A Garden on the Prairie

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I have always wanted a garden every since I was little.  I planted carrots right into the rocky, sandy soil where I grew up and was delighted when I found spindly, bright carrots growing underneath green feathery fonds.  I think I also tried to grow radishes, but I don’t remember those being as successful.

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Now that I’m an adult (When did that happen…?) and have my own house with a big back yard, I can grow my own garden!  I have set out on this adventure with no real knowledge and I have learned a lot in the process.  All I’ve learned has been from experience and from the single gardening book I bought.  And it’s been a lot of fun.

Here’s a list of things we’ve grown this year so far:

romaine lettuce I bought six romaine plants and every single one died.  I think the hot prairie sun was too much for them.  They like the cooler weather.

spinach

lacinto and curly kale

broccoli

strawberries Some animal, a rabbit, bird or whatever is out here keeps eating our berries. I didn’t get to taste a single one!

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And this is what’s in progress right now:

squash

pumpkin

egg plant

tomatoes

green bell pepper

cucumber

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Next up will be Autumn vegetables, like beets, garlic, and probably more squash.  It has to cool down a little bit for those though.

It is amazing to me that a little 4×4 raised bed has produced so much life!  When one season’s crop has finished, we pull it up and plant another one.  I thought I was going to have to buy another bed to accommodate all of our plants, but this wee one has been serving us well.  Next year, I will buy another bed and put it under the tree in our yard.  This bed will get more shade and I will plant the more fragile plants there.  But, for now, I’m pretty pleased with my first attempts at gardening.  My younger self would be proud of me.

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Broccoli regrows after you cut out the main floret! Who knew?

This has been my newest interest and occupying my time in my new-ish house.  That and my new dog!

 

I have not updated this blog since September.  We went through a very traumatic time during our wedding and it took us a while to recover from it.  If any one at all remember the last time I posted, I mentioned that I started eating a gluten free diet to help with my arthritis.  I felt pretty lost with cooking for a while.  All of this is to say that I didn’t blog for a long time and now I feel like I’m ready again.  I hope to continue to update this.  Writing about food makes me happy.  Cheers!

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Vegan Banana/Date Muffins

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Yesterday, I spent some of my day doing some food prep for the week.  It’s nice to have some food pre-made so that dinner comes together faster.  It’s also a nice treat to have something for breakfast during the week other than oatmeal or pb&j toast.  Nothing is wrong with either of those foods, but doesn’t it feel decadent to have muffins during the week?  An extra special breakfast on Monday morning never hurt anybody.  With some bananas on their last legs, it was a good time to make these.  Also, I’ve been wanting to make date paste and try baking with it.  I’ll refer you again to Gena and her tutorial on date paste.  Here’s my take on baking with date paste.

Vegan Banana/Date Muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups mashed banana
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin coconut oil
  • 2/3 cup date paste
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seed + 6 tablespoons warm water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

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Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Make flax eggs: combine ground flax and water and stir.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes.

3.  Combine mashed bananas, coconut oil, date paste, and almond milk.  Mix until well incorporated.  Add vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and the flax eggs.  Mix until combined.

4.  In a separate bowl, combine the remaining dry ingredients and stir.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until just incorporated.  No over mixing!

5.  Line a muffin tin with muffin papers or spray with non-stick spray.  Divide the batter evenly amongst the twelve sections.  Place in oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

I was pretty pleased with these muffins.  The date paste adds the perfect touch of sweetness to these muffins without overwhelming the flavor.  In other words, they still taste like banana muffins.  The warm cinnamon and nutmeg also compliment the dates and bananas nicely.   I had two for breakfast, topped with peanut butter and I almost forgot it was Monday this morning.  Not.  They are tasty muffins though.

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A Day of Cooking: Challah Bread

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When I was younger, my Dad and I used to try to find really complicated recipes and spend a few hours in the kitchen making a new dish.  The one I remember most vividly was trying to make paella. It was quite the production and it seemed like we dirtied every single pot in our kitchen.  I credit those kitchens sessions with my dad to helping cultivate my creativeness with food and helping me learn to not be afraid to try things with new food.

