Category Archives: Food

Food | Different Techniques

Alternative ways to slice or cut 3 fruits.

How I See It

Many techniques are used in preparing food. Some are tried and true methods passed down through the ages. I’ve come up with a few of my own that are more unusual. I made the following short videos to illustrate them. I hope you try them and find them useful.

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Pineapples

These can be challenging because of their size, texture, and different parts. I use a serrated bread knife. Be careful.


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Oranges

You know that odd plastic tool in the back of the kitchen drawer? It’s the one with the sharp hook at one end and the curved flat thing at the other end. It’s an orange peeler. You can peel an orange in two neat hemispheres, a spiral, vertical strips, animal shapes, or whatever else you can think of. Impress your friends with your talent and skill. Here is one simple example.


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Kiwi Fruit

The fuzzy skin on these highly nutritious fruit can be challenging…

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Government Nutrition Information Posters

How I See It

This poster was created in 1919. The government thought this constituted a healthy meal. A lot has changed about our dietary needs. We have had years of carb loading as an official government policy. The USDA has again changed its guidelines. The food pyramid asking us to eat six to eleven servings a day of bread, cereal, rice and pasta has been replaced. Since 2011, we have a simpler graphic of a plate divided into sections for vegetables, fruit, protein and grains. You can have a little dairy on the side.


What have been the past recommendations by the government for nutrition? What other posters have been issued? Do you think we are now making the best recommendations?

The U.S. government early on recommended few fruits and vegetables. The focus was on having enough protein. Workers needed protein for energy to do a hard day’s work. Vitamins were discovered in the early…

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Rhubarb | First Shoots Are Up

I’ve been keeping a close eye on the garden for the first signs of life. We have a winner! Rhubarb is sending up shoots of tightly curled leaves. Those other leaves are some sort of weed. They are suffering the effect of temperatures in the mid-20s last night. The rhubarb was not harmed.

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I also defrosted the extra freezer downstairs this week. There were three containers of frozen rhubarb pieces from the crop last year. Looks like I need to make another pie. Last weekend I made a pie from some of last year’s frozen rhubarb. I added blueberries, red raspberries, and blackberries.

Angie at Fiesta Friday found out and wondered why I didn’t share it with the others at her blog. “Too busy”, I told her. Lucky for me, I took a picture of it. My cousin said it looked very patriotic with the red, white, and blue colors. Those stripes were from the leftover dough trimmed off the rim of the baking dish. It wouldn’t win any prizes at the state fair for looks. But, it tasted marvelous. It only took Melanie and I three days to eat it.

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If you are curious about my techniques for harvesting, cutting, freezing, and ultimately, what recipe I use, go to this previous post. All the details are there. Here is the printable recipe form.

Gramma Brown's Rhubarb Pie

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 3 C of cleaned and sliced rhubarb. Add some berries if you wish.
  • 1.5  C of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 T of flour
  • 1 pie dough pre-made from store or make your own

Directions

Preheat oven to 425˚ and line a pie pan with dough.

Cover the rhubarb and berries with 1/2 C of sugar and set the bowl aside.

In another bowl, combine the remaining sugar, flour, and eggs. Stir to mix.

Combine the two bowls of ingredients and stir to mix.

Pour into the prepared pie pan.

Bake for 30 minutes on center rack.

Let cool completely before serving to let it firm up.

Caramel Layer Squares

Time to do some baking. We are going to visit family for a holiday potluck. This year we are trying to avoid bringing foods that require working over a hot stove and the resulting lengthy clean-up. Our family wants to leave more time for visiting. Good plan.

Many in the family will also bring delicious desserts. We are bringing a caramel layered brownie. The recipe is available for printout farther down on this page. Let’s get started.

Preheat the oven to 350˚ and grease a 9×13 baking pan.

Remove the wrappers from a 12-14 oz bag of caramels. Add 1/3 cup evaporated milk. Heat slowly. Stir at times to a smooth texture. Keep it gently warmed for later.

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Mom’s Oat Scones

It was time to bake something. I chose a recipe Melanie got from her Mom for Oat Scones. They are made with steel cut oats in addition to white and wheat flour. They turn out hearty and healthy. Below is the recipe you can print out if you wish.

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Mom's Oat Scones

  • Servings: 8 wedges
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat flour
  • 1 cup oats…may be rolled, quick, steel cut, or old fashioned
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 Tsp sugar…white or brown
  • 1/4 cup cold butter cut into several squares
  • 1/2 cup milk

Directions

Mix the dry ingredients. May use a food processor pulsed a few times. Add the cold butter pieces. Pulse the processor to cut in the butter.

