Over the Summer {Garden 2015}

The last time I posted about the garden seeds were just sprouting! We’ve had a full summer and a few frosts since. Only the hardy greens are left; the end of the season always revives my appreciation of having fresh veggies right outside the door. With the coolers temps here stews and braises are a welcome way to use those veggies too!

 

In the Kitchen {Herbs}

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use Rosemary sprigs as flavorful skewers

 We’ve been enjoying fresh herbs from the garden, mainly parsley, thyme and basil right now, and drying some to use during the winter. They’re flavorful and it’s much cheaper than purchasing them at the store. When cooking just remember that dried herbs are about 3 times as strong as fresh. During the summer I use fresh herbs and during the winter I use dried; substituting one for the other as needed.

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  Parsley was one of the first things in the ground and it’s still going strong. I grow it in mini rows then I cut it and let it grow back again. This method is super easy and prolific!

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This year I tried planting thyme in amongst the carrots while Noah planted some thyme indoors. It’s astounding to compare the two. The outside plants are robust, dark green with large leaves; the indoor plants just don’t look like they’re doing as well. They are small, scraggly and pale. I pick as much fresh thyme as I like whenever I need it during  the summer. When I harvest the carrots I’ll harvest the thyme too and dry it. I use thyme a lot, especially on roasted meats and veggies. I use oregano nearly as often. I have a  container of oregano and two rosemary “trees” indoors too, and while they’re not quite as robust as they would be outside, they’re doing well enough until I can decide where I’m going to transplant the oregano (the rosemary I keep indoors because of our low winter temps). It’s a hard decision because, like mint, oregano has a tendency to spread and the longer it’s there the harder it is to remove.

As for the basil, I only pick a few leaves here and there so it will keep growing strong. Eventually, I’ll make some pesto and I’ll ferment a jar full (at least) as basil takes on a wonderful liquorice flavor when fermented. I also planted some sage and dill this year. It’s not ready for harvesting yet but I look forward to having some on hand for pickling, stuffing into fish, and maybe making up some gravlax!

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Slowly, I’m expanding the list of seasonings I grow instead of purchase. Other than salt and pepper the herbs above are my most used seasonings. I’ve also made onion and garlic powder by dehydrating them and then processing the dried veggies in a blender. The flavor is fantastic! I’d like to get some perennials going (maybe alongside those chives?)  and I wouldn’t mind trying to grow some chamomile (soon!)

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Dairy Kefir In The Winter Kitchen {plus NT recipe}

During the summer I keep a jar of dairy kefir out on the counter. I use it freely and top it off daily – with summers abundent milk supply. Now that winter is here I find our dairy kefir usage has plummeted. It’s just too cold to mix up a frosty smoothie and, not in the least, our milk supply has dried up. Yet, kefir grains need to be fed regularly. So how does dairy kefir fit into my winter kitchen?

For starters I keep my jar of diary kefir in the fridge. This slows the fermenting process down considerably. That means there’s less to use daily and I can feed my grains less frequently. The kefir still ferments so when I do want to use some I can. Then I replace however much I just used up with fresh milk. If I use over half the jar I might leave the jar out to ferment on the counter, otherwise it might not be ready for a few days at least.

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During the summer kefir generally goes into smoothies and veggie dips and dressings. During the winter I use kefir mainly as a replacement for yogurt or buttermilk in recipes, like pancakes or meatloaf for example. These are cooked so they won’t contain the benefits of live kefir; although any grains in the recipe will benefit from soaking in the acidic kefir. You can still reap the benefits of kefir’s live cultures if you make dressing, dip or consume it unheated in some other way.

Here is a recipe I adapted from Nourishing Traditions, it’s kind of a three recipes in one recipe. It’s a light mild dressing. NT calls for piima cream or creme fraiche but I used kefir instead.

Creamy Dressing

First make the basic dressing (pg129 NT) This makes about 3/4 cup.

Combine the mustard and vinegar then add in the oil in a thin stream, stirring all the while till emulsified.

1 tsp dijon mustard

2 Tlb plus 1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar ( NT calls for wine vinegar)

1/2 cup olive oil

1 Tlb flax oil, if you have it.

Add 1 tsp finely chopped fresh herbs i.e. parsley, oregano, tarragon, thyme, basil etc. This is now the herb dressing (also pg 129 of NT).

Finally blend in 1/4 cup kefir.

 Now you have 1 cup creamy dressing (pg 131 of NT).

Adjust seasoning to taste. I like to let it sit for a while to let the herbs have a chance to release their flavor.

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Some other recipes using kefir:

Susan’s Whole Wheat Kefir Pancakes   (or use your favorite pancake recipe replacing the buttermilk or milk with kefir)

Kefir Pizza Crust

Ranch Dip (from cultures for health- this one is a favorite)

Also, try straining the kefir for a thick & smooth kefir cheese. Season with herbs and salt and pepper. You can roll the seasoned cheese into small (about golf ball size) balls. Place balls in a jar and cover with olive oil.

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Chicken Kiev

DSCN9992As far as chicken dinners go chicken kiev is one of my family’s favorites. It looks fancy but it’s pretty easy to make. This recipe was passed down from my mother-in-law when struggling_along and I married 10 years ago. I still remember the first time I made chicken kiev. Having never made it before, I did not realize that the chicken was supposed to be wrapped around the filling. I had simply rolled them up, allowing all the butter and herbs to melt right out into the bottom of the pan! It was still edible but it’s even better if you succeed in keeping the butter and herbs sealed in the center of the chicken.

The Recipe

First prepare 6 boneless, skinless, spilt chicken breasts by flattening them so that they are even in thickness and a bit larger, which makes them easier to roll up.Then combine the herbs in a small dish:

1/4 tsp dried tarragon

2 Tlb  dried parsley

1/8 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp salt

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Then, using 1 Tlb butter for each piece of chicken, dip the butter into the herb mixture and coat well. Place the herbed butter in the middle of each piece of chicken.

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Roll the chicken up, around the butter, trying to tuck in the ends of the chicken. Secure with a tooth pick.

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Coat in a 1/3rd cup flour (or cornstarch if you want it gluten-free). Use the flour to help seal the ends of the chicken.

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Then dip the floured chicken into 1 egg beaten.

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Coat in 1-2 cups of bread crumbs (use gluten-free bread to make gf crumbs).

DSCN9959Place in a buttered baking dish. I like to use a Pyrex dish.

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Bake at 425 for 5 minutes then turn the oven down to 400 and bake for 40 minutes or till done. Baste with any butter that does melt into the pan.

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DSCN9982Serve and enjoy! Serves 4-6. This chicken goes well with a lot of different sides. For this particular dinner I made roasted potatoes and peas but any veggies, mashed potatoes, rice pilaf or what have you works well.

DSCN9991Here’s the recipe again, in short form:

Chicken Kiev

6 pieces chicken breast

1/4 tsp tarragon

2 Tlb parsley                   -Mix these herbs together

1/8 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp salt

6 Tlb butter                   -Coat in above herb mixture

Roll up chicken around butter and secure with a toothpick. Dip chicken into (in order)

1/3 cup flour

1 egg beaten

1-2 cups bread crumbs

Place in a lightly buttered pan. bake at 425-5 minutes then at 400 – 40 minutes. Baste with any pan butter.

That’s it.

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