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I asked my mom if I could make dinner for everyone while I was home, and my dad heard that, and asked if he could cook with me.  So, we spent most of yesterday making a meal that was complex, delicious and that we were pretty proud of.  During our adventures yesterday, I learned that my dad used to bake bread when he was in college.  I knew he was kind of a hippie and made his own yogurt and some other food, but I did not know that he made his own bread.  He knows his way around some yeast and flour!

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We made Challah bread, which I had never made before because that was the day school got cancelled last year from a giant snow storm.  We used a recipe from the Joy of Cooking, but of course altered it a little bit.  This is the best home made bread I’ve made to date.  It’s everything bread should be, fluffy, tender, rich from the eggs and perfect for soaking up hot broth from a roast.  It will also make your house smell fantastic while it’s baking.  Steve’s going to be excited I know how to make this now; it’s his favorite bread!

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I’m not sure if I can post the recipe, since it’s from a cookbook, but if you happen to have The Joy of Cooking, here are my modifications:

  • Swapped bread flour for all purpose flour.
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar instead of 3

Also, a note about the amount of flour they suggest:  You’re supposed to add 1/2 a cup with the yeast while it’s activating and then another 2 1/2 cups.  We added all that flour and our dough was too dry.  We had to knead about 1/4 cup more water into the dough to get the right moisture level.  You could probably leave out the last 1/2 cup of flour.  Or add flour slowly until you get a dough that has the right texture.  You’re looking to be able to pull a piece off the dough and have it stretch off so that it makes a “window” that you can see light through.  That’s how you know the glutens have properly formed.  The dough should also be smooth and be slightly damp to the touch.

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There are few things I can think of that are better than spending a whole day in the kitchen, drinking wine, listening to a Prairie Home Companion and hanging out with my family.  The only things missing were my brother, Steve and my kitties.  Happy baking!

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Served our challah with braised beef chuck roast and elk round steak with saffron risotto.

The High Protein Pancake

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I decided to try out the high protein pancake yesterday morning after seeing Anne eat them a few times.  I was pretty skeptical; is it really a pancake if there’s no flour in it?  I’ll leave the exact definition pancake for you to figure out, but whatever you want to call this, it was actually really delicious!  It’s a relatively quick and easy week day breakfast (mine’s cooking right now as I type this) and none of the ingredients aren’t that obscure.

High Protein Pancake

1 banana

1 tablespoon of chia seeds

sprinkle of cinnamon and nutmeg

2 eggs

  • Mash up the banana in a bowl.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine really well.
  • Heat a pan over low heat and spray lightly with oil.  Pour batter into the pan and wait about 7-10 minutes.  This pancake has to cook for a while before it’s ready to flip.
  • Serve with your favorite toppings and enjoy!

Notes: 

  • You really do have to wait a while to flip the pancake.  Go make some coffee or pack your lunch while it sets.  I’ve also found that covering the pancake with a lid while it cooks helps set the top too.
  • I used chia seeds because it’s what I had.  Anne’s original recipe calls for ground flax seeds, which might be a little easier to find.
  • This pancake is pretty low in calories, so toppings like nut butter, cottage cheese, yogurt, more fruit etc will help the pancake satiate you longer.

I’m off to go eat mine with almond butter and some Crofter’s Blood Orange jam.  Happy Friday!

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Goat Milk

Sorry for the wee picture of my goat milk, but that’s all I could find on the internet!  I’ve been drinking this brand of goat milk, Meyenberg, for the past couple of weeks and I love it.  I’ve always been a big goat cheese fan, but my interest and taste developed more for them when I discovered I was a lactose intolerant.  Goat milk doesn’t make my throat feel like it’s closing up, and I digest it pretty well.

I’ve been adding a few more dairy products back into my diet because I feel like I’m missing something.  I’ve just felt off and I never really feel satisfied after my meals.  Since adding a little yogurt, cottage cheese and goat milk into my diet, I have felt much better.  I haven’t wanted to kill someone when I get home from work because I’m so hungry.  I’ve been really digging those flavored Chobani yogurts that come in the six ounce containers.  My favorite flavors so far are apple and cinnamon and pineapple.  I’ve got a lot of flavors to work through though!

I’ve been making home made mochas in the morning with goat milk.  I make a tiny bit of espresso, mix goat milk and hot chocolate mix together and the add espresso to that.  It’s quite a lovely combination.  I’ve been missing that creamy element in my coffee and tea in the morning, something almond milk can’t quite provide.  I’ll still be sticking to almond milk when I eat cereal though.

 

I don’t remember exactly what cow’s milk tastes like because I haven’t had it in so long, but from what I can remember, goat’s milk is slightly sweeter that cow.  It tastes very rich and decadent to me, but that’s probably because I usually drink almond milk.  Almond milk has basically no fat in it in comparison to animal milk.  Goat milk is a little pricey, but I think it’s worth the investment because it’s making me feel more satisfied.  Happy Friday all!

 

 

Experiments With Oat Flour: Raisin Walnut Muffins

I did some baking last weekend and experimented with oat flour.  I have a massive bag of steel cut oats and I am slowly working my way through them.  Lately, I’ve taken an interest in using alternative flours in baking.  My interest doesn’t stem from a gluten allergy or intolerance, but curiosity as to how different grain flours react in the baking process.  Since many alternative grain flours don’t contain gluten, the texture and taste of the baked good changes dramatically.

I started off pretty safe with these muffins and only replaced half of the wheat flour with oat flour.  I didn’t want to end up with flat, pancake muffins.  Whole wheat, stone ground flour was my choice for the other flour.  Usually, I do half all purpose, half whole wheat flour when I bake, but I was trying to create a pretty healthy muffin.  I’m on a constant quest to make a muffin that will stick with me for a while.

These muffins had a lot of cinnamon, nutmeg, raisins and walnuts.  I really liked the taste, but I thought they were too dry.  I used butter for the fat in this recipe, but I might try adding applesauce or full-fat yogurt to add some moisture to these.  Otherwise, they turned out pretty well.  They were almost the height of my usual muffins with wheat flour.  So, no recipe yet, but expect some more experimenting this weekend!  I’m also trying to work out an oat pancake recipe.

Anyone have any tips for working with alternative grain flours?

Barrel Aged Gin

I’ve got a new love and it’s been aged in a barrel.  Am I the last person on Earth to hear of barrel aged gin?  I didn’t even know you could put gin in a barrel.  But, somebody is, and it is so right.  My good friend introduced this to me last night and I was so pleased with it’s flavor.   It has a ever slight maltiness and smokiness to it.  It’s a very subtle flavor as it spends such a short time in the oak barrel.

Old Tom Gin was created by Ransom Spirits to be historically accurate to the way gin was made before Prohibition.  This gin has incredible flavor, the typical juniper berry, but also lemon peel, coriander, cardamom, orange peel, and angelica root.  Paired with that small bit of malt from the barrel,this gin has a flavor that is unlike your normal, run-of-the-mill gin.

We had ours with tonic which was delightful.  I tried a little on the side without tonic too, and I couldn’t stop talking about how much I liked it.  I said it tasted more gin-y to me, and my friend laughed at me.  If I enjoy this, it would lead me to believe that I could work my way up to liking bourbon or whiskey, which is aged in a barrel for much longer.  Baby steps, people.  I’d like to try making some whisky cocktails with this gin, just see what kind of flavor it would have.  Maybe a Manhattan or Old Fashioned.

We had gin and tonics with a little pre-dinner snack: marcona almonds, dried cantaloupe and two different kinds of salami.  Marcona almonds are almonds that are grown on the Mediterranean coast of Spain and are shorter and sweeter than almonds here in the us.  Also, the dried cantaloupe is super tasty and I may need to go buy another box today.

It was a fun night and I got to try some new, delicious gin.  Thanks for the new addiction and a lovely day, Elaine!