Showing posts with label Recipes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Recipes. Show all posts

Jun 28, 2016

How to Forage, Clean, & Eat Lobster Mushrooms (with Roasted Lobster Mushrooms in Clarified Butter recipe)

I confess it: I've never been much of a mushroom person. But until recently the only mushrooms I'd ever eaten were button mushrooms found in the grocery store or on pizza. And as much as I love to forage for wild foods, foraging for mushrooms has always scared me: Every year, I hear stories about people who've seriously poisoned themselves by picking and eating misidentified wild mushrooms.

But my dad-in-law is a huge mushroom fan, and he's been telling me about a friend of his who's a mushroom expert. And, Dad claimed, he had an easy to identify mushroom growing on his property that he just had to try eating. So yesterday morning, when he mentioned he wanted to go pick some lobster mushrooms and hinted he'd like me to look into cleaning and cooking them, I decided to give it a go. (I did ask, "Are we sure we can't mistake them for something poisonous?" To which he replied, "No, we can't. I even showed one to my friend to make sure I was identifying them correctly." Further research revealed there are no poisonous look-alikes to the lobster mushroom.)


What Lobster Mushrooms Taste Like

Lobster mushroom.
First, you probably want to know what lobster mushrooms taste like. I found their flavor difficult to describe, in part because it varied slightly from mushroom to mushroom. However, to me they are reminiscent of a white meat in both texture and flavor, with mild overtones of seafood - and the butter I cooked them in. My dad-in-law and husband, however, thought these mushrooms were reminiscent of steak; I suspect this was due to the way I roasted them.

I was impressed by the mushroom's texture. It was not at all mushy, but firm and meaty. Again, I don't normally like mushrooms, but I found lobster mushrooms absolutely delicious.

If you're curious about how healthy these mushrooms are, you should know they are mostly carbohydrate (about 3 grams per cup), along with a small amount of fiber and protein (1 gram each per cup) and some iron and calcium.

Identifying Lobster Mushrooms

Lobster mushrooms are unique and tough to misidentify. Look for their bright red-orange color, which looks a bit like the red-orange on lobsters. We found our specimens growing on a north facing hill where Douglas Fir and Hemlock trees grew. Much of what we harvested was mostly buried beneath moss and weeds; fortunately, the mushrooms' bright color made them easy to spot.

Most of the mushrooms we found were largely buried under moss and weeds.
Lobster mushrooms have an irregular shape - in part because they are actually two fungi. They consist of the host, which is either a Russulas or Lactarius mushroom, and a parasite called Hypomyces. The Hypomyces infects the mushroom, transforming it into the deformed, dense, and roughly textured thing we call a lobster mushroom. The mushroom's caps often have cracks in them and the mushroom has no gills. Depending upon where you live, lobsters are available most of the year, or mainly in the fall. For more tips on properly identifying lobster mushrooms, click over to Mushroom-Collecting.com.

WARNING: Never, ever eat any wild food you cannot absolutely identify. It's just not worth the risk!

We found our lobster mushrooms on a north facing hill.
Foraging for Lobster Mushrooms

For best flavor, choose only the best specimens. Look for mushrooms with the characteristic bright red-orange color, that have few cracks in the caps. Slugs and snails, as well as deer and probably other wild critters, love to eat lobster mushrooms, so try to find mushrooms that aren't nibbled on. Before cooking lobster mushrooms, cut them in half to check for freshness. If they are good for eating, the interior will be very white. If the interior is browned at all, it's best to toss the mushroom.

It's best to remove the mushrooms by cutting the stems.
As a reminder: When foraging, be a good steward. Get permission to forage on private land, and make sure you understand state and federal rules about foraging on public land. Even when foraging on your own land, use care to ensure next year's harvest. With lobster mushrooms, the best way to do that is to cut the mushroom off its stem, rather than pull it from the ground. Always leave some mushrooms exactly as they are in the ground so they can send out spores to produce mushrooms for future foraging by humans and animals.

Cleaning and Storing Lobster Mushrooms

A few minute's worth of harvest!
Once you have the mushrooms home, you can prepare them for storage or for immediate use.

Preparing for storage: Lobster mushrooms are best eaten within three days of harvesting, but may store for as long as seven days. To prep them for storage, simply brush off as much dirt as possible. A clean pastry brush or paint brush works well for this. Then gently place the mushrooms in a paper bag, roll the top of the bag closed, and place in the refrigerator.

