Category Archives: Recipes

Experimentation with Fermentation! Part 2

My maiden name is Guenther, and my dad’s side of the family has a pretty German heritage, but somehow or other I don’t think I ever tasted sauerkraut until I was an adult. Most likely my mom, who is all Irish, didn’t fancy the stuff. So it just wasn’t something I ever ate as a kid, and I must have therefore figured it was a “yucky” food, and never sought it out. Until one day I was visiting some relatives on my own after college, and they had sauerkraut as a side dish. I enjoyed it from the first tentative bite! It was like pickles, sour and salty and a bit crunchy. I started buying it at the store from then on – not religiously, but when I remembered it as a flavorful condiment.

After learning more about fermented foods, recently, I have decided that homemade sauerkraut is the next project!
And not only that, but I decided I first needed to make my own ceramic crock to ferment it in, being that I am a potter, after all.

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My first attempt at a handmade fermentation crock

Now that I had a crock to ferment in, here’s the process I followed for homemade sauerkraut!

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Chopped Cabbage and Salt

I filled a huge bowl with chopped cabbage. Just one head, about 2 lbs. One head of cabbage was more volume than I expected! But then I added sea salt, probably about 3 teaspoons (I didn’t measure), and started squeezing the buhjeezus out of it.

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Massaging the salted cabbage

This got the cabbage all coated with the salt, and already it started drawing the water out. After walking away, and then coming back to repeat the massaging process every 10 minutes or so, the cabbage really started releasing its juices.

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Cabbage juices pooling in the bowl

After an hour of this, I felt the cabbage was sufficiently reduced in volume and wilted enough to start packing into the crock. I tossed in a teaspoon of caraway seeds (because Michael Pollan added some to his in Cooked), and then into the crock it went, handful by handful.

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Pounding down the cabbage

I used a cocktail muddler to really pound down the cabbage. This forces out the air, packing it down, and it gets the water to continue squeezing out of the cabbage. The cabbage juice (or brine) needs to be at a level above the solid cabbage; this protects the kraut from exposure to air, which can cause it to mold (bad).

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Weights to keep the kraut submerged below the brine level

Once I felt I’d pounded enough, and the cabbage was sufficiently juicy, I topped them off with two half circle ceramic weights I’d also made when I made the crock. These will keep the kraut from floating to the top and getting moldy. The bacteria that transform the cabbage in to sauerkraut prefer an oxygen-free environment, so that’s the environment I intended to create.

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Adding water to the moat creates an airlock

The photo above shows my little helper Ethan, pouring the water into the reservoir around the crock lid. The water will let CO2 out (it’ll “burp” to release pressure), but won’t allow any air to go in.

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My kitchen helper

Look how proud he is, helping Mama. Nevermind that he spilled most of the water on the counter, haha. By the way, how is it possible that this kid is two-and-three-quarters already?? Obligatory observation on how time flies.

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And now we wait…

So that’s it! Now my pretty little crock will live on the kitchen counter for a few weeks, and hopefully it will produce a yummy, probiotic sauerkraut!

And out in my studio I’m working on improving my design. Swing over to my Jadeflower Ceramics Etsy Site – I’ll have crocks like this (better, even!) for sale in my Etsy shop.

Here’s to my continuing fermentation adventure! Bye for now!

 

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Makin’ Bacon Pancakes

If you are a fan of the totally awesome animated show “Adventure Time” and also spend any amount of time on the internet, you may have come across this completely get-in-your-head music video…

Anytime I think of it, or if someone says the words “Bacon Pancakes” it is inevitable that this song will then be on repeat in my brain for the rest of the day…or until I make me some bacon pancakes.

So one recent Saturday morning when I actually had some bacon in my fridge, I decided to whip up a batch. And M was most pleased.

Jake the dog’s song says it all – Bacon pancakes…make some bacon and you put it in a pancake!

Here’s my step-by-step for your own delicious meat-candy filled breakfast delight!

First! Start with the bacon.

you start with the bacon!

you start with the bacon!

For 2 people, I found that 4 strips of bacon was plenty. If you’re cooking for more, or have more of an appetite, adjust accordingly!
I like to use the baking method for my bacon. It ensures evenly cooked, flat bacon, and you don’t have to keep an eye on it. Leaving you to do other things!
If you’ve never baked bacon, here’s how I do it: line a baking sheet with foil (for easy clean-up) and fold the edges to contain all the grease. Place your baking sheet into a cold oven, then turn it on to 350 degrees, and let cook for about 15-20 minutes. (Check at 15, and leave in until it is the level of crispiness you like!)

