Real Food

Savor the flavors of everyday real food, fresh from the garden or stored on your pantry shelves.

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7/11/2014

salad

Peaches in season. There is just simply nothing better. A ripe, juicy peach is perfection in the heat of summer and the ultimate addition to a recent simple salad I crafted. Check out this delicious seasonal recipe:

Ingredients

2-3 cups fresh greens (I used a blend of organic romaine and a purple blend I grow in my garden)
1 sliced peach

1/4 cup feta cheese

2 tbsp diced green onion

2-3 crushed pita chips (homemade or a natural brand)

olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste

Directions: Combine the greens, peach slices, onion, and feta cheese in a serving bowl. Take and crush two or three pita chips (homemade or a natural brand). This adds a delightful crunch to the salad. Drizzle with olive oil plus salt and pepper to taste. 

This salad is excellent for lunch or as a companion to a nice grilled fish at dinnertime. One nice thing about it is that it is extremely versatile. The peaches can easily be swapped out for strawberries or blackberries. Even crisp watermelon or blueberries would divine. So stop by your local farmers market or roadside stand to pick up some delicious seasonal fruit for this salad. And if you're truly fortunate, step outside to pick a couple peaches from your tree. Enjoy, friends.



7/11/2014

finished jars

The recipe is modified from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving by Kingry and Devine.

We love pickles and that does not just mean cucumbers.  Pickled okra, green beans, baby onions, beets- and  our new true love; pickled asparagus. We pick the asparagus every day and keep it in 2'" water until we have a few quarts.  Longer spears can be snapped in half and with ends placed in water and stored in the refrigerator.

Ingredients:

7 lbs asparagus spears
1 jalapeno pepper
4 cloves garlic
(optional- 2 tbsp curry paste)
3 tsp dill weed or dill seeds (your preference)
2-3 tbsp brown or yellow mustard seeds
5 cups white vinegar
1 2/3 cups water
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
4 tsp canning salt

Fill a pot with approximate 2 quarts water and bring to a boil.  This is to pre-heat your asparagus. Prepare water bath canner and jars.

solutions

Put vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a pan and bring to a boil.  

spice mix

Chop the jalapeno and garlic.  Place in small bowl and add spices (dill, mustard, curry paste) Stir till blended and set aside. Prepare your asparagus. Measure from the tip to the stem end and cut your spears to a length that will allow 1" headspace in your jars.  I use a couple marks with a Sharpie on a plastic cutting board as a guide.

nubbins

Save all your nubbin-ends- you will jar these up at the end! Place your trimmed asparagus spears in a large container that is on its side.  Your spears will stay straight when the container is full and set upright.  This helps when loading your jars.

stacked

When your asparagus spears are all trimmed to the same length and you have a container of your nubbins, you are ready to preheat your asparagus.  Pour the boiling hot water into the container to cover the asparagus as well as the nubbins in your other container. After two minutes, drain water from asparagus and begin to fill jars with asparagus spears. Tipping jars on their sides may help load spears straight.  Some sources recommend "tips down" but either way works fine for us.

filled jars

When spears are packed into jars, pack the nubbins into another jar. Divide pepper/garlic/spice mixture among the jars.

spiced

Fill jars to 1/2" of the rim with boiling water/vinegar/sugar/salt mixture. Wipe rims of jars and seal.

water bath

Carefully load jars into water batch canner and bring to a boil for 10-15 minutes, following your canner's directions.  If the vegetables are fairly thick I use the longer time.

We prefer to let the jars "age" for a couple weeks before we partake.  They are delicious off the shelf or cooled first in the refrigerator before opening. Great as a snack, nibble or side dish. You will love them!



7/11/2014

Peppergrass sq jpg

Black pepper, the ubiquitous seasoning that grows mainly on India’s Malabar Coast, is not a plant you will find growing wild in North America. But there is another “pepper” that you can find for free in almost every sunny area of parks, gardens, and even empty lots. Peppergrass, also called poor man’s pepper (Lepidium virginicum) is a native species in the mustard family. Its flavor sneaks up on you. When I give folks on my foraging tours some of the seeds to nibble, I always instruct them to chew a little longer than they might usually. At first they just give me a ho-hum look, and I know they aren’t too impressed with the flavor…yet. A few more seconds of chewing and their eyes widen and heads start to nod in appreciation. I know that they are tasting the mildly hot, mustard-y flavor of one of my favorite wild spices.