Preparing to eat: Once you're ready to eat some lobster mushrooms, you'll need to clean them in earnest. Although many mushrooms are ruined by washing, lobster mushrooms do just fine if cleaned in water: Fill a bowl with water, then add the mushrooms. Slosh them gently in the water and let them sit for a minute, then use a fabric or paper towel to gently brush away the remaining dirt.

Cleaning the mushrooms. Eat only the mushrooms that are bright red-orange. I had to discard the mostly white one at the top of the photo because it was brown on the inside and not suitable for eating.
When you cut open a good lobster mushroom, the inside should look bright white.
How to Cook Lobster Mushrooms

There are many ways to cook lobster mushrooms, but simple recipes are the best way to get a feel for the texture and taste of this unique fungi. Here's how I cooked them.

Roasted Lobster Mushrooms in Clarified Butter

Lobster mushrooms
Clarified butter (Learn how to easily make it here. You could also use ordinary butter, though the flavor of the dish will be slightly different.)
Onion
Sea salt
Pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2.  Cut cleaned lobster mushrooms in half. For larger mushrooms, cut in quarters.

3. Place an oven proof skillet over medium heat. Once it's warmed a little, add a couple of tablespoons of clarified butter. Once the butter is warm, gently add the mushrooms, cut side down.

4. Cook the mushrooms until browned, then turn and cook another side. Season with sea salt and pepper. As you cook, the mushrooms will give off a seafood-like scent. Keep cooking, turning the mushroom until all sides are browned. Periodically, spoon butter that's already in the skillet over the cooking mushrooms.

5. Place the skillet in the oven and set the timer for about 12 minutes.

6. In the meantime, chop the onion. (I cooked two medium sized mushrooms, and used about 1/4 of a yellow onion, and had more onion than I really needed.) Place a skillet over medium heat and add a little clarified butter. Once the butter is warm, add the onion and cook and stir until softened and golden brown. Keep warm over low heat.


7. After 12 minutes, check the mushrooms. They should be well browned, looking a lot like meat. Plate the mushrooms and sprinkle some cooked onion over them. Serve immediately.


May 31, 2016

Never Buy Bisquick Again - DIY Pancake Mix Recipe

By the time I was 9 or 10 years old, I couldn't do much in the kitchen - but one thing I could do was make a batch of pancakes. This was the 1980s, and my mother (like most moms of the era) didn't make anything without a box. So in order to whip up a batch a pancakes, all I had to do was measure out some Bisquick and stir in some eggs and milk. Easy!

Today, my 10 year old daughter can't do much in the kitchen, either. Because she's petite, she has a hard time lifting filled pans and seems to have a special talent for burning herself on anything hot. She has a desire to learn to cook, though - and I have dreams of one day being able to say, "This morning, why don't you cook breakfast?" Besides, cooking is an important life skill for all children.

The trouble is, my daughter is still not very accurate at measuring. And because we avoid processed food, we make pancakes from scratch. That means I can't let her make pancakes without supervision...or does it?

The fact is, it's easy to make your own pancake mix - free of preservatives and hard to pronounce ingredients, but still very handy for a quick meal. In fact, while it's really not hard to whip together from scratch pancakes, having a mix on hand does seem to make breakfast come together a bit more quickly. Besides, a mix means the kids can handle pancake making.

To make your own Bisquick, all you need to do is take your favorite pancake recipe, mix up several batches, and pour it into a container. (More details on how to do that below.) Don't have a from scratch pancake recipe? Then steal mine!

DIY Pancake Mix Recipe
This is the from scratch recipe I use; my family prefers pancakes made with some wheat flour. We find them more flavorful, more filling, and more nutritious. However, if you prefer, you can replace the whole wheat flour in this recipe with white unbleached flour.

2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/4 cups white unbleached flour
3 - 9 tablespoons cane sugar (optional; I typically don't add any sugar)
1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 
1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt

Blend together and pour into an airtight container. I use an empty (and well washed with white vinegar) coffee container, but a gallon sized canning jar works well, too. 


To the container, tape the rest of the recipe:

Measure out 3 1/4 cups of the pancake mix. Then add:

1 1/2 cups milk or buttermilk
1 tablespoon olive oil or melted coconut oil (optional)
1 large egg
1 egg white (only needed if using whole wheat flour)
1 tablespoon olive oil (optional if using all purpose flour only, but necessary if using whole wheat flour)

Mix well. If batter seems too thick, add a little extra milk.

HINT #1: Have a reluctant cook or a child who needs a little extra help making pancakes? Make the job even easier by measuring out single batches of pancake mix into Ziplock bags!

