Gardening, Cooking and Decorating on the Prairie of Kansas

Welcome to Linderhof, our 1920's home on the prairie, where there's usually something in the oven, flowers in the garden for tabletops and herbs in the garden for cooking. Where, when company comes, the teapot is always on and there are cookies and cakes to share in the larder.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Espresso in the cup AND in the cake!

We do like coffee cakes for breakfast. A sweet start to a day especially with a cup of espresso.
No eggs for us, these mornings. No bacon either. It's just cake and coffee.
And what better cake than an "espresso cake" -- a plain cake batter on top and bottom of an espresso flavored batter. More espresso in the form of a glaze poured over the top.
It's easy, it's coffee-ey. A great morning (mid morning, afternoon) cake. If you like coffee, you'll love this cake!

I clipped this recipe from a magazine, eons ago. I can't remember where but it was one of those recipes that was just sitting. Just waiting for me to pick it up and make it!

I'm glad I did!

Espresso Coffee Cake

2 cups flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
3/4 cup soft butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 t. vanilla
1 cup sour cream
2 T. instant espresso powder dissolved in 1 T. hot water.

2 to 3 T. strong coffee
2 t. instant espresso
3/4 cup powdered sugar

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs (one at a time). Add vanilla. Alternate adding sifted dry ingredients with sour cream. Take 1/2 of the batter out and mix with dissolved espresso. Spoon half of the batter into a greased and floured tube pan (or a bundt pan if you like them).
Cover with coffee mixture and add rest of the batter.

Bake at 350 for 50 to 60 minutes. Cool on rack. Invert and cool completely. Remove cake from pan. Pour warm glaze over cake. Let stand 10 minutes.

Glaze: Mix coffee, instant espresso powder and powdered sugar. Stir until smooth.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sloppy Moes

We love barbecue and we love chicken. What better dish than this, which combines both. It's from Anna Pump's latest cookbook, Summer on a Plate, and it is a good and easy dish.

To go with, we had a simple salad of romaine, cherry tomatoes, red onion and homemade blue cheese dressing.
It's a bit messy, so besides the cloth dinner napkin, there was plenty of paper napkins on the table as well. And the good thing is that it reheats easily!

It's a great recipe for a quick spring luncheon as it is for an easy summer dinner. Anna's comments say that this is a recipe that her children enjoyed and now her grandchildren are equally fond of it. Only now instead of hamburger she uses chicken.

We always called the hamburger sandwich "sloppy joes". We've renamed the chicken version, "sloppy moes".

Barbecued Sauced Chicken Sandwiches
From Summer on a Plate

2 cups finely chopped onion
3 cloves garlic minced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cup ketchup
1 cup chili sauce
1 cup water
3 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. Worchestershire sauce
2 T. brown sugar
1 1/2 t. salt
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast cut into 2 x 1 inch strips
Lettuce leaves
Large Kaiser rolls or English muffins, split and toasted
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives

Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil for 5 minutes in a large heavy saucepan over medium high heat. Stir often so that it does not get brown. Stir in the ketchup, chili sauce, water, vinegar, Worchestershire sauce, sugar and salt and let simmer for 5 minutes. Add the chicken strips, stir to combine, coer and simmer for another 12 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
To serve, place a lettuce lave on the bottom of each roll, spoon chicken over the lettuce and top with chives.

(If you don't have chives in your garden, I'd use finely sliced scallions both white and green)

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Swedish Visiting Cake

This reminds me of the cakes that we were served when we visited my father's German relatives. Not called Swedish nor visiting, no, the cake we were served was definitley German.
This is an easy cake, from Dorie Greenspan's, Baking: From My Home to Yours and as she said, you can whip it up and put it in the oven, when you find your guests walking up the front walk!
It goes well with coffee and it goes equally well with tea. It's not a dessert cake as much as it is a tea or coffee cake. It's good, it's quick, it's easy and reminds me of what my German relatives called "blitzkuchen".
An iron skillet is the perfect pan to bake this cake in and it does look well served in the iron pan.
I would not hesitate to make this cake when I was expecting company for tea.

