A week ago Saturday, I was in the kitchen considering what kind of dinner I could make with the ingredients I had on hand while simultaneously ruminating over fellow bloggers who were suddenly disappearing into the mysterious landscape that lies off the grid (see last post). Interestingly this combination thought process spontaneously resulted not only in my cooking up a new lentil soup recipe but also in venturing into cooking it very efficiently in our living room!
One of my favorite cookbooks of the last six months or so is Eating Off the Grid, Storing and Cooking Foods Without Electricity. (You can get this cookbook on Amazon via the link below but I frankly found it more cheaply at USA Emergency Supply.) It has a very useful array of simple recipes across twelve categories together with interesting historical information, menu plans, nutritional information and other practical information for off grid living with regards to food.
Anyway, I decided to try one of her lentil soups I hadn’t tried before AND to try cooking it in a way she mentions which I haven’t done before. Both were great successes. I will first give the very simple cooking explanation for cooking in an insulated box followed by the recipe.
COOKING INDOORS USING AN INSULATED BOX
(Please view the video linked at the bottom of the post for visuals for all of this.)
I have used this method with great results now with soup, beans and grain. In a heavy bottomed pot with a tight fitting lid, start cooking your dish in the usual manner. Bring it to a boil, put on the cover and cook at a fairly high boil for about 15 minutes. I adjust the heat here depending upon what I am cooking and how big the pot is.
In the living room (and this is simply because it was the only nearby spot I could find that wouldn’t be in the way), I set up a laundry basket. In the laundry basket is an unzipped twin size sleeping bag with the center of the sleeping bag squashed down into the laundry basket. Inside that I put a travel blanket that used to be in the car. Inside that is an old bath sheet (you know those giant bath towels?). At the bottom of all of this I put a flat, stable hot plate.
After the lentil soup boiled for 15 minutes, I carried the pot into the living room and set it into its insulated box. I wrapped the towel around it and then the blanket under it. I then wrapped another heavy cotton blanket around it all from the top and tucked that it all around but inside of the sleeping bag. Then I wrapped the sleeping bag up all around the whole thing. The sleeping bag is nylon so I was careful to have only cotton blankets and towels actually touching the pot. Nylon would melt.
About three hours later my husband unwrapped the pot for me and brought it into the kitchen. It was still so hot that steam was coming out of it and the lentil soup inside was perfectly cooked. And when I say perfectly cooked, I really mean perfectly cooked. This particular recipe has flour in it which could otherwise have easily burned but didn’t at all from being cooked this way. The lentils were soft but still held their shape and yet everything else was tender. It was kind of amazing to me.
The soup cooked up so beautifully (and it was such a balm to my soul to cook something mostly off the grid…) that I have since cooked up a big Dutch Oven full of fava beans and right now have a pot of barley cooking away in there. I can’t say this arrangement adds much to the decor of the living room at this point but it surely feels great to only use about 15 minutes worth of electricity to cook meals that usually cook on the stove top for hours.
Meanwhile, this particular lentil soup recipe turns out to be a nice addition to my repertoire of lentil soups. It is a bit different and a keeper.
NEW YEAR’S EVE LENTIL SOUP
Author Denise Hansen, MS, RD explains that it is a Greek and Italian tradition to eat lentils on New Year’s Eve to “assure prosperity and good fortune.” I figure we can use that any time of year!
This is my adjusted version which does not include soy bacon bits or beef bouillon. I also made it a bit thicker and tripled the recipe. I doubt many readers will want a recipe quite that size so I will try to scale it back a little. You are welcome to scale it back further or freeze the extra from this for another day.
1 large chopped onion
about a cup’s worth of frozen greens or the equivalent in fresh greens (the recipe suggests Swiss chard including diced stalks - I used mustard greens because that is what I had on hand)
oil for sauteing
1.5 cups flour
7 quarts water
2 or 3 potatoes, diced
3 cups lentils rinsed (and soaked if possible!)
5 tsp. salt
4 bay leaves
2 tsp. thyme
about 1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1. In a heavy bottomed stockpot, saute onion, greens and carrots in oil until soft.
2. Add the flour, stirring constantly to make a roux. Unbleached flour works best (she says notes this although I used Golden 86 for this kind of thing all the time).
3. Slowly add the water, stirring constantly. Then add the remaining ingredients.
4. Simmer for 2 - 3 hours. (Alternatively put boiling hot pot put into your insulated box and tuck it in for three hours or so.) The flavor improves with longer simmering. Just before serving, remove the bay leaves and add freshly ground pepper.
This soup is thick and saucy. It also makes great leftovers. We ate this soup for a couple of days plus over a week later we are still enthusiastically using our insulated box for long cooking. Try it - it is extremely easy and is just plain common sense once you start to think about it. Besides, if you happen to have a large family and just a regular smallish stove like I do, it frees up a burner. We are so taken with this recipe that I have added it to my menu plan and we are so taken with this form of cooking that we made a video about it to inspire you. Enjoy both!
From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,
We are eating lots of oatmeal around here these days for “first breakfast”. I have a good supply of oat groats at the moment and our ten year old has become adept at all of the evening-before preparations. He rolls the oats, puts them in a bowl and adds the soak water. I add a few spoons of whey and a bit of salt and cover the bowl. Next morning I boil some water in the bottom of a stockpot, add the soaked oats and stir. I add water over and over as the oats thicken and come almost-but-not-quite to a boil until the entire pot full is the desired thickness. This cooking part of the process only takes a few minutes and then there is a big pot of hot oatmeal ready for anyone who wants or needs it.