HINT #2: I often make more than one batch of pancakes at a time, then pop them in the freezer. Any time I need a speedy breakfast, I reheat the desired amount in the microwave or on a low setting in the oven. Learn how to freeze pancakes (and waffles) here.

How to Make Pancake Mix From Your Own Recipe

If you already have a from scratch pancake recipe you love, it's very simple to turn it into a mix. Just triple or quadruple the dry ingredients. An easy peasy way to do that is to use this online recipe calculator, which allows you to decrease and increase recipes.

To find out how much of the mix you'll need for a single batch of pancakes, measure out all the dry ingredients in their single batch measurements, and place them in a bowl. Now remove the mixture from the bowl using measuring cups (start with the 1 cup size) and place them in another container, making note of how many cups the batch contains.

Finally, remember to print out this measurement - plus the rest of the recipe - and tape it onto your pancake mix storage container.



* Title image courtesy of  ポトフ



May 17, 2016

Oma's Delish Rhubarb Cake Recipe

This post contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own. Please see FCC disclosure for full information.

 A single rhubarb plant produces more rhubarb than the average family can eat in strawberry rhubarb pies. In fact, my green-stemmed rhubarb is so prolific, last year I gave away tons of rhubarb, canned plenty of rhubarb pie filling, canned rhubarb jam, canned rhubarb concentrate - and still had plenty to pop into the freezer.


Of course, (Lord willing) we are moving soon, so it makes sense for me to empty the freezer as much as possible. But, (Lord willing!) we are moving soon, and I've packed all but my most essential kitchen gear. And apparently when I was packing, I didn't think casserole or cake dishes were essential. But...last weekend I wanted to use up some of my frozen rhubarb and make a totally delish rhubarb cake to take over to my in-laws. (And there was also that casserole I bought all the ingredients for a week ago, only to discover I didn't have anything to bake it in...and, well frankly, it seems like a casserole dish is essential in my kitchen.) My solution was to hit a thrift store and pick up a baking dish on the cheap.

And then I whipped up this very easy, totally amazing, yummy rhubarb cake.

Again a reminder: My rhubarb has stalks that stay mostly green when ripe. They taste the same as red rhubarb - but this cake would be much prettier with red rhubarb stalks. With either red or green-type rhubarb, though, I'm sure this is a special treat you're going to want to try.

(Incidentally, this is not my Oma's recipe. This is actually I recipe I saw in Allrecipes magazine a few years back.)

(Oh and P.S. I'm not thrilled with my photos of this cake. But, (Lord willing!!) we are moving soon, and currently all my lighting and props are packed.)

Oma's Delish Rhubarb Cake Recipe

Coconut oil or butter
1 1/4 cups + 1 cup granulated cane sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups + 1/4 cup all purpose, unbleached flour (plus more for dusting)
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sour cream
3 cups diced rhubarb (If frozen, allow to thaw slightly before dicing, then thaw fully before proceeding)
1/4 cup butter, at room temperature
Ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13 in. baking dish with coconut oil or butter. Lightly flour. (Not sure how to grease and flour a pan? Click here!)
Grease and lightly flour the pan. (Thrift store purchase not required.)
2. In a large mixing bowl, stir together 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking soda, salt, and 2 cups flour. Stir in the eggs and sour cream, mixing until smooth. Fold in the rhubarb.
Fold in the rhubarb.
3. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish. With a spatula (or the back of a spoon), spread evenly.

4. In a small mixing bowl, stir together the butter and remaining 1 cup sugar until well blended. Stir in 1/4 cup flour and stir until the mixture is crumbly and all the flour is incorporated into the mixture.
Stir together the streusal topping.
5. Using your hands, spread the sugar mixture over the top of the batter.
Sprinkle streusel over the top of the cake batter.
Lightly dust the top of the cake with cinnamon. Bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

Yum!
Related Posts:

Canning Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling
Ridiculously Tasty Rhubarb Recipes

Jan 21, 2016

EASY Roasted Vegetables

Easy Roasted VegetablesThere's no doubt my family loves vegetables; I wrote a whole cookbook of recipes for them! But truthfully, for everyday cooking I tend to favor very simple veggie dishes. I love vegetable recipes that are super easy and allow me to focus on the main dish - without risking burning it. (I'd be a terrible restaurant chef; I cannot multi task in the kitchen.) This is one reason I've favored steaming and blanching veggies. But lately, I've been roasting most of our vegetables. Not only does this up the flavor of the veggies tremendously, but it's quick and easy and requires very little attention from me. (Yay!)

