Everything INCLUDING the Kitchen Sink…

My adventures in the kitchen

Every Jar in the House… June 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Carey @ 8:18 pm
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Summer is here! The thermometer outside proclaims it, with a high of 90F forecast for today. The flowers proclaim it, with bursts of red, blue, yellow, pink and orange. The trees proclaim it, with boughs heavy with leaves and birds nests. And, most importantly, the local Farmer’s Market proclaims it!!

I’ve gone to the Farmer’s Market about once a month the entire winter, but the selection was minimal, and consisted mostly of winter veggies. This past weekend we went SHOPPING!! We came home with peaches, strawberries, blueberries, a dozen bunches of herbs, peonies, snapdragons, fruit pies, tomatoes, peppers, squashes, fabulous herb plants (both medicinal and edible) and fantastic Greek food.

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And what to do with this embarassment of riches? Canning, of course. Sunday was an all day fest of cooking and canning. The results included 17 quarts of fabulously rich, healthy vegetable and chicken broths and 7 pints of spicy relish. We also made 8 pints of citrus marmalade, 12 pints of strawberry-champagne-merlot jam, and 4 pints of champagne-ginger- honey-lemongrass-peach jam that will forever and always be my favorite jam. Too bad we just kinda threw it all together – I’d love to be able to duplicate the peach one!! I didn’t quite get the proportions right on the strawberry jam, so it’s more of a syrup, but I’ll have no problem at all using it as a topping on pancakes and waffles!

Veggies, on their way to Veggie broth!

Veggies, on their way to Veggie broth!

Strawberries and peaches marinating for jams...

Strawberries and peaches marinating for jams...

We had bought a case (that’s 12 each, for those who don’t can) of quart, half quart, half pint and 4 oz jars last week in anticipation of our Farmer’s Market haul. Our haul ended up being better than we’d anticipated, necessitating a grocery store run Sunday morning, at which time we availed ourselves of all the remaining 4 oz jars the store had, 3 more cases. At the end of the day, all that remained were 2 half quart jars. All the others are now filled with yummies.

We have decided that this year these will be the foundation of our gift giving. Next weeks batch will include a selection of sugar free jams for my dad (who is diabetic) for Father’s Day. And we’ll combine them with breads/biscotti for Christmas gifts this year.

Spicy Relish, waiting for the lids...

Spicy Relish, waiting for the lids...

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Strawberry jam...

I had gotten burned out on canning from my childhood, where we were known to can upwards of 100 quarts of tomatoes or applesauce at a time. Now that I can choose what and how much I can do at a time, I’m excited for the concoctions we’ll end up with by the end of the year. On the list to do are beans, soups, tomatoes (make the BEST spaghetti sauce), applesauce, pears/pear sauce, and whatever other miscellaneous things we pick up during the year!

A good days work!

A good days work!

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Summer Eating May 25, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Carey @ 11:31 pm

Both my daughter and I “lose” our appetites come warm weather. We eat tons of fruit, which doesn’t do much for balanced eating. This year we stumbled on what I think is going to be the mainstay of our summer diet – yogurt, flax seeds/meal, nuts and fruit. We started out with dried fruit, but we got some absolutely fabulous berries this week and my favorite is vanilla yogurt with blackberries and – now – granola.

The granola was a spur of the moment thing last night. I’ve been thinking for a while that I needed to try making some again since it’s been years. One thing I’ve discovered is that to get the nice crispy crunch I like in granola I have to have some oil. The beauty of making it your self is that you can modify the amount (and type) of oil and sugar/sweetening used, the main pitfalls of commercially available granola.

The other day Jess found a site where you can “make” your own granola, choosing from a pretty wide selection of grains, nuts, seeds, fruits and other additives (really, Heath bits in my granola??). And I thought about all the goodies in my pantry right now. And thus was born what will probably be the staple of our summer diet, because this will go with just about any fruit.

The beauty is that I finally found a ratio for oil/water that isn’t too bad and makes a nice crispy crunchy granola, so no matter how I digress from the original recipe, as long as I use those proportions it should turn out just fine! The proportions are 1 part oil, 1 part honey/applesauce, and 1 part juice. I used pineapple juice, pretty much because that was the only fruit juice I had. It gave a little tang to the granola. I think I’d probably recommend something a little less acidic though.

You can use about any combination of flaked grains, seeds and nuts that strikes your fancy. I’ve included the recipe with the mix that I used. I want to get some rye flakes and try it with those! I read an article that said you could pop amaranth, so I thought that would be tasty. However, it didn’t really pop very well. I added it anyway, and it works, more or less. It doesn’t stay in the granola bits too well though, so I’m going to have a bunch of amaranth when I get to the bottom of the bag of granola.

