Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer Thirst Quenchers

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Le petit déjeuner parfait

Yesterday I made two batches of yogurt. I didn't intend to. I thought I had botched the first one but hadn't. This morning I was bemoaning the fact that we had no fresh fruit to put with the yogurt (yes, we ate all the blueberries I picked yesterday and no, we don't regret it a bit). After poking around idly on some of my favorite blogs, I happened upon something called breakfast-in-a-jar on the Food In Jars blog. I got all giddy, and only partly because of how cute it looked in it's little jar... those things do matter you know. First, I was reminded that I could use jam to mix into the yogurt. We have jam! Then I saw that she used old fashioned oats and nuts. We have those things too! We have all the stuff, it looks easy to make and tasty too. My culinary-triumvirate! I wasn't sure I'd like eating raw oats (or if I could convince the Hubs to either), when it dawned on me that they might taste o.k. if I toasted them first. Note to self: toasting and burning are not the same thing. The result (after the second go at toasting without getting distracted)? Oh Yum! "That's really a taste sensation" was how Hubs put it...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Blue is the color of my true love

If I had the space to grow lots of fruit and veg, I would only grow the ones I love that are the most expensive to buy at the market: raspberries, avocados, blood oranges, cherries, pencil thin asparagus, heirloom tomatoes, Meyer lemons and blueberries.

The last three on that list are what we've got going on in our small space right now. Two tomatoes (planted in the ground), two blueberry shrubs (in a half-barrel) and a new dwarf Meyer lemon (in a big pot). The tomatoes got planted late so we won't see them bear fruit until later in the summer. The Meyer was chosen for its propensity to fruit year-round (!), but it will be many months before we see these first little lemons mature. Which brings me to the blueberries...

Two little shrubs sharing a half wine barrel and cranking out a handful of ripe blueberries every couple of days. I always intend to bake with them or freeze them for later use, but I don't. Why? Because we just eat them as we pick them, or at most, toss them on our yogurt.

On second thought, forget about all the other stuff I mentioned wanting to grow. Just fill my yard with nothing but blueberries and I'll be a happy girl! Yep, nothing but blueberries. Blueberries and lavender. And lemons...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Lemon Verbena Tisane

Lemon Verbena Tisane
I adore lemon verbena. It smells like candy. Like lemon candy. I add it to fresh-brewed iced tea. I infuse simple syrup with it to sweeten black tea (hot or iced). I harvest it and dry it to use during the winter when the plant is dormant. I use peppermint leaves in the very same ways.

Last year when we moved, we brought some of our plants and trees with us, but had to leave a lot behind and gave still others away. Of the plants we kept, most were Hubs' favorite roses and Japanese maples. I insisted on bringing only a few, among them were my potted peppermint and my lemon verbena: my two favorite "sweet" herbs. Both are real troopers; surviving each winter for the past three years, barely clinging on to life and battling back each spring. You can chop off as much as you need and they just shrug it off as if to say "I needed a trim anyway" or "You want a piece of me? Bring it on Lady!"  They're tough that way. But they're really kind of sweet. Either one would make a lovely tisane. (I even think M. Poirot would approve.)  Here's how....
Tisane: A drink made from herbs steeped in hot water. Commonly referred to as herbal tea even though it does not contain any tea leaves. Pronounced tee-sahn.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Citrusy Pound Cake

Grease and FLOUR the pan... REALLY. You will be very very sorry if you don't flour it. Trust me on this. Especially if you have one of these beautifully detailed cathedral-like bundt pans. This little extra step will determine whether you serve cake or trifle to your guests...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Cold-Brew Iced Coffee

I had heard about the cold-brew method of making iced-coffee a while back and was intrigued by it's simplicity. However, ours being a tea-drinking household, there wasn't a coffee bean around to try it on. Until now. We are having our coffee-loving friends over for summer brunch tomorrow. Won't it be nice to finally be able to serve them coffee when they come over? I always thought that we should buy a small coffee maker, but just couldn't justify the cupboard space when it would get used so infrequently. This method sounds like the perfect solution. Great coffee without a coffeemaker! Who knows? If it's all that, maybe I'll even start liking coffee. Here is the article that evidently started all the hub-bub: New York Times 6/27/07. Only 2 years ago... I'm almost current! nah. (I was going to say that I'm "behind the times" but it's just too darned early in the morning for a pun that bad.)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Maple Sour Cream Walnut Muffins

Depending on how much "liquid gold" you have on hand, there is a Maple Sour Cream Walnut Muffin recipe to accommodate. One calls for 3/4 cup and the other a mere 6 tablespoons...

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Strawberry Jam

A smattering of pectin-less strawberry jam recipes...

