The Root

One gardener’s quest to get to the bottom of it all.

Coconut “Faux-Pound Cake” December 11, 2008

Filed under: Recipes,Winter — Kate @ 11:26 am
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Butterless coconut pound cake

Butterless coconut pound cake

Neville and I have always joked that the kitchen is never really clean because we use it; lately, this has actually been the case. It’s thoroughly winter, everybody’s hungry pretty consistently six times a day, and we all need energy to be/keep up with a one-year-old. But since I’m also a sucker for efficiency, it’s my de facto mission to get good at making several simple recipes and then use variations on them forevermore — last summer it was pizza, grilled chicken salad, and frittata.

This winter it’s been more of a crapshoot, but we do seem to eat a lot of Indian dishes and “experimental” baked goods. That has generated a lot of half-used cartons of coconut milk, yogurt, and buttermilk. Which is good cause for more experimentation. That’s how this cake was born. Buttermilk is amazing — I have been using it as a substitute for butter in a lot of things, and I love how they turn out. (I used to substitute store-bought buttermilk with regular milk mixed with vinegar, but that has none of the frothy good thickness of cultured buttermilk. It’s worth the extra cost, in my book.)

Coconut Faux-Pound Cake

2 eggs at room temperature
1/4 cup buttermilk at room temp.
1 C. lite coconut milk at room temp.
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tsp baking powder
2 cup flour
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut

Stir together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk wet ingredients together and then add them to the dry mixture, along with the coconut. Pour into a greased, 9×5 inch loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, until just brown on top and firm to the touch. Let cool completely on a rack. Eat, eat, eat!


Garden Geek July 13, 2008

I have seen more peas in the past week than I had ever seen in my life ’til now. The best have been from my own garden, but I have bought pounds from farmstands. I have priced shelling peas from here to the coast (the cheaper pea was farthest away). I now know that a nice, fat pea pod usually holds 7 or 8 peas, but I have shelled 10 peas from a pod. A real coup. Neville had front-row seats to this show — “Ooh, a tenner, babe!” (Not yet hip to my strange lingo, he initially thought that I was talking about opera singers and glanced at the TV.) “Another tenner! That’s three tenners from this batch!!”

We threw handfuls into coconut curry and pasta. I make great green blendersful of pea puree for Freya. By this Friday, though, pea mania was wearing a little thin. My last batch sat on the counter for a couple days, until some were sprouting and others were gooshy and khaki-colored. There was a titch of mold. Looking at them, I didn’t want to feed them to my daughter’s young stomach. But I was goddamned if I was going to toss what I had shelled. So I boiled them and made pea pesto. Tonight we dine on homemade pesto and prosciutto pizza. In typical fashion for us, at about 10 pm.

I never liked pesto. In my previous life, people would go wild for pesto and I would just be like, “What?” But I made this; I know the ingredients — some of them since sprouthood — and I can taste them. Fresh basil, garlic, Parmesan, those peas. It tastes good.

In addition to going all Rachel Ray on my own ass, in the past week Neville and I have really gone Martha Stewart on our bedroom’s ass. Ah, the story of our bedroom’s paintjob. Thanks to the previous tenants, it used to be a cave: a dark brown base accented with weird light-blue rectangles, which used to frame their posters, and a glossy tan ceiling. Heavy, navy blue drapes. I don’t know what they were thinking. The room sucked up all available light like a black hole. But it wasn’t even like cozy, sleepy cave, it was just hideous. And we slept there for a year.

But now. It is an orange grove! Rich, golden orange walls, sage green curtains and bedspread. So refreshing and natural. Passing a day lily on the street today, I got all sappy: My room is the color of a day lily’s throat.


Green Baby Food July 4, 2008

I came up against a couple deadlines yesterday. One: my jarred baby-food stock was totally depleted. Two: I realized none too soon that stores would be closed on the Fourth and that I was sick of buying jars of baby food, anyway. Three: My garden, so far, has yielded next-to-nothing that Freya can digest (only enough spinach for salad, a recent handful of peas that Nev and I wolfed down ourselves).

So I broke down and stocked up at a farmstand. It was fantastic. They had zucchini, spinach, and big, juicy shelling peas. I bought pounds. And, surprise of surprises, it was immensely effing satisfying to make baby food from scratch. I wasn’t sure — I’ve said before, I don’t love cooking, and dislike the prep most of all, so I wondered if I would end up weary in the kitchen, still shelling peas with a bellyful of bah-humbug.

