Super Scrumptious (and Healthy) Spinach Dip

•July 1, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Today my son wanted french fries for lunch and I caved. But I can’t just feed my son french fries, even if they are homemade, baked french fries. So I decided to get a bit creative with the dip, namely spinach dip. Not the incredibly fattening, hardly nutritious type, but a much better version. (Although, I like the other version, too, just not very often.) So, here’s what I did:

Take about a cup of frozen spinach. Place in a sauce pan with three to four tablespoons of homemade chicken broth. Add salt, pepper and a garlic seasoning (mine is a salt-free mix with herbs). Warm through for 5-7 minutes and dish into individual ramekins. Stir in a tablespoon of plain yoghurt. I used regular, but you could also use low-fat if you wanted to. It just wouldn’t be quite as creamy.

Viola! It’s that easy. And absolutely delicious. My three-year-old loved it so much that he ditched the fries and ate the spinach dip by itself. He asked for seconds and only then did he eat his french fries (which according to him are one of his favourite foods).

I think this would also make a great dip for raw veggies or maybe even as a sauce for some noodles. The possibilities are endless.

Miscellaneous Experiments

•June 29, 2010 • Leave a Comment

I woke up yesterday morning with a craving for peaches. Unfortunately, peaches don’t really grow here in the mild climate of Vorarlberg. I’ve tried buying the imports from Italy, but they are just not what my taste buds require – none of that just-ripened-fresh-from-the-tree peachiness that this Texas girl longs for. Growing up, my best friend had a row of peach trees along her driveway. That was wonderful. After she moved away to Oklahoma, we bought peaches from road side stands or at the farmer’s market. Oh, what I’d give right now for a plump, juicy peach! Since I can’t get good quality peaches here, I have to settle for apricots. Don’t get me wrong, I really like apricots too, but as a substitute for peaches, they just don’t quite make the grade.

That being said, last summer I made apricot jam and it was wonderful. Since last summer was also a very jammy summer (I think I ended up with something like 127 jars of various flavored jams), I still have a couple of jars of the apricot jam down in the cellar. Unable to requite me peach craving, I decided to do a bit of experimentation using the apricot jam. And ginger. Great combination, especially in waffles. That was my idea at any rate. Until I couldn’t find a recipe anywhere! Unbelievable. So I decided to be creative and make up a recipe. The version I made yesterday was good, but still needs a little tweaking. Too much ginger, not enough flour. So tomorrow, I will be experimenting again.

Stay tuned to a computer near you for the final recipe!

The Milk Man

•June 28, 2010 • Leave a Comment

How fun is this?? We have a milk man. Yes, a real-live, old-fashioned milk man who comes and brings milk to our house. And not just any milk, but straight-from-the-farm, organic milk. The milk man’s name is Bruno, which makes me think of an old Basset Hound, but that’s neither here nor there!

I’m lovin’ this time trip back to the 40′s. Just look at these snazzy jugs the milk comes in! Aren’t they fantastic? We drink quite a lot of milk around here, so the fact that it comes in two liter jugs is also just nifty. The only downside is that it is a bit difficult to pour when full! But so far we’ve had no major spills – but a few minor ones!

He also brings homemade ice cream and sorbet. We tried the strawberry sorbet last week and it is a dream! Scrum-diddlie-umptious! I’m completely thrilled with this new source of delicious goodness!

Rainy days are for baking

•May 27, 2010 • Leave a Comment

We went to bed last night with thunderstorms and woke up this morning to a lovely, soft spring rain. I was originally planning to so some baking this Saturday, but decided to move it up a few days due to weather. (Saturday is supposed to be beautiful.) My baking list for the day includes, Honey Spelt Oatmeal Bagels, Seeded Sandwich Rolls, a couple of batches of pizza dough and a regional specialty called Seele.

We like to visit an Irish Pub in Lindau occasionally and love to eat their hot Seele Sandwiches. Seele Rolls are a kind of long roll that are sprinkled with salt and caraway seeds and are absolutely fantastic. Seele is the German word for ‘soul’ and supposedly these rolls were traditionally served on All Soul’s Day (2 November), but which are now available year-round. This is an altered version of a Seele recipe that I found at the Monk’s Mill last Friday.

