Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Shepherdess needs...

...some sheep,

a barn for the sheep,

a 'farm vehicle' for hauling winter hay, a herd dog,

and a shepherd's crook.

David Austin's rose called 'The Shepherdess' isn't needed, but how could I resist? What a shepherdess really needs though, and appreciates when she has it, is a good farm sitter. Ask anyone raising animals and they will tell you good farm sitters are rare and hard to find. Luckily, I have my three almost grown children who, though not eager, are willing to farm sit. They are in that narrow window of time where they are completely competent adults but they haven't moved away yet. They keep reminding me that they DO KNOW WHAT TO DO and at least one of them will ALWAYS be here on the farm keeping an eye on things. "If you forget and don't water the pig, it will die and there will be no bacon this year!!" They patiently assure me that they won't forget to water the pig. Or the chickens. Or the rabbits. Or the sheep. I believe them.

Fried Smelt

Smelt are a small fish that migrate up the Columbia River in the early spring. They will move along close to the banks and can be dipped out with nets. When the smelt were running good (they haven't been lately), you could fill a bucket with them in no time at all. They are most commonly eaten fried. At times they were so plentiful that people would filled truck beds with them to use for garden fertilizer. My husband grew up on the Lower Columbia River where his family smelt dipped every year. My father would come from Eastern Oregon and stay with his brother when the smelt were running. Mom would clean buckets of smelt and freeze them (some were smoked first) and we would have them to eat all year. My husband and I both like smelt and while living in Portland in the early 80's as post graduate students, just like our parents, would dip smelt to smoke, freeze and fry. This is me with our oldest daughter dipping for smelt.

I had recently been lamenting how I haven't eaten smelt in years. My son works at a seafood distribution warehouse and told me fresh smelt was being shipped to Pike Place Fish Market. The tiny tot in the lamb coat is now 22 years old and works at Pike Place Market. Through a long and chaotic chain of events, her wallet and cell phone ended up at our farm one morning with her at work in Seattle and needing them, the day after the smelt alert. Taking this as a sign and opportunity, I offered to deliver her wallet and phone to her. After wading through the thirty or so people (I kid you not) blocking the way and taking pictures of the fish market, I jostled for attention among the ten or so people actually buying fish and bought 3 lbs of smelt, a bargain at $2.99/lb. "Are you going to eat that?" One woman actually asked me rather disdainfully. "Uh..YEAH." "Oh, I thought it was maybe used for bait." I try to be polite. "You could use it for that," I answered. I eventually delivered my daughter her things (she's still awfully cute!) and escaped the full body press of people crowding the market.

Once finally back home, I cleaned the smelt and froze half for a second meal later. I coated them in flour seasoned with Lawry's Seasoned Salt, though my mom simply used salt and pepper, and I've also used Old Bay Seasoning, a seafood seasoning I discovered while living in Baltimore. I fried them in hot oil until golden, turning and moving them around to cook evenly and managed to only burn myself once. They are small, cook quickly, and are best hot, so timing is everything.

Golden fried smelt for dinner with yellow rice, and a green salad and broccoli fresh from the garden. Certainly not fancy and yes, you could even call it fish bait. It was delicious though and I enjoyed every humble bite.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bunnies, Beets and Blueberries

The season changes. The lambs are growing, as are the bunnies, and both will be ready to butcher soon. Please don't gasp with horror. The most local and sustainable meat possible is that which you raise yourself. That's what we do here -feed our family. Both good fortune and hard work have given us the means to do so. As a society and individuals, if we are shocked at the actual activities involved, then it indicates just how far removed we are from the source and reality of our foods.

I love beets -both the standard magenta-colored varieties and these golden ones. Last year I both pickled and canned them, though I have to admit neither was very successful with the gold beet. The flavor was really lost somehow in the processing which was a big disappointment. I love them in summer soups, and either roasted or boiled in the skins and then honey-glazed. Mmmmm.

Spinach and strawberries give way to beets and blueberries as summer progresses.

This salad is typical of my summer lunches -I throw what we have in the garden and fridge into a bowl and add salad dressing. A couple days ago it was sugar snap peas, leftover roasted magenta beets and tuna. We didn't have a salad dressing made up (I'm stubbornly committed to homemade salad dressings) so I added sour cream, cocktail sauce and rice vinegar -as weird as it may sound, it was pretty good. My kids were watching and impertinently commented that they thought it was really disgusting. This salad of garden lettuce, tuna and boiled golden beets was scrumptious with the poppy seed salad dressing I'd made for the previous night's dinner. I didn't think to throw in some blueberries -it would have been even better! My mom spends six months in Mexico living by a beach where she quilts while her roommate fishes. Every spring she brings back lots of home canned tuna and generously shares with us. Thanks Mom and Mike!

