Eggs: The Fruits of Their Labor

Today is a very exciting day for the Thistlemoon Meadows homestead. We just finished an incredibly delicious farm fresh breakfast – from OUR farm. One of our sweet little hens gave us a very unexpected surprise this week – an egg, and then ANOTHER egg! This came as a surprise, because we were not expecting eggs until late November at the earliest.  They are only a week shy of 5 months, but at least one of them is mature enough to begin laying.

I can’t explain my excitement when I found that first egg. My heart swelled for this flock of birds that we have raised from day-old chicks. We have fed them the best organic feed, which happens to be local, and they feast on grass, clover and other greens as well as bugs, grubs and worms and our kitchen scraps (vegetables).

They have been such a joy to have, especially our special girl, Gimpy. But even the healthy ones all have such personalities and we have so enjoyed their greeting clucks and squawks whenever we  pass by.

I cannot ignore the fact that we are in the middle of harvest season, and as part of that harvest we can now add these eggs. I am just so thankful to our hens and for all the beautiful sun and rain we had this spring and summer that allowed them to have such good quality fresh food. You can tell by the deep color of the yolk. Look at your eggs the next time and take note of the color of the yolk, and how well the egg holds its shape after you crack it open – this will tell you so much about the quality of the eggs that you are buying.

We look forward to more eggs to come. But we wanted to really celebrate these first two. To do so, I made a delicious harvest breakfast – fried eggs, with bacon and kale homefries. The potatoes in the homefries were also from our garden. I served it all with a dollop of homemade ketchup.

Happy Harvest and Hallows to all!

Tuscan Inspired Grilled Polenta and Sausages in Wine

We are getting near the end of outdoor grilling season here. Of course you can grill outdoors all year round, if you don’t mind the weather. But those lazy summer days of sitting outside eating grilled foods, is past for this year, here in Vermont. To celebrate ushering in Autumn, my most favorite season, I will share with you this recipe for a Tuscan inspired grilled meal.

I also wanted to share with you, my loyal and faithful readers that for the next month, at least, I will be blogging Gluten Free. As many of my loyal readers already know, I started watching my gluten intake over a year ago, but to be honest, I only did it about 80% of the time. It has helped, a lot, however, there are a few more minor issues I want to see if being 100% gluten free resolves. So now it is time to get down to serious business and see what  life is like at 100% GF.

If I was so close why did it take me this long to go all the way? I asked myself this question a lot, and the truth was because I have been afraid. Afraid that it would be hard to lead a normal life, go out to eat with friends, or be THAT PERSON who can’t just go with the flow, mucking up the works. But then I realized, nothing about me is NORMAL! 🙂

Even though I have plenty of blogging friends, with GF blogs to get inspiration from, I just wasn’t ready. But I am now. I know I am ready, because instead of being afraid, I am excited!I am excited about this change because it means many new kitchen experiments with breads, pizza and baked goods. I am also excited because I will be able to share how easy, economical and delicious gluten free eating can be. I also am excited to show my readers, that eating a gluten free diet does not mean going to the grocery store and buying all new pre-made items that are part of a “gluten free” line. Instead one can just eat foods that are naturally gluten free, and there are many.

This meal is a perfect example – and I promise you will not miss gluten for one minute! We accompanied it with a garden fresh caprese salad, using the best quality fresh mozzarella we could find and a delicious glass of full bodied red wine.

*note – this is a great meal to serve to a crowd. We were expecting company for dinner, but they couldn’t make it at the last minute. So this is for 6-8 people.

Read the rest of this entry »

Roasted Veggie and Edible Flower Salad

We started our garden about a month late – our moving date was not well timed with the Farmer’s Almanac this year. So now, we are harvesting veggies that everyone else in our area harvested 4-6 weeks ago. In some ways it makes us feel really behind in our gardening, but in another way it is actually good – having a second harvest! The first time around we bought these goodies from the farmer’s market – second time around from our garden!

Less than two weeks ago we got our biggest harvest yet – 5 beets, 10 carrots, fresh herbs and lots of beautiful edible flowers – nasturtium and borage.

