Cumin-Grilled Salmon with Kiwi Salsa

Here's a tasty recipe for your Wednesday evening enjoyment. It's from Natural Solutions, one of my favorite magazines for recipes and health and wellness info. The recipe is called Cumin-Grilled Salmon with Kiwi Salsa, in case you didn't already figure that out from the title of this post.

Besides the fact it looks good and tastes even better, this recipe is touted as an "easy recipe for ageless beauty." If that doesn't motivate you to fire up the grill or the broiler, I don't know what will.

In a small bowl, mix 4 kiwifruit, peeled and chopped; 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion; 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro; 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice; and 1 teaspoon honey. Cover and set aside.

Rinse 4 (6-ounce) wild-caught salmon filets (about 1-inch thick and skinned) and pat them dry. In a small bowl, mix 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 2 teaspoons olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Rub the mix over the salmon and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat an outdoor grill to medium heat or set your oven to high broil (I did the latter, as I leave all grilling duties to Conservative Hubby because it's his grill). Place the salmon on a grill rack and cook 6 to 8 minutes per side, turning carefully; or place in a grill pan 4 to 6 inches from your oven's heat source and broil for 10 minutes.

Spoon salsa over warm fish and serve, preferably with a side of steamed asparagus and some nice rice pilaf.


Trouble in Milwaukee

As I mentioned when I introduced you to the lovely little Norah the other day, when the girls took over Milwaukee for the weekend we got into a bit of trouble.

You see, we decided to head downtown for an afternoon at the Summerfest grounds, even though we didn't hit the city on the right weekend to actually attend Summerfest. Instead, we hit up Polish Fest.

We figured it was a good substitution for a big music festival. Besides, when we get together we're all about food anyway, and you know there's going to be good food at a Polish festival.

Especially a Polish festival in Wisconsin.

That's why we began our exploration with cheese. Fried cheese, to be exact. One of my all-time favorite festival foods.

Next we decided to cool off with a nice lemonade with vodka. Of course we drank vodka, silly. Need I remind you where we were already?

Then it was on to some serious Polish food. A few of us went for the works, which included pierogis, potato pancakes, cabbage rolls, and kielbasa with sauerkraut. It was heavenly. I don't think I have any polish blood in me, but I'd be happy to pretend I did if it meant I could eat this sort of fare on occasion.

After we were sufficiently stuffed, we decided it was time to work off some of those Polish Fest calories. This was accomplished by watching other people dance.

But then, just as we were leaving, our lack of polka-ing got us in serious trouble. Big trouble. Huge.

That was when we got stopped by the Polka Police.

You do not want to mess with the Polka Police. They are serious. Very serious.

See? I told you that you wouldn't want to mess with them. This fine officer of the law even made us—gasp!—dance the polka before we could leave.

Somehow, even after eating way too many pierogis, we managed to kick up our heels and dance well enough that the Polka Police allowed us to leave.

Whew. Disaster narrowly averted. We learned a very important lesson at the festival, which I would like to share with you now:

Please don't ever forget it.


Garden Update

The first year we lived in our little brick ranch house, I went a little crazy planting vegetables in pots. Then a bit of bush removal allowed me to plant a tiny late-season garden in the front yard, with mixed lettuce, zucchini, Roma tomatoes, and cantaloupe that grew about the size of my fist and then decided to quit.

Last year, Conservative Boy thwarted my front-yard gardening by planting grass over my vegetable patch, so I took my passion for vegetables down the street to Conservative Parents' backyard instead.

The site ended up being shadier than we realized, and it was a bad tomato year to boot. Still, it satisfied my garden cravings.

Then this year, I decided to heck with all the patchy grass C.B. planted in the front yard. I wanted my vegetable garden back. So I dug up all the grass while he was golfing and decided to load up my little patch.

There are a few bean and pea plants that I may have planted too late. Four tomato plants.

Two pepper plants.

An eggplant plant.

A smattering of marigolds and lettuces. Two little ever-bearing strawberry plants that have yielded a whopping two strawberries. Radishes.

Zucchini. And a cucumber plant that was supposed to be tiny and contained but instead is taking over every spare inch of space.

Not bad for a little last-minute front-yard garden, eh?


Puggle Love

Meet Norah.

Norah is a puggle puppy who belongs to my dear friend, Mrs. M, and her hubby, Mr. M (who happens to be a stellar photographer). They all live in Milwaukee, which is where a group of my beautiful best friends from college descended recently for a girls' weekend.

