Lobstered OUT!

BOOTH BAY HARBOR

We just got back from a family trip to Maine. We spent a week in Booth Bay Harbor with Gwen, my dad and stepmom and some family friends. It was nice getting away and having a change of scenery. Living in a land-locked state, it is always enjoyable to be near the ocean and this trip was especially nice as we were able to bring our dogs!

 

MINI P and PEPINO hanging out at Damariscotta Lake State Park

Too bad they don’t consider goats, sheep or chickens as pets!

One of my goals of the trip was to eat lobster every day. At about $5.99/lb market price, this was super easy to do. We cooked every dinner but one at the house, to showcase the many wonderful cooks that were on this trip! This made the whole thing much more economic – and we thought, way more fun! We enjoyed whole steamed lobsters, lobster sushi, lobster pizzas, lobster deviled eggs, lobster rolls, lobster club sandwiches, lobster and corn brulee, lobster risotto and lobster gnocchi.  Of course we also ate some other wonderful seafood such as mussels, oysters, shrimp, clams and scallops. I probably ate more seafood in one week, than I do in months here at home and we all really enjoyed it.

We had a few dinners that included fresh chicken that we raised , as well as some local beef. But even with that, we were totally “lobstered out” by the end of it! But come this winter we will be enjoying some beautiful lobster stock, and saffron Spanish style mussels for a stew base made by our friend Alice. Thanks Alice!

Anyway, we are adjusting to being back at home, and so I feel as though this post is rather boring, so I will just let the pictures explain!

Summer Solstice 2011

Happy Summer Solstice to all my readers in the Northern Hemisphere!

 

The Summer Solstice marks the beginning of summer and is the longest day of the year! Here in Northern Vermont, it began getting dark around 9:30 PM. Sitting out on our side deck enjoying the mountain views and listening to all the sounds – barnyard animals, birds, frogs, insects made me think about past Solstices, and I recalled my time living in Norway when it was still bright as day at 2 AM! Very different but both great experiences!

 

I like to celebrate my Northern European roots on the Solstices and usually we toast with a local sparkling mead. Unfortunately we were not able to find the mead yesterday, so we settled on Sah’tea by Dogfish Head Ales. I was drawn to the graphics on the label – as it features my favorite animal, the Reindeer. Sah’tea is based on a 9th century Finnish recipe, Sahti. It is brewed with rye and juniper berries. They break with tradition by adding chai tea at the end of the boil. The flavor of the ale was intense with the chai spices tickling the palette. The color was a darker amber than we are used to seeing in an ale. It is a very unique brew, not something I would want every day, but it was definitely a good choice for a celebratory meal!

As for the nibbles, we decided on an antipasti of sorts. For proteins we had prosciutto, fresh marinated anchovies, duck rilettes and 2 types of cheese – a raw cow’s raclette and a sheep’s milk Lancashire. We also had assorted olives, peppadew peppers (which were delicious stuffed with rilletes), artichoke hearts homemade pickles – daikon radish and carrots. For dessert we had fresh, local, organic strawberries with fresh whipped cream!

 

We had a great evening, enjoying our al fresco meal and ending the night by “tucking in” all the animals. It is quiet moments like this that make everything feel right in the world. Hope you enjoyed yours too!

Mother’s Day Brunch

 

(mom and me)

 

I know I am a little late with this. Mother’s Day has come and gone for this year. But I have had some things on my mind. For the past month or so, when it comes to blogging, I have been standing on my soapbox, discussing issues related to food, that are close to my heart – body image, omnivorism, homesteading, food sovereignty… But I am back to recipes now, and even though I made this for Mom on Mother’s day, this would be a great menu for any Sunday brunch and why not have one this weekend?

Baked Homegrown Eggs with Local Mushrooms, Goat Cheese and White Truffle Oil
Local Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
Local Maple Sausage Patties
Grain-free Coffee Cake
Homemade Yogurt and Berries with Maple
Fresh Brewed Coffee with Local Cream
Pear Bellini

I was blessed this Mother’s Day to have my mom in my company. See, she lives in Florida, and with us in Vermont, it isn’t easy to get together to celebrate all the special days in the year. But this year she decided to come to visit us for Mother’s Day and I wanted it to be special and memorable. I searched all around for a local place doing the typical nice Mother’s Day Brunch buffet, but was disappointed with the offerings. I was lamenting this on facebook, and someone suggested I make brunch myself, and that is exactly what I ended up doing. It ended up being great!

