Chocolate and Zucchini Cake

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Summer is almost over, and my freezer is full of shredded zucchinis, zucchini bread, sliced zucchinis, zucchini and salmon lasagna. I don’t have any room left, and to be honest, I am sick of eating zucchinis. I will probably forget that by the end of winter, and end up planting 10 zucchini plants like this year.

I hate throwing away food, especially when it took so long to grow it, so I came up with this recipe. Your guests will not be able to tell that there is more than a pound of zucchini in this cake.

Serving : 8

Preparation: 20 minutes

Baking : 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 200 g flour
  • 3 medium eggs
  • 125 ml milk
  • 200 g powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 700 g zucchini
  • 60 g butter
  • 75 g semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 50 g almond flour (optional)
  • almonds or walnuts to decorate the cake (optional)

Instructions:

Peel the zucchinis, and cut them into small pieces. Boil the zucchinis in a pot filled with salted water for 10 minutes. Once they are tender, rinse well. Place them in a blender and pureed them.

Preheat your oven to 350˚F.

Mix the flour, eggs, milk, powdered sugar, pureed zucchinis, almond flour, and vanilla extract together. Melt the butter and the chocolate. Mix everything together. Grease a pie pan. Place the mixture into the pan, and add the almonds or walnuts on top of it (optional).

Bake for 45 minutes.

Enjoy !

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Pizza Crust / “Foccacia”

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This recipe takes about 30-40 minutes to make. It is as fast as calling the pizza place. I also use the exact same ingredients to make a Foccacia.

Serving : about 4

Preparation: 10 minutes

Baking and waiting : 40 minutes

Ingredients:

-300 g flour (about 0.65 lbs)

-1 tbsp yeast

-3 tbsp olive oil

-1 glass of warm water (about 250 ml)

-salt

Instructions:

Mix the water and the yeast together. Let it sit for 2 minutes on the side. In a large bowl, mix the water+yeast with the flour and salt. Knead the dough until you have a smooth, non-sticky dough (you might end up adding a little bit more flour). Brush the dough with olive oil.

Cover the bowl with a clean and dry dishcloth.

Let the dough rest 30-40 minutes in a warm area or until doubled in size. Preheat your oven to 525˚F

Lightly grease a sheet pan. Spread the dough with your hand.

  • If you are making Foccacia, don’t make it too thin (3/4 of an inch). Optional : Garnish it with sliced tomato, sliced onions or herbs. Sprinkle with olive oil and salt.
  • If you are making pizza, spread the dough thinner (1/4 0f an inch) : Garnish it with tomato sauce, cheese, ham, or whatever is left over in your fridge.

Place the pizza for 5-10 minutes in the oven (it cooks really fast, so the first time you make it, open the oven to make sure it’s not burning).

Enjoy !

Homemade snacks

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Make it for a light meal served with salad, appetizers, or TV snacks.

Serving: about 12-15 small swirls

Preparation : 5-10 minutes

Baking and waiting : 60 minutes

Ingredients:

-1 puff pastry sheet (Pepperidge Farm is selling frozen pack with 2 sheets per pack)

-1 egg mixed with 1 tbsp of water

-1 tbsp of pesto (optional)

-3 slices of ham or smoked chicken breast

-2 cups of shredded cheese

Instructions:

Leave the puff pastry sheet at room temperature for 20 minutes (until it is easy to handle). Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Beat the egg, the water and the pesto. Unfold the pastry on a floured surface. Lightly brush the egg mixture on the dough. Cut the ham or chicken in thin strip. Place them on the dough. Sprinkle the cheese on.

Roll  dough up from the long side (like a jelly roll).

Cut into 12-15 rolls.

Place the swirls on a sheet pan that you covered with waxed paper. Brush them again with the egg mixture, just to add a little bit of color.

Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

Enjoy ! img_00291

Watering

When I was a kid, my grandpa had a beautiful, green garden. As much as I can recall, I don’t remember him watering, not once ! No sprinkler system, no soaking hose, nothing. I rained enough that he didn’t need to do anything about water.

So when I started growing food in Utah, I didn’t really pay much attention to an irrigation system. I watered with a regular hose sprayer for 20-30 minutes per day… for the WHOLE GARDEN ! We assumed, wrongly, that if the dirt on top is wet, it’s good enough. Big, big mistake ! If you live in an area where people have sprinklers for their lawn, you probably need an irrigation system. If you already have sprinklers, good for you, you are good to go. But if you don’t, don’t panic; it will not ruin you.

We could not decide if we wanted a soaking hose or an oscillator water sprinkler. We went for both. We live in the middle of a desert, so we do water a lot. One hour before the sun gets up, and an hour when it gets down, for the entire garden/lawn.

We have friends who tried to be savvy on their water consumption this year, and we did that for the first two years. The best advice I have for you is to try it for yourself. If you start small, it will not cost you a fortune in material. I strongly recommend a timer, it is so easy to forget to water.

Good luck !

Chocolate Croissants (Pain au chocolat)

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I love croissants, and every time I go to Europe, the first thing I buy at the airport is a chocolate croissant. I found a few places in Salt Lake City where the croissants are good, not amazing, but good. I usually pay around $3 for one croissant. I finally decided that croissant should not be that expansive, and I came up with this recipe.

