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Showing posts with label KC Farm School at Gibbs Rd. Show all posts
Showing posts with label KC Farm School at Gibbs Rd. Show all posts

Monday, October 25, 2021

Spiced Rhubarb Pie

Yes, I said spiced. Rhubarb has got to be one of my absolute favorite perennial plants. It's incredibly hardy and can grow just about anywhere, even in Alaska. It's bright and sour and adds depth of flavor to just about anything. Yes, it's quite fibrous and can be a little difficult to prepare in the wrong hands - but it's so worth it to keep at least a couple of these beautiful mounding plants alive in your garden. Not only are they a wonderfully flavorful addition to countless dishes, but they look quite nice in the garden bed. I suggest planting them in a sunny spot where you don't mind an eventual big mound of beautiful rhubarb and where it will be for a long time. Perennials mean a permanent commitment!

For this recipe, I'll also be using spicebush berries, which are made from these gorgeous foraged berries native to the Americas. Don't fret, though, if you don't have these! I've got an excellent substitute down the line... You dry the berries for use, of course, and store them in jars or bags. When ready to use, simply grind them in a spice grinder to release the incredible oils and bright orange spice inside. The taste, to me, is like a pink peppercorn made love to a cinnamon stick, and then the spice that came from that union eloped with a big peel of juicy orange. It's truly a spectacular spice that I love to use in many of my baked goods.

This is a foraged spice which means it is not bought and sold commercially. As far as I can tell, the kind of spicebush that grows the berries hasn't been cultivated as of yet, so I couldn't simply tell you to go out and buy the plants. This is a shame since it's such a lovely and unique spice that I think everyone in the world should get to have. I can't tell you where to buy it, so I'll just refer you to Prairie Birthday Farm, which is how I get mine. I'm sure that they could ship to wherever you may be staying if you ask nicely. They're nice, warm-hearted people over there, and they've been kind enough to include me in the possibility of propagating and cultivating the bush in hopes that more and more Midwestern folk will fall in love with native plants and start planting them in their own yards. The transplants won't be ready until spring of 2022, of course, but you can bet that this gal will be awaiting their arrival to her garden with bated breath.

Spiced Rhubarb Pie 
yields one 

Flaky all-butter pie crust

  • 8 oz vegan butter, cold, chopped 
    • We all know I love Earth Balance and Miyoko's butter!
  • 14 oz all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp granulated sugar
  • Ice water, as needed
Rhubarb filling
  • 7 cups chopped rhubarb
    • Fresh is ideal, but frozen is just fine
  • 1 1/4 c granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp spicebush berries, ground in the spice grinder**
    • If you cannot get spicebush berries, simply use:
      • 1 tsp cinnamon
      • 3/4 tsp pink peppercorns, ground
      • Zest of 1 orange
      • A pinch of Chinese Five Spice powder
      • A pinch of turmeric
  • 1 tsp good vanilla extract
  • A fat pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/2 c cornstarch
  • 3/4 c orange juice
For the filling, mix - in a large bowl - the chopped rhubarb with the sugar, spices, vanilla, and salt so that everything is coated. Cover with clingfilm or a tea towel and set aside while you make the pie crust. Ideally, you're going to want to let this soak for an hour or more. 

For the crust, simply cut the butter into the flour and sugar with either a pastry cutter or two knives. If you have a food processor, feel free to use that instead. The idea is to get pea-sized chunks going on throughout the flour mixture before adding ice water. How much? Oh, just enough to barely get the dough to come together when mixed with a fork! It's quite dry where I am right now, so I think I used about 1/4 cup of water. Simply ball together and set in the fridge for an hour.

When you're ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350. While we're waiting for the oven to heat and the dough to cool, let's talk a bit about rhubarb!

Please don't be put off by the color!

As you can see, the rhubarb is green. As you may have noticed from the date on this blog, it's the middle of October. This may confuse you because many people are mostly familiar with rhubarb in the context of strawberry rhubarb pie, which is a late springtime and early summertime delight. The truth of the matter is that rhubarb doesn't just grow in the spring, but in the fall as well. This lovely plant grows in what I like to call the 'in-betweener seasons,' which means the transitional seasons between extreme heat and extreme cold, summer and winter. The stalks start green but turn red as they ripen with the warmth. You won't always see red rhubarb in the cooler months, but that shouldn't turn you off.

If you aren't familiar with rhubarb's flavor profile, I've asked my husband - who up until recently had never had a straight rhubarb pie - to describe it. His exact words were:

"Oh. Uh. I don't know... Kind of tart?"

I would describe it as sour and vegetal, which is oddly good. Maybe a super-sour celery with a hint of citrus fragrance? It's a truly unique flavor that's got a surprisingly high amount of vitamin C, potassium, and calcium so you can feel good about having more than one slice of this ultra-thick pie. It's got a very nice depth of flavor that is so unique...and also a vegetable! Would you ever think that you could make a sweet pie out of vegetables? It's so good, you can make any pie, cake filling, or jam from it and it'll go down a treat for anyone who tastes it. 

