Friday, July 30, 2010

What Seafood to Eat and Avoid

Do you ever get confused by all the different kinds of seafood that is available (wild-caught, farmed, imported, etc.) and what and how much of it we should be eating? I came across this great reference guide for what types of fish you should/shouldn't buy in a book I'm currently reading. I found it helpful for some of the types of seafood I might buy less often. So I thought I'd share the link!

Seafood Watch Pocket Guide

Zucchini Lasagna

I've got a lot of zucchini coming in right now from the garden. Good thing we love the stuff! :) To use some up last night, I made a zucchini lasagna. I made this last year, too, but it never found its way to my blog. I wasn't going to post this one, either... because I forgot to take a picture and I'm already super behind on posts, but I figured I'd make a quick post about it. Just because it is so yummy! You can make it as healthy or bad for you as you want, I guess. I try to make it more healthy. And I usually make it without meat, but you could certainly put meat in yours. You could simply just replace the pasta noodles with thin slices of zucchini in your normal lasagna recipe and it'd be great! I'd like to try making this in the crockpot one of these days, but I've only ever baked it in the oven. Anyway, this is how I made mine last night:

Thin layer of sauce on the bottom of the casserole dish.
Layer of thinly sliced zucchini (these are your "noodles")
Layer of veggies... last night I used all fresh veggies... yellow bell pepper, cauliflower, mushrooms, corn cut off the cob, and green beans
Layer of cheese... last night I used some really good, local cottage cheese and some grated raw milk mozzarella
Layer of sauce... you can use your favorite jarred sauce, or homemade (I used my home-canned sauce)
Then repeat the layers again and top with lots of cheese.

Bake it in a 375 degree oven for an hour to an hour and a half. And enjoy!

Fruit Rolls

I have been on a fruit roll making spree this summer. Making fruit rolls is seriously so easy and they're quite good for you (unlike the store-bought fruit roll-ups). All you need is a blender or food processor, your fruit of choice, some optional sweetener or applesauce, a dehydrator or your oven, and fruit roll sheets or parchment paper. This makes a healthy snack for kids and adults alike. I've made several kinds so far this year... strawberry, strawberry-banana, strawberry yogurt (yes, you can dehydrate yogurt, too, and its delicious!), watermelon-apple, blueberry, blueberry-cherry. All of them have been delicious! They also store very well. Just cut them into adequate pieces and roll up. Then store in a glass jar or freeze them. And if you over-dry them, they make great fruit "chips." This happened to one of my trays of strawberry fruit rolls - it was a thinner layer than the other trays. I was pretty bummed at first, but then just broke them up into chips and tried them. Yum! Carson absolutely loves them as chips, too! Probably equally as much as he likes them as the soft, chewy fruit rolls.

Fruit Rolls

- fruit of your choice in a quantity of your choice
- optional sweetener if your fruit isn't already sweet enough... sugar will make them crisp, so you may want to avoid it... honey makes them sticky and pliable
- optional applesauce... if your fruit puree is really thin

Puree your fruit in a blender or food processor. Add sweetener to taste if you need it. I haven't added it to any of mine yet this year because I've been using fruit in peak season and its been plenty sweet already. Add applesauce if your puree is really thin/watery... especially if you're using fruit that has been frozen.

Pour the puree on fruit roll sheets (or dehydrator trays lined with parchment paper, or a cookie sheet if you're using the oven). Place in dehydrator and dehydrate at about 135 degrees until done. Depending on the fruits I used and the thickness, mine have taken anywhere from 6 to 9 hours. You could also dry them in the oven on your lowest heat setting.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

This week is going to be a strange week. Today we will be going to the farmers market and to lunch with some of my cousins again possibly. Tomorrow night I'll be going on a 10-mile bike ride with my friend, Mary. Tuesday we're doing another Zumba class. I think I will take Wednesday off of work to spend with Carson, but we'll see how busy it is first. Thursday is my gall bladder surgery. We have to be at the hospital at 6am and surgery is scheduled for 8am. Hopefully its not delayed too much. Assuming they can remove it laproscopically, it will be out-patient surgery, so I'll be home before dinner... maybe even by lunch time. Friday is recovery day and my cousin, Mandy, is having a jewelry party in the evening that I may go to if I feel up to it. I also have to pick up my CSA order... although I think my mom will probably go do that for me since it'll be too heavy for me to lift... I ordered 2 pounds of french filet green beans, 5 pounds of carrots, some english cucumbers, 5 pounds of redskin new potatoes, a trombonico squash, 6 heads of garlic, and some french tarragon. Saturday we'll be staying home and taking it easy so I can recover.

