Author Ginger

New seasons

There is a For Sale sign in my front yard. I was at home the afternoon it went up – a friendly guy stopped by to make sure we were indeed selling our home before he installed it. As we chatted back and forth for a minute, he said he hoped this was a happy occasion. As it turns out, it is! My husband, Sean, and I are selling our sweet home, leaving our workplace and heading out on an adventure. (Don’t fret, dear reader, Blaise is coming too!)

seedling

Adventures can be hard to come by these days, there are always more important things to do. Things to take care of and bills to pay. But for sometime now, I’ve been feeling the pull of something more creative. I’ve been so happy to have spots like this blog or Instagram to share some of my creative pursuits. Over time, I’ve come to wonder if I couldn’t find a way to incorporate more of that creativity into my daily life.

Which is where we come to the part of me jumping out of the boat – I decided to leave it all, the consistent routine, the house and steady job, and strike out with the intent of doing something new. We’re moving back to Canada to be close to family and to take a minute to just breathe and reorganize ourselves. We don’t know where we will end up, maybe around the corner from my childhood home, maybe on another continent. 

salad

For many reasons, the uncertainty of my life at this moment brings me back to my garden. Most days when I find myself wondering about just what it is we are setting out to do, I go sit in the garden. Awhile back when I realized that I might not see a full growing season in this garden, I started to adapt my plan for just what I would plant. There seemed to be little point in devoting a good chunk of the garden to dahlias and tomatoes, both favorite garden additions, but always hitting their prime in the later part of the season. Instead, I wanted to play up the parts that I could likely enjoy in the early part of summer. In the midst of my sadness over leaving this garden, I have been steadfast in my plan to enjoy every single moment I am afforded there. 

two-peas

So, early in the spring, I started reading the seed packages, carefully calculating the number of days until harvest, Tomatoes take time to grow and mature, so most varieties were put aside for that reason. But a few hardy and early varieties have made it into my garden this year. I don’t know that I will be around to pick them, but these ones seem like the most likely candidates. Of course, there are peas. All of the shelling variety, but there are two different kinds, planted thickly so I have plenty of young greens to harvest. And plenty of pods for Blaise and I to feast on, right out in the midst of it all. Green beans, along with purple, romano and yellow, made the cut, but this time with fewer climbing varieties. The salad greens are out of control, as usual, with plantings of French sorrel, purslane, dark red lettuce and New Zealand spinach all elbowing in amongst each other. The early plantings of radishes have already come and gone for the season.

mixed-greens

The newcomers to the garden this year include the okra and carrots, both planted with the younger generation in mind. And last but not least, the Padron peppers. These beauties are a hands-down favorite at our house. Lightly charred in oil and seasoned with flaky salt, we enjoy these peppers while seated in the garden, with cups of Cava in hand. This is the way the Spanish do it, I’m told, and I am not going to mess with that tradition. Fingers crossed I have at least one of those meals to come this summer.

Either way, I remind myself that there will be other gardens. Already, I have some ideas of what I might do differently in a future space. Just the other day, I optimistically bought some seeds to plant for a fall harvest of maché. But the location of that garden is still to be determined. I’ll find it one day – build, plant and harvest from it.

peas

I recently attended a graduation ceremony, listening as attentively as I could after hours of ceremony, to the advice that was doled out on the graduates. It seemed somehow appropriate for me as well, starting out on my own new adventure. The snippet that stuck with me all of these days later was from someone sharing advice from a fortune cookie…”A thrilling adventure awaits you, be on your guard.”

So, here I go, with my jumble of jubilance and uncertainty, only knowing that out there, a new life awaits me. I’m ready!

Full Story »

Rise and Shine Granola

mixing-bowl

Within certain circles, my mother has a bit reputation when it comes to cooking from a recipe. We like to tease her about her freewheeling approach to following directions. She doesn’t sweat the details – recipes are a starting place to her, not a set of directions that must be followed. Of course, this approach has advantages. Rare are the days when she passes on a recipe because she doesn’t have an ingredient – there is always a suitable substitute. However, when something goes wrong, it’s hard to fault the recipe. 

pan

But, in the end, I love this carefree approach my mother brings to her cooking, mostly because it is in such contrast to my own tendencies. Once I see the recipe pictured, I want to reproduce it as closely as I can. I’ve written before about going out on shopping expeditions to find the right size pan for my cherry picnic cake. If my mom made the cake, she’d have been eating it for days before me, having roughly sized up an appropriate cake pan from the stack in the cupboard by the oven and carried on without missing a beat. 

