Monday Rewards

Monday night is the perfect night for cookies. A new twist on an old favorite. I stopped using Crisco years ago but I must admit Crisco was the standard base for the Sanders Family cookie. I use Trader Joe’s BGH free unsalted butter that I but eight pounds at a time. Bustelo coffee gives it a undeniable snap and a insider’s nod the city of my birth: Miami. The added pecans count as protein and justify these as semi-healthy. Unbaked cookie

Baked cookie

Coffee Pecan Chocolate Chip Cookies
¾ c butter
½ c white sugar
½ c dark brown sugar
2 T Turbinado sugar
1 egg
1 tsp Vanilla extract
1 T Bustelo Coffee grinds
1 ½ c white all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ cup chopped pecans
½ c chopped dark chocolate
Preheat oven 350F. Mix butter and sugars well. Add egg, vanilla and Bustelo. Add dry ingredients. Once well mixed, add the pecans and chocolate.  Bake 13 minutes.


Beating summer heat

Summer at Biddan Ridge is a whole lot of dang heat! Too much heat and not enough rain. And when it rains, it is preceded by an hour of lightening strikes which invariably costs me a few light bulbs – usually in the entryway ceiling fixture that requires two people and two ladders to change. Minor design hassle that you do not and cannot foresee when you plan a house and select fixtures.
thunderheadandlightening I75thunderhead I don’t do much gardening (or weeding) during the summer. I can’t stand the heat or the fire ants. So, we camp out inside, watch Netflix or some other binge-worthy show and cook good, fresh food and chill in our A/C. Avoiding turning on the oven, especially for anything other than baking cookies, seems unnecessary. High protein salad with buttermilk Bleu cheese dressing hits the summer spot.
wedgiesaladAnd you have to finish it off with some of the best ice cream EVER. Southern Craft Creamery won the Garden&Gun magazine’s Best of the South award a few years ago and we order it online. I was super happy to find it for sale locally at Lucky’s Market. Lucky is right! We did a little taste test to rate and compare. Both were winners!



Fig jam

The frost and then the yard man’s weed wacker have hindered my fig production. Honestly, it reduced the number of fig bushes from six to two and those two are limping along. So, I tried to barter honey from my summer robbing for figs. I asked my fellow local gardeners through Facebook but I missed the summer figs by a few weeks. The I walked into Publix and they had black Mission and brown Turkey figs BOGO. Wining!

Fresh figs

So I stemmed and quartered thirty figs, I added two cups of white sugar and one whole vanilla bean, split. I put it all in a heavy LIDDED Le Creuset Dutch oven and cooked it on very low heat until all the figs were soft and brown. I used a pastry knife to chop any remaining pieces into smaller chunks. I removed the vanilla bean and scraped out the bean paste, returning it to the slow boiled jam.

Cooked vanilla fig jamThe outcome was six half pint jars and a small quarter pint remnant that goes into the fridge for me to eat now on toast or with cheddar cheese on crackers.

Fig jam in jars



All’s Pear in Love

Yesterday morning it was cool by July standards and foggy. A good time to attend to the pear trees. This is their second fruit season and I am blessed with an abundance of fruit on such small trees. Calling them trees exaggerates, embellishes. The Biscamp pear, a self-pollinating variety bore the most fruit; its reed thin branches heavy laden with large man-fist sized fruits.

Biscamp pear

The Pineapple and the Sug variety, more old-fashioned sand pears are meant to cross pollinate. It is unclear if these two trees even like each other. They had some kind of tree-sex because they each had one pear. One. Their fecundity is yet to be determined.

Sug pear Pineapple pear

I had hoped that planting the pears close to the Carolina Redbuds, the bees would work the five trees indiscriminately. I will have to consider better protecting these trees and their early spring buds from late freezes.

The pear trees needed a spa day. I shoveled a ring around each base, hand troweled the grass runners crisscrossing the ground and stealing the trees’ vital nutrients. I added six double hand-scoops of Black Kow manure to the base and worked it all in.

Weedy pear Neat pear

I then re-attached biodegradable twine and staked the branches wide to open up the inside of the trees. It is not meant to be a true espalier.

Biscamp staked Sug staked Pineapple staked

Then it was time to make my Granny’s conserve. By my Granny’s definition, a conserve was two (or more) fresh fruits cooked with sugar. The traditional culinary definition is cooking dried fruits and nuts which I think of more as a chutney. A conserve is slow cooked, chunky, sweet and has no added pectin. The literature on the Biscamp, the majority of the fruit I have to make my conserve, is said to be a “soft eating pear” supposedly like a Bartlett. After peeling and slicing…that is a liberal assertion. And thank God for it. I didn’t want a soft, fine grained eating pear. I wanted SAND pears.The Biscamp is as gritty as coarse sand paper but it is very juicy, even with still-green skins.

I have an Apple-Mate 3 that attaches to my kitchen counter and peels the pear skins. These pear skins have a tannin in them and hand peeling turns your fingers and nails brown for days. Plus the skins are TOUGH and attached to the flesh of the fruit. The Apple-Mate scratches the peels off perfectly. Final touches are made with a very sharp paring knife before chopping off the core and mincing in a Cuisinart. I am all about the gadgetry.

Peels20150719_091212In the pot

I embellish my Granny’s recipe which used canned pineapple, sand pears and sugar. Instead, I use fresh pineapple, sand pears, sugar, a split vanilla bean and a stick of cinnamon. The outcome is a conserve perfect on English muffin, bagel, sour dough toast, warmed and poured over ice cream, served over warm gingerbread cake or bread pudding or in a spoon: plain and simply perfect.

Eight jars

Jeweled pearfection


Caramelized Onion Tart

I pulled all the remaining onions from the garden yesterday.

OnionsToday, I cleaned them, peeled the skins and chopped them for freezing. I kept three large onions to make a caramelized onion tart. There is such satisfaction in pulling something from the ground and cooking it within a few hours.

caramelized onion tartcaramelized onion tart

Baked caramelized onion tart

Caramelized Onion tart

2 – 3 large sweet onions, thinly sliced
3 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Set skillet on LOW heat. Put butter and oil in pan and combine until melted. Add the onions to coat, season with salt and pepper. Cover pan with lid, but leave a slight opening. Cook SLOWLY for 30-45 minutes until golden blonde-brown. Set aside.

1 sheet puff pastry dough thawed
4 oz Fontinella cheese or Fontina cheese grated
2 Oz Asiago or Parmesan
2 sliced of bacon, cooked
4 sage leaves finely chopped

Place puff pastry dough on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Fold ¼ inch margins in on all four sides. Sprinkle the Fontinella cheese on the bottom. Sprinkle bacon crumbles and sage cuttings over the cheese. Spread the caramelized onions over the cheese. Sprinkle the grated Asiago over the top.
Bake 350F for 25 minutes.



Christmas Oranges

My parents told stories of getting oranges in their Christmas stockings. I have friends in Canada that frame oranges and citrus as a winter treat. Having lived my whole life in Florida with the exception of brief interludes in DC and Charleston, oranges are part of my fundamental lexicon. My parents lived in Homestead when Hurricane Andrew struck. They had acres of citrus groves: ranges, tangerines, grapefruits. They had many heirloom varieties. The hurricane’s winds pushed every single tree out of the ground; the whole grove was uprooted and falling to the west. My father paid a man to “upright” the trees and stake them, hoping to save the orchards. When he returned home from work that afternoon, the worker man he had hired had take a chainsaw to the entire grove and chopped every tree to a stump. I always thought that event was far more devastating to my father’s will than the actual hurricane.

Today at the farmer’s market, I was in search of oranges. I was gifted some heirloom oranges by a patient but their rinds were too thick for marmalade. They make great juicing oranges, though. And Miss Sue brings me two dozen every year the week before Christmas. I bought Ambersweets, Red Navels and Hamlins to add to Miss Sue’s oranges.

Four native varietiesThe Hamlins had a few seeds but otherwise, the varieties were seedless. I then pressed the juice out of four oranges to get 4 cups of juice. I sectioned five Hamlins removing their fresh and then separating the sections.

Rinds without fruitI pulled the pith and membranes from between each section of the orange.

Orange sectionsI added the fruit and the juice to a large 8QT stock pot. I then sat down to the labor intensive task of slicing the white pith from the backs of the sections.

Removing the pithSome recipes advise placing all the pith and membranes up into a cheese cloth to provide the pectin for the marmalade, but since I use 4 cups of freshly squeezed juice (with the pulp) instead of 6 cups of plain water, I find this to be unnecessary. Then I julienned the rinds.

