Kombucha – From Basic Preparation to Hair Conditioning and Scoby Candies!

Need a scoby to make your homemade hair tonics and face pastes?
Click here! 

Dear soda-sippers and lovers of delicious beverages,

If I didn’t get this post written soon, I think ya’ll were gonna ride me out of town on a rail!

This is the long-awaited and dearly requested kombucha post. Yes, the recipe packet you have been asking for the most! We’ve had several kombucha Food Labs on the farm, a number of satellite classes at various off-campus locations, and we have more scheduled into January 2015.

Photos in this post were shot by Sami Roy Photography, one of the proficient and expert photographers on the farm!

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You can do more with kombucha than just drink it as a fizzy, original or variously-flavored drink.  You can also use the scoby to make chewy, gummy candies that are flavored any way you like (or crispy candies, if you prefer!). You can make fruit gelatins, jelly candies, or even move out of the kitchen and make hair tonics and face masks!  And for those who want to know if there is alcohol in kombucha, yes – about the same level as in a loaf of bread or a bottle of Coke.  So, microscopic levels. 

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Basic Kombucha Recipe

Download the Kombucha Class Packet here

This is a very basic kombucha recipe and similar to the hundreds you’ll see replicated across the internet.  Use filtered, purified water; use organic tea and sugar. This is non-negotiable – otherwise your revitalizing, detoxifying probiotic health drink will become a toxic, poisonous potion that was a waste of time to prepare! At least a quarter of your tea leaves should be black – this brew in particular feeds the kombucha scoby, although the bacteria seem to tolerate varying amounts of other tea leaves. Experiment with a variety of leaves and see what works best for you; personally, I’ve settled on the flavor profiles of organic Assam black – mellow, vegetal – and organic China green – fruity, light, notes of citrus.

Heat three quarts filtered water to boiling on the stove; remove and set aside for five minutes.

Add 4 teaspoons black tea and 4 teaspoons green tea or white tea or a mixture of both; stir to combine, let sit for five minutes. Alternately, use 4 black tea bags and 4 green tea bags. (See end of post for my recommended teas)

Measure three quarts cold or room temperature filtered water into a large heat-proof container. Place a mesh sieve over the pan if your tea leaves were loose and not in tea bags.

Pour the hot, steeped tea in to the cold water. Remove the sieve and set aside; to the warm tea, add 2 cups of white sugar and stir thoroughly and steadily with a wooden spoon until sugar is completely dissolved.

Let the tea cool to room temperature, or at least about body temperature (96°). Pour it into a large, clean, glass container. Use only clear glass for brewing kombucha.

Add 2 cups of kombucha and one scoby.  Cover the lid tightly with a clean, tight-weave towel and secure with a string or rubber band. Fruit flies love kombucha and will try very hard to get inside the container, so be aware!

Set in a cool, undisturbed area (about 70-85° is perfect for these bacteria to multiply) for about two weeks.  You can taste test your fermenting tea at intervals and find your favorite number of days for fermentation. Ambient temperature and other factors may impact the fermentation of your tea, and every various way you try it will be delicious and wonderful!

Download the Kombucha Class Packet
This includes: 
Basic Kombucha
Flavored Kombucha: Seven Food Lab Favorites
Kombucha Fruit Gummies
Probiotic Skin Healing Masque
Hair Conditioning Treatment (Hair Tonic)
Scoby Candy
Kombucha Gelatin

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A moment to brag on the delicious Frontier Teas that I recommend for this kombucha…

I’ve done some extensive taste-testing, and I am very particular about my kombucha teas. The final teas I have settled on produce a kombucha so light, so airy and fruity, so delightfully flavored, that it has won best-taste from even the snobbiest of my clientele – and the most devoted kombucha haters!

Fair-Trade Certified, Organic Frontier China Green Tea (light, fruity, vegetal)

Fair-Trader Certified, Organic Assam Tea Tippy Golden (Black) (delicate, mellow, earthy)

For sugar, I use either

Itaja Organic Fine Granulated Sugar

or,

Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Cane Sugar

And as one of my favorite flavorings of all time:
Frontier Whole Elder European Berries

My top fermentation book recommendation, available at all my classes:

The Art of Fermentation: An In-Depth Exploration of Essential Concepts and Processes from around the World

And an explosive new book with recipes for kombucha that will blow your mind! (Book review pending here on the blog!)

