Showing posts with label Recipes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Recipes. Show all posts

A Jolly Kitchen and a Gem of a Website

A jolly kitchen complete with a decorative woman

"The Kitchen, A Workshop of Color and Charm.The kitchen should be the pleasant room in the house. There is not good reason for the millions of ugly kitchens in the world. Nor is there any good reason for kitchens that look like white tile lunchrooms. In a kitchen that is gay, cozy, and pleasant, half the labor of cooking seems to be eliminated. In many houses that have been restored and kept in memory of another day, the kitchen is a most interesting and delightful room. When a tour of the house has been made and the kitchen is reached, there is always a sigh of pleasure. A sense of comfort and jollity pervades the place. The mellow walls, the lovely old containers for flours and spices, the gay platters, bowls and cups, the gleaming copper, the rocking chairs!...The modern housewife should try to get her kitchen the same jolly atmosphere, while preserving a convenient arrangement of furnishings and utensils...Above my stove I have hung a mirror in a green and gold frame. It reflects the jolly kitchen as well as the cook. A cook should consult a mirror often. For what use is a decorative kitchen without a decorative woman in it!"

---Bamberger's Cook Book For The Busy Woman, Mabel Claire [Greenberg:New York] 1932 (p. 18-21)

I found this selection while researching historical menus for our upcoming 1850-1950 history studies on The Food Timeline. This website, a labor of love by a research librarian with a passion for food history is a wealth of information! Other than the fact that it begins back in 17,000 B.C., and the bother that some of the thousands of links no longer work, it is a real treasure, even though it may not appear so on first blush. You can find all sorts of subsections including 20th Century American Foods by decades, complete with sample menus and numerous quotes from cookbooks, along with links to many, many of those sources. What fun to read excerpts from cookbooks of yore and catch a glimpse of the times in which our grandmothers lived and raised their families!

P.S. If you have trouble with the link for the 20th Century American foods by decades, try this address:

Slow-Cooker Cookbooks

There's been some discussion of crock-pot recipes in the comments section recently. Here are a few sources of ideas for making maximum use of your slow-cooker.

Saving Dinner (Leanne Ely) This is NOT exclusively a crock-pot cookbook, but it does include a number of such meals. This book has grown on me in the several years I've had it, and I continue to find new inspiration here. I like the healthy recipes and the fact that they are quick but use *real* ingredients and not lots of canned soups, etc. Menus are seasonally arranged, a nice feature.

Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook (Beth Hensperger and Julie Kaufmann)     

This comes from a recommendation from my friend, Heather, and I currently have it checked out from the library. If you think crock-pots can only be used for roasts and stews, this book will convince you otherwise. I'm particularly intrigued by the grains and porridge chapters as years ago we had an out-of-the-world oatmeal concoction at a B & B in Sedona, AZ that I've been trying (unsuccessfully) to recreate since. Filled with both traditional American and ethnic cuisine, this book has tons of interesting looking recipes. I think I'm going to need my own copy of this one.

Make it Fast, Cook it Slow (Stephanie O'Dea)

 This is the other cookbook my bookmobile librarian has recently brought me. Stephanie O'Dea, neither a nutritionist like the author of the first book, or an experienced food writer like the authors of the second, made a New Year's resolution to use her slow cooker every single day for an entire year (2008). Mrs. O'Dea blogged about her family's crock-pot adventures, both the hits and the flops, at A Year of Slow Cooking. With an endearing and entertaining writing style, the site became a huge success and resulted in a book deal for Mrs. O'Dea. Some reviewers think that Mrs. O'Dea is a better writer than cook, so the recipes may be somewhat uneven. I've not made anything from the book, though I have taken some ideas from her blog from time to time.

A special note for Emily B. or anyone else with gluten-intolerant family members:
All the recipes in Make it Fast, Cook it Slow are gluten-free!

Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk.

Kuplink, kuplank, kuplunk. That's the sound Little Sal's blueberries make as they drop into her metal pail. Robert McCloskey’s delightful picture book, Blueberries for Sal, tells of the adventures of Little Sal and her mother as they pick berries on Blueberry Hill. Sal’s mother plans to can blueberries so they will have food for winter, but they meet up with a mother bear and her cub who are also storing food for winter! Charming pictures and a mix-up of mothers and offspring make for a book that every preschooler should have the pleasure of knowing. Blueberries for Sal was chosen as a Caldecott Honor Award Winner in 1949, and sixty-one years later it’s still every bit as appealing. It's been a favorite of mine since childhood, and I have loved re-reading it with each of my young children.

