Sunday, December 25, 2011

Had to try out my new toys!

It's Christmas and I received two new Danish dough whisk.  Sooooo, I had to try them out on some loaves of bread.  We need toasting bread for tomorrow and I enjoyed the Honey Whole Wheat Challah so much I decided to make it again, but this time in bread pans.  The recipe is from Inside the Jewish Bakery.  The only change I made to the recipe was to bake the loaves almost 40 minutes to ensure they were cooked throughout, 25 minutes for 9 x 5 loaf pans just didn't seem right.  Here's the result --

And here is another bread from today's baking spree, olive bread from The Il Fornaio Baking Book by Franco Galli.  I haven't cut this bread to look at the crumb but I may finally have some holey bread here.  I got alot of oven spring so I am ever hopeful of holes.  This will be our soup bread for the week.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Today's Experiment - Chess Pie

Okay, so I searched for chess pie recipes and came up with one that looked plausible.  It seemed very simple, beat eggs, sugar, cornmeal, butter, buttermilk, salt and vanilla extract together, place in an uncooked pie shell.  Simple!  Bake for 15 mins at 375F reduce to 350F bake another 20 mins.  Ha!

The pie was hardly cooked by then but the top was already browning, so I reduced the heat to 325F and baked for another 40 minutes, finally done.  It's cooling now on a wire rack -
It looks like a poorman's creme brulee.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Amaretti Cookies - Again

Every year I torture myself by attempting to make amaretti.  This year was no exception, but I am so close to the perfect cookie I can smell them!  They are crunchy, chewy and just about right except for the shaping.  I really need to get a professional pastry bag and tips instead of relying on the el cheapo ones I bought years ago.  If I had the right tip these cookies would be perfect.

I couldn't bear to throw out the one egg white I had left over from yesterday's cookie baking(jam pockets). so I tried again.

Amaretti recipe for 1 egg white -

Preheat oven to 300F

5/8 cup almonds ground and sifted into bowl
¾ tsp. Cornstarch
¼ cup confectioners sugar, sifted into bowl

Combine all three in a bowl and mix well.

1 egg white
pinch cream of tartar
3 T. granulated sugar

In a separate bowl, beat 1 egg white and a pinch of cream of tartar until foamy.  Gradually add 3 T. granulated sugar one T. at a time beating well after each addition.  Continue to be the egg white until stiff peaks form.  

1/8 tsp. Almond extract

Fold in the almond mixture and almond extract into the egg white mixture.  Using a number seven tip in the pastry bag, pipe one inch circles of the mixture onto a silpat or parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Bake for 30-40 minutes until lightly colored.  Turn off the oven, leave cookies in the oven for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven to cookie racks and allow the cookies to cool completely.  Store in an air tight canister.  Makes about 24 cookies.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Jam Pockets or Fagottini D'Albicocca

Today, I made one of Michael's favorite cookies, jam pockets or in Italian Fagottini.  These little gems are made of a delicate pasta frolla dough stuffed with a smidgen of apricot or raspberry jam.  We prefer the apricot.  They are light as a feather. The recipe is from the Il Fornaio Baking Book by Franco Galli.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Cookbook Challenge Week 3 - Challah

This week's Inside the Jewish Bakery challenge recipe is Honey Whole Wheat Challah.  The loaves took 2 hours for their first rise (bulk fermentation).  I shaped the two loaves and am now proofing them prior to baking - here's a picture of them in the final proofing stage.

I just gave them anohter 20 minutes to proof and then I think they will be ready to glaze with an egg wash and add poppy seeds and sesame seeds.  They bake for about 40 minutes in 350F oven.  Each loaf is 1 1/2 lbs. though they look on the small side to me.  Hope they taste good!
Here they are fresh out of the oven--

Monday, December 19, 2011

What's in the Eatwell Box? 12/21/2011

This week's box from Eatwell Farm contains the following items:

Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley
Navel Oranges
Mixed Baby Lettuce
Broccoli, Cauliflower or Romanesco
Napa Cabbage
Pink Lady Apples
Winter Squash

Rosemary is good in a stuffing for the winter squash along with some of the parsley. Navel oranges and apples are set aside for lunches. Save the celery for soups or add to a mizutake (Japanese style soup) along with the napa cabbage, carrots, chard, some cubed chicken and udon noodles. Broccoli or cauliflower gratin along with spinach and some lamb chops - makes a good winter dinner and don't forget a side salad with the mixed baby lettuces, some sliced fruit, a sprinkle of pecans and some blue cheese. It all sounds good to me! Bon Appetit!

Borscht and Sourdough Rye

Well, there is no such thing as just a little soup, but is there such a thing as too much soup? Yes, if it doesn't all fit in the pot. I went a little overboard today when making borscht. We bought too many beets and I ended up with 3 gallons of soup - too much for my 2 gallon pot, so there were two 2 gallon pots on the stove bubbling away with beets, potatoes, carrots, cabbage, fennel bulb, chicken broth and seasonings. I kept out a half gallon of soup and froze the rest - lots of soup for those cold winter nights.

And what I've been longing to do is make a sourdough rye to go with that soup. has the perfect recipe - a dark rye with fennel, anise and caraway seeds as well as orange zest. I made the bread before and it is really tasty and hearty so right now I'm mixing up the dough and preparing it for its 12-14 hour rest overnight on the counter. Then, it will be shaped, allowed to proof, and baked, hopefully in time for lunch. Winter is a wonderful time for soup!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Back to the Old Standard Bread

I decided to return to my roots as it were, and reprise an old standard bread recipe from the Tassajara Bread Book, Whole Wheat Bread. I topped the loaf with a little egg wash and some sesame seeds before baking. It came out pretty well, I think. It's not 100% whole wheat but about 70% whole wheat - (2 1/2 cups ww flour, 1 cup all-purpose flour). I used to make this bread every week for morning toast. After seeing and smelling it, I remember why - it's just good.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Florentines from Inside the Jewish Bakery

I am participating in a cookbook challenge on Each week we are baking one recipe from Inside the Jewish Bakery by Ginsberg and Berg. This week's challenge recipe was florentines. These are delicate lacy cookies with melted chocolate in the middle. The cookies were not that hard to make, but took just about every surface I had that could be used as a cookie sheet, including the pizza pan to bake the whole batch. The only caveat is you need to work fast when dropping teaspoons of hot cookie 'goo' onto the parchment lined baking sheets. You also need to let the cookies rest on the parchment but off the hot cookie sheet for a few minutes before you attempt to move them to the cooling racks. Here's a picture of my rendition of this recipe. (PS. they are sweet and tasty - and oh so addictive).

