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Posts Tagged ‘kitchen’

Herb Butter

Fresh herbs for making herb butter.

Herb butter is a handy condiment to have on hand. It adds a taste of summer to steak, baked or roasted potatoes, pasta, sautéed vegetables, fresh crusty bread…

I make a batch once the herbs in my garden are established and starting to get big. All it takes is a handful of fresh herbs – whatever combination you have or prefer – and half a pound of softened butter.

My food processor doesn’t do well with herbs. I chop them finely first, then put them in the food processor with the butter and several pinches of salt. Blend until well combined. Herb butter keeps well, so I put half the batch in the fridge and the other half in the freezer.

Freshly made herb butter.

Freshly made herb butter.

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Pan-fried black salsify, overwintered and harvested in SpringTwo Autumns ago, I didn’t get around to digging up the black salsify before Winter covered the garden with a blanket of snow. I was pleasantly surprised last Spring to discover that it had overwintered beautifully – even through Ottawa’s cold winter.

After digging up the deep-reaching black roots, David prepared the salsify in a simple pan-fry and it was delicious. Tender, sweet, subtle, creamy. I’d say the winter even improved its texture and flavour.

Last Fall, we were lazy again… and rewarded again with a healthy harvest of black salsify this spring. What a way to maximise the garden! At the end of the season, we’re busy eating the chard and kale. By spring, we’re so happy to eat something different and fresh, even if it’s only one meal.

Preparing black salsify is a bit of a pain, because of its sticky sap. Usually we peel it, immerse it immediately in lemon water, then boil it until tender in some vegetable stock. Finally we pan fry it with a generous amount of butter, a couple of springs of thyme and season it with salt and pepper.

I just read though that it can be boiled first and then peeled. We’ll have to try that method next spring!

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Date and Cranberry Muffin with Oatmeal Streusel ToppingI’m a fan of date squares, but often I find them too sweet. When I tried the cranberry-date squares from 3 Tarts, a bakery in my neighbourhood, I thought “what a smart combination!”

Those squares became the inspiration for these muffins. The dates give them a rich flavour (and minimize the sugar required) while the cranberries offer a pleasantly tart contrast to the dates’ natural sweetness. The oatmeal streusel topping provides some nice crunchy texture.

My mouth is watering as I write this. Time for a muffin!

Recipe: Date and Cranberry Muffins with Oatmeal Streusel Topping

Dry:
1 1/2 cups flour (I use 3/4 cup regular spelt flour and 3/4 cup whole spelt flour)
1/2 cup oatmeal (large flake/old-fashioned kind)
1/4 cup ground flax seed
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup diced dates (raisin-sized dice)
1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen)

Wet:
1 egg
1/4 cup oil
1/4 cup brown sugar (loosely packed)
1/2 cup date puree (see ingredients below)
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Date Puree:
1 cup whole pitted dates, roughly chopped
1/2 cup water

Oatmeal Streusel Topping:
1 cup oatmeal (large flake/old-fashioned kind)
1/4 brown sugar
1/4 flour
2 tbsp butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line/grease 12 muffin cups.

Date Puree: Combine chopped dates and water in a saucepan. Simmer over medium-low heat until dates are softened. Puree with an immersion blender, a food processor or food mill. Should yield 1/2 cup (no worries if it’s a little more or a little less).

Oatmeal Streusel Topping: Mix oatmeal, brown sugar and flour in a bowl. Add butter and, with your hands, rub all ingredients together until combined. Set aside.

Muffins: In a bowl, combine all wet ingredients. Combine all dry ingredients (except for cranberries) in a second bowl. The chopped dates will tend to stick together. With your fingers separate them once they are in the flour mixture; coating each piece with the flour mixture will prevent them from sticking together.  Add cranberries and toss to combine and coat the cranberries with flour.

Pour wet ingredients into dry, and blend until flour mixture is just moistened.

Fill muffin cups. Cover each muffin with some of the streusel topping, pressing it lightly into the batter. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown and tester comes out clean.

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Celebrating Baby's 6-month milestone with Orange Celebration Cake.

Celebrating Baby's 6-month milestone with Orange Celebration Cake. Oops, forgot to light the candle! Chalk another one up to mommy brain.

Usually I pay no attention to half-birthdays, but I think a baby’s first year is different. The 6-month milestone is worthy of celebration for both Baby – even though she won’t get to eat any cake – and the new parents – who will happily eat Baby’s piece.

Baby has come a long way: from practically helpless to a bright baby ready to discover anything within reach and a bit beyond. At birth, her main (and most amazing) skill was knowing where and how to get food. Today she is sitting quite well on her own (with an occasional topple), grabbing objects accurately and passing them from hand to hand, communicating in her own way with a range of sounds, and starting to explore solid food. She’s gone from 3.9 kg and 52 cm out of the womb to approx. 9 kg and 71 cm in six months!

