Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Kefir Saga Continues...

Well, if I'd only known, I just needed to stir the kefir that looked like yogurt and I would have had my first batch from the new kefir grains.  Stirring it breaks it up to where the kefir is the consistency of buttermilk.  I did stir this morning's batch and strained it.  It tasted fine.  I have a tablespoon of grains and they seem to 'kefir'  2 glasses of milk in about 18 hours.  After straining out the grains (using a (OMG don't tell anybody) stainless steel sieve), I put them in a clean quart jar and added 3 cups of milk this time.  I want to see if I can get the kefir to take 24 hours to finish instead of 18 hrs.  The ideal will be to get it down to 12 hours or so, whereby you make up the kefir at night and it is ready to use in the morning. 

Supposedly you should not use metal spoons, sieves or anything metal around your kefir grains, but I had little choice as the plastic strainer I received with the kefir grains is woefully inadequate (about 2 1/2" wide).  I'm waiting for my 7 inch plastic sieve to arrive from Amazon.  I placed the drained kefir in a plastic kefir quart bottle along with the last of the store bought kefir.  When I had some ice cold kefir this afternoon from the bottle, it was good - tart and tangy.  I do believe I am on my way now to making kefir on a regular basis.

If you are wondering how kefir tastes, I would describe it as drinking smooth, slightly effervescent cottage cheese. Sound weird? Yes, but it is really good and helps a great deal with my allergies and lactose intolerance.  If you are having digestive issues, kefir may hold the key!

This Week's Box - 9/28/2011

What goodies are in this week's Eatwell Farm box?  See the list below--

Lemon Verbena
Italian Large Leaf Basil.
Cherry Tomatoes
Mixed Heirloom Tomatoes
Shady Lady OR Roma Tomatoes
Romaine Lettuce
Summer Squash
Mixed Hot Peppers
Tomatillos OR Eggplant
Granny Smith Apples

What to do with those goodies -- Let's see - The lemon verbena will make great iced tea this week and for a few weeks to come.  I add it to my regular green tea/mint blend into a large glass jar of water placed outside in the sun to make sun tea.  The basil again will go into making pesto for a wonderful pasta dish - Strangozzi with chard and almond sauce - see for details on this homemade pasta and sauce combination.  The mixed hot peppers will be sliced in half, deseeded and frozen for later use during the year, but a few will be roasted along with the tomatillos to make a great salsa. Ah, tomatoes - fresh tomato soup(recipe adapted from Madjhur Jaffey)with grilled homemade caraway gouda cheese sandwiches (yummy!).   A few tomatoes will make it into a green salad with feta cheese and Greek olives.  Finally the summer squash will make a great side dish along with the cherry tomatoes, garlic and capers.  And last but not least the apples will be part of Michael's lunch.  I'm getting hungry thinking about next week's menu - here is my take on it for the two of us--

Strangozzi with chard and almond sauce
Mixed Green Salad

Tomato Soup with grilled gouda sandwiches
Mixed Green Salad

Tilapia Filets covered with pesto, oven poached in white wine
Steamed Brown Rice
Summer squash with cherry tomatoes, garlic and capers

Chicken Stir Fry
(use up any leftover rice)

Lamb Chops
Potato Gratin
Green Beans

Chicken Fajitas
Roasted Tomatillo Salsa
Corn Tortillas

Pesto Pizza
Mixed Green Salad

Have a great time with the summer's fresh produce!  Enjoy Eatwell's great vegies and add some of your own or shop your local farmer's market.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Making Milk Kefir

I have been drinking kefir daily for a couple of weeks now and have definitely seen s difference in my allergies and in my ability to tolerate lactose containing foods.  This is a welcome change as I have always loved fresh cheeses and dairy products. 

I decided to make my own kefir as a quart of it is just as expensive as a whole gallon of milk.  I purchased kefir grains from and reconstituted them upon their arrival.  This took 4-5 days.  I am about to make my first 'real' kefir.  By the way, don't buy your plastic kefir sieve from cultures for health - their sieve is VERY small (less than 3 inches wide), check out Amazon for a plastic sieve of an appropriate size. 

I have placed the kefir grains in a pint jar with 1 1/2 cups of milk since I have so few kefir grains (less than  1 TBSP) at this point.  I covered the jar with a paper towel and elastic band and placed it in a warm spot in the house, away from my kitchen in which I make bread, yogurt and cheeses to avoid the possibility of cross contamination with yogurt bacteria or yeast from bread making.  The kefir will sit for 12 hours or so until it is the right consistency.  I had waited 24 hours with the last reconstituting batch and I ended up with a thick yogurt instead of lovely smooth buttermilk like kefir.  I'll be checking the kefir periodically to 'catch it' at the right time (I hope).  After that, I'll have a better idea of timing.  This is certainly a learning process.  I'll let you know when (if) it works for me. 

