Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Peeling Ginger


Did you know you could peel ginger with a spoon?  I didn't either!  I've wasted so much ginger by trying to peel it with either a knife or vegetable peeler.  By using a spoon, you scrape the paper covering away, without wasting any of that delicious ginger. You can even get around those bumpy knobs that you may have cut off before.

Ginger is wonderfully delicious and a very healthy part of your diet. You can use it in tea, in breads, cookies, as well as in the traditional stir-fry.  Raw ginger is an excellent tonic for upset stomachs, ginger tea helps with migraines, lowers cholesterol, and inhibits the formation of blood clots.  I try to have ginger on hand most of the time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Crispy Sweet Potato Oven Fries

Crispy Sweet Potato Oven Fries

Growing up, my parents made sure that my taste buds had access to a wide variety of flavors. I never had to clean my plate, but I always had to taste everything that was served. If I didn't like something, I didn't have to eat it, but I had to try it again next time. Because of this, I am not a picky eater and I love to try new food (thanks Mom and Dad!) Over the eighteen years that I lived at home with my parents, there was only one thing that I never learned to like: sweet potatoes. Each time I took that "trial" bite of baked sweet potato, I literally gagged. When I came home from college, my dad finally relented and gave in to the fact that I would never learn to like sweet potatoes. Fast forward to a few years ago when I tried sweet potato fries at a restaurant. Yum! I couldn't believe it, but I actually liked them! I started making them at home and discovered that roasted sweet potatoes are delicious. They are wonderful by themselves or in burritos (like the yummy Black Bean & Sweet Potato Enchiladas), but my favorite thing is to make my own oven fries. I have made oven fries for years with all kinds of potatoes, but sweet potatoes proved to be a bit more challenging. Because they are so dense, it is difficult to get them browned and crispy. Many times they turn out limp and soggy. After many batches, here is what I have come up with for no-fail crispy fries.

Ingredients:
-2-3 sweet potatoes
-Cooking spray
-Hungarian Paprika (yes this is different than regular paprika--see the photo below for what it looks like--you can find it in any grocery store)
-sea salt

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 500°F.

2. Wash and peel your sweet potatoes. I like to use a "garbage bowl" a la Rachel Ray when I am peeling and dicing things.
3. Cut each sweet potato in half, then in quarters. Slice these pieces about an eighth to a quarter inch wide. This is important! The thinner the slices, the better chance you have of them turning out crispy.
4. Spray a large baking sheet with cooking spray. Arrange your sweet potato slices onto your baking sheet, then lightly spray them with the cooking spray. This is also important. Too much oil will make your fries soggy. Sprinkle hungarian paprika and sea salt over the sweet potatoes.


5. Roast at 500°F for 15-20 minutes flipping halfway through. Be sure to keep your fries arranged in a single layer on the baking sheet. If the fries feel or look too dry while they roast, you can spray them with a little more oil. When they look nice and crispy, pull them out and enjoy! We like to eat them plain or with a little organic ketchup.


Look at that beautiful browning! As a bonus, these sweet potato fries are healthy and kids love them. If you have never learned to like sweet potatoes, give these a try and tell me what you think!



This post is from Alysa Bajenaru, RD.

Thank you, Alysa, for such a wonderful recipe.  I know many people who have converted to eating sweet potatoes when they were introduced to sweet potato fries.  Even my mom, who has hated sweet potatoes all her life, loves sweet potato fries.  Your blog is delightful and I'm happy to share you with my readers. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Letting Go: Stress Reduction Made Simple

Worrying is a waste of energy.

Why?

Because you can't do anything about what you're worrying about.  If you could, you would have done it (or you should have done it). As a mother, I worry about my kids when they're driving to and from school, visiting their friends, going on trips.  Can I keep them any safer by worrying?  The sad truth is that I cannot.

I'm learning that when I experience the familiar symptoms of worrying I need to do the following:
  1. Evaluate the situation.
  2. Determine if I can do something about it.
  3. If I can, then I do it.
  4. If I cannot...and this is the hard part...I have to let it go.
Yesterday I was talking with my niece who just interviewed for an internship program.  She had prepared as well as she could for the interview, and she felt it didn't go the way she had planned.  Her interviewer was needed elsewhere, so he chose a substitute who wasn't as skilled as he.  My niece was fretting over the interview and how she felt it didn't go the way she wanted it to.

My advice to her was to let it go. 

We evaluated the situation, and determined that what could have been done had already been done in her preparation for the interview.  The result, now, is totally out of her hands.  She will accomplish absolutely nothing by continuing to worry about it.  She will, quite literally, waste time that could be spent on something else.

I remember the moment I learned that I could not change the world. My own daughter had auditioned for the Youth Symphony.  She had played with them the previous year, but each year everyone must re-audition.  She came out of her audition weeping. She felt she had not performed well at all. I was totally helpless. I considered marching in and asking them to allow her to re-do her performance. But, after evaluating the situation, I realized that this is part of life, part of the growing up process, and that Mom can't make everything right.

We talked about the audition, what she might have done to have prepared herself better, but then we moved on to the "letting go" part.  This was hard, but if we could all "let go" more often, we'll be happier people.

Instead of going home and worrying about whether she got the position, we spent the day together, just Mom and daughter time.  We had a great day.  She made it into the symphony and learned a good lesson about letting things go.