Friday, December 9, 2011

Italian Taralle Cookies (Taralluces)

Christmas baking continues today with taralluces - little taralle cookies.  My Grandmother Rinaldi used to make these and taught my Mom how to make them.  Mom would make them for special occasions like Christmas.  The recipe is pretty straight forward.  The hardest part is getting the cookies shaped prior to baking because the dough is rather sticky and requires a quick and steady well-floured hand to roll a small 'snake' of dough and tie in a knot.  Here's a picture of the shaped cookies prior to baking -

After baking the cookies expand quite a bit and before they are iced and sprinkles added, they look pretty non-descript -

Once they are completely cooled, the cookies are dipped in confectionary sugar icing and sprinkles are added.  These cookies are so light but flavorful - they disappear really quickly.
The recipe -

Taralluces (Little Taralle Cookies)

3 Eggs
3/4 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Milk
3/4 Crisco, melted and cooled to body temp (do not allow to solidify)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp lemon extract(or use all vanilla if you prefer)
3 cups All purpose flour
3 rounded tsp. baking powder
For icing:
1 pkg confectioners(powdered) sugar
1/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp lemon or vanilla extract(your choice)

In a stand mixer -
Beat eggs well.  Add sugar and milk gradually.  Continue beating.  Add Criso, beat.  Add extracts and beat.  In a separate bowl, mix flour and baking powder.  Add the flour mixture 1 cup at a time, beating on low speed just to incorporate after each addition.  Dough will be sticky.  Flour your work surface and hands well.  Take about 1 TBSP of dough and roll into a 'snake' shape about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick and 3-4 inches long.  Tie the dough rope into a knot as if for knotted rolls.  Place on cookie sheet, leaving at least an inch between cookies.  Bake at 400F for 7-10 minutes until bottom is lightly browned.  Removed from oven and place on cooling racks.  Allow to cool completely. 

For icing: in a small bowl, add vanilla and milk to the confectioners sugar a little at a time until a smooth icing about the consistency of cold molasses is achieved.  Dip the to of each cookie in the icing and set down on a rack under which waxed paper has been placed to catch the drips.  Immediately sprinkle with colord non-pareil sprinkles.  Let dry overnight before putting in a plastic container or cookie tins for storage.
Yield: Approximately 7 dozen cookies

Enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee, or just by themselves but be careful, they are addictive.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Indian Lamb with Onions and Potatoes, Yum!

Today was a full on baking and cooking day.  I baked a loaf of Rustic Bread (recipe on then went to the store to get supplies for baking MORE Christmas cookies.  In the afternoon, Michael and I prepared a leg of lamb for one of our favorite recipes, Indian Lamb with Potatoes and Onions.  The recipe is in A Taste of India Cookbook by Madjhur Jaffrey.  I can't say enough good things about this recipe.  It takes time to prepare but is definitely worth it.  The sauce for the lamb is just 4 large sliced onions sauteed in veg oil for an hour or so until they are a warm brown color.  The lamb meat, cut in 1 1/2 inch chunks, is marinated in dry spices of garlic, ginger, red pepper, ground cumin, ground coriander and tumeric.  When the onions are browned, you add the meat to the pot and saute for 10 minutes, then add about 5 or 6 yukon gold potatoes cut in a 2 inch dice and cook for an additional 5 minutes, add 2 cups of water, stir, bring to a simmer, cover and simmer for 1 hour 10 minutes.  MMMMmmmmmmm.  Serve with some good bread and a side of spinach for a great meal.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Grammie Soup!

This is the soup I'm making today. There's a big soup pot of it simmering on the stove right now. It's a variation on a soup my Grandmother would make with escarole and sausage. It was a special soup and a first course for many a holiday meal.

Grandma’s Escarole (or other greens) Soup

2 large onions diced (or a bunch of leeks work well, too)
4 large carrots diced
4 stalks celery diced
1 fennel bulb diced or one celeriac diced (optional)
3 cups cooked beans (chickpeas, cannelini beans, baby limas or any small white bean)
3 large bunches of greens (escarole, dandelions, mustard greens, kale, spinach, Eatwell stir-fry mix, whatever you like, use a variety of greens)
8 cups of veggie broth – or chicken broth if you prefer
4 cups of water
4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
2 TBSP dried oregano
2 TBSP dried Italian parsley
2 tsp celery seed
2 tsp crushed whole fennel seeds(optional)
3 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
black pepper and salt to your taste

In a heavy bottomed large soup pot, place the 4 TBSP olive oil and heat over medium high heat. Add the onions and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring until wilted (do not brown).  Add the diced carrots, celery, fennel, salt, the dried herbs and bay leaves – stir well,  lower the heat and cover to ‘sweat’ the veggies and herbs for about 5 minutes.  Add the veggie broth and water and bring to a boil.  Add the greens and beans – simmer until  the veggies and greens are tender. Correct seasoning – add salt or more pepper if needed.  You may add some more water as well along with the broth, if you like more liquid in your soup. 

If you are of the meat-eating persuasion, try adding 1 lb. cut up Italian sausage to the olive oil, browning the meat before adding the onions and then proceed with the rest of the recipe.  Makes a gallop-cious full up pot of soup.  Freeze some for later and eat some now. 

This soup is open to endless possibilities – use some small pasta instead of the beans if you prefer.  Or add diced cooked chicken to the pot, or make small turkey meatballs that you drop into the boiling soup.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Today's Experiments

Today, I made two loaves of the Whole Wheat Bread in Peter Reinhart's Bread Bakers Apprentice.  They came out OK, not terrific, just OK.  I was hoping for a little more bread in the pans and it was a little more.  The texture seems light enough, but the tops of the loaves look underdeveloped like I didn't knead enough - but I let the dough go for 15 minutes in the kitchen aid mixer so it should have been more than enough.  I didn't want to proof it any more than an hour in the pans because it was beginning to look a little saggy.  Anyway I'll post a picture soon.

Experiment number 2 is Mohn Bars from Inside the Jewish Bakery.  I'm not sure these are going to be a winner.  Lots of work for not so great stuff.  The dough used for the base of the cookies was dry and needed to be patted into the baking dish instead of rolled out.  The poppyseed filling seems runny to me (supposed to be like cooked farina according to the recipe).  The streusal topping is kind of tasteless- I added a bit more sugar to compensate for that.  The cookie base is baking now in the oven and then I will add the poppyseed filling and streusal topping and bake for another 20-30 minutes.  The jury is still out on this one.  Wow!  What a surprise - these are the tastiest cookies ever!  Rich but subtle. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

What's in this week's box? 12/7/2011

Another week gone already?  Well, here is what's in the box from Eatwell Farm this week:

Navel Oranges
Red Cabbage
Broccoli or Cauliflower
Bok Choy
Daikon Radish(es)
Italian Parsley

Hmmm - red cabbage, turnips, carrots, radishes - it's beginning to sound like borscht to me.  A hearty bowl of borscht and a slice of sourdough rye bread and I'm set for any meal.  Broccoli or cauliflower with almonds, garlic and breadcrumbs sauteed and poured over some gemelli pasta - thank you Lidia Bastianich for a great recipe ( Bok choy say stir fry.  Navel oranges will be good for lunches or snacks.  Make up some salad dressing with the pomegranate and serve over the arugula teamed up with sliced pear and toasted pinenuts, or if you prefer, a nice spinach salad with some slices of navel orange.  Lots of possibilities!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cookie Baking 2011 Has Begun!

