Thursday, August 14, 2008

On the phone and on the webcam

So, here's a photo of me trying to work, balancing the phone on one side, Alexis on the other, and watching over the laptop while Skylar manufactures pajamas for himself out of several plastic shopping bags and duct tape. Despite the fact that our family wears only organic cotton and bamboo pajamas when we sleep, Skylar announced that he intends to make some plastic wear for the rest of us as well...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Inside my kitchen window

Simple, yet simply lovely, isn't it? Organic orange slices and lemon basil gently flavor purified water for a light, refreshing summer drink. The peel and white pith of the orange add nutrients that aren't available in squeezed orange juice. Be sure to buy organic oranges (or lemons!) whenever you're going to use the peels and pith so you'll avoid chemical pesticide residue used in commercial citrus production. And for the mint, if you plant ONE mint plant in your garden, you will soon see that it spreads, and returns every year!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Preserving summer greens

Pick your own fresh greens, this is kale, or pick up some at a local farmer's market. Wash greens thoroughly because most are grown in sandy soil which clings to leaves.

Cook on medium heat with just the water left on the greens from washing. Don't add any extra water, there will be plenty on the leaves themselves.

Greens will cook down to 1/2 - 1/4 the original amount in the pot.

Divide cooked greens into rigid freezer containers, not baggies.

Now, here's the secret to fresh-tasting frozen greens - fill the containers to 1/2 inch from the top with water. That's right! Greens will freeze into solid cubes and thaw nicely when you pop them out to cook one day next winter. Air space in freezer containers is what causes frozen food to deteriorate, to get frosty and taste old. Freezing in water solves that problem, but be sure you leave enough space at the top because water expands when it freezes.

Here are your greens, ready to fill your freezer and then your Crock-Pot or cassarole as part of your favorite recipes. This freeze-it-in-water method works with fresh herbs, too. Use ice cube trays to make little fresh herb cubes for future use.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Pajama pancakes

Pancakes are a family favorite at our house, especially in our pajamas. In the summer, pajamas might just be an organic cotton T-shirt and undies. But pancakes are always pancakes! Here's a great recipe if you like to load up your pancakes with a lot of protein:
Protein Pancakes
Place in blender and blend one minute: 1 cup cottage cheese, 6 eggs, 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 tsp sale, 1/4 cup oil, 1/4 cup mile, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 2 TBS whey protein powder. You can leave out the protein powder if there's none on hand, but that's what gives these pancakes protein power. Bake on griddle with butter, oil or cooking spray. Top with lots and lots of fresh fruit, yogurt or just honey and butter. Yum and fun for everyone!

Lily's Eggless Oatmeal Pancakes

Lily and I wrote out this recipe together because she LOVES to make these pancakes herself. You'll definitely need to double this because it doesn't make very much. It's not as dense as a bowl of oatmeal, but does have a hint of oatmeal flavor:

Use 1 1/3 cups all purpose flour , 2/3 cup quick cooking oats, 2 T sugar, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt, egg replacer for one egg, 1 1/3 cups soymilk, 3 T melted vegan butter substitute. You'll need extra oil,or vegan butter substitute for frying, of course.

In a LARGE BOWL, stir together the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder, and salt. In a MEDIUM BOWL, mix up the egg substitute, then beat in the milk and margarine. Add the medium bowl mix to the large bowl, stir until just combined, let stand 5 min while you heat up a skillet until a drop of water dances across the surface before evaporating (I love that part and the kids like to watch it).

Brush the surface lightly with oil. For each pancake, drop 3 T batter onto the skillet. Cook until one or two bubbles start to burst on the top (my kids love to watch for this), turn pancake and cook until golden brown on the bottom.

I like to add vanilla extract or almond extract or cinnamon or apples or bananas or any combination of those. You may need to add more soymilk as sometimes the batter is too thick and the pancakes don't cook completely - of course this can mean heat was too high or that you are using a retarded heavy iron skillet?

I don't know, I am still debating about using cast iron or not. I almost break my wrist trying to wash it. I know you are not supposed to wash cast iron in water, but the idea of rancid oil going into my food seems to negate the possible iron benefits...

Tell us what you think about cast iron and about pancakes. Leave us a comment!

Note: Just got an email with this bright idea - why not have the kids make butter when you're making pancakes? Here are the simple instructions I received: Just put the cream in a quart jar, tighten the lid, and shake, shake, shake. It's not a big deal. If you don't want to shake that long, play some music, watch TV, read a book, take turns with the other family members. Part way through it looks like whipped cream, but that just means you aren't finished, unless of course you decide to put whipped cream on your pancakes instead of butter! I have read some folks add glass marbles to agitate or act as a paddle in the churning, but I never did and the results were fine.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Mystery mints

Gardening in pots is much easier than tilling the garden this year while I have a nursing baby. So, here's a photo of my potted mints which seem to always lose their labels, leaving me wondering which is Spearmint and which is Peppermint. So, I googled up botanical photos on the web and now I know the difference - the smoother leaves on the left side of this photo are Peppermint and the wrinklier leaves on the right are Spearmint. Now I think "Spear Wrinkle" to remember it! Besides flavoring water and making herb sun teas, I use fresh mint in salad dressings and tabbouleh, a staple in the diets of desert people for centuries. Here's a recipe we like to eat cold in the summer (but I leave out the green onions):

Tabbouleh Mint Salad

3/4 cup organic bulgur wheat, 2 cups warm water, 2 bunches flatleaf parsley, washed and chopped, 1 bunch mint, washed and chopped, 1/2 bunch green onions, sliced thinly, 1/4 cup virgin olive oil, 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 2 plum tomatoes, seeds removed and diced, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 teaspoon pepper. Soak bulgur in the warm water until water is absorbed, drain any excess. Chop parsley, mint, onions if desired, and tomatoes and mix into bulgur. Add salt, pepper and lemon juice. Keep refrigerated until serving on lettuce or just by itself.

Note: Bulghur is just coarsely cracked wheat, not some fancy grain that's hard to find. You can substitue whole wheat berries and soak them longer, or cracked wheat cereal and it won't need to soak as long.

Another note: Oh my gosh, my customer friends keep calling and telling me about how they use mint in tabbouleh salads. Here are some suggestions I got today: 1) use leftover cooked grains such as brown rice or millet instead of soaked wheat; 2) use basil or especially lemon basil to replace or along with the parsley in tabbouleh; 3) cut the fresh herbs with scissors, it's much easier than a knife.