Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving)

Grain Mills and Homemade Bread

The yeasty, earthy smell of bread wafts through the house. The sourdough rye will be perfect to sop up the soup I am making. A little butter on the still-warm bread is worth every step of breadmaking. A small glass of cold wine pulls it all together. We eat outdoors while watching the swallows swoop and call. The mountains in the distance are beautiful in the summer light. Our homestead is safe and comforting and filled with many balms for the soul- homemade bread being one of them.

On our first homestead, we bartered for a hand grinder. It was equipped to attach to a bicycle, which certainly would have been easier than the seemingly endless cranking, but I do like things that are non-electric in every instance I can. Off grid is the goal here. I do wish we still had it, but there are other great choices out there.

A Vitamix is a must-have on any homestead. This small car engine of a blender makes delicious smoothies, purees soups, makes non-dairy queso, and pulverizes tomatoes for canning sauce so that I don’t have to peel them! There is a separate container that I have under-utilized thus far. It is for grains and nuts. It makes nut butters and grinds grains in an instant. Our Vitamix is a dozen years old and is rather tired, the engine puttering along. We will probably invest in another one next year. It is a great way to have one machine that does many things.

My friend recently gifted me with a Whisper Mill grain grinder. It sounds like a jet engine, but in seconds gave me the most velvety soft and fine flour for my bread. I really like this mill. You can choose how fine you want the grain ground and it works very fast. I highly recommend this one.

Bread is easy enough to make once you have the feel for it and there are many ways to make bread faster. Jim Lahey revolutionized the bread making world with his techniques in his book, My Bread. And from there, you just make your way. Always use 2 parts white flour (organic, unbleached please) and 1 part whole grain. Any whole grain can be used. Try oats, or corn, rye, barley, or whole wheat. They are very inexpensive in bulk at the health food store or online. A vendor at the farmer’s market gave me a bit of his sourdough starter and that is making our bread all the more wonderful.

Grains have always been a part of homesteading. They are a source of valuable nutrients that fight cancer, provide fiber, and carbs for energy. Protein isn’t energy, carbs are! You need a balance of foods to keep up on a homestead, y’all. There are escaped goats to catch, a chicken coop and barn to muck, gardens to weed, straw to haul, and hours at the stove canning. That warm bread is just one of a million things that make it all worth it and wonderful.

Some of my bread recipes: Grain Mills and Rye Bread, Basic Quick Bread Formula (and Cranberry Walnut Bread), Maple Molasses Whole Wheat Bread

Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving)

Easy, Crispy, “Fried” Vegetables

Crispy, delicious eggplant slices on top of spaghetti with a rich tomato sauce. Fried pickles with ranch and a cold beer on a hot summer day. Fried zucchini and mushrooms are another favorite that take me back to Grandma’s house. Swinging my feet at her dining room table waiting for a plate of fried mushrooms, cauliflower, and zucchini.

Crispy eggplant

I rarely fill the Dutch oven with oil. The grease and dripping fried food doesn’t appeal to me as much as it used to. Here is an easy way to transform vegetables into crispy, baked, “fried” foods perfect as a main dish, side dish, or great snack after watering the gardens. This basic recipe works for pretty much any vegetable (even chicken if you didn’t name yours).

I mixed cornmeal with flavored bac’n bits, flour, and salt and pepper to make fried pickles.
  • If you are starting with something moist, like pickles or chicken, get three cereal bowls out and put flour in the first one.
  • If you are using drier veggies, like zucchini or eggplant, take out two. Crack a few fresh eggs in one bowl and whisk (if you are vegan, almond milk works just fine).
  • Pour panko in the last bowl. I sometimes like to mix panko with cornmeal, or if I am out of panko, I mix cornmeal with flour. Add any blend of spices you like into the panko. I add salt, pepper, nutritional yeast, then add Italian spices, Mexican spices, or curry depending on what I am making. Maybe just a little rosemary or thyme, or Parmesan, or just salt and pepper! Cooking is a sensory experience, so just add by feel.
  • For wet vegetables (or the unnamed chicken breasts), cover in flour first (rinse and pat dry before dipping into flour).
  • Dip everything in egg then in panko mixture.
  • Place vegetables on an oiled (olive oil) cookie sheet. In the summer, I love to use my toaster oven for cooking. (If you are baking chicken, cook at 375 degrees for one hour in a casserole dish. When poked with the tip of a knife, the juices should be clear.)
  • Bake vegetables at 425 in the toaster oven for 10-15 minutes, turning once, until crisp and smelling heavenly.

