We have had some excitement in the garden this week. Our plants are continuing to grow super fast from our week of excellent sun and we harvested our first few strawberries. I got some more seedlings planted and we spent quite a bit of time […]
When my husband and I first started really looking into our food many years ago one of the first things we looked at was high fructose corn syrup. We discovered it was really difficult to buy jam without out it so we decided to try making our own. Since we lived in a townhouse with no yard we became huge fans of U-pick farms. For a few years we would make the trek out to the farm, pick a bunch of berries and then bring them home to freeze, make jam and sometimes dry them. We stopped making jam about the time we had our second child because life got busy and we started to stray from trying to be more self-sufficient. When we had our third child we strayed even farther and a few months ago I realized although we were cooking a lot of our own food still, processed foods had crept back into our diet. Our garden is still young and we do not have a lot of mature berry plants so this year I was determined to make all of the major U-pick seasons (strawberry, raspberry, blackberry and apples).
Last weekend we went strawberry picking with the younger kids and we had a lot of fun! The key is to go after a few sunny days so the berries are sweeter and early enough in the day that the fields are not so hot that you are miserable in the sun. Our three year old is a total foodie and has inherited my love of fruit so she spent most of her time eating everything she picked. Our son will not eat fruit unless it is cooked in something or comes in pouch form so he wandered around telling me about the plants and watching all of the people. It was great because both kids had fun in their own way and my husband and I were able to pick a couple of flats in a relatively short amount of time.
The farm we went to had a little play area with shaved ice so after we picked our berries we ate a snack and some shaved ice. The kids ran around and played some more which guaranteed a nap for the youngest in the car on the way home. It was a great way to spend the morning as a family. We are also firm believers in involving our kids in the whole food/cooking process so it was great to have them help with picking berries. It was still relatively early in the season so the strawberry plants were very full of berries which made picking faster and easier than in the past when we have gone towards the end of the season.
The first thing I did when we got home was slice up our berries and fill the dehydrator. Dehydrated berries need to be very fresh and blemish free so the sooner you get them in the dehydrator the better. It also takes 8-12 hours (or more) so make sure you time it so you aren’t having to wake up in the middle of the night to pull them out. For a long time we used a small dehydrator with a top fan that had been passed down from many people and worked okay but last fall my Dad bought me an Excalibur dehydrator for my birthday and this was my first time using it. Man, there was a huge difference. My fruit was much more evenly dehydrated and having a temperature setting with a timer seemed extra luxurious. I even forgot to rotate the trays until well into the process and they still came out very evenly dry. Our old one you had to rotate every two hours and it still ended up taking way longer to dry out the food no where near as even. I highly recommend saving up for the Excalibur it was a completely different experience for me this time around. I really wish I had bought the fruit leather trays so I could have made fruit leather as well but maybe next time. There is also a dehydrator cookbook that I would like to try as well.
Our strawberries came out of the dehydrator while our kids were eating breakfast. It is important to check that they are dry before you put them into long term storage so that they do not develop mold over time. My kids were hungry so I just put the not so dry ones into a small glass dish for them to eat and honestly they did not last until lunchtime since everyone was snacking on them. My son actually ate a few pieces of dried strawberries which was a huge win! I made 5 trays of berries and it filled about 1/3 of a gallon Ziploc bag. We are not huge eaters of dried fruit so it will be enough for us.
While the fruit was drying I cut the tops off of more strawberries and placed them on a cookie sheet in the freezer. We freeze them this way so that we can take a few out as needed for smoothies. I leave them in there for a few hours then transfer them to a gallon Ziploc bag. We probably need three gallons of frozen strawberries to last us a year but we simply did not pick enough berries for that this year. I froze two trays of berries and it made 1 1/3 gallons of frozen berries. Next year I think we will pick 3, maybe 4 flats of berries so that we have enough to freeze three gallons and make some fruit leather. It is always a learning process and I am really glad we are figuring out the kinks so that in the future we can know how much we will need.
My kids love smoothies so we have already eaten quite a few of our frozen berries and they were delicious! With all of the recalls on frozen food I am really glad we have some berries stashed away for future use! About a year ago when Costco had most of their frozen veggies recalled I had to completely change how we bought our vegetables since we eat a lot of frozen peas, green beans and corn. Every year I want to add to what we grow ourselves so we will no longer be reliant on store bought fruits and vegetables. Stay tuned for our next post in the series about the delicious jam we made from our strawberries!
