Basic Quick Bread Formula (and Cranberry Walnut Bread)

Before the popularity of my herb books, before Amazon gave the opportunity for small authors to publish their work, even before I had heard of blogs, I had written three books. There is one remaining copy of each here, created and bound at a copy store, their pages stained. I wrote three plant based cookbooks and sold them at farmer’s markets and at my little shop on Main street. They sold surprisingly well, I thought, considering I lived in a small town where the common occupation was rancher. But as more and more people began to seek out healthier ways of eating, ways to beat disease, and young people began cooking for themselves, folks around there were looking for ideas.

This recipe is in my first book, Gone Vegan; Hooked on Brilliant Health and Beauty and Deliriously Good Food! It is a basic formula for Quick Bread. We love banana bread, pumpkin bread, or even savory bread, like onion. This recipe easily changes to what you have on hand. It is nice to be able to use one bowl, whip up some bread, and have it done in an hour. Yesterday I made Cranberry Walnut Bread with a touch of rosemary. See what you come up with!

Basic Quick Bread Recipe

2 1/2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour or unbleached white flour

1 1/2 cups of brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon of salt

1 T baking powder

1 ts of yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup of water

1 cup of water or plant milk

1/3 cup of oil

1 cup of nuts

1/2 cup fruit

Mix everything together and pour into greased bread pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until bread is golden brown and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.

Variations

For the cranberry bread, I used 2 cups of white flour and 1/2 cup of whole wheat. I used walnut oil. I did 1 cup of walnuts and 1/2 cup of frozen cranberries (the moisture content required the bread to cook a little longer), and added 1 teaspoon of minced rosemary.

You can decrease the sugar, use white sugar, honey, agave, or maple.

Add savory dried onion and chives or red chile powder.

You could use lemon oil and orange juice as the liquid to make a fruitier bread.

Add 1 teaspoon of spices.

Maybe combine raisins and pecans. Currants and pine nuts. Eliminate the nuts altogether and just add 2 bananas. Feel free to play with this recipe. Cooking is all about experimentation. Just try to stay with the basic formula and you will be alright!

I am seriously considering testing my way through the three books and creating one book of great plant based recipes!

Piled High Nacho Fries (an easy plant based supper)

We particularly love Thrive magazine, which can be found at places like Vitamin Cottage or Whole Foods. It is a thick, colorful, book-like magazine filled with beautiful synopses of bloggers, Instagrammers, and vegans who share tidbits of recipes. The food photography and the visual inspiration is astounding. Since I rarely follow a recipe word for word, this type of “recipe” book is perfect for me. We look for it when we get to the health food store. We have missed several issues along the way, but when we see it, it is like we have won a great scavenger hunt.

Years ago, we came across a recipe in Volume 9 for fabulous looking Carno-Asada Fries by Chris Petrellese @consciouschris if you are on Instagram. I am not sure why this is, but when we go vegan, we have so much more fun cooking at home. We typically cook more often together and have a good time ad libbing recipes and enjoying the plates of vibrant, delicious food that result. We save all our Thrive magazines, and this recipe is one we come back to time and again. This is our variation of it (which changes each time we make it!):

Nacho Fries

At least 2 hours before you make dinner, put 1 cup of raw cashews into a bowl of water to soak!

  • 4 large russet potatoes- peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch fries. Place potatoes in a bowl and drizzle well with olive oil and mix.
  • Spread out onto a cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, or until crisp, flipping fries over half way through.
  • Heat up some veggie ground meat. You can purchase already seasoned chipotle or taco meat-style, or buy plain and season it yourself with cumin, chipotle, taco seasoning, salt, pepper, etc. (Another fun idea that we used to do in the past for veggie meat was to soak walnuts in a bowl of water for a few hours, strain, run through the food processor with taco seasoning and wallah! Taco meat!)
  • Make the queso- (Let me just real quick tell you how much I love queso. Real queso is made from some pretty sketchy ingredients and it usually makes me feel pretty gross, so I LOVE cashew queso. Same addictive taste but ever so much better for me!)
  • Strain the cashews and add them to a Vitamix or other powerful blender.
  • Add in:
  • 1 Tablespoon or more Sriracha
  • 4 Tablespoons of nutritional yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 cup of hot water
  • Blend completely. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Serve crispy fries with loads of veggie taco meat, queso, shredded ice berg or romaine lettuce, diced tomatoes, cilantro, and guacamole for a delicious, healthy, fun supper!

