Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Herb Series–Chives


This perennial herb, “allium schoenoprasum” is from the Alliaceae family, and is native to Europe, Asia and North America. It is a small edible onion, quite common and readily available. Chives grow from a bulb and have small lavender blossoms. The stems can be flat or tubular and grow up to about 20 inches long.

Chives are most often used as a garnish, and if used in cooking should be added at the end of cooking as they lose flavor if overcooked. They can be used anywhere a mild onion flavor is desired.

Cultivation:

Chives can be started from seed, and can be started in early spring since they are cool weather tolerant. Their shallow roots will require frequent watering. Patches of chives will spread, causing the plants to weaken, so transplant as needed. The plants need full sun and sandy, loamy soil.

Harvesting:

Chives can be snipped as needed. It’s best to cut chives with scissors – using a knife could bruise the stems. Typically they do not dry well, but can be chopped and frozen. The lovely blossoms are edible, too. Simply rinse off and add to salads or use as a garnish.

Nutrition:

Chives are said to provide many nutrients – beta-carotene, vitamins A, C and K, calcium, folic acid and potassium, just to name a few.

Medicinal Use:

Chives are a member of the onion family and have the same potential benefits for lowering blood pressure and preventing blood clots. They contain allicin, which could lower LDL and raise HDL. Chives aid digestion by removing bacteria, fungi and yeast from the intestines. Glutathione produced by chives and working as an antioxidant may eliminate toxins that could potentially cause cancer.

So for very few calories chives pack a nutritional punch!
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In February I did a post about the "language” of flowers, but did you know that herbs also have meanings as well? Here are a few of our favorites:

Basil – good wishes, love
Bay – glory
Chamomile – patience
Chives – usefulness
Coriander – hidden worth
Fennel – flattery
Lavender – devotion, virtue
Lemon Balm – sympathy
Marjoram – joy, happiness
Mint – eternal refreshment
Oregano – substance
Parsley – festivity
Rosemary – remembrance
Sage – wisdom, immortality
Tarragon – lasting interest
Thyme – courage, strength

How about making a lovely bouquet of meaningful herbs for a friend? Or a living wreath? Simply use a floral foam wreath made for fresh flowers, insert the herb stems in an attractive design. Tie with a pretty bow and add a pair of scissors on a ribbon. They can snip the fresh herbs as needed in their kitchen. Of course, remind them to water or spritz the herbs from time to time to keep them fresh.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Roasting Vegetables

Oven roasting is a great way to cook many vegetables. It makes them so brown, crisp and flavorful that you just can’t turn them down! Have you tried it? I’ve done just about all vegetables in the oven, including beets and asparagus. All you do is drizzle them with a bit of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and freshly-ground black pepper, then pop the pan into the oven. Be sure to watch them, though – if they seem to be getting too brown, cover them with foil until the last 5 minutes of cooking.

Here’s how to roast several of my favorites:

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
 
Asparagus: Trim ends – roast 10 to 15 minutes.

Beets: Leave whole and unpeeled, stick several times with a fork – roast 1 hour, or until tender. Peel when cool.

Carrots: Cut into 1-inch pieces - roast 30 to 40 minutes.

Onions: Use jumbo onions and cut each into 12 wedges – roast 20 to 30 minutes.

Potatoes: Cut into 2-inch pieces – roast 45 minutes.

Sweet Potatoes: Cut into 1-inch lengthwise wedges – roast 30 minutes.

Winter Squash: Cut into 2-inch pieces - roast 40 minutes.

Zucchini: Trim ends and cut in half crosswise, then quarter each half lengthwise – roast 15 to 20 minutes.

Spread vegetables in single layer on flat baking sheet with low sides. Use about 1 1/2 teaspoons of oil per pound of vegetables, and season to taste. Stir or turn halfway through if needed.

One of my favorites is a mixture of white and sweet potatoes – so good! And roasted beets have such a great flavor. They’re quite messy to peel - you might want to wear food-safe latex gloves to keep your hands from being stained red for days!
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 Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Husband’s Choice

Happy Monday morning! It’s a bit damp here – there, too? It's a good day to stay inside with a warm drink and a good book! Or maybe do some cooking.

