Archive for July, 2009

PostHeaderIcon Potato Gratin

Don’t be fooled by the name, this dish is neither fancy nor hard to make, which makes it right up my alley!

I have copious amounts of potatoes in my fridge and pantry due to co op purchases and needed something to make as a side dish to BBQ ribs, a nice rustic Potato Gratin did the job.

Gratin Fin

The basic Potato Gratin is potatoes, cream, butter, garlic and salt and pepper.  You can “fancy” it up by adding cheese, mushrooms, herbs or whatever you prefer.  I had half a red onion in the fridge so that was used in today’s recipe.  If you prefer to leave the onion out it will be just as tasty. Here is what I did.

Potato Gratin Recipe
1 teaspoon olive oil (you will not use this is you do not add the onion)
3 large potatoes peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 onion thinly sliced (optional)
2-3 tablespoons of butter
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
2/3 – 1 cup cream
Salt and pepper to taste
Sprinkling of dried parsley

Soak the potatoes in water for about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Make sure they are completely covered with water, they will turn brown if not.
Saute the garlic and onion in the oil until soft, do not burn the garlic.  Burnt garlic tastes horrible! (you will leave this step out if you do not use onions)

Assemble the dish as follows:
Butter an oven proof dish with a little butter. Place one layer of sliced potatoes in the bottom of the dish, then dot with small amounts of butter. Add a third of the garlic and onion mixture (if you are not using onion, this is where you will add a third of the raw chopped garlic). Next salt and pepper and then a drizzle of cream (about a third of your cream).
Repeat the above starting with a layer of potatoes and ending with the drizzle of cream. You can add a bit more cream at the end if you find it looks dry. Here is a picture of mine before it went in the oven, but I did add a few more splashed of cream after this picture. Sprinkle with dried parsley and bake in a 375′F oven for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft and the top is brown.

Gratin Prebake

This is so simple to make and looks great on a table.  The kids helped me put this together.

I served it with BBQ ribs and marinated vegatables for dinner tonight.  The picture at the beginning of the post is the final product.

PostHeaderIcon Sourdough confession time!

Confession time! I am having a sourdough break right now!

I have been defeated by the symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast that live (or fail to live) in my sourdough starter. Let me rephrase that; not defeated, but momentarily derailed. I will be back! Right after I finish licking my sourdough wounds and gather enough courage (and another bag of flour) and do more research.

From what I can tell, the starter is healthy or at least almost healthy, but not strong enough to raise a loaf. So for now my pet or adversary whatever you prefer is resting in a covered bowl in the fridge while we both regroup and prepare for round two!

PostHeaderIcon Lemonade

During the week the kids drink milk and water, but occasionally we made fresh lemonade.  Today I doubled our usual recipe and made one regular lemonade and one with club soda.  Here is the Lemonade recipe, I prefer honey as a sweetener so it has honey and no sugar.
Lemonade Recipe
3 lemons
1/2 cup honey
1 cup very hot water
3 cups cold water
Ice cubes
Fresh mint leaves (optional)

Cut lemons in half and squeeze the juice out of them.  Pour the juice and honey into a pitcher or bowl and add the hot water.  Stir until the honey is dissolved.  Add the cold water (or club soda) and ice cubes and stir.  Pour lemonade into glasses and garnish with mint leaves.
Enjoy, it is really tasty!

PostHeaderIcon What’s for Breakfast?

I have mentioned this before, at my house breakfast lasts until ten.  For some reason my kids think it is OK to start eating at 7 am and not stop until 10 am.  I always try to give them eggs or warm porridge to fill them up, but they are both endless pits of hunger.  Here are a few hearty (for my lot) and not so hearty breakfast ideas for those of you who need some inspiration.

Oats with blue berries and honey:
I use frozen blue berries for this, it not only cools the oats down faster, but it is also cheaper.

Eggs and soldiers:
I know that many in the US are not comfortable with eating soft boiled eggs, but it is common in other places.  We eat this about 3 times a week.  It is a basic soft boiled egg with toast cut into thin strips to dip into the egg yolk.  I know this is going to gross some out, but we love it.
By the way the name comes from the Mother Goose Nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty, referring to Humtpy and the kings men (soldiers) who could not put him back together again.

Scrambled egg on toast with mild salsa
This is a favorite of James and mine as well.

Toad in the middle

Take a slice of bread and use a round cookie cutter to cut a large circle in the middle.  Grease a frying pan and place your bread in it.  Once the pan is hot, break an egg into the middle where the circle is.  Once the egg is set, turn it over and cook on the other side.

Squishy apple

This is was the first finger food that I fed to both the girls as babies.  It is steamed apple (hence the squishy, named by the kids of course), you could add sugar and Cinnamon (not for babies), but I think it is sweet enough without it and I never gave it to the kids with sugar so they do not expect it.

