A documentation of my preservation and preparation of local foods as I work through the seasons. This will serve as a reference tool for me in the future and as a sharing guide for family and friends...and anyone else interested. Hopefully, I can offer some useful methods, tips and recipes to share with everyone--be they novice or pro--and encourage them to join me in the exciting world of preserving and cooking with local foods.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Banana Chips

Whenever you see those grocery carts with bags of bananas that are starting to turn dark, grab them!  They're usually less than .50/pound--sometimes free.  Just don't get the black ones, they're too soft.  Anyways, get out your food slicer, slice them 1/4" or less and throw them on your dehydrator trays.  Dehydrate at 135 degrees for 6-12 hours.  They should be caramelly colored and a bit chewy.  It's okay that they're not real dry because the natural sugar in them will preserve them.  I like to dry them until they start getting a little crispy.  
The banana chips you buy at stores and co-ops don't even come close to home-dried banana chips in flavor and texture.  These actually taste like bananas, only much sweeter.  They great in or on cereals and yoghurt, or even for snacking.  You can also cut them up for breads or muffins.  They keep forever too.  Once I have a supply of these on hand, I rarely run to the store for fresh bananas--these are just too good and they don't turn soft!
For the banana lover in you!

Couscous and/or Lentils with Fresh Produce

This is a great time of year to combine fresh produce with grains.  The dishes you can make are quick, easy and filling, but light.  Here is what we had for supper (and we loved it!)  I've included the recipe.  Any meat, grain or veggies can be substituted for what I've used.
Lamb, peas, green onions, garlic, mushrooms and tomatoes
over couscous and lentils with a dollop of yoghurt on top

Veggie stir fry over grains
In small amount of oil or butter (or both) stir fry any combination of fresh veggies.  I used mushrooms, garlic, onion, green pepper.  When veggies are getting tender, add small amount of broth (1/4" in pan), cooked meat pieces and, if desired, fresh peas (or asparagus, chard...).  Cover and let cook 5-10 minutes.  Meanwhile, bring any broth to boil (I used lamb broth here) using twice the amount of broth for the grain you will use.  Each cup of grain makes two servings.  So, for example, if you are making four servings; use four cups broth and 2 cups of couscous or lentils (or half of each).  When the broth comes to a boil, remove from heat and add grain(s).  Cover and let sit 10-15 minutes.  Place bed of grain on plate, then stir fry mixture and top with yoghurt (or sour cream or feta cheese) and fresh tomatoes and fresh parsley or basil. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Berries Galore!

I ordered four flats of organic strawberries, sight unseen, over the phone from Joe Schwen of Heart Beet Farm.  While I knew Joe's berries would be of good quality;  I really wasn't sure just how many berries are in four flats.  Well, now I know--this is one flat:
This times four--I have lots of strawberries to process!
I needed a new plan.  (If I processed them as I usually would, i'd be hulling for two days and have a house filled with fruit flies.)  Besides, strawberries are the only fruit that doesn't ripen after picked--they will turn color and soften, but their flavor will not improve. (always select them already ripe).  Here is the five-part plan I came up with:

Part A:  Select largest, juiciest-looking berries for eating
For best keeping in fridge, do not wash until ready to use.

Part B:  Select large, red ones for freezing
We use these for smoothies, health drinks, margaritas and fruit soup.
You can also use them to make jam/sauce during the Winter.
To freeze, just wash and drain, put on cookie sheet as above and freeze.  After frozen, transfer to freezer bag or storage container.  Thaw in the fridge.  The little gadget in pic front is a strawberry huller--comes in handy.

Part C:   Slice enough berries to fill 8 dehydrator trays (using mandolin)
I use dried fruit for making granola--yummy! 
Using my mandolin made uniformly-thick slices in a fraction of the time as using a knife. I put the mandolin on the widest opening (1/4") and two swipes for the med-sized berries, one swipe for the small ones. Don't worry about how much berry is left on the stem (1/4-1/3 berry); it's not going to waste. My mandolin is a Bron; and I don't know what I'd do without it. It's a bit pricey, but definately worth it if you do a lot of food processing and/or slicing. Also consider getting a pair of cut-resistent gloves and you're ready!

Part DCanned Strawberries using honey
We love a large spoonful of these over our morning yogurt.
For canned strawberries, slice berries as above (using mandolin and saving stem ends).  For each 3-4 cups of berry slices, use 1/2 cup honey.  Put berries and honey in cooking pot and let sit two hours.  Then, heat to boil and cook gently for five minutes (if you skip this, the fruit will float to the top of the jar).  Put berries into hot half-pint or pint jars, add lids and screw bands.  Put jars on rack in pan of hot water with enough water to cover jars by 2".  Bring water to boil, cover pot and boil for ten minutes.  Remove jars from pot and cool.

Part E:  Now, about those stem ends....   Sauce Master to the rescue!
I ran the stem ends with berry on through my sauce master.  I used the salsa screen so I would get small pieces and not puree.  This did allow for a few leaf pieces to sneak through, but they could be easily picked out (or ignored).   With the fruit pulp and juice, I made:
Strawberry Sauce
Use in, or on, cake, muffins, ice cream, biscuits...
I made the sauce by adding honey or sugar to some of the fruit pulp/juice (use any amount to taste or refer to guide in cookbook, or do same ratio as for preserves).  Process pints and half pints in boiling water bath 10 minutes.

