sunday eating

April 18, 2010

Asparagus Crepes with Smokey Pink Sauce

Warm Quinoa Salad with Cilantro, Lime, and Olives

Spiced Banana Pear Crepes with Star Anise and Vanilla

Lemon Lime Water

I have been in a banana mode recently, so after the crepe batter was mixed and in the fridge to wait, I prepared a crepe filling of spiced bananas and pears.

I put some butter in a tagine on the stove top, and added star anise and vanilla. Then bananas, pears, and pear butter for sweetener. And a dash of cinnamon! For extra liquid, I added a little juice from the pears. Oh, and a little lime zest and juice. I stirred the mixture on the stove top for a few minutes, and then placed it in a low oven (325 degrees) for about an hour.

Meanwhile….asparagus time!

I picked what we had in the garden, and washed the ends and sliced them for crepe filling number two. I sauteed the asparagus in a little butter and a tiny bit of water, until they were a vivid green. Then I set them in a dish in the warm oven.

Skye made the crepes, which had a little cornmeal and whole wheat flour (one third of the total flour used). The mixture was a little different, but turned out well. We were having issues with the burner heating unevenly, but by the end of the project, after all the crepes were made, we seemed to figure things out.

To top the asparagus, we made a white sauce with tomato paste (a pink sauce I guess), to which I added a dash of smoked paprika and some cheese. We also added some fresh chopped parsley.

In addition to the crepes, I made a warm quinoa salad, with cilantro, lime, olive oil, olives, and cubed cheese. Simple, quick and slightly warm. I served the salad on lettuce leaves, which we used to scoop up the salad and make little bundles.

For dessert, we had sweet crepes. The bananas and pears cooked down, and were warm and mildly sweet, and the star anise was delicious! The flavors brightened with a little squirt of fresh lime.

Because it was such a beautiful day, we set up a table outside in a sunny section of the yard. The table was made out of one of my plant shelves (now empty as the plants have moved outdoors) and the chairs were logs.

After lunch we went for an adventure in the woods, looking for mushrooms (which we still didn’t see…), and other things. We did see a coyote, the bluebells, and other interesting things…

tarts come in twos

April 14, 2010

I made a lemon tart yesterday, and the tart shell recipe made enough dough for two pies. I have been carrying the extra tart shell around with me today (it made its way into town and back…), trying to decide what to fill it with.

I settled on a mango cream pie (of sorts). When I dropped the meyer lemon pie off at my friend’s workshop, he gave me two limes from his tree, and so I incorporated them into the pie as well. The limes were yellow, and I had the hardest time wrapping my mind around the fact that they looked like lemons. I really associate the smell and taste of lime with the deep green that they usually are.

My mom suggested to make a pastry creme of sorts using whipped cream and greek style hung yogurt. To the yogurt I added lime zest and juice, mixed with sugar. (An idea from Duncan.) As I whipped the cream, I added some Haitian vanilla. Then I folded the yogurt mixture into the cream, and spread into the tart pan. For the filling, I used 1 tiny box of cream (a cup??) and half of a package of Fage full cream yogurt. I added vanilla and sugar to taste, and the zest and juice of one very delicious lime.

On top of the cream, which was already filling the tart shell nicely, I placed some ripe slices of mango. (I peeled and cut up 4 medium sized yellow mangoes.) I think that this would be good with many fresh fruits. Berries, peaches, plums, etc!

They fit nicely in a little mound on the top of the cream.

To garnish, I ran over to my mom’s house and picked a few sprigs of mint, which have popped up in the garden in the past few weeks.

I live in Iowa. Meyer lemons don’t really grow here. Or lemons for that matter. (Just stating the obvious here..) So when my friend Duncan picked one off of his tree and handed it to me today I was delighted. He has a beautiful tree situated next a big south-facing window in his cozy workshop. I stopped by to drop off a piece of pie, and left with a lemon. Big, bright, and juicy.

I wanted to make something special. This was one of 6 lemons on the tree, and I wanted to use the whole lemon, or as much of it as I could. My first thought was to call my sister. She is a little baker, and always has good ideas. And she did, of course. A lemon tart. Because I only had one lemon (not the three that the recipe called for), and I wanted to keep the lemon’s integrity, I adjusted her recipe and made a “one lemon tart.”

