In My Kitchen, January 2014

Wow! A New Year already and another In My Kitchen Post for January 2014. Shout out to Celia who is the host of this wonderful series!

My kitchen was quite busy in December. This year, I decided to make Spa Baskets for the women of the family and Kitchen Baskets for the families. The spa baskets were such fun! I got to play with making bath fizzies, lip balm, body butters and lotions. I had a blast.

We went to a holiday party where they passed out bags of organic produce as we left.

Burlap potato sacs

Burlap potato sacs

The bags were made of this nifty burlap that make perfect places to store potatoes in the cabinet. I am strangely drawn to them.

Like Joanne in her January INK post, I too got some things to cook hard-boiled eggs in only this package is called “Eggies” while hers are “Easy Eggs”. It doesn’t matter but I haven’t tried them out yet.

Eggies!

Eggies!

Tyler is in my kitchen! I swear he’s grown another inch!

It’s been wonderful to have him home. He goes back to grad school Saturday; we will miss him. Tyler's in the kitchen

In November, I started taking a class on Learning Herbs.

My herbal study nook

My herbal study nook

I got to set up an area just off the kitchen to house all my new ingredients, tools, tinctures and all the great fun stuff needed for the lessons. I really like my little herbal nook.

Tinctures brewing

Tinctures brewing

Spring can’t come too early, I want to plant some herbs!

In my kitchen is an entire drawer devoted to tea.

The Tea Drawer

The Tea Drawer

Since getting the tea pots and cups out of storage, we’ve been making and drinking a lot more tea. I change teapots every week or so. We have two pots brewing almost all of the time. One for regular black tea which gets used mostly for iced tea or the occasional cuppa with a cookie or two.

The other pot is for an herbal tea, kept under a cozy to keep it warm as long as possible. Lately the tea finding its way into the herbal pot is Earl Gray. I love it with a thin slice of lemon and a small bit of sugar, in a china cup , of course. If I could find fresh bergamot, I’d be in heaven.

A student of mine and his wife took a trip to China and brought me back this lovely tin of “Fruit Tea” with the strainer.

Chinese Fruit Tea, love the label!

Chinese Fruit Tea, love the label!

Inside the tea looks like diced dried bits of various fruits and roses. It has a delicate sweet taste that is quite pleasant! I put the spent bits of tea out for the birds with their winter food. They like the fruit! Doug told me the tea was for “graceful aging.”

Since we’ve started drinking more tea, I’ve realized a new tea cozy or two would come in handy and have decided to make a couple. I haven’t started that project yet. This morning, I saw the adorable knitted tea cozy on Celia’s IMK post with knitted olives! I know I won’t be that elaborate, or even knitted but I’m looking forward to seeing what happens. I used to quilt and embroider and tailor so who knows what the tea cozies will look like!

Cozy Update: Celia tole me the knitted olive cozy belongs to Glenda! So if you want to see it, go here to check out the neatest cozy! (Sorry Glenda!)

Anyone out there ever make a tea cozy? What do yours look like? Do you have a pattern or tips you can share?

It’s about to get real cold here in the next week. Down to 8°F which to me is unthinkably cold. I’ll be staying in so maybe working on those cozies may come about.

Here’s to drinking more tea!
Chinese Fruit Tea

Chinese Fruit Tea

Keep comfortable where ever you are.

I’m ready for a great new year, how about you?

10 Thoughts on 2013

Here are 10 thoughts on the passing of 2013:

1. Truly, what you focus on actually comes to happen. Your thoughts are things and can manifest  that which comes to pass. Be careful. This basic principle has been demonstrated, quite vividly, over and over again, this past year. Good and bad.

When we fill our thoughts with right things, t...

When we fill our thoughts with right things, the wrong ones have no room to enter (Photo credit: symphony of love)

2. Horrible things happen, which have no words to describe, that can break your heart into a million pieces. And in spite of being broken into a million shards, you still have to carry on, smile and be pleasant. It’s not fair, it’s not right and it’s so hard.

3. I’m glad to see 2013 come to an end. I’m ready for a new year. It’s become very clear to me that I want my own business again. That happening is very exciting to me! Hum, What will it be? There are so many possibilities and that’s exciting!

4. Having something to do that you believe in is crucial to a happy life. It’s essential. Without it, life would be shallow, meaningless, hopeless, who wants that?

