Thursday, May 26, 2011

Soaked Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

The other good thing about spring is that the oregano and chives are up (I already harvested and dried about half of the oregano I plan to store for the winter!) These are both very easy to grow, and come back year after year (so much so that you have to be careful where you plant them, or they'll take over). They are also a favorite with bees and butterflies (my herb garden is right outside my kitchen door, so I got to watch them working all summer). And of course when you have oregano and chives, it's definitely time to make pizza! Here's my favorite healthy pizza crust recipe:

Soaked Whole Wheat Pizza Crust
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup water
1/4 cup plain yogurt, buttermilk, or whey
Mix together, then let stand overnight (or at least 8 hours). Two hours before eating, knead in:
1/4 cup cornmeal (masa harina is best)
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp yeast
(I do all of the mixing with my Kitchen Aid stand mixer with the dough hook)
Let double (about an hour and a half) then roll out into 2 12-inch discs (or one cookie-sheet size pizza). Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Add toppings and bake for 12-15 minutes.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spring Means Spinach!

The spinach is growing like crazy in my garden right now (I let it self-sow last fall, so I got a very early harvest. The seeds I planted this spring are just barely out of the ground). Here's my favorite thing to make with it:

Spinach Dip
1 10-oz package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained (I actually blanched some fresh spinach I'd just harvested)
1 12-oz jar marinated artichokes, drained and chopped (I left these out, because I can't grow artichokes in Wisconsin . . .)
1/4 cup butter
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic (or more)
1/2 cup cream cheese
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1/3 cup mozzarella cheese
Salt and pepper
Saute onion and garlic in butter. Mix all together and bake at 400 degrees about 20 minutes. Serve with chips or bread.

I actually had leftovers, and also some leftover chicken breast, so I mixed them together and had this for supper tonight. YUM!

This post is part of Fight Back Friday at Food Renegade.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Easy, Almost-Instant Healthy Homemade Ketchup

So, it's almost time for the official opening day of Grilling Season (aka Memorial Day). What goes better on those grass-fed burgers on homemade buns than homemade, no-sugar, no-corn syrup ketchup! My kids love this recipe, and I think it tastes pretty close to store-bought. Definitely a winner in our family!

Two 6 oz cans of tomato paste (or one 12-oz can)
1 Tbsp honey
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup water (more or less for your desired consistency)
Mix all together well and it's ready!
(Yup, I use my stick blender for this!)

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Baking in Yellow

I just can't get over how yellow my baked goods are coming out lately - it's such a striking difference when I first put my laying hens out in their pasture pens after being cooped up all winter (if you've never heard of a chicken tractor or pastured poultry, you're really missing out!) Just look at these babies!
Pancakes, muffins - everything comes out with a yellowish tint (and I use whole wheat flour, so it's darker than normal - but you can still tell!) I took this picture when I was making Poppy Seed Torte (which is a huge family favorite, although almost no one else has ever heard of it). It's basically a graham cracker crust, with a poppy seed-infused vanilla pudding middle and a meringue top. The middle is supposed to be green. This time it ended up a very very yellowish green! ;)

Here's the recipe (in case you were interested - this is SO yummy, if you can get over the fact that it's green!)

Poppy Seed Torte
Easy Nutty Crust:
1 cup flour (whole wheat is fine)
1 cup ground walnuts or pecans (I generally use NT-style crispy nuts)
5 Tbsp butter
Mix this together until it has a crumb-like consistency (like a graham cracker crust), then press into the bottom of a 13x9 inch pan.

2 Tbsp butter (melted in the saucepan)
3 cups milk
1/2 cup flour (I use sprouted whole wheat, or just regular whole wheat, and it works fine)
1/2 cup poppy seeds
1/2 cup honey
5 egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
Cook, stirring frequently until thick (watch out - it will stick to the bottom and burn if you're not careful!) Pour over crust.

Beat together the 5 remaining egg whites and 1/4 cup honey until stiff. Spread over filling.
Bake at 300 degrees for 30 minutes.
Store in the refrigerator and serve cold.

This is a modified version of what I grew up with, which had sugar rather than honey in the filling and meringue. We often requested it instead of birthday cake when we were kids - it was such a special treat! Now that I'm in charge, we will often have this for breakfast (yes, I'm rather unorthodox in my breakfast choices!) My kids think it's extra special because we grow and harvest the poppy seeds ourselves from our flower garden (last year it was my six-year-old daughter's special job to cut off the poppy seed pods and shake out the tiny black seeds into a jar; whenever I tell her we're making this, she always lights up - we're using "her" seeds!) I find it even more special because those pretty pink flowers we harvest the seed from are the ancestors of seeds that were gifted to us by a dear friend years ago.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday.

My Babies Will Be a Week Old Tomorrow!

Ok, so the picture is a little fuzzy - these are my new layer chicks for this year - Rhode Island Reds, Black Stars (that's a cross between Rhode Island Red and Australorpe), and Ameraucanas (they're the cute stripey ones). These were hatched out by a local man in a room just off his kitchen, from eggs from his own chickens - I love local! I also love local because whenever I've gotten day-old chicks delivered through the mail, a few always die in the first few days. No fun. But whenever I've picked up my chicks and brought them home from the hatchery myself, I've never lost a single one. That's enough of a reason for me right there!

Although those chicks are so cute, I really chose this picture to show off my Mothers' Day present from my nine-year-old daughter - she made that chick feeder for me! The bottom is a cool whip container, cut shorter, with a cottage cheese container glued into it. The cottage cheese container has holes cut around the bottom to let the feed spill into the larger dish. It works wonderfully, and I love thinking of my daughter every time I see it!

