Sunday, May 5, 2013

Taco Seasoning

My German roots are showing.  I didn't even realize it was Cinco de Mayo until the pastor mentioned a Mexican-themed meeting after church.  That's not a problem, though, since my dinner plans weren't set in stone yet anyway.  We gathered up a few ingredients, and some store-bought tortilla chips, and pulled together some heaping nachos.

But I didn't want to pull together a mini-party without sharing a recipe with my on-line readers.  So here's my homemade version of taco seasoning.

I enjoy making my own seasoning blends, so that I can spend my limited grocery budget more frugally.  I also like to be confident that my seasonings are 100% guaranteed to be MSG-free.  I buy the individual seasonings in bulk, then blend them together and store them to quickly toss into a meal.

Taco Seasoning
  • 1/2 cup ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 3/8 cup oregano
  • 3/8 cup garlic powder
  • 3/8 cup cornstarch
  • 1/8 cup salt 
  • 1/8 cup cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon onion powder
Mix, and store in an airtight jar. 

When I make tacos I like to brown the beef and set it aside.  Then I saute an onion.  Finally, I return the meat and add 2/3 cup to 3/4 cup water (per pound of meat) and 1/8 cup of the seasoning blend per pound of meat.  (Important: don't add all of the above to a pound of meat.  You'll be a little overwhelmed.  Trust me on this.)

You may be wondering why this recipe doesn't include chili powder.  Almost every on-line recipe includes a line for chili powder.  Is it possible that I left something out? 

Actually all of the ingredients in chili powder are repeated in taco seasoning, so it didn't make sense to me to buy a separate mix just to add them in again.  Instead, I add the chili powder ingredients to the original recipe just to simplify life a little bit.

If you don't want to store any leftover taco seasoning, you can just add the following to one pound of meat, along with 2/3-3/4 cup of water.

Taco Seasoning for One Meal

  • 2 Tablespoons + 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 Tablespoon oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
My inspirations:
http://southernfood.about.com/od/seasoningrecipes/r/bl30420j.htm
http://allrecipes.com/recipe/taco-seasoning/detail.aspx
http://www.grouprecipes.com/5616/best-ever-taco-seasoning-mix.html

Linked with Whole Foods WednesdayReal Food Wednesday, Simple Lives Thursday and Thank Your Body Thursday.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Pickling Spice for Your St. Patrick's Day Corned Beef

I freely confess that I'm neither a Roman Catholic nor Irish.  With that in mind, there is no shame that St. Patrick's Day caught me off-guard once again.  It's not one of those high holy days that I plan for weeks and months in advance.  I used to catch St. Patty's day by watching the grocery store circulars, but now that I buy so many of my groceries either straight from the farm or through organic boxes I frequently miss minor holidays now (and thank heavens that nobody pinches anyone for not wearing green on St Patrick's Day in my homeschool).  It was the weather channel's website that clued me in this year, since they had a special forecast section just for St. Patrick's Day weather.

So my dear husband made a St. Patrick's Day run to the grocery store last night.  I freely confess that the corned beef he picked up wasn't the normal quality of meat that we eat, but nonetheless we bought it anyway.  But filling the crock pot this morning left us with a conundrum.  What about that little seasoning packet that comes along with the meat?  I have very little faith in the processed & packaged food industry and avoid monosodium glutamate, yeast extract, and all of it's other derivatives like the plague.  So what's a mother to do?

We decided to add our own pickling mix to the cheap (and probably toxic) meat that we're cooking up today.  The recipe below makes up just a tiny amount of seasonings, so feel free to scale it up if you're wanting to prepare for more than just a single serving size.

I wasn't fortunate enough to have a time-honored pickling spice recipe handed down in the family, so when I originally went about looking for the perfect spice blend for our family I started by googling at least three recipes.  I started with Simply Canning, Amazing Ribs, and NPR, but it was A Way to Garden that really educated me on how pickling spice worked. 

