Potager Americain 

I recently learned the French word “potager” – it means kitchen garden.  I love all the various words for gardens. I like the idea of victory gardens, of food not lawns, of your plain old veggie garden…but the simplicity and elegance of potager? That’s a word I can get behind. (I am an English teacher, ergo a word nerd). 

My birthday is in early March….and delightfully here in zone 7b, I can get started right around then!

   
This was after my birthday weekend. Little baby kale and strawberries and lots of seeds you can’t see. (Also: beehive)

  

After a few weeks and thrifting some roofing slates.

Then I realized I had way more seedlings than space, so I added a few more beds (this is April 15th). (And because I’m a seed hoarder, I might be adding another new bed…oops.)

  

First harvest! Kale and mustard greens!

 

First dinner! Gluten free Alfredo with crisped garden greens on top and some super dry homebrew cider. All the deliciousness.

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Gluten-Free Rosemary Potato Rolls

Alright – so here is the final piece of my three day recipe roundup.  I have to give about 95% of the credit for this to these guys over at gluten-free-bread.org, this is their recipe with a few tweaks I made to use up the whey we made in step 1…and a few other tweaks because I can’t leave well-enough alone.  My mother has always yelled at me for never trying a recipe as written the first time, I always change as I go.  So here you go:

You’ll need…

2 cups mashed potatoes (instant potatoes will work great also) <–here’s where my disagreement begins, NEVER WILL I MAKE instant potatoes – they’re not real food and besides they taste weird.

1 cup water (use the water from cooking the potatoes)

2 packages active dry yeast

3 Tbsp. sugar 2 tbsp of honey

1 ½ cup buttermilk, room temperature however much leftover whey you have + enough regular milk or buttermilk to equal 1.5 cups.  I had a half a cup of whey so added a cup of milk.

6 Tbsp. melted butter, cooled (I threw in the whole stick – it’s how I do)

3 tsp. salt

2 – 3 tsp. dried rosemary (crushed) 1 tbsp of fresh rosemary (chopped)

5 ½ to 6 ½ cups light gluten-free flour blend King Arthur Gluten Free Flour, this stuff is the bomb.

1 tsp. xanthan gum  xanthan gum is pricy and I don’t have any, so I skipped this and they came out just fine

** my addition here, an egg.  It might have made up for skipping the xanthan gum.

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix sugar honey, yeast, water (make sure this is just slightly warmer than body temperature or it will kill the yeast), and mashed potato. Set the mixture aside for 5 minutes, until the yeast begins to foam.

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With the paddle (or dough hook) attachment on your stand mixer, and with the mixer set on low, add buttermilk/milk/whey, melted butter, salt and rosemary to the yeast/potato/water mixture.

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Add in 5 ½ cups of the flour, a little at a time, until the dough starts to get sticky. With the mixer on high, mix the dough for 4 minutes.  Toward the end, toss in the egg.

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(If you don’t have a mixer, you can still make these rolls. Just work the dough with your hands until the mixture is combined, for about 8 minutes or so.)

Put the dough onto a well-floured work space. Roll the dough, with a floured rolling pin, until it is ¾ inch thick. Using a serrated knife, cut the dough into 2-inch squares or triangles (you can also roll these sections into balls for a true ‘roll shape’).

I skipped the above and just went with a muffin tin, it made the cooking time shorter and also was just less of a pain all around.

Place the rolls 1 inch apart on cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

Preheat your oven to 375°F.

Let the dough rise for 15 to 30 minutes. Fill muffin tin cavities 3/4 full with well-risen dough. Then, place into your preheated oven. Bake for about 18 to 20 12-15 minutes, until they are golden brown.

Et voila! 🙂

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FIRE CIDER – The People’s Medicine! (recipe always in flux)

A few years ago, a coworker of mine came in with a bottle of fire cider that her mother had sent her and dared all of us to give it a taste….we were nervous at first, especially me, I DO NOT LIKE spicy things…  But I tried it….it was spicy and sweet and complex and it got my blood moving. which is exactly what it’s designed to do!

As soon as I figured out just how easy it is to make, I set out to make my own.  I make it differently every time I do it, although there are some *must have* ingredients in there…I’ll get to that. 🙂

The recipe is based on a number of recipes handed down potentially since the days of the Black Plague, but it’s been perfected and titled by Rosemary Gladstar, a matriarch of the modern herbal community.

It’s an immune booster, a digestive aid, a blood stimulant, a winter warmer, a cold chaser.  It’s a great thing to have around and SUPER easy to make.  You can drink it straight, mix it into juice, put it on a salad, mix it with hot water and honey like a tea (you can also inhale the steam to get your sinuses moving).  It’s pretty magical stuff.

You can watch Rosemary make it and talk about it here:

There are tons of variations on this recipe, but the key ingredients are garlic, onion, horseradish, ginger, cayenne, apple cider vinegar and honey.  You can add other varieties of pepper, peppercorns, turmeric, cinnamon, rose hip, other members of the allium family, citrus, fennel, thyme, lavender, echinacea, parsley…basically if it makes you think: immune boosting, full of vitamin c, warming, blood stirring, or digestive….you can throw it in there.

Today as I was repeatedly strolling the farmer’s market (it was a glorious day here…and anyone who follows me on Instagram saw my silly vintage cape ensemble that I was strolling in)….I kept noticing the brightly colored peppers on all the stalls.  I don’t like spicy food, so I only ever use peppers for fire cider.  I also knew I had ginger at home because of my recent ginger soda endeavors…so I decided to make my first batch of fire cider for the year.

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Current Batch of Fire Cider Includes:

  • 2 small local vidalia onions
  • 1 heirloom cayenne pepper
  • 1 peach habanero pepper
  • a big chunk of horseradish (probably about a half a cup of chopped root)
  • about 6 little chunks of turmeric root (about 1/4 cup of root bits)
  • an orange
  • most of a lemon
  • a 6 inch piece of ginger root
  • about a quarter cup of scallion tops (I had them lying around)
  • two full heads of garlic (pressed)
  • a big chunk of rosemary from the garden
  • an entire bottle of Braggs apple cider vinegar

It’s all chopped up and chucked into a half gallon mason jar.  I’m actually using one of my super vintage ones because it has a glass lid – vinegar tends to corrode the metal ones, which isn’t so nice.  If you’re using one with a metal lid, everyone says to stick a piece of waxed or parchment paper between the lid and the jar.

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Once it’s macerated for 4-6 weeks (and shake that baby occasionally, it does really help), I’ll strain out all the veggie matter and mix in honey to taste.  I actually have a rosebush in my yard that’s going to hip nicely…so I might make a honey/rosehip syrup and mix that in.  The fun part is that you don’t have to adhere to any recipe strictly.  You can make it differently every single time if you want to.

I keep the big bottle in the fridge, but I have a small bottle on my bathroom counter with an eyedropper and I take it if I’m feeling like I’m starting to get sick, if my stomach is upset, or if I’m really cold….or sometimes just for fun.  If I feel like I need a big dose, I mix it into OJ.  I also like to keep a small bottle in my travel bag and take it while I’m traveling…I think it’s better than Airborne.

If you want to read about the current (and really appalling) trademark controversy over fire cider (essentially a corporation has placed a trademark on a folk remedy that isn’t theirs to trademark and has been sending nasty letters to herbalists all over the country to have them change the name of their product), please go here: http://freefirecider.com/  – also consider signing the petition here to revoke this trademark.

Traditions not trademarks!

Polenta Pie! Another gluten-free kitchen experiment.

I make a lot of other peoples’ gluten free recipes, but every now and then I take something into my head and it won’t leave until I make it.

I’m not the hugest fan of polenta, like cream of wheat, the texture bugs me out a little bit…and even fried it’s just never done anything for me. But this week, I had a polenta epiphany!!

I was out checking on the garden, and noticed that my basil plant was starting to go a little crazy. Crazy basil= pesto.

I had a bunch of pasta last week, so I decided to try something different….and polenta came to mind. Without even googling to see what anyone else had done, I set to work on my polenta pie.

The first step is making the pesto. I used this pesto recipe without the pine nuts (I just didn’t have any, and it’s fine without). My only change was an extra clove of garlic and a splash of milk because I like my pesto creamy.

Once the pesto was done, I browned a diced chicken breast in garlic and oil.

I covered that pan to keep the heat in, set the oven to 350, and put water to boil for the polenta.

I made a single portion of polenta to package instructions, and as soon as it had thickened, scooped it into a pie plate I had waiting.

Using a rubber spatula, I smoothed it into a layer about an inch thick, then I “iced” the polenta cake with a generous pesto layer. After that, I sprinkled on the chicken, placed two fistfuls of baby spinach on top of that, layered on some slices of fresh mozzarella, sprinkled on my diced Roma tomato and then spritzed the whole creation with balsamic vinegar.

When I was done, it looked like this:

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Then I popped it into the oven for just long enough to melt the cheese, which took about 12 minutes. Just long enough to clean up the kitchen!

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This little guy should serve 4! 🙂

Labor Day Lavender Mint Lemonade…and Lemon Vinegar Cleaner

Labor Day is that day when we all realize that summer is pretty much over…sigh.  But in honor of our national day of rest, I cooked up a batch of my favorite lemonade…and (because my little cherubs at school are all starting to be sick) I used the lemon peels to make a citrus surface cleaner.  I love multi-tasking.  For about $3 I got a delicious pitcher of lemonade and enough spray cleaner to last me into the new year.  Wanna know how?  Let’s go!

The first step involves your herbs – you can use fresh or dried.  I had fresh lavender in the garden, but wanted to use up some of last year’s dried peppermint.  I gave my lavender a bit of a haircut.  Once the leaves were stripped from the stalk (just like with rosemary, invert and scrape) I had about a quarter cup of little lavender needles and a few flowers.  I grabbed about a cup (not packed too hard) of peppermint leaves from their jar – with dried you always want to use more to make up for the potency lost during the drying process.

Put 5 cups of water in a saucepan – if you’re using sugar, put 2.5 cups of sugar in with it and boil until the sugar dissolves.  If you’re using honey, which I do – I use about a cup and a half of honey and *never* boil honey, it destroys the lovely enzymes in it and is just not necessary.   So for honey – heat the water to almost boiling, remove from heat add the honey and stir until it dissolves.  Then (for both versions) add the herbs, stir until they’re saturated in the syrup, cover and leave covered until cooled.  As with many recipes of this nature, it may only take 30 minutes to cool to room temperature, but the longer you leave it, the stronger the syrup.  I always recommend leaving it overnight.

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Next we make the lemonade part!  You’ll need about a 2lbs of lemons (about a dozen).  Usually when it comes to citrus, you don’t really need to wash them…but because we’re using the peels – I like to give the outsides a little scrub (and take the stickers off).  Halve them and juice them.  I love any excuse to use my vintage citrus juicer!

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Strain the seeds and pulp out of the lemon juice and pour it into a pitcher.  Once the herbal concoction has cooled, strain that into the same pitcher, add 4-5 more cups of water (you might want to spot check it for strength as you go), stir and serve over ice.

If you’re feeling extra fancy, add a shot or so of gin to the mix and garnish with fresh mint. 🙂

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Pictured with my favorite gin….that I will need to figure out where to procure now that I’m not in the northeast!

Making the cleaner is the easy part – pack a mason jar (or jars) with the peels, pour vinegar into jar and let steep for two weeks.  I periodically check to make sure that the vinegar is covering the peels and to agitate it slightly.  Once you’re ready to use it – fill a spray bottle 1/4 full with the infused vinegar and the remaining 3/4 with water (or half and half if you’ve got a really dirty mess on your hands, but I find 1:3 works great).  You can also use citrus vinegar as a base for salad dressing or in cooking.  It’s useful stuff! 🙂

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First Week of School Done – Celebrating with a Cocktail!

Mint Juleps are my favorite summer cocktail (school may have started, but it’s still summer ok?!)– they’re a no brainer when you have a mint plant in the garden that just won’t quit.  I also, no surprise, have a little honey around (not mine yet, but local and raw and tasty).  So I decided to make my own version of the classic.

First of all – Minty Honey Simple Syrup:

Fill a mason jar (or equivalent) about a third full of mint leaves.  Then 1/2-2/3 full of tap water as hot as you can get it to come out.  The rest of the space in the jar should be filled with honey!  Leave a little “headspace” in there for future shaking.  I like to stir or swirl it a little at first as it’s cooling and then close it up and give it a good shake.  Steep that as is for at least 20-30 minutes…get it good and minty.  Shake it occasionally.  I like to make mine the night before and then leave it in the fridge to really get good and steeped.

Next, strain all the leaves out – and combine with a good bourbon (Four Roses is my current fave) at 1 part syrup to 2 parts bourbon.  I like mine sweet!  I’ve also seen a shot an a half of bourbon to 2.5 tablespoons of syrup…but that’s too precise for my taste.

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Serve over crushed ice in a julep cup if you’ve got the gear…or regular ice in something you like drinking out of…and obviously garnish with more fresh mint.  Delish!