Friday, July 25, 2014

I'm still here...

Just checking in to say I'm still here but not here. We've been out of town a few times, including right now, and there has just not been time to post on this blog but I'll be back next week, Lord willing.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Fermenting the Harvest ... Corn Relish, Pickles and Curtido

There are a variety of ways you can preserve your harvest ... canning, freezing, dehydrating and, a more traditional but not as used method today: fermenting. A handy dandy guide that I appreciate a lot is a book called "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fermenting Foods" by Wardeh Harmon.


While I do not follow her recipes and methods exactly, I do use this book as a reference tool. It is an excellent place to start if you do not know much (or anything) about fermenting foods.

With that said, here is what I did today and yesterday.

Today I made corn relish, cucumber pickles, and an experiment of pickled green beans. These were just the green beans that were ready to pick RIGHT NOW in our 'city garden'. I'm not sure what's going on at the country garden (where our main green bean crop is) but our city garden only has a few pole bean plants and only a handful were ready today so I threw them in a pint jar with a garlic clove and a slice of onion, covered them with brine and they are good to go.

The corn relish I have never done before but it smells wonderful so far! Fresh corn picked yesterday, cilantro and jalapenos picked today, and onion and tomato ... from the store ... my tomatoes are not ready yet.

And the cucumbers ... yum. I picked those today along with fresh dill in the garden. The garlic and onions came from the store.

These are not the best pictures, but here they are ... also, these were both taken right after I put the food into the jars. This time tomorrow I suspect it will look a little different. Maybe I'll update with photos?

Fermented Corn Relish

Fermented Green Beans and Cucumbers
Curtido is such a tasty dish!! I have never made it fermented but it smelled SO GOOD yesterday while I was getting it all ready. Cabbage from a friend's garden, organic carrots from our bulk food order, cayenne peppers and oregano from our garden and onion from the store. The ratio of salt to produce is 3T/5lbs. In order to keep things simple, first shred and chop everything except the cabbage. Put it all in a bowl and weigh it ... subtract that from 5 pounds and weigh out the missing amount of cabbage. I used nearly 3 heads of cabbage, but it really just depends on how large/small and lose/tight the heads of cabbage are. The last thing to be shredded is the cabbage. I usually use a chef's knife to shred cabbage, however since I just got my kitchenaid I tried out the shredder attachment. I am pleased enough with the results to do it from here on out.

After all the vegetables are chopped or shredded and ready to go, sprinkle on the salt and mix well. I allow mine to sit for an hour or so to give the salt time to draw out the juices in the vegetables. This also gives me time to go help my old lady friend ;) In order to protect the vegetables from offending flies while I'm away, I put a rack over the bowl and cover all with a bread towel. You might have a lid that fits your bowl ... which would be convenient.

Come back later, stir well and pack tight into a glass gallon jar or other vessel good for fermenting. Weigh it down with a piece of plastic and a glass jar filled with water (or a heavy plate and rock if your vessel lacks a neck). Put the lid on, write the date on the jar with a sharpie (it will rub off), and allow to ferment on the counter till it is to your liking, but let it sit at least three days. Our ferments usually sit for a week or two or three, depending on the temperature in the house and what we are fermenting. It's really warm in our house right now so the whole process will be a bit quicker.

When done, store in a cool place (preferably a cellar) or in the fridge if no such place exists in your home.

Here are step-by-step photos of that process. Some were taken with flash and some without. My kitchen has terrible lighting it's hard to get nice photos!

The ingredients

Mince the oregano and cayenne; finely slice the onion

Shred the cabbage and carrots (not pictured!); add 3T salt

Mix well and top with a rack or other device to hold the towel

Cover and allow to sit an hour or two

Pack into a gallon glass jar or other vessel

Have ready a piece of plastic that will fit snug into the jar; I cut this lid to size

Layer the plastic lid (pack down tight), jar of water and anything else needed to fill up the space - I had to top off the lidded-jar with a mason jar ring for extra height. I like it to reach the gallon jar lid so it packs down. To prevent spoilage, be sure everything is well under the liquid!!!

Top all with jar lid and add the date
There you have it! Simple. I did this yesterday and it is already nice and bubbly ... about 24 hours later here is what it looks like (I used a flash yesterday; this is without the flash so it looks a little different but the colour is the same in reality):

~24 hours later - lots of bubbles forming
I'm anxious to try it!! We'll make pupusas again as soon as this is ready.

I made this recipe up based on how I like curtido to taste (it's not hard to do) however today when I was browsing through the book mentioned above I saw she had a recipe as well. It was somewhat different from mine, but I'm going off my personal tastes ... though I've never used cayenne in it before. We all like cayenne around here and we are so thankful our 4 cayenne plants are thriving. I'm not sure if 3 was enough?? I left the seeds in. I'm also wondering if I should have used more oregano? We'll see what happens and I'll try to remember to update this post with the results and any changes I might make in the future.

