The edible treasures from our tiny vegetable garden

No, there is nothing glamorous about vegetables. Usually they need sticks to not fall, their flowers look pretty ugly and the plants themselves are not good looking at all. You know already you’re not gonna say, “What a beautiful pea plant or cucumber!”, when you’ll see one, am I right?

I must say that from all the veggies, I like how onion blooms, the smell of tomatoes leaves and how the potato plant looks like when is young and green, even I’m aware is highly poisonous.

5(the blooming red onion we want to take the seeds from, the sour cherry tree with a charm – Medusa’s Eye – and a straw bird house)

Anyway, the vegetables don’t even have to be glamorous or beautiful at all. This is flowers’ job. The vegetables have another destiny: to bring flavor in our lives, to feed us and to keep us healthy. Today I’ve discovered another thing about veggies. They can make you happy (Not high. Happy!), because when I saw the potatoes, OUR potatoes I couldn’t eat anything else but french potatoes from our harvest. And they tasted divine. This was the moment I decided to show you some of our future harvest.

4(our chaotic, yet beautiful tiny vegetable garden)

There is another thing to say. If you expect to see a perfectly straight line, with no trace of weed, if you’re an order maniac, stop reading right now, cause our vegetable tiny, tiny garden is an artistic one, so a bit chaotic created under a sour cherry tree, with some weeds, but I must tell you this is perfectly organic. So all the vegetables it grows are very, very tasty. Sweet and tasty as I could feel it with our “spring” potatoes.

2we have here different kind of tomatoes. it is such a joy to see that one of them actually started to get red :). Are we talking here about an ashamed tomato?

14some are red, but others still green

1the potatoes. aren’t they gorgeous? we ate them all in no time. fried, sprinkled with cheese (and thyme only for me)

3some cucumbers are tiny

12but others make me wait impatiently to make some fresh, homemade tzatziki

13here is just a part of our white onion. yes, this is tasty too and we have so many that we gave some of it to my sister.

11we planted 3 raspberry trees. 2 red ones and one yellow. some of them made some juicy fruits, but they are too young for a great “production”

 

Breakfast feeling: Eggs in bacon nest with Caprese salad

I know, you know, he/she knows, they know, we all know how important the breakfast is. Yes, of course we know that all we eat in the morning gives fuel to our body and energy for the most part of the day. There is an old, wise saying, I’m totally agree with: Eat like an emperor in the morning, like a king on lunch and like a poor man in the evening.Ā 

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I know I’ve been writing a lot about food, lately, and even I wanted to show you how our garden looks like after two months, and to give you some news about our newest cat, Felix Norocel (Lucky Felix), I ended writing about….food, of course. About the breakfast we had today, actually.

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I had some mozzarella in the fridge and since the vegetable market is full with beautiful garden tomatoes, I thought a caprese salad might be great. And this was the perfect moment to use the Greek basil we have in our garden, anyway.

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But enough with talking and let’s create a great and flavored dish: eggs in bacon nest with Caprese salad.

THE EGGS:

You’ll need a muffin pan for this and a preheated oven on 200 Celsius degrees, eggs (I used 2 for each person), bacon, olive bread, olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme (if you like cheese, grate some and sprinkle each egg with it before you put them in the oven).

With a cookie cutter make circles out of bread (since I like the not so perfect things, I used the knife to create not so round circles). Put one circle bread on each hole of the muffin pan and sprinkle with olive oil. Around the bread put slices of bacon, to create a “nest” like form. In the nest crack an egg and add salt, pepper and cheese on top of it. Do the same with each egg then put it in the oven until the eggs are going to have the consistence you like

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THE SALAD

I love fresh basil for the fresh and summery taste it gives to dishes and this is one of the main reasons I like caprese salad so much.

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You’ll need fresh basil leaves, mozzarella, tomato, olive oil, balsamic vinegar (I used lemon juice), salt and pepper.

Slice the cheese and tomato then, put them on the plate you’re gonna serve the salad, like this: tomato, cheese, tomato, cheese and so on. Sprinkle your salad with fresh basil, salt, pepper, lemon juice or vinegar and olive oil.