The seeds are the most flavorful part of the plant (I’m saying “seeds,” but really I’m referring to the whole edible seedpod disc). But the leaves are also edible, with a light arugula-like pungency. If you decide to use the leaves, go for the rosette of leaves near the bottom of the plant. These are up to 3-inches long and lobed. As you go up the stalks of the approximately foot-high plants the leaves get simpler and smaller. Near the top they are just narrow, linear strips an inch long or less, usually with teeth along the leaf margins. At the tips of the branching stems you’ll find the seed heads, often with a few of the minute, four-petaled white flowers on their tips. The seedpods are tiny flat discs with a notch on one side, and they are arranged along the stalks like the bristles of a brush.

The optimal stage to harvest peppergrass seeds for flavor is when they are still green . They are easy to strip off the stalks: Just hold the growing tip (where the flowers are) with one hand and gently pull downwards along the stem with your other hand. With this method, you can strip off a good quantity of peppergrass in very little time. Remember what I told you about how the flavor of peppergrass isn’t noticeable until you’ve chewed it for a while? For that reason, I don’t use it whole in soups, but either grind it or use the whole seeds in recipes that require some chewing.

You can dry peppergrass for winter use. To do this, leave the seeds on the stalks. Fasten small bundles of the stalks with rubberbands and hang them to dry someplace away from direct light or heat. In about a week, strip the seedpods off as described above. Store them in clean, dry jars for up to 6 months.

Although Lepidium virginicum is a native plant, it is not intentionally planted in parks or gardens. Instead, it shows up as a “weed.” Nonetheless, so that that the peppergrass population can replenish itself, I am always careful to leave a few seed heads on each plant that I harvest from. This not only helps the plant species, but ensures that there will be future harvests for me to find.

Peppergrass Chermoula Recipe

Chermoula is a North African marinade that is usually used with seafood. It is also wonderful on steamed vegetables and mixed into whole grain salads.

1 large clove garlic, peeled OR several underground field garlic bulbs
1 tbsp fresh green peppergrass seedpod discs
1 small hot pepper
1/2 cup fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves
1/4 – 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

Place the garlic, peppergrass, chile pepper, and cilantro in a food processor and pulse to finely chop. Scrape down the sides of the food processor bowl with a spatula and pulse again (repeat a few times to end up with a more or less evenly minced mixture). Alternatively, finely chop the garlic, chile and cilantro. Pound them together with the peppergrass with a mortar and pestle. 2. Add the salt and 1/4 cup of the olive oil and blend. You want to have a slightly liquid paste. Add more olive oil if needed. Chermoula will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

Leda Meredith teaches foraging and food preservation skills internationally. You can watch her foraging and food preservation videos, and find her food preservation recipes and tips. Her latest book is Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries.



7/10/2014

BISCUITS

One of my husband’s all-time favorite breakfasts is biscuits and gravy. It’s something we generally reserve for special occasions because - let’s face it - we’re not farmers who work a field all day and require or deserve a 2,000-calorie breakfast on a regular basis.

If we’re being honest, my husband is really the better gravy-maker of the two of us — lumps see him coming and make themselves scarce. When it comes to the biscuits, however, he’d be happy with the recipe on the back of the Bisquick box, while I steadfastly insist on an all-from-scratch approach.

Buttermilk biscuits are the gold standard, but I very rarely have buttermilk on hand. We kept powdered buttermilk around for a while, but, once opened, it simply took up too much of my all-too-scant refrigerator real estate. I’d usually improvise by adding lemon juice or vinegar to plain milk, or using plain milk to thin out a little yogurt. These techniques can all produce results almost identical to using buttermilk, though my tendency to wing it with the measurements has gotten me in trouble more than a couple of times.

So for my husband’s special breakfast this Father’s Day, I wanted to develop a simpler, more streamlined recipe that would let me skip the buttermilk and buttermilk approximations altogether.

Buttermilk biscuits typically require a combination of baking powder and baking soda to achieve the proper acid/base balance for optimal leavening. Since my biscuits would lack buttermilk’s acidic kick, I left out the soda (a base) and relied solely on double-acting baking powder (an acid-and-base mix activated by water-based liquids and heat).

The results were buttery, fluffy, and delicious.