Next step is to continue reinforcement of the fact that real oatmeal eaters do NOT eat it sweet! The Scots did not eat it sweet and John Seymour notes somewhere that eating oatmeal with sugar is a travesty. Good enough for me and, therefore, good enough for my family. (Personally I think eating almost anything sweet for breakfast is a travesty to the body so I have been moving the breakfast menu away from anything requiring sugar or syrup for quite a while now.) Actually eating oatmeal that is swimming in melting farm fresh butter and salt and pepper is delicious. I also find tamari delicious. Try it. I mean, what grain isn’t good with butter and some form of salt?
Anyway, we make so much oatmeal at a time that there is always a lot leftover. I can reheat it for breakfast the next day. I often add some to bread which seems to give it a wonderful rise and tenderness. I also make savory oatcakes out of the leftover oatmeal which are a particular favorite around here. What with oatmeal being the blank canvas that it is, you can flavor these in lots of ways. Here is how I made them yesterday morning:
Cool or cold leftover oatmeal
Basil or other herbs
1. Take leftover oatmeal out of the refrigerator or cool shelf. It will likely be nice and stiff which helps in the oatcake making. Put into a large bowl.
2. Saute chopped onion in a cast iron frying pan until fragrant and brown. Towards the end of the sauteing, add sunflower seeds and tamari. Stir and fry until the whole thing is redolent with juicy brown fragrance and everyone is going crazy waiting to eat it. Allowing them to hover around the stove or not is a personal decision.
3. Add to the oatmeal in the bowl and stir thoroughly.
4. Add enough eggs to give some binding to the mixture. Yesterday for about 8 cups or more of oatmeal, I added 4 eggs. Stir thoroughly once again.
5. Add enough flour (I used freshly ground whole wheat flour) to make the mixture stiff enough to hold together on the griddle. I have no idea how much I used … maybe about 4 cups of flour. Maybe a bit more.
6. Add basil, salt (I added two rounded tsp. of salt to my batch), and nutritional yeast to taste. Be generous with your flavoring agents as oatmeal can absorb a lot of flavoring due to its mild nature. You can easily taste it right out of the bowl in order to add more of this and that as needed, by the way, because it will taste pretty much the same cooked as it does now.
7. Fry by the mixing spoon full (maybe about 1/4 cup at a time) on a buttered cast iron griddle on medium high heat. Don’t make them too big or they will fall apart when you flip them. If you fry them just right, you can get a lovely crust on the outer surface while the middle remains creamy and hot.
Serve these by the plateful with dollops of sour cream or kefir mascarpone cheese on top. We are particularly fond of the latter. Various chutneys or fermented veggies would also be delicious and healthy with these savory oatcakes. Oatcakes are a great way to start the day plus they make delicious snacks, hot or cold. You can also build them into tall, filling sandwiches full of bits of this and that.
Savory oatcakes are a yummy and easy to make comfort food for the cold, inward days of the winter season. They can be adjusted and flavored in myriad ways and they are fun to make. Plus they add variety to the oats part of the menu. We love them and will probably invent many more variations with time.
It occurs to me now that I should have taken a photo to add here but the family ate them too fast for the shenanigans of picture taking. Perhaps next time.
From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,
I wrote recently about my discovery that there are many flat bread recipes out there in the world and noted how we just may especially need those recipes as the percentage of protein in wheat continues to fall.
Last weekend we had a resoundingly successful Italian meal of Lentil Chestnut Soup and Fried Ricotta Flat Bread with Parsley Garlic Sauce. My husband loved it. The children loved it. They couldn’t wait to eat the leftovers. It was wonderful
Catherine at Albion Cooks apparently adapted the Lentil Chestnut Soup from a Deborah Madison lentil chestnut soup recipe. I don’t have the soup cookbook of Deborah Madison’s and I had all the ingredients on hand that Catherine used so we cooked it up. My husband pulled a bag of chestnuts from the freezer and shelled and boiled them for me. The rest of the soup was really easy to make. By the way, you don’t have to have your own chestnuts. She calls for canned chestnuts in her recipe. I think of this soup as being somewhat Italian, by the way, because chestnuts are an ancient part of the Italian diet (and landscape).
Then I made the Fried Ricotta Flat Bread. As I am accustomed to making tortillas and chapattis, I found these easy to make. The only difference is in the ingredients of the dough. This dough is very rich with the addition of ricotta cheese (freshly made in our case), egg yolks and milk. You mix the dough, let it rest and roll out thin rounds just like with tortillas or chapattis. However, you fry these breads. I virtually never deep fry anything so having a fried food is an occasion here in this house. I rolled out the breads and Paul cooked them in the oil. They puffed up beautifully and were golden brown.
There is a parsley sauce or salsa verde to go with these ricotta flat breads that is not to be missed. It consists mostly of finely chopped Italian parsley and fresh garlic together with a few other ingredients. The recipe calls for anchovies which we don’t eat. I just left them out but added a little extra salt. Next time I make this, I hope I will have some capers on hand. We love capers (which are pickled flower buds by the way) and they will add some of that pungent flavor and earthy saltiness that the anchovies must add.
