Stacking Functions Garden


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Recipe: oatmeal tahini cookies

Oatmeal Tahini Cookies, via The New Home Economics

Note the patient little hand, waiting, waiting for the cookies to cool off enough to eat.

We’ve been making a lot of cookies lately. I always crave them in the winter anyway, and now that we have 4 lunches to prepare every morning, it’s nice to have a little something homemade to throw in. We’re making hummus this week, so as long as we had to buy tahini anyway, we decided to try tahini cookies. Without further ado:

Oatmeal Tahini Cookies
2 c. rolled oats
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 c. chopped almonds
1 c. sucanat (or brown sugar)
scant 1/4 c. evaporated cane juice (or white sugar)
1 c. raisins (we used half craisins)
3/4 c. tahini
1/2 c. butter
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Cream butter and tahini. Mix in sugars, then eggs and vanilla. Add the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and oats. Stir in the almonds and raisins last of all. Bake at 350 degrees, 8-10 minutes. Adam likes big cookies so his took the full 10 minutes. This made a  couple dozen large cookies.

This is a substantial cookie, one that could easily carry you through an afternoon of snowshoeing, for example. The tahini brings out some of the same qualities that you’d get from a peanut butter oatmeal cookie but without an overwhelming peanut taste. I couldn’t really taste the tahini in the final product, which is OK. Good stuff!

A note about sugars: we’ve been experimenting with sucanat lately. Nutrition-minded types recommend it because, among other things, it is minimally processed and therefore still contains some minerals and all the awesome molasses flavor. Sucanat caramel popcorn, for example, is AMAZING. Once again, I tried it for the nutrition but got hooked for the flavor.

 


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Recipe: banket

Here’s a Christmas dessert from the far reaches of my distant memories—making Dutch treats must have gone out of fashion at some point for my family. I remembered an oblong loaf with almond filling in it, and my mom informed me it’s called banket (bahn-ket). I started with this recipe, gleaned useful information from this kind Dutch cook, and came up with the following:

Banket
Crust:
1 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
1/4 c. water
pinch salt

Filling:
1 7-ounce tube (3/4 c.) almond paste
1 egg
1/3 c. white sugar (I used evaporated cane juice which is slightly more complex)
1/2 tsp. almond extract

Finishing:
1 beaten egg
1/2 c. sliced almonds

The crust is basically a pie crust. Start with nice chilled butter, mix it into the flour and salt with a pastry cutter or fork, then slowly add the water until it forms a ball. Let it chill for a bit in the refrigerator while you mix up the filling. The almond paste can be a little tough to work with and make smooth. I used an electric mixer.

Take 1/2 of the crust dough out of the refrigerator and roll it into a long strip. Form the strip into a circle on a piece of parchment paper OR a large cookie sheet. Brush the edges with beaten egg. Now spoon your filling onto your circle like so:

How to make banket, a Dutch almond pastry

Roll out the other half of your dough into a strip of similar size/shape, and plop it on top of the filling. Chilling everything (including the filling) makes this go a bit easier.

How to make banket, a Dutch almond pastry

Now you want to paint more beaten egg on, using it as glue to attach the bottom pastry to the top. You may be able to tell at this point that I am not a professional pastry chef. But this mess gets covered by almonds, so don’t worry too much about it.

Brush the entire thing with the beaten egg, and sprinkle the sliced almonds on top. With a sharp knife, cut just a handful of small slits in the top to help prevent blow-outs. Bake at 400 for 25 minutes or so, and you’ll have this beauty:

Banket, a Dutch almond pastry

I baked mine on the same baking stone I use for all breads, but a cookie sheet would also be fine. In my first iteration of this, I baked it in long sticks at a higher temp (per this recipe). The crust was a bit flakier, but it also burned on the bottom and the almond filling burst out of a couple of them. Baking at a lower temp for a bit longer seemed to help. Plus, the wreath shape is festive, yes?

Banket, a Dutch almond pastry

I actually made this several days ahead of time and then froze it, and it held up pretty nicely. I only wish one of my Dutch omas was still around to taste it. This is probably going to be a new holiday tradition. Happy New Year!


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Recipe: creamy jalapeño dip

I wanted to call this post “the most magically delicious chip dip EVER OMG” but Adam thought that was silly and definitely not search engine optimized. Added bonus: this dip has only TWO ingredients.

Creamy Jalapeño Dip

In a small bowl, combine equal amounts of:
pickled jalapeños
sour cream

So, first of all: you have to get yourself some pickled jalapeños.

pickled jalapenos

A few weeks ago I picked a large number of large red jalapeños from my very generous mother-in-law’s garden. I sliced and seeded them (along with some banana peppers from my own garden), put them in a mason jar, covered with a salty brine (scant 1 T. salt : 1 c. water), and let them sit on the counter for several days, tasting every day. When they started tasting more pickled than salty, I transferred them to the fridge. So little effort, and they make everything from pizza to tacos to sushi amazingly good. I think I may replace my classic stand-by banana pepper recipe.

Anyway, mix chopped peppers with high quality sour cream. (I like Kalona Super Natural.) You might want to stir in a teaspoon or two of the brine to get a good consistency. And truly, that is it. The fat in the sour cream mellows the spiciness of the peppers to a perfect level (for this Minnesotan, anyway).

jalapeno chip dip

The red peppers really give this a holiday feel, no? I’d love to imagine serving this at Christmas, but there is not a chance that we’ll have any of these pickled lovelies left by then.


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Recipe: chicken wild rice soup in a crock pot

Chicken Wild Rice Soup

This recipe makes a lot of soup. I use a 5 quart crock pot (a no-frills oval-shaped one we received for a wedding present 12 years ago). Adjust accordingly if your pot is smaller:

Crock pot chicken and wild rice soup
4 chicken thighs
1 onion, chopped
6 carrots
1 1/2 c. wild rice
1 tsp each of dried oregano, basil, parsley
1 pint heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

Early in the morning, place the chicken and onion in the bottom of the crock pot. Fill with filtered water, leaving an inch or two at the top. Add a splash of vinegar. Set the crock pot on low or “auto” and leave it for 8-10 hours.

When you get home from work, pull out the chicken and set it on a plate to cool for a bit. Add peeled, sliced carrots, wild rice, and spices. Remove the meat from the bones and return it to the pot. Cover it and let it cook another 60-90 minutes or until the wild rice is done. The wild rice could be parboiled or soaked ahead of time to shorten this second cook time substantially.

When the wild rice splits open, turn off the crock pot. Stir in salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the pint of cream. If you use a 5 quart crock pot, this recipe makes A LOT—a good 10-12 servings. I always make big soup recipes, freeze the leftovers in pint jars, and take them to work for lunch. I know you’re technically not supposed to freeze cream soups, but I thought this one was still great after being frozen.

This soup is very simple. But as one of my favorite cookbook authors says, 90% of good cooking is good shopping (or good gardening). I used meaty free-range chicken thighs, Minnesota wild rice, herbs from my own garden, and the best cream a person can buy in the Twin Cities. Quality makes a HUGE difference. You don’t have to choose recipes with 15 hard-to-find harder-to-pronounce ingredients to serve up a satisfying, nutritious, spectacular meal. This soup really brought that concept home for us.

My initial interest in grass-based dairy and meat grew from reading how much more nutritious they are (3.5MB PDF). Now I’m completely hooked on the taste as well. Homemade soup in a jar—your hipster co-workers will be impressed/jealous.


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Recipe: Evening in Minneapolis

A friend got me a variety of teas from Tea Source last Christmas, and I absolutely fell in love with Evening in Missoula. Since my favorite co-op also sells it, I’ve had it in the house ever since.

