Saturday, July 14, 2018

Winning Burger Recipe

Chinese 5-Spice Burger

Several years ago I entered a cooking contest for "Best Burger". The only requirement was that one of the ingredients be one of several local wines. Alas, I did not win the Grand Prize, but my name was placed beside the words "Honorable Mention."
Not too bad for someone who typically doesn't eat beef and doesn't own a grill.
I could elaborate with a long story. But today this recipe will be short, sweet, and to the point.

Equipment Needed

  • 8 or 10-inch nonstick frying pan
  • medium-size bowl
  • charcoal or gas grill
  • instant read thermometer

Cook Time

Prep time: 5 min
Cook time: 12 min
Ready in: 17 min
Yields: 4 burgers


  • 1 cup button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 green onions (including tops), finely chopped
  • 6 tablespoons Chinese plum sauce
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 tablespoons Merlot wine
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 tsp. Chinese 5-spice powder
  • 1 tsp. dark sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • vegetable oil for brushing on grill rack
  • 4 large sesame seed buns, split
  • red lettuce leaves


  1. Pour oil into an 8- to 10-inch nonstick frying pan over high heat; when hot, add mushrooms and stir until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Stir in the green onions and plum sauce and remove from heat.
  2. In a bowl, gently mix ground beef with soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, Chinese five spice, and ginger. Shape beef mixture into four equal patties, each about 1/2 inch thick.
  3. Lay patties on a lightly oiled barbecue grill over a solid bed of medium-hot coals or medium-high heat on a gas grill (you can hold your hand at grill level only 3 to 4 seconds); close lid on gas grill. Cook patties until no longer pink in the center (cut to test) or a thermometer inserted in center reaches 160°, 6 to 8 minutes total, turning once to brown evenly. After 5 minutes, lay bun halves, cut side down, on grill and toast lightly, 1 to 2 minutes.

To assemble

  1. On the bottom half of each roll, layer the lettuce, burger, and sautéed mushroom mixture. Cover with the roll tops.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Yukon Gold Potato Pizza

Do you surf the internet? What are your favorite sites? One of my daughters loves Pinterest and pins ideas on home décor, crafts, and gardening. My older daughter likes video games, trains, and anything "Disney". My husband likes cars and websites about travel.
I look at recipes.
I've noticed a recent trend in "potato pizza". OK, I think that could be pretty tasty. I LOVE potatoes. But potatoes on top of a bread crust just sounds rather heavy. I have also seen recipes for pizza made with a puff pastry crust. Why not combine the two?

Cook Time

Prep time: 55 min
Cook time: 20 min
Ready in: 1 hour 15 min
Yields: 1 medium pizza


  • 1/2 of a 17.3-oz. pkg Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets, (1 sheet), thawed
  • 3 medium (about 1 lb.) Yukon Gold (waxy) potatoes
  • 2 tsp. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 jar Alfredo pasta sauce
  • 1 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano, shaved
  • 1 cup fresh arugula
  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Unfold the pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Roll the pastry sheet into a 14x12-inch rectangle. Place the pastry onto a baking sheet. Brush the edges of the pastry with water. Fold over the edges 1/2 inch on all sides, crimping with a fork to form a rim. Prick the center of the pastry thoroughly with a fork. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  3. While the pastry is chilling, prepare the potatoes. Cut the potatoes into 1/4-inch slices. Fill a large pot with the potato slices. Add enough water to cover the potatoes. Add two teaspoons of salt to the water and place the pot over a high flame. Once the water boils, reduce the heat to medium and cover. Check the potatoes after about 5 minutes--you want them to be crisp-tender because they will cook on top of the pizza.
  4. Heat the oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat; sauté the onions until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in the rosemary. Cook and stir for 5 minutes.
  5. Spoon the onion mixture onto the pastry. Cover it with the potato slices, then drizzle with the Alfredo sauce.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. Remove from the oven and top with the shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Let the pastry cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for 10 minutes.
  7. Top with torn arugula and serve.
  8. NOTE: For those who MUST have meat on their pizza, top with crisp cooked crumbled bacon or a bit of prosciutto.

