Growing and Blending Seasonings

rosemaryI shall grow basil in plots

I shall grow oregano lots

The chives shall come up fine

along rows of heady thyme

I shall grow rosemary too

And red chile for New Mexican stew

I shall grow sumac if I can find

and lavender to breathe and unwind

Could I grow caraway too?

for rye bread to eat with a good brew?

The onions and garlic are growing now

I can make them dried somehow

I use all these herbs in dishes galore.

I will grow so many herbs you can’t see the earth floor.

Along with herbs for medicine and herbs for aroma and more

I will grow herbs to blend instead of spending money at the store!

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I admit it, I spend hundreds of dollars on culinary seasonings.  I have a large basket and two full cupboards of seasonings that we use all of the time.  Many are the very same herbs that I grow for medicine and to use fresh.  I spend hundreds on infused oils.  You know how it is at the end of summer, you are already pushing time to get all of the harvest in, preserved, garden beds cleaned, and trying to catch some of the glorious last warmth.  Blending herbs for the kitchen just seemed like one more thing I didn’t have time for when a nice store already did it for me.  Because I am an herbalist I also get bulk herbs that are going to be a lot cheaper than the specialty stores.  If I just use bulk herbs for what I cannot grow, and grow and blend the rest, I will save SO much money!  I can infuse my own oils.  Dry, dehydrate, and blend my own seasonings.  It will be worth the time!  Another DIY for this homesteader.  We are going to be busy this summer on Farmgirl School!

Creative Ways to Cook With A Lot More Vegetables

_BBF2511_gThere is something about the various colors of vegetables that I find so beautiful.  Artists for centuries have been painting their curves, their textures, their light.  Vegetables are among the most appealing sights to me.  It fuels my gardening.  It fuels my diet.

I am still surprised when people tell me that they, or their spouse, or their children do not eat vegetables.  Missing out on that satisfying crunch, the way the savory slices gather in sauce and spices, the bright colors creating a mesmerizing palette on the dinner table.

I will never forget when my friend, Nancy, and I were running our market booth and two women came over and pointed at green, frilly leaves and asked, “What’s that?”  We stared at them for a minute.  “Lettuce,” we replied.  “What do you do with it?” they inquired.

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So, perhaps folks do not know what to do with vegetables.  Here are some ideas to easily incorporate lots of glorious colors, textures, and flavors into your meals.  Listen, if mama is cooking, the folks around the table are going to eat it.  We raised our children vegetarian.  Their primary diet was vegetables!  They never turned their nose up because they were never given an option.  That goes for men too.  No one got their own meals.  There were no chicken nuggets and fries for the kids while we ate crisp slices of eggplant with spaghetti.  The kids (and this goes for how school lunches should be too) should eat the same fabulous food as adults.  That is how they learn to love vegetables.

With that, let’s get cooking!

First buy or grow lots of beautiful, organic produce.  Whatever appeals to you or interests you.  Now think of a theme.

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If you want to go Asian- chop maybe five different vegetables (like cabbage, carrots, onion, snow peas, and red pepper) and saute them with tamari, scallion oil, a touch of orange juice, and serve topped with peanuts or cashews and rice.

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If you want to go Italian- slice eggplant real thin and bread in flour, non-dairy milk, then panko and fry or bake.  Put salt and pepper, nutritional yeast, onion and garlic powder, and oregano in the flour and panko mixtures.  Make your own sauce by sauteing onions and garlic, then add in diced tomatoes, and simmer with dried basil, oregano, a touch of thyme and paprika, a dash of wine, then top with basil as you add it to the pasta.  Or just pick out a great pasta sauce.

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Pizza night- Layer pizza sauce on thin pizza dough (15 minutes to make tops).  Layer on (or for more depth, saute first in olive oil) oyster or lobster mushrooms (these aren’t your slimy canned bit, they taste like seafood), red and green peppers, black olives, and diced eggplant and zucchini.  Top with nutritional yeast, Italian seasoning, maybe a bit of truffle salt and a swirl of truffle oil.  Bake.

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Maybe you want Mexican food tonight- How about sauteed red and green peppers and onions in mini-tacos.  Maybe add diced, roasted pumpkin, butternut squash, or zucchini.  Pinto beans with green chilies. Top with salsa (which is a vegetable), guacamole (best vegetable), lettuce, tomato, and a creamy vegan cashew queso (5 minutes to make).  Serve with a margarita (not a vegetable, sadly).

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Spanish calls for paella with its slow cooked rice, savory seasonings like garlic and paprika, and lots of finely diced vegetables like peppers, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, and kale.

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Indian food is quite easy with its various curries and sauces using any vegetable but especially lentils, cauliflower, peas, and potatoes.

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Create a hash by sauteing or baking onion, garlic, bright colored peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes.  You can add in crushed up tofu colored with turmeric for scrambled eggs.  If you have farm fresh eggs from happy chickens, you can throw all the vegetables you have into a cast iron pan, saute, then add eggs to make a frittata.

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Soups are always comforting and easy to put together.  With most meals start with a sofrito.  A sofrito is a blend of onion, garlic, celery, and carrots slowly sauteed in olive oil.  Then add diced veggies.  Any and all combinations.  Then add spices depending on what theme you chose.  Then add rich vegetable broth or bouillon.  At the end you could add a bit of cashew cream or almond milk for creaminess.  Add lots of beans.  Use an immersion blender to hide the Brussels sprouts if need be.

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A few tips:

Garlic should go in everything!

Top dishes with toasted pine nuts, almonds, cashews, or walnuts.

Add beans, lentils, or dried peas.

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Serve with pasta, big hunks of warm Italian bread and olive oil, rice, cooked rye, barley, or quinoa or homemade croutons.

Roasted vegetables cooked with rosemary, thyme, and garlic increase flavor and are wonderful served with bread and salad.

Top dishes with a drizzle of great olive oil or flavored olive oil.

A touch of sugar balances acidity in tomatoes.

Spices, spices, spices.  Layer flavors as you cook.

Put on some music (preferably Andrea Bocelli), pour a glass of wine, put your apron on, and enjoy cooking.  Vegetarian food takes half the time to prepare and is real easy on the wallet.  Antioxidants and nutrients kill disease and make healthy kids and hubbies.  And vegetables taste great!  Bon Appetit!

 

 

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?

Winter Night Beans

 

JpegThe winter wind blows as the flurries of icy snow cover walkways and rooftops.  There is nothing quite like walking in the front door, clicking on the Christmas lights, and being met with the smell of dinner already cooked for you.  A crockpot and beans do just that.  Creating an enticing aroma and healthy, nourishing delight.  So simple too.

In a crockpot pour in 2 cups of pinto beans.

Add (or be imaginative and adjust flavors) 2 teaspoons of ground New Mexican chili and 1 teaspoon of ground green chili.  1 Tablespoon of dried, minced onion, a teaspoon of minced garlic.  1/4 teaspoon of pepper.  1 teaspoon of paprika.  A few shakes of liquid smoke.  Don’t add salt until the last ten minutes or so.

Cut up 3 strips of bacon and add.  Pour in 5 cups of broth.  Set to low and go out shopping (or working).  8 hours later…

When you arrive home add 1-2 teaspoons of smoked salt (or sea salt) and a couple of handfuls of greens.  Let cook for 5-10 more minutes.  Serve with bread or cornbread and honey butter.  (Melt a stick of butter with a good amount of honey.  Pour into container and set in fridge.  Let sit on counter for a little bit before spreading.)

Homestead food at its most delightful.  Happy Winter!

A Pot of Chai (how to make your own chai tea)

Delicious, hot chai.  Nothing better.  Since I can’t hang out at the Indian restaurant every day slurping down chugs of spicy, sweet sustenance, I figured I better learn how to make it myself.  All recipes are meant to be improved on but this one is pretty darn good.  Mix it with fresh goat’s milk or milk of choice and enjoy it warm.  Add what you like, take out what you like, create, inspire, enjoy.  Chai is perfect for early spring mornings.

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Combine in a pot:

6 cinnamon sticks

2 Tablespoons of cardamom seeds

2 Tablespoons of brown sugar

2 Tablespoons of honey

2 whole nutmeg

2 Tablespoons of coconut

1 bay leaf

1 vanilla bean

1 inch piece of ginger plus 8 pieces of candied ginger

1/2 Tablespoon of whole cloves

1/8 teaspoon of pepper

3 teabags of black tea

8 cups of water

Simmer for one hour

Strain tea into a 2 quart jar.  To serve, combine half chai with half warm milk or to taste.

 

The Kitchen Herbalist

“Oh no…” I said when I saw my husband.  He was coming down with the virus that has kept me doling out medicine from my shop all hours for the past six weeks.  I went over to retrieve my medicine bag, that I always keep on me, and noticed I had somehow left it at the shop.

I considered driving back to Elizabeth but then it occurred to me that there is a whole lot of medicine in the kitchen.  Not made up into sparkling colors of extracts and such but in spice jars.

I pulled out every herb I knew to be anti-viral, anti-biotic, and started cooking.

1 teaspoon of thyme

1 teaspoon of oregano

1 teaspoon of basil

a shake of turmeric

a shake of chipotle

slivers of fresh ginger

a cinnamon stick

I started to pour honey over it (1 or 2 parts honey to the herbs) and starting running out after a tablespoon.

1 Tablespoon of maple syrup and 1 Tablespoon of molasses followed

Roughly, I didn’t measure.  That is the nice thing about herbalism and cooking, you can wing it.  A bit more honey, maybe there are more things in your cupboard…cumin, rosemary, garlic, it all works.

Simmer very lightly over low to medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes until well combined and infused.  Pour half into a mug and pour hot water over it.  Lemon or orange slices can go into the mug.  It doesn’t sound very good but the mixture of sweet and spice in a mug of hot water when you are just going under the weather tastes mighty fine and it will kick that cold quickly!  Your artillery is right in front of you.

Serves 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dinner and Movie Night-Spice and Herb Fish, Artichokes, and Spiced Cocktails

Dinner and a movie at home is one of our favorite “dates”.  Today we will make spice and herb stuffed fish with artichokes and a gingery, fruity cocktail.  The movie is “Burnt” with Bradley Cooper.  We loved it.  We love all foodie movies though.  This one was fast and fun and made our mouths water.

The Cocktail- This cocktail began a year and a half ago as my intern, Ethan, and I loaded a two quart jar with fresh peppermint, apple halves, and good rum as a Christmas present for Doug.  It is sweet and syrupy and delicious but certainly regular rum, or alcohol omitted all together, would be fine.

The base is delicious alone, really.  Load a pot with slices of ginger, turmeric, oranges, and fresh mint.  Drizzle in a generous amount of honey.  Pour over about four cups of water and simmer for one hour.  This mixture can sit in the refrigerator after it is done.

Rodney and Pat gave us a Soda Stream machine which carbonates water.  It makes fun “pop” and cocktails.

Fill a high ball with ice, pour in one or two ounces of rum, then half and half carbonated water and base.

The Artichokes- I do hope you indulge in artichokes.  They are completely delicious and nutritious and fun to eat!  Clip off any sharp points on the outer leaves as well as the top quarter inch.  Trip stem to one inch.  Place in boiling water with half a sliced lemon, 1 teaspoon of sea salt, and two cloves of garlic and simmer for 40 minutes.  Drain and cool.

To eat, peel off leaves and pull bottom part through teeth to get meat off.  As you get closer to the center the leaves get more tender and you will eat the lower third of them.  When you get to the center spoon out the fuzzy part and enjoy the whole heart and stem.

To make dip, place a quarter cup of mayonnaise and sprinkle with your favorite season salt.  I love the Market All Purpose seasoning from Savory.  It is full of smoky paprika.

The Fish- I used trout.  I love trout but any good fish will work.  Sprinkle inside of fish with garlic salt and lemon pepper.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of curry powder and grate 1/2 teaspoon of ginger and 1/4 teaspoon of grated turmeric and spread on inside of fish.  Stuff with sprigs of Thai basil, green onion, and peppermint (or whatever you have on hand).

Melt 1 Tablespoon of butter and 2 Tablespoons of oil (I used a flavorful orange and chili oil from Germany) in a frying pan.  Add fish and cook covered for 8 minutes.  Flip and cook another 5 minutes or until fish is cooked through.

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From my kitchen window, the snow is over a foot high and it is still blowing and snowing.  Another movie and foodie night might be in order!  Happy Eating, Friends.