Friday, July 27, 2012

More Lavender - Something Sweet

Lavender Lemon Sorbet and Shortbread

     After recently trying quite a lot of lavender infused savory dishes, I thought I was done experimenting for a while. However, Roy was given a mini ice cream maker for Father's Day which had never been out of the box and someone I was tutoring brought me a wonderful shortbread cookie.  I kept thinking about a couple of recipes I had come across for lavender sorbet and lavender shortbread. I gave in to the temptation to try them out!  The sorbet would be great served in a shot glass as a palate cleanser, but here I used a juice glass.   The shortbread is flakey, buttery and is great with a cup of tea.  Like I did before, I reduced the amount of lavender in each recipe and tweaked the instructions a bit, but credit is given below to their origin sources.

Lavender Lemon Sorbet
Adapted from

1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon culinary lavender flowers
5 tablespoons of lemon juice

Put the sugar and water in a pan and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Add the lavender flowers and the lemon juice and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove it from the heat and let it stand for 5 minutes.  Place a strainer over the bowl and pour the mixture through it.  Place the bowl in the refrigerator for at least an hour.  Then follow the directions for your ice cream maker.  Or, put your covered bowl in the freezer until it is semi-solid. Then, stir it up and put it back in the freezer for several hours.  When ready to serve just scoop it up and put into serving dishes.

A word to the wise - this melts quickly outside on a hot summer night!

Lavender Lemon Shortbread Cookies
Adapted from

This makes about 24 cookies

3/4 cup butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons confectioners sugar
1/4 teaspoon culinary lavender, crushed
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 1/4 cup flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt

Using an electric mixer, cream the butter and two sugars until it looks light and fluffy.  Then mix in the rest of the ingredients.  Butter a good size piece of foil and with buttered hands, shape the dough into a "loaf" and place it on the foil.  Wrap it up and refrigerate it for at least an hour.  After it is chilled cut the dough every 1/4 of an inch and place the slices on a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment paper.  Bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.  The edges should just be getting browned.
Check out the pictures below!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A Bit of Magic - Culinary Lavender

   I have a wonderful sister-in-law, Betsy, who recently gave me a silver tin full of a secret spice that I had very limited knowledge about:  culinary lavender.  I have seen recipes all over the internet for desserts that had the essence of lavender, but Betsy said what it was really great for was savory cooking.  I have decorative lavender growing in my yard; however, the lavenders used in cooking are varieties such a Lavanula x intermedia or "Provence" which is what Betsy gifted me.  Of course I got on the internet and tried all kinds of dishes.  I learned to reduce in half the amount that any recipe suggested or else it is just too overpowering.  When added in the right amount, the lavender takes the taste to a whole different level - fabulous.  I barely know it's there, but when I take a bite, I am transported back in time to a cute little French bistro I once ate at. In this post I have included the three best savory recipes that I tried out.  The Grilled Pork Chops with Lavender Flowers reminded me of how I roast chicken using Herbs de Provence - I had never made the connection that there was lavender in that classic dried herb mix.  Vinaigrette with Lavender is truly out of this world - I am not kidding - you will want to lick the salad plate.  It would also be good as a marinade for fish or chicken.  Finally the Black Olive "Tapenade" is for the true gourmet. It is so simple, but so sophistated.  Serve it to Impress!

Grilled Pork Chops with Lavender Flowers

4 to 6 pork loin chops                                                   
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon dried culinary lavender
1 tablespoon olive oil

Mix all the spices and oil together to make a paste.  Rub the mixture on both sides of the pork chops.  Let them sit for about 20 minutes and then grill about 5 to 7 minutes a side.  An inserted meat thermometer should read 155 degrees.

Vinaigrette with Lavender
Adapted from

1/2 cup olive oil                                                                   
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon of ground culinary lavender
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, put through a press

Grind the lavender buds into powder. Whisk all the ingredients together.  This is so, so, so delicious on a salad that has sliced hard boiled eggs in it!

Lavender Truffle Tapenade

1 crusty loaf of bread like a French baguette                        
1/2 cup chopped up black olives   
1 teaspoon white truffle oil
(or olive oil & a minced garlic clove)
Scant 1/4 teaspoon culinary lavender buds

Warm the bread up in the oven.  Put the olives, oil, and lavender in a food processor and combine them long enough to form a paste.  Slice the bread and serve it warm with the tapenade.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Midwest Pitch-in Recipes

     Last Saturday night I was blessed to be the guest of honor at a pitch-in to celebrate my recent "retirement" from the public school system.  I feel much too young and energetic to think that I am retired!  I prefer, as one of my good friends suggested, to think of it as "refocus". I know that after a brief breather, I will be at it again - perhaps at a private school or maybe working at something that will involve my love of cooking!  Although I had enough years in to retire, and it seemed I had done as much good as I could in my current position, I want the next step to be something where I can help others in some way.  At any rate, my bridge group friends and other special buddies are fabulous cooks.  Some of them wrote their recipes down for me and I took several pictures so I could share.  Enjoy!

