What to do with Abundance….Strawberries

This month we ended up with 4 flats of strawberries from Feed My Sheep. For many the first thought would be jam, but let me be clear…we have more jam then we know what to do with! All kinds of wonderful sweet sticky goodness all stored up and ready whenever we would like it. So jam was out for preserving this wonderful abundance! So I came up with a few fun treats that you may like to try.  (One for now and One for later)

IMG_7546

SHRUBS

Shrubs or Drinking Vinegar can be made easily with just a bit of time. I am always looking for ways to get vinegar and other healthy foods into our diet. We have experimented with kombucha, fresh ginger drinks and ferments. Shrubs are in the same family and can be made from a wide range of fruits They are easy to make and do not need a long time to be ready for consumption.

What you need:

  • 1 lb Strawberries (Other berries can be used too)
  • 1 lb sugar (I think this may be too much)
  • 1 pint high quality Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Jar with lid (I like Mason jars)

IMG_7518

Mix the berries and the sugar and mash them slightly. set aside in a covered bowl at room temp. I let mine sit for 2 hours, but you can let them sit longer. This allows the juices to form.

Press the fruit mix through a sieve and set the pulp aside. Add the vinegar to your fruit juice. This is when I do a taste test. You should get a clear vinegar taste, but it should also be slightly sweet and taste of the berries. This should last a nice long time stored in the refrigerator. When you are ready to pour yourself a drink just add ice to a glass, pour a shot of your shrub and fill the rest of the glass with carbonated water. Enjoy!

INFUSED LIQUORS:

Last summer we experimented with cordials and infused liquors. The results were a bit mixed so I’m trying again. Keep in mind I will not have results for these mixes for another three months, so try at your own risk…or change it up a bit. I would love to hear what you add to the mix if you make changes! I am including the recipes for the two infusions I started this week.

What you need:

  • 2 Liters Brandy (or try a mix of Vodka and golden or dark Rum 1 Liter of each)
  • 2-4 Cups sugar (I went with 2C. and will add more sugar later if needed)
  • 4-6 Cups strawberries (I used 6C)
  • Jar with a lid (I like Mason Jars)

IMG_7545

 

I went with both options and they are made the same way. Mix the fruit with the sugar and let it stand for a bit. Then pour your alcohol over the berries and cover tightly. Shake every few hours until the sugars are all mixed in. I used a raw sugar so it took a bit longer. Set your jars in a cool dark spot and shake from time to time over about 2-3 months. After they have sat for a few months drain the berries out and save those…they are a yummy treat to have on hand! There you go! wonderful infused liquors. They can be used in all sorts of mixed drinks or pour a shot over ice with some carbonated water. I also mix with lemonade for a great summer time treat.

IMG_7531

 

Hope you enjoyed these little treats! If you give them a try I would love to hear how they turn out! Have fun with your abundance!

What to do with abundance…Peppers

OK, I am doing this for real….so that means I must have some level of commitment when it comes to writing each month, but I think I can swing that. Some ladies and I were chatting at this months ‘Feed my Sheep’ food distribution and it just solidified the fact that I need to be writing more about what we do at The Ebed house.

upload_-1-3

‘Feed my Sheep’ is an amazing food share program that is open to the public. If you eat food then you are eligible to purchase shares. ‘Feed my Sheep’ is a bit unique in the fact that what we receive is mostly produce. I have participated in other programs that focus more on packaged and processed foods. These programs are wonderful, but when you eat a gluten-free, paleo heavy diet it just isn’t worth it.

On the first Saturday of each month I wake up and head out of the house before the sun comes up. I drive about an hour to a little country church, I purchase a few shares and enjoy a wonderful time of community with lovely ladies while we wait to pick up our food. We often joke that the time together without kids is worth getting up so early…It’s a time for moms to chat and see each other. I cherish it a great deal.

