Lettuce and fruit – what a match


Last September we invested in a Tower Garden and I’ve been on a learning and experimenting curve ever since.  The green lettuce, kale and herbs have been a delightful Winter and early Spring treat.The tomatoes, cucumbers and yellow squash are progressing.  And my beloved Datil peppers are growing nicely.  This is the first time I’ve tried Datils from seed, and I am happy that they are doing well. Can’t wait to make Datil Pepper Relish and Devil Sauce   this summer. (find the sauce recipe at the link).  I’ll share the relish recipe soon.  Watch for it.

The Tower Garden is great for gardening in Florida where bugs and heat are a constant challenge.  Not much we can do about the heat of mid and late Summer, but I find it much easier to control bugs since many of them come up from the ground and this system uses no dirt  — just water that is pumped through to the pods that hold the plants.  Seedlings are started in rock-wool cubes that can be placed in a small dish of water or right in the garden.  Many of my fellow “tower gardeners” in cooler climates garden with the TG right through the winter by using grow lights and keeping their towers inside.  It’s a great system if you are “garden-challenged!”tower garden

For now the strawberries take center stage. I only put in 5 or 6 of the bare root plants that I purchased on Amazon so the harvest is small, but each day I get enough to provide a lovely garnish to a lettuce/fruit salad.  Today I added some orange segments and I think the visual appeal is beautiful.

Top this off with my homemade poppy seed dressing, and you’ve got a delightful lunch to brighten an already beautiful Spring day here in Dunedin, Florida.  But enough, here’s the recipe for the dressing so you can enjoy it on your salad!

Poppy Seed Dressing

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp poppy seeds
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds (optional)
  • 1 slice or red or sweet white onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar

I chop the onion finely in my mini-blender then add all ingredients except the seeds.  Blend well and transfer to a glass jar.  Add poppy and sesame seeds.  Time to enjoy or chill until ready to use!

Note: I’ve also made this with Splenda, but we do try to stay away from artificial sweeteners for health reasons. Experiment with other sweeteners – especially if you are on a sugar-restrictive diet.

Happy Spring!


Tickle me please….

refrigerator pickles

Refrigerator Pickles (oops someone opened this jar already!                      Photo Credit: Pudbudder Press

Do pickles tickle your fancy? I’ve been pickling cucumbers for years, but in more recent times it’s become more and more difficult to find the time and the space – especially to store them.

Since recently downsizing to a smaller home, storage space is at a premium everywhere, including in the kitchen, so when a refrigerator pickle recipe caught my eye in a recent issue of Cooking Light, my interest was sparked. I stored the idea away on the back burner until we got through our recent relocation to Dunedin on the Gulf Coast of Florida.

Pickling goes way beyond cucumbers. Some of our family’s favorites in recent years have been  my sweet pickles pepper strips  and my hot pepper relish   Both of these recipes made good use of my garden’s bounty.

Aside from the storage space issue I’m now faced with, I’m finding it difficult to find the right spot to use my hot water bath canner. When we traded our old grill that had a side burner for a newer one without a side burner, I found that the flat top electric range just doesn’t work well with this type of canner. The weight of the pot full of water and product makes for a very heavy load for the glass top possibly causing damage to the range and providing uneven heat distribution necessary to maintain the constant boil required for this type of canning. Marisa McClellan of Food In Jars blog addressed this recently and shares her tips and suggestions here so check it out for more info.

So in walks the refrigerator pickle – a quick way to make a delicious couple of jars that keep their crunch and couldn’t be easier.

This particular recipe comes from Food Network’s Ted Allen.  I’ve captured the recipe below or you can follow a link directly to Food Network here:

Refrigerator Pickles from Ted Allen

  • 10 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 6 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Several sprigs of fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon pink peppercorns (Ted’s recommendation if you can find them)

You’ll find Ted’s list below, but really anything you like to pickle works. My personal favorite is cauliflower, and I am going to try just cucumbers and cauliflower next time, adding carrots or sweet red or orange pepper strips for a zap of color!