Poppy Seed Salad Dressing

Adapted from The Seattle Times Cookbook (a recent thrift store find)
Mix in mini food processor:
3/4 c. sugar
1 t. dry mustard
1/2 t. salt
1/3 c. cider vinegar
1/4 c. minced onion
1 c. canola oil
Stir in:
2 T. poppy seeds
Store in pint jar with a tight fitting lid. Serve on salad greens or fruit salad.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Best Blueberry Muffins

We have ten blueberry bushes that are about five years old. There are several varieties, allowing us to have fresh berries over a longer season, and the earlier types are beginning to produce fruit now. I adore blueberries and am somewhat crushed that my daughters don't really share my sentiment. I say it leaves more for the rest of us, but I honestly cannot understand -how can one not be absolutely crazy about blueberries?

Blueberries are a fantastic fruit to raise, harvest and cook with. They are easy to pick -no thorns or prickles. To freeze them, simply put them in bags without washing, and then pull frozen blueberries from the freezer all year long to enjoy -at least as long as they last. We eat them frozen straight from the bag, or defrosted and made into crumbles, crisps or a scrumptious blueberry sauce to pour over waffles and pancakes. When the bushes are in full production I make jam and canned blueberry pie filling and am hoping to make some country wine. These muffins are one of the few ways that the girls enjoy eating blueberries. I make them often, using both fresh and frozen berries with equal success. These really are the very best blueberry muffins -ever.

The Best Blueberry Muffins
Adapted from Muffins by Elizabeth Alston
In stand mixer bowl, beat:
1/2 c. butter, softened
1 c. sugar
Beat in one at a time:
2 eggs
1 1/2 t. vanilla
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
Add and beat until they are quite mashed:
1/2 c. blueberries (defrosted, if using frozen)
Add half at a time and fold in:
2 c. flour
1/2 c. milk
Fold in:
1 c. blueberries (don't defrost, if using frozen)
Use an ice cream scoop and fill well-greased or foil-lined muffin tins (the paper-liners have a tendency to stick). I always seem to have a bit extra so I make a wee little loaf cake, about the same amount as for two muffins, and it cooks in the same amount of time as the muffins do. Give it to some deserving soul who will be absolutely delighted.
2 T. sugar
1/4 t. nutmeg
Sprinkle sugar mix over the tops of muffins before baking. Bake 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Cool muffins half an hour in pan before removing to rack (I always forget this part without any disastrous results). I love to make these and have them ready and waiting the next morning for breakfast.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Spinach Crepes

Hooray, the garlic is ready! We grow and store the garlic we grow-enough to ALMOST make it through the year. We have been buying it this past month and I am very excited about the fresh garlic -just look at those beauties!

The Montmorency cherries need to be picked -one of the chores on my list today. It is a tiny tree but there will probably be enough for a pie, or to dehydrate and use in making more granola -tough choice. I will be happy when it produces enough for all my cherry desires.

The beets are also ready to begin harvesting. We adore beets -pickled, roasted and honey-glazed and it is a real joy to be eating them now.

The spinach is bolting which signals the end of its season. This is when I pick it all and make creamed spinach and crepes. I will make it in the winter with the spinach I've frozen and it will be just as good then as it is now. The onion thinnings substitute nicely for the yellow onions in the following recipe. It has a very humble appearance but this really is delicious.

Spinach Crepes
Adapted from The New Laurel's Kitchen by Laurel Robertson, Carol Flinders and Brian Ruppenthal
Blend in blender on low speed:
2 c. milk or soy milk
3/4 c. each whole wheat flour and all purpose flour
4 eggs
1 t. salt
Refrigerate 1 hour to over night. You can halve the recipe but leftover crepes will get slathered with jam or wrapped around whatever is in the fridge and tend to disappear around my house.

To cook crepes, heat a nonstick griddle to 325 degrees and spread 1/4 c. batter with the back of ladle in a spiral to make a thin round. Cook just till dries on first side and browns a bit on second. When all are cooked, make the creamed spinach.