Next! While your bacon cooks, mix up your pancake batter. Just your favorite recipe, be it a box mix or from scratch. My go-to recipe comes from my Joy Of Cooking cookbook. It is my go-to for a lot of basic recipes. 🙂
When your bacon is done, drain on paper towels and cut each piece in half.

cooked bacon and pancake batter

cooked bacon and pancake batter

Then! In a pre-heated pan or griddle over medium heat, add your first dollop of batter.

First dollop of batter

First dollop of batter

Then while the batter is still mostly uncooked, place 2 pieces of your bacon on top. Gently squish them on in there.

...put it in a pancake

…put it in a pancake

And finally, drizzle some more batter on top of the bacon, to totally encase them in pancake.

bacon, covered with batter

bacon, covered with batter

Then cook as normal! When you see lots of bubbles forming through the top, you know it’s ready to flip.

time to flip the bacon pancake!

time to flip the bacon pancake!

The final stages, of course, are to slather with maple syrup and enjoy!

bacon pancakes!

bacon pancakes!

They look like normal pancakes, but with a secret delicious surprise inside. ;-P

there's bacon inside!

there’s bacon inside!

These make a decadent, yet very easy breakfast. And I dare you not to sing that song the entire time you make them 😉

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Cherry custard breakfast Tart (gluten free)

It’s been quite a while since I’ve posted a recipe here on the blog! And over a month since I’ve posted at all! The last couple months have been a whirlwind of work, a new business venture by my mother, and lots of pre-wedding events for two of my closest friends.

Fresh Cherry Custard Tart

But here I’d like to check in briefly, and share a recipe that may make the rounds into your summer brunch rotation. I searched out a breakfast tart recipe in order to utilize a few ingredients I had on hand that I wanted to use up – my first batch of fresh summer cherries, ground almond meal that has been living in my fridge for the past 2 months, and leftover ricotta cheese.

Sweet fresh cherries

I made a huge batch of almond “flour” in April in the attempts of baking homemade French macarons. After two failed attempts (wop wop), I decided to leave it to the professionals. But I still had a good amount of almond meal left over. (Almond meal is simple to make at home, if you have a food processor. You can also buy it at most grocery stores these days – Bob’s Red Mill is a good brand to try. But making your own is cheaper!)

I made this tart to bring for a Father’s Day brunch at my parents’ house on Sunday. I wanted to be sure it wasn’t too sweet (since this was a breakfast dish), I wanted it to be gluten-free and nearly sugar-free to appease my mom, but still taste great for my dad. This would also be completely suitable as a dessert dish for a fresh summer meal. You can certainly make this the night before, for a breakfast or brunch.

Cherry Custard Breakfast Tart
adapted from Cannelle et Vanille
Total time ~about 2 hours

Almond Crust:
2/3 cup brown rice flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill brand)
1/2 cup almond flour
3 Tb cornstarch
1 Tb sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt
6 Tb butter – diced into 1/2″ cubes, reserve in freezer until needed
1 egg yolk
2-4 Tb ice water

In a food processor, combine the dry ingredients, pulse to 3-4 times to mix. Add the butter, pulse about 10 times, until butter is incorporated to about pea-sized (do not over-process). In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and 2 Tb of ice water. Add to the flour mixture, pulse several times to incorporate. Add up to 2 additional Tb of ice water, pulsing until dough begins to hold together. Turn out dough onto plastic wrap, briefly knead into a ball. Flatten into a 1″-thick disk or rectangle (depending on the pan you’ll be using), wrap up and refrigerate for 1 hour.

When ready to roll out the dough, roll between two sheets of plastic wrap, lifting up & replacing the wrap after each roll to give the dough the freedom to move. (Using plastic wrap lets you see the dough, but makes clean-up easy and lets you pick up the fragile dough without it sticking to your work surface or tearing it with your fingers.)

Place your dough in your tart pan & trim excess. Refrigerate until filling is ready.

Cherry/Custard Filling:
1 pound fresh cherries, pitted & quartered
3 Tb unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, split & seeds scraped
1/4 cup almond flour
2 Tb cornstarch
2 eggs
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup ricotta cheese

Preheat oven to 400F (200C).
In a small saucepan, brown your butter (for a great how-to on browning butter, click here). To the browned butter, add your vanilla bean and seeds. Let the vanilla steep for about 10 minutes. Remove bean.
In a small bowl, whisk together almond flour and cornstarch. In medium bowl, whisk together eggs, agave, ricotta cheese, and butter mixture.