Baking Powder Biscuits Recipe

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp double-acting baking powder
1 ½ tsp kosher salt
2 tsp sugar
8 tbsp butter (preferably cultured), cut into ½-inch pieces and placed in freezer for 10-30 minutes, plus 1-2 tbsp melted (for brushing the tops of the biscuits)
1 to 1 ¼ cups whole milk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place another large piece of parchment paper on the counter for shaping and wrapping the dough and sprinkle very lightly with flour. In a medium-to-large mixing bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Use a pastry cutter (or two knives, forks, or a food processor) to “cut in” the butter, repeatedly pressing or slicing the butter into the flour until the largest slivers or chunks of butter are no larger than very small peas. Slowly pour one cup of milk into the flour mixture and use a wooden spoon or silicone “spoonula” to gently incorporate, just until the dough comes together, adding the remaining ¼ cup of milk only as needed.  The dough should not be wet or overly sticky. It should be a little scrappy looking. Turn the dough out onto the prepared parchment paper. Lightly flour your hands and use them to gently pat the dough into a one-inch-tall rectangle, approximately 8”x6”.  Gently wrap the rectangle up in the parchment and freeze for 5-10 minutes.

BISCUIT2

Use a sharp pizza cutter to cut the chilled dough into 8 (approximately 2”x3”) rectangles. Place the biscuits on the prepared baking sheet, brush the tops gently with half of the melted butter, and bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 minutes or until puffed up and lightly golden. Gently brush the tops with the remaining butter, and serve with your favorite accompaniments. Makes 8 beautiful biscuits. Leftover biscuits may be cooled completely and stored in a zip-top bag or well-sealed container at room temperature for up to two days. Reheat leftover biscuits in a 350-degree oven for 5 minutes for best results.

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. 



7/9/2014

Homemade Triticale Chia Crackers

Crackers are the finger paintings of the homemade bread world; easy to prepare, an open canvas for creativity, and never disappointing. Even if you’ve never made a successful loaf of yeast bread, you’ll find that crackers go together quickly, are easily adaptable to whatever ingredients you have at hand, and can be a last minute addition equally welcome at a dinner party or beside a simple bowl of soup.

Basic Cracker Ingredients

At their simplest, crackers are made from flour, liquid, and fat. The flour used can be anything from unbleached white flour to barley flour to corn flour and everything in between. I chose whole-grain triticale flour for this particular recipe.

Use wine, milk, buttermilk, beer or even yogurt for the included liquid. I used water in my recipe as I didn’t want the liquid to overshadow the other ingredients. Water lends a neutral flavor and doesn’t fight for dominance like wine or buttermilk might.

Most people think that crackers must be made using butter, lard, or shortening. Indeed, it would be easy to come to this conclusion if you were reading the ingredient lists of many store-bought crackers. In fact, packaged crackers were one of the last products to get rid of hydrogenated fats. Hydrogenated fats allowed the crackers to sit on the shelf for years before becoming stale. I don’t want my homemade crackers to hang around for that long. In fact, I am a little leery of a baked product that does last that long! Therefore, I used olive oil in this particular recipe, but if you want a richer cracker, butter is always a good choice.

Optional Cracker Ingredients

We can create a beautiful painting using only red, yellow, and blue finger paint and we can create a tasty cracker using only flour, liquid and fat. But sometimes we want to jazz things up with a dab of brown or green or turquoise paint, or in the case of crackers; seeds, herbs, spices, other flavorings or leavening agents.

For this recipe I used chia seeds, salt/pepper, and a bit of baking powder. In the past I have used fresh herbs and sourdough starter in Homemade Herb Crackers and a combination of flaxseed, poppy seeds, anise seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and fennel seeds in Whole-Grain Seeded Crackerbread. Each year at Christmas I make Tomato-Basil crackers by adding tomato paste, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, and dried basil. This previous post on Mother Earth News, Homemade Cracker Recipes, combines coarse rye flour with seeds and tangy buttermilk. As you can see, the palette for cracker creation is endless.

What Is Triticale Flour?

Triticale is a whole-grain hybrid made by crossing wheat and rye, preserving the best of both plants and improving on both of its parents. Higher in protein than either wheat or rye, and containing more minerals and fiber than either wheat or rye, triticale retains the earthy flavor of rye with the softer texture of wheat.

Although triticale has been around for 100 plus years, its popularity has lagged until recently. Look for triticale flour at your local natural foods store, or it can also be ordered from Bob’s Red Mill or Purcell Mountain Farms. Triticale flour can be used to make yeast breads, but because it is lower in gluten than wheat, the loaf will not rise very high.

Triticale berries can be soaked and cooked and used much like wheat berries in soups and salads. Rolled triticale flakes can be used like rolled oats in breads, granola, or porridge.

What Are Chia Seeds?

“Ch..ch..ch..chia”. Remember that song from the old advertisement for chia pets? Yep, it’s the same thing. Come to find out, chia seeds and the sprouts that gave all those pets their plush coats, are a nutritional powerhouse. Chia is another member of the mint family, one that is native to Mexico. Although the tiny chia seeds don’t really have much in the way of flavor, they are an excellent plant source of Omega 3 fatty acids and full of lots of minerals and fiber. Chia seeds help prevent blood sugar spikes and fight insulin resistance, making them a good diet choice for anyone suffering from diabetes.

