March 22, 2014 § 4 Comments
In case you haven’t noticed, spring is here, officially at least. And no, I haven’t noticed!
Not up here on the hill, on the dirt road off a dirt road, with 2 feet of snow still on top of my garden. But I know it’s trying hard to get here, the poor robins are flying about, the chickadees are singing and the chickens are laying again. Soon I’ll be outside, looking for the first snowdrops and itching to get into the dirt.
Even with the sun shining stronger every day it’ll take some time for all this snow to melt. But it helps to look through the seed and flower catalogs that have piled up since January.
For now though, I’m spending most of the days inside and thinking of good things to eat! This morning I was craving a chocolate croissant, but I knew there was nowhere even remotely close that I could get one. That’s the thing about living in the country, no quick trips to the bakery or cafe for a latte.
Since making chocolate croissants was totally out of the question, what would be the next best thing? Chocolate popovers…. and luckily I had some chocolate in the pantry and with eggs, milk and flour and about 60 minutes, I’d be biting into a warm chocolate-y treat.
Even though they didn’t have that flaky croissant thing going on, they definitely did the trick. Custardy and rich, the chocolate turned a little crunchy on top, almost like chocolate chips. Here’s a basic recipe, just add chocolate.
Popover pans work best but a regular muffin pan will work too. I had a 6 cup large muffin pan, so use what you have.
1 1/2 cups four, I used white spelt
1 tsp sea salt
3 eggs, room temperature
1 1/2 cups milk, room temperature
1 TBL sugar
2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped up
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put a popover or muffin pan into oven while it preheats.
It’s important that the eggs and milk are room temp as you don’t want the batter to be cold when you put it into the hot muffin pan. You can warm the milk and the eggs too if you’re in a hurry. Just submerge the eggs in warm water for about 10 minutes, and heat the milk in a saucepan.
Mix the flour, sugar and salt in a separate bowl. Whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla until frothy, then add the flour mixture.
Mix these together briefly, don’t over-mix. You want to see some small lumps.
When ready, take the pans out of the oven, then quickly grease them with butter. Make sure to get the sides and also the tops if you are using a muffin pan.
When greased, fill each 3/4 full then sprinkle with the chocolate pieces.
Bake 20 minutes, then turn down oven to 325 and bake another 15 minutes.
Remove from oven, insert a small pin into each one to release the air so they won’t fall immediately. Then remove and cool on a rack briefly.
Eat right away!
Makes about 6 large or 12 small popovers. This basic recipe is from Martha Stewart, I just used spelt flour instead of all purpose.
March 9, 2014 § 7 Comments
Have you ever tried making your own crackers? Why? you might ask. It’s so easy buying them, even the healthier versions are available almost everywhere, gluten free and all that. But just like baking your own bread, or making Kombucha in your own kitchen, it’s a very satisfying thing to do. And most importantly for me, I know exactly what’s in it, and not in it. Even “healthy” crackers have a lot of ingredients listed that I’d really rather not eat. Things like potato starch, xanthan gum and natural flavors.
I found this recipe in Organic Gardening magazine awhile ago and have had it sitting on my counter, waiting for the day when I had the urge to make crackers. And today was the day for some reason!
The recipe looked pretty easy, and it was, though it took a little more time to bake than the recipe said. Could be my oven (I know, I need to get an oven thermometer) could be I didn’t roll them thin enough. But they turned out great nonetheless.
They’re delicious and crispy, full of good things like flaxseed, garlic and almonds, and they’re gluten free, which is the best part. I can eat them without thinking about that darned gluten all the time. Try them with cheese, like goat cheese, or even all by themselves.
So if you enjoy baking, give them a try. You’ll be a little proud of yourself too!
1/2 cup almonds
1/2 cup organic golden flaxseed
1/2 cup hot water
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 TBL olive oil
2 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh black pepper
1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour*
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut 2 pieces of parchment paper to fit neatly into an 18 x 13 inch baking sheet. This is an important step, please don’t improvise here.
Put the almonds into a food processor and process until finely ground. Put into bowl and set aside.
Put the flaxseed and the hot water into the food processor and let the seeds soak about 15 minutes, until the water is absorbed and it looks a little gelatinous.
After 15 minutes, add the cheese, oil, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper to the food processor and process until the mixture is smooth, only about 30 seconds. Scrape the sides if needed.