This parsley sauce is called salsa verde, means green sauce in Italian. Green sauces were an entire category centuries ago, are generally uncooked, varied by adding anchovies and/capers to taste. People use to accompany it with boiled and poached dishes, but the new Italian cooking seems not to be rigid with it. Anyway, serving it with this bread is suggested by Sale & Pepe - Grandi Fritti all’ Italian, I tried it, and I liked it.
A whole category of green sauces is something I would like to learn more about! In any case, this parsley sauce was delicious and positively medicinal with the amount of garlic that was in it. Interestingly, the children loved it. I should have made a bigger batch, in fact.
The flat bread itself was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. It had a pastry-like quality to it which together with the earthiness of the soup and the intense green garlicky-ness of the sauce made for a satisfying combination. In fact, Paul served the children some of the flat breads sprinkled with cinnamon sugar for dessert.
One great aspect of this meal is that it easily transitioned into leftovers. We are intent on making larger portions on Friday or Saturday so that I can cook less on Sunday and enjoy a bit more Sunday-ness, if you know what I mean. The Lentil Chestnut soup recipe is easily doubled or tripled and stores in the refrigerator well. I made a quadruple batch of the fried ricotta flat bread recipe which Paul encouraged me to try splitting in two and storing half in the frig to roll out the next day. I did this and it worked very well. I am glad he suggested it as it was wonderful having those hot, rich flat breads one more time.
The end result was a nourishing meal full of new tastes which everyone was delighted to enjoy two days in a row.
Boy, I can’t wait to learn about another new flat bread! This one really added a new dimension for us (which is kind of funny because it is flat!). More to come …
From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,
Until fairly recently, knowing how to ferment food was considered a time honored and critical skill in homesteads and kitchens all over the world. It was a craft that preserved food, strengthened health, gave a scope for creativity and experimentation and provided an avenue for working symbiotically with nature. More and more people these days are maintaining that the complete absence of real fermented food in our diet has undermined our health dramatically. Some even say that introducing fermented foods into your diet is the first step to take towards improved health even before taking vitamins and so on. Please find here a brief introduction to the benefits of lacto-fermented foods, a simple recipe for making sauerkraut yourself, links for more online information, links to books for really in-depth information and down at the very bottom of this post, links to videos of us making this sauerkraut ourselves.
I think that, therefore, having some ability with the artisanal craft of fermenting food will be a critical skill in tomorrow’s kitchens as well. Here is another instance where past pathways can lead us towards a healthier future more oriented towards relationships:
It may seem strange to us that in earlier times, people knew how to preserve vegetables for long periods without the use of freezers or canning machines. This was done through the process of lacto-fermentation. Lactic acid is a natural preservative which inhibits putrefying bacteria… These lactobacilli are ubiquitous, present on the surface of all living things, and especially numerous on the leaves and roots of plants growing in or near the ground. Man only needs to learn the techniques for controlling and encouraging their proliferation to put them to his own use, just as he has learned to put certain yeasts to use in converting the sugars in grape juice to alcohol in wine. Nourishing Traditions, p. 81
What are some of the advantages of fermenting basic foods?
The ancient Greeks understood that important chemical changes took place during this type of fermentation. Their name for it was “alchemy”. Like the fermentation of dairy products, preservation of vegetables and fruits by the process of lacto-fermentation has numerous advantages beyond those of simple preservation. The proliferation of lactobacilli in fermented vegetables enhances their digestibility and increases vitamin levels. These beneficial organisms produce numerous helpful enzymes as well as antibiotic and anti-carcinogenic substances. Their main by-product, lactic acid, not only keeps vegetables and fruits in a state of perfect preservation, but also promotes the growth of healthy flora throughout the intestine. Other alchemical by-products include hydrogen peroxide, a potent blood and tissue oxygenator, and small amounts of benzoic acid. Nourishing Traditions, p. 81
What is available to us today in grocery stores?
Unfortunately, fermented foods have largely disappeared from the Western diet, much to the detriment of our health and economy. Fermented foods are a powerful aid to digestion and a protection against disease. And because fermentation is, by nature, an artisanal process, the disappearance of fermented foods has hastened the centralization and industrialization of our food supply, to the detriment of small farms and local economies. Wild Fermentation, p. XI
Lacto-fermentation is an artisanal craft that does not lend itself to industrialization. Results are not always predictable. For this reason, when the pickling process became industrialized, many changes were made that rendered the final product more uniform and more saleable, but not necessarily more nutritious. Chief among these was the use of vinegar for the brine, resulting in a product that is more acidic and not necessarily beneficial when eaten in large quantities; and of subjecting the final product to pasteurization, thereby effectively killing all the lactic-acid-producing bacteria and robbing consumers of their beneficial effect on the digestion. Nourishing Traditions, p. 82
This is the same industrialization process that has robbed us of real bread and many other once sustaining foods, by the way.
Keeping in mind that kefir and yogurt are very familiar fermented dairy foods, let’s move on to consider sauerkraut as a possible new fermented food we might make in our very own kitchens.