Fresh vegetables are abundant right now and salads are fabulous, but sometimes we need to bite into crisp, battered vegetables dipped in something cold and savory to really enjoy the good life!

Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving)

Spring Pea Soup with Garlic Croutons and Rhubarb Custard (two super fast and easy recipes!)

We are in the peas! As we wind down rhubarb and pea season, I made a few great recipes for you to try.

Spring Pea Soup

This soup came together fast and was so creamy and delicious.

Pour a few tablespoons of olive oil into a soup pan and heat over medium.

Add a chopped carrot, a few cloves of a garlic, and a handful of diced onion and saute until soft.

In a good blender add 1 can of rinsed navy beans, 1 jar or can of peas (I had a jar that didn’t seal) not drained, and 1 cup of vegetable broth, and a splash of white wine.

Add 1 teaspoon each sea salt, dill, minced dried onion (or add any seasonings you want) and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper. Pour in vegetables and oil and process for a few seconds until creamy. Pour back into pot.

Add another cup of vegetable broth to get to desired consistency and heat through. Serve with garlic croutons.

Garlic Croutons

Take day (or four) old bread and cube. Place on cookie sheet (I always use the toaster oven). Drizzle well with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until toasted and dry.

The Easiest Rhubarb Custard in the World

I LOVE custard. I do not love separating eggs and double boiling and such. Well, I don’t mind it, per se, but I rarely take the time. This recipe turned out amazing. I took a little old lady’s oral instructions for custard from the Foxfire 2 book I told y’all about and created my own. In this one, my crust floated up to the top like those old Impossible Pies Bisquick used to market! It was still delicious.

Biscuit Crust

In a mixing bowl combine 3/4 cup flour, 1 Tablespoon sugar, 1/2 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon sea salt. Add just under 1/4 cup of walnut oil (or olive oil), and 1/3 cup of almond milk (or regular milk). Blend well and spread into a pie plate that has been lightly spritzed with olive oil. Sprinkle with walnuts

Filling

In the same bowl mix 1/2 cup each of flour and sugar. Whisk 1 egg, plus 1 egg yolk together well and add 1 cup of almond milk (or milk) and a splash of good homemade vanilla extract. Add to flour and sugar mixture and whisk well. Now add sliced rhubarb (I used a cup of canned rhubarb because I had one that didn’t seal!) Pour over crust.

If you don’t want to add rhubarb, just add a teaspoon of nutmeg and cook without fruit. Or add another kind of fruit!

Cook at 325 degrees in a toaster oven or 350 degrees in a standard oven for 30 minutes or until middle doesn’t jiggle.

Let cool and serve with coffee. It is a real treat!

Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving)

Putting Up Peas

Things got more efficient after we began using a paring knife to slice down the seam of the pods to free the spring peas. “Everyone is getting a scheduled C-section!” Doug declared. It certainly made us faster as we shelled thirty-seven pounds of peas.

Is it worth it?

Hail destroyed the majority of our peas and what survived is scarcely giving us garnishes for our salads so we bought over a bushel from a local farm. The cost was fairly reasonable for organic peas but once we add our time in, it is still a good deal? We are using clean glass jars instead of BPA cans at the store (healthier), organic, local peas are unheard of in the grocery store (lower footprint, fresher food), and homesteading is not only my job, but our lifestyle and having fresh peas that we put up in January? Yes, please. There is also the by-product of shelling peas. The pea pods become delicious broth, animal feed, and compost. Definitely worth it!

Kittens make fabulous helpers! (Not really.)

