Thursday, December 22, 2011

Quick Update

Exams are over, and I have finally recovered somewhat from the exhaustion.  So I will have to do some updates soon like... add that picture of bread to the last post...

...actually post about Thanksgiving and the pies - one kind was great, the other the dogs thoroughly enjoyed...

...and my next project to do in the next two or three days, gluten-free dairy-free German Christmas cookies - first up: pfeffernüsse!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Taking it Easy - Adventures in Bread Machine Bread

Today is not a recipe day; today is an adventure day.

A few months ago I got a hand-me-down bread machine complete with all the essentials except a manuel.  I have finally gotten around to making bread in it.  I adapted a recipe at Gluten-Free Goddess to ingredients I had on hand.  One of the main ingredients that I do not have is millet flour.  I still haven’t found it, so I substituted brown rice flour.  The first time I ran it, I used the medium setting as recommended.  Other than it being a little dense - mostly due to my not knowing what the machine signals are for done (as far as the flashing light) so I left it sitting in the machine too long before transferring to the oven to finish it - it came out really well.  She gives a lot of useful tips for perfecting and adapting the loaf for the oven, etc.
I also recommend not deciding to find out how a bread machine without directions works when it gets to be 7:30 at night...that was a little crazy.
{Imagine picture here; I forgot to transfer 
photos before coming to school today.}
I have a funky bread machine with a bucket that gives you an upright round loaf. 
Round # 1 - (*not in original recipe)
Wet Ingredients (bowl one):  
1 1/4 cup warm water (110-115°F)
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. (generous) of molasses*
1/2 tsp. rice wine vinegar
1 egg* (she uses an egg substitute, and recommends 1 egg and 2 whites if using eggs.  I just did not feel like have two extra yolks in my morning omelet; the product did not seem to suffer.)
Dry Ingredients (whisked together in a second bowl):
1 cup sorghum flour
1 cup potato starch
1/2 cup brown rice flour*
2 tsp. xanthan gum
2 1/4 tsp. yeast
[[And somehow I never transcribed the salt... and I did not miss it.  This is the number one ingredient that I usually forget when I make a bread off the top of my head.]]
I put the wet ingredients in the bucket first, and added all the dry before starting the machine.  During the first round of kneading after the dough was incorporated, I scraped excess flour off the sides into the ball.  After the machine was done (when I finally realized the flashing light meant done, not processing) I put the loaf in a 350°F oven for 15 minutes.  I did not slice it until the next morning when it was fully cooled.  I took off the slice with the dough blade and removed it; I am still using that slice to keep the bread fresh like I would do with any other loaf.  It is not practical for me to remove it from the loaf before the baking begins because of the design of the pan - a bucket.
I have enjoyed it with Olivio Coconut Spread and/or my fruit butter that I just made.
Round # 2 - Just a few slight changes from above; and I tested the dark cycle.
Wet - So, it is almost time for exams, and I can no longer comprehend half transcribed words.  I managed to add a half cup of rice wine vinegar instead of the half teaspoon before realizing what I did.
Dry - I added 2 tablespoons of ground flax seed for fiber and all the other good things they contain.  I love flax seeds!
After the above mentioned snafu, I adjusted by adding 1/2 half cup of my home mixed gluten-free all purpose flour, and added 1/4 cup of raw sugar into the liquid ingredients after I poured them into the bucket and turned on the cycle.
This time I added the dry ingredient one scoop at a time as the blade is running.  I also scraped the the sides when I was done adding the flour.  There were a few spots where flour was still not quite incorporated at the top, so I just gently pressed towards the blade with the flat side of the spatula and reshaped the top.  It looked like it would be a little stiffer dough than that in round one.  The first time I did it the cough looked to be about the right consistency, but was a little dense, mostly due to me I think.
The loaf came out looking good from the machine, but it did not quite sound hollow when knocked on, so i sat it upright on the oven rack to finish for 10 minutes.  It was still pale on top, but the sides were dark form the bucket.  After finishing in the oven, the top was a nice light brown color.  When I turned it over the next morning to remove the blade, I discovered that the bottom was not flat because the blade does a final momentary scrape of the bottom before the final rising.  I may try removing the blade in the future before this happens.  The first loaf did not have this problem.
This second loaf tastes great and has a much better crumb.  It is kind of sweet and sour (not like sour dough) after the accidental excessive vinegar.  The next time I feel like making it so sour, I may go for apple cider vinegar.
I plan to do at least one more post after Thanksgiving, about the holiday of course, but after that posts will be infrequent as final exams draw near.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Apples and Pears, Oh My! Part 2

