A thing of beauty.

Bialys ( bee ah lee ) are so often said to be "like a bagel" they are in that they are also round.  Bialys are chewy, airy and have a little raft-like cavity which holds whatever you'd like in there.  They haven't the girth or time bending density of bagels - They are a kind little thing.

Traditional fillings will be a smattering of garlic, or onions, poppy seeds or any mixture of these.  You can make them sweet instead of savory and you can make them cheesy or meaty.  They have a short baking time so the only rule to what goes in them is that it should either be somewhat previously cooked or cook within the same time as the bialy.  For these I very gently cooked minced onions in olive oil on low until translucent and then added a pinch of salt and poppy seeds to them.

For these little guys I make a dough that goes into the refrigerator and sits at least overnight.  This same dough is the base for a lot of delicious things.  I'll mention those later.  I start the dough just like a quick bread; so flour(s), salt,water, yeast which is spoon blended for a couple minutes.  Scraped out onto a floured surface and kneaded for another 4 minutes and then a sealable container with twice the volume of what you are putting into it.  Cover the bottom of the container with olive oil and coat the sides and the interior rim of the lid.  This will make sure the sough releases from the container when you remove some for rising.

What you need:

2 Cups whole wheat flour
2 Cups unbleached white flour
1 and 3/4 cups lukewarm water
2 tsp yeast
1 heaping tsp sea salt

Mix thoroughly the flours.  Sprinkle salt in and mix.  Put yeast into the lukewarm water.  Combine all to make a dough and if a little wet add some flour or if a little dry sprinkle touches of lukewarm water in until mostly just held together.  Knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth and balled up well.

Your fridge container should have double volume of your dough for expansion.  Oil it and the lid and place dough inside container.

Let stand overnight.  Or at least 2 hours.  Planning ahead always makes it quicker.
After a couple hours in the fridge you'll notice the dough getting softer and happier.  The next day the dough will be full of lovely holes. You can leave the dough in the refrigerator up to 3 days before who knows what happens.  After that it could turn into running shoes, I don't know.  It will gain in a "sour" flavor.  Which I LOVE, but isn't for everyone. The first few days wont be an intense flavor, just more like a real bakery's bread rather than the pale versions that quicker breads give. 1-3 days and it is chewy, moist, and steadily becomes more like a sourdough.  Now you have enough dough to make 2 batches of bialys. Or 1 batch of bialys and really 2-4 kick ass pizzas, flatbreads, pitas.  This dough is amazing.  Airy and chewy.  Either way you choose to go it is nice to leave at least half the dough for the following day.  No matter what if you use up the second half take a small handful of dough from it and leave it in the container.  This is your poolish.*

The best thing about this is that you will have bread ready to start anyday you want it by keeping some in the fridge!  Every other night I make a batch and put it in the fridge.  Each time I take out some for a recipe I make sure I always leave at least a handful of dough to "start" the next batch with.  *This is a poolish.  The poolish makes a safisticated bread always lending it's wisdom to the next batch making sure to pass on its flavor.  This is another thing bread bakers use to make such tasty bread. *

If/when you go straight from the fridge this dough will be approximately halved for the following photos and the remainder put back into the fridge.  You'll knead and shape it on a floured surface, let it rest while you work on other things for a few minutes under a towel (15 or so to take the chill out)  then pat and shape into a square like below to measure out however many bialy you wish it to make this does 16, 2 inch bialy or 8 monster bialy.  
This tool is for dough cutting and is worth every penny.  I recommend them, they also scrape clean your work surface.

I bundle the shapes from squares into circles.  Watch the video for a more detailed explanation.

My monkey mitten working it's magic.

Holy crap, I'm a wizard.

These will now rise for 30-45 (it likes longer - upto an hour and half but this can be rushed if you need. Longer equals softer) minutes in a warmish kitchen (or place near a warming oven).  The dough will crust over a touch, I ignore it but you can sprinkle/mist the tops with a little water or oil to prevent this.  A few (10-20) minutes before shaping PREHEAT OVEN TO 480
I lightly flour the pan with unbleached flour and then shape the bialy.  I simply press my thumbs into the center of the ball and scoot the ball around in my hand like a teeny tiny steering wheel keep a fat ring around the outer edge and making a thin center well.  The center will be very thin and translucent when held up to the light.  Tears in the dough don't matter too much and you can stretch it to make the bialy a touch wider.  The center should be an inch - two inches. 
Bialy, like most bread loves a hot oven.  These since they are so tiny will only take 5-7 minutes max.  Always check around 5 to make sure they aren't in there up to no good.  They should feel a touch firm when poked and have nice coloring.  The flours browness is a good indicator too.  It will be russet where the bread isn't.  After a few moments out of the oven the once firm bialys become soft and chewy.


Chocolate Cherry sauce

Yes, I'm serious.

Who thinks "I need to eat more chocolate?"  I do.  Chocolate (not milk chocolate, and not Hershey's) is good for you.

I sliced pork tenderloin into thin coins so it cooks quickly on a low-med heat in a well seasoned cast iron pan (I sprinkle them with salt and maybe if I'm feeling real crazy some paprika) and then set aside.  I'll pour off any liquid from the meat for my dog pal.

