Wednesday, September 30, 2009

For Body and Soul

On our farm stand we have these huge hubbard squashes and huge butternut squashes. Any kind of squash will do. My husband, the saintly FarmBoy, peels gigantic squash on his lap tray while watching sports on TV. It's a guaranteed way to get no complaints about him watching sports during prime time. So I find ways all year long to use those cubes of squash that we froze. We do it simply - just peel and seed and cube the squash - then rinse, put in ziplock bags and toss in the freezer. No blanching, no whining, no problem. Try it, or find a harder way to store squash.

Then, when making macaroni and cheese, for example, I boil some of the frozen cubes with the macaroni. By the time I have added the sauce to the boiled macaroni, those cubes are orange and dissolving making it look like we added extra cheddar to the noddles. I've added the cubes to beef stew, and other long simmered soups and sauces, and they just disappear, leaving behind some good fiber, beta carotene and other nutrients. And my conscience is clear, because I can't stand a spoonful of orange goop, no matter what you call it. But I'll eat it in pie, breads, and Cheddar Cheese Soup with Broccoli, or potatoes, or cauliflower. Try it, you need the vitamins this winter.

My kiddos can't eat cream due to their milk-intolerance issues. We even use cheese sparingly. Interestingly enough, extra sharp cheddar cheese is almost or reportedly lactose free. We can eat that easily.

I make this soup, like most things, with goat milk, substituting at the asterisks to make it seem like the original. I use  a  few spoonfuls out of a jar of chicken soup base usually, and just add it to the hot milk. It sneaks in extra calcium for the kiddos and makes the soup more creamy and probably a little less fatty than with the cream. Last time I made this I added in 1 cup of diced zucchini and yellow squash when I fried the onions in the bacon drippings.

Hard Rock Cafe Potato Soup - scaled to 4 servings
4 slices bacon
1/2 cup Diced yellow onions
1/3 cup Flour
3 cups Hot chicken stock (*3 cups of hot goat milk and enough soup base for 3 cups)
2 cups Diced -- peeled baked Potatoes or leftovers.
1 cup Heavy cream *(1 cup goat milk)
1/8 cup Chopped parsley (I substitute chopped celery leaves from the tops)
3/4 teaspoon Granulated garlic
3/4 teaspoon Dried basil
3/4 teaspoon Salt
3/4 teaspoon Red pepper sauce
3/4 teaspoon Coarse black pepper
1/2 cup Grated Cheddar cheese
1/8 cup Diced green onions -- white Part only

Additional chopped bacon --
Grated cheese and Chopped parsley for Garnish

Fry bacon until crisp. Chop bacon and reserve drippings. Cook onions and celery tops in remaining drippings over medium-high heat until transparent, about 3 minutes. Add flour, stirring to prevent lumps. Cook 3 - 5 minutes until mix just begins to run golden. Add chicken stock gradually, whisking to prevent lumps, until liquid thickens. Reduce heat to simmer and add potatoes, cream, chopped bacon, parsley, garlic, basil, salt, pepper sauce and black pepper. Simmer 10 minutes; DO NOT ALLOW TO BOIL. Add grated cheese and green onions.
Heat until cheese melts smoothly. Garnish each serving as desired with chopped bacon, grated cheese.

It's a good recipe. It's also a good place to hide cubes of raw butternut squash. Just sautee in with the onions, and as the soup simmers the squash nearly dissolves and makes it a nice cheddar cheese color. I'm a veggie pusher I tell ya.  It's for sale on the farmstand - $1.00 each. Come on over.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Big Beautiful Muffin Top

This could very well be the most delicious and beautiful muffin or muffin loaf you have ever tasted.  Please have napkins ready to avoid drooling on your neighbor's muffin. That would be inappropriate.

Beautiful Blueberry Muffins

4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2-1/4 cups white sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1 cup milk or buttermilk
3 cups fresh blueberries

Preheat oven to 325*.  Prepare loaf pans by greasing with solid shortening and dusting with flour, then shaking off the excess. Line muffin pans with paper liners, or spray silicone muffin pans with non-stick spray. Set aside.

Mix flour and sugar, salt and baking powder together in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl whisk 3 eggs, the milk or buttermilk, and add the oil. Stir until combined.  Gently combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients, stirring only until the flour is absorbed. Mix in 2 cups of the blueberries, and put batter into pans. The batter will be quite stiff.

I used 1/3 cup of batter for each muffin, then topped with about 5 additional blueberries, pressed gently into the top of the batter.  For muffin loaves, fill 3/4 way up the loaf pan, smooth the batter, then top with additional blueberries, patting down gently. I left them like this, naturally beautiful. You could add large crystals of sugar, or perhaps a streusel topping, but we liked them with the big juicy berries.

In my oven, the muffins took 25 minutes to cook through, and the loaf pans varied.  The larger loaves were 60 minutes, with the 5 inch long mini-loaf pans averaging 45 minutes.  How many loaves and how many muffins you will make depends tremendously on the muffin pan and the loaf pan size. Sorry, I know that's vague, but once you've made this, jot down how many you get based on your pan size.  I had 2 large loaves, 1 small and 6 muffins.

