Archive for September, 2015


Crisp Celery Salad
Picture from google
Ingredients
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 teaspoons olive
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Tiny pinch of organic sugar (optional)
coarse salt and ground pepper
5 celery stalks, ends tripped and sliced 1/2 inch diagonally
1 cup torn celery leaves (if not available one can use parsley)
1/4 cup chopped sweet onion
1/4 cup finely chopped bell pepper (can use green, yellow or red or  as you please)
Directions
In a large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, oil and mustard and very tiny pinch of organic sugar;  season with salt and pepper.   Add celery, celery leaves, peppers and onions, toss to combine.
Serve at room temperature or chilled.
Low carbs and calories.
Advertisements

Pumpkin patch

Worried about where to store all your fall produce?

Believe it or not, the first frost is approaching and it is time to think about bringing in that bumper crop. Specifically speaking, it is time to think about storing that bumper crop. If you’re like me, you plant a large fall crop to enjoy all winter long. Where and how you store that crop is crucial.

Ideal Storage Conditions

The ideal storage conditions for your harvest varies from crop to crop. In general, crops prefer temperature regulated storage at a certain humidity. Unheated basements, refrigerators, or root cellars all make excellent storage facilities for crops that require cool, moist storage. Spare rooms are ideal for crops that require warmer temperatures

Freezing and canning are excellent alternatives to storing vegetables. Flash freezing preserves the flavor and nutrients of your harvest. Canning requires shelf space and time but once stored cans do not take up space in your fridge or freezer.

It is in your best interest to invest in a root cellar or additional freezer or refrigerator if you plan on storing a significant amount of food. Converting part of a basement into a root cellar is relatively simple. Regardless of the storage method you choose, be sure to select only vegetables harvested at peak maturity and in pristine condition.

Vegetable Varieties

Planting storage varieties helps preserve taste and quality. Storage carrots, for instance, keep better than varieties grown for fresh eating. Storage vegetables are more resistant to rot and bruising than their tender counterparts and are well worth the investment.

Root Crops

Root crops prefer cold, moist storage. Root cellars, refrigerators, or a garden pit all make excellent storage sites.

Beets

Fall beets are beautiful to behold. Keep their beauty and taste by harvesting after a few frosts. The benefit of a good beet, or a carrot, turnip, or parsnip, is that there is no urgency to the harvest. These vegetables store in the ground.

Fall is a busy time for many of us. If you can’t get the beet crop in after the first few frosts, mulch the beds with straw. Beets keep until the ground freezes completely. After harvest, wipe off excess soil and trim the tops to a half inch or so. Store your beets in perforated bags or packed in layers in a box, crate, or bin. Separate the layers with moist sand or peat moss.

Carrots

The storage requirements for carrots are the same as those for beets. Let them experience a few frosts before harvest and store them in cold, moist storage. Ideal temperatures are between 32 and 40 degrees with 90% to 95% humidity.

Carrots store well. They also undergo a chemical process during the cold, winter months that make them sweeter. Plant a storage variety for your kitchen and leave some fresh eating carrot varieties in the ground. Mulch them after a few frosts. Come early spring these carrots will be sweet and crunchy.

Tip: Cover your overwintered carrots with clear plastic in the early spring. This thaws the ground enough for some very early harvests.

Parsnips

Parsnips also overwinter. Harvest some in the fall after a few good frosts for winter consumption. This sweetens their flavor. Leave the rest in the ground until spring.

Potatoes

Potatoes enjoy cool temperatures and high humidity. Cellars and refrigerators offer appropriate conditions, as long as the potatoes are not exposed to light. Light stimulates sprouting. Be sure no potatoes are badly bruised or damaged as this will result in widespread rot.

Sweet Potatoes

Despite their name, sweet potatoes require very different storage facilities than regular potatoes. Their skin is delicate and bruises easily. Take care when harvesting and handling.