Kombucha Revolution: 75 Recipes for Homemade Brews, Fixers, Elixirs, and Mixers

Brewing and sipping,
Mrs H
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Salted Rosemary Croccantini: better than expensive gourmet brands, even

Dear crackling, cackling, crackering,

It’s that time of week again when we get to zip back in time and steal a post from the old crumbling blogstead! I originally came up with this recipe back in December 2012, when I wanted some fresh, homemade crackers. When driving from Seattle to Virginia, about seven or eight months pregnant and anxious to see my husband again after he’d been moved by the Navy, I was given a package of sort of boring-looking crackers and a bag of sliced cheese. I didn’t even think the crackers looked very good but once I started eating them, I couldn’t stop! Flakes of salt, the herby aroma of rosemary, and the crackle of crispy … I was hooked. You will be, too.

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I love croccantini crackers.  Croccante is the Italian word for crispy or crunchy; –tini is a pluralized diminutive attached to the word, hence our cute little croccantini (if any Italian speakers know more on this, let me know, I have a very limited vocabulary!).

Last year, when I left for my Long Haul to Chicago, my cousin bequeathed upon me a large and full box of flat, salted, rosemary-infused-and-topped, fragrant crackers.  I wasn’t too excited at first (“Oh good, a vehicle for my cheese”) but then I ate one and … well, then I ate the rest.

They were good.  Really good.

I semi-forgot about them for a while, wishing now and again I could find them but not recalling the name of the brand.  “I need to ask her where she got them,” I resolved every time I thought of them.  I didn’t know they were a Thing, popular in Italy with cheese for a snack, and produced by more than one manufacturer, until I stumbled my eyes across them in Trader Joe’s.

Welcome to my cart, little box of crackers.

I took them home and quickly realized that in order to feasibly enjoy them in the quantity and frequency I desired, I would have to find a more fiscally responsible way to get them to my plate.  And following my rule of thumb for food – “If I can buy it, I can make it,” – I headed straight to the kitchen.

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I wanted the crackers to be whole wheat, or at least mostly so.  If not for the fact that unbleached flour is fairly pointless as far as nutrition goes, then for the fact that whole wheat has a more robust depth of flavor, somewhat nuttier and more hearty than white.

I strapped the baby to my back and got to work.  And let me tell you, it was worth the twenty to thirty minutes of experiential toil: these crackers are far and away better than the packaged version (why are we not shocked? Why?).  They taste better, have a meatier crunch, the salt and rosemary flavoring is controlled by me (more, more, more!!!), and they look a whole darn lot better, too.

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My cracker – hearty, flavorful, well-seasoned

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The store cracker – sparsely seasoned, pasty texture when chewing, snaps like a piece of brittle glass and explodes across the room, but still so good it inspired me to make my own. Now, imagine how much deliciousness there must be in the homemade version!!

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You can cut them into whatever size or shape you like.  Just don’t re-roll the dough – cook the odd pointy scraps leftover from any fancy cutting you do, and enjoy them in their fun shapes.

 It’s simple: Mix the dry ingredients by hand, in the Vitamix cup with dry blade, or in a food processor …

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Add the wet ingredients.

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Pulse into a loose ball of dough.

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Dump said ball of dough onto a barely dusted work surface.

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Mold gently by hand into a ball of firm, soft dough.

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Cut the dough into workable sizes.  Halved or quartered will be fine.

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Roll the first half or quarter out thin, thin, thin.  This is a quarter of the dough, rolled out.  Brush with olive oil.

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Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and dried rosemary; I rolled over it with the rolling pin to ensure the seasonings stuck in, or you can use your hand.

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Cut into the desired shape: use a pizza cutter, decorate with a dough roller docker if you wish, use cookie cutters, biscuit cutters, a knife, a glass, a bowl … or bake whole, and break afterwards.

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Just ten minutes at 450 F will do it.  Check at the halfway point to make sure you aren’t burning it!  Enjoy with cheese, salami, spread, hummus, baba ghanoush, meats, pico de gallo …

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Salted Rosemary Croccantini

Download the Salted Rosemary Croccantini recipe here

These are easy to make.  No particular skills needed, not even very much time – I made them between chores on a busy afternoon, on a whim, with a baby dangling from the carrier on my back.  Now, imagine how much easier it must be without the baby! I weighed my flour, as you will see following, because I wanted to have precise measurements.  Scooping, fluffing, or scraping flour out of the container is just not accurate enough, although it can get you a good approximation.  

