Summer Rice Primavera

I find that I’ve been talking to myself a lot lately. I’ve always talked to myself, but it seems that I’m getting more and more talkative. Taking the garbage out the other day, I caught myself discussing the things I still had to do while I walked across the driveway. It isn’t unusual for me to be sitting at my desk talking to no one but me. And today at my beloved Wegmans, I was in a full on conversation with myself over cantaloupes when I realized that one of the stock boys was eavesdropping with a highly amused look on his face!

I stopped. Realized what I was doing.
And then we laughed.
At me.

The funny thing is…is that I tend to be on the quiet side with people.
And that’s probably because I exhaust me when I’m talking to myself!

Not too long ago, I read an article online about how genius people talk to themselves, but they also answer themselves too. The article went on to say that it’s good to have a conversation with yourself, because the brain tends to remember a full conversation rather than just a sentence or two, which is how they can get through all of those complicated mathematical (etc) problems.

I’m not claiming to be genius…but it was online, so it has to be true…right?!

Okay, so maybe I’m not genius, but what is genius is this delicious Rice Primavera. I don’t know where the original pasta primavera originated because there are several people who’d like to take credit for it.. but whoever the creator is…in my genius opinion…is genius.

Fresh vegetables served over a starch such as pasta or rice is a perfect summer meal! The beauty of a meal such as this, is that it can be changed to please everyone’s taste throughout all four seasons! This particular summer primavera is laden with zucchini, summer squash, kale, peas, carrots, and corn, all sautéed in a buttery lemon sauce, and topped with a sharp parmesan and lemon zest. It is just another one of those quick and delicious meals that takes just minutes to throw together! A summer meal that I know you and your family will enjoy!

Life is good. It’s a “F. Scott Fitzgerald once said ‘Genius is the ability to put into effect what is on your mind’…and I just happened to have fresh vegetables on mine” kind of good.

Rice Primavera
 
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Author:
Serves: 2-4 servings
Ingredients
The Vegetables
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • ½ cup onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • ¼ - ½ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 bunch kale chopped, (about three cups)
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 celery stalk sliced
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small summer squash, sliced (about 1 cup)
  • ½ - 1 cup peas (frozen is fine)
  • ½ - 1 cup corn (frozen is fine)
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
The Rice
  • Prepare rice as directed on the package. (One cup rice to two cups water)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp lemon zest
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • Fresh ground black pepper (as much as you’d like)
Instructions
The Vegetables
  1. In a large saute pan, melt the butter and add the onion, garlic, and crushed red pepper. Saute until onions are translucent. Add the kale, carrots and celery. Let simmer on low for about 10 minutes, or until the kale has reduced in half. Add the zucchini and summer squash. Cook for about five minutes until the squash is semi tender (you want the vegetables in this to have a slight crunch to them). Add the peas and corn. Cook until heated through. Season with salt, black pepper, lemon juice and lemon zest.
The Rice
  1. While the vegetables are cooking, prepare the rice as directed on the package. When it is fully cooked, add butter, lemon juice, lemon zest, black pepper, and parsley.
The Rice Primavera
  1. Top with the summer vegetables, freshly grated parmesan cheese, crushed red pepper, and more lemon zest. Serve with lemon wedges.

 

Three Wishes

 

If you were given three wishes, what would they be?

Now, you can only have three wishes…Wishing for more wishes is not allowed. That would just open up a whole nasty can of worms that none of us would ever want to be in!

If you’ve been hanging out with me for any period of time, then you know that I’m a huge daydreamer, especially when I’m working in my kitchen. I’ve recently been called an over thinker more times than I can count…

So, when I was coloring my Queen Anne’s Lace today, a few things came to mind that I’d like to do to finish my kitchen, and it all required a few thousand dollars. So, that took me to thinking how it would be perfect to have a half a million dollars in the bank. I know. You’re probably thinking how everyone would like to have a half a million dollars in the bank…we all would!

Three wishes.

Yeah, what if I was given three wishes? I’d surely be rich then. I’d wish for $2 million dollars, that’s what I’d do. I’d split it four ways, and give each of my kids a half a million, a perfect start to their lives…and that last half million, I’d pay off my house and bills, put the rest in the bank, and have a nice finish to mine.

