Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Home-made kefir with chia seeds and garden peaches

After the last hooray of summer this weekend with temperatures in the upper 80s fall has arrived. It is much colder, overcast, drizzling and makes me yearn steaming tea and snuggly cats.

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The trees still have most of their leaves, in green, orange and red when I look out of my kitchen window into the garden, but by the end of the month there will be barren trees, naked villages and Halloween howling through town.

This year my peach tree only had 4 peaches. They hung high up in the tree, but fortunately they fall down when they are ripe. 2 of them became a wonderful breakfast last week.

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I am also making kefir at home with store-bought cultures, which is less expensive around here than to buy kefir directly. It simple enough to do: boil milk, cool it to room temperature, mix a cup of the cooled milk with the cultures, mix with the rest of the milk and let sit for 24h in room temperature. Next day it has a yogurt like consistency. I pour it in a milk bottle and keep in the fridge for about a week.

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Kefir is rather tart so I mix it with some honey, add chia seeds and the home-grown peach sliced. A wonderful light, most-home made and guaranteed unknown substance free breakfast.

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ocean Viewpoint Hike

It is an exceptionally beautiful Indian summer weekend here in Maine, with temperatures in the summer temperature ranges (upper 80s). We got a small hiking group together and explored the Camden Hills State park. We hiked up to the Maiden Cliff outlook, then veered over to the Ridge trail, which was quite steep in some parts. After another break in the lunch time heat on one of the outlooks, we decided to take the shady Jack Williams trail over to the connection to Ocean View lookout, which has spectacular views over the ocean and the Camden Harbor. Five hours after we started, we arrived at the start of the Mt Battie toll road, ready for cold water and beer and a huge sandwich and ice cream.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Komorebi

We are lucky with a beautiful fall this far – September has been mostly sunny and no frost yet but it does get colder at night and the days get shorter. This morning I found this article with excerpts of a book of words that cannot be directly translated into the English language, Lost in translation.  I can appreciate that because there are so many wonderful German words that can never be translated like wunderkind (literally ‘wonder child’, describing a surprising little genius) or biergarten (literally, a garden with beer, but it is a restaurant that looks like a garden and you have garden tables and come together in the summer with friends to drink beer and eat sandwiches or snacks). These words exist in other languages, too. Like komorebi…..

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A good word to mumble these days of the year….. Or Wabi-sabi, finding beauty in the imperfections, an acceptance of the cycle of life and death.

 

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Another komorebi moment was a fall BBQ over the weekend at a beautiful house on the lake, including smores on the lake. These were my first smores ever, and it took three attempts until I got it right. The first marshmallow I stuck directly into the fire, which made it tar-like looking on the outside. The second one I held so far from the fire it melted and had no caramelization at all. The third one finally had the right distance and was caramel brown. However, it did not as excepted melt the hershey bar. Next time? I will bring nutella for a chocolate dripping perfect smore. Oh well, wabi-sabi.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Apple picking and news!

The weather is warm, mild and sunny. This week many of my colleagues are traveling so there are very few meetings and I am in charge of my time again, well, at least for a week. On the weekend we did the typical New England thing this time of the year (hello Fall!) and went apple picking. There are no apples to speak of in southern India, and so for my friend S, it was the first time ever she actually picked an apple (she is not a good friend of the other thing she never experienced in India before – snow).

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Cortland apples were ready for picking. The trees were full and only maybe 15 overall drawing their carts through the rows of trees in the orchard. A very relaxing pastime.

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H. and I stocked up to bake apple pies; S. relinquished her share in lieu of a piece of pie eventually appearing. The whole bushel full of apples was only $12, which is a great deal because tiny bags, pre-picked, already are $7-11. This was 5 times as much.

So, now we just need to make pie.

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On other news: If you have not been to the blog for a while, check it out. I added a new feature – searching for recipes using the ReciPage application (thank you, Daily Garnish!). I’ve only added the soups so far, but over time will there will be more of seasonal recipes.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Harvest soup Sunday

It is Sunday morning. Slight drizzle today, and a day after the Common Ground Fair with darkened, but dry skies, it definitely feels like fall. A few days ago I put an older VHS tape in the player. When I taught myself cooking with the help of FoodTV, I often recorded shows and watched them over and over again until I remember how to cook a dish. I have about 15 tapes with food networks shows from way back when. These days I rarely watch live FoodTV – it no longer holds the same fascination but the older tapes are still grabbing my desire to cook something new (Where is the Netflix streaming of food tv shows!). This morning, I felt similarly nostalgic about looking back on my own blog for the fabulous fall soups I cooked over the years.

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Two years ago I had grown my own kuri squash with some seeds from a squash I had bought the fall before. Red kuri squash soup is still one of my favorite soups. So deep in flavor and silky in texture, much more interesting than roasted butternut squash soup, which is mild and needs curry or orange zest for some added humph.