As I mentioned previously, rhubarb is a perennial plant, which means it comes back every year. Strawberries, which go excellent with rhubarb, is also a perennial. They are also a good cold weather plant which means that they can survive underground in the snow. This means they can grow in the same patch together and be just fine! To ensure their survival, a healthy amount of straw and mulch over the beds will do you a world of good. I have some large maple trees on my property that - of course -  shed their leaves when autumn comes. This is a natural mulch, but is so much more than that.

I finished this bed two days before I gave birth!

In nature, autumn leaves aren't meant to be raked up. The leaves that fall are a natural blanket for the underlying vegetation an a cozy home for pollinating insects to lay their eggs until they can hatch in the next year's spring. This protects any plant life from hard frosts and blankets of snow in the winter months.  Nonmigratory birds also benefit from these leaves because worms feast on them and fat worms mean healthy birds. Fat worms also mean healthy soil and healthy soil means healthy biome. Do you see how it's all connected, and how you - in your own small way - can help your own tiny microcosm of plant and animal life? Just something to think about while you finish your pie...  

I don't even know what this is supposed to be. Maybe like a triceratops doing a cosplay of Jack Skellington?

Divide the dough in half and give your dough a good smack or two with a floured rolling pin to soften everything up while keeping the fat still cold. This is great therapy, especially if you have a newborn like me, and you are so sleep deprived and you just need some kind of safe release... It's ideal if you can roll all of this out on a marble surface, but whatever you're using is probably just fine. You can either roll out two discs on floured surfaces or you can sandwich your dough between two sheets of parchment paper that have been lubricated liberally with aerosol pan spray of some matter. I prefer this method, simply because it helps with cleanup and minimizes the chance of overworking the dough. If you're going to use a more intricate design on your pie crust top, however, it may benefit you to use flour and a bit of kneading, just to ensure the pie crust is strong enough to do fun things with. My design was fairly simple, so I kept my rolling method simple. 

Important note: No matter which method of rolling out you use, be sure to lay your pie crust in your pie dish of choice with plenty of overhang and allow it to rest in the dish for at least five minutes while you work on your top. It's imperative that you do this to minimize any shrinkage that would otherwise occur. You can let it rest on the counter, but I personally think it's better to let it rest in the fridge so the dough can get cold again before anything else. When the bottom is ready, give it a quick dust of semolina or equal parts sugar and flour. 

When you're ready, give the filling a good stir. You should have quite a bit of liquid that's come from your rhubarb! Drain that into a small saucepot and whisk in the cornstarch. Slowly bring to a boil over a medium flame and allow to thicken. It'll get quite thick so don't worry! When boiling, immediately remove from the heat and add the orange juice. Give it a good whisk to ensure there are absolutely no lumps and add it back to the rhubarb. Mix everything until it's all well incorporated and pour into your prepared bottom crust.  There will be quite a high rounded top on this, so please keep that in mind when designing your top crust. Make sure you have at least a few vent holes in your design.

Bake your pie at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the crust is golden-brown and there's slight bubbling of the filling that's showing. Remove and allow to cool for about an hour before cutting into it. This pie is sour, sweet, herbacious, and incredibly satisfying in the fall. The cornstarch helps it set so you can get clean slices, and the orange juice brings out the naturally citrus-like flavor of the rhubarb. The spices compliment the sour-bitter notes with aromatic fragrances that remind us of fall. 

I love this pie because it uses one of my favorite 'surprise fall' ingredients and gives me a break from pumpkin. Don't get me wrong - pumpkin and apple are life! But you do need a break from these two juggernauts of autumn flavors and I think that this pie is just the ticket. Variety is the spice of life, as they say. 

As always, I want to send out a special thank you to my good friends at KC Farm School at Gibbs Road for their tireless efforts in agricultural education and advocacy for the community, and for their help and generosity during my pregnancy and birth journey. The friends I have made during my time working with this farm and the community I have found during the pandemic because of this organization has meant more to me than I could ever write. Thank you.

I'd also like to take a moment to say thank you to the nursing students at Research Medical Center, who happened to be at the farmer's market at KC Farm School on Wednesday, October 13th, of 2021, that checked my blood pressure and alerted me to the fact that I had suddenly developed gestational hypertension. This is a condition that isn't serious in and of itself but it does have a 50/50 chance of developing into preeclampsia, which can be a life-threatening condition for both mother and baby. Because of them, I went immediately to the hospital after the market and was able to get induced and safely deliver my baby. Thank you. 

Actually, my entire birth story was awesome and it was all thanks to the incredible nurses and nursing students of Research Medical Center. If you're at all curious, you can find my birth story here on IGTV Live! It's a long one, so be forewarned. 

Finally, I'd like to thank you for joining me for a portion of your day. I know that reading food blogs aren't always the most exciting thing to do with your time, but the fact that even a tiny portion of your day was spent with me makes me feel special. I hope that I can provide education and insight to food and growing it for yourself. I also hope that I made you laugh. 

