Friday, January 11, 2013

On gardens, gifts, and cookies

This Christmas I received a wonderful gift from my darling and exceedingly handy boyfriend- a handmade, cedar garden bed! It's absolutely perfect for my new urban-ish home. A few weeks ago I put in my first winter crop: collards, arugula, spinach, red leaf lettuce, romaine, spinach beet chard, and rainbow chard. Here are a few photos for your viewing pleasure! The arugula and spinach beet chard are just asking to be eaten!

Now to change gears entirely! This Christmas I tried to make the majority of gifts I gave family and friends. Mom got a terrarium and cranberry compote, Dad got gravlax (recipe below) and dilly beans, and boyfriend got a bloody mary gift set and homemade sketch book. Across the board I'd say homemade gifts were a huge success! I plan on doing the same next year....only starting a month earlier.  Here are some of the recipes and instructions from my gifts. I hope you enjoy them! 

Gravlax is a traditional Scandanvian dish and translates to "grave salmon". The internet tells me that this refers to the ancient practice of burying fish in the sand, above the high tide line, to preserve it. Okay, try to get past the name, because it is darn delicious! 

Here's a totally solid gravlax recipe on which I based mine. A few important notes: I am a absolute salt freak, and this was still too salty for me unless you rinse it off before eating. I also recommend letting this marinate for at least 36 hours. Slice it thin and serve or crackers, bagels, or open faced sandwiches (smorrebrod).  I served mine with bagel chips and a dill cream sauce (fresh dill, cream cheese, sour cream, salt, black pepper). Delish!

Bloody Mary Gift Set
For all you bloody mary connoisseurs out there, get ready to have your mind blown. The gift set I created contained: one bottle of Zing Zang Mix (if you haven't tried it yet your quality of life is severely diminished), homemade pickled dilly beans, and a bottle of homemade pepper/bacon infused vodka.

I followed this recipe for my vodka and holy moly, is it good! I used jalapenos, habaneros, and thick-cut smokey bacon. Mine only marinated for about six days and that was plenty. Any more than a week would render this vodka too peppery for human consumption. I also recommend straining the mixture through cheese cloth a couple of times when you remove the bacon/peppers. Several reviews online complained that bacon liquor can be very greasy. While I didn't find that to be the case, I did make sure to blot my bacon very well after cooking and strained the mixture three times.

Here's my go-to dilly beans recipe.  I added some extra red pepper flakes for heat. Any type of pickle would be a great accompnament for this gift. Next time I'm going to try pickled asparagus!

PS- Now that I know how to infuse vodka, expect a lot of posts on the subject!   

Vegan Molasses Cookies! 
Here's a cookie recipe I came up with today. They're chewy, tasty, and vegan!

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup vegetable spread or butter (I used Earth Balance since these are vegan) 
1/2 cup molasses
1 tbs flax seed (ground)
3 tbs water
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 1/2 cups Bisquick mix
1/2 cup golden raisins 

Combine sugar and vegetable spread with a hand mixer, add flax and water. Blend well. Add molasses and spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg). Once well incorporated, add Bisquick and mix well. Finally, stir in the raisins. Let dough rest in the fridge for 20 minutes or so. Roll into balls and coat with white sugar (I used and ice cream scoop and made quick work of these cookies). Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown. Chewy, spicy, tasty, yum! Enjoy!

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