1 cup (156 g) whole wheat or white whole wheat
3/4 cup (106.5 g) bread flour (I used King Arthur white bread flour)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 generous tablespoon chopped rosemary (see below), more or less depending on your preference
1/2 cup filtered water
1/3 cup olive oil
Extra olive oil for brushing
Sea salt, additional dried rosemary, and other optional herbs for topping

Heat oven to 450.  Adjust rack to the middle; if you have a pizza stone, put it in the oven.  If not, put a large cookie sheet in the oven.
Using a Vitamix or food processor: Add dry ingredients and pulse to mix; pour oil and water into the well and pulse from low to hi, repeatedly, until a scrappy, loose ball of dough forms.  It should only take a few revolutions.
By hand: Using your hands, a pastry or dough cutter or two forks, blend the dough until a scrappy, loose ball of dough forms.
Both methods:  Dump the dough onto a lightly dusted work surface.  Gather and gently work it into a ball of dough.  Using a knife, cut into halves or quarters (quarters are easy to work with).
On unfloured, ungreased parchment paper, roll the dough out until it is thin, thin, as thin as you can make it.  Then, a little thinner.  Brush with olive oil; sprinkle with salt and rosemary.  If you like, add other herbs such as thyme, basil, or flavors such as granulated garlic.
Pick up the parchment paper and place it in the heated oven on your stone or cookie sheet.  Bake for ten minutes in the heated oven, checking at the halfway point and near the end to ensure it isn’t burning.
Remove when it is browning at the edges and looks dry and croccante!

Note: Do not use a Silpat/silicone baking mat.  The heat is too near the maximum temperatures for the silicone (480 is where they top out), especially if you are using a baking stone.  You will end up with a smoking kitchen and crackers that taste oddly like plastic.  How do I know?  I tried.  Thank me later!

Chopped or Powdered Rosemary

Download the Chopped or Powdered Rosemary Recipe here

I used dried rosemary from our garden for this.  The Krups Electric Spice and Coffee Grinder is my preferred weapon of choice: it lasts notoriously long (years, years, decades), is loud but not deafening, is pretty cheaply priced and best of all does the job required of it with speed and efficiency.  

Strip leaves from the woody stems.

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Using a coffee or spice grinder, pulse rosemary 4 times for 1 second to chop coarsely.

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To grind into a powder, pulse for about four or five seconds several times, until the fineness you desire is achieved.

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Our family of rosemary, left to right: Whole, coarsely chopped, powdered.

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Download the Salted Rosemary Croccantini recipe here

Download the Chopped or Powdered Rosemary Recipe here

Crisply crunching,

Mrs H
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Authentic Asian Noodle Recipes – that you won’t find anywhere else!

Dear gourmands and explorers,

Have you ever had ramen?

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No, no, not those coyly named chicken “flavored” noodles that come in a plastic-wrapped briquette, notably the food of starving college students and high-metabolism bachelors.

I’m talking about authentic Asian street food, from the crowded, foggy streets of Shanghai and Tokyo, and the bustling alleyways and street markets of Canton and Yokohama. Served in a deep, round bowl with savory hot broth and piled with fresh vegetables, pulled pork, soft-poached eggs, chili threads and a hundred other choices, it’s slurped up with Chinese soup spoons and slick chopsticks.

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An authentic bowl of ramen is hard to find, outside the countries where it originated and a few port cities where skilled immigrants bring their inherited craft to tiny restaurants and back-door kitchens.  What if you could make your own noodles, the real way, the handcrafted way, at home?  What if you could prepare dashi, katsuobushi salt, mayu and the other necessary condiments, sauces, sprinkles and fats requisite to a steaming bowl of ramen, all in your own home?

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In a recent Asian Noodles Food Lab here at New Earth Farm, we experienced the skill of the master first hand!  Chef Kevin Ordonez, owner of the pop-up-turning-restaurant Alkaline VA, treated a full class to a night of ramen making, rice noodles, and Asian noodle legend.  Truly dedicated to his art, he prepares everything for his restaurant from scratch – from the rich chicken bone broth to the infamous scorched mayu, unique in its preparation and notable for the earthy, smoky flavor it brings to a bowl of steaming noodles.

Visiting Chef Kevin’s pop-up – follow his Facebook page to see where he goes next! – is a treat that everybody passing through the Hampton Roads area should indulge in.  It’s a family-friendly setting, with a revolving, ever-changing menu that uses local, seasonal and fresh foods, inspired by Asian street food and a little Comic-con!

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Until that glorious day when you get to sit down to a bowl of Chef Kevin’s rich, fragrant ramen replete with umami explosions and sensational flavors, you can enjoy the wonders of Tokyo and Hong Kong in your own home!  [BANG! POW!]  Chef Kevin, in his typically generous fashion, put together a recipe packet for our readers including not only the noodle recipes, but broth, salts and condiments necessary to create a truly authentic ramen experience.  Download the entire recipe packet, or pick and choose – the recipes are simple, straightforward, and true to their Asian roots. Many of these recipes are difficult to find in English or outside of ramen houses, so I am fortunate to be able to share this rich catalog with you!

