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Archive for the ‘How to make things’ Category

A coworker of mine has goats, and she very generously brought in some milk for me last week. It sure felt like very precious cargo as I carried it home- what a treat! I probably would have cast some sidelong glances at someone who was lovingly cradling a jar of milk on the bus like I was. I mean, yeah, I looked like a weirdo.

Anyway, I decided to make yogurt. The idea of making yogurt and cheese is very appealing to me, but the thought of going to the grocery store and buying a half-gallon of milk and then making yogurt out of that has always seemed not that exciting. I don’t know. I just couldn’t get into it. So this was my chance!


To make yogurt, you heat your milk up to 120 degrees, add a couple tablespoons of already-made yogurt, and then keep the mixture at about 115-120 degrees for six to twelve hours.

In order to maintain the temperature, I put the jar full of hot milk in an insulated cooler with two jars full of water as hot as the tap gets. I did a little research online before launching this experiment about ways to do this, and the jars-of-hot-water-in-a-cooler method seemed like the simplest. So that’s what I decided to do, and I filled up the jars and tucked in the milk for the night and went to bed dreaming of delicious, creamy, homemade yogurt.

The next morning I scampered to the cooler and, wiping some excited spittle from my chin, cracked it open. And what did I find? A jar full of lukewarm milk! It was absolutely not yogurt, nor did it have a single yogurt-like characteristic. So, I refilled the jars with hot water and let it sit for the day, thinkin a little more time would do the trick. I got home from work really late that night and went to bed again, having by that point completely forgotten about the yogurt. The next morning, a solid 36 hours after starting the experiment, I finally gave up and put the milk back in the fridge.

I really, really didn’t want to just throw the milk away. I mean, it came from someone I know. So I turned it into a quiche (which was extra-delicious, by the way) and now I’m just really hoping I don’t get food poisoning. How’s that for an illustrious ending to the story?

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In honor of Bike Commute Week, I made some extra-special cookies for my office. The thing that made them extra-special was the guilt they were designed to strike into the heart of everyone who had driven to work that day. Hahaha! Just kidding! I would never, ever be that arrogant.

Ok, so can you see the spokes? And the chains? Yeah, they’re ridiculously charming. Here’s the recipe, which is just a basic sugar cookie recipe that I undoubtedly stole from someone else:

Cream together:
3/4 c shortening
1 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Combine:
2.25 c flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt

Stir flour mixture into sugar mixture. Chill one hour, roll ’em out, and then bake on ungreased sheets for 8-10 mins at 375 degrees. Let cool and then transfer to a rack. When they’re completely cool, you can decorate them.

Frosting recipe:
1/2 c shortening (or use half butter)
2 c powdered sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1.5 oz cream
food coloring

For the record, I tried to make a little stencil in the shape of a whole bicycle, but that didn’t go too well. They do make cookie cutters in the shape of bicycles, but I didn’t have one, so I figured I could cut a bike shape out of cardboard and just cut each cookie around that. Well, I was mistaken. The dough did not hold together at all. So I went with just the wheel, because those are conveniently cookie-shaped.

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People get really, really excited about fiddleheads, which I think is mostly a function of fact that they’re pretty much the first thing available locally in the spring, and also because they’re foraged and therefore something of a novelty. If someone tells you that fiddleheads taste like asparagus, that person should be treated with distrust. They do not taste like asparagus- only asparagus itself carries that distinction. Fiddleheads do taste very green, though, which is very welcome by the time they find their way into the stores in late April or May.

So, I’ve only ever seen very simple preparations for these little ferns. They need to be washed and trimmed and cooked thoroughly, since I’ve heard they have the potential to make you sick. But what doesn’t, really? Boil the fiddleheads for five minutes or so and then saute them briefly in some butter with garlic, and they’re pretty tasty. Not asparagus tasty, but they do remind you that asparagus is right around the corner!

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I had a loaf a sourdough flax-seed bread sitting on my shelf, getting a little harder and less palatable every day, so I decided to make it into bread pudding. Usually you can’t just slap the word “pudding” on the end of whatever you’ve got going stale in your kitchen and make it edible again, but you can with bread!

  1. Cube stale, gross bread until you’ve got 4 cups. Dump that into a 9×13 pan, and add a thinly sliced apple.
  2. Whip together 3 eggs, 3 cups milk, approx. 1/2 C maple syrup, 2 tsp vanilla extract, a dash of salt and a dash of cinnamon.
  3. Pour that mixture over the bread and eggs, and bake at 350 for 35-4 minutes.

I used skim milk and won’t be doing that again. There needs to be some fat or it takes a lot longer for the custard to set. But it did eventually, athough the whole thing is a little thinner than I’d like it to be. Luckily for me, it’s not unusual for my bread supply to get away from me, so I’ll have ample opportunity to perfect the recipe.

It’s extremely important that this be served warm with ice cream.

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My cooking life has two constant shaping factors, which are 1) my sourdough starter and 2) the ebb and flow of local veggies. The first matters because sourdough starter has to be “fed” once a week, which means that every week I produce more of it, which means that every week I either have to bake something with the excess or dump it, which I hate doing, so I try to use it. The second matters in different ways at different times of the year. Right now, it feels like spring is coming fast, so I want to use up all the produce I froze and canned and dried last summer. I want my chest freezer and my pantry to be empty before I start filling them up again.

The calzone project made excellent use of both resources, which makes it an astounding success in my eyes. I made sourdough pizza dough and stuffed it with formerly frozen local veggies and made sauce out of tomatoes I’d canned last year. Pretty much perfect.

I’ll include the dough recipe here, even though it won’t be of much use if you don’t have a sourdough starter:

  1. In a large bowl, combine 1.5 cups warm water, half a cup of fed sourdough starter, 1 package of dry yeast, and two cups of whole-wheat flour. Let stand one hour.
  2. Add 2 teaspoons each of salt and sugar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, and about 2 cups all-purpose flour. Knead until smooth and let rise until doubled (2 hours) in a warm place.
  3. Punch down the dough, divide into 8 equal pieces, roll ’em out, and let sit for 10 minutes.

For the filling, I used roasted red peppers, spinach, roasted eggplant, and a mixture of beans and summer squash. I know that last one is a little unconventional, but I’ve got a surplus and wanted to use them up. I think you can stuff calzones with basically anything. The only tip I can offer is that you want whatever you use to be relatively dry so the calzones don’t turn out to be a soggy mess. I drained everything really well and roasted excess moisture off the squash and beans.

To assemble, I mixed together some sauce (I just cooked down some tomatoes and added a cube or two of frozen pesto for this) and ricotta and put a dollop of that on one half of each round of dough, and then mixed and matched the veggies and topped the whole shebang with some grated mozzarella. Then I moistened the edge of the dough with some water, folded it over the top, and crimped the edge with a fork.

Bake at 450 for 20 mins on a baking sheet that’s been oiled and sprinkled with cornmeal, and cool them on a rack so they don’t get soggy.

My assembly technique may leave something to be desired, since each calzone had its own, um, wonderfully unique shape, but I was happy with them. And that’s a really good thing, since I made sixteen of them and ate about two a day for the last week. It was pretty intense.

 

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A few weeks ago, I went to the sugarshack at Hanging Mountain Farm, and one of the many, many food items on my plate was baked oatmeal. It was delicious, so I tried to recreate it, and I succeeded, more or less. It’s really simple, so this isn’t exactly a recipe so much as a “didja know?”.

You may be thinking, “why would a person want to bake oatmeal?” Well, I’ll tell you. While oatmeal can be a delicious and filling breakfast, it does have a certain… mucousy quality, for lack of a better word. The baking removes that and improves the texture, and makes oatmeal palatable to people who normally can’t stand it. 

So, you start by making oatmeal the regular way. You know, you use regular, plain rolled oats (not the instant kind! There’s no improving on those. Blech.) and cook with a water-to-oat ratio of 2:1 over low heat until the water is absorbed. I added a handful of raisins and chopped-up dried apples, although I imagine any other kind of dried fruit would be equally delicious. When the oatmeal is cooked, dump it into an oven-safe bowl, add a pat of butter, a glug of maple syrup (or a spoonful of brown sugar), a dash of cinnamon, and a sprinkle of salt. I think chopped walnuts would be good too, although I haven’t tried. Or almonds?

Stir it all up, pop it in a 350 degree oven, and bake for 20 minutes or until the texture looks good to you, stirring regularly.

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Granola is so ridiculously easy to make that you don’t even need a recipe. That said, here’s a recipe for it. The special thing about this recipe is that it’s essentially held together by  maple caramel. Oh, that *does* sound good, doesn’t it!?

In a little pan, melt 2 tbs butter and add 1/3 C real maple syrup. Cook this over low heat for five minutes or so. It’ll boil and go nuts and get really foamy and way thicker.

In a bowl, combine 2 cups of oats, 1 cup of crushed walnuts (I put them in a bag and then roll a rolling pin over them), 2 tbs flax seeds, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp cinnamon. Then add the caramel mixture and stir until the dry stuff is evenly moistened. Use your hands if need be.

(more…)

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