I love teaching and being around young adults entering the workforce. The energy that comes from my students is an amazing force. There is hope for the world.

5. Doing things for others outside of yourself does amazing things to the soul. Random acts of kindness, volunteer at a hospital or assisted living home, homeless shelter, or  food bank. Count your blessings and give generously in return. Giving generously does not always mean money. Time and talent are commodities greatly needed. A little goes a long way. Once you start doing this, it becomes addictive and you won’t want to stop. I double dog dare you to try it!

6. Sometimes it’s just easier to give up and walk away. If it’s worthwhile, it will come back in a different, less stressful form. Stop fighting and wrestling with things. If it’s giving you a hard time, put it down and walk away. When you return, it will either be gone, calmer, seen from another perspective. Whether it’s installing a cabinet shelf, or a heated discussion with someone or anything at all. “Know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away. . .”

7. Loving someone does not mean they will love you back. You have to be OK with that. You cannot control anyone else’s emotions. Love fully anyway, love always returns, not through the same path sometimes, but it always comes back to you. Don’t be afraid to tell someone you love them, especially your parents and children, husband or wife.

8. You have no influence over what other people say or think about you; so don’t listen. Live your life anyway and have less and less to do with negative people. Get rid of Debbie downer, negative nanny, picky Paul, nasty Nancy, you get the idea. You can choose not to be around those who criticize your every move. To hell with them anyway, they are the ones who would keep you from reaching your goals. There isn’t time for that so  don’t give them any energy. As the British said “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

9. Take a deep breath and know that everything, sooner than later, will pass. Then take another d e e p breath, and let it out very    s l o w l y.

10. Even in the face of adversity, try to find the light. It may be hard, but it is always there, somewhere. Focus on the outcome and what you can do to achieve it. You can always ask, “What am I doing to contribute to this situation?”

The answer to that question will amaze you.

Another approach to dealing with adversity is to take on the perspective of considering yourself the source. With that perspective in mind, what would, could or should  or will you do?

Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to ... So it is with these thoughts, I step into creating the vision of where I want to go for the next year.

This next year is going to be exciting and vibrant.

I am looking forward to a better year in 2014.

 

Thanks for All The Fish

I am going on an alarming rant here, about the condition of the oceans and the fish that swim in them. This is a very sobering situation and it seems there are only a few people talking about this.

It is stated that the entire Pacific Ocean will be completely contaminated with radiation by 2016.

Let that sink in. By 2016, if not sooner.

We should all be very alarmed.

Fukushima has always been a world issue but only a few dedicated heroic Japanese are working non-stop to solve the problem. The brains of the world should step in and assist in trying to figure out what should and could be done.

However, I feel it is already far too late to save the food we get from the oceans. The blue fin tuna being caught off of the California coast are testing positive for radiation.

This is not the radiation we commonly find naturally in food; our bodies have adapted to that. In case you didn’t know, bananas, Brazil nuts have extremely low doses of potassium-40 and we have naturally occurring radiation such as radon and radium. Our bodies have adapted to potassium-40. Potassium does not collect in our bodies, any excess is dumped. And we have adapted our environments to deal with radon.

We are referring to radioactive elements such as cecium-137 which has a half-life of 30 years, and idoine-129 and iodine-131 has a half-life of 8 days as an internal transmitter, while iodine-129 has a half-life of, get this, 15.7 million years. Additionally, Fukushima has dumped radioactive strontium-90 which is also a strong internal transmitter, mimics calcium and collects in bones.

We have not adapted to these elements and they cause cancer. Cecium-137 is hard to avoid due to the environmental and atmospheric  testing of bombs. Cecium-137 enters the body through food and milk. It is chemically similar to potassium and is processed in the body the same as potassium.

Cecium-137 collects in muscles; Iodines in the thyroid and strontium-90 collects in bones. These are not naturally occurring radioactive elements are extremely dangerous. Due to the long half-lives, exposure is cumulative and builds up until one or the other perishes.

Please read this article and series of articles regarding this on the blog Washington’s Post, poke around while you are there and read more.

There are articles, studies and research that back the information up so it’s not just some doomsday freak writing scare tactic articles.

Yes, I’m sure you have heard about the talking heads saying the levels of radiation are harmless and much lower that what we encounter everyday in our natural environments and medical procedures.

