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Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

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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This past Sunday a few of us gave you a glimpse at what we have growing on our gardens. This week I wanted to share with you what I do with some of that fresh produce that comes out of our garden.

One of the salads that I make a lot is tabouli (or tabbouleh). It is great in the heat of the summer not to have to turn on the stove-top or the oven.bulgar tabouliSome tabouli recipes you find will have you pour boiling water over your bulgar, but I just soak mine. Again, any reason not to turn on that heat-producing appliance!

This salad can be made with the traditional way using bulgar or cracked wheat, but it can also be made using quinoa (need to follow quinoa cooking instructions for that)

Tabouli

  • 2 cups bulgar or cracked wheat
  • 1 tbsp.  salt
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomato
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 chopped mint

Put your bulgar in a bowl or sauce pan and cover it with water an inch above the bulgar. The bulgar will soak most or all that water up and you may need to add more. I let mine sit for at least 45 minutes, usually longer. The last thing I want it to take a bite and come down on a hard piece of wheat.

Chopping Mint

Chopping Mint

If you do end up with more water that your bulgar soaked up, just use a mesh colander and strain it.

While your bulgar is soaking up that water, start chopping all your herbs and vegetables. It is up to you whether you want to de-seed your cucumbers and tomatoes.

I toss things together as I chop. Once your bulgar is ready, toss it with all the vegetables and herbs. Mix your lemon juice and oil olive together ad pout it over your bulgar mixture and toss again.

You want to allow time for all the flavors of the herbs and dressing to mingle so give yourself a minimum of 30 minutes to let everything marinate before serving. If you are in the area of the kitchen, give it a toss and stir as you walk by to bring any of the marinade up into more of the tabouli.

If you want your tabouli heavy on the vegetable and herb side, either double the amounts of the herbs and veggies or knock the bulgar amount down by half. Up to you! This makes a pretty big bowl.

I love making this using all the fresh herbs from the gardens along with the fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. It is a great way to celebrate summer and the harvest from your garden or local farmers markets.

What are you cooking with things from your garden?

Sincerely, Emily

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When I was in college and living by myself, I used to make a big pot of something– spaghetti sauce, pea soup, stew– on Sunday nights, and then eat it all week.  I mostly did it because then I didn’t have to cook all week.

Here at the other end of my journey, I find myself in the same predicament, but it’s more because I just can’t get the hang of this cooking-for-one-person thing.

I’ve actually come up with strategies– I work late on Tuesday and Wednesday, so I need something easy to fix when I get home at 8:30. I need leftovers. So I make my too-big meals on Sunday and Monday, and reheat on Tuesday and Wednesday. This doesn’t help much with Thursday, when I work at night, and have to come up with something early, which I hate to eat early, and I end up having cheese and crackers for dinner at 10 p.m.

Which I suppose is a step above a bag of oreos.

One of my cooking-for-one innovations (you’ll be amazed to hear this is my own innovation; no one in the history of living alone has ever come up with this, in case you need to know who to credit), has been the amazing ability of the top of the fridge to actually freeze things.

I mostly use this for breads. I’ve discovered (NO, I did not read this in Barbara Kingsolver, okay maybe a little) that you can make pizza dough in large quantities ahead of time, divide and freeze, then just pull a single-pizza size out of the freezer a couple hours ahead of cooking, and voila– pizza! Same thing with pita. Since I make it myself, it was such a drag when it would go moldy or stale on me, until I read on the internet figured out (ahem) that I could bake them one at a time. Of course, you have to heat the baking stone at 450 for 45 minutes, so it’s not exactly energy efficient, but I don’t waste pita anymore.

It works for scones, too, which I learned from a scone-baking class, figured out about a month ago! This is helpful not so much for the problem of scones going bad, as for the problem of scones going in my mouth a dozen at a time, because I’m really good at scones and they are delicious.

DSCN0242

What are you (not) cooking?

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Last week we gave you a glimpse into what is growing in our gardens. This week we will focus on what we are cooking.

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In the summer time I (Sincerely, Emily) prefer not to turn on the stove or oven if I can avoid it. There are so many different salads that can be made using many fresh garden veggies and herbs that are growing. Last Sunday I shared a photo of the Armenian cucumbers we are harvesting. They go great in the bulgar tabouli that I make.

bulgar tabouliI will follow up later in the week with a complete recipe!

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Of course, they were so delicious, that I (Alexandra) ate them before I remembered to photograph them, but I’ve had a string of meals that are all garden– roasted turnips with garlic and shallots, and today a poblano pepper, lined with a beaver dam pepper and stuffed with fried tofu, peppers, pine nuts and garlic, mixed with golden tomato sauce and rice. Topped with fresh mozarella from the farmers market. Delicious. Can’t prove it though. All I have to show is the harvest.

9287102383_b4ffcc7d5b_b

What have you been cooking with things from your garden?

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I have been looking around for a different cookie recipe to take to a cookie exchange that I am going to next week. In the process I came across a recipe for Pecan Pie Bars. My husband is a big fan of pumpkin pie and pecan pie, and my neighbor usually makes the pecan pie and I usually make an apple cranberry thingy. Well, this year, for Thanksgiving, I completely dropped the ball on desert and Wednesday night by husband asked if we were having pumpkin pie…. ahhh, no.

