Wordless Wednesday: The Seedlings

The seeds from Fun Kid Activities: Planting Your Garden are growing!

Seedlings

Arugula

Cherry Bush Tomato

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Lemon Poppyseed Scones (Vegan): In Support of Japan

This post does not include the recipe but if you are looking to make your own wicked lemon poppyseed scones, you can find it here.

Lemon Poppy Seed Scones (vegan)

The humble scone can be a nasty sort when she isn’t taken seriously. Scones have the heart of a tea biscuit in the soul of a pastry philosopher. The heft of the dough buoys your morning cup of coffee but it is not so rough around the edges that you can’t invite a lovely lemon poppyseed scone to an afternoon tea. The scone has a lot to say about baking and if you don’t silence her with too much liquid or dry her up by withholding butter she is a delectable thing of beauty, studded with poppy seeds and lemon zest.

lemon zest

The secret to these scones lay in the coconut milk and the preparation of the lemon zest. The coconut milk will keep these babies dairy free but it also adds the necessary to fat to keep them light and tender. Dairy filled scones often use a milk rich in milk fat to achieve the same effect. Coconut milk is a great friend to the dairy free baker, don’t take it for granted.
The lemon zest is prepared by peeling the yellow part of the lemon, taking care to leave the white pith on the fruit and then finely chopping it. This method will produce slightly larger pieces of zest and a higher yield. The flecks of lemon in the scones are gorgeous and should not disrupt the texture and in fact add to the entire experience of the scone.

lemon sun

I am offering a double batch of these Lemon Poppy seed scones (that is 12 scones) for the online bake sale that Sabrina of The Tomato Tart is hosting. On March 30 please be sure to check out her site to bid on deletable baked goods prepared by almost 100 food bloggers in support of Japan in the wake of the devastating earthquake and tsunami of two weeks ago.
The morning after the earthquake tore the ground and pushed walls of water onto the shores and across the land I lay snuggled in my bed, surrounded by sleeping family. I squinted at the news rolling down the small screen of my phone and couldn’t believe the reports, the pictures with the earth torn in two. This tragedy is much bigger than the borders of a country and I was certainly not the only person to stand before a television screen, transfixed with an ache in my heart. Japan’s tragedy weighs on the world and as we food bloggers put forth our baked goods we are trying to take a bit of that pain and replace it with something good.

Note: I did have the recipe for these lovely scones listed here but after some consideration I have removed it because I would like the winning bidder to have purchased something special. I will no doubt re-list the recipe following the bake sale or I may not. I have a few other vegan scone recipes up my sleeve and I know you are all a resourceful bunch. Don’t forget to visit Sabrina!

Baked Chevre Eggs with Micro Greens

Chevre Baked Eggs

Baked eggs add a delicate touch to dinner and make it particularly fun for kids because they each have their very own serving of dinner specially prepared for them. They are not quite as fussy as quiche even though I am obviously a fan and you can pack all sorts of delicious surprises inside. Mr. teased me a bit, asking if I’d simply hit the end of food creativity by baking the eggs. Then he ate his portion I had lovingly saved in spite of the teasing and his mind was radically changed. You know why? The secret to the baked egg’s splendour is the ball of chevre buried in each one.
Pre-oven eggs

I always find egg dishes to have a certain amount of lightness but they are also delightfully easy (save for soufflé obviously) and after The Coconut Mint Lentil Soup of the night before which was quite the endeavour and with Mr. unexpectedly working I wanted something simple and flavourful. Of the number of recipes on this site a large majority are egg based because it is a cheap source of protein that is a snap to prepare and even better, eggs are quite content to be infused with a number of herbs, flavourings and of course cheese. I searched a number of cookbooks and websites but I really couldn’t find something I felt like making. One recipe called to line the bowl with bacon and while that sounds delicious the night before was a bacon extravaganza and that’s not fair to my waistline or my children.
Waiting for Eggs. Or Godot.