Meanwhile, the new parents have survived the first six months relatively well. We’ve tackled the steep learning curve, adapted our lives, overcome a lack of sleep (not to say we don’t still suffer from it), created strong (and stronger) bonds, laughed and cried. Of course these things are all ongoing, but it’s a lot all at once at the beginning. I think we can be proud of how we’ve managed. We certainly enjoy the company of our happy, thriving baby!

The moment has come to broaden the focus of this blog. I realize that being a mother is an important part of who I am and influences the way I look at things. Motherhood is giving me a new angle from which to experience, and write about, the activities I enjoy.

I’ve decided to rename my blog “Thrive” to better reflect this broader focus (without changing the URL for now). I want my family and me to thrive through healthy, happy eating and togetherness in the kitchen, in the garden and wherever life may take us. I aim for my garden to thrive and provide us with fresh foods we can feel good about eating.

All that to say: I’m baking cake to celebrate!

Orange Celebration Cake is one of my favourites. I have no idea where the recipe came from, just that it was part of my mom’s collection and has been in mine for at least 15 years. Its bright and refreshing flavor and naturally sunshiny colour is particularly appropriate for this time of year.

Recipe: Orange Celebration Cake (Orange Cake with Orange Curd Filling)

Orange Celebration Cake: orange cake with orange curd filling.Baking this cake perks me right up. The aroma that pervades the house while it’s baking (and after) is wonderful and warming. It really sets the mood for celebration! I recommend making this cake the day before you plan to serve it, so the orange aroma has the time to “open up.” Quantities in weight – scale required!

150 g butter
zest of 2 oranges, preferably untreated or organic otherwise washed with a mild soap
175 g sugar
3 eggs
300 g flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 pinch salt
250 mL orange juice

Orange Curd Filling:
125 g sugar
5 tbsp flour
500 mL orange juice
4 egg yolks
50 g butter

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line a 9-inch cake pan with parchment paper and grease the sides.

In a small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. In large bowl, cream butter. Add sugar and orange zest. Continue beating until light and fluffy. Beat in one egg at a time.

Mix in flour mixture and orange juice, alternating between the two: flour – orange juice – flour – orange juice – flour. Be careful not to overmix.

Pour batter into cake pan. Bake 30-40 minutes or until golden brown and cake tester comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool before removing from pan. Slice cake in half horizontally. Prepare filling.

Orange Curd Filling:

Combine flour and sugar in a saucepan. Whisk in orange juice making sure there are no lumps. Mix in egg yolks. Start heating mixture over medium-low. Add butter once the mixture has warmed up a bit. Continue heating while whisking continuously until the mixture thickens to the consistency of runny jam.

Four layers of orange curd filling.

The four layers of orange curd filling, each one set separately, are visible before replacing the top half of the cake.

Carefully pour one quarter of the orange curd onto the bottom half of the cake and spread to close to the edge. Allow to set slightly (a couple of minutes). Repeat until all the filling is on the bottom half of the cake. Allow to cool and set completely (approx. 30 minutes) before placing the other half of the cake on top. Filling the cake in four steps will prevent the orange curd from oozing out when you replace the top half of the cake and let you make a generously filled cake.

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Curious baby "baking" cookiesCurious baby "baking" cookies

I first made these cookies (and froze a huge batch) while I was waiting for Baby to make her appearance. I was already on maternity leave, but she was “late,”  taking her time, getting ready for the world. Once she was here, they provided me with nourishment in the middle of the night while I was providing her with hers; breastfeeding builds up an appetite.

More recently I made them with Baby in the carrier. She’s so curious, looking from the mixer button to the bowl, watching the beater turn. Soon enough she’ll be taking her first bites and eventually be able to eat one of these cookies herself. And we’ll continue to bake them together. I look forward to that day!

I wanted to name these cookies after my baby. But to preserve our privacy, I opted for “6A” instead. 6 As like in her complete name. 6 As like all the good ingredients in these cookies. Tasty little nuggets of nourishment.

Recipe: 6A Cookies: Oatmeal, Dark Chocolate, Pear (or Cranberry) and Walnut Cookies

6A Cookie: Oatmeal, Dark Chocolate, Pear (or Cranberry) and Walnut CookieThis recipe is adapted from the Bon Appétit cookbook’s Oatmeal cookies with raisins, dates, and walnuts. They freeze well. Makes approx. 30 cookies.

1 cup flour (I use a combination of spelt and whole spelt flours)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
25 mL honey (liquid)
1 tbsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried pear cut into small pieces or dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.

Using a standing or hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and make sure everything is well combined. Incorporate egg on low speed, then beat in honey and vanilla and continue beating until light and fluffy.

Add flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined. Finally, mix in oats, chocolate chips, walnuts and pear pieces/dried cranberries.

Drop batter by tablespoonful onto prepared cookie sheets. Moisten fingertips and flatten cookies slightly. Bake approx. 10 minutes until golden brown.

Baby reaching for cookie

Sorry Baby, I shouldn't have tempted you, but you'll get to eat one soon enough.

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