Spring Veggies & Bluegrass Underground

La Connor, Skagit Valley, & Seattle- May 2012

Wedding at Oddfellow’s Hall on Orcas Island.

Oh, I have fallen so behind on my blog posts. I have so many photos of all the things I have eaten and no time to post them all. I will attempt to get somewhat caught up here. As shown above, we have been busy with a big trip to Washington- family visits, Grant had several fun gigs, and the main reason for this trip was to partake in the amazing celebration of our dear friends’ marriage on Orcas Island. What a beautiful week to be in the great Pacific Northwest!

That trip was soon followed by another family trip to South Carolina for my big Sis’ art show at the super fun and wildly popular Art Bomb studios. Art Bomb is one of my favorite places! If you have never been to Greenville, South Carolina, you better hurry up. It is becoming a really cool city.

I’ve been super busy making tons of my mini Herbed Cheese Biscuits for all these very special events!

Herbed Cheese Biscuits
3 cups all purpose soft wheat flour (I use White Lily.)
2 Tbsp baking powder
1 ½ tsp sea salt
10 tablespoons unsalted organic butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces and chilled
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (I use local Hatcher milk.)
1 cup grated sharp cheddar (Or your favorite aged cheese.)
a bunch of fresh herbs, chopped  (I used rosemary.)
Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 425. Mix the salt and baking powder with the flour and the add the chilled butter in a medium mixing bowl. Work the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the butter pieces are a little larger than an English pea, but not larger than a lima bean. Mix in the grated cheese and the herbs. Work quickly so that the heat of your hands won’t melt the butter. Pour in the buttermilk and, using light pressure, fold the mixture a few times with your hands until it holds together. Do not over mix. In order to make light biscuits, it is important to work the dough as little as possible. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and fold it quickly and gently a few times until it begins to be all stay together. Sprinkle a little flour under the dough so that it won’t stick to the board and lightly dust the top of the dough so that it won’t stick to the board and lightly dust the top of the dough so that it won’t stick to the rolling pin. Roll the dough out to about 1/2-inch thickness. Grind black pepper over the top of the dough. Cut the dough into 2-inch rounds, place on an ungreased baking sheet, and bake in the preheated oven for about 14-15 minutes.

So now it is spring and we’ve been so busy trying to catch up that we’ve been making lots of salads and easy dishes that we can eat on all week while on the go. Here are a few of our favorites. Coincidentally, they all have the color red in common! This first recipe was also posted on Dolan Geiman’s blog this week but we just enjoyed some leftovers and I decided to post it here as well.  I really loved the Vidalia Vinaigrette I came up, it was nice with the raisins.

Kale & Red Cabbage Cole Slaw
1 bunch Kale (I used Lacinato for this but any would work.)
1 wedge Lemon
½ head Red Cabbage (core removed)
2 Carrots, cut into matchsticks
¼ cup Raisins
¼ cup Fresh Parsley
½ small Vidalia Onion
¼ cup Olive Oil
¼ cup Red Wine Vinegar
½ tsp (or to taste) Sea Salt
Black Pepper to taste
1 Tbsp Raw Cane Sugar

Clean the kale and then remove the thick middle veins on each leaf. Chop the leaves into thin strips and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with a little salt and squeeze the lemon over. Stir or massage the leaves with your fingers and let sit while you chop the other vegetables. Chop the red cabbage into small strips. Chop the parsley. Add the carrots, red cabbage, parsley, and raisins to the bowl with the kale. In a blender or mini grinder, blend the onion with the remaining ingredients to make a dressing and then pour the dressing over the raw vegetables. Stir and let sit for a few minutes before serving.

Grant has been grilling some and I always get tons of veggies ready to go on the grill with whatever delicious meat recipe he has created and then we use the grilled veggies all week- in salads, in enchiladas, with rice, in eggs, etc. Having those already prepared makes it so easy to have a quick meal loaded with tons of veggies!

Sometimes we even get lucky and a friend shares their fresh eggs with us! These came from our friend Nicole’s chickens! Grilled Veggie Frittata with fresh eggs is hard to beat- easy and delicious!