This is the second part of my fruit butter adventures.  The apple butter follows approximately the same process as the pear, but because there was less juice in the fruit, the water evaporated a little faster.  It came out tart, and the cinnamon is not overpowering.  I did not find a need to add sugar, but you can add sugar when it is done cooking if you want a sweeter product.

Yes, the skin is that red without added dye.

Cinnamon Apple Butter
~20 of your favorite apple sauce apples
1/4-1/2 cup real lemon juice
Organic Apple Juice - no sugar added  (I used Apple and Eve brand)
2 tbsp. cinnamon
  1. Peel, core, and chop up apples.  Use lemon juice to minimize oxidation while you work.
  2. Put in crock-pot.  You should go no higher than within an inch of the top.  I used a 5.5 quart crock-pot.
  3. Add enough apple juice to reach the top level of pears, but you do not need to cover. You can add some water if you do not have quite enough juice.
  4. Cook on low for up to 19 hours (assuming that you are sleeping or out of the house, otherwise you can use high).  Make sure to prop the lid slightly open to vent and let out moisture.  If you are doing a smaller batch, you can reduce time accordingly.  The whole mixture should reduce by about 1/3 before making your puree. 
  5. Run through a food mill or blender, and return sauce to crock-pot.  Add the cinnamon.
  6. Reduce by at least half or until you have a spreadable fruit sauce that is not runny.  You can use high or low depending on if you will be there to watch it.  (I ran it low in the evening and overnight because there was less juice in this sauce than in the pear.)
  7. Store in airtight containers in freezer or fridge.  

Apples ready to go.

The Next Morning

6PM the Next Evening - The pieces sticking to the side will bend in without difficulty. 
As you can see, there is less juice at this point than was in the pear butter.  

The Food Mill

Finished Apple Butter

Monday, November 14, 2011

Smoky Shells and "Cheese"

Yesterday was cooking day.  I prepared the meals that I would need for the week.  One of the dishes I made was a  macaroni and cheese inspired dish.  It reheats well, and seems to build flavor when you make it ahead.

Smoky Shells and Cheese

Two Cups Dry gf Shells (I used Tinkyada - Pasta Joy brand)
~3 cups almond milk
1/4 nutritional yeast
4 tbsp. Egg Replacer (dry - let soak in almond milk before beating)
One Package of Daiya Pepper Jack Style Cheese (they finally started to carry it at my store)
1 lb. favorite smoked sausage in pieces
2 tbsp. Sesame Oil
12" Saute Pan that is oven safe

Pre-heat over to 350°F.  Cook the pasta for half the time on the package; shock with cold water if you are not ready to transfer to saute pan right after cooking.  Saute the sausage in hot sesame oil.  Meanwhile, beat together the almond milk, nutritional yeast, and egg replacer; stir in cheese.  When sausage has browned, add pasta and stir quickly to keep from sticking, then add the liquid mixture.  Stir and cook on stove top until the cheese has melted and sauce becomes smooth.  Spread evenly in the pan, and transfer to oven to bake for 20 minutes or until set and golden at the edge.  

I cooked it last night, but did not have a full serving until lunch today.  It reheated well and tastes amazing. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Apples and Pears, Oh My! Part 1

This past weekend, my mom visited me and brought about a half a water bucket of pears, and a little less of apples from our ancient trees back home.  Back in the 1970's, when my parents bought the small farm that I grew up on, there was already an antique apple tree and two pear trees.  One of the pear trees and the apple tree still exist.  There are two other apple trees of six planted by my parents.  
The pears are a Kieffer Pear (cooking pear), that, while tasty raw, have a grainy texture.  Apparently it grows well both in the south and in the north.  It is usually used for canning.  Our horses also love them.  The apple tree produces tart Macintosh like apples with a soft milky texture.  They make a great apple sauce.  Of course our trees go unsprayed, so everything is edible.  
My mom gathered the fruit about a week before visiting me (right before the great October snow storm of 2011).  Therefore, I had to prepare it for storage quickly before it spoiled, and in a manner that is not labor intensive, given that I do not have time for making mincemeat or pies.  