Strawberry Jam
Make strawberry jam using instructions that comes with Certo pectin which you'll need to buy in order to make jam or jelly.  You'll need one pouch of pectin for 8 pints of jam and 2 pouches for 8 pints jelly.

Hot Pepper Strawberry Jelly
This makes an delicious appetiser spread over cream cheese and served with crackers.  It's also good on corn bread or in meat/fowl marinades.
To make the strawberry pepper jelly, I used the hot pepper jelly recipe on the inside instructions of the Certo package and substituted half strawberry pulp for the chopped peppers (plus adding some hot chilis of my own).

And a bonus:

Pure Strawberry Juice--almost a quart.  
By pulling out mostly fruit pulp for the strawberry sauce and jam, I ended up with extra juice.  We'll either have it for breakfast juice or, hmmm--maybe  strawberry ice tea...


Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Mom Brag

Daughter, Abby Randall, began her cooking career at age 15 working in my coffeehouse restaurant.  In 2009, she graduated from the advanced studies program at the Culinary Institute of New York with a ProChef certification.  She is currently teaching, cooking and catering in Minneapolis, MN.
I'm so proud!!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Child Garden

From author Richard Louv (Last Child in the Woods):
In nature, a child finds freedom, fantasy, and privacy: a place distant from the adult world, a separate peace.
The disconnect between children and the natural world may be one of the most radical and least healthy developments in recent history. 

It's not too late to let your child(ren) start their own little garden patch.  Learning to grow their own food will give them rewards they'll reap for a lifetime.  The pride they have for their own garden shows in their excitement at seeing the first of their plantings peek through the soil.  I've heard many a gardener say they detested pulling weeds in their parents' gardens, but their own little garden was dutifully kept weed free!
There's a meaningful experience for the child with their own garden:  sowing the seeds, the seasons, insects--ally and pest, soil care and watering, ripening and harvest and finally, the pleasure and freedom of putting together a meal or dish with food from their own garden.
At the very least, take them to the farmer's markets and let them select, prepare and present the food. 
There's hardly a more important life lesson than a child's understanding of the connection:  from the earth to their supper plate.
Up close, children seem transfixed by the beauty of nature--
Grandniece Aubrey McCaleb picking Grandma's raspberries.

Grandnephew Erik Chung picking peaches at an orchard.

New!! Perpetual Spinach

Another new produce variety from Easy Yoke Farm (Dan and Hanna Miller).  Looked kind of like kale or chard, but no, it was a new variety of spinach--perpetual spinach.  A quick browse on the web and I had an idea of how I wanted to fix it--braised spinach with a poached egg on top.  Using local spinach guaranteed it would be fresh and flavorful.  It was so much more--it was mouthwatering! and simple.   This will definately be a regular on our summer menu.  Thanks Hanna and Dan for a new, healthy treat!
  Here's the dish and the recipe--
Spinach never tasted so good!
Perpetual Spinach
8-10 stalks of spinach per person (it shrinks)
fat, butter or oil  (bacon fat is best, butter is my second choice)
small amount of broth or boullion  (<1/4" high in pan bottom)
salt and pepper to taste
poached egg
--put enough fat or oil in pan to coat bottom and heat to light sizzle.  Dice spinach stalk and chop leaves in narrow strips.  Add to pan and cook a few minutes over medium heat until pan bottom is getting dry.  Add small amount broth or boullion (I used juice from my home-canned mushrooms) so liquid is less  than 1/4" in pan bottom.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper (little or no salt if you're using boullion).  Turn heat to med-low, put cover on pan and let cook 15 to 20 min.  Make sure liquid doesn't evaporate--just add a bit more if it does.  Meanwhile, poach (or fry) egg(s).  Arrange spinach on plate and top with the egg.


Lucious Strawberries from Heart Beet Farm!

There's no comparison between shipped-in and local market strawberries. With far less handling, shipping and storage; local berries are fresher, juicier and sooo much sweeter! We got ours this year from Joe and Becca Schwen of Heart Beet Farm.  They're at Rochester's farmers market on Saturday mornings.  We especially love their berries because they're organic and each pint has a mix of four different varieties of strawberries.  Their newest variety in the mix is Winona, developed at Winona State University--totally local!!

Hubby and I spoil ourselves during their fresh season with strawberries on and in practically everything (cereals, pancakes, yoghurt, muffins, breads, salads, sauces) and often enjoy a dessert of fresh strawberries and cream. mmmm!

We always buy extra to freeze. There's nothing easier--just place fresh strawberries in single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze; then transfer to freezer containers or zip loc bags. We use frozen strawberries in smoothies, breakfast drinks, homemade ice cream, yoghurt, dessert sauces, muffins, and, for the norwegian in you, frukt suppe (fruit soup). Frozen berries can also be used to make jams or jellies during the Winter for gifts; or just to put off jam-making for a less busier, cooler time.

