Black Winter Truffles

Displaying our truffles with Mirabelle the mutt and Jean Marc

We set out in Southern France to experience a  hunt for winter truffles with Johan, and his friend, Jean Marc, who keeps two truffle hunting dogs and trains them specifically for this purpose. I had been looking forward to it, but it turned out to be the highlight of our trip for several reasons. First of all , Johan is very passionate about farming and sustainability, so he is like us! Secondly, truffles are totally fascinating, and so is hunting for them. Third, he served us an array of truffle appetizers and champagne after the hunt!

We learned a great deal about these little fungi, which really are not mushrooms at all. Who knew?

What we learned:

The most revered and expensive truffle in the world is the black winter truffle from France. The white summer truffle is more ubiquitous and often used more in truffle oils found here.

Truffles are darn near impossible to farm because they require strict conditions, plenty of sunlight, consistent watering, winter temperatures above 26 degrees and warm summers with low humidity and loamy soil that drains well. They are not native to many areas, so you won’t find them growing naturally in the US. But these condition all come together perfectly in certain areas of Provence, especially in vineyards.

Truffles rely on oak trees and hazelnut trees to grow, so you will only find them growing below these types of trees, where their spores cling to the root and eventually may produce a truffle if conditions are perfect.

To find a tree that may have truffles growing underneath, look for a circle around the base of the tree where zero grass is growing. If there is grass there will not be a truffle, as they emit an oil or substance that kills that grass below the tree.

They take 7 years to mature.

You can order oak trees with truffle spores on the roots, which is what they did on their farm. However, truffles were already growing naturally for over 100 years on his family farm under the oaks, so they knew conditions were right for farming. Truffles only like direct sunlight.

The olive groves on the farm

Truffles  are only fresh and ready to eat for a few days up to two weeks and lose their fragrance and water weight very day, so shipping them means each day they are out of the ground they are losing flavor and fragrance. A frozen truffle bears little resemblance to a fresh one.

Johan said that 90% of black winter truffle products found in the United States are fake. You can know for sure if what you have is real by reading the ingredient list:  if it includes the term melanospora, it is actual real black truffle. If the label  says”flavor”, it is using chemicals to fool you, and you are paying triple price for it.

The hunt:

Jean Marc’s dogs sniffed a box of tasty treats and immediately knew it was time to begin sniffing around the farm for truffles.  We took them to trees that had no grass , and Mirabelle would identify if there is truffle, sit and then the other dog would begin to feverishly dig. She is trained to dig it up and take it gently in her mouth, but Jean Marc was careful to watch  her to prevent her from destroying it with her claws.

carefully removing a truffle

All you need to do is sniff the dirt to know a truffle has been there because the aroma is so pungent. The truffle should be hard, not spongy.

 

They are sold for about 1 euro per gram. We discovered about 115 grams about 45 minutes!

weighing the truffles

You haven’t lived until you have eaten a fresh black truffle shaved thinly and eaten simply on a slice of bread with cheese or butter. The explosion of flavor and fragrance is unlike anything I have ever tasted.

Here at the farm, they use older truffles to make their truffle salt and truffle oil. The fragrance is so strong that it taints everything in their refrigerator and freezer. Wow!

The best thing I ate in France, right here:

fresh French cheese with shaved black truffle, truffle oil, and truffle salt

truffle ice cream with truffle honey

He  paired all of our tastings with champagne  and it was all included in the tour.

bread topped with fresh butter and shaved black truffle

Please send me a personal email or Facebook message if you are planning a trip to Frnace and would like a tour with Johan. It was my favorite part of our trip and everything is made right here on the farm. You can even ADOPT  A TRUFFLE TREE AND BE SHIPPED FRESH TRUFFLES! Pretty amazing.

And now Larsen and I want to plant a few up on the farm in Virginia as an experiment. What do you think? Should we try it?

 

In love and light,

Lydia

 

Eating our way through Paris

Hallo von Deutschland!

It’s rather nice to sit down and write a blog post for once.  A cup of coffee in hand and BBC World news on the background. Snow outside. Coldest and snowiest winter here in FIVE years.

We traveled around France and Switzerland for about 8 days, and then bedded down in Bad Tolz, Germany for the week to relax with my mother in law and her friends a bit (she is from Bad Tolz), eat delicious German food, and keep our fitness up by walking everywhere and working out in the it most beautiful gym I have ever seen along the Isar River.