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Roasting squash before adding it to a soup makes the soup deep with flavor and sweet without adding any maple syrup.

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Another great fall soup is roasted sweet potato leek celeriac soup with grueyere. Celeriac is a root vegetable, starchy and a very unique, intense flavor, like a starchy (instead of watery) version of celery.

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Or carrot soup with harvest fresh carrots cooked in carrot juice.

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Or roasted tomato soup --- made with fresh or canned tomatoes.

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Not to forget the vegan cream mushroom soup!

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More recipes:

Friday, September 19, 2014

Reaching cruising altitude

It is a beautiful Friday. Friday! Only one more day until the weekend. With a little bit of premature break yesterday my outlook for today is good. Plenty on the to-do-list, but the attitude is adjusted, the energy slightly recuperated, and it is doable again. Hopefully, I reached cruising altitude for the semester.

This morning I came across this photo.

no bake french silk pie best dessert recipe cupofjo

It looks like sensuality in the form of cake batter. Silky, fragrant, abundant, luxurious. I just want to stick my finger into this. Here is the recipe!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mulled hot cider

The weather is still wonderful, sunny, not particular warm but not cold either. The trend continues of too many things pilling up with little downtime, and I feel exhausted. It feels like going to an all you can eat buffet with colleagues, being careful what you select because there are many cool things to try out, and then several colleagues piling on a few more things on your plate a la “Oh, you should try this!”. By midweek I had started to cruise to just make it through the week.Today I opted to go home early, I was just too tired. Frost is predicted for tonight and the plants needed to be moved inside again. Watched a movie and made hot mulled cider, with fresh local cider available everywhere these days. A few pinches of mulling spices, a spoonful of raw, unfiltered honey, a dash of black rum. A hot bath is waiting, too. Let the resting begin.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

(One) Apple picking

It is the time of the year, when the cats come next to me, slightly tap me on the shoulder, and indicate that they want to slip under the covers because there it is toasty warm. And cats, like me, like it toasty warm. The male cat is more rambunctious, finally feeling the weather matches his equipment of a long fur coat and it is also, as all males know, hunting time. Being an indoor cat comes as an impediment at this point.

The outdoor temperatures drop into the 60s, and yet I still don’t want to turn on the heat after summer.

This week was a tiring, productive and turmoiled one, but then by the end of it I adjusted my objectives for the coming year, felt relieved, felt my agenda is doable and fun without requiring be to turn into superwoman every single day, and the smile came back to my face and into my day. Looking forward to each day is a good way to live. Waking up and wondering how to survive it, not so much.

It’s Saturday and I am lingering. Lingering feels good after such a week. The time for the farmers market came and passed. But I still could go apple picking.

I did go apple picking, but it was picking from one of my own trees in my garden, the only full grown apple this year (which is one more than any other year). The elderberry bush was hanging low with heavy berries and inviting the harvest. I got a huge bucket and brought a scissors. While snipping the elderberries and plunging them into the bucket, I heard music in the neighborhood. It dawned on me that I had seen an email about a block party in the mail this week. “Is that today?” After cleaning up, and getting ready for running errands, I checked my emails and indeed, it was happening right there and then.

I headed over to at least say hello, and to my surprise 3/4 of the neighborhood was eating, chatting, and plenty of kids running around. There were the people that I know and then plenty of people I had not had the chance to talk to yet. – Telephone numbers were exchanged, plans were made, and it was no surprise that it turned out that Kitchn is everyone’s favorite cat and that on his daily strolls he visits everybody and even talks to the indoor kitties sitting at the window fences. Kitchn is the neighborhood mayor. (He also attended the party).

In the evening I heated milk to make kefir, moved all the summer shoes back into the shoe closet and brought out the fall ones. The first fire in the woodstove was lit, the heat in the house turned on. While I plucked the elderberries, I watched Brad Pitt save Linden and the world from zombies. Fall is coming. Time to indulge in antioxidants.

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Note: elderberries need to be cooked, this fruit can be toxic when eaten raw.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Baked ramen pasta with kale

The days are long these days, very long, very full, very productive. Once I arrive at work I typically don’t get around to take a break for hours, mostly until I leave. By 4pm I might eat my home-brought lunch. By 6pm, I head back to the car or the bike and ride back home. At that point, my head feels like it ran a marathon and needs a break from all things people and computer screens or any kind of thought-provoking input. Often, I shed my work clothes, put on gym clothes and sneakers and go for a walk. Or a run. No need for music. My mind is on pause, and the body trots along, in a simple rhythm, finally pumping blood filled with large amounts of oxygen through my body.

