Friday, December 16, 2011

Wine Poached Mussels

Scott left this morning to run errands in the city and Lily and Dawn took off to do some Christmas shopping, so I was blissfully alone to bake, bake, bake. Farmers Market is in the morning and bread was on my agenda. Scott came in around 5 and I knew he'd be hungry, so I made these Wine Poached Mussels. In 15 minutes, we were seated at the table with three big bowls in front of us...two empty ones for us to fill and another for the mussel shells. Farmed Mussels are a sustainable seafood and considered eco friendly. They are also incredibly cheap-our local grocery has them for $1.83 for a one pound frozen package. This is how I make them  (I wish I had pictures but these are so easy, there is no need...besides I forgot to take any). Set a fairly deep skillet (I use a French skillet) on the stove and set heat to medium. Pour about 1 1/2 to 2 cups white wine into the skillet. Add the juice of 1/2 a lemon and about 2 Tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces. Crush up about 3/4 teaspoon saffron into the mixture and let it come to a simmer. Open the bag of frozen mussels (you always cook these from their frozen state-don't thaw them) and pour into the skillet. I used 2 pounds (2 bags) because we are gluttons really like mussels. Cover the pan and nudge the heat a bit higher-medium high-and let the mussels cook for about 15 minutes. After about 8 minutes, take the lid off the pan and scoop the mussels so the ones on top go to the bottom. Cover the pan and continue to cook. They are done when you take off the lid and most all the mussels are open. While they are cooking, slice some good bread (usually in abundance at our house) REALLY thin and place on a cookie sheet. Pop in the oven at about 400 degrees. When the mussels are done, the bread should be crisp. I cut the bread diagonally and we put a slice or two in our bowls, scoop a bunch of mussels out of their shells onto the bread and then ladle lots of the cooking liquid over the bread and mussels. Heavenly. I will admit that after dinner I poured the remaining "broth" into a cup and drank it. It took us longer to eat this dinner than it took to make it. When I am busy, this is my kind of cooking.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

RAIN! And Browned Butter Snickerdoodles...

Mild weather in the Texas Hill least for the time being. Misty, moisty mornings and breezy, wet afternoons. Received almost an inch of precipitation overnight...a slow, soaking, drizzly rain. Temps have remained very comfortable with the days in the 60's, but that is coming to a screeching halt starting tomorrow night with a cold front moving in. It's about time! Monday and Tuesday may reach the 40's in the daytime, but will plummet to the 20's at night. Winter weather!!!
Rain keeps me inside and that, combined with the Holiday Season, means lots of baking. Indeed, I sometimes wake at 4 a.m. thinking about things to bake. I know...obsessed...what can I say?
And my major obsession lately has been Browned Butter or rather, baking with it. It is a delight from beginning to end. Yeah, it's an extra step, but you can brown lots ahead of time and then use it as you need it. I browned 1 1/2 pounds of butter yesterday and used every last bit of it this morning in one recipe. Granted, I am making LOTS of cookie dough, but I just as easily could have weighed out the 8 ounces I needed and put the rest in the fridge. It smells heavenly as it is browning (and to me this is the ultimate way to know when it is adequately browned) and elevates everything it comes in contact with. And not just baked goods...try it on fresh steamed green beans, brussels sprouts, asparagus or delicate fish-think tilapia!
But for now I have cookies on my brain, so the entire batch of browned butter went into a jumbo recipe of Snickerdoodles. Laurice Heath is responsible for the original Snickerdoodle recipe I've used for years. I used to make them for every rug hooking retreat I catered for her...and the retreats numbered well over a hundred. Over the years I have changed it ever so slightly to include toffee bits and now to make them with browned butter. A really good Holiday recipe, because the dough can be made in advance, rolled in balls and refrigerated or frozen. When you are ready to make cookies, simply bring the balls to room temp, roll in cinnamon-sugar and bake!
My last post included a description of how to brown butter, but I thought pictures may help. Remember to go low and slow and use your eyes and nose as a guide when you are reaching the end.
Start with melting unsalted butter in a heavy, light colored skillet (the light color allows you to see the progress of the browning).
The butter will foam and bubble.
You'll begin to notice brown bits on the bottom of the pan (under the foamy stuff), but the butter will be golden, not yet brown. Keep the heat low and swirl the pan a bit if you are bored.
You may start detecting a nutty smell. You'll want the solids (the browned bits on the bottom of the pan) pretty dark and the liquid on top to be amber colored. When it is ready the nutty smell is strong and the solids need to be scraped off the bottom of the pan. Don't neglect the solids...I think they carry lots of the flavor and a nice color to the finished product. Although I've seen recipes where the butter is strained so it is nice and clear, to me this is the white bread of browned butter...all the good stuff left behind.
It might be easier to distinguish the colors in this pic where the butter is poured into a white bowl.
At this point just let the butter cool and then store in the fridge or freezer.When it cools it solidifys to the texture of shortening. Try the browned butter in a recipe you already make and see what a subtle, but delicious change it makes.
Here is the Snickerdoodle recipe for you. You can make it with regular unsalted butter-not browned-and you won't be dissappointed. You can also make it with or without toffee bits...good each way. It is really just a great recipe however you decide to dress it up or down. Thanks, Laurice!!
Laurice's Snickerdoodles

