Tuesday, December 11, 2012


It used to be that a busy studio life meant less cooking. While that's true of 'home' cooking, the increasing functionality of our studio kitchen means I can get an idea for a meal on the way to the studio, and actually cook it up at the studio!

That's sort of what happened the other morning. On the way to the studio, a flyer from my Co-op fell out of one of my bags and I spied a recipe for latkes. It being Hannukah and all, I felt I should make my mom proud and make some for my studio mates. I scanned the recipe and knew I could make it 'more or less' as written, and the results were very well received!

homemade tastes better on handmade, the village potters, crazy green studios, sweet potato, parsnip, latke

With thanks to the Co-op flyer (I'm sure many who are used to my vague lists of ingredients and cooking process will delight in an actual recipe!) - with my adjustments:

Sweet Potato and Parsnip Latke

Makes 12 latkes.

2 cups shredded sweet potatoes
1 cup shredded parsnips
1/2 small onion, grated
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup polenta style corn meal
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
vegetable oil for frying

Peel the sweet potatoes and parsnips and shred using a food grater or food processor. Wrap the shredded bits in a few paper towels and squeeze out the excess liquid. Grate the onion and wrap that in a few paper towels to squeeze out excess liquid. Add onion to sweet potato and parsnips.

Dust the shredded veggies with the cornmeal, salt, and cayenne pepper. Toss to mix and coat evenly. Lightly beat the two eggs, then pour over the veggies and mix till evenly coated.

Cover the bottom of a large skillet with vegetable oil, and come up the sides about 1/4 inch. When the oil is hot, scoop a large spoon full of the latke mix into the pan, then flatten slightly with the back of the spoon. Repeat until the pan is filled, but not crowded, and lightly sprinkle the flattened tops with sea salt (this side only).  Brown the latkes on each side for about 3-4 minutes, then remove to a plate lined with paper towels. Repeat with the rest of the mix.

** ** **

I think there are many options to play with in the mix. Half way through cooking these, I happened upon a leftover roasted corn on the cob in the fridge, so I scraped off the kernels and added them to the remaining latkes. Very good! Next time I'll probably add some fresh herbs, maybe some other root veg, maybe do a curried version...

Toppings: The co-op flyer suggested a topping of sour cream mixed with a minced apple. I had a container of coconut milk yogurt (apricot) and used that instead, but they were quite good even without a topping.

Happy Hannukah!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What a Crock

The Village Potters (photo by Kirsten Fuchs).L-R: Melanie Robertson, Bernie Segal, Karen Dubois, Cat Jarosz, Sarah Wells Rolland, Lori Theriault, Judi Harwood
 Almost a year ago, I joined a collective of other potters to form The Village Potters, and while we still have our growing pains and developmental challenges, it's been a most fantastic venture. Food-wise, it's been an interesting blend of backgrounds and eating styles, but we're all lately on the same page about trying to cut down on the celebratory sweets and focus on the good, local, energy-providing foods that will keep us happily productive.

We have a small kitchen here, but well enough equipped to provide more than the microwaved frozen dinner. My trusty Foreman grill has already toasted up several sandwiches, a few portabello mushrooms, some salmon, and most recently some peaches. And my little rice cooker has done its duty as well, whipping up quick soups and stews with silky aromas gliding throughout the studio. My studio-mates have taken notice, and they're quite excited about the prospect of the endless possibilities I promise them as we move into the cooler fall months.

Grilled peaches off the mini-Foreman grill.
So yes my little appliances have been working well, but they're meant for small meal production, and there are up to seven of us here at any one time, so sexy smells wafting through the studio will not do if there's not enough to share! Studio-mate Sarah to the rescue, arriving today with a larger crock pot for our collective nourishment! 

The newest member of the collective, already smellin' up the place good!

Today's inaugural concoction of lentils with seasonal, local veggies, a bit of chicken broth with some curry seasonings was a big hit. I see more goodies simmering in our future. Next up may be a larger grill, and then perhaps a larger kitchen area. 

