Posts Tagged ‘organic food’

I’ll concede from the start:  pineapple is not local to Arkansas.  At least I use organic pineapple.  Pineapple is a treat food, one of those things I buy infrequently and then relish.  And it was available, in canned form, when my grandparents were kids.  Now that we’ve gotten the question of whether pineapple is seasonal, organic, old-school, and local out of the way, let’s talk cake.

This pineapple upside down cake is probably much lighter and considerably healthier than the ones you remember from childhood, but it is full of great flavor and texture.  I have reduced the sugar (the classic recipes are all cloyingly sweet) and used whole-grain pastry flour.  I’ve also used a pineapple juice and lime juice reduction to moisten the cake.  It’s still dessert, but you can feel a little bit better about serving a slice to your family, and chances are they won’t know it’s a light version.  My husband initially told me he just wanted a sliver.  Next thing I knew, he was returning for a big slice.

Don’t be off put by the ingredient list.  You can put this cake together in about ten minutes or less of active work.

As always, please use organic if you can.  I had organic ingredients on hand for everything.

For the bottom (which will become the top!)

  • 7-8 slices pineapple in natural juice  (See below for what to do with the rest of the can, including the juice!)
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • optional:  a few walnut or pecan pieces

The cake batter

  • 3 eggs (could use 1 egg and three egg whites)
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk or kefir
  • 1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • optional:  1 teaspoon lemon or orange extract

The glaze

  • the juice from the large can of pineapple
  • about 1/4 cup lime juice (more or less to taste)–Yes, you could use lemon juice instead.

The method.

Start by pre-heating the oven to 350 degrees F.  Now heat a 10-inch cast iron frying pan on the stovetop.  (Yes, any stove and oven-proof pan in the 9 or 10-inch range should work, but the cast iron will give a really good caramel topping with the pineapple.) Add the butter and melt it. Now sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the surface, taking care to distribute it evenly as you put it down.  Don’t try to move it after you sprinkle it on, as you’ll likely lose it to the pan at the end of the process.  Turn off the burner (and remove the pan from the stove top if you use an electric range).  Put a single slice of pineapple in the very middle and then space the rest of the pineapple evenly around the central slice. If you want, add walnut or pecan pieces in the intervening spaces, including the pineapple slice holes.

In a small bowl or large measuring pitcher, beat the eggs lightly.  Add the sugar and buttermilk and stir.  Then quickly stir in the dry ingredients and the extracts.  Pour the cake batter on the pineapple in the frying pan and then pop the whole thing in the oven for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the pineapple and lime juices, starting with less lime juice, in a small, heavy-bottomed pot.  (Corning is ideal for this application.) Taste the mixture.  Is it a good blend of sweet and sour, a bit more sour?  Excellent, because you’re about to reduce and intensify the flavor!  If you’re not happy with the flavor, add a bit more lime juice.  Now bring the mixture to boil, uncovered. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the mixture is about 1/2 to 1/3 its original volume.  This glaze should be ready right about the time the cake comes out.

Has it been 30 minutes?  Take out the cake.  Let it sit for about 4 minutes–not much longer because it will stick if you leave it.  Then slide a knife around the edge to make sure none of the sugar is causing the cake to stick. Using two pot holders, invert the pan on a large, flat plate.  Now poke a few holes in the top with a toothpick and pour on the pineapple-lime glaze. Let the cake cool for at least a few minutes before serving. If you’ve made the cake in a round pan, cut it into wedges like pie slices.  Eat.  Enjoy.  Do what my husband did and cut yourself a second slice.

Nutritional information

Using the higher levels of butter and sugar, if you made 8 slices from this cake, each slice would have about 260 calories, including almost 6 grams of protein, 2.375 grams fiber, 8.4 grams fat, and 43 grams of sugar.  Go easy on it, though, and cut 16 slices, and each one will have just 130 calories, 3 grams protein, 4.2 grams fat, and 21.5 grams of sugar.  And if you go with the lesser suggestions on butter and sugar (and I can assure you you won’t miss them!), you’ll drop to less than 100 calories per thin slice.

What to do with the extra pineapple slices

You need a large can of pineapple to get enough slices for this pineapple upside down cake, but you won’t quite use the whole can.  We used our extra slices for homemade whole-grain pizza with (turkey, nitrite-free) Canadian bacon and pineapple.  By request of a reader in another post, I’ve started adding recipes for my homemade pizza.  It’s not pineapple pizza, but that one will be coming soon!

