Posts tagged: experiments

Make Your Own “Green Smoothie Frozen Concentrate”

By , July 5, 2011

Green smoothie frozen concentrate made with lettuce, spinach, and lambsquarters.

So I peeked into my remaining three bags of lettuce from the garden this year, and discovered that they were starting to go south and needed to be used right away. I separated out the slimy leaves, washed the rest, and had an idea! I’ll make green smoothie frozen concentrate cubes!

To make the concentrate:

1. Pour some kefir, water, juice, or watered-down yogurt into a blender. You won’t need too much — just enough to get everything to blend together smoothly.

2. Add lots of greens. Ideas are: lettuce, spinach, beet greens, chard, lambsquarters, purslane, mint, parsley, cilantro, edible flowers, etc. (Kale is the only one I don’t like in a shake, but if you do, go for it!)

3. Start the blender and let it run until you have a uniform slurry.

4. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze.

To use:

When you’re ready to make a green smoothie, thaw out some cubes; I usually use 2 cubes when I make a shake for myself. Add the green liquid to your blender containing the rest of your smoothie ingredients — I like to use fruit and kefir with some ground flax seed and vanilla extract. Blend & enjoy. Yum!!

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If you’re curious about green smoothies, you might check out the book Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko, or the related website. My friend Sasha recommended this book to me, and I loved it! While I don’t agree with absolutely everything in the book, I’m glad I read it.

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Homemade Pumpkin Pie Fruit Leather

By , March 14, 2010

I think it’s time for another recipe! It’s been a while since I’ve posted one. I’m still off work for another few days as I continue to recover from my foot surgery, so I’ve got extra time at home which is wonderful! I can’t be in the kitchen all day since I need to continue to rest a lot and elevate my foot, but I could never completely stay away from my kitchen :) — crutches or not — so I’ve been experimenting here and there with some simple recipes.

Today’s recipe for homemade fruit leather is definitely simple! I used to eat fruit leather all the time when I was younger, but I’d pretty much forgotten about it, even though it’s a yummy & very portable snack. Recently I came across the idea of homemade fruit leather, and decided to experiment using a can of pumpkin that’s been sitting in the back of the pantry for over a year (or maybe two…). Voila! Pumpkin Pie Fruit Leather. It’s so good that I had to restrain myself from eating the whole entire tray, and it’s incredibly easy to make!

If you don’t have, or don’t want to use, canned pumpkin, just substitute cooked pumpkin (or winter squash) puree.

Also…if you don’t have pumpkin, you could use this basic method to make fruit leather from cooked/pureed apples, pureed peaches (no need to cook them first), plums, berries, bananas, or a combination of fruits — and with these fruits, there’s no need to add any spices unless you want to! If I have an abundance of tomatoes this year, I think I’ll even try it with tomatoes. Anyway, here’s the recipe:

Pumpkin Pie Fruit Leather

2 cups (or one 15-oz can) cooked pumpkin or winter squash puree

1/4 cup honey

1/4 – 1/2 tsp cinnamon (depending on your taste…I used a 1/2 tsp because I like the bold taste of spices)

1/4 – 1/2 tsp ginger powder, optional

1/4 tsp powdered cloves

1/8 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 200* F. (If you have a dehydrator, you can use it for this recipe. Dehydrate at 140*.) Mix all ingredients well. Generously oil a cookie sheet (really slather the oil on…it’ll make it much easier to peel off the leather!), or use parchment paper. Using a spatula, spread your mixture on the cookie sheet, taking the extra time to spread as thinly and evenly as possible; this took me a few minutes to get it just right. Spreading it as evenly as possible is important because otherwise some parts will be over-done and other parts will be under-done (which will probably happen to some extent anyway, but at least you’ll be minimizing it).

Spread the mixture as evenly and thinly as possible on the oiled cookie sheet.

Put your cookie sheet into the oven and let it “dehydrate” in there until the fruit leather is pliable…not wet, but not hard & brittle either. Mine took about 2 1/2 hours to get done; you’ll want to check on yours every now and then. A little bit was over-done and I had to let the cookie sheet cool a little before I could pry it off, and another little patch was under-done, so I just put it back in the oven for a little while. But most of it was easily peeled off the cookie sheet with a flexible metal spatula; this whole process would probably be even easier if you use parchment paper.

The fruit leather is done.

Peel it off the cookie sheet with a flexible metal spatula. If it's not over-done, it should peel right off with no problem. If it's under-done, it will be too wet to peel off...so just pop that part back into the oven for a while.

Store in a glass jar. I stored mine in the fridge, but you can also store it at room temperature.

