Rainbow Veggie Kebabs

I read somewhere that you're supposed to eat a rainbow a day -- namely, a fruit or veggie for each color of the rainbow. That seems like so much food to me, but when you make grilled vegetable kebabs, it isn't difficult to enjoy your daily rainbow.

There's something magical about charring food. It makes everything tasty. This is a ridiculously simple recipe and served with brown rice and grilled tofu you're guaranteed a healthy, delicious meal.

Red bell pepper
Orange bell pepper
Yellow squash
Broccoli florets
Crimini mushrooms
Olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
garlic powder

Heat your grill to high. Chop up your veggies into bite-sized pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Place on to metal skewers and set on a tray. Drizzle kebabs with balsamic vinegar.

Place on the grill and cover for about five minutes, or until they are lightly charred. Turn with tongs and grill another five minutes. Serve with brown rice and grilled meat or tofu.


Homemade Fire Starters

My husband and his friend just got back from fishing on the Kenai River. They caught 55 sockeye salmon! It was an overnight trip and to make their camping stay a little easier, I made them some fire starters. They said they got the fire going in a jiffy with these little guys.

Here's how to make them.

Cardboard egg carton
Dryer lint

I have to say that I'm not usually a hoarder, but I have been collecting dryer lint for a few months for this exact purpose. It weirds me out a little.

Cut up the egg carton into single-egg servings. Stuff a hefty ball of lint into one egg cup and place another egg cup on top. Wrap the corners of the egg cup around the other, in an interlocking sort of way.

Place them in a paper bag so you can use the bag as fire starter too.

Here they are in action:

Next time I might even put a dollop of petroleum jelly in each one to really get things going.


Grilled Caesar Salad

Yes, I just used "grilled" to describe salad. I made grilled casear salad last night before our steak dinner and not only was it tasty, but it delighted my guests that I put the lettuce on the grill. I used whole heads of romaine lettuce cut down the middle. The char added an extra dimension of flavor to the salad and didn't compromise the texture at all.

This recipe is from Cook's Country Magazine. I particularly like it because it doesn't call for raw eggs. I recommend using romaine from Costco because they're not loose leaf like what I was finding at the grocery store.

Serves four

Ingredients for dressing:
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup mayo
1/4 cup grated parmesan
1 Tbs. white wine vinegar (I used rice vinegar)
1 Tbs. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
2 anchovy fillets
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup olive oil

For the salad:
Two romaine hearts, halved lengthwise through the cores
1 baguette, sliced on the bias into 12 slices
1 garlic clove, peeled and cut in half
1/4 cup parmesan

Combine the lemon and garlic and let marinate for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, add to a blender the mayo, cheese, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, anchovies, salt and pepper. Toss in the lemon juice and garlic and process for about 30 seconds. While blender is still running, slowly add the olive oil. Place in the fridge till you're ready to grill.

Heat the grill to super hot. Brush your "croutons" with olive oil on both sides and toast on the grill. Scrub the cut garlic clove on the toasts and set aside. Prepare your romaine hearts by painting dressing on the cut sides. Place cut side down on grill for 1-2 minutes till you see grill marks.

Serve with croutons and remaining dressing. Top with parmesan cheese.

Strawberry Rhubarb Lemonade

Mid summer in Alaska means you and your neighbors probably have rhubarb coming out your ears. I never know what to do with rhubarb other than make a pie or crumble, which I don't actually love. Yesterday my friend brought over some rhubarb syrup and I suddenly had a delicious idea.  I'd been wondering what to do with the wild strawberries I picked earlier this weekend and again wasn't into the pie or crumble idea.

Strawberry rhubarb lemonade was born!

It's tangy, sweet and perfect for a sunny day.

Here's what you'll need:

  • 12 oz. chopped rhubarb (by weight)
  • about 1.5 cups water
  • 1/8 tsp. baking soda
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 thingie of frozen lemonade, pink or regular, prepared according to package instructions
  • fresh, ripe strawberries
  • lemon slices for garnish

So I actually started this recipe by squeezing my own lemons, but after about three lemons and only a half a cup of lemon juice, I remembered I had some frozen lemonade so I went that route (still using the lemon juice I already squeezed).

To make the rhubarb syrup, place the chopped rhubarb in a small saucepan and fill the pan with water till rhubarb is just covered. Add the baking soda and sugar and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 minutes. Let cool and pour through a strainer, pushing on the rhubarb with a spoon to get all the liquid out. This stuff should store in a jar for about a week or so in the fridge.

Place a few strawberries in a glass and muddle them with the back of a wooden spoon. Add ice and pour 2/3 up with lemonade. Top off with rhubarb syrup. Add lemon slice for garnish.

If you wanted this drink to be fizzy, you could add some sprite to the mix. It's delightful!


Gorgonzola Figs -- Simple Decadence

You've gotta love Costco. Here in Alaska it can be difficult to find specialty ingredients, but somehow Costco pulls through once in a while. This time with fresh figs.

I'm not too familiar with the fig, other than its Newton form. What my mother whipped up as a summery appetizer last weekend made me decide I love figs.

