Archive for the ‘recipes’ Category

Holly’s Cider Year 13 writeup

November 9, 2017

Holly did a super nice writeup of the recent Cider Weekend at his blog – see here:


Blueberry coffeecake

January 30, 2014

Per request, here’s a simple but very serviceable blueberry coffeecake recipe I got from my mom.

Preheat oven to 375F. The batter (mix dry, then mix in wet):

  • 2c flour (I use half whole wheat pastry, and half white)
  • 3/4c sugar
  • 2.5t baking powder
  • 0.75t salt
  • 0.25c shortening/oil (esp coconut oil)
  • 0.75c milk
  • 1 egg
  • 2c wild blueberries (frozen or fresh; mix in last)

The result will be a thick paste that’s slightly annoying to spread, thinly, into a rectangular pan (I use a pyrex lasagna pan that’s probably 9×13).

Mix up the following and spread evenly on top:

  • 0.5c brown sugar
  • 0.33c whole wheat flour
  • 0.5t cinnamon
  • 1/4c soft butter

Bake till it’s done (maybe 45 mins? varies based on whether berries are fresh or frozen)


The right way to make oatmeal for breakfast

November 20, 2012

A couple years back I figured out the right way to make oatmeal for breakfast.  The basic problem with oatmeal is that if you cook it in the usual way (boil water, add oats, stir it to keep it from burning as it gets increasingly thick), you end up with slimy glop.  Quick-cooking oats basically guarantee glop no matter what you do.  Steel-cut oats are one solution to the glop problem, but they take a long time to cook, and I’m not a hipster.  Some people cook them overnight in a thermos, but this requires way more forethought than I can muster regarding breakfast.

So here’s the deal.  Boil water in a teakettle (I’m doing this anyway to make a cup of tea). Put 1c (or however much you want) dry old fashioned rolled oats in a big (but still single-serving) ceramic bowl.  Optionally add chopped up apricots or whatever.  When the water boils, first pour the tea, then pour water over the oats until they’re just barely fluidized – not swimming around freely, but so the water breaks the surface of the flakes.  Then microwave for 2 mins.  It quickly comes to a boil; use a big bowl so it doesn’t overflow.  The exact time depends on the microwave.  On the microwave we have now, I actually hit the ‘1 min’ button, let it steep for a minute or so after it beeps, then hit the ‘1 min’ button again – just to be sure it doesn’t overflow.  If I bothered to figure out how to adjust the power level, I could avoid this.  The resulting oatmeal is not slimy in the least; the individual flakes are distinct, and there’s no extra pot to wash.

Try it – it works great.  I add a small hunk of salted butter and a splash of Five Islands maple syrup.

Related: check out David MacKay with a delightful series of kitchen experiments to determine the most efficient way to boil water:


Not-remotely-healthy wicked chocolate cookies

October 17, 2011

Some friends asked for this recipe, modified from my mom, for the chocolatiest cookies I’ve ever consumed:

1.5 sticks of butter
3/4c dark brown sugar
3/4c white sugar
2 eggs
1t vanilla
1/2t almond extract
(butter and sugar in mixer, then the other stuff, usual deal)
2c white flour
1/2c (or more) King Arthur double dutch cocoa
1t salt
1t baking soda
2c (or more) G’delli dark chocolate chips
(add dry ingredients and mix, then mix in chips – a recipe would say to mix the powdery stuff together first, but I just dump it all in then turn on the mixer – to no ill effect as I can tell)
Bake 350 till just on the underside of done – AC prefers them gooey vs crunchy.

Fall is just around the corner

August 8, 2009
New England food: fresh baked pumpkin bread and '08 hard cider

New England food: fresh baked pumpkin bread and '08 hard cider

A beautiful sunny, cool day: though it’s early August, cider season is just a couple months away.  Alexis was in the hospital, so I took the dogs for a walk around Fresh Pond, did some planning in preparation for this year’s ambitious cider hardware build, and baked some pumpkin bread (recipe below).  Also learned how to make fresh vegetarian spring rolls, which I love in restaurants and have been meaning to figure out how to make.  It took a couple tries to get the technique for softening the thin rice wrappers: in a big nonstick frying pan half full of warm water, using both hands, slide the dry disk under water so the top and bottom are wetted simultaneously, then support it with fingers spread apart as it softens; when it seems just a bit too hard, extract it carefully letting the water sheet off; transfer to one of those bamboo sushi mats to load and roll.

