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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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And the holiday season begins. It hardly seems fair that we just get done with all the awful political ads, and they start right in on all the awful holiday ads, but oh well. Here at NDiN, I think we’ll turn off the tv and spend the week cooking.

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Here’s the turkey, which I (Xan) will actually be making for the December holidays rather than Thanksgiving this year. My sister-in-law will make Thanksgiving.

Turkey with apple-raisin stuffing
from Sphere magazine, circa 1975
1 c. chopped onion
1/2 c. butter
1 quart chopped apples (I use Granny Smiths)
1 c. chopped celery
1/2 c. golden raisins
1/4 c. fresh parsley
1 egg
1/4 c. apple cider
1 1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Saute onion in butter over medium heat until transparent (about 5 minutes); stir in apples and celery, simmer uncovered over medium heat sitrring occasionally (about 5 minutes). Remove from heat, lightly beat egg and stir in, stir in remaining ingredients. Stuff bird. Oops. Find a recipe/instructions for roasting a stuffed turkey. Do that. (Actually Alton Brown says make the stuffing separately, cook the bird unstuffed and spatchcocked- you heard me- and then stuff it on the sly when no ones looking, during the “resting” period after you take it out of the oven.)

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Ahhh, where does that time go. I (Sincerely, Emily) am involved in a lot of things this year that are taking me away from home during the day and I find that I seem to be scrambling to get anything done right now. In terms of our Thanksgiving dinner, so far, the only two things I have thought about are the turkey and the stuffing. The local man I was getting a turkey from let me know that the turkeys did not put on weight, therefore, he has no turkey for me. I scrambled to find an organic turkey this past week. Yesterday I started making bread for my stuffing.

I use my normal no-knead bread recipe.  Then I add seasonings.

No-Knead Bread

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tsp yeast (original recipe is 1/8 tsp, but I never got much of a rise so I added more!)
  • salt
  • 1 1/2 cup water (adjusted for your flour

Before I add the water I add the following herbs and spices

  • 2 T dried oregano  or minced fresh oregano
  • 2 T dried minced onions (or fresh)
  • 2 T dried ground sage or minced fresh

Mix dry ingredients together then start adding your water a little at a time.  I tend to never add the full water, I prefer my dough on the dry side. I then cover my bowl with plastic and let it sit over night or all day or until I remember to get back to it. I then knead the dough (yes, I knead the no-knead dough!) just a bit to pull it all together.) I then place it in an oiled bowl and let it rise about an hour or until it has doubled in size. I pre-heat the oven and the crock pot insert to 500F. I bake the bread, covered, for 30 minutes at 500F, then 15 minutes at 450F uncovered.  (see my above link for photo of crockpot insert)  (you can use dutch oven.) I allow the bread to completely cook before cutting it into cubes to dry for stuffing. The bread has all the wonderful herbs and spices already in it, but I do tend to add more when I make the stuff.

Ok, now I am in the mood for the holidays… or at least the food part!

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What are you making for Thanksgiving?

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Here at Not Dabbling in Normal we love to celebrate diversity. After all, we’d all be normal if we weren’t different. So today we have a guest post from a friend that celebrates the holidays differently than those of us here at NDIN. Oh, did I mention she brings a recipe? Probably one of the most celebrated Hanukkah recipes ever? Please welcome Stephanie from The Winding Stitch (and then go make some delicious latkes!!)!

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We didn’t do much, Jewish observance-wise, when I was growing up, but we always had latkes for Hanukkah. In the Jewish belief system, Passover is the most important holiday, but Hanukkah has a story even a Jewish Atheist like my father can get behind: you don’t let a bunch of  Syrian-Greek invaders push you around, and tell you what you can and can’t do. Also, he likes latkes better than matzah and macaroons.

In our younger years, my sister and I would take turns grating the potatoes by hand, spelling each other when our arms got tired. Grating the onion was always my father’s job, however: he is the only person I know who can grate onions without his eyes tearing up. Once we left home, my father had to grate the potatoes too. “I told your father, you want latkes, you grate the potatoes,” my mother told me during one of our weekly phone conversations.

And grate them he does. One year, when my parents were over my place for Hanukkah, he saw me pulling out the food processor and exclaimed, “ Your grandmother never used a food processor.”

“Believe me,” I told him, “if she knew from food processors, she would have used one.”

He shook his head. “It won’t be the same.”

