About Lisa

Mom, wife, retired physician assistant and multi award winning home cook including Food Network CHOPPED CHAMPION

What’s In Your Garden Plan

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Last week I wrote of the symbolic nature of flowers. Look around your garden. What does it say about you? Plant some dill. It symbolizes power against evil. Every victory garden could use that power right about now. Nasturtium, too. Those edible peppery and sometimes fiery orange blossoms stand for patriotism. Do you love this country? How do you show it?

For those who knew William or have followed this blog I’m certain I don’t have to explain why dill and nasturtium remind me of him. I don’t know a soul (other than his military brothers) who love this country more and fought the good fight, so others could live free.

William on the left with two of his brothers.

Today, I praise the essential workers battling the evil of COVID19 especially my two nieces. Heather and Brenda are on the front lines as nurses in ICU units devoted to the care of those infected. I can’t imagine the mix of emotions associated with these essential jobs, but they do it. They pledge an allegiance to quality healthcare no matter the hardship. All any of us nonessentials can do is express our gratitude for their courage, dedication and willingness to fight the good fight…plus wash our hands and practice social distancing. This thing isn’t over, yet.

With its feathery leaves and delicate flowers dill is an essential herb that attracts beneficial predators to the garden. I guess that is how it got its reputation for fighting evil.

As much as I love this recipe as written desperate times call for desperate measures. These days #AmericaStrong we are all adapting to a new normal. Thankfully, this is a raid your pantry kind of recipe initially adapted from William-Sonoma’s web site. No puff pastry? No problem. Use any kind of pie dough or even a pre-made pizza crust, flour tortillas or naan…hey! it is an international situation we are in so be brave and use whatever. Same goes for fresh tomatoes. Any fresh vegetable will do, but if it is crunchy like broccoli, blanch it first. Onions? Caramelize them first. Canned tomatoes? Drain them and pat them dry. Same for cheese and herbs…just do you and don’t forget to plant some seeds.

Fresh Tomato Tart with Feta & Dill

  • Servings: 4 to 6
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

fresh tomatoes, thinly sliced

kosher salt

6 oz. crumbled feta cheese

1 Tbs. chopped fresh dill

 freshly ground pepper, herb oil and freshly grated parmesan cheese

Heat an oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Sprinkle both sides of tomatoes lightly with salt and place in a single layer on paper towels. Let them stand 15 to 30 minutes for paper towels to absorb some of their moisture.

Unfold the puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured work surface. Roll out into a 9-by-13-inch rectangle about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer the dough to the prepared baking sheet. Using a fork, prick (or dock) the pastry all over. Fold over 1/2 inch of the pastry all the way around the edge.

Arrange the tomatoes and cheese evenly on top of the pastry rectangle. Sprinkle evenly with the dill and some freshly ground black pepper. Drizzle with a little herb oil and parmesan.

Bake until the pastry is puffed and golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a work surface. Cut the tart into pieces and serve.

Thyme For A Change & Strawberry Madeleines

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There is a language, little known,
Lovers claim it as their own.
Its symbols smile upon the land,
Wrought by nature’s wondrous hand;
And in their silent beauty speak,
Of life and joy, to those who seek
For Love Divine and sunny hours
In the language of the flowers.

–The Language of Flowers, London, 1875

Made popular in Victorian times many flowers have been given meaning and often used to send unspoken messages. For instance, and the obvious, red roses symbolizing love and Forget-me-nots, well, don’t forget me. Did you know Kate Middleton carried sweet William in her bridal bouquet as a symbol of gallantry along with myrtle (love in marriage), lily-of-the-valley (trustworthiness, purity) and ivy (continuity)? It was a meaningful bouquet filled with hopes of a long and happy marriage with her Prince. So far so good there.

As we head into April and my bittersweet (truth and honesty) gardening season I’d like to focus on all the goodness of William’s birthday (April 22) rather than the day (April 16) the Navy Chaplain knocked on the door delivering tragic news. It’s a much needed change. The garden, specifically getting my hands into the dirt, has been a great source of strength, joy and now fun with my grandchildren. Garden therapy is a thing. Plant some seeds.

Thyme is easy to grow and hearty through the winter

If there ever is a plant that reminds me of William it is thyme. Thyme is the symbol of courage and strength. I saw William at his strongest following a season-ending knee injury his senior year in high school. Lacrosse was his thing. Team co-captain with his best friend, Whit, running the game made him feel successful. Imagine the devastating loss, in the first game of the season, when an opposing player clipped him from behind blowing out his knee. In the blink of an eye, it was all over. Not only that, the surgical repair and 9 months of rehab that followed could effectively dismiss him from the Navy. While others would have crumbled, his hard-work at physical therapy and his ability to lead his team while on crutches was nothing more than courageous and inspiring. I know because so many of his teammates told me.

Next week I will share why he is like dill and nasturtiums. I know he’d be so mad if he knew I was comparing him to flowers, but trying to have a good laugh here rather than a good cry. Let’s get to this recipe before I change my mind…

Grow herbs! Herbs are an essential part of the landscape both outside and inside the kitchen. Cost effective, easy to care for, beautiful and delicious if you are not growing herbs I can’t tell you enough how much I want you to. And if you have yet to pair herbs like thyme or basil with strawberries then you are in for a real treat with this recipe.

