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Archive for February, 2010

We eat a lot of salad around here with various permutations and combinations, but two have come to have names.  One we call “favorite salad #1.”  No, I have not posted about it yet.  You’ll just have to come back to find out about it.  (Grin.) Tonight I’m talking “Favorite salad #2.”  Favorite salad #2 is Mediterranean in influence, incorporating some things we grow and some things we buy.  Actually, this salad has a larger percentage of non-local products than we usually eat; maybe that’s what makes it name worthy.    The ingredients are sweet, tangy, salty, and ever so slightly bitter, making for a wonderful blend.  For each individual salad, layer the ingredients from top to bottom in roughly this order:

  • 1-2 cups mixed baby greens, big pieces gently torn, or in summer chard and/or mustard greens
  • optional if in season:  cucumber, quartered lengthwise and then sliced thinly–put on outside edge of greens
  • course grated carrot (a couple of tablespoons per salad)
  • 1-2 thinly sliced radishes
  • 1-3 dried tomatoes, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tablespoon of feta cheese (goat cheese feta makes it really special)
  • a few sliced pitted kalamata olives
  • optional if in season:  halves or quarters of cherry tomatoes
  • 1-2 tablespoons slivered or sliced almonds, toasted (325 degree F for 5-7 minutes)
  • 1-2 tablespoons dried black currants
  • optional:  chives, thin slices to garnish (I cut these with kitchen scissors straight over the salad)

You can serve this salad with a homemade oil and vinegar dressing or get even more non-local and try it with a store-bought Mediterranean-inspired dressing like Drew’s Lemon Goddess Tahini or Annie’s Goddess Dressing. Both of these are tahini-based dressings, the sesame paste featured in  hummus (chickpea dip). We like the salad with Italian, Greek, and Middle Eastern food.  In the winter it may be a part of a big meal.  In the summer, it may be the meal all on its own (or maybe with some watermelon, mmmmmm).

Give it a try and let me know what you think!  Do you have a favorite salad combo?  We’d really like for you to share it with us.

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Tonight I had planned on making pizza, but life intervened and I ended up with less prep time than I’d planned.  Given that I had good chicken bratwurst, red and green cabbage, onions, and some wide whole-wheat Amish noodles, I decided to go with a German-inspired meal.  I was going to serve it with traditional baked apples.  I thinly sliced the onions and cabbage.  Then I sauteed the onion until it started to caramelize.  I pulled it out and sauteed the bratwurst in some brandy in the same pan.  Then I cooked the noodles al dente and tossed them in a smidgen of butter.  I was about to saute the cabbage in the bratwurst liquid and then pull everything together, with the noodles in the bottom of each bowl and then the cabbage mixed with onion and the brats on top–when I saw the four apples I’d gotten out.  I’d pictured them with cinnamon, slowly baked, but that wasn’t going to work now.

I quickly quartered, cored, and peeled the apples.  I tossed them first with a pinch each of cinnamon and ginger.  Okay, I used more than a pinch of ginger, maybe a whole teaspoon (or more?), but I decided that’s too much. I also sprinkled on a little salt.  I added about a half inch of water in the bottom of the little casserole dish.  Then I popped the spiced apples in the microwave for 4 minutes on high.  Humph.  They tasted good, but they looked microwaved.  I was going to reach for brown sugar, when I decided something savory would be better.  I decided to toss them with honey and a sharp mustard, about a tablespoon or two total.  Then I popped them in the toaster oven for 10 minutes at 375-400 degrees F while I finished cooking the main dish.

The apples weren’t photo-worthy, but they were golden brown (all that mustard!), tangy and sweet and spicy.  They worked really well with the rest of the meal.  They’d be good this way with a pork roast (if we ate pork roast).  My husband spooned out the leftover sauce from the apples and added it to his cabbage, onion, brat, and noodles mix.

Ingredients:

  • 4 apples, quartered, peeled, and cored
  • pinch of ginger
  • pinch of cinnamon
  • sprinkle of salt
  • splash of water
  • 1/2 tablespoon honey
  • 1/2 tablespoon mustard

Put the apples in a small glass casserole dish with the cinnamon, ginger, salt, and water and microwave on high for 4 minutes.  Add the honey and mustard and bake at 375-400 degrees F for 5-10 minutes, until the apples are bubbly.  Serve.  Enjoy.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL for this site and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.

