Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Untwisted Garden: Spring Hasn't Quite Sprung

We've had one of the coolest Springs on record. Just as our magnolia tree was about to burst, it snowed again. The poor blossoms froze on the tree, then slightly opened and turned brown. They are still just hanging there in brown rotten lumps. Ugh.

Even though Spring has been cool, we have been getting some rain and some of my herbs from last year are making a comeback.

Looks like I will have lots of parsley again this year.
Just before Christmas, I bought myself a new camera. I've been so busy with work that I haven't had much time to play with it. This weekend I decided to take some time off and try photographing some of the birds and other critters in our backyard.

The poor cardinal has been hanging out in our yard for more than a week. He's looking for a mate and sings and sings. So far, no takers. Maybe the rotten magnolia blossoms are a turnoff. I'm starting to feel sorry for him.
Maybe he will have more luck in the lilac bushes. They should start blooming soon. 

See him there in the upper left corner? I caught him just as he took off. No doubt on his way back to the magnolia.

We also have some rabbits. Last weekend there was a mother and two babies. This weekend just one baby. I'm hoping nothing happened to the others and they have intentionally separated. He looks like he is getting pretty big.

 He spends most of his time by our shed or woodpile. If I get too close, he zips into this convenient hole.

Do you think I can train him to eat the clover and creeping charlie out of the lawn? Despite last year's drought, the lawn actually looks great in the backyard. I think I'll try the corn gluten as a pre-emergent again this year. It won't get rid of the clover and creeping charlie, but maybe it will keep down the crabgrass.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Cat in the Hats

It's been freaking cold here. We had snow AGAIN last week. I haven't done a thing in the garden, but I'm glad we are getting some much needed moisture.

I did buy a couple of new hats at Target for summer gardening and an upcoming trip we have to the beach. Guess who decided she had to try them on. . .

 She was convinced that she could curl up in the crown.

And then she proceeding to kick the crap out of the tan one.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Untwisted Dish: Kringle

My husband is of Norwegian descent. When I met him, I intrigued by the Scandinavian foods his family typically had at holidays. Things like Lefse and Krumkake. Sadly, his Mom passed away a couple of years after we were married. Some of her recipes just seem to be lost. They aren't in her recipe box. Maybe they were in her head, or maybe she used a recipe from the community cookbook. But which recipe?

My husband has been telling me about these rolls, called Kringle (pronounced Kringla). They are flavored with anise, and are figure-eight shaped. His Mom used to make them, but I never had the pleasure of trying them. 

The community cookbook has EIGHT different recipes for Kringle. I have a love/hate relationship with this cookbook. It has all sorts of recipes for hotdish and Scandinavian specialties, and great things to take to potlucks. But there are very few instructions. These recipes always assume that you have some basic knowledge of how the dish is put together. Sometimes it's just a list of ingredients, or helpful instructions like "Flour enough so you can roll them in to Kringle shape".  What?  I don't even know what Kringle shape is. So when picking a recipe, I usually ask my husband, "Do you know Mrs. Suchandsuch?" or "Who is a better cook: Mrs. Blahdeblah or Mrs. Whatsherbutt?" 

The Kringle recipes vary greatly. Some call for yeast. Others use baking powder. Some have buttermilk or sour cream. Some call for anise and others don't. One has nutmeg.  How does one choose?

Because I was getting nowhere with the community cookbook, I started just browsing online. I found this recipe from Heather Whitney that had descent instructions, and photos to boot. Perfect for for Kringle novice.  The only problem I found with Heather's recipe is that it doesn't call for salt, and I didn't catch it until it was too late. Perhaps she used salted butter and that was sufficient. I, on the other hand, used unsalted butter. I think a 1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon added salt is a necessary addition.

The Ingredients
 2 packages active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (between 105 and 115 F)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup half and half
1 tablespoon anise seeds, crushed (just put them in a baggie and use a mallet if you don't have a mortar and pestle.)
2 eggs, room temperature
4 cups all-purpose flour

1. In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add 1 tablespoon of the sugar and let stand about five minutes, until the yeast foams.