A partial list of lacto-fermented vegetables from around the world is sufficient to prove the universality of this practice. In Europe, the principle lacto-fermented food is sauerkraut. Described in Roman texts, it has been prized for its delicious taste as well as medicinal properties for many centuries. Nourishing Traditions, p. 81
Sandor Katz in his Wild Fermentation - The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods has an interesting section on the history of sauerkraut through various cultures, research on sauerkraut’s anti-carcinogenic qualities, the science of the microbial process that takes cabbage from garden to immune system booster and a range of recipes and approaches for making sauerkraut. I am still at the beginning stages of exploring the artisanal craft of fermentation myself, so I have yet to fully explore Sandor’s methods and recipes. Sally Fallon’s fermentation recipes were specially chosen to be simple and her approach to sauerkraut is certainly that. Hers is the basic recipe I used in the kefir sauerkraut videos (posted below) and the one I will detail for you here.
4 cups shredded organic cabbage, loosely packed
1 tsp. juniper berries
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. mustard seeds
2 tsp. sea salt
2 Tbl. whey (if you don’t have whey, then add an extra 1 tsp. of sea salt)
1 cup pure water
In a large bowl, mix together the shredded cabbage with the juniper berries, mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Mash or pound everything in the bowl with a wooden pounder for several minutes to release water/juice from the cabbage. Into a clean quart-sized wide mouthed mason jar, put the pounded cabbage mixture a handful at a time. Pack everything down with the pounder.
In a glass measuring cup, mix the salt and whey into the water. Pour into the jar. Continue adding pure water to the jar until the liquid in the jar comes up to the top of the cabbage. There should be about an inch of space between the top of the cabbage and the top of the jar.
Cover the jar tightly and keep at room temperature for 3 to 5 days, depending upon the temperature of your kitchen. Transfer to your refrigerator.
The sauerkraut can be eaten immediately but it does become more flavorful the longer it ages in the refrigerator.
1. No matter how little food money I may have at any given time, I only make sauerkraut with organic cabbage. If I can’t get my hands on an organic cabbage, then I just don’t make sauerkraut. As Sally Fallon explains:
It is important to use the best quality organic vegetables, sea salt and filtered or pure water for lacto-fermentation. Lactobacilli need plenty of nutrients to do their work and if the vegetables are deficient, the process of fermentation will not proceed. Likewise if your salt or water contains impurities, the quality of the final product will be jeopardized. Nourishing Traditions, p. 82
I figure I don’t want to be drawing more out of a chemically raised cabbage through pounding and fermentation, then would already be “available”. I don’t want to add to the chemical burden we already have to deal with from living in this world. Luckily, even organic cabbages are not all that expensive and sauerkraut does go a long way.
2. You can make sauerkraut with just water and salt which is good. You can inoculate the brine with whey which is better. You can inoculate the brine with kefir whey which is best. It doesn’t take much whey. You could probably get enough from a container of yogurt. You can get lots of whey from making very simple cheese in a pot on top of the stove. You can get kefir whey simply by draining some kefir through butter muslin or several layers of cheese cloth and catching the whey in a bowl underneath. Kefir whey is the most biologically complex and active, followed by various other sources of whey, followed by water and salt.
3. I use well water to make our sauerkraut and have had no problems. I would definitely not use municipal water, however, as that is guaranteed to be chemically contaminated. If you are on city water, then I would suggest buying a bottle of good quality water. I don’t think fermented fluoride and chlorine and who knows what else is what the ancients had in mind with fermentation!
4. You don’t have to use mustard seeds, if you don’t want to or don’t have them. I use very little as my husband doesn’t like too many of them in his sauerkraut. According to Sandor Katz, you might also consider caraway seeds, dill seeds, celery seeds and keep with the juniper berries. These various seeds also help keep the cabbage crisp while it ferments (as does the salt, by the way).
5. As you become familiar with making and eating sauerkraut, you can also experiment with adding other vegetables such as carrots, turnips, beets or burdock root. Sandor notes that you can even add fruits such as apples either whole or sliced. (Wild Fermentation, p. 41)
Making sauerkraut is another one of those accomplishments that feels great. It turns out to be fairly simple at its most basic, but gives plenty of room for growth in knowledge and play of creativity. It is another way to become more self reliant. It is another skill and taste best introduced to our children while they are young. It builds future health by leading in and out of the garden. It draws upon the past to meet a critical need in the present you almost cannot meet otherwise due to the vagaries of modern day laws and industrialization. Finding real fermented food in the stores is not easy. Sometimes you can find real sauerkraut but it is very expensive and for some reason, around here anyway, the stores are not carrying it any more. This is similar to real milk in that almost the only way you can feed your family with it is by doing it yourself.