Place the mix into a bowl and add the milk. Stir to form a soft dough. Flour a surface. Pat out the dough to form a circle 1/2 inch thick. Cut into wedges and place on a greased baking sheet.

Bake at 425˚ for 15 minutes or until golden. Serve warm with butter and honey.

Here is a very close up view to show the texture. Nice and flaky. Great with coffee or tea.

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Did You Get Enough to Eat?

Ah, the holidays… From Thanksgiving until after New Year’s, it’s like the feast that never ends.

Turkey and ham, oysters and smoked salmon, potatoes and green beans, casseroles and fruit salads, pies and cream puffs. Not to mention all the cheese, crackers, cookies, and nut bars that seem too small to count. We taste and nibble, take more than we intend, fill ourselves, then fill our trash cans with food waste. When clearing the table and scraping plates from one holiday meal, we dump enough food to nourish several other people.

But what about the rest of the year? Did you get too much to eat to even finish it? Did some go to waste in your cupboard, your fridge, on the counter before you even had a chance to fix it? What left your plate or serving dishes for the trash can? How many times did you find forgotten leftovers and bid them adieu?

In the U.S. we waste a shocking amount of food at all points in the farm-to-fork chain. At the consumer level, you may waste more than you know. The National Geographic says, “Spills, spoilage, table scraps, and other losses from the typical American family of four add up to 1,160 pounds of uneaten food annually.” Doing the math, that means in that average household, there are 24 pounds of waste per person per month. This doesn’t include food loss at the producer’s end of the chain.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC,)

In households, fresh products make up most of the wasted food. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that a typical American throws out 40 percent of fresh fish, 23 percent of eggs, and 20 percent of milk. Citrus fruits and cherries top the list for fruits, and sweet potatoes, onions, and greens are commonly wasted vegetables.(12)

Much of household waste is due to overpurchasing, food spoilage, and plate waste. About 2/3 of household waste is due to food spoilage from not being used in time, whereas the other 1/3 is caused by people cooking or serving too much.(13)

It can be hard to visualize the consequences of wasted or lost food. modernfarmer.com says

The environmental toll for throwing away so much uneaten food is also costly. Of the millions of tons that we waste in America each year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates 96 percent ends up in landfills. And currently, food waste is the number one material taking up landfill space, more than paper or plastic. This produces methane gas, one of the most harmful atmospheric pollutants.

In case you didn’t get that, let me repeat: food waste is the number one material going into landfills, creating methane gas. Methane gas is a greenhouse gas, trapping heat in the atmosphere and contributing to climate change.

If that weren’t enough, production of food we don’t eat requires tremendous resources including petroleum, chemicals for fertilizers and pesticides, and fresh water for irrigation. Again from the NRDC, wasteful production and use of food requires 25% of all freshwater used in the U.S. and 4% of total U.S. oil consumption. It costs $750 million per year just to dispose of the food and creates 33 million tons of landfill waste (leading to greenhouse gas emissions).

There is no way to soften this: producing and landfilling wasted food is environmentally hazardous.

What can you do to help? These tips from NRDC give great ideas for using your food dollars more effectively, and reducing resources used for producing, delivering, and landfilling unused foods.
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Or for much simpler tips, consider these created during World War I. Nearly 100 years ago in the depths of the war, we recognized that wasted food was wasted resources, which could otherwise be used to support freedom from tyranny. We are fighting a different kind of tyranny now, that of environmental change. This tyrant, too, must be defeated, and we have a role in that fight.
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Chicken Posole Stew

Loosely based on traditional posole recipes, my rich chicken stew takes advantage of summer ingredients. But because so many summer ingredients freeze well, you can enjoy this hearty soup any time of year.

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When I cook soup, I have ONE rule: use approximately as much liquid as solid. That has a fudge factor, of course. Use less liquid when you want it thicker and more when you want it thinner. This simple rule has served me very well, and served my household many years of delicious soups.

The “recipe” below is very loose, filled with approximations and guesses. I did not measure anything here. Using the rule above, it has somewhat less liquid than solid.