My favorite strawberry picture--
Sister, Judy Stevens, as a young girl eating Grandpa's strawberries

My dessert of the month for June is "Strawberry Torte(s)" --to die for!!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Strawberry Torte(s)--June Dessert of the Month

This is the most scrumptous strawberry dessert I have ever tasted.  It's a bit putsy, but it draws raves from guests I serve it to.  If you like strawberry desserts, you'll be delighted!  Just be sure you plan to make it ahead, as it needs to chill in the fridge at least two hours before serving.  Also, chill a bowl ahead of time for whipping mixture.

Strawberry Torte          Preheat oven to 450
Put bowl in fridge to chill for filling.

For Crust: 
2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup lard (or 2/3 cup plus 2 TB shortening)
4-5+ TB cold water
-Stir together flour and salt; add lard and chop in with pastry blender until particles are size of tiny peas.  Sprinkle in water 1 TB at a time, as much as needed until dough cleans sides of bowl and can be gathered together in a firm ball.
-For one torte:  Divide dough into 6 equal parts, roll in approx. 7" circles
-For several individual tarts, divide dough in half to make it easier to work with.  Roll out thin and cut 4-6" circles using a biscuit or cookie cutter.  Continue rolling small circles until dough is used up.
After rolling out large or small circles, prick circles with fork.  Sprinkle with granulated sugar.  Bake 6-8 minutes.  Cool on wire racks.

For Filling:
2 pints fresh strawberries, plus some for garnishing top(s)
2 pints chilled heavy whipping cream
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 tsp vanilla
-Wash, hull and chop strawberries.  In chilled bowl, whip cream, confectioners sugar and vanilla until stiff.  Fold in chopped strawberries.

Stack large circles, spreading about 3/4-1 cup of cream mixture in between.  You may stack as few or many as you'd like of the smaller circles, depending on how many people you are serving and you will use less cream mixture--about 1/4" thick.  Put dollop of cream mixture on top circle and top with a few fresh strawberries.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.  Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.


With fresh spinach already at markets, I thought I'd better post my recipe(s) for both spinach and basil pestos.  Pesto is a must for my larder.  I make enough to freeze--it freezes well--and I always have an appetiser on hand for guests.  (Towards Fall, I'll have a post on making crackers to serve with it.)

Frozen Pesto

Here are my two favorite pesto recipes--one with spinach, one with basil.
Note:  Pesto should be ground just until nuts are broken up and leaves are small pieces.  It should not be pulverized until baby-food consistency.

Spinach Pesto        2 cups  (good with veggies or pita chips)
1/4 bunch fresh spinach (about 2 cups packed)
2 TB fresh basil or 1 tsp dried
1/4 cup cottage cheese (small curd)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (similar cheese may be substituted)
12 pine nuts (approx to get 2 TB ground)
1 large clove garlic
1 TB olive oil
1 TB lemon juice
sea salt to taste
pinch white pepper
-Put all in food processor and grind to desired consistency

Basil Pesto
2 large cloves garlic
3 cups firmly-packed basil leaves--approx 30 stalks (6 farm market bunches)
3 TB grated parmesan cheese
1 cup olive oil
1/2 cup pine nuts
-Put all but pine nuts in blender or food processor and grind for 10 seconds.  Add pine nuts and grind for 8-10 seconds longer.


Herbs are starting to pop up in gardens and show up in markets.  Using fresh herbs is always preferable to dry herbs in dishes for true and fresh flavor.  Of course, you'll want to dry or freeze some for the winter as well.

To Dry:  Get brown paper bags (lunch size); poke holes in sides all around (not bottom), hold bunch of herbs upside down and insert in bag;  tie top of bag with an inch or so of stem sticking out of top; hang in cool, dry place.  As herbs dry, they will collect in the bottom of the bag.  Put in jar and store in cool, dry place.
To Freeze:  Wash herbs and pat dry with towel or dry in salad spinner.  Wrap individual bunches of herbs in papertoweling or cloth rags (I use older cloth napkins for this).  Wrap rubber band around bundle and label.  Store all in a large ziploc freezer bag.  Note:  store mint separately or all your herbs will have a minty flavor.

Now, towards Spring time, if you still have leftover herbs in the freezer; put them all in a pot (except mint), add some water to cover 2-4 inches above herbs and slowly cook down until herbs are exposed.  You have herb broth!  Cool and freeze.  I freeze this in ice cube trays and then transfer to a ziploc freezer bag.  They're great for adding to rice water, soups, marinades, gravies, pan juices...  

Supper Salads

Spinach, Pheasant, Strawberry, Leek Salad
with Strawberry Poppyseed Dressing

Farmers' Markets are bursting with greens--all colors, shapes and varieties.  It's a wonderful time for supper-size salads--easy, low-fat meals requiring little or no cooking.  I buy several varieties of greens and any other fresh veggie or fruit available for ingredients.  It's a great way to use leftover roast or fowl and a good way to stretch those food dollars.  I've been using my canned meats, with the jar broths serving as a dressing base.  I've also been using the last of canned and frozen fruits and veggies up. 

