Three years ago, for my mother’s 70th birthday, I brought my mother to Ireland. It was my third time visiting so I knew some places we had to visit together and Killruddery House, just outside of Dublin, was a must see. You may recognize Killruddery house from movies and television. It was a location for filming The Tudors, Excalibur, Ella Enchanted, My Left Foot, and even a new Netflix series, Fate; The Winx Saga. It really is a spectacular home. Built in 1618 it is still home to the same family. The grounds and gardens are beautiful. I walked and snapped photos for hours. Wouldn’t you love to have a huge soirée here? They host functions in the Orangery, the domed area of the house in my picture below.
Once 3:00 rolls around it’s tea time. Naturally, they have a Tea Room with freshly baked goods for sale. It’s a beautiful building, too, with an octagonal roof and encircled with robin’s egg blue painted iron trellises. From inside, the stained glass windows radiate a warm glow and creates a homey, cozy feeling as you’re looking over all their lovely treats.
I so enjoyed that cake, savoring each and every bite sitting peacefully beside the lavender and roses. The cake had a perfectly moist crumb, a sweet and creamy cream cheese frosting studded with hazelnuts. This was not your typical zucchini cake. This was light and scrumptious. I tried to get the Killruddery recipe but that didn’t work out so I decided I could recreate it myself at home. After some experimenting I think I nailed it. Below are two pictures of my latest rendition. I had a little fun with my piping bag. You don’t need to frost it that way. I was having fun using a biscuit cutter to cut the cake into individual cakelets.
Courgette Cake with Hazelnuts Makes one 9×13 cake
Cake Ingredients: 3C flour 2 1/2C grated yellow courgette (about 2 small yellow zucchini) squeezed dry 1 1/2C sugar 1C blanched and peeled hazelnuts, rough chopped 1/2C unsalted butter 1/2C buttermilk 1/4C orange juice 3 eggs 2T orange zest 2t vanilla paste or extract 1t baking soda 1/4t baking powder
Cake Directions: Have all ingredients at room temp before starting. Preheat oven to 325°. Prepare a 9×13” baking pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper and use Baker’s Joy spray or butter and flour the inside.
Combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer using the paddle attachment, beat the sugar and butter until doubled in volume and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes. Add in the eggs on at a time, scraping down the bowl as needed. It will look separated. Don’t worry. Add in the orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Add in the flour mixture a little at a time.
Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold in the grated yellow zucchini and cup of chopped hazelnuts. Pour into the pan and smooth out the top. Give it a few tamps on the counter, too. Bake for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove to cooling rack. Cool completely and frost with orange cream cheese frosting. Top with more hazelnuts and freshly grated orange zest.
Frosting and Topping Ingredients: 8 oz soft cream cheese 4-5 cups sifted powdered sugar 2T orange juice, strained of pulp 3/4C – 1C blanched and peeled hazelnuts for topping 2-3T orange zest for topping
Frosting Directions: Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add the powdered sugar, zest, and orange juice. If it’s too thick, add more juice. Too thin? Add more sugar.
Toasting the hazelnuts will change the flavor focus. I don’t toast them for this recipe. Remove the skins; the skins are bitter. You can usually rub them off between your fingers using a dishtowel.
Top the cake with the fresh orange zest at serving.
When baking, always bring ingredients to room temp before starting.
Do not over-beat cake batter. Only mix long enough to combine ingredients. A few lumps are fine.
I crave my daily herbal infusion. I know my husband does, too. Considering they are vitamin, mineral, and protein powerhouses it’s no wonder! The Mister loves his daily infusions as does our youngest daughter. She’s been drinking them for many years, too. They’re not just for women. They’re for babies, toddler, youths, adults. In other words, EVERYONE. They are food. This is not tea.
What is an infusion? How is it different from a cup of tea?
An infusion is a very strong liquid, tea-like, made with one ounce of herb and allowed to sit in hot water for 4 hours or more. A tea is made from a small amount of herbs or tea leaves, typically 1-3 teaspoons, and steeped in hot water for up to 10 minutes. A tea does not impart the amount of health-giving properties of an infusion, although a cuppa tea can be very enjoyable. I drink a few cups of strong Irish tea every day!
Red clover is hands down my absolute favorite infusion. I’m 52 and haven’t experienced one hot flash, I have strong bones, a flexible spine, and supple skin. Yes, you read that right. Not one hot flash. I thought I was having one a couple weeks ago but my husband reminded me I had a been out in the sun all day and it was 90 degrees out. So no hot flash! Red clover helps our bodies balance out hormones (for men, too) and provides minerals, vitamins, and protective phytosterols.
We all want good health. We all want to age gracefully. I know I want to ease into my second half of life with as much of health and vitality as I can build. I credit my easy transition to crone status with nourishing herbal infusions, eating a varied diet that includes local, pasture raised meats, lots of natural fats (butter, lard, olive oil) and full fat organic dairy foods.
If you only do one thing for yourself this month, this year, or today, add nourishing herbal infusions to your diet. Why drink plain water when you can replace it with a nourishing herbal infusion? Plain water offers you nothing nutritionally and flushes minerals and vitamins from your body if you drink too much. Hydrate and add those proteins, minerals, and vitamins back with a nourishing herbal infusion.
Where do I get my herbs for infusions?
Frontier and Mountain Rose Herbs sells organic herbs by the pound as well as most small health food stores. If you become a member of United Plant Savers you will receive a membership perk of a 20% discount to Mountain Rose Herbs! I am also a wholesale member of Frontier. If you’re interested in a wholesale account, click here.
All you need are giant Mason jars (I use half gallon sizes) to store the herbs in your cabinets, an inexpensive food scale, a quart jar with tight-fitting lid, and 5 minutes of time to boil water and weigh out the herb. I make infusions for us in the evening, let them sit overnight, strain them in the morning, and then we drink them during the day.
We rotate through 5-7 different herbs over the course of the week, drinking one infusion a day. We do not mix them together. Our favorites are Nettle, Oatstraw, Comfrey, Red Clover, Linden, and sometimes Hawthorn and Raspberry leaf infusions. When our Lab had a uti I made her rotating infusions of Uva Ursi and Yarrow to help her fight it off. Nettle isn’t my favorite infusion but I know it’s incredibly nutritious so instead of leaving it out of the rotation I’ll add a pinch of Holy Basil to change the taste to my liking. Also, I noticed that if my infusions are very cold they taste so much better.
Take care of your body now. It’s never too late to build health. Infusions are easy to make. Below are pics of my 5 minute routine. I prefer to make them at night so they can steep and be ready to strain and refrigerate in the morning. Infusions only need 4 hours to steep so if it’s easier for you to do it in the morning, go for it! Note: This is NOT a tea.
How do I make a nourishing herbal infusion?
Read more about Nourishing Herbal Infusions from Susun Weed here.
I’m not a fan of ripe bananas. If it a banana has even a HINT of a brown spot it’s inedible to me. Dead to me. I won’t eat it. I know, I know. It’s a quirk, but hey, I’m OK with it. The bananas I use for a quick bread are ripe but don’t have lots of spots. I prefer the less sweet taste and firmer texture of a yellow banana. If you like brown bananas go for it! It will be sweeter and probably taste more familiar. Not many people use yellow bananas for banana bread. That’s my special banana weirdness.
I recommend only lightly mashing the bananas. You will get some more tasty chunks of banana in the bread. If you prefer brown bananas you may end up with more of a liquid after mashing. It will still come out great, it’s more a matter of texture and what you prefer.
Note: With quick breads the standard is creaming butter and sugar, adding eggs one at a time and then alternating the dry and liquid ingredients, being mindful of not over-mixing. This recipe follows the same pattern. Measure out all ingredients before starting. I learned this lesson many years ago: mise en place, everything in its place. Read the recipe first, collect and measure ingredients, and THEN start your process.
Coconut Rum Banana Bread
Makes 1 large loaf or 3 mini loaves
2C pastry flour
1 1/2C gently mashed bananas, about 3 medium-sized
2 large eggs
1/2C shredded, sweetened coconut + 2T for topping
1/4C unsalted butter, room temp (4T)
1/4C plain full-fat yogurt
3T spiced rum
3/4t baking soda
1t vanilla extract
Optional Glaze Ingredients:
1/2C confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2T freshly squeezed lime juice
If you are making one 9 x 5″ loaf, preheat oven to 350°.
If you are making the smaller loaves, preheat to 325°.
Prepare your loaf pans with Baker’s Joy spray or butter and flour them. Set aside.
In a medium sized mixing bowl, add the flour, 1/2C coconut, baking soda, and salt. Give a quick stir to combine.
In a small bowl, combine bananas, yogurt, rum, and vanilla. Stir to combine.
In the large bowl of a mixer (or deep bowl good for hand mixer) cream the butter and sugar until light and airy. Use a rubber scraper to scrape down the sides if the sides are not mixing well. Add the eggs one at a time and continue creaming them together until combined and light in texture.
Alternate adding the dry and liquid ingredients to the creamed butter, sugar, and egg mixture. Do not over beat.
Spoon the batter into your loaf pan or mini loaf pans (filling 3/4 full). Sprinkle the top with the 2T of shredded coconut that was set aside earlier.
Bake one large loaf for 60 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Bake the mini loaves for 30 minutes or until golden and a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Let sit in the loaf pan for 5-10 minutes until inverting onto a cooling rack. Once completely cool, make a glaze with the sugar and lime juice and drizzle over the bread.
Teachers have favorites. I hate to break it to you, but we do. For me, it’s usually the nature-loving, part wild child, book-loving child that finds a space in my heart. Sophie was that child for me eleven years ago. She arrived on the first day of Kindergarten with a whole lot of spirit and spunk. I loved her right away. As I soon found out, Sophie had many passions. Her mother told me that at 4 years old that she announced that she would be a vegetarian. No one else in her family was a vegetarian so there were lots of changes in the household, as you can imagine. But the parents honored her decision and from then on she was a vegetarian.
Children this age often choose to be vegetarians because when they learn where they food comes from (a long lashed soft-eyed cow, a clever chicken that can outfox a fox, a cute pink pig like Wilbur or Babe) they become very upset and decide right then and there they will be stewards of animals. We often chatted about Sophie’s vegetarianism at morning circle because some of the other children in my class didn’t understand what being a vegetarian meant. Sophie was kind and patient when she explained that she didn’t want to eat animals because she loved them. There was no judgement, just a simple and clear explanation. My heart swelled. I found a few picture books on being a vegetarian – I have no control when it comes to an opportunity to acquire more books – and this one was our class favorite.
You may have thought that some of the other children would’ve decided to become vegetarians, but they didn’t. They simply accepted that Sophie’s lunch was just lunch and they ate up the Herb the Vegetarian book.
Sophie came to kindergarten with another passion: Indigo Buntings. Sophie had seen one in North Carolina and that’s when her passion for the Indigo Bunting began. So yes, at four years old, she had a passion for all things Indigo Bunting.
She drew them.
She talked about them.
She asked me at least once a week, usually on a Monday, if I’d seen one that weekend. Sadly, I always said no.