Ted’s list:

  • 6 Kirby cucumbers, quartered lengthwise
  • 6 young spring carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 handful large scallion pieces or green beans
  • cauliflower florets
  • 4 small hot red chiles or 2 jalapenos (I used jalapenos)

If you’re looking for a quick and easy way to have homemade pickle products, this is the way to go.

Do you have a favorite refrigerator pickle recipe?? If so please share!!

By the way, I ordered a Tower Garden and hope to have it up and running next week and will update my readers then. Really excited to get into aeroponic gardening. I’ve been admiring this method for a few years now and finally took the plunge at a local home show. Stay tuned for more….. 

photo credit: Pudbudder Press

Retro Meatballs

Well, we finally relocated to the Gulf Side of Florida in the sweet little town of Dunedin. We are nestled on a lovely little lake – Lake Sperry – and are just 5 short blocks to the Gulf of Mexico as well as less than a mile to beautiful downtown Dunedin.  Life is good.

Most of the unpacking is done although the garage looks like Erika made a stop.  Nevertheless today I am finally having my first “dinner party.”  Now it’s not too exciting. The local kids and the youngest granddaughter will be here this afternoon for an early supper.  After reflecting on all the moves and changes over the years, it got me thinking about all the old recipes I used to fix years ago when my three girls were young.

When I asked the youngest, who will be here for dinner today, if she’d like the old Porcupine Meatballs from years past, a smile blew across her face, and I knew it was the right thing to make to wrap our arms around the past while embracing this new beginning.

So Porcupine meatballs it is today, along with mashed potatoes and green beans.  What could be more comforting as we settle into our new home?  So here is that lovely blast from the past that I share with all my readers as well as with my family today.

Betty Crocker Cookbook

My tattered Dinner for Two Cookbook Photo credit: Words Etc.

This recipe is adapted from the very first cookbook I owned as a young married back in the early 70s – Dinner for Two – a Betty Crocker favorite.  I’ve tweaked it slightly by using instant rice rather than long-cooking as it produces a more “porcupine like” look.  I also switch the celery salt with celery seed to cut down the sodium and add an egg. The added salt is optional too if you are concerned with sodium as the Worcestershire adds 65mg of sodium per teaspoon. Although white rice is rarely our rice of choice these days, I’m sticking with the old standard, but will experiment with brown next time.

Porcupine Meatballs

1 lb ground beef
1 cup instant white rice (I use Uncle Ben’s)
1 egg blended with ½ cup water
¼ cup finely chopped onion
½ – 1 tsp salt (optional)
1/2 tsp celery seed
1 tsp garlic salt
½ tsp Worcestershire
Dash of pepper
1 tbsp EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)

For Sauce:
16 oz tomato sauce
1 cup water
1 – ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce


Porcupine Meatballs

Porcupine Meatballs Photo credit: Words Etc.

Mix beef, rice, milk, onion, egg mixture and seasonings. Form into 10 – 12 meatballs. Fry in EVOO, turning frequently, until light brown, but not crusty, on all sides. Mix sauce ingredients together. Pour over meatballs in same pan and cover, Simmer 45 minutes over low heat. Add a small amount of additional water if liquid cooks down too much. 4 servings.

Great with mashed potatoes and green beans, or skip the extra starch and substitute a salad.


Tofu – It really is good!

This gallery contains 1 photos.

Tofu – eww! That’s what you might say when anyone mentions that word. “That’s for those vegetarian/vegan nuts,” you think. Well, to the carnivores in my audience,  think again and give it a try! Last night after an earlier trek … Continue reading

A hot little holiday number – Datil Devil Sauce!

A beatufil batch of Datil peppers from last year's garden. Photo Credit: Words Etc.

A beatufil batch of Datil peppers from last year’s garden.
Photo Credit: Words Etc.

