By Ilene Duffy

Ilene Duffy
Issue #110 • March/April, 2008

I was talking with another mom in the produce section of the market the other day. During our conversation, she happened to mention that earlier in her life she had a “calling” to midwifery. My stepdaughter, Annie, has a passion for creating items that have anything to do with yarn, fabric, and fiber. My sister seems destined to use her compassionate ways helping children through the use of animals. So I got to wondering, “What’s my passion?”

It didn’t take a lot of pondering to realize that what I love doing is tilling my garden soil, then planting, which leads to reaping, then cooking up healthy foods to the “oohs, ahhs, and yums” of my family and friends. I have a vision of my kitchen always being a welcome place, where there’s a pot of tea steeping as well as freshly made scones and muffins to enjoy. Sounds idyllic, I know, but creating new dishes, changing recipes to suit our tastes, and discovering new ways to use my garden produce is what I want to do when I grow up.

For now, I have to manage the business side of Backwoods Home Magazine, but this new cooking column in BHM will allow me to explore my passion for cooking, utilizing whenever I can the healthy, organic vegetables I grow in my garden.

In this issue, Jackie Clay writes about how much she enjoys pouring over her garden seed catalogs, picking just the right varieties for her bountiful garden. I also enjoy pondering what my next garden will be like, thinking about where I’ll plant the corn and the pumpkins. Should I plant my summer squashes in a different bed since they were pretty puny this past year? It really is fun to dream and plan.

But, what I really enjoy perusing— almost on a daily basis—are my cookbooks. I’m not one of those cookbook addicts who just has to have every cookbook imaginable, but I sure do use and enjoy the books I have. Our family loves homemade bread (who doesn’t?) and so I’ve begun to use a new book I discovered, Whole Grain Breads by Machine or Hand by Beatrice Ojakangas. I’m really trying hard to make breads that turn out well while substituting at least half the total amount of flour with whole wheat flour. I use the bread machine Dave bought for me 14 years ago. It’s so fast and easy to just dump the ingredients into the bread machine, let it do its thing for just the dough cycle, then put it in my long bread pan to rise, and bake.

Sometimes, when I just have to have something pretty to show off, I’ll take the time to divide the dough into 3 long strips, braid it, then place it in my long loaf pan to rise. Ooh, la la…pretty and yummy.

Our friend, John Silveira, who has written extensively for our magazine, also enjoys cooking delectable dishes for his friends. He and I have the same mindset when it comes to sharing good food and recipes. There shouldn’t be any “secret sauces” to be hidden away when it comes to sharing recipes. So I hope you’ll try some of the following Duffy kitchen-tested recipes that we enjoy.

Quick chicken stir-fry

2 lbs. boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
2 stalks celery, chopped in large chunks
1 carrot, sliced
about 10 medium mushrooms, sliced in half
1 bell pepper, cut in large strips
1 cup of brussel sprouts, ends chopped off, left whole
½ head of red cabbage, chopped in strips
snow peas (how many your budget will allow)
1 can of mini corn, drained
1 can whole water chestnuts
about 3-4 Tbsp. stir fry sauce
about 2 Tbsp. Bulgogi Korean barbeque sauce (There are a variety of nice stir fry and other sauces found in the Asian aisle of most markets.)
1 tsp. curry powder
½ tsp. ginger
canola oil for frying
cooked brown rice

Start the rice. While it’s cooking, chop all the vegetables for the stir fry and put them in a big bowl (except the snow peas, mini corns, and water chestnuts). Heat canola oil in a wok or large fry pan on medium-high heat. While the oil is heating, slice chicken breasts into strips. Add to hot oil, stirring to brown. Cook just the chicken for about 5 minutes until no longer pink. Add vegetables. Stir frequently. Add the corn, peas, and chopped, drained water chestnuts when the vegetables are crisp/tender or to your liking. Add stir fry sauce, Bulgogi sauce, and seasonings. Stir to coat. Cook a few more minutes for flavors to permeate the vegetables and chicken. If the rice isn’t quite done, turn down the heat to low, cover the stir fry with a lid, and keep warm until the rice is done. Serve stir fry over rice.

This dish is extra nice during the summer when there’s summer squash, green beans, swiss chard, peas, kohlrabi, and all manner of veggies fresh from the garden to add.

Wheat and seed bread

Here’s a recipe I’ve adjusted from another bread book I like using. It’s taken from Better Homes and Gardens Bread Machine Bounty. I’ve used this book on many occasions with almost always successful breads. Here’s how I make this loaf.

1¼ cup milk
2 Tbsp. honey
2 tsp. canola oil
1½ cups flour
1½ cups whole wheat flour
1/3 cup unsalted sunflower seeds
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
2 tsp. poppy seeds
1 tsp. flax seeds
¾ tsp. salt
2 tsp. yeast

In 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup, add the milk, canola oil, and honey and heat in microwave until just gently warmed. Pour into bread machine container. In separate bowl, mix flours, seeds, and salt. Gently pour on top of liquid. Make a depression in flour and measure out the yeast, putting it into the depression. Place bread pan in machine and set it to run on the dough cycle. (Mine takes 1 hour and 40 minutes for this cycle to complete.) Grease a long loaf pan with oil and flour. When the dough cycle completes, take the dough out, gently express the gas from the dough (sometimes if the dough is sticky, I grease my hands with a bit of olive oil for this job), and form it into a long tube to fit the loaf pan. Place a damp clean dish towel over dough and let rise in a warm place for about an hour. (In winter, I place it in front of the woodstove.) Preheat oven to 350° F. Bake uncovered for about 25 minutes. Immediately remove from pan and cool on wire rack. Sometimes, I like to brush the crust with a bit of olive oil to soften the crust.

Leftovers of this bread, if there are any, make wonderful Freeedom (aka French) toast.

I’m always on the lookout for dessert recipes that don’t use butter and do use vegetable oil. (For heart healthy reasons, our kitchen has olive oil and canola oil…and that’s it.)

Cinnamon apple squares

I found a healthy dessert recipe from a book called, 500 Best Cookies, Bars & Squares by Esther Brody. I’ve made a few additions and changes to it. I even get to use up some of our chopped apples stored in freezer bags that my friends and I put away this past fall. My boys call it an apple cobbler, but really, it’s more like a cake with batter on the bottom, apple filling in the middle, and more batter on top. With my preprepared apples in the freezer that already have the sugar and cinnamon added for pie filling, this recipe is a 20-minute project from start to finish, plus the baking time. Very quick, very delicious.

For the batter:

1½ cups flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup dry rolled oats
2 tsp. baking powder
pinch salt
2 eggs
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup canola oil
½ cup cold water
about 2 Tbsp. milk

For the filling:

1½ cups chopped apples
½ cup frozen blackberries
about 2 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon

For the topping:

2 Tbsp. sugar
½ cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350° F. In small bowl, mix flours, baking powder, and salt. In large bowl, beat eggs and sugar, then beat in oil until blended. Gradually blend in flour mixture, alternately with water and the milk, until just incorporated. In another bowl, mix apples, berries, sugar, and cinnamon gently.

In greased and floured 13×9 inch pan, spread about half the batter evenly to cover the bottom of the pan. Spread the fruit mixture on top. Then spread remaining batter on top. Sprinkle with topping. Bake in preheated oven for 40-60 minutes until golden brown.


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