Suburban Pioneers

The Adventures and Misadventures of Homesteading in 21st-Century America

Sarah: Jammin’ with You October 9, 2013

Little Bear helps with apple selection.

Little Bear helps with apple selection.  This blog is really just a great excuse to post adorable photos of my daughter.

The neighbor’s tree reaches over the fence and drops lovely apples into our yard.  Envisioning apple pies and applesauce, I picked all the ones I could reach.  Then I went next door to ask, “Can I pick your apples?  They’re all going to waste!”  The college boys who rent there graciously told me to just come through their gate anytime.

Little Bear and I went in search of apples.  She took care of sampling–one bite out of four or five different apples.  I started picking from the tree…and found a grape trellis nearby.

Grapes!

Grapes!

These grapes were incredible.  They actually tasted like grape jelly.  Unfortunately, they also had seeds.  Little Bear didn’t mind.  She just swallowed the seeds along with the grapes (she’ll probably have a grape vine growing in her stomach next summer). However, I always worry about smiling at people with seeds stuck in my teeth, so I figured a different route was required.

I  called my preserving partner (see my previous post on why I can with friends) and told her we were making a first foray into the world of jam.

The ground under the trellis was a grape graveyard...a grapeyard?  I couldn't let the rest go to waste!

The ground under the trellis was a grape graveyard…a grapeyard? I couldn’t let the rest go to waste!

We tried to follow three recipes at once, which was a bit confusing, but that’s what happens when neither person has jammed before and no one is sure whether the final product should be jam or jelly.  We called the result “jamelly.”  It’s somewhere in between the two, but it tastes delicious, so I’m satisfied.  We ultimately found this website’s directions the most useful, but I’ll write my own directions for the process at the end of this post in case you’re interested.

The end result netted us about 24 8 oz. jars from 3 batches of jamming and 2 rounds of grape-picking.

Finished jars cooling down.

Finished jars cooling down.

My preserving partner and I agreed that we should give a jar to the boys next door to thank them for the use of their produce.  I knocked on their door last night and handed them the jar.  “Here’s some jam we made from your grapes,” I said.  The two looked at each other.  “Wow.  We have grapes?” they asked.

I guess this is further proof that Suburban Pioneering may be out of step with modern America.

Jamelly Process (I hope you like jammin’, too…)

Ingredients: 1 box powdered pectin mixed with 1/4 c. sugar, 6 and 3/4 c. sugar, lots of grapes OR grape juice (Apparently you can make the recipe with bottled grape juice.  Whoa.  Just do Step 1 and then skip down to Step 4…even if you don’t have college renters next door, you, too, can enjoy homemade jelly)

Step 1: sterilize jars and bands in the dishwasher.  Put a pan of water on the stove, over low heat, and place your unused lids in to heat/sterilize.  Meanwhile, get the water heating in your canner (or in a large pot).  You’ll need it boiling by Step 8, and in our experience, it takes a loooong time to boil.

Step 2: while dishwasher runs, wash grapes, remove from stems, and put in a pot with a little water.  Boil them.  Then run them through the food mill to separate seeds.  You want to end up with about 5 cups of fruit/juice mixture.

–Note: We tried about three different methods for this and all of them worked.  We tried food milling the grapes first and then boiling them.  We tried boiling and then food milling.  And we tried boiling and then straining.  Do whatever floats your boat.

Use a food mill to separate seeds from cooked fruit.

Use a food mill to separate seeds from cooked fruit.

Step 3: If you want more of a jelly than a jam, let the fruit drip through cheese cloth for several hours (we tried both ways…personally, I don’t care if my jelly is translucent.  I kind of prefer it chunkier, and it’s faster, so you can omit this step if you’re aiming more for the jam end of jamelly).  Whether you use strained juice or the juice/fruit mixture, you still want to end up with about 5 cups of it.

Strain through a cheese cloth for a truer jelly.

Strain through a cheese cloth for a truer jelly.

Step 4: For one batch of jamelly, put fruit/juice in the pot on the stove and heat to a full boil.  Once it’s boiling, add one box of pectin (mixed together with about a 1/4 c. sugar…the website we used recommended this, and I think it’s to help prevent the powdered pectin from clumping when you stir it in…it seemed to work well, and our jamelly jelled, so I figured it was a good tip).

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I know, I know. You can use the low-sugar pectin and make it healthier. But why deny yourself the sugar rush?

Step 5: Return the mixture to a boil and then add 6 and 3/4 c. sugar (these ratios are determined by the type of pectin you use.  If you just use the regular Sure-Jell powdered pectin, that’s the amount of sugar and fruit/juice prescribed on the box).

Step 6: Stirring frequently, return the sugar/pectin/fruit/juice jamelly mixture to a boil and boil thoroughly for one minute.

–Note: the website I mentioned above has a great test for making sure that your jamelly is jelled enough…anything that keeps me from ruining an entire batch of jam and wasting a lot of time is good; I don’t want to end with runny jelly!  That website suggests pouring a little bit of your boiling water on a cold spoon (you can keep in freezer or in ice water until you’re ready to use it).  Let the mixture cool on the spoon.  If it’s not thick enough, just add a bit more pectin from another box.

Step 7: Remove jars and bands from dishwasher.  Pour the hot jamelly mixture into jam jars, leaving 1/4 in. room at the top.  Wipe the rims, put the hot lids on, and screw the bands on (not too tight…you don’t want to interfere with the lids “popping” to vacuum seal).  If you have extra jamelly mixture in the pot that won’t fill a whole jar, you can just put it in a glass container for your fridge and eat it first (or just consume it all right there on the spot, which is what we did).

Step 8: Place jars in the boiling water in the canner or large water pot.  If you live in Colorado, boil for 10 minutes.  Anywhere else (that’s not at altitude), your jamelly process will be 5 minutes instead.

Step 9: Remove jars from canner; listen for pop that indicates seal (you can check them later after they’ve cooled to make sure that the little button area on the top is depressed).

Yum, yum.

Yum, yum.

Step 10: EAT JAM.  Grapes are good for you.  Sugar is, too, right?  Right?

 

Lauren: The Best Sauteed Fresh Corn Recipe: the taste of grilled corn on the cob in a fraction of the time July 23, 2013

Filed under: Food & Cooking,Veggies — lkcook20 @ 11:30 am
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I don’t know about you, but I have not mastered the art of grilling corn. We’ve tried leaving the husks on, taking them off, wrapping them in foil and found that it is just so hard to predict the precise moment they are done. And sometimes they end up burned which is such a waste because I love the taste of grilled corn on the cob.

And then I discovered the awesomeness of sauteed fresh corn. How did it take me so long?

It was like the scene from Sleepless in Seattle when Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks finally meet on the top of the Empire State Building: perfect and a long time coming. They stare into each other’s eyes and just know. Cue happy, emotional music.

Sauteed fresh corn is that good.

Our story: I needed something to do with all the fresh corn we get from our CSA (community supported agriculture) program. Side note: I highly recommend CSA’s. When we pick up our box of local fresh produce, it seriously feels like Christmas every week. Some weeks our present is a bushel of corn. That’s 45 ears! We give some away, freeze some, and one day I decided to slice the kernels off and saute them. The idea just came to me. Then it was love at first bite and the rest is, as they say, history.

It’s so easy I feel weird calling it a recipe. So here’s the “recipe”:

Ingredients:

1-2 ears of corn per person

1 tbsp of butter per 3-4 ears of corn (or more or less to taste)

Kosher salt to taste

Directions:

1. Remove husks and silks from the corn cob.

2. Melt the butter in a large skillet. DSCN17873, Slice off kernels with a knife (remember to cut away from you!) into a bowl or right into the skillet.DSCN1791

4. Saute over medium heat for about 8 minutes. Add salt. Salivate, then enjoy! DSCN1792

 

5 Reason It’s So Good: 

1. It still maintains its fresh crunch. Canned corn cannot compete.

2. You can taste the butter and salt in every bite.

3. It’s the taste of grilled corn in a fraction of the time!

4. You can eat more of it because you can pile giant heapings on your spoon instead of trying to maneuver around a cob.

5. You can avoid the debate of whether it’s better and more efficient to eat in rows across the ear of corn or to go around in circles. My husband claims his family tested it one time and the circle method was far superior time-wise. I’m not convinced and think maybe he’s been reading too much Cheaper by the Dozen. But anyway, if you saute your corn, you can avoid that argument. That’s right, I’m claiming that sauteed fresh corn is better for your marriage. It doesn’t get any better than that.

 

Sarah: Homemade Vanilla January 7, 2013

I even reuse my vanilla beans if they haven't lost their potency by refilling the container with vodka when I've used up the first batch.

I even reuse my vanilla beans if they haven’t lost their potency by refilling the container with vodka when I’ve used up the first batch.

Yes, I know.  Deprocessed December is officially over.  But…well…I got all caught up in the holiday busyness of family, friends, cooking, wrapping, baking, church-going, candlelighting, decorating, and I didn’t get to finish putting up some of my favorite recipes!

I’m working on a few more to post.  Consider these the New Year Bonus Recipes.  Today’s?  One that would have been quite useful for all that Christmas baking.

Really, really delicious, authentic vanilla extract is expensive…unless you go to Mexico.  Mexican vanilla is awesome and cheap.  Except that it’s not because traveling to Mexico is pretty pricey.

So unless you have friends who regularly go to Mexico and will pack their suitcases with large bottles of Mexican vanilla to smuggle back for you, here’s the way you make it at home.

Mexican Vanilla

vodka (yes…it can be cheap vodka, too…don’t go for the pricey stuff)
3-4 vanilla beans (find at the bulk foods store or co-op–the more beans you use, the stronger it will be)
a pinch of cumin (yes, cumin)

  1. Fill an old container (I save my maple syrup bottles and use them) with vodka.
  2. Stick the vanilla beans in and add just a pinch of cumin.
  3. Leave it in the back of your cupboard for a month or two before pulling it out.  The longer it sits, the darker and more delicious it will be.
 

Sarah: Leftover-Vegetable Stock December 19, 2012

Replace THIS

Replace THIS

with THIS!

with THIS!

And for our next Deprocessed December recipe, here’s something that I use frequently as a soup base, to cook rice for extra nutrients and flavor, and to thin mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes or other vegetables: vegetable stock.

A lot of recipes call for chicken or beef or vegetable stock.  For most recipes, I substitute vegetable stock for chicken or beef just because of the environmental benefits of eating less meat, but no matter what type of soup stock you’re buying, it gets pricey.  You can expect to pay at least $3.00 for a 32 oz. container (about 4 c.).

My favorite butternut squash soup recipe (see upcoming post) calls for 4 cups of stock, for instance.  Lauren’s recently-posted recipe for Spiced Stuffed Acorn Squash asks for 2 c. of the stuff.  Even though I use stock a lot in my cooking, I have a hard time putting it into my grocery cart because I figure I’m basically paying for water with flavoring.

Instead, clean out the refrigerator!

I used to compost all the extra vegetables rolling around (or mushing around) in the bottom of my refrigerator’s vegetable drawer (see previous post about our prolific composting habits).  But there’s a better thing to do with the limp celery and the carrots that are on their way out, and this allows you to control the amount of salt and type of ingredients in your cooking.

