Christmas Caramels

 

I started on my Christmas Treats yesterday!

The first project was caramels. It was a learning process the whole way, but they turned out

pretty good! I am thinking of doing another batch.

 

The recipe I used is below, but I changed it.

I did not have Vanilla beans so I just added more Vanilla extract until it tasted right (probably a little

more than double what the recipe called for). And then I did not put as much salt in (and yes

I did use sea salt), and I did not put any salt on top of the caramels as you can see

in the above photo.

I think this is a flexible experience, make the basic caramel, but customize it as fits your taste.

 

Fleur de Sel Caramels with Vanilla Bean
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces (at Christmas, I like to use the fancy European style butter)
1/2 tsp vanilla (I use homemade Tahitian vanilla)
1 vanilla bean pod, split and scraped
1 1/4 teaspoon Fleur de se (sea salt)l, plus more for sprinkling
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup (can substitute light corn syrup)
1/4 cup water

Line bottom and sides of an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, then lightly butter parchment.

Bring cream, butter, vanilla, vanilla beans, pods, and fleur de sel to a boil in a small saucepan, then remove from heat and set aside.

Boil sugar, corn syrup, and water in a 3- to 4-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Boil, without stirring but gently swirling pan, until mixture is a light golden caramel.

Remove pods and carefully stir cream mixture into the caramel (mixture will bubble up) and simmer, stirring frequently, until caramel registers 248 on thermometer. Pour into baking pan and cool 30 minutes. Sprinkle another pinch or two of fleur de sel over the top of the caramel for a nice salty crunch and let sit until completely cooled. Cut into 1-inch pieces (I buttered a pizza cutter), and then wrap each piece in a 4-inch square of wax paper, twisting 2 ends to close.

Yields 64 1-inch candies

Visit Here to see the recipe and Much more beautiful photos!

Eating Well

 

I suppose I have been lacking inspiration to post on here lately, and finally gathered together a few pictures to share.

I enjoy trying to eat well for each meal. Sometimes I will eat something simple that takes little preparation.

But I like taking the time to cook something, even for breakfast.

Since we raise our own eggs I love to make egg sandwiches.

I load them up with what ever veggies we have around at the time. The sandwich in the picture above was a yummy combination of items from our garden.

tomato, green bell pepper, zucchini, and eggs. And then cheese, spinach and a bagel from the store.

 

 

For dinner I try to make a satisfying meal that stimulates the taste buds and nourishes the body.

This was an inspired meal of Crash Hot Potatoes (potatoes from our garden) seasoned with homegrown basil,

A spinach salad with apple slices (apple from our garden) with flax seed sprinkled on top, and a homemade vinaigrette.

A tomato and zucchini layered bake,

which was made up of zucchini, tomatoes, kale sliced thinly, basil and parmesan cheese all layered together in a loaf pan.

When you take fresh ingredients and prepare them with care and love, they nourish your mind, body and soul on many levels.

When we start by respecting ourselves with what we eat, we then respect the world around us and the plants and animals that are feeding us.

 

 

 

As zucchini is notorious for, we have been inundated with a surplus of the vegetable.

We have been shredding it in fine and large shred and putting it in the freezer to use in baking and stir frys over the winter.

We have also been baking many loafs of chocolate zucchini cake to enjoy through the winter and to share with friends.

And then I have been using it in as many meals as possible. I decided I wanted to do some type of Ratatouille with our fresh vegetables.

So I sautéed up some garlic, threw in the zucchini and thin strips of green bell pepper. I allowed them to saute until slightly tender.

Then I threw in the tomatoes to just warm through and release some of their juices to make a bit of a sauce.

I added more flavor with salt, pepper, italian seasoning and a bit of parmesan cheese.

Then I spooned the whole mixture over some whole grain pasta.

 

If you are passionate about your body and what you put into it, it is not work to eat well each and every day.

Take the time to get to know your food, and where it comes from.

You will taste the difference in quality and energy in foods that are raised in a healthy manner.

And you will feel a vast difference in yourself when you prepare good vibrant food.

Wild Edibles

 

We just returned from an amazing hike in the North Cascades. We did about 40 miles along a stunning loop. There are so many amazing things to experience while being out in nature, and food is one of them.