In between eating way too much and hanging out by the pool and watching old episodes of Sex and the City and getting into a bit of trouble (more on that later), Norah commanded our attention.

How could she not? She runs hot laps to rival Butter's, knows tricks that you wouldn't believe, and generally makes people swoon when she gazes at them with her big eyes.

Is it any wonder that I was thisclose to scooping her up, tucking her into my purse, and bringing home a friend for Butter?

But I couldn't do that to my gracious hosts, so I will just have to make a return visit to Milwaukee to see her again soon.

(Or perhaps she can come to L-Town? And bring her parents with her? Hint hint ...)


A Day in Butter's Life

The other day on our evening walk, some of the neighborhood kids stopped Butter and I so they could pet him. They love Butter and will shout his name even if we're a few blocks away when they see him. They can't ever remember my name, but that's OK. I'm not four-legged and furry.

On this particular evening, after the kids grew tired of petting Butter and getting licked in return, they raised a serious concern with me.

"How come Butter never gets to go outside?" one of them asked.

Never mind the fact that we were outside on a walk when we saw them.

What they meant, I learned, was that whenever they passed by our house, Butter was always sitting as his window, staring outside.

To them, this meant he was cooped up and longing to get out and play.

I assured them that Butter was not neglected in any way and that he actually gets lots of time outside.

In fact, all he has to do is ask (which, despite his lack of verbal abilities, he's quite skilled at) and we'll put him outside on his chain. He can stay out there as long as he likes, and he often takes advantage of the opportunity to chase rabbits and squirrels, sniff around, get tangled in the bushes, relax in the sun, and, of course, guard my flowers.

Lately, he's also ventured into the front yard—sans chain—with me while I work in the garden or water the plants. This is particularly enjoyable for him because he has new places to sniff, can watch traffic, and even gets some time in the neighbors' yards until he gets caught. (Apparently, without an invisible fence, dogs aren't too concerned about property lines.)

Then, of course, there are Butter's daily walks or runs.

And even when Butter is inside, it's not like he's bored. He has a busy agenda.

There are lots of naps to be taken.

And here and there, a little play time with favorite toy.

He has to follow me around and lick up spills on the kitchen floor.

There are hot laps to run around the couch.

And, of course, he has to spend time at his window. Not because he's feeling woefully neglected and is yearning for fresh air, but just because it's his favorite spot to sit and keep an eye on things.

Besides, if he didn't sit in the window, where would the neighbors find him to wave at him?

Then, at the end of a long, busy day, Butter likes to retreat to the basement. Couch time with Conservative Hubby and I is a favorite part of his day, and he'll often take off down the stairs anytime we get near the kitchen in the evening because he thinks it must be TV time.

On the weekends, however, he doesn't spend as much time on the couch as he does at another key spot in the basement: the bar. Even a busy guy like Butter has time for good beer and good friends.

Every dog should be so lucky.


Strawberry Pie Success

Last summer the Conservative Family strawberry pie recipe—one that has been passed down through at least four generations—was one of my epic cooking failures.

It was strawberry soup with a side of crust.

But after I snagged some lovely strawberries at Saturday's farmer's market, I decided it was time to redeem myself.

And I did.

I know you probably didn't believe me last year when I blamed the failure on the cornstarch, but it really was the culprit. I swear.

Armed with a new container of cornstarch, I achieved strawberry pie success.

(Although I have to admit, I still had a blender explosion. When am I going to learn that hot liquids and blenders do not mix?)

Still, the end result was a success.

Yesss. And yummm.


Rhubarb Crisp

Since our first batch of homemade ice cream turned out to be a success (and subsequent batches even more so), my recipe brainstorming has revolved around what might complement a scoop of vanilla.

First on the list: rhubarb crisp.

Now, I know roughly half of you are smacking your lips in anticipation and the other half are cringing.

I know this not because I'm omniscient (although occasionally I like to pretend I am). I'm just making an educated guess that this is the case, based on reactions to my previous posts on strawberry-rhubarb pie.

There are those who swoon for springtime rhubarb recipes. There are those who can handle a bit of rhubarb if it's accompanied by something delicious like strawberries. There are those who have had traumatic experiences with rhubarb that have turned them off to it for life (ask Conservative Mom about the stewed rhubarb she used to have to eat for school lunch, and you'll understand what I mean). And then there are those who refuse to give rhubarb a chance because if so many people don't like it, then it must not be good. (I may or may not live with a fellow who has this mindset.)