Here are some of my favorite photos from our time in Paris. I was blown away by the architecture and age of everything there, including the 17th century apartment we resided in for 3 nights. I loved every cute detail, even the creaky floors and low ceilings.

My next post will be about Provence and our truffle hunt!

XOXO

Lydia

PARIS:

 

Silver Linings

A natural disaster certainly has a way of blasting into your life and lending a new perspective. When you think about it, every hardship, every event in life really comes down to that one word, “perspective” and how you perceive and approach your situation. Sure ,you can look at it as this hurricane as a terrible, no-good, very bad thing, but on the flip side there is always a silver lining to every situation. The silver lining here, as I perceive it , has been the demonstration of a deep sense of community and friendship and human kindness this past week in Savannah. And chocolate cake, which I will get to soon.

We somehow made it through completely unscathed while the rest of our neighborhood  and other parts of our city looked like a literal war zone as soon as we stepped out of our home, pictured below. We met new neighbors, shared food and drink, witnessed neighbors sharing generators and electricity and hot water and collecting food and other essential items for those in need.

Damage 1

 

hurricane 2

 

 

We all  unexpectedly were handed a few days out of the office due to the mandatory evacuations last week. (Note: we did not evacuate for reasons I will not get into here.) Anyway, after the Hurricane left us, I again had a LONG time out of the office. As of today Friday October 14th, I still have been unable to go back to work due to issues related to water damage. I am trying to be grateful for this time and not worry about my clients too much, but in truth I am a working kind of girl and enjoy being productive .

The silver lining in the time off prior to the storm was time to bake my husband a homemade cake for his 35th birthday while we still had power! I cannot remember the last time I baked a cake. This was my first attempt at baking a cake with almond flour and there results were stellar! I had not planned on writing about it, so I did not take “professional” photos. However I feel this recipe is just too delicious not to share. So please enjoy this cake and the candid photo of Larsen about to devour his first slice. We ate on it all week and it was a subtle reminder to us that WE ARE OKAY!

Birthday Boy

Birthday Boy

 

Hold your loved ones tight and remember,

“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we an acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones”

In love and light,

Lydia

 

Chocolate Cake

Ingredients

  • 4 cups almond flour
  • 2 cups maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (Frosting)
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar (Frosting)
  • 1/4 cup vegan buttery spread, softened (Frosting)
  • almond milk to taste (Frosting)

Note

This cake is gluten and dairy-free. You can easily make it vegan by replacing the eggs with flax eggs. Also, you should be able to replace the maple syrup with honey if that is all you have on hand.

Directions

Step 1
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine the dry ingredients, almond flour, salt and baking soda in a large bowl.
Step 2
Combine maple syrup and coconut oil in a bowl and pour into large bowl of dry ingredients. Whisk mixture until fully combined and whisk in eggs one at a time.
Step 3
Prepare 2 cake pans with parchment paper and oil. Dust in a tiny bit of flour and scoop half of cake mixture into each pan. (it will be thick). Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes until the center does not wobble when you shake the pan. You may have to cook longer depending on your oven, humidity levels.
Frosting
Step 4
Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler and let cool to room temperature.
Step 5
Beat together melted chocolate and vegan butter stick with an electric mixer until fluffy and slowly add in powdered sugar. Add in a few drops of almond milk to achieve your desired consistency, wet or drier.
Step 6
Let cakes cool and turn one layer over onto a cake pan. Ice the top of it about 1/4 inch thick. turn the second layer onto of it and ice the top of the second layer thickly, This cake is meant to be iced without doing the sides to reduce the amount of icing. But if you have some leftover you could ice the sides and decorate it however you like.

 

 

Charleston & Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

My sister, Emily,  lives in Charleston now! While we were there for the Charleston Marathon back in January we drank mimosas, ate giant cinnamon rolls the size of my head from Wild Flour Pastry , and ate dinner at this delicious and highly-hip Vietnamese restaurant called Xia Bao Biscuit . Also, the Butcher & Bee might have been my favorite lunch spot so far this year. Please do yourself a huge favor and check these places out the next time you are in Charleston! Obviously I was more concerned with taking pictures of food than people while in Charleston, hence the dearth of actual photos from the race or photos of my sister, who is actually quite beautiful.

cinnamon roll

cinnamon roll pictured on a normal-sized dinner plate

I thought you should know my goal for 2015 is to blog more, as well as  post my eats on Instagram more often. I have been missing this space lately. This is a lofty goal because I am at heart a slow-it-down, turn- off -technology type of person on the evenings and weekends due to  sitting at a desk all day at work.  The best way for me personally to manage stress levels and happiness is UNLPUG,  watch the fish tank for a while,  or sit outside and take in nature and relax .  Speaking of fish tanks, this is the newest 90 gallon addition that Larsen setup this weekend. We will add some big fish in a few weeks.

aquarium

 

But back to the  food! This is a  recipe I shared at a recipe-swapping/Thirty-One party recently . I call these pumpkin dinner rolls. I pair them with salty country ham or sausage, but you can eat them plain,with butter, honey or jam too for any Holiday occasion or just for a Sunday morning brunch.

pumpkin rolls

Let’s clear several bread-making myths out of the way right now.