For the sauce:
3 heaping TBSP Cherry preserves (or 1/4 Cup sweet cherries pitted and halved)  Tart pie cherries are fine too you just need to adjust them with some vegan sugar.
2 TBSP vegan sugar (more if using straight sour pie cherries)
2 TBSP cocoa powder (straight real stuff not with anything added)
1/4 Cup water to dissolve sugar and cocoa powder in.

I put my sugar and water into a sauce pan and simmer it just until sugar is dissolved, you'll need to be constantly stirring.  After the sugar is dissolved I add cocoa and whisk it in to make it as smooth as possible.  Now the little teeny balls of cocoa is NOT a bad thing.

  * Tangent*Most cocoa powder is "Dutched" or Dutch process and that means they've removed the cocoa butter which then gets turned into chocolates and white chocolate and non-food things.  So those tiny annoying balls of cocoa form from the residual cocoa butter and oils in the cocoa - and try as you may to smash them, they are stubborn.  * Tangent over*

So once it is as smooth as I can get it I pour it over a tiny screen to filter out the lumps and let the sauce pour through into another little pan.  I'll use a steeping ball made of mesh to do this since the wire is a very fine mesh.  Then on very low I'll scoop in the cherries, or cherry preserves.  Blending everything until it become a warm smooth syrupy bliss.

This will be a thin sauce, like a glaze.

You can now drizzle this over pork tenderloin, chicken, duck, a roast.  I get all sloppy and just toss the meat in it so it coats it like a really fancytown bbq.  This sauce likes a darker meat, a gamey meat best... but unless you're rich or a hunter you may be limited.

If you're vegetarian this is CRAZY delicious over garlic mashed potatoes!  No kidding at all.
It is also an intensely wonderful thing to sop up with bread and biscuits!

There are a million variations you can do on this.  Like using a liquer, sherry, lavender blossoms etc.


Bulgogi - no soy sauce -

Bulgogi was something I used to dream of and think of fondly feeling I could never recreate it without the magic of soy sauce.  Like MOST recipes I found a beyond suitable representation of my favorite and I couldn't be more happy with this one.

There is a sweet bulgogi (often served on beef) and a hot bulgogi (often served on pork).  I love both but prefer the super hot!

For the sweet bulgogi you cut all the pepper(s) in half (or even further if cooking for the heat tolerant impaired) the amount below and double the sugar of the amount below.

For Hot bulgogi you will need:
1 to 2 lb (mine is usually 1.5 beef) of London broil beef or equivalent of pork loin cut sliced thinly 1/8th inch.  I get mine from Afton field farm and I let it half thaw so it is really easy to cut, if you let it thaw fully it will wiggle and squish away from your blade's edge.
1 tsp Cayenne
1/2 tsp Serrano
1 tsp Paprika  (Getting good paprika is a pain - it should smell Earthy and taste like a round light warmth - not just be red)
1/2 tsp Crushed red pepper flakes OR an equally high heat pepper flake I use - Thai Orange.
A handful of garlic cloves, 6 med. cloves approx.  Crushed using a press.
1 TBSP - 1/4 Cup vegan sugar
1/2 tsp - 1 TBSP any honey you like (I use a really light colored honey for the hot bulgogi and a dark honey for the sweet bulgogi)
1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 inch knuckle of Fresh Ginger if you want.  I don't usually, but it is really tasty with it as well.
Top with toasted golden flax seed or sesame.
Top with spring onion, green onion sliced thinly or chives.

All of these peppers I grow and process into either powder or flake form. But if you have a flavorful and reliable spice resource then use those.

When making bulgogi the most important bit is that the meat is sliced thinly (against the grain) this does several things it coats the meat in the spices thoroughly, the meat will curl a bit as it cooks and hold little spicy pockets of garlic, peppers and sugar lastly it cooks it very very quickly and it should be very tender (not overcooked) and made after all other foods for the meal are finished or on their way to being done.

If it looks like way too much pepper, it is perfect.

I cook this, like many things, in a dry (but well seasoned) cast iron pan.  The meat goes directly into a warm-hot pan - it will stick a little but it will release juices from the meat and free up.  Quickly press or add chopped garlic to meat and toss.  Add all peppers and salt, stir in and lastly add sugar and stir making sure all is coated.  If at any point you find this frustrating, or don't have a cast iron pan you can use a spoonful of sunflower oil, safflower oil to the pan to aid in cooking.

It is done once the salt and sugar have dissolved, coat with juices and pepper in the pan and serve with your choice of goodness.

This is usually served with rice and wrapped in a fat green leafy vegetable like a romaine or butter lettuce.  I like it with sweet potatoes or squash in the winter.  Hot and spicy meals make the winter get scared away at least for a moment.  Num.


Stretchin' yo Chicken Change

On the mashed potatoes is my cranberry salsa!  2 Cups cranberries blitzed, 1 shallot or small onion, 1-2 garlic cloves, 3 jalapenos or more, 1/4 Cup olive oil, 1/4 Cup honey and salt to taste (you can always add sugar to taste mix well to have it dissolve!).  Can be served raw or simmered -add honey last if you choose to cook it.

James Brown was sold out for it.  Bad for James Brown, but someone made out like a bandit.  Because chicken change can go so far.  Especially when being poorer the whole needing to eat, well can take its toll on one's wallet.  But also convenience is killing us - all those easy spice packages, quick meals are loaded with MSG (we call it The Spice).

