Posts Tagged ‘Cooking’

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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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 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)


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


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!


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.


What have you been cooking with things from your garden?

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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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This last weekend I purchased a bushel of Fuji apples. One of my absolute favorite apples. Ever. My intent was to store them in our cool basement since they’re such good keepers. (For a good list of apple varieties and their qualities visit pickyourown.org)

Instead I’ve been going mad for baked apple goodness. Sunday I made these:

apple dumpling

Apple dumplings that are knock-your-socks-off good. The key to such a good flavor was the boiled cider – also known as apple molasses – that I made. Just a little bit imparts an amazingly intense flavor. Sure you could buy it online and have it shipped, but if you have the opportunity you should try to make it, especially if you can get local apples!

So because I couldn’t get enough of that yumminess, I had to make something more…. but better for me.

Enter Apple Dumpling Oatmeal.

I prepared this last night before bed in 15 minutes, and it was ready to go for me this morning. You could alternatively prepare this in a dutch oven, or on the stove top if you don’t care to leave a crockpot plugged in all night. I’ve given you three options! Just bring your appetite. This is a stick-to-your-ribs kinda meal. The kind that makes you want to get outside and get something done. That, or help yourself to seconds…

apple dumpling-inspired oatmeal

Apple Dumpling Oatmeal

Makes 6-8 LARGE portions

  • 2 medium cooking apples, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1-1/4 cups steel cut oats or thick rolled oats
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 rounded tsp boiled cider (lick the spoon!)
  • pinch salt
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar (brown, raw, or sucanat), honey, or syrup
  • 1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries or cherries (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
  • (if you don’t have access to boiled cider, substitute 1 cup cider for 1 cup water, then get to the store and pick up some cider and boil it!)

Dutch oven:

Preheat oven to 400F. Meanwhile add ingredients to dutch oven on the stove top, bringing them just to a boil. Cover and put in oven. Immediately turn off oven. In the morning you may need to add some liquid in the form of milk or water, and to reheat on the stove just a bit.

Stove top:

Add ingredients to medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cover tightly and lower heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally. It’s done when your oats are soft and apples are no longer firm.

Crock Pot:

Add ingredients to crock pot and turn on low. Let cook at least 6 hours. Stir gently before serving.


Top with a drizzle of fresh cream(and maybe some maple syrup) and enjoy it while it’s still warm!


You can find Jennifer at Unearthing This Life where she’s currently focusing on autumn and homeschooling.

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If I’m not working, you’ll usually find me either gardening, cooking or blogging. We talk often of our gardens and what we’re growing here and you’ve seen many images of the fruits of our labor. I thought this week we could show some of what we’ve been mixing up in our kitchens, or over the fire on some days. The REAL food challenge continues all year long for some of us. Here are a few things that I’ve been cooking up at Chiot’s Run. If I have posted a recipe for the food in the image you can click on the image to head on over to my post that includes the recipe for that dish.


I (Xan) did all my cooking last week for our Lammas party–we’ve been subsisting on fresh fruit and leftovers this week! I’m going to send you over to Mahlzeit to see what I’ve been cooking; what I’ve been doing in the kitchen mostly this week is figuring out garlic braids, and I think I nailed it. Only took me, um, years.

What have you been cooking up this summer?

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Are you a fan of granola? Have you ever made it? I certainly hadn’t until yesterday!

Real Food has been a challenge for us over at Tanglewood Farm simply because we are not, by nature, folks who cook. We prepare food, if it’s easy, but intensive cooking and baking is certainly beyond my attention span, and my husband is content with simple fare (he certainly does more cooking than I do!) I’m the one with the dirt-caked fingernails, spoiling my dinner by munching freshly plucked peppers and tomatoes. While I know these constitute as real food, they’re certainly not a well rounded diet and this time of year it’s nearly impossible to find fresh produce worth your while in Michigan.

I wanted to start the Real Food Challenge off right, and while I was visiting my local farmers market last week I picked up a quart of local organic yogurt. Of course what better to go with yogurt? Granola! I scampered home, poured some yogurt, reached for my granola and it suddenly occurred to me that I wasn’t familiar with the nutritional information for the name-brand granola we keep in the house. A quick glance to the back of the box became a more intense, squinty eyed study of several impossible-to-pronounce words that are certainly not real food.

If you know me at all, you know that I am prone to bouts of “I can make that – and I will – right now!” so within an hour I was researching granola recipes and techniques. I’d considered making granola in the past but I always assumed it was totally beyond me. I was wrong.

It’s really quite simple: take some thick-rolled oats, some nuts and seeds, spices (like cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom) a healthy oil, a sweetener and mix by hand. Spread thickly onto a parchment paper covered baking sheet. Then bake (I had to use a higher rack in my oven to prevent burning) at 275-300º for roughly 40-50 minutes, stirring carefully every ten minutes to keep it from burning. It’s definitely a process that demands experimentation, and it seems to be abstract and free form for the most part.