“Eggy” bread
Again named by the kids, “Eggy” bread is sugarless French toast.  This was also one of the first finger foods the kids ate after their first birthday.  Since I was not not going to feed sugar to a 1 year old I made it without sugar and cinnamon.  Funny enough we all eat our “eggy” bread with Ketchup now.  It just tastes better.  Try it!  You could still serve it with a nice maple syrup, but we prefer it without.

Breakfast smoothies:
Today I took 1 cup frozen bananas, 1 cup frozen strawberries, 1/4 cup plain yogurt and the juice of one orange.  Blend it together until smooth.  If you want it thinner, add a juice of your choice or whey.  I often have whey left over from making yogurt once a week so that goes into our smoothies.  Today I left the extra liquid out and let the kids eat it like ice cream for a fun change.

These are just a few of our breakfast ideas.  Today’s breakfast was Eggy” Bread, Squishy Apple and  strawberries with plain yogurt.  Here is a picture of breakfast,


PostHeaderIcon Movie and appetizer night

Once a month we try to have a movie night with the kids. James sets up the projector and we watch old home movies (the kids love to see themselves on the screen) and a short or two . Tom and Jerry and The Pink Panther are movies that make James and I think of our childhood, we bring those out and have a real retro movie experience. Tonight we took the whole thing outside and watched along with a few friends on the lawn. The plan was to eat the appetizers while watching the movies, but of course the kids could not hold out until sunset so we ate earlier and waited for the sun to go down before starting the movies.

The kids loved making the appetizers with me.  My plan was to make as much food on sticks as I could think of so they could help with the assembly.  Being a homeschool mom I had to bring in some learning as well.  They first sorted the little cocktail sticks into groups of colors and then assembled the fruit and veggies in a pattern onto a stick.  Such a nerd, I know!  The girls took great pride in doing it themselves and Emily was wonderful helping Alexia when she got confused.  This was a fun way to get the kids involved.  Emily told me that this was the best day ever!!  Poor child, she must be deprived if this was her best day.

Here is a picture of the food we made.  All very simple and fun to eat.


Marinated vegetables
Salad on a stick – Tomato, cucumber and cheese
Dad’s salad on a stick – Salami, cheese and olives
Kid friendly Ham and cheese roll ups – Tortilla roll up with cream cheese, ham, shredded cheese
Adult Ham and Cheese roll ups – The adult version has lettuce and horse radish
Cucumber rings with goats cheese, dill and smoked Salmon
Toasted baguette with chicken liver pate
Mock pizza – Toasted baguette with pasta sauce and salami
Fruit on a stick – Blue berries and strawberries with yogurt as a dip
Chocolate dipped strawberries

It was such a pleasure to spend the hour or so doing this with the kids, The food was healthy for the most part and everyone got to eat a little bit of what they like.  This was a great way to spend a hot summers night!

PostHeaderIcon Raw Marinated Vegetables

This is a recipe that I regularly make, it never tastes the same and that is half the fun. If I cook the vegetables, James will eat it as well.  If I leave it raw as I intend to do today, it becomes a snack for the kids and me to enjoy for the next few days. Although my 5 year old will pick all the herbs off it first. Here is what I did:

2 Carrots, Julienne (thin)
1 cup
Green beans, roughly chopped
2 Tomatoes
cut into thick rings, for large tomatoes cut the rings into quarters
1 cup
salad peppers roughly chopped
1/4 cabbage, roughly chopped
1/2 small cauliflower roughly chopped
1/2 small broccoli, roughly chopped


Red wine vinegar, you can also use Apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
Garlic oil, or regular Olive oil
Fresh Thyme, Oregano and Basil, you can use any herbs that you like or dried Italian herbs work well
Salt to taste

Toss the chopped veggies together, then add equal amounts olive oil and either lemon juice or vinegar. The amount of oil and vinegar will depend on the veggies that you use. I use whatever I have in the fridge, unless I am having guests for dinner I will never go buy veggies especially for this recipe. Use what you have. Use enough oil and vinegar to just coat the veggies, you do not want to drench them in the marinade. Sprinkle with herbs and salt.  I store them in a plastic ziploc bag in the refrigerator over night and the next day I have a lovely snack or a side dish to go along with a meal.

Grilled veggies:
If you plan to grill these veggies, do not use tomatoes and chop your other vegetables into larger chunks.   Grill in the oven at 400′F for about 30 minutes.  I cannot have grilled vegetable without at least one onion quartered. I love grilled onion in this marinade.

This is the most simple and very healthy side dish to make.  I tend to grill them in the winter and keep it raw during the hot summer months.

PostHeaderIcon Co-op Friday

Every second Friday I pick up my fresh produce from a local co-op.  I just love it!  For $17.50 I get a large amount of fruit and veggies that I would never get at the grocery stores even on sale items.  I  like pictures of food so I had to post pictures of my last two co-op pick ups.

The above picture is from two weeks ago and below is the picture from today.  I love the process of looking at the veggies and planning meals for the weeks ahead.  I know this is a chore to some, but I love doing it.
The fruit is easy, the kids will eat it all within a week.  Here is what I have planned for the veggies.