Unsprayed, our fruit looks "unattractive," but this means that it is 
healthier to eat. 
Taking a cue from a similar dilemma that a friend of mine had a few weeks ago, I made pear butter and apple butter.  This normally labor intensive task can be made simple by using a crock-pot.  
First up:
Pear Butter with Ginger and Clove
Cooking Pears
1/4-1/2 cup real lemon juice
Organic Apple Juice - no sugar added  (I used Apple and Eve brand)
fresh minced or grated ginger (or dry if you want) [I keep ginger that I grated in a jar submersed in sherry in the fridge.]
ground cloves
  1. Peel, core, and chop up pears.  Use lemon juice to minimize oxidation while you work.
  2. Put in crock-pot.  You should go no higher than within an inch of the top.  I used a 5.5 quart crock-pot.
  3. Add enough apple juice to reach the top level of pears, but you do not need to cover. You can add some water if you do not have quite enough juice.
  4. Add ginger and cloves to taste.  I used about three tablespoons of my ginger sherry mixture (not the measuring spoon tablespoon, but the real tablespoon) and 1/8 heaping tablespoon ground cloves.
  5. Cook on low for up to 19 hours (assuming that you are sleeping or out of the house, otherwise you can use high).  Make sure to prop the lid slightly open to vent and let out moisture.  If you are doing a smaller batch, you can reduce time accordingly.  The whole mixture should reduce by about 1/3 before making your puree. 
  6. Run through a food mill or blender, and return sauce to crock-pot.
  7. Reduce by at least half or until you have a spreadable fruit sauce that is not runny.  You can use high or low depending on if you will be there to watch it.  (I ran it on high while I was up and low overnight.)
  8. Store in airtight containers in freezer or fridge.  

Starting out, the crock-pot if filled to within one inch of the top, and
the lid is propped open by a wooden spoon.

Nineteen hours on low, the volume has dropped by a third, and 
the edges have browned.  (I do stir it occasionally, but here it has been
sitting all day while I was out.)

A couple of hours after passing through a food mill, the sauce has been reducing on high.
I turned it back to low before I went to bed.

The fruit butter is ready after reducing overnight on low.

Fruit butter after stirring.  Looking just right.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Quick Bread on a Whim

I had the itch to bake, so I made the following based on what I had available.  Ingredients in parenthesis are suggestions for alternate ingredients that I have not tested.
Poppy Seed Bread (Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Soy-Free)
Preheat oven at 350°F.  Grease a 9x5 loaf pan with preferred shortening.  
Blend together:
  • 1 - 12.5 oz. can of poppy seed filling (OR 1-2 cups poppy seeds and 1/2 cup sugar of choice [may need to adjust volume of flour] OR equivalent volume of homemade filling)
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (OR apple cider vinegar)
  • (optional lemon zest to make a lemon poppy seed loaf)
  • 2 eggs (or equivalent substitute for binding)
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract (You can leave out if you are using another flavoring extract like: lemon extract OR almond extract.)
  • 1/2 cup grape seed oil
Blend until seeds are well dispersed.

Sift together:
  • 2 cups sorghum flour
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1 tbsp. xanthan gum (or 1/2 tbsp. guar gum)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • dash of salt (You can leave this out if you are watching salt intake.  The baking powder adds sodium.)
Flour can be roughly measured.  Stir into wet mixture.  It will not be batter like, but will not be very stiff.  It will be like a soft cookie dough.  

Pat into pan with spatula.  

Bake for 1 hour.  The top will be golden and knife inserted will come out clean.  Completely cool before slicing.  

