lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

Refrigerator Pickled Beets

Every year I grow beets and every year I still end up with more than we can eat.  I love them roasted on the grill or in the oven, or shredded and made into my beet and carrot slaw. I saute the greens up, similar to how I make quick and easy Swiss chard, and often just toss them raw – both the greens and julienned beets – into salads.

But, whenever they get the best of me and I find my crisper drawer overflowing, I preserve my beets by quick pickling them and sticking them back in the fridge.

lola rugula easy pickled beets recipe

This is such an easy way to preserve them without the trouble of canning them. We eat these as an accompaniment to knockwurst and sauerkraut (here’s my homemade sauerkraut recipe) or add some to our side salads. They also look great on an appetizer tray, served alongside other pickled vegetables.

Now, I know a lot of recipes call for all kinds of spices and such, which you’re welcome to add if that’s how you like yours. I just like mine clean and simple; bright and tart, without too much fuss.

lola rugula easy refrigerated pickled beets recipe

This is a small batch recipe, as I’ve learned to just pickle them as they begin to overwhelm me. This recipe barely fills a quart Ball or canning jar, but it’s what works for me.

I grow a combination of Detroit Red and Rainbow beets and they all work great in this recipe. They mostly all end up red by the end of this, so use whatever beets you have on hand.

lola rugula pickled beets small batch recipe

easy refrigerated pickled beets recipe

  • 1 1/2 – 2 lbs. cleaned and peeled beets, diced or sliced
  • 1 cup sliced red onion (optional – omit if you hate onions)
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar

Place beets in a medium saucepan and cover well with water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook beets just until fork-tender, about 15-17 minutes. Drain and spoon into a quart Bell jar or glass dish with tight-fitting lid, layering in the raw onion slices as you go.

While the beets are still cooking, add vinegar, salt, and sugar to another saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir until salt and sugar are dissolved. Pour hot brine over beets and onions and seal with a lid. Let cool at room temperature. If you’re using a canning jar, you’ll likely hear the lid “pop” as the steam escapes and the lid seals tight.

Refrigerate until ready to eat. I’ve kept these for many weeks with no problems, as the combination of salt, vinegar, and refrigeration all help in preserving them.

lola rugula refrigerator pickled beets recipe

To me, these are a treat right out of the jar, when I’m looking for something quick to nibble on. Of course, when you’ve finished the beets, you can throw a couple of boiled eggs into the brine and make beautiful pickled beet eggs. Equally delicious in my opinion and also perfect for an appetizer tray.

If you try these, give me a shout and let me know your thoughts. Also, if you have another pickled veggie you enjoy, I’d love to hear about it.

Enjoy!

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

Fennel, Tomato and Cucumber Salad

If you follow my blog on Facebook, you may have seen me share a photo of this salad recently. This is a salad that celebrates summer veggies. It’s cool, crisp, colorful and, of course, delicious. It seems almost too simple of a recipe to post but I sometimes get asked what to do with fennel and this is seriously one of my easiest suggestions.  People often pick up fennel at a farmer’s market or receive it in a CSA box and wonder what the heck to do with it.  Recipes don’t have to be complicated and, if you’re not a regular home cook, I know you don’t want them to be. This is a great way to introduce yourself to fennel while enjoying other summer veggie delights. Roasted fennel is also divine – try throwing some on the grill or pan roasting it, to really intensify its flavor.

I’ve been growing fennel the last couple of years and I think it’s a great addition to a home vegetable garden. It’s not susceptible to disease or bugs and, if you can keep the groundhogs from chewing off the tops (true story last year), not much bothers it, at least in my case.I do tend to pick it while it’s young, which yields a very tender and crisp fennel. It also helps thin out my patch of it, as I inevitably plant them too close together every year.

The tomatoes and cucumbers pictured here are also from our garden. The tomatoes are Black Vernissage heirloom from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, one of my favorite places to buy seeds. They’re gorgeous little 3-inch tomatoes packed with flavor.  The cucumbers are a pickling variety, which is all I typically grow, but any type of cucumber will work here.

lola rugula fennel tomato and cucumber salad

This isn’t so much as a recipe as a salad suggestion. You can increase or lessen the quantities of any of the ingredients to suit your tastes.

lola rugula fennel and tomato salad recipe

fennel, tomato, and cucumber salad

  • Fresh fennel, sliced
  • Tomatoes, diced
  • Cucumbers, sliced or diced
  • Red onion, thinly sliced
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive Oil
  • Rice vinegar, unseasoned

Add your vegetables to a bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle olive oil and rice vinegar over, toss and serve.