How to can peas:

Use clean, pint-sized canning jars. Never mind with all that boiling and what have you, just line them up in the sink and pour a kettle of boiling water over and in the jars. The point of boiling the jars was to make sure they were clean and to heat them up so that they didn’t break in the canner. We are achieving the same thing with the kettle of water. Use new lids and pour boiling water over them as well.

Fill jar leaving one inch headspace (one inch from the top) with peas. Add 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Pour water in still leaving that 1 inch headspace.

You can get creative with peas. Add any dried seasoning to enhance the flavors for a heat-and-serve side dish. In four of the jars I added the 1/2 teaspoon sea salt (do remember that salt is a necessary nutrient and sea salt is not the same as added sodium in processed food.), along with 1 teaspoon of lemon pepper and 1/2 clove of garlic.

Wipe off rim and place a lid and ring on to the jar. Not too tight!

Place in pressure canner filled with 3 inches of water. Replace lid to canner and turn to high. When the shaker starts a shakin’, turn it down a smidge but make sure that the shaker keeps shaking.

Pressure can for 40 minutes. (If you are normal altitude, use 10 lbs of pressure. For us high altitude folks we always use all the weights.)

Turn off heat and let the pressure release naturally. Then line the jars up on a towel and let cool and seal. The next day label and put away.

Over a bushel of peas took us a long time to shell and process BUT we ended up with over a gallon of frozen peas (click here for how-to) and 13 pints of delicious spring peas to enjoy all winter long.

Homesteading is an amazing way to take back one’s own food system, be able to feed one’s family with amazing, organic food, and always have food on the shelf. Preparation is a great thing!

Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving)

Homemade Linguine

The more you eat homemade food, the less you like store-bought, and that’s the truth! The hard stuff doesn’t even come close to the delicious, chewy texture of homemade pasta and it just couldn’t be any easier to make.

In a bowl combine:

3 stirred up farm fresh eggs from happy chickens (now, folks, that part is important!)

2 teaspoons of sea salt

2.5 cups of flour

4 Tablespoons of water

Use your intuition to get the dough right, not too dry, not too wet.

Knead 4 minutes or so.

Use a knife and cut the dough into quarters.

Sprinkle each quarter with flour and crush it with your palm.

From here you can use a long, wooden rolling pin or a hand cranked pasta machine. If using a rolling pin, roll out as thin as possible, dusting with flour as needed,and use a knife to cut thin strips.

I like to use my pasta maker. Push the dough through at #7, then #4, then #2. Sprinkle with flour and cut in half. Run the dough through the linguine side.

Sprinkle with flour again on a cutting board, separate pieces if needed, and continue with other 3 pieces.

Bring water to boil with a little oil in it and boil for 4 minutes. Drain and serve with a great sauce like the one I posted last week! Ten Minute Pasta Sauce

Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving)

10 Minute Pasta Sauce

The shelves are still empty. Yes, at the store, but I am talking about my own pantry. I slacked the last two years canning and it shows! Not a tomato jar in sight. The pasta sauces at the store are sub-par, in my opinion, and my own are gone. This pasta sauce is fast and delicious. So much so that I think I will stop canning spaghetti sauce and start canning crushed tomatoes!

Just Like You Been Cookin’ All Day Pasta Sauce

Pour a few tablespoons of great olive into a pan.

Saute two or three cloves of minced garlic for a few minutes.

Pour in a 28 ounce jar of crushed tomatoes (I typically love Muir Glen tomatoes plain, but this is all that was on the shelf and it works just fine.)

Pour in a splash of good red wine.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Let simmer while the pasta cooks, stirring often.

This sauce is delicious topped with Violife “Parmesan.” If you haven’t tried it, it’s a game changer. Never a better time to go vegan.

Hurray pasta!

Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving)

Making Your Own Meat Alternatives

A common question to vegans is, If you don’t eat meat, why do you look for things that look and taste like meat? The best answer I saw to this was a response on Instagram, “Because I don’t want to harm animals!” There sure is a lot of false accusations going on on social media regarding meat alternatives in fast food restaurants. All we have to say is, no one gets fast food to be healthy. It is nice to have an alternative in a pinch. The reason the unhealthy meat doesn’t get attacked is because it is illegal to say anything against the meat industry.