I don't know if my niece got the internship yet or not, but I do know that she is one of the top two candidates.  One of them will get the position, one of them will not.  Neither she nor I can do anything at this point to change the result.  It's time to enjoy this moment and let go of what we cannot control.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Why I Need to Lose Weight



As if I didn't have enough reasons, I just read this morning that losing weight can lower my risk of chronic disease, and that even losing 10 pounds can make the difference between having the disease or being able to bypass it.

1.       Cardiovascular disease. Obviously, the most important one is cardiovascular disease.  Obesity makes you more prone to developing plaque buildup in your arteries, putting you at greater risk of having some type of cardiovascular event…i.e. heart attack. But even before a heart attack, your heart has to work harder to pump blood. My husband had a heart attack at a very young age.  Fortunately, he survived it, and we have changed our lifestyle, but more changes need to be made.

2.       High Blood Pressure. This is tied very closely to cardiovascular disease, because as your heart has to pump harder, your blood vessels are also working harder and this increased pressure is causing strain to them and to your vital organs.  High blood pressure can lead to eye problems, kidney problems, as well as heart problems. Losing even 10 pounds can reduce the strain on your body and put you at a healthier blood pressure level. I have borderline high blood pressure and it needs to be addressed.

3.       Diabetes. This is turning into an epidemic in the U.S. Type II diabetes is considered to be one of the fastest growing chronic conditions in this country in adults, and it is tied directly to carrying excess pounds that leads to insulin resistance.  This means that while your body still produces insulin, the response you used to have to the insulin is now impaired. Just changing when you eat your biggest meals can make a huge difference.  Stop eating after 5 or 6pm.  Do not eat your biggest meal for dinner, but rather for lunch.  Studies have proven that eating a larger meal earlier in the day leads to lower overall glucose levels than when it is eaten later in the day. Simple change, but it can yield HUGE results. My mother has a pre-diabetic condition.  She and I share a very similar body habitus, so that is my future unless I choose to make changes.

4.       Depression. I hadn't really thought about this one, but recent studies have linked obesity to sadness and depression. It is harder for obese people to enjoy the fun things they used to do.  Food becomes a source of comfort rather than a source of nutrition. I have found pleasure in food that probably could be found elsewhere.  I'm working to develop a wonderful, healthy relationship with food, but I don't want it to be my "companion". I want to see food as nutrition and fuel for my body.  Finding pleasure in life needs to come from other things like spending time with people I love, and doing activities that I love.

I'm shooting for a loss of 10 pounds.  I have learned to set my goals small so that I don't become intimidated by them.  I have many more pounds to lose, but even 10 will make a huge difference in these four potential danger zones in my life.

What I won't do is diet to the point of deprivation.  What I will do is to change my eating and exercise habits to more fully embrace a healthy life. I think I'll go and walk my dog.

Who's going to join me?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Salmonella in Eggs

I am told that I am a bit of a "prude" when it comes to eating raw eggs, and yet here it is in the news again.  Egg recall due to Salmonella. If you have ever had salmonella poisoning or seen someone who was afflicted with it, you would be less inclined to eat something with raw eggs in it.

What I do is partially cook any eggs I use in a "raw egg" recipe.  I put eggs in a double boiler and hang an instant read thermometer so that it is in the egg mixture.  I use gentle heat to heat the water in the lower pot and a constant whisking motion to bring the eggs to 160F.  If you bring the eggs to 160F quickly, you run the risk of scrambling them.

Another tip is to keep a bowl of ice water right next to the stove so that you can immediately cool your eggs to keep them from scrambling.

I have managed to make mayo, egg curd, and meringue with this method.  I don't like Salmonella, and I don't want to suffer from it.  My daughter recently learned that she can eat raw cookie dough if she makes it with Egg Beaters.  She and I are both happy with this information.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cooking the Perfect Turkey


I don't know if my experience is the best or not, but I have had an excellent experience with cooking my turkey in two ways.  My most favorite way is in the November 2010 issue of Acreage Life Magazine. In this method, I cover the breast with cheesecloth and then basted with a delicious concoction of herbs, butter, wine, and broth. My turkey turns out so moist and the gravy is so tasty that I almost never have any leftover.  Anyone who comes to my house for Thanksgiving is a true-blue gravy hound, and they know that everything will be homemade.

Another method of making a truly delicious and moist turkey is to bake the turkey breast side down. This keeps the breast meat very moist and does not allow it to dry out. The only drawback to this method is that the turkey doesn't present as well, the breast will usually have rack marks on it.  You might need to decide if you want moist turkey or a beautiful turkey!

I've recently heard about dry-brining a turkey. I am going to try that and I'll let you know my experience.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Spinach Ricotta Frittata

Spinach Ricotta Frittata
 Posted on Nov 10, 2010
 Archived under Breakfast and Brunch, Quick and Easy, Vegetarian
This is a very simple way to enjoy the combination 
of ricotta and spinach. 

It's a delicious recipe for breakfast and brunch 
or even lunch.

Ingredients:
  •   6 eggs
  •   320 gr spinach, chopped
  •   250 gr white mushrooms, thinly sliced
  •   4 garlic cloves, diced
  •   1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  •   2/3 traditional ricotta cheese (soft unripened), drained
  •   1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves or dried thyme leave
  •   1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
  •   4 tablespoons cooking oil
  •   salt & black pepper to taste
Preparation
Heat oil in a non-stick pan over medium-low heat. 
Add diced garlic and fry for 2-3 minutes.
 