So you see, 'Homemade Tastes Better on Handmade' aren't just empty words in a catchy slogan to me - we field test it every day!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Handed Down Homemade

I love cookbooks, and I know I'm not alone in that feeling. I read them like novels, and hunt down vintage books sometimes to only read the forewords. Talk about social anthropology! 

When my friend Karen and I were roommates, I gave her one of my favorites that she often borrowed, and it's nice to see she's still putting it to good use (it may be the worse for wear, but that's not always a bad thing!):

Today's post and recipe are actually from K. Crane, that same friend who is also an Art Therapist and Artist in Lexington, KY. Her words follow (with an insert from me below the title):

Nana's Oat-Wheat Bread. From Jane Brody's (falling apart) Good Food Cookbook(and the 'Handmade' element to this story is the lovely wood cutting board sitting under the bread. It was made by the author's father, given to her mother, who always thought it 'too nice' to use. K, on the other hand, thinks it's too nice NOT to use!)

(My notes): This is a healthy bread, with 3 types of grain, sweetened with molasses (I used local). Local sorghum would work too. The recipe calls for one kneading, but please note that I always use two. In the photo, the bread on the left was kneaded twice and the one on the right only once. The one on the right still tasted great, but you get a more beautiful rise if you knead twice, plus, it only takes a couple minutes to give it that second kneading. Listen to me, talkin bout bread like I know what I'm doing. I just know I like this bread a lot.

Also, the original recipe calls for the traditional way of blooming yeast but I now use instant yeast (thank you Alton Brown), so I'll put my instant yeast directions in parenthesis.

1. If using traditional active dry yeast, do the following:
place 1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees) in a small bowl, and stir in 1 1/2 packages (4 teaspoons) active dry yeast), and set aside until the yeast starts to bubble.....OR you can use 3 teaspoons of instant yeast (see below)

1/4 teaspoon ginger
3 cups quick-cooking rolled oats (I use old fashioned oats myself)
3 1/2 cups boiling water
4 TBSP butter or vegan margarine such as Earth Balance
1/2 cup light or dark molasses
1 TBSP salt
1 cup of 100% Bran flake cereal
2 cups whole wheat flour
4-5 cups white flour

2. Place the oats in a big-ass bowl along with squares of the butter, molasses, salt, and ginger. If using intant yeast instead of the traditional active dry, put that in now too. Pour the boiling water over it, stir to dissolve and combine well.

3. Add the bran cereal, whole wheat flour, and, if using the traditional proofed yeast, put that in now too.. Combine well, Start adding the white flour. You will probably get through about 4 cups of flour and use the 5th cup after you turn out the dough to start kneading. When the dough starts to pull away from the bowl easily turn it out.


4. Turn out the dough ona floured surface and knead it for 8-10 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic. Dough will be soft not stiff. Put the dough into another large bowl that has been greased and turn it to coat it. cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth and set in a warm, draft-free place to rise until is has doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. (see photo)

5. Punch down the dough, take it out and divide into thirds. Briefly knead each little loaf, about 3-4 minutes then put each in a bread pan (9x5x3), cover with a towel and let them rise until they double in size, about another hour or so.

6. Bake the bread in a preheated 350 oven for about 35 minutes or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.


Let them cool then release them from the pans and enjoy.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

more ramps...

The weather of late has been so mild, it's almost easy to forget it's only slightly past mid-April, and still officially Spring. The recent bounty of ramps and spring greens is a good reminder, and happily last night and this morning are nicely cool, the way a Spring morning should be. It's motivated another ramp-inspired dish from inside the oven, this time calling up one of my favorite ways to use leftovers.

In short, a leftover saute of kale, garlic, and ramps were mixed up with eggs, veggie broth, and cornmeal, with just a little salt and cayenne, then baked until it puffed. Yes, another take on the frittata, but adding the cornmeal gave it a nice heartiness that suits this morning's chill, and goes nicely with a late morning second pot of coffee.

