Blooms and Spoons

Green Beans With Chervil

Blooms and SpoonsBrrr … the mornings are getting brisk here in Calgary! We’ve been under a frost warning for the past couple of nights, and the vegetable garden is nearly finished for the year. One of my best performing herbs this gardening season has been chervil. If you’re not familiar with this pretty, feathery-leaved herb, it tastes a bit like anise and it’s a perfect complement to fresh green beans in this recipe.

Green Beans with Chervil

• 4 cups green beans, ends trimmed
• 1/4 cup fresh chervil leaves, chopped
• 1 tablespoon sesame oil
• 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
• Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Steam the green beans with water in a rice cooker or in a saucepan.

2. Drain the water from the beans, and place them in a large bowl.

3. Top with the other ingredients.  Mix well and serve immediately. 

Fresh chervil herb

Preserving Strawberries by Drying

Blooms and SpoonsWhile the best way to enjoy strawberries is fresh out of the garden, if you have a large harvest, preserving them becomes a practical way to keep them for future use. Drying them is an easy way to enjoy that amazing sweet strawberry flavor well after they’ve been picked.

I don’t have a dehydrator, so I used my oven to do the job — there is a bit of an issue with this in that even at such a low temperature, it can warm up the kitchen, and if you’re already baking in summer heat, it isn’t really feasible. As well, a dehydrator will consume less energy than an oven will. If your climate isn’t humid, you could dry your strawberries in the sun — it will take much more time but the idea is still the same. But if heat isn't an issue, oven drying is a relatively quick method to dry fruit.

Dried Strawberries (Oven Method)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover a large baking sheet with a piece of baking parchment.

Wash strawberries well and hull them. Cut large strawberries into halves or quarters, depending on the size (the smaller the pieces, the faster they will dry). Place the strawberries on the parchment.

Bake in the oven for up to 4 hours. Check the berries after 2 hours and make sure they are drying evenly. Turn the tray around if the berries seem to be baking more on one side than the other.

If, after 4 hours, the strawberries still aren’t dry, keep baking for more time, checking often, until they lose their residual moisture. Remove them from the oven and allow them to thoroughly cool before storing them in an airtight container.

You can follow the same procedure for peaches, too!  Just make sure they are cut in small pieces before drying.

Fresh garden strawberries

Rhubarb Oatmeal Cake

Blooms and SpoonsDespite the dry spring here in Calgary, the rhubarb plants are still producing like crazy! I don’t mind at all - in my opinion, you can never have too much of such a good thing. This flourless cake is one way we’ve been using up some of the delicious bounty: 

Rhubarb Oatmeal Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. 

In a 9-inch square cake pan, melt 3 tablespoons butter.

Stir in:

2 cups fresh rhubarb, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven.

In the meantime, prepare the batter. Sift together in a medium bowl:

1-1/4 cups oatmeal, ground (use a food processor to achieve a fine, flour-like consistency)
2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt

In a large, separate bowl, cream:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar


2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Add sifted dry ingredients to creamed mixture, alternately with:

3/4 cup milk (you can use almond milk if you prefer). 

Make 3 dry and 2 liquid additions, stirring after each. Turn batter into prepared baking dish.

Bake for 45 minutes. Enjoy with a scoop of vanilla ice cream! 

Rhubarb in the Spring Garden


Creamed Spinach Recipe

Blooms and SpoonsWe’ve had an unusually dry and warm spring here in Calgary so I’ve been able to sow some veggies earlier than I would usually (some years, we still have snow on the ground at this time!). Spinach is a cool-weather crop that I put in almost three weeks ago — it can handle the cold temperatures that we’re still seeing overnight. I’m looking forward to a harvest of some baby leaves very soon!

If you have a bounty of spinach and you have eaten your fill of salad, creamed spinach makes a good side for most meat dishes and even pasta. This version doesn’t have the cream and cheese of other recipes. Here’s how to make it:

Creamed Spinach

1 stick butter
8 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced (the more garlicky the better in my books, but you might not be as keen)
2 cups milk (this recipe works equally well with either low-fat or whole milk)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/8 tsp nutmeg (if you don’t like it, you can omit it)
Large handful of fresh spinach leaves, about 24 ounces, washed thoroughly (you don’t want critters in your saucepan!)