 

(Grain-Free Coffee Cake from The Spunky Coconut)

I recently purchased a copy of The Spunky Coconut Grain-Free Baked Goods and Desserts: Gluten Free, Casein Free, and Often Egg FreeHealthy Diet Cooking Books) and I was really excited to try some baked goods. Kelly, the author, and The Spunky Coconut herself, uses a lot of white beans in the base of her baked goodies. Since I like to cook as grain free as possible, this really intrigued me. It has literally been YEARS, since I had a coffee cake, but I used to love them, so I decided to try Kelly’s grain free version. The cake was delicious and power-packed with nutrients– between the beans, the eggs and the nuts, it is full of good for you goodness, but not at the expense of flavor or texture – one of the biggest issues I have had with gluten-free baking. The only thing I would change about the recipe is to cut the amount of nuts. It was a bit too crunchy, where we would have preferred cakey.

 

(Baked Homegrown Eggs with Local Mushrooms, Goat Cheese and White Truffle Oil)

The other main dish I prepared was a baked egg dish with eggs from our sweet hens, chanterelle and local oyster mushrooms, fresh chives from the garden and local goat cheese, all drizzled with the last of the white truffle oil we got in Italy, while with Roberto’s mom. It seemed a fitting way to honor her in the meal, even if she couldn’t be with us to share it.

We also had roasted potatoes, maple sausage from Applecheek Farm delicious locally roasted brewed coffee from Barista’s Beans, and homemade yogurt with local blueberries and currants (both harvested last year and frozen for winter eating), drizzled with local maple syrup and to top it all off, pear bellini (sparkling wine/champagne and pear nectar).

 

(Farmchic Tablescape)

It was an elegant (for us!) and casual brunch all at once and we had a lot of good laughs and enjoyable conversation all together. We had flowers on the table and fresh linens, which is about as fancy as we get here on the homestead!

Grain-Free Coffee Cake from The Spunky Coconut

Set oven to 325 F

Add to food processor:
2 cups of room temperature cooked beans – navy or great Northern.
6 eggs
¾ tsp vanilla liquid stevia *
1 tsp vanilla extract*
1/3 cup honey*
*I didn’t have the liquid stevia, so instead I just used a little extra honey with the vanilla extract
Puree well

Add:
¼ cup coconut oil, liquefied
1/3 cup coconut flour
½ tsp sea salt
¾ cup baking soda
1 ½ tsp baking powder
Puree well, pour batter into a greased 9×13 pan

Crumble Topping:
Puree:
3 cups walnuts (I used soaked almonds, since I am allergic to walnuts, and next time I think I will use @2 cups instead)
2 TBS ghee or coconut oil
½ cup coconut sugar
1 TBS cinnamon
Spread the crumble over the top of the batter. Using a fork or knife, really swirl the topping into the batter, and pat the topping down. Bake for about 25 minutes. Great hot, or cold from the refrigerator, store in the fridge.

Baked Homegrown Eggs with Local Mushrooms, Goat Cheese and White Truffle Oil

INGREDIENTS:
2 large fresh oyster mushrooms
A palm full of reconstituted dried chanterelle mushrooms
2 TBS butter
2 TBS fresh chives
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
5 large fresh eggs
¼ cup crumbled goat cheese
Salt & pepper
1 TBS white truffle oil

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 350 F. In a medium sized cast iron skillet sauté the mushrooms with the butter. Add one TBS of the chives. Sprinkle grated parmesan cheese on the bottom of a silicon round cake pan. Scramble eggs in a separate bowl with salt and pepper, add the sautéed mushrooms and chives to the eggs and then pour into the cake pan and sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until the egg is cooked and drizzle with the truffle oil.

Best Shepard’s Pie for Saint Patrick’s Day!

 

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to everyone out there! This year I want to share with you my best Shepard’s Pie recipe to date. This dish is common in Ireland as well as Scotland and England, and it is very quick to throw together. So if you want to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but didn’t really plan for it, a Shepard’s Pie is perfect!

I have been working on this recipe for a while. Shepard’s Pie is one of the easiest dishes to make, and it is that very simplicity that makes it such a lure to me to perfect to our tastes. With such a short list of ingredients, the quality of those ingredients makes all the difference. The pie I made before this one was when I really understood that point. Since then, I have added a few other subtle flavors that really add something to the dish, without taking away from its intrinsic simplicity and classic taste.

This past fall Roberto and I butchered a lamb for our own consumption. I wish I had taken some pictures because I so wanted to post about the experience. But I was up to my elbows in the work at hand, and taking photos wasn’t too convenient. It was a wonderful experience and one I plan to do over and over again. I am a firm believer in educating oneself about where you r food comes from. This is why we grow our own, and buy from local farms. Butchering your own meat is about as close you can get to this philosophy.

The lamb and kidney that was used in this recipe is from that lamb we butchered. I know for me, it is hard to come by lamb kidneys, so you can omit this ingredient, but if you can find lamb kidney, I suggest you use it. It adds an amazing richness and earthiness to the pie, but it doesn’t scream OFFAL to your taste buds.

If you are looking for more recipes to celebrate St. Patrick ’s Day, please check out my Real Food St. Patrick’s Day Feast from last year, featuring Guinness Stew, Sautéed Cabbage in a Mustard Glaze, Brown Soda Bread and Guinness Ice Cream!

Slàinte Mhòr!

 

INGREDIENTS:

5 large potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks – I used Idahos
butter
cream
salt and pepper

2 TBS olive oil
¾ lbs ground lamb
¼ lb ground beef
1 lamb kidney, finely chopped
1 cup sautéed onions and shallot, mixed
1 clove garlic minced
1 cup chopped pickled carrots (you can use un-pickled as well)
1 tsp each dried sage, thyme and rosemary
1 tsp of beau monde seasoning http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-beau-monde-seasoning.htm
salt & pepper
1 ½ cup cup homemade gravy – beef or poultry (heat 1 1/4 cup of stock, add ¼ cup of stout beer or red wine and whisk in 3 TBS of arrowroot powder to thicken. Season with salt and pepper).
handful of corn
handful of peas
malt vinegar
extra butter to put in top before baking

 

METHOD:

Boil the potatoes until tender. Hand mash potatoes with butter and cream, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Prepare the gravy. Then set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Place ground lamb and beef, kidney, carrots, onion and garlic in a cast iron skillet. Cook over medium heat until eat begins to brown, and veggies start to soften. Then add your carrots, corn, peas, and spices. Mix together. Pour gravy over top, and stir. Dollop the mashed potatoes on top and spread evenly over the top of the other ingredients, dab with butter and sprinkle a hearty bit of malt vinegar over top for that real pub taste!

Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes or until warmed through and potatoes become golden.

This post was contributed to Simple Lives Thursday.

Cooking with Friends: Sopes & Sangria

Sopes stuffed with local cheese and jalapeno jam

Part of feeling settled in a new community comes with making new friends. Having friends makes you feel more grounded in the place where you live and of course it is always nice to have people to share events, food and good times with! We have been lucky in this regard with our move to Vermont. We will have been living here for a year at the end of April, and we are lucky to have developed several groups of friends here in the local community.  The common vein is that all of these friends were met by way of food. But I guess knowing me, that shouldn’t be too much of a surprise!

We met Corey and Kurt during a lamb butchering class we took with Cole Ward, The Gourmet Butcher , this past fall. It was an 8 hour class where we all learned how to butcher a lamb for our own consumption. Cole is a genius and a true artisan of the craft. I can’t wait to take more classes with him! Roberto and I were the only first-timers there. Of course during those many hours we all talked an awful lot about food and recipes. At the end of class, many of us exchanged email addresses. Several of us planned a lamb potluck for January, and for one reason or another, it ended up only being me, Roberto, Corey and Kurt at the dinner.

Since then we have been getting together regularly to enjoy good food, wine and each other’s company either at each other’s houses or out in the community.  Sometimes we even cook together and are making plans to start a Supper Club and acquire more foodie friends!

Corey and Kurt are big foodies. Having lived all over the world they have experienced a lot of different food cultures. They have big plans to host gourmet getaways to Vermont. They already have a beautiful cabin in rural Vermont that they rent out to guests, and are working on having a kitchen put in where they can offer cooking classes and gourmet dinners to their guests.

 

 

The last time we got together, they hosted and made Mexican food.  They had recently taken a class with Chef Courtney Contos (the chef on the Gourmet Butcher DVDs), and decided to keep practicing their new recipes by trying them out on us. I offered to bring drinks. I made nice winter sangria using a dark red zinfandel as the base. I added to it several shots of lavender scented vodka, a splash of vanilla extract and a variety of fruits we had preserved this fall, including, raspberries in syrup and plums in a vanilla-cardamom-rum syrup. I also added sliced blood oranges. I soaked the fruits in the vodka overnight and added a pinch of dried lavender. I meant to take a picture when we served it, but we were already a bottle of wine in, and it slipped my mind. The photo above is one of my favorite photos from this blog and a summer sangria recipe.

