Sunday, September 30, 2012

September Zipped By

Some months seem to August does for me. Some just fly by. September did that this year. Between being careful of the arm, doing the InDesign class and homework,  and having a couple of weeks at the end which were full of social occasions, it just blew through, with not enough time to blog much. I noticed that there was nothing posted this month in the way of sweets, so let's end with an update on an old cookie.

Saucepan Fruit Bars has been a family favorite for many, many years. It is easy, mixed in a saucepan, uses buttermilk, has dried fruit, a dense crumb, and a zingy lemon glaze to wake up the fairly plain cookie.

Spicy Updated Saucepan Fruit Bars keeps all of the above but subs out some all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour, adds finely chopped walnuts and a dose of chocolate chips and increases the spice a bit. The texture is still dense and a bit dry and it still needs the lemon glaze but it is much more complex in flavor and quite delicious with a cup of tea or coffee.

Remember this one when you need a quick pan of bar cookies, need to ship cookies to servicemen or students or your favorite friend who lives far away. These cookies are speedy to put together and travel well, too. I think they are really yummy, too, so you just might want to invite a neaby friend or neighbor over for an afternoon cuppa and these cookies.

Spicy Updated Saucepan Fruit Bars

1 cup butter, melted

3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 cup whole wheat flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon each nutmeg, cinnamon, and cloves
¼ cup buttermilk
½ cup golden or brown raisins
½ cup dried currants
½ cup finely chopped walnuts
½ cup chocolate chips

Melt butter in saucepan. Add sugars and stir to combine. Cool mixture, then add the eggs; beat well. Add sifted dry ingredients, spices, and buttermilk and mix well. Stir in fruit, walnuts and chocolate chips. Spread in greased 15” x 1O” x 1” pan. Bake in a 350 degree F. oven for 25 minutes. Brush with glaze (see below) while hot; cool in pan. Cut into 2” x 1” bars. Makes 45 cookies.

Glaze: Mix 1 cup confectioners sugar and 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Late Rye Bread Worth the Wait

This lovely Rye Bread that has nostalgic meaning for Kitchen of the Month Elizabeth requires kneading and this month when the Bread Baking Babes...and many Buddies...posted their versions, I was still letting the old arm heal, so no kneading allowed.

Now we are into the 6th week post-injury and I'm supposed to start using it more, so I HAD to make the Fennel Molasses Rye Bread as part of my rehab :)

I'm not a huge fan of fennel or even caraway, so I added some pulverized dried orange peel instead. The molasses gives the bread a fantastic flavor. I used mild, not blackstrap, but it worked just fine. For the raisins I used golden raisins because thats what I had on hand. The dough is lovely and easy to work with. I decided to make rolls and they are extremely delicious!

This recipe is a keeper for sure. Thank you Elizabeth! I know I'm late to the BBB party, but it was worth the wait.

Molasses Fennel Rye Bread

based on Jack Francis' recipe for Molasses-Fennel Bread served at "Clark's by the Bay" restaurant in Collins Bay, Ontario (near Kingston) - now sadly closed
makes two round loaves (or 8 large rolls)

¼ c (63gm) lukewarm water
1½ tsp ( 6 5gm) active dry yeast
4 tsp (17gm) sugar
4 Tbsp (85gm) blackstrap molasses
1¾ c (438gm) water, room temperature
1 Tbsp (6gm) fennel seeds
½ tsp (1gm) ground dried ginger
1 c (103gm) rye flour
1 c (122 gm) whole wheat flour
½ c (59gm) wheat germ
2 c (254gm) unbleached all purpose flour
1 Tbsp (18gm) salt
¼ c (36gm) Thompson raisins
up to ½ c (64gm) unbleached all purpose flour for kneading

Mixing In a smallish bowl, whisk yeast with the lukewarm water (do the baby's bottle test on your wrist) until it resembles cream. Set aside.

Meanwhile, in a bowl large enough for the dough to double, pour the rest of the water. Stir in sugar and molasses. (If the molasses is stiff because of a chilly kitchen, use warm water instead of room temperature.) Add fennel seeds and ground ginger. Dump in flours, wheat germ and salt and stir with a wooden spoon until the flour is mostly absorbed.

Add the yeast mixture (it should be quite foamy - if it is not after a period of 20 minutes have passed, either the yeast is dead or the water was too hot or far too cold. Check the due date on your yeast container. If the date hasn't passed, try again.) stir to form a rough dough. Cover the bowl with a plate and let sit on the counter for about 20 minutes.

Kneading Scatter a little of the flour for kneading onto a wooden board. Turn the dough out onto the board.

Wash and dry the mixing bowl. (Please do not be tempted to skip this step.)

Hand knead the dough 10 to 15 minutes, adding the smallest amounts of additional flour if dough is sticky. You don't have to use up all the flour. When the dough is springy and silky to the touch, knead in raisins.