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Friday, August 20, 2021

Carrot Cinnamon Doughnuts


Why leave your house when you can make your own doughnuts at home?

Don't laugh; this is not just a cheap and shallow attempt to get your kids - or possibly your self - to eat more vegetables. This is a wonderful idea and I'm about to tell you why. 

Carrots are root vegetables that are naturally full of sugar. What other root vegetables can be made into a cake, for goodness sake? Sure, you can use a beet, which is so full of sugar that you can make boxed sugar out of it...but why do that to a cake when it's so earthy? Carrots are sweet, just a touch bitter, and have a flavor so mild and delicious that even the pickiest of children and adults still generally love them. So why not add them to doughnuts? A carrot cake doughnut is likely not so special, but a yeast-risen carrot doughnut? Keep reading.

Carrot Doughnuts
yields 1 dozen doughnuts + doughnut holes

  • 1 c warm water
  • 1 Tbsp active yeast
  • 1/3 c sourdough starter**
    • Optional but quite nice for the balance of flavor
  • 3 c all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c tapioca flour
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • A fat pinch of kosher salt
  • 3/4 c finely grated carrot, about 3 small carrots or 1 very large one
  • 1 large egg
  • Cinnamon spice sugar to finish
Combine the yeast, sugar, and warm water in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Sprinkle in the yeast and add the sourdough starter, if you have it. Give the liquid a quick swish in the bowl and let sit for about 5 minutes, or until frothy. Add in both of the flours and stir until just combined. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes, undisturbed, to hydrate. Add in all of the other remaining ingredients and mix on low for 10 minutes, or until incredibly stretchy. Transfer your dough into a clean bowl that's well greased with oil and allow it to rise for at least an hour, or until doubled in size. 

It's so fluffy...

When your dough is ready, turn it out onto a floured surface and punch down to get rid of the bubbles. Press your dough into a rectangular shape, making sure to get it as dense as possible, and cut into 12 equal squares. Of course, you can cut your doughnuts into round shapes, but I don't like to do that because I don't like to waste dough. You may call me lazy for not wanting to gather the scraps and make them into more dough to use later; I say I'm frugal and unwilling to waste potentially good food!

If you want to stuff them with Nutella or some other sort of tastiness, please feel free to leave them in square shapes. If you aren't so interested in that, cut holes in the middle with a small round cutter. Spray vigorously with pan spray and pop onto a sheet tray. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight. While we're waiting, please indulge me while I talk a bit about how my thought process works in coming up with these recipes.

Recently, I had gotten into a conversation of how I think and how I put things together. I'm on an app for pregnant humans and one of the groups I'm in is called "Foodie Fans." I constantly post my 'reject' photos there, which are the photos that I think are unworthy of instagram or facebook. These are usually just photos with poor lighting or not-so-great composition. I take a ton of photos of my food in case I need content for this and that, and I feel happy that I have a photodump for other things. I always get "OMG Recipe please!" in the comments, but I always tell them that I'm sorry, I don't have a recipe. 

I can't be the only ex-chef on that app, can I?

I write my own recipes in the sense that I'm pulling from years of practice. It isn't instinctual, it's more of: 'this is a problem and I want to solve it.' When put in the restraint of cooking only what you have when you have it instead of buying what I feel like buying, I have the mental freedom to create something completely new along with the constraints of a self-contained episode of "Chopped." I simply take what I know about carrots and apply it to a new application.

Carrots are sweet. Carrots can be made into cake. Carrots are dense but are not starchy. Carrots are bright orange, which means they contain carotene, which your body uses to make vitamin A...which helps prevent you from getting sick. Carrots can come in all colors! Carrots maintain their own shape when cooked. Carrots do not leak liquid unless grated and squeezed. When you look at all of these factors, they make great candidates for adding to baked goods such as cakes and pastries which require precise measurements for moisture, lest they fail in the oven. I initially wanted to do carrot cinnamon rolls where I made a carrot jam filling for the inside instead of a cinnamon sugar filling, but I'd just recently done cucumber cinnamon rolls, so I didn't want to be redundant.

You - too - can make fun things with your food as long as you are confident and follow the rules set for you by the ingredients. My favorite thing about food is the impermanence of it, of how it captures a moment. I love cooking seasonally for this reason as well. It's late August when I'm writing this, which is when I get the best, most-tender carrots. Grow a garden for yourself and learn all about what you and your land can grow!

In the morning, when you want doughnuts, bring out the tray and let rise on the counter for at least half an hour. Your dough will have risen in the fridge overnight, so no need to worry too much. All you want now is for the dough to get to about room temperature. It's late summer so my house is warm, which is why it only took me about 20 minutes to get my doughnuts soft enough. If the doughnuts are too cold, big bubbles will form here and there in random places instead of the uniform loft which you would normally want in a yeast doughnut.

