Archive for the 'Recipes' Category


Great Pie Begins with a Buttery, Flaky Crust

Author: Meera, September 4, 2016

My stalwart Scots-Irish grandmother was thrifty and talented when it came to food preparation. She made delicious pies from cherry, rhubarb, peaches, apples, pears, and sweet berries of every kind, including gooseberries. Her pies were my childhood delight when I lived with her and my grandfather on their Boone County, Missouri farm.

 

 

She made delicious meat pies from meats she’d preserved by canning. Missouri winters could be harsh. Those meat pies nourished me when the snow piled up outside the windows, and it was too cold to make a trek to the smoke house where her prized Boone County hams hung from hooks.

 

 

Crust and "mile-high" meringue finish off this old fashion vinegar pie that tastes like lemon

Flaky crust and tall meringue finish off this old-fashion vinegar pie.

 

 

Sometimes, my grandmother combined fruits or berries in a rustic pie (today, we call it a galette) and on other occasions, she made a raisin, pecan, pumpkin, coconut, or a custard pie. And meringue, if used, was high and sweet and just the right shade of golden brown. But it was the pie crust that I loved.

 

 

For the top of a peach pie, she’d cut in a large curve shaped like a branch. Then two or three other lines would curve from it. Lastly, she cut teardrop shapes along the arch lines so the top crust art would suggest a peach tree branch. When she worked crisscross strips atop a cherry pie, it was both beautiful and delicious.

 

 

I like to roll out the crust between plastic wrap

Storing or rolling the crust between sheets of plastic wraps is a good way to avoid handling the crust with your hands.

 

 

 

The secret to her buttery, flaky crust was not to handle it too much. Today, I make the same recipe but in my food processor. Like her, I use chilled or ice water, adding only drops at at time as the food processor is pulsing the dough–only enough to get the dough clinging together. The point is to move the dough from dry and crumbly to clumping into a ball.

 

 

 

A fluted crust is ready for almost any kind of filling

This fluted crust is ready for almost any kind of filling. I will prick the bottom and sides with a fork before filling and baking.

 

 

 

After the dough is made, I dump it from the food processor bowl onto aluminum foil or plastic wrap and work it into a ball (without touching it). The dough goes into the fridge for a chill over an hour and up to 24 hours. The recipe makes enough for a pie top and bottom or a couple of pies requiring only the bottom crust.

 

 

 Ingredients:

 

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

1 cup chilled unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1/4 (plus a few tablespoons more if necessary) cold or ice water

 

Directions:

 

Add the dry ingredients (flour, salt, and sugar) in the food processor bowl.

Cut the butter into small chunks and drop the pieces in. Pulse into a crumbly, dry meal.
Add ice water to the mixture in the bowl by dropping spoonfuls through the feeding tube and pulsing after each addition.
Remove the dough when it clings together–neither too wet nor too dry–by dumping it out on a large sheet of aluminum foil or plastic wrap.
Mold the dough into a ball and flatten  into a thick disk to make it easier to roll out.
Chill for an hour or up to 24 hours.

 

Makes two buttery, flaky crusts.

 

 

*          *          *

 

 

If you enjoy reading about farmette topics (including gardening, beekeeping, and delicious recipes), check out my cozy mysteries A BEELINE TO MURDER and also THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE in the Henny Penny Farmette series (from Kensington Publishing).

 

 

 

These novels are available through online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, and Walmart as well as from traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

The first novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

See, http://tinyurl.com/hxy3s8q

Now available in mass market paperback, this debut novel launched the Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries and sold out its first press run.

 

 

 

 

The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

See, http://tinyurl.com/h4kou4g

The second cozy mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 27, 2016, is now available on Net Galley (netgalley.com) for professionals and readers who write reviews.

