Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Judah/Andrew/family update

We need a post about the boys!

The last post about them was for Andrew's first birthday in October. And we're already nearing the 15 month mark (Jan 22). In between then and now, there was hunting in early November, and an early Christmas present from Ohio grandparents: a jeep!

Thanksgiving Day, 2010. At Great Grandma's.
Just before Christmas, my brother Tyler came to visit. He helped butcher chickens. We also went sledding on the only hill in the area, Bemis Hill, which is in a state forest. Boy was it cold out!... But what am I saying?! It's still cold out! I think the high today is supposed to be -6 degrees Fahrenheit!
Here, Judah just opened a present from Grandma Linda and Grandpa Allan... it's a Fishing Game! The picture is a little blurry... it was hard to keep Judah still.
Andrew likes to look at books.
Sledding...we all fit!
Andrew's expression at Tyler makes me laugh.
Judah likes helping me hang up clothes on our indoor clothesline.
We opened Christmas presents on the 23rd, as we had Christmas Eve service with our church on the 24th at our house. Judah got Star Wars underwear, pretty exciting.
Andrew wasn't nearly as excited about opening gifts as Judah was.
Andrew holding a book I got...hmm, is it any coincidence it's about stain removal? ;-)
Christmas Eve meal: Lutefisk, Lefse, Rommegrot, peas, mashed potatoes.
Christmas Day at Great Grandma's. After this we traveled to Iowa.
Then we arrived in Iowa on Saturday night. Next morning we opened gifts, went to church, then had a family gathering.
Andrew got a new bib!
Musical entertainment at Great Grandpa and Grandma Armbrecht's...
Then after a few days in Iowa, it was to time to start on our way back home, but not without a stop to Mankato!

And now we have mid-winter cabin fever.

Judah found Daddy's toy crossbow... he's pretty good! Andrew would run and get the balls.
He's not always happy, see?
Andrew is "flying Lutheran"... see the words on the plane by Grandpa Merseth?
And that should catch you up to now! We're all happy and healthy. The boys love going outside in the snow, although the bundling up and bundling down time usually takes longer than the actual outside time, since it's so cold! We are still enjoying our log cabin, though I need to be diligent about keeping wood in the stove, especially now that Jeff is at work during the day, and even putting in overtime. He's been leaving at 5am to get to Polaris by 5:30 to work until 3:30. It's a long day that leaves him exhausted. He's supposed to move to 2nd shift in a week or two. Oh, and we need to find another place to have church at, now that we can no longer use the Roseau Electric Cooperative. Until we find a place in Roseau, we'll be having church at our house. Never a dull moment!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Orange Cake recipe

We got some citrus in bulk back in December, and now we're hurrying to get it eaten up. So I was looking for ways to use up some oranges, and I came across this recipe in Nourishing Traditions, which calls for the juice and rind from two lemons and two oranges. While it was a little putsy to grate the rinds off four citrus (hey, a little physical activity never hurt anybody), the results were quite tasty. Waiting for this cake also takes patience. I
t took one day to soak the flour, letting the cake cool overnight, and then waiting another 24 hours (at least) to let the juice soak into the cake before it was ready to eat. But it was so wonderfully moist and had such a pleasant citrus taste.

Orange Cake
from Nourishing Traditions, my adaptations and comments in parentheses