Making your own dressing is creative fun and gives unique flavors to your salad creations.  Dressing bases can include: olive or coconut oil, yoghurt, broth, fruit syrups from jars of previously-canned fruit (I always save and freeze the jar juices upon opening my canned fruit).  Additives can include: vinegar, honey, mustard, horseradish, pureed fruit, liquid from frozen fruit (when I am using that fruit in the salad), tamari or soy sauce, worcestershire sauce, jams or jellies (i.e. tomato or pepper jelly), pickle juice, hot sauce, herbs, tomato sauces, salsas, relishes...

Here are three delicious salad combos we've had over the past week:
(1) Romaine, chicken breast pieces, leeks, drained corn relish & dried cherry tomatoes with a creamy-Italian-style dressing (yoghurt with garlic, corn relish juice, Italian herbs)
(2) Red- and green-leaf lettuce with canned beef, canned marinated cherry tomatoes, leeks, radishes and green garlic.  Dressing: beef broth, ginger, tamari sauce, pepper jelly, dill weed
(3) Spinach leaf, pieced pheasant, leeks, strawberries, sunflower seeds.  Dressing:  strawberry poppy seed dressing made with yoghurt, mashed strawberries with juice, honey, white wine vinegar, poppy seeds

Sunday, June 19, 2011

That's soap--not soup

A little diversion from the food theme--but still local and sustainably-oriented.
Learning to make my own soap has been on my want-to-do list for a long time. A week ago, I finally got that opportunity. I spent a morning at the charming rural homestead of Cathy Riley learning to make soap from natural products. Cathy makes soaps and lip balm and sells them at Eyota's farmers market. It was a hands-on experience with much guidance, instruction, fellowship and fun. By the time the soap was poured into the mold, Cathy's expertise and attention to detail convinced me I was fortunately learning from a skilled soapmaker.
Admittedly, I have a collection (somewhere?) of homemade soap gifts I haven't tried. I decided to try the soaps Cathy sent home with me. Boy was I pleasantly surprised! I immediately noticed the difference--much more skin conditioning, more lather and also worked awsome as a shampoo!! One shower with homemade natural soap and I will never go back to commercial soaps again. The same goes for handwashing--it's sooo soft and has a wonderful fragrance. Dove can't compare!
And the lip balm--no comparison there either. Non-greasy, soft and moist.
The soap we made -- that is, I picked one of the colors.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I have now added fresh homemade yogurt to our menu.  It's amazingly easy and healthy for you.  The good part is that after making it once, you now have the culture to continue making it indefinately just by adding the culture to milk.  For those of you who are lactose intolerant, yoghurt is often well-tolerated by adults who cannot drink fresh milk.

The health benefits of yoghurt include: prevents osteoporosis, reduces risk of high blood pressure, helps treat gastrointestinal conditions, discourages vaginal infections and it makes you feel fuller than other more high-caloric foods.

Below is the process for making yoghurt.  I have included recipes for both raw milk and pasteurized (but non-homogenized) milk.  Also, I started my first batch with a yoghurt culture ordered from here:  www.cheesemaking.com. (order Yogurt Y4) culture.  Instructions, similar to below, are included on the package.  I can recommend this culture as producing perfect results!  Other processes may produce thinner yoghurt.

Also, in lieu of using the oven or rehydrator for fermenting, I put the yoghurt in a large (quart-size) thermo coffee mug with lid; wrapped it in a down-insulated jacket hood and put it in a small well-insulated bag overnight.  By morning, I had perfect-consistency, mildly-tang fresh yoghurt.  Delicious!

Yoghurt from Pasteurized, Non-homogenized, whole milk
1/2 cup good-quality commercial plain yoghurt, or
  1/2 cup yoghurt from previous batch
1 quart pasteurized whole milk, non-homogenized
candy thermometer
-Slowly heat the milk to 180 degrees and allow to cool to about 110 degrees.
Stir in yoghurt and place in a glass, enamel or stainless container.  Cover container and place in a warm oven overnight (150 degrees, or gas oven with pilot).  Put in the refrigerator in the morning to chill for eating.  Mop up any whey that appears on top of the yoghurt.

Yoghurt from raw milk
1 quart raw milk
1/4 cup yoghurt (commercial or from previous batch)
-Warm 1 quart of raw milk in double-boiler to 110 degrees.  Remove 2 Tblsp of the warm milk and add 1 TB of yoghurt.  Put in wide-mouth mason jar.  Add 3 TB yoghurt to jar and stir well.  Cover tightly and place in dehydrator at 95 degrees for 8 hours.**  Transfer to refrigerator to chill.
**If your dehydrator isn't tall enough for pint or quart jars, you can make a tagboard cylinder to increase height of the dehydrator.

Enjoy with fresh fruit and/or granola for breakfast or swirl in a little jam for a great snack.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Canning Mushrooms

Wild mushrooms should not be canned, so I watch for sales on fresh mushrooms.  My sister Judy tipped me off that mushrooms were on sale for $1.00 per carton at Silver Lake Foods in Rochester.   I was already in Rochester, so off I went.  I got 11 cartons of whole, fresh mushrooms and it made 11 half-pints of chopped mushrooms without using the stems (I save the stems for broth).  That's half the cost of a can of Green Giant mushroom pieces & stems.  Other brands may be cheaper, but usually from China. (I would never buy food products from China--their food and farming practices are too unhealthy and unsanitary.)  FYI: the sale is on until Tues night, 6-14.

