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10/24/2014

We first had sweet potatoes as a mashed side dish when visiting Kauai a couple years ago.  I came across some slips from a seed catalogue and grew my first crop of sweet potatoes.  Last winter I made slips of my own from saved 'taters and lo!  A bumper crop from 18 plants!  

harvest

As I was digging them we discovered several fingerlings and smaller bits, so we came up with this salad which is good hot or cold!

Ingredients:

2 pounds unwashed and untrimmed sweet potato fingerlings
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
1/8 cup honey
1 tsp salt (I like to use the red Hawaiian salt)
1 large or 2 small crisp, tart apples, diced (Macintosh or Jonathan)
1 cup broken walnut pieces
3 tbsp Greek yogurt, sour cream or drained kefir (optional)

Step One:

Wash and scrub the fingerlings.  Their skin will be tender so they will not need to be peeled.

washed

Step Two:

Trim the ends and any scars off the fingerlings and dice them into rounds, much like cutting carrots.

cutting

Step Three:

Place sweet potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water.  Bring to boil and simmer until tender when tested with a fork.  It will not take too long!

pot

Step Four:

While the sweet potatoes are cooking, whisk together the oil, salt, honey and vinegar.

dressing

Step Five:

Add the diced apple and walnuts, then toss to coat with dressing.

apples

Step Six:

Drain the tender sweet potatoes, do not rinse, and add to apple-walnut-dressing bowl.

Step Seven:

Toss lightly and add the optional Greek yogurt/sour cream/drained kefir.

stir

Step Eight:

Place in serving bowl and serve warm or chill in fridge for an hour or so.  Flavors will develop and improve with time, but that has not kept us from diving right in!

finished!

Enjoy your new favorite salad packed with healthy ingredients!


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10/24/2014

drug-laced candy

Razor blades in apples, poison in caramel coating, and drug-infused candy: it seems as though each year brings a new culinary threat to unsuspecting trick-or-treaters.

This year police departments have become exceptionally profuse in their warnings to parents to be on the lookout for marijuana infused candy, partially because of the drug’s legalization in several U.S. states.

The fear comes from the popularity of manufactured THC treats like pot-lollipops and from the private practice of adding THC to common candies like gummy bears. As there is no way to tell the difference between drugged and regular unpackaged candy by sight alone, police are warning parents not to allow their children any candy not in its original wrappers and, furthermore, to inspect even that candy thoroughly.

The media and police departments have been issuing similar warnings for decades, which begs the question: how prevalent is drug-laced Halloween candy, really?

No Evidence

Despite the popularity of such warnings, there has never been any reported cases of kids ingesting drug-laced —THC or otherwise — Halloween candies.

In fact, there is no proof to back up the decades of similar fears. While every child death on Halloween seems to be immediately attributed to poisoned or drug-laced candy, only two deaths have ever been remotely connected to such causes.

The first case took place in 1970, when five-year-old Kevin Toston died after supposedly eating heroin-laced candy. As it turns out, young Kevin had in fact stumbled upon - and ingested - some of his uncle’s heroin stash, and the family had added heroin to the candy after the fact in an attempt to hide the real source of the lethal dose.

The second case, the 1974 death of eight-year-old Timothy O’Bryan, also initially appeared to result from candy that had been laced by a stranger. In this case, the cause of death really was due to poisoned candy: cyanide infused Pixie Stix. However, upon investigation, police discovered that Timothy’s father had purposefully poisoned his son to receive the benefits of the child’s life insurance policy. Moreover, the father had endangered several other children, as he had slipped poisoned candy into their bags as well in an attempt to throw off suspicion.

So, despite prevailing urban legends, it appears the only drug-related Halloween candy dangers have been the result of a malicious or negligent family member, not a mischievous or malevolent stranger.

No Motive

What makes the THC candy claims all the more ridiculous is that there is no believable motive for such a trick.

Although increased marijuana production in the U.S. means weed is relatively cheap and easy to acquire, it's still a costly prank to play. Most marijuana purchasers do so for their own recreational use, or to sell to other adults. Why would they pay good money for pot and then give it away to children on the off chance it will be ingested and bring about a little mayhem?

