Bees, Flowers, Berries and Cream.

August 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

 

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I was sitting outside on my patio and watching the bees furiously going from flower to flower. I noticed a pattern, they would alight on a flower and then leave immediately. Off to another flower, and then the same thing. The flowers didn’t seem to interest them. There was nothing there for them.

The flowers they spent a lot of time on were the old fashioned ones. Foxgloves, hollyhocks, old fashioned roses.

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As beautiful as the others were, the ones I bought at the nursery because they had the most beautiful cascade of blooms, the bees wanted nothing to do with them. Same with the hummingbirds. The blooms were beautiful but sterile. It disturbed me and I thought about that for awhile.

It’s the same with our food….beautiful specimens of peaches but with no taste. Red ripe tomatoes that taste like cardboard. And that means there’s nothing there for our nourishment…..like the canary in the coal mine, the bees are telling us to beware.

Luckily more and more people are realizing that eating healthy is really pretty simple. I just read that McDonald’s is closing a lot of it’s “restaurants”, a good sign for the organic and healthy food movement.

Anyway, these are just my thoughts for the day. Now on to dessert.

My currants, blueberries and raspberries are all ripening at the same time, at least enough to get a big bowlful for dessert tonight. You can make this with pretty much any fruit that’s really summer ripe, try the farm stands and farmers markets.

Take a handful of berries, I like raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and add them to a sauté pan with a little butter and honey. Mash some of them, either with a fork or potato masher. Warm them just a little, you’re not cooking them, just melding the flavors together. Scoop onto individual plates and pour some really good cream over them. I grated a little lemon zest over them too. It’s delicious, gluten and sugar free and couldn’t be easier. And healthier!

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Rhubarb BBQ Sauce

June 1, 2015 § 3 Comments

 

 

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Rhubarb time again and what haven’t I tried to make with it?

Rhubarb is one of the first things to pop out of the ground in the spring and then I’m on to making scones, muffins and all kinds of desserts and baked things. This year I wanted to do something savory with it again. I’ve made Rhubarb Chutney before, the recipe is here on my blog, and I’ve added it to a pan sauce to spoon over chicken. I’ve got so much rhubarb that it’s time to try something new again.

My rhubarb patch is turning into a monster. I might have to divide and move it this fall as it’s right in the middle of my garden. When I planted it originally the garden was very small and it sat at the edge, but now it’s really in the way. It stares at me every time I visit the garden and calls out “please use me!”

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So I being one who likes homemade as much as possible decided to give Rhubarb BBQ sauce a try. The combination of the tart fruit (although it is technically a vegetable) mixed into the dark and smoky flavors of the sauce just might be delicious enough to eat with a spoon.

Besides eating it out of the jar, slather it on grilled chicken, ribs and vegetables too. Try grilling eggplant and basting with sauce.  Use as a replacement for ketchup on a burger. Try it on sandwiches too, or mixed into baked beans.

So if you’ve got your own patch or even if you don’t, here’s the recipe.

Ingredients:

6 stalks rhubarb, cleaned and trimmed and chopped

3/4 cup water

2 large shallots, minced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups ketchup ( organic and without HFCS* if possible)

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 TBL molasses

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

2 TBLS  mustard

1 TBL Tabasco

1 tsp Liquid Smoke (this is good stuff)

 

First, simmer the chopped rhubarb in the water until soft, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

In a saucepan, heat a small amount of olive oil, add the shallots and garlic and sauté a few minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil slowly. Reduce heat and continue simmering until sauce is thick and dark, about 10 to 15 minutes.

Let cool, then add the cooked rhubarb to it.

This sauce will be a little chunky, so if you like your BBQ sauce smooth just puree in food processor a few seconds.

Makes about 4 cups and will keep for months in the fridge.

 

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* High Fructose Corn Syrup

 

Carrot Parsnip Fritters and Outsmarting the Chipmunks

May 25, 2015 § 3 Comments

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So sorry that I’ve been absent for awhile. The weather has been absolutely beautiful these past weeks and I’ve spent every waking moment outside….getting the veggie garden prepped, pulling up a weed here and there, edging and mulching, and just walking around, breathing in Lily of the Valley, Lilac and Viburnum.

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I’ve done some major garden renovations this spring. I finally have some raised beds, and one of them has become my strawberry bed. The chipmunk population around here will be in for a surprise. I’m sure they’ve had their beady little eyes on the flowering strawberry plants, just waiting for the first red, ripe and juicy organic strawberry…. sorry critters.

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As you can see this is chipmunk proof!  I’m very excited, I think I have them beat!  There is nothing like growing your own strawberries, picking and popping them straight into your mouth….just like the chipmunks!

Now if I could do the same for my blueberry bushes.

On to the recipe….

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Fritters. Yes, so simple and easy, I wonder why I don’t make them more often. They can be a side dish, a part of a salad, breakfast or even dinner.

