Real Food

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


4/8/2014

ChevreCake1

Made from creamy chevre (fresh goat cheese) instead of the typical cream cheese, this surprising cheesecake is sure to please cheese lovers and dessert lovers alike.

The tanginess of the goat cheese is balanced by the incomparable sweetness of honey. Earthy vanilla bean and refreshing orange zest round out the flavor profile, while a crumbly, homemade graham-cracker crust provides the prefect contrast in texture.

Cooking the cheesecake in a water bath at a moderate temperature and allowing a slow and gentle cool-down in a turned-off oven help prevent the dreaded surface crack that wrecks the top of so many otherwise glorious cheesecakes.

I like to top mine off with a mini-mound of dark chocolate chips, but chocolate sauce, cajeta, or macerated berries would also make delightful toppings.

Fresh Chevre Cheesecake Recipe

7 oz graham crackers, preferably homemade
2 tbsp melted butter (plus extra butter for the pan)
2 tbsp brown sugar or coconut palm sugar
10.5 oz fresh goat cheese, room temperature (set on the counter for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours)
1 tsp orange freshly grated zest (be sure to avoid the white pith)
Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
1/3 cup honey
2 large eggs, room temperature
Dark chocolate chips for serving, if desired

Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a 6-inch spring-form pan. Wrap the pan tightly in a double-layer of aluminum foil, pressing the foil into place just underneath the lip of the pan so that the foil does not extend to the inside. Make sure your top oven rack is positioned in the center of your oven, and preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the graham crackers in a food processor and process or pulse into fine crumbs. Add the melted butter and brown sugar and process just to combine.

Press the crumb mixture firmly into the bottom and 2 to 3 inches up the sides of the prepared pan. Set aside.

 ChevreCake4

Using an electric stand mixer for best results, beat the fresh goat cheese, along with the orange zest and vanilla-bean seeds, until smooth. Add the honey and beat until smooth.

ChevreCake2

Add one egg at a time, beating well to incorporate after each. Don’t worry if the mixture looks just a bit curdled—this is normal.

Pour the goat-cheese mixture into the prepared crust, and place the pan in the center of a tall-sided roasting pan large enough to accommodate it. Use a pitcher to carefully pour enough warm water in the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the foil-wrapped pan, making sure not to splash water into the cheesecake. 

ChevreCake5

Carefully place the roasting pan in the oven and bake at 325 degrees for 55 minutes. Turn off the oven, and allow the cheesecake to remain in the oven as it cools, about two hours.

Carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven, lift the spring-form pan out of its water bath, and place on a dry kitchen towel. Before transferring the cheesecake to the fridge to cool completely and store, place a dry paper towel over the top to absorb any excess steam that may be released and cover with plastic wrap or foil. Chill at least one hour or until ready to serve (up to 5 days).

ChevreCake6

A mound of dark chocolate chips on top makes an excellent and hassle-free complement to this sweet and tangy twist on cheesecake. 

ChevreCake3



4/7/2014

whole grain breadHappy Spring everyone, where Spring has sprung! We’re still waiting. Yet, Easter is less than a month away, and hopefully the Easter Bunny can pick his way amongst the snow banks. I do have a number of important items for you, as in the coming future, you will be treated to my brand new website. This one will be local to the region I live in (eastern Ontario), but maybe it will encourage some of you to visit me, online and hopefully in person. I’d love to meet you. Lots of new items “on the menu” with new classes with new experiences. Lots more photos too, and interviews with local restaurateurs, shop owners, farmers, etc. Stay tuned for further updates.

On to the bread: This is a real twist on whole grain breads, a most unusual (to me) and delicious one. You’d have to call it bread made with spent grains. Let me explain. I had another one of my food adventures again, and one never knows quite where we will end up. We had lunch in a gorgeous new restaurant in Perth, ON, which featured a locally brewed beer. Bob (the other half) was feeling a little down after a trip to the dentist, so once we got back to the car, I thought, why don’t I try and find this brewery, the Perth Brewing Co. I had sort of an idea where it was, and we were off. Naturally, we did find it without any difficulty, and upon entering, met a gentleman named Terry. He provided a number of samples of brews, which were all excellent. Of course, we had to buy some. He was also surprised to learn that I blogged for MOTHER. He then told me he used to love the magazine, fell out of sync with his subscription, and thought MOTHER had gone out of business. I was most pleased to inform him that not only are they still in business, but in something like they’re 44th year!