Layer cherries on tart dough

Arrange your cut-up cherries on your tart dough (give the pan a few gentle shakes to get them evenly distributed). Pour the custard mixture over your cherries – tap the pan a few times to evenly distribute the custard.

Look at those gorgeous vanilla seeds!

Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until beginning to brown on top. Let the tart cool completely before serving. Enjoy!

Let tart cool completely before serving

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Finding time

If one thing is true, it’s that this summer has been a busy one!

Which is why it is nice to be able to find the time to just do something silly, fun, and unimportant every once in a while.
Over the holiday weekend, M suggested we make cocktails, and then pulled out the Star Wars edition Trivial Pursuit game that he bought ages ago off Ebay.

chipotle pineapple martinis

Yes we are big nerds. And I practically won the whole first round before M even had a chance to answer one question! But I love that I can share my real self with the person I chose to spend the rest of my life with. We understand each other so well – there is hardly a more comforting and happy feeling than that. 🙂

star wars trival pursuit

But so as not to leave you with only the revelation that M and I are huge geeks, here’s the recipe for the drinks we made!

Chipotle Pineapple “Martini

1/2 oz Chipotle Simple Syrup (Simmer 2-3 Chipotle peppers -ours were canned in adobo sauce – with 1 cup sugar & 1 cup water for 20 minutes, then strain & cool – store in fridge)

1 oz pineapple juice

1 oz good tequila or rum

Combine all ingredients in a Shaker with ice. Shake vigorously! Pour into martini glasses & enjoy.

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Cold weather recipe – Fish Chowder

When we were little my mom used to make some amazing fish chowder, and it’s still a tradition in my family to do fish (or sometimes clam) chowder for dinner on Christmas Eve. She’s a New England gal at heart.
I hadn’t ever tried to attempt making fish chowder myself, until this week when I realized I had a nice frozen fillet of cod in my freezer that was just waiting to be made into a creamy chunky soup.

New England Fish Chowder

I did a little sleuthing on the web and through some cookbooks to get the basic gist of what goes into chowder, and found I had to make a few changes due to the ingredients I had on hand, and here’s what I came up with:

Rebekka’s Take on Fish Chowder

1 cup chopped shallots (I found I didn’t have any regular onions! But hey, shallots are an upgrade, right?)
2 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine (I had a Chardonnay on hand)
3 cups potatoes, peeled & cut into 3/4″ cubes (that’s like 3 medium russets)
2 cups dashi fish stock – ie Bonito fish flakes steeped in water (Don’t know what dashi is? I’ll explain in a sec)
1 tsp dried thyme (or more if it’s fresh…I didn’t have fresh)
2 tsp sea salt
pepper to taste
bay leaf
1/2 lb fillet of cod, or other sturdy white fish, cut into 3/4″ cubes
1.5 cups heavy cream (or 1 cup cream, 1/2 cup milk, which is what I had)
2 tbsp flour (optional)

OK, so with most good soups, you start with onions. I found I didn’t have onions, but for some reason I had a whole bunch of shallots, so I chopped those up and put them in my pot with 2 tbsp of olive oil and heated them over medium heat until starting to turn translucent (about 5-8 minutes). Then I added the white wine to the shallots, which I reduced to about half volume.

chopped shallots

Next, you’re supposed to have clam juice or strong fish stock, or even chicken stock I guess would work. But I didn’t have any of this. then I remembered I had a bag of Bonito Flakes in my pantry from the last time I went to the Asian food market. You use these paper thin flakes of dried fish to make dashi, a broth that is used in lots of traditional Japanese cuisine (Great background reading on dashi can be found at JustHungry!) So I thought, why not just make my own kind of fish stock with the bonito flakes? It’s fishy enough! So I put another small pan on the stove, added 2 cups of water and a handful of fish flakes, brought the water to a boil, and then removed from the heat. I let the pan sit for about 10 minutes and then I strained out the flakes and had my broth! That gets added to the shallots and reduced wine.
Then I tossed in the cubed potatoes, the thyme, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Also a pinch of paprika for good measure. Then I let the potatoes simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until just starting to feel done, but not too soft.

shallots, potatoes, herbs, and dashi!

At the end comes the fish! Into the pot! And the cream/milk goes in too. At this point you need to reduce the heat so you don’t curdle the dairy. Basically, keep stirring and keeping an eye on the chowder until it’s steamy, but not boiling. Once the fish is cooked through, it’s ready to serve!

fish chowder, almost done

Well, one minor tweak…I know that real New England fish chowder is not the thick creamy stuff you get at, say Ivar’s, in a sourdough bread bowl. This kind of chowder isn’t meant to have any thickeners added other than the natural starch in the potatoes and the cream. That said, I did want a little more body to the broth (and I knew M would too), so I cheated. If you want your soup a bit thicker, you can siphon off a cup of the broth and add 1-2 tablespoons (or more!) of all-purpose flour and whisk until smooth; then pour your flour-thickened mixture back into the main pot of chowder and stir to incorporate.

Enjoy with a piece of crusty bread, and maybe a healthy salad to balance out all that cream 😉

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Homemade Everlasting Vanilla

Here’s a great DIY project that any baker will appreciate. And it makes a fabulous gift, too! (In fact, this was part of my thank-you gift to my lovely bridesmaids)

Homemade Vanilla!

This project is so easy, it’s amazing more people don’t make vanilla themselves. I guess the most difficult part of the whole process is collecting all your supplies (and really, it doesn’t take that much effort to find the stuff). And if you’re giving vanilla as a gift, you need ample time to let the ingredients sit (I’m talking weeks, or months!) So you still have time to do this for Christmas! 😉

Anyone who bakes regularly knows how essential good vanilla is. And how expensive the real stuff is! This homemade vanilla will never run out, so long as you have vodka on hand to replenish the bottle. The vanilla beans just keep infusing the alcohol!

SUPPLIES:

homemade vanilla supplies

  • Vodka (the cheaper the better)
  • Whole Vanilla Beans (two per bottle)
  • Glass Bottles with tops

I found my vanilla beans on Ebay, and searched around for the best deal. I found these cool “Boston round” bottles at an online supplier called Specialty Bottle – lots of bottles to choose from! (But you can find bottles from lots of sources – be creative!)

The method is very simple! Take your vanilla beans (2 per bottle) and with a sharp knife, slit them down the middle, length-wise, part way (don’t cut them entirely in two). This will allow the vanilla to infuse much quicker and easier than whole, intact beans.

vanilla beans, bottles, vodka

Insert the beans into your bottles, and fill the bottles with vodka (using a funnel makes this easier). Cap the bottles tightly and store them in a cool, dark place (like a kitchen cupboard) for several weeks. Every so often, check on their progress, and give a gentle shake. Your vanilla will slowly turn light brown, and eventually, it will be a beautiful amber color, and smell like…well, vanilla!
The longer your vanilla infuses, the darker and richer it will be! And any time you use some, just add in more vodka, and it will never run out! Not too shabby 🙂

Homemade vanilla!

For a fun touch, add a printed label and a bow.
M & I modified an awesome label designed by EatDrinkChic that originated here. Another great vanilla label can be found here. And here’s a great resource for blank vintage labels you can customize!

If you’d like the exact label that M & I created, you can download it here: Vanilla Labels

Above all, have fun with it. Happy crafting!

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Blackberry Limoncello Sorbet – a homemade indulgence

I’m still on my blackberry kick (since acquiring a huge back of frozen berries from my parents), and M and I discovered a beautiful way to enjoy them. Homemade Blackberry Sorbet, yummmm 🙂

blackberry limoncello sorbet

M & I just bought ourselves a new toy, a KitchenAide Ice Cream Maker! It’s an attachment for my stand mixer (which I adore and use all the time). We’ve only just begun to test it out, but M loves ice cream, so I’m sure we will get plenty of use out of it in time.

Fruit sorbets are a much healthier (not to mention, way cheaper) alternative to homemade ice cream made with heavy cream and lots of sugary extras. I found this recipe for a delicious sorbet on the Chocolate Gourmand, and the picture instructions are great for a newbie like me.

This recipe is so great for a few reasons – first, since you don’t heat the berries (you just puree them in a blender) you don’t lose any of those wonderful nutrients that berries are so lauded for; second, the addition of the liqueur really does keep the sorbet from becoming rock-hard in the freezer (which is usually one of the drawbacks of homemade ice cream treats); and lastly, it’s simply delicious (not to mention, gorgeous)!!

I only made a couple of changes when I made this sorbet, due to ingredients I had on hand – I upped the limoncello to 3 tablespoons, and since I didn’t have Chambord I used 1 tablespoon of cherry brandy. Also, since I cut out white sugar whenever I can, I subbed 1/2 cup of Agave syrup for the 3/4 cup sugar, and it worked out beautifully. 🙂

blackberry limoncello sorbet on a sunny porch - perfect

So here’s to enjoying summer’s bounty and the sunny crisp days of fall before the winter totally takes over! Cheers.

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