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Category Archives: Food & Recipes

Jumping to conclusions on my new trampoline

Jumping to conclusions on my new trampoline

We splurged on a big one, hoping it would help us all center somewhere in the home landscape, be a spot of choice for our teens, fun for the younger ones, and an attraction for all their friends. They are all using it, for exercise, for fun, for a dry place to lie and chat while scanning the sky and fir tree silhouettes as the dark falls, and for sleepovers after that.

It took me about a week to get up on it myself. Just didn’t get around to it until then. I was surprised how good it felt, how uplifting. And a good workout. Keeps one accountable in the area of remembering to do one’s Kegel exercises, too, which one occasionally neglects, doesn’t one? It’s kind of modeled after a pelvic floor itself, in a way. I remember the feeling of my son trampolining on mine in utero.

The city children’s hospital has a vegetable patch in the picnic area by the cafeteria. We looked at growing chard, tomatoes, peas, strawberries, and ate fish and chips. My son expressed the hope that some of it would be served in the cafeteria. Been thinking a lot about food lately, since starting listening to the audiobook Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. Carefully researched, clearly articulated, gently communicated, and illustrated with stories from their family’s year of eating food produced as locally as possible. I understand better now the true cost of the low prices I’ve been paying for food, the ways I’ve participated in the system that drives small farmers into bankruptcy.  Time to be more proactive in my food choices for the family. And to try to take the author’s gentle approach at attempting to coax themy into better purchasing and eating habits. We use our share of processed foods, feedlot meat, and vegetables from megafarms which destroy living ecosystems, impoverish soils and guzzle fossil fuels, all subsidized by us, the taxpayers. Time for me to research what to cut out and ways to replace those things, or not.

There’s the garden, of course, containing the most local food of all. We are blessed with a sunny, fenced back yard which is now graced with a large, organized, productive vegetable patch, complete with greenhouse (formerly a large, muddy, productive garden that needed a lot of upkeep). I’m recording the expenses and inputs (labor aside–that’s a pleasure and free exercise anyway), as well as outputs in the form of seedling and food production. So far, though we started late, we’ve had abundant salad greens, onions, beets, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, herbs, and a few berries. As soon as we use our store bought potatoes I’ll dig some of our own reds, yellows and bakers, which always mature before I expect them to. The tomatoes are just starting to produce little green balls, and in a month or so there will be cucumbers, squash, beans, cherries, aronia berries, and eventually peppers and apples. My goal is to have the family eat and preserve all we can use, as well as save seeds, and give away all the rest. I’m also planning to be more insistent that the children participate in this, so they can learn at least the basics of harvesting food. That’s the fun part, which I hope will help interest them in the planting and cultivation aspects later on. Not much time now to refine the seed-to-table techniques of my oldest, and to expand their healthy meals recipe repertoire.

Now I shall jump to my conclusion, leaving you with the link to the site related to the book, with seasonal recipes for your garden or local farm produce: http://www.animalvegetablemiracle.com/

Bon appetit!

 

 

 

 

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Just a few ordinary thoughts, to keep my hand in.

Just a few ordinary thoughts, to keep my hand in.

Up late trying to get a bit organized for tomorrow, started the bread my son has been requesting for several days, faithfully cleared the table of homeschool supplies and stuff I might get to–part of my new resolution to keep up with messes. Dishes cleaned and put away, during which I discovered that “quick wash” works just fine for most things using less power. My mom used to use a manual version of quick wash that was much louder than the electric one, and less effective if it was clean dishes she was after. She used it especially when riled and/or when she was tired of the old dishes and didn’t mind if a few more broke.

Plum Cocaigne cake, a recipe chosen to help with a seasonal abundance of that fine fruit, is baking in the oven. It’s supposed to be finger food for the discussion leader training I’ve been invited to attend tomorrow, but it’s looking tremendously juicy–better bring paper bowls and spoons. The first time the timer beeped I thought the screen said “ERROR” but it was only “END.” Will such a high-maintenance dish be frowned upon by the twenty-three fine women (not to say ladies, which has too many implications) who will be in attendance? And by the way, why was I invited? I was told ’cause I think and bring up good questions in our women’s Bible study. Backup discussion leader, to be sure–I probably wouldn’t have said yes otherwise, and it’s not just because of my busy schedule. I love facilitating discussions, asking questions, hearing what folks think, trying to bring some light, some syntheses, and some applicability. Yet I feel I’m a bit of an imposter, ’cause I feel my thoughts and feelings tend to stray a bit out of line. I can’t get much past the Apostles’ Creed any more. I credit the Presbyterians (and some others) for being open minded, able to discuss just about anything–well, you can find someone to discuss just about anything. And after all, I did bring up questions that seemed relevant, and there it is. If they only knew what I am capable of bringing up, but I no longer court controversy and try to provoke debate–it makes me tired and nowadays my relationships are more long term. Mustn’t burn one’s bridges. What I’m looking for now is truth and what to do about that, in the context of my life and personality.

