I Mus-Stash My Stuff At Your House

Last weekend’s 25th surprise party for my daughter’s soon-to-be maid of honor was a combination of high level covert activity and secret meetings in a house filled with smells of meatballs in spicy BBQ sauce, and roasted thyme nuts.

Tissue paper poms spread across the spare bedroom, photo booth props (mustaches, bow ties, lips and glasses), customized wine labels and all sorts of party picks, paper flowers and party ‘stuff’ took over the house.

I played the role of  ‘partner in crime’ as we scoured the local craft stores to make her party ideas come to life.  On the day of the party,  the party flair was loaded into my SUV and transported to Lonnie and Molly’s condo where friends showed up to decorate and lay in wait for the birthday girl.

Roasted Rosemary & Thyme Nuts (from Martha Stewart)

10 cups mixed nuts such as pecans, cashews, whole skin-on almonds, Marcona almonds, and peanuts

  •                                         4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  •                                         3 tablespoons packed light-brown sugar
  •                                         2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
  •                                         1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  •                                         1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  •                                         5 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves only
  •                                         2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves only

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place nuts on a rimmed baking sheet and toast until brown and fragrant, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat butter in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until melted. Continue cooking until butter becomes fragrant and golden brown, taking care not to burn. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, mix together sugar, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, thyme, and rosemary; mix in brown butter. Add nuts and toss to combine. Return nuts to baking sheet and transfer to oven. Bake until nuts are semidry, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely.

Gotta love 3 weeks filled with secrets followed by a “SURPRISE!” finale!  Happy Birthday Molly!

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I’m Your Huckleberry

Val Kilmer played the INFAMOUS Doc Holiday in one of my husband’s favorite movies, TOMBSTONE. Doc was irreverent, ATTRACTED trouble, suffered from tuberculosis, was a notorious gunslinger and was an unlikely supporter of his LAWMAN friend, Wyatt Earp. My husband, an old west buff,  has NO tattoos….. but IF he were EVER to get one, I would NOT be surprised to see Doc’s famous line in the movie, “I’m Your Huckleberry” stamped SOMEPLACE on his body.

Summers visiting northern Idaho not only brought me face-to-face with several MINING towns of the West, but I also fell in love with that tiny little purple berry, the HUCKLEBERRY. We kids poked holes in two sides of a tin coffee can, attached STRINGS to hang them over our necks and traipsed through the HILLS surrounding the little town of Mullan in SEARCH of that elusive little berry. It took a LONG time to FILL a coffee can with HUCKLEBERRIES. Once filled, we headed back to my Grandpa’s HOUSE and waited as my AUNT Bev turned them into piesAt the end of the day GRAMPS brought a brick of VANILLA ice cream home from the soda fountain in his Mullan Rexall Drug Store and we had a FEAST. To this day, there is no better tasting berry pie to me…..than HUCKLEBERRY.

Many people think huckleberries are related to blueberries, but they are not. They are small, deep purple, more tart in flavor and require more sugar to sweeten the pie than blueberries.

Huckleberry Pie Recipe

4 cups huckleberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
Juice of 1 lemon
Pinch of nutmeg
1 Tbsp. of butter
Pie Pastry (bottom layer and upper layer, recipe below)
Preheat oven 425ºF.

In a large bowl, stir together the huckleberries and enough sugar to make the berries taste sweet with a tart edge. Taste as you add sugar to see how much sugar is required. Add the flour, lemon juice & nutmeg. Spoon the fruit into the uncooked pie shell and dot with butter. Add the top pie crust. Slit the top crust to allow for bubbling of the filling, or use a lattice-style crust.

Bake the pie for 15 min., then reduce the heat to 375ºF. and continue baking for an additional 18 to 20 mins.