Madeleines are like little bite-size pound cakes. I just love them with a cup of tea for a mid-afternoon snack. Super easy to make these fresh strawberry infused lovelies also call for freeze-dried strawberries as they punch up the strawberry flavor and color. Crushing freeze-dried fruit into any recipe eliminates the need for artificial colors and flavors. You can find it at Trader Joe’s or near the fresh produce section of your grocery store.

Strawberry Thyme Madeleines

  • Servings: 18
  • Difficulty: easy
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1 cup (128 g) cake flour

½ teaspoon baking powder

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

6 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

2 tablespoons freeze dried strawberries plus additional for garnish

½ chopped fresh strawberries

2 eggs

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled

Powdered sugar, optional

Heat oven to 375F. Place oven rack in middle. Spray madeleine pan with baking spray. In small bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In small food processor or spice grinder, combine 2 teaspoons sugar, thyme and freeze-dried strawberries; process to a fine powder with bits of thyme. Add strawberries and process to a puree; measure and set aside ¼ cup of puree. In a medium mixing bowl, with an electric mixer, beat eggs with remaining 6 tablespoons of sugar for 3 to 5 minutes or until thick and pale in color. Add reserved strawberry puree and flour mixture blending just until dry ingredients are incorporated. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in melted butter until well blended. Spoon or pipe batter into prepared pan just below each rim. Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until madeleines spring back with a touch of your finger. Turn out to cool on a rack. Dust with crushed freeze-dried strawberries or powdered sugar.

Cranberry Crème Brûlée Breakfast Pastry

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bursting with cranberry goodness

Some days I wake up with crazy mash-up recipes in my head. For instance, what if my favorite dessert, crème brûlée, and my favorite pastry, a fruit-filled turnover, had a baby? I imagine buttery flaky layers filled with a well-balanced tart jam surrounded by a bit of sweet indulgent cream. And it must have my favorite part of the crème brûlée, that slightly burnt, crispy crunchy top. It’s not your average cranberry recipe, so let’s get started with THE CAPE COD SELECT BLOGGER RECIPE CHALLENGE CONTEST Cran-You-Believe It Category.

simply delicious ingredients

First, this cranberry jam filling with a touch of vanilla. So good you will be eating it with a spoon, but please restrain yourself as you will need every bit of this super-fruit goodness to fill the pastry. Super simple to make, so if you can’t stop eating it just make a second batch. I won’t tell anyone.

The cranberry jam adds such a beautiful tart balance to this dish. Just a mix of cranberries, brown sugar, butter and vanilla simmered until the cranberries burst and the mixture thickens up. It must be chilled and can be made a day or two in advance.

And to make this totally easy let’s use ready made puff pastry. Gently rolled and trimmed to a 12-inch square I find a pizza cutter perfect for cutting the pastry into nine 4-inch squares. Top each square with a generous spoonful of cranberry jam and then pinch up those points to seal.

Now place those cute little berry packages, seam-side down in the prepared pan and partially bake them. Remove from the oven and shower each pastry with the crème brûlée mixture. Top with the almonds and back into the oven to finish.

oh that crispy, crunchy top

Serve warm or at room temperature as individual squares with a dusting of powdered sugar or show off that delicious jam inside by slicing into triangles. Either way you are sure to WOW your family and friends with this creative treat.

Cranberry Crème Brûlée Breakfast Pastry

  • Servings: 9
  • Difficulty: easy
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2 cups Cape Cod Select premium frozen cranberries

1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla, divided

1 sheet of puff pastry from (17.3 oz), thawed

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 egg

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup slivered or sliced almonds

powdered sugar, optional

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, combine cranberries, brown sugar and butter, stirring, until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer mixture for 5 to 7 minutes or until thickened. Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Transfer mixture to a bowl (you will have ¾ cup of cranberry filling). Chill filling in the refrigerator. Can be made 1-2 days in advance. When ready to bake, heat oven to 400F. Lightly spray a 9-inch square baking pan with non-stick spray. Lightly flour a work surface. Roll puff pastry sheet into a 12-inch square. Using a sharp knife or pizza wheel, slice pastry into nine 4-inch squares. Divide chilled cranberry mixture into 9 portions. Working with 1 square at a time, place a portion of cranberry filling in center of square. With tip of your finger, lightly brush pastry edge with some water. Bring pastry points up and over the filling pinching edges to seal. Repeat with remaining ingredients forming a total of 9 pastries. Arrange pastries in a single layer, seam-side-down in pan. With the tip of a sharp knife make a slit to vent steam in the top of each pastry. Bake 15 minutes or until just golden brown. Meanwhile, in bowl, whisk cream, egg, sugar and remaining 1/2 teaspoon vanilla until blended. Remove partially baked pastries from oven. Pour the cream mixture evenly over the top of each pastry. Sprinkle evenly with the almonds. Bake for 15 minutes more or until a deep “brûlée” golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature dusted with powdered sugar, if desired.

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Enjoy the health benefits of premium farm fresh cranberries all year long. Available in the frozen section of your grocery store cranberries are not just for Thanksgiving anymore.

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