Same stuff, different URL!

24 Nov

Same stuff, different URL!

I have moved to: harvette.com

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Best Ever Crumble Bars

19 Sep

Same stuff, different URL!

I have moved to: harvette.com

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About four years ago I came across a recipe for “Apricot Crumbles” in Real Simple magazine. I pulled it out and I’ve used it about a million times since then, though oddly enough never using apricot of any sort.

Though the original recipe calls for pre-made apricot jam with a teaspoon of fresh grated ginger added, this is an excellent base recipe for crumble bars that can adapt to any fruit filling you are currently inspired by. If you have about 3/4-1 cup (sometimes I like more filling) of your favorite jam, preserves or fruit compote, you can use it in this recipe. In fact, you could even skip the vanilla extract and cut back on a most of the sugar in the crust to go with a smaller amount of a more savory filling, like hot pepper jam or jelly for instance. Serve the finished crumble bar with a dollop of goat cheese or greek yogurt and that would probably taste divine!

Some of the combinations I’ve made in the past: raspberry jam with added cardamom and cinnamon, french blueberry preserves (the most expensive filling ever, at $10 a jar!), homemade apple cinnamon jam, homemade apple-cranberry jam… and the most recent one featured in this post: homemade blueberry-cherry jam with ginger and cinnamon.

I wish I could share the recipe for the blueberry-cherry jam, but it was really more of a “I want to make crumble bars, don’t have any pre-made jams on hand, let’s raid the frozen fresh fruit I have in the freezer” situation. If you’ve read any other post on this blog, you know I like to experiment and I’m also unfortunately (for YOU and ME!) bad at measuring when I get into experimentation mode. I threw a bunch of frozen blueberries and frozen cherries into a pot over medium heat and let them defrost. Then I added  sugar, powdered ginger and cinnamon and brought it to a boil, then let it bubble away for about 10 minutes. Came out very tasty and I even have left overs!

The recipe calls for using a food processor to blend all the ingredients. This is so that the cold butter is incorporated into the flour quickly, with minimal heat so that the butter stays cold  (same technique used for pie crust and other similar pastries) while it’s blended into the flour mixture.  I’ve never used a food processor until this most recent instance of making them. I didn’t really enjoy using the food processor this time – either my processor blades are dull or the processor is just a bit too small for this recipe, because I had a bit of a hard time getting the egg and vanilla (added at the very end) into the rest of the dough mixture.

Many years ago I learned a technique for blending cold butter into flour quickly from a Cook’s Illustrated article about making biscuits – it involves using just the very tips of your fingers to rub small chunks of the butter into the flour very quickly, flinging the pieces back into the bowl, never letting the butter warm up in your hands. It doesn’t really take much more time than a food processor, especially once you’ve done it a few times, and I think it’s important and fun to learn how to do these things by hand. It helps you understand how the ingredients you are using work together to make the desired end result.

To each their own though! I left the instructions for the food processor in the recipe because I can imagine that is how most people will make them.

Best Ever Crumble Bars

  • 1 3/4 sticks butter, cold, cut into pieces (I use salted, if you use unsalted add 1/2 teaspoon salt)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 – 1 cup of your favorite jam, preserves or fruit compote

Heat oven to 375° F. Grease an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking oil spray.

In a food processor, combine the flour, white and brown sugars, baking powder, and salt if needed. Pulse to combine.

Add the butter and pulse until crumbly. Add the egg yolk and vanilla and pulse until the mixture just comes together but is still crumbly. Transfer 3/4 cup of the dough to a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Use your fingertips to press the remaining dough evenly into the baking dish, pushing the dough up about 1/4 inch around the edges.

Spread the fruit mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble the remaining refrigerated dough over the top.

Bake until golden, about 35 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 30 minutes before cutting.

Cherry & Ginger Infused Vodka

8 Sep

Same stuff, different URL!

I have moved to: harvette.com

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I haven’t been doing much cooking or kitchen experimentation as of late. The end of the summer heat and humidity zapped all my motivation, this happens to me every year – but the good news is that fall is on the way and I’ve got so many plans!

Plan number one involves an infused vodka. I love making homemade vodka infusions and homemade liqueurs – they are easy, tasty, adaptable to any crazy flavor combination you can come up with, and they always impress people at parties. At least until they beg you for the recipe and you have to admit how easy it was. The hardest part is the waiting.

This vodka infusion is for a zombie themed Halloween party. I wanted an interesting flavor combination that would also turn the vodka very dark and bloody looking, without having to add additional food coloring (still a possiblity, if I need to get it JUST the right shade of old blackish blood!). I also wanted something not super sweet or too fruity, so this is why I went with an infusion instead of a liqueur.

I decided on very dark colored cherries (which had the added Halloween benefit of causing my kitchen too look like a bloody murder had taken place), ginger, pink peppercorns and allspice. I went very light on the peppercorns and the allspice, because I can always add more later after the initial infusion. I want to make sure the cherry and ginger flavors are right before going crazy with the spice. I initially wanted it to be actually spicy, using some sort of spicy pepper that would complement the sweet taste of the cherries – but I don’t know enough about hot peppers to know which one to pick, so I decided to stick to flavors I do know. I will have to read up on spicy peppers and make a cherry pepper vodka infusion one of these days, because the idea is really stuck in my head!

I don’t have a specific recipe to share, as I just made this up as I went along, but here are the general ingredients I used:

  • 1 gallon of vodka – Stick with a good quality brand. I have found that Svedka is one of the better tasting cheap vodkas, at least for liqueur purposes. I’ve never used it for an infusion, so I hope it turns out OK, though I have some ideas to “smooth” out the taste a bit.
  • 1 lb organic dark cherries – More could have been used, potentially up to 2 lbs, but that would have gotten a bit too expensive for me.
  • Fresh Ginger – I did not measure the amount of ginger I used, best guess is about 2 oz of sliced ginger. I did not grate it (which would have imparted more flavor) due to the fact that grated ginger has made previous infusions and liquers too cloudy.
  • 1 teaspoon each of crushed pink peppercorns and whole allspiceI crushed them with the back of a spoon.

Before I talk about the process I used, I’ll talk about the infusion jar I used. This is a 2 gallon jar that my sister-in-law picked up for me a couple of years ago. I’ve used it to make a bunch of different alcohol based drinks that need time to age. You can really use any glass jar large enough to hold your ingredients – just make sure it’s not plastic or any other material that can take on and impart odors and flavors into your infusion.

If your jar lid doesn’t have a seal (mine does not), place a piece of plastic wrap or waxed paper between the jar and the lid for storage. Not sealing it properly can cause the alcohol to start evaporating. You definitely don’t want that!

The first step is to remove pits and stems from the cherries. You can use a cherry pitter and call it a day, but I sliced each cherry into quarters around the pit. I don’t own a cherry pitter and, actually, cherry flesh exposed to the vodka ought to give the infusion more flavor.

I put the cherries in the bottom of my jar, then added the sliced ginger along with the crushed peppercorns and allspice. Then I poured the vodka over the fruit. I put the jar in a cool, dark place that isn’t disturbed often – in my kitchen that is a seldom used cabinet that I mainly just use for liqueur, infusion and vinegar aging.

That’s it! Now I need to wait. Since I’m winging this one, I’m going to give it one week and try a bit. One thing about using fresh fruit (as opposed to just spices, vanilla, ginger or other similar items) is that too long of an infusion can sometimes impart a vegetal flavor to the vodka. I did this accidentally with apples last year, leaving them to sit for about a month (I was actually following a recipe that time!) and basically had a gallon and a half of undrinkable vodka!

I plan to re-bottle the infusion and then most likely add more pepper (potentially different varieties of peppercorn as well) to bring out a stronger peppery flavor – at least that is the plan, it might change, but I will certainly blog about the results!

Quinoa Salad

24 Aug

Same stuff, different URL!

I have moved to: harvette.com

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The quinoa salad recipe that I’m going to share is one that came to me by way of Sarah, though it’s kind of a funny story. Last March Alex had his annual St Paddy’s day party – a party that is also a celebration of home brewed beer and good food as well. Late in the night a few of us stumbled across a giant bowl of this incredible salad that had obviously arrived after the initial “food rush” earlier in the evening, because there was still a lot left. A few of us stood around devouring the salad in awe, like it was the most amazing thing we’d ever eaten. I think it actually was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever eaten!

I knew it was quinoa and vegetables, but I couldn’t really identify all of the flavors. So, the next day I told Sarah she had to find out who made the salad and get the recipe. Sarah knows everyone – and if she doesn’t know someone, she makes it a point to meet them. She also seems to know everything else about what’s going on at almost any party she is at… such as who brought what. Thus, asking her to get the recipe resulted in my getting my greedy hands on it within about a day!

I have made this a few times since, but certainly the best rendition of it was the batch I whipped up last Friday night for a Saturday housewarming party thrown by our friends Lauren and Eric. This salad is very versatile, in that you can basically throw in any veggies you like, but the key to the over all taste is really the feta and lemon. I’ve made it with chevre before, but it’s just not the same.

And, I have to admit, though I used the word “recipe” above, this is really more of a description of what I used in the salad recently, feel free to stray from this list of ingredients… just don’t forget the feta!

