Spring has flung itself in to a full bird chirping, gotta grow frenzy! I always know I have spring fever when I lay awake in bed and visualize all the things I can make with the spring ingredients bursting out of the ground. “Let’s see, I could make that fabulous salad I’ve been wanting to try with the peas from the garden…” And the list goes on and on. I’m just popping like the spring buds with fresh produce ideas.
I’ll admit it, I’m the queen of salads. They are one of my favorite foods and I love making them in lots of inventive ways and it is where my mind turns when dreaming up ways to use fresh produce. It wasn’t always like this, there was a day when I.simply.hated.salads. Of course it didn’t help that I grew up in the high desert of Idaho and the only salad I ever saw was a wedge of iceberg lettuce with a glug of thousand island dressing dripping down the sides of it. Gag.
Then one day my relationship with salads dramatically changed. I was about 10 and we were at some family shindig and my Aunt Marie brought the most amazing salad I had ever seen. It made its dramatic appearance in a giant clear glass bowl that showed off the fact that it was fabulously layered with bacon, hard boiled eggs, onions, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes and fresh green peas. It was topped with cheddar cheese and this gooey delicious salad dressing that was NOT thousand island. I was transfixed.
I loaded up my plate with that brightly colored salad and took a bite. Lights went on and an angel sung on high; my dormant taste buds came alive that day. Who knew veggies could taste so good? I made the momentous decision (particularly for a 10 year old) right then and there that I was going to grow up and love eating and making salads. I was going to be known far and wide as the “salad lady”.
It wasn’t easy becoming the “salad lady” especially when one comes from the potato kingdom of Idaho. But I did it. There are two simply rules to use that I have learned in my quest of making knock out salads;
1) Use the freshest of produce possible that is grown close to home. The sooner you eat it after it is picked the more sweet and juicy it is. I’m not just a locavore to be politically correct but I am basically a hedonist, and the flavor is just so much better.
2) The other tip is to make your own salad dressings. There is no comparison in flavor of a homemade dressing to a store bought one. Also every.single. store bought salad dressing that I have read the label on has something bad in the ingredients. No exceptions. It’s remarkable and scary. Just avoid all that and make your own tastier dressings. (It’s easy!)
Don’t be afraid to experiment with this forgiving food. Look up different salad recipes on line and give ‘em a shot. Once again, use produce in season for the best flavor, like this salad I’m sharing with you. It was the one I was dreaming up. You can use all the elements from this salad and use whatever is in season. For example, use one cup of arugula in the salad dressing instead of peas. The goat cheese rounds can turn any plain Jane salad into a special course fit for guests. Just change the herbs to whatever is in season. Enjoy eating spring.
Spring herb salad with goat cheese rounds and green pea vinaigrette
I used oregano, chives, green garlic, rosemary, sage and tarragon from my garden. If you have pea tendrils from a garden, they make a splendid addition to this salad. Also if you can get lemon pressed olive oil, it really shines in this dressing!!
Green pea vinaigrette
This salad dressing is very fibrous and thick. Add more water till you get the consistency that you want. Also if you just want a fiber-free green dressing, strain the fiber out in a mesh strainer. I personally love the rich fiber in it.
1/3 cup of champagne vinegar
OR 1/3 cup of lemon juice
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, hopefully homemade
1 cup of blanched green peas, shelled
OR 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1 stalk of green garlic or 1-2 cloves of garlic
A handful of fresh herbs from the garden, minced
1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil or lemon pressed olive oil
1/4 to 1/3 cup water
1/4- 1/2 of salt, I used Maldon sea salt flakes
Few cranks of black pepper
Add the first five ingredients to the blender and give it a whirl till everything is a nice green color. While the blender is going, slowly add the olive oil in a steady small stream till all gone. Then slowly add the water till it is the desired consistency. Add the salt and pepper and adjust as your tongue tells you too. Serve with salad.
Goat cheese rounds
2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
The zest of one lemon
1 teaspoons of paprika or smoked paprika
2-4 tablespoons of minced fresh herbs
1/4 teaspoon of fleur de sel or other fine salt
11-12 ounce log of goat cheese, sliced into 16 slices
Mix all your spices and zest together in a small bowl and stir them tell well mixed. Take your slices of goat cheese and roll them around in the spice mix till totally encrusted with spring and spices. Place the spiced goat rounds on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper or parchment paper and place in the fridge to chill until ready to serve. Bring to room temperature before serving.