Homemade Catalina French Dressing

Of course, we didn't eat those plantain leaves plain! Here's my go-to dressing that the kids like:

Catalina French Dressing
6 oz tomato paste
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup vinegar
3 Tbsp honey
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground mustard
1 tsp onion powder

Mix all well (can be done in a blender) and serve.
Makes about 1 1/3 cups.

This recipe is part of Real Food Wednesday.

Wild Salad

Ok, so that post about catalina dressing made no sense, because this post didn't get published! Sorry about that!

Inspired by this post, I went out and picked some plantain leaves (we have plantain growing all over the yard - I never knew you could eat it!) I tried just a single leaf first, to see if it was good (I didn't want to relive the "You Can Eat Dandelions" experience - ugh!) and, finding it actually almost sweet (if you can imagine lettuce being sweet, that's what it was like) my nine year old daughter and I went out and picked enough leaves for everyone to have a salad for supper.

Well, the ten year old, seven year old, and six year old wouldn't touch it, but my foraging partner and the three year old (who was too young to get to vote) ate it with gusto, and even Daddy tried it (mostly because he always tells the kids to eat everything I make, and he didn't want to be seen disobeying his own order). He was the only one who said it was stringy (I didn't find it so) and seemed put off by the slight hairs on the underside of the leaves. Honestly, I didn't notice those things at all. Perhaps I was just blinded by the excitement of trying something new; but I think I'm going to keep making these salads this spring.

I read that some find plantain to be bitter; I think this must be similar to spinach, which gets bitter when the weather gets hotter. I recall reading in Euell Gibbons' book Stalking the Wild Asparagus that when harvesting "wild" food, you have to think of those plants like you think of vegetables: they can be excellent when they're at their peak, and downright awful when they're not. You wouldn't want to eat spinach once it's sent up its seed stalk; in the same way, you'll be disappointed if you try to eat dandelion greens once they have flower buds (although I have never managed to find enough un-budded dandelions to make a salad).

All this to say that plantain salads look like a great idea for early spring greens, before the lettuce is big enough to harvest, but I anticipate that it won't be very palatable in a few weeks. We'll have to see.

Meanwhile, hooray for free food!
plantain (and a little sheep sorrel, too!)

PS - I found this on the website and thought you might be interested in the nutritional aspects of plantain:

"I commonly find plantain in gardens and lawns, along trails, in sidewalk cracks, and in similar habitats. It prefers full sun, but will grow in partial shade. It also prefers rich moist soil, but it will grow even in poor, fairly dry soils.

Plantain is edible. The very young leaves can be added to salads, or cooked as greens. The leaves do become stringy and strongly flavored rather quickly as they age, particularly where they grow in hot, dry, or very sunny locations. This does not mean they are no longer edible, only that at this point, they are better suited to making stock or tea.

Plantain is very high in beta carotene (A) and calcium. It also provides ascorbic acid (C).

The immature flower stalks may be eaten raw or cooked. The seeds are said to have a nutty flavor and may be parched and added to a variety of foods or ground into flour.

Among the more notable chemicals found in plantain are allantion, apigenin, aucubin, baicalein, linoleic acid, oleanolic acid, sorbitol, and tannin.

Medicinally, plantain is astringent, demulcent, emollient, cooling, vulnerary, expectorant, antimicrobial, antiviral, antitoxin, and diuretic. It effects blood sugar, usually lowering it. It has been used to treat lung disorders and stomach problems. For these purposes, a tea is made from either the leaves or the whole plant and taken internally. This same tea may be used as a mouthwash to treat sores in the mouth and toothaches. It may also be used externally to treat sores, blisters, insect bites and stings, hemorrhoids, burns, rashes, and other skin irritations. Alternatively, a poultice of the leaves may be applied to the afflicted area. This is probably plantain's most common use. For relief from a bee sting or insect bite, simply shred (or chew) a plantain leaf and hold it on the bite for a few minutes.

I've begun making a plantain ointment which is proving to be remarkably effective. Reports so far (and personal experience) indicate that it very rapidly relieves itching and swelling from bee stings, insect bites, poison ivy rash, and other allergic rashes. It also seems to speed healing of sores and bruises. The best part is that not only does this ointment work as well as or better than the usual commercial preparations, it's also completely non-toxic.

Plantain seeds are very high in mucilage and fiber, among other things. The seeds of a closely related species (P. psyllium) are the primary ingredient in laxatives such as Metamucil. Common plantain seeds may be used in the same fashion."

More than you probably wanted to know, right?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Garden Snapshot

Just a quick snapshot of what's up in the garden already:
Cherry blossoms on my Nanking Cherry bushes.

Daffodils in the bed next to the house (which unfortunately will have to be moved before we put the addition on this summer!)
Chives (I had some of these in my omelet for lunch!)

Pea sprouts (you can see the shadow of the tomato cages I'm growing them on this year)
Lettuce sprouts (these "volunteered" from some plants I let go to seed last fall)

Spinach (also self-seeded from last years' plants)

And, of course, weeds. I took this picture just two days after I'd weeded out all the grass out of this bed (or so I thought . . .)
But the rhubarb and lettuce looks good, doesn't it?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

You CAN color brown eggs!

I always thought brown eggs (like the ones our hens lay) couldn't be colored because they were too dark for the dye to show up -  but lo and behold, I was wrong! Look what we made last week:
Yellow didn't really work (I think those are those nasty puce ones) but I love the greens and blues and purples!

Next time I'd like to try using natural dyes (these were the cheap Paas colors we had left over from last year). The kids used rubber bands (they came with the Paas kit) and white crayons to do the letters and stripes. Maybe next year we'll get fancy and do more than one color on each egg (we were in a hurry this time).

I can't tell you how excited I am about this - it always frustrated me to go out and buy white eggs, when we generally have at least a couple dozen brown ones just sitting in the fridge!

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday.