Tomato-Tomato-Tomato

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It occurs to me that I have yet to share much of my 2016 garden with you. If you follow @goodgriefcook on instagram then you have gotten some snippets. I love instagram. It is such a happy place with the best photography of people, places and food. Right now home-grown tomatoes are trending.

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home-grown tomatoes with red onion jam

Back to my garden. It has been the most bountiful, yet. Each year seems to be better and better. It helps to rotate crops and purchase plants and seeds from reputable places. The last two years I have been a huge fan of the Burpee company because every single seed and plant purchased from them seem to flourish in my little plot of heaven. More good news is that I haven’t needed to use any herbicides or pesticides on my plants. It seems hungry birds make a meal of most of the bugs. We encourage birds to hang around in our yard by providing  suet in the winter and a few nesting boxes scattered around the garden area.

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One thing I really do need to learn is how to properly plant a variety of plants and seeds that don’t ripen all at once. Feast or famine? Right now we are feasting on tomatoes including two varieties (salsa and yellow pear) that self seeded from last year. I love those surprise plants and all the others that inspired today’s recipes.

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Toasted Fennel Tomato Jam is one of my all-time favorite recipes. I featured it around this time last year as inspired by my son’s love for the caprese salad. If you really want to add some life to your favorite Italian mozzarella or burrata make the jam.  Happily, I used up a 4 pound mix of tomatoes in this batch and it is as good as ever.

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My latest original recipe is a Tomato Bread made with tomato juice and a mix of soy and bread flour. Back when I attended the National Festival of Breads I was gifted a bag of  soy flour, so I thought I might give it a try. The bread makes a great sandwich with a mild tomato taste and slight sweetness from molasses.

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photo by Caitlin Keys Pemberton

Finally, and at at the suggestion of my daughter, together we whipped up this tomato pie recipe from Epicurious.com. We used gruyere cheese instead of cheddar and filled it with  sweet heirloom cherry tomatoes and a smaller Brandywine variety. From the crisp buttery crust to the spicy cheese topping this tomato pie is a tasty one. It’s perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

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Hope you enjoyed this glimpse of gardening from my neck of the woods. You say tomato and I say delicious especially if it is home-grown.

Tomato Bread

1 (1/4 oz.) package Red Star Active Dry Yeast

1 ¾ cups tomato juice, warmed to about 115F.

1-tablespoon molasses

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon dried basil

1-tablespoon olive oil

1-cup Bob’s Red Mill soy flour

3 ½ to 4 cups King Arthur Flour bread flour

Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan. In large bowl of stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, sprinkle yeast over warm tomato juice; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in molasses, salt, basil, oil and soy flour. Slowly add bread flour until it comes together and pulls away from sides of the bowl. Switch to dough hook attachment. Knead dough on speed level 2 for 5 to 7 minutes. Shape the dough and place in prepared loaf pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place, about 90 minutes, or until it rises ½-inch above the rim of the pan. Preheat oven to 325F. Slash top of bread, if desired. Bake bread for 50 to 60 minutes or until instant read thermometer inserted in center registers 200-205F. Turn out on cooling rack and cool completely.

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By the way, I have not been compensated in any way by any of the companies that I have mentioned here. As always I am just sharing my favorite quality products with you. It’s like a good neighbor who suggests her favorite restaurant or a tomato plant variety to try.

 

A Day In the Life of a Cook-Off Contestant

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She rises early for a cross-country trip that takes 13 hours. The hours of preparation to get to this point are even greater. A creative thought process, grocery shopping, recipe development, more shopping, testing, food styling, photography, writing it all down and submitting to the sponsor of the recipe contest; it takes a lot of time. She is passionate about what she does and has a positive outlook. As the airline agent checks her overweight bag filled with all the necessary cooking utensils she prays her bag arrives safely. There is no question that her recipe is darn delicious. She hopes the professional judges at the garlic cook-off love it, too.

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Welcome to the 38th annual Gilroy Garlic Festival and The Great Garlic Cook-Off. The ultimate summer food fair is truly one of the greatest shows on earth. Run by over 4000 generous volunteers, this event has raised over 11 million dollars for local charities since its inception. Celebrating the love and appreciation of garlic it has everything you’d expect from a top-notch festival including family fun entertainment, arts & crafts, food and cooking contests. There’s even a scholarship pageant featuring a stunning and accomplished garlic queen and her court waiting to crown a garlic cook-off winner. It won’t be me. Happily, I’m in attendance as a food blogger following one of the finalists and reporting on her experience.