Alexis’ favorite pumpkin bread (double batch):

Combine in mixer:

  • 2c sugar
  • 3/4c canola
  • 4 eggs
  • 1t vanilla
  • 2 cans pumpkin (just shy of 4 cups; if preparing from fresh, pressure cook, let excess liquid drain off, then puree with hand blender)

Mix and add:

  • 3.5c flour (at least half whole wheat)
  • 1/2t baking powder
  • 2t baking soda
  • 1t salt
  • 1t cloves
  • 2t cinnamon
  • 2t nutmeg

Mix well, schlop into suitable tins, bake at 350 till toothpick comes out clean.  The above quantity makes 6 medium-sized muffins, 6 muffin tops, and one medium-sized loaf.  Don’t try for a super deep loaf pan until you’ve got the recipe tuned up, since like other moist quick breads it can get heavy in a too-big loaf.

Semi-healthy dessert: two recipes

April 20, 2009

In our household we have this problem where we want to eat healthy food, but we really like dessert.  There are other options (like, say the heck with it and keep fudge brownies around all the time, or banish sweets from the kitchen entirely), but the best solution is to come up with desserts that aren’t really that bad for you.  Here are a couple of favorites:

Bread Pudding:

The first step is, never throw out any scrap of bread.  Ends off the old loaf that nobody wants to eat once a fresh batch comes out of the oven, hunks that get stale sitting on the counter, pita pockets that sit in the back of the fridge for a month, even slightly moldy bread can get the surface layer shaved off – hasn’t killed me yet.  So you cut rejected bread bits into cubes about half to 3/4″ square, and you accumulate them in a gallon ziploc in the freezer.  When the ziploc is pretty full but not yet bulging, you’re ready to go.

Split the contents of the bread crumb bag between two 1.5 quart glass baking dishes, the ones that are the size and shape of a small loaf pan, pressing it down to consolidate – might want to wait a bit until it thaws and press some more.  Tradition permits addition of copious raisins mixed with the bread at this point; I’ve also done frozen wild blueberries with good effect.  Meanwhile, mix up the following:

  • 5 eggs
  • 1c sugar
  • 2t vanilla
  • 2t cinnamon
  • 1t nutmeg
  • 5c milk, approximately, skim works fine though recipes call for whole or even half and half/cream
  • 1/4t salt (or more, depending on how salty you bake your bread)

whup that all up with a fork in a bowl, and pour it on the bread.  Try to judge how the quantity is working out when the pans are about half full, so you can add a splash of milk to the bowl and stir it in, if needed to get the volume right.  It doesn’t have to cover the bread (especially since the bread is probably sticking above the surface of the pan) but you want all the bread saturated – you can help by pushing it down with a fork. Let it sit for a few minutes if it seems to need time to soak.

Now, put the two pans in a big lasagna pan (glass is nice so it won’t ruin the seasoning or start to rust) and fill the lasagna pan up most of the way with water.  Then put it in a 350 oven for around 1.25h – the water bath helps regulate the temperature so the egg/milk solution solidifies without burning.  You know it’s done when it’s puffed up in the middle and brown, with no more goopy stuff oozing out from the center when you poke it with a fork.  Let it cool a bit to set up firmer, then eat it – it’s good warm or cold, with ice cream, cream, or nothing at all.  I don’t feel guilty at all about eating it as breakfast or any other meal; as Alexis points out it’s basically french toast.  If the bread is good sturdy whole wheat stuff like what we make, its tasty and downright virtuous.

Carrot Orange Cookies

These are a new addition, courtesy of Bill and Jessica, friends of Abby and Matt out in Madison.  They are somewhere between cookies and scones, leaning toward the scone side, but where eating scones that aren’t really fresh sometimes seems like doing penance, these stay moist and are cookie-like enough to qualify as dessert.

  • 1.5 sticks butter, softened
  • 3/4c sugar
  • 1t vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • rind of 1 orange
  • 1c carrot, cooked (I grate fresh carrot finely, then microwave it for 1 minute – seems to work well
  • 2c whole wheat flour (this is one recipe where 100% ww flour works really well – must be something about the carrots)
  • 2t baking powder
  • 1/4t salt

Cream butter and sugar, mix in vanilla, egg, orange rind, and carrot.  Add dry ingredients and mix.  Since I don’t measure the carrot very carefully, the dough often comes out goopy, so I add a bit more flour.  It ends up thicker than muffin batter but not as stiff as typical cookie dough.  Drop spoonfuls onto a cookie sheet; I don’t really form them, just sort of glump them on there, so as to end up with 20-24 cookies.  Bake 350 till done – I couldn’t tell you how long since I don’t generally time cookies.   They flatten out a bit in baking but still end up craggy and uneven.