Corning the Beef

Cuts of meat labeled "corned beef" are brined and fermented in advance.  A better choice (although we passed it up this year) would be to purchase a well-marbled beef brisket or other tough roast.  Rinse the meat and cut it into 2 to 3 inch chunks.  Dissolve 5/8 cup sea salt (not optional) and 1 tablespoon maple syrup or sucanat or Rapadura organic whole cane sugar in a quart of water.  (If you do not plan on using your meat within 10 days add 1-1/4 teaspoons of curing salt.  This contains sodium nitrite which will preserve the meat for longer.  Freeze after curing is complete.)  Pack the meat in a 2-Liter Pickl-It jar.  Cover with brine.  Hold the meat down with a Dunk'R.  Put the airlock on the jar.  Cover the jar with a dish towel or place it in a dark cabinet for 8 hours.  Refrigerate for 7 to 10 days, checking the brine level daily to ensure that the meat stays covered.
Adapted from: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fermenting Food



When it's time to cook the beef, I add the following vegetables:
  • 1 onion, quartered
  • 6 cloves garlic
Then I mix in the following seasonings for every 5 pounds of corned beef:

Pickling Spice

  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seed
  • 2 teaspoons coriander seed
  • 2 teaspoons whole allspice
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 2 bay leaves, crumbled
  • 2" cinnamon stick, crushed or broken into pieces
This pickling spice can be adapted for pickles, as well as for corned beef.  I like to lower the ginger down to 1 teaspoon and add an additional 2 teaspoons of dill seed or dill weed when making pickles.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Balance: The Secret to Health and Happiness

It's been a whole week since I let you know I was giving myself permission to be imperfect

Since that time a friend mentioned that she had a hard time relaxing since her father had brought her up to work first and then rest.  It was a great idea, except the work never ends for a homeschooling mother with a house full of preschoolers and an entrepreneurial husband.  This is the idea that I shared with her.  I hope that it gave her a thimbleful of peace.  I hope you find rest in it, as well.

There is a time for every purpose under heaven.  When you work, do it with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength as if working for the Lord.  When you play, do it with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength as if playing for the Lord.  To do otherwise, cheats both health and happiness.

Shared with Simple Lives Thursday.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Lactofermented Garlic Paste

I hate procrastination.  Especially when I'm the guilty party.

I've been wanting to post this recipe for just shy of a year, but it hasn't happened.  (I realize that I haven't been blogging for a year, but there were months of planning that went into this before I began.)  It really isn't my fault, entirely.  I have more ideas than I have time to put into practice, and I don't want to become overwhelmed trying to be everything for everybody.

Enough chasing of rabbits.  This is a recipe that's near and dear to my heart, because I associate it with special occasions, like my anniversary.  It's a part of my Indian feast.  But because I make it only for special occasions, as part of a larger feast, I don't have many opportunities to take pictures.

Now that someone is asking for my naan recipe, however, I've decided to post at least a portion of my Indian feast now and come back in a few weeks (after my anniversary, of course) to add photos.
 
Garlic Sauce
1-2 cold egg whites
4-6 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt, not optional
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 cup grapeseed or olive oil
1 Tablespoon living whey

Before we really get started on the recipe, let's pause for a minute and consider the ingredients.  Use a salt that is colored.  Salt is white when it comes from the lab.  In nature it has many colors, from reds and pinks to grays and blacks.  By choosing a salt that is colored, you can be sure that you are buying an unprocessed salt.  Don't be fooled (as I was) by a label like, "sea salt."  Almost all salt is from the sea, but that doesn't mean that the minerals weren't stripped.

Your whey needs to be alive.  Do not use powdered whey.  It is highly processed and will not be useful in this recipe.  Do not use whey which has been heated.  After a certain temperature the beneficial bacteria dies.  Instead use whey from making yogurt, unheated cheese, or (my personal favorite) dairy kefir.