 Old Fashioned Crisco Pie Crust

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups Crisco shortening, chilled
  • 9 tablespoons ice-cold water

Instructions:

  1. Sift flour and salt into bowl. Cut shortening into 4 or 5 pieces and drop into stand mixer bowl.
  2. Using the flat beater, turn to stir speed and cut shortening into flour until particles are size of small peas, about 30 seconds.
  3. Add ice-cold water one tablespoon at a time until all particles are moistened. Use only enough water to make the pastry form a ball — depending on a variety of factors, you may not need to use the full amount. Watch dough closely as over mixing will result in a tough crust.
  4. Form dough into two equal size disks and chill in refrigerator 15 minutes.
  5. Roll to 1/8″ thickness between pieces of waxed paper until you have a circle slightly larger than the circumference of your pie plate.
  6. Fold pastry into quarters; ease into pie plate and unfold, pressing firmly against bottom and side. Trim and crimp edges.
  7. Fill and bake as desired. For a pastry shell, prick sides and bottom thoroughly with a fork and bake at 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes until light brown. Cool completely before filling.

Huckleberry Buckle

Delicious  recipe from Sauver….

8 tbsp. unsalted butter,
   softened, plus more for pan
6 tbsp. plus 1 3/4 cups flour,
   plus more for pan
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
3/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 lb. huckleberries or blueberries

1. Heat oven to 350˚. Butter and flour a 9″ springform cake pan; set aside. Make the topping: In a medium bowl, stir together 4 tbsp. butter, 6 tbsp. flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 tsp. salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg; set topping aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the remaining flour and salt, along with baking powder; set flour mixture aside. In a large bowl, beat the remaining butter and sugar with a handheld mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 1 minute. Add vanilla and egg and beat until smooth. Add the flour mixture and milk and mix for 1 minute. Add the huckleberries and, using a rubber spatula, fold them into the batter. Pour batter into prepared pan and sprinkle with reserved topping. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hours. Let cool before serving.

SERVES 8 – 10

DYNAMIC DUO

These two recipes have the SWEETEST ingredients and capture the yummy essence of this

delicious PURPLE berry.

Easy Homemade Huckleberry Ice Cream                                               Fill Your Plate Huckleberry Pancakes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 It makes sense that SOMETHING about this little berry catapulted it into a MOVIE script.

Uh huh,…. I’m your HUCKLEBERRY!

 

 

 

*Huckleberries are native to the Northwest. Though efforts have been made to grow them on farms, as of yet, the success rate is not great. They grow naturally in wild patches on northwest mountainsides….so apropos.

*You are invited to follow My Big Red Shoe….. sharing northwest flavors, places, and more.

Ragin’ Cajun Chicken Plus Paper Whites

 Ragin’ Cajun Chicken Stuffed with Pepper Jack Cheese & Spinach

…..plus Paper White Fascination

I LOVE this spicy twist on a Florentine dish.  As with everything else, FLAVOR and bold taste are the ingredient CRITERION.  Pepper jack cheese easily made the ingredient cut and the homemade cajun mix provides the heat filled rub for this entree.

Ingredients:
Serves 4

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 oz pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 c frozen spinach, thawed and drained
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp Cajun seasoning – see below for a homemade Cajun spice recipe
  • 1 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Flatten the chicken to 1/4-inch thickness.

In a medium bowl, combine the pepper jack cheese, spinach, salt and pepper.

Combine the Cajun seasoning and breadcrumbs together in a small bowl.

Spoon about 1/4 c of the spinach mixture onto each chicken breast. Roll each chicken breast tightly and fasten with toothpicks.

Brush each chicken breast with the vegetable oil. Sprinkle the Cajun seasoning mixture evenly over all. Sprinkle any remaining spinach and cheese on top of chicken (optional).

Place the chicken seam-side down onto a tin foil-lined baking sheet (for easy cleanup).  Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.

Remove the toothpicks before serving!

Homemade Cajun Seasoning Mix:

  • 3/4 tbsp paprika
  • 3/4 tsp onion salt
  • 3/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1/8 tsp oregano
  • Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container.

 

Monterey Chicken

Just HAD to SHARE this from All Things Simple.  Included is an amazing Butter Pecan Sweet Potato recipe.

This recipe is one of those semi-homemade DINNERS where the ingredient list is short, the flavor is TALL and the prep time is quick! Love it.  I would top it with some FRESHLY chopped tomatoes and a tad bit of chopped cilantro.