 

 

 

 

read comments ( 0 )

 

Desert Gold early peaches

Desert Gold is an early ripening peach cultivar that grows well in the southwest and in western gardens

 

 

 

 

Summer remains weeks away but already the Northern California farmers’ markets are in full swing, selling apricots, cherries, strawberries, and early-ripening peaches. The early peaches I grow on the farmette are Desert Gold.

 

 

Peaches taste great eaten fresh, prepared in cobblers, and added to homemade ice cream. But you can also use fresh peaches to make a lovely, slow-sipping brandy-and-wine drink.

 

 

Eau de vie is French for “water of life.” Basically, it is a brandy made of fruit with no added sweetener and not aged. It is best consumed chilled and sipped after a meal as a dessert or digestive drink.

 

 

Making your own eau de vie is fairly straightforward and you’ll find many easy recipes. Don’t be afraid to experiment with fruit flavors. Basically, just add prepared fruit to pure grain alcohol and then distill it. Or, mash fresh fruit, ferment, and distill it. Here’s an easy recipe for a summer drink that combines purchased eau de vie with white wine and peaches.

 

 

PEACHY SUMMER SIPPER RECIPE

 

Ingredients:

 

6 ripe peaches

 

4 cups dry white wine

 

1 cup superfine sugar

 

1/4 cup Eau de Vie (brandy made of fruits)

 

 

Directions:

 

Skin the peaches and slice each peach in half.

 

Pour the wine into a stainless steel pan.

 

Gently simmer the fruit in the white wine until tender (about 15 minutes).

 

Cover the fruit and let stand overnight to impart its full flavor to the wine.

 

Remove the peaches from the wine.

 

Strain the wine through a fine sieve or paper filter.

 

Add the eau de vie to the peach-flavored wine.

 

Add the sugar and stir well to dissolve.

 

Pour the blended beverage into sterilized dry bottles and cap or cork.

 

Keep refrigerated. Use within two weeks.

 

 

 

read comments ( 0 )

Traditional Banana-Walnut Bread

Author: Meera, December 6, 2014
Warm, heavy, dense, and moist characterize this traditional loaf of banana nut bread

Warm, heavy, dense, and moist characterize this traditional loaf of banana-walnut bread

 

 

When the bananas on the kitchen counter become soft and the peels develop brown freckles, don’t toss them. Make a loaf of banana-walnut bread. This bread makes a lovely complement to a cup of steaming, fragrant Earl Grey tea.

 

The ingredient list for this bread is simple and the directions are easy. To start, you’ll need a  9 by 5-inch loaf pan, greased and floured; and, you’ll need to affix the paddle to your mixer. Set the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The recipe yields one loaf.

 

RECIPE: TRADITIONAL BANANA-WALNUT BREAD

 

Ingredients:

6 Tablespoons of softened, unsalted butter

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cup mashed ripe bananas

3 large organic eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk (or 2 Tablespoons buttermilk powder dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water)

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

 

Directions:

Mix together in a large bowl the following–flour, baking powder, baking soda,  nutmeg, salt, and chopped nuts. Set aside.

In the mixer bowl, cream the butter and sugar.

Add the bananas.

Add one egg at a time.

Add the buttermilk.

Pour the flour into the banana mixture and mix a little at time until the ingredients are all combined.

Fill the floured and greased loaf pan with batter until the pan is roughly 2/3 full.

Bake for approximately 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the batter comes out clean.

 

*Tip: ripe bananas can be peeled and stored in a zip-lock freezer bag and frozen.

 

 

 

 

 

read comments ( 0 )

Ginger Tea for Colds and Flu

Author: Meera, November 26, 2014

I’ve caught it . . . that nasty little bug affecting the throat and gut. Despite my best hygienic efforts at not catching the malady that many of my friends have recently endured, I have come down with it.

 

It started as a scratchy sore throat. Then a queasy stomach. Hoarseness and discomfort when swallowing followed. And the queasiness intensified to the point where even the sight of food sickened me. Oh, joy! Just what I didn’t want for the upcoming Thanksgiving week!

