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Make your own cheese

I bake my own bread. I don’t understand why anyone would use a box mix to bake a cake. I take pride in cooking things with real ingredients. So, it just seems natural that the next step in my culinary journey would be cheesemaking.

I won’t say that the process didn’t intimidate me – because it did. There are a lot of steps and strange ingredients. But, once you get past the initial challenge, it is a very rewarding process.

For more cheese recipes and supplies visit Homesteader’s Supply. 

Farmhouse Cheddar

Ingredients

  • 3 gallons whole milk
  • Mesophilic Culture (1/4 tsp Abiasa, 1/8 tsp Danisco, or 1/16 tsp Sacco)
  • 2 teaspoons calcium chloride (only needed for store bought milk)
  • 1.5 tablet rennet or 3/4 tsp liquid rennet
  • 1/4 cup unchlorinated water
  • 1 Tbsp salt

cheese-for-web-story

Steps

  1. Combine milk, (calcium chloride) in 16 qt stock pot (double boiler to prevent scorching)
  2. Slowly heat mixture to 86 degrees. Turn off heat and stir in lactic cheese culture. (Different types of culture create different flavors of cheese)  Stir gently throughout. Cover mixture and allow to rest undisturbed at 86 degrees for 45 minutes.
  3. Dissolve rennet tablet or liquid rennet in 1/4 cup  water.
  4. Keep the milk at 86 degrees.  Stir the rennet mixture into milk slowly but thoroughly. Allow milk to set undisturbed for 30 – 45 minutes or until curd shows a clean break.
  5. Using long knife, cut the curds into 1/2 inch squares, then stir gently just to break the strips of curds into chunks. Let it sit to rest for 5 minutes.
  6. Slowly heat the curds and whey to 102 degrees, raising the temperature 2 degrees every 5 minutes. Stir curd gently to prevent matting and reduce their size to half peanut size. A large whisk works well by placing it at the bottom of the pot and pulling it up right so curds break as they fall through the whisk. Hold curds for additional 30 minutes at this temperature.
  7. Place a colander — pre-warmed with hot water — over a pot and pour the curds into it.
  8. Reserve 1/3 of the whey and pour back into the cheese pot. Set colander of curds onto the cheese pot. Cover top with cheese cloth and lid to keep in warmth. Allow curds to drain for 45 to 60 minutes. This is called the cheddaring process.
  9. Cut slab into pieces and press through French fry cutter or cut by hand.
  10. Add 1 tablespoon course salt. Using your hands, gently mix the salt into curds. You can eat these curds now, or press into a wheel.
  11. Place the curds into cheese press and follow the directions for dressing with cheese cloth for the next 12 hours.
  12. Remove cheese from press, unwrap the cloth, place cheese on drying mat to air dry for 12 hours, creating a nice skin over the whole cheese.  Cheese is ready to slice and eat or you can wax and age for stronger cheddar flavor.
  13. Mix 1 tablespoon of salt with 1/2 cup of water. Use a corner of the cheese cloth to lightly apply a saltwater wash to the cheese.

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You Can Cook with Dandelions! Find out How!

Whole industries have been created to combat them. Gardening books and magazines are filled with ideas for eradicating them. Homeowners everywhere scorn them. But dandelions persist and thrive – and thank goodness, because they are actually one of the world’s most nutritious foods – and good medicine, besides!

Turns out, dandelions aren’t native to North America. The prolific weeds with bright yellow flowers were actually brought here by European immigrants who valued dandelions as a superfood and medicine. Literally, dandelions have kept colonists and pioneers alive, and were highly valued during the Great Depression and WWII.

Today, dandelions are making a culinary comeback. You’ll find them in gourmet restaurants, high end grocery stores, and farmer’s markets throughout the U.S. But most of us have plenty of dandelions growing nearby, free for use, ready for the taking.

How to Identify Dandelions

There are a few wild plants that look similar to dandelions – and while they aren’t dangerous to eat, it pays to notice these important dandelion traits:

  • Tooth-shaped, hairless leaves.
  • Leaves and stems growing directly from the rootstalk in the soil.
  • One flower per stem.
  • Stems without branches on them.
  • A milky white sap when a stem is broken.
  • A thick root, looking rather like a thin parsnip. Growing off this main root may be smaller, hair-like roots.
  • For safety’s sake, don’t harvest dandelions near roadways (where the plants soak up fumes) or from any location where chemical sprays, such as weed killers, may be used.