I followed the temperature and timing guidelines from Jamie Oliver’s Baked Eggs but obviously I didn’t use the smoked haddock. I didn’t have the extra heft of the haddock in my baked eggs, a handful of micro greens don’t exactly require the same amount of baking time so I watched the oven carefullly after the 20 minute mark. If you don’t have a stash of micro greens in your own fridge I will refrain from tsk tsking you and instead urge you to hunt some down at a farmers’ market before they are all gone or use finely shredded spinach instead. If you are in my area and you happen to be awake at 7:00 on a Saturday morning, hike your cute little butt down to the Brewery Market and visit Ted Hutten. It’s his micro greens that drive Bubs wild and that I used in these eggs.

The Baked Eggs

Serves 4. Preparation time, including cook time is approximately 30 minutes.

4 eggs

4 handfuls of micro greens, washed well

2 tablespoons chevre

one tomato, diced

4-5 tablespoons goat milk

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350ºF or 180ºC.

1. Gather four small oven save bowls. Most dish sets carry an impossibly huge bowl and an equally small bowl, use the smaller one unless you plan on a huge baked egg dish for yourself. Grease each dish lightly with a neutral tasting oil. Place all of the bowls onto a baking sheet for stability.

2. Line with a solid pinch of micro greens (or shredded spinach). The bulk of it should reach halfway up the bowl.

3. Roll half of a teaspoon of chevre in your hands to form a ball. Around this ball arrange the diced tomatoes. Sprinkle with salt and one to two turns of the pepper mill.

4.Crack the egg into the bowl, taking care not to break the yolk. Pour in approximately 2 tablespoons of goat milk (or whatever milk you prefer) to level out the egg with the greens. Give a dash of salt and a few cracks of the pepper milk depending on your own taste.

5. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the whites are set. Be sure to check the eggs at 20 minutes.

We enjoyed our Chevre Baked Eggs with potato wedges and apple cider, again from the Hutten Farm.

Coconut Mint Lentil Stew

Coconut Mint Lentil Stew

The playground flooded with children, their coats open to the almost spring air. Miss N one of the brave to shed her bulky coat and run into the fray, weak sunlight on her golden hair. The climb to the top of the jungle gym is clumsy in winter boots but exuberance propels them up the ropes or down the slide. The mud surrounded the playground is particularly squishy and gives way easily to our probing boot toes, eager to please our wintered bodies. Bubs picked through pebbles to pick out the perfectly shiny and coloured stones to store in his pockets. Shrieks and laughter swirled around, this is spring in Nova Scotia, that glimpse of warmth that is seized wholeheartedly because the next moment has the potential to be filled with snow.

The best intentions and well-laid plans fell by the wayside as we mixed together muffins and played in the living room. I wanted a vegetarian night of lentils and eggplant but first there was duck stock, then there wasn’t any eggplant and finally there was bacon. The children scurried out to soak up a bit of sun on the balcony, cloaked in blanket and winter coats to eat their freshly baked muffins while dinner slowly came together.

Onions slowly heated, releasing the juices to melt from a harden white to creamy yellow and finally perfectly caramelized crisps. The smell filtered through the house as we played, snuck in a pre-dinner bath and read books. It seemed right to celebrate the delightfully warm afternoon with a slowly simmered soup of enticing aromas and when it could possibly smell any better, chopped bacon was added to bring it to a heady and enticing mix. The duck stock that brought us down this distinctly non-vegetarian path is salty and complex but it is also fairly fatty so to compensate use about three times as much hot water. My lentil “soup” is more closely akin to a lentil stew as much of the liquid used is soaked up by the lentils as they cook, if you would like a soup with a thinner consistency add more liquid but keep your ratios the same to preserve flavour. Our go-to for coconut milk is often the Aroy-D brand or Rooster brand. I do find that sometimes the fat has separated from the milk in the can, this is not cause for any culinary alarm, simply shake the can prior to opening.

