Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Black bean and quinoa burgers served with homemade buns

I have been looking for a great recipe for vegetarian patty burger for a while and I wanted to find something that did not include binding the patty with egg.  I came across a recipe for black bean-quinoa burgers on http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/black-bean-quinoa-burgers/ which I slightly modified as follows: 
  • 1/2 cup of uncooked quinoa
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of water
  • 1/2 cup of white wine
 Cook quinoa per directions.
Meanwhile, sauté the onion over medium heat until softened. Stir in ¾ cup black beans, garlic, 1 cup
of water and 1/2 cup of white wine. Simmer until most of liquid has evaporated.

Transfer bean-onion mixture to food processor, add ¾ cup cooked quinoa, and process until smooth. Transfer to bowl, and stir in remaining ¾ cup quinoa and remaining ¾ cup black beans. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, and cool.

Preheat oven to 375°F, and generously coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Shape bean mixture into 8 patties, and place on baking sheet. Bake 20-30 minutes, or until patties are crisp on top. Flip patties half way through until both sides are crisp and brown.

Add some shredded cheese on top of the patties for the last 1-2 min. 

Serve patties as a "regular" burger.  Also, a chipotle sauce would add a nice spicy flavor to it.

For homemade buns, I use the following recipe (http://www.tasteofhome.com/Recipes/40-Minute-Hamburger-Buns) - Slightly modified as follows:

  • 1 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (110° to 115°)
  • 1/3 cup grape seed oil
  • 1/4 cup sugar or honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 to 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add oil and sugar; let
stand for 5 minutes. Add the egg, salt and enough flour to form a
soft dough.
Let rest for about 30 min to 1 hour.
Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about
3-5 minutes. Divide into 12 pieces; shape each into
a ball. Place 3 in. apart on greased baking sheets.
Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Bake at 425° for 8-12 minutes
or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.
Yield: 1 dozen.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Peach Jam

This year, I had given up the idea on making peach jam.  I usually get a huge box of peaches on my way back from my in-laws, in Eastern WA.  This time, it must have been too early, we stopped by the fruit stand but they did not have the boxes of peaches ready.  I was disappointed but on a way, since I was due to deliver my baby anytime, maybe it was a good thing not to have additional chores.
I came to term that I would not enjoy any delicious peach jam during winter.

Little did I know that a few weeks later, my mother in-law, who was coming to baby sit her grandchildren for an evening, would surprise me with a box of peaches!

I was back in business...I could already taste the jam on my homemade bread...mmm.

I used approx. 32 medium to large peaches and yielded 11 quart jars of delicious peach jam.

Here is how I make my jam:

Approx. 32 peaches (blanched, peeled and pitted)
4 cups of sugar
The juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup of Cointreau (why not?)

After getting my peaches ready (blanched, peeled and pitted - by the way my chicken loved the peels!), I put all the peaches, sugar, lemon juice and Cointreau (optional, but again, why not?) in a large pot.  I bring everything to a boiling point and leave it that way for about 5-7 min, then I reduce the heat to low and cook the jam for about 30 min or so.  The easiest way to find out if the jam is ready, is by using a plate that has been in the freezer and by placing a spoon full of the jam on it. If the jam does not run off, it is ready!

The next step is to can the jam, first ensure to sterilize all the jars and lids.  Once that step is done, fill the jam in each jars and place the lids on the jars.  Put the jars in a boiling pot of water (ensuring the water covers the jars completely) and let it boil for about 5 min.  Remove the jars from the water and let them rest on the counter for 24 hours. 

This is that simple...Not pectin and only natural ingredients.  Great to enjoy with yogurt, toast, pancakes, and anything else you may think of!  They make for good presents too.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Homemade Pesto

I am a big fan of pesto, but do not like to stick to the only kind of pesto most people know, basil pesto.  Being a huge fan of kale as well, I had of course, to make other kind of pesto. 
Here are a couple of pesto I like to make to enjoy on pasta, pizza, sandwiches or anything else I can think of.

Kale pesto:
- a couple leaves of kale (I prefer the Siberian kale, but any type would do)
- 2 to 3 cloves of garlic
- a handful of walnuts (or pine nuts, or pistachios)
- some grated cheese (parmesan or pecorino)
- salt to taste
- Olive oil

Blend everything in a mixer, adjust the amount of olive oil to make a smooth paste, it should be thick enough but not too much and liquidly enough but not too much.

Basil/Parsley/Kale pesto:
- a mix of kale, pesto and parsley
- 2 to 3 cloves of garlic
- a handful of walnuts (or pine nuts, or pistachios)
- some grated cheese (parmesan or pecorino)
- salt to taste
- Olive oil

Blend everything in a mixer, adjust the amount of olive oil to make a smooth paste, it should be thick enough but not too much and liquidly enough but not too much.