UPDATED Kitchen Tip: Keeping Olive Oil Fresh with…Water?

By , November 30, 2009

Remember when I posted this in August? Maybe not? Just as well, because I’ve updated it. Scroll down to the “Update!” section to read how I got the water out of the bottle so I could use up the last bit of olive oil. ;-)

Storing Olive Oil with Water

We’ve all heard that heat, light, and air cause oils to oxidize and go rancid. I used to keep my olive oil in the fridge, but it would solidify and I had to plan ahead if I wanted to use it. This was too inconvenient, so I stopped doing it. Recently, I “upgraded” and bought a more expensive Tuscan olive oil at Costco that came in a dark-colored bottle. The dark color prevents the oil from light exposure (especially at the store with all its bright lights). To lessen the oil’s exposure to air, I’ve started topping up my olive oil bottle with water!

After I use any oil, I pour more water into the bottle so that it’s always filled to the top (where there’s only a tiny bit of air between oil and cap). At first, it felt really weird to pour water into the bottle. But since they “mix like oil and water” :-), there’s no problem because the water just settles to the bottom. When using the oil, I just pour carefully so that no water comes up to the surface. I’m wondering what’ll happen when I get to the bottom of the bottle, when there’s only a bit of oil left. Maybe just saute something with it, and let the water boil off? If I ever do get to the bottom of this giant bottle, I’ll let you know what happens.

UPDATE! Okay, I did eventually get to the bottom of the bottle. Toward the end there, I had to pour much more carefully so that the water didn’t come out with the oil. Annoying. When I’d had enough of that, I thought of a clever little way to get the water out: put the bottle in the fridge…on its side…tilted downward, as seen below. Last night’s dinner, covered in foil, works great for supporting the bottle:

Separating oil from water in the fridge

Fridge-eye view. The oil has solidified and I can now just pour off the water.

That way, the oil solidifies from the cold and you can open the cap and pour out all the water! Smart huh. Be sure to set the bottle so that it’s tilted slightly downward; that way, the oil doesn’t solidify and block the opening of the bottle.

Okay, back to the original post:

I’ve read conflicting information (are you as tired of conflicting information as I am??) about storing olive oil in the fridge. Some say yes, some say no. Here’s one perspective, with some interesting FAQs about olive oil, “quality” standards (or lack thereof, it turns out), and storage:

http://www.longmeadowranch.com/Food/About-Olive-Oil

I think I’ll transfer my bottle to a cabinet under the countertop, but away from the stove. I figure I’ll be covering all the bases: keeping the olive oil cool (near the floor, away from the stove), in a dark place (in the cabinet), with minimal air exposure (if I keep topping it up with water).

Do you have a “best practices” method for storing your olive oil? I’d love to know what it is!

Make Your Own Bubbies Pickles

By , November 15, 2009

Have you ever had Bubbies? It’s the brand against which all other pickles are judged, at least in our house! My hubby is a huge fan. And if you like garlic, you’ll probably appreciate Bubbies, too. They’re not made with vinegar, but rather are made the old-fashioned way, though lacto-fermentation in brine.

So for my very first attempt at homemade pickles, I turned the Bubbies jar upside down, identified which spices were in there, selected what looked like a good lacto-fermented pickle recipe, and hoped for the best as I sacrificed a couple of humongous garden cucumbers for the Great Pickle Experiment.

The results were shocking…in that I was shocked I had made something so tasty and convincing on the very first try. I certainly had expected the worst. In fact, I thought Hubby was being sarcastic when he tried the first one and told me they were awesome. He couldn’t stop talking about them! I was skeptical until I tried one, too. YO! Later, I did a taste test of my pickles compared to Bubbies; I actually liked mine even better! In the photo above, I used my large garden cucumbers, but to get the true Bubbies experience, go for the really small cukes; I find these at the farmer’s market, or at ethnic grocery stores. Go for organic if you can (which would be an upgrade from Bubbies, since theirs aren’t organic). Of course the really big cucumbers are fine to use, but because of their size, their insides won’t be quite as firm and crunchy as a smaller cucumber would be, and their skin will be a little tougher.

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Lindsey’s Bubbies Pickle Recipe:

1 gallon glass jar or ceramic crock

1/2 a gallon of warm water (tap water is fine)

A handful of fresh, clean grape leaves, oak leaves, or cherry leaves (optional — they supply tannins to keep the pickles crunchy) (UPDATE: raspberry & blackberry leaves work too, but have a stronger flavor than grape leaves)

3-4 lbs of cucumbers (small to medium is ideal, but if all you have is large, cut them into spears)

5-6 Tbsp non-iodized sea salt. I use Redmond RealSalt brand unrefined sea salt. (I usually prefer 6 Tbsp. Using 5 Tbsp of salt will yield a less salty pickle that my hubby prefers, however you may have to contend with more white film, or “kahm yeast,” on the surface of the brine during fermentation. More about kahm yeast in the instructions.)