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A few days ago I blogged about a Southern staple of healthy frugal food, beans and cornbread with greens.  Today I’d like to give you my Georgia grandmother’s cornbread recipe.

I learned how to make cornbread standing by my grandmother, in her kitchen.  As with so many of the foods she prepared often, she had no recipe for cornbread, so I insisted that we measure as much as we could after she eyeballed amounts.  She was particularly fond of measurements like “butter, about the size of a hen egg,” which confounded me until I became the recipient of her most treasured cookbook and discovered that that was the kind of measurement her well-worn nineteenth-century cookbook used. (Please don’t tell my mother I have the cookbook.  My mother thinks she got the most treasured cookbook.  I don’t think she knew about this cookbook.) It has been two decades since I transcribed this cornbread recipe.  At the time, I know I got more direction on how the mixture should look, but I did not write it down.  Nonetheless, this recipe produces a darn good cornbread.  If you do not have bacon drippings, you can use butter.  You could also use apple sauce if you want less fat, but it may produce a little stickier bread.  This cornbread is authentic; it was originally lacking completely in sugar, and it has no wheat flour to soften it.  The bread’s consequent hardiness makes it perfect for crumbling in beans or mixing with celery, onions, and seasoning in Southern dressing (stuffing for those of you who aren’t Southern).

Tools: one 10-inch cast iron fry pan  (Yes, you can use a 9-inch square pan, but the cast iron heat helps create the crust.)


  • 2 to 3 Tablespoons bacon drippings (or butter or apple sauce–see note above)–about half of a large cooking spoon
  • 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (original recipe called for 3/4 teaspoon)
  • optional: 1 teaspoon sugar (not in original recipe but really does perk it up)
  • 1 egg (In all likelihood, she would have been using medium eggs.)
  • 1 1/3 cup buttermilk (My note says 1 1/4 “or more, if necessary.”  This was one of those measurements where she talked about appearance.  I think 1 1/3 or even 1 1/2 cup is closer to what you need.)  You could use Kefir if you cannot get good buttermilk.

Put the bacon drippings in your skillet and put the whole thing in a 425 degree (F) oven, to melt the drippings and get the skillet hot.  Mix the cornmeal, leavening (baking powder), salt, egg, and buttermilk in a bowl.  Pull the skillet out of the oven, and swirl the drippings to coat the bottom and a little of the sides.  Pour the melted drippings into the batter, stir the batter to incorporate the drippings, and then immediately pour the batter into the skillet.  Bake for 30-35 minutes, higher rather than lower in the oven.  When you take out the cornbread, flip it over and leave it in the pan upside down to cool.  Then flip it back to serve, or flip it onto a plate.  Cornbread is served in wedges, cut like pie slices.

Copyright 2010 Ozarkhomesteader.  Short excerpts with a full link and reference to Ozarkhomesteader are welcome.  Passing off my grandmother’s recipe as your own?  not cool!

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This week I ordered lamb from Conway Locally Grown, a regional variation on CSAs that I’ve blogged about here in the past.  We do not ordinarily eat red meat. As a matter of fact, I had been years and years without eating it until December 2009.  What happened then?  A friend who has an annual winter solstice party with homemade whole-grain pizza included lamb on the pizza.  He’d raised the lamb himself, so it had, as he put it, “zero carbon miles.”  I had to try it.  I admit it; it was way better than any red meat I’d ever had.  So when my father, who is visiting us for a week, wanted to try the lamb from Conway Locally Grown, I said “okay” and ordered it.  Thus we had a very Greek-inspired shepherd’s pie tonight, made almost entirely of local ingredients.

Serves 3-5

For the mashed-potato topping:

  • 4 medium potatoes (I used three big Yukon gold potatoes and one red potato)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of kefir or buttermilk (or yogurt mixed with a little milk)
  • 1-2 ounces Greek cheese, crumbled (I used a sheep and goat feta-type with Greek herbs)

For the meat and vegetable mixture:

  • several cloves of garlic (7 or 8 if you like a lot of garlic or if the cloves are small)
  • 8/10 pound ground lamb
  • 3 good-sized red peppers, sweet or hot (I used marconi and Hatch)
  • 1 pint home-canned tomatoes (yes, you can use a 14-ounce can of good store-bought tomatoes if you don’t have home canned ones)
  • 2 or 3 small carrots or half of one large
  • two sprigs fresh rosemary (about 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • three of four sprigs fresh oregano, leaves only (about 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 1 cup zucchini, preferably blanched or sauteed, drained thoroughly, and chopped roughly (I used some I had frozen)

Optional:  eggplant, sliced and sauteed. *See seasonal note.

