...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


Longing for Warmer Weather

Kiddos @ dusk--would have been out all night if allowed
Sunday evening we drove down to Grayslake, IL to share Sunday dinner with our friends who farm organically at Prairie Crossing.  We were joined by another couple of close friends from Chicago and their little one.  Great food (prepared by the men!), lots of healthy children running around, a tour of the farm and the kids' chicken coop all made for a lovely evenly.  We capped it off with dessert on blankets out of the lawn.  Ben signed up to make the final course and since he prefers not to "bake" I guided him towards a recipe that would fit my bill, use local ingredients, and go only as far as the stovetop.  He put together a delicious dish of home-canned peaches, vanilla ice cream (or coconut vegan "ice cream" in my case), and a maple brown sugar sauce.  It was wonderful to feel the warm air, sip the last of our wine, and watch the kiddos run up and down the gravel lane.  If only it could have lasted.  Where did that lovely warm weather go?  We knew it was too warm too soon so this week we've been back in jackets, hats, and layers with a new cold to boot (the LeForts just can't seem to shake it this winter no matter how much elderberry cordial we throw back.)  We really just need to ditch the forced air, fling the windows open, and spend the majority of our days out of doors.  V and I have spent a lot of time this week in the yard--even took a wheelbarrow ride yesterday as I was clearing last year's perennial growth out of the front yard.  But until it truly warms up, I'm still inside baking and cooking hearty meals to warm our bodies.

I have lots of recipes to share.  I almost added these to my last post, but it would have been way too long--at least when I think about my attention span for reading things online and keeping up with all of my favorite blogs.  Last week and this week thus far have been very productive in terms of recipe development.  I've included my favorites.

Bison Burgers That Can't Be "Beet"
Makes 3-4 burgers

Mixin' in the Cuisinart
I still had some local beets in my fridge until last week.  They always hold up extremely well if refrigerated all winter.  The tricky part about cooking these burgers is that because they are "red" from the beets, it may be difficult to tell when they're done.  Either take an internal temp. or cook for the recommended time below.

1/4 small onion, peeeld
1 T. nutritional yeast
1 t. salt
2 medium cooked beets, peeled
1/4 c. fresh parsley
1/2 t. granulated garlic
1 t. ground cumin
1 lb. ground bison
Grapeseed oil, for cooking

Combine all ingredients, but bison in food processor and process until somewhat finely chopped.  Add to bison and mix thoroughly--I think the hands are the best tool for this.  Shape and press into patties.  Heat cast iron skillet over high heat.  Add oil, heat.  Add burgers and cook covered about 5-6 min. per side.  Melt cheese on the second side, if desired.  Serve on bread or a bun and garnish with avocado mayo or your condiment of choice.  

My gluten-free, vegan explorations continue and as I find alternatives at the grocery store that I like--such as wraps and English muffins--I'm also realizing how expensive these products can be.  So I set to work making my own English muffins...and have plans to try a flour tortilla recipe soon.  

Gluten-Free English Muffins (GF, Dairy-Free, Egg-Fre)
Makes 6 muffins

Better than store-bought
Adapted from Better Hagman's The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread.  They were easy to make and better than the store-bought variety.  My favorite way to top them comes from an open-face sandwich my mom always prepared for us as kids--peanut butter, sliced bananas, honey, and sunflower seeds.

1 1/2 c. Featherlight Rice Flour Mix (see below)
1/4 c. garbanzo bean flour (also known as gram flour)
1 rounded t. xanthan gum
1 1/2 t. baking powder
2 t. unflavored gelatin
1/2 t. salt
1 T. almond meal
4 t. egg replacer
1/4 c. cool water
1 1/2 T. brown sugar, divided
1 c. plus 2 T. lukewarm water
2 1/4 t. dry yeast granules
1/4 c. nut butter (almond, cashew, sesame, peanut, etc.)
1 t. molasses