2 – 3 heads of garlic, separated into cloves, peeled, & roughly chopped

3 Tbsp whole dill seed

2 Tbsp whole coriander seed

1 tsp whole mustard seed (brown or yellow, doesn’t matter)

1 tsp whole peppercorns

1 tsp fennel seed

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

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Ingredients for Homemade Bubbie's Pickles

Ingredients for Homemade Bubbies Pickles. My homegrown garlic was a little small, so I used 4 heads.

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Directions:

Rinse the cucumbers, making sure the blossoms are removed. Soak them in very cold water for a couple hours (if they’re not straight off the vine).

In a separate clean jar (not the one you’ll be using for the pickles), dissolve the salt into the 1/2 gallon of warm water. Set aside — this brine will be one of the last things you’ll add.

Into the clean, gallon jar/crock you’ll be using for the pickles, drop in the garlic, dill, coriander, mustard, peppercorns, fennel, and red pepper flakes.

Then, put the cucumbers into the jar. If you’ve sliced large cucumbers into spears, pack the spears vertically into the jar.

Pour the salt water solution (a.k.a. the brine) over the cucumbers.

Now, place the cleaned grape/oak/cherry/raspberry/blackberry leaves into the jar. My jar has a somewhat narrow mouth, so the grape leaves form a nice plug at the top of the jar so the cucumbers (which will rise to the top after you pack them in) don’t go above the brine.

You want your cucumbers (and leaves) to be completely submerged in the brine at all times. If they’re sticking up above the brine, they’ll get moldy. If your jar has a wide mouth, you may need to use a couple of plates to keep everything submerged. Another idea is to nest a smaller glass jar into the opening of the larger jar to keep everything down. Or, use a scrubbed & sterilized rock.

Using nested jars to keep everything submerged.

Another idea: use a rock to keep everything submerged.

If the brine still doesn’t cover the cucumbers, make more brine solution using: 1 scant Tbsp sea salt to one cup of water. Cover your jar with its lid (loosely), or with a cloth to keep bugs & dust out. If you see a thin film of white scum growing on the surface of the water, just skim it off as often as you can, but don’t worry if you can’t get it all. This is “kahm yeast;” it won’t harm anything, but do try to keep up with it otherwise it can affect the flavor of your pickles.

Sometimes, during pickle making, some of your garlic cloves will turn blue. This is not a problem. The Colorado Extension Service website says this about blue garlic:

Blue, purple or blue-green garlic may result from immature garlic or garlic that is not fully dry, from copper pans, or from a high amount of copper in the water. Garlic contains anthocyanin, a water-soluble pigment that under acid conditions may turn blue or purple. A blue-green color also may develop in pickles made with stored red-skinned garlic. Except for blue-green color resulting from an abnormally high copper-sulfate concentration, such color changes do not indicate the presence of harmful substances.

Your pickles will be ready after 1-4 weeks — depending on the temperature in your house. Our pickles are usually ready after 10 days on the counter in our warm apartment (average of 80-85°F) in late summer. Every couple days, do a taste test of your pickles. They’re ready when they taste done to you! Once they taste done, transfer the jar into the fridge to slow fermentation. Once they’ve fermented and are in the fridge, you can remove the grape/oak/cherry/raspberry/blackberry leaves and you don’t need to worry as much about the pickles being completely submerged in the brine.

Enjoy! These will last months and months in your fridge. I once kept a batch around for 9 months and it was still good.

And the brine is good stuff too; I like to drink it straight. It’s full of beneficial bacteria and good for your digestion! Since it’s salty, it would be especially good after a workout.

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Philosophy Friday: Even Julia Child Made Mistakes in the Kitchen

By , August 21, 2009

I was recently watching a Julia Child episode on DVD, when she launched into this little sermon about peoples’ irrational fear of failure while learning to cook. I liked it so much that I recorded it and posted it so you could see it, too:

Julia Child – “Don’t be afraid of failure in the kitchen” from The Herbangardener on Vimeo.