Spelt-Rye Seele Rolls

Ingredients:

3 – 3 1/2 cups (375 g) spelt flour

3/4 cup (125 g) rye flour

1 3/4 cups (350 ml) warm water

1 tsp sea salt

1 pkg active dry yeast or half a cube of soft yeast

Coarse Sea Salt and Caraway Seeds for sprinkling

Method:

If using soft yeast, then dissolve yeast and one teaspoon sugar in the water until foamy (about 5-10 minutes). (If using dry yeast, then skip dissolving and add straight to the flour.) Sift flours and salt together in a large bowl. Add water and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough just comes together. Turn out on a floured surface and knead the soft dough until it is smooth and shiny. Put dough in a greased bowl, cover and place in a warm spot to rise for one hour or until doubled in size. Punch down and brush with water using a pastry brush.  Turn wet dough out onto a wet surface and using wet hands pat out into a rectangle about 8 x 12 inches. Brush the top with water. Using a wet dough scraper, cut the rectangle into six equal strips. Place dough strips, cut side up, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush with water again and sprinkle with coarse salt and caraway seeds. Let sit and rise for about 15 minutes while the oven heats up to 425°F (220°C). Bake for 20-25 minutes.

What really makes these good is eating them like we do in the Irish Pub. To make an Irish Seele, split the roll in half and spread each side with butter (if you can get it, Kerry Gold’s Irish butter). Thinly slice an onion and place a layer on the bottom half of the roll. On top of the onion lay as much smoked salmon as you would like. Put the top on and broil in a hot oven for 5-7 minutes. Cut in half diagonally and enjoy.  Deee-licious!

The Monk’s Mill

•May 26, 2010 • 1 Comment

This spring we’ve been taking day trips as a family and visiting many of the towns within an hour or two from our home to which we’ve never been. At some point we visited Ravensburg, Germany. Aside from being quite a charming Old European town with many buildings dating back from the 11th and 12th centuries, I was thrilled to find a working grain mill! The Monk’s Mill has apparently been in operation since around 1300 A.D. and originally belonged to a Dominican Nunnery and changed hands a few times until it was bought in the mid 1800′s by the family who still runs the mill.

Our first visit to Ravensburg was on a Sunday afternoon and, this being Europe, the mill was closed. Being the old-fashioned gal that I am, the thought of buying grain from a mill was quite romantic and alluring. In addition to the romance, it is also quite practical for me to buy my flour in a large quantity (which makes it quite a bit cheaper than at the grocer’s) since I bake so much. Buying my flour also has the added plus of supporting local farmers since all of the grain they mill comes from this area and a large portion of it is organic.

We decided to go back on a Friday afternoon with the main purpose of visiting the mill. It was fantastic! I felt like the proverbial kid in the candy shop. I came out of the store with my pocketbook lightened a bit, but with my shopping basket weighed down. I bought 5 kg (11 lbs) of organic spelt flour, 2.5 kg (5.5 lbs) of organic oats, 1 kg (2.2lbs) organic spelt späztle flour, a baking seed mixture (to put in and on top of breads), a huge package of caraway seeds, a package of sourdough leavening and some organic coconut chips (yes, random purchase at a mill, but they have a small organic shop as well). I actually bought less than planned, but I decided for a first visit I would hold back a bit.

On the way home we stopped at an out-of-the-way  farm gasthaus (think country restaurant) where I surprisingly got the most amazing cappuccino I have ever had. The milk they used for the foam was straight from the cow – absolutely fabulous! We had a great date and I found a new resource for local organic grains.

Here’s a picture of my purchases, just in case you’re interested.

A weekend with rhubarb

•May 24, 2010 • Leave a Comment

The garden’s growing again and one of the first things to be harvested is always rhubarb. We got 10 stalks on Friday and on Saturday morning I spent some time in the kitchen with the rhubarb. Rhubarb is commonly combined with strawberries, but as it has been rainy and cold here for most of the past months, strawberry season is still a few weeks away. Since I had been to the granary mill on Friday, I had a stash of coconut chips just begging to be opened. So I thought I’d try out the combination and I must say, we all found the combination fantastic. It added a wonderfully refreshing note to the rhubarb. So here are the two recipes that came out of Saturday’s coconut-rhubarb infatuation.