Easy, right? That’s what I love!

I prefer to use rice vinegar on this because it has a very light flavor, but it’s also good with red or white wine vinegar and even white balsamic vinegar. I use the unseasoned variety of rice vinegar but if you like a little sweetness, use seasoned rice vinegar and omit adding any additional salt.

You want just a hint of oil and vinegar on this, to really let the flavors of your veggies shine through.

lola rugula tomato fennel and cucumber salad recipe

Isn’t it beautiful? This salad screams summertime.  Fennel is easy to find now in most supermarkets and farmers markets so, even if you’re not a home gardener, you shouldn’t have any problem getting some.

Variations: thinly sliced sweet yellow, orange or red peppers work great with this. If you prefer, you can also serve it on a bed of greens. A little fresh parsley, basil or mint also change this up a bit, as does a little thinly sliced summer squash.

Don’t be afraid to play with your food! Enjoy!

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

charred shishito peppers

If you’re a home gardener, shishito peppers are an easy-to-grow, heavily-producing plant that bears fruit earlier than a lot of other types of peppers. These peppers are fast growers too; two plants easily produce about 10-20 peppers every week or so during peak growing season.

Because these aren’t easy plants to find, I start seeds indoors, typically in mid-February. This gives me about a 6-inch plant to put into the ground come early May, which jump starts the growing season here in zone 5 Northern Illinois.

If you’re not much into growing your own peppers but lucky enough to come across these delights at your grocery store or farmer’s market, I suggest you scoop some up. These are mild peppers packed with great flavor. People will tell you that every so many of these peppers are hot and that’s true but “hot” here is not anywhere near a jalapeno. Yes, some peppers have more heat than others but it’s not anywhere near an unbearable or uncomfortable heat, at least in my experience.

lola rugula how to grow shishito peppers

One of the easiest and most typical ways to cook these peppers is to roast them or char them with a drizzle of oil and some coarse kosher or sea salt.  This method brings out their flavor and makes it easy to eat a couple of handfuls in one sitting.

You can accomplish cooking them this way in a number of ways, via a hot grill, a hot, heavy skillet or under a broiler. All you’re looking to do is char the skins a bit and give them a beautiful roasted flavor. If your peppers are large enough, you can actually place them directly on the grill, just keep a close eye on them. You can char them a little or you can char them a lot but, either way, I think you’ll like the end result.

lola rugula charred shishito peppers (2)

All you need to make these are:

  • Shishito peppers
  • Olive oil
  • Coarse kosher or sea salt

When I cook these on the grill, I toss them in a small pan or sheet of foil with the olive oil and salt and spread out into a single layer. Place the pan on a preheated grill and cook for about 7-10 minutes, tossing them around occasionally, until they’re browned a bit on all sides. Use this same method if cooking under a broiler.

lola rugula grilled shishito peppers

To cook them on the stovetop, heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes. Add oil and heat the oil for a minute or so – do not let the oil become smoking hot.

Add peppers in a single layer and let brown slightly on one side then, using a pair of tongs, flip them over and let brown on the other side.

lola rugula how to cook shishito peppers

These are perfect for cookouts and parties and are always a huge hit. The bonus is that there isn’t a simpler dish to make.

To really kick them up a notch, toss in some minced garlic and shallots before cooking; I promise you won’t be disappointed.

If you’ve ever seen these and wondered how to cook shishito peppers, now you know how easy it is. Now get out there and enjoy your summer while it lasts.

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

asparagus frittata

I have to confess I’ve been on a bit of a frittata kick lately. I mean really, what’s not to love about something that’s so easy to make and that you can pack full of all the veggies you love?

Asparagus is growing rampant in our garden right now; it’s seriously one of the best gardening investments that I’ve ever made. It comes back in full force year after year, it’s really nutritious and, of course, it goes great with eggs. So, needless to say, asparagus frittata has been on our menu more than a few times in the last few weeks. So far, my husband isn’t complaining.

lola rugula asparagus frittata recipe

asparagus frittata recipe

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil (or butter)
  • 2 cups diced asparagus
  • 3 scallions, sliced
  • 8 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup cottage cheese
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheese – I used an Italian blend for this mix which consisted of mozzarella, provolone, parmesan and asiago
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 375

Over medium-high heat, heat olive oil in10-inch ceramic or other non-stick skillet.

