Saturday, February 25, 2012

Grow Your Own Kitchen Herb Garden!

Grow your own Kitchen Herb Garden! 
Free Garden Planner Tool at Bottom!


This can be in your backyard, or even on your patio in pots, if needed! 
Most herbs love full sun, so be sure to plant your garden in a sunny location.

I like to have mine very close to the backdoor, making sure there is a paver walkway from the door to the garden.  This way, I can run out in my jammies-and so can the kids-in the morning or evening, to gather our harvest for our meals. 
It really is more fun that way, especially with coffee in hand ! :)
My Favorite Herbs:

Basil-  Big, Leafy, and Green...incredibly aromatic, fresh with a hint of minty, licorice, anise flavor.  Use in Pasta dishes, Egg dishes, fabulous with tomatoes and cream cheese, or just by itself.  Blend with Olive Oil, Pinenuts & Garlic to get Pesto.. (see recipe click here)  Grow in semi-wet conditions, keep soil moist; full sun or partial shade. 

 Chives- the little onion flavored herb. Easy to grow, spreads out big, so make sure plenty of room to grow! Try to cut them off at the base, before the purple flower shows up; once the flower is there the stalk is too tough to eat.  You can cut them down and they re-grow for an ample harvest into winter.  Chives can be refrigerated in baggies, or frozen, to save.  Use in eggs, potato dishes, sauces and more.
 Feverfew- is not usually a culinary herb, although it can be steeped in tea.  It is typically used in herbal medicine to reduce fevers, thus the name.  I grow it, harvest, dry, and store in bags for use in the flu-season.

 Oregano! Wow! What used to be my least favorite herb, has become one of my favorites! But there is a trick! There are many other herbs being sold as Oregano (from Turkey & Spain usually), but they are really a version of Marjoram with little flavor and no medicinal quality.  TRUE OREGANO, will have a very strong flavor that will nearly burn your tongue when sure to check your product if you buy at a farmer's market!  Oregano is a powerful anti-bacterial.  Essentials oils sell for $22/oz or more. I harvest, dry, and store for overwinter and medicinal use.  Also, it is wonderful in pasta and heavy-meaty dishes. Oregano spreads out into a be sure to leave at least a 3-4'section for this to expand. 

 Mint- a delightful summertime herb! Use in iced teas, water, muffins, cookies, frostings, and more! Rub on your skin to repel mosquitoes, too!

 Rosemary- Oh, my heart belongs to Rosemary <3. This beauty will get up to 4'tall, so plant near the rear of the garden. It will not overwinter well in cold zones, but I cannot bear to let it die.  I uproot mine fully and plant in a large pot that comes in the kitchen for the winter!  My favorite snack is Rosemary with Brie on a cracker. It is heaven with a glass of vino!  Otherwise, it goes in almost every beef and chicken dish that I make; along with my Chicken Soup...I cannot go without the hint of Rosemary! 
Thyme- there are many different types, I prefer Lemon.  This grows out low and spreads in a bushy fashion. I have even used it outside of the garden in areas where grass will not is steppable!  And edible! Fabulous in soups, salads, on sandwiches, in biscuits, and more...

Arugula-  My favorite type of green to use in salad's!  I like to add greens to my herb garden, as we use them so frequently and they re-grow!  Plant them in neat, little rows close to your door.   Arugula has a strong-pungent flavor, almost nutty.  It is balanced well when mixed with romaine or another mild flavored green, but adds a little spice and warm flavor.  Great on sandwiches, too!

Basic Tips:
  If you are making the garden adjacent the house, make sure there are no paint chips or other chemicals near or in the dirt that may leach into it.
Use only Organic Top Soil, or Organic Garden Soil,
 to be sure that chemicals from the soils will not get into the food!
Turn over the first 8" of sod and chop into small pieces back into the earth.  Once this is softened, ADD another 3-4 inches of Organic soil over the top.
FEED your soil with Organic Compost (can be purchased) or better yet-
Make Your Own Compost! This will feed your garden, and feed your herbs with nutrients..the same with your vegetable garden!

Starting from seed:  If you are a die-hard and really want to "grow your own" this is the way to go.  Just know that seedlings are tempermental and fickle!  You may lose half or more before they get into the ground.  I know I have...but it is fun to do, anyway!
Be sure to buy ORGANIC SEEDS as these are the only non-genetically modified available! This means that you will not have seedless varieties, but the good news is...the seeds that any produce can be used for next year's harvest! Plus, they won't contain nasty, harmful toxins that kill bugs, but also can kill you!

by Organic Gardening Magazine

Buying potted:  Sometimes it is alot easier-especially if you are new to this-to buy the baby, potted version of an herb.  These work very well, just try to buy from a local farmer's market where you can trust the quality of the plant and hope they also have organic methods...which will mean also, no pesticides embedded in them! 
Either way, works fine.

For the fun of also is a FREE GARDEN PLANNER TOOL from Better Homes and software needed :) 
Happy Planting!!
Enjoy the Good Life!
La Dolce Vita!!

Chicken Tetrazzini Divine! Recipe of the Week!

I have tweaked a friend's recipe to add my own style to this Italian favorite...
and this turned out favoloso!
The kids went crazy for it!
Chicken Tettrazzini
1 stick Butter
1/2 cup Flour
1 tsp Sea Salt
2 Carrots (or other veggies: peas, green beans, etc.)
1 Onion, small

3 cups Mushrooms-chopped or sliced
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1 cup Chicken Broth
1/2 cup Parmesan Cheese
2 cups Heavy Cream or Milk  (I prefer cream or half and half)
2 cups Red Wine or Sherry
1 large bag or box of Pasta ( I like thin Spaghetti or Angel Hair)
2 cupsof Chicken-cooked, cubed

Chop and steam carrots and onions until soft.
Boil pasta noodles until al-dente` (follow package instructions)
Melt butter in pan and stire in flour, salt and pepper. 
Stir in broth and cream, until smooth.  Heat to boiling one minute.
Stir in wine, pasta, chicken, mushrooms and cooked vegetables. 