Last week I mentioned the new “series” here at From Grammie’s Kitchen, and this is the first installment. My hubby selected the cookbook, I chose several great recipes, and he made the final decision (I should have known it would be a dessert!).

Last night I made these delicious apple dumplings after dinner. It’s an unusual recipe, as you’ll see when you read the ingredients. And if you haven’t had these before you’re in for a real treat! They’re easy to make and just plain yummy. Most of us here had to have seconds! A scoop of ice cream melting on top just added to the great taste.

SDC10317After the butter & sugar mixture.
SDC10318After the Mountain Dew.
SDC10319After a sprinkle of cinnamon.
SDC10320Out of the oven!
SDC10321Yum!

APPLE DUMPLINGS

2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and cut into 8 sections each
2 (8 oz.) cans refrigerated crescent roll dough
2 sticks butter
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 (12 oz.) can Mountain Dew
dash ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8 x 10" baking dish and set aside.

Open the crescent roll dough and separate into sections. Wrap a piece of apple in each, beginning at the wide end. Place point down in prepared dish.

Melt butter in saucepan over low heat. Add the sugar and vanilla. Pour over dumplings. 

Pour the Mountain Dew over the dumplings, then sprinkle with cinnamon.

Bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown.

This recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks – Food From My Frontier by Ree Drummond. The book is available at Amazon in both hard cover and Kindle editions starting at $10.90.

I’ve also seen the recipe online – and actually enjoyed these dumplings several years ago when an aunt brought them to a family reunion. You should definitely give them a try – both my husband and son said the recipe is a keeper!

Notes: It was easy to cut this recipe in half for our small household. I used granulated Splenda instead of sugar, and would have used a diet Mountain Dew if I had one. A 7x11" baking dish could be used instead of an 8x10" - I used a 2-quart oval.
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Today is No Housework Day - wish I could get away with that one! It's also Tater Day (It's Sweet Potatoes). Wednesday is National Cherish Antiques Day. We'll observe National Sibling Day on Thursday (Hello, Sister!). Have a grilled cheese on Saturday to celebrate Grilled Cheese Sandwich Day, and follow it up with licorice candy for Licorice Day.

See the "Holidays" page for a full list of holidays and observances.
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Cup of Coffee, Please!

cup-of-coffee
The week is almost over, and we’re heading for another weekend – I hope you all have plans to relax a bit and have some fun. As I stand here, large mug in hand while waiting for the coffee to finish brewing, I’m thinking about where that coffee comes from, its history and what we can do with it. And I’ve always thought it funny that a bean is harvested, dried, roasted, ground, water is poured over it, then we drink that water and discard the grounds.

There are many legends and stories about coffee’s origins, but it’s thought that those origins go back to about the 13th century. One story is that a goatherd in Ethiopia by the name of Kaldi found that his herd became more active after eating the berries from a certain tree in the fields. Wondering if the effect would be the same on humans, he tried one and found that he experienced the same feeling of exhilaration. Another legend is that a man from Yemen, while traveling in Ethiopia, noticed that birds gained energy and vitality after eating the berries and tried them himself with the same results.

The Arabs were the first to cultivate and trade coffee. From Ethiopia coffee traveled to India, then to Europe, then around the world. The Turks, in about 1453, are said to have been the first to actually make a drink from the beans. In Turkish law around that time it became legal to divorce a man if he failed to provide enough daily coffee for his wife!

At times throughout history the use of coffee was banned by religious or governmental authorities for different reasons.

The National Coffee Association USA was established in 1911, becoming the first trade organization for the US coffee industry and one of the first trade associations in the country.

Varieties of Coffee:

The 2 main types of coffee are Arabica and Robusto. The Arabica is known for its rich flavor and aroma, and is typically more expensive. Robusto is often used for instant coffee.

How It’s Harvested:

There are two harvesting techniques:

1) Strip Picking – all berries on the tree are removed, either by machine or by hand.

2) Selective Picking – only the ripe berries are removed, by hand, and the harvesting crew rotates through the fields as the berries ripen.

