Zen Zucchini Boats

zucchini boats

Cut zucchini in half lengthwise. Trim some of the skin off the bottom so they sit flat in a baking dish if needed. Scoop out the center seeds with a spoon. Brush the surface with olive oil and minced garlic. Salt & Pepper. Provision your little boats for the oven with halved grape tomatoes. Top with Panko bread crumbs and bake at 375 until tender – aboat 25 minutes. In the last 10 minutes of cooking, top with shredded cheese and bake or broil till golden on top.

Now for a moment of Zen to go with your green tea chocolates, a little meditation video I made of water lapping the edge of an ice continent that is the creek.

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Green Tea Chocolate (Organic)

final green

Since I have been on a roll with the ‘healthy’ desserts, I decided to try to make something I have never attempted before…chocolate. Not just any chocolate, but what they call green tea chocolate. I came across this recipe when researching mochi, which you will find in a later post (still working it out, my first batch failed, sadly). It is a simple list of ingredients, so remember, the better the ingredients the better the results. My white chocolate, Matcha tea (powdered green tea) and whipping cream came organic and from the local health food grocery. If you are not already aware, green tea is anti-cancer!

Ingredients:  

  • 400 g white chocolate (four bars)
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 Tbsp + 2 tsp matcha powder
  • 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 8″x8″ pan

pan2trio

I lined my pan with parchment paper-so cut it to fit. Here are some of the items I purchased…not exactly cost effective, but occasional extravagance in sweets is sometimes necessary.

ch wh

Finely chop up your favorite white chocolate. It is so soft, this began to melt in my hand almost immediately. I do not love the taste of white chocolate, but I promise you, it tastes like a buttery green tea candy at the end, and no one will ever guess this is in the ingredients.

white

Heat 1/2 cup of cream without boiling. Slowly add the white chocolate. Stir for a few minutes. Then add the green tea. Keep stirring and keep that stove on medium low.

mix

Add the butter and keep mixing for another few minutes. The ingredients need to blend into a smooth dark green mixture.

pouring

The color of the matcha should be bright sap green, otherwise it has gone past it’s prime. Pour the mixture into the lined pan. Place the pan in the fridge for 5 hours or overnight before cutting. After cutting the pieces with a very sharp and cool knife, use a wire mesh to sift additional green tea powder on the chocolates.

green in box

I used a left over truffle box from valentines day to gift the green morsels to some friends. How cute, and UNBELIEVABLY delicious. There is a sweet, yet complex bitter taste and melt in the mouth creamy texture.

mr_miyagi-sticks

I may have first learned of ceremonial green tea when I saw the Karate Kid as a child. If you are an American thirty something, you can’t forget the romantic scene with the the green tea ceremony and beautiful Japanese girl. Three cheers Mr. Miyagi – a man after my own heart.

Long Haired Larry’s Caesar Salad Dressing

Utila sunset

Speaking of pirate recipes, Arrrr!!! Here be one I picked up from a Canadian expat I met in my travels – Long Haired Larry A.K.A. ‘Cowboy’ to the inhabitants of the small island of Utila off the coast of Honduras. An interesting and kind character, always accompanied by his sidekick dog ‘Pirate’, he’d often graciously invite me and other transients to dinner at his tropical hut on stilts surrounded by his jungle garden.

Long Haired Larry

Don’t Worry, Be Larry

His kitchen was small and utilitarian like a ship-shape galley. The open cut out window by the sink was a direct deposit to the compost pile below, eliminating the task of emptying completely! The water supply, a 5 gallon jug – spout side up with a hand pump on the top. He loved to BBQ and dinners were cooked on a round marine charcoal grill hung off his porch deck. I’d sit atop one of his homemade bar stools made of twisted vines and take note of his cooking which was slow, genial and social. At one time he owned a popular restaurant bar and grill on the island strip called ‘Skid Row’, where I first met him bantering with locals one night. His food was always the best tasting anything you ever had, but we’d sometimes joke that it might just be attributed to how long it took. Ever bake a potato on a charcoal grill? Even if you weren’t hungry when it started, by the time it was ready you were stAARRRving!

dogs at Tranquilla Bar

Pirate (brown) and Charger hanging at the bar

There were two staples at every meal I shared with him: a whole baked potato with ‘crema’, a Central American sour cream and a romaine lettuce and parmesan cheese Caesar Salad with his homemade dressing.

Caesar dressing ingredients

Here in my journal is the recipe for his Caesar Salad Dressing:

  • Garlic
  • Dijon mustard
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Lime juice
  • Salt & pepper

Nondescript, I know, but I made some the other night that was spot on.

I threw in the Magic Bullet blender 3 cloves of garlic, about a Tbsp of Dijon horseradish mustard (or whatever kind you have), 3 Tbsp of vinegar, a small chunk of parmesan, 1/2 the juice of a lime, and the left over seasoned oil from a small jar of marinated artichokes and a few grinds of S&P.  Reuse the artichoke jar as a container for the dressing.

Drunken Pirate Cake

photo-8

This is a cake that I made at the spur of the moment. I saw the bananas starting to go brown and nobody was eating them. I thought it would be nice to make a sweet-ish bread and a sweeter sauce that could be added for a pirate effect. I literally threw these ingredients together with the hope of producing a dense cake that would soak up a rum sauce nicely. This is a homage to my dear friend Katt – and the rest of the pirates who soaked bread in rum so it would store for those long trips out at sea. Here is what I used:

  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 cup wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup dark rum of choice
  • 2 bananas
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 1/2 cup almond milk

photo-1

blend and puree two bananas, rum, almond milk, vanilla together. Pour into dry mixture of flour, meal, sugar, nuts, salt, baking soda. Add one egg and mix well with a wooden or large spoon. Add almond milk to liquify mixture if needed. Pour into 9″ pan (buttered). Sprinkle nuts and add some slices of butter to the top. Bake at 350 for 35-40 min.

photo-3

Combine a shot of rum, one cup of water, one cup of brown sugar, 1/4 cup honey, tablespoon of vanilla and a cinnamon stick. Sauce simmers for about an hour. Chill the sauce and drizzle on cake and sliced banana.

These birds have been eating the cat food! These fly away with one morsel at a time.

These birds have been eating the cat food! They fly away with one morsel at a time.

Cauliflower & Parsnip Gratin

cauliflower gratin

Hey Yo! I wanted to make a low carb version of “Mac & Cheese” made with vegetables instead of macaroni. All the ingredients I thought of using for this were white, so I embraced the monochromatic theme and thought of it as a white cheddar mac, even though there wasn’t any cheddar in it, if that makes sense.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 2 (or more) parsnips
  • 1 can of butter beans
  • 3 cloves of minced garlic
  • 3 Tbsp of butter
  • 3 Tbsp of flour
  • 2 cups of whole milk (warmed)
  • 1 cup of shredded cheese
  • 1/2 cup of Panko bread crumbs
  • 1 Tbsp of horseradish
  • Salt, pepper, nutmeg, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes to taste

Cut the cauliflower into bite sized florets.  Peel and cut the parsnips into pale rounds. Spread out the veggies on a large baking tray, coat with some olive oil, salt, pepper and nutmeg and roast in the oven on high (375-400) till tender about 20 minutes. For faster cooking time, steam the veggies in a covered pot of 1-2″ of water for about 8 -10 min. and drain.

cauliflower

While the veggies are roasting, prepare the sauce, a basic ‘roux’ of roughly equal parts flour and fat. Melt 3 Tbsp of butter in a sauce pan on low. Add minced garlic and sauté for 2-3 min. Sprinkle in 1 Tbsp of flour at a time, stir thoroughly into melted butter. Slowly add warmed milk, stirring frequently. Turn off heat and add 3/4 cup of shredded cheese and 1 Tbsp of Horseradish. I used the last of the Italian 5 cheese blend I had, a mix of Mozzarella, Provolone, Romano, Asiago and Parmesan.

Lightly grease the bottom of a baking dish with butter. Pile up your roasted (or steamed) cauliflower and parsnips into the baking pan. Mix in 1 can of drained butter beans. I pureed 1/2 the can of beans and added it to the sauce, but this is optional, whole beans add a nice texture. Butter beans are a great starchy substitute for pasta, and add protein. Pour sauce over veggie and bean mixture. Stir in 2 handfuls of Panko bread crumbs.

Sprinkle the remainder of cheese (1/4 cup) and another handful of Panko on top. Brighten with a dash of cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes and nutmeg. Bake for 10-15 minutes till golden and bubbly on top.

plated cauliflower gratin

Served with a simple salad of spinach, tomato, avocado, black olives and marinated artichoke hearts.

Some variations that I think would work well next time I make this, would be to add either imitation crab meat, mushrooms, carrots or sweet potatoes (not all together). Put your own spin on it! It was as comforting as Mac and Cheese but with healthier carbs and loaded with hardy vegetables.

sewing dog bed

In other news, Jazzy dog is enjoying the new custom bed cover I sewed for her.

Lemon Baklava

All served up, best with some hot tea or coffee.

All served up, best with some hot tea or coffee.

  • 1 1/4 cups (2 1/2 sticks) butter, melted, plus more for pan
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar (sauce)
  • 1 cup of water (sauce)
  • 1/2 cup of honey (sauce)
  • 1/2 fresh lemon juice and zest (sauce)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3 cups walnuts, and other nuts you like
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 package (16 ounces) frozen phyllo dough thawed

It has been a very long winter for sure, and in this drafty and scenic season I find that citrus can brighten any day. I have always wanted to try Baklava, and this recipe worked out pretty well, although there are some things I might do a bit different the second time around. For one, I would not add quite an entire lemon zest as it can overpower the flavors of the nuts.

Andrew Wyeth watercolor

Andrew Wyeth watercolor

Andrew Wyeth is one of my favorite figurative painters. Not many would know this about me, but what I find so fantastic about him is the range of color variation and texture he achieves within a seemingly simple scene. This painting could have been made on our farm right about now. It seems simple in composition, subject, and material/technique, he makes it look easy – and yet there is so much detail. This is how his painting depicts a rich sense of not only place, but mood.

Our deepest snow fall this year - schools cancelled again!

Our deepest snow fall this year – schools cancelled again!

We awoke with a marsh mellowy fluff blanketed on all the things that are typically familiar to us. This is what I love about snow, it makes the world a new visual place to discover. The way the white of the snow cuts ‘negative space’ into objects is endlessly interesting. The contrast makes for unusual forms and implied or broken lines. It makes me think of one of my favorite children’s book writers, Hans Christian Andersen.

photo-9

The nut mixture can be anything you like. There are lots of great recipe suggestions out there, but honestly, you can use anything as long as the mixture is chopped or ground up to tooth size bits. I also used pecans, because I heard that it really helps with flavor. You will also find walnuts and almonds in this mixture. Good tip, if you use whole almonds and break down your  mixture with a food processor, do them separate from pecans and walnuts since they are significantly harder to break down.  Add brown sugar, cardamon (perfect with citrus), nutmeg and cinnamon (optional).

The sauce should be prepared while the dish is baking. Combine one cup of water, a half cup of sugar and a half cup of honey. Squeeze and zest half of a lemon. Simmer till it thickens a bit on medium for about 30 min – stir often. You’ll want to spoon the sauce on the baklava hot when it comes out of the oven. Important – when it comes to sauce, make sure you taste it before spooning it on – so that you don’t have too strong a lemon flavor and ruin the overall taste of the baklava with no turning back.

photo-7My sister Renee use to make spinach pie, and had mastered working with this paper thin dough. I decided to give it a try in memory of her and could just hear her chuckling at my clumsy rushed attempt to separate the layers. She had it down to an art. One thing I learned from this is, place plastic wrap, or wax paper and a towel over the dough once out of the package and unrolled. Do not take a break and walk away, or it will dry up and crack away. Butter the dish and and melt two bars of salted butter in a bowl. Preheat the oven to 350.

photo-5

Use a glass or metal 9″x12″ or similar dish. If you use glass the dish will cook faster so keep an eye on it. With each layer of phyllo, paint it entirely with butter. This is what makes the flakes pastry consistency when it bakes in the oven. Put down two layers of pastry, then sprinkle with nut mixture. Fold over sheets on the edges so it fits the dish. Repeat till you use about 17 sheets. Of course you can use more or less if it fits. Place in the fridge for 10-15 min, remove and cut into small squares. Now you are ready for the oven, and ready to prepare the sauce.

photoHere is the finished result. Duane helped with this one by keeping Arlo entertained while I destroyed the kitchen. What a messy but rewarding dessert to make.  I like that it has plenty of protein and a blast of vitamin C from the lemon.

Apple Raisin Cinnamon French Toast

Hey Lori, I thought I’d share another goodie made from my Amish market finds, Apple Raisin Cinnamon French Toast. Not much of a recipe but I’m pretty sure it was the best (Amish) French toast I’ve ever had (even better then the Panettone french toast I made during the holidays). Sweet enough on its own with streusel topping it didn’t need maple syrup. A special treat breakfast.

  • 3 eggs scrambled in a bowl
  • Splash of cream and vanilla extract
  • Sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg

Dip the bread in the egg mixture and coat both sides. Place in frying pan with a pat of melted butter.

Amish French toast

This kept us going for the day ahead spent fully insulating the v-berth sleeping quarters. As small of a space as a boat is to heat, without any insulation keeping it in, it quickly is absorbed by the cold surrounding hull. Boats aren’t just capable of leaking from underneath the waterline or from the topsides but also from within – in the form of condensation and air moisture from frivolous activities like breathing. The sides of the hull forward were damp, allowing mold and ice crystals to form along its edge. And who wants to curl up next to moldy ice? So a full day was devoted to pulling everything out of the bow, washing all the surfaces down with a bleach cleaner concoction and cutting foam insulation to fit the sides. It’s not the prettiest looking, like sleeping inside a cooler or pizza delivery bag, but what a huge difference it has made! I’m still marveling at the novelty of needing to shed blankets at night now from over heating.

insulated v-berth

Full insulated V-berth

I also wanted you to see how great the Frittata recipe I made of yours the other night turned out! For the veggie filling I sautéed 1/2 an onion, 2 cloves of garlic, 2 handfuls of chopped baby spinach and about 4 – 5 sliced baby bella mushrooms. Luckily I had on hand the same seasonings ingredients you used:  a big spoonful of jarred pesto, some red pepper flakes and dill. And I still have half a container of ricotta cheese left over to use…hmm think I see some ricotta lemon cookies in my future.

frittata

“Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.” 
― Sinclair Lewis

Amish Pizza

Wow Lori, your posts all look so amazing and healthy. Glad to see you and baby are eating so well. I’m inspired to make your beautiful crustless quiche, and have some ricotta in the fridge now for that very purpose.

This winter has seemed especially frigid with “polar vortex” daytime high temperatures sometimes only reaching into the teens and checking your part of the weather map even colder! The creek, an ever-changing majestic landscape, is now a strange sight to see – frozen over and in a slumber under a blanket of snow.

creek

Evening fog rolling in when the water is colder than the air.

Chores for living aboard are more difficult this time of year, and you are made acutely aware of all things consumed and discarded for survival, something I’m sure is familiar to your own remote lifestyle. Food, water, heating fuel, trash, laundry and even our own waste are all hauled to and from the boat via a steep rocky footpath and precarious decaying plywood covered dock, and you DO NOT want to fall in! Needless to say, all this hard work works up an appetite.

Last week I made a stop at the North Point Amish Market since I had never been there and was in the area. The Amish have always fascinated me, and they surely know a strong work ethic and how to cook! From the butcher I bought 3 chicken sausage links mixed with herbs, spices and feta. I asked him how he recommended preparing it and he suggested browning the sausage into crumbles for topping on a pizza. It sounded good to me so I took his advice.

pizza making

I cheated and picked up two pizza dough balls from the grocer – for $1 a piece ready-made, you can’t beat it. Remove the sausage links from their casing and sauté in a pan with a little olive oil. While browning, work the dough with a little flour stretching it to fit your pan. Place the dough in an olive oil greased pan and top with spoonfuls of pizza sauce and a 5 cheese Italian blend of  Mozzarella, Provolone, Romano, Asiago and Parmesan. Baked in my ovens high setting (around 375-400) for about 18 minutes using scent and sight as a guide to readiness.

If there is an Amish market in your area, it’s a fun visit. After my recent trip to the market I watched this beautiful PBS documentary titled “The Amish” which answered a lot of questions and curiosity I had about their way of life. My mind wanders back the film occasionally now, reminding me to find spirituality amid the rituals of routine chores.

“The Amish” on PBS American Experience