jar

But on to the granola – this recipe has been handed around and adapted within the family for a few years now. It is also one of Sean’s favorite breakfast items at my parents house. Knowing that he loves it, my mom often gives him a bag of it as a gift. While I have dabbled with other granola recipes over the years, this one remains his favorite. So, I decided I should try and make it at home.

frosty

When my mom gave me this recipe, I teased her that trying to reproduce it was a bit like translating a foreign language. The basics of the recipes were spelled out with my mom’s unique abbreviations, accompanied by notes, crossed out measurements and directions accumulated over several rounds of baking. There were notes about baking in a convection oven versus a food dryer. But one of the key things this made me realize is that the baking process is not so much about cooking the granola but drying it out. So, to keep things easy, I added directions on how to bake in a conventional oven. You’re on your own with the food dryer!

Rise and Shine Granola

The thing with granola is that it thrives on improvisation. This recipe comes from my aunt Georgia who shared it with my mother. And it is not lost on me that I’ve adapted it for you!

6 cups (700 g) thick oatmeal
1 cup (140 g) sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds
1 cup (145 g) coarsely chopped almonds
½ cup (70 g) sesame seeds
1 cup (140 g) raisins
1 cup (90 g) unsweetened coconut flakes
½ cup (85 g) candied ginger, chopped
1 cup (150 g) dried pineapple
½ cup (150 g) maple syrup or honey
⅓ cup (70 g) oil
¾ cup (170 g) unsalted butter
¼ cup (65 g) brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Prepare two large rimmed baking sheets and line with parchment paper. Set aside. Heat oven to 275 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the oatmeal though the dried pineapple. Stir gently to combine.

In a small sauce pan over medium heat, combine the maple syrup, oil, butter and brown sugar until the sugar dissolved. Remove from heat, whisk in the salt, cinnamon and vanilla extract.

Pour the warm liquid over the dry ingredients. Stir well to combine.

Spread the granola evenly between the two pans. Place in preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Turn the oven off and let the granola sit in the hot oven for 10 minutes. Rotate pans, then turn the oven back to 275 and bake for another 15 minutes. Turn oven off and let sit for 10 minutes with the door closed. At this point, the granola is done, but I like to open the oven door and let the granola cool in the oven.

Once cool, store in an airtight jar or container.

Full Story »

Gathering new traditions: fika

mixing-bowl

Some days I find myself stumped on what to share here. I love sharing stories and photos of what I’ve been up to. But I’ve got to come up with all of that good stuff first! Some days I don’t feel like I have good stories to tell and nothing seems to be coming together. Like this post – I’ve been waiting to share it for at least a couple of weeks while I try to come up with some story to share with you. But this recipe is too good to keep to myself, so here it is.

pan

I don’t know much about fika, but browsing through the January issue of Saveur, a photo of a sweet bread stopped me in my tracks. Reading more, it appears that fika is the Swedish concept of an afternoon coffee break, with snacks. I’m in! As a regular Instagrammer, I’ve seen people posting about their afternoon fika, so the concept is not foreign. But I’m no expert on all of the real details. So imagine my delight to find not only a recipe, but the mention of an upcoming book devoted to fika recipes. I may have even pre-ordered it!

caramel

Without even really planning it, I’ve spent most of the winter so far with my own little interpretation of fika. As the early grey gathers on weekend afternoons, we’ll gather in the kitchen with candles and snacks arranged on the table. We spend some time chatting, browsing magazines or better still, drawing. And since finding this recipe, a few of our weekend gatherings have been accompanied by the sweet warm waftings of cinnamon and cardamom. I hope it will inspire some gatherings of your own.

tea

Swedish Cinnamon and Cardamom Bread

This recipe appeared in the January 2015 issue of Saveur and is ever so slightly adapted here.

Serves 8 to 10

FOR THE DOUGH

7 tbsp. unsalted butter
1½ cups whole milk, heated to 115°
2 tsp. active dry yeast
4½ cups flour, plus more for dusting
¼ cup sugar
1½ tsp. cardamom seeds, lightly crushed
½ tsp. kosher salt 

FOR THE FILLING AND TOPPING:

½ cup granulated sugar
7 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1½ tsp. cardamom seeds, finely crushed
1 egg, beaten
Pearl sugar, for sprinkling

Make the dough: Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat and let cool just slightly. Stir in milk and yeast; let sit until yeast is foamy, about 10 minutes. Whisk flour, sugar, cardamom and salt in a bowl. Stir in yeast mixture until dough forms. Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 3 minutes. Return dough to bowl and cover with a clean dish towel. Let rest in a warm place until dough is doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Make the filling: Mix granulated sugar, butter, cinnamon and cardamom in a bowl until smooth.