2. Add the rest of the sugar, the butter, salt, half and half, crushed anise seed, and eggs. Beat well.

 3. Add the flour, one cup at a time. Beat well until the mixture is smooth and satiny.

4. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours (up to 24 hours).

5. Cover a baking sheet with parchment. Take globs of dough that are about the size of a large, unshelled walnut. Flour your surface and hands and gently roll into a skinny log, about eight inches long.

6. Twist the logs into figure-eight shapes, tucking the ends underneath, and place on the baking sheet.

7. Let the Kringle rise on the baking sheets for one hour.

8. Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes.

9. Brush with melted butter if desired.

These were really good! My husband didn't think they were quite as anisey as his Mom's. Perhaps she used some anise extract as well. I personally liked the subtle flavor. Served warm, they were soft and doughy. When cooled, the anise flavor seemed to come out even more.

We hosted my family this Christmas and we devoured these at our pseudo Scandinavian themed Christmas dinner that included Swedish meatballs and Swedish potato sausage. They were a hit with my family too.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy Holidays!

Hope everyone had a wonderful Holiday!

Christmas breakfast: raspberries and cream, Canadian bacon, scrambled eggs, and Christmas stollen
Gooey filling for the Split Levels

Norwegian Kringle (recipe will be coming soon)
 Wishing you all many blessings in the New Year!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Untwisted Dish:Ottolenghi's Spice Cookies

It's December 15th. I still have Thanksgiving decorations on the table. I don't have a tree up. I haven't sent out cards. As you can tell, I'm waaaaaay behind. But we do have chocolate spice cookies, or we did, and I wish we had more.

I found this recipe for Ottolenghi's Spice Cookies on Pinterest via The Wednesday Chef, and thought the mix of spice, citrus, and dark chocolate sounded intriguing.  This is my first attempt at baking this holiday season, and the only reason I made the time to bake these cookies was because I needed something for a work potluck. Yes, "work" is monopolizing my time.

The recipe comes from Jerusalem: A Cookbook byYotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, and after tasting these cookies I promptly added it to my Amazon Wish List. Santa, if you're a reader of obscure blogs and are reading this, it would sure make a nice Christmas gift.

The recipe calls for currents, soaked in brandy. I had neither on hand, so those ingredients were eliminated. I added in some water instead to help bring the dough together.

I also added a lot more lemon juice to the glaze than the recipe calls for. I think a more tart glaze complimented the cookies well. I also felt that 1 cup of powdered sugar made way too much glaze. I'd recommend starting with 1/2 cup powdered sugar, adding the lemon juice and adjusting the sweetness and citrus to your liking.

The original recipe also calls for candied citrus peel. I decided to go with candied ginger as this was something I had on hand. I liked the extra zing that the ginger brought to the cookie.

The recipe also suggests making large 5 ounce cookies. I decided to make smaller balls, so the recipe would go a little farther at my potluck. Big or small, these cookies are tasty!

The Ingredients
Scant 2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
5 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely grated (I used a 86% variety that is extra dark and yummy)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/2 large egg (yes, that's correct only half an egg)
2 tablespoons water
small slices of candied ginger

3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup powdered sugar

(adjust sugar and lemon juice as needed)

1. Whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, spices, salt, and grated dark chocolate.  Note- this takes a lot of grating if you are doing it by hand. You'll get a work-out!

2. In a mixer, beat the softened butter, sugar, vanilla, and lemon and orange zest to combine (for about 1 minute).

3. With the mixer running, slowly add the egg and two tablespoons water (or brandy if you prefer), and mix for about 1 minute.

