Tea’s the season!

So much to love about spring!  This week something monumental happened in our yard, like it does each year.  Small sprigs of mint appeared in my garden, amidst the lemon balm and those other gorgeous growing things, weeds.  But the mint- what a truly welcome and refreshing thing that is.   At our house, mint becomes something so much more.  Not only is it a great tea, or the taste of the South, it’s the smell of memories, life lessons, and home.  My mom has grown mint and made mint tea my whole life, or at least almost as long as I can remember.  Now I make it, and my children have grown to love it as well.  I regularly send one of the kids out to pick the mint, we’ll make tea, and before they go to bed the pitcher is gone.  Gone, in no time, just like Spring days with warm afternoons and chilly mornings, that fade into muggy summer nights.  Barefeet, lazy days, crickets chirping, lemonade stands… we make mint tea until Fall arrives and takes the mint.  Giving us a rest, until it grows again the next Spring, and we make mint tea once again.

“Tea’s the season” to enjoy it, and I hope you’ll try the recipe below.  It’s the simple things, that are often the best things about food and life, so enjoy!

Sweet Mint Tea

8 cups water

2 family size Lipton tea bags

3 sprigs of fresh mint, about 3-4inches long

about 3/4 cup sugar, adjust to your preference

Bring water almost to a boil in a teapot.  During this time, place the tea bags and mint in your tea pitcher.  I like to crush the mint a little in my palms to release some of the fragrance and oils.  When water is ready, pour it over tea bags in your tea pitcher and let steep several minutes.  Remove tea bags and mint, being sure to squeeze the liquid out of the mint.  Add sugar and stir into tea while hot, chill and serve over ice.  Enjoy!

Food for Thought…

Many people in this world collect things.  For me, it seems I have unintentionally collected cookbooks since I was in my early college years!   I love them, and pour over a new cookbook for days.  Although I don’t often use cookbooks for a recipe unless it is baking related, I reference cooking times and various things in my cookbooks all the time.  They are a great inspiration for me, and I consider them among my most special posessions.

When I travel places I try to purchase a cookbook significant to that area.  Sometimes I even remember to write something inside the cover about the year, trip, or who I was with.  A lot of times I have chosen Junior League cookbooks as they seem to reflect passed down recipes from the area.  When travelling to other countries I find the small, spiral bound local ones are the best.  It is like a neat culinary journal of my life and travels.  My cookbooks are also a place where I tuck in sentimental things.  Notes from my children, a card from my dad,  a tag from a special gift at the Holidays, an annniversary card from my husband…different things can be found and I never know what will fall out.  For me, it is a neat way to remember these things from time to time, and I randomly put things in various cookbooks.

Of course, I have my favorites and a handful of books I seem to choose more than others.  However, I often pick out a “cookbook of the week” to use for new inspiration, and I thought I would share this idea.  I hear from people quite often who seem to run out of dinner ideas, or say they cook the same things again and again.  If you’re one of these people, I hope you will find new inspiration from your cookbooks.  Recently I featured a French menu from Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook “Around My French Table”, which is a great cookbook that makes French food less daunting to any level cook.  At Easter I adapted a recipe from “Simply Montana”, purchased in my younger days when I lived in Bozeman, MT, for my Lemon Sour Cream Muffins.

This week I have chosen the cookbook “Sea Island Seasons”.  In looking inside the front cover, I purchased this on my first trip to Beaufort, SC, in 1997, where my mother in law still lives.  It was published by the Beaufort County Open Land Trust, and it is the only cookbook I know of that has a chapter of recipes titled “Men”.  In this chapter all the recipes were contributed by men, including one from Strom Thurmond for Pecan Pie.

I hope you might find some new inspiration in any of the books I have mentioned, and hopefully you will go to your own collection and find an old friend in them again.  If not, there are always Wednesday Dinner Pick Up’s to count on!

Enjoy the best of food and life…and this week may you find it in a cookbook.

Part of my collection!

Part of my collection!

Perks of the Job…

Taste testing is a great perk of the job.  For me, it is a fun way to try out new ideas, try new ingredients, and many other things.  This past week I had a nice evening at home grilling dinner, and thought I would share the recipes, ideas and pictures of what I did for this light and healthy meal.  The ingredients are simple and easy, making a busy weeknight dinner a snap!  When I made this it was late evening after the kids had sports, and they played outside while  I grilled.  We all enjoyed the gorgeous weather, and then a nice meal together.   The Pomegranate Gimlet I sipped while I cooked wasn’t bad either.  I hope you enjoy.

Spring Time Dinner on the Grill…

Grilled Pesto Encrusted Turkey Tenderloins

Grilled Asparagus Tips with Blistered Grape Tomatoes & Goat Cheese

Pomegranate Gimlet

Grilled Asparagus & Grape Tomatoes

Grilled Pesto Turkey Tenderloins

Pesto Encrusted Turkey Tenderloins:

1 package of two turkey tenderloins (I tried the ones from Trader Joe’s)

1 cup homemade, or store bought, pesto

At least a day before grilling, generously rub pesto all over your turkey tenderloins.  Place in a ziploc bag and let sit, occasionally turning over.   Heat grill to 400 degrees, place tenderloins on grill, if possible not directly above the flames.  Close cover and grill ten minutes.  Open grill, and rotate tenderloins.  Continue this process about thirty minutes, depending on size of tenderloins, until meat is cooked through.  Turn gently so the pesto crust doesn’t fall off!  Let sit about 10 minutes, then slice thinly, and enjoy!  It is very similar to pork tenderloin.

Grilled Asparagus Tips with Blistered Grape Tomatoes & Goat Cheese

Take one bunch of fresh spring asparagus and wash, then trim into about 1 inch pieces.  Set aside to dry.  Rinse grape tomatoes.  Place both in a grill basket, sprinkle with salt & pepper, and grill directly over high heat until asparagus begins to show brown grill marks.  Shake grill basket to move vegetables around.  The tomatoes will begin to blister and skins will split.  Remove from grill to a serving bowl, sprinkle with goat cheese crumbles, and cover with saran wrap.  Let sit a few minutes for cheese to soften, then serve with a drizzle of olive oil over the top.

Pomegranate Gimlet…makes 1 nice drink

Juice 2-3 limes.   I like a lot of fresh lime juice, so I use about 3 juicy limes.  Add your lime juice to a cocktail glass filled with ice and your preferred portion of good gin.  (A good cocktail should be made by starting with ice, then adding your liquor over that, then your mixer.)  In small seperate bowl, place about 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds, and, using a muddler, extract juice.  (I bought the pomegranate seeds from Trader Joe’s produce section, you can get them alreaedy seeded!)  Add pomegranate juice to cocktail and let run through, sip and enjoy while you grill!  If you need a little sweetness, you can easily and quickly make simple syrup.  I often make simple syrup and keep it on hand for lemonade, orangeade, and cocktails so it is ready!

Spring has almost Sprung!

spring peas

With each new season, an excitement fills my kitchen that I find hard to describe.  I love it!  Different seasonal ingredients, new dishes, different cravings, and new ideas pour in.  For me, and many like me, it is such a joy to savor the seasonal produce and foods around us.

Year round, and especially in the spring and summer, I find a lot of joy in shopping at our area Farmers Markets.  I am lucky to say this has always been a part of my life.  Growing up, many Saturdays started with trips to the Dixie Classic Fair Farmers Market.  I truly believe this has helped ‘shape’ my interest in food and cooking.  Today, I still go there regularly, and even see some of the vendors that have been there for over 30 years!  We are so lucky to have many other markets in Winston now, such as the Krankie’s Coffee Market on Third, Old Salem Cobblestone Market, and Reynolda Village Market on Fridays, to name a few.  I hope you will get out there and support them this season.  If you find these markets daunting, let me know and I will meet you there, gladly.  I welcome this recent food boom, and all the good they do for our community, farmers, and the benefits we, as consumers, derive from the fresh, whole food!

As the markets abound with seasonal spring goodies, I will offer a Farmers Market Special over the next several months.  From pasta dishes with spring produce, soups, and seasonal favorites like my Vidalia Onion & Pimiento Cheese Pies, I look forward to perhaps introducing you to some new items.  I hope you will test your taste buds with me!  Be sure you follow my blog or like my FB page so you will know when and what is being offered.

So, water your new grass seed, get your market bag out, and get your garden space ready, it is going to be a beautiful spring!