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Chef Ordonez with his beautiful family, Melissa and young Max, on a visit to New Earth Farm

Alkaline’s Shoyu Ramen

Download the entire recipe packet here – see below for individual files

By Chef Kevin Ordonez of Restaurant Alkaline VA
This plating creates one bowl of Ordonez’ delicious, signature ramen dish. The next time you’re in Virginia Beach, stop by the restaurant and sample a steaming bowl of the authentic, homemade noodles yourself!

Serves one
5 ounces alkaline noodles*
8 ounces chicken stock*
8 ounces dashi*
1 ounce tare*
1 tablespoon cut scallions
1 tablespoon chicken fat*
1 teaspoon katsuobushi salt*
1 teaspoon mayu*

In a small sauce pot, combine the chicken stock, dashi, and tare and bring to a boil. Bring a four quart pot of water to a boil. Meanwhile, drop a few drops of chicken fat and a pinch of katsuobushi salt into the bottom of your guest’s ramen bowl. When the pot of broth comes to a boil, carefully pour it into ramen bowl. Cook ramen noodles in pot of boiling water for 1 minute. Vigorously stir noodles in water with chopsticks or tongs to prevent clumping. Drain noodles well and add to bowl of broth. Add desired toppings. Enjoy!

*See recipes in Asian Noodle Food Lab recipe packet
A note on desired toppings: Regions and chefs create their own unique toppings, but favorites include slices jalapenos and cilantro, thinly sliced seared pork, kimchi, a soft-poached egg, hot house-made sauces and more. Let the natural environment around you create opportunities for invention! Use local and fresh ingredients, and let us know what your favorites are!

Download the entire recipe packet here (all the following recipes, in one document)
Download Alkaline Noodles recipe
Download Chicken Stock recipe
Download Dashi recipe
Download Tare and Chicken Fat recipe
Download Katsuobushi Salt recipe
Download Mayu recipe
Download Alkaline’s Shoyu Ramen recipe
Download Chicken Udon recipe
Download Ginger Soba Noodles recipe
Download Rice Noodles recipe
Download Rice Noodle Stir Fry recipe

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Shopping for noodle tools?  Here are the gadgets Chef Kevin recommends!

He uses a KitchenAid stand mixer and pasta attachment to make noodles by the thousands in his restaurant. It will work in your home kitchen, too!

KitchenAid Professional 5 Plus 5-Quart Stand Mixer

KitchenAid Stand-Mixer Pasta-Roller Attachment

Enjoy your noodles!

Mrs H
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African Samosas: Interdependence in Community

Samosas can be vegan, too!  The ones pictured here include meat,
but you don’t need meat to make samosas – just don’t let any Kenyans hear me say that! 

Rafiki, friends,

The traditional African dishes streaming into my home have become such family favorites that it’s hard to imagine planning a week of menus without samosas or a masala stew or some chai. The African mothers have figured out not only the best dishes – ones you can make in advance, make in one pot, make with few ingredients, make with what’s available on the land – but also how to coordinate the community to see to everyone’s needs.

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Across the street from me, Agnes will race over and tell me she made a huge pot of chicken masala, just on the very day I’ve been working frenetically and never got to prepare dinner. “Jambo sana, mwanamke,” she’ll say, using the greeting of ‘woman’ she adopted tongue-in-cheek after hearing my husband address me in that manner, “I have a stew for us. I’m out of rice, can you make rice?”  The next day I’ll be stopping by. “I took a turkey out of the freezer. What should we make?” With this community support, the children are all fed, she gets to go to her college classes and I get to teach yoga classes, knowing that between the two of us, dinner for the families will be handled. When Beryl was staying with me for a few weeks before our husbands got back from deployment, nobody ever thought twice about who would make dinner or who would watch the kids – between the three of us, somebody was always home, a pot was always on the stove, and the kids were always under a watchful eye!

We thrive in the interdependence that comes from supporting and leaning on the community around us. Stark independence is a sign of pride and immaturity, somebody unable to give or receive. The tangled fibers of a family uplifting, supporting and creating is a sign of society truly becoming.

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These African samosas are one of the hallmarks of African cooking! Whenever a friend comes back to the States after visiting Africa, they claim this is the food they miss the most. “I dream about these at night,” a missionary friend confided once. Create the taste of the continent in your own kitchen, using the vegetables and meat that are available to you! Fillings are endless – but we all have our favorites! I love to include cilantro. Some shredded cabbage is always a win; and seasoning the meat with masala spices from Tanzania’s Zanzibar markets is one way to ensure there will be no leftovers.

