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Recipe Book: Vegetarian French Onion Soup

Since it’s a wet, rainy day here on the eastern shore, I’m curled up with a few good movies, a pot of tea (a new favorite, Celestial Seasoning’s Gen Mai Cha) and some leftover french onion soup.  What a treat!  Being a vegetarian in today’s society means missing out on a lot of delicious smelling foods because animal products are cheap and therefore in everything.  Including most soups, in the form of beef or chicken stock.  That means that a trip to Panera isn’t actually all that exciting for me.  I have, however, tried their french onion soup (after a certain someone told me it was vegetarian and I stupidly slurped it into my mouth before doublechecking the menu) and once I got passed the initial tidal wave of regret and nausea, I must admit that it was pretty darn tasty.  So I vowed to make up for breaking veggie law by finding the best vegetarian french onion soup possible and sharing it.

And so… I present to you the Best Vegetarian French Onion Soup Ever.

CIMG2939Ingredients:
-3 large onions (I used 1 white, 1 yellow, and 1 red for variety)
-4 tbsp butter
-5 cups vegetable stock
-1/3 cup red wine
-1/3 cup coffee
-3 large garlic cloves, minced
-fresh thyme
-salt & pepper
-cumin
-agave nectar or maple syrup

-baguette
-Gruyere cheese (be sure to get cheese that melts, as the smoked Gruyere I used only browned)

Directions:
-Slice the onions into thin strips.  Melt butter in a large stock pot over medium-low heat.  Add onions and stir until evenly coated with butter.  You want to caramelize the onions, not brown them, so this step requires patience.  Cook them for about an hour, stirring every 5-10 minutes, until they’re a nice golden brown all the way through.  This was the first time I’d tried caramelizing onions, and I took the “slow and steady” advice a little too seriously… Needless to say, using too little heat isn’t good either, as they will take forever and you will end up eating dinner at 9 at night.  So start with medium-low and just adjust as needed to keep them from browning (or wallowing in their butter not-so-hot springs).
-Once onions are caramelized, add broth, red wine, minced garlic, and seasonings to taste.  Remember, since it’s lacking the beef broth, this soup is going to rely on seasonings to give it the rich, bold flavor french onion soup needs.  So be generous with the spices.  I used a few sprigs worth of fresh thyme, a good amount of season salt, a dash of pepper, a dash of cumin, and maybe a tbsp of maple syrup.  The onions will have a sweet taste, so you don’t need to add much more sweetness, but the smoky tastes of agave and maple syrup go so well with the caramelized onions that I couldn’t resist adding some.
CIMG2945-Add coffee a little at a time, tasting each time.  You don’t want the soup to taste like coffee, just add to the flavor.
-Simmer for about an hour.
-Heat broiler.  Slice the baguette into thick slices.  Fill individual ramekins or one large casserole bowl with soup and top with a layer of baguette slices.  Cover with a layer of shredded or sliced Gruyere cheese.  Broil for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted.  Serve.  Drool.  Enjoy.  Live a meatless & soupful life.

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Recipe Book: Deodorant!

Yes, you read that correctly.  Today, we’re going to learn how to make deodorant.  If you read my last post on ways to prevent cancer, you already know how important it is to avoid conventional personal care products, especially deodorant.  Homemade deodorant is fabulously simple, cost effective, and, best of all, free of heavy metals!

unknownFirst, let’s take a look at why deodorants are so bad.  Surprisingly, there is a difference between products marketed for women and for men.  Most deodorants for women are also antiperspirants, while it’s relatively easy to find a deodorant for men that’s just deodorant.  What’s the difference, you ask?  They’re pretty self explanatory: deodorants prevent your sweat from smelling and antiperspirants prevent you from sweating.  Sweat is actually a mixture of fat, proteins, and toxins secreted by your body, but it’s the sweat-munching bacteria hanging out in your crevices that cause you to stink.  Deodorants use many different ingredients to kill these bacteria; antiperspirants use heavy metals like aluminum or zirconium to plug the pores in your pits, preventing the sweat from escaping.  While deodorants can contain harmful chemicals like artificial fragrances and parabens that seep in through the skin, antiperspirants are even more harmful.  Not only do they contain heavy metals and other harmful chemicals, but they block the secretion of sweat, which is a necessary part of daily detoxing.  No bueno, mis amigos.