The salad and assembly
10-12 cups of spring greens
2 carrots shredded
1/2 red onion, minced
6-8 tablespoons of fresh herbs, minced
6-10 radishes, thinly sliced
2 cups of shelled blanched peas
Or 2-3 cups of sugar snap peas, cut into bite sized pieces
Mix all the greens, herbs, carrot and red onion in a large lovely bowl then divide evenly among 4 even more beautiful plates. Add the peas and radishes to the plates. Place 4 spiced goat cheese rounds on each salad plate and serve with the salad dressing on the side for each person to drizzle as much of that green goodness on as they want.
Until recently salt was just salt, you know, old ho hum white table salt, but lately salt has become very very interesting! It comes in lots of colors, textures and flavors almost like Jelly Belly beans. (Well, not quite) Artisan salts add a different and complex element to your dishes that is a revelation! Of course, the French have known about these salts all along and we are just catching up. I guess better late than never.
The French have been making artisan salts since the 9th century. Their crown jewel, “Fleur de Sel” is made off the coast of Brittany in the reveled countryside of Guérande. The master salt farmers, called paludiers, have been farming their salt by hand for centuries. It is considered the fruit of the sea, unrefined, unbleached and of very high quality, it is precious to the French right along with their cheeses and wine. (And bread and mushrooms and fish and…)
When I first heard of this high priced and respected salt a few years back, I had to have some. It arrived in the mail, in a lovely little package, still looking much like, well, salt, except it was flakier. It happened to be summer and I had some home grown tomatoes, so I sliced one up, sprinkled a bit of these luminescent salt flakes on it and oh là là! It was a true revelation to the taste. A simple thing like a fine salt transformed that humble tomato into a symphony in my mouth.
After that I begin to search the world over for interesting salts and ended up in our own front yard. Portland happens to contain, “The Meadow” which is a nationally recognized Artisan salt store. (Not to mention fine chocolate store too! He he) Well, that was way easier than a trip to France and it was right down the street from my daughter’s house. Off I went and saw more salt than I ever imagined, all colors of the rainbow.
There is black volcanic salt, red Hawaiian sea salt, Sel de Gris, (gray salt from France), Himalayan pink salt, bamboo leaf green salt, brown chocolate fleur de sel, alder smoked salt, light yellow “fleur de hell” (made from the world’s hottest ghost pepper) and the lovely purple pinot noir salt. Like an obsessive compulsive Labrador, I tried as many as I could, and brought a bunch home too. After lots and lots of experiments, I have condensed this very curious and tasty culinary world down to some simple tips.
First off Fleur de sel goes on everything and makes it much better. So if you want to start with the cream de la cream, it won’t fail you. A nice and cheap substitution for it is Maldon sea salt flakes, which is an excellent salt to have in the cupboard for general use. (A French person would faint here) All the chefs are into the Maldon flaked salt or kosher salt right now.
Second off, experiment for yourself. You cannot ruin any dish with a fine salt, only add to it. (As long as you don’t overdo it.) I have found that the coarser salts, like the Hawaiian red salt, are amazing in dishes like soups, where “finishing salts” like the smoked salts are best sprinkled on a dish right before serving. Do yourself a grand favor and go and poke about “The Meadow” in Portland or order one of their starter kits on line to try their different and delicious salts. A great blog to read more on all types of salt that is written by the owner of “The Meadow”, Mark Bitterman is here. A whole new world is waiting for you!
This recipe for crispy sweet potato fries that I am sharing with you it an excellent medium to dispense any fine salt for tasting. I am so thrilled to finally find a way to have crunchy sweet potato fries without the deep fat fryer. The hubby and I couldn’t stop eating them when they got out of the oven. (Dipped in my homemade mayo, of course) Bon Appétit!
Crispy sweet potato oven fries
2 large sweet potatoes with red flesh
2-3 tablespoons of cornstarch or arrowroot powder (for gluten and grain free)
3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
1-2 teaspoons of any fine salt, flaked or fine but not coarse
Sprinkle of paprika or cayenne, if you dare
Cut up those beautiful beta carotene rich sweet potatoes into a reasonable French fry shape, trying your best to make them around the same size, no thicker than a 1/2 inch. Soak them in water for at least one hour, preferably for more like 3-4 hours. Drain them in a colander and allow them to dry for a bit where they are almost dry but still a wee bit wet.
