Tomato Fennel Soup

Who likes fennel?!  Not the seeds, the large, white bulb!  Not being a particular fan of licorice, I can’t say that fennel is on the top of my grocery list–ever–but a few years ago I had some tomato fennel soup that was out-of-this-world good.  And I have been wanting to make it ever since.  This week it finally happened.

We got fennel in our shares ANDDDDD I just happened to order a 20 pound box of Roma tomatoes to process into tomato sauce this week.  I had tomatoes to spare for soup.

This soup is so simple.  Roast veggies. Dump into large pot. Cook 10 minutes more. Blend. Serve.  YUM!  I served this soup with feta cheese and some homemade pesto.  Double YUM! I’m too lazy (read: busy) right now to write up a recipe, but you can sort of make it up as you go.  This was my inspiration, and I adapted it from there.

With fall weather moving in today:  cold, cloudy, drizzly, this was the perfect bright spot in my day.  Go make this soup!

How to make dilly beans

I’ve never made dilly beans before.  In fact, the only pickled thing I’ve made is refrigerator pickles, so this seemed like a step up because of the canning process to make them shelf stable.  But they are really easy to make–I made a batch in about an hour and a half.  Not bad.  And they’re really tasty!  Check out how I made them in the video below:

Roasted Eggplant Parmesan

Do you love eggplant Parmesan?  I do, but I don’t really like the extra calories of battered, deep fried eggplant.  And if I’m making it myself, I don’t enjoy battering, breading, and frying it.  It’s time consuming and messy and again…there’s those extra calories.

So why not roast the eggplant?  It’s easy, you can limit the oil, and it’s absolutely delicious.  Did I mention it’s easy?  Don’t believe me?  Check out the video below.

Lemon basil & lavender shortbread cookies

IMG_6055No video for this recipe, sorry!  I don’t actually have any lemon basil growing in my garden right now–my pesky chickens ate all of my baby basil plants earlier this spring.   So, I can’t make any of these delicious cookies until I can get my hands on some lemon basil.  And I don’t know of a source of lemon basil, so it might be a while before I can make these cookies again.  Which, if I think about it, is probably a good thing because when I first experimented with this recipe I ate the entire batch that afternoon (nearly 2 dozen cookies).  I’m not kidding.  Also I’m not particularly proud to admit that (or am I?).  I’m not into hot dogs, but if there were a shortbread-eating contest, though, I’d definitely be in the running to win.

I made a big batch of these cookies for my friend’s wedding earlier this summer (see my previous post) and somehow I managed not to eat a single cookie before I got to the actual wedding.  How on earth did I manage that?!  I suspect it had something to do with the gobs of cupcakes and icing I had consumed the day I was making literally hundreds of cupcakes and cookies.  Nothing like a little sugar overload to stave of a good shortbread craving…

For this recipe I prefer to use fresh lemon basil.  I use a mortar and pestle to grind the basil into a paste, and use a little bit of sugar as a grinding agent to help break down the basil.  Using fresh basil turns the sugar paste a brilliant green!  Unfortunately, the green color doesn’t hold–it gets diluted as more ingredients are added to the dough.  For the wedding, I only had dried lemon basil.  Honestly, I couldn’t tell a difference in the flavor–so if you happen across lemon basil, buy as much of it as you can and dry it!!  You can then make these cookies all winter long (assuming you have dried lavender flowers).  If you don’t have either of these, then your next best option is lemon-rosemary shortbread cookies, which may just be my second favorite flavor of shortbread.  You can substitute rosemary for the lavender and lemon zest for the lemon basil, but add about 1 teaspoon of lemon juice in addition to the vanilla extract.

Let’s just say that you need to find a way to make these cookies.  Buy yourself a pack of lemon basil seeds and set a pot in your windowsill.  Grow some lemon basil and while you’re at it, get yourself a lavender plant, too.  Besides being beautiful, you can harvest some of the flowers (before they open) to use in cookies, breads, teas, whatever.  And then leave most of the flowers to open because the bees LOVE THEM.  They go completely nuts!  And we all know the bees can use all the help they can get.  So help feed the bees while beautifying your garden!  Win win!

Go make these cookies!  Find the recipe here.

Savory bread pudding–how to use your share from Week 2

Hello, everyone!  I thought we were getting morels this week in our share.  But they didn’t arrive on the truck.

I know!!  Major. Bummer.  We’ll try again next week.

Despite not having morels to include in tonight’s dinner, it still turned out fantastic!  All you need is some stale bread (it doesn’t really have to be stale…you can use fresh bread), some eggs, milk, and your choice of veggies.  Easy!  No formal recipe yet; hopefully I can get to that soon.  So you’ll just have to watch the video if you want to make it.  Enjoy!

