We remember our Grandmother Florence always having homemade liqueurs on hand for an after-dinner drink with coffee & dessert, especially around the holidays. Our favorite was Finocchietto (fennel) which she touted as a good digestif drink. We were only allowed a sip for taste…but liked it even then.
On our trip to Italy back in 2018, we had dinner at a farm in Naples. After dinner, we had a choice of Limoncello or Finocchietto. Of course, we chose the Finocchietto and it sure did bring back good memories of Grandma.
After having great success with making our own Limoncello, I decided to send away for the Italian Wild Fennel seeds and make my own. Teresa and I along with my good friend, Jane Hall, planted the fennel seeds. We watched the seedlings grow big & strong then planted them outside in a side garden my husband Gary prepared for us. They were doing beautifully and even survived Hurricane Florence but low and behold they didn’t seem to survive the deer!!!!!!! We were pleasantly surprised the following season and proceeded to make our own liqueur. You wouldn’t believe how many umbrella flowers we had with just 2 plants that survived. This year it’s even more! Fennel has a wonderful anise-like/licorice taste and you can use the green fronds to garnish a salad or even infuse with some olive oil. I don’t remove the fennel bulb because it will cause the demise of the plant, although I may this year!
Note: Harvesting starts towards the end of June through August here in North Carolina. Fennel plants create umbrella-like flower buds similar to Queen Anne’s Lace. I pick the yellow flower umbrellas once the yellow flowers begin to open.
Ingredients for about 2 liters
2-3 large handfuls of wild fennel flower umbrellas. ( I fill a 32-oz mason jar 1/2 to 3/4 high with the flowers)
1 liter of Everclear (151 proof – grain alcohol) Please do not use rubbing alcohol!
800 grams of sugar (about 3 1/3 to 3 1/2 cups)
2-liter jar that closes hermetically (We used hermetically sealed lemonade bottles from Aldi)
Funnel- wide mouth
Immediately after picking the flowers, wash and let dry thoroughly on a clean dish towel.
Place all the flowers in the jar and pour the grain alcohol into the jar, making sure all flowers are covered. Close the jar and place it in a dark place for at least 30 days. ( I use my closet)
Keep the bottle out of direct sunlight. All the color will leach out into the alcohol turning the alcohol a green color. No problem if you leave it longer than 30 days.
After the 30 days or longer are up, prepare the sugar syrup.
Make a simple syrup by boiling 1 liter of water with 800 grams of sugar for 15 minutes. Let it cool before the next step. (about an hour)
While the syrup is cooling down, filter the alcohol. Using a wide-mouth funnel, place into another mason jar and place the cheesecloth in the funnel.
Pour the alcohol through the funnel making sure none of the fennel plants get through.
Mix the cooled sugar syrup into the filtered alcohol. Pour into a clean 2-liter hermetically sealing jar (the one you used before is fine, just make sure it’s clean & dry first.
Let it sit another 4-5 days in a cool, dark place.
Now we filter again and bottle.
Put a regular funnel in the bottle with another piece of cheesecloth and pour the mixture into the bottle or use a small ladle so it doesn’t spill everywhere.
There might be some organic matter caught in the cheesecloth. Wash the cloth for re-use.
In a cool dark place, store the bottled fennel for at least another 3 months. The longer it sits the clearer it gets.
Italian Wild Fennel growing on the side of Barbara’s house
Almost 7 feet tall!
Another angle of growing fennel that’s 2 years old now
Wash & Dry the umbrella flowers
Place the wash & dried flowers in a 32 oz mason jar
Cover flowers with Everclear 151 grain alcohol
The alcohol starts leaching color after only an hour
Fennel umbrella flower
My bottle from last year with my own label along with new batch
When marinating chicken with Greek-inspired flavors the Mediterranean is brought to your dinner table and with it all the sunshine and joy for life that is associated with a beautiful outdoor dinner in the Greek Islands! This dish is so simple but packs huge flavor! Whether you want a quick family meal or a casual dinner with friends you will love it...Enjoy!😋❤️
2 large boneless chicken breasts, sliced in half lengthwise to make 4 pieces
2 tsp EVOO
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1½ tsp fresh Greek oregano, chopped (dried may be substituted, but use a lesser amount)
1½ tsp fresh dill, chopped ( dried may be substituted, but use a lesser amount)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
Salt & pepper to taste
1 cup Feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 tsp garlic powder
3-4 Tablespoons 2% milk ( any milk works well)
1½ Tablespoons red onion, chopped
1 large tomato, sliced
Fresh oregano, chopped for garnish
Mixed salad greens with olives, cucumbers, red onion, thin sliced
Optional: Dolmas (stuffed grape leaves)
In a large bowl, combine 2 tsp EVOO, red wine vinegar, oregano, dill, garlic powder, salt & pepper.