I didn’t measure a single dry ingredient. I approximated between four and five cups of oats, added pepitas and hazelnuts, as well as flaxseed, cinnamon, nutmeg and some seasalt. To this I added a half cup of (homemade) maple syrup and a half cup of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and tossed.

Something I did discover is that you should know how heat affects your nuts and seeds. Hazelnuts and flaxseeds seem to be prone to burning, and so the batch that was on a lower rack in the oven has a very-close-to-burnt taste. Lucky for me I caught it literally minutes from charring and destroying half of my granola.

This has been an amazingly inspirational experience for me. It seems like a small feat for a seasoned real foodie, but coming from a background of boxed/tin-canned food this makes my long-term goals seem so much more attainable.

Of course, being as obsessive with taking things to the next level as I am, yesterday evening was spent reading up on how to grow and process my own rolled oats and raisins so that I can grow things myself! Right. Okay. Maybe I should stick to experimenting with the granola recipes for now…

Have you ever made granola? What is your favorite recipe/tip?

Tanglewood Farms: A Quick Introduction

After following Not Dabbling in Normal for more than a year now, it was such a pleasant surprise to receive an email last week, asking if I’d like to post regularly here.

Normal is definitely not a word I’ve ever used to describe myself. I grew up with a mother who was bent on landscaping every inch of our large yard. When she gardened, it was wild and natural, and always large scale. Her use of this wild and natural aesthetic, as well as her ability to craft beautiful things, was definitely a huge inspiration for me as I matured. I knew from a young age that I wanted to forge my own way in life.

Hurry up spring!

At this point, I’m honestly not sure if I consider myself a small-scale farmer or a large scale gardener. I’m really something in between. My husband and I are currently renting a small cottage in South Eastern Michigan, and have a sort of makeshift farm utilizing an old milking barn and surrounding fields. In the past few years of living here my love for edible gardening has grown exponentially, as has my need to become more self sustainable. You might call it an obsession. Since moving into our rented bit of paradise, I have adopted herding dogs, found kittens in the snow, raised ducks and brought home our very first breeding ewes to start a small Icelandic sheep flock. I am a professional horse trainer and riding instructor, and I tend to be pretty darned verbose. You can find me over at Tanglewood Farm Blog where I often write about my latest harebrained ideas in gardening, carpentry, animal husbandry and more.

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One meal that The Kid, Hubby, and I can agree upon is roasted chicken. It’s one of my favorite meals because it’s easy to prepare, the flavor is great, and I can make several meals out of one bird. The first meal we make is usually served hot out of the oven with carrots and potatoes. The second is a freebie, and the third is made of leftovers – plus there’s always broth to make from the bones, leftover meat, and skin.

Chicken Pie is our most recent favorite freebie meal. It can be made with any seasonal vegetables, and with dairy-free alternatives. You could also substitute beef, pork, or skip the meat altogether. I’m personally looking forward to mushroom season, and am thinking of a topless tomato and zucchini version for summertime. Right now we’re fortunate that peas, carrots, early potatoes and spring onions are in.


  • 1/2 roasted chicken (we roast with onion, carrot, rosemary, carrot, celery, salt, and pepper. Feel free to eat your veggies. You’ll make more for this recipe)
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 minced onion
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped. Save leaves for seasoning.
  • 2 medium potatoes, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh peas
  • 1 cup cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary

Heat butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add vegetables, salt & pepper, and thyme to pan. Tuck rosemary and parsley leaves to the side of a pan and do not disturb. If you have any remaining juices from baking your chicken feel free to add them for flavor. Cook vegetables until softened, but not done.

Add chicken, cream and milk and cook long enough to reheat chicken and flavor dairy.

Remove rosemary and parsley, then pour mixture into a large bowl. Once cool enough, add flour to bowl and mix in with hands. Set to the side and prepare dough.


  • 3  cups unbleached all purpose flour, plus some for dusting
  • 2 Tbsp Demerera sugar or about 1 Tbsp granulated cane sugar
  • 2 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup ice-cold water
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar and salt.

Pour in 3/4 cup melted butter and mix with a spoon. Add 1 cup water and use hands to incorporate everything together loosely.

On a flat surface, sprinkle extra flour and pour your dough out to work. Mix dough by hand for at least 30 seconds making sure that the dough is smooth, but not overly wet. If it seems too wet add more flour.

Cut dough in half and roll out to fit in bottom of 8-9 inch pie pan. We use a round cake pan.

Add filling, roll out top crust, and crimp closed. Place on a lined cookie sheet to prevent dripping.

Cut several slits in top crust or use a pie bird, then brush remaining butter on crust, and bake for 1 hour. The interior should be good a bubbly.

When it’s done, allow the pie to rest for 15 minutes prior to serving – if you can wait that long.


You can also find Jennifer blarging along about life in rural Tennessee over at Unearthing This Life.

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