Swedish Visiting Cake
(From Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours)

1 cup sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
Grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs
1/4 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. pure almond extract
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
1/4 cup sliced almonds, (blanched or not)
1 cup flour

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350. Butter a seasoned 9 inch cast iron skillet o0r other heavy ovenproof skillet, a 9 inch cake pan or even a pie pan.

Pour the sugar into a medium bowl. Add the zest and blend the zest and sugar together with yoru fingertips until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until well blended. Whisk in the salt and the extracts. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in the flour. Finally, fold in the melted butter.

Scrap the batter into the pan and smooth the top with a rubber spatula. Scatter the sliced almonds over the top and sprinkle with a little sugar. If you're using a cake or pie pan, place the pan on a baking sheet.

Bake the cake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until it is golden and a little crisp on the outside; the inside will remain moist. Remove the pan from the oven and let the cake cool for 5 mintues , then run a thin knife around the
sides and bottom of the cake to loosen it. You can serve the cake warm or cooled, directly from the skillet or turned out onto the serving plate.

The First Bouquet of the Season

The daffodils have been blooming at Linderhof for about a week. We love these gay harbingers of spring. So much so that every fall for the 20 autumns that we've lived here we've planted bulbs. Some years more than others. Some years pricey bulbs from a bulb catalogue while other years big bags of Mt. Hood, although common a favorite.
We don't like to strip the garden so we make sure that there are enough blooms for inside as well as out.

We always like a bouquet of flowers on the breakfast room table and from these first daffodils through the mums of fall, there is always something from the garden in one of the small vases that we've collected for these bouquets.
The forecast for the prairie this weekend is snow -- my poor daffodils may awaken tomorrow to find themselves covered with a blanket of snow!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cookies From the Herb Garden

It's Friday, It's Food, so it must be Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollum. Click here to see more fabulous food on Friday at Michael's fabulous site, Designs by Gollum.

Last year, the lavender was splendid at Linderhof. A fairy is blowing lavender buds over the garden. I happened to catch her before she flitted away! Fairies do like lavender and having a bed of lavender only encourages their visits!

Most we use as aromatics. Wands to scent linens and unmentionables. Sachets for gifts. Small pillows to help the unweary go to sleep at night.

But some we save for culinary purposes. Dried and saved in a small jar bought at Williams Sonoma many years ago that says "French Lavender" -- I used those buds and the jar is perfect for the lavender that grows in Linderhof's garden!
Shortbread is my all time favorite cookie. I love ANY kind of shortbread. And I do like lavender to bake with. Two favorites, together in one cookie!
You can see the lavender in the cookies. Not much -- a tablespoon or so. But to gild the lily, I also sprinkled them with lavender sugar before I baked them. So lavender on the inside and the outside!

I had gotten my new cookie cutter, a shortbread cutter actually. Which I first saw on a Barefoot Contessa episode. If Ina bought it, so should I. An easy find at Amazon and I was so excited to get it -- for it IS the perfect cutter for shortbread.
And the first shortbreads, I put on a plate as I grabbed a glass of green iced tea to enjoy in the garden -- sweaty with dirty fingernails, I sat and enjoyed both shortbread and tea as I watched over my domain. Oliver, of course, was at my feet. A crumb he was not after but a real bite.

Yes, I obliged!

You can take any shortbread and add the lavender, but I found this recipe in a old cookbook I had found at a flea market, Tante Marie's Cooking School. It was a great find and I think these shortbreads are yummy. And they are pure shortbread -- butter andsugar and flour -- with the lavender added, of course!

Lavender Shortbread

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups flour
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1 T. dried lavender

Sift the flour. Beat the butter and sugar in a mixer until creamy. Add the flour and beat until combined. Add the lavender and beat just to distribute through the dough.

Form dough into a disk, wrap in plastic and chill until firm, at least an hour.

Preheat the oven to 325. Roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick and cut desired shapes. Place on parchment (or sillpat) lined baking sheets and bake until just golden, about 18 minutes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Respite from Garden Chores

A great big thank you to Susan at Between Naps on the Porch for hosting Tablescape Thursday. It's always a fun event and I so love seeing everyone's tablescapes. Everyone is so creative and has such beautiful dishes and centerpieces!

