Sunday, 18 August 2013
The Amazing Armenian Cucumber
The AMAZING Armenian Cucumber
The Armenian Cucumber is a garden delight with which you should acquaint yourself!
Why? Because this is quite the versatile item! It is a member of the muskmelon family, growing on a vine—like melons and squash. So you don't have to trellis it like regular cucumbers—thank goodness for that! One plant is highly productive and the fruit grows to 24-36 inches in length. And, trust me, just one Armenian cuke will make a couple of huge salads.
They're easy to prep for use.
Wash the outside
Slice into large segments
Slice the large segments length-wise into halves
Take a spoon and slide out the center seeds
Slice the segments again length wise
Slice the segments through the skin and flesh into thin slices
You DON'T have to peel because the skin is so thin and edible
You CAN also grate it or cut into sticks for other recipes
Wherever you use a regular cucumber, you can substitute the Armenian cucumber! Its flesh is like a cucumber's and its flavor is kind of like a cross between cucumber with melon overtones. Yum!
Below you can see it in a crisp salad, simply sliced thin and dressed with a vinegar & oil dressing-salt, pepper, a sprinkle of sugar and lots of dried dillweed.!
This weekend, my sister grated it for an Indian grated cucumber salad called Raita. See it in the bowl alongside the Chicken curry and Kale with tomato dish? This is usually simple grated cucumber with yogurt (or sour cream) , salt and pepper. She kicked it up with some sliced jalepenos, too.
I've used a standard recipe for Freezer Pickles and substituted the Armenian Cucumber for a standard cucumber with great results.
And it is delicious just eaten as crispy slices!
Posted by Karen
at 16:01 CDT
Updated: Sunday, 18 August 2013 21:47 CDT
Thursday, 15 August 2013
Super-Meat Loaf with Simple Sides
We are certainly deep into the productive time for vegetables and herbs. And, I know you've made your share of chopped salads, zucchini breads and pestos--maybe even started canning those tomatoes and making sauces and relishes.
How about “fortifying” your main courses with vegetables, too?
Here's an idea for making classic meatloaf into a “Super-Meatloaf” just be integrating chopped vegetables into it!
Makes 2 large meatloafs, 1 for dinner tonight for 6
and one to bake and refrigerate for sandwiches
First, saute together in olive oil, the following combination of diced vegetables until softened:
1 medium onion, 1 red bell pepper, 1 yellow bell pepper, 1 cup of zucchini, 4 oz. chopped mushrooms
(now, of course you can substitute green pepper or sweet banana peppers and omit what you don't like)
Combine the following together in a large bowl:
4 lbs. Grass fed beef, ground
2 large, farm fresh eggs
½ cup quick oats, uncooked
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
½ cup prepared barbeque sauce or ketchup
Add the cooked and drained vegetables next. And finally add fresh thyme leaves, salt and pepper to taste.
Divide into 2 loaves and bake together in a large roasting pan at 350 degrees about 1 & ½ hours. Check the internal temperature to assure it's thoroughly cooked to 160 degrees, remove pan and allow to stand at least 5 minutes before removing loaves from the pan—it will continue to heat the internal part of the loaves an additional 5 degrees.
One for dinner, the second—refrigerate for sandwiches tomorrow!
About the Sides:
Tomato Salad: just fresh mixed tomatoes, fresh basil, balsamic drizzle, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Roasted New Potatoes with garlic and onions were tossed in olive oil, baked on parchment paper with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese at 400 degrees about 20 minutes.
Kale Greens -mixed Russian red and curly blue were wilted in a sauté pan in a small amount of olive oil and splashed lightly with lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Posted by Karen
at 12:03 CDT
Updated: Thursday, 15 August 2013 13:49 CDT
Sunday, 4 August 2013
Ancient Grain and Contemporary Garden meet in a Salad
Your Challenge: You're asked to bring a salad to a Summer event--
Maybe it's a picnic under the stars during an outdoor concert--
Or, a garden luncheon with the girls--
Or a backyard casual neighborhood potluck and grill-out--
Your Inspiration: Your backyard herb and vegetables
Your Back-up Resources: Your pantry
You are ready to go with a substantive salad if you build around a base of grains or legumes. So, always try to keep basic dried grains like quinoa, couscous (bulgar wheat) and rice, or legumes like lentils and beans, readily available in your pantry. Though remember that beans may need to be canned if you don't want to start your prep with start soaking a day ahead.
Here's my addition to a backyard grill party for a crowd just yesterday.
4 cups couscous, cooked, chilled, make sure you fluff it with a fork before chilling, even toss a little olive oil in it so it doesn't form a clog.
Chop together a mixture of seasonal vegetables right from your garden:
Zucchini, seeded tomatoes, onion, green pepper
Chop some fresh herbs: Mint is classic with couscous.
Add the vegetables and chopped fresh herbs to the salad. Feel like some chopped olives or capers or pimento? Go for it!
Whisk 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1/4 cup olive oil together and mix into salad.
Add 8 oz feta cheese crumbles.
Salt and pepper to taste, add more lemon juice if needed.
Toss again and put into a serving bowl, Chill until your event.
Posted by Karen
at 13:58 CDT
Updated: Sunday, 4 August 2013 13:59 CDT
Tuesday, 30 July 2013
Sometimes you just need some nuts and seeds to offset all the fruits and veggies you've been eating. Granola is a great breakfast cereal or “yogurt -topper” to do just that. It's a great homemade food gift as well.
Here's a recipe to make 4 quart glass jarfuls for sharing and leftovers for your personal use! As always, you can create your own flavor combinations by changing the spices, swapping out vanilla extract for another (almond?), using different nuts and seeds, and using different dried fruits in the last step. I like to think that the recipes I write in this blog are suggestions or starting points—in a process of creative evolution. Certainly you know that what's in the blog has been built upon a foundation of recipes and knowledge shared with me by others before me—no one works in a vacuum—especially in the kitchen! We have a history of mothers and sisters, aunts and grandmothers, teachers and friends who all contribute to what you place on the table or grow in your garden.
Prep 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the following in a large mixing bowl:
42 oz. carton of Old-fashioned oats (the large cylinder size)
¾ cup sunflower seed kernels
¾ cup chopped walnuts
2 tbsp. flax seeds, freshly ground
1 tsp. Cinnamon
Melt in a small saucepan:
1 stick of butter
6 oz. of peanut butter
6 oz. of honey
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
Combine melted ingredients with dry in the large bowl.
Distribute the granola between the 2 baking pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, remove from oven and turn the granola to toast the other side of the dry ingredients, using a spatula or large flat spoon. Return to oven and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until the whole tray is dry and toasty.
Remove pans, cool, return to the large mixing bowl and stir in the contents of a 5 oz. bag of dried cranberries or equivalent raisins or other dried fruit mixture. Pack in zip lock bags or in Mason glass jars and store in a cool dry pantry.
Posted by Karen
at 21:59 CDT
Thursday, 25 July 2013
Three Types of Kale and Two Super Easy Recipes
More Summer Color from the Garden
A few weeks ago, I posted a picture showing the three types of kale I have growing in my garden: Russian Red Kale, Blue Curly leaf Kale, and the dark-green Italian Kale.
Here they are to remind you.
All of these varieties are interchangeable in recipes. If you look back to the posts before my garden was growing, you'll see some recipes for Sweet and Savory kale and for a Salad with baby kale.
This post will give you two very easy recipes to use kale in--
BUT, I also want to remind you: KALE can readily be chopped and tossed into soups, stews and quiches-- Try KALE cooked with other vegetables for a potent vegetable stock--and, of course, KALE is great when sauteed with other veggies and herbs in olive oil and garlic, thinned with a bit of pasta water and then tossed together for an amazing Pasta Primavera.
Today's recipes are:
Sauteed Kale with Garlic
Prep kale leaves by immersing in cold water in a pre-sanitized sink or large bowl--and spinning or patting dry with paper towels. (See earlier posts on how to pick and clean greens for more details.)
Remove coarse stems, chop leaves into rough strips.
Heat 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped in 3-4 T bsp olive oil.
Add about 6-8 cups of chopped kale leaves.
Toss to coat with oil and saute until limp.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Simply--very good and seen on the plate below at 10:00.
Now focus your attention on the item at 2:00 on the plate above.
Here's the easiest recipe you'll ever get from me.
Scalloped Potato and Kale Casserole
Prep fresh kale leaves as above, to yield 1 packed cup of chopped kale leaves.
Open a box of Scalloped Potatoes, 4 serving size.
Follow directions on the box, adding kale leaves.
Prep a, 8x 8 Pyrex baking dish with spray oil. Bake the entire mixture together at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
I promise you the following:
- no one will complain about the presence of kale
- no one will leave any on their plate
- everyone will think it was the best potato dish they ever ate
- everyone will think you made it from scratch.
