Monday, August 27, 2012

Adventures in Dehydration Preserving Tomatoes a Natural and Cost Efficient Way - Making Sun Dried Tomatoes from My Backyard Garden Produce!

These are some jars of my"Sun Dried" although
 really" Dehydrator" Dried Garden Tomatoes

This is the time of year when garden bounty becomes overwhelming and I have usually had to spend otherwise gorgeous days slaving over a hot stove canning my tomato crop. This year, I bought an Excaliber Dehydrator and it arrived in a huge box a few weeks ago. I have it on top of my dryer in the laundry room and that seems like the perfect place for it because it makes a little whirring sound and it also heats up a room a little bit. I hang things in that room on a pole over the washer and dryer so it is doing double duty, drying my clothing and drying my vegetables.

Example of last Sunday Mornings Haul from
the Backyard Garden

My gorgeous Roma Tomatoes

I sliced them and placed them on Paraflex sheets and dehydrated overnight at 135 degrees. 
I recently did another post on Cold Lobster Gazpacho with Sun Dried Tomatoes
This is a tomato bush that is
practically a tomato tree!

When faced with so many Tomatoes to preserve I have to say that I am very excited about the "Sun Dried" Dehydrator tomatoes. I put them on a salad, on top of a cold soup, on top of Pizza, and I am told they make a wonderful addition to Pastas and Vegetable dishes. I can't wait to try them all!
The taste of these tomatoes is really amazing, sweet and rich. The other great thing about them is that you can grind them in your blender to a powder and use the tomato powder in soups and sauces. I haven't done that yet but I like to try things so it is on my agenda to put the tomato powder in some of my homemade seasonings.

The other really wonderful thing about these tomatoes is that storage takes up such little space! Freezing and Canning take up space and take a lot of energy. The dehydrator is very cost efficient which is important to me. I have also tried dehydrating zucchinis for chips, apples, onions, green beans, and other fruits and vegetables. I love that it is very easy to do too! I love my new dehydrator and learning to preserve food naturally in this way. Delicious, Healthy, and Efficient!

Happy Cooking,

Melissa Abbott
About 10 hours-12 hours drying time for me.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Flax Crackers in a Dehydrator - Two Kinds: Sweet & Savory


I recently bought an Excalibur Dehydrator and have been experimenting with it. I have admired my sister Shelley's Excalibur and she makes the most wonderful things with it including a wonderful flax cracker. I loved her flax cracker bread, so delicious and healthy plus a wonderful and healthful alternative to store bought crackers. SHe outlined vaguly how she makes them and I tried them out too. I made two kinds my first trial out. A sweet nutty variety and a savory variety. Both are equally good but I notice I am more attracted to the sweet nutty ones when I am looking for a snack. They are fantastic with a dip like hummus and are very filling and practically a meal. I have enjoyed them for a lunch or when I was out on the boat or on a walk and needed a little boost. The Savory crackers are great with soups and with dinner.


Soak 1 c. of Flax Seeds in 1 c. of water for 1-several hours. When ready to make crackers Add 1 c. Flax Seed Meal, 1/4 c. sunflower seeds, 1/4-1/2 c. dried cranberries, 1/4 c. chopped raw almonds, 1/4 c. chopped raw cashews, 1-2 Tbs. Chia Seeds, 2 Tbs. Raw Pumpkin Seeds, 1/4 c. Agarve or Maple Syrup, 1/2 Tsp Salt to taste. Mix together into a paste and spread on a Paraflex sheet and pop into Dehydrator. Spread thinly on one rack. Several hours into the process, I took mine out and cut them into bite size squares and rectangles and then dehydrated them several hours more to crispness. Mine took about 12 hours at 125 degrees. This recipe can be multiplied for multiple racks of crackers.


Soak 1 c. of Flax Seeds in 1 c. of water for 1-several hours. When ready to make crackers Add 1 c. Flax Seed Meal, 1/2 chopped very finely chopped carrot, 1/4 very finely chopped onion, and finely chopped fresh parsley and basil, 1/2 Tsp Salt to taste. Mix together into a paste and spread on a Paraflex sheet and pop into Dehydrator. Spread thinly on one rack. Several hours into the process, I took mine out and cut them into bite size squares and rectangles and then dehydrated them several hours more to crispness. Mine took about 12 hours at 125 degrees. This recipe can be multiplied for multiple racks of crackers.

