June Recap

lettuce
apple-walnut-blue cheese salad

It’s been a mild summer so far. Only the spinach has bolted, and I didn’t bother growing arugula this year or it would have bolted by now too. I typically have awful luck growing greens, but my lettuces have been doing well in their partially shady location, so we’ve been eating lots of salad. I usually top it with cut up apple, blue cheese, walnuts or roasted flax and a quick, homemade vinaigrette. This is my go-to recipe for salad lately, and it always hits the spot.

2018 garden
2018 garden
2018 garden

We put a lot of effort into our garden design this year. We had a dead tree removed from our backyard in February, which opened space for us to rearrange and add to our existing setup. All in all, we added five new raised beds, a cold frame, a corner for herbs, space for my 25-pound grow bags (for potatoes) and some room for more seating. I planted my little container-bound fig tree last week, and I’m hoping it fares better than the old dead poplar. It already seems more cheerful.

 Kitchen: Before

Kitchen: Before

 Kitchen: After

Kitchen: After

 Kitchen: Before

Kitchen: Before

 Kitchen: After

Kitchen: After

This past week has been unexpectedly busy for us. We decided to sneak in a kitchen makeover while the summer was still young, which is something I’ve been looking forward to since we first moved into this house six years ago. My husband took a few days off work to build a new wood counter, paint the cupboards and put up tile backsplash. It’s amazing how transformative this little kitchen overhaul has been. A once dark and dingy space now feels bright and clean, despite the tiny east-facing window that lets in limited natural light. As someone who is very much affected by my atmosphere, I feel so much more inspired to work in the kitchen now, which is perfect timing as we enter the harvest season. I’ll be spending a good chunk of my time pickling, freezing, cooking, baking, drying, natural dyeing...

bachelor's buttons
marigolds

Lastly, I planted several flower varieties for my dye garden this year, and some are just now starting to bloom. I’ve got bachelor’s buttons, marigolds and dahlias blooming right now, and I’m seriously kicking myself for getting such a late start on the zinnias and cosmos this year. They’ll come up in due time I suppose. I plan on drying/freezing as many of the blooms as I can, and possibly pressing some between book pages to make little flower-pressed cards for customers who buy my naturally dyed yarns as well. I’ve been wanting to try that for ages.

Roasted Tomato Soup

roastedtomatosoup

Hello and good morning! Last month, I posted this image on Instagram with a short rundown of the recipe somewhere in the comments section, and it seems to have piqued everyone's tomato soup-loving interest, so I thought I'd go ahead and formally publish the recipe here for you on the blog. We make this soup several times per year, especially in August and September when we're up to our ears in tomatoes. I highly recommend the best, most flavorful tomatoes you can get your hands on for this recipe because it really lets the flavor shine. Enjoy!

(P.S. This really isn't a food blog, but you wouldn't know by looking at it.)

Roasted Tomato Soup
Serves 2-4
  
3lbs (8-10 medium sized) tomatoes, rinsed and sliced in half
1 medium onion, peeled and roughly sliced
5-6 cloves garlic, left in skins, with rough ends sliced off
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups stock or water
Salt and pepper, to taste
Sprigs of fresh herbs, like thyme or rosemary
Cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange 3lbs tomatoes (or as many will fit), cut side up, on your cookie sheet in a single layer. Between the tomatoes, place your onions, garlic and fresh herbs. Drizzle evenly with the olive oil, and sprinkle with a pinch of salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Place on center baking rack for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the edges of your onions have browned and your tomatoes have deflated. You don't want to go too much longer than that or the juices will evaporate and your cloves of garlic will burn.

Remove from oven and let cool for five minutes. Remove the garlic cloves from their skin and place in a bender. Add the rest of the contents of the cookie sheet, juices and all, into the blender, and then add your two cups of stock or water. Puree until smooth and then strain through a fine mesh sieve into a saucepan. Simmer for 15-20 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.

To serve, ladle into serving bowls, and garnish with a splash of heavy whipping cream (very optional) and freshly ground black pepper. 


Optional Ideas:
-Add a bell pepper or two, seeded and sliced in half, to the cookie sheet for roasted tomato soup with bell peppers.
-Add herbs like thyme, rosemary, or basil to the simmering pot for additional flavor.

Zucchini Bread

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Our zucchini harvest season is winding down, but we still have a few large specimens awaiting their fate on the kitchen counter. If the zucchini is small and tender, I’ll usually eat it without much ado: lightly sautéed and seasoned with salt and pepper. The larger ones, however, have a tougher skin, larger seeds and not as delicate of flavor, so those are usually reserved for batch after batch of zucchini bread which I’ll freeze and eat, or give away to friends and family throughout the year.
 