Bread making does not have to be scary, difficult or time-consuming. All you need to do is make sure your yeast is alive and working properly and utilize a mixer with a dough hook.  The dough hook has been the only reason I started making bread because , honestly, you don’t want to see me in the kitchen with just flour and a ball of dough . It’s scary…-little poofs of flour end up in the weirdest places in my house. Sometimes I even leave flour hand prints on my butt and go to the grocery store like that…

So, for me the dough hook is  a magical and essential piece of equipment because it takes out the whole kneading-by-hand process.

I hope you enjoy these rolls and just so you know, I consider these a treat, not a daily part of healthy diet.

I am obviously an advocate for eating as much whole, unprocessed food as possible about 90% of the time . White flour and sugar are definitely treats in my book.

As I mentioned before, my new year’s resolution is to post more here as well as post healthy daily eats over on my instagram page: LYDIA2BLUEEGGS

 

Toodles!
Lydia

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

Prep time 3 hours
Cook time 22 minutes
Total time 3 hours, 22 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Meal type Appetizer, Bread, Side Dish
Misc Freezable, Serve Hot
Buttery pumpkin rolls for your next dinner party!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 16oz canned pumpkin
  • 1 large egg
  • 2/3 cups brown or turbinado sugar
  • 1 packet fast-rise yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 5.5 cups bread flour

Note

You can  test your yeast by sprinkling a bit into warm water (approx 110 degrees). Leave it for about 10 minutes and come back. If the yeast has not bloomed, you know the yeast is either bad or your water is too hot or cold. If it has bloomed and expanded, you should be good to go to proceed with your recipe.

Remember, hot liquid will kill yeast, so do test the temperature of your liquid if you can. Around 110 degrees is perfect. If you have no thermometer, the liquid should just be warm to the touch on your wrist, not hot.

Directions

Step 1
Combine warm milk(warmed to temp advised on yeast packet of 110 degrees), yeast, pumpkin, flour, 1 egg, sugar and salt in bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook attached. Quickly mix all ingredients just to combine with a wooden spoon.
Step 2
Knead the mixture with the dough hook on medium speed for at least 5-7 minutes. Keep in mind this will be a somewhat sticky dough. It will still look stickier than normal bread roll dough.
Step 3
Turn out mixture to a clean, greased metal bowl . Cover with plastic wrap tightly, and store in a warm place for 1.5 hours.
Step 4
The dough should be at least double in size at this point as pictured. Grease two metal pie pans. Punch the dough down and roll 15 balls with your hands, placing each ball of dough touching or nearly touching side by side in the pans. Cover for 1.5 more hours.They should rise and all be smashed together.
Step 5
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and bake your rolls about 22 minutes. Drizzle with the 4 tablespoons of melted butter a few minutes after baking.
Step 6
Serve sliced with country ham or sausage for sandwiches.

 

 

 

Rustic Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

I logged into WordPress yesterday after several people have asked why I am not blogging anymore. ( It seems I do have more than 1 blog reader after all, whew!)

How do I answer that question? I have actually written a few drafts here and there  but never published because…well..

Our 8 year old computer has slowed down to a snails’s pace-sooooo slooooow. Uploading photos? HA that’ll take a day and half. Plus we have zero lights in our computer/family room due to recent painting and renovating.  I find myself bumbling about in the dark with a headlamp trying to see the damn keyboard, which is just comical and inefficient. The new light is sitting in a box upstairs, waiting for someone to hang it. Hmmm.

Somehow the Holiday’s snuck up and I realized, I HAVEN”T WRITTEN A BLOG POST IN 6 MONTHS! I MUST CHANGE THAT!

Now I  love Christmas time: the baking, the parties, the decor,  and  the joy of  spending time with friends and family. AND THE FOOD!

