Wednesday, April 20, 2016

From a Clear Lake Kitchen: Making the Most of Spring, Earth Day, and My Refrigerator

American entered World War I ninety-nine years ago this month. 
All across the nation homemakers and their families 
took part in the home front efforts that would "win the war with food."

Advice from this World War I food conservation poster holds true today. It is the embodiment of the Earth Day message. Be careful with resources. Whether it is land, water, outdoor spaces, and--importantly--food, don't waste it. 

I will confess, I'm not always the best shopper in the grocery store.  This gives me the opportunity for waste-aware creative cookery. 

The grocery and menu mis-match is not always my fault. This time I can blame Mother Nature. I'm not really complaining,mind you, but all of a sudden she brought summer! When I had a fridge and pantry filled with winter-typical foods.  I mean who wants roasted Brussels sprouts when it is 75 degrees outside?  You'll find my fridge-foraged recipe solution below.

This is the season of planning. You'll find loads of creative resources for making the most of our environment at Clear Lake's Earth Day Expo tomorrow night at the historic Surf ballroom. Doors open at 4 pm Thursday, April 21 and close at 7 pm. The fun event is free and open to the public  I'll be at the Woodford Lumber and Home booth. Woodford has some great earth-friendly products for garden and home including Benjamin Moore environmentally aware paint. And you have to see the clever raised bed garden system they've devised. At Woodford no job is too big or too small. I'll have some new recipes to share. 

It is also the weekend of action. With picture perfect weather predicted it is time to get out and clean up, run, and party. The TrashBash begins at 8 am. Ten and five k runs take off at 9 am, and City Park is a happening place with Outdoor Fest activities for everyone. More info here.

Great garden plants on display--and for sale--
at Larson's Mercantile on Main Street in Clear Lake, Iowa

While you're in town don't forget to stop by Larson's Mercantile on Main Street. They are easy to find as the store is ringed with beautiful hanging baskets and garden plants. The cold-hardy and rare heirloom vegetable varieties are on the shelves ready for purchase now. More varieties are arriving every week with tender plants and herbs coming in near the middle of May. I'll confess that I've planted some green beans with fingers crossed in addition to the cold-tolerant spinach, onions, and peas. 

But back to my refrigerator opportunities. I had the pesky sprouts... but what else?  Apples, mayo, stone ground mustard. Oh! a lemon.  Dried cranberries from the pantry. Wow! The Brussels sprouts made the foundation for a tasty slaw. 

Brussels sprouts, apples, dried cranberries 
combine into a deliciously crunchy slaw.

Fridge-Foraged Crunchy Brussels Sprout Slaw

4 cups shredded Brussels Sprouts -- about 1 1/2 pounds
1 apple, diced or shredded
3 green onions, sliced
1 lemon
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup stone ground mustard
a few grinds of black pepper

To shred the sprouts--trim off the end and then cut in half lengthwise. Slice across the head through the tender leaves until you get to the harder core area and stop. Discard the hard cores. The amount of shred will vary depending on how "leafy" the sprouts are. Pile loosely to measure and adjust remaining ingredients if necessary. 

To make the slaw -- combine the shredded sprouts, apple, and onions.  Mix with juice from the lemon. If you're feeling fancy, or really like lemons, you can add some finely grated zest. Give the mixture a toss and then add the mayonnaise, mustard, and pepper. 

Chill for at least an hour then toss to serve. Slaw will keep in the refrigerator for 24 to 36 hours. 

Copyright 2016 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

From a Clear Lake Kitchen: Tempting the Weather and Family Appetites with Really Early Spring Peas

Cheerful Tom Thumb pea plant sprout. 
The variety from Baker's Creek Heirloom Seeds grows 
to less than a foot high and was developed to grow in pots. 

Next week is Clear Lake's Earth Week celebration. It kicks off with a Green Expo at the Surf on Thursday, April 21, 2016. Admission is free and the exhibit-filled expo is open from 4 to 7.  Saturday begins with the the all important "TrashBash" community clean up starting at 8 in the morning followed by 5k and 10 k runs. Celebrate all your hard work with the Earth Day Outdoor Festival at City Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Find all the info you need here

In our yard we've been busy taking advantage of the warmer weather to pick up all the sticks and rake up the wintered over leaves--we've taken 33 bags of the stuff to Clear Lake's handy yard waste drop site since the middle of February. 

Tempting fate. The predicted temperatures are in the mid-60s the next ten days. So we've swapped out the snow thrower for the lawn mower. 

