Archive for the 'Recipes' Category

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.




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




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.




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




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Simple Strawberry Ice Cream

Author: Meera, June 14, 2013




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

Homemade ice cream using fresh strawberries is the perfect summer treat


With fruit so abundant this time of year, the opportunities for making homemade treats are seemingly endless. I like to pick a quart or more of strawberries when they’ve ripened to make ice cream. Strawberry ice cream is a perfect treat for a Father’s Day picnic or barbecue.


This STRAWBERRY ICE CREAM recipe is simple to follow and only requires a few ingredients and a little time.





1 to 2 quarts ripe strawberries


2 cups sugar


3 pints cream


pinch of salt


2 Tablespoons vanilla





Pick, wash, and hull the strawberries.


Pass them through a course sieive, mashing and pressing the berries through the holes into a bowl.


Mix with 1 cup of sugar and set aside for one hour.


Scald the cream in a double boiler.


Add 1 cup sugar and pinch of salt to the cream to make the custard.


Remove from heat, and let cool.


Stir vanilla into the cream custard.


Fold the strawberry mixture into the custard and freeze.


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Cinco de Mayo Fresh Guacamole

Author: Meera, May 5, 2013



Leathery skin, large seed, and creamy fruit characterizes a ripe avocado

Leathery skin, large seed, and creamy fruit characterizes a ripe avocado



What better way to enjoy Cinco de Mayo (Mexico’s victory over the French in 1862) than with a yummy guacamole, made with fresh ingredients from your garden or farmers market, piled onto your favorite organic chips?



Here’s my recipe for guacamole using onions I planted in February (that nowhave large bulbs), garlic from last year’s crop, and the freshest organic tomato and avocados I could find.





1 medium red onion
1-2 cloves of garlic
1 ripe tomato
2 large ripe avocados
1-2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoons garlic powder
juice of one lemon
freshly ground, cracked black pepper to taste
*add serano chilies, seeded, washed, and chopped for heat, if you like




Finely chop the onion and garlic and set aside.
Wash and coarsely chop the tomato.
Peel and remove each seed from the avocados and cut the flesh into cubes.
Wash the cilantro leaves and tender stems and finely chop.


In a medium-size bowl, combine the onion, garlic, tomato, avocado, cilantro, and spices.
Add the lemon juice and gently mix and mash, but don’t overdo as it the consistency should be a little chunky.
Add pepper.
Taste and correct seasoning, if necessary.
If you are using hot chili peppers, add small portions at a time to the guacamole, checking the heat by tasting.



This guacamole  tastes wonderful on homemade taco chips or organic blue corn tortilla chips.





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Blackberries and Dumplings

Author: Meera, February 21, 2013


I dug up ensnarled blackberry vines yesterday and threw the lot into a bucket for replanting elsewhere on the farmette. Originally planted next to a fence, the vines had, over the last year, tangled into the roses and lavender that I had planted too near to them. Blackberry vines have a habit of spreading.


While cutting the vines, I recalled the blackberries and dumplings that my grandmother used to make in her small, but utilitarian farm kitchen near Booneville, Missouri.


We would set off in the early  morning to gather the blackberries that grew in thickets around the farm. When our galvanized pails of berries grew heavy, we’d trudge back to the farmhouse.


My job was to wash the berries while my grandmother took a blue-striped yellow ware mixing bowl from the old Hoosier cabinet and began assembling the dry ingredients to make dumplings.


Dumpling ingredients:


1 cup all-purpose white flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup, plus 1 Tablespoon sugar

1 large egg (with yolk separated from egg white)

2/3 cup buttermilk

3 Tablespoons of butter (2T for dumpling batter, 1T for skillet)

Two pints of freshly washed blackberries


Directions for making the dumplings:


Combine flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and a Tablespoon of the sugar.

Mix together in another bowl the egg yolk, buttermilk, and 2 Tablespoons of butter.

Slowly combine the wet ingredients into the dry.

Beat the egg white until peaks rise and then fold it into the dumpling batter.