Heat a neutral-flavored oil such as grapeseed or canola oil to 375 degrees F or 190 degrees C. I like to use a glass candy thermometer for this application, and - as far as I can tell - most grocery stores have these. Fry the doughnuts until golden-brown and floating, which is around 2 minutes per side. I always drop my doughnuts in gently, count to ten, and then flip them over to cook on the other side for my initial two minutes. I do this because - again - I want my bubbles to be even. When finished, fish them out with a spider and toss them in cinnamon sugar. Of course, you are more than welcome to come up with some fashion of cream cheese glaze to allude to the classic carrot cake flavor profile, but I personally prefer cinnamon sugar for this application. Besides, cinnamon sugar looks just so appealing!

The carrots aren't super pronounced as a flavor, so it's quite subtle. If you'd like to get a more pronounced carrot flavor, feel free to substitute half of the water with carrot juice. This will also turn your dough a delightful orange color. What's nice about these is that you get a lovely, chewy doughnut with flecks of pretty orange inside. Even better, you keep the healthy bits of carrot which make it at least mildly better for you than the average doughnut. 

Oh, and don't worry too much about making this recipe super healthy. Healthy just means "nutrient dense", and the carrots help add to that. Carbs are here, yes, but this is relatively low in sugar so it'll give you a slow-burn bit of energy instead of a quick burst. Furthermore, you - an individual - is going to cook in a much different way than a restaurant or commercial bakery will cook. Don't feel bad about what you're liking and what you're eating. Eat whatever you want, so long as you make it yourself. 

I hope you've enjoyed this recipe. As always, I would love to thank my partners at KC Farm School at Gibbs Road for the produce. I hope you have reached out to your own CSA and challenged yourself to cook a little more seasonally than you would otherwise do. Happy cooking and happy eating!

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Garlic Roasted Radishes with Chives


This will likely be the quickest and easiest recipe you'll ever see on this blog. 

This could not be easier.

Garlic Roasted Radishes for two

  • 12-14 radishes, washed, stemmed, and cut in half
  • 3 large garlic cloves, peeled
  • Good olive oil, as needed
  • Kosher salt 
  • Crushed red pepper
  • Garlic chives, chopped
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare a casserole or roasting dish by rubbing with oil. Slice the garlic into thin chips either using a mandolin or a good sharp knife. Prepare your radishes and add them, along with the garlic chips, to the roasting dish of your choice. Add olive oil and plenty of kosher salt. I do mean it when I say you can use a little more than you may think you need, as these are hearty root vegetables that can take quite a bit. Toss well, and crack pepper all over them. 

Place in the hottest part of your oven and roast for 30 minutes. When finished, toss together and add to a serving dish, garnishing with the garlic chives. Yes, that's it. I just did an entire recipe for radishes in less than three paragraphs. Are you bored? Would you like to hear a story? Keep reading. 

Radishes are extremely low in calories, high in flavor, a decent source of vitamin C, and have even been known to have antifungal properties. Why would a human need to worry about that? Have you ever heard of a yeast infection or perhaps even thrush? They're not fun to have. It also should be noted that, although they've yet to be the center of everyone's attention in the health world, they've been used as an anti-inflammatory and general folk remedy in traditional Chinese medicine. To tell you the truth, I was more looking forward to it as an anti-inflammatory when my partners at the farm told me they had plenty of radishes for me! My joints are killing me right now, and I need some relief. 

Naturally, you'll be able to use the greens as well as the root. I guess it's a good thing that you have this option to blend up the greens and make yourself a batch of some gorgeous green pasta out of them. The greens are a touch spicy, just like the roots. If you're feeling disappointed by only one idea for your radishes and you - like me - happen to have a lot, here are a few other things you can do with them:

  • Chop them fine and add them to a tuna salad for your sandwich
  • Chop the roots and the greens together, mix them with mayo and chopped egg to make a radish salad, which is lovely on white bread
  • Slice thin to add to a salad
  • Shred the roots with the greens and add garlic, chilies, and more to make a radish kimchi
  • Chop finely and add to yogurt and sour cream for a dip
  • Add your greens with finely sliced onions to the bottom of a roasting dish and roast chicken on top of them
  • Eat them raw with ranch dressing
  • Shred them with a cheese grater to make a zesty radish drink with sugar, mint, and lime juice to make a Radish Cooler!

Actually, this was a sort of mixed bag for me. In the Philippines, we have a drink where you shred cantaloupe into the water and let it sit to make a highly cooling beverage for the hot, tropical climate. I shredded about eight small radishes into a gallon container with filtered water and added three sprigs of mint, the juice of one lime, and about 1/4 c of sugar. Once it chilled together, it was pungent, sweet, cooling, and quite spicy! I actually preferred it as a spritzer, with equal parts radish cooler and grapefruit soda. Although the taste was definitely not like cantaloupe, it was equally cooling and refreshing for the muggy day. If you like, you could even shake up the radish cooler with some more mint, an ounce of white rum, a little more lime, and some grapefruit juice along with soda water to make yourself a grown-up radish spritzer!

I hope that my garlic roasted radishes along with the controversial Radish Cooler I attempted this afternoon will give you at least a little push in the direction of creation in the name of the radish. This lovely vegetable has limitless potential and I hope you discover ways of preparing it that I could never even dream of!