Garlic scape pesto:
- a bunch of garlic scape
- 2 to 3 cloves of garlic
- a handful of walnuts (or pine nuts, or pistachios)
- some grated cheese (parmesan or pecorino)
 - salt to taste
- Olive oil

Blend everything in a mixer, adjust the amount of olive oil to make a smooth paste, it should be thick enough but not too much and liquidly enough but not too much.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Homemade vinaigrette

The first time I came to the USA was over 17 years ago. There were a few things that came across as being a cultural shock, bigger cars, bigger buildings, stores open on week-ends, etc.

One of the biggest cultural shocks to me happened to be the salad dressing! I remember the first time I was faced in making a decision on which salad dressing to pick. I was never asked that question before, in France, we simply use vinaigrette! At least, at my parents'.

So, here I was with a multitude of choices: blue cheese, Italian, ranch, French, thousand islands, etc. So many to choose from...Oh my, I happened to be in a bit of a panic, I did not expect anyone to give me a choice. What to do now? Well, I decided to stay safe and picked French. What could go wrong with French salad dressing?

....Well, everything went wrong! I expected a simple vinaigrette, and here they splattered this thick red sauce on top of my salad! It tasted just like ketchup! Talk about a cultural shock. Needless to say, I did not enjoy my salad that day.

I learned over the years, that a multitude of salad dressing was offered. I am still not a fan of any creamy / thick salad dressing, way too rich to my taste. The other things that intrigued me is that people would actually buy salad dressing. It never crossed my mind to do that. I grew up making it at home, even my dad knows how to make it (and he is not a cook).

My favorite of all remains the vinaigrette I grew up with.
Here is the recipe I would like to share, after so many years, I actually eye ball everything. The great thing is you can adjust the quantities to your liking.

  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Put all the ingredients in a 12-ounce screw top jar (you can use an empty mustard container). Screw on the lid and shake very well. Taste and adjust seasonings, adding more oil or vinegar as needed.

Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks, shaking before each use.

I surely hope your next salad will have homemade vinaigrette!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Homemade Yogurt

Although making yogurt might be intimidating for some, it is surprisingly easy.  After all, all you need is milk and plain yogurt! 

I have been making yogurt at home for a couple of years now.  My quest to avoid any of the unnecessary added ingredients brought me to making yogurt. Why adding corn starch, high fructose corn syrup, some sort of gum, etc. All these sound, to say the least, very unappetizing!  How about simple ingredient such as organic milk and live cultures!  Oh yeah, that's right, this is how yogurt is made.

I have tried different ways of making yogurt and lately my favorite one is using my slow cooker!

It takes pretty much the entire day to make but requires very little effort, that works for me! 

Here is the trick:

Pour 8 cups of milk (I like to use 2%. Whole milk is a bit too rich and skimmed milk too watery, and organic of course!) in the slow cooker.  Heat on slow for 2.5 hours.  Turn off the slow cooker and let it rest for 3 hours.  Mix 1/2 cup of plain (organic) yogurt with live cultures.  Let it sit in the slow cooker for about 8 hours (add a thick blanket or towel on top of the slow cooker to keep it well insulated).
Et voila, you just made yogurt!

You can leave the yogurt as is or strain some of the whey to make a thicker yogurt.  If straining the yogurt, use some cheesecloth. 

This should yield about one 32oz container of strained yogurt or about two containers if not strained.

Be sure to save about 1/2 cup of the newly made yogurt for the future batch, you can freeze the yogurt.

You can enjoy yogurt with homemade preserve, fresh fruit and berries, or with some honey. 


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Why Keeping Chickens in the Backyard?

