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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mastery Class - Citrus Herb Salt


The Food In Jars Mastery Challenge for the month of February is salt preserving. I made two items for this challenge - salt preserved Meyer lemons and this citrus herb salt. From my facebook feed, I'm guessing that thousands of households across the world have salt preserved lemons for the first time. I won't post a recipe here because it is a process that is easy to find and duplicate. For me, the real challenge will be making food around those salt preserved lemons. I hope to share some of the successful uses here.

I decided to try an herb salt because I have really enjoyed dry brined poultry. The flavor components in this mixture are very similar to what I use when I dry brine turkey. Making the dry brine is a bit of a production, so I thought, Why not make it and dry it and have it ready all the time? 

Depending on the humidity in your home, when you make this, you may have to use your oven to help in the drying process. It has been very rainy and humid in my world, so I ended up using the oven once at the beginning of the drying and once again just to finnish it off. The mixture spent about a week in a back bedroom, near the furnace, in between. Leaving it out for a week did not reduce the flavor or aroma at all. It is wonderful!


You can use this to dry brine, by coating the meat and letting it sit in the fridge for a time. The thinner the meat, the less time it takes for the flavor to penetrate. These boneless, skinless chicken thighs were seasoned in the morning and then cooked after work. For a turkey, I will let it sit for several days. If you really coat the meat, you will want to rinse it of the excess salt and pat dry before cooking. If you sprinkle it lightly, like you would a seasoning salt, you can leave it on. 


These thighs got simply pan seared, until cooked through, and served with fried cabbage. Mr. Dwayne thought it superb.

Citrus Herb Salt
1/2 cup citrus zest - I used Meyer lemon and Satsuma mandarins
3 fat cloves of garlic
1 tbsp. minced dry onion
1 cup roughly chopped parsley - I included the stems
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves
2 tbsp. fresh rosemary leaves
1 tbsp. freshly cracked black pepper
1 1/2 cups coarse Kosher salt, divided

Place everything except 1/2 cup of the salt in a blender or food processor and process until well ground and blended. Remove from the processor and stir in the 1/2 cup of salt. (My Vitamix ground this so finely, that I wanted to add a little more granulated texture back into the mix. If your food processor is not so aggressive, you can add everything at once.)

Spread the mixture, in a thin layer, on a parchment lined cookie sheet. To dry, either set in a warm, dry  place until completely dry or assist the drying process by using your oven. I placed mine in the oven, at 200 degrees, for about 10 minutes, turned the oven off and left it in the oven until cool. I had to do this process twice.

If you have any of those little silicone sachets from some other food product, you can add it to the storage jar to prevent caking. This makes 2 1/2 cups of salt. I keep a small jar by my stove and the remainder in the fridge.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Meyer Lemon and Vanilla Jam

 Tired of marmalade? Need some zest for other purposes? This may be the jam for you!



I have a little dwarf Meyer Lemon in a pot on my back patio. It has been a hero the last couple of years, but seems to be taking a break. I had more than 40 lemons from it last year. This year, not so much. Lucky for me, my dear friends, Bill and Marina moved in to new home with their own Meyer Lemon tree and they brought me a giant shopping bag full! What you see in the photo above, is about half of what Marina brought to me a couple of weeks ago.

 Note to Self: Do not attempt to dry citrus peels during the monsoon season. Green mold will result.

I really like dried lemon zest for a number of uses. I use it in herbal teas and grind it up with salt for dry brining. It's just good stuff to have around. So, my plan was to use these lemons to make dried zest and frozen cubes of lemon juice. The tray above gave me a bunch of zest strips and one gallon size bag of cubes. I also had plenty left to make this jam. Unfortunately, the zest, left to air dry, picked up green mold and was a loss. California has been in a serious drought for over four years. This year, we're having major flooding. I now know that humidity makes a big difference when attempting to air dry. Sigh.

Yummy juice for later! 


The Meyer lemons I have used have been pretty soft when ripe. Unlike limes and Eureka lemons, they are very hard to cut into clean segments because of the softness and the number of seeds. To get around this, you need a very sharp knife and patience. I cut away the pith, then held the lemon upright and cut down so that the edges of the segments are removed from the tough, seedy center. Whenever you are cutting soft juicy fruits, do use a pan under your cutting board to capture the juice that gets away.

This batch takes 5 cups of lemon pieces and juice. This will take 10 to 15 lemons, depending on the size. I added some of my pectin booster to help the set and one vanilla bean. The vanilla bean softens and enhances the zing of the lemons and makes this jam beautifully aromatic.