Apple Harvest Day

We bumped the wagon haphazardly over the irrigation ditches to get to the next row of apple trees. Many were long picked over but there were still a few varietals heavy with fruit. Old to ancient apple trees lined many acres in perfect rows.

We are in the planning stages of our new farm. Where do we want to put the fruit trees? We will set up a separate area for them instead of just throwing them into the yard. In past houses, if they survived, they were in the middle of garden beds and mowing paths.

Ayla tried to take a bite of apple and smiled that huge, jack o’lantern grin. She opted for a stick instead. Maryjane picked out a white, Lumina pumpkin (our family favorite), and helped me harvest apples as Emily snapped photos.

My granddaughters are so beautiful!

Third Street Apples is a real treat. Pick all the apples you wish and then pay per pound less than sale priced grocery store apples shipped in from Venezuela (or wherever). Support local farms and have a ball doing it! Maryjane sat in the grass watching a ladybug crawl around the top of her apple.

I filled my apron with apples, so Maryjane gathered her shirt and did the same. That child is efficient, for when she poured her apples into the basket, it overflowed! I have a lot of apples to process now. I am not very good at making pies, I am afraid. A farmgirl skill I need to perfect, but I can make one, or maybe a tart. I will can apple sauce (see my recipe here), but I am the only one who likes apple sauce so maybe I will juice some as well. Oh! I can make apple wine, or freeze some apples. I will decide what to do soon, but in the meantime, I had a lovely day at a local farm with my granddaughters and my daughter making memories.

And in a few years, the children will be harvesting from our own family orchard. What is your favorite thing to do with apples?

The Very Fancy French Cheese Cave (cheese recipes and homesteading lists)

My fancy, French cheese cave arrived today. Well, it’s a mini fridge, but it will work the same!

The cheese cave does not take up much space. It has shelves built in. At the very, very lowest setting, the mini fridge will be around 55 degrees. Which just so happens to be perfect for aging cheese.

Use a laser thermometer to check temps often. I turned the dial down a little further.

One must take care to keep a drip pan under the tiny freezer compartment, because it will not get cold enough to stay frozen, so it will drip. That moisture is just the right amount of humidity to age cheese.

Once a week, wipe down shelves with soapy water, taking care to leave no residue that could permeate the cheese. Mold will start having a party, because that is what mold does when it is given ample amounts of cheese and temperate weather. Never mind it, it will not hurt you. Just wipe off mold from aging cheese with salt water (1/2 lb sea salt to 1/2 gallon hot water until dissolved. Keep in refrigerator.) Turn the cheeses over once a week.

Make sure to label the cheese. They all do begin to look amazingly alike after awhile. This one is a Parmesan cheese I made that will be ready next year on my birthday in April. It is already almost three months old and is getting a nice layer of olive oil to keep it from drying out.

I have a hard Italian cheese in the press. A woman reached out to me on Facebook and offered me my dear, dear departed friend and farmgirl business pal, Nancy’s cheese press! Lots of homestead memories right there sitting on the counter. The cheese will go into a brine this evening (same sea salt recipe as above) and then dry for a few days, then go into a red wine bath for another day or two, then will age for three weeks. (for a trip down memory lane, click here) (for the Italian cheese recipe that is no longer in the new additions of Home Cheesemaking, click here)

The soft cheeses, like Chevre, stay in the regular refrigerator and should be eaten in about a week. The cheese cave is for cheese that is aged longer than a week, typically 3 weeks to 9 months. (to learn how to make soft goat cheese, click here)

Even though we just moved onto our new homestead a month ago and are missing key elements to a self sustaining homestead (like goats, sheep, and gardens), there are still plenty of ways to homestead without a homestead while getting a homestead set up! The gal down the street sells me her milk that I make cheese out of. I purchase beautiful yarns (or use what I have!) and am getting ready to crochet some beautiful pieces for fall. I can tend to my chickens, pray that my farm dog will like goats, get the goat fencing put up, break down a processed chicken for supper, and make kombucha and other delicious additions to a healthy, happy homestead. Which now has a very fancy French cheese cave.

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(Note: this particular mini fridge has ended up staying at around 44 degrees. So, I have been experimenting with using it as a cave with ice packs and that seems to be keeping it closer to temperature.)

The Lost Bottle of Chokecherry Wine

I came across it while moving. It was hiding amongst the vinegar bottles that look the same. A precious bottle of sparkling, party dress red colored Chokecherry wine.

My blog post on How to Make Chokecherry Wine from nearly five years ago has been my overwhelmingly most popular article. It has had well over five thousand views. I haven’t seen any chokecherries growing in southern Colorado so haven’t made any since. It was fun to open that old memory filled bottle.

Back in my kitchen in Kiowa, about five years ago this week, I poured the half gallon jars of dark, tart chokecherries into a large pot. My tiny one and a half year old granddaughter, Maryjane, had assisted me in picking the chokecherries from the numerous bushes around our old rented farmhouse.

I poured a little wine into a glass so I could see the color. The red had tiny glimmers of orange, denoting age. The aroma was of summer berries. Hints of strawberry came through the chokecherry in the flavor with just a hint of bitter and sweet. And it was hot! I don’t mean temperature, I mean alcohol! I don’t have anything to test it with, but Doug said it was probably the same as rum or other spirits.

In two ounces of chokecherry wine, I added 3 ounces of cold white wine, and 2 ounces of fresh apple cider. It was a delicious fall cocktail. It was quite fun finding the lost bottle of chokecherry wine. I hope you are busy preserving. This weekend I think I will try my hand at making apple wine!

An Epiphany for Change (is there any real food out there anymore?)

An epiphany.  How many times do we hear things, read things, learn things before we finally GET IT?

“I’m so glad I’m not an addict,” I say to my husband, laughing, “I have zero self control!”  We were out again.  Out to eat even though we had food at home, we didn’t have the money to be eating out, and I knew damn well that I would feel terrible after eating at a restaurant.  And yet, every couple of days I get to craving something and give in.  Oh, it’s never fresh salad or anything like that.

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“What if,” I ventured, “all of the preservatives and chemicals and refined oils in the food are actually addictive and that is why we keep having to eat out even though we don’t really want to?”  I didn’t need an answer.  We already knew.  I am an addict.  And it started long before I ever heard of a GMO or MSG or chemical food.

I casually looked at the ingredients of the bag of organic, gluten free, healthy chips that I packed into Doug’s lunch.  And there, quietly hidden among the organic ingredients with asterisks by them, were two ingredients.  Natural flavors and citric acid.  Natural flavors is a chemical creation with derivatives of MSG and GMO ingredients.  Citric acid is GMO black mold grown on GMO corn.

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The epiphany and mild panic ensued and I realized that the reason that I cannot feel satiated with simple foods is because I have been fed chemical stuff my whole life!  Ever since the marketing folks convinced grandma and mama that convenience was their birthright, we have been subtly poisoned.

Now, I don’t want to sound like a conspiracy theorist, or anything, and I certainly don’t want to scare you, but folks, we are being poisoned.  Snacks, treats, oils, restaurant foods, it’s in my chicken’s food…everywhere we are being given doses of chemicals created to keep us coming back.  You can’t go to your friend’s house for dinner or a coffee shop for a latte without consuming these things.  Consider the extreme rates of cancers and of all the other diseases out there, and well, it’s just no wonder.

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I worry most for my grandchildren and children who would have no idea how to give up these things.  How can most people afford to grow all of their own food or cook all of their own food?  How do you give up the societal pressures of food as pleasure and company?

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Obama wrote into law that Monsanto cannot be sued.  Then Dow quietly bought Monsanto, disassembled it and GMO’s masquerade everywhere without accountability.  History tells us that unsustainable entities cannot survive but who will die first, them or us?  No better time to be getting yourself some heirloom seeds, a pressure canner, a couple of chickens, and a how-to make your own bread book.  Because what is worse than ignorance?  Complacency.

 

Our 30 Day Real Food Challenge’s Epic Failure

I told you about a month ago that we were going to embark on a journey of real food.  It sounded absolutely ridiculous that we were perhaps eating more lab created food then natural food.  But we somehow did invite the world of marketing into our pantry and seems we have a lot of boxes, bags, and frozen this and that.  Organic, but still super processed and lots of questionable ingredients.

I have gained five pounds so far.  Oh no, not from the real food, but because not two days in I defiantly remarked, “You can’t tell me what to do!”  To myself.  I instantly became all bent out of shape about having to cook three meals a day and everything from scratch.  I would spend the day baking bread, scones, looking at cracker recipes, mess up my kitchen, and then make Doug take me out to dinner.  We have been out a record amount of times this month.  

Doug had the idea in his head that we were going to have something like smoothies for breakfast, salads for lunch, and Buddha bowls for dinner.  Doesn’t that sound amazing?  Delicious, fresh, easy?  I can feel my stomach growling.  Sooo boring.

Let’s say I want tacos.  Well, I have to make the tortillas.  No problem.  Now, real meat or lab created veggie meat?  Okay, cheese or no cheese?  Lord, by the time I am done worrying about all this real food I am down at the Mexican restaurant slurping down a margarita.  I am a rather difficult housewife, it seems.

I am rereading, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver.  The author and her family embark on a journey of not just real food, but local food as well.  I stood in front of my impressive old pantry shelf filled with jars of staples and realized that not a single thing on it was produced locally.  I also have so many rogue ingredients from trying (or intending to try) one recipe.  I have so many things going rancid.  And nothing in my house is local save for what is now coming up in the garden and the eggs from the coop.

It is certainly difficult to rewire the brain.  Simplifying my recipes is the answer I am sure.  Local food.  Organic food.  In its original form.  Without all the overthinking.  But trying to figure out what to eat without the helpful addition of boxes, bags, and this and that, is actually rather difficult.  I had no idea we were so dependent.  Throw in moral dilemmas of meat or no meat and a tired housewife and you have yourself a predicament and an extra five pounds.

My friend laughs because I am actually a lot better at being healthy when I am not planning.  So, perhaps we are better if we just take one meal at a time.  One little change at a time.  One local food in, one box out.  One more walk around the lake.  We’re doing fine.

Tea Time (and brewing and blending the perfect tea)

Tea has been a long standing tradition in every culture around the world.  Many times the teas were medicinal, other times sacred.  Mostly shared in moments of friendship or sometimes as a break from the day.  From Japanese tea ceremonies to 4:00 tea time, tea is a lovely custom.

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Despite my family being on American soil for three to four hundred years now, our European DNA hasn’t altered much.  For me, 4:00 and 8:00 are automatically timed within me to make a spot of tea.  Sharing tea is wonderful if I have someone over.  My mother always drinks tea in lovely tea cups throughout the day.  I do as well.  My daughters followed suit.  The cup is important.  Drinks taste different in varying cups and always taste better shared.

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This is my new tea set.  I love Japanese gardens and I adore ponds of koi.  This sweet set reminds me of our travels to gardens and it reminds me to take a moment to breathe.  In this set, you put the loose tea in the pot, let steep, then pour through the strainer into the pitcher and serve in tiny cups.  This tea pot calls for Genmaicha tea.  It is a fragrant green tea with toasted rice.

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I was given my first tea set when I was ten years old for Christmas from my Grandma and Grandpa.  A miniature tea set with espresso-sized cups with pink rose buds.  I had a Tuesday Tea Party where I was allowed to invite a friend over and my mother made us tea with real sugar cubes and small snacks.

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One of my favorite teas is a good black tea like Earl Grey or Assam, with agave and cream.  Or maybe brewed with honey and orange peel instead.

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Use 1 teaspoon of loose tea per cup of near boiling water and steep for 4 minutes.  You can use dried herbs like mint, roses, or yarrow.  I grow my own jasmine as a houseplant and it is lovely as tea.  Combine herbs and teas and enjoy to your heart’s content.  Tea is low in caffeine, filled with antioxidants and health benefits, and is good for the spirit.  It makes you slow down, breathe, and take a moment to be present.

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Two Pressure Canners (and inventorying the freezer and root cellar)

When I closed my shops, everything went into my basement.  I am slowly swimming my way out of it.  I set up a homestead shelf in the root cellar and organized the things I had brought home from my not-so-popular homestead shop.  With this lifestyle, I will use them or use them up at some point.  Soap making supplies, extra boxes of canning supplies, cheese presses, and loads of candles are carefully organized on shelves so that I can see what I have.  I now have two canners and two pressure canners, which really came in handy yesterday.

Now is a good time to empty your freezer and take stock of what you have and what has been lingering for years and what needs to be replenished this gardening season.  Out went several bags of way-too-spicy peppers and half opened this and thats.  Into the ginormous soup pot went all the frozen veggies and odds and ends that I had saved; wilted celery, a few carrots, ends of onions, and all the bags of frozen veggies I thought we would eat; eggplant, Brussels sprouts, green peppers.  Some things are better fresh.  Some herbs and salt and pepper and two hours of simmering later, I had a beautiful vegetable broth waiting to be canned.

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20 pint jars of aromatic liquid were put up.  Usually I would take all day to wait for the canner to come to pressure, can the jars, wait for the pressure to come down, and then do it all again.  With two canners, it was done so fast that I am looking forward to canning season!  I really boosted my production while saving time with just one more pot.  The extra six cups of broth from the pot went into the fridge to use in recipes this week.  A pressure canner fits 10 pint jars or 9 quart jars.  I never freeze broth.  It takes up too much room and I will never remember to take it out in time for supper.

This is a great time to start your canning.  Get some stocks and beans done now on rainy days and before the rush of summer veggies and fruits.  While you are at it, take stock of your root cellar items too.  Start eating some of those canned foods and make room for new ones.  A full cellar is a thing of great comfort and joy!  And it turns out, a second canner is too.

How to Make Broth (and for the record, we have thus far failed at eating roosters and Bob is quite safe here.)

How to Can Beans

How to Make Dandelion Wine (and any other you can think of!)

“Honey, you want to harvest these dandelions before I mow?” my husband called out.  Why, I didn’t even know the dandelions were here yet, and there they were in lovely carpets of gold; their lion manes of spring feeding the bees and dotting the yard with color.  I love dandelions.

Using my thumbnail, I simply pop off the tops of the flowers.  Like a little bee myself, I flit from flower to flower.  I filled a quart jar and a half and still left some in the garden beds for the honey gatherers.  The next thing you want to do is to pour the golden flowers into a paper bag and leave it on the porch on its side.  This allows the stragglers to escape.  No one wants ant wine.

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Wine is, in its essence, fermented sweet tea or juice with yeast that feeds off the sugars turning it into a delightful and medicinal drink.

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Bring flowers, one peeled orange, and 16 cups (1 gallon) of water to boil.  Turn off heat and cover with lid and let sit for 15 minutes.

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Strain into a gallon container used for wine making.  Leave a few inches headspace. You will have some tea left over.  Add 4 cups of sugar (I prefer organic, unbleached, raw sugar) and 2 cups of brown sugar (molasses is what makes it brown).  Stir to dissolve.

Dandelions taste particularly good with orange and caramel notes.  I like to add orange extract and butterscotch extracts when making dandelion jelly.  In this case, we are using fresh orange and brown sugar to create those notes.

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Let cool to 90 degrees then add 1/4 teaspoon of white wine yeast.  Stir.  Replace lid and carboy.  Pour a smidge of vodka into carboy to specified lines.  Let sit in a cool corner and bubble away.  It will bubble (the yeast is eating the sugar) for 10 days to 3 weeks depending on what kind of wine you are making.

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When the bubbling stops then it is time to siphon the wine (all but the bottom 1/2 inch of sediment) into super clean bottles.  Place in root cellar for 6 months to a year or more.

You can use any fruit or herb to make wine.  If there is enough juice and sugars in the fruit (like in grapes) then you just add yeast to the juice.  Most things will be made into a strong tea like the above recipe as well as my chokecherry wine and rosehip/lavender mead.  Have fun and experiment.  Use 4-8 cups of sugar.  Use 1/4 or 1/5 of a teaspoon of wine yeast, red or white.

My chokecherry wine was pretty dang strong after a year, but after two years, lord it was smooth, and I highly wished that I hadn’t given away all of the bottles!