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Pickling Spices – Contest

Every year we get pickles from our relatives to enjoy through the winter.  And brother, we do enjoy them.  Inspired by these ambitious people I thought I’d like to make a “signature” pickle of my own.  If you give me the winning combination of spices for my pickles I’ll name them after you.

Now, I do enjoy my mother-in-law, Ella Ween’s, bread and butter pickles and brother-in-law, Brent’s, dill pickles and they are always generous with their offerings.  But I want to “give back” to the family and come up with a pickle that is radically different, but good.  My research finds that my task may be more difficult than I thought.  I don’t know what spices my in-laws use, but I’m smart enough to know the spice is what makes the pickle what it is.  I’m avoiding store bought premixes and I’m trying my own mixes.  I found some suggestions on the net below:

Spice Recipe #1

6 T mustard seed
3 T whole allspice
6 t coriander seed
6 whole cloves
3 tsp ground ginger
3 tsp red pepper flakes
3 bay leaves
3 cinnamon sticks

Spice Recipe #2

1 cinnamon stick
5 bay leaves
2 T mustard seed
1 T ground ginger
1 T dill seeds
2 tsp cardamon seeds
2 tsp hot pepper flakes
1 tsp whole cloves

Spice Recipe #3

2 cinnamon sticks, broken
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole allspice
1 teaspoon juniper berries
1 teaspoon crumbled whole mace
1 teaspoon dill seeds
4 dried bay leaves
1 small piece dried ginger

Spice Recipe #4

4 cinnamon sticks (each about 3 inches long)
1 piece dried gingerroot (1 inch long)
2 tablespoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoon whole allspice berries
2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 teaspoons dill seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
2 teaspoons whole mace, crumbled medium fine
8 bay leaves, crumbled medium fine
1 small dried hot red pepper (1 1/2 inches long), chopped or crumbled medium fine, seeds and all

Spice Recipe #5

yellow mustard seed
brown mustard seed
allspice
cinnamon
crushed bay leaves
dill seed
cloves
ginger
black peppercorns,
star anise
coriander
juniper berries
mace
cardamom
crushed red peppers
whole hot peppers

There are obviously common ingredients in each recipe and the amount of each ingredient would be a factor,  but the following are the compete range of choices:

yellow mustard seed
brown mustard seed
allspice
cinnamon
crushed bay leaves
dill seed
cloves
ginger
black peppercorns,
star anise
coriander
juniper berries
mace
cardamom seeds
crushed red peppers
whole hot peppers

What else could I add to make mine unique without messing it up:

Celery seed?

caraway seed?

Cilantro? (I know, coriander is the seed of the Cilantro plant)

garlic?

onion?

lemon zest?

lime zest?

How about spices like?:

Thyme

oregano

rosemary

sage

basil

lemon grass

Tarragon

Turmeric

 

Please help me decide.  I’ll post a followup when I get my final mix.  If you give me the winning pickling spice recipe I’ll name my pickles after you.- Jughandle

 

 

Cucumbers

Cucumbers are the forth most widely cultivated vegetable in the world.  Wikipedia says “There are three main varieties of cucumber: “slicing”, “pickling”, and “burpless”. Within these varieties, several different cultivars have emerged. The cucumber is originally from India, but is now grown on most continents. Many different varieties are traded on the global market.”

As far as the commercial market goes there are two types of cucumbers, slicing and pickling.  The slicing kind have a thicker skin and are larger than the pickling kind of cucumber.

Nutrition

We on the Farm are most interested in what the cucumber can do for us.  First of all a 100 grams of cuc (3.5 oz) has about:

16 cal,

3.63 g of Carbohydrates,

1.67 g of sugar,

.5 g of fiber

.11 g of fat

.65 grams of Protein.

