Sunday, June 29, 2014

Rhubarb-raspberry crumble - organic garden harvest recipe

Rhubarb-raspberry crumble baking on the grill

My organic suburban garden is really thriving this summer thanks to plentiful rains and warm sunny days.  I've been posting some daily harvest still life photos on the Resourceful Cookie website on the garden page if you'd like to see what the garden has been producing.

I've been having fun kitchen adventures coming up with meals that use fresh picked produce.  It's sometimes a challenge to come up with a dish that incorporates just a handful of whatever few things might be ripe that day or an over abundance of something else on another, but it gets the creative energy flowing.  It's hard to go wrong when you are using the freshest ingredients you can get.

This past week, the garden offered up rhubarb and raspberries so I used this recipe for vegan cherry-rhubarb crumble over at Sweet Potato Soul for my inspiration.  To keep from overheating the kitchen, I opted to bake this outside on my gas grill.  Here is my version:

Raspberry-rhubarb crumble

serves 6

2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour (can use gluten free flour)
1 cup raw sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 tsp sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
6 oz coconut oil or other diary or non-dairy butter of choice
1 tablespoon mint or lemongrass, finely chopped (optional - I used pineapple mint)
5 stalks of rhubarb, chopped into ½ inch pieces
3 cups fruit (cut into bit-sized pieces if necessary - I used raspberries, but cherries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries peaches, apples or pears work just as well)
ice cream or yogurt for topping (optional - choose your favorite non-dairy or dairy version)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Set 2 tablespoons of the sugar aside.

In a food processor or in a mixing bowl,  mix together the oats, flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda. Cut in the vanilla extract and coconut oil or butter until you have medium sized crumbs.

In a large cast iron skillet or 9 x 13 inch oiled baking dish, put in about 2/3 of the crumb mixture and pat it down firmly to form the crust.  Layer the rhubarb and fruit over the crust and sprinkle with the reserved 2 tablespoons of sugar and mint or lemongrass if using.  Sprinkle the remaining 1/3 of the crumbs over the top of the fruit.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until everything is bubbly and the top is lightly browned.  Cool slightly and serve topped with your favorite ice cream, whipped cream or yogurt if desired.

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Sunflower in the garden

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Homemade bread - an easy basic recipe

Pizza makings:  dough, the last jar of homemade tomato sauce from last summer's harvest, pesto frozen from last year's basil harvest, freshly picked spinach, spring onions and oregano 

There's nothing like the smell of fresh bread baking.  With commercial breads containing a list of ingredients that stretch across half of the package, I'm even more inclined to try to make more of ours at home as often as I can.  It's pretty easy to make at home with much of the prep being hands off rising and baking times.  There aren't many ingredients so I can turn out a loaf of bread or a pizza crust at well under a dollar each.

Onion sandwich rolls made by adding chopped spring onions to the dough

I have a new favorite basic dough recipe that I adapted from one for Sun-dried Tomato Bread in The Italian Cooking Encyclopedia that I picked up for free at The Book Thing.  The texture is soft because contains both milk and oil.  I eliminated the herbs and tomatoes from the original recipe to make it more versatile for everyday use.  I also added some whole grain flours to make it a healthier everyday staple.  I've turned this dough into pizzas, plain loaves and onion sandwich rolls with equal success.  It would also make great bread sticks or cinnamon buns too.

In the cooler weather, I bake inside in my oven.  In the steamy summer months, I bake on my gas grill on my pizza stone as our steamy weather makes it a challenge to keep the house cool as it is.  On my wish list is a brick oven for our back yard (so many home projects, so little time!). 

Thick crust pizza with spinach, mushrooms, garlic and sweet peppers on the left and a thinner crust sun-dried tomatoes, onions and peppers on the right - both of these pictured are vegan

Basic rich bread dough

Makes 2 large loaves, 3 thin crust 14-inch pizzas or 2 thick crust 16-inch pizzas or 12 sandwich rolls

3 cups bread flour
3 cups whole wheat flour plus extra as needed and for kneading
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons raw sugar
1 tablespoon yeast (or 2 packets)
1 cup of warm milk (I used almond)
1 cup of warm water 
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil + extra for the bowl

In a mixing bowl stir together the flours, salt and sugar.  Make a well in the middle and pour in the warm milk, water and olive oil.  Either by hand or with a mixer fitted with a bread hook, mix the ingredients until you have a fairly smooth dough.  On a floured surface, turn out the dough and hand knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic.  Pour a about a tablespoon of olive oil in the mixing bowl and swirl to coat the sides.  Return the dough to the bowl and flip it over to coat all over with olive oil. Cover with a damp towel and let the dough rise in a warm place for about 2 hours or until doubled.