Baking Bread With Brewing Grains

Terry then had a little gleam in his eye, after I passed his sensory test (taste and smell, what flavours can you pick out?). I told him why: I’m a baker. Scents like caramel and vanilla are basic for me. With that, he mentioned something about spent grains, and took me in the back to get me a sample. These are grains that have been used in the brewing process, mostly barley, but he said about 20% wheat as well. I took them home, thinking, start with an oatmeal bread recipe as that is most closely allied with a quantity of whole grains going in the mix. I found a basic oatmeal bread recipe, but it no longer exists in its original form. No recipe ever does with me. I subbed in the grains for the oatmeal, did away completely with the honey, maple flavouring, and brown sugar, and put in maple syrup. Too much I thought, but it was in there. 

It kneaded quite nicely, and baked beautifully. It had a very nice crumb, light brown in colour, but fortunately, after the amount of syrup I put in there, wasn’t too sweet, go see the photo. It was just right, with the chewy grains giving a little bit of heartiness to it. The cinnamon in it was an excellent touch. All in all, I’d have to say this would be great bread for a ham sandwich or toasting. Or just plain. Butter is optional. It’s been served with soup and salad, or toasted for breakfast. It’s not heavy or dense at all. Incidentally, if you don’t have access to spent grains, go back to the oatmeal, or perhaps barley flakes. Can’t speak to the latter, as I haven’t tried that. I’ll leave that up to you.

'Spent' Grains Bread Recipe

So without further adieu, here is the recipe:

About 2½ cups boiling water
1 to 1 ½ cups spent grains
4 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon instant yeast (I didn’t have any, traditional worked fine.)
1 ¼ cups whole-wheat flour
3 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour (more or less)

The method for this bread is different, but worked really well. You will need a fairly large bowl, because everything is mixed in the bowl, and the recipe makes 2 loaves at a time. Put the grains in the bowl, and add the boiling water. Add the butter, syrup, salt, and cinnamon. Stir. Let cool until nicely warm, otherwise, if you add the yeast now, it will kill it. The little beasties like warm but not too hot. 

Once cool, add your whole-wheat flour, the all purpose flour, and the yeast. Stir well. When combined, turn out onto a floured board and knead 5-7 minutes, until it comes together and is smooth. Grease another bowl twice the size of the dough, put dough in, turn to grease the dough and cover. Plastic wrap works, but in an upcoming blog, I will tell you about these great silicone covers you can buy. Voila! No more need for plastic wrap. Let rise for about an hour, until doubled. Punch down, knead briefly, divide in half, and place in 2 greased loaf pans; I used 8X4’s, but I also used some large ones, 9X5’s, and they worked well too. Let rise until the dough is above the rim of the pans, about ½ “ (for large) or 1” (for small). Bake in a 350 F oven for about 35 or 40 minutes. You can insert an instant read thermometer to test for doneness; it should be about 190 F.  (A new trick I’ve learned, very foolproof way of determining doneness.) They should be nicely browned on the top, and sound hollow when tapped. Cool a few minutes before turning out. Makes 2 loaves. 

PS: The aroma in your kitchen will be overwhelmingly fantastic!



4/7/2014

Hot-cross buns, full of tasty dried fruits and spices, are a long-time British Easter tradition. Although I am not British I am from New England and grew up considering many British traditions my own. Thus, I have been making hot cross buns every spring for 25 years (ok – maybe a few more years than that, but who’s counting?).

This particular recipe is not your usual hot-cross bun recipe. It's much much better. All of the other recipes from past years, the ones with vanilla or citron or just a touch of cinnamon, faded into the background like Dorothy’s Kansas, while these hot-cross buns are the new, exciting, colorful Oz.

Hot Cross Buns

Fruit And Spices For Hot-Cross Buns

Most recipes call for plenty of warm spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. For this version though, I used ground mace. Mace is made from the lacy covering of the nutmeg and has a less pronounced, but just as unique, flavor.

Instead of the usual purchased candied fruit peel, I made my own Candied Meyer Lemon Peel. Candied orange peel would be good here, too.

And I used currents instead of raisins. Currents are sweet as raisins, with just a touch of tartness. They taste like a cross between raisins and lingonberries. Unlike raisins, currents really come into their own once they are cooked. Save the raisins for another recipe – this one lets the currents shine. And to top the rolls off, the icing was made using orange juice instead of milk, for an added boost of flavor.

Making A Sourdough Starter

Of course, what really sets this recipe apart from its numerous siblings is the use of ripe sourdough starter. Hot-cross buns are traditionally made with commercially prepared yeast. However, sourdough starter makes the buns sing with flavor. Do make sure that you use a starter made from white or Kamut® flour. A rye or whole-wheat starter will overpower the fruit and spices.