This is less of a recipe, and more a set of guidelines. If you’re very attached to measurements and quantities, the time to lose that attachment is with international cooking – the recipes are land-based, meaning they use what’s available at the local markets at that time – and the quantities you’ll learn from each individual cook are often derived based on how big her family is, or how large her soup-pot is!

African Samosas with video instruction

Download the recipe PDF here

I did the folding of the wrapper painfully slow, because after watching Beryl and Agnes do it a thousand times and finding videos of them online, I still didn’t have the hang of it because everybody went too fast! 

Alternative Wrapping

Samosas are a special treat and a favorite in our house. Since they are fried, we don’t make them every day or even every week – but when I do make them, the dinner table is buzzing with interest! You can make them ahead of time and freeze without frying, then defrost them in the refrigerator before frying for dinner on a busy weeknight. They are wonderful served with hot, homemade sauce or pili pili, and a mound of fluffy rice or pilau. Put alongside stews, soups and simple pot dinners, and throw them in the toaster oven to reheat the next day!  

Samosa wrappers
Samosa filling
Oil for frying

Wrappers: There are many different brands and varieties. You can even make your own!  They are generally found in the freezer section of international or Indian-Asian stores. If you use the large squares, you can fold them in half as I did in the video, or cut them in half to make twice as many. The long strip varieties are very economical – one package has about fifty wrappers! They make a smaller samosa, of course, so if you use the large wrappers you will have fewer, fatter pieces.

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Filling: Shockingly, it’s a free country and you can fill your samosas with whatever you like. A pound of meat, plus some chopped herbs, vegetables and spices will fill about thirty middle-sized wrappers, but this all depends on the size you use, and the quality of meat you use. You can also opt for a vegetarian filling, and use all chopped vegetables, shredded cabbage, and cooked rice, or potatoes and masala. Here is the filling I like to make: heat a few tablespoons of oil, and add diced onion and garlic. Cook until fragrant, 10 – 30 seconds. Add chopped vegetables, about a cup, and toast a few more seconds. Add one pound of ground meat or about three cups of rice and vegetables and cook until brown or tender; add one bunch chopped cilantro and one cup cooked rice, and stir to combine.  It’s easiest to make samosas if you let the filling cool first, but that is not necessary if you need to finish quickly. You can even make the filling a day in advance and store in the refrigerator!

Oil: Expeller pressed coconut oil, peanut oil, or whatever you generally use, heated hot so a piece of dough shrivels and bubbles when dropped in, or about 350°F.

Filling and Frying Samosas: The Process

Prepare filling; cool if you wish. Heat a pan of oil and prepare a plate with a towel, or a cooling rack over a pan, for the finished samosas (if desired). Make a paste by whisking a little flour and water in a small bowl; set aside. Fill and fold the wrappers according to the shape you are using (you can also roll them like spring rolls). Use a little flour paste to glue the final piece of dough closed. At this point you can remove them to the freezer if you are preparing them in bulk. Place the finished or defrosted samosa in hot oil. Fry until the bottom side is browned, about thirty seconds to one minute, then flip over with tongs, being cautious about splattering oil! Let them fry until the second side is done, between thirty seconds and two minutes. Use your discerning eye to time them – it will vary based on the wrappers you use, the oil you use, how crispy you like them to be, and how hot your stove is.

Serving: Serve with pilau rice, a traditional masala rice. Serve with plain rice, stews or hot sauce. Any way you serve them, they will be enjoyed by all, including the neighbors if they hear what you’re up to. What a treat!

Download the recipe PDF here

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Asante,

Mrs H
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Chopped Late-Summer Salad: eating has rarely been this good

Dear chopping and slicing summer-savers,

Hooray for Throwback Thursday! This is the day we take a field trip to visit the old blog, and steal one of the best-loved recipes from that sacred time capsule. This is one of my personal, heart-warming favorites, because I remember making it repeatedly when I was hot, tired, bored and hungry in Coronado, California! I started trying lots of variations from our CSA box at that time, and this one for some reason stuck as an outstanding, winning combination. As with all salads (like our prize-winning Overnight Cold Salad, you remember that!), you can vary, change and convert as suits your lifestyle, garden, region, favorite dietary sensitivity … So enjoy this recipe, loaded with sweet and precious memories, and let me know how much you love it, too!