If you do not have whey, you could just substitute another living starter culture, such as unpasteurized kombucha, water kefir, Body ecology starter culture, yogurt, or unpasteurized buttermilk.  However, all of these options will influence your final taste.  The whey or other starter culture is important, because it gives plenty of beneficial bacteria to overwhelm any nasties that might come along with the raw egg.

Theoretically, you could also add an extra tablespoon of salt and see what wild bacteria you can grow.  However, since most chicken (even backyard flocks) contains salmonella or campylobacter, I wouldn't do that without pasteurizing the eggs first.  I know that plenty of people don't bother pasteurizing pastured eggs since they are less likely to contain harmful bacteria, but it still is a little like playing Russian roulette--even though your odds of winning are better.

Also, don't forget the salt.

Note: my recipe is for those who own a Vitamix.  It can be adapted to any blender or can be made with a simple wire whisk, but I do not have experience doing it that way.

All ingredients must be at room temperature, except that the egg whites must be cold.  Place the egg white, garlic, salt, and lemon juice in Vitamix.  Select variable 1.  Turn the machine on, quickly move it to variable 10, and then to High.  While the machine is running, remove the liquid plug and pour the oil in a thin, steady stream until the mixture thickens and all oil is consumed (about 60 seconds).  Stop the machine.  Feel the outside of the machine.  If it is too hot to touch, then it needs to cool down to a more comfortable temperature.  (Don't be impatient or you'll kill off the beneficial bacteria that you're trying to culture).  When it is cool enough, stir in the whey and any remaining oil.  Leave it out in an air-tight container at room temperature for 7 hours, and then refrigerate.

Acknowledgements:
I rarely just use a recipe without tinkering with it.  That's not how God wired me.  These are the recipes that inspired me, the ones I cobbled together into what you see above. http://www.dedemed.com/mediterranean/garlic-sauce-recipe
http://www.vitamix.com/recipes/
http://gnowfglins.com/ecourse/real-food-menus

Sourdough Garlic Naan

Ever have one of those things that you plan on doing, but because of one small detail it doesn't get done?  This post is like that.

I've wanted to post this recipe for a long time.  It's a recipe that's near and dear to my heart because I reserve it for special occasions, like my anniversary.  It's a part of my Indian feast.  But because I make it only for special occasions, as part of a larger feast, I don't have many opportunities to take pictures.

Now that someone is asking for my naan recipe, however, I've decided to post it sans photos and come back in a few weeks (after my anniversary, of course) to update it.

Sourdough Garlic Naan
1 cup sourdough starter
3/4 cup living whey
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin
3 Tablespoons melted lard, coconut oil, or butter
2 Teaspoons garlic paste
approximately 2 cups flour
water
butter

Before we really get started on the recipe, let's pause for a minute and consider the ingredients.  Your sourdough starter does not have to be at the peak of its activity.  Heck, it doesn't even need to be fed, for that matter.  If you have a some-what active starter and are considering discarding 1 cup during a feeding, you might want to consider making naan with the discarded starter.

Your whey needs to be alive.  Do not use powdered whey.  It is highly processed and will not be useful in this recipe.  Do not use whey which has been heated.  After a certain temperature the beneficial bacteria dies.  Instead use whey from making yogurt, unheated cheese, or (my personal favorite) dairy kefir.  If you do not have whey just substitute milk.

Use a salt that is colored.  Salt is white when it comes from the lab.  In nature it has many colors, from reds and pinks to grays and blacks.  By choosing a salt that is colored, you can be sure that you are buying an unprocessed salt.  Don't be fooled (as I was) by a label like, "sea salt."  Almost all salt is from the sea, but that doesn't mean that the minerals weren't stripped.

Finally, do give lard a chance.  It makes the best breads, believe it or not.  If you don't have access to a good lard, coconut oil and butter make excellent choices, as well.

