My Prolific Vegetable Garden

And you know what? I never even bothered planting or watering these. Curious?
Well then, get yourself some marzipan and I'll show you how to grow your own vegetable garden, the lazy-ass way.

I find that kids, especially, love these vegetables ... and I can't help but wonder WHY a child who has absolutely no qualms diving into a bowl of Krap Macaroni and Cheese, or Dirt Cake with gummy worms, will gag at the mere sight of fresh vegetables. Any parents out there who could shed some light on this phenomenon?

Incidentally, I'm not talking about my kids, of course. My kids are perfect. I just wondered.

My inspiration for these bushels of vegetables came from a local farmer's market. Seeing the wide array of summer vegetables, compelled me to recreate some of them in sugar.
I started out with Chocolate Zucchini Cupcakes. Of course, you could use your favorite cupcake recipe. The domes on the cupcakes were sliced off, then they were turned upside down and iced with chocolate buttercream.

Once the icing set, I laid strips of fondant over the cupcake to resemble a bushel. I also rolled out a circle of fondant to cover the bottom of all the cupcakes to give it a clean, finished look.

Once the fondant had set up and was firm enough to handle I turned the cupcakes right side up. Iced the top of the "bushels" with chocolate buttercream and decorated them by placing the marzipan tomatoes and corn on top.

The tomatoes were made by rolling out tiny balls of marzipan. Tomatoes aren't all the exact same size or shape in nature, so yours shouldn't be either. If you need inspiration, my advice for you is to study a real tomato, or any other vegetable, and copy it. Try to copy the real thing, whenever possible.

Gumpaste tools were used to make the indentations in the tomatoes, but if you don't own any of these tools, the dull side of an x-acto knife or even a wooden skewer will achieve the same effect.

The ears of corn are also very simple to make. Because these were so small, I had to come up with a way to make the job faster, and results more realistic than individually rolling lilliputian balls of marzipan into tiny kernels of corn.

If you have that much time on your hands, by all means, knock yourself out. But know this, I'll hate you. I don't have that much time to play, so I'll stick with my own technique.

I digress. Run to your local fabric store and buy a piece of Nylon Netting. Not Bridal Tulle.
Nylon Netting is different from Bridal Tulle. Why? Well, because they're spelled differently for one thing, but that's not the reason why. The latter is much too fine, and will not give you the look you're after.
Nylon netting, on the other hand, has wider holes, which, once wrapped around a cone of marzipan (that's been dusted with confectioner's sugar or cornstarch) and pressed against a bench scraper (see picture below), will result in perfect little ears of corn. Saving you one major headache. No need to thank me.

Once all your "produce" is done, set them aside to dry for about 30 minutes, or longer, depending on their size.
To give a slight shine to the tomatoes and corn, I combined 3 parts corn syrup with 1 part water. Using an artist's brush (avoid cheap, craft brushes as they shed horribly, and you'll end up with hairy vegetables - not very appetizing) brush the corn syrup mixture over all your vegetables, but avoid brushing the bottoms, or they'll stick. Set aside to dry. You could make your vegetables or fruits in advance and store, covered, in a cool place for several weeks.

The Terra Cotta pot is just as simple to make. Roll a 1" ball of fondant or gumpaste (which has been tinted with tiny amounts of yellow, red, and an even tinier amount of brown gel or paste food coloring. Or, if you can find terra cotta paste food coloring, you'll spare yourself the hassle of color-mixing. Mold fondant into the shape of a thimble. Cut a thin strip of fondant and attach to the rim of the pot with a little water (or the corn syrup mixture I recommended above). Make the sunflowers using a tiny flower cutter. Add the centers and glue on top of the pot. Set the whole thing aside to dry.

Enjoy. I'd also like to add that by the time you read this, I will be on my way to a much-needed vacation. But if you have any questions or comments regarding this entry, please post them. I will reply as soon as I get back. See you all soon.


What Puts the "Ape" in Apricot?


This tiny fruit with the BIG attitude is a nutritional powerhouse of vitamins A and C, iron, potassium ... and so on, and so forth.

But is that really the reason why so many of us love them? Of course not.
I mean, celery also contains a powerhouse of nutrients, but when was the last time you saw anybody jump up and down for joy over a celery stick?

Which reminds me ... I want the name of the freak-show who created "Ants on a Log?" How can such a title possibly appeal to most kids' finicky appetites?

"Oh children, those of you who want "Ants on a Log," raise your hand!"

"Oh yeth ma'am. And may I have that with a side of Wood-Rotting Fungi, pleath?"

Forgive me for going off on a tangent, yet again. But, did you know that dreaming of apricots may bring you misfortune and sorrow? And that dreaming of eating apricots signifies calamitous influences?
Did you also know that you should never believe everything you read?