Bernie and I are naturalists, and enjoy learning about the plants and animals that surround us. We study different wild edibles, and enjoy trying some of them when we are out hiking. On this hike we not only were blessed with a bounty of beautiful views, but also a vast number of edible plants.

We enjoyed snacking on wild ginger root (tastes like the ginger you buy in the store, and can be used in the same way, but is a very different plant than the ginger we are used to), wall lettuce, thimble berry, mountain sorrel (a tart plant that has oxalic acid in it), service berry, and last but not least Blueberries!

The blueberries easily distracted us from the rhythm of hiking. Many of the hillsides were covered in blueberry plants (the red hue to the hill in the top picture is blueberry plants). Some areas would have a bounty of berries, and others still were far from being ripe. It was such a treasure when we came across a slope that was dotted with little blue orbs. Mmm!!

 

Our ancestors used to survive purely on what they could gather from the land, and often now people do not even know that you can eat wild plants. I highly suggest going out and getting to know your wild edibles. I have to put the disclaimer in here to go out with a VERY good field guide and/or someone that really knows their wild edibles. There are many good field guides out there. Start with the more simple edibles (like the blueberries) and expand into the bounty that nature has to offer!

Garden Space

One of the excuses that some people come up with for not gardening is that they think they dont have the space for it. You would be amazed at how much food can be grown in a small area. Not only can growing your own food save you some money, it can also be a great family project. Many children no longer know where food comes from, so it is a wonderful experience for them to grow a plant from seed and harvest their own food.

So if you live in town and have a postage stamp size yard, what do you do? Well first of all there is a movement of people gardening in their front yards. Why have a wide expanse of grass that you have to water and mow, and no one goes out to enjoy it or use it? There doesnt seem to be much point in all of that. So instead turn it into your Vegetable garden! That way you fill up the space with all kinds of beautiful green plants, you can feel good watering it because you will be getting something out of it, and you will have all kinds of fresh food to eat!

This photo is from here, which shows even more pictures of this productive front yard.

And another one here

 

Some people don’t even have a postage stamp sized yard, some of you live in apartments, or condos. So what do you do? Well some food can be raised in containers, but if you are looking for a bit more space than that, there are some new pages showing up online to connect people that have extra gardening space with those that are looking for space. This is a wonderful way to meet like minded people, and be able to grow some of your own food. A Few sites that I found along these lines are: http://www.urbangardenshare.org/ , http://hyperlocavore.ning.com/ , and  http://www.sharingbackyards.com/ . Wouldnt this be a great way to teach your children where food comes from, and get them out in nature? Especially if you do live in an apartment/condo and they might not have a lot of outdoor space to go explore.

Ok, so now you have your space, what do you do with it? What is the most efficient use of your space? First of all you have to decide what types of foods you want to grow. They all require different amounts of space, and types of space. One method of gardening I have come across in my years of exploring is called ‘Square Foot Gardening’. Now I have not had the chance to try this out, but I would really love to try it some day! To learn a little more about it, you can visit their website at http://www.squarefootgardening.com/home . He has written a full book on his method and how to grow all different kinds of vegetables with it. There are endless methods to try out with gardening, and a lot of it is just personal preference. If you are new to gardening I would highly recomend going to your local library and checking out all kinds of books on the topic, and just get a feel for different ways of growing vegetables and start using the ones that speak to you the most.

So no matter what your situation is, never think that you can’t have a garden based on the space you have available to you. Just spend a little time doing research and you will find that people are growing food in ALL kinds of different spaces!

Raspberry Explosion!

My intention with this blog is to not only have recipes but also information about growing and buying food. Not only does fresh food taste better than industrially raised crops, it is so much better for you! If you have not had the chance to watch some of the documentaries (like ‘Food Inc’, ‘The Future of Food’, ‘King Corn’, etc.) I highly recommend taking the time to watch them. The industrial food system’s focus is purely on quantity, with no concern for what harm it might do to the land and to you!

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When you take the first steps to buying food from a local farmer, or growing it yourself, you will be entering into a whole new world of quality and taste! And by doing so you will know what goes into the food.

If you love raspberries and decide that they are something you would like to grow, I highly recommend finding a good ever bearing variety. They are so amazing, ours start getting ripe the end of July and they will keep fruiting until the temperature really cools down. We even get to the point of not knowing what to do with all the berries. You can often find one of us just walking along the row eating berries.