Oh and... tomorrow marks 3 weeks without a drop of pop! Woohoo!! :) That is huge for me!

So anyway, I am going to try to get as much done as possible early this week because I won't be doing much of anything for about a week after my surgery. It will be very difficult for me to just take it easy after surgery... I hate sitting still and there is just so much to do this time of year. But I know it is critical that I take it easy so as to avoid any complications with internal bleeding... which could then impede our vacation plans for our trip to Colorado in a few weeks. So I have to make myself take it easy.

Here's the plan... meals after surgery may change once I find out what my post-surgery diet is going to be like. I've been told it'll be fairly limited at first and will continue for a few weeks.

Sunday - farmers market, Eichelberg's farm stand, lunch with cousins?
(make italian lentil soup for lunches this week; bake and freeze zucchini bread; make and freeze zucchini pancakes; blanch and freeze corn and green beans; roast beets)
B: toast with yogurt cheese; fruit
L: out with cousins? or zucchini pancakes
D: grilled steaks; zucchini, kohlrabi and beet greens sauteed in butter; grilled corn on cob; LF pickles; fresh fruit

Monday - biking
B: zucchini bread with yogurt cheese
D: grilled chicken in bell pepper marinade; grilled zucchini; raw carrots and celery with garlic-chive yogurt cheese; LF pickles; fresh fruit

Tuesday - Zumba
(freeze zucchini; make basil-pine nut pesto and freeze; dehydrate basil from garden; freeze basil cubes)
B: scrambled eggs with veggies and cheese
D: leftovers

Wednesday -
(prep food for rest of week; roast more beets; freeze beans and peppers)
B: zucchini bread with yogurt cheese
D: crockpot quinoa and chicken beef tacos with stir-fried veggies for topping; cantaloupe

Thursday - surgery
(make whey and yogurt cheese; freeze zucchini chunks)
B: toast for Kevin and Carson
D: tbd... meal is being brought over vegetarian zucchini lasagna; fresh blueberries and honey rock melon

Friday - recovery; CSA pickup; jewelry party
(blanch and freeze carrots; make cherry chutney)
B: strawberry bread from freezer or fruit smoothies
D: tbd... meal is being brought over zucchini casserole; steamed beans and carrots; fresh blueberries and honey rock melon

Saturday - recovery; lunch with cousins; yard work
(make hashbrown potatoes to freeze?; dehydrate tarragon and garlic)
B: yogurt, granola, blueberries
L: some kind of soup in the crockpot... maybe split pea soup? lunch with cousins
D: grilled mahi mahi; steamed green beans, zucchini, and broccoli; blackberries

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

This is going to be a fun week. After my grandma passed away at the end of February, my extended family had all decided we wanted to take a family vacation this year. We tried for a couple of months to figure something out (cruise, Florida, Vegas), but it was almost impossible to find the time that worked for everyone with work schedules, personal things, etc. The only time that seemed to work well for everyone was this week. So we decided to just take a few days and all go to Cedar Point and Soak City. So that's what we're doing. It'll be a fun trip, although I think we'll be spending most of our time at Soak City based on the weather forecasts this week. :)

So anyway, most of early part of this week will be spent preparing for our trip and cleaning the house. Today we'll stop by the farmers market and we're meeting my cousins for lunch at Mongolian BBQ. I will probably do another bike ride on Monday night with my friend, Mary. And we might do a free Zumba class on Tuesday night. We'll see. I have a doctor's appointment on Tuesday afternoon, as well. Kevin may go mountain biking on Wednesday. Everything is kind of just up in the air. We leave early Thursday morning for Cedar Point. We're meeting up with everyone for breakfast at Big Boy in Ann Arbor on our way down. Then we'll be on our way! I'm a little concerned about the typical greasy park food and not being able to find much that I will be able to eat right now with my gall bladder issues. So, I'll be taking lots of snacks and food that I've made these last couple of weeks so that I don't have to worry too much about it. Although I have noticed that they've improved a lot in recent years with healthier food options in the park. But I'm still taking a good deal of my own stuff.

