Eggs in a Nest

Somehow there was a plant out in the garden that I had no idea what it was. I got it back when we hosted the garden exchange back in November, but somehow I’d completely forgotten what it was – and it was getting big. So I did a little google search to figure it out. The result? Mustard Greens. I guess that never came to mind as an option because the leaves look very different from those of Wild Mustard, which is growing abundantly on the hills right now. But there the mustard greens are, and looking like they needed eating.

Our schedules have been busy and hectic lately, so I haven’t been spending as much creative  dinner time in the kitchen as I’d like to. And a survey of the garden the other morning surprised me with the abundance of available and ready-to-eat vegetables I have- some staples that can be grazed upon on an as-needed basis (onions, celery, herbs, carrots), and others that need to be harvested veryverysoon. Like those mustard greens. (As well as the beets, broccoli, lettuce, and fennel…)

A recipe came to me that I haven’t made in quite some time, but that I really liked. It is from Mollie Katzen’s The Enchanted Broccoli Forest cookbook that I have mentioned before. Her Poached Eggs on a bed of Vegetables is fairly versatile, which is always good when you’re cooking seasonally. I’ve seen another version of this in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle as Eggs in a Nest. Either way, its basically a pan-ful of fresh veggies with poached eggs. I chose to serve mine with roasted rosemary potatoes (oh yeah, we harvested a few potatoes this weekend too!), but a side of grains or some crusty bread would also work well.

Eggs in a Nest

Olive oil

1 cup chopped onion (I used 6 spring onions)

1 bunch broccoli, chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1 clove garlic, minced

3-4 handfuls chopped fresh greens (spinach, escarole, chard, kale, or mustard greens)

squeeze of lemon

1 can diced tomatoes, drained (or 1 medium tomato diced)

4 eggs

salt and pepper

cayenne (optional. the mustard greens were so spicy I chose not to use it)

Other optional vegetable add-ins: mushrooms, bell pepper

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes over medium heat. Add the broccoli and salt, and cook for 3-5 minutes more until broccoli is bright green and just tender.

Add garlic and greens. Cook and stir for just a few minutes, until greens are just wilted. Season to taste with cayenne (any green but mustard greens) and lemon juice. Stir in the tomato.

Indent four little beds in the greens for the eggs. Break the eggs into their nests, cover the pan, and poach about 5 minutes over medium heat – until the eggs are set to your taste. Grind some black pepper on top, and serve!

** I recently made this again lately, on a much simpler scale. I chopped a big bunch of chard (kale would also work), and sauteed some green onions and the chard stems with a bit of garlic. Then I added the chard, cooked for a few minutes, and made the little dents for the eggs. Much milder than the mustard greens – and easier to assemble from fewer ingredients!

Lovely Meyer Lemons

Valentine’s Day flowers – from our yard!

A few weeks ago, I made a deal with the kids in my after-school program for Wilderness Youth Project: if they brought me fruits/vegetables/food that they had either foraged or harvested, I would make them snacks. A few days later, one of the girls brought me a large bag of meyer lemons from her family’s tree. Lemon bars had definitely been mentioned as a request, but I was feeling a bit of guilt over giving them so much sugar in one dose. But luckily I found this recipe in my searches. It uses whole wheat flour (always a plus) and not nearly as much sickly sweet sugar as other recipes I’ve found. They were a hit!

To counteract the effects of sugar, I decided to make hummus as well, and serve it with carrots and celery from the garden. Most hummus recipes seem to be very similar, so I wasn’t too obsessive over which recipe to use. I was very pleased with the result – and with a food processor, it was a snap to throw together.

Another friend gave me a bag of lemons this past weekend. What shall I do with them? Ideas..?

Lemon Bars

Crust:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 sticks butter

Filling:

6 eggs

3 cups granulated sugar

2 tbsp lemon zest

1 cup lemon juice

1 cup whole wheat flour

Preheat your oven to 350. Spray a 9×13 pan with baking spray (or butter it) and line with foil or wax paper for easy removal later on. Spray again.

In a food processor, pulse flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Add butter one cube at a time and process to blend, then pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Dump crust out into pan and press firmly to even out. Refrigerate for 20 minutes, then bake until golden brown, 20 minutes.

Whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice, and flour. Pour over the crust and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the filling is set. Let cool completely. Store in refrigerator up to 1 week. Cut into desired shape.

Hummus (original recipe here)

2 cloves garlic

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/4 cup water

14 oz can chickpeas/garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup tahini

1 tsp sea salt

Olive oil

Cayenne pepper

Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth, scraping the sides occasionally. To serve, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with cayenne pepper.

Sweet Potato and Chard Quesadillas

Last week, my friend Patty and I were brainstorming meal ideas for her camping trip. She found a recipe for butternut squash quesadillas with leeks that looked and sounded amazing! I was reminded of a scene several years ago, when I made a lunch of a wrap with sweet potatoes, avocado, feta cheese and black beans. A few friends from work would trade off making each other lunch once a week, and I think I had found that recipe in a fitness magazine. Anyhow, tonight I was inspired by Patty’s find (and my memory), and I managed to do my own version with sweet potatoes, chard, cilantro, and goat cheese.

The cilantro has been doing great in the garden – growing at a (mostly) manageable pace, and the same can be said for the chard. I hadn’t harvested chard for awhile, so not only did I pick the good leaves for me, I picked the scrappy leaves for the chicks (they seemed happy with it). Chard has become one of my favorite plants – I love the deep green color, and it so easily can be added to recipes. And the stalks are just as edible – particularly when sauteed like onions or celery.

A few other things: the chicken coop is pretty much done, and the chicks have gotten to play in it a few times. I think they like the space to fly and run around! They seem so small when they’re in their coop. But they have really grown soo much since we got them – I can hardly remember them without their feathers!

Even more exciting, I was able to ride my bike to work this morning… and it felt GOOD! My six-week X-ray is tomorrow, so hopefully my collarbone is healed up enough to get official doctor clearance 🙂 It just felt so amazing, and natural, to be on my bike again… no more (or at least less!) car commute!! To quote a co-worker, the ride in is just “dreamy.” And on a completely different note – my favorite flowers in the yard are blooming right now… the Calla lily.

Sweet Potato and Chard Quesadillas

2 sweet potatoes, cut into chunks

1 large bunch chard, leaves torn into small-ish pieces and stems chopped like celery

1 small onion, chopped small

goat cheese to your taste

1/4 tsp each cumin and chili powder

salt and pepper to taste

4 Whole wheat tortillas

A few sprigs of Cilantro, torn into pieces

Optional: lime wedges

Preheat oven to 400. Toss sweet potato chunks with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for ~30 minutes until soft. Remove from oven, and puree (either in a blender or with an immersion blender). Mix in cumin, chili powder, and salt/pepper to taste.

While sweet potatoes are roasting, saute onion and chard stalks in olive oil. After 3-4 minutes, add the leaves. Cover for a few minutes so leaves wilt, then uncover to allow any moisture to evaporate off.

Assembly: Spread sweet potato mixture on half of a tortilla. Crumble goat cheese over sweet potatoes. Spoon on the chard mixture and sprinkle with cilantro leaves. Fold tortilla half over and saute in a bit of olive oil until toasted/brown on each side. Cut into wedges and serve! If desired, squeeze lime juice over top.

The Great Rooster Hunt

Alright. We’re 4 1/2 weeks in, so we should know pretty soon the boys from the girls… Here are my potential roosters… and their like breed as a comparison. Any thoughts, comments, etc?

Roosty (Bantam Ameraucana. He’s squauked very rooster-like a few times)

Zeb (Standard Silver-laced Wyandotte. She SHOULD be a girl – she was sexed at birth. But her red comb is giving me doubts)

Little Grey (Bantam Sebright – rooster?)

