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!

ThinkFood Feature: Breakfast of Champions & My First YouTube!

I am excited to announce that today; my recipe which appears in the ThinkFood Cookbook, about brain health is Today’s Featured Recipe !

You may recall many months ago, when I told you about the book, and how you could get free weekly recipes delivered right to your inbox! If you signed up for the weekly recipe, then this post is old news to you, as you should have the recipe in your inbox! I hope you enjoy it.

But don’t stop reading, because I have more news to share with you.

I started developing my “Breakfast of Champions” over a year ago – when I first started getting heavy into weight lifting. I wanted a “real food” alternative to all the protein powder, power bars, etc. that most people into this kind of exercise seem to be into. So I created a super balanced, but very versatile dish, which can be eaten almost daily without feeling like you are eating the same thing. This is a recipe for anyone who needs sustained energy throughout the day. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so you might as well, go for it! Even kids love this recipe. One of my favorite kids in the world often asks her mom to make her “The Champions” for breakfast.

The grain component to this dish is soaked buckwheat. However, I have often made it with sprouted quinoa, or leftover roasted potatoes. I also switch up the greens and cheeses depending on what is in season or on hand. I even made this dish with leftover mole sauce ! Like I said, it is so versatile!

I am so proud of this dish, especially because it was featured in this cookbook, and also because it includes EGGS, which have become a big part of our life since we got laying hens this past summer and they started laying this fall (click here to read about our first egg).

I love that this dish is so balanced nutritionally, but also includes major components of my food philosophy – real food, local food, grow/raise your own, etc.

That is why I decided to prepare this recipe on film, to submit as my entry to MasterChef, Season 2. So I ask all of you to keep your fingers crossed for me that I am invited to be part of the show. My goal for wanting to be on the show is to present real food and traditional food preparation to the masses. Here is my first ever YouTube video! Hope you enjoy it! (running time @ 15 minutes)…

You can order your copy of ThinkFood: Recipes For Brain Fitness via this link !

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.

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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.

Sourdough Spelt Pizza Dough

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(Gal, Liz and Jenn making Pizza)

Pizza night is a weekly tradition in this house, and something we love to share with friends and family when they come to visit the homestead. Two weeks ago, I had a reunion with my best friend from high school, Liz, or as she is affectionately known to me, Lizard. We fell out of touch, like many of us do, over some boys…and we hadn’t been in touch for nearly 10 years. BAD BOYS. I thought about her often over the years, and we were so happy to be reunited on Facebook! She lives in Brooklyn, with her beautiful family, and she and her awesome husband came to visit us.

Pizza is the perfect food for entertaining. It is also a great way to feed a crowd when you are not sure what kinds of dietary restrictions people might have. Toppings can range from all veggies, to anchovies, some sausages, or whatever. You can even use pesto or barbecue sauce in place of traditional tomato sauce. You can even forego the cheese, if someone in your group is lactose intolerant. Making pizza together is a great way to spend time with friends – rolling out the dough, making personal pizzas, and then enjoying it together, with a nice glass of red, maybe a beer, and a lot of laughs! See how much fun we are having?

Gal_Liz_Jenn_making pizza 2

We are really passionate about our pizza here. Roberto grew up eating pizza in Italy, and I grew up thinking I didn’t like pizza (don’t blame me, blame “cheesefood”). This all changed when I discovered thin, crunchy, crust, fresh mozzarella cheese and the amazing array of fresh toppings that one can come up with when you make pizza at home! So you could say that we are both very picky pizza eaters. We might even be pizza snobs. So, in order to do justice to homemade pizza, we have been experimenting and creating for the past two years to come up with THE PERFECT PIZZA (TM).

We used to use the Olive Oil bread dough from Artisan Bread in 5, religiously. However, during that time, we had a bit of a wrench thrown into the works, when I discovered that I was having trouble with wheat. So we experimented with gluten free flours, and pizza dough recipes, and all of them really left a lot to be desired. So we had some sad and disappointing Friday nights. I was determined to find a pizza dough that was up to par taste and texture wise, and at the same time didn’t make me wake up with a hangover feeling the next day. This is where the sourdough comes in. I had heard through the blogosphere that people with wheat intolerance (NOT Celiac) were able to tolerate sourdough bread products. It has to do with neutralizing enzyme inhibitors, which interfere with digestion and breaking down phytic acid, which generally blocks mineral absorption. Sourdough cultures also predigest or completely break down the gluten during the fermentation process. Creating a bread that is more digestable. I also used spelt flour, because I have found that it is not as “heavy” as whole wheat, and closer to the feeling of a traditional pizza crust, like you would find in Italy.