One of our regular topics of discussion is what to do with all the food we get. When I say all the food…I mean crates of oranges, Boxes of peppers, dozens of bananas and more lettuce then can possibly be consumed before it goes bad! So, I’m blogging to help with some of those ideas. We are also starting a Facebook group where other ladies will be able to give their ideas so that we can encourage each other after we have carted all of our items home.

food

One more thing I have to say before I start on this months food…I could NOT do any of this without Mike’s support! In this we are a total team. While I pick up the food he is gets the kids ready for the day and gets out kitchen ready to receive all the produce. Mike chops and cans right alongside me, and we laugh and argue about what to make. Mike loves the surprise of what comes each month…maybe more then I do! I am so thankful for my partner in crime.

Peppers!

This month we were blessed with an abundance of beautiful peppers! Red, green and even some smaller yellow ones. Beautiful! I made a few things with this months peppers. We currently do not have much space in our freezer, so I knew i couldn’t chop and freeze them. However, I did fill 2 gallon Ziplock bags with fajita fixings and played Tettris with the freezer.

upload_-1-6

Next I chopped a bunch into small bits and layed them out on the dehydrator. I sort of mounded them…but it all worked out and the next day I filled a few jars with dried peppers that I will be able to toss into soups and other dishes. Peppers keep a great flavor when they are dehydrated.

The last thing I tried was a bit of an experiment. I chopped the peppers and blended them down into a pulp. I placed one of those fruit leather sheets in one of my dehydrator trays and poured the pepper pulp in. I dehydrated for a day. when the pulp was dry I crumbled it into my food processor and made a powder. Now I have peppers in the consistency of a seasoning powder. I will be able to use it to season many dishes and (I think) it may aid in the thickening of soup…but I haven’t tried that yet.

We made a number of other things this month as well, but the peppers were the processing highlight. I hope this helps and gives you some ideas if you ever find yourself with an abundance of peppers.

 

The Preservation of food Part 1: Lacto-fermented Carrot

A few months ago we started participating in a food share program called Feed My Sheep. Once a month I pack up the van with a bunch of laundry baskets and some dear friends and we drive about 45 minuets to a little country church to pick up a few shares of food, and lets be honest, a little mom sanity time!

food

This program works for our family for a number of reasons.

  1. The food we get is mostly fresh produce and with a family that can not eat a lot of processed, prepackaged and glutenous foods this works great.
  2.  Mike is on board. We are a team on this one. It just wouldn’t work for me to cart the girls with and then have to come home and clean, chop and process all that food with out his help. Just one more example of how amazing my husband is!
  3. The processing…The food we receive from this program is usually past its prime or a bit unsightly, and it often needs to be eaten or processed relatively quickly. We have been able to make use of most of the food because I have learned how to preserve food in a variety of helpful ways.

ferments

This post on lacto-fermentation will be the fist of a series on food preservation focused around the items we receive from Feed my Sheep as well as from the abundance of our garden. If you keep a garden you know there comes a time when you are racking your brain for another way to use those zucchinis or, if you live in MN, the frost comes before all of your tomatoes have ripened….what on earth are you going to do with a gallon bucket of green tomatoes? Well, I have a few ideas that I am happy to share with you.

The last time we picked up a few shares of food we received a laundry basket full of organic carrots. They are beautiful! Amazing and crisp, but what do you do with 20+ bags of carrots? Some will be used for soups and broth as well as every day munchies, but that amounts to 1/3 at most, so fermenting it is. Carrots can also be blanched and frozen or fully canned, but my family LOVES ‘spicy carrots’ as the girls have named them and I am long over due for a batch (or 5).

If you are still reading I promise I’m getting to the actual work of fermenting the carrots, but I am sure some people are a bit curious about what lacto-fermentation is. Just about every time I talk about it someone asks a really good question, so let me direct you to This link for a bit more clarity. It is worth the read and Cultures for Health is a wonderful page to explore. There are more recipe ideas there as well. Now on to my carrot project!

Lacto Carrots

Items you will need

  • Jars with Lids
  • Filtered Water
  • Sea Salt
  • Fresh Ginger root (if desired)
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Fresh Dill (if desired)
  • Cabbage Leaves

Directions

  1. Choose your jars/ lids and make sure they are clean. I use mason Jars mostly quart sized and then pint sized for the extra carrot bits.
  2. Clean and prep your carrots. I just scrubbed mine well, but you may also peel them if you desire to. cut them into sticks and trim them so that there is about 1-2 inches of head room in your jar. (you are going to want that space later)
  3. 1-2 Tbs of sea salt in each jar.
  4. 1/2-1 clove of slightly crushed garlic per jar
  5. A few sprigs of dill and (or) a bit of peeled ginger root slightly crushed in each jar. This just totally depends on your personal taste. you can omit this step if you do not like  (or have) ginger or dill.
  6. At this point you are ready to pack your jars. place the carrot sticks in the jars vertically as tightly as possible.
  7. Pour water into your jars covering the sticks while still leaving some head space.
  8. Place a cabbage leaf on top of your carrot sticks but below the water. The leaf helps to keep everything submerged so make sure it is snug. It is important to keep everything below the waterline. I have made these carrots without the cabbage, but it is helpful for peace of mind.
  9. The jars should sit at room temperature to culture for a few days until your carrots reach a flavor that you are happy with. **Burp your jars at least 1-2 times a day **  Gasses are expelled during this time so you don’t want an explosion. This is where you will be thankful for that head space. It is not uncommon to have an overflow while you burp your jars so watch them carefully.
  10. Move your jars to cold storage. we keep ours in the basement. With lacto-fermented foods you will KNOW if something has spoiled so there is little danger of harm from the food going bad. We typically keep our ferments for about 6 months.

That’s about it for the Lacto-fermented carrots that we make. I do just want to make a note that when it comes to food preservation make sure to do your research! I have come to the methods I use after lots of time on web pages and with book that I trust. There are years of trial and error that have gone into this process for me…don’t let this page be your only resource and don’t be discouraged if something doesn’t work the first time. Try it again…and tweak ideas (where safety permits) to make them your own.

 

Happy Preserving!

upload_-1

 

Dandelions

Beautiful wonderful spring and all that it brings with it…the joy of children’s floral chains and small bouquets of ‘weeds.’ Yards full of yellow remind me that summer is just around the corner and oh so thankful the pollinators are back! What would we do with out those beautiful bees and butterflies?

Our fenced orchard area is filled with freakishly large dandelions! I’m not kidding! The grass in there is lush and the weeds are mammoth! I think it has to do with the consintration of animal droppings over the past few years! Either way I’ve been holding off mowing.

This past weekend was beautiful so mike went out with the girls and picked many of the flower heads. (I’ve seen the buckets full, but still there are soooooo many left) Last year Mike made dandelion wine. Yep, that’s real! It’s a thing, and we make it! Also a real thing (apparently) dandelion jelly! It tastes a bit like honey, and smells amazing! Mike has the heads steeping for the wine and he made the jelly last night. The girls are over the moon excited to have it in their lunch tomorrow! I love how excited they get about the projects we do.

I also need to get out and gather some dandelion to make an oil infusion for salves. I used it to make one last year and we really liked it. I will be sure to blog about that process when I am able to get to the project!

If you find yourself out at the Ebed House be sure to ask Mike about the wine or Jelly. He is always happy to share his projects!

That Gluten Free Pie Crust I picked up someplace….

IMG_6562

I keep meaning to post the pie crust and pastry blend that I use. I haven’t taken photos yet, but hope to soon…with the holidays just around the corner I am sure to have plenty of opportunities to take a few quick shots while I bake.