Mix sourdough starter, whey, baking powder, salt, cumin, garlic, and lard.  Slowly add the flour.  Depending on your flour and the moisture of your sourdough starter, you may need more or less than the two cups.  Adding too much flour will result in a dry, crumbly mess.  Not enough flour with yield a sticky mess that is impossible to roll out.  Find your happy medium.  Use your hands to mix the dough so you can get a feel of where you are at.  Cover with a towel, and let rest 2-3 hours until it rises slightly.  

Transfer to a lightly floured surface.  I had been told that amateurs add too much flour and end up with soured bricks, so I was afraid to flour my surface.  After making the recipe repeatedly I discovered that .the high humidity in my area calls for extra flour.  Now I'm not afraid to do what works for me.  

Knead for a minute or two until smooth, adding only enough flour to keep it from sticking to your hands.  

Preheat a heavy skillet (let's hear it for cast iron!) over medium-high heat.  Divide the dough into 8 balls.  Roll the dough with a rolling pin or flatten with the hands to 1/4 inch thick rounds (or oblongs).  Brush with water on one side and place water-side-down in skillet.  It will stick.  Cook for 30 seconds to one minute, until the dough is bubbling and it no longer sticks.  For those cooking on electric, flip and cook the other side.  For those cooking on gas, begin the next piece in the skillet and take the original piece to another burner, light it and cook over an open flame.  (A totally cool experience that should not be passed up!)  Hold it with kitchen or barbecue tongs and keep it moving constantly for 30 seconds or until charred.  

Top with melted butter.

Acknowledgements:
I rarely just use a recipe.  That's not how God wired me.  Instead I mess with a recipe until I can get it to submit to my will.  These are the recipes that inspired me, the ones I cobbled together into what you see above.
http://www.mykitchenaddiction.com/2011/04/sourdough-naan/
http://www.vahrehvah.com/recipedetails.php?recipe_id=2856&name=Garlic+Naan+
http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2011/07/whole-wheat-sourdough-tortillas.html

Linked with Fat Tuesday, Monday ManiaTraditional TuesdaysReal Food Wednesdays, and Healthy 2Day Wednesdays

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Finding Peace in Chaos

My third daughter helped to take care of the little things
I've decided to give myself a break.  It wasn't an easy decision, but I knew that something had to give.  I decided it wouldn't be my sanity.

It started as we finished rehabbing Dad's house for sale.  At the time, we had finished most of the bedrooms and the office.  As rooms were being finished and preparations were being made for staging, the kitchen became more and more cluttered.  The right way to do the project would be to sort the items and bring them to their final destination, but in the hurry toward the finish line it was simpler to just dump it all into the kitchen.  Dad's house boasts a large amount of counter space and a sizable kitchen table (I wish I could keep them.  I definitely have counter-space envy), but both were quickly filled to the overflow.  Somehow we managed to find enough room to eat our meals and educate the children, but it took more and more effort to do so every day. 

Tools, fabrics, and herbs over here
From early morning to late at night we worked.  Breaks were few and far between. 

Through it all, I struggled to eat traditionally.  It's difficult to choose otherwise after being educated.  Yet, I knew that I had a choice.  I could either give my all to the project, or I could give my all to educating my children and feeding my family.  I knew that if I wasn't working full-time on the project it would take longer to move home and return to our normal life.

Banished to the laundry room and still content--that's why I love my toddler girl
Then came the day that we started working on the kitchen itself.  The refrigerator spent several weeks in the living room.  The stove spent a few days in the laundry room.  So did the high chair, but my toddler didn't seem to mind since she could never wait until the meal was served anyway.  We no longer had the ability to eat at the kitchen table every night.

I chose sanity.  I knowingly set aside what I knew about the links between food and health and chose to turn back to the standard American diet.  We still made wise choices for fats, meats, dairy, produce, and eggs, but it was filled out with boxed cereals, boughten breads, lunch meats, deli food, pizza, and even (gasp!) a frozen dinner or two. 

