Category Archives: Step by Step with Pictures

Roasted Red Pepper and Walnut Pesto

This red pepper pesto recipe is one that my family requests over and over again. The pesto, once made, can be stored in the fridge (although ours rarely lasts long) and is great for snacking, entertaining, or can pull together a quick dinner.

red pepper pesto recipe

Roasted Red Pepper Pesto Recipe

Adapted from the Vitamix Create Recipe Book 

  • 2-3 red bell peppers
  • 1 head of garlic, divided use
  • 3/4 cup (75 g) walnuts
  • 1/2 cup (27 g) sun-dried or oven-dried tomatoes
  • 2/3 cup (20 g) fresh basil or 1 oz prepared pesto (previously frozen fine)
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) balsamic vinegar

red pepper pesto recipe

1. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Halve and trim red peppers, place skin side down on baking sheet, lined with a silicone mat, or directly on oven rack. (Energy saving tip: try fitting in a toaster oven.) Slice the uppermost portion of the head of garlic off, so that the tops of several cloves are visible. Reserve the top for later use. Sprinkle with a touch of salt and pepper and a few drops of olive oil. Wrap the garlic in foil and add to the oven. After 20 minutes or so, check on peppers. Cook until the skin starts to blister and darken. Immediately place in a covered bowl or sealed bag so the steam helps loosen the skin. (See this post on Spanish Tuna Stuffed Peppers for a photo of this technique.) Cook garlic for 45 minutes or until soft. Once the peppers are cool, peel of the skin, reserving any liquid.

2. Measure out 6 ounces (270 g) of roasted bell peppers.

red pepper pesto recipe

3. Place in a good blender along with a little bit of their liquid, the roasted garlic, the reserved bits of raw garlic, and the rest of the ingredients.

red pepper pesto recipe

4. Blend. For reference, on a variable speed Vitamix, start on variable “1”, slowly increase speed to “3”, and blend for 30 seconds or until desired consistency.

red pepper pesto recipe

Serving Suggestions:

This is just amazing on bread and makes a great appetizer for entertaining. For a quick dinner, toss over pasta and shrimp. Add any extra roasted peppers, too! (I might add peas next time for a bit of fresh green.)

red pepper pesto recipe with shrimp

“Semi-Homemade” Time Saving Tips:

I have also made this using roasted, peeled bell peppers in the jar from Trader Joe’s. Instead of roasting the garlic, you can just use 2 cloves of raw garlic. I use frozen, peeled, uncooked red Australian shrimp from Trader Joe’s. I usually have a bag in my freezer.

Sprouted Hummus, Raw and (Pregnancy-Friendly) Nearly Raw Versions, Step by Step with Pictures

Who doesn’t like hummus? If you have made it at home, then you know how much more delicious and economical it is compared to store-bought hummus. Try this recipe, starting from dried chick peas or garbanzo beans to take it to the next level. Sprouting them gives an extra nutritional boost, as well as an extra sweet, nutty creaminess. And starting from dry saves a lot of money and improves the taste and texture. I have really been preferring dry beans over canned in general, and they just shine in this sprouted hummus recipe.

Sprouting Chick Peas (Garbanzos)

Sprouted Hummus: Step by Step with Pictures

  • 1 cup dried chick peas or garbanzo beans
  • fresh, filtered water (reserve cooking water if cooking)
  • 1/4-1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4-1/3 cup tahini
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • juice of 1/2-1 1/2 lemons
  • salt
  • pepper
  • cumin, cayenne, paprika
  • (optional) zatar for serving

Special equipment: blender or food processor; coarse cheesecloth; colander

1. Sprouting: Rinse and then soak the chick peas in a bowl in fresh water, covering them up at least twice their height. We have a water filter for drinking water, and I prefer to use that. Soak for about 8 hours, they should grow and plump up. Rinse the beans in a colander, rinse out the bowl and then return them to the bowl. Add a very small amount of water, they should not be covered, just a little wet at the bottom. Cover loosely with a coarse cheesecloth and place in a cool (room temperature) place, out of direct sunlight. Every 8 hours, rinse the beans and the bowl and repeat. Continue until you see 1/4″ sprouts on most of the beans, about two days. Discard any mushy ones.

