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Mmmmmmm. Peace ice cream.

This summer we’ve toyed with triple-digit temperatures repeatedly, something that is increasingly becoming the new norm.  When the thermometer on our north-facing, shady porch says it’s 100 degrees F, it’s time for ice cream!  It’s peach season in Arkansas, so I can’t resist finding ways to use peaches. Why not ice cream?  Today’s recipe is for a peach ice cream that’s not too sweet, letting the natural goodness of the peaches shine.

Making ice cream at home is easy, as long as you have lots of ice, a little bit of patience, and an ice cream maker.  No, I’m not talking about Mr. Homesteader.  I’m talking about an electric machine.  I remember fondly the days that my family and friends took turns on a hand-crank ice cream maker.  I also remember when we bought our electric machine.  It’s the same one I use today, decades later.  Still, if you’ve got the muscles and time, go for a hand cranker, and burn off the ice cream before you ever eat it!

Now, let’s talk about two crucial ingredients that don’t go in the ice cream.  You need lots of cubed or crushed ice, at least one large bag if you need to buy it.  You’ll also need rock salt, also known as ice cream salt.  Some stores keep ice cream salt in the seasonal section, while others keep it with spices, salts, and baking staples.  We’ll use about a cup of rock salt today.

Peach Ice Cream

makes about 1 1/2 quart

Ice Cream Ingredients

As always, you should be able to find everything listed here in organic form, so buy organic if you can.

  • 4 egg yolks (Save the whites!  Use them for an egg white omelet with seasonal vegetables, and you’ll have a light, fluffy, flavorful summer breakfast.  Ask me if you want a recipe.)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • optional:  1/4 cup nonfat dried milk
  • 2 cups half and half (or whipping cream if you’re feeling decadent)
  • 2 cups milk (whole or 1%)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons real vanilla extract
  • 4-5 ripe peaches

Method

Using a whisk, stir together the egg yolks, the sugar, and at least one cup of the cream in a heavy-bottomed pot.  (Whisk in the nonfat dried milk too if you are using it.)  Heat over medium heat, whisking regularly, until the mixture is too hot to stick your finger in and hold but not boiling.  Adjust heat to hold it there as necessary.  If you have a candy thermometer, we’re looking for about 140 degrees F, held for 5-10 minutes.  Whisk more as the temperature rises.  The mixture should thicken a little as the egg cooks, but don’t let the milk curdle!  Now take the mixture off the heat and add the rest of the half and half, milk, and vanilla.

Next peel and pit the peaches and dice them.  You can do this step in the early stages of cooking the egg mixture if you’d like.  Add the diced peaches and any liquid they’ve given off to the mixture.  Chill it well, even to the point of putting it in the freezer if you’re planning on making the ice cream in a few hours.

Is your mixture good and cold?  Break out that ice cream machine.  Using the method that comes with your ice cream maker, put the ice cream mixture in the cylinder, add the paddles, secure the top, and pour in the ice and salt, alternating as you add them.  We let our ice cream mix inside, in the air conditioning.  At 100 degrees F outside, the ice cream may never properly freeze.  Inside at about 80 degrees F, it freezes easily.  You’ll know your ice cream is ready when the paddles slow down and the machine starts to sound labored.  Hand-cranked machines will get harder to turn as the ice cream freezes, so save your best muscle at the party for last!

Quickly scoop the finished ice cream into a freezer container, being sure to share the paddles with your favorite people before the ice cream melts.  Avoid letting the ice cream thaw and re-freeze, as without commercial emulsifiers the ice cream can become hard.  You can dish up the ice cream immediately soft serve, or let it freeze a bit harder for those perfect round scoops!

Our next dessert will be rich chocolate ice cream, but before that I’ll post a tasty ratatouille Provençal recipe, to help you use up your bounty of summer garden and market vegetables.

Copyright Ozarkhomesteader 2011, including photographs.

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Life has kept me from blogging lately. A relative had some emergency orthopedic surgery that kept me away from home. I’m headed back there on Wednesday, but meanwhile I’m desperately trying to get caught up on planting. Mr. Homesteader has been keeping himself busy too. Take a look. Can you guess who’s coming to breakfast soon?
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A few weeks ago I had a chance to meet part of my Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.  I don’t want to offend the vegetarians, but this picture very well may include that bird.  I snapped a shot of these birds at Falling Sky Farm, now of Chime, Arkansas.  Mr. Homesteader was so impressed with the operations that for a week afterwards, no one could say chicken without him launching into an explanation of Falling Sky Farm’s operations and attributes.  The things that make Falling Sky Farm stand out include the freshness of the graze, the complete lack of odor, and the cleanliness.  Falling Sky Farm, naturally producing healthier food, stands in stark contrast to the factory farms that resulted in the recall of billions of eggs.