I actually fell in the last category myself until Conservative Dad requested strawberry-rhubarb pie a few years ago. I'm such a pie lover, I had to give it a try, rhubarb and all. And I discovered when paired with strawberries and sugar and a nice crust, rhubarb wasn't half bad. In fact, it was pretty good.

But until I made rhubarb crisp, I'd never had anything where rhubarb took the leading role all by itself.

The verdict?

I don't care what you naysayers might think. Rhubarb is good. Maybe not stewed. Maybe not unless accompanied by plenty of sugar. But as a crisp with a nice scoop of homemade vanilla? It's the perfect touch of tart to an otherwise sweet affair.

Sign me up for seconds.

And thirds.

OK, yes, I ate fourths too.

The recipe for rhubarb crisp is easy as can be. It comes courtesy of a good friend and his lovely mother. (Those of you who read the comments section on the blog may discover this recipe looks awfully familiar, as that's where it first appeared.)

All you do is combine 3 cups chopped rhubarb with 1 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons flour in a greased 8x8 pan.

For the incredibly important topping, combine (but don't over-combine) 3/4 cup brown sugar, 3/4 oatmeal, 3/4 flour, and 1/2 cup butter.

Sprinkle the topping over the rhubarb mixture and bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.

Serve warm with the aforementioned ice cream. And put your silly notions about rhubarb aside already.


The Backyard Garden

The little perennial garden I started last year in the backyard isn't nearly as lovely as the one in the front yard.

It has had a few growing pains and could still use a little work, yet slowly but surely the plants are growing and flowering and making our back patio one of my favorite places to work in the morning when it's cool and even in the afternoon when I don't mind a little heat.

Once I situated a couple of small fences so Butter couldn't use the new garden as his personal bathroom, he's taken ownership of the site. He regularly watches over it to ensure there aren't any intruders.

Usually there aren't. But you never know. In Butter's world, you can never be too cautious.

The newest additions to this garden are the two zinnia plants I added last week. They were a bit of a splurge, because I was dying for some more vibrant color and wanted a few plants for cutting flowers.

The old standbys are doing pretty well too. The first of the coneflowers are slowly blooming.

The Asiatic lilies and daylilies are in their prime right now.

And whatever this plant is (I can't recall and need to do some research), it's flowering too. I have mixed feelings about it, as it's not nearly as lovely as I expected. But I'm working through my issues.

Besides, variety is supposed to be the spice of life, isn't it?


Homemade Ice Cream

I'd like to admit something.

We have a lot of kitchen electronics. Probably more than any couple needs to have. But we also regularly use all of the kitchen electronics we have.

Conservative Hubby uses the toaster-egg sandwich maker every single morning without fail.

The coffee pot is very necessary each morning as well. Yes, we occasionally use the Toddy instead. And we could swap the coffee pot for a coffee press, which I've contemplated doing a number of times. But when you work at home and linger over a couple of cups of coffee throughout the morning, it's so nice to have it hot and ready.

The beautiful silver KitchenAid mixer, also on the counter, hasn't been used in a couple of weeks. But on average I've used it at least once (and often many more times than that) every week since it arrived on our doorstep.

We also have a blender, which I currently use every single morning for a post-workout smoothie.

And a food processor, which I've employed sporadically but plan to call into action more often now that it's pesto-making season.

There's the waffle maker, which admittedly we probably could do without. But it's one of those handy items worth keeping around for a lazy Sunday waffle-making spree.

And then there's one of our newest additions: our Cuisinart frozen yogurt and ice cream maker, a wedding gift from one of my brilliant, beautiful best friends and her musician-journalist honey.

Since we received this treasure, it has been sitting quietly in cupboard alongside the blender and food processor, waiting for its time to shine.

That time came last week, when I pulled it out and studied the instructions and made our first batch of homemade vanilla ice cream.

Goodness it was easy. Goodness it was good.

All you do is place the bowl of the ice cream maker in the freezer for at least 6 hours. It can stay in there as long as you like, and I've found the longer it stays in the freezer the better the ice cream turns out.

Once you're ready to make the ice cream, you blend heavy cream and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Then stir in whole milk and a bit of vanilla.

Then you place the bowl in the mixer, start it a-spinning, and pour the ingredients into the spout.

Let it do its thing for 25 minutes or so and, like magic, you have homemade ice cream.

No salt required. No cranking required.

Sometimes, modernity is a thing of beauty.

(Especially when accompanied by homemade hot fudge sauce.)

Butter thinks so too, even when this adorable face doesn't win him a single bite.