“So,” my mother called from the living room, “you want latkes, you grate the potatoes.”

(By the way, you can get the same texture with a food processor, or least get close enough for my liking: do the Joan Nathan thing and use the shredder disk and then pulse them with the blade.)

He now fries the latkes too, because my mother finally tired of him standing over her, making sure they would be crisp on the outside and moist (not gummy) on the inside. Texture is key with latkes.

Some years ago, my mother gave me her battered copy of Jennie Grossinger’s The Art of Jewish Cooking. There’s a crease in the spine that corresponds to the page with the recipe for potato latkes. I have a typed and laminated copy of the recipe that I use now, to spare the book. This is our family’s latke: light, crispy, not too eggy, not too dry. As my Grandma Friedman liked to say, enjoy, enjoy!

Potato Latkes

(from Jennie Grossinger, The Art of Jewish Cooking, 1958)

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups grated, drained potatoes
  • 4 Tbs grated onion
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs cracker or matzoh meal
  • 1/2 cup oil
  1.  Beat the eggs and add the potatoes, onion, salt, pepper, and matzoh meal.
  2. Heat half the oil in a frying pan and drop the potato mixture into it by the tablespoon. Fry until browned on both sides.
  3. Keep pancakes hot until all are fried, adding more oil as required. Serves eight.

Friedman Family Annotations

  • Serve with sour cream, applesauce, and, if you want to be really Old Country, jam.
  • This recipe serves eight only if you’ve got lots of other food people are eating. In my family, it serves four. I always double it (or more) for our annual Hanukkah party.
  • Four or five good-sized potatoes will usually give you three cups grated, but check. One small onion will usually give you four tablespoons grated.
  • Remember, that’s grated, not shredded. You are making latkes, not hash browns.
  • Drain the potatoes over a bowl, then pour away the liquid. Scrape the potato starch out of the bottom of the bowl and add it back into the potatoes.
  • The grated potatoes will turn slightly rust-colored as they oxidize. Don’t worry, they’ll turn white again when they cook. Just don’t let them sit so long that they start to blacken; then you’ll have grayish latkes.
  • The oil needs to be very hot, so use an oil that has a high smoking point.
  • Use two pans if you can; you’ll get done faster. Yes, you’ll use more oil, but you’ll also get to eat them with everybody else, rather than having to sneak one or two while you slave over a hot stove.
  • Flip the latkes once the edges are browned and the middle looks mostly cooked (you’ll see the potatoes whiten, even if they haven’t oxidized much). If you flip them too early, the centers will be gummy. If you flip them too late, the edges might burn or get too crusty. Don’t worry. You’ll get the hang of it eventually.
  • Latkes are best right out of the pan, but you can keep them hot in a 200-250 degree oven before serving, if you can keep people from coming into the kitchen and taking them. Don’t let them sit too long, though, or they will lose their delectable crispiness.
  • Yes, your entire apartment or house will smell like cooking oil, even the next day. This is not a bad thing. It’s festive, okay?

Stephanie Friedman is program director of the Writer’s Studio program at the University of Chicago Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies. She holds an MFA in Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and an MA in English from the University of Chicago. She blogs at windingstitch.blogspot.com.

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elder blossum, Sambucus

The end of cool, spring days are long gone here in the southeast (and most of the Midwest for that matter), and we’re working our way into a hot and dry summer. Though the days may be thick with heat, we’re fortunate that the fragrance in the air is sweet, making odoriferous (read: sweaty) outdoor life a little more bearable. Between the honeysuckle, magnolia blooms, the last of the spring roses, and now elderflowers (also known as Sambucus), the perfume outdoors is downright heavenly.
elder flower, just opening

In the past I’ve talked about elderberries,  but the flowers that make those berries are just as – if not more than – extraordinary, and dare I say: exquisite. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to sample the blossoms in liqueur form (aka St. Germain) you’d recognize the slightly lemon and honey undertones in the air. It’s a sweet, heady, and perfumed flavor, but not quite cloying. Elderflower liqueur or syrup is definitely spring in a bottle. The liqueur or syrup is gorgeous mixed with champagne, it makes a lovely iced tea, and numerous other cocktails. Just don’t consume too many or the alkaloids will give you an upset tummy*.
elderflower stars

If you do happen across some elder, be sure to leave plenty of blossom heads to produce berries in another month, and then leave some of those berries for wildlife and to produce new shrubs. The berries are an important resource for many critters including birds and many moths. Pick the blooms that are open as it’s the pollen that helps to flavor and color your cordials – avoid those that are already forming berries and blossoms not yet open.