These really are surprisingly good.  I think with a splash of milk to thin to batter consistency they would make fine muffins or quick bread as well.  It would be interesting as well to try using less butter and more carrot – I bet they’d still be pretty good.  Likewise wheat germ, sesame seeds, all kinds of hippie goodness.

Ridiculously veggie lasagna

April 13, 2009

Somebody recently asked for the recipe for the veggie lasagna that we make.  The problem is that there isn’t really a recipe, and the formulation has changed significantly over time.  But, here’s a reasonable approximation.  The basic idea is to make a lasagna using homemade sauce with a ridiculous amount of veggies, both because it tastes better that way and to stretch out the cheese, which is not as good for you or for the planet, and the pasta, which by my way of thinking is mostly there for organizational purposes.

So start by making sauce in a big pot.     Our big lasagna pan is about 10×15 inches, and for this you want to end up with at least two quarts of sauce for a pan that size.  Ostensibly this is a tomato-based sauce, but by volume it is something else entirely – what it is changes depending on what’s in the fridge.  It reliably starts with a couple of chopped onions and a healthy gout of olive oil, followed by the better part of a head of garlic, minced.  Then we add whatever veggies are around – last week it was a big sack of frozen broccoli from the garden, an even bigger sack of similarly frozen zucchini, a cup or so of frozen peas,  and several carrots.  Obviously fresh is the thing in the summer, or when foraging at the grocer’s.  The structural integrity of the finished lasagna will be better if the vegetables are cut up relatively fine, especially if they start fresh. When all that is simmering along OK we add some form of tomato product – might be commercial red sauce from a jar, semi-processed tomatoes in a can, or tomato sauce we put up in jars last summer (sadly just used the last of that up).  By this time it’s usually pretty soupy, so we add somewhere in the neighborhood of a cup of TVP, which consolidates things considerably.  Then probably a couple tablespoons of one of those Italian herb mixes that someone gave us, and salt to taste, quantity depending on whether there was any in the sauce you used.  You let that simmer for a while till it’s good and thick.

So now you have a massive quantity of vaguely tomato-ish vegetable sauce.  One variation that I especially favor is to throw in between 1 and 2 cups of frozen pesto to the sauce at the end – I typically grow a patch of basil about the size of a coffee table, and by harvesting regularly end up with close to a gallon of frozen pesto  by the end of the summer, all frozen in serving-size bricks.  Round about late winter I realize we’re never going to eat that much pesto under ordinary circumstances, and it starts going into lasagnas and things.  Obviously to make or buy that much pesto would be an exorbitant expense – one of the great luxuries of the garden.  The pesto makes the sauce look kind of drab, but it tastes great.

The rest is more or less as usual.  We grate a pound of part skim mozzarella and a good sized brick of Parmesan, leaving a bit out for the top, mix in a pint tub of ricotta, and boil a pound of regular lasagna noodles.  Then start assembly, in the following order: sauce, then [pasta, sauce, cheese] n times, where n is 3 I think.  The most annoying part is breaking up the cheese finely enough, since the ricotta makes it gloppy.   There’s probably some more sensible way to do it, but I haven’t experimented in that direction.  Anyway, the key is, after the first layer of sauce, which is maybe 1/8″ thick, since it’s just there to keep the noodles from sticking to the pan, you want the layers of sauce to be at least a quarter of an inch thick, basically so they completely obscure the pasta below.  That’s the only way you’ll ever use up as much sauce as you’ve made, and it’s also how to pack the most flavor in.

When you’re dangerously close to the top of the pan, add a final layer of pasta.  Out of deference to lasagna tradition we often use plain red sauce over the last layer of noodles for brighter color, then grate on the last bit of cheese.  It bakes at 350 for a good long while, probably close to an hour, till the cheese starts to brown and the whole business starts to lift out of the pan around the edges.    That’s pretty much all there is to it.  I suspect that as time goes on we will continue to increase the ratio of vegetable to other ingredients, until it is more properly some kind of strange casserole.

Home again, really good bean burgers

June 15, 2008

After 8 weeks in Portland, we are back home in NH, and it’s good to be home.  Portland is a great place, very scenic and bikeable, at once big enough to have real city character (unlike Flagstaff, where we used to live) but with a much homier feel than Boston (where we lived before that).  The waterfront and Old Port districts are fun, and there are a lot of young people in town.  Ships and trains came and went, giving a real sense of commerce and vitality.  I could walk to the bus that goes to Boston (useful when I go there once a week for work), walk to a hardware store and any number of restaurants, and walk or bike to several groceries.