Little Brown Boy (Bantam Sebright)

Little Brown Girl (Bantam Sebright)

Chipmunk Boy (Bantam Ameraucana)

Chipmunk Girl (Bantam Ameraucana)

Monkey Bread

A rare moment when they’re all looking at the camera. From L to R: Henrietta, Big Bird, Louise, Little Grey, Little Brown, Zeb, Penny, Riley

I’m sure you’re thinking, now what in Monkey Bread could possibly have come from a garden?? And you’d be right- absolutely nothing in this came from my garden. But I’ve had a craving for it lately, so I decided that I would make it from scratch. Its a stormy, rainy Friday, and spending the day at home baking seemed like the perfect plan. Oh yeah, and I get to play with the chickens in between! (I have two of the chipmunk bantam ameraucanas perched on my arm as we speak). There are three that I’m pretty sure are roosters, and one more I’m starting to think might be… but I’m trying not to think about it!

Chipmunks – the one in the back is a pretty definite rooster

I knew that I wanted to make the monkey bread dough from scratch, as opposed to buying refrigerated biscuit dough like most recipes call for. Although I’m sure that method is easier for some, I know that I am fairly adept at making bread from scratch. I also wanted a recipe that had lots of gooey-goodness in between the balls of dough, and I liked the idea of baking them in muffin tins. So off I went on my google search.

I found a yeasted bread dough recipe at Baking Bites which looked doable, and then instructions on making muffin-sized monkey breads at Dine and Dish. Usually combining recipes works out fine. In this case… well, there were technical difficulties. Completely my fault: yeasted bread expands (hence two rises). So jamming all the dough balls into 12 muffin spots just because I don’t want to get out another pan, means they expand A LOT. Not normally a problem, except when you’ve just drizzled them with a melted butter/sugar mixture, that then starts flowing over the entire muffin tin and dripping below (right into a cookie tin I had thoughtfully placed for just such a purpose). So in my instructions below, I am going to post what I SHOULD have done…

Monkey Bread Muffin-Style, from Scratch

1/4 cup water, warm (100-110F)
2 1/2 tsp active dry yeast (.25-oz)
3 – 3 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I used 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour and 2 1/2 cups bread flour)
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
1 large egg
2 tbsp butter, melted
3/4 cup milk, warm (100-110F)

Lightly grease a 12-muffin tin and a 6-muffin tin. Set aside.
Combine warm water and yeast. Let stand for 2 minutes, until yeast is slightly foamy.
Stir in 1 cup of the flour, along with the salt, sugar, vanilla, egg, 2 tbsp melted butter and warm milk. Mix well, until dough is fairly smooth. Gradually add in the remaining flour, until it begins to come together a bit. Knead for 3-4 minutes. Cover the bowl with a dishcloth, and let dough rest for 30 minutes somewhere warm (I turn the oven to 200, turn it off, and after 5-10 minutes put the bowl in there).

1 cup sugar combined with 2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 tbsp butter, melted
4 tbsp butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
Handful of pecans, chopped or halves

Punch down dough, and start to tear off small pieces and roll into balls (I liked 1/4-1/2″ size). Dip the balls into the butter quickly, then roll in the sugar/cinnamon mixture before placed in the muffin tins. Only fill the muffin tins 2/3 of the way full!!! Critical for the glaze that follows (if you eliminate the glaze, you could potentially stuff the tins fuller). Sprinkle and stuff the pecan pieces into the dough balls. Set aside in a warm place for at least 30 minutes to allow the dough to rise a bit (I did not do this. I should have though!).

Heat the remaining butter and brown sugar over medium to low heat. Allow to boil for one minute. Then drizzle over the dough balls. If you need more, make up a bit more.. but remember, the balls are going to continue to rise while baking!

Alternative method: While you are rolling the balls in sugar, halfway through drizzle in some of the butter/sugar glaze. That way more gets to the bottom bits.

Bake at 350 for 15-25 minutes – check them often to make sure they aren’t overflowing too much. If you are worried about spillover (and you probably should be), put a cookie sheet or two underneath the pans to collect any dripping. Scraping burned sugar off the oven floor is no fun. Once they are done, let rest for a few minutes in the pan. Then scoop out and flip over onto a plate (scooping up any leftover drizzle too). Enjoy!