But I’ve also gotten much deeper into growing my own teas this year. Last year was the first time I had an herbal tea harvest, and I expanded my operations greatly in 2012:

quart jars of dried herbal tea

1 quart each of dried anise hyssop, sage, raspberry leaf, chocolate mint, lemon balm, bee balm, and german chamomile. I will pick more lemon balm and mint before the first frost.

Recipe: Evening in Minneapolis Tea
1 generous pinch each of: anise hyssop, mint, lemon balm, bee balm, and chamomile. Pour boiling water over leaves and steep for a good 5-10 minutes.

The flavor of this tea is more subtle than Evening in Missoula, but then again so is our landscape. I can taste each of the ingredients, but together they combine into a deeply satisfying evening tea.

The deeper I go into back yard foraging, the more exciting it becomes—and I’ve really only scratched the surface this year. The permaculture people are really onto something. The broader implications of growing your own perennial food plants are even more exciting than vegetable gardening, really. If we can get more people growing edible, native plants in their urban and suburban landscapes, well, think of the possibilities for ourselves and our planet.  (See how excited I am?!)

So, let’s START with a list of some great [mostly] native perennials that can be used for herbal tea. All titles below link to wikipedia.

Hops: Yes, hops for tea not just beer! Apparently it can relieve insomnia and indigestion. I was wondering if hops tea would taste like beer, but it doesn’t at all. It kinda tastes like snow peas, but not in an unpleasant way. It actually reminds me a bit of bee balm tea (see below).

Mints are probably the most popular herbal tea plant. They are considered invasive, so don’t plant them in full sun unless you want them to take over. But with 100s of varieties, each with a unique and interesting flavor, they’re a great place to start. Just look at the variety of mints available at my favorite plant sale.

Anise Hyssop, like mint, is a member of the Lamiaceae family. Native Americans used it to treat coughs, among other things. It’s my favorite of all the new plants I added this year; the flavor of the tea is like a mild, aromatic licorice.

Lemon Balm is another Lamiaceae member. Alas that it is not native to North America, though it has apparently become widespread. It’s not completely hardy to Minnesota, but will survive with some winter protection such as a nice pile of mulch or snow. It can be used in any application where you’d like some lemon scent or flavor.

Bee Balm is the common name for several different plants (also lamiaceae), but in particular wild bergamot (monarda fistulosa) and scarlet bee balm (monarda didyma) were used traditionally by Native Americans. Both plants are great for supporting pollinators and butterflies. I have wild bergamot in my yard and it makes a very bright, summery tea that is more stimulating than relaxing, in my experience.

Chamomile is two different non-native plants: German chamomile and Roman chamomile. These two are cousins in the Aster family (Asteraceae). I’ve grown both, and found German chamomile easier to grow, though it really does need full sun in order to get a large number of flowers. I’ve read that Roman chamomile has stronger medicinal qualities, and is a true perennial, while German chamomile is technically an annual, though it tends to re-seed itself and come back every year.

The sage commonly grown in herb gardens is Salvia officinalis. We only started making tea with it because we had such an overabundance—one plant really gives you quite a lot. It’s neither native nor hardy to Minnesota, so it must be re-planted every year. I love sage tea in the dead of winter. I’ve never tried to ward off evil with it, but it is delightful as a savory tea or mixed with butter and spread on pork chops.

I have been looking for a local foraging source for rose hips. They are one of the ingredients in Evening in Missoula tea and I believe they might be the magical one. They’re incredibly good for you, but sadly many modern hybrid rose bushes are sterile and don’t ever produce a fruit. Rose hips are easier to find on old rose bushes at your Grandma’s house. Maybe your great-Grandma’s house. They smell AMAZING, and add a nice tart flavor to teas.

I added MN native northern lungwort (mertensia paniculata, a member of the borage family) to my rain garden this year, and apparently the leaves of this pant can also be used in teas which support (surprise!) respiratory function. My plants aren’t big enough to harvest from yet, so I’ll have to report back on this one next year.