Sweet potatoes require a curing process before storage. Set them in a room or greenhouse at a temperature of 85 to 90 degrees for four to seven days. After that, store sweet potatoes in well-ventilated crates or sacks in a dark room at temperatures no lower than 55 degrees. 60 degrees is the ideal storage temperature for sweet potatoes.

Turnips

Store turnips the same way beets, carrots, and parsnips are stored. They too can be mulched until late fall.

Cole Crops

Broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, cauliflower, and collards all keep in the refrigerator. Most do not keep for as long as root crops and so freezing is the best alternative.

Broccoli

Broccoli keeps for a week in the fridge. Harvest your broccoli when the head is tight and green (or purple, depending on the variety). Store it in a perforated bag. As it does not keep for long, freeze the rest of the harvest for winter use.

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels sprouts last longer than broccoli and even withstand mild frosts, as long as they are harvested before the first big freeze. They last up to three weeks in the fridge in perforated storage bags.

Cabbage

Cabbage is the exception to the cole storage rules. Cabbages easily last months in the refrigerator or root cellar. Don’t be alarmed if the cabbage starts to look mildewy or wilted. Peel away the outer leaves when you are ready to cook. The inside of the cabbage retains its freshness.

Cabbages store well when covered with moist soil. This author has also observed that cabbages do fine stacked in a single layer with some air circulation in a root cellar, although this is not ideal. Just be wary about where you store your cabbage. This crop has a particularly strong smell and can affect the taste of other vegetables.

Cauliflower

Cauliflower lasts two weeks in the fridge in perforated bags. As with broccoli, store the surplus for later enjoyment.

Collards, Spinach, and Kale

Harvest and wash collards, spinach, and kale, then place in the fridge in perforated bags or another breathable container. They last about two weeks.

Squash

Squash are similar to sweet potatoes in their storage needs. Cure squash the same way you cure sweet potatoes. This heals minor surface wounds and helps the crop develop a thick skin. Cure squash and pumpkins at 80 to 85 degrees for ten days. Store at temperatures between 50 and 55 degrees. Be sure to keep the crop dry as moisture leads to rot. Proper air circulation is helpful.

Learning proper storage techniques only takes a few minutes and can preserve your harvest longer. Store your fall vegetables at the appropriate temperature and humidity. This ensures fresh, healthy vegetables on your table all winter long.

How to Make Fruit & Vegetable Powder

Go to…………………. 21stcenturysimpleliving.com for referenced articles  within this posting

Powders-Processes Collage

There are several schools of thought as to the best way to make powders. I will list the three methods I use and allow you to judge for yourself which works best for you.. Dehydrate the food item according to specifications given until it passes the “clink test.” Many foods should snap when you break them, and you can check them by dropping onto a table. If they make a clinking sound, you have sufficiently removed the moisture.

Preparing Your Food for Dehydrating

Time for me to climb up on my soapbox because I feel I cannot over-stress this step. It is important, regardless of the source of your produce, to wash it thoroughly. In today’s world our produce can be sprayed and coated, shellacked, and plasticized prior to purchase. And with the recent food-borne outbreaks related to produce, consumers have heightened concerns over the safety of fresh produce.

Even if your produce is organic in origin, do not take a shortcut here for safety’s sake because your produce can still harbor bacteria and fungi. Growing your own organic vegetables is optimal, but understand that even these have been linked to a number of E. coli outbreaks in areas of contaminated ground water. Erring on the side of safety will never make you sick.

Additionally, there are many avenues of contamination in getting your produce to the stores, especially in the packing plants themselves. Recently, the headlines have been full of recalls and warnings on this matter. To learn more, check out this article by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), The Food Production Chain – How Food Gets Contaminated.

A simple fruit & vegetable washing solution utilizing the acetic acid in white vinegar will help to wash off soil debris and most contaminants that may be lurking on your produce.

