LEEKS VINAIGRETTE NESTS

FullSizeRender-3Photo – Merci, Kathy Thompson!

ORGANIC INGREDIENTS, PLEASE.
Serves 12

LEEKS
2 large 1.5″ diameter leeks
Cut off roots and trim leaves leaving 3″ of dark green.
Halve them lengthwise and wash thoroughly.
Cut into ribbons about 1/2″ wide.
Leeks are banked with earth as they grow to create the
delicate white root ends. You can plant the trimmed root and it will grow a new leek. Save the tops for a soup or a stir fry.

You can prepare the vinaigrette as the leeks cook.

Bring 1 quart of water to a boil.
Add 1/2 t. sea salt.
Add leeks and simmer for 15 minutes until they are just translucent and tender. You’ll need to tend these as they cook. If you overcook they will be mush. If you overcook them then save them for something other than Leeks Vinaigrette. Maybe a leek puree topped with tiny carrots.

Have a bowl of ice and water ready to chill the leeks once they are done. Drain the tender leeks reserving the liquid to drink now or later. It’s delicious hot and cold! Place the drained leeks into the ice water and let chill thoroughly. Drain but leave them moist as the water helps to dilute the vinaigrette a bit.

VINAIGRETTE
Vinegary things’ sourness is influenced by the vinegar type and is a personal preference so before you add the leeks to the vinaigrette, taste it.

In a bowl large enough to hold the leeks, mix together:
1/4 c. olive oil
2 T. champagne or white wine vinegar
1/4 t. garlic salt or a tiny clove of fresh garlic and a dash of salt
1 dash of freshly ground or FRESH white pepper (or more to your taste – it’s powerful if it’s fresh)

OPTIONAL
1/2 t. Dijon mustard – I do not add as I think it masks the delicate leek flavor.

Add the drained leeks and toss gently. Place in a GLASS or CERAMIC covered dish and refrigerate for at least four hours and up to 8 hours. No metals or plastics please as they influence the flavors. A Ball jar with an enamel lid works too.

QUAIL EGGS
Place eggs in saucepan and cover with cold water. Add 1 T vinegar. Bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer for 45 seconds then plunge into cold water to stop the cooking. These are tricky to keep a gooey yellow so you might just let them cool to room temperature and be happy with whatever the yolk decides to do. The shells are so beautiful – so I just clip off the top of the egg and set it into the nest.

THE FUN PART – ASSEMBLY

Select lovely little dishes. I like square dark dishes for the contrast. <$2 at World Market. In each dish swirl a nest of leeks, top with a clipped quail egg, a few capers, a bit of sunflower seeds for crunch.

I think they’d be delightful in petit cupcake liners and then placed in one of those ceramic egg cartons. I will try to get a photo of that next time!

Let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour before serving.

Bon Appétit

From Iceland with love

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Enjoy this Risallamande recipe. It has a lovely story.
Substitute coconut cream and any kind of nut milk if you like.
Hiking with REI in December the young guide, Pokey, was away from his family for the first time over Christmas. When I asked him what he missed it was Risallamande. (Rice with Almonds and Cherry Sauce). The chef at the Inn (www.hotelborealis.is) where we stayed lovingly made it for him on Christmas night. His family usually has a huge portion for Christmas Eve dinner and then has the rest for dessert on Christmas.
Well, I have been eating it every day since I got back home. That’s like three weeks or so. I know, I have to stop at some point! Anyhow, it is delicious. Here’s my adaptation and a website for more fun reading…http://nordicfoodliving.com/risalamande-danish-rice-dessert/
Risallamande
Recipe for Homemade Risalamande - Danish Rice Dessert for Christmas
Prepare Rice Pudding, Cherry Sauce, Almonds and Whipped Cream
Rice Pudding
1 c  Organic short grain rice (Arborio)
4 c WHOLE Organic milk
1/8 t sea salt +/-
5 T Organic sugar
1 T Organic butter
1 vanilla bean
1 t vanilla (I use Penzey’s double strength)
Place rice, salt, sugar, and scrapings from vanilla bean and the bean in a saucepan. Add 2 cups of the milk and bring to a low simmer. DO NOT BOIL fully or the milk will scald. The trick here is to stir every 3 minutes or so to be sure it’s not sticking to the bottom. Add the additional milk as the rice absorbs the first liquids. Cook for about 35 minutes, Remove vanilla bean hull. Add butter and vanilla. Place plastic wrap directly over the top of the pudding and let cool to room temperature. The plastic wrap keeps a “skin” from forming on the top. (You can put in a shallow container to do this if you wish to cool faster.) This can be made up to a day ahead and refrigerated.
Cherry Sauce
2 c frozen Bing/Sweet cherries – I like Whole Foods brand – Organic or what you can find
4 T filtered water in 2 equal portions
2 T Organic butter
1/8 t sea salt +/-
2 T sugar
2 t cornstarch
1/4 t almond extract
While you stir the rice pudding, make the sauce. In small saucepan, place all ingredients (2 T of the water) except cornstarch and extract. Bring to simmer. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch with 2 T water. Add to saucepan and stir to thicken and cook through. remove from heat; add almond extract. Serve barely warm over pudding.
Almonds
1 c +/- Organic almonds
Place almonds in ceramic bowl; cover with boiling water. Let sit 1 minute., Pour off water and recover with boiling water. Let sit 1 minute. Run cool water over and pop off the almond skins. (You can buy blanched almonds if you like.) Coarsely chop the almonds and set aside.
Whipped Cream
2 c Organic Whipping cream
2 T confectioners Sugar – I skip this added sugar but you might want to add according to the rice pudding sweetness and your own taste preference.
Whip cream until firm peaks form.
Assembly
Fold whipped cream into cool rice pudding.
I literally take the rice pudding in my hands and break it into smaller chunks so the whipped cream stays fluffier as you fold it in.
Traditionally the almonds are stirred into the pudding and one whole almond is included. Whomever gets the whole almond wins…you know that Christmas/King Cake/3 Kings Cake/Hide It tradition.
I like to place the pudding in a dish, top with cherry sauce and then add almonds on top according to my guests’ preference for nuts or not.
So pretty! It’s lovely in tiny little single Asian spoons or crystal shot glasses.
It will be a new holiday tradition – and well maybe a weekly tradition — at our home!
Enjoy!
Oh and Iceland is SOOOO worth a visit. Iceland Air offers free stopovers on the way to Europe.
Gleðileg jól