Two simple ingredients: Gorgonzola cheese and fresh figs, both found at Costco. Sweet and salty -- just the perfect combination.

Preheat your broiler. Gently wash the figs and cut off the stems. Cut them in half longitude style (not equator style) and with your index finger, press a little divot in each half. Pack the divot with crumbled Gorgonzola. Don't skimp. Place your figs on a baking sheet and broil until the cheese is melted, just a few minutes.

Serve as an appetizer or beside a light summer salad.

I have to admit, this photo is sort of phony. We ate all the prepared figs before I could snap a photo so I dummied one up and just singed the edges with a tiny blowtorch.


Shepherd's Pie Recipe -- Comfort Food at its Best

I love easy recipes, especially if I can use leftovers. Shepherd's pie is no exception. If you have ground meat and leftover mashed potatoes, you are just a few steps away from a delicious, filling dinner the whole family will love.

1 lb. combo of ground beef, pork, veal or lamb
4 cups or so of leftover mashed potatoes (or make some fresh)
1 egg yolk
1 tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
1 cup frozen peas
3 Tbs. fresh herbs such as parsley, thyme and rosemary, chopped
Salt and pepper
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 cup chicken stock
Worcestershire sauce or red wine (optional)
Shepherd's pie is versatile. Throw in whatever veggies you love. Use whatever meat you prefer.


Season your mashed potatoes to your liking with milk, butter, salt and pepper. Heat up in the microwave if cold. Stir in the egg yolk. This makes the pie have a nice crust. Preheat oven to 375. In a sauté pan, heat some oil and add the meat, onion and carrot. Season with salt and pepper. Cook till meat is browned, about 10 minutes. Drain fat and add stock, tomato paste, herbs and a swig of red wine or Worcestershire sauce. Heck, I bet soy sauce would even make it pretty good. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the peas.

Grease a casserole dish and add the meat filling. Top with dollops of mashed potatoes. Spread the potatoes across the top, trying to create a seal around the edges. I recommend putting a cookie sheet under the dish when you bake it in case anything bubbles over.

Bake for 30 minutes and let cool for a few minutes before serving.


The Best Way to Hem Jeans

Have you ever gotten your jeans professionally hemmed? It looks all neat and tidy and they even manage to keep the original hem. If you have basic sewing skills and a sewing machine, then hemming your jeans is easy. Save yourself the alteration charge. Learn to shorten your jeans and keep the original hem. This is the best kind of project because it takes about 15 minutes. Here's what you'll need:

  • Jeans that are too long
  • Straight pins
  • Sewing machine
  • Ruler or tape measure
  • Stitch Witchery double fusible tape (optional)
Newly hemmed -- and you can't even tell!

First, try on your jeans and figure out how much length you'd like to take off by folding up the cuff and measuring from the edge to the fold. With today's pair I wanted them to be two inches shorter.

Take your measurement and divide it in half. This is how much you're going to sew away. Remove your jeans (and continue crafting without pants if you'd like) and now fold up the edge of your jeans till the fabric below the hemline measures half of what you'd like to remove. In my case, I want to remove two inches, so I make sure there is one inch of fabric folded below the hem. Pin in place.

Start your seam in the inner leg and sew right below the edge of the original hem. Repeat with other leg.

You are now basically done and if you are truly lazy you could walk away from this project now. But why not make them look perfect? It will only take a few more minutes.

Turn your jeans inside out and iron the fold you just made. Iron the whole "flap" you just created upward. Take your Stitch Witchery and cut a couple of strips that are long enough to be tucked under the flaps. You may need to trim the tape if the flap is narrower than the tape's width. Sorry, no photo, but it's really not that hard. You're just fusing the flap to the leg so it doesn't flop around when you wear the jeans. Press your hot iron on the flap, using steam, for about 20 seconds and *PRESTO* your flap has been fused to the leg.* I love Stitch Witchery. It's one of my favorite sewing notions. 

Now, admire your professionally hemmed jeans and how you saved, like, $15.

*If you are shortening your jeans by a lot, such as more than four inches, I would consider cutting the flap till it's about an inch wide and running a zig zag stitch around the raw edge (which used to be a fold). Then fuse this flap to the leg.


Chicken Pesto Lasagna Roll-ups

I'm in love with the lasagna roll-up. It's simple, it's customizable and it's delicious. I also love pesto. So it only makes sense to combine my two loves to create something super amazing tasty.

Chicken pesto roll-ups!

They were indeed super amazing tasty, but they were more like stuffed shells than lasagna. They weren't as gooey and cheesy. I would consider using cottage cheese next time or adding some milk to the filling.

Ingredients (I eyeballed everything):
Lasagna noodles
1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1/2 cup pesto sauce (Costco has the best store-bought kind, but nothing beats homemade)
1 egg
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese plus 1/4 cup for topping
1/4 cup shredded mozzarella
1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a casserole dish. Boil a large pot of salted water and cook noodles according to box directions.
Meanwhile, mix together all the rest of the ingredients. Lay the cooked noodles out on your counter and spread some of the filling on each noodle. Roll up the noodle and place it seam side down in the casserole dish. When all the filling is used up, top the roll-ups with cheese and bake for 30 minutes.



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