Directions for cooking:


In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium high heat, melt  1 Tablespoon of butter. Using a large spoon, drop half dozen or so of the dumpling batter into the butter and cook about five minutes until both sides are brown. Remove this batch and repeat until all batter is cooked. Then set the dumplings aside.


Pour the blackberries into the skillet with 1 cup sugar. Mix together until the berries and sugar simmer and then reduce the heat. Position the dumplings on top of the blackberries and cook for ten minutes. The dessert is best served warm.  Serves 4 to 6.




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Nuts and Honey Add Lovely Flavor to Dried Fruit Tart

Author: Meera, December 10, 2012

Flaky tarts piled high with fresh organic berries has always been for me a delightful way to end a summer meal. With the onset of winter now only eleven days away, I flip through my recipe files for something similar to those lovely summer tarts and hit upon an easy-to-make tart filled with dried fruits, nuts, and honey.


You can substitute or add other dried fruit (cranberries, figs, dates, and raisins, for example) to this tart, but I’ve found the best flavor comes from the dried peaches and apricots. They combine beautifully to create a richly flavorful dessert. A dollop of whipping cream on top adds a layer of decadence to this rich autumn tart.


Pastry Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup unsalted butter (cut into pats or small pieces)

pinch of salt

1 large egg yolk



Directions for Pastry:

Combine pastry ingredients in a food processor with metal blade. Process until the mixture becomes a fine crumble. Add egg yolk and process into dough. Pastry should hold together, forming a ball.


Filling  Ingredients:

3/4 cup white dessert wine

3/4 cup honey

18-20 dried apricots and/or peaches

1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind

1 cup blanched whole almonds

3 eggs

1 teaspoon good quality vanilla

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup walnuts



1 cup cream

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon of sugar


Directions for Toasted Almonds:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Farenheit.

Toast blanched almonds on a baking sheet for 10 minutes. Remove and set aside. Keep oven on for baking the tart.


Directions for Tart Filling:

In a stainless steel pan, add the dried fruit with the orange rind.

Pour over the fruit and rind half the wine and 2 Tablespoons of honey.

Cook over low heat for 20 to 25 minutes until the fruit absorbs the liquid and plumps up, becoming soft  and plaint.

In a bowl, combine eggs, honey, remaining wine, vanilla, and butter.

Beat in the walnuts and almonds.

In a springform pan, press the dough as thinly as possible over the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Drop the fruit onto the dough, spreading around over the bottom of the pastry. Pour in the nuts and egg mixture. Use a spatula to smooth the filling.


Bake the tart for 45 minutes on the middle rack of the oven.

Allow the tart to cool in its pan before removing and placing on a serving plate.


Whip cream until peaks form and fold in cinnamon and sugar. Put a dollop on top of each individual serving.


Serves 8.









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Old World Honey Cake

Author: Meera, November 28, 2012



Preparing ingredients for honey cake




Honey cake has been called the world’s “oldest-known cake.” Versions of the cake date to biblical times, although food historians will tell you that it wasn’t really called cake back then. The English term “cake” dates to the thirteenth century and derives from the old Norse word, “kaka.”



Modern pastry chefs have the ancient Egyptians to thank for pioneering the culinary process of baking. The ancients’ version of  honey cake was most likely an old-world type of flat bread drizzled or lashed with honey, the sweetener of choice during ancient times. In fact, bread and cake (even today) are not too different. Think of pumpkin bread or banana nut bread. A slice of either at breakfast is like having dessert in the morning.



The Romans added eggs and butter to get a lighter dough. Cooks began to add nuts and dried fruits such as dates, figs, and raisins to make their honey “cake” even more mouth-watering and special.



Although that round shape that we associate with cake today didn’t emerge until the seventeenth century, medieval bakers in Europe had for centuries continued to create new versions of the honey cake with spices such as ginger. In fact, the taste for ginger resulted in gingerbread. The addition of dried fruits, nuts, spices, and (later) rum and brandy yielded the cake we know today as fruitcake.


The following recipe is more of a medieval style honey cake, although during the medieval period cakes tended to be smaller than we think of them today.