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and you’re ready

 

Dinner feeling: Layered polenta with chicken, vegetables and parmesan. All accomplished in the oven

When it comes to polenta, you can say with no fear of mistake that is one of our national food. I know, I know there is nothing glamorous about it. (I guess we are not as glamorous as we think we are :D). And how could it be glamorous, anyway? Polenta is just corn and when you taste it, you have just 2 options: to like it or to hate it.

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I guess I’m the exception on that matter, cause I’m somewhere in the middle, between Yes and No, because I’m not crazy about polenta, but I admit there are dishes that go PERFECTLY with it. And today I’m gonna tell you about the last one.

The secret about food and cooking is to explore the taste. Once you know perfectly how some of the base ingredients taste, then you can try to combine them. In all the forms you have in mind. It is like, with an open mind, as a painter, you’re trying and trying to find a new color. Or medicine for the soul. Sometimes the food can miraculously transform in the perfect way to heal a wounded heart, being able to bring happiness in other people’s eyes.

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For today, as you already guessed, polenta is going to be our main character and I warmly advice you to try this recipe cause you’re gonna love it, for sure (even you don’t like polenta very much, cause you have to like it just a little bit to really enjoy the dish). That’s my recipe and I’ve tried it before, but this time it came out great.

What you need

For Polenta:

*special corn flour for polenta

*salt

*water

*5 grams of butter or a 1/2spoon of olive oil (I used olive oil)

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How to do it

This is a very simple thing to do. Heat the water in a pot (if you put too much water your polenta will be huge) and add salt. Taste it (the saltier the water, the saltier polenta you’ll have). Add the butter or the oil. When it almost starts to boil add the corn flour while stirring. Is very important to stir if you don’t want to have lumps in your polenta. Lower the heat and let it boil stirring once in a while until is ready (in about 7 minutes)

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For the vegetable layers šŸ™‚

*3 big green onions (use 2 medium onions if you don’t have the green ones)

*some chicken breast cut in cubes

*3 tomatoes

*3 peppers

*salt, pepper, a chilli (if you like it spicier)

*garlic (green or in cloves)

How to do it

1.Take the skin out from the tomatoes, then chop all the vegetables.

2.In a deep frying pan add a spoon of olive oil then add the chicken. Fry it on fast heat until is ready.

3. Add the onion, and let it soften a bit, for 2 minutes, then add the peppers. Heat them for 3 minutes

4. In the same composition add the garlic and the tomatoes and let the vegetables boil together until the flavors mix (for about 5 minutes on high heat)

5. When the tomato juice is reduced, add the salt, pepper. I put a pinch of thyme too. Taste it and if it’s perfect, turn off the fireNow it’s your dish’s time: In a oven pot make a base layer of your polenta, 1,5 cm thick. Sprinkle it with grated parmesan, then add a layer of your vegetable composition, then polenta again and parmesan. Close it with the vegetables sprinkled with grated parmesan.

6. Put it in the oven on 180 degrees until the cheese melts.

And you’ll have a yummmmmmmyyyyyy dish for your dinner šŸ™‚

 

 

 

Super easy: Make your own cream cheese with herbs

Summer is herb’s time and is a great idea for you to buy some seeds, to plant them in pots and to have then, fresh herbs to give savor to your dishes.

We made a trip in the vegetable market the other day andĀ  we came homeĀ  with fresh quark cheese, tomatoes, peppers, local pecorino cheese and in season fruits…

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In the matter of shopping, I like to buy local, and as clean fruits and veggies as possible. We do the same with eggs and cheese, but this is not a hard thing to do around here, cause we’re living in the “cheesiest” part of our country. The people here are famous for the way they make the cheese, so if you come around Sibiu area, don’t forget to taste the cheese. I’m sure you’re gonna love it.

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We had today an easy going breakfast, outside, and it was perfect for this day, we call Rusalii, a very important ortodox holiday. Because of the easy going feeling I had since early morning when we woke up, I feltĀ  like making a cream cheese with herbs, all natural, with a pinch of salt, olive oil and some black pepper (some people would use white pepper, but I like how black pepper look on the white “space” of the quark). Is easy to do, ready in no time, has a lot of flavor and has a cooling effect.

