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Snack Attack

snack food!

If you’re anything like me, you try to cook from scratch and eat whole foods.  When you do end up buying packaged food from the store, you check out the ingredients list and try to find something that’s pretty simple and made from things you can pronounce.  Well, last week I just really wanted goldfish!  Or some other cheesy crunchy orange snack from the middle aisles of the grocery store.

goldfish ingredients

The ingredients in goldfish certainly aren’t the worst, but for someone who eats organic, savors grass-fed dairy, avoids highly processed vegetable oils, and soaks her grains and flours before baking, they’re pretty far from what I’d like to be eating on a daily basis.

What do do?  Make my own!

Here are a few recipes I’ve tried recently to add some fun snacky homemade foods into our lives:

homemade cheez its

Homemade Cheeze-Its
-The recipe I followed: Serious Eats Cheez-Its
   -Thoughts: Addictive!  Totally met my craving for goldfish, but probably wouldn’t want to have around the house all the time.
-How I tweaked it: I used whole plain yogurt + 3 tablespoons of melted butter (1 cup total volume) instead of cream.  I then mixed the yogurt, melted butter, and flour 24 hours ahead of time, allowing it to soak covered at room temperature (read more about soaking grains here).  When I was ready to bake, I mixed the dry ingredients first, dumped them into the wet ingredients, and kneaded the (very wet!) dough on a floured surface.  I followed some advice from the recipe’s comments and rolled out the dough directly onto my silicone pad (which I use instead of parchment paper).  The wet dough on the pad was super easy to slide on to a tray, cut into squares, and put in the oven.  I baked at a lower temperature (325) for a longer amount of time (until they were golden brown) to get them crispy without burning.  I put the tray back in a warm oven later that night (after I had baked something else) to help them dry out all the way.

homemade kind bars1

Homemade “Kind” Bars
-The recipe I followed: Fruit and Nut Bars from The Nourishing Home
   -Thoughts: It totally worked!  Mine are slightly more fragile (crumbly), but they do stay together as bars and have a great balance of salty and sweet.  Perfect for keeping at work for days that I didn’t pack quite enough for lunch.
-How I tweaked it:  I used maple syrup instead of raw honey – my preference when baking (raw honey loses its benefits when heated).  Molasses would also be a sweetener that would add an interesting twist to the flavor.  I also splashed in some vanilla.  In need of more “glue,” I added a bit more nut butter+coconut flour.  It would definitely be possible to change the ratio of fruit to nuts (or add something else, like chocolate chips or granola), as long as the total amount comes to just under 2 cups total.

homemade gummies

Homemade Sour Watermelon Gummies
-The recipe I followed: Sour Watermelon Gummies from Meatified
   -Thoughts: Not as good a match to the real deal as the recipes above (adding more honey would likely get it closer), but a great way to enjoy a fruity snack and get some pastured gelatin into your diet (your skin, hair, nails, and joints will thank you).
-How I tweaked it: Didn’t!  I did end up adding a heaping tablespoon of honey.  This was the perfect use of the extra watermelon we threw in the freezer last summer.   If you don’t have silicone molds, it totally works to pour liquid into a flat-bottomed dish and then cut into squares when gelled.  A note: If you taste your liquid before cooling, it should be super tangy and sweet – it will become much more bland when cooled.

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Indoor Kitchen Projects

IMG_8239
Don’t open the back door!

We are finally enjoying a true blizzard in our new home!  Fluffy white drifts tip into the house each time I open the front door.   I’m excited to play in the snow – my first priority is sledding or cross country skiing down Mt. Philo.  I think I’ll wait, though, until I can confidently get back up the driveway when I return.  In the mean time, here are some fun indoor projects that are perfect for a snowy day:

salve-ingredinets

Soothing salves

homemade-crackers1

Homemade crackers

marmelade

Marmalade

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Homemade Sushi

homemade-sushi-platter

Making your own sushi is a surprisingly easy process and creates a beautiful array of appetizers or centerpiece for a special meal.  The most difficult part of the process in Vermont is obtaining really high quality raw fish.  If you do have a good source, that’s great!  If not, there are plenty of other delicious ingredients that can be used to make flavorful and colorful sushi rolls.

The only piece of equipment that is unique to the sushi-making process is a bamboo sushi rolling mat.  They’re widely available online for less than five dollars, however, and don’t take up much room in a drawer.

making-sushi-at-home

Prepare your rice:

True sushi rice should be white and short grain, prepared with rice vinegar.  Cook one cup of rice with just over one cup water.  Cover pot and bring to boil.  Simmer, covered, for about 10 additional minutes until water has been absorbed.  Taste rice to make sure it is cooked through.  If so, stir in two tablespoons rice vinegar and a dash of salt. Allow to rest, covered for a few more minutes so any grains stuck to your pot release.

Decide on your flavors:

“Sticked” or thin log shapes (imagine a carrot stick or baby carrot) work best for rolling into sushi.  Thick spreads like cream cheese can also work well.  Very hard things or ingredients in small pieces or bits work less well.  I like avocado slices, pieces of cooked sweet potato (extra credit for marinating them ahead of time), marinated tofu slices, smoked salmon (if you don’t have a reliable source for raw), red onions, egg strips (beat eggs with salt and sesame oil, fry in a flat “pancake” in a frying pan, cut into strips), and various pickled vegetables.  I often scan the fridge for leftovers that could be included.

Prepare your prep counter:

Gather everything you need on a counter with plenty of space.  I gather: my rice pot, a bowl of water for dipping fingers, a sharp knife, a cutting board, a bamboo rolling mat, nori (seaweed) sheets, ingredients for inside the sushi, and a platter for completed rolls.

ready-to-roll-sushi

Roll the sushi:

It will become much more clear how to make a nice sushi roll after trying it once!  Here’s my best effort to explain using words:  Lay out your bamboo mat and place a sheet of nori on top, closer to the left side of the mat.  Dip your fingers in water to moisten them.  This keeps the rice from sticking.  Take a handful of rice and push it into a thin layer covering the left half of your piece of nori.  Arrange your ingredients in a modest strip from the top to bottom along the left edge of the rice.  Moisten the bare right hand side of the nori with water.

Begin to roll the left edge over and around your ingredient strip.  When the left edge touches down, keep the bamboo mat up (so you don’t roll it into the sushi, and continue to roll the sushi until you’ve reached the end of the nori.  Give the whole roll (with the bamboo still around the outside) a gentle squeeze to bond everything together.  Your ultimate goal is to have enough rice to wrap around your inside ingredients, with extra nori to bind to itself, making a strong outer layer.  No matter how it comes out, it will taste good!

Open up the bamboo mat and lay the sushi roll on a cutting board.  Moisten the blade of a sharp knife with water.  Gently slice your roll into pieces of sushi and arrange on your platter.

Enjoy!

We serve our sushi with a dipping sauce (soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and hot pepper paste), pickled ginger, and wasabi.  Yum!

homemade-sushi

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Home Gardens Musings Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes Uncategorized

Winter Weekends Around the House

This winter we’ve had the luxury of being able to enjoy calm weekends at home.  Our time is structured with projects and forays outside supplemented by plenty of relaxation and reading by the fire.  Having time and lacking garden surplus foods that must be used up has given me the space to experiment with some new recipes.  We also enjoyed the results from our first attempt to process garden-grown dent corn into authentic tortillas.  Yum!  Here are some (food-focused) glimpses from our winter weekends at home:

defrosting-elderberries
Elderberries defrosting in the sun (Elderberry Syrup recipe here)
sweet-potato-brownie
Sweet potato brownies: we’ll definitely be making this again! (recipe here)
brownie-plate
Oops: meant to take a picture of the beautiful brownie plated on strawberry sauce with a drizzle of maple syrup sour cream on top… 
saved-cilantro-seeds
Sorting seeds and making our order for the 2017 garden!
windowsill-herbs
And then planting a few for some early spring windowsill cilantro
bone-broth
Bones defrosting for crock pot broth (recipe here)
skiing
Two amazing things happened last week: it snowed AND it was sunny
sauerkraut-angel
Appreciating this beautiful cabbage angel while making sauerkraut (recipe here)
making-tortillas
Homemade garden-grown blue corn tortillas (recipe here)
homemade-tortillas
Success!
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Musings Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes Uncategorized