Leftover-Vegetable Stock

Ingredients:

  • Leftover Vegetables (nothing actually rotten, just veggies that can’t pass for fresh): carrots, celery, peppers, mushrooms, parsley, kale, onions, garlic, parsnips, leeks (I would avoid starchy veggies like potatoes and sweet potatoes because they will thicken the soup and you won’t get a clear broth)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 6 – 8 c. of water (depending on number of veggies and size of pot)
  • spices (I used leftover fresh thyme that was drying out in my fridge and needed to be composted)

Ingredients:

  1. Fill a stockpot with water and turn heat on medium-high.
  2. Chop veggies into large pieces (quarter the onions, halve the mushrooms, etc.) and put in pot.
  3. Stir in salt.
  4. Boil for an hour or until the liquid turns golden-brown.
  5. Scoop out the veggies and compost them.  Then freeze the broth that’s left (I recommend cutting the tops off of whipping cream or half and half contains and washing them out, then freezing stock in these–cover with tinfoil.  They’re a convenient size for the freezer and it’s a great reuse of something you usually chuck in the garbage!).

After two hours of being in the kitchen, I had vegetable broth made with the wilted veggies, stew made with the good veggies (enough for 4 meals), and pureed carrots for Little Bear (I’ve been making all her food, and I swear it’s easier than cooking for myself–I’ll tell you more in an upcoming post).  I had also washed all the dishes while the broth and stew were boiling away.  “I am,” I told my husband, “a domestic goddess today.”  He did not disagree.

Frozen carrots and limp celery...yum.

Frozen carrots and limp celery…yum.

Use pre-compost heap to make stock.

Use pre-compost heap to make stock.

While making stock with the limp vegetables, I used the good parts to make vegetable stew.

While making stock with the limp vegetables, I used the good parts to make vegetable stew.

And to make it a three-for-one, I also made pureed carrots for Little Bear while stewing my veggies.  I like to make the most out of my kitchen time.

And to make it a three-for-one, I also made pureed carrots for Little Bear while stewing my veggies. I like to make the most out of my kitchen time.

 

Lauren: Top Eight Easy, Healthy, Less-Processed Substitutions Anyone Can Make December 18, 2012

1. Coconut Oil or Olive Oil instead of Canola or Vegetable Oil

DSCN1226

According to organicfacts.net, coconut oil’s health benefits include:  “hair care, skin care, stress relief, maintaining cholesterol levels, weight loss, increased immunity, proper digestion and metabolism, relief from kidney problems, heart diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, HIV and cancer, dental care, and bone strength. These benefits of oil can be attributed to the presence of lauric acid, capric acid and caprylic acid, and its properties such as antimicrobial, antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial and soothing properties.”

Now that’s good stuff.

Tips: Coconut oil is usually solid unless it’s kept in a really warm place. Use as a solid to saute or place the jar in warm water to turn it into a liquid.

You can also massage the oil onto your body as a moisturizer or into your hair to help combat dandruff.

2. Whole Wheat Flour instead of regular white flour

DSCN1229

Regular white flour is often bleached as well as highly refined (a.k.a. processed), which causes it to loose nutrients. I use regular whole wheat for breads, white whole wheat for muffins, roux, pancakes, etc, and whole wheat pastry flour for cookies and desserts (Seriously! You can’t even taste the difference!).

See this article for more information on whole wheat.

3. Honey, Molasses, or 100% Maple Syrup instead of white granulated sugar

DSCN1231

I mostly use honey as my white or brown sugar substitute since molasses has a distinct taste and real maple syrup is pricey. Here’s more info on honey.

Tips: When using honey in baking, use 1/2 a cup of honey for each cup of sugar called for in a recipe, reduce the liquid in the recipe by 1/4 of a cup, and set your oven 25 degrees lower than the directions say.

4. Whole Grain Pasta

DSCN1233

This is a super easy switch to make and you get used to the more wholesome taste.

Tips: Look for 100% whole grain.

5. Natural Peanut Butter

DSCN1235

A lot of the peanut butter on the market has hydrogenated vegetable oils, sugar or dextrose, and salt. All you really need is peanuts!

Tips: Steer clear of ones that say “Natural” and then add more ingredients like palm oil, etc.

6. Recognizable-ingredient (five or less) snack foods

DSCN1236

Let’s be honest. Sometimes you just need an easy go-to snack. The ingredients for Triscuit Thin Crisps are: whole grain soft white winter wheat, soybean oil, salt. And the Unique Pretzel Shells include: Unbleached Wheat Flour, Canola Oil, Salt, Yeast, and Soda. These break some rules (the oils) but are a lot healthier than most other snacks on the market.