Assemble the bread: On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into an 11″ x 17″ rectangle, about ¼″ thick. Spread filling over dough, leaving a ½″ border along edges. Working from one long end, roll dough into a tight cylinder. Transfer seam side down to a parchment paper-lined  rimmed baking sheet. Cover with dish towel; let sit in a warm place until dough has doubled in size again, about 45 minutes.

Bake the bread: Heat oven to 375°. Starting 1″ from one end of the dough, make crosswise slices with a serrated knife, spaced 1″ apart, three-quarters of the way through dough. Gently fan dough slices away from the center, alternating left to right. Brush dough with egg and sprinkle with pearl sugar; bake until golden brown, about 22 minutes. Let bread cool completely before serving, if you can hold yourself back that long! Best enjoyed the day it is baked, it will reheat perfectly for breakfast the next morning.

Full Story »

On Collecting and Buckwheat Cakes…

sifter

For the past several years, my mom has been taking me to an antique store in a little town called Summerland. It’s a great shop and an even better town, but I’ll save that story for another day. For the longest time, I haven’t had much of an interest in antiques. But somewhere in the midst of working on this blog, I decided I needed to add some items to my kitchen. New pans, old dishes – at this point, I’ve added a little of both. There is a satisfaction in heading into a kitchen store and coming out with just what I need. But I’ve learned the thrill of the unexpected treasure found while rummaging in some antique collection.

Back in the little antique shop in Summerland, I found a worn muffin pan tucked away on a dark shelf of baking odds and ends. How exciting can a muffin tin be, right? But this little pan looked like it would turn out cakes, not just standard issue muffins and that has to be worth something. It hasn’t been the most well used of some of my finds, but things are turning around for my little pan.

pan

See, back when I was in Seattle a few months ago, I spent a little time tasting treats around town. I don’t think I can go downtown without stopping at Dahlia Bakery, part of the Tom Douglas megablock of dining establishments. This time around, I tasted a buckwheat cake with a whiskey glaze – a satisfying treat that feels wholesome and dessert-like at the same time. The cake was flecked with thick bits of oatmeal and drizzled with just enough of a sweet whiskey glaze. It was so good, I went back for a second one another day and this time I took notes.

I don’t really develop recipes – there is something about that process that sounds daunting. Probably because it is so precise and there is all this pressure to come up with a recipe that actually works for you. So when I came home, I had no plans to recreate it. I figured there would be a recipe out there for buckwheat cakes. As it turns out, that’s not really a thing and I couldn’t turn up a single recipe that looked right. So before that flavor memory faded in my mind, I decided I’d get baking on my own. Happily, these little cakes came together quite easily and we’ve been enjoying them most every weekend since.

platter

Tom’s version was labelled “flourless” so it made me think that these cakes had the potential of being gluten free. The final version I’m sharing here is just that, but if you’re not worried about a little wheat flour, feel free to sub out the gluten-free flour for a regular all-purpose blend. But the buckwheat is what makes this recipe unique, so don’t be afraid to try that out.

I’ve made this recipe two ways – frosted with a whiskey glaze or sprinkled with a light dusting of powdered sugar. The original cakes I tasted included the whiskey glaze, but I wanted a kid-friendly option! Try them both and pick your favorite. They both seem fitting in this winter season!

Buckwheat Oatmeal Cakes with Whiskey Glaze

Inspired by Tom Douglas’s Dahlia Bakery in Seattle
Makes about 10 muffins

¾ cup (110g) buckwheat flour
¼ cup (35g) all-purpose flour or all-purpose gluten-free flour mix
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (255g) applesauce
½ cup (50g) thick oatmeal
⅓ cup (60g) vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
¾ cup (165g) sugar
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt

Glaze, optional
½ cup (75g) powdered sugar
2 tablespoons whiskey

Heat oven to 350 and prepare muffin pan.

In a small bowl, combine the buckwheat and all-purpose flours, and the baking powder.

