Friday, August 30, 2013

Speckled Limas Beans

Have you ever ended up buying and going home with something you really shouldn't have?  I have...many times.   

The other day I was walking up to pay for my basket of produce at the farmers market, not intending to preserve anything that week, when a basket of speckled lima beans caught my eye.  Having never put up lima beans and noticing that they had a pretty low price tag, I snapped up a half bushel, not really knowing how I would use them or if we would enjoy them this winter.  I just couldn't help myself.  I think it had something to do with the fact that they were purple and polka-dotty. 

At first I regretted buying them because they meant so much work.  Shelling, washing, sorting, and blanching take time, you know?  But the more I think about it, the more I wonder why I have never frozen limas before, and to be honest, they really weren't that much trouble to put up in the first place.  Now, I'm excited to use them in soups throughout the winter, and I imagine I will be able to cook them the same way I do field peas.

So, this year we'll be eating frozen limas, and we'll see, come inventory time, how much we really enjoyed them.  You never know, it may just start a new tradition.  

By the way, that same shopping trip also ended up with me buying another 25 pounds of Roma tomatoes, which I truly did regret and ended up crushing and canning just so I wouldn't have to think about them anymore.  I will use them, I'm sure, but that was just a case of my eyes being bigger than my canning stamina.  

Freezing Speckled Lima Beans- 1/2 bushel makes 6-7 quarts frozen beans

A half bushel (15 pounds unshelled limas) ended up giving me 6 1/2 quarts of frozen beans.  The speckled beans do lose some of their color and detail upon blanching, but they remain pretty none the less. They do require several rounds of washing to get them really clean and free of debris.  Do not skip this step.  Otherwise you will be eating dirt (yuck!).  

1/2 bushel unshelled lima beans
boiling water
ice bath

Shell the beans and wash them thoroughly.  Drain the beans and wash again as needed, until the beans are free of debris.  Place the beans, in batches, in a large pot of boiling water.  Blanch the beans for 3 minutes.  Remove the beans with a slotted spoon or mesh strainer, and place the beans in an ice bath to cool.  Once cooled completely, drain the beans and place in freezer bags leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Label and freeze for later use.     


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Chicken Update

I didn't plan on posting anything tonight, but when I got home and checked on the chickens, guess what I found lying in the nesting box?

The first egg!!!!

A small but perfectly shaped pinkish brown egg lying right next to the wooden egg I had placed in the nesting box several weeks ago.  Now wasn't she just the smartest chicken to know exactly where to lay it?!

I was so excited.  I congratulated the brilliant girl on her accomplishment and took my new prize to the kitchen where I fried it with just a sprinkling of salt and pepper. 

The yolk was almost orange, and it was delicious.  We are now in business.  Can't wait for the next one!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Peach Crumb Galette

With peach season in full swing, here is a peach galette piled high with a yummy crumb and almond toppingThis is a perfect dessert for those who want the taste of a fresh peach pie and peach crisp all in one.  It is also easy to assemble with any pie crust you have on hand.  I used a butter and lard crust (I will post about the crust later), but an all butter crust or your favorite pie dough would work just as well here.  If possible, a homemade crust will be the best since it will be far flakier and more flavorful though.   

A couple of notes about this galette...
  • Make sure you bake it on a sheet tray with sides in case the filling gets all bubbly and oozey on you (as it certainly will to some extent).  
  • Make sure to pile the crumb topping high on the galette as it will bake down and become one with the filling.
  • That being said, you may have a little crumb topping left over.  If so, use it to top your favorite muffin or quick bread or keep in the fridge for a day or so until you need it for something else. 

Begin by rolling your pie dough into an approximate 10 or 11 inch circle.  Then place your prepared peaches in the middle of the circle leaving an inch or two on each side.  You will fold the sides up around the filling, pleating the dough as you go.  The dough will then get brushed with an egg wash and sprinkled with sugar. 

Next, spoon your crumb and almond topping into the center of the circle, covering the peaches, until it is piled high.  

Bake the galette on parchment paper, and allow it to cool for 20-30 minutes before serving.  This is important.  If you slice it too early, the juices will leak out and the galette will fall apart.  