Friday, April 20, 2012

More Spring Ramp-age

Spring continues to bring more and more out of the gardens, and luckily for those of us who love them, that still includes ramps, both cultivated and wild. And as crazy as it sounds, when there are several local Tailgate Markets that happen well within reach of my home or studio, my time and budget have not allowed me to venture into one of them yet this season. Thankfully, I have one other option, and that's studio delivery of delicious eggs and vegetables from a local farm, Mudluscious Pottery & Gardens.

Today's delivery: eggs, ramps, kale, and shiitake mushrooms. And I'm still on my budget. I'm allowing myself $20/week toward the market veg, when I have it and when I can get to the market, and this delivery came well under that and will be a part of meals throughout the next week (ramps and mushrooms in more egg dishes, and in a soup, kale chopped thinly for a nice raw salad base, egg salad for a light lunch at the studio ... and more I'm sure!), along with pantry stock.

Tonight was a quick frittata using a bit of everything in the bag, plus a small local sweet potato and some dried thyme from my old spiral garden. I find that when I cook this fresh and seasonal for myself, I barely season at all, so I can really enjoy all the immediate and earthy tastes of things recently harvested. I've just finished a few bites of frittata, and I'm enjoying the resonant flavors of the ramps, the mild musk of the shiitake, the tangible green taste of the kale, all enveloped in a silky mix of fresh eggs ... paired with a nice Pale Ale, and dinner is served.

My enthusiasm for the dish is illustrated by the way I practically hacked it out of the pan, remembering too late the pretty picture I intended to take for the blog. I also fully intended to measure amounts, but was more hungry than analytical when I got home with my bag of goodies, so these are educated guesses, feel free to tweak as you please:

Frittata with Ramps, Kale, Shiitake, and Sweet Potato

2 TBSP extra virgin Olive Oil
1 garlic clove, smashed & chopped
1 small shallot, finely chopped
salt to taste
pepper to taste
1 tsp dried thyme leaves (or 1 TBSP fresh leaves)
1 cup chopped ramps (bulbs & greens)
Approx 6 medium size leaves of kale, taken off the stem and chopped
1 cup fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 small sweet potato, cut into quarters and then thinly sliced
5 eggs, beaten
2-3 TBSP almond milk
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
salt/pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Use an oven-safe skillet and heat olive oil over moderate heat. Saute the ramps, garlic and shallots lightly, then cover and let simmer 2-3 minutes. Add salt & pepper to taste, then add sweet potatoes. Stir to mix, cover and let simmer another 3-4 minutes. Add mushrooms and kale, stir to mix and let cook, covered, another 3-4 minutes.

In a bowl, whisk/beat the eggs with salt, pepper, nutritional yeast and almond milk. Uncover the saute pan and pour the eggs over as evenly as possible, shaking the pan lightly to distribute. Immediately place the pan in the pre-heated oven and cook until eggs puff (you can switch it to a broil as it sets if you want to brown the top more) and set, 4-5 minutes.

Remove from oven and let sit for a few minutes, then cut into wedges and carefully remove. You can also try loosening the entire frittata by running a spatula around the sides and under the bottom, then inverting the entire pan onto a plate. For serving, if you do it this way, I suggest you then invert it again onto another plate to show off the prettier side. :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ramps, and Local on a Budget

I said there'd be ramps, and here are some. I picked up a bunch at the local market and quenched my cravings for a good breakfast ramp dish:

Sweet potato hash w/ramp bulbs & greens,
ginger & tart apple under poached eggs

Nothing fancy recipe-wise. I let the thinly sliced ramp bulbs soften slowly in olive oil over med-lo heat, then tossed in the greens and sweet potatoes and let it all cook down slowly, adding only a bit of salt and a splash of veggie broth. I added in thinly sliced ginger and tart apple toward the end, and let it continue to cook until they were softened. I poached the eggs till the yolks were a creamy soft (I admit - I got distracted making coffee and forgot about them until they almost boiled over, but they were just about perfect). It's a very local affair - the ramps, sweet potatoes, and ginger were grown locally. The olive oil came from the Greek olive tree farm of a local family, and the eggs are from my favorite 'farmers who will deliver to your studio'. The budget it tight this week, so my $22 in groceries that included the ramps and sweet potatoes will stretch to cover the next 10 days or so with what's in the pantry, and there will be more ramps!