Begin by dicing the potatoes and slicing three of the garlic cloves. Put the potatoes and garlic in a suitable pot and boil until the potatoes are tender.  I also salted the water with a “Greek” seasoning made here in the Ozarks called Cavender’s. When the potatoes and garlic are done cooking, pour off the water and then put the pot back on the stove briefly to cook off excess water.  You can turn off the potatoes at this point until the meat mixture is ready.

While the potatoes are boiling, crush or finely chop the rest of the garlic. Add it and the ground lamb to a heavy-bottomed pot (I used a 2-quart cast iron Dutch oven) and cook on medium until the meat is no longer pink. Meanwhile, remove the seeds from the peppers and cut the red peppers into half inch pieces.  If your peppers are fresh, add them to the meat mixture immediately.  I waited to put mine into the meat mixture until it was mostly cooked because my peppers were from our freezer, from 2009’s garden, and thus already soft.

When the meat is no longer pink, add the pint of tomatoes.  You can add the peppers soon thereafter if you have not done so already.  Add the rosemary and oregano. (Ours remarkably survived the frigid temperatures we’ve been having, probably because they are planted next to the porch on the south side of the house, with no chance of getting hit directly by the north winds.) Next cut the carrots in halves or quarters lengthwise and cut thin half-moon slices.  Add the carrots to the mix.  (The carrots came from our garden, protected in a cold frame.) If you have not pre-cooked the zucchini, add it now, sliced and then chopped casually.  My zucchini came from the garden via the freezer and thus had already been blanched, so I added it last. Simmer, uncovered, until the mixture has completely thickened.  If you have not added the zucchini, add it now, well drained first.  Fish out the whole rosemary sprigs.

As the meat mixture starts to get thick enough, you can finish the potatoes.  Add the 1-2 tablespoons of kefir or buttermilk (or yogurt/milk mixture) and mash the potatoes well.  Now stir in the 1-2 ounces of Greek cheese, like the sheep-goat feta blend I used.  You want to leave the cheese in chunks, so that diners get a burst of flavor every few bites.

Divide the meat mixture into individual greased casserole dishes or a single larger casserole dish. You could also leave the mixture in the Dutch oven, if you prepped the meat mixture in it.  Now spread the mashed potatoes over the meat mixture.

Broil until the tops are browned, about 5-15 minutes, depending on your oven.  Serve with a big salad with Mediterranean ingredients and enjoy!

*I did not use eggplant because we did not have any in the freezer, and it is not in season here.  Of course, it would be ideal for this recipe.

You may also be interested in a shepherd’s pot pie: https://ozarkhomesteader.wordpress.com/2009/12/29/shepherds-pot-pie-using-holiday-leftovers/

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A few years ago the non-profit Environmental Working Group released its “dirty dozen,” a list of the produce that generally has the highest rates of pesticides.  On the list were peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, pears, grapes (imported), spinach, lettuce, and potatoes.  In many locales, home gardeners can plant the trees and vines whose fruits appear on  the dirty dozen.  Producing fruit from trees and woody vines will take many years, however, so let’s look to what you can grow this year.

Various types of strawberries grow well throughout the United States.  If you are willing to wait a couple of years, you can start from seed.  If you’d rather have strawberries within a year, start from crowns.  You can purchase crowns at your local garden supply store or online.  Just remember that your strawberry patch will produce for years, so be cautious about where you plant it.

Sweet bell peppers, spinach, lettuce, and potatoes all grow well in the Ozarks.  Celery does not, but it may grow well where you live.  I can cut my organic food bill substantially by growing what works here.  The key is accepting that you’ll be eating certain things seasonally.  Spinach and lettuce, for example, do not survive hundred-degree (F) summer days in the Ozarks, but they’ll grow really well in the fall and spring (and the winter, with a little help).   Note that I use chard and mustard greens for summer.  I can’t grow regular celery, but cutting celery (same flavor but much smaller stalks) will grow here.  I can easily grow sweet peppers, but I grow few standard bells and opt instead for smaller peppers that will ripen more quickly and produce better than bells (plus they’re really cute!).  If you live much further north than here, you’ll definitely want to start with plants instead of seed for peppers, to be sure that they have plenty of time to develop fruit.  With the “dirty dozen” as your guide for gardening, you can still eat clean and organic without breaking the bank.