What foods are you replacing with your garden this year?
We have always been big fans of hummus. For a long time we bought organic canned garbanzo beans and made hummus from those but we have been trying to make as much of our food from scratch as we can so about a year ago we switched to this recipe from Serious Eats and it is honestly the best hummus I have ever eaten! In a pinch you could still use canned garbanzo beans after the cooking step but the fresh ones are really much better tasting. We buy our garbanzo beans in bulk off of Amazon from a local company called Palouse Brand . They are made in Washington, non-GMO, organic and the best tasting garbanzo beans we have tried so far. We also order our Tahini in bulk from Amazon as well but I think you can find it in any grocery store. We just eat a lot of hummus so buying in bulk is much cheaper.
A few months ago we decided to both eat healthier and try to cut back on our grocery expenses so we could spend more money fixing up the house. One of the ways we have tried to accomplish this is to add beans to our diet. We tried refried beans, baked beans, adding canned beans to our dishes and hummus. Although we love all of the bean options we tried, making a batch of hummus every week was the easiest way for us to be consistent about it. We just soak the beans overnight on Saturday night and then my husband cooks them when we have time on Sunday. It doesn’t take long to cook and you can have it on another burner while you are cooking dinner to save time. I eat a hummus wrap for lunch most days with leftovers on the inside (to reduce food waste) and the kids love eating it with a spoon for an afternoon treat. You can also put it on crackers, toast with a runny fried egg for breakfast, dip vegetables in it or even add a little hot sauce and use it as a healthier dip for chips. We love hummus!
Put your beans into a bowl with double the volume of water and let soak overnight.
Soaked beans looking a little fluffier!
Drain your beans and place them into a pot with the baking soda. Cook for a few minutes then add your water and bring to a boil.
Skim off any foam or skins that pop up and cook for about 20-40 minutes until the beans are very tender but not mushy.
Drain your chickpeas and put into the food processor. Run it until you get a stiff paste.
While it is still running add your lemon, tahini, garlic and salt. Then slowly add your ice water and run for another 5 minutes until the hummus is smooth and creamy.
And there you have it! Super smooth hummus ready to eat! This week when we made it the kids ate a bunch of it still warm from the food processor with spoons. It was great to see them enjoying such a healthy snack!
Hummus by Serious Eats
Make delicious hummus from scratch!
- 1.5 cups dried chickpeas
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 6.5 cups water
- 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp light tahini sauce
- 4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 6 1/2 tablespoons/100 ml ice-cold water
- Step 1 The night before, put the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover them with cold water at least twice their volume. Leave to soak overnight.
- Step 2 The next day, drain the chickpeas. Place a medium saucepan over high heat and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cook, skimming off any foam and any skins that float to the surface. The chickpeas will need to cook between 20 and 40 minutes, depending on the type and freshness, sometimes even longer. Once done, they should be very tender, breaking up easily when pressed between your thumb and finger, almost but not quite mushy.
- Step 3 Drain the chickpeas. You should have roughly 3 2/3 cups/600 g now. Place the chickpeas in a food processor and process until you get a stiff paste. Then, with the machine still running, add the tahini paste, lemon juice, garlic, and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Finally, slowly drizzle in the iced water and allow it to mix for about 5 minutes, until you get a very smooth and creamy paste.
- Step 4 Transfer the hummus to a bowl, cover the surface with plastic wrap, and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. If not using straightaway, refrigerate until needed. Make sure to take it out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before serving.
My husband and three year old made these marshmallows by David Lebovitz a few weeks ago. He has made them in the past and they are delicious! Our three year old loves to cook and she is obsessed with marshmallows so it was a fun activity for them to do together. We got the recipe from David Lebovitz’s website and it can be found here. It seems like a lot of steps but it really was easy to make, most of the time was spent waiting for things to heat up or cool down.
First step dissolve the gelatin. We used standard Knox gelatin which can be found at your local grocery store or online. We usually can find it pretty cheap at Fred Meyer. It doesn’t really go bad so it is a good idea to stock up on it when it goes on sale during canning season or around the holidays. You can also use this gelatin for making homemade jello or if you are into synchronized swimming for putting your hair up into an elaborate bun that will stay beautiful under water. Just don’t ask me how long it will take to remove the gelatin from you hair…
Here is where you mix your sugar and corn syrup and cook it on the stove.
You add water and bring it to a boil while you are also completing the egg white step with the mixer.