Yet I find myself more and more disenchanted by the consumerism. This year I avoided it completely by shopping locally at a couple of artisan fairs and during our travels in February in Germany and by  making homemade gifts. What a difference it has made in our stress levels! We have been able to enjoy the season so much more without feeling like we are supposed to go out and buy stuff for people who have stuff already just to show we care…That is not what Christmas is supposed to be about in my opinion.

So back to the food!  I love celebrating, but to balance that out we stock our fridge with a plethora of fruits and vegetables, but also prep a healthy snack or treat for the week to avoid those terrible-for-you prepackaged cookies and cakes that taste great but make you feel like crap.

Enter, this rustic chocolate tart. It’s  the perfect treat for you to enjoy with a mug of hot tea without feeling like crappola the next morning. While it is dairy-free, has no refined sugar, and no flour, its actually uses  a pretty neat technique I recently discovered, soaking cashews.

When you soak them for several hours,  cashews can be blended into a beautiful creamy base for all types of things.

Head down to the bulk bin section of your grocery store and stock up on hazelnuts and cashews. Use the best quality dark chocolate you can find and have fun with it!  If you are short on time or don’t feel like making a crust at all, the filling of this tart makes a  scrumptious fudge which you could gift to friends or take to  party.

Tis the season to be merry! Let’s try  not to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of shopping/spending money/scrooginess and just enjoy time with friends and family over a good ole’ tart, ok?

 

 

Ta-ta!

In love and light,

Lydia

Rustic Chocolate Hazelnut Tart

Serves 10
Prep time 4 hours
Cook time 15 minutes
Total time 4 hours, 15 minutes
Allergy Tree Nuts
Meal type Dessert, Snack
Misc Freezable, Serve Cold
You will have no idea this nutty chocolate tart is healthy for you!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dark chocolate chips or chopped chocolate
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder
  • 1 1/2 cup cashews
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Crust

  • 3/4 cups hazelnuts
  • 11/2 cups oats
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Note

Make just the filling and freeze in an 8 X8 in pan for fudge instead of a tart.

Directions

Step 1
Blend a 1/2 cup of oats in the food processor until they become a fine flour.Remove and set aside. Blend the hazelnuts unitl they become sand-like in texture.Add in other crust ingredients, including oat flour, and pulse until dough can be pressed together.
Step 2
Press the dough into a pie plate or tart pan and bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes to set it.
Step 3
Soak the cashews for at least 4 hours in a bowl of water, completely covered.
Step 4
Drain the cashews and rinse. Melt the cholcolate in a double boiler over the stove.
Step 5
Combine cashews, chocolate, coocnut oil, espresso powder, salt and vanilla in food processor and let it blend for several minutes. It can take a while to get smooth. Keep turning off and wiping down the sides with a spatula. If blender needs more liquid you can a dd a couple of teaspoons of almond milk.
Step 6
Pour the filling into the cooled crust, sprinkle with sea salt, and freeze for at least 2 hours before serving. Slice frozen and eat frozen for best results. Store int eh freezer wrapped in freezer paper.

 

 

<3 V-Day Chocolate Without the Guilt<3

 chocolate dip

Do not deny that you, yes you, have at some point in your lifetime swiped your finger into that glorious little plastic container of chocolate icing from the grocery store when you were icing your kid’s cupcakes or maybe you just bought the icing to eat straight from a jar when you had a bad breakup.

It’s ok. It happens.

Big bowl of delicious icing. Finger. Yum.

I am not judging you.

However, I am here to tell you that the list of ingredients in a highly processed can of icing is scary. And ridiculous. And…carcinogenic.

So, let’s make some homemade chocolate icing with more wholesome, real foods ingredients, shall we? Definitely still a treat, but one that won’t make you feel like crap afterwards!

Perk #1: NO butter. Much less sugar than “canned” icing.  Healthy fats and antioxidants.

Perk #2:If you make this for your honey on Valentine’s Day, you can literally dip anything imaginable into it. I’ll leave that up to your imagination, ok? You can thank me later.

Perk #3. If you have no Valentine you can eat it alone, in your pajamas, watching Breaking Bad and dip in graham crackers to your heart’s content.

In case you are wondering what kind of fantastically romantic night I have in store tomorrow, let me tell you,  I have an exciting night ahead indeed: cleaning, dog washing, and packing to get all ready for our European travels the next morning. I promise a recap when I return in 2 weeks, as we will not be going as tourists, but rather, locals in the small Bavarian town of Bad-Tolz! Tolzers, as they call it over there. Larsen and I will also be staying on a small Swiss farm high in the mountains of Switzerland near a town called Murren. Anyone been there?

