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Pesto

Basil Leaves
Basil Leaves

Pesto needs no introduction in any Mediterranean kitchen. It is definitely a staple in my pantry as it is so easy to whip up a quick meal when you in a hurry.

I usually grow basil in a pot just so I could place it in my bay window and have it be easy to access while cooking.  I find that it would get root bound too fast this way  and start turning yellow in a matter of weeks, so this year I decided to grow them in between my rose bushes and let them grow freely.  And wow, did they like this so much more!!

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There are many ways to make pesto…with cheese, without cheese, with pine nuts or walnuts, with basil or parsley…so use whatever you have and adjust or substitute to your taste.

Ingredients

2 cups fresh basil leaves packed
1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 medium garlic cloves
salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine the basil and the pine nuts and pulse a few times in a food processor.
Add the garlic and cheese and pulse a few times more.

Pine Nuts
Pine Nuts

Slowly add the olive oil in constant stream while the processor is on. Stop and scrape down the sides of the food processor.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with pasta, baked potato or spread on your favourite sandwich.

Pesto
Pesto

From Simply Recipes

Oven Dried Tomatoes ~ Tadam Imqaddet

Packed in Oil
Packed in Oil

This year I went a little bit crazy buying tomato plants.  Over the past few years I’ve tried planting eggplants and I’ve tried zucchini and cucumbers…but always had a measly return for my efforts making me feel like a green failure. Tomatoes on the other hand, grow like a weed and produce exceptional fruit!  So this year, I filled every bit of soil with Early Girl tomato plants and a couple of cherry tomato plants.

And now…a few months later, I have tomatoes coming out of my ears, and have been trying out numerous recipes to use them.  So far I’ve canned whole tomatoes and tomato sauce. I’ve tried tomato jam with great results.  And of course I’ve had hobz biz-zejt u t-tadam (bread with tomatoes and olive oil)…which is my ultimate favourite summer food!!

Then last week, my friend Terrie whom I have known since our school days, posted photos of her oven dried tomatoes and I could not stop drooling!! So here it is…all the way from Holland…Terrie’s Oven Dried Tomato recipe.

Like every maltese cook, Terrie’s recipe went something like this…

“Bit of this and a pinch of that”

You get the picture…so I’m going to try my best and give you the quantities, but please feel free to add or omit and adjust to your heart’s content.

Ingredients

3 lbs tomatoes cut in half and deseeded
salt

1/4 -1/2 cup olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp  fresh basil
1 tsp mint
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 tsp oregano
salt and pepper

enough oil to pack the tomatoes

Freshly Cut Tomaoes
Freshly Cut Tomaoes

Cut the tomatoes in half and deseed.  Sprinkle some salt on each half and place them face down on paper towels in a dish and leave them there for about half an hour to absorb some of the juices.

In the meantime, mince the garlic and place in a small bowl along with the rest of the chopped up herbs and salt and pepper.

Quarter the tomatoes and brush them with oil mixture. Place in a prepared dish about half an inch apart.  Sprinkle some salt and pepper.  Bake in 250 degree oven for about 3-4 hours depending on your oven.  Mine took longer so keep checking them until they’re done.

Oven Dried Tomatoes
Oven Dried Tomatoes

Let cool and place in sterilised jar. Pour enough olive oil to cover the tomatoes. Store in refrigerator.

Packed in Oil
Packed in Oil

Disneyland ~ Not Just The Happiest Place On Earth

Disneyland
Disneyland

Well, when I went outside this morning, the sight that met me did make me very happy though.

Disneyland, one of my more compact rose bushes, always gives a marvelous spring display of roses, but I’ve never seen it produce over twenty four blooms on one stalk.