To quote the blog “Washington’s Post”

The bottom line is that there is some naturally-occurring background radiation, which can – at times – pose a health hazard (especially in parts of the country with high levels of radioactive radon or radium).

But cesium-137 and radioactive iodine – the two main radioactive substances being spewed by the leaking Japanese nuclear plants – are not naturally-occurring substances, and can become powerful internal emitters which can cause tremendous damage to the health of people who are unfortunate enough to breathe in even a particle of the substances, or ingest them in food or water.

Unlike low-levels of radioactive potassium found in bananas – which our bodies have adapted to over many years – cesium-137 and iodine 131 are brand new, extremely dangerous substances.

And unlike naturally-occurring internal emitters like radon and radium – whose distribution is largely concentrated in certain areas of the country – radioactive cesium and iodine, as well as strontium and other dangerous radionuclides, are being distributed globally through weapons testing and nuclear accidents.

At this point, I’m not sure if there is anything “we” can do except be aware. I predict our time to eat ocean fish from any ocean is limited. In five years, we may not be able to eat any more ocean food.

I went to high School in Tokyo Japan. I still have many friends living there, in Hawaii and Guam. They all express concern and have fears of what the future may bring.

It makes me wonder, would it be safe to live on the coast? Go to the beach? What about walking in the rain?

Life as we know is it going to change. Just as we now bring our own shopping bags as we grocery shop, we’ll need to add a Geiger counter. Hope they make a purse size.

The worlds scientists say it is OK to eat Pacific seafood. Is this to avoid mass panic? Is the issue being glossed over because there isn’t anything anyone can do? What will the future be like in 10 years?

So many questions without answers.

Geiger-Müller radiation detector.

Geiger-Müller radiation detector. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What happens when the safe drinking water supply to a city like Tokyo is contaminated with radiation? Where and how does an entire country get relocated?

#6550 Iodine-131 found in ground water

#6550 Iodine-131 found in ground water (Photo credit: Nemo’s great uncle)

Should we just go on about living as if nothing is happening? What do we do? What will you do?

Imagine future generations saying things like, “Can you believe they used to eat these things?”

All I can say, is I’m glad to have had the chance to eat seafood and enjoy it tremendously. I’ll miss it terribly. Thanks for all the fish!

In My Kitchen October 2013

Last week we were swimming at the lake, today we are wearing light sweaters and sipping hot tea.

Ahh! Welcome Autumn!

After canning my rear end off last month, its nice to look at something other than mason jars and canning pots. I’m quite sure we will enjoy these things come cooler months.

I got to pull some of my china and other “stuff” out of storage and put into use this lovely oil dispenser. Pottery Oil Can

I really like this one. It was hand-made by an artist in Boca Raton, FL. I adore using well made pottery.

Pumpkins and squash fill my counters. Ready to eat this season.

These various squash found their way into my basket while shopping this weekend.

These various squash found their way into my basket while shopping this weekend.

I love roasting squash and serving it with butter, salt and fresh pepper. Yum.

Yesterday I made Butternut Squash Soup for lunch with Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwiches pressed on the Panini press.

We have a lovely pumpkin and fall squash display on the front step.

Stacked Pumpkins on the step

Stacked Pumpkins on the step

I topped one with moss and succulents for accent;

Pumpkin with Moss and Succulents

Pumpkin with Moss and Succulents

we are progressively eating our way through the rest!

While this October edition of In My Kitchen was due a good while back, I’ve been quite busy working on a few things.

For one, I studied my butt off to take the certifying exam for “Certified Dietary Manager” or CDM. I’ve been cramming medical nutritional therapies and medical codes into my head and now that I’ve passed the exam I have more free time to blog.

In My Kitchen now are 6 molds of goat cheese draining,

Goat Cheese Draining

Goat Cheese Draining

2 bread loaves rising, lobster tails, stone crab claws and Mimosa’s for lunch because today is my birthday!

And it’s time to start working on November’s In My Kitchen! Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, Hosts this wonderful gathering each month. Visit and join in!

10 Tips Addressing “Meanwhile” in Cooking

“Then, too, I had trouble with cookbooks. As I studied the recipes, I discovered the fateful word meanwhile.

