Purple Mountain Majesties

On the 4th of July, I’m thinking of our beautiful country. We’re smack-dab in the middle of some gorgeous countryside here at Little House in the Rockies. Just off the western edge of Pike National Forest in Colorado, Little House in the Rockies is surrounded by mountains.

83688074c1b24bcbe84345d53f7a7c81It brings to mind America the Beautiful. The song. The poem.

Originally titled “Pike’s Peak,” Katherine Lee Bates wrote the poem in 1893 during a visit to Colorado. She was inspired by the beauty of the country, having traveled by train from the northeast across the plains to Colorado Springs. It was published a couple of years later to commemorate the 4th of July, and later set to music by Samuel A. Ward. I love the first stanza:

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

More than a century later, this is still inspiring country. I took this photo on Monday during a picnic in Pike National Forest. I didn’t realize until I looked at it on the computer later that there is a tinge of purple in the mountain range. Purple mountain majesties.

Purple Mountains Majesty

There’s a recent poll that says Americans are less patriotic than we used to be. Maybe so, maybe not. It depends on how you define patriotism (in my humble opinion). My patriotism today is focused on our beautiful country, the way that it was portrayed in that famous poem from so long ago.

Are we doing enough to take care of it?

I don’t think so.

Fires and pollution and global warming are taking their toll.

Will it be America the Beautiful in 50 years?

It depends. On us.

We need to do more.

I need to do more.

I will do more. In my own little way. Here in Glover Gardens with my words and conversations with all of you, and by joining the Palmer Land Trust. And by reducing my carbon footprint and the waste I produce. And most importantly, by voting for candidates who will make choices that preserve our environment rather than pillaging it.

I want it to be America the Beautiful forever. For my kids, and yours.

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Happy Independence Day.

© 2018 Glover Gardens

 

 

Happy Father’s Day to the Grill-Meister

The Grill-Meister is a great Dad to his son and Bonus Dad to mine.

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On one of many trips to Breckenridge

While Dad was alive, he and the Grill-Meister “got on like a house afire.”

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Enjoying a laugh with Dad at a birthday party in Galveston a few years ago; both of them working on a Hemingway look (Dad was winning)

He takes great care of his elderly parents.

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At his parents’ house demonstrating the pasta machine they gave him for Christmas

He’s fun, thoughtful and resourceful. And great at grilling!

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The Grill-Meister is relaxing (left side of photo) while the grill heats up

Happy Father’s Day, Grill-Meister! We all love you.

© 2018 Glover Gardens

 

Citrus and Tequila-Glazed Chicken Thighs

bon-app-cover-julyAs the weather gets hotter, we do more and more grilling here at Glover Gardens.  I’m really happy with the on-the-grill recipe I’m sharing with you today, a citrusy and piquant take on the ever-moist chicken thigh. It’s the product of a decades-long subscription to Bon Appétit. That venerable magazine and I have been friends for a long, long time.

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Photo from Bon Appétit by Con Poulos

In August of 2007, the Tequila-Glazed Chicken with Jalapeño recipe caught my fancy. I made it for years, adjusting this and that, playing with the spices, making it hotter, making it mine. Yum!

Then Bon Appétit’s 2013 recipe for Citrus-Marinated Chicken Thighs came out, looking like it was from another page of the same playbook. Of course it was also delicious.

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Photo from Bon Appétit by Hirsheimer & Hamilton

The methods were different, though. The first recipe benefits from a dry rub for a few hours and then gets a glaze on the grill, and the second soaks in an “aggressively seasoned” marinade before being broiled.

But I wanted it all – the seasonings, the marinade, and the glaze. The best of both. So I played around with the ingredients and the concepts, and here’s the result. I think you’ll like it. There’s a long list of ingredients, but this is a really easy recipe.

Oh, and since the grill is already hot, sometimes I like to go one step further and throw on some pineapple and peppers for an easy side dish. I’ve included the instructions for that, too.

