Saturday, June 25, 2011

Tomato Basil Feta Kale Muffins

I love savory muffins, and these take advantage of the summer harvest: tomatoes and fresh basil! (there is a fall version with butternut squash feta and spinach). They are a great snack with a glass of white wine on those longer summer evenings, or a side to a salad for lunch, or go well to the picnic on the beach.
  • 1 TB butter for 12-hole muffin pan
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup quinoa flour
  • 4 ts baking powder
  • 1/2 ts seasalt
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 ts grainy mustard
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • 100 g feta, cut into small dice
  • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes
  • handful basil leaves, chiffonade
  • about 12 springs of thyme, chopped
  • 4-6 kale leaves, chopped
Preheat oven to 405F / 200C, with rack in the top third. Use the butter to grease a 12-hole muffin pan and set aside.
Quarter the cherry tomatoes, and arrange on a foil covered baking sheet. Sprinkle with olive oil and some salt and pepper, and bake for 15 minutes until slightly wilted and caramelized, but not completely cooked. Set aside to cool.
Transfer the baked cherry tomatoes to a large mixing bowl along with the sliced basil, chopped thyme, chopped kale, toasted pine nuts, and the feta. Gently fold together. In a separate bowl beat the eggs, milk and mustard together and add to the tomato mix. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt, and sift onto the tomato mix, top with a generous dose of freshly ground black pepper and fold together just until the batter comes together, be careful not to over mix. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan, filling each hole 3/4 full. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the tops and sides of the muffins are golden, and the muffins have set up completely. Let cool for a couple minutes then turn out onto a cooling rack.
tomato basil feta muffins

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Free accommodation for the summer

For about 4 years I had this little blue bird house, looking a miniature German Black Forest house, hanging in a tree in my ‘back garden’, initially for the birds to nest, but eventually just for decorating purposes. This morning when I was taking a short break and hanging out with the cats I looked up to the bird house and saw a chickadee flying into. Oh! Really? Once the chickadee left, I moved a chair over, and lifted on side of the bird house, and, whattayaknow, I saw a bed of feathers and 2 little baby chickadees chirping thinking I am mommy and bringing some treats, but then thinking “that does not look quite right…” and being all quiet. So, I closed the roof, sat back at the table, contemplated that this has to be declared chickadee refugee ones the little ones start flying (and not incidentally fall into an open cat’s mouth). With a big smile on my face, I watch the chickadee come and go, with worms in her/his mouth. Happy subletters for the summer!



Friday, June 17, 2011

Pop over, popover

Today was a well-deserved break from work. I packed up my mountain bike and headed to Acadia National Park. The ride took me from Eagle lake to Jordan Pond using the carriage roads (built by J.D. Rockefeller in the 1920), and this time the Jordan Pond House lawn was open, and I enjoyed my first popover with strawberry jam and a cranberry pecan salad with marvelous goat cheese. Vacation at home!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Chipotle Parmesan Kale Chips

Yesterday I received my new dehydrator, and the first thing to make was kale chips. Instead of nutritional yeast I added a vegan parmesan that is based on nutritional yeast, so it worked out well.

Chipotle Parmesan Kale Chips:

  • 1 cup cashew nuts (soaked in filtered water for 2h)
  • 1/4-/1/3 cup filtered water
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 TB apple cider vinegar
  • 2 garlic gloves, peeled
  • 2 TB nutritional yeast based chipotle parmesan (or nutritional yeast)
  • 1 hot pepper, dried or fresh
  • 1 bunch of curly kale, washed

Soak the nuts for about 2 hours (I only did one 1 hour because I was too impatient, but it worked, too). Place the soaked cashews in the blender, add about 1/4 – 1/3 cup of water (I used the soaking water), add the lime juice, apple cider vinegar, garlic, chipotle parmesan, and hot pepper. The vegan parmesan has salt in it, so I did not use any extra salt, you can, of course, if you like it more salty. Blend the ingredients to a smooth, silky consistency. It should not be too runny nor too thick, more like a creamy cheese pasta sauce.

Destem the kale by ripping chips sized pieces of the kale leaves and discard (or save) the stems (for a smoothie). Place the raw kale pieces in a large bowl, pour the sauce on top and get massaging. Massage the ‘cheez’ mix into the heap of kale and rubbing the sauce into the  individual leaves to that all of them are covered fairly well.

Distributed the kale chips on the sheets of the dehydrator; avoid overlapping leaves because they take longer to dry and crisp up. One bunch of kale filled exactly one dehydrator with 5 trays to the brim. Dry on 105F for ca 12h, and get munching on tasty, crunchy kale chips!