All of the animals at Falling Sky Farm graze on pasture.  What is most remarkable is that they get moved to fresh pasture either once or twice a day, depending on the animal.  Look at how rich this light grazing technique leaves the pasture, even after Arkansas’s extraordinarily hot summer and drought.

Frequent moving of the animals lets the manure composts easily on its own, in place, never leaving a strong smell like you find on factory farms.  The lack of concentrated manure also means that flies aren’t attracted in large numbers. With this system, animals never rest in their own waste, reducing disease.  Here you can see the chicken “tractors” in the distance and the rectangles indicating where they were in the past few days.

overlooking the chicken "tractors"

Pasture raising also eliminates bad bacteria from animals’ guts; the bacteria just don’t grow on pasture feed.  Finally, pasture raising increases the good Omega-3 fatty acids, helping you balance out the cholesterol that can come with eating animal products.  This hen promises she’ll produce better eggs!

Happy Laying Hen

As Congress debates a new food safety law, the Senate concluded that small farms with less than $500k in annual business that direct market within 275 miles of the farm should be exempt from tighter regulation unless they’re found guilty of distributing tainted food.  I think the amendment exempting small farms makes sense both for supporting local, diverse food sources and for saving tax payers’ money.  Well-run small farms are naturally healthier.

Have recent food recalls changed the food that you buy and how you shop and eat?

(edited Nov. 19, after the Senate included the exemption.)

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I don’t remember having creamy tomato soup that often as a kid, but I do remember how comforting a can of Campbell’s could be as I moved out on my own and couldn’t afford much else.  Today creamy tomato soup still speaks comfort to me, but I quit that red can long ago in favor of brands that have fewer artificial ingredients.  The “natural” and organic brands are pretty expensive, so how about just making our own creamy tomato soup at home?  This recipe will let you use up some of that bushel of tomatoes that showed up in your CSA basket, that caught your eye at your local farmer’s market, or that mysteriously appeared in your garden or on your doorstep.

serves 2-3

Ingredients

  • 1/3 medium sweet yellow onion, diced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • about 1 medium carrot (2 if the carrots don’t taste too carrot-y), diced (about 1/3 cup)
  • 2 1/2 cups (or more) of fresh or home-canned peeled tomatoes, as many seeds as you can removed (but keep the juice)
  • pinch of salt (more to taste after you cook everything)
  • pinch or two of sugar
  • tiny, tiny pinch of allspice or nutmeg
  • 1/2-2/3 cup whole milk (or more, to taste) or cream, if you’re feeling decadent
  • optional:  garnish with fresh herbs

In a non-reactive, heavy-bottomed pot with the lid on, sauté the onions over low heat in the olive oil and butter until the onions just barely start to color.  Add the carrots and let them get a little color too.  Remember to keep the lid on to retain the moisture.  Add the tomatoes, salt, sugar, and allspice or nutmeg and simmer the soup on low heat until the tomatoes start to break down and the carrots are soft.  Purée using a stick blender if you have one.  If you don’t have a stick blender, let the mixture cool a bit and then blend it in a stand blender or food processor or even run it through a hand-crank food mill.  Bring back to a simmer and add the milk.  Be careful not to boil after you add the milk, or the soup will curdle! Taste and add salt if needed.  Serve hot with a grilled cheese sandwich (or turkey-ham and cheese, like we used).

Have you developed a favorite comfort-food recipe?  If you serve tomato soup, what do you serve with it in your home?

Remember to check out the Homestead’s first ever giveaway.  You could win a Dutch oven, just for saying you’re interested.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.

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You may have figured out that I like peaches and blueberries.  I like them together.  To me, an ideal summer breakfast, lunch, or dinner dessert is a bowl of fresh sliced peaches with a big handful of blueberries on top.  My company this week apparently does not love big bowls of fresh fruit as much as I do, so I made muffins of these two special favorite fruits.  This recipe is ideal to whip up for a family breakfast and then bake in your toaster oven, so you don’t have to heat up the house.

Serves 6 (or 3 people who like two muffins a piece)

  • 1 small egg, beaten
  • 1/3 heaping cup plain yogurt (yes, I’m talking about something close to half a cup)
  • 1 almost over-ripe peach, diced very fine (save the juice!  add it with the diced peaches to the recipe)
  • 1/2 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup whole-grain oat flour  (okay to use all wheat if you do not have oat flour)
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup blueberries–okay, a half a cup will be okay, but a whole cup is better
  • optional:  pinch of nutmeg or squeeze of lime juice
  • butter to brush on tops

Preheat your toaster oven to 400 degrees F.  Grease the bottoms only of a 6-muffin tin.  In a 4-cup bowl or thereabouts, mix together the first three (wet) ingredients.  In smaller bowl, mix the flour and everything else down to but not including the blueberries.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until just mixed.  Add the blueberries and optional ingredients.  Divide the batter equally among the 6 muffin cups.  Bake at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes, rotating to get even browning if necessary.  Brush a little butter on the top of each muffin if you want.  Serve warm with butter, jam, or nothing at all.And since you’ve used yogurt and peaches instead of oil, you’ve got a healthy, low-fat treat for your family!  Shhhhhh–they’ll never know.


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Lately I’ve had two ideas for seasonal ingredients that didn’t make the blog cut.  The first idea was to wrap thin strips of puff pastry around turkey ham, wrapped around asparagus with a sliver of emmenthal cheese.  The problem was that I ended up with pastry that was too dry, and it wouldn’t curl to wrap.  Was it the whole-grain flour?  The tweaking I did to use buttermilk?  Or the fact that I left the dough uncovered when I chilled it?  I’m betting on that, but the result was a failure.  Everything tasted good but had none of the elegance I envisioned.

Tonight I made tart shells for strawberry tarts.  I used a scaled-down version of one of Darina Allen‘s pastry recipes.  I figured I could get the tarts the right size and shape by draping the dough over an upside-down muffin tin.  They slid in spots, leaving holes.  I think that the oven needed to be hotter (as in, preheated) and the dough needed to be colder when it went in the oven, but I could be wrong.

Despite these two recent flubs in pastry, I’m not giving up.  We learn as often from what we do wrong as what we do right.  Sometimes I hear parents who try to avoid having their children ever fail.  Frankly, I think that’s a bad idea.  Experimenting, failing, and succeeding are all part of what makes humanity so special.  It’s how we advance.  And if a finger gets nicked or a knuckle gets burned or a knee gets scraped, that’s all part of the process.  And we ate all of my flubs, even if they didn’t look pretty enough for the blog.

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Today apparently a reader found this blog by typing the question “tomato shoots have come up now what?”  into a search engine.  It’s a really good question, so I’ll answer it as a follow-up to my Little Green Shoots post.  My knowledge on planting tomatoes comes from learning from my grandfather, from reading, and from my own experience.  The summer that my grandparents had to give up their place, Granddaddy planted his tomatoes in April and then hurt his back in early May.  By early June, my grandparents were living out of state. I did the last clean-up on the house in late August.  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  Despite months of complete neglect, Granddaddy’s tomato plants were all full of big, juicy, ripe tomatoes, some of the biggest, most flavorful I’ve ever seen.  I’ve included some of his techniques here.

Once you’ve successfully started tomato plants, you’ll need to make sure that they have three–okay, maybe four–things:  strong light, room to grow, and adequate water (but not too much!).  They also need wind to make them strong.

Let’s start with your light source. If you live in a warmer climate (so that the temperatures are at least 70 degrees F during the day), you can put your seedlings first in dappled sunlight and then gradually in full sunlight during the day.  If your climate is a bit cooler, you’ll either need grow lights or a greenhouse or grow tent.  Grow lights should be full spectrum lights designed specifically for growing plants, and you need to make sure that the light source is no more than about 2 inches from the tops of the plants.  Otherwise the seedlings will be leggy–tall and spindly.  Grow tents or a greenhouses should be warm–around 75 to 80 degrees F but not much warmer than 90 degrees F–and should have southern exposure.

When I say tomatoes need room to grow, I mean their roots.  Tomatoes rely on big root systems to feed lots of fruits at once with lots of liquified nutrients.  The root system helps them do that.  As soon as your tomatoes get their real leaves (the second pair of leaves), plant them in a bigger container–at least the size of a pint milk carton.  I use old plant pots I got with nursery plants, plastic cups with holes cut in the bottom:  you name it.  If you can drain it, you can use it.  And every year I end up giving some plants more room than others.  The ones with more room always grow better.

Seedlings need constant but light moisture.  Too much water and you’ll get damping off, where the stem shrinks and withers and the seedling dies.  Too little water and, of course, the seedling will die.  Always water from the bottom to avoid leaf problems. I use old salad containers for my saucers.  Seedlings have everything they need to start, so you only need a tiny bit of light fertilizing (like fish emulsion) every two weeks or so after your seedlings are a few weeks old.  If you are using a potting soil with fertilizer already included (yes, you can get organic mixes this way), you won’t even need to add fertilizer with water.  Over-fertilizing can also kill your plants.

