Feb
18

On Soup Suppers and Memories

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Last Sunday morning I talked to my mom, something I do every two weeks. The previous Friday night, my brother and sister-in-law and taken her to the American Legion’s monthly fish fry. Mom doesn’t get out a lot, and she can’t drive at night anymore, so these are special treats. Besides, she says the fish is really good.

Listening to her relate the experience and how much she is looking forward to next month’s it made me ask her, “Do you remember the soup suppers we used to go to when I was a kid? Oh, where have they gone?”

For whatever reason–maybe the cold weather, worrying about the state of organizations that depend a great deal on federal funds, or simply my love of soup–I’ve been thinking a lot about these dinners lately. My family loved them. Soup suppers usually served two kinds of soup, generally a vegetable and perhaps a bean soup. Bread or roll went with them. Chili suppers featured, well, chili. You got a nice hot bowl of chili, on the mild side spice wise, and cornbread. Those were probably my favorite dinners. I am, after all, a huge chili fan who could never understand why lots of restaurants only served it “in season.” I think my dad’s, and probably my brother’s, favorites were the bean suppers. There was always a navy or soup bean soup–seasoned with pieces of ham–available and often a pinto bean. And, of course, a roll or cornbread. As for Mom, I think she liked them all since it meant she didn’t have to cook.

There were also spaghetti suppers, but we didn’t go to those as often. Spaghetti, garlic bread, and sometimes a dessert were featured.

But as Mom and I talked last Sunday, it became clear to me that these suppers were more than an opportunity to get some great food at a reasonable cost. Don’t get me wrong, the fact these suppers were a low-cost way to eat out and get a good, hearty meal was important to my family. We didn’t have the money to eat out often. But there was more. In my hometown, most were held in meeting halls like the American Legion or VFW. We sometimes went to ones held at a church or school, but those were less frequent. I specifically remember having to walk up a really steep set of stairs and turn right to enter one (and you don’t need to know how long ago that was). Long tables were set up, and everyone sat together. And the bowls. No matter what soup was served, it always came in a heavy white bowl; I’d love to get my hands on some of those bowls today.

There were many times when my brother and I were by far the youngest ones there. But it didn’t matter. Everyone was so nice. People brought whatever soup and any sides to you with big smiles on their faces. (Yes, most were women.) There was an almost constant buzz of conversation, occasionally interrupted by laughter, among people, many of whom did not know each other. But it didn’t matter. Food, in this case soup, brought people together. For at least a night, there was no distinction between friends and strangers.

It’s been many years since I’ve attended a soup supper like those of my childhood. I don’t even know if organizations still have them. I know I’ve not seen any listed where I’ve lived since leaving Iowa. That makes me sad. I’m sure there are several reasons why–or more accurately, why not. After all, people are very busy, and many don’t have time to volunteer to help out at these events. I think what makes me saddest of all is that besides great food and atmosphere, people, especially children, will not have the chance to create great memories of the power of food to bring people together for at least an hour or so.

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Feb
04

International Bake Bread Weekend Number 6

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This weekend is the Super Bowl. You know, that football game. Some of us think of it as Puppy Bowl Weekend! But what about next weekend? How do you spend the weekend after the big weekend? Well, this year you can spend it participating in the 6th International Bake Bread Weekend–The Enabling Cook Edition. Yes, February 11-12, 2016, we celebrate bread!

The rules are simple. Actually, there’s only one rule: bake some sort of bread product. A loaf or boule is fine, of course. But so are biscuits, rolls, buns, breadsticks; you get the idea. Gluten or nongluten–your choice. And although it hurts me to say this, yes, you can use a mix.

But before you run for the mix department at your grocery store, let me argue on behalf of making your own. A lot of people go the mix or even frozen loaf route because they think it takes a long time to make bread. Now I’ve described my procedure many times. And if you don’t have a lot of time for hands-on work, it’s a good one for you. It does require planning as it involves a slow fermentation. But your involvement is minimal. Mix the ingredients in a bowl, cover, place in a warm location, and let it do its bulk fermentation for 12 hours or more. How long it takes depends on the ambient temperature. My house is always cold, which is great to keep summer cooling costs down but not so great in the winter. At times, I use my proofing box to hurry things along a bit, but I let it work on its own for at least 12 hours.