Pound chicken between sheets of waxed paper to a 1/4” thickness. Cut each piece in half to yield approximately 6-8 pieces of chicken breast.
Add chicken breasts to the marinade, cover & refrigerate 30 minutes. (this step can be prepared ahead of time until ready for cooking.)
In a small bowl, combine the Feta cheese, garlic powder, 2% milk & chopped red onion. Using a fork, mash well to make a spread. Add additional milk if too thick until you reach desired consistency. (this step can be prepared ahead of time & refrigerated until ready to serve)
In a grill pan or large skillet drizzle 1 tsp of EVOO, then using a paper towel, coat pan.
Heat pan to medium-high. Once hot, place half the chicken pieces in the pan and cook until browned approximately 2 minutes on each side. Remove from pan & set aside. Cook remaining chicken breasts and set aside.
Place mixed salad greens on a dinner plate then top with cooked chicken breast(s). Garnish the chicken with Feta cheese spread. Arrange tomato slices on the dish and garnish with fresh Greek oregano.
Oops, I had a brain freeze! I forgot to add the olives, cucumbers, and sliced red onions to the salad greens before taking the photo for this post…then we ate & it was too late!😜😂
Preparation of Feta cheese spread
Marinated Chicken breasts in grill pan
Grilled chicken breasts set aside
Plated Grilled Greek Chicken breasts
Also can replace “burger night” meal or next days lunch in a sandwich
1. Drizzle salad greens with EVOO & red-wine vinegar for more of a Greek salad meal.
2. For leftovers just add a brioche roll for a perfect lunch
3. The creamy Feta cheese spread is delicious on any vegetable or baked potato.
Butternut Squash & Zucchini Spirals with Sweet Italian Sausage-Gluten-Free Twiins Style
We strive to prepare healthy meals that are big on flavor, have fresh ingredients, are quick to prepare and very satisfying. Barbara & I love vegetables but our hubbies are extreme carnivores! This makes it challenging for us to balance our meals so we all can enjoy them. I had the squash spirals & sausage on hand and we created this meal which ticks off all of the boxes. The addition of a small amount of Gluten-free spaghetti added to the mix of spiralized squash certainly made it satisfying for all. So, if you also have a carnivore you want to help eat healthier give this recipe a try...Our carnivores loved it and so did Barbara and I. Enjoy!😋❤️
10 Sweet Italian Sausage links, cut into bite-size pieces (1/4 inch slices)
12 oz zucchini spirals, (pre-spiralized save time & are sold in the supermarket produce section)
12 oz butternut squash spirals, (pre-spiralized save time & are sold in the supermarket produce section)
1 large sweet onion, sliced thin
6-8 large garlic cloves
2 cups grape tomatoes, cut in half
salt & pepper to taste
6 oz Barilla Gluten-free thin spaghetti
2 Tablespoons EVOO
Parmigiano Reggiano to sprinkle on top
Fresh basil, chopped for garnish
Bring a pot of water to a boil then add salt. While the butternut squash & zucchini are cooking, add 6oz of thin spaghetti to boiling, salted water, and cook according to package directions. Drain.
Slice each sausage link into bite-size pieces or 1/4-inch slices.
Heat a very large skillet to medium heat & drizzle with EVOO. When hot enough, add the sliced sausage and brown on both sides. Remove and set aside in a bowl.
Add additional EVOO and saute onions, tomatoes & bell peppers.
Add salt & pepper to taste.
Add the garlic and cook about 1 minute until fragrant.
Add the spiralized butternut squash & zucchini. Mix well to combine. Cook covered until softened (about 8-10 minutes)
Take the cooked pasta and add it to the skillet. Toss gently.
Place in a serving platter and garnish with fresh basil and Parmigiano Reggiano.