I was supposed to separate eggs, then beat them, meanwhile stirring constantly. I was to melt butter, blend in the flour and gradually add milk. Meanwhile dicing or peeling something, and not forgetting to test the cake in the oven with a clean broom-straw. Meanwhile I was theoretically tossing the salad.

The most important lesson I learned was not to get in a panic when I saw meanwhile staring at me.”

What Cooks at Stillmeadow, by Gladys Tuber

Stack of cookbooks

Stack of cookbooks

How true it is!

Planning and organizing a cooking session is crucial to everything coming out on time and getting everything made.

Whether it is everyday dinner or a special event, forming a few good habits will make cooking so much easier, faster and more organized.

Here are a few tips:

1. Print your recipe or write in your book; keep a notebook handy.

Make notes of what you liked, didn’t like, what you changed or substituted. I write all over my books, all the time.  If you don’t write in your books, have a notebook handy to make notes about timing, recipes, ingredients etc.writing in cookbooks 003

You’ll need that notebook anyway to make notes about shopping lists, what you have on hand, and creating your game plan or plan of action.

Cheese Soup Recipe

Cheese Soup Recipe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2. Read your recipe/recipes. Understand what they are asking you to do.

Read the recipe before hand. When something is boiling away on the stove is not the time to realize you were only supposed to add half of something first and the other half later. There are many recipes that list the total measurement but use it in different amounts throughout the recipe.

For example, 3/4 cup sugar is listed in the cookie recipe but the method says to cream only 1/2 cup sugar, reserving the remaining 1/4 cup for rolling the dough balls in before baking. BIG difference if you add all the sugar with the creaming. Your resulting cookies would spread and not be very nice looking.

3. Gather all the ingredients before you start cooking.

Separate according to recipes if making several things at once, as you typically do for dinner.

Backzutaten zu Pfannkuchen (Crepe), Kochbuch

Backzutaten zu Pfannkuchen (Crepe), Kochbuch (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Keep all proteins separate and cold for food safety. Be aware of cross contamination. Follow good food storage habits, this post gives you some guidelines for food safety in the home.

The 9 Golden Rules of Food Safety

The 9 Golden Rules of Food Safety (Photo credit: Czarina Alegre)

4. Make note of all the tools and utensils and ingredients you will need.

Make a note of any tools you don’t have. Put those on your wish list somewhere. Cooking is such fun when you can play with all the nifty toys. I love Micro-planes and colorful silicone spatulas and, to Robert’s dismay, I pick up dish towels nearly everywhere I go.

Of course there are the “good” dish towels and there are those you can use to wipe the floor or stove down with. Heavens, you wouldn’t use a “good” towel for that would you?! Gasp!

Note any ingredients you need, are running low on or how much you have. This way, on your next grocery run, you can replace anything that gets used up.

5. Read all you recipes side by side to determine how long each recipe takes to make.

Recipes

Recipes (Photo credit: pirate johnny)

Make notes of cooking times, what takes the longest? Remember to include warm up times. Like pre-heat the oven, boil the water for pasta which can take 15 minutes or so depending upon where you live and how cold your water is to start.

Start with the item that takes the longest to prepare and the longest to cook. Prepare your prep list starting with the longest timed item, to the least amount of time.

Keep in mind some processes may take some time such as peeling and seeding 10 pounds of tomatoes. See if you can evaluate your skills for an accurate timing estimate for your game plan.

6. If you’re not sure of How to do something, look it up on You Tube.

Want to make hollandaise? French Macarons? Fresh butter? Not quite sure how to cut Julienne carrots? How do I feed sourdough?

There are videos that show you how. Look them up and watch! Then practice. Some of these videos are like having a private tutor. Some are downright awful. But this is a good way to see how something is done rather than waiting to take a class.

7. Write down your game plan and follow it.

“Plan you work; work your plan” is what I tell students in class when they have multiple tasks to accomplish within a tight time frame.

writing in cookbooks 008

writing in cookbooks 013

8. Keep a list of the fresh food in your kitchen so it gets used on a timely basis.

I hate throwing food out that has gone bad from not being used. Now I keep lists of what is in the fridge, freezer, and pantry shelves.

Canned tomatoesI put up a lot of things like tomatoes, ketchup, mustard, pickles, jams, salsa and chutney for fall, winter and spring use. Keeps me busy in the summer, but at least the freshness of the season is captured and I know what is in the processed foods we eat. I try my hardest not to buy processed foods anymore.

