread, and assemble the ingredients.Spread the sauce over the entire surface of the bread. Sprinkle with just a couple tablespoons of cheese. The rest of the ingredients will only be placed on half of the pita. Layer the pepperoni, onion, red peppers, and turkey. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.Fold over and place on hot grill. Close the lid and cook for about 3 ½ minutes or until heated through.This happens pretty fast when using George. I suspect it would take about 10 minutes in the oven, or 3-5 minutes per side in a grill pan.Serve immediately. Yummilicious! I loved this sandwich served with a lovely green salad on the side.Can you hear the crunch of the crust? You know, those flatbread style pita breads are so versatile. They make great open face pizzas, wonderful wraps for breakfast sandwiches, hold meatball sandwiches beautifully, and are wonderful cut into triangles and toasted for dippers! And, of course, they are awesome with gyros and falafel!Do you have a favorite flatbread recipe?

Garden Update #1

Spring is here ... I think! Living in the Pacific Northwest, Mother Nature likes to tease us with glimpses of Spring and Sunshine, but I think we may have turned a corner. I hope so, anyway. I was riding in an elevator earlier this week and was engaged in small talk with another woman on board. (Folks in Oregon are very friendly and often make small talk such as this.) This woman started the conversation with the usual safe subject ... the weather. She inquired of me if I knew if it was going to be hot and sunny as it was the previous day. I cheerfully replied that the forecast called for warm temperatures and bright sunshine. My elevator mate was truly dismayed. She said she missed the rain already; she doesn’t tolerate heat well. I gave her a look of sympathy, but confided to her that I was so happy to see the sun that I was suppressing doing a happy dance. Oh well, she gets to enjoy the clouds for most of the year here ... I’ll gladly take the sun for the couple of months that it toasts us.

I haven’t started my garden yet this year, but I’ve finished my plans for it. As a novice gardener, I did an experiment last year, leaving some of the herbs and plants in place to see what would survive the soggy wet and slushy snow. I spied closely all winter long, and thought that some of them were toast. To my utter surprise, Mother Nature has come through in spades.The parsley, sage, and rosemary that I thought were goners for sure, are now vibrant and healthy.The Greek Oregano is downright abundant and needs harvesting.I had cut the chives down to earth level, and, um, forgot about them. I can’t forget them now, though, as they are absolutely thriving and doubled in bounty.And, the best surprise is that the strawberry plants not only survived, they spread out and are already loaded with flowers. Thank you, Mother Nature, for your glorious gifts! How's your garden?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mighty, Mighty Meatballs – Asian Chicken Meatballs

Greetings all! Hope everyone had a lovely Easter Holiday as well as Spring Break. After taking an unplanned blogging hiatus, I’m pleased to be back with a real winner of a recipe to share. These little lovelies are so amazing that I just can’t wait to make them again. What’s so special about a meatball, you ask? Well, these little orbs surprised me in a big way ... they taste very similar to the filling found in pot stickers! Not to be confused with dense dunkers, these Asian Chicken Meatballs boast both light and varied texture as well as a mighty flavor. Don’t be put off by the list of ingredients and assembly instructions. I’m convinced that they would behave wonderfully with a variety of substitutions and would fit in marvelously with a variety of presentations. I served mine appetizer style, but they would be perfect over rice or wrapped up in lettuce cups or even in a noodle soup. Yum. Yum. YUM! Oh, my method is gluten free, but of course you could use whatever you have on hand.Here we go. For the meatballs:

1 lb ground chicken
2 eggs
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons minced onion (you could substitute green onion)
2 tablespoons chopped water chestnuts
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (you could use mint – I’m not a mint fan)
2 tablespoons gluten free soy sauce
1 teaspoon lemon grass paste (can substitute lemon juice)
1 teaspoon ginger paste (can substitute minced ginger or powder)
1 shake hot sesame oil
Couple shakes red pepper
Salt and Pepper
2 packages gluten free crackers, crushed (about ¾ cup) – can use regular crackers

In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Stir in the garlic, onion, water chestnuts, cilantro, soy sauce, lemon grass, ginger, sesame oil, red pepper, salt and pepper. Add the ground chicken and the crushed crackers. Combine lightly, but thoroughly. Using a large spoon, scoop out spoonful of meat and form into walnut sized meatballs. Continue until all the meat is formed into meatballs, about 20.