Fritters:

6 medium carrots 

3 medium size parsnips

1 clove garlic, minced

1 shallot, minced

3 eggs, beaten

3 TBL flour

1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper

olive oli for sautéing

Peel and grate the carrots and parsnips. You could do this in a food processor, but it’s so easy to do by hand. You won’t have to clean all that equipment. And it’s good for the biceps.

Add the shallot, garlic, flour, eggs, salt and pepper.

Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add a scoop of the carrot parsnip mixture and flatten.

Cook a few minutes over medium heat, turn and continue to cook until golden brown. Remove to a warm place, like your oven.

Serve with applesauce, or mix plain yogurt or sour cream with a little cumin, paprika or za’atar. Try adding some chopped parsley or cilantro, sprinkle with sesame seeds….

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Kitchen Sink Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

April 15, 2015 § Leave a comment

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We’ve had two days of sun and the temperature right now is 60 degrees. I’m thinking spring might be here?

In honor of that what else but make a big juicy salad for lunch. I wasn’t sure exactly what I felt like eating when I opened the refrigerator, so I looked in the drawers and shelves, scanning for possibilities. Here are some of the things I found and used:

Eggs (of course)

cottage cheese

lettuce and kale

red cabbage

parsley and pea shoots

1 cooked chicken thigh

2 last pieces of turkey bacon

leftover broccoli from last night

handful of cooked chickpeas

1/2 a cucumber

roasted salted pumpkin seeds

leftover cherry tomato salad with feta

 

I call this the Kitchen Sink salad. Everything in it but. Leftovers are great, meat or vegetables or both. Lettuce as the base, something crunchy, something salty, and of course eggs in some form always make it a meal. For my Kitchen Sink salad today I hard boiled the eggs, cooked the turkey bacon and chopped it up, added the cooked broccoli, chickpeas, cut up the cucumber and chicken. On went a  scoop of cottage cheese to make it nice and creamy, and a few tablespoons of the  pumpkin seeds after it was dressed.

I can’t waste food, saving even a few stalks of asparagus knowing I’ll use it somehow. So that cup of last night’s tomato salad with a few chunks of feta, perfect! All these things went into the bowl. I then made a big batch of buttermilk dressing.

Here’s the recipe, makes a lot.

2 tablespoons minced shallot
2 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons lemon juice or vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons yogurt or sour cream
1 cup buttermilk (shake well)
Salt and pepper

Put everything into a bowl and whisk well.

Pour over your kitchen sink (salad) and dig in!

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One More Winter Meal

March 23, 2015 § 2 Comments

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 As much as I love cold weather comfort foods, the season for hearty stews and soups is coming to an end. Rhubarb appearing in my dreams, cravings for all things green, edible or not, have started.

We had a few of what I consider warm days….40 degrees and no wind chill and those were enough for me to want to pack up my casseroles, open all the windows and start digging for dirt. 

Then today, a reminder that spring is still not as close as I thought. More comfort food for a little while longer I guess.

Here then is one more hearty meal to make it through until spring really does arrive.

Pot roast is one of my staples in the arctic months, and so easy to make. Just spend a little time browning the meat and cutting onions and the oven does the rest. If you make enough you can have leftovers and hot pot roast and gravy sandwiches for a few days as well. I suggest making this a day ahead, it’s so much more flavorful after a day or two.

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Braised Pot Roast with Carrots and Parsnips

Beef chuck roast, about 3 to 4 lbs

fat for browning, 2 or 3 TBL

good salt and pepper

1 bay leaf

thyme or oregano (a few sprigs) or dried (1 TBL)

1 large onion, chopped

2 carrots, cut into large chunks

2 parsnips, cut into large chunks

1 clove garlic, smashed

2 cups red wine

2 to 3 cups beef or vegetable stock

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Season the roast well with salt and pepper. In a large casserole or Dutch oven, heat fat (bacon fat, lard, olive oil) until very hot and brown the roast well on all sides. Remove to a plate.

Add the chopped onion, garlic, carrots, parsnips and bay leaf to the fat remaining (add more if you need to) and sauté about 5 minutes until vegetables are well coated and softened.

Add wine and bring everything to a boil, stirring up all the bits on the bottom. 

Return the roast to the pot, add the broth and herbs. Make sure the liquid comes halfway up the roast, add water or more stock if needed. When simmering again, cover and bake about 2 hours, until meat is very tender.

To make gravy, remove the meat, all but 1 of the carrots, parsnips and bay leaf. Keep warm.

Carefully puree the liquid in a blender, a few cups at a time. Please be careful, hot liquids in blenders can become dangerous if filled too high. Blending the liquid with some vegetables will thicken the sauce without having to add any of the usual thickeners like flour or arrowroot. Taste and adjust seasonings.

Return the meat, vegetables and sauce to the pot and keep warm until it’s time to eat.

