Monday, June 16, 2014

First potatoes of the season!

Today John harvested the first 3 potatoes of the season, reds from last year.

We must have missed harvesting one. And from that one we have these three and lots more: The plant is in bloom, so it's still producing, growing the baby spuds still. 

I love gardens! Magical things happen there. You put this bit of DNA in the ground in the form of a seed or a piece of potato, and you end up with something that knows how to organize sunlight, water, stuff from the soil, and maybe things we can't see, into food we can eat. Tiny seed, lots of food. 

I never get tired of marveling over it. 

Anyway, we'll have perfect fresh potatoes as part of our supper for the first time tonight.

We were behind putting things in because we were away. This potato overwintered so it had a head-start on the others. Maybe next year we'll just leave a few dozen in the ground on purpose and save a lot of work!

Spring treat - frizzled garden greens

We planted a fair number of quick-growing greens when we got back from New Zealand in April. We were eager to get something out of the garden, and some greens take only 30 or so days.

And then the 30 days went by (rather quickly) and now we have lots of greens, some of them bolting already despite our very cool June. They include several kinds of mustard, turnip greens, radish greens, kale (old and new), chard (old, just starting to go into its second-year biennial seed-producing phase) - a total of 8 kinds.

If I'd left them in the garden, they would have become tough and bitter. I have other options: leave them in the fridge till I need them (but there are more every day); sauté them and pack for the freezer against a day next winter when they'll be great in a soup; or….

Frizzle them!

I have done this before with kale but not as a regular habit and not with other varieties of greens. Here's what I'm doing now:

I'm looking over the greens when I first gather them from the garden. I don't want to wash them if I don't have to. Mostly they are fine, since I have harvested them by cutting them off several inches above ground level with scissors.

Then I'm laying them out on foil on a cookie sheet. The foil has been used several times, and already has a thin coating of olive oil, which adds a perfect flavor for greens. Once there, I wipe them around a pit in the oil, and if they seem dry, I'm adding a few more sprinkles of olive oil.

Then into the oven they go. The oven has been preheated to 400 degrees. Or else it is hot from baking something else, and that's the temperature I use. They go on the bottom rack.

Then I do my best to keep an eye on them. I don't want them getting black. They could use moving around at about the 3 minute mark. In 5 minutes, they are ready to take out, usually.

Once they're out, I let them cool off. Or I sprinkle them with parmesan. Or I sprinkle them with salt.

I serve them with supper. They're great on soup, or just to eat by hand with almost anything. (So far, with everything.) They're reminiscent of nori.

I'm thinking of crumbling them into leftover rice tonight, after it's reheated. Though they really are best when they are crisp, and it takes almost no moisture to soften them up and the rice may wreck them.

Last night supper got delayed by Father's Day calls from the kids, so I didn't go out harvesting. Instead I just grabbed a handful of mixed greens from the produce-keeper bag in the fridge to frizzle. So if you don't have a garden but want to have these very tasty (irresistible) healthy crisps around, you can certainly use greens from the farmers' market or store.

Let me know how you're using them.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Making chocolate

When I first saw this recipe, I had to scratch my head. What did they mean by making chocolate. It turns out it is all about converting cocoa into something more like a Hershey's Bar. Sort of.

I shared my home-made chocolate tonight with a wide range of tasters, from a 7 year old boy to several seniors. 

Twice the taster said it was like fudge. It's sort of like fudge, I agree, but it's made entirely differently. All the tasters liked it. Many came back for more, including the 7 year old and several adults.

So you decide how like a chocolate bar it is, or how fudge-like. If it's convincing fudge for you, you won't have to go through all it takes to make real fudge.

Before I give you the recipe I used, I want to warn you about a big challenge these ingredients create for each other. You may find that you end up with a mass of brown sweet stuff that won't blend with the oil. I will let you know as we go along what I did about that. Because I did find a way, but it wasn't the food processor that finally got them to blend.

Is this recipe worth it? You decide. It yields a healthy, tasty confection that is very chocolate-y and makes you want more. Or at least made me want more, and my husband, and all those kids who tested it for me.

The recipe: Homemade Chocolate (makes a lot!)

Mix together 1 cup cocoa powder, 1 cup coconut oil, and 1/2 cup raw honey. That's it. 

Literally that's all you need to do. HOWEVER, when I mixed them in my food processor, I ended up with happily married honey and cocoa powder, and a nearly entirely independent layer of oil. 

In my kitchen, which runs less than 70 degrees most of the time (we keep the house at 65 but when the oven's on I know it's warmer), the coconut oil I buy is solid. When I made this recipe, I liquified it by placing the jar in a bowl of warm water. When it wouldn't blend that way, I cooled the whole mixture. Nothing worked.

So I started stirring. I stirred and stirred, and suddenly it all congealed and became one mass of yummy flavors. 

At this point I spooned several puddles of it onto a parchment paper on a cookie sheet and placed it in the freezer to cool quickly. It was firm right away - maybe 10 minutes later. Then I cut it with a hefty knife into bite-sized chunks. It was great!

Why did it suddenly congeal? I think it has to do with the fats in the cocoa. The coconut oil has no affinity for anything water-based, such as honey, but it would naturally be attracted to other fats. In cocoa the fats are bound up in a substance that is high in fiber and also contains other complex carbs and proteins. It could easily take several minutes for the oil in the powder and the coconut oil to combine.

In between, while I was still not successful with getting the ingredients to blend, I tried the blade in my little food processor. Even with the chilled mixture the oil separated more than it had been before I processed it.

I have plenty of chocolate left from this first experiment, but there will be a next time, and then I'll try chilling both the honey and the oil first. 

There's no cooking in this recipe. That means the raw honey stays raw, and same for the coconut oil. Since I buy the least processed products that I can get, it's a real plus to make a confection without cooking. 

If you make this recipe, please post your experience. It's worth making, but we're not yet sure the best way. 

Quick cocoa cookies or portable breakfast food (GF)

(Warning: These cookies are gluten-free only if your oats are gluten-free. Oats don't have gluten but the places where they are processed might be used too for processing wheat and then your oats could have gluten. I am highly wheat-sensitive (and maybe gluten-sensitive) but I can eat all the oats I've tried, as long as it's in moderation. Oats themselves are known to be inflammatory, so they can cause problems  in some individuals regardless of their contamination level.)


This recipe has no added sugar, just what's naturally in the unsweetened applesauce and banana. It doesn't need more. The fat comes from the cocoa and nut butter. The protein comes from the oats and nut butter. Minerals come from good salt. Every ingredient adds something healthy. You could have these for breakfast with a hot beverage and consider it a good meal.

Vigorously mix together the following:

3 ripe bananas, smooshed with a fork
2 cups regular (non-instant, non-quick) rolled oat
1/3 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup nut butter (almond, peanut butter, any nut butter)
pinch of good salt (coarse salt is fun - it doesn't all blend in, so you might get some in any given bite)

You can do the mixing in a mixer or food processor. Hand-mixing also works.

Let the mixture sit for 20-30 minutes before baking.

Drop by tablespoonfuls on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Space closely: they don't spread. Flatten them a little for faster cooking and check after 10 minutes.

Bake at 350 degrees in a preheated oven for about 15 minutes. You want them cooked through but not dried out.

Let them cool. Can refrigerate or freeze.

Additions: Chocolate chips, nuts, bits of fruit.