Suburban Pioneers

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

Lauren: Quick and Healthy Drop Biscuits (Five Ingredients!) March 18, 2013

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Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

3/4 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup salted butter

1/4 cup vinegar

1/2 cup milk

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine flour and baking soda. Cut in butter. Stir in vinegar and milk until dough is sticky. (Add additional milk if dough is not getting sticky.) Spoon onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until light golden brown.

2. Enjoy!

 

Lauren: Homemade Cinnamon Bread March 11, 2013

There’s just something about homemade bread that’s magical. I think the heavenly smell has something to do with it. And if the bread is slightly sweet with cinnamon? Even better.

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Ingredients:

1 cup milk

3/4 cup water

1/3 cup butter

6 1/2 – 7 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or white whole wheat flour for a “wheatier” taste)

6 tbsp brown sugar

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 packages active dry yeast

3 eggs, at room temperature

1/3 cup honey (or more or less to taste)

2 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp butter, melted

Directions:

*This recipe assumes the use of a Stand Mixer.

1. Combine milk, water, and 1/3 cup butter in small saucepan. Heat on low until 120-130 F (butter probably won’t be all the way melted).

2. Place 6 cups flour, 6 tbsp sugar, salt, and yeast in mixing bowl. Attach bowl and dough hook. Turn to Speed 2 and mix 15 seconds. Gradually add eggs, liquids from pan, about 1 min. Mix on speed 2 for 1 more minute.

3. Continue on speed 2, add remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until dough clings to hook and cleans side of bowl, about 2 min. Kneed on speed 2 for 2 more minutes.

4. Place in greased bowl, turn to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place (I put a bowl of hot water in my oven with the dough bowl and keep the door shut) until doubled in bulk (about 35 min.).

5. Punch dough down and divide in half. Roll each half to a 9 x 14 rectangle. Brush each half with melted butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon and then drizzle with honey. Roll dough (tightly!) and shape into loaves. Place in two 9 x 5 x 3 in. loaf pans.

6. Cover; let rise in warm place (back in the oven!) until doubled in bulk, about 35 minutes. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes (but check sooner). Remove from pans immediately and cool on wire racks.

7. Spread with jam or peanut butter, or turn into French Toast. . . delicious!

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*This recipe was adapted from the Kitchen Aid recipe book.

 

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.

 

Lauren: It’s Apple Time October 25, 2012

Filed under: Food & Cooking — lkcook20 @ 12:42 pm
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It’s that time of year again, when the air turns crisp, when the leaves change to glorious reds, yellows, and oranges, when pumpkin patches open, and when my family and I head out to our favorite tree-climbing scavenger hunt: apple picking.

 

 

I love local apples. They feel a little rough, not waxy so they don’t need to be drowned in vinegar to get the yuckiness off. Picking them yourself is a little more work, but cheaper than the grocery store or farmers market.  Another perk where we go: apple cider doughnuts. Enough said.

There are three rules we all abide by: (1) using an apple picker tool is cheating, (2) the best apples are at the top of the tall trees, (3) you have to eat the first good apple you pick.

Rule number two got me into a little trouble in college on my first apple-picking outing. I climbed up a tall tree, sat on a branch, and stretched my arm out towards the perfect apple. The next thing I knew, I was flipping through the air and then my feet were hitting the ground. This time I decided not to attempt any gymnastic feats. I didn’t want any one else in my party to feel inferior.

After all was said and done, our two bags were full and we managed not to let our three-year-old wander off. On our way back to pay for our bounty, we noticed a couple of tears in our heavy-duty bags and envisioned an avalanche of our precious apples rolling down the orchard hill. We double-bagged and brought them all home safely. Lots and lots of apples, perfect for making applesauce and apple butter. I also planned on canning some applesauce in those cute little jars, too, for baby food on the go. I know its more work and you can just buy those little plastic containers at the grocery store, but I love the idea of giving baby A. local, unsweetened applesauce.

As far as preparations for canning go, I like that you don’t have to peel the apples before you cook them (unlike peaches or tomatoes). But, later, the recipes call for running the hot hot cooked apples through a sieve or food mill.  I’ve always ignored that step. I have to confess, I didn’t really know what a food mill was and assumed it was sort of like a blender. Instead, I usually picked out the peels by hand until I got so bored and frustrated that I just ground them up with the apples. This year, I tried several different methods for getting the peels out including my fingers (ouch!), two forks, and, my favorite, a potato masher and a wooden spoon.

My husband preferred the two forks method. He asked me if he was doing it wrong because it was taking so darn long. No, it’s just that slow going, we realized, when I couldn’t go any faster. The potato masher/wooden spoon method involves scooping up some applesauce in the potato masher, pressing down with the wooden spoon until the apple falls through the holes and you are left with the peel on top. Then the peel is transferred to another bowl for composting. So this involves picking out the peels one by one. Let’s see if I can do some math (always questionable): I chopped twenty-four apples into eighths with an apple corer. 8 times 24 equals 192 apple peels. Picked. Out. By. Hand. Wow. Writing that makes it seem even more ridiculous.

