Orzo Pasta Salad with Asparagus, Feta, Artichoke Hearts, and Sun-dried Tomatoes

D&D_1854So we had an abundance of feta cheese at the office – it is a long story, but I decided to make something of it. For Easter I thought a pasta salad would be good, but something light and fresh. So here is what I did. Another non-recipe recipe, but there it is.

8 ozs Orzo, al dente
1/2 pound asparagus, blanched until bright green (30 second – 1 minute) and the cooled, cut into 1 inch pieces
16 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and diced, or frozen
1/2 8.5 oz jarred sun-dried tomatoes, julienne cut, drained*
2 Tbs minced chives
Feta crumbles from the office – not sure how much, but just make it look good with the color contrast

Vinaigrette –
juice and zest of one lemon
2 Tbs olive oil
1/4 cup minced chives
salt/pepper to taste**

While the orzo is cooking, mix together vinaigrette ingredients in a decent sized serving bowl.  Once orzo is drained, add the hot pasta to the vinaigrette. Let the orzo soak up all that flavor. All that lemon.

Mix in all the other pasta salad ingredients and serve at room temperature.

What could be easier? I am not entirely sure especially since I had it all on hand – thanks work for the feta. Have to take the perks when you get them.

I feel proud of this – I mixed a lot of things together and it really worked.  Thank you Nigella for the vinaigrette recipe.

*I usually use dried tomatoes that I rehydrate in hot water, but this time oil-packed made more sense to me.

** I hate this expression. Do people not really know to taste things and season them with salt and pepper if necessary. Or maybe add more acid with some lemon or vinegar. Now I am being that food person that everyone says I am. Sigh.

R.I.P – My Big Dog

I am not sure this will ever get easier, but I do miss my big dog. I want another GSD, but I just do not think he will ever measure up to my Duke.

Duke was a strange combination of total laid-back dog and guard dog depending on the circumstance. I miss him every single day. And I will get another GSD – sooner rather than later.

He loved peanut butter, cottage cheese, sweet potatoes, any other kind of cheese, boiled eggs, ham, chicken, chicken water (what you boil the chicken in), turkey, more peanut butter and more sweet potatoes. So spoiled. But that is my job.

To my big boy – My Duke, big dog, puke (sorry, it was a nickname), brown, the best boy ever. And my very best guard dog.

Every single day I miss you.

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Sometimes others do things better than I do. German potato salad –

I have finally given in for real to the fact that sometimes other people do things much better than I do.

Case in point,I have been trying to make German potato salad as good as the Creamery for years. It seems to be an effort in futility. I would love to find someone in the family to give me the recipe, but that, I doubt, will happen.

So my lack-luster versions or even decent versions, have been just that, to me – lack luster compared to the Creamery. I thought about it so much before our Easter picnic luncheon and realized that be beloved father-in-law loved a canned German potato salad. And, honestly, it was the first German potato salad I had ever had too. So, damn it, I just did that.

Read German potato salad is what I went for – I mean, why not? My in-laws like it, I like it the MotH likes it. The Boy likes it. Why make things more difficult?D&D_1846

That is not to say that I did not “decorate” it. I added minced chives and some amazing local (Fairhope, AL) Bill-E’s bacon. Because, um, again why not gild that lily?

Misen Chef’s Knife – one of my new favorite things.

Incredible Knives
Honest Price

That is what Misen says about itself and at this point I do believe it.

I have been a fan of Misen since I first saw them and so I subscribed to their email. A few weeks ago I received an email about a discount and some really decent shipping costs. I loved the idea that Misen was trying to make a knife that normal people could afford, but could be appreciated by people that really wanted a good knife. Is it possible to make a really good knife without it breaking the bank? Yes, yes indeed.

D&D_1836I have to say that when I took this knife out of the box it was so comfortable and balanced that I was astonished. Granted it came sharp as hell, but it just felt right. If that makes any sort of sense. I have rather small hands, but I handed it to the MotH and he understood that there was a balance to it. I think that tells you a lot about the construction of this knife.

I know it sounds dorky, but it made me really happy – yes, really happy. I have kind of stopped doing Thing of the Month and just turned it into Favorite Kitchen Things and this fits that bill, um, perfectly.

Deviled Eggs

I guess it is just a requirement that you have some sort of egg – thing for Easter – spring and all. So I made deviled eggs. Again for The Boy – he will eat them anytime.

This is again, another no-recipe recipe. I have done this so many times, but to be honest, I do not eat deviled eggs – at all, ever. I like egg salad, so this really does not make sense, but there it is. D&D_1839

So here is how I make hard-boiled eggs. Put eggs in a decent-sized pot and cover with at least an inch of water. Heat the pot to boiling and removed pot from heat, put on a lid and let sit for 13 minutes. Yes, 13 minutes. Dump the hot water out and add cold water and bash the eggs against the side of the pot. Let sit for a few minutes  – peel the eggs and cut in half cleaning the knife between eggs so no yolk gets on the white part.