There is one more aspect I would like to touch upon, however. I think Americans, in this age of enforced vaccines, powerful drugs and anti-bacterial soaps, hold very deeply the idea that the invisible world is a threatening one that must be strenuously guarded against, tightly controlled and preferably stamped out altogether. As human beings are designed to live in relationship with nature, this attitude and the actions that flow from it will eventually kill us if left unchecked. We can already see evidence of this everywhere. There are many articles now about children growing up with asthma and food allergies and all sorts of things because they now live in sanitized environments which can’t develop the human immune system as it was designed to be developed. Sally Fallon noted over 10 years ago that:
Scientists and doctors today are mystified by the proliferation of new viruses - not only the deadly AIDS virus but the whole gamut of human viruses that seem to be associated with everything from chronic fatigue to cancer to arthritis. They are equally mystified by recent increases in the incidence of intestinal parasites and pathogenic yeasts, even among those whose sanitary practices are faultless. Could it be that in abandoning the ancient practice of lacto-fermentation, and in our insistence on a diet in which everything has been pasteurized, we have compromised the health of our intestinal flora and made ourselves vulnerable to legions of pathogenic microorganisms? If so, the cure for these diseases will be found not in inoculations, drugs or antibiotics, but in a restored partnership with the many varieties of lactobacilli, our symbionts of the microscopic world. Nourishing Traditions, p. 83
Intelligent, informed, creative relationships with the natural world around us - both visible and invisible - are an important key to human health on all planes of existence. Learning how to ferment foods is a wonderful way to change our deeply held attitudes about the invisible world of “microbes”, all the while putting healthy, flavorful, food on the table.
Do try this simple sauerkraut. It is fun to make, pretty to look at, tasty to eat and satisfying to share with loved ones.
From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,
Our Sunday mornings are quite busy but I still want them to be special. One thing I like to do is serve some kind of Indian dish for breakfast whenever I can. Our current favorite is poha which is so quick to prepare, tasty and inexpensive that I thought I would share it with any of you who may not be familiar with it.
According to Ayurvedic physician Dr. Vasant Lad and his wife Usha:
Poha is uncooked basmati rice that has been rolled thin in the same way that rolled oats are made. It cooks quickly and does not need water, other than what is absorbed in rinsing.
Poha is easy to digest and quite balancing… It is a good breakfast food or can be used to accompany the main meal. Ayurvedic Cooking for Self-Healing, p. 91
Poha is available in Indian groceries and international markets. You can read more online about this flattened rice and search for a variety of recipes here, here and here.
I will share with you the recipe I most often make. It is in a larger quantity than is usual these days, of course. You can either cut the recipe down or cook it as it is and save the rest for a readily available snack on another day.
In my largest cast iron frying pan set on medium high heat, I melt 2/3 cup of ghee or a combination of a stick of butter and 1/3 cup of olive oil or coconut oil. Don’t skimp on the oil here as having an adequate amount keeps this dish moist and filling.
Scoop 7 cups of dry poha into a colander. It looks like this:
Next rinse it twice very gingerly and then set the colander into bowl to drain while you cook the rest of the dish. You can see here how the poha looks damp.
In the now hot fat in the frying pan add 2 heaping tsp. of mustard seeds and 2 heaping tsp. of cumin seeds. Let the seeds start to fry and the mustard seeds pop. After a couple of minutes, add about 10 fresh curry leaves (also available at Indian groceries and international markets). Be careful as they will make the oil spatter for a few seconds when you first throw them in.
When the mustard seeds stop popping, add 1 tsp. turmeric, 2 tsp. salt and 2 big pinches of asfeotida powder (also called hing and available at the same two places as poha and curry leaves).
Next add to the frying pan 1 large onion, chopped fine and 1 green chili (I use jalapeÃ±os), also chopped fine. Cook until the onion is soft and slightly browned. Then add 1 cup or about a bunch of chopped cilantro leaves.
By now, the food smells so good you are really glad that it is almost ready to eat! When this is all nicely cooked, add the poha that has been resting in the colander.
Gently break apart the rice flakes and stir them together with the sauteed loveliness already in the frying pan.
I always seem to have a child at my side by now who wants to help stir in the poha. They are drawn into the kitchen by the aroma and stay for the stirring. When it is all stirred together reasonably well, turn off the heat and cover. I have to use a cookie sheet as I don’t have a cover yet for this huge frying pan. The cookie sheet seems to work just fine, though. Let the poha sit covered for 10 minutes.
After the 10 minutes is up, remove the cover.
Serve it up on plates or in bowls. Garnish each serving with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice,
shredded coconut and chopped cilantro leaves.
That is all there is to it. This is a delicious breakfast that is ready practically as fast as you can chop an onion, a chili and some cilantro. No matter how much I make, we never have leftovers and no one gets tired of it.
Here are the ingredients written out in properly:
7 cups thick poha
2/3 cup oil
2 tsp. each mustard seeds and cumin seeds
10 curry leaves, fresh or dried
1 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. sea salt
3 pinches or shakes of asfeotida powder/hing
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 green chili, chopped very fine
1 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
Shredded coconut, chopped cilantro and squeezes of fresh lime juice for garnish
Indian cuisine is delicious, inexpensive, healthy and ancient. We enjoy it so much here. Poha could be a good first recipe to try because it is so easy to cook and easy to digest.
By the way, this post is dedicated to an old Sahaj Marg friend of mine who is originally from India and who was always very secretly a great cook. We are happy to have gotten in touch again and look forward to our families spending time together here on the farm.
From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,
Mid-morning yesterday while I was up to my elbows in teaching math to three different children at three different levels at the same time, my husband got busy in the kitchen scrounging up something for all of us for lunch. He is very good at putting together whatever he can find and making a good lunch out of it. At some point, I vaguely noticed that he was in the kitchen making a batch of mozzarella cheese.