PLASTIC MATTERS?

Okay so this is “save my plastic week.” It also is Christmas Gift wrapping week. It is so interesting because on one side of my personality I want less and on the other side I really want PAPER — the French pink glitter wrap and the one with the poodles and…. More news to come concerning the fight between my wants and my needs. Meanwhile, a few easy old habits I reinstated — THIS WEEK – I take my own drink container with me – that can be one for both hot and cold (Target has some lovely colors on an end cap of these.) or two. (One of mine is an outmoded plastic one and one is a ceramic Starbucks cup.) I am taking my own FORK, SPOON and KNIFE or SPORK. If I forget my fabric shopping bags, I carry my items out to the car in the cart and transfer them into a bag there. Pretty soon I WILL stop forgetting.

I have a real entitlement bug in my personality that says,”You deserve it fast, now and easy.” I think it is the same bug that just encouraged me to eat the ENTIRE chocolate mousse (that was in a plastic cup with a plastic lid). And so, I am meditating and taking an extra hike around the block. I love that stuff too – the healthy stuff.

In my own personal melt down of my plastic addiction I hope to inspire you to be a little inconvenienced to better preserve the world for the amazing bright-eyed children. For the creatures who are humbled into fenced animal preserves and pastures and contaminated seas by our extreme greed for more. They show up trusting that we invited them to enjoy a world that is healthy and safe. The tiniest thought before you toss might save a breath of air or even a life.

My entitled personality is thinking, ” Oh pooh. It makes no difference!” My good heart, the angel one, replies, “Let’s just see. One piece of plastic at a time.”

Easing the Earth — WORMS, COMPOSTING, DIGESTING & YOU 

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This past week I had the extreme honor of meeting WORM QUEEN, Rhonda Sherman. It was one of those exciting moments when my skin crawled, well actually sparked, with excitement about the passion this WORM QUEEN RHONDA has about composting and vermicomposting.

Rhonda really is the Queen of Composting. As an Extension Specialist in North Carolina State University’s Horticultural Science Department, as well as a Wake County Master Gardener, she has the credentials to support her title.

She led a group of us new Master Gardener Trainees to her test patch of composters. From rollers to bins to cans, in plastics and wires and woods, they stood in the open environment of the NCSU educational farm. Some had fallen apart unable to bear the climate, some had attracted rodents, some were hard to manage, others were expensive. There were two composters that stood out as winners: FreeGardenTM Earth and The Earth MachineTM  See Wake County’s special offer below —  ONLY $50.00 through October 31st.

Want to compost but your life limits it right now? You can call CompostNow a local home service that for a small fee will collect your compostable materials and then return compost to you! For every 2 pounds of material you send in you get 1 pound of compost back when you need it.“If it grows it goes,” they say. So even bones, meat, dairy, pizza boxes. www.compostnow.org. Call them at  919.526.0403.

Composting in your own backyard is for organic materials but NOT meat, bones, and some other materials that CompostNow will reclaim.

HOWEVER ONE UNIT for homeowners at Rhonda’s test site, COULD ACCEPT ANYTHING FROM YOUR KITCHEN and even pet feces – the Green Cone http://www.greenconeusa.com. It is just like its name —  a green cone. It has a basket that is buried beneath the ground. It can take anything organic. I spoke with Karl Varkomski, one of the owners of Green Cone, a local NC company, and he said it is a “digester.” All YOU do is dig a big hole for the catchment basket which stays underground; throw your wastes in at the top, lock it and leave it. It requires a sunny well-drained location. Solar energy and microbes break down the contents. Green Cone is available through www.tarrivertradingpost.com.