Add turmeric powder, chopped spinach and 
mushrooms; mix well and cook uncovered 
over medium heat until all the liquid is absorbed.
Crack the eggs into a bowl, stir gently with a fork 
until well-beaten. 

Add salt, black pepper, dried thyme, 1/2 cup 
shredded mozzarella cheese and ricotta cheese; 
mix well.
Add spinach mixture and combine well.
Preheat the oven to 370°F.
Coat the bottom and sides of a 8x8-inch baking 

dish with the oil. 

Pour mixture into the baking dish. Place in the 
middle rack of the oven and bake until frittata 
is puffy and golden.
 

Remove from the oven and sprinkle the 
remaining mozzarella cheese all over the 
frittata.
 

Return the frittata to the oven and bake 
until cheese is melted. 

Serve warm or cold with toasted bread.
Makes 5 servings.
This post and recipe were created by Shabnam Asmai.  
Cooking and Cooking is her personal website. 

What a great way to use that freshly made ricotta you 
learned to make last week! 

This is also quite delicious if you replace the spinach 
with arugula.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What is a CSA?

Community Supported Agriculture

CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.

Usually the community is a group of individuals who, as a group, subscribe to get weekly bags or boxes of locally grown produce delivered to their homes or work place.

CSA is a direct connection between you and your local farmer.  You know who grew the food you are putting on the table for your family. Even more importantly, you are eating produce that is nutritionally superior to that you might buy in your grocery store because you are eating it virtually within hours of it being picked.

CSA is a responsible way to manage our valuable land resources, and provides an alternative to industrialized agriculture.  It is a return to a more agrarian connection in terms of where we buy our food, and supporting members of our community who are producing that food.

The next time you bite into a tasteless tomato, ask yourself why you bought that beautiful red tomato.  Did you buy it because it looked beautiful?  Did you buy it because it might actually be delicious and contain all the vitamins that you know you should be eating?

When we cannot trace the path of a piece of fruit or a vegetable from where it was grown to our table, we have lost our connection to the land. CSA allows us to rebridge this gap.

CSA also provides a way for these small farmers and their families to stay on their family lands, to promote fair wages, and a chance to provide economic stability to our community.

Look into joining a CSA by purchasing a subscription.  Many places allow you to purchase a three month subscription to simply try it and see how it works for you.  What I've discovered is that I eat a greater variety of food products than I did before.  We get into a rut with our food.  Having food provided by your CSA, you'll be challenged to expand your horizons and eat things you might never have purchased before.
The other beauty of a CSA share is that it will provide most of your salad and vegetable needs for a small family for about a week. Many CSAs will give you recipes for foods that you may be unfamiliar with. Each one is run a bit differently, but they all adhere to certain basic principles.

Obviously, produce varies from season to season, and depending on what part of the country you live in, your CSA may use greenhouses to continue to provide produce during the cold winter months when your own garden is frozen and barren.

CSAs can trace their roots back to Japan in the 1970s when a group of people wanted to address concerns about increasing food imports and a resulting decrease in the number of family farms and quality produce.  They started a grass roots movement to bring back a relationship between consumers and the producers of fruits and vegetables in a local area.

There are well over 1000 CSAs throughout the United States and Canada.

Seek one out in your area.  You'll be doing yourself and your family a favor by providing better produce at the table.  Your local farmer will thank you for allowing them to develop a sustainable business.  Your community will thank you because a greater percentage of your food dollar will remain in your community.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Goat Disease that Harms Humans

Keeping goats, drinking goat milk, and making a number of products from goat milk is tremendously appealing, and I'm all for it.  However, you do need to be aware that there are some diseases that can harm humans, and while a goat may be infected, the signs and symptoms are so slightly, you may never know that the goat is sick.

Unless you routinely have your goats tested by your vet, and can guarantee that your goats are healthy, you'll want to pasteurize your milk if you plan on making soft cheese, yogurt, or ice cream.  This means heating milk to 185F, or heated for 40 seconds between the temperatures of 160 to 165F.

The long ripening time required by hard cheese kills the bacterial agents, so they can absolutely be made with raw milk.

Here is a short list of the most common infections your goats can contract:
  • Rabies - Yes, your sweet goats can be bitten by a rabid animal and contract rabies. Because this is so dangerous to humans, if you suspect your animal is infected, contact your vet immediately.
  • Toxoplasmosis - While this is typically considered to be a disease carried by cats, goats can also carry it. Adults are impervious to any problems unless one is a pregnant woman.  Babies and young children are also susceptible, and should probably not drink raw milk from an untested animal.
  • Brucellosis - This disease is most commonly found in underdeveloped countries, especially in the tropics and subtropics.  It is not as likely to be found in developed countries like the U.S., but it is still a concern.  The goat may not ever show signs of illness, but it can be  contained in the milk.
  • Tuberculosis - Fortunately, this has been all but eradicated in most countries, but it is transmitted through the milk.
This information is provided exclusively for your information.  In my research about the "raw milk" issue, transmission of disease is the most common concern.  You can manage these with information and a sensible approach to how you use the milk from your own goats.