After harvesting, the pulp is removed from the berry to reveal the bean. The bean is then dried. Roasting then darkens the beans and releases the oils that give coffee its flavor. The roasted beans are ground, and the ultimate brewing method determines the grinding process – the finer the grind the faster the brewing preparation should be. A larger grind would be exposed to hot water for a longer period of time during brewing, whereas a finer grind would be ideal for a shorter brewing method.

Where It’s Grown:

Coffee is grown in several areas of the world – in Central and South America (Costa Rica, Columbia and Brazil), in Africa (Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia) and in the Far East (Vietnam and Indonesia).

Buying and Storing It:

Ideally, you should only buy as much coffee as you will use in a short time, maybe a week or two at most. Any extra coffee should be stored in a dark airtight container (never in glass) in a cool, dark place. It’s best not to refrigerate or freeze coffee in order to protect it from any moisture, which would degrade flavor.

Brewing Methods:

Over the years there have been several methods and types of equipment for brewing coffee. Long ago there were those sturdy metal coffee pots used on the campfire or in the fireplace. Then came the percolator, which was probably the first actual “machine” used to brew coffee. I remember having percolators, both aluminum and ceramic, that were placed on the stovetop. Then came drip coffeemakers, which many of us use these days. There are also the French Press and the Espresso coffee makers. The latest development in coffee machines is the single-cup brewer, which provides convenience and versatility. The individual cups are available in many flavors of coffee as well as teas and cocoas.

However we prepare it, most of us savor that cup of coffee first thing in the morning – and all during the day. Its health benefits have long been debated, but I say everything in moderation!
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Here are a couple of simple coffee creamer recipes and one for a flavored coffee mix. Any of these would make great gifts, too.

SWEET AND SPICY CREAMER

1 cup powdered creamer
1/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Mix well and store airtight. To use: mix a heaping teaspoonful in mug of hot coffee or tea.

MOCHA CREAMER

1 (16 oz.) jar powdered creamer
1 cup powdered chocolate drink mix for milk
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix and store airtight. To use: mix a tablespoon into 6 ounces hot coffee.

VIENNA COFFEE MIX

1 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 cups powdered creamer
1 1/2 cups nonfat dry milk
4 tablespoons baking cocoa
1 cup instant coffee


Mix well and store airtight. To use: mix 2 to 3 tablespoons into one cup hot water.
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The new series called “Husband’s Choice” will start this weekend, with results posted early next week. My husband will, at random, select a cookbook from my bookshelves. From that cookbook I will select several possible recipes, then he will choose one to be prepared.
The book for this week has been chosen – The Pioneer Woman Cooks - Food From My Frontier by Ree Drummond. This talented blogger, photographer and Food Network chef is a favorite of mine, and her down-to-earth style appeals to so many of us home cooks.

The chosen recipe is under wraps for now. More to come….
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Saturday is International Pillow Fight Day, National Deep Dish Pizza Day and National Love Our Children Day. (They all sound good to me!) Sunday we observe Hostess Twinkie Day, National Student Athlete Day and "Sorry, Charlie" Day.

And check the "Holidays" page for even more!
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"Mothers are those wonderful people who can get up in the morning before the smell of coffee."
(Author Unknown)

"Actually, this seems to be the basic need of the human heart in nearly every great crisis - a good, hot cup of coffee."
(Alexander King)

"Do I like my coffee black? There are other colors?"
(Author Unknown)
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April Fool’s Day & Tip Tuesday

Happy April 1st! It looks as if spring is finally here, and we’ve certainly earned it. And can you believe that a quarter of the year is already gone? Time sure passes quickly.

Do you know the history of April Fool’s Day? This day is one on which people traditionally play pranks on others, all in good fun. The day is also sometimes called All Fool’s Day. This prank holiday dates back to the Middle Ages, and its origin is uncertain.

In France in 1582 the Gregorian calendar was introduced, and New Year’s Day, which had always been a week-long celebration from March 25 to April 1, was moved to January 1. Due to slow communication at that time, many in rural areas (and some who were just plain stubborn and opposed to change) continued to celebrate as before, thus being ridiculed as “foolish”.

There are many references to the day in literature and in mythological lore. Over the years there have been some major media-wide pranks, such as the 1957 BBC news program that told of Switzerland’s great spaghetti harvest, which was due to the eradication of the “spaghetti weevil”.  It was so convincing that many people actually believed it!