The bread will rise nicely and have a nice fine crumb.  Enjoy with you favorite spread!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Creamy-Tomato Pasta in a Flash

As a cheese substitute I have been using Daiya brand vegan cheeses.  It is the only cheese at my local store that is both dairy free and soy free.  Almost all of the vegetable based cheese contains casein from milk, and the only other vegan cheese contains soy.  
Daiya makes three varieties, and of course I can only find two.  I am still looking for the pepper jack.  This dish uses the mozzarella and cheddar.  I like the Daiya cheeses, although it somewhat, but not completely resembles texture of American cheese when it melts.  It is different enough from American so that I like it enough to use it for pizza, pasta, and omelets.  (As you can tell, I am not a fan of melted American cheese.)
This is a quick and easy dinner to make.  The cheese melts giving it a nice and creamy taste.  I had some canned chicken to use up, so it was the seed for this recipe.  It was not enough to be the center of a meal on its own, but in a pasta dish, you would hardly notice.  You could easily leave the chicken out for a completely vegan meal.  Some chickpeas would make a nice substitute.  
Creamy-Tomato Pasta in a Flash (Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free)
Two Servings
1 cup of Daiya cheese mixed between yellow and white 
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes (do not drain)
4 oz. can of mushrooms (drained, but reserve if you want to add in step 6)
3 oz. of tomato paste (1/2 of a 6 oz. can)
2 small onions
5-6 cloves garlic
10-15 canned olives halved
a few oz. of left over chicken or canned chicken
rice pasta of choice (enough for two servings)
Red Pepper Flakes
Red Wine vinegar
  1. Start salted water for pasta.  
  2. Begin dicing onions and mincing garlic, and heat oil in saute pan.
  3. Start cooking onions in pan.  
  4. Whenever pasta water is boiling, add and cook pasta for 3/4 of the time required on the package.  Drain; shock with cold water to stop cooking process.
  5. When onions are soft, add garlic, mushrooms, olives, chicken, and spices to taste.  Cook covered for a few minutes more before adding tomato products.  Add a splash of red wine vinegar.  Stir.  Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
  6. Add partly cooked pasta and a little water if there is not a lot from the canned tomatoes.  The idea is to allow the pasta to soak up any excess liquid without becoming soggy.  Allow to cook for a minute or so and test for doneness.  When pasta is almost done, add cheese to top and cover to melt.  Turn off heat if pasta is done.  Stir in melted cheese and serve.  

Monday, October 24, 2011

Poached Egg and Probiotics

Since giving up dairy I went looking for a new source of probiotics in an edible form of course.  One of the first I have tried is miso.  I did a google search for soy-free, gluten-free miso and found South River Miso.  They have three varieties that are both soy-free and gluten-free, and each of them is good.  My favorite is the Azuki Bean Miso stirred into hot water and drunk like tea.  I use the Garlic Red Pepper Miso in salad dressing.  It is great to have a rich tasting dressing for salad again.  I use the Garbanzo Bean Miso in the recipe below.
All of their miso contains live culture, so they only ship during the cool months of the year.  See their website for a shipping schedule.  It costs a bit up front, but if used in moderation the miso will last a while.  This was a product worth waiting for.  
Poached-Egg in Miso Broth (Gluten-Free, Soy-Free, Dairy-Free)
Serving 1-2 (one meal or two sides)  You can easy increase this for more servings as needed. 
2-3 celery stalks chopped
2 small onions diced.
olive oil
sesame oil
hot water
1-2 eggs
2-3 tbsp. miso
  1. In pot or pan, add olive oil and sesame oil to taste.  Heat on medium-low heat and add chopped veggies.  Cook until onions are soft.  Celery can still be crunchy when soup is ready.
  2. Add hot water until the veggies are not quite covered (or a little more if making for two) and gently boil for a few minutes.
  3. Take off the heat and turn heat back to low.  Once broth settles, stir in miso and return to heat.  Do not go above a simmer once the miso has been added!
  4. Cover and simmer for one minute.  
  5. Form a well in center (or one for each egg) of pot by pushing veggies to sides and add egg.  Cover and cook egg.  I like my yolk super soft, so I flipped the egg with a rubber spatula rather than letting it cook sunny side up.
You can probably get a prettier more presentable egg if you use more water for your broth, but for my purposes, this method worked just fine.  The main part of the egg stayed intact and there were some extraneous bits of white floating about.  