Information is empowering, not frightening.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Dairy Goats

If you want an easy way to have your very own dairy animals, you may want to consider dairy goats.  All you need to keep your family in milk are two female who have kidded (otherwise they won't have milk).

Your biggest consideration, however, is time.  Goats must be milked morning and evening.  You can't skip a milking.

If you think that keeping goats is a distinct possibility for you, then I want to encourage you to take that step. Goats are good natured, gentle, and relatively easy to care for. They don't take as much room or feed as a cow would. Best of all, they love spending time with humans.  They are as faithful and gregarious as a dog.

What can you do with goat milk? Obviously, you can drink it, and for those who are lactose intolerant, you'll be glad to hear that goat milk is often tolerated by people who are lactose intolerant. Goat milk does contain lactose, but many people are able to tolerate it.

This means you can have milk, yogurt, ice cream, cream, and cheese all made from goat milk. 

Making basic cheese is a pretty simple process, and is a long honored tradition of taking the nutritional value of the milk and putting it in a form that is more easily stored. We'll be looking into some of the cheesemaking techniques in upcoming posts for you to try at home.

What type of goat should you get?  If at all possible, visit people who keep goats and become acquainted with them, their size, personalities, and to see first-hand the kind of work that will be involved.  During your visit, talk to them about the variety of goat they keep, and ask them why.

What you'll find is that there are a couple of breeds that are best for dairy production, among them are the Nubians which are considered to be the very best dairy goat because their milk has an exceptional butterfat content.  Another really good dairy goat is the  La Mancha goat.

However, any goat that kids will provide milk, and if you fall in love with a completely different variety, you'll make it work, but you'll find that their milk production tapers off more dramatically than that of a good milk goat.

Need helping locating a goat breeder?  Go to Goat Finder for help.  For more information, please see my article in Acreage Life Magazine.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Raw Milk Question

I'm actively engaged in my cheesemaking education.  This is an endlessly fascinating subject, and will certainly be the focus of a number of posts in the future.  However, I'm running into questions about what kind of milk to use (and I don't mean sheep vs. goat vs. cow milk).

The most common question is, "Should I use raw milk to make my cheese?"

Ideally, raw milk is the very best raw material for cheesemaking.  However, unless you have your own dairy animals, getting raw milk isn't as easy as it sounds.  In fact, it has become something of an underground movement because the government has stepped in to regulate the dairy industry to keep our milk supplies safe for overall consumption.

Unfortunately, the government may not have taken everything into consideration.  They believe that pasteurization and homogenization will make our milk supply safer.  Proponents of raw milk consumption maintain that the very act of drinking raw milk makes each individual more able to withstand disease and illness.

David E. Gumpert wrote The Raw Milk Revolution, shown here, that looks deeply into the issue of total control over our food supplies.  Are we really ready to give up all our freedoms in this way?  I didn't realize how important and critical an issue this was until I started into my cheesemaking foray.

We'll handle questions about your best milk source for your cheesemaking endeavors.  Briefly, you can make cheese out of milk you buy in the grocery store.  However, if you have the opportunity, you may want to try raw milk cheese, following all safe food preparation techniques.

I don't want to overshadow our cheesemaking adventures with this debate, but I can't, in good conscience, completely ignore the issue.

I am wondering if I can convince my homeowner's association that two dairy goats really are "pets"...I'm not holding out much hope.  I might just have to move to a different neighborhood!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Old Foodie: Whey,What?

The Old Foodie: Whey,What?: "I came across a rather odd definition in the venerable Oxford English Dictionary recently, and I am hoping, once again, for your valuable in..."

Flu Shot Time

Part of my "organic living" philosophy includes avoiding disease and illness whenever possible.

Last year I watchd with great interest as the H1N1 "swine" flu began to make news headlines late spring of 2009. It had all the earmarks of a worldwide pandemic, and ultimately it was classified as a pandemic.  But then it slowed down, and for most of us, we were affected in a minor way.  Now that it seems to be gone, we don't have anything to worry about, right?

Not so fast.

We actually dodged a bullet with H1N1, and we may not be totally over it yet. H1N1 is a version of the flu that has the ability to alter itself; changing quickly from being contagious among just birds or pigs, to suddenly becoming transferred to humans, and being spread rapidly and with great morbidity.

Anyone who contracted H1N1 will tell you that it was a frightening flu.  Most of them were young, vigorous, and healthy.  All these characteristics should have made them impervious to contracting the flu. Instead it targeted these very healthy young people, and even more frightening, it targeted pregnant mothers.

So, should you get your flu shot?

Yes.

This year's shot has three strains of the flu, including H1N1.

We may have dodged the horrific pandemic that CDC and the World Health Organization is predicting, but just because it didn't happen this past year, don't get complacent.  A pandemic is still possible, and the very best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to take advantage of the very best science has to offer.  The flu shot may not be perfect, but it saves hundreds of thousands of lives a year.  You or your loved one may be one of those saved.

Please get your flu shot.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Apple Scone Cake

I made this Apple Scone Cake from a recipe I got some years ago, and I can't track it down.  When I do, I'll let you know who originated the idea.

Anyway, I use this when I need to use up some apples, or when I want something hot, sweet, and gooey for breakfast, or something cold, sweet, and gooey with my tea in the afternoon.