I use an excel spread sheet to manage the flow of the canned goods. This way, when they are gone and next year rolls around, I can see what we used up first and how much we used. It helps to plan the next years production. I’m quite geeky like that.

9. Use Timers!

Like measuring cups, you can’t have too many. Time things to help keep you on track and to remind you so nothing gets burned. There are so many fun kitchen timers out there, but your smart phone has a timer too.

English: An electronic egg timer to time eggs ...

English: An electronic egg timer to time eggs for soft, medium and hard cooking. The timer plays a short tune at each stage of the cooking. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve got this retro one from France that has two timers on it so I can keep track of the bread in the oven and the rice simmering on the stove.

There are even ones that play tunes like the egg timer in the photo.

Timers are a great way to add some whimsy to your kitchen. I love whimsy!

10. Enlist help and have fun!

Get people involved, if they are eating at the table, they should be willing to give a helping hand somewhere. Setting the table, lighting candles, cutting flowers, choosing music, tossing a salad, bringing dishes to the table, pouring refreshing beverages, there are many tasks people can help with. All you need to do is ask.

I’ve asked Robert to help making salads while I handle the rest of the meal. Turns out he makes GREAT salads! I enjoy having him in the kitchen. Not quite sure how much he enjoys it, but judging from his salads, he does.

Kids will eat more if they have a had in helping prepare the food. Cleaning up without fuss? Not so much.

SO there you have a few of my tips for becoming more organized in the kitchen and how to address the meanwhile without panic.

Cooking is fun!

What tips do you have for organizing your cooking and kitchen?

What issues do you have while cooking; what is your greatest challenge?

Egg Plate – Concave or Convex?

Glenda, this is for you!

I couldn’t see how to attach a photo in the comments, so here’s an entire post on the egg plate’s optical illusion.

One of the features in the In My Kitchen post this month is an egg plate. The photo shows the plate without any eggs in it which makes the indents look more like convex domes rather than concave indents.

Celia pointed out this is due to monoscopic vs. stereoscopic vision. (One vs two, as in our eyes) It is because of this we have optical illusions.

Plain egg plate, concave or convex? Do you see indents or domes?

Plain egg plate, concave or convex?
Do you see indents or domes? I feel like reaching in and pushing them all down! Notice the flowers, are they indented or relief?

 

And this one?

Egg plate with an egg in it, now do you see indents or domes?

Egg plate with an egg in it, now do you see indents or domes?

Deviled Eggs

Deviled Eggs

Here is a link to Celia’s paper dragon that seems to follow you around the room as you move. Again it is due to mono/stereoscopic vision and the camera lens.

Fun!

Do other people have egg plates too?

In My Kitchen, September 2013

I nearly choked when I saw how many months have passed since I did one of Celia’s In My Kitchen Posts! Since this happens to be a long weekend in the US, I’m making time to do one this month.

Here goes!

In my kitchen this summer, is an egg plate that holds 6 deviled eggs. I loved the small version. Now Robert and I can have deviled eggs without having to make a whole dozen just to fill up the plate. (Yeah, I’m obsessive like that) I think it’s funny how the depressions in the photo have the optical illusion of being convex rather than concave.

6-egg Egg Plate

I’ve been pickling up a storm this summer.

Vegetables ready to pickle!

Vegetables ready to pickle!

Pickling Cukes

Pickling Cucumbers

I hope we have enough to last us this  winter. I’ve made Sweet Pickle Chips, Half Sours, Dill Pickles, Pickled Cauliflower, Pickled Beets, Pickle Relish.

When I was done pickling, I made jams.

Simmering whole fig and lemon jam

Simmering whole fig and lemon jam

Blueberry, Lemon and Thyme, Strawberry Basil Balsamic and Whole Fig and Lemon.

Strawberries and basil

Strawberries and basil

Blueberry, Lemon and Thyme Jam

Blueberry, Lemon and Thyme Jam

These two were also in the jam batch: Peach, Pepper with Ginger, and Mint Jelly. I used natural pectin by using grated apple peel.