Eschew their silly interpretation, and start savoring apricot after juicy apricot while they're in season, which incidentally, is from May through August.
Have you already had your fill of fresh apricots and still have some leftover? Then why not extend their life, and consider transforming them into a deliciously-golden apricot compote?

For this recipe you could use dried apricots, but take advantage of the abundance of fresh apricots at your local market, and make enough to carry you through the cold winter months. You could also share them with family and friends. Kidding! Let'em get their own. ;-)

Spread this compote on your breakfast toast, pancakes, ice cream, crepes, or stand over the kitchen sink, grab a spoon and dig in. Who's to know? This meeting is adjourned.

Apricot Compote

4 cups pitted apricots
1 cup sugar
juice of ½ lemon

Combine apricots, sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and macerate overnight. Transfer the mixture to a saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer the apricots until soft, about 5 minutes.
Strain the apricots, returning the liquid to the pan. Reserve the apricots. Simmer the liquid until it is reduced to a syrup. Then add the apricots. Allow the compote to cool before serving. Adapted from Craft of Cooking, by Tom Colicchio.

For longer storage, pour compote into sterilized jars and process the jars in a boiling-water bath according to the manufacturer's directions, generally about 10 minutes. Refrigerate after opening.


Care for a wafer-thin mint ... please?

Vampires won't stand a chance with this offering. Lemon Garlic Chicken is a dish I've been making for quite a few years -and just between us- I often sneak in a few extra garlic cloves.

"Uhh, twenty five garlic cloves isn't enough already, dear?" argues a meddling little voice inside my head.

But then, there's that other voice that shouts louder, jumping up and down in agitation, and making a real nuisance of itself:
"Oh puhleeze! Twenty-five garlic cloves is for amateurs. C'mon, it's you and me babe. Let's stink together!"

Naturally, the loudest voice always wins.

I especially love the garlic in this dish because roasting them in the olive oil and fresh herbs makes them delightfully flavorful and far less pungent. Even my ultra-finicky son once said: "Mom, this is good - I think you're a 'musician' (magician)." Well, at least, the boy knows what he likes.

This dish will make you sing, and recipients will pay obeisance to you, the chef. And yes, you may have to lay low from the rest of the world for a couple of days, but trust me, it's a small price to pay.

By the way, I recommend the use of fresh herbs in this dish -if you have access to them- and use a combination of your favorites. This is one of those dishes that encourages latitude in cooking, so don't be afraid to be creative and enjoy.

Lemon Garlic Chicken

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, parsley, sweet basil and/or oregano
S & P to taste
1 3½ pound fryer chicken, cut up
25 garlic cloves
¾ cup chicken broth

In a small bowl, stir to combine, the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, ¼ cup of the herbs, and salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 425ºF. Arrange the chicken pieces in a roasting pan, and pour the lemon-herb mixture over. Arrange the garlic cloves all around the chicken, stirring them to coat with the mixture. Roast for about 45 minutes, or until the chicken pieces are golden brown.

Remove the chicken from the oven. Add the broth to the pan and place on top of the stove over medium-high heat. Stir to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, while smooshing the soft, roasted garlic with a fork to thicken the sauce. I like to transfer the chicken to a platter, pour the sauce over the chicken and then, garnish with the remaining 2 tablespoons of herbs and lemon wedges.


Did you miss me?

I have resurrected amid a few power outages, and I'm telling you those were the longest 47 minutes of my life! But that's what I get for having moved out to Green Acres. Anyway, I'm glad to be back, and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Farida from Farida's Azerbaijani Cookbook for honoring me with a: You Make My Day Award. Thank you pal. I'm gushing like a teenager!

I've also been tagged by Bunny's Warm Oven and Just the Right Size. Thank you both. So, here are those pesky rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on the blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post.
5. Let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Disclaimer: The following contains information which may be unsuitable for overly-sensitive persons with low self-esteem, and no sense of humor. If you find anything offensive or politically incorrect, it is purely a product of your own imagination.

Six tidbits you didn't know about me:

1. I love dogs and cats equally.

2. I was the lead singer in an all-girl rock band at the ripe old age of 13. The pinnacle of our "career" came when we were asked to perform at a children's hospital. The experience left an indelible mark on my mind and heart.

3. I'm arachnophobic. Given the choice, I'd rather have bird shit kamikaze toward my face than have a spider crawling on it.

4. At a family gathering once, my daughter sang In the Arms of an Angel by Sarah McLachlan. To this day, that song makes me cry like a baby.

5. I've mastered the Stop. Drop. and Roll technique whenever Jehova's witnesses come knocking on my door.

6. I had a pet chicken once. Weird but True.

Now it's my turn to tag:

M - Cooking my Life
Patricia - Technicolor Kitchen
Joey - The Village Voice
Andrea - Andrea's Recipes
Happy Grub - Happy Grub
Chuck - The Knead for Bread