Monday, June 25, 2018

Candied Cranberries

Long ago, we bought a house and the agent sent us a recipe for candied cranberries. It looked delicious, so I promptly tried it and have never bought canned ones since. It is simply amazing, and I've shared the recipe with many over the years and several friends have asked me to put it on my blog, so here it is (finally)! Maybe you all can start a new tradition just like I did. I make it every year, and since I learned to can, I make enough to last for the whole year. Last year, I had one jar left over from the year before, and everyone agreed that it's even better after aging a year. I also tried a new trick, adding some baking soda to one batch and reducing the sugar by half, and we liked those even better than the regular ones! The flavors were much bolder, the orange and ginger notes came out beautifully (my Dad threatened to steal the whole batch he liked it so much) so this year I'm planning on experimenting some more with that and I'll update this post when I do.

Candied Cranberries
2 lbs cranberries or 3 12 oz bags
2 ½ C sugar
zest and ½ C juice from 2 large oranges or 3 smaller ones (Try to get organic ones, since we are using the peel, or get a good veggie wash that removes the wax and chemicals. Trader Joe's has one made from grapefruit seeds that I like.)
2 T grated fresh ginger

Optional modifications:
1 tsp baking soda
Reduce sugar to 1¼ cups

Wash oranges to remove the wax, chemicals and transport grime.
The easy way: use a vegetable peeler to peel off the zest. The hard way: use a zester to zest the oranges.
Slice the oranges in half and juice them. If you don't have a juicer, get a fork and stick it in the meat of the orange and then squeeze the juice out. You only need half a cup of juice, so feel free to enjoy the rest!
 Rinse the cranberries, picking out the ones that look bad.
The easy way: peel and slice the ginger. The hard way: use the zester to grate it.
The easy way: pour some cranberries into your food processor until it's about half full, then put the peeled zest and sliced ginger on top. Chop it all up nice and fine, scraping the sides if needed.
Put everything into a large sauce pan (I make double or triple batches so I use a stock pot) and cook over medium high, stirring frequently until everything is nice and gooey.
The easy way: use an immersion blender to blend it all up until it's at the consistency you want. The hard way: use a spoon to stir and pop cranberries against the side of the pot until it's at the consistency you want.
If you're canning, fill prepared jars to a quarter inch from the top and water bath for 20 minutes. If not, it's ready to serve or put in the fridge for later. If served fresh it can be kinda tart so I'd add a bit more sugar. A few days of sitting sitting in the fridge, or in jars if canned, mellows it out quite a bit.

Notes: The half sugar batch came out delicious, but it never firmed up like the full sugar recipe does. It was also a bit more acidic than I prefer, so I'm planning on playing with the recipe this year and seeing if I can tweak it and if adding some pectin might help it firm up. I'm not sure about the chemistry of the baking soda and natural pectin in the cranberries. Perhaps the baking soda interacts in a way that disables the pectin and that's why it never firmed, but I really don't know. If you know anything about it, leave a comment or shoot me an email!

Edit: I did some searching online and found an interesting article which mentions that baking soda breaks down pectin. Apparently to such an extent that it was used to speed up the softening of boiled vegetables and other interesting uses. So there appears to be no way to have firm cranberries that have baking soda in them. It's good to know! Here's the article if you're interested in being a bit of a geek with me. Unfortunately it's only available as a pdf, but it's still a neat read.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Nut Butter Bread

I was glancing at Heavenly Homemakers for the first time in almost a year, and she happened to have a post about bread made from nut butter.  She also made small buns with her muffin pan.  I was intrigued.

I have lots of friends who are gluten/dairy free, and other friends who poke sticks at paleo once a year, and I myself have been having problems handling anything resembling something sweet...sooooo, I gave it a try.  And was promptly amazed.  It truly is like bread.  A good, hearty whole grain, nutty bread.  And best of all it's insanely easy!

I made mine from almond butter since I don't care for peanuts as a rule.  (I also have yet another friend who is allergic to  Even family who are iffy about trying my weird gluten free experiments tried it and liked it!  So I'm reposting a repost of a repost (yay internet blogs!) so all those friends who tried it can make it at home.

And to whoever was brilliant enough to come up with something so unexpected, hats off to you and thanks so much for sharing with all of us!

The Most Amazing Peanut Butter Bread! (Naturally grain/gluten and dairy free!)
Serves: 12-16 slices

2 cups natural, unsalted peanut butter
2 teaspoons honey
Pinch of sea salt (omit if your peanut butter is salted)
6 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons white vinegar (mandatory to activate the baking soda)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix all ingredients together in a blender or with a hand mixer.
Pour into a well-greased 9x5" loaf pan.
Bake for 45-50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the bread comes out clean.
Allow the bread to sit in the pan for about 10 minutes to cool.
Remove bread from pan and cool on a rack.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Candied Spiced Nuts

When Hubby and I lived in Germany, we fell in love with their traditional candied spiced nuts.  They are really amazing, but seemed impossible to make at home because of the specialized equipment they used: a special cooker shaped like a bowl with a spinning paddle that got hot enough to fully melt and cook the sugar.  In Germany these treats were relatively easy to find, inexpensive and super tasty.  I'd buy several bags of them every time the vendor made the rounds.  They are much harder to find in the States, usually only at special fairs or something similar, and when I can find them, they are pretty expensive.  But then I ran across a recipe to make them at home!  I was super excited and made some right away.  We enjoyed the results, but I've tweaked the recipe to fit our tastes better.  I increased the spices, because we love the flavors and they weren't quite coming out enough in the original recipe.  I also added a bit of maple syrup, to help the sugar melt and coat the nuts better.  Lastly, I used bowls instead of the plastic bags the original author used, because it is much easier to work with bowls, and it doesn't waste 2 bags for every batch!

