Archive for May, 2010

I got home last night to find my mailbox bursting open.

When I looked inside, I found…

A tiny rhubarb pie made just for me!

Please excuse this short post, I must go eat my tiny pie!

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It’s canning season again! The other day I sat down with a notebook and started to plan out all of the things I want to make this season, the first being orange-rhubarb jam. I love, love, love rhubarb! This was the first time I have made rhubarb jam so I decided to follow a recipe, exactly.

I started by chopping rhubarb into 1/2 inch pieces and letting them simmer with a touch of water. While they were simmering I zested and juiced an orange.

I added the orange to the rhubarb and let it cook for about 15-20 minutes, until it was tender.

I then mixed in sugar and boiled it “until it mounded on a chilled dish,” or at least that’s what I would have done if I had a chilled dish and didn’t have to run off to work. I settled for boiling as long as I could, which I think was about 15-20 minutes. I like runny jam so I wasn’t worried about it not setting.

I quickly poured the hot jam into sanitized jelly jars that were warm in the oven. I always seem to under-estimate the amount of time it takes to can, but I had just enough time to process the jam in a hot water bath before leaving for work.

The jam was pretty thin, as I expected, and pretty sweet, also expected. Next batch, I plan to cut back on the sugar. The next morning, I went over to a friends for a pancake breakfast and brought a jar. The orange and rhubarb jam goes really well with Blueberry Buttermilk pancakes!

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My friend just moved into a new apartment, in honor of her move we made some breakfast. I found this recipe on Heidi Swanson’s blog. She always has beautiful, tasty, and inspiring recipes to share. I collected some ingredients and headed over for breakfast.

There was a lot of crumbling, grating, and mixing involved in making this crust-less Quiche. First I grated a zucchini, set it in a colander sprinkled it with salt and let it de-juice (the result came in two parts, a Quiche that was not soggy, and some vibrant green zucchini juice!)

Meanwhile, I chopped some dill and shalots and mixed them, and the zucchini, into a mixture of fresh ricotta cheese and Parmigiano Reggiano.  I added a couple of eggs and mixed it again.

I put it in an oiled cast iron skillet, and put it in the oven to bake.

After about 30 minutes, I topped it with some fresh goat cheese from Zingerman’s creamery and slid it back in the oven to finish cooking.

Note: I cut down the over all cooking time from 80 minutes to about 45-50 minutes because I used cast iron.

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I was looking through one of my cookbooks today and I saw a recipe for apple strudel.

I have always wanted to learn how to make it and this recipe looked very thorough. There are two components, the dough and the filling.

The dough was really fun to make! It needs to be stretched out, so I used bread flour and kneaded for a good 20 minutes. The trick to knowing that it has been kneaded long enough is, pulling a little dough away from the ball and being able to see through it…

While the dough was resting:

I prepared the apples, soaked the raisins in some rum, and chopped walnuts…

I used some day, or two, old bread to make breadcrumbs that I later mixed with some melted butter.

Now it was time for the fun part! Stretching the dough. I cut the dough in half so I could make one with and one without walnuts. Then I formed the dough into a level disc…

and began to stretch it on the table…

Thankfully, I had the help of my friend Sarah. It made it a lot easier having two people to stretch the dough!

We pulled and pulled and stretched and stretched until the dough was translucent.

After the dough was sufficiently stretched, I brushed it with melted butter…

…and placed the fruit mixture in a long mound at one end.

I topped it with buttered breadcrumbs and sour cream…

Next, I rolled it up. As I rolled I continued to gently stretch the dough. I used parchment paper as a sort of guide for rolling, the technique was similar to wrapping sushi with a bamboo mat.

I trimmed the ends and folded them under, gently nudging the filling toward the center of the log. I brushed the log with the rest of the melted butter and popped it in the over. When it was finished baking and had cooled down, I dusted it with some powdered sugar and touch of cinnamon.

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Yesterday was my friend Katie‘s birthday (lucky for me, she lives in the same town) so I made her a cake. While I was visiting my family in Iowa, I picked up a jar of “Coco Passion Jam”. This jam is somewhere between a butter and a curd. I thought it would be perfect for a cake topping and then I remembered that my sister had made a cake using it, a few months ago.