If you’re wondering why I wasn’t thinking that I’d wish for billions of dollars… well, I think that’s just too much money. It would ruin a persons life with all of the problems that it would create. Plus, you don’t want so much money that you’d lose your daydreams. It might sound like a life’s luxury, but being able to buy whatever you want at a moment’s notice would get quite boring after a while. I think you’d run out of things to wish for, and wishing and hoping is a part of who we are, isn’t it?

Anyway, getting back to my three wishes. Lost in my daydreams, I started thinking that I was being selfish. I mean, what would bring true happiness?

Peace on earth.

If every human on earth lived in the way in which we were supposed to when life began, I think that all we would know is happiness, right?

So, my first wish would be for peace on earth.

My second wish turned out to be a little more complicated. My first thought was that it should be a cure for cancer. And I had it all figured out that I would wish for a cure for cancer in general so that all cancers would be included. But what about the people who suffer from other illnesses? I couldn’t just wish for a cure for cancer, when there are so many other physical and mental illnesses out there. And what about accidents and injuries? How could I include that too? Would it be as easy as asking for good health for all people on earth? I don’t think that would work. If I was going to keep my third wish for my $2 million dollars, I had to fit a cure for illness, disease, accidents, and injuries into my second wish.

I couldn’t come up with a way to do that.
So my second wish is that the human race would only know excellent health.

Okay, so I know that might open up a whole issue about overpopulation, but this is my daydream, and I don’t want anymore suffering in the world.
Humor me.

Which now brings me to my third wish. I didn’t really have to think long about this. You all know that I wanted my $2 million, but how can I wish for something so frivolous when there are far more important things, like life?

I live on a busy road, at an intersection, with high traffic and not just cars and trucks. Those darn crotch rockets. I hate them. Those kids think they’re invincible on them. This happens daily. They fly by the house, at times popping stupid wheelies, and all I can do is hold my breath, and pray. God, please keep them safe and don’t let their parents have to cry tonight. And…I’ve seen many car accidents in front of my house, and have been involved in a couple myself, one of them serious.

But there are other accidents too, far too many to name, and we’ve all been injured at times whether it was at home, at work, on vacation, ourselves to blame, or even others to blame. They’re accidents. They happen. All the time.

My third wish is that the human race would never suffer injury. That they’d be able to go home to their families at night, safe and sound.

I know that I didn’t even touch the tip of the iceberg with my wishes. I don’t think it would be as easy as we’d all like to believe it would be. And as selfish as human nature can be, I believe that it would be hard for the majority of people to ignore all of the needs that go above and beyond our own. I like to believe that we are all good people.

So, back to my question to you…what would your three wishes be?

Life is good. It’s a “Yes, I still do color Queen Anne’s Lace…because it’s the simple things in life that make me happy…” kind of good.

 

 

 

 

 

Hummingbird Cake

My friend Cyn, from Especially Southern Dishes, invited me to join her and a few other bloggers to post a Southern Recipe today. First of all, I was so honored, because I adore Cyn and her work. A “self-proclaimed introvert”, Cyn’s colorful and “extrovert” talent just shines in every single beautiful photo that she posts of her sinfully delicious recipes! I hope that you stop by her blog and Instagram page, because I know you will love her just as much as I do.

Secondly, I was worried, because I shamefully admit that I do not know anything about Southern cooking. So I emailed Cyn right away and told her that I had no idea what to make. She instantly came back and suggested a Hummingbird Cake.

What is this delightful confection that you suggest, Cyn?

I researched Hummingbird Cakes, and found that it is a delicious concoction of crushed pineapple, banana, pecans with a cream cheese frosting!

“Ooh La La…” I said to myself, and decided that I would do what I do best….
Cupcakes.

In my research on this delightfully moist gem of a cake, I found that this cake has one heck of a history with several different names, such as Doctor Bird Cake, Bird of Paradise Cake, Bumblebee Cake, Doesn’t Last Cake, Jamaican Cake, and Nothing Left Cake.

It is believed that this cake originated in the 1960’s in Jamaica, called the Doctor Bird Cake. Doctor Bird is a nickname for Jamaica’s national bird called the Red-billed Streamertail, which is a member of the Hummingbird family. In a marketing ploy, Air Jamaica adopted the Doctor Bird as its logo, and along with enticing foreigners to visit their island, the recipe for this cake was included in its media packages, which soon made its way to Virginia. And so began its popularity in many small town newspapers, winning baking contest after baking contest…when finally in 1978, Mrs. L.H. Wiggins of Greensboro, North Carolina submitted her winning recipe of Hummingbird Cake to the Southern Living magazine to be published did it then become the Southern Classic that everyone loves!

Believe it or not, I found this recipe in one of my grandmother’s old church recipe cookbooks submitted by Leona Reynolds. I have gone through that little book so many times, I can’t believe that I never really looked at that recipe!  Laden with pineapple, banana, and pecans, this moist cake has won my heart. The tang of the cream cheese frosting, as it always does, pairs well with the cinnamon-y fruits and nuts. This is definitely a recipe that I will make again and again!

A special thank you to Cyn for inviting me to join you in this Southern Recipe post. I am truly honored.

Life is good. It’s a “You’re going to hover over these cupcakes like a hummingbird hovers over flowers… I promise… “ kind of good.

Hummingbird Cake
 
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I love this recipe because you don't even need a mixer for the cake batter! It's a matter of stirring all of the ingredients together in a large bowl! Although you will need a mixer for the frosting!
Author:
Serves: 18 cupcakes
Ingredients
Hummingbird Cupcakes
  • 1-1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 large banana, mashed
  • 8 oz crushed pineapple, do not drain!
  • 2 large eggs
  • ½ cup chopped pecans
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 1 8oz pkg cream cheese
  • ½ stick butter
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • 2 tbsp milk (divided)
  • 1 2lb package powdered sugar
Garnish
  • Chopped pecans
  • Sprinkles
  • Maraschino Cherries
Instructions
Hummingbird Cupcakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.
  2. In large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, sugar, and cinnamon.
  3. In a medium size bowl, mash the banana, sitr in the pineapple, eggs, pecans, vegetable oil, and vanilla. Stir until just combined.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the bowl of dry ingredients. Gently stir until just combined.
  5. Fill the cupcake liners about ⅔ full. I used a ¼ cup measuring cup for each cupcake.
  6. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  7. Frost with cream cheese frosting, sprinkle with chopped pecans, sprinkles, and top with a maraschino cherry.
Cream Cheese Frosting
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and 1 tbsp. of the milk. Beat on low for about two minutes or so, or until the mixture becomes creamy with no lumps. Add the powdered sugar, and beat on low until it is fully incorporated into the cream cheese mixture, and then set your mixer to high. Let beat for about five minutes until the frosting is light and fluffy. (If you find that the consistency isn't as light as you'd like it to be, add another tbsp. of milk).

 

 

 

Minestrone


We have had the best weather these last couple of days. There is like zero humidity, and it’s been in the upper 60’s, low 70’s. For me, that’s perfect, even if it comes with a little bit of rain. I can handle the rain, that just means that my flowers will be watered for me, which means that I have a little bit more time to do something else! Plus…my central air is now shut off, and all of my windows are open letting the fresh air come in!

Having said all that, I do admit to feeling a little bit on the chilly side, so on goes a sweatshirt, and a pot of soup goes on the stove. Making soup is one of my most favorite things to do. There is just nothing better than the smell of soup simmering on the stove all day, which to me, represents the spirit of cooking.

Okay, so maybe the upper 60’s, lower 70’s doesn’t really warrant a pot of soup, but it sounded good…and…it was a great way to use up some of the vegetables that were in the fridge!

I love a thick minestrone, and this one is exactly that. Laden with fresh vegetables, beans, spicy Italian sausage beef, and your favorite type of macaroni…it definitely takes on the role of a stew.

To me, anything goes with this kind of soup, so whatever vegetables you have on hand, toss them in, as there are no boundaries! Make it as simple.. or as complicated as your taste buds prefer, and then ladle this delicious thick soup into big bowls, topped with plenty of parmesan cheese, and then sop up the remnants with some fresh warm bread…and life is truly good.

Life is good. It’s a “Soup in the summer? Absolutely! You can wait until the snow flies, but why would you?” kind of good.