Do you ferment foods? If so, what are some of your favourites? Do you have a recipe to share?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Homemade Hummus

homemade hummus / homemade pita
I really like hummus :) so for today's 'tasty tuesday' I'm sharing how I make them. The word "hummus" is actually an Arabic word for "chickpeas" ... how appropriate, right?! I eat hummus just about any way they are to be eaten - as a dip, in a pita, as a spread, a side dish/condiment, and sometimes just by the spoonful. For a bit of trivia, visit this HUMMUS wiki page ... I thought it was very interesting and besides, it contains a few nice photos of various ways hummus can be served.

For those who cannot view the video below, here is the recipe in print:
Ingredient list:
3 1/2c chickpeas/garbanzo beans (rinse and drain)
1/4c tahini
1/4c fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/4c packed fresh parsley
1/8c braggs liquid aminos (or 1t salt)
1T extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic (crush or press)

Blend all in a vitamix or food processor till smooth.
Serve as a dip or sandwich/pita spread.
Feel free to change / add / or leave out various ingredients.
For example, add 1t cayenne, a little cumin, omit the parsley and stir in when done, etc.

This is a very healthy dish, easy to make and tastes great. Enjoy!! 

Friday, June 20, 2014

2014 Garden Update

Well, things are going along nicely for our little garden this year. I probably mentioned before that we were not going to have a country garden this year but instead do only what I think I can handle by myself ... and if someone helps, great! But if not, I can still take care of it alone. This has worked out wonderfully ... and usually I have some help too ;) Here are a few photos, more for my records than anything else!

Oh yes, and on a side note, Tylor did plant some corn and blue lake bush beans at the Sarcoxie Nursery ... so I guess we do have a little bit of a 'country garden' this year, though I am not sure how that's going. I'll try to get over there to take a photo soon, or see if someone else can.

We have no easy access to water at our garden because it is so far away from our house ... there is a road and the church in between the garden and our home. We've been filling up 5 gallon buckets and using the wheel barrel to transport the water, but those days are over now thanks to Corban's rig. He attached a spigot to this old barrel with the top cut off and then put the barrel on his lawn mower. This morning was our first time using it and we were so thankful for it :)
watering rig

cucs and zucchini

herbs - dill, cilantro and basil

jalapeno and cayenne peppers

sweet peppers of various kinds

pole beans

one of our potato beds

one of our tomato beds

Here is a photo looking from the garden to the church (The Church of Monett) ... those are our peach trees that are not producing fruit this year due to a late frost. We tried to save them but I guess our efforts did not work. Oh well! One of the apple trees in front has a lot of little apples on it though :)

Here I doctored up the above photo ... maybe we'll put it on the church website?

Have a great day!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Homemade Pasta using a Kitchenaid

For today's "tasty tuesday" I am excited to share that after years of thinking/debating, several hours of research and the encouragement of some brethren that know me very well, I have finally invested in a kitchenaid mixer and am VERY happy with it. I got a refurbished one - these are factory refurbished with a 6 month warranty for the same price as what used ones were going for on craigslist (though none in my area ... the closest being 5 hours away) ... delivered right to my door for free. Once I learned what a refurbished model was and read many reviews it was easy for me to choose that over a used one on craigslist. If you are curious, I purchased the mixer off "overstock.com". Just type in "refurbished kitchenaid".

I have made pasta several times now -- fettuccine and lasagna -- and am very pleased with the results. I watched several videos on how to make pasta and of course all the kitchenaid ones make it look so easy :) and it IS as long as the dough is the right texture.


My most favourite 'how-to' video though was from a man that used a hand-crank pasta roller (but the technique is the same regardless of hand or machine powered). I'm glad I ran in to him because he also has many fabulous recipes on his youtube page and I appreciate his style. And too, he's just plain fun to listen to and watch!!

Here is the 'how-to' video:


Brianna took a short video of me using the pasta attachment. She took this for our old-lady friend Christine who just loves to see what we are up to when not at her house :)
video


Here is a video of a recipe I made the other night ... very tasty!! This is the same guy as the 'how-to' video.


And last - a video of something I am going to try very soon (with as little cheese as possible) ... once again, the same guy. I think he's great! We enjoy trying to imitate his accent.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Cauliflower Pudding?

Yes, I was skeptical but I HAD to try it ... and I'm glad I did. When simmered till soft with vanilla, lemon zest and almond milk, cauliflower actually becomes a great base for dairy-free pudding. I found the recipe here but will put a copy of it below (the site has good photos though, so check it out). If you try it be sure to pay attention to the tips and cautions given.
Now I am going to experiment further and try to create my own flavours. Cauliflower is so good for you but it's just not something I eat an a regular basis. Maybe now I will? I have just never thought of using it as a cream sauce! I'm excited.