War on Drugs and Headline Sales

As cynical as it may sound, the media and the war on drugs are the only entities that appear to benefit from these yearly scare tactics.

Poisoned Halloween candy makes for sensational headlines, driving concerned parents to stay glued to the nightly news, online news feed, or printed media for minute by minute update. News outlets enjoy a surefire hot topic, with very little need for actual research or journalistic integrity. Simply the imagined possibility of the threat is enough to sell the story year after year.

As for the war on drugs, children are among the most sympathetic victims. What better way to recruit parents and other adults to the war on drugs than to suggest that their innocent children may fall ill or die on what should be a fun holiday?

Such warnings will always have roots because they stem from a few related truths: drugs can - and often do - cause harm, and not everyone has your child’s best interest in mind. As such, parents should exercise reasonable caution whenever children are out in public or are offered food by strangers, not just at Halloween.

However, these scare tactics create their own dangers: unnecessary paranoia on the one hand and boy-who-cried-wolf skepticism on the other.

Practice safe Halloweening tactics this year (stay in a group, go to houses you know, etc.), but be rational about it. 

Image by PublicDomainPictures


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10/24/2014

If you were tempted by Boletus Edulis, King of Kingdom Fungi, prepare to be seduced by the Queen of the Fungi Kingdom, Chanterelles, Cantharellus cibarius

Chanterelle

Many a heated argument has occurred in determining the ranking of Boletes versus Chanterelles.  You see how I stack my cards, but many may disagree.  An amusing excerpt from David Aurora’s All That the Rain Promises and More, suggests:

"Boletes are the round mother-earth mushrooms of the forest floor.  They’re rich, they’re nutty, they’re buttery, and their flavor is the flavor of the forest. Chanterelles are more like the queen seductress: fruity, peppery, richer, more difficult to work with from a cooking standpoint, and complex, and very singular.  I don’t have a preference.  They’re so different.  It’s like comparing pinot noir and cabernet—whichever one you happen to like is better." (Jack Czarcecki). 

Delicately textured and sinfully aromatic, the trumpet-shaped Chanterelle is one of the most popular fall mushroom varieties, popping through the forest floor with an abundant vibrancy. Edible Chanterelles include: Yellow, White, Winter, Pig’s Ear, Black Trumpet, and Blue.  What a trip it would be to find a Black or Blue Chanterelle; my fortunes have been limited to Yellow and White, with an occasional wormy Pig’s Ear.

Key Features

Frills and gills are the easiest way to identify Chanterelles.  The cap is ornately frilled around the edges.  Take notice that the top is a solid surface that does not funnel inward toward the stem.  The color of species will vary.  The underside of the mushroom is gilled with vein-like features running in between; the gills are soft, blunt and well spaced, not blade like.  The stalk is the same color as the cap, and solid. Chanterelles have a soft perfume scent. 

Where and When to Find

Chanterelles are found on the ground, under conifers and oaks.  Typically, if you find one, you are going to find all.  The Queen Chanterelle is gracious to her foragers, and extends her welcoming presence much longer than the Bolete.  Chanterelles can withstand cooler temperatures, so the season continues through the first signs of frost. 

Identification of False Varieties

The one species of Chanterelle that is not recommended for eating is the Scaly Chanterelle, Gomphus floccosus.  If unfamiliar with the usual look of Chanterelles, it is easy to confuse this variety with the Yellow Chanterelle.  There are two easily distinguishable features.  Scaly Chanterelle has scales on its cap, and the cap is hollow to the stem.  A quick check to a reference book is all you need! 

Cooking with Chanterelles

I am equally giddy when cooking with Chanterelles. The flesh is firm and squeaky like mozzarella cheese, and very rarely have I ever found unwanted company dwelling inside of my to-be dinner.  To prepare, just simply rinse with water, and slice up thinly. Dry sauté with shallots or onions until all the moisture cooks out or stick a batch on the grill. Chanterelles pair magnificently with pasta dishes and wild game.  Last year I was even inspired to make Chanterelle pie with a savory cream cheese double crust.  Rich, savory, almost too filling, a little went a long way.