Vinegar Wash Collage

  1. In your sink, a washing basin or large bowl, make a solution of 1 part white vinegar & 3 parts room temperature water AFTER you have thoroughly scrubbed the container to make sure it doesn’t harbor anything that often lurks in a kitchen. Research has shown that 3-parts water to 1-part vinegar is most effective, removing 98% of contaminants. Trim off any damaged, bruised, or browned areas.
  2. Place your room temperature fruits and vegetables into the wash. By keeping the solution and vegetables near the same temperature, you reduce the risk of shock to certain soft-skinned fruits and vegetables. Temperature shock can cause pores in the skins to intake more of the dirty water, and thus more of the chemicals you are trying to remove.
  3. Allow fruits and vegetables to soak for ten minutes. Rinse the vegetables thoroughly scrubbing all root vegetables well.
    • For produce like potatoes, turnips, carrots, apples, cucumbers, and the like, wash well, and use a firm scrub brush to remove wax and bacteria. If you’re concerned, peel off the skin.
    • You may think that a cantaloupe or a lemon, for example, doesn’t need to be washed, but whatever is on the outer skin can be transferred to the fruit when you cut into it. Wash these just as you would apples and carrots.
  4. Pat produce with toweling. Air dry on a towel or sanitized counter.

Pretreatments Before Dehydrating

Peeling is a matter of personal preference for the most part. Since most of a vegetable’s nutrients are nearer to the skin, I prefer to leave the food unpeeled when I can. As long as your produce is washed correctly and bad spots have been removed, there should be no problem with leaving the skins on.

Check the Dehydrator InfoGraphic Charts for any special pre-treatments for the produce you are drying. Some skins, like the skins of blueberries, will need to be pricked before drying. Aesthetics, in the case of powdering, does not apply here.

Some of your produce will need to be blanched in boiling water. I Use my stainless steel colander in a pot with the same circumference so that I can minimize my time over the steaming pot. This only takes a few minutes. This process preserves the color of the produce.

After blanching, have your sink ready with very cold water. Plunge your produce into the cold bath. This immediately stops the cooking process from the blanching.


Now it is time to choose your method of drying to achieve the resulting powders. In the Dehydrator InfoGraphic Charts, there are listed which method(s) worked best for me for the various produce, but please feel free to choose whichever makes you most comfortable. The notes at the beginning of each method will help you to further determine what method may work for you.

Method #1: Raw Food Processing

Powder-Method1 Collage

Powders from herbs, spices, and flowers: These items do not need to be cooked, shredded or pureed before dehydrating. Roots, on the other hand, benefit from further processing because of their hardness.

Mushrooms should not be cooked either so this is the method to use. Mushrooms should just be sliced for processing.

If you are processing smaller mushrooms or items like strawberries, an egg slicer makes quick work of the cutting and gives you even slices that will dehydrate well.

  1. Clean the items selected for dehydration as described in the section Preparing Your Food for Dehydrating.
  2. Shred rather than chop if you are preparing vegetables such as carrots or other roots. Shredded vegetable matter is far easier than hard chunks to grind into powder. Unless you are processing something like mushrooms, leafy vegetables, herbs, etc. shredding makes processing much easier.
  3. Spread the shreds onto a lined dehydrator tray. Dry until brittle at the recommended temperature.
  4. When dehydration is complete, allow the shreds to cool before moving on to the next step, Grinding Dehydrated Produce into Powders.

Method #2: Raw Food Processing-Puree

Powder-Method2 Collage

Food processors are best for most foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts, and grains). They are also good for shredding foods prior to puréeing.

Fruit does not need to be cooked before dehydration when making powders, so this is the puree method you would use and is the easiest method I have found to process into powder.

