Thursday, May 26, 2011

Asparagus Panzanella

Springtime around my area brings out foragers for asparagus.  You can see the foragers stopped on the side of the road with bags in hands bending over to harvest asparagus.

My husband and my 10-year old,Talley, enjoy foraging for asparagus.  These are pictures that my husband took last year.  We forage in a field; no, we don't go where we aren't wanted. 

With the abundance of asparagus we have, I am always thinking of ways to incorporate asparagus into our menu.

I came up with this simple recipe for Asparagus Panzanella and added a bit of bacon in to ramp up the dish.  Panzanella is basically an Italian bread salad with vegetables splashed with olive oil and vinegar; the various possibilities are endless.

Asparagus Panzanella

1/3 cup virgin olive oil -- good quality
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons garlic, finely minced
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt - First add 1/2 teaspoon and then adjust right before serving
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
4 good-sized tomatoes, sliced into small bites -- I used tomatoes on the vine.
1 pound asparagus cooked and then cut into bite-sized pieces -- do not over cook
1/3 cup flat-leaf Italian parsley -- diced.
1 large cucumber, cut in small pieces
1/2 cup sliced red onion, thinly sliced or 1/2 cup sliced green onions; I used green because the red onion I had was way too hot.
6  cups good quality artisan bread -- cubed and baked (see instructions in directions) 
10 strips bacon,  cooked well and then sliced into small pieces

1. Heat oven to 400ºF. Line a jelly-roll pan with foil. Arrange bread cubes in a single layer on pan. Toast in oven 10 to 12 minutes, tossing once, until evenly browned.

2. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, add oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper, and tomatoes in a large bowl. Let stand at room temperature at least 30 minutes or until tomatoes release their juices. Toss occasionally. This is an important step. I love how the flavors blend and everything smells so good.

3. Then add asparagus, parsley, cucumbers, and onions to tomato mixture.   Let stand at least 15 minutes for flavors to blend. Just before serving, add bread cubes and bacon; toss to blend thoroughly.

This is actually a very simple salad, but I wanted to add some notes so that you would be satisfied with your panzanella.
  • You need to use good quality artisan bread and good quality olive oil -- squishy french bread sold near the registers won't do.  A grocery store near me clearances day old La Brea Artisan Breads; the day old bread works perfectly for Panzanella.
  • Do not overcook the asparagus; mushy asparagus won't taste good.  After cooking the asparagus, you can place it in an ice bath to immediately stop the cooking process and then cut into bite-sized pieces upon cooling.  I grilled the asparagus for this Panzanella. 
  • If using red onions, make sure you taste them before you add them; if they are hot, do NOT use them.  I love the color that red onions add to the salad, but a hot onion will wreck the salad.
  • Serve right away so that the bread cubes are still somewhat crusty.
  • Shoud you salad be a bit dry, add a bit more olive oil and vinegar.

Linked with the following parties:  Tuesday Night Supper Club, Wow Us Wednesdays

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Time to Remember: Memorial Day Tablescape

Memorial Day is a Time to Remember, a time to reflect on those who have served in military service and lost their lives.  It is also a time to remember those who have lost their loved ones.  In my youth, Memorial Day festivities would always involve a visit to the cemetary to place or plant flowers at the graves of our loved ones.

I am sorry but I give up on commenting tonight; I am not successful.  Hope Blogger gets this fixed.

Thanks to all of you for the Birthday Wishes.  I am trlly blessed!  I received a couple of early birthday presents yesterday.  I went to bed last night smiling because we just found out that my son got a decent grade -- better than I hoped for-- in his Algebra II class; he had been struggling this past quarter and I was worried.  Tomorrow is their last day of school and I am sooooo happy.  Then, the Betty Crocker Facebook page linked to my Patriotic Groove Cookies yesterday.  I received around 7,000 pageviews as a result of their link.  Just goes to show you that "Betty" is still a very popular gal!
Today I set a Memorial Day table in my favorite colors of red, white, and blue; in fact I think red, white, and blue can be used all summer long; I plan to :).