The only problem with using grow tents or green houses for seedlings is wind.  A light breeze pushing on the stem will help it grow sturdier.  If you don’t have wind available, make some using a fan.

What if you do get spindly, leggy seedlings?  Re-pot them deeper.  Tomatoes and other nightshade plants like peppers and eggplants have a remarkable ability to grow extra roots along their stem.  Some plants suffocate if you plant them deeper than they were originally, but not tomatoes and their close cousins.  Just be sure to gently strip off any leaves that will be under soil, as un-stripped leaves can rot and kill the plant ultimately.

Finally, when your daytime temperatures are in the 70s and nighttime temperatures are in the 50s, you can plant out your seedlings.  If you are able to plant now and live in warm area, by all means plant!  Dig a very deep hole–at least eighteen inches–and fill it with peat, organic compost, manure, blood and bone meal, and soil. (Your county extension agent most likely offers free soil analysis; he or she can tell you specifically what you need to add.) Now strip off all of the leaves except the top two splits of leaves. Plant your tomato so that only the top two splits of leaves are showing and everything else is underground.  Your plant will develop a very strong root system that will let it survive dry spells without your watering much.  Fashion a collar to go 2 inches above and 2 inches below the soil around the plant.  This collar will protect against cut worms. (I use half-gallon paper milk cartons cut in half.) Next, plant a marigold or two next to each tomato plant. Marigolds secrete a substance that confuses tomato parasites like cut worms–and the flowers are pretty!

Happy harvesting!

Do you have favorite methods for planting tomatoes?  Share!  Do you have questions?  Feel free to ask them here, and I’ll do my best to answer.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with full URL and attribution to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome. Please ask for permission to use photographs.

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Sorrel is a perennial herb that I have never spotted in a garden center in Arkansas, although I did see it in some northern garden centers when I lived there.  Sorrel has light to medium green thick, big leaves.  It has a tart taste that’s reminiscent of lemons, and that makes it a great addition to fish stuffing, whole-grain rice, summer vegetable frittatas, summer soups, and–in limited quantities– summer salads like cole slaw.  I’m excited about sorrel today because, unable to find local sources for the plants, I decided to grow it from seed this year, and my seeds have successfully sprouted.  If you have an opportunity to grow sorrel, but all means give it a try.  It’s a superb local replacement for lemons in the summer, when those are out of season.

I hate to count my seedlings before they grow, but if they make, I’ll be sure to share some sorrel recipes this summer.

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We went from wondering if another ice age was on its way to believing in global warming again this week.  The unseasonably warm weather cried out for a cooler dinner, and gigantic chives and Asian mustard that went from salad size to mandatory cooking overnight made me think of some of our favorite pseudo-Asian meals.  Tonight we’re having spicy peanut-sesame noodles with broccoli, coconut-crusted chicken, and a mess of mustard greens finished with hoisin sauce.

I first had peanut-sesame noodles a couple of decades ago at a Chinese restaurant in a country house outside Madison, Wisconsin.  Come to think of it, I’m not even sure if the place was licensed as a restaurant, but it got a big following quickly.  The food was good, but the most fun was the owner’s enthusiastic teenage daughter, Sunshine.  After we’d visited a few times, Sunshine told us that she was going to order for us that night, not from the menu but one of her favorite things that her mother made for the family.  Out came the noodles.  I was in love.  These probably bear little resemblance to those, but I can make them with ingredients I have on hand.

Spicy Peanut-Sesame Noodles

This recipe will make more than enough noodles for a whole family of four (or more).  I used whole-wheat spaghetti noodles, but you could use udon noodles or thick rice noodles too.

Serves 4-6

  • 1/2 box whole-wheat spaghetti noodles
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth (or veggie–also okay to use water, but then you’ll need to increase the other ingredients a bit)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup good peanut butter
  • 1 hot pepper (chile), diced finely–I used a red peter pepper I had in the freezer.  Feel free to use more peppers if you like it spicier.
  • 1 crushed garlic clove or several garlic chives, diced finely
  • 2-3 dashes rice wine vinegar
  • 6-7 dashes soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • optional:  freshly grated ginger or pickled ginger, slivered
  • 2-4 scallions or chives, sliced across the grain (both whites and tops)
  • carrot, slivered or coarsely grated
  • optional garnishes:  cilantro, coarsely grated radish, snow peas, shelled edamame

Begin by prepping the sauce for the noodles.  Heat the peanut butter and broth to get everything moving.  I heat them in a one-cup pyrex measuring cup in the microwave and then use the measuring cup for mixing everything else. Add in the hot pepper, garlic, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil.*

Now prepare the noodles according to package directions.  Pour off the cooking liquid and while the noodles are still hot, add the sauce and stir well to combine.  Stir in some of the scallions, carrots, and garnish and pile the rest artfully on top.  Set the noodles aside or refrigerate.  You’ll serve these noodles at room temperature or even cold.