Quinoa Salad

  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa (red or white, or a mixture of both, which is my favorite)
  • 1/2 cup of feta cheese, crumbled (or more/less, to taste)
  • Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
  • Diced vegetables, I used about a half cup each of: un-waxed, seeded cumber, purple bell pepper, and carrots
  • Huge handful of baby spinach, sliced into ribbons
  • 2 tablespoons minced sweet onion (or red onion – and you may use more, I like only a small hint of raw onion flavor in my salads)
  • 1/4 cup unsalted sunflower seeds (added just before serving, otherwise they don’t stay as crunchy)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Some other items that might be a great addition: chopped tomatoes, blanched green beans, olives, toasted chopped pecans, celery, fresh herbs…

Rinse your quinoa. It’s a bit annoying (I wasn’t being very careful and ended up with quinoa ALL OVER my house last weekend), but it’s really important in removing any trace of bitterness from the grain. The easiest method I’ve found is to put it in a very large bowl, fill the bowl with water and swish the quinoa around for a bit. Then slowly pour the water off into a very, very fine sieve (I use a gold coffee filter – it has to be very fine, raw quinoa is tiny!).

Bring two cups of water to a boil (I add a tiny splash of olive oil to mine, to ensure against boil overs), add quinoa, lower to a simmer, cover and cook for about 12 minutes.

Making the quinoa the night before is normally a good idea, as it needs to cool off before mixing with the other ingredients and it seems to take quite a while to cool down in my experience. Once it was cooked, I put mine in the fridge over night.

In the meantime, I chopped the vegetables and mixed them with the rest of the ingredients, including feta and lemon, in another bowl to cool over night – then combined the quinoa and vegetable mixture in the morning.

Pumpkin Cookies

23 Aug

Same stuff, different URL!

I have moved to: harvette.com

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You could almost consider these cookies a quick bread in cookie disguise. Because of this they are great as a snack any time of the day – due to their muffiny texture, you can even eat them in the morning with your coffee and not feel guilty about having cookies for breakfast. Any cookie that tastes incredible AND doesn’t make me feel guilty is a winner in my book.

Many people make a version of pumpkin cookies in the fall – I’ve tried many variations on this recipe made by others, but I have to admit to enjoying my version of this recipe the most. These are moist without being too sticky on the outside of the cookie, light and airy and not dense and lumpy… all things I’ve experienced with other recipes. They also pair incredibly with dark chocolate – either in the form of  dark chocolate chips added to the batter or melted down and drizzled over top. I’ve also edited the spice mixture from what you would find on most recipes. I nixed nutmeg altogether (as I’ve mentioned before, it’s the most evil of all spices) and added ginger and cardamom, two spices that should be included in any fall spiced dessert!

I do caution you against making these on a humid day – because it seems that no matter what recipe you use, they are going to be sticky. Humid days aren’t for baking anyway, they’re for relaxing on a deck someplace with a glass of fruity sangria.

Note: This is a very sticky batter. Having a cookie scoop is incredibly useful for these cookies. I would not suggest buying one JUST for this recipe, but if you make cookies often and don’t already own one, or more, you should pick one up at your nearest kitchen store!

Pumpkin Cookies

With optional sugar glaze

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For optional glaze:

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt.

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter and white sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and mix until creamy.

Mix in dry ingredients, just until all flour is incorporated.

Drop onto a parchment paper lined cookie sheet by the tablespoon. Having a cookie scoop is incredibly helpful when making these cookies.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven. Cool cookies on cookie sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to completely cool.

For the glaze: whisk the sugar and cinnamon together to combine. Slowly add very small amounts of  warm water (1-2 teaspoons to start) to the mixture until it just reaches a drizzle consistency. I brush my glaze on with a pastry brush, so the whole cookie is covered.

To Make: recipes

19 Aug

Same stuff, different URL!

I have moved to: harvette.com

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My second weekly installment of interesting recipes found while browsing, book marked here so I will be able to find them later.

This is sort of a grain-free edition, as I’ve been considering going completely grain-free for the month of September. I’ve gone gluten/wheat free before, so it won’t be too much of a shock to my normal eating habits – however granola (normally consisting of something similar to the recipe I posted a few weeks ago) is a daily staple for me and I’ve been scouting out some alternatives.

However, first things first, and it’s time for some Jam:

  • Caramel Apple Jam – I have a large number of frozen, whole apples that I need to use before fall (when I will undoubtedly acquire more apples, of course).These are from an apple picking excursion last October. Once frozen, apples aren’t good for much more than cooking with and I’ve been planning to make a jam for months, just needed to find the right recipe. This may just be the one, minus the nutmeg (the most evil of all spices, in my opinion) and most likely with the addition of 4-5 other spices, since I never leave well enough alone with it comes to fall/winter spices. I will also reduce the amount of sugar used… and just use brown sugar and/or raw sugar.
  • Grain-free Granola – A very simple and basic recipe, but it introduced me to the idea of “sprouted and dehydrated sunflower seeds” – which I’ve never tried or even seen anywhere.
  • Girl Gone Primal’s Nola – this recipe uses egg whites (prior to cooking), which I think could be potentially very satisfying in terms of texture. At least if egg whites react the same way on cooking nuts and seeds as they do on breads.
  • Another Grain-free Granola – This recipe has more sweetener in it than the others, but I do think the idea of adding a bit of butter is a good one. Butter really makes everything better!