I also kept this “basic”, meaning I didn’t add any dried fruits or strong flavors with the intention that we could then customize our granola later with whatever fruit we had on hand.

“Plain” Granola

4 c. rolled oats
1/4 c. toasted flax seeds
1/4 c. amaranth or millet
1 c. walnut pieces
1 c. pecan pieces
1/2 c. unsweetened, shredded coconut
1/4 c. dark brown sugar
1/4 c. buckwheat flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cardamom
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves

2 tsps vanilla extract
1/2 c. oil (I splurged and used 2 TBS melted butter in this!)
1/2 c. fruit juice
1/2 c. honey, sorghum or molasses (remember that the darker the sweetener the darker the granola will be when done baking, so don’t panic if it’s really dark – if you used molasses! I used sorghum, and it came out quite dark).

Preheat oven to 375F.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

Mix the wet ingredients in a measuring cup. Pour over dry ingredients and mix it all together. Spread out on cookie sheets (I used 2) and bake for 40-45 minutes, stirring 2-3 times during baking so the edges don’t get burned. The granola still seemed a little bit on the wet side to me at the end of 45 minutes, but was really dark, so I took it out. Once it cooled it was plenty dry and crispy.

Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

I think we’ve used half of it already – it makes a great snack to just grab a handful too!

 

Variety is the Spices of Cooking May 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Carey @ 4:27 pm

Variety is the spice of life. Have you ever stopped and thought about that saying? We use it as a matter of course so often that I think it’s lost its punch.

No, that title isn’t a typo or misspelling! The other day I was making applesauce and trying to decide what spices to put in it, and that saying popped into my head, and all of a sudden I had a new association for it. If you could see my spice cupboard (and it is one ENTIRE cupboard), you’d understand. Here’s a list of what I can think of off the top of my head right now:

Allspice
Basil
Cumin
Coriander
Dill seed
Cardamom
Anise
Caraway Seeds
Cinnamon,
Cloves
Nutmeg
Chili powder, regular, Cayenne, Ancho and Chipotle
Fennel
Turmeric
Bay leaves
Lavender
Mace
Paprika, regular and smoked (and, a little digression, may I just say that Smoked Paprika is where it’s at! I will only buy this from now on. It’s like the difference between a Lamborghini and a Toyota Tercel on a curvy mountain road.)
Pepper, black, white, red, pink, whole and ground
Rosemary
Mustard
Sage
Thyme
Curry powder
Garam Masala
Ginger
Marjoram
Celery seed

Some of these exist in multiple forms, such as the cardamom, which comes whole, decorticated, and ground. Some of them I buy in bulk. Hence the use of an entire cupboard (ok, it’s the little one…). And these are what make cooking as much fun for me as anything else – how can I use them to make the same dish taste different? This time, the applesauce ended up with cardmom, cloves and curry powder (just a wee pinch of curry powder though!). I just had the applesauce on potato pancakes with plain Greek yogurt, now that was good!

So next time you’re at the store, pick up a spice you haven’t used before and see how you can change your cooking!

 

Flour and Flowers May 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Carey @ 7:57 pm

Last week I had a bout with the flu, and food was the farthest thing from interesting to me. Now it’s time to get back on track here…

I’ll start with the flowers. We moved into a house with a 1/3 of an unlandscaped acre. How much can 1/3 of an acre be anyway I thought. I mean, I grew up on 40 acres (yeah, that was a LOT of work!) Well let me tell you, it’s a LOT of flowers!!

One of the selling points of this house for us was that it was in an older neighborhood and had beautiful, mature trees. As it turns out, maybe a few too many. This has led to my biggest challenge in this project. I love color, and I love flowers. Do you know how many there are that are shade tolerant? I’ll save you the time of looking, because I’ve spent hours on this. The answer is not many!

Slowly but surely I’ve located some. In the past couple of days I’ve planted 5 lilacs, 40 astilbe, a jasmine, 15 monkey faces, 10 columbine, 2 wisteria and a bunch of hostas. Now comes the part where I suck – waiting for all the blooms! But in a couple of years, those along with the roses we planted in the little bit of sunny space we had are going to provide me with an abundance of flowers, both for my yard and my house!

One cool thing that I’ve discovered this week is these –
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Last year I was really irritated at all the remnants of artificial flowers I was finding all over the yard. Everywhere I worked I was picking the dadgum things up. Then they showed up again this year. I was really getting peeved! Then Jess said she didn’t think they were artificial, that they were real flower petals. Sure enough, one of the types of trees we have in our yard puts these blossoms on in the spring. The storms over the last few days finally knocked some whole ones down so I could get that picture. Now I’m not so peeved about those petals in my yard!

And on to flours. Jess and I have been talking recently about ways to ensure that as vegetarians we get the protein we need. Especially during the summer, we eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, so we need to make any protein that we eat count. It does help that we aren’t vegan, so we get a fairly good foundation from eggs, cheese and milk.