After the initial stage, shape as you like, cover, and let rise. This one is a shorter rise; again it depends partially on temperature. I usually let mine go 2-4 hours. Then bake. See, you really can ignore it during most of the process.

As always, I encourage you to use this upcoming weekend to try something new. I made the above bread from homemilled turkey red wheat and bread flour. But to make it a bit different, I added seeds. I’ve been using flaxseeds and chia seeds a lot, but this time I also used poppy seeds and caraway seeds, too. Yes, it’s a seedy bread. And it’s very good. I’ve not quite decided what I’ll be making next weekend, but I’m keeping my options open. I love pumpernickel, so I’m leaning in that direction. I may try it with sprouted rye. Of course, that means I need to get my rye berries in the sprouter.

I hope you’ll join us this year. Whether it’s loaf 1 or loaf 100, it’s a great way to spend part of the weekend.

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Jan
22

And the Experiment Begins

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Those who know me know how much I love the idea of living in a working grain mill next to a babbling brook. (Stop laughing.) Can you guess I was a huge fan of Apple’s Way? And most of you know I prefer to purchase locally grown/made products, mill my own flours, and even sprout some. So in the interim, I decided I would experiment with flours made from locally grown wheat all over the country. I bake at least one loaf of bread a week, and this experiment would allow me to expand my bread-making adventures. Ideally, I would be able to get some wheat berries, so I can grind my own flour.

I put out some Facebook posts asking for information about small mills. Someone told me about Cortez Mill in New Mexico, and the experiment has begun.

Information I found about this mill and the flour says it’s a favorite of Navajo bakers. It seems to be a favorite for frybread and tortillas. I also found posts talking about how good it is for bread. Well, that grabbed my attention. And the mill was run by members of the Navajo nation. (More about that later.) And it came in a cotton flour bag. Though I usually don’t buy or use bleached flour, I was anxious to try it. I searched for a place from which I could order. I didn’t find a site for the mill where I could place and order. And though some stores, including Walmart, carries it, none of my local stores do. So I ordered from Walmart and spent probably more than I ever have on 5 pounds of flour. Seriously.

Anxious to try it, I searched for a place from which I could order. I didn’t find a site for the mill where I could place and order. And though some stores, including Walmart, carries it, none of my local stores do. So I ordered from Walmart and spent probably more than I ever have on 5 pounds of flour. Seriously. And it took longer to receive it.

After the package came, I realized I should probably have done more research. First, I misread the information about the Navajo connection. Apparently members of that community are consumers, not managers. Oh well.

Then there’s the bread-making issue. According to subsequent research, I learned the protein content is on the low side for bread. And then there’s the bleached thing–though I did k now that before.

As for prices, I’m since found other sites where it can be ordered for a lot less money, including eBay.

While this example may not be exactly what I’m looking for in this experiment, I’ll enjoy the process of using it. Plus, the research has pointed me in the direction of more applicable mills. It’s a chance to learn something new.

If you know of a small mill that grinds locally grown grains into flour, please let me know.

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Jan
19

Do I Really Need One?

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Air fryers have been a hot item for quite a while now. I never felt the need for one. After all, I don’t deep fry, and I seldom fry things. But note I said “felt.” Past tense.

I watched many air fryer presentations on TV and YouTube. I followed posts on FB about the various kinds and the merits of having one–or not.  For a long time, I resisted. And then one day, and I don’t know what precipitated the change, I decided I’d like to have one. And since I’m not one of those blogger who have companies send them products to review (and admittedly I’m jealous), I had to buy my own. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money (some are quite pricey), but I wanted to see what they were all about. It was after Christmas, and Walmart was having a pretty good sale on the Farberware Air Fryer, so I decided to give it a shot. Besides, if I didn’t like it, I could easily return it.

This Farberware Air Fryer is pretty basic. It has a nonstick basket that can easily be removed from the basket holder. The top dial controls temperature–175 degrees to 400 degrees. The bottom is time, which goes from 0 minutes to 30. The basket holds up to 2 pounds of food. You can use no oil or just a little. They recommend spraying oil on the food, which is what I usually do if I need to add oil.

