Category Archives: Cooking

Farm to table: Cucumber yogurt salad on ours

Farm to table” is one of those buzzwords that is a bit irritating in that those who live in farming communities or small towns where large gardens are the norm, have been eating “farm to table” or garden to table for generations past. But in the sense that it has suggests a growing movement that promotes sustainability even in urban areas, it’s a good thing.

My brothers and I grew up in the same small town where I live today. Our parents had a huge garden which helped to feed the seven of us year round. Our basement (dusty cellar is a better description) had shelves lined with canned vegetables and fruit, jellies, ketchup (the real stuff), and later, a large chest freezer filled with more vegetables and fruits.

When we weren’t swimming or playing, we were snapping beans, shelling peas, husking corn, and peeling apples. This was not always done with a smile, but some resignation. Looking back, those chores taught us to be hard workers. Today all five — even the two in Tucson — have some sort of garden.

Because of time constraints, my edible garden consists mostly of lettuce, cucumbers, squash, tomatoes and herbs. Instead, I lean heavily on the local farmer’s market, as well as several farm stands, to eat “farm to table.”  Yesterday’s stop at the farmer’s market produced this take:

IMG_0136[1]Sweet corn, yellow and green sweet peppers, seedless cucumbers, zucchini and yellow squash of several varieties, white carrots, tiny red potatoes, green beans and brown eggs.

This will hold us for at least a few days until my own cukes and tomatoes are ready or I have to hit up the farm stand.

Yesterday, while figuring out what I wanted for lunch, the cucumbers produced a memory of a favorite salad. In the 70s, my mom began making her own yogurt, which became the basis of a dressing for cucumber salad. IMG_0146[1]

It’s still a favorite, and the fresh dill in my herb garden adds the perfect touch. I vary this, depending on what kind of vinegar is handy. Yesterday it was rice vinegar. Slice the cukes very thin — best done with a Bluffton (Ohio) Slaw Cutter, but a knife or food processor also works. This is a small recipe — perfect for one or two, but you can double or triple as necessary.

Cucumber Salad
1 long seedless cucumber, sliced thin
1/3 c. plain yogurt
1 tbsp. (or more) rice vinegar
1/3 tsp. lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh dill to taste

Whisk together the yogurt, vinegar, and dill and pour over the sliced cucumbers. Mix, then add salt and pepper to taste. If you can wait, refrigerate for an hour. It’s also really good a day later — if there is any left over.

Variations: Add chopped sweet peppers (any color) or onions.

Inside this restaurant are big breakfasts, a bus, Edsel grille and upside down bicycle

IMG_0440[1]How can you not love a restaurant with a bus AND a fishing boat inside and an airplane outside the front door? Who can resist eating a hearty breakfast inside the bus or boat? And then there are all those other quirky items like the Edsel hood behind the reception desk, an Elvis statue, a bicycle hanging upside down, a toilet seat mirror in the restroom, tire chandeliers, and countless classic vintage tin signs.IMG_0437[1]

Sadly, our daughter’s stint at Kent State is ending — well, actually, that part is good, except it means no more regular visits to Mike’s Place Restaurant, just outside Kent, Ohio. IMG_0436[1] IMG_0438[1]

IMG_0427[1]IMG_0432[1]IMG_0433[1]

On a recent visit for brunch, we ordered an eclectic assortment of food items. Just beware — according to the menu, the chef is not fond of special orders and IF you are brave enough to try, expect a somewhat skeptical, dour glare from your server. Guess they know best anyway, because everything was scrumptious.

French toast

Broccoli and spinach omelet with home fries

What would you do with a kumquat? Top a goat chop!

While on a recent vacation to Tybee Island, GA., we trekked up the outside stairs to our landlord’s deck at the top of the house. From there, you can see all over the island and out to various points in the Atlantic. While I was busy looking at my favorite beach spot, my husband was excitedly motioning at what he thought was a kumquat tree in the side yard. It was.

Their first response was a very eager, “Would you like some?” Apparently, the tree bears year round and after awhile they grow tired of them. She made kumquat wine once but the labor intensive project convinced her not to try again.

I knew someone who would come up with a use for them and happily picked a bag of them. This solved my quandary about what to take to my brother and sister-in-law when we stopped at their farm on the way home.

