The Amazing Pressure Cooker (and a nice Nordic dish)

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My goodness, I have been missing this all of my adult life.  A pressure cooker!  How come y’all didn’t tell me about this lovely contraption?  It literally takes half the time to make supper!  And for a homesteading mama, this is important.

I love whole grains.  I am a huge advocate of the healing power, antioxidant content, anti-cancer ability of whole grains.  Natural fiber and mineral foods that take forever to cook.  The same reason I do not make beans as often as I’d like; I forget to put them in the slow cooker or I don’t have three hours to wait for them to be done!

The quick release on the pressure cookers is the coolest thing I have seen in awhile (I don’t get out much.) and I do wish that our pressure canners had this feature!  This supper took no time at all to prepare.  I’m still experimenting, but the cooker makes it easy for me.

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Here I soaked 1/2 cup of navy beans for the day in doubled the water.  Came home to a full measuring cup of them.  I sautéed red onion and garlic in olive oil in the pressure cooker first then added a few chopped carrots, a chopped parsnip, and one sliced stalk of celery.  I added the drained beans and 1/2 cup of rye.  Sprinkle all well with smoked salt (or regular) and pepper, dill, paprika, and a pinch of thyme.  I poured over 4 cups of my homemade rosemary broth (though you could use any broth), put the lid on and pressure cooked it for 30 minutes.  I quick released it (so cool) and added two big handfuls of chopped cabbage and two pieces of lovely coral colored salmon topped with spices.  Another 3 minutes in the pressure cooker and wallah, supper was served.

This fabulous contraption will serve me well this year with my expansive, and God willing prolific, gardens.  Whatever veggies, spices, grains, and proteins I have on hand will make delicious, healthy, and unique one pot meals.

Do you have a great pressure cooker recipe?

Recipes Made Better

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A swirl of truffle oil or walnut oil on green beans is really quite nice.  Some toasted slivered almonds or walnuts dressed with truffle salt is delicious.  And a bit of blue cheese and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar  elevates the green bean casserole from cream of something to fresh amazing.

Recipes are developed to appeal to the average palate but if you want to take your dishes from average to extraordinary, it really only takes a few changes to make your guests take pause as they eat.

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Pumpkin bread calls for cinnamon, but what about adding other spices from pumpkin pie spice?  Instead of vegetable oil sub out vanilla olive oil…or orange olive oil.  Add a handful of chopped candied ginger or chocolate chips.  It doesn’t change the basic recipe at all.  Vanilla salt replaces ordinary salt.  This makes pretty amazing pumpkin bread.

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Combine sesame oil with orange oil to dress salad.  Use smoked salt on mashed potatoes.  Add a little New Mexican red chili to sweet potatoes.  The sweet marshmallows and the smoky chili is bliss.  Cream chives into the butter.  Or cinnamon.  Have fun!  Cooking is an exploration of the human palate, a sensual dance of sweet, sour, spice, umami, and savory, far from average.  And eating with loved ones is food for the soul.

Here’s to family, friends, gratitude, and dreams come true.  Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

 

 

 

Pressure Canner (homesteading necessity, chicken stock recipe, and buying only what you need)

We are slowly building our life and items we need back up.  We just purchase what we need as cash allows.  Last night we joyfully added to the cart a few imperative homesteading items.  A pressure canner (when the lid is off it’s a water bath canner), jars, stock pot, and canning gear.

First things first, chicken stock.  I am shocked at how much organic stock costs.  Here is my recipe for it should you need it from a prior blog post.

Click here for recipe

I am heading to my Great Aunt Donna’s for rhubarb this weekend.  And the hunt is on for everything I can get my hands on to can.  Rows of organic canned goods are amazing to have on hand any time of the year, goodness without listeria, E Coli, or whatever the heck else is in our food system.  Great, delicious, wonderful home grown food….oh, I am getting carried away.  Stock, that is where I was at…

My old pantry

Curry Chickpea Sandwiches on the Hiking Trail

This idea was in not one, but two of my favorite magazines last month.  Though I do not particularly care for the squeaky dryness of garbanzo beans out of a can, the idea looked great to me.  Fiber, vegetables, protein, vegetarian, and something new?  So, I took the idea and ran with it.  I ended up with curry chickpea salad.  I also do not care for sandwiches, but I cannot get enough of this one.  Delicious.

Start with a can of organic garbanzo beans.  Strain and pour into bowl.  Crush it with a fork.  We don’t want to puree it or we have hummus, just crush it so you have a nice chunky base.

This base can be changed and improved upon depending on taste.

I added a good dollop of mayonnaise (and a bit of chipotle mayo too).

Add a chopped celery stick and half a shredded carrot.

Sprinkle on garlic powder, dried minced onions, a little salt, lemon pepper, and a tablespoon of curry powder.

Blend well.  Smear on seeded whole grain sandwich bread.

Other ideas:  Use grapes and almonds for “chicken” salad. Or add relish and a bit of mustard, and a good sprinkling of fresh dill.  Be creative!

Some days now are perfect to pack a basket of sandwiches, fruit, and drinks and head to the hiking trails.  We did this just this last weekend and it was beautiful.  Good to know spring always comes. (Doug took some great photos.)

 

Creamy Coconut Curry (in a Crockpot!)

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This is a Maryjane Rose approved recipe.  She had thirds!

At the beginning of the year I mentioned that we would try new types of food.  Ethnic food includes many spices that support the circulatory system and boost immunity.  There are many vegetarian recipes as well.

There are many different curry blends out there.  The one I bought had the ingredients we liked the most higher on the list.  We are new to Indian food.  Doug and I were pretty certain we didn’t like it.  We are trying to open our horizons!  We were truly American in our culinary ventures growing up.  Mexican food was tacos.  Italian food was spaghetti.  Chinese food was American Chinese food.  Indian food was not on either of our plates growing up.  So, here is my attempt at a delicious, warming Coconut Curry, not too hot, just spiced well.

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Creamy Coconut Curry

In a crockpot combine:

1 cup of dried garbanzo beans

1 cup of frozen peas

1/2 acorn squash, peeled and diced

1 medium potato, diced

3 1/2 cups of water

Cook on low for 8 hours.

Add one can of unsweetened coconut milk

3 Tb of Simply Organic Curry Powder

1 1/2 teaspoons of salt (add more to taste after letting settle in)

Cook on low for a 1/2 hour while making rice or couscous to serve over.

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Drink Pairing: We had hot vanilla tea for lunch but if you were so inclined a Sauvignon Blanc would be excellent.

 

Making and Cooking with Vanilla Salt

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Perhaps it’s from our visits to fine restaurants, or my lacking sense of smell that makes me desire everything to be uniquely and strongly flavored, or perhaps it is the overflowing creativity that I cannot seem to satisfy, or perhaps I am a natural born chef, who knows, anyway,  I must have fabulous oils, vinegars, and seasonings in my kitchen to cook with.  I have rarely to never repeated recipes in the twenty something years I have been cooking for myself, and there are no run of the mill meals here.

For instance, I used to make spaghetti.  Now I make pasta (sometimes homemade) with homemade spaghetti sauce made with thick tomatoes and colorful vegetables that are cooked down with wine and garlic until thick and fragrant.  Herbs from the garden in handfuls and smoked salt.  Then added to the pasta and baked with goat cheese and mozzarella.  Divine.

I used to grill trout.  Now I stuff it with lemon, sage, and rosemary.  Fry it in truffle oil after dredging it in cornmeal.  A white wine sauce to pour over after deboning.  Well, you get the picture.

In baking if a recipe calls for vanilla extract, I use three times more than it says and I use extract that I made.  I may substitute required oil in a recipe with an orange infused oil or perhaps a walnut infused oil.  If a recipe calls for salt in baking, I reach for the vanilla salt.  These slight variations elevate food from sustenance to gourmet with sensational flavors.  A basic recipe for pumpkin bread becomes amazing with vanilla and cinnamon extracts, and vanilla salt.

My friend Rodney and I hit the oil stores whenever we pass them.  There are not a lot so it is a treat to find one.  One day when we were in the Springs purchasing our oils for the next few months we came across the flavored salts.  I picked up a small container of black flecked sea salt, fragrant with vanilla beans and took it home.  It was on my grocery list to purchase more when I had an aha moment.  I had just emptied a quart of vanilla extract to sell at the market. (Read post here to see how to make your own vanilla extract.  You will never buy from the store again!)  There sat the beautiful vanilla beans.  In the past I would have cut them open and used them in baking then discarded them.  I cannot grow them and they are not cheap so I had to do something with them.  Eye to the list, eye to the vanilla bean, big bag of sea salt in the cupboard.  I simply placed the whole vanilla beans, sliced in half into the salt that I had poured into a canning jar shaking occasionally.  A few weeks later when removing the lid the smell of fresh, spicy vanilla came wafting up from the eight ounces of salt.  It cost me very little and I have plenty to add to baking dishes and a myriad of other meals (such as oatmeal, or goat cheese, or caramel to make salted caramel, or in jams, or salad dressing, or….)

Make your farmhouse kitchen a deliciously gourmet kitchen.  It’s easy and a fun way to eat after a long day of weeding rows of vegetables.

 

Desperately Seeking Fresh Vegetables (and a fine Brussels recipe)

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I stared at the dusty jars lining the warped shelves in the basement.  They still feel like a blessing but at the moment were seeming more and more like a curse.  I swear if I have to eat one more jar of green beans…or peas…or corn…or beets…or…

I understand that hunger doesn’t care.  If I lived before grocery stores, out on an old homestead, or if I didn’t have a hundred bucks to spare, that food would be tasting real good right now.  But it is late February, too early for anything fresh, and my mind was dreaming of food that has not even been planted yet!

We have been fabulous at eating seasonally.  We ate almost all the potatoes, lots of carrots, onions, jar after jar of items I preserved, frozen vegetables and fruits.  I have been creative.  I have added fresh herbs from the windowsill.  We ate all but one pumpkin.  I need a radish.

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We picked up Maryjane and Emily (You know your life has changed when going to the health food store in town is the highlight of the week.) and off we went to Vitamin Cottage.  The pretty rows of product lulled us into a sense of summer and freshness.  I caught sight of the Brussels sprouts, as large as two golf balls side by side, and giggled like Gollum finding his Precious as I loaded up a bag.  I did a little jig in front of the ruby red orbs of radishes.  Maryjane held a piece of broccoli she had snagged as her mother walked by the green trees (what my kids used to call broccoli).  Emily pointed out various mouthwatering vegetables as we told the baby how she is going to love vegetables.  Doug walked over with crisp apples.  We put kale in our basket, Roma tomatoes, boxes of salad.  Large grapes for fresh chicken salad.  Long, elegant leeks to go into humble potato soup.  We felt like royalty.  Everything was organic, but I do not know where it was grown.  Certainly not around here.

I woke up yesterday and cut up two radishes even before the coffee was made.  I sprinkled them with a bit of smoked sea salt and popped them in my mouth.  I smothered a few with butter.  They held the crisp edge I was looking for.  They are not near as good as the earthy, spicy radishes that will come out of my garden beds in a few month’s time, but they were very suitable for a long winter of mushy green beans.  (Which tasted amazing, by the way, all through the cold winter months.)  Last night we had salad with homemade croutons and the melt in your mouth giant Brussels spouts.

Soon we will be back to frozen eggplant, and gelatinous peas (which tasted amazing, by the way, all through the cold winter months.  I need to repeat that so y’all aren’t tempted to not start canning.  It is great, and it is really fun going to the grocery store in the basement.)  I just needed a taste of spring.  I’ll be saving up for a green house!

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Melt in Your Mouth Brussels Sprouts

This recipe was adapted from a recipe in the “Vegan Soul Kitchen” by the great Bryant Terry.  He would be disappointed in me for the addition of bacon.

Fry up two slices of bacon, drain on paper towel and when cool, break into small pieces.

Drizzle pan with a few tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of bacon drippings.

Trim off the end and cut in half a bunch of Brussels sprouts, enough to fill your skillet with a single layer of halves face down.  About a pound.

Sear for four minutes or so until nice and slightly blackened.

Add 1 cup of rich broth.

Cover tightly and braise over medium high heat for 12 minutes.

Add 1/4 cup of white wine (I like Chardonnay) and a few tablespoons of lemon or regular thyme, fresh preferably.

Continue braising for five minutes.  Taste and add salt and pepper if desired.  Top with bacon.

I would show you a picture but we ate them too fast.  Sorry.

Santa’s Got a Brand New Cookie

Remember in grade school when we were supposed to bring in a recipe?  All the recipes were put together in a hand bound book and given to our parents for holidays.  I believe I gave it to my mother for Mother’s Day.  I have not seen that recipe book in years but in it held a recipe I know by heart that has been used for decades now.  I do not even know the name of it but my kids know it as the peanut butter chocolate thingies.  This year we called them Grammie’s Graham Cracker Bliss.  You can call them whatever you wish.

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It was my first go-to recipe as a pre-teen.  I took these addictive no bake bars to youth group dances.  Then as I got older they made a quick dessert that the kids loved (if I could keep from eating it all before it set).

Santa may leave Mama a few extra gifts if she leaves this dessert for him!

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Take 1 package of graham crackers. (note: the packages of graham crackers do seem smaller than when I was a kid.  Use your judgment if you need to add a few more crackers to the mix.)  Here’s the fun part.  Crush the package with a rolling pin until crumbs.  Add to bowl.

Melt 1 stick of butter.  Add.

Add 1 cup of peanut butter and 1 cup of powdered sugar.

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Blend well and using your fingers or a spatula spread into a baking dish or cookie sheet.

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Melt 1/2 bag of chocolate chips.  Smear on top.  Refrigerate.

(Optionally, you can test every five minutes to see if it is set enough until you get caught by the kids.)

Cut into pieces and enjoy with coffee.  Santa is going to be up all night working and could probably use something a bit stronger than milk.  An espresso or two is in order.

Potato Insurance

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Remember when I went downstairs to get potatoes from the root cellar and the roots were so long the whole thing looked like a monster from the deep?  Eek!  (If not, here is the post.  It’s rather scary.)  I did remember, though, that the year before that I had simply put the potatoes in a wire crate and set them in the basement (instead of five gallon buckets with (slightly damp, I fear) straw).  We ate nearly all the potatoes that year.  Very few shriveled and those were the smaller ones.  Bigger ones can have bruises cut off of them.  I did learn never to store damp potatoes.  Make sure they are all dried out.  After the plants die back, leave them in the ground for a week or so.  After harvest, I leave them in the wire crate with plenty of air flow on the porch for the day.  Then down to the basement they go.

We eat a lot of potatoes.  That would be the Irish part of me, I suppose, but I think a lot of cultures love potatoes!  I wanted to make sure I had enough.  Nothing like heading down to the dungeon on a crisp January morning to find an empty crate.  The health food store is 45 minutes away and I am trying to save money and not go grocery shopping so much!  I am attempting to provide enough to get through winter.

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A few years ago, at the farmer’s market (which is much like high school, if you must know, with people picking on so and so, and the cool kids being the farmers…) the farm booth folks were picking on the balloon guy after he purchased a fifty pound bag of potatoes to can.

“To can?” they roared, laughing and pointing (not kidding here) the whole time.  “They stay good stored the way they are.”

I giggled, attempting to be cool like the farm kids and thought nothing of it.  That is, until I ran out of potatoes in the middle of winter!  The Irish blood part of me was ready to pitch quite a fit.

This year, I bought a bushel of potatoes.  All of mine from the garden are going into the wire crate (geez, we have already eaten a quarter of them!) and these beauties from the farm are being canned. (Laugh if you will.)

Half of them, I just scrubbed and diced into one inch chunks.  Then poured into quart jars, added a teaspoon of sea salt to each one, and topped with water leaving a 3/4 inch head space.  On went the lids and into the pressure cooker they went.  Forty minutes later, I had insurance.

I have insurance that in January, Mama is going to have some potatoes to cook!

Today, I will peel the other half and do the same thing.  Variety, you know.  Yum.  The potatoes are cooked already when opening the jar and simply need a masher, a frying pan, or a quick turn in the oven with all the rosemary, thyme, and sage I brought in to overwinter in the window.

Happiness comes in many forms…mashed, roasted, pureed in soup, au gratin, fried, baked….

Perfect Pickled Eggs

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The first time we ate a pickled egg was at Nancy’s house a few years ago.  She put out a platter of olives, crackers, chutney, and pickled eggs to enjoy with our glasses of wine out on the deck in the waning sunlight.  The eggs were a royal purple with brightly colored yolks.  We hesitated, then tried one.  Then promptly ate all of the pickled eggs and asked for more.

Such a surprise they were, and so delicious!  So, last year I made my own.  You make them with beets so that the glorious color transfers to the plain white eggs.  I put up several quarts of pickled eggs and beets.  We picked out all the eggs and wasted most of the pickled beets.  So this year I did mostly eggs with a much smaller amount of beets, enough for one salad, but enough to turn our beautiful eggs into works of art.

I was telling my plan to three lovely ladies I know from town that were visiting the farm yesterday learning how to can corn.  They were intrigued as well and I said that I would post the recipe today.  After all, one of the gals paid me the most flattering compliment (though she probably didn’t realize it!), “This is like Little House on the Prairie!”

Pickled Eggs and Beets

Hard boil as many eggs as you see fit.  Click the link to see my recipe for the perfect boiled egg.  Cool and peel.

In clean pint jars layer sliced or chopped beets (I do not even peel them, just scrub them up.) with peeled boiled eggs to an inch from the top.

Add a tablespoon of brown sugar, a teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice, and a half teaspoon of salt.  Fill half way with water, and the rest of the way (leaving a half inch head space) with vinegar (white or apple cider).  Make sure the rim is clean and replace lid.

Place jars in a pot of boiling water with water just covering lids.  Bring back to boil and process for 30 minutes.  Add one more minute per 1000 feet above sea level that your kitchen sits.  I just round up to 7000 feet, so I boil the jars for 37 minutes.  Remove from water and cool on counter until you hear the harmonious sound of popping jars preserving your bounty for winter snacks!