Managed to eke out some kefir and broth over there
Sadly, my children were in heaven.  I didn't worry too much about it though.  I knew that they were just happy because it was new and unusual.

Even after we moved home it took a few weeks before we fully returned to traditional cooking.  By then there were three more mammoth projects that needed to be done.  It was still all-consuming and unrelenting.  At first, I continued to need the respite of using some ready-made foods.

Breakfast o "champions" in the living room
Even after going back to a more normal food cycle, I still haven't fully transitioned back to normal entirely.  My laundry room has been filled with at least 6-8 loads of clean laundry.  (Okay, maybe that's a little normal, but still it's a little over the top.)  My kitchen table has more than the normal amount of clutter.

But the most important thing is that I'm okay with all of that.  I've given myself permission to be imperfect.  The truth is that I'll be imperfect no matter what my opinion is, so I may as well find peace in it all.

Shared with Simple Lives Thursday and Traditional Tuesdays.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Does God Set Us Up for Failure?

"In the first month you are to eat bread made without yeast, from the evening of the fourteenth day until the evening of the twenty-first day.  For seven days no yeast is to be found in your houses. And anyone, whether foreigner or native-born, who eats anything with yeast in it must be cut off from the community of Israel.  Eat nothing made with yeast. Wherever you live, you must eat unleavened bread."  Exodus 12:18-20

 This past week marked the time set aside for the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  If you are unfamiliar with this Jewish tradition, there are a few key points to note.  This was a remembrance that was required by God.  It was required for the entire nation, as a people set aside to the Lord.

I must admit that I was curious as a child (heck! even as an adult) of what God was thinking when He came up with this plan.  I was taught how the yeast represented all of the ways we think, say, and do things that go against God's laws.  Therefore, the people were to get rid of the yeast as a picture of getting rid of the spiritual impurities.  That much made sense to me.

However, while the picture was all warm and fuzzy, I got caught up on the actual way things would go down.  Once the people got rid of every little bit of yeast in the entire nation, how then were they supposed to eat?  Were they banished to a bread-free realm?  Where was the picture of the Bread of Life then?



There were only two ways I could think of to get past the intricacies of  the feast.  Either they held a little bit back for a rainy day or they traded with the pagan nations nearby for yeast when the week was over--an idea that didn't sound very wise since every time they traded with those pagan nations they ended up worshiping false gods.  Either way, it seemed as if the Hebrew nation was doomed to failure in one way or another.

I was so relieved when, as I was going through my traditional, real food journey, I came across the answer.  More importantly, I was relieved to find out that the answer was deep enough to reveal an aspect of God's character.

In my ignorance, I had always thought that yeast was something that came in a little packet or a brown jar, a fragile item that required refrigeration and tender care or it would die.  It didn't occur to me that there was life before Fleischmann's.  That sounds silly, because I realized that they didn't have little packets in an ancient refrigerator, but I figured that ancient yeast was raised and sold in some ancient way just like ancient olive oil and ancient flour.

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens.  Our God is a God who saves... Psalm 68:19-20a

What I discovered was that God supplies our every need.

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.  You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.  II Corinthians 9:10-11 

The yeast that is needed covers the ground that the grain grows in.  It rests on the grain, covering it completely.  It isn't harmed by grinding the grain.  It doesn't die in a cold snap.  It blows on the wind.

We as humans can do everything possible to rid our homes of yeast, but that doesn't mean that the yeast is in any danger of long-term loss.  A little flour, a little water, daily attention, time--the bread is back in only a few weeks.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Perhaps this is also indicative of a greater picture.  God asks us to set aside yeast as a picture of turning away from breaking His laws.  However, at our very nature we are law-breakers.  There is no way for us to get rid of all of that baggage.  Only the God who created us can set us free from all of that.

Perhaps that is the real picture of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
 
Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.  Titus 3:5