I do not prefer to dehydrate Chanterelles. The reconstituted version is gummy and lacking in flavor.  The better method of preservation, if you can withstand eating your full bounty, is to cook first then freeze.  Now, the mushroom can be added to any dish or reheated and processed into what the Hunter, Angler, Gardner, Cook calls the sexiest soup ever, Cream of Wild Mushroom Soup.

With descriptive words like seductress, sexy, and sinful, don’t you want to take a romp across the forest floor? 


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10/20/2014

Honey BeesWay back when, I made mead. I think it was back with Leif Erickson or some guy by that name. Of course, back then we had rotary phones, the Internet existed as ARPANET (look it up), and I was on the cutting edge when it came to computer development. I also stumbled across a USENET post for how to make mead.

Mead-Making: The Early Days

Being the total geek that I am, I got involved in brewing mead and made an amazing 6 bottles of it. I seem to recall that I made a methglyn, that is, a spiced mead, from honey and a bunch of spices – the combination lost for eternity. I think cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger root. Possibly cloves and anise, but I really don’t remember. Sadly, I never continued on and my mead making equipment disappeared over the moves.

I love mead, so it was no surprise when people at cons found out, they started having me try their own brews. One fellow, I kid you not, made jalapeño mead. It was weird. Sweet and tasted of jalapeño without the heat. Not a favorite mead, but definitely interesting.

When I moved to Montana, the first thing I got to try was our honey out here. Seems we have premium honey because of the knapweed – an invasive species that beekeepers brought into Alberta for their hives. The damn stuff is everywhere in Western Montana, but it makes yummy honey.

What clinched it was that I joined a mead group on Facebook and asked questions. The folks were kind enough to recommend that I visit a local supplier and see if I could purchase my equipment without spending a lot.

A Learning Adventure

The equipment you need to make mead is pretty straightforward. You need a food grade plastic bucket for the primary fermentation, a secondary fermentation container (often a 1 gallon glass jug or a 5 gallon carboy), stoppers with airlocks, thermometer, hydrometer, and that’s it. For the mead, you need the right type of wine yeast, yeast nutrient, and maybe Camden tablets (which work to sterilize everything).

I was able to get my food grade buckets for $1 each at a bakery (some places just give them away). I had my glass thermometer from making cheese. I then trekked down to the local wine making shop. There, I was greeted by the shop owner.

Making a Mead Friend

In the past, way back when (cue the "when I was your age..." track), when I first made mead, very few people were doing that where I lived. Almost everyone made wine or beer, if they did make wine or beer at all. I was kind of embarrassed about telling her I was going to make mead. I think it's because most people looked at me funny because nobody heard of it, even in wine making stores.

Well, evidently mead is popular enough in Montana to talk about without feeling like a total geek. (Yes, I'm a geek, but when around muggles, I need to behave like one.) Anyway, the store's owner was delighted to get me started on my project. I now have a one-gallon secondary fermenter (glass jug), a gasket to put into my food grade bucket, a package of yeast for sweet mead, yeast nutrient, a stopper and airlock, a hydrometer, and Campden tablets. (She said I didn't need the Campden tablets or the hydrometer, but I got them anyway). I already have a thermometer that I use for cheesemaking. The cost for that came to about $20. The most expensive things were the hydrometer and the glass jug.

No Knapweed?

Anyway, she and I talked and I received some rather startling news. Unless I want to age my mead for 2-3 years, I shouldn’t use the honey here in Western Montana. See, we have knapweed, and while it makes for delicious eating honey, it imparts a really sharp taste to mead which won’t mellow out for two to three years. So, she actually recommended that I pick up honey at a cheap retailer and use that honey.

Damn, I was so hoping to use local honey. I still can, but alas, not for this first batch.

So I picked up five pounds of who-knows-where clover honey and started to work.

Visiting the Farmer’s Market

I still didn’t give up on the idea of making mead from local honey. Yes, I would have to wait for the mead to settle down, but if I have mead that works in the meantime, I figure I’m good. But for the mead maker in me, I knew having an apiary was out. As much as I would like an apiary, there are some things I feel is probably best left to the people who know what they are doing. The reason is simple. I’ve swelled up with different bug bites in the past and I really don’t want to deal with bee stings in case I actually have a reaction to them. So, courting bee stings is out. But it doesn’t mean I can’t have honey. So, I went to the farmers market to talk to some beekeepers.