We make our mozzarella cheese more or less following Ricki Carroll’s instructions in her must have book Home Cheesemaking - Recipes for 75 Homemade Cheeses. The directions in her book are generally the same as the ones on her web site with the bonus on her web page of there being photos included. (I am only linking to the directions for “30 Minute Mozzarella without using a Microwave” because microwaves are bad, bad, bad!) We have made so much of this quick type of mozzarella over the last couple of years that we can do it almost automatically.
So my husband made up a batch of mozzarella cheese and added basil to it. Then he pulled out the leftover pasta sauce from the night before, sliced the bread in the bread basket, fired up the oven and made us some delicious “toast pizzas”, I guess you could call them.
The reason I mention all of this is that we were scrounging. There didn’t seem to be much to eat in the house and we can’t go shopping for a while yet. When we all sat down to eat, I looked at what was on the plate and laughed. What were we eating?
Organic sourdough bread that had risen twice for 12 and 4 hours respectively;
Flavorful homemade pasta sauce;
and fresh mozzarella made from unprocessed, grass-fed milk and flavored with sea salt and organic basil.
In this day and age, such tasty and nutrient dense food is hard to come by and expensive when you find it. But for us on the old homestead, this was what we came up with by scrounging! There surely are some benefits to living like this…
By the way, I recommend trying your hand at making this quick type of mozzarella. It is easy, satisfying and delicious and a great way to introduce yourself to cheesemaking. Go to Ricki’s web page to learn more or better yet, get yourself a copy of Home Cheesemaking.
Bon appetit from the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,
In my never ending quest to make warm, nutritious breakfasts that aren’t sweet, are inexpensive and reasonable to make during our very busy farm mornings, I have started making Cream of (Fill in the Blank) Cereal once a week so or so. We have had cream of wheat, cream of spelt, cream of rye and cream of kamut so far. I haven’t tried cream of rice yet and I wonder from time to time about the possibilities of cream of barley cereal. Be that as it may, all the hot cereals we have had so far have been delicious and the children have eaten two or three bowls full each time. I must say, though, that my personal favorite is cream of kamut.
If I were of a mindset to worship a grain, my choice would be kamut. The berries are large and golden and buttery looking. They just glow really and make you want to eat them and partake of the glorious nutrition Nature has created for us.
As [kamut] hasn’t been altered by modern plant breeders, it retains its ancient nutrition, flavor and goodness.
They also note that:
Due to its slightly higher fatty acid content, Kamut can be considered a high energy grain, and compared to wheat, Kamut also contains elevated levels of vitamin E, Thiamin, Riboflavin, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, pantothentic acid, copper and complex carbohydrates. All around, Kamut seems to be a very healthy grain.
To read more about the history and nutritional value of kamut, you can look here, here and here. There is also an entire book devoted to kamut entitled Kamut: An Ancient Food for a Healthy Future (see link at end of post). I haven’t read this book yet but it is now on my Amazon wish list! For an astonishingly detailed review of what the word “kamut” really means, read this analysis on Polyglot Vegetarian. It is complete with coptic writing and mentions of various Egyptian dictionaries and all sorts of interesting things. (It is truly a wonder what you can find on the internet…)
Donna Spann, whom I have mentioned in a previous post about millet, notes in her Grains of Truth that:
You can use Kamut for most of your baking - breads, muffins, cookies, even cakes. Some folks will cook up Kamut as a hot breakfast cereal, or a pilaf as a side dish. Flaked, Kamut cooks up to a similar consistency to oatmeal. I also like to use the flaked grain in granola and cookies. Don’t be afraid to experiment with this terrific and ancient grain that narrowly missed extinction. p. 68
In making an exotic Kamut, Candied Pumpkin and Hazlenut Cake, Mercedes of Desert Candy tells us:
So I got out my standard cake recipe, and I fiddled and tweaked and practiced, and the result was this Egyptian-inspired version. I used kamut flour, a grain similar to wheat, in place of some of the regular flour. Kamut is traditional in Egypt, it is very nutritious, very easy to grow, and a much-higher yield crop than wheat (I don’t know why it isn’t more widely grown in America, but I suspect U.S. agriculture subsidies have a lot to do with it); the flour has a light yellow color and a slightly sweet buttery note.
For my pizza crust I used 20 per cent kamut, resulting in a pale yellow, slightly sweet dough with a lightly crunchy texture.
I have also used kamut flour in pizza crust, bread, biscuits and a number of other baked goods. Aside from my wild enthusiasm about kamut itself, I think using a range of grains in our daily fare is a sound health practice so I switch around which grains I use both to take advantage of their individual characteristics and also just for the sake of variety.
Cream of kamut cereal is probably about the easiest thing you could make with this or any other grain. Here is how I do it:
1. Put 9 cups of water and a teaspoon of salt in a heavy bottomed pot and put on a burner on “high”.
2. Meanwhile coarsely grind 3 cups of kamut berries.
3. Pour 3 cups of water into a bowl or large Pyrex measuring cup. Slowly add the kamut flour, stirring madly all the while, to prevent lumps from forming. The resulting mixture will be very thick.
4. Once the water on the stove is boiling, pour the kamut/water mixture into it. Be careful to not get burned by any splashing as the kamut hits the boiling water in the pot.
5. Turn the heat down somewhat and stir the pot until the cream of kamut is steaming hot and thick. If it is too thick for your taste, thin with a bit of water.