Sunday ~ farmers market; lunch with cousins
(make blueberry muffins; make cherry-blueberry fruit rolls; make hard-boiled eggs; yard and garden work; freeze zucchini; make packing list for CP trip; clean bedrooms, living room, dining room, and play room)
B: sourdough pancakes
L: lunch at Mongolian BBQ
D: chicken squash bake? or grilled chicken-zucchini-pepper-mushroom-tomato kebabs; fresh steamed green beans; plums

Monday ~ biking
(clean kitchen and bathroom)
B: toast with yogurt cheese; apples with peanut butter
D: pesto nicoise salad; plums and blueberries

Tuesday ~ doctor's appt.; Zumba?
(start packing suitcases; vacuum and dust entire house)
B: yogurt and kefir with granola and blueberries
D: braised broccoli with sun-dried tomatoes and yogurt cheese; soaked and steamed brown rice; cherries and blueberries

Wednesday ~ Kevin's mountain biking night
(finish packing suitcases; pack food; load car)
B: kefir smoothies with blueberries and cherries
D: misc. leftovers to clean out the fridge

Thursday - Saturday ~ America's Roller Coast - Cedar Point!!
Here's the food that I'm taking:
- mini loaf of whole wheat blueberry zucchini bread
- whole wheat blueberry muffins
- crunchy granola bars
- protein bars
- larabars
- dehydrated sweet potato chips
- fruit - bananas, apples, plums, cherries, blueberries
- fruit rolls
- crispy almonds and cashews
- lf pickles
- water kefir
- raw cheese
- sourdough crackers

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Lacto-Fermented/Pickled Cucumbers

I've made a total of six jars of these cucumber pickles now - some slices and some whole ones. They've all been delicious and we've already finished an entire quart and are well on our way through our second quart of them. I eat a few slices or a whole one each day, so does Carson and Kevin often does, too. So we're going through them pretty fast. They're so good, though! I planted my cucumbers late this year - they were the last thing I got planted this year. I did that on purpose so that mine would be ripening after the huge influx of cucumbers at the farmers market and I'm so glad I did now. I'll be able to extend my pickle making season! :)

Lacto-fermenting veggies is seriously so easy and virtually fool-proof. Everyone should try it! All you do is prep your veggies, fill your jars with whatever spices you like - in this case garlic, dill, and peppercorns - add the veggies, and pop the cap on loosely. Then let it sit on your kitchen counter for a couple of days and throw it in the fridge. For these cucumber pickles, I also added three raw grape leaves to each jar. I've read on several blogs and in Wild Fermentation that they help to keep the pickles crunchy. They seem to be working well because our cucumber pickles are still quite crunchy (and the ones soaked in ice water are even more crunchy than those that were not... see below for explanation).

In addition to being so simple to make, lacto-fermented veggies are really good for you. They give you a dose of beneficial bacteria, which everyone can use more of these days... especially if you have digestive issues... which most people seem to have nowadays. The lacto-fermentation process also increases the vitamins for which your body will absorb from the vegetables. And they're easier to digest than the raw versions. This all helps to keep you healthy.

In the midst of peak harvest season here in the midwest, cucumbers and other veggies are so widely available at the farmers markets and farm stands. So go on out and support your local farmer! Pick up some veggies and give lacto-fermentation a try! You've got nothing to lose and only your health to gain!

I'll update with a picture soon!

Pickled Cucumbers

Cucumbers, sliced, spears, or whole
sea salt
fresh dill heads
garlic cloves
freshly picked grape leaves (oak and cherry leaves are also supposed to work)

Wash your cucumbers well. Put some ice and water into a large bowl and submerge your cucumbers in the ice water. Put the bowl in your refrigerator for 3-8 hours. This is another trick to making crunchy cucumber pickles. It really does work. I did not do this on the first jar I made and we can definitely tell the difference in crunch between those first pickles and the rest of the pickles that have all been soaked in ice water. This is a trick I learned of from Wild Fermentation.

Remove the cucumbers from the ice water bath and slice into 1/4" slices, cut them into spears, or leave them whole. I've used both pickling cucumbers and regular cucumbers this year and both seem to work just as well... though I have always sliced the regular cucumbers. Some sources say you should peel the regular cucumbers because the peel can become bitter, but I haven't peeled them and haven't experienced them being bitter.

Wash your grape leaves. Prepare your brine. See my post on spicy carrot pickles for a little more info on what type of salt to use (not Celtic sea salt) and making the brine a proper strength. Also keep in mind that it is better to use more salt during the hot summer months and less salt during the cooler winter months.

Pack each jar with three grape leaves, a fresh dill head or two, 2-3 garlic cloves, a pinch of black peppercorns, and your cucumbers. Cover with brine and put the lid on the jar loosely. You do not want a tight seal.

Check your pickles every day and learn to look for signs of fermentation. The day after you make your pickles, open the jar and listen for popping, fizzing or hissing as you open the jar. Smell the contents and then taste a sip of the brine. Is it at all sour or fizzy or still just salty? Put the lid back on and let it sit out for another day. It usually takes 2-5 days for signs of fermentation to really show up. When your pickles are popping, fizzing or starting to taste sour, move them to the fridge.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Brined Wild Grape Leaves

I had thought Kevin destroyed all of our grape vines during all of the outdoor demo work we've done the last couple of years. But he missed one area of them. He hates them. I'm not crazy about the way they look and all the japanese beetles that they attract, but I am putting them to good use this summer. I have used them in my pickles and I decided it would be good to preserve plain grape leaves to use in making dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) in the future. So I found this method on Prodigal Gardens and knew this was what I was going to do. I made some on Friday and now have one jar sitting in my fridge. I plan to make another jar once more of the new leaves start growing.