A few days ago, I shared my recipe for black bean burgers that I’ve been making for several years.  A touch that I added is my Datil “Devil” Sauce in place of the traditional hot sauce found on most grocery shelves. Hot sauce is so pretty and makes a delightful holiday gift from the kitchen.

Now there are a ton of hot sauces out there with all sorts of flashy names.  Mine is a simple sauce with a simple name.  If you’re not familiar with the Datil Pepper, you will find a link to some info in a former post of mine here.

This recipe couldn’t be easier, using a base of plain old ketchup. If Datils are not available, use any pepper from your garden’s yield or that you may find at your local produce or farmer’s market.   And remember you can freeze peppers and use them later in your recipes.

I’ve probably cautioned before about working with hot peppers, please protect your hands with gloves to avoid some very uncomfortable burning sensations that will last for several hours. Take care not to touch your face or eyes with those gloves too!   If you’ve worked with hot peppers and have made that mistake, you know exactly what I’m talking about…..

A batch of brightly colored Datil Devil Sauce. Photo credit: Words Etc.

A batch of brightly colored Datil Devil Sauce.
Photo credit: Words Etc.

Christine’s Datil Pepper “Devil” Sauce

Puree together in a food processor:
2 cups Datil peppers stemmed. Seed if you desired a less hot sauce.
2 large cloves garlic
½ cup cider vinegar

In a medium saucepan, mix together 64 oz ketchup (Heinz is best)
2 ½ cups cider vinegar. Add pureed pepper mixture and stir well. Bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes.
Cool slightly, then pour into sterilized bottles with non-metallic lids.

I save smaller glass bottles throughout the year. Bottles from soy sauce, chili sauce or empty single-serving glass wine bottles work well for this sauce. I find smaller bottles are better so you have a few to give as gifts.

These peppers are cute, but don’t be fooled. They are hot! So protect your hands as with any hot pepper. The sauce is good by itself if you like hot stuff, but is also good to spike up salsa. A dab atop a cracker spread with cream cheese is beyond comparison.

Besides being a great addition to Black Bean Burgers, try blending a few tablespoons of the sauce with an 8 oz brick of cream cheese, thinned with a little milk for another spicy use of this sauce. Here are some more ideas for using this sauce or your favorite hot sauce:

Cocktail Sauce:

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup Datil sauce
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp fresh horseradish, grated, fine
  • 2 tbsp dill pickle, chopped fine

Mix together and it’s ready.

For our carnivore friends:

Marinade for Steak

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic – pressed
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme or 1 ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsps Datil pepper sauce

Marinate steak for several hours Delicious!!

Enjoy and please share your favorite way to use hot sauce!

Staying on track – before the holidays

After the holidays, everyone is scrambling to get those extra pounds off.  A better strategy might be to stay focused in these weeks leading up to the holidays before the parties and dinners get in full swing. By eating sensibly and staying active, you may avoid some of that extra bulk!

Here’s my favorite black bean burger recipe to get you started.  Packed with 27 grams of protein per burger, you can serve in mini pitas and top  with salsa, lettuce, tomato or avocado.  For an even lighter meal, try it on a salad of lettuce, tomato, red onion and avocado, sprinkled with low fat shredded cheddar or colby cheese.  Try ranch dressing or a blend of ranch and salsa. (Watch the cheese and dressing amounts to keep it light – and don’t forget to hit the gym tonight!)


Black Bean Burgers – Christine’s Wayblack bean burgers
  • One 15  can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro or Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon bread crumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce, or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl, using a potato masher or a fork, mash the beans with the mayonnaise until almost smooth, leaving some lumps for texture. Stir in the cilantro, bread crumbs, hot pepper sauce, cumin and salt and pepper, mixing well.  Note, if you’re using a really hot sauce (like my homemade Datil sauce — watch for the recipe later this week!), you may want to adjust this down slightly.

Brush a sheet of wax paper lightly with extra virgin olive oil. With lightly floured hands, shape the bean mixture into four 3-inch burgers, laying each on the wax paper.  (You may use non-stick cooking spray, but I personally prefer the EVOO or another vegetable-based oil.)

Preheat skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes or until hot. Add the burgers and cook until lightly browned on the bottom, about 3 -5 minutes. Watch carefully and flip when browned and continue browning the second side for 2 – 3 minutes or until heated thoroughly.

Serve on pitas with desired toppings or as a salad as described above.  Enjoy!

Each  burger only is approximately  129 calories.

A sweet spicy family tradition

It’s my annual “plum sauce making” day — a family tradition. Read my post from 2012 for yummy pictures!

Pudbudder - It's all about fun!

plum plum (Photo credit: Greencolander)

Sunday  morning I shared a  picture on Facebook of one of my annual cooking sessions for Sweet Spicy Plum Sauce. I promised more pictures; you’ll find them at the end of this post!  Making this sauce is a family tradition that goes back for years.  It seems particularly special because the original recipe calls for Italian Plums (often dried into prunes) that are only available for a a few short weeks in September, so if you miss that window of opportunity when the small sweet fruits are available, you’re just out of luck until next year.  That seems to make this homemade concoction even more precious. But I admit I made this batch from Red Plums that enjoy a longer season.

Now you could try making this sauce with a canned variety of plums, but to me it’s all about getting in touch with nature and working with fresh ingredients…

View original post 271 more words

Peaches and Fresh Mozzarella – a perfect match!

I recently ran across a great summer salad recipe in the Publix Family Style magazine. Those of you that follow me know that I always tweak things. Now the original recipe calls for peaches, quartered and grilled, but I used the nectarines the first time I made this. I also substituted the crunchy part – once I tried walnuts, another time, as shown in the picture, some brightly colored tortilla strips.

I’ve tried this salad with peaches too and must admit I prefer the nectarines as I think they keep their firmness on the grill better than peaches. But either add great flavor especially combined with the creaminess of fresh mozzarella. It literally melts in your mouth.  The grilled shrimp or chicken are my addition too.

So here’s my version – enjoy!

Grilled Peaches and Mozzarella Salad with Honey Lemon Vinaigrette

DSCN5564Prepare dressing first:

Chop in mini blender, 1 or two green onion bulbs (add a little of the tops for extra color)
Whisk together with:

1 tbsp lemon zest
¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp honey
½ tsp Dijon-style mustard
Sea salt and pepper to taste

Drizzle in ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
Set aside.

For Salad:

  • 2 medium ripe peaches or nectarines, pitted and cut into wedges (suggest you peel the peaches, but skin on nectarines are perfect)
  • 8 cups mixed baby greens
  • 1 small cucumber, sliced or chunked
  • 6 oz fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
  • ¼ cup toasted walnuts or pepitas or other topping to add crunch & flavor

Arrange lettuce on salad plates, arranging the cheese and cucumbers around the plate. Keep chilled until ready to serve.

When ready to prepare, skewer quartered fruit onto metal or wooden skewers. DSCN5563[1]Brush with some of the dressing and grill for about 5 – 6 minutes. I use a grill tray brushed lightly with olive oil to keep the fruit from sliding off the skewers. (see photos) If serving with grilled chicken or shrimp, use some of the dressing mixed with extra olive oil to baste, and cook alongside the fruit skewers.
When fruit and shrimp/chicken (if using) are ready. Arrange on top of the salad and top with walnuts or Pepitas. Serve with remaining dressing.

I promise you’ll make this often if you try it once!


Diaper Bag Fun – be creative!

I originally created this post as a private page for a friend to demonstrate my method for creating a diaper bag through photos…… However,  I decided to make it public as other readers are getting notice of the page via  RSS feeds and want to know why they can’t get into it.  So here ya’ go for anyone interested.  I used leftover scraps from a quilt project for the first bag so that’s why you’ll notice lots of piecing.