Budgets are a big consideration for many these days, and it brings to mind the perception that eating locally or organic is too expensive. It can be, but it doesn't have to be, and I'll likely mention that often as we go into this new market season. As I do, please keep in mind that I'm speaking from my own perspective - I'm not feeding a family, but I'm also not brimming with disposable income. My 'day job' is that I'm a full-time studio potter & instructor, in a new business venture that's still relatively young. If you've ever started (or, as is my case, re-started) a small business, you know how long it takes before the 'money out' column finally gets shorter than the 'money in'. It would be very easy for me to stock my pantry with inexpensive, processed foods, or fruits and veggies from big box stores that have low sticker prices.

But little as I make, it's up to me to track the quality and nutritional value of the foods I eat. And because I can't write big checks to social and/or political causes I may support, my financial contribution and my voice comes in where I do spend my dollars. So I choose to carefully support local farmers and producers, and local small businesses. Yes, there are steady menus of PB&J at times, but with planning I can enjoy the bounty of what is available to me locally and seasonally, and will share it here (maybe not so much the PB&J, although there are some delicious options when you grill them, so maybe you will see them here).

Sunday, April 15, 2012

catching up...

Thank goodness I didn't actually make a resolution to post every week this year (and thank goodness I don't believe in resolutions!). The intention was certainly to examine different and delicious ways to enjoy local, seasonal fare throughout the year, and I have been DOING that, but the sharing of experiences and information here did not fare well after January.

I did enjoy local and seasonal fare through February and March, although life, the universe, and everything seemed to stand in the way of much documentation or posting.

In February, I continued to enjoy local winter squash and sweet potato based dishes, focusing on curries and stews like the Chipotle Curry I did in January, but with the more mild weather upon us already, I lightened it up by using the newest flavor of Asheville-produced Roots Hummus: Thai Coconut Curry (you can use the same recipe linked above, and change veg to your taste).

March brought even more warming weather, and happily earlier appearances of spring greens, so it was easier to lighten meals, one of my favorite ways being a lovely chopped salad of sorts: julienned kale, collards, red cabbage, romaine, and tart apples, with some grated carrot. Mixed up with a light vinaigrette or your favorite creamy dressing and toss in a handful of sunflower seeds. It made a great side as well as the perfect mid-day snack to keep going. No pictures of that one, but it will make another appearance as we move into the heart of farmer's market season.

I had a little culinary indulgence as well by attending the Blind Pig's Escoffier dinner. I apparently had the wrong settings on my camera, and the picture above of our table and beverages was practically the only one to be deciphered. It was a fine evening, one that may get a closer look back in a future post, but you can see more images of it at the Blind Pig site, along with a few that I collected from other attendees and posted on our facebook page.

And here we are in mid-April. Ramps abound and if you want to indulge yourself, you can take part in a local Celebration of Ramps later this month. I'll be taking a more moderate approach, still living with the distractions of the aforementioned life, the universe, et al. But there shall be ramps. Stay tuned...

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Mocha Stout Braised Bison Short Ribs

January went a lot faster than expected, so we're tip-toeing back a week or so to include this in our January 'eating seasonally' menus.

In our region, kale and other dark leafys are still found in season, along with sweet potatoes and winter squashes. Those have been the stars of January dishes, and for this we brought in some other local stars along with a few items out of the herb garden, and some stored away in the freezer and larder.  The ribs were served with Mocha Stout Braised Root Mash and Stout Sprouts - you can find both of those recipes at Crazy Green Studios' Recipe link (where more homemade always tastes better on handmade!) - they'll be added here as soon as time permits.