The Coconut Lentil Stew

one tablespoon olive oil

2 onions, chopped into slices

3-4 slices bacon

¼ teaspoon green curry

2 cups green lentils – if I had orange lentils I would use both because of the variety in texture

250 mL duck stock

750 mL hot water

200 mL coconut milk

¼ cup finely minced fresh mint

  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium sized pot until it slips easily across the bottom. Add the onions and cook on low heat for 30-40 minutes until they become a rich golden colour.
  2. Add the bacon and slowly raise the heat to medium low keeping in mind the onions are pretty well cooked at this point and it would be a terrible shame to burn them. Once the bacon is fully cooked use your spoon to push the bacon and onion mix to the side to allow the bacon fat to drain. Ball up a paper towel or coffee filter and soak it up. Do this twice.
  3. Add the curry and stir everything very well to mix it in – I use a very small amount of curry because its intensity grows the longer it is on the heat. Feel free to use more, I was feeding children who are vocal when they don’t like something.
  4. Add the lentils, duck stock and hot water and bring the mix to a boil for 25-30 minutes. I like my lentils to be a bit firm, if you are more in line with the texture of dahl, add 5 minutes.
  5. Once the lentils are cooked, lower the heat to medium and add the coconut milk. Five minutes prior to serving, add the mint and stir.

This stew is perfect for a Sunday afternoon when you have the time to meander into the kitchen to give a stir or add a pinch of this or that. I did make mine on a Monday afternoon but I was feeling particularly ambitious and we just happened to get home with enough time for such an endeavour. I added little in the way of salt to the soup because the bacon and dock stock already bring enough of that but as always, be sure to give a little taste and adjust accordingly.

Enjoy.

Orange Pepper Steak

 

I am rarely charged with buying or cooking red meat in our house and it is even touch and go when I cook pork which is why I was so proud of the Red Pepper Pork … and Chocolate? I made a while back. I was a vegetarian from the time I was 14 until about two years ago and it was during that time that I learned to cook so obviously there is a bit of a gap in my knowledge. I naturally steer towards eggs or tofu and there are many recipes on this blog that feature lentils simply because they are within my comfort zone. Imagine Mr.’s surprise when he came home last night to discover that not only had I cooked a steak but it was also edible (read: ridiculously delicious and tender).

As I was putting together the Spinach and Mashed Potato Pancakes that served as our side dish I lamented on Twitter that I would not be able to serve steak with this side even though it would be the perfect complement. This is where Lara of Food and Soil comes in, she tweeted me with a basic recipe for steak that is anything but basic as far as tenderness and flavour is concerned. It is her technique that I use here but I also added the Pepper Orange Sauce because I’m one of those heathens who likes sauce with her steak; a holdover from those vegetarian days. The sauce is shockingly easy and to playfully test Mr. I asked him to pick out all the flavours and as he started listing off “apple cider, onion powder, pepper…” I had to smile. It’s orange juice and pepper wish a dash of salt to tie it together. It’s simple but it works together beautifully; even more important considering the cold that has been percolating in Bubs struck with full force at 5 pm yesterday and had him crying for 45 minutes straight while I made dinner.

The 10, possibly 12 ounce steak we had last night served our family well. The kiddos ate just a small portion and it is my plate in the photos you see and obviously I only had a few pieces. I filled up on the spinach and potato pancakes and a bowl of yogurt after dinner. Feel free to use more than one sizable steak to feed your family but this suited us just fine and I do believe there may be a few extra pieces stored in the refrigerator. To really benefit from the protein and other nutrients in red meat you really don’t need to eat that much but I probably don’t need to tell you that or preach at you about portion sizes. It was very satisfying to nibble at my dinner, chat with my family and after a short while realize I had eaten much less than what I would have thought I needed. I suppose that is what we call being aware of my body’s needs, no?

 

The Steak

10-12 ounce steak

salt and cracked pepper

olive oil

  1. Liberally sprinkle the steak with salt and cracked pepper. The pepper should be visible on the steak, be sure to do this to both sides.
  2. Heat a cast iron pan on medium/high heat for approximately 5 minutes until it is quite hot.
  3. Add one tablespoon olive oil to the pan. Take care if it splatters. Lay the steak in the pan and sear for 5 minutes on each side. If you prefer your steak a little more rare, knock off a minute on each side.
  4. Once cooked, remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes. Cut into strips and place on a platter. Pour the Pepper Orange Sauce over it and serve.

The 5 minute cook time produces a lovely medium on a ¾ inch thick steak.

