Gardening has begun!

garden harvest time

Things will look a little different in the back yard this year. When we decided to take the house off the market this winter, we decided to make the backyard a mini farm, minus the sheep. We have big plans that will take a while to accomplish, but the first phase of those plans begins tomorrow. Raised beds! We are rearranging the yard to accommodate the shining sun at it’s best and are gong for high production with 10 4×4 raised beds. The compost/soil mixture is arriving via truck tomorrow morning. Half of the beds are built and ready to go.

beginnings of the raised bed garden

Of course the lawn still looks scrappy from winter, but that will change soon. Now we can actually get out there and do some yard work now that spring has sprung. Can you tell what the darling BF has covered up with the trellis? Yes, we got Satellite TV this winter. The cord still needs to be buried. We will be planting climbing flowers on the trellis. The birds and squirrels seem to like the change.

We plan to take down the garage with it’s failing, leaking roof and put up a small storage shed instead and use the existing cement floor for a roofed over patio. A small 8×6 green house will eventually be added on too, to help elongate the growing season. The remaining chain link fence will be yanked out and replaced with wooden privacy fence so that we can not always feel like we are in the city. Chickens, yes, we are hoping to have a few chickens for eggs and it appears that the city ordinance might allow for that. No roosters! We don’t want to make the neighbors upset or wake up to early ourselves.

First though, the soil must arrive. I just started planting some seeds in our indoor greenhouse. We converted our dining room with it’s Southern sun and big windows to a seed prep area and brought the full spectrum lights from their winter room downstairs (to keep all the herbs alive over the winter) to the dining room. I have the electric blanket on the table with a table cloth on it to work as a heating mat as these seeds need 70-80F to properly germinate and thrive. I am about 1 month behind on the seed planting, but it took me a while to get organized. Next year, I can do it all in the green house.

Compost pile – we already have a good one going, but this pile will be composting all of our yard waste soon too, not just kitchen scraps. It will supply us with the nutrients we need for our garden plants.

the overwintered herbs

starting seeds

So, the process is underway, the thinking about it was the easy part, now it is time to get our hands dirty!

Maybe the cats will help us!

Clara on the warming mat for the garden starter

i’m out

Double Lemon Bars for all you tarty tooths out there

I don’t really have much of a sweet tooth, I have what you might call a tarty tooth. I love tarty cocktails and desserts. I like things spicy and on the hot side too and the tartness half of a dish cools the palate off quite nicely. These lemon bars fit the tarty bill perfectly.

GF lemon bars

I may have to make these again, this week. Perhaps I could cut the batch in half and find a 4×4 pan to bake them in. So tart, tangy, buttery and a hint of sweetness. I love lemon bars and have decided that I think they may be better than brownies for me. With a brownie, I want to eat 1 or 2 and then maybe 1 more the next day and I am done – unless they have raspberry in them. Lemon bars, on the other hand, I can barely keep away from and ate them all week. Ate them to the point of wondering, when does a lemon bar go bad? After all it is mostly lemon, eggs and sugar. Eggs being the worry point here, even if they are cooked. So cutting the batch in half will save me the worry trouble and the waist band, hopefully! This recipe is based on one I liked and altered from Bon Appetit several years ago.

Gluten Free Lemon Bars with Almond crust:

1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, room temperature ( I actually like a bit of salt in there to highlight the lemon, but you can use unsalted most certainly)
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs (separated) gluten free flour
1/2 cup almond meal, finely ground
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 – 3 tbs lemon zest (about 3 lemons worth, depending on size)
1/2 tsp baking powder

Optional: powdered sugar for sprinkling on top (I didn’t do this)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Using a mixer, beat the butter in large bowl until fluffy. Beat in your powdered sugar. Add only 1/2 cup of the GF flour and the 1/2 cup almond meal, beating until almost comes together in clumps. Using your fingers, press dough over the bottom of a 9x9x2-inch baking pan. This is the messy part, filling in all the dough gaps and trying to not let the dough stick to your fingers. Bake the crust until it is light browned along the edges, about 20 – 25 minutes.

For the filling: beat the sugar and eggs in medium bowl until blended. Add in the fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, baking powder, and the remaining 2 Tbs of GF flour and continue to mix until blended.

Pour the lemon filling over the hot crust. Bake until the filling is set in center and begins to brown on top, about 20 minutes. Cool completely. One tip I found for cutting the lemon bars is to put the pan in the freezer for 10 minutes to set the filling and then slice into square. This will help to not rip up the edges. I was too impatient and didn’t let the above pictured bars chill long enough. Taste however was not affected!

i’m out

Spelt (wheat free not gluten free) Sourdough loaf

I made a loaf of sourdough spelt yesterday. I usually have a starter going, but it had been a long time since I baked a loaf of sourdough so I threw it out (it had been in the fridge for a couple of months, unfed) and started over with a new starter. I really don’t eat bread very often and this made a huge loaf, 1/2 of which is already in the freezer wrapped in foil and a zip bag. I never was much of a sandwich person. But I do like some nice cheese with a slice of crusty sourdough bread.
I basically followed Chez Pim’s recipe converting it for spelt.  I am on the search for the perfect loaf of spelt sourdough.