Chicken Posole Stew
3/4 – 1 pound cooked chicken, diced into small bites
4 – 6 cups chicken stock
(I roasted my chicken on Tuesday and made my stock from the carcass.)
1 carrot diced
1 onion diced small
(My onion was a summer CSA onion, diced and frozen.)
1/2 zucchini diced
1/2 yellow squash diced
2 medium tomatoes peeled, seeded, and diced, with juice if possible
(My tomatoes were from our garden, processed and frozen. You could use a can of diced tomatoes instead, including the juice.)
1 cup corn and black bean salsa
(This was also from the summer — fresh from the field sweet corn and tomatoes. You could substitute jarred salsa, or frozen corn separately. Or leave it out.)
2 hot peppers seeded and diced tiny
(I used a jalapeno and a Hungarian pepper, both from our garden and frozen. You could use a bell pepper but you’d lose the zing.)
1 can white hominy, drained

In large pot heat fat (I used bacon grease and a little canola oil) to saute carrot. Add onion, zucchini and squash, tomatoes, corn salsa, and peppers. Add chicken stock and let it hang out, simmering until the vegetables soften. Add diced chicken and drained hominy. Heat until hot through.

Note — I didn’t add any other seasonings. I didn’t add salt. I didn’t add pepper. I didn’t add cumin or oregano or cilantro or anything. You could. But taste it first to see if you really want it. If you like it hot, you might want another jalapeno, or even two.

Serve with corn bread. Make sure you have lots of butter and honey available for the corn bread. You may want a beer with it, too!

Homemade Ketchup!

Last week we made ketchup. Why, when the basic bottle of Heinz tastes so familiar? Three reasons. First, we ran out and needed a replacement. Second, we had garden tomatoes from last year to finish, as this year’s are beginning to ripen. And third, we continue to choose less processed foods when reasonable to do.

This seemed reasonable.

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We had three sandwich-sized freezer bags with tomatoes left over. When those were thawed, the excess liquid was drained off. Here is the basic recipe.

Chop fine one medium onion and saute in vegetable oil until soft. Add a clove of chopped garlic and continue on heat. Add the tomatoes. (Ours were processed for the freezer, skins and most of the seeds removed, and in big chunks. In addition we added about 10 frozen oven-roasted tomatoes to deepen the flavor. These had skin on, which was pulled out as they softened and began to cook down.)

Add about 1/4 cup cider vinegar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and a sprinkle each of cayenne, allspice, and clove. Remember a little can go a long way. Better to start with not much of each of these, especially the clove and cayenne. Add a bay leaf and salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Stir occasionally until thickened, about an hour. Remove the bay leaf.

Let cool and then process in the blender until smooth. We have a food processor, not a blender, and our ketchup is still textural. We like it that way.

Caution: this doesn’t have all the preservatives and chemicals that store-bought brands have. Though there is salt, sugar, and acid — all natural preservatives — don’t assume this will last like store-bought. The recipe on which this is based suggested a refrigerator life of about 3 weeks.

The flavor is more complex than Heinz. The clove and cayenne add layers you don’t get from the store. We’ve enjoyed it on fried potatoes and are looking forward to something meatier, like meatloaf or hamburgers.

 

 

Home Made Ice Cream

Summer is a great time for ice cream. The home made kind is a special treat. As kids, many of us remember getting out the ice cream maker. You needed a big tub, lots of ice, salt, the maker, and some people to crank the handle until it was too hard to turn. After the ice cream was finished, someone pulled out the beater and put it in a cake pan. Several kids would gobble up the ice cream stuck to it. You finally got a bowl of it with your favorite topping(s).

OH MY GOSH! MY BRAIN IS FROZEN!

Today, it is a lot easier to make ice cream. No salt is needed for some machines. Our maker has a mixing tub we keep in the freezer. Inside its walls is a liquid at room temps. It freezes when stored there, ready at any time.

IceCream1Our recipe is from the instruction booklet. It is reliable and can be altered for variety. Today, we made vanilla. In the third ingredient, we used a cup of half-and-half with a cup of whipping cream instead of two cups of heavy cream. Sometimes we only use half-and-half. Mint Chip is great with peppermint and green food coloring. Try whatever recipe you like.

Mix up the potion and set it in the freezer for 30 minutes to give it a good chill. The machine freezes it in a shorter time when pre-chilled.

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Here is the mix ready for the pre-chill. Stir it for long enough to dissolve all the sugar grains.

IceCream2After 30 minutes in the freezer, pour it into the machine and turn it on. It takes ours 25 minutes.

IceCream3The machine has an opening in the top to let you see the consistency of the ice cream. When it looks ready, turn off the machine and open it up. Looks good, huh? You can’t have any yet. It is going into the freezer for a few hours to get more firm. The bottom photo shows it ready to go in the freezer.