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What you need

*low fat quark

*1/2 spoon of olive oil

*a pinch of salt&pepper

*fresh herbs (I used sage, thyme, marjoram, mint and basil)

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How to do it:

1. I made it in the container I bought the cheese, then I put the flavored cheese into a tiny coffee cup to make it more appealing.

2. Chop the herbs in small pieces and add them in the cheese together with the oil, salt and pepper. Ornate it with fine spring onion rings

 

Sunny breakfast with home baked focaccia

I really, really like to bake and especially to bake bread. I don’t even know why…Maybe because for my people bread has a central role in their lives and on family’s tables. There is something almost magical and mythical about bread and I remember my grand ma each time I feel freshly baked bread’s aroma.

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I love to put my fingers into the warm and beautiful smelling dough and to knead it until is ready to grow…and grow…and grow….and to magically be transformed into a happy round bread.

Today I woke up together with the sun. I don’t know why and what made the sleep ran so fast and early from me and since it was too early, I thought I might bake some focaccia. You know, already, my passion for Mediterranean Sea and for the herbs the sea shores grow, so I have chosen focaccia especially because I felt happy to see the sun shining again after so many rainy days.

1314(this dough looks like a beautiful full moon, isn’t it?)

I like the rain, don’t get me wrong. As a person so close with nature and earth, I know we would all die if, one day, the rain would stop to fall. But lately there was too much of it. And nothing compares to a beautiful sunny day after almost 2 weeks of rain, isn’t it?

Our breakfast today was a celebration of the sun and earth, that’s why I prepared a sunny egg (one for each) sprinkled with thyme and parmesan, Mediterranean focaccia with rosemary, thyme and sun dried tomatoes, together with young green lettuce from our vegetable garden.

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Let’s talk first about focaccia, the main character of our today story. Before telling you what you need to prepare it, I’m gonna tell you that I didn’t use any measures. I usually make bread how I feel, I let the ingredients, the eye and my gut to guide me, but I will try to do my best to give you some measurements.

What you need

*about 500 grams of flour (make it more if you want a bigger quantity of dough)

*dry yeast (7 grams)

*1 teaspoon of salt

*1 spoon of olive oil

*1/2 spoon of dried oregano for the dough (you can add some dried basil too, if you like)

*about 250 ml of warm water

*a large bowl

*fresh rosemary and thyme, olive oil (and a pastry brush), some big salt for the “topping”

*you can put on top of your focaccia onion, tomatoes, cheese, anything you like

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How to do it

Once you have time (cause you’ll need a bit of time), the rest is a real and simple joy. So, let’s do it together!

1. In a large bowl add the flour, yeast, dried oregano (or other herbs) and salt and mix them with a spoon. Make a hole in the center and add the olive oil. Stir everything and add, then, the water little by little, stirring with the spoon. When the ingredients are tied a little, use your hand to create the dough. Your dough must be elastic, not sticky. If it happens, add flour until your dough gets out from your hand.

2. Move the dough on your working board and start to knead it for about 10 minutes. To find out if the dough is ready, transform it into a ball, put a finger in flour and press it a little on the dough. If it comes back, then is ready.

3. Put it back in the bowl, sprinkle it with flour, cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rest and grow in a warm place until it doubles its volume (for about 30 or 45 minutes)

4. When is ready, give it a punch to make the air bubbles get out, then make a ball out of it and stretch it with a rolling pin.

5. Put the flat dough in a tray and with the finger press the dough to createĀ  dimples. Let it grow for about 15 minutes.

6. With the aid of the pastry brush grease your focaccia with olive oil, then add the herbs and salt, and put it in the preheated oven (on 180 degrees Celsius) for about 45 minutes.