In a large bowl, whisk together the applesauce, oatmeal, oil, eggs, spice, sugar, soda and salt. Add in the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Divide the batter amongst the tins so they are about ¾ full. Bake until puffed and starting to darken, about 25 to 30 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the middle just comes out clean. Cool the cakes in their tins for a minute or two, then remove and allow to cool on a cooling rack.

If using, whisk the powdered sugar and whiskey together until smooth and just pourable. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cakes and allow to set. Or sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar once the cakes have cooled. Any leftover cakes will keep in an airtight container for a couple of days.

 

Full Story »

Cornbread skillet goodness

table

Last week, snow fell. It was a skiff, really, but with the dip in temperatures that accompanied it, that little dusting has managed to stay around all week. When the weather is cold and it is dark before I head home in the evenings, I feel like an extra measure of comfort is needed. I know I must have told you that when autumn comes around, my plans for cooking seem to make a turn all on their own. Suddenly, soup sounds like a good idea and I make at least one pot per weekend. One giant pot that simmers for hours on the weekend, then is doled out into quart jars in preparation for the week ahead. And as this ritual repeats itself over the first weeks of fall, my freezer fills up with lunch options. Corn chowder, red lentil and cream of cauliflower, portioned out and ready for a quick meal.

ingredients

If I am going to have soup for dinner, I like to pair it with a salad or some bread. Hot buttered slices of toast work well, as do savory little muffins. But really, what I want most with my soup is a skillet of cornbread. For one thing, once the oven is turned on in the evening, the kitchen just feels that much more cozy. And this recipe is quick enough that by the time the soup is warmed up and the table set, there is cornbread ready to come out of the oven. Around here, we top it with some butter and perhaps a slice of cheese. We’re a divided house when it comes to a sweet topping though, but a drizzle of maple syrup always wins out for me.

cornmeal

This recipe came to me a few years ago when Tina shared it as an idea for a gluten-free quick bread. I’ve been making it several times a week already this season. In fact, it’s so good that I may have made it several nights in a row when my parents visited us. The three of us don’t eat the whole pan, but I like to toast the leftovers the next morning with a hard boiled egg, or make open-face sandwiches with more soup at lunch. And with Thanksgiving just around the corner, I couldn’t help but think that leftovers would make a tasty stuffing come next week.

slice

Recipe note: In my opinion, the main ingredient to watch is the cornmeal. Don’t be lulled into thinking any old grind will work. Stone-ground cornmeal gives a much better texture and bite to the cornbread. And meal that’s labelled for grits works really well, in my experience.

Skillet Cornbread

Recipe from Gourmet

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal (preferably stone-ground)
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 3/4 cups well-shaken buttermilk (do not use powdered)
1/2 stick unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 425°F with the rack in the middle. Heat a well-seasoned 10-inch skillet in the oven for about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile stir together the cornmeal, sugar, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Whisk together eggs together in a small bowl and measure buttermilk in a large measuring cup.

Remove the now hot skillet from oven, taking care as the handle will be very hot. Add butter and return to the oven for about five minutes to melt. When the butter is melted, remove the skillet from the oven, swirling to coat bottom and sides (butter may brown and it’s delicious). Whisk hot butter into the buttermilk mixture and return skillet to oven. Stir cornmeal mixture into buttermilk mixture just until evenly moistened but still lumpy.

 

plate

Full Story »

Weekend workshop

egg-curry-detail

A week or so back, I attended a workshop on multidisciplinary storytelling in Seattle. I have been anticipating these sessions for awhile – a group of inspiring women, a city I love and time to focus on some creative skills. I could tell you about the amazing places to eat or exciting spice selections or even wandering the Pike Place market early in the morning. But honestly, the inspiration I left these sessions with was enough to fill two blog posts, so I’ll start there. The classes were held in Aran Goyoaga’s studio. You probably know her from her blog Canelle et Vanille.

