Date Night: How to Make Fresh Pasta

The Grill-Meister gave me a great gift for my birthday this year: a certificate for a cooking class date night in which we would learn how to make fresh pasta.

Cooking class for a date night? Really??? Heck, yeah!!!

I’ve been looking forward to this event for six weeks, and it finally arrived this past Wednesday when we sauntered in to the Well Done Cooking Class in Houston, ready to be schooled in pasta.

Before the class, we were ready to roll (literally)

I’ve never been to a cooking class before, although I was an occasional informal sous chef for a very talented and quite eccentric semi-retired chef when I was a teen (but I digress, that’s definitely a long story for another time). And I’ve never made fresh pasta, either, unless you count one time when I watched, fascinated, as another chef friend did some quick things with his hands and then, voila! – pasta.  I didn’t catch anything beyond “make a well with the flour…”

So – this cooking class date night was a welcome new experience that exceeded my expectations and was a terrific birthday gift for a foodie with a gap in her skills. We were too busy cooking to take many photos, but check this out – in three hours, we:

  • made fresh pasta dough and then put it the refrigerator to rest and chill
  • made fresh sweet potato gnocchi with a brown butter and sage sauce (photo below)
  • retrieved our pasta and made three different dishes
    • ravioli with a squash, ricotta, smoked bacon and basil filling
    • tortellini with the same filling (who knew that tortellini was just one more twist of the pasta after making the ravioli shape???)
    • fettuccini carbonara with Italian sausage
  • Ate it!

Wow! I never realized it was this easy – or quick – to make homemade fresh pasta.  As I said earlier, it was definitely a gap in my foodie education.

Stirring the sweet potato gnocchi in the brown butter and parmesan sauce
Our fettuccini was amazing

In addition to learning how to make the pasta dough, it was fun using the pasta roller and the gnocchi board (I never heard of a gnocchi board, but it is now on my Christmas list). The best part of all this is that the Grill-Meister is now all fired up about making fresh pasta, and I suspect he will emerge as the Fresh Pasta Lead here at Glover Gardens. He is already the Pizza Dough Lead and, of course, is out in front when it’s time to grill anything. 

Gnocchi board from Williams-Sonoma (hint for Santa)

You can expect to see some Glover Gardens pasta recipes here soon, once we have it all figured out.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook


A Plethora of Father’s Day Gift Ideas

fathers-dayThere is no reason anyone in the universe should be stumped for a Father’s Day gift in these days of the digital universe.  I’m already all set in my gifting for my own Dad, the Grill-Meister (the Dad in my household), and my father-in-law, but I keep bumping into online lists of Dad’s Day gifts every time I crack open the computer:

So I thought I would just jump right onto that bandwagon and publish a short list of my own, with illustrations.

Glover Gardens Suggestions for Father’s Day Gifts

(AKA Gifts for Any Occasion for Anyone Who Loves Outdoor Cooking)

OK, what you’re looking at here is the grill gazebo.  This was the Grill-Meister’s Father’s Day / Anniversary gift last year.  It’s a hard top, and you can find it at Lowe’s.  There’s also a less expensive canvas top version.

6930707000291 Below is how it looks in our backyard at Glover Gardens.

Gloverhenge and Grill Gazebo
The grill gazebo makes the grill station look professional
There’s room for the grill and the smoker, too; that’s the greenhouse in the background

So, in addition to the grill gazebo idea for Father’s Day, perhaps it’s time for your Grill-Meister to upgrade his barbecue grill.  The Grill-Meister had an oil-drum style grill for years until it rusted and then got battered by tornado-felled trees (see If a Tree Falls on the House, Does Anyone Hear It?).  That was a sad day.

Disaster in the form of tornado-felled trees struck the previous grill

The new grill, delivered with love as an anniversary gift last year, is a Weber Performer Deluxe, also available at Lowe’s.


This Weber Performance Deluxe grill is The BOMB, because it has a propane ignition system that allows you to use charcoal as quickly as you can use a gas grill, making it a viable weeknight option.

All of this grilling goodness under one rain-proof gazebo!

The smoker is also a downright solid Father’s Day gift.  In addition to being a Dad-pleaser, it is a gift that keeps on giving.  See Tom’s Smoked Salmon for more info about our smoker and a killer recipe for smoked salmon.

MasterBuilt Smoker
This is the current smoker the Glover Garden Grill-Meister uses to create smoky goodness.

Check out those beautiful smoked chickens.

Smoked chickens on the Weber grill’s ample side counter
See how nicely the grill gazebo fits into the Glover Gardens landscape?

Just a reminder of the disclaimer on my About page:  All recommendations are based on personal opinion and experience and should not be considered as advertisements.

Happy Father’s Day!

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

The Juicer for Me, for You, for Ritas

My son’s godparents are margarita aficionados, social creatures, and more like family than friends.  When I was a single mom for a while and they didn’t yet have kids, our standing Friday night ritual was pizza and spicy chicken wings washed down with their handmade margaritas at my 1920s cottage in Old Sugar Land.  To get there, the husband would run (literally) the 23+ miles from downtown Houston, and the wife would drive with Dolly the Dog.  They’d bring the margarita makings, and I’d order the pizza and wings from Gepetto’s Pizza:  Suicidal Wings and Margherita Pizza (seems fitting).  We’d laugh and talk and catch each other up on happenings at work and in our extended families, and often share the food and drink with random neighbor friends who somehow began to realize that the party was always at my house on Friday nights.