FLOWER POWER!

Nasturtium flowers and leaves are edible and have a wonderful peppery flavor. Even the seeds can be pickled – they apparently taste like capers. The flowers are high in vitamin C, and have been used to treat colds. It can also be used topically for bacterial and fungal infections because of its mustard-oil content.

Borage flowers are perhaps one of the only truly found in nature blue foods, beyond blueberries. They have a very sweet taste. The flowers are also rich in minerals, most notably potassium. Medicinally the leaves are often used as support to the adrenal glands and for inflammation. Probably the most well-known use for borage is borage oil. Borage oil is very high in gamma-linolenic acid, GLA. GLA is an essential fatty acid, omega-6 oil. Borage oil supplements are most beneficial for arthritis and chronic dry skin, such as eczema.

We really planted both of these flowers in accordance with companion planting – plants that keep bugs and disease, as well as other garden pests away from the plants you are growing for food. So these plants have a dual purpose. Plus they are very pretty as an edible garnish. My stepdaughter Gwen had never had an edible flower until we served this salad for dinner recently. At first she didn’t want to try them, but after some coaxing, she did, and she really liked them!

I love roasting beets for salads, and pairing them with goat cheese. There is something so good , and not to mention aesthetically beautiful about the combination of goat cheese and beets. So I decided to roast the whole lot, and arrange them on top of fresh greens from the garden, also. As we have been harvesting plenty of those for months now.

This is a perfect dinner salad on a hot summer night, when your family is looking for something light. This would also be a wonderful first course to a summer harvest dinner. It is colorful, delicious and healthy on so many levels!

INGREDIENTS:

5 small beets, cut in half
10 baby carrots
2 TBS fresh rosemary
1 TBS fresh thyme
salt & pepper
olive oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp maple syrup
5 cups fresh greens – arugala, red leaf and green leaf lettuces, nasturtium leaves
olive oil to toss the greens in
salt & pepper to season greens
¼ cup goat cheese, crumbled
nasturtium flowers, as garnish
borage flowers, as garnish

METHOD:

Stir the veggies with olive oil, salt and pepper and herbs until well coated. Roast in a preheated 400 F oven for about 45 minutes, turning once halfway through.

In the same bowl, add mustard and maple, dump the roasted veggies in and stir to coat. Then toss the greens with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Crumble the goat cheese on top, arrange the roasted veggies and the edible flowers. Serves 4 as a main dish.

Smoked Trout Chowdah

smoked trout chowder chowder

It seems a little strange to be writing about a chowder recipe when it is sunny, bright and about 80 degrees outside. But we have had some cooler temperatures these past few weeks, and a lot of rain. These conditions are perfect for a nice big bowl of chowdah and so that is exactly what we had.

The inspiration came when we got our seed potatoes delivered from Seed Savers a few weeks ago. Some of them had not quite gone to seed yet, and so in true Leftover Queen fashion, I decided to use them to make several batches of potato puree, as well as some delicious homefries for breakfasts and for lunch one day a quick German Potato Salad. Call it practice for harvest time. I left one of the pint jars of puree out, to make a batch of potato leek soup, until I picked up some smoked trout at the grocery store, and a plan started to come together in my mind!

This chowder was delightful, and certainly something I will be making again, as we will have copious amounts of potatoes (75 feet of plants) to eat this fall and winter! It reminds me of something you would eat on the coast of Ireland, or one of the Herbridian islands of Scotland, especially because we enjoyed bowls of it with delicious crunchy oat cakes and slices of cheddar alongside.