Proofing Form the dough into a ball and put it in the clean bowl; cover it with a plate (there is no need to oil the bowl!) Let the dough rise in a no-draught place at room temperature (or in the oven with only the light turned on if you want) for about an hour or until it has doubled in size. Gently deflate dough. Recover with the plate and allow to rise until doubled again.

Gently turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board; cut it in half with a dough scraper if you have one, with a knife if you don't.

Shape into two round balls and place them (not touching) on a parchment papered pan or a cornmeal dusted peel. Dust the tops with flour. Cover with a clean tea towel followed by a large plastic bag overtop let rise until double in size. (about an hour if the temperature is around 20C)

Baking Place a breadstone, if you have one, on the middle to second from the top rack and preheat the oven to 400F.

If you want, slash the top of the rounds with a very sharp knife. Liberally spray the tops with water. Put bread in oven and immediately turn the oven down to 350F. Bake the bread on the middle to second from the top rack for 35-40 (I bake it for 45 50- 30-35) minutes until the bread reaches an internal temperature of 205-210F or until it is hollow sounding on the bottom. It's a good idea to turn the bread after about 20 minutes of half way through baking to allow for uneven heat in the oven (remove parchment paper at the same time).

Remove to cool on racks. Please wait until the bread is cool before cutting it. It's still baking inside! If you like to eat warm bread, reheat the bread after it has cooled.

We enjoyed these rolls with some butter, barely cooled from baking, then again this morning for breakfast. Awesome!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Beans Redux

Seems to take forever to actually get a post up these days. This bean dish was enjoyed last Thursday for my dinner before my InDesign class. It's starting to get exciting as I see new ways to do the book I'm working on, especially now that I have colors picked out and have collected a lot of the photos I'll be using. I tried out at least 6 cover ideas and I'm still not sure I have the right one, but at least I'm in the neighborhood, so to speak.

Anyhoo, the beans used in this recipe are the rest of the beans I cooked up for the Baked Beans. There is something very satisfying about a combination of beans and greens. It was a time saver that I could walk out the door and harvest four varieties of Swiss chard for the greens part and you can't get much fresher than that. I used the stems, too, which is what look a bit like red pepper in the photos. I would usually add garlic to this dish, cooking some minced garlic with the onions after the onions had cooked about half way, but since I was going to class I decided to just go with the onions. I still used some breath mints right before class. Onions are a bit smelly, too!

Feel free to add additional herbs, sausage or seitan, a can or helping of another kind of bean to make these even more interesting. Then dig in and have a nice, filling meal. Some whole grain bread would be great with this dish, too.

Beans and Greens

2 cups cooked beans...I used the Vallarta beans from the recipe in THIS post
1-2 tablespoons olive or grapeseed oil
1/2 yellow onion, chopped

1 large bunch greens, rinsed, large ribs removed, and washed well (I used chard but you could use kale, spinach, young collards, etc. instead)
1 tablespoon fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
Balsamic vinegar to taste

Reheat the beans in the microwave or in a pot on the stove.

While beans are reheating heat the oil in a medium sized pot, then sautee' the onion, stirring often, until the onion is transluscent are lightly brown, about 5-8 minutes. Add the prepared greens and stir to coat with the onions. Cover, reduce the heat to medium, and let cook for 2 minutes. Uncover, stir, and continue stirring until greens are limp. Add the heated beans and any bean liquid, parsley, salt and pepper. I also like a splash of balsamic vinegar with these.

Serve at once. If desired, sprinkle with more chopped parsley.
Serves 1-2

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Awesome Baked Beans

Last May my older sister came to visit and at one of the stores in town we visited they were selling one pound sacks of unusual, heirloom dry beans from Rancho Gordo. I chose to try Vallarta They are described in the book from Rancho Gordo, Heirloom Beans, as a, "dense, soft yellow bean" and as being very rich and often paired with other ingredients, including greens like spinach, kale and chard.

I wish I could say that I tried them immediately and have since become someone who eats heirloom beans once a week or something, but the truth is that it took me until this week to cook them up and try them. Since they sounded like a bean that would taste good baked, I used two cups of the cooked beans to make some baked beans to go with fresh, roasted beets,

capresi salad with heirloom tomatoes, basil and fresh mozarella, plus some leftover meatballs from Costco and a plate of sliced cucumbers. everything except the cheese, meatballs and beans came from the garden and it was a satisfying meal. The beans were so rich that I ended up only eating one meatball and one slice of the cheese in the salad. Next time I'll serve the beans as a main course and forget about any meat. They really don't need it.