Grate apple peel for pectin

Grate apple peel for pectin

While the canner was out, and to take advantage of 4 gallons of boiling water, I also threw together a batch of Heirloom Tomato Salsa, Homemade Ketchup, and Dijon Style Mustard and our own processed Horseradish.

Horseradish Root

Horseradish Root. See the sprout on the end? It sprouted so now it’s growing in the garden. In a pot since I understand it spreads and is hard to control. I just cut the sprouted bit off, stuck it in some dirt and before too long it grew.

Processed Horseradish, for the perfect Bloody Mary!

Processed Horseradish, for the perfect Bloody Mary! I love horseradish on most any protein with a squirt of fresh lemon

Homemade Condiments

Homemade Condiments

The “PING!” of cooling jars seemed to be non-stop for several days.

Now I have to find somewhere to store all these jars!

I found this great bowl and sauce server in the cabbage Leaf patters by Majorca Ware; I just love it!

Cabbage Leaf bowl and Sauce Server

Cabbage Leaf bowl and Sauce Server

What’s happening in your kitchen?

Sweet Pickle Chips

Sweet Pickle Chips

Gaining Control of Our Food – How to stand up to Big Corporate Food

The state of our food supply is in crisis and WE are the ones to do something about it.

This is the beginning of a mission. There is a way we can fight back against big food corporations.

Cassie Parsons is a local chef and farmer who has an on-fire passion about local and honest food. This past February she did a TEDx talk about her big idea. In her speech she declares

“Our food supply is broken.”

And she’s right. She’s spot on.

Cassie’s TEDx Talk is linked below, give it a listen, Please.

This is what I have to say about the state of our food.

“America has the worst food in the world.”

We have the most and the worst. Quantity does not make quality food. Quantity has never made quality in any industry. Still there are so many that go hungry;  that is another discussion for another day.

We are in a state of change and increasing awareness. There is no reason to feel helpless about our food supply unless you decide not to do anything or you think someone else will do it instead.

That’s what Big Food is counting on, good old American apathy.

We’re world champions in apathy, we’re apathetic champions off the freaking chart.

You know what?

I hate to be the one to break the news, but the time for change is here; it’s NOW and it’s up to us.

We can’t let this go.

I want to talk about what we can do to stop Big Corporate Food from developing, planting and growing GMO‘s and other food atrocities they have developed and forced on us. They think we don’t need to know; they think we don’t care.

Worst of all is they think they can get away with it.

Here is the biggest thing, We DO have a choice. We have to demand the truth as to what is in our food, how it is processed and how the animals are treated and what’s in it; we have to get involved with our food.

Two news reporters were fired for not watering down a report about Monsanto and recombinant bovine growth hormone  causing cancer in humans who drink milk from cows treated with rBGH. rBGH is injected into dairy cows every two weeks to increase milk production which increases profits at the expense of human health. Click the link above to read the article.

Have you heard of rBGH? Big Food feels you don’t need to know if the milk you drink and give to your children is from cows treated with rBGH. You only find it mentioned on milk without it.

You don’t need to know that commercially grown strawberries can have residue of up to 13 different pesticides on them.

You don’t need to know that in order to “water” the plants, workers need to wear hazardous  material suits “to protect them”.

From what?! Aren’t they supposed to be “watering”?

The bees are dying due to the use of GMO seeds for growing crops.

Monarch butterflies are affected by GMO corn crops. You can hardly find non-gmo corn  anymore, even then, I’d question it. Same with soy and soy products.

If you read food labels, you may have noticed high fructose corn syrup products appears in nearly all processed foods.

What about additives, preservatives, FD&C color dyes for food, drugs and cosmetics (FD&C means that it has been approved for use in food, drugs and cosmetics) and who knows what else they put into products. How many of us read a label, see a list of 40 or so ingredients, glaze over it and buy the product anyway?

Those aren’t “cherries” on your cherry danish from that favorite fast food place, but a “cherry-like” substance with full cherry flavor. Read it.

Leave the products on the shelves! Drive by fast food, you and your family devserve better.

How can we make a change?

With our purchasing power and the decisions we make. Learn to make some of the “processed” food we buy at home; pickles, condiments, sauces, salad dressings, mayonnaise there are so many easy things to learn.

Photo: Let’s change the way we grocery shop

When we buy food that has come from a long distance from where we stand, we pay for that in more than money. When we buy those products, we no longer support our local economies. That money goes back to where the product came from or was produced.

Cassie explains this in her TEDx talk. I suggest when you are finished reading this post, go get a cup of coffee, glass of tea or whatever refreshing beverage you want, come back and watch Cassie Parsons talk. There’s a link at the end of this post and only about 18 minutes long. It will make you think.

It will empower you and implore you to do something too. When you process your own condiments and other food, you know your ingredients, you know what you are serving; you know ALL the ingredients and the quality used.

Yo wont find pink slime in your burgers if you grind your own meat, you won’t find bone scrapings and other left over bits if you learn to make your own fresh sausage.

If you do this right, you also know who raised the pig and get the casings from the same farmer.

If you make your own pickles, know the farmer who grew the cucumbers. There are farmers markets in nearly every city on nearly every day of the week. There is no reason not to find one and use them.

Beyond benefits of local foods, you gain the benefit of a stronger local economy, a stronger social community, which leads to great places to live and raise families. Why? Because you know who is growing your food, what they are growing and how. You share things, trade things, eat healthier, you build a better community.

Your health will be infinitely better. My grandfather used to tell me you can grow it yourself, pay the farmer, or pay the big grocery stores and then pay the hospital bills. He grew all his vegetables and raised a large family with fresh bread, fresh fish and good food.

If we decide to make our own processed foods (yes, there is a learning curve) we can have an impact on big food profit. If products sit on the shelves, if people stop buying them, it will have an impact on profits, which would get BCF attention.

Maybe then, Monsanto and other companies would listen to “Please No GMO!”

Watch this, out of the mouths of babes, the young people get it and it scares them.

If everyone learned just one thing they could make, make enough to share with neighbors, swap, make things together and share. This is not only about building our health, but community and quality of life.

We don’t have to feel helpless or voiceless in this food crisis. We have a choice. WE can do something, each and every one of us.

Buy local.

Ask questions about the food you buy.

Support local farmers.

Learn to make basic condiments, with a group and share.

Start a pickling group or whatever. Make food about people, health and community again; take the profit away from Big Corporate Food.

Stop the apathy and get involved, your health depends on it.

Here’s Cassie’s talk below

Ketchup or Catsup? Make Your Own

Whether you call it Ketchup or Catsup, we all love vibrant tomato ketchup for one reason or another. I can’t imagine eating pot roast without it, and it is divine with burgers and fries.

Did you know you can make it at home? Leave all the preservatives, artificial flavorings, high fructose corn syrups, red dyes behind you and follow this recipe. This looks vibrant, tastes great and your friends and family will simply LOVE it! Best of all, you know exactly what is in the food you are serving.

Picmonkey Homemade tomato ketchup

This is one small way we can take control of our food and avoid GMO‘s, high fructose corn syrup and other hidden sugars, fats, salts and preservatives. Take a stand against Big Food and learn to make your own ketchup! It’s small, but it will have a very healthy effect of your family!

Homemade Ketchup

For the spiced vinegar:

  • 1-1/2 cups white distilled vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon broken stick cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed

For the ketchup:

  • 5 ½ pounds tomatoes
  • 1 cup granulated sugar – separated into two ½ cup measurements
  • ½ medium onion chopped fine
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon non-iodized salt

Method:

Combine the first four ingredients. Bring to a boil; remove from heat then set aside to cool.

Wash the tomatoes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Remove the core from the top of the tomatoes and cut a shallow X into the bottom end.

A "Tomato Shark" makes removing the blossom end simple and quick

A “Tomato Shark” makes removing the blossom end simple and quick

Scratch a shallow X on the bottom

Scratch a shallow X on the bottom

The skin will split when ready, the more ripe the tomato, the quicker this happens.

The skin will split when ready, the more ripe the tomato, the quicker this happens.

When the skin splits, plunge into ice water to stop cooking.

When the skin splits, plunge into ice water to stop cooking.

Slip the skins off the tomatoes, cut and squeeze out the seeds.

Slip the skins off the tomatoes, cut and squeeze out the seeds.

Set a large bowl of ice water near the pot of boiling water. Place the prepped tomatoes into the boiling water. As soon as the skin splits, remove and place the warm tomatoes in the ice water to stop cooking.