 

It’s always a good idea when you’re coming down with a cold or flu to increase your intake of fluids–herbal teas, juice, water, and popsicles. My former Chinese Tai Chi teacher advocated ginger tea to treat this type of malady; it’s my favorite home treatment for colds and flu.

 

Honey soothes the inflamed throat passages. Ginger settles the stomach. In fact, ginger has been used medicinally for 2,000 years in China to treat stomach upset, nausea, flatulence, and diarrhea.

 

GINGER TEA WITH HONEY

 

Ingredients:

 

1.5 inches of peeled and sliced fresh ginger root (about 1/2 cup)

5 to 6 cups of water

optional: 1/2 lemon, washed and sliced

optional: 2 sticks of cinnamon

honey or brown sugar, to taste

 

Directions:

 

Pour the water into a sauce pan.

Drop in the slices of ginger. Optional: add slices of lemon and cinnamon.

Simmer for 10 minutes.

Pour tea into a cup.

Stir in honey or brown sugar to sweeten.

Enjoy.

 

 

 

read comments ( 0 )

The Figs Are Ripe, Fire Up the Grill

Author: Meera, August 22, 2014

 

Last night the raccoons raided my fig trees, leaving a little deposit between honeybee apiary and the hen house.  I know because this morning, I almost stepped in it . . . and I was barefoot and in still in my pajamas.

 

 

The White Genoa fig tree is about two years old but already produces a bountiful crop

The White Genoa fig tree is three years old but already produces a bountiful crop

 

 

It was expecting the raccoons to drop by. It’s that time of the year when they like to show up for a little late night dining. Who can blame them. Figs ripened to perfection are among my favorite fresh foods, too.

 

 

Right now, the limbs of my Genoa White Fig hold an abundance of fruit covered in a thin green skin with rose-colored flesh. Whether you prefer to dry figs, make them into jam, use them in a tart, or serve them fresh with a little goat cheese, almost any variety of ripe fig will be delicious. They are an ancient food, dating back thousands of years to Asia Minor. The trees are hardy and can reach 12 to 20 feet tall.

 

 

 

The Brown Turkey figs are larger than the White Genoa and taste great grilled with fresh goat cheese

The Brown Turkey figs are larger than the White Genoa; these figs have a slightly tougher skin

 

 

The Brown Turkey, like the White Genoa, is self fertile and produces a multitude of delectable figs by its third year. The skin of Brown Turkey figs turns violet-brown with watermelon-colored flesh when fully ripe. Also, ripe figs turn downward from the limb–it’s how we  they’re ready for picking.

 

 

I like to serve figs wrapped in Prosciutto, stuffed with a lovely, locally made goat cheese,  and grilled. They make a great appetizer when friends drop by this time of year. The figs and goat cheese will pair nicely with a bottle of your favorite wine.

 

 

Since we live only about 25 to 30 minutes from the Napa wine country, we tend to buy local.

 

 

RECIPE: GRILLED FIGS, GOAT CHEESE, and PROSCIUTTO

 

Ingredients:

 

6 to 8 Brown Turkey or other ripe figs

1/3 cup goat cheese (or a bit more as needed; try herb goat cheese as a variation)

6-8 slices of Prosciutto

1/3 cup organic raw honey

 

Directions:

 

Fit a pastry bag with a tip to pipe the goat cheese.

Fill the bag with goat cheese.

Cut tiny openings into the bottom of each fig to permit insertion of the piping tip.

Pipe the filling into 8 to 10 figs (they’ll swell; don’t over fill or they’ll split).

Wrap slices of Prosciutto around each stuffed fig.

Brush the grill grate with olive oil.

Grill the figs 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove from heat, plate the figs, and drizzle honey across them.