It's Spring at Linderhof and March means garden chores. All of those things that didn't get done in the fall (my Scarlet mentality -- tomorrow is another day -- spring is a long time away -- it's a beautiful Indian Summer day and I can go play) have to get done now!

So hours spent out in the garden raking and mulching and doing all of those odd garden chores that are just no fun!

But a respite is always in order . . . and today was no exception. With freshly baked lavender cookies (from last year's lavender crop) and a glass of green tea, I could take off my garden hat and sit at "our" table -- the small table that we often sit at in the garden.
The tablecloth is from Williams Sonoma and I have two -- one for each of the big tables but it works well on the little one.
Some lavender cookies and tea -- what could be better even if you're hot and sweaty and with dirt under your fingernails. You just feel better when there is a cloth on the table and the cookies are on a plate!
"Thyme in a Jar" is my centerpiece. Put together for the herb class that I'm teaching tomorrow night -- seven different kinds of thyme -- all in a jar! Don't you wish we could bottle time and use it later! The wee strawberry jar was my mother's and I hold it dear.
A small tablescape, this, my respite in the garden. But it is a busy week and company at Linderhof has been sparse although we hope to recitify that Friday!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Rite of Spring

It's Wednesday -- and time for Outdoor Wednesday, hosted by Susan at A Southern Daydreamer. Thank you, Susan, it's a fun event!

Before Spring, outdoors is limited on the prairie for winter is mostly brown. We sometimes have snow, we sometimes have ice, and we even sometimes have rain.

But we welcome Spring (as we welcome the coolness of fall after the heat of summer) with open arms. It's fun to see the world wake up and watch spring come.

And with the first few warm days, it's time to get all of the bird baths at Linderhof ready for our feathered friends. We do keep one operational during winter with a heater -- and the birds appreciate their spa even in the cold weather. We've noticed a greater number of birds since we opened our "spa".

But we like to have water available in different areas of the garden in the summer. And in spring, cleaning them, putting them back and filling takes an afternoon. We do it as soon as the weather seems warm enough. Even if we get a freeze (even a deep one) -- the frozen water once in the bowl will not harm it.
This is a favorite -- with two doves in the middle. It's concrete, stained so it looks a bit old. We've planted daffodils and tulips around it (and there are two roses beside it) and will plant Stella d'Oro day lilies in between the spring bulbs. It's on one size of our pergola and our doves (the turtle ones) seem to like it the best.
A smaller one that I can see from the kitchen window. It has a non working fountain in it and the little birds seem to prefer this one. There is lettuces in the pot below -- starting to show green.
The side garden, my secret garden has this birdbath (with the rabbit to keep it company) -- it was a gift and I like the smallness of it and it's perfect for this corner of my secret garden.
A sqaure birdbath that looks as if it has some age, but alas, it doesn't. I like the fact that it looks like it has been around forever. A bird feeder is to the left of the bird bath and often the birds will snack, fly down for a sip before they fly back up for another bite.

I like things with age -- or things that look like they have age and most of our baths do. They look like they've been in the garden at Linderhof for a long time -- even though the square one was a last year purchase.

The birds enjoy water -- both to drink and to bathe. We get a lot of joy out of watching the birds antics in their baths, as both the first and the last can be seen from our breakfast room while the shell birdbath can be seen from my desk which overlooks the secret garden.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I'm A Little Humbled . . .

I feel so humbled for I've received not one award but two and not from one Blog friend but from two!

What a surprise today to find a note from Cileo from A House in the Roses that she was passing on first this:
I feel so honored, Cileo, to receive this award. And, I, too shall pass it along.

Nancy at Acorn Cottage (Not only do we blog -- we email each morning!)

Chari at Happy to Design
And I received not one but two Friends Award. From Cileo, at A House in the Roses, and from Mary, at One Perfect Bite.

Ladies, you certainly made my day.

The Friends Award comes with this message attached:

"These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind of bloggers aim to find and to be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated."