Brined Wild Grape Leaves

Quart sized mason jar
3 dozen, fresh, large wild grape leaves
1 tablespoon sea salt
4 Tablespoons whey (or just add another Tablespoon of salt)
2 cups filtered water

Only harvest the young, tender grape leaves - the ones that are large and minty green in color. The dark-colored older leaves should be avoided - they are stringy, fibrous, and tough.

Place a dozen leaves in a stack, stems all together. Roll up the stack so as to obtain a tight compact roll and this should be put in a jar. You will have three rolls in your jar.

Mix your brine - the salt and water - until salt is dissolved. Pour the brine over your rolled grape leaves in the jar. Put the lid on the jar, but do not tighten completely. Leave the jars to lacto-ferment for 2 or 3 days. Look for signs of fermentation - popping, fizzing, bubbling, and for the brine to taste a little sour. Move the jars to the fridge. Let sit for at least a month before using. They will be good for about a year in the fridge, whenever you want to make dolmas.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

This week doesn't look too busy in terms of plans yet... mostly because we have a lot of to be determined plans. Today we're headed to Kevin's parents' church for the last time before they close their doors and find a new location. The whole family will be there, so it'll be great to get a little extra time in with everyone. We all had a great time with everyone yesterday and Carson is so excited to see Rebecca again this morning. We'll also be stopping by the farmers market on our way and we may head down to Kensington Metropark for the afternoon, since we didn't get to go last weekend.... although I think we'll save that for another day and maybe just take our bikes out to Fenton and ride a bit then go over to my aunt's house to swim. We'll see. Monday night, I'm going biking with a friend of mine. Tuesday, there is an outdoor concert in Grand Blanc with Jimmy Buffett inspired music, so I would like to go to that. Thursday is Kevin's mountain biking night. Friday, I'll be picking up a CSA order. I didn't order too much this week, mostly herbs so that I can dehydrate them over the weekend. I ordered flat-leaf parsley, french tarragon, sage, purple basil, and dill weed. I also ordered a half-gallon of apple cider and some flour. Like I said, it was a small order. I'm planning to pick up some good, local, sustainable, non-ultra-pasteurized cream while I'm out at Westwind Milling to pick up the order, too (so I can make ice cream!!). And some good, local, sustainable cottage cheese, which is supposed to be really good for my gall bladder. Friday and Saturday are also the dates of the Gaines Rodeo, so we'll go out there one of the nights, not sure which yet. Probably Friday night. Saturday we're thinking about heading up to Bay City for the Tall Ships Celebration. We'll just see how everything play out, though.

I have been on a lacto-fermenting spree. :) Last week, I ended up lacto-fermenting more cucumbers (yellow ones this time along with the green ones!), grape leaves, green beans, and water kefir. I'm going to try getting a rhythm going on the water kefir making... maybe a new batch every couple of days or so. We'll see. Today, I'll be starting a batch of sauerkraut and I want to also start some dairy kefir since I got some grains from my SIL yesterday - thanks, Mary! I didn't get a chance to start some veggies in the dehydrator last week, so I'll be working on that today. I've already put onions and garlic in the dehydrator this morning and I'll add some trays later after I've steamed the sweet potatoes and sliced them. I'm planning to make my own onion powder and garlic powder again and the sweet potato slices will be for snacks - they taste like potato chips, but way healthier for you! I want to get to work on some other snacks this week, too. All of which to take with us to Cedar Point next week. I'm going to make some homemade larabars (from the Healthy Snacks to Go Ebook). I also want to make another batch of crunchy granola bars and some more fruit rolls (I think we'll try blueberry peach this week). I may also make some beef jerky with the flank steak we have in the freezer... we'll see how much time I end up with this week. I want to make a couple batches of blueberry zucchini bread and get it in the freezer... I need to pick up some white whole wheat flour and some whole wheat pastry flour first, though (I ran out of both)... so I can modify the recipe to make it healthier. I might also make a blueberry buckle and freeze it to take with us, too... for breakfasts in the mornings while we're at CP.