2 sticks (1/2 pound) unsalted butter, room temp (brown it or not-your choice)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
2 2/3 cups unbleached flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup toffee bits (optional)

Cream butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs and vanilla and mix again. Add flour, soda, cream of tartar, salt and toffee bits, if using and mix to blend. Roll into balls and then roll in cinnamon-sugar. Place on parchment lined cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Cookies will be soft to touch. Cool on rack. About 3 dozen cookies. You can roll these into balls and then freeze or refrigerate them. When you need cookies (and sometimes we just NEED cookies, don't we?), bring however many cookie balls you need to room temp, roll in cinnamon-sugar and bake. If the dough is still cold, flatten them a bit before baking.

We finished our huge Thanksgiving gig last Sunday and this year, I took some pics. Not of the meals, or the techniques of creating the meals, but-strangely enough-of the table settings. I've always marveled how my life has turned out, that my profession is a cook, because I've joked that the only thing domestic about me is that I was born in this country. But still, my true joy happens in the kitchen. When I began the job of feeding the masses at Thanksgiving, I found cabinet after cabinet filled with different patterns of dishes, glasses, napkins and placemats. It was, truth be told, a bit overwhelming for me. Now, after 8 years, it is a really fun part of my job. Weird, huh? So I thought I would share some of the tables I set during the week. I'm not sure what this says about me, but here it is.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thank Goodness It's November and a recipe for Banana Oatmeal Cake with Browned Butter Icing

It has been a very busy Autumn...October went by in a blur. As soon as I returned from my week in Germany on the last day of September, it was a marathon that ended on November's doorstep. I am thrilled to have survived.
My sister, Dawn, moved down to Texas from Connecticut the same day Scott left on a week long motorcycle trip with his brother. The day after Scott returned from his trip, he did a 2 day stint at Garrison's Bros. -of Bourbon fame- in Hye, Texas. His brother volunteered with him the first day and I went the second. The very next day we left on a L-O-N-G train trip to New Orleans for Marta's wedding. That was a weekend for the memory book...fabulous food (I didn't expect any less), a very cool hotel, an amazing wedding and reception (I danced in very high heels for 3 hours) and then back home on the train...all six of us-Scott and I, Dawn, Skip (my ex), Lily and sweet Natalie. Nat loved the train of course-it was all a huge adventure for her. I taught her to do Sudoku and she went on to teach Dawn and GooGoo (Skip). She completely amazes me on a regular basis.
After returning from New Orleans, we didn't even stop to catch our breath before Dawn and I baked almost 900 cookies for the Harvest Classic. It was another successful benefit and an altogether fun weekend.
A selection of miscellaneous photos follow the recipe.
Having my sister here has been great. We spent the first two days talking about our childhood. After getting THAT out of the way, we could start moving forward. She is a happy gal and it is fun hanging out with her.
So now I am preparing for our huge Thanksgiving gig in Camp Verde. Did my first day of shopping today and tomorrow I will start working in earnest.
I wanted to post a recipe I developed last year that went over real well. It goes together pretty quickly and is more than the sum of its parts. Not much more than a simple snack cake, it is elevated by the addition of oatmeal to the cake batter and browning the butter in the icing.
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 Tablespoons buttermilk
2 eggs
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 over ripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
3/4 cup old fashioned rolled oats-not quick oats
1 teaspoon soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cup sifted confectioners sugar
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 degrees (350 degrees if using a glass baking dish). Grease a 9x9 square baking pan. In a mixer, cream together brown sugar, yogurt, buttermilk, eggs and butter until smooth. Add mashed bananas and vanilla and mix well. Add remaining ingredients and mix until combined. Pour into prepared pan and bake for about 35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean and the cake has pulled ever so slightly from the sides of the pan. Cool on a rack.
To make the icing, place the butter in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Do not use a cast iron skillet as you want to be able to gauge the color of the butter and a dark skillet will prevent you from doing this. Let the butter melt and then foam a bit. The top will show bubbles and then a thin layer of "foam". The butter will begin to color a bit and dark specks will form on the bottom of the pan. You want the butter to be darker than golden, but not dark brown. I usually wait for it to get golden then take it off the heat and let it finish on the counter. The residual heat from the pan keeps it reason a heavy bottomed pan is essential. The butter will have a delicious, nutty smell. Mix the browned butter with the sifted confectioners sugar. It will be lumpy. Add the heavy cream and vanilla and beat until smooth. You can add a teaspoon or two more of heavy cream if needed to make a smooth icing. Spread over the cooled cake.