First Street House
My son and I lived in a Leave It to Beaver kind of neighborhood where everyone looks out for each other

After consumption of the ritas, driving was perhaps not a good idea, so my friends always made use of the guest room and stayed through breakfast.  My son really loved watching Thomas the Tank Engine with his godparents on those after-ritas mornings, or having them bring the ferocious-looking gentle giant Dolly to his Saturday Little League games.  Simple pleasures…but I digress.  This post is about a citrus juicer.  Stick with me…

Dolly loved a ride in the convertible and always wore her seatbelt

The main margarita-maker is the male of the couple, and he is GOOD.  I’m working on him to become a guest blogger and publish his recipe here or just let me post it (stay tuned).  He got tired of packing the juicer for the Friday treks, so they bought a new one and made their old Krups model a permanent installation at my house.  Years later, it made the move to Glover Gardens just fine.

The juicer with about 15% of our 2017 citrus crop

I love this vintage juicer.  I’ve been hooked on citrus the past month since my midnight harvest of our tiny orange and lemon crop before a hard freeze, and have been working the juicer overtime to use all 28 fruits in a variety of recipes.  You can juice an orange in less than 30 seconds with just slight pressure on the cone.  And there is No Juice Left Behind.  I used to have a big juice extractor, but this kind of juicer is actually easier to use and much easier to clean.

Sadly, this hardworking little Krups model is “out of print”, so to speak, but you might find one on eBay or at a garage sale.  Snap it up, if you do!  There are other electric juicers that use the spinning cone approach on the market, but I haven’t tried any of them.  Click here for the current ones available on Amazon (not an ad or promotion, just a public service).

It’s not an every-Friday event any more, and we live too far for our margarita-making friends to “run on out here”, but at least a few times each year, they arrive at Glover Gardens armed with margarita supplies and settle in for the night.  We’ve got the right juicer.  🙂


Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook


Cutting Boards: Wood or Plastic

I love my handmade wooden cutting boards.  They are literally my favorite possessions.

I was talking with my Aunt-Mom recently about the age-old “wood vs. plastic” cutting board question.  I have a bias for wood because my Dad makes such beautiful wooden cutting boards, so I decided to revisit the research.

The Huffington Post published a really nice summary of the research and conventional wisdom in 2014.

Contrary to popular belief, plastic cutting boards are not automatically safer than wood. Studies have shown that wood can actually be more sanitary in the long run. People assume that because wood is a porous surface and plastic isn’t, plastic boards are more resistant to bacteria. This assumption doesn’t take into account the scars a plastic cutting board will get from daily use.

I recommend reading the article if you’re interested in this topic.  The bottom line is that bacteria lives in the grooves made by knives, whether the cutting board is wood or plastic.  And therefore, you want to eliminate grooves or discard old cutting boards.  And there is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY I’m going to discard the cutting boards my Dad made for Christmas in 1974 or this new one after a few years of use.  What to do?

My takeaway from reading the article and related research is to use the advice from my Aunt-Mom that came along with my Dad’s handmade wooden cutting board gift this year:

  • occasionally sand it gently to remove any grooves to keep the cutting surface smooth and not provide a haven for bacteria.
  • don’t cut raw meat or seafood on the same cutting board as vegetables or any other ingredient that won’t be cooked.

It’s just that simple.

Read about my cutting boards here to understand why I’m so attached to them.

Favorite Kitchen Gifts: Love My Cutting Boards

A long time ago, in this galaxy, my Dad quit his job as a junior exec with an international energy company rather than submit annual reviews of his employees with forced rankings that didn’t match their actual performance (way to go, Dad!).

He found another job within a couple of months (way to go, Dad!), but the fallow, between-jobs period was right before the holidays.  Money was tight.  So he and my mom started what became a lovely tradition of handmade gifts.

He made several cutting boards with leftover parquet flooring that year:  one for my mom, one for his mom, and one for his mother-in-law.  I inherited them from both of my grandmothers and keep one at Little House in the Rockies, using the other as my everyday cutting board here at Glover Gardens, 41 years after that meager and yet most wonderful Christmas.  You see them in many of my food pictures here in the blog.

Fast-forward to 2015, today.  Sitting next to my Dad, I opened the most awesome gift for a cook:  another handmade cutting board.

Way to go, Dad!

My awesome new handmade cutting board.

I look at this beauty that my Dad made and see not just 40+ years ahead of family meals and memories and love, but also a precious heirloom.

Update:  here’s a nice post from another blogger about making cutting boards that shows how complex the process is.

Sandwich Wednesday: the Gift that Keeps on Giving

The Grill-Meister at my house is also a whiz with the panini press.  He hones his panini talents each week: at Glover Gardens, every Wednesday is Sandwich Wednesday.