Serves: 4 (2 figs per person)

 

 

 

 

read comments ( 0 )

Easy Strawberry-Rhubarb Jam

Author: Meera, July 2, 2014

 

 

 

rhubarb takes up a lot of space because of its big leaves

Rhubarb takes up a lot of garden because of its big leaves but the canes pair well with strawberries

 

 

Rhubarb and strawberries just seem to go together. Their flavors blend nicely, whether in a compote, trifle, pie, or jam. The following is a simple recipe for strawberry-rhubarb jam and uses the boiling hot water bath to preserve the jars of jam.

 

Make extra to tuck into holiday gift baskets or for gift-giving throughout the year.

 

 

Luscious strawberries, big, red, and ripe means it's time for strawberry jam

Luscious strawberries are easily made into  jam

 

 

 Ingredients:

2 cups strawberries (washed, hulled, and crushed)

2 cups rhubarb (roughly four stalks, chopped)

1/4 cup lemon juice

6 Tablespoons Classic Pectin

5 1/2 cups sugar

 

 

Directions:

Combine the first four ingredients (strawberries, rhubarb, lemon juice, pectin) in a large pot.

Bring to a boil.

Add the sugar, stirring to blend completely.

Return the mixture to a roiling boil.

Time for one minute, stirring constantly.

Remove the pot from heat.

Skim away the foam.

Ladle the jam into hot, clean jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space.

Apply and tighten the two-piece ring/lid caps.

Place jars into the boiling water bath canner.

Process for 10 minutes.

 

read comments ( 0 )

Easy Orange Marmalade

Author: Meera, December 8, 2013

 

Jars of orange marmalade make lovely holiday gifts

Jars of orange marmalade make lovely holiday gifts

 

 

Who can resist the flavors of homemade jams? Whether it embellishes an appetizer of grilled fig and melted goat cheese or is spread upon a fat slice of fresh-baked bread, jam has power to elevate any meal to another level.

 

Using the seedless oranges growing on our farmette trees, I’m making marmalade. Marmalade made with the oranges ripening this time of year make great additions to holiday gift baskets. I like to add jars of honey, fresh tangerines, nuts, summer jams, and homemade treats.

 

RECIPE FOR ORANGE MARMALADE

 

Ingredients:

 

4 large oranges (preferably a seedless variety)

 

2 medium lemons

 

1/2 teaspoon butter (to reduce foaming)

 

1/8 teaspoon baking soda

 

6 Tablespoons dry classic pectin

 

5 1/2 cups sugar

 

Directions for Preparing the Jars and Canner:

 

Wash pint jars in the dishwasher or wash the jars and screw rings in hot soapy water, rinse, and drain upside down on paper towels.

 

Remove the wire rack from the canner and set aside; then, fill the canner half full of water and bring to a simmer.

 

Directions for Making the Fruit Mixture:

 

Wash the oranges and lemons.

 

Peel the fruit, using a vegetable peeler or a sharp paring knife. Discard any seeds and the pithiest parts of the inner peeling as the pith tastes bitter.

 

Cut the peeled skins into narrow strips.

 

Pour water into a saucepan.

 

Add baking soda and strips of peel.

 

Bring to boil and then reduce the heat, simmering for 20 minutes and stirring as needed.

 

Cut the fruit into thin quarters.

 

Add the fruit and juice to the saucepan of simmering peelings, cover, and allow everything to simmer for 10 minutes.

 

Remove 4 cups of the fruit/peeling/juice mixture  and pour into a large saucepan (6 or 8 quart) or stock pot.

 

Stir in the pectin and add the butter and sugar, mixing well.

 

Bring to a roiling boil, stirring constantly, for a full minute and then remove from heat, skimming off any foam.

 

 

These jars are filled with hot fruit mixture, ready for lids and canning

These jars are filled with hot fruit mixture, ready for lids and canning

 

 

How to Can the Marmalade:

 

Ladle the fruit mixture into the warm, clean jars, leaving between 1/4 and 1/8 inch space from the top.

 

Wipe the jar rims before placing the jars on the wire rack of the canner.

 

Lower the wire rack of jars into the simmering water in the canner.