So why do we want meat lookalikes? We were born into a society of meat and potatoes, animal laden mealtimes, and comfort food. We weren’t raised with lentils or beautiful ethnic spices or vegetarian fare- save for canned vegetables. Meat alternatives give us a place to rest. To give us the tastes of home without causing harm. They make meal planning easier. We can still whip up old recipes. Chicken fried chick’n with mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans is comfort food. Chick’n nuggets with french fries and a big salad with homemade ranch dressing is delish. Pot roast over potatoes and kale or on sandwiches. Ground meat in casseroles or spaghetti sauce.

For me, I never really liked meat, even growing up, so it’s no big thing for me, though it is fun to create these things. My husband is a big meat eater (or was) and he feels more satiated with familiar looking dishes and enjoys a big plate of food. Made healthier and inexpensively, these dishes are fun to prepare and taste amazing. We love cooking together and much of our life is based around growing and preparing our own food. We both love animals as well and have no desire to harm other creatures. And we don’t have to. It is easy to make your own meat alternatives.

I made an easy, healthy ground that tastes amazing and is very versatile. It is high in Omega 3’s, protein, iron, Vitamin D, and many trace minerals. Use equal parts walnuts and mushrooms. I soaked the walnuts for a few hours then drained and rinsed. Place the walnuts and minced mushrooms into a food processor and blend well. Freeze on a cookie sheet and then break up crumbles and place in freezer bag. Scoop out what you need for meals!

For “sausage” I took a cup of frozen crumbles and added in a little olive oil (which made it clump up into sausage-looking crumbles), fennel, paprika, garlic powder, smoked salt, and pepper. I smothered a homemade pizza crust topped with sauce with the sausage and added our favorite combination of black olives, green and red peppers, and pineapple!

For veggie chick’n, we use a recipe from The Great Vegan Bean Book by Kathy Hester. If cutting it up and putting it in meals, I use as is, but our real treat is to batter it again by dipping it in almond milk then a flavorful blend of bread crumbs and frying it in coconut oil. Chick’n fried chick’n!

For pot roast, roast beast, french dip, etc., Doug uses a recipe from J.L. Fields, a local vegan chef. Go to http://JLGoesVegan.com and look up french dip. We took that basic recipe and altered seasonings and broth and it has become a delicious staple in our house.

Three other must have books to handmake many more alternatives like sausage, hot dogs, chick’n nuggets, ribs, burgers and more are Gaz Oakley’s Vegan 100, Miyoko Schinner’s The Homemade Vegan Pantry, and VBQ- The Ultimate Vegan Barbeque Cookbook by Horn and Mayer. You will also learn to make dairy alternatives and sauces with these books as well.

Chorizo tacos from walnuts.org

A full page advertisement caught my eye in one of my magazines. I went to walnuts.org and found some delicious plant based recipes to make chorizo and ground meat with mouth watering recipes. More and more people are realizing that instead of crazy fad diets like Keto and Paleo, and weird ways to lose weight, veganism offers a way to easily go down to your perfect weight, clear your skin, reverse medical ailments, erase anxiety and depression, boost energy, and it’s just easier than ever! Try some of these alternatives and enjoy cooking and eating!

Posted in Entertaining, Food/Wine (and preserving)

Gathering Folks Together, a Simple Baby Shower, and an Easy One Pot Cake

My home seemed too small to host a baby shower for my friend, but I know after all these years of gathering people, that somehow it all works out perfectly. So my daughter, Emily, and I started planning. In my small space, we amazingly, and comfortably fit eighteen people, laughing and wishing the new mama well.

Parties needn’t be elaborate or expensive. When an RSVP came in, if they asked if they could bring something, I said yes! Many parties can be potlucks. No one minds. I always loved to throw great, large dinner parties, until I realized how crazy I was getting trying to get everything cleaned, then everything cooked, and I never ended up having time for my guests and relaxation.

My favorite guest, my granddaughter, Ayla Mae!

If you throw a celebration between mealtimes, you can just provide a few snacks and drinks. The idea is to get folks together. In an era of social media, loneliness, and disconnect, we must go out of our way to gather people together. Invite neighbors over for a neighborhood potluck. Invite a few couples over for cocktails and a card game.

Or invite several people you don’t know to a baby shower! It was really great fun. Gifts, chips and dips, vegetables trays, cupcakes, and my own vegan cake filled tables. A few different people brought sodas and Emily brought paper ware and index cards. We had the guests write their advice for the new mama. As she read each one aloud, I could tell she was touched by the support that she may not have realized she had as a single mom. It takes a village to raise a child, and a small part of the village came together to show her that.

Let us promote the idea of village once again and invite folks over to celebrate anything…celebrate life!

I like to make an easy one pot cake for gatherings. This recipe can have infinite possibilities. Use all flour or use hazelnut flour instead of almond. Change the spices. Use water or almond milk instead of coffee. Just keep the basic numbers right and you will end up with a delicious, moist, plant based cake every time!

Amaretto and Coffee Cake

Combine:

2 1/2 cups of unbleached, organic flour

1 cup almond flour

1 cup of brown sugar

1/2 cup maple syrup

2 teaspoons of baking soda

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon of ground coffee

1 Tablespoon homemade cinnamon extract (or 1 teaspoon of store bought vanilla extract)

2/3 cup of olive oil

1 cup of coffee

2 Tablespoons of white or apple cider vinegar

Quickly stir it all together (the baking soda and vinegar is what makes it rise) and pour into a 9×11 greased pan, 2 greased round pans, or a greased bundt pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out clean.

For the baby shower cake, I just used regular frosting. I made the same cake the evening before for a gathering with friends and make an amaretto frosting to top the cake with. Amaretto and Coffee cake is delicious.

In a bowl combine 1 cup of powdered sugar with 3 Tablespoons of Amaretto liqueur. Drizzle over cake.

Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving)

3 Addictive Cheeze Sauces (you will not miss the dairy!)

When Doug and I were vegetarian (still eating dairy), folks would us, “So do you eat cheese?”

“Well of course! (What moron would give up cheese?) It doesn’t hurt the animal!” was our automatic response.

We took the children to a sustainability fair downtown at the Convention Center a little over ten years ago. A table that held PETA brochures and sweet looking young people was there. We smiled and said we were vegetarian too! They gave us vegan ice cream and a brochure. No lecturing, no horror stricken faces. In that brochure I saw outlined the horrors that sweet, docile animals endure. Standing chained most of the day. Babies whisked away from them. Babies as veal. Three year old dairy cows becoming meat. We had to rethink our cheese not hurting anyone.

We went vegan for a few years after that. Did you know that cheese has the same chemical reaction in your brain as heroin? That explains a lot, doesn’t it? I could never give up cheese! is such a common phrase. Now we know why.

So we started our own dairy farm. Goats frolicked around the back yard and Doug went out to milk twice a day, our granddaughter by his side. It was all idealistic and wonderful. Until we had to snatch the babies away. They cry for each other a hundred yards away, hidden from each other. The females will become milkers, the males? They go in the freezer. Elsa got mastitis so bad she vaulted me over her back to keep me from milking her. We won’t talk about trying to get them bred! No one can call me a naive vegan.

The health problems from dairy most specifically are respiratory. Asthma, upper respiratory infections, and coughs are caused or worsened by dairy. Brain fog, inflammation, and skin problems are caused by dairy because our body produces mucous and other defenses against milk created for the strength of a new born baby of a different species.

Okay, well that is all well and good and disheartening, but what about my cheese addiction, right? I have three cheeze sauces with variations that are going to make you forget about greasy cheese. These are made from cashews, and with the addition of seasonings, we are going to create three amazing sauces that can be poured over pizza, fries, nachos, baguettes, or used as dip at the Superbowl party.

First, soak 1 cup of cashews in water for 2 hours. Drain and rinse.

Mexican Cheeze Sauce

In a high powered blender combine:

1 cup of soaked cashews

1/4 cup of enchilada sauce

4 Tablespoons of nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon of New Mexican red chile powder (optional: you know me and my New Mexican chile!)

1/2 teaspoon each: sea salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder

1 cup of hot water

Blend until well combined.

Variations: You can put this deliciousness in a fondue pot or mini-crock pot, maybe add some salsa or green chilies for a game day dip with tortilla chips.

Use 1 Tablespoon of sriracha or other hot sauce instead of enchilada sauce for more kick.

Italian Cheeze Sauce

In a high powered blender combine:

1 cup of soaked, drained cashews

2 Tablespoons of nutritional yeast

1/2 teaspoon each: sea salt, pepper, oregano, garlic powder, onion powder

1 cup of hot water

Blend until smooth. Pour over pizza, potatoes, macaroni, or into soup.

Variations: For something fancier, make truffle cheese by adding truffle salt instead of sea salt and a few drops of good truffle oil.

Change up the seasonings. Add more if you wish. Fresh basil would be amazing in this in the summer. Or dried Italian seasoning.

Pour into a fondue pot and serve with toasted bread and crudites.

Photo from internet.

Smoky Cheddar Cheeze Sauce

In high powered blender combine:

1 cup of soaked, drained cashews

4 Tablespoons of nutritional yeast (located in any well stocked store. A great source of B12)

1/2 teaspoon each: smoked salt, sea salt, pepper, paprika

a few shakes of liquid smoke

1 cup of hot water

Combine well until smooth and creamy and ready to pour over noodles with mushrooms, or toast, or fried potatoes, or dip crackers into it or make it a dip or pour over Barbecued veggie meats! Oh my, I’m starving!

We just don’t need the milk from another creature and I feel strongly that our food comes with its own karma. There is a reason so many illnesses are caused or exasperated by animal products. Save a cow, calf, and have your cheeze too!

Posted in Farming, Food/Wine (and preserving)

How I “Make” Money and a New Chefs Knife

Welcome 2020! You bring with it such promise and excitement for a new year! What are your dreams this year? What are your goals? One of my main goals this year is to up our food production. Not just gardening, though that is a big part of it. We also have a lofty goal of creating all of the processed food items that we typically purchase in our own kitchen.

Homesteaders always have crazy goals like that. This is my living. I am a housewife and I make the bulk of my money by not spending what I typically would if I had a full time job. I “make” money by growing most of our food and I “make” money by preparing and preserving it. I create my own grocery store. And it is lots of fun! I also “make” money because I create all of our own medicines and because we stay healthy eating homegrown and prepared food.

I received a very special Christmas gift from my husband. Jewelry, you might ask? Better. A chef’s knife. It is a beauty. And sharper than a lost sewing pin in the carpet. It will make cooking such a pleasure for me.

I love cooking and I love a challenge, so homesteading is a good job for me. I have an animal sanctuary here and for as long as I can remember, animals have been dearer to me and better friends to me than most humans. I have sworn off consuming them and their by-products. We are always healthier and happier when we are vegan and we save a lot of money. We have begun making our own veggie meats to supplement meals. It is a lot of fun, super easy, and we get more nutrition without the preservatives and unknown ingredients. I am experimenting with different cheeses as well. I was a cheesemaker for many years so I think I might be able to come up with a pretty sly alternative to smoked cheddar! It’s all a part of the fun. Lots of baking will ensue as well; granola bars, cereal, breads, desserts, tortillas.

But my main love is vegetables. I make a very good vegetarian because I crave vegetables more than anything. I will have my biggest garden yet on this new homestead. It will be nearly as big as my entire last homestead! Using roughly a third of our 1.1 acre, I will be able to grow nearly all of our vegetables and get many perennial fruit and nut trees and bushes put in. I am even going to experiment with grains, though I will count grains, some nuts, coffee, black tea, and chocolate as things that I will probably always need to purchase! But within a few years my goal is to growing, preserving, and preparing at least 90% of what we eat and have plenty for my grown family as well. Another way I “make” money is by growing my own farm.

We all have plenty of goals this time of year and mine will certainly be more fun with a chef’s knife! Let’s not forget to live in the moment. One never knows what tomorrow brings. (I do hope tomorrow brings Spring!) Happy New Year to you all.