I did get him to agree to help me with the pecan pie bars and boy, they were great!

Pecan Pie Bars

Crust
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter

Preheat your oven to 350F/180C. crust: combine flour, powdered sugar and salt. Cut in 1/2 cup butter until your mixture is course crumbs. Pat the crumb mixture into an ungreased 11×7 baking dish. Bake the crust for 20 minutes, or until it is a golden brown.

“Pie” filling
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup agave syrup
1T cornstarch
2 T butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla

While you crust is baking, mix together eggs, pecans, brown sugar, agave syrup, 2 T melted butter and vanilla. Spread this mixture over your baked crust.
Bake for 20 minutes (350F/180C). Cool before cutting.

We cut our bars rather large (15 bars). I know I will be making these bars a few more times through December and will cut them much smaller (24 bars).

When I found this recipe, I didn’t have light corn syrup on hand, so I turned to our resident baker here at NDIN (Emily at Tanglewood Farm) about using a substitute and she recommended trying agave syrup. After I mixed the “filling” it seemed a bit thin and runny so I decided to add 1T of cornstarch to the mix. I have NO idea if this helped or not. All I can tell you is the “filling” was firm and came out fine.

When I decided to try this recipe I was looking forward to using my Vitamix to make the powdered sugar. Before I got started, I looked up in the cupboard, waaaaay in the back, just to make sure there wasn’t any store-bought powdered sugar still lurking up there. OH, MY! I found A LOT of powdered sugar up there. I can’t tell you when the last time was that I used any powered sugar, but I can also tell you that even though I gave away a ton of food before we moved to Texas (4+ years ago), somehow this powdered sugar came with us. Crazy! I can also tell you that this stuff in OLD. I probably would have bought this when I was taking cake decorating classes when we lived in Palm Springs. That was about 10 years ago. YIKES!

If any of you are from California, you will also laugh, because one of the packages is from Lucky (grocery store) and another box I found is from Stater Brothers. Lucky closed many years ago, but Stater brothers is still around out there.

What kind of treats are you baking this time of year?

Sincerely, Emily

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Are you inspired by all the great handmade gifts our writers have been making? We like to cook things for the ones we love as well! Here’s some handmade recipes for holiday giving!

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Of course, sweets are the mainstay of homemade holidays, but this year I decided to go savory. Every year I grow tomatillos, make pints and pints of salsa verde, and then it sits on the shelf because no one eats it. Naturally, this year I decided I’ll make it in half-pint sizes, and then use it for gifts. I made 20 half-pints. When I went to check for this photo, I was down to 11; I think my husband has been eating it because of the nice small sizes. I used Rick Bayless’ wonderful recipe, and grew everything myself except the limes. By the way, this stuff is great on pizza!Salsa

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Well, Xan has me drooling over her salsa verde.

With the successful zucchini growing season this fall, I (Sincerely, Emily) knew exactly what some people were going to be getting this year for gifts! Zucchini Relish!  I started making this recipe back in the fall of 2009 with a few zucchini from my garden (before the nasty borer got to it!) and more from the farmers market. Now I am thrilled I can use all of my own, homegrown zucchini for the recipe. I have not harvested my horseradish yet, or I would have used that too!) I found the recipe over at Homesteading in Maine and I also have the zucchini relish recipe posted (with permission) over at my blog too.

Zucchini Relish 2We love this relish on sandwiches in place of mayo.

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If you have been reading my personal blog, by now, you must realize my love for all things “Zucchini!” Even though I have only talked about the sweet treats I make with zucchini, I must admit I could could do without the sweet things all together and go all out for savory! By far, the easiest way for us to go through zucchini fast is to simply grill it.

Back when the zucchini were ready to harvest I was leaving town so I shredded the first few and stuck them in the freezer. Those bags still sit there waiting to be used. When I returned form my trip I started using the fresh zucchini and one of the first thing I made were these Zucchini “Things.” I have no idea what to call them, so “things” was the answer.

I used a recipe I have for Zucchini “Crab” Cakes (or zucchini fritters) and started playing around. What came out of that was Zucchini “Things.” I made a few batches of these and LOVED them every time. I am not big on measuring ingredients, so each batch tasted a bit different, but that was fine.

Here is the measurements of what I did (and I hope they turn out for you too!):

  • 2 1.2 cups of shredded/grated zucchini
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • chopped onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cups shredded cheese (I used sharp cheddar)
  • 2 1/2 T cornmeal

I filled the mini muffin cups full.

Bake at 350F for 17 minutes (in mini muffin tins.) You would have to vary the time if you used the regular size muffin tins. I also imagine you could forgo the muffin tin completely and just plop some scoops on a cookie sheet, flatten them a bit if you want to and bake that way.

Right now, for me, it is all about saving time, but I DO know that you can fry these in the fry pan on your stove top and have good results too.  In your hands, you can form them in to small patties or just spoon some into fry pan and flatten with spatula. Depending on the length of time you fry them, you can get a crispy crust on them.

I posted about the Zucchini “Crab” Cakes yesterday on my personal log. Head over there to get the recipe.

Other Zucchini posts:

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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