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Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

On Sunday I posted a photo of the quail eggs that I brought home from a recent barter.

They are so tiny and so beautiful. Each quail has its own distinct patter on the eggs that she lays – like a fingerprint. That is amazing, isn’t it?! Imagine my surprise when I started cracking them open and found some that were colored inside – a beautiful range of light blue/aqua. Nature is amazing!

Quail eggs

Quail eggs

I had no idea how many quail eggs made an omelet, so my plan was to just keep adding eggs until it looked like the amount of two chicken eggs. Well, I got a little carried away. The first omelet had 18 eggs in it. That was just too many.

Quail egg Omelet

Quail egg Omelet

We are eating a lot of things out of the garden right now. Peppers from the garden, along with beautiful onions from my neighbor, and local mushrooms from Kitchen Pride.

As I think back to the barter and all the wonderful things that I come home with, I smile when I think of the variety of eggs: Quail, Chicken, Duck, Turkey. All the eggs are beautiful.

What kind of eggs are in your refrigerator?

Sincerely, Emily

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My chard (also known as swiss chard and silverbeet) is growing great right now. I planted it last fall, and it did ok throughout the winter months, but it seems to really have taken off in the past months. I have known that I need some shade for my garden in the spring and summer months. That South Texas sun is just too darn hot for most things all day long. While I have a nice line of juniper trees on the east side of the garden I have nothing shading things from the West side and as the hours go by the plants really take a beating. I have tried to come up with some ideas (in my head!) to help shade things, but my limitations over the past few years I haven’t been able to physically get things done like that. This year I had some ideas that I thought would work and I have more stamina to get them done.

Chard stalks

Chard stalks

I’m getting off track here. This post started out about chard and the stems and I have gotten sidetracked with my new shade system….. so I will break this up into two posts and post about the shade that I created in my next post here.

I think my chard is really benefiting from the shade and when I arrived back home after being gone for 3 weeks I was amazed at how tall and full the chard plants where. It is really almost impossible to grow most greens here in the spring and summer months. For two years I did keep a few chard plants going. It wasn’t pretty throughout the summer months, nor were they huge producers, but it was interesting to see them stay alive and keep growing.  I am excited at the prospect of these fall planted chard plants along with the new shade to see what happens throughout the rest of the summer. We are already hot, and it will just get more hot and I hope the plants will do better.

chopping chard stalks

chopping chard stalks

So, I am happily picking chard and adding into most of our meals in one way or another. Last night as I was chopping the chard and I wondered if others out there also ate the stalks/stems.

Adding chopped chard stalks to pasta water

Adding chopped chard stalks to pasta water

I grew up eating the stalks. Mom or Gram would chop them separately and get them sauteing or steaming for a few minutes. The stalks can be a bit bitter and that bitterness will disappear if you give them extra time to cook. they also need additional cooking time because they are a lot thicker and firmer than the leaf and need that extra time to soften up more.

When I am going to add the chard to pasta, I just throw the chopped stalks in along with the pasta for the last 3 minutes of its cooking time. Once the pasta is drained I add the chopped leaves and let the heat of the pasta soften and cook the delicate chard leaves (the smaller you chop them up, the easier it is to incorporate them into the hot pasta.)

Do you eat the chard stalks? How do you incorporate them into your meals?

Sincerely, Emily

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I was out in Palm Springs a few weeks ago to do what I could to help a friend. I was able to run a lot of errands, cook meals, and just be there when she needed me.

Popcorn popper

Popcorn popper

We have a lot of great memories together, one of them being popcorn. We used to work together and every now and then, on a Friday, we would alternate bringing some sort of food into the office to share. I would bring sun dried tomato and chive cream cheese with bagels, and would bring it in on a Friday morning so the service guys could grab one before heading out for the day. A few Friday’s later, usually a payday, and she would make a huge batch of popcorn and bring it in after lunch so the service guys could grab some when they stopped in to pick up their paychecks.

One afternoon I made popcorn when when I was out there a few weeks ago, another one of our friends (we also worked together) was stopping by. I didn’t make just one batch of popcorn, but 5 batches! The air is so dry there, that it stays nice and crispy, crunchy for several days.

We all munched on popcorn through our tears and laughter. And we munched on it for the next few days along with other family members.

I am used to using a pan on the stove-top for making popcorn at home, but she had this nifty popcorn making pan. After a batch of instruction, I was on my way! Batch after Batch!

Are you a popcorn eater? How do you pop yours?

Sincerely, Emily

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Bunching onions, sauerkraut, local lamb roast, and working in the garden….

Chopping up bunching onions to go in my neighbors freezer

Chopping up bunching onions to go in my neighbors freezer

What do all those things have in common? …. Just more “not dabbling in normal” normal.

Over at the neighbors getting things ready to plant.

Over at the neighbors getting things ready to plant.