One of of our main sources is grain. Wheat and rice are easy – it’s in a myriad things that are common to most peoples tables. But a single source grain protein doesn’t provide all the amino acids and other elements that are a critical part of a healthy diet. Plus, I get tired of them after a while 🙂

The past couple of months of not working have given me a great chance to do some experimentation, and our favorite stores bulk section has provided some interesting material to work with. On my last visit I came home with a bag of buckwheat flour. We had made some buckwheat groats for hot cereal recently and it had a really strong, nutty kind of flavor, so I was a bit worried about it overwhelming other flavors.

My current fixation is with biscuits. Growing up we didn’t make biscuits, and for some reason I was always really scared of them. Somehow I’d gotten the idea that they were really difficult to make. I don’t think that anymore! I now consider it an “easy” breakfast to throw a batch together and into the oven.

My first experiment was for biscuits for breakfast a couple of days ago. Jess had brought home some gorgeous strawberries. Unfortunately, when I got up in the morning, one of them looked like it had been dipped in powdered sugar, it was so coated with mold. So we went from the original plan of fruit salad to “how do we use these up as quickly as possible?” The obvious answer was strawberry shortcake. What?? That isn’t breakfast?? Ok, well no, not the best one anyway. But no matter, I didn’t have any short cake or angel food cake around. Jess suggested that I make some kind of biscuits to go with it. So I made Sweet Rye Buttermilk biscuits.

Sweet Rye Buttermilk Biscuits

Sweet Rye Buttermilk Biscuits


The results were spectacular. Of the 7 biscuits, not one made it past that afternoon and Jess told me “not to lose that recipe”, which meant I had to go write it down before I forgot what I’d done!

My second experiment was yesterday, with biscuits again, but this time I didn’t add any sugar. I just substituted 1/3 of the all purpose flour with the buckwheat. Not only did they taste great, it didn’t seem to mess with the texture like whole wheat flour can. And it made for an interesting looking dish!
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It seems that substituting about 1/3 of the flour in the biscuit recipe works best if you’re going to replace it with a “specialty” flour. So here’s my basic biscuit recipe, with some notes about the substitutions and changes I’ve experimented with.

Basic Biscuits

3 TBS cold butter
1 1/2 c. flour (I’ve used: 1/2 c all purpose, 1/2 c. white whole wheat, 1/2 c. rye; 1 c all purpose, 1/2 c. buckwheat; for “traditional” biscuits, just use all purpose flour)

1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder (don’t scrape off)
2 TBS sugar (for sweet biscuits. I used raw sugar, and some of the crystals weren’t completely absorbed and it made for a wonderful texture. If you use raw sugar, increase the sugar to 2 1/2 TBS.)

1/2-1/3 c. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 425F.

Cut the butter into small pieces in bowl. Add the flour and use a potato masher (or your fingers, which is what I do!) and work the flour and butter together until it resembles coarse sand. For “buttery” biscuits, use a little more butter and leave some of the pieces a little larger in the flour.

Add the salt and baking powder and mix together.

Add buttermilk and stir. It should be a slightly sticky dough.

Pour out onto a lightly floured surface (flour your hands a bit too, otherwise it’s gonna stick to your hands like crazy!)

Knead 10-12 times until it’s a smooth dough (it will need a few more if you’re using whole grain or “specialty” flours)

Press or roll out to 3/4″ – 1″ thick. The thicker it is the taller your biscuits will be. Just don’t make them too tall or they won’t bake through! Cut out the biscuits and put into a cake pan or pie dish and snug them up to each other so that the edges are touching tightly.

Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Makes 8 biscuits (unless you make them a bit on the big side like I did!)

 

Puffy Pancakes April 12, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Carey @ 8:24 pm

My daughter had to work on Easter Sunday, but I figured we should do at least a little something special. She had brought home some gorgeous strawberries the day before, and I wanted something out of our ordinary, that I could incorporate them in. Lo and behold, in perfect, just-in-time fashion, my favorite recipe site had a recipe for an Puffy Apple Pancake.

It was really easy to adapt to use the strawberries, and was remarkably easy to make. I baked the pancake, then served it with sliced strawberries and nonfat Greek Vanilla yogurt. This one is going to get added to my “company’s coming” portfolio!

For a gorgeous presentation, fill the center with sliced strawberries and top with whip cream. But, it’s good left over too, so if you’re not going to use it all, don’t fill it so it won’t get soggy. Slice it and top individual slices after they’ve been moved to individual dishes.

If you’re using a harder fruit like apples, pears, peaches etc, you can bake them into the pancake. Other fruits like strawberries or bananas will be better reserved and served over the finished pancake.