 

See you in a few weeks!

Auf wieder sehen!

Chocolate Dip(Icing)

Serves 12
Prep time 5 minutes
This no-guilt chocolate dip is the perfect Valentine's Day Treat!

Ingredients

  • 1 very ripe avocado
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cups peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup dark cocoa powder
  • 3-4 tablespoons honey

Note

You could replace most of the sugar here with stevia to taste if  you want to avoid processed sugar completely!

Directions

Step 1
Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Serve with graham crackers for dipping! Done.

My Ode to Summer’s End and Fall’s Beginning

Let me start off by saying that I wrote this blog post 3 weeks ago, you know, at the actual start of Fall.

But September and October are exceptionally  busy months in this house! We have 4 family birthdays and an anniversary in a 3 week span, and if you know me, you know I am going to be a cooking some good food for anyone’s birthday in my family. How about some homemade collards, macaroni and cheese, a7 layer multi-colored Fall cake, apple pie with caramel ice cream, grilled salmon and Fall stew on top of mountains of delicious German food my mother-in-law made? …In case you are wondering, yes, I am currently wearing my stretchy pants.

 

So, friends, just hop in your own personal time machine thingey and travel back in time about 3 weeks when you’re reading this. K?

 

I am not sure how I feel about my first anniversary already passing or about summer being over…. I find it  actually unbelievable that I am married to this wonderful man I dated more than 7 years. We have to remind ourselves, pinch ourselves, rather, that we are married. This was such a joyous and huge year for us, this first year of marriage!

lyd_0616

 

The hubs and I savored every wedding memory together 2 weekends ago (ok …4 weeks now?)  on Amelia Island and let time stand still, even if only for a moment!I had never visited Amelia Island , and was thoroughly impressed with The Blue Heron Inn,  as well as David’s Restaurant. They went out of their way to make it a special day, and surprised us with a card signed by the staff as well as extra courses on the house in addition to our 3 course meal.  It was wonderful to enjoy a weekend with no distractions, great food, beautiful scenery,  no dishes to do, and no house to clean!

Oh, and how could I forget, we got to eat the best darn wedding cake I have ever had, complete with  a freezer-burned Dahlia on top!

wedding cake 1 year

On another note, is it really Fall? The season of pumpkins, pretty scarves, fall boots, crisp morning runs,  and dinner outside on the porch in the cool evening breeze? Who doesn’t love this season?

Fall may my favorite season, but I will still miss my flip flops, beach days, and fresh summer produce. I pulled out some frozen blueberries for one last summer hurrah, and the result was pretty tasty!

blueberry cobbler bars

 

Since this is my ode to the end of Summer and the beginning of Fall, I also must share some recently-made  Fall recipes from various and sundry blogs or magazines . Click the recipe for the link!

Recipes Tested this Month:

Spaghetti Squash Patties with Sriracha Saucethey fell completely apart, but they tasted great!

Smoked Salmon Potato Tartine-most delicious recipe I made this month

Pumpkin Nutella Brownies

Pork  Vegetable Fried RiceHealthy!!

Broccoli-Cheddar Quiche-Easy and perfect for company. 

Recipe for the blueberry cobbler bars is below! Happy eating.

With Love,

Lydia

 

Blueberry Cobbler Bars

Serves 16
Prep time 10 minutes
Cook time 1 hour, 15 minutes
Total time 1 hour, 25 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Wheat
Meal type Breakfast, Dessert
Misc Freezable, Pre-preparable
Savor the delicious blueberry with these no-fuss blueberry cobbler bars.

Ingredients

  • 1.5 sticks butter, cubed
  • 1.5 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs (Filling)
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (Filling)
  • 1 cup sugar (Filling)
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour (Filling)
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (Filling)

Note

For easy cutting, freeze the cooked bars and cut when partially frozen.

Directions

Step 1
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and pre-grease a 9 X 13 in baking dish.
Step 2
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cubed butter, and salt and cut with a pastry cutter or fork OR beat with a mixer. Mixture will be very crumbly.
Step 3
Take 1 C mixture and set aside. Then press the remaining crumb mixture into the bottom of a baking dish to cover the bottom. Bake 15 minutes. Let cool.
Step 4
While crust is baking, whisk the eggs in a large bowl Add sugar, sour cream, flour and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine.
Step 5
Carefully fold in the blueberries(fresh or frozen).
Step 6
Pour blueberry mixture into crust and sprinkle the remaining 1 cup of crumb mixture evenly over the top. Bake 1 hour or until the crumble topping is slightly browned. If serving warm, serve with vanilla ice cream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Veggie Lasagna

What is it about taking a road trip that is so relaxing? I like to think it is because I get to spend more time than usual with my Love, blare the music, windows- down, and watch the scenery change on an old country road.