And, indeed, until your OWN potatoes are ready to harvest, box potatoes might be healthier than any "fresh" potato you buy at the store. At least the dehydrated potatoes in the box are not treated with chemical growth retardants like "fresh" commercial potatoes are. And this recipe can easily be doubled--I've even quadrupled it for a large party. (Yes, this is the potato dish I served on Bastille Day).
Of course, you can make this same dish with your freshly harvested potatoes soon enough!
Posted by Karen
at 09:19 CDT
Updated: Friday, 26 July 2013 15:56 CDT
Wednesday, 24 July 2013
Spinach (any vegetable!)Quiche
The Amazing QUICHE !
What a great culinary concept--vegetables, cheese, and eggs in a single crust pie shell,
I started by making an olive oil single crust--
As you know pie crust is basically : Flour, some fat, and ice water.
Great crusts are made with vegetable shortening or lard--or, in this case, olive oil. Olive oil works especially well for savory crusts which is the idea with a quiche.
So, I used: 1 cup of flour, about 1/2 tsp of salt--tossed together in a bowl. Then, added 1/4 cup of olive oil and used a fork to distribute this so the oil and flour mixture resembled lots of little grainy crumbles. Then, I added 2 tbsp of ice water and tossed again with the fork, sprinkling additional ice water with my fingers until the blend was now larger crumbs that would stick together if handled with your fingers. Once its at the stage where you can actually form a ball of dough that won't fall apart, you're ready to roll it.
Then, use a floured surface and floured rolling pin and roll your dough into a circle a bit larger than your pie pan. Use a spatula, slide it under the dough, fold over to a half circle, lift and place inside one half in the pie pan. Then, unfold the other half. You did it! Trim off excess and crimp a crust. I use thumb and index of my right hand, with index finger of my left hand and run around the rim of the pie pan, making a curvy scalloped edge.
Filling: I used about 1 cup of chopped, cooked and throughly drained spinach--if using a small box of frozen spinach, then defrost, drain and press out excess water.
Top that layer with 6 oz chopped or grated cheese--I used Swiss.I also added a couple slices of cooked and crumbled bacon.
Place 4 eggs in a 2 cup measuring cup--whisk these and add milk to make a 2 cup mixture of egg and milk. Season to taste with salt, pepper, a little nutmeg (your choice of spices). Whisk together and pour over the spinach and cheese.
Bake about 1 hour at 350 degrees.
Here's what you get.
Now--get creative and use up all of your other veggies in the garden in your next quiche--tomatoes, peppers and mozzarella? Swiss chard, onion and gouda? Tomatoes, onion and feta? Assorted fresh herbs?
Whatever you want!!!
Posted by Karen
at 21:14 CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 24 July 2013 21:25 CDT
Sunday, 21 July 2013
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity
In the middle of winter, I always look at my wardrobe and realize I am wearing black, navy, dark brown, maroon--maybe a hint of gold or dark green--you know the drill...
And then I might glance at the colorful aquas and lilacs and peachy bright colors of Summer and say to myself--how could I EVER think of wearing those colors???
But Summer eventually rolls around and I find myself wondering how the heck I could think black was a good idea for a blouse or dress during the day.
Same with your plate--Summer screams COLOR!!!
Your dinner plate should be looking like this if your garden is starting to produce. And, if you don't have a garden, then the local produce section at your store or Farmers' Market should be bulging at the seams with a variety of veggies and herbs.
For today's blog, let's look at the Ratatouille--about 12N on the plate. I'll save my comments on kale and indrect-grilled chicken and Southwestern salad for another entry.
Ratatouille is basically a stewed squash, tomato and herb concoction packed with nutirents. Cooking it is simple--and, in a way, it's like chili--every pot is unique and depends upon your tastes and what you've got around.
Saute together 4-6 cloves of chopped garlic and 1 chopped onion in about 3-4 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet.
Add: 1-2 diced/chopped green peppers--though you can substitiute sweet banana peppers if you'd like --which I did since my green peppers aren't ready yet.
Add: Summer Squash, Zucchini squash, eggplant--smaller sized, no seeds, thin skin OK otherwise, peel it.-cut into cubes or small chucks. Any/all of the above. I did not have eggplant so this version is just yellow Summer and green zucchini squash.
Add: skinned and seeded diced fresh tomatoes- at least 2 large, or 1 can of diced tomatoes .
Keep cooking in your large skillet pan on medium heat.
Add plenty of chopped fresh or dried herbs to taste--here you either can use an Italian blend or herbs de Provence (preferred--if you want the most authentic taste)--but like chili, it's ultimately about YOUR taste preferences.
Add: dried red pepper flakes and salt to taste.
Continue to cook until the vegetables are"stewed"--add oil if needed during your cooking if you think it's needed.
Add: chopped black olives?, capers?
This dish can be served hot, room temperature, or chilled. Delicious any way. it also makes a great main course with some cheese and bread on the side.
Start thinking COLOR !
Posted by Karen
at 21:42 CDT
Updated: Sunday, 21 July 2013 21:53 CDT
Saturday, 20 July 2013
Hello, my name is Bread
Hello! My name is Bread.
I know that is a weird announcement for me...a confirmed low-carber-- but our cultures (whatever our origin) all seem to have a central focus upon ...bread.
Think about it—the centrality of bread-- a mainstay in the menu, a metaphor for sustenance, a symbol for communion.
So, when my Summer intern wanted to learn how to make jelly out the assorted berries she'd foraged. I knew we'd be pulling out the bread maker because, no matter how good the jelly is, it doesn't stand alone without its mate, bread.
My wonderful Summer Interns went forth and found the wild berry patches and collected tons of berries. So—of course-- the canning skills were called forth and jelly was made.
Our recipe borrowed from the skills of others:
Make your own Berry Jelly.
We started out with about 2 quarts of fresh mixed wild berries, cleaned according to an earlier post I have on how to clean berries. I hate seeds so, it was my job to de-seed them in the juicer (you can also use a hand-turned or electric tomato seeder.) This process will take you as long as it took the kids to pick the berries! Don't give up! The rich juice derived without any of those little seeds is worth it!!!
You now have 6 cups of fresh wild berry juice.
Pour it into a stockpot and add 4 Tbsp. Real Fruit Pectin (we used Ball's brand, low or no-sugar pectin)
Bring to a boil for 1 minute, add 4 cups of real cane sugar and boil for 5 minutes.
Do a jelly spoon test—chill a teaspoon in ice water. Take a scant teaspoon of your jelly mixture, put it on a plate. Allow it to come to room temperature—just a minute or two. Is it set enough? If so, move to canning. If not, add another 1-2 Tbsp. Pectin., boil 1 minute, repeat the test.
This recipe makes 12 half pint jars and a little over to refrigerate for tasting.
Prep your canning jars, lids, rings as directed. Get your canning pot out and start the water boiling.
Fill the jars to ¼ inch of the top. Put lid and ring on. When all are loaded, boil in canning pot for 5 minutes. The “leftover” jelly should be put in a bowl and refrigerated. It's good to use for a week if it lasts that long. The jelly that's been canned is good for a year. All of your canned jars should “pop” and that means the middle should dimple down and no air space is perceived under the lid, meaning you can't push the center of the lid and have it come back out.
OK—jelly's made and you know it's one of the best things to give as a homemade gift. But, it needs it's mate, the bread.
So, if you really want to treat someone to a very special gift, then make a loaf of bread to accompany your jelly. And the bread maker is the quickest way to do that. Your instruction book will have many recipes, but here's a clever and health-inspired recipe to start with.
Oatmeal Flaxseed Bread
1 & ¼ c water
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp butter, melted
¾ c quick cooking oats
1& ¾ tsp salt
3& ¾ c. bread flour
2 tbsp organic flaxseeds (grind these fresh in a coffee grinder)
2 Tbsp dry milk
2 tsp active dry yeast.
Prep the pan with spray oil.
Add ingredient in this order: All liquids first, then dry ingredients, and LASTLY, add the yeast in a little well in the center of the batter.
Select the “Basic” setting and a light or medium crust (if you have that option).
Push the start button.
In 3 hours, you'll have the loaf in the picture.
Now get creative. To me, it looked like a hay bale, so we wrapped hemp cord around it and packaged it together with the jelly to give to a friend who helps us making hay.
But, I think anyone would like this country-inspired Bread AND Wildberry Jelly!
Posted by Karen
at 17:58 CDT
Updated: Saturday, 20 July 2013 22:47 CDT
Saturday, 6 July 2013
More on Purslane and a Peek at the Garden
More on Purslane and a Peek at Garden Progress
Last week I showed you the “before” salad and forgot to insert a picture of the salad “all jazzed up” with herbs and purslane So, to take a step back:
Before—basic tossed salad:
After—the fresh herbs- basil, cilantro and purslane are added and tossed thoroughly (40 times, remember the rules?)
I'd like to show you how that looks on the dinner plate—roast pork, quinoa with spinach and carrots, and the lovely herb, lettuce, tomato and onion salad.