Next up- two beet recipes! One is super simple. The other night as I was preparing the second featured beet recipe, I had a few extra beet rounds and decided it would be fun throw those on the grill, too. I sprinkled them with a little olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Once they were off the grill, I threw some chopped lemon basil from the garden on top.

My friend and coworker, Brenda, brought a beet salad to work one day this week and gave me a taste. It was delicious and so different that I ran home and made it for us that night. I added some thinly chopped kale to it to get some greens in. This salad is loaded with goodness!  It goes like this…

Brenda’s Raw Beet Salad with Horseradish
1 cup thinly sliced Kale leaves
juice of 1 Lime
2 medium sized (or 1 large) Raw Beets, peeled, sliced in ¼” rounds, and then cut into matchsticks
3 tsp prepared Horseradish
1 tsp olive oil
Sea Salt & Black Pepper
2-3 oz Crumbled Feta

Place the kale in a bowl and squeeze lime juice over it and sprinkle with salt. Massage the leaves with your fingers or stir well. Let sit for a few minutes while you cut the beets. Mix the beets in with the kale and then add remaining ingredients and stir.

OH- and our new favorite spring beverage is this yummy hard cider we first enjoyed at The Family Wash and then found for sale at our favorite neighborhood wine shop, Woodland Wine Merchant.

I was super excited last week to see some fresh, organic rhubarb on the produce stand. I bought a huge bag and made a couple Strawberry Rhubarb Pies. My favorite version had a whole wheat pastry flour and oat crumble top.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Crumble Top
1 pie Dough Ball
3-4 stalks Rhubarb, cut in ½” pieces
1 pint Strawberries, sliced
1 cup Raw Cane Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Tbsp Flour
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon

For Crumble Top:
½ cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
½ cup Rolled Oats
½ cup Brown Sugar
½ cup Unsalted Butter

Preheat oven to 425. Roll pie dough ball out and place in pie plate. Scallop the edges and place in the freezer for 15 minutes. I just started doing this and this helps the scalloped edges stay prettier and hold shape better once in the oven. Place rhubarb, sugar, vanilla, flour and cinnamon in a bowl and stir. Pour into pie shell. Mix the ingredients for the crumble topping in a bowl with your hands. Sprinkle the crumbles on top of the rhubarb strawberry mixture. Bake for 15 minutes on 425 and then reduce to heat to 350 and bake for another 35-40 minutes.

As I think about the hot summer that is already well on its way, one place sure to stay cool is the Volcano Room at the Cumberland Caverns. Not only does the temperature remain at a constant cool temperature 333 feet below ground, but this is one of the coolest places I have ever encountered.

I had been wanting to go for awhile but it wasn’t until my friend Lesia called and offered me a ticket to go with her to Bluegrass Underground one day back in February that I actually got there. (Thank you Lesia!) Bluegrass Underground is a radio show recorded live from the Volcano Room at Cumberland Caverns in McMinnville, Tn. Here, nature created one of the most acoustically pure natural spaces on earth. This is truly an amazing space to hear music. As a teenager and visiting a cave for the first time, I remember thinking how incredible it would be to hear live music down there. Now, at this amazing place, it is possible! This place is just magical and everyone there seemed so happy and on some sort of natural high. I guess this was also due in part to the awesome musicians on stage- Jim Lauderdale and The Time Jumpers, two of Nashville’s musical treasures.

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But sometimes, storms return one week later in the form of a FLOOD!

Wow, what a hard week this past week has been for Nashville. Devastation hit our lovely city in the form of a flood. SO many friends and friends of friends lost their homes, all their stuff, and in a few instances- their loved ones. It was incredible to see how everyone pulled together to help each other out. This city is even more amazing than I ever knew! For the latest news and information and to see ways in which you can help, no matter where you live, check out this website: NASHVILLEST.

So, having said all that… We cooked very little this week. Luckily, we did still have a kitchen but the entire city lost use of one of our two water filtration plants and thus were all told to conserve water. There was little cooking or bathing going on but those of us who still had houses that were dry were more than happy to conserve!

