Tuesday, June 22, 2010

It's not all about success

Do you remember in grade school when your teacher passed out the quiz and said, "Be sure to read the directions before you start." Of course you didn't read the directions, and neither did I. You went about circling the correct answers and sometimes just choosing your best guess until you got to the final question, which said, "go back and read the directions." Only then did you notice that the directions said, "Do not write on this quiz and raise your hand when you are finished reading." Doh, you wrote all over it in purple ink, and everyone else in the room had their hand held high.

Today, history repeated itself...

Ten years ago my sister introduced me to the book Feeding the Whole Family, by Cynthia Lair. Cynthia's philosophy, and now ours, is based on eating local, seasonal, and organic (when possible) WHOLE foods. What does that mean? Ask yourself, "Can I imagine it growing?" If the answer is "yes," it's a whole food. It's easy to picture a pear tree or a chicken coop, but tough to imagine what a xanthan gum flower looks like.

Today we were using this go-to cookbook. Cynthia baked the yellow-millet cake for her daughter's first birthday so, it must be worthy of Paxton's first birthday. Paxton was napping, and we had an hour to make his cake before leaving for the zoo.

Molly was in charge the dry ingredients and I of the wet. I blended millet with orange juice, maple syrup and egg yolk; then folded in the egg white meringue. All along Molly was sifting Bluebird Farms whole wheat flour baking soda and salt. The cake went in the oven, easy as pie.

"Oh no! Fatal error!" Molly yelps. Turns out Molly made quinoa and millet this morning and I had accidentally chosen the quinoa. In my defense, when cooked they look quite similar.
Baking is chemistry so, any changes to the recipe is a change to the formula which will affect the results. Both quinoa and millet are considered grains, but quinoa is actually a seed. Because seeds have more protein than grains, quinoa is the "grain" with the highest amount of protein. Therefore, we assumed by using quinoa we changed the cake's formula.

"Great, let's have a baking experiment, and this can be blog entry 2." We jinksed.

As we read through the recipe for the second time, Molly realized that she too misread the recipe and used 3 cups of flour instead of 2 cups in the quinoa cake. We decide to do 3 cups of flour again in the millet cake, because we only want 1 variable (the grain). After a few more mishaps, including: running out of eggs (and having to steal some from the neighbors chickens), spilling the yolk in the meringue, turning on the blender without the lid on, we finally got the cake in the oven. Before long, Paxton woke and the house filled with the smell of delicious, hot baked something...

Take note of Zach's reaction to the quinoa cake.

And Paxton running from the quinoa cake.

You may notice that there is no recipe posted here. That's because what we made is not worth remaking. If you want to make a millet cake, I would suggest you trying Cynthia Lair's recipe, I've heard it's delicious. It's a good thing Paxton won't remember this.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Strawberry Fields Forever

Oh, homesteading...

We moved into the garden house with the inspiration of growing our food. Though, gardening has been SLOW, and the slugs seem to be getting way more food than we are. Garden's don't seem to want to grow well in June-uary.

We have had plenty of salads and enough strawberries and raspberries to top on our cereals, enough rhubarb to inspire crisps, but not much else. Our basil, zucchini, and tomatoes are stubborn in 55 degrees & raining, and the peas, beans and beets seem to be irresistible to the slugs. Under these desperate measures to have local food on a single income household. I made it to Broers Organic Strawberry farm and picked 20 pounds of strawberries for $20. Since we have rhubarb out our ears, and Broers strawberries to add to the handful of Washington native strawberries grown here, there was only 1 thing to do: STRAWBERRY RHUBARB JAM.

On this cold, rainy Summer Solstice, we decided to put some up. We started our first canning experiment on the mocha paperstone countertops with 6 recipes. You see, everything that goes in our mouths we want to benefit our health so, choosing a recipe isn't always that easy. We have several rules for our food: 1. Was it grown organically/sustainably? 2. Is it in season? 3. Is it real food? 4. Were the farmers/workers given a living wage? 5. How far did it travel to get to our table? If we combined all of these recipes we could have a check mark beside most of these questions and use our overabundance of red produce.

A little more strawberry than rhubarb, a little less sugar than they call for, less pectin (cause what the heck is that anyway), some fresh squeezed lemon juice, and lastly some fresh stolen rose petals from my sister's yard. And this is what we came up with.

10 cups strawberries
2 cups rhubarb
5 cups sugar
juice of 4 lemons
4 cups rose petals

1. Wash fruit. Cut rhubarb into 1/2 inch pieces. Cover rhubarb with half the sugar and lemon juice, and let stand 1 to 2 hours.
2. Crush berries and mix with remaining sugar and combine with rhubarb.
3. Place mixture over low heat until sugar is dissolved, then boil rapidly, stirring frequently to prevent burning.
4. Pinch the white tips from the bases of the rose petals and add the petals to the pan, pushing them well down among the fruit. Bring to a boil until thick.
5. Pour into sterilized jars with 1/2 inch empty on top (to allow for expansion). Put on cap, screw band finger tight. Process in boiling water for 10 minutes.
Yields: 7 pints.

Roses were traditionally used in the Northwest to ease the heart and tone the cardiovascular system. Roses, strawberries, and lemons are high in Vitamin C.

Oh, here come Nate and Maggie to test out the goods.