The solution: homemade deodorant!  While there are definitely some great options out there (I’ve heard people swear by Thai crystals) making your own is the only way to know exactly what’s in it, and what works for you.  I’ve used several different brands – Tom’s of Maine, Jason, Nature’s Gate – but none seemed to really work for me.  homepage_banner_1_imgThen I discovered Trulys Natural Deodorant.  Made by a local Delaware woman with only 4 ingredients, it was so simple and yet so fabulous.  Coconut oil, baking soda, powdered sugar, and cornstarch.  And it works.  While using it, however, I noticed that if I left it on too long, say overnight, I’d have some slight irritation in the morning.  Nowhere near as bad as when I used conventional products, but enough that I knew something in there was bothering me.  I was worried at first that there was aluminum in the baking soda she used, but after doing some research, I found that while baking powder is still suspect, most baking soda is additive-free, including Arm & Hammer.  The powdered sugar then?  Or perhaps the corn starch?  Sugar and corn both are both common allergens, so perhaps one of them was giving me the itches.  I therefore decided to make my own, but what to use in place of the offending ingredients?  Thanks to one of our customers at the farm store, I found a great deodorant recipe that did the trick.

Ingredients:
-1/3 cup coconut oil (I used refined since it’s cheaper, but virgin has such a lovely coconut smell…)
-1/3 cup arrowroot powder
-3 tbsp baking soda (I started with 2, but it was too oily and not absorbent enough for me)
-10-15 drops essential oil (optional – for fragrance)

Heat the coconut oil so it’s liquid, mix, let cool, apply, and breathe deeply all day!  With the antibacterial properties of coconut, the absorbancy of arrowroot and baking soda, and the lovely smells of essential oils, this will definitely keep you smelling fresh all day.  Trust me, I work on a farm.  If it keeps my pits smelling good, you have nothing to worry about!  Unless you have a have a real Dirty Job, that is…

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Recipe Book: Cream of Kale & Mushroom Soup

cream-of-spinach-soup
Beautiful Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!

 

I loved Lewis Carroll’s books growing up, and while the latest movie adaptation of his stories had little going for it aside from Johnny Depp and his wonky hat, it reminded me of how fabulously nonsensical his poems are.  I’m starting to think his “Beautiful Soup” poem is the source of my obsession with soup…

This week’s experiment combines my favorite and least favorite vegetables in a creamy, super-nutritious soup.  After binging on snacks and not-so-healthy foods during Sunday’s football party, both my fiance and I weren’t feeling so hot.  In order to soothe our unhappy tummies, I made a big pot of cream of mushroom and kale soup.  While I absolutely abhor whole mushrooms (can you say slimy?), pureed mushrooms add a delicious, smoky flavor to soups – and of course kale makes anything fabulous.

2011-02-21-02Ingredients:
-4 to 5 cups of kale, de-stemmed and torn into bite sized shreds (Red Russian kale is my fav!)
-2 large portobello mushrooms (Feel free to use more than 2 – and other varieties – depending on your level of mushroom love.)
-5 large scallions
-5 cloves of garlic
-olive oil for sauteing
-1 cup heavy cream
-2 1/2 cups whole milk (Of course, Nice Farms milk is always my first choice!)
-salt & pepper to taste
-spices (I love experimenting with new combinations of spices in my soups, so feel free to adventure through your spice rack.  For this soup, I used lemon pepper, turmeric, and fresh ground oregano.)

Directions:
images-Dice the garlic, scallions, and mushrooms.  (Don’t worry about dicing them super small as they’re going to be pureed.  No need to get your hands unnecessarily garlic-ized.)  Saute them in the olive oil for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms start to brown.  You don’t want them to get mushy, though.  (Helpful hint: the shrooms will absorb a LOT of oil, so don’t be surprised when you have to use unholy amounts.)
-Once the shrooms are cooked, set the mix aside to let cool a bit.  While you’re waiting, pour the cream and milk into a large pot and start heating over medium heat.  Once the shrooms mix has cooled enough to work with, puree in a food processor until smooth.  Add to pot and stir until thoroughly mixed.
-Once the creamy mix in the pot has warmed almost to boiling, add the kale shreds and reduce to low heat.  Season to taste.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes to allow kale to cook.
-Serve with delicious bread and enjoy!

