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I’m getting a bit ahead of myself, but the warmer days have me thinking about the Spring/Summer garden planting.

We have already hit 90F here in South Texas. That is just too hot, WAY too soon for me. Last week we had another cooler down that was right up my alley and it had me opening the bedroom windows at night to cool the me down!

Tabouli

Tabouli

I try hard to purchase veggies in season, but I had an itch (and an event to bring a dish to) to make Tabouli (click on the word “Tabouli” to link to the recipe that I posted back in July of 2013). I picked and used as much as I could from the gardens; parsley, mint, cilantro, onion. But I did have to purchase things like cucumber and tomato (oh I can’t wait to pick that first fresh tomato!)

I am behind in my seed starting, but my tomato seedlings are up and a few of the pepper seeds are starting to sprout. I did pick up some heirloom and non-GMO seedlings at The Natural Gardener a few weeks ago. They are already potted up into gallon containers. The Natural Gardener didn’t have their pepper plants in yet, so I will check back in with them, as well as check a few other local nurseries to find some organic ones.

Reality check: last wee our temps are back in the “Texas Winter” range. We have been 25F at night with a few days that didn’t get about 45F (I know that is a heat wave for some of you out there.) so my seedlings are living in the garage and in the house for while.

What type of seeds will you be starting to prepare for the upcoming gardening season?

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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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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Lammas, the first harvest of the year, is the “loaf mass” because it marks the wheat harvest. The festival’s counterpart, Beltane at the beginning of summer, the planting of the crops and the marriage of the god and goddess, is full of promise and joy. Lammas is bounty and joy, but melancholy too, as the god begins to prepare for his yearly sacrifice and death, and the goddess begins to remember her anger over the loss of her daughters.

In modern patriarchal theology we think of lightning as a phallic manifestation, but I like to think of August storms as the fury and despair of the goddess who cannot save the earth her daughters from their imminent death, year after year after year. She brings us daily bounty, more than we can use, as both fruited gift and fruitless bribe. It means the downward slope towards the frozen midwinter is beginning.

Lammas Salad
10 Golden beets, blanched and sliced thin
3 small beets, blanched and sliced thin
1 cucumber, seeded and sliced
1 green pepper, sliced very thin
1-2 ears of corn, nibletted and blanched
3 apricots, diced
1 mildly hot pepper, seeded and diced (this year I used Beaver Dams, but I’ve also used Shishito)

Macerate (i.e. soak) the cucumber in a couple tablespoons of honey and salt for 1-2 hours. Macerate the apricots and shishito peppers in cider vinegar for 1-2 hours. Drain and rinse just before mixing up the salad. To blanch the beets, trim the roots and stems (peeling optional), and drop them into actively boiling water for no more than 5 minutes. Allow to cool, then slice. To blanch the corn, slice the niblets from the cob, and drop them into actively boiling water; leave until the color deepens (a couple/few minutes at most).

Mix everything together with a couple of tablespoons of mayonnaise. (Make it yourself.)

I like this as a side with crab 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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Summer has been here for a while now in South Texas. Our heat index has been above 100F all week and the vegetable garden is sure showing signs of stress. Heck, I am showing signs of stress and I wilt at the mire thought of stepping outside.

Tomatoes - not looking good 6-2013The heat and humidity that we have been experiencing has really set me back with my recovery and my over all breathing. I am still doing well. Going to physical therapy 2-3 times a week. But three weeks ago when our temps started staying in the high 90’s I could barely get through a physical therapy session. We took out all the weights and resistant bands and I just went through the motions and even that was a struggle, so I can understand how those tomato plants must be feeling out there.

Dilled tomatoes 1The cherry tomatoes plants that my mom planted when she was here in early March have seen better days. They certainly aren’t going to win a beauty contest. Little by little their leaves are drying out and dieing. In the end of July we have our second planting for tomatoes, so on Friday I took some cuttings from the plants and potted them up to get them ready for planting in about month of so.