Punch down the dough, and shape it as desired into loaves or rolls and let rise for about 45 more minutes before baking.  Pizza crusts do not need to  rise again and can be topped immediately after shaping.  

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (450 degrees F for pizza).  (If you have a pizza stone, preheat it in the oven, too).  Bake for about 30-40  minutes for loaves or about 20 minutes for rolls or pizzas.

I have also frozen the dough after the first rise by putting it in an olive oil coated freezer bag.  To sue, thaw at room temperature and proceed with shaping as desired and baking.

I hope you give baking a fresh loaf of bread a try soon. 

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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What's growing in the Suburban Hippie's garden this year?

One of the six large raised beds in the garden (2013)

The growing season is well under way after a late spring.  I get lots of questions about the particulars of our garden so I thought I'd share some of the details.  We have about 350 square feet of raised and regular beds available for planting in our suburban garden just outside Washington, DC.  We are in the USDA Hardiness Zone 6b (-5F to 0F or -21C--17C) and can grow a fairly wide range of fruits and vegetables.  I plant mostly heirloom varieties that I purchase from seed catalogs and I also do a little seed saving myself as well as exchange seeds with fellow gardeners.  My favorite seed catalogs are at the end of this post.  We practice organic gardening and use no commercial pesticides, fertilizers or GMO seeds.  We compost our yard and garden waste as well as all our and a coworker's kitchen scraps and supplement by purchasing locally made leaf compost to make up the difference.

We don't have any problem with deer, but the squirrels cause lots of frustration as they like to eat the corn right from the cob while it's still attached to the stalk, pop the heads off of sunflowers and take a bite or two out of a tomato and leave the rest on the porch railing or steps to taunt me when I come outside.

Not returning after this past winter:  sage, a beautiful dahlia and the baby fig tree

Last year's harsh winter was too much for a few of the perennials, and a few plants must be replaced:

Gone completely:  sage, fig tree (on my wish list for replacement), one rose bush and a few of the dahlias have not come back.
Some signs of growth, but were pretty hard hit:  rosemary bush (a few stems remain), thyme (a few stems remain) , lavender - one stem remaining of each of two kinds, dahlias - about half made it, strawberries - about 1/5 of the plants didn't make it, roses - 2 bushes lost half their branches, asparagus - struggled, hydrangeas - 3 bushes struggled to come back this year and have not flowered.

For the annual garden, I planted a wide variety of vegetables, herbs and flowers.  I put in plenty of staples in the garden for making sauces and salads, plus each year I like to try "new" heirloom varieties. This year the spring and summer garden is filled with:

Photo:  herbs and flowers

Herbs:  Cilantro, mint (spearmint, peppermint, pineapple mint, chocolate mint); tarragon, sage, pineapple sage, oregano, basil (sweet Italian and spicy Thai), savory, stevia, bee balm and rosemary

Photo:  blackberries, blueberries and strawberries

Fruits:  strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, rhubarb, cantaloupe and watermelon

Photo:  Swiss chard, curly kale, purple cabbage, bok choy

Salad garden:  mesclun, butter lettuce, leave lettuce, kale, collards, spinach, head cabbage, bok choy

Photo:  cucumbers, bell peppers, Italian eggplant, patty pan squash

Vegetables:  tomatoes (cherry, plum and slicing varieties), peppers (sweet and hot), eggplant (Italian and Asian varieties), green beans (green, yellow and purple), peas, lima beans, squash, cucumbers and some Chinese beans that I am growing to harvest seed for a fellow gardener.

Photo:   Cantaloupe, carrots, watermelon, zucchini

Root vegetables:  red, yellow and white potatoes, carrots, beets, radishes

Photo:  Asian long beans, eggplant, peas, Italian sweet peppers

Miscellaneous:  garlic, onions (spring, bunching and bulb types), leeks and lemongrass

Photo:  sunflower, rose, zinnia, dahlia

Flowers:  roses (for flowers and hips for tea), peonies, dahlias, sunflowers, lilacs, hydrangeas, gladiola, marigolds, tulips, daffodils and a variety of random flowers from gifted seeds

I've got my fingers crossed that the weather stays favorable this year for a bountiful harvest.  Keep an eye out for harvest and garden update photos here, on Instagram and Facebook.

Do you have a garden or a few pots on the window sill that you plant?  Share what you grow in the comments below.

Seed catalog favorites:
Baker Creek Seeds - my favorite and the most beautiful catalog ever
Annie's Heirloom Seeds
Seed Savers Exchange
Southern Exposure

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Ted Talk on guerrilla gardening
Garden tour 2013 - part 1 - edibles
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