Out comes the plum cake, in goes the flat bread. The other plums are drying in the heated, fanned machine on the opposite counter. They look remarkably like dried slug when ready, but taste much better. This is my first effort with dried plums, but I must lay in supplies for granola and energy bars as I move away from ready made bars and expensive dried fruit from the store. Apples will be next. Years ago I tried drying zucchini, and the result was in many ways like dried shitakes, but for now the zucchinis go into salads, under the grill, or into sauces and soups.

In other news, the garden spiders have covered our front bushes with beautiful webs of the asterisk joined by polygon type, some a foot in diameter. This morning my son and I hung out the windows to watch and photograph them, and film one that was in the process of building. Each day they grow fatter, and then they go to their secret places to build their egg sacks and wither away. Inside are the house spiders–really, these are the real names–up where the walls meet the ceiling. A few days ago my daughter and I watched while a crane fly tripped into a thread, and the owner snapped into action, lunging again and again to trap it, finally succeeding in winding up a few flailing legs. But the crane fly flew away without them. We don’t have much of a fly problem in our house.

The final loaf of bread is baked golden brown, and since I have an early start tomorrow, that’s all, except to say that I wish you the most beautiful quotidian mysteries. The Shaker hymn goes:

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

 

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Aeropress: a $30 espresso maker that won’t wake up the whole household

Aeropress: a $30 espresso maker that won’t wake up the whole household
 
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Posted by on April 28, 2013 in Food & Recipes, How to

 

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Gallery

How to make your own yoghurt

How to make your own yoghurt
 
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Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Food & Recipes

 

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Cheesecake with variations, an aid to building community.

Cheesecake with variations, an aid to building community.

I’m not very fond of sugary sweetness, but I do like creamy (fatty) desserts. Cheesecake is one of my favorites. In college I used to post a sign-up sheet shaped like a cheesecake cut into slices, and when all the pieces were claimed, make the cake in the dorm kitchen and deliver for $4 per slice. Now I make them when I have extra time, freeze, and take out when I need to come up with something delicious on the spur of the moment to share with friends. Fatty desserts freeze well. With a good arm, you can even slice a cheesecake that’s fresh out of the freezer, and put it back for later. By the way, I’ve cut down on the sugar–add some back if you like. I recommend that all cheesecakes be served with whipped cream as an option.

I buy a big 3 lb block of cream cheese and either use the whole thing to make two 9″ cakes, or two pounds to make one 10″ one. This recipe is for two cakes.

Shortbread Crust

(I usually don’t keep on hand graham cracker crumbs, the mainstay of most cheesecake crusts–they’re expensive and go stale. To heck with that–this crust is homemade, and tastes so good, you’ll eat it too.)

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup softened butter
  • 1 egg yolk (2 if they’re small)

Take the bottom off the springform pan. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Mix the above ingredients together with a fork and then with your hands (or a nearby child’s hands) until it starts to hold together. Don’t knead it or it will be tough.

Press about half the mix onto the pan bottom. Place on a baking sheet and bake 10 minutes, then cool on a rack. Put the pan back together, and press the rest of the dough up the sides of the pan. It will only reach part way. It may be yummy, but who wants to eat lots of crust, anyway?

In a pan or in the microwave, melt 1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips with 4 Tbsp whipping cream until spreadable. Spread over the bottom and sides of the crust.

Turn the oven to 475 degrees F.

Cheesecake

  • 2 lbs softened full-fat cream cheese
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • 4 Tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup whipping cream
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks

In a large bowl (standing mixer works best), beat cream cheese, sugar, flour, salt, whipping cream and 2 eggs until smooth. Add remaining eggs and yolks and mix well. Choose a variation, below:

Variations

  • Pour about two thirds of the batter into the crust. Melt more chocolate (bittersweet, semi, to taste and stir into the rest, then spoon it onto the plain batter in globs, gently swirl with a knife to make a pattern. Or melt more and stir into the whole batter for a uniform chocolate cheesecake. A bit of strong espresso is good here too.
  • Sprinkle the top of the cheesecake with sliced or chopped almonds, hazelnuts, or macadamias.
  • Make a sweet-tart raspberry sauce thickened with cornstarch, and swirl into the plain batter
  • Add 1 tsp vanilla for a plain cheesecake, to be served with or without toppings.

Cover the top of the pans with foil and bake in the 475 degree oven for 25 minutes (20 in convection oven). For one cake in a regular oven, make it 20 minutes (convection 15-17 minutes).

Uncover the cake, reduce heat to 300 degrees, and bake 1 hour more (50 minutes in convection).

Turn off the oven and leave the cheesecakes in with the door partly open for 15 minutes. Remove onto cooling rack and run a sharp knife around the edges. Cover and refrigerate when cool.

To freeze, cut cardboard circles the size of the cheesecakes, cover with foil (from the top of the cake), remove pan sides & loosen the cheesecake bottom with a metal spatula, then slide it onto the cardboard circle (the crust will be firm enough with the chocolate). Cover with foil and/or plastic wrap, put in a large zip plastic or similar bag, label & freeze.

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2013 in Food & Recipes

 

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