I've been making some changes in my diet this past week. Last Sunday, I had one of the worst experiences of my life. I thought I was having a heart attack - all the symptoms were there, but it ended up being a severe gallstone attack from what the doctors can tell. I've done a lot of reading on the subject and they don't really know what causes the gallstones to form. There are just so many things that could cause them to form. Some of which are the bad, processed fats and pop. So I'm done with both. I haven't had a drink of pop since last Sunday before my attack (long before the attack, that's not what caused it). I'm glad something good is coming out of that experience, at least. :) I thought I would see a big drop in the number on the scale this week with all the changes I've made, but when I checked Friday, was quite disappointed to see it barely moving. Although, when I checked this morning, I was down 3 1/2 pounds from last Sunday. (UPDATE - Monday morning, I checked and was down a total of 5 pounds! The bloating is going down!) I'll take it. I've been so weak, I haven't been exercising this past week at all. But I'm finally feeling more like myself again, so I'm getting back into the exercising a bit more this week. Hopefully we'll see some big drops in the numbers on the scale soon!

So here's the plan... I decided to take lunch plans off most of the days b/c I never seem to stick with the plans for lunch... we just take misc. leftovers most days.

Sunday ~ farmers market; church; Kensington Metropark?; biking/lake?
(dehydrate onions and garlic; steam and prep sweet potatoes for dehydrating; make sauerkraut; freeze blueberries; make water kefir; make blueberry zucchini bread; clean out top shelf in upstairs pantry; make yogurt?)
B: banana bread from freezer
L: TBD... maybe out to eat?
D: TBD... depends on what we decide for our plans... if we're home... grilled burgers with smoked gouda cheese; steamed green beans; fresh cherries and blueberries

Monday ~ going biking
(soak oats all day; make baked oatmeal for week in evening)
B: banana carob smoothies
D: stuffed peppers; cherries and blueberries

Tuesday ~ GB outdoor concert
(make water kefir; make dairy kefir; clean out top shelf in upstairs pantry)
B: baked oatmeal
D: crockpot salsa chicken

Wednesday ~ Kevin's mountain biking night
(make blueberry buckle; make yogurt; make dairy kefir)
B: yogurt; berries; granola
D: grilled salmon; grilled zucchini and yellow squash; grilled pineapple slices

Thursday ~ Kevin's mountain biking night; Zumba class
(make larabars; make crunchy granola bars; make water kefir)
B: baked oatmeal
D: misc. leftovers

Friday ~ CSA pickup; Gaines rodeo?
(make whey and cream cheese)
B: smoothies
D: grilled, marinated pork tenderloin; steamed green beans; fermented cucumber pickles; fresh fruit

Saturday ~ Gaines rodeo? Bay City Tall Ships?
(make blueberry bread)
B: scrambled eggs with veggies and cheese
L: TBD... zucchini lasagna if we're home
D: TBD... possibly crockpot cream cheese chicken

Friday, July 9, 2010

Crockpot Corn and Spinach Enchiladas

I tried another recipe from A Year of Slow Cooking a few weeks back. I've had this recipe marked for ages, but just never got around to trying it. I can't believe it took me this long. These are great! We all really liked them a lot. This is a versatile recipe, too, you could add or subtract different ingredients to make it to your liking. I made it as is for the first try and it was delicious.

The pictures don't look the best, but it honestly was really good!

Crockpot Creamy Corn and Spinach Enchiladas

1 can creamed corn
1 cup shredded already-cooked meat (I used pork tenderloin)
1 cup baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro
2 Tablespoons chopped, sliced jalapenos (I skipped this since I didn't have any and just added a pinch of crushed red pepper)
1 1/2 cups shredded cheeses
1 can (28 oz) green enchilada sauce
2/3 cup sour cream
corn or flour tortillas (I used flour since that's what I had, but corn would be awesome, I think)
more shredded cheese for topping

I used a 4-quart crockpot for this and made this in layers. You could also fill each tortilla with the filling and later the rolled enchiladas in the bottom of a bigger crock.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the meat, corn, cilantro, spinach, peppers, and cheese. Mix well. This is your enchilada filling

In another bowl, combine the green enchilada sauce and sour cream.

Spray your pot with cooking spray or rub with butter. Layer tortillas with your filling in several layers and top it all with the sauce mixture. I think I had 4 layers of tortillas and 3 layers of filling - tortillas, filling, tortillas, filling, tortillas, filling, tortillas, sauce. I also sprinkled some shredded cheese on top.

Cover and cook on high for 2-4 hours, or on low for 5-7 hours. Let stand for 20 minutes with the lid off before cutting into it.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Meal plans and the week ahead

Happy Birthday, America!!!!!

