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.

 

 

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Rhubarb Mania

June 1, 2014 § 4 Comments

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You know spring is on it’s way when you see the gnarly leaves of the rhubarb plant emerge from the dirt. There’s no stopping it once it starts, the leaves getting bigger and bigger until the flower pops up in the middle.

Rhubarb, a perennial, is a very hardy plant that thrives in the cold northern regions. Every old farmstead likely has a rhubarb patch somewhere, having been made into pies and sauces for the family get togethers through the years and still going strong.

It doesn’t require much care, producing ruby red stalks for decades each spring. Every few years you can divide the plant and either start a new patch or pass it on to a gardening friend or family member. There’s only one important point you must know, in case you don’t already, and that is that the leaves are highly poisonous. I just cut the leaves off right in the garden and add them to the compost pile.

Rhubarb will keep for about a week in the fridge, but I find it easiest to just go out and pick some when I need it. You can freeze it, but not very well in my opinion, kind of turns to mush.

Here are  a few recipes using rhubarb. One is for scones, one for chutney, and one for a syrup. And don’t forget the Rhubarb Clafouti!

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Strawberry Rhubarb Scones

3 cups flour, I use white spelt

1/2 cup organic sugar

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 cup chopped rhubarb

1 cup sliced strawberries

 

Line a baking sheet with parchment or grease lightly.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mix the dry ingredients together.

Add the butter pieces and work into the flour mixture with your fingers or a fork until you have pea sized pieces throughout.

Add buttermilk and fruit and stir gently with a fork until combined. don’t overwork or they’ll be tough. The dough will be on the moist side.

Lightly flour the baking sheet and pat out the dough, making a circle about 10 inches wide.

Cut into even pieces, like a pizza. You can sprinkle with a little extra sugar if you like.

Bake about 18 to 25 minutes, until lightly browned.

 

Rhubarb Raisin Chutney

 

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This chutney is great on sandwiches, like ham or roast pork. It also makes a nice glaze for pork tenderloin, chops or fish.

 

2 1/2 cups roughly chopped rhubarb

1/4 to 1/2 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

1/4 cup finely chopped onion

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ginger

1/4 tsp dry mustard

1/4 tsp salt

1/3 cup golden raisins

 

In a medium sized pot combine maple syrup, vinegar, onion, coriander, ginger, mustard and salt. Bring to a boil, then cook for about 5 minutes, uncovered.

Add the rhubarb and raisins and continue cooking, simmering actually, another 15 minutes or so, until rhubarb is softened. You don’t want mush here, so keep an eye on it.

Remove from the heat, then taste for sweetness, adding more maple syrup if you’d like.

Makes about 2 cups.

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Syrup

This is a delicious syrup you can drizzle over vanilla ice cream or pound cake. Use instead of maple syrup on pancakes or french toast. It’s also great mixed with a little sparking water and a splash of vodka. Ok, maybe more than a splash.

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1 1/2 cups chopped rhubarb

1 cup sliced strawberries

3/4 cup sugar, organic preferably organic

1 cup water

 

In saucepan, combine all ingredients.

Bring to a boil and cook about 15 minutes until rhubarb is soft.

Put through a fine mesh strainer to separate pulp. You can either discard it or mix it with butter or cream cheese and spread on a bagel. Stir it into oatmeal or yogurt with some nuts for breakfast. Yum.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

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Refreshing Flavored Water

June 2, 2013 § 7 Comments

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No need to say too much on the subject of water here. We all know we need it, and we will actually DIE if we don’t get it. We can go without food for several weeks, but in hot conditions dehydration can start in an hour. Ok.

It’s been particularly hot and humid here the past few days and I find myself consuming LOTS of it. But water can be rather boring don’t you think? So I started by adding some lemon slices to a jar of water and refrigerated it. One thing led to another and I was thinking up all these juicy ideas on how to kick water up a notch.

No recipe required, just add whatever you have or buy some organic fruit with the water jug in mind. Fill the jar right up with the fruit and refrigerate several hours until cold and infused. No need to strain, and you can fill up the jar with more water a few times to get all the essence out. Here are some of the waters in my fridge:

Lemon slices and a sprig of mint. Give them a good squeeze and drop them in.

Orange and grapefruit. I use the peel on the orange (organic of course) but not the grapefruit. A bit tart.

Watermelon, my favorite so far.

Raspberries, a second favorite. Mush a few up, the water will turn nice and red.

Pineapple. The water is really flavored with this one.

Kiwi, use a lot.

Peaches, make sure they’re on the soft side.

Strawberries and some sprigs of basil.

Or add several different fruits together, strawberries and lemons for instance.

You get the idea!

Don’t keep them in the fridge for too long, especially if you’re adding leaves like mint or basil. On a hot day I’m know you’ll be refilling them often!

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For easy, healthy mint ice tea, totally cram a jar with mint and put it out in the sun for 1 or 2 days, turning it upside down every so often to keep the top leaves wet. Strain and add fresh lemons and honey to taste. You could add a few of your favorite tea bags to it also.

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Fruit Infused Vodka

July 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

 

Around 5 o’clock, after a long day in the garden, I usually start thinking about a drink, something nice and refreshing.

And perhaps alcoholic.

Like a nice chilled raspberry martini made with my own raspberry infused vodka.