I know, so silly right?

And here comes the epiphany: Sometimes it’s not worth it to be cheap! Like a politician, I am changing my stance on this issue. I now believe it is worth the thirty bucks to own a food mill. It would save SO much time and energy. If you’re going to make applesauce or apple butter more than once in your entire life, invest in a food mill. Here’s one from Amazon I’m thinking about getting for next year.

It’s kind of embarrassing how often I need to learn this lesson about being too frugal. . .

Canning Applesauce Recipe

24 medium chopped, cored, and quartered apples (or enough to fill your largest pot) I use a mixture of apples. If you use sweet apples (Gala, Winesap, Fuji, Red Delicious, Yellow Delicious, McIntosh, Jonagold) then you don’t have to add extra sugar.

2 cups of water

1. In an 8-10 quart pot, combine apple and water. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for 25-35 minutes or until the apple is soft and peel dislodges easily. Stir often.

2. Press apple through a food mill or sieve (or some homemade equivalent). Return to pot. Add water if you think it is too thick and/or cinnamon, to taste.

3. Scoop hot applesauce into sterilized pint canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe jar rims; adjust lids. Process in covered canner or pot for 15 minutes (timer starts when water returns to a boil). Remove jars and cool them on racks. This makes about 6 pints.

Enjoy and if you used a food mill pat yourself on the back for saving time!

The finished product

 

Sarah: Keith’s Quest September 23, 2012

 

Keith claims it all started the night we found out that I was pregnant.

 

We had  been hoping to have a baby for quite a while, so when the test was positive, I drove out to the lab where Keith works to share the news with him (incidentally, the lab was locked and there is only spotty cell phone reception, so I had to linger creepily by the door until an unsuspecting undergraduate exited).  When I walked into his office, Keith panicked, asking, “What’s wrong?!?”  But once we cleared up the misunderstanding, and he realized that something was instead very right, he decided we should go out to celebrate.  We were trying not to go out to eat too often (remember…do-it-yourself spirit of frugality?), but that night was a bit surreal, and we felt the need to commemorate it somehow.

Oaxaca, one of Mexico’s 31 states. Did you know Mexico had 31 states? I’m embarrassed to admit that I had no idea until I researched it for this post. Can you believe that I’ve lived almost 30 years without knowing the number of states in a country that borders ours?

 

We went to El Monte Grill.  Though this white girl is pretty partial to mushy refried beans and basic taco salad (see my previous post about my mom’s idea of family dinner night), Keith likes “authentic Mexican food.”  So El Monte is no Tex-Mex place.  It specializes in Oaxacan food (Keith tells me that “Oaxaca” is pronounced “wa-haw-ka,” but I have to ask him to say it again every time–“Hey, how do you say that word that’s the name of that state in Mexico?”–to his credit, Keith always knows what I’m talking about).

 

Well, as we ate our celebratory meal at El Monte, Keith was completely distracted from the purpose of being there.  “So, we’re going to have a baby,” I kept starting, and Keith would say things like, “Yeah.  I can’t believe it.  I’m so…hey, these beans are really good!”  “Yes,” I would reply impatiently, “but a baby!  I mean our lives are going to change!” And Keith would respond, “So maybe it will be a boy.  Or maybe a girl…hey, sweetheart, you really need to try these beans!”

 

These are the moments in the “happily ever after” phase of marriage that the movies don’t show you.

 

“I didn’t know that beans could taste like that!” Keith said later of his meal at El Monte.  “I mean, I was distracted from the main dish by the thing that was supposed to be the side dish!” And so, according to him, the quest for flavorful, from-scratch, authentic, stand-alone beans began.

Though Keith normally loves carne asade tacos, the side of beans was more engrossing that night.

Our track record with beans has not been good, so I have to admire his gumption for trying again.  Six years before that night at El Monte, in our humble Bratislava apartment, we first attempted to cook beans, and it is a painful memory.

 

Though we both loved quesadillas and craved Mexican food, we could not find beans (see previous post about packaged foods in Slovakia looking different than packaged foods in the States).  But we vaguely remembered that, if one couldn’t find canned beans, there were these hard things one could soak and then cook, and then, voila! It was just as if one had opened a can of beans.

the original bean recipe from Keith’s stepmom

 

We got a recipe from Keith’s stepmom.  It involved soaking uncooked beans overnight in a pot of water, adding (actual) garlic (not garlic powder?!), and cooking them in boiling water with other things like onion and salt and pepper.

 

Our first attempt at beans went beyond mischance or misadventure.  In fact, it was an unmitigated disaster approaching calamity status.  Full of do-it-yourself spirit, we put the beans in a pot on the stove to soak.  Then, overwhelmed by the day-to-day responsibilities of teaching, we forgot that we were soaking beans.