Meyer Lemon and Vanilla Bean Jam
5 cups prepared Meyer Lemon pieces and juice
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 cup pectin booster or a bundle of lemon seeds in a sachet
5 cups sugar

Prepare 7 half pint jars, lids and rings and your boiling water bath.

After preparing the fruit, add the split vanilla bean, pectin booster and sugar. (You may pop this in your refrigerator for up to a week, if you don't have time to do the processing on the same night you cut up the fruit.) If you wish to use a sachet of the lemon seeds, save them as you prepare the fruit and keep them separate from the fruit until you start the cooking process. If you don't mind a deeper bitterness from the seeds, you can throw them in earlier. Most of my fussy processes are designed to keep the bitterness at bay.

When you are ready to can, start your boiling water bath. Place the fruit mixture in a large pot and bring to a boil. Place a few saucers and tea spoons in the freezer for performing the "plate test" later.

If you are using pectin booster, be sure to watch your stove, as the apple pectin will often foam up more vigorously than plain fruit. When the jam comes up to 220 degrees, remove a spoon and saucer from the freezer and scoop out some of the jam. Place it back in the freezer for a couple of minutes. Turn the jam off or on low while you await the test. Remove the saucer and push the jam with your finger. If the surface wrinkles, it is done!

Remove the jam from the heat and remove the vanilla bean. Skim off any remaining foam. Sterilize the jars in the boiling water bath for 5 minutes and drain. Give the jam a careful stir to distribute the solids, then carefully fill the jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe rims and top with lids and rings. Finger tighten and process in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Carefully remove from the boiling water bath and place on a towel lined tray. Leave undisturbed until they pop! Makes 7 half pints and some for your snack!



Sunday, February 5, 2017

Oat Bran Muffins - Lower Carb, All Real, All Good




In August of 2016, Mr. Dwayne was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It was not something that was on our radar, but probably should have been. We'd both gained weight over the last few years of extreme stress and deaths in our family. I have to admit, we often took what I call "The Ice Cream Cure." Hey, carbs work. Emotional eating happens because, in the short term, it works. 

I've always been for real food. Lots of fruits and veggies. I like to eat things that have some life force in them - things that have been alive recently. I thought our diet was pretty good. I do take time to cook from scratch on most occasions. But, then, mmmmm, the ice cream. 

I came of age cooking for my family during the low-fat craze. Some of my favorite recipes come from Jane Brody's Good Food Book: Living the High Carbohydrate Way. I learned about beans and rice and combining plant proteins. I learned how to use various whole grain flours and traditional baking methods from Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book - which remains a classic resource. While all this is pretty healthy, it doesn't suit the needs of my family now.

Now, I have to learn to cook a different way - fewer carbs, carefully selected, in small portions. 

My initial forays into the online world of "low carb" revealed a lot of meat and dairy and treats with artificial sweeteners. Some advocated "no carb" or "keto" - an extreme approach that seems to be about weight loss more than health. It all seemed out of balance to me. Yet, we needed to take action and improve my sweetie's health fast. 

We did eat more animal protein and dairy than usual. It made the first few weeks fairly painless for Mr. Dwayne, who did not have to give up his favorite foods. After a few weeks of this, I was dragging and cranky. Super low carb was not a viable or sustainable option for me. I added in a few more fruits and whole grains. Mr. Dwayne lost weight quickly. 

Here we are, 5 months later. Mr. Dwayne has lost 45 pounds and I have lost 20. I've been working on better fitness, with Zumba classes and a gym membership. Overall, we've found a better balance in our diet and we both feel better. The joke at our house is that cabbage is the new potato. 

The only thing that did not go well were Mr. Dwayne's cholesterol numbers. They went up 10 points in that 5 months. Not the good kind either. So, we had to change again. Minimal cheese and limited red meat and processed meat. Lots more veg. So far so good. 

I've been searching for a way to get more water soluble fiber into his diet. This type of fiber is proven to assist with heart health, gut health and in lowering cholesterol. The problem is, he hates beans and only likes oatmeal in the form of cookies. So, I set out to find a way to get him the fiber in a way that is full of flavor and nutrients and low in carbs. Most of the oat bran muffin recipes online have lots of sugar, plus white flour. Low carb muffins seem to all have artificial sweeteners. By combining a few recipes and doing a lot of testing, I think I finally hit the mark.