Saturday, June 30, 2018


The day began as any other. We went on our 2+ mile walk--a brisk southward jaunt uphill to Cormorant Passage, west to the nature trail, north along the trail to the schoolyard, east to the main highway, and south (again uphill) for the final workout.

That's the one part of the trek that I hate, not just because of the hill (oh my poor knees), but because of the constant drone of cars and trucks exceeding the posted speed limit, spewing exhaust fumes, and taking away from the enjoyment of our surroundings.

I was "in the zone," just two doors from our house and trying to ignore the traffic noises and smells. Then I noticed the shadows move. But it wasn't shadows, it was two very tiny spotted fawns. They were on the outside of the fence (near the busy road). Mommy was on the other side of the fence and they could not get to her. Those babies were frantically running back and forth, crying (yes, they DO make noise. Sound a little bit like a lamb bleating). And I feared that in their panic they would bolt into traffic. 

Finally, Bill quietly and carefully walked over to the gate of the property, opened it, and the babies were able to be reunited with the doe.

After that, I no longer smelled the exhaust fumes or heard the din of cars and large trucks; they just didn't matter anymore. 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Roasted Radishes

It is Summer, and all of the Farmers' Markets are in full swing. Our Town market opened just last Wednesday. It's always such a treat to be able to obtain really fresh, organic produce and know that you are also supporting a local business. 

So, one of the first crops to emerge is radishes.

Radishes. Whenever I see red radishes, I think of my mom. She loved fresh radishes and spoke fondly of her childhood on the farm, plucking tiny young radishes from the earth, rubbing them briefly on her sleeve to remove the dirt, and eating them warm from the ground. 

In our home, there was never a green salad on our table without slices of radish. They always appeared in her potato salad. And a "special occasion" dinner was never without a plate of carrots, celery, and radish "roses".

Honestly, I never cared for them. Too hot and peppery. 

At our Market last week, local farmers were displaying ripe berries, rhubarb, spinach, peas...and radishes. But not the red-hot veggies of my childhood. These were enticing little pastel globes--light and dark pink, white and bluish-purple. And, they called to me, they lured me, and before I could come to my senses I found myself walking home with a plastic bag of these lovely little roots.

I washed one and took a bite--it was wonderfully crisp and sweet, but still had the peppery bite I remembered. I know that one way to tame the heat of garlic is to cook it slowly--either roasting or with a brief saute. So I wondered if the same could be done with radishes. Here's what I did:


  • 1 bunch (about 1 pound) assorted small radishes
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Wash the radishes. Cut off the root ends and the tops, leaving about 1/2 inch of the stem. Dry and then place in a shallow baking dish. Drizzle oil and melted butter on top, and then sprinkle with sea salt and a few grinds of pepper.
  3. Bake in preheated oven 10-15 minutes.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Perfect Rhubarb Crumble Pie

I love rhubarb--tart, tangy ruby-red rhubarb. It's one of the first plants to pop up in my Springtime garden. Actually, it's the only food crop that appears in my garden at any time of year. I live in "deer country".

Bambi and company don't just wander through occasionally. They live here. In the morning they munch on the salal, at noon they frolic through the flower beds after a short nap on the back lawn, and in the evening they bed down under the cedars.
Nothing is off-limits to our four-hooved friends....nothing, that is, except for the rhubarb.

Spring in our part of the world is cool and rainy. I'm thankful that we are not blanketed with snow, but the days can seem rather dreary; at times the gray skies are a bit depressing. However those cool rains reward us with a fresh new crop of rhubarb just begging to be picked, so today I gathered a few plump stalks and decided to prepare one of my family's favorites -- rhubarb crumble pie.

Cook Time

Prep time: 1 hour 15 min
Cook time: 50 min
Ready in: 2 hours 5 min
Yields: 8 servings


  • 1 unbaked 9-inch pastry shell
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 5 tsp. cornstarch
  • 4 cups fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
  1. Combine sugar and cornstarch in a large mixing bowl. Add rhubarb slices and toss until all slices are covered with sugar-cornstarch mixture. Set aside for about 10 minutes or until sugar appears moist.
  2. Place rhubarb-sugar-cornstarch mixture in unbaked pastry shell.
  3. Place flour, butter or margarine, and brown sugar in another mixing bowl. Cut butter into flour and sugar with a pastry blender until mixture has the appearance of coarse crumbs. Place this crumble mixture atop rhubarb in the pastry shell, spreading to evenly cover rhubarb.
  4. Chill prepared pie in refrigerator for one hour. (This resting time will allow the cornstarch to begin to thicken the pie filling).
  5. After one hour, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Bake pie in preheated oven for 50 minutes or until crumble topping and pastry edges appear golden brown.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Each of Us Matters