Ok, now for the recipe. I used honey for the sweetener and had to simmer the cauliflower about twice as long as suggested.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TIPS/CAUTIONS:
Make sure you weigh your cauliflower or, if you don't have a scale, only roughly chop the florets, measure and then cook.

If you do not have a powerful blender like a Blendtec or Vitamix, opt to finely grind your cauliflower before cooking so that it is easier to puree.

 Ingredients:

  • 3 cups (350 grams) of roughly chopped cauliflower
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • zest from 1 large lemon
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (NOT the bottled stuff)

Directions:

Add cauliflower, almond milk, sugar, extract and zest to a medium sized saucepan. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat, uncovered. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 5-7 minutes, until cauliflower is very soft. Remove from heat.

Add in lemon juice and pour into the bowl of your food processor or blender. Blend on high for 1 minute, or until very smooth. Pour into a clean bowl and allow to cool at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate overnight, for at least 18 hours. Refrigeration helps the bold lemon flavor subside and really transforms this pudding. Do not skip this step!

Substitution notes:

  • Feel free to use any type of non-dairy milk you have on hand. I like using unsweetened almond milk for my dessert recipes because it's naturally sweeter (and lower in fat and carbs) than other non-dairy milks.
  • Any type of sugar would work here. White, brown, coconut sugar...

Friday, June 6, 2014

Challah!

Brianna and I had a lot of fun today making challah (pronounced [khah-luh] like you are trying to clear your throat or something ...). We each did a 4 and 7 plait loaf and also a round one. Brianna took the extras and made a 5 plait loaf. Here are the before and after photos (no 'before' picture for the 5 plait); the recipe I used will be at the end.







Now for the recipe. This makes all that you see in the last picture above, so it's a rather large recipe. I got it FROM HERE and followed it pretty close for the first time. My changes: I used honey instead of sugar and palm shortening instead of oil. Also, I added an extra egg, used 4c whole wheat, and used more flour [which is normal in a bread recipe!] ... and next time I know to use even more flour. I let it rise twice before shaping. Oh yes, and I did not follow the Jewish law of saving back a piece as a burnt offering.

Tips will be included at the end.
Ingredients:
3 tablespoons active dry yeast
4 cups warm water
2 tablespoons salt
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
12 cups all-purpose flour
1 egg
3 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla sugar, or vanilla
extract
1/4 cup sesame seeds
Directions:
1. In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the water. Let stand for about 5 minutes to dissolve the yeast. Stir in the salt, sugar, oil and 4 eggs until well blended. Gradually mix in the flour. When the dough becomes too stiff to stir, turn it out onto a floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes. Place dough underneath the bowl to rise until double. Or, you can place the dough in the bowl, and cover with a towel.
2. Punch down the dough, and divide into 6 or 8 even pieces depending on what shape you want. Remember to take a small piece off and make a blessing (Jewish law). Roll the pieces into ropes. Braid into two loaves, or one really big 6 piece braid - but only if your oven is large enough. Or, you can make the spiral shape challahs out of each rope. Tuck the ends under, and place on a baking sheet to rise until your finger leaves a small dent when you gently poke the bread.
3. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Whisk together the remaining egg, water and vanilla sugar. Brush over the tops of the loaves. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the top.
4. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven, until the bread is deep golden brown. Wrap the small piece of dough that was blessed in aluminum foil, and burn in the oven as an offering while the other loaves are baking.

And now for my own tips ...

It helps to have a bit firmer dough, however if you get it too firm the end result will be heavy bread. Our dough was on the softer side, though JUST firm enough to work with. A firmer dough will also help the finished loaf to be higher instead of flatter. Next time I know to use a bit more flour.

This recipe is said to yield 6 loaves of challah bread or, as said in step number 2, two loaves or even one large loaf. I believe the large one would be much too large ... I'm not sure my oven would even hold the pan required to fit a loaf that large! Baking two loaves seems a lot more realistic, however I decided to break them down even further than that. If you'd like to control the size of your loaves a little better it would help to use loaf pans.

I weighed out my dough to what I thought would be a good size for the chosen plaiting and I am happy with the results. Obviously weighing the dough is not a requirement, however this is just how I like to do things to keep it all decently uniform.

Because this recipe is so large it might not bake as nice or uniformly in the oven (unless maybe you have a nice convection oven). We have access to two ovens and we still found it a challenge to get it all baked to our liking. We rotated the various pans a few times each during baking ... left to right and top to bottom. The gas oven cooked the bread quicker than the electric oven.

The baking stones worked nicer than the metal 'air bake' sheets. This does not surprise me but I thought I'd share anyway.