While they are drying, turn on your oven to 450 degrees and prepare two baking sheets with a little olive oil spread on them in a thin layer. Then take your 2-3 tablespoons of cornstarch or arrowroot powder and place in a large plastic bag, like a produce bag. Drop all of your fries in there and blow a little air in there, twist the bag shut and shake well till all the fries are coated evenly.
Spread the fries out on the prepared baking sheets and drizzle with the olive oil and roll the fries around till they are evenly coated. (I cheated and used olive oil spray to coat them) Make sure the fries are not touching or they will be your normal soggy sweet potato fries and not crispy at all. Sprinkle with the salt and spices of your choice and pop in the oven to bake for 15 minutes. Once they are getting brown, flip them over and bake for another 10-15 minutes till perfectly crispy and you are drooling. May I suggest serving them with homemade garlic mayo with a touch of hot sauce and extra salt in a wee bowl for people’s sprinkling pleasure.
“I started researching what [MSG] did to the brain and I was absolutely astounded by what I found,” Dr. Russell Blaylock
What does MSG, monosodium glutamate, monopotassium glutamate, yeast extract, gelatin, calcium caseinate, sodium caseinate, modified yeast extract, yeast food, yeast nutrient, whey protein, whey protein concentrate, “anything” proteins, (such as hydrolyzed protein, textured protein, soy protein) malt flavoring, and natural flavorings (including chicken, beef, vegetable) all have in common? They are all MSG when listed on the ingredient label.
Yes, it is true, MSG is in almost every processed food you eat hidden under other names. There are over 50 different names for MSG that all sound like nummy ingredients but in truth are all the same thing. The list above is items that have over 78% MSG in them but they add a wee bit of something else and call it that.
Then there is the list of over 100 names of ingredients that are 50% or more of MSG. Those include nutritious sounding things like milk powder, dry milk solids, citric acid, caramel coloring or flavoring, bouillon, broth, stock, carrageenan and lecithin. Crazy huh? So the questions are why are they adding MSG to our foods and what sort of impact does that have on us?
MSG is universally thought of as a “flavor enhancer” invented in 1908 by Kikunae Ikeda, a Japanese man who identified the natural flavor enhancing substance of seaweed. He and a partner soon learn to chemically create this flavor and sell it on a mass scale. After WWII it became popular in the US, due to the fact that the Japanese soldier rations tasted much better due to the addition of MSG. Soon it began to infiltrate processed foods. The FDA grandfathered it in as a “safe food” around 1958 but it has NEVER been tested to this day by the FDA for safety. Never.
On top of that, the process for which was used to make MSG was radically changed in 1957 to a more efficient process that took it to new chemical heights. Soon after that was when “The Chinese Restaurant Syndrome” started to show up which included symptoms such as headaches, migraines, numbness, tingling in extremities, shortness of breath, rapid heart beat and tightness of chest for over 2 hours after ingesting of MSG. When this was brought to the FDA’s attention it was promptly shrugged off.
Since then the evidence has mounted that even the FDA has acknowledged, MSG is a very real danger to our health. Dr. Russell Blaylock, a neurosurgeon and author of “Excitotoxins; The taste that kills” explains that MSG is a excitotoxin which means it over excites your cells to the point of damage or death, causing the brain damage to varying degrees and potentially even triggering or worsening learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gerhrig’s disease. It is especially dangerous to young, forming brains where it can cause permanent damage. (And it is present in all infant formulas) It also been linked to many other health issues such as obesity, eye damage, depression, asthma and epilepsy.
Now the big question, why is it still in our foods?? Very simply put, greed. It was discovered that when MSG was used on lab rats they got fat. I mean really fat. It turns out the chemical is an appetite stimulant. A light went off in the food industry, add more MSG to processed food and people won’t be able to stop eating them. It is the same principal that the tobacco industry uses when it adds more nicotine to the cigarettes, it hooks people. But since MSG has such a bad name, the food industry has come up with clever ways to hide it.
Now go back and read that list again, learn it, be informed. You are the only one that can control what you buy and what goes in your mouth. One of the foods that always always has MSG in it is mayonnaise. Mayo also contains low quality oils and calcium disodium EDTA, which is a preservative made from formaldehyde. Processed mayo was a beloved ingredient in our fridge till last summer when I decided we were not going to eat it anymore. I decided to start making our own and have never turned back. It is not that difficult and tastes so wonderful! I encourage you to take your health in your hands and make your own mayo.