2 1/2 c. freshly ground and sifted spelt, kamut or whole wheat flour (the flour I used wasn't freshly ground, but I get it from an organic mill in the area, and they grind flour fresh and then we keep in cold, so until I can afford a grain grinder, this will have to suffice)
1 c. piima cream or creme fraiche (I only had kefir, so that's what I used)
1 c. whole plain yoghurt (this I did have!)
1/2 c. water
1 c. butter, softened
1 1/4 c. Rapadura (This is the commercial name for dehydrated cane sugar juice. I don't have that brand name, but I did use some organic cane sugar, processed in the same manner. And actually, I only used 1 c. I usually go on the skimpy side of sweeteners, because I don't like things too sweet.)
2 eggs (from our chickens, of course!)
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. sea salt
1 t. vanilla extract
grated rind of 2 oranges and 2 lemons (if these aren't organic, make sure you scrub the waxy coating off the rind. Yuck.)
1 c. crispy pecans, finely chopped (I didn't have any, so I used finely chopped crispy cashews. I put them in my food processor and grated them just long enough to powder them. Any longer would've made them into a nut butter!)
juice of 2 oranges and 2 lemons
1/4 c. of whey (I made some by straining some kefir.)
1/2 c. raw honey (I only used 1/4 c.)
1/4 c. of brandy or dry sherry (this is optional, and I didn't use it because I didn't have any)

This delicious cake incorporates the principles of both lacto-fermentation and enzyme nutrition. The flour is soaked in cultured cream and yoghurt and, after cooking, the cake is soaked for another day or so in a mixture of oranges juice, lemon juice, raw honey, whey and brandy or sherry. This imparts enzymes to the cake along with flavor and moistness.

Mix flour with yoghurt, cultured cream and water. Cover and leave in a a warm place for 12 to 24 hours. (I started the soaking process mid-afternoon on Day 1.)

(Evening of Day 2.) Cream butter with Rapadura and eggs. Beat in baking soda, salt, vanilla and grated rind. Gradually incorporate the soaked flour and fold in the nuts. Pour batter into a well-buttered and floured fluted bundt pan or angel food cake pan. (I used an angel food cake pan.) Bake at 300 degrees for 1 1/2 hours or more, or until toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool. (overnight)

(Midmorning of Day 3.) Place lemon juice, orange juice, honey, whey and optional sherry or brandy in a container and set in simmering water until honey is dissolved. Slowly pour this mixture over the cake until the liquid is absorbed. Cover with a towel and leave at room temperature for 1 or 2 days. (Cake will look like it's swimming in liquid, that's okay, it will soak in eventually.)

(Noon of Day 4, liquid had soaked in and I was ready to eat!) To serve, loosen sides with a knife. Turn over onto a serving plate and tap pan until cake falls out.

This cake was moist and tasty, though the 3-year-old didn't seem to like it... he said it was "tough." I wonder if he got a piece of nut that he wasn't expecting. From the picture, you may be tempted to frost the cake, but I'd say resist the temptation, it doesn't need it! Also, I was glad that I skimped on the sweetener, I liked it, and so did my husband. If you are used to sweeter things, you may want to use the full amount.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Home-cured Corned Beef by me

We had this big beef brisket from last year (I wish I'd taken a picture of it, it was probably 18-24 inches long!) that we'd been saving for the purpose of making home-cured corned beef, after I'd seen a post on the Nourished Kitchen blog about it.

You can follow her instructions on there, or there is a recipe in Nourishing Traditions, as well. I followed both...yeah, it's usually hard to pin me down to one recipe. In the NK's recipe, it talks about curing the meat in the fridge. But I cured the meat for 3 days on the counter at room temperature, as it says to do in NT. I know, that would give most people pause... you did WHAT with raw meat? But the presence of whey, in which the meat was totally submersed, helps to combat bad bacteria that would cause the meat to spoil. I put a plate on top of meat with a glass jar filled with water, and a couple other heavy things on it to make sure it was pushed underneath the liquid.

I didn't have access to celery juice, as recommended, but I did substitute whey, for a total of 4 c. of whey mixed with water to submerge the meat, salt, and whatever mixture of pickling spices I had on hand... I believe it was green and black peppercorns, slightly crushed bay leaves, mustard seeds, coriander, and a pinch or two of clove powder.

I rubbed the meat with the spice/salt mixture, then rolled up the meat as best as I could and tied it with cotton meat twine. I asked for the cotton meat twine for purchase at the supermarket, and the meat counter guy gave me about 6' of twine for free! How nice!

Then I wrapped the meat with a dish towel, instead of cheese cloth. Next time I'll actually purchase cheese cloth, or not use a cloth at all. The towel held air in, which created a bubble, and made it more awkward to work with.

I used one of my crocks!

The flavor was awesome! This cut of meat is a little tougher, so it would probably work best to cook it in the slow cooker. But we actually did eat some of this meat raw, the boys couldn't get enough! We also love having corned beef hash. We grind up the meat in the food processor to make it a little easier to eat--it is pretty chewy.

The husband sliced it real thin, and we put several small packages in the freezer to pull out later.

It was actually much easier to do than I thought, and I wonder why it took me so long. Most of the time, I'm fighting with my own inertia!

New Year Goals for 2011

Yeah, it seems like everyone is setting goals. So I figured it wouldn't hurt that I do the same.

Last year, one of my goals was to learn how to bake with sourdough. I think I did a pretty good job with that, considering I now use sourdough several times a week, sometimes more, between bread, crackers, pancakes or waffles, bagels, noodles, english muffins, pizza, pitas, cookies, cakes. And it helps me plan ahead a little, too, because it requires me to start it the night before, usually.

So this year, what do I want to accomplish?

1. Do more cooking with eggs. For Christmas, I got a small cookbook with the basics (not just on eggs, but on all sorts of cooking tidbits) by Julia Child. I even made one of the recipes tonight, it was a corn timbale... basically a savory custard with corn in it. It was so good (even though I forgot the bread crumbs), that even Jeff was saying, "Hey this is so good, you could showcase this when people come over." He also said that about a souffle I made, also a great dish!! Not only are eggs just plain tasty, eggs from hens that are fed a good diet are fabulously good for you. And that ties in with number 2....

2. Learn more about chickens. And I mean from start (ordering and raising) to finish (butchering), and everything in between (feeding and growing). We plan to be doing more with chickens this year, hoping to raise some more broilers, hopefully for resale. And if we have enough extra eggs from our up-and-coming laying hens, then maybe we can sell some, too. We will be having a lot of extra eggs, so I'll be able to more easily do nutrient-dense dishes with eggs. We've (and by we, I really mean Jeff) already been giving special feed to the chickens that Jeff has formulated and mixed himself. The goal is to not give them any soy. Even the basic laying mash that you buy from the co-op usually has soy in it. (Remember, I have a soy sensitivity?) So even if you see people selling "farm fresh eggs", that doesn't necessarily speak to the quality of the eggs. They're just maybe fresher than the ones you buy in the store. We prefer to pasture our hens, but it's sort of hard when it's -20 degrees Fahrenheit. Did you know chickens are omnivores? They go crazy for meat, it's so funny to watch them.

3. Do more home-cured meat. I started with this a little already by doing my home-cured corned beef, which I have yet to post about. I can't wait to try more experiments.

4. Do more advance planning for a garden. Last year we were late getting up here and had limited resources, but thanks to being able to garden at Jeff's grandma's we were able to still have quite a garden haul. I don't know how much advance planning I'll be able to do, because, as you may remember, we are renting this place, and therefore we are also hoping to find a more permanent locale, so this goal may or may not be fulfilled. But we'll have a garden somewhere.

5. Do more with "wild" food. Have you ever heard of Nettles? Stinging nettles? You know those annoying plants that grow everywhere and hurt like the dickens if you touch them? Did you know they are really good for you, vitamins, minerals and such?! I have some recipes for things such as nettle soup and nettle tea. If I get really brave I may even try a mushroom or two, but I need to find someone who can show me how to find the right ones. There are also weeds everywhere that can be used for food, you just have to know what you're looking for.

6. Learn about homeschooling. I would love to homeschool Judah, but I haven't buckled down and done the research yet. And I'd like to start doing something this fall when Judah turns 4. We'll see if I'm made of the right stuff!

So those are my big personal goals for the year. There, I'm glad I got that off my chest. :-)