Peach Crumb Galette- serves 6-8

1 prepared pie crust, preferably homemade
4 ripe peaches, peeled and sliced
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour, plus more flour for rolling out pie dough
1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus 1 Tbsp for sprinkling on crust
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1 egg
1 tsp milk 

Crumb Topping: 
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
pinch salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line a baking sheet (one with sides) with parchment paper.  On a lightly floured surface, roll pastry dough into an approximate 11 inch circle (if it is a bit smaller, that is okay).  Place the pastry circle on the parchment paper and set aside.  

In a medium bowl, toss the sliced peaches with 1 tablespoon flour, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and a pinch of nutmeg. Place the coated peaches in the center of the pie circle, leaving a 1 to 2 inch border of pie dough around the edges.  Gently fold the pie dough up over the edge of the peaches, pleating it as you go.  Beat the egg and milk in a small bowl and brush on the exposed of the crust.  Sprinkle the crust with 1 tablespoon sugar.

In a medium bowl, combine all ingredients for the crumb topping except the almonds.  Using a pastry blender, cut the butter into the ingredients until the mixture resembles coarse meal and the pieces are no larger than small peas.  Toss the almonds into the mixture.  Mound the crumb topping into the center of the pastry, covering the peaches.  Use as much of the topping as will fit as it will cook down a good bit.  You may have a little left over.  

Bake the pastry for 35-40 minutes until the pastry and topping are lightly browned and the filling is bubbly.  Cool the galette for at least 20 minutes before slicing.  Serve with ice cream or freshly whipped cream.  

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Chickens and Recipe Organization

It's been a while since I posted about our chickens.  Rosie, Ginger, and Judy are growing, growing, growing.  They eat almost constantly, and when they're not eating, they are enjoying daily dust baths in the sand and perching on their roost.  We live in the city and have fairly close neighbors, so even though we would love to allow the girls to free range, it isn't that easy where we are.  Not to mention, we have a large hawk that lives in a tree across the street and would probably love nothing more than a nice chicken dinner.  

So, we have a PVC chicken tractor that we use each day so that the girls have access to grass, weeds, and bugs but in a protected manner.  They love the tractor, and anytime they hear the lock on the backdoor unlatch, they get excited thinking they are headed for time in the grass.  

Their favorite green is clover, and my husband roams around the yard each day trying to locate some to feed them when they are in the run and coop.  It is really quite cute.  We have nicknamed one Piggy as she will eat most anything you give her and will even jump in the air to get it if need be.  


They also really enjoy fresh, cold watermelon as well as many other fruits and vegetables, and mealworms get them very excited.  Unfortunately, we are still waiting on the first egg.  I have read that Buff Orpingtons tend to lay later than some other breeds, but that doesn't make me less impatient. 

On another note, I spent the last day or so organizing my recipes (both the ones we already know we enjoy and the ones we want to try).  I always have the most difficult time once summer ends and I start working again to get dinner on the table each week.  It tends to take me too long to plan weekly menus and grocery lists and often leads to dinner out rather than us saving money and eating healthier meals at home.  

So, before heading into another school year, I organized and reorganized some of my meal planning resources.  Hopefully, it will make life easier.  I'll let you know how it goes.  

First, I retyped my list of tried and true menu options.  This list has been inside my cabinet for quite some time now, but it became cluttered and messy as I added to it over the years (using a pen).  I retyped it, and now I have a list of main dishes, sides, and salads that we know we like.  When I am planning a week's menu or grocery list, all I have to do is look on these sheets to find things I know will work.  The list is organized by poultry, beef, pork, meatless, sides, and salads and is posted on the inside of one set of cabinet doors.  I tend to grocery shop for the basics in a supermarket every two to three weeks and get veggies and fruits from the farmers market weekly which also saves me a lot of time.

I had a lot of recipe cards, printed recipes, and recipes ripped from magazines that needed help.  So, I went through them, discarded what no longer interested us, and organized the remaining recipes in plastic sheets in a binder according to salads, main dishes, sides, etc.  My goal is to use the binder as well as a list of recipes I am interested in the next time we want to try something new.  Most of the recipes on the typed list (which I stored inside the binder cover) are from Pioneer Woman, other blogs, or Pinterest. 


In addition, I decided to assign a different food type to each night of the week to make it even easier to plan.  So, my schedule is as follows.  Hopefully, it will be easy to stick with.  It is working so far.  

Monday- meatless
Tuesday- meat and veg
Wednesday- soup and/or sandwich
Thursday- pizza or pasta
Friday- wild card

Most of the time, we eat out one meal on Saturday and have leftovers to eat on as well throughout the weekend, so I am not assigning anything to those days.  Also, the schedule is just a guideline and veggies and sides obviously have to be added to it each day.  One nice thing about the rotation is it lends itself (most days) to meals that can be made with very little or even no meat at all which saves us time, money, and calories.    

I now feel much more organized and will hopefully be more motivated to cook each and every night of the week even when I don't necessarily feel like it.  Now, if only we could get an egg!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Small Batches: Cucumbers, Peaches, and Figs

There aren't a lot of new canning recipes being made around here this year.  Like most people, we have our favorites, and those are the ones we tend to spend more time making.  We are also doing more small batch canning this season as we are getting produce little by little in many cases.  So, I have a few reminders for you about recipes we enjoy, and I do have a new one for you from the Better Homes and Gardens Canning magazine I purchased last year.  

Quick Dill Pickles with Garlic and Chile (slices above and spears below)
If you are looking for a great dill pickle recipe to use with all the cucumbers coming in right now, these Quick Dill Pickles with Garlic and Chile are great.  Actually, they are our favorite quick pickle to make around here and the one we focused on this year.  I made 7 pints (it would have been 8, but one jar broke in the canner) of dill slices using this recipe.  I also made 3 quarts of these pickles sliced into spears because sometimes it is nice to have pickles cut into spears for serving alongside sandwiches.  

I usually make Seven Day Sweet Pickle Chips also, but this year decided not to go this route.  I may regret it come winter, but I wanted to try a traditional bread and butter pickle to use in potato and chicken salad and on sandwiches.  I only made a small batch just to see how they were, and they are tasty.  They are not as crunchy as the Seven Day pickles, but they have a sweet flavor.  One thing about them is that they have onions pickled in the same jar, and the onions are nice additions to many of the same dishes the pickles go into.  

Bread and Butter Pickles
As for peaches, after taking inventory this year, I realized we still had several bags of frozen peaches in the freezer.  They will still be okay for most desserts, so I didn't want to put up too many peaches this year.  I did purchase a half peck of peaches from a local orchard, but they were a variety best for canning or eating fresh (not freezing), so we ate what we wanted and canned the rest as peach halves for which I used the recipe/method on National Center for Home Food Preservation.  The ones we had left gave me 4 pint jars in light syrup.  If I get my hands on anymore freestone peaches, I may can a few more pints, but I am happy with this and what is left from last year.  

Peach halves in light syrup with fig preserves in background

We also put up 2 pints Old Fashioned Fig Preserves using figs from my mom's tree, and we'll put up more if we get more figs from her.  Along with the figs we put up 5 quarts frozen blueberries which is a little more than most years, so when the peaches run out, we will always have berries to fall back on.  

The cucumbers are still coming in the from the garden (several pounds every couple of days), so more pickles (maybe fermented) may be in the future.  In the meantime, I am enjoying relaxing during these last days of summer break and waiting, quite impatiently, for the chickens to lay their first eggs.  

Bread and Butter Pickles- makes approximately 7 pints

This recipe comes from Better Homes and Gardens Canning published in 2012.  They now have a entire book using some of the recipes from the magazine.  I only made about half the recipe. 

16 cups (approximately 6 pounds) pickling cucumbers, sliced
8 medium white onions, sliced
1/3 cup pickling or kosher salt
3 cloves garlic, halved
crushed ice
4 cups sugar
3 cups apple cider vinegar
2 Tbsp mustard seeds
1 1/2 tsp ground tumeric
1 1/2 tsp celery seeds

Prepare boiling water canner.  Prepare jars, lids, and rings.  

In a nonreactive pot, combine the cucumbers, onions, salt, and garlic.  Cover with about 2 inches of ice, and chill in refrigerator for 3 to 12 hours.  Remove any ice from pot.  Drain cucumber mixture and discard garlic.  

In the same pot, combine the sugar, vinegar, mustard seeds, tumeric, and celery seeds.  Bring to boiling and stir to dissolve sugar.  Add cucumber mixture.  Return to boiling and remove pot from the heat.  

Pack hot cucumber mixture and liquid into hot, sterilized jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Wipe jar rims and top with lids and rings.  Process jars in boiling water canner for 10 minutes.  Remove jars to a clean towel and let sit overnight before labeling and storing.  

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