Tuesday, October 21, 2008
I'm currently working on overhauling my website. This go-round I'm doing all the graphics and design myself. I do have a great friend who is helping me with all the code...so God bless Hunter! Probably after Halloween week is over I'll be back, in full swing, home-making my way into bliss! Be back soon!
Thursday, October 16, 2008
In the past year, I learned the correct way to choose a fresh pineapple. I'm the person in the produce department who sniffs all my food before I buy it. Yes, I put it to my nose, and if it doesn't pass the sniff test, back it goes. This has been my method for choosing pineapples as well. As we all know, grocery stores usually have fruits and veggies on the shelves that appear, and sometimes even smell ripe, but aren't. They are hard, flavorless, and usually rot pretty quickly. Same goes for pineapples. But I digress...the correct way to choose a pineapple isn't through sniffing. It's all in the plume of leaves on top. To choose the best one, gently tug on one of the inner and topmost leaves. If it releases easily, pick it up and put it in your basket! That is a sign that it will be ripe, juicy, and delicious.
So once you get the thing home, then what? I went through several pineapples, cutting, sawing, and mangling them trying to get the maximum amount of fruit, with the least amount of skin remaining. There is a method to the madness, and there is a correct (and easy) way to chop one up. Let's walk through it, shall we?!
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
This weekend when we had a friend over for dinner, and I had to come up with something quick for dinner, so tacos won since I had most all the ingredients I needed. As I prepared them, I realized I needed to share one of the most important ingredients that I always include--taco seasoning. I can't tell you how long it's been since I bought a MSG-laced package of taco seasoning. It's high in salt and high in preservatives. I have a recipe that is a clone to the prepackaged version, and you will have all the ingredients in your cabinet. This recipe is equal to one package of taco seasoning.
1 1/2 tbsp chili powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder, or 1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano, or 3/4 tsp fresh oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Mix all spices together. When meat is done browning, add this mix, plus 3/4 cup of water to the meat, and simmer and stir until the meat is the desired consistency.
Sorry there are no awesome photos of delicious, steamy taco meat. I could pull some out of the fridge and nuke it, but I don't think it would have the same effect. I have a few more posts that I'm working on, including a pineapple carving tutorial, with the yummiest pics you've ever seen, so check back! Chow, or is it ciao, for now!
Thursday, October 9, 2008
My post on challah was inspiration to do an entirely separate post on honey. Growing up, we always had honey in the house. It was usually a big jar of honey with the honeycomb, given to us from someone who raised bees. For a while it was my Poppy (my dad's dad), when he had bees, but then just others we knew. I don't know if my mom ever bought honey. I have never been a fan of honey with the comb intact, or really honey in general--I've never liked the flavor. The texture of the comb never did anything for me, although it looks very comforting for some reason. Honey's color ranges from white, to a beautiful deep amber, is shiny, smooth, and just plain beautiful.
During college, during my junior year, I attempted to make a strawberry honey mead. I bought strawberries from my hometown, and a bunch of local wildflower honey from the Radford, VA area. My mead never worked out, but that was my first experiment with honey outside of putting it on toast! When I got pregnant with my first child, my midwife recommended an herbal tea blend to drink throughout my pregnancy, and suggested using honey as a sweetener. So, in keeping true to the idea of wanting to buy local honey for additional health benefits, we found a local apiary and he loaded us up on his amazing sourwood honey. Sour wood is what converted me to loving honey! In the last couple of years we found another supplier for our local honey--the honey is actually collected from hives less than a mile from our house, and is generally clover honey! Mr. Jones and his wife are absolutely some of the nicest people, and offer a never ending supply for our honey needs and desires--for free! They are truly a Godsend! These are the five beautiful jars they gave us last week.
The amount of honey I used pregnancy tea made honey a basic staple in our house. Now we go through a pint a month at least! I use it in everything from herbal teas, cooking, sandwiches, as a sweetener for my tinctures, and making cough syrups when the kids are sick. I will get to all these in the future, but if you are really that interested, just add a comment and we'll talk! It's said that honey even has skin soothing properties for bug bites, dry skin, eczema, and so on. Honey is truly nature's homemade, and has healing properties all it's own. Honey also stores extremely well, as it has anti-microbial properties, and is slightly acidic, deterring bacteria growth. If you have honey stored that has crystallized, just pop it in the microwave for a short blast to help those crystals liquify again.
For use in herbal tea: Add 1-2 tbsp of honey per cup of tea to acheive a sweet and mellow flavor enhancer for your tea.
For use in cooking: Honey can be substituted for sugar in most recipes. You may need to cut back on the amount of liquid you add to your recipe.
Sandwiches: Add honey as a spread to peanut butter, banana, jelly, or any other favorite sandwich for added sweetness.
For sweetening tinctures: Heat 1/4 cup apple juice or water to boiling, remove from heat, and add in your desired amount of tincture. Let set for 2 minutes to let the alcohol evaporate. Stir in 1 tbsp of honey. A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down! This is especially good with a chamomile tincture before bed.
For making cough syrup: I like to use dried elderberries to make an effective cough/cold/flu fighting syrup for my kids (this will be another post entirely); this is also equally effective for adults. Boil 1 cup of water, remove from heat, and add 2 oz. of dried elderberries. Let this decoction set until cool. Strain out elderberries, then reheat until warm. Stir in 1/4 cup of honey. Cool again, bottle in a glass jar that seals well, label, and store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Begin taking this syrup as soon as any symptoms begin! For children under 2, give 1/2 tsp 3 times daily until symptoms are gone, children 5-12 can have 3/4 tsp, adults can have 1 tsp, making one dose before bed for cough soothing effect. This may have a very slight laxative effect in some children. This has helped our family overcome colds in less than 2 days--I kid you not!
As I post, you will see the specific uses and benefits of honey in our home, and I hope you will be inspired to let honey play a role in your own household.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
So, how do you make this awesome loaf? Thankfully, it’s very simple, and only requires and handful of ingredients; stuff you’ll more than likely have on hand. I'll go ahead and post the recipe, and then you can follow along in the instructions. I created this recipe out of an existing one, then adding and changing ingredients to suit my taste. The original recipe called for less eggs and honey, but I knew I liked both in my bread, so I added more.
In a large bowl (I'm using my stand mixer & bowl here), sprinkle yeast over the warm water. Hand mix in 1/2 cup honey, 1 egg plus 3 yolks, and salt. Add 3 cups of flour and begin mixing with the bread hook, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. When the flour is incorporated well, continue to add in the 1-2 cups more of flour until you get a nice, sticky dough that pulls away from the side of the bowl. Sprinkle the dough with a little extra flour, cover with a damp towel, and place in the oven to rise for 1 1/2 hours. Before putting my dough in the oven, I preheat it on 200F for about a minute, just to get it slightly warm, which helps the yeast multiply and the dough rise well.
Punch down the dough and turn it onto a floured surface (you'll probably go through at least a cup here). Divide the dough in half and knead each piece for 3-5 minutes. Divide each half into thirds, and roll these thirds into long snakes (about 8-10 inches long, or about 1 1/2 inches in diameter). Pinch the ends of all 6 "snake" pieces and braid the 6 strands together any way you like. I try to make it similar to a three piece braid. Pinch the ends together to make a fully braided loaf. Grease a baking tray and place the braided loaf on the pan to rise again (in the slightly heated oven) for about another 45 mins to 1 hour.
Take the loaf out of the oven carefully, and preheat the oven to 375F. With your remaining egg whites, mix in the leftover tablespoon of honey until well incorporated. You will brush the unbaked loaf with this mixture, and it will acheive a slightly sweet, deeply browned crust. This is also the time to sprinkle the loaf with any embellishments.
Bake for 34 minutes, covering with foil after the first 20 minutes. After bread has cooled for about 10 minutes, wrap it in a clean bath towel, and allow it to finish cooling for 30 minutes. This partially steams the bread, resulting in a soft crust. If you want a crisper crust, let it cool on a wire rack.
I really intended to take a photo of the full loaf, but a hungry family demanded bread!
Tomorrow: We're going to talk about honey, nature's homemade!
resting point) with a skewer and dried it well. I dipped the skewered apple in the caramel and placed in a muffin cup. Once I got them all done, I placed them in the fridge.
Well, the results are in. The panel liked this one, even though the caramel was not technically on the apple! They still enjoyed their "caramel paper".
Monday, October 6, 2008
I have tried and true recipes for yeast rolls, beer bread, biscuits, Karavay, pizza dough, cinnamon rolls, Challah, banana bread, pumpkin bread, cinnamon raisin bread, and wheat bread. All my recipes are available if you want them, and I hope to feature all of them sometime in the future. I've mastered most all of them except for the wheat bread. Quite by accident, I discovered that most breads can benefit from adding vital wheat gluten to the recipe. You can usually find it in health food stores and in the health food aisle in your grocery store (I got mine in the organic section at Kroger.) I found out what gluten was when my infant son was diagnosed with a gluten/wheat allergy--it's now gone thankfully! It provides the spongy, chewey texture to breads that make them so palatable. Two other things that I feel are crucial to perfect bread making are a kitchen-aid stand mixer, and bread flour.
The idea of eating a whole wheat rich diet is something that is necessary, but hard to do when most homemade wheat bread fall short in the texture department. Most get stiff and crumbly the day after baking. So, while I'm still at this roadblock of wheat bread, I'll continue to use a combination of bread flour and wheat flour, boosted with wheat gluten. Here is a perfect example of how I up the protein and fiber content of my favorite yeast roll recipe:
Wheat Yeast Rolls
2 cups lukewarm water
2 pkgs rapid rise yeast
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tbsp salt
1/2 cup oil, any type
3-4 tbsp vital wheat gluten
3 cups wheat flour
3-4 cups bread flour
Combine the water, yeast, and sugar and mix well. Let it set for about 15 minutes or until it gets bubbly. Add the remaining ingredients and mix (I use my stand mixer) until a dough forms, and pulls away from the side of the bowl, adding extra flour until the dough is soft and slightly sticky. Cover the bowl and let it set for 1 hour. Grease an 11"x13" pan (you may need an additional pan since this is a big recipe). To make the rolls, pull off dough and form into 2" balls and line them in a greased pan, leaving about 2" between each roll to allow for rising. Gently press down on the rolls to flatten them slightly. Cover, and let them set for another 45 minutes. Bake them at 350F for 20-30 minutes. Once they come out of the oven, brush them lightly with butter; a light sprinkle of salt also makes them super delicious!
To make this a white bread recipe, simply substitue extra bread flour in place of the wheat flour, and leave out the gluten.
Enjoy and eat well!
Sunday, October 5, 2008
So, who am I? I'm Dana, a stay at home mom to two highly energetic kids. My daughter is 3, my son is 18 months. They keep me busy, and we spend a lot of time out in the woods. My wonderful husband and I live in the country and have high hopes and dreams of having the capability to be self-sufficient one day, one experiment at at time. We love natural alternatives to things in the mainstream realm of life. We are a homebirthing, cloth diapering, baby wearing, breastfeeding, baby food making, selective vaxing, non-circ'ing-friendly family. We also hope to homeschool one day. So, now that introductions are over, let's get started, shall we?
I want to go ahead and encourage your comments, tips, advice, things you have had success with, particularly helpful links, or whatever else you want me to try. Let's make this an adventure of sorts...you tell me what you want to see and I'll try it and give feedback.
Now, I'm going to start my mental list of things I plan on posting. I'll return and report once I get my mental notes a little more organized.