Place 6 English muffin rings on a cookie sheet and grease the rings with vegetable oil spray.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour mix, garbanzo bean flour, xanthan gum, baking powder, gelatin, salt, and nut butter.  Set aside.  Place the egg replacer in the cool water and whisk until it thickens to egg white consistency.  Measure 1/2 T. of the brown sugar into the warm water and add the yeast.  Set aside.  In a large mixing bowl, place the rest of the sugar, dough enhancer, nut butter, and molasses.  With a hand mixer, beat slightly.  Add the egg replacer liquid, beat again.  Add yeast water, blend on low.  Spoon in half of dry ingredients and beat until smooth.  Add the remaining flour and beat with a spoon until blended.  Spoon into prepared rings, cover, and let rise for 45-60 min.  Bake in a preheated 375 degrees oven for 22-25 min.  Remove the rings while still hot.   

Featherlight Rice Flour Mix
Makes about 3 c. flour

Equal parts rice flour, tapioca flour, cornstarch
1 T. potato flour

Combine all ingredients and store in a container until ready to use.

In case you have any local ingredients still lingering in your crisper drawer, cellar, or freezer now's the time to start using them up because the next season's produce is right around the corner, whether you believe it or not.  I had some cauliflower puree in my freezer and potatoes on my root cellar rack so I tried this recipe last week.

Curried Cauliflower and Potato Soup with Cilantro
Serves 6

Adapted from Fresh From the Farmers' Market by Janet Fletcher.

2 T. grapeseed oil
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
1 lb. cauliflower florets
1 baking potato (8-10 oz.), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 c. vegetable stock
2 T. green curry paste diluted with 1/4 c. water
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 c. coconut milk

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add onion and saute until soft, about 10 min.  Add garlic and cilantro and saute 1 min. to release garlic fragrance.  Add cauliflower, potato, stock, 3 c. water.  Bring to a boil, then cover, adjust heat to maintain a bare simmer and cook until vegetables are tender, about 30 min.  Puree in blender in batches and return to pot.  Add salt, pepper, diluted curry paste, and coconut milk.  Reheat to serving temperature.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  

Breakfast Focaccia (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free)
Makes about 8 servings

My in-laws are kind enough to come up to sit for Vera once a month when Ben and I both work on a Friday.  I like to have some kind of breakfast goodies ready for them when they arrive at what seems like the crack of dawn.  Hopefully they will enjoy this choice that I adapted from Bette Hagman's The Gluten-Free Gourmet Bakes Bread.

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 c. Four Flour Bean Mix (see below)
1 t. xanthan gum
1/2 t. salt
1 t. Ener-G egg replacer
1 t. unflavored gelatin
1/4 c. xylitol
2 1/4 T. almond meal/flour
1 t. dried lemon peel
2 1/4 t. dry yeast granules

Wet Ingredients:
1 T. + 1 1/2 t. Ener-G egg replacer diluted in 6 T. water (to make about 1/3 c. liquid egg replacer)
1/2 t. dough enhancer
1/4 c. coconut oil
3/4 c. warm water

3/4 c. fruit preserves (I used homemade peach jam)

Grease a square baking pan.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, including the yeast.  Set aside.  In an electric mixer bowl, beat liquid egg substitute, dough enhancer, coconut oil, and water.  With mixer on low, spoon in the flour mixture.  (Should be the consistency of cake batter.)  Turn mixer to high and beat 3 1/2 min.  Spoon into prepared pan and smooth evenly.  Cover and let rise 20 min.  In the meantime, preheat the oven.  Bake 30 min., then gently spread fruit preserves onto top of focaccia and return to oven to bake another 10 min. until topping is nice and brown.  Serve warm or at room temp.

Four Flour Bean Mix
Makes 4 1/2 c.

1 c. garbanzo bean flour
1/2 c. sorghum flour
1 1/2 c. cornstarch
1 1/2 c. tapioca flour

Combine all ingredients, use as needed and store the remaining for another use.

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