I will probably use a bit of info from multiple recipes to come up with my own grain-free granola recipe… I will certainly post it when I’ve got a successful recipe.

Yard Work ?!?!

18 Aug

Same stuff, different URL!

I have moved to: harvette.com

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When I first started this blog way back… oh, a month ago, I never even remotely considered that yard work or gardening would be a topic I’d talk about. I’ve always referred to myself as someone with a black thumb. I’m not good at taking care of plants and I’m also not at all knowledgeable about plants, yard work, or landscaping in general. I also happen to be completely and totally uninterested in manual labor (big surprise eh?).

However, the front and back yards of our house have been in need of some major work for a while now. Like, since LAST spring and summer. Basically nearing a point where another year of neglect would make it a HUGE amount of work, potentially even something expensive, to fix up.

Last week I decided that it was time to get to work and stop putting it off. I started out by purchasing an electric shrub trimmer and trimming all the yews (and one random juniper – why only one juniper? no idea, previous owners of our home had some very strange ideas) in front of our house. I do not like these bushes – in terms of aesthetic, if I were picking bushes that needed to look consistently nice all year long and didn’t require a lot of maintenance, I would never pick yews. However, they are already there and though Jon and I have thought about removing them, that’s a lot of work and trimming them was something I could do now.

Here’s a before and after shot of just a portion of the yew population in front of our house:

 

Trimming was so satisfying! It was fun. You can tell the yews had gotten too large though, because some of the areas I trimmed were just bare branch. Maybe they will come back next year, but at least they do look nice covered in snow during the winter. You can tell in these photos that I’ve still got to rake up and replace the mulch under the yews.

The yew trimming project gave me the self confidence I needed to decide  to take on the job of cleaning up and re-doing ALL of the landscaping around our house. This is kind of a large undertaking, it might take a couple of months, but I’m devoted to our landscaping looking nice now.

The next areas I did were: the space around our mailbox and the two areas right next to the side door we use every day – like most people in New England, we never use the front door, only the side door. I thought this was very strange when I moved here, from California, 10 years ago. Now I’m used to it and it makes perfect sense!

We replaced the mailbox early in the spring, but the area around the mailbox was just plain old dirt, the mulch that was there had pretty much turned into dirt or been blown/plowed away during the last few winters. The weeds took advantage of that dirt surface to grow aplenty. The area looked very unkempt, especially when compared to our neighbors mailbox, which is right next to ours. They have rocks down as a ground cover and it’s very tidy over there.

I should have taken a before picture for comparison, but I think I did a very good job weeding, putting all the retaining bricks back up nicely (they were just a fallen down jumble before), and mulching.

The other section of the front yard that is now finished for the season is the flower bed next to our sidedoor path. This area is earmarked for an herb garden next spring, so right now we’ve just got the azalea (which I hope to trim back quite a lot in early spring), two unnamed duck statues, and I’ve since added two brick stepping stones behind the azalea, as we walk over that area a lot when walking into the house from the drive way. I unfortunately again don’t have a full before and after – however you can see how the area was basically bare earth, after I finished weeding.

I put down compostable paper bags and then covered them with mulch. The bags are supposed to help keep weeds from growing back, but only until the bag starts decomposing. This is a good thing, as it should be pretty much gone by next spring when we go to plant. This is what I learned on the internet – hopefully the internet will not lead me astray!

Looking at this area now makes me very happy. It’s neat, the path is clean and the mulch is dark, a nice contrast to the red bricks. Never been a fan of the red bricks, but I’m working with them because they are in good shape and, well, already there.

Next on my to-do list is the overgrown flower bed in front of our house. Basically we have a pathway shaped like an L – part of the path goes to the side door, the other part goes to the front door we don’t use. That path is shaded and moist I guess, because it’s prone to moss. A lot of moss. And the flower bed along side this path is basically almost all grass with three very grass choked azaleas (they must have been on sale or something when the previous owners did the landscaping).  I started work on Tuesday night and plan to basically clean the path, remove all the moss and weed and mulch the entire flower bed. The azaleas have to go (they could never survive the pruning needed for me to clear out their roots) – so we shall decide next spring what we want to plant here!

Here are the before pictures – soon it won’t look like a haunted house anymore!