Cleaning and clearing out the winter garden. the onions are starting to flower. I let a few turnips and some of the kale flower so I can collect seeds. The monster spinach is just starting to bolt, so will leave a few plants in the ground for seed saving also.

I was over at the neighbors yesterday to help clear out winter plants and get some spring things in the ground. He uses a hoe (made in the USA) that belonged to his grandmother. (my neighbor is 81 years old, so that is one old hoe that he is using.) we planted some cucumber and zucchini seeds and got a few bell pepper plants in the ground. My body is still playing catch up from being sick a year ago…. so that was all we got done. We will work out there again on Saturday. I plan to work in my garden today and hopefully get some plants in the ground. I still get out of breath, but it feels good to work out there and I need to keep pushing myself a bit to keep getting better. I have certainly come a long way, especially when i think back to march 2013 when I couldn’t even walk across the room!

chopping cabbage for sauerkraut

chopping cabbage for sauerkraut

I have picked my cabbages and they are in the crock turning into fermented sauerkraut. I picked up some more local cabbage at the local swap that I go to and those are also fermenting in another second crock. A Roasted lamp shoulder

Dinner the other night was a roasted local lamb shoulder (picked it up at the swap/barter.) I had a second pan in the oven roasting sweet potatoes and onions that I also traded for.

Making a cough syrup

Making a cough syrup

I am also taking an herbal medics class. Learning a lot, and So much more to learn. It is a lot of fun. I am harvesting some wild herbs and edibles as they are popping up this spring. The lambsquarter is popping up so I am potting some up to take to plant swaps and also the month swap/barter.

So, like I said…. Life. There is a lot going on. Spring is in the air (It was 87F yesterday – I think we skipped Spring!)

What are you up to this time of year?

Sincerely, Emily

 

 

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I have been a member in a Culinary group for the past 2+ years and it has been a lot of fun. We get together once a month and have herb-themed culinary meetings. Our group has been full and there have been many members of the Herb Society that would like to join our group, but we limit it to 15 members since we have sit-down dinners and rotate house. So, a friend and I have mentored a new Culinary group. We officially started the meetings in November. the first meeting was a general meeting, bring a dish to share (no theme) and talk about the guidelines and ideas of getting the new group off the ground and in the right direction. For the December meeting the original Culinary group invited the new Culinary group to our annual cookie exchange. That was a big hit with over 20 people attending (appetizers, not sit-down meal!)

Note: for those of you that know me, you might want to be sitting down to see some of the photos in this post! Seriously!

Goat Cheese - Thyme - Caramelized Onion Crostini Canape - EmilyTonight, I hosted the first themed meeting. Our theme was thyme and everyone brought a dish using thyme. I enjoy having people to house, but I am guilty of never having a clear surface to place anything and that involves time and planning on my part to get the house in order. I have had since the end of November! I did it!

clean house 1This all fits right in to the January Cure that Xan has been posting about. I can’t seem to find time to post on a regular basis on my personal blag, I can’t seem to find the time to read up on all the blogs I enjoy reading, and I can’t seem to find the time to even read the January Cure posts. I’m and very frugal with our money and don’t buy luxury-type items, so I am with Xan and don’t agree with buying fresh cut flowers each weekend. I do not need fresh flowers to feel good. My mom did send me flowers over 2 weeks ago, and I am still enjoying them. Last week I also bought flowers for my neighbor/friends as a thank you for picking up groceries, but also, I know they are sad with the passing of their son and the flowers sure perked them up. That makes me feel good!

Clean table 1Over the past few weeks, I have methodically focused on clearing some of my clutter. In the end, I only shoved a few things in drawers that I couldn’t quite get through. I was expecting 14 people and the house looks really good! I dealt with a lot of paper work. Recycled a lot of paper. Put a lot of things away (where I hope that I will find them again!)

As the day went on, 14 dropped to 4. How they heck do you go from expecting 14 people down to 4! Freezing rain! Yes, we get there here in San Antonio from time to time…. this was one of those times. We had a good time talking about thyme and visiting.

Here is my creation for the thyme-themed meeting tonight. I went with an appetizer – because I was spending all my time and energy cleaning the house, I wanted to keep it simple and easy to make. It was a success!

Goat Cheese – Thyme – Caramelized Onion Crostini Canape

  • 8 oz Goat Cheese – room temperature (you can use cream cheese if you prefer)
  • 3-4 T Sour Cream or Yogurt
  • 2 T Dried Thyme
  • Crostini or Crackers
  • Onions – caramelized

Bring your goat cheese up to room temperature so it is easier to work with.

Slice or dice onion and caramelize it in a fry pan. If you want to sweeten your onions a bit more, add a bit of sugar are you caramelize them.

While onions are caramelizing, mix goat cheese, sour cream/yogurt and thyme together. Use as much sour cream/yogurt as you need to create the consistency you like.

Cut your bread in sizes/shapes that you want and toast it. Set aside to cool.

Spread crostini with goat cheese mixture.

Top with caramelized onions.