 

Pepper Orange Sauce

1-1 ½ cups orange juice

salt

generous amount cracked pepper

  1. In a separate pan heat ¾ cup of orange juice on medium high heat. Add 3 to 5 cracks of the pepper mill and about ½ teaspoon of salt.
  2. Watch closely and stir occasionally. As it turns syrupy add more juice to loosen it and keep it from becoming caramel. It will darken and turn a tad brownish from the pepper.
  3. At this point, give it a taste and if need be crack a bit more pepper into it. If not, pour over the steak.

Enjoy. Serve with the spinach and Mashed Potato Pancakes.

 

A note: I cooked the sauce in the same pan I used to cook the bacon for the Pancakes. I highly suggest doing the same because it adds a touch of saltiness and the goodness of bacon. I did, however, drain out the fat so that only the bits of crispy bacon and general flavour were left in the pan.

Spinach and Mashed Potato Pancakes

A few months ago we sold our microwave. It took up far too much space on our limited kitchen counters and we rarely used it. The sale was somewhat impulsive, borne out of a fit of clutter aggravation and didn’t entirely take the leftover equation into consideration. Our creative solution has been to completely repurpose our leftovers into new meals, much more appealing than eating lukewarm plates of last night’s dinner. This is a chance to transform!

These mashed potato “pancakes” use about a cup of leftover mashed potatoes along with a cup of finely shredded spinach. If you do not have any leftover mashed potatoes on hand, approximately one large potato cooked and mashed should do the trick. Be sure to allow it to cool as you will be adding an egg to bind the mixture. This side also has the added benefit of being gluten free if you are so inclined.

Spinach Mashed Potato Pancakes

one onion, diced

one cup finely shredded spinach

one cup cold mashed potatoes

one egg

4 slices cooked bacon, roughly chopped

hefty dash of salt – remember, bacon is salty

3 to 4 turns of the pepper mill

¼ cup almond flour

oil

  1. In one bowl mix all the ingredients together.
  2. Heat oil in a pan on medium heat. Spoon the mixture into the pan when the oil slips easily across the pan. When the edges start to brown and crisp, carefully flip the pancake.

If the pan runs dry, add a touch more oil to the pan to prevent the pancakes from burning on the outside without actually cooking the inside. The pancakes are a tad fragile because of the mashed potatoes, just take care with them while cooking. Once fully cooked they aren’t such babies.

A note: If you would like to see a photo of the pancakes please check out the Pepper Orange Steak post, I plead hunger that I did not take a proper photograph of the pancakes. The only one I had did not make them look that appetizing despite the fact they were – there weren’t any leftover so I could take advantage of morning light!

The Gift Project: March

March is a lonely month. We have glimmers of hope as the snow melts in grand fits of spring fever and then the biting cold sears our sinuses and the memory of winter is once again reality. March is long and boring without a day for lovers or April’s impish pranks. Here in Nova Scotia, or at least Halifax we have been cheated out of our customary “March break”, that harbinger of fun, relaxation and for some that mysterious glowing orb in the sky. We weren’t entirely left in the lurch as the children had their break in February but that still left March without.

If you are looking to liven up this long month that felled Julius Caesar, why not spread a touch of warmth to someone in your life by making and giving them a gift? It needn’t be grandiose or even a source of difficulty, as long as it is homemade and given with a sense of gratitude, love, affection or with whatever it is you hold for your chosen person.

I started this project as a way to test myself, to put myself out there as far the relationships I have with people and what those relationships mean. I am very shy and it is because of this blog and social media in general that I have been striving to put myself out there a little more. I also have an extraordinarily shy child who refuses to speak to people and even to her friends in front of their parents and me. I understand her reluctance to draw attention, especially the stares of adults and so through this project I will hopefully be an inspiration to little Miss N and if not now at least sometime in the (near) future.

As usual, we will all have two weeks from this date to make a gift of some sort and pass it on to someone. The Gift Project flickr group available for uploading photos, particularly if you would like the chance to participate but do not write your own blog. I will also post a link up to all the participants and you can email me at thegiftprojectblog@gmail.com or tweet me so that I don’t miss you!

Theme: Warmth
Link Up Date: March 24