 

 

Decor: Paperwhites on the Dining Table….     

 

I have a SECRET obsession with Paper Whites. Tall crispy green stalks and  pop-of-white COLOR are the  lures of this little BULB. Anything would taste DELICIOUS while …gazing at the whites.

Buy them in BLOOM….or force them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How To Force Paper Whites

Paper whites are the original “Just Add Water” plant. While paperwhite bulbs can be planted in soil, more commonly they are grown in pots or dishes with some stones or marbles to anchor them in place and a little water.

  1. Select a container that is about 3 – 4 inches deep (8 – 10 cm) and that has no drainage holes. 
  2. Spread an inch or 2 of stones, marbles or even gravel, along the bottom of the container. 
  3. Position your paper white bulbs, pointed end up, on top of the stone layer. Go ahead and squeeze them in. They not only look better in a large group, the tight fit will help keep them from toppling over. 
  4. Add another layer of stones to fill in any gaps and cover the bulbs up to their shoulders. The pointed tips should still be showing. 
  5. Add water so that the level just reaches the base of the bulbs. Allowing the bottom of the bulb to sit in water will stimulate growth. Covering the entire bulb with water could cause it to rot. 
  6. The bulbs don’t need light at this point and they prefer to be kept on the cool side, at about 65 degrees F (18 degrees C.) 
  7. Check your bulbs daily to see if they need more water. 
  8. When you see roots developing, move the container to a sunny window. The sunnier the better, but try not to let them get too warm or they’ll grow leggy. 
  9. Once the plants flower, they will last longer if moved out of direct sunlight, to a cool spot with indirect or diffused light.

You can start pots of paper whites every couple of weeks, for a continuous display throughout the winter.

Although problems are rare with paper whites, one annoyance is their tendency to become top heavy and fall over. For a Quick Tip on how to solve that problem, read how to water your paper whites with alcohol to keep them from falling over.

The NEXT time you are enjoying a martini….slip a sip to your PAPER WHITES.

Caution: Falling Coconuts

WE RARELY see falling coconut signs like this in Seattle

      ….. okay, we NEVER see signs like this here.

 I suppose our warning signs might say, “Be CAREFUL people…your Starbucks is flippin’ hot“.

Regardless of warnings, I would JOYFULLY enjoy a cup of joe with any of these coconut concoctions.

 

COCONUT CREAM PIE

This recipe, from the Dough Puncher, is a winner because of the fresh ingredients used.

For those who need to bake at light speed, The Dough Puncher includes a ‘quick’ version at the end of the recipe. This DESSERT is made in a casserole dish rather than a pie plate….more servings!

 Coconut Love! 

 

 

 

Tequila Lime Coconut Bars

Now, there’s not much I  don’t like about tequila and lime. Add a little triple sec and rim salt..and I’m happy to reside in my own little  Margaritaville. 

Jimmy Buffett would love this fab dessert from The Creative Mama It does NOT disappoint. Check out that blog for the recipe as well as other great CULINARY delights. 

 

 

COCONUT CAKE

For someone who as spent most of her life turning down coconut delights (no thank you Almond Joy), my newfound COCONUT love is ALLURING and exciting.

Flashback to the 1920’s when the ladies gathered at meetings and DELIGHTFUL delicacies were served to women wearing gloves. This  recipe, available at Delish, was often made with  marshmallow FROSTING but this one calls for 7-Minute Frosting…one my mother used to make when I was a child. You’ll find the classic 7-Minute Frosting recipe at Real Food Has Curves.

 
Coconut Lime Shortbread Cookies
 
Shortbread? Nuf said. BUTTER upon butter upon heavenly butter. What’s life without a little butter? Add the lime shavings and fresh coconut in this recipe from Gimme Some Oven and a masterpiece is born. 
 
 
There’s something TROPICAL that comes over us when the SUN comes out in Seattle….we drive top down in 45 degree weather, wear SHORTS & tank tops, JUMP into the frigid salt WATER and dream of coconuts and drinks with little umbrellas in them.
 