Other options include buying kefir from the store and using 3-4 TBSP to create a second batch of kefir, just like you do with yogurt.  I may still try that now with the milk I have left from the store. We'll see.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Apple Chutney and Tomatillo Sauce Today!

A co-worker of Michael's gave him some apples.  They are quite tart, so I will be making apple chutney with them.  This is the first time I've ever made an apple chutney.  I have made a tomato chutney from a recipe by Madjhur Jaffrey, but this one is quite different.  As usual I played with the recipe so we will see how it all works out.  It worked out!  Here is the recipe as I doctored it:

                                        Apple Chutney

1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup sugar

1 lb. apples, cored and chopped into 1/2 inch dice (peeled too, if you want )
1/3 cup dried apricots, diced 1/2 inch as well
1/3 cup raisins
3 TBSP lemon juice
2 TBSP lemon peel, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of ground allspice
1/8 tsp. cayenne (optional)

In a sauce pan, heat vinegar and sugar until the sugar is melted into the vinegar. Add all the other ingredients and cook over medium heat for 45 minutes or until the mixture thickens to a jamlike consistency.  Stir often to avoid burning the mixture.  Allow to cool.  Enjoy now or refrigerate for later use or freeze in containers. 

Today as well, I got around to making some tomatillo sauce that will be frozen and used when chicken enchilada casserole is on the menu again.  Feeling pretty virtuous in that we have not wasted any of the great food we received from Eatwell Farm this week, also making good use of what people have given us over the past few weeks.  Thank you.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Filling the Freezer and the Fridge

Today, I'm roasting peppers, peeling them and putting them in jars with vinegarette.  Later today, I'll be making some tomatillo sauce and freezing it for the next time chicken enchiladas are on the menu (which I hope is very soon). 

We have been eating the manchego cheese and it is quite good. Michael took some to work.  Our friend, Janet, tasted some and said it was better than chocolate!  Now, that's saying something.  All this good feedback is inspiring me to make more cheese!  I'd like to make some provolone, montasio, tallegio and fontina.  (Note the heavy Italian influence here.)  I've got to be careful or Michael and I will end up weighing two tons.  But, have no fear, my cheese eating friends will surely benefit.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What's in the Box this Week from Eatwell Farm - 9/14/2011

This week the goodies in the box from Eatwell Farm include:

Cherry Tomatoes

Roma Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

Italian Large Leaf Basil

Summer Squash



Red or Green Bell Peppers

Heirloom Melon


Hot Peppers

Eggplant- bonus*

Oh good, eggplant - there will be more eggplant parmesan - we just finished what was in the freezer.  The hot peppers will be sliced in half, seeded and frozen for later use.  The red and green bell peppers will be roasted and then placed in a bath of red wine vinegar, olive oil and sliced garlic.  They will keep in the fridge for quite some time.  The watermelon and other melons have been delicious as snacks and treats.  If one turns out to be a cantaloupe type, I might even spring for some prosciutto to wrap around cold slices of melon.  Potatoes will become a potato gratin to have with lamb chops, while the tomatillos will go into a salsa, frozen for use in the winter to make a chicken enchilada casserole.  Some of the tomatoes and basil will make a great insalata caprese while the cherry tomatoes make it to a salad along with shady ladies cut up and tossed with olives, garlic, celery and feta cheese as a Greek salad.  The summer squash will dress up a pasta dish cooked with garlic, anchovies and capers.

Fresh Cavatelli Today with Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Sauce

Today, I made up some cavatelli - check out Lidia Bastianich's recipe at  I dressed the pasta with some roasted eggplant and tomato sauce, then topped with shredded rosemary ricotta salata.  We ate this for lunch with a Greek salad containing our own homemade feta.  It was quite good, but I do need to work on making the cavatelli a little lighter.  There are leftovers for tomorrow too.

We tasted the manchego cheese and it's good!  Michael will be taking it to work as his lunch cheese.  I'm happy it came out well.  The pound of cheese should last him about a month - he takes a 1 oz. slice each day to work.  Next we will be tasting the drunken cow cheese.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes! Eatwell Farm Bounty

Just finished slicing 12 lbs. of tomatoes and putting them in the food dehydrator to dry overnight.  8 more lbs to go.  We dried tomatoes last year and they were great as tomato sauce 'boosters'.  When you want the tomato sauce to thicken up more quickly, you add a handful of these dried beauties.  I also experimented with rehydrating some in boiling water to make a thick ketchup like paste seasoned with cider vinegar, brown sugar and whatever else I thought might approximate a ketchup taste. 

