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Roasted Chickpeas

December 21st, 2013

Last night we went to a holiday party.  We were supposed to take a snack of some sort.  Knowing there’d be the usual snack items already there, I decided to make roasted chickpeas. Mine were dried beans that I soaked overnight then cooked. I tossed them with coconut oil and roasted them in a 400 oven for about 40 minutes (or until most of them are crispy). I then removed them from the oven, poured them in a bowl and tossed them with ghee, honey and various spices like smoked paprika and cinnamon. Back into the oven they went for 5-10 minutes. They should all end up crispy and delicious, a little like pretzels.
Roasted Chickpeas
Sometimes I also love to add smoke chipotle to add some nice heat, but usually avoid that when I’m taking them elsewhere as most folks don’t enjoy that level of spiciness. One of these days I’m going to add mustard powder instead of paprika because I think honey mustard ones would be heavenly!

What crazy snack foods are you taking to holiday parties?

Butternut Squash & Chipotle Soup

December 5th, 2013

It’s squash season and I’m happy. I love butternut squash soup, really love it. I’d eat it a few days a week if I could. My favorite recipe combines sweet squash, creamy butter, savory sage and smoky chipotle peppers. In fact, there’s a batch on the stove right now.
Here’s my favorite Butternut Squash recipe.

Butternut Squash and Chipotle Soup

from Fresh & Light (Williams-Sonoma)

1 butternut squash, 2.5 lbs
1 tablespoon of butter
2 slices of coarse country bread, each about 1/2 inch thick cut into 1/2 inch cubes (for croutons)
1 teaspoon of dried sage
1/2 yellow onion chopped
2 small chipotle peppers (I’d start with 1 without seeds and then taste) I use canned ones
3 1/2 cups of chicken, turkey, ham or vegetable stock
salt to taste
fresh sage leaves (optional)
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Cut the squash in half lengthwise. Using spoon, scrape out the seeds and any fibers and discard. Place the squash halves, cut side down, on a baking sheet and bake until just tender, about 35 minutes. Remove from the oven. When cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh into a bowl.

In a large saucepan over medium high heat, warm the butter. Add the bread and dried sage and saute, stirring often, until the bread cubes are browned on all side, about 4 minutes. Using a spoon, transfer croutons to a plate and set aside. Add the onion to the pan and saute until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in the squash chiles, and broth. Simmer over medium heat and cook, uncovered, until the squash is very soft, about 30 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth (or with immersion blender), be very carefully blending hot soup as it has a tendency to explode the top off the blender. It’s best to start with bursts of power then to full blend. Its also wise to keep a kitchen towel draped over the blender. I have found an immersion blender to be indispensable since we make many pureed soups.

Return soup to the pan and reheat gently. If desired add some whole milk and butter. Taste and add salt and freshly ground pepper as needed. Ladle into warmed bowls. Divide the croutons among the servings and garnish with sage leaves. Serve hot.

Bacon, Canadian Bacon, and Sausage

November 21st, 2013

Slaughtering two pigs amounts to loads of work, thankfully I arranged my schedule so I could take a few days off. Yesterday my entire day was spent making bacon, Canadian bacon and sausage. Mr Chiots helped with the sausage in the evening, that chore is easier when there are two hands. I know you’re probably sick of hearing about pork, but it’s what is filling my day so it’s what I’m thinking about and what I’m doing. I thought some of you might be interested in the recipes and techniques I’m using for curing some of meat.
bourbon bacon 1
Bacon, hams and most cured meats are extremely easy to make. I made bacon a few years and and was amazed at the simplicity of the process. Essentially you salt a piece of meat, and then smoke it if you want, or not. I highly recommend giving it a try if you can, you won’t be disappointed in the results. If you’re used to buying regular bacon from the grocery store, your homemade bacon will taste nothing like it.
bourbon bacon 3
If you are ever lucky enough to have fresh pork belly in your kitchen, here are a few recipes that I’m using. I used half of one belly to make German Bacon, the remainder was used to make . Another whole pork belly was used to make Ventreche, or French bacon. Two entire pork bellies were used to make classic bacon using the recipe from The River Cottage Cookbook. The last half pork belly was used to develop my own recipe which was made with bourbon, bourbon steeped with vanilla beans, sea salt, freshly ground pepper and a pinch of sweet cinnamon and nutmeg. I’ll smoke half of this and leave half unsmoked, it will be tweaked for next year and will hopefully become my signature bacon.  I’m thinking this one is going to be very good.
bourbon bacon 2
I made Canadian bacon using this recipe, I’m pretty excited to try this out.
canadian bacon
It’s an amazing thing to cure meat with salt. I also like knowing that the sea salt I’m using is rich in magnesium, a mineral that many people are deficient in nowadays. Being that I can be a bit of an insomniac and have a tendency to crave salt, I’m most likely a little deficient in this mineral. Making my food as nutrient dense as possible is one of the reasons I grow, raise and process my own. My pigs were fed a varied diet, along with molasses, minerals and sea salt to make sure their meat is as rich in minerals as possible.

Have you ever wondered if you’re deficient in any vitamin/mineral?

Friday Favorite: Cashew Butter

August 30th, 2013

Peanut butter has never really been one of my favorite things. As a kid, I didn’t really like PB&J’s – crazy, I know. I did eat a fair amount of peanut butter in college, as it was a convenient snack item. Perhaps part of the reason I never liked it is because it has a tendency to give me indigestion. When I eat peanut butter I burp it up for the next couple hours – not pleasant! I’ve never tried other nut butters as they can be rather pricey.
Cashew Butter
Earlier this week I decided to try turning my favorite nut into butter – the cashew. I used soaked nuts, which I find easier to digest (see the Nourishing Traditions cookbook for information on soaking cashews). Since I only have a blender, I added a little coconut oil to the cashews and blended it into a lovely butter. I have to admit, this stuff is GREAT. So much better than peanut butter. I don’t think I’ll ever eat peanut butter again!

What’s your favorite kind of nut butter?

Elderflower Fritters

June 27th, 2013

The elderflowers are starting to fade. Every year, when they bloom, I have great intentions to pick them for fritters; then every year I forget. This year, I finally remembered, or I suppose I was finally in the right place at the right time.
Elderflower fritters 2
My mom has a ton of elderberry bushes in her garden. There are a few different varieties because my parents have been collecting them for years. They love the berries, my mom makes jelly and I usually make elderberry syrup.
Elderflower fritters 3
Last week, I picked about a dozen blossoms, whipped up a quick batter.  Here’s the recipe in case you’re interested:  3/4 cup of organic flour, 2 Tablespoons of melted butter, 3/4 cup water, milk, a pinch of salt and a dash of vanilla mixed to a batter.  After letting this sit for 30 minutes, fold in a beaten egg white.  The blossoms were dipped and fried in coconut oil. I learned that you should shake off some of the batter or the delicate elderberry blossom flavor gets lost.

Elderflower fritters 1
The stems should also not be eaten, so after using the main stem for dipping in the batter, I snipped it off with scissors right at the base of the flower clusters. After removing from the pan they were sprinkled lightly with a little organic sugar. All-in-all, these were a hit. Not a bad way to get some extra coconut oil in your diet, and a much healthier version of heavy fried fair food!

Have you ever eaten elderflowers?

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