A partial bag of french fries had been languishing in my freezer for quite some time, so I decided to start with those. (That’s not my picture up there, so those aren’t my french fries.) I set the temp and time as recommended in the instructions and preheat the unit for just a few minutes. Then I added the fries. During the 15 or so minutes I cooked them, I took the basket out and shook the fries a few time. The fryer stops when you remove the basket and restarts when it’s reinserted. The result? The fries were crispy and tasty.  Big win!

Since that initial trial, I have reheated food in my air fryer. It did quite well. And I must say it makes a killer toasted cheese. It also makes better toast than my toaster! And I got a crispy fried chicken with no flour and almost no oil.

One day I wondered if I could use it to roast nuts. I usually buy raw nuts for my nut butters and roast them myself. Though this isn’t one of their products, I contacted the chef who presents air fryers on QVC and has written a cookbook specifically for air fryers. She said sure but reminded me to shake the basket several times in the process. I usually use my counter oven to roast nuts, but stirring them can be problematic. Besides, since I use it for storage, I have to find some place to put the things stored on and inside it. Easier said than done sometimes. Anyway, I tried it with some cashews, and it worked really well. They made a wonderfully tasty cashew butter.

Cashew butter from home-roasted cashews

Now I’m wondering if I can use it to roast coffee beans.

Did I need an air fryer? Of course not. Am I glad I got one? Absolutely. If you’re thinking about getting one, a couple of things. Do your homework. Most work about the same but have different features. For example, mine has dials, but I think were I to buy another one, I’d go for a digital one. I sometimes have dexterity issues, and the dial can be a bit difficult to turn at times. They are also available in different sizes. While mine says it holds up to 2 pounds of food, that doesn’t necessarily mean one should cook 2 pounds of food at a time. Overcrowding can prevent airflow and hinder crisping. Just like when frying on the stove or in the oven. And remember that in most cases you’ll need to flip food or shake the basket during the cook time.

 

 

 

 

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Jan
12

Caaaa-shew

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No, I’m not sneezing. Just trying to be cute and catchy with the title. I may need to stop that.

I grew up in a nut-loving family. We often went out as a family to collect black walnuts and hickory nuts. Few batches of fudge were made at Christmastime with walnuts added (not my favorite, I must say). Of course, several packages of assorted nuts were purchased at the holidays. Our year-round go-to nut were peanuts–though not really a nut.

My favorite nuts were–and continue to be–cashews. I could eat them by the bucketload. Seriously. I didn’t, of course. Actually, they were a treat in our house. Though they were readily available, they were considerably more expensive than the peanut and, of course, those we could pick for free at certain times of the year. So the cashew was treated with reverence.

In researching nondairy cheeses and other products, I was pleasantly surprised how many called for cashews or listed them as an option. So considering my love for cashews, it was only natural I try them.

My first experiment was cashew cheese. There are several recipes for it and videos available online. Mine is based on Miyoki Schinner’s recipe in Artisan Vegan Cheese.  Most recipes for vegan cheese, hers included, call for rejuvelac. There’s nothing complicated about it. You sprout wheat berries (others can be used) and let them sit until the water is cloudy and there is a lemony taste. So when you’re making cashew cheese, start that about 3 days ahead.

The night before (or at least 4 hours before) making cashew cheese, soak 2 cups of UNSALTED cashews in filtered water. This plumps them up and softens them for the processing stage. If you have a powerful blender (I have a Vitamix), some say you can skip this stage. I don’t.

Culturing cashew cheese

When it’s time to make your cheese, put the well-drained nuts into your blender. Then add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup of your rejuvelac.  Note: if you’ve soaked your cashews, you probably will only need the lesser amount.

SCREECH to a halt.

Okay, that’s what Miyoko’s recipe says, and it was my intention to do so. I even made rejuvelac. Or at least tried to. I followed instructions to the letter, but what resulted smelled like rotting feet. And I can’t say there was much of a lemony taste. I don’t really know how to describe the taste, but let’s say I can’t imagine anyone willingly drinking it, and there are people who swear by its benefits.