We don’t spray anything on our raspberries, and always have an amazing crop each year. We end up sharing a few of them with ants, but that’s ok with the abundance we are blessed with. Our chickens will also run out when we are picking, because they know I will toss down any berries that got a little too ripe. This summer we also got a bee hive, and our honey bees just adore the raspberry flowers, and because of all their activity the raspberry bushes are producing more fruit than we have ever seen them do. If we sprayed an insecticide on our plants as many industrial crops do we would be killing off so many beautiful insects that love to come enjoy our plants.

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Each year we make freezer jam, and freeze some whole berries. The frozen berries are wonderful to have through the winter for making into sauces, or blending into smoothies, and using in all kinds of recipes!

Raspberry bushes really are easy to grow. Each winter you simply cut off the shoots from last year, keeping the shoots that came up this summer. Then you gather them all back up (because they do get a little unruly through the season) into their supports and they will take off again next spring.

Here in Whatcom County raspberries are a huge crop. Our area is surrounded by raspberry fields that are 5 to 50+ acres in size. Each winter you see workers out there cutting the old shoots, gathering up the new ones, and tying them back up. Then unfortunately through the growing season they will spray the plants with what ever chemicals the industrial system is using at that point. And then they have these funny looking machines that straddle over the rows of raspberries and shake them causing the berries to drop down to a conveyor that then shuttles them into trays.

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So yesterday I went out to start gathering the huge abundance that is really starting to flow out of the raspberry bushes. I had a recipe in mind. There is a local restaurant that makes amazing pies, and they are so different from the traditional pies because they aren’t a cooked pie (although they do some cooked pies of course!). So my mom and I have been searching for this recipe for a while now. I finally figured it out by piecing together a couple recipes.

Raspberry Velvet Pie

What you need is:

A Single Pie Shell, Baked.

Red Layer:

1 cup Water
1 cup Sugar
3 tbs. Clear Jel (I used clear jel, but the recipe calls for cornstarch)
3 tbs. Raspberry Jello
1 quart Raspberries (I believe I used about 4 to 5 cups, but you can use as many as you want to pile up)

 

White Layer:

1 (3 oz) pkg. Cream Cheese Softened
1/3 cup Sifted Confectioners Sugar
1 tsp. Vanilla
Dash of Salt
1 cup Heavy Cream, Whipped.

 

I would start with the white layer. Blend cream cheese, confectioners sugar, vanilla and salt. Fold in whipped heavy cream. Spread the mixture in your pie shell (I used just over half of the mix, so that there was just a nice layer on the pie shell, and then kept the rest for a little topping on each slice, but use as much as you feel you want in the pie)

Now for the red layer. Mix water, sugar, clear jel (or cornstarch), jello and boil until thickens. Place your raspberries in the pie shell and pour the red gel mixture over them. Let set.

This recipe is so easy and SO amazing!! You can also use Strawberries for this recipe. Enjoy!

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Crash Hot Potatoes

Potatoes are one of my favorite staple vegetables, and I think I can safely say they are the favorite of MANY people. We have a pretty good sized patch of potatoes out in the garden, and they were calling to me. So I wanted to create something new with them that tasted wonderful. While wandering through other food blogs I found a recipe called ‘Crash Hot Potatoes’ over at The Pioneer Woman. Initially I thought this meant they would be spicy, this was not the case at all. And they were oh so easy to make!

Crash Hot Potatoes

 

 

Start by boiling the amount of potatoes you want. I think you will want small/medium potatoes for this recipe. Boil until they are tender all the way through, but not overcooked.

 

 

Once they are tender drain them and place the potatoes on a sheet/cookie pan with plenty of olive oil, so they do not stick. Then take a potatoe masher or the bottom of a glass and smush them into little flat disks.

 

 

With a pastry brush, wipe olive oil on top. Season with salt, pepper, and any herbs you have around. I put fresh chives from the garden on mine.

 

 

Put the potatoes in a preheated 425 degree oven. After baking them for about 20 minutes (or when ever they start to look almost done), I pulled mine out and sprinkled them with cheese and put them back in for a few more minutes, to get the cheese all melty and yummy!