These cherry tomato plants are still FULL of green cherry tomatoes. Full! Most of them would probably not survive long enough to even start to blush. Besides the heat, I have the birds out there to compete with. They have been out there peeking away. First they started with the ones that started to blush, now they just seem to be peeking anything.

Dilled tomoates 2What to do with all those green cherry tomatoes? Well, I filed away an idea that I saw over Nancy post about over at Homesteading in Maine. Dilled Green Cherry Tomatoes! Luckily my brain was working a few days ago and I started picking all the green cherry tomatoes because I was on a mission.

I ended up with 2 quarts, 4 pints and 2 1/2 pints all heading to the refrigerator to sit for four weeks to develop their flavor.  I can’t wait to try them. To me, this is a great way to make use of something that probably wouldn’t make it to maturity and harvest. Instead of ending up in the compost tumbler, it ended up in the refrigerator. my other option was to make green tomato chutney, but I just didn’t have the energy. If some of the tomato plants start looking terrible, I will conjure up the energy and give the green tomato chutney a try. I know I would love it.

What would you do with an abundance of green tomatoes?

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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This is a post I had started over on my personal blog a few years ago, but it just kept getting pushed further down the posting list until it was out of sight. Alexandra commented on my post last week about getting the recipe…. just the push I needed I guess.

I found this recipe back in 2010 over at Living on a Dime and I have been making them ever since then. This is what my husband has for breakfast every day. They make a great snack and they freeze well.  I always grab a few to take with me when I head out to run errands for the day. Having them with me keeps me from making a bad decision (fast food drive-thru) when I start to get really hungry.

I stack them in a pint canning jars to take in the truck.

I stack them in a pint canning jars to take in the truck.

The base of the recipe is great and then you go off in the direction you want to with your special ingredients. I substitute honey for the granulated sugar in this recipe. I know honey still has calories just like granulated sugar, but I am not focusing on calories here, I am focusing on my ingredients and where they come from along with the benefits of the things I add to them. Also, I think I am getting a healthier granola bar then the ones in the store that are full of additives and preservatives that I am working so hard to stay away from.

mixing up granola bars

Homemade Granola Bars           Adapted from website Living on a Dime

Cream together (I use my stand mixer or hand-held mixer)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

Add to mix (use electric mixer)
2 Tbsp. honey or corn syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg

Peanut butter (optional)

Add to mix (I still use that mixer)
1 cup flour
1 T cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Stir into mix

Add dried fruit, nuts, coconut, etc.

Stir in remaining ingredients.

Add to mix
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 1/4 cups crispy rice cereal (I use an organic puffed rice or puffed millet)

Press firmly into the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan. (I use the back of a spoon to press the mixture into pan.)

Bake at 350° for 30 – 35 minutes. (looking for golden brown – but not crispy

The bars will firm up as they cool.
Allow the bars to cool completely before cutting.
Makes 24 bars.

Here is what I add to mine:
Ground flax seed
Sunflower seeds
Peanuts
Coconut
Raisins or died cranberries or dried apricots

Granola Bars - done

A few of my notes:

  • I don’t tend to measure the ingredients when I am making these up, other than there is always a 1 cup measure in each jar of flour that I have and 1/4 cup measuring cup in both my oatmeal and my puffed millet. I have found when using honey in place of the granulated sugar that I need to add more flour to the mixture. Since I am not measuring, my granola bars can come out either quite chewy gooey or quite firm and crunchy.
  • Another thing to keep in mind when using more honey in these bars, is that if you bake them at 350F like the original recipe calls for, they will brown and burn more quickly and the bars won’t be completely cooked, so I turn down the oven to 300F to bake them slower and a lower heat setting. They still brown up more, but they don’t burn as quickly.

I cannot count how many times that I have passed on this recipe and everyone that has made them has been thrilled with the results.

I make two batches at a time and always keep them in the freezer.

Do you make your own granola or granola bars? Feel free the share your recipe or a link to it in the comments.

Sincerely, Emily

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