Lots of RED going on here which gives the table lots of energy. 

Week Number Four using the Red Pots :), but who is counting?

I love bandanas as napkins, how about you?  They are inexpensive and soft to the touch.

Thanks for dropping by my Red Couch to view my Memorial Day Tablescape.

Table Information:
Wal-Mart:  Placemats, Red Plates, Blue Floral Salad Plates, Bandanas, Flatware
Michael's:  Red "Hobnail" -- on clearance for 50 cents each
Sister-in-Law Camille:  Star Plates
Red Goblets:  Costco

Posted with the following parties:  Tablescape Thursday

Friday, May 20, 2011

Patriotic Groove Cookies

Let's hear it for the Red, White, and Blue!

I have been cookie crafting a bit in the kitchen recently and I came up with these Patriotic Groove Cookies.  Don't you think they would make a splash on your Memorial Day or 4th of July Table? 

Patriotic Groove Cookies
Recipe and Instructions
1 cup sugar
1 cup softened butter
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
Red and Blue Coloring

Mix sugar, butter, milk, vanilla and almond extract, and egg. Stir in flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until well incorporated.  Divide dough in three equal parts.  Leave one part uncolored for the white dough; color one part of dough with red coloring; color another part of dough with blue coloring.  Form all three dough parts into rounds.  Then flatten into disks.  and cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. Sometimes I cheat and place the rounds in the freezer for about 20 minutes.  Take dough and combine the three colors to make a cookie, about tablespoon size or a little larger.    Place cookie dough balls on baking sheet and flatten slightly with the bottom of a drinking glass.  Bake in 350 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes.  Cool on wire rack for about 5 minutes.

Notes:  I loaded my colors into a cookie scoop, but you could just press the colors together to make them.  If you DO use a cookie scoop, make sure you clean the scoop out, with a paper towel, after you form each cookie so that the colors won't transferThe cookie recipe is from an old Betty Crocker Cookbook.  I have used this basic recipe many times in my cookie crafting.

The Three Doughs

Loaded in the Cookie Scoop

 "There’s a dear old flag floating over land and sea
And beneath its folds all men alike are free
Tis the emblem of a righteous liberty
The old red, white, and blue."

Partial lyrics to the song, "The Old Rd, White, and Blue."

Cooling...Almost Ready to Eat

Thanks for dropping by my Red Couch!  I hope you will add some pizazz to your Memorial Day or 4th of July table with these cookies.

Posted with the following:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bold and Bright Red and Turquoise Tablescape

I think I am in love!  Yes, it's bold and it's bright and it screams at you, but I love combining turquoise and red.  Warning:  Brightness alert, please use your sunglasses.

I  made you some cookies to match.  We pack home lunches for our children; many of my creations go in their lunches -- some of the cookies, such as these, are conversation starters at lunch.  Click HERE for the posting on these cookies.

Here's the simple place setting.  I love the  "hobnail"- style bowls.  I found them on clearance at Michael's around Valentine's Day (50 cents).  The coral napkin rings give a nice POP to the table.  The turquoise plates were a Dollar Store find several years ago.

Another view of the table featuring the cookies lollipops.

For those with a good memory -- YES, this is the third week in a row I have used the red pots as a centerpiece -- YIKES!  The red pots inspired me as one night we were dining on the deck with these turquoise plates and I loved the look of the red and turquoise together.  It was a serendipitous moment - don't you just love that word?

Here's my bubble shot view; I like to view my world through a bubbly glass ;).

I hope you enjoyed my RED and TURQUOISE TABLE today.  Thanks for dropping by my RED COUCH! 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Jello-O Lollipop Cookies

Welcome to my Red Couch.  Bright, festive, and tasty would describe these Jell-O Cookies.  They are flavored with blueberry and cherry Jell-O and I love the turquoise and red colors together.  They just remind me of the bright days of summer that will surely come; even though Spring has been a bit cold in my neck of the woods.

One of my favorite things to do in the kitchen is to craft with cookies. These were made with a Wilton Cookie Pop mold; if you don't have a mold, you could easily make them without a mold..  Check out my sidebar listing to see other Jell-O kitchen crafts.

Recipe for Jell-O Lollipop Cookies
3/4 cup butter or shortening
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 (3 ounce) package of Jell-O -- I used cherry and blueberry and split the packages in half.
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2-1/2 cups flour

Mix all ingredients, except Jell-O.  If using two flavors of Jell-O, as I did, halve each Jell-O package and the dough and incorporate the different Jell-O flavors in each half of dough.  If using Wilton Cookie Pop molds, just press dough into molds -- one half of each flavor.  You may need to add a tad bit of flour to make the dough a bit more usable.  If not using Cookie Pop Molds, roll  dough into balls (at least 2 tablespoons) and flatten, and then insert sucker stick.  For the sucker stick to hold, make sure your cookie is somewhat thick.  Bake in 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes.  Add about 2 more minutes if using the Wilton Cookie Pop Molds.  To help insure the sucker stick will stay in place, don't short the baking time.

Thanks for dropping by.

I posted with these fun parties:

Friday, May 13, 2011

Barbecue Chicken Salad -- Blast From the Past

Do you remember this salad?  It was the rage a few years ago -- and for good reason.  It's perfect for the summer season -- delicious, and so fresh tasting.  Add this to your summer repertoire -- I don't think you will be disappointed.

Recently, the Gold'n Plump Chicken Company sent some sample packs of chicken breasts.  I had tried their ground chicken before and loved it -- so fresh tasting and no hormones added.  The chicken breasts are also delicious, tender, and don't shrink in size when you grill them.

Recipe for Barbecue Chicken Salad

4 large chicken breasts grilled with your favorite barbecue sauce
Lettuce broken in small bite-sized pieces -- I used 2 medium-sized bunches of Romaine
1 cup shredded cheese  -- I used a White Cheddar
1 can (14.5 ounce) drained corn
1 can (14.5 ounce) washed and drained black beans -- make sure you wash it
2 small tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
4-6 green onions , sliced in small pieces
Ranch Dressing
Tortilla Chips to decorate sides or to crush and put in salad -- I did both

Add lettuce, cheese, corn, beans, tomatoes, cilantro, and green onions to large serving bowl and mix ingredients.  Then add barbecued chicken.  It is best if the barbecued chicken is still warm, but not right off the grill.  Decorate with corn chips.  Garnish with a few cilantro leaves and serve with Ranch Dressing.

I wasn't compensated for this post;  I was sent complimentary packs of chicken.

Thanks for dropping by my Red Couch.

Posted with the following:

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

No Crying in Baseball Tablescape

It's that season, where young children take to Little League Fields all over the United States.  Going to Little League games was a huge part of our summer for many years as our son played for nine years.  This year, when the chance came to build some benches for his Eagle project, he was excited because he had loved playing baseball. Click HERE to see that post. 

When he was really young, we asked him if he could run faster when he ran around the bases; he ran around the bases like a grandpa. He replied with some exasperation in his voice, "It's just a game!" Such wisdom in one so young.

This sign hangs in his room. We may not have shed many tears, but I remember many tense moments.

"Would he strike out?" "Would he walk?" "Would he catch the ball?"

I wish I would have relaxed more and just enjoyed the game.

 The mit in the center was his when he played T-ball.  I can't imagine his 17-year old hands ever being that small.  

Popcorn and a snack mix is featured on my table, but the players always ate sunflower seeds in their shells.  Oh, how I worried about his teeth.

They say baseball is our National Pastime and I would agree.  I have been to a few professional baseball games (yawn), but if you want action, stop by a Little League Field in your neighborhood.

I found these red, white, and blue, straws at the Dollar Store.  I use my bubble glasses often and I always include a bubble view of the table.

These cookies are more softball-sized than baseball-sized.  They are made from my, newly found, sugar cookie recipe.  Click HERE for the recipe.