I love coming home from work on a Wednesday to see what delicious sandwich he is concocting.  I have supported this hobby of his in every way possible – with the original gift of a superb panini maker (which I highly recommend) and several panini cookbooks on subsequent Christmases (which I also highly recommend).

In fact, I recommend the whole process:  point out your spouse or partner’s sandwich-making skills, provide him or her with the tools and recipes they’ll need to be successful, suggest a day of the week, and get out of the way.

Below is the panini press model we have, and here’s a link to it on Amazon in case you’re inspired to order it.  We like it because it has two kinds of plates:  flat and ridged.  They are easy to clean, and in addition to being a panini press, the whole device opens up to make a griddle.  We’re considering buying a second one so that we can make more sandwiches simultaneously.

The Cuisinart panini press is perfect for the Grill-Meister's sandwich Wednesday magic-making.
The Cuisinart panini press is perfect for the Grill-Meister’s sandwich Wednesday magic-making. Photo courtesy of

These are the panini cookbooks I’ve gifted him with over the years.  All of them have great recipes.  Click the pictures to access links to the cookbooks.


Here’s a shot of of the Grill-Meister’s panini magic from one Sandwich Wednesday a few months ago.

Sometimes the Grill-Meister gets all fancy and makes his own pesto with basil from our yard, and sometimes he does something a little more straightforward. This is a double-decker panini with fresh mozzarella and pesto.  Yum!

I’ll pester the Grill-Meister for a list of his favorite recipes and share them in future posts.


Copyright 2015, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Tom’s Smoked Salmon

This salmon makes a welcome appearance for parties and holiday meals at Glover Gardens.
This salmon makes a welcome appearance for parties and holiday meals at Glover Gardens.

The Grill-Meister is also a Smoke-Meister.  His wood-smoked salmon is truly awesome.  He started making it years ago with a recipe that came with his first electric smoker and then experimented with different variations.  The White Zinfandel in the brine is a must, he says, having been disappointed when he used other wines or liquids.  (I think he may have found the world’s only good use for White Zinfandel, but that’s another story.)  Tom’s Smoked Salmon is a holiday and party appetizer staple at Glover Gardens, year-round.

Even people who don’t like fish think Tom’s Smoked Salmon is awesome.  It’s just that good.

This recipe is based on the use of an electric smoker that uses wood chips.

Tom’s Wood-Smoked Salmon

Start with 1-2 skinless and boneless fillets this size
Start with 1-2 skinless and boneless fillets this size

1-2 long boneless and skinless salmon fillets; about 3 lbs.

Note:  have the fishmonger remove the skin for you; it’s much easier than doing it yourself and makes for a cleaner and more attractive finished product


⅓ cup sugar
¼ cup salt
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 cup white zinfandel wine
1 cup water
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. Tabasco

Note: Tom’s spice mixture is amped up from the recipe he started with, and we like it that way.  Dial it back a bit if you want a milder flavor, or increase the amounts for an even zestier kick.

Cut salmon horizontally across the fillet into chunks that are about 2-3 inches wide. Combine all of the brine ingredients in a large bowl, then add the salmon, ensuring that all of the pieces are immersed in the brine by putting plastic wrap directly on top and then placing a plate on the wrap to push the salmon into the brine and keep it there.

Refrigerate the bowl of salmon in brine for eight or more hours or overnight.

Prepare the smoker and set it to 180-185°F, following the instructions to add wood chips (preferably hickory, alder or cherry) during the pre-heat.  Remove the salmon from the brine and pat dry with paper towels.  Lightly spray the wire racks with non-stick spray.  Arrange the salmon pieces on the racks, ensuring that the pieces on each rack are similar in size and thickness.  When the smoker is ready, place the thickest salmon pieces on the bottom rack and the thinnest ones on top.

Smoke for 2-3 hours, depending on the thickness of the salmon, until it is firm (but not stiff) to touch. Thinner pieces may be removed first, then you can reduce the temperature to ~150-160°F and smoke thicker pieces an additional 1-2 hours. Times and temps may vary depending on smoker, salmon thickness and individual preference.

Tip: If the chips stop producing smoke, crank the temp back to 180+, and then lower it again after the smoke re-starts. Keeping the temp as low as possible creates smokier salmon without drying it out.

Tom’s Smoked Salmon is a marvelous appetizer in any season.

The Little Chief is a great first foray into wood-smoking.
The Little Chief is a great first foray into wood-smoking (their photo).
This is the current smoker the Glover Garden Grill-Meister uses to create smoky goodness.
This MasterBuilt is the current smoker the Glover Garden Grill-Meister uses to create smoky goodness (Amazon photo).

Tom started his wood-smoking journey with a Little Chief electric smoker.  It’s a little workhorse and is still going strong 20 years later at our cabin in the Rockies. The current smoker at Glover Gardens is a MasterBuilt version with a window and electronic controls (click here to see the exact model; he recommends it).  Another blogger shared some good information about electric smokers:  click here.

There probably won’t be any leftovers, but if there are, you could make our Smoked Salmon Spread (or dip) or try this recipe for a next-day salad.  Or you might want to make a double batch, so that you can use a pound of the salmon to create Bon Appetit’s Smoked Salmon 7-Layer Dip.