Mocha Stout Braised Bison Short Ribs

Preheat oven to 250

the rub:
2 cloves garlic, chopped
small handful fresh thyme leaves
1 medium shallot bulb, chopped
salt, fresh ground pepper
olive oil

mix rub ingredients together, using enough oil to bind them.

6 Carolina Bison short ribs

If ribs are frozen, thaw them completely in the fridge. When thawed, drizzle a bit of olive oil on all sides, then put the rub on, all over. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes or so to reach room temp.

Heat oil in oven-ready saucepan big enough to hold ribs without crowding. Brown all sides of the ribs in batches and remove to a plate.

1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
olive oil

1 cup Highland Black Mocha Stout
1 cup veggie stock or broth
3 whole garlic cloves
2 large shallot bulbs, cut into 2-3 pieces
1 carrot, cut in half and in 1-inch pieces

Add shallot/garlic/carrot with more oil if necessary and quickly saute until soft. Deglaze the pan with a little of the Mocha Stout, scraping up all the goodness from the bottom of the pan and mix it all in well. Add the ribs, bone side up, back to the pan and cover with the rest of the mocha stout and the broth/stock. Toss in the garlic heads, shallot, and carrot pieces. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover and put the pan in the preheated oven for a nice, aroma-filled 3-4 hours. 

Check it at 3 hours - if it's not falling off the bone, let it go longer. When done, remove the ribs to a plate. If the braising liquid has mostly cooked off, add a touch of stock and immersion blend it into a nice, thick gravy.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Warming up the Winter

As I said recently, the winter season makes me yearn to cook soups and stews. Our New Year rang in with relatively mild weather, so I started off with a fairly mild dish. Today there is no doubt that winter is here, and the biting cold inspired me to bite back with warming spices!

And for January, I'm focused on using foods that are seasonal to my area, so I'm still working with local collards and winter squash. And to further inspire, locally based Roots Hummus has put out a recipe challenge using their extremely tasty hummus, and here's what all that inspiration produced:

Chipotle Curry
• One can (14.5 oz) of chopped tomatoes (better yet, use some you put up from your summer garden)
• 14.5 oz vegetable broth (just fill the can)
• 1 1/2 tsp curry powder
• 1 tsp salt
• 5 large Collard leaves (or 1 small bunch), torn into small pieces
• 1 small butternut squash
• olive oil
• salt
• curry powder
• 1 8 oz. container Roots Chipotle Hummus*
• Frozen corn kernels (put up from the summer market finds)
• Fresh broccoli florets
• Leftover roasted chicken, cut into small pieces

Bring the first three ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan, then reduce to a simmer.

Steam the collards above the simmering tomatoes until tender but not mushy.

Peel and cube the squash, tossing it with olive oil, salt, and curry powder. Roast on a baking sheet at 425 F. till just tender.

When squash and collards are done, set them aside.

Add the entire container of the hummus to the simmering tomatoes, then blend with an immersion blender just till hummus is incorporated (I left some tomato chunks). 

The last three ingredients are some I had on hand and decided to add - you can change this up to suit your tastes - various other quick-cooking vegetables, chick peas, etc.

Add the last three ingredients, along with the collards and squash to the pot, stir to combine and taste for seasoning. Simmer covered about 5 more minutes until broccoli is just tender and corn heated through.

I had a nice, whole wheat roll from Roots & Branches that was perfect for sopping up the extra juices. It's warming, it's spicy, and it's sooooo good on this cold, winter night!

*if you're not lucky enough to live in a region where Roots Hummus is sold, go ask your grocer to carry it! If that's not possible, pick your favorite spicy hummus to substitute.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Seasonal Recipe Fun: January

Since I'm getting a very nice day off, I get to play in the kitchen, so I decided to take my own challenge to make something with local, seasonal ingredients to heart when doing so. It's New Year's Day, and there are a lot of traditions associated with foods to eat in the New Year:

In Spain, revelers eat one grape for each stroke of the clock at midnight (and one for each month of the year), with the goal being to swallow the last grape before the last stroke of the clock.