If you've never roasted veggies before, you'll be happy to know they are about as easy as it gets. However, you do have to follow some basic guidelines, which you'll learn about here. (And if you've unsuccessfully roasted vegetables in the past, read on for tips about common errors.)

How to Roast Vegetables

1. Begin by preheating the oven to 450 degrees F. Do not place the vegetables in the oven until it has reached this temperature! Place an oven rack in the top third of the oven.

2. While the oven preheats, cut the vegetables into bite sized pieces. In this post, I'm showing you some roasted broccoli we ate last week, but you can roast any vegetable. Some of our personal favorites also include cauliflower, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, turnips, radishes, winter squash, and onions. Also, don't feel you must stick to only one type of veggie; a mixture can be great, too. The main thing is, though, to cut the veggie pieces into approximately the same size, so they roast evenly. If you're roasting more than one type of vegetable, at first it's a good idea to choose veggies that are similar in density. For example, don't roast potatoes and summer squash together - because the potatoes are going to require more roasting time than more delicate summer squash.

3. Place the cut vegetables on the rimmed baking sheet. Don't overcrowd the veggies or they won't roast evenly. Try to leave a bit of space between each vegetable piece.

4. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil. Don't be stingy! It's important that all the vegetable pieces are covered in oil, since this will get them nicely browned. If necessary, adjust the vegetable pieces again, so they aren't touching.

5. Season liberally with sea salt and pepper. The salt is especially important because it help draw moisture from the veggies, resulting in a better finish.


6. Pop the baking sheet into the preheated oven and set the timer for about 10 minutes.

7. After 10 minutes, take a peek at the vegetables. If they are good and golden all over, flip them over with a spatula and close the oven door again. (If they aren't golden all over, give them a few more minutes in the oven.)

8. After about 8 minutes more (be sure to set your timer so you don't forget about the veggies and end up burning them!), check the vegetables again. If they are well browned, remove them from the oven and serve. If not, give them a few more minutes. When they are browned and caramelized, they are finished.


That's it! They don't even need a squeeze of lemon juice or a sprinkling of Parmesan or a little more salt or oil - or anything else, in my opinion. They are DELISH as is.

A NOTE ABOUT COOKING TIMES: Vegetables that are more dense, like potatoes and carrots, will require more roasting time than veggies that are lighter, like broccoli and summer squash. In addition, vegetables that are cut into larger pieces will take longer to cook and veggies cut into smaller pieces will take less time to cook. Check the veggies frequently if you're trying out a vegetable you've never roasted before.
 



Dec 31, 2015

Better-Than-A-Restaurant Beer Batter Fish or Onion Rings Recipe

From time to time, my family likes to splurge a little and have some beer battered fish and chips. And, a little more often, we like to add onion rings to my husband's fantastic grilled burgers; it puts them over the top! However, when I developed non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, I soon learned that unhealthy oils were something I couldn't indulge in - even a little bit. Sadly, nearly all restaurants cook with unhealthy oils - particularly when they fry food. So recently, I've had to learn to make our own battered fish and onion rings. At first, I was apprehensive, but it turns out it's very easy to do - and far superior to anything I've ever had in a restaurant! You don't even need a deep fryer.


Beer Batter Recipe

2 eggs
12 oz. cold beer
1 1/2 cups + 1 cup all purpose flour
Sea salt (I use Old Thompson's sea salt grinder)
Oil
2 1/2 to 3 lbs. of whatever you want to fry

A Few Notes:
  • You could probably use any beer you like. The original recipe (found in the now defunct Everyday Food magazine) called for light- or medium-bodied lager. I use cheap ol' Busch beer.  
  • Do use pure sea salt with nothing added to it, since processed salt is linked to autoimmune disorders - and salt with iodine added will taste "off." 
  • Oil choice is of paramount importance. In recent years, most cooks have taken to using vegetable or canola oil for frying. However, these are some of the most highly processed oils you can consume - and very good at clogging up your liver. On the other hand, the most commonly used healthy oil - extra virgin olive oil - is inappropriate for frying because when it reaches the appropriate temperature, it becomes carcinogenic. Refined olive oil, however, is considered an acceptable choice for frying. Personally, I use what my naturopath recommends: sesame oil.
  • Also, while you do not need a deep fryer for this recipe, you do absolutely need a decent thermometer. I prefer to the probe type (like this), rather than the stick type, so I can place the tip in the oil the entire time I'm cooking, to ensure the oil stays at the appropriate temperature.

1. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs until the whites and yolks are well blended. Whisk in the beer. Whisk in 1 1/2 cups flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt.

2. Pour 1 cup of flour into a shallow bowl. Place a wire cooling rack on top of a rimmed baking sheet and place near the stove.


To Make Beer Battered Fish:

Use cod or halibut. (I use cod and it's better than any beer battered halibut I've ever had!) I cut mine into single serving pieces, but you could do smaller strips, too. Then:

1. Fill a large, heavy skillet with oil. It should come about halfway up the sides of the food. If you have one, I highly recommend using a cast iron skillet; otherwise, any heavy skillet will do. Turn the heat to medium and place the thermometer in the oil.

2. Once the oil reaches 375 degrees F., cover the food in the flour and shake off any excess.

3. Dip in the beer batter, coating well, and brushing excess away.

4. Gently place the food in the skillet. Don't overcrowd the skillet; it's better to work in small batches.


5. Cook for approximately 3 minutes. (Begin timing when the first piece of food goes into the skillet.) Be sure to adjust the temperature of the stove to keep the oil at approximately 375 degrees F. the whole time you are cooking. The temp will fluctuate, but if it goes too low, things won't cook quickly and crisply - and if the temperature goes too high, you'll risk burning the food - and the oil will begin to smoke. For best results, make small adjustments to the temperature of the stove.

6. Turn the food over, using tongs. Cook approximately another 2 minutes, or until the food looks deep golden.

7. Using tongs, remove the food from the skillet and place on the prepared cooling rack. Immediately season with salt. If necessary, keep the food warm in an oven set at about 200 degrees F.

6. In between batches, use a slotted spoon to remove bits of batter from the oil.

So light and flaky!

To Make Onion Rings

I use yellow onions, because they are the staple in my kitchen and I always have them around - but you can use any type of onion you like.

1. Peel off the papery outer skins and slice onions into rings of whatever thickness you prefer. Place slices in a shallow bowl and cover with buttermilk. (It takes about 2 cups to cover the slices from one onion.) If you don't have buttermilk on hand, use regular milk with 1 tablespoon of white vinegar added to each cup.

2. Allow the onion slices to soak for 30 minutes. This step mellows the strong onion flavor and should not be skipped. After half an hour, remove the onion rings from the milk, one by one, and follow the fish frying steps outlined above.

Yum!


Dec 29, 2015

Most Popular Posts 2015 - and All Time!

I've been blogging at Proverbs 31 Woman for six years (and have written over 1,140 posts!), but honestly, I never have any clue which posts are going to be the most talked about or viewed. They say the Lord works in mysterious ways, and judging by what posts are most popular here, I have to agree! It's always a pretty eclectic list. I hope you enjoy it!

(P.S. Want to see more popular posts from Proverbs 31 Woman? Check out the Pinterest page "Most Popular Posts at Proverbs 31 Woman.")


Most Popular Posts from 2015:

1. Why I Don't Watch HGTV (And Maye You Shouldn't Either)

2. Free Art History Curriculum: Edgar Degas (this whole series is popular, but this is the most popular post from the series)

3. How to Kill E.Coli on Vegetables and Fruits

4. No Fail Healthy Pie Crust Recipe

5. Keeping the House Cool in Summer (With and Without AC)

6. 12 Old Fashioned Birthday Party Games for Kids

7. How to Make a SCOBY for Kombucha

8. "I Am..." A Self Worth Craft for Kids


Most Popular Posts of All Time:

1. How to Train Chickens (and Get Them to Do What You Want Them to Do)

2. Best Free Apron Patterns on the Net

3. 6 Ways to Teach Kids the Books of the Bible

4. Best Ideas for Upcycling Jeans

5. How to Clean a REALLY Dirty Stove

6. How to EASILY Clean Ceilings and Walls - Even in a Greasy Kitchen

7. Canning Pickled Green Beans (Dilly Beans)

8. Easy Refrigerator Pickled Beets

9. Freezing Apple Pie Filling


Dec 17, 2015

The Hands-On Home - a review

In recent years, a handful of home keeping books have been published, and most of them were well received. None, however, have done much for me. Generally, these books start by telling readers how homemaking can be for feminists, too (sigh), and then proceed to give homemaking 101 skills. So when I first saw The Hands-On Home by Erica Strauss, I admit I wasn't particularly interested. Then I had a chance to see the book in person.