 

Health

Let me get scientific for a brief moment.  According to the following article in the “World’s healthiest foods” site cucumbers are beneficial because:

  • Researchers have long been familiar with the presence of unique polyphenols in plants called lignans, and these health-benefiting substances have been studied extensively in cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli or cabbage) and allium vegetables (like onion or garlic). Recent studies, however, have begun to pay more attention to the lignan content of other vegetables, including cucumbers. Cucumbers are now known to contain lariciresinol, pinoresinol, and secoisolariciresinol–three lignans that have a strong history of research in connection with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease as well as several cancer types, including breast, uterine, ovarian, and prostate cancers.
  • Fresh extracts from cucumbers have recently been show to have both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. While research in this area must still be considered preliminary–since it’s only been conducted on animals in a lab setting–the findings are clear and consistent. Substances in fresh cucumber extracts help scavenge free radicals, help improve antioxidant status, inhibit the activity of pro-inflammatory enzymes like cyclo-oxygenase 2 (COX-2), and prevent overproduction of nitric oxide in situations where it could pose health risks. It’s highly likely that cucumber phytonutrients play a key role in providing these antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, supporting health alongside of the conventional antioxidant nutrients--including vitamin C, beta-carotene, and manganese of which cucumbers are an important source.
  • As a member of the Cucurbitaceae family of plants, cucumbers are a rich source of triterpene phytonutrients called cucurbitacins. Cucurbitacins A, B, C, D and E are all contained in fresh cucumber. They have been the subject of active and ongoing research to determine the extent and nature of their anti-cancer properties. Scientists have already determined that several different signaling pathways (for example, the JAK-STAT and MAPK pathways) required for cancer cell development and survival can be blocked by activity of cucurbitacins. We expect to see human studies that confirm the anti-cancer benefits of cucumbers in the everyday diet.
Published in the September 2010 issue of “Plant Foods For Human Nutrition,” reports that cucumber peels were effective in lowering blood sugar, cholesterol and triglyceride levels in diabetic rats.Read more: http://www.livestrong.com/article/416420-why-are-cucumbers-good-for-you/#ixzz1WEJuzSGZ

Use

Store your cucumbers in the refrigerator and use them within a few days.  Once you’ve cut into the cuc wrap it with plastic or put it in a bag to prevent it from drying out.  Make sure you clean your cuc before you eat it because store bought cucs are usually waxed to make them look better.  It is a good idea to buy organically grown cucumbers to limit your exposure to chemicals.  Organically grown cucumbers can be waxed also, but only with non-synthetic waxes.

Some people remove the skin and seeds and there is nothing wrong with that except for the loss of vitamins and minerals contained in the skin and seeds.  If you buy regular cucumbers you should remove the skin to avoid chemical consumption.  Organic cucs can be eaten whole if washed properly.  Some people remove the seeds because the seeds have been know to cause gas or “burping” in some of us or they can be tough and hard to chew in older cucumbers.

 

 

Dandelion Greens

The Story

When I was a little boy, I remember my Grandfather Steible taking me out into the country side of Kansas City in the late Spring to dig and gather dandelion greens.  My Grandfather’s family was “off the boat” German, with all the traditions and folk remedies that went with that.  Some people poo poo those old remedies as fiction and witchcraft, but you’d be surprised to find that most, yes, most of those old remedies passed down from generation to generation, until the reason for doing it is lost, but the tradition has not been, are based on sound scientific facts.

When we got home with our “peck” of dandelion greens, I’d help him clean them in the sink, trimming the roots off and the harder older leaves.  He would act like I was actually helpful.  He taught me to gather the greens before the flower bloomed to get the most tender leaves.  I was not to pick the yellow ones for fear a dog might have watered it.  That was another reason to leave the city for our gathering.  We would soak the greens in ice cold water to revive them while he would make a batter of buckwheat pancakes.

Medicinal Uses

Externally

Dandelions have medicinal uses both externally and internally.  The fresh juice of the dandelion is an antibacterial agent and can be applied to a cut or the skin to fight the growth of Staphococcus aureus, pneumococci, meningococci and others.  The latex in the plant sap near the roots of an older plant can be used to remove corns and warts.

Internally

Dandelion has been used to treat problems of the gall bladder, kidney and urinary track disorders, gallstones, jaundice, cirrhosis, hypoglycemia, dyspepsia with constipation, edema associated with high blood pressure and heart weakness, chronic joint and skin complaints, gout, eczema and acne.  As a tonic dandelion is said to strengthen the kidneys.  Dandelion is supposed to be a strong diuretic without depleting the body of potassium.

All of that, but my Grandfather just told me it was a Spring tonic to cleanse our blood.

The Story Continues

Buckwheat

While the greens soaked, Granddaddy mixed a batter of buckwheat flour, eggs, milk and baking powder for our pancakes.  All I remember about the pancakes is that they tasted way different than regular pancakes and not as sweet, but I loved them.