Christmas season baking has begun! Today I made one batch of Anise Biscotti from the Il Fornaio Baking Book and one batch of Mint Surprise Cookies.  The mint cookies have a 'long' history in our family. The recipe is the winner of the very first Pillsbury bake off, I believe.  My Aunt Eva got the recipe in Minnesota and tested it out on my cousins.  They loved them.  She shared the recipe with the rest of the family, including my Mom and Aunt Kay in Connecticut.  They were an instant hit.  In the 50's Mom would buy Rockwood Mints to make the cookies, but those mints are no longer available.  We used Andes Mints for a while, 1/3 of a mint in each cookie.  Recently, I tried using the Deep Forest Mint chocolate from Endangered Species for a more 'grown up' cookie flavor.  I use 1/2 of a square in each cookie (so 30 cookies can be made with each bar).  They're expensive but well worth it.  Each cookie is topped with a pecan half (Mom used walnuts, Aunt Kay used pecans). 

Here's the recipe:

Mint Surprise Cookies
Yield: Approximately 80 cookies
Preheat oven to 375F.

Sift in bowl:  3 1/2 cups flour
         1 tsp. baking soda
         1/2 tsp salt
Cream in separate bowl: 1/2 cup butter
         1/2 cup shortening
         1 cup granulated sugar
         1/2 cup brown sugar
Add: 2 eggs
         1 tsp. vanilla extract

Mint Chocolate
Pecan or walnut halves

Blend dry ingredients gradually.  Mix thoroughly. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours.  Cut the mint chocolate into pieces no more than 1/2 inch square.  Cover each piece of chocolate with a thin layer of dough to form a small cylinder no more than 1/2 inch high and 1 inch in diameter.  Top each cookie with half a pecan or walnut. Place on an ungreased baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake at 375F for 10-12 minutes.  Do not overbake.  Remove from oven, place on wire rack to cool.  Pack these cookies separately from other cookies as their mint flavor will 'infect' other milder flavored cookies.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

This Week's Eatwell Box - 11/30/2011

We've got more good stuff coming our way from Eatwell Farm.  This week's box features:

Hachiya Persimmons
Crocodile Spinach
Bok Choi
Florence Fennel

Great food as always this week.  Bok choi and Collards stir fry with chicken or shrimp sounds good to me.  Mandarin oranges for lunches or snacks along with the hachiya persimmons (they are the pointier looking persimmons - soft almost like custard when ready to eat).  The arugula, fennel, and raddichio will make great salads.  Dill is calling out for a bit of salmon and a side of spinach. Hmmm, maybe some cottage cheese dill bread from the Tassajara Cookbook.  Lots of good eats here.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

This Week's Eatwell Farm Box - Something to give Thanks for

So here's what's in the box this week: -

Fuyu Persimmons
Broccoli, Cauliflower OR Romanesco
Winter Squash
Diane Sweet Potatoes
Rosemary & Thyme Bunch
Tokyo Turnips
Mixed Baby Lettuce
Red Russian Kale
*Lemon Salt Sample

What great stuff!  Sweet potatoes, winter squash and turnips with lemon salt,  a drizzle of honey, balsamic vinegar and olive oil and a sprinkle of fresh herbs(rosemary, thyme) then baked in the oven until tender.  The broccoli will make a tasty gratin.  Leeks, celery, spinach and kale - add some carrots, potatoes, diced cooked chicken and chicken broth for a hearty soup.  Serve the soup with a fresh salad and some bread for a complete meal.  Use the apples in a crisp and make salad dressing with the pomegranate seeds.  So many good things in the box, this time of year!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rainy day - time for soup!

Alright so, it's always time for soup in my book, except for the warmest summer days.  In an attempt to use up all the squash(2 small red kuris and 2 small delicatas) and greens(cabbage and collards), I put together a big pot of lamb stew.  It's perking away on the stove right now with a nice big lamb shank in it thanks to Sierra Farms in Oroville, CA.  Mel Thompson provides the most flavorful lamb at a great price, cut and wrapped half or whole lambs at $7 lb.  The taste of this lamb is exceptional. 

We had a small rack of lamb last night for dinner with baked sweet potatoes and steamed romanesco.  The lamb was just terrific.  Just can't say enough about Mel's product.  Oh, and the romanesco (fractal broccoli/cauliflower) was good too.  I would've posted a picture, but we were too busy eating to take one. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Soul Food Farm Visit Today!

We took a ride out to Vacaville today to visit Soul Food Farm.  They provide us with great pasture raised meat chickens for our dinners and great chicken broth for soups.  We feasted with several other CSA participants on homemade chicken soup, bread and cheese.  It was great to get out and walk around the farm among all the chickens, some fenced and some roaming freely, all  enjoying their day.  It was also good to see so many children at the farm.  Eric (farm owner) gave tractor rides and Alexis (farm owner) treated us to a wonderful meal topped off with berry pie and whipped cream.  Here's a picture of the bread and cheese we contributed to a great day.  Many thanks and a great time visiting with other CSA members, too.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Aunt Lillian's Apple Cake

Today, I am baking Aunt Lillian's Apple Cake from the book "Inside the Jewish Bakery" by Ginsberg and Berg.  The cake uses eggs and baking powder as the primary leavening.  There's no butter in this cake - vegetable oil serves as the fat.  The batter is made and then placed in alternate layers with cinnamon and sugared diced (1 inch) apples.  I'll post a picture soon, once it's out of the oven and cooled.  Presenting (ta-da!) the cake-

Monday, November 14, 2011

Seedy Whole Wheaty Sourdough Bread

Two days ago, plus yesterday and today to make 2 loaves of seeded whole wheat sourdough bread - I found the recipe on and boy, is it good bread!  Worth the wait and then some.
Here are some pictures of the loaves and a close up of the crumb the bread has.  This hearty bread will be great toasted with some melted cheese on top and a nice bowl of soup. This week the soup is Red Kuri Squash and Fennel soup - recipe at  Thanks, Eatwell Farm, for a delicious soup to go with this bread.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

This Week's Eatwell Box - 11/16/2011

This week we will be treated to the following items in our box of Eatwell Farm goodies:

Fuyu Persimmons
Green Cabbage
Broccoli, Cauliflower OR Romanesco
Green Onions
Collard Greens
Italian Parsley
Hot Peppers
Delicata Squash
Red Kuri OR Festival Squash
Eggplant (Bonus Item)

Those persimmons will sure be good for lunches or maybe an arugula and persimmon salad?  Eggplant will be roasted and made into baba ganoush served with some homemade whole wheat crackers on the side.  Broccoli, Cauliflower or Romanesco will make a gratin.  Green onions, collards and spinach would make a good filling for ravioli.  Cabbage and squash would go well with a lamb shank and some beans in a hearty soup along with carrot and celery.  Hot peppers in some bread along with jack cheese would make great soup bread.  Pomegrate would make up a good salad dressing for the arugula and persimmon salad.  And of course the parsley will add to lamb soup flavor and can be dried for later use.  This box is just overflowing with good things!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Whole Wheat Sourdough Sandwich Bread!

Finally, success making a completely whole wheat bread  with Eatwell Farm Expresso flour.  The recipe comes from the website  If you go to their website, select Handbook at the top of the page and then recipes on the subsequent page you will see the recipe listed.  It made a big ol' loaf. I probably could have put it in a bigger (9x5)  pan without a problem, but I didn't want to risk it.  Also, I probably could have done the full three hour initial ferment instead of just about 2 hours.  The loaf did 'pull' on one side probably due to under proofing.  I got nervous half way thru the bake when the crust was looking pretty anemic so I rubbed some cold butter on it while it was in the oven.  Also, I rubbed more butter on the top crust when it came out to hopefully provide a softer crust. I have to wait at least an hour before I cut into it (patience!)  The bread -

Next time, I'm going to try an updated version of this recipe that makes two loaves (also on the same site but need to search for whole wheat sourdough sandwich to find it).