Have you been pranked? Or pulled one on someone else? No pranks here…just information and a couple of recipes!
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breads_85_thumb
Today’s Tip Tuesday is all about Yeast. The microorganism, “saccharomyces cerevisiae”, is a member of the fungus family and requires 3 things to grow – food, warmth and moisture.  Baker’s yeast is the variety used for baking, and is used to leaven dough. It works by turning fermentable sugars in dough into carbon dioxide and ethanol. The food that makes the yeast “grow” is either sugar, potatoes or the water in which potatoes have been boiled. Growth is inhibited somewhat by salt, fats or the sugar itself.

A Short History:

The use of yeast was recorded as far back as ancient Egypt, but its origin is uncertain. In the 1860s, after the introduction of the microscope, yeast was identified as a living organism, and it became possible to isolate and produce it. Production of commercial yeast was done by use of centrifuges in the United States at the turn of the 20th century. Fleischmann’s developed active dry yeast during World War II for US armed forces because it had a longer shelf life and needed no refrigeration.

Types:

Cream
Compressed (cake)
Active Dry
Instant
Rapid-Rise

The Instant and Rapid-Rise are basically the same, and Rapid-Rise is used in most bread machines. Both are faster because they only require one rising.

How to Use:

Typically yeast would be added to a warm liquid (100 to 115 degrees F) and allowed to “bloom”, then added to the dry ingredients. Often the sugar called for in the recipe would be added to the liquid with the yeast. With the Rapid-Rise yeast, though, that extra step is usually not necessary as all the ingredients are added to the bread machine at the same time.

Yeast can be kept in the refrigerator, and some say it can be frozen; however, I did read that freezing the yeast would kill it. It is, after all, a living thing.

Nutritional & Other Information:

One teaspoon of yeast contains 13 calories, no cholesterol, sodium or sugar, 36 mg of potassium and small amounts of monounsaturated fat, iron, vitamin B-6 and fiber.

A 4-ounce jar of yeast = 14 tablespoons = 42 teaspoons
 
One package of active dry yeast = 2 1/4 teaspoons = 1/4 ounce

1 cake equals a package of active dry yeast

Here are a couple of easy bread recipes that use yeast:

QUICK YEAST ROLLS

1 envelope active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups baking mix (such as Bisquick)
1 egg, slightly beaten

Dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup warm water in mixing bowl. Add mix and egg and beat well with a spoon. Turn out on floured board and knead about 5 minutes. Shape and pat with hands to about 1/2” thickness. Cut with 1 1/4” cookie cutter and put on greased baking sheet. Cover with waxed paper that has been sprayed with cooking spray and let rise in warm place for 45 minutes or until almost doubled. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes or until lightly browned and done. Serve hot. Makes 2 dozen. (I wrote at the bottom of the recipe card that 1 1/4” was actually pretty small, so possibly use a regular biscuit cutter, which would, of course, yield fewer rolls.)

CORNBREAD MIX BREAD

2/3 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 envelope active dry yeast
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 box Jiffy cornbread mix
approximately 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 1/2-inch loaf pan and set aside.

In mixing bowl, combine the water, sugar and yeast; let stand a few minutes until beginning to bubble. Stir in salt and egg and beat well. Add cornbread mix and enough flour to make a dough which can be kneaded. Knead as for any bread, about 10 minutes. Let dough rise in greased bowl, lightly covered, for about 45 minutes or until doubled. Punch down to break up gas bubbles. Shape and put into prepared pan. Let rise again until nearly doubled (about 30 minutes if at proper rising temperature of 85 to 90 degrees F). Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until loaf is beginning to pull from pan sides and gives slightly hollow sound. Remove from pan immediately and cool.

(I have no record of where these recipes came from – they are both written on old, yellowed recipe cards.)
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The new month brings a new list of holidays and celebrations. Please go to the “Holidays” page for the complete list of April observances!
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"You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time."

(Abraham Lincoln)

"The first of April, some do say
Is set apart for All Fool's Day;
But why the people call it so
Nor I, nor they themselves, do know,
But on this day are people sent
On purpose for pure merriment."

(Poor Robin's Almanac, 1790)
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Your comments and suggestions are always welcome. Thanks for reading!