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Duck Egg Fried Rice with Sugar Snap Peas


We've all seen it. You know, that viral video courtesy of the BBC, where this poor woman is forced to absolutely ruin egg fried rice? Even more, you've likely seen countless videos of appalled and incredulous folks of Asian descent reacting to it. I didn't want to jump too much on the bandwagon, but when I got some incredible duck eggs from the farm, I just had to tell you guys how I do my own egg fried rice.

 A quick note about duck eggs: They're much fattier than chicken eggs, have a thicker shell and are generally larger. The flavor is much more unctuous, which is why I actually prefer them in custards and creams to chicken eggs. I'll certainly be making a cake with them later! You can buy duck eggs in many stores nowadays, so keep your eyes open for them. No matter where you get them, make sure to wash them thoroughly before storing them in the fridge, like you would do with your chicken eggs.

Egg fried rice is something that's in almost every Asian person's arsenal of things to cook. This is a perfect way to use up leftover rice, which you'll almost always have. I think a lot of Asian folks tend to make more rice than they need because you never know how much you'll actually need until it's cooked. In my household, my rice cooker is almost always on. If there was a fire in my house, I'd get my animals out first, and then I'd get my rice cooker because that's how much I would need it while we stayed in a hotel getting our house repaired or finding a new one. It is always best to use leftover rice when making egg fried rice, but if you don't have that, then here's how you make the rice:

  1. Take any pot.
  2. Add any amount of rice
  3. Add water to the rice and squish it around with your hand to get all the gunk off. Pour water off. Repeat until the water is clear, which will show you your rice is done.
  4. Touch the top of the rice with your index finger and add enough water until the top of the water reaches the first line of your first knuckle. 
  5. Cover and cook on medium heat until done. 
  6. Spread whatever leftover rice you have on a plate to cool and dry out and leave uncovered in the fridge, for later use of fried rice.
Easy? Easy! Let's also note that eggs are the star of the dish, but egg fried rice is often about what you can use up. This is the ultimate fast food recipe for your kitchen, and this particular recipe is just made from the goodies I got from the farm today. Now that we've gotten that out of the way, let's move on to the recipe...

Duck Egg Fried Rice with Sugar Snap Peas
  • Leftover rice, about 3 cups
  • 5-10 cloves garlic
  • 2 radishes, washed and stemmed
  • 3 duck eggs
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas
  • 2 large scallions
  • 1 longanisa sausage
  • 1/4 c Soy sauce*
  • 2 Tbsp Calamansi juice*
  • 1 Tbsp Mirin*
  • A dash of patis or fish sauce*
  • A fat pinch of white sugar

Number one priority when it comes to fried rice: mise en place! As in, you must have all of your things all in place before you even turn on the stove. As you can see, my longanisa has been sliced thinly, which was very easy because it was frozen. My garlic has already been peeled, smashed, and chopped. My radishes have been washed, the stems have been chopped, as well as the bulbs. My sugar snap peas could have been left whole, but I thought it would be better to snap off the top stems and chop them in half for ease of tossing in the wok. My eggs are cracked. The only thing that hasn't been done in this picture is the slicing of the scallions, but that'll be for later. Besides, I thought it would be a good picture to just leave it like this. 

I was so excited to get sugar snap peas in my CSA box this week, as they are not only a favorite ingredient but a delicious snack in the hot weather. Keeping freshly-picked sugar snap peas in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator will help you keep a healthy snack on hand that will crunch! I do love making a fresh, lovely, cold pea and mint soup, but this application seemed a little more accessible...and hey, let's remember that we're ALL trying to cook this!

c r u n ch

You'll also notice that I've put many asterisks in this recipe. The thing with egg fried rice is that you make it to taste, and that is how most Asian recipes will tend to go. Measurements often do not matter, as the only truly important thing is making it how you want it to taste. I am using calamansi juice and patis in my rice because I am a Filipino-American and that's the kind of stuff that I have in my pantry. I use soy sauce, but you can use oyster sauce. I put 5-10 cloves of garlic because it will always vary, especially considering cloves of garlic are often bigger or smaller as you go. Furthermore, never let a recipe tell you to only put one or two cloves of garlic in; garlic is measured with the heart. 

Garlic = flavor. 

This post was sponsored by KC Farm School at Gibbs Road, an incredible not-for-profit community teaching farm that is committed to education, permaculture, and building a strong community together. They have an amazing program called Let's Grow, Wyandotte! and a great CSA program. Please check them out here, give them a Like on Facebook, and follow them on Instagram!

To make fried rice, I use a wok. You can buy these at most any Asian grocer, so please go there instead of a big box store, if you can. You can also find duck eggs in Asian grocery stores, just make sure it says DUCK EGGS on the sign and does not say "BALUT" on the sign. Just...trust me on this. If you don't have a wok, the biggest, deepest frying pan that you have will do fine. Ideally, you'll want to have a frying pan that you can easily maneuver with one hand, as you'll want to toss and flip your goodies.