But being the stubborn cuss I am, there was no way I was going to just give up on cheese. For crying out loud–we’re talking cheese, here. So I did some research. Okay, there were people who used lemon juice. Hmmm. But then I started thinking about it. The primary role of the rejuvelac, at least from what I could gather, is to act as a culturing agent. Hmm, I have cultured yogurt. With live cultures, even. So I decided to use that.

But how much? Good question. The amount of liquid you add depends on how much is needed to facilitate processing. Err on the side of less. I didn’t. I kept thinking it needed more, so I added more. I don’t recall how much I ended up with, but it was more than what I needed.

Pasta with red bell pepper and cashew cheese sauce

Cashew cheese on homemade pumpernickel

After you have the desired consistency, place in a glass bowl and cover to culture. Let sit on the counter until you like the taste. I let mine sit for about 3 days. Then I added a wee bit of salt and some turmeric and put it in a mold to harden in the fridge for a couple of days.

SCREECH to another halt.

Despite what I found online, my cheese didn’t firm up very much. I may be wrong, but I’m guessing it was because of my overzealousness with the yogurt. Regardless, it is a very tasty cheese. I used it as a spread and as a pasta sauce (save some of the pasta cooking water). I’m going to try other versions to get the firm cheese I want, but this one is definitely on my “Will make again” list.

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Dec
29

You Put the Coconut in the Yogurt and Shake It All Up

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Okay, not really, but I couldn’t think of a clever title. I’ve been editing not one but two nasty manuscripts today, and my brain is tired.

Anyway, in my never-ending quest for culinary adventures, I’ve been looking into nondairy yogurts. In my journey, I ordered a vegan yogurt starter kit from Cultures for Health. I’ve ordered several things from them and have always had good luck with one exception. I couldn’t get their rye sourdough starter to work. Although you can order just the starter, I opted for the kit since you can’t find Pomona’s pectin or a nut bag around here. And I can always use another thermometer.

The instructions suggest a variety of milks to use for your yogurt. I knew I could get almond milk at the store, but it says not to use commercial almond milk. Well, I knew I could get coconuts, and I had a can of usable coconut milk. So coconut milk it was. I began by draining the coconut water and scooping out the meat. It and some of the milk went into the Vitamix and went whirring.

Something I didn’t know before I started this adventure was that when using nondairy milk, you need to use a thickener. The kit comes with Pomona’s pectin, but the instructions provide other suggestions. I later found a recipe that uses chia seeds for thickening. If using the pectin, you add the recommended amount, whir, and see if it thickens. Mine did, so I was good to go. If it doesn’t, you simply mix up some of the calcium water, which is included with the pectin, and add it to the mixture.

Strain the mixture and then, like making most yogurts, you heat the mixture and then put it in your yogurt maker. And wait. The waiting process was a bit longer than making dairy yogurt. Instructions warn that it will not thicken until it gets cold, and it seemed to take quite a while.

Was it worth it? Yes. The taste is really good. As you may be able to tell from the photo, I used too much Pomona’s. The instructions say to play around with the amount of thickener, and that is true in my case. So next time, I’ll go with a little less. If you’re not a huge fan of coconut flavor, it seemed pretty subtle. Mine didn’t have the tang I like, but it was fine. I couldn’t help but think how good it would be frozen.

Something to keep in mind. One of the motivators to making your own yogurt is using some of the previous batch to make a new one. According to the instructions that came with the kit from Cultures for Health, that can’t be done with these starters. In doing research, I read that some people do it successfully, but it’s usually not as effective as when using traditional milk.

Go wild. Be adventurous. Try something new.

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Dec
20

Peanut Butter, Please

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I eat a lot of peanut butter.  A lot of it. I have to eat something with medication in the morning, but I’m not always really hungry or in the mood for a regular breakfast. On those mornings, I usually opt for an apple or maybe an apple with some plain yogurt (my favorite flavor). Many mornings, though, breakfast is a slice of bread (homemade, of course) with some peanut butter.

I’ve made lots of peanut butter. But then I fell into the habit of buying my peanut butter. I know, I know. But I’m guessing most of my readers buy their peanut butter rather than make their own. This post will hopefully make you change your mind and make your own.