Minestrone
 
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Author:
Ingredients
  • ½ pound bacon, cut into 1” squares
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, sliced
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 pound spicy or mild Italian sausage, removed from casing (or bulk if you can find it)
  • 1 pound stew beef
  • ½ pound fresh green beans, cut into thirds
  • 3 cups packaged coleslaw mix from bag
  • 1 cup corn
  • 2 large potatoes, cut into small chunks
  • 1 14.5 oz can spicy diced tomatoes
  • 1 14.5 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 32 oz box chicken stock
  • 1 32 oz box beef stock
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • ¼ tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 small zucchini, sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 small yellow squash, sliced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 1 cup acini de pepe (or your favorite pasta)
Instructions
  1. Cook bacon in a large stock pot until crisp. Keep the bacon and it’s grease right in the pot, and add the onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Saute until the onions are translucent. Add the Italian sausage that has been removed from the casings, and while it is cooking, break it up with a wooden spoon. Add the stew beef and cook until no pink shows on the outside. Add the green beans, coleslaw, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, chicken stock, beef stock, salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low. Simmer uncovered for about two to three hours. Add the zucchini, yellow squash, kidney beans and acini de pepe, and simmer for another 20 minutes, or until the pasta is tender.

 

Spicy Shrimp and Zucchini Noodles

So, here’s the scoop. I decided to try those zucchini noodles, or zoodles, as everyone calls them. I don’t know, I just don’t like that name… zoodle…so I’m going to refer to them as zucchini noodles for the sake of this post.

Right from the very beginning, I was certain that I was not going to like them. Afterall, I’ve seen so many food photos of them, and they’ve never really looked all that appetizing. They looked mushy and overcooked. But..I do love zucchini, so how bad could they be? So, I decided to give them a shot.

As I was preparing this dish, I kept thinking that it wasn’t too late. I could just toss the zucchini noodles in the trash, and cook up some capellini, or linguine and no one would be the wiser. I thought that these zucchini noodles were absolutely going to ruin this whole shrimp dish, and planned on posting it anyway, but telling you all about my loathing for zucchini noodles, and I wouldn’t blame you if you made the whole recipe but substituted a real pasta instead.

Well, everything changed as soon as I took my first forkful (and second…and third…). I have to say, I’m pleasantly surprised! I really like them! I think they key to their success, at least for me, is to just toss them in the pan for a few seconds. Keep them crunchy, because they’ll bring a nice texture to this dish.

Because zucchini can definitely be bland, pairing it with spicy shrimp, tomatoes and corn brought a perfect blend of heat, sweet, and buttery flavor! It is delicious hot right out of the pan, but I have to say that I truly enjoyed it cold too! This is just another one of those meals that is light and fresh, perfect for a summer night’s dinner! I really think you’re going to love this one!

Life is good. It’s a “You just never know until you try…” kind of good.

Spicy Shrimp and Zucchini Noodles
 
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Author:
Serves: 4 servings
Ingredients
The Zucchini Noodles
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • ⅓ cup red onion, chopped
  • ⅓ cup sweet red pepper, chopped
  • ½ cup jarred pickled banana peppers, chopped
  • 1 tbsp of the banana pepper juice
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 2 ears corn, blackened, and cut from cob (or frozen, about 1½ cups)
  • 2 cups zucchini noodles
  • Salt and pepper to taste
The Spicy Shrimp
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • ½ tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp banana pepper juice
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • ½ tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb raw shrimp, cleaned and peeled
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
Instructions
The Zucchini Noodles
  1. In a large sauté pan, sauté the red onion, sweet red pepper and banana peppers in the olive oil, banana pepper juice, and lime juice until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic, and cook for about 2 minutes longer. Add the cherry tomatoes and corn. Cook until the tomatoes become tender, but not mushy. Add the zucchini noodles and cook for about a minute or two, until heated through. Salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a bowl until ready to combine with the shrimp.
The Spicy Shrimp
  1. In the same pan that you used for the tomato mixture, sauté the garlic in the butter and paprika. Add the banana pepper juice, lime juice, and red pepper flakes. Add the shrimp to the pan, and cook for about 2½ - 3 minutes on each side, until the shrimp is pink on the outside, and white and opaque on the inside. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the parsley to the pan, and combine with the shrimp and butter sauce.
  2. Add the zucchini noodle mixture to the pan, and toss with shrimp. Serve warm or cold with lime wedges!

