Friday, June 28, 2013

Back on the horse! -- or -- What I had for lunch today.

Well hello! About two years have passed since I last posted anything at all at my lovely little blog. During those two years, we've had a little baby boy, moved to a new apartment, and generally had a fantastic time keeping up with life. 

But I'm back guys, I'M BACK! I want to blog again, and I'm just going to go for it, starting with this little thing I had for lunch today. 

It's summertime in Portland, and I am getting so very excited to harvest this year's bounty.

Trees around my neighborhood are loaded with all sorts of fruits and nuts, waiting for time and sun, until one day they will fall from their laden boughs into my waiting arms.

And so, I have become consumed with finding new things to pick and forage and turn into fantastic food. You should feel for my husband - despite being the sweetest and kindest man in the history of the world, if he has to hear one more story about my big plans for the plum harvest, he may curl up and die.

He'll probably enjoy it later though, when we sit down to a crusty baguette, bay plum chutney, and a tasty cheese. It's all going to be amazing, guys, AMAZING!
Sometimes, when I get worked up like that, my eyes go all glossy.

Since I'm excitedly planning fun recipes to make use of this bounty, I'm going to start blogging again so I have someone (else) to tell it all to. Poor R, he can hardly take it no more.

And the harvest begins today! In my research about foraging foods, I realized I have a lovely edible plant right outside on my deck which I have never taken advantage of: nasturtium. This is a gorgeous plant to grow, and just takes off here in the spring and summer.

I didn't realized that the whole plant is edible - including the gorgeous yellow, red and orange blossoms. Too lazy to buy lettuce? Eat your patio flowers!
I wanted more than a bowl of petals, however, so I built this salad on a baked potato, which is a great foundation for greens and vinaigrette.

I should note: only eat your nasturtiums if they are pesticide-free.

 As you can see from these unruly leaves, mine are!

Now that I have a 14 month old baby, lunch is pretty low on my list of priorities.

Too low.

In fact, this "lunch" didn't happen till 4 pm today! It's not that I'm trying to starve myself, I just get busy with other things, like reading board books to my Babybear (child), taking him outside to play under the plum trees, and doing a lot of dishes. You know how it is.

Life is full, so full, of good things.

Thankfully, this was a one-dish meal.

Lunchtime Potato and Nasturtium Bowl of Beauty -- a salad

One baked potato, served any temperature you like (I had mine cold)
a handful of young nasturtium leaves, rinsed and dried
a few nasturtium blossoms
black pepper
lavender blossoms
your favorite vinaigrette, or just olive oil and a generous squeeze of lemon

Cut the potato down the middle, and pinch up the sides to fluff it up a bit. Flatten slightly, and top with the nasturtium leaves. If they're too large, just tear them up a bit. Check the blossoms for any little insects that might be enjoying their petals, and blow on the flowers to shake them loose. There's no need to wash the flowers. Separate the petals, or leave the blossoms whole. Top with a grind or two of black pepper, a few fresh lavender flowers, and a splash of vinaigrette to serve.

If you'd like to switch things up a bit, I think this salad would be lovely with grated Parmesan. Adding some nuts would be a nice touch. You can swap the lavender flowers for another fresh herb that catches your eyer, or leave them out altogethe. I picked some fresh lavender the other day, and it was so pretty, I couldn't resist tossing a few buds on top.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How to conquer the world by making your own mayonnaise!

We all have days like this. Gray. Kind of boring. Lots to get done, nothing you feel like doing. Laundry? Nope. Vacuuming? Meh. You know you need to snap out of it, you just don't know how.

Today is one of those days, but I think I might have a solution.

Edible victory, that's what I'm looking for! If you're having a gray day too, nothing will make you feel like a culinary genius more than making your own mayonnaise. And it's so easy! And it's so tasty! And now you don't have to go to the store this afternoon!

No matter what your day is like, a delicious sandwich, spread with this fantastic flavorful mayo can't help to brighten it up - and maybe it'll inspire me to do my laundry after all.

Here's hoping anyway.

This recipe came to me from my mother, who is a fantastic cook. She made this mayo throughout my childhood, and it's because of her recipe that tomato sandwiches are one of my all-time favorite foods.

Mom's Mayonnaise:

2 eggs at room temperature*
1 t. salt
2 T. vinegar or lemon juice, divided (I use red wine vinegar)
1-2 t. dry mustard
1 c. canola or vegetable oil
1 c. olive oil

Pulse eggs, salt, mustard and 1 T. vinegar in a food processor or blender until just combined. Turn on the blender and slowly pour in 1 cup oil. If you pour it all at once, the mayonnaise won't thicken and you'll be left with rich rich rich salad dressing. As you pour, the stream of oil should be about as wide as a strand of spaghetti.

Stop the blender and add 1 T. of vinegar. Start again, and slowly pour in the second cup of oil. About half-way through your second cup, the mayo will start making flub-flub noises as it starts to thicken. It is a beautiful thing.

It's ready! Scoop the mayo into an air-tight container or jar and keep it in the fridge. In my experience, this home-made version keeps as long as store-bought mayo. Do be careful not to leave it on the counter out of the fridge too long, since it is made with raw eggs and doesn't contain any preservatives.

*The eggs should be at room temperature in order for the mayo to thicken properly. Just set a couple on your counter for half an hour or so before making the mayonnaise. If you're in a hurry, take your eggs out of the fridge and put them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes to take the chill off. As always when cooking with raw eggs, don't be feeding them to people with compromised immune systems.

Now that you've made your own mayonnaise (feels awesome, am I right?) you should try this sandwich. So good!

Katie's Tomato Chicken Parmesan Sammich

2 slices of bread
mayonnaise (That's right baby. You made that.)
sliced tomato
cold grilled chicken, if you've got it on hand
parmesan cheese
spinach, lettuce or whatever green you like on sandwiches
fresh ground pepper

Spread a little mayo on the bread and add a generous layer of tomato slices. Add some chicken if you have it, along with some fresh pepper and salt if you like. Grate parmesan over all, top with greens and of course, your second piece of bread. Rocket science, I know. And it tastes amazing.

Thanks, Mom!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Caramel Corn with Agave Nectar and So Much More

There is no such thing as a guilt-free food. Do not believe any recipe advertising itself as such.When I made this caramel corn, I was looking for a good snack food that I wouldn't feel bad about eating, something with a little protein, and not too much butter. But I realize now that it can never be considered "guilt-free" - I liked it so much that I've eaten half of the batch I made, all alone by myself. Portion size! What? So if you want to make this, don't just do it because it is indeed healthy. Do it because it tastes SO GOOD!

There are lots of things you could do with this caramel corn to make it your own. If you don't have agave nectar, you can use corn syrup. I like using agave nectar, a honey-like syrup that is made from cacti, because it's good for you, not very processed, and although it has a lower glycemic index, it's sweeter than sugar so you don't have to use as much. In fact, next time I make this recipe, I think I'll use 3/4 c. agave and leave out the regular sugar altogether. You can add in any nuts you want - I used almonds and hazelnuts - or try pepitas or sunflower seeds. Unsweetened shredded coconut would mix well too. Trust me on the ground flax though, and don't leave it out - it adds a nice nuttiness and richness as well as good fiber and healthy fats. Yaay! Healthy fats! Come and get it!

Carmel Corn With Agave

2/3 c. un-popped popcorn, divided
1/3-1/2 c. ground flax
1 - 2 c. nuts, chopped or whole
1/4 c. butter
1/2 c. agave
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 t. vanilla
1/2 t. baking soda

Pre-heat your oven to 250 degree.

Pop the popcorn in two batches, and transfer it to a large greased baking dish - maybe a roasting pan - or separate into two large bowls. Don't crowd the popcorn, or it'll be hard to stir in all the caramel evenly.

Melt the butter and stir in the agave nectar, sugar and a pinch of salt. Bring this mix to a boil, making sure the sugar is melted in, and then remove from heat.

Stir the vanilla into the butter and sugar, then the baking soda. The caramel will froth and bubble up, so make sure you use a tall pan to keep it all contained. Nothing ruins caramel corn night like a stove-top covered in the sad, syrupy remains of your delicious snack!

Pour the caramel over the prepared popcorn, and stir, attempting to even coverage on all corn. Toss in the nuts and flax and continue to stir stir stir until you are happy with the effect you have achieved. Taste a piece - if it needs more salt, sprinkle some in, and stir again.

If your popcorn is in bowls, transfer it to greased cookie sheets. Slide the pan into your oven, and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so.

Forget about all the guilt/health stuff. Enjoy!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tangelo Marmalade

My dad loves marmalade, and has a highly developed sweet tooth. When we lived in Canada, we had an ornamental orange tree that produced sour, ping-pong ball sized fruit twice a year. Sometimes we would collect the little oranges and freeze them until there was enough for a batch of marmalade. Sometimes we would make candied orange peels and enjoy them right away. If we had known about this recipe then, we could have made our own marmalade all year long with whatever citrus we found at the store! Thankfully I discovered it a few years back, and keep my Mom and Pops stocked in marmalade by giving it to them for Christmas, birthdays, and as a thank you gifts.   

If you like making home-made gifts, this marmalade is fantastic. It's has a lovely color, and tastes like sunshine in your mouth. A lot of it ends up on toast, but I like it best on a spoon.

I used tangelos and two or three lemons in my marmalade, but you can also use blood oranges, kumquats, or grapefruit. Limes have a very strong flavor, and might bring a strange color into your marmalade, but you could try those too. You can even make all-lemon marmalade, in which case a lime would not go amiss. When using grapefruit, use a peeler to remove the outer skin, leaving the white pith behind, chop the peel and add to your marmalade along with the naked grapefruit sections.

Tangelo Marmalade

3lbs tangelos or oranges
2-3 lemons
4 cups white sugar, or to taste
a pinch of salt

Wash and chill oranges in the fridge until ready. Slice oranges thinly and as consistently as possible, removing seeds as you find them. Toss the seeds in cheesecloth, and tie up in a bundle. Citrus seeds contain natural pectin, which will help your marmalade gel so don't throw them away! 
Transfer orange slices and seed bundle to a large stainless steel pot or dutch oven over medium/low heat, add sugar and pinch of salt, and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the marmalade gels. (Put a plate in the freezer to chill it, and drop a spoon of marmalade on the center. In a couple of minutes, if you can turn the plate upside down and nothing moves, the marmalade has gelled. If not, keep cooking.) 
Be sure to watch your pot carefully when you think your marmalade is almost done - it can easily burn, possibly resulting in tears, a feeling of hopelessness, and deep anger. As you may have guessed, I speak from experience.
Continue to cook marmalade until citrus peels can be cut easily with a spoon. Over-cooking is better than under-cooking, which will result in early spoilage. 
When you are satisfied with your marmalade, pour it into clean glass jars and either can, or close tightly and refrigerate. It will keep a long time in the fridge - although we tend to go through it pretty quickly!
Enjoy your new marmalade!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Here's my dish for the web pot-luck.

I held out so long. But now I have a blog, and I'm ok with it.
In fact, I'm pretty excited. My reason for setting up this page are four-fold:

1. I like to cook and make things.
2. I like to take photos of my food and projects.
3. I like to talk about food and all the new things I want to do next.
4. It's cruel of me to pour all of my enthusiasm into my husband, Richard, and talk his ear off about cheese-making, bread-baking, or curing our own meat.  (But it's so cool! Don't you want to try it?)
Now I have a blog and, theoretically, infinite amounts of people to read it - so get ready for my enthusiasm, world! I've got a lot.  I'll be posting recipes for the most part, and other projects when I do them. Best case scenario: you all enjoy reading this, and my kitchen will be a little cleaner because I have to take pictures in there.Worst case scenario: my friend Christa, the sole reader, sends me emails correcting my bad grammar, and all of my recipes fail.

Let's see what happens, shall we?