Candied Spiced Nuts

4 cups of nuts, whatever you like.  We like cashews, so I use those.  A great place to get inexpensive nuts are indian food markets.

1 egg white.  You can grease a small container with a few drops of oil and put the yolk in it to use for something else later.
1 T water
1 T maple syrup, or if using white sugar substitute molasses instead

1 C sugar, preferably brown sugar or sucanat.
1 T cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 250.
Put nuts in a bowl large enough to stir everything together.  Measure the sugar and spices into a medium sized bowl and whisk until combined. 
Whisk egg white and water together until a little foamy, then add maple syrup or molasses.
Drizzle over the nuts and stir until coated.
Pour sugar mix over the nuts and stir until all the sugar is moistened and coats the nuts.
Pour the nuts onto a lined baking tray and spread them out.  Don't forget to scrape all that tasty sugar out of the bowl too!
Bake for about an hour to an hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.  When stirring, make sure you scrape all the melted sugar off the bottom of the tray and mix it back into the nuts.  I've found it helpful to just kind of pile everything in the center of the tray, use the spatula to scrape up the sugar and dump it on top of the pile, then spread everything out again for further baking.

The nuts are done when the sugar is dry and they break apart easily.
Set on the counter to cool, then store in an airtight container.  These don't last all that long around here, but I imagine they would stay good for several months.

Yield: 4 cups

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

No ED Today

Well, I'd intended to start again today, but I didn't sleep well at all and have no energy or motivation, so hopefully tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Elimination Diet Day...?

Well, I was sick with a pretty bad cold.  The bad symptoms didn't last too long, maybe 4 days.  The congestion held on for another week and a half.  But I have such problems with having enough energy to do things, and being sick just wipes me out.  I've been too tired to really focus on doing the ED, because it is very labor intensive.   So I decided not to stress about it and just do what I could.  I've been having my green smoothies almost every day.  I've made several meals that lasted me several days, but I don't really remember what they were anymore. One of the reasons I do a Daily Diet Update every day is just to help me keep track of what I've done!  I've also been eating plenty off the diet, but still researching and thinking about what I want to do when I get back on it.

Biggest thing I've finally decided:  I really don't like kale.  I've really tried to learn to like it, but I just don't.  I don't like it as chips, I don't really prefer it in soup, it's fine as baby kale in smoothies because I don't really taste it.  I find mature kale to be too much though, even in a smoothie.  But I think that except for smoothies and the occasional hash where it can be nicely blended in, I'm just not going to be having a lot of it.  I will still get plenty of the cruciferous compounds in my smoothies.  Broccoli sprouts and baby kale are about 2/3 of the greens I put in there and, when I can find them, dandelion greens fill out the rest.

Health Update:
I have some improvements to my health, even after being mostly off the diet for the last 2 weeks.  My stomach seems to be slowly healing.  It doesn't react to things quite as strongly anymore, and I notice that my back isn't getting yanked out of place by the diaphragm cramps quite as much.  Another thing I've noticed is that my hips are hurting less, and I have fewer cramps in my legs when I'm laying down.  I've definitely lost 5 lbs since I started, and I fluctuate another 5 lbs depending on the day.  I was sleeping better, and my digestion was very much smoother, but that improvement has reduced during the last few weeks.

I'm planning on starting back on the diet tomorrow.  I'm not going to do the fast, that really made me feel very bad the last time.  Just gonna get started on porridge and tacos again!

Plans for the week: Make sweet potato chips (with guacamole!) and fries.  Make turkey jerky.  Plan out what I wanna do with a leg of lamb next week.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Elimination Diet Days 13-16

Being sick sucks.  So tired, can't sleep because I can't breathe, etc, etc.  So yeah, having problems being motivated to do anything, much less stay on the diet.  So I've been halfway ignoring it for the last few days.  I've been eating a lot of the food I had prepped, but I've also eaten out several days too, just because I was out anyways and it was easier than trying to figure out what to take with me.

But I'm feeling better already!  Part of it I think is because I really concentrate on not doing more damage than the cold already does, and part of it because my body was already settled into detox mode because of the diet and so I was able to detox the sick out faster.  I also focused on eating my fermented foods like kim-chi, water kefir and some fermented okra I put up this fall.  I've read that if you gargle and swish the contents of a probiotic pill before bed, it helps out compete the bad bugs in your sinuses.  Figured it would work with probiotic fermented foods too. 

I made chicken and rice soup today that was easy and tasty.  Looking forward to getting back in the groove in a few days, but not going to stress about it until I have a bit more energy.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Elimination Diet Day 12

Hubby has been sick for the last week or so with some kind of nasty congestion and cough, and now I'm starting it, of course.  It's impossible not to give stuff to each other when we live as closely as we do, even when we'd rather not share!  I knew I was going to get it, so I've been cooking all week so I have food to eat if I get so bad I can't cook.

Breakfast- green smoothie, the smoothie this morning was so delicious and refreshing.  Maybe because my throat hurts and my nose is starting to drip.
Lunch- chicken tacos, still delicious.  I'm working out the best way to make the brown rice tortillas, and I'll be doing an in depth tutorial once I do.
Dinner- squash soup and experimental biscuits.  The squash soup made my stomach hurt again, so no more of that for me.  The biscuit was actually reasonably edible heated up in the microwave for 20 seconds and spread with some of my chicken fat in place of butter.