We’ve been putting up blueberries for winter here as well, but rather than canning, we prefer to freeze most of our berries. Whether you pick berries from your backyard, a U-Pick farm, or from a grocery store display (Michigan berries will be in season in a month or so), freezing blueberries couldn't be any simpler, and is a great project to do with your children. In fact, this is the first project kids do in 4-H Food Preservation. In case you haven’t tried it, here are the steps to “flash freeze” berries:

1. Wash berries and let drip dry. Pick out any stems, leaves, or unripe berries.

2. Spread in single lay in pans. I put paper towels underneath to soak up any water that remains on the fruit.


3. Cover with waxed paper.
4. Freeze until solid.

5. Put in freezer zip bag or other freezer container. Store well for up to 1 year.

Flash freezing, for the home food preservationist, simply means freezing an item in a single layer, then storing it in a some more space saving manner. Doing blueberries this way insures that they won't stick together, and then later you can take out exactly the amount you need.

Last year I tried something new to help me ration my berries equally throughout the year. I decided that I'd like to have two quart bags each month, so I labeled the bags "January 1", "January 2", "February 1", "February 2", and so on. I actually start with May and work backwards, so the most easily accessible bags will be "August 1" and "August 2". (During June and July we have all the fresh berries we can eat.) We may have enough berries for 3 qts/month this year - we'll see. This process turned out to be so helpful that I'm planning to label the other foods I put up in a similar manner.

And, while I'm on the subject of blueberries, here are some of our favorite ways to use them:
- Muffins and scones, of course! (Add 2 T. lemon juice and 1-3 t. lemon zest to your usual recipe for extra zing.)
- Oatmeal: Frozen or fresh, blueberries are the perfect complement to oatmeal with a touch of brown sugar
- Syrup:  Combine 1 c. berries, 1/2 c. water, and 1/4 c. sugar. Boil. Crush berries with back of spoon. Boil for 2-3 minutes more. Serve hot over (blueberry) pancakes, waffles, or ice cream.
- Smoothies: Try blending 1-2 bananas, 1-2 c. blueberries and/or other berries, 1 c. milk, 1 c. flavored yogurt.
- Yogurt/granola/ berry parfait: Fantastic summer breakfast!

Blueberries are high in anti-oxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties, earning them the "superfood" label by some. Others think that term is a lot of hype, but whether or not you buy that description,  blueberries (and other berries) certainly are a great addition to any diet, and picking and preserving them makes for some sweet summer fun. If at all possible, after gathering berries with your children, take some time to enjoy Little Sal and her mother's experiences, too!

Basic Whole Wheat Bread Recipe

Several friends have asked for my basic whole wheat recipe in recent months, so I decided to put it up here. There's nothing terribly original in this, but we like it. This recipe is for a large mixer like a Bosch which can handle six loaves at once, but you can easily divide it to make fewer loaves with a smaller mixer or by hand. Before I had the large mixer I made bread with a large metal kneading bucket like our foremothers used. Look for one at garage sales and thrift stores.

You'd think I'd be able to make this bread in my sleep as I've been baking this bread (or some variation thereof) for around 20 years. But alas, no. At various times I've left out salt (blah!), dough enhancer (it really does make a difference!) and - most recently - yeast. That one was pretty obvious as the dough sat like a rock in the pans. At that point I threw the six loaves, one of which was a cinnamon loaf, back into my Bosch with some yeast dissolved in water. The lid on my Bosch doesn't fit tightly anymore, so gloppy goo sloshed out for a while, but eventually the yeast/water worked into the dough, and the resulting loaves were just fine, though there was just a hint of cinnamon in each one, reminding me of my stupidity.