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My friend, Veronica Callaghan, beat out hundreds of others to take one of the 8 highly coveted finalist spots. She is a well-seasoned cook-off winner and after a full day of sourcing a few local ingredients she is ready to go. Just prior to cook-off time she is feeling a little nervous. Apparently, she took a big risk entering her garlic-roasted pizza. “Pizza has never been done before on this cook-off stage!” announces the emcee. Will she and her homemade yeast crust rise to the top? Veronica is worried her oven is not getting up to temperature. A hot oven is crucial in baking the thin, crispy crust she is aiming for.

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Veronica and fellow competitors have two hours to cook in a most professional kitchen stadium. The set-up is one of the best I have ever seen with each contestant having plenty of space in their individual kitchens including stoves and sinks and counters. In addition, each contestant is assigned a volunteer helper and Veronica’s couldn’t have been more wonderful. Chris happily takes direction from Veronica grating fontina cheese, pouring a most refreshing peach sangria (yes, I got to taste) into judges glasses and cleaning up as they go, so Veronica can fully concentrate on the execution of the perfect pizza.

Veronica does not disappoint. She preps and cooks several pizza toppings like a pro. The aroma  of rosemary roasted garlic, wine infused sriracha caramelized onions and perfectly crisp bacon fills the stadium. She is in the cooking zone and cool as a garlic clove (or is that cucumber)?

It’s obvious she is happy with her pizza dough. She rolls it out and tops it with an artistic flair finishing it off with sliced dried figs for sweetness, a sprinkle of  flavorful cheeses and fresh rosemary. It’s oven ready. With a flick of her wrist it slides onto a hot pizza stone.

It’s clear this pizza is not your average take-out, but is the crust crisp and does the garlic shine? Did the oven get hot enough? You betcha! When it comes time to face the judges one of them holds up a slice to the audience and does the ultimate crisp crust test. He snaps it into the classic fold and it holds its shape.

The Italian judge is so impressed with her presentation, balance of fresh ingredient flavors and crust execution that he confides in me that she should go into the pizza making business. In fact, all the judges seem to be over the moon with her pizza, but they have 7 more garlic infused fabulous dishes to taste and score.

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The final results are tabulated and the contestants wait anxiously for the announcement. “By the hair on a frog” (I swear the judge said it) Veronica just misses first place, but is pleased to take second and receive a garlic crown. Her hard work is further rewarded with a generous cash prize and the admiration of all her peers.

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Do give her pizza a try. It just may inspire you to enter the cook-off next year or at least to up your own game on pizza making. Check out this link to find out more about the other contestant entries and if you are interested in purchasing the cookbook you may order by phone: (408) 842-1625.

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Congratulations, Veronica and thanks for letting me tag along. You inspire me.

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Nesting & Easter Bread

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Nesting. It’s that time of year. Looking out from my kitchen window that is exactly what is going on in my back yard. While the woodpeckers, flickers and crows dodge snow flakes and nosh at the suet feeder it is the blue birds in all their rosy breasted, blue winged beauty that catch my attention.

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Diligently guarding the wooden box nailed to the fence post is the male bird. From the weathered rooftop he easily fends off other birds with a peck and flash of his gorgeous azure feathers. Like a good father he’s fierce, protective and never tires.

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He allows his less colorful partner to fly back and forth with bits of twigs and hay. She is carefully building the nest inside.

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The photographer, Sherb Naulty,  is a high school friend. Click on the link to see his awesome fox photos and do a little shopping.

Building a nest. That is what mother’s do in anticipation of their newborn babies. Not just a crib and rocking chair, but a home that is warm and safe and filled with hopes and love. Every baby is a miracle. I felt that every time I delivered one back in the 80’s at Ft. Bragg army hospital and so looked forward to building my own nest when the time was right. Having one pregnancy end in a miscarriage I have always considered my Caitlin and William my miracles.IMG_9702

So when I came across Rachelle Spencer’s web site I was completely taken in by the simplicity and beauty of her jewelry. Her designs are inspiring and can only come from a mother’s heart. When I asked Rachelle if she would be willing to share her story here she so kindly obliged.