That’s it. Breakfast is ready. The amount above makes just barely enough for us. Leftovers store well in refrigerator. Smaller families may appreciate the following amounts: 1 cup ground kamut, 4 cups water, 1/2 tsp. salt. Follow the directions the same way (i.e. boil 3 cups of water, mix ground kamut into the remaining cup of water and so on) and also follow these same directions for any other grain of your choosing. If you don’t have a way to grind grain, make your cereal with the freshest flour you find at the health food store.
Most folks eat this kind of cereal sweet in which case you may add butter, cream and a sweetener such as maple syrup, agave nectar or sucanat. I, of course, prefer serving it in a more savory manner with lots of farm fresh butter and salt. So satisfying and nutty and delicious and the kamut is a lovely golden color. This morning my husband hit upon the happy compromise of serving it salty but with the addition of dried cranberries. This was fantastic and there were no leftovers whatsoever.
Here is a listing of other kamut recipes on my list to try:
We all enjoyed fresh tortillas hot off the grill yesterday morning for breakfast with our leftover Indian food. They were especially flavorful and ready to eat extra early because I made the dough up the night before the “nourishing traditions” way.
While I thoroughly appreciate the Nourishing Traditions principles of soaking grains for a lengthy time before eating them, I don’t always manage to do it. We eat an awful lot of grain around here in one form or another and, well, it isn’t always planned out a day ahead. (I am working on that!) The other day, however, I came across a post on Brian Glass’ nourishing traditions based blog about making tortilla dough with whey and letting it sit for 12 - 24 hours before rolling out the tortillas. Ah, a good and simple idea which I implemented right away.
You can see his more usual sized recipe in his post. Ours was a little different both because I make tortillas in much larger amounts and because I don’t include oil in my dough. I guess this makes the flat bread I make a cross between a tortilla and a chapatti which works out fine for us because we eat them with both Mexican and Indian food!
6 cups freshly ground whole wheat flour
3 tsp. sea salt
6 Tbl. whey plus enough lukewarm water to make a soft dough
Mix flour and salt with your hands. Measure the whey (I specifically used kefir whey as it has the greatest capacity for breaking down the phytates in the wheat) into a glass measuring cup and fill with the water up to about 2 cups. Add the water to the flour and stir with a fork. Add more lukewarm water or small amounts of unbleached flour to the dough until you get a nicely mixed soft dough. Flour the counter and turn out dough. Knead for a couple of minutes. Leave on floured counter, well covered, over night. The next morning, roll out tortillas and bake on a hot griddle.
We were all amazed at how much more flavorful these tortillas were than the usual “let sit for a half hour so the dough relaxes before rolling out” method of making tortillas. And they had such a wonderful chewiness and sturdiness that my husband used the uneaten ones to make mini-pizzas for lunch. I will definitely be making tortillas this way from now on. I think I had better also make up a batch or two and freeze them so that we can have these wonderful overnight tortillas on a whim!
For any of you who aren’t accustomed to making flour tortillas, I know this isn’t enough information to properly get you started. As soon as I can, I will put up more detailed instructions along with photographs and a video. Making tortillas is a family affair around here which is really fun and something I have been wanting to share.
As a matter of fact, I think I will go start one of those batches for the freezer this morning.
From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,
How do Blueberry Cardamom Pancakes sound for breakfast? And how do Blueberry Cardamom Pancakes for eight people made almost entirely by your nine year old sound? Yes, yes! They do sound even better!
While it is true that I am gradually re-working our breakfast menu so that it is made up entirely of savory breakfast dishes, Thursdays are different. On Thursdays our nine year old makes us all pancakes. This week we had Blueberry Cardamom Pancakes which tasted even better than they sound, not the least of which was because Will made them. He has even learned to eat a pancake on the side while working his way through the enormous mound of pancakes it takes to feed a family of eight so that he doesn’t starve to death before he reaches the bottom of the bowl of batter. He is becoming a real professional! And every Thursday morning he steps out of the kitchen a bit tired but with the quiet glow that comes from successfully fulfilling his family responsibilities/opportunities.
Here he is in action:
And here is the recipe:
Kefir-Cultured Blueberry Cardamom Pancakes
6 cups freshly ground whole wheat or spelt flour (4 cups berries)
4 cups real kefir plus enough water to form a thick batter
4 or 5 farm fresh eggs, lightly beaten*
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
3 tsp. baking soda
3 tbl. melted butter or oil
8 0z of blueberries, the wilder the better
2 tsp. ground cardamom
The evening before, grind the flour and put it into a large bowl. Add the kefir and stir vigorously with a fork. Keep adding water until the mixture is thick and well blended. The batter should be very thick, particularly if using spelt flour which tends to get runny by the next morning.
The next morning, beat the eggs in a bowl or glass measuring cup. Add the salt and baking soda. Stir well and then use your fingers to mash the mixture well and break up any remaining lumps of baking soda.
Add the oil and then the blueberries to the egg mixture.
Sprinkle the cardamom on top of the partially risen, fluffy batter in your large bowl. Pour in the egg and blueberry mixture and stir everything together quite vigorously until well blended. The batter should be light, fluffy, and moderately thick. If it is too thick, the centers of the pancakes will not cook enough; if it is too thin the pancakes will not reach their potential as little “cakes”. If necessary, thin the batter with water or milk or kefir or buttermilk until you achieve the desired thickness.