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Throw on some pineapple after the chicken thighs
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I was too generous with the garnishes and you can’t really see the chicken, but that’s ok because we love our garnishes here at Glover Gardens: Just Gotta Garnish

Citrus and Tequila-Glazed Chicken Thighs

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 bunch cilantro, long/leafless part of stems removed (about 1 1/2 cups, loosely packed)
  • 5-6 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1 serrano pepper, stem removed, cut in half and seeded
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp coarse sea salt
  • 2 cups juice: a combination of orange, pineapple, lemon or lime – I primarily use orange and pineapple
  • 1/2 cup tequila (omit if you don’t cook with liquor and increase the juice)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4-5 lbs. of chicken thighs, skin on
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne

Optional garnishes: cilantro, sliced jalapeños, sliced green onions

Cooking Instructions

Combine the cilantro, garlic and serrano pepper in a food processor and process until they are finely ground. Add the cumin, nutmeg, red pepper flakes and sea salt and pulse again until combined. Pour in the juice, tequila and olive oil and mix again until blended.

Reserve and refrigerate 1 cup of the marinade, which will be used for the glaze later, or 1 1/2 cups if you’re planning to make the grilled pineapple and peppers side dish. Split the chicken thighs between two large food-safe resealable bags and distribute the remaining marinade on the chicken. Squeeze the air out of the bags and seal them, turning to ensure that the marinade covers all of the chicken pieces. Place in the refrigerator and marinate for 2-6 hours, turning the bags at least once.

Prepare the glaze by combining the honey and cayenne with 1 cup of the reserved marinade mixture in a small nonstick saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir and lower the heat to medium-high, keeping the glaze at a simmer until it thickens (about 5-7 minutes).

Remove the chicken from the marinade and place in a dish or cookie sheet. Preheat the grill to medium-high. Place the chicken on the grill and cook for about ten minutes, then turn and brush with the glaze on the cooked side. Turn again and add glaze to the first side. Continue grilling until the chicken is done to your liking, about 165° in the thickest part. Remove to a clean platter and either spoon on the reserved glaze, or serve it separately. Throw on the optional garnishes and serve.

Grilled Pineapple and Peppers

Ingredients

  • A mixture of sliced pineapple and bell and/or poblano peppers
  • 1/2 cup reserved marinade

Cooking Instructions

When you’re ready to grill the chicken, arrange the pineapple and peppers in a pie plate and drizzle with the marinade. Grill them after you cook the chicken until you have a nice char on each side. Serve with the chicken.

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Gathering the ingredients ahead of time makes everything go faster
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Grind up the cilantro, garlic and serrano first, then add the spices
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Now with the tequila, juice and oil
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Divide the chicken in plastic bags and split the remaining marinade between them (after reserving 1 cup for the glaze)
Chicken Marinading
Seal the bags and turn them to distribute the marinade evenly
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Add the honey to 1 cup of the reserved marinade
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Bring to a boil and simmer until thickened
Chicken Ready for Grilling
Chicken ready for grilling; it benefits so much from the soak in that spicy, tequila-laced marinade
Pineapple and Peppers Ready for the Grill
Pineapple and peppers make a quick side dish and taste great with the marinade, too
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Ready for grilling
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Getting a nice char on the chicken
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Have a clean platter ready for the finished product; this Glover Gardens dish was a Christmas gift from our newlyweds, The Girl Who is Always Hungry and The Best Eater
Garnishes
Glover Gardens is all about the garnish
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My food styling was lacking in my hurry to get to the eating and my picture is out of focus, but this sure was a tasty meal!

© 2018 Glover Gardens

The “Eat More Vegetables” Campaign: Grilled Vegetable Salad with Mozzarella and Golden Raisins

True Confessions: I’m always looking for ways to get the Grill-Meister to eat more vegetables. I like the challenge.

The latest effort was this salad with grilled vegetables and fresh mozzarella “pearls” on a bed of romaine, tossed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a surprise ingredient – golden raisins. It got the Grill-Meister’s Seal of Approval, a certification that is quite difficult to attain when vegetables are involved!