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“My story is so very different from yours and yet I believe we share the same heart … a mother heart that wants the world to remember our children.

I lost 4 babies to early miscarriage during the course of a year. I desperately wanted a child to hold, and every loss was devastating to me. What made it worse was that no one knew about my little ones. I was a mother, but no one wished me a happy Mother’s Day and no one called my angels by name. I did name them. They are Adam, Michael and the twins are Louisa and Lauren.

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from E.E. Cummings’ poem

Rachelle-isms started after I had my rainbows, William and Anna. I made a few nests as Christmas presents in 2013, but I wanted one for myself. Typically nest necklaces are made for moms with beads that represent each child. But what about my children? Should I make a 2 bead nest or a 6 bead nest? Prompted by the anniversary of my twins due date, I offered a giveaway to mothers of loss. I offered any mother who had lost a child the gift of a nest with turquoise beads for living children and white pearls for children no longer living. The giveaway was huge and I had to end it early! And that is really how it all got started. I posted a few necklaces in my shop and my business naturally grew.
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Today I spend most of my time creating custom pieces for my customers. Many of them write to me telling me their stories. They are hard to hear, but between the lines I think so many people are just wanting someone to listen to and understand them. One of my favorite things is receiving the special requests for my designs with a twist added. I am never bored when I make these necklaces and I am always incredibly honored by the stories shared. My aim is always to encourage women to share their stories and heal.
I heard a quote once that I love so much … and I think you will agree: “When a baby is born, a mother’s instinct is to protect the baby. When a baby (or child) dies, a mother’s instinct is to protect its memory.”
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I guess that is what I am doing every day. I make nests for women all around the world honoring their children. I just want the world to know that my little ones lived, that I loved them and that they mattered. Thank you for letting me share my story with your followers, Lisa!”
Rachelle does an annual giveaway starting April 1st. Her twins would have been 4 years old this April. :)….and my William would have been 28. Check out her web site here.

 

Thank you to both Sherb and Rachelle for sharing their talents. I find both their creativity and artistry incredibly inspiring. This recipe is for them and for you. It’s my twisted Italian version of a most traditional sweet bread. I think you get the connection.

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Here is what you need. It all goes into the mixer.

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Let the dough rest and then roll and stretch and loosely twist together into a ring. Let it rest again.IMG_9655

Make a nest by inserting the eggs. Brush with egg yolk and bake.

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Italian Easter Bread

3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup sugar

1 packet active dry yeast

1-teaspoon fine sea salt

1 teaspoon anise seed, toasted, ground

½ cup milk

2 tablespoons honey

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

¼ teaspoon fiori di sicilia or 1 teaspoon vanilla

grated zest of 1 lemon

2 eggs

1 egg, separated

½ cup chopped dried fruit

¼ cup chopped toasted almonds

6 eggs, (dye 5 of them blue)

¼ cup powdered sugar

1 to 2 teaspoons lemon juice

sprinkles

In bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle, combine 1-cup flour, sugar, yeast, salt and ground anise. In 1-cup microwave safe measure, combine milk, honey and butter; microwave on HIGH for 45 seconds. Stir well. Mixture should be very warm (125-130F). Stir fiori di sicilia or vanilla into milk. Add milk mixture and lemon zest to dry ingredients; beat for 2 minutes or until mixture is well blended scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Add 2 eggs plus 1 egg white; blend well. Change paddle to dough hook. Add remaining flour; beat on medium-low for 6 minutes. Add dried fruit and almonds; mix 2 minutes more. Scrape dough into an oiled bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover and let rest for 90 minutes. On floured surface divide dough in half. Roll each half into a 24-inch rope. On a baking sheet lined with parchment. Twist ropes loosely together and form them into a circle or nest. Cover with plastic wrap; let rest for 1 hour. Heat oven 350F. Insert raw dyed eggs into spaces in twisted dough. Place the white egg in the center. Mix remaining egg yolk with 1 teaspoon of water; brush over dough. Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until golden and internal temperature is 200F on an instant read thermometer. Cool. Mix powdered sugar and lemon juice; drizzle over bread. Top with sprinkles.

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The eggs bake to hard-boiled and make terrific egg salad-bonus!