  1. Clean the items selected for dehydration as described in the section Preparing Your Food for Dehydrating.
  2. For harder produce, such as carrots, it is best to take the additional step of shredding first. This makes it easier to puree and is less difficult for your food processor to handle. Use your shredder blade to facilitate the
  3. Switch to a chopping/mixing blade and process items in the food processor until they are fine and homogeneous in texture. For fruits you can use an immersion blender to purée.
  4. If the purée is too thick or too thin, take the necessary steps to get the purée to the proper consistency.
  • If too thick: Add measured amounts of hot liquid for cooked foods and cold liquid for cold Add small amounts at a time so as not to make the purée too thin. Reprocess until purée is of a smooth consistency.
  • If too thin: Measure and add commercial thickener or natural food thickener (see below). Add small amounts at a time so as not to make the purée too thick. Reprocess until purée is of a smooth consistency.
  1. Spread the puree onto a lined dehydrator tray. Use ParaFlexx sheets or baking paper to line your trays. Scoring the purée into squares makes it easier to break it up when it is dry. Dry until brittle at the recommended temperature.
  2. When dehydration is complete, allow the puree to cool before breaking up and moving on to the next step, Grinding Dehydrated Produce into Powders.

Method #3: Pureed Cooked Foods

Powders-Method3 Collage

Important note about baby foods: If you are going to make vegetable and fruit powders with the intent of using them for baby food, the produce you use MUST be cooked until very tender before dehydration even if it is indicated that cooking is not necessary. Do not add anything to your produce; no oils, sugars, salts, or herbs/spices. Babies cannot handle these additives and the food must be broken down for their delicate digestive system.

  1. Clean the items selected for dehydration as described in the section Preparing Your Food for Dehydrating.
  2. Boil, steam, roast, or bake produce as indicted on the Dehydrator Charts. Do NOT use any oils in the cooking of your fruits and vegetables.
  3. Remove any skins, seeds, and unhealthy spots on the produce. Sometimes you are just able to scoop out the pulp from the produce.
  4. Mash the pulp until it is of a smooth consistency with a fork, food processor, or immersion blender.
  5. If the purée is too thick or too thin, take the necessary steps to obtain the proper consistency.
  • If too thick: Add measured amounts of hot liquid for cooked foods and cold liquid for cold Add small amounts at a time so as not to make the purée too thin. Reprocess until purée is of a smooth consistency.
  • If too thin: Measure and add commercial thickener or natural food thickener (for example, ClearJel or arrowroot powder). Add small amounts at a time so as not to make the purée too thick. Reprocess until purée is of a smooth consistency.
  1. Spread the purée onto a lined dehydrator tray. Use ParaFlexx sheets or baking paper to line your trays. Scoring the purée into squares makes it easier to break it up when it is dry. Dry until brittle at the recommended temperature.
  2. When dehydration is complete, allow the puree to cool before breaking up and moving on to the next step, Grinding Dehydrated Produce into Powders.

Grinding Dehydrated Produce into Powders

Powders-Grinding Collage

  1. Once thoroughly cooled, simply pulverize the food in a coffee/spice grinder or, if you don’t own a grinder, in your blender or other high powered appliance like a Bullet. You want to grind them enough to achieve a powdered consistency between white sugar and white flour. I finally broke down and stopped buying the little $10 grinders. I now have a Cuisinart DCG-12BC Grind Central Coffee Grinder and am very pleased with the larger capacity and the better grind.
  2. You may find it useful to shake the material from the grinder through a sieve. Put the larger pieces left behind through a second grind or store them in a jar for adding too foods as flakes.
  3. Store in sealed, airtight containers away from heat and light according to the directions in the section How to Store Your Powders.

How to Store Your Powders

Powders-Storage Collage

For immediate use: Place the powder in an adequate size mason jar with an oxygen absorber and store away from heat, steam, and light. Adding a few grains of rice will help to keep it from clumping. You can also add a bit of arrowroot powder as a natural anti-caking agent.

Long term storage: Store the powdered vegetable in vacuum sealed bags for long term food storage, and Mylar bags with an oxygen absorber will help eliminate the light and other variables. I usually store the shreds themselves in long-term storage and grind when I am ready to refill my jars for short- term storage.