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Spinach Artichoke Dip When You Cannot Have the Cheese

Spinach-Artichoke Dip (Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free)
8 oz. raw almonds with skins
3 medium large onions
5 large cloves of garlic
4.5 oz. fresh spinach
2 - 14 oz. cans artichoke hearts quartered in water - not marinated
grape seed oil
olive oil
1 tbsp. lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
  1. Barely cook almonds in water that does not cover.  The skins should be loose.  You can remove them this way if you wish, but I left them on.  Drain.  
  2. Brown the onions and garlic with pepper in the grape seed oil and wilt the spinach in the pan.
  3. Combine above in a food processor and puree with drained artichoke hearts.  Add lemon juice and olive oil to taste (start with a quarter cup).  Check to see if you want to add salt.  You may not need to because there is salt in the canned artichoke.
This recipe make a fair amount, so if you are just making it for yourself, you should only make a half-batch.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Little Chocolate Twist

The other week I had some leftover coconut milk and a craving for seven layer bars.  Solution: Substitute the coconut milk for sweetened condensed milk.  What I was using was canned coconut milk - not the light kind.  This meant that it was thick and ready to go without simmering water off, and there is no added sugar.  Using just what I had on hand, I made up the following recipe.  

Enjoy this picture I took in Brussels instead of chocolate bars 
because Belgium has wonderful chocolate.
Chocolate-Nut Layer Bar (Dairy Free, Gluten Free)
8” Spring form pan - greased lightly.
1 cup raw almond in skins
1 whipped egg white (or egg substitute for one egg)
5 oz. semi-sweet chocolate mini-morsels (I used Enjoy Life brand)
1-2 cups Chopped walnuts
2/3 cups canned coconut milk
1 tbsp. raw sugar crystals (optional)
  1. Chop almonds in food processor until they resemble a course flour (should be fairly fine for chopped nuts).  You could also use a nut grinder if you have one.  Right before you are done chopping, add in sugar.  Transfer to large bowl.
  2. Whip egg whites into stiff or nearly stiff peaks.  Fold into nuts.  You do not need to preserve bubbles.  The point is to bind the nuts.  Transfer to greased spring form pan.
  3. Wet your fingers and press nut crust into place so that it covers the entire bottom of the pan.  Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 10-15 minutes.  You want to set it, but not fully cook it.  Remove.
  4. Add the layers beginning with chocolate chips; then add walnuts to taste; and then drizzle on the coconut milk.  Sprinkle with sugar crystals if you like.  (Other options: kosher dairy-free butter scotch chips or a few tablespoons of gluten-free oats.)  
  5. Bake in a preheated oven at 350°F for 20-25 minutes.  The chocolate will appear to be mostly melted on top and the coconut milk will appear tan near the edges of the pan.  It will smell done, and like it it close to jumping to overdone.  
  6. Allow to cool to room temperature before removing ring.  Cut into 1 X 1 1/2” bars.  Put in fridge to chill.  Do not remove from base until fully chilled.  They are too soft to handle before chilling.  Store in an airtight container in fridge.
While this is not sugar-free, it is not excessively sweet because most of the sugar is just what is in the chocolate chips.  

Monday, October 17, 2011

Update and Link to a Give Away

Hello my fearless readers, all 2 of you.  I might have more if I got around to blogging, but school keeps me busy.  I have been having many adventures with learning new cooking techniques and recipes.  Life did not slow down between summer studies and the fall, so I really have not had the time to write new pieces, although I have had many opportunities to develop new recipes.   This coming weekend, I hope to have a chance to make my own mochi.  Once that works out, maybe I can post about that.

In the meantime, I came across this give-away of a cookbook that fits right into the philosophy behind this blog - that food should be wholesome and nutrient rich.

The give-away is sponsored by Frontier Dreams.  The cookbook is The Organic Family Cookbook.  The give-away closes the 23rd.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Traveling in Germany

Well, my plans for blogging are never very quick in coming to fruition.  So I am one week out from leaving Europe, and I am finally getting to do a post.

First, love the food here.  Mmm...  Everything has been very good.  I love buying fruit from a fruit stand.  The grocery store have some really good gluten free breads.  I had some rolls yesterday that were like any roll I might eat with gluten in it.  I have also had some amazing dairy-free gluten-free cookies.  Of course, nothing is better than using marzipan in a confection.  Sadly, many of the brands I have tried do not distribute in the US.

I found one vegan cafe that does dairy-free food, and they offer gluten-free bread and kuchen (cake).  I hope to stop there once more before leaving Cologne.   The baguette I had was amazing; and it was gluten-free.