INGREDIENTS:

1 pint of potato puree
2 c. water
¼ cup cooked, cubed potatoes
4 small garlic cloves, minced
¼ c. sliced leeks
¼ cup sliced fresh oyster mushrooms
¼ cup green peas
¼ cup spinach or other dark greens
juice of one ½ lemon – save the other half
olive oil
salt and pepper
4 ounces smoked trout, shredded

METHOD:

In a large pot combine the potato puree and water, until it is well mixed and has a uniform consistency.
While this is happening, in a skillet sautee the potatoes, garlic, leeks, mushrooms, peas and greens in a nice drizzle of olive oil. Once the veggies are soft, put them in the pot with the puree and mix. Add the lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Then crumble up ½ of the smoked trout and mix into the chowder. Cook all together for about 5 minutes. Serve with slices of lemon (Preserved lemon would be amazing with this) and the rest of the trout, divided evenly on top. Serves 4

Swanky Beans and Franks

swanky-beans-and-franks_on-dish

Life has been a bit hectic lately, which means that many nights, after coming in from the garden at about 7:30 PM, I need to get dinner on the table – we are hungry and don’t want to wait too long. These are the moments where sometimes I want to just crawl into bed, and forego dinner all together. Sometimes we say to hell with it, and go to one of our great local eateries. But you can’t and really don’t want to do that every night, and we find ourselves in this situation at least 5 nights a week.

This is when my kitchen forethought and planning really pay off. I like to make sure that I have beans and usually grains in the freezer that have been pre-soaked and partially cooked. Things I can just pull out and throw in a pan in a pinch. I also have a variety of fresh veggies always on hand – whatever looked good at the farmers market, or local market that week. Plus, some kind of animal protein that is quick to cook like sausages, or skirt steak, or doesn’t need to be, like good quality non-nitrate cold cuts or canned fish.

In this case, I had some Christmas Lima Beans from Rancho Gordo ready, some huge and meaty portabellas, and some nice British style Bangers we got from the local butcher. So I decided to make a nice adult version of Beans and Franks.

swanky-beans-and-franks_ingredients

I sauteed the beans in some olive oil and then added some diced fresh portabella mushrooms, onions and garlic. I de-glazed the pan with a little red wine and seasoned everything with some thyme, salt and pepper. Then I added some nice fresh, local spinach and stirred until it wilted. I served it with half a link of British Banger and some nice goat cheese crumbles. It was quick, satisfying and really delicious.

Simple Smoked Mackerel Salad and The Pleasures of Eating Local

Smoked Mackerel Salad

We are still without internet, here at the homestead, so my absence in the blogosphere continues…but I have been amassing so many great recipes since we got here, I just have to keep sharing, as I can. I am just so inspired to shop for food and cook here!

This is a local, or at least regional salad with products coming from Northern New England (or grown by me – in the case of the lemons). This salad features the beautiful and delicious bounty of spring and is packed full of nutrients and major brain food.

I am excited to be featuring some delicious products from several awesome local producers here in beautiful Northern Vermont. This just goes to show how easy and pleasurable it is to eat locally, when you are in a community that really supports local agriculture and food producers. Especially when these products are readily available and easy accessible to the community.

That really is the crux of the local food movement– even though our growing season is much shorter here, there is always an abundance of local products available. Having local products available year round is an important goal of this community, and because it is a community effort, you really can find local products year round. This includes produce, meats and dairy in addition to local coffee roasters, bread bakers, beer and wine makers, peanut butter producers, as well as salsas, sauces and condiments. Not to mention the maple syrup and raw honey! The produce variety may not be as extensive as if you were going to the regular grocery store, but that is part of the joy and challenge of seasonal eating. Plus, learning simple techniques like canning and preserving can really prolong the bounty of a shorter growing season, adding color, flavor and nutrients to the winter months. So if you plan ahead, you can actually eat quite well during harsher months. Thinking that weather is the key factor in the availability of local foods in a community, is a terrible misnomer. I found it much harder to find true local staple products in Florida, which is one of the reasons we left. I lived there for over 3 years. I have lived here less than 2 weeks.

This focus on local and sustainable food is just one of the many major reasons we have decided to make this part of the world our permanent home. We really are so lucky to have found a community that shares our strong core values, which is important on so many levels. Living in a place where your ideals are supported and just a “normal” part of life is a welcomed relief. People are adaptable and can make do anywhere, finding hidden treasures, but being able to live according to your values with ease is a true blessing. I am looking forward to sharing many other finds with you over the coming months and years.