Chia seeds can be found at almost every grocery and natural foods store now. Sprinkle them on yogurt or cereal, or add to smoothies, granola, breads and homemade crackers.

Triticale-Chia Cracker Recipe

2 cups triticale flour
tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup chia seeds
1 tsp ground black pepper
4 tsp olive oil
¾ - 1 cup lukewarm water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Stir the flour, salt, baking powder, chia seeds, and pepper together in a large bowl. Add the olive oil and ¾ cup water. Mix to incorporate all ingredients, adding more water if necessary for dough to hold together. Knead a few times until dough is smooth. Let sit for 10 minutes. Grease two large cookie sheets or jelly-roll pans. Divide dough in half. Using a rolling pin, roll dough to cover each cookie sheet, rolling dough as thin as possible. Prick dough all over with a fork and cut into desired size with a pizza cutter. Bake for 20 minutes or until crackers are golden brown. Remove from oven, let cool. Break into individual crackers and store in a sealed container.

Create Your Own Cracker Recipe

It’s easy to “paint” your own crackers using this recipe. Try using a combination of barley and white whole wheat flours, or corn and semolina flours instead of the triticale. Choose poppy seeds or flaxseeds or sesame seeds from your seed palette instead of chia. Add melted butter or walnut oil instead of olive oil to give your crackers a unique flavor. Before you know it, you’ll be as cracker-crazy as I am. It’s ok though, I’ve noticed that everyone likes to eat my homemade crackers. They disappear quickly, and yours will too.



7/7/2014

Salsa

During the relaxed months of summer, I love nothing more than a refreshing dip. Easy-to-prepare fare is what I’m all about during the season of outdoor living. Perfect for the lake, a barbeque, or enjoying on the porch, this is a dip your family will love. This one makes use of green tomatoes that our garden is producing in abundance. Not quite ready to turn a delicious ripened red, the green tomato is tangy with a firmer texture. It is a garden jewel that should not be overlooked, as it is incredibly versatile. For this dip, I combined the green tomatoes with chopped avocado, purple onion, and cilantro. Fresh and vibrant, it is perfect with salty tortilla chips. So head out to the garden, pick a few green tomatoes, and try what I’m certain will become a summer staple in your household.

Ingredients

2 green tomatoes
1 avocado
½ cup diced purple onion
½ cup chopped cilantro
juice of 1 lemon
seasonings to taste (salt, pepper, garlic, and red pepper, if you like heat)

Taking a knife, slice the avocado until you hit the center. The center should stick to your knife allowing you to remove and discard it. Use your knife to run the knife vertically and horizontally across the flesh, dicing it. Remove the diced avocado with a spoon and place in a serving bowl. Dice the green tomatoes. Add to the avocado.  Add in the diced onion, cilantro, and lemon juice, plus desired seasonings. Stir to combine.

This dip is good immediately after preparing but becomes excellent after a few hours in the refrigerator. Serve with tortilla chips and a nice iced beverage. It would also be good as a non-animal protein source in tacos topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, and good shredded cheese. Enjoy!



7/5/2014

Family Farm Food Heritage

Most of us have childhood memories of food places—maybe a restaurant, or a cider mill—maybe an old watermill, thick with flour dust, or a market where the vendors gave us free pieces of fruit. As more and more cookie-cutter chain restaurants serving frozen, pre-apportioned meals spread across the US and some of the rest of the world, much is being lost: healthy food, local sourcing, personal stories, and more.

What about local orchards and groves? Old vineyards, breweries and fish markets? Whatever happened to that creaky old farm with the perfect blackberries? The big open-air city market right downtown? The ranch where you could see exactly what your future side of beef was eating?

Preserving Food HeritageAltapass Orchard Store

As we lose our connection with our food, and with the people who grow and process it, we lose much of our cultural history and identity. Concerned with what is either lost or in danger of disappearing, The FOOD Museum, which we established in 2000, is out to preserve the food heritage of the U.S. (And the world. A few years back, we wrote Gastronomie! Food Museums and Heritage Sites of France, published by Bunker Hill. It explored the food heritage traditions and museums dedicated to food in a country where food and drink truly have priority.)

Our mission to research, collect, preserve and then explain America's food heritage and historic sites likely cannot be done without help. Want to contribute? Want to delve into your local community's food heritage? Want to involve your school, your family, or a community group?

Let's talk.

Contact Meredith at The FOOD Museum website.












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