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Rugelach from Inside The Jewish Bakery

Today, I tried my first recipe from Inside the Jewish Bakery, Rugelach.  The recipe had some issues - like you really need to roll out 2 pieces of dough 18 x 8 instead of just one and you need to roll them out thinner than 1/8 inch.  I made 36 cookies from the recipe instead of the supposed 24, bonus!  Also, the recipe had you make up twice as much cinnamon sugar mix as you really needed.  But, the results are very tasty.

Sesame Thins - a taste of home

My mom used to make these cookies periodically.  I made a batch for some friends recently and thought I would post the recipe here.  These are very addictive cookies!

Sesame Thins

2 cups Flour
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 cup Butter or Margarine (2 sticks)
1 cup Sugar
1 Egg
1 tsp. Vanilla
2 pkgs. Sesame Seeds (2 oz. each)

Sift: Flour, baking soda & salt into small bowl.
Cream: Butter with sugar until fluffy in a large bowl; beat in egg & vanilla.
Stir In: Flour mixture, half at a time. Blend well to make a soft dough. Wrap in waxed paper & chill seveal hours or until firm enough to handle.
Roll: Roll dough a teaspoon at a time into small balls & roll sesame seeds in a plate to coat lightly. Place 2 inches apart on a lightly greased cookie sheet.
Bake: in a moderate oven @ 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until delicately golden. Remove and cool completely. Makes 8 dozen.

Soup and Bread - It's winter time!

What I love most about eating with the seasons is that each season has its special treat.  For me, winter means time for soup or stew and a good loaf of homemade bread.  Not much can top that for a lunch or dinner.  Yesterday, I made a lamb stew with fennel, napa cabbage, carrots, leeks and a lamb shank.  Here's the recipe:

Lamb Stew (Makes about 1 gallon of soup)

1/2 lb. dried lima beans, soaked overnight, with 2 bay leaves
3-4 TBSP Olive oil
3 leeks, washed and rinsed well, cut into circles no more than 1/8 inch thick
1 fennel bulb, diced along with the chopped fronds
1 medium napa cabbage, cut in shreds
4 large carrots, diced
1 TBSP Italian seasoning
1 TBSP dried parsley
3 bay leaves
2 tsp. salt or more to your taste
generous grinding of fresh black pepper
2 TBSP minced fresh parsley
1 lamb shank

In a heavy bottomed soup pot over medium high heat, heat the olive oil.  Add the sliced leeks and salt.  Saute until leeks start to wilt.  Add the fennel, carrots and cabbage, dry seasonings and black pepper.  Turn the heat down to low and cover the pot.  Cook the veggies for 10 minutes, stirring well about 5 minutes into the cooking time. Place the lamb shank on top of the veggies.   Remove bay leaves from the lima beans, then strain the soaked lima beans and rinse under water.  Place the beans in the pot with the lamb and veggies. Add enough water to cover everything 1 or 2 inches (you can make the soup as thick or thin as you like, but be sure to put in enough water to cook the beans as they will absorb water as they cook).  Add the fresh parsley. Bring the heat up to medium high until the soup comes to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer 2-4 hours until the meat falls off the lamb shank bone.  Stir occasionally during this time to ensure even cooking and add water if needed during this time. Remove the bay leaves.  Eat some hot soup now or allow to cool and place in containers to freeze or refrigerate for later use. 

We had this soup today for lunch with some fresh baked sourdough rye bread - recipe on


Here's a picture of the bread:

Monday, November 7, 2011

What's in the Box? - 11/9/2011

More good stuff heading our way from Eatwell Farm, this week's box stars:

Granny Smith Apples
Florence Fennel
French Breakfast Radishes
Bunching Onions
Red Kuri
Crocodile Spinach
Fuyu Persimmons
Cauliflower OR Romanesco
Eggplant *bonus item

Michael will be so happy to have the persimmons.  This time of the year, they are his favorite to take for lunch.  I have designs on that dill and bunching onions for a low fat schmear of salmon, yogurt cheese, dill, and onion.  The tatsoy and cauliflower will make a great stir fry.  Red Kuri squash baked in the oven might get made into a soup or maybe we'll just eat it as is, with a side of spinach and a salad.  The eggplant will be the basis for an eggplant and tomato sauce with a touch of vodka in it to blend the flavors.  The carrots will find their way into chicken broth that I need to make so I have some on hand for soups.  Granny smith apples will make a great crisp or maybe an apple cake.  Of course the radishes will add a nice crunch to our salad this week along with the fennel.  Yum!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Going Crackers!

I found a great recipe for using up sour dough starter when you don't feel like making bread right away. The recipe is from

Sourdough Whole Wheat Crackers

1 cup 'discarded' sour dough starter (the starter you take out in order to 'refresh' your sourdough)
1/4 cup room temperature butter
1 cup whole wheat flour or as much as needed to form a stiff dough
1/2 tsp salt
Olive oil to brush the tops of the crackers
Coarse salt or other seasonings (sesame seeds, kolongji seeds, caraway - whatever you like)

Combine the butter with the starter, add the salt. Add enough flour to form a stiff dough. Knead.   Knead the seeds or seasonings into the dough. Set the dough in a bowl and allow to sit for at least an hour.   Roll the dough on a silpat or parchment paper a thinly as you want for crackers.  Score the dough into cracker-sized squares or rectangles (roughly 1 1/2 inch by 1 1/2 inch or whatever size you like) using a pizza cutter or sharp knife.  Brush with olive oil. Bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes or until the crackers are golden brown and crisp.  Remove from oven and cool completely. Enjoy! Place any leftover crackers(if there are any, LOL) in an airtight sealed baggie or food container.

The cracker dough is resting now and in about 3-5 hours I'll bake them. Stay tuned for the outcome.

Friday, November 4, 2011

When the Moon Hits Your Eye like a Big Pizza Pie...

I just finished putting together some pizza dough based on a recipe found on (they have everything you would want for baking good bread including some great videos and recipes). It's rising now. After its rise and shaping, we'll top it all off with some tomato sauce, a bit of homemade pesto (thank you, Eatwell Farm, for all the basil) and the last of the homemade mozzarella cheese. Into a 450F oven for 12-15 minutes as the pizza we are making is thick crust (hope it bakes thru). Yum! Fresh salad with that and a glass of wine, put your feet up and relax.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Rustic Bread Baking Today

In the quest to develop my bread baking skills, today I am making a rustic bread recipe from  The recipe makes two loaves but I decreased everything to make 1 loaf. The dough just finished the second stretch and fold of the bulk fermentation (first rise) process.  The dough has another 1 1/2 hours to rise before shaping. 

For my birthday, I received 2 brotforms, a 9 inch round and an 11 inch oval.  I washed them with hot water, dried them and sprayed with a thin film of cooking spray a few days ago.  Today I prepared the round brotform by liberally dusting it with a combination of 50% white rice flour and 50% all purpose flour, being sure to work the flour into the little nooks of the form.  The brotform is used in the final proofing of the dough.  I'll be making a boule with the rustic bread dough.  Stay tuned for updates on the bread's progress from dough to finished product.