There are many ways to make a sourdough starter. I personally prefer to use the method found on my website Make Your Own Sourdough Starter. Over the years MOTHER EARTH NEWS has published several articles about making your own sourdough starter, including Creating Homemade Sourdough Bread From a Starter Mix, and a previous blog post, A Beginner’s Guide to Sourdough.

Sourdough Hot-Cross Buns Recipe

2 cups of ripe sourdough starter
3/4 cup milk
1 egg
5 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
3 1/2 – 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp ground mace
1/3 cup chopped, candied Meyer lemon peel
1/3 cup currents

Glaze:

1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp orange juice

Making The Hot-Cross Buns

In a large bowl or stand mixer bowl, combine the sourdough starter, milk, egg, and melted butter until well mixed. Add the flour, brown sugar, salt and spices and knead until dough is combined. Add currents and candied lemon peel. Knead until dough has a satiny sheen; 8-10 minutes by hand, about 5 minutes when using a stand mixer.

Divide dough into 12 pieces. Roll each into a ball and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover and let the buns rise in a warm place 2 – 3 hours. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush the tops of each bun with an egg wash made from 1 beaten egg and 1 Tbsp water. Snip the top of each bun with kitchen scissors if desired.

Bake for 20 – 30 minutes or until well-browned.

Remove rolls from baking pan and let cool on a rack. When the rolls are completely cool, combine the powdered sugar and orange juice and drizzle over the rolls, forming a cross.

Note: These buns will make the whole kitchen smell wonderful while baking. They are best served the same day as they are baked, but can be also be frozen (before adding the icing) and served at a later date. Keep the dough as soft as possible and don’t over-knead it. Buns, rolls, etc. don’t require as much mixing as a loaf of bread.

Does your family have an Easter or Passover baking tradition? Do you bake your own breads from an old family recipe or do you visit a favorite baker for holiday breads?



4/7/2014

Grass Fed Beef Jerky

Grass-fed beef makes great jerky.  The lean mineral flavor of the beef really comes through. Two jerky recipes are favorites in our house, one with maple, mustard and smoked salt, the other with garlic, chili paste and dark soy.  The smoked salt adds major dimension to the meat with a pleasant sweet-sharp tang from the maple and mustard.  The dark soy sauce, which is like soy molasses, makes the jerky sweet and savory, with a nice kick from the chilies.

Many dehydrator books will tell you that you "must" pre-cook meat before you dehydrate it at 155 degrees for safety reasons.  My preference is the more traditional route. I dry my raw beef at 90 degrees, which to my taste, preserves the real flavor of the meat. Is there a risk?  Some.  I think it’s the same as eating raw eggs. The difference is that I know where my beef is from, how it was raised and processed. Salted, thin slices cure and dry quickly, minimizing exposure to harmful bacteria. If you’re really concerned, I recommend chilling the meat completely, even partially freezing it, the searing all sides in a blazing hot cast iron pan. This will kill off the bacteria on the outside of the meat (where most bacteria reside) while leaving the interior raw. Then proceed with the recipe.

Teriyaki Garlic-Chili Jerky Recipe

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs grass-fed or lean beef (like round or sirloin)
3 tbs honey
1.5 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, grated
1.5 tbs dark soy sauce
1 tbs light soy sauce
1 tbs garlic chili sauce
1.5 tsp vinegar

Mustard-Maple Smoked Salt Jerky

Ingredients:

1.5 lbs grass-fed or lean beef (like round or sirloin)
1 tbs smoked salt
3 tbs grainy mustard (I used my Stout Beer Mustard)
3 tbs dark maple syrup
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

Remove all visible fat and connective tissue.  The fat will go rancid if left on the meat.  Cut the meat into 1/4 inch thick strips.  I made mine about 4 inches long, 1 inch wide.  They shrink as they dry.  The length was purely based on the cut of beef.  If you cut with the grain you'll have chewier strips, cut across the grain will be easier to chew.  Add all the marinade ingredients to a bowl, mix, then add the beef.  Using your fingers, work the marinade throughout the meat.  Marinate over night in the refrigerator.

The next day lay the strips on drying mat for the dehydrator, or on a rack set over a cookie sheet for the oven.  Set your dehydrator for 90 degrees.  If using the oven, set it on the lowest temp.  Leave the door open if the temp is high.  Dehydrate the beef until it is dry and stiff.  Mine took about 10 hours over night.  Store in an air tight jar on the shelf for one month, or in the refrigerator or freeze for even longer storage.  Makes 2 dry quarts.