We must not be deterred if our cooking flops, because that’s how we best learn the quirks of the ingredients we cook with, and how to combine things for the best results. I sometimes get pretty frustrated when my cooking doesn’t work out, especially when I waste good ingredients (and precious time!). But I also know that mistakes can be very good teachers…

Continue reading 'Philosophy Friday: Even Julia Child Made Mistakes in the Kitchen'»

Kitchen Tip: Keeping Olive Oil Fresh with…Water?

By , August 17, 2009

NOTE: I have updated this post…access the new one here.

Storing Olive Oil with Water

We’ve all heard that heat, light, and air cause oils to oxidize and go rancid. I used to keep my olive oil in the fridge, but it would solidify and I had to plan ahead if I wanted to use it. This was too inconvenient, so I stopped doing it. Recently, I “upgraded” and bought a more expensive Tuscan olive oil at Costco that came in a dark-colored bottle. The dark color prevents the oil from light exposure (especially at the store with all its bright lights). To lessen the oil’s exposure to air, I’ve started topping up my olive oil bottle with water!

Continue reading 'Kitchen Tip: Keeping Olive Oil Fresh with…Water?'»

“Pan Cookies”: Baking Cookies on the Stove!

By , August 11, 2009
Baking Pan Cookies on the stove

Ranger Cookies "baked" in a pan on the stove

Our apartment gets so hot during the summer, that I have to think long and hard before I decide to turn on the oven and make it worse. If I decide to use the oven, I organize myself days in advance so that I’m baking 2 or 3 dishes at once.

Recently, I had an idea. What if I “baked” cookies in my cast-iron frying pan, on the stove? I wouldn’t have to turn on the oven!

I was so excited that I tried the experiment right away, and it worked!!! It worked so well, I was shocked. First, I made up some Ranger Cookie batter using this recipe (although almost any cookie recipe would work)…

Continue reading '“Pan Cookies”: Baking Cookies on the Stove!'»

Make Your Own Pickled Grape Leaves

By , August 1, 2009

Ingredients for making pickled, lacto-fermented grape leaves

Have you ever eaten Dolmas (or “Dolmades”)? I absolutely love them! Dolmas are a delicious Turkish finger food made by stuffing pickled grape leaves with a filling made from rice, onion, parsley, olive oil, spices, and various other things. Sometimes they’re also made with meat.

A couple years ago, I created my own recipe for Dolmas that doesn’t use rice, but rather shredded zucchini, as the main filling. I ought to make that recipe more often, since it’s one of my favorite things to eat! I’ll post my recipe for Zucchini Dolmas soon (UPDATE: here’s the recipe), but today I’m going to show you how to make your own pickled grape leaves — which you’ll need for the Dolmas. (You can also just buy pickled grape leaves in a jar, which is what I used to do, until I recently discovered how much cheaper and more fun it is to make my own!)

Grape leaves are plentiful and ubiquitous, so you shouldn’t have much trouble finding them. If you don’t have your own grape vine, just take a walk down any random alley, and you’ll probably find at least one vine spilling out over someone’s fence. (You could ask first before picking of course, but if the vine is trailing into the alley — or hanging over a public sidewalk — it’s in the public domain.) The grape leaves I collected were from a vine in my alley. Choose leaves that are young enough to be tender, but large enough to stuff with filling, and clip the stem close to the leaf.

The grape leaves we’ll be making are pickled by way of lacto-fermentation, rather than vinegar. Lacto-fermentation is a traditional way of preserving fruits & vegetables by harnessing the power of lactobacilli bacteria, which are present on the surface of all living things. The bacteria convert plant starches & sugars into lactic acid, which is the preservative. The lactobacilli themselves also improve the vegetable’s digestibility, as well as boost its vitamin and enzyme levels.

Pickled Grape Leaves

24 grape leaves

1 Tbsp sea salt

4 Tbsp whey* (if you don’t have whey, use an additional 1 Tbsp salt)

2 cups water, filtered if you have it

Wash the leaves well, and stack them neatly together.

Put water, salt, and whey in a big bowl and stir. Soak the leaves in the liquid for about an hour, weighting them down with a plate.

Soak the leaves for about an hour, weighted down with a plate.

Soak the leaves for about an hour, weighted down with a plate.

Roll up the leaves and stuff them into a pint jar. Pour in enough liquid to cover the leaves, but leave 1 inch of space between the liquid and the top of the jar. Cover tightly, and leave on the counter for about 3 days. Then, transfer to the fridge, where they’ll keep for quite a while. I had mine in the fridge for about 10 days before using them.

* Whey is the clear, yellowish liquid strained off when making yogurt or cheese. Don’t use powdered or commercial concentrated whey!

Pickled grape leaves

Recipe courtesy of Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

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