Here is a picture of the finished loaf:

The obligatory crumb shot:

Monday, October 31, 2011

This Week's Eatwell Box - 11/2/2011

This week's box of goodies is as follows:

Florence Fennel
Cauliflower OR Romanesco
Italian Parsley
Napa Cabbage
Small Iceberg Lettuce
*Bonus: Ugly Basil

First of all, there is no ugly basil - it's all good especially in a pesto that will be frozen for winter use.  The pomegranate seeds will be crushed, strained and made into a salad dressing.  If you are adventurous, there are Indian cooks who make a pickle out of the bitter rinds of the pomegranate, but this is beyond my skills.  Apples will be great for snacks.  The cauliflower or romansesco makes a great sauce for pasta - check out Lidia's Italy website at (I'll be using gemelli for the pasta in this recipe).  How about an iceberg lettuce,  fennel and orange salad to perk up a meal?  Napa cabbage, chard, leeks and kohlrabi can make a great mizutaki with some thinly sliced chicken breast or thighs added along with some carrots and udon noodles.  A recipe can be found at   Lastly, the eggplant - make some baba ganoush for snacking or lunch using carrots and celery or pita bread as dippers. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Up to My Ears in Greens

Yipes, the greens are getting away from me in the fridge.  Large bunches of Russian kale, collards and turnips greens along with 2 bunches of leeks are being turned into ravioli filling.  The filling is cooling right now and I'll chop it more finely, then make the pasta for the ravs.  These should taste good with some tomato sauce made from Eatwell Farm tomatoes at one of their tomato saucing party events.

Mixed Greens filling for Ravioli

3 large bunches of greens, washed well, made into chiffinades and then sliced into 1/4 inch strips
3 large or 6 small leeks (or combination of leeks and onions) finely diced
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
1/4 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp. turmeric(optional)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. dried italian seasoning(mix of oregano, basil, rosemary)
3 TBSP olive oil
1 lb. of pasta dough

Make the pasta dough. A typical recipe can be found here
Allow it to rest while you make the filling.

Heat the olive oil over medium high heat, add the leeks, salt, black pepper, turmeric and nutmeg. Saute for 2-3 minutes, then add the greens.  Add the dried italian seasoning and parsley.  Saute for 6-8 minutes until the greens are thoroughly wilted, stirring occasionally.  Once cooked, allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.  Place the mixture in a food processor, and pulse several times to further chop and blend the mixture ( you don't want a smooth paste, but a rough chopped look to the greens).  If you don't have a food processor, chop by hand to achieve the same effect.  The mix should be well chopped and scoopable (if more moisture came out during the chopping, return the mix to a saute pan and heat to through to remove excess moisture). 

Rollout the pasta dough into sheets using a pasta maker or rolling pin.  Place small dollops of greens mixture on one pasta sheet, brush some egg wash or water around each dollop and cover the dollops with a second sheet, cut between the greens mixture dollops to create pasta squares.  Seal the squares with the tines of a fork pressed along the edge of each square. Place the filled squares in a single layer on a cookie sheet lined with a lint free tea towel sprinkled liberally with flour.  You can freeze the raviolis for later by placing the cookie sheet with the ravs in the freezer and once frozen place the raviolis in a freezer bag for later use.  Or if using that day - cover the ravs with a tea towel and place in the fridge until ready to cook. 

To cook, fill a large pot with water, bring to a boil, add ravioli, cook until they all float to the surface, remove from the pot with a slotted spoon or spider and dress with your favorite sauce.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Curried Pumpkin and Turnip Soup

We received a wonderful small pumpkin and some turnips from Eatwell Farm this week, along with a recipe for Pumpkin and Turnip Soup in the newsletter.  I took liberties with the soup and used an olive oil instead of butter base and also substituted the cream with chicken broth I made from Soul Food Farm chicken leftovers (head, neck, wings and back).  I also added cumin and tumeric to the mix along with some dried parsley.  There was a cup or two of kabocha squash in my freezer so I added that as well.  Here's my revised recipe:

Curried Pumpkin and Turnip Soup

3 TBSP olive oil
2 cups leeks, washed well and sliced into 1/8 inch rounds
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper(optional)
2 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. salt
1 small pumpkin seeds removed, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
3-4 medium sized turnips, peeled cubed
2 cups kabocha squash, peeled and cubed
4-6 cups chicken broth

In a heavy bottom soup pot (4 or 5 quart pot), over medium heat, pour in the olive oil.  When heated, put in the leeks, garlic cloves and salt.  Stir.  Add the cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper and stir - allow to sweat 2-3 minutes covered.  Add the dried parsley and 1/2 of the chicken broth.  Bring to a boil.  Then add the pumpkin, turnips and squash. Simmer until the squash, pumpkin and turnip cubes are soft and mashable.  Add chicken broth as needed to maintain liquid in the pot, but don't add so much that the soup will be too runny once done.  Puree the soup in a blender or with an immersion blender.  Return the soup to the pot, correct the seasonings with salt and pepper to your taste, heat through.  Serve with a green salad on the side and a slice of good bread, toasted with cheese on top.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

This week's Eatwell Farm Box - 10/26/2011

Here is what's in store for us this week from Eatwell Farm-

Green Beans
Fuji Apples
Green Tomatoes
Mixed Sweet Peppers (Banana, Bell, OR Yellow Tapered)
Baby Pumpkin
Japanese Turnips
Stir-Fry Mix

Stir fry mix and broccoli with chicken, garlic and oyster sauce - yum!  Then the fuji apples can go into a bit of apple crisp.  Leeks and escarole will form the basis of a good hearty soup when paired with some chick peas (garbanzo beans) in a chicken broth from Soul Food Farm chickens.  Fried green tomatoes - dipped in egg and cornmeal - then pan fried, yum, served with green beans and a radicchio salad.  I might try pickling the eggplant to use in an antipasto later along with the sweet peppers.  Is that baby pumpkin edible?  If so, peel, cut up and roast in the oven with garlic, balsamic vinegar and olive oil for a great side dish.  And the turnips, cut some up for the soup, make pickles from some, or just slice thinly in a salad.  So many possibilities!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Stirred Curd Cheddar Success!

We opened the stirred curd cheddar 1 lb. wheel of cheese to see how it did.  It tastes like a sharp cheddar cheese.  I can't wait to try it in some grilled cheese sandwiches. 

We had a good dinner tonight of oven baked chicken from Soul Food Farm in Vacaville, along with the first sweet potatoes of the season from Eatwell Farm and some green beans also from Eatwell.  Dessert was an apple crisp with apples from Eatwell, too.

Later in the evening I put together a whole wheat soaker and poolish for some whole wheat bread baking tomorrow.  The Fidibus 21 grain mill is awesome.  This time I ground the wheat berries on the finest setting and got some beautiful flour to use in the soaker and poolish.  The recipe I'm going to use for the whole wheat bread is from Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice.  This time I think I will reduce the white flour to just one cup and see what difference that makes. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bread, bread and more bread!