You can cut the roast into large chunks or shred with 2 forks. Serve with mashed or boiled potatoes and pour sauce over all. 

 I like to serve this with applesauce, which if you don’t have can be made while the roast is cooking.

Happy Spring!

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illustration by me

Another Cooking Day

February 16, 2015 § 4 Comments

I’m not going to mention the S word in this post. Let’s just say I am surrounded by incredible amounts of cold and white, as far as the eye can see. Seems like every few days more comes. And today it came with wind, white wind.

It’s way too cold to go out into it so I find myself standing in the kitchen again, creating  delicious smells to waft through the house. It’s only 2 o’clock and already I’ve made braised lamb shanks, beef vegetable soup, salmon quiche and these Cheddar Parmesan Crackers.

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Now this isn’t going to be one nights dinner, though I don’t doubt Kevin could eat it. He’s pretty much outside all day and needs nourishment every half hour! Especially with all that white stuff that gets in the way of everything.

I really like making crackers, you basically just put the ingredients into a food processor and blitz everything together. With these, I baked half the recipe and put the other half into the freezer. Then I can can just take them out on a moment’s notice. You really don’t need cheese with these, they’re quite rich, though they would be good with a slice of apple or even chutney. And perfect with a glass of white wine, like Riesling.

 

Cheddar Parmesan Crackers

4 oz grated cheddar cheese

2 oz grated Parmesan cheese

3/4 cup flour

1/4 tsp dry mustard

1/4 tsp good salt

good pinch cayenne

4 TBL unsalted butter, softened and cut into smaller pieces

2 TBL water

 

Place all ingredients except butter and water into food processor and pulse 5 times.

Add the butter, pulse again until butter pieces are very small.

Add the water, 1 TBL at a time until dough holds together. If it’s still crumbly, add a bit more water, 1 tsp at a time.

After taking the dough out of food processor, roll it into a log about 9″ long and square the ends. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate about 2 hours.

Then preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cut the log into slices about 1/4″ thick.

Place on baking sheet an inch apart and bake 8 to 10 minutes until golden brown. Turn crackers and bake another 4 or 5 minutes.

Cool on a rack.

You can freeze this as well, and I recommend cutting it into smaller sections in case you’re only going to use some of it.

 

Makes about 3 dozen crackers.

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Recipe from The All American Cheese and Wine Book.

 

 

Sage, Bacon and Cheddar Cornbread

January 14, 2015 § 5 Comments

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Today was a stay inside kind of day for me. It started out gray (as usual) and then started snowing a little bit. I had a few things in mind for dinners throughout the week and for some reason just decided to cook them all.

I started off with a sort-of stew of braised oxtails with fennel. As that was in the oven I started a version of pot roast, with lots of onions, red wine and tomatoes. Then I put a big pot of beef stock on to simmer, using up some leftover bones from the freezer and adding some fresh ones to it. That’s been simmering all day and will be for another few days.

I still needed some cooking therapy I guess so cornbread came to mind. I wanted to jazz it up a bit, so I added bacon, cheddar cheese, sautéed onions and sage to an otherwise plain cornbread recipe.  I used a cast iron pan to cook the bacon and onions in and then kept it hot as I made the batter, then spooned it on top. Once it came out of the oven I felt the urge to add even more cheddar, (probably because I’d been nibbling on some the whole time) so I sprinkled another 1/2 cup on as it cooled, making a nice cheesy glaze.

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This is best served warm. To reheat the next day, wrap in foil and place in hot oven for about 10 minutes. Or, I like to melt a little butter in a pan and add some slices of cornbread to it. Makes a great breakfast, topped with a fried or poached egg.

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Ingredients:

3 pieces bacon, cut into pieces

1 large onion, sliced

3/4 cup cornmeal

1 cup flour, I use white spelt

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese

2 eggs

1/2 cup milk

3/4 cup sour cream

2 Tbl butter, melted

1/4 cup cheddar, grated, for top

dried sage for top

 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a cast iron pan, about 8″, cook the bacon until almost done, remove to a plate.

Add the sliced onions to the pan, adding more fat to the pan if you need it. Cook until golden.

Put the bacon back in with the onions, and keep the pan warm while you mix up the batter. You could put in the oven but keep an eye on it.

In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Add the grated cheddar.

In another bowl, beat the eggs, then add the milk, butter and sour cream.

Add wet to dry, mix.

Spoon into the hot pan with the bacon and onions, sprinkle crumbled dried sage over the top.

Bake about 15 minutes, until tester comes out dry.

Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with the 1/4 cup grated cheddar.

 

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I’ll be giving you the recipes for the oxtail stew and pot roast soon…..oh one more thing…I also made the chickens a treat: melted some old peanut butter, added some seeds, oats, and grains then popped it into the freezer for tomorrow’s treat….think I’m done for this day!

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