Potatoes – Oven baked fries to go with a baked fish and chips, Mash as a side dish to sausage and mushrooms, grilled potatoes in foil on the grill or in the oven.

Broccoli – Our two parakeets love broccoli so they will get their share.  Marinated veggies (both raw and grilled), broccoli on my Friday night pizza (along with fresh tomato, mushrooms and goats cheese), the kids and I eat it as a snack during the week, either cooked or raw with hummus.

Garlic- The packet in the front had fresh peeled garlic in it.  So convenient.  I have already made garlic and rosemary oil with it.  I cut the garlic in half, picked a few springs of Rosemary and added both along with Olive oil into a glass jar.  I use the oil and the fresh garlic in preparing meals.
Garlic oil

Tomatoes – I will use them in my lunch salads, on sandwiches for James, raw in marinated veggies and I also eat them raw as you would an apple.

Onions- I have so many in the fridge already that I will probably end up chopping these up and freezing for use later in meals. The 6 onions that I already have in the fridge will be used in meals this week and next week, I also grill them outside when we cook out or in the oven.

The fruit – I may try to save the mango and oranges from being eaten and add them to our Breakfast Smoothies.

PostHeaderIcon An attempt at making Hard Cheese

On the 18th of July, I made a batch of Farmer’s Cheese and put half aside to make a hard cheese. I made a homemade press and was surprised at how well it worked. However, only time will tell if it was good enough.  I left the cheese in the press overnight, and by morning there was no more moisture left on the outside, but the inside still felt soft. I rubbed the outside with salt and wrapped the cheese in clean cloth. For the next 4 days it was in the fridge wrapped up. The next step would be to wax the cheese, but I do not want to buy cheese wax at this early stage of my cheese making. I plan to see if I can make it without the wax.  My hope is that if I leave it in the fridge for the next few weeks, it will dry out and turn into a hard cheese. My biggest concern is that the inside is not dry enough and when I open it after a few weeks the cheese will be bad inside from too much moisture. Here is a picture of my press as well as the cheese on day 5, I will be very surprised if this actually works!



PostHeaderIcon Lemon Balm and Mint Tea

I drink a lot of hot tea. Mostly Rooibos (red tea) and Ceylon and I drink both with milk and honey on most days.  I can drink up to 4 cups a day in the summer and in the winter this number goes way up.

This afternoon I felt like a cup of tea, but was looking for something different. I have Lemon Balm growing in a flower garden, but I mainly grow it for the fragrance and never really gave it much thought as to what I was going to do with it. It is growing like a weed and I do not like the idea of cutting it back without using the leaves so I made a cup of tea from it today along with chocolate mint that I have growing in a pot. I loved it and will definitely be making more tomorrow. The lemon, mint and hint of chocolate was so good together, I was happy that I tried this one. Here is what I did.

Lemon Balm and Mint Tea

10 lemon balm leaves
1 spring of mint

I have the most adorable little cup strainer that fits right into a cup for the tea to steep in, but do you think that I could find it today? So I pulled out my coffee plunger and made my tea in there. It worked really well though.  I let the leaves steep for 3-5 minutes, poured the tea into a cup and let it cool a little more before I drank it.


In my search for recipes using Lemon Balm I came across one for Lemon balm cheese cake.  I may need to try that one day.

PostHeaderIcon Sourdough starter pet

One of the sourdough websites that I have been reading refers to a sourdough starter as a pet.  I think this is such an apt description since you are constantly feeding and allowing it to rest and taking care of it as you do a pet.  For the last 3 days I have had my little pet eating, growing and sleeping in the kitchen and it seems to be doing very well.

The first time that I tried to start a sourdough pet, it was a total disaster.  I had more mold growing than bacteria and the two are enemies when it comes to sourdough starters.  So when I inquired on a Natural living forum about sourdough, the same lady who gave me my SCOBY offered to give me a sourdough starter.  It has been stored in the fridge and not fed for some time and needed to be revived, but that I read was much easier to do than to start your own so I was happy to give it a try.  Information about sourdough starters are also sketchy on the internet.  There are many people who make it, but everyone has different advice so it was hard to sort through all the information.  Fortunately this pet came with a great internet link that has been very easy to follow.  Here is a photo diary of my new pet.

This is what the starter looked like on day 1
This is my first attempt at reviving it.  I took 1 tablespoon of starter, 1 1/2 cup flour and 1 cup of warm water (75′F), mixed it together and let it proof for 24 hours.
Here is what it looked like after 24 hours.  When I saw the amount of bubbles and smelt the aroma, I was excited.  I was convinced that my pet was now ready to make bread.  I searched online and found that this was only the beginning stage of reviving the starter so I let it rest in the refrigerator for 12 hours then, I gave it one more feeding and let it proof.
Now there is a visible foam layer on the top along with lots of bubbles throughout the starter.  Tomorrow morning I will evaluate it again and see if I can finally make my first ever sourdough bread.


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