My zucchini bread recipe stems from a recipe given to my husband by his family. I’ve experimented and tweaked some things here and there, and have come up with my own well-worn and loved variation. Every kitchen witch has their own method, after all.
 

For me, the chopped dates are essential. The original recipe calls for chopped nuts, which are also delicious, but I reduce the sugar from its original 2 ¼ cup down to 1 ½ (or less), so the dates give it a little added sweetness. The real magic in the dates, however, is in their texture. They almost melt into the bread while it’s baking. 

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INGREDIENTS
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup sugar (I usually only use 1 cup)
3 eggs
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups grated zucchini
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped dates
 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease two standard-sized loaf pans.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Mix in the vanilla and grated zucchini.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, ground cinnamon, grated nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Add to the wet ingredients and stir until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Fold in the chopped dates.

Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf pans and place on the center rack in preheated oven. Bake for 60 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Let loaves cool for 20 minutes before removing from loaf pans. Serve immediately or store in aluminum foil. Loaves can be frozen and thawed at room temperature when ready to serve.

 

A Simple, Naturally Sweetened Granola Recipe

This recipe for granola has evolved so much over time. A little less honey, a little more maple syrup. A little more cinnamon and salt. More nut varieties, but less dried fruit. Better yet, no dried fruit at all. A tweak here and there documented over time in the Notes app on my phone. It’s a simple enough recipe that I could make it without referencing my notes, except I’ve changed it so much from where it originally was that I want to make sure I follow my own instructions exactly to make the perfect batch. We take our granola very seriously around here.

Matt eats this stuff every morning with a little yogurt. I tend to eat it two or three times per week. He’s a creature of habit, but I like variety. As a result, I don’t often notice right away when the granola is gone, and he’s too polite to say anything until we’ve gone a week or two with an empty jar.

I’m posting this up, my love, so you can make your own batch next time I fail to notice. I’m also posting this because who knows when my phone will fail and I’ll lose the recipe forever. The more copies that are out there, the better.

And speaking of copying recipes, I’ve decided to go ahead and transfer (and update) all of the well-worn and well-loved recipes from my blogspot address to this space. I reference my old blog for those recipes constantly, so I want to make sure I have them here too.  I imagine many of them have changed in various ways throughout the years, just as this one has.


Granola Recipe

Instructions:

Place in a large bowl:
1 cup chopped nuts (raw)
1 cup chopped seeds
3 cups rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste e
Stir

Heat together in microwave until just melted:
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
3 tablespoons coconut oil
Stir and pour over other stuff
Mix together until well combined

Bake:
Heat oven to 350
Spread granola over a cookie sheet with sides in a single layer
Place in preheated oven and cook for ten minutes
Remove and stir
Cook for another ten min, checking
Remove when edges are golden brown
Stir and Let cool
Store in an airtight jar

 

Optional Add-Ins

Roasted flax seed or other roasted seeds
Dried coconut
Dried Fruit

 

granola.jpg

Chocolate Nut Butter

This three-ingredient chocolate-hazelnut spread is an indulgent, yet healthy(ish) staple in our kitchen. We make it all the time, usually with hazelnuts, but sometimes we’ll change it up and use almonds or peanuts instead. No matter which variety of nut you go with, the technique is basically the same, but the flavor is different. We also play around with the chocolate. I usually go for a higher quality dark, but it’s delicious made with milk chocolate too.


Chocolate-Nut Spread Recipe

  • 16 oz raw, unsalted nuts
  • 8 oz chocolate, chopped
  • pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 400F. Place nuts on a cookie sheet in a single layer and roast for 10-15 minutes, checking occasionally, until the nuts turn golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.

(Optional Step: place hazelnuts in the center of a large tea towel or flour sack towel. Pick up the sides and secure. Shake vigorously to remove the skins.)

Place nuts in food processor with a pinch of salt. Process until pasty nut butter has formed.

Place chocolate in a double broiler until fully melted. Add to food processor with nut butter and continue to pulse until chocolate nut butter has reached desired consistency.

Jar up and store in the cupboard for up to two weeks. Alternatively, store in the fridge for up to a month or two.

*note: if you purchase roasted, salted nuts, just skip the step where you roast your nuts in the oven.

 

Delicious ways to use this chocolate-hazelnut spread:

  • on toast
  • in a smoothie
  • in crepes with berries or bananas
  • with granola
  • in baked goods, like muffins or quick breads
  • with fruit on crackers
  • stirred in oatmeal
  • on a spoon