Eating greens at the New Year is a tradition in many countries, mainly because the leaves look like folded money, so it's a symbol of hopeful prosperity in the new year.

Legumes are another symbol of money - here in the south black eyed peas are the big thing. In Italy, it's green lentils, often served with pork which has its own connections to progress, and being lucky.

curried lentil & collard soup atop mashed sweet potatoes

I've taken some of each of these traditions, in my own way. Granted, I don't have any grapes to consume during the count of midnight, but I am enjoying the fruit of the grape in a lovely bottle of Prosecco over the course of the day as a nod to that tradition (see my mimosa post from earlier today).

For the greens, I was able to find local collards, so that satisfied two cravings, both to start out the year with dedication toward more local, seasonal fare and to have collards on New Year's Day!

For the legumes, I prefer lentils over black eyed peas. I've had many a version of Hoppin' John, and they were all very tasty! I just like lentils more, and if you're going for symbolism in projecting prosperity, you can't get more coin-like than the lentil!

And with further seasonal eating in mind, I checked around to see what else was in season that would add to the New Year's Pantry, and I found some very nice sweet potatoes from the area.

Now what to cook? Well the weather today is practically balmy, but it promises to return to winter weather in the coming week, and I've really been in the mood to start working on soups and stews. So my New Year's fare is a lovely soup with collards and lentils, slightly curried in seasonings and served over a bed of mashed sweet potatoes. It suits the weather perfectly, with the warming spices but not too spicy reminding me that it is winter, but with a lightness that doesn't leave an overly stuffed feeling at the end.

While I can't predict my prosperity in the coming year for having eaten these foods, I certainly do feel a great deal of gratitude and appreciation for being here now.

The Soup:
(I didn't take notes to make this into a 'recipe', but the fun thing with soups is that once you make one or two, you get the feeling for measurements - so play around with it!)

1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
unrefined olive oil
4-6 cups broth or stock
1-1 1/2 cups green lentils
6 large collard leaves, torn into smaller pieces
1 can chopped tomatoes
optional: corn & green beans (I had some in the freezer)
seasonings (to taste, or somewhere between 1 tsp - 1 tbsp each):
curry powder
black cumin, ground
chili powder

saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil, and once softened, add the rest of the ingredients, making sure you have enough liquid to cover everything in the pot. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer until lentils are tender, tasting for seasoning.

Happy New Year!

A little update to the blog look seemed appropriate, as things are definitely moving toward an emphasis on  the quality of food when made from scratch using quality ingredients, as well as the increased quality when served on handmade wares. Yes, the main blogger here has a bias, being one who loves to make both handmade wares and homemade concoctions to put on and in them.

To welcome in the new year, we're spending the day focusing on the intentions for the months ahead, and enjoying a lovely beverage throughout the day to inspire those meditations:

Cooking will follow later today, but starting with a good juice seemed like a good way to enter the year. Today we've juiced collards, as that's a new year's tradition, and finding local collards made it even better. To that we added local ginger for a bit of spice and flavor to motivate us in paying attention to the subtle flavors in life, as well as those more pronounced. Spanish clementines give sweetness and remind us that while there is an abundance of goodness all around us locally and regionally, sometimes necessity and sometimes indulgence leads us to make choices outside our region. These clementines seemed an appropriate match to the lovely Prosecco that helps us remember that one of our intentions for the year is to visit and explore the local and regional wonders of Spain. For our handmade component, a 'winter tree' cup is featured, acknowledging the winter and welcoming the slight respite from a more active hustle and bustle in warmer temps, and looking forward to a coming spring to bring new growth while our roots make deeper connections and our branches reach out even wider. And receiving a New Year's card that literally emphases "Joy" over those things that can distract us from more important priorities seemed the perfect accompaniment.

So much deep meaning and symbolism for a morning juice!  Fun with more collards and lentils later today - we wish a Happy & Healthy New Year to all, and hope it's filled with much sexy food!