Here's the recipe:

6 c. hot tap water
1 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. honey or 3/4 c. brown sugar
2/3 c. oil
1 T. salt
1/4 c. dough enhancer
1/4 c, yeast
15-17 c. freshly ground whole wheat flour (Prairie Gold is my standard)

1. Make a sponge with all the ingredients EXCEPT only use 6 cups of flour. Add the yeast last, directly on top of the flour as the water temp will be too hot for the yeast to directly mix with. Blend until thoroughly mixed.

2. Let the sponge rest 15 minutes. (This eliminates the usual first rising in most recipes.)

3. Add enough flour so that the dough pulls away from the edge of the bowl. Err on the side of less flour, not more, to obtain a light texture.

4. Knead for about 5 minutes with a machine, or 8 or so if kneading by hand. You will probably have to use more flour if kneading by hand. If kneading by hand, use oil on your kneading surface rather than flour. Dump dough onto counter (spray with oil first), then divide into loaves. Form into loaves, making sure to work each one enough to get the air bubbles out. You can use a rolling pin if you wish.

5. Place dough in greased (sprayed) bread pans, 8"x4". Cover with a cloth and let rise until dough is about 1" over top of pan.

6. Bake in oven, preheated to 350, for about 25 minutes.

7. Remove loaves from pans, and let cool on wire racks with loaves on their sides.

WHOLE WHEAT Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day!

Last December I wrote about Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. Now it's even better! The authors of the original book have come out with a new volume that focuses on making whole grain breads using the same easy technique. Basically you need more water, some wheat gluten, and longer rising times. My family loves the sour-dough flavor of the 5-minute breads, while I enjoy being able to serve fresh bread by to go with soup or some other meal that needs filling out.

You can find the basic whole wheat recipe along with photos on the authors’ website. (Scroll down for the recipe.) Even if you aren’t a regular bread baker, you ought to give this a try!

Kara's Dhal Recipe (Plus Naan)

Our family really loves this simple south Indian dish served with fresh naan (flatbread.) The bread is the most time consuming part, but it is worth it.

( Makes enough for leftovers with my family.)

Saute until sweet:
2 onions, diced small
minced garlic

Add and stir, then allow to sweat for a couple of minutes:
1/2 t. mustard seeds or ground mustard
1/2 t. coriander
1/2 t. ginger
1/2 t. tumeric and/or curry (may want more)

Then add:
2 cans of chicken broth (or equivalent)
2 c. dry lentils

Cook on low, adding water as needed. It will eventually become a yellow mush. Red lentils will cook much faster, about 45 minutes. Yellow lentils will take over an hour. You want it thick, so don't add too much water near the end.

Finally add:
1/2 - 1 can coconut milk (Kara says this is essential. I use 1/2 can and freeze the rest for another time. Check prices in oriental stores or health food stores. We found quite a price difference between two brands in just one store.)
Fresh cilantro (optional)

Serve with flatbread (naan) and/or rice and some stir-fried vegetables.


1 T. dry yeast
1 c. warm water
1/4 c. sugar
3 T. milk
1 egg, beaten
1-2 t. salt
4 1/2 c. flour (I use half white, half wheat)
2 t. minced garlic (opt.)
1/4 c. melted butter

1. Dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand 10 min. until frothy. Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 6-8 minutes by hand or somewhat less in bread mixer. Let rise in oiled bowl for 1 hour or until dough has doubled.

2. Punch down dough. Knead in garlic if desired. Pinch off golf-ball sized lumps, roll into balls, and place on tray. Cover with towel and let rise again until doubled, about 30 min.

3. Preheat griddle or large skillet. Roll balls, one at a time, and cook on lightly oiled griddle for 2-3 minutes until puffy and lightly browned. Brush with melted butter and turn over, Brush cooked side with butter as well. Cook until brnothd, another 2-4 minutes. Remove and continuing processing balls until all are cooked. (
This works best if you use a large electric griddle, which can handle many pieces at once.)

Enjoy your naan and dhal!

Mu- Shu Chicken (or Pork, Ground Beef, etc.)

Amy asked for some cheap but healthy recipes. We had this for dinner last night, and I thought this one fits the bill. All but my most picky eater love this "fusion" dish. (It's an Americanized version of a Chinese filling served in a Mexican-style tortilla.) The ingredients are very flexible. Use what you have on hand. I'll list what we used last night. The only key things are cabbage, onions, some type of meat (amount can vary), tortillas, and the sauce.