Add the ground almonds and garbanzo bean flour to the food processor and pulse about 20 times. The mixture will come into a moist ball.
Turn the dough out onto one of the pieces of parchment paper (on a large cutting board). With moist fingers, pat the dough into a rectangle about 8 in. long by 6 in. wide.
Cover the dough with the second piece of parchment paper and roll it out between these 2 sheets until it reaches the edges of the paper. The dough should be about 1/16 in. thick. That’s why it’s important to follow the directions for cutting the parchment paper in the beginning. It’s ok if some of the dough squishes out of the edges.
Now remove the top layer of parchment and remove the dough that squished over the edges. A sharp knife will do. Using a pizza wheel, cut the dough on the parchment paper into 2 x 2 in. squares.
Gently pull the parchment paper (with the dough on it) onto the baking sheet and bake, rotating every 5 minutes or so, for about 15 minutes. The outside crackers will be crispy and golden brown. Remove these and continue baking the rest, rotating again, until they’re all done. Transfer the firm crackers to a cooling rack as you bake. Time will depend on thickness and your oven.
And that’s it! Makes a great gift for your gluten free friends too.
*Can be found in most health food stores. Bob’s Red Mill also makes it and it’s carried in most supermarkets now.
February 6, 2014 § 4 Comments
As a child I was lucky to have wholesome and healthy meals to grow up on. My german mother could take a few simple ingredients and create a delicious and satisfying dinner. We ate a lot of simple food, and my mother could get 3 or 4 meals out of a single chicken. Of course this was done out of necessity at the time, now we call it peasant food and restaurants everywhere get top dollar for it.
Meals made with cabbage, potatoes and bacon were no doubt a poor man’s meal if you will, something my mother learned from her mother growing up during the war. When there wasn’t much left in the larder but potatoes and cabbage, the creative German hausfrau could magically put together a delicious and healthy meal to feed her family. This simple casserole is one of those.
There is an interesting addition of caraway seed in this which gives it a unique flavor. Don’t omit them even if you don’t like caraway seeds, trust me here. They lose their anise-like flavor when cooked this way. A few slices of bacon are laid on the bottom of the casserole, then topped with layers of cabbage and potatoes. There’s also some ground beef added but vegetarians could easily make this without it. Poured over the top is a little cream mixed with egg yolks. And it’s one of those meals that’s even better the next day.
1 medium head green cabbage, core removed
enough slices of bacon to cover the bottom of a large casserole, usually about 5 or 6
5 or 6 potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2 inch pieces, I used Yukon Gold
2 pounds ground beef
2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp caraway seeds
1 cup cream or half and half
3 egg yolks
3 TBL flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Line a large casserole dish or pan with the bacon slices. Cover these with a few of the large cabbage leaves. Cut the remaining cabbage into thin strips.
Spread half the potatoes over the cabbage leaves.
Mix together the ground beef, salt, pepper, paprika and caraway seeds. You might want to use your hands for this, it will be stiff.
Now alternate layers of the meat mixture and sliced cabbage until it’s used up.
Cover this with the remaining potatoes.
In separate bowl combine cream, egg yolks, flour and salt and pepper, then pour this over the potatoes.
Cover and bake about 45 minutes until potatoes are soft.
Let rest about 10 minutes.
Serve with a salad and maybe some applesauce.
January 26, 2014 § 4 Comments
We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, right? After a long night without food, we need to give our bodies some fuel to get us through the day. In winter I usually start my day with a warm cup of tea and either some oatmeal or eggs. But there are times when I have to run out the door without the time to make anything….sounds familiar, right?
So here’s where these healthy breakfast bars come in. No sugar, gluten free and made with healthy coconut oil. They take no time to make or bake. You can vary the ingredients endlessly and keep them wrapped up so you just have to grab and go.
Wish I had one today – drove my daughter to the airport for her trip to Alaska. Sorry Cara! I’ll make a fresh batch. :)
2 cups oats – I used gluten free oats
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup maple syrup
3/4 cup cream or milk
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup cashews
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8″ square pan.
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until well blended. Smooth the top evenly.
Put into pan and bake about 30 minutes until slightly browned.
Let cool completely before cutting into squares.