First, I was struck by the beauty of this 388 page volume. Throughout, absolutely gorgeous photographs by Charity Burggraaf are featured. They are all printed on matte paper, but somehow the photos are still crisp and clean and vivid and feature all the beauty of food and cooking. The fat hardcover also includes a bookmarking ribbon - and the sections of the book are tabbed in different colors, making using the book easier. Clearly, the publisher put a lot of thought into this volume.

And that's good, because author Erica Strauss has, too.

In fact, I think she's produced the best home keeping book of my generation. 

Strauss' premise is simple, but uniquely modern. She understands that many of us are striving to get away from the rush-rush of being away from home and instead want invest in our homes and families. She knows many of us are trying to eat healthy whole foods and stay away from expensive and potentially unhealthy store bought cleaners. She knows some of us are even looking critically at the chemicals we lather on ourselves in the form of shampoo, soap, moisturizer, and other beauty products.

Best of all, Strauss understands that modern home keeping isn't about keeping things Martha Stewart perfect. She knows that giving us a cleaning schedule to strictly follow isn't useful, and that customizing our home keeping for our own families is really where it's at.

Strauss starts her book by covering some basics. To my delight, she begins with cooking. Strauss used to cook in professional kitchens, and she actually taught me (a decent home cook) some things I didn't know. She emphasizes avoiding food waste ("The average American family of four throws out more than two thousand dollars of food every year. Pretty expensive trash or compost - that's money not available for college savings, retirement accounts, charitable giving, or travel."). She teaches that recipes aren't really necessary, if you understand a few basic techniques: braising, pureeing soups, roasting, sauteing, searing, and yes, good seasoning. ("...Heavily salt cooking water for anything starchy like pasta or potatoes, or for green vegetables you want to blanch. When the food cooks, that salt will be pulled into the food along with moisture, helping to create an evenly seasoned product.") Because when you drop processed food from your diet, you really don't have to limit salt, after all.

Strauss also covers fermenting and canning, giving excellent instructions and advice on how to do each. (Although she does perpetuate the myth that canning jars should be sterilized before filling and processing in the canner, this isn't dangerous advice; it only adds an unnecessary step. You can learn more about this topic by clicking here.)

My favorite section of The Hands-On Home, however, is the section on home care. Here, I found information I've never seen anywhere else. For example, Strauss explains the types of dirt (properly called "soil") one might find in a house: organic, inorganic, petroleum-based, and combination soil. Then she explains which cleaners (alkaline, acid, solvents, or abrasives) work best for each. ("Many commercial cleaning products are 'all-in-one' combo cleaners. Because they are trying to be all things to all soils, they take a brute-force approach, using chemical cleaners that are often far stronger and more caustic than are necessary." And, she says, because these commercial cleaners are combining alkaline and acid cleaners together, they are actually less effective.) She also gives a useful list of each type of cleaner; for example, in the "common alkaline" cleaners section, she offers details about how to use (and, if necessary, what precautions to be aware of) baking soda, liquid Castile soap, borax, powdered oxygen bleach, washing soda, ammonia, household chlorine bleach, and lye. (Strauss wisely counsels to start with the least caustic cleaners.)

Then Strauss goes on to offer advice on how to come up with a cleaning routine that works for your family. Here she discusses the importance of routines, what chores we should consider doing daily, regularly (perhaps weekly or monthly), and seasonally. What I love most about this section is that the author makes no demanding claims about what YOU should be doing. Instead, she tells us a wee bit about her journey from messy to reasonably tidy home keeper and gives us the tools to follow her path. Namely, she suggests we envision what a comfortable home looks like to us, personally. ("What state would your home have to be in for you to be able to grab a cup of tea and a favorite book and relax on your couch, or play with your kids, or spend an entire evening with your partner, without the nagging feeling that you maybe should, should, SHOULD be doing something else?") Then she encourages readers to turn that into a list, from which they can create a truly workable cleaning schedule.

The remainder (and majority) of the book is divided up into seasons, covering cooking, preserving, home keeping, and personal care chores the author thinks you may want to tackle during Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. Here, you'll find lots of inspiration. There are from scratch recipes for bread and tortillas, ricotta cheese, mayo and salad dressing, yogurt, vinegar, and all manner of fresh vegetables, fruits, and some meats; there are instructions for making canned barbecue sauce, pickled asparagus and fermented dilly beans, mustard, salted preserved lemons, frozen caramelized onions, and jams made without pectin; there are lots of recipes for cleaning items like glass cleaner, bathroom cleaner, carpet freshener, grout cleaner, toilet cleaner, and oven cleaner; and you'll find recipes for tooth powder, soap, hair wash, deodorant, moisturizer, lip balm, bath bombs, and gardener's hand scrub. There's even advice on line drying laundry and giving mattresses and old fashioned airing.