My eyes were reopened when I started looking at the ingredients list on jars of peanut butter. Some were immediately eliminated because of things included. Even all-natural peanut butter had things I never put in mine–including salt and sweeteners. I was looking for a peanut butter that was basically a commercial version of mine. The ingredients in my peanut butter? Dry roasted peanuts. That’s it. And I even roast them myself.

I did find a peanut butter that met my requirements and tastes great: Teddie All Natural Peanut Butter. I opted for the unsalted version.

As much as I love that peanut butter, I am striving to become more self-reliant, so I’m back to making my own. And besides, it’s much less expensive.

Mmmm, creamy peanut butter. Warm, even.

So what do you need? Peanuts, of course. (Or any nut, really.) You need roasted peanuts, but you don’t have to buy them already roasted. I buy raw, unsalted, shelled (but still in their skins) peanuts. I have to order them to get peanuts in this form. Many grocery stores do sell unsalted, skinned, roasted peanuts in jars, though. Can you use salted roasted nuts? Of course, you can. But I look at it this way. Why let someone else tell you how much salt–if any at all–your peanut butter should have? You can add as much or as little salt, or any other flavoring, as you want.

You’ll also need something to grind the peanuts in. Some mills will do it. I watched a video of a mill with special stones to grind peanut butter. Seemed kind of messy to me.  I’ve used food processors (Cuisinart and KitchenAid) but was not pleased with the consistency. I use a Vitamix. Can you use another kind of blender? Probably. I did notice that a lot of homemade peanut butter videos I watched added some peanut oil when using a food processor or a blender that might not be as powerful as a Vitamix or Blendtec. You can give it a shot, though. Just be sure to keep an ear out for signs your blender or processor may be in distress.

If you’re using raw peanuts, they must be roasted first. It’s not difficult. Preheat your oven to 325. Place the shelled peanuts in a thin layer on a cookie sheet, and bake for 10-20 minutes, stirring them frequently to keep from burning. Bake just until you can smell the roasting peanuts–in a good way.

Now, if you’re like me and sometimes get distracted, there may be a time when your peanuts get a bit–shall we say–over-roasted. Don’t despair. My last batch did just that. If they’re really burnt, there’s not much you can do about it. But if they’re not charred, their somewhat smokiness can add a nice depth of flavor.

Then there’s the skin thing. To remove, put the cooled peanuts in a towel and rub. The skins will come off. To be completely honest, though, I don’t stress over it. If some of the peanuts still have their skins on when they go into the Vitamix, I don’t mind.

When the peanuts are ready, place in your appliance of choice. I begin with about a cup at a time. I pulse and then switch to low. Once they are finely chopped, I add more peanuts and do the same. When I have peanut powder, I switch to high. Using my plunger thingy, I push all the powder down so it gets processed into creamy, smooth goodness.

Homemade peanut butter on a slice of homemade sourdough bread using home-milled flour.

Obviously your peanut butter will go through different stages of “smoothiness.” The first time or so the tendency may be to stop early in the process. If you do, you may be disappointed. The resultant peanut butter may be grainy. Keep going until it is really smooth. Sample! That’s part of the fun of making your own. Store in an airtight container.

Should you refrigerate it? I don’t. The jar of Teddie’s also doesn’t require refrigeration. Oh, and another difference I’ve noticed is that with mine, I don’t get a significant separation of oil if any at all. I do with Teddie’s. Just stir it up if you do.

Prefer chunky? Before processing your peanuts into peanut butter, process a few to the chunkiness you like. Pour into a container and set aside. Once your peanut butter is made, stir in the pieces.

I hope you’ll give homemade peanut butter a try. If you don’t want to roast your own, buy the unsalted ones in your store. Once you make your own, you may find yourself crossing off “peanut butter” on your grocery list.

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Dec
10

Vegan Cheese . . . Oh, Please

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Apparently one of the hardest things for people looking to become vegetarian or vegan is to give up cheese. I can relate to that. In fact, I’d probably become an ova-lacto vegetarian. But I know many people do give up cheese and become vegans.

Well, let me say they give up the traditional definition of “cheese.” Some don’t have a problem with that. Others–including me–do and would. I can’t imagine a world without cheese. So I started out on my journey of finding a vegan cheese. Oh to be honest, there’s still a dream I’m hoping to fulfill (you might remember–the shop that sells homemade cheeses, breads, jams and jellies, pickles and relishes, and maybe sausages).

First, a word about the word “cheese.” Many people flat-out get angry when someone uses “cheese” to describe a product that does not include dairy. And by dairy, they mean milk from an animal. I’m not going to get into that argument here. But I do tend to call my cheeses “cheese-ish,” but that’s more for an attempt at comic relief.

As with most projects, I started with a Google search for vegan cheese. In case you have any doubts about whether people are interested in it, have no fear. There are lots of recipes. Most call for nut milk, which I didn’t have and wasn’t inclined to change out of my jammies to go get some. So I searched a little further and found one that called for no soy and no nuts. And I had all the ingredients.

https://i0.wp.com/www.knife-fork-spoon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/IMG_0567.jpg?resize=1024%2C768 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/www.knife-fork-spoon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/IMG_0567.jpg?w=2000 2000w, https://i0.wp.com/www.knife-fork-spoon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/IMG_0567.jpg?w=3000 3000w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" /> Soyless and Nutless Cheese-ish

So what’s in it? Water, oatmeal (regular, not the instant), roasted sweet potato, roasted red bell pepper, nutritional yeast, smoked paprika, sea salt, pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, lemon juice, and dried chives. In case you’re not familiar with nutritional yeast, it’s supposed to provide a cheesy taste.

All of those things I was familiar with and had used. But then there’s the thing that makes the cheese solidify–agar-agar. Agar-agar comes from algae. You may be able to find it in your store, but I had to order. You work with it in a similar way you use gelatin, such as Knox. Bring water to a boil, stir in the agar-agar, and keep stirring until it thickens. Then quickly add to the other ingredients and blend to combine. Chill for at least a couple of hours and then enjoy.

Oh, speaking of blending. When it comes to making vegan cheese, almost every recipe I found noted you need a powerful blender. I can understand the need if using nuts, but I’m not sure why for a cheese like this. Of course, if you have one, you might get a better emulsion. I have a Vitamix, and it worked great. I’ve read that Blendtec also does a great job.

You can mold the cheese in whatever you’d like. Of course, the more flexible, the easier the cheese is to remove. In the photo above, the large wheel (relatively speaking) was molded in a 5-inch, nonstick, springform pan. The smaller ones I molded in a silicone mold.

So the results. https://i1.wp.com/www.knife-fork-spoon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/no-nut-no-dairy-cheese.jpg?resize=1024%2C782 1024w, https://i1.wp.com/www.knife-fork-spoon.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/no-nut-no-dairy-cheese.jpg?w=2000 2000w" sizes="(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px" />

As it cooled, I noticed there was a slight almost oily feel to it. So I left it out of the fridge for a while to dry it a bit. That took care of the feeling. I’ve been trying to think of how to explain the texture and mouth feel, and I’ve not quite come up with a description that some might find off-putting. The closest I can come is Velveeta, but not quite as firm. Don’t get me wrong. This cheese holds up when sliced; it’s just a more gelatinous feel (see what I mean about off-putting?). Now that could be my noviness with agar-agar coming out. However, it’s not stopped me from eating it!

Now for the two most important issues. Does it melt? Kind of. I found it softens more that actually melts. It didn’t seem to matter how thinly I sliced it. Does it taste good? Oh, yeh. Play with the amount of smoked paprika you use. I love the stuff, but the first time I made the cheese-ish, I went a bit overboard with the paprika. Next time, I’m adding hot pepper flakes.

So, I’ll make it again? Sure. In perhaps a slightly different combination. Here’s the recipe.

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Nov
27

I’m Back

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It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I confess it’s been longer than I thought. I’ll not bore you with all the details. Suffice to say I had a cat bite on my hand that led to cellulitis. After a few days of outpatient IV antibiotics, I was sent to the hospital, where I had surgery. During the course of treatment, it was discovered I had diabetes. According to a couple of the doctors, I was a few weeks away from a major complication. Now, having said that, know all is well. With medication and diet, the diabetes is under control. In fact, my blood sugar levels are now pretty consistently on the low side.