While your sugar mixture is heating up, add your egg whites to the mixer and beat on low until they are frothy.
Yay! Frothy egg white goodness!
Once your sugar mixture has reached 245 degrees slowly add it to the egg whites.
Slowly now! Try to keep it from hitting the beater and splashing all over the sides. Add your gelatin to your warm sugar pan to dissolve it and then slowly pour that into your egg whites as well.
Add your vanilla and whisk until the outside of the bowl is cool.
Sift your mixture of potato starch and powdered sugar evenly over a pan.
Make sure to cover all of the surfaces with no gaps or your marshmallows will stick.
Pour your marshmallow mixture over the pan.
Quickly spread it so that it is even.
Let cool completely.
You can also spread the potato starch/powdered sugar mixture over a plate to make blob type shapes if you don’t want to cut out sheets of marshmallows.
We did this for the kids so that they could “sample” them sooner. Next up, cutting!
Before he cut the marshmallows my husband sprinkled more potato starch/powdered sugar over the marshmallows so the blade wouldn’t stick.
Then he peeled them back and repeated spreading the mixture on the other side.
My husband used our handy kitchen shears to cut the marshmallows into rectangles.
And a cookie cutter to cut out one Mickey Mouse one for our daughter.
We stored them in a Tupperware container in a cool, dry place but we had some friends coming over so they didn’t last long!
That’s it for our fun marshmallow project! They would be great to take to a summer party or you could dip them in chocolate when they are cool and make marshmallow pops as another fun activity with kids!
Marshmallows by David Lebovitz
Delicious Marshmallows by David Lebovitz are an easy candy to make.
- 2 envelopes (17g) powdered gelatin or 17g sheet gelatin (8 to 10 sheets)
- 1/2 cup (125ml) + 1/3 cup (80ml) cold water
- 1 cup (200g) sugar
- 1/3 cup (100g) light corn syrup
- 4 large egg whites (1/2 cup, 110g), at room temperature
- pinch of salt
- 2 teaspoon teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon vanilla paste
- Step 1 One part corn starch (or potato starch), one part powdered sugar (about 1 cup, 140g, each)
- Step 2 In a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the 1/2 cup (125ml) of cold water to dissolve and soften. If using leaf gelatin, soak the leaves in about 2 cups (500ml) cold water.
- Step 3 In a small saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, mix the sugar and corn syrup with 1/3 cup (80ml) of water. Place over medium-to-high heat.
- Step 4 (Note that you will use this saucepan twice, to make the syrup and melt the gelatin, eliminating the need to wash it between uses).
- Step 5 In the bowl of an electric mixer, pour in the egg whites and beat on low speed until frothy. Add the pinch of salt.
- Step 6 When the syrup reaches about 210ºF (99ºC), increase the speed of the mixer to high and beat the whites until they are thick and fluffy.
- Step 7 When the syrup reaches 245ºF (118ºC), while the mixer is running on high speed, slowly pour the hot syrup into the whites, pouring so that the syrup does not fall on the whisk since some of the syrup will splatter and stick to the sides of the bowl.
- Step 8 Scrape the gelatin and water into the pan that you used for the syrup, or put the gelatin sheets and 2 tablespoons of the water into the pan and swirl it to dissolve. (There should still be residual heat left in the pan from making the syrup in it to dissolve it).
- Step 9 Pour the liquified gelatin slowly into the whites as they are whipping. Add the vanilla extract or paste and continue to whip for 5 minutes, until the mixture is feels completely cool when you touch the outside of the bowl.
- Step 10 Dust a baking sheet evenly and completely with a generous layer of the marshmallow mixture. (I use a sifter to do this.) Make sure there are absolutely no bare spots.
- Step 11 Use a spatula to spread the marshmallows in a layer on the pan. Allow to dry for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight, uncovered.
- Step 12 Put about 1 cup (140g) of the marshmallow mixture into a large bowl.
- Step 13 Dust the top of the marshmallows with some of the marshmallow mixture. Use a pizza cutter or scissors (dusted as well with the marshmallow mixture) to cut the marshmallows into any size or shape pieces that you’d like and toss the marshmallows in the marshmallow mixture. Shake the marshmallows vigorously in a wire strainer to remove the excess powder.
- Step 14 Alternatively, you can dust a baking sheet and put scoops of the marshmallow on it, and let them cool, as shown in the post.
- Step 15 Storage: The marshmallows can be made up to one week in advance, and stored in an airtight container