Slip the skins off the tomatoes. Slice them in half around the center of the tomato, not from top to bottom. Squeeze gently to remove all seeds. Do this over a strainer that is over a bowl to catch the juices that come from squeezing the seeds out.

Cut the tomatoes in quarters. Combine half of the tomatoes with ½ cup sugar, onion, garlic and cayenne pepper in a deep stainless steel pot. Bring to a boil and allow the tomato mixture to boil vigorously for 30 minutes, stirring often to avoid scorching.

After 30 minutes, add the remaining tomatoes and sugar and boil for another 30 minutes. At this point you will need to stir it often as the mixture gets thick.

Strain the vinegar and discard the spices. Add the spiced vinegar to the boiling tomato mixture, stirring constantly for 15 minutes or until the desired texture is reached.

Test the consistency by placing a small amount of the ketchup on a small plate. There should be no watery run off. If there is, keep cooking.

For smooth ketchup, puree using a stick blender, or use a blender to puree the hot mixture. Bottle the hot mixture in sterilized jars or another non-reactive container.

Store under refrigeration unless processing in a water bath canner. An “Old Wives” trick is to wrap each jar in brown paper to protect the color during storage. Not necessary if you store the jars in the refrigerator.

A vibrant bowl of homemade ketchup

A vibrant bowl of homemade ketchup

A Pickling Primer – Tips and Hints to Making Perfect Pickles

A basket of goodies to pickle!

A basket of goodies to pickle!

Here is a pickling primer that will provide some basic guidelines on making your very own homemade pickles.

There are no recipes but here are some basic steps to follow to ensure your pickles turn out amazing.

I really want to encourage you to try making your own pickles!

Sterilize everything you use. Use the Sanitize button on your dishwasher or boil jars, utensils, and lids to ensure no bacteria will interfere with the pickles fermentation process.

While this step sounds intimidating, please be assured, it isn’t.

Wash towels you use in a bleach cycle, then heat dried.

If you don’t have a dishwasher, simply bring a very large pot of water to boil in the stove and then, using tongs, dip the jars, lids and seals, spoons etc. into the boiling water and let them sit until ready to use. (Turn the heat down to a low simmer once it boils). It is not necessary to cover the pot but you can if you like, to control the amount of humidity in the room.

Pickling Hints and Tips

  • Select perfect produce. No blemishes or scars, cracks, avoid bruised food.
  • Gently scrub produce to remove garden debris and lurking insects. Soak for 30 minutes in water that has 1/2 cup salt per gallon.
  • Do not trim or cut produce for the soaking step, soak them whole. Remember, produce can float so move it around some while it is soaking.
  • Placing a plate on top will help hold the items under the water.
  • For cucumbers, trim 1/4 inch from the blossom end only. It contains an enzyme that can make pickles mushy.
Pickled beets

Pickled beets

  • Use plain white or apple cider vinegar. You need 5-7% acidity.
  • Sugar is used to counteract the bitterness of the vinegar and salt. If you must substitute, experiment to ensure you like the flavor of the brine. Personally, I don’t care for artificial sweetener.
  • Be sure to wipe the rim of the jars after filling to ensure a good seal.

    Pickling Jars with wire bales and silicone or rubber seals

    Pickling Jars with wire bales and silicone or rubber seals

  • If canning, follow directions exactly. Take a class to learn the safety features.
  • Always use a water bath canner, NEVER a pressure canner! A pressure canner will turn all of your pickles to complete mush. Ew, who likes mush?
  • Pickles will keep for up to 12 months in the refrigerator. I don’t bother to process my jars, just refrigerate them.
  • Use a non iodized salt. Using table salt with iodine will make the brine cloudy and leave an off bitter taste. Pickling salt or Kosher salt works well.
  • If your pickles become slimy or have pink floaties and bubbles,  don’t taste them, just throw them away. These are signs the pickles have become contaminated with something. It could be yeast or bacteria but either way, don’t eat it. This is why it is so important to have very clean equipment, jars and hands when pickling.
  • All the pickles recipes found on Spoon Feast are for small batches and are ready to eat typically within a day or two. But, they continue to improve with age.

About Recipes:

Try pickling something this summer! Please let me know how it goes.

If you have any questions, I’m here to help, just ask in the comments below.

If you have a Perfect Pickle Tip please share below!

Pickled Turnips

Pickled Turnips