Monday, February 28, 2011

Garden Journal {February 2011}

I can't believe the strawberries are already coming on.  I've already lost some of them to bugs, not sure what I'm going to do about that.  Really looking forward to my spring garden!! Harvesting loads of kale and parsnips right now.  Beans just coming up and did cucumber and zuchinni starters last week.  Hoping the snap peas will bud again soon and I have many pepper plants that I am hoping take off for their second year.

After the rain, I found about 8 volunteer tomato plants, so I can save my money there.  I did buy a pot of brandy wine's at the farmers market because they looked so lush and beautiful.  They were about 8 weeks old and I got 3 for $10, hard to pass up.  There is a new farmer's market in Gilbert right by my favorite restaurant, Liberty Market.  It is Saturday mornings, I got to make it over there one of these days.

Just loaded some podcasts on my ipod from Preparedness Radio.  They do a weekly show with Jim Kennard who speaks on the Mittleider Method, which has taught me a lot about gardening.  You can check it out at the Food for Everyone website.

I would really like to put together more gardening classes, there is so much interest.  I need topic ideas.  I am stuck at fertilizing and pruning.  Throw me some ideas if you have them.
links; Menu Plan Monday, Happy Homemaker Monday, Monday Mania

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Bonus Lesson

Great opportunity to get a peak at Jenny's format. By signing up for her newsletter you will get free access to a mini lesson about fermented ketchup, french fries, fresh whey, and ideas to get your kids to eat fermented foods. Enjoy.

Monday is the last day to register for the series at the price of $149, which is a savings of $50.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

College Student Cooking {Salads}

Dear Kate,

Your new salad spinner will soon be your best friend.  It is not just for crisping, washing, drying and storing lettuce.  Wash berries, grapes, green beans, snap peas and other produce by filling the bowl with water, letting the dirt settle and lifting the food easily out of the bowl.  My spinner get’s daily use. 

You can store your produce already washed right in the container, but I know that fridge space can be hard to come by.  To save greens in a more compact way, lay out a couple clean paper towels.  Place the clean and mostly dry lettuce in the center and roll like a sleeping bag.  Place the roll in a zip top bag and place it in the front area or door of the fridge.  You don’t want it to get too cold.  It will keep nicely for a week this way.

I know you love salad and need no convincing about it being a good thing to eat, but there is a little bit I would like to share in regards to dressing.  First off, vegetables need a good dose of fat with them in order for your body to be able to absorb many of the nutrients, so stay clear of the ever common “low fat” varieties.  Secondly, the fat needs to be a good fat, which is really hard to come by in anything not homemade.  Stay away from vegetables oils like corn, soy, safflower, cottonseed and canola.  These are cheap oils that wreck havoc on the system. Sorry to say that restaurants use them almost exclusively, like I said, they are cheap.

Vegetable oils are extracted through chemical solvents, bleaching, deodorizing and high heat resulting in rancid oils that can promotes inflammation. The problem with these oils is that they are unstable and quickly oxidize.  Oxidize fats damage tissue and cells in the body.

I suggest extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper for a really easy dressing.  If you want a little variety, add some mustard, garlic, herbs or spices.  You might even pick up some apple cider vinegar to have on hand.  A little sweetener is great for dressing bitter greens.  An egg yolk can make the dressing creamy and red pepper flakes for some heat.  It really doesn’t have to be complicated and most dressings will keep in the fridge for 2 weeks if you want to make up a small batch to have on hand.

Eating in for salads not only saves money, but is also enormously better for your health.
links; Simple Lives Thursday, Things I Love Thursday, Cooking Thursday, Pennywise Platter, Fightback Friday, Finer Things Friday, Frugal Friday, Foodie Friday, Fresh Bites Friday

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sourdough Waffles

I figured this one out many months ago and have been making it very regularly.  For some reason, I can’t get it to work well for pancakes, but these waffles are killer.  The sour is ever so slight and they cook up so crispy and tender.  Of coarse, a good waffle iron helps too.  These win over even the most intricate yeasted waffles that call for beating the egg whites separately and carefully folding them in.  Bah, this is too easy!

Even though I use expensive oil and sweetener, without the kefir, which I used to use to soak the batter, this recipe is cheaper too.  Besides, when you are working with sourdough, it starts to accumulate.  You have to keep feeding it twice a day for it to get really nice.  Sometimes I end up throwing out some so that there is room in the jar to feed it again. I hate waste and this recipe helps me to use the extra so I don't get a complex.  Typically, I feed 1 cup starter with 2 1/2 cups spelt flour and 2 cups water the night before.  Cover loosely and let set on the counter overnight. This is a wet starter.  You want the batter to be pretty thin, makes for really light waffles.

I serve my waffles with butter, whipped cream, berries and homemade jam.  Sometimes we go all out with this Carmel Banana Pecan Topping.  YUM.

Be sure to register now for Sourdough 101 this Wednesday, we are going to make my favorite pizza and discuss the ins and outs of baking with sourdough.  But if you must miss it, check out Jenny's online class on sourdough, another fermented food!

2 eggs
¼ cup coconut oil
¼ cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon salt
5 cups bubbly sourdough starter
2 teaspoons baking soda

Whip 2 eggs with oil, syrup, vanilla and salt.  Mix in starter.  Sprinkle baking soda over mixture and whip one more time.  Pour onto hot waffle iron.  Seriously, that’s it!

links; Menu Plan Monday, Monday Mania

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Homemade Yogurt

Everybody knows that yogurt is a deeply nourishing food.  Calcium rich with a probiotic punch, this health food populates the gut with friendly bacteria which benefits digestion the whole day through.  A good quality yogurt is inoculated with 5 live cultures, they will be listed on the ingredient label.  Also, yogurts made with whole milk verses skim or powdered milks are much more close to nature and will be used by the body far more effectively.  Another ingredient to be wary of is the sweetener used.  Often it is a low grade processed sweetener and lots of it.  Some yogurts are even sweetened artificially by aspartame.

Making yogurt at home makes good sense.  It takes only 2 ingredients; milk and starter and no fancy equipment just a few jars.  I use a countertop starter that cultures at room temperature, no warming to mess with! Ending up with a superior product for less money makes yogurt making a good skill to acquire.

Jenny at Nourished Kitchen is offering an entire ecourse on cultured foods, but if 13 classes is biting off more than you can chew, Jenny also offers a per class option.

March 4th is the class themed; Fermented & Cultured Dairy (I): Yogurt.  This class includes 4 video tutorials, print tutorials, frequently asked questions sheets, 9 recipes and a recorded conference call to ask your own questions for $20. Check it out here.

In my experience, seeing a new technique from start to finish is the best way to gain the confidence to do it on your own.

If you really want to dive in, use the coupon code SOURPICKLES for $20 off the entire ecourse enrollment.  This includes lifetime access, which I have found to be a huge benefit as I go back and relearn new methods.  But hurry, this is the only coupon code that will be offered online and it expires on Saturday, February 19.
links; Fightback Friday, Frugal Friday, Simple Lives Thursday, Things I Love Thursday, Cooking Thursday, Finer Things Friday, Foodie Friday, Recipe Swap

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I've Sprouted

Sprouting was on my list of “to do’s” for many years before I actually dove in.  Like any other new technique, once you go through the process yourself, it becomes a lot less complicated.  I did have my share of bumps, I thought I would share here incase you are facing any of them at the present.

1) My seeds fall through the sprout trays.  I bought a sprouting kit off of Amazon when I first got started.  The seeds in the kit were too small for the sprouting trays.  I thought I had to be doing something wrong…why in the world would they package these seeds with this tray?  I put aside the tray and started using mason jars with mesh screens.  Problem solved.

2) The sprouts get stinky after only a day or two with regular rinsing.  I only had this problem with one packet in my starter kit.  My guess is that it was the type of seed I was sprouting.  I have since bought many other seeds and have never had this problem again.

3) I would completely forget about the jar of sprouts I had going in the cupboard and would find them days later with mold.  I started keeping all my sprouted items in the sink or right beside the sink so I can’t forget.

I made it through the bumps and came out on top!  Now sprouting is a breeze and hardly takes any thought…rinse, drain, repeat.

My favorite sprouting application is for flour.  Check out my post here and many recipes.  My friend, The Enlightened Homemaker, also has some great tips that she posted recently and don't forget tomorrow night's Sprouting 101 class.
links; Hearth and Soup Hop, Tuesday Twister, Tempt My Tummy, Tasty Tuesday, Works For Me Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Sourdough Chocolate Cupcakes

At last, finding my knack with sourdough!  Most of the time I have felt I have had to sacrifice flavor for the health of sourdough.  I am coming out of it though and these completely divine cupcakes gave me a huge boost!  Perfect for valentine's day. I am hoping to transform these cupcakes into an awesome layer cake for my sister's birthday.

I haven't baked a lot of cakes in my day, luckily my family just goes for anything sweet.  I did a great lemon cake a few years back, but couldn't replicate it.  Most of the time I stick to banana cake (banana bread with frosting) and carrot cake for birthday's because they are familiar.

Kate is spending her birthday with me and our dad and brother will be here too with some golfing buddies.  I just don't think they will go for the "healthy cakes."  {Evil cackle} Because this cake is healthy too and they won't even know it.  Except for Kate, because she can handle the truth.

1 cup freshly fed sourdough starter
1 cup raw milk
2 cups spelt flour
1 1/2 cups coconut sugar
1 cup coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla
½ teaspoon almond extract (optional, may sub another flavoring of choice)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 eggs

Mix starter, milk and flour.  Cover and let rest at room temperature for 8 hours.  Don’t worry if it doesn’t get really bubbly. Cream together sugar, oil, vanilla, almond extract, cinnamon, salt baking soda and cocoa powder until mostly smooth and shiny.  Add eggs and mix well.  Pour in half of sourdough mixture and pulse 3 times.  Scrape out remaining mixture and pulse until thoroughly mixed but do not whip vigorously.  The texture is spongy like marshmallow cream.  Ladle into lined muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Let cool for 5 minutes and remove from pan to cool completely.  Top with chocolate ganache.

Chocolate Ganache

1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces dark chocolate
1 teaspoon vanilla or other flavoring (mint would be really good)

Melt chocolate with cream, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat, add vanilla.  Let cool 20 minutes.  Spread on tops of cooled cupcakes.  The ganache will set up more in the next hour.
links; Things I Love Thursday, Fightback Friday, Finer Things Friday

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Get Cultured

Last summer there was a 3 week period when the cucumbers peaked and I was harvesting them by the dozen.  We eat a lot of cucumbers on a daily basis, just ask The Backyard Farmer! When we had more than what we could eat, I tried to naturally pickle them.  I’m not sure if I did everything right in the process though.  They tasted okay and I ate them, but they were not delicious.  My kids didn't like them and since I didn’t know if they were properly done, didn’t force it for fear they would make them sick.

I would love to be more confident at lacto fermenting foods.  I started yogurt 7 years ago, dairy kefir 4 years ago and water kefir 6 months ago.  It is time to really dive in and quicken my pace!  When I got this email from Real Food Media about Nourished Kitchen’s new ecourse, I was giddy.  This is Nourished Kitchen’s author, Jenny’s, third ecourse.  I speak from experience when I say, she does the best job!

I love doing simple classes to get people in my area started on their journey to real food and traditional preparations. Jenny is able to reach the world with her technology skills and she covers each topic all the way through with video’s and print material.  She uses principles taught in Nourishing Traditions and keeps things simple with plenty of room for your own variation.

Take a look at this promotional video;

Go here for more details and to register.  If you know you want to get in on this class, don’t delay.  Coupon code “SOURPICKLES”  is good for $20 off and expires February, 19.

Enter to win this ecourse free from these real food sites:
Kitchen Stewardship
Kelly the Kitchen Kop

Monday, February 7, 2011

Green Chili Beans

Beans are an excellent means in keeping your real food budget down.  They are super nutritious and add bulk to any meal.  There are two key items to note when making beans a regular part of your diet; soaking and fresh dried.

Soaking is imperative to proper bean digestion.  Gut issues are so prevalent that many steer clear of beans entirely.  While soaking will not alleviate all problems associated with an unhealthy gut, it is one piece to the puzzle.  Once you get into the habit to think ahead, it becomes a very simple thing to do.  To learn more about soaking, be sure to register for my class this Wednesday.

 We started using a lot more beans since finding a source for fresh dried beans.  The beans in grocery stores have been stored for a number of years before packaging, then stored some more before making it to the shelf on the grocery store. Fresh dried are from the most recent growing season resulting in a very noticeably superior product.  They cook up so plump and tender every time.

This is one of my favorite bean recipes.  I can the green chili sauce and chicken stock, actually I can beans too, but not enough to keep up with our needs!  The green chili sauce is such a staple, if you don’t can, freeze it in containers and keep it on hand.  It has such great flavor and many yummy applications.  The sauce is pretty easy to make, but making a large batch once and having it stored it really the way to go.

3 cup fresh dried pinto beans, soaked overnight

Strain beans from soaking liquid.  Rinse well.  Add to pot with stock and sauce.  Simmer for 1 hour or pressure cook on high for 20 minutes, natural release.
links; Monday Mania, Hearth and Soul Hop, Menu Plan Monday, Happy Homemaker Monday, Frugal Friday

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Freshly Fed

I have been working more and more with my sourdough, a lot of trial and error.  When I find something that really works I am ecstatic.  I am up to three recipes now that earn the Taste is Trump stamp of approval.  The stuff really baffles me.  I am more of a cook than a baker.  I like to just throw in what suits my fancy without dirtying any measuring cups.  This often presents a problem in baking.

A long time ago I began working on making whole grain sandwich bread with sourdough starter.  I have nearly given up.  The only success I have had is when I use half white flour in the dough.  Otherwise it is too sour, dense and crumbly.  I have been following Kitchen Stewardships series on whole grain bread baking and am eagerly waiting for sourdough to show up.

In the mean time I have this recipe on my to-do list.  Anyone want to join me in trying it out.  The method is different than any I have tried, so that is promising.

So I have my pizza recipe, which turns out every time.  Thanks, no doubt, to the white flour.  I also have an awesome sourdough waffle recipe that I will be posting in a couple weeks to pump you up for my sourdough class.  I have made this recipe every week for months now because it is the best!  I don't know why I haven't posted it yet. Also, stay tuned next week for an amazing sourdough cake recipe that I am making for Kate’s birthday.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Enjoying the Fruits

As we all enjoy this freezing weather, I enjoy the home canned goodness of my summer canning spree.  Read all about it over at Finding My Niche.  Author, Kami L., has attended my classes and has embraced whole foods within the last year.  She is so inspiring as she shares her journey on her new blog.  If you want to enjoy the fruits of your labors, there is still time to register for my home canning class this Thursday at 7:30 pm.
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