Sliced rindsI added the rinds to the pot along with another 2 cups of water, 8 (yes, EIGHT) cups of sugar and 1 cinnamon stick. I brought the mixture to a rolling boil and stood stirring it for 5 minutes. I turned the heat off and went out to do my first bit of Christmas shopping. Four hours later, I restarted the mixture on a medium heat simmer. I attached a candy thermometer and waiting until it registered 220F. I had 4 plates stored in the freezer and when I reached that jelly stage when you drop some of the boiling liquid on the frozen plate and in 30 seconds, you can draw your finger through it…..and the single dot becomes a cleaved two dots…..the marmalade is ready to can. Did I mention I then licked that plate clean. I had to test it 3 times to be sure it was ready.

Florida Orange MarmaladeIt is perhaps the best orange marmalade I have ever made.


Thanksgiving table

Back in the heat of the summer, I arranged to foster a turkey at Laughing Chicken Farms. Robin Popp is at the Alachua County farmers’ market on Saturdays with chickens and eggs. I made my down payment for my Thanksgiving feast. Two nights before Thanksgiving, I drove out to Trenton. The Laughing Chicken Farms is straight west about 13 miles. On Tuesday night it was storming and a squall was coming off the Gulf into Cedar Key. There were tornado warnings. I drove in my little sports cars down limerock roads in pitch darkness to get our turkey.

It was a very good turkey. Freshly slaughtered the night before. 22 lbs. We put it in a brine with apple cider vinegar, garlic, onions, fresh sage, clementine orange rinds, pepper and a stick of cinnamon. I wanted to set a table with as much fresh, local or nearby foods. I bought my yams at the farmers’ market along with peppers. I pulled my own carrots from my garden about an hour before we sat down for dinner. Garlic honey carrots

We made sweet potato biscuits with the yams and flour freshly milled from grains I bought from Breadbeckers in Woodstock, GA. I use honey collected last spring from my own hives. I use pure Vermont maple syrup I recanned from a gallon I was gifted by a patient last year. I ordered cheeses from Nature’s Harmony Farms in Georgia and their Georgia Gold (cheddar) was excellent. The Fortsonia was also yummy, like a hard Swiss. I will order from them again. My niece brought a fresh bottle of Richland Rum, distilled from sorghum grown in Richland, Georgia.

Richland RumEverything set upon the table was made from scratch (except the pie crusts…we cheated on the crusts). I believe in slow food, scratch made food, simplified and real. Real butter. Real cheese. Wheat flour. Farm eggs. Hand made. Home made. Yes, it takes more time. Yes, it cost more money. But….it’s real. It’s fresh. It’s live (or very recently was alive). I believe that these things matter.


Tuesday’s fare

Beans picked fresh from the garden, rinsed and chopped, cooked but still crunchy. I served them with a vinaigrette dressing of avocado oil, peach balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard and crushed garlic. I grated a boiled egg and added cracked pepper and that was the salad course.

Beans with egg

The dinner was a large Vidalia onion sauteed in olive oil and butter until translucent and then caramelized with a teaspoon of sugar. Add four cups of beef broth and four cloves of crushed garlic. I served it with a thick slice of sourdough bread and Emmenthaler Swiss cheese melted under the broiler.

French onion soupI scored some chocolate rugalah at Fresh Market for a perfect meal.


The Soup

I wanted Italian Wedding soup, the kind with the tiny little meatballs, but I am so picky about pre-prepared food items with ground “beef”. I suspect what is labeled as “beef” is really various cow parts. So, I found an easy recipe on-line for an Italian Wedding soup [here] and made a quick run to The Fresh Market at lunch. I made a slight substitution of half the pork for lamb. When we go home, The Younger Son helped me hand roll all the meatballs (2 lbs of meat). I doubled the recipe so we’d have meatballs in the freezer to make the soup again if it was a hit. It was a hit. I think I’ll finely julienne the curly endive the next go around.

Italian Wedding Soup

w/ a side of Butter dipsAfter dinner, we cut the Halloween cake I made. I got the recipe from Williams & Sonoma in honor of National Chocolate Day, which was Monday. Yum.

Halloween Cake