1 - 1 1/2 # chicken
1/2 head cabbage
1-2 onions, chopped
2-4 carrots, shredded
1/2 t. minced garlic
broccoli stems, peeled and sliced into matchsticks. Flowerettes good too.
water chestnuts (Optional. We just happened to have.)

Stir fry vegetables until cabbage is nearly translucent. If you have a lot, you may need to do this in batches. Remove and set aside. Stir-fry chicken and cook until done.

Add sauce:
1/4 c. sherry
1/4 c. soy sauce
2 T. brown sugar
1/2 t. ginger
2 T. peanut butter
1-2 t. vinegar
10-20 drops hot sauce

Add back the vegetables and mix well. If this doesn't seem to be enough sauce, add more soy and sherry. Adjust to taste. Last night I forgot the vinegar and it was still great.

Serve on flour tortillas.

No Knead Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (more or less)

Mother Earth News has a great article in the current issue on baking artisan bread in five minutes a day. The entire article can be found here. This recipe makes fabulous crusty, sourdough- flavored loaves, and the process couldn’t be easier.
The gist of it is that you mix up a batch of dough without kneading, let it rise once for a couple of hours, then store the dough in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. You take out enough for a loaf any time you want to bake and will have some crusty fresh bread in a little over an hour. As the dough sits in your fridge it takes on an increased sourdough tang, but we’ve certainly enjoyed the loaves we made when it was fresh as well. (I’ve been using ½ whole wheat and ½ white flour and making larger loaves than in the recipe.)If you like to bake, or even if you don’t, you might want to give this bread a try!

No Knead Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (more or less)

Mother Earth News has a great article in the current issue on baking artisan bread in five minutes a day. The entire article can be found here. This recipe makes fabulous crusty, sourdough- flavored loaves, and the process couldn’t be easier.
The gist of it is that you mix up a batch of dough without kneading, let it rise once for a couple of hours, then store the dough in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. You take out enough for a loaf any time you want to bake and will have some crusty fresh bread in a little over an hour. As the dough sits in your fridge it takes on an increased sourdough tang, but we’ve certainly enjoyed the loaves we made when it was fresh as well. (I’ve been using ½ whole wheat and ½ white flour and making larger loaves than in the recipe.)If you like to bake, or even if you don’t, you might want to give this bread a try!

Summer Tomatoes

It’s been a good gardening summer in large part due to the abundance of rain (until this month) and moderate temperatures, and even though our garden is small, we have more tomatoes than we can keep up with. In the past I’ve canned and frozen tomatoes and various tomato products, but this year I’ve been experimenting with a couple of new ways to capture that fresh summer tomato taste. Since tomatoes are really coming on at the same time we’ve just started back to school, I’ve been looking for the quickest ways to do this. So this year we bought a dehydrator and have made several batches of dried Romas. Then this weekend I made some slow-roasted tomatoes and – wow – they are scrumptious, not to mention amazingly simple! Here’s how to do it:

First, cut your tomatoes (in half for Romas or other very small tomatoes, thirds or quarters for larger ones), then place skin side down in a baking dish which has been sprayed with canola oil. Drizzle with olive oil and season as you desire (salt, pepper, basil, oregano, etc.) I also sprinkled with minced garlic. Place in oven at 200 F for about 6-8 hours. You will know they are done when the house smells deliciously tomatoey and the fruit has a slightly browned, caramelized appearance. They may be slightly crisp on the edges. I placed my tomatoes in single layers in freezer bags and froze to use during the winter when we are hankering for that fresh taste of “real” tomatoes.

Down on the Farm - Part II - Kitchen Cultures

Crazy things often go on in our kitchen. On a given day you might walk into our house and find a large pot of boiling vegetation of Queen Anne’s Lace, walnuts, or rhododendron leaves. This would be for the natural dyes Kara is making for the yarn she is spinning. She and Kristen (a weaver) are collaborating on a carpet-making project using fleece of our Angoras. Our kitchen also has to double as a biology or chemistry lab, so you have do have to watch out for experiments in progress. Biology years are the worst. Since dissection specimens (even though they are preserved) do best when stored in the frig, you can sometimes get a shock upon seeing a dead perch or frog staring at you if you dig too deeply. This year I’m going to have to decide if I really want a fetal pig and sheep heart to take up valuable storage space. (True, the cow eyeballs for the younger ones will have to reside there a short time, since I won’t order preserved ones but get them from our local beef farm.)

Summer allows more time for all kinds of kitchen explorations. Besides trying out new ways to use up our garden produce, I’ve been having fun dipping into the world of cheesemaking. A sizeable minority of our family is lactose intolerant. However, when I read in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle that homemade cheeses can have considerable less lactose than factory produced cheeses, I was intrigued. Here’s how it works: To make cheese, milk is made more acidic, which causes the protein solids to coagulate and form curd. Gentle heating helps separate the liquid whey from the solid curds. Bacteria are used to curdle the milk, and – here’s the good part – the bacteria eat lactose! Also, lactose is in the whey, so they more you get rid of, the better. Generally, the harder the cheese, the lower the lactose content. Soft cheeses like cream cheese are especially troublesome. Apparently mass produced cheeses vary greatly in lactose content because factories use speedy production methods which don’t allow sufficient time for whey (and hence lactose) removal. When making soft cheese at home, you can remove more whey, ending up with a more digestible cheese.

So we tried “30 Minute Mozzarella.” (Check this out for complete instructions and photos of Ricki Carrrol, “The Cheese Queen” showing how to make mozzarella step by step.) The hardest thing about making this cheese is getting your hands on rennet. You used to be able to buy it at grocery stores, but I couldn’t find any there. I tried my natural foods store, and they didn’t have it either, so I ended up purchasing some from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Company. I used skim milk for my first batch of cheese, and it was very good, but the quantity was low, and as the cheese cooled it turned from a lovely white to a clear – glycerin soap looking glob. Still, it was very tasty. The second time I used the recommended whole milk, which resulted in a softer, but beautiful white ball of cheese. The quantity of cheese the second time was significantly larger than the first time as well. The jury is still out in our home as to whether our homemade mozzarella was actually problem-free for my lactose intolerant folks. I’m hooked, though. I’ll probably be working on this cheese thing for a while. Maybe I’ll even try some hard cheeses, though they require purchased starters and mechanical presses. I’ve even suggested we need a dairy goat, but Tim said a horse would be less trouble.

Here’s what you will need to make one batch of “30 Minute Mozzarella”:

1 gallon whole milk (NOT ultra pasteurized milk. Good news – both the milk I purchased at Aldi and Kroger worked.)
¼ rennet tablet or ¼ teaspoon liquid rennet
¼ cup chlorine free water (OK – I used tap water, and it worked.)
1 ½ teaspoon citric acid (grocery store or Bloomingfoods)
Dairy thermometer

By the way, speaking of culturing milk, yogurt is also easily made at home. Here’s what I do:

1 quart milk (skim or whatever you drink)
½ c. powdered milk (improves consistency)
¼ - 1/3 c. commercial yogurt, preferably plain, but anything that says it has “live cultures”
Thermometer (Candy or dairy)
Small cooler, tall enough for canning jar
Quart canning jar

Mix powdered milk into liquid milk, then heat to 160-180 degrees to kill unwanted organisms. I heat the milk for about 8 minutes on high in my microwave.
Let milk cool to 110-115 degrees.
While milk cools, sterilize canning jar by placing in boiling water for about 5 minutes. (All utensils ought to be scalded as well.)
When milk is 110-115 degrees, mix 1 cup milk with 1/3 c. yogurt. Then add this back to rest of warm milk. Pour into canning jar and fasten lid tightly.
Now you need to incubate your mixture until the yogurt bacteria multiply sufficiently to thicken the mixture to desired consistency. A simple way is to place your jar in a small cooler filled with warm water (110-120). Close cooler and leave undisturbed.
Check yogurt after about 3 hours. If it needs longer, make sure water temperature is still in correct range. Usually works in 3-6 hours. When thick enough, store in refrigerator.

Very easy to double to make two quarts. We like to have this on hand to use in baking or any recipe that calls for milk or sour cream. When baking with yogurt instead of milk, use half as much baking powder and add 1 t. baking soda for each 2 c. flour.

Hope you'all enjoy some crazy kitchen fun this summer, too!