What I found was that most beekeepers in the area sell their honey at premium prices. The one place that sells local honey at a sane price isn’t a farmer’s market, but a local natural grocery. I can get local honey there at a decent price.

Next Up: Mead Making!

Stay tune for my insane adventures into mead making.

Maggie Bonham is an award-winning author and publisher. Visit her blog Eating Wild Montana, and her website at Sky Warrior Books. You can visit her Facebook page at Sky Warrior Books and her Twitter page at MH_Bonham.


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10/17/2014

Returning to the introductions of the sensation of wild mushroom foraging from the article Fungophobe or Fungophile, meet the king of the fungi kingdom, the Bolete. 

The King Bolete, Boletus edulis, is robust in both size and taste. Rotund like a little piggy, the Italians call them Porcinis.  Thick and meaty, the Porcini lives up to its name.  Many varieties of this species are edible, including: King, Queen, White King, Butter, Admirable, Zeller’s, Birch, Orange Birch, and Aspen.  I can only attest to the edibility and deliciousness of the King and Queen, as they are the common types that are grown nearby.

Boletes are an unmistakable type of mushroom. Fat stumpy bodies, with giant caps and a spongy under layer are immediate identifiers. The cap of the King Bolete is brown to yellow-brown, red-brown or dark red; while the cap of the Queen Bolete, (Boletus aereus) is darker brown. When fresh, the surface of the cap is firm; if old, it is fluffy and spongy. For both the King and Queen varieties, the stalk is at least 1-inch thick at top, white to brown and the surface is finely netted. The flesh is white, and does not stain blue or brown when cut. The taste is mild or nutty, never bitter.

Where and When to Find

Boletes are typically found on the ground in woods, and on the edges of the wood. Most often, they are clumped in groups. I tend to find them near conifers, but they are also located near oak and birch. Sparse patches of Boletes will be found in the Spring, but the mass crop grows in late summer/early fall when the weather starts to turn a little cooler and moisture precipitates the air.

Three types of toxic Boletes exist: Slender Red-pored, Red-pored, and Satan’s. I have never seen any of the three, but they are distinguishable by their red sponge layers and bluish stain bruising on the flesh.

Cooking with Boletes

If you have found and identified a true bolete, a happy dance is in order. Make sure the cap is firm. If it is spongy, look close for tiny white to yellow wiggly lines. Maggots! Don’t despair. I don’t prefer maggots in my mushrooms, but you know the old cliche on desperate times. You can soak the mushrooms in salt water to help remove the creepy crawlers, but that often lends to soggy shrooms. Another option is to simply pick them out. If there are too many to count, chuck it and try again. The best Porcini is one that is found as a shrump—it’s bald head puffing beneath the surface of the forest floor. Most often the shrumps are maggot free, firm, and delectable.

To clean, gently rinse off dirt from the cap, and scrape the remaining dirt from the stem with a vegetable peeler. The spongy layer under the cap needs to be removed. It can be used to make broths, but should not be consumed itself. Once the mushroom is clean, cut the cap where it connects to the stem. The cap should be sliced downward to show off the beautiful curving feature. The remaining stem can be sliced or diced.

I love the versatility of cooking Porcinis, as they are fabulous dehydrated, cooked fresh, or frozen for future use. If dehydrating, I remove as much moisture as possible then crush them to a powder added with salt, or reconstitute later with water to flavor winter dishes. Cooking fresh, I dry sauté the mushroom until all of the moisture has cooked out, and then at the end I add a dab of heavy cream. The cream immediately absorbs into the porcini and the flavor is out of this world! If freezing for future use, I dice into 1/2-inch pieces, and toss the bag directly into the freezer. No pre-cooking is needed. To cook, thaw and sauté as described above. Porcinis are an excellent meat substitute as they are hardy in and of themselves, but they also go excellently atop steak or chicken if you are more of the carnivorous type. The ideas are virtually endless; just never consume wild mushrooms raw. Our bodies do not contain the right enzymes to digest.