Turns out that Buckwheat is very high in fiber, has all eight essential amino acids, contains phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper and manganese among others.  It is a great source of flavonoids especially rutin and lowers glucose levels and is beneficial for managing diabetes.  Buckwheat also has been found to lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol.

Surprisingly, buckwheat is not a grain, but the seed of a fruit related to rhubarb and sorrel, and therefore gluten-free.

The Dish

After all the gathering, mixing, soaking and cleaning up, we had buckwheat pancakes and a salad of Dandelion greens, hard cooked eggs, bacon, spring onions and wilted with a hot bacon dressing.  This stuff smells GREAT!

The Method

Granddaddy showed me how to take a little dandelion salad and plop it in the middle of one of the buckwheat pancakes.  He would then roll the pancake up and eat it with his hands.  This meal has stuck in my mind for over 50 years.

Where to Get Them

I have seen dandelion greens at our Whole Foods store, but I know you can get them in your yard if you don’t spray or have local dogs.  Buckwheat is usually available in the health food stores or the health food section of your local store.  If you can’t find it there look in the Fat Farm Store here, here or here.

I will include several recipes for Dandelion salads and ways to use buckwheat.  As soon as I get some buckwheat flour I’ll take a few pictures of the dandelion/buckwheat roulade.  – jughandle

How to Blanch and Peel Veggies and Fruit

For anyone who has tried to peel a “mess” of tomatoes, potatoes, peaches, apples, bell peppers or any other thin skinned fruit of vegetable, you know that peeling with a knife or vegetable peeler isn’t any fun and is very time consuming not to mention the large amount of the “meat” of the veggie or fruit that is lost in the process.

Blanching

Blanching is a method of dropping the fruit or vegetable into rapidly boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute, then removing straight into cold or iced water to stop the cooking process.  Have you ever gotten a bad sunburn and later your skin peeled off?  Well, blanching is a similar process.

You’ll be amazed at how fast and efficient it is.  It is totally worth the time it takes to bring a large pot of water to a boil.  With tomatoes, cut a little x on the end opposite the stem.  When you put the tomato into the cold water the x will give you small handles to start the peeling.  If you are going to make an apple pie, apples will peel the same way.  Going to “put up” some of those nice bell pepper you grew this year?  Blanch them, that tough thin clear skin that makes the pepper hard to cut and eat will peel right off.  I thought that I’d freeze a large batch of beautiful white peaches that were so sweet this year.  I blanched them first to quickly remove the skin, then easily pushed out the seed and cut into quarters before filling some freezer bags.  Easy peasy

If the skin doesn’t easily peel off, almost by itself, increase the time in the boil.  Make sure you cool them in cold water for at least as long as they were in boiling water.

I still catch myself pulling out the potato peeler to quickly skin 3 or 4 potatoes, but any more than that, or if I’m trying to get the skin off of small red potatoes, I most definitely blanch them. – jughandle

Stuffed Mushrooms

My niece Kellie has inspired me to find out all I can about stuffed mushrooms.  Here goes nothing.

 

It seems that everybody has a recipe for stuffed mushrooms.  They come in small, for hors-d’oeuvres, medium sized, for side dishes and large for main courses.  Mushrooms can be stuffed with just about anything from meat to veggies or any combination there of.  They can be grilled, baked, pan-fried, sauteed, roasted or any other way that sounds good to you.  Mushrooms have a subtle flavor (most that we cook with anyway) and a great texture and mouth feel.  They are sponge like and absorb liquid easily.

There are a couple of things you night need to know about mushrooms to make good cooking decisions and some information that is just fun to know.

Nutritional Information:

  • 3.5 oz of mushroom has around 27 calories
  • 4.1 grams of carbohydrates
  • .1 gram of fat
  • 2.5 grams of protein
  • various vitamins and minerals

Cooking and storing information:

  • shrooms are sponge like and should be marinated or coated in liquid before cooking to keep from drying out.  Becareful not to marinate too long (no more than a few minutes should do) or you’ll have a soggy, dense mushroom.  Taste the marinade before using to insure it isn’t too strong.  With mushrooms, what you taste is what you get.
  • high heat quick methods of cooking allow the mushroom to heat throughly while getting a nice crust without shrinking
  • You should never wash mushrooms, just brush off the dirt.  If you just have to wash them wait until you are about to cook them then pat them dry.
  • Store in a cool, dry, dark place.  Do not cover in plastic or put in a plastic bag.  Wrap in a cloth,cheese-cloth, or store in a cloth bag or use them soon after purchase.