Here’s how to do it.

Grilled Vegetable Salad with Mozzarella and Golden Raisins

Makes 6-8 servings as a side dish, 4 as a vegetarian main course

Ingredients

  • 1 fresh zucchini, sliced in 1/2 inch rounds
  • 1 fresh yellow squash, sliced in 1/2 inch rounds
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced longways, in about 1 1/2 inch widths
  • 1/2 medium red onion, sliced in 1/2 inch rounds and separated
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, in all
  • 1 tbsp good-quality balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 3/4 cup fresh mozzarella “pearls”
  • 2 cups sliced or torn romaine
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • optional garnishes: 1 green onion, thinly sliced, 1 tsp chopped parsley

Cooking Instructions

Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to high heat.  Toss the vegetables in a medium bowl with 1 TBSP of the olive oil, then grill for 3-4 minutes per side until the vegetables have nice grill marks but are still nicely al dente. Return the vegetables to the bowl and toss the with the remaining tbsp of olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, garlic and golden raisins. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and let the vegetables rest until they are room temperature, then add in the mozzarella pearls.

Distribute the romaine across an attractive serving platter, then place the grilled vegetable / mozzarella mixture on top. Add a little more pepper and garnish with the green onions and parsley.
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The Grill-Meister was amazed that he liked this, and especially amazed that it would be good at room temperature (he was expecting the grilled vegetables to be served hot as per usual). The sweetness of the golden raisins and the balsamic vinegar are a perfect foil for the earthiness of the grilled vegetables and garlic, and the crunch of the romaine alongside the creamy mozzarella pearls provides a nice textural balance. This dish is a easy stunner.

And one more thing: you can dress it up to be a main course by adding slices of grilled chicken, or if you’re going vegetarian, slices of grilled tofu or portobello mushrooms.

In pictures:

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Get nice grill marks on the vegetables
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Put the grilled vegetables back in a bowl for tossing
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Add the vinegar, oil, raisins and garlic while the vegetables are still warm
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This salad is a beautiful side dish or vegetarian main…
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…and a healthy side for a rich pasta course like the Spaghetti Carbonara we had that night

© 2018 Glover Gardens

New Orleans, the Kentucky Derby and a Boozy Bourbon Milk Punch

The Kentucky Derby is today. It seems to always coincide with the last weekend of the New Orleans Jazz Festival, which seems to always be the weekend that we choose to go. I’ve seen the annual “Run for the Roses” on a bar TV in New Orleans more times than I can remember, usually from Dickie Brennan’s Bourbon House. Even though the traditional Kentucky Derby cocktail is the mint julep, the libation of choice for the Grill-Meister and me is the Bourbon Milk Punch. It is lusciously, sinfully rich – a milkshake for grownups.

This year, we’re not at the Jazz Fest and we won’t be enjoying a cool, creamy Bourbon Milk Punch while watching the Kentucky Derby, but these things remain on our Replay List to enjoy again in the future. Read more about it and get the recipe for Bourbon Milk Punch here – and remember, one is enough!

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These boozy, grown-up milkshakes can accompany an afternoon snack

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While we’re on the topic of horse-racing, I heard a great story about the only Texas horse to win the Triple Crown on NPR /Texas Public Radio yesterday. Read it here: Remembering Assault, The Only Texas Horse To Win The Triple Crown.

© 2018 Glover Gardens

Leftover Steak Makes an Easy but Sophisticated Sandwich

We had a lotta leftover steak recently, because we tried this recipe from the Food Network’s show, The Kitchen. It involves huge porterhouse steaks, a cast iron skillet, and a unique method. Our foodie-senses were intrigued when we saw this, and we just had to make it.

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Photo from the Food Network

It was good, but more work – and more food – than we anticipated. The instructions called for porterhouse steaks that were 2″ – 2 1/2″ thick, so of course I went for the thickest (wouldn’t you?). The butcher thought I was crazy.  Turns out, he was right! And in looking at the picture above from the Food Network, there’s no way that’s a 2″ steak or bigger.