There is no end to the experimentation you can do with these crackers. Add herbs, garlic, various veggies, nuts, fruits whatever you have at hand for a healthy and delicious cracker bread. Flax seeds have long been respected as being extremely healthy and contains levels of lignans and omega 3 fatty acids which are good for a persons heart, circulatory system, and are said to possess anti cancer properties. It has also been said that they are beneficial in balancing hormones and the hormonal system. 

Thanks for sharing my Flax Crackers Dehydrator

 Adventure with me! 

Happy Cooking and Flax Cracker Making! 

Melissa Abbott

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Cold Lobster Gazpacho with Sun Dried Tomatoes and Basil

Almost everything in this wonderful summer cold soup, just right for a hot night after a day at the beach, was sourced on Cape Ann except for the Onion, Oilive Oil, and Vinegar. The Spicy Gazpacho was made from Roma Tomatoes in my garden as well as the Green Pepper, Hot Pepper, Zucchini,Basil, and Parsley. My husband caught the lobster off of Ten Pound Island in Gloucester Harbor. I made the Sun Dried Tomatoes in my dehydrator from Cherry Tomatoes in my garden.

It is best to make the Gazpacho the night beforehand and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight to meld the flavors.

I used about 5-6 cups roughly chopped tomatoes, 1 small zucchini, 1 small green pepper, 1 chili pepper, chopped fresh parsley, 1/3 c. Olive Oil, 1/3 c. Vinegar, Salt, and Pepper

After it is chilled and you are ready to serve, pour into bowl and float freshly shucked and cold lobster meat, chopped basil and parsley, and sun dried or dehydrated cherry tomatoes.

Serve Immediately with a wonderful Soup Spoon and extra sun dried tomatoes for extra garnish!

ENJOY!! This is very Special!

Happy Cooking! Melissa Abbott

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Edamame Salad with Maple Walnut Balsamic Dressing


Every year I try to grow something new and different in my backyard garden. This year Charlie and I tried Edamame, which is a fancy way of saying soybeans. I bought a package of seeds at Wolf Hillin Gloucester and planted them straight into the ground in May. It is always interesting to see what happens whenever you plant a bean. I mean you could get Jack in the Bean Stock Style plants or something smaller lower to the ground. The package only said to plant them three inches apart. Anyway, we have watched with bated breath as they grew to be about a foot and a half high and had these little furry looking pods happening.

They are sort of weird looking,
 green hairy pods you have to boil.....but...

We read up on Edamame and found out that you have to boil the whole pod for 5 minutes in water and then shuck them out. I managed to do it and I admit it, it was quite a bit of work to do for the amount of room the plants took up in the raised beds.

Well, this is the result!

When I was done and I tasted them, they tasted pretty good and very similar to the Salad Bar versions I had sampled at a Ruby Tuesdays Restaurant in Florida so I decided to make a dressing that would compliment it with a bit of a Balsamic Nutty style flavor. I came up a fantastic Walnut Carrot Dressing.


1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1/2 c. walnut oil
4-5 chopped walnuts
1 Tbs. Guldens mustard
a couple of carrot matchsticks
2 Tsp. maple syrup

Whiz up in your blender or food processor (I used my new VITA-MIX)
and serve right away. SUPER DELICIOUS!

Look at those cute Edamames!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Roasted Maple Walnut Coconut Banana Ice Cream Made in High Speed Vita-Mix Blender

Since I got my new $35 thrift store find Vita-Mix, I have tried doing some ice cream. Since the Vita-Mix is a high speed blender, it makes ice cream, which is a dream come true!

First I Placed in a roasting pan 4 bananas cut up, 2 Tbsp Coconut Oil, 3 Tbs. Maple Syrup, and Coconut. I baked or roasted at 350 for about 30 minutes.

When it came out of the oven it looked like this and you know, you could serve this as a dessert, it looked so good! I then froze the roasted bananas overnight. When I was ready to make ice cream I took banana mixture out of the freezer and placed in my new best friend appliance Vita-Mix with 1 1/2 c cold coconut milk and whizzed it at high speed for about a minute until the whole thing looked frozen.