We arrived home to find the remaining lawn almost high enough to harvest for hay; I beat it back with the mower so that the laundry on the line wouldn’t dangle in the grass.  I also did some weeding; the squash, corn, and beans are up, and the potatoes are almost ready to flower.  The tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants don’t look so good; a friend was keeping them while we were out of town and we transplanted them the one weekend we were back, so they never got hardened off.  Most of the maters look like they will make it through, and I will get peppers and eggplants at the garden store to replace the fallen.

The first cabbage and broccoli transplants are starting to get some size, and the first lettuce was ready to harvest, so I picked a bunch to go with dinner.  That got me in a cooking mood, so I started a big batch of the usual Sherwood Inn multigrain bread I’ve described here before, and I made some bean burgers.  These are really good, so I’ll post the recipe here.  We pretty much never buy frozen veggie burgers at the grocery anymore; these are tons better and more substantial, and probably a fifth of the cost.  I’ll give a double recipe, which makes 18 or 20; enough to freeze a big tub for microwaving on a whim – the amount of work is not much more to make a passel of them all at once.

Alexis’ Favorite Bean Burgers (not sure where the recipe is from, and we’ve modified it somewhat)

  • 2 big onions – chop finely
  • 4 tbs oil – as much or as little as you want.  Heat in a frying pan, sauté till translucent
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced (maybe 2 tbs?)
  • 2 tbs chili powder
  • 1.5 tbs cumin
  • 1-2 c grated carrots (I usually use 2 big ones; it makes a substantial difference to use a fine grater, with maybe 2mm openings, so the carrots act like reinforcement rather than weak points in the burgers)
  • 2 tbs tamari
  • 4 tbs ketchup – add these ingredients after a while and cook for a while longer
  • 4 cups of cooked black beans – I do these in the pressure cooker; substantially cheaper than buying in a can and they aren’t salted.  You don’t want salted beans if you can help it, since the ketchup and tamari have plenty.  It helps if the beans are cool/cold to start, to avoid cooking the egg too soon.  I mix the beans with the cooked up onion mush using the kitchenaid, then add
  • 2 eggs (omit for vegan, they won’t hold together as well but will still taste fine)
  • 4 cups regular rolled oats – mix till the eggs and oats are good and mushy.  You want to adjust the amount of bean liquid you include so that the mix seems just a bit too wet; as the oats hydrate it will stiffen up
  • After it sets 10 or 20 mins, form into burgers (of whatever size you like) and cook in a frying pan with a little oil over medium low heat (30% on our stove).  Cook until nicely browned on each side; maybe 5-7 mins per side.

I really like these bean burgers, they are super convenient once you make them, and everything in them can be grown in New England (except cumin maybe, and olive oil is tasty).  Last night I turned a quarter of my bread batch into buns, and we had the bean burgers on warm whole grain buns with sharp cheese and lettuce from the garden.  At the grocery I had noticed that they were starting to have local fresh strawberries, so I bought some rhubarb and made a big 12″ strawberry rhubarb pie with the last of the berries I froze from the organic pick-your-own place over in Vermont last year.  In a week or so it will be time to go picking again.

I also learned a new waltz on the fiddle, a really beautiful, harmonious Swedish tune called Josefin’s.  It’s in the Waltz Book 3, or you can get it on  I also have been picking around with the mandolin a bit; since it’s tuned the same as a fiddle I figure it will only be about half as hard to learn as another instrument.  This afternoon I went for a walk up the hill across the road from our house; it was a perfect early summer day in the 70s with a light breeze; you could almost smell the trees photosynthesizing, and imagine that all was right with the world.  At the top is the remnants of an old granite quarry, which if one is in a philosophic frame of mind offers a quiet commentary on the works of man.


February 22, 2008

I really like the bread I described in the previous post.  The recipe comes from my grandmother (I’ve modified it a bit), and I posted it last winter here.  Since then I’ve taken to adding about 1/2C of steel-cut barley and goosing the boiling water by 1/2C.  The barley gives it an interesting texture.  Alexis gave me two more unglazed stoneware baking pans for christmas, which help make the crust nice.

Winter Projects

January 7, 2007

It’s January, and despite the ridiculous weather (showers and in the 60s today in New Hampshire), there’s little to do orchard-wise beyond dreaming of spring.  The site would quickly turn to a mud-wallow if we so much as drove the tractor over it.  We climbed Mt. Cardigan this afternoon in shorts and t-shirt, but the short days put me in mind of The Oxcart Man, a children’s book that describes the seasons of a New England Farm.