The achievement of a successful urban gardener can be summed up in growing vegetables and fruits for some. For others, fruits and vegetables are only the beginning of the experience.  The continued need to expand and increase the natural food produced at home can lead to include some livestock. One of the easiest steps in adding animals to an urban setting is by keeping a few chickens.  Once a sufficient preparation and education is done, it is easy to discover some of the great benefits chickens bring: they are great foragers, provide wonderful eggs, and are environmentally friendly.
            Before jumping into the adventure of keeping chickens, it is important to check the codes with the city and/or homeowners associations – HOA. Some cities allow chickens and some do not, for those that allow them, an HOA can overturn the decision by imposing a different set of rules.  Then in some cities, further restrictions may apply such as the number of chickens that can be kept on the property, whether roosters are or are not allowed, and the location and size of the enclosure.  In any case, if chickens are allowed, it is always a good idea to first check with the neighbors to ensure they are fine with the idea of living next to them.   One of the best ways is to entice them with the promise of fresh eggs!
            The next normal step would be to get educated and understand all the different facets involved in keeping chickens.  Having chickens can be an easy “hobby” and can turn into a wonderful experience if done right from the beginning.  It is important to be well prepared prior to getting baby chicks.  Some non-profit organizations specialized in gardening and urban farming, local farms and/or, local feed stores may offer comprehensive classes to educate people about caring for chickens, from getting started with baby chicks to building and designing a chicken coop.  Guidebooks and online forums are also great resources to have for quick references and additional information. 
            Once educated, but prior to getting chickens, it is important to plan for proper housing and protection for them.  The coop, where the chickens sleep, lay eggs, and roost, can be bought pre-made or can be built from scratch.  If deciding to build a chicken coop from scratch, it is a good idea to know the basics: each standard size chicken would require a minimum of 3-4 sq. ft. of floor space inside and an additional approximate 10 sq. ft. for an enclosed run (Taylor, 268), when in doubt, the bigger the better. Chickens can adapt to confine spaces but seem to be at their best when given more space; more space will also avoid too much pecking between chickens. Additionally, it is good to keep the coop well ventilated but draft free. Chickens need good air circulation to stay healthy but do not tolerate drafts very well.  And finally, it is necessary to keep both the coop and the run rodents and predators resistant; either by lining the bottom of the floor with hardware cloth or by extending the sides of the run with an additional foot of hardware cloth and covering it with dirt and rocks (Litt, 80-82) and by closing the top of the run with wire or roofing material. Chickens tend to be the target of lots of predators from the ground to the air. Once all the preparation is done, it is time to get chickens and start the adventure.
            Chickens can be the perfect addition to an urban backyard.  They are great foragers; nature gave them beaks and claws and their purpose seems to be digging and eating from dawn to dusk.  They “can make a substantial dent in the population of unwanted garden, pests, such as slugs and tomato-chomping caterpillars, while having little effect on populations of most beneficial ones, like ladybugs.” (Litt, 8).  Although, they are a wonderful match to keep the pest population down, if left free to roam around the garden, they can also cause some substantial damage in very little time to areas they may not be wanted.  In this case, it is best to protect parts of the yard (for example, the vegetable corner) by using some sort of fencing (Luttman, 16).  Allowing chickens to free range in the garden not only benefits the garden itself, but also gives them all the additional nutrients needed to create the most wonderful eggs.
                Eggs will be rediscovered when keeping chickens in the backyard.  Knowing what goes into the chickens can be essential in order to appreciate the high quality of their eggs.  From local organic feed to kitchen scraps, the result is far superior eggs compared to store bought eggs. An egg testing done by Cheryl Long and Tabitha Alterman in 2007 “compared to official U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) nutrient data for commercial eggs, eggs from hens raised on pasture may contain:  1/3 less cholesterol, 1/4 less saturated fat, 2/3 more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E, and 7 times more beta carotene”.  Such information demonstrates not only that having chickens in the backyard is beneficial for a health point of view, but also shows that keeping happy chickens simply provide better eggs.  The eggs have proven to be firmer, tastier, and richer than those bought at the store.
            One of the last components of keeping chickens in the backyard is that it also benefits the environment.  Chickens do not need to be given chemically produced feed filled with antibiotics that impact the environment; instead, they can sustain themselves on most of the kitchen scraps supplemented by local organic feed.  Controlling what goes into a chicken has multiple consequences, first by knowing what goes back into one’s body (via the eggs) and second by controlling what goes back into the garden (via the manure).  Chickens in the backyard have great benefits in reducing the amount of waste produced in a household as well.  Providing chickens with food scraps help supplement their diet and lower the amount of leftover.  The manure produced by the chickens is a wonderful fertilizer highly sought after by organic gardeners, “In fact, of all manures, chicken waste is the most effective as a fertilizer.” (Litt, 127) The manure composts a lot faster than regular waste would, so it can be used a lot sooner,  which gives the opportunity for the vegetable garden to get some of the best nutrients year round. It is a win-win situation.
                As Uncle Sam stated in 1918, “two hens in the backyard for each person in the house will keep a family in fresh eggs” (Mather, Pars. 2), keeping chickens in the backyard may surpass anyone’s expectations.  One might discover great abilities for design and construction by providing them with a “perfect habitat”. Chickens will become the backyard best friends when it comes to managing the garden, they will provide endless wonderful breakfast, they will deliver some of the best fertilizers for the vegetable garden, but best of all they are great pets.  Each breed and each chicken has a wonderful unique personality that is sure to provide everlasting entertainment.

Works Cited
Litt Robert, and Hannah Litt. A Chicken in Every Yard. New York: Ten Speed Press,       2011. Print
Long, Cheryl, and Tabitha Alterman. “Meet Real Free-Range Eggs.” Mother Earth News            Oct./Nov. 2007: n.pag. Web 05 Nov. 2012    <http://www.motherearthnews.com/Real-Food/2007-10-01/Tests-Reveal-          Healthier-Eggs.aspx>
Luttman, Rick, and Gail Luttman.Chickens in your Backyard A Beginner’s Guide.           Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale, 1976. Print
Mather, Robin. “Uncle Sam Wants You to Raise Chickens.” Mother Earth News 18 Nov.             2011: n. pag. Web. 05 Nov. 2012  <http://www.motherearthnews.com/the-happy-     homesteader/uncle-sam-wants-you-to-raise-chickens.aspx>
Taylor, Lisa. Your Farm in the City. New York: Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2011.            Print