This is the way I made them today, but you can use any combinations of nuts, seeds or spices you like. Next time I’ll use dried cranberries instead of the raisins, sunflower seeds instead of pumpkin and almonds instead of walnuts. You can use dates, dried fruit like apples, mango, or pineapple. Try adding some flaked coconut. You could also add some mashed bananas (cut down the milk a little) to the oats or even chocolate chips. Pretty much anything goes!
January 16, 2014 § Leave a comment
I woke up today to a gray sky and saw the white branches. Oh-oh…snow. Luckily not too much.
I know many say why live in Vermont if you don’t like snow? Well I used to like snow, but this year for some reason I want to fast forward to spring. And I know I shouldn’t wish the time away, it was my New Year’s resolution after all. Maybe I just need some extra Vitamin D, or a SAD lamp, or a vacation in the islands. Yes, I think that would do it. Anyone?
Short of that, I decided to bake. Something quick and healthy to eat while looking out at the tundra. So I made these date bars. They’re cooling right now so I’ll put the coffee on while I write this.
2 cups chopped and pitted dates, I used Medjool
1/4 cup water
2 TBL maple syrup
1/3 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup flour, I use white spelt
1 cup oats
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease an 8″ baking dish.
Combine dates, water and maple syrup in saucepan. Simmer until the liquid is absorbed, about 8 to 10 minutes.
Beat butter and sugar with a mixer about 2 to 3 minutes until well combined.
Add flour, oats, baking soda and salt to the butter mixture and stir well to combine. It will be crumbly.
Take 2 cups of the oat mixture and press into the baking dish.
Top with the date mixturecs and spread evenly over all. It will seem thin but its very sweet.
Add the chopped walnuts to the remaining oat mixture, then sprinkle this over the dates.
Bake about 20 to 30 minutes until brown.
Let cool a bit before cutting in if you can help it. Enjoy!
Recipe adapted slightly from Cooking Light.
January 12, 2014 § 2 Comments
I rendered leaf lard today.
Many of you will know what I’m talking about but just as many, if not more won’t have a clue. We know where duck fat comes from, but leaf lard is not made from leaves. Here’s an explanation:
Leaf lard is pork fat. It comes from the “soft” fat around the kidneys and loin of the pig. It has a very neutral flavor, not at all pork-like or meaty. My mother always used lard for cooking, and duck fat was the prized fat above all others.
Now I know many of you are probably thinking fat is bad for you, avoid it at all costs. It leads to heart disease, high cholesterol, etc. etc. But the exact opposite is true. Our bodies need saturated fat, plain and simple. Our brain needs it for proper functioning and cognition. Our liver needs it to protect us from the negative effects of alcohol and drugs. Our lungs are coated with a substance made up of saturated fat. And we need it for calcium absorption. So using these fats in your cooking is a good way to get it. You can sometimes get leaf lard from a butcher and duck is easy to come by.
Lard and duck fat are excellent fats for frying as they have a high smoking point. Things like fried chicken or doughnuts are best fried in these. You can add a tablespoon or two of either when baking pies or pastries for flaky crusts. Potatoes fried in duck fat with sea salt is a meal in itself. You can also make a warm vinaigrette with duck fat, substituting it for some of the oil. And like my grandfather did, spread duck fat on a piece of dark rye bread and sprinkle with flaky sea salt. He had this for breakfast every day, sometimes with a slice of raw bacon on it!
Back to the rendering- I had a large portion of leaf lard that I got from Sleeping Dog Farm a while back and decided to render it. Quite easy to do really. Just grind or cut the lard into small chunks then put in a large pot and into the oven at 300 degrees, stirring once in a while. The fat will slowly release from the meat after about an hour. Just strain it through a piece of cheesecloth then store the fat in jars. Be careful that the fat doesn’t get too hot and burn or the lard won’t be clear. But even if it’s not it’s still terrific. The taste won’t be as neutral but still ok. You’ll end up with crackling which some people eat on salads and such but to be honest my family wasn’t too excited about them. So I’ll feed them to my chickens tomorrow.
The fat rising to the top.
What remains is the crackling.
To get duck fat, simply roast a whole duck. You’ll want to pierce the fatty parts with a needle so the fat can drain out, then simply scoop it up as the duck roasts and put into a jar.
Both these fats will keep about a month in the fridge or you can freeze them. Give them a try, traditional foods are the best!