In short, I am a big fan of this book.  

I'd even go so far as to say every home keeper should read it.


Dec 1, 2015

Our Favorite Christmas Cookie Recipes

Of all our Christmas traditions, I think my kids most look forward to putting up our nativity scene...and making cookies. And truthfully, making cookies is an easy way to say you're thinking about someone during the Christmas season. Just cover the treats in red or green plastic wrap, or make a simple homemade cookie container, and you're ready to hand the cookies over and put a smile on someone's face.

So with this sort of good will in mind, here are my family's favorite Christmas cookies to make and give away...or to scarf down ourselves.



Spiced Molasses Cookies - Oh my goodness, these are my favorite cookies ever! The original recipe calls for shortening, but now I'd recommend replacing that unhealthy fat with coconut oil. (Extra virgin ooconut oil won't impart a coconut flavor to the cookie.) Since coconut oil and molasses are both super foods, you can feel extra good about giving (and eating) these gems. (Wink.)

Melted Snowman Cookies - The kids love making these super easy, fun cookies. Just use your favorite sugar cookie recipe (or my favorite, which you can find below), a little icing, and some marshmallows. You can also use a gingerbread cookie recipe, if you prefer. (Worried about unhealthy marshmallows? You could try organic, corn syrup free marshmallows, or you could make your own, from scratch, healthy marshmallows.)



Gingerbread Cookies - It's hard to beat this traditional cookie. It's perfect for using with cookie cutters - and what kid doesn't love making a mess decorating them with icing and sprinkles? I use a very simple glaze for these cookies: A little powdered (confectioner's) sugar with just enough water stirred in to make a thin paste. Use a pastry brush to brush it onto the cookies, then add sprinkles or other edible decorations, if you like. You can also add a drop or two of food coloring to the glaze.


Sugar Cookies - Again, these are great for using with cookie cutters. I omit the salt in this recipe and use that same simple powdered sugar glaze on them as I use on gingerbread cookies.

Russian Tea Cake Cookies - A friend introduced me to these years ago. They are so pretty - and tasty!


Grinchy Cookies - Because it's just plain hard to beat chocolate chip cookies for taste - and these remind me of evergreen faith - or the Grinch - whichever you prefer! (If you want something even more Grinchy, check out these cookies. I haven't tried them, but they sure are cute!)


Double Chocolate Chip M&M Cookies - They look festive if the M&Ms are red and green, and I've yet to meet someone who doesn't like them!




Nov 11, 2015

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites Recipe

In my never ending quest to fill up my 7 year old son's tummy, I ran across a scrumptious snack: Banana chunks covered in dark chocolate and peanut butter. The whole family loves them. Best of all, these Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites are SUPER easy to make and you can easily customize them.

First, a few notes about the recipe. The bananas should not be ripe; that is to say, they shouldn't have brown spots on the peel. I use yellow bananas that are still slightly green at the stem. They should be firm when you slice them. Ripe (browned) bananas may lead to mushy, brown bites.

For the chocolate, you can really use whatever type you like. Dark chocolate is healthier, and we like it with the sweetness of the banana. I recommend choosing a brand of chocolate that doesn't use child slave labor. (You can see a list of the offenders here.)

With the peanut butter, you can use any type you like. I use "natural" style because it contains less sugar. I also use smooth peanut butter, but I think you could use chunky, if you wish.

At the end of the recipe, I discuss ways to customize the recipe, too.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Bites Recipe

2 large bananas
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 - 1/3 cup natural peanut butter (I use 1/3 cup)

1. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. If you don't have any, I think you could use wax paper or maybe even aluminum foil. Measure out the chocolate chips and peanut butter and put them in a microwave safe bowl.



2. Peel the bananas and cut into chunks. The size is up to you. Mine are about an inch long or so.


3. Place the bowel of chocolate and peanut butter in the microwave and heat for 30 seconds on high. Remove from the microwave and stir. Continue heating for 30 seconds, then stirring, until the chocolate chips are nearly melted. Then continue stirring until there are no more chocolate lumps. (If you don't want to use a microwave, just put the chocolate and peanut butter into a small, heavy saucepan and place over low heat, stirring frequently until nearly melted. Then remove from the heat and continue stirring until fully melted.)

4. One at a time, dip the banana chunks in the chocolate mixture, coating all sides. Don't worry if there are spots where the banana shows through. Place the chocolate covered chunk on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat until all the banana chunks are covered. Spoon the remaining chocolate mixture over the banana chunks, covering any areas where the banana was showing through the chocolate.