Dandelion Leaves

Nutritionally, dandelion leaves are right up there with – and sometimes supersede – kale, collards, and spinach. And if you pick the leaves before stems and flowers appear, they are less bitter than many salad greens. (If you pick them later in the season, one easy way to remove their bitterness is to bring a pot of water to a boil, then add the leaves. Simmer until tender; taste. If the leaves still seem bitter, repeat, using fresh water. Repeat as often as necessary.

common dandelion

Dandelion Recipes

Easy Dandelion Sauté

If dandelion leaves are new to you, this is a simple and easy first recipe to try.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 lbs. dandelion leaves, chopped coarsely
  • Pepper

Instructions

1. In a small bowl, combine the garlic and salt.

2. Place a skillet over medium high heat and add the oil. Once warmed, add the garlic mixture, sautéing for a few seconds.

3. Add the dandelion leaves and season with pepper. Cook and stir often until the leaves are bright green and wilted.

Serves 2.

Variation: Cook a few strips of bacon in the skillet; drain on paper towels. Add the garlic and salt mixture, then the leaves. When the leaves are wilted, remove from the stove and crumble the bacon on top.

Dandelion Noodles

If you like spinach noodles, you’ll likely enjoy dandelion leaf noodles, too. Eat them simply, with a little butter and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or try them with your favorite pasta sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 – 2 cups dandelion leaves (depending upon how much flavor is desired)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 egg
  • Fine sea salt
  • 1 ¼ + cups all purpose flour

Instructions
1. Place the dandelion leaves and water in a saucepan. Cover and cook until the leaves are tender. Allow to cool for several minutes. Add the egg and a pinch of salt.

2. Puree the mixture in a blender or food processor.

3. Pour the leaf mixture into a large mixing bowl and stir in 1 cup of flour. If the dough is still soft, add a little more flour and mix again, repeating until the dough is stiff.

4. Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface. Knead for about 1 minute. Roll the dough very thin. Let it sit for 20 minutes.

5.  Loosely roll the dough into a cigar shape. Use a sharp knife to cut strips ¼ inch wide. Unroll and cut into noodles of whatever length you desire. Cook the noodles in boiling water.

Serves 2 – 4.Dandelion Enchiladas

Dandelion Enchiladas

Serve this and no one will know they are eating a common weed  – unless you tell them!

Ingredients

  • 28 oz. enchilada sauce
  • 1 ½ cups dandelion leaves, cooked
  • 3 greens onions (scallions), chopped
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Co-Jack cheese
  • ½ lb. cooked ground beef or cooked, shredded chicken breast
  • About 8 (7 inch) tortillas
  • Sliced black olives (optional)

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a bowl, combine ½ cup enchilada sauce, dandelion leaves, onions, sour cream, and 1 cup cheese.

2. Spoon about ½ cup of enchilada sauce onto the bottom of an 11 x 7 inch baking dish.

3. Spoon about ¼ cup of the dandelion leaf mixture into a tortilla and roll up. Place, seam side down, in the baking dish. Repeat with remaining tortillas.

4. Spoon the remaining enchilada sauce over the rolled tortillas. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top. If using, scatter sliced black olives over the top. Bake until cheese is melted and filling is bubbly, about 20 minutes.

Serves 6 – 8.

Other ideas: Use dandelion leaves in place of other greens, like spinach and kale, for making quiche, omelettes, a pizza topping, etc. You can even use them in place of basil when making pesto. For long term storage, dehydrate the leaves in the late winter or early spring; crumble the dried leaves into soups, stews, and other dishes.

Dandelion Flowers

Dandelion flowers contain lots of vitamins A, C, and B, beta-carotene, zinc, potassium, and iron. They are also a great source of lecithin – believed to maintain brain function while supporting the liver.

dandelion

Dandelion Jelly

Here’s a superb introduction to eating dandelions. The resulting jelly tastes very much like honey.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups dandelion petals
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons powdered pectin

Instructions

1. Dump the dandelion petals in a stainless steel pot. Add 8 cups of water and turn the heat to medium high. Boil for 10 minutes.

2. Place a bowl in the sink and set a fine strainer over it. Carefully pour the dandelion petal mixture through the strainer. Press down on the petals with the back of a spoon in order to extract as much of the golden liquid as possible. Discard the petals. Thoroughly clean the strainer.

3. Put another bowl in the sink. Place the strainer over it. Put enough coffee filters inside the strainer to cover its entire surface. Carefully pour the strained dandelion liquid through the strainer again.