He Promised Me A Rose Garden ~ Rose Petal Jam

Habitat For Humanity
Habitat For Humanity

After ten years of moving from one rental house to another, we finally stopped kidding ourselves that we would ever go back to live in Europe…not to England…not to Malta…or to the South of France which is still one of  Kevin’s many dreams! We were only supposed to come to the States on a working visa for one year…and every year after that, every June to be exact, Kevin and I would sit down and go through the pros and cons of staying in the US or going back “home” wherever that was.

Gift From Our Friends
Our Friends Knew Best

So in June of 2004, the week before we were set to leave the US, our dear friends Jane and Richard, and Gina and Tom, threw us a Bon Voyage Party.  We had already packed everything and told our landlord we were leaving. Kevin had handed in his resignation, and both kids’ schools were notified.  But best of all, we had four one way tickets to England.

As we’re sadly saying goodbye to all our friends at our Bon Voyage Party, one friend walked over to Kevin and me and whispered a few magical words in our ears that I will never forget…

“You know you can still get a refund on your tickets right?”…

Kevin and I just looked at each other and without even uttering another word, knew that that was exactly what we had to do!  I still don’t know, even to this day, if Michelle has any idea how her words changed the course of our lives. Could’ve been the beer, could’ve been the wine…but the clouds lifted as did our hearts. At that point, we realised that we only had a week in our lease left and had to find a new house to live…and the big question was…do we rent yet again, or do we buy?  Luckily we already had everything packed so all we had to do was find a house.

By now I was done with rentals and wanted to feel like we belonged and maybe some space to plant a rose bush or two.  And that is when Kevin promised me a Rose Garden which he delivered most graciously.

Intrigue
Intrigue

And this recipe was born!  I’ve been making it since we moved to this house and every year right about now, when we get our first burst of roses, I go and pick the freshest and most beautiful blooms on the bush.

Before you start, make sure you have all the ingredients ready to use.   Clean and sterilize your jars and have them ready close by. Choose your most fragrant and vibrant rose petals you can find in your garden, this way you’ll end up with the tastiest and most gorgeous coloured jam.

This jam will yield about 3 small jars

Rose Petal Jam

Intrigue and Sweet Surrender
Intrigue and Sweet Surrender

1 cup fresh rose petals (must not have been sprayed with any chemicals)
3/4 cup water
juice of one lemon
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 package powder pectin
3/4 cups water

Puree rose petals, 3/4 cup water and lemon juice in a blender until smooth.

Slowly add sugar.
Blend until all sugar has dissolved.
Leave in Blender.
Stir one package pectin into 3/4 cup water.
Bring to a boil and boil hard for one minute.
Pour mixture into the blender that contains the rose petal mixture until well blended.
Do this very quickly as it sets up really fast.
Pour into prepared jars. Let set six hours until firm.
Will keep one month in the refrigerator, but I’ve kept mine much longer with no problems.

Rose Petal Jam
Rose Petal Jam

This jam with scones and some clotted cream is a match made in heaven and guaranteed to make any mother happy on Mother’s Day!

Blossom Blossom Everywhere

 

Cherry Blossom
Cherry Blossom

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this much blossom in my garden.  When we first moved into this house, I knew close to nothing about gardening and I hope that now, eight years later, I’ve learned to at least recognise weed from plants.  After living in apartments and town homes for such a long time, I was so excited to have my own garden, that I could not wait to dig in and dig out what I did not like.

Surviving Amaryllis
Surviving Amaryllis

No I did not listen to Kevin when he urged me not to touch anything for a whole year and to just to see what the garden had to offer.  Instead, I got my nice shiny new shovel and started digging out multiple agapanthus plants which I really disliked and threw them out!

Lucky for me, that day my friend Kalpana came by to visit and saw my huge clump of green waste ready for Friday’s Pick Up and asked me why I was getting rid of so many Amaryllis!! Aaaagh…what…amaryllis?? What had I done?  I LOVE AMARYLLIS!! So I frantically went head first in the garden bin and picked up and replanted each and every one like the garden fool that I was.  That was my first lesson in gardening.  Listen to Kevin!