Local Products

* Bar Harbor Mackerel, Bar Harbor, Maine -all natural, wild caught, naturally hardwood smoked Atlantic mackerel. Sustainably harvested from the clear cold waters of the Gulf of Maine. I consider Maine as well as the rest of Northern New England and the Quebec province of Canada (25 miles as the crow flies) to be local to us. This mackerel as well as wild herring fillets are available from a local market, Apple Tree.

* Pete’s Greens – Four Season Organic Vegetable Farm, Craftsbury, Vermont – Salad mix featuring: red rib dandelion, endive, fennel tops, wrinkled cress, red leaf amaranth, tatsoi, ruby red chard, bright lights chard, arugula, upland cress, spinach, orach and purslane. These were some of the most delicious and aesthetically beautiful greens I have had. We first had them at the Bee’s Knees an amazing local restaurant. I asked the server where they got their mixed greens, and then we were able to procure some from another local market, The Green Top Market.

* Elmore Mountain Bread Elmore, Vermont– Wood fired micro bakery. They use a long fermentation process in their bread making. Each loaf takes a total of 16 hours. Sometimes it is hard to resist bread like this, and so I was indulging on it when we first got here and I wasn’t having any ill effects from it. Now I know why…just another blessing, considering many of the restaurants in the area, as well as local groceries, and markets sell Elmore Mountain Bread. Being able to eat a sandwich or burger at a restaurant is a true luxury for me. Thank you, Elmore Mountain Bread!

* Farmer Sue’s  Peperoncini Peppers Bakersfield, VT – Do you know how hard it is to find peperoncini peppers without corn syrup? I love these little pickled peppers, and now I have an alternative to making my own . Farmer Sue makes all kinds of delicious pickled vegetables and sells at the year round Lamoille Valley Artisan Farmers Market .

RECIPE:

Smoked Mackerel Salad

INGREDIENTS:

6-8 oz. smoked mackerel fillets
juice of ½ lemon
salt&pepper to taste
hefty sprinkle of herbs de provence
1 TBS fresh chives, chopped
1 TBS mayonnaise
2 peperoncini peppers chopped
drizzle of olive oil
2 cups salad greens

METHOD:

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl, reserving a little lemon juice for the greens. Dress your greens with olive oil and lemon juice and toss. Place a mound of the mackerel salad on top. Serve with slices of sourdough baguette, if desired.

Be sure to share the mackerel juice with any feline or canine friends you might have at home. They will love you! 🙂

Serves 2

Real Food Irish Feast for St. Patrick’s Day…Better Late Than Never!

IrGreenFlag

United Irishmen Flag

Well it’s better late than never, I say. Just think of this post as a jump start to next year’s celebration!

These last few months have been very exciting for me. I recently discovered that along with my new found English ancestry (and a few other Northern European ancestries) and in the company of millions of other Americans, I may have some ancestral roots in Ireland. I am still learning about where it comes from, which has been a very fun process for me and has revived in me my love of anthropology and population migrations. I am not sure how much I will ever really know about my heritage, being adopted with no ancestry history, but it looks like there is a strong Northern Irish connection from all my research so far. So this year, I decided that I want to explore these cultures in my ancestral line through the foods of these lands, and St. Patrick’s day seemed like a good place to start, in good company.

I am not Christian, so for me, my St. Patrick’s celebration is not religious or political, but more of a general Celtic heritage and cultural celebration. It should be no surprise that I have Celtic ancestry, as I have always loved Celtic music (even teaching myself to play the fiddle) and culture, and Scottish and Irish desserts have been among my favorites for years. So I felt like even with its religious roots, this would be a good a time as any to celebrate the rich culture and heritage of Ireland with so many others!

pattys-day_ingredients

Some Irish Feast Ingredients: Fresh Organic Eggs, Organic Cream and Guinness plus Homemade Buttermilk and Whiskey and Aquavit Soaked Raisins

I wanted to celebrate by cooking some semi- “traditional” dishes, and to challenge myself by cooking with Guinness! So the menu is as follows :

*Guinness Stew
*Sautéed Cabbage in a Mustard Glaze
*Brown Soda Bread
*Guinness Ice Cream

Everything is made from scratch, including the buttermilk in the soda bread. The meal turned out great, and I would certainly make any of these dishes again, for St. Pat’s or any other day.

pattys-day_bread-and-stew_500

Brown Soda Bread

I was inspired by several different recipes for this meal, and it all started with Jenny’s Brown Soda Bread Recipe .