For appetizers, Corey made the coolest stuffed masa boats, called Sopes.  Masa is Spanish for “dough” but it usually refers to dough made from reconstituted corn meal.  My friend Ben from What’s Cooking Mexico has a great tutorial on making sopes and other tortillas .

Making the Sopes

 

The only thing we did different with our sopes is that we folded up the sides of the small tortillas to make “boats” before frying them to shape them. We stuffed our sopes with several different options – guacamole, Boucher blue cheese (Highgate, VT) and plain Chevre (Boston Post Dairy, Enosburg, VT). Both of the cheese options were topped with some of Corey’s homemade Jalapeno jam from peppers grown in Georgia, VT. They were all delicious, but I really loved the unique combination of the Boucher blue and jalapeno jam.

Dinner was Mexican rice, homemade beans, and a stewed chicken dish in a tomatillo sauce (via Corey and Kurt’s garden last year), served with freshly made tortillas. For dessert they had roasted pears and pineapple served with homemade caramel. Again, we forgot to take photos, but I promise it was good! We ended the evening with an impromptu Scotch tasting and tea. Definitely a great night!

Chioggia Beet Salad

Happy Valentine’s Day!


Here is a quick but beautiful and romantic salad perfect for your Valentine’s Day celebration or any other romantic occasion. The beauty is in the freshness and color of the ingredients, naturally. Valentine’s Day menus typically focus around red foods, chocolate and other aphrodisiacs.

I don’t think there is anything more tantalizing than a warm beet salad, with creamy goat cheese and cranberry-balsamic compote to get your dinner started off right. The best thing about it is that it is quick so you don’t have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, instead focusing on more important things!

Chioggia Beet Salad with Goat Cheese and Cranberry-Balsamic Compote


INGREDIENTS:
2 giant organic Chioggia beets (the ones I had probably weighed 1 lb each), sliced into ¼ inch rounds
Olive oil to drizzle
Salt, pepper and herbs de Provence to season
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup red wine
Handful of fresh organic cranberries
Goat cheese (sheep milk feta would do nicely too) – quantity depends on your taste, but a nice hefty crumble between each layer is good.


METHOD:

Preheat oven to 400 F. Place sliced beets on parchment paper lined cookie sheets, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with seasoning (to your taste). Bake for about 35-40 minutes. You want the beets to be nice and roasted, but still soft.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, place the balsamic, wine and cranberries bring to a boil over medium heat and then lower heat and let simmer until it has reduced by half. Season with salt and pepper. To serve, layer the beets, goat cheese and compote, in a stack until all has been used up. Serves 4

For dessert, why not try these quick and easy Dark Chocolate Covered StrawberriesSpicy Mayan Hot Cocoa or Raw Chocolate Pudding – each of these recipes take under 10 minutes to make!

Enjoy!

Burns Supper


(Jenn and Suzanne at Burns Night)

“My heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here,
My heart’s in the Highlands a-chasing the deer -
A-chasing the wild deer, and following the roe;
My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go.”
~ Robert Burns

On January 25th, Scots, those of Scottish ancestry and poets all over the world celebrate the life and poetry of Robert Burns by celebrating Burns Night and hosting a Burns Supper.

I meant to post this yesterday, but since our -30 F weather hit, our connection has been sketchy at best. Now that we are past sub-zero temperatures, it seems to be waking up again! Hope it lasts!

January 25th is the birthday of Robert Burns, the famous Scottish bard and poet. Traditionally on this day those that celebrate their Scottish ancestry prepare a dinner of haggis, a traditional Scottish dish with neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes), recite An Address To a Haggis , a Burns poem, toast with whiskey (single malt) and spend the evening with family and friends, reciting the poetry of Burns and having a grand old time.

I have always been fascinated with Scottish culture, myth and history. I have studied it quite a bit over the years and have always felt a deep connection to Scotland. When I had the good fortune to visit Scotland several years ago, I kept experiencing déjà vu. Due to my interest in all things Scottish,  I even hosted a fabulous Burns Supper many years ago. I had connections to NYC at the time and was able to procure a traditional haggis and prepared it with all the traditional trimmings.