4. Clean the pot. With a clean measuring cup, measure out 3 cups of the dandelion liquid and pour it into the pot. Add the lemon juice, vanilla extract, and pectin. Bring to a full rolling boil that can’t be stirred down with a spoon. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.

5. Bring the mixture to a full boil and, stirring constantly, boil hard for 1 minute. Remove the pot from the stove.

6. Ladle the jelly into the jelly jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Process jars for 10 minutes in a boiling bath canner.

Every 3 cups of petal liquid fills about 4- 5 jelly jars.

Note: Any remaining dandelion petal liquid can be refrigerated for use in teas. Or, pour into ice cube trays and freeze for a sweet addition to iced tea.

Dandelion Flower Oil

This oil can be used in any recipe calling for olive oil.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dandelion petals
  • ¾ cup olive oil

Instructions

1. Pour oil into a saucepan placed over low heat. Add the petals. Simmer for 25 – 30 minutes. Remove from stove and allow to cool completely.

2. Strain through a sieve lined in coffee filters. Pour into a glass jar with a well-fitting, non-metallic lid. Use within 3 weeks.

Dandelion Flower Tea

This is a refreshing tea that may be served hot or cold. It also acts as a diuretic, reducing swelling and bloating.

Ingredients

  • About 8 dandelion flower heads
  • Water

Instructions

1. Pour water into a small saucepan and place over high heat.

2. Pack the flower heads into a tea ball. Close ball and place in a cup. Once the water boils, pour it over the tea ball. Steep for 10 – 15 minutes with a saucer placed over the cup.

Simple Dandelion Flower Fritters

When I first served these to my family, they were very skeptical. In fact, I had a hard time getting them to taste even one. But once they did, they were hooked!

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • A couple of handfuls of dandelion flower heads
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup all purpose flour

Instructions

1. Place a skillet over medium high heat and add enough oil to come up the sides of the pan just a little.

2. In a bowl, whisk the egg. Add the milk and flour, stirring until well blended.

3. Dip a flower in the batter, coating completely, and place it flower side down in the hot oil. Repeat until the skillet is full of flower heads. Cook until the batter is crispy, then turn the flowers over with tongs and cook the opposite side.  As each flower finishes cooking, transfer to paper towels to drain.

Other ideas: Add fresh dandelion flower petals to your favorite muffin or oatmeal cookie recipe or your favorite salad. Make dandelion flower vinegar by stuffing a glass jar with the flowers (green parts removed) and covering with apple cider vinegar; cover and let sit in a dark location for 6 weeks before straining and using. Also, try pickling the flower buds, picking them while still tightly closed. The flower stems are edible, too, though quite bitter. Try chopping them into a salad. You may wish to boil them first.

Dandelion Roots

The roots of dandelions are a terrific source of vitamins C, A, D, B complex, and beta-carotene. They are also high in iron, potassium, zinc, biotin, phosphorus, and magnesium, and are a good antioxidant. This is also the most medicinal part of the plant, used to cleanse the liver, gallbladder, and kidneys, and as a tonic for PMS.

Young roots taste similar to salsify or artichoke hearts. Older, larger roots are more bitter, but boiling or roasting reduces or removes their bitterness. When dandelion roots are roasted, they taste very much like coffee.
Dandelion Root “Coffee”

This drink tastes like instant coffee – but it’s much more nutritious and has no caffeine.

Ingredients

  • Scrubbed dandelion roots
  • Water

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

2. Place some scrubbed dandelion roots in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Place in the preheated oven with the door left ajar. Stir every 15 minutes until roots shrink, and are golden and without moisture, about 2 – 3 hours. Store cooled roots in an airtight container in a dark location until ready to use.

3. When ready for “coffee,” fill a small saucepan with water and place over medium high heat. Bring to a boil.

4. Grind the roots in a coffee grinder until they form a power. Add the powder to the boiling water, reduce the heat and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes. Strain.

Dandelion Root Cake

Dandelion roots add coffee flavor, minus the caffeine, plus lots of nutrients, to this cake.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quick-cooking tapioca
  • 1 cup hazelnuts, roasted and ground in a food processor or coffee grinder
  • 1 cup almond meal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons chopped, roasted dandelion roots
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup coconut or olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 inch cake pan.

2. In a mixing bowl, stir together the tapioca, hazelnuts, almond meal, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cream of tartar.

3. In a small saucepan placed over medium high heat, pour the milk and the dandelion roots. Bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes. Strain.

4. Beat the eggs in another mixing bowl. Add the milk, syrup, oil, and vanilla and mix well. The batter will be thinner than average cake batter.