Deb's Decadent Cheesy Potatoes - guess the secret!

Jean's Bean Salad - my girl's favorite

Marilyn's Sesame Seed Salad

Penny's Bowtie Salad ( Roy's mom on right)

Mary's Fruit Salad (Jan on left, Ann on right)

Jan's Lemon Bars (I'm on the right)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

More Grilled Stuffed Stuff

Grilled Spinach Stuffed Tenderloin & Red Potato Skewers

     During the school year while I am going a million miles an hour at full throttle, I tend to live life by the seat of my pants.  Lovely pieces of meat get bought at a good sale price, but are then thrown in the freezer and forgotten about.  One of my goals this summer is to discover what is in my freezer and to use it!  I've been eyeing a pork tenderloin that's been in their a while;  it was actually half of a larger portion that was used several months ago.  Since I've been in a grilling/stuffing mode, I decided the time was right to make a dish the family loves for company.  It's really super easy and the girls (who say they don't like pork) love it!  We usually serve it with skewered red potato recipe that I found several years ago on  The potatoes are slathered in Dijon mustard, garlic, and rosemary - the aroma is heavenly!

Grilled Spinach Stuffed Tenderloin

One pork tenderloin (Mine was probably about 2 pounds)
3 pieces of cooking string

For the "Stuffing"
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
2 cloves garlic, minced or put through a press
1 teaspoon dried fennel seed
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

For the Rub
2 cloves garlic, minced or put through a press
2 teaspoon dried fennel seed
1 teapoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

1.  With a sharp knife, "butterfly" the loin.  Be careful to not to cut all the way through to the other side.

2.  Lay the pieces of string underneath the open loin.

3.  Mix the "stuffing" ingredients all together, place the mixture in the middle of the loin, close it, and tie it shut with the string.

4.  Mix the rub ingredients into a paste and smear it all over the outside of the meat.

5..Grill the pork loin over low heat, turning every 10 minutes for about 30 minutes.  Insert a meat thermometer and check that the internal temperature has reached 155 degrees.  Let it rest 5 minutes before slicing.

Grilled Red Potato Skewers

1 pound small red potatoes
8 wooden skewers, soaked at least 20 minutes in water
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced or put through a press
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

     Wash and cut each potato in half.  Cook the potatoes in boiling water just until a fork can be inserted easily. Drain the potatoes.  Mix the olive oil, mustard, garlic, rosemary, salt, and pepper together in a bowl.  Gently add the potatoes and coat them with the mustard mixture.  Thread the potatoes on the skewers.  Place them on the grill and cook them 5 minutes per side so they get some nice grill marks.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Simple Summer Soups You Can Sip

Hot or cold these simple soups are yummy!

     The other day I was checking out Facebook and noticed a status that read, "I'm hungry, but nothing sounds good."  Someone had commented back, "It's just too hot to eat".  I sort of felt the same way; I wanted something tasty, but the scorching weather puts the breaks on my enthusiam for whipping up anything too involved in the kitchen.  I was reminded of a soup recipe in one of my favorite cookbooks -The Family Chef by Jewels and Jill Elmore.  It's called, "So Easy Celery Soup" and is basically just celery, cauliflower, and onion cooked in chicken broth until tender and pureed in a blender.  The best part was how they mentioned
 that one of their clients sips cold soup
throughout the day.  Great idea!                           
 I started experimenting with different
 combinations of veggies and flavors using the
 Elmore "So Easy Soup" way.  It makes a cute
 little appetizer in vodka shot glasses
(I thought they were small vases when I bought them - ha!).  These soups are simple,
quick, and if you have some left over after lunch - it's a great pick-me-up late in the warm afternoon.    

Steps to make So Easy Summer Soup:

1.  Choose your main vegetable(s).

2.  Select either beans or cauliflower if you want a thicker consistency.  Pick onions, shallots, or both for flavor.

3.  If you wish, add some herbs for seasoning
White beans, peas, onions, and mint

Red pepper, tomato, shallot,and basil

Carrots, cauliflower, onion, and dill

4.  Pour enough chicken broth to cover, heat to boil, and then turn down the heat and simmer until the ingredients are soft.

Yellow Pepper, onions, and shallot
Celery, cauliflower, and onions

4.  Puree the mixture with an immersion blender or food processor.  Strain if you desire.

5.  Serve hot or cold.  Either way, these soups are delicious with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprig of herb.