We tested the waters by taking our two dogs with us to Virginia for a week, a first for us, and there were plenty of pros and cons to having them along. Enjoy their company and cuteness in the backseat? Sure! Wipe slobber from our arms, shoulders, and console about once every 2-3 minutes? Yeah, not so much…..

We relaxed on the family land/farm in Spotsylvania County, practiced shooting on a makeshift shooting range, visited a neat old winery, spent a day in Charlottesville, backpacked/camped in the Shenandoah National Park, drove Skyline Drive, visited Larsen’s cousin in Lynchburg,and relaxed at a lakehouse at Smith Mountain Lake for 2 days.

Harley & Dad

 

Lucy at the Lake

 

 

Mountain Cove Vineyards was spectacular, mostly because it was 3.5 miles down a long wind-y road, and on a rainy day we were the only people there. We had to call the owner from the office, and he drove down a couple minutes later from his house to unlock the cottage. Inside we tasted 3 different wines and 3 fruit wines. I have only had fruit wine a few times in my life, but it never disappoints!

vineyard phone

winery

A Rainy Day at Mountain Cove Vineyards

I ended up taking home one of each wine plus a blackberry wine and 4 jars of fruit preserves.

Guys, why have I never been to Charlottesville before now? C-ville is my dream town. It has that small-town feel, except they have a Trader Joe’s and artisan goods on every corner and a pretty spectacular food and wine scene. If I lived there, I would try a different winery every weekend and become a wino.

We somehow stumbled across the local Farmer’s Market. Oh. my. goodness. I was in heaven. The smell of corn tortillas being made before my eyes, local cheeses, blackberries the size of ping pong balls,  white peaches, handmade soaps, a Great Harvest Bread Tent AND artisan kombucha brews!

c-ville farmer's market

I gleefully walked  around with a ginger-peach kombucha brewed right there in the Blue Ridge Mountains  hoping to catch a glimpse of Kath of Kath Eats Real Food (just kidding, but hey it would have been cool!) and dreamed of living there one day. It’s just an hour and 15 minute drive from the farm!

That glee was quickly transformed into fear when we found a policeman hanging out by our car, apparently because some cray-cray person thought our dogs look “distressed” . By distressed, I mean they were in a cool parking garage on a rainy day, windows down, with a huge bowl of water, treats, and barking at the occasional car.  We were gone around 30 minutes. Really? really? The cop found the situation amusing and promptly left. I am a dog lover. I would never abandon my dog, nor leave it in a car if it was hot outside. Ever.

Part 2 of our trip will be continued next week, but in the meantime, you must try this veggie lasagna. I had to find some way to use up 5 eggplants and fresh cherry tomatoes before they went bad.  This lasagna is a super easy way to use up any fresh summer  fresh veggies, especially eggplant. I don’t  know about you  but, I struggle with eggplant sometimes. I can make a mean eggplant parmesan , or fry it up and serve with marinara sauce and…and…..and….that’s all I have in my eggplant repertoire. I need to change that! Cooked well,  it transforms into a tender, flavorful and meaty main dish.

lasagna

Right after I made this lasagna,  flipping through the pages of Bon Appetit, I noticed they dedicated a whole article to the humble eggplant. Apparently throwing it onto the hot coals of a grill until is is completely charred on the outside is the en vogue way to cook it. Who knew? Check out this Coal-Roasted Eggplant . I am all for throwing a vegetable on some hot coals and walking away.

eggplants

 

Sorry my posts have been few and far between lately. There is quite a bit going on behind- the- scenes in my life that I hope to share soon!

 

In love and health,

 

Lydia

Veggie Lasagna

Serves 8
Prep time 40 minutes
Cook time 45 minutes
Total time 1 hours, 25 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk
Dietary Vegetarian
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Freezable
This vegetarian lasagna is packed with summer vegetables for a complete and healthy meal.