DSC_0070 DSC_0077

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Kale Cat on the move

You might remember Cooking Cat. With the change of the seasons, her interest has changed from cooking adventures to garden adventures, especially making sure the kale is growing well. I wish I could say that but Baby Cat (her real name) has no interest in the well-being of kale but thinks the raised bed is a fabulous place to take a sunbath or eat the tastiest grass that peeks out. She generously throws herself on the warm kale bed feeling oh so good and flattening a few baby kale plants in the process. I suspect she sees all that attention of mine trying to shssssh her off the kale bed as great playtime, which needs to be rewarded with instant repeat. Cats.

kale cat 1 kale kale cat 3

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bay leaf palooza

I tasted them for the first time in the south of France: a 4 ft bay leaf bush in a garden delivered fragrant aromatic fresh bay leaves for stews and soups, and I fell in love with them. Later that year I found a small bay leaf plant in one my favorite nurseries, Everlasting Farms, and after that I think the trend caught on: now they are available on the Orono farmers market at Snakeroot Farms. So, naturally I have 2 plants. In the winter, they are indoors, sparsely watered, not too warm, but once outside in the early summer, they get very happy with the rain and sunshine and start to grow twice the leaves. The leaves mature over the summer, and there are no new leaves until the next spring. So, at the moment it is bay leaf palooza !

new bay leaves bay leaf plants bay leaf plant at FM

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Vegan chocolate cupcakes

Today, the trip to the farmer market brought sweet treats. I am not really big on sweets, but decided I want to support the newly opened vegan and gluten-free bakery stand with the adorable name Irish Daisy on the farmers market, which popped up this spring. First of all the cupcakes look just adorable, second they are VEGAN and third, the samples say “incredible baking”. Of course, I had to sample the vegan whoopie pies. So good!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Working outdoors…. with a laptop (tent)

Temperatures are currently soaring, the humidity is up and it feels like living in Florida for the day, drinking endless tumblers of iced tazo passion tea. But after 6 months in the deep freeze, no one dares to complain. In the summer I take the opportunity to work outdoors, al fresco as the Europeans would say, and last year I had this great find: a way to actually see my laptop screen without squinting all day. The I-Cap laptop tent. It is made from a thin synthetic robust material, has several openings for laptop cables and comes in different sizes. And… it works like a charm.

P.S. when it is not occupied by a laptop, cats tend to disappropriate it as cat tent.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

(Super) Creamy vegan polenta

Melissa D’ Arabian was cheerfully chattering on as usual on foodtv (I think of her as a non-tired, blond mommy Rachel Ray) and got my attention when she divulged that she had perfected this polenta for over a year and had actually asked the chef of the restaurant she first had it for his polenta secret. I had started to make more polenta when I went vegan last fall and love it. So, a new secret on how to make insanely creamy polenta… that was something to follow up on.

The trick to the super creamy polenta is twofold: 1) the ratio between liquid to cornmeal is 7:1 (so a lot more liquid than usual recipes ask for), and 2) cooking it much, much longer, like hours, than usual recipes say. Genius Melissa simply cooked it in the slow cooker because she had no time to babysit the polenta for 2 hours (who has?). Sounded all convincing enough for me to try it out, but I also wanted to veganize it. I replaced milk and half and half and butter with unsweetened, unflavored almond milk and some coconut milk, and the polenta was so creamy and perfect that it did not need any more vegan butter or sour cream.  You gotta try this!

creamy vegan polenta (makes about 2 servings):

  • 1/4 cup coarse corn meal
  • 1 1/2 cups unflavored unsweetened almond milk (like Silk, or Whole Foods brand)
  • 1/2 cup unflavored coconut milk (not the thick one from the can, but the drinking kind)
  • a bit of sea salt
  • a few grates of nutmeg

On a stove, heat the almond milk and coconut milk and whisk in the cornmeal. Whisk continuously until the milk is heated and the cornmeal slightly thickens. Turn off the heat, and transfer the polenta to a sprayed small slow cooker. Set to low, put the lid on and cook for 2h, stirring occasionally. Add the salt and nutmeg to taste, and serve.

Here, I serve it with stove-top grilled asparagus, mushrooms, red onions and fresh corn, and a drizzle of Stonewall Kitchen’s Vidalia Onion and Fig Sauce.

creamy vegan polenta

Monday, June 6, 2011

Summertime and the living is easy…

Finally some good weather, and the first garden patio guests for the season. A fresh breeze surrounds the table, the bugs have other things to do (til sundown) and it is nice to catch on sun rays and each other.

summer table grilled vegetable plate