Homemade Mayo, your way
Making mayo is a magical thing; you just have to remember a few things. First of all make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature or you will have ”broken” mayo, which is a slurry of egg and mayo, yucky. Second, pour the oil into the running blender as SLOW as possible, or once again, it will break. But in truth, it is very easy if you follow the rules. Do not use extra virgin olive oil here, it turns the mayo green and tastes funny.
1 large egg at room temperature
2 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon juice, at room temp
1/2 teaspoon of dry mustard powder
3/4 teaspoon of sea salt
1 and 1/4 cup of light tasting organic olive oil
1 tablespoon of a fresh herb such as parsley, rosemary, basil, sage or tarragon
2-3 fresh garlic cloves, minced
Or whatever spice catches your fancy
Break out the blender and crack the egg in there, add the lemon juice, mustard powder, salt and 1/4 cup of the olive oil. (Add the garlic, herbs or other spices here as well.) Put the lid on the blender then blend on mediumish speed until the ingredients are combined. Now for the exciting part, take off the middle of the lid of the blender and with the blender still going, start drizzling the remaining 1 cup of olive oil into the blender very very slowly. I mean pour in a tiny little trickle. Breathe, lower your shoulder blades, relax. This is a process.
Soon your will hear the blender begin to change in tone, this is when the magic begins and the emulsification starts. Do not lose your nerve and consider dumping the rest in! Continue to drizzle the oil in slowly till the mixture is this lovely creamy mayo and all the oil is distributed. Store in a glass jar in the fridge for up to two weeks. (I mark on the jar when I made it since I never remember otherwise) Enjoy this wondrous food with all wholesome ingredients.
“Most consumers would be shocked to find the types of filler products that are used as substitutes for items that they believe are more pure.” Michael A. Yoshikami, chief investment strategist
Eating whole foods is a splendid idea, simply splendid. I’ve been eating as much whole foods as possible for quite some time now and encouraging others to do so. It’s not as easy as it sounds though in our fast food culture, it actually takes effort to eat foods made by nature that haven’t been tampered with. Our ancestors, just a mere 75 years ago wouldn’t have known anything but these single ingredient foods. In fact our diets have changed more in the last 75 years than they have in 10,000. (My grandma said that she saw the first processed cold cereal right before WWII)
I recently heard some information the other day that made my eyes bug out and reaffirmed the quest to eat whole foods. The FDA is only requiring processed foods be 80% accurate on their ingredients label. That means that at least 20% of the ingredients in that product can be….. anything! The trick with getting these hidden foods by the FDA is to hide them as ingredients in other foods that ARE listed. For example, Sudan Red dye, which is a potent carcinogen that is banned worldwide is being used to bump up the color of paprika then just listed in the foods as “paprika”.
Another popular item hidden in food is wood pulp. Yup, wood pulp has been approved by the FDA as a “safe” ingredient. It’s cheap, tasteless, has no calories and adds fiber. (I guess the FDA considers us termites) Folks don’t necessarily like to know wood fiber is in their food so it is either called “modified cellulose” or hidden within other foods. Nearly all the fast food chains are using it in their foods and most of your favorite brands are too. Like those beloved Wheat Thins, Kraft Mac and Cheese and soft serve ice cream, all have wood pulp in them. Word to the wise, if a food you are buying has “fiber rich and low fat” on the box; it is most likely has wood pulp in it.
To better understand this dilemma, a lab did a study where they dissected some processed foods and found that they actually had up to 50% unlisted foods in them! After all, the FDA usually doesn’t even test foods, they depend on the company producing them to run a study to determine if they are safe. Well that leaves the coyote in charge of the chickens now doesn’t it? The corporations that churn these foods out have a lot of leeway to experiment with added (cheap) ingredients. Much of what 70% of Americans now eat is not so much as cooked, as it is engineered into finely-tuned, nutrient-deficient creations of science. Ladies and gentlemen we give you Franken food.