 

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Mozzarella in Olive Oil

So, I was outside watering my flowers this morning, when I noticed that some of them were looking a little straggly. I grabbed some scissors and started snipping away at them. I remotely remember a slight tugging at my hair, but really didn’t pay attention until I stood up and felt a definite tugging. I felt my hair, and there was nothing there. I noticed a cobweb hanging from my bird bath, and realized that my hair must have gotten caught in the web, and that’s what I was feeling.

Yeah, that was it.
A cobweb.
It was then that I noticed some movement on the side of my glasses.
It was no cobweb!
It was a spider hanging from the string of his web off the side of my head!

Okay, so it’s here in my story that I’m going to probably exaggerate a little…

But this spider was huge! I swear it was tarantula size (not really, he was smaller than a pea..), tugging away at my hair as he swung from his web rope from my head. I think that I made that blood curdling scream (doubtful, I really don’t scream). My heart started palpitating. There could have been a little black out, but I don’t remember (most likely not).

And I know for sure that I did the dance.

I did the spider dance long and hard, making guttural noises that could only come from an animal being attacked. I’m sure that the sounds coming from me resonated through the woods, that people and animal alike, stopped what they were doing to wonder what living being could possibly make that terrifying noise (all of that very true..)…

I’m certain most of you know that when you go to brush a spider off of the top of your head that he hangs on his web rope from your hand. And when you shake your hand to get him off, he just swings back and forth as if he’s on some sort of amusement park ride… until he finally flies off… and your spider dance morphs into a kind of running in place for another minute or two while you shake your hands and wipe them on your shorts, whimpering and trembling. Right?

And then I composed myself.
Checked my hair to make sure that there weren’t any more spiders…
Looked around the yard to see if there was anyone watching me besides my dog.
And then went back to nonchalantly watering my flowers as if nothing had happened. (Not true. I was on full spider watch until I finished.)

I swear that I belong in my kitchen more than I belong in a garden. I still have the heebee jeebies from that episode a few hours ago! While I do love an uneventful work in the garden, I prefer to be in the kitchen enjoying the rewards of the summer, and creating recipes.

I’ve admitted to being a glutton with the cherries this year, and it’s happening again with tomatoes. I found a lovely variety of cherry tomatoes, that turned into a sweet delight after being roasted in the oven with some garlic, jalapeños, and fresh thyme. Packed in olive oil with fresh mini balls of mozzarella, these tomatoes make such a delicious topping for toasted garlic baguette slices, or tossed with pasta, grilled chicken or fish topper…or…if you’re like me, eaten out of the jar with a spoon…. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…This is exactly why I insist that you should always, always carry a spoon in your pocket!

Making these marinated roasted tomatoes is so quick and easy, that you’ll want to keep them in your refrigerator for the rest of the summer!

Life is good…when it’s not filled with spiders. Did you know that a cobweb is just an abandoned spider’s web?

Roasted Cherry Tomatoes and Mozzarella in Olive Oil
 
Safety Note: They will only keep for about a week in the refrigerator, and very important: Make sure that they’re always covered with olive oil, even if you have to top it off periodically throughout the week!
Author:
Ingredients
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 2 jalapeno peppers
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • Sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1 cup fresh mini mozzarella balls
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Olive oil (enough to fill the jar of tomatoes)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees.
  2. On a large baking sheet, combine the cherry tomatoes, jalapeño peppers, smashed garlic, thyme springs and olive oil. Make sure that everything is completely coated with the olive oil. Generously sprinkle with sea salt and fresh ground pepper.
  3. Roast in the oven uncovered for about 2 - 2½ hours.
  4. Remove from oven and let cool completely.
  5. Slice the jalapeños.
  6. Pack the roasted tomatoes, garlic, jalapeño slices, mozzarella balls, and fresh thyme into a quart size jar. Top with olive oil until it completely covers the tomato mixture.
  7. Store in refrigerator for up to one week.

 

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