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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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

 

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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Breakfast Bars

January 26, 2014 § 4 Comments

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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. 🙂

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Ingredients:

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!

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The Best Pork Burgers Ever!

August 31, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Anyone out there that doesn’t love a good burger? Well I recently had the best burger ever. I was in Burlington, Vermont at the Guild Restaurant, known for it’s dry aged, local, grass fed steaks, and on the menu was a ” VT Heritage Grazers Pork Burger”. Sounded interesting, topped with a fried free range egg and Vermont Cheddar, but I was a little leery to try it, only because I thought it might be on the tough and dry side. But knowing how good the Guild food was, I ordered it. It was about as far from tough and dry as you could get!

So of course I had to try and recreate it in my kitchen. Lucky for us Vermonters, we can easily buy heritage, pasture raised pork, and free range eggs are everywhere. I experimented a bit because I wanted this burger to be as juicy and flavorful as the Guild’s. When I make beef burgers I don’t add anything to the meat, I just shape it, add salt and pepper and onto the grill it goes. But pork is different, somehow. I knew it needed something else. So here’s the recipe I came up with:

1 pound of the best organic, ground pork you can find, preferably pasture raised ( I do recommend buying only pasture raised pork, I’m certain it had everything to do with the flavor)

1 egg (to mix with the meat)

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp crumbled dried sage (not the powdered kind)

1 large clove garlic, minced

salt and pepper, about 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper, more or less

 

Mix everything gently with your hands and shape into 2 burgers. The burgers will seem like they’re a little too moist, don’t worry.

 

You can either grill them or cook on stovetop in a preheated heavy skillet or cast iron pan, oiling both a little so meat doesn’t stick.

While the burger cooks, gently fry an egg in some olive oil until just done. You want a runny yolk to drip all over the burger.

Cook burger until it’s firm in the middle when you press your finger into it. It should be cooked through completely, no medium rare for pork.

Toast 2 brioche buns, grab some of your homemade pickles and assemble your masterpiece.

Ketchup, mustard, tomato, lettuce, some cheddar cheese, whatever you like to top the best pork burger ever!

I made some sweet potato fries with this: Peel and slice sweet potato, coat with a tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper, and put in hot oven, 425 degrees  for about 15 minutes.

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Serves 2.

 

If you’re ever in Burlington, try the Guild, and it’s sister restaurant, Farmhouse. And maybe go for a sail on beautiful Lake Champlain!

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