I sprinkled the top with chopped walnuts and more coconut and served immediately. I got 3-4 servings from this and all of it MUST be eaten right away before it melts. It had a maple caramel flavor and the coconut definitely complimented the flavor of the cooked bananas!

Happy Cooking, Melissa

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cucumber Vodka Martini with Olives

I had so many cucumbers in the house from not only my own garden but from a relatives that I juiced some of the cucumbers recently with my trusty Jack Lalaine Juicer and made this drink! A refreshing, interesting, and best ice cold experience!

Place ice in a tall shaker glass, 1 part Vodka, 2 parts Cucumber Juice, a couple drops of olive juice. Shake well and strain into an iced straight up stemmed glass and serve with olives.

There is something fun that can be done with almost anything out of my backyard garden!

Happy Cooking! Melissa

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Gazpacho with Shrimp and Dried Roma Tomato made in my NEW Vita-Mix I found in a Thrift Store for $35!!

The Roma Tomatoes are ripening quickly and it is that time of the summer when the heat index is over 80 degrees everyday and a cold soup it more than perfect!I started with a nice collection from my garden today!

I used about 5-6 cups roughly chopped tomatoes, 1 cup cucumber, 1 small green pepper, 1 mild chili pepper, chopped fresh parsley, 2 Tbs. Walnut or Olive Oil, 2 Tbsp. Vinegar, Salt, and Pepper. You can add any combination if veggies but use about 3X more tomatoes than any other veggie. I used regular white vinegar but I know people use Wine or Sherry Vinegar. Gazpacho is so great because you can use whatever you have around. 

I whizzed this tomato mix up in my deal of the century Vita-Mix that I bought at a Thrift Store for $35 the other day. This bad boy retails for about $500+ and came with the grain grinding bowl too! I can not believe my good fortune!  You can use a regular food processor or a regular blender too. The Vita-Mix has a super powerful motor and whizzed up the entire 6 cups of chopped veggies

It is best to let the soup chill over night because it actually improves with age! If you are in a super hurry and need to serve it right away you can place in a bowl of ice to chill quickly.

Pour into pretty bowl and float a couple shrimp and sun dried tomatoes. You can float crabmeat or lobster too with huge success. Serve with a great big Silver Spoon and Voila! Super delicious during hot weather. Kind of like a great liquid salad. Serve before the main course. Some people use very small serving bowls or cups!

I love taking things I just picked in my own backyard garden and turning them into something super healthy and delicious. Happy Cooking!

Kind Regards, Melissa Abbott

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Making Blueberry Cordial and Blackberry Brandy for Holiday Gifts

The start of my cordials and brandies 2012
I went to New Hampshire last week to visit my sister Shelley Laine. She lives in a delightful antique farmhouse. I brought her Lobsters from Gloucester and she brought me blueberry picking at a nearby field of cultivated blueberry bushes. We picked, literally gallons of blueberries. I am thrilled because I love them and make all kinds of muffins and pies with them all winter. 
Shelley on the right, me on the left
in fron of the blueberry bushes
My sister, Shelley showed me what she does with some of her blueberries, which is to make Blueberry Cordial. We sampled some of hers after a fantastic Lobster dinner in her antique dining room. She collects crystal and she served the blueberry cordial in a fantastic crystal decanter and really beautiful sweet tiny cordial glasses. It was like having desert on top iof dessert. I think the art of after dinner drinks is largely forgotten but I would like to see a resurrection soon!

While I was visiting Cape Cod, I visited a thrift store there and bought this etched decanter for $5 and the small glasses I found were 6 for $7. I plan on making a gift o this during the Christmas Season with one of my Cordials.

While I was away my husband found some really impressive blackberries and bought them for me so when I returned I decided to make both Blackberry Brandy and Blueberry Cordial for the Holiday Season. You mix the berries with brandy or vodka and shake them every once in a while and they are ready after two months. They must be kept in a dark cabinet. I look forward to doing another post once the cordials are finished but I wanted to show you how to start them now, because now is the time to start them.