Note:  I purchased 11 cartons because each makes a half-pint of mushrooms and 11 jars can be squeezed into my canner (with one sticking up, but that's okay).  You may want to see how many half-pints fit your canner.  Doing more than one batch of these at a time can be overwhelming in labor and time.  I watch for more sales all through the summer, hopefully with different varieties of mushrooms (i.e. Baby Belles). 

I give the mushrooms a water bath to remove dirt, rinse and drain.  I pull the stems off and set them aside for broth.  I cut the small mushrooms in fourths and the large ones in sixths.  Put them in a pot on the stove and add water to cover about an inch or two above.  Bring to a boil, then simmer 5 minutes.  Drain off the water, but be sure to save it to add to the jars and the broth.  Pack hot mushrooms into hot half-pint jars, adding the juice to 1/2" from top of jar.  Use knife to remove air bubbles and add more juice if necessary.  Seal and process at 10 lbs pressure for 45 minutes.

For the broth:  (This recipe made about 17 cups broth.)
I coarsely chop the stems (to expose more surface area) and put them in a pot of a size so they fill at least half the pot.  This ensures flavorful broth.  I then covered with 4" of water and let it slowly simmer for a few hours.  Remove the stems from the broth and add in the juice from simmering the mushrooms above.  Cool completely and package in 1 cup portions for the freezer.   I use sandwich bags and then put those in a gallon zip loc to save on cost.  Be sure the broth is thoroughly cool or chilled or the bags will stick to each other.  This broth makes a delicious difference when substituted for water in many things: wild rice, couscous, lentils, soups and stews, gravies, making or cooking pasta, homemade salad dressings, sauces...

Summer Veggie Soup

We're having a spate of chilly, rainy weather--perfect for Summer veggie soup.  This gives me an opportunity to clean out the freezer, canning pantry and dry foods cupboard of whatever's left from last year's preserving.  I also clean out the fridge, using whatever veggies I need to use up before they wilt.  I take a big pot and start with any frozen or canned veggie broths from the past year.  Then the fun begins--emptying jars, freezer packages and the crisper of whatever veggies and herbs I can find without using too much of any one kind.  I include the juice from the jars of canned veggies and add water to the pot only if I need more liquid.  I avoid using potatoes or root veggies and include some of the fresh greens and early summer veggies from the fridge--distinguishing it from my Winter veggie soup full of potatoes and root veggies.  This makes a light summer soup with no fat and needing little salt.  Let it slowly simmer a little while, serve with a round of homemade crusty bread and it's the perfect "chilly-summer-day meal".
What's in the soup?
carrots, celery, spinach, tomatoes, bell peppers, a chili pepper, asparagus, chard, onion, garlic greens, zuccini, beets, squash, cabbage, green beans

Friday, June 10, 2011

Farm Fresh Eggs

After you've gone through a carton of farm fresh eggs, you'll never buy any other.  There's a discerning difference in the flavor--that is, they have flavor.

I buy my eggs from local farmers, most of whom free-range their chickens on a vegetarian diet, free of antibiotics and hormones.  I am spoiled by the fresh taste and rich flavor of these eggs.

Farm fresh eggs can be stored for up to a couple of months.  As they absorb other odors easily, store them in their original carton in the refrigerator not near odoriferous foods, such as onions.

Blood spots on egg yolks are a natural occurrence, such as a blood vessel rupturing on the surface.  They do not indicate that the egg is fertile, and they do not affect the flavor.

With my farmers' many different breeds of hens, my eggs come in a variety of size and colors.  In fact, they're so attractive I have a hard time cracking them open for use.  I couldn't help but blowing out and rinsing many of them to save the pretty shells.  Here's my "egg bowl".
 My bowl is full; so Hubby can finally have fried or boiled eggs again.

A deliciously-new suprise--Pac Choi

Whenever at farmers market in Plainview or Rochester, I never fail to stop by the Easy Yoke Farm stand.  Dan and Hanna Miller always seem to have something I haven't seen at other stands--either something very early or something new.  A month ago it was yummy mild radishes from their hoop garden.  This week was no exception--I discovered Pac Choi.
Figure two bunches per serving.
Store in perforated or open bag in fridge for 2-3 days.

Pac Choi is baby bok choi.  It has a milder flavor than Bok Choi and has a reputation as an excellent stir fry ingredient.  It's raw flavor reminds me of mild kohlorabi.  Substituted for celery, it would give a little kick to salads.  I discovered a scrumptous side dish when I cooked it up.  Here is how I prepared it:

Fried Pac Choi
Put a hunk of butter in a fry pan, turn on med. heat to melt and coat bottom.  Slice and dice four to six bunches of pac choi, including leaves, into 1/2" pieces.  Add pac choi in single layer.  Add a light sprinkle of dill weed and, if desired, pinch of caraway seed.  Cook until starting to brown--when stalk pieces are starting to soften and leaves are getting dry and crunchy.

Whoo-boy!  You're in for a treat!

Teaching young children to crack an egg

Cracking an egg successfully can be somewhat challenging to a young child.  I've often seen them emit a deep sigh before beginning and then focus intently, hoping for anything but a crushed egg. Below are some helpful tips.  My friend, Kevin Jheng, will help me demonstrate.