Apple Blossom
Apple Blossom

 

Oh apple tree!! The first year you gave us an abundance of the most delicious apples I’d ever tasted.  I had no idea how to take care of  you though.  In my eyes, it looked like you needed a good prune so I grabbed my clippers and prune I did!! I pruned you so hard that you didn’t give us any apples for the next FOUR years!!

Fig Leaf
Fig Leaf

 

 

Oh baby fig tree…I wanted to espalier you like I see at the garden centres.  How hard could that be?  My lovely husband even built me a sturdy frame to train you against the fence but I pulled so hard at those delicate limbs of yours that they snapped right into my hands.  So now you have been retrained into a standard tree and I must say you look very straight and proud, no thanks to me.  I’m still waiting for that first fig though but I think you might be punishing me for being so mean to you.

Grape Vine
Grape Vine

 

 

Oh grapevine!  How many times did I threaten to dig you up because of the way you tend to vine and cling to everything that comes your way like something out of a horror movie.  You have Kevin to thank  for that you know and I have to say he was right not to give in to me because you give out the most delicious grapes ever.  Even the birds think so.

 

 
So when I came out to the garden this morning, I was totally overjoyed to see so many blossoms.  It feels like my garden has finally forgiven me!

Yes I made plenty of mistakes in my garden…and I still do occasionally but hopefully not as drastic.  Luckily, trees are very hardy and laugh at people like me.   They seem to have an endless supply of leaves and fruit…how awesome nature is!

 

Meyer Lemon Cake

Meyer Lemon Tree
Meyer Lemon Tree

Now that my baby hummingbirds are no more and I don’t have to tip toe around my lemon tree anymore, I have been thinking of ways that I can use up the numerous lemons it still has left on it.

Meyer Lemons
Meyer Lemons

Lemon marmalade~Check

Lemon Marmalade Truffles~Check

Lemon Salt~Check

Lemon Olive Oil~Check

Endless Amounts of Lemonade~Check

I have a few lemon cake recipes that are a staple in my collection but I’m always on the look out for new ones that may come my way.  So when my friend Karen graciously shared some of her lemon cake with me last week, my eyes lit up.  And when she shared her recipe…well!! I then quickly picked some lemons and got started.

I was blown away with the tanginess and moistness of this cake.  I tweaked the recipe just a tiny bit…and I think if you like a strong lemon taste in cakes and baked goods, then you can’t go wrong with this one!

Meyer Lemon Cakes
Meyer Lemon Cakes

Ingredients

4oz butter
2oz sour cream
3 eggs
8oz sugar
8oz self raising flour
1tsp baking powder
about half a cup of lemon juice (according to taste)
zest of one lemon

Cream butter, sour cream  and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add eggs, one at a time.

Slowly add in flour, baking powder and salt. Then add lemon juice and zest of one lemon.

Butter and flour a pan of your choice and pour the batter in the pan. You can make into cupcakes or use a Bundt pan. I divided my batter into three five inch cake pans.

Place in a cold oven.  Set the oven to 350 degrees and bake for one hour if putting in a Bundt pan.  Check after 45 mins. Allow to cool for 10 minutes and turn out onto a cake platter.

Prepare Lemon Glaze
Prepare Lemon Glaze

Glaze

juice of a lemon
4oz sugar

In a small bowl, combine the juice of one lemon and ½ cup sugar.

While still warm, drizzle the cake with the lemon glaze and let cool.

Meyer Lemon Cake
Meyer Lemon Cake

Kevin just reminded me that the best way to use meyer lemons is squeezed into a glass of gin…Cin Cin Kevin!!

Our Wedding Song~My Best Girl

20 Years On
20 Years On

And since we’re on the subject of Anniversaries and Weddings and all that mushy stuff, I thought I’d share with you our Wedding Song.  Never fails to bring tears to my eyes.  Very Special Time and Very Special Memories!  To 20 Wonderful Years!