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Dear reader with the Kleenex stuffed miserably up your nose,

I hear reports from my beloved, soggy Pacific Northwest that the traditional damp-weather sicknesses are plaguing and besetting them all.  Half my family contracted the dreaded strep throat in a wave of plague, and had to languish in quarantine separated from the other half which still had day jobs, school, and everyday interactions to be accomplished!

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I wished I could whack up a big bowl of this refreshing, germ-sizzling salad for them … Not only is it splendidly crunchy and delicious beyond all reason, but it packs a punch to whallop those wintery diseases in the red, chapped nose.  This recipe emerged triumphantly from a smattering of miscellaneous CSA-box produce and farmer’s market leftovers that I had lying indulgently about in my fridge – Mr H enjoyed it with a hot lunch of fry bread with hasty dipping sauce, and the whole meal was speedily assembled by myself only minutes after he requested a mid-afternoon repast.

As a practicality, if you are staggering from the black plague yourself, this salad is deathly simple to prepare.

Chopped Late-Summer Salad 

Download the recipe here

This is a splendid little salad I dreamed up when we had our first CSA membership out in Coronado, California.  I first named it Kick-the-Sickness Salad, because it seemed to be able – every time – to just wallop a burgeoning illness and send it packing!  Pair this with a glass of cold, sparkling kombucha and you have a lunch made in heaven, loaded with enough nutrition to stock you for hours.  As always, mix and match what you have available in your region, at whatever time of year you choose to make it! I like to vary the texture – some firm, some soft, some chewy – and the flavors – some neutral and fatty, some crisp and sharp.  Do you have a winning combination for a chopped salad?

3 medium-small tomatoes

1 thick slice of yellow onion

2 thick slices of cheese

1 ripe avocado

Olive Oil

White or Raw Apple Cider Vinegar

Fresh-ground black pepper

Sea salt or pink Himalayan salt

Fresh ground cumin or taco seasoning

Coarsely chop the first four ingredients and put them in your lunch bowl.  Drizzle with just a bit of olive oil, and then a dash of vinegar.  Grind some pepper over the top (pre-ground won’t have the same effect), and sprinkle with sea salt and ground cumin or taco seasoning.  Stir together.  Eat immediately or let marinate for a few hours or overnight in the fridge.

Variation: Add coarsely chopped or pickled garlic for extra power.  Add minced cilantro (my favorite!).

Download the recipe here

Life is short! Enjoy every … last … morsel!

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I really enjoyed this short sally out onto the memory highway, where recollections and amusing anecdotes come flying at me like speeding cars on the interstate. Let me know if this works for you, or if you have another genius ingredient to add!!

Cheers,

Mrs H
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Kenyan-Style Chai Masala: how to welcome an honored guest

Welcome to my first instructional cooking video!  
Advice and pro tips? Leave me your thoughts in the comments below! 

Hodi hodi marafiki zangu, hello dear friends!

I am blessed to have two beautiful Kenyan women as neighbors, one across the street and another down the road. We all share children, dinners, stories with each other and combine our cultures and tribal knowledge. My African sisters taught me that every welcoming and gracious home in Kenya has a pot of hot chai masala on the stove, ready to serve an honored guest at the drop of a Masai headdress. I posted about this hospitable tradition on my Instagram account and it got a lot of feedback there and on Facebook – it’s hard to say what my muzungu friends were more excited about: the recipe for chai masala, or the thought of dropping in on friends, unexpected!

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There are 1,001 ways to make chai masala, and they are all right. There are millions of different spice blends, milks and creams and bases, and every one is unique and delicious!

Kenyan-Style Chai Masala

Watch the instructional video, and read and download the recipe below!

Download recipe PDF here

Chai spices*
Loose or bagged black tea, about 3 teaspoons per half-gallon
Milk**, water, cream or a combination of any of these
Honey, maple syrup, brown sugar, sucanat or another sweetener to taste

The goal is to heat the liquid, and get the tea and spices to soak in this liquid for about ten minutes, and sweeten the tea. You can do this many different ways.

Method 1: Fill the pot with liquid. Sprinkle in tea and spices – you’ll find that preferences vary, but I like a few teaspoons’ amount of each.  Turn to medium heat and slowly warm for about ten to fifteen minutes, to just below simmering. Strain out spices and tea leaves; add sweetener and whisk briskly. Serve hot or cold!

Method 2: Fill the pot with liquid. Bring to a simmer and remove from heat; sprinkle in spices and tea and let steep for ten minutes. Pour through a strainer; add sweetener, stirring to dissolve. Serve to a lucky guest!

A note on straining: You can strain through a fine mesh sieve, or layer cheesecloth in it to really get out the tiny grit. I find I prefer it to be very finely strained!

*A note on chai spices: I love the Kenyan blend that my sisters bring back from Africa, but you can also find beautiful blends from India, other countries and also in the US. I’ve found some wonderfully fresh and fragrant blends from the high-quality spice purveyor www.marketspice.com in my native Seattle. Yes, you can order online! The Spicy Seattle Chai is outstanding. Look for blends that are just pure spices, no added flavorings, sugars, or other non-essential ingredients. Some spice blends are ground very fine; others are coarse or may have whole coriander, cloves et cetera. Explore with abandon!  Invent your own!

**A note on milk: You can use just milk. Just water. A mixture; almond milk, coconut milk, goat’s milk. I use raw cow’s milk most of the time, and mix it with up to 50% water. It depends on what’s available! Slightly sour milk is perfect.

Download recipe PDF here

How do you welcome guests into your home?  Do you enjoy unexpected drop-ins?

Mrs H
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As seen on The Prairie Homestead Round-Up

Cooking from the Farm: My Top 10 Cookbooks

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Dear gentle readers and those not so gentle as well,

We like to eat well, and we also like to save money. We like to eat local food, and we love fresh and seasonal food. Logically, then, much of what we eat every day comes from the farm. We also don’t like eating the same recipe twenty-hundred times in a season, so I am constantly scouting new cookbooks. I’ve whittled down a list of books that work very well for farmer’s market shoppers, CSA members, seasonal eaters, farmers and gardeners. I’ve stuck with this short list because every time I go to these books, I can find everything I need for a given recipe in one trip out to the farm, and the odds and ends (olive oil, balsamic vinegar), I tend to have in my pantry. These books stay in my kitchen for frequent, daily use while other interesting, but possibly less useful books, go elsewhere to be referenced occasionally.

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This list is not comprehensive, and in fact I am hoping you’ll send me your favorite titles as well; I am always looking to bolster my creative closet of books!  The following  books are in no particular order (other than smallest to biggest!).

My Favorite Cookbooks for Cooking from the Farm

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1. The French Market Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes from My Parisian Kitchen

Clotilde Dusoulier is the totally adorable and well-loved blogger at chocolateandzucchini, and she is not a vegetarian. She is not gluten or dairy free, either, but as it happens, most of the recipes in this vegetarian book are also gluten and dairy free. I’m not vegetarian either, but I don’t eat loads and loads of meat because it’s expensive and it just isn’t sustainable (which you learn when you are growing your own food), to eat turkey and steak every week (more often than not we’re eating bones, feet and organs!).  Truth to be told, I was prepared to not like this book because so many “market” books don’t live up to their name, but truly every ingredient in her recipe will be found growing together, or harvested the same weekend. In fact, the book is divided into seasons, not categories, to make it even easier to plan your next trip to the farmer’s market. And the book is really cute, and precious, and pretty, and has lots of juicy pictures. I gave it a five star review when I reviewed it for the San Francisco Book Review.

2. Recipes from the Root Cellar: 270 Fresh Ways to Enjoy Winter Vegetables

And oh, how I love this book. It was recommended to me by copy editor and reviewer and vegetarian foodie Holly Scudero, who had an early galley copy that I loved to drool over. Mr H bought it for me when Borders Books went out of business – we pretty much cleared out the cookbook shelves, and this gem was one of the best things that happened that day. Andrea Chesman grows her own food, so her recipes have such a natural way of being seasonal that it feels a little ridiculous to even point it out. The first time I made sauerkraut was from this book; the long, lonely winter in California was filled with comforting, steaming bowls of Italian meatball soup, and pans of maple-roasted vegetables that I wrapped myself around like a mother cat with her kittens. This is one of the best books in my kitchen.

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3. Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods

And speaking of sauerkraut, behold the fermentation king!  For those of us who truly eat seasonally from our gardens, fermentation is one of the many food preservation techniques we rely on to get nutrient-dense, home-grown produce all year long.  This book will take you from novice to advanced fermentation artist (especially if you follow it with The Art of Fermentation, a veritable treatise on the subject!).  Since he grows much of his own food, and since fermentation is an art developed solely for the purpose of preserving food in it’s season, it’s very easy to find everything you need for a given recipe growing at one time. Can’t find Chinese cabbage?  Maybe it doesn’t grow in your area (so you’ll have to ferment pineapple and coconuts instead!), or maybe it’s the wrong season for it (and you should try turnips and carrots while you wait!). I fell in love with this book when I borrowed it from a friend, and then I had to buy my own copy and now it’s splattered and marked in and the pages are wobbly at the bottom from when a gallon of kimchi leaked out onto it.