 

Make sure the jars are covered by 2 inches of water (add boiling water if necessary).

 

Cover with lid and boil for 15 to 20 minutes.

 

Turn off flame, remove the jars of marmalade, and set them onto a towel to cool.

 

Listen for the popping sound that signals the lids have sealed. Check lids for seal once the jars have cooled by pushing against the center of the lid. If it springs, the jar has not sealed and must be refrigerated. The marmalade will still be good to eat.

 

read comments ( 0 )

Not-So Spooky Halloween Cookies the Kids Will Love

Author: Meera, October 31, 2013
Not-so scaredy cats

Let the kids decorate these not-so scaredy cats, using colors they like. Add orange or black sprinkles to finish.

 

 

When you let the young ones in your family choose the cookie cutter shapes and icing  colors, you’ll get plenty of helping hands making cookies for Halloween.  I make these cookies a lot; they are perfect for any holiday and also for children’s tea parties. Just change the shape and bake and decorate.

 

 

The dough needs chilling for one hour or overnight

Wrap the dough ball before chilling

 

 

After making the dough, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least an hour to make the dough a bit firmer for rolling out.

 

 

At my house, the favorite shapes for Halloween are cats and bats

At my house, the favorite shapes for Halloween are cats and bats

 

 

Half the fun is dumping onto the counter an assortment of cookie cutters and letting the kids choose their favorites. For Halloween, they might like ghosts, cats, bats, witches, and pumpkins. Help them roll out the cookies and place them on the cookie sheet for baking.

 

 

A tray of cat-shaped cookies will bake for 7-10 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit

A tray of cat-shaped cookies ready for the oven

 

 

 

Sugar Cookie Recipe

 

Ingredients:

 

1.5 cups butter (softened if cold)

 

2 cups granulated sugar

 

4 large eggs

 

1 teaspoon vanilla

 

5 cups white all-purpose flour

 

2 teaspoons baking soda

 

1 teaspoon salt

 

 

Directions:

 

Cream butter and sugar together.

 

Slowly beat in eggs and vanilla.

 

Add flour, baking powder, and salt and mix together until thoroughly blended and dough can be shaped into a ball.

 

Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour. You can also chill the dough overnight. If you don’t want to make the cookies all at once, then divide the dough into two balls to use when you want.

 

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

 

Sprinkle flour onto a flat surface and roll out the dough to roughly 1/4 inch thickness.

 

Cut into shapes using your favorite cookie cutters. Arrange cookies on a baking sheet leaving 1 inch between cookies.

 

Bake 7 to 10 minutes.

 

Let cool before icing with your favorite sugar cookie icing.

 

A drop or two of food coloring can give you various colors of icing; , just be sure to put icing in separate bowls before adding the food coloring. Use a pastry bag with tips or even a toothpick to make designs on the iced cookie. Decorate with sprinkles.

 

 

 

 

read comments ( 0 )

Melt-in-Your-Mouth Scottish Shortbread

Author: Meera, September 9, 2013

 

 

 

My Scottish shortbread bearing the traditional thistle pattern

My Scottish shortbread bearing the traditional thistle pattern

 

Warm Scottish shortbread and tea are two of the simple pleasures of life.

 

Scottish shortbread, that buttery biscuitlike treat that Scottish cooks are famous for serving at teatime,  doesn’t require a lot of ingredients; it’s basically flour, butter, and sugar. Of course, the dough can accommodate other additions, for example,  bits of dried fruit, chocolate, caraway seeds, lemon zest, chopped dates, and nuts. I like it best plain.

 

I have many recipes for shortbread. Some are from magazines or books devoted to the subject of Irish or Scottish culinary traditions or foods of the British Isles, acquired during my travels to the lands of my ancestors, namely, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland.