Feverfew is related to the chamomiles, and also is not native to North America, but apparently has even stronger medicinal qualities. I’ve never grown it, because it is another pesky full sun plant and I have such limited space for full sun plants. Perhaps next year, though!

This is by no means a complete list, but it’s a start. These are all on my radar. Can you think of any others? Another foraged (but not by me) tea that I’ve fallen in love with is Douglas Fir Tip from Juniper Ridge. We’ve made it a Christmastime tradition, due to the piney scent. Yes, it does taste a bit like drinking a pine tree, but in a really good way. Am I losing it?

Update: How could I forget Raspberry leaf tea? Apparently raspberry leaf tea was traditionally used to support menstruation, pregnancy, and childbirth. It has an earthy taste, but that depends on how strong you brew it. You may want to add honey.


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Recipe: fermented dill pickle relish

“I don’t care if I never eat a dill pickle again,” said Adam, a few weeks ago.

It might be overload—I’ve gone crazy with the lacto-fermented dill pickles in the recent past. Also: many of my 2011 jars went bad. My best guess is that I was skimping on the salt; nearly every jar I opened over the fall and winter was full of mushy, bad-smelling, heartbreaking, compost-bin-bound pickles.

The experience put me off a bit on my former go-to recipe. This year I vowed to try some new things with cucumbers. One has been this recipe for lacto-fermented bread and butter pickles. I’ve made several batches this year and the kids and I both love them (pro tip: don’t skimp on the honey).

I also wanted to try a nice savory, dilly, garlicky relish. My first batch involved a bit too much salt and ended up taking almost a month to get properly fermented. Second batch, I used a bit less salt, and so far so good.

Fermented dill pickle relish
Several large cucumbers (the ones you let go too long)
8 large garlic cloves, crushed
Dill and/or fennel flowers
2 generous tablespoons sea salt
3 tablespoons liquid whey

Grate the cucumbers until you have about 6 c. grated cucumber. Add other ingredients. The cucumbers will start to reduce as soon as the salt hits. Let sit for a few minutes, then pour off some of the excess liquid. Stuff into a quart-size wide mouth canning jar, making sure there is still enough liquid to cover the mixture as you pack it down.

Next, find something to hold the relish down under the surface of the liquid for a few days while it ferments. I like these plastic bulk-section bottles from the co-op, filled with water. On the right is a brand new, bright green batch, and on the left is the batch that is done fermenting. When not being photographed, they rest under a flour sack towel to keep out dust, dog hair, etc.

The cucumbers will continue to reduce down as they ferment, to the point where I actually transferred the finished batch into a pint jar when it was finally ready.

How do you know when it’s ready? Taste it every other day or so. When it stops tasting salty and starts tasting complex and dilly and garlicky and wonderful, it’s done. Put a regular canning lid on it and store it in the refrigerator. It should keep for a good 4-6 months, but let your nose and your taste buds be your guide on that.

I had some atop a Ukrainian sausage from Seward Co-op today and it was heavenly.


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Recipe: Zucchini Hashbrowns

Here’s one I missed out on—Adam sent me a text with a picture of the kids inhaling it for lunch the other day. So this recipe is all his.

Zucchini Hashbrowns
2-3 med. zucchini, grated
1 med. onion, grated
3/4 c. bread crumbs
1 egg
4 T. butter
salt and pepper

Sprinkle the zucchini with salt and let it sit in a sieve for about 15 minutes. Squeeze as much liquid out as you can.

Mix with all other ingredients in a bowl. We used Ezekiel bread crumbs.

Melt 2 T. butter in a 9- or 10-inch cast-iron or heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium heat. Add the mixture, place a few more pats of butter on top, and cover. Cook until the butter on top has melted, then cut into four pieces and flip.  Put a couple more pats of butter on, cover again, and cook until those have melted.  You’re done!

Adam served it with some fresh cucumber salsa (like this). The kids had ketchup on theirs. So sad I missed out on this!