Elderflower Syrup

  • 10 large flower heads, largest stems removed, bugs shaken off
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced – avoid bitter pith
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 Tbsp citric acid

Bring water and sugar just to a boil, then combine remaining ingredients. Allow to steep for 12-24 hours. Strain through muslin, then bottle and keep in refrigerator for up to a week.

Elderflower Syrup Ice Cubes

lavender and elderflower syrup

Simply pour your cooled syrup into ice cube trays and freeze. An excellent way to keep your wines or punches chilled this summer. Also a fabulous

way to extend the life of your syrup which will last about a week in the refrigerator.

Elderflower and Lavender Syrup

Follow directions for Elderflower syrup, but add 5 stems of lavender to 1 pint of liquid. Strain through muslin before bottling.

Elderflower Liqueur

  • 5 large flower heads, largest stems removed, bugs shaken off
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups vodka

Strain vodka through a water purifier if you have one available. Put flowers into quart-sized jar then cover with vodka. Allow to steep for about three to four weeks, then strain through muslin cloth. Return vodka to jar and add sugar. If 1/2 cup isn’t sweet enough, add more.

I’ve got all of these above in process currently. Next up is a recipe for elderflower& vanilla panna cotta I found at the River Cottage blog. The apple elderflower jelly and the strawberry elderflower jam both sound divine but I’m afraid those will have to wait until next year because I’m reserving the rest of the flowers for elderberry jam!
elderflower syrup

*Concerning toxicity via Wikipedia:

The leaves, twigs, branches, seeds and roots contain a cyanide producing glycoside. Ingesting any of these parts in sufficient quantity can cause a toxic build up of cyanide in the body. In addition, the unripened berry, flowers and “umbels” contain a toxic alkaloid.

Due to the possibility of cyanide poisoning, children should be discouraged from making whistles, slingshots or other toys from elderberry wood. In addition, “herbal teas” made with elderberry leaves (which contain cyanide inducing glycosides) should be treated with high caution. However, ripe berries (pulp and skin) are safe to eat”

Information and history of the Elder via the USDA plant guide.

A lovely guide, history, and some recipes vie A Modern Herbal at Botanical.com

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You can also find Jennifer blarging along at Unearthing this Life when she’s not too busy wrassling turkeys and guineas, chasing chickens, playing with a seven year old, and working her (now) massive garden. She even sometimes tweets her nonsense @unearthingthis1 on Twitter.

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One of the hardest meals for me to get motivated to prepare is breakfast. I’m not one of those people who wakes up hungry, and I don’t enjoy sweet things on my belly first thing in the morning. These scones, on the other hand, are a treat I could manage every now and then if I prepared them the evening before. I suppose I could even be persuaded to bake these fresh – they’re that simple.

For this recipe I used some pear sauce I made last fall to be the main flavor of the scone. The sauce was prepared like a traditional spiced apple sauce with lots of cinnamon and some fresh grated nutmeg. You could substitute apple sauce for the pear sauce and it would taste almost as good. But of course nothing tastes as good as the first bite!

Pear Spice Scones

  • 1 cup unbleached AP flour
  • 1 cup wheat pastry flour (or wheat cake flour)
  • 6 Tbsp cold butter
  • 1/4 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp mace
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup pear sauce
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • 3 Tbsp Demerara sugar
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 pear, chopped finely
  • flour for dusting
  • 2 Tbsp cream
  • extra sugar for sprinkling
  1. Heat oven to 425F
  2. Chop butter into small bits and return to refrigerator.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together flours, spices, baking powder, and salt.
  4. In a small bowl, mix 2 Tbsp sugar, cream, pear sauce, and vanilla then store in refrigerator.
  5. Cut butter into flour until it resembles a fine meal. Add liquid ingredients and pear and fold until just combined.
  6. Dust workspace generously with flour then fold mixture, gently, like biscuits for about 30 seconds.You don’t want to melt the butter.
  7. Form into a circle and place on parchment paper on cookie sheet. Cut into 8-10 triangles.
  8. Brush with cream or milk and sprinkle with Demerara sugar and bake.

Serve plain, with butter or clotted cream, with jam or some yummy lemon curd.

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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.

Filling

  • 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.

Crust

  • 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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