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Apparently our household commitment to seasonal, local food hit its limits this week when my husband found some beautiful organic blueberries and I found some organic strawberries.  We bought them.  Tonight I served them with pound cake made from scratch.

Pound cake used to be a once-every-few-years kind of thing in our household, because with today’s smaller families and healthier outlook, we just don’t need a big heavy cake.  That’s why tonight I set out to make pound cake in miniature, using really wholesome, organic ingredients.  The concept is simple.  You need a few things to make pound cake:  (1) equal parts by weight of butter, sugar, flour, and eggs; and a tube cake pan, so that the heavy cake batter bakes all the way through to the middle.  Hmmmmm.  I can weigh and divide.  I have two mini tube pans. Yes, this plan could work.  I made not pound cakes but ounce cakes!

This recipe serves 4-8 people, depending on how hungry they are and what you serve with the pound cake. If you make it 8 servings, each serving will have a little over two hundred calories–much better than if you ate a big wedge of full-sized pound cake!

Special supplies

  • two miniature tube pans, each of which will hold one cup of batter with room to expand as they bake (about 4 1/2 inches wide at the top)

Ingredients (as always, organic is best!)

  • 1 stick of real butter, a little softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1-2 teaspoons vanilla
  • optional:  1 teaspoon brandy
  • 3/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (use a 1-cup measure, and you can just add in the other dry ingredients instead of getting an extra bowl dirty)
  • pinch of cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 shakes/grates of nutmeg

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Begin by creaming the butter with the sugar. Then divide the eggs into yolks and whites. Add the egg yolks to the butter and sugar and mix until creamy. Stir in the vanilla and brandy.  In the measuring cup, add the rest of the dry ingredients to the flour.  Gradually add the flour to the butter, sugar, and egg mixture.  Now, in a separate, very clean bowl and using very clean beaters, whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Do you see those stiff peaks on the egg whites?  That’s what you want.  Fold about a third of the egg whites into the rest of the batter to lighten it.  Then fold in the rest of the egg whites.  Spoon into well-greased miniature tube cake pans and bake at 325 degrees F for about 35 minutes. Let the cakes rest in the pans for about 15 minutes and then slide a thin knife around the outside edge of the cake and around the tube center. Turn the cakes onto a grid to finish cooling.Do you see those cracks on the top?  That part has a delectable crispy crunch.

Mmmmmmmm.  Real ingredients.  Food like my grandmother used to make.  Cake worthy of blueberries and strawberries.  Enough to satisfy your taste for sweetness and richness.  Small enough that you can indulge without guilt.Where’s my fork?

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL for this site and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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Today I learned about a new phenomenon in rural North Carolina:  crop mobs.  Using “word of mouth” and the internet, a mob of  “landless farmers and the agricurious,” as Christine Muhlke puts it, meet at a small-scale, sustainable farm to help lend a hand.  The farmer provides lunch.  During the day, volunteers may help bring in a hand-dug potato harvest, or they may clear a field of rocks.  If they have carpentry skills, they may work on a greenhouse.  Most importantly, they may be enabling a farmer who’s trying to do things environmentally right to preserve his or her farm along the way.  Sustainable farming is labor intensive.  These extra hands get a chance to see farming up close and learn about it, to get together with old and new friends, and to contribute to the locavore movement.  Read more about it here.  Now that I know about the concept, I hope to help start an Arkansas crop mob–but I think it’ll have a different name.  Arkanfarmers?  Arkanhands?  If I can get something similar established here, I’ll let you know.

Do you know of other programs in your community?  Do share!

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL for this site and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.

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Enchiladas: I need help

We like spicy food–hence why I had several dozen pepper plants this year.  We like the flavors of Mexican food.  We both make pretty darn good fajitas.  We make decent burritos.  We do just fine with prepared taco shells.  My enchiladas are embarrassing.