Do you want to make this a vegetarian one-dish meal?  Use the veggie broth, and toss in shelled edamame or stir-fried tofu.  By the way, this sauce is an excellent appetizer dip for vegetables!  When we take it to parties, people love that it’s not the same-old ranch or bleu cheese dip, and it’s a lot healthier for you.

Go ahead and take a closer look.

Quick Broccoli

I used two cups of florets, fresh from our garden, and tossed them in salted water in the wok.  That’s all!  Then I used them as additional garnish on the noodles.

Coconut-Crusted Spicy Chicken

serves 2-4

  • 1 chicken breast, about half a pound, cut into strips (half of the thickness of the breast, about 3/4-inch wide each)
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2-4 tablespoons lime juice
  • optional:  2 tablespoons rice vinegar (use if you only use 2 tablespoons of lime juice)
  • 1 large jalapeno or other chile, diced fine (or more to taste)
  • 1 egg, beaten  You don’t need to double the egg if you double the recipe.
  • 1/3 cup coconut

Start by making the marinade by mixing together your liquids and prepped jalapeno.  Process everything with a stick blender or in a regular blender.  It’s okay if some of the pepper remains unprocessed.  If you do not have a blender, just chop the pepper even more and let it meld with the marinade for a little while..

Pour the brine/marinade over the chicken breast strips and let everything soak for several hours, turning regularly to make sure that the marinade reaches all parts. (If you’d like to let the chicken soak overnight in the mix, add 1/4 cup water to make a brine.  Otherwise, the acid in the juice and vinegar will “cook” the chicken and make it tough.)

To have un-crusted chicken, pour off the marinade or brine and stir-fry the chicken in a little coconut oil.  To crust the chicken, pour off the brine, dry the chicken well, and dip it first in the egg and then in the coconut.  Place the chicken pieces on a greased cookie sheet and bake it in a 325 degree F oven for about 20 minutes, turning the chicken over half way through, until the chicken is golden brown on the outside (and, obviously, cooked through inside.)

I also served dinner with mustard greens in hoisin sauce (pictured in the upper right corner of the bowl).  Simply prep a mess of greens (see photos above and below for what constituted a “mess of greens” tonight!) by stripping off the tough stems, chopping everything roughly, stir-frying quickly in sesame oil, and tossing in some hoisin sauce to finish wilting the greens.  As hot as it’s been outside, the greens were really sharp.

*If you have a family member who’s a little leary of new things, reduce or leave out the toasted sesame oil altogether and add a bit more chicken broth and vegetable oil to thin the noodle dressing. Sesame oil has a distinctive (some say acquired) flavor.

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Tonight we’re feasting on sweet roasted root vegetables, beet greens, and roasted chicken breast.  Except for the chicken, goat cheese, and olive oil, the meal is coming from our garden, a harvest of root vegetables that got a head start over the winter and are now yielding Yum! Whether you’re feasting on fresh root vegetables from your garden, a spring-opening farmers market, Community Supported Agriculture, or a veg box, roasted root vegetables that are really fresh are a wonderful treat that may make the whole family like beets and turnips.

I roasted the vegetables in a cast iron fry pan, covered with a cast iron lid, at about 400 degrees F for about 45 minutes.  I included leek slices, beet wedges, radishes slices, carrot chunks, and turnip wedges.  I roasted the vegetables simply, with olive oil, salt, and a little dried oregano.

I slathered red pepper relish (red peppers, vinegar, sugar, salt) on our chicken breast (briefly brined) and then baked and sliced it after it rested.  Even though the breast was boneless and skinless, the relish helped it retain moisture.  The breast was really juicy.

I braised the beet greens in a little oil and then added a little of the chicken cooking liquid.  Finally I sprinkled on the goat cheese.

The sweetness and savoriness of the red pepper relish and  the vegetables balanced with the tanginess of the goat cheese made for a delicious meal.

Beware any woody vegetables.  Roasting will not make them better.  If you can’t easily cut through the veggies when they’re raw, they are woody.  Discard them.  Feed them to your farm animals or your compost pile.  They’ll appreciate them.  And, yes, I learned this the hard way.

What are you favorite preparation for root vegetables?  What sort of seasoning do you like to use?

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

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