5. Pop the baking sheet in the freezer and freeze until the banana chunks are hard. Transfer to a freezer bag.
To serve, I prefer to remove servings from the freezer and place them in a dish or bowl to sit for perhaps a minute before eating. (This way, the banana chunk isn't so hard.) But it's totally a matter of preference!

Customizing the Recipe

You can add so many things to this recipe!

 * A tablespoon of coconut oil, for health and flavor. (Add during the melting phase.)
* Coconut flakes. (Sprinkle on just after covering the bananas in chocolate.)
* A different type of nut butter in place of peanut butter.
* Finely chopped peanuts, walnuts, or any other type of nut. (Added immediately after covering the bananas in chocolate.)
* Chocolate or candy sprinkles. (Added immediately after covering the bananas in chocolate.)


Thanks to The View From Great Island and Never Homemaker for giving me the idea - and a recipe to work from - for this yummy snack!

Nov 9, 2015

No Fail Healthy Pie Crust Recipe

No Fail Healthy Pie Crust Recipe
Years ago, I posted a "no fail" pie crust recipe on this blog, but recently I removed it. Yes, it really was "no fail," and yes, it tasted great, and yes it was the recipe my mother used and that I used, also, for many years. But it included vegetable shortening (like Crisco), which I have since learned is terrible for our bodies. Even so, I thought that as rarely as my family eats pie, it was probably okay for us to eat once in a while. But in fact, I've come to believe this attitude is probably what that caused me to develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. (No fun!) So many of the fats that are popular in the U.S. are really hard on our livers.

So, I experimented with a number of other pie crust recipes, and eventually landed on one that I'd used years ago, but had forgotten about. It's made with real butter - which not only is healthier, but makes a flakier pie crust. It's also the flour based pastry crust recipe featured in my cookbook Easy As Pie, and it really is easy! There are just a few little tricks you need to know in order to make this truly a "no fail" recipe:

1. All the ingredients must be cold before you start. It's most important to have ice water and thoroughly chilled butter, but I recommend chilling the flour, too. And if you use a pastry blender, chill it, also! For the butter, cut it into chunks (see the photo on the right) and wrap in a single sheet of plastic wrap. Place this package in the fridge or the freezer until thoroughly chilled (but not frozen). For the water, start with cold tap water, then add a few ice cubes to the measuring cup.


2. Never use your hands to mix the dough. Your hands will warm the butter, and result in a tough crust. Instead, use a pastry blender or - my favorite "no fail" tool - a food processor.
  
https://sites.google.com/site/proverbs31womanprintables/no-fail-healthy-pie-crust-recipe 
No Fail Healthy Pie Crust Recipe 

Makes one crust for a 9 in. pie plate. For a double crust pie, simply double the recipe.


¼ cup pastry or all purpose flour
¼ teaspoon sea salt
½ cup butter, diced and chilled thoroughly
¼ cup ice cold water

1. Put the flour, salt, and butter into a food processor and pulse until it looks like coarse crumbs. (Or, in a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.)



2. Add the very cold water a tablespoon at a time until the dough sticks together. (You may not need all the water.) Shape dough into a disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, or overnight. (If you're doubling the recipe, divide the dough in half and place each piece in its own piece of plastic wrap.)

3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough until it’s about 1/8 inch thick. To check that it’s the right size, set the pie plate on top of the rolled out dough. The dough should be 2 – 3 inches wider all the way around the pie plate. Carefully transfer the dough to the pie plate. (One popular way to do this is to wrap the dough around the rolling pin and carefully unwrap it over the pie plate.) Press the dough against the sides and bottom of the pie plate. If the crust tears, simply take a small amount of dough from the edges and press into the tear, creating a patch.

4. Refrigerate. (This helps the dough relax so it doesn't shrink when it's baked.)



To pre-bake: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Keep the pie plate in the refrigerator for at least 10 minutes. Using the tines of a fork, prick the bottom and sides of the crust all over. Place a piece of parchment paper over the crust and line the pie plate with pie weights, uncooked rice, or dried beans. This step helps the crust retain its shape. Place the pie plate in the preheated oven and bake for 15- 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and very carefully remove the paper and weights. (They will be hot!) Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. and bake another 10- 15 minutes, or until golden. Cool completely on a wire rack before filling the crust.

https://sites.google.com/site/proverbs31womanprintables/no-fail-healthy-pie-crust-recipe