Thursday, November 13, 2014

Another Cake...

One of my most favorite ways to spend time is cooking along side a friend, especially in fancy-dancy kitchens.  Yesterday I got such a chance and pounced (maybe even inviting myself over), to bake with a friend who is an amazing baker.  Not only does she consistently wow us all with her delicious confections, she is fearless about tackling new and seemingly complicated recipes.  A while back I had posted this torte recipe from Smitten Kitchen but have been totally intimidated to try the whole meringue thing, but not this friend.  She jumped on it and has made the torte several times all the while raving about it and extolling its amazingness.  Earlier in the week she mentioned that she was planning on making said dessert for an upcoming school event and I jumped right in and invited myself over to watch and learn from this master baker.  She upped the anti on me, informing me that I would not simply watch and learn but I'd bake right along side her and make one for myself.  So I packed up my eggs, cream, chocolate, vanilla, sugar and hazelnuts and headed for her lovely kitchen.  We baked, she instructed, we chatted and had a generally great time.  It was a great way to spend a particularly cold Northwest afternoon, thank you very much.  What I most love about this dessert is; that it is naturally gluten free so no experimenting with flour mixtures, it combines two of my most favorite flavors (chocolate and hazelnut), and it is a show stopper.  If you are looking for a dessert to wow a crowd yet is really fairly quick and simple to pull off, this will be your new BFF.  I hope you will not be like me and let intimidation get in the way, do yourself a favor and head to the kitchen this weekend to make this delicious treat.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Mindful Monday...

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes, 
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting  
over and over announcing your place 
in the family of things.

from Dream Work by Mary Oliver 
published by Atlantic Monthly Press
© Mary Oliver

Monday, September 29, 2014


Are you on the fermenting bandwagon yet?  I'm trying to hitch a ride myself, but still very much in the early learning stages.  I figure that it can't hurt, and within safe reason I love anytime I can present and prepare food for friends and family that has been minimally handled/processed.  So I am dipping my toe into the world of making my own fermented foods.  So far my two attempts have been kombucha and lacto fermented salsa.

A year or so ago I started buying those bottled kombucha drinks at the local natural food coop, and I was quickly hooked.  Those babies are expensive though and so I began researching how to make my own.  About that time I connected with a friend of a friend who had recently started experimenting with making her own kombucha and was willing to share some scoby and teach me the basics.  So after an afternoon spent sampling her variations and gleaning as much as I could from her experience I took home a couple scobys and set out to ferment my own kombucha.  I love this tutorial on brewing your own.  Once the tea was ready, I am finding that 7-10 days is a good amount of time for fermentation in our home (though with cooler temps settling in that may begin to stretch longer), it's time to flavor your tea.  Over the summer we used seasonal fruits, mostly berries, along with lemon and ginger to flavor our tea but now that fall is kicking in I'm thinking a pear/ginger combo sounds really great.  Have you tried making kombucha?  If so what are your favorite flavor add in's?

My second foray into the world of fermenting has been lacto fermented salsa.  We love salsa in this house and during the summer months when tomatoes are at their best we make and consume a lot of it.  That and my obsession with buying produce by the box led me to my first attempt at fermented salsa.  I had an abundance of tomatoes both from the garden and supplemental purchases and was looking for something new to try in the way of food preservation.  I stumbled on this blog post about fermented salsa and made quick work of transforming the remains of my tomatoes into several quarts of the best salsa I've ever tasted.  Not only is it super tasty, it is really fairly quick and easy to make.  A few rough chops, some blitzing in the food processor and a few days on the counter and you are good to go.  And no cooking folks!  No standing over a hot stove water bath canning salsa in 100 degree temps.  From what I've read you can hold fermented salsa in the fridge for fairly lengthy periods, likely longer than you will need because if you like salsa you will eat your way through your jars very fast.  The inner hoarder in me wants to make enough to last us well into and hopefully through winter so I dug a bit deeper and found that you can freeze this salsa with decent results.  I've got a tester quart in the freezer and another gallon plus working it's magic on my counter at this very moment.  Once we crack open the frozen jar I will report back but I do have high hopes.  I took a jar of this along on a weekend trip with friends and it got a raving thumbs up, even by my onion and pepper hating friend.  I was even able to successfully use it as a bribe for a teen friend of ours, its really that good.  I hope you try for yourself, I'd love to hear what you think.

Friday, September 19, 2014


On the first day back to school this year I had a little celebratory coffee and brunch gathering with a few friends.  I knew I would keep it fairly simple yet wanted to bake a couple sweets to share with the ladies.  I also had the remains of a box of pears (ordered the week prior) that were calling to get used up, so in a search of the internet airwaves I found this recipe for a French Apple Cake that I thought could work well with my quickly ripening pears.  In fact the original recipe has one softening up crisp apples, so substituting nicely ripened soft pears seemed a perfect tweak.  I also wanted to make the recipe dairy free so I used coconut oil and milk in the recipe, and oh was that a winning call.  I had never made this cake before but am always excited to try out a new recipe on friends, though I could not have anticipated the absolute wonder of this cake.  Nearly everyone at the table tried it, even those who typically stay away from sweets and such, and I can honestly say that nothing else I have ever made for anyone has ever gotten quite the response this cake did.  There were seconds and thirds had, and many requests to share the recipe.  That simple rustic little cake in the photos above has caused quite the stir.  So naturally I made it again, I had to see if it was just beginners luck or some sort of fluke after all, for a dinner gathering with friends last weekend and I am happy to say that it wasn't a fluke at all.  This cake is amazing!  It has a slight custard quality to it and is loaded with layer after layer of fruit.  I hope that you try it and enjoy it as much as we have been.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Summer In Review...

Phew, where did the time go?  The kids are back to school, I can feel that our mornings and evenings have cooled off considerably, the leaves are already starting to shift from vibrant green to lovely shades of orange, and soup is once again making a regular appearance on our dinner table.  I guess I have to reluctantly admit to myself that summer is over, I mean even the calendar is trying to give me the hint with the solstice date looming.

It really does not seem real to me that our summer is now just a mere memory.  We had such a great time with friends and family, both near and far from home, adventuring and chilling out together on beaches, in canoes and kayaks, in swimming pools, hiking trails, riding bikes, seeing new parts of the country and revisiting some of our favorite local spots.  We also had a good amount of time at home just hanging out, which gave me time to indulge a favorite summer pastime... canning and preserving summer's beautiful bounty.  We've got enough jam, salsa and chutney to carry us through the year with just enough to share here and there.  I also got busy with lots of freezing of peaches and berries for smoothies and to top pancakes.  Then there were the tomatoes... I made a lot of tomato sauce (I will share my new favorite method for preserving tomatoes soon) that is stocked up in our freezer for soups and sauces, as well as several quarts of slow roasted tomatoes.   I get so excited looking at my freezer stocked with loads of treasure saved for the winter, but at the same time a bit anxious at the thought of a lengthy power outage.  But let's not dwell on that.

My go-to reference for all things canned is the Food In Jars website and cookbook.  I love Marisa's creative combinations and the smaller portions makes whipping up a batch or two at a time way more manageable for me.  This year we stuck with the standards -- raspberry jam, rosemary/apricot jam, peach salsa and pear/walnut conserve (equally good on toast or over your favorite soft or blue cheese) but added a few new items to the the mix as well including blackberry/sage jam, ginger pear jam (so amazing mixed into morning oatmeal!), and peach chutney.  I find those stacks of jars gleaming deep purple to vibrant raspberry red and even the pale creamy color of pear to be so simply beautiful on my shelf right now.

Just as I morn the move away from our summer adventures and lazy days I do also welcome the return to routine that comes with those misty morning walks to school and evenings that find us all home scattered throughout the house.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mindful Monday...

Why I Ride
I've been out on my bike much more lately and loving the time sailing through the curves and straights of local streets and trails while feeling the incredible Northwest sunshine beaming down on me.  So today I wanted to share this poem accompanied with a short video promoting bike riding, follow the link above and enjoy...

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Summer Salad Roundup...

Who wants to spend time at the stove when it's hot outside and there are so many fun things to get busy with?  Come summer,  I happily take a bit of a step back from the typical dinner fare we know and love throughout the rest of the year and cook more "picnic" style around here.  Healthy and filling salads become a go-to for me, as I'd much rather eek out more time at the beach with the girls, go on a picnic to any of the array of summer movies and outdoor concerts in the area, have fun out on our bikes, or let myself get totally engrossed in a great book.  I especially love it when a salad is hearty enough to stand up over night in the refridgerator - we are not afraid of leftovers around here.  Here's a sneak peak at my summer salad line up; variations on a Cobb Salad, must try this Mango and Red Pepper Salad, this Bok Choy Slaw, any sort of cold Rice Noodle Salad with a ginger dressing and slivered veggies, this Fennel Salad is calling me to try out, as is this simple Green Salad With Cherries, this Quinoa Salad is a favorite, a simple green salad loaded with nuts, beans or chicken, and all those little bits of veg needing to get used up, salsa (can we call salsa a salad?), and this Corn Salad looks like it would be a perfect picnic salad along side some sliced meats and cheese.  Last night we feasted on a cold rotisserie chicken, spinach topped with this Garbanzo Salad, and some left over chips and salsa (my oldest is our in-house salsa maker and we happily reap the benefits of such).

Yesterday my youngest came up with a new creation for lunch that I am sure will make a repeat visit as she happily exclaimed she'd take it to school for lunch any time.  She sautéed up a sliced zucchini in olive oil then added some chopped up roasted red pepper, a few cherry tomatoes from the garden and bits of leftover chicken, then she topped it with a few shavings of parmesan cheese.  Even my mostly vegetarian daughter enjoyed it.  We ate it warm as is, but I think it could be great cold with your favorite pasta as a salad or atop some fresh summer greens.  What I really loved about it was that she took a recipe of interest and shifted it to suit what we had on hand and our own personal tastes.  As a parent, one of my personal goals has always been to build a sense of competency in my girls around preparing good food for themselves.  I want them to have the ability to walk into the kitchen, scope the scene and make something tasty and relatively healthful for themselves.  I think we are on our way as the oldest has become my go-to condiment maker (salsa, pesto, guacamole etc...) and has really started developing an interest in baking and now the younger one is building confidence and skills too, she did not shy away from the huge knife I handed her to chop veggies and meat with yesterday.  Though I can't lie, I'd be tickled pink if they found the joy and sense of creative outlet in the kitchen that I do, mostly I want them to be able to feed themselves and those around them well without a box of this or that or a phone to call for delivery.

Well, back to those summer salads, do you change up your typical dinner routines this time of year too?  If so what are your favorite summer salads?  I'd love to hear what you all are living off this summer, I am sure there are so many possibilities that I haven't even thought of yet.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Freezing Fruit...

Oh my, doesn't all that fruit make your mouth water.  I love the bounties of summer, especially the complete abundance of freshly picked fruit.  With what we've got growing in our own garden like rhubarb, blueberries and strawberries, the fact that I can't pass up a local roadside fruit stand to save my soul and that we love to go berry picking each summer there is always an overwhelming amount of fruit in our kitchen throughout the summer.  Berry picking has become a summer tradition for us, what a fun day out and the eat-as-you-go policy that our favorite raspberry farm has is just what the kids need to keep them interested and motivated to fill those boxes.  We went out with friends recently and between the girls and I we picked over twenty pounds of raspberries.  It was unusually hot in our neck of the woods that day, topping 90 degrees, so we had to call it after just an hour or so.  Once we got home we gorged ourselves on berries for days, but knowing that it was not likely we could actually consume our weight in berries before they turned into sad mushy boxes of goo I got right to work, baking some into muffins and baked oatmeal, cooking some into jam, and freezing what I could to tide us through winter.  I love freezing fruit!  It is as low maintenance as it comes in the preserving world and the results don't disappoint.  The method I have settled on with greatest success is to line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper and lay the fruit in a single layer on it.  For things like raspberries, small strawberries, blackberries and blueberries I keep the fruit whole and for stone fruits and larger strawberries I cut them in half or wedges.  After the fruit is arranged I pop the tray in the freezer for a few hours or more likely overnight.  Once everything is frozen solid I fill gallon ziplock bags with the frozen fruit and label with date and name of fruit.  So simple and yet it yields such pleasure throughout winter.  Then when you have an inkling for a raspberry/rhubarb crisp or some strawberries over yogurt it is as simple as a quick defrost and you are good to go.  So when you see that fruit stand don't hesitate to stop and pick up a flat or two of fruit, if you aren't into canning or making jam at the very least you can freeze a few gallons for later.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Let's Talk About Smoothies

Can we get a bit interactive here? I want to get a smoothie conversation going, I know you all have some favorite smoothies you like to make and I love getting some fresh ideas. In the winter we really lay off the cold foods and drinks so smoothies are just now coming back into rotation with the sun shining longer and brighter in these parts. As I've mentioned before, I am ALWAYS on the lookout for more ways to get additional veggies into my family's meals, and smoothies have long been a great way to sneak in a few extra nutrient boosts. Having had some pretty big flops attempting to tip the scale a little to far to the veg side rather than the fruit, I have come up with some techniques that seem to keep everyone happy. The first one being to stick to a color palate, the army green or murky brown that results from mixing red berries and kale can turn off even the most willing of smoothie drinkers. So, if I am working with peaches I'll toss in a couple carrots, juice from a sweet potato or golden beets, red berries are great to add red beets to, blueberries can hide kale/spinach/chard really well and if I am going with a green smoothie I'll add apple or pear to sweeten. You get the idea, right. I have found that celery and cucumber can hide in nearly any smoothie without being detected and both give off hints of a really nice fresh flavor. Second, I always add either a banana or avocado which adds a really nice creamy but not to creamy texture. I also will add some honey if I feel I might be pushing the veg to fruit tolerances. We typically have oranges or orange juice on hand so that is a standard liquid base to which I will add either coconut milk and/or yogurt. This is also the place I once would sneak extra supplements in before everyone could swallow the mouthful of vitamins I push on my family. If I have cashews or almonds that have soaked I'll add them for a little protein boost. What else do you all like to add to your smoothies? Today I am feasting on this green smoothie which contains a good amount of spinach just picked this morning from my garden, a pear, a couple stalks of celery, a banana, splash of OJ, a big scoop of plain yogurt and a bit of ice.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Mindful Monday...

His Eye Is On The Sparrow Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come, Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home, When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He: His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. Refrain: I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. “Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear, And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears; Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. Whenever I am tempted, whenever clouds arise, When songs give place to sighing, when hope within me dies, I draw the closer to Him, from care He sets me free; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me; His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. -Civilla D Martin

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Bees Are Back...

What a whirl-wind day! Yesterday my friend, an experienced bee keeper and my bee mentor, urged me to get my vacant hives in order as there are swarms to be had at the moment. So I spent some time scraping and prepping hives, mixing up sugar water, mentally plotting where I might like to relocate the hives this year should a swarm come my way and lazily dreaming of all those pollinators helping my garden and landscaping as well as the honey I'd like to have this fall. Today my friend came over, blowtorch in hand, to help me finish the cleaning and gave me the heads up that I should be ready for "the call" in a day or two. No problem, I'll set these babies up tonight (or tomorrow morning) and be good to go should "the call" come over the weekend. Naturally, no sooner than my friend left and I was settled into a line at the grocery store did I get "THE CALL". Wait! What?! Now??!! I drove home (mentally tallying all that still needed to be done), made a few frantic calls to my husband looking for hive location approval and to my friend to let her know I was on my way home. Once I got home I set to work setting up hive boxes in a new spot in our yard, pounding holes in the lids of their sugar water to drip feed these ladies, and most importantly -- finding my bee suit and vail because there was no way I was working a swarm without a good layer of protection between those stingers and my skin. Soon, my friend and the bee guy showed up and got busy right away pouring 35,000 bees into one of my hives. I have to say that it never is lost on me the sheer awesomeness of this process. The "save the bees" shirt my friend was wearing really says it all for me. At first my interest in bees was completely selfish, it was all about that home grown honey. But now, two years in, the honey really is secondary. The realization that I am doing a small part to improve honeybee populations, as well as strengthening my garden is really what moves me to continue with bee keeping.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Lime Curd

A while back I mentioned that I had a cache of limes waiting to be used. I finally got around to turning them into one of our favorite condiments -- curd. This year I've been experimenting with Meyer Lemon Curd, Orange Vanilla Curd and today that bowl full of limes got their turn. I love the recipes by Marisa McClellan of Food in Jars, her curds are the perfect blend of tart and creamy without being too lip pucker-y. It was timely that I had that bowl of limes and some overstock of eggs that needed to be used. Though I fear that my pictures do not really do justice to the final product. Since we let our chickens graze on greens all day they produce eggs with the most beautifully vibrant orange yolks, though beautiful and tasty they can tend to skew the color of baked goods. So, though my curd is tastes of lime it looks much more like that of an orange curd. That's what the cute labels are for though, right?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Mindful Monday

"You do not have to be good. You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves. Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. Meanwhile the world goes on. Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees, the mountains and the rivers. Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – over and over announcing your place in the family of things.” ― Mary Oliver

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Are We There Yet?

This is a constant thought running through my head over the last few days. Last week I was feeling so strong in my rice and beans resolve, but I must admit that as this week goes on I am seriously waining. I bet you all could use a break from all these pictures of beans too, right? I am on the count down, how many more rice and bean meals am I cooking this week, runs through my head each day as I plan for that evening's dinner. I am glad we stuck with it, to be so mindful of what and how we eat is always a good practice. I do hope it will become a tradition we take on each year throughout Lent and in preparation for Easter celebration. Our lives have become so fast paced and somewhat semiconscious, I love changing something so routine as dinner in order to refocus our presence with each other and the food we put into our bodies. There is something about the idea of commonality or solidarity with what most folks subsist on in the rest of the world that is very thought provoking and a very striking reminder of how lucky we are for the immense amount of choice we are afforded in our lives. All that said, I have started daydreaming and scheming of what to cook once the week ends... This dish may well be the very first non rice and bean dinner we have. And this... Oh and these spring veggies look so delicious don't they. And of course there is a sweet treat on my list. One of many temptations has been all the talk and posts online about folks' Passover plans for Seder Dinner, I was particularly struck by this one. What a beautiful and profound tradition, I would very much love to experience this someday.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Keeping It Real...

Lest everyone think it's always peaches and pie around here, I'll dispel that right here and right now. The long and short of it all is that my lovely chicken's have dug up, eaten, and decapitated all that I have spent the last few weeks planting in our backyard garden. All those peas... gone, lettuce sprouts... gone, radish starts... gone, and the poor arugula didn't stand a chance to their prolific digging. The last few beets from fall have had all their lovely crimson leaves methodically munched, the mint and dill I had started with hopes of mojito afternoons and herb fortified salads this summer were dug up and left for dead. I did replant both the latter with care in great hopes they will find a way to resurrect themselves, fingers crossed. Oh yes, I may have uttered a very long string of choice words under my breath as I discovered the full extent of their carnage this weekend. This was the first year I actually planned and plotted what, how, and when to plant in our little garden. I drafted a site plan on graph paper, researched optimal times for planting each and every type of seed I intended to grow, and had even managed to plan and execute some succession planting as to extend the season of some of our favorite items. Best laid plans... I have started replanting lettuce, peas and radishes, nursed that very droopy mint plant back to health (she looked much perkier today), and by sheer luck was just today offered two kale starts by a friend so I planted them with care in the arugula patch that is no more. And just because we loved that key lime tart so much the first time around, I made another one Sunday afternoon. I mean if you are going to spend a day replanting, you might as well end the day enjoying a slice (or two) of something tasty.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lunch Made A Bit Easier

My kids pack their own lunches for school every day, and they have been doing so for the last 5 years. Initially it started from my own frustration over how crazy I was feeling in the mornings trying to send them off with a good breakfast in their bellies, get lunches made and everyone out the door on time with all the necessary books/homework/sports gear etc... needed for the day. So I threw my hands up and surrendered. I will be honest here and tell you all how very hard it was for me at first to let go of the micro-managing and directing as to what the girls should be packing and get past my own hang ups regarding packaged and prepared foods. I knew simplicity would be the key to success with my two, so yes I started buying baby carrots, individual yogurts, juice boxes, and Amy's frozen burritos (one per kid per week). My standing request is that they make sure to pack a good protein source and two fresh foods (one of which needs to be of the veggie sort). How that looks to each of them is very different. My oldest is really about no frills and convenience so she packs an apple every day along with either baby carrots or sliced cucumbers (snap peas if we have any), and leftovers which have been packed up the night before during dinner cleanup. My youngest needs more protein so she prefers to have cubed up smoked salmon or rolls of sliced turkey (she will on occasion also take leftovers), a double serving of any of the following - cut up red peppers, cucumbers, carrots, snap peas or tomatoes and some sort of nut and dried fruit combo. On occasion one or both of the girls will make a sandwich but it is definetly not a go-to for either of them. I chalk that up to the nature of my gluten free cooking, bread has all but fallen off their radar. Last year, seeing that packaged leftovers were trending high I started making some planned leftovers for their lunches like curried chicken salad, fried rice heavy on the meat and veg, and once in a while pesto pasta salad with peas and mozzarella cheese. Recently my oldest came home from an overnight with a friend and was raving about this new food she'd had there - tabouli. That sounded like the perfect opportunity to sneak some variety into the lunch rotation to me. So, true to my nature I took the idea and put my own twist on this traditional dish, starting with making it gluten free. I cooked up a bit of quinoa (a food I have yet to be successful getting my family to embrace) and tossed it with ribbons of kale, sliced kalamata olives, chopped tomatoes, slivered almonds, feta cubes and dressed it with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. I am sure a bit of red onion would be great in this too but with the plan being to send it for lunches I figured I'd do all involved a favor and leave those out. This is a quick dish to whip up that will keep anyone happily in grab-and-go lunches for the week. So if you have the heart to step out of the beautiful sunshine today offers, I strongly suggest making up a big bowl for this, I promise you will be so glad you did come tomorrow. My next hope is to get the girls thinking this way and to work on making up a big batch of this themselves for the week. Baby steps...

Friday, April 11, 2014

Coconut Milk Saves The Day

We've got about a week and a half on this rice and beans kick left to go and I am really feeling like the creative juices are starting to flow. Most of my concoctions to date have had a decidedly south-of-the-border flavor to them, so last night I wanted to take it in a totally different direction. I went with a Moroccan/Curry-esque theme. The idea of caramelized onions and chickpeas swimming in a pool of coconut milk over some steamy rice was really calling out to me. But it needed more, a vegetable of some sort, hmm... ah, yes cauliflower (yet another item that doesn't grace our plates often enough). It's amazing to me how many of the least favorite veggies I can get the girls to eat when put in a curry type dish, and I am always on the lookout for ways to get more veg in my family's diet. So I began by caramelizing a couple of chopped up onions and once these were close to done I added a head of cauliflower broken up into bite sized florets letting them soften up in the pan with the onions. Next came a couple minced cloves of garlic and one cup of chicken stock, to which I tossed in a half teaspoon each of cumin seed and garam marsala as well as a teaspoon of turmeric, salt and pepper. I let this hang out for a bit on low, allowing the flavors to get to know each other and become good friends, then I added a can and a half of coconut milk. I let it all simmer in the open pan to reduce the liquid a bit. Oh my, at this point the smells were wafting out of the kitchen and making us all hungry. This stayed simmering on the stovetop while we not-so-very patiently waited until the rice, that I inadvertently forgot to turn on, was ready to go. Last night's version of beans and rice was a much needed change of pace in the flavor department and was welcomed by all at the table, even our 11 year old guest. Anything with coconut milk is absolute comfort food in our home, why didn't I think of this sooner?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Makin' Yogurt

About 2 1/2 years ago I lucked into a milking gig. That's right, a milking gig. A friend has goats and I was completely intrigued by the idea of learning to milk the goats and turn that whole, fresh, raw milk into something wonderful for my family. So I asked my urban farmer friend if they ever needed any help/relief with milking duties. To my joy she said yes, and the visions of fresh chèvre and mozzarella started dancing through my head immediately. Not really knowing what I or they were in for I asked for a weekly milking rotation and truth be told it has really become my favorite morning of the week. Yes I have to get up a bit earlier than I otherwise would, yes I schlep myself and milking pot through the hood rain or shine, and yes I love every single minute of it. Honestly, I find that each week I linger longer and longer feeling so fortunate to be spending time with these beauties and their chicken friends. When I first started milking Maple, I'd get a solid quart each time which turned out to be the perfect amount to make a week's supply of yogurt. So I researched and tried a few methods of yogurt making until I settled on what works best in my kitchen. The method I've settled on is reliable yet a bit hodge podge. I start by heating the raw milk on my stove top to 185 degrees then immediately cooling the milk to 110 degrees. At that point I add a cup or so of plain cultured yogurt and whisk all together thoroughly. Once I've gotten rid of most of the yogurt clumps I pour this into jars and put them in an insulated cooler with a heating pad set to medium. The goal is to keep your yogurt mix at as close to 110 degrees as possible for about 8 hours. This is the method that has worked best for me as I do not have a fancy fancy yogurt maker. So each week I am able to turn out about a quart of home made yogurt which is just enough for smoothies, or a few bowls of berries and yogurt, and still having just enough for the next week's starter culture. Well, as of last week there is now another goat in milk on the farm so I am excited by the prospect of doubling my haul each week and maybe even having enough to experiment with some cheese making. We are big chèvre fans around here so I am hoping to start there. We will see, it's going to be a while before I can start milking Basil as her 2 sweet little kids deserve all her goodness for now. Soon enough they will be old enough to wean off a bit and share some of their mother's bounty with us. Now I am off to start looking for a new milking pail, my little pot isn't going to be big enough for the milk of two goats. Lehman's here I come...