A few pics from last month:
Bottles filling with some very fine Bourbon at Garrison Bros.
The view from above of some very happy (and busy) volunteers
Scott doing some quality control
I wish I could say I took the excellent photos above, but they were all taken by the very talented photographer, Gregg Burger. He has so many more of the bottling process at Garrisons on his website:  Check them out!
Lily, me and Dawn at the Harvest Classic.
Natalie and I
Scott and I with Marta
GooGoo with his girls
Just Married!!
Congratulations Marta and James!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

True Love Foods at Bilgola Beach, Australia

True Love Foods Chipotle Sauce can be found on fine tables far and wide!
This pic is at Bumbalino’s on Bilgola Beach, Australia.
What better way to wake up your taste buds than some sweet, hot and smoky Chipotle Sauce on your eggs for breakfast!

Yes, I am guilty of shameless self promotion!
Thanks for the photo, Andrew!! 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Greetings from K-Town, Germany

I am at Ramstein Air Base outside Kaiserslautern, Germany for a week of training for military doctors in which I am participating. The overnight flight to Frankfurt was uneventful but long and after arriving at the base around 10 a.m., I was determined I would stay awake all day to try to "reset" my clock. After a brief stop at the gate to get my papers in order so I could come and go freely, my colleague and I headed into the big town of Kaiserslautern to walk and shop. The weather was beautiful-sunny and mild, about 75 degrees-and the streets were packed. I must admit to feeling like a bit of a zombie from lack of sleep, but I enjoyed the afternoon nonetheless. Although I had my camera with me, I completely forgot about it until we were heading back to base. The view from my room:
From another view there are wind turbines dotting the horizon. In fact, on the drive from Frankfurt to the base (about 1 1/2 hours), we passed many turbines along with quite a few houses with large solar arrays on their roofs. Alternative energy is more prevalent here than in the states, it seems.
I slept fitfully last night which surprised me considering I almost drowned by falling asleep in the bathtub-I woke up as my nose slipped under the water. After going to bed around 10, I woke up at 2:15 and just couldn't get back to sleep. I read, I did sudoku (which generally puts me right out), but everytime I turned off the light I tossed and turned. Finally, around 4:30 I fell back asleep and slept until 9. I made coffee and watched a National Geographic show on volcanos before dragging myself out of bed to dress and start the day. There was a map of the base on my desk and I had noticed a 7 mile walking/jogging trail. Since work starts in earnest tomorrow-long days beginning at 6:30-I figured I'd walk today. I'm not sure there will be enough time to do the whole 7 miles after work this week, but I wanted to scope it out to see what shorter walks would work. It was about 65 degrees when I left the hotel-sunny and clear-and the walk was magnificent. I didn't bring my camera because it was too bulky to fit in my pants pocket. I won't make that mistake again. Although the path followed roads, a few times it cut through the woods under tall pines and oaks the likes of which we don't find in Texas. But I was surprised how many plants grow here that I recognized from home. Dock and yarrow, smartweed and dewberries. On a long, straight stretch of road, I saw a man standing under a row of trees. He had a small basket at his feet and, as I watched from down the road, I saw him repeatedly pick something up from the ground and toss it in his basket. I was intrigued and when I got closer, I stopped. He was a robust middle aged gentleman and when I asked him what he was harvesting, he lifted his basket to show me. Chestnuts! The trees were not large, but quite full of the spiny seedpods. Most of the pods on the ground were cracked open enough to peek inside and see the edges of the shiny brown nuts. Some pods held two nuts, but many held four. I asked him if he roasted them. He proceeded to tell me how to cook them-if roasting, make a cut through the tough outer covering first-but the best way to eat them, he told me in his halting English, was to melt sugar and a bit of butter in a pan and, after roasting, put them in the mixture. "To glaze them?" I inquired. "Exactly!" he told me and clapped his hands. I thanked him for the recipe and wished him luck. A few trees down the road, I picked up a few and stuck them in my pocket.
I feel fortunate to have a small "kitchen" in my room-a microwave, small fridge and coffeemaker-but the chestnut man made me wish I had a stovetop, too!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Frog Rain