I started out by making a coconut cake with Haitian vanilla and coconut milk…

I hadn’t followed the recipe before so I was a little worried when it was time to fold in the egg whites and the batter was really heavy and slippery from the coconut milk. It was too late so I folded them in and hoped for the best…

A couple of friends came over to partake in the assembly. I don’t have a cake plate so I cut a large circle out of an old cereal box and covered it with tin foil. We sliced each cake in half so we had a total of four layers. We whipped together some Greek style yogurt and a little bit of the coconut passion fruit jam to spread between the layers.

We then frosted it with a, not too sweet, cream cheese frosting and dusted the sides with shredded coconut.

I finished it with a little chain of beaded frosting and a jam glaze.

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If you know me from Iowa, you know how amazing Francis’ dairy farm is. If you know me from Michigan, you hear me talking about the super rich sweet milk. On a trip home last weekend, I made a point to buy a gallon of Radiance Dairy milk and bring it back with me. It is now in my fridge, making me happy every time I open the door.
Borrowed from Torrey:

Sometimes towns are lucky enough to have a small, local, organic dairy. The town where I live is one of those lucky towns. Our dairy, Radiance Dairy, is run by Francis and Susan Thicke, and it provides probably the best milk I have ever had.

Every time I grab a cup of milk for tea, or mixing up pancake batter, or topping my oatmeal, I know that the source of the milk is a herd of very well taken care of and well fed cows.

The operation of Francis and Susan’s grass-fed dairy is based on the principles of ecology. Specifically, the cows are rotated through paddocks on the farm, imitating the grazing of bison on the prairie. The carefully managed plan of rotation allows for the cows to be fed on a healthy and diverse diet of grasses. The rotation plan also benefits the land through increased biodiversity and improved soil fertility.

Francis is running for Secretary of Agriculture for Iowa.  He has a vision of how to improve agriculture on a state and national level based on the effectiveness of nature, supported by advances in science and technology. Radiance Dairy is a working example of this vision.

Francis needs support, and it is easy to give money to his campaign. This is something that is so important for our state, country, and for the environment in which we all live. For more information, visit Francis’ website ThickeForAgriculture.com.

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Erika taught Heli and I how to make crostata in Italy. She showed us how to make it in pretty much the same way her mother (and probably grandmother, etc, etc.) made it. Erika made one exception, she melted the butter. Somehow she was able to pull it off, but when I have tried to repeat this feat, I have ended up with a very very hard tart…

So Heli and I cut in the butter. And then add an egg, and a little milk, and let the dough chill. If you have an extra jar of jam, this is the perfect desert. Sweet, but not too sweet, and fresh with the zest of a lemon in the crust.

We made ours with Heli’s apricot jam. With the left over dough we made a mini crostata with pear butter.

We latticed the tops, and drove the tarts into town to bake at the store (again..).

We had a little tart for my mom’s birthday, and snacked here and there for the rest of the afternoon…

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I went home to Iowa last weekend. My family is notorious for not taking a break while on vacation,my sister and I are a perfect example. My weekend was full of baking, cooking, gardening, fruit tree planting, and working at my mom’s shop. The next two posts (bird crackers and crostata) were written by my sister, who has a wonderful and inspiring blog. 

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bird crackers

My sister and I made bird crackers yesterday. We found the recipe in Good to the Grain, a book that we just got into the store (my sister’s recommendation). The book includes recipes for quite a few different whole grains including bird crackers, which turned out deliciously! (We made them specially for my brother who was studying for finals over the weekend.)

Bird Crackers are basically glorified pie dough, if you ask me. The recipe calls for “regular” (wheat) flour and barley flour. We added butter, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, and a little sugar.

We substituted cheese for grated hard-boiled egg yolk, as we (at least I) just couldn’t really wrap our minds around this combination. The cheese was delicious anyway.

The crackers are rolled out (one time only for truly flakey crumb), cut into rustic pieces, and brushed with milk and topped with sea salt and extra sesame and poppy seeds.

We baked the cookies in a toasty oven, and tested our two cookie sheets to see which was better. The fancy All Clad beat out the plain old (good and sturdy) cookie sheet hands down! I was actually surprised at how well it worked! Even baking, delicately crispy edges, etc…

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