This morning I read a study that you can offset the negative impact of sitting for 3 hours with regular short walks. (I wonder if those short walks to the coffee machine and printer count? Or more like a short trip to another building and starbucks? --- 5min walks required, so yes, maybe get the coffee at Starbucks.) – It is always a concern if there is no time for feeling playful during work, time for laughs, and all signs are towards that it is more a marathon of getting things done. Coming home so exhausted is not a good idea, it would be better to lighten the to-do list or lower the expectations, and well, live well. But then, we all think we are superwoman or superman, and quite heroic for working so hard. (when indeed it is more stupid, if you think about it).

Another trend for me is to make a big baked pasta dish in the evening with leftovers for the next evening or for lunch the next day. So good. The variations are endless.

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Baked Ramen Pasta with Summer Squash and Kale

for 2 people or 1 with leftovers.

  • 3 oz small penne pasta
  • 1/5 of a block of ramen noodles
  • 1 ts olive oil
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • ca. 2 inches of Soy chorizo (I use Trader Joe’s)
  • 1 regular tomato, diced
  • 1 summer squash, cut into rounds of half rounds
  • 1/4 cup frozen corn
  • 2-3 leaves of curly or flat kale, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup of roasted bell pepper sauce (just 1 cup of tomato sauce)
  • salt to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 TB ricotta
  • some grated garlic or garlic powder
  • 2 TB goat cheese crumbles

Cook the pasta and ramen noodles in a boiling water for 8 min. Preserve some of the cooking water!

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a skillet, heat the olive oil and brown the onion, and the chorizo meat (discard the skin). Add the tomato, kale, corn, and summer squash, mix all together and saute until zuchini and kale are wilted and cooked. In a separate bowl, combine the tomato sauce, soup, worchestershire sauce, garlic and ricotta and mix well. Once the pasta is cooked, add to the pan with the tomato sauce, a few laddles of the pasta water and the oregano and taste for salt. Combine well and pour into a baking dish. Sprinkle with and distribute over the pasta. Bake for 20min.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Quinoa Plum Cake (glutenfree)

It was a nice, warm weekend, first too hot, then thunderstorms that brought the temperatures and humidity back to a pleasant level for Sunday. I baked another plum cake, fabulous flavor thanks to quinoa flour and texture, and went on a hike with friends.

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Quinoa Plum Cake

special equipment: 10 in spring form

  • 1/2  stick unsalted butter (if from the fridge, microwave for 15 seconds)
  • 1/3 cup part-skim milk ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup Granulated Sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1/2 ts vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup quinoa flour 
  • 1/3  cup all-purpose glutenfree flour (I used King Arthur Flour’s GF flour)
  • 1 Teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 2 TB almond meal
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Baking Soda
  • 1/3 Teaspoon Salt
  • ca. 10 relatively firm Italian plums
  • 1 TB rum
  • 2 TB brown sugar
  • pinch of cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the springform pan with baking spray.
  2. Slice the plums into half, remove the pit, and slice each half into halves. Place in a mixing bowl and mix with the rum, sugar and cinnamon, and let marinate while making the cake.  
  3. In a large mixer bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the ricotta cheese and blend well. Add the egg and mix well. Add the vanilla extracts and cinnamon and mix until fully combined.
  4. Sift together the flours, almond meal, baking powder, soda, and salt.
  5. Add the dry ingredients in several smaller portions, mixing just until incorporated.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spoon (or fingers) as needed.
  7. Arrange the plum slices on top of the cake in a circular pattern and pour the remaining rum and sugar on top. Sprinkle with 1 TB of brown sugar.
  8. Bake 45 minutes, or until the cake tester comes out clean.
  9. Let cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.
    Cool completely.
  10. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla gelato.

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

(Almost) vegan baked pasta

It was a perfect Saturday. All what was required was relaxing. It was a steaming summery hot September day with awaiting  thunderstorms in the afternoon. The lawn was mowed, and after getting some groceries and seeing an episode of House of Cards, I made a fabulous dinner --- baked pasta.

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Almost Vegan Baked Pasta

for 2 people or 1 with leftovers.

  • 3 oz small penne pasta
  • 1 ts olive oil
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • ca. 2 inches of Soy chorizo (I use Trader Joe’s)
  • handful of grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3 large button mushroom, sliced
  • 1/4 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup of tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup of roasted bell pepper sauce (just 1 cup of tomato sauce)
  • 1/3 TB worchestershire sauce
  • 2 TB ricotta
  • some grated garlic or garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup panko and breadcrumbs
  • 2 TB grated parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta in a boiling water for 8 min. Preserve some of the cooking water!

Preheat the oven to 350F. In a skillet, heat the olive oil and brown the onion, and mushroom. Add the chorizo meat (discard the skin), add the grape tomatoes, and mix all together. In a separate bowl, combine the tomato sauce, soup, worchestershire sauce, garlic and ricotta and mix well. Once the pasta is cooked, add to the pan with the tomato soup mix and a few laddles of the pasta water. Combine well and pour into a baking dish. Mix the breadcrumbs, panko and parmesan cheese and distribute over the pasta. Bake for 20min.

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