7. Real Butter

DSCN1239

Real butter doesn’t have all that hydrogenated fat. Go organic if you can. And if you’re able to find butter from grass-fed non-hormone-treated cows, that’s even better.

Here’s more on butter versus margarine.

8. Brown Rice in place of White Rice

DSCN1243

White rice undergoes a process that removes most of its nutrients. Brown rice has only had the hull removed so most of the good stuff is still there. And we like the good stuff:)

Here’s some more info if you’re interested.

That’s it. Most of these substitutions don’t cost all that much more, if at all. And your body will thank you. It’ll be like getting a massage. . . on the inside. . . sort of. . .

 

Lauren: Salted Caramel Mocha / Hot Chocolate December 12, 2012

This is one of my very favorite treats. I like the homemade version even better than the Starbucks one- and so does my wallet, which also makes my husband happy. It’s a win-win-win!

DSCN1245

Shout out to my incredibly talented sister-in-law who made the mug!

Ingredients:

2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp honey

1/4 cup water

2 tsp caramel (Try to find some at the store with only five or six ingredients. They are out there! Or make your own!)

generous pinch of sea salt (not coarse)

1 cup milk

Homemade whipped cream (see below)

caramel and salt (for drizzling and/or sprinkling)

Microwave Directions: 

1. Add cocoa powder, honey, and water to a mug. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir. Add caramel and sea salt. Stir until dissolved.

2. Microwave milk in a seperate glass for one or one and a half minutes. Slowly pour into chocolate sauce while stirring. Top with whipped cream, caramel, and salt.

Stovetop Directions:

1. Add cocoa powder, honey, and water to a small saucepan. Stir over medium heat until honey is dissolved. Add caramel and sea salt and stir until both are dissolved.

2.Add milk. Heat until hot but not boiling, stirring occasionally.  Pour into your favorite mug and then top with whipped cream, caramel, and salt.

For the more caffeinated version:

Reduce milk to 1/2 cup and add 1/2- 3/4 cup strong coffee. Pour in the coffee at the same time that you add the milk in the recipes above.

Homemade Whipped Cream:

1. Chill the mixing bowl for about fifteen minutes. Add 1 cup heavy whipping cream and 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract to the cold bowl. Mix on medium speed until soft peaks form (about five minutes). Don’t leave it too long or you’ll make yourself some butter!

 

Lauren: Spiced Stuffed Acorn Squash December 9, 2012

DSCN1124I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of plain baked acorn squash, but I love it stuffed with couscous, garbanzo beans, carrots, peppers, raisins, and apples. Underneath all those delicious ingredients, the acorn squash gives just a hint of sweetness in every bite. Yum!

This recipe is very flexible. Feel free to substitute other fruits or veggies, and if you don’t have some of the spices on hand, omit them or use other ones.

Ingredients:

1 tbsp butter                                                                              1 tsp cumin

4 acorn squash                                                                           1/2 tsp coriander

2 tbsp olive oil                                                                            1/2 tsp turmeric

2 cloves garlic, minced                                                                1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 carrots, chopped (small)                                                           1/4 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup red pepper, chopped                                                     1/4 tsp ginger

1 can garbanzo beans, drained                                                   1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup raisins                                                                           1 14 ounce can chicken or vegetable broth

1/2 cup peeled, chopped apple                                                  1 cup uncooked whole wheat couscous

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Cut squash in half. Place cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake 30 minutes or until tender. After removing the squash from the oven, spread butter on squash.

3. Meanwhile, heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, carrot, and pepper. Cook approximately five minutes. Add garbanzo beans, raisins, and apples. Stir in cumin, coriander, turmeric  cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt.DSCN1122

4. Pour the broth into the skillet and mix in the couscous. Cover and turn off heat. Let sit for five minutes. Then stuff squash halves with the skillet mixture. Serve and enjoy.

 

 
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