 Aran’s studio is a light-filled space, with twinkling lights and white paper globes hanging from the beams. A clean light pours through the windows, even on this rainy morning. Tables are arranged together beneath those windows and a group of women from all over the place begins to gather. We’ve come from near and far to learn and connect. Everyone around the table speaks of their interest in telling food stories, making stronger connections between the imagery and words that inform each of our personal stories. 

egg-curry

Make notes on five things from today – they could be simple words or phrases or much bigger ideas. This idea came from Tara O’Brady, leading our workshop on multidisciplinary storytelling. I’ve been following Tara and her blog, Seven Spoons, for years now and I am very excited to hear her talk about her process. (She also has a cookbook coming out in the spring and you know how I am about cookbooks!) She shares the idea of gathering five takeaways as a challenge for herself, but we all join in.

toppings

So here they are, my five takeaways from this amazing workshop:

Be observant: Notice the details. What stands out to me will inform my work. It brings personality and viewpoint. This is an eye-opener to me because I am all about the details, those are the bits that get me into trouble! So making that connection and realizing that those details can be tapped to tell better stories, both visually and in writing, really makes me feel capable. 

platter

Gather inspiration: Whatever it is that inspires me, gather it around. My inspiration tends to be very visual. I love Instagram and some favorite blogs for their beautiful imagery and the ideas they spark. Same goes for the cookbooks that make me want to cook and the friends who share ideas and encouragement. The little pinecone that makes me want to draw. These influences will keep my creative juices going. And in those moments where inspiration feels low, having this resources close at hand will help me get back on track.

apples

Practice intention: Thinking about the intent of my work is something that has stuck with me as I left Seattle and came back to my daily routines. It’s likely because this idea resonates with some of the bigger things I’m pondering in my life. But knowing the end goal that I’m striving for and the message I want to leave others with will help edit and refine my work. 

soup

Live the details: Watching Aran and Tara plate their own lunch at the workshop reminds me that appreciating beauty in everyday life is part of this practice. When what I do comes from an authentic place, the details that fill my life serve as inspiration. So I’m embracing my fiddly garnishing habits and rearranging my prop dishes that I love to sit out amongst my everyday items!

goodness-in-a-pot

Go buy some darn notebooks! I love paper products and I’ve got a stack of lovely sketchbooks to prove it. Tara shared her idea-gathering practice of taking notes in plain spiral bound school notebooks. No fancy notebooks need apply. We’re talking about a basic lined notebook where one can scribble down a taste or a word or the beginnings of blog post without a thought to how it looks. Since I’m the girl who revises recipes on the back of junk mail envelopes, this is a plan worth adopting.

garnish

So there you have it, the five ideas that I’m thinking after my workshop, along with some photos from the weekend. Do you have an tips on how you strive to bring creativity and inspiration into your daily life? I’d love to hear about it.

 

 

Full Story »

Good morning granola bars

napping

We are not the most devoted of campers, we pretty much stick to basic car camping in campsites where there are actual bathrooms. We pick campsites for scenic views and proximity to day hikes or breweries, depending on the situation. There is a little kid in my life and these things make camping easier. We pack coolers of ingredients for full-on fancy camping meals and a set of bocce balls for afternoon entertainment. Once we get out there, camping is a pretty carefree way to spend a weekend. There is little to do besides cook up the food we’ve brought along and relax. In the evening, we build a fire and sit around it. Sometimes we play card games or watch for stars in that dark sky.

press

This fall we’ve been doing a lot of camping. Maybe it is an unconscious attempt to draw out the season as the cooler weather and shorter days set it. On every trip, I’ve been returning to the same recipe for granola bars. They are tasty and portable. I’ve packed up these bars for early morning kayak paddles, long rides in the car and hikes into the hills. And on camping trips, they are the perfect snack to tide me over between an early morning wake up and actually being alert enough to start cooking breakfast at the campsite. We tumble out of the tent, start heating up water for coffee, pull out the pan of granola bars and everyone is happy.

bars

I’ve been working to keep these bars from getting too crumbly and the best advice I have is to chop things up – the nuts, the cherries. The smaller pieces seem to stick together that much better. Of course, you can help matters out by storing them carefully. I’ve found returning them to their pan or some other container helps them keep their shape. And since these bars have become a breakfast staple, I’ve been using them to clean out the pantry, substituting different nuts, various chocolates and even some peanut butter chips I found, along with any kind of coconut flakes I can find lurking in the cupboard. Another breakfast note – I don’t like too much sweetness early in the morning, so I’ve been lighthanded with the sugar, even going with a little less than what I have listed here on a batch where I used up the rest of my sweetened coconut.