We came out of the holidays at least a bit more relaxed than we went in, with a visit to Maine for Christmas and a blitz trip to St. Louis before New Years, and we distributed cider wherever we went.  For the most part it seemed to be well received; I think it would be a bit more accessible if it were a bit sweeter and more akin to the commercial stuff folks are used to.  I am almost ashamed to admit how happy I was to find that the Seven Barrel Brewery in West Lebanon serves the local Farnum Hill Cider for four bucks a pint.  The food and beer are not what you’d call inspired, but the people are friendly and some of Alexis’ friends frequent the place so we’ve gone a couple of times.  It is inspirational to drink high-quality, unadulterated hard cider less than a mile down the hill from where it is grown, pressed, and brewed.  I do miss the legislated no-smoking policy that kept bars in Massachusetts and Arizona fresh; none of that for Live Free and Die.

I’ve been spending more time with the fiddle recently, mostly working out of The Portland Collections, great compilations of contradance music from Oregon.  I also found a tunebook recently for Crossing To Scotland, a wonderful album of Celtic cello music by a gal named Abby Newton.  I am only just becoming able to read music at a painfully slow pace, and converting from the bass clef is throwing me a bit, but the tunes are worth it.  Someone up in Sharon, VT is doing a class on contra music starting tomorrow, and I think I’ll go; having something to practice for would be a useful incentive.

I started a blanket box of half-inch maple plywood with douglas fir trim, but I am fetched up at the stage of mortising some brass hinges for the lid; one of these days I will push through and finish it, and the closet will be significantly less crowded for it.  Woodworking is much more inspiring when the finish can be applied outdoors.  Alexis is rapidly filling the bookshelf I made last year with medschool texts; one of these days I’ll make another matching one, but the oak veneer plywood at Home Depot is of such pitiful quality that I can’t bring myself to pay $50 for a sheet of it.

Every couple weeks I’ve been baking bread using a modified version of my grandmother Ummy’s recipe, Sherwood Inn Dark Bread: [2c rolled oats, 1c bran, 1/2c cornmeal, 1-2Tbs canola oil, 1Tbs salt, 1/4c flax flour, 4c boiling water] mix it up in a big bowl and let it cool.  [1.75c lukewarm water, 2Tbs dry yeast, 1-2tsp molasses] mix in a measuring cup, let it proof for a few minutes, then add to big bowl.  [1c molasses, 1/4c wheat gluten, 2c whole wheat flour] mix into bowl.  Add white flour 1c at a time and mix till you can’t mix it with a spoon.  Then start kneading; keep adding flour as necessary to keep it from sticking.  After 10-15 mins when the dough is smooth and elastic, oil it and put it aside to rise.  When doubled, punch and form 3 loaves.  When they have risen, bake at 325 for 1 hour.

Alexis gave me The Lobster Chronicles for Christmas; a book by Linda Greenlaw, who grew up on Isle au Haut, an island off the coast of Maine.  She apparently went to some decent Maine college (Colby, maybe) but then pissed off her parents by going to sea and becoming a swordfishing boat captain.  I understand that she wrote a book about it (which I have not read) and it became somewhat popular along with the Perfect Storm craze a while back.  Anyway, she quit the swordfishing business and goes home to live with her parents and try her hand at lobstering; Chronicles is the story of her first season on the island.  It wasn’t bad writing and I was happy to finish it, but it didn’t really have much of a narrative arc to it.  There’s a bit of drama about the lobsters being scarce; her mom gets breast cancer, and she tries to get some mileage out of a vain hope of cultivating a love interest on the tiny island, but then it just sort of ends with a passing mention of her having a house built on the island; presumably with the proceeds from the sale of her first book.  I couldn’t help but think that after the apparent success of her first book, her editor prodded her to serve up another helping of quaint personalities and salty humor for the Barnes and Noble crowd in Boston, and she obligingly turned it out.

I also read Shoutin’ Into the Fog, a memoir by a guy who grew up in Five Islands during the depression in a family featuring unrewarded ambition, insufficient nutrition, and excessive parturition.  It was fun to catch some glimpses of what life was like 80 years ago in the place I grew up.  One thing that struck me was how much more integral the community was back then; there was a one-room school in the village and an active general store and post office at the Five Islands wharf, where now there is only a lobster shack for the tourists.  I can just barely remember going into that store when I was a young kid; old men used to play cribbage in the back.  At some point in the 80s someone figured out that the place was full of asbestos; the place was gutted and the volunteer Fire Department burned it down.  The whole town turned out to watch; somewhere I have a picture of it that I took with my first camera.