I am planning for my 2017 garden. This season is going to be very experimental. I am in a new house with a new garden and I am planning the vision of my future farm homestead.
In addition to my garden at my home in Annapolis, this year I have reserved a terrace in the Community Learning Garden. This is the same campus community garden that Deb and I started together in 2010. I am eager to get back into the campus garden to try out a three sisters garden – growing beans, squash and corn together. The three different plants provide support and benefits to one another. I have selected a heirloom varieties of each – blue and red corn for cornmeal, black dry beans, and a few unique varieties of winter squash.
Since I will be growing corn for cornmeal, I am curious to experiment with cornmeal recipes. I have a local blue cornmeal that I’ve been using for my trials. My first goal is to perfect my cornbread. Here is a great recipe for cornbread muffins from a favorite cookbook, The Art of Simple Food.
Cornbread Muffins (adapted from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food)
What You Need
- 2 cups cornmeal (try heirloom, unique and/or local varieties)
- 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 cup yogurt
- 1 egg
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
What You Do
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees
- Butter a 12 muffin tin
- Mix together dry ingredients
- Mix together milk, yogurt and egg
- Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture
- Whisk or stir until well mixed and smooth
- Stir in the butter
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 12-15 minutes (cornbread should be brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the middle should come out clean)
I have been keeping a secret for over ten years. This week, I revealed to my husband for the first time that I love tuna-salad sandwiches. I grew up eating them. Every day. In mom-packed-school-lunches served on white bread or from the local diner as tuna-melts on an English muffin.
While others may have alternated their school lunches with PB&J, turkey, chicken, and other options, I grew up attending a Jewish day school, which required kosher packed lunches. Lunches needed to be either dairy or pareve (neither meat nor dairy). According to the rules of Kashrut (Jewish dietary laws), fish is considered pareve. And so, daily tuna-salad sandwiches, perhaps with a bagel and cream cheese a couple times a week.
Back in 2007, as I started my exploration of environmentally conscious eating, I soon realized that my tuna habit (tuna-salad, tuna sushi rolls, etc.) did not align with my values. As with many types of fish, the environmental story for tuna is complicated. Checking the recommendations from Seafood Watch clues you in on the complexity of the situation. 8 “best” options, 32 “good” and 58 to “avoid”. Greenpeace put together a Tuna Shopping Guide, but my approach has been to avoid all tuna and most seafood, with special exceptions of locally caught fish and molluscs (like oysters) occasionally.
But, there is nothing like a tuna-salad sandwich. Until now.
“Chickpea of the Sea”! I found this bowl on an incredible lunch spread this weekend at a baby shower. I couldn’t believe my eyes, or my taste-buds. This is the sandwich salad I have been waiting for. I recreated the lunch just two days later and had just the same result. I am very excited to share this recipe with you. Note – I replaced the celery and scallions for a chopped leek, which was excellent. This is a very forgiving recipe – use what you have and adapt to your tastes.
Chickpea of the Sea (adapted from TheKitchn)
What You Need
- 1 (15.5-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise (can substitute veganaise or use half greek yogurt)
- 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
- 1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp celery seeds (note – I didn’t have them, and it still turned out great)
- One and a half ribs of celery, diced
- Two scallions/green onions sliced
- 1/2 tablespoon caper with brine (optional)
- Pinch of cayenne
- Salt and pepper
- Fresh herbs (lemon balm, chives, dill, or parsley)
What You Do
- Place chickpeas in the bowl of a food processor and pulse two or three times to roughly chop.
- Add chopped chickpeas to bowl and then add remaining ingredients stir.
- Serve on bread with lettuce and/or sprouts as a sandwich or on lettuce leaves as a lettuce wrap.
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.
Can you believe it!? You can grow your own pearl oyster mushrooms at home. If you are looking for a last minute Mother’s Day gift, maybe your mom would want her own starter kit?
Thank you Back To The Roots for this cool product! Home mushroom growing kits! Too cool.
Today I harvested the end of winter’s kale from the garden…
I was shocked and impressed with how much I was able to collect (despite today’s rain!)….I turned all of the kale into pesto, plus some Kale Pesto White Bean Dip.
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
- 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!
- Add kale to food processor along with the garlic, walnuts and parmesan cheese.
- Pulse 5 or 6 times to get everything chopped up.
- Turn the food processor on and slowly add the oil while the processor is processing.
- 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.
- 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? 🙂
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
- In the bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic, walnuts (if you are using) and kale.
- Pulse until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
- 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.
- Add in the Parmesan, salt, and pepper and pulse until combined.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add in the beans, the remaining 3 tablespoons of lemon juice and the balsamic vinegar.
- Process the mixture until completely smooth, scraping down the bowl as needed. If necessary, pulse in additional olive oil to achieve a smooth texture.
- Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
- 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
- In a medium saucepan, bring the lentils and water to a boil.
- Lower the heat and simmer until the lentils are soft and most of the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes.
- 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.
- Add the raisins, curry powder, and the garam masala, if using, and continue to sauté for 10 minutes, until tender.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
I just harvested a handful of sunflower microgreens for my salad.
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.
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.
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 🙂
This recipe from Sprouted Kitchen was a huge hit at holiday parties last year and now that fresh carrots are on our minds again, I thought I’d share and recommend. WebMD also recommends this recipe as a lower cholesterol and lower calorie food and recipe.
BALSAMIC ROASTED ROOTS + SPINACH SAUCE // Serves 4
1 lb. Assorted Small Carrots
1 lb. Assorted Small Beets
2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar, divided
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
1 Bunch Fresh Spinach Leaves
1 Large Clove Garlic, minced
2 tsp. Unsalted Butter
1/2 Cup Light Whipping Cream or Whole Milk
1/3 Cup Finely Grated Parmesan Cheese
Squeeze of Fresh Meyer Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425′ and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.
Toss the clean and dry root veggies in 2 Tbsp of olive oil and salt and pepper to coat. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp of the balsamic vinegar in and toss again. Place coated root veggies on the baking sheet and roast on the middle rack for 30-45 minutes, depending on size. You want to be able to pierce a butter knife through the largest vegetable on the tray.
Once the vegetables are roasting, steam the spinach for just a minute or two to cook down. Remove from heat to cool, squeeze out any remaining water and chop well.
In a medium saute pan over medium-low heat, drizzle olive oil over the minced garlic and cook for about a minute. Add the butter if desired (I did not and sauce turned out fantastic). Add chopped spinach and cream and stir to coat. Cook until the spinach absorbs most of the cream. Stir in the Parmesan and a few pinches of salt and pepper. Allow the creamy spinach goodness to cool a bit then transfer to a mini or immersion blender. Give it a few pulses to break it down then add it back to the pan and thin with milk/cream if you wish. Squeeze in a bit of fresh lemon juice to taste. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm.
When the vegetables are ready, remove to cool slightly and drizzle on the remaining balsamic.
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.
New York Cheesecake (from Smitten Kitchen)
What You Need
- 16 graham crackers/8 ounces – finely ground
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 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
- 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
- Stir together crust ingredients.
- 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.
- Put pan into the freezer so it quickly sets.
- Preheat oven to 550 degrees (or as high as your oven will go).
- Beat together cream cheese, sugar, flour and zest with an electric mixer until smooth.
- Add vanilla, then eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating on low speed until each ingredient is incorporated.
- Scrape bowl down between additions.
- Put springform pan with crust in a shallow baking pan (to catch drips).
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- Place all ingredients for the fruit topping together in a medium saucepan.
- Bring to a boil.
- Once it is boiling, cook it for an additional one to two minutes then remove from heat.
- Cool completely.
- Remove side of pan and transfer cake to a plate.
- Spread topping over chilled cheesecake.
- Enjoy the fruits of your labor 🙂 It is hard work, but worth it!
Since I became interested in growing my own food, I have been curious about sprouts. I love them! I buy them all the time. But, until recently I was never able to grow them myself. I worried about e. coli, all the rinsing, getting the right container, etc. Maybe it was laziness, I just don’t know what kept me from just giving it a shot. I’ve been hoarding different types of sprouting seeds and have read plenty of instructions and blog posts about it.
Finally, I’ve sprouted my own sprouts – and I love it.
A new year and it is time to fulfill a resolution from 4 years ago! I purchased a very cool jar from Mom’s Organic Market that has mesh on the top to make it really easy to rinse the sprouts. Equipped with the right container, I overcame another obstacle: disinfecting the seeds. All you need to do is soak the seeds in a 2% bleach solution (ie 1 tsp bleach to 1 cup hot water) for 15 minutes.
First I tried a “sandwich mix” – but I didn’t like that the different seeds had different sprouting times. My second attempt was with alfalfa sprouts and it was wonderful. I’m also planning on trying broccoli sprouts, radish sprouts, and more! It is so much fun to do and these sprouts are tastier and much cheaper than the ones you can buy in the store.
Here is the step by step process:
What You Need
- Seeds (I suggest finding sprouting seeds – I used organic seeds from Botanical Interests)
- Towel (I used this to keep the sprouts from direct sunlight until they sprouted – but not necessary)
What You Do
- Measure 1.5 tablespoons of sprouting seeds.
- Disinfect your seeds by soaking them in a 2% bleach solution (1 tsp bleach to 1 cup hot water) for 15 minutes.
- Rinse well!
- Fill jar with enough water to cover seeds three times their depth with cool or room temperature water.
- Let soak overnight (8-12 hours).
- Pour off water and rinse with cool/room temperature water.
- Shake the jar gently to spread out the seeds.
- Away from direct sunlight (this is where I used by towel), let your jar sit.
- Rinse the sprouts 2-3 times a day by filling the jar and draining well.
- Harvest your sprouts when they are 1-2 inches long – it usually takes about 4-6 days.
- If you let your sprouts drain thoroughly, you can store them in the refrigerator in your produce drawer!