 
 

Forecast: Drizzles of Oil and Vinegar

Seattle forecasts frequently include a foreboding ‘drizzle” but a short day trip to Bellingham opened up an entirely new connection to that word.  DRIZZLE Olive Oil and Vinegar Tasting Room is tucked in the back of a classic vintage brick building in the Fairhaven historic district and delivers a delicious surprise for extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar lovers.  Tasting our way through the shop we learned about the flavors and their origins. 

Though I wanted more,we left with three bottles : Pomegranate Balsamic Vinegar, Serrano Honey Balsamic Vinegar and White Truffle Oil.

 Try white truffle oil in Proscuitto, Gruyere Cheese and Basil Flatbread Pizza (recipe below). Crowd Pleaser.

A brief stop at the bustling Bellingham Farmer’s Market made us hungry so we meandered across the street to the Boundary Bay  Brewery and Bistro for lunch where we readily joined the locals in their efforts to ‘save the ales’. In this part of the country we love our whales so BBBC gets two thumbs up for their clever T-shirts and delicious IPA Amber. The place was packed, pub food was fresh and after tasting the house salad we begged our waitress the dressing recipe. 

The journey along Chuckanut Drive led to Larrabee State Park and a short hike out to the beach to take photos and visit the starfish. Looking through the lense , we tried to identify the various surrounding San Juan Islands and snapped a picture of my childhood home, Fidalgo Island/Anacortes. Hmmmmm…… next trip?

 Proscuitto, Gruyere Cheese and Basil Flatbread Pizza Recipe

3 Choices for Crust:…..  1) Buy 1 lb Pizza Dough, ready to roll and bake. 2) You can prepare flatbread dough from scratchscratch recipe below. 3)  Try store bought flatbread/already baked)

4 Large thin slices of Proscuitto

1/2 cup roughly sliced fresh basil leaves

1/2 cup Gruyere Cheese

1/4 cup Fontina Cheese

Olive Oil

Salt

White Truffle Oil

Preparation

To prepare the dough:
Roll out the dough into a rectangle shape about 1/2 inch thick. Season with salt and olive oil and place in 400 degree oven for 10 minutes.

While dough is baking:

Slice the Proscuitto into thin strips.

Using a cheese plane or sharp knife, cut each type of cheese into thin slices

Roughly chop the basil and set aside.

When bread has come out of the oven, lay out all of the cheese (mixing up the types) in a thin layer over the entire flatbread.

Next, place the Proscuitto on the bread evenly distributing it on top of the cheese over the entire flat bread.

Drizzle a little more olive oil over the bread and place back in the oven for 10-15 more minutes or until the crust of the bread is slightly browned and the cheese is melted.

Remove from oven and sprinkle fresh basil over entire flatbread.

Finally drizzle the truffle oil to taste (a little goes a long way) over the entire flatbread.

Cut into pieces and serve.

Ingredients For Homemade Flatbread:

1 & 1/2 cups AP flour
pinch of salt
pinch of sugar
2 Tbsp melted butter
3/4 cup warm water

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 425F (if you have a pizza / bread stone pop it in the oven)
  2. Mix all ingredients until they come together.
  3. Knead the dough until it becomes smooth
  4. Cut into pieces small pieces 16 – 32 depending on how small you want them
  5. Dust a surface with flour and roll into long strips
  6. lightly tap the surface with your finger tips (like you would with pizza dough) to prevent big bubbles
  7. Brush top side with water or an egg wash
  8. Sprinkle herbs, salt, etc on top
  9. Bake strips until golden brown

Pear, Pecan, Bleu Cheese & Watercress Salad

There’s SOMETHING ABOUT being politically incorrect that I find secretly appealing. While I’m busy supporting organic farmers, adding compost to my GARDEN and fawning over  trees (which I truly do), I also support the notion that there is often TOO MUCH government regulation in our lives and that trees are a renewable resource. The key is BALANCE .

 

Speaking of balance, this Pear, Pecan, Blue Cheese and Watercress Salad Recipe 

from The Novice Chef is gorgeous and amazingly delicious!

 Beautifully balanced flavors.