4. Add the dry ingredients. Mix until everything starts to come together.  Note- this is a really dry dough.

5. Gently knead the dough in the bowl with your hands until it is uniform. Roll the dough into round balls.

6. Place the balls on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, at least 1" apart.

7. Place the baking sheets in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

8.  Make the glaze. Add more lemon juice or powdered sugar to your liking. The consistency needs to be runny so it can be easily spooned over the cookies.

9. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the cookies for 15 minutes, until the tops are firm and crack a little. The centers will still be soft.

10. Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack.

11. Spoon the glaze over the top while the cookies are still warm. Immediately add the candied ginger pieces as the glaze will act as glue. You can spoon a little glaze over the top of the ginger as well.

Make these now! Santa, or your coworkers, will thank you.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Untwisted Dish: Rosemary Turkey Chowder

Yes, I roasted a whole turkey for two people on Thanksgiving. It was good, and we ate A LOT. But my main motivation for making the turkey was soup. Lots and lots of soup. Winter is coming and you know that means that one of us is going to get sick at some point. The sicky will want soup and the non-sicky will be forced to run to the nearest grocery store (mostly likely the depressing and overpriced Sunmart) to find some hideous canned concoction. It will be sooooo disappointing. 

So, I made soup. Lots of basic turkey noodle with veggies, which suits me just fine. I also decided to try something new, based on this recipe for a rosemary chicken chowder from Goodlife Eats.

First, I broke down the bird and made a basic stock with celery and carrots (I am off onions at the moment-sad but true). When I announced it was time to "break it down", there was some spontaneous Hammer dancing in the kitchen. Although, we couldn't remember many other words to "Can't Touch This".
Mmmmm Carcassy

Once Hammer Time was over and the stock was done, I added some rosemary from the garden, turkey, cannellini beans, spinach and a few other ingredients to create this flavorful twist on turkey soup.

The Ingredients

6 cups broth
2 large sprigs of rosemary
2 large potatoes, cut into cubes
1/2 cup celery, chopped
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
2 cups or so of cooked, chopped turkey
1/3 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 to 3 ounces cream cheese
1 can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
salt and pepper or to taste
2  to 3 ounces of chopped spinach

(onion and garlic would make a nice addition and are included in the original recipe. I omitted them for my own intolerances and added some celery and carrots to hopefully boost up the flavor)

1.  In a large pot, add two sprigs rosemary, and chopped potatoes to 6 cups broth and bring to a boil.

2. Add the turkey. Turn down the heat, so that it is simmering and cook for about 30 minutes.

3. Add the flour to the milk, and add the milk concoction to the broth.

4. Add the beans and cream cheese. Turn the heat up if needed to bring it back to a boil, and then lower the heat so it maintains a simmer.

5. Cook until the potatoes are tender.

6. Add the spinach, and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes more. 

7. Remove the rosemary sprigs before serving.

Mission accomplished. Freezer is well stocked. I don't know how long it will stay that way, though. Soup is pretty good. Even when you aren't sick.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Untwisted Dish: Pulled Turkey Sandwiches with Carrot and Apple Slaw

Turkey day three. Are you ready to mix it up a little? We are. I'm not quite ready to make a massive amount of soup, although that's definitely on tomorrow's To-Do list. I'm also definitely not ready to make a trip to the grocery store, so I'm making do with what we've got in the fridge and pantry: bottled bbq sauce, carrots, apple, lime. Thus, a quick and easy twist on pulled pork sandwiches with slaw was born.

The slaw was inspired from this recipe  and has a cumin-lime marinade. If I'd had some cabbage in the fridge, I would have definitely added that to the mix. I added extra lime, and let everything marinate for a few hours. This made a pretty liquidy concoction, so you'll need to drain it a bit before adding to the sandwiches. This slaw should make enough for at least four sandwiches.

The Ingredients
1 cup shredded carrots
3/4 cup shredded apple
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1. Dump everything in a bowl and let marinade. How easy is that!

2. Simmer shredding turkey with bbq sauce in a small pan until hot and bubbly.

3. Pile turkey and slaw on crusty rolls.