Sophie wanted (aka slightly demanded) to know more about them. Yay! Me too! I brought in my Audubon bird identification book and provided her with books and many Montessori lessons on birds, and since she learned how to read with me that year she began independently reading about them during D.E.A.R (drop everything and read) time. I presented lessons on the external parts of a bird and then she made her own bird book (she colored her bird blue), lessons on the internal parts of birds (and she made a diagram), lessons on geography (we researched North America and where the Indigo Buntings live), lessons on migration (we researched Central America), lessons on how birds reproduce, what they eat, and what their nests look like. I spent the whole year integrating Indigo Buntings into the curriculum areas for her and on every field trip the whole class was on the lookout for them. Everyone grew to love and appreciate the Indigo Bunting, and Sophie sealed her place in my heart.
I had never seen an Indigo Bunting live and in person
Here’s what the Mister and I saw at 6:20 a.m. this morning!
Here’s a little bit about Indigo Buntings.
They have a conical beak that give you an idea of what they eat: small seeds, berries, and insects. They will come to your thistle feeders and will really like your live mealworm feeder.
They are native to North America.
They are roughly the size of sparrows; small and stocky birds.
They frequent areas where the woods meet the fields.
Their nests are made of grasses, sticks, leaves, and wrapped in spider silk.
They lay a clutch of 3-4 eggs and can have up to 3 broods a season. Their eggs are white with some brown spots.
“Don’t say you don’t have enough time. You have exactly the same number of hours per day that were given to Helen Keller, Pasteur, Michaelangelo, Mother Teresa, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Jefferson, and Albert Einstein.” ~ H. Jackson Brown Jr.
Recently, I was asked, “How do you have the time? Don’t you sleep?” Easy answer. I make time. Even when I worked outside the home for 40 hrs – plus another 10+ hours of commuting – I had time to do projects, take a class (or teach an additional class), and still shop, cook meals, clean the house, work the gardens, mow the lawn. You get the picture. I’m no superwoman, I certainly don’t have endless energy, and I definitely have my share of aches and pains.
This I know: We make the time for the things that are important to us.
So when someone say, “Oh, I don’t have time for that,” what he or she really means is, “I don’t think that’s important enough to make time for.” And that’s OK.
I can’t believe it’s been two years. A lot has happened in the two-year break from blogging, but hopefully this is my return to writing, sharing my personal recipes, and sharing what I’ve learned in my – ah-hem – nearly 50 years (I turn 50 this July).
My interests have evolved so the blog may have more gardening and decorating posts, but who knows? I’ll try to write more often and hopefully you’ll find it entertaining and useful! I’m still making herbal remedies, but the business name has changed to reflect more of ‘place’. The new name is Farm44Herbals and you can find my single remedy tinctures on Etsy. I’m still involved with Montessori, Stott Pilates, cooking, and being a Mum to two adult daughters, seven chickens, and one Labrador retriever. Life is good.
But, back to the immediate reality. I’m hoping the weather turns for the better. I have 10 yards of loam to mix with peat moss and and then put into three new garden beds. Those plants aren’t going to plant themselves.
Below is a snippet of what’s going on around the farm.
I’m in the middle of labeling more batches of my herbal products for my Etsy shop, sipping on a tall glass of ginger honey lemonade and thought I should share this awesome recipe. I can get back to labeling later.
Making it by the gallon will make sense after you’ve had a glass. It doesn’t last long. This lemonade is super simple to make and is so good for you.
Ginger is in the same family as turmeric and cardamom, making it very warming and stimulating to the circulatory system. Ginger is soothing to the digestive tract, is anti-inflammatory, and some resources show that it inhibits the growth of rhinovirus, the common cold.
Lemon juice is loaded with vitamins and minerals, stimulates the production of bile to help move toxins out of your body, is antiseptic and anti-bacterial, aids digestion, and as an added bonus makes your skin radiate. If you want to really boost your immunity zest some of the lemons into the lemonade! The zest has five times more antioxidant power than the juice.
Raw honey is a miracle food created by the wondrous, hard-working humble honey bee. There is some truth to honey helping with allergies so it is best to get honey that’s been created from your local flora. Honey is antibacterial, anti-microbial, and reduces inflammation. And honey is lower on the glycemic index making it a much better natural alternative to white sugar.
Where do I get my raw honey? I am lucky enough to have my own apiary and access to raw honey, but if you’re looking for good honey you must seek out a local beekeeper. Google search for a local beekeepers club and give them a call. Better yet, go to your local farmer’s market. There’s bound to be a beekeeper or two selling their own honey and beeswax products. Make sure it’s raw, though. It may be crystalized or it may not. It’s not bad if it has crystalized; it’s a normal process that occurs after the honey is removed from the hive. We like the crystalized honey – it’s easy to spread on toast, melt into tea, and blend into smoothies and measure for recipes.
NOTE: Avoid pasteurized honey! It is no better than sugar. And don’t even bother with commercial brands of honey since many are imported and we are now finding out are not even real honey but high fructose corn syrup and other fillers. Yuck. Who needs it?
Ginger Honey Lemonade
Makes 1 gallon
1C peeled and freshly grated ginger (or more to taste)
1 ½C of freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 7-8 juicy lemons, depending on size)
1C local, raw honey (or more to taste)
4 quarts of water
extra lemons for garnish
In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Add the grated ginger and simmer for 45 minutes. Turn heat off and let sit for 2 hours. Strain the ginger out of the water, using a fine mesh sieve, into a serving pitcher or large container. Add the lemon juice and honey while the ginger water is still warm. Stir until combined. Taste and adjust sweetness. Serve warm or chilled on ice. Garnish with a lemon wedge.
I haven’t been making much time to write up recipes and posts, but I have been cooking up a storm. We’ve had over 100″ (yes, that’s right) of snow here and on snowy days all I want to do is hole up in my house and cook! I’ll be posting some new recipes soon.
Here’s what I’ve been up to …
I’ve been driving. My commute from the burbs to the city is now 2 hours in and 1.5 hours out. After working a full work-week I’m too tired to write long posts. Essentially, I’m “working” 60 hours a week. sigh.
I’ve been shoveling and maintaining paths to our chicken coop and front door. The plow guy can only do so much. The walkways and front porch is our job and for a month it was quite a job. On a positive note, the chickens have been consistently laying eggs all winter! I wasn’t expecting that at all. The eggs are such a gift. My girls turn a year old on April 9th and I plan to give them some special treats from us on that day. They love strawberries, tomatoes, oatmeal, and cabbage. Maybe a special salad?
Shoveling out the beehives hasn’t been fun either. Walking to the hives in four foot deep snow isn’t easy, but the hives are dug out and on a warm day the girls can take some cleansing flights easily enough.
I’ve been making bone broth every weekend to sip during the week. Bone broth is easy, rich in protein, minerals, soothing to the gut, and great for the skin. We sip it in place of tea. If you have GERD, Leaky Gut, or an upset tummy drink bone broth every day. You can make it from slow cooking or using a pressure cooker. I roast a chicken or brown some beef bones and then put them in the pot with water, an onion, a few carrots, celery, and a garlic clove or two. If you use a slow cooker or stove-top you can plan to let it simmer for 12-24 hours. In a pressure cooker it will be ready in 1-2 hours. The longer you cook the bones the more minerals you will pull from the bones. Adding a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar will help leach the minerals quicker, too.
I’ve been creating new tinctures for my GingerSage Botanicals herbal business. I have a new Rose Elixir, Damiana-Rose Tincture, and a Hawaiian Awa (kava kava) Tincture. I have more items for sale so pop over and check it out. I sell a lot out of my home, but I do ship. Click on the link to shop: www.etsy.com/shop/GingerSageBotanicals
I’ve been planning out a French potager garden. I want to expand our perennial beds to include more vegetables, interspersing them with the perennial flowering plants is a great way to create an edible garden. It will be beautiful and practical.
I’ve been reading and studying nature religions, specifically the Cabot Tradition of Witchcraft. I am honored to have studied under Laurie Cabot, the Official Witch of Salem and I look forward to deepening my studies in the future. You can learn more about it here: www. lauriecabot.com.
See Laurie on YouTube.
Well, that’s all for now! The bone broth needs straining and containing. The banana bread must come out of the oven, and the fire stoked. I know spring is coming, but for now it’s still winter.
Until next time …
Make your own tea. I mix equal parts organic chamomile flowers, organic rose petals, and organic lemon balm. This blend is fragrant and helps ease stress and anxiety. Sip during the day and before bed to help you sleep well. Combine the herbs in equal parts in a sealed jar and store out of sunlight. To make a cup, use one rounded teaspoon for 8 ounces of water. Steep for 3-5 minutes. Strain and add sweetener of choice, preferably raw, local honey.
Turmeric is a root, like ginger, but with a bright and glorious, rich golden hue. It’s hard to find in stores in its most natural root form, but you’ll find it easily in the spice aisle of any market. Turmeric is an old (4,000 year old) Ayurvedic and Tradition Chinese Medicine remedy for many ailments. In Sanskrit, turmeric’s name is “Kanchani” which means Golden Goddess. Turmeric truly is a goddess of healing. It is anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory. And, if all that wasn’t enough to get turmeric in your diet right NOW, there’s research on turmeric’s ability to fight cancer. HERE’s a link to a brief, but full-of-information article on circumin, the main healing ingredient in turmeric. If you are using turmeric for an acute health condition, I recommend sourcing ALL organic ingredients to lessen your toxic load while trying to heal.
You may wonder why there’s black pepper added to the recipe. The black pepper works as a catalyst with the turmeric to make the healing properties available to the body. Just a little pepper is enough to release the circumin.
Makes 2 – 8oz. servings
16 oz. raw whole milk (or almond milk)
4T raw local honey or to taste
1T coconut butter or coconut cream, melted and warm, not hot
1t dried turmeric
1t chia seeds
1t real vanilla extract
1t local bee pollen
¼t dried ginger
⅛t freshly fine-ground black pepper
a couple shakes of cinnamon
Directions: Put all ingredients in a large mason jar, cover, and shake until all ingredients combine. If you find that some of the dried spices are clumping you can use a blender or a stick blender to incorporate the ingredients. Let the milk sit for an hour or so for the chia seeds to expand before drinking.
½C melted organic, extra virgin coconut oil, allowed to cool a bit
¼C organic shredded coconut
4 large eggs (I used 5 small-medium eggs from my chickens)
1t sea salt
1t baking soda
Directions: Preheat oven to 350°. Prepare the loaf pans by greasing with butter or using a Coconut Spray oil. In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, cinnamon, sea salt, baking soda, and chocolate chips. Give it a quick stir
In a small bowl combine the wet ingredients: pumpkin, eggs, and vanilla. Stir to combine and then add the warm, but not hot, butter and coconut oil. Stir until all ingredients are combined.
Slowly add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients. Stir gently and only to combine; do not over-mix or you will create gluten and it will make your bread tough. We’re going for a tender loaf.
Pour batter evenly between the two prepared loaf pans. Tamp on the counter to get the batter to settle and use spoon to even out the top. Sprinkle both loaves with the shredded coconut.
Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from oven and cool for 10-15 minutes. Remove from loaf pan to a wire rack to finish cooling.
Enjoy. It’s so good.
Note: I use organic ingredients as much as possible and do not always write ‘organic’ into my recipes. All my organic ingredients are found at local farm stands, farmer’s markets, Market Basket, Whole Foods, Vitacost.com, or Amazon.com.
This honey liqueur is simply delicious. It is an adaptation I made from Jane Lawson’s Snowflakes and Schnapps cookbook. It’s a beautifully done cookbook, rich with food photos and simple, wholesome (and gourmet) recipes. I highly recommend getting yourself a copy, not just for the visual feast, but the way she takes you on a culinary tour of Europe with her recipes.
There’s something about this liqueur that says sweet comfort. It’s full of flavor, and if you’re sipping it neat you can really taste the subtle flavors. Before you make this decide on what kind of honey to use. If you want a more robust, earthy flavor (my favorite) use the darker fall harvest honey. If you would prefer a lighter, more delicate flavor that will highlight the infusion, choose the lighter, spring harvest honey.
Honey and Saffron Liqueur, adapted from Jane Lawson
Makes 1 Litre
750ml bottle of good vodka
1C dark, fall honey
1 cinnamon stick
½ of a vanilla bean, split lengthwise, and finely chopped
10 white peppercorns
¼t freshly grated nutmeg
2 pinches of saffron threads
3 strips of lemon zest, white pith removed
Put the honey, water, cinnamon stick, chopped vanilla bean, peppercorns, nutmeg, and saffron in a saucepan and bring just to boil. Quickly reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the lemon zest and set aside to infuse for 20 minutes.
Reheat until simmering, then remove from the heat and cool completely. Once cooled, strain through a fine mesh sieve, and add the vodka. Carefully pour into a sterilized airtight bottle and allow to the flavors to infuse at room temperature for a week before drinking.
Neat (my favorite way) or On The Rocks.
Martini: 2 parts vodka or gin, 1 part honey liqueur. Add a lemon twist.
Whiskey/Scotch/Bourbon: equal parts honey liqueur and spirits, iced or neat.
I didn’t set out to create my own cassoulet recipe, but when I started to prep for the recipe I pulled off the internet I soon realized how off the recipe was. I knew it wouldn’t turn out right – the recipe quantities just didn’t add up. It was then that I decided that I would make my own cassoulet. I chucked the internet recipe in the trash, got out my notepad, and started working my recipe.
The star of a cassoulet is the duck leg confit. I couldn’t find fresh, local duck legs to make my own duck confit. D’Artagnan sells their packaged duck breasts at small markets and at Whole Foods, but not fresh duck legs. Fresh are nearly impossible to find. And so, after some frustrated sighs, I decided that I would put my duck leg search on hold and start searching for an online source. I quickly found THE duck website: D’Artagnan. They sell hard-to-find game meats, source organic and natural, and they deliver quickly and inexpensively. Perfect. I ordered their duck confit, garlic pork sausage, duck sausage, and duck fat. Shipping only cost $8.95 for my entire order and it arrived packed on ice in only two days.
My family loved this dish and I think you will too. I served it with a side of braised kale with garlic.
4 duck legs confit
1# Great Northern white beans
½# duck sausage, sliced into 1” pieces
½# pork garlic sausage, sliced into 1” pieces
1 yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into 3/4” pieces
2 tomatoes, diced
3C chicken stock
¼C duck fat
1t dried thyme
sea salt to taste
fresh parsley to garnish
Crumb crust: 1C fresh breadcrumbs (I made mine with crackers) + 1T melted duck fat. Do NOT use store-bought breadcrumbs here.
Directions: Soak the Great Northern beans overnight. After 24 hours put the beans in a large stockpot and cover with water at least 3” above the beans. Add 1 tablespoon of salt to the water. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat to medium-high to keep them on a low boil for about 45 minutes. The beans should be tender, but still a bit firm; they will continue to cook in the cassoulet and you don’t want them to fall apart because they were overcooked. Drain the beans, and pour into your cassoulet pan or large Dutch oven.
In a large, cast iron skillet, brown the duck and pork sausages in half of the duck fat. Remove the sausage from the pan and add it to the beans. Make sure you scrape off all the burnt sausage bits from the bottom of your skillet – that’s where all the flavor is. Add the grease drippings, too. It will keep your cassoulet moist. Add the diced onion, minced garlic, chopped carrots, diced tomatoes, thyme, chicken stock, and all but 1T of duck fat to the beans and sausage. Place the 4 duck confit legs into the mixture. If the mixture isn’t covered by the chicken stock, add just enough to cover.
Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat to simmer. Cover, and let simmer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, remove the duck legs and place them on a cutting board to cool down. Keep the cassoulet on simmer while you pick the duck meat off the bone. Return the duck meat to the cassoulet, discard the bones, and continue simmering on low heat, covered, for another 1.5 hours. If the cassoulet looks too soupy, take the cover off while it simmers. The stock will cook down and the flavors will become more concentrated, but be watchful so you don’t let it get dry.
Preheat oven to 375°.
After simmering on low heat for two hours on the stovetop, place the cassoulet into the oven with the cover off. Check periodically to see if the cassoulet is getting too dry. If it is too dry, add a bit more chicken stock.
Bake the cassoulet for an hour at 375 degrees. While the cassoulet is baking, prepare the crust, and have a well-deserved glass of wine.
To make the crumbs, place 2 cups of saltines or chowder crackers in a baggie. Roll over the baggie with a rolling pin until the crumbs are coarse. Pour the crumbs into a small bowl and stir in the leftover tablespoon of melted duck fat. After the cassoulet has baked for an hour, remove it from the oven and top with the crumbs.
Bake for another 30-45 minutes or until the crust is a nice, golden brown.
Cooking breakfast is my least favorite meal to prepare. I love going out for breakfast. There’s something just so perfect about waking up and having someone else make the first meal of the day for you. We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so why not make it special and start your day off great? A sit-down-at-the-table breakfast is the best way to start the day. Weekends are when I really look forward to a nice breakfast. Here is my recipe for crêpes filled with honey-walnut cream cheese. They are light, loaded with flavor and a bit of crunch, then finished with a sweet drizzle of raw honey. Serve with sliced fresh fruit. Add some jazz music, a pot of French press coffee, a newspaper, and your weekend has begun.
Makes about 16 medium or 8 large crêpes
⅔C unbleached pastry flour or Cup4Cup gluten-free flour
½C whole milk
2 farm fresh eggs, room temperature
2T liquid raw honey
8oz. cream cheese (one brick), room temperature
½C chopped walnuts or pecans
3T liquid raw honey
In a small bowl, using a fork, mash together the cream cheese, honey, and walnuts. Keep stirring until all ingredients are combined. Set aside. In a larger bowl, whisk the flour, milk, eggs, and honey until you have a smooth batter.
Heat a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat, then dot with butter. Drop a dollop of batter onto the pan, rotating it to slide the batter around the pan. You will have to decide how large you want your crêpe and adjust the amount your pour into your pan accordingly. Cook on one side for about 1 minute, then carefully flip over and cook the other side an addition 30 seconds to 1 minute. Repeat until your batter is gone.
Fill the crepe with 1 large tablespoon of the cream cheese filling, spread it on the crêpe to even it out, then fold or roll your crêpe.
From 2011 when I first became a beekeeper, reposted here and taken from my previous blog on iWeb. BEFORE I LOST MY TWO HIVES FROM MOSQUITO SPRAYING IN MY TOWN. See addendum at bottom.
I had been thinking about keeping honey bees for some time now, and this winter I decided to go for it. What was I waiting for? (I’m not good at waiting anyway) Because of CCD, Colony Collapse Disorder, mosquito spraying, and increased consumer pesticide use the honey bees need our help. Since 2006, honey bees have been mysteriously disappearing. There are many theories out there, mostly related to heavy pesticide use on big, monoculture farms but no one is completely sure what the cause is. However, scientists agree that something has to be done to save the honey bee. One-third of the food we eat is pollinated by the honey bee. One-third! It’s very alarming to think what would happen to our food supply if we didn’t have the honey bee. I also learned that almond growers in California utilize migratory beekeepers to pollinate, using 1.3 million colonies of bees (HALF of all honey bees in the US) that are shipped there every year.
“If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.” ~ Albert Einstein
I recently watched a new documentary, narrated by Ellen Page, titled Vanishing of The Bees. I highly recommend you get your hands on this or find a local screening and see what is happening all over the world. It’s heartbreaking. And scary! One hopeful part of the movie is learning that Germany and France banned the use of the pesticide Clothianidin (a neonicotinoid) and within a year the honeybee colonies began to come back. Not so in the United States.
I always thought I needed acreage and farmland to keep bees, but I was wrong. There are many backyard and city beekeepers. Most are self-proclaimed “closet” beekeepers. And since lifting the ban on beekeeping, New York now has a high, and growing, number of roof-top beehives. At a recent Essex County Beekeepers Association (ECBA for short) meeting I was told that there were 1,000 new beekeepers last year in Massachusetts. Impressive and hopeful numbers for sure. You probably have beekeepers in your neighborhood and don’t know it. Beekeepers usually don’t advertise their hives because neighbors are misinformed and can get anxious. But there’s no need to be anxious. Be thankful. We need the bees. Your trees, flowers, and vegetable garden need them. They selflessly work themselves to death tending to the needs of the colony. And aren’t we lucky to get our plants and trees pollinated and receive health-giving honey and beeswax in return?
Honey bees are often lumped into the same category as wasps and hornets. Yellowjackets, Bald-faced hornets, and other species of bees do not have barbs on their stingers and can, and will, sting you repeatedly if you get too close to them or their nest. My husband was a target of nasty Bald-face hornets last year when he accidentally disturbed their basketball-sized paper nest in one of our bushes. Wasps and hornets are more aggressive than honey bees and they are omnivores, too. Wasps and hornets are the unwanted visitors that join your backyard barbecue and eat your grilled food and sip your sweet tea. A honey bee will NOT do that. They’re too busy finding nectar.
“That which we experience within ourselves only at a time when our hearts develop love is actually the very same thing that is present as a substance in the entire beehive. The whole beehive is permeated with life based on love. In many ways the bees renounce love, and thereby this love develops within the entire beehive.” ~ Rudolph Steiner
Some interesting and little-known facts about honeybees:
A honey bee will only sting to defend the hive or itself.
A honey bee will die after stinging because their stinger has barbs. Their insides will come out as they try to fly away because the barbed stinger is stuck in your skin.
Only the worker bee (a daughter of the queen) will sting. Queens don’t leave the hive to defend it. Drones don’t have stingers.
A hive consists of a Queen, female worker bees, and a few drones.
Drones don’t work, they have to be fed by the worker bees, and their only job in life is to mate with a Queen (if they’re lucky enough to find one). If a drone does mates he quickly dies because his mating parts get stuck in the Queen.
A swarm of honey bees is docile. They are surrounding and protecting the queen while the scout bees look for a good home.
The temperature inside a hive, around the cluster, is a constant 93°.
On a hot day, worker bees will position themselves just inside and right outside the entrance and fan their wings to create airflow, much like a fan.
Honey bees come out of the hive about 8-10′ and then they fly up, up, up over an area of up to 5 miles to find the best nectar and pollen sources.
Honey bees return home in the evening.
Honey bees have species fidelity – they find one type of flower and will stick with it. Other types of wasps and bumblebees will fly from flower to flower no matter what the source.
A worker honey bee produced a few droplets of honey in her short six-week lifetime.
A Queen honey bee can live up to 5 years and lays about 1,500 eggs a day during the warmer months.
People have been collecting honey for 10,000 years. Cave paintings from Spain depict ancient beekeepers climbing to get to the hive.
The word “honeymoon” comes from medieval Europe when a traditional gift of honey mead, enough to last one moon cycle (a month), was given as a gift to newly married couples. It literally was a moon of honey.
Honey was once used as currency.
Honey is used on burns for its healing qualities.
Honey is antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and full of antioxidants. Honey contains enzymes, minerals, and vitamins.
Diabetics can enjoy honey.
Honey is hygroscopic. It attracts moisture, making it great for your skin.
The Backyard Beekeeper – Revised and Updated: An Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden, by Kim Flottum
The Backyard Beekeeper’s Honey Handbook, by Kim Flottum
Honey Bee Hobbyist, by Norman Gary, Ph.D.
The Beekeeper’s Handbook, by Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile
Beekeeping for Dummies, 2nd Edition, by Howland Blackiston
Bees, by Rudolph Steiner
Wisdom of the Bees, by Erik Berrevoets (biodynamic beekeeping)
Addendum – 2014
** Watch Harvard Professor Dr. Lu discuss CCD and pesticide use in MA with Essex County Beekeepers HERE, courtesy of Marty Jessel, Essex County beekeeper. PS: Essex County has the highest level of neonicotinoids, the systemic and cumulative pesticides that are known to kill honey bees and other pollinators.
** Hear Dr. Lu on The Neonicotinoid View: Harvard’s Dr Lu Discusses Pesticide Exposure & Health Risk HERE.
** GARDENER’S BEWARE! Friends of the Earth sampled plants from box stores. Your bee-friendly garden may not be so friendly after all. Please watch HERE!
** HERE is a list from the Center For Food Safety of common products that consumers can purchase that contain bee-killing neonicotinoids. You may not even be aware that what you’re putting on your trees, roses, lawn or garden is creating a toxic wasteland for pollinators.
There is growing group of beekeepers and concerned citizens working for change at the city, state, and country level. Things will change if we work together. If you are interested and willing to join in efforts to protect pollinators, please contact me.
This is the CALL-TO-ARMS for our coming meeting tomorrow.
We need beekeepers and people that are concerned about the decline of the honey bee population!
The purpose of a meeting tomorrow, July 16th is for attorney to discuss and explore options with us. Ideally, we will need several dozen Massachusetts beekeepers that have suffered complete or partial losses as well as other concerned citizens who recognize that the environmental damage of pesticides is far too great and the expected results far too inconsequential. We are in the early, but extremely important, stage of discovery. We need to gather as large a group as possible of those that have been affected by the use of pesticides or are concerned citizens and we need you to help spread the word. There is power in numbers and NOW is the time to act!
If the attorneys feel there is a case, they will make a proposal for a class action suit. The attorneys will work on a contingency basis and absorb all the costs. To be clear, there will be no financial obligation of anyone who decides to become part of this class action suit and anyone can withdraw from the suit at any time. The attorneys get paid only if we succeed in court or if there is a Settlement. They will work for and take direction from those who are willing and able to become members of the class action. The attorneys are simply asking that you come to the meeting, share your stories, share your concerns, and express your passion so that they can assess whether a class action suit is viable.
I know many of my blow and Twitter followers share my passion for the honey bee colonies and for the environment as a whole. We can now do something to save the bees, but only with your help. We have been working diligently on this and other initiatives and this meeting could be a turning point in the fight.
Please forward this email to your connections! They could be beekeepers, organic farmers, garden clubs – anyone that wants to support and protect the honey bees and other beneficial pollinators from pesticides!
Here is a link to the public Facebook Event. Please check it out and share this important meeting with your Facebook friends.
We need your help! We need supporters to generate action!
This is our big opportunity and it may come only once.
MA Beekeepers Against Pesticides
I love baking bread. There’s something so wholesome and Zen about making your own dough and watching it rise. And then there’s the anticipation of that first warm slice. When my daughters were young, I took a baking course at Newbury College. Every class of the 12 week semester, my class started off with knot rolls. Did I say every class started out with rolls? Every – single – class. The first class was devoted to learning the basics of yeast dough, and every class thereafter we were expected to get fifteen dozen rolls in the proof box in half an hour. After a while, I was dreaming of knot rolls in my sleep. I didn’t complain – I loved the challenge of getting those rolls done quickly and with their knots all coiled perfectly. Thankfully, the class progressed to making croissants and Danish! Seven hours on a Saturday making Danish is not a bad way to spend a day.
Three years ago, I visited Peter Island in the British Virgin Islands. The first morning I ordered coconut brioche French toast. Amazing. I have been dreaming of it ever since. And so, last week, after sailing around the British Virgin Islands we couldn’t resist stopping there to have breakfast. Yay! The coconut French toast is just the same as ever. I loved it. I devoured it. I may have stabbed my husband a time or two with my fork when he reached to take some.
Since I can’t have the Peter Island French toast whenever I crave it, I created a recipe that comes pretty close. Brioche makes a perfect French toast. It’s similar to Challah, Russian Easter bread, and Portuguese sweet bread; a dense, sweet loaf. The key when baking bread is to make sure it gets a full two rises. For this recipe, I used my 10” loaf pan so I could get even slices, but you can use a traditional brioche mold and cut your slices to suit your style. A traditional brioche mold is round and fluted. The best brioche has an overnight refrigerated rest, but you don’t have to do that to get a nice loaf.
Toasting coconut is very simple, but you have to keep an eye on it. There’s a very fine line between toasting coconut and burning it. To toast coconut start with unsweetened, shredded coconut. I like the large coconut chips that I can get from Bob’s Red Mill. The larger shreds have more coconut flavor. If I want a smaller shredded coconut, I simply put it in my food processor and process for a few pulses. Preheat your oven to 300°. Spread the coconut on a cookie sheet in a fairly thin layer. Bake for about 20 minutes until just toasted. Check on the coconut frequently and give it a stir because it burns very quickly. Toasted coconut is great with Greek yogurt, sprinkled on ice cream, tossed into salads, and snacking. You can also toast coconut on the stovetop.
Brioche Makes one loaf Ingredients:
⅓C warm whole milk, 110°F
1 package yeast, NOT rapid rise
2 eggs, beaten
5T butter, room temp and soft
Egg Wash Ingredients:
1 egg yolk
Directions: Put the dough hook on your heavy-duty mixer. In the bowl of the mixer, pour in the warm milk, sugar, and yeast. Stir to combine, and let it sit for about 10 minutes to wake up the yeast. It should bubble a bit. If it doesn’t, the yeast is probably dead. If that happens, get a new packet and start over.
Turn the mixer to medium-low and slowly add the eggs. Use a rubber scraper to scrape down the sides. Beat until combined, about 5 minutes on low. Add the flour and salt in small increments, and beat on medium speed for 5 minutes. Add the butter one tablespoon at a time. Once all the butter is added, turn the mixer to high and beat the dough for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and starting to pull away from the sides of the bowl. It should feel springy to the touch. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit of flour and beat another 5 minutes.
Butter a large stainless steel bowl. Place the dough in the bowl, loosely cover it with plastic wrap, and place in a warm area of your kitchen to rise for up to 2 hours, or until doubled in size. Punch down the dough. Remove it from the bowl, and rolling it with both hands, work the dough into a loaf.
Butter a 10” loaf pan. Place the dough into the loaf pan. Loosely cover the dough again with the plastic wrap, and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1½ – 2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350°.
Prepare the egg wash by using a fork to blend the egg yolk and milk. Brush the egg wash over the top of your loaf and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden. The loaf should sound hollow if you tap it on the bottom. Let the bread cool for a couple minutes, then remove from the pan and place on a wire rack to continue cooling.
Coconut Brioche French Toast
2C coconut, toasted
½C low-fat coconut milk
1C whole milk
1T vanilla or dark rum
1T superfine sugar
1 day old (stale works best) loaf of brioche, sliced into generous 1“ slices
4T+ coconut oil
real maple syrup
fresh berries, bananas, or other fruit of choice
Directions: In a shallow bowl, whisk the eggs, coconut milk, whole milk, vanilla, and sugar until combined. The coconut milk will be lump. Whisk it hard. Dip the bread slices into the mixture and let the bread soak for at least a minute each side.
Press each side of the bread into the toasted coconut. You may have to turn them a couple times to make sure that the coconut sticks to the sides.
Heat a skillet on medium high heat and add the butter and coconut oil in equal amounts. Cook the bread until it’s golden on all sides. Watch out, that coconut crust can burn! Add more butter and coconut oil as needed to cook the French toast (this is not the time to skimp on the fat). Transfer to a platter and keep warm in the oven tented with foil until all slices are ready.
Wild caught Atlantic salmon is a tasty, healthy fish to include in your diet. It’s loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, has a mild flavor, and can carry a glaze or sauce. I originally developed this recipe using maple syrup, but my honey gives a tender sweetness to the glaze. Try it with both and decide what you like. In our house, honey got the vote.
Honey-Glazed Salmon with Tzatziki
2# skin-on salmon, 1” thick, cut into four pieces
3T Bragg’s cider vinegar
1T dijon mustard
1T soy sauce
1 garlic clove, minced
½t black pepper
Directions: In a small bowl, combine the honey, vinegar, mustard, soy sauce, EVOO, garlic and pepper. Place the fish in shallow bowl (or ziploc baggie). Pour the glaze over the fish and marinate for at least an hour, or overnight in the refrigerator. Turn the fish from time to time to make sure it gets covered evenly with the marinade. Remove the salmon from the marinade onto a plate, then pour the marinade into a small saucepan. Heat the marinade on medium-high heat, bring it to a low boil, and reduce by half. This may take about 10 minutes. The marinade with darken a bit, then get thick as it reduces. Take reduction off the heat. Grill the salmon, basting with the reduced marinade. Fish cooks rather quickly, roughly 10 minutes an inch.
I served the salmon with a dollop of my tzatziki (see below for recipe) over a bed of field greens with arugula dressed with a honey herb vinaigrette (see below for recipe). Tzatziki is a great party dip or sauce for fish. It’s so simple to make, but full of fresh flavor.
Makes 2½ Cups
2C full fat, plain Greek yogurt
2 mini English cucumbers, chopped in small dice (about ½-¾C)
2T minced, fresh dill
2 garlic cloves, pressed or grated on a microplane
½t sea salt
Directions: In a small bowl, combine all the ingredients. Let sit for half an hour for the flavors to marry. Enjoy with fish, as a dip for vegetables, or with corn chips. Will keep one week in the refrigerator.
Honey Herb Vinaigrette
Makes 2¼ Cups
½C Champagne Vinegar
¼C local honey
¼C Dijon mustard
2T fresh tarragon, minced
sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
Directions: In a large bowl combine the Champagne vinegar, honey, and mustard. Slowly whisk in the EVOO to form an emulsion. Add in the tarragon, sea salt and pepper to taste. Will keep for 2 months in the refrigerator.
I decided to make an Echinacea tincture as my first herbal project for Herbal Academy of New England. I’m enrolled in their Intermediate Herbal Course and one of my assignments was to make an herbal recipe and write about it. It’s not chance that I chose Echinacea. We are smack-dab in the middle of cold and flu season, and many of my Kindergarten students are presently fighting off colds. Echinacea tincture is the perfect and practical choice. I purchased one pound of organic Echinacea purpurea root and two large bottles of brandy. I chose brandy over vodka because brandy seems more soothing when you have a cold. Who wouldn’t like a brandy (or whiskey with lemon) by the fire when they’re feeling under the weather?
After a bit of searching the basement shelves, I found my large two-gallon jar. I cleaned it and dried it thoroughly. I put the dried Echinacea purpurea root in the jar and then covered it with the brandy in stages, stirring in between pours to make sure that all the herb was covered by the brandy. I put it in one of my kitchen cabinets to “rest.” Every so often I gave the giant jar a hearty shake. After a few days, I could see that the echinacea root was absorbing the brandy and the liquid wasn’t fully covering the herb anymore (and it should be) so I added additional brandy. After waiting almost four weeks (tinctures can “rest” three to six weeks) , I got impatient. Using a fine mesh strainer, I strained the tincture into sixteen amber glass 4 oz. bottles.
Just as I feared, two days ago, I started to feel sick: sore throat, brain fogginess, sinus pressure, and headache. I have been using the tincture for two days. To take the medicine, I squeeze the dropper and draw the tincture into the glass tube and drop it into my mouth. I do this twice. I prefer to take it this way rather than mixing it with water. Admittedly, it takes a little getting used to the earthy taste. I can happily say that the tincture is helping me fight the virus.
There are nine species in the genus Echinacea. Echinacea is a perennial. You may have some of these beautiful plants in your gardens already. I have the Purple Coneflower, aka Echincacea Purpurea, in my gardens. The pollinators love them. In fact, that’s the reason why I planted them last year. They feed my honey bees and many beautiful butterflies, and when the season is over the center cone provides food for the birds. The flowers, leaves, and roots can’t be harvested until the plant is at least three years old. Harvesting is done in the fall after the first frost when the leaves and flowers have browned.
Echinacea works as immune stimulant. If it is taken at the onset of cold, it can shorten and lessen the severity of illness. It should not be taken on a regular basis longer than six to eight weeks. If you take it to help you get through cold season it is best take it for a couple weeks, then take a week off, then resume. Always consult your health professional before taking Echinacea with other prescribed medications. As with any medication, drug interactions can occur.
I can’t get enough lemon these days: lemon water, lemon pasta, lemon rice, lemon vinaigrette, and my newest recipe – lemon butter cake.
Lemon Coconut Butter Cake (gluten-free)
Makes 1 loaf
1 ½ C Cup4Cup Gluten Free flour (or use ¾C cake flour and ¾C all-purpose flour)
1 ½ C Demerara or raw sugar
½ C sour cream 2% fat, room temperature
½ C unsweetened, shredded coconut
1 ½ sticks of butter (6 oz.), room temperature
3 large eggs, room temperature
1t lemon oil (or zest from 2 lemons)
1 fresh vanilla bean
¼t baking soda
1 C confectioner’s sugar
2-3T freshly squeezed lemon juice (about ½ of a large lemon)
Directions: Before making this recipe, gather the eggs, measure the sour cream and butter, and allow time for them to come to room temperature.
In a small bowl, combine the flour, coconut, and baking soda. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a loaf pan and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer with the paddle attachment on, combine the sugar and butter and whip until light and creamy. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and use a knife to run down the length and scrape out the black seeds inside. Add to the bowl with the sugar and butter. Drop in the sour cream, eggs, and lemon oil (or zest) and beat for one to two minutes until light and airy. Add the dry ingredients in two parts, beating on low until combined. Do not over mix.
Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 50 minutes to an hour, testing with a cake tester at 50 minutes. When the cake tester comes out of the cake cleanly, remove the cake from the oven. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes then invert cake and place on a cooling rack to finish cooling.
While the cake is cooling, prepare the glaze. In a small bowl, combine the confectioner’s sugar and fresh lemon juice. Whisk with a fork until smooth. Put your cooled cake onto your cake plate and drizzle the lemon glaze over the top of the cake.
After a very fun and exciting trip to Alta Ski Area for a family Christmas vacation, I am back renewed and ready to focus on what 2014 has in store. In 2014, my husband Todd and I will turn 47. He’ll have you know that yes, I. am. older. On June 10, we will celebrate our 25th anniversary. The blessings and love of our lives, our daughters, will turn 24 and 23. What?? Sadly, our Retrievers will continue to age quicker than we will. Mischievous and sneaky Ginger will turn 14 and needy, loyal Sage will turn 7. In 2014, I’ll have lived through 30 New England hurricanes and about 7 big blizzards. But, if you didn’t live through the Blizzard of ’78 you don’t know what a blizzard really is. In 2014, I’ll have worked at paying jobs for 32 years. In 2014, my grandmother Margaret will turn 91 and her sister, my great-aunt Mary, will turn 101. Sometimes it seems that time stands still, but thankfully it moves ever onward and old hurts and worries leave. And so … this June, I’ll have marked 4 years post-accident; in 2010, we experienced our daughter Kelsey nearly die of a car accident and survive, not just survive and be OK, but survive and THRIVE. Miracles do happen. In 2014 and beyond, our daughter Kate will be reminiscing about her month-long Grand Canyon rafting trip with our Three Rivers Whitewater family and inspiring us to live fully in 2014.
Cheers to more friends, more family, more food, and more fun!
So maybe it’s the vegetarian diet I decided to try mid-December (it’s sticking … so far), or the juicing I’ve been doing the past twelve days, but I am feeling energized, focused, and excited for what 2014 holds. Did I say vegetarian? eek. I hesitated, slightly, to write that I’m living a vegetarian lifestyle. It’s a big step and HUGE change for me. Don’t get me wrong, I love the taste of meat. I know how to cook it well, and I know how to celebrate with it. Over the past 25 years I centered many meals around it. And friends and family know that I’m passionate about pasture-raised, organic, and sustainable farming practices. What I struggle with, always struggled with, is the ethical dilemma of eating dead animals.
The take away?
I’m trying to live out my beliefs.
At times, I may fail. I may crave a Big Green Egg grilled grass-finished burger or a piece of my crispy, fried chicken and decide to eat meat. I will do so with gratitude.
I am a vegetarian one day at a time (it’s been 30 days), and for now that’s OK.
I feel great.
What’s inspiring me these days?
If you haven’t already watched the documentary “Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead” with Joe Cross I urge you to do it. It’s a moving documentary of Joe’s road to health through juicing. It got me to buy a juicer and commit to a 15-day reboot. I’m on day 12 and may go longer than 15 days.
Another documentary worth finding is “Vegucated”. From their website: “Part sociological experiment and part adventure comedy, Vegucated follows three meat- and cheese-loving New Yorkers who agree to adopt a vegan diet for six weeks. Lured by tales of weight lost and health regained, they begin to uncover the hidden sides of animal agriculture that make them wonder whether solutions offered in films like “Food, Inc.“ go far enough.”
and yet another documentary. “Hungry For Change,” is about the food and diet industry and how it’s keeping us fat – overfed and undernourished to be exact.
the NOFA Conference I attended January 11. NOFA stands for Northeast Organic Farming Association. I’ve wanted to go to one of their conferences for years. This year, I decided to go. I went to a class on backyard chickens and kitchen medicine. Being an avid user of herbal remedies, homeopathic medicine, and aromatherapy, I thought the kitchen medicine class would be great and it was. In just two hours I saw all my thoughts about food as medicine, eating with the seasons, and using herbs put together into an informative course.
herbal medicine. I’ve been using herbal remedies for 25 years. Did you know that herbs have been used as medicine since the time of our paleolithic ancestors? Paleo humans ate a mostly herbivore diet that was occasionally interspersed with the meat of a hunted animal. There are cave paintings depicting, what most scholars believe to be, a shaman with antlers. Herbalism is ancient. When I think of herbalism, I think of a shaman, a wise woman, an Ayurvedic practitioner, a Chinese medicine doctor, and Hippocrates (he was an herbalist).
Some common herbal remedies or teas you may already know and use are: ginseng (energy), gingko (brain health and circulation), echinacea (immune support), chamomile (eases aches and pains, promotes relaxation), lavender (antibacterial, aphrodisiac, ease headaches), and St. John’s Wort (eases aches, pains, and depression). Herbalism is a skill that is passed down through generations, but since I don’t come from a long line of shamans I will be getting my education from Herbal Academy of New England in Bedford, Massachusetts. They have a team of experts (including clinical herbalists and doctors) ready to support and encourage new students.
Check them out! In addition to information on herbal medicine they have culinary and herbal recipes, wellness articles, and DIY projects. I’ll be guest blogging for them, too. I’m very excited to be part of their organization.
Interested in modern herbalism?
Sign up for their Online Intermediate Herbal Course and join me!
So… you made it all the way through my post. Thank you! And here’s a recipe for you on a cold, winter day when your body and soul needs some warming.
Butternut Squash Soup
Makes a giant stockpot
1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped into large chunks
4 large carrots, chopped
2 fennel bulbs, sliced or chopped into small pieces
1 large yellow onion, sliced or chopped into small pieces
64 oz. low sodium vegetable broth or homemade stock
3T EVOO or coconut oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1T coarse sea salt
1″ piece of fresh ginger, peeled
1t whole peppercorns
2-3t hot curry powder
6 shakes of cayenne pepper
fresh cilantro for sprinkling on top
Directions: In a large stockpot, sauté the onion, garlic, and fennel for 10 minutes. Do not let it brown. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a low boil, cover, and cook for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are soft.
Add the butternut squash, carrots, peppercorns, sea salt, curry, and cayenne pepper to the stockpot. Using a Microplane grater, grate the fresh ginger directly over the pot. Give it all a stir. If the squash in not covered by the stock, add enough water to cover, but not float. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a low boil and cover. Gently boil for 15 minutes or until the carrots and squash are soft.
Using a blender, scoop out the soup and blend in batches to the desired consistency. Return to a different stockpot and keep warm. Note: Using a stick blender works great for this soup and is easier to clean than your blender.
Salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with cilantro and enjoy.
Kitchen Medicine or WHY this soup so good for you:
butternut squash – fiber, potassium, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, beta-carotene that converts to Vitamin A to protect the heart and eyes
carrots – LOADED with beta-carotone that converts to Vitamin A to protect the heart and eyes. From WebMD: “Carrots were first grown as medicine, not food, for a variety of ailments. Carrots can be traced back about 5,000 years through historical documents and paintings.”
fennel – relieves flatulence and colic, stimulates the digestion and appetite.
onions and garlic – antioxidant, stimulate immune responses, reduce inflammation
ginger – aids digestion, antimicrobial, anti-oxidant, promotes circulation, diaphoretic
peppercorns – aids digestion, diaphoretic, diuretic, anti-oxidant, antibacterial
cayenne – stimulates blood flow, rheumatic pains, strengthens the heart and arteries
cilantro – anti-oxidant, lowers blood sugar, in large doses it can aid in heavy metal chelation
sea salt – 84 trace minerals and elements such as iodine, iron, calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and zinc.
This cocktail combines three of my favorite things: small batch bourbon, organic Vermont maple syrup, and lemons. Sip it in a chilled martini glass or on the rocks in a double old-fashioned glass. My recipe makes two cocktails because let’s face it, no one enjoys drinking alone. With two drinks you hand one to a friend and it’s an instant party.
The Rowan’s Creek Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey is a new one for me from the Willet Bourbon Whiskey family. It’s a very nice sip with a caramel, honeyed spiciness to it. It’s made and bottled by hand in Bardstown, Kentucky. Wine Enthusiast had this to say: “Amber, with a dark golden cast. Medium-bodied. Reminiscent of pear, lemon, honey, and flowers. Smooth texture. Quite elegant and attractive on the palate. Stunning, velvety mouth feel of delicate fruit and spice elements. Carries forth in a highly fragrant, lingering finish. The Square Deal Farm organic maple syrup comes from northern Vermont. Square Deal has been farming sustainably since 1997 and are certified organic by Vermont Organic Farmers. They raise Pinzgauer cattle and pastured pigs, grow potatoes, harvest their own hay, and manage their forestland for timber, wildlife and maple syrup production. I buy their delicious syrup and maple sugar from Farmers To You and pick it up with the rest of my weekly order.
Vermont Maple Martini
Makes 2 cocktails
4 oz. Rowan’s Creek Bourbon Whiskey (Angel’s Envy rye, Willett bourbon whiskey, or Woodford Reserve bourbon whiskey would work well, too)
1 ½ oz. maple syrup
2 lemons, juiced (about 2 oz.)
Optional garnish: lemon twist
Directions: If you’re using martini glasses, chill the martini glasses with ice and water while you prepare the cocktail OR do what I used to do and keep the glasses in the freezer ready to go.
Fill half of a cocktail shaker with ice. Add the bourbon whiskey, maple syrup, and lemon juice. Give it one shake and let it sit for 2 minutes to settle and soften the flavors … then go ahead and give it a SHAKE, Shake, shake as hard as you can. You want that nice icy film on top after pouring.
Strain into the chilled martini glasses or a double old-fashioned filled with ice.
I love the crispy and savory crust on top of the sweet broccoli and squash. This dish is gluten-free, thanks to Ian’s Gluten-Free Panko Breadcrumbs. Any vegetable or combination of vegetables will work well with this recipe, but choose your vegetables with similar densities or you’ll end up with mushy broccoli and hard carrots.
Winter Broccoli and Squash Gratin
Serves 4 as a vegetarian main dish or 6 as a side dish
2 heads of broccoli (about 1 ½ pounds) chopped into florets the same size as the squash
¾ C grated Parmesan cheese
¼ C EVOO
¼ C sour cream, whisked with 1T of cream or milk
3 garlic cloves
Directions: Preheat oven to 400°. Lightly butter a 3-quart casserole dish. In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, capers, and EVOO. Over the top, grate the three cloves of garlic, using a fine grater, over the crumbs. Stir all ingredients and combine thoroughly.
Steam the butternut squash for 5 minutes or until just tender. Drain, and place in the casserole dish. Steam the broccoli for 5 minutes or until crisp tender, give them a cold water rinse, drain again, and add the broccoli to the squash in the casserole dish. Evenly spread the sour cream & cream mixture on top of the broccoli and squash. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture on top.
Bake (using the convection option if you have it) for 15 minutes or until golden brown. If your gratin is not brown after 15 minutes, broil on high for 3-5 minutes. Do not over bake.
Need a bite-sized appetizer to serve at your holiday cocktail party? These are perfect. They are crispy, savory and sweet, and bite-sized. Just right for nibbling while you party.
This recipe is lighter than the usual baked brie in puff pastry I make during the holidays. What I like so much about this recipe is you can make multiple batches with different toppings! I made this batch using raw honey from my apiary, organic dried cranberries and slivered almonds, but a dollop of fig jam on top would be delicious, too. Or maybe an apricot jam with almonds. The choices are endless!
Baked Brie Bites
½ small wheel of double or triple cream brie (about 3 ½ oz.)
¼ C dried cranberries
¼ C slivered almonds
2 T honey
1 box of Athens brand mini phyllo shells, 15 per box (in the freezer section). No need to defrost.
Directions: Preheat oven to 350°. Chop the brie into small cubes, small enough to fill the phyllo cups, about ½” pieces. Set aside.
Remove phyllo shells from the freezer.
In a small bowl, combine the dried cranberries, almonds, and honey. Arrange the shells on a baking sheet. Put one piece of brie in the bottom and top with the cranberry mixture. Bake for 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.
Lately, Friday nights have gone retro – back to our early years of marriage when we used to spend Friday night date nights at home. We’d put our babies to bed, I’d cook a quick meal or we’d get takeout, and we’d watch a movie curled up together on the sofa. Date night at home has evolved. We don’t do take-out anymore and I like to create new cocktails and try out new recipes. Tonight, I recreated a favorite restaurant cocktail and made this farro dish. It has a nutty, heartiness that’s perfect for a chilly, fall night. The farro is served hot, but I think it could be just as tasty if it was served cold as a salad.
Farro with Brussels Sprouts and Pistachios, adapted from Food and Style NY
Ingredients for the farro:
1t sea salt
4 garlic cloves, peeled and whole
1 bay leaf
1C farro (pearled barley is a good substitute)
Ingredients for the Brussels sprouts:
12oz. Brussels sprout, trimmed and sliced lengthwise in ⅛” slices
1 large shallot or 3 small shallots, sliced into ⅛” slices
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
⅓C shelled and salted pistachios
¼-½C reserved cooking liquid from farro
sea salt and pepper to taste
Farro directions: Bring the 6 cups of water to a boil. Add the salt, garlic, bay leaf and farro. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, until tender but al denté. Drain well, remove the garlic and bay leaf, and reserve ½ cup of the cooking liquid.
Brussels sprouts directions: Heat a large non-stick skilled to medium-high heat. Add the butter. As soon as the butter is melted, add the olive oil. Stir well and add the Brussels sprouts and shallots. Sauté for about 7 minutes until golden-brown, stirring only from time to time. Add the garlic and sauté for an additional minute or two, until the garlic has released its flavor but has not browned.
In a large serving bowl, combine the farro, Brussels sprouts, and pistachios. Season to taste. Serve as a vegetarian main dish or as a side dish.
After a day spent cleaning the yard and the house this was just what my husband and I needed. We ate this cheesy, comfort food by the warmth of our fireplace. It was comfort food on a fall evening. You can substitute gluten-free pasta, but I don’t recommend it – the pasta can get too mushy. Stick to regular Prince pasta and you can’t go wrong.
Ingredients for crumb crust:
1 sleeve of low-fat butter crackers (Nabisco, they’re crispier)
3T unsalted butter (Kerrygold), cut into 6 pieces
1t sea salt
Ingredients for cheese sauce and pasta:
1# elbow macaroni (I like the good old standby Prince brand)
5T unsalted butter (Kerrygold)
3T dry mustard powder
1t sea salt
1t white pepper
½t cayenne pepper (or more)
5C whole milk
8oz. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (I like Cabot)
8oz. cheddar cheese, shredded (Kerrygold or Cabot extra sharp)
½ of an organic butternut squash, cubed, about 3-4cups
Directions for crumb topping: Put the crackers in a baggy and using a meat tenderizer mallet, crush the crackers into crumbs. Melt the butter and set aside. In a small bowl, add the cracker crumbs and melted butter. Stir to combine. Set aside.
Directions for the cheese sauce and pasta: Preheat oven to 400°.
Steam the cubed butternut squash for 3-5 minutes until barely tender. It will continue to cook in the oven so don’t overcook it.
Boil the pasta just shy of al denté. Drain and set aside.
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium-high heat and add the flour, dry mustard, and cayenne. Whisk well to combine. Continue whisking until mixture becomes fragrant and deepens in color, about one minute. Gradually which in milk; bring mixture to a boil, whisking constantly (mixture must reach full boil to fully thicken). Reduce heat to medium and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened to consistency of heavy cream, about 5 minutes. Add the salt and pepper. Turn heat off and whisk in the cheeses until melted. Add the cooked pasta and butternut squash. Stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning.
Pour into a 3-quart casserole dish. Top with the crumbs. Bake on the top rack for 15 minutes until the topping is browned. Garnish with fresh parsley sprinkled on top.
adapted from 2002, Barefoot Contessa Parties!, Ina Garten
5 pounds Honey Crisp and Jonagold apples
grated zest of 1 orange
grated zest of 1 lemon
2T freshly squeezed orange juice (zest it first)
2T freshly squeezed lemon juice (zest it first)
½C granulated sugar (I use Organic Turbinado)
2t ground cinnamon
1 ½C Cup4Cup gluten-free flour
¾C granulated sugar (I use Organic Turbinado)
¾C light brown sugar, packed
1C gluten free oatmeal (I use Bob’s Mill)
8 oz. of unsalted butter (I use Kerrygold Irish butter)
Directions: Preheat oven to 350°.
Peel, core, and slice the apples into large wedges. Combine the apples with the zests, juices, sugar, and cinnamon. Pour into the baking dish.
To make the crust, combine the flour, sugars, oatmeal, and cold butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the mixture is crumbly and the butter is the size of peas. Scatter evenly over the apples.
Bake for 1 hour until the top is golden brown and the apples are bubbly. Serve warm.
As a girl, I remember having meatloaf sandwiches in my lunchbox. It was stuffed in there in between my thermos and my much coveted Devil Dog. I was a weird kid. I hated the peanut butter and fluff sandwiches most of my friends had. It must have been something about the white, sticky fluff that stuck all over their cheeks in little peaks and valleys that made my stomach churn. Or maybe it was the smell of peanut butter wafting from their sticky cheeks. Whatever it was, the signature sandwich of childhood was notmy sandwich of choice. I’m sure my friends thought my sandwich was odd, but I ate it with gusto, and not a crumb or smudge of catsup on my cheek! I loved those meatloaf sandwiches. I haven’t had a meat loaf sandwich since I picked one up at Duckworth’s Beach Gourmet last year. I could write a paragraph on that sandwich alone! These days, a crusty piece of toasted sour dough bread seems like a better choice for a sandwich and I wouldn’t be caught dead buying a Hostess snack cake.
I used to buy meat shares to supply our family with locally raised meat. We would pay our friends, Lynne and Jeff Urquhart of Ironbrook Farm in NH, to raise a cow for a year on their farm, and at the end of the year we would split the meat and store it in our basement freezer. That meat would last us for months. Nowadays, I buy local, pasture-raised meat from Appleton Farms, Tendercrop Farms, or Miles Smith Farm in NH. Buying a meat share from a farm means you pay a set fee for so many pounds of meat, usually 20-40 pounds. My last 20 pound meat share from Miles Smith Farm in New Hampshire was composed of :
Kabobs/Stew Beef – approx 3 lbs
London Broil steaks – approx 2 lbs
Delmonico/T-Bone/Porterhouse – approx 2 lbs
Loin Strip/Sirloin Steaks – approx 2 lbs
Eye Round/Top Round/Sirloin Roasts – approx 3 lbs
Ground Beef – approx 10 lbs
Getting a meat share is similar to being part of a CSA. You don’t choose the cuts of meat, you get ALL the cuts from the butcher. And, you have to be creative when you have lots of ground beef. I started making meatloaf after staring into the frozen abyss of my freezer and noticing that there were pounds and pounds of ground beef starting right back at me. I realized at that moment that I had been selecting all the prime cuts to cook with and unknowingly left all the frozen one-pound packages of lean ground beef. Let’s face it, there’s only so many burgers and shepherd pies you can make! Remembering my meat loaf sandwiches of childhood and the spectacular one I had at Duckworth’s last year, I pulled out two pounds of ground beef and 1 pound of ground pork and began to work on my recipe. You’ll need to have scrupulously clean, polish free, short fingernails so you can up close and personal with your ingredients. Yes, you need to use your hands to combine the ingredients. My grandfather Pasquale taught me that you must get right in there and mix the ingredients with your hands. There’s no other way to make meatballs (or meatloaf). So get out your nail clippers, scrub your hands using soap and hot water, and get mixing.
Using a meatloaf pan provides for more even heating and allows the fat to drain off.
Bacon-Cheese Meat Loaf
2# lean ground beef
1# lean ground pork
8oz. cheddar, cubed (I used Cabot Extra Sharp or Kerrygold Cheddar)
1 yellow onion, minced
2 eggs, beaten
½C fresh breadcrumbs (I crush saltines)
1t sea salt
1t fresh ground pepper
1t fresh thyme leaves, minced
1t fresh oregano, minced
1T fresh parsley, minced
3 slices of apple smoked nitrate-free bacon, cut in half
½C low sugar catsup or organic agave sweetened catsup
2T dijon mustard
2T brown sugar
1T worcestershire sauce
Directions: Preheat oven to 400°.
Combine the ground beef, ground pork, cheddar, eggs, breadcrumbs, sea salt, pepper, thyme, oregano, and parsley. Don’t be afraid to use your hands or use a large bowl mixer.
Add the cubed cheddar cheese and gently mix until the cheese is evenly combined. Cut the three slices of bacon in half and place three slices in the center of the meatloaf pan. Form the meat into a loaf shape and place on top of the bacon. Top the loaf with the other three halves of bacon.
Roast at 400° for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, turn oven down to 375° and roast for one hour or until the center has reached 150° with a meat thermometer. Every 15-20 minutes you can baste with the bacon drippings using a spoon. When meat loaf has reached 150 degrees, remove from the oven and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.
While the meat is resting, warm the sauce.
Heat a small saucepan to medium-low. Add all the ingredients and gently stir to combine. Heat until warmed and serve with the meatloaf.
It’s time I started baking again. I love the comfort in baking – the precise ingredients, the blending of flavors, and oh! the aromas wafting through the house. Baking brings everyone to the kitchen. Carrot cake has that earthiness and grounding quality that warms the soul this time of year. I’ve updated my recipe with gluten-free flour (better for you if you have any inflammation in your body or are celiac) using Cup4Cup, and substituting coconut oil for organic canola oil (coconut oil is miraculous). I use less cinnamon and sugar than most carrot cake recipes because I want to taste the individual ingredients and not be overpowered by the strong taste of cinnamon and sugar.
Gluten-Free Pineapple Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting
2t vanilla (I like Nielsen-Massey Madagascar vanilla)
2C shredded carrots (about 4, depending on their size)
1C crushed pineapple, drained (1 can)
Directions: Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and dust with flour (or use Baker’s Joy spray)a 9″ round springform pan. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, flaked coconut, currants, and pecans. Stir to combine.
In another bowl, combine all the wet ingredients: beaten eggs, melted and cooled coconut oil, vanilla, shredded carrots, and pineapple. Stir to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
Pour into the prepared springform pan and bake for one hour. Remove from oven, cool for 3-5 minutes and release the cake. Invert cake on a cooling rack or your cake dish. Cool completely before frosting the cake.
Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting Ingredients:
4C confectioner’s sugar
1# cream cheese (two bricks), softened at room temperature
8oz. of unsalted butter (two sticks), softened at room temperature
1t vanilla extract (I like Nielsen-Massey Madagascar vanilla)
1t natural lemon flavoring
Directions: Set your mixer to high and cream the softened butter and cream cheese in a mixer until smooth and creamy with no visible butter lumps, about 5 minutes. Stop the motor to add the vanilla extract and lemon flavoring. Whip to combine. Stop motor and add two cups of the confectioner’s sugar, cover the bowl with a towel (to keep sugar from dusting your entire kitchen), turn the motor to high, and whip the confectioner’s sugar into the butter and cream cheese until completely incorporated. Stop the motor again, add the remaining two cups of confectioner’s sugar, and whip until smooth and creamy and completely incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl if you need to. Refrigerate until ready to use. If it’s too hard to spread when it’s chilled, let it rest on the counter for fifteen minutes and then frost the cake.
Sprinkle the top with a little shredded coconut and lemon zest.
I love hummus. The first time I had hummus I was in college and went to a classmate’s engagement party – I couldn’t stop eating it. My daughters loved the hummus and shredded carrot roll-ups I made them for school lunches. Before I had a food processor, I’d make the hummus in a blender and then spend more time scraping it out than I did making it. Hummus is still a staple in our refrigerator and a go-to snack. It’s garlicky deliciousness is perfect for carrot or pita dipping.
I must admit I’ve been lazy lately and have been buying it at the market instead of making it myself like I used to do. I’ve heard of some new recipes for “super smooth” hummus where the skins are peeled from the chickpeas – NO thanks! Imagine peeling each and every chickpea? Unless there’s some divine angelic choir experience from it, I don’t have time to peel them. I prefer simple, fresh goodness when it comes to hummus. So grab your food processor (or blender) and get going. You’ll make enough for a party.
Makes 3 cups
2 – 15oz. cans of organic chick peas, drained with the liquid reserved
1C of tahini, with some of the oil from the jar
4 peeled garlic cloves, cut in half
the juice from 2 lemons
1½ t salt
2-3 shakes of cayenne pepper
Directions: Drain and rinse your chickpeas, reserving the liquid to add later. Pour the chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice, salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper in the bowl of a large food processor and process until smooth, about 5 minutes. You may have to scrape down the side to get it to mix. With the motor running, slowly drizzle the EVOO into the bowl. Add the liquid from the chickpeas, one tablespoon at a time until you get the desired consistency. Serve with pita chips or vegetables.
There’s a chill in the air, the leaves are starting to turn, and the birds are starting to migrate. To me that means a hearty Sunday dinner, a fire in the fireplace, and some good wine.
Brined Cumin Roast Pork
Brine Ingredients, enough for a 2-5# roast:
5# boneless pork roast (leave the fat layer on)
1C course sea salt (or Kosher salt)
1C loosely packed brown sugar
½C whole peppercorns (use a blend)
10C water – 8 C cold and 2C hot
Directions: Make the brine first. In a large bowl big enough for the pork, dissolve sea salt in 2C of HOT water. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir until dissolved. Add the remaining 8C of COLD water. Let roast mellow in the brine for 8-12 hours in the refrigerator. After 8-12 hours, drain, dry, cover, and let the roast sit at room temperature for an hour before roasting while you preheat the oven and prepare the herb crust.
IMPORTANT: Do not change the brine quantities if you use a smaller roast. If you have a roast larger than 5 pounds double the recipe.
Herb Crust Ingredients:
¼C EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
2T ground cumin
1 medium onion, finely minced
1C finely minced fresh cilantro
Mix all ingredients together (or use a food processor) and massage the rub all over the pork roast’s top fat layer.
Directions: Preheat oven to 450°.
Place the herb encrusted roast on a rack in the center of the roasting pan with the crust side facing up. Roast for about 10 minutes until you see a brown crust forming. (I like to put the oven on convection to help speed the browning process, but I shut it off for the remainder of the roasting when the roast continuing to cook at 350°.)
After 10 minutes at 450°, or until you notice a nice crust has formed, turn down the oven temperature to 350° and continue slow roasting for about 1 hour or until a meat thermometer reads 150°. Oven temperatures vary as well as the shape and size of a pork roast; you will have to keep an eye on your roast. Dry pork is not good. Leave a meat thermometer in the roast or test it more frequently.
Remove the roast from the oven, cover with foil to let it rest before slicing. Serve with the pan juices or make a simple peppercorn gravy.
In 2011, I put Ree Drummond’s The Pioneer Woman Cooks, Recipes From an Accidental Country Girl in my Amazon.com shopping cart where it sat for months. There were just too many cookbooks in stacks all around the house to justify buying another one. And then I got an email announcing the new Food Network’s series: “The Pioneer Woman.” This new series was shot on location at The Pioneer Woman’s Oklahama ranch. Needless to say, I broke down and bought it. I was smitten. I love Ree Drummond’s style, her eye for natural beauty, her love for her family, and her sassy sense of humor. Did I say she lives on a working ranch?! With horses? And cattle? And I absolutely love she gushes about and describes her husband as Marlboro Man.
Her cookbooks are totally right up my alley for fun reading and weeknight (and party) cooking. No nonsense, simple, wholesome, and just plain tasty. And, since it is still picnic time, I went right to the fried chicken recipe. I was inspired by her recipe, but of course I tweaked it a bit for my taste. I recommend serving with warm honey-buttered biscuits! (see honey butter recipe below).
Advice: Plan a couple days ahead to get the best fried chicken you’ve ever had.
Day One: Brine the chicken overnight. Day Two: Drain and soak in buttermilk overnight. Day Three: Fry it up the next day and serve with a salad, buttermilk biscuits, and honey butter. (You can shorten brining and soaking times, but no less than 8 hours each in the brine and buttermilk)
Fried Chicken Makes plenty for 5 people Ingredients:
2# boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into pieces of equal size
1# boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 quart buttermilk
3T sea salt
2t black pepper
2t dried thyme
1t garlic powder
1t all-purpose seasoning
1t cayenne pepper
large bottle of canola oil for frying
8C cold water
¼C sea salt
Directions: Day One: In a deep bowl, combine brine ingredients and stir until salt is dissolved. Drop in chicken pieces and refrigerate overnight. DayTwo: Drain and rinse chicken from the brine. In a deep bowl, cover the chicken pieces with buttermilk, about 2-3 cups. You may only use half of the quart container, depending on the size of your chicken pieces. DayThree: Drain the chicken, but leave it wet while you prepare the batter.
On day three, after the chicken has been drained and dried – in a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper, thyme, garlic powder, all-purpose seasoning, and cayenne. Stir to combine. Add ½ cup of buttermilk to the flour mixture, and using a fork mix it until it’s lumpy. The lumps are what make the chicken really crispy. You can add more buttermilk if you think it needs it. It should not be gooey, but lumpy.
Heat about 1½ – 2” of canola oil in a cast iron skillet to 365°. Use a candy thermometer to maintain this temperature. (Monitor the temperature of the oil throughout the cooking process, and do not leave the oil unattended.) While the oil is heating, dredge the chicken pieces in the batter, pressing the lumps into the chicken if you have to.
Working in batches of 4 pieces at a time, add the coated chicken to the hot oil (The temperature will drop from the cold chicken, but it will rise back). Cover the pan and fry for 3-4 minutes each side. Place the chicken on a wire rack on a baking sheet, and when all the chicken is done frying you can either keep it warm in the oven until serving or you can let it cool a bit before placing it in the refrigerator.