Sprouting Chick Peas on Baby Birds Farm

2. Cooking: (optional) Any kind of raw sprout is unfortunately on the “avoid” list for pregnant women, as —cats out of the bag— I know now. To eliminate any risk of bacteria AND retain much of the nutritional value, simply cook the beans for one minute only. Rinse the sprouted beans and cook in fresh water. Bring to a boil for one minute. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.

Nearly Raw Sprouted Hummus on Baby Birds Farm

3. Blending: In a good blender or food processor, add the beans, 1/2 – 1 cup of the cooking liquid (use fresh water if you did not cook your beans) and the rest of the ingredients. Start with the smaller suggested amounts. When using dried beans instead of canned, you will need to use more liquid then you are used to. If you find your blender struggling, add a little more of the cooking liquid or water. For reference, on a variable speed Vitamix, I blend for 30 seconds on “4”. Taste (and have your kitchen helper taste.) I often decide to add more of one or more ingredients, so try adding up to the larger suggested amounts.

Hummus and Toddlers: a good blend

4. Yums: Serve topped with zatar, paprika and/or a drizzle of olive oil. Enjoy!

Sprouted Hummus on Baby Birds Farm

Mower’s Matzo Ball Soup

This is my great-grandmother’s recipe for Matzo Ball Soup. It was transcribed at one point by my mother for a synagogue cook book. I still use the tattered book, lined with my notes over the years in pencil. I have updated it minimally by using fresh herbs, instead of dried (which I imagine is probably closer to how my great-grandmother, Mower, made it.) Mower likely started from whole matzo rather than matzo meal, but I like to believe she would approve of the modern convenience. They are light, fluffy and flavorful, and simply the best. I can rarely eat a restaurant matzo ball as they just can’t compare.

My Great-Grandmother's Matzo Ball Soup Recipe

Passover is by far my favorite Jewish holiday. It is all about a big dinner party! Although I am not particularly observant, I love to celebrate Passover by hosting a seder. Apart from our favorite family recipes (it’s like a 2nd Thanksgiving!) I do love the message and the story of freedom.

Passover starts this year (in North America) on the evening of Monday, March 25th. But I wanted to share this recipe ahead of time. The “secret ingredient” to Mower’s Matzo Balls is schmaltz, or chicken fat, in which onions are slowly caramelized. As there is a lot of cooking for Passover, I like to make the chicken broth and schmaltz the weekend before. There are at least two methods of preparing schmaltz. You can render the chicken fat by cooking down the fat and skin. Here is a how-to post with step by step pictures. I find it simpler, however, to just make a homemade broth and then skim off the fat layer that congeals at the top when cooled.

Skimming the fat for a quick schmaltz

Some tips and tricks for getting the best matzo balls:

  1. Don’t make them too big. The balls will nearly double when cooked, so start off with a small walnut-sized ball.
  2. Really let the onions slow cook and caramelize in the chicken fat and don’t skrimp on the schmaltz.
  3. A light touch when forming the matzo balls is key. Don’t over handle them.
  4. The broth and schmaltz can be made a week ahead of time. The onions can be cooked the day before and stored in the fridge. But don’t let the batter sit more than 1 to 3 hours or it will get too dense.
  5. And don’t cook the matzo balls too far ahead of time or let them sit in soup. Just before the seder, cook them the first 10 minutes. They can wait for the length of a seder, then just before serving, cook the final 10 minutes in broth.

Making Matzo Balls on BabyBirdsFarm

Mower’s Matzo Ball Soup Recipe

Serves 6 (Easily doubles)
For the matzo balls:

  • 2 Tablespoons chicken fat
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 heaping cup of matzo meal
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • handful of chopped fresh parsley and thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon of chicken broth

For the finished soup:

  • 2 quarts prepared chicken broth (recipe follows)
  • 1 carrot, very thinly sliced, or shaved with a vegetable peeler
  • reserved, shredded meat of 1/2 chicken

On medium low heat, sauté the onions in fat in a covered pan until golden and very soft. Cool onions. (Can be stored in refrigerator 1 day in advance.) Beat together the eggs until light and fluffy. Add the matzo meal, seasoning, herbs and tablespoon of broth. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 3 hours. Roll into approximately 16 to 18 balls about the size of small walnuts (use a teaspoon to scoop up batter and dust hands with extra matzo meal to combat stickiness.) Drop balls into a pot of boiling water and cook for 10 minutes. Then transfer to hot broth with the carrots for another 10 minutes before serving. Add the chicken just at the end to reheat.

My Family’s Chicken Soup

  • 1 whole chicken, in pieces
  • 1-2 onions (leaving the skin on will add a dark color)
  • 3 stalks celery
  • 2-3 carrots
  • 1-2 parsnips
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 4-5 peppercorns
  • salt, to taste
  • 1 bay leaf
  • filtered water or water plus prepared chicken stock

Place washed chicken in a large pot and cover with water. (You can cheat and  intensify the flavor by using a little prepared chicken stock or broth.) Bring to a fast boil and skim off any scum that rises to the top. Rough chop the onion, celery, carrots, and parsnip and add to the soup with garlic, pepper, salt and bay leaf. (If you are using a prepared stock, consider skipping added salt.) Simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked. Remove just the chicken. Remove the meat from the bones and set aside. This helps prevent over-cooked meat. Put the bones, fat and bits back into the pot and continue simmering for 2-3 hours. Keep the water level just covering ingredients. Strain the soup through a sieve, discarding all solids and chill to congeal fat on top. Store in the fridge up to one week or freeze.  Jewish Penicillin!!


Cajeta Recipe: Step by Step with Pictures

Before living on the Bird Family Farm in a quiet part of San Diego, I lived in the neighborhood of North Park. Well, my side of the street was North Park, but across the street was City Heights. Also across the street was a small, family run Mexican market. They had fresh tortillas and Mexican canned goods, cheeses and candies. I love caramel, and was buying these round candies labeled “cajeta” for a while before I figured out that the picture of a goat on them probably meant that it was made with goat milk. It was too late to be grossed out as I was already a fan. The slight tang from the “goatiness” balances out the sugary sweetness better than cow’s milk can.

Fast forward to this spring and with my first surplus of goat milk from our co-op I knew I wanted to try making some form of goat milk caramel. I found a recipe for Rick Bayless’ cajeta caramel sauce and haven’t turned back. I’ve been a fan of Rick Bayless ever since I saw his show on PBS. If you are not familiar with him, he is a white American guy who makes Mexican food look authentic and delicious. I remember that in the first show I saw he was featuring a recipe called Chiles en Nogada and I was dying to try it. (I’ve since had it here in San Diego and in San Jose del Cabo, Mexico.)

Pronounced “ka-HAY-ta,” cajeta is traditionally made from goat milk and sugar, slowly reduced and caramelized. Think of dulce de leche meets sweetened condensed milk. It is often served as a syrup over pancakes and cakes or stirred into coffee. I like to add a vanilla bean to the recipe. Not only are the black flecks beautiful, it adds an almost custardy taste to the cajeta.

This is NOT a “quick and easy” recipe. Plan on the cooking taking an hour and a half. You do not need to stir constantly until the very end, but during most of the cooking you do need to stir periodically, scraping the bottom and the sides with a heat proof spatula. The only tricky part is feeling confident on when to stop cooking it. But no worries there! It’s just a matter of preference. Reduced less time it will be more syrupy, and cooked longer it will be thicker, almost pudding like when chilled.

Cajeta Recipe: Step by Step with Pictures

Recipe adapted minimally from Rick Bayless’ Cajeta  •  Makes about 3-4 cups

  • 2 quarts goat’s milk or a combination of goat’s milk and cow’s milk—or even with all cow’s milk (use whole milk in all cases)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 of a cinnamon stick
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and scraped
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda dissolved in 1 tablespoon water

1.  Simmer the cajeta.   In a large (6- to 8-quart) pot, combine the milk, sugar and cinnamon stick and set over medium heat.  Stir regularly until the milk comes to a simmer (all the sugar should have dissolved by this point). Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the dissolved baking soda—it’ll foam up if the goat’s milk is acidic. When the bubbles subside, return the pot to the heat.

Adjust the heat to maintain the mixture at a brisk simmer (too high and the mixture will boil over; too low and the cooking time will seem interminable). Cook, stirring regularly, until the mixture turns pale golden, more or less one hour.

Now, begin stirring frequently as the mixture colors to caramel-brown and thickens to the consistency of maple syrup (you’ll notice the bubbles becoming larger and glassier).  Stir regularly so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. Test a couple of drops on a cold plate: When cool, the cajeta should be the consistency of a medium-thick caramel sauce.  If the cooled cajeta is thicker (almost like caramel candy), stir in a tablespoon or so of water and remove from the heat; if too runny, keep cooking.

2.  Finish the cajeta.   Pour the cajeta through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl or a wide-mouth storage jar.  (Or simply fish out the vanilla pod and cinnamon.) When cool, cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.  Warming the cajeta before serving makes it extra delicious.

Notes:

Cajeta keeps for a month or more in the refrigerator.  Keep it tightly covered to keep it from absorbing other flavors. I have also frozen it, although for only a month, and the defrosted cajeta was just as good.

Chocolate and Goat Cheese Truffles

I love chocolate. And these chocolate and goat cheese truffles are one of my favorites.

Goat cheese and chocolate truffles

Goat cheese sounds like an odd ingredient to have in truffles. But having made these at a time when traditional truffles, made with cream and butter, were in my home, I can honestly say that these are a billion times better. The cheese balances the sweetness of the sugar and compliments the richness of the chocolate with a subtle tang. If using a mild cheese, it almost disappears into a “secret ingredient.”

Since I have been making homemade chèvre, I measure and reserve 6 oz before rolling logs, however, “store bought is fine.”

I usually cut a little extra chocolate to allow for “shrinkage” from nibbling.

I do recommend paying a little extra for quality chocolate. When making a recipe, such as this, where chocolate is such a high percentage of the finished product, you will really be able to taste the quality. How can you tell if your chocolate is good enough? If you enjoy eating it straight, then it will work.

Chocolate and goat cheese truffles

Tip: If you don’t have a double broiler to melt the chocolate, use a stainless steel bowl that fits well over a pot.

Chocolate and goat cheese truffles

Whip the cheese with a little powdered sugar.

Goat cheese and chocolate truffles

Add in the melted and cooled chocolate.

Goat cheese and chocolate truffles

Mix until well combined.

Chocolate and Goat Cheese Truffles

Let the mixture chill in the fridge for an hour.

Chocolate and Goat Cheese Truffles

 Form walnut-sized balls with a spoon and then roll in shifted cocoa powder.

Goat cheese and chocolate truffles

Goat cheese and chocolate truffles

Here’s my idea of a perfect dessert:

Goat cheese and chocolate truffles

Check out Parsonage Village Vineyard for more of my favorite wines.

Chocolate and Goat Cheese Truffles Recipe

Recipe from foodnetwork.com

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 6 ounces fresh (mild) goat cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sweetened cocoa powder, sifted

In the top of a double boiler, or in a metal bowl set over a pot of simmering water (make sure the water does not touch the bowl), melt the chocolate, stirring until it is smooth. Set the melted chocolate aside to cool for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

In a bowl whisk together the goat cheese, sugar, and vanilla until it is light and fluffy. Whisk in the melted chocolate until it is well combined. Chill, covered, until it is firm, at least 1 hour.

To form the truffles, take a heaping teaspoon of the chocolate/cheese mixture and lightly roll it into a ball with your hands. Roll the finished truffles in the sifted cocoa powder, set them onto a baking sheet lined with waxed paper, and chill until they are firm, about 30 minutes. The truffles can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.