Remember: This is going to go FAST! If you'd like a video tutorial, check this out first. It's only 5 minutes...please turn on the captions!

Are you ready? Let's go together, step-by-step.

  1. Gather and prepare all of your ingredients, including the rice
  2. Heat your wok or frying pan to a high flame. Add neutral oil to coat the bottom and sides of the pan, such as canola or vegetable oil, and allow to heat. 
  3. Add your garlic and saute until brown. Quickly remove the garlic and set it aside. This was to flavor your oil!
  4. Add your eggs, all in at once, and allow to cook. Use a spoon to toss the hot oil over the eggs, and swirl it around so that it is floating on hot oil. Flip it over a few times as it cooks. 
  5. Add all of your vegetables except for the scallions, and the longanisa, and stir. Allow cooking.
  6. Add your rice and stir well. Make sure you're tossing everything together well! If you can flip air into it, this is called "wok-hei!" (I have no idea if that's how you spell it so please be nice to me.) Wok-hei is just when you get that good fragrance and good air going in. Trust me, you want it!
  7. Add in your seasonings, such as your mirin, soy sauce, et cetera. Toss well and cook until the rice is jumping! All this means is that little stray individual rice grains will begin to pop and fly...this means the rice is hot enough. 
  8. Add your scallions and toss well to incorporate.
  9. Serve immediately
And there you have it! So easy! 

I hope you've enjoyed this take on a quick, easy, fun dish that can easily be modified to any diet. Don't forget to enjoy what you're eating, and use this recipe as a base for any dish you'd like to make, with any ingredients you likely will have. Please remember that I am not the sole authority on egg fried rice, just simply one of billions of people that have made it in their lifetime. So long as you follow these simple principles of preparation, good ingredients, and using leftover rice, you'll succeed in making delicious food. 

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Friday, May 7, 2021

Butternut Squash Fruit Leather


Botanically speaking, squash is a fruit. This does not mean you should stick it in a fruit salad with a cool whip dressing, but I'm sure stranger things have been done to it. Bottom line that you need to know for this recipe: it's acceptable to make a winter squash fruit leather. 

In an attempt to be thrifty and to bide my time while I wait on the fruits of my garden (and of the fruits of my friends' farm to come in) I've taken recently to clearing out my cellar. I do believe that it is important to note that I do not actually have a cellar, simply have an in-ground garage that may as well be a cellar, with consistently cool temperatures enough to store a ton of winter squash. These squash are from the early autumn of last year, and most of them are - miraculously - still good! Since I just have a weird thing about eating squash purees in the middle of spring, I thought I'd try something I always wanted to try: fruit leather!

When my in-laws moved from their big house to a smaller house, they gave me a lot of neat old things, including their dehydrator. It's already become my best friend when it comes to preserving my herbs! I'll certainly use it much more when it's time to start drying things for my tea garden. For now? I'm going to show you what I did with one of my last good butternut squashes, to make an absolutely delicious snack, perfect for a quick lunch for satisfying a mid-afternoon sweet tooth.

Butternut Leather
yields 16 leathers

  • 1 medium butternut squash, quartered, with seeds removed
  • 3 carrots, peeled
  • 1 large apple, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup local honey or maple syrup**
    • This will vary to taste
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon**
  • A dash of mace**
    • The spices are optional, but nice
  • 1/4 c water
This is an incredibly simple recipe to prepare, with time as the major ingredient. First and foremost, grab your favorite steaming apparatus and prepare it to steam for a long time. I use my rice cooker's steamer function for small items, but since this is a big item I decided to use my bamboo steamer. 

Almost every Asian supermarket has a section for kitchenware and a place where you can buy a bamboo steamer of many sizes. I have a 12" that fits in my large wok. This is easily one of my favorite items to have, and if you have a wok, I highly recommend having a bamboo steamer as well to go with it! I don't recommend buying online for this if you can at all help it. Go to the store, poke around, hold the steamer in your hand, and let it speak to you. Listen for "Let me come home with you!" and that's the steamer basket for you.

To prepare your steamer, add water to your wok or chosen pot and bring to a simmer. Set your steamer basket over it. I didn't peel the squash, but I did peel the carrots and set them straight on the basket. It seemed a little easier for me to simple quarter and de-seed my squash, so that's what I did. Simply arrange on your steamer trays and steam your squash and carrots for about 30 minutes, or until unspeakably soft. Turn off your water and allow to cool long enough so you can handle it with your bare hands. Peel and chop your apple. 

Add your fruit and veg to the pitcher of a blender or bowl of a food processor along with the water, honey, vinegar, and spices Please note that you can use lemon juice for this application, but because this is going to yield a shelf-stable item in my own kitchen, I prefer something with a consistent acid level versus the juice of a fresh lemon off the shelf.

Blend your items on low, stirring every so often, and then to medium, and then high, for at least 30 seconds each. You want your puree to be as smooth as possible. Taste for acid and sweetness. If you don't like the flavor now, you certainly won't like it when it's dried and concentrated, so please take your time in perfecting the flavors.