First I make my basic scone recipe, divide it in two, place the apples inbetween the two layers and bake until it is warm and gooey.  Something about the word "gooey" is appealing to me today.

Ingredients:
  • 2-3/4 c. flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup sugar, vanilla sugar from yesterday's post would do very nicely
  • 2 eggs, divided
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2-3 cups cubed apples
  • scant 1/4 teaspoon cloves
Directions:
  1. Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
  2. Blend in the butter, I use a fork and mix until it is well incorporated.
  3. Add 1 whole egg and 1 egg yolk into the center of the flour mixture and beat slightly.
  4. Add milk and make a very soft dough-like batter, but take care not to mix too much.
  5. Divide the batter in two and press one half into the bottom of a glass baking dish.
  6. Top with the cubed apples, sprinkle with just a little additional sugar and use your fingers to sprinkle the very tiny bit of cloves on top.  You just want a hint of clove.
  7. Cover with the remaining batter, and spread it over the top as well as you can.  
  8. Brush with the remaining egg white and sprinkle the top with coarse sugar that you can get at cake decorating shops.
  9. Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes.  
  10. Serve warm with cream.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Vanilla Sugar

Vanilla sugar is something you should always have around. It makes the easiest topping for crepes or Swedish pancakes.

There's no excuse not to!  It's easy to make and keeps for a year.

Mix 2 - 4 cups regular white sugar with 1 - 2 vanilla beans.

Store in a jar.

That's it!

What I like to do is to go shopping for really pretty glass jars with lids.  As a gift to someone, I will put vanilla sugar in the jar, with instructions on how to use it, and how to replenish it.
 Here is what I put on my labels.  I then add a little stamp or pretty embellishment. Punch a hole in it and tie it around the jar with a red ribbon. It's always a welcome gift.

Vanilla Sugar

Use in coffee, tea, or hot chocolate,
For baking or as a 
finishing touch on cookies or cakes!

This sugar can be kept for a year
and topped off as it is used.

After a year, 
replace the vanilla pod.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Homemade Tiramisu

You've got your mascarpone cheese ready?  If not, please see my previous post and you'll learn just how easy it is to make this delicious Italian cheese.  It is native to the Lombardy region of Italy and is used in dessert dishes like this tiramisu recipe, or in savory foods, as I did with the crostini recipe in the mascaropone cheese post.
 
This is a pretty simple recipe, and you know you always order it when you eat at an Italian restaurant, right?  My daughter wanted me to buy a whole tiramisu at the store the other day.  I decided then and there we were going to make one and know the nature of the ingredients in our dessert!

Ingredients:

  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups mascarpone cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 (12 ounce) packages ladyfingers
  • 1/2 cup coffee flavored liqueur like Kahlua
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder, for dusting
  • 1 (1 ounce) square semisweet chocolate
 Directions:
  1. Place egg yolks and sugar in the top of a double boiler.  As with making your mascarpone, you can create a double boiler by placing a stainless steel bowl over a pan of water, just make sure the bottom of the pan touches the boiling water.
  2. Over low heat whisk constantly for 10 to 15 minutes until they reach 160F.  You'll know the eggs are ready because they'll begin to thicken.  Remove from the heat and whip the yolks until they are thick and bright yellow.
  3. Add your freshly made mascarpone cheese, whipping until well mixed.  
  4. In a separate bowl whip the cream into stiff peaks.
  5. Blend yolk mixture into the whipped cream.
  6. Split the lady fingers and decide if you're making individual desserts or a large dish for presentation.  Brush the ladyfingers with the Kahlua (or amaretto if you don't like coffee). Place at the bottom of the dish, spoon part of the cream mixture on top, place another layer of brushed lady fingers, and more cream. Layer as necessary.
  7. Sprinkle the top with cocoa powder and chocolate. I have a cheese knife that I use to do this, but other people grate their chocolate, or make more ornate curls with a vegetable peeler.
  8. Refrigerate at least 4 hours before serving.
Note:
Do not soak the ladyfingers in the liquor, they will become a very soggy mess.
You can use any liquor you desire.  Some people make their tiramisu with Amaretto or Grand Marnier.  Try different ones until you find your favorite.  Mine's probably the traditional coffee liqueur, but I'm open to suggestion.  Guess that means I'll be making several varieties of tiramisu in the upcoming weeks. 

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Homemade Mascarpone Cheese

I'm on a roll here folks.

Once I figured out that making ricotta cheese was easy, I set about looking for answers to my other "cheesemaking" questions...and here's another seriously easy cheese for you to make.

Start with 2 cups of heavy whipping cream in the top of a double boiler.   If you don't have a double boiler, use a pan of water on the stove and a stainless steel bowl that will fit into the pan and touch the water. Bring the water in the pan to a boil.

Place the bowl of heavy whipping cream over the boiling water.

Whisk gently until your cream reaches 120 degrees (Fahrenheit).  You don't want to do this fast, it should take 15 - 20 minutes.

Whisk in 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice (don't use the stuff in a bottle, please...) Continue to gently whisk over the heat until the cream reaches 180F.  Everything will thicken and coat a spoon. Cook for an additional 5 minutes, then remove the bowl from the pan and place it on a cooling rack for 20 minutes.