Rhubarb-Coconut Compote

2.2 lbs (1 kg) Rhubarb cut into one inch pieces (this is about 5 stalks)

1 1/4 cups (275 g) sugar

1/2 cup (30 g) coconut chips

1/2 Vanilla Bean pod, seeds scraped

1/4 cup (80 mL) Rum (optional)

Wash jars and sterilise them in a low oven (150°F, 90° C) for thirty minutes. While the jars are in the oven, put all ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Simmer over a low heat with the lid on for 30-45 minutes, until the rhubarb is soft, but not falling apart. When finished, ladle the steaming compote into hot jars, put the lid on and turn upside down to cool. (This creates a vacuum in the jar.) After the jars are cool, label them and store in a cool, dark place. Enjoy this compote by itself or with plain yoghurt, marscapone or ice cream as desired!

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Rhubarb-Coconut Tarte Tatin

A tarte tatin is basically an upside-down pie that is oh, so yummy!

For the filling:

2.2 lbs (1 kg) Rhubarb, cut into one inch pieces

1 1/4 cups (275 g) sugar

1/2 cup (30 g) Coconut Chips

1/2 vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped

For the pastry:

1 2/3 cups (200 g) spelt flour (all-purpose may be substituted)

7 Tbsp chilled butter

1/4 tsp sea salt

4 Tbsp sour cream

Mix rhubarb, sugar, coconut chips and vanilla in a medium bowl and let macerate for two to three hours.

While the rhubarb is macerating, make pastry. Mix flour and salt in a medium bowl. Using a pastry blender (or two knives or your finger tips), cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add sour cream and bring together with hands. You might possibly need to add a tablespoon of cold water, depending on the thickness of your sour cream. When dough has come together, turn it out on a piece of cling wrap and pat into a one inch thick disk. Cover and store in the fridge for at least thirty minutes.

To assemble: After the rhubarb has macerated, drain and reserve liquid. (You can add the liquid to either soda water or plain water for a refreshing drink. 1 tablespoon rhubarb liquid to eight ounces of water.) On the stove, melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a 9-inch round, oven proof pan. (You could buy a tarte tatin pan, but I think a cake pan would work just as well.) When butter is melted add the rhubarb and let simmer for about 10 minutes. While the rhubarb is simmering, take the pastry out of the fridge and roll out to 10 inches. Turn off the stove and take rhubarb from the heat. Lay the pastry on top of the rhubarb, tucking the edges down into the pan. Cut four slits into the pastry to let the air out. Bake in a 400°F (200°C) oven for 20-25 minutes. Take out of oven and let it cool for 5-10 minutes. Invert a plate on the pan and flip out the tarte onto the plate. Let cool for an additional 10-15 minutes. Enjoy with a dollop of whipped cream, yoghurt or ice cream.

We had friends over on Saturday and unfortunately the entire tarte was gone before I had a chance to snap a picture. (Although, I think that’s a good sign that it was quite yummy!)

To market, to market

•May 21, 2010 • 4 Comments

One of the things I love about living in Europe is the easy availability of fresh, local produce. In addition to having our own garden, we have loads of local resources at the market each Tuesday and Friday.

My son and I usually go to the market every Friday, rain, snow or shine; summer, winter, spring and autumn. One of my favourite times at the market is springtime. Stands which have been a bit on the bare side throughout the long winter, suddenly explode into a rainbow of fresh vegetables and fruits. I love the variety.

Today I was thrilled to see a mixed salad which included geranium leaves, nettle, dandelions, rocket among a host of other things I couldn’t identify.

I was also thrilled to find organic milk from grass-fed cows for €o.85 per litre. We go through a lot of milk at our house and this will save us €0.15 per litre, plus we get to support local farmers!

We also stumbled upon this cute little old man who makes all his summer sausages and cheeses the old-fashioned way with no extra additives. He is quite a spritely man who can spin a good yarn who loves real food and making people laugh.

A market visit just wouldn’t be the same for my son if he didn’t get to visit the egg lady. This is something we started last spring and he always asks if we are going to see the egg lady. A few months ago, the egg lady started letting Jonas help pack the eggs and he his quite proud of the fact he is allowed to do that.

We had a great visit as always. We’d encourage everyone to go to a local farmer’s market if at all possible!

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