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This past Sunday a few of us gave you a glimpse at what we have growing on our gardens. This week I wanted to share with you what I do with some of that fresh produce that comes out of our garden.

One of the salads that I make a lot is tabouli (or tabbouleh). It is great in the heat of the summer not to have to turn on the stove-top or the oven.bulgar tabouliSome tabouli recipes you find will have you pour boiling water over your bulgar, but I just soak mine. Again, any reason not to turn on that heat-producing appliance!

This salad can be made with the traditional way using bulgar or cracked wheat, but it can also be made using quinoa (need to follow quinoa cooking instructions for that)

Tabouli

  • 2 cups bulgar or cracked wheat
  • 1 tbsp.  salt
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • 1 1/4 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomato
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 chopped mint

Put your bulgar in a bowl or sauce pan and cover it with water an inch above the bulgar. The bulgar will soak most or all that water up and you may need to add more. I let mine sit for at least 45 minutes, usually longer. The last thing I want it to take a bite and come down on a hard piece of wheat.

Chopping Mint

Chopping Mint

If you do end up with more water that your bulgar soaked up, just use a mesh colander and strain it.

While your bulgar is soaking up that water, start chopping all your herbs and vegetables. It is up to you whether you want to de-seed your cucumbers and tomatoes.

I toss things together as I chop. Once your bulgar is ready, toss it with all the vegetables and herbs. Mix your lemon juice and oil olive together ad pout it over your bulgar mixture and toss again.

You want to allow time for all the flavors of the herbs and dressing to mingle so give yourself a minimum of 30 minutes to let everything marinate before serving. If you are in the area of the kitchen, give it a toss and stir as you walk by to bring any of the marinade up into more of the tabouli.

If you want your tabouli heavy on the vegetable and herb side, either double the amounts of the herbs and veggies or knock the bulgar amount down by half. Up to you! This makes a pretty big bowl.

I love making this using all the fresh herbs from the gardens along with the fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. It is a great way to celebrate summer and the harvest from your garden or local farmers markets.

What are you cooking with things from your garden?

Sincerely, Emily

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This is a post I had started over on my personal blog a few years ago, but it just kept getting pushed further down the posting list until it was out of sight. Alexandra commented on my post last week about getting the recipe…. just the push I needed I guess.

I found this recipe back in 2010 over at Living on a Dime and I have been making them ever since then. This is what my husband has for breakfast every day. They make a great snack and they freeze well.  I always grab a few to take with me when I head out to run errands for the day. Having them with me keeps me from making a bad decision (fast food drive-thru) when I start to get really hungry.

I stack them in a pint canning jars to take in the truck.

I stack them in a pint canning jars to take in the truck.

The base of the recipe is great and then you go off in the direction you want to with your special ingredients. I substitute honey for the granulated sugar in this recipe. I know honey still has calories just like granulated sugar, but I am not focusing on calories here, I am focusing on my ingredients and where they come from along with the benefits of the things I add to them. Also, I think I am getting a healthier granola bar then the ones in the store that are full of additives and preservatives that I am working so hard to stay away from.

mixing up granola bars

Homemade Granola Bars           Adapted from website Living on a Dime

Cream together (I use my stand mixer or hand-held mixer)
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened

Add to mix (use electric mixer)
2 Tbsp. honey or corn syrup
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 egg

Peanut butter (optional)

Add to mix (I still use that mixer)
1 cup flour
1 T cinnamon
1/2 tsp. baking soda

Stir into mix

Add dried fruit, nuts, coconut, etc.

Stir in remaining ingredients.

Add to mix
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 1/4 cups crispy rice cereal (I use an organic puffed rice or puffed millet)

Press firmly into the bottom of a greased 9×13 pan. (I use the back of a spoon to press the mixture into pan.)

Bake at 350° for 30 – 35 minutes. (looking for golden brown – but not crispy

The bars will firm up as they cool.
Allow the bars to cool completely before cutting.
Makes 24 bars.

Here is what I add to mine:
Ground flax seed
Sunflower seeds
Peanuts
Coconut
Raisins or died cranberries or dried apricots

Granola Bars - done

A few of my notes:

  • I don’t tend to measure the ingredients when I am making these up, other than there is always a 1 cup measure in each jar of flour that I have and 1/4 cup measuring cup in both my oatmeal and my puffed millet. I have found when using honey in place of the granulated sugar that I need to add more flour to the mixture. Since I am not measuring, my granola bars can come out either quite chewy gooey or quite firm and crunchy.
  • Another thing to keep in mind when using more honey in these bars, is that if you bake them at 350F like the original recipe calls for, they will brown and burn more quickly and the bars won’t be completely cooked, so I turn down the oven to 300F to bake them slower and a lower heat setting. They still brown up more, but they don’t burn as quickly.

I cannot count how many times that I have passed on this recipe and everyone that has made them has been thrilled with the results.

I make two batches at a time and always keep them in the freezer.

Do you make your own granola or granola bars? Feel free the share your recipe or a link to it in the comments.

Sincerely, Emily

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I have been looking around for a different cookie recipe to take to a cookie exchange that I am going to next week. In the process I came across a recipe for Pecan Pie Bars. My husband is a big fan of pumpkin pie and pecan pie, and my neighbor usually makes the pecan pie and I usually make an apple cranberry thingy. Well, this year, for Thanksgiving, I completely dropped the ball on desert and Wednesday night by husband asked if we were having pumpkin pie…. ahhh, no.

I did get him to agree to help me with the pecan pie bars and boy, they were great!

Pecan Pie Bars

Crust
1 1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter

Preheat your oven to 350F/180C. crust: combine flour, powdered sugar and salt. Cut in 1/2 cup butter until your mixture is course crumbs. Pat the crumb mixture into an ungreased 11×7 baking dish. Bake the crust for 20 minutes, or until it is a golden brown.

“Pie” filling
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 cup chopped pecans
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup agave syrup
1T cornstarch
2 T butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla

While you crust is baking, mix together eggs, pecans, brown sugar, agave syrup, 2 T melted butter and vanilla. Spread this mixture over your baked crust.
Bake for 20 minutes (350F/180C). Cool before cutting.

We cut our bars rather large (15 bars). I know I will be making these bars a few more times through December and will cut them much smaller (24 bars).

When I found this recipe, I didn’t have light corn syrup on hand, so I turned to our resident baker here at NDIN (Emily at Tanglewood Farm) about using a substitute and she recommended trying agave syrup. After I mixed the “filling” it seemed a bit thin and runny so I decided to add 1T of cornstarch to the mix. I have NO idea if this helped or not. All I can tell you is the “filling” was firm and came out fine.

When I decided to try this recipe I was looking forward to using my Vitamix to make the powdered sugar. Before I got started, I looked up in the cupboard, waaaaay in the back, just to make sure there wasn’t any store-bought powdered sugar still lurking up there. OH, MY! I found A LOT of powdered sugar up there. I can’t tell you when the last time was that I used any powered sugar, but I can also tell you that even though I gave away a ton of food before we moved to Texas (4+ years ago), somehow this powdered sugar came with us. Crazy! I can also tell you that this stuff in OLD. I probably would have bought this when I was taking cake decorating classes when we lived in Palm Springs. That was about 10 years ago. YIKES!

If any of you are from California, you will also laugh, because one of the packages is from Lucky (grocery store) and another box I found is from Stater Brothers. Lucky closed many years ago, but Stater brothers is still around out there.

What kind of treats are you baking this time of year?

Sincerely, Emily

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Are you inspired by all the great handmade gifts our writers have been making? We like to cook things for the ones we love as well! Here’s some handmade recipes for holiday giving!

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Of course, sweets are the mainstay of homemade holidays, but this year I decided to go savory. Every year I grow tomatillos, make pints and pints of salsa verde, and then it sits on the shelf because no one eats it. Naturally, this year I decided I’ll make it in half-pint sizes, and then use it for gifts. I made 20 half-pints. When I went to check for this photo, I was down to 11; I think my husband has been eating it because of the nice small sizes. I used Rick Bayless’ wonderful recipe, and grew everything myself except the limes. By the way, this stuff is great on pizza!Salsa

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Well, Xan has me drooling over her salsa verde.

With the successful zucchini growing season this fall, I (Sincerely, Emily) knew exactly what some people were going to be getting this year for gifts! Zucchini Relish!  I started making this recipe back in the fall of 2009 with a few zucchini from my garden (before the nasty borer got to it!) and more from the farmers market. Now I am thrilled I can use all of my own, homegrown zucchini for the recipe. I have not harvested my horseradish yet, or I would have used that too!) I found the recipe over at Homesteading in Maine and I also have the zucchini relish recipe posted (with permission) over at my blog too.

Zucchini Relish 2We love this relish on sandwiches in place of mayo.

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On Thursday, we’ll indulge in the great American celebration of excess that is Thanksgiving. It’s a strange week to be thinking about thrift and frugality.

On the other hand, we’re already well into the annual assault on our senses that is the holiday advertising season, when we learn how desperately we need a lot of shit that we don’t need, not to mention how buying it is the only way to prove to your family and friends that you love them. It’s particularly grating in my family, as my husband is a choral musician, and there’s nothing like a holiday ad for mangling great works of choral literature.

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. Although it celebrates consumption and indulgence, a big part of that indulgence is the immersion in family, in thankfulness, in tradition, in things made, and not just things consumed.

So many of the best family memories focus on Thanksgiving. My friend Terry’s amazement that I whipped my potatoes by hand. It never occurred to me to use a beater, and I still don’t like to. I think it makes the potatoes gluey. Watching the kids slowly turn their focus from childish to adult, as one by one, they stopped leaving the adult conversation after the meal. My annual fight with everyone else in the family over canned cranberry sauce which we never ever ever (ever) had until about 4 years ago, and which everyone now insists is a “tradition.” Did I mention that we NEVER had this before? Ever. I must have been having Thanksgiving in some alternate universe, because I’m pretty sure I was making this cranberry sauce every damn year for decades.

World’s Best Cranberry Chutney (From the old Sphere magazine)
1 lb cranberries (these used to come in 16 oz bags, now they’ve reduced bag size to 12 oz, so just deal)
1 cup white sugar*
1/2 c. packed brown sugar*
1/2 c. golden raisins
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp allspice
1 cup water
1 c. chopped onion
1 c. chopped apple (Granny Smiths)
1/2 c. chopped celery

Simmer cranberries, sugar, raisins and spices in 1 cup water, uncovered, in a saucepan over medium heat, just until the cranberries release their juice (about 15 minutes). Keep heat low, and stir in remaining ingredients. Simmer until it thickens, about 15 minutes. Can be served warm or cold. I think it’s best when made the day before and stored in the fridge, then served at room temperature for the actual meal.

* if you don’t want to use sugar, substitute 1 cup honey and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. You’ll need to simmer it a little longer due to the excess liquid.

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Indulgence can be a profane act of excess for the sake of excess, or it can be a sacred meal, shared with the ones you love most. You can consume for consumption’s sake, or in celebration of life’s sweetness.  Consumption can be extraction, leaving you sick and unhappy, or creation, which transports you.

How will you balance the profane and the holy this week?

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How many of you have ever bought (pasteurized) whipping cream for some random project, shoved it in the fridge, and forgotten about it for a while? I certainly have. Now, I’ve fed my share of soured cream and spoiled dairy to the chickens, but I’ve also found that as long as the cream is simply soured (broken down, by lactic acid forming bacteria) I can still use it.

Now, keep in mind this is a post about what I have done, not what you should do.

So. Soured cream is not quite the same as sour cream. Well, actually it is, but while soured cream is soured by bacteria that won’t harm us, it can also have additional creepy crawlies growing in it if it’s been exposed to other sources of bacteria. Sour cream is cream that has had either lactic acid, or additional harmless lactose-eating bacteria added to give it a consistent and safe sourness.

Theoretically, soured cream was once regular cream, and assuming it was pasteurized (I don’t suggest doing this with raw milk) all of the harmful creepy crawlies were killed off in the process. After that, the cream was likely poured into a sanitized container and sealed. Assuming this container stays free of harmful creepy crawlies, it’s likely that the cream will stay fresh for quite long until it finally succumbs to the lactose-eating bacteria that is still present. I’ve been known to use slightly soured cream to make a particularly tasty topping for fresh fruit, and I’ve baked into bread, but there is one use for soured cream that surpasses all others…

Last summer I had ordered several containers of cream in anticipation of a big project, and unfortunately the project for which they were intended was forgotten… as were the containers of cream (I think they were behind a few other projects in the fridge, including the pickled radishes). By the time I discovered them, I found that I’d let over $12 of cream go to waste! Grrr…

After a brief brainstorming and a few google searches I had the perfect remedy, and it wasn’t feeding it to the chickens. Are you ready for this?

Salted Caramel Sauce!

I know, right? Soured cream doesn’t seem like the kind of thing to end up in a delicious ice cream topping, or drizzled over fresh strawberries, but it was a very successful experiment indeed.

Basically when making any caramel sauce, you bring sugar to the caramelization point (or sugar and water, depending on your method) and then you cut the caramelized sugar with a liquid – most often cream. The caramelization point is approximately 320º, and there are few harmful creepy crawlies that can live when exposed to temperatures half that temperature, so using soured dairy to cut caramel is (in my very unscientific experience) fairly safe.

I set about making “wet” caramel, which means you begin heating the sugar after moistening it with a bit of water. When it his 320º, instead of adding cream, I added the soured cream. It boiled and frothed and got super gooey and sticky and I was convinced I had ruined it, but sure enough after I stirred and stirred and stirred I was left with a thick and gloriously tasty caramel sauce that everyone should try at some point.

So tonight I decided I needed caramel sauce for a recipe I was working on, but we were out of cream altogether… but what did I find in the back of the refrigerator this time? An unopened container of sour cream! Divine intervention, that was.

I substituted sour cream for the soured cream that would have substituted for the fresh cream and within 20 minutes I was trying desperately to slap my own hand away from a cooling batch of delicious caramel. Seriously. I couldn’t stop licking the bowl. I was like a little kid. I’m still considering going back into the kitchen to see if I missed any spots…

Anyway, I wanted to share this recipe. I feel like it’s pretty indispensable when it comes to folks with sweet tooths. I think next time I may try it with buttermilk to see if there’s a difference in taste; will it be more butterscotchy? Hmmm…

Not-for-the-chickens Creamy Caramel Sauce 

The Players:
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1 1/4 cups sour cream, soured cream, heavy whipping cream – at room temperature, or slightly warmed
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt (sea salt, fleur de sel, whatever you choose – make it flavorful, though)

- Measure everything out ahead of time. Trust me. You’ll want your cream on hand precisely when you need it – not ten seconds later.

- Place sugar and water in a medium sauce pan and stir to moisten the sugar and distribute the water. Heat this mixture over medium to medium-high heat, without stirring. I know you’ll want to stir it, but seriously, don’t. Agitation can cause the sugar to crystalize and then you’ll end up with a weird, chunky, sticky mess.

- If you’re concerned about crystallization, you can brush the sides of your pan down on the inside with water occasionally to keep sugar crystals from forming along the edge. I don’t usually do this, and I’ve only had it crystalize once… and I stirred it… A lot.

- Once the sugar begins to boil, place a candy thermometer in the mixture and slowly raise the temperature to approximately 320º, which is the point that sugar caramelizes.