And so to propagate more friendships, I'd like to pass this award on to:

Nancy at Acorn Cottage (Another Prairie blogger)

Karen at Nittany Inspirations (Who has a great blog)

Susan at A Southern Daydreamer (How can I not resist a blue and white table)

All I consider friends and visit their blogs often. They are listed as Friends of Linderhof and they are my friends. They share their life with me and I enjoy the friendship that their blogs provide.

Thank you all -- for making my day better by just being.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

It's Easter Time at Linderhof

On Ash Wednesday, we bring up a very special box from the basement. It contains a dozen hand painted real hens eggs. We hang them from branches in the dining room. Always in the dining room.
On a Lenten trip to Germany many years ago, we were charmed by their custom of the "Easter Egg Tree". We always stayed in bed and breakfasts and each seemed to have a vase full of spring branches from which they hung painted eggs.

That's why our Easter Egg Tree is always in the dining room!
When asking one of our hosts where one might find these eggs, we were told "Woolworths" -- and so to Woolworth's we went about mid trip. We chose a dozen eggs to bring home. The cost -- $12!

Every year since, we've hung our German Easter eggs on Ash Wednesday. They're a reminder of a special time, of many special places we visited, and we cherish each and every one.

The dining room table is reserved for the Easter lilies we'll buy the week before Easter. As poinsettias are for Christmas so are the lilies for Easter. It was a rite of my mother's and it is a rite of mine as well.
The breakfast room table, however, has my French wire egg holder with some Williams Sonoma Alabaster eggs that I got at a deep deep discount one year after Christmas, an ivy topiary and an iron rabbit -- my latest rabbit.
On a recent trip to the city, we went to Pottery Barn and found these lovely eggs which I placed in the egg holder. From the dining room, I got out one of my silver boiled egg serving pieces (complete with "egg spoons") and decided that they would be a great holder for the Alabaster eggs.

Forsythia is in vases in the living room -- my nod to spring but not necessarily Easter. From the reds and greens of Christmas, the bright yellow of the forsythia is like a ray of sunshine after the dreary winter.

We enjoy our eggs, both new and old. They're part of Linderhof's traditions.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Spring Tea

I'm joining in the Chocolate Cookie Spring Party sponsored by Cielo, The House in the Roses

What better for Spring than chocolate?
It's too cold (and rainy) this first day of Spring to be outside on the prairie and so our tea shall be inside -- in the warmth and comfort of our breakfast room which overlooks the back garden.

But it's not friendly having tea by oneself so I have invited a dear friend to join me. We shall sip tea, enjoy the chocolate cookies, and watch the antics of the birds in the garden.

They ARE chocolate. But the chocolate is inside. Chocolate chunks. It makes for a tasty cookie.

They are easy to make, served slightly warm so the chocolate is melting as you bite into a cookie.

A great way to celebrate spring!

The breakfast room table has one of our Easter rabbits as a centerpiece. A tall bunny loaded with carrots and other vegetables in his backpack.

I love blue and white especially the English dishes -- be it for dinner or tea. These are by Wedgwood and are the Asiatic Pheasant pattern. It is a tea set -- the pot, sugar and creamer, cups, saucers and dessert plates make up the service. We take our tea plain (as does our guest) and so the pot, cups and saucers and plates are on the table.

The cookies are on a pedastal cake plate -- piled high because you can't eat just one!

Celebrating spring should be done with tea and cookies and while we sip and munch, we admire the daffodils and grape hyacinths that are struggling in the cold and wet that the first day of Spring brings to the prairie.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Day After The Perfect Roast Chicken

Is the day for chicken soup! Often our lunches at Linderhof during the week are leftovers for lunch -- not just heated up but "reworked" into something different. Dinner vegetables are often sauteed in a bit of butter or olive oil, then added to hot chicken broth and pureed. Often a bit of cream is added to make a creamy vegetable soup. Slices of good bread accompany the soup and if there is dessert it is fruit.
I heated up some chicken broth, took the chicken off the bone and added that as well as some corn, tomatoes and okra and a bit of green pepper that was lurking in the fridge. A half cup of cooked rice was also added.