As many who follow this blog know, I have been tweaking various bread recipes these past many months, so that the flour can be soaked for at least 12 hours before baking ( to find out why click here ). Jenny is a master at this kind of cooking, even recently being featured on CNN for her Real Food Challenge . When I saw her soda bread recipe, I knew I had to make it.

pattys-day_stew

Guinness Stew

From there, the idea for an Irish feast began. I didn’t have a lot of time this year to research “corning” my own beef brisket , so to speak (maybe next year). So I decided to go with something a bit more in my comfort zone – beef stew with a beef and Guinness broth.

I love sautéed cabbage, and since it was on sale at the grocery store, I decided to grab a head and figure out what to do with it later. As I was cooking the stew, an idea for a delicious spicy mustard and honey glaze was concocted in my mind! I will definitely be making cabbage this way again!

pattys-day_guiness-ice-cream

Creamy Guinness Ice Cream without white sugar

I had also been wanting to try this recipe for Guinness Ice Cream for about 2 years. However, I did modify it, to make it more healthy by omitting the 2 cups of sugar called for in the original recipe and using date sugar and maple syrup to sweeten it, instead. I also omitted the brown bread, however I may have to add it in the future, because it sounds yummy!

This was a wonderful celebration to begin to connect with some of my ancestral roots and share it with my awesome and supportive family. Thanks Guys! 🙂 Hope my readers enjoy this menu as much as we did! Recipes under the cut…

slainte

Read the rest of this entry »

Beans and Rice: The Ultimate Leftover Meal

rice-and-beans_ready-to-eat

I got a comment recently from a new reader. She said she was enjoying my blog, but didn’t see many recipes for leftovers. That comment kind of surprised me, because most of the food I make uses some kind of leftover component. However, I don’t always specify that when writing my posts. So I want to make more of an effort to point out the leftover components I am using, and to talk about other ways that my food philosophy extends, but yet still encompasses “leftover qualities”. Things like making food from scratch using what it in your pantry or fridge, making things you eat often like bread, cheese and yogurt, or preserving seasonal vegetables and making your own condiments. This is all part of the Leftover Queen philosophy – use what you have on hand, make substitutions whenever necessary, to be able to focus on what using what is on hand, and make as much as you can from scratch using wholesome basics.

In this vein I want to talk about beans and rice. I love beans and rice, and it is certainly a meal that embraces leftovers. Beyond the basic components of beans and rice (and even within those two ingredients there are many varieties), you can throw anything you have lying around in the fridge that needs using up. As usual I always soak my rice and beans ahead of time. I generally take a day during the weekend, and do large batches of soaking – grains, flours and legumes, and then cooking til almost done, so I can just package them up and throw them in the freezer for quick yet nourishing meals later on.

rice-and-beans_cooking

The week before vacation is always a busy time, so I was happy to be greeted by beans, rice and other grains when I opened the freezer that I could throw together for a quick meal. For this particular batch of beans and rice I added some chopped up organic kielbasa and sauteed it with the rice. Then I added about 2 cups of chopped kale, some spices like New Mexico green chili powder, cumin and coriander, a few tablespoons of homemade tomato sauce (also from the freezer) and water. I let everything come to a boil, and cooked on low heat for about 25 minutes, adding more liquid as necessary.

Beans and rice is a combination dish that is eaten all over the world. It is frugal, healthy and delicious, and you can constantly change it up to suit your tastes! Make it with leftover meat, or keep it vegetarian – the choice is up to you! Top it with shredded cheese, yogurt (or sour cream), salsa or even guacamole!

So enjoy some beans and rice for lunch, dinner, or even breakfast, today! 🙂

Stay tuned for some posts about The Foodbuzz Food Bloggers Festival that I will be attending this weekend! Looking forward to meeting many of you there! 🙂