For us, one of our secrets to making a super flavorful pizza is to use tomato paste in place of tomato sauce. This is a family secret, that one of my great aunts came up with. Roberto feels that this “proprietary” information should not be shared with the public. But like I told him, now maybe if we have homemade pizza at someone else’s house, maybe they read my post, and we will like it all the better! :) That punch of tomato paste flavor really comes through in all its sweetness once it is baked in the oven. Also, the cheese matters. Get the best quality mozzarella that you can, not the shredded stuff. Nice slices of fresh mozzarella add something wonderfully light to the pizza – and go easy on it. It is OK to have some bare spots, where you can actually see only sauce. Trust us…

Spelt_pizza_on_Plate

Some of our favorite toppings are: fresh tomato slices, fresh mushrooms, prosciutto, arugula, anchovies, olives (capers if we are too lazy to pit olives) peperoncini peppers, and sun dried tomatoes. And you must remember to salt and pepper your pizza, and a nice drizzle of olive oil over top doesn’t hurt either!  We mix and match the toppings on different pizzas. Usually we make 2 pizzas, and then have leftover for lunches. Another favorite is using pesto as the sauce, and then adding thinly sliced potatoes, that you have baked slightly beforehand.

Perhaps the most important aspect  to the perfect pizza is a HOT oven. We preheat our oven 20 minutes ahead to 500 F. We bake our pizzas on cookie sheets, lined with parchment paper. This makes the crust super crisp and delicious! I have heard all the rage about pizza stones, and one day I might add one to my kitchen tools. But I use my Italian husband as a barometer for a good pizza, and so far, we have done well without the need for a pizza stone.

So we suggest you get your crust ready tonight to have pizza tomorrow!

INGREDIENTS:

¼ cup sourdough starter

5 cups spelt flour

2 TBS olive oil

1 TBS salt

2 cups water

3 cups sprouted spelt flour (or you can use regular, if you prefer)

1 tsp olive oil

METHOD:

Combine starter, 5 cups spelt flour, olive oil, salt and water in a large bowl. Cover loosely with a towel or lid and allow to stand in a warm place for 5-10 hours, or overnight is best. Next add 3 cups of sprouted spelt flour and work it into the dough, enough so you can handle it without it being too sticky. Form the dough into a ball, and rub 1 tsp of olive oil all over it. Place it back in the bowl and let it stand 20 minutes. Then knead the dough with your hands until it is smooth and elastic, then place it back in the bowl, and allow it to double in bulk – about 1 hour. At this point you can use it to make pizza. This recipe makes about 4 large cookie sheet rectangular pizzas. If you are not going to use it all, you can rip off 4 grapefruit sized balls and store each one in a freezer bag, until you want to use it. When you want to use it, take it out to defrost, and then roll out, and put your favorite toppings on.

Cultures, Fiddleheads, and Poutine

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HELLO COMPOST!

Life has been extremely busy here on the homestead. If you are following my facebook updates, you know I have been up to my ears (almost) in dirt. I have learned in these few short weeks, that spring is the busiest time of the year in the country. If you are in the North Country, you are trying to get your gardens, fruit/nut tree groves and berry patches started for the summer, while dodging rain storms, and on occasion even snow storms! Here at Thistlemoon Meadows, it is no exception. All of this while trying to settle into a new place. We have been spending as many sunny days as we can outdoors, and if there isn’t enough of those to do what we need to accomplish, we go out in the rain – and if you can believe it, the snow storm is actually a blessing from Mother Nature, as it allows us time to go indoors and take care of household needs. It has been several years since I have really enjoyed the dichotomies that make up spring and it has been amazing – when you are working with things that grow, it kind of all makes sense. Nature is amazing that way.

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(The Culture Club (this is not how I normally have my “lab” set up. If you are culturing more than one kind of culture they need to sit a few feet apart from each other, but I asked them all to gather together for  photo).

Our house is not a home unless I have set up my cultures, lovingly termed my “science lab” in the kitchen. On any given day I have sourdough starter, kefir, some kind of sour milk either viili or buttermilk, yogurt and sometimes cheese culturing. Plus I usually have various kinds of grains and legumes soaking and fermenting. It is this life sustaining and nourishing foods that get our bodies through all the hard work that comes with setting up and maintaining a homestead. And our chickens haven’t even arrived yet! :)

fresh vermont fiddleheads_loq

FIDDLEHEADS!

So to celebrate spring in all her glory, on one warm and beautiful day, we decided to have our first barbecue of the season. We had been to the local market earlier in the day and picked up a prized local wildfood – fiddlehead ferns. These ferns can only be harvested for about 2 weeks in the early spring, in Northern climes, like New England, and Canada. Fiddleheads are harvested early in the season before the frond has opened and reached its full height – they are named fiddleheads as they bear resemblance to the curled ornamentation on the end of a stringed instrument, such as a fiddle. Since I am a fiddlehead, it seemed like a food I should try. It is not suggested that you eat fiddleheads raw, as they have a bitterness to them before cooked, that can lead to stomach upset. I was told they taste a bit like asparagus, so I decided to just toss them with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and cook them on the grill, on top of foil – kind of like broiled asparagus, which is my favorite way to prepare it. Although truth be told, if asparagus ceased to exist, I wouldn’t miss it.

herbed skirt steak_loq

For this meal I wanted to cook everything on the grill. Steak is best when grilled, and we had also gotten a beautiful skirt steak from a local farm. I lightly drizzled olive oil on it, and then dressed it up with fresh herbs – cilantro, thyme and basil.

To accompany this meal, I decided to make poutine on the grill, sans gravy, which I guess really makes this potatoes and cheese curds – but it was light and perfect with this menu. I cooked both white potatoes and sweet potatoes on the grill in foil packets for about 40 minutes. For the last 15 minutes,I opened the packets so the potatoes could brown, and then put the cheese curds on top, turned off the grill and closed the grill lid for about 5 minutes.

spring BBQ on a plate_loq

(Spring Foods Dinner)

It was a wonderful evening outside listening to the night sounds – frogs, birds and eventually even a guitar and…you guessed it, a fiddle.

awesome nighttime_loq

Quick Gluten-Free Meze: Potato Canapes

potato-basil-cheese_bites

Here is a quick little treat for you all, and trust me, when I say it is a treat – one that is not only delicious, but healthy and perfect for outdoor party weather! I wouldn’t leave you hanging with anything less than super yummy.

This will be my last post for a week or so – we are migrating to Vermont any day now, and although I will have internet access, it will be quick and sporadic. Then as soon as we get there, we have to get a garden started! I am sorry that I haven’t been around the bloggy world much these past weeks to see everyone’s delicious creations, but I have been up to my ears in boxes, with a quick day off to celebrate 2 years of wedded bliss, yesterday! :)

Anyway, this dish was inspired by two things – one, my ever-present leftover using principles and two, my desire to bring something to a party I knew I could eat. This is the cumulative efforts of pairing delicious raw goat cheese with soaked raw nuts, both of which were leftovers.

I love canapes, crostini, bruschetta and the like, but when I indulge in these generally bready things, I pay for it later. So I figured why not make canapes with potatoes that needed to be used up – which I could enjoy absolutely guilt free! I topped these delicious roasted potato rounds with a raw cashew, raw goat cheese basil pesto, with some sun dried tomatoes mixed in for POP.

These are so good, my extremely picky cat, Nimue, actually went up on the counter to eat the leftovers I had saved for my mom (sorry, mom!).

These were seriously easy to make and ended up looking great and party worthy! I will certainly be making them often this summer for backyard barbecues, parties and potlucks! Hope some of you can join us up at our place in Vermont! :) But be prepared to get your hands dirty!

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Cheese, Glorious Raw Milk Goat Cheese

goat_cheese_on_plate

I am obsessed with cheese. I really am. I have been fond of cheese for as long as I can remember. I spent a very dismal year as a vegan once. I was already a vegetarian, but I thought that I was lactose intolerant (turned out I was SOY intolerant), so I stopped eating cheese. I was not a happy girl. Maybe it was that I was OD-ing on soy, but I like to think it was the lack of cheese that was messing with my brain chemistry. My brain really likes dairy fat, something I have proven to myself several times over. I mean, my ancestors do have a long history with dairy animals. Plus, if it works for The Slayer, it works for me.

buffy5_400

(image courtesy of DARKHORSE.COM)

Speaking of Buffy, I laughed so hard during a Buffy episode one time, I almost split my side. It went something like this:

Potential Buffy Boyfriend is talking to Buffy’s Best Friend and asks her to tell him more about Buffy – what she likes, hobbies, etc,….

Buffy’s Best Friend, Willow says: “ She likes cheese… I’m not saying it’s the key to her heart, but Buffy… she likes cheese”.

I tried to find a video, but alas it was not available. I am guessing though, that even if I found the video, my readers might not laugh. It is kind of a joke, that only the cheese obsessed could get. I mean, I’d like to think that people who know me well, might say something similar if asked about my likes and dislikes.

For someone that loves cheese and trying new cheeses as much as I do, I admit to having my favorites – Brunost, Pecorino Toscano Fresco, Vermont Sharp Cheddar, all manner of raw milk cheeses, and probably my number one favorite– Goat Cheese.

The thing that I love so much about goat cheese is that it is very easy to make, and extremely versatile. You can eat it on crackers – and enjoy it with pesto on top, just as well as raw honey, put it in eggs, use it in dips, stuff it into lasagna, etc. Plus you can use the whey to make other recipes. Which totally fits into my “Waste Not Want Not” philosophy. There is just so much to love.

I love cheese so much, that I plan on getting my own goats and sheep in a few months, so that I can have fresh raw goat’s milk and sheep’s milk to make cheese from.  That is what I call a commitment to cheese. I have several other cheesy plans in the works as well.

I told you I was obsessed.

Anyway, goat cheese is as easier to make than you would ever dream of. All you need is a gallon of goat’s milk (I got raw goat milk from the farmer’s market, but you can also used pasteurized from your grocery store, you can also make a half recipe), cultures and directions. The only equipment you need is a large pot, a kitchen thermometer, cheesecloth and a container to let it set in – I recommend this one.

This recipe makes about 16 oz. of fresh delicious goat cheese – all for about $6-8 which is about 3x the amount you get at the grocery store for the same price. Which is why you can afford to put it in lasagna. You know you want to.

Come to the dark side, we have cheese.

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