Just another shot of the table.

No Crying in Baseball

We moved to a new area, a small community, the last year he played baseball.  I saw him struggle to fit in and have the boys accept him.  It wasn't easy, and he wanted to quit, but I encouraged him to stick it out at least until school ended.  No crying in baseball means, I guess, to suck it up.  He did, and by the end of the season he found his way and prospered.  And then before you knew, and before we were ready, he decided he wanted more freedom in the summer and that he wanted to play high school soccer. 

His career was ended and we were left with many wonderful memories of time spent on the baseball field. 

Thanks for dropping by my Red Couch and reliving our Baseball Memories.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Baseball Cookies For Eagle Scout Project

Hi everyone!  On Saturday I impressed everyone with my drilling skills --- a BIG NOT! 
We met with some people from our church and my son's Scouting Group to build baseball bleachers for my son's Eagle Project.  When my son heard about this project, he was excited as he had played baseball for about nine years, but quit to playhigh school soccer.  I really enjoyed watching him play baseball.

As a treat for those helping I made baseball sugar cookies. 

One of the boys from the Scout Troop
Do you think he liked  the cookies?  This guy was out late the night before pranking people.  Yes, he pranked out home too.

I used Sue's, Munchkin Munchies,
 cookie and icing recipe printed below.
I love these cookies;  they are no chill and they roll out so easily.  They have become my absolute favorite sugar cookie!  They make about 2 dozen large sugar cookies. 

No Fail Sugar Cookie Recipe

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

6 cups flour
3 tsp. baking powder
2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 teaspoon  salt

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix dry ingredients and add to butter mixture.  Mix well.

Roll to desired thick and cut into desired shapes. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or just until beginning to turn brown around the edges. I like to roll them at least 1/4 to 1/3 inch-thick; they just tast so good thick.  Also be sure to check them at 8 minutes with the first pan.  Most likely, especially if they are thick and large cookies, you will need time, but just to be sure, check them early.

Royal Icing Recipe
You can halve it, if you would like.

Makes about six cups of icing
7-1/2 cups confectioner's (powdered) sugar
6 tablespoons  meringue powder
12 tablespoons warm water

Beat in a stand mixer for about 4-5 minutes until smooth.  You may have to add a slight bit of water, if it is too thick for you to outline the borders of your cookies.  If the icing is too thin, then add more powdered sugar.    When adding water, do so carefully.  You can use a decorator tip or bottle to make the outline.  Outline your cookies and allow them to dry for at least one hour.  For flow consistency, filling  in your cookies within the outline, you will need to add additional water.  Fill in with the help of the back of a spoon; back up the icing to the border.  Let dry overnight and then add the details with more icing.  Let dry again.  Sue says, and I agree, that just a little bit of experience will help with icing the cookies.  It just takes a bit of experience to know the proper consistencies for both the border and the fill-in icings. 

Building the Benches

I have included quite a few pictures of building the benches.  I was so thankful that so many people came out to support my son on Wednesday and Saturday.  It felt like the spirit that might exist at an old-fashioned barn raising.

This is how the benches looked when we showed up on Saturday.  On Wednesday night, 20 Scouts and leaders worked on the benches for a couple of hours.  We ran out of wood, so we didn't finish on Saturday; we just have a couple more hours of work. 

My son's Sunday School teacher.

Getting instructions from the older generation.

One of  his Young Men leaders.  He's the guy with all the know-how.

Yes, girls were invited.

 The Little League Field

One of my son's Young Men Leaders.

This guy worked until 3 am Saturday morning and still came to help.

There were some tough angles to work from.

The scout  to the right didn't approve of my drilling skills!  He would say, "When the drill makes that sound, you are not doing it right."  I need to buy a DeWalt cordless drill and practice.  Some of the guys enjoying a pizza break.

Another shot of the baseball cookies.

Thanks for dropping by my Red Couch today.

Posted with the following:  Made By You Monday, Wow Us Wednesdays, Show and Tell