Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Cooking It Up

Aside from growing your own food, a big & very important part of being self-sufficient is to actually USE all the lovely produce & eggs (and whatever else you may produce at your place). In the past, I've given away a lot of our garden veggies because I didn't make time to figure out what to do with it all, and then I didn't have much produce preserved for the rest of the year, and I still ended up buying plenty of produce at the grocery stores. This journey is giving me time to explore the possibilities of making better use of what is available to me right here, so a lot of my time lately has been spent figuring out how to make good use of the abundance that nature provides for us in our back yard. This includes our everyday meals as well as preserving food to use later on. In my view, part of being self-sufficient includes getting the most nutrition possible from what is available to you. Here are a few of the things I've been making or have plans to make:

Cabbage Buns - I made the filling by sauteeing ground beef and shredded cabbage with some ghee & garlic salt. This is the filling, which will get baked into bread dough pockets. You can make the whole thing & freeze it to reheat later, but I opted to just freeze the filling & make the bread part when I want to eat them, in order to save freezer space for other homemade goodies.

Sauerkraut - This will be raw, lacto-fermented sauerkraut. Making sauerkraut this traditional way preserves the vitamin C & other nutrients that would be destroyed by cooking, and I love the flavor of fresh, homemade sauerkraut.

Zucchini! - I am using this in all kinds of recipes. My kiddo doesn't do well with the texture of veggies, so I've been mostly blending zucchini into other recipes. We grew the golden variety this year - it has a mild flavor and isn't green, so it hides more easily than the regular zucchini or other vegetables. Besides having it in zucchini bread, I've blended it into gravy, enchilada sauce (homemade chicken broth, zucchini, Anaheim chilis, arrowroot powder, garlic & RealSalt), and soup. I love coating slices of zucchini with egg, cooking them in a frying pan with either ghee or bacon grease, and then salting them with either plain or garlic RealSalt. Here is a recipe I came across for a <a href="">healthy flourless cookie bar using zucchini.</a> I haven't tried it yet, and I think I would opt for using peanut butter in place of the almond butter to make a peanut butter chocolate chip cookie bar. Let me know if you try it out! Even with all these strategies, I have given away a bit of zucchini here & there. It's a blessing of summer. :)

Nectar & fruit leather - Apicot nectar is delicious to drink freshly made, and fruit leather is one of the easiest ways to preserve fruit for eating during the winter. We picked quite a stash of apricots from our tree. We wash them, take out the pits, and blend them up with a little water. This liquid is good for drinking fresh (although some people prefer it sweetened with apple juice and/or a natural sweetener for dinking), and the rest gets poured onto parchment-lined dehydrator trays and put into the dehydrator. Our dehydrator has a knob to adjust the temperature, so we set it around 100 - 105 degrees in order to preserve enzymes & vitamins that would be destroyed by the heat & pressure of canning the fruit, and we don't have to mess with the jars, the pressure cooker, etc. Fruit leather also takes less storage space than canned fruit.

Pesto - I love growing fresh basil & making pesto. I blend up the batch & put it into freezer bags to keep the air out, which keeps it from turning brown and allows it to freeze thin & flat for stacking in my often-too-full freezer.

Grape juice - There are lots of grapes growing this year - woohoo! We have a steam juicer, and we bottle the juice in our pressure cooker. I really don't buy juice from the store any more; we don't drink juice often, but we love to have this homemade juice as a treat. I also like to make something similar to "Jello Jigglers" with just plain unflavored gelatin and our homemade grape juice. The recipe is called "Knox Blox" and is found on the individual packets of Knox brand unflavored gelatin. Yum!

Herbal Tea - Using "weeds" makes me happy, since I get free nutrition without having to cultivate these wonderful plants. I've been harvesting dandelion greens & alfalfa since the spring & drying them to make tea in the winter. Now I'm also harvesting mint, which will definitely improve the flavor of the tea, and I'll soon harvest & dry some parsley to add to the mix.

Fresh Juice - I've been making lots of fresh veggie juice. I make juice with a combination of whatever we have in the garden, plus whatever I've picked up at the local farmers market. Lately, this has meant I'm using a combination of cucumber, cabbage leaves (the outer leaves that grow around the actual head of cabbage), beet leaves (pulled as I thin the beets in the garden, sometimes these have small beets on them), lilac bell peppers, and peaches. Apples are good in the juice, too, if you have them. Soon we'll have kale ready to use, and some of it will end up as juice, I'm sure. If your juice is too bitter from the greens, some fresh lemon juice will cut the bitterness really well & make it more palatable. I need to add weeds to my juice, too - I've used dandelion greens before, but they're really bitter when they're not cooked (thus the reason I've been saving them for herbal tea). I'm thinking that purslane (aka waxweed) may be the first non-cultivated addition to my juices.

Eggs - I don't know if it's a frittata, or an omelet, or something else entirely. I sautee chopped veggies in butter or bacon grease (peppers & zucchini are what I have lately), and then I pour mixed-up eggs into the pan with the veggies & cook it all together. When it's finished, I often top it with grated cheese. Whatever it is, it's good. Yummy!

I want to know - if you grow your own food, what are you doing with it? Also, what is the veggie-and-egg thingy called that I just described?

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