My Garden and German Cucumber Salad (Gurkensalad)

September 4, 2015 § 3 Comments

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Anyone who gardens knows what I mean when I say it’s my sanctuary. It’s the first place I go to when I get home from a trip and the last place I visit before I go in for the night. I go through the gate and everything else that’s been on my mind is left behind. Before I know it three hours have flown by.

It’s a special place, alive with birds, toads, bees, and I’m sure plant spirits and faeries turning sunlight, rain and dirt into flowers and vegetables magically overnight.

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I’ll be in the middle of weeding when I feel the sunflowers beckoning. I’ll stop to have a look at them and see that the finches and chickadees have been busy working on the huge heads. I love watching them flit around, going from one to another, like their own buffet table. I’ll leave about half for them and the rest I’ll dry and feed to the chickens.

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I’m not a very neat gardener I think you’d say. I know I should have pulled out that tomato seedling that sprouted up from last year, right in the path. But I didn’t and so now I have to step over it and soon won’t even be able to do that. There are poppies everywhere, and again, right in the path. I even saved an elderberry sprout that flew into the garden somehow (faerie probably) and it’s now a small tree near the back. Oh well!

And my garden this year is the best one ever. Each day I bring up a basket of tomatoes, zucchini, lettuce and cucumbers. So many cucumbers! I juice them, make pickles and salads and add them to water. I slice them in half and give the chickens a treat too.

One of my favorite salads is one my mother always made, Gurkensalad. She didn’t really have a recipe, but this is how I make it now.

4 cucumbers, peeled

1/2 small red onion, sliced thin

1 TBL red wine vinegar

1 cup sour cream

1 tsp sugar

salt and pepper

1 to 2 tsp caraway seeds (optional but really good)

paprika for garnish

After you peel the cucumbers, slice in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. I use a melon baller for this.

Using a mandolin, slice them. A food processor works or if you don’t have one, just slice as thinly as possible. Even if they break apart, it’s ok, you don’t want big chunks for this salad.

Put slices into a colander, salt them well. About 1 TBL salt will do it. Let sit about a half hour.

While they’re draining, in a separate bowl, mix the dressing by combing sour cream, vinegar, red onion, sugar, a dash of pepper. Set aside.

After at least a half hour, grab a large bowl, then take a handful of cucumbers at a time and squeeze as much water as you can out of them, then put them into the bowl. (Don’t rinse the cucumbers by the way)

Add the dressing and mix well. Taste for seasoning. You’ll need a little more salt. Add the caraway seeds, mix then dust with sweet paprika.

Chill for at least an hour before serving. This is a very refreshing salad that gets better the longer it sits. I’ll make a ton of it and grab a bowl as a snack. Enjoy!

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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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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.

 

 

Cheesy Tomato Pie

August 12, 2014 § 1 Comment

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The time we have all been waiting for has come. Summer tomatoes are here! My favorite way to eat them is the famous tomato sandwich- sliced thickly, sprinkled with a good flaky sea salt, homemade mayo on sourdough bread.

But one can only eat so many tomato sandwiches.

So besides making quarts of sauce and salsa and watching them sit on my counter I thought I’d put them into a pie, a savory, cheesy, quiche-like pie. Now you could easily buy a ready made pie crust and just put the ingredients in, but if you know me, I can’t do that. It just doesn’t taste the same. But that’s just me. Don’t let that stop you from making this, it’s easy and delicious and even better the next day.

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You probably have all the ingredients in your kitchen: flour, butter, cheddar, eggs, mayonnaise and those tomatoes. You can stick with this simple recipe or doctor it up a bit, adding some bacon or ham, chunks of sausage, or even change the cheese. Try goat or feta as long as you keep the basic tomato thing going.

It’s great for lunch, brunch or even a light dinner with a salad and some sautéed zucchini, another one of those vegetables you can’t eat fast enough.

Ingredients for Crust:

2 cups flour, I use white spelt

1 3/4 sticks unsalted butter, cut into chunks

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup ice water

Ingredients for filling:

4 large tomatoes

2 cups grated cheddar

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

2 eggs, beaten

fresh basil leaves, about 1/2 cup, julienned

a little salt and pepper to taste

 

Mix flour and salt together, then add the butter and cut in with your fingers, or put in food processor and pulse a few times until the butter is the size of peas. Add the ice water until the dough just holds together, press into a ball, flatten and refrigerate at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

When you’re ready, roll out the dough then press into a 9″ pie dish.

Bake in the preheated oven for 8 minutes while you mix cheese, mayonnaise, mustard, eggs, salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl.

While you’re waiting for the crust in the oven, cut the tomatoes into slices, not too thin, put into a colander, then sprinkle with salt to let the water drain out. About 10 minutes or so will do.

Pat the tomato slices dry, then place on top of pre baked crust.

Top with the basil, then spread the cheese/egg mixture over all.

Bake about 25 minutes until nice and brown.

Try to wait before cutting into this, it’s best served lukewarm.

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Scrambled Egg Muffins

July 12, 2014 § Leave a comment

 

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Breakfast can be a challenge for me sometimes. I have a piece of bacon or sausage and some fruit, like melon, or a bowl of strawberries with some fresh cream poured over, and a cup of coffee. In winter it’s usually oatmeal, again with fruit, maple syrup and cream. Of course eggs are in there too, but today I got tired of the over-easy version and got a little creative.

I love a muffin in the morning, but I try to avoid flour if I can. And I’m not a fan of gluten free flours really, I don’t think some of the substitutes are all that healthy…. so this is basically an egg beaten with salt and pepper and poured into a muffin tin. Pretty simple!

I added quite a few things to the “recipe”- whatever I had in the fridge really….leftover broccoli, chopped kale, a few cherry tomatoes and of course cheese. Gotta have cheese – pretty much on everything!

So give these a try, they are great for anytime you want a snack, packed in lunch boxes and for traveling, and of course breakfast, still warm from the oven.

Here’s the “recipe”

12 eggs, one for each muffin cup

salt and pepper

vegetables, either left over of fresh

goat cheese, cheddar, feta, Parmesan-as much or little as you like-I used a heaping TBL on top of each one.

Pine nuts or any type of seed, sesame or pumpkin, etc.

Minced garlic, fresh herbs

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 12 cup muffin tin or line with paper liners.

Beat the eggs. If you’re making different kinds, I suggest separating some of the eggs into different bowls for the different ingredients ( like 2 eggs with kale and cheddar, and 2 eggs with tomatoes, broccoli and goat cheese, etc. I find it easier to pour into the cups this way). Or just beat them all at once, then add the veggies.

Add salt and pepper to taste, remembering if you add cheese it may be salty already.

Add the veggies, then sprinkle on the cheese and seeds, etc.

Pour into muffin tin and bake about 30 minutes until knife inserted comes out clean.

And that’s it. You can get creative here, of course, add some cooked bacon, a little cooked sausage, some sun dried tomatoes, herbs, pretty much anything goes!

 

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Flaxseed Crackers with Herbs and Garlic

March 9, 2014 § 13 Comments

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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!

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Ingredients:

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.

Creamy Rice Pudding with Cranberry Orange Puree

November 25, 2013 § 6 Comments

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Rice pudding is the ultimate comfort food, don’t you think? Creamy and rich, with a hint of cinnamon and honey, it’s perfect for a night like tonight. Although It’s not officially winter yet, the wind is howling, the temp is in the single digits and we even lost power…ugh.

And with Thanksgiving on my mind for awhile now, naturally cranberries have been popping up also. So add all those things up and you have dessert!

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This cranberry puree is also a perfect accompaniment to your Thanksgiving table. Serve it on the side with the turkey. It’s delicious on those leftover turkey sandwiches too. Spoon it on pie, just a dollop on the pumpkin or pecan, or on top of ice cream.

Make some Honey Roasted Pears and serve on the side. Spread a little on top of a plain poundcake. Makes a great appetizer with some melted Cheddar on a baguette. Or make a batch for holiday gifts.

Here’s the recipe:

Rice Pudding:

  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 1  teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  •  cinnamon
  • honey for top
  •  Bring rice, honey, salt and milk to a boil over medium-high. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer 25 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring constantly, until rice is tender and pudding is creamy, about 5 minutes. Stir in vanilla.
  •  When ready to serve, stir in heavy cream and sprinkle with cinnamon.
  • Serve warm.
 Cranberry Puree:
1  12 oz pkg fresh cranberries, about 3 1/2 cups
1 cup organic sugar
juice and zest from 1 large orange
Put all in saucepan, bring to boil, then simmer about 5 to 6 minutes, until berries burst.
Put through food mill to remove skins, or puree in blender. It won’t be as smooth but still ok if you don’t have one.
Makes about 2 cups.
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Put the pudding into individual bowls, drizzle with honey and a spoonful or two of the cranberry puree.

Rice Pudding recipe adapted from Martha Stewart.

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