In honor of this incredible planet, this post celebrates gardens and gardeners.
Salads are actually quite a lot of fun to create – the components are limited only by the season, one’s preferences, and the size of the bowl. Any memory of salad as iceberg lettuce with pale tomato quarters drenched in heavy dressing is nothing more than a fading gastronomic nightmare.
Fresh greens are just the beginning.
Add some fruit, a splash of fresh lemon juice …
Homemade dressing, beans, shredded veggies and cheese …
Hard boiled eggs, raw cauliflower, a sprinkle of seaweed …
With sun and rain and fish emulsion (yuck), bright and happy gardens will flourish and soon fill farmers’ markets and our kitchens with dew-fresh veggies and fragrant fruits. Splurge, indulge and delight in the bounty that is spring and summer!
What began as an early morning making proper Lemon Squares became a later morning of tossing together Lemon Speedies.
Yes, I admit that I made the recipe up as I went along – but sometimes that works out pretty well.
1 pkg cake mix
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 dollop (or two) vanilla extract
2 10-oz jars lemon curd
- Preheat oven to 350*
- Spray two 8X8 square baking pans with Bakers Joy, or other non-stick spray.
- Combine cake mix, melted butter, egg and vanilla in large bowl and mix until well blended. It should form a soft dough.
- Halve dough and roll out between two sheets of waxed paper or press evenly into pan. repeat with the second pan.
- Bake for 15 minutes, or until just beginning to brown.
- Remove from oven, allow ample time to cool. When cool, spread one jar lemon curd (or peach, strawberry, cherry preserves?) per pan of baked dough.
- Return to oven for 15-20 minutes, or until edges of dough become golden brown.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool before cutting into squares and generously dusting with powdered sugar.
- Store in fridge.
As you can see, I opted to make one 8X8 pan with lemon curd – but used homemade peach preserves on the second pan. I will be delivering each dessert to different places, so thought it might be nice if everyone had some variety.
Although the berries are ripening a little slower this year than last, I still intend to stock up on some mouth watering South Carolina strawberries in a few weeks. In my experience, there is simply no comparison to other berry sources; when it comes to sun warmed deliciousness – it is well worth an eight-plus hour drive for the best fruit – for the best jam, ideally!
Rather than provide the step-by-step directions for making jam, I am going to suggest only three key points:
- Preparation is 89.5% of the work – completely clear your work area, super-clean your jars, rings, lids, tools, everything. Read the recipe at least three times – every year, every time.
- Get the freshest fruit possible. Picked-that-morning-fresh, if you can manage it. Your fruit is the flavor, but also the consistency and the safety of the finished product – fruit even in the early stages of decay can result in ruined jam and wasted effort – and very ill humans!
- And finally – Ball. Yup – the pectin, the Blue Book, the jars, the brand new rings and lids every single year (no skimping here!). I am not usually loyal to any one brand, but after canning for more years than I had realized until right this minute, I trust Ball.
So, begin by opening just one box of fresh pectin at least a few days before you intend to can anything, and pull out that folded up wad of paper inside. Read and read and make a list and head to the farm or the orchard or the grocery store – and have SO MUCH FUN!
I cannot say that I am gluten-free. Not in the least. I actually have a small package of gluten in my fridge that I use when baking whole grain breads.
Gluten is like the bubblegum of the baking world. As the protein strands of the gluten stretch and pull and combine, not only is an elastic, but strong, structure developed, but all of those empty pockets are perfect places for the gases from the activated yeast to fill – making the dough expand and rise beautifully.
Now that I’ve shared my understanding of Gluten Science 101, I have to say that I appreciate the fact that many folks have chosen to eliminate all gluten from their diets.
Well, being someone who loves to bake and cook for others, I realized that I have long overlooked this opportunity to learn something new – because isn’t it lousy to be at a friend’s get-together and be unable to eat the veggie or the dessert or that casserole-something because it isn’t a healthy choice for you?
So – you are invited to witness my first attempt to make Gluten Free …
Interestingly enough, I have almond flour in my house all of the time because it adds a little something to pie crusts, cookies, etc. – I never thought about it being a gluten-free staple.
Gluten Free Almond Pancakes, with Filling
1 cup almond flour
1/4 cup milk
2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey – or to taste
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon oil
Mix all ingredients together until well blended. Let rest in fridge for 5 – 10 minutes.
While the batter rests, combine Daisy brand cottage cheese or softened cream cheese (both are supposed to be gluten-free) with maple syrup, a dash of almond and a touch of ground cinnamon to taste. Blend until smooth in a small bowl, then set aside while cooking the pancakes.
Taking the batter from the fridge, pour by 1/3 cup onto hot griddle – cook, flip, remove, repeat.
While still warm, spoon about two tablespoons of the cottage cheese/creams cheese mixture onto each pancake.
I did learn a few important things about gluten-free pancakes: the batter is rather thin in comparison to gluten pancakes; the texture of the cooked pancakes is less pliable than traditional recipes – but the flavor of these pancakes was quite good and not unlike many of the pancake recipe variations I’ve made over the years.
I do have to say that my husband cooked up a batch of his very own buttermilk pancakes the next morning … well, suffice it to say that if he had made those golden discs of amazing the first time we met – I would have eloped with the man in a second. Gluten this or gluten that … some things simply cannot be compared.
Fresh eggs – the stuff of meringue, omelets. souffles. The stuff of culinary adventure.
The art of boiling eggs is debated in some kitchens …
Boil too long – an unattractive green ring appears around the yolk.
Ice down too soon – gooey yuck instead of cooked yolk.
Some people in some kitchens claim it is all in the careful timing – 3 minutes, I think.
Some people are probably right.
Scrambled, fried, poached, boiled … within a few minutes, everyone at the breakfast table can be happy.
Even the eggs!