Old World Honey Cake


1 cup plus 1 tablespoon honey (preferrably dark)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter
1 cup dark brown sugar
4 eggs (separate yolks from whites)
1/2 cup unflavored Greek yogurt
1/2 cup cottage cheese
1 tablespoon fresh orange zest
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup raisins
10 dates, stoned and chopped
1 cup walnuts, finely chopped
Preheat the ove to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a ten-inch tube pan.

Combine honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom in a saucepan over medium high heat and bring to a boil, stirring often. Add baking soda, stir in, and remove from heat and let cool.

In a mixing bowl, cream butter with brown sugar. Beat in one egg yolk at a time. Add this to the honey/spice mixture.

In a bowl, mix yogurt, cottage cheese, and orange zest.

Sift half the flour and the salt into the honey/spice mixture (that now also contains the creamed butter, sugar, and eggs). Combine remaining flour with raisins, dates, and walnuts. Mix this into the bowl of batter.

Pour the batter into the greased tube pan and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Test for doneness by inserting a toothpick into the cake. The toothpick, when pulled out, should have no batter on it.

Cool the cake for 15 minutes before inverting. Brush with 1 Tablespoon of honey.


Optional: Sprinkle with slivered almonds. After the cake is completely cooled, store in an airtight container for 24 to 48 hours before serving.


Copyright Meera Lester 11-28-2012



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Fried Zucchini Flowers

Author: Meera, November 2, 2012


The recent rain has brought out more blooms on the zucchini plants just when I thought the plant had finished producing. The beautiful yellow blossoms can be easily turned into a tasty treat when deep fried in hot oil and sprinkled with salt and your favorite dried herbs from the garden.


For optimal results, pick the large blossoms in the early morning after they have opened. You’ll need to remove the stalks and rinse the flowers, taking care not to damage them. Then let them drain while you prepare the crepe-like batter.


24 zucchini blooms
1 c. all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 T. olive oil
1 egg (separate the yolk from the white)
approximately 2/3 cup of water
seasoning–salt and your favorite dried herbs
mild tasting oil such as canola for deep frying


In a wok or heavy frying pan, heat the oil until hot but not smoking. Mix the ingredients to make the batter which should be pourable. Beat the egg white until stiff and fold it into the batter. Dip each flower to coat with batter and fry in the hot oil until golden.  Sprinkle with herbs and salt and drain on paper towels.









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Pumpkins Aren’t Just for Halloween

Author: Meera, November 1, 2012

It’s the first day of November and I’ve counted four leftover pumpkins that we didn’t use for Halloween. So I’m considering options of what to do with them.


Option 1. Remove the seeds and save them in a paper envelope for planting next year. I’ll need seeds from both male and female plants to get pumpkins; otherwise, the garden will be filled with only vines.


Option 2. Turn the flesh into pumpkin pie filling. If the pumpkins were those smaller, sweeter French pumpkins that I love for pie making, I’d be feeling more excited. However, these were grown just for the purpose of carving jack-o-lanterns and so I’m not so sure about how sweet the flesh of these will taste. But I might give it a try.


Option 3.  Cut and remove the pumpkin seeds, clean and toast them with a little seasoning, and voila, I’ve got a healthy snack.


Option 4. Make pumpkin soup from mashed cook pumpkin. I would mix it with several cups or so of vegetable stock, a small onion, a carrot, 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon,  1/4 teaspoon of nutmeg, and salt and white pepper (to taste). Add one-half cup of a buttery-tasting chardonnay or white wine and simmer together. For garnish, Id finely chop top shoots of a green onion and/or serve with thin-slices of bread toasted in butter in a skillet or toss flavorful croutons into soup-filled bowls.


Things I’ve learned about pumpkins: They grow best during the warm season and, in fact, the seeds won’t even germinate in cold ground. I’ve grown the semi-bush variety and also the vining pumpkins that love to sprawl. They can spread out 50 to 100 square feet or so per hill. I love to see honeybees venturing inside the open blossoms (these little critters can carry pollen for more than a mile and often travel distances of up to five miles in search of food). Because I welcome these pollinators in my organic garden, I don’t use insecticides. A word of caution for plucking pumpkin stems from the vine: wear gloves as the prickles can be quite sharp.

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