Once it has cooled, pour the mixture through a strainer lined with 4 - 6 layers of cheesecloth. You can also use a coffee filter instead.  Because you will be straining overnight in a refrigerator, your strainer needs to fit inside a bowl, and the entire contraption has to find room in your fridge! Cover it with plastic wrap.  I place it directly on top of the "cheese" so minimize any oxidation.  Once the cheese has drained to your satisfaction, store it for up to 4 - 5 days.

Quick use: Mix half a cup of mascarpone cheese, half a cup of parmesan cheese, add a pinch of Marjoram, salt, and pepper, spread over sliced Italian bread, broil until golden, and you have yummy crostini!  Perfect for serving with soup or just a glass of wine.

OR!!!

You can immediately make tiramisu...that's the next post...stay tuned!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

I'm all about finding things that I can make at home.

Part of the motivation behind the hunt is simply to take the mystery out of things.

Today's find is how to make homemade ricotta cheese.  You can use ricotta in lasagne, on pizza, in stuffed shells (remember my trick of putting pumpkin in with it!) on bagels, on top of baked potatoes...and the list really does go on...cheesecake...

Here is one link from Eggs on Sunday blog where she makes ricotta cheese using whole milk, cream, salt, and lemon juice. Browse through her blog and find ricotta cheesecakes, and ricotta stuffed mushrooms.  Yum!

Then I heard that you can make ricotta cheese from milk and buttermilk. This is not quite how ricotta is traditionally made, which is made from the whey that is left over after making cheese, like buffalo mozzarella or pecorino.  Because most of us don't have the luxury of these raw ingredients, and it is easier than most cheesemaking techniques (except making yogurt cheese) so you should try it at least once.

Keep in mind that your cheese will taste and smell like the milk products you use to make it with, so use fresh milk and buttermilk. Consistency is fully controllable as well.  For softer cheese that is creamier, watch carefully and stop draining as soon as you reach the desired consistency.  For drier ricotta, drain it for another 10 to 15 minutes.

Mix equal quantities of whole milk and buttermilk.  If you want to make 4 cups of cheese, use one gallon of each.  For two cups of cheese, use half a gallon of each.

Mix both milks in a stainless steel pan with a thick bottom and put over med to med-hi heat. Stir frequently so the milk doesn't scorch, stopping once the milk becomes hot the curds will rise to the surface.

While the milk is heating, line a colander with 5 - 6 layers of cheesecloth and place it over a large bowl, or you can use the sink if it is more convenient. (You'll make less of a mess.)

At 175 degrees, the curds and whey will separate. Carefully ladle the curds from the pan into the lined colander.  Be fairly gentle with this process. You'll discard the remainder of the whey.

Gather the cheesecloth edges together and gently squeeze from the top, but don't squeeze the cheese directly. Drain until you have reached the desired texture for your homemade ricotta cheese.  Store in the fridge in an airtight container.  Use within 5 days.

I'm curious to know what you've decided to use your fresh ricotta on!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Health Benefits of Juicing

I've discovered juicing, but in a slightly different way than you would think.  I love all forms of juicing, however, when you juice and extract only the liquid portion of the fruit or vegetable, you are throwing away all that healthy and valuable fibrous material that scrubs your arteries clean of cholesterol.

I'm not an affiliate of Vitamix, but there certainly is a lot of evidence that this machine is the real workhorse of the juicing industry without sacrificing all the good health benefits of the fibrous potions of the fruits and vegetables.

Whether  you opt for the Vitamix or another high-powered blender that is capable of pulverizing just about anything you put in it, you will begin to see immediate changes in your health, your skin, and your overall energy levels.

The blender comes with a recipe book, and there are hundreds of additional recipes available on the internet.  Here is one site, Healthmad, that has 10 free juicing recipes for you to try.

Even my kids have taken to making "smoothies" as a replacement for meals...meals that they would likely have skipped otherwise.  What's even better, is there is no added sugar to these smoothies because when you use fresh, ripe fruit and vegetables, the natural sugars do the sweetening for you.

What's even better, this machine makes the absolute best whole food daiquiris and margaritas! Do you need any more reasons to look into a better alternative to just juicing?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Using Your Dishwasher is Environmentally Friendly

At long last, I feel vindicated!

I have argued with people for years that using your dishwasher actually uses less water and is more environmentally friendly than handwashing everything.  Finally, here is a post from a new site I just found, Living Green Tips. They also have a free ebook available that you might be interested in to help you live a little bit "greener" life!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Salads as Main Dishes

I'm a huge, HUGE fan both of eating a salad as a main dish...and of Ree Drummond of Pioneer Woman Cooks...If you haven't been to her site, or read her new cookbook from cover to cover, you really need to!

Here's a link to that wonderful section of her site called Salads as Main Dishes.

We all need to eat more salads and more veggies, and this is as tasty a way of doing it as I can think.  I'll certainly be posting more recipes for Salads as Main Dishes myself, but I figured you could get a jump start on these four delicious recipes!

Please visit Ree's site.  Her recipes are packed absolutely full of step by step instructions and photographs of every step.  I think she's an up and coming photographer.  Maybe that'll be her next book.


Let me know your favorite Pioneer Woman Cooks recipe.

Best,

Kate

Monday, October 25, 2010

New Mexican Red Chile Sauce Recipe

My sister wrote to me yesterday asking for my red chile sauce recipe.