Introduce them to the correct motion by having them practice opening a hinge.
Fingers/Thumbs placed as above, open hinge fully

Thumbs placed along crack of egg, open like hinge

Whoops!--try again


Gifts of Good Taste

Not too early to start thinking of food gifts for birthdays, hostess gifts, teacher gifts and Christmas baskets.   Much appreciated food gifts in jars can include: jams, jellies, chutneys, butters, pickles or pickled food, relishes, soup mixes, salsas, sauces, mustards, and so many, many more!  Before you turn down that zuccini everybody always seems so eager to off-load, think about whether you might want to make small zuccini breads or a relish for gifts.  An excellent, colorfully-illustrated book with many creative, preserving gift ideas is  "Preserving" by Oded Schwartz.  Just paging through it dazzles your senses!

You can put together jars of pickled vegetables in any combination and process them easily for long-term storage; a year or more.  Below are instructions for  jars of pickled "any vegetable" or "any combination of vegetables".  Shown in the picture is my niece, Sally Jo Schmit, putting together gifts of pickled vegetables.  The recipe below it is one Sally adapted from the book Preserving book referenced above (on counter too).  I've tasted her pickled veggies--the recipe is a keeper!
Sally's friends & family are lucky recepients of  many different  food gifts.

Pickled Veggies
Pickling Liquid Recipe:  makes 5-6 quarts, 10-12 pints
3 cups white vinegar
3 cups cider vinegar
3 cups white wine
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped (2 TB dried)
3 TBlsp canning salt
--put all ingredients in non-aluminium pot on stove and bring to boil.  Let simmer until ready to pour into jars.
Assembly:  Fill waterbath canner half full of water and set to boil. (Any pot with a rack to keep jars off bottom of pot will do.)  The water does not need to be boiling when the jars are put in--just hot.  Heat jars and lids by putting in canner water, or laying in electric roaster or electric fry pan partially filled with water and turned to 200-250 degrees.  The jars do not need to be sterilized, only made hot so they don't crack when boiling liquid is added or they are put in the waterbath canner.
Wash veggies and assemble in jars, leaving 1" from top of jar.  Pour hot pickling liquid over veggies leaving 1/2" from top of jar.  Insert knife around inside edges of jar to remove any air bubbles, then, if necessary, add more liquid.  Place lids and screwbands on jar and screw down just until resistence is met--to fingertip tight.  Place jars in canner being sure they are covered by at least 1" of water.  Add more water if necessary.  Bring water to boil; place lid on canner and time 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, remove lid and let sit in water 5 more minutes.  Remove jars, cool and store.

How Expensive is that Free Range Chicken?

I buy my meats from Hidden Stream Farms--Eric and Lisa Klein & Family. They raise their beef on organic pasture and free range their pigs and chickens. Others who've tried their meats/poultry agree--world class food!!

I've often heard others say they'd like to buy free range poultry, but it's too expensive.  Actually, factory-raised chicken is unrealistically cheap considering the farmers' cost and time that goes into it; and there's a definite difference in the quality and taste.  Take the time to watch the video "Food Inc." and you'll never buy factory-farm-raised poultry again!
Good poultry is valuable and should be treated as such; it's not what you pay for it--it's what you do with it.  My story may illustrate that:

I approached the Hidden Stream Farm stand at market and ordered a large chicken.  Didn't check the price; I already knew I wanted to try one of their chickens.  Grandpa Klein (Everett) dug around in the cooler and came up with a 6+ pound chicken.  "Perfect" I said.  When he stated the cost, I began to slow in writing out the check as it dawned on me I was spending almost $19 for only one chicken.  I hesitated, but knew I was already comitted.  My mind raced over and over "Almost twenty dollars for ONE Chicken!!"  I cut my shopping trip short; and as I slunked back home with chicken in tow, I kept asking myself "What was I thinking".  My throat got dryer with each step when I realized I would be telling Dave, my husband, I spent around $20 at market and had only one chicken to show for it.

Not one to dwell on misgivings; I decided to stretch portions and keep track of how many meals I was getting from this truly "gold-en" chicken.  Here's the tally:  six large individual pot pies; four generous chicken-gravy-over-biscuit suppers; four servings of chicken stir fry over rice; two hoagie-style chicken sandwiches; six bowlfuls of chicken noodle soup and at least three quarts of rich, free-range (no-fat) chicken broth.  Thats 22 meals, plus the broth. With a quart of free-range, no-fat chicken broth retailing from $4.00-$6.00 in stores, I could take at least $12.00 off the top, leaving my cost at around thirty cents per meal.  Considering this was for the healthiest, tastiest chicken I could buy (and never worry about chemicals, antibiotics, e-coli and such); I was relieved (and sold)!

Moral of the story:  It's not what you pay for it; it's what you do with it.

So, how many years have I been buying chicken from Hidden Stream Farm?  Pictures tell the story:
 Andy Klein (3) helping mom, Lisa Klein, load meat in my freezer.

Andy Klein (11) and Grandpa Klein at Plainview Farmer's Market

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Swiss Chard

Nothing draws me to a farmer's market table like bundles of bright and colorful Swiss chard.  Since we only consume this as fresh produce, we look forward to this early summer treat.  Both Dave and I used to "pass" on this veggie; but after experimenting with how to enhance it's delicately-bitter greens and celery-like stalks, we both look forward to having this as a side to our meals several times a week during it's season.  Here is how we fix it:

Sauteed Swiss Chard - 1# bundle     Serves 4-6
Rinse chard; cut stalks into 1" pieces and leaves into strips.  Coat bottom of large fry pan with equal parts butter and olive oil - approx. 1 TB each.  Add any or all of the following (to your liking--I use all):  little diced onion, a clove of garlic-minced, a pinch of dill, small pinch of nutmeg and a pinch of any Italian-Style fresh herbs.  Cook, covered, until chard leaves are wilted and stalks are beginning to soften, but still have a little crunch to the bite.  If desired, splash approx. 1 TB of any salad dressing or vinegarette and stir to coat chard.  Non-creamy Italian or Asian dressings work especially well.

You can also cook only the stalk pieces and serve a side salad using the fresh chard greens.

Diced chard is also delicious in an egg and cheese quiche.
Store dry Chard in loosely, sealed plastic bag in refrigerator 3-5 days.
Rinse before using.

Monday, June 6, 2011

I never worry about e-coli

Every time I hear of a new e-coli outbreak, I am reminded of how lucky we are to have our local farmers.  Buying local food products allows me the opportunity to become familiar with the source of my food products; to know what goes in and on the products I buy; and the conditions under which it was grown or raised.  Consequently, I am never concerned when I learn of outbreaks of food-borne illnesses in food products from unknown or far-off origins.

Getting Kids Started in the Kitchen

Encourage children in the kitchen as soon as they are able to imitate motions or activities that you are doing--usually between two and three years old. 

Early-age activities could include:
-shaking sugar, cinnamon or cocoa from a sprinkle-top jar
-inserting toothpicks in melon or pineapple chunks and arranging on a plate
-picking grapes from the stem and putting in a bowl
-pulling the string on the salad spinner to dry greens
-hulling strawberries
-using a melon baller with soft cantalope or small melon
-leveling off the ingredients for you on your measuring cup
-juicing a lemon or orange with a hand juicer
-peeling and grating veggies
-slicing cheese with a cheese slicer
-roll out small balls of pie crust dough, cookie dough, bread dough
-cut wedge shapes with pizza cutter, or pastry cutter

Below are some of the utensils a preschool child should be able to handle at some point.  Yes, you do see a small paring knife; but note the child-size gardening gloves adjacent to it.  With the gloves on, the child will not get cut using a small knife, especially given that they apply a lighter pressure than an adult when using these tools.  I gave my daughter her first knife and gloves when she was three; and as an adult, she still talks of how special her first knife was to her.  (She's now a chef)

Engage children in food preparation tasks that are required for making meals from scratch.  If they want to make a salad, have them wash the lettuce, peel the carrots, etc; using fresh garden produce (not peeled, cut and prepackaged items) .  Use smaller produce that is appropriate for their skills.  Have them slicing green onions, versus larger onions; use plum and cherry tomatoes, versus slicing large tomatoes; use thinner and shorter carrots for slicing,  peel or grate carrots, versus chopping a carrot.

Most importantly, let children decide what they want to make and how they want it to look like.  Let them create and experiment.  Do not hover and force a right or wrong way (unless necessary--like if they are using salt when recipe calls for sugar)  Children absolutely swell with pride when they can contribute to a meal--"Kalyn's salad tonight"!  "Mae fixed dessert for us"!

Think of this; if you child starts at three and learns one thing per week about how to prepare food, use utensils, correct kitchen terms, etc; then by the time they start school, they will know at least 100 kitchen tasks for preparing their own food.  Their interest and confidence in food prep will be life-long.

For more posts on Kids In The Kitchen, see list of preserving diary posts under "Kids Kitchen"


Summer baking for me starts with rhubarb.  It seems like someone always has a patch that needs picking, or plenty more from a patch they've already picked.  I never turn it down!  I always try to make rhubarb crisp, a pie and muffins at least once--I like to be sure I'm  appreciating the local foods of the seasons.  I have some good rhubarb recipes below (the best I've found in their class) including a delicious rhubarb punch.  It's perfect for an early summer picnic or party.

Fresh rhubarb can be stored in the refrigerator, tightly wrapped in a plastic bag, for up to three days.  Keep leaves on until ready to use, then cut off and discard.  Note: The leaves are toxic, do not eat them.

Rhubarb freezes well; wash it and cut in lengths to fit packages.  To best keep its color and flavor, immerse it in boiling water for one min and then cool quickly.  Drain, pat dry and package.

Rhubarb makes excellent jams and sauces for preserving.  It pairs nicely with strawberries in jams or pie.

Rhubarb Muffins               375          25-30 min   12 muffins
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
1-1/3 cups sour cream
3 eggs
1/4 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp cinnamon
2 cups rhubarb pieces

1-1/2 TB sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
--Cream butter and sour cream; Mix in sugar, eggs and vanilla.  In separate bowl, sift together flour, soda, cinnamon.  Comine butter mixture with flour mixture and stir just until moist.  Stir in rhubarb.  Fill muffin tins 2/3 full and add topping.  Bake at 350, 25-30 min.  Let stand 5 minutes before removing.

Rhubarb Crisp     350  40-45 min     serves 10-12
5 cups small-diced (1/2") fresh rhubarb
1 cup sugar
1 TBlsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon
--Toss together and spread in single layer in greased 9x13 baking dish.
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) melted butter
--Combine dry ingredients; stir in butter.  Sprinkle over rhubarb.  Bake @ 350 approx 40 min--until rhubarb is tender and juice bubbly,  and topping is lightly browned.  Serve with a little fresh cream poured over top.

Rhubarb Punch
8 cups diced rhubarb (1/2")
2 quarts water
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 cups sugar  (add more to taste, if needed, after adding pop)
--Put all above in saucepan and simmer until rhubarb soft
Cool a bit, then blend all in blender
Add one large bottle ginger ale or seven up
Chill well OR
Before adding ginger ale, chill in freezer until barely freezing, add pop just before serving


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Roast Lamb

We're having some relatives from Texas tonight and I'm fixing Leg of Lamb.  Every Spring we hope to buy a lamb from one of our organic farmers.  Sometimes we get it butchered, but do the cutting ourselves.  The first Leg of Lamb always goes for Easter dinner.  Usually, we've had our last lamb stew in Jan. and look forward to having lamb again by Easter. 

Here is a no-fail recipe I have for cooking a lamb roast, the shanks or a leg of lamb.  It always turns out delicious whether I cook it in the oven, roaster, crockpot or pressure cooker.  It sounds a little fussy if mixing your own seasoning instead of using Penzey's, but our lamb is reserved for special occasions and the results are worth it.

Roast Lamb
For small lamb roast, mix 1 tsp honey with 1/4 tsp lemon juice and rub all over roast (use 1 TB honey and 1 tsp lemon juice for leg of lamb)

Then rub roast all over with 2-4 TB Penzey's Lamb Seasoning mix  OR make your own seasoning by mixing the following in a food processor or grinder: 
   2 TB fresh ground oregano leaves (or 1 TB dried)
   1 TB fresh ground rosemary (or 1 tsp dried)
   1/2 tsp ground spearmint leaves (optional)
   4 cloves garlic, minced
   2 TB minced fresh onion (or 1 TB dried minced onion)
   2 tsp ground cumin
   1/2 tsp paprika
   1/4 tsp celery seed
   1/4 tsp ginger

Line bottom of pan you will use to roast lamb with 1/4" thick onion slices.  Lay lamb roast or leg atop onion slices.  Pour white wine into pan until it reaches bottom of lamb.  Cover and cook at 325 for 1 hour.  For leg of lamb, figure 15 min cooking time per pound of lamb.

Can add quartered potatoes and or carrot chunks alongside lamb halfway through cooking time.

Save the juice--it's rich and delicious!  Use it for sauce over the lamb and veggies or rice; make gravy with it; use it in a lamb stew or stir fry.  Freeze it to make gravy at a later date to go with lamb chops--mmmmm!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Good Honey

Decided to get serious about eliminating refined sugar from my diet and replace it with honey.  Much has been written by researchers, doctors and nutritionists about the adverse health effects of sugar.  I found a good book for preserving with honey instead of sugar:  Putting It Up with Honey by Susan Geiskopf.

I've now tasted delicious honey from three different farmers at local markets.  One finger dip of any of these pure honey products transports me back to my youth, when I had it from my grandpa's colony.  It's delicious!  Seems just the right thick-syrup consistency too.  Also got a tip from Farmer Paul Uecker--if you take honey that has turned to small crystals and whip it with some fresh honey; you'll get a creamy, soft, white honey spread.

Uses for honey:
Drizzle it over cheese, yogurt nuts, fruit, cereal, fresh bread, waffles.
Mix a little in a homemade vinaigrette (wine vinegar and olive oil).

How to substitute honey for sugar in baking:
Substitute honey for up to half the sugar, using 1 part honey for every 1-1/4 parts sugar.  Reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 cup for each cup of honey.  Add 1/2 tsp baking soda for each cup of honey to counter its acidity and weight.  Lower oven temp by 25 degrees to prevent excessive browning.

Healthy Honey!
I read that consuming local honey reduces your likelihood of getting asthma and allergies. As the bees travel throughout the local fields, they pick up trace amounts of pollen from local flowers and weeds. As you consume their honey, you ingest those trace amounts of local pollen which builds your immunity against them.
Did a little research on the internet:  Raw honey (with its pollen) contains the following: all of the essential amino acids, all of the vitamin group, many minerals, hormones and fatty acids, enzymes with detoxifying effects and it aids in digestion.  Sure sounds healthy to me!

Paul Uecker and daughter, Angelica, selling honey at farmers market in Plainview.
Their honey comes complete with a honey comb inside the jar.

Time for a Change at the Table

June--the beginning of Summer--time for change in table decor
Another of Grandma Springer's tablecloths with napkins--
embroidered by Great Grandma Stolp.

For dishes: Franciscan Ware.  I love a colorful summer table.
These dishes remind me of the Fiesta Ware my mother had when I was young.