I usually have a lot of extra fruit and am always trying to find ways of using it up. After freezing and baking and canning I still have enough left over to be able to make a few bottles. Even if you don’t have your own bushes, go to the farmer’s markets during berry season and buy whatever fruit catches your eye. Make yourself a few bottles, you’ll be happy you did.

I always make raspberry and blueberry, and this year I bought some ripe pineapple and it’s sitting in my pantry now. The good thing is you can also use fruit that is not quite perfect or a little overripe. And these make great gifts, just find a nice bottle to infuse the vodka in and when it’s ready just tie a bow on it and you’re all set!

Nothing could be easier:

Find a bottle, make sure it’s clean, and fill it with fruit: raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, currants, pineapple, strawberries, even watermelon….citrus like lemons and oranges are especially flavorful,  try clementines too. Then fill it up with vodka. Close tightly and put in a dark place, like a cupboard, for about a month. You want it at room temperature also. The vodka will turn the color of the fruit and be subtlety flavored.

Once it’s done, you can strain the fruit out if you want, but it’s not necessary. Although you’d have some mighty potent fruit to put over that bowl of ice cream!

I keep mine in the freezer so it’s ice cold and ready.

 

 

Here’s my recipe for a raspberry martini:

2 oz. raspberry vodka

1 oz Cointreau

juice of 1/2 lime

Put into a shaker and give it a good shake. Pour into a martini glass and add a raspberry or two. Add ice if you like.

Happy weekend!

Kombucha – Home Brewed Elixir for Life

July 3, 2012 § 9 Comments

You know something has gone mainstream when you see it in Williams Sonoma. I saw the make your own Kombucha kit in their catalog and that’s a good thing. But you really don’t need to spend $70 on a home brewing kit. Kombucha is so easy to make at home and if you drink it daily, which you really should, it can be quite costly. Bottles of it sell for about $4 in stores.

I have a batch of Kombucha always brewing or fermenting actually. For those who don’t know about it, Kombucha is a sweetened “tea” that is brewed using a SCOBY, or symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast. This scoby, or mother, or mushroom as some people call it, feeds on the sugar in the tea and turns it into a wonder drink. It has a strong, tart taste which may take some getting used to, almost like a mild vinegar. But when you know how good this stuff is for you you’ll get to like it. Really!

Number one on the list is detoxing the body. And we all know how many toxins there are out there bombarding us. Kombucha is a cancer fighter, balances your body’s PH, good for our digestive health, helps fight candida overgrowth, is a probiotic powerhouse and boosts energy. There are many articles on the health benefits, here’s a good one.

And don’t worry that Kombucha is a new fad, it’s been around for over 2000 years. I recently found out that my German grandmother used to make it.

Making your own supply is super easy. You’ll need a few basics supplies: Tea, black or green, organic sugar, and a Scoby. A glass jar, plastic or wooden spoon for stirring (never use metal to touch the Scoby), cheesecloth or other breathable fabric to cover the jar and a rubber band. For detailed instructions and a video to help make the first batch, check out the Cultures for Health website. Then you save some of the brew with the new Scoby to start your next batch.

If you don’t have a Scoby to start with, not a problem. You can start your own using a store bought jar of raw, unpasteurized unflavored Kombucha such as Synergy. You mix this with about a cup of black tea (don’t use herbal tea) which has been sweetened with a small amount of sugar. (a few tablespoons will do) Put this in a glass jar, cover with cheesecloth or even paper towel, secure with a rubber band and leave it undisturbed for about a week. You’ll see the Scoby forming on top of the liquid in the jar.

Here is the new Scoby is forming on top of the old one I am using to start my new batch. Once it’s done and you’ve saved some of it for the next brew, you can flavor the Kombucha. I add some fruit to different jars. One has lemon slices with a small amount of grated ginger in it. Another has slices of pineapple. Lemon and orange are really good.

You can give away the old Scoby to your friends so they can make their own. Or you can let it air dry and smear it with a little bacon fat and give it to your dog. It’s good for them too!

Mother’s Day Special

May 13, 2012 § 4 Comments

Sheila, my sister since I married her brother, and I were talking on the phone today, Mother’s Day, and we both spent the day in the garden. Days like this are heaven here in Vermont, warm but not too warm, cool in the shade, no bugs. A bit breezy, perfect for digging in the dirt. I mentioned my new favorite drink, of the cocktail variety, and that I was going to make myself one after digging all day. I use Reed’s ginger ale, kind of spicy, not too sweet, perfect all by itself actually, but why not spice things up a bit with something alcoholic? It is Mother’s Day after all and we deserve it!

So here’s the recipe… is that what they call it when it’s an alcoholic beverage? It sounds a bit off calling it a recipe, but here it is. And I don’t think there’s a name for this so I’ll call it the “Gin and Trowel”….what do you think?

Get yourself a nice goblet, fill it with ice cubes. Then add Reed’s Ginger Ale, fill about halfway. Next add 2 ounces of good quality gin. Squeeze the juice from half an orange, you’ll want a little less than 1/4 cup, then take half a lemon and squeeze that into your glass. Slice a piece of it and add it. Rip up a few pieces of mint, throw that in there too.

That’s it, enjoy, and here’s to all the mothers out there!

And thank you Sheila for the suggestion to write this post!

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