Pour into 9x13' baking pan, sprinkly with Parmesan cheese. 
Bake at 350 degrees, 30 minutes.  Serve warm.

**This meal serves a family of 4, for at least 2 days and maybe more...
 it's a good recipe to keep!**

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Paris, the Luminous Years

As you may have heard, this Mommy is back to school!

This term, I am taking a fabulous class on the Expatriates in Paris, during the 1920's.  There are so many wonderful and eye-opening experience I have had already,
 and as we know great experiences are better when shared :) 

This is one of the videos shown in our post-class series, very inspiring...published by PBS.

Hemingway/Pound/Picasso/Stein/Cubism/Surrealism/Dali...All of the Greats of the Modern Era...

If you love Art, Literature, and Paris, you will love this movie about the rise of Modernism through the eyes of the artists...

Too good not to share...I hope you enjoy and fall in love with Paris, as much as I have.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Paris in the 1920's A Marvelous Time to Experience

If you have not yet read Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, I would highly recommend doing so.  Especially, if you are looking to escape into another time and watch the world through the eyes of a romantic.

A romantic, not only in the sensual, but in the sense of discovery and in experiencing the depth and breadth of every interlude, intake of the landscape, complexity of emotion, and the wonderful tastes of  French food and liquor! 
 How this man gives you the taste of an aperitif` is amazing!

Paris, being what it was in the 1920's was an amazing place to live, dream, and aspire. Post war,  it took the world by storm with its avant garde approach to all things expressionist.  Music, Art, Thought... It forever changed the landscape of our minds and hearts, and we can attribute much of that to the Ex-Patriot's (Fitzgerald, Stein, Picasso...) whom made Paris their home during those years.

In this autobiography, you will meet those characters for what they were, their hopes, dreams, insecurities, passions.  You will begin to understand why their work was so important, and now so revered and you will be inspired to make more of yourself. 
  A  note about his original papers...
After his death in Cuba (he lived there with wife, Mary) 
Ernest Hemingway's writings...thousands of pages of original works, notes, and letters,  were confiscated by Fidel Castro.
 Mary begged for the American governments help and  JFK intervened. He was able to negotiate the return of all of Hemingways work, to Mary. 
As a Thank You to JFK, Mary Hemingway willed ALL of the works to the JFK public library; which are now available to all of us, in their original form.
 Next time in Boston, be sure to put this on your list of interesting things to see...
Remember, live the good life...La Dolce Vita oxoxox

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Game Day! Chicken Chili Mac N Cheese!

All the rage this year, is Manhattan Clam Chowder-you will see it on all the shows; mostly because of the two East Coast teams.  But, I am ALL ABOUT YUMMY COMFORT FOOD on Game Day!!  This one is going to start with a good BECHAMEL SAUCE, just like so many other dishes in fine restaurants all over the world!  Don't's easy, and  your friends will be soooo impressed!

LaDolceVitaGirl  Chicken Chili Mac N Cheese Recipe:  click read more

Large 32 oz bag of Pasta Noodles- I prefer the elbow noodles, but you can use the twisty twirls, Penne, Farfalle, or whatever!  The better the quality of the pasta, the better the dish!  I try to buy pasta from Italy, if possible.  You can find at any grocery store.
1/2 to 1Pound of Boneless/SkinlessChicken (baked, boiled preferred-you may use canned but the taste is not the same and it can be dry)

2 tbsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1 Pound of Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1/8 pound of Parmesan Cheese for topping (A good Parmesan, please. NOT the kind from the jar! :)
3 Tbsp Flour
1 cup Heavy Cream, Half & Half, or Milk (preferably whole)
1/2 cup dried Very Fine Breadcrumbs (use your own fresh or stale bread-or from a box)
1/2 stick of Butter ( I always cook with unsalted when possible-then I can adjust salt, if needed)
plus 1/2 stick of CUBED BUTTER for topping.

Bake Chicken at 350 degrees, approximately 20 mins; until internal temp is 180 or above.  (Or boil until same) Let cool, and shred, or cut chicken into cubes.  Tip:  do not pay chicken dry after cooking, you will want some of the juice in the dish for flavour.

In large pot, bring 3/4 full of water-and a pinch of salt- to full boil; add noodles, cook per package directions for Al Dente.  Strain Noodles. Set aside.

Make a Spiced Bechamel Sauce:  In small sauce pan, over low heat, melt butter and stir in flour with a whisk until creamy.  Add Nutmeg, Chili Powder,  and Cream or Milk; stirring continually over low (do not let brown for this recipe).  Add Salt and Pepper.  REMOVE PAN FROM HEAT, stir in Cheese.  (See you are a chef! :)  If too thick, you may add small amounts of milk until creamy, but still thick.

Combine Noodles, Cooked Chicken, and Sauce into a large mixing bowl, and gently stir to combine until all noodles are covered.  Lay out mixture into Casserole dish, top with bread crumbs, and dabs of butter.  Top off with Shredded Parmesan. Bake at 350 degrees approximately 30 minutes, until hot throughout.
 Scoop and serve!   

So, this is the main course of what we will be having!  I will serve it with some good Lime-drenched beer in chilled mugs, and some good white vino-Pinot Grisio for me and the other wine lovers.  Mac and Cheese is so versatile, you can serve it with most anything!

Enjoy! Mangia Bene` (Eat Well)  & Happy Football!

I don't care who wins, as long as we all have fun! Yay!