For anyone interested in making a diaper bag similar to this, I suggest you look at the links below to guide you.  For those of you familiar with Jenny Doan of Missouri Star Quilt Company, you know that she’s always sharing simple ideas for sewing and quilting.  Her video on making bags from charm packs is the basis for this design.  I just changed measurements, added pockets, some embroidery, different straps and borrowed some of the ideas from the Moda link.  I’m not one for patterns and just like to “freestyle” it!

Have fun!


Christine’s Photos:


It’s summer – time to relish those peppers!

It’s the heat of the summer and if you’re into gardening and peppers are part of your bounty, relish is a great way to keep the flavor going throughout the year.  Several years ago, I found a great recipe from Putting Up More by  Steve Dowdney.  I’ve had several requests from friends for this recipe so it’s time to share!

If you follow me on Pudbudder, you know I always tweak with my own twists and special touches. So without further adieu, get on those kitchen gloves and start cleaning those peppers, it’s time to relish those peppers.

Note:  be sure to use kitchen gloves whenever handling hot peppers and seeds.  You’ll find disposable ones at discount stores like WalMart, Dollar General etc for a nominal cost.  These peppers contain oil that will definitely leave your hands wishing you had used gloves if you don’t. 

Datil Pepper Relish ready for the pantry shelf!

Datil Pepper Relish ready to turn right side up for the pantry shelf!

Hot Pepper Relish

Yield : 3 pints

4 cups diced bell peppers – varied colors
2 cups chopped onion (yellow and red)
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup sugar
½ tbsp salt
½ tbsp mustard seed

Hot Peppers to add

  • Mild: add ¼ cup finely chopped jalapeno, seeds and veins removed
  • Standard: ¼ cup finely chopped jalapeno, leave seeds & veins
  • Medium: ¼ cup finely chopped hotter pepper – datil or cowhorn
  • Hot – ¼ cup – ½ cup haberno peppers or ½ cup datil
  • Screaming: 1 cup finely chopped hot peppers of choice and reduce bell by ½ cup

Bring vegetables, vinegar, sugar, salt and mustard seed to boil; simmer 3 minutes.

Dowdney recommends to check the pH at this point in the recipe.  However, I have had no problem with simply canning the product as stated below by ladling into sterile jars (do make sure the jars, lids and bands are sterilized), sealing and inverting, then storing in a cool dry place.  Actually this relish disappears pretty fast at our house so not sure how long the shelf life would be for this product.  But use your best judgment – test pH or process for the desired result.

Optional for testing pH: Take pot off heat and allow temp to drop to 205 degrees; test pH. If below guidelines (pH higher than 4.2), drain vinegar and add another cup vinegar per recipe. Bring to boil again. When temp reaches 205degrees, test pH again.

Ladle into sterile jars; seal and invert for at least 2 minutes.

Here are the combinations I’ve tested and developed for taste:

Batch 1:

  • 4 cups mixture green and sweet banana peppers
  • 2 cups onion – red & white mixture
  • ¼ cup Datils, seeded and veins removed, finely chopped

This one is our favorite!


Batch 2:

  • 1 each red and 1 green bell peppers, chopped
  • (1/2 batch) ½ cup banana peppers, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped jalapenos
  • 1 cup onion, red and yellow mix

This is our second favorite.


Batch 3:

We liked this third version the least. Suggest skipping the pickling spice if you don’t like the stronger ginger flavor in this mixture.

  • 1 red and 1 green bell pepper, chopped (2 cups)
  • (1/2 batch) 1 cup onion, red and yellow mix
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tbsps chopped cowhorn  pepper*
  • 3/4 tsp pickling spice

Cowhorn is a pepper I have grown that is similar in heat to an Anaheim pepper. (3,000 – 5,000 on Scoville.)  But be CREATIVE – use your favorite pepper and don’t be afraid to add different flavors to your relish.  Try something new, but be sure to check out where your pepper rates on the Scoville Chart to make sure it’s your kind of pepper. For something hotter, try Serrano or Thai Chili peppers, depending on your tastes.  But our favorite will always be our beloved Datil!

Creativity makes it your own and adds to the fun!   Share your ideas with me and let me know what combination you try!