Archives for category: cooking

As Above

This morning a thought keeps running through my mind and down into my heart, settles in every cell and every patient tear. The people we lose will never come back physically but they are here with us somehow. I don’t understand it but for better or worse, we do leave our trace. Each person is such a unique creation, completely original in every way. I cherish the thought and it brings with it a certain responsibility to not only be open to loving the light within but also the places where we fall short, either by the standards we set for ourselves or by the standards our society and culture sell to us. We are such amazing creations and we get caught up in survival, comparison, fear, doubt, fantasy, people pleasing; sometimes we feel, we are not doing enough, making enough, loving enough. What if we could let that all go. What if for this moment we take a deep breath together and let it all go and be satisfied with what is, for now, for this second for this breath.

Dwarf Grey Sugar Peas

When I am in the garden I can relax and be with the plants, really look at them, breathe their scent, touch their feathery leaves or their prickly surface and taste their essence. I can hear the bees buzzing around the borage, the hummingbirds zooming, the chickadee’s “chic a dee dee deeing”. I see a robin with a worm, a crow with a branch for nesting, a golden wing of a finch flitting by. Every moment unique and beautiful. This spring I planted Dwarf Grey Sugar Peas. It’s been years since I had their lovely purple flowers in the garden. I waited and waited and waited for the first bloom. It was more exquisite than I remembered: strong lilac with deep ruby lips. So beautiful inside the little throat, speckled and glowing from the late setting sun. The bees have noticed these voluptuous flowers as well and as I was gazing at the beautiful bed of flowers a hummingbird appeared above and dove, beak down and drank the sweet nectar. One of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.

Lovely Borage

I hear the bees everywhere and wonder where they go after they collect the pollen from the raspberries, borage, snow pea flowers, sunflowers and foxglove. I nibble on the chickweed I used to curse. I taste the sour sow thistle, eat the calendula petals, I wish for a giant dandelion to grow deep in the mineral rich soil and offer it’s leaves and root for healing. The plants give of themselves, stay with us, nourish us both inside and out. We have learned to appreciate the  persistence and strength of common weeds that live in our area. They are reminder that when the going gets rough, the chamomile  will be there in the crack in the sidewalk, the dandelions will be  growing back along the fence: an army of yellow, green and white, perky and energetic. The chickweed will be tangled underneath the collards or in a dark cool corner of the yard hanging on to the soil with their strong spidery roots. The nettles will be pushing their fresh leaves through the blackberry vines full of minerals and monster healing power. It is good that we are learning to appreciate these persistent friends. Instead of fighting, just go with the flow, bless the offerings that mother earth continually offers and as needed pluck those powerhouses, and unless in flower or invasive root, feed them to the compost pile. Better yet make dandelion or chamomile tea, a purslane laced smoothie or  sautéed’ lamb’s quarters . Last Spring my former employer Emeline told me she made nettle soup , I had been wondering how to get acquainted with the wild nutritious plant and her soup made me all the more determined to get to know this notorious plant.. The following September Richard, his sister Maurine and I were picking blackberries in a park nearby and “ouch, that hurt, what was that?”,   there was  a patch of nettles growing with the blackberries we were picking. It was if it reached out to say, here I am, just what you have been looking for. The plants were flowering but I made a note to myself to return the following spring. Seven months later, on April 12th Richard and I set off with a bag, gloves, tongs and …..geez louise…no scissors. Darn Darn Darn it! Back to the car, whew I had left a knife in the glovebox.  Ready and able we approached the patch of stinging nettles only to discover that they were setting flowers.

Nettles in Flower

Unsure if they were still edible we cut a few tops, threw them in our bag and sped away. After researching a little more I found the best time to harvest is while the plants are still young, tender and not in flower. I decided to chop up the little bit we had and throw them in the compost. About two weeks later we were walking along our path to Golden Gardens and we saw a strong and interesting looking man kneeling beside some nettles! “Great nettles” we said, and our new friend proceeded to tell us about his Greek heritage and how his grandfather ate lots of nettles and was strong and healthy as Hercules (I am taking liberties here). He also told us that the Greek way to prepare them is to saute’ the greens in garlic and olive oil and to squeeze a bit of lemon over the top after cooking. Another week or two went by and I was attending my first “Herbal Remedies for the Home”  class at Dandelion Botanical Company (the most fabulous store in Seattle) packed with bulk medicinal herbs, books, oils, supplements, chocolate, bitters; all things wonderful. Right in front of me I see a little sign that says “Fresh Nettles”. Ok, I give, I am going to buy the nettles from Dandelion who I totally trust to be selling the best nettles in WA. I trek home with the bag and show Richard. We are going to do this nettle thing right now. So I get out my tongs and big bowl and some scissors and start cutting the leaves off into the bowl. Soon after Richard and I are eating our first nettles Greek style. We both agreed they were tasty, similar to spinach. I saved enough leaves to make a tea the next day which was delightful, even before the cup touched my lips I felt electricity in the air, a virtual prickly energy rush. The wilted leaves from the teapot were squeezed dry and added to the scrambled eggs the next morning. We felt satisfied and initiated. Another few days went by and we were walking on our path again and there was the Greek, near the same spot, and we told him we had finally had our nettles. As we walked away we both wondered if he was a nettle deva that only we could see; haven’t seen hide nor hair since. The other weeds we have partaken in are chickweed (which I have decided I like best eaten fresh as I wander in the garden), sow thistle, purslane, dandelion and lamb’s quarter. I have taken to nibbling my calendula petals, nasturtiums, borage flowers and parsley while wandering too. Some great advice from my  herbal studies teacher Crystal: make sure you have positively identified the plant you wish to harvest ,take only what you will eat,  leave at least one-third of the plant so it may grow again. Another important consideration  before harvesting wild plants is how much to take. Courtesy of Crystal Hamby the “One in Twenty Rule” : If there are 20 plants in an area, you should only harvest one.  Above all, ask the plant for permission and if you have any weird vibes about harvesting it, don’t take it. Give thanks to the plant for providing nourishment and medicine. From Crystal’s notes I also found that Native peoples left corn and tobacco as gifts to the plant spirits when they harvested. It is always good to be thankful for the abundance we are given. Recently Richard and I were eating dinner and it occurred to me that a prayer of gratitude  before a meal is a way to be respectful and mindful of the gifts we are given by the food on our plates, by the people in our lives, by the animals we love  and all the blessings given us. Sometimes slowing down and being mindful brings us back to the things that really matter.

Harvesting Now: strawberries, snow peas, sugar snap peas, cabbage, collards, rhubarb, lettuce, radishes, carrots, kale, swiss chard,      parsley, cilantro, rosemary, mint, chives, arugula, borage, lemon balm, oregano, thyme, calendula…

Still Planting: radishes, cilantro, carrots, lettuce, kale,

Babying: tomatoes, basil, peppers

Just Planted:  butternut, spaghetti and delicata (winter squashes)  and zucchini, yellow straight-neck and patty pan (summer squashes)

To do List: stake the tomatoes, build a pepper shelter, fertilize the leafy greens with fish emulsion, fertilize the flowering plants with a liquid organic fertilizer, stake the sunflowers

Recipe of the Week

“Smoked Salmon Burritos”

Salmon Burrito

saute’ 1/4 small onion (chopped) until soft

add one crushed garlic clove

add 1/4 cup of roasted red peppers chopped and  cook over medium heat about 3 minutes

add 1/2 cup of chopped smoked salmon and stir for one minute

turn off the heat

add 1 diced roma tomato

5 kalamata olives chopped

a dash of cayenne pepper

Heat a tortilla in a heavy skillet

add salmon filling, arugula or the leafy green of choice and cheese (I like Beecher’s Flagship Cheddar)

roll up and taste something divine

Happy Planting and Happy Eating!



Irish Soda Bread


Bari,  an enthusiastic  friend of mine, casually mentioned she would be making corned beef and cabbage for St Patrick’s Day dinner this year. Me, being the traditionalist I am and having Richard’s mom visiting this week,decided I would prepare corned beef as well. Bari, also added she would be making Irish soda bread. My ears perked and the ball was rolling. Irish soda bread? She mentioned caraway seeds and raisins and how she only makes the bread one time a year. Bari uses Martha Stewart’s recipe. I could hardly wait to get home and look the recipe up online, caraway seeds? Hum…..what do I think of caraway seeds? I never have cooked with them that I remember. Don’t really LOVE rye bread, but maybe I just haven’t given those little seeds a fair chance.   Hum…..what DO I think of caraway seeds?  Are they an important part of the recipe? No, the seeds are not included in all the recipes I found. As I skimmed through a few websites comparing recipes and watching Martha make soda bread on YouTube I decided to try a version from the Food Network’s website as my base and add a twist of my own. Nothing against Martha but I had purchased buttermilk the day before and had no wheat bran or caraway seeds in the cupboard. What did I have? Where were those raisins? I found a bag of dried cranberries, took a nibble, sized up the bag and decided it was time to put them to use. The recipe I decided to use had one teaspoon of orange zest added to the dry ingredients. Luckily my friend Brenda had left two organic oranges in my fridge from last weekend’s dinner so I was covered there. I decided to soak the cranberries in orange juice overnight. NO,  not orange juice, Cointreau, an orange liqueur would be perfect. As I poured two tablespoons or so over the cranberries I thought of the cost of Cointreau and the yummy margaritas I had made with it last summer. That sunny day seemed so far away: warmth, lime juice, salty rims, tequila…..Snap Out Of It !!!!!  Focus on soda bread !!!!!  Ok, the only other change I made to the recipe was replacing one cup of  the white flour with spelt flour. Can’t hurt to add a little whole goodness to the experiment. The bread dough was sticky as the recipe had predicted: flour the board, your hands, the knife to cut the big cross on the top with and finally,  the dough.  Now it can be shaped into a round loaf and placed on a parchment covered baking sheet without totally sticking to your hands. I molded the dough and cut a 3/4 ” deep cross through the top of the loaf and remembered Martha had said it was to ward off evil spirits. Can’t hurt and I like the idea,  so I cut deeply into the dough and slipped the bread into the oven. Forty five minutes later the loaf was done and looked amazingly appealing. I set the bread on a cooling rack until the guests arrived a few hours later. The bread was the hit for sure; delicious, beautiful, perfect texture……endless possibilites for future dinners. Oh and just between you and me….I drained the Cointreau  into a shot glass and had a  tasty little sip, wouldn’t want that expensive liqueur to go to waste!

For the recipe go to: Irish Soda Bread Recipe : Ina Garten : Food Network

Slainte!  (cheers!)


Last September we planted mustard, collards, lettuce, kale, pepper cress, mixed winter salad greens and tatsoi in hopes of having something fresh to harvest throughout the fall and winter.  All of the seeds sprouted, grew and looked pretty hardy by the time the weather grew colder. In Seattle we don’t have to worry too much about severe temperatures , so optimistic we were as we set in the transplants with high hopes of harvesting throughout the gloomy days ahead. The kale and collards grew slowly but will be ready for the longer days and milder temperatures as we travel toward spring.  Their leaves are about  6-8 inches  tall and not quite ready for picking unless we want to lessen our early spring harvests. The absolute most enthusiastic of all the plants are the tall succulent “Green Wave Mustard Greens” from High Mowing Organic Seeds. I have to tell you, of all these plants, mustards are the one plant I wasn’t sure of. We have grown collards and kale throughout the winter and they have survived our occasional freezing temperatures. The mustards looked  fragile; bright green leaves glowing in contrast to our gray Seattle skies. They seemed to say, “pick me pick me I’m right here don’t you see me holding my fine leaves up for you”.   Some of the leaves had grown tall and gangly so easily were weighted by the rain we had experienced recently. I had harvested a few of these for a spicy addition to some vegetables in a stir fry and added some to a lettuce salad for a slight pungent but welcomed change.

"Stir Fry With Mustards"

Last week we experienced our first real winter blast of freezing rain, sleet and finally an 8″  blanket of snow. Two days before we debated; to cover or not to cover. That was the question. We decided not to cover, to wait and see. The wait and see turned into…”wow, it’s all white out there, guess everything is covered up now, better harvest some mustard leaves while we can still find them “. So Richard harvested the leaves and they were coated with ice and snow and yet still looked happy. After they were rinsed he set them in a bowl on the counter. They looked perfectly  unscathed.  Later that night  I cooked up a big bunch of mustard greens to compliment some fried catfish and some delicious  red potatoes left from last season’s harvest.  I tell you what! That catfish was pretty darn good but it was even better snuggled up to greens and taters.

“Braised Mustard Greens”

8 cups of chopped mustard greens

"Sauteed' Mustard Greens"

1 tablespoon of oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1  sliced medium sized carrot

1-2 tablespoons chopped jalapeno

1-2 cloves of chopped garlic

1/4 teaspoon of salt

fresh pepper to taste

*1/4 cup of  vegetable stock

I use a large soup pot so I can stir in the mustards easily.

Saute’ onion on medium heat for a few minutes, add carrots and cook another 3 minutes, add jalapeno, garlic and salt.  Stir for about one minute making sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Add vegetable stock  and then add the chopped mustards. The mustards will magically reduce to about a cup in a few minutes. Cook 5-8 minutes stirring frequently  until the greens are tender but not overcooked.

Optional: Sprinkle with a little vinegar and/or “tabasco” sauce. If your jalapenos are super spicy beware of adding more heat.

* I use powdered vegetable stock from PCC’s bulk spice bin. It is called something like “Chicken Flavored Vegetable Stock”, yes, that is correct. I don’t know what is in that stock but I love  to add it to vegetarian dishes for flavor.

"Catfish, Home Grown Potatoes & Mustard Greens"

Powdered ginger, crystalized ginger and organic lemon

My co-worker Louise has requested a recipe for some cookies I brought to work during the holidays. Like many of my favorite recipes, I have fond memories attached so must share. Many many years ago my best friend and neighbor Brenda gave me this recipe after I had the pleasure of tasting more than a few of these gems. Now to say she was a friend and neighbor way understates the importance she had in my life. I had no idea about the many skills it takes to be a great mom. One of them is to relax. We would take walks and I would air my frustrations and worries. She would say something like “he or she will not be doing that when they go off to college”…something like that. Or, “we have great kids, they can make good decisions, they don’t act that way at my house……..they are always well-behaved here”. Well, I would take a deep breath and say a big prayer and try to let my anxieties melt away, cookies helped.  So we spent many hours together since both our husbands worked at night. We had impromptu meals together, watched each other’s kids, movies and later listened to the stories and songs our kids were creating together. We are still great friends, share recipes and enjoy our grown kids who are still very close. I have to make the cookies myself now as I moved across the city. I miss those days of wandering over to Brenda’s house for a cup of coffee, hot cookies and a good long chat.

This recipe combines two of my favorite flavors, lemon and ginger…….Yumilicious with a little kick

Last year I decided to add some sliced candied ginger on top in a little criss-cross decoration . I am not much on spending  time on tedious sticky projects but the extra time did add a fancy look to the top. The next time I made the cookies  I was in a hurry so I just added a little chopped sugared ginger into the recipe, that is how Louise had them. Either way the candied ginger adds a nice texture and a little more spiciness.

Lemon Ginger Cookies


1 1/2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour

1 cup of unbleached white flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon zested lemon rind (organic if possible)

Beat until fluffy and light:

3/4 cup of butter

3/4 cup of brown sugar

1 egg

1/4 cup of molasses

about 1/4 cup of fine sugar for rolling the cookies in before baking

Makes quite a few, next time I’ll count. I think about 30 or so but don’t hold me to it

Take one level tablespoon of dough and roll it into fine sugar (i use a small scoop so it’s a little more than a tablespoon)

place on un-greased cookie sheet and flatten just a bit leaving about 1 1/2 “- 2” apart

optional: add two thinly sliced pieces of candied ginger crisscrossed on top or approximately 1/4 cup of chopped crystallized ginger (too much makes them a bit heavy) I have purchased the ginger in larger pieces that I sliced down for the criss-cross tops or smaller  pieces for adding to the dough.

Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees

I love my citrus reamer, zester and 1 1/4 " cookie scoop

Lilly and Tamara (right)

So, now I find out having a blog and making promises can actually be a good way for me to learn some new skills. After reading the first chapter of the  book “The Urban Farm” , written by Annette Cottrell and Joshua McNichols  (both with roots in Seattle) ), I was inspired to find a recipe I had pieced together  when Richard’s sister and mom were staying with us. I had asked Tamara if she would teach me how to make bread since I knew she had been baking her own bread for many years. I thought it would be a good project for the two of us and make some good vibes in the kitchen. She suggested we make breadsticks and so we did. That was in 2009 and I haven’t looked at that recipe since nor attempted to make bread until now. Luckily I did write down the recipe in my little spiral index book I keep tucked away with my cookbooks. Years ago I decided I better start keeping track of some of my better experiments and also of recipes I have  been fortunate enough  to obtain from my friends and family. Of course in my usual loose style I had written a note,  “add 3/4 cup of cooked oats”. Since it was sort of scrawled out to the side I wondered if it was supposed to be used in place of some of the  water or milk. I tried to reach Tamara but she was off riding her horse Johnny and could not be reached.  Better pull out a reference book like “Laurel’s Kitchen”, my kitchen bible for many years, and see if a bread recipe would give me a clue.  I managed to figure out that wet ingredients to dry, the oats were part of the recipe, not a substitution. I will have to substitute almond milk for most of the milk because I had run out of cow’s milk.  This is a usual occurrence in my kitchen, not to worry. At this point I am committed to making the bread and don’t want to run to the store. The problem with my days are that I want to squeeze too much in. Instead of truly enjoying and being in each moment I am mentally leaping ahead to the next task.  Earlier in the day I was thinking of going to exchange a present and see if I could find another leopard snuggie in the after holiday sale heap at Macy’s. Instead R and I decided to take a walk to Golden Gardens and then I would make the bread. I am so glad we took our walk. What a beautiful day it was and my legs needed a challenge after blowing off exercise for the past month. So, take a leap with me ahead. I have started the yeast with warmed water, milk, oats and a little pinch of sugar. Mixed it with half the flour, oil and salt till the gluten starts looking stretchy and the batter is smooth. Added flour a little at a time till it was too hard to mix and then kneaded it for about five minutes. Dang, who needs to go to the gym when you can just wear yourself out in the kitchen? After the dough felt smooth and satiny I formed it into a ball and put it in a greased bowl, I chose one I inherited from my mom that I used back in the 70s. I love that bowl, it’s  an old pyrex one that has lasted 40 or 50 years, that thing has some history behind it, some good  juju. I admit, little things like that make me happy, bring back warm sweet memories and it’s part of the pleasure for me. So I tucked that round smooth satiny dough ball into the bowl , covered it with a towel and  placed it in a warm corner on my kitchen counter to  rise for an hour or so . An hour later, the dough has almost doubled and Richard is getting hungry for dinner. The recipe says it makes 18 breadsticks and now I am wondering how long they are going to take to make. I’m hungry too. I start by punching the dough down to get the air bubbles out. Then I pull a golf ball size piece off and start rolling the clump between my palms. It doesn’t take me long to realize a potter would have an advantage over me. I suddenly remember Tamara producing beautiful, evenly shaped breadsticks while mine were more than slightly irregular. Then I decide to try another method;  rolling the dough on a greased cookie sheet with both my hands. Let’s see…maybe rolling between my palms in mid-air and then pulling with a little shaping thrown in. Breathe deeply, stay in the moment, I notice  how I am becoming a bit frenzied as I try to hurry the process. Stop. Focus. This is supposed to be a “be here now moment” and instead I notice how it has become a race with the clock to get these babies into the oven before the new “Downton Manor” comes on at nine. NINE? , darn a late dinner again. Oh well, at least things are looking ok so far. I manage to roll out a respectable nine breadsticks (the rest can be made later), brush them with a little egg yolk/water mixture and sprinkle each with either rosemary, garlic or seasoned salts from World Spice, ( a wonderful shop just below the Pike Place Market). I am feeling better now, accomplished, a bit smug and a lot ready to sit down. By the way, they turned out almost perfectly. Yummy!

PS: The next morning I had an email from Tamara. “I don’t usually add oats, must have had some leftovers on the stove and we decided to throw them in” . Oh, and  she also told me to let the breadsticks rise about 15 minutes before you stick them in the oven. Oh well, I am still in “BAKING 101”, lots of time for me to fine tune my recipe and my baking skills. I’ll buy local grain from Rene’ Featherstone’s  Lentz Spelt Farms and grind it someday  but  for now I am satisfied.

“Tamara’s Breadsticks” (Lilly’s style)


2 cups white whole wheat flour

2 cups of white flour (reserving 1/2 cup to add at the end during the last of the  kneading process)

1 cup spelt flour

1 package of yeast

1 cup of water

3/4 cup of milk

3/4 cup of cooked oats

 pinch of sugar
1 egg white  (optional, add it if you decide to brush the tops with egg yolk and spices)

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt

2 tablespoons of oil or butter

Toppings:   Add fresh chopped rosemary with a little salt, garlic, seasoned salt, poppy seeds or  any other herbs you like.

Start with warming the milk in a small saucepan till lukewarm, add to warm water, cooked oats and a pinch of sugar. The liquid should be about 105-115 degrees (not too hot) . Yeast will be killed off if the liquid is too warm and not grow if too cold. Sprinkle a package of yeast on top of the liquid and wait about 5 – 10 minutes or so for yeast to rise and bubble to the top.

Add half the flour, 1 egg white (optional), 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and  oil. Beat until smooth and stretchy , 150 – 300  strokes or when throughly mixed

Slowly add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time until the dough is too stiff to mix in the bowl

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface , add the remaining flour by sprinkling it onto the board  and kneading the dough into it  until it feels smooth and not too sticky ( I guess this is one of those steps that through experience the baker fine tunes) this is subjective so use your creative intuition for this….om

Let the dough rest  5-10 minutes while you take a break for tea or a little walk around the block

Knead the bread on the floured surface 5 – 10 minutes; push the dough down with the heels of your hands and slightly away from you, fold the dough back toward you and push down again. Turn it and continue these steps until the bread dough feels springy and  smooth. Place in a large oiled bowl away from drafts and cover with a towel.

After the dough has doubled, usually one hour or more , push the dough down in the bowl and then start shaping into breadsticks,  makes about 18 breadsticks so about the size of a golf ball

Mix one egg yolk with 1/2 tablespoon of water and brush tops of breadsticks with the egg mixture. Sprinkle with the topping of your choice.

Place on  oiled baking sheets and let rise 15 minutes

Bake 15 – 18 minutes at 400 degrees

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