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Recipe Book: Bread Bowls and Root Veggie Soup

Winter means two things for me: good food and presents!  Since it’s the slow season at the farm, I have plenty of free time to cook delicious delectables, and Christmas presents like BREAD MACHINES make it even more fun!

CIMG2851For my first experiment with my new bread machine, I decided to make bread bowls to go with the wintery root veggie soup I’d been craving.  With many of my favorite vegetables going out of season soon, I had to take advantage of them one last time.  There is no set recipe for soup, as it’s really just a creation of your cravings.  For this soup I used carrots, turnips, rutabaga, kohlrabi bulbs & leaves, spinach, pinto beans, lentils, scallions, garlic, and a yummy blend of sea salt and spices.  Cook the veggies and beans until they’re just shy of being done, then throw them in the crock pot to simmer for a few hours with the herbs.  Yum!

The bread bowls were even easier.  My future mother-in-law copied the recipe for me out of her bread machine recipe book (later she decided that I simply had to have that book, which she proceeded to order for me – as if the bread machine wasn’t enough!) and really all you have to do is put the ingredients in the pan, sit back, and enjoy the smells!

CIMG2853Bread BowlsIngredients:
-1 cup water
-2 3/4 cups bread flour
-1 tablespoon sugar
-1 teaspoon salt
-1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
-1 egg yolk
-1 tablespoon water

Directions:
-Place all ingredients except egg yolk and 1 tbsp water in bread machine pan in the order they’re listed (wet ingredients always go first, then dry, yeast last).  Select the Dough/Manual cycle.
-Remove dough from pan using lightly floured hands.  Cover and let rest for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface.
-Grease the outside of 6 10-oz custard cups (I used 3 mini bread pans, which are about the size of a large muffin.  They were the perfect size & thickness, I don’t see how you could stretch that amount of dough to make 6 bowls).  Place cups upside down on ungreased cookie sheet.  Divide dough into 6 equal pieces.  Roll or pat each piece into 7 inch circles on a lightly floured surface.  Shape the circle over outside of cups.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for 15 to 20 minutes or until slightly puffy.
-Heat over to 375 degrees.  Mix the egg yolk and water and brush over bread bowls.  Bake 18 to 22 minutes or until golden brown.
-Fill with your favorite soup and enjoy!
CIMG2854

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Recipe Book: CHEESE!!

My household works very hard to support local dairy farms.  Between me, my fiance, and the puppy, we go through several gallons of milk, about 2 quarts of yogurt, and several blocks of cheese a week.  We get our milk from Nice Farms Creamery in Federalsburg, MD, and let me tell you, it’s pretty fabulous.  I’ve already told you about the benefits of milk from pastured cows (see my post on pasture-raised animal products), and NFC milk not only comes from grass-fed cows, but it’s the highest quality whole milk I’ve found on the Delmarva peninsula.  Though raw milk is stupidly illegal in Maryland, NFC’s milk is the closest you can get to it; it’s low-temperature pasteurized and not homogenized, which ensures that all of the good fats, proteins, and nutrients are still intact.  The yogurt is simply fabulous, and, much to every local foodie and holistic health enthusiast’s delight, NFC has started making butter!  Chesapeake Bay Farms in Worcester Co., MD also makes butter, though I must admit that nothing can compare to NFC butter.  CBF also makes some pretty delightful cheeses and ice creams, both of which do not last long in my house.

Which brings me to the point of this post… CHEESE!!  Since we love cheese so much around here, and since NFC’s milk is the best around, I decided to have a go at making some simple Paneer cheese with it.  Turns out, it’s super easy!