Serve at room temperature.

All elements of this appetizer can be made ahead of time. Just pull them out of the refrigerator and allow them to come up to room temperature, and assemble them right before you guest arrive.

I guess this evening fit in with the January Cure – Plan a get-together. We also have some friend coming over for dinner in a few weeks…. I sure hope the house looks this good when that rolls around!

Do you have any house cleaning/organizing projects that you are working on?

Sincerely, Emily

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This past Sunday our Sunday Photo post focused on “Flour Power.” Well, flour has definitely taken on power, and new meaning for me in the past five years.

On my journey to rid our kitchen of processed and pre-packaged food, I have also taken some detours and now local food plays a very important part of this journey as well.  Granola Bars 1

Flour, also gives me freedom. The freedom and power to make things like bread and pizza dough. Crackers and muffins. Sour dough starter and white sauce. I know where my flour came from and I know what the ingredients are in the things I make. Not only do I know the ingredients, but making these things is also frugal. I know it costs a lot less then buying a loaf of bread at the market.bread dough

In Sunday’s post Alexandra talked about finding local flour in Wisconsin a few hours from where she lives. I finally found a source for wheat in Texas that is about 500 miles away. YIKES. Texas is fifth in the nation in wheat production, and it is hard to find wheat or flour locally. Hmmm. Fran talked about flour and its connection to communities.KPMF on toast with asaragusOn any given day, I usually eat something that I eat that has flour in it. Toast made from homemade bread to go with my morning eggs. Maybe a granola bar in the car on the go. Last week for dinner I made a mushrooms in a white sauce using flour, served if over toast and topped that off with steamed asparagus.

Flour is one of the staples that I would never want to be without in my cupboards because it plays an important part in our meals. I am grateful that I have the time to make these things at home.

What part does flour play in our kitchen and life?

Sincerely, Emily

You can see what else I am up to over at Sincerely, Emily. The topics are varied, as I jump around from gardening to sewing to making bread or lotion and many things in between.

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My mother died when I was 22.

Not an auspicious start to a post, is it. But I promise not to be depressing. I’m just back to the fallible parent theme.

My mother was a wonderful cook, and a much better baker than I’ll ever be. But there are standard family dishes that I make much better than she did.

She’ll never know of course, so no sheepish “sorry, Mom, your Shepherd’s Pie is dry.”

Now my mother-in-law, this is something different. She’s very much alive, and teaching me how to cook Chinese. Last fall she came over and showed me how to make Luo Bok Gao (turnip cakes– you may have had these if you’ve had dim sum). She brought three different kinds of rice flour (on this week’s theme) and we used daikons from the local grocery, but it just didn’t taste right, and they were very gluey.

Then, last year, I found seeds from Kitazawa seed company, which specializes in Asian vegetables, for actual luo bok, called Korean Turnip on the label. These are, essentially, 2 pound radishes, with a consistency somewhere between radish and turnip. So I pulled my mother-in-law’s recipe, and a recipe pulled off the internet, and landed somewhere in between.

Result? Restaurant quality luo bok gao, way better than mom’s

Awkward.

Homemade Luo Bok Gao

Ingredients:
2 ½ lbs     (1 lb)     Chinese turnip
1 ½ cup     (¾ c)    gluten-free rice flour
3 Tsp     (1 ¼)     corn starch
2 tsp     (¾ tsp)    salt
2 tsp     (¾ tsp)    sugar
½ tsp     (¼ tsp)    white pepper
1 ½      (1)    Chinese sausage, chopped to small pieces and fried (if you don’t have this sweet, dense sausage available, a cheap, mild salami is a good substitute– the fattier the better)
2    (1)    small dried shitake mushroom, soaked in water for 1 hour, then cut off stem and diced
1    (1)    green onion sliced
¼ cup    (¼ cump)    shrimp, diced
1 ½ cup    (¾ cup)    water (approx.)

1. Peel and grate the turnips into a pot; add a small amount of water. Bring it to a boil and cook on medium heat for 15 minutes, add more water if needed.
2. Grate the mixture with an immersible blender and then add the Chinese sausage, green onion, shitake mushroom, shrimp, and carrot into the pot.
3. Add salt, sugar, pepper, turn to low heat, and continue to stir.
4. Gradually add the rice flour to the mixture. Do not add it all at once.
5. Add some water and the corn starch, continue to stir. Mixture should not be runny or solid. Add the meat and vegetables.
6. Grease a non stick cake pan (about 8 inches) or casserole dish, pour mixture into pan to a one-knuckle depth, and steam for 40 minutes. To steam: use a large steamer or a wok, add water to the bottom and support the pan with a small rack. After 40 minutes, insert a toothpick in the centre, if it comes out clean, the Turnip Cake is ready.
7. Let cool. To serve, slice and pan fry until golden brown. An 8″ cake yields about 9 small slices. Serve with any traditional sauce.

This recipe makes two 8″ cakes.

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