4. The Real Food Cookbook: Traditional Dishes for Modern Cooks

Nina Planck, who writes at ninaplanck.com, grew up with farmer parents, eating farmer food. She is accustomed to and familiar with the rhythms of the garden and the bounty and not-so-bounty of some foods.  Her book has a certain respect towards the way a farm grows – look, we can’t put ground beef in every recipe or we’ll run out of cows and have a freezer full of feet – and she strongly encourages readers to vary the recipes, saying she will never make it the same way twice herself and we should adapt to our areas. I love that philosophy since I never follow recipes but, as she suggests, use them as inspiration (even though I often start out with good intentions of following the recipe very strictly, it never happens!).  Her book makes me so happy, and so hungry, and so eager to run out and harvest a basketful of dinner!

5. Better Homes and Gardens Fresh: Recipes for Enjoying Ingredients at Their Peak (Better Homes & Gardens)

I guess I was a little surprised how much I liked this book, since it seemed so commercial when I first picked it up.  But it actually delivers some delicious surprise!  The meat section focuses on very American cuts of meat like flank steak and meat-centric dishes, but that is only a very small portion of the overall book (and that is not to say we don’t need the occasional recipe for a flank steak! It’s just pretty darn rare… bad pun?). The fritters, salads, pizzas and desserts – oh, the desserts – overcompensate the cook with plenty to work with. In fact, as I am flipping through it I am wondering if the roasted vegetables and chickpeas might make an appropriate dinner … or shoestring sweet potatoes and beets?

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6. Local Flavors: Cooking and Eating from America’s Farmers’ Markets

Let me just start by saying anything from Deborah Madison has my automatic seal of approval. She’s on this list twice, if that tells you anything! She has a dessert book, too, that would be on this list I am sure if I were so lucky as to own it and have some experience with the recipes (I browsed through it at at the library once, but I was visiting another city at the time so I couldn’t check it out!). Her book has an astonishing ability to have recipes that use literally every single item I dug up or trimmed off the plant that day. When I first joined a CSA, I felt like every box was custom-built for one of her recipes. I fell in love with her work and have been a groupie ever since. When you need vegetable-centric dishes from somebody who knows vegetables, and knows plants and really, really knows food – Madison delivers the goods.

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7. Vegetable Literacy: Cooking and Gardening with Twelve Families from the Edible Plant Kingdom,

with over 300 Deliciously Simple Recipes

This is one of the newest books in my collection. I saw it at TJ Maxx and it was in my cart before you could shake a pasture-raised organically-fed lamb’s tail. Rich, nourishing, hearty, and most fascinating of all, divided by plant families. I could read this book all day long, but the shimmering pictures on the page would send me to the kitchen before long!  Prepare to get an education on the plant kingdom, flavor profiles and recipe history when you crack open this tome of wonder. Like all her books, the recipes are full of seasonal items that grow at the same time, and, as far as I can tell, in the same place.

8. The Silver Spoon

You’d be surprised how much international cookbooks stick to seasonal cooking – not because it’s a ‘thing’ or a ‘movement’ but because they don’t all shop and eat out of the supermarket!  This Italian cookbook has an easy fluidity to the recipes – they just feel so natural, so easily fresh and seasonal. It’s a pleasure to cook out of it, and easy. When I have a bumper crop of cucumbers, I go to the cucumber section and pick a few unique recipes. It’s definitely better than eating cucumber salad three times a day!

9. Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round

(Not pictured above) Of course, I have to add a canning book. Marisa McClellan, with her gorgeous and tasty blog, has been a favorite of mine for years now, and she never fails to deliver!  She shops her local farmer’s markets or is gifted produce from friends, so her recipes also come seasonally quite naturally. With small batches for canning – you can do this while you make lunch, instead of setting aside the whole weekend for it – her recipes are attainable and enjoyable. I’ve loved every single recipe of hers I’ve ever made – they’ve all turned into family favorites, requested gifts, popular dishes at the house. When the gas repairman sampled the pickled beets, he said, “I’ve never eaten a beet in my life! I can’t stop eating these!” He took the whole jar home.

10. I need you to fill in this blank!

I need another market-worthy book!  Are there any good raw books out there, or international cookbooks? I love Mediterranean and Indian and Persian food – I’ve been curious to try The New Persian Kitchen, and of course anything by Ottolenghi but especially his new Jerusalem: A Cookbook. I love all-American, old fashioned or contemporary. What are your suggested titles? Thanks for reading along!!

Anxiously awaiting your reply,

Mrs H
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