Monday, January 21, 2013

Sour Oranges

It's feast or famine over here! Sometimes I have a lot to say, and sometimes I don't, so I don't say anything. To be very honest, I haven't had anything to say because I had a lot of disasters in the kitchen last week. This is normal, I have to remind myself. Sometimes you just get on a roll of badness, and that's when you slowly step away from the kitchen, eat at a few diners, and take solace in the kitchen being clean for a few days. Which is exactly what I've been doing.

I looked at my gallery on Instagram the other day (@whatjuliate) and realized it was all gray and white. It's full on winter over here, and the temperatures just dropped drastically. So, I was really glad to get three boxes of Florida sour oranges in the mail the other day from my mother. She picks them from a neighbor whose tree is full and under appreciated. This has been happening for a few years now, and at first I was unsure of the worth of these guys. Now I know better. I look forward to their arrival. This year I had to remind my mother! Organic citrus is expensive, and some backyard fruit from Florida is always appreciated.

In the past, I have made these goodies from my sour orange haul:

Triple Sec
Sour Orange Cocktail Mix
Candied Peels (not a recipe, just a quiet rant)

I think this year I will make some sour orange syrup, and save the peels for more candying, of course! I've really enjoyed my candied peels this year. I can't wait until January is over so I can start eating them again!

Aside from the exciting delivery of sour oranges, I also received good news about my company, Half-Pint Preserves: my apple plum jelly was a winner at the Good Food Awards! It's a real honor for my little tiny company (I just sell to a few local markets) to be a part of such fine company. Check out this list of wonderful food producers, see if there are any near you and support them!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Small-Batch Pink Sauerkraut

Sauerkraut and oranges: no scurvy in our house!

My sauerkraut is running out, and I am proud to say I started a new batch before I ran out.  That's usually not the case. Sauerkraut takes around two to four weeks to ferment depending on the temperature.  I only had two pounds of cabbage, and usually the rule of thumb for sauerkraut is five pounds of cabbage to three tablespoons of salt. Instead of doing my math, I wondered if there was a small-batch sauerkraut recipe on the internet, and of course there was, and it was by one of my favorite preservers, Marisa from Food in Jars. It was from a series on pickles on Serious Eats that Marisa was writing. If you want to make sauerkraut, but are put off by the large quantities that you usually see in recipes, check it out. Marisa is always keeping things real and new, and I appreciate that. And I just heard via Twitter that she's working on a new book, this one's about small-batch preserving, and it will come out in Spring of 2014. I can't wait!

Do you wonder how to eat all that sauerkraut once you've made it? I love sauerkraut and crave it's tangy crunch. I'll have it on a sandwich with greek yogurt and a drizzle of olive oil, and if I have it I'll add some avocado. You can't believe how good it is. Of course, it's good with some pork chops or a pork loin. Or on a grilled cheese sandwich. I really love it on top of rice and sprinkled with sesame seeds. It's a pretty special treat. And it comes in handy when you are craving sweets. I learned this tip from a book I always turn to when I'm trying to cleanse my system, The Self-Healing Cookbook.  For some reason, the salty sourness---eating the opposite of what you crave---stops you from craving sweets. Yet another reason to have amazingly healthy, real sauerkraut in your fridge.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Quick Coffee Cake (with no added sugar)

The other day I had a friend over for coffee. She has three kids, the youngest only an infant, so I wanted to bake a nice treat, but something I could eat as well. (I can't figure out if that's wrong of me or not.) I hit upon this coffee cake sweetened with a minimal bit of honey, and adorned with dates and almonds with a hint of maple syrup. I'm in love with it. 

I recently decided to mainly not include recipes in my blog, but sometimes there are recipes that I just have to share. This is one of them. My friend liked it, too, but I wonder if she was just being kind. If you make this, please let me know how it goes!

Quick Coffee Cake (sweetened with honey, dates and maple sugar)

1.5 cups of all purpose flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of baking soda
pinch of salt
1 cup of créme frâiche (you may use sour cream instead, or Greek yogurt)
2 eggs
1/4 cup honey

Streusel Topping:
6 - 8 Medjool dates
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup oat bran
1 tablespoon of maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-inch spring form pan.

Mix the dry ingredients. In a separate large bowl beat the créme frâiche with the eggs. Then add the honey and whisk well. Add the dry mixture to the wet and incorporate well. To make the streusel topping, just add all ingredients in the food processor and whiz it up until it's a crumbly mixture. Pour the batter in the pan, smooth it out, and crumble the streusel over the top. Bake for about 30 minutes until the batter peeking through is golden, and a toothpick comes out clean.

You can see that this is a light and bubbly cake. It does not keep well, so eat it quickly!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Turkey Pot Pie

Roasting a turkey is always a treat. We don't tire of it in the winter time. After we eat what we can for dinner, it gets dismantled: the meat pulled off all the bones, everything else in the stock pot. Last week we had turkey noodle soup, and there's still two quarts of stock for another round of soup. We had turkey enchiladas, turkey sandwiches (hot open with gravy, and cold with mayo and capers), and turkey pot pie. When I roast off the turkey, I used the neck and gizzards for a quick two cups of stock to make gravy. I make a LOT of gravy. That way turkey pot pie is halfway made. This time I put together a quick suet pastry, and filled the pies with a mixture of turkey meat, gravy, corn (summertime corn!), mushrooms and onions chopped super fine, and a good bit of chopped dill and parsley. It was incredibly delicious! Of course, you can use regular pastry dough made with butter, but the suet is a pretty tasty secret.

Pot pies are rustic fare that really aren't that hard to make. And they are so much better than the stuff you get in the frozen food aisle that usually have five billion calories. It's not that my version is lo-cal, far from it I'll bet, but it's such real food. The suet pastry recipe linked to above will make enough pastry for two small pies. Don't roll the dough out too thin, so it can puff up!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Strawberry Mango Fruit Leather

This is the perfect time of year to start taking some of the things I stashed in the freezer over the summer when fruit was abundant. I had about a pound of strawberries, and a pint of mango puree (from mangoes my mother sent me from Florida---it was so hard to save some and not eat them all!). After defrosting them, I pureed them in the Vitamix so they were smooth, which saves you the step of straining to get the strawberry seeds out. The yield was four cups. I cooked the puree for about ten minutes to remove excess water and concentrate the flavors. A tablespoon of honey and a pinch of citric acid was all that was needed before pouring the thick liquid into my leather tray in the dehydrator. Ten hours later I had an amazing treat for sugar-free January. I probably didn't even need to add the honey. I love fruit leather!

I love these leathery posts:

From Kate at Hip Girl's Guide to Homemaking, watermelon leather!

How can you not want this Blue Leather from Kaela at Local Kitchen?

And Laura from Glutton For Life is a queen of leather. If you are local, maybe you saw her write up on fruit leather in the Edible Hudson Valley?

Bonus nerd out photo: I just got this stack of books at a thrift shop for a few bucks. Finding old preserving books is a rarity! And this bread book looks amazing. Best part? This was obviously the collection of one woman; her name is inscribed on each one. There are hand-written notes of hers scattered throughout the books, some a quick "Delicious!" and some more involved notes about the what was served with the dish or the memories it brought her. I love little details like that.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Oyster Chowder

Last night we had oyster chowder for dinner. Steve bought two pints of shucked oysters the other day which I thought was overkill, knowing just how many oysters are hiding in there, swimming around in their liquor, but we benefited nonetheless. How can you have too many oysters? Well, at one point the world did have too many beautiful oysters, but that's a different depressing story about how we ate them all and ruined their habitat. But we won't go there right now. Right now, we are celebrating this simple and warming soup.

I used this recipe from Epicurious as a guideline, but didn't really follow it. It's such a simple soup! I had nice home made bacon at the ready: swoon! And beautiful sturdy leeks. A bag of shrimp shells in the freezer made a quick broth to sub for clam juice, and a much better one if you ask me. And I used milk instead of cream, and omitted the flour. A completely different recipe!

Oysters are such a symbol of the new year. Here are some other recent posts on the beautiful bivalve:

Check out Michael's Oyster Stew
and check out Laura's post on oysters and the new year.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Dried Fruits, Nuts and Grains

Yesterday, I splurged at the store. Another plus of this new sugar-less regime is indulging myself with really great food. There were dried fruits: raisins, currants, figs and coconut (yes, a fruit!). You still have to look at ingredients though, many dried fruits have added sugar, coconut being one of them. Then there were nuts because they are so satisfying. I'm partial to almonds, so I bought a bunch of those. And lots of oats, and some grainy kinds of things because I pulled my poor old sourdough starter from the fridge where it was languishing in hopes of baking much, much more bread.

When I start eating like this, I wonder: what the heck have I been eating? Of course, I can just go back in the blog and see. You'll maybe notice that things look differently on here. Along with all the rest of the revamps, I have rejiggered things here as well. (Can you believe that "rejiggered" is actually a word? It is!) I'm really liking the change. I've been meaning to for a while, but it seems like Blogger made it happen so easily by allowing me a new template. Things are feeling better here already!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Oyster Po'boy

A nice way to start the year. Have you ever made a po'boy? Is it one of the easiest thing in the world? Yes, as long as the oysters are pre-shucked. I love it when simple things are the most special. We had ours with an untraditional purple slaw that had lots of dill and parsley in it. And no tomatoes. But there was lots of mayo with hot sauce on it!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013


I am usually not one to bash a year and swell with excitement at the thought of a new one---after all, the calendar year is not the only measure of a year---but this year I feel a little differently. From January of last year, 2012 was a bit more difficult than most. I am starting 2013 with a view towards utilizing the lessons learned from those tribulations. Last night we ate early, and slept early, and this morning, after a good night's sleep, we woke at 6 a.m. ready to start the year. 

This morning it was cold and cloudy. I went for a walk around the pond on our property to gather my thoughts and make some resolutions. To think back on what disappoints me in my life, and to focus on some ways I can make changes to be a more fulfilled person. When I was younger the idea of being a better me was always so abstract and not really a tangible possibility. In the past six years I've changed so much, that I realize it is very possible. And I've learned that if you are dreaming of an impossible new you, then you have to rethink some things.

In food/blogging news, I'm starting off the year with another (processed) sugar-free January with Rebecca of Cakewalk. I am including honey, maple syrup and dried fruit. Some may say that's not really cutting out sugar. Well, I say kudos to you who can cut out all sugar. I am not there yet! I'm also decreeing more vegetables, and more water. And, I'm joining Cook the Books with Grow and Resist and Oh Briggsy, just to broaden my cooking horizons a little.

And here are three tenets to begin my new year, that encompass a broad swath. They should be rules for a life, and not just a year, I know, but everybody has to start somewhere. There are so many more detailed things that were running through my mind as I crunched through the ice pack, but I wanted to distill them not only for you, dear reader, but for myself.

And here they are, boiled down:

1. To be more thoughtful. That is, to be smarter, to think more clearly, more thoughtfully, in all ways: emotionally, intellectually, financially, etc.

2. To accept more challenges in life. That means to do something new, something that requires new muscles to be moved, to go to new places, to be kind to myself and others, to not be angry, to not worry, to not be concerned so much with what others think of me. These are all challenges for me!

3. To be more accepting. To not give up hope. And to know when I must let go and move on. To be both gentler and steadfast.

What are you meditating on this year? Whatever it may be, I wish you the best in the new year!