I was going to write about baking a rhubarb pie, but not today. Two hours before I sat down to write this post, I heard the news that Anthony Bourdain had died alone in a hotel room in southeast France. Of course, I never met him, but I fell under his spell when I read his breakout tell-all of the food industry "Kitchen Confidential." 

Anthony was more than a bit rough around the edges; he told it like it is with no hesitation. One who did know him was  Sam Sifton, the Food Editor for the New York Times. Sam wrote this when he heard the sad news:

Anthony Bourdain is dead at 61, and it's hardly a good morning at all. He was a toweringly good reporter and interviewer, a brilliant, caustic, funny writer, and Exhibit A in the argument that food and travel journalism is above all else journalism about culture. Bourdain knew that going places and eating things, asking questions all the while, would always be the best way to start telling the stories of the world. 
Those stories were empathetic. Bourdain often spoke and wrote for those who had no voice and against those whose voices silenced others. It's a shame this one ends the way it does, alone in a hotel room. 
Be kind to others today and always. And please, if you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
 “As you move through this life and this world you change things slightly, you leave marks behind, however small. And in return, life — and travel — leaves marks on you. Most of the time, those marks — on your body or on your heart — are beautiful. Often, though, they hurt.” --Anthony Bourdain

Saturday, June 2, 2018

How To Create a Knock-out Planter

I have a good friend who was employed at a local greenhouse. He told me that there is a recipe that will insure a standout planter. He told me "use a thriller, some fillers, and some spillers".
  • Thrillers are usually vertical, such as phormium, canna, calla pennisetum or upright fuchsia (Fuchsia triphylla 'Gartenmeister Bonstedt')
  • Fillers tend to be horizontal or weaving, such as heliotrope, osteospermum, petunia, coleus or impatiens
  • Spillers are cascading, such as helichrysum, ipomea or callibrachoa.
Here are some suggestions:

  • Agave
  • Angelonia
  • Bamboo
  • Banana
  • Canna
  • Corydalis
  • Dahlia (upright varieties)
  • Dracena
  • Elephant ear (taro)
  • Fuchsia (upright varieties)
  • Grasses
  • Hibiscus
  • Millet
  • Papyrus
  • Phormium (New Zealand flax)
  • Argyranthemum (Marguerite daisy)
  • Begonia
  • Caladium
  • Coleus
  • Diascia (twinspur)
  • Euphorbia (especially Diamond Frost)
  • Impatiens
  • Nasturtium (mounding types)
  • Nemesia
  • Osteospermum (African daisy osteospermum)
  • Pelargonium (geranium)
  • Petunia
  • Salvia (small-flowered types)
  • Verbena


  • Callibrachoa
  • Dichondra
  • Helichrysum (licorice plant)
  • Ipomoea (sweet potato vine)
  • Lobelia
  • Torenia (wishbone flower)
Plan for the future - Those cute little seedlings in 4- or 6-inch pots might be 3 feet tall by end of the season. Consider ultimate growth, shape, and whether the plant will remain upright, grow bushy, or be a trailer that tumbles over the edge.

Will they play together well? – Combining sun-lovers with “stay-in-the-shaders”, or thirsty annuals with drought tolerant succulents is a sure recipe for disaster. Pay attention to the growing conditions of your plants.

Appreciate the differences – Have you ever noticed a planter that just knocked your socks off? What was so appealing? A pot of yellow pansies is lovely, but consider how much more attractive it could be by adding a few plants that have different textures, leaf shapes, heights?

Go bold – Play with color. I would never wear purple and orange together, but somehow in the world of flowers I’ve never met a “bad” combination.  Or for an equally stunning (but exact opposite) arrangement, select one color, but see how many different plants, with variety of texture and height, you can find at your local nursery.