To be honest, my last thoughts were about the blog. Don’t get me wrong. I love writing it, and I love the feedback. But there were other things on my mind. Plus, I wasn’t sure how my eating habits would have to change. I remember from my childhood that people with diabetes had to eat only certain foods, and well, I wasn’t sure I could blog about that. Imagine my surprise when I discovered there really isn’t a “diabetes diet” anymore. I basically just watch my carb intake.

Another change I’m in the process of making has nothing to do with a diabetes diagnosis. It’s been there in the back of my mind for a long time. I’m incorporating more plant-based foods into my diet. As a result, you’ll likely find more vegetarian/vegan posts in my blog. But I will not be preaching a lifestyle (well, except for making as much of what you eat as possible).

Thanks for coming back. And I’ll have a new post up in a few days.

 

 

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Mar
08

Tofu for You

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“Excuse me, could you tell me where the tofu is?”

The somewhat blank stare didn’t give me much hope, but after spending who knows how long looking for it, there was nothing I could do but ask or give up. And I was not about to give up.

“Uh,” he said.

I was beginning to wonder if he knew what tofu is.

“Uh, in the cheese department?”

I thanked him and walked off. I’d already checked that department multiple times. And the meat department. And any other department I could think of. It was obvious they didn’t carry it.

I’ve been looking into making my own tofu for quite a while. And now that I’m working on improving my Asian cooking skills, I tend to use it more often. While I can get it at another store, further away, I didn’t want to have to take a road trip to get it. So it was obvious. I was being told it was time to get off my hiney and make some tofu.

Google, of course, has several recipes available. Most are pretty much the same. You start with soy milk. Well you all know me by now. If I’m going to make something, make as many parts of it as I can. Of course I had to order soybeans. I ordered Laura non-GMO soybeans from Amazon. (They are currently unavailable, but they have other size packages available.)

I’ve posted before that I often buy kits when making something for the first time. There were kits available, but I’m not sure anyone really needs one. The one thing that attracted me was a mold, but then I have cheese molds that would work. In the end I used neither, but more on that later.

Another thing you need is something to coagulate soy milk into curds. If you make cheese, that sounds very familiar. I used Epsom salt because I usually have it on hand. You can also use lemon juice. But if you’re a pickle maker and have Pickle Crisp, you’re ready to go.

You’ll need 2 pots–1 pretty big, a colander, cheesecloth, and a strainer.

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The first step is to soak the soybeans (3 cups) in filtered water overnight in the fridge. I got busy, and mine soaked 2 days. They seemed fine. When ready to proceed, drain the beans and pick out any that are discolored–just like when you make a pot of soup beans. Blend the beans a little at a time in a blender (and oh how glad I am to have a Vitamix) with just enough water to cover.

When processed, pour into your largest pot and add 12 cups of water; tapwater is okay. Simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring often—you might even say constantly. Word of warning, here. Everything I read, as well as suggestions I got from friends, heavy foaming is likely and it can go from being just fine to foaming over in seconds. Maybe it was the size of my pot, but I didn’t have a problem with foaming. Be careful though that it doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pot. I had a heavy-bottom one, and I had to stir constantly.

Now it’s time to strain the milk through your strainer and into your clean pot. Go slowly, or you could make a mess. You’re now separating the soy milk and  the okara. Save the okara. It can be put in the freezer until you’re ready for it.

The soy milk goes back onto the stove. Bring to 180 degrees, stirring often. In the meantime, prepare your Epsom Salt by dissolving 2 tablespoons in 1 1/2 cups of warm—not hot—water. When the milk is ready, remove from heat and gently stir in the coagulant. Curds will form in about 10 minutes.

You can use a mold or even your colander to form and press your tofu. I used the colander. Line your mold of choice with the cheesecloth. When the curds have formed, spoon into the mold/colander. Cover with the ends of the cheese cloth and add a weight. I used as a late and a couple cans of tomatoes.

The firmness of your tofu depends on how long it presses. At a minimum, press for 20 minutes. I wanted firm, so I pressed for about an hour. Okay, it was probably ready before then, but I got busy. I cut my finished tofu into cubes and stored in a container of water in the fridge. Oh it’s good. And I have soybeans to make many more containers of tofu.

 

 

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