Ingredients

  • 4 small eggplants(or 2 large) (chopped into thin medallions)
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 1 package frozen spinach
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1, 24 oz jar spaghetti sauce
  • 1, 15 oz container ricotta cheese
  • 1 bag mozzarella
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped finely
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped finely
  • 1 box lasagna noodle
  • 1 large egg

Directions

Step 1
Sprinkle eggplant with 1 tsp of salt in a large bowl and let it sit 20 minutes. Squueze out any excess water from the eggplant. Pat dry.Spread the eggplant onto a baking sheet. Spritz the eggplant with olive oil.Roast the eggplant at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Set aside to cool
Step 2
Cook the lasagna noodles according to package directions. Drain.Set aside. Meanwhile, boil a pot of water and drop in frozen spinach. Remove from water when spinach has loosened and can be drained. Drain spinach, squeeze out excess water.
Step 3
In a l;rge 9 X 13 dish, spread 1/5 of the sauce on the bottom. Then spread 4 lasagna noodles over the sauce.
Step 4
In a large bowl, stir together the ricotta cheese, 1 egg, fresh herbs, salt and pepper and spinach.
Step 5
Layer 1/3 of the ricotta mixture onto lasagna noodles.
Step 6
Layer 1/3 of the eggplant over the ricotta. Layer 1/3 of the cherry tomatoes between all of the eggplant slices to fill in the gaps.Sprinkle with 1/4 of the mozzarella cheese.
Step 7
Spread 1/5 of the sauce over the eggplant.
Step 8
Repeat noodle layer, ricotta layer , eggplant & tomatoes layer ,cheese layer , then sauce layer until you end up with the last layer of eggplant on top.
Step 9
Put one layer of noodles on top of eggplant, then sauce , then last bit of mozzarella cheese.
Step 10
Bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees until cheese on top is browned and edges are bubbly.

Farmer’s Market Friday: Blackberry Lime Mini-Muffins

It’s blackberry season folks!

Funny thing, we discovered we have a field of wild blackberry bushes on our property. As if I did not already absolutely love my yard, now I love it even more!

In the past 3 weeks we have filled about 3 sandwich bags full of those sweet, tiny wild blackberries. Wild blackberry picking is not for the faint of heart…let me tell you.  Between all the thorns and the snake scares out there yonder in the yard, ’twas a but of a harrowing experience, but sooo worth it.

These muffins are oozing with berries in every bite and so moist you could eat them with a spoon. The almond flour streusel adds a nice crunchy topping.

Blackberry Lime Muffins

Almond flour, honey, almond butter, grass-fed butter and lime zest  and fresh eggs make this a wholesome muffin I don’t feel guilty about eating as a quick snack!

In other news here on the urban farm, about a week ago my husband told me to come outside.  It was 6 a.m., but I figured, ok, I am guessing he has something to show me. There in our little coop of 4  chicks was one of the “ladies” making a scratchy crowing noise while ruffling “her ” feathers.

Oh, it could be a coincidence , we thought. So, the next morning, we went back outside , and again, faint, scratchy, baby crowing sounds.

I believe  have an impostor on our hands. Isn’t he pretty, though? He better be a nice l’l rooster or he will quickly become a stew.  On to the rooster adventures!

rooster

Speckled Sussex Rooster

 

In Love and Health,

Lydia

Blackberry Lime Mini-Muffins

Serves 12
Prep time 15 minutes
Cook time 12 minutes
Total time 27 minutes
Allergy Egg, Milk, Tree Nuts
Meal type Breakfast, Snack
Misc Freezable
These vibrant blackberry lime streusel muffins are packed with hidden, healthy ingredients!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 4 tablespoons grassfed butter (room temperature)
  • 1-1.5 cup fresh or frozen blackberries
  • 2 small limes
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup turbinado or raw sugar
  • 1/4 cup almond butter(can be replaced with 4 more Tablespoons of butter)

Streusel

  • 1/4 cup white whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup turbinado/raw sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 tablespoons grassfed butter (cold)

Note

This is a forgiving recipe. Substitute the blackberries for blueberries or the lime juice for lemon juice for a different twist. The streusel topping is optional, but adds a nice crunch and texture to these muffins.