Remove the yolks and put into small-ish bowl. Add a little Duke’s mayo* and some Dijon mustard – I go with a smidge more mustard than mayo. Add 3 Tbs of drained sweet pickle relish and one more not drained. Taste and decide on salt and pepper.

Put the yolk mixture in a zip top bag and cut off a corner to make a tip to pipe the yolks into the whites. Then decorate. This time I decided on chives and really amazing local bacon, but I also like minced shallots and I really like paprika. I guess it is a Southern thing – the paprika, not the shallots. Parsley is always nice.

It is funny how I like egg salad, and plan to make some soon, but do not like deviled eggs when in reality they are not that far apart. Strange.

* A Southern staple – you must not be without it, ever.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies 

The Boy asked for these and I always try to make things that make him happy. So I made these for Easter. It is a peanut butter cookie that I had never tried, but instead of peanut butter chips, I used semi-sweet chocolate chips because that is what the Boy requested.

It is an odd thing. I love peanut butter – peanut butter and apple jelly sandwiches, peanut butter toast, peanut butter in my oatmeal – with raisins if possible – but I am not a huge peanut butter cookie fan. I think it is because so many of them have a dry, sandy texture. I also do not like peanut butter mixed with chocolate. As I have said over and over, I am not a chocolate person and there are only a couple of things I like mixed with my chocolate – caramel, toffee, or nuts – or some combination of the three. No peanut butter, no coconut, certainly not orange, oh dear lord, please no mint, blech. I know, I am seriously fussy – about just about everything.

Anyway, back to peanut butter – this is a recipe I’ve had for years and have never tried so this gave me the perfect opportunity to do so. This is … wait for it … a Gwyneth Paltrow recipe that I have modified, but I will qualify that by saying it is a recipe from her maternal grandmother that her grandfather loved. Family recipes are the vast majority of the time a very good thing. So I tried this – it’s easy to put together with things that I had on hand which to me is a huge bonus. If you compare it to the original, I did make a few changes (I only use light brown sugar for instance) and swapped out the peanut butter chips for semi-sweet chocolate chips, per the Boy’s request.D&D_1841

I have learned over the years that if you taste the raw dough you will get a good sense of what the cookie will taste like and I thought this worked out well. I also made a test cookie with no chocolate chips just to try it as a straight up peanut butter cookie. It worked well. That said, it is a soft cookie, so it is best to let it cool completely before moving it about too much.

Hood approved of, and ate half of, the plain peanut butter cookie – think there might be some dog treats with this in the future.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour*
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp table salt
8 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter **
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 large egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
Sanding sugar for the top (optional)

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sift together dry ingredients over a piece of waxed paper. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together butter, peanut butter, and brown sugar. Mix in egg and vanilla. Add flour mixture a little at a time. Stir in chocolate chips.

Using a cookie scoop (disher), place cookies about 1 1/2 inches apart on baking sheet. Sprinkle with sanding sugar if your going for that thing (nice crunch). Bake about 10 minutes rotating pans half way through baking. Let rest on baking pan for at least 4 minutes then move to cooking rack to cool completely

* I always use unbleached, just a habit.

** I am a Jif PB person.

Source:  Modified from Epicurious

The Flu is terrible … full stop.

So over St. Patrick’s Day I had to go to Tallahassee for work meetings and by the the time I had been home a couple of days I thought I was about as miserable as a person could be. That said, other people from different parts of the state went to TLH and also got sick. Thanks for that.

So when you have the flu, in my one and only experience of it, you do not want to eat, you have a nasty fever and just want to lay in bed because you are beyond tired. I will say now, as a disclamier, I have never had a flu shot. This goes back to my serious allergy when I was a kid. Vaccines made in eggs were a no go for me. I did not have an MMR until I was 25 and it was required by FSU for admission. I had been fine at the junior college in Jacksonville and at the University of North Florida, also in Jacksonville, but FSU said I had to do it. It was a non issue by that point, but when you have an issue with vaccines produced in eggs it can be a bit strange.

So by the Friday after my trip to TLH I was just about as loopy as I could be. Fever was high, no food, but I was drinking plenty of water. That said, I was a big mess. I was so loopy that I couldn’t walk down the stairs so the MotH had to help me.

Also the flu means you are not in the least bit interested in food. Or cooking. Or baking. I know now that I feel better because I am thinking about food and that makes me happy. I will just be making up for lost time from St. Patrick’s Day on until Easter and then the Boy’s birthday (I am hoping for a request for Carrot Cake, but we shall see).

This does not mean I will get a flu shot in the future because several people I know had the shot and then got the flu. It is just such a guessing game. It is, in my opinion, not evidence-based medicine. My rib cage still hurts like hell. And we are almost three weeks in at this point. Allergies and asthma do not make this any better, but wow – really do not want this ever again.

That said, I am really looking forward to going to the grocery store this week. I seem to want some amazing polenta and butterscotch pudding in my future.

I’ve realized life is short and I have to push myself to start trying new things while I have the time to enjoy them – lord, that is just a bit morbid.

Well, if it pushes me, then that is good thing.