Add asparagus and scallions and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The asparagus should still have a bit of a “bite” to it when adding the egg mixture.

While the asparagus is cooking put the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together until well-blended and frothy.

Add the egg mixture to the asparagus mixture and place in a preheated. Cook for about 18-20 minutes. When done, the center will have puffed up a bit and the edges will be just starting to turn golden. Remove from the oven, let sit 5 minutes, slice and serve.

lola rugula asparagus and scallion frittata recipe

I love a good frittata – it’s a wonderful meatless Monday dish, especially if you serve it with a mixed green salad on the side.

If you’re not a fan of asparagus, feel free to substitute your favorite veggie (or veggies) because trust me, this is great with broccoli, broccolini, sweet peppers, zucchini…use your imagination and play with your food a bit.

Enjoy!

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

green garlic meatballs

One of my favorite spring garden treats is young, tender green garlic. I always pull up some of it to enjoy – I add it to rubs, sauces, salads and more. Green garlic has a more mild taste than mature garlic and can be used just like scallions in most dishes.

This past weekend I made a large batch of meatballs; some for dinner and the rest for the freezer. I love having meatballs in the freezer – they make a weeknight dinner of pasta or subs a much easier endeavor. And since there’s nothing I love more than garlicky meatballs, my homegrown green garlic make these meatballs extra delicious. I also added a couple of garlic cloves, for a super intense garlic flavor. Vampires, you’ve been warned.

So, if you grow garlic or see green garlic at the market and have wondered what to do with it, here’s a delicious idea.

lola rugula how to use green garlic

green garlic meatballs

  • 3 lbs. ground beef
  • 2 lbs. ground pork
  • 1 cup finely chopped green garlic
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium white onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup half and half
  • 3/4 cup panko bread crumbs

In a large bowl, mix everything together well, but not over mixing or smashing everything together too much. I use my fingertips more than my whole hands to blend it all together because I find that over-mixing and mashing it all together makes a denser meatball than I prefer.

Preheat oven to 350

Brush a baking sheet with olive oil.

Begin rolling the meatballs and placing them on the prepared baking sheet. This recipe made about 80 golf ball sized meatballs, 40 meatballs per sheet. If you want them larger, increase the cooking time; smaller, decrease the time.

Bake meatballs for about 20 minutes, turn, and then bake another 20 or just until they start to brown.

lola rugula green garlic meatballs recipe

See that beautiful green garlic in those meatballs? It really adds a fresh garlic flavor to these and I think you’ll agree.

Don’t know what to do with green garlic? Now you do! Never be afraid to play with your food – the results are delicious. Enjoy!

lola rugula cold cucumber salad recipe

french flower pot makeover

This is, without a doubt, one of my easiest makeover projects ever and the results are beautiful. I’ve had these French flower pots for many, many years. I stumbled upon them at a flea market for next to nothing and knew they’d be perfect for my plethora of summer flowers.

As the years have passed, however, their colors faded and they began to rust. Here’s a shot of 2 of them from a couple of summers ago, packed with lavender from our gardens.

lola rugula french flower pot makeover original

You can see on the rim of them where they were rusting. so I took a bit of sandpaper and sanded the rusty spots down. After sanding, I rinsed them off, wiped them down and let them dry.

Then, with a few light coats of spray paint that I had on hand, I now have beautiful, bright French flower pots again.

lola rugula french flower pot easy makeover

 

The sage green color I used here is XO Rust gloss in Reed and the orange is Premium Decor gloss in Banner Orange.

This was an easy one-day makeover project that makes me feel like I have brand new flower pots.

lola rugula french flower pot makeover

The gorgeous flowers are compliments of my husband, who surprised me with them one night, for no other reason to except to say “I love you”.

Spray paint is such an easy way to make over small items, such as these pots. You want to start with as smooth and clean of a surface as possible, making sure the surface is dry before painting. Shake the paint vigorously for a minute or two and then always do a test spray on a piece of paper or cardboard. Then, apply the paint from at least a foot away, using sweeping motions as you paint, to help prevent drips.

Let each coat dry an hour or so before applying the next coat. These pots have 3 coats of spray paint on them.

Of course, you should always use spray paint outside or in a large, well-ventilated area.

Have you done any spray paint projects lately? I’d love to hear about them!