I have not been able to cook here, since I have been living in a hostel without kitchen facilities for guests.  So I either buy random things at the store to eat as a meal, or I go out.  I end up having things like cold falafel and a bell pepper (eaten like an apple) if I do the store, or I go to a Thai place I found that is affordable.

I have enjoyed many traditional foods here too.  I will miss being here, but I will be glad to be home where I can cook a proper meal myself.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Creamy Delights - The Béchamel of the Non-Dairy "Dairy-Fix"

Sometimes you just want that creamy and sweet dairy experience.  Two ways I that I do this are fruit smoothies and a quick chocolate milk.  The basic ingredients are unsweetened almond milk and the only sugar substitute I will use - stevia.  Together, these are my Béchamel for a variety of non-dairy dairy drinks.  With this as your medium, you can make any quick and satisfying cold "dairy" drink that you want.

Part of every day is fresh fruit.  Between breakfast and lunch I like to make a fruit smoothie with almond milk and stevia.  The effect can be very much like a creamy milkshake. 

Dairy-Free Strawberry-Banana Fruit Smoothie (Serves 1-2 people)

1 small banana
4-5 ripe strawberries (more if they are small)
3-4 drops liquid stevia
Unsweetend Almond Milk (Plain or Vanilla)
1/2 tps. vanilla extract (if you use plain almond milk)

Put fruit in food processor or blender.  Cover with almond milk (use some extra in blender past covering fruit to make it like a milkshake).  Add stevia and vanilla.  Blend and serve.

Recipe Notes:
The banana helps give thickness to the shake.  You can substitute any fruit that you want.  Add some nutritional yeast for extra nutritional value.  Add a little ice for a more ice creamy expereince.  

One of the things that I really miss having more often is chocolate.  It usually has two of the things I must avoid - dairy and sugar.  Chocolate almond milk has sugar.  Adding chocolate powder directly to liquid can be difficult because it likes to clump if you are just stirring with a spoon.  So as my solution, I will whip up one of these every once in a while.

Quick and Easy Whipped Chocolate "Milk"
2-2 1/2 cups unsweetened almond milk (plain or vanilla)
4 drops liquid stevia
up to a tablespoon of cocoa powder

Fill your glass about 3/4 of the way up.  The whipping will increase the volume.  Then add stevia and chocolate.  Whip the ingredients well with a frothing whip or hand blender.  For a hand blender, you may want to work in a larger, less-full glass.  There is no need for a standing blender unless you are preparing for a crowd. 

The end result is a creamy and frothy, evenly homogeneous suspension of chocolate in almond milk.  It is very a very light chocolate, but more would be too much stimulant anyway.  Play around with the proportions to come up with your perfect blend.  

And yes; it is delicious too.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Good Intentions; Setting Goals

Well my extremely-small-readership-who-may-have-forgotten-about-my-two-post-blog,

I had some good intentions to post some recipes in this two week period following the end of exams.  During exams I could not devote time to site development.  Now that exams are over, I have been visiting family and getting ready to spend some time overseas.  While I am overseas, I will do some posts about foodie adventures in healthy eating abroad.

I will still try and post at least one recipe before or shortly after I leave.  For now I will begin a list of culinary goals.

#1 - developing/learning really good non-dairy cheese substitutes that can be melted for pizza and macaroni and cheese.

#2 - developing/learning a grillable non-dairy Halloumi type cheese.  This should be a great challenge.

Parameters for cheese include: no gluten, no corn, no soy, nor derivatives thereof.

#3 - developing/learning vegetarian and vegan recipes that are primarily raw based.  I still plan to eat meat, but not as much. 

#4 - learning more technique with gluten-free baking.  I miss beating a glutenous dough, but I will put my creative energy into developing...

#5 - sugar-free or low-sugar, gluten-free baked yumminess.  I have already had some moderate success with a rhubarb tart.  The filling was great sweetened with stevia (if you like you tart tart like I do), but the crust needs some work.

 Well, “hey there, good looking.”  Now to work on the crust!

If I come up with some other new goals, they will be posted in a later post.