But no. In fact, I almost stayed home from a party yesterday evening to make more baby food. Yeah. (And, yes, I have always been a dork.) The first batch of spinach turned out so tasty and vibrant green. Here’s my best Martha Stewart snapshot, which still doesn’t do justice to the puree:

I’m storing it in ice cube trays à la my friend Claudia. And the peas! I returned to the kitchen after the party and stayed up ’til midnight shelling, blanching, and pureeing peas for the sheer pleasure of seeing what gorgeously saturated shade of green they would turn out:

And the taste, my God, they are so freshly delicious.

So, the verdict is, this is an experience I will happily pay for. Speaking of, for those who are curious. I spent $13 on maybe three pounds of produce. Next time I’ll increase the poundage (1.25 pounds of shelling peas yielded the amount of puree above). For each of Freya’s meals, I’ll mix two cubes of veggies and possibly some brown rice flour. I’ll get probably 20 meals from the whole venture, so it will end up costing about the same I would pay for the Earth’s Best jarred baby food I had been buying. I could definitely find cheaper baby food in jars. But making my own is definitely satisfying enough that I’m going to keep at it, whether I find fresh produce that’s a little cheaper, or not.

Plus, I get a lot of juicy tidbits for the compost heap…


Straightforward Calendula Balm February 28, 2008

If you’re like me, you appreciate purity and simplicity in consumables and potions — peanut butter with two ingredients, for example: peanuts; salt. In other words, if I can picture the ingredients, I’m happy.

Along those lines, here’s a recipe for homemade calendula balm. Heads up, it’s a large one: It’ll fill two pint-sized jars. I have been salving my lips for months, and I’m pretty sure this same batch will see my daughter through her diaper-wearing years (she hasn’t had irritation once since we started balming her bottom).

Calendula is a popular ingredient in skin-soothing lotions and salves. Its flowers are bright orange-yellow and bloom beyond the first frosty days of fall. They were easy to grow here in central New Hampshire and are so colorful and full. After harvesting the flowers, I hung them from their stems to dry in a warm corner away from sunlight for a good two weeks.

Calendula blossoms and balm

Calendula Balm

500 mL sunflower oil (or olive oil)
150 grams or more thoroughly dried calendula blooms
This is a guesstimate — I used the entire harvest from 3 plants, or enough dried blossoms to almost fill a 700 mL jar.
60 g beeswax

Boil oil and calendula together in a double boiler, or a covered glass bowl over a pot of boiling water, for 2-3 hours. Add beeswax and stir constantly until melted, about 15 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth — or an old pair of pantyhose — into glass jars.

The balm is slightly grainy when cool and softens quickly on skin or lips. It has an earthy flavor like fresh-mown grass. Ahhhh, summer in the middle of winter.


Spicy Apple Meatloaf w/ Mango; Winter Squash Soup February 24, 2008

Filed under: Harvest!,Recipes,Winter — Kate @ 8:59 pm
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A couple weeks ago I got a craving for fresh tropical fruit. Lucky, thrifty me: BJ’s Wholesale had them by the pound.

Having had no experience with fresh mangoes, I was happy eating them as green as they were on the refrigerator shelf, until today, when I carved into one that I had let ripen on the countertop for several days, ’til the skin was red and orange. LUSCIOUS.

To go with it? A simple mid-winter lunch to warm and delight.

Spicy Apple Meatloaf with Mango & Winter Squash Soup

Spicy Apple Meatloaf

1.5-2 lbs. organic ground beef
1 C. rolled oats
1 large onion, diced
1 apple, chopped
1 egg
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
3-4 leaves fresh basil, or 1/2 tsp. dried
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1-2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9×5 loaf pan. Mix everything in a large bowl, scoop into the pan, and bake for 45 mins-1 hour.

Top with diced mango and serve with…

Winter Squash Soup
This is more like a broth than most butternut soup recipes.

2 Tsp. butter
1 small onion, diced
2 C. beef broth
1/4 C. dry white wine
12 oz. package frozen winter squash, thawed
1 tsp. dill weed
1/2 C. half-and-half

Melt butter in a medium pot. Add onion and cook until glassy, about 5 mins. Add wine, broth, squash, and dill weed. Simmer about 10 mins. Turn burner down to low and add half-and-half (do not allow to boil).