Heat up your grill. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Working in batches, carefully drop the meatballs into the boiling water and boil uncovered for 5-6 minutes. Remove and let drain on paper towels. Grill over medium heat about 4-5 minutes per side, or ... hehe ... use your handy, dandy George Foreman grill! (Hey Marjie ... I couldn’t resist getting one after you posted your panini sandwich! Plus, any appliance with a first name is way too cool! I got a no-frills version and it performs just lovely. For these meatballs, they cooked a total of 5 minutes since the top and bottom grill simultaneously.) Keep an eye on the meatballs because there is virtually no fat in them.Serve with your favorite sauce ... teriyaki, peanut, etc. I made a simple teriyaki out of gluten free soy sauce, mirin, sugar, sesame oil, and cornstarch. It complimented these meatballs perfectly.Aren't these sweet? These are just so amazingly good! I like the crunchy texture that the water chestnuts provide; however, if you prefer a smooth meatball, just whip everything up in the food processor instead of mincing by hand. I was so pleased with these little babies. They had great eye appeal, too. These go on the “repeat” list at my house! Mighty, mighty meatballs ... mmm, mmm, good!
On a side note, kudos to my 7th grade daughter who won first place in the regional science fair, chemistry/earth science division! Well done, my sweet! I'm so proud! You go, girl!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Smile & Say Cheese ... Cheese Omelet that is!

Are there certain foods that always make you smile? For me, it’s eggs. I love those beautiful orbs, and am happy to scoop them with my fork for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Can you think of a more versatile food? They can be boiled, poached, scrambled, fried, baked, and, as in this case, stuffed. Plus, did you know that many *fancy* restaurants, when hiring a new chef, require the finalists to prepare either simply scrambled eggs or a simple omelet to prove their prowess at the stove top?Omelets, or do you say omelettes, are a meal unto themselves. There are so many varieties ... classic Denver, spicy southwest, bountiful veggie, ham and cheese, brie and onion, seafood medley ... the list is endless! This morning, in the It’s All Gouda kitchen, the omelet of choice was a simply scrumptious cheese one topped off with a spoonful or two of fresh Pico de Gallo. This recipe is my idea of heaven on a plate. Two eggs per omelet and a side of fruit is all that’s needed to create a lovely breakfast feast or luncheon plate. Of course, this also would make for a great dinner or late evening meal. This rolled up bit of heaven will fill you up, but not put your pants buttons at risk. Join me now as we create Cheese Omelets.


1 scant Tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon water
Seasoned salt (or salt and pepper)
*2 tablespoons freshly shredded cheese (I used Co-Jack)
*NOTE: Please shred your own. The prepackaged stuff doesn’t melt promptly and just can’t compare in taste. Plus, well, it’s my mantra ... shred your own!

Crack the eggs into a small mixing bowl, and whisk until uniformly colored. Add water and season salt, and whisk again.In a 10-12 inch non-stick sauce pan, melt the butter into the olive oil over med. high heat.When the butter starts to foam, add all of the eggs at once.The eggs will cook from the outer edges toward the middle.Shake and swirl the pan to get the uncooked eggs to flow to the edges (or turn heat down and cover with a lid for about a minute).Sprinkle the cheese along 1/3 of the egg. Now, using a spatula, prepare to fold the egg into thirds, just like a letter.Slip the spatula underneath the section sprinkled with cheese, and turn it toward the middle. Pick up the pan, and gentle shake the partially folded egg so that it slides toward the inside edge of the pan. Place the edge of the pan onto your serving plate, and with one smooth motion, fold the egg onto itself and onto the plate. DONE! It’s really quite easy and super fast.These are so moist and delicious, just check out that folded edge ... no splitting or cracking here. If you prefer, you can simply fold the egg in half and serve, but I just love the way it looks with the tri-fold.

Garnish any way you like. Today the sun was shining and it felt like summer, so I served mine with a brightly colored Pico de Gallo consisting of tomatoes, peppers, onions, and salt.Mmm, mmm, mmm ... just sink your teeth into this! I’m certain that I made yummy noises.

