I am always using infused or flavored olive oils in my recipes; they are great double ingredients as you get the flavor of the infusion and the olive oil which is a great time and money saver. I visited Sonoma, California last year and fell in love with Figone's Olive Oil. They make a great product! I joined their La Visione Club, once a quarter I get a package from them of 2 bottles of different oils or vinegars for $40. Such a great deal! I love that I never know what is coming, so it is like Christmas once a quarter and once the bottles are open and I discover what flavors they are the inspiration for new recipes flows like water. Some of my favorites are garlic olive oil for Bruschetta, garlic and lemon olive oils for Cast Iron Shrimp, and the balsamic vinegar on Rosemary Roasted Pork Loin.
Pepper Jelly is a staple that I am never without. This ingredient can be used in sweet or savory dishes, and you can find great ones at places like Marshalls and TJ Maxx for very inexpensive. For a last minute appetizer spread some over a block of cream cheese, let it come to room temperature and use as a dip for wheat thins or pita chips; put a few tablespoons over a wheel of brie wrap in puff pastry and bake - to die for; or spice up a turkey sandwich by using it instead of mayo or mustard.
I LOVE my garden! I live in an apartment complex that offers an urban vegetable garden with plots that are about six feet long and four feet deep. Needless to say, the vegetables from it taste so fresh, duh they are! But the act of gardening is so rewarding. Sowing a small plant and then a few weeks later harvesting a full grown zucchini from it gives such a sense of accomplishment. In the early spring I plant chard, field greens and cilantro. Summer is prime time for tomatoes, squash, zucchini, bell jalapeno and habanero peppers, basil and sage. Later in the summer I plan eggplants and parsley. Besides the sense of accomplishment I have found that tending to the garden: wedding, grooming and watering, relieves so much stress! It really isn’t hot, just make sure the plants get water about 3 times a week, from the rain or the hose, and plenty of sunshine and you will be good to go!