IMG_6558

This is a two part instructional. Part 1 is the flour blend for the pastry crust. This blend makes a lot of flour and I just keep it in the refrigerator until I am ready to make pies. It blends up easily and stores nicely. Part 2 is the actual recipe for the pie crust. Each pie crust recipe will make anywhere from 2-3 crusts (says my mom! I can never get a third one out of it…)

Part 1 The Flour Blend: Mix together and refrigerate the following

  • 2 Cups Tapioca Flour
  • 2 Cups Cornstarch
  • 1 Cup Potato Starch Flour
  • 4 Cups Sweet Rice Flour (I have subbed white rice with no problem)
  • 4 teaspoons Xanthan Gum
  • 2 teaspoons Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Sugar

Part 2 The Pie Crust:

  • 2 1/2 Cups Flour Blend
  • 1 Cup Butter
  • 1 Egg (cold)
  • 1 Tablespoon Vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup Ice Water

Place the flour mix in a bowl and cut in the butter. Mix with your hands until you have a consistency similar to Lima beans NOT cornmeal! Set aside.

Beat the egg with a fork. Mix in the vinegar and half of the water. Work this into your flour mix with your hands. Add the remainder of the water to the mix and form into 2-3 balls and refrigerate for an hour.

I have found that rolling the dough out between two pieces of plastic wrap works the best for me. put down one piece of wrap and then place your dough in the middle. (if your pie will be larger place two pieces of wrap down next to each other) Then place another layer of wrap on top. Roll out the dough between the layers of plastic wrap. When the dough is the size and thickness you desire take the top layer of wrap off and turn it upside-down into the prepared pie plate. (so the side with the plastic wrap still on it is facing up) Press the dough into the plate and remove the last layer of wrap.

Single Crust: Prick the pastry with a fork on the sides and bottom and cook at 450 for 10-12 min. until the crust is slightly brown. Allow the crust to cool. Then fill the pie and cook per your pies directions.

Double Crust: Roll out both crusts as directed above and place bottom crust into the pan and prick sides and bottom. Add the pie filling and place top crust on as you would with any normal pie, and bake.

That Paleo Cake…

cake1

We often choose to have couples over for a late meal rather than going out to eat. This allows us to stay at home with two, somewhat, stinkery 5 year olds and save on a sitter…it also frees us up to spend a little more to make a special meal that will bless the other couple joining us. We love to cook, we also like feeling good after we have eaten and cooking at home ensures that we know what is in what we eat!

I’ve been on the look out for a ‘go to’ for dessert. I have ALWAYS loved a rich dark chocolate cake with a good red wine…well….I’ve found it! It’s amazing and simple and oh so good! A number of friends have asked for the recipe and I am donating some to this weekend’s bake sale (raising money for a children’s play center and to help a few families in the process of adoption) so I thought this would be a great time to get it up on the blog….

cake5

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Paleo Chocolate Cake

1 1/4 Cup Coconut Oil

2/3 Cup Honey

1 Cup Cocoa Powder

4 teaspoons Vanilla

1/8 teaspoon Sea Salt

6 eggs

Directions:

Heat the oven to 300 and Grease a 9″ spring form pan (I have used other sizes with no issue, just watch your cook time). Then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. In a pot melt together the Coconut oil and honey. WHen they are melted remove the pot from heat and mix in the cocoa powder, vanilla and sea salt. pour into your stand mixer (or use beaters) and beat while adding the eggs. the mixture will be a bit bubbly. When all is well mixed pout into your prepared pan and bake for 40-45 min. The middle should seem a bit damp when you pull it out. The length of cook time will be something you get a feel for the more you make the cake. if you like it on the fudgey side then cook it less…if you want it set cook it a bit longer.

Enjoy! A good red wine is a MUST!!

cake4

Applepolusa and other fun…

It is fall in Minnesota and when you live on a homestead and the hubster also works a full-time job….there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get it all done! It is these moments when I breathe a little easier feeling the deep thankfulness that we haven’t taken on milk goats…..yet.

onion2

The harvest of our garden was wonderful, but it also took place all at once….thank you MN frost! The growing season here is just so short. However, what a great opportunity to learn about how to preserve and use items that are not fully ripe. I have boxes of tomatoes in the basement currently turning from green and yellow to shades of orange and red…if the mold doesn’t get them first…..one more argument for a rootseller in the basement! Yes please!

pickeling4 garden1

A few weeks ago I lacto-fermented carrots and cucumbers. I left a few of the carrots in the garden to continue growing and wowsa did they get big!! I also did a dry run on our apples. we have two mature apple trees and one ripens about a month before the other. I made apple sauce and thought about plans for applepolusa! I didn’t make enough plans….we Just got done with our Saturday of apple processing and although I am deeply thankful for all that we can store away it was a lot of work and next year we will plan to do it differently.

apple2

apple8

The men pressed over 60 gallons of cider. 20 gallons are being fermented! Oh I am looking forward to hard cider!

 

apple14

apple16

The ladies made and canned over 20 gallons of apple sauce. we made some apple chips in the dehydrator, canned more apple pie filling then I kept track of and this week I made some apple butter because we still have apples! How do we still have apples????

 

apple12

apple9

apple10

We only have 2 mature apple trees at this point….the men went nuts! I am so glad they did! Mike, Nate and one of the boys picked enough apples to fill the bed of our truck! wow! Nate went door to door asking people with trees if we could use their apples. It has always bothered me how many apples don’t get used around here. So thankful for the guys and all their hard work picking the apples ahead of time!

apple4

Another take on that Gluten Free French Bread….

We have a Gluten Free home. 3 of the 4 people that live at The Ebed House do not eat Gluten and we try to keep our dairy to a minimum. The one outlier is Mike….daddy and husband! There is just something wrong about asking the man who ‘brings home the bacon’ to eat gluten free food that, let’s face it, half the time just doesn’t taste right.

IMG_4238.JPG

Born out of love for my family I’ve been on the hunt for a good bread….one that is easy to make and versatile. With a little help from my friends I found it! yep! a stunning french bread that is easy to make and takes a little more then an hour start to finish. If you have been eating gluten free and doing your own baking you have likely come across this wonderful bread already. If you have not HERE is the link.

One of the great things about this bread is that I have been able to adapt it to create a few other family favorites. I’ve been making pizza crust and will post another entry about that the next time we make it and I can get some photos! Today I want to share my ‘caramel roll’ adaptation. Caramel rolls have a long standing history on my side of the family…my father has often shared his deep love and longing for his mother’s caramel rolls…..a family treat we have not enjoyed in years. So daddy….and Mike….this one’s for you!

Gluten Free ‘Caramel Rolls’

IMG_1752.JPG

Ingredient list for the caramel
1 1/3 C. Brown Sugar
1/2 C. Butter or butter sub.
4 Tablespoons Corn-syrup (I would love to get some ideas on a sub for this so let me know if you think of some!)

IMG_1764.JPG

I start by mixing the dry ingredients for the bread
2 Cups Brown rice flour
1 Cup Tapioca flour
3 teaspoons xanthan gum
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
(I have planned to add cinnamon but haven’t yet…this is where I would add it)

IMG_1763-0.JPG
While the dry items are mixing for the bread I melt the brown sugar, butter and corn-syrup. (I didn’t have brown sugar so I subbed standard sugar and molasses.)

IMG_1766.JPG

IMG_1765.JPG

IMG_1762.JPG
When the items have all been melted down I transfer the caramel to a 9×13 pan and set it aside.
Then I return to the bread
Dissolve 2 Tablespoons Sugar in 1 1/2 C. Warm water. Dissolve 2 Tablespoons of yeast in the water and sugar mix. Add the yeast mix to the dry mix along with 3 egg whites, 2 Tablespoons melted butter and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.

IMG_1760.JPG

It really helps to have wet hands when you work with gluten free breads. So, with damp hands I parcel out rolls into the 9×13 pan.

IMG_1759.JPG

Preheat the oven to 400 and cover them allowing the bread to rise for about 20 min.

IMG_1758.JPG

IMG_1757.JPG

Bake for around 25 min and check the bread. Make sure to check the bottom to see if the rolls have fully cooked. If they have not continue to bake a bit more.

IMG_1756.JPG
When the rolls come out turn them over onto a cookie sheet. And allow them to cool.

IMG_1755.JPG

IMG_1753.JPG

And that’s it! Yum! They are sooooo good!