Preparing for the Holidays, Naturally

The holidays can be a time of crazy consumption, extra trash, and lots of spending. OR, they can be an opportunity to celebrate nature’s wintery beauty and pour positive energy into homemade gifts made for loved ones.

winter-greens

Yesterday’s new snowfall set the scene for the start to my holiday preparations.  Without the garden to tend, I’ve had time to rest from major projects at home and recharge.  I cheerily began to gather ingredients for gift making.  A walk outside yielded foraged materials for decorating the house and a handful of greens (and edible flowers!) pulled from the snow-covered garden.  Back inside, with a fire crackling in the wood stove, I got to work.

sprays-and-bouquets

Click here to read about my natural holiday decoration suggestions.

herbal-teaClick here for a great list of ideas for homemade gifts you can make in the kitchen.  Additional delicious gift ideas I’ve written about include homemade crackers, dukkah, herbal tea mixes, homemade vanilla extract, all-in-one soup mix, and homemade apple sauce.

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Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes

Busy in the Kitchen for the Holidays

Between special meals and homemade gifts, we’re busy in the kitchen this holiday season. Click on photos below to read more about the recipe behind the image.  Happy Holidays!

homemade granola

elderberry-syrup

salve

marmelade

Read More!  Check out the following past posts to learn how to make these yummy homemade goodies yourself:

 

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Recipes

Nourishing Homemade Granola

The comforting hot savory breakfasts I enjoyed all winter just aren’t appealing to me with increasingly warm bright sunny mornings.  Quitting my childhood habits of cereal or toast and jelly for breakfast, however, made me feel so good!  What should I turn to for a nourishing breakfast this summer?  Soaked granola with yogurt, sprouted seeds and nuts, and berries, of course!

homemade granola

I turned to City Market’s blog to find a great soaked-oat version of homemade granola.  I made the mistake of cutting the recipe in half.  One week later, I was back in the kitchen making a full batch.  The clusters are crunchy without being too hard.  The oats stick together, making nice crispy clumps rather than separating into the tiny morsels that comprised my past homemade granola attempts.

Soaking-oatsI followed this recipe and it came out great!  The only adjustment I made the second time was to include the dried coconut into the wet mixture before baking.  I liked to have the small bits included in the crunchy granola clusters and think coconut tastes best after roasting in the oven.

granola-ready-to-bakeI love the flexibility of this basic granola.  I add dried fruit, soaked nuts and seeds, and coco nibs to make a satisfying and nourishing trail mix.  I use it to top my yogurt, berry, and nut breakfast.  Sometimes I have a handful with a few dark chocolate chips and raw coco nibs instead of some other more addicting and sugary dessert.  Another plus: because it doesn’t have vegetable oils or seeds included in the basic recipe, this granola doesn’t go rancid sitting in the cupboard.

To learn more about soaked grains, nuts, and seeds, click here.

To read about how I make great home made yogurt, check out this blog post.

For the granola recipe, click here.

Enjoy!

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Home Gardens Personal Sustainability: How-To

Homemade Holidays

snowy-wreath

Holidays can be full of angst, over-eating, and consumerism.  Without much additional effort, however, they can be rich: full of delicious food, meaningful family traditions, community appreciation, playfulness outside in the snow, and thoughtful gift giving.  With vacation from work and more time at home with the family, holidays are the perfect opportunity to try making favorite foods from scratch.  Projects in the kitchen are the perfect way to fill cold winter days.  Crafting your own holiday presents can also make for useful and meaningful gifts for your friends and family.

Dinnans IllustrationTwo years ago, I decided to make eggnog from scratch.   Now that I’ve enjoyed the homemade version, I’ll never buy it from the store again!  Several past DIY experiments have also turned into go-to gifts ideas.  Have you ever made your own salves or hand lotion?  Here’s a post with other DIY gifts for food lovers.  And of course, it wouldn’t be the holidays without your family’s favorite cookies.  Here are the recipes for our favorite Christmas treats.  Have a happy holiday season!

A view from my walk around our "block."
A view from my walk around our “block.”
Snowy Lewis Creek
Snowy Lewis Creek
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Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes

Marmalade Season

Old-Family-Marmalade-Jar

It’s getting to be the end of citrus season, so I made a point of fitting a marmalade canning session into my February vacation schedule.  My dad’s family has been making marmalade since the 50s, as proven by the old jar and handmade label that sits on one of our kitchen shelves.  It is nice to have a canning project so far removed from the crazy late summer food preservation season.  Here’s how we make a yummy fruity not-too-sweet marmalade:

Ingredients: 14 organic oranges, 2 organic lemons, 1 cup orange juice concentrate, 5 cups water, 3.5 cups fair trade organic sugar, 2 tablespoons Pomona’s Low Sugar Pectin and 8 tablespoons calcium solution (comes with the Pectin).  Yield, approximately 22 pints.

Orange-Preparation1) Slice, chop, and slice. This is the labor intensive part… it’s vastly improved by dividing between multiple people and having good music on in the background!  Wash oranges and lemons thoroughly (you’re eating the rind, after all).  Slice into wedges.  Cut peel off fruit (try to leave very little white pith on the fruit).  Slice the remaining pith off of the rind (for the compost heap).  Julienne the rind into thin matchstick pieces.

Cook-Peels-in-Juice2) Cook Rinds. Simmer rinds in orange juice concentrate and water, along with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, for 20 minutes.  We sometimes substitute fruit purées, such as peach, apricot, or mango, for some of the orange juice concentrate.

3) Sterilize Jars. We rinse our jars and microwave them for 5 or 6 minutes.  We simmer the canning lids in water.  You can do this prep now so that you’re all ready to can when your marmalade is ready.

4) Add in the Oranges.  Bring your mixture back up to a boil.

5) Add Pectin and Sugar.  Mix these two dry ingredients first in a bowl to avoid clumps of jelly-y pectin in your final product.  Then add the powdery mixture to your pot and stir quickly.  Simmer for 10 minutes.

6) Add Calcium Solution.  This comes in the Pomona’s Pectin box and is part of the process of jelling your liquid.  This is a good time to taste your marmalade and add more sugar if needed.

7) Pack and Lid.  Using a funnel and ladle, fill each canning jar up to the little ridge (about 1/2 inch down from top).  Screw on lids.

8) Can.  Use a canner to submerge your jars in a hot water bath for 20 minutes.  This increases the shelf life of your product and is not as necessary if you sterilized materials well and are planning to eat the marmalade right away.

9) Enjoy!  We love this fruity marmalade on toast, mixed into plain yogurt, on top of ice cream, and sometimes by the spoonful.

Marmalade-Jars

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Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes

DIY Gifts for Food Lovers

Want to give gifts that are useful?  Do you want them to have a personal touch?  Would you rather not spend very much money?  Here’s some of my favorite food related DIY gifts:

IMG_9216Vanilla Extract:  Vanilla extract is easy to make – for step by step instructions, check out this blog post.  For great gifts, buy a nice quality rum or vodka in nip bottles.  Following the recipe on a smaller scale, putting one halved or quartered vanilla bean into each little container.  These will need to sit for a month or two before the extract is fully flavored.

Dried-HerbsHome Grown Tea or Herbs:  Drying herbs and flowers from your garden is a great way to enjoy these home-grown flavors all year round.  Read this blog post to learn how.  Herb or tea mixes are beautiful and useful, and friends will love to know that you grew and dried them yourself!

lentil-soup-mixSoup Mix: Soup mixes are perfect winter gifts.  Make some nice soup flavor combinations using a mix of dried ingredients.  Thes best place to find a good selection is in the bulk section of your local co-op.  Click here for a great lentil soup recipe, made all of dry bulk ingredients.  You can mix everything together in a bag or layer ingredients in a ball jar for a beautiful and long-lasting edible gift.

rainbow-fermenting-veggiesPickles:  You may only want to give fermented foods to select friends and family.  For those who enjoy saurkraut and would have fun trying new fermented veggies, however, this can be a very special gift.  Try layering slices of different colored veggies and adding flavors like garlic, onion, or ginger.  For easy step-by-step instructions on fermenting an assortment of veggies, check out this post.

JarsHome-Canned Food: What did you preserve this year?   Jams, jellies, pickles, salsa, hot sauce, apple sauce – these all make great gifts.  Don’t have a garden?  Consider making a batch of cranberry sauce or orange marmalade – both use ingredients that are abundant in stores at this time of year and make beautiful delicious products to distribute to all your friends and family.