Puffy Pancake

Fruit – 1 large or 2 medium apples, peaches, pears, nectarines, bananas OR figs, berries or bananas
1 TBS sugar or honey

1 TBS oil
1 TBS butter
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg or cardamom

1/4 self rising flour
1/2 c all purpose or whole wheat flour
3 eggs
3/4 c milk
1/8 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 450F

Put the oil, butter and spices in an oven proof skillet or pie plate (pie plate works perfectly well). If using apples, peaches etc, core/pit and slice the fruit, add it and the sugar/honey and put into the pie plate.

Put the pie plate in the oven and bake until the oil/butter is bubbly.

Meanwhile, mix the flour, eggs, milk and salt in a bowl. Small lumps are ok.

Remove the pie plate from the oven and pour the batter into the hot pie plate. Put back in the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the middle is set.

Remove from the oven and dust with powdered sugar. Slice and serve with maple syrup or vanilla yogurt.

Makes 6 servings

Puffy pancake, fresh out of the oven

Puffy pancake, fresh out of the oven

Ready to eat!

Ready to eat!

 

Blondes Just Might be Better….. April 10, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Carey @ 2:20 am

Yesterday, I teased my daughter and told her I was going to make Bacon Peanut Butter cookies. I told her I was joking, and thought that was the end of it. When she got home from work, she asked what kind of cookies I’d ended up making. Oops, none! So today I was trying to decided what kind of cookies to make. We really only had the ingredients for chocolate chip and/or oatmeal cookies, both of which we’ve had recently.

And then it hit me. I’ve seen recipes all over the place lately for blondies. What is a blondie, you might ask? Simply, it’s the white cousin of brownies. And I’m in love!! They are the perfect vehicle for any kind of add in you might want. In poking through the pantry I found dried cherries, white chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and toasted pecans. And the recipe turned out nice and cakey, just the way I like them.

And of course the recipe is horrendously unhealthy. I did what little I could to ameliorate that (my “word” of the evening – they used it in “Bones” tonight!). I used whole wheat pastry flour, and substituted date sugar for a 1/3 of the sugar called for. They were still plenty sweet and the change in flour didn’t seem to harm them at all. The date sugar I can get at either TJ’s or Home Economist, our local “health/bulk” food store.

Jess plans on taking one to work tomorrow and eating it in front of as many people as possible – how can you get a better review???

Blondies

1 3/4 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 heaping tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. cinnamon, ground
3/4 tsp. nutmeg, ground

1 1/2 sticks butter
1 c. dark brown sugar, packed
1/2 c. date sugar (or use 1 1/2 c. dark brown sugar)
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 c. chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, dried fruit, nuts, etc.

Line a 9×13 pan with wax paper or aluminum foil and oil (I used olive oil cooking spray).
Preheat oven to 350F.

Mix dry ingredients together in a small bowl.

Melt butter in a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. Add sugar, eggs and vanilla and mix. Add dry ingredients and chips etc. and mix just until combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread out to the edges evenly. Put on rack in the middle of the oven and bake for 25 minutes. The top should be shiny and cracked and golden brown. Remove pan and let blondies cool completely in the pan (yeah right!! I removed them as soon as I could without it all folding up into a gooey mess in the middle!). Use the edges of the wax paper/aluminum foil to lift the whole “bar” out onto a cutting board. Cut into desired sizes.

Hopefully there will be enough left in the morning for me to get a picture to post here…

 

Bite Size Protein April 7, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Carey @ 2:28 am

I have to apologize for my laxness lately with this blog. It has always been a mystery to me that the more you have to do the more you get done – it’s motivation thing that I have experienced more than once. When there isn’t much to do and lots of time to do it, why hurry??

The other night I didn’t feel like cooking so we opened up a couple of containers of Indian food. One was a dessert made from lentils, almonds, milk and saffron, in kind of a paste consistency. It was really good, but WAY to rich and sweet to eat much of it at one time. Jess suggested making some kind of candy from it, which took me back to a childhood memory.

Growing up in a family that didn’t use any refined sugars or oils, we had a fairly limited range of desserts. One of those was peanut butter balls – peanut butter and honey mixed up, rolled into a ball and then coated with sunflower seeds.

The paste from the Indian food was a little thin to roll into a ball, so I added some almond meal, and to cut the sweetness a bit, I added some cashew-macadamia butter. Then I rolled them in a mix of white and black sesame seeds and unsweetened coconut. The result was quite acceptable!!

You can use any nut butter, honey, sorghum, molasses or date sugar and roll them in whatever seeds/nuts that catch your fancy – or you have in the pantry!! There are no set measurements – add and mix until it tastes right – and you can form it into a ball!! Just be sure to refrigerate them for a couple of hours so they harden a bit.

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