"To have nothing but Sweet Herbs, and those only choice ones too, and every kind its bed by itself."
-Desiderhius Erasmus

Monday, July 14, 2014

Gazpacho Soup






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I am picking lots of tomatoes now, much smaller in size than I have had in previous years but still perfect for my Gazpacho Soup.


Gazpacho Soup

64 oz. Low Sodium Chicken or Clear Vegetable Broth
18 oz Red Tomatoes, diced
10 oz Yellow Tomatoes, diced
4 oz each of Sweet Red and Yellow Pepper,
4 oz Cucumber with skin
4 oz Onion, diced
1 oz of Spring Onion or Scallions, sliced thin
4 to 6 Garlic Cloves, minced
2 Tbsp. Balsamic or Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
2 tsp. ground Cumin
1/2 to 1 tsp. ground Chili Powder (I used Ancho)
1/8 cup Parsley, Cilantro and Basil, minced
Dash of Hot Sauce (I used Cholula )

Mix all ingredient together in a 4 quart bowl.  Adjust seasoning to your liking and refrigerate overnight for best flavor.  I sometimes add more seasoning after this.  

You can also puree some or all of the soup if you like, but I like the pieces of crunchy vegetables in the broth.  This is the way it was served to me the very first time I had it in a small, local Mexican restaurant back in the 70's.

Serve cold garnished with an herb sprig and diced avocado if you like. 

Hint: if you toast the ground Cumin and ground Ancho chili powder in a small, warmed skillet for a minute, it will add a nice rich flavor to the soup.

Monday, March 24, 2014

His and Hers Chocolate Tapioca Pudding or "Muddy Water with Fish Eyes"

Tapioca pudding has sort of fallen out a favor in the last 30 plus years.  I remember my mother making Old Fashioned Tapioca pudding quite often.  The recipe she used called for eggs, cream and milk, but the one I made today uses unsweetened almond milk and no eggs.

The kids will love this pudding if you call it 

"Muddy Water with Fish Eyes"


Chocolate Tapioca Pudding

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1/2 cup medium pearl tapioca (not quick cooking)
4 cups unsweetened almond milk
 1/4 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)
1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup good quality chocolate chips ( I used Ghirardelli bittersweet, but I also have used Carob chips )
Pinch of cinnamon (optional)

In a medium saucepan over medium heat add:
almond milk, tapioca, cocoa powder, and brown sugar.  Bring to a low boil, stirring often or it will burn.  Reduce the heat, put a lid on the pan at an angle to vent, and continue to cook for 30-45 minutes; stirring frequently until the tapioca is transparent.  A wooden spoon works the best for stirring and helps to keep the tapioca from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Now add the vanilla, chocolate chips and cinnamon if using, stir until combined.  Remove from the heat and pour into dessert dishes or mugs.  Serve at room temperature if you can't wait or refrigerate until cold.  This would be yummy served with a dollop of your favorite whipped topping too.

I used a teacup for the girls and macho mugs for the guys.

The guys could care less about garnish, I didn't even wipe off the pudding smudge!

Decorated with fresh mint and sage flowers from the herb garden for the ladies.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Swiss Chard Coleslaw with Colorful Bell Peppers, Olives and Sweet Lemon Vinaigrette

Swiss Chard Coleslaw with Colorful Bell Peppers, Olives and Sweet Lemon Vinaigrette

Meyer lemons are super sweet and are perfect for this refreshing coleslaw.  These lemons are thought to be crossed with a Eureka lemon and a Mandarin orange. They also make the very best lemonade since you won't need much, if any sugar.  They can be used in fruit salad, sliced and mixed in.  I leave the rind on too, just make sure you are using organically grown lemons.  Meyer lemons are grown all over California and are in many backyard family groves.  You will notice the rounder shape than that of a tart variety and they won't have the pointed knob on the end.

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Sweet Lemon Vinaigrette
  •  2 medium cloves Garlic, peeled and crushed
  • Juice from 1 Meyer Lemon, about ½ cup
  • 1 tablespoon grainy Dijon Mustard
  • 1 tablespoons fruity Olive Oil
  • 1 tablespoon dried Oregano
  • Sea Salt and Pepper (add to salad after combined) 
In a large bowl, whisk together all vinaigrette ingredients, set aside.


In the bowl with the vinaigrette place:
  • 1 large bunch of garden fresh Swiss Chard; use the white stem variety.  Clean and slice into thin strips
  • 1 each of Red, Yellow and Orange Bell Peppers, sliced in julienne style
  • 1 cup Sweet Corn, I used frozen, rinsed, then drained well
  •   ½ cup Green Olives, drained and slice
I used double this amount of chard, about 8 cups
Toss the salad ingredients together with the vinaigrette, set aside in the refrigerator, covered, for about 30 minutes.  Remove from refrigerator and check to see if it needs the salt and pepper, since we have used olives you may not need the salt, but the pepper is a good addition.

**More uses for Meyer lemons:  Try grilling thick sliced Meyer lemons and add to a salad of arugula and Parmesan cheese.  Preserve them in salt like tart lemons and you will love using these in curry dishes. I often just slice the lemons and layer them with salt, not much just a sprinkle on each slice and pack them, stacked one on top of the other in pint canning jars, they will keep this way refrigerated for several months.  Preserved lemons are delicious used in Moroccan dishes, Curry dishes, Couscous, Tagine's and salads.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Pickled Mustard Green Stems

 I hate to waste anything I grow in my vegetable garden, keeping this in mind when I picked Red Giant Mustard earlier this week I set aside the stems when I stripped them of their leaves.  Here is what I made with the stems.  Crunchy, slightly spicy, nice and dilly with just a hint of heat from the mustard stems.  You will love these little pickles!