 

 

Now all you have to do is pull them out of the oven, and put them on your plate to enjoy! These taste SO good. They made a perfect meal with our salad and spring rolls last night. For the full recipe and more detailed photos visit The Pioneer Woman here.

Cooking up a New Idea

Food has been a passion of mine for many years now, on many different levels. I am passionate about how food is raised, cooking it, enjoying it, and being part of it. Toward the end our journey along the Appalachian Trail (to read more about that journey visit my other blog here ) I was excited to get back to expressing myself through my passion of food, and I decided I wanted to start a new blog devoted specifically to it. I am excited to start this new journey, because there are so many aspects of food that I want to write about and share with others. At this point I am not sure which direction this blog will go as it matures, but a few ideas I hope to see come to life on here is: sharing recipes (my own, and other peoples recipes I fall in love with), growing food, harvesting food, buying locally, interviews with farmers and people that create yummy things, product reviews, giveaways, and much more!

I have a deep passion for how food is raised. I really believe that how we treat the world around us is a refelction of how we treat ourselves. When we respect something like our food we are respecting ourselves by putting good fuel into our bodies. And when you love the food that you are eating, you get a whole different kind of energy out of it. Food that is raised, harvested and prepared with love has a quality to it that is beyond words! I want to share with others why I feel that supporting small farmers as much as possible instead of Industrial food will help to bring our country to a more healthy place. I myself am far from eating a local or organic diet, but I would like to shift more in that direction over all.

I hope you all enjoy my perspective on food, and what it means in our lives.

I wanted to start my first post with a meal that I cooked as our first breakfast back home from our hiking adventure. For anyone that might not know me, here is a little bit of a back story to illustrate where I am coming from, I will share more of my lifestyle as the blog blossoms. We stay with my parents sometimes in between adventures, and so it was back to the farm (10 acres in Northwest Washington) that we returned after this trail. And to describe the farm briefly, it is a hoby farm on which my mom and I have raised many animals for many years. The types and numbers have varied greatly over the years, but at this moment we have somewhere around 200 chickens (mostly banties), 5 miniature cows, 30 chinchillas, 20 homing pigeons, 2 horses, a bee hive (one of the very new additions), 3 dogs, 3 cats, and a few misc things. I suppose that illustrates my love for animals, and my perspective on respecting animals that are raised for meat.

I was blessed with a full garden when I returned home a couple of days ago. My mom has been working hard, planting a wide variety of yummy fruits and veggies! Between our gardens, orchard, chickens, and cows we have a wide variety of foods to enjoy just off of our property. I love walking out in the garden and picking a meal….. Its such an amazing feeling!

So this was the basis that I started my first home cooked breakfast back from the trail. I looked around, what did we have? Fresh eggs brought in that morning, a beautiful golden summer squash from the garden, plump juicy strawberries from our raised beds, a crisp tart transparent apple from one of our many apple trees, potatoes and onions that our neighbor gifted us from his garden. That sounds like a beautiful breakfast to me!

Homegrown Food Glows!

 

I looked at all the beautiful items on my cutting board and developed a plan for it all.

I started by dicing the onion and cutting the potatoes into small pieces. I tossed them both into a pan with olive oil, and let them saute on medium low heat. I find it best to have a pan large enough to spread the potatoes out in a single layer, so each piece has equal chance to cook well.

While that was cooking I took half of the summer squash and cut it into small cubes. When the potatoes were very close to being done, I tossed in the squash and sprinkled on a spice blend to add a little more flavor.

While my country potatoes were finishing up I thinly sliced the slender onion (I really am not sure what type either onion was, because it came from another garden). I cracked the eggs into a pan over medium heat, sprinkled the same spice blend over them and tossed on half of the onion. After a quick mix around with the spatula the eggs were ready to flip and finish their breif cooking time.

I sliced up the apple and strawberries, for a very simple fruit salad.

My stomach grumbled as I plated it all up. What a beautiful breakfast from the bounty around us. Bernie and I enjoyed our meal, and have MANY more to enjoy in the near future!

A Tasty Homegrown Meal

 

As this blog blossoms with age, I hope to improve my photography of the food, making it look as exquisit as it tastes, and to convey my deep feelings through writing. I look forward to the journey!

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