Making Grass Fed Beef Jerky



4/3/2014

Natural Leaven LoafLast week I successfully baked my first natural leaven loaf.  After weeks of trial and error, and sticky jars, and questions (some may even say interrogations) about how long my experiments would be kicking around the kitchen, I seemed to have read up enough, put this and that tip together and voila, the wonderful bread you see here.

Every piece of advice I came across seemed to be someone who has had starter that was three generations old and explains his/her eight day, 47 step process to great bread as if it were nothing.  While there is a lot of history, knowledge, and experience within the natural-leaven bread community, starting out, getting it right, or asking for help can seem intimidating. 

Lessons Learned From Baking with Natural Yeast

As a newbie, I feel I can provide some tips and guidance in an understanding manner to those thinking about trying to bake bread with natural yeast. Here’s what I have learned from many failures and first success:

1) Don't make the container airtight - I tried mixing equal parts flour and water in a Pyrex container with a lid that sealed. Apparently, air flow is needed to give the bacteria a chance to breathe. The first time I tried in a different container (a mason jar with a loose lid), I was successful.

2) Nothing is dead, a couple feedings will help revive it -The sign you want to see to know the bacteria is alive and well is plenty of bubbles on top of the mixture.  I have seen plenty of non-bubbling dough, due to suffocation and /or neglect.  Know that nothing is a lost cause.  If a mixture looks dead, move it to a different container and feed it an eighth of a cup each of flour and water once a day. After a few days, life will begin again.

3) Creating natural yeast sounds like a lot of work, but it's not –As I mentioned before, some recipes or blog posts make it sound like natural yeast is a very involved process. It really isn't. Something is required every day for a few days, but that "something" is mixing a scoop of flour and some water into a container.  All told, it should take the average person about a minute to accomplish this. Not really very daunting.

4) Put the container in a visible place so it's not forgotten - Seeing your project regularly will work as a reminder that the dough needs to be fed daily.  I personally have found that putting it in the fridge (which is absolutely fine to do) will guarantee that the dough will get swept back, behind the gallon of milk, and left for dead.  Leaving it out on the counter or a cabinet that’s opened frequently assures that at some point during each day, there will be that aforementioned one minute needed to add what is needed.

Any other natural-leaven beginners out there with tips for other beginners?  Feel free to share them in the comment section.  I hope these tips helped troubleshoot someone’s own attempt, or show that experimenting and failure in baking is all part of the fun, or let someone know that creating natural-leaven bread is not impossible… it just requires some trial and error.

Special thanks to Henry Wills of Humble Bread in Prince Edward County, Ontario, for inspiration, advice, and samples of what natural-leaven bread is all about.

Thanks for reading what I wrote…



3/28/2014

Fresh eggs daily, two dozen in all, thanks to our new to us hens.  Orcharding, poultry, gardening, root cellaring books and back issues of Mother Earth News.  Dated lists of seed starting and homestead projects. Budgeting for fence and water pipe.  Pantry clean out meals and those bottom of the freezer bags from the end of last season.  Spring has sprung in North Central Idaho, and with it a mix of indoor project completion and manic outdoor planning.  

The sunshine has given way to earnest planning and budgeting.   Trying to coordinate sprouting seeds indoors, last frost, rental tiller availability and cash flow to put up our garden fence is a skill set I am working on mastering.  No point in planting until the fence is in, but first we need the money for the fence.  I know none of our projects is truly life threatening, we live an hour away from an amazing co op grocery and Costco.  I want to do it all and now.  I fantasize about pruning the orchard amongst a huge flock of layers, broilers and heritage breed turkeys (coop is almost finished!)  I resent my dryer and gaze out the window fantasizing about a clothesline, yes a clothesline.  We agreed that the huge garden, fruit trees and berries, bees, chickens, turkeys, clothesline, woodshed and possible root cellar would be more than enough this year.  

I cannot lie, I secretly harbor dairy goat and pig fantasies.  How much would Dom lose his mind if I asked for a couple of lean to's off of the poultry house for a pig and milking goat?  I don't plan on much travel at all this year, I am living in my dream destination-imagined goats and all.  Why not just jump on in?!  I have been known to grossly underestimate a  project, and am famous at least in my own family for thinking I can paint almost any room in a couple of hours.  However, I am good at sticking it out and seeing most all underestimated projects through.  So if I research and acquire a porcine project or star thistle eating cheese machine...

pie

The point of all this was just to share the mania of homestead life, in the establishing phase.  We have a thousand projects to go, many will be repeated annually.  The infrastructure of our home and land is being established.  Our nest being built.  To do things right, enjoy the process and ultimately work towards our goals while learning all the while is what this trip is about.  My point wasn't to list our work ahead or grandiose desires for home dairying (can you use grandiose and dairy in the same context?)  It was to say that in the chaos, frustration, successes, and forward momentum some 'homestead' pleasures buoy you.  The exhaustion of moving, gardening, closing on home sales and purchases and annual canning glut last summer gave way to the hasty putting by of end of season produce.  When I could not would not can one more peach after 56 quarts put by and we all were literally pooping purple from the onslaught of wild blackberries, my little homesteaders heart still beat 'waste not want not.'  So I have a few large Tupperware tubs of hastily peeled and sliced peaches and wild blackberries.  I did not prep these other than to peel and slice the peaches and rinse the berries.