Cook pancakes on a moderately hot, buttered cast iron griddle. Watch the heat as you proceed through your batch of batter. Don’t let the griddle get too hot as the thick, cake-like middles of these pancakes need a little time to cook before the outside gets too browned.
* If using farm fresh eggs, you can usually (depending upon the size of the eggs) use one or two less than the recipe would otherwise call for. If using grocery store eggs, use 1 egg per very cup of flour.
(Recipe ratios so you can adjust for size: for every cup of flour soak in 1 cup buttermilk or real kefir or 1 cup water with 1 tbl. whey or yogurt. [Soaking with real kefir gives the very best results in my experience.] Add 1 egg, 1/4 tsp. sea salt, 1/2 tsp. baking soda and 1/2 tbl melted butter or oil. Add blueberries and cardamom to taste.)
Serve these delicious pancakes hot with plenty of nutritious fresh butter, and maple syrup, homemade Pancake Syrup, or raw Blue Agave Nectar. Deepen their flavor with a prayer of gratitude before eating. To maximize enjoyment, share them with your eager family and anyone else who has a way to make it to your breakfast table.
From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,
In the interest of “putting my money where my mouth is” in terms of a thoughtful, more self reliant and natural approach to health care, I thought I would share with you today the tooth powder recipe I have recently started making for the family.
To begin with, it is important to understand that most commercially available toothpastes are extremely detrimental to your health. That is why many toothpastes are actually branded with warning labels. Try reading the list of ingredients some time. One of the problems with this is that your skin absorbs up to 60% of what you put on it with the tissues in your mouth being even thinner so even more is absorbed from your mouth directly into your bloodstream. To learn more about the specific harmful ingredients found in commercial toothpaste and their affects on the body, read Harmful Ingredients in Commercial Products (the section on toothpaste is towards the bottom of the page), Commercial Toothpaste Dangers, and The Healthy Solution for Your Gums and Teeth. Each page has slightly different information about how chemicals used in name-brand toothpastes accumulate in your body or contain ingredients used in poisons and so on. For additional information about how these toothpastes trigger canker sores, read Your Toothpaste May be Giving You canker Sores and How to Stop Canker Sores Forever. Each of these pages is quite short but information packed. You might want to read each one to get an overall perspective.
Now there are lots of healthy toothpastes and tooth powders on the market which are good for you and take good care of your mouth. One of my personal favorites is Herbodent Natural Toothpaste. I haven’t even seen this sold anywhere in this country including in Indian markets but you can get it shipped here in a jiffy. In any case, any health food store probably offers a number of healthy options but they are so expensive! Even though I have trained everyone in the family to use only a little bit of paste, I have decided that spending $4 on a tube of toothpaste is nuts for us to keep doing. Besides, if there is anything I can make instead of buy, I definitely want to try it out.
For hundreds of years, people have successfully used baking soda and/or salt to brush their teeth. As a matter of fact, I have vivid memories of my grandparents using salt to brush their teeth. Having been brought up on Crest or whatever, I was always in a state of wonder watching them brush their teeth this way. Recently I decided to search out some recipes for making tooth powder. I am currently making something very simple that is working very, very well.
Peppermint Tooth Powder
In a small bowl add:
About 2 Tbl. bentonite clay
About 2 Tbl. baking soda
About 1 tsp. sea salt
About 1 heaping tbl. dried peppermint, ground to a powder
Mix. Spoon into a small bowl or shaker topped bottle.
That’s it. All made. The bentonite clay draws out toxins and helps with remineralization. Baking soda changes the ph of the mouth and kills bacteria. Salt is also anti-bacterial and is anti-inflammatory as well. (Also for us folks with exhausted adrenals, it tastes wonderful!) Peppermint is refreshing, gives a nice flavor and is anti-bacterial. These are all very simple, straightforward ingredients.
How to use:
Get a small squirt bottle and fill it with hydrogen peroxide. Leave it next to your container of tooth powder in the bathroom. When you brush your teeth, wet your toothbrush. Squirt a few drops of the hydrogen peroxide on your toothbrush (anti-bacterial and anti-viral). Shake a half teaspoon or so of tooth powder into the palm of your hand and then dip your wet and now sanitized toothbrush into the powder. Brush as you normally would.
We have found this to be very effective. It is extremely inexpensive and I literally had all the ingredients in my kitchen already. I can make some up whenever we need more so I don’t have to put it on a list or go somewhere to buy it. The children help me make it and I think it provides a nice object lesson in self reliance and in the beauty of doing things simply whenever possible.
I will post this recipe on the Recipe/How to section of the web site so that it will always be easily available. In fact, people have come up with so many concoctions for cleaning teeth that it is kind of fun to study them. I will post some more of the ones I have come across on the Tooth Powder page as I have time.
Meanwhile we are happy with this initial recipe and method. For me personally, every time I use it I not only clean my teeth and mouth effectively but have a nice memory of my grandparents who meant so much to me and would have laughed me out of the bathroom if they had seen me using a $4 a bottle tooth powder to do something I could do with plain old salt!
From the beautiful mountains of southwest Virginia,