Blueberry Cordial
Glass Quart Jar container
2 cups Vodka
1-2 cups Chopped Blueberries (I put them thru the food processor on a quick pulse)
1 cup Sugar

Mix together and shake every couple of days for 2 months, strain thru cheese cloth and then decant into a pretty decanter or glass container. Serve in small crystal glasses as an after dinner drink. You can also flavor a champagne or sparkling wine cocktail with a bit of the Blueberry Cordial.
This makes a fantastic Holiday Gift and now is the time to plan it when berries are in season. I know you can make it with frozen berries in a pinch but what could be better than your own hand picked Blueberry Cordial. I happen to know that the berries I picked in New Hampshire were Organic which is a nice thing too!

Blackberry Brandy
Glass Quart Jar container
2 cups of Brandy
1-2 cups of chopped blackberries (I put them thru the food processor on a quick pulse)
optional: You can add sugar to this if desired or you can wait and flavor to taste with a sugar syrup after the two months of shaking. Personally, I don't really like sugar in my brandy and enjoy the tart Blackberry taste without it. It is a matter of personal taste.

Mix together and shake every couple of days for two months, strain they a cheese cloth and then decant into a pretty glass container. Serve in Brandy Snifters. You can warm the Blackberry Brandy and serve it in the snifter warm. It is really a wonderful after dinner drink! The Warmed Blackberry Brandy is the perfect dark winter drink after a wonderful meal, best enjoyed in front of a roaring fire!

I pulled together a few jars of cordial and brandy and I am planning on a few more. I am going to try it with Raspberries too! I may even try my hand at Lemon Cello which you make with Lemons and Vodka. Hope this was inspiring for you! I know visiting my sister and imbibing some of her special Blueberry Cordial was such a treat, I was guided to come home and try it myself. Happy Concocting!

Kind Regards, Melissa Abbott

UPDATE: to read about the decanting process:

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Gloucester Panko Lobster Cakes with Tartar Sauce

When I got back from my trip to Cape Cod, my husband Charlie had shucked some lobster meat and wanted me to do something with it. I love a good crab cake and had the idea of doing a similar dish using Lobster and some Panko crumbs I had just waiting for me to invent something for them.

First I sautéed 1/2 onion finely chopped, 1/2 stick of celery finely chopped, and a small slice of green pepper from my garden finely chopped in a little olive oil and butter. I cooked this for about five minutes on a medium heat until translucent. When I was finished I transfered the cooked veggies to a bowl and added 1 Tbsp. Guldens mustard, chopped parsley from my garden, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and let cool.

I then crushed 1/2 sleeve of ritz crackers with my rolling pin in a plastic bag and added that to the veggie mixture.

I added about 1 lb of chopped lobster meat to the cooled cracker and veggie mixture and formed into patties in my palms.

I next coated the upon patties with an whipped 1 egg and 2 Tbsp heavy cream mixture and then coated with Panko crumbs. I don't have a photo of that because my hands were so sticky.

I cooked in olive oil in a hot cast iron pan for about 4 minutes each side or until golden brown

You can keep the lobster cakes warm for a few minutes on a plate in a 200 degree oven while you pull together the tartar sauce and rest of the meal.

I served my lobster cakes with freshly steamed green beans from my garden and a brown rice pilaf as well as a salad. The Tartar Sauce is a mixture of Cains Mayonnaise, relish, and pepper.

Gloucester Panko Lobster Cakes Ingredients List:

1lb fresh lobster meat
1/2 sleeve ritz crackers crushed
finely chopped 1/2 onion/1/2 stalk celery/slice pepper
olive oil and butter
salt, pepper, red pepper
Guldens Mustard
1 egg
2 Tbs Cream
Panko Bread Crumbs

Tartar Sauce:
1 c. Cains Mayonnaise
1/3 c. relish
pepper to taste

My husband loved the Lobster Cakes, they were crispy and light. They would make a wonderful sandwich too. We saved two of them to eat on a bun for lunch today with lettuce and tomato.

I think you could experiment with other sauces and even make the cakes a bit spicier. A wonderful Supper and something different to do with Lobster. Happy Cooking All! Thanks for Reading:)

Kind Regards, Melissa Smith Abbott