The post I wrote on July 6th, CRUNCHY!, prompted my friend Dick Prosapio (who is married to my dear old friend Elizabeth) to send me an email that I have to admit I have read over and over. For some reason, even in the midst of this terrible drought, it made me feel better. I asked his permission to post it here. As a side note, on July 19th, the day after I wrote the Summertime Dinner post which ended with, "Maybe tomorrow it will pour...", it did, indeed. We had a wonderful downpour that lasted over an hour and blessed us with one and a half inches of rain. Scott and I played in it joyously for the first 20 minutes. Most all our rain barrels are full and the garden partied so raucously it kept me awake all night.

The Frog Rain
When a big rain shows up around here it’s not something that takes place over days, it’s an all-at-once downpour that dumps inches in minutes. This last one just a few days ago, the first rain of any consequence we’ve had in months, did the job, it produced the gift of frogs.

South of our place is an old cattle “tank” a piece of land dug out by dozer decades ago to catch rain run off for cattle and wildlife. These ad hoc would be ponds dot the New Mexico, Texas, Arizona landscape and now and then, rarely for sure, provide a serendipitous opportunity for moisture in monsoon season….which is supposed to be right now, late June through early September. We haven’t had enough moisture in the past three years to feed any of these little basins….until this last “blessing” when in the space of forty five minutes to an hour we got an inch plus along with pea to marble sized hail all followed by the beautiful and mysterious sound of the frogs having their once-in-a-lifetime party opportunity down in our neighborhood tank. A really big rain season, one where we get a dumper like this every day or every other day, we can hear frogs every night for a week or two. This one only lasted for two nights, but there is a forecast for more to come this week or next so both we, and the frogs, may take heart.

The little piece I wrote about “Starving Spiders”, as you can see, was set down in the midst of despair, not a place I go to often if at all. I am a desert rat so I know about the feast and famine cycle of drought and rain in the southwest. I know it and can accommodate. But I am in relationship with a person who is not so “forgiving” of this reality and when things get really tough, as they will in this part of the country, as she begins to spiral down into hopelessness and I try to reassure her, I can find her desperation to be catching. Usually my bottom is a lot higher than hers but this year has set dry records and, along with two gigantic forest fires, one of them the largest in New Mexico history and relentless winds blowing out of the west far longer then they ever have in all my time living here, both of us became bottom dwellers for a time and I was hard pressed to maintain a demeanor of reassurance…until the “frog rain” came…and then we BOTH came fully alive to hope again. That’s all it takes you see. A bit of water falling from the sky and we can be moved into celebration. We can do Gene Kelly and splash in gutters in full song.