 

GOOD MORNING GRANOLA BARS

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Orangette

 

1 ½ cups (160 grams) quick-cooking oats

⅓ cup (35 grams) oat flour, or quick-cooking oats pulsed in a food processor

⅓ cup (65 grams) to ½ cup (100 grams) sugar (see above)

1 cup (110 grams) raw walnuts, chopped into rough pieces

½ cup (25 grams) unsweetened coconut flakes

½ cup (85 grams) chocolate chips or chopped chocolate of similar size

¼ cup (40 grams) dried cherries, halved

½ tsp. fine salt

1/3 cup (85 grams) peanut butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract

6 Tbsp. (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted

6 Tbsp. (120 grams) honey

1 Tbsp. water

 

Heat oven to 350°F. Prepare an 8-inch square baking pan with a little butter or baking spray. Line pan with parchment paper so it covers the bottom and two sides of the pan with a little overhang. Lightly grease the parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the oats, oat flour, sugar, nuts, coconut flakes, chocolate chips, dried cherries and salt.

In a medium bowl, stir together the peanut butter, vanilla, melted butter, honey and water. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and give everything a good stir to combine thoroughly. Transfer to a prepared pan and press the mixture into the pan. A spatula works pretty well, but a damp hand or piece of plastic wrap will help as well.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the bars are golden all over with some browning on the edges. Don’t be surprised to find the bars are still a little soft to the touch, they will firm up as they cool.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool completely or even overnight. When cool, run a knife along the around the edges of the pan and use the parchment paper to lift the bars out of the pan. Cut into bars.

To store, place bars in an airtight container. Or do like I did and slide the bars and the parchment paper back into the pan for storage. I think it’s the best way to keep them from crumbling.

 

Full Story »

Green bean and fresh corn stir-fry

table

It’s not everyday that I find a recipe that inspires me to make it immediately. Just like everyone else, I’ve got stacks and bookmarks and torn out magazine pages, waiting for their moment to shine. Unless that recipe is the salted Texas chocolate sheet cake from Bon Appetit, that demands immediate attention. (True story!) Anyway, there is often something keeping me from making them, some missing key ingredient or prep step that seems better suited to a weekend cooking foray. Maybe I am a collector or recipes, a hoarder even? That might be a topic for another day, but in this case, I had the perfect combination of enough of the right ingredients and some time, so I started cooking.

Without even knowing it, I started prepping for this recipe by heading out to my favorite fresh veggie place earlier in the day. Their late season corn is such a treat, and they had it sitting around by the bucket. By now, I have a pretty good idea of just how much corn I can fit in the produce drawer in my fridge, so I loaded up, knowing I would be eating fresh corn for the next few days. I don’t know how the corn and the recipe found me on the same day, but I’m not asking any questions!

I made this for a solo dinner by splitting the recipe, but whether you’re cooking for yourself or a few people, this stir-fry comes together pretty quickly and has great late summer flavors. And while I know the sambal oelek and fresh lime juice I squeezed on top of my plate might not have been exactly in keeping with the originally intended flavors of this recipe, I thought they were pretty darn good additions!

 stir-fry

Stir-Fried Tofu with Green Beans and Corn

 Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman’s recipe on The New York Times

1 14 oz. package of firm tofu, drained
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice wine or dry sherry
2 teaspoons sesame oil
½ teaspoon salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon ground pepper, preferable white pepper
¼ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
½ pound green beans, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
Kernels from 2 ears of corn
1 finely sliced scallion
1 cup roughly chopped cilantro

 Cut the tofu into ¼ inch slices, then cut slices into ¼ inch matchsticks. Place on a clean towel or paper towel and allow to drain while you prep the rest of the stirfry.

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, rice wine or sherry, and the sesame oil. Combine the salt, pepper and sugar in another small bowl. Keep these handy for when you begin cooking.

Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil and add the green beans, blanching for about one minute. Remove from heat, rinse in cold water, drain and set aside.

Heat a large skillet or wok over high heat until a drop of water evaporates immediately. Add a tablespoon of oil to the pan and tilt to distribute. Add the tofu and stir-fry for a minute or two, until it just begins to color. Drop in the ginger and jalapeno and stir-fry for a few seconds.

Pour in the remaining oil, then add the green beans, corn and scallions. Stir-fry for about one minute, then add the salt, pepper and sugar mixture and toss for good measure. Pour in the soy mixture, top with a lid and cook for about 30 seconds. Uncover, throw in the cilantro and stir-fry for another 30 seconds or so. The green beans should be crisp tender by now. Remove from heat and serve.