The good thing about making soup from leftovers is that it is a quick soup to make. It doesn't require long simmering but is ready in a matter of minutes. It definitely makes for a quick lunch!
It was a bit chilly that day and the warm soup was perfect for lunch! Husband Jim even had two bowls!

I must admit that we are not overly fond of leftovers when they are just a replay of the meal you ate just before, but I don't mind using leftover food to make a new dish. And luncheon soups are the perfect way to use up whatever you have leftover from dinner the night before.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The PERFECT Roast Chicken . . . and the LESS Than Perfect Roast Duck

It's another Foodie Friday hosted by Designs by Gollum -- be sure to see what everyone else is cooking up this week. Or see what their "foodie disasters" were!
We love chicken -- cooked almost any way but we especially like it roasted. It's an easy meal to do and if the chicken is big enough it can serve a crowd. If it isn't, it is enough for the two of us with leftovers. (And is there anything better than a cold chicken leg before bed?)

It's easy to roast a chicken -- you take out anything that is inside (and this is a very important step), then you fill that inside with halves of a garlic bulb, lemons cut into quarters, rosemary sprigs, thyme sprigs. Rub the outside with olive oil and sprinkle rosemary or thyme and salt and pepper. Put in a pan, put in the oven a 425 oven and you're free for between an hour and an hour and a half (depending upon the size and weight of the chicken).

We often serve it with oven roasted potatoes and perhaps a salad of mixed baby greens with vinaigrette to round out the meal. A dessert to end the meal only if we have company. If we don't, we'll end the meal with a cup of espresso.

(My worst kitchen disaster)

In my early married years, I decided that since we had turkey at Thanksgiving that we should have something different for Christmas. Being an adventurous cook even then, I decided on duck a la orange. A very ambitious dish for a novice cook such as I.

The whole menu, in fact, (with the exception of dessert for I made a pumpkin pie) was "gourmet".

The table was perfection with good linens and the china and crystal and silver and a festive centerpiece. The dishes were brought to the table. We passed all the dishes and tasted . . .
and tested . . .

NONE of us liked anything! EVERYTHING was awful! The duck was terrible. (Not only was this my first time cooking duck -- it was my first time EATING duck). The "gourmet" sidedishes were awful (awful perhaps because the duck was really bad).

We left everything as is on the dining room table and went into the living room where I served pumpkin pie and coffee to everyone.

As we were enjoying the first food of Christmas that was edible, we heard a commotion in the dining room . . .

There on the table was the cat. She had jumped upon the table and lo and behold, there was this bountiful feast -- this bountiful feast just for her!

The dog on the floor was a bit unhappy -- a feast oh, so close, and yet, she was oh, so far away!

The cat attempted to get her mouth around the duck (which was almost as big as she) and she kept trying and pushing and trying and pushing and trying . . .

until the duck fell to the floor and into the mouth of a very surprised dog who didn't understand how come she got this bounty but was glad she did!

With duck in mouth, she headed off to the secret place that all dogs seem to go when confronted with more than they can consume immediately.

We laughed and cheered!

THAT duck would never again grace our table. I didn't have to worry about leftovers and we had plenty of pumpkin pie!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Blue and White Breakfast

It's always great to participate in Tablescape Thursday, sponsored by Susan of Between Naps on the Porch. I enjoy sharing the tablescape at Linderhof and seeing what others are doing on their tables!
It's a blue and white breakfast. But then, almost every meal at Linderhof is blue and white! It's Sunday morning, the sun is shining and we enjoy a lingering and big breakfast. We always do tablecloths and our napkins are always in the silver napkin rings.

And there is no better place for breakfast than our 3 walls of glass breakfast room. It's sunny, it overlooks the garden and we can watch our feathered friends at the many feeders in the garden.
The dishes were bought especially for the breakfast room. They met the criteria. They were blue and white, they were English, and they had birds on them! They're the Indies pattern by Johnson.
A Sunday breakfast is always big -- bacon, eggs, sauteed potatoes and biscuits. Coffee and juice. Butter and homemade jam for the biscuits.
We linger over breakfast, reading the papers, watching the birds, perhaps even making another pot of coffee. It is a great way to start a Sunday.