Creamed Spinach
Heat in your largest skillet:
3 T. butter or oil
Cook till softened but not browned:
1/2 c. mushrooms, chopped small (optional)
1/2 onion, chopped small or 3/4 c. onion thinnings or leeks, sliced 1/4 inch
Whisk in and bring to a boil:
1 c. milk or soy milk
3 quarts (a large colander full) washed and chopped spinach. It cooks down a lot, so add as much spinach as your pan will hold, cook a bit then add more as it cooks down, until it is all in.
1/4 - 1/2 t. salt
black or white pepper
2-4 T. shredded Parmesan cheese (optional, but highly recommended)
a bit more milk if necessary

Fill crepes with creamed spinach and serve topped with brown gravy -my family feels this part is important, no matter how highly processed it might be. Serve with roasted or honey-glazed beets in the summer, or butternut squash and rice pilaf in the winter.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Two Bundt Cakes: Strawberry and Root Beer

I have an absolute weakness for Bundt cakes -I feel they are the epitome of home baking. I don't think you are ever going to see a Bundt cake on any upscale restaurant menu. Actually, I've never seen one on any restaurant menu, but then I don't get out much. On the other hand, they are often toted to potlucks, family dinners, reunions and church suppers, and are shown in the movies, as actually does happen in real life if one is lucky, being offered in homes to both guests, as in Erin Brockovich, and hostesses, as in My Big Fat Greek Wedding. This Strawberry Bundt Cake is a particular favorite with 'Excellent!' written next to its recipe. It is adapted from The Cake Mix Doctor by Anne Byrn and this recipe is for a 12-cup 'Made in USA' Bundt pan I recently bought.

Strawberry Bundt Cake
In mixer bowl beat:
1 white cake mix
1 c. strawberry puree (use fresh and dead ripe or sweetened, frozen and defrosted strawberries)
1/3 c. vegetable oil
2 egg
Blend low 1 minute. Scrape. Beat 2 minutes medium speed. Pour into a greased and floured 12-cup Bundt pan and bake 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until top springs back when lightly touched. Invert pan on rack and cool completely. Meanwhile, make frosting.

Strawberry Frosting
In mixer bowl on low speed beat:
8 oz. cream cheese
2/3 c. powdered sugar
Scrape. Add:
1/4 c. strawberry preserves (or strawberry puree) and a couple drops red food coloring. Beat one minute on low then gently spoon onto completely cooled cake.

Yes, this is a very ugly cake. I was impatient and didn't let it cool before taking it out of the pan. Oh well, looks aren't everything, right? This Root Beer Bundt Cake is a new recipe I recently came across and immediately sized down to a smaller 6-cup Bundt pan size before baking. When my kids were little I bought a 6-cup Bundt pan which is half the size most recipes are written for. I usually halve most Bundt cake recipes, including the above Strawberry Bundt Cake, and reduce the baking time (25 minutes for both these). I really like this size better for serving my family -you can bake a cake 'just because' without having 12 portions to eat. I halved and tested A LOT of recipes during, what the kids remember as, The Bundt Cake Recipe Period. This Root Beer Bundt Cake is adapted from a recipe in Baked: New Frontiers in Baking by Mat Lewis and Renato Poliafito. I added root beer extract for a more pronounced root beer flavor. Be careful and don't get too generous if adding it, as it is seriously concentrated.

Root Beer Bundt Cake
Melt in microwave:
1/4 c. butter
1 c. root beer made using cane sugar -do not use diet or brands made with corn syrup. Home made root beer would be best, of course.
1/8 t. root beer extract (optional)
1/3 c. dark unsweetened cocoa powder (Hershey's European style)
1/2 c. sugar
1/3 c. brown sugar
Let cool a bit. Beat in a small bowl then add:
1 egg
In separate bowl whisk together:
1 c. flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
Gently fold the two mixtures together and do not over beat. Pour into greased and floured 6-cup Bundt pan and bake for 25 minutes (35-40 if doubled for a 12-cup pan) or until tests done. Cool completely in pan on wire rack (unless you want an ugly cake). Loosen sides of cake and invert onto rack. Make frosting.

Root Beer Frosting
Mix together:
2 T. soft butter
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
few drops - scant 1/8 t. root beer extract (optional)
2 T. root beer or amount needed to make a smooth, spreadable frosting. Spoon on and gently spread on cake.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Alone in the Kitchen...

I am always interested in books about food, so I immediately put a library hold on the book, Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant -Confessions of Cooking for One and Dining Alone edited by Jenni Ferrari-Adler, the minute I heard about it. I also immediately recognized the title as one of Laurie Colwin's food essay titles -and indeed hers is the first essay in this book which is a collection of short writings on cooking and dining alone written by, well, writers. The highlight for me in this book was a bit by Laurie Colwin's daughter, Rosa Jurjevics, who I just recently had thought of, curious as to what had become of the young daughter mentioned in Laurie Colwin's Home Cooking writings, which I absolutely love. It is rare for me to have an evening alone but tonight its (almost) one of those nights -just me and my youngest daughter. I plan to have a baked potato with broccoli and sour cream, instead of a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream that I've been known to indulge in and eat as dinner when home alone. Here is a totally random collection of quotes from the book.

"If you choose to give this book to yourself, to keep it in your kitchen, my hope is that it will give you some company, some inspiration and some recipes that require no division or subtraction. I hope it will remind you that alone and lonely are not synonymous; you will have yourself -and the food that you love -for company." -Jenni Ferrari-Adler

"Dinner alone is one of life's pleasures. Certainly cooking for oneself reveals man at his weirdest. People lie when you ask what they eat when they are alone. A salad, they tell you. But when you persist, they confess to peanut butter and bacon sandwiches deep fried and eaten with hot sauce, or spaghetti with butter and grape jam." -Laurie Colwin

"We all have our eccentricities. Alone, we indulge." -Beverly Lowry

"Eating, after all, is a matter of taste, and taste cannot always be good taste. The very thought of maintaining high standards meal after meal is exhausting." -Ann Patchett

"Life's greatest sensual pleasure (or at least its most consistently attainable) should be shared. I happen to believe that humans were born to feed one another. The meal is our celebration of nurturance, our secular communion. Does this mean I starve myself when I can't find company? Not quite. What I do though is put off eating until I'm ravenous." -Steve Almond

"Let's face it: the truth about eating alone, despite our best intentions, is that nine times out of ten we eat badly. We eat inadequate food; we eat it too fast; and we eat it slouched over a computer or sprawled in front of a television, with all the enlightened social skills of seagulls." -Laura Calder

"What does a person cook for himself when dining alone every day? Lots of soup. Pasta... A treat. But truth be told, the best treat of all was a pot of hot black beans and fresh cornbread." -Jeremy Jackson

"I have thought about the apparent contradiction that someone who has dedicated most of her working life to cooking should be so reluctant, when she eats alone, to cook for herself. The explanation is that I consider cooking to be an act of love. What I love is to cook for someone. To put a freshly made meal on the table, even if it is something very plain and simple, is a sincere expression of affection, it is an act of binding intimacy directed at whoever has a welcome place in your heart." -Marcella Hazan

"...but I have never thought of that first evening I dined alone as an evening I spent without him. Rather I think of it as the first I ever really spent with myself." -Mary Cantwell

"I felt firmly then, as I do this very minute, that snug misanthropic solitude is better than hit-or-miss congeniality. If 'One' could not be with me, 'feasting in silent sympathy,' then I was my best companion." -M. F. K. Fisher

"If my mother was a food pioneer and my father was a food appreciator, I am a food nomad." -Rosa Jurjevics

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Heavenly Fava

Fava beans, also called broad beans, are the Arnold Schwarzenegger of beans. They are huge! The first time my husband grew them, I wasn't impressed, but I have since come to adore the heavenly fava.

The key is to pick them young and tender. What seems like an enormous pile in the pod will yield a relatively small quantity of beans.

The beans look so cute nestled in the pod -like little baby beans!

Young and tender like this, they are delicious. If older, you will want to slip them out of their skins as they become bitter later in their season. This is a time consuming task, slitting each individual skin and popping the bean out, so harvesting early is my goal.

A small quantity of bean is filling -two quarts of shelled beans is enough for three or four meals. I blanch them in boiling water for three or four minutes, cool quickly in cold water, and package for freezing.

The simplest way to cook them, fresh or frozen, is to heat 2-4 T. olive oil, add 2-4 minced garlic cloves. When garlic begins to brown, add 2 c. fava beans and cook until tender. Often I add 3-4 minced anchovy fillets with the fava beans. The anchovies here do not 'taste fishy' but really make this delicious. This makes a tasty vegetable side dish or for a complete meal I make:

Fava Beans, Orzo and Quail Eggs
Hard boil, cool and peel 8 quail eggs, if you can get them, 4 chicken eggs if not. Cook 8 oz. orzo pasta, or any other pasta shape, al dente and drain. Toss all with fava beans -cooked as above just till tender with olive oil, garlic and anchovies. Serve with black pepper and parmesan -and salt if you didn't use the anchovies, though I seriously suggest you do.

