Sunday, May 15, 2016


Today I sowed the basil seeds. We are supposed to have chilly weather tonight, but I think it will all be good, and that we can probably count May 15 as the Last Frost Date, which is weirdly in accordance with the estimation that I use for my zone. My friend asked how much basil to plant for a person, and that is a tricky equation. Some folks use less than a single, small herb pot plant for the whole season, for a whole family, while I can use a garden of the pungent leaves all on my own in a week.

So here's my recommendation:
Start with a single plant. For me, that is nowhere near enough, and I usually end up buying a packet of seeds and planting a row or two. I could harvest it darned near daily. Also, it's a handy plant in the garden. Plant it around tomatoes and it will repel various predators, including deer (nothing is guaranteed when it comes to deer, but they seem to avoid the stinky plants), and it will also keep fruit flies away when the vegetables are harvested. Pick a bowl full of sunshine-ripe vegetables and throw a few leaves of basil over it all to repel the fruit fly. Then, in the kitchen, warm some garlic in some olive oil and tear the basil leaves into the pan. Let it all warm gently while you wash and dice the tomatoes, which you throw into the pot and let simmer until the whole thing is warm, while the water for angel hair comes to a boil in a different pot. By the time the angel hair is ready, the tomato has released its juices and the whole thing is herbalicious. Ladle the tomatoes over the pasta and enjoy!

Monday, January 11, 2016

Soup of the Day: Handfasting Soup

This soup makes use of all the many root vegetables you have on hand and need to use up in the new year. Parsnip, turmeric and garlic help boost the immune system and banish colds. Bonus, any that is left can become the base for golden noodle chicken soup, with all the immune benefits intact.

I didn't know that yellow split pea soup is a Thursday night staple in Sweden; this is a tradition I could adopt, especially now that I know that yellow split peas are a superfood.

Dried split peas, like other legumes, are rich in soluble fiber. They also contain an isoflavone called daidzein, which acts like weak estrogen in the body. The consumption of daidzein has been linked to a reduced risk of certain health conditions, including breast and prostate cancer. Split peas are particularly rich in potassium, a mineral that can help lower blood pressure and control fluid retention, and may help limit the growth of potentially damaging plaques in the blood vessels.

Add parsnips, mother nature's multivitamin, and turmeric, a natural anti-inflammatory substance, and it's no wonder the Swedes eat this all the time.

An excellent companion to basic bread, it's simple, easy fare that will have folks coming back for more.

1 cup dried yellow split peas
3 cups water or broth
Potatoes, parsnips, Daikon radish, databases, turnips, and any other root vegetables that need to get used.
Carrots, diced
Onion, diced
1/4c. Olive oil, plus more as needed
3 - 6 cloves garlic, diced
Celery, diced
1-2 tablespoons dried basil
1 - 2 teaspoons white pepper
1+ tablespoon turmeric powder, as much as you dare to

In a medium saucepan, bring the three cups of water or broth to a boil. Add the split peas and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes, or until whisking results in a broken down broth.
Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, cover the root vegetables with just enough water that a few stick out above the water line. Bring the water to a boil, and simmer until the vegetables begin to soften.
In a heavy stock pot, sautee onion, garlic, celery, carrot and spices in oil until onions are transparent. Add more oil if necessary to prevent sticking.

Add softened vegetables to stock pot, including cooking liquid. Add split peas when ready. Stir to mix and let warm through while flavors marry.

Sunday, January 10, 2016


These beauties take some foresight and planning, but they are absolutely worth it. And while the recipe is a bit of a task list, nothing is difficult or fiddly - feel free to include chefs of all ages and experience levels. Simply perfect for a Sunday brunch in January. Serve warm with butter, or as a base for a spread involving cream cheese, roast beef, smoked salmon, cheeses and spreads of all kinds. The best part is that most of the work is done the day before. The batch makes 16, and you can season them as you choose before baking. If you are expecting a crowd, double or even triple the recipe; for a weekend batch for two, make half as much. My family and I were thrown by the ingredients in weights, as opposed to volume. I will make a note next time we make it of what volume we used. We made some other changes as well, listed below.

4 cups all purpose flour instead of bread flour
1 tablespoon Barley malt syrup used instead of malt powder

We made bagels from scratch. We are almost as impressed with ourselves as we are with the results.
Sponge stage. We set this up in a few minutes and then went to the gym and went to a movie (All the King's Men - it was pretty good, too).  When we got back, it was perfect and ready to be made into dough. We used the stand mixer, and it was exceedingly simple.

After the dough cures in the refrigerator overnight, the bagels are ready to cook. Step one is boiling in water with a tablespoon of barley malt syrup and a teaspoon of baking soda, one minute on each side.

This is the part Vivian really likes: adding seasoning on top of the boiled dough before baking. Note: the foil was a bad choice. A little vegetable oil on the pan is a better  way to go, or parchment paper if you need to keep the dough off the pan.

Yummy goodness.

Storing Vegetables without Plastic