Throughout October, Wake County residents can pre-order a backyard compost bin at 50% below retail cost–just $50! Each purchaser will receive notification to pick up their bin in November. The bin is The Earth Machine, which has a twist-locking, pest resistant lid. It is 33-inches high and 33-inches wide, and has a capacity of 80-gallons. It comes with a 20-page Home Composting Handbook. To order a bin, go to http://www.wakegov.com/recycling/recycle/Pages/Online-Compost-Bin-Sales.aspx If you have questions, contact Sara Davarbakhsh at 919-856-7412 or sara.davarbakhsh@wakegov.com

Queen Rhonda took us to her Worm Barn, a big garage with plastic bins. In the center is a motorized continuous flow worm bin for commercial vermicomposting. There was no smell. People from around the world – thousands of them, come to learn from Rhonda.

“Watch out for spiders,” she guided. Spiders? I thought about that song, “The worms crawl in. The worms crawl…” You know, that song.

Moving to a classroom, she taught us more. Composting relies on microorganisms to convert organic materials to a soil amendment and vermicomposting adds worms to the equation. The resulting crumbly dark matter (compost) benefits our gardens and our planet Earth.

Queen Rhonda’s website www.worms.ncsu.edu is fact full and fascinating. “Up to 75 percent of what is discarded by North Carolina’s communities and businesses are organic materials. Instead of disposing of food scraps, yard wastes, and other organics, the materials can be vermicomposted.  This method of recycling converts organic materials that have traditionally been viewed as waste into a valuable soil amendment for plants and crops. When vermicompost is added to soil, it boosts the nutrients available to plants and enhances soil structure and drainage. Vermicompost has also been shown to increase plant growth and suppress plant disease and insect pest attacks.”

FOOD WASTE IS THE NUMBER ONE PRODUCER OF METHANE IN LANDFILLS.

Forty percent of food in the United States is never eaten, amounting to $165 billion a year in waste, taking a toll on the country’s water resources and significantly increasing greenhouse gas emissions, according to a report from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Food waste in particular generates a significant amount of the greenhouse gas methane when it’s buried in landfills, but not so when composted. U.S. cities and counties that offer composting prevent otherwise trash-bound food scraps from decomposing in landfills and generating methane — and they get a significant carbon credit as a result.

http://www.washington.edu/news/2015/12/16/composting-food-waste-remains-your-best-option-says-uw-study/

Recycling has come a long way. Most major cities offer curbside or convenient recycling of glass, plastics, papers. Sorting and recycling are usually suggestions that are not strictly enforced. However, SOME CITIES REQUIRE COMPOSTING.

Seattle Municipal Code sections 21.36.082 and 21.36.083 require that residents and businesses do not put food scraps, compostable paper, yard waste, and recyclables in their garbage.

EASY for you to make a difference.

Now, that I have your attention with EASY, let’s continue with Why Compost or Vermicompost or Digest? If you’re a gardener, compost reduces soil compaction; increases infiltration, increases water holding capacity, reduces erosion, holds nutrients, reduces chemicals needed, reduces diseases. For Earth, composting reduces organic materials that usually end up in the landfill, are buried under the earth in anaerobic conditions and create methane. The Green Cone, solar digester, is brainless, meant for me! You can throw your scraps in it just as easily as down your water-system disaster garbage disposer or into your garbage can.

Worms? Well all they need is a dark bin, moisture, oxygen, bedding, food, and a little love. The type of worms to use are Eisenia fetida, which is VERY important because they like living in a bin, are tolerant of 32-95 degrees Fahrenheit, and they are non invasive to the natural environment. A few interesting worm droppings – they are hermaphroditic but require two worms to make love. They will die if in light for more than an hour; they must remain moist; they are cold blooded and breathe through their skin; they eat 25-35% of their body weight each day.

Queen Rhonda wrapped up her lecture with a picture of a beautiful Lily P style laundry room with a little curtained doorway. There was a lime green bin on wheels with an artsy worm fork, a tool to gently aerate the creatures. A lover of worms had made a private nook just for her worms.

There’s nothing secret about Queen Rhonda’ s love of worms. Check out her site at http://composting.ces.ncsu.edu/

She shared a few other resources:

Worms Can Recycle Your Garbage (factsheet on how to set up and maintain a worm bin): https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/worms-can-recycle-your-garbage

Backyard Composting of Yard, Garden, and Food Discards: https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/backyard-composting-of-yard-garden-and-food-discards

Even MORE info at: 

https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/extension-gardener-handbook/2-composting 

&

http://www.ncstategardening.org/extension_master_gardener/index.php

Happy Mother’s Life!

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This morning I was greeted with this card and this book.  Well, and a lick from Lucy, our lover dog. The card is filled with laughter – little bits of Matti’s and my life together these days. Her original illustrations color it and on the back are the words to “Summertime.”  (Last week she asked me my favorite song.) BUT, here’s the big surprise, she has learned to play the song on her Baby Taylor guitar that she just began playing three weeks ago! And so we sing together this morning. And we sing together again. Like we will sing every day of our lives. Thank you God for blessing me with motherhood. (3 daughters 3 grandchildren) This Life.

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Now about THIS book! Take one tiny step to experience the life of a yogi. The last line of the opening is “…build community around mindful living.” Being gentle with our selves and our world. Remembering each other in kindness and laughter and well, song. Happy Mother’s Day!