Don't you just love this closeup?

Once your puree is blended to smooth and silky perfection, pour onto the trays of your dehydrator. My dehydrator came with four plastic trays that I was able to spread about a cup of puree each on. The goal is to make sure that they are consistently thick, so an offset spatula was my absolute best friend in this process. Take your time, okay? You don't want to see any clear or white spots in the middle of your leather, and generally it's okay if it's a little thicker versus a little thinner. 

When your trays are all set upand ready to go, assemble your food dehydrator and turn it on. Leave it to run for 4 - 6 hours, or until the leather is set enough and easy enough to pry away from the tray. Mine took about about 4 1/2 hours to fully dry, but this is highly dependent on the humidity of your kitchen. Once the time is up, I like to turn my machine off and let it cure overnight, although this step is unnecessary if you're an eager beaver like yours truly and feel like you need a snack before you keel over. 

It should be thick enough to be able to peel off in one piece, but thin enough to see through...kind of.

To store the fruit leathers, you can either roll them up in parchment paper, wax paper, or in clingfilm. Simply peel your leather away from the trays, gently, and cut the large pieces into quarters. Grab yourself an appropriate piece of clingfilm or paper, with about a quarter inch of allowance to fold up around the first edge of your leather, so that it won't stick to itself when you roll it up. Roll tightly, trim excess from the edges, and store upright in a jar. They'll keep for a whopping six months!

I'd like to note a few things about the yumminess of this, as I'm sure you're curious:

Yes, it does taste like butternut squash! Yes, it's a little tangy. No, it doesn't taste like fall...but it does taste like a sweet bit of squash along with the sweetness and freshness of the carrots and apple. Yes, the cinnamon and mace is optional, and yes, you can add whichever other spices you prefer to this. Yes, youc an use any winter squash you may have lying around, such as kobucha. No, butternut squash is not technically seasonal for spring...but let me explain!

Living seasonally doesn't necessarily always mean "I will only eat these things when they are growing naturally." In my very humble opinion, I believe living and eating seasonally means: "I will consume what is available to me." Since I never used all of these squash, of which there were plenty, I felt it would have been wrong to simply throw away perfectly good food. Why throw away something that came from the earth, and that's filled with such good nutrition? There's no reason, if you ask me!

When you choose to live a smaller and more seasonal life, you are actively choosing to defy the capitalist/consumerist ideology that's often pushed upon modern society. The carbon footprint of so much of our foods have become larger and larger throughout the years. While the majority of pollution and damage done to the climate and the planet is done by large corporations, there's no reason you can't connect with the earth and all its bounty while saving yourself a few pennies in the process. 

For me, it's been incredibly empowering to be able to grow and make my own food, grown not just from my own hands but from the hands of people I personally know. Last year I was privileged enough to connect with the KC Farm School at Gibbs Road for Let's Grow, Wyandotte, a program to help connect fellow citizens of my county to their earth, their food, their own inner heart. I'm sure that if you follow me on Instagram, you'll see me tag them in a post here and there. Check them out on Facebook, if you're into that sort of thing!

Now please excuse me while I nosh on this like a little goat. 

Happy cooking and happy eating!

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Fermented Habanero Hot Sauce


Fermented Habanero Hot Sauce

yields 1 qt hot sauce

  • 1 pint of organic habanero peppers
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 c apple cider vinegar, plus more for after the fermentation process
  • 1 1/2 c unchlorinated water
  • 2 Tbsp organic fresh ginger, finely chopped
Please note: It's actually important to get organic stuff because it's absolutely guaranteed to ferment, whereas it's not always a guarantee with the stuff that's had pesticides. 

I'd like to tell you now, at the beginning of the recipe, that the most important ingredient in this recipe is time. At least 2 weeks is required, but the longer you let this ferment, the better it will taste. You can ferment this for up to 6 months, but I personally prefer a 3-month ferment. You can plan accordingly, now that you know what kind of time table you're about to have on your hands. Are you still interested? Great! Let's continue...

Clean your peppers and set up a cutting board, ideally a flexible plastic one that can immediately go in the wash. I also advise you to use gloves and to make a conscious effort to not touch your face, eyes, ears, or any other sensitive areas until you've washed your hands thoroughly during the hot pepper chopping process. Make sure you also wash your utensils immediately after you do all of this chopping!

To prepare your peppers, simply remove the stems from your habaneros and roughly chop so that they're all the same size. Peel and chop the ginger, quite finely. Add this to your favorite fermenting croc jar and toss it all with the sugar. If you don't have a good lidded ceramic croc jar, use a mason jar that you can have in a place that's away from direct sunlight. Let this sit for about 10 minutes. 

Pour the water-vinegar mixture over your peppers, then stir well with a metal spoon. Make sure that you have enough liquid to submerge your peppers in their entirety, or they might spoil! All that's required of you now is to cover the jar and wait! Do yourself a favor and set yourself a calendar reminder every week, around the same time, to stir and check on your fermentation.