Two Italian Cookies

"Brutti ma Buoni" is Italian of course, and translates as "ugly but good". Much of my cooking could fall under this category. "Abbracci" means to embrace or hug. In this case the chocolate hugs the vanilla, or is it the other way around? Maybe it refers to the hugs I'll get from the people I give these cookies to? I think I'd better make some and see. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Sustainable Seafood

We are told that we should eat more fish in our diets because it is super healthy and also because it's environmentally responsible (cows are getting a pretty bad rap these days)... but then you find out that the only fish that you really like (and would consider eating a lot of) are on the list of fish not to eat. Confused? Bummed? Me too. Here's some info on the situation...
*Photo by Marta, who informs me that this is a photo of fish eating, not fish for eating. Just to clarify. What can I say? It was the only photo I had of fish.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Peach Brûlée

Peach Brûlée
Adapted from joythebaker

Ingredient amounts are per serving. For multiple servings, simply multiply ingredients by number of people. Or to put it more simply... one peach per person.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Mini Dutch Babies

Talk about a sweet petite! When I was a kid, my Mom often made us a "Giant Dutch Baby" for Sunday brunch after church. She would top it with a little melted butter, then a squeeze of lemon juice and finish with powdered sugar sifted over the whole thing. My favorite was when she would serve it with fresh fruit, usually strawberries and blackberries.

I've made it myself many times over the years, but it never once occurred to me to try baking it in muffin pans. What a fantastic idea! It's the perfect way to serve this treat to guests. Plus they're just so cute.

Here are a couple different versions if you'd like to try it too. . .

Monday, June 1, 2009

Kale Chips

kale chipsI'll admit it: I'd never had kale before I made these. This recipe (and all the others like it) made me want to try some. What can I say? I'm a sucker for phrases like: "We didn't stop eating them until they were all gone... they were that good." Well, with that kind of statement thrown down, I just have to try it for myself. Besides, it's another way to get more veggies in my diet, and I like that they're crispy without actually having to fry them. Win-win.

The original recipe that I found online (and know not where) was identical to the one linked below, with the added instruction to "flip halfway through the cooking time" and not to "overcook or allow them to become completely brown as they will taste bitter".
Notes (9/21/09): I finally got some kale! Only two leaves, but they're pretty darn big (and besides, if I don't like them I won't get stuck with a lot of leftovers). The two leaves (cut-up with my kitchen shears) completely fill one baking sheet. I set the oven for 10 minutes, then took them out to flip them. I started to flip them in the oven with my long handled tongs, but the heat coming out was just too hot, and the tongs were overkill. Those sturdy leaves were already delicate and crispy so I just flipped them with my fingers (works fine as song as you don't touch the hot pan). I put them back in for the last 5 minutes after flipping them.

The verdict? They weren't brown at all, but they do have a hint of bitterness to them. I also made the mistake of salting them again after I flipped them, so they were way too salty... oops. Hubs tried them and said: "huh, that's kale alright", "tastes burnt", "too salty", and "leaves an aftertaste. I knew I didn't like kale".

I thought the flavor was o.k., but next time I won't cook them as long (and won't salt them as much). They would taste great served alongside fish (perhaps because of the vinegar and sea salt?).

My Marinade Formula

As it is officially outdoor bbq season... and because my sister asked me for it... I'm posting the "formula" I use for marinading meats that are headed for the grill.

Why "formula" and not recipe, you may be asking. Well, take a peek at the ingredients list on your favorite marinade bottles and you'll see that you probably have all that stuff already at home. Why spend more money and (almost as importantly) give up shelf space for something you've already got? Yeah, I couldn't come up with a good reason either.

How to Use the Formula
: Add at least one (1) item out of every category to a large zipper-lock bag or container. You can use more than one item from any of the categories (I usually only use one "Salt" ingredient though). . .

SWEET: Sugar, Brown Sugar, Honey, Maple Syrup, Jam or Preserves

HOT: Black Pepper, Dijon (or any other) Mustard, Cayenne, etc.

SOUR/ACID*: Lemon Juice, Orange Juice, Pineapple Juice, Wine, Sherry, Whiskey

FAT: Olive Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Butter

SALT: Soy Sauce, Teriyaki, Sea Salt or Kosher Salt

Optional ADD-INS: Rosemary, Thyme, Basil, Onion, Garlic, etc.

To Marinate: Turn meat periodically in the mixture until it's time to cook. I like to marinate things for no less than 4 and no more than 8 hours.

Note: This is not an exact science. Amounts will vary depending on the quantity of meat, what ingredients are on hand, and the dominant flavor (if any) desired.

*Only occasionally have I used vinegar for the "sour/acid" element, and then only in small quantities or in quick marinades. I find that it can affect the texture of the meat otherwise.