 

A few days later, we started sniffing the air.  “Does it smell funny in here to you?” I asked Keith upon entering the apartment one day.  “Hmm.  Yeah.  Kind of like something died?” he responded.  “Like that,” I said. “Maybe it’s time to do some dishes.”  I’m not proud of this fact, but it’s true: dirty dishes occasionally pile up haphazardly on our counters.  For extended periods of time.  Until they start to look crusty or fuzzy or until we have company coming.  Gross, I know.

Our kitchen in the Bratislava apartment…note the dishes scattered about. This picture was not posed for blogging purposes.

So Keith manfully started in on the dishes.  I elected to clean the bathroom.  When possible, we try to clean at the same time.  It’s much easier to clean when you’re suffering through it with someone else.  Misery loves company and all that.

 

The unmitigated-disaster-approaching-calamity happened when Keith unthinkingly grabbed a dirty pot off the stove to carry it to the sink…except that it wasn’t just a dirty pot.  That was when we remembered the beans because they spilled, along with their fermenting bean juice, all over the stove, the wall behind the stove, and the floor under the stove.  And that was also when we pinpointed the source of the foul smell in our apartment.

 

I pretended to be very engrossed in bathroom cleaning, despite Keith’s curses and pointed mutters of, “Disgusting! Foul! Wow, this is a lot of cleaning!”  I don’t think I emerged from the bathroom until he directly requested my help in lifting the stove so that he could clean behind it.  After performing my part while breathing only through my mouth, I beat a hasty retreat back to the bathroom to give the toilet yet another scrub as he finished removing all traces of bean juice and scouring the offensive pot.  I refused to come out until he assured me there was no way I could be called into service to clean any bean-juice-drenched objects.  Yeah, I probably still owe him for that one.

 

We waited several months before our second attempt.  We tried making beans again a few times, but we never really got it down to a science or an art, either one.  Haunted by our foul failure, when we returned to the States we resumed our habit of buying beans in cans.  After several years of buying the store-brand cans of beans (they’re cheaper, you know, than the name brand ones), we finally decided that we really couldn’t stomach the canned bean-sauce taste any longer.  I guess people who want the convenience of canned beans without the canned-bean taste probably rinse and drain their beans.  We, however, didn’t think of that, and so our bean consumption dwindled.  We kept thinking we needed to pull out that old recipe and try again, but somehow we didn’t get around to it.

Beans, beans, the musical fruit…let’s eat beans at every meal!

 

That brings us to the fateful (in oh, so many ways) night of Keith’s revelation and the beginning of an intense phase of bean research.

 

Keith took copious notes and did some scientific experiments (when not cooking beans, Keith studies electrical engineering, so he has a very exacting approach to kitchen work, changing one variable at a time and eating on the results for several days to really take in the full impact of his work).  His version of Mexican beans is good.  Really good.  Like I said, I am a fan of the refried bean mush found at most Tex-Mex places.  However, I have set aside my predilections and trained my palate to appreciate the fruits of his labors.  His beans have good flavor.  When he doesn’t put too much chipotle in them (white girl, remember?), I like to eat them in burritos or tacos or on their own as a side–or a main–dish.  They’re also really healthy because they have other vegetables in them, too, AND they use up some of that garden produce that otherwise tends to slowly wilt its way from our refrigerator to our compost pile!

 

I am disseminating the results of his experimentation here free of charge (with his full permission), though Keith would add the disclaimer that, like any quest, this one is not (and probably never will be) finished.  He welcomes your input and recipe adjustments.  Feel free to add comments!

 

Step 1: Soak 2 and 1/2 cups of beans (any kind, really–pinto, black, red, or a mix) overnight.  This makes A LOT of beans, so prepare to freeze some or feed a family reunion.

Step 2: Next day, in the food processor, pulverize 3 carrots, 3 celery stalks, 3 cloves of garlic,  a bell pepper (any kind), and 1 onion –NOTE: we usually double these vegetables and use half of the resulting mixture to make marinara sauce a la Giada de Laaurentiis, a delicious and very easy marinara sauce that enables you to say impressively, “Why yes, I did make this from scratch.”  You can also use this veggie blend as part of salsa or chicken stock.  It’s very efficient!

Step 3: Sauté pulverized vegetables in a BIG sauce pan with bit of olive oil.  After the onions become translucent, add spices: 1 Tbsp. paprika, 1 Tbsp. cumin, 1 tsp of chipotle powder (though I like pretty much none…and Keith likes it with 1 Tbsp…it just depends on how hot you want your beans).  Sauté spices with vegetables 5-10 m. until very fragrant.

Step 4: Add all beans to the sauté and just enough of the bean water to cover the beans.  Bring to a hard boil and then turn down to a simmer.  Simmer several hours, stirring occasionally til beans are soft.

Step 5: At the end, add all other flavors: 1/2 c. brown sugar, 1 Tbsp. salt (to taste), diced jalapeño (if desired), 2 Tbsp. vinegar, and the juice of 1 lime or 1/4 c. orange juice.

 

If you’re interested in other bean recipes, I’m really digging this website called the Kitchn.  The title of their section on beans is “Beautiful Beans.”  What’s not to love about a website that glorifies the musical fruit?

 

 
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