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January 4th, 2012
Making Yogurt

I love to eat yogurt. I like it plain, with just a smidgen of raw honey mixed in. Yum. HOWEVER. I am not a fan of buying individual yogurt cups – wasteful plastic! I solved this problem by making my own yogurt at home.

There are plenty of resources available on the interwebs for DIY yogurt-making using quart jars and coolers and thermometers and towels. Me? I’m a plug and play girl at heart, set it and forget it. I invested in a yogurt maker.

There are a lot of yogurt makers on the market, and the one I chose meets my specific needs. There are only three adults living in my household, and I’m really the only one who eats the yogurt, so I don’t need to make more than a quart a week. I also like individual servings, because it helps with portion control. When I used to buy yogurt by the quart, I had a problem with eating too much at a time… (It’s sooo good and sooo easy to scoop out more than you need!) I have this Deni yogurt maker. It’s one of the more inexpensive models out there, and do shop around online to find the best price.

The Deni yogurt maker comes with six glass cups (no plastic cups, yay!) with rubbery plastic lids. The lids are good – they “stick” to the glass well without being rigid and thus likely to break. I’ve seen complaints on various sites about the jar shape being hard to clean, hard to eat out of, etc. Whatever. I don’t have this problem, I think the jars are fine. They go right in the dishwasher, and I store the empty jars in the yogurt maker until it’s time for the next batch. Easy peasy.

The recipe that comes with the machine is very simple. 1 qt of milk is heated to just under a boil, let cool, add 1/2 cup of active culture yogurt, stir well to combine, then pour in the jars and plug in the machine. The timer starts at 6 hours and goes to 12. I use the full 12 hours, because I like a tart yogurt. I used Nancy’s Yogurt as my starter because it has the most variety of live cultures of pretty much anything on the shelf at the store. I reserve a jar from the previous batch to start the next batch – which is a bit overkill, but it’s easy. When I’m down to one jar, it’s time to make more!

If you need to make more than 1 quart at a time, or cook with yogurt a lot and the jars are inconvenient – I read a nifty idea of using glass quart jars, wrapping in a towel and setting atop your heat-producing electronic equipment like a computer. That seems clever and a fun way to harness wasted heat…

I like making yogurt. It’s inexpensive, it’s tasty, and no more wasteful plastic. I want to get some non-homogenized milk and make cream top yogurt for a treat, soon…

Posted by Claire at 12:35 AM | Good Eats | Comments (0) | Tweet This Post

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December 8th, 2011
Liver Musings

Did you know liver is the best food for rebuilding from depression? I didn’t know either. But I read the book, and decided that it was worth a try to get more liver in my diet. The book is really good. The author cites her sources and there isn’t anything in there that’s really outlandish or not in line with current nutritional thinking. What the book does is tie it all up for you in a nice little easy to understand package.

There’s just one little problem: I really dislike liver. I thought about what it is I dislike and settled on texture and flavor. I decided that this problem could be solved by grinding the liver with hamburger and making something with a lot of spices. Kibbeh seemed to be the likeliest way to go.

First, I bought organic beef liver from Whole Foods Market. My preference is meat from New Seasons Market, but I happened to be at Whole Foods. It came sliced, and the container was 0.8 lbs. Using the meat grinder attachment on my KitchenAid mixer, I ground the liver. This looked really gross, btw. To this I added one onion (pre-chopped in a food processor), 1/2 tsp-ish fresh ground pepper, 2 tsp. cumin and 2 tsp. allspice, and about 1/2 tsp salt. Stir. Then I ran it through the grinder a second time with one pound of very lean ground beef. While the meat was slooooowly working its way through the grinder, I was boiling one cup of bulgur wheat in two cups of water for around 10 minutes, and then I turned off the heat. Once the meat was ready, I layered meat, bulgur (straining off extra water), meat, and bulgur. I drizzled extra virgin olive oil on top and baked it for around 45 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

The verdict: quite tasty. It had a kind of flat flavor to it (I can’t really describe it, it wasn’t bland at all with all the seasoning) which I assume is the liver. It needed something tangy to offset this, so next time I plan to use a recipe that has tamarind paste in it, or else serve it with a lemon-juice heavy tabbouleh. Another alternative would be to squeeze lemon juice on top before serving.