Just pulled two loaves of pain de campagne (recipe from Peter Reinhart's Bread Baker's Apprentice).  I used more whole wheat flour and less white flour than was called for in the recipe, so perhaps my loaves won't have all the great big holes of artisan bread.  I have to wait a while before cutting one open to see the crumb.  They smell great.  Look good too, even if I was a little slow getting the water into the baking pan underneath the loaves to generate some steam in the baking process.  I've got to work on making that a smoother set of moves.  Once I get my camera recharged I can post some pics.

Monday, October 17, 2011

This Week's Eatwell Box - 10/19/2011

This week we have another great box of fruits and vegetables from Eatwell Farm.  They are:

Green Beans
Fuji Apples
Cherry Tomatoes
Serrano Chiles
Baby Bok Choy
Collard Greens
Sweet Potatoes
Easter Egg Radishes
Romaine Lettuce

Oh boy!  The fuji apples are great snacks or fruit for lunch. Sweet Potatoes!  Love them - just roast in the oven and eat, but maybe these will get special treatment and become sweet potato rolls - check out for the recipe.  The baby bok choy calls out - stir fry!  Romaine, radishes, cherry tomatoes and fennel are a great start to a tasty salad or two.  Of course fennel braised in white wine and broth would be a tasty side dish for a roast chicken. Eggplant makes fantastic baba ganoush roasted, or cook the roasted eggplant flesh with tomatoes, onions and garlic, puree the whole thing to make a tasty pasta sauce.  Green beans just steamed with some fish and rice makes a quick healthy meal. The serrano chilis will spice up any dish, you can slice them in half the long way, remove the seeds, freeze on a cookie sheet, then bag them up for later use.  Collards with onions and garlic sauteed in olive oil makes a great side dish for a barbequed chicken or lamb shanks and cornbread.  MMMMMMmmm the possibilities!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Hydration, hydration, hydration!

And I'm not talking about exercising!  I'm talking about bread making.  I attempted Peter Reinhart's Whole Wheat Bread today after putting together the poolish and soaker yesterday.  I tried my darnedest to keep the dough rather wet and almost but not quite sticky.  For kneading - I did some traditional kneading toward the end but mostly did French folds. Also, I cheated and used half all purpose flour in the final dough.  After rising 30 minutes I did a stretch and fold with the dough, then another 30 minute rise followed by a second stretch and fold.  A third 30 minutes and another stretch and fold.  Then finally, I divided the dough into two equal pieces, stretched them into two rectangles and allowed them to rest for about 5 minutes before finally shaping the loaves and putting them in 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch bread pans (2).  I let them rise for 60 minutes (should've been 90 but my kitchen was 80F so thought I hour should suffice.  Into the over they went at 350F for 55 minutes. They rose in the oven to a nice size (about an inch over the top of the bread pans.  I am quite happy with the results- nice light - good crumb, good crust.  Next time I'll reduce the cheater flour by 1/2 and replace with more whole wheat flour that I will also grind as fine as I can on my Fidibus 21 flour mill.    The key for me is to keep the dough just a bit wetter than I would normally do and it seems to work!  Yay!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What's in the box? 10/12/2011

So here is the list of wonderful ingredients in this week's Eatwell Farm box:

Cherry Tomatoes OR Tomatillos
Shady Lady or Roma Tomatoes
Italian Large Leaf Basil
Romaine Lettuce
Yellow Onions
Baby Leeks
Red Russian Kale
French Breakfast Radishes

I really looking forward to another arugula salad with sliced pears, toasted pine nuts and shavings of lavender ricotta salata, all tossed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  We ate that up really quickly last week.  Baby leeks - oh yeah, leek and goat cheese tart a la Alice Waters.  Radishes and tomatoes with the romaine lettuce for another great salad.  Russian Kale with sauteed yellow onions makes a great vegetable side dish for some grilled lamb chops.  The basil again will be made into pesto - I'm loving all the great pesto pizza we've been having with fresh mozzarella and fresh slices of tomato on top.  The eggplant may find it's way into a parmesan this time.  Of course the parsley will probably end up in a salad and any leftover will be dried and used in the many soups to be made this winter.  The apples will join some of their kin from a week or so ago to become the first apple crisp of the season.  Served warm with a generous dollop of yogurt--it's a great dessert. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

PAIN de Campagne

Well, I tried to hydrate the bread dough for this bread as much as I dared.  The loaves rose beautifully and I was very optimistic about the crumb (the inside of the bread) having lots of good big holes.  No such luck.  It is a very tasty bread, but not what I exactly had in mind.  I'm not sure what's the problem.  Could be I needed to let it rise some more?  I was unsure about that because the bread, when poked, left a dent. That usually means it's totally proofed.  Do I overproof it?  If so, how do I keep it from deflating when scored for baking?  I'll be trying a different recipe next time, no whole wheat flour either, just Bob's Red Mill unbleached white flour.  Got a great baguette recipe on to try.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Pain de Campagne and Homemade Soup

A few days ago we made up the menus for the week and they included an all time favorite of ours, once the winter greens start showing up at the farmer's market - Grammie Soup!  It is actually a type of minestrone that my Grandma Rose would make with escarole, but we like it with a combination of 'sweet' and bitter greens.  Today's soup has mustard greens, dandelion greens and kale.  The soup lends itself to endless variations with the addition of rice, pasta, beans or small meatballs cooked right in the broth.   

Grammie Soup(makes about 2 gallons of soup!)

3 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 large bunches of greens, washed and chopped coarsely
3 leeks, rinsed well, cut into rounds about 1/8 inch thick
3 carrots, diced
1 fennel bulb, diced with green fronds chopped fine
3 ribs celery, diced
2 tsp salt
1 TBSP Fennel seeds
3 bay leaves
1 TBSP Dried Parsley or 3 TBSP fresh parsley finely chopped
2 tsp Dried Basil or 2 TBSP fresh basil finely chopped
2 tsp Dried Oregano or 2 TBSP fresh oregano finely chopped
Fresh ground black pepper

4 cups cooked beans (garbanzos, baby limas, navy beans, cannelini beans)
4 cups cooked small soup pasta like ditalini
2 cups cooked rice
1 lb. ground beef seasoned with oregano, parsley, parmesan cheese, salt, pepper and bread crumbs bound together with 1 egg - make small meatballs (about 3/4 inch to 1 inch wide) and drop into the soup as it simmers

1/2 gallon chicken broth

In a large heavy bottomed 2 1/2 gallon soup pot, heat the olive oil.  Add the leeks, fennel seeds, a generous sprinkle of fresh ground black pepper and salt and saute for 4-5 minutes until the leeks are a softened.  Add the carrots, fennel, bay leaves, and celery along with the remaining herbs. Cover the pot and 'sweat' the veggies on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring once about half way thru the 10 minutes.  Add the chicken broth. Bring the broth to a boil, add the greens.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the beans, pasta, rice or small meatballs to the soup.  Simmer for 20 minutes until the meatballs are cooked thru.  Taste the soup and correct the seasonings to your liking.  Serve with a crusty bread topped with melty cheese or add some grated parmesan to the top of your soup in the bowl.  Enjoy!

