Celebrating a Local Breakfast

Coming back to the blog has me in a very reflective mood. As does starting a new book Blessing the Hands that Feed Us, Vicki Robin’s experiment with a 10-mile diet. The book has been sitting on my shelf since it was given to me as a gift from a student a couple years ago. Robin challenges to us to reflect on our relationship with our food – a task I try to keep in my heart and on my mind each day.

With this reflection in mind, I am very proud to share my homegrown and local breakfast: West VA heirloom blue corn bread with homegrown eggs and greens frittata. The main ingredients were either grown/raised at my home or purchased locally. (Yes – those are blue eggs from our two Ameraucana chickens in the picture below, we are very proud) But, the most exciting part to me – the other ingredients were local as well – garlic and local WV salt for flavor and cooked with local, organic rapeseed oil.

I have an ongoing thought experiment to see if it is possible to meet all my basic culinary needs locally. Recently, my attention was turned to oil and I was pleased to see a number of local cooking oil options at Chesapeake’s Bounty. I am experimenting with local sunflower oil, rapeseed oil, and butternut squash. These oils have replaced olive oil in my cupboard this winter. I am sure there will be a dish that is diminished without beloved EVOO, but I haven’t found it yet.

The End of Winter’s Kale

Today I harvested the end of winter’s kale from the garden…

20130508_201051I was shocked and impressed with how much I was able to collect (despite today’s rain!)….IMG_20130508_184349 (2)I turned all of the kale into pesto, plus some Kale Pesto White Bean Dip.
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Kale Pesto (adapted from Food Fanatic)

What You Need

  • 7 cups kale (stemmed, washed, and packed)
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, to taste
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

What You Do

  1. Remove stems from kale and wash thoroughly. If you are picking the kale from your garden, beware of aphids and aphid eggs on the kale – to clean, wash with hot water!
  2. Add kale to food processor along with the garlic, walnuts and parmesan cheese.
  3. Pulse 5 or 6 times to get everything chopped up.
  4. Turn the food processor on and slowly add the oil while the processor is processing.
  5. If you added ¼ cup of oil, you will end up with thick, spreadable pesto. You can stop here or if you desire a thinner consistency to use the pesto as pasta sauce, continue adding oil (about an additional ¼ cup) until the pesto reaches the consistency you want.
  6. Use immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 week (OR you can make the sauce in bulk and freeze it for later).

I am ready for spring and summer vegetables, what about you? 🙂

Spring Garden: After the Rain

I am so happy that I was able to plant so many seeds and seedlings in my home garden last weekend. They are so happy after all this rain (three days in a row, and counting)! Take a look at them this evening…

Happiness!

Tasty Dips

This weekend, I hosted some friends over for dinner and was excited about an idea that came up in conversation a couple weeks ago with my boyfriend: expanding dip options from hummus, eggplant, and cheese spreads. So, I tried two new ones using cannellini beans and red lentils. Both were wonderful. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to snag any photos while cooking them — so you’ll have to trust me on this one.

Kale Pesto White Bean Dip (from Annie Eats)

What You Need

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • ¼ cup walnuts (I didn’t have any – so I omitted them, but next time I will include them)
  • 1½ cups kale leaves, stemmed and chopped
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
  • ¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, divided
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups cannellini beans, drained (2 15 oz. cans)
  • 1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

What You Do

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic, walnuts (if you are using) and kale.
  2. Pulse until finely chopped.  Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. With the processor running, add the olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice in a steady stream through the feed tube until smooth.
  4. Add in the Parmesan, salt, and pepper and pulse until combined.
  5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in the beans, the remaining 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and the balsamic vinegar.
  6. Process the mixture until completely smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed.  If necessary, pulse in additional olive oil to achieve a smooth texture.
  7. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Transfer to a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and top with a sprinkle of chopped walnuts.  Serve with pita chips, fresh veggies, etc

Curried Lentil Dip (from Frontier Natural Products Coop)

What You Need

  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 1 1/2 cups peeled, cored, and diced apples
  • 3  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

What You Do

  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the lentils and water to a boil.
  2. Lower the heat and simmer until the lentils are soft and most of the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skillet and sauté the onions, apples, and garlic with a dash of salt for about 5 minutes on medium heat.
  4. Add the raisins, curry powder, and the garam masala, if using, and continue to sauté for 10 minutes, until tender.
  5. In a food processor or blender, pureé the cooked lentils and sautéed onion mix with the coconut milk and lemon juice. Add the salt and adjust to taste.
  6. Serve at room temp or chilled.

I served the dips with pita chips, a veggie plate, and rice crackers. The best part — I have plenty left-over to enjoy all week.

Microgreens @ home and from the store!

There has been some buzz about microgreens at the USDA and University of Maryland, College Park. Last summer, a new study revealed that microgreens contain up to 40 times higher levels of vital nutrients than their mature counterparts.

Microgreens are the young seedlings of vegetables and herbs that are harvested less than 14 days after germination. Typically, they are 1-3 inches long and come in a rainbow of colors (which depends on the seed).  And, best of all, they are delicious!

I was thrilled when I found a small tray of locally grown red-radish microgreens in Mom’s Organic Market in Rockville. I was over-the-moon when I found sunflower microgreens at the Mom’s in College Park today. The greens come in a small tray, still in the soil from New Day Farms in Bealeton, Virginia.

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I just harvested a handful of sunflower microgreens for my salad. IMG_0283

I am so inspired by this new product that I decided to give it a try myself. I purchased 1/4 pound of red radish seeds from Johnny’s Seeds. I set up one of my spare tupperware with a small layer of gravel and organic seed-starting potting mix.
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I wet the soil and disinfected the seeds. I then spread the seeds on the soil in the container and misted them with my water-bottle. IMG_0286

I’ll loosely close the top and cover it with a towel until the radishes sprout. Then, I’ll move the sprouts in with my germinating garden seeds. In less than 10 days, I should have home-grown, beautiful and nutritious microgreens.

We’ll see how they compare to the wonderful microgreens from New Day Farms 🙂

We Have Germination!

So far, my experiment has been a wonderful success. After being out of town for the DC Snowquester, I returned to find many of my seeds (planted last weekend) SPROUTED! Take a look:IMG_0287 IMG_0288 IMG_0289 IMG_0290 IMG_0291I moved all the seed-starting trays (and tupperwares) to the sun-room  They are now under three lights to help provide additional warmth and light for the new veggie-life. I have also been keeping up with my new garden journal and added in the dates of germination for the seeds that germinated so far.

It was a beautiful day, and I spent it daydreaming about the garden.

Seed Starting 2013

Yes! March! We are so close to spring, I can taste it in the air. February was a wonderful month to fantasize about spring and everything related to the garden. Rooting DC confirmed that I am ready to get gardening (or at least, garden planning). I attended wonderful workshops about seed-saving (thank you to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange), herbal medicine from the home-garden, achieving continuous harvests with succession planting, and growing your own mushrooms!  I was also able to collect free seeds for community gardens at the University of Maryland.

This weekend, I pulled out all my seeds (and bought some new, exciting ones from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange), my gardening books, and a lovely new garden-journal a friend gave to me for my birthday, to develop my garden plan and start some seeds inside. With two seeds starting trays and six tupperwares , I started over 30 seed varieties. Vegetables, herbs, and flower! Some highlights include five types of basil, ground cherries, okra, artichoke, and cauliflower. I focused my seed-starting efforts on cool-weather crops (broccoli, lettuce, leeks, etc.) and slower-growing warm weather crops (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, watermelon, cucumbers, etc.). I also started a tray of red-radish microgreens.

I took tupperware from Thai take-out and other unwanted containers, lined them with small gravel, and put in organic  seed-starting mix, and voilà: home-made seed starting kits. I also made every effort to label the seeds  with some duck-tape and sharpie markers. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep track of the seedlings as they grow.

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I’m still planning many different types of seeds to direct-sow in the garden. For spring, I’m planning to direct-sow radishes, peas, beans, spinach, carrots, onions, garlic, broccoli-rabe, and other greens.

I was also really happy to pick up a few clay pots and paint them with chalkboard paint – I’m eager to use these for kitchen herbs and label them accordingly. Cute!IMG_0269

 

I cleared out some of the fall/winter crops from the garden that were hurting from the cold weather. I harvested kale, mustard, collards, and broccoli to enjoy this week.

Next item on the garden “to-do” list is a soil test and developing a garden design. I’ve got a fire going, some mint-green tea and all my garden books out — so, I’m ready to go!

DIY Celebration

Obviously, I’m a huge fan of growing and cooking food myself. Recently, I’ve also developed an interest in crafts- particularly knitting. I’ve now made a few scarfs and have my sights set on successfully completing a reusable bag made from plastic bags

One of the most fun aspects of my new hobby is how many other people I’ve found to be interested in DIY crafts. DIY is “do it yourself”, which according to wikipedia became trendy in the 1950s with an emergence of people undertaking home improvements and other small craft and construction projects as both a creative-recreational and cost-saving activity. Since starting to knit, and becoming aware of DIY projects, I realized how many other people I know are interested as well. What fun!

If you are thinking about starting a DIY project and learning new ideas about what you can build and make yourself, check out this great event in DC tomorrow at ACE Hardware.

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Cheesecake: A year in the making

Last December (2011), I tried to make a cheesecake for my boyfriend’s birthday. After I started mixing together all the sugar and cream cheese, I felt unsure about the mixture and consistency. I left the bowl on the counter to take a look online for photos of what it was supposed to look like! As I scrolled through the recipe online, I heard a loud THUMP/CRASH. The entire bowl – with the mixer-  fell off the counter and into my dog’s water bowl. My roommate ran in when she heard my “Ooohhhh MAN!” and found me on the floor next to the water-cream cheese-sugar puddle trying to keep the dog from licking it all up. In the end, we settled for an instant cheesecake with a homemade crust.

Flash forward one year to December 2012, despite all my nervousness, I tried again. And the result was amazing! Cheers to Smitten Kitchen and to second-tries.

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New York Cheesecake (from Smitten Kitchen)

What You Need

Crust

  • 16 graham crackers/8 ounces – finely ground 
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Filling

  • 5 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 3/4 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
  • 5 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Fruit topping

  • 10 ounces frozen fruit – I used blueberries but the recipe calls for cherries 
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup water

What You Do

  1. Stir together crust ingredients.
  2. Press crust onto bottom and up the sides, stopping one inch shy of the top rim, of a buttered 9 1/2-inch springform pan.
  3. Put pan into the freezer so it quickly sets.
  4. Preheat oven to 550 degrees (or as high as your oven will go).
  5. Beat together cream cheese, sugar, flour and zest with an electric mixer until smooth.
  6. Add vanilla, then eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated.
  7. Scrape bowl down between additions.
  8. Put springform pan with crust in a shallow baking pan (to catch drips).
  9. Pour filling into crust (springform pan will be completely full) and baking in baking pan in the middle of the oven for 12 minutes or until puffed. (NOTE: Watch your cake because some ovens will top-brown very quickly and if yours does too fast, turn the oven down as soon as you catch it.)
  10. Reduce the temperature to 200 degrees and continue baking until cake is mostly firm (center will still be slightly wobbly when pan is gently shaken), about one hour more.
  11. Run a knife around the top edge of the cake to loosen it and cool the cake completely in springform on a rack, then chill it, loosely covered, at least 6 hours.
  12. Place all ingredients for the fruit topping together in a medium saucepan.
  13. Bring to a boil.
  14. Once it is boiling, cook it for an additional one to two minutes then remove from heat.
  15. Cool completely.
  16. Remove side of pan and transfer cake to a plate.
  17. Spread topping over chilled cheesecake. 
  18. Enjoy the fruits of your labor 🙂  It is hard work, but worth it!