Week 1: use 6/7 of your CSA share to make a delicious salad!

CSA season is here at last!  For some of you, it has been a long 6 months since our last CSA pickup, which was right before Thanksgiving.  Well, rest assured, you have 20 more weeks (and potentially 4-5 weeks of a fall share) to keep you eating delicious, healthy, locally grown organic produce.  Ahhhh, that sounds pretty good right now, doesn’t it?

I took the liberty to show you how to make a salad.  I know, that sounds pretty dumb.  But this is a pretty spectacular salad, if I do say so myself, and since it’s been a while since I’ve posted a video I thought ‘What better way to ease back into the swing of things than with a total home run of a video?’  So here it is.  Enjoy!

Spring is for lemon meringue pie!

I’m back!  I was traveling for work recently and once I got home I got hit with a whirlwind of writing reports, playing birthday dinner hostess, preparing for upcoming field work this summer, and my favorite: doing quality control on data entry into our master database at work (kidding).  And I think spring has FINALLY arrived in Helena–we’ve had 2 nice weekends in a row and I have spent as much time as I can outside working in the yard and garden.  And you know what?  The garden is alive! More on that later…

First things first: my little lemon tree produced 7 lemons this year, a record for me.  For many people growing lemons in a warm climate, this may seem unimpressive, but I was quite pleased to have 7 fully ripe lemons in Montana.  I gave away a couple of lemons to friends and I had 4 left.  What to do with my bounty?  Then one day it hit me: lemon meringue pie!  Of course!  And I can use eggs from my gals, too!  And it was settled.

Meyer lemons are quite a bit smaller than the lemons you find at the grocery store but they have a wonderful flavor.  I ended up using 3 lemons, which means I still have one more–maybe I’ll make some lemon rosemary shortbread cookies.

If you want to watch my kitchen calamities, the video will hit on a couple of good ones. If you just want the darn recipe without any of the monkey business, you can find it here.

 

Chocolate & red wine cupcakes

I embarked on a cupcake experiment today.  Chocolate and red wine are one of my favorite pairings, and I thought, “Why not fuse the two together into a cupcake?”

Yesh, why not?

Behold!  It is done.

DSC_0697-compress

And I made a video detailing my adventure in the kitchen today.  You can check it out below.  And if you are interested in trying the recipe yourself, you can find it here.

Let’s make hummus!

I love hummus, but I have to be honest here, I don’t love store bought hummus.  Sure, I eat it, but I usually only buy it for camping or field work.  I much prefer homemade hummus, and you know what?  It’s really easy to make!  And the best part is you can make it any flavor you want.

The video below will show you how to make it entirely from scratch using dried chickpeas.  You can also use canned chickpeas if you want to skip cooking the beans yourself, but if you have a pressure cooker, it doesn’t take long at all to cook dry beans, soaked or not.  More on pressure cooking in future posts.  I absolutely love mine and I’m a huge proponent of using them to save time and preserve nutrients in food.  Check it out:

The best birthday cake ever: hazelnut carrot cake with cream cheese frosting

IMG_3686

I have the same birthday cake every year: carrot cake.  I cannot even remember a time that I did not have carrot cake, though I remember (vaguely) of a Strawberry Shortcake birthday cake like this one from my early childhood:

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51ZbQJbIFNL._SX355_.jpg

I actually had the original cake form up until I last moved 7 years ago, along with several other cake forms for Blue Clues, Tigger, and many more cartoon characters that I can no longer recall.  But for years and years and years, it has been carrot cake.  I love carrot cake.  No….wait.

I LOVE carrot cake.

Last year I switched things up a bit, like I always do, and instead of using pecans or walnuts, I decided to try hazelnuts.  It was a freakin’ home run.  In fact, when I was first pondering what to make for my first YouTube video, this carrot cake was one I thought about making as my debut video.  But for some reason I didn’t.  Maybe it was for lack of time, who knows.  But the time has now come and yes, even though it was my own birthday, I made my own birthday cake.  Not-so-secret:  I always do.

I enjoy it, so why not?

And also…once someone, who may or may not be Hubby, made my birthday cake for me and made the comment that the batter looked like vomit.  Fair enough.  This batter doesn’t have a sexy, lick-the-bowl look to it, but it tastes phenomenal (both in batter and baked cake form).  So from that point forward, I decided it was just easier on everyone involved if I made it myself.  This year I had a particularly grand time making this cake, as you will soon find out if you watch the video.

Soon-not-to-be-secret: I lightened up the original recipe considerably and there is absolutely no compromise in flavor, texture, or overall quality of this cake.  It’s practically health food, as far as cakes go anyway, so you should definitely give it a try.

Recipe is here.  Video is below.