Another study that has been causally done by Melanie Warner, author of the book, “Pandora’s lunchbox” is how much preservatives are really in processed foods. She has bought different processed foods over the years that just set them in her office, unrefrigerated and open, to see how long they would last. “I’ve had some foods in here for over 7 years, and they still have not decomposed.” Warner said in a recent interview. Processed foods boast over 200 different types of powerful chemical preservatives to enhance shelve life that have untold ramifications on our health. So this is good to keep in mind when you are in a hurry and reaching for that frozen pizza.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea, eat mostly whole foods and lots of veggies. Processed foods are so full of everything possibly bad for us that it is unfathomable. There is no way to keep up with the next creative Franken food a corporation is going to wrap up in copious amounts of seductive packaging and sell to you. We must be our own ally and eat as little of it as possible for our health, our children, and our earth.
One of my all-time favorite whole foods this time of year is kale. It is such an easy crop to grow here in the NW and so full of nutrition and natural fiber that it is hard to beat. I have a good friend who has lost 100 pounds this year and massaged kale salad has been one of the foundations of her diet. Here is a rendition of it for you to enjoy in health in your skinny jeans.
Massaged Kale Salad
Be creative with this delicious salad. Quinoa, while optional, adds a nice toasty crunch and packs in the protein.
For the salad
8 cups of chopped and de-stemmed Kale
1/2 cup of chopped toasted nuts of your choice (walnuts are very good here)
1/2 cup chopped fresh strawberries (or 1/4 cup of dried cranberries)
1 apple cubed
1 cup of cooked quinoa, cooled (optional)
1/4 of crumbled feta cheese
For the vinaigrette;
¼ cup of Extra virgin olive oil
2-3 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1 lime, juiced
1 clove of garlic, pressed
2-3 teaspoons of honey
Salt and pepper to taste
Start with your vinaigrette first, pour everything into a jar and shake it up till well mixed. Or you can do it in the blender, which I prefer. Add everything but the olive oil to the blender and whiz it up, then slowly…very slowly while the blender is going, drizzle in the olive oil. This will cause some emulsifying, which I really like in dressing but it is not necessary, just nice. Set aside the dressing while you prepare the salad.
After de-stemming your kale, and put in a large bowl, then pour the vinaigrette over the beautiful leaves. Massage vinaigrette into the kale with your hands for about five minutes, you will notice the size of the leaves will decrease significantly and you will feel the leaves becoming more tender. After this stage, you can put the salad in the fridge for up to 12 hours. When you are ready to eat the salad, toss the massaged kale with the rest of the ingredients and serve immediately. Enjoy your whole foods in good health!
“The Easter ham holds the same place of honor on the dinner table that milady’s hat does in the Easter Parade,” Mary Meade
My earliest memories of Easter are waking up with great anticipation to the Easter basket filled with green plastic grass, jelly bean eggs and the glorious chocolate egg. It was a wonder, but not nearly the wonder of my mother’s Easter brunch with the juicy fat ham in the center of the table glowing like an angel.
Ham became the center piece at the Easter feast a way long time ago. Back when Easter was a party to honor the Saxon Goddess Eastre and the return of spring, the ham smoked that fall was brought to the feast table to celebrate yet another winter of not starving to death. It was sure to bring you good luck and a fertile spring. In early America, where pork was plentiful, this tradition that was still a hang over from the pagans was enthusiastically embraced. And the rest, as they say, is history.
The real wonder about ham is how many varieties there are of them! One almost needs divine guidance to choose a ham for your holiday table with the dizzying amount of choices there are. It is much easier to cook one than pick one out. Well I’ve got my angel wings on and am here to take the confusion out of this simple meal.
First off let’s start with the basics; a ham is the upper hind leg of a pig that has been cured, one way or the other. A whole ham is around 14-16 pounds and that’s a lot of meat, so they are generally split into two halves, the shank and the butt. The shank is the end closest to the knee and the butt is…well I think you can figure that out.
All hams are cured to preserve the meat through a process of adding things like sugar, salt, nitrates or smoke. There are two major types of curing ham, wet or dry cure. The wet cured hams are called “city hams”. These comprise the majority of hams we see in the super market. They are produced by either submerging the ham in salty brine for a period of time till the salt has penetrated deep into the meat. Or there are the more inexpensive hams that have been injected with brine for much faster production. City hams are usually fully cooked and smoked.
Then there are the “country hams” AKA Virginia style hams, which are dry cured by rubbing the brine all over them then letting them hang to dry for months in a carefully controlled environment. (Think prosciutto and those musky Italian meats we all know and love.) These hams are either smoked or not, but all country hams are sold “raw” and need to be cooked. Country hams are more popular in the southern United States. (Good luck finding one up here! I tried.)