Full Story »

Two ways with grilled bread

Try as I might, I am pretty sure there is no holding off autumn now. The changing sunrise and sunset times are a pretty strong indicator that a transition is underway. The produce that I picked up at the market last weekend had a totally different color palette than my last shopping trip a few weeks back – deep purple plums, rosy apples and golden pears. I often reach late August not quite ready to make the transition to September. It’s taken all summer to get to these long, lovely days and warm evenings lounging on the patio. I need some time to settle into the idea. Can’t we just stay in late August for a few more weeks?

tabletop

By this point in the summer, it seems like my garden is just coming into its own. Everything is growing with gusto, there are armloads of tomatoes just waiting to be picked, a row of kale practically falling all over itself and green beans are gaining such momentum that I am pretty sure that is all we will be eating for the next two weeks. It’s true, I probably brought this situation on myself with I planted four rows of beans, but I was a little excited. I had big plans for beans and I didn’t really stop to see the potential for green bean overload at the time.

peach-tabletop

Back in spring, when I would sit out in the empty garden and dream about how things would look at this time of year, I decided to create an archway over the entrance to the garden. And since gardens are lessons in patience, I decided not to “build” an arch, but to grow one out of runner beans. I staked up 6-foot high sections of netting at the front of the two raised beds that make my garden. Then I wired bamboo stakes over the pathway, connecting the two panels. From there, I planted a selection of beans, based mainly on their descriptions, which all included some wording about an 8- to 10-foot plant.

It didn’t taken them long to race up the netting and wind their way over the bamboo bridge to create my archway. It’s turned out really well, in fact. The unintended consequence has been the bumper crop of beans. I’ve been freezing a few batches of them when my harvest takes up too much room in the fridge. But mostly, we’ve been doing our best to keep up with the bounty and eating them at most every meal.

dinner

Today I am sharing a couple of late summer ideas that are starting to warm me up to the idea of my dinner spending more that a few minutes on the stove. Think of this grilled bread as a blank canvas, just awaiting your creativity. We’ve been loving a recipe for slow simmered green beans that I shared here. I completed the toasty trifecta with a couple of slivers of speck and topped it off with a slice of fresh feta. But it would also be delicious with ratatouille or some sauteed greens and a poached egg. Don’t stop with the savory options, the grilled bread is also a delicious base for the late summer fruit that is in season. Sliced fresh or lightly grilled alongside the toast, peaches, plums and pears are all going to be delicious. No need to mention the addition of ice cream – you know I already went there!

first-bite

GRILLED BREAD

Loaf of French bread, or other favorite loaf
Olive oil

Slice bread to a medium thickness. Brush both sides of the slice with olive oil. Place on a hot grill until char marks appear. Repeat on the other side. Remove from grill, top and eat immediately.

Full Story »

A new kind of icebox cookie

2-mixers

My son has been asking me to let him help in the kitchen. Since he brings his toys out into the kitchen to play most evenings, he has a good view of the happenings and has zeroed in on a few tasks that interest him. Most recently, he wants to know how to use a knife. This comes after lessons with the box grater, egg cracking 101 and ice cream churning. I’ve started him out with the smallest, dullest knife that I have and Sean is under strict orders not to sharpen it. Might as well get him in there while he is interested, right? With constant supervision, he has gotten pretty good at slicing olives and cucumbers, his favorite tasks since he also gets to snack while working! Consistency will come eventually, I suppose, but for now, slice width varies widely!

coconut

One of his earliest tasks was stirring. We’ve had our fair share of spills and sloshes. But once we got past those, he has become quite a good little helper. Which brings me to the cookies I am sharing today – they are a perfect recipe to make with kids.

The summer heat is upon us – days and days of 100+ degree weather. By late afternoon, it seems like the heat has hits its high point and just maintains a searing level of intensity that can undo the deepest air conditioned shivers in two minutes flat.

distractions

These days the oven is rarely on. I can’t bear to add to the indoor temperature. We grill, we eat salads and ice cream. And when we need cookies, we gather at the counter and make these little freezer treats, then go park it somewhere cool for awhile.

If you have a small cookie scoop, you’ll want to use it for this recipe. Otherwise, you can use a spoon to shape these cookies.

2-scoops

Chocolate Freezer Macaroons

Makes about 15 cookies

⅔ cup dark cocoa powder
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup coconut oil, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cups unsweetened coconut

Combine first five ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth.

Stir in shredded coconut until everything is combined. Use a small cookie scoop to form cookies, place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Freeze for 30 minutes or until firm. Store in the freezer.

treats

Full Story »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: