Saturday, April 27, 2013

Thickened Yogurt & Whey

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I've only haphazardly tried making my own yogurt - it's one of those things I often say I want to do, but rarely get around to actually doing.  But I regularly buy my yogurt plain in one of the large tubs, making sure it's a good one with all the nice probiotics that make yogurt such a good thing to eat.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review - 41:10 Photography


Reviewer: Jackie Snider

I had the honor of reviewing one of my favorite subjects: photography. 41:10 Photography has such a knack for capturing the beauty in a single moment. Anyone in the mid-south area, particularly Memphis, Tennessee in need of a photographer - don’t hesitate to check them out! Rebecca Jaffe is a self proclaimed “Art-o-holic” and it certainly shows in her work.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Purple Sauerkraut

1 comment:
This is a really simple way of getting some fermented veggies on hand, and it takes so much more delicious than storebought kraut.

I think the big key to the process is using Fido jars.  I have a couple Bormioli Rocco blue lidded jars that I just love - they have a great solid seal, and the blue glass lid is so pretty.  The thing about Fido jars is that they let excess pressure leak out, but they let no oxygen in - no oxygen means no molding.

I like not having to worry about things like that.  The other thing that ensures it, of course, is making sure your containers, utensils and work surface are all clean and sanitary.   So, with that out of the way, here's all it takes:

Purple Sauerkraut

1 head green cabbage
1 head red cabbage
4 T. salt

Cutting board
Large sharp knife
Large mixing bowl
Food processor
Potato masher
Large serving spoon
Fido jar (50oz or larger)

Wash and dry your cabbage, removing any worn outer leaves.  Cut the cabbage into chunks, removing the cores.  Feed the chunks through your food processor set to grate coarsely.  As processor gets full, turn the grated cabbage into the large mixing bowl, and sprinkle with some of the salt.  Continue to process and salt the cabbage until done.

Cover the bowl loosely and let it sit about 1/2 hour - the salt will start releasing liquid from the cabbage.  Using a potato masher, pound the cabbage for a couple minutes to more completely release the liquid.

Scoop cabbage into Fido jar, mashing it down as you go to fit more cabbage.  Make sure all liquid from the bowl ends up in the jar - the cabbage should be covered with liquid.

Seal the jar and set it aside in a dark place with a moderate temperature (70-80F) for 4-6 weeks, then refrigerate.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Lamb with Sauteed Spinach & Artichoke Hearts

1 comment:
There was a time when I thought of lamb as a highly exotic and rare meat, highly unlikely to be available even if I wanted to buy it.  But as we locally source most of our meat - and as blessed as we are to live near D.C., where many, many food cultures come together, lamb is becoming a relatively common occurrence on our menu. 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bohemian Beef Pot Roast

1 comment:
"There Are No Mistakes" is a philosophy I try to follow in cooking - if something isn't working as planned, then alter the plan and work it out.  It's just a shift in course, not an irredeemable error. It doesn't work 100% of the time - if you burn your dinner to charcoal nuggets, or a deer breaks into your dining room and dives face first into your bowl of salad (this actually happened to a friend of mine once!) - then shifting course MAY mean ordering pizza, but for the most part, it works once you understand the basics of cooking.

Last night's dinner involved a few changes of path - the lovely chuck roast I had was supposed to spend a day in the crock pot with some homemade barbecue sauce to become some barbecued pulled beef.

About 1pm or so, it was pretty obvious that wasn't happening.  I could have tried it in my cast iron dutch oven but even at that, it would have meant getting out to the kitchen right then, and putting together the barbecue sauce and... uh... I was lacking numerous ingredients on that particular list, so no, not happening. (and not buying commercial, because if there is a brand that isn't filled full of HFCS and a half dozen other sugars, I don't know what it is).

I recalled that we had recently purchased Tender Grassfed Meat - which is a true goldmine of recipes and techniques for ensuring one's grassfed beef, bison and lamb come out perfectly. Grassfed meats don't cook the same way as factory meats, so for me it's been a matter of unlearning what I thought I knew.  All the recipes in this look so delicious, I think Michael and I are both tempted to just slowly work through the entire book.

There are a couple of recipes for chuck roast - one requiring an overnight marinade (so not doable), and one called "Gypsy Pot Roast - Bohemian Style" that involved a rich Paprika sauce with a couple other spices, including allspice, which I did not have.

I used the cooking technique, and tossed in my own selection of spices - we like spiciness, and this reminded me a lot of my Gulaschsuppe recipe, so I was on comfortable ground here.  I also added potatoes (totally optional) because I adore potatoes in paprika sauce - these could be switched for sweet potatoes, or left out entirely.  If you like bell peppers (I don't) they would also work well with these flavors. The result is a rich, heady, and spicy-hot pot roast inspired by the recipe in Tender Grassfed Beef - if you haven't got that book yet, I encourage you to get it. Good, good stuff there.

Here's my version:

Bohemian Pot Roast
(serves 4-6)

1 3-lb. grass-fed chuck roast
2 T. sweet Hungarian Paprika
1 T. hot Hungarian Paprika (this is HOT - use less if you're not sure if you'll like it - you can add later, but you can't subtract)
2 tsp. cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp cloves
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp. Chinese 5 Spice
2 T. pastured butter or ghee
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, scrubbed, ends removed, and coarsely chopped (no need to peel)
1 1/2 cups homemade bone broth
2 T. pastured butter or tallow
4-6 red potatoes, scrubbed, unpeeled, cut in quarters
1 T. arrowroot, mixed with 1 T. filtered water (opt. - see below)

Mix the dry spices together, then add to a mixing cup containing the broth - whisk together until well blended and set aside.

In a large heavy pot (I used cast iron), melt butter or ghee on medium heat, and then brown the chuck roast on all sides, sprinkling each side with coarse salt.  Once browned, add onion and carrot chunks, trying to work them down into the side of the beef, then pour the spice-broth mixture over all.  Daub the meat with thin pats of butter or tallow.  Bring  to a simmer, then lower the heat and cover.

Let this cook about 1 1/2 hours (chuck benefits from long slow cooking - so going longer is fine!  It should be falling apart tender by the time you serve it), then add potatoes, stirring a bit to coat the potatoes with the sauce.  Cook another 1/2 hour or so, until the potatoes are tender.

At this point, we served it - the sauce was thick and rich and all the flavors were vibrant.  However, the book (which does not add potatoes) suggests that if the broth is still thin and the onions and carrots have cooked down to mush, that's fine - they add thickness if they're disintegrating into the sauce.  But additionally, you can use the optional arrowroot mixture to create some thickening. (I suggest actually dishing out about a 1/4 cup of the hot broth and mixing your arrowroot slurry into that in a small bowl until it blends and pouring that into the pot, rather than putting it straight in - saves you from lumpy mistakes!)

We'll be having some more of this tonight as leftovers - and I'm thoroughly looking forward to seeing how the flavors have blended after a day!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

DIY Wound Care Salve

Yesterday, I went to the dermatologist to have a couple cysts removed - one on the back of my neck that was about the size of a garbanzo bean, and one on my face that was still very small (ball bearing sized?), but was growing.  He had been comfortable at the first visit that these were just cysts but agreed it would be a good idea  to get them removed.

The removal went without a hitch - the one on my face came out cleanly and shouldn't return -  the one on the back was 'crumbly' and took a bit more effort to get it all, but he's sure he did and the odds of it returning are low.

I'm glad to see them gone - the one on the back especially was noticeable enough to cause well meaning total strangers to ask me if I know it's there and to suggest I get it 'looked at'.  Done, and gone.

After each area had been sutured up and bandaged, he gave me my aftercare instructions - twice a day, gently wash with soap and water, apply some Vaseline, and cover with a regular bandage.

Er... awhile ago, I got rid of the aged and mostly non-used jar of Vaseline I had, and have no interest in applying petroleum jelly on a wound now.

I asked if the purpose for that was to keep it moist, and he affirmed - moist and covered will speed healing and reduce scarring.

Grudgingly, we stopped at a drug store on the way home, and I hesitated in the aisle where the wound care products were.  There was the ever-present Vaseline, and near it was a jar (I can't recall the brand name) of a petroleum jelly substitute touted as a wound protection salve.  The ingredients looked pretty good - beeswax, soy oil, vitamin E, and rosemary essential oil.  The price, though, was ten times the cost of a similar sized jar of Vaseline.

I hesitated some more, nearly picked up the Vaseline... and then stopped and thought. I have everything in that salve except the soy oil - and  that's the one ingredient in there I'm iffy about. I have several other oils, though, and I bet I could figure this out.  I wouldn't need to use it until the following morning, so I had time to do this.

I left that aisle, bought some waterproof bandaids, and when home to see if I could make something that felt like petroleum jelly.

I chose to use grapeseed oil, but I think olive oil, almond oil, avocado oil - any of these would work, and on further contemplation, avocado oil would have been my choice.  Choose a liquid oil that won't go rancid quickly, and one that has properties that are good for the skin are the best bet.

I had to go through more effort than necessary because my beeswax was in a big, hard brick (bad choice when  I bought that - there is a good reason they sell this in pellets!).  I tried to grate it and that was getting nowhere fast, so I put it in my wax melting metal pitcher and set that in a pot of boiling water to melt the whole brick down.  After it melted, I poured what I needed for the salve into a half pint mason jar, and poured the rest into a muffin tin to harden. I'm now storing these much more manageable rounds of beeswax in a container for future use.

Here's the recipe, with my 'live and learn' improvements factored in:

Wound Care Vaseline Replacement

1 ounce beeswax pellets
1/2 cup healthy liquid oil (olive or avocado oil)
1 Tablespoon Vitamin E
20 drops rosemary oil
20 drops lavender oil

Combine beeswax and liquid oil in a small mason jar.  Set in a pot of water (careful - don't let water get into the jar), heat to boiling, and simmer until wax has completely melted.  Keep a close eye on this - the wax is flammable.

Once fully melted, remove from heat and stir well to completely combine. I used the back of a wooden spoon and 'whipped' it in the jar for about a minute.

Let the jar start to cool - when the bottom of it starts to look hard, add the Vitamin E and the essential oils, stir again to recombine well, and then let it sit until cool.

The finished salve will be firm, yet soft to the touch, and once you have a small bit scooped up, it will soften a bit from body heat and feel just about identical to Vaseline - except that it will smell wonderful, and the Vitamin E and rosemary and lavender all help promote healing and ease scarring, and both of the oils have antiseptic properties.

(Update 1/20/14 - we have used this SO OFTEN over the last several months, for everything from chapped lips and skin, to sunburn and bugbites, to various scrapes and nicks.  I absolutely stand by this as an first aid essential to keep on hand.)