I cannot keep these muffin loaves and blueberry muffins stocked on my farmstand for more than a couple of hours.  A large loaf sells for $3.99 and a miniloaf for $1.99, with six muffins going for $1.99 too.

Zucchini Balls with Melted Cheese Centers

Zucchini Balls

Let's be real.. this is a labor intensive recipe by my estimation.  It's a good way to use up a lot of zucchini at once, and the zucchini balls can be fried, and then cooled and frozen, and reheated for later.  It's not low fat (but I do have an idea for a variation). But they taste delicious, and are high in fiber. I'm done justifying the fried zucchini balls.  Try them once.  Delish.

Start with 2 pounds of zucchini - which is 2-3 medium sized, or one really big one.  I cut the seeds out of the really big one after salting it and letting it sit, and aimed for 2 lbs on my kitchen scale.

Line a large colander with as many zucchini slices as possible and sprinkle the slices generously with salt. Lay another layer of slices on top of the first layer and sprinkle with salt. Continue until all of the zucchini slices are in the colander. Set the colander in a sink or over a large bowl and let sit for 15 minutes. The zucchini will release some liquid while resting. We're just removing some of the liquid, firming up the zucchini, and removing any bitterness there might be.  You can also substitute eggplant, but let sit for an additional 15 minutes to get the bitterness out on those purple guys.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.Pat the zucchini slices dry with a paper towel. At this point I cut out the big seed core of the larger zucchini.  Place the slices on a baking so that they lay in a single layer.

Set the baking sheet in the upper portion of the oven and bake until the zucchini slices are tender and dry, about 30 minutes.

Place the zucchini slices in a food processor and pulse a few time to chop. Be careful not to chop it too fine. This took 3-4 pulses in my processor. Of course, you can always chop the zucchini by hand.
Scrape the zucchini into a bowl and add 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 1 egg, a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper, 1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf (Italian) parsley, and 1/4 cup bread crumbs.

Whisk a second egg in a medium bowl. Gradually beat in 1 1/2 tablespoons flour to form a smooth batter.

Pour 1 cup of dry bread crumbs onto a plate or shallow dish and season with salt and pepper.  It's unnecessary to add the salt and pepper if you use Italian seasoned bread crumbs.  Form the zucchini mixture into balls slightly smaller than ping pong balls. Insert a bocconcini (mini mozzarella ball) or 1-inch cube of fresh mozzarella into each eggplant ball. Roll again in your hands so that the mozzarella is no longer visible.  By the way, you can cut a cheese stick into small segments if you'd prefer. The cheese is firmer, but the cost is lower this way. Just shorter than 1 inch is preferred. You could use a small piece of homemade paneer or pressed ricotta here too.

Roll each cheese stuffed zucchini ball into the egg/flour batter and then roll in the breadcrumbs. You can prepare all of the balls up to 2 or 3 hours in advance of frying them.  I popped mine onto a cookie sheet and kept them cold in the refrigerator until I had time to fry them later.  Another time I plan to spray a batch of these yummy little nuggets with an olive oil spray, then bake them at 425* until crunchy.  I haven't had time to do that yet. But back to frying them.

In a large skillet, heat 1/2-inch vegetable or canola oil over medium-high heat to about 375 degrees F. When you drop some of the egg batter in the oil, the batter should sizzle and immediately float to the top.With a slotted spoon, lower the zucchini balls into the oil. You'll have to do this in several batches. Once the balls are golden brown all over, remove with a slotted spoon and drain on a plate lined with paper towel.  Keep an eye on your oil thermometer because if the temp is too high, the outside will get too dark before the cheese melts.

Repeat with remaining batches.These can be served hot or room temperature. I love flexible food! Top each ball with a small dollop of plain Greek yogurt and sprinkle with finely chopped parsley.  Or let's just say my children prefer them with a side of ranch dressing and lots of napkins.  We skip the parsley.

Maaaa Maaaa

Andy, our newly trained goat milker, went off to Boy Scouts of America camp this summer and these were the thoughts I had as he was gone.  I'm short a milker.  It gives me the chance to be hand to udder, and shoulder to hipbone with Kate and Ebony once again, which isn't a bad way to start the day and end the evening. They talk, and they nibble their goat chow, and we bond. I like goats, it turns out.

Kate Maaaa'ed at me quite vociferously this morning, especially after she saw the delectable weeds I had pulled for her out of our corn rows. The corn was tossed into the garden as an afterthought, and wasn't planted in black plastic like everything else. Hence, it needs weeding, regularly.

Goats are very thoughtful that way, being willing to eat the delicious flavors of weeds, whilst pointing out which ones taste bitter.  Incoming yucky weed..... patooey. They do have a way of picking up the offending weed and tossing it away that is kind of amusing.

I solved the mystery of the barn light coming on too. I knew the goats turned it on, but this time I caught our doeling Miss Heidi with the string pull in her mouth.  Such a precocious child, she turned and gave me a wry little goat smile.  She's one year old now, and will be bred with a registered Nigerian Dwarf  goat this winter to produce Mini-Alpine kids this spring.  The mini-alpine breed might be the most perfect ever to produce just a good amount of milk for a family living in a smaller place than one would presume to have a few dairy goats.