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After a few hours, dish it out, add toppings if you like, and enjoy a great summer treat. Yum 🙂

 

 

 

 

Basil Pesto | Food of the Gods

Sweet basil, fragrant, green, versatile. It’s used in Italian cooking as well as Asian. For those who keep a kitchen garden, it’s also easy to grow.

It’s spring. As the air turns sweet with the budding trees and greening grass, thoughts turn to gardening. We’ve lived in this house for 12 years now, and each year Jim plants a garden in a small area of terracing on the south side of the house. His crop always includes tomatoes, and now it has a permanent rhubarb plant. The other items vary. This year he’ll plant pole beans again, as well as hot peppers. For herbs, he’s tried dill, rosemary, peppermint, and basil. Basil, sweet basil. We come back to it, year after year. Reliable, delicious, and apparently not attractive to the deer, it grows easily and prolifically.

And most importantly, we use it. All of it.

A popular use of raw basil leaves is the Caprese salad, simply made from slices of juicy tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil leaves, good olive oil, and a sprinkle of salt and fresh-ground pepper. Some people like a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, as well.

Photo from the blog slowtrav.com

But our favorite use of basil is pesto, what I’ve come to believe is one of the foods of the gods. And because I love it so much, and because I love you so much, I will share the recipe with you.

Basil-Walnut Pesto

 

 

Basil Pesto Sauce

  • Servings: 15-18 3-oz cups
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

by Melanie and Jim in IA

Two batches of the recipe below uses the full product of about one basil plant, grown to full-size and likely beginning to flower already. We make it in an 11 cup food processor. If your food processor is smaller, you can do it in smaller batches keeping the proportions the same.

  • 1 cup walnuts
  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, or 1 T minced garlic
  • Process these on pulse a few times to get them started.

Fill the food processor with washed basil leaves, and add

  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 3/4 cup grated or slivered Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 T salt
  • 1/2 T pepper

Process. Stop once and scrape down the sides, and process until smooth.

Once the pesto is done, spoon it into 3-ounce unwaxed paper cups and freeze it. You’ll have 15-18 paper cups when processing in two batches, each paper cup nearly full. After it’s frozen, we drop them into a 1 gallon zip-top bag and keep in the freezer to use, one scrumptious lump at a time. You may also spoon portions into ice cube trays to freeze.

 

Curses! The 3-ounce paper cups we’ve always used are Dixie cups, a brand owned by the evil Koch Brothers. Once these cups are gone, we will not buy more. Other people often recommend spooning it into ice cube trays, popping the lumps out of the tray once frozen. That would work, too, but the capacity for each would be less, so you will need to adjust the amount used in recipes.

You may have noticed the recipe uses walnuts rather than pine nuts, the more traditional ingredient. Pine nuts could be substituted, I suppose, but they cost approximately twice as much as walnuts per pound, and we like the walnuts anyway. Another thing you may notice is the consistency. Unlike many jarred pestos you can buy at the store, this is thick and far less oily. In fact, it uses about half the oil you would use if you made pesto from a traditional recipe for immediate use. I LIKE having half the oil, both for how we use it and from a portion-control standpoint.

What Should I Do with the Pesto Lumps?

Now that you have pesto, you’ll love using it! Here are some ways you can use it:

Green Pizza
Use one thawed pesto lump as your sauce, instead of red sauce. Top with your favorite toppings, bake and eat! I especially love mushrooms, chopped artichoke hearts, black or kalamata olives, mozzarella, and a little feta on mine.

Pesto Pasta
Boil your pasta (penne, rotini, farfalle, or your favorite) as directed. (Oops! Can’t use Barilla pasta anymore!) Heat one lump of pesto in another pan, loosened with a spoon of pasta water. Top the pasta with the pesto, grate Parmesan cheese on top, and eat!

Pesto Rubbed Roast Chicken
Thaw one lump of pesto, smear most of it under the skin of a whole chicken, and massage the rest onto the chicken. Roast as usual.

Pesto Rubbed Pork Loin Roast
Yep, same as the chicken except you’ll rub it all on top, not under a skin.

Pesto-Marinated Pork Chops or Chicken Breasts
Place meat in a zip-top bag. Thaw a lump of pesto and dump it into the bag. Add a quarter cup of balsamic vinegar. Marinate in refrigerator up to 2 or 3 hours. Cook the meat as usual.

If you need more ideas of how to use it, find 50 things to make with pesto at this foodnetwork site.

How do YOU like to use pesto? Do you have a favorite recipe?