July 31, 2016 § 10 Comments
We’ve had a great spring and summer so far here in Vermont. Not too much rain but that doesn’t seem to bother the blueberries. I’ve been picking my weighted down bushes non stop for a few weeks now. Besides freezing them I’ve made lots of muffins and scones, but wanted to do something a little different with my latest score.
Food and Wine recently had this hand pie recipe and they looked so delicious I had to try them. The recipe is quite easy though I added a few tips as you’re assembling them. I also substituted half white spelt flour and half Einkorn flour for the all purpose. And I had to add some lemon zest because blueberries and lemon zest are a match made in heaven. Try a bowl of berries with sweetened whipped cream sprinkled with lemon zest for dessert one night. Sublime!
So if you find yourself with some blueberries on a rainy Sunday and get the urge to bake, try these.
Blueberry Hand Pies
2 cups all purpose flour or 1/2 white spelt, 1/2 Einkorn flour
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cubed
1 large egg yolk
1/4 cup ice water
2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup sugar ( I used a little less)
2 TBL flour
2 TBL fresh lemon juice
grated lemon zest
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 large egg beaten with 1 tsp water
Turbinado suger for sprinkling or vanilla sugar
Make the dough:
Whisk flour, confectioners’ sugar and salt in large bowl. Cut in butter with a pastry cutter or 2 knives until mixture resembles coarse meal with some pea sizes pieces of butter remaining.
Using a wooden spoon, stir in the egg yolk and water until a shaggy dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead gently until smooth. Cut the dough in half and shape into 2 disks and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate about an hour until chilled.
In medium bowl, toss the blueberries with sugar, flour, lemon juice, zest, salt and cinnamon.
On a lightly floured surface, roll out 1 disk of dough to a 16 x 9 in rectangle. Approximately. I didn’t get it quite that size. Dough should be about 1/8” thick. Use a 4 in. floured cookie cutter, plate or even a glass to cut out 8 rounds from the dough. I didn’t get 8, only 7 so don’t worry about that either.
Spoon 2 TBL of the filling into the center of each round and fold the dough over.
Tip: After you fold the dough over, push the berries down a bit so they’re evenly spread out. Using the tines of a fork, seal the edges.
Tip: Each one takes a few minutes so while you fill them, put the other cut outs back in the fridge to keep cold. You want to keep the butter cold.
Transfer as you make them to a parchment lined baking sheet, about 1 in apart and put in fridge. Chill about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush the hand pies with the beaten egg wash and sprinkle with the sugar.
Bake about 15 to 18 minutes until nice and golden. Some of the juice will spill out.
Let cool a little, then dig in!
You can freeze these unbaked and pop in oven 25 minutes before serving.
Makes 14 to 16.
September 4, 2015 § 3 Comments
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.
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.
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!
August 9, 2015 § Leave a comment
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.
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!
June 1, 2015 § 3 Comments
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!”
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.
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.
* High Fructose Corn Syrup
May 25, 2015 § 3 Comments
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.
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.
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….
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.
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….
June 1, 2014 § 4 Comments
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!
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
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.
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.
June 12, 2013 § 5 Comments
What do you buy when you’re in a hurry but still want a good, tasty dinner? Pizza? Fish? Hamburgers? Prepared dinner?
I buy chicken thighs. Easy, delicious and inexpensive. They cook really fast in a hot oven and you can do a million things with thighs. You can barbecue, roast, saute and season with nothing but salt and papper and they’re delicious. Put over fresh pasta or roast in oven with some sliced potatoes and your meal is done. Bone-in thighs of course, there’s so much flavor in those bones.
I usually just throw them into a cast iron skillet with lots of whole garlic cloves, some cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs like oregano or thyme and a good sprinkling of salt and pepper. I don’t brown them first either, just put them into a preheated 400 degree oven for about 35 minutes. Then add fresh Parmesan grated on top when they’re done.
After eating them this way so often I thought it time for a change. So here’s a new favorite recipe. This isn’t quite as quick, but wow is it good. And even better the next day if there’s any left.
Chicken thighs, bone in, about 8 to 10
oil for sautéing
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1 heaping tsp minced, peeled fresh ginger
2 tsp minced garlic
2 to 3 cups good chicken stock
salt and pepper
1/2 TBl ground coriander
1 TBL ground cumin
1 TBL paprika
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (more if you like it spicy)
Feel free to increase these spices if you’re in love with any of them.
Preheat oven to 375. Season thighs with a good amount of salt and pepper. In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat and when hot, brown the chicken pieces on both sides then remove to a plate.
Add the chopped onion to the pan and cook until soft, just a few minutes. Add the garlic and all the spices, then stir them together until well mixed.
Return chicken to the pan, turning to coat them with the spice mixture.
Pour the chicken stock over all, you want the thighs partially submerged. Bring to a boil, then cover and put in oven.
Braise about 30 to 35 minutes, depending on the size of the thighs. Uncover for the last 10 minutes or so and you’ll get a little bit of crispy skin.
This is delicious served over noodles, like pappardelle, couscous or just as is with a big salad and some crusty bread to soak up all that great sauce.
Adapted from Food 52.
Some pictures of my gardens, the poppies escaped the rain and were beautiful this year. And a watercolor I did of them:
September 29, 2012 § 2 Comments
Autumn is officially here in Vermont. We had a light frost last night, and now I have to keep an eye on the weather report or I’ll have to say goodbye to my beautiful dahlias. Some are just opening and I’ll have to go out in the early evening with my old sheets to drape them….isn’t it beautiful?
The sunflowers are going gangbusters. I have one that has dozens of blooms and dozens more that won’t make it this year. Sunflowers in every room!