All in all, I’d say attempt no. 1 at getting more liver in our diet was a success. While the liver was noticeable at the quantity I used (almost 1:1 with the ground beef) it wasn’t objectionable in flavor or texture. Of course, I prefer kibbbeh MORE without the liver addition, but the goal here is to eat the liver so this is a decent disguise. Also, Theo the cat really liked it too, he jumped on the counter and was tearing in to it before he got busted. :-/

Liver Kibbeh a la Claire

Between 0.5 and 1 lb of beef liver
1 lb lean ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp (many grinds, in my case) fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp (or more to taste, we are low sodium in our house) salt
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground allspice
1 cup bulgur, cooked
olive oil
lemon juice

See above for rough instructions :)

Posted by Claire at 12:01 AM | Depression, Good Eats, Page Turners | Comments (0) | Tweet This Post

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November 16th, 2011
A Sticky Situation

The other day Jacob posted a link to an interesting article in Food Safety News. Apparently, a lot of the honey sold on store shelves has had all of its pollen filtered out. It is stated by the president of the American Honey Producers Association that the only way to remove all pollen from honey is through a process called “ultra-filtration” and that the resulting product isn’t considering honey anymore by the FDA.

A lot of honey packers (and the National Honey Board) are crying foul, claiming that traditional methods can in fact remove ALL pollen from honey, and that the FDA does in fact consider honey without pollen to still be honey.

So who’s telling the truth? I’m just not sure. The point of the article was that honey with all of its pollen removed can no longer be traced to the source, and in fact this is done to conceal the origin of illegally imported Chinese honey. (The Chinese honey is problematic because it usually contains contaminants like antibiotics and pesticides.) As a consumer, traceability is important to me. I want to know where my food comes from, and quite frankly, I don’t trust companies to be honest in their labeling. If a company is selling a product that can no longer be traced to its source, I’m skeptical.

We like honey. We have been buying Wessels for a long time, because it’s local and tasty. Their honey has pollen in it. I think the moral of the story for me is to continue purchasing local honey and supporting “the little guys.” The large packing companies can keep their pollen-free untraceable product that may or may not be honey.

Posted by Claire at 11:53 AM | Good Eats, Politics | Comments (0) | Tweet This Post

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November 7th, 2011
Fun Fall Foods

One of the fun things I’m doing on my new adventure is to take a look at what comes in my veggie box from Organics To You each week, and either brainstorm our favorite meals or find new recipes to use the veg. I also signed us up for Cozi.com, which looks to be a really nifty tool for keeping a household organized. They also have recipes!

For this week, I’m thinking of making the Beef Orzo Skillet, to use the nice big bunch of spinach that came in the box. I already have ground beef and orzo on hand, and an oregano bush in my yard.

Some bell peppers came in the box, so I’m looking at this recipe either for a dinner, or for lunch boxes – Bean and Sausage Stew. I have dried red beans and anasazi beans, so if I’m feeling lively I’ll cook my own beans and skip using canned.

We got a bunch of swiss chard, so I’m looking at this Sausage & Swiss Chard Rigatoni recipe. I’m already buying italian sausage and parmesan cheese, so that can go in this too. I’ll probably sub the navy beans for black eyed peas, because I already have black eyed peas in the cupboard, along with the rigatoni.

I’m really the only one who likes brussels sprouts, so I’m just sauteeing those up for my lunch, one of these days.

We got some leeks, so I’m going to make a smashed potatoes & leek cheesy bake that I make that’s really easy and tasty. This involves simmering small red or yellow potatoes (cut up any larger ones) with the diced up leeks, then draining them when the potatoes are somewhat tender (just tender enough to smash). Save the water for savory bread! Then I mix the smashed potatoes & leeks with a little milk and some cheese, mash it into a casserole, sprinkle some more cheese on top, and bake it until the potatoes are fully tender and the cheese is melted. I don’t measure, but I estimate it’s about 4 or so small potatoes a person, the two leeks, maybe 1/2 cup of milk, and probably 3/4 cup of shredded cheese (whatever I have, parmesan, mozzarella, cheddar…). Oh yeah, it gets seasoned with ground black pepper. I don’t add salt, there’s enough in the cheese and we’re low salt around here. I’ve been known to add chopped bacon before baking…

The fresh pears will probably get turned into cobbler, or maybe I’ll make a compote to put on top of our morning oatmeal.

That leaves broccoli and carrots. Those are easy to use – soup, maybe, and steamed broccoli as a side somewhere.

Mmmm… tasty.

Posted by Claire at 11:05 PM | Good Eats | Comments (0) | Tweet This Post

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October 27th, 2011
What’s For Dinner?

We’re playing “How LITTLE can we buy at the store?” this week for food, so tonight’s dinner comes from the freezer and what I have on hand. I’m planning on making these gnocchi, as I have a kabocha squash from my Organic’s To You box. I pulled a beef roast out of the freezer to go with. Or rather, the gnocchi are a side dish for the roast. Mmmmm.

I expect to start blogging here again, as I’m (somewhat) embarking on a new life. You’ll have to come back to find out more…

Posted by Claire at 12:27 PM | Good Eats | Comments (0) | Tweet This Post

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