In warmer climates, there may be a few lingering Boletes to add to your foraging palette. Here in the Pacific Northwest, I have bid adieu to the wonderful fresh flavors on my plate, reminiscent now in powdered or frozen form. Gone are the days of 50-lb harvests, only to return in 10 months. Don’t deprive yourself any longer if you’ve never feasted on a fat Porcini. Find it, try it, love it. 


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10/13/2014

Fall Apple Orchard

Apple season is in full swing so now is high time for preserving apples for the rest of the year. The list of preserved apple goodness is dizzying, but here are ten of my favorites with something for everyone, including apple jelly, jam, pickles, dried apples, applesauce, apple butter, hard cider, chutney, leather, and pectin. Whew, that’s a lot of apples! Even if you only pick a few of these fabulous recipes to make, you’ll have apple treats well into the winter.

Preserving Fall Apple Recipes

Apple Jelly, by David Lebovitz 

Apple Pie Jam, by Mrs. Wheelbarrow

Pickled Apples, by Putting up with Erin

Dried Apples, by One tomato, two tomato

Naked Applesauce, by The Dutch Baker's Daughter 

Slow-Cooker Cran-Apple Butter, by Eating Rules 

Apple Cherry Cider, by One tomato, two tomato

Apple Green Tomato Chutney, by Blue Kale Road

Apple Pie Fruit Leather, by Tammy Kimbler

Apple Pectin for Jam, by Jeannine Ansley


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.


10/10/2014

gyro

One of my all-time favorite foods is lamb gyro. Yes, I know, it’s basically fast food. This knowledge did not stop me from serving it at my wedding.

Maybe it’s the memories of street-cart gyros in Greece—by far the best deal in Athens at just over one Euro for a soft, plump pita stuffed to the brim with meaty deliciousness and a cold Mythos lager to wash it all down—or maybe it’s just that the idea of heavily spiced strips of meat, speared, compacted, and roasted on a spit before being shaved onto plate or pita awakens a carnal hunger within me. Either way, I’m licking my lips.

I’d always wanted to recreate the gyro experience in my kitchen, but with two small kiddos and a fairly restricted budget, a giant, fire-dwelling spit is not something my home can currently accommodate.

Not to be completely defeated, I developed this home-kitchen-friendly “Gyro” recipe that fills the void and then some.

I love the flecks of tangy feta running throughout each slice, but if you would prefer a more classic look and taste, feel free to save the feta for a side salad or pita stuffer.

Feta-Studded Lamb Gyro

• 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
• 1 lb boneless lamb shoulder, cut into chunks
• 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
• 1 tsp dried basil
• 1 tbsp dried oregano
• 1 tbsp onion powder
• 1 tbsp smoked paprika
• 2 tsp kosher salt
• 1/2 tsp coarse black pepper
• 1 tbsp freshly minced garlic (or 1 1/2 tsp granulated)
• 1 egg
• 4 oz feta, crumbled
• finely chopped parsley for garnish, if desired

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly grease a Pyrex loaf pan. If desired, cut a strip of parchment paper to fit along the length of the pan with the edges sticking out a few inches over the short sides, creating “handles” for easy removal of the loaf after cooking.

Place all ingredients except feta and parsley in a food processor and process until the mixture is very well blended and looks somewhat like meat-dough, pausing to scrape down the sides about half-way through. Add the feta and pulse just to distribute.

Scrape the meat mixture into the prepared loaf pan and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 40 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into the center registers 160-165 degrees Fahrenheit. Let rest 5-10 minutes before lifting or turning out onto a cutting board (run a knife around the edges first to loosen if necessary).

Slice thinly, sprinkle with fresh parsley if desired, and enjoy over rice or vegetables or tucked into a pita with tzatziki sauce, hummus, and sliced tomatoes. Opa!

Morgan Crumm is a mother, blogger, recipe-developer, and real-food advocate based in Dallas, TX. More of her work can be found at BeingTheSecretIngredient.com, a blog about food, life, and love. 


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.

 












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