Best Cooking Methods for un-stuffed mushrooms:

  • Saute is great for small button sized or chopped mushrooms.  Saute in butter or olive oil and season while cooking.  No marinating is necessary but pickled mushrooms saute nicely and are a great addition to a stew or stir fry.
  • Grilling or Broiling in the oven – These methods are best suited to larger whole mushrooms or caps such as Portabellas and Shiitakes.  Brush the shrooms with oil or butter and season.  Grill or Broil close to the heat source for 4 minutes per side flipping once or twice. Baste a couple of times with your seasoned butter or oil mixture while cooking.
  • Roasting – Preheat your oven to 450°, brush mushrooms as with the grilling method and roast in a shallow pan for up to 20 mins, flipping once.

Seasonings and Marinades:

  • dry seasoning combinations sprinkled on a olive oil brushed mushroom are great.  Try Lemon-Pepper or McCormick’s Grill Mates
  • Olive oil, seasoned with herbs and or vinegar is nice.
  • Sherry or other cooking wines make a good marinade.
  • Sauces, such as brown sauce, white sauce or tomato sauce are a great way to raise the flavor profile.
  • Don’t forget Balsamic vinegar and
  • Soy sauce
  • Try your favorite salad dressing, like Italian or ranch.

Stuffing:

  • like I said before – anything – try:
  • bread crumbs, sausage and onions covered with Parmesan cheese
  • chopped bell pepper, onion, cheese and herbs
  • roasted veggies chopped or diced and marinated in soy sauce or balsamic vinegar for a vegan solution
  • seasoned rice and tofu with a balsamic sauce

Best method for Cooking Stuffed Mushrooms:

  • Baking– you can bake a stuffed mushroom in a 400° oven for 30-45 mins. cover with foil for the first 2/3 of the cooking time
  • Roasting in foil – wrap your stuffed mushrooms in foil and put on the grill for 30 mins or until they seem done.  This is best if you have a cheese topping or stuffing that shouldn’t brown too quickly.
  • Pan frying/steaming – For smaller stuffed mushrooms fill a frying pan with the stuffed mushrooms and fry on med/high heat in a little oil until the bottoms start to brown.  Pour in a 1/2 cup of wine, balsamic vinegar, soy sauce or a combination and cover with a tight fitting lid, reducing the heat to med and steam in the liquid for 10 or 15 mins.  This is also a good way to melt a cheese topping.
Look for stuffed mushroom recipes I’ll be adding in the next few days.  Let me know if you have a good combination you’d like to share with the Farmers – Jug
Rice and How to Cook it

Wikipedia says

“Rice is the seed of the monocot plants Oryza sativa or Oryza glaberrima. As a cereal grain, it is the most important staple food for a large part of the world’s human population, especially in East and South Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and the West Indies. It is the grain with the second-highest worldwide production, after maize (corn).

We are more interested in how we can prepare it and what nutritional value it has for us.  The most common type of rice in the US is white long-grain.

100g or 3.5 oz of raw rice has

Calories – 365

Carbohydrates – 80 g

Sugars – .12 g

Fiber – 1.3 g

Fat – .66 g

Protein – 7.13

 

GI of boiled long grain white rice – 64 where 0-55 is low, 56-69 is med and over 70 is high

Serving size is 1 cup = 36 g of carbs

GL per serving is 23 where 0-10 is low, 11-19 is med and over 20 is high maxing out around 60

How To Cook Rice

Most rice can be cooked by boiling 1 cup of rice in 2 cups of water for around 20 minutes.   The way I prefer is to use a rice cooker.  The following is a video of Jamie Oliver showing you how to cook rice.

 

The Glycemic Index and Load

 

We on the Fat Farm are interested in eating well but eating things that will keep our blood sugar in the 60-80 mg/dl range. That is the concentration of milligrams of glucose  in deciliters of our blood.  Rice is all over the Glycemic Index depending on which type you choice.  Before I get into the index values of the various rice types, I want to confuse you some more.

The GI compares foods at the same carbohydrate level, rating their ability to raise your blood sugar, with glucose being 100. This is the Quality of the food.  Since different foods contain various amounts of carbohydrates we need an index that shows the blood sugar effect by volume.  That is the Glycemic Load indicator. The GL measures the Quantity of carbohydrate in a food.  The GL is a much more accurate measurement of the effect of the food on our blood sugar.  The glycemic load of a food is calculated by multiplying the glycemic index by the amount of carbohydrate in grams provided by a food and dividing the total by 100.