I just love these. I wasn't able to finish all of mine, but my hubby came to the rescue.Hello you gorgeous thing! Just look at those light, fluffy layers. Plus, like most things here at It's All Gouda, this is gluten-free, all the way, baby! What’s your favorite type of omelet? Pop on over, and I’ll whip one up for you!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Dinner for Five – Weeknight Wholesome Pork, Rice, and Veggies

The witty banter will be in short supply tonight. It’s a sad day here in Goudaland. A close buddy of my hubbyman perished in a tragic plane crash this morning. Just last night, my guy and his friend worked late together at their shared place of employment, and as of 7:30 am this morning, his good friend is no longer with us. His friend actually commuted daily to work along with another person in a small aircraft that he piloted himself, and this morning something obviously went terribly wrong. Only 49 years old, he will be tremendously missed by his family, friends, and co-workers. He was a glass-half-full type of guy, and my hubby enjoyed his wit, humor, and friendship. So, tonight, I ask you to whisper a prayer for his family and friends, and also suggest that you give a special hug or hello to the special someones in your life just to let them know you care. :-)

So, onto today’s recipe. While I enjoy cooking and consuming all types of yummy creations, my children prefer the straightforward approach. I love a plate to be colorfully presented with snipped chive or parsley garnishes; my offspring absolutely, positively do NOT like greenery sprinkled on their food. Therefore, many weeknight meals served at my table are wholesome, straightforward, no-frills attached food. Hubbyman wolfs down everything placed in front of him, plain or fancy, so there are no hang ups there. It never ceases to amaze me how much my kids like this wholesome, straight-forward meal. They all belong to the clean plate club when it is served; and I mean CLEAN plates ... not a grain of rice left.At the risk of putting off all my readers, here’s a typical, gluten free, weeknight meal from the It’s All Gouda kitchen. There. The truth is out. As you already know, I feed a family of five and I follow a different food pyramid than what is recommended in the U.S. We don’t eat a lot of whole grains (gasp!) especially since we follow a mostly gluten free existence, instead eating more veggies and fruit. I try to have a form of protein, in this case sliced pork, and some sort of gluten free starch to balance out the meal. Often, we end our meal with salad (yep, end the meal) or with fruit. Take a look at the plate, and you’ll see what I mean. Not pictured is sliced melon that we had after the meal. Even better, I can have this on the table in less than 30 minutes. Look out Rachel Ray! Seriously, though, for busy families like mine who find value in eating the evening meal together, meals such as this are important to have in your repertoire.I’m trying to cut back on our meat consumption, and in this meal, I’ve taken 3 thick pork chops and thinly sliced them to make 5 portions. Simply seasoned with seasoned salt and quickly stir fried in a little bit of canola and olive oil, this comes together in just a few minutes. Both my hubby and son would be happy to eat only a ton of meat at a meal; however, by providing lots of variety, they aren’t complaining too much about not having more meat on their plate.Mmm, broccoli ... one of my favorite veggies. My littlest veggie eater also likes cooked broccoli; the older ones barely tolerate it. It pairs great with other foods, so it makes a weekly appearance. Called little trees by my nephew, I cook my broccoli much different than many folks. I bring a pot of water that has slivered garlic in it to a boil, turn the stove off, drop the broccoli in, and let it sit for 5-10 minutes while I prepare the rest of the meal. A quick draining, a sprinkling of sea salt, and a drizzling of olive oil are all that’s needed before plating. It comes out perfect every time.Basmati rice is my all purpose go-to rice. With its flavorful, long, thin grains, it takes only 20 minutes to prepare from start to finish. Here it is simply prepared in chicken broth along with some butter or olive oil. My kids often splash on some soy sauce at the table.
I like to have at least one “raw” food with each meal. More often than not, that means carrots. All members of my family LOVE carrot sticks. I swear I can peel and slice carrots in my sleep. No matter how much I prepare, they always want more and never get sick of them. I’ll be planting these in my garden again this year.

So, there you have it. What does a typical meal look like in your household? Do you have tried and true favorites? And remember to give your special someones a special hug or hello today.

PS: Is anyone else having blogger reader hang-ups? I subscribe to all my commenter’s blogs, and the reader keeps telling me no new posts. However, I get curious after a couple days and go visiting only to find that, yes, you’ve made several posts. So, I think I’m going to cease relying on the reader and just go visiting. Please know that I love reading your blogs and look forward to all your posts as well as your comments here!