Directions

Step 1
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a few mini muffin tins. Zest the limes and keep the zest and juice together in a small bowl. Beat together the butter, almond butter, sugar, and sour cream for 2 minutes. Beat in honey, then eggs for another minute. Stir in lime juice and the zest of both limes.
Step 2
Stir together the flours, salt and baking powder in another bowl to combine. Stir these dry ingredients with a wooden spoon into the wet ingredients until just combined. Toss the blackberries with 1 extra Tablespoon of extra flour in a separate small bowl, then carefully fold the berries into the muffin mixture.
Step 3
Combine the dry streusel ingredients in a small bowl. Cut in the 3 Tablespoons of cold butter with a fork or pastry cutter. The mixture will be crumbly. Keep in the refrigerator covered until ready to use.
Step 4
Spoon the muffin mixture in to the muffin tins and top with streusel topping. Bake for 12 minutes at 350 degrees. Eat the muffins within 24-48 hours. You can store any extra streusel in the freezer.

 

 

Farmer’s Market Friday:Spinach Omelet Stuffed with Herbed Goat Cheese and Roasted Tomatoes

I have been busting at the seams to share this recipe from “Homemade Summer”, a cookbook I received recently. This cookbook is full of delicious seasonal summer recipes like fresh herb salads, preserved lemons, and fig ice pops . I am in  love with the hilarious illustrations and photography in this sweet cookbook.

In . love.

I knew I would have to use some of my Farmer’s Market cherry tomatoes and spinach for this one.

homemade summer

This Spinach Omelet with Roasted Tomatoes and Herbed Goat Cheese is  the perfect brunch recipe for summer, and since you can make it ahead of time and chill it, it makes an absolutely stunning dish to take to a party or shower! Who would ever think to roll up an egg omelet into a beautiful savory, pinwheel? The result is phenomal. (Sidenote: I was not planning on blogging about this, so I took a few hurried pics with my iphone on Mother’s Day before it was devoured….not my best photography here, ok?) Sidenote #2: I messed with the recipe a bit and made substitutions to make it my own.

spinach  omelet 2

 

 

It sounds a little scary, but I was completely amazed  by how easily this recipe came together. The trick is to break this recipe up into 2 days.

On day one, you will roast these plump, tart cherry tomatoes until they are caramelized and sweet as sin. You will want to pop every one into your mouth once you pull them out of the oven. I am warning you, friends. I roast tomatoes often in the summer, and store them in the refrigerator in a jar of olive oil for a quick addition to pizzas, pastas, salads and sandwiches.  But I usually end up eating half of the roasted tomatoes right out of the oven…

tomatoes

 

On day two, you will assemble the pinwheel omelet portion of the recipe .

tomatoes on omelet

Serve this omelet with some toast points, biscuits or blueberry muffins  for a beautiful brunch. Mimosas are recommended, too.

omelet breakfast

mimosas

 

Spinach Omelet Stuffed with Roasted Tomatoes and Herbed Goat Cheese

Serves 8
Prep time 1 hour, 30 minutes
Cook time 3 hours, 12 minutes
Total time 4 hours, 42 minutes
This rolled up spinach omelet with herbed goat cheese and roasted tomatoes is a beautiful addition to any brunch.

Ingredients

  • 20 cherry tomatoes (sliced in half)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 14oz spinach
  • 5 eggs, whites separated from yolks in separate bowls
  • 1/2 cup chives, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons thyme, chopped
  • 2/3 cups ricotta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons self-rising flour
  • 4oz goat cheese
  • 4oz cream cheese
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ricotta cheese

Directions

Step 1
Day One: Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Toss the halved tomatoes with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and minced garlic. Spread out on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 3 hours, stirring once each hour.
Step 2
Store roasted tomatoes in a jar filled with olive oil
Step 3
Day Two: Separate eggs into 2 bowls, whites in one, yolks in the other. Blanch spinach in boiling water for 10 seconds and then drain. Squeeze out as much water as you can from the spinach.
Step 4
In the large bowl of a food processor, combine the 1 T ricotta, spinach, egg yolks, pinch of salt and process for 1 minute, until spinach is chopped into homogenous tiny pieces.
Step 5
Meanwhile, whip your room temperature eggwhites on high with a hand or stand mixer in a clean metal bowl , until they form stiff peaks. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Step 6
Fold the egg white mixture into the spinach mixture carefully.
Step 7
Now, spread the spinach mixture with a knife on a rectangular cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake 12 minutes.
Step 8
While this is cooling, beat together the ricotta, goat cheese and cream cheese in a medium bowl. Add in chopped herbs. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Step 9
Spread the cheese mixture onto the flat spinach omelet while it is still in the pan. Press the roasted tomatoes into the cheese mixture. Carefully begin to roll the short end up towards the other end.
Step 10
With seam side, down , chill for at least 20-30 minutes covered in plastic wrap. Serve or leave it in the fridge well-covered for up to 24 hours.