Storage Options

  • Stored in a spice jar or a Mason jar, powders will last about 6 months.
  • Stored in a Mason jar with an oxygen pack, powders will last up to a year.
  • Vacuum sealed with an oxygen pack, then double-bagged in Mylar and stored in a cool, dry place, powders will last five years or more. When stored like this, the powder can become compacted. If it does, just sift, re-blend, or grind again before using.
  • As my friend Ted pointed out, “It is worth noting that if you vacuum seal the dehydrated foods without first grinding, the shelf life is extended, and you have more flexibility. I say the shelf life is extended because I’ve read on some dehydrator manufacturer’s site that dehydrated cabbage and onions and similar vegetables will last for 6 – 10 years when processed in recommended sizes. Powdering radically increases the surface area, which is why powders have so much punch, but that larger surface area also allows for more oxidization and more surface area for pathogens to attack and thrive on. And in the case of dehydrated pastes I leave it in large flakes before vacuum bagging, for the same reason. I can always open a bag or two and blend/pestle and mortar it as needed and store the remnants in jars for imminent use.”
Slow Cooker Meals Collage

My slow cookers (I have two) have become my favorite way to cook a one-pot meal. I have prepared everything from chili to a roasted turkey to “baked goods” in these little gems of low-maintenance versatility. I especially like using my slow cooker this time of year because it doesn’t heat up the house. For the most part, a slow cooker allows you to “set it and forget it” freeing you up to handle the business of going about your day.

What worked for me when I was beginning my adventure into slow cooking was taking some of my tried-and-true recipes that my family was familiar with and just converting them to work in the crock pot. Almost any recipe that bakes in the oven or simmers on the stovetop can be converted for your slow cooker. Chili is perfect for the crock pot as are most soups, stews and casseroles. Believe it or not, it is not as difficult as you might think! Just a few basic pointers I have learned will move you on your way.

MEAT: Cooking with a slow cooker helps penetrate meat with intense flavors. Browning beef and pork really helps with sealing in the flavor. A roasted chicken or a nice beef pot roast actually tastes better slowly cooked. Leftover cooked chicken breasts, beef roast, or pork loin all work too!

LIQUIDS: You will need less liquid on meals that are intended to “thicken”. Reduce the amount of liquid the recipe calls for by about half. The slow cooking process will produce more liquid that won’t get boiled away. If the recipe does not include liquid or sauce of any kind, you should add 1/2 cup of water or other liquid because moisture is needed to produce steam for the slow cooker to reach the appropriate cooking temperatures. At the end of cooking, if there seems to be too much liquid, remove the lid and turn the pot up to high, allowing some of the liquid to cook out.

COOKING TIMES: If the original cooking time was about an hour, I usually cook for 4-6 hours on HIGH in the slow cooker, and definitely no more than 6 hours (usually pasta casseroles, quick creamed soups, chicken or seafood dishes, and vegetarian dishes). If the original recipe was for more than an hour, then the recipe often does well when cooked for 8-10 hours or more on LOW (like meat braises and slow-simmered stews like chili). Dishes that do not require long cooking times work best on the LOW setting for 3-5 hours.

VEGETABLES: Vegetables are ingredients I had to play around with. I found, for me, that sautéing my onions and garlic first worked better to distribute the flavors throughout the dish when slow cooking. Root veggies just need to be uniformly cut up and thrown in. Vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower can handle a few hours of cooking. Add them at the beginning when cooking a dish for 4-6 hours or add them in the middle when cooking something longer. Quick-cooking vegetables like peas, corn, spinach, and other greens should only be added to the slow cooker in the last half hour (spinach/greens) to last hour (corn/peas) of cooking. If you are not cooking down tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms, or summer squash and want your dish chunky, these vegetables should also be added towards the end of the cooking time.

OTHER INGREDIENTS: Recipes for soup and stew containing milk, cheese, or other dairy products, should have these ingredients added in the last 30 to 60 minutes of cooking time. To avoid rice and pasta from becoming sticky, cook them on the stovetop and add in at the end of the cooking time just long enough to be heated through. If you’d like to thicken or enrich the sauce, stir in cream, sour cream, shredded cheese, or a mixture of cornstarch and cold water. And don’t forget to add flavors with salt and pepper, lemon juice or vinegar, and a handful of fresh chopped parsley, basil, cilantro or a lovely homemade herb/spice blend.

%d bloggers like this: