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Finally, cow cheese

5 Aug

We have made cheese, but we always used our goat’s milk. Since we only have three milking goats, we had to save up a couple of days worth of milk to be able to get 2 gallons.

Now that we are milking our cow, it’s even easier. We’ve been selling the milk (a steal at $25/liter) and we still have extra, so we made cheese.

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We haven’t used rennet yet, but I can’t wait to try that. I think we will get a thicker coagulation. As it is, we use the berries of the trompillo plant, and it comes out really creamy and smooth.

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Someday, when we really get things going, we will be able to make a cheese-making room. But for now, we just take over the kitchen. I’d also like to try making aged soft cheeses, like Brie and Camembert. We’ve always got about a million things we want to do, and we are trying to do as much as we can “right now” instead of “someday when we have ….”, because we all know someday never comes.

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Mentally, we are taking a break from the garden this week. The animals of course need us daily. But we are talking about all the plans/dreams we have for next season, and still working on this season, and it’s good to just take a vacation once a year. So we won’t be harvesting lettuce this week, and we will try to restrain ourselves from planting anything. Just one week!

Tamales, estilo Ranchero!

28 Jun

My husband and mother-in-law and sister-in-law often complain about the state of tamales these days. “Pura masa”, they often say–all dough, no filling. They just don’t make things like they used to, do they?

We finally decided to take matters into our own hands. Ooh, what a busy, delicious day!

First we had to fatten the rooster. We got him up to 8 pounds.

Here are the ingredients we used:

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Then we soaked the dried red chilis in hot water.

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We then puréed the chili water mix in the blender. Half we used to marinate the chicken (along with salt and olive oil), and the other half we used to make the dough, or masa.

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Here is my mother in law prepping the masa into balls.

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Meanwhile, everybody was chopping the vegetables. Leon even got in on the action.

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Here’s where it gets really fun and we start assembling the tamales. We did some in banana leaf (preferred by my family because they come out moister), and the rest with corn husk.

You can see a tortilla press in the there. We pressed the dough circles flat onto the leaf or husk, then filled with the ingredients.

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Yummy, looking so delicious!!

Then we used strips of palm frond to tie them off. My mother-in-law prefers datil fronds, but no one went out to the desert to harvest any in time.

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Now, it’s into the pot! We used a grate on the bottom, filled the bottom with water, and set all the tamales on the grate, and we let them cook for about an hour. Except, when we went to check on them, we were out of gas. So we had to hook up an extra gas tank to the stove. Here’s everyone waiting around for the tamales.

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They came out perfect! Now Carlos wants to start a tamale business. Yes yes, in between construction, farming, teaching, and 3 baby boys, I’m sure we will find the time!

Crazy fad dieting

21 Jun

I’ve never wanted to diet. Ever. Not even as a sensitive female teenager. My worst body issue was acne, and I didn’t know that that had anything to do with diet.

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image source

Instead, I’ve always been a strong athlete: volleyball and softball in high school, and rugby in college. Sports were fun and running around makes you feel good about yourself. As a Midwestern-bred farmer, I know that a diet rich in whole, real food is good for us. I’ve never been scared of whole milk, cream, butter, cheese, bacon, or organic grass-fed meats.

Now, breastfeeding twins, I’m literally melting away. They’re eating me alive. So, believe me, I’m not doing this crazy diet to lose weight.

Instead, I’m doing it to see if I have any food sensitives. Not allergies. I obviously don’t have allergies, because I don’t choke or pass out or anything obvious. But it turns out that my body is telling me things.

Like acne. Acne is a sign of inflammation, a sign that something isn’t quite right. Also, the chronic but unidentified upper back and neck pain has always bugged me because I’m healthy! I do yoga! I should not feel like this! Headaches in the morning, stiff joints: I’m too young to feel old.

So I’m following the Whole 30 program. It’s thirty days of no grains, no dairy, no beans, no alcohol, and no added sugar. I’m on day 3. What do I eat? Lots of vegetables, eggs, and meat. I snack on fruit and nuts.

Results so far?
The most obvious is that Peter no longer screams while breastfeeding, or pulls away violently, or spits up tons like before. He is probably sensitive to dairy, even just the little bit that I put in my coffee in the morning.

My energy level is more stable throughout the day, and my brain still works past 9 pm, which is a miracle.

I am less congested.

I seem to wake up easier in the morning, though that could be a mental trick.

Anyway, I’m really excited about this because the testimonials are really encouraging! All these people who thought they were healthy are finding out what healthy really feels like! Oh, and worried moms out there, please don’t worry that I’m starving myself and the babies’ milk will be affected. I always eat when I’m hungry.

I’ve gotta plug the CSA here too. Please sign up right away! We are already at 10 % enrollment, and we just started talking about it, so get your deposit in. If you are interested in eating more vegetables, this is the perfect way to do it. You’ll get a box of veggies every week, and you’ll eat a much bigger variety throughout the season than what you would get at the market.

Probiotic salsa?

11 Apr

I just made a super delicious batch of salsa. It’s just your ordinary Mexican salsa–tomato, cilantro, onion–with garlic thrown in for good measure. I chopped it all up in a blender and threw in some salt. Oh! And one chile Serrano! It looks green, because they’re heirloom green tomatoes, but you can just use red ones.

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The best part is yet to come, because I put it all in a jar and left it to ferment. Yes! I saw the recipe on this amazing website and thought, wow a fermented food that’s totally normal and not slightly dated. I mean I love all the pickled cabbage and green beans we’ve been consuming, but this is something I can serve without a little pep-talk (this is soooo good, try it, plus it’s got bacteria that are good for your gut).

So today was the big reveal, and yes, it’s got an extra flavor tang after fermenting for a few days. And it turns out I still can’t help myself and served it with a gut-boosting pep talk. I’m just peppy that way.

And who wouldn’t be? Did you know that bacteria cells in your body outnumber your own cells 10 to 1?

That is mind-blowing, bringing up all sorts of existential questions, like ‘Who am I really?’ Contained within ‘you’ is an entire universe of other beings! Whoa! Turns out these beings affect everything, like when you feel sleepy or hungry, just by living their lives and putting off gases that are then absorbed by your body.

Makes me think I am Mother Earth to a whole world. That’s why I eat sauerkraut, and dilly beans, and kombucha. I’ve got to keep my citizens happy!

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Here’s a picture of some green and purple beans fermenting next to pickled nopal.

The best part about this lacto-fermenting is that I can preserve the harvest, and I don’t have to can, which honestly intimidates me and seems like a lot of work. I just make sure the veggies are not floating in the air in their jars.

Sapote syrup and tomato sauce

4 Apr

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Woo! It was a hot day in the kitchen and now my legs and feet are tired from cooking. I want one of those rubber cooking mats they have in restaurants to cushion our concrete floor.

Anyway, let’s start with the sapote fruit. What’s that, you ask? It’s a funny green fruit, about the size of a softball. You pick it hard and then let it sit until it holds a dent when you touch it.

It looks like dark dark chocolate inside, so at first I thought I should make some sort of raw pie. Then pancakes creeped into my head, and once there, it’s nearly impossible to get them out, so I made it into syrup. I just added sugar and boiled for a while.

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It gives a great maple syrup taste, which is great since I don’t buy the high fructose corn syrup and the real stuff is understandably expensive here in Mexico.

Then I made tomato sauce!
1. Score a cross into the peels.

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2. Drop into boiling water.

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3. When you see the peels starting to peel away, remove to a bowl of cold water.

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4. Meanwhile, chop and mince carrots, celery, and onion, and sautée.

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5. Peel the skins, and put them in with your sautéing veggies.

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6. Now just let it cook down. I mashed a bit to get the tomatoes to break up more. Stir. Add a teaspoon of sugar and some pepper.

Now comes the tedious part. If anyone has an easier way, I’d love to hear it!
7. Strain the sauce to remove the seeds and fiber.

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8. Now cook again until its the thickness you like! Oh, and add salt at this stage, too.

Yay homemade tomato sauce! We ended up with three full yogurt containers. Not bad. These kind of traditional staples are some of my favorite things to make. It’s like magic: voila, so that’s how they do it!l

There’s a huge organic farm down here that exports to Whole Foods and sells their unworthy produce dirt cheap. Since our tomatoes aren’t quite ready, I buy and resell theirs. And all the tomatoes I bought are heirlooms! They’re beautiful! I’m thinking I have to take advantage and stock up while they are in season. Next, I’d like to dehydrate some.

Clean-out-the-fridge soup

28 Mar

It’s harvest day! Which means around noon my fridge will be packed with bags of lettuce. It’s a beautiful thing to see the fruits of our labor overflowing. Thanks for all the encouragement after Tuesday’s post. Many advised to focus on what we have accomplished.

On harvest day, there’s no room for our food in the fridge! Luckily we have an extra small fridge where we can put everything. I’ve decided to make clean-out-the-fridge soup. All the bits of vegetables waiting to go into a dish are chopped and thrown into a big pot on the stove. Carrots, zucchini, cucumber, scrambled eggs, parsley, beet greens, radishes, onions, and onion greens.

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Then I add water and simmer. I’m really excited about this opportunity to use everything up–to not let anything go to waste. It fits right in with all my other attempts at being frugal: making our own bread and tortillas, using cloth diapers, recycling gray water, making cheese, and even going no-poo (see below). A lot of these efforts are also aimed at being more sustainable and less damaging to the environment. They go hand in hand.

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Being frugal is important to me because the less we spend, the less we need to earn, and the more time we have to play with our kids and invest back into our homestead. And the more time we invest into our homestead, the more potential we have to create side-businesses, thereby earning more money. It’s not all about money though. By investing ourselves into our home we can create our own little piece of heaven: beauty, comfort, peace.

Unless you spend a lot of time on Pinterest, you probably don’t know what no-poo means. I’ve been shampoo-free one week; so far I love it. I’m using baking soda to wash (1 TB to a cup of water) and whey and kombucha to rinse (combined, a quarter-cup to a cup of water). It sounds gross, I know, but my sister and my sister-in-law are doing it and it seems to be working.

Stay tuned on Saturday for more about the no-poo lifestyle!

Mmmm! Lets make yogurt!

19 Mar

Yogurt is so easy to make at home, and if you have your own milk, there’s no reason to buy it. If you don’t have your own milk, it still might be cheaper to make.

Gather materials
Crock
Container that will fit in the crock
Towel
Leftover yogurt, at least a half cup
Milk to fill the container
Oven

Preheat your oven to the lowest temperature setting and turn it off when it’s about 100. I just guesstimate and it works fine. We want to create a warm environment but not so hot that it kills our cultures.

Heat the milk on the stove until its hot, but you can still stand to put your finger in it.

Put the yogurt in the container and stir the warm milk into it.

Wrap the container with the towel and set it into your crock. I put a lid on the container and the crock.

Leave it all in the warm oven and let it sit for 8-10 hours.

When you come back to check on it, it should be thicker and yogurty but it will likely be rather runny. I put mine in a ketchup bottle and use it as a condiment. I also like to use it in smoothies.

If you like thick Greek yogurt, there’s one more step. Drain it, like you would cheese to get the extra whey out.

Double up your cheese cloth and place it in a colander, and place that in a bowl. Pour your yogurt in there, set a lid on top and leave it all in the fridge for a long time. Check frequently until its the consistency you like.

Of course, there’s a use for that whey! Have you noticed that cooking with real foods is a lot of work because you can’t throw anything away and there ends up being a million sidesteps? We raise our own chickens, so every time we kill a batch, we have to make liver pâté and chicken stock. So back to the whey.

Squeeze a lime into it and a few spoonfuls of sugar and leave it in a covered jar for a few days. Taste until the microbes have eaten some of the sweetness–until it tastes good to you–and then enjoy whey lemonade!

Carrot noodles with cream of broccoli-cilantro sauce

14 Mar

We have a lot of really beautiful carrots that are being pulled in right now. We planted a mix of purple, orange, and yellow carrots. They are all so vibrant–visually and orally: nothing like what one might buy in the grocery store.

When I think of carrot recipes I think breads and salads. But today I decided to try something different.

Making the carrot noodles
1. Using a peeler, I peeled the carrots into faux-noodles.
2. Blanch for a few minutes in boiling water; then drain.

That’s it!

Making the sauce
1. I sautéed onions and garlic in lard.
2. Throw in a dollop of cream and a bit of butter and gently mix. At this point I added cubed fish.
3. Meanwhile, blend a bit of broccoli and cilantro in a blender with a dash of milk and a dash of whey.
4. Pour the blended green liquid into your pan, stir, cover, and simmer.

It was quick and easy. Obviously my measurements are not precise: I’m more of a clean-out-the-fridge cook.

Making corn tortillas
I also made some corn tortillas as an accompaniment. To make them faster, I had already prepped the dough first thing in the morning with an entire pack of corn flour. Now, whenever it’s time to eat I just have to press them and cook them, and I don’t have to mix and measure dough for just a few tortillas. It really makes it a lot easier to want to make tortillas when the masa is pre-mixed. Hopefully this will become a new daily tradition.

Making goat cheese

20 Feb

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I haven’t written a post in a long time, but I’ve been busy! The twins are six weeks old, and Leon is 14 months old so they take up most of my day. Then there’s laundry (3 babies in cloth diapers) and cooking and finding time for personal hygiene, and sweeping, dishes….

It’s overwhelming and never ending, and that doesn’t include our farm business. Thankfully Carlos has been able to work full time in the garden and my sister is here to help with harvesting and deliveries. I’m still getting used to being housebound and adjusting to my new role as farm wife and mother. On the one hand, I am ambitious and career oriented and resentful of being “just a stay at home mom”, but on the other, I don’t want to add to my already considerable responsibilities.

Anyway, while browsing YouTube we discovered a great video on making goat cheese that makes use of a wild plant we have growing all around us. Making cheese seems like something I can do from home that will contribute to our farm business.

Our first attempt at goat cheese came out delicious. Not to exaggerate, but everyone who has tried it says its the best cheese they have ever tasted.

Here’s what we did:

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Carlos milked our four milking goats twice a day and saved it up in the refrigerator. Normally our baby gets to drink it, so we had to water it down a little more for him and substitute with homemade rice milk. It only took two days until we were ready.

First we heated up 2 gallons of milk until it was very hot but I could still stick my finger in it. Scientific, I know. Meanwhile, we had crushed up berries from the lovely trompillo plant which is a native plant that can be found in sunny wet locations, like the edges of farms or irrigation canals. We let that sit in about 2 cups of suero (whey), from the previous batch of cheese. You can use water if this is your first batch. If you don’t have trompillo, you can use store bought caujo .

Then we dumped the caujo into the hot milk and let it sit for about an hour and a half. You’ll know it’s ready when you see a translucent liquid forming on top of the milk. Next, we stirred the caujo with a spatula to break up the coagulated milk into big chunks.

On the side we set up a colander inside of a bowl such that there’s space under the colander. In the colander we laid the cheesecloth. Using a wide flat spoon with holes, we scooped the chunky milk into the cheesecloth.

The suero began to drain. I gathered the corners of the cloth and twisted to help the liquid drain. In the picture we tied the cloth but you don’t have to. This time I wrung it out a few times and then just let it sit.

After a few hours it was thick and moist but the suero had nearly drained completely. I scooped the cheese into a mold, added salt, and mixed it up by squeezing with my hand. That’s it! It went into the fridge where it will dry a bit more.

We saved all the whey to make cream cheese. I heated up the whey until its just about to boil and then let it sit. When it’s ready I’ll do the same thing I did with the cheese except I’ll double the cheesecloth. I can’t wait to see how it turns out!

It’s so satisfying to make cheese at home!