One lemon’s zest, one lemon’s juice, one egg, and 1/6th of a cup sugar. And one tiny tart pan, filled with a tiny crust. Prick, prick, prick, prick, prick, pricked with a fork. (My sister wrote a lot more pricks into the recipe.)

And weighted with lentils so that the crust didn’t have any chance at all to puff up. None.

Then came the custard. Zested the meyer lemon, juiced the meyer lemon,

found the unexpected but delightful surprise of sprouted pips inside the meyer lemon,

and stir, stir, stirred the custard…

I am not a custard maker. As you can see from the photograph, I don’t have the proper equipment (I used a shallow frying pan set over a pot of simmering water.), and I am just afraid that the eggs will scramble. After a lot of stirring, quite a few grumpy calls to my sister, and my face feeling like a ripe tomato, I took the custard off the stove, and set it aside to cool. I think that it turned out ok, and I was able to pour it into the crust, and put it into the oven.

I did then call my mom, and had her come over to help me figure out when the custard was ‘set.’ I think that I will leave the custards to Heli, as she likes making them, and will probably do a much better job.

The finished result was a tart tart! Very un-sweet, lemony and delicious.


March 20, 2010

Maybe you could say that I am on a cake kick. Opportunities just keep popping up. It was my friend’s birthday last night. She had a roller skating birthday with a cake contest. I finished work around 5, and really wanted to bake a cake. I didn’t have a recipe with me in town, and my mom suggested that I just grab a mix…so I did.

I started with a Barefoot Contessa mix for coconut cupcakes, and added to it.

Instead of making cupcakes, I made two 8″ cakes, and then sliced them both in half to make 4 layers.

For some reason my kitchen becomes a disaster when I bake a cake. I was talking with my mom about it last night, and she was saying that it had to do with all the sugar all over the place. Maybe cakes are a collection of too much sugar.

I made a filling of Greek style yogurt, coconut passion fruit jam from France, and whipped cream (also my mom’s idea). I softly whipped the cream (1/2 cup) and gently folded in the yogurt (about 2/3 of a container), which is strained and quite firm. The mixture was quite tart, and so I added a lot of the jam to sweeten and flavor it. The cake itself was sweet, so I didn’t make the filling overly sweet.

Meanwhile, the cakes were on the porch cooling. The weather went from beautiful and sunny in the early afternoon, to cold, raining, and then snowing.

I put the coconut passion fruit filling in between the layers of the cake. I had a good amount of filling, which made the cake kind of tall. I was worried that it would drip over the sides, but it behaved itself. As the cake sat, a lot of the filling was absorbed by the layers.

I frosted the outside of the cake with cream cheese butter frosting (cream cheese, butter, and powdered sugar from the baking mix “packet number 3”). I dusted the sides with coconut flakes (from “packet number 2”). For the top I put a layer of passion fruit coconut jam for brightness and color (also my mom’s idea).

This is my conclusion about cakes and mixes. My kitchen is still a mess, and I spent a lot of time. BUT, I didn’t have to think too much about things. It was fun. I had a cake where I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

I made these a few weeks ago, and they were delicious! And way too easy. I have a shelf of canned pears in my pantry. They are preserved in a 30 percent simple syrup. I also have a somewhat dwindling (but still plentiful) supply of grapefruit wine. I simply opened the jar of pears, plopped them into the pan, added a cup or so of grapefruit wine, and put the pot on the woodstove to simmer over lunch.

If you don’t have home canned pears and grapefruit wine, I would recommend peeling and poaching fresh pears in water with a little sugar to taste. You can add a cup or so of regular white (or red) wine, and some additional citrus peel here as well.

Meanwhile, I prepared a sauce of cranberries. Place a handful or so of cranberries in a medium sized pot on the stove (medium heat). Add a few strands of orange zest and a sprinkling of sugar. Not too much that it makes the cranberries sweet, but not so little that they are unbearably sour. If you have just rinsed the cranberries, the water left should be sufficient, but if you are starting with dry cranberries, add a sprinkling of water. Cook over medium heat, stirring until most of the berries have popped, and the sugar has caramelized a little. Set aside.

Ladle the warm pears and a generous amount of the liquid into a little bowl. Spoon the cranberry mixture over the top and serve right away. I would definitely serve with fresh cream. The bitterness of the grapefruit wine complements the sweetness of the canned pear syrup, which is almost a juice, and the cranberries give the whole thing an extra zing!

