Tuesday, December 30, 2008
I love making stews and soups in the winter. At least once a week I have a big pot of something in the slow cooker. Not only it is great for a warming meal on cold days, but also makes lunch for a few days as well!
With stews and soups I am pretty much a 'whatever you have got, throw it in the pot' kind of person. Sure, I match spices and flavors with ingredients, but if you start with the best tasting freshest produce and meat, it all tastes good. I plan meals in the slow cooker based on what we have dried/frozen/preserved from the summer. I love looking through the freezer and pulling out bags of brightly colored veggies - the flavor still so great and intense since it was frozen straight from the garden at its peak. Nothing like it.
My husband had gotten a bottle of Irish Caramel Cream for Christmas and I immediately made a cake with it (recipe soon!). That reminded me of another favorite irish beverage - Guiness - so I had to make my version of a Guiness Irish Stew. I used Guiness for this stew, but any dark stout would be great! I used fresh stock and stewed tomatoes from the freezer, but you can easily substitute canned...
::slow cooker stout stew::
1 lb. stew meat, cut into 1" cubes
2 med. yellow onions, chopped
5 med. carrots, sliced
5 med. potatoes, cubed
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 cups fresh stock (I used home made duck stock - beef or chicken would be good too)
2 cups stewed tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 tsp cumin
pint of stout (guiness, yum)
freshly ground pepper
handful fresh parsley
In a skillet on med-hi, put onions, garlic, and a little coconut oil. Cook until turning translucent. Put into crockpot/slow cooker.
Add a little more coconut oil - add the beef, cooking until brown on the outside. Add the stout to the beef in the skillet, bring to a bubble, pour it all into the crock pot (turned to high). You want all the meat juices and bits on the pan, and this gets that all incorporated so you don't waste a bit!
Add the carrots and potatoes to the crock pot. Add (hot) stock and stewed tomatoes as well as bay leaf and cumin. I like to season with some salt & pepper to start with, but then finish it to taste after it cooks a few hours.
Cook on high for 1 hour, then reduce to low and let cook from 3 hours up to 8 hours. The longer it cooks the richer and darker it becomes. In the last 30 minutes or so, chop up a handful of fresh parsley and stir in to mix.
When meat is involved I add most ingredients to the slow cooker either hot or at room temperature. It gets the meat up to temp faster (safer).
With soups and stews I have a range of stock/broth because it all depends on how big your potatoes and carrots are, etc. So just be sure to add enough stock to just cover everything in your crock pot!
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
I don't often eat nuts, but this time of year I always think of this spicy nut recipe. I love making these nuts to give as gifts...they are also super good party food.
You can use roasted nuts, or for something different, you can use raw sprouted organic nuts...for parties and gifts, though, I usually buy pre-roasted good quality/organic nuts. This recipe is based on the Union Square Cafe nuts recipe - I just like a little more bite.
17 oz. mixed nuts (sunflower seeds are also good in this)
3 Tbsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tbsp melted butter
1 Tbsp melted coconut oil
2 Tbsp dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground smoked chipotle (or more if you like it hotter!)
2 tsp paprika (I like a smoked spanish paprika for this, but hungarian is good too!)
1 tsp tumeric
2 tsp coarse sea salt
In a 350ºF oven, toast the nuts for about 10 minutes on a cookie sheet. While they are in the oven, combine all of the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl and stir together. Toss in the warm nuts out of the oven and stir to coat evenly. Try not to eat them all as they cool.
Most of what we made bagged for gift giving, but we saved a small bowl for us...yum.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
Over the past few years we have switched over to using only whole wheat flours. For bread we often grind our own flour, but we use whole wheat pastry flour or whole wheat white flour for baking everything from cookies to scones. My boys actually like the rich chewiness that whole wheat flour adds to recipes. I often will take traditional recipes and just substitute the whole wheat flour - but with some things (like cookies) it is good to tweak the recipe a little to compensate for how much moisture the whole wheat flour absorbs. In this recipe I used organic stone ground whole wheat pastry flour, turbinado sugar, and have a non-traditional ingredient in the mix too...coconut. It doesn't add much actual coconut flavor, but gives a nice texture and keeps the cookies from getting dry, I think.
::whole wheat snickerdoodles::
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/3 cups organic sugar
1 tsp vanilla
3 cups white whole wheat pastry flour
1/4 cup organic UN-sweetened dry coconut flakes
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
to roll the cookies in
2 tsp cinnamon
3 Tbsp turbinado sugar
-Preheat the oven to 375 ºF
-Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper
-In a medium bowl stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar. Put aside.
-In a mixer, beat sugar with butter until light and creamy - about a minute or two.
-Mix in the eggs and vanilla.
-Add in the flour mixture a bit at a time until combined...
-In a small bowl, combine the 2 tsp cinnamon and 3 Tbsp sugar
-Roll bits of dough into balls (about 1 1/2 Tbsp per ball) and then roll in the cinnamon mixture to coat.
-Put the cookies about 2-3 inches apart on the cookie sheets.
-Bake for about 10 minutes...cookies should be light and golden.
-Let the cookies cool for a minute or two before transferring them to a cooling rack.
The health benefits from whole grains comes from the nutrients and fiber found in the grain kernel, including the germ and bran. So, whole grains contain the good stuff such as dietary fiber, starch, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, lignans, and phenolic compounds that have been linked to reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity and other chronic diseases!