I’ve started cleaning up the garden a little bit, taking out the spent cucumbers and tomato plants. The gourds I planted, only 2 of them, have completely taken over one side of the garden. There are gourds everywhere. I planted them along side the chicken coop too and they’ve covered the fence and grown over into the other side.
When I cut down the comfrey plants, I found a nest with a small fragment of an eggshell still in it. Think it might be a catbird nest but I’m not sure. The nest opening is about 4″ across and the egg is a specked brown. Anyone know? I had a lot of catbirds in and around the garden this year so I’m guessing.
Another nest and little piece of nature…
This small nest, sparrow I think, is lined with dog hair, and the eggshell is from a robin’s nest.
Blue jay feather I found and painted…
So once the garden is cleaned up a bit I’ll let the chickens into it for awhile. Then I have a big project ahead: moving the compost pile and the raspberry patch. Both are too close to the garden and have become a chipmunk den. They were taking bites out of the vegetables all summer and I had no choice but to get the best chipmunk exterminator there is:
My new kitty, Josie. Working good so far!
July 18, 2012 § 6 Comments
This has been one hot and humid month! Not much rain so I’ve been watering the garden every night, something I didn’t have to do so much last year. But I have to remind myself that it is summer and the heat is good for growing vegetables. So no complaining here! (at least not that much of it)
I’ve pulled up the garlic and I picked the last of the red currants three days ago. I made some red currant vodka, scones and a small batch of jelly. I didn’t have as many this year because I was overrun with chipmunks and they were eating them before they were even ripe! Are there more chipmunks this year or is it just me?
The zucchini is starting now and this year I managed to keep the squash beetles away. I covered them with row covers as soon as I planted them. Then when they started to flower I removed them and spread cut mint leaves all around the flowers. It seems to be working, I haven’t seen any beetles on the blossoms…I’m keeping my fingers crossed. They can devour a blossom in no time. No blossom, no zucchini.
I’m growing celeriac this year for the first time. I love this vegetable. You can add it to green salads or make a Celery Root Remoulade, grating the peeled root, mixing it with mayo, mustard, lemon juice and salt and pepper. Barefoot Contessa has a simple and delicious recipe.
In my garden now are onions, shallots, brussels sprouts, four different types of tomatoes, kale, chard, zucchini, cucumbers, beets and lettuces. Also Gilfeather turnips, which you can only find here in Vermont. And lots of herbs, like dill, basil, parsley, cilantro, arugula.
I’m letting some of the radishes go to seed for next year and I’ll do that with some of the herbs too, like cilantro, dill and arugula. It’s easy to do, just let them flower, wait until they dry out a little, then pull the whole plant up and stick it in a paper bag, upside down, roots and all. The seeds will fall into the bag and then you just have to collect and label them.
Flowers have found their way into the garden and planted themselves among all these vegetables. I can’t bring myself to pull them out, even though I should. Some of it’s kind of messy, the poppies are in with the tomatoes, and there is verbena bonariensis everywhere. And Queen Anne’s lace, my absolute favorite wild flower, is in with the asparagus, which looks beautiful actually.
As I write this it’s starting to rain a little bit. The flowers, fruits, vegetables, birds and bees are very happy now. I’m hoping it keeps up all night so I’m going out to do my little rain dance now!
June 23, 2012 § 2 Comments
This is where I spend most of my time, in the gardens. I love to walk around, coffee cup in the morning, wine glass at dusk, and see what’s coming up, what needs pruning, or just admiring the beauty of it all.
In the beginning of the season there’s a lot of work to do, but now there’s just some weeding among the vegetables that must be kept up. Even a few days of rain and they take over.
Comfrey is everywhere in the garden. It re-seeds like crazy but I just cut it down regularly and put it under my tomato plants. Sometimes I make comfrey tea and water the vegetables and flowers with it. Just cut the stalks, put in a bucket and let it sit a few days. Then dilute it with water. It’s high in nitrogen and your plants will love it!
Some radishes and celery, which I regrew. I saw this on the internet, it’s not my idea, but I had to try it and it does actually work. Take some celery, cut the base off, put it in water overnight, then plant the next day, about 1 inch deep.
It will regrow and you can pot it or put it in the garden. Works with ginger too. Very cool!
The peonies were really lush and beautiful this year. I think the rainy spring we had might have had something to do with that. I neglected to stake them and their heavy heads all bent to the ground. I brought most of these with me when we moved here 15 years ago, so they’re settling in and getting old….like me!
What is it about chickens? Every day they give us an egg: nature’s perfect food. It’s a connection to the land and to our food that’s part of the appeal too. And today with so much of our food adulterated and just plain toxic, knowing that your eggs (and vegetables) are organic and healthy to eat is in itself a reward.
I like to give my the chickens some special treats once in awhile. I boil potato skins until soft as they won’t eat them raw (smart chickens) They go crazy for these. But then they go crazy for any scraps I bring down from the kitchen. They come running, with their wings flapping as if getting ready for take-off. It’s funny to watch! Every few days I go in with a shovel and turn over the dirt for a special snack – earthworms. I do feel bad for the worms, but only for a minute or two. A real delicacy are slugs that I get from the vegetable garden, and I think that gives me more pleasure than them!
Keeping chickens has become very popular recently, even in cities on rooftops I’ve heard. You really don’t need to have a farm or own a lot of land to keep a few hens. Just a safe place where foxes, dogs or predators can’t get to them. Of course having some green grass is ideal, it’s the first thing mine go for in the mornings when I let them out of their coop. Some fresh water, sunshine, food of course and shelter. The benefits of collecting your own fresh eggs is so worth the effort. And then you get all that good manure to use in your gardens, grow your vegetables and start the cycle all over again.
I’ve only had chicks one year from one of the hens, here is a drawing I did of them.