7. After this time increase the heat on 200 degrees and let it there for another 10 or 15 minutes until is ready

 

 

 

 

Kitchen tips: Beware of herbs :D

“Beware” is not the best word for what I have in mind in this post of mine, but it could be, cause, if you ask me, herbs are one of the most important aspects of a dish. They can be sour, salty, spicy, bitter, they have great flavors, have mythical roots (Ancient Greeks thought herbs are Afrodita’s elements) and most of the time they have medicinal properties. I am deeply in love with herbs and I’m working to improve my garden and collection with interesting and, why not, rare spices.

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As many of you know, some herbs are perfect for white meat, others for red sauces. Unfortunately some of them can be poisonous if you don’t use them in the best quantities. If you want to know more of these, here are some tips:

*lavender tea is perfect if you need to calm down or if you have a sleepless night. Use one tea spoon of lavender for a big tea cup
*lavender and chamomile flowers are great when they’re mixed in ice cream
*be careful with nutmeg, not to use too much cause it can be toxic for you.
*the nutmeg works great with potatoes
*wild garlic is one of the first beautiful greens that appear in spring season. When you’re going to pick it, be careful to not mistake it with lily-of-the-valley’s leaves. They look the same, but the last ones are highly poisonous
*when you cook white meat – fish or chicken – the perfect herbs for them are rosemary, oregano and marjoram. You can apply the “rule” also to white sauces

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*thyme makes a perfect pair with eggs cooked in all their forms and also with beans
*home made mayo can win more flavor with tarragon (here, in Transylvania we love tarragon and we keep it in white vinegar over winter. We use it to sour our traditional borsch)
*red sauces made with tomatoes go great with basil, marjoram, sage and thyme because of their astringent touch
*red sauces made with wine go great with cloves and some cinnamon
*peppermint tea is perfect for a disturbed stomach
*saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, if eaten in big quantities can make you laugh a lot šŸ™‚
*thyme works also good with chickpea
*in deserts, cinnamon goes well with apples, but also with peaches
*another flavored leave that might become poisonous is the bay leave. When you cook something don’t use more than two of them. They are highly flavored anyway

Breakfast feeling: Leftovers omelette

As an omelette (and frittata) “specialist” as Laurentiu calls me :), I must say you can create an omelette out of almost anything as long as you have a pan, eggs, olive oil or butter. What I mean is that you can practically add anything to your favorite breakfast omelette. Meat, chicken leftovers, mushrooms, herbs, garlic, pepper and all the vegetables, even corn or sauces.

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Searching through my phone, I’ve found some old omelette pictures I took in winter when I prepared comfort food for one of our cold mornings. Today, in our region is not cold anymore, nor warm, cause even officially we are in summer season, it’s raining and raining….and raining….

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We are fed of rain, but, I guess nobody’s fed of a good omelette anybody can make with chicken leftovers šŸ™‚

What you need

*chicken leftovers

*eggs (I usually use one egg for my omelette and 2 for Laurentiu’s)

*2 garlic cloves (one for each omelette)

*1 spoon of olive oil

*brie cheese sliced (I love it so much, as all the cheeses, actually)

*salt, pepper, thyme and sweet (or hot) paprika

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How to do it

1. Cut the chicken and the garlic, beat the eggs with salt and pepper, add in a small hot panĀ  half of spoon of the olive oil.

2. Put the chicken in the pan, then the garlic (be careful not to burn it cause it would become bitter) and the eggs

3. When your eggs are almost an omelette, add the cheese and let it melt

4. Add the thyme and the paprika for more color

5. We ate our omelette with a simple salad made of aurugula sprinkled with some olive oil, lemon juice and parmesan.

 

 

 

Breakfast feeling: Mmmmmmmm…Eggs Benedict with Asparagus

Asparagus’ time is almost over. So we’re gonna start to miss it. Soon….Very soon. I like it so much that we ate 2,5 kilos in 2 days, but we still have some left, so I’m gonna transform it into a cream soup.

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We have some bad weather around here, and even Miaunel who loves to stay outside is in the house and is sleeping since early morning. ProbablyĀ  he had some interesting and busy night. By the way, did I tell you we neutered him? Thank God. Even first we took the decision based on his future kittens with no parents or foster home, we soon started to feel we can’t live with him anymore because of the spraying. Now he is a great cat. Clean and who smells good. Our house and yard are the same. So I feel our Miaunel is back and his cuteness is even greater. We can’t love him more, I can say.