Prepare the spinach. Place the leaves in a shallow saucepan and cover with about 1/2 cup water. Cover the pan with a lid and heat on medium-high. Check the spinach after about five minutes — it should be thoroughly wilted (if not, keep it on the heat a bit longer. Make sure the lid of the pot is in place). Remove from heat and drain the water off. Set the spinach aside.

In a large saucepan, melt the butter and add the minced garlic, cooking for 1 or 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the flour and stir. The mixture will clump up. Very slowly add the milk in small increments, stirring constantly. The mixture should start taking on a creamy, sauce-like consistency. Once all the milk is added, add the steamed spinach and mix thoroughly. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper and nutmeg, if using. Enjoy!


Parsley Soup

Blooms and SpoonsIf you are thinking about growing your own herbs, parsley should be number one on your list! Although parsley seeds take the better part of a month to germinate, once they get going, you never really have to worry about them – this is one easy and robust plant to grow! Not to mention, you’ll be rewarded with a large harvest from just a few plants. Here’s a great way to enjoy a large handful of the fresh herb:

Parsley Soup

2 tablespoons butter
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
1 large bunch parsley, washed and chopped
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
2 cups water
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add potatoes, carrot, garlic, and onion and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add parsley, broth, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully puree using a hand blender. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve while hot.

Makes 2 large servings or 4 small ones.


Potato Pancakes

Blooms and SpoonsDo you still have some potatoes left in your storage bins from last autumn?  If so, it’s time to use them up, and this is a great way to do it! 

Potato Pancakes

1 cup mashed potatoes (approximately 2 medium-sized potatoes)
1-1/2 cups raw potato, grated (approximately 2 medium-sized potatoes)
1-1/2 cups buckwheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Pinch salt
1-1/2 cups buttermilk
Butter for frying

1. Peel and cut 2 potatoes and cover with water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender. Drain and mash. Set aside.

2. Peel and grate the other 2 potatoes. Place the grated potatoes in a thick sheet of unbleached paper towel or cheesecloth and squeeze the excess moisture from them. Place the drained potatoes into a small bowl and set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt. Add both the mashed potatoes and the grated potatoes and mix. Add the buttermilk and mix thoroughly – the batter should be thick. If the consistency is too thick, add more buttermilk.

4. Melt the butter in a frying pan. Spoon batter into pan to make small 3-inch diameter pancakes. Cook about 5 minutes until crispy, then turn and cook on the other side. Repeat until all pancakes are cooked.

5. Serve warm with applesauce, chopped green onions, and/or sour cream.

Yield: About 8 pancakes. These freeze really well, so save the leftovers (if you have any)!

Note: Although buckwheat flour really enhances this recipe with its nutty flavor, you can substitute it with all-purpose wheat flour or a combination of whole wheat and white flour.


Delicious Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Blooms and SpoonsHope you’ve had a wonderful start to 2016!

Whether you still have some Brussels sprouts left over from the holidays or one of your New Year’s resolutions is to eat more veggies from the Brassica genus, you can’t go wrong roasting them: you get all the flavor and no high calorie sauces! 

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts, scrubbed, ends trimmed

Olive oil

Garlic clove(s), crushed



Brussels sprouts

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cover a large baking sheet in parchment paper.

You’ll note that I haven’t written any measurements for this recipe — it will really depend on how many servings you want to make, as well as your taste preferences. 

Place the Brussels sprouts in a large bowl and add as much crushed garlic as you like. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle only enough olive oil to completely coat the sprouts (you definitely don’t want to drown them!). Mix thoroughly. 

Arrange sprouts on a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove the pan and turn the sprouts over. Return the pan to the oven.

Roast the sprouts for another 15 to 20 minutes. They should come out darkened, but not black. 

Add additional salt and pepper, if needed.