This recipe makes 12 muffins, which have 111 calories each, with 15 grams of carbs and 7 grams of sugars. According to the American Diabetic Association and his meals should have 45 to 60 grams of carbohydrates. The nutrition and diabetes management classes with our health provider suggest that each meal should be under 45 grams. Mr. Dwayne considers a serving for breakfast to be 2 muffins, keeping his carbs well within the 45 gram limit.

Because they don't rise as much as traditional cake-like muffins, you can fill the muffin cups nearly to the top. You can line the cups with papers or with non-stick spray. I like the crust, so I don't use the papers, even though clean up is easier that way.

Flat topped, but flavorful and moist. They are lightly sweetened with banana, blackstrap molasses and raisins - all highly nutritious foods. I know Mr. Dwayne will enjoy them. We'll find out how they work in the next few months!

Oat Bran Muffins
1/2 cup raisins plus boiling water
2 cups Oat Bran hot cereal
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 mashed ripe banana (about 1/2 cup)
2 tbsp. oil (I used olive oil)
2 tbsp. black strap molasses
1 egg
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line or grease a standard muffin tin.

Place the raisins in a heat proof bowl and cover with boiling water. Set aside.

Combine the Oat Bran, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. Set aside.

Mash the banana and add the oil, molasses and egg. Whisk to combine. Whisk in the milk. 

Drain the raisins. Stir the milk mixture and raisins into the oat bran mixture until moistened. Evenly distribute between 12 muffin tins. Bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove from muffin tin to cooling rack immediately. Enjoy!




Sunday, January 29, 2017

Mastery Class - Grapefruit Marmalade with Honey and Mint

 Pretty, right?

I've made a lot of marmalade. I love it. I searched my blog and found I have made at least 7 varieties. I make new batches of most of them each winter, when the citrus fruits come in and the kitchen is cool. 

Marisa at Food in Jars has started a Mastery Challenge. I'm so excited, because I will get to refine my skills and learn new ones. The challenge for January is marmalade. I missed the deadline to make this an official entry, but I want to share it anyway. Next month is salt preserving and I'm already scheming. I'm grateful for the challenge to try new techniques. I may even screw my courage up enough to try pressure canning!

 I scrubbed the fruit, peeled the zest and sliced it thin.

This marmalade submission was delayed for the best possible reason - vacation! I spent two weeks of January on the Big Island of Hawaii. Ahhhh..... When I returned, I visited Ms. Paula and saw that the grapefruit tree behind her apartment building had dropped a bunch of perfectly nice fruit. We scooped them up and I took them home. Fast forward one week, when I finally had time to do something about this literal windfall. I lost about a quarter of what I had gathered to the bruises that has begun to mold. The bruises only became apparent over time. If I had prepped the fruit sooner, I would not have lost so much. (I'm taking this lesson to heart, as I have many dozens of Meyer Lemons in my kitchen even as we speak!)

 Combine the zest and 4 cups cold water.

 Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. 

 While the zest simmers, cut away the pith and supreme the fruit.

Grapefruits are more bitter than most citrus. The fruit itself is bitter, not just the rind. By simmering the zest, much of the bitterness will be removed. For this recipe, I discarded the simmering water. For less bitter fruits, I often add some of this simmering liquid back into the recipe.

I spent some time thinking about what flavors might enhance grapefruit. I thought about the mint I like in citrus salads. I thought about the way people sometimes broil grapefruits halves with sugar to make a kind of caramel topping. Then I thought about honey. Grapefruit, honey and mint! And, it worked!

 The prep happened one evening, then, off we went to bed.

After cooking, skim the foam and add the mint sprigs. They will add a bright flavor!

 Remove the mint sprigs. Stir gently, fill the jars and process in the boiling water bath.

Yum!

Grapefruit with Honey and Mint
About 10 Grapefruits - enough to result in 1 1/2 cups sliced zest and 4 cups segments and juice
4 cups Water
1 cup Honey
4 cups Sugar
1 Bunch of Mint

Scrub and dry the grapefruits. Peel just the zest. If your peeler is wide (like mine) stack and slice the zest. Place in a pot with 4 cups cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, use a sharp knife to cut away the pith. Cut the segments away from the membrane. Do this with your cutting board inside a pan to catch the juices. Add the segments and juice to a large measuring cup. 

Drain the zest and rinse with cold water. Add to the segments and juice. You should have at least 4 cups total. Add the honey and sugar and stir. Cover and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to can. 

On canning day, prepare the boiling water bath and 6 half pint jars, their lids and rings. 

Place the prepared marmalade in a large pot. Bring to a boil and continue to boil, stirring occasionally, until it reaches 220 degrees or until it passes the cold plate test. This will take 30 to 40 minutes. 

While the marmalade is cooking, prepare the mint by washing it and tying it into a bundle with cooking string. 

Remove the pot from the heat and skim off any foam. Use tongs to place the mint bundle into the mixture. Submerge it and stir gently. Allow to steep while you sterilize the jars in the the boiling water bath. 

Remove the mint bundle and any leaves that may fall off. Stir gently to distribute the solids throughout the thick syrup. Fill the hot prepared jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe the rims and cover with lids and rings. Process in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Carefully remove to a towel lined tray. Makes 5 half pint jars and a little left to use right away.



Friday, January 20, 2017

Radom Food Fridays - Fire Cider


Last year, after a bout of food poisoning, I caught everything. I had some kind of upper respiratory thing or another for nearly 6 months, including a bad case of bronchitis. I knew I had to get busy making myself well. My personal biosphere had gotten seriously out of whack. This is one of the things that really helped. I made this batch a few weeks ago, as Winter came in. By paying attention to my diet and exercise and consuming probiotics and this fire cider, I'm doing pretty darn well. There was a cold that went through my office like wildfire and I only had it in my nose for about 12 hours. I call that a win! Much better than last year!

There are many fire cider recipes around. I think it is best for you to make a concoction that suits your tastes and your needs. Some people add honey, for both its health benefits and flavor, but that just doesn't work for me. I was truly surprised at how much I like this fire cider as a savory ingredient. Mostly, I drink a tablespoon in warm water during my snack break at work. It is a lot like hot and sour soup and goes great with cheese and crackers. It also adds a nice zing to soups, sauces and salad dressings. It really is a kind of hot sauce and can be used in the same way.


Quality really counts here. Use only organic ingredients and use fresh, whenever possible. Your local health food store should have most of what you need. The directions will allow you to make a small or large batch. Purchase according to the size of your jar. The jar pictured above took 1 quart of ACV after being filled with the vegetables.

Fire Cider:
Equal Parts, by weight:
Garlic
Onion
Horseradish
Turmeric
Ginger
Red Hot Peppers (I used Jalapeno)
Whole Lemon

1 large bunch Italian Parsley
Bragg's Organic Raw Unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar

Thoroughly wash a large jar with a tight fitting lid. Set aside. Peel the onion, garlic and horseradish. Wash all the other vegetables, but do not peel. Cut into 1/4 to 1/2 inch chunks. Slice through the parsley about every 1 inch, including stems. Make a single layer of each item, repeating until you have filled the jar. Pour in the ACV to cover. Close tight and shake. Set in a cool place and shake once per day for about two weeks. The liquid may get cloudy and a sediment may appear. Don't worry - that is the active vinegar.

After about two weeks, strain the liquid into a measuring cup. Store in a thoroughly clean glass jar in the fridge. (I usually sterilize the jar by pouring a hot kettle over it.) This will keep in your refrigerator for quite some time. I've never had it spoil before I use it up. Because of the high acidity, I think it should keep nicely for two or three months.

Here's to your health!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Random Food Fridays - Red Lentil Coconut Dahl and Raisin Almond Quinoa


It really is Fall here in the Valley. Our street-side leaf pick-up has begun. Chinese pistache and liquidambar trees are alight. Our big ol' plane trees are dropping their giant, leathery leaves. There is no nip in the air. Not yet. This is California, after all. We're expecting a high of 77 tomorrow. I'm ready for some chill!

I'm also ready for some soup! This dahl is not quite soup, but it is an amalgam of this red lentil soup recipe from Under Cover Caterer and this recipe from kiwiandbean. It is hearty and spicy and a little bit sweet. Like many of the recipes I share, this is one you can make your own.


Red lentils are easy to work with and a great dried legume for beginners. There is no presoaking and I've never had to do any of the sorting or washing that is necessary with larger beans.

Also, they are pretty.


We've been moving into lower carb eating these days. (More to come on that situation.) However, I know that I can never go so low-carb as to give up beans. This dish is full of fiber, nutrients and healthy fats and spices. This is my idea of real comfort food.