Thai Shrimp and Vegetable Stir-Fry Twiins Style Gluten-Free
We love Thai food so when we came across this recipe we knew we had to try it. It's delicious and full of authentic Thai flavor. We added our homegrown sweet Thai basil to give it more of an authentic taste and we hit a home run. The sauce has a lot of ingredients but is well worth the effort. We used all gluten-free ingredients and it's delicious. It has just the right amount of sweet & heat... Enjoy!😋❤️
1/4 cup Thai Sweet Chili Sauce, gluten-free (can be found in the grocery store Asian section)
3 Tablespoons low sodium soy sauce, gluten-free
2 Tablespoons Dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon Fish Sauce (can be found in the grocery store Asian section)
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 fresh squeezed lime, divided into 1 tablespoon & reserve remainder of juice to add later
1 Tablespoon peanut oil, divided
2 tsp Samal Oelek (ground fresh chili paste – can be found in the grocery store Asian section)
1½ tsp garlic paste
1½ tsp Tamarind Concentrate (or paste – can be found in the grocery store Asian section)
1 tsp peanut oil
2 lbs. uncooked Shrimp, deveined (defrost if frozen – tails can be left or removed, your preference)
2 large onions, sliced thin
4 large Red Bell Peppers, sliced thin
4 medium uncooked scallions (spring onions – we used our homegrown scallions grown from bulb end with roots, see Notes: below)
28-32 ounces shredded cabbage & carrots (2 packages coleslaw mix can be used)
1/4 cup fresh Cilantro, minced
6 Thai Sweet Basil leaves, minced (more or less to taste)
2-4 Tablespoons Peanuts, salted, chopped
Sauce: In a medium bowl combine chili sauce, soy sauce, sugar, fish sauce, tomato paste, 1 Tablespoon lime juice, 2 tsp oil, sambal oelek, garlic paste, and tamarind concentrate; whisk to combine. (Sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead and stored in the refrigerator)
Heat remaining tsp oil in a large wok or very large nonstick skillet over high heat.
Cook the shrimp, tossing frequently, until they turn pink & opaque, about 5-8 minutes. Remove to plate.
Add the sliced onions and peppers to wok; cook while frequently stirring until onions soften and peppers are crisp-tender, about 5-10 minutes.
Add the cabbage & carrot slaw and the cooked shrimp to the wok. Pour the sauce & remaining lime juice over top and toss well to combine; heat through, tossing gently.
Remove from heat and stir in the scallions and cilantro; sprinkle with peanuts & minced Thai Sweet Basil.
Garnish with a sprig of Thai Sweet Basil & Enjoy!
Make the sauce
Cook the shrimp
Set aside the cooked shrimp
Add the onions & peppers
Add cooked shrimp then pour the sauce over & toss well
Slicing the scallions
Sprinkle the chopped peanuts & scallions then combine
Garnish with fresh Thai Sweet Bail & enjoy!
Notes: Recipe adapted from Weight Watchers.
If gluten isn’t an issue no need to use gluten-free ingredients.
This dish may be served by itself or over Jasmin rice or rice noodles.
To grow your own scallions (spring onions), cut the white bulb about 1½ inches from the roots. With the roots attached, take your index finger and push down into a container filled with potting soil deep enough to leave about 1/2 inch above the dirt. Water daily but don’t overwater. In a couple of weeks, you will see new green shoots coming out of the bulb. When they are about the height of pencils, you can cut off what you need. Do not pull the bulbs out of the dirt. They will continue to grow additional green stalks. If the tips start to brown, cut to the base of dirt.
This year, 2020, we finally have an abundance of figs from one of Gary's fig trees. He has been growing 2 fig trees for 4 years here in North Carolina. The one we transplanted from our NY home is not as big as the one we purchased here in NC so the figs I used in this recipe are from the NC fig tree. The first couple of years the figs were so sparse that we were lucky to get a few to pop in our mouths for the whole season. In contrast, today we picked so many figs that now we can be creative with different ways to prepare and enjoy them. This fig sauce is so simple to make, does not require any tedious canning, and is delicious with Feta cheese or goat cheese on a cracker, meat & cheese board, or topping chicken or pork. It's naturally sweet without the addition of any sugar, and it's naturally gluten-free. We love it and so do the hubbies! 😋 😋
2 cups ripe figs, stems removed and cut-in-half
1 cup fresh-squeezed orange juice (ready-made is fine)
6 Tablespoons quality Balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
In a medium saucepan, combine all the ingredients together. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer at least 20-30 minutes until figs are soft enough to mash & liquid is 3/4 evaporated. (It may take longer)
Using a potato masher, mash the mixture. It should look like a loose jam but not watery.
Remove from the heat. Spoon onto your favorite protein or use as an appetizer with goat cheese & crackers.
Note: This recipe can be served at room temperature as an appetizer or hot over your protein. It can be made ahead of time & stored in a covered container in the refrigerator. Will keep for several days refrigerated.
While relaxing on my front porch after repotting some plants today, Teresa pulled up with some cod for tonights dinner. Cod is one of those fish that takes on the flavor of whatever you season it with making a Mediterranean style dinner absolutely delicious. We were wondering what we had on hand to make with it and I found a half-full jar of pearl couscous! We had some grape tomatoes, plenty of garlic, onions, & feta cheese, along with a garden full of fresh herbs. We set about making dinner. We've said this before and it's very true...some of the best dinners we make are thrown together with what we have on hand. This dinner turned out fabulous...we were counting on leftovers but NONE were to be had!😋❤️
1¾ cups pearl couscous (also known as Israeli couscous)
2¾ cup chicken broth
1 large sweet onion, roughly chopped
6-8 large cloves garlic peeled & minced
fresh baby spinach (a few handfuls)
salt & pepper to taste
6 ounces Feta cheese (we use President’s Chunk)
In a large skillet add the Israeli/pearl couscous to a dry, hot skillet. Gently stir to prevent burning. After a few minutes, the couscous will start to brown. Do not burn. Not all the couscous will brown & that’s ok.
Add the chicken stock, cover, and cook about 10-15 minutes until liquid is absorbed. Remove cover and set aside.
In a small skillet, saute the onions until they start to caramelize then add garlic & cook another minute. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.
Add the cooked onions & garlic to the couscous. Stir well. Cover and set aside until fish is done.
Line a large rimmed baking sheet with a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil. Turn oven to broil. Once hot, reduce the oven temperature to 425º.
Coat the grape tomatoes & whole cloves of garlic with 1 Tablespoon of EVOO. Sprinkle with salt. Combine well. Place on a lined baking sheet.
Place baking sheet on the top oven rack and bake for 15-20 minutes, until tomatoes blister & garlic is soft.
Remove from the oven when done. Using a fork or a wooden spoon, smash the garlic. Take half the tomatoes plus the juice and garlic then add to couscous, mixing well.
Just before serving, crumble & add the Feta cheese to the couscous and combine.
Using the same rimmed baking sheet, drizzle EVOO and arrange the pieces of cod on sheet. Sprinkle with garlic powder, salt & pepper, chopped fresh greek oregano. Drizzle lightly with EVOO and place on center rack of 425º oven.
Cook 10-16 minutes, depending on the thickness of cod until it’s opaque & flakes.
To serve, place cooked couscous mixture on a serving platter and top with fish fillets. Sprinkle with remaining blistered tomatoes & garlic. Garnish with sprigs of fresh oregano & thyme.
Cutting the fresh Greek oregano
Cooking the couscous
Blistered tomatoes & whole garlic caramelized
Cod placed in oven after seasonings added
Couscous with spinach on top
Feta cheese & tomatoes added to couscous
Platter of Cod over Couscous Mediterranean Style
Notes: To make this Gluten-free for Jack, we served him brown rice with quinoa as a substitute for couscous. He loved it.
Two years ago Barbara bought a small chocolate mint potted plant because she loved the smell of it. She left it in the original 3-inch pot so it never grew much. There were enough leaves for maybe a few cups of tea every now and then. This year she decided to transplant it in the early spring into a much larger pot. She now has so much chocolate mint that we decided to try a new cocktail. Our Chocolate Mint Mojito was born! If your a fan of Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies, this delicious cocktail is for you and it can be enjoyed all summer long. ❤️ ❤️
16 fresh chocolate mint leaves (regular mint may be substituted)
2 ounces Rose’s Sweetened Lime Juice
2 ounces Torani Dark Chocolate syrup
4 ounces Bacardi Coconut Rum (substitute with plain light rum if you’re not a fan of coconut)
6-12 ice cubes
4 ounces club soda
sprig of mint for garnish
In a cocktail shaker, muddle the mint leaves with the lime juice.
Stir in the chocolate syrup and rum. Add the ice.
Shake at least 30 seconds. Stir in the club soda (don’t shake once you add the club soda).
Pour into a highball glass or your favorite martini glass.
Garnish with a lime slice and a sprig of mint. Enjoy!