(They look really pretty, but I didn’t get around to taking a picture of the final product…)

brandied cranberries

December 9, 2009

Last Monday my dad and I went down to the Dutchman’s store in Cantril. We found a nice collection of items including a new pair of lined pigskin gloves for firewood duty, some potting soil, hotpads, peanut butter filled pretzels, and cranberries! Fresh Wisconsin cranberries to be exact. Two large bags of them…

I can’t resist a good looking batch of fruit, and so I grabbed them up and brought them home, thinking the whole while about everything that I could make.

Brandy, cranberries, cinnamon, sugar, and orange zest. That is it! The recipe is from Joy of Jams, Jellies, and Other Sweet Preserves, by Linda Ziedrich. I made one batch and liked it so much that I made a second! The recipe is simple, and the preserves can be processed for storage, or eaten right away! I put mine in little jars to give away, or open and eat all by myself. (Sometimes pint or 1/2 pint jars are too big forĀ  me to finish soon enough, so the smaller servings come in handy. And they are cute.)

I used one of my favorite tools on this project; a citrus zester. There are sharpened little circles across the top, and you drag the zester down the side of the orange (or lemon, lime, etc) and it peels nice even strips off. The hole on the side is for larger pieces of zest. I am not much of a gadget person, but this particular tool is awesome!

Cranberries, sugar, and zest, ready to be baked in a slow oven. The sugar almost caramelizes a little, and the flavors mellow and come together. I would guess that most of the alcohol cooks out of the brandy, but the taste is definitely still there!

The finished preserve is a rich dark red, with a hint of cinnamon and a refreshing tang.

finishing and starting

November 17, 2009

Today was a finishing old drinks and starting new drinks day. There is definitely something about drinks tasting really good after sitting for a while… for different reasons of course! I put up some raspberries in vinegar a month or so ago (when there were lots of them to pick). They sat in my pantry, imparting all their flavor into the apple cider vinegar and red wine vinegar that they were soaking in. Today I strained them and made the syrup for a “shrub.”

A shrub is an old fashioned vinegar fruit drink. I have found lots of different recipes and variations, andĀ  the recipe that I used was from The Joy of Jams, Jellies, and other Sweet Preserves (as per usual). I strained the raspberries from the vinegar by passing it through a damp cheesecloth, and then I boiled the resulting raspberry vinegar with some sugar. (I am a little concerned that my house will smell strongly of vinegar and raspberries for a while after the boiling process.)

I tried a teaspoon full of the syrup straight, and it nearly made me choke it was so strong. I added the syrup to water, and it turned into delicious, uniquely flavored, zingy drink. It is almost a better drink for warm weather, so I think that I will try to bottle some of they syrup up and save it for the summer…

On the other end of things, I started a batch Vin de Pamplemousse (I like to think of it as pamplemousse juice as it rhymes nicely), a recipe from Saving the Season, my favorite blog on canning. The recipe, which takes about 40 days to mature, has been conveniently posted about 40 days before the New Year..

The recipe calls for a whole bunch of grapefruit, sliced and placed in large jars with some vodka, sugar, lemon, chamomile, vanilla, and a whole bunch of white wine. I made a single batch, which filled two 4 liter jars, and one 2 liter jar. The process was really fun, slicing and gently crushing the fruit, and releasing the fragrance of the vanilla, citrus, and chamomile. I am really excited for this (warming) drink to be ready!

I was out of town for a week, and when I returned, I imagined that everything in the garden would be brown. Fortunately things disappear in stages. The arugula, kale, thyme, and parsley seem to be holding out for as long as they can.

Fall Garden

My two favorite November fruits, pomegranates and persimmons, were ripe when I was visiting California, and I made sure to bring as many back as I could. (We picked some and purchased some from farmers, and from the farmer’s market!)


Pomegranates must be my favorite fruit. There is something SO satisfying about carefully peeling each seed away from the bitter white surrounding it, making sure that each seed remains whole, and then collecting the seeds in a glass, or perhaps eating them one by one.

Pomegranate in Hand

There is a trick however, if you ever find yourself without the time to spend on carefully peeling each seed. Simply fill a deep bowl up with cool or room temp water. Score the outside of the fruit all the way around in several sections with a knife and submerge the fruit in the water.