Homemade Honey Butter: Makes little more than half a cup. To make honey butter, simply let 1 stick of unsalted butter come to room temperature and vigorously cream with 3 tablespoons of raw honey. Spoon the honey butter into a decorative dish and store in the refrigerator until needed.
I’m fascinated by the life of honey bees and the hardworking, selfless social community they create. Honey bees sometimes get a bad reputation because they get lumped together with all bees, including the nasty and aggressive wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets. However, honey bees are NOT aggressive and will only sting out of an instinct to protect the hive or themselves (like when you step on one). Sadly, if a honey bee does use its stinger, the honey bee dies. However, wasps, yellow jackets, and hornets can sting repeatedly because they don’t have barbs on their stingers! OUCH! We need honeybees. One-third of our food is pollinated by honeybees. Imagine a world without honeybees. It’s not so unbelievable given the trajectory of Monsanto and it’s control of the food supply.
Bees are an excellent indicator of environmental health. The build up of toxins in the environment affect our entire ecosystem and more importantly, us. There’s plenty of research on what pesticides do to people. Do a google search on pesticide build-up in humans and you’ll find liver failure, infertility, brain disorders, and endocrine disruption to name a few. What affects one organism affects another. Spray pesticides and you kill off another being’s food supply. Bats eat mosquitoes. Dragonflies eat mosquitoes. Spray for mosquitoes in your town and you have other dead or sick beneficial animals: honey bees, bats, fish, crickets, fireflies, dragonflies, and other various small insects. By now you should have heard of Colony Collapse Disorder. CCD occurs in areas where there is heavy pesticide use (think factory farms). Nearly all research points to the bee die off being as a catastrophic consequence of pesticide use. Bill Moyers article is HERE. No honeybees? No pollination. No pollination? No almonds. Few fruits. Few veggies.
My family is obsessed with honey. We take scoops and eat it right from the spoon. We put it in our tea. I use it as a sweetener in salad dressings, drizzle it on grilled fish, and mix in my barbecue sauce. My husband uses our honey in his granola recipe, and we both love a large helping of honey swirled on a bowl of Greek yogurt. If you need another reason to love honey: a spoonful of honey DOES help the medicine go down…and may keep the doctor away, too! Read more about honey’s health properties HERE. If you’ve ever done taste-testing with honey, you know that each honey tastes a little different depending on the honey’s terroir. Terroir is what makes the honey take on the characteristics, and flavor, of the environment the honey bees traveled. Terroir is often used to describe wine, but it works for honey, too. Our Queen Bee Works honey is truly the best honey we’ve ever had – and we’ve had a lot. Our honey is classified as “wildflower” honey because the bees took nectar and pollen from all around the area, not just one variety of flower.
This honey banana bread recipe has been in my recipe notebook for more years than I care to admit. I probably inherited it from my mum. She used to make banana bread (a lot) when I was growing up. She probably made so much banana bread because I wouldn’t eat a banana that had even the hint of a brown spot on it and she didn’t want to waste them. Even now, I will only eat a barely ripe banana! This recipe has evolved a bit over the years, and my most recent addition has been dark chocolate chunks. Bananas and chocolate go together like peas and carrots. Have you ever had a banana dipped in melted chocolate and then rolled in toasted, chopped walnuts? Divine. This banana bread is better.
Honey Walnut Chocolate-Chip Banana Bread
Makes 1 loaf
2¼C unbleached cake flour or Cup 4 Cup Gluten Free Flour
¾C walnuts, coarsely chopped
1C dark chocolate chunks (Valhrona)
3 large, ripe bananas
6oz. container of plain, full fat Greek yogurt
6T unsalted butter, melted
2 eggs, beaten
2t honey liqueur (Barenjager) or 2t vanilla extract
¾t baking soda
Directions: Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. In a medium bowl, mash the bananas with a fork or a potato masher, but be careful not to make them too soupy – keep some lumps in there. Add the yogurt, honey, melted butter, vanilla, and eggs to the bananas and stir gently to combine. Add the banana mixture to the dry ingredients and gently stir until just combined. If you over-mix you risk creating gluten in the flour, and that makes for a tough (not light and airy) bread.
Pour the batter into a buttered and floured loaf pan. Bake until golden brown, about 45 minutes. Test for doneness around 35-40 minutes with a toothpick or cake tester. To test a cake or bread for doneness, insert the toothpick into the center of the bread. If it comes out clean, without batter stuck to it, it’s done. If not, check in another 5 minutes.
A little note on using honey: I’ve been experimenting in the kitchen with honey. What I’m reading (and learning first-hand) about cooking with honey is that the moisture in some baked good recipes needs to be inversely adjusted, simply because you are adding moisture with the honey. When you substitute honey for sugar, you are essentially adding a little liquid as well as sweetener. If you want to substitute honey for sugar, start off substituting half of the sugar for honey.
I saw this photo online today and it made me smile. Summer is waning and a new school year is beginning for teachers, children, and families. I think it’s important to be reminded that flexibility, a sense of wonder, creativity,motivation, risk-taking, perseverance, determination, confidence, and future success CANNOTbe measured in a test.
Feeling like summer is slipping away? Go to the market or run to your garden or farm stand and pick up 2 pounds of rosy plum tomatoes (organic San Marzano if you can find them) and make this salad. This recipe keeps you in the summer kind of mood regardless of the weather outside. Serve it with a chilled glass of Pinot Grigio and you have summer on a plate.
The croutons are key; crispy, savory, and chewy bread goodness. Make them yourself from a loaf of crusty bread – the salad just won’t taste the same if you use pre-made croutons. They take minutes to make and homemade are sooooo much better. You’ll have a hard time not noshing through them before they get tossed with the salad. I probably ate about a cup of them before tossing them in the salad.
2# organic plum tomatoes, seeded & chopped
½ red onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 handful of fresh basil, chopped
6C garlic croutons – (¾ of a French boule, ¼C EVOO, 1tsp garlic powder, salt & pepper)
2 lemons, juiced
sea salt and pepper
Optional Garnish: Parmesan cheese, freshly shaved
Directions for croutons: Preheat oven to 375°.
Slice ¾ of a crusty boule into rough ½” cubes (about 6 cups). Place the bread cubes into a very large bowl and drizzle with the EVOO, tossing as you drizzle so that the bread chunks don’t become soggy, but get evenly coated in olive oil. Sprinkle the garlic powder over the bread and toss a couple times. Grind some sea salt and pepper over the top and give it one last toss. Spread the bread chunks evenly onto a shallow cookie sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes or until nicely browned, tossing the croutons about midway through baking. Remove from the oven to cool. Set aside while you make the salad.
Directions for the salad: In a large serving bowl, combine the chopped plum tomatoes, red onion, basil, ¼C EVOO, and lemon juice. Season with sea salt and pepper to taste. Gently toss the ingredients. Add the croutons and toss the salad again, making sure the lemon dressing coats all the ingredients.
Sprinkle with shaved parmesan cheese if you like. Serve and eat immediately.
Some days I just need a sweet and yesterday was that kind of day. I was thinking about (aka craved, needed to have) a good old-fashioned chocolate chip cookie.
I was lucky! I had all the ingredients I needed in my pantry to make cookies. I even had an unopened bag of Cup 4 Cup, a gluten-free flour, that I was looking forward to trying. Cup 4 Cup is the creation of co-founders Thomas Keller and Lena Kwak. Thomas Keller is the renowned chef, restaurateur, and award-wining cookbook author known best for his culinary skills as Chef/Owner of The French Laundry, Per Se, Ad Hoc, Bouchon, and Bouchon Bakery and Lena Kwak began as a nutrition intern at The French Laundry, later serving as the restaurant’s Research & Development Chef. The product is aptly named; home cooks substitute Cup 4 Cup gluten-free flour in equal measure for unbleached flour.
Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 24-36 cookies, depending on size
2C Cup 4 Cup gluten-free flour
½# (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature (I use Kerrygold Irish butter)
12 oz. semisweet chocolate chips (I use SunSpire Organic 65% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips)
1C light brown sugar, packed
½C granulated sugar (I use Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Unbleached Sugar)
In a medium-sized bowl, combine all the dry ingredients, including the chocolate chips, optional coconut or nuts. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer (with paddle attachment), cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Turn the motor to low and add the eggs one at a time. Mix until combined. Add the vanilla and mix until combined. Add the dry ingredients and gently mix until all ingredients are incorporated into a cookie dough.
Drop the dough by tablespoonfuls on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 13-14 minutes (14 was too long and 13 was too little). Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
I love summer. It’s MY time. And, my birthday (and CAKE!) is right smack in the middle of it.
I look forward to summer as soon as the days become noticeably shorter in late October. While some people hate the heat and humidity, I actually like it. Don’t get me wrong, I may occasionally complain if it’s truly oppressive, but the fact that I can throw on a sundress, open all the windows, and head to the beach makes me giddy as a schoolgirl. Since my summers are wide open (I’m a teacher) I spend most of my time outdoors.
Summer food means lighter fare and picnicking outdoors! Summer’s bounty is being harvested, the backyard grills are smoking, and the cocktails are lighter and prepared with in-season fruit. Deciding on WHAT to bring on a picnic is always a dilemma. Should it be a selection of cheeses and wine or salads and cocktails? Fried chicken? Or, should we just go pick up lobster rolls and a bag of chips? In the end, the food tastes amazing when you’re outdoors. Here’s what I brought to an outdoor concert at Castle Hill, along with a selection of hard and soft cheeses. Pimm’s Cup is an old English summer cocktail. It’s refreshing and beautiful. Eat the fruit!
Makes a pitcher to share with friends
1 bottle of Pimms No.1
2 liter bottle of lemon-lime soda or Ginger-Ale
2 navel oranges, peeled, seeded, and chopped into small pieces
1 pint of organic strawberries, chopped into small pieces (they’re on the Dirty Dozen – buy organic)
1 English cucumber, peeled, and chopped into small pieces
handful of fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
Directions: Toss the fruit and mint leaves in the pitcher. Add the Pimms and give it a good stir. Let sit a few minutes and add enough of the lemon-lime soda to your taste. Refrigerate. Serve in a double old-fashioned glass (or clear, plastic cup) with lots of ice and a spoonful of the fruit mixture.
Pineapple Chicken Salad
Makes 8 servings
3# chicken breast, grilled, cooled, and chopped
2C cooked wild and long grain rice blend (Uncle Ben’s is best)
1C fresh pineapple chunks (use canned if you can’t find fresh; reserve the juice)
⅔C pineapple juice
½C champagne or white wine vinegar
1½t sea salt
fresh ground pepper to taste
¼C fresh tarragon, minced
¾C scallions, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
1C slivered almonds
Directions: Cook the rice according to package directions. Cool rice completely. Make the pineapple vinaigrette by combing the pineapple juice, vinegar, sugar, salt and fresh grind of pepper in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle the EVOO to create an emulsion. You can use a blender, hand mixer, or a whisk to do this.
In a large bowl, combine the cooled rice, grilled chicken, tarragon, scallions, celery, and almonds in a large serving bowl. Add three-quarters of the vinaigrette and toss. Season to taste. If you like a drier salad, leave it as is. If you are refrigerating the salad overnight and the rice absorbs all the dressing you should add the remainder of the dressing.
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