Homemade Pie Crust for Spring Inspiration

Thankfully amid the madness and busy of spring I made quadruple batches of pie crust and froze grapefruit- sized lumps in the freezer.  So this weekend I thawed a lump while cleaning and finishing winter interior painting.  I folded a tub of semi thawed fruit with about a cup of each sugar and flour, a cap full of organic almond extract and a healthy shake of cinnamon.  I protected the crust and baked  at 375 degrees for about 50 minutes, then without crust protection for another 30 minutes.  Heaven! 

Every time I feel pulled in ten different directions, hopeless about finishing a project not to mention the 6 projects we need to knock out this week, 15 this month, etc. I just take a moment and a forkful of pie.  The taste is sunshine. The feeling is yes this is exactly where you need to be, you will get it all done, and next year this time you will taste the fruits of your labor.  Baked in a flaky crust as all labored for fruits should be cloaked.  This pie is my touchstone, of this land and these hands, all that I know as important and right is right here in this bite.  Healthful delicious food, environmental and social responsibility, self reliance, love for my family, home and planet.  One Flaky sweet bite at a time, reassurance and hope.  This is the place and life for me, and it's perfect that pie is my reminder of that.  I might have a lattice crust around my heart.

Angie's Pie Crust Recipe

 

4.5 cups flour (I use unbleached organic white)
2 cups butter, room temp. (or your preferred shortening-cool room temp & not mushy)
1 Tbsp. organic sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder

Combine above and cut in shortening until crumbly texture, use pastry blender or two forks. Mix 1 egg, 1/4 cup lemon juice (or white vinegar), 1/2 cup cold water. Mix wet into dry.  Can add up to 1/2 cup more cold water tablespoon by tablespoon if it's too dry.  Mix minimally to combine until a rollable dough is formed.  I wrap grapefruit sized chunks in plastic wrap, label and freeze.  Divide into 3-4 hunks depending on your crust intentions and enjoy! Yield 3 lattice crust pies or 4 single crust pies or quiches.



3/21/2014

baked goods

Being a retired beekeeper, I’m very much into cooking with honey. With several gallons always on hand, I add it to many different foods. Since honeybees are on the decline, honey has become a more precious commodity, and not one to take for granted. (The honey bees aren't yet on the increase, either, and I'm closely watching the battles over resolving the CCD problem and the related neonicotinoid-use issue on farms crops.)

Having put in my usual enthusiastic plug for honey, I must caution that there are times when putting honey in ANY food is taboo — mainly when children are under one year of age. Even if the honey was produced completely organically and with no processing, it can still be dangerous.

Why Infants Should Not Eat Honey

Most people have become aware that infants should not eat honey. There is always a chance of Clostridium botulinum (botulism) bacteria lurking in honey and the problem comes when these bacteria grow in the infant’s intestinal tract. Babies with infant botulism are constipated and have difficulty holding up their heads and sucking. It’s quite dangerous. Because honey can contain the C. botulinum bacteria, responsible beekeepers usually add to their honey labels that no form of raw or pasteurized honey should ever be fed to infants until they are one year old.

(In contrast, botulism in adults is caused by eating food contaminated with the toxin that the bacteria produce. And, that is a life-threatening situation, too, but not usually caused by eating honey.)

Okay, but you already know not to feed honey to infants, right? You don’t hand the baby a spoonful of honey to suck on. But, did you know that this cautionary warning includes baked foods made with honey, such as graham crackers, or muffins and cookies made with honey? If you carefully read food ingredient labels, you may be surprised to find honey in more baked goods than you thought. Too, honey is often added to yogurt and other foods. The same cautionary statement applies. When it comes to your child's health, extra vigilance could save its life. This means that even your favorite homemade oatmeal cookies made with added honey can't wind up in the baby's mouth. Save them for consumption by older children and adults.

It’s maddening that something so good and healthy and natural as organic honey could hurt your baby. But this situation sure lends credence to the modern-day mantra “read the label," doesn’t it?












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