Red Lentil Coconut Dahl
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrot
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
2 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp. sweet curry powder (I like Penzey's)
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1 tsp. dried ground cumin
1 tbsp. fresh grated ginger
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes and their juice
1 can full fat coconut milk (around 13 oz.)
3 cups water
1/4 cup unsweetened dried finely shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils
1 tbsp. lemon juice
t tsp. hot sauce (I like Tapitio)
Salt and Pepper
2 tbsp. butter or coconut oil

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onion, carrot, bell pepper and garlic. Saute over medium heat until beginning to turn translucent. Add the spices and stir to coat the veggies. Stir and cook for a minute or so, until the spices become fragrant. Add the tomato paste, diced tomatoes, coconut milk and water. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Stir in the lentils. Return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring often, until it is thick and the lentils are tender. Add salt, pepper, lemon juice and hot sauce to taste. (To my palate, beans need salt, so don't be shy.) Once the seasoning is to your liking, finish by stirring in the butter or coconut oil. Serve with hot grains of some sort. Try this quinoa:

Raisin Almond Quinoa
2 cups flavorful broth - chicken or veggie
1 tsp. diced dried onion
1/4 cup raisins
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Salt, to taste (omit if your broth is salted)
1 cup quinoa
1/4 cup slivered almonds

Place the broth in a medium sized pot with a tight fitting lid. Add the dried onion, raisins, cinnamon and salt. Bring to a boil. Stir in the quinoa. Cover and reduce heat to low. Allow to cook, covered for 15 minutes. Remove lid, fluff and stir in the almonds.

This is a perfect compliment to this red lentil dish, but is a quick and easy side dish for any meal.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Sauerkraut with Apples, Fennel and Onions


Sauerkraut is so easy! I had to screw up my courage for a long time before I risked making my first batch. This is only my second batch (it takes a long time eat up 2 cabbages) and it is even more delicious than my first.

The idea for this flavor combination came from my friend Marina. Her dad is Persian and her mom Russian. She said that her mom used to make sauerkraut with cabbage, onions and apples. I thought that sounded great and threw in a fennel bulb that was in the fridge. This ends up hitting salty, sour, sweet and umami flavors - Yum!

Because I didn't grow up with sauerkraut, except on the occasional hot dog, I wasn't quite sure how to serve it. I am delighted to say that it is easy to eat in lots of ways! I don't heat it, because I want the probiotic boost. It has become an easy default side dish. Also, I love this in my sandwiches! It's like a good crunchy pickle! It is a pickle, actually, of the sour fermenty kind.

I used this large glass pickle jar for my first batch of sauerkraut. It got the job done, but made it more difficult than necessary.


It was easy enough to stuff the salt massaged cabbage into the jar, but the opening made it hard to get things weighted down and covered with liquid. I used some of the larger cabbage leaves in place of a plate and weighted them down with a clean jar full of water. Like I said, the end product tasted great, but this required a lot more watching as the leaves kept curling up and needed to be pushed down over and over.


So, I invested in this large, food-grade plastic container. It's easy to tamp down the kraut, monitor and clean up. This picture shows that this recipe makes about 2 quarts.


Once the kraut is pushed down and compacted, a saucer is the perfect size to hold everything down.

 In this container, I am able to use a larger, heavier jar to weight things down.

 It just needs a larger cover. Cheese cloth is perfect!

This is a yummy, if predominately yellow, supper - brats and onions, mashed potatoes, saute'ed veg and sauerkraut. Yum!

Sauerkraut with Apples, Fennel and Onions
2 small green cabbages
1 fennel bulb
1/2 sweet yellow onion
2 Fuji apples
About 2 tbsp. salt

Wash, core and peel the veggies and apple. Slice very thin. Add everything to a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp. salt. With very clean hands, massage the salt into the mixture until it starts to release some liquid. Give it a taste and add more salt, a little at a time, until it tastes good to you. Massage some more. Transfer to a very clean fermenting container and press down thoroughly. The juice should rise each time you press it down. Place a very clean saucer or small plate on top of the mixture and press down very hard so that the liquid comes up over all. Fill a very clean jar with water and cover with a lid. Place the full jar on top of the saucer to weigh down the veggies and try to keep them covered with their own liquid and not exposed to air. Cover lightly with a loosely woven cloth. Stir, taste and mash back down daily until the desired sourness is reached. My first batch was made in Winter and took about a week. This Summer batch was ready in three days due the warm temperatures. When the taste is to your liking, move to storage containers and keep in the refrigerator. This will keep for several months if you are careful to prevent cross contamination.

Makes 2 quarts