We Southwestern people are easily pleased. We just need frogs now and then.
~Dick Prosapio
New Mexico

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summertime Dinner

We've been eating light lately. When it is 100 degrees at 6:30 in the evening, one is not inspired to heat up the house cooking an elaborate meal, nor to try to digest something heavy. But when I arrived home from the Bandera Farmers Market this afternoon I was hot, tired and hungry. I was real glad I'd brined a few pork chops last night-yes, Kevin made an appearance at our dinner table tonight.
I receive an e-newsletter from Fine Cooking with a daily recipe. Some are terrific and I file them away, some I just know I'll never make and I delete them. But others I leave in my IN box to keep reminding me that I want to play around with the concept a bit. The brined pork chops were one such recipe. As soon as I read the title, "Bourbon-and-Vanilla-Brined Pork Chops", I was drawn in. We've been very stringent with our Garrisons Bros. Texas Bourbon , enjoying a bit every now and then. But we've still not found a use for our half empty bottle of Knob Creek...until now.
I have an inability to follow a recipe. I most always look at a recipe and think, "That would be great if I added this or swapped this out for that...". I've been cooking so long that tinkering with a recipe just doesn't result in a disaster. Or at least I can't recall the last time one didn't work. Such was the case with the Bourbon and Vanilla Brined Pork Chops. After reading over the recipe, I found it incredibly fussy-first a brine and then a rub (with 11 ingredients no less!). Summer in Texas is no time for fussy, at least not at our house. So I pared the brine down a little bit and Scott and I both agreed they were the best pork chops we've ever eaten. Here's what I did:
I had 2 boneless loin chops...bone in would be great also, I'm sure. In a jar, I mixed about 1 1/2 cups of water, 1 Tablespoon kosher salt, 2 Tablespoons Knob Creek Bourbon, 2 teaspoons vanilla and about 2 teaspoons molasses. I put a lid on this and shook until it was all mixed well and the salt had dissolved. Then I poured it over the chops, covered the bowl and refrigerated it overnight. When I got home tonight, I heated up my grill pan (we are under a serious burn ban, so no outside grilling here), doused it with a bit of olive oil and put the chops on the grill pan. They were pretty thick, so I grilled them for about 6 minutes on the first side then turned them and grilled another 5 on the other. Then I turned the heat off under the pan and let them sit while I prepared the remainder of the meal. I've been trading bread for the most wonderful baby Japanese eggplant at the Comfort Farmers Market on Saturday mornings. Thin skinned with tiny seeds, these sweeties don't need to be peeled and are never bitter. We love them halved lengthwise, brushed with olive oil and grilled. Since the grill pan was on anyway, I filled up the other side with eggplant (the grill pan fits over 2 burners, so I could cook lots of eggplant). I'd picked up some beautiful tomatoes at the Bandera Market and I sliced these up. Went out to the garden and picked some basil and got some fresh mozzarella out of the fridge. The last batch of mozzarella I made a few days ago turned out particularly "toothsome"...quite chewy...and I LOVE it! I heated the milk too high in the initial heating (it was supposed to be no more than 95 degrees and I let it jump up to 110!) and it changed the texture pretty dramatically. But it melts terrific and gets real stringy...perfect for a broiled veggie concoction. I layered the now slightly charred and soft eggplant with the sliced tomatoes, lots of torn basil leaves, a drizzle of balsamic syrup and topped it all with some mozzarella. I popped this in the toaster oven/broiler while I made the salad. We've been on a Caesar Salad kick for over a month now. Probably three nights a week, we'll have a huge Caesar salad for dinner. Sometimes I'll add kalamata olives and Feta or Parmesan cheese and avocado, but always crunchy cucumbers because the garden is full of them-indeed the ONLY thing the garden is full of. Not traditional, I know, but I make this great dressing that pulls it all together. I could eat this dressing like soup-no kidding! Here's the recipe:
In a blender, place 3 peeled hard boiled eggs, 1/2 cup oil (NOT olive oil-I'll explain why later), 1/2 can of anchovies, 1/3 cup champagne, rice or apple cider vinegar, 2-3 teaspoons Dijon mustard, about 4 or 5 garlic cloves and a generous grind or 2 of pepper. Put the lid on the blender and whirl away. If it seems too thick add a bit more vinegar. It should be pale yellow, thick and creamy. Taste for salt and add if needed. That's it! Store it in a jar in the fridge. This makes a pint, which lasts us a week or about 4 heads worth of Romaine lettuce! You don't want to use olive oil because it solidifies under refrigeration. Your dressing will be the consistency of custard when you take it from the fridge. I've used sunflower and grapeseed and both worked great. I know it seems rather arbitrary when I say, 1/2 can of anchovies, but the only anchovies I find in the grocery store are these:
If you think you don't like anchovies, don't let that keep you from making this dressing. I think Anchovies are know-the 5th taste after sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Used in sauces, (try them in a short rib braise...elusive!), dressings, sautes...they add an incredible flavor-not fishy!!!- and my pantry is always stocked with lots of cans of them.
I didn't take a picture of dinner tonight although my brain kept nagging me to do so. I was hungry and tired and my toe hurt (I broke my pinkie toe this morning). I am sorry now because it looked almost as good as it tasted.
While I was writing this post, I heard a noise on the skylight above my head. I walked outside and stood in the dark and let the raindrops fall on my shoulders. It lasted maybe 3 minutes. I wanted to cry. Maybe tomorrow it will pour...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Crunchy. That's the word that keeps popping up in my mind when I am outside. I walk around the yard and -sob!- the garden and it is crunchy. The first day of summer was a mere 2 weeks ago yet it feels like we've been in summer for months already. I saw a post my friend Fred wrote the other morning that said, "Good Morning! We are one day closer to rain...". I thought on those words ALL DAY. I find it really difficult to stay positive when it is...well...crunchy outside. I have let most of the garden go. I keep 2 beds watered. Every 2 or 3 days I saturate those beds and catch all the runoff to water the few plantings left alive in other beds. But even then, I question the effort I am putting into it. The tomato plants look big and bushy, but can't even muster the energy to set blooms. The squash plants are sprawling everywhere, but only one-an heirloom Italian squash-puts off any fruit to speak of. ONE slender, but oh so tasty, squash a week.
The only thing that seems to be thriving in this day after day 100 degree heat is the cucumbers. They are happy indeed, full of blooms and fruit and subsequently, bees.
We are eating lots of cucumbers!
We have been adding some new fowl to the farm. Picked up 4 minorcas from my farm and garden mentor, Bernadette. Small chickens, not as frenetic as bantys (thank goodness!), but not a whole bunch bigger. And last weekend a white leghorn and 2 Araucanas from my inspiring friends April and Hal. I used to have lots of white leghorns. They are a small bodied chicken that lay HUGE white eggs. Oh! And also these guys...well, one guy, one gal and an as of yet undetermined:
The two white ducks are Pekin and the black is a Black Swedish. I am quite taken with them. Really calm and entertaining and their quack is quite endearing. They get their own swimming pool today.
So many projects going on around here. We are living in a construction zone, but for the first time since all this change started, I am seeing glimmers of what it will all become and that cheers me. Progress moves slowly, but at least it moves, marching to its own beat as much as I would like to speed it along. The heat seems to stall things out and we find ourselves most afternoons from about 4-6 sitting on the bed in front of the fan reading or writing. I go back and forth about air conditioning. Sometimes I wish central air was a reality for us. But most times, I can't imagine being that cut off from the sounds of the outside-especially now with the quacking that has been added to the cacophony.
I hope, in the next month, to transfer all the recipes on this blog to my neglected website, They will still be here with the nifty link list on the left hand side of the page, but they will also be on the website, which I hope to make easier to navigate. Stay tuned!
And, of course, stay cool!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Garden Love and Rosemary Flatbread Revisited

Had a great Spring Garden Show at Comfort Feed & Garden last Saturday. Malcolm Beck was our featured speaker and he was as entertaining as he was informative.
Bruce Deuley also showed up and gave an impromptu presentation. I found it interesting how well all three talks meshed. So much good information was passed on, but the main point I took away from the day is that it isn't the health of your plants you should be concerned with, but the health of your soil! If your soil is in good shape, the plants will have a strong foundation and grow as they should. All sorts of tips were given for soil supplementation...but molasses kept coming up. One to two Tablespoon molasses diluted in 1 gallon water makes a great foliar spray. It feeds beneficial microbes in the soil as well as repelling ants! Cheap, non toxic and easily available- this seems like a great addition to the garden.
My garden has been a dream lately. I always maintain that the garden looks perfect for about 15 minutes in early April. Looks like this year it will be early May! The Big Freeze of February really did my garden in, but with lots of hard work, it is now coming back into its own.
The bed of mixed greens is giving us a salad most every night. I am thinning it now-pulling up the small plants to make salads. This gives the remaining plants more room to grow and they fill in the empty places.
The peas have climbed up the lamp shade frames and are putting on LOTS of sugar snap peas.
Yard long beans should begin to climb the trellis I made earlier in the year.
The potato mound is becoming a mountain! I cover the plants up with compost and they grow up in a day. So I cover it again. I am almost out of compost! This pic is from 2 weeks ago.
Both rose bushes are blooming. This pale pink one was a gift from my mother-in-law years ago. It is so very fragrant!
I was taking pics of the chickens and got this one of the rooster. I am thinking of painting it...what movement!
Our wood fired oven is coming along. This has been on our "Project Wish List" for years and is finally becoming a reality. Our friend Genya is chief of the project and we are hoping to do the first firing in early June. Temps in these ovens get upwards of 900 degrees. I hope by the end of the summer I can be turning out fabulous breads. And a pizza party is definitely in the works.  The first pic is with the arch form still in place. In the second pic, the form is gone. It is so beautiful!
Back in January, I posted a recipe for Rosemary Flatbread. I loved them, even though I felt like I was getting a years worth of olive oil every time I made them. Marta complained about the recipe, saying they were nothing like the rosemary flatbread she buys all the time -and absolutely loves- at HEB. "So what?", I thought, "I am not trying to replicate HEB!" Then, at my birthday dinner at her house, she served the HEB flatbread and, man were they good! I took the label off the package and worked to create something similar. Significantly less olive oil and a mixture of flours really helped in addition to eliminating the baking powder. Here's what I've come up with. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. If you don't have a pizza stone, invert a cookie sheet on a rack to preheat.  Measure out all the dry ingredients and dump them in the mixing bowl. This can be done in a mixer or by hand...I have done it both ways and see no difference.
Add the water and olive oil and mix until a soft dough forms.
Form into a ball and let sit for at least 30 minutes. The cool thing is you can cover the bowl and put it in the fridge until you have time to roll out and bake the flatbread. It can stay for days. I bet you could even freeze the dough since it has no leavening.
When you are ready to make the flatbread, pinch off pieces of dough about the size of a walnut.
Roll out the pieces in any shape you, oblong, whatever you need.
The ones Marta bought at HEB were quite thick. I like them thinner. I made them both ways this time. The thicker ones here.
And the thinner ones here.
After rolling them out, place them on a piece of parchment which is on a peel. If you don't have a peel, just put the parchment on an inverted cookie sheet. Brush the flabreads very lightly with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt.
Bake in the 450 degree preheated oven for about 10-12 minutes for the thicker ones or 6-8 minutes for thin ones. Obviously, ovens vary as will the thickness you roll the flatbread, so just keep an eye on them. I like mine brown on the edges. Thick ones:
And the thin ones:
They store in a tightly sealed container for a few days and don't seem to suffer. They stay crisp and tasty. If it is humid and they lose some of their crunch, reheat on a cookie sheet at about 300 degrees for a few minutes.
Here's the *new and improved* recipe:
Rosemary Flatbread Revisited
1 cup semolina flour
3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
3/4 cup unbleached flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt (add less if using table salt)
2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper
2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup water

additional olive oil and kosher salt for brushing on flatbreads before baking

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. If you don't have a pizza stone, invert a cookie sheet on a rack to preheat. Measure out all the dry ingredients and dump them in the mixing bowl. This can be done in a mixer or by hand. Add the water and olive oil and mix to make a soft dough. Roll into a ball and let sit for at least 30 minutes. If you will not be rolling them out that day, cover and refrigerate dough. When you are ready to make the flatbread, pinch off pieces of dough about the size of a walnut. Roll them out into whatever shape and whatever thickness you want. In the old recipe, I rolled them in circles. These I rolled into oblong shapes. Place them on a piece of parchment on a peel. If you don't have a peel, just put the parchment on an inverted cookie sheet. Brush the flatbreads very lightly with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Bake in the 450 degree preheated oven for about 10-12 minutes for thick ones or about 6-8 minutes for thin ones. Obviously, ovens vary as will the thickness you roll the flatbread, so just keep an eye on them. Cool and store in a tightly sealed container.  

This recipe makes about 3 dozen + flatbreads. The recipe can be doubled. In fact, I encourage it...keep the dough in the fridge or the freezer so you can have a platter of these ready in no time flat! I bet they'd bake in 15 seconds in the wood fired oven! Great with cheese or hummous. I think they'd be terrific topped with fresh tomatoes still warm from the garden.  Go for it!