See, I told you that chile is addictive.  She lived in New Mexico only for a couple of years, but she still enjoys the wonderful food from that state.

For those of you who don't know, both red and green chiles come from the same plant.  The green chiles are perfectly ripe and ready when they're bright green.  However, if you leave them on the plant a little longer, they begin to turn red and develop more color.  In New Mexico, red chiles are stored by stacking them along a length of rope into what is called a ristra, which is allowed to air dry, preserving the chiles.  This is a very common sight in New Mexico, numerous red ristras hanging outside the front door as the chiles dry in the autumn.


Here is the simplest and easiest Red Chile Sauce Recipe, it is made from powdered red chile:

2 T. oil
3 T. flour
4 T. red chile powder
2 cups water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt

Heat oil in a skillet, add the flour and brown very slightly. Add the red chile powder, stir, then add the water and whisk until all lumps are dissolved. Add garlic and salt. Simmer 10 minutes.

Serve this as an enchilada sauce, over eggs, potatoes, with cheese, with pinto beans, etc.  It is delicious and a true staple in our household.


For those of you who want to make red chile from the dried red chiles either from a bag at the store, or perhaps you have an authentic red chile ristra!  I don't have a picture yet to show you, but once I do, I will repost this.

Here is a link to a truly delicious Red Chile Sauce Recipe from Simply Recipes.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kate's Organic Living is Listed with Technorati

Just want to put a new post up to let Technorati know that Kate's Organic Living is ready to be found.
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Autumn in Northern Michigan

Autumn always makes me look back on my life, and see how it shaped me into who I am today, because our path is responsible for where we end up.

This video is very short, but pulls at the heartstrings. Autumn in Northern Michigan.

Red leaves of autumn, returning nutrients to the earth.
 I used to live in this beautiful area of Northern Michigan when I was in school, before college, when time, for me, was something different than it is now.
Nothing as as beautiful as sunlight filtering through autumn leaves.
 I remember those days with great nostalgia and a hint of sadness. Life was slower and easier then.
Autumn leaves tinge the air with a sugary sweetness.
 I think that autumn does that to us...makes us remember, times, places, and people of our past...
Autumn in its absolute magnificence.
 We do think about times past, and I wonder if that might not be why nature puts on such a beautiful color show for us, to help us lighten our hearts and raise our spirits.
Colored ivy on buildings brings to mind my time at college.

Autumn in the mountains brings me back to my young childhood, and my life as an adult when I returned to the mountains.

Autumn colors take many forms.


And many shapes, far away or up close, they never fail to amaze.


Where is your path taking you?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Cafe Justo

Hello everyone,

In keeping with my philosophy in Kate's Organic Living, I'd like to talk about a project that is fairly close to my heart.  At our church, we have recently begun a program of selling Fair Trade Plus coffee once a month.  This is where we get the beans grown in Chiapas, Mexico by a cooperative of families.  This is the "Fair Trade" portion of the coffee.  The Fair Trade "Plus" portion is that the coffee is then roasted in Agua Prieta, Mexico.

Most people don't realize that most of the money in coffee production is in the roasting process.  By supporting an organization that both grows and roasts coffee near their homes, we are supporting groups of people who have struggled to make a good enough living to stay on their family lands and live together. Many people in Mexico have had to seek employment in the United States, forcing them to leave their families, sometimes for years at a time in order to support them.

By supporting Fair Trade Plus Coffee sales from Just Coffee, we are supporting families and communities. You can help too by visiting their website and ordering coffee directly from them.  They have many varieties of coffee, from the basic and heavily caffeinated Robusta coffee to the delicious Arabica bean, to the premier Marago bean that brews a coffee that is so buttery, chocolatey and delicious it shouldn't even be called coffee.  It is not flavored coffee at all, it is the nature of the bean that changes the character of the coffee.  If you have never tasted Marago bean coffee, you should do so at least once in your life.

The book on the Amazon ad is their book about Cafe Justo, or Just Coffee.  It is a wonderful story about how they came to be and will answer any questions you may have about the organization.  Many churches are realizing that something as simple as changing the coffee we buy to drink on a daily basis has the power to change lives.

Fee free to contact me if you need any further information!

Arugula Recipes

Hi everyone, I have a really quick post for you today about recipes for arugula.

I've gotten a fair amount of arugula the past three weeks in my organic produce share, and was running out of ideas on how to use this lovely green.  I just happened on this site, Mariquita Farm, and they have enough arugula recipes that I'm afraid I'm going to run out of arugula before I try all the recipes.  How's THAT for a problem?

But, just in case you need a couple more ideas, here are a handful of arugula recipes from The Seasonal Chef.

A Quick Tutorial on How to Clean and Store Arugula
Arugula is something that I call a "sturdy green". It can be eaten either raw as in salads and pesto, or cooked much like you would cook spinach. Cooked arugula has a more sturdy texture than cooked spinach does, so be prepared.

Tastewise, arugula has a peppery taste, more pungent when it is larger than when it is harvested very young. When selecting arugula, you want dark green leaves that don't have any yellowing or wilting leaves.