100% spelt sourdough

Here are my alterations (luckily I have a scale!):
510g spelt flour
2 tsp kosher salt (about 10g)
8.5oz (240g) starter (my starter is 1/2 white spelt and 1/2 whole spelt)
9oz (255g) water
1tbsp molasses (I am out of honey and wanted a darker browning on the crust)

100% spelt sourdough

I let it rise for 7 hours as 12 is too long for spelt. The rise time needs to be shorter and the knead time needs to be less than 1/2 too. I then placed my dough in a small colander (not having a banneton – yet) with a well floured towel in it. Next time I need to use 2 times more flour on the towel. The banneton is to help the dough hold it’s shape while rising. Spelt dough seems to go a bit flatter than wheat, so I am willing to try anything for a nice tall loaf. This one is about 3 inches high. Once in my converted banneton, I let it rise again for only 1.5 hours and then dumped the colander and towel directly onto my baking stone. As you can guess from my need to add more flour stated above, some of the dough stuck to the towel. I had to twist the towel to get the dough to separate, but it resulted in a nice little button on the top. I had a cast iron pan on the rack below that had been heating up and threw in about 6 large ice cubes to help create a steamy oven and form a crust.  The dough immediately spread out on the baking stone and created it’s own shape.  Oh well, perhaps a bit more spelt flour in the dough next time. Spelt is really water soluble and you have to either add 1/4 more spelt or 10-15% less water. Adding more spelt is easier math for me!
I think the molasses worked nicely and gave the loaf a great color and a bit of flavor, not at all any sweetness.

100% spelt sourdough

100% spelt sourdough

I will definitely use this recipe again, tweaking it again. More flour, 1/2 a batch, use 1/2 whole spelt, honey, or try sorghum or rice malt to boost the loaf and add color. I buy my spelt 25 lbs at a time from Vita Spelt, via my local food co-op. Lucky for me, their office is about 6 miles from my house and so it the co-op.

spelt sourdough with boursin cheese

100% spelt sourdough

Starters are our friends! Oh, I forgot to mention that this was/is a great loaf of bread, nice and tangy, moist and not too dense. My starter was only a week old. They just get better with time, as long as you keep feeding them. I used some of the bread to make some croutons and put them on the French Onion soup I made for lunch.

i’m out

Appetizer of the week: Smoked salmon blinis

smoked salmon blini with creme fraiche

Even though creme fraiche is good enough on it’s own, I added chopped fresh dill and minced shallots and a dash of fresh cracked pepper to the mix. If you can’t find creme fraiche or don’t want to spend that much, you could use sour cream, but it won’t be as rich, however it will be healthier. I almost added capers too, but will hold off on that until next time.
I followed Ina Garten’s concept but wanted to make the blini GF, so I used 100% buckwheat.

1 cup buckwheat flour
1 egg
2/3 cup milk
1 Tbs olive oil (you can use melted butter, I didn’t feel like getting something else dirty in the microwave)
Mix the ingredients together and let it rest for an hour or so. Put just a little bit of oil in a non stick skillet, heat it up and then make these by the tablespoonful just like little pancakes, when they bubble, flip them over. Top with some smoked salmon, a small dollop of the creme fraiche mixture and then more dill for a garnish. Serve at room temp.

smoked salmon blini with creme fraiche

smoked salmon blini with creme fraiche

i’m out

Kale Chorizo Potato Soup – Caldo Verde

kale, chorizo, potato soup

Oh this was delicious! I could go for some right now. It must be lunch time. Smokey and spicy.

kale, chorizo, potato soup

Kale Chorizo Potato Soup (Caldo Verde) This soup is really easy.

1 large onion chopped
1 large bunch of kale, washed and cut into bit size pieces
3 medium potatoes cut into large pieces – skin on – it is the healthy part after all
8 oz Spicy Chorizo split in 1/2 and then sliced into 1/4 inch slices (half moons)
1 tsp smoked paprika (there should be plenty in the chorizo, but if not, add more)
8 oz of diced tomatoes (one cup of canned or fresh – optional if you have tomatoes on hand)
3 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
3-4 cups Chicken stock
Fresh cracked pepper
salt to taste

Sautee the onions in some olive oil and then add the chorizo and let it render a bit. Add your garlic and cook for a minute. Then add all of the rest of the ingredients and cook until potatoes are tender.
i’m out