Thursday, July 22, 2010

Savory Zucchini Bread

Savory Zucchini Bread

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 zucchini, coarsely grated (about 1 1/2 to 2 cups)
3 eggs
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 to 6 tablespoons milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease and flour a 9 x 5 loaf pan.

In a separate bowl mix the dry ingredients, set aside.  Beat eggs, gradually adding oil and 4 tablespoons of the milk.  Add zucchini and dry ingredients and mix together until you have a firm, but soft dough.  Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of milk if the mixture is dry.

Place the mixture in the prepared loaf pan and press down into the corners.

Bake for 45 - 50 minutes, or until the loaf has risen and browned on top and a skewer placed in the center comes out clean.  If the skewer has mixture clinging to it place back in the oven for another 5 minutes and test again.  Turn the loaf out to cool on a wire rack.  Serve warm or cool. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Stocking the Larder

In years past, larder was the common term for a pantry or cellar; a cool place to store food.  Then with refrigeration and an abundance of grocery stores, families lost the practice of stocking the larder.  Well, I believe, with a desire to know where our food comes from, to provide nutritious homemade food and with concern over economic uncertainties, the larder, or pantry, is making a come back.  I like to think so anyway.

When we strive to make homemade meals from scratch, having a well-stocked pantry is essential.  When I come home from work and begin to cook, if I don't have some of the ingredients on hand, I do not have time to run to the store, then I have to come up with something else to make for dinner.  Switching plans at the last minute takes unnecessary time out of a busy schedule and is frustrating, not the way you want to start your evening

Keeping a well-stocked pantry can save money.  It is said that the more times we are in a grocery store the more money we spend on groceries since we usually pick up something else that we didn't plan to buy.  I have done this, it is usually a snack item, or some other unnecessary purchase.  Stocking up on an item that you eat often while it is on sale also saves money in the long run.  Canning what you grow or what is in season at a good price is another way to save money.  It also means we are less likely to go out to eat or call for a pizza, saving us money that way as well.

Another concern for us, and the reason we stock up on all ingredients in the fall, is the weather.  We have storms and blizzards that can make it impossible to get to the store or just miserable to have to run to the store on lunch break or after work.  Last winter we had a two day blizzard and couldn't get out until late on the third day.  We ran out of butter during the storm, I had cream so I could make my own, but that was a good reminder to watch closer what I have available.  Keep a close eye on what you have on hand, make a shopping list by going to the pantry, refrigerator and freezer.

Cooking from scratch and eating homemade meals not only saves money, it is much healthier for us, something we all need to be concerned about.  Eating real food with ingredients we recognize is better for the overall well-being and waistlines of our family and ourselves. 

The photo above shows some pint jars of rhubarb sauce I made and canned last Friday evening.  The rhubarb is not the pretty red it was in the spring, but it still has very good flavor.  This is the last rhubarb I will pick this year, now I need to let the plant grow so that it will be a healthy, strong plant next year. 

I have been gathering herbs to add to my pantry as well.  Here are basil and thyme drying, once dried the leaves will be placed in mason jars and stored in a cool dry place.  They will add flavor and nutrients to our dishes this winter.  I plan to bring my potted herbs in the house this fall, but if they don't survive the adjustment to indoor life, I will have the dried herbs to use in cooking.

A pantry can and should be built slowly over time.  No need to have a lot of money to fill the shelves in one shopping trip.  Gradually add the produce in your garden by canning, drying, and freezing as it becomes ripe.  Purchase produce you can't grow, or grow enough of, while in season and at a good price; chances are it hasn't had to travel as far to get to your kitchen then either.  Look at what you are eating on a regular basis and watch for sales on those items or gradually add an extra can or two a week until you have enough to last several months.  One caution though, be sure to watch the expiration dates, using the oldest first and don't buy more than you can resonably eat before the product expires.     

Friday, July 9, 2010

Sour Cherry Jelly

Making jelly from local fruit is part of living a homemade life.  Why buy jelly made from across the country when jelly can be made from any fruit in your area.

We planted a cherry tree this year, but it only produced three cherries and the birds got those, so I picked cherries from both my parent's and my brother's trees.  These are sour cherries, but they make the best jelly.

While picking I put in a few unripe cherries so that I could use less purchased pectin.

Late last fall I bought this jelly bag contraption.  I have made jelly without anything like this for years and this product is not necessary, but the jelly bag did make it a quick and smooth process.  It takes very little time to water bath process jars of jelly and it saves freezer or refrigerator storage space.

I also found these squatty half-pint jars on sale late last fall, I love the way they look and filled with red cherry jelly they make a pretty gift.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Living a Homemade Life

Thomas Edison said "the more to do, the more to be done".  I've thought of that quote often in the last couple of days.  Vegetables and fruits are in high season and I have been burning the candle at both ends.  Working full-time and living a homemade life means putting in extra hours this time of year.  The garden needs attention, both weeding and harvesting, the fruit stands are bursting with fresh fruit and the farmer's market is open and offering anything I didn't have room to plant.

We were away from home over the weekend again and this time on our way home we stopped at an amazing fruit stand.  I couldn't pass up the opportunity to preserve some of the wonderful fruits available.   Fruit is so nutritious, but around here in the winter fresh fruit needs to be shipped from quite a distance.  The cantaloupe was amazing, but drying and canning are not recommended and freezing would take up more space than we have available, so we will enjoy our melons fresh.  Freezer space is the reason I chose dehydration as the method of preservation for much of the fruit we purchased.

Drying is one of the earliest known means of food preservation.  Food can be sun-dried in the open air; I did this last year with jalapeno peppers, the birds and neighbor animals left them alone.  I hang dry herbs, this method works well with mint, taking very little time to dry.  With fruit, however, I choose to use a dehydrator.  I put apricots, cherries, strawberries, and blueberries in the dehydrator at the same time.  I set the drying temperture around 120 degrees so that the nutrients are not destroyed in the process.

After drying, two pounds of strawberries fill one pint jar (the photo above is one pound of strawberries).  I will use the fruit I dried for adding to the granola I make or for snacking.

Besides drying, I also canned some of the sweet cherries we bought.  When canning cherries leave the pit  inside, that way they stay nice and firm.  After washing the cherries be sure to place them in a bowl of cool water, if any cherries float discard them, they may be wormy. 

I made a light honey and water syrup to pour over the cherries and canned them in a water bath.  It looks so nice to have these pretty jars on the pantry shelf.  I love the feeling of stocking the pantry for winter.