On the way to Virginia, the hubs ate a few, proclaimed them delicious and then admitted he could only eat a few at a time.IMG_0088[1]

Kumquats are often eaten whole — the rind is sweet and the center is sour. Culinary uses include candying and kumquat preserves, marmalade, and jelly. They can also be sliced and added to salads.

When we got to Va., I handed them off to my sis-in-law, Karen, knowing that she would come up with a creative use for them. Which she did. Several nights later, we had goat chops (they raise goats) with a kumquat-pineapple salsa. Of course, there is no recipe. She remembers throwing kumquats, pineapple and “some other stuff” into the blender. We then topped our goat chops with it.

IMG_0092[1]

 

What questionable leftovers have to do with being buried “in straight lace shoes”

My husband and I have a recurring conversation when we eat a leftover that is a bit past its time or if we are about to have a medical procedure we think we may not survive. Actually, I’m the only one who worries about not surviving the medical procedures but that’s probably because I’ve had more experience with those…like emergency surgeries.

Anyway, this is how the conversation starts:

“If I die, do you promise to…?”

Okay, so I admit it’s a bit morbid, but we share a rather warped sense of humor and sometimes that’s the only thing that keeps us sane. The upside of this is that we both usually end up laughing so hard we forget why we were worried in the first place.

Last night, we were each fixing something for supper. He held out some potatoes and asked if I thought they were safe to eat. They were a little on the green side, which I always thought meant they weren’t really ripe. Still, they weren’t sprouting and they looked okay when he cut them, so we figured they were okay. Just to be on the safe side, I posed the “What do you want me to do if you die?”

His response was classic. “Dress me in straight-laced shoes.”

After 33 years, you’d think I’d have heard all of his responses, but this was a new one. He caught my doubtful expression and (acting stunned) said, “C’mon, you know that one, don’t you? You know (cue the trumpets)…The St. James Infirmary?”

He knows perfectly well that I did not grow up on the jazz music that he did. So our supper prep morphed into a quickie lesson on yet another Louis Armstrong  classic…”I went down to St. James Infirmary, saw my baby there, sat down on a long white table, so sweet, so cold, so fair…When I die I want you to dress me in straight lace shoes…

I must have looked completely clueless, because he insisted on playing the song for me. I mumbled something about it sounding like one of those New Orleans jazz funeral marches, which apparently is exactly what it was.

Seems I have learned something after 33 years of listening to his jazz lectures. Oh and by the way, no one died from eating the potatoes.

Curious enough to hear the real thing? Here you go…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-hIplBbiCc

 

Second time around: homemade crackers

Awhile back some dough that was intended to become a loaf of bread instead morphed into crackers because I’d forgotten to add yeast. And they were good.

Today, though, I had a plan. Homemade crackers were on the agenda. I’d consulted my ancient edition of Prescription for Nutritional Healing, searching for some ideas for foods to eat to reduce pain and inflammation. I knew about the healing properties of flax seed and that it has some analgesic properties. It’s also a good source of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids, which are thought to promote cardiovascular health.

Having stocked up on flax seed, I searched for a cracker recipe and found one in a blog by Tracy Carolyn.

Her recipe, Whole Wheat Flax Seed Crackers, also incorporated sesame seeds. But as usual, I have to make changes. So I substituted white wheat flour for the white flour and added some rosemary and thyme, both from my garden, and set about creating. My version of the recipe follows the photos.0303131158

0303131204

0303131229

0303131320

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

0303131320a

 

 

 

 

Whole Wheat/Flax/Sesame/Wheat Germ Crackers
2/3 c. whole wheat flour
2/3 c. white wheat flour
1/3 c. flax seeds
1/6 c. sesame seeds
1/6 c. wheat germ
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
3 tbsp. olive oil
3/4 c. water

In a medium bowl, mix together flours, flax weed, sesame seeds, wheat germ, salt and baking powder. Add the oil and stir until combined. Add the water and stir to come and create the dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead four to five times. Divide into eight equal pieces, cover with a tea towel and allow to rest for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450 (my oven doesn’t register correctly, so I set it for 425). On a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of dough to 1/16-inch and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet (I use a silicone baking mat). Bake on the middle rack of the oven for five to six minutes, then flip and bake for an additional two to three minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack. When cool, break into desired pieces.

Note: Baking times will vary with actual thickness of dough and oven temperature, so watch them carefully.

Also: I like the unusual shapes of broken crackers, but you could score them before baking to produce consistent size/shapes.
Store in airtight container for up to two weeks — if they last that long.

Yes! We have no bananas

There is that delicious moment when you feel yourself dropping off to sleep, knowing that in just seconds you will be oblivious to the world around you. Then there is that moment when your senses are startled awake by some unwelcome interruption.

This happened to me a few nights ago. I remember hearing a question entering my subconscious and wondering WHAT THE HECK? My pleasant drift into slumberland was jolted awake by my husband, asking…”What happened to the bananas?”

Here’s the thing: I hate bananas. My husband knows that. My mother knows that. My children know that. Even my 20-year-old niece knows it and in fact, if she reads this, she may not speak to my husband again because she claims her dislike for them far outweighs mine.

My response to him was a chilly, “You’re asking ME? I didn’t buy any.” And then thankfully, for once, I drifted back to sleep.

Toward morning, I woke up to an aching shoulder, so fetched an ice pack. When I opened the door of the freezer, guess what was hanging from the inside rack of the freezer door? Yep.

A bunch of FROZEN BANANAS.2013-02-19 06.59.18 Somehow they’d slid off the top of the fridge into the freezer. I couldn’t help myself. I had to laugh. Clearly, he’d not located them. Before removing them to the counter top, I took a photo.

When I returned to bed, I nudged the sleeping husband and said “Found your bananas.”

No response….just a slight snore.

You’ll have to ask him what he did with them.

You say toe-may-toe, I say toe-mah-toe

Really GOOD tomatoes in the middle of winter in the middle of Ohio is a rarity. I know this because I live in the middle of Ohio, but I also assume this is probably true in many parts of the country…unless one has access to a greenhouse like my brother in Virginia.

But right now I have a much-prized stash of REAL homegrown tomatoes — straight from the garden of another brother in Arizona. He was here for a visit this week and along with his running shoes and long underwear, he packed a bag filled with tomatoes. Ripe, red tomatoes.

Even he is a bit surprised by this crop. Usually, his tomatoes die out when the Arizona sun has all but fried them. This year, though, he left them there and a few months later began to notice flowers on the plants. Then there were green tomatoes — a slew of them. Just before their most recent frost, he and his grandson picked 1 1/2 buckets of the tomatoes. He set them — about 64 — on top of a file cabinet where they’d catch the sun through a nearby window. They quickly turned red.

And so…the tomatoes flew along with him to Ohio, where we are now happily eating them.

0125130826 0125130827 0125130902

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My brother, Phil, AKA tomato producer, and me

My brother, Phil, AKA tomato producer, and me

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oooooops Crackers

As I headed out to yoga, I took one last peek at the bread dough rising in a bowl on the register. Looked great and smelled great. Two hours later when I got home, the dough appeared to (a) not have risen at all, or (b) risen and fallen. I was pretty sure it was (a).

A little thought niggled at the back of my mind. What had I done wrong? Smack to the forehead….of course….no yeast. As any self-respecting baker knows, bread won’t rise without some sort of leavening agent.

As I stood there, berating myself for being careless (s0 much for that hour of restorative yoga), my husband saved the day. He would make crackers with the dough. Which he did. And they are scrumptious.

0120131716 0120131716a

 

 

 

 

 

 

0120131717

 

 

 

 

0120131841

 

 

 

 

 

This was intended to be whole wheat bread with seven grain and flax seeds. I’d mixed the dough in the bread machine to save time. So the recipe is written for a bread machine. If you were mixing it up by hand, you’d proof the yeast first by mixing it with the water, then adding the dry ingredients.

7-Grain/Flax/Whole Wheat Bread
(AKA Oops Crackers)
1 1/2 c. warm water
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. honey
1 tsp. salt
1 c. white whole wheat flour
2 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. 7-grain
1 tbsp. flax seed (or more)
1 tbsp. yeast (I use bulk yeast)
Set bread machine on dough cycle. When it completes the cycle, remove and place in an oiled bowl, turn dough over a few times to coat with oil, then cover bowl and set in warm place to rise.

After a few hours, remove dough and place in oiled bread pan, let rise f0r 40 minutes or so, then bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes. (This is an estimate, since everyone’s oven is different.)

NOTE: IF YOU FORGET THE YEAST or if you just want to make crackers, you can skip the yeast and they’ll turn out fine.

Roll out the dough and fit into cookie sheets. Score with a knife, poke holes with a fork. Sprinkle with salt, garlic salt, sesame seeds, or whatever you like, and bake at 300 for 10-15 minutes. (Again, this will depend on your oven.) Let cool if you can stand to wait. Otherwise, eat them!

Fighting the flu and other maladies with Anti-Stress Cookies

It’s that time again….flu season. According to health experts, hand washing is one of the most important steps one can take to prevent the flu. Covering your mouth and nose when others cough or sneeze is another step toward warding of the dreaded stuff.

Now, I’m no expert but it’s clear that eating right can’t hurt when trying to keep your body healthy, and loading your body with antioxidants might help in fighting infection and disease.

A few years ago, the Food Network came out with a recipe for Flu Fighter Cookies. This seemed like a good idea and the cookies were good, but I figured I could adjust the recipe to include additional healthy ingredients.

This recipe is chock full of antioxidants and good stuff — hence, the name, “Anti-Stress Cookies.”

Mixing up the good stuff

Mixing up the good stuff

Time to eat!

Time to eat!

 

 

 

Anti-Stress Cookies
1½ c. white whole wheat flour (in place of all-purpose flour, although that also works)
¾ c. whole wheat flour
1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon baking soda
¾ teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Pinch of ground cloves
¾ teaspoon salt
½ stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/3 c. olive or canola oil
1 c. packed dark brown sugar (I actually use 3/4 c.)
1 large egg
2 egg whites
¼ cup molasses
¼ cup nonfat plain yogurt
1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
½ cup oats
1 ¼ cups Monukka raisins
1 ¼ cups dried cranberries or dried cherries
1 ¼ c. DARK chocolate chips (i.e. Ghirardelli)
1 ¼ cups chopped walnuts
Directions
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt in a medium bowl.
Beat the butter, oil and brown sugar in a large bowl with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Beat in the egg and egg whites  Add the molasses, yogurt, ginger and lemon zest and beat until smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low and beat in the flour mixture to make a sticky batter (do not overmix). Fold in the oats, raisins, cranberries or cherries, chocolate chips and walnuts.
Chill dough for at least 30 minutes. Drop heaping tablespoonfuls of batter onto prepared baking sheets. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Bake the cookies until dark golden but still soft, 10 to 12 minutes; cool on a rack. Store in an airtight container for up to one week. May also be frozen (I like my cookies hard!).

The REAL pfeffernusse…all others must be faux

Pfeffernusse. Peppernuts. Did the Dutch know what they were doing when they created this tiny cookie that leaves such a powerful impression and incites such passionate arguments among those who love them.

With pepper or without? Anise? Cardamom? Cinnamon? Cloves? Nuts? Seems everyone has his or her own favorite recipe and is equally certain that his or her recipe is the best. But they’re all wrong. And I know this….how?

Because the Pannabecker version is the best. After all, we Pannabeckers are Dutch. We were tile bakers long ago.

Here’s the thing about pfeffernusse. They’re hard. Very hard. And while some claim that they soften over time…this is just not true. If you actually think they soften over time, then you’ve never eaten a one-year-old pfeffernusse. They’re hard….and in my family, harder means better.

For many years, my mother would try to see how long she could keep some in a jar before someone would finally filch the last few. I think they often lasted until late spring.

But at long last, I have beaten her record. Not on purpose, mind you. I just found a tiny baby food jar full of pfeffernusse made in December 2011. And they’re still excellent. And very hard.2012-11-20 12.15.56

Curious enough to try making them? Here’s my recipe…or actually, it’s my Grandma Pannabecker’s recipe. The trick to getting them very small is to roll them into pencil-like rolls and cut into tiny pieces.

Pfeffernusse
5 eggs
3 c. sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. soda
1/2 tsp. cloves
Pinch salt
4 c. flour (or a little more)
Sift flour three times until very light. Sift together sifted flour, cinnamon, soda, cloves, salt. Beat eggs until light and fluffy. Beat in the sugar. The stir in the flour mixture. Using a small amount of dough at a time, roll into long, pencil-thin coils. Cut into tiny pieces and place on greased cookie sheets. Try to separate each piece or they’ll back together into big pieces. Bake approximately 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Watch carefully! Cool and store in airtight containers.

Let me know how long yours last!