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Glühwein, or mulled wine, is a favorite this time of year. There is nothing like the smell of aromatic spices and red wine wafting throughout the house on a cold day. While it can be made any time of year, there is something about the holiday season that makes me want to make it - and the process (and smell) is as much fun as the drinking. This is a great recipe for a party, but also lovely to have around the house. I also like making a batch, filling up a few bottles and giving as gifts!
It is very simple to make. I like making it in a slow cooker (on warm/low) so that it can just be on during the day to simmer and intensify in flavor. You can also easily make it on the stove in a large pot.
1 bottle red wine
1.5 cups orange juice
1-2 thick slices lemon (with rind)
2 cinnamon sticks
1 star anise
3 Tbsp dark brown sugar (or muscavado)
You can tie up all of the spices in a little bit of cheesecloth, or just toss it all in the pot and strain to drink. Simply heat it all together (don't boil). Keep on low heat from 30 minutes up to several hours - the longer it it together in the pot, the more intense the flavor. Serve warm. Garnish with a cinnamon stick if you like!
Organic and biodynamic wines are very available nowadays - even in the aisles of many supermarkets. Buying wine made using organic grapes, grown biodynamically, and/or from vintners using sustainable agriculture practices means that not only are you steering clear of any nasty pesticides, but also supporting a more human and earth healthy business. And if you can find an organic wine made locally? Bigger bonus!
"With grapes topping the list of the most chemically "sprayed" (with insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and other nasty "cides") categories of produce on the market today, it is no wonder that many are seeking an organic alternative to their conventional wines. Tides are certainly turning as more vintners are discovering that the common-sense approach to both organic and biodynamic growing methods, results in not only "healthier" vines, but in wines with greater flavor..."
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
We have been looking for a good dark cookie that the boys like but that isn't overly sweet or too spicy. Today we had success with these Molasses-Spice cookies. These are not the traditional molasses heavy cookies (my boys will not eat them!). These cookies are a little chewy in the middle, crisp on the edges, slightly sweet with a gingerbread richness. I love that they all cooked so perfectly and evenly - which is great for cookie exchanges or gift bags!
This recipe is slightly adapted from the recipe in this book. Rather than using all purpose flour we used an organic whole wheat pastry flour - which keeps the rich nuttiness of a whole wheat flour, while still being light and tasty. We also used a rich organic dark brown sugar, and organic turbanado for the granulated sugar.
2 1/4 cups organic whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
12 Tbsp (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
Some extra turbinado sugar for rolling (the larger crystals are great)
Pre-heat oven to 375º F.
Stir the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices together in a bowl.
In your mixer, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and 1/2 cup turbinado sugar until light and fluffy - a few minutes on medium speed.
Scrape the sides of the bowl.
Add the egg, vanilla extract, and molasses. Beat until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl.
Slowly add in the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds.
Put some turbinado sugar in a bowl.
Roll dough into 1-2 Tbsp balls.
Rolls the balls in the sugar and put on ungreased baking sheets - space a few inches apart.
Bake for about 7 minutes and then rotate the cookie sheet and bake for an additional 4-6 minutes. For soft chewy cookies pull out when they still look soft - longer time means more crispy!
When you remove them from the oven let them cool a few minutes on the cookie sheet before removing to a cooling rack via spatula.
I always feel that if we are going to take the time to bake something sweet, then we should use the good stuff! We try to avoid using refined sugars. But with cookies, you need sugar! By using organic less refined sugars, you are retaining more of the natural vitamins and minerals present in the sugar cane, and not getting any chemical by-products of the refining process. Or, what she said:
"I was on the lookout for sweeteners produced from crops that had been farmed without chemicals and pesticides. I was looking for sweeteners that didn’t contain additives and preservatives, and were as close to their original source ingredient in form and flavor as possible. I want to spend my money supporting sustainably minded producers, working in concert with the environment and giving a fair shake to their workers in fields and factories to produce great tasting products and ingredients."
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Today we drove out in this. Willingly. What for? To pick up meat, vegetables, eggs and more. No, not at the store. We continue to buy direct from farmers as much as we can - even throughout the winter.
So what did we get today? We had two stops to pick up peppers, sunchokes, parsnips, eggs, meat, and more (the photo below is our portion, we also picked up for a few other families too).
Even in December, we still buy meat, dairy, cheese, eggs, vegetables, wheat, honey - the list goes on - from farmers. People we know. I tell you - in the middle of a snowstorm a giant bag of vibrant colored and amazing smelling peppers is an awesome sight.
No, we don't put a lot of miles on doing it this way either. When we buy things I try to buy as much as I can at a time, try to include other families to get as much as possible in one trip, pickup from more than just one place per run, and set regular pickups for more regular things and do big quarterly pickups for the rest. There is so much that is close to home!
The boys are used to it all - they love the rides in the country, seeing friends at the door with coolers as we trade pickup days, visiting farms, and chatting with some of their favorite people along the way. And they love unloading the car when we get back - egg pickup day means maybe we can bake cookies! And G must ooh and ahh over the egg colors each time and sort and re-sort by color and size until he gets it just right.
And speaking of eggs - my friend and egg/chicken/duck lady extraordinaire loaned me her shop vac and all is well in the oven again (thank you!!!). I have been working on some recipes for baked goods using all whole wheat flour - I have a lot of catching up to do!