It will cost you around $4 to make 8 big Chocolate Croissants. I buy everything at Whole Foods, so you can probably lower the cost if you buy it elsewhere. Also, I buy imported chocolate from Belgium.

Serving: 8

Preparation : 1h

Baking: 20 minutes

Waiting: 10 h

Ingredients:

– 260 g flour

– 150 ml milk

– 35 g sugar

– 1 tsp yeast

– 1 tsp salt

– 113 g butter (1 stick)

– flour

– 1 egg yolk + 2 tsp water

– good quality chocolate (I use Callebaut chocolate)

Instructions:

If you have a bread machine or a kitchen machine, put the 5 first ingredients in that machine. Mix until you have a smooth dough. If you don’t have a machine, just knead it until your dough is smooth and firm, for approximately 10 minutes.

Put the dough in a plastic bag, and let it sit a night in the fridge (8-9 hours).

The next morning, take the dough out of the fridge. Flour your surface, and with a rolling pin, shape your dough in a 30 cm by 30 cm square (approximately 10 inches by 10 inches).

Place a third of your butter stick, divided in 4 thin layers, in the middle of your square. It should look like this:

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Fold the edges towards the center, on the butter. You should now have a small square. Flour your surface; using the rolling in, spread that dough in a rectangle (10 cm by 50 cm):

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Fold in three:

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Place in the fridge for 30 minutes. Repeat these operations 2 times.

Spread the dough so you have a big triangle of 16 cm by 80 cm. Cut 8 equal small rectangle.

At 2/3 of that rectangle, place a chocolate bar, and roll it. At this point, you can freeze the extra chocolate croissants that you do not wish to use right away.

Place the chocolate croissants on a cookie sheet, covered with waxed paper. Put it in the oven (the oven is off, don’t turn it on. It is a good place to store your croissants because it is not windy) for two hours.croissants1

Preheat your oven at 410 F.  Brush your chocolate croissants with the yolk and water mix. Bake it for 20 minutes.

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Enjoy !


Square Foot Gardening

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SFG was one of the first reason we started gardening. It looked like the best way to use our small parcel of land, and it seemed soooo easy. You build some boxes (we used old blocks of concrete the old owners left us), put a mix of soil, plant your seeds, water them and voila ! The book also mention that the weeding is almost non-existent, and that you save on watering. I learned that when it comes to gardening, you can’t avoid weeding or watering (especially if you live in the middle of a desert like Utah), and it is hard work no matter what techniques you use.

I don’t hate SFG, I think it is a great way to introduce kids and beginners to gardening. But if you want to can your harvest and still have enough to eat during the summer, I don’t recommend SFG. The first year, we tried SFG. I had eight 4 feet by 4 feet boxes. It was just the two of us, and the harvest was really deceiving. I still needed to buy fruits and vegetables that year. WE spent a lot of time for almost nothing.

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My conclusion is that SFG is great if you don’t want to ruin your lawn by having just a few boxes to have a small veggie patch to an existing garden.

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Salmon and Leeks Crumble

As I was passing the frozen section at Whole Foods today, I saw a frozen ready meal that looked really good, labeled “salmon and leek crumble”. I did not buy it, but as soon as I got back home, I came up with this recipe:

Serving : 4

Preparation : 10 minutes

Baking and cooking : 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium leeks
  • 1/2 lb of salmon
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1 cup of milk
  • olive oil, salt, curry

For the crumble :

  • 100 grams of flour
  • 100 grams of melted butter
  • 60 grams of grated Parmesan
  • 80 grams of bread crumbs

Instructions:

Chop the onion and the leeks (do not mix them). Rinse the leeks. In a pan, saute the chopped onion for 2 minutes. Add the cup of milk and the chopped leeks. Let it slowly cook for 10 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the salmon in small cubes. Set it aside.

For the crumble : Mix the flour, the Parmesan cheese, and the bread crumbs together. Add the butter. With your hand, work the crumble until you have a sand texture mix. Do not overwork it. It should take less than a minute.

When the leeks are done, place them in a baking dish. Sparkle with a little bit of curry, and salt. Place the salmon on top of that. Top the salmon and leeks with the crumble.

Place in the oven for 20 minutes.

Enjoy with a light salad or potatoes.

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Intro

pict0015-300x225For those of you who don’t know me yet, I love cooking ! And as a cook, I am always looking for the freshest and tastiest ingredients out there. I grew up in Brussels, a few blocks from a small farmer’s market running everyday of the week. We always had access to fresh, local fruits and vegetables. When I moved to Utah 5 years ago, I was surprised by the poor choice of good, cheap organic produce.

We have a farmer’s market that runs one day per week, is expansive, and the choice of organic produce is growing year after year, but is still limited. Also, it only runs for 5 months during the summer. The rest of the year, I rely on Whole Foods.

Three years ago, we bought a house. One of the criteria was to be downtown to avoid relying on cars. But we still wanted to have a green space to be able to step outside. It was a natural consequence that we then started growing food, and despite the first year disaster, we persevered. We are learning everyday, and we still have a long way to go before we will be self-sufficient.

This blog is going to be about:

  • our mistakes and small successes in the garden
  • recipes

Enjoy !

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