This is another fun week for us. Today we're headed out to the lake to my Aunt Sharon's house for a family party. Kevin and I are both off tomorrow, so we're going to go down to Kensington Metropark for the day (as long as it doesn't rain). Thursday is Kevin's mountain biking night. Friday is my flex day. I think Carson and I are going to do story time at the library in the morning, then in the afternoon we'll do something else fun that I haven't figured out yet. Maybe we'll just go to one of the local playgrounds, or maybe we'll try and meet up with some friends at the beach or something. Saturday we'll be doing something with my in-laws. My BIL, SIL, and niece are coming to town for the day, so we'll be spending time with them, just haven't heard what the plans are yet.

This week I am going to focus on dehydrating. I want to try out some different veggie crisps to have as snacks... sweet potatoes, carrots, zucchini, and peas. I'm also going to be focusing on dehydrating for preserving the season's bounty. There is a guy down the road that has his own small greenhouse and is selling really awesome tasting tomatoes and peppers already. They're all sustainably grown, they're local, and they taste amazing! So I am going to be stopping by and picking up a good deal of tomatoes and peppers to dry this week. I'm also planning to do a little more lacto-fermenting... and hopefully I'll catch up on my posts from everything I've been making during the last month! I'm still so far behind!

Anyway, here's the plan...

Sunday - Happy Independence Day! Family party at the lake
B: sourdough pancakes with homemade syrup
L & D: family party... appetizers; hot dogs; brats; potato salad; macaroni salad; fruit salad; desserts

Monday - holiday from work; Kensington Metropark
B: scrambled eggs with local raw cheddar; sourdough toast
L: picnic lunch at Kensington... sandwiches; chewy granola bars from freezer; cucumber slices; carrot sticks; fresh grapes and watermelon
D: TBD... probably out to eat near Kensington Metropark grilled chicken breasts; steamed broccoli; corn; watermelon

Tuesday -
B: crunchy granola bars from freezer
L: misc.
D: mushroom 'n swiss burgers; steamed peas; cantaloupe; raspberries

Wednesday - Allen Street Market
B: banana blueberry zucchini bread from freezer
L: misc.
D: grilled kebabs with salmon, mushrooms, pineapple, onions, and peppers, and green zucchini; sauteed beet greens in butter with onions and garlic

Thursday - Kevin's mountain biking night
B: yogurt; granola; berries
D: TBD whole wheat pasta with broccoli, peas, beets, swiss chard, onions, and garlic (veggies sauteed in EVOO)

Friday - flex day; library story time; playdate with friends?; doctor's appointment
(make sauerkraut; make cucumber pickles; prep sweet potatoes, carrots, and beets for dehydrator; dehydrate sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, onions, garlic; make brined grape leaves; make chocomole)
B: toast with jam
L: misc.
D: pesto or california burgers; veggie crisps; fresh fruit fresh raspberries and blueberries

Saturday - family party with the in-laws
(make onion powder and garlic powder from dehydrated onions and garlic)
B: sourdough pancakes with fresh berries, bananas, and walnuts
L: misc.
D: with the in-laws... I'm brining roasted veggies (red potatoes, green and yellow zucchini, carrots, beets?, broccoli?)

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Minimal Knead Sourdough Sandwich Bread

I have made this recipe twice now and I think it will be my regular sourdough recipe. I do have a couple others I want to try, but they make a more typical, more crusty loaf. Which is great when that's what you want. But we like our normal bread to be of sandwich quality, too. So when I found this recipe over at Real Food For Less Money, I knew it was the sourdough I wanted to make.

This recipe makes light and fluffy loaves of bread, with only about 15-20 minutes hands-on time. Yes, there are long periods of rise time, but those are easy enough. I mix mine up in the evening, let it do its first rise while we're sleeping. Then punch it and shape it into loaves in the morning and let it sit all day for its second rise. Then I bake it and we're able to have a couple slices with dinner that night. Perfect!

This recipe is supposed to make three loaves. I have only made half the recipe posted below each time and have gotten two medium-sized loaves out of it. That's perfect for us. Maybe I'll do the whole recipe and freeze more someday.

Sourdough Sandwich Bread

2 cups starter
3 1/2 cups buttermilk, kefir or combination of the two (I've used buttermilk both times, but would like to try it with kefir sometime)
1 1/2 Tablespoons Sea Salt
1/3 cup Sucanat or other natural sweetener (I used sucanat the first time and honey the second... honey was our favorite)
3 Tablespoons melted butter
8 cups whole wheat flour

In a large bowl (I use my stand mixer), mix starter and buttermilk. Add salt, sweetener and butter. Mix well. Add flour 2 cups at a time. Once all the flour is in (switch to your dough hook if using a stand mixer) give the dough a quick knead for a couple of minutes. The dough will be quite sticky. Butter the top of the dough, flip it over and butter the other side. Cover with a cloth. Let set in a warm spot for 12-15 hours, it should rise quite a bit during this time.