CIMG2794Ingredients:
-half a gallon of milk (whole milk works best – it’s richer in taste and nutrients)
-3 to 4 tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar and it gave the cheese a wonderful sweet, sharp flavor)
-cheesecloth, large pot, stirring spoon, colander

-To prep, line a colander with cheesecloth.  You may need 2 pieces to make sure the entire surface is covered.  If you plan to preserve your whey (which you should, and I’ll tell you why later), place the colander in a dish deep enough to hold about 1/4 a gallon of milk.
-In a large pot, preferably a heavy-bottomed pot like a stock pot to ensure even heat distribution, bring the milk to a boil, stirring constantly to prevent burning at the bottom and to reduce foam on top.CIMG2791
-Once the milk is boiling, turn off heat.  Add the lemon juice or vinegar in one tablespoon at a time and stir in well.  (I only used 3 tablespoons, but depending on the acidity of your product choice, you may need more.)  After about a minute of stirring, the milk should begin to separate into whey, a yellowish cloudy liquid, and milk curds.  Continue stirring for 2 to 3 minutes until milk is totally separated.
-Pour the contents of the pot into the colander.  The curds will remain in the cheesecloth while the whey will strain through into the dish.  Set the whey aside to cool.  Rinse the curds with cold water for about a minute to make sure all whey has been rinsed off.  Gather the ends of the cheesecloth together to make a ball, tie it off, and place it back in the cCIMG2796olander.  Place a flat surface such as a plate or flat-bottomed bowl on top of it and place weights on top of it to press out all the moisture.  Leave the cheese like this for about an hour.  When you unwrap it, you can shape it into whatever shape you like using a small container.  Refrigerate, and enjoy!

Now, about that whey…  Little Miss Muffet enjoyed it, so why shouldn’t you?  It’s full of proteins, nutrients, and raw enzymes, so don’t waste it!  You can save it to use in place of vinegar in your next batch of cheese, add it to protein shakes, cook with it, or give it to your animals for a healthy snack.  Check out Prairie Homestead’s 16 Ways to Use Your Whey for more ideas.

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Recipe Book: Nachos Creativos

When I have a surplus of veggies in my fridge that need to be used before they’re doomed to the compost pile, I usually throw them into a stir fry.  But since it’s football season, we had the idea to make some “nachos creativos” the last time we cleaned out the fridge.  The result: fig, home-made sundried tomatoes (which are actually pretty simple, if time consuming), vegetarian chicken, goat cheese, and smoked cheddar nachos with blue corn and avocado tortilla chips.  Yum!  We’ve cranked out a few batches of nachos creativos in the past, and some of our favorite toppings include avacado, roasted tomatillos, okra, home-made salsa, refried beans, and Quorn vegetarian chicken strips or ground beef.  Pop them in the oven for about 10 minutes or eat them plain for a healthful, yummy snack.  The more toppings, the more taste – and nutrition.

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Recipe Book: Chocolate Avacado Cake

So I made this for my mother’s birthday yesterday, and man, was it delicious!  I was a little skeptical at first, because the recipe calls for vinegar, which made the batter a little tangy.  But it was a hit at her party, and so I thought I’d share it with you.

Ingredients:
For the cake:
-3 cups all-purpose flour
-6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used 6 heaping tablespoons)
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-2 teaspoons baking powder
-2 teaspoons baking soda
-2 cups granulated sugar
-1/4 cup butter
-1/2 cup soft avocado (about 1 medium avocado), mashed until smooth and creamy
-2 cups water
-2 Tablespoons white vinegar (I used rice vinegar, which I’m starting to really like)
-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
For the frosting:
-4 ounces (half a cup) of very ripe avocado meat
-4 ounces cream cheese (or one 8 ounce package of cream cheese if you want to skip the avacado icing)
-1/4 cup butter
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1 package hot chocolate mix
-honey to taste (I used about 1/4 a cup)
(You can also just use a cup of sugar instead of the hot chocolate and honey)
-1 cup fresh, mashed fruit (optional) (I used raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and kiwi… Yumm!)

Instructions:
-Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease your cake pan.
-Sift together all of the dry ingredients except the sugar. Set that aside.
-Mix all the wet ingredients together in a bowl, including the super mashed avocado.
-Add sugar into the wet mix and stir. Mix the wet with the dry all at once, and beat with a whisk (by hand) until smooth.
-Pour batter into your prepared pan(s). Bake for 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  (Mine was in there about 45.)
-While the cake cools, make the icing. Peel and pit the soft avocados. It’s important to use the ripest avocados you can get your hands on.  Soften butter and cream cheese.  Mix all ingredients until smooth.  Spread on cake, and enjoy!