Until then, Guten Abend!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Thinking Ahead

Summer is coming and if you are planning a garden you may like to put in some shelling beans.  Beans are not my favorite food usually, but I do love beans fresh from the garden.  A couple of years ago I thought that it would be nice to try out some shelling beans even though I like dried beans the least.  We ordered Italian Red Rose Beans from Burpee’s Seed Catalog.  They were great as a summer bean salad cooked from freshly shelled beans, or in a soup in February made from the beans that were dried (recipes below).  
For this recipe, you do not need to worry about exact amounts of ingredients, because this will change depending on how many beans you plan to cook.  Generally speaking you want the lesser half of the bowl to have the vegetable puree and the greater half stock (not counting beans and ham).

Fresh Shelling Bean Salad
Full cook freshly shelled beans by simmering at least 30 minutes.  Meanwhile cut fresh peppers and seeded tomatoes into strips.  Select some fresh herbs that you like.  Toss everything together with some olive oil and a splash of vinegar.  Salt and pepper to taste.
Since I really do not like bean soups as a rule, I decided that I wanted to make a bean soup that had a rich and satisfying flavor.  I accomplished this with the use of salt pork and ham broth.  The soup has a rich flavor, but it is not a rich soup.  Even though the recipe makes a lot, you do not have to worry about using it all up at once because this soup freezes well.  

Italian Red Rose Bean Soup
Recommended Beans: Italian Red Rose; Cranberry Beans; or a mild white bean like a Great Northern Beans or Cannellini Beans.
1.5-2 pounds dry beans (4.5-6cups)*
1-2 Smoked ham hocks (as meaty as you can find: one really meaty hock is great)**
8-16 oz. of Salt pork [fat back] (that is about 30-50% lean is good) (possible substitutes, 3 tbsp. bacon fat or olive oil.)
Onions (2-4 large or 5-7 medium or small)
Carrots (1/2 to 3/4’s of a pound)
Celery (at least Half a Bunch)
Oregano (~1 tbsp. for a large pot)
Thyme (1 tsp. thyme)
Bay Leaf [2 for a large stock pot] 
Pepper to taste
Salt (only if necessary after all ingredients have been combined and simmered)
10 Quart Stock Pot
Day before: 
  1. Make a ham broth from a smoked hock. Cover with water and simmer 3-5 hours on the stove, or place on low heat in a crockpot for 6-8 hours or high for 5-6.  Skim off fat (optional). 
  2. When broth is done, remove bone and meat to cool and pick apart.  Make sure to cut up large pieces of meat before putting them into the soup.  
  3. Put dry beans in water according to package directions, maybe with a little less water (6 cups). Bring to a boil and turn off. Soak beans overnight.* 
  4. You may wish to prep vegetables for processing a day ahead.  Chop into 1/2” pieces and place in an airtight container overnight.  
Day to make soup:
  1. Cook beans until just tender. Meanwhile reheat ham broth.
  2. Cut vegetables into 1/2” pieces and chop until fine in food processor
  3. Separate fat from lean of salt pork. Dice the meat Render the fat in the bottom of your stock pot and remove. Add the diced salt pork to cook. 
  4. When the salt pork is cooked (remove if you wish and) put in the chopped veggies and cook them 10-15 minutes.  They should be turning translucent.  You can add the bay leaf in this step.
  5. Add the seasonings to taste - suggestions above.
  6. Add ham meat (if your hocks were not meaty, add some cubed ham also); then beans; add however much of the bean water and ham broth you can fit in your pot (at a 1 to 1 ratio).  Fill the pot three-quarters of the way up.  Extra broth or bean water can be frozen for other uses.
  7. Simmer 30-45 minutes before serving.  Taste and add salt if needed.
Serves: 8-10 or more...
Recipe Notes:
* Use fresh shelling beans if you have them.  If you do, then only cook them the morning of.  Fully cook them before combining with other ingredients.  
**Any smoked ham and bones would work.  For example, you could use ham neck bones, however, there are more small bones to watch out for.  
Make and serve same day or make ahead and re-heat. This soup tastes even better as it sits. 
If you are watching your intake of saturated fat you could leave out the sat pork and use another oil of your choice.  The soup is very light and not rich, so this may not be necessary.  
If you want to make it vegetarian; use the oil of your choice and a vegetable broth.  Some mushroom broth would help to give it the depth that the ham broth gives the soup.