Now, back to the garden check at about 6 weeks post seeding...
I mentioned that purslane might be a good “cover crop”--and why not? They seem to have taken hold around the squash plants. And, as we discussed last week, there's no reason to weed something as healthy as purslane. Notice my beautiful summer squash. And the purslane, see it growing between the squash plants?
Here are my multi varieties of kale greens and next to be written about.
Posted by Karen
at 21:11 CDT
Sunday, 30 June 2013
Purslane in your Garden???
Good Afternoon on this beautiful sunny (for a change) Sunday:
I am busy making Sunday dinner which is, of course, including a tossed salad. Here's a photo of the usual tossed salad most of the year—greens, maybe tomato and onion and a vinegar and oil dressing- right?? And if you're lucky the greens are varied and coming from your own garden.
But now it's the time of the year where we can also forage the garden for edible herbs to kick this salad up a notch and –below you'll see that I went to the garden and snipped some fresh herbs to chop into the salad.
I know you'll recognize the parsley, cilantro and basil...but did you wonder about the herb in the lower left corner? Here's a closer view...
It's purslane, not specifically cultivated in a nice row in the garden, but growing among it's friends and between the blocks in the garden dividers—some might refer to it as a weed, but I'm starting to consider it a cover crop!
It goes by the name of PURSLANE!
Oddly, though it grows like a weed, we don't begin to appreciate that it's probably the most nutritious herb out in our garden.
Below are a couple of references for your reading. (Now get out there are reconsider your viewpoint. Pick and USE this so-called weed if you're lucky enough to find it growing in your yard!)
Purslane - Weed It or Eat It?
Is it a weed or a wonderful taste treat? Purslane is cursed and curried all at the same time. For most of us, it comes as an unwelcome guest. Purslane, Portulaca oleracea, is probably in your garden right now but not because you invited it to dinner.
Purslane is native to India and Persia and has spread throughout the world as an edible plant and as a weed. Many cultures embrace purslane as a food.
Purslane has fleshy succulent leaves and stems with yellow flowers. They look like baby jade plants. The stems lay flat on the ground as they radiate from a single taproot sometimes forming large mats of leaves. It is closely related to Rose Moss, Portulaca grandiflora, grown as a "not so weedy" ornamental. Check out U of I's Midwestern Turfgrass Weed Identification website for some great pictures of purslane.
Purslane is an annual reproducing from seeds and from stem pieces. Seeds of purslane have been known to stay viable for 40 years in the soil. You may find that fact either depressing or exciting.
If you are trying to control purslane the number one rule is don't let it go to seed. About three weeks after you notice seedlings, the flowers and seeds will be produced. Also plants or plant pieces that are uprooted but not removed can root back into the soil. Again depressing or exciting. Running a tiller through purslane is called purslane multiplication.
Purslane grows just about anywhere from fertile garden soil to the poorest arid soils. A rock driveway is nirvana to purslane. It's succulent characteristic makes it very drought tolerant. Purslane prefers the fine textured soils of seedbeds as in vegetable gardens or open soil areas in paths. It doesn't germinate well when seeds are more than 1/2 inch deep. Tilling brings seeds to the surface where they quickly germinate. Mulching will help to control purslane. Purslane seeds germinate best with soil temperatures of 90 degrees so mulching may again help to control it. Since it germinates in high soil temperatures also means it doesn't appear until June when preemergent herbicides may have lost their effectiveness.
Now if you are in the "if you can't beat 'em than eat 'em" category, you won't go hungry this year. There are plenty of purslane plants out there and I'm sure your neighbors would love to share theirs with you. If you are a connoisseur, you can also purchase purslane seeds for the cultivated forms for better flavor and easier harvesting. They tend to grow more upright than the wild types.
With purslane aficionados the preference is in eating fresh young plants, and especially young leaves and tender stem tips. The taste is similar to watercress or spinach. Use purslane in salads or on sandwiches instead of lettuce or pickles. Next time order a ham and purslane on rye. Purslane can also be cooked as a potherb, steamed, stir-fried or pureed. It tends to get a bit slimy if overcooked. It can be substituted for spinach in many recipes. Seeds are also edible.
Before grazing in your yard be sure to wash the purslane thoroughly and make sure it is free of any pesticides. As with any new food, don't over indulge. For recipes go to http://www.prairielandcsa.org/recipes/purslane.html .
Here's another excellent article on purslane and nutritional value.
Have a great time re-considering your attitude towards this so-called weed!
Posted by Karen
at 13:29 CDT
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