To go with our soup we are going to have some fresh baked pain de campagne thanks to Peter Reinhart's recipe in the Bread Bakers Apprentice.  Bon appetit!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

What's in the box - 10/5/2011

Good things coming our way this week from Eatwell Farm:

Cherry Tomatoes
Heirloom Tomatoes
Shady Lady or Roma Tomatoes
Italian Large Leaf Basil
Summer Squash
Romaine Lettuce
Sweet Banana Peppers or Bell Peppers
Watermelon or Melon

One thing we won't have to worry about is contaminated melon!  Thank you. Eatwell Farm.  The tomatoes and eggplant will become eggplant parmesan - we ate thru all the eggplant parm I previously made.  There will be arugula salad with pears, toasted pine nuts, balsamic vinegar and oil topped with a generous shaving of lavender ricotta salata cheese.    The melon will make tasty snacks, but if it is a cantaloupe melon, I will be very tempted to treat us to some prosciutto to wrap slices.  Romaine will make a great ceasar salad with Eatwell's great pastured chicken eggs.  If the summer squashes are large, I'll stuff them.  If not, some koftas might be made up and frozen for future dinners.  The peppers will be roasted if they are bells, if not, the banana peppers make wonderful sandwiches or burittos with scrambled eggs.  The fennel is great eaten just as is, or sliced thin with oranges and onions in a fresh salad.  There are so many things to make with all this great stuff!

More Soup!

We liked the tomato soup so much last night, I decided to make some soup for the week's lunches.  I had some colorful rainbow chard on hand from Eatwell Farm along with some canned chickpeas.  Here's what I did:

Chard and Chickpea Soup

1 Medium Onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
3 carrots, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
6 cups chicken broth
1 large bunch of chard
2 14 oz. cans of chickpeas or 1 1/2 cups dry chickpeas, cooked and drained
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper, or 1/8 tsp. cayenne
2-3 TBSP olive oil
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. dried parsley

Wash the chard well. Remove leaves from the stalks and set aside.  Dice the stalks into a fine dice.  This takes some time, but adds to the flavor of the soup.  Cut the chard leaves into 1-2 inch squares.

In a heavy bottom soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic and 1 tsp. salt.  Cook and stir occasionally until the onion is softened.  Add the celery, carrots and chopped chard stalks.  Add the dried herbs, pepper and stir.  Turn the heat to low, cover the pot, and allow the mixture to 'sweat' in the pan for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the chicken broth, chard leaves and chickpeas along with 2-4 cups of water so the soup is a consistency you like (some folks like a stew more than a soup).  Heat the soup thru until chard is cooked, adjust seasoning.  Serve in bowls, sprinkle some parmesan cheese over the top and enjoy with some crusty bread on the side.

Soup Weather Coming Up!

There is an ever so slight coolness to the air, meaning autumn and winter are on the way.  One of my favorite meals as the weather cools is soup.  Last night we had a light dinner of fresh tomato soup, grilled gouda cheese sandwiches and a green salad.  Here's my recipe for tomato soup:

Fresh tomato soup

1 1/2 lbs. tomatoes, chopped into 1 1/2 inch dice
3-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small/medium onion, diced
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. ground cumin
2-3 TBSP Olive oil
2-3 cups chicken or veggie broth
Salt and Black Pepper to taste

In a heavy bottom soup pot over medium, heat the olive oil then add the garlic and onion along with 1 tsp salt.  Stir until the onion is somewhat soft, but do not brown- be sure the garlic doesn't brown either.  Add the turmeric and cumin and stir for a couple of minutes to cook the spices (do not burn).  Add tomatoes and stir.  Cook the tomatoes for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally.  Add the chicken broth and let simmer for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat, puree the soup either with an immersion stick blender or regular blender (if using regular blender, blend in batches, filling the blender no more than half way before blending, use a tea towel to hold the top of the blender on, beware of steam coming from the top of the blender as it works).  Place the soup back on the stove and heat thru. Serve in soup bowls with a generous dollop of yogurt.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Kefir Saga Continues...

Well, if I'd only known, I just needed to stir the kefir that looked like yogurt and I would have had my first batch from the new kefir grains.  Stirring it breaks it up to where the kefir is the consistency of buttermilk.  I did stir this morning's batch and strained it.  It tasted fine.  I have a tablespoon of grains and they seem to 'kefir'  2 glasses of milk in about 18 hours.  After straining out the grains (using a (OMG don't tell anybody) stainless steel sieve), I put them in a clean quart jar and added 3 cups of milk this time.  I want to see if I can get the kefir to take 24 hours to finish instead of 18 hrs.  The ideal will be to get it down to 12 hours or so, whereby you make up the kefir at night and it is ready to use in the morning. 

Supposedly you should not use metal spoons, sieves or anything metal around your kefir grains, but I had little choice as the plastic strainer I received with the kefir grains is woefully inadequate (about 2 1/2" wide).  I'm waiting for my 7 inch plastic sieve to arrive from Amazon.  I placed the drained kefir in a plastic kefir quart bottle along with the last of the store bought kefir.  When I had some ice cold kefir this afternoon from the bottle, it was good - tart and tangy.  I do believe I am on my way now to making kefir on a regular basis.

If you are wondering how kefir tastes, I would describe it as drinking smooth, slightly effervescent cottage cheese. Sound weird? Yes, but it is really good and helps a great deal with my allergies and lactose intolerance.  If you are having digestive issues, kefir may hold the key!

This Week's Box - 9/28/2011

What goodies are in this week's Eatwell Farm box?  See the list below--

Lemon Verbena
Italian Large Leaf Basil.
Cherry Tomatoes
Mixed Heirloom Tomatoes
Shady Lady OR Roma Tomatoes
Romaine Lettuce
Summer Squash
Mixed Hot Peppers
Tomatillos OR Eggplant
Granny Smith Apples

What to do with those goodies -- Let's see - The lemon verbena will make great iced tea this week and for a few weeks to come.  I add it to my regular green tea/mint blend into a large glass jar of water placed outside in the sun to make sun tea.  The basil again will go into making pesto for a wonderful pasta dish - Strangozzi with chard and almond sauce - see for details on this homemade pasta and sauce combination.  The mixed hot peppers will be sliced in half, deseeded and frozen for later use during the year, but a few will be roasted along with the tomatillos to make a great salsa. Ah, tomatoes - fresh tomato soup(recipe adapted from Madjhur Jaffey)with grilled homemade caraway gouda cheese sandwiches (yummy!).   A few tomatoes will make it into a green salad with feta cheese and Greek olives.  Finally the summer squash will make a great side dish along with the cherry tomatoes, garlic and capers.  And last but not least the apples will be part of Michael's lunch.  I'm getting hungry thinking about next week's menu - here is my take on it for the two of us--

Strangozzi with chard and almond sauce
Mixed Green Salad

Tomato Soup with grilled gouda sandwiches
Mixed Green Salad

Tilapia Filets covered with pesto, oven poached in white wine
Steamed Brown Rice
Summer squash with cherry tomatoes, garlic and capers

Chicken Stir Fry
(use up any leftover rice)

Lamb Chops
Potato Gratin
Green Beans

Chicken Fajitas
Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
Corn Tortillas

Pesto Pizza
Mixed Green Salad

Have a great time with the summer's fresh produce!  Enjoy Eatwell's great vegies and add some of your own or shop your local farmer's market.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Making Milk Kefir

I have been drinking kefir daily for a couple of weeks now and have definitely seen s difference in my allergies and in my ability to tolerate lactose containing foods.  This is a welcome change as I have always loved fresh cheeses and dairy products. 

I decided to make my own kefir as a quart of it is just as expensive as a whole gallon of milk.  I purchased kefir grains from and reconstituted them upon their arrival.  This took 4-5 days.  I am about to make my first 'real' kefir.  By the way, don't buy your plastic kefir sieve from cultures for health - their sieve is VERY small (less than 3 inches wide), check out Amazon for a plastic sieve of an appropriate size. 

I have placed the kefir grains in a pint jar with 1 1/2 cups of milk since I have so few kefir grains (less than  1 TBSP) at this point.  I covered the jar with a paper towel and elastic band and placed it in a warm spot in the house, away from my kitchen in which I make bread, yogurt and cheeses to avoid the possibility of cross contamination with yogurt bacteria or yeast from bread making.  The kefir will sit for 12 hours or so until it is the right consistency.  I had waited 24 hours with the last reconstituting batch and I ended up with a thick yogurt instead of lovely smooth buttermilk like kefir.  I'll be checking the kefir periodically to 'catch it' at the right time (I hope).  After that, I'll have a better idea of timing.  This is certainly a learning process.  I'll let you know when (if) it works for me. 

Other options include buying kefir from the store and using 3-4 TBSP to create a second batch of kefir, just like you do with yogurt.  I may still try that now with the milk I have left from the store. We'll see.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Apple Chutney and Tomatillo Sauce Today!

A co-worker of Michael's gave him some apples.  They are quite tart, so I will be making apple chutney with them.  This is the first time I've ever made an apple chutney.  I have made a tomato chutney from a recipe by Madjhur Jaffrey, but this one is quite different.  As usual I played with the recipe so we will see how it all works out.  It worked out!  Here is the recipe as I doctored it:

                                        Apple Chutney

1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup sugar

1 lb. apples, cored and chopped into 1/2 inch dice (peeled too, if you want )
1/3 cup dried apricots, diced 1/2 inch as well
1/3 cup raisins
3 TBSP lemon juice
2 TBSP lemon peel, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of ground allspice
1/8 tsp. cayenne (optional)

In a sauce pan, heat vinegar and sugar until the sugar is melted into the vinegar. Add all the other ingredients and cook over medium heat for 45 minutes or until the mixture thickens to a jamlike consistency.  Stir often to avoid burning the mixture.  Allow to cool.  Enjoy now or refrigerate for later use or freeze in containers. 

Today as well, I got around to making some tomatillo sauce that will be frozen and used when chicken enchilada casserole is on the menu again.  Feeling pretty virtuous in that we have not wasted any of the great food we received from Eatwell Farm this week, also making good use of what people have given us over the past few weeks.  Thank you.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Filling the Freezer and the Fridge

Today, I'm roasting peppers, peeling them and putting them in jars with vinegarette.  Later today, I'll be making some tomatillo sauce and freezing it for the next time chicken enchiladas are on the menu (which I hope is very soon). 

We have been eating the manchego cheese and it is quite good. Michael took some to work.  Our friend, Janet, tasted some and said it was better than chocolate!  Now, that's saying something.  All this good feedback is inspiring me to make more cheese!  I'd like to make some provolone, montasio, tallegio and fontina.  (Note the heavy Italian influence here.)  I've got to be careful or Michael and I will end up weighing two tons.  But, have no fear, my cheese eating friends will surely benefit.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What's in the Box this Week from Eatwell Farm - 9/14/2011

This week the goodies in the box from Eatwell Farm include:

Cherry Tomatoes

Roma Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

Italian Large Leaf Basil

Summer Squash



Red or Green Bell Peppers

Heirloom Melon


Hot Peppers

Eggplant- bonus*

Oh good, eggplant - there will be more eggplant parmesan - we just finished what was in the freezer.  The hot peppers will be sliced in half, seeded and frozen for later use.  The red and green bell peppers will be roasted and then placed in a bath of red wine vinegar, olive oil and sliced garlic.  They will keep in the fridge for quite some time.  The watermelon and other melons have been delicious as snacks and treats.  If one turns out to be a cantaloupe type, I might even spring for some prosciutto to wrap around cold slices of melon.  Potatoes will become a potato gratin to have with lamb chops, while the tomatillos will go into a salsa, frozen for use in the winter to make a chicken enchilada casserole.  Some of the tomatoes and basil will make a great insalata caprese while the cherry tomatoes make it to a salad along with shady ladies cut up and tossed with olives, garlic, celery and feta cheese as a Greek salad.  The summer squash will dress up a pasta dish cooked with garlic, anchovies and capers.

Fresh Cavatelli Today with Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Sauce

Today, I made up some cavatelli - check out Lidia Bastianich's recipe at  I dressed the pasta with some roasted eggplant and tomato sauce, then topped with shredded rosemary ricotta salata.  We ate this for lunch with a Greek salad containing our own homemade feta.  It was quite good, but I do need to work on making the cavatelli a little lighter.  There are leftovers for tomorrow too.

We tasted the manchego cheese and it's good!  Michael will be taking it to work as his lunch cheese.  I'm happy it came out well.  The pound of cheese should last him about a month - he takes a 1 oz. slice each day to work.  Next we will be tasting the drunken cow cheese.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes! Eatwell Farm Bounty

Just finished slicing 12 lbs. of tomatoes and putting them in the food dehydrator to dry overnight.  8 more lbs to go.  We dried tomatoes last year and they were great as tomato sauce 'boosters'.  When you want the tomato sauce to thicken up more quickly, you add a handful of these dried beauties.  I also experimented with rehydrating some in boiling water to make a thick ketchup like paste seasoned with cider vinegar, brown sugar and whatever else I thought might approximate a ketchup taste. 

I ministered to the cheeses in the cheese cave.  The romano and gouda are getting the most attention.  The gouda gets waxed on Friday.  The romano just needs to sit there and get flipped over every week at this point. 

Spent most of today at the quilt guild's room, visiting with friends and hand quilting my farmyard redwork quilt.

Monday, September 5, 2011

What's in this week's box 9/7/2011

This week in our Eatwell Farm box we will be receiving:


Cherry Tomatoes

Shady Lady Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

Italian Large Leaf Basil

Summer Squash



Red or Green Bell Peppers

Heirloom Melon


The chives will go great with the potatoes and peppers along with eggs as breakfast burritos with tomatillo salsa. The heirloom tomatoes can be used to make a wicked tomato/shrimp and rice salad.  The cherry tomatoes will work well when roasted and then made into a simple sauce for pasta with olive oil from Soul Food Farm, garlic and capers, maybe throw the zucchini in there too for good measure.  Stuff those red and green bell peppers with a bread and tomato stuffing - add some ground beef if you like.  If there are pepper left over, then roast them, peel them and treat them to a nice soak in olive oil and garlic to go on a sandwich later in the week.  Shady Ladies sliced on top of a pesto sauced pizza with fresh mozzarella - mmmmmmm.  The melons will make great snacks and after dinner treats.  That's my two cents for what to do with this week's box.  Enjoy!