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Copyright Ozarkhomesteader 2009, just like the rest of the blog.  
Feel free to post short excerpts with full links to this blog.

I like to mix up muffins regularly because they give us healthy, wholesome breakfasts and healthy snacks for little money.  Making muffins from scratch only takes a few more minutes than making them from a mix, and you know your scratch muffins are full of good things instead of chemicals.  This morning we had double delicious apple muffins.  I’ll talk after the recipe about how healthy they are.  Feel free to skip that if you’d rather think they’re decadent!

This recipe makes 6 muffins, perfect for a medium-sized family (or a small family who wants muffin snacks later!).  If you can get organic ingredients and farm-fresh eggs, by all means use them.  We do!

Dry ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons whole-grain oat flour (or just use old-fashioned rolled oats, all wheat flour, or flax meal if you don’t have oat flour–remember:  use what you have!)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) ground cinnamon
  • pinch/sprinkle of allspice
  • 1/4-1/3 cup chopped walnuts  (I just crush them in my hand as I’m adding them to the mix)
  • optional:  small handful of raisins or currants

Wet ingredients:

  • 1 apple (like Gala, McIntosh, or Arkansas black)
  • 1/2 cup applesauce or apple butter  (oh, yes, this is the double-delish part:  apples and apple sauce!)
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk or kefir (or milk mixed with yogurt if you don’t have either one in the house, or just milk if that’s all you have.  Like I always say, use what you have!)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (brown or maple okay–or more, up to a quarter cup if you’re family is addicted to sugar–use less if you used apple butter instead of apple sauce)

Optional:  cinnamon and sugar to sprinkle on top before baking.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 6-cup muffin tin.  Get a 1-quart (small) mixing pitcher or bowl.  (Using a pitcher will make everything easier to pour into the muffin cups.)

Begin by chopping the apple.  I like to cut my apples into halves, quarters, and eighths first, so they I can remove the minimum amount of core.  Since I use homegrown or organic apples, I wash them well but do not peel them.  The peel is both healthy and pretty.  Your apple pieces should be no more than 1/2 inch cubed each.

Make-and-eat directions:  If you are going to make the muffins right away, you can mix everything together immediately.  Just start with the dry ingredients and then add your wet ingredients.  Stir well to combine but do not over-stir. Pour into prepared muffin tins.  Sprinkle on cinnamon and sugar (optional).  Bake the muffins for 20 minutes.  Let them cool briefly in the pans and then turn out to cool (or just turn them on their sides to cool.)  Enjoy!

Night-before preparation, for even quicker morning baking: If you want to eat these on a school day (or get them ready for the kids to bake in the morning while you sleep in!), you can mix together all the dry ingredients separately from all of the wet ingredients.  In the morning, preheat the oven (350′ F) and grease your muffin tin.  Then combine the wet and dry ingredients.  Bake for 20 minutes and eat or take them with you!

Dutch oven directions for camping:

Follow the directions for night-before preparation to mix your dry and wet ingredients separately.  Put both in separate camp-worthy containers.  Freeze the wet ingredients if you won’t use them for a few days.  The morning you want to eat your muffins, use 6 metal cupcake “papers” in the bottom of a small Dutch oven.  Put on the lid and add coals top and bottom and bake for 20-25 minutes.  Alternatively, you can just grease the Dutch oven itself and make this recipe coffee-cake style.  Cut the finished cake into wedges.

What’s good about these muffins?

These muffins are great whether you are watching your cholesterol, concerned about high blood sugar, or trying to keep your intestines in good shape.  With both soluble and insoluble whole grains as well as a lot of apple, little sugar, and almost no fat except for the good fat in the walnuts, these muffins are wholesome health food.  Don’t worry, though; your family will never notice!

Healthy snacking: These muffins make great afternoon snacks or even a light dessert.  For a snack, try spreading two halves with some natural warm peanut butter.  (Making the peanut butter warm will help natural peanut butter spread without tearing the muffin.)

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