Neither the GI nor the GL are easy concepts to grasp, but for the health of our pancreas it is important that we try.

Notice in the list below that Jasmine Rice has a higher GI rating than Glucose itself.  That means that Jasmine Rice will spike your blood sugar very quickly.

 

 Types of Rice and Their Loads

There are literally hundreds of different kinds of rice and most even very by country.  Here are a couple to contemplate.

Type
white Rice
Brown Rice
Basmati Rice
Jasmine Rice
GI
64
55
58
109
Serving Size
1 cup
1 cup
1 cup
1 cup
Carbs/serving
36
33
38
GL/Serving
23
18
22
46

To sum it up – Brown rice good, white long grain rice OK, Jasmine rice Bad.

Farm On You Fat Farmers.  Let me know if you have any questions – Jughandle

Quinoa-Stuffed Peppers

Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa)

If you aren’t familiar with Quinoa you are in for a treat.

 

 

 

 

Quinoa is a grain from South America that can be prepared like rice.  Unlike rice, Quinoa is a whole balanced protein and is high in fiber and is gluten-free.  In its raw state it can be spouted in as little as 2-4 hours activating its natural enzymes and multiplying its vitamin content.

To prepare Quinoa buy the pre-rinsed variety which has the hull or saponins removed. Rinse the grain briefly in cold water.  Cook as you would rice.  One cup of grain for 2 cups of water or other favored liquid, such as stock or even vegetable juice.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cook 10 -15 minutes or until the germ separates from the seed.

 

 

 

 

 

With any satisfying meal it is important to not only have good flavors, but combine different textures and even different temperatures.  The crunch of the pepper with the mouth texture of the quinoa and the spice of the tomato mixture and topping provide depth of flavor, texture and spice that is hard to find in any dish.  For a whole meal serve with a cold tossed salad.  This recipe is an original Fat Farm creation.  Let me know what you think. – jug

Stuffed Pepper Directions – Recipe

1. Bring a large pot of water (1 to 2 qts) to a boil.  Put spinach into boiling water for 30 sec. then remove and quickly place in cold water to stop the cooking process.  Reserve.

2. Heat olive oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and celery, and cook 5 minutes, or until soft. Add cumin and garlic, and sauté 1 additional minute. Stir in spinach and  Ro Tel brand tomatoes & green chilies (reserve juice). Cook 5-10 minutes, or until most of liquid has evaporated.

3. Stir in kidney beans, quinoa, carrots, and 2 cups water. Cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 20 minutes, or until quinoa is tender. Stir in 1 cup crumbled extra firm tofu. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Preheat oven to 350°F. Pour liquid from tomatoes in bottom of baking dish.

4. Cut the top off of each bell pepper and with a spoon remove the seeds and as much of the white membrane as possible, then rinse.  Fill each bell pepper with heaping amount of the quinoa mixture, and place in baking dish. Cover with foil, and bake 1 hour. Uncover, top with 1 T of tomato spread and bake 15 minutes more, or until tops of stuffed peppers are browned. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer stuffed peppers to serving plates, and sauce each with seasoned pan juices before serving.

Note: any remaining stuffing can be frozen for later use.

 

Ingredients

4 large bell peppers (use multiple colors)

3/4 c of uncooked Quinoa

1 medium onion finely chopped (1 cup)

2 T olive oil

2 ribs of celery, finely chopped (1/2 c)

1 T ground cumin or 1/2 T cumin seeds

2 cloves of minced garlic (2 tsp)

1 cup of extra firm tofu (optional)

1 lb of fresh spinach, blanched and squeezed dry

1 – 10 oz can of RoTel brand Diced tomatoes & green chilies 

 

 

 

 

1 15 oz can of kidney beans.

 

 

 

 

4 T Tomato Spread or similar *

 

*This topping can be cheese which would be very tasty but would change the dish from vegan to vegetarian.  For my vegan friends, Tofutti brand foods have some acceptable dairy substitutes.  Try the health food section of Whole Foods or your local store.

 

 

These stuffed peppers can be made and frozen for several months.  Frozen peppers make a very fast meal, just put in a 350 deg oven for 30 mins or until completely heated through. – jughandle