There is a lot of what Jason and I refer to as the natural bad stuff in anything with protein. Or natural "spice."  That is the thing MSG is mimicking which occurs in all proteins once broken down.  So chicken skin will have it.  Bones will have it (marrow).  Even protein rich vegetables.  Like if you make veggie stock and let the vegetables stay in there until they are puree that is bad.   So we will walk you through MINIMIZING it.  It wont eliminate it.  Because a little of the natural bad stuff is completely NORMAL.  The processed bad stuff is horrific.  Chicken soup from a restaurant = MSG, "Homemade chicken soup" with boullion = MSG, Chicken soup from scratch with these instructions will yield as healthy a version as can be made.

The meals from 1 bird and how many they can feed: At the top picture left is the chickens backbone and neck in the plastic.  I will save and freeze this if I don't feel like making soup and then freezing the soup in meal portions. Which will yield 3-4 meals worth of soup at least.  Then the thighs are a meal for Jason and I, the wings and drumsticks are a meal, the breasts and sliced into 1/2-1 inch strips and used in 2-4 meals. So 1 chicken for us is 7-10 meals minimum depending on how industrious I want to be. Even if I bake the entire chicken and shred it into my favorite bar-b-q sauce it will make just as many meals or more.  We are in a bizarre age of owning a lot and consuming a lot but then also no one likes to spend money.  This way you don't quite get something for nothing, but even better you get a lot just from being so wise!

fried breast, oven roasted potatoes and wild rice... dip liberally in the BBQ sauce pictured below!

Berber-Q sauce is the same as Bar-b-q, I just double or triple a lot of the spices like allspice and garlic. Making a very dark sauce.

1. Breasts  depending on size, you can make more than one meal alone from them.  The average bird yields two meals just from the two breasts for Jason and I.  So 1 breast cooked and shared along with fruit, veggies, greens makes a very reasonable meal.  We usually make Jason's favorite from the breast -- Bar-b-Q fried chicken tenders.

2. Wings and Drumsticks any one of those or both served up with something is a pretty hearty meal. There are a lot of combinations that can come from these humble pieces.  They can be stripped and made into pot pie, empanadas, tacos, pizza topping, gravy for grains, hot wings, a fruit compote served on top of them or roasted up with some root vegetables.  (the links are for most of the meat of the chicken, not just wings and drumsticks)

Oat flour crusted drumstick and thigh baked with strawberry/apricot sauce (simmer fruit lightly until it "bleeds" with a touch of sugar or honey), basmati rice and fresh zucchini
3. Thighs are usually baked in shallow sunflower oil in my cast iron skillet.  I remove the skin from them and lightly coat the tops in sunflower oil and then add my herbs and a coat of whole wheat flour and home processed oat flour (for extra crunch). I cook them on 400 until the top crumbs are crispy and when poked no red-pink juice comes out.  I usually just keep an eye on them so they don't get overbaked (too often the case with veggies and meat alike)  You want the chicken moist, that just means taking it out AS SOON as the juice runs clear. These on special occasion I bake with the drumstick intact and makes for a more energy rich meal rather than heavy on the grains.  Thighs are good in pot pies, handpies, tacos and roasted.  Like most dark meat is.  I like to make thighs with my Apricot and Strawberry sauce.*

Some veg being cooked in water separate from my chicken water to be added once the veggies are just undercrisp.

4. Backbone and Neck makes the best soup.  This is because of the natural spice it contains of course, but also because the meat on them is difficult to remove and this keeps it from being wasted.  The skin and the bones - also what little meat remains on it - once boiled makes a soup that it difficult to resist.  (Which on this blog, we know why that is)  The meat once boiled for NO LONGER THAN 20 MINUTES is very easily removed once it has cooled.  I will go into further detail under the rules.

So 1 chicken for 2 people will make AT LEAST 6 meals.  Realistically the soup will be eaten at least 2-4 times between 2 people (we had it for 3 meals each with some leftover which we then used the remainder for potpies and got another 2 meals from - making 5 meals from JUST the backbone and neck). So for Jason and I one chicken makes 7 to 10 meals.  So you can see how a humble bird can be really worth the price tag so many think is too high. Soup freezes really well!  So to help you make cooking easier and have a quick dinner for the family take out a little tub of your homemade soup defrost it an then place it on a low simmer heating pan and make up whatever else you'd like with it.  Voila!  Dinner in a half hour.

RULES for soup:

  • I leave the back and neck intact to remove whole.
  • Don't overcook, the longer you cook the chicken parts, the more you break it down and you don't need a liquefied chicken in order to make a tasty soup.
  • As the SPICE/foam/fatty sludge builds up and floats to the surface scoop it out and throw it away.  Dogs love this crap and it is an okay treat for them.  But beware they will become HYPER FOCUSED (yes, like children after fast food) on getting more and acting out.  So I toss my furry pal outside when she gets spice-treats.
  • Final rule make sure there is a lot of fresh veg and herbs going in the soup to stretch it and also to add flavor that isn't just birdfat and salt.

When I was a kid and I was watching a friend's family member (an old German woman) cooking some beans, I noticed she was skimming the foam and froth off the top of the liquid.  I asked her 'What are you doing?' she said "I'm throwing away the farts."  What she was doing was removing the broken protein from the legumes (msg) taught to her by her mother to help with digestion and to ease stomach issues.  She knew them as farts.  I know now that it causes digestive upset to have large amounts of this stuff.   So when you skim this stuff whether it is fatty, foamy or other -- your stomach and family members will thank you.

The natural form of "The Spice"that collects on the surface of the boiling soup -- we skim it off and into another pan while it is cooking.  When soup cools, it may also have a "skin" on it, that looks like ice.  This is also "the spice" so make sure you remove it before stirring or eating.

My soup is water, onion, celery, garlic and carrot along with salt, pepper and whatever herbs I may have.  It feels a little insulting to give ratios really since the ratio is usually whatever amount feeds the number of people you have and a single chicken back can make about 15-18 cups of soup (not broth but all in all).  The ratio of veg-broth-chicken is a taste thing.  I almost always plump up a soup with 2 cups of onion, 2 cups of carrot, 1 heaping cup of celery and a handful of garlic cloves.  The more the merrier.

In case you missed where I get my chicken.  It is from Afton Field Farm they are good folks and wonderful stewards of the animals they keep.  You can get a detailed account of what the goings on are at Afton Field Farm through Alicia's blog.  In the "Our Friends" list on the left side of the blog are links to people who care, people who do it right and other resources.  If you are not local and want a farmer who does it right check out localharvest.


Bar B Que (Not just for meat!)

The best thick sauces are made with paste tomatoes.  You can use a canned tomato puree or "crushed tomatoes".  But if you go the from scratch route you must cut tomatoes in half and squeeze or scoop out the seeds and more importantly the soft slimy covering to the seeds. Short of fermentation the seeds and slime bits take forever to break down.  The soft stuff around the seeds are what give the bitter acidic tangy flavor to tomatoes so if you want to have sweeter smoother sauce you get rid of that part.  It is also the part of the tomato that breaks down protein so expelling it makes your bbq last longer.

For one 4-5 lb chicken (this will make approximately 5 Cups finished sauce) baked and stripped down  this is the amount of bbq sauce you'll need for a saucy dish.  You can halve this if applying to grilled foods or using as a glaze while baking.  I like this with Pici pastas. num

  • 4 pounds of Tomatoes or one 28oz can of tomatoes
  • 1 giant (and I mean huge) yellow or vidalia onion minced (teeny tiny pieces) - this adds a lot of round and sweet flavor one of the more important ingredients
  • 4-6 cloves garlic pressed or minced
  • 1/2 Cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (depending on heat-taste)
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika as real as you can get not just the stuff that makes things red (smoked paprika makes a unique bbq)
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp cumin (fresh ground is best)
  • a handful of fresh oregano
  • 1/2 -1 Cup honey, agave, brown sugar or Preserves of your choice (cherry, and raspberry are my personal favorites- apricot is also awesome)  I use Bonne Maman or whatever I have been given or have canned myself.
  • Sea salt to taste 

Simmer minced onion until translucent, add minced garlic and stir well.
Pour tomatoes into onion/garlic mix simmer on low-med (it should not spit and sputter too much that scorches the sauce). Add spices and then herbs, once nearing the end choose one sugar/sweetener.  Stir in until well blended wait a few minutes to taste before adding final salt -the flavor builds and you can end up with a salty mess if you salt too quickly.  This recipe can be halved easily to be a dip for chicken fingers, fries, sandwiches.

This recipe can be canned or frozen into portions so you don't have to baby a new sauce each time you want some.  If canning add 1 tsp of lemon juice to a half pint,  2 tsp to a pint, 2 TBSP to a quart jar.  Or just test the ph.  I like to just make it easy on myself and add the lemon juice in these increments, it assures there is enough acid to help preserve the sauce.


Blackout friendship

I grew up poor as can be.  Of course as kids we had zero clue and played and carried on like animals.  We knew our clothes were ugly but we were ugly too - so no one was looking.  We had a few strong rituals that made for powerful memories.  When the power would go out we would become a family.  We were of course a family already, but primarily my sister and I ran around outside and played in junk yard heaps.  When there was a power outage mom would get the oil lamps and light their woven wicks and do up the largest room in the warm amber glow.  There we'd sit and talk, really talk.  Joke with each other, about how much we hated each other - or at least it was a joke then.  We duke out some epic games of Skip-Bo and then after laughter and love.  The lights would pop back on.  Whelp, done.  Everyone go back to pretending we are all alone in life.

Recently in my neighborhood there was a power outage.  Everyone gathered on their porches looking up and down the streets.  Each shouting to the house across about what the hell was wrong with the power company and how awful the service was ( The power has flickered MAYBE twice in the year I've lived here- no complaints from me).  Jason and I gathered candles and ran to the porch elated. Watching the neighbors talk at length, giggle together and children frolicking hard like summer fawns.  It was incredible.  Everyone had a candle flame either on their porches or in their living rooms.  You could see every star.  There was a harmony in the neighborhood that was rivaled only by the saccharine joy of woodland creatures in a Disney feature.

At 10 PM on the dot the power kicked back on and a roar of clapping and hollering thundered throughout the neighborhood.  In an instant every one was "happy" after being so happy.  Now they could go back into their caves and turn on their cave-shadows.  No need to be friendly.  We're good, we have Netflix.  New episode of House on Hulu.  Now we could be really happy because we could escape how sad we are and not feel anything at all.   With the clapping my spirit melted and I sat on the porch with Jason until it became a little uncomfortably cold.


Vanilla Ginger Mint Ice cream

Remember the directions from the Pumpkin Ice cream?  That will help with the how.

What you need:

  • 1 pint half and half
  • 1 scant TBSP vanilla
  • 2 handfulls of fresh mint (of your choosing) chopped fine, or use mint oil
  • 3/4 inch fresh ginger grated
  • 1/3-1/2 cup Vegan sugar 
Whisk together ingredients vigorously then continue to your favored method of ice cream making.  (click the Pumpkin Ice cream link for the two I use)

Apple Ginger Acorn Squash

I have to straddle a fine line to eek some ginger into my life because Jason doesn't like it unless it is soda and even then he likes it far more tame than I prefer it.  This is a good dish to get a ginger fix and still have a lot of savory other things happening to keep the slightly more finicky tongues busy.

What you need:

  • 1 large or two small acorn squash
  • 1 granny smith apple (peeled and cored then diced in chunks)
  • 1/4-1/2 inch little knuckle of ginger
  • sea salt to taste
  • cayenne (optional)
  • a clove of garlic (optional)
  • teeny pinch nutmeg (optional)

Preheat your oven to 375.  Oil lightly a pan.  Make sure your acorn squash either does NOT have wax on the exterior or give it a scalding rinse/scrub.  The food wax is the worst.  And if you're in a hurry when buying food it is really tough to see it.  Scratch it with your finger and if you reach the real skin in the scratch, great!  If not, this is very thick wax and may need to be cut off!  It is always best if there is NONE at all.

The easy way to cook squash is to cut it in half, scoop out the interior squish (reserving seeds if you're a gardener in case this is the best squash of your life) place the flesh side down on the pan and bake forever.  Checking every 20 minutes, then decreasing checking time to 15 and the closer to done then to 5 minutes.  It is not a rigid science with the huge variety of sizes these come in. You can't do this method if the wax is stubborn.  It will run down the sides to your pan and then it is on the flesh.  You can skin the squash with a peeler and knife for the crevasses. This way seems painfully intense but, you can then cut 1/2 inch rings and chop the squash into little pieces and it cooks really quickly.

After the squash is half way done... smaller pieces are effortlessly pierced with a fork.  Now it is time to add the granny smith chunks to the pan.  Cook for another 15 minutes until the outside flesh of the apple chunks have a silken but sad looking skin. It should now smell like autumn, and be sweet.

Place cooked lovelies into a tall mixing bowl with abrupt sides (this will keep things from flying out) and using a mixer blend until squash is mashed potato like -apples may most likely remain in chunks and not smooth through.  This is preferable.

You can keep this in an oven dish in a warm oven if it is completed before other things in the meal because this will lose heat quickly!

I served the squash with this:

I slice up some garlic and sautee it in a pan on a low-med heat until golden brown and crispy and then put aside.

I shredded a carrot finely into the remaining oil in the pan and tossing them often I let them darken and then removed them and put aside.

These are Heritage Pork chops which were cooked purely in their own fat, no oil or butter and some paprika I dried and ground from my garden.  After the pork chops are done -they only take minutes to cook and if put into a nice already hot cast iron skillet you are just cooking them until there is a nice caramelizing on the fat of the pork (a good chop will be marbled with fat and may have the caramelizing on the "fleshy" parts as well.  If you like your chops a little well done and cook them a couple minutes (on both sides)  just give a tiny slice to the meatier part on the outer edge.  This slice will firm up and open up looking like a triangle was cut out.  This is a "well" cooked chop.  I prefer mine to still expel a great deal of moisture so I do mine about medium -just touching it with my cooking fork in the center of the meat for firmness and using caramelization as the guide.  A good pork chop will have a PINK tone to it.  It will not be white. The Other White Meat is a campaign for cheap industrialized factory farmed pork. 

After the pork is done I put a TINY amount of butter in the pan which takes a little of the pork drippings off the pan and then I add a handful of pineapple sage cut chiffonade and stir it into the butter until the sage wilts.

I place the sage and garlic chips over the pork.

And a final Pork porn shot.


Pumpkin Ice Cream - It is never too cold for delicious

Traditional method used and then frozen in a freezer that is on a lower setting, making it scoopable! YUM

Traditional method used and then served immediately.  Like soft-serve.  Yum!

I'm not a gadget person.  I have a small electric hand mixer that comes out maybe 4 times a year even though I cook about 800 times a year.  I fail at knowing anything new and usually sit with a puzzled look when folks talk about such toys.  I'm the one who always thinks "WHY DOES ANYONE NEED THAT!?" (yes, sometimes in appalled anger) A mixer, sppfff, a spoon - I have 4 and they are easy to clean.  Well, I fell for the marketing trap of the Play and Freeze.  I wanted it and longed for it.  I called every store in the 15 mile area around me.  I pined for it but couldn't spend 30 or more dollars to order it.  Not finding it anywhere I gave up and shrugged off my "need" for it.  Jason kept insisting we could make ice cream with "just a can and a bowl"  but the initiative was never taken to make it.  UNTIL NOW!!! Yeah!

What you need for 1 quart (breaking it up into two batches cuts the time on it and it will keep in the fridge for a week easily):

  • 1 pint /You will only NEED 1/2 of this but can easily use all to stretch your ice cream/ half and half (a local dairy and raw is best... but I know the system makes it tough) **{{also! you can make pumpkin pie sherbet or vegan ice cream skipping the cream}}
  • 1 small can of pumpkin 15oz.  or a single 2 lb pumpkin cleaned, cooked, scooped and pureed(You can replace with sweet potatoes, a lot of folks that dislike pumpkin pie dislike ginger - I find it indespensible but? Personal taste, also sweet potatoes are more readily available.)
  • 1/3-1/2 (My sugar amount- Jason and most peoples sugar amount) Cup vegan sugar or light brown sugar or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp allspice
  • tiny bit of grated fresh ginger (use a fine grater and give it a swipe or two fresh is powerful, dry is often mixed with other nasties)
  • 1/8 tsp or tiny pinch ground cloves (very strong so go lightly) 
  • 1/4 -1/2 Cup of rock salt (it may say ice cream salt)  I got some for .99 cents and since it is only for speeding up the melting of ice because melting ice has more freezing capability and you don't consume the salt so you need not be as picky as if you're feeding it to others.
  • A large CLEAN coffee can or quart mason jar.
  •  A large bowl or pot which the ice cream can/jar fits well inside of with plenty of outside room for ice.
 The more fat there is in the milk, the quicker it will fluff and freeze, but I don't use anything fattier than half and half because it works really well in the play and freeze for traditional method (shown in photos) fattier cream could cut back active time.  **If you mix everything except the cream into the pumpkin (spices)  then put into the freezer for a few minutes taking it out only to stir and set up the rest of your situation, then it being cold will jump start the whole thing.  If you're making the vegan version I would recommend cutting back on any strong spices just a touch as this is a potent mix meant for flavoring the cream as well.  When storing it you may want to turn your freezer down a touch so it isn't so cold.  High settings on freezers just make ice cream into concrete. For vegan version you can stick it into the fridge and just come back to it later... taking it out of the freezer placing it on the counter for a few minutes to loosen the edges from your container.  Voila!  If you want a fluffy version continue below ignoring the cream.

Traditional method:
In a mixing bowl whip together your sugar, spices, cream and pumpkin then pour/scoop into the can or jar.  (or place in freezer to chill first) The bowl must be large enough to house the ice and the coffee can/jar.  Can/jar goes into the center of the bowl.  Surround the can with ice. Sprinkle 1/4 Cup rock salt over ice. Reserving some salt for next ice batch should your ice diminish before you have the consistency of ice cream you want. Now with the can/jar in the middle of the ice just agitate it like a washing machine.  Swishing back and forth or turning it in your desire direction mix it up.  Doesn't matter as long as it is moving and touching the ice. Ice level should be above the level of ingredients in the jar.

If you have the play and freeze just follow directions they include.  ( It is a pain in the poot to get ice cream OUT of it if you don't stop to stir it - you must stop a few times and stir it to remove the coldest from the walls) It will take about 20 minutes of active rolling to complete ice cream using half and half in the play and freeze.  It makes a fairly firm ice cream.

Still runny, but with plenty of solid pieces to mix in.

Starting to get larger amounts of solid frozen bits.

For the bowl method, you will also need to occasionally stir it with a spoon.  The walls will get the coldest first... so it can create an ice wall making it tough to mix in.  So stir pulling ice cream from the walls to the center and check for the consistency you want.  Once you have that... you have ice cream!
Depending on the fat in the cream and the salt in the ice this can take between 30 minutes and 55 minutes of constant motion! It makes a soft ice cream.

For saving the excess I recommend dialing down the freezer so it isn't crazy cold and turns your hardwork into concrete. To serve remove from fridge and let it sit out for a few minutes to release itself from the container.

My review of the play and freeze is that making the children do the heavy lifting portion of the ice cream making is genius.  The downside is having to stir it so often.  The quality of firmness is pretty rad as well.  Enjoy your ice cream adventures!


Empanadas - samosas, pakoras, Cornish pasty, Jamaican "meat" pie

White Whole Wheat with cayenne, cherry bomb, paprika, potato, yam, sweet pea, onion with olive oil, honey and dried serrano pepper sauce.

 So many countries like to claim this little pastry as their own creation.   I would, if I were a country.  These can be fried like a samosa or pakora, but baked is easier, cleaner and still very delicious.  The filling can be dinner things or dessert things to make them turnovers.  They can be crescent moon shape or little purse shaped.  Whole wheat or white.  Glazed with sugar or with salt. The possibilities are innumerable.

This vegan based dough is just like a tortilla dough. Flour, salt, baking soda, olive oil and water.  The best part is that the dough cooks around the filling so you can skip the extra step of cooking tortillas like you would for wraps, pizzas, gyros or tacos.

Preheat oven to 400
  • 1 and 1/2 Cup whole wheat flour (you can do 50/50 white and WW or do just white.  I find whole wheat is a little easier to work with for these so it can help with manageability)
  • 1/2 tsp Sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1-2 TBSP olive oil (it doesn't require much)
  • Just enough hot water to combine everything. You don't want the dough too soupy or wet, you just want it to grab the loose flour from the sides of the bowl.