Since most hams that we come in contact with are city hams, let’s focus on them. City hams come in four categories depending on how much water has been added to them. Intentionally injecting water to the ham bulks up the ham’s weight thereby greatly increasing the profit margins. The amount of water added to a city ham directly affects its flavor. In many taste tests, the no water added hams always scored the highest.
1) “Ham” pure ham, no water added. The best option. Try to find one with the bone in. It adds more flavor.
2) “Ham in natural juices” This is a bit confusing as it sounds like it isn’t tampered with but actually has up to 10% extra water added. These hams are actually pretty good and cook up nice a juicy, not a bad option.
3) “Ham with water added” This ham has up to 15% water added. The water percentage will be on the label, usually in fine print. Now you’re getting a highly processed ham that is losing its flavor.
4) “Ham and water product” This is the free for all ham, processed to the fullest letter of the law. This ham can have up to 50% water. This ham is yucky, do not buy.
There are a few more thing to consider in this Easter ham primer; which end of the ham to buy and precut or not? Some people prefer the shank end since it has a higher fat content, but I prefer the butt end as it is leaner meat and the “meatier” part of the ham. I found out that hardly ham is labeled which end is which but a butcher informed me that you can tell by feeling the package. (I’ll leave the rest of that one alone!)
Ah to buy precut or not? This option is pretty much not an option at the coast. The only bone in, pure ham I could find was at Costco and it was spiral cut. One of the draw backs of living in this lovely place. If you have the option, I would suggest an uncut ham as they cook up juicer but a sliced ham cooks up just fine if you do it right. This recipe I am sharing today is a delicious way to cook any style of ham and ensures that a sliced ham doesn’t dry out. Enjoy the wonder of Easter and spring with this festive ham.
Bourbon-Orange Glazed Easter Ham
Feel free to use your imagination on the marmalade. I ended up using a ginger-orange marmalade and it was delicious! You can use a roasting bag instead of the foil, maybe a better option for a pre-cut ham.
3/4 cups of a high quality orange marmalade
1/4 cup of pure maple syrup
1/4 cup of whole grain mustard
1/4 cup of bourbon of dark rum
The juice and zest of one orange
6-8 whole cloves
1 tablespoon of fresh rosemary
Crank or two of black pepper
1 smoked half of a city ham, 7-9 pounds, preferably bone in
In a small sauce pan, mix up all but the ham. (It would be hard to fit the ham in there I guess) Heat up the sauce mix over medium high heat mixing often till it starts to bubble. Lower the heat to medium low and simmer till the sauce, stirring now and then, till it is reduced in half and coats the back of spoon nicely, about 20mins. Let cool.
Before you turn on your trusty oven, position a rack in the lower third of the oven, then preheat to 325 degrees. While the oven heats up line a high rimmed baking dish with foil. Place the ham in the baking dish and carefully baste it with a 1/2 cup of the glaze. Tent the ham with foil where it is well sealed and tuck in the oven to cook for 2 1/2 hours, roughly, till the internal temperature of the ham is 125 degrees. (18 minutes per pound)
Take out of the oven and peel back the foil to reveal your masterpiece. Raise the temperature of the oven to 425 degrees and while it is heating up, brush the ham with 1/4 of the remaining glaze and return to the oven. Bake for 5 minutes, then brush again with glaze, repeat two more times for a total of 20 minutes of baking. Keep a close eye on that piggy as this is either your moment of glory or when you can burn the heck out of it. Remove the ham from the oven and let it set! I know you want to try it, refrain! Let it rest for at least 20 minutes to 2 hours before slicing. Hoppy Easter!
There is a little, tiny, round seed that has the mightiest of history and prowess. This wee seed has had powerful conversations with Alexander the Great, Pope John XII, Queen Victoria and none other than Jesus Christ and the Buddha. It has been used by the ancients to heal everything from scorpion stings to toothaches. On top of all that it has been a culinary delight since the early 4th century and the first domesticated crop ever. What is this humble seed? None other than the mighty mustard seed.
This seed’s birth place was the temperate regions of Europe so long ago no one remembers that it is indigenous there. There are three varieties of mustard, which is in the brassica family. There are the white or yellow seed, the black seed, and then the brown seed, which all come from different regions of Europe.
Mustards first use was as a medicinal plant by the Greek scientist Pythagoras in the 6th century BC. He found it was a dandy poultice for scorpion stings and probably licked his finger after applying it one day and had a culinary epiphany because mustard really began to show up everywhere after that. I mean everywhere. Today it is often called the “Spice of Nations” because it is so universally used.
It certainly was in India in the 5th century BC, as Buddha knew enough about the mustard seed that he used it in a teaching to a distraught mother whom had asked Buddha to revive her dead son. He sent her out to gather mustard seeds from every family in the village whom had never lost a child, parent or friend. She came back empty handed, understanding that she was not alone in her grief.
This busy little seed also found its way to Galilee, 2000 years ago, where Jesus spoke of it in a parable. He said that the power of faith is like this least of seeds, mustard, that when sown it grows into the greatest of herbs, towering over all others. In fact this is exactly the reason that the Spanish Padres scattered mustard seed along the trails to missions in California, it towered so high and grew so well, it clearly marked the trail.
No matter where this mighty seed has traveled, the ones who truly discovered the amazing culinary uses of it were the French. There is no one that loves it more than them; they consume over 70% of the world’s crops in mustard. The French have been making and commercially selling Dijon mustard since 1634. They consider their mustard as important as wine, having different famous regions that produce their beloved crop. There is a good reason too; it is a flavor booster to many foods. I use it my salad dressings, soups, sauces and brownies. (Just kidding on the brownies)
Now you can make mustard and consume it like the French. It is very easy, all you need are the seeds, vinegar and a sturdy blender. You also need a bit of time as it take 2-3 days to soak the seeds in vinegar to get them to a tender stage to process them. Mother Nature’s or your local health food store has the both the brown and the yellow mustard seeds available to us lucky people.
Rosemary Thyme Mustard
This tangy mustard has impact! Very very good in chicken dishes in deviled eggs.
3 tablespoons of yellow mustard seeds
1 tablespoon of brown mustard seeds
3 teaspoons of fresh thyme (1.5 of dried)
3 teaspoons of minced fresh rosemary (1.5 of dried)
1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup of water
1 teaspoon of light brown sugar or honey
3/4 teaspoon of sea salt
Get out a non-reactive container, I like the pint sized canning jars, and add the mustard seeds, the herbs, water and vinegar. Put the lid on it and shake it up, then let set at room temp for 2-3 days, shaking it up whenever you get the urge. Get out your blender and blend the mix with the sugar and salt. Blend until the mixture is thick but still a coarse texture. Taste and adjust the seasonings, does it need more herbs? You have creative license here. Will last 3 weeks in the fridge, longer in the freezer.
This mustard is soft and smooth like a good brandy. Very user friendly and blends well with everything.
6 Tablespoons of yellow mustard seeds
2 tablespoons of brown mustard seeds
3 tablespoons of brandy or Cognac (I used clear creek pear brandy)
2/3 cup of white wine vinegar
1/3 cup of water
1/4 cup of light brown sugar or honey
1 teaspoon of salt
Get out a non-reactive container, I like the pint sized canning jars, and add the mustard seeds, the brandy, and the water and vinegar. Put the lid on it and shake it up, then let set at room temp for 2-3 days, shaking it up whenever you need to get out some nervous energy. Get out your metallically frothifier AKA blender and blend the mix with the sugar and salt. Blend until the mixture is as smooth as possible. Taste and adjust the seasonings. Will last 3-4 weeks in the fridge, longer in the freezer.
Your very own Dijon
This is it folks, your very own Gray Poupn. So very yummy to use as your everyday mustard and to cook with. Excellent with bratwursts and in potato salad.
½ cup of dry white wine
½ cup of white wine vinegar
¼ cup of brown mustard seeds
¼ cup of yellow mustard seeds
1 teaspoon of salt
Get out a non-reactive container, I like the pint sized canning jars, and add the mustard seeds, the brandy, and the water and vinegar. Put the lid on it and shake it up, then let set at room temp for 2-3 days, shaking it up whenever you need to get shake something up. Using your blender, blend the mix up with the salt. Blend until the mixture is as smooth as possible. (keep in mind these whole grain mustards down blend till super smooth) Taste and adjust the seasonings. Will last 3-4 weeks in the fridge, longer in the freezer.
Dear Kitchen Aide mixer.
I am so sad that your motor conked out. You have been such a loyal steed in your bright blue jacket. We’ve made so many delicious foods together. Truckloads of cookies, crates of cakes, boatloads of fruit cobblers and crisps, wheelbarrows full of truffles, pies and muffins. Yes, I have grown so attached to your sound and hopeful presence on my counter. You patiently stayed with me as I transitioned over to a grain free lifestyle and helped me learn how to make delectable delights with coconut and almond flour.
You have been the instigator of many a fine meal and dessert. My paint brush to make works of art that has fed my family and community and now you lay in a box, silent forever. My husband, feeling my deep pain, ran right out and bought a new bright red Kitchen Aide mixer to take your place. And even though I am impressed by her shining bright promise of many more delights to come, I will never forget you. You were my first true love. And with all your wondrous attachments, you have ground more venison than any Kitchen aid mixer will ever dream of doing. Your faithful engine ground through my sausage period. (Which I’m still happily in) In fact that was your undoing, you ground just too many pounds of meat.
In honor of your passing into mixer heaven, where your motor will never feel pain, you won’t have to work and will have chocolate chip cookies served to you by Julia Child. I will be using the bright red mixer, (now named Betty Boop) to make a dessert devoted to love. After all, this is that time of year, when you and I would plot and plan an alluring dessert to serve to the hubby for Valentine’s Day. We would figure out something irresistible that fills the house with a warm and inviting scent.
I think it needs to be cinnamon this year. Yes, cinnamon has been known throughout history to spark the appetite…. in so many ways. Its spicy aroma and stimulating effects are incredibly arousing yet relaxing all at the same time. If I was to be a spice, I would want to be cinnamon because not only is it delicious but healing too. It has been used throughout history to guard against colds, fight off the winter chill and aide in digestion and circulation. This is THE spice of life.
Cinnamon is it, but I think chocolate and cinnamon is even better. How can anyone resist that combination? After all the Aztec Emperor, Montezuma loved to drink a cocoa drink from a golden goblet to give him va va voom for his nights with 100 virgins. Yes, I think the prefect combo for Valentine’s Day shall be created to christen the new mixer and in loving memory to you, my dear old mixer. May you rest in peace and tranquility knowing you fed a whole community (and my husband)with love♥.
Flourless chocolate cinnamon cake
Gluten free and crazy delicious, don’t reserve this cake just for Valentine’s day.
4 oz of high quality dark or bittersweet chocolate
1 stick (1/2 cup) of unsalted butter
3/4 cup of white sugar
3 large farm fresh eggs
1/2 cup of unsweetened high quality cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons of high grade cinnamon
Turn up the passion by heating the oven to 375 degrees. Butter an 8 inch round spring form pan and line the bottom with parchment or wax paper and then butter it. (If you only have a 9 inch pan, bake in ramekins for small servings that are easy to share. Bake for 18 minutes) Chop the chocolate into small pieces and try not to eat it all. In a small sauce pan on the stove, melt the chocolate with the butter, stirring often and till smooth as Don Quixote’s tongue. (You can also do this in the microwave. I know, but it works really well! Just microwave the chocolate and butter in a glass bowl 20 seconds at a time, stirring well between each 20 seconds, till well blended and smooth)
Remove the chocolate butter mix from the stove (or microwave) and add to your mixer. With the whisk attachment, whisk the sugar into the chocolate mixture. (You can do this by hand too) Add the eggs, one at a time while whisking the whole time, thinking about love. Sprinkle the cocoa powder and cinnamon over the chocolate mixture and whisk till just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, while inhaling the warm fragrance of chocolate and cinnamon. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes or until a thin crust has formed on the cake, don’t over cook! Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes, and then invert onto a beautiful cake plate. Dust the cake with cinnamon, cocoa powder and powdered sugar if you dare; serve with cinnamon whipped cream for stand up results! (giggle)
Cinnamon Whipped Cream
2 cups of heavy cream
¼ cup of sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons of cinnamon
A teaspoon of vanilla
Mix the sugar, cinnamon together in a small small bowl. Whip the cream on high in your mixer till it just starts to get peaks. Then sprinkle the sugar cinnamon over the whipped cream and whip a bit more then drizzle in the vanilla. Whip a bit more till the prefect consistency you desire. Don’t over mix or you get whipped butter!