- As soon as the sugar reaches the caramelization stage, slowly pour the cream into the sauce pan. The mixture will get super grouchy and sputter and boil and bubble. Using a wooden spoon or a metal whisk, stir quickly to incorporate the two liquids as they hit a mean temperature. If you get a big ol’ clod of thick caramel in the middle, remove the pan from the heat and work to scrape and scumble the clod around until it breaks up and begins to rejoin the rest of the liquid. If your sauce ends up kind of lumpy, fret not. Simply run it through a medium-fine mesh sieve (or even a colander would work) and it’ll turn out just fine.

- After the two liquids are combined fairly well, return the mixture to a boil just for a minute or so and then remove from heat.

- Add the vanilla and salt last, stir and then pour into containers. Keep the sauce refrigerated (though theoretically you could can it in a pressure cooker – or in a hot water bath if you’re daring and playing by ‘old school’ rules. Sugar is a pretty good preservative. Still, I don’t particularly condone the canning of dairy products via hot water bath!)

The sauce will thicken over the next few hours into a fantastic drizzley, sweet, sticky goo that is perfect for icecream, fruit, yogurt, bundt cakes… and spoons. I prefer spoons. :)

Want to read more from Tanglewood Farm? Check out Emily’s blog over at A Pinch of Something Nice where she writes about her experiences with her gardens and her livestock, her insatiable sweet tooth, her quest to become a cottage foods bakery and her adventures in leasing a small 19th century cottage and orchard in SE Michigan.

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This last weekend I purchased a bushel of Fuji apples. One of my absolute favorite apples. Ever. My intent was to store them in our cool basement since they’re such good keepers. (For a good list of apple varieties and their qualities visit pickyourown.org)

Instead I’ve been going mad for baked apple goodness. Sunday I made these:

apple dumpling

Apple dumplings that are knock-your-socks-off good. The key to such a good flavor was the boiled cider – also known as apple molasses – that I made. Just a little bit imparts an amazingly intense flavor. Sure you could buy it online and have it shipped, but if you have the opportunity you should try to make it, especially if you can get local apples!

So because I couldn’t get enough of that yumminess, I had to make something more…. but better for me.

Enter Apple Dumpling Oatmeal.

I prepared this last night before bed in 15 minutes, and it was ready to go for me this morning. You could alternatively prepare this in a dutch oven, or on the stove top if you don’t care to leave a crockpot plugged in all night. I’ve given you three options! Just bring your appetite. This is a stick-to-your-ribs kinda meal. The kind that makes you want to get outside and get something done. That, or help yourself to seconds…

apple dumpling-inspired oatmeal

Apple Dumpling Oatmeal

Makes 6-8 LARGE portions

  • 2 medium cooking apples, peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1-1/4 cups steel cut oats or thick rolled oats
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 rounded tsp boiled cider (lick the spoon!)
  • pinch salt
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar (brown, raw, or sucanat), honey, or syrup
  • 1/2 cup raisins, dried cranberries or cherries (optional)
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
  • (if you don’t have access to boiled cider, substitute 1 cup cider for 1 cup water, then get to the store and pick up some cider and boil it!)

Dutch oven:

Preheat oven to 400F. Meanwhile add ingredients to dutch oven on the stove top, bringing them just to a boil. Cover and put in oven. Immediately turn off oven. In the morning you may need to add some liquid in the form of milk or water, and to reheat on the stove just a bit.

Stove top:

Add ingredients to medium saucepan, and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cover tightly and lower heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally. It’s done when your oats are soft and apples are no longer firm.

Crock Pot:

Add ingredients to crock pot and turn on low. Let cook at least 6 hours. Stir gently before serving.

gone

Top with a drizzle of fresh cream(and maybe some maple syrup) and enjoy it while it’s still warm!

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You can find Jennifer at Unearthing This Life where she’s currently focusing on autumn and homeschooling.

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