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A 2 1/2″ thick porterhouse is a huge steak at about 3 1/2 lbs. (each)
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We didn’t have a cast iron skillet that was big enough for both steaks, so we had to use two. Geez!

I gave up the idea of getting photos mid-recipe because it was a bit overwhelming; just suffice it to say that we had steak for days. Steak salad, steak quesadillas, steak burritos, steak tostadas and steak sandwiches. (Did I say it was a lotta steak?)

Well, Gentle Reader, in this Steak Week Odyssey, the steak sandwich was the best. Sautéed onions and jalapeños enhanced the flavor of the steak, and we dressed the sandwiches with ripe red tomato, fresh mint from our herb garden, and shreds of crisp raw cabbage, serving them on onion rolls. Double-Yum! Creating this Steak Sandwich for 2 recipe more than made up for the somewhat disappointing experience of the original steak dinner.

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It wasn’t just tasty, it was pretty!

Steak Sandwiches for Two

Ingredients

  • 3/4 lb. of leftover steak, cut in very thin slices
  • 1 medium onion, sliced (I used part red and part yellow)
  • 2 fresh jalapeños, sliced (leaving in the ribs and seeds for the heat unless that doesn’t work for you)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 ripe tomato, sliced
  • 1/4 cup shredded raw cabbage
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint, sliced in ribbons
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 onion rolls
  • optional condiments of your choice – I used stone ground mustard

Cooking Instructions

In a medium skillet, sauté the sliced onions and jalapeños in the olive oil over medium high heat until they are soft. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.  Heat the steak briefly to warm it without overcooking it; the microwave is fine for this. Try 1-2 minutes on half power. Assemble the sandwiches on warm onion rolls or other buns of your choice by starting with the steak on the bottom, adding freshly ground pepper, then the sautéed onions and jalapeños, then the tomatoes, cabbage and mint.


This sandwich was delightfully easy, with a very sophisticated taste. The crunch of the fresh cabbage and brightness of the mint were the perfect compliment to the juicy earthiness of the onions and steak. Pair it with potato salad and a quick black bean salad for an easy weeknight meal whenever you’re wondering what to do with leftover steak from the weekend’s barbecuing. Here’s a recipe for the black bean salad.

© 2018 Glover Gardens

Earth Day 2018, Part Two

This is the second of two Earth Day posts.

I think Earth Day is a cool thing to celebrate. Way cooler than, say, National Jelly Bean Day, which is also today. Who thinks that’s a good idea???!!!

My first Earth Day post today was all sunshine, swans and squirrels, but earth day is about more than loving nature.

main-logoEarth Day reminds me that our world is fragile and needs care, and that I should be an agent for positive change.

This year’s focus for the Earth Day Network is ending plastic pollution. They have a great site; I learned a lot about the size of the problem.  Here’s one example:

Scientists predict that if nothing changes in our plastic consumption habits, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the oceans than there are fish (by weight).

That’s bad.  How to help:

  1. Reduce your consumption of plastics.
  2. Properly recycle the plastic you use.
  3. Remove plastic that is already in the environment.

If you’re interested, there are lots of great suggestions about how to do those three things in the Plastic Pollution Primer and Action Toolkit. The very first thing I’m going to do is to always, always, always use reusable bags when shopping.  Easy-peasy! And I’ll be taking many other steps now that I’m aware of enormity of the plastic pollution problem, like finding products that aren’t in plastic bottles or containers.

Don’t get me wrong – Glover Gardens isn’t about lecturing, posturing or sanctimony, but I’m musing today about the delicate balance between the way humans use the earth and its resources versus the way the rest of our ecosystem partners function within it. And resolving to be more mindful and have a smaller footprint so that my future grandchildren can enjoy the world the way I do.

On a lighter note, I didn’t use the photo below in my earlier happy-happy Earth Day blog post because I thought there was a drone in the background, just above the bird and slightly to the right. It made me really grumpy for a few minutes – “really, a drone in my bird picture, for an Earth Day post??? – sheesh!!” – until I zoomed in as far as I could and realized that in addition to wings, it has a stinger. It’s some kind of nefarious flying insect, but definitely not a drone.

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A bird and a bee, framed by a tree. Not a drone in sight!

Once again, Happy Earth Day.

© 2018 Glover Gardens

 

 

Sandwich Wednesday, Bavarian Bistro Series #1 – Der Red Baron

Hello friends!

Panini Time!If you’ve been following Glover Gardens, you know that Sandwich Wednesday is a thing. Ever since our blended family was established nigh on ten years ago, the Grill-Meister has been the Sandwich-Meister on Wednesdays. It might just be my favorite weekday.

A variety of bread-ensconced offerings have come my way on Sandwich Wednesday, and nary a one has disappointed. The Grill-Meister is great about taking requests, and I recently realized that I hadn’t experienced most of the sandwiches he used to produce at his restaurant, the Bavarian Bistro. This phase of his career was before my time, but I don’t want to miss out on the sandwichy goodness. The only Bavarian Bistro sandwich I had experienced to date was the U-Boat Sub, and it was worthy.

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The U-Boat, a perfect party presentation; click here for the recipe

So we decided that there should be a Bavarian Bistro series for Sandwich Wednesday, until I have experienced every sandwich. Lucky me! The Grill-Meister rooted around in his computer and dug up the 15-year-old menu, and let me pick.  The first one was:

Der Red Baron: A triple decker of real breast of turkey, lean corned beef, imported Swiss cheese, crisp lettuce, tomato, sauerkraut and thousand island dressing.

Yum!

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The Grill-Meister gets going with the Red Baron makings
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Der Red Baron: a big and beautiful sandwich

So there isn’t really a “recipe”; it is all assembly. The list below is ingredients without specific amounts.

Ingredients

  • Pumpernickel, dark rye or other sandwich bread of your choice, 3 slices per person
  • Thinly sliced turkey breast
  • Thinly sliced corned beef
  • Swiss cheese slices
  • Sauerkraut
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Sliced ripe tomatoes
  • Sauerkraut, room temperature or warmed
  • Thousand Island dressing, mustard, or other tangy condiment of your choice

Cooking Instructions

To assemble each Red Baron, slather a piece of bread with the condiment of your choice, then top with a Swiss cheese slice. Mound a generous amount of corned beef atop the cheese, then add another slice of bread. Repeat with another slice of Swiss cheese, a mound of turkey breast, and a generous dollop of sauerkraut.

Place the sandwich(es) on a panini press and cook on medium high until the bread is nicely toasted and the cheese is melted. (You can also cook in a skillet if you don’t have a panini press – press down on the sandwiches with a spatula to compress them.)

When the bread is toasty and the cheese is melted, remove the sandwiches from the heat. Open them up and add the lettuce and  tomato slices. Serve immediately, potentially with more of your preferred condiment on the side.

© 2018 Glover Gardens

 

Haiku: Homemade Soup (NaHaiWriMo)

I’ve been doing this National Haiku Writing Month thing now for a couple of weeks, and it will come to a close as February transitions into March. Today, I’m going to utilize the daily prompt from NaHaiWriMo: homemade soup. It’s a reference to a post from two years ago at around this time when some of my European colleagues made a fantastic soup at Glover Gardens during an open house for my team.

pot luck perfect
in-the-moment lentil soup
my colleagues rock

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The Europeans were the first to arrive and breezed into the kitchen with overflowing grocery bags, tons of energy, and a plan to create a homemade masterpiece. The ringleader is wearing the chef’s hat.

To read the whole story and check out their kick-butt (that’s a technical term) recipe for lentil soup, click here.

And if you want more soup recipes for a cold and rainy winter’s night, I’ve got a couple:

© 2018 Glover Gardens