This is a pretty simple baked bean dish. If you don't have any freshly cooked beans on hand, you could substitute white beans or pinto beans from a can and still have a nice dish. Adjust the amount of molasses to suit your own taste. Some kinds are more potent than others and some people are fonder of molasses, too. Sweetie loves molasses and really like these beans. I didn't look at any recipes, just threw together things that seemed like they would make a nice pot of baked beans.

Baked Beans

2 cups cooked beans (I used Vallarta beans from Rancho Gordo). Recipe for cooking beans below.
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1-2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons ketchup
salt and pepper to taste

Combine beans and next four ingredients in an oven proof bowl or casserole. Taste for seasonings and add salt, pepper, and more molasses to taste.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven, uncovered, for 20-30 minutes. Beans will be cooked through and crusty on top like the phot at the beginning of this post. Serve at once. Serves 2-4.

Cooking Dry Beans
I used a pound bag of beans and have enough left over after using 2 cups, cooked, for the baked beans that I can make another recipe. The instructions work for larger or smaller quantities of beans, but as long as you are taking the time to cook the dry beans, why not do at least a pound?

Pour the dry beans into a collander and rinse, making sure to check for any debris, small pebbles, etc. I didn't find any in my packet of beans, but have found some before when cooking lentils, so I always look. Place the rinsed beans in a large bowl and cover with cold or room temperature water. Let beans soak at least 3 hour, up to overnight. When ready to cook the beans, I poured out the soaking water and rinsed them again and set them aside. Some folks just put the beans, soaking water and all into the pot after they have cooked the mirepoix.

In the pot you will be cooking the beans, saute' a mixture of finely chopped onion, carrots and celery in a bit of bacon grease or olive oil or grapeseed oil. For the pound of beans I used 1/2 and onion, about 1/2 cup carrots and 2 stalks celery. This is the mirepoix.

To the mirepoix, once it is cooked long enough to color the carrots and so the onion is translucent, add the beans and stir to combine. Cover with water and enough extra water to be one inch over the beans. Bring to a boil, uncovered, and boil 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer, stirring often, let beans simmer until tender, somewhere between 1 and 4 hours, depending on the age of the bean and how it has been stored. When the beans are almost ready they really have a nice, beany smell which you will notice more than the onion-celery-carrot smell. Keep an eye on the liquid and add more room temperature water as needed. When the beans were almost tender I let some of the liquid cook down, so by the time they were done there was about 1/4 inch of beans above the bean cooking liquid. I also stirred the beans a lot to make sure that they cooked evenly.

Your beans are now ready to use in any recipe calling for cooked beans. Think of all the stews, chilies, soups, salads and so on that you can make. The Vallarta beans have even been used as ravioli stuffing, according to Steve Sando, one of the authors of Heirloom Beans. You can find Rancho Gordo beans and the book on the web, too.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


It begins in the chill of winter when I start the seeds germinating in the sunspace, continues with the planting of the sprouted seeds in the cell packs of soil, brings joy as the seedlings appear and grow even though it is still early spring and chilly outside. Eventually the seedlings get re-planted into bigger peat pots filled with more potting soil, are set out to harden off. The big day comes and the seedlings get planted in the garden, both in the soil, protected by gopher baskets, and in pots and half barrels of potting soil. Drip irrigation gets set up and tested and fixed where there are problems. Plants outside the irrigation system area get watered daily. In time fertilizer is applied, seedlings thinned where needed, plants caged or tied up as they grow taller.

 Flowering happens and in time 'fruit' is set and the beans, peas, cucumbers, tomatoes, squash veggies get bigger day by day. The beets underground do, too. The chard and lettuce get leafier and leafier. The harvest for beans, peas, chard and lettuce is pretty quick and the zucchini also is ready to pick mere days after the blossom is set, but the beets and cucumbers take a while and the tomatoes take a long, long time. It really feels like harvest time when the tomatoes are ripe!

That time has come and we are really enjoying it. Fresh Black Krim, sliced, lightly sprinkled with salt and pepper, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, it doesn't get much better than that. Fresh tomatoes have been going into salads, sandwiches, crostini spreads, chili, soups and more. The latest is a pasta 'sauce' of roasted Yellow Brandywine tomatoes and a few Russian Plums. They were drizzled with some olive oil before roasting and later tossed with some ground turkey that I had browned with a bit of onion. Parmesan cheese and chopped fresh basil was tossed in with the hot pasta. Sooo good! No recipe needed, right?

BTW the elbow wasn't broken, ligaments weren't torn, but muscle was, so left arm is getting lots of rest and right arm is getting a workout. PT coming up soon, too. Sweetie has been a champ through it all and continues to do things that are difficult, like fastening my seatbelt.

Time has also been taken up of late with a new InDesign class. We are doing a book for the class. If you look at the top right of this blog you'll see that I've done that...a cookbook in fact...but now I'm going to learn how to do even more. Expect another book to show up around Christmas. It is a lot of work, but tons of fun, too! Almost as much fun as harvest.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Roasted Veg Focaccia and Bum Arm

It's been quiet here at FME lately. one reason has been the delightful visit of Captain Jack and the Birthday Girl, but there is also the unfortunate matter of the bum arm. Have gotten moderately good at typing with only my right hand because a combination of accidents (apparently now insurance companies no longer call them injuries...they are accidents) starting with too tight a grip on an unfamiliar golf club, followed two weeks later with lifting a box which was much heavier than I knew. Had an x-ray yesterday at the hospital. With the Labor Day weekend, it will probably be Tues. before I hear back from the doc. This was a week after the doctor asked me to do a wait and see while resting the arm, which was 4 days after the box related injury, so it will be over two weeks after that I find out if anything is fractured! Guess I should have gone to the ER the day of the injury. Live and learn. Send chocolate!

On a lighter note, before all the serious stuff, I baked King Arthur Flour's Roasted Vegetable Focaccia using squash and grape tomatoes and basil from the garden. It has a lovely crust, a nice light & chewy texture and the veggies were a great topping.

When I make it next time I'm going to add fresh rosemary to the dough and sprinkle Parmesan on top of the veggies to bake on...will probably put the tomatoes on the dough at the same time as the squash, too. Putting them on later meant the slid off the crusted dough instead of sinking in.

Roasted Veg Focacciafrom King Arthur Flour


1/2 cup cool water
1/16 teaspoon instant yeast
1 cup King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour

all of the starter (above)
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water*
2 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons Baker's Special Dry Milk or nonfat dry milk
2 tablespoons olive oil
*Use 1 tablespoon less water in summer (or in a humid environment), 1 tablespoon more in winter (or in a dry climate).

3 pounds zucchini, about 6 medium zucchini*
olive oil
Pizza Seasoning, optional
2 bunches scallions, root ends trimmed*
1 pound cherry tomatoes*
shaved Parmesan cheese, optional
*Don't stress over exact amounts here; more or less of any of these ingredients is fine.

1) To make the starter: Mix the water and 1/16 teaspoon yeast, then add the flour, stirring until the flour is incorporated. The starter will be paste-like; it won't form a ball.

2) Cover and let rest at room temperature for about 14 hours; the starter will be bubbly. If you make this in the late afternoon, it'll be ready to go by the next morning.

3) Combine the risen starter with the remaining dough ingredients, and mix and knead — by hand, mixer, or bread machine set on the dough cycle — to make a soft, smooth dough. If you're kneading in a stand mixer, it should take about 7 minutes at second speed.

4) Place the dough in a lightly greased container, cover, and let it rise for 1 hour.

5) Gently deflate the dough, and allow it to rise for another hour; it should have doubled in bulk from its original volume.

6) Sometime during the dough's rise, prepare the vegetables. Trim the zucchini, and slice about 3/4" thick. Toss with olive oil; sprinkle with Pizza Seasoning (or other dried herbs), if desired. Spread the zucchini, in a single layer, on a lightly greased baking sheet.

7) Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Toss them with olive oil and Pizza Seasoning or dried herbs. Place them, cut-side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cut the scallions into 2" to 3" pieces. Toss in oil, sprinkle with herbs, and place on the baking sheet along with the tomatoes.

8) Place the vegetables in a preheated 400°F oven. Bake the zucchini, turning it over once, until it's golden brown. This will take about 60 minutes. Bake the scallions and tomatoes until they're starting to brown and soften, about 25 to 30 minutes.

9) Remove the vegetables from the oven, use a spatula to gently loosen them from the pan, and set them aside.

10) Lightly grease an 18" x 13" rimmed baking sheet (half-sheet pan) with non-stick vegetable oil spray. Drizzle olive oil atop the spray; the spray keeps the bread from sticking, while the olive oil gives the bottom crust great crunch and flavor.

11) Gently deflate the dough. Pull and shape it into a rough rectangle, and pat it into the pan. As soon as it begins to fight you and shrink back, stop patting. Wait 15 minutes; pat the dough farther towards the edges of the pan. Repeat once more, if necessary, until the dough is close to covering the bottom of the pan.

12) Place the zucchini atop the dough. Cover the pan, and allow the dough to rise until it's very puffy, almost billowy. This will take about 2 to 3 hours. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 425°F.

13) Place the pan on a lower rack in your oven, and bake the focaccia for 15 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, top with the scallions and tomatoes, return to the oven, and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until the crust around the edges (and showing between the vegetables) is golden brown.

14) Remove the focaccia from the oven, and top with Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Yield: one focaccia, 8 to 10 servings.

Notes: I used my sourdough starter instead of the starter in the recipe. I forgot the Parmesan shards.
I didn't have any scallions, so used yellow onion, minced, instead. Still yummy!