Grant was in Texas most of this week, touring with db Harris & The Men of Action! While he was away, I did make this yummy veggie meal- a french style potato salad with several different kinds of potatoes, chopped green olives, cornichons (if only- I actually used mini dills because I can only find cornichons in one store which is across town and I always forget to buy them), green onions, a little vinegar, sweet spicy mustard, a little olive oil, salt & pepper. I served this with  some beautiful organic green beans which I steamed and then sauteed with a little butter, fresh garlic, roasted hazelnuts, and then topped with a little Humboldt Fog goat cheese! A nice organic, vegetarian meal for one!

So last week before the flooding, we enjoyed many of the new Spring veggies…

“Beans so nice, you have to shell them twice!” was Grant’s response to fava beans. We have cooked them before and certainly had them out before but it has never been one of those Spring delicacies we have searched out. This year though, for some reason, I had a desire to try to appreciate those little gems of Spring. Fava beans and artichokes are definitely on the list. I found a couple interesting artichoke recipes that we tried…

One was a raw artichoke salad in which I had to trim the leaves and cut the choke out. It called for shaved artichokes, toasted hazelnuts, shaved Parmesan Reggiano, fresh parsley (I substituted cilantro because we had it instead), and olive oil. It was messy and I got kind of grumpy but the end result was good!

I also tried stuffed artichokes which were yummy and kind of naughty. I had to trim these like before and then cut them lengthwise and topped with a mixture of bread crumbs, salt, pepper, grated Gruyere cheese, lemon juice, lemon zest, and olive oil. They baked for an hour. We have a book called, Whole Foods Companion, that a friend gave me for my Birthday one year. We often look up whatever we are eating to see what health benefits we will gain from it. “Why is this veggie good for us?” Well, it turns out artichokes aid in digestion, are good for metabolism, and may help neutralize the effects of certain toxins on our bodies.

I found some yummy organic fava beans at The Turnip Truck this week. We shelled them once and Grant steamed them. We shelled the beans twice, and he sauteed them with some garlic and fresh spinach in a little olive oil. These made a nice accompaniment to some sauteed onions and jalapeno & garlic chicken sausages we got from Trader Joes.  Fava beans are similar to kidney beans in that they have a ton of iron and potassium in them. Luckily, we aren’t in that small percentage of the population who has Favism, a medical condition in which eating fava beans can cause a painful blood condition which brings upon dizziness, nausea, and vomiting. Yikes, who knew that?!

And, just as the rains started last weekend, I listened to our friend Chris Scruggs‘ solo Opry debut on WSM while making one of my favorite cookie recipes from the Rebar cookbook, a favorite restaurant of ours in Victoria, BC. I thought these lime sugar cookies would be great with Ciao Bella’s Prickly Pear Sorbet which we just tried for the first time. And they were! Here is the recipe:

Lime Sugar Cookies
(Makes about 12-16 cookies depending on size.)

1 c granulated sugar (I use organic evap. cane juice)
¼ c unsalted butter, softened
1 T vegetable oil (I use olive oil)
zest of 1 lime
1 large egg
2 T fresh lime juice
1 ¾ c unbleached flour
¼ c pumpkin seeds, toasted and roughly chopped (tonight I was out but substituted pecans!!!)
½ t baking soda
½ t salt

1- Preheat oven to 350*. Cream the sugar, oil, butter and lime zest until light and fluffy. Add egg and lime juice, and beat together to incorporate.

2- Mix in a separate bowl the flour, salt and baking soda. Stir well, to avoid lumps of baking soda. Add the dry mix to the wet mix and stir together well. Mix in the pumpkin seeds. (Side note: I just throw these on top of 1st step and mix together in my Kitchen Aid mixer. It works just fine!)

3- Use spoon to drop the batter onto a cookie sheet, leaving space in between to allow the cookies to spread during baking. Flatten each slightly with your finger tips. (I usually top each cookie with 2-3 toasted pepitas which create a little leaf design.) Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.