This is my favorite fermentation jar. I made it.

I'm so lucky to have this gorgeous ceramic jar to ferment my goodies in, but it's absolutely fine if you have a few clean mason jars lying around the kitchen to use! If you have a screw-top jar, you're going to want to 'burb' your mixture every few days by unscrewing the top and allowing any gas to escape. You're really going to want to do this. You don't want to clean up an exploded hot sauce glass jar from your cabinet. Just save yourself the trouble. 

Special note: when you check your pepper mixture after a week or so, you may see a sort of white film on the top of your mixture. This is called kahm yeast. It is not mold, nor is it harmful. This is rather sour, though, so you may want to skim it off the top and discard it!

While we're waiting, shall we talk about hot peppers? 

Most every continent has native capsicum, and the Americas are no different. Peppers are actually native to tropical America, which means anything near the equator and south of.  It's actually quite fun to look up all the peppers that are native to where you are from! Peppers are berries, and they're quite easy to grow in warm climates. If you have a cooler climate, you'll really get the best yield out of them by growing them in a greenhouse or inside in containers in a sunny window. I personally have better luck with most peppers by keeping them in hanging baskets by my window, even in winter. Read all about that in my victory garden post!

I'd very much like to take credit for the number of peppers in this particular brew, but it's actually from a dear friend of mine. I'm partnering with my good friend Alicia, and the rest of the wonderful people at the KC Farm School at Gibbs road. This place is a real working and teaching farm with a wonderful example of permaculture to boot. They have chickens, a big greenhouse, and a tall and lovely cornfield. They're dear friends of mine, so please do give them a Like and a Follow, if you can spare one.  They also have this scarecrow that lives in their cornfield, which definitely does not come alive on the full moon to eat naughty children. 

I first met Alicia when I was the head chef of a not-for-profit organization that combated food insecurity in my city. It was my job to feed a few hundred food-insecure people every day, and I learned more than a lot about how food is grown and consumed in this country of mine during that time. One thing I learned is that the biggest obstacle, in my personal experience, is not exactly getting good food to good and healthy food, but rather getting them to try it. 

When it comes to combatting food insecurity and the unhealthy relationship that the average American family has with food, you must understand that we do not have a good work-life balance in this country. I don't know when the ideology of "If you work, you should be able to have a weekend and to be able to afford a house, food, bills, etc.," became an extremist belief, but there you have it. The reality is that many families nowadays don't have the most ideal schedule, especially those with working single parents and multiple children. The hard thing isn't necessarily acquiring good and healthy food, but it's getting everyone to eat it.

Think about your mental capacity and energy throughout the day, and imagine you're a harried single parent in the middle of a pandemic, trying to scrape together every cent to make a living. Would you rather have a fight with your child about doing their homework or about eating a salad that you made? Would you rather spend time cooking an ingredient you're unfamiliar with, then spending more time getting your child to eat it instead of pick around it on the plate? Or would you rather just throw on something that you know they'll eat and then save your energy about the homework fight, or the bathtime fight, or the bedtime fight? Furthermore, what if you didn't grow up in a household that afforded you the education of learning how to cook? 

Most of the people that know how to cook learned from their parents or grandparents, if not cooking classes later in life. I was incredibly fortunate in that I had a grandmother that knew how to cook, and who cooked with me as a child. My father cooked, my mother cooked...everyone cooked. Everyone also had a good grasp on how to run a home and I benefitted from that by watching them. I tried new foods because they always tried new foods, and as far as I remember I was never a picky eater. The point is that not everybody had that same food-loving family structure growing up, so it's unfair to assume that they did when having a conversation about food going on the table for everyone

After your preferred fermentation period, you're ready to make your hot sauce! Are you excited? Because I am!

Drain the peppers slowly and reserve the liquid. Add the solids of your mixture to a food processor or blender and add about 1/4 cup of the fermentation brine along with another 1/4 c of vinegar. You can use either apple cider vinegar or white vinegar at this point, but I personally prefer the sweetness of the apple cider in this particular application, because habaneros are incredibly hot. Please also note that this will likely explode in a cloud of spice when you pour, so please be cautious!

Blend this concoction on low for 1 minute, and then on high for 30 seconds, or until entirely smooth. You can strain out the solids with a fine-mesh sieve, but I personally prefer a thicker sauce so I don't strain. All that's left now is to bottle it in either a glass bottle or glass mason jar to be kept in the fridge! I love the fermentation process, and the fact that it does continue to ferment in my fridge, so I don't cook my sauce, even though you can cook it to stop the process and intensify the flavor more to your liking. No matter what, this is the stage you'll want to taste it and add salt to your liking. 

And there you have it! A gorgeous, fermented hot sauce for the table that will last you a good long while. Use this as you would use your regular store-bought hot sauce for a little extra zing while you're cooking! I hope you've enjoyed this post. Please feel free to experiment as much as you like with this hot sauce recipe. Don't be afraid to add garlic, dry spices, different kinds of peppers, and more! 

Happy cooking and happy eating!