Shrub Tasting

No, I wasn’t out chomping on landscape. Instead, I tried The Burning Bushes Shrub, one of the drinking vinegars, from Glacier’s End. I purchased some earlier in the season from them at The Marion Farmer’s Market. I had tried earlier in the year to get some at the Winter Farmer’s Market (Carbondale Community Farmer’s Market) in Carbondale, but it was always sold out by the time I made it to the high school to shop. That told me it MUST be good!

First, I mixed up a quick marinade for boneless pork chops and added about a tablespoon of the Shrub to it before I dried them off and breaded them…

Then I added a aplash to a vinaigrette for watermelon and arugula salad.

I threw it all together, drizzled on some marinade made by shaking it in a jar with some olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then I tossed it  together with pieces of seeded watermelon, arugula, and queso blanco.  (Goat cheese, cotija, or feta would also have been good…) I would like to have added a bit of mint chiffonade for another layer of flavor, but I didn’t want to go out and pick it at the time…

I also mixed a healthy splash with some chilled club soda.

It was pretty refreshing. I decided I might like to add a bit of simple syrup for a bit of sweetness, but it was still good without it.  Adding a bit of white wine would probably work well too.

The Burning Bushes Shrub is a combination of elderberry, honeysuckle, strawberry, cayenne, and galangal.  I want to try Pearapple Rain next.  They actually make a variety of shrubs with unique combinations.

Links: 

Home

https://www.facebook.com/glaciersend/

You may wish to check the Glacier’s End Facebook page for updates and info on where to find the products. 

https://www.facebook.com/Marion-Farmers-Market-129111570446441/

http://www.carbondalemarket.com/

Please note that at this time, a new location for the winter market has not yet been announced. They cannot meet at the high school due to COVID-19 restrictions, but per their website, they still plan to return in December.

Stretching Ingredients into a Meal

Did you know that a good way to stretch ingredients is to make them into a topping for something like smashed potatoes, baked potatoes, salad, pizza, or even nachos? If you haven’t noticed, meat has been more scarce and pricey thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. When all the shelter in place directives first came down, it was very hard to find meat in many grocery stores. (If you were smart enough to go to smaller, locally owned shops, you probably faired a bit better than fighting the hording in the large chain stores…) I literally bought frozen hamburger patties for the first time ever to take them apart in order to have ground beef.

So, in order to feed myself and four hungry teens this evening, I stretched out a pound of thinly sliced beef into a smashed potato topping for loaded smashed potatoes. Sautéing it with sliced onion, mushrooms, garlic, and seasonings bulked it up a bit. Although I’m not as fond of processed cheese slices, they do melt well. Putting a processed cheese single on the smashed potato mound before adding the beef topping adds flavor and dimension.

I like to add another layer of flavor when I boil potatoes by either boiling them in some type of stock or broth. I didn’t really have either on hand, so I added some of the powdered cubito de pollo/bullion to the water along with salt, pepper, and a bit of turmeric. Sometimes I throw in a smashed garlic clove.

Did you also know that you don’t really have to have butter, milk, cream, or sour cream to make smashed mashed potatoes? If you have a creamy salad dressing in the fridge, add enough of it to your boiled (or baked) potatoes to get the consistency you like. It adds flavor and does the trick. I’ve used ranch dressing before, but I used a mix of Caesar and bleu cheese this evening. I also like to add some chives. I prefer fresh, but I had to use dried this evening.

Loaded Smashed Potatoes…with a side of fresh garden salsa. #whatsfordinner #smashedpotatoes #mashedpotatoes #potatoes #shavedbeef #stretchingingredients #tastesofsouthernillinois #asliceofsouthernillinois #mushrooms https://www.instagram.com/p/CDh-dQeJbK-/?igshid=1iu7wfkpmmzjm

Last Minute Dip

Are you searching for a tasty dip or appetizer for last minute company or a get together? This dip is only three ingredients and literally can be made in seconds. All you need is a softened brock of cream cheese or Neufchâtel cheese, a packet of Sazón, and some basil pesto.

Ingredients:

1 block of cream cheese or Neufchâtel cheese

1 packet of Sazón (found in the Latin foods isle)

1/4 cup of basil pesto

Directions:

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Adjust to taste by using more or less pesto. Serve with crackers or veggies.

Oregano Pesto

A few years ago, I repurposed a very old mattress box springs into a raised herb garden. The oregano I planted has made it through a couple winters and continued to grow stronger each spring. This is good. Southern Illinois seems to have a climate that pleases oregano.

One of my favorite meal prep uses for oregano is in pesto. The other night, I had walnuts and some manchego cheese nearing their expiration. So, you guessed it. Pesto they became. I tend to switch up the cheese and nut type with whatever I have that seems like it makes sense–such as parmesan and pine nuts or even sunflower seeds. You do want to use a harder cheese, with a consistency such as parmesan, so that you don’t end up with a gooey mess.

Once made, I like to spoon my pesto into pint canning jars and top each with a little pool of olive oil at the top to help keep it from drying in the fridge or freezer. Ideally, the pesto jars should keep for a couple weeks in the fridge or a few months in the freezer. Just make sure whatever you store it in is airtight and kept at a food safe temperature as this is not a canning process. (Simply using a canning jar does not make it canned…) You can also freeze it in ice cube trays and pop the cubes into a freezer bag for storage.

Oregano pesto is handy thing to have in the fridge on standby. It adds an extra layer of flavor to soups and sandwiches and can be added to omelets or egg dishes. Pesto also stands in great as a wet rub on meat. Be creative. It is wonderful as a spread itself or mixed with other ingredients to make other variations.

This is the basic recipe:

Ingredients:
clean, fresh oregano, approximately two to three cups
cheese–such as manchego or parmesan, approximately one and a half cups grated
nuts–such as pine nuts or walnuts, about one cup
juice of one lemon
honey (or sugar), about a tblsp
kosher salt or sea salt
crushed black pepper
one clove garlic, minced
about a 1/4 cup olive oil

Directions
:
1. Chop together the oregano, cheese, nuts, lemon juice, honey, salt, pepper, and garlic in the food processor.
2. Slowly drizzle in olive oil.
Add more olive oil for a thinner pesto if desired.
You may also use a traditional mortar & pestle method to combine ingredients if desired.