My dad’s ancestors come from Paisley, near Glasgow. Although that is pretty much all I know about them. His surname is Barr, of Irn-Bru fame, although I don’t think there is any relation.

This year, after finding my birth family I came to learn that I have quite a lot of genetic Scottish ancestry as well. My maternal great-grandparents came to the USA from Glasgow, and through this lineage I am proud part of the Boyd Clan. I also have some Scottish ancestors through my genetic paternal line.

With my new found Scottish heritage, I decided starting this year, I am going to celebrate Burns Night every year, by preparing a traditional Burns Supper. This year, to kick things off, we invited our friend Suzanne, a haggis-phobe to join us for our Burns Supper. I was able to order a haggis from Scottish Gourmet USA . It was shipped frozen, over night. The haggis comes pre-cooked so it just needs to be re-heated, and the vegetables need to be cooked. The ingredients are simple, lamb, oats, beef liver and spices. While I was boiling the tatties and roasting the neeps ( I used rutabaga and turnips mixed) I went about preparing the dessert: Cranachan.

Cranachan is layers of Drambuie infused whipped cream, toasted oats and raspberries. I had some homemade granola which I used in place of the toasted oats. It is a light, yet delicious dessert and so easy to make! I did not get a picture of my cranachan, because we ate it too fast! But this one from BBC Good Food should give you the basic idea, and a delicious recipe to boot. We used raspberries that we picked over the summer and canned. It was delicious.

We started off with oat cakes, smoked salmon, cheddar cheese and a very un-Scottish glass of Malbec.

We presented the haggis, and listened to this roaring raucous version of the address at the table.

“Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.”

~Robert Burns

Then we toasted with a dram of Glenlivet 12 year and dug into the food. It was delicious – and despite being a haggis-phobe and declaring emphatically many times that she does not like lamb, Suzanne really enjoyed the haggis. I wish her husband Bob had been able to join us (next year!), but he was away on business. But we got pictures to prove it!

We had an absolutely wonderful night talking about all our animals, crazy journeys in life, languages, cultures and many other assorted topics over several hours. We had a wonderful time and I can’t wait to do it again next year!

Pulled Pork with Apple Barbecue Sauce

This was the runner-up from last week’s informal poll on my facebook page about what recipes you wanted to see first from my list of back-logged posts. We enjoyed this dish for New Year’s Day – and many days after! This is a perfect dish for entertaining, because there is very little hands-on work. Just let the crock pot do all the work.  Plus it feeds so many mouths and you can make amazing soups and stews with the leftovers of leftovers!

We served it with homemade Sauerkraut with Juniper Berries and an updated version of Nana’s Beans. The post for the beans shows you how my recipes have evolved as I have gotten into more healthy ways of preparing foods.

I was inspired to make an apple barbecue sauce because I wanted a sweeter sauce and have been experimenting a lot lately with fruit-sweetening. I had quite a few apples in the fridge and some apple cider left over from the holidays, and so a plan was born.

This was delicious! The pork fell off the bone and melted in your mouth. The sauce was a nice accompaniment, but absolutely not necessary – the pork honestly stands alone in this dish. Granted it was a nice roast, made from local pork. So you use your discretion on that one. But the sauce is worth making as it is great with chicken, on burgers and sweet potato fries too. A really nice all around homemade condiment that you will enjoy having in the fridge.

INGREDIENTS:

6 lb, bone in, pasture-raised Pork Roast
1 TBS maple sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp each: smoked paprika, green chili powder, Mexican mole seasoning, dried thyme and basil
Salt & pepper
¼ cup raw apple cider

For the Sauce:

½ an organic apple, cut in chunks
1/3 cup raw apple cider
1 cup tomato sauce
1 small can of tomato paste
2 TBS maple sugar
¼ cup raw apple cider vinegar
1 tsp each: coriander, cumin, paprika, thyme, basil

METHOD:

Rub pork with maple sugar and spices, wrap up tightly and store in fridge overnight. Next day put roast in crockpot with apple cider. Put crockpot on high for 8 hours, flip the roast and continue to cook on low for about another 2 hours.
Meanwhile make the sauce. Place the apple chunks and apple cider in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Turn down heat to a simmer and cook down for about 15 minutes. Place apple mixture and the rest of the ingredients in the blender and whirl until blended. Set aside.
Using a fork, pull the meat away from the bone, continue to shred the meat this way until finished. Then serve with the sauce. YUM!