This will make approximately 10-12 empanadas if you roll out the dough to 1/2 inch thickness and use a 2 inch cutter.  I use a little mason jelly jar for my biscuit cutter.  Roll out or finger press each little circle until as wide and as thin as you wish.  Using a spoon scoop filling into center side of pocket and bring edges together and crimp/press edges.  If it isn't catching and staying then wet one of the sides and go again. 

These cook very quickly so you cannot count on undercooked or crunchy things to cook inside the dough at best it makes it's filling toasty warm. So whatever you choose to fill them with should be nearly as cooked as you wish it to be.

I will chop veggies into tiny cubes so a lot of variety can fit into the little pockets.

Favorite fillings are:

Sweet potato, potato, onion, pressed garlic, oregano, Hungarian paprika, sea salt saute everything until just under firm.  Once the empanadas come out of the oven plate them with a drizzle of honey or agave or whatever sauce you have prepared.

Potato, sweet peas, onion, pressed garlic, pinch cinnamon, nutmeg.  Drizzle of tamarind sauce. Or yogurt

BBQ -ed anything

Pear, sauteed onion or shallots, goat cheese.  Served with arugula and figs

Chutneys and peppers served with yogurt

Whiskeyed up apple pie  - apple chunks, cinnamon, brown sugar, vanilla and of course simmered in a shot or two of whiskey.  For color you can do an egg wash with cinnamon, and allspice. Or glaze with brown sugar after baking.

Jalapeno, yogurt cheese and chicken or steak and/or blended peppers.

Potato, bacon, chives, cheddar. served with yogurt.

Hard boiled egg slice, sliced olives, peppers and chicken. Served with a mole sauce or roasted garlic and dried peppers.

Duck, apricot, yogurt cheese or goat cheese.  Served with a wine or port sauce.

If you want a more bodied dough like a pastry or if you want it to have more decorative capabilities then you'll need to make a pie crust type of dough where you must freeze or chill between workings so that the butter holds together.  Something like say a braided rope end on the empanada's shape.  As it is you can crimp the ends closed in many fashions.  Pastry dough just holds designs better.  But it is the butter and consistant chill times that allow for the more elaborate decorations.



Sima (Finnish Lemon Mead)

This recipe is less sweet than many you can sweeten right before bottling by making a simple syrup from honey, agave, or sugar (fine sugars can be added directly to the bottle) and adding that to each bottle.

What you need:
  • 4 Cups boiling water (dissolve honey in water)
  • 2 and 1/2  Cups honey
  • 4 lemons zest pith thrown out and then sliced thinly
  • 1/2 tsp yeast in 1/2 Cup of lukewarm water to foam I just used Bob's Red Mill active dry yeast, not brewer's yeast or wine yeast - folks get really specific about what they use and why.  They are all yeast.  So it is up to your preference.
  • 16 Cups water
  • Food grade non-reactive (anything acidic requires a non-reactive container or it will taste metallic or worse) bucket - 5-7 (I did 6) days
Yield is about 8-10 20oz bottles

Boil 4 Cups water and add 2 and 1/2 Cups honey to it to dissolve.  Zest lemons keep zest.  Cut away the white pith, it is a bad kind of bitter - throw out the pith.  Slice thinly the lemon and expel any seeds as found. Then add to hot or warm water/honey mixture both the slices and the zest.  Stir and let sit.  Prep lukewarm 1/2 Cup of water and add 1/2 tsp yeast to it and let foam.  Once the honey/lemon mixture is warm-tepid (so it wont kill yeast) add it to the bucket and then pour in yeast water. Add 16 Cups lukewarm water to bucket and put either loose fitting lid on the mix or a tight fitting lid ONLY IF you are using an airlock.  An airlock will help pressure escape while keeping the environment save for the yeast to continue growth.  The yeast will turn the sugars into alcohol.  Woo!

Let your Sima be alone for the amount of time you choose.  Recipes vary from 2 days fermentation to months.  We did 6 days.  We may split up our bottles and let some stand longer than others and see what the taste and alcohol difference is.  It also can become champagne like in fizzy-ness.

Sieve, bottle, leaving an inch of room at least.  Put 3-5 raisins in each bottle let stand with loose lids overnight 12-24 hours then move to refrigerator as raisins rise in each bottle if using glass bottles leave lids loose in refrigerator for a few hours so that you can be certain yeast production has suspended (This is to keep the Sima from making bottle bombs from pressure build up).  You must wait until the fermentation process has stopped before closing the bottles securely.  1. the raisins are floating 2. the bottles are cold to the touch. Cold will suspend the yeast activity.   After one final 24 hours in the fridge these delicious bad boys are ready for your festivities!


We had one about a day after putting it up in the fridge.  Good, but a little zippy in the tang department.  The flavors definitely hadn't fully developed.  4 days later... more fizz, more mellow and middle sweet.  I love the soft sweet of this!   It is now the 28th  (original post on the 10th) and the Sima is amazing.  Fizzy, lightly sweet, lemon tangy and I highly recommend this one!!!  If you want it for the holidays I recommend allowing for this fridge time!!!


Quilting - Or as I like to call it - Quiet time away from everyone

I just got this one this past week, very reasonably from The Cherry Chic where others I have were gifts or just great finds.

A favorite is a whole cloth styled boys blanket covered in airplanes. (If you look really closely you can see how angry Jason is, while simultaneously sleeping)

Gee's Bend - Made from Old Work Clothes

There are a lot of these past skills that in this economic climate can not only be handy, but could yield warmth, profit, or just livability for your family.  Some of the best quilts were made without quilting frames (structures which keep the designs taught while hand stitching) and made out of retired clothing for a second life (FREE FABRIC, since you've already purchased it).

Gee's Bend

I have had quilts around my family and everyone agrees they are sometimes gorgeous, and always a lot of work - but it seems no one was making them anymore.   Why was that?  If so many people knew of folks who make quilts but then they pass away and then what?  In twenty years time would we be a nation known for our quilts, and Jazz and become one of all things past and longing.  When the younger generation is older what will they make when they don't have to?  Text messages?  The new grannies will have hands withered and curled from swiffering and texting. Not to send you away too quickly, but this is a nice, very short listen. 

The best quilts there are seem to have been born from those groups of hidden people, and those people are as diverse as the quilts themselves.  Long coveted are Amish wares.  With good reason they are a closed culture (respectfully of course - meaning you are born into it, but it is difficult to get inside of as an outsider) and closed cultures are the only ones that can keep traditions strong.  They maintain the values and knowledge of elders and generations past.

Amish made

Amish made

Have you ever winnowed wheat?  Me either.  Woven a basket?  I've done that... but I'm not skilled or diverse in my over under construction.  These are things people knew and shared.  Days filled with just living and loving.  Quilts carrying a lot of that living and loving and sharing with them which is so much of the attraction to them.  It seems most American families have or had someone in them that loved to quilt.  It may have been written off as a hobby not thinking too much about why they did it, when they started or who had taught them.  It was born out of necessity and now is seen as a frivolous activity.  When you can purchase any color and any pattern of any kind of fabric specifically cut for ONLY quilting then it seems it has be reduced by our being spoiled.  But the quilts were an Amish woman's only means of artistic expression, and a major source of income for Southern Black families during the civil rights movement when Black Americans were losing their jobs based on tumult and prejudice.  Born out of old work clothes, dress scraps and patience some very beautiful forms of subtle resistance, shelter, utility, income, safety, and communication.

I think it goes without saying that we are a spoiled nation and since the last major economic shift have been more in the Have category than the Have Not.  So to remain a Have and to stay far from the Have Not, some basic skills may be necessary.  Cooking, you are here - so you're obviously all over that.  Let's see what else you may need?  I made a list of what I feared most and would wish to prevent and what to protect.  I then thought how best I could be prepared for those things.  Not in any rash the sky is falling way, but more like a Boy Scout.  One of those was that I feared not being able to obtain basic things my family may need.  Food, clothing, linens.  So I have chickens, ducks on their way, been canning like mad, I made certain Jason has nearly 20 pairs of jeans,  I'm making myself a quilt a little to get comfortable with a needle (handquilting - just in case of no power).   I found that preparing for these maybe less than likely fears yielded really positive results.  Not just a bounty of tomatoes in my cabinet, but a real sense of accomplishment.  I could know that should the supply chain breakdown either through people freaking out, the broken system breaking further, or whatever shenanigans, I'd have something warm to wear and for every can of tomatoes a week's worth of food and if no power (fridge) a couple day's worth.  People did this.  They prepared for more life, they lived more life and were happier. Studies have proven we get more miserable with more things and more money and better jobs, and that experiences make us happiest.  A dinner in with friends or a trip makes us happier than buying a pair of heels or a car. 

So then the only answer is to do something for you that you can't believe you accomplished.  Of course you got that job, you worked at it, you went to school for it, you had to pay the rent.  So what do you NOT HAVE to do, that you really have to do?  For you it may not be quilting.

This is one I am working on.  It is just the beginning, but the making it is fun... so we'll see.

This is just the beginning of my pine burr quilt, and not sure when that will be done, but it will be fun to just keep plugging away at it.  The real deal pine burr quilts are nearly three dimensional being made of 1,000 -7,000 little triangles.  They often are made of small squares of the burred circles and then joined together after several squares are made then backed with cloth little to no need for batting (the inner layer) as the mass of fabric makes these quilts very heavy.  Some are made of one solid concentric circle of burrs that goes right to the edges of the quilt.  Making it nearly like a carpet in heft.  It is Alabama's state quilt.  (Do other states have state quilts?)

Here are a few great things to check out if this interests you:

Amish quilts The Revere Collection

Amish and a few Mennonite Quilts

Quilts of Gees Bend
the official site - they have since signed some sort of deal with Pottery Barn to have replicas made, although I feel really bittersweet about this since I enjoy the quilters of Gees Bend doing well - but I don't enjoy the thought of the Chinese slaves that now have to make the quilts. I say buy the real deal, make your own or scout out an old timey quilt! 

Gee's Bend samples images

The Quilts Of Gee's Bend: Masterpieces From a Lost Place book 

Gee's Bend: The architecture of The Quilt book

The Code Quilt by Nora Renick Rinehart and Nellie Kurz  What the specific meanings of quilt patterns were during the underground railroad and the hankie code used by the queer community.  Very interesting read.

International Quilt Study Center   A different quilt each month list is fun to go through.

Beautiful photos A lovely time capsule.  The whole site has great photos, this one just happens to be Quilts.

Storytime  So beautiful to listen to, something soothing about hearing other's stories.