5.  Bake in the preheated oven until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

Makes one 9 inch cake.

Dandelion Root Tea

This medicinal tea is a great way to reap the benefits of dandelion root. It is a bit bitter; if desired, add a little honey, or some dried red raspberry leaf.

Ingredients

  • Dandelion roots
  • Water

Instructions

1. Scrub dandelion roots and chop. Fat pieces of roots should be cut in halves or quarters for easier drying and grinding.

2. Place roots on the tray of a dehydrator set at 135 degrees F. Dry until the roots are hard and no trace of moisture is left in them. Store cooled roots in an airtight container in a dark location.

3. Grind a small number of roots in a coffee grinder. Pour into a tea ball. Cover tea ball with boiling water. Cover cup with a saucer. Steep for at least 10 minutes.

Variation: Dehydrated and ground dandelion root can also be added to water, juice, or smoothies for a nutritional boost. Added to orange juice, it is tasteless.

Other ideas: Grind roasted dandelion roots and use them to add coffee flavor to homemade ice cream or baked goods, or use them as part of a meat rub. Try pickling roots harvested before stems grow on the plant.
Kristina Seleshanko is the author of The Ultimate Dandelion Cookbook – 148 recipes for dandelion leaves, stems, buds, flowers, and roots. She also blogs about homesteading, foraging, cooking from scratch.

Authentic Vietnamese Pho Recipe

vietnam rice noodles

This delicious recipe from Chef Tara Dawdy is traditionally eaten for breakfast.

I love Asian food.

All kinds of Asian food: Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.

Something about the combination of what we consider common vegetables into new and interesting flavors tickles me. And the concept of Umami as a flavor piques my curiosity.

So, I was thrilled when a new friend, Tara Dawdy, of Cumberland County, NC, put together a Pho recipe using local, fresh ingredients.

Dawdy trained at Le Cordon Bleu and is an excellent chef. She recently joined forces with the Slow Food movement to lend her talents to supporting good, clean and fair food.

Pho is a Vietnamese soup recipe, often consumed for breakfast.

But, using ingredients she found at area farms and farmers market, Dawdy put together an excellent meal. I asked if I could share the recipe.

Here it is:

Pho

Roughly 8 servings

FOR THE BROTH:

  • 5-6lbs beef bones – oxtail, neck, marrow, knuckle (if possible)
  • 2 med yellow onions (about 1lb)
  • 4” piece of ginger (about 4 oz)
  • 5 star anise (40 star points total)
  • 6 whole cloves
  • 3” cinnamon stick
  • 1 ½ tbsp. salt (kosher)
  • 4tbsp fish sauce (available at Asian recipes)
  • 1 oz. yellow rock sugar (substitute light brown)

TO START Blanch the beef bones (30-60 sec), remove and rinse with cold water and return to pot. Add about 6 q water, bring to boil. Then reduce to simmer. Use spoon to skim any scum that rises to surface. While the bones are simmering, cut onions in half, and slice the ginger. Toss in EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and place on sheet pan to roast (about 325- 350), approx. hr. This process is called caramelization; it adds to the flavor of the broth. Cut off any burnt ends. Add roasted veggies and remaining spices. Simmer for an additional 2-4hrs (min 90min). Remember to continue “skimming the scum” from you pot. That will remove impurities not flavor. Add remaining ingredients; fish sauce, sugar, and salt. Once you’re ready, strain twice. First to remove bones and spices, second strain is for smaller particles. Use cheese cloth lined in strainer, this will give you the clear but flavorful broth that pho is so famous for.

FOR THE NOODLES:

Rice noodles. You can find them at any Asian market, and sometimes in your local grocery in the international isle.

DO NOT OVERCOOK. Rice noodles are quick to cook so be careful. Make sure your water is at a rolling boil, drop noodles in and let boil for about 3-5mins. You do not want mushy noodles or noodles fully cooked. Al dente, or slightly undercooked. Remove and rinse with cold water.

PLATING:

Grab a generous three finger pinch (about half to cup) of noodles and place in bowl. Add desired veggie toppings (traditional bean sprouts, sliced scallions, jalapenos or Thai chilies, chopped cilantro, basil, lime wedges) and pour hot broth over noodles. Add meat on top.

Enjoy!

Note: For the meat, you can use whatever cut and variety you prefer, cooked to your liking. Traditionally speaking, this would be thin cuts — “I used sirloin tips,” Dawdy said — and flash cooked in boiling broth.

Tara said she leaves the meat cooking up to the individual.

“I found not everyone eats meat mid-rare,” she said.

About Tara:

Chef Tara is an Army veteran who moved to Dallas, Texas, to pursue cooking professionally after leaving the military. She attended Le Cordon Bleu there, and then graduated to worked in all “From Scratch” kitchens — where the restaurants created all of their food from whole ingredients.

She also volunteered with a veteran’s club in Dallas and received award for fund-raising efforts for Suicide prevention for veterans. She’s passionate about local food, and preparing all her meals “From Scratch.”

Since moving back to North Carolina, Chef Tara found it challenging to find a “From Scratch locally-sourced kitchen,” she said, so now she’s pursuing the dream of starting her own business in the Sandhills area.

Other passions include: Volunteering with local animal rescue — Mickeys Haven for Pit Bulls, restoring antique furniture, collecting antique kitchen utensils and cookbooks, old architecture and preservation and playing rugby with Bragg Women’s Rugby.

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Should cornbread have sugar in the recipe?

A friend posted a note on Facebook about whether or not cornbread should have sugar in the recipe.

The obvious answer is no, but it got me to thinking: How many people have the wrong opinion about cornbread (Just kidding — I know everyone is entitled to their own cornpinion).

So, I figured I’d share my cornbread recipe, taught to me by the saintly Donna Kay Jones, my mother, in case you guys were in doubt about the validity of the excellence of non-sugared cornbread.

If you’d like to register your opinion, take our survey below the recipe.

Donna Kay’s Cornbread recipe

Ingredients

  • Two cups cornmeal mix (this is our favorite brand, but any will do)
  • About 1 cup milk (any variety, including soy, almond, 2 percent, skim, goat, etc.)
  • One egg
  • Mayonnaise (as much as it takes)
  • Some form of fat to grease your skillet with (any oil will work, but to use Donna Kay’s traditional recipe, use shortening).
  • Cast iron skillet

Instructions

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, except for the mayo. Stir until it looks like cornbread batter (not too runny). Add two dollops of mayo (instead of oil. This makes the cornbread extra moist and not crumbly). Stir until it looks right again, adding extra milk or cornmeal mix as needed. Grease your skillet well, and pour in the mix. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes. Or use the traditional Donna Kay timer: When the young’uns have asked you when supper will be ready for the 15th time, snatch the skillet out of the oven and slam it on the table and tell them to “hush!”*

*I love you Momma!

DIY Moisturizer from The Herbal Homestead

DIY Moisturizer

Make your own moisturizer with this easy recipe from The Herbal Homestead.

I am not a make up person. I rarely use it because I have sensitive skin and everything I have tried has resulted in some kind of allergic reaction.

So, that makes my skin care routine extra important because it is on display with no help from concealer or foundation.

I have found that this recipe is very effective and I have been very happy with the results.

Ingredients

This recipe will fill up a mason jar.

  • 1.5 cups of Coconut Oil
  • 35 drops of Lemon
  • 35 drops Lavender
  • 35 drops Melaleuca
  • 35 drops Frankincense

Directions

  • Whip the 1.5 cups of coconut oil in your Kitchen Aid Mixer for 7 minutes
  • Add essential oils and mix throughly
  • Pour into mason jar (I used a funnel to make sure I didn’t make a mess)
  • Use every morning and night on your face as a moisturizer (I also rub it on my hands and feet)

Tres Leches Cupcake recipe

cake

If you were lucky enough to attend the Sustainable Agriculture blog this year, then you probably enjoyed some really great cupcakes: Tres Leches Cupcakes.

The cupcakes were made with ingredients sourced from local farms and the care involved in raising the crops, milking the cows and putting them all together to make these cupcakes showed in the end result.

The Carolina Farm Stewardship Association managed to pry the recipe from the head pastry chef at the host hotel, Kirsten Martin. Here it is!

(This recipe orginally appeared on the CFSA blog, the Sweet Potato. Click here to read it, along with other great stories.)

Ingredients

Cake

  • 6.5 ounces butter, browned & cool
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups + 1tbl AP flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. baking powder

Drizzle

  • 14 oz. sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 vanilla bean

Topping

  • 1 quart heavy cream
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 vanilla bean

Instructions

Cake: In a mixer with paddle beat eggs until foamy.  Stream in the cooled brown butter.  Add milk, vanilla and salt.  Add sifted dry ingredients and mix just until combined.

Chill batter for 10 minutes.  Scoop into muffin cups and bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Drizzle: Whisk all ingredients together.  Soak cupcakes overnight.

Topping: Whip to medium stiff peak.