Until recently, I have to confess that I did my best to create enchiladas without ever have seen the process of making them by an expert. My husband told me that the solution to my rolling issues was to make them like in New Mexico, stacked and not rolled.  Then I watched the new chef from Mexico on the Food Network making enchiladas. She dipped the tortilla in sauce to get it to roll better.  I thought:  ah ha!  I see what my enchiladas have been missing.  Tonight I generously spread my home-canned tomatillo sauce (again, my own recipe) on both sides of my lovely allegedly authentic corn tortillas and stacked them to keep them moist as I filled and rolled.  Even as I placed them in the casserole dish, they cracked.  Again.  And in the end they were both too moist and too dry.

So, internet surfers with a world of expertise, please help my enchiladas.  What’s your favorite authentic enchilada recipe?  What do you do in the process?  Do you have a sauce recipe that works well?  We don’t eat red meat but can adapt beef and pork recipes to our dietary limitations, if you can help me figure out the rest of the process.

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Among the seeds that I grew for the first time this year was a fresh-eating soybean (edamame:  pronounced Ed-uh-mommy) called “beer friend.”  “Beer friend” grows on compact bushes and can be harvested in two relatively painless rounds.  My single seed packet yielded two big, full gallon bags of edamame, blanched in salted water and quickly frozen.  Of course, I’m not confessing to how many of the salted, blanched soybeans I munched while I was blanching the rest, plus we ate a whole bunch freshly blanched too.  I will not only grow “beer friend” again; I’m planting twice as much as I did last year.

“Beer friend” soybean is supposed to be a favorite snack in Japan, and I can see why.  To eat the edamame, give it a quick blanch in salted water and then let it cool enough to pop the beans out of the pod.  These are definitely finger food!  They are sweet, buttery, and so fresh flavored that I’m sure the whole family will love them.

Soybeans, as beans, will grow best if you pre-soak them (to give them a little head start on sprouting) and then coat them in an inoculant of helpful bacteria before you plant them.  For that reason, I recommend that you let your younger children calculate how many feet of planting you’ll have for the number of seed and prepare the row but not do the actual planting.  (You can do that!)  At least in our climate, “beer friend” edamame needed nothing more than planting and harvesting.  Since these are a bush bean whose swelling pods will make it clear when it’s time to harvest, I think they’re perfect for little hands to come back in the end and gather.  Let your children harvest them and wash them, and then help them with the blanching.  Then it’s snack time!

If you have soybeans that you’d like to save to enjoy through the winter, dip the soybean pods in boiling, heavily salted water for a minute.  Then drain them well and put them on a cookie sheet to freeze individually.  As soon as the exterior is frozen, put them in containers and try to eliminate the air.  Now when you want a little bowl for an appetizer, just pull out however many you need, microwave them for about 30 seconds (per small bowl), and serve.

Your soybeans can also help the rest of your garden grow.  I interspersed my soybeans among some of my corn, a heavy nitrogen feeder, so that the beans helped return nitrogen to the soil.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL for this site and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.

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Today’s post on selecting seed is focused on a single plant:  Red Peter peppers.  Truth be told, the naughtiness in me took over the first time I ordered these, but the flavor, color, and drying quality had me coming back for more. (Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.) As just about every seed source will tell you, red peter peppers have an unusual shape.  They look, as one source politely noted, “anatomical.”This picture (with brightly colored radishes too) does not do full justice to the “anatomical” nature of these peppers, nor to to their rich color and flavor.

Red Peter peppers have what I’d call a nice amount of heat.  They give you a broad but light burn.  Their flavor and odor have hints of flowers and raspberries, like good hot peppers do.  What really won me over was that Red Peter peppers dry so well.  Red Peters start out a beautiful Christmas red, but unlike cayenne peppers, for which the color dulls over time, Red Peter peppers’ color just get more intensely, deeply red.  Like cayennes, Red Peter peppers have thin walls and thus easily dry, even in the humid South without a dehydrator.  Given their good drying qualities, they are superb for crushing and adding to recipes all winter long.

I suppose you might end up having to explain the origins of the name to the kids, but other than that, I see these peppers as ideal for a family garden.

A few seed sources (not an endorsement!):

Plant source (again, not an endorsement!):

Photographs from Dave’s Garden:  http://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/showimage/60750/

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL for this site and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Please contact me for permission to use photographs.

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