Friday, July 9, 2010


The rhubarb season marches on! My rhubarb bed is jungle-like in its vibrant lushness. The plants had a slow start this spring but are now in fine form. They like lots of water.

I want to harvest, freeze and enjoy the rhubarb as much as I can. Check out for lots of ways to enjoy and celebrate this fruit.

I've already mentioned this pie, but it's such a good country classic its worth saying again: Rhubarb-Strawberry Pie from Saveur is yummy! I came across a recipe for Rhubarb Bars, dubbed RhuBars that sound really good but I must confess -I am dedicated to my own chosen Rhubarb recipe. Until this year, these bars are all I EVER made with all our rhubarb. Honest, they are that good. Now that I have several more plants, I feel I should branch out a bit. Pie and fruit wine were my new-rhubarb-things-to-try but this Rhubarb Bar recipe is still the best.

Rhubarb Bars
Adapted from Rosie's Bakery All-Butter, Fresh Cream, Sugar-Packed, No-Holds-Barred Baking Book by Judy Rosenberg (Really, this is the title of this book and you so want to check it out!)

Butter 9 x 13 inch Pyrex dish
Preheat oven to 350 degrees

In food processor mix:
2 c. flour
2/3 c. powdered sugar
2 sticks softened butter, cut into pieces
Press into dish to form a crust. In a small bowl beat 1 egg white with a fork and pour over crust, tilting to coat evenly. Pour off excess (or not) and bake 25 minutes. Remove from oven and place in refrigerator for 15 minutes (keep the oven on). Meanwhile, prepare topping.

In large bowl, whisk together:
2 large eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
When crust cooling time in refrigerator is up, fold in: 6 c. rhubarb, sliced 1/4 inch thick, and pour over crust. If you mix this up and let it set while the crust cools, the sugar tends to draw moisture from the rhubarb and the custard isn't quite so nice, so fold it in at the last minute. Return to oven and bake 50 minutes. Cool completely before cutting.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Dye Day

Fiber on the hoof -Paris, the hulking ram beast, is busy at work growing another lovely fleece. He leads a hard, hard life here.

Fiber from last year's fleece. I sheared him in the fall and had it washed at Gretchen's Wool Mill. His fleece will weigh 7-11 lbs going into the mill, depending on how liberally I skirt and how long since his last shearing. This is about a quarter of his fleece. Here is how I dye my wool.

I heat several gallons of water in my cauldron up to 180 degrees, but NOT over. (I LOVE being able to say I'm using my 'cauldron' -it sounds so Earth Motherly-like!) I put in a good squirt of Dawn detergent and then add the Jacquard Acid Dye powder "2% - 4% of dry weight." (I have also used Kool-Aid as a dye powder, which works great but makes one think twice about giving it to small tots.) Slob that I am, I don't measure but just add a liberal spoon or lid full. Add fiber -it needs to be able to move freely. I probably put in about 6 ounces of fiber per dye batch here. Add 1/4 c. white vinegar (this is the acid part) when hot. I gently stir it every so often with a dowel specifically set aside just for this purpose. I try to be careful and not agitate it too much, which can felt the fiber, while keeping the dye bath hot for half an hour or so.

When all or most of the dye has been absorbed, or I feel enough is enough, I remove the dye bath from the heat. It can be left to cool a bit, or a lot, or immediately but very carefully, pour off the hot dye bath. The actual color of the fiber depends on the time in dye, temperature of bath, and concentration of powder -my being a slob with all three of these variables is why my dyeing always comes out a bit different. I rinse by filling the cauldron with hot water, with the fiber removed or pulled to the side-NOT running the water on to the fiber, which can (again) felt it. I rinse several times, gradually decreasing the temperature of the water, until the rinse water runs reasonably clear. Do not use the cauldron, or anything else used in dyeing, for food preparation.

I lay the fiber out to dry, preferably on a warm sunny day outside, where it will dry in a day. Otherwise, I put it somewhere covered and out of the way, where it will take as long as it takes, which depends on the air temperature and humidity. That's all there is to it! Next, I plan to blend these all together: teal, sapphire blue, violet, and Paris' natural ivory. My drum carder is set up in the cool basement and with the temperatures edging towards the 90's it will be a pleasant task to cross off my 'To Do' list. Weed wacking can wait.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Duck and Green Bean Curry with Quail Eggs

Quail mostly, I've read, mate for life. Sven is my son's quail who's mate recently died. We have another female in a separate pen, but he quickly -and violently- rejected her when we tried to put them together in the hopes of consoling him.

When I go on my daily walk, I can hear his call at least half a mile away. I find this amazing since he is smaller than a softball. He is like a chihuahua -all energy and machismo. He paces back and forth, or sits on his perch and cries his mournful 'Ta-Wheeet' -for a mate who will never come again.

Quail eggs are delightful. Children especially are charmed by their tiny size and deviled quail eggs are incredibly cute. Peel them when they are completely cold or it will not be a delightful experience. Of course, Sven does not lay eggs, but we still get a few from our lone female. This curry is one recipe I like to use them in.

Duck and Green Bean Curry with Quail Eggs

Hard boil a dozen quail eggs for 5 minutes (or 6 small chicken eggs for 12 minutes). Cool completely and then peel.

Brown 4-6 duck (or chicken) pieces, breasts cut in thirds and/or legs jointed, in 2 T. vegetable oil. Remove duck pieces. Add 1/4 -1/3 c. green or yellow curry paste and brown a bit.

1 T. fish sauce
1 T. prepared tamarind (or lemon or lime juice)
1 t. brown sugar
14 oz. lite coconut milk
1/2 - 1 c. water

Add duck pieces back in, cover and cook on low for 1 hour. Add:
4-6 peeled and quartered potatoes
1 qt. fresh or frozen green beans
Cook 20-30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Serve curry over hot cooked rice and topped with halved hard boiled quail eggs.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chocolate Mint Cookies

Growing mint in a garden bed can lead to mint spreading and growing wherever it feels like it. Growing mint and other herbs in pots is the perfect way to maintain some control over them, with the added bonus being you can move them when and where you chose. The chocolate mint is the pot in the back behind the thymes and next to the rosemary. I love it mostly because of its name. When making these cookies I feel so apothecarian-like, adding fresh chocolate mint to chocolate cookies. My recipe is adapted from Ken Haedrich's Double Chocolate Mint Cookies in his Country Baking Book. Of course, I've added more chocolate. They really are good and no commercial extract can compare to the fresh mint taste of these cookies.


If you are feeling really wild, buy a Rogue Chocolate Stout beer, add a scoop of ice cream and make chocolate beer floats to have along with some of these cookies. I wasn't able to generate much enthusiasm for the idea with my people here, so I went wild alone. It was quite good.

Chocolate Mint Cookies
Adapted from Ken Haedrich's Country Baking

Melt and set aside:
3/4 c. bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate

1/2 c. butter, softened
3/4 c. brown sugar

1 egg
1 t. vanilla

melted chocolate
3/4 c. fresh chocolate mint leaves, minced very finely (apple or other types of mint can be used)

Stir together then add:
1 c. flour
1/4 -1/3 c. cocoa powder (dark European or regular depending on how deep a flavor you prefer)
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

Add: 1 c. semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

Bake 3 inches apart on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 11 minutes. Cool on baking sheet for a few minutes before removing to rack to completely cool. Cookies will be very soft but will firm as they cool.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Spinach and Thai Peanut Sauce

"If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something." -Steven Wright

"It is a rule of nature that taking a day off on a farm sets a person back at least a week." -Jane Hamilton

Returning from a few days off from the farm, garden and home cooking, I'm pondering these truths. Freezing spinach (I should have had this done a week ago), and weeding in the garden (which is never really done) are my first tasks to tackle in a somewhat futile attempt to reestablish the tenuous feeling of being on top of things here.

Freezing chopped spinach in ice cube trays like this, makes individual portions to defrost and use in winter. To freeze, plunge washed spinach into boiling water then return water to a boil. Immediately drain and place in cold water. Drain and put in cold water again. Squeeze dry, chop and fit into ice cube tray. Place in freezer overnight then remove cubes from tray to store in labeled freezer bags. Remind teens to eat it. Some of their favorite ways to use frozen spinach are in soups, as a filling for omelets or crepes -and with rice and Thai peanut sauce. I like to keep frozen portions of this peanut sauce and spinach on hand in the freezer.

Thai Peanut Sauce
2 T. vegetable oil or 2 t. chili oil
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 c. water
14 oz. can lite coconut milk
1 c. smooth PB
2 T. brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
juice of one lime (or lemon juice)
2 Thai chilies, finely chopped (optional, if using chili oil and you don't want it really spicy)

Bring to a simmer. Cook 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently. This sauce can be frozen in 1/2 c. quantities and then defrosted for a quick meal of peanut sauce, spinach and rice or soba noodles.