In the garden the strawberries are starting to come up. Chives, sage, thyme are all greening up as well. I'm going to throw caution to the wind in the vegetable garden and plant some green beans and maybe cucumbers. The soil is warming up and I have a large plastic tub that can serve as a cold frame should Mother Nature change her mind. 

In the kitchen taste of spring can't come soon enough. So I've been using frozen peas until the real fresh peas arrive in the garden or at the Clear Lake Farmer's Market -- opening in the Surf parking lot... not soon enough! 

This French Style Pea recipe has its roots in the 1790s and I have a great version of it from the World War I food conservation days. The green onion, parsley, and lettuce add an air of sophistication to one of the best fresh vegetables of the season. And certainly dress up the frozen ones. 

Sophisticated French Style Peas 
with green onions, parsley and the surprise ingredient--lettuce

French Style Peas

2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup minced parsley
2-3 cups frozen peas, or lightly blanched fresh peas
1 cup shredded lettuce, rinsed in water

In a large frying pan with a lid, melt the butter and add the green onions and parsley. Cook, stirring over low heat until the onions start to wilt. Add the peas and stir to coat with butter. Cover and steam for a couple of minutes. Then add the lettuce with some water still clinging to the leaves, stir to mix, and cover to steam until tender 

Serves 4 

Copyright 2016 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

From a Clear Lake Kitchen -- Dock Posts, Ducks, and Warming Cornmeal Waffles

Ducks and dock posts.  
Look closely and you'll see some of the many coots 
and lesser scaups that have been stopping by on their way north.

Woodford Lumber greets shoppers and those who drive by with their cheerful swinging billboard announcing that "It is dock season" and offering all the supplies ready to go for a summer of fun.

Spring is surging into Clear Lake.... and on alternate days, winter sneaks back in. Sunday's high was 75. Tuesday we had snow showers.  Ice went out on March 16, 2016 after the lake froze over on December 19, 2015. This was just ten days more than the shortest ice season ever during the winter of 1999-2000 when the ice also came in on December 19th but went out on March 6th. The migratory birds  have been flocking back. Three weeks ago scores of v-shaped flights of geese passed overhead, honking to herald the season. Most mornings this past week we have large groupings of coots and scaups floating, diving, and feeding off the water where our dock will be. Mallards are swimming by in pairs and the geese are settling in down at the marsh.

In these varying times it's fun to pull meal out of the freezer that pay homage to both seasons.  So here's dish that combines winter-friendly waffles and summer delicious bbq chicken!  Really tasty to warm you up after an afternoon of lake-side chores.

Every once in a while back when we were kids, mother would put the waffle iron on a tv tray in the dining room and we'd have waffles for dinner. It was a special treat. Those were the ordinary buttermilk-style waffle. Fine as they are, but those ordinary waffles don't stand up savory toppings nearly as well as the great recipe I found during the research I did for my book on World War I food conservation: Food Will Win the War. During that conflict, optimistically known as "the war that will end all wars," wheat was a precious commodity. We sent much of if to our allies overseas and needed it to feed our soldiers in training. So cooks on the home front devised ways to stretch flour. These hearty cornmeal and rice waffles are among the best recipes of that time.. or any other.

I'm serving them here with leftover bbq chicken, but other savory toppings would be just as tasty--creamed chicken, vegetables with cheese sauce, creamed chipped beef, even pork or beef stew. The waffle pockets nicely hold sauces in place so you get deliciousness in every bite. The platform really makes the leftover bits of meat or vegetables go a long way to satisfy a hungry family.

Tasty World War I Rice and Cornmeal Waffles 

1 tablespoon vinegar
1 cup milk
1 cup cooked rice, cooled -- I prefer brown rice or even wild rice. White rice will work, just don't use the instant kind.
1/2 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
1 tablespoon melted butter
2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat your waffle iron. Put the vinegar in a glass mixing cup and add milk to one-cup mark. Stir and then set aside for about five minutes as it sours. In a medium mixing bowl combine the rice, cornmeal, flour, baking soda and salt if you are using it. Stir in the dour milk, mixing well to break up any lumps of rice. Stir in the melted butter and eggs. Cook waffles according to the directions of your waffle iron.

The recipes makes about 6 4-inch "Belgian" waffle squares.

Oh yes, They are tasty for breakfast as well. I frequently make a double batch and freeze the individual waffle squares. They toast up perfectly in the toaster. Just put it on low and toast them twice, flipping them over in between.

Copyright 2016 Rae Katherine Eighmey. All rights reserved