Red Giant Mustard from my garden
For this recipe you will need a clean quart jar with a tight fitting lid.

In a small bowl add: 
1 cup Organic Apple Cider Vinegar
1 generous Tbsp Pickling Spices
1 dried small red pepper, left whole (optional)
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
Stir to blend

Slice the stems of the Mustard Greens into bite-size chunks and fill jar to about 3/4 full.  Pour over the pickling vinegar blend, and add just enough water to fill jar.  Add a bit of sea salt if desired.  Place the lid on tightly and shake to distribute the spices.  Refrigerate for 2-3 days, give it a good shake once a day.  These will keep for a month or more refrigerated, but believe me they will not last that long in this house!  Tony and I each had about a 1/2 cup last night as a snack. 

leave a bit of head space so you can shake the jar now and then
Every day or so I pick herbs from the garden to use in my cooking, it makes such a difference in the final dish.

My Homemade Pickling Spice Blend

1 tablespoons Mustard Seed
1 tablespoon Coriander Seed
1 tablespoon Caraway Seeds
1 Tablespoon Celery Seed
2 Whole Cloves
1 teaspoon Ground Ginger (or a fresh slice if using immediately)
1 teaspoon crushed Red Pepper Flakes
1 or 2 Bay Leaves, broken into pieces
1 teaspoon Whole Allspice Berries
1 teaspoon Black Peppercorns
1 teaspoon Whole Dill Seeds ( I used fresh dill for this recipe)

Some of the spices for the blend, the jar on the right is my spice blend. I have a collection of 1950's and 60's Spice Island Jars that I keep refilling.  Each jar has the original date on the bottom molded into the glass.
Optional: for a sweeter blend you can also add cinnamon sticks, but I prefer to only use those if I am canning sweet pickles, relishes or crab apples.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

French Flageolet Bean and Cabbage Cassoulet with Rosemary

My two rosemary plants are in full bloom, the pantry is stocked with all sorts of beans and I have been craving a hearty cassoulet.  I also had a head of cabbage that needed to be used, thoughts of that with caraway seeds and the flageolet beans were cooked the day before; this is the recipe that developed as I began cutting the cabbage.  A hearty Vegetarian cassoulet!

French Flageolet beans are a small pale green bean. If you can't find these substitute a small white bean such as navy beans or cannelini beans.

French Flageolet Bean and Cabbage Cassoulet with Rosemary
Serves 8

1 large Onion (about 1 ½ cups diced)
1 large Shallot, minced
2 Celery stalks, sliced (about 1 cup)
2 cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tbsp whole Caraway Seed 
I head of Cabbage cut in chunks (about 4-6 cups)
2 large Carrots, sliced (about 2 cups)
3 cups cooked French Flageolet Beans
6 small Russet Potatoes, peeled and cut in quarters
6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
Water as needed
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of fresh Rosemary
Salt and Pepper (I do this after cooking, but you can add it during if you prefer)

In a large stock pot, sauté onions, shallot, carrots, celery, and garlic in a bit of vegetable stock for 5 minutes; add cabbage, potatoes, rosemary sprig, caraway seed, bay leaves and 5 cups of vegetable stock to cover. Simmer partially covered about 20 minutes or until cabbage is almost tender. Watch the liquid and if you need more, add water or more vegetable stock. Stir in beans and simmer partially covered another 15-20 minutes until potatoes are cooked through.  The cabbage should melt in your mouth!  
Serve in shallow soup bowls garnished with fresh rosemary, in bloom (if available) and some hearty, crusty whole grain bread to soak up the juices.  Season with salt and pepper.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Thyme Scented Blood Orange and Cranberry Glazed Chioggia Beets (and bonus recipe)

4-5 small Chioggia Beets, cooked and peeled**

1 cup Blood Orange juice
1/3 cup dried Cranberries
1Tbsp Orange Blossom Honey
3 fresh Lemon Thyme sprigs
Fresh Mint (Orange Bergamot if you have it)

1. Combine orange juice, honey, thyme sprigs and cranberries in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until reduced by 1/3, this process with take about 10-15 minutes. 
Taste and adjust sweetness to your preference.  If using tart cranberries you may need a bit more honey.  

2. Slice the cooked beets and arrange on a platter or shallow bowl. Remove the thyme sprigs from the glaze pour some over the beets.  (You may have some glaze left over; see the bottom photos for suggestion.) Garnish the beets with fresh mint and serve.

**you can either roast the beets whole in the oven or simmer in a saucepan covered with water until tender. I chose to simmer these to keep the colors vibrant; drain, and place in cold water until cool enough to handle and peel. The skins will slip right off.

**I never peel or cut beets prior to cooking, I also leave the root and an inch or two of the tops on them.  The skins and stem will slip off easily under cold water, and this way they won’t bleed. 

If you don’t have blood oranges substitute any sweet orange juice; tangerine juice would be nice.  Also any honey will do here, I just happened to have orange blossom on hand.

Look how the Chioggia beets match the colors of the Blood oranges. This is what keeps me gardening year after year.  Mother Nature provides us with so much beauty, even if you don't eat these foods you should grow them for the beauty they bring to your life.

Here is another use for the glaze:  Red Beans with Beet Greens Salad with Cranberry Orange Glaze Dressing.

Take the washed tops from your beets and chop them into bite size pieces (I also used the stems, but first blanched them in the beet water to tenderize them.), you should have about 3 cups total.  Toss in a cup of cooked small red beans, mix in the leftover Blood Orange and Cranberry Glaze. Add some unsalted roasted almonds for crunch.  Yum!

A couple of the mints I have growing in pots on my patio.  I keep these in pots because mint would invade my herb garden if planted out, nice to walk on but you won't have anything else growing!