As soon as you get home, remove the tough stems and throw those into the compost.  Arugula cleans best in a large bowl or tub of water so that you can swish the leave around and remove every trace of soil that might be clinging to the leaves. Lift the leaves out of the water. If the water is especially dirty, you may want to do a second washing to avoid any grittiness in your salad or dish.

I prefer to spin my arugula in a salad spinner in order to dry the leaves. Arugula is best used within about three days.  If you need to keep it longer, gently roll your cleaned and dried arugula in paper towels and store them in a plastic bag, just don't seal the bag.  They will keep up to a week this way.


I must run for now, but let me know how you like any of these arugula recipes...I'm going to make the arugula pesto today and probably the arugula and goat cheese pasta sauce.  I'll let you know how they turn out.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Autumn Musings - Time for Nuts!

I can't think of anything that immediately makes me think of home, family, and holidays any more than a big bowl of fresh, unshelled nuts.  We have always bought nuts in this form, and part of the tradition of cracking them open and separating out the meats that broke from the ones that stayed whole was just a step in the process.

You see, the whole meats would be carefully placed at the bottom of the fruitcake pan so that when the batter is poured on top, it is baked, and then turned upside down, those carefully placed nuts become part of the decoration of the cake.

It didn't matter too much if the meats were broken, because we needed to chop nuts for everything else, like pies, adding them to date nut bread or pumpkin nut bread, or to our secret family fudge recipe.

My son now collects nutcrackers, mainly because I shop for one for him every Christmas.  My daughter danced in the Nutcracker ballet. Nutcrackers have always enchanted me, and I never knew if it was because they were so unique and enchanting, or because they helped to extract the nut meats from their sturdy shells. Truth be told, I never wanted to use a beautiful nutcracker to crack nuts.  I rely on the old standby, the basic metal nutcracker and pick to remove the meats from the shells.

For more detailed information about different types of nuts, go to my article "Nuts about Nuts" at Acreage Life Magazine that is linked to this posting, I have two really nice and easy recipes that you might want to try.  One is for sugared nuts that you can eat just as a sweet, or you can put them in salads.  The other is an almond and goat cheese spread that you can eat on toast or crackers, or use as a sandwich spread.

No matter how you use them, nuts are a very healthy food, and while they do contain a lot of fat, it is a good and healthy type of fat that your body will thank you for.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Santa Fe Green Chile Chicken Stew

Hatch Farms, Inc. Green Chile Enchilada Sauce, Med, 14-Ounce (Pack of 12)
I know that for those of you who haven't lived in the southwest as long as I have, this may not be a treat, but if you've lived in New Mexico for any time at all, you have probably become addicted to green chile.

It's a proven fact that the stuff is addictive! REALLY!

This is a very easy dish to make, warms you inside and out.  A real taste of good Southwestern "down home" cooking at its best.
"Almost heaven..."

We've recently moved away from NM, and while we've had a few friends make sure we don't run dry in the fresh/frozen green chile department, we do have to ration ourselves.  Tonight we're getting ready to make Santa Fe Green Chile Chicken Stew.

Start with raw chicken and veggies.  Save bits of stalks from other veggies, keep them in a big bag in the freezer and toss those in whenever you're making broth.  Really ups the vitamins!
You start with a pot of water and some chicken. This time we're using just breasts, but if I find a few whole chickens on sale, that'll work too.  Throw in some carrots, celery, onion (with the skins on to maximize favor and color), a little bay leaf and some pepper and start the cooking process.

Yep, you're going to throw away all those cooked vegetables because you've extracted all the yummy nutrients. This is a nice tricky way to get your kids to eat more nutritiously!
It really helps if you have a great stewpot like this one my hubby got for me. When I'm ready, I just pull up the handles of the strainer part, let it drain, and all the brothy goodness is still in the pan!  Great idea.


Pull the chicken off the bones.  You want to make sure you don't overcook the chicken.  Put the bones and skin back in the pot and cook for another hour or two. Be sure to refrigerate the chicken that you pulled off the bones until you're ready to put the stew together.

Once the chicken's cool, shred it and hold it in the fridge until you're ready to add the meat.
Here's what it looks like after the second simmer session.

Not lookin' beautiful yet, but the broth it has made is to die for!
Time to add the roasted green chile.

Anyone who has lived in New Mexico for any period of time recognizes this sight.  We buy BUSHELS of green chile and freeze them to use throughout the year!  This year we had some wonderful friends who supplied us with our yearly stash!

Taking the charred skin off...don't rinse all of this off as you want some of this roasted flavor!

If you're new to chile, you might want to wear gloves for this part.  Whatever you do, do NOT touch your eyes...or any other sensitive part of your body for that matter.

This seems like a lot of chile, but I'm making a BIG batch!
Make a roux of flour and butter, brown it just a little.

Melt butter for the roux, or you can use vegetable oil.

Add the flour, salt, and pepper...I think we added a little green chile powder too, it IS a bit of a strange color, but don't worry, it'll do the job just fine.

Add to the hot broth and whisk furiously until it returns to a boil.  This is lookin' pretty yummy!


Add the chicken meat back in.

Remember, you don't want to boil the chicken meat to death, otherwise it will be tough and tasteless.

Add the green chile that's been cleaned and chopped.


Warm up some tortillas and settle down for some down home New Mexican goodness.

15 seconds on each side on a hot griddle is all it takes.

Top with shredded cheese....or onion...

...or both!

Bueno!