Pomegranate Separated

When the pomegranate is submerged, carefully break the pomegranate sections apart, keeping the fruit under water so that the seeds wont burst and spray you with the bright red juice. When all the seeds are removed from the white, the seeds will sink, and the white will float to the surface to be gathered and discarded. Then remove or strain the seeds, and gently dry with a kitchen towel. The entire process is done under water, and this helps to reduce or eliminate staining, and keeps the seeds separated from the inedible white part!

Pomegranate Salad

For lunch today, I wanted to mix fresh Iowa greens with fresh California pomegranate. I picked some of the lingering spicy arugula, and topped it with sweet ripe pomegranate seeds. For salad dressing I spooned on top some raspberries that I preserved in apple cider vinegar about a month ago. Then I drizzled the whole thing with a little bit of olive oil. And a sprinkling of salt and freshly ground pepper. Yum! This salad is also really good with the addition of fresh crispy pear slices.

canned pears

October 22, 2009

Pears in Brown BagThere are certain things from my childhood that evoke specific experiences. Canned pears are one of those things. When I was six my family drove out to the desert in southeast Oregon. We drove across country in a converted school bus, and very carefully planned and packed our bus with supplies, including many cans of pears. I remember the smell, texture, and taste of the pears, floating in syrup. I remember eating pears in syrup at dusk, while watching for wild horses in the distance.

When my friend Clint (with the pear tree) gave me another bag full of pears I decided to try canning them in halves, as I remembered. The process of making canned (technically “jarred”) pears is simple. I got the basic directions from the recently revised Joy of Cooking.

Peeled Pears

I peeled the pears and put them in an anti browning solution of lemon juice and water.

Sugar Syrup

Meanwhile I made a sugar syrup using approximately 1/2 cup sugar for every quart of water. Joy of Cooking gives guidelines for how much/little sugar should be used, an I went somewhere in the middle, on the less sweet side.

Then after cooking pears, I carefully placed each slice into warm jars and processed according to directions. When I tried fitting the pear halves into the regular pint jars that I had I realized that they wouldn’t really fit. I decided to get some wide mouth jars as well, so now I have some jars with pear quarters and some jars with pear halves.

Cozy Pears

And thats it! Very simple, and the result I tried for breakfast this morning. The pears were rather firm to start with, so they maintained a nice texture even after cooking and processing in the boiling water bath. I am looking forward to lots of cozy pear treats this fall and winter!


Heli and I went to an apple orchard yesterday, and picked a lot of apples! Somehow I always end up with more than expected. When we got home we excitedly discussed our options. We both had already made apple butter, but didn’t have any apple sauce, so decided on that. And to spice things up a little we also made some caramel apple jam, with several variations.


When we went to the local plant and garden store this morning (Downtown Home and Garden, which is awesome!), we decided to try some new jars. Usually we use Mason or Bormioli jars, but we fell in love with Weck jars. They have a different sealing system, and glass lids! They are a bit more expensive, but I keep telling myself that I will reuse them for the next 40 years or so, so this is a one-time investment…I will probably always buy new cute jars with this rationale!

When we arrived home, with 5 trays of empty jars, to attack our two mountains of apples we were excited! And now, after canning ALL day, we are rather tired, but all the jars along the windowsills create a nice homey feeling.


Our first project was caramel apple jam with brandy and vanilla. We had to stop at the liquor store to purchase some brandy, and the grocery store for some cinnamon. The apple jam uses apple sauce, which we made with quartered and cored apples (we kept the peels to add flavor and color). We added a little water to the bottom of the pan so the apples wouldn’t stick, and boiled them until soft, and then put them through a food mill.

applesinmillThe fun part of this recipe was making the caramel! You don’t stir the mixture of water and sugar as it cooks, and this creates a crunchy, sticky gooey sugar mess that smells wonderful. When we added the apples, everything sizzled and puffed up, and then turned into little pieces of hard sugar mess.


After stirring the apples and sugar for a while we put the mixture into our new jars and sent them off to a hot water bath. Heli’s stove is about the size of a matchbox, so the logistics were a little tricky. We had to juggle all the pots of boiling liquid from burner to burner, but somehow we made it without any massive burns!


The new jars filled with caramel apple jam! Some with brandy and vanilla, some with vanilla, some with only sugar. And some a mixture of everything all together!