Prepare three loaf pans by buttering generously. Punch down dough and divide into thirds. Take one piece at a time and work it in your hands. Push the bread into one of your buttered bread pans. Once you have squished the dough into the pan, flip it over. This will butter the dough. Repeat with each piece of dough. Cover your pans with a cloth and return to your warm spot allowing the bread a second rise. This could take 6-12 hours depending on your starter and the warmth in your home. On cold days, you can put the oven on to warm to a low temp. When it has preheated, turn it off and put the bread in there to rise. Just be careful removing the bread from the oven before baking and don't deflate it and don't forget that it's in there and accidentally turn the oven on to make something else.

To Bake: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Let bread bake at 425 for 15 minutes then turn down to 325. Continue baking for 35-45 minutes until the bread is done. If you turn the bread out and thump the bottom it should sound hollow when fully baked.

Navajo Tacos

I made these navajo tacos from Real Food For Less Money last week. I had bee looking for ways to use my sourdough starter and was intrigued by these. You use your starter for the fry bread, which serves as the shell. It is a puffy pastry-type bread that you place on your plate and then topped with the chili and any of your favorite toppings such as lettuce, shredded cheese, tomatoes salsa, sour cream, onions, etc. These are delicious! We all really loved them! And they weren't as complicated as I thought they might be at first. The prep actually went pretty quickly. I'll definitely make these again!

Navajo Tacos

The Chili
1/4 to 1 pound of ground beef
Coconut oil (if needed)
1 onion- diced
1 clove garlic-minced
2-3 cups of cooked pinto beans with juice (I just used some of my home-canned pintos)
1 can tomato paste
1/2 to 1 cup beef broth, or water
salt and pepper

In skillet, cook the beef and 1/2 of the onion. Reserve the other half for taco topping. When beef is done, add the garlic, beans, tomato paste and 1/2 cup broth. Let this mixture simmer for 30 minutes or so while you cook the fry bread adding additional broth as needed. You will want the chili to be on the saucy side. The fry bread will soak up the sauce.

Sourdough Fry Bread

Start early morning or the night before
1/2 cup sourdough starter
1 cup milk
3 Tablespoons kombucha, apple cider vinegar or whey (I used whey)
3 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

Mix all ingredients until combined. Cover with a cloth and let sit for 7-24 hours.

When ready to fry, stir in 1/4 teaspoon sea salt. The dough will be fairly sticky and should stir easily. Don't over work it, just get the salt blended in.

To fry, in a large skillet or pan, heat about an inch of coconut oil. While it is heating shape your dough into patties using flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking to your hands. When your oil is hot enough (a small piece of dough will sizzle), carefully put the patties in the oil to cook. Gently flip them over when they are brown on the bottom side. This usually takes 2 minutes or so. Cook until brown on second side. Put them on a cloth to drain while you finish cooking up the batch.

To Assemble, put the fry bread on your plate. Add a ladle of the chili. Top with lettuce, onions, tomatoes, cheese, salsa, sour cream or anything else that you enjoy on your tacos.

As a bonus, any leftover fry bread makes a sweet treat when drizzled with or dipped in honey. They reheat very good in the oven and fairly well in the skillet or a toaster.

Spicy Carrot Pickles

A couple of weeks ago, I tried out some more lacto-fermentation experiments. I have read about the spicy carrots from Real Food My Way on several blogs, so I decided to give them a try. I had some organic baby carrots in the fridge that I needed to use up, so it was perfect.

These carrots lived up to my expectations and were as delicious as all the other blogs had said they were! They are crunchy, salty, a bit sour, and spicy all in one bite! They are probably a little more spicy than I will make them in the future (will just use less crushed red pepper flakes), but they're still tolerable, even by Carson. I've been eating a few of these each day with my lunch. They're a good snack, too. Its hard to just eat a few! I will most definitely be making these regularly to keep a jar in my fridge at most times.

Preparing lacto-fermented veggies is so simple! Its much easier than pickling them in vinegar and canning them. I think I will be trying out all sorts of lacto-fermented veggies. I've done carrots and cucumbers (post to come) so far, an want to do beets next, I think. I've read a tip in Wild Fermentation to use up the pickle brine after your pickled veggies are gone. The brine can be used as a digestive tonic or in soup stock. The brine is full of Lactobacilli, which makes it great for digestion if you can sip it raw. If you can't (I can't), use it as a soup stock. Dilute it with water to your desired taste for the soup. You can also use it in place of vinegar in salad dressings.

Spicy Carrot Pickles

Glass jar with lid
Filtered water
Sea salt (not Celtic sea salt)
Jalapeno, or crushed red pepper flakes (I used red pepper flakes)

Use a glass jar with a tight fitting lid. A pint or quart sized mason jar with a metal or plastic lid is great, but an old pickle or mayonnaise jar works just as well. Wash the jar and lid with hot soapy water and rinse well.

For a pint (two cup) jar you will probably use 1 1/2 - 2 medium carrots, 1/2 an onion, 2 cloves of garlic and half of a jalapeno. You can use a hotter pepper like Serrano or Habanero (if you dare) or a milder pepper like an Anaheim, a Hungarian pepper or a pizza pepper. Be sure to adjust the "half a pepper" accordingly to the size and heat of the pepper you choose. You could also use a pinch of red pepper flakes instead of fresh peppers. I used a quart sized glass mason jar. I had some organic baby carrots to use up, so I used those and just sliced them all in half lengthwise. I didn't have a pepper, so I just used crushed red pepper flakes.

Wash the carrots, but don't peel them. Slice them into long ovals by slicing on a steep diagonal to about 1/4 inch thickness. Peel and slice the garlic cloves and slice the onion longitudinally (from pole to pole, not around the equator) into 1/2 inch slices or into chunks. Slice the jalapeno into rings. Layer the vegetables in the jar to within an inch of the threads.

To make the brine, I used the method described in Wild Fermentation. You can read Alyss' post (linked above) for her method of making brine. Brines are often expressed as a percentage of weight of the solution. When added to 1 quart of water, each Tablespoon of sea salt adds 1.8% brine. Low-salt pickles are around 3.5% brine. Normal pickles are around 5.4% brine, but they are quite salty. I used about 2 1/2 Tablespoons salt for a 4.5% brine.

Make sure you are using pure sea salt. Do not use Celtic or grey salt because it is too moist. Moist salt is sometimes known for carrying bacteria and mold that can ruin your ferments. If you want to use moist Celtic sea salt then you should bake it first until it is dry.

Once you have your brine made, pour it over the jar full of vegetables. The brine should cover the vegetables, but still be below the threads of the jar. Screw the lid on tight and set it on the counter to begin fermenting.

Check your pickles every day and learn to look for signs of fermentation. The day after you make your carrot pickles open the jar and listen for popping, fizzing or hissing as you open the jar. Smell the contents and then taste a sip of the brine. Is it at all sour or fizzy or still just salty? Put the lid back on and let it sit out for another day. It usually takes 2-5 days for signs of fermentation to really show up. When your pickles are popping, fizzing or starting to taste sour then move them to the fridge. Carrot pickles usually taste best after another two or three days in the fridge and will last for months without getting mushy or gross. The onion will start to get a little mushy after a month or so but whole garlic cloves are still virtually raw until at least a month in the brine.

This post is linked to Grain-Free Tuesday at Hella Delicious.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Freezing Asparagus

Last month I froze about 10 1/2 pounds of asparagus. I figured I'd do a quick post about it for future reference. I know this is rather simple, but I thought it might be useful at some point. Most veggies need to be blanched, but they vary in the length of time you should do so. This was the first time I'd frozen any asparagus. I don't know why I've never done it before. Especially when there is a farm stand down the road from us that sells home-grown sustainable asparagus for only $1 per pound. So I figured I'd try it this year. I know I'll definitely be freezing it in years to come, with the 25 crowns of asparagus I planted this year. I've read that each crown will produce at least 1/2 to 3/4 pound of asparagus... that's a lot of asparagus!

Freezing Asparagus

Wash the asparagus thoroughly and sort the spears into sizes by thickness. Break off woody ends. You may cut them into pieces or leave the spears whole. I cut mine into about 2-inch pieces.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl or in your sink with cold water and ice. Sometimes I'll just run cold water over the veggies in my over-the-sink strainer. Both ways seem to work equally well for me.

You will want to blanch your asparagus in batches depending on the thickness of the spears. Blanch small spears for 2 minutes, medium spears for 3 minutes, and large spears for 4 minutes. Once the time is up in the boiling water blanch, scoop out the asparagus and plunge them into your ice water bath to stop the cooking.

Drain the asparagus and place into a clean kitchen towel. Wrap up the towel to soak up most of the water. You can then either put the asparagus into freezer containers or freezer bags, or flash freeze on a cookie sheet. Once asparagus is flash-frozen, you can package into freezer containers or bags. Leave no head space. This is what I do with most of my veggies. That way the veggies are individually frozen and I can package them into gallon-size freezer bags. Then I can just remove what I need from the bag when I need it. I used to use smaller bags and freeze in serving sizes, but I've found using the big bags lends a much more organized freezer.