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I realized today I wrote lately only about food and garden. Almost nothing about the house. But they are my main interests right now. Especially that we spend a lot of time outdoor, so most of our days pass in the garden. Anyway, I’m not gonna change my habit now, right? so I’m gonna show you the 5 stars breakfast we had today.

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It was incredible tasty, especially that combines some of our beloved ingredients – eggs, homemade Hollandaise Sauce, cheese (grilled), toasted bread and asparagus. My advice is to save the recipe for a weekend gloomy day, cause you’ll need some time and patience to create it.

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Take your time, don’t panic and enjoy

What you need:

*asparagus (I used green and white)

*some cheese (grated, pecorino, or any cheese you like)

*eggs (I used 2 eggs for every person, and anotherĀ  one for the sauce)

*a few drops of lime or lemon juice

*2 garlic cloves

*cold butter (about 30 grams)

*bread (one slice for each egg)

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How to do it

1. If you use white asparagus, you have to peel it, but the green one is perfect the way it is. Prepare it like here.

2. In the same water you boiled your asparagus, prepare the poached eggs like here

3. For the Hollandaise Sauce you’ll need one egg yolk, the butter, lime/lemon juice, salt, pepper and some water, all combined in a bain marie vase.

4. The problem here is with the egg. Be careful to not overcook it, cause if you’re not careful you’ll have an unwanted omelette. So in the bain marie put about 3 spoons of water, add theĀ  egg yolk stir everything then start adding the butter cut in small cubes. Don’t put it all together, cause your sauce will not have the creamy consistence.

5. Don’t stop from the stirring , add some extra drops of water if the composition is too thick. Take the pan from the fire and add the lemon juice drop by drop (be careful to not make it too sour) the salt and pepper. You have to taste it (maybe several times) to make it perfect.

6. When your sauce is ready is bread’sĀ  turn. In a hot frying pan add a small quantity of cheese and put right away the cheese over it. Turn the bread and “fry it” on the other side with no cheese.

7. When you’re ready with the bread, create the arrangement for the plate, by placing the bread on the bottom, then the asparagus, then the egg. Sprinkle the egg with salt and pepper and then with the Hollandaise Sauce.

It is just a bit complicated than usual, but I assure you your effort will be awarded with a gorgeous and glamorous taste.

 

 

 

Snack feeling: Strawberry & banana smoothie

I don’t like to waste food. Each time I throw some spoiled food I’m thinking that somewhere in this world there are children, women, men, old people who have nothing to eat, who didn’t eat anything in that day, or worse who die of starvation. That’s why, I feel really bad when our food gets spoiled, but, against our efforts, it still happens.

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This is the reason I’m trying to buy fresh ingredients, in small quantities, and we are not fond for once in a week shopping trips.

This strange feeling of future spoiled food came up in my heart 2 days ago, when we were in the vegetable and fruit market andĀ  bought 2 kilos of strawberries. We both love them, and I don’t know what stopped us from taking 3 kilos. I even asked Laurentiu “Do you think we’re gonna eat them all?” and because he was sure we’ll make it we came home with a lot of the red and juicy fruits.

Today, after 2 days we are out of strawberries and this happened because we ate them like mad men. Eating them fresh was not the only use we gave them, cause yesterday, in a very hot day I used some of them in a strawberry – banana smoothie.

smoo2(I couldn’t resist the pink beauty and I tasted it a bit before I took this picture)

I didn’t have the inspiration to photograph the whole process (is a good thing the inspiration stroke when I saw the yummy result!)….but maybe because the drink is really fast to prepare (it was ready in less than 1 minute).

What you need

1 banana

yogurt (the quantity depends on the glass you have)

7 strawberries

1 coffee spoon of honey

a vertical blender

* in a hot day use the ingredients directly from the fridge, for a cooling effect

How to do it

Wash the strawberries (remove the green parts) and put them in the blender. Add the peeled banana cut in slices, the yogurt and honey. Blend them, put the smoothie in a tall glass and enjoy.