 

With shortbread, more butter, less flour produces a richer biscuity cookie. It’s helpful to remember the basic 2-4-8 formula, that is: 2 ounces of sugar, 4 ounces of butter, 8 ounces of flour, plus a pinch of salt. Mix together, press into a mold, and bake 45-60 minutes in a 325-degree Fahrenheit oven until golden. Dust with sugar.

 

The following is my favorite recipe, slightly different. It is pictured above. Feel free to add to it your favorite ingredients.

 

Ingredients:

 

1/2 cup powdered sugar

 

1/3 cup rice flour

 

2 cups all-purpose flour

 

pinch of salt

 

pinch of baking powder

 

1  cup unsalted butter

 

 

Directions:

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

 

1. Put dry ingredients into a mixing bowl.

 

2. Add butter and cut in with a butter cutter or knives until it is thoroughly incorporated into the dough.

 

3. Knead the dough 2 minutes on a lightly floured surface.

 

4. Divide dough into two, roll into balls, and cover both in plastic wrap.

 

5. Chill for one hour.

 

6. Knead the dough balls back together to soften and then roll out to about 1/4 inch thickness.

 

7. Press into a shortbread mold or cut into shapes with a cookie cutter.

 

8. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or  until the dough is golden and cooked through, if using a mold. For cookies, bake on ungreased baking sheet.

 

9. Dust, if you like, with fine granulated sugar (also called castor sugar).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

read comments ( 0 )

Apricot Linzer Cookies

Author: Meera, July 8, 2013

 

Fill these cookies with strawberry, raspberry, or apricot jam or dulce de leche

Fill these cookies with strawberry, raspberry, fig, or apricot jam or dulce de leche

 

 

 

I’m a self-professed cookie monster. I can’t imagine watching PBS’s MASTERPIECE MYSTERY! without a cup of my favorite Earl Grey tea and a cookie. Okay, maybe two cookies And my favorite is actually a two-layer, jam-filled cookie. These cookies are known as Linzer sablés and are the cookie version of the famous Austrian Linzertorte, dubbed the world’s oldest known cake (torte is Austrian for cake, Linzer is forLinz, a city in Austria).

 

The top cookie and bottom are made of the same nut-flour dough; it’s just that bottom cookie is solid, whereas the top has a hole in the center (to reveal the jam filling). The dusting of powdered sugar on top gives the cookie a lovely professional look.

 

They are easy to make and are pretty enough for a tea party. Choose different shapes of cookie cutters for the ring cutout. Some specialty shops carry Linzer cookie cutter sets. Use a heart shape cutter to make Linzer cookies for a wedding reception, anniversary party, or Valentine’s Day; a pumpkin or witch’s hat shape for Halloween; or, stars for the Fourth of July and also Christmas. The jewel jam color doesn’t just hold the cookie together; it emphasizes the cutout shape.

 

Ingredients:

 

9  Tablespoons unsalted butter (equivalent of 1/2 cup, plus 1 Tablespoon)

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 egg yolks

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 cup almond flour

3/4 hazelnut flour

2 1/4 cups pastry flour

apricot jam for filling

powdered sugar to sift on top

 

Directions:

 

Set oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, but wait to do it until after you’ve made the dough and chilled it for one hour.

Combine butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and cream until light and fluffy.

Add one egg at a time and beat into the mixture.

Add vanilla (alternatively, bitter almond).

Add to the mixture the almond flour, hazelnut flour, and pastry flour and combine.

Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of one hour.

 

Roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness.

Cut circles out of the dough using a three-inch round cookie cutter.

From half of the circles, take a one-inch round cookie cookie cutter and cut out a center hole, forming a ring.

Place rings and circles on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake in the center of the oven for 7 to 10 minutes. They should appear golden brown.

Remove and allow the cookies to cool.

 

Assembly:

 

Spoon a dollop of jam on each solid circle and spread it evenly over the top.

Place a ring on top of each jam-coated circle.

Lightly dust the tops of each ring.

 

Makes approximately 4 dozen cookies

 

 

 

read comments ( 0 )