I ministered to the cheeses in the cheese cave.  The romano and gouda are getting the most attention.  The gouda gets waxed on Friday.  The romano just needs to sit there and get flipped over every week at this point. 

Spent most of today at the quilt guild's room, visiting with friends and hand quilting my farmyard redwork quilt.

Monday, September 5, 2011

What's in this week's box 9/7/2011

This week in our Eatwell Farm box we will be receiving:


Cherry Tomatoes

Shady Lady Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

Italian Large Leaf Basil

Summer Squash



Red or Green Bell Peppers

Heirloom Melon


The chives will go great with the potatoes and peppers along with eggs as breakfast burritos with tomatillo salsa. The heirloom tomatoes can be used to make a wicked tomato/shrimp and rice salad.  The cherry tomatoes will work well when roasted and then made into a simple sauce for pasta with olive oil from Soul Food Farm, garlic and capers, maybe throw the zucchini in there too for good measure.  Stuff those red and green bell peppers with a bread and tomato stuffing - add some ground beef if you like.  If there are pepper left over, then roast them, peel them and treat them to a nice soak in olive oil and garlic to go on a sandwich later in the week.  Shady Ladies sliced on top of a pesto sauced pizza with fresh mozzarella - mmmmmmm.  The melons will make great snacks and after dinner treats.  That's my two cents for what to do with this week's box.  Enjoy!

Baking a Cake For a Change

The pears were ripening in the fruit basket - begging to be make into something yummy (at least I hope it will be yummy), so I took out a recipe a friend of mine gave me for German Apple Cake Fine.  I made a few modifications to her recipe and baked it as given.  It's a nice light cake, not too sweet.  Here is the recipe:

                        German Apple Cake Fine

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 eggs
5 apples (or 5 pears is what I used)
1/4 tsp lemon extract (I wanted almond flavor to complement the pears so I used 1/4 tsp almond extract and 1/4 tsp vanilla)
1 1/2 cup flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1-4 TBSP milk - depending on humidity, size of eggs
2 TBSP lemon juice if needed to keep fruit from turning brown

9 or 10 inch springform pan.

Grease the springform pan with butter or shortening.

Peel (if you want to), quarter and core the apples(pears).  Slice the quartered apples into thin slices but not all the way through one end, this way they will hold together.  Sprinkle with lemon juice if the apples you used tend to turn brown quickly.  Arrange the cut fruit on a 10 inch plate so you will know how you want to arrange the apples on the cake (I usually arrange 8 apple halves(2 quarters) around the edge of the pan and one apple half in the center).

In a small bowl, combine the flour and baking powder and mix thoroughly.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar together using a stand or hand held electric mixer until light and fluffy.  Alternate adding eggs and flour mix in three batches, 1/3 of the flour, then 1 egg, the second third of the flour, the second egg, then the last third of flour, and the last egg.  Beat well after each addition.  Add the lemon extract (or in my case, almond and vanilla extracts), and mix.

Here is the tricky part, add milk one tablespoon at a time and mix, until you have a batter that SLOWWWWWLY falls off the beater when it is lifted from the mix.  It may take 1 TBSP to reach this level or 6, depends on how dry your flour is, how big the eggs, etc. 

Fold the batter into the greased springform pan and spread evenly.  Arrange the fruit on top of the batter.  Bake in a 350F oven for 40 to 50 minutes until a toothpick inserted halfway between the cake pan rim and the cake center comes out clean.  Remove the cake from the oven and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack.  Once cooled, release the cake from the springform pan, arrange on serving platter, and dust with confectioners sugar.  The cake can be served warm, cold or room temperature.

You can see a picture of this cake (similar recipe) at

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Cheese Today - Gouda 9/4/2011

Today, after we went grocery shopping, I decided to make gouda cheese.  I had all the supplies I needed and all the equipment too so off I went.  This time I made the recipe as outlined by Ricki Carroll on her website( under RECIPES).  I did, however, add some annato for color and some boiled caraway seeds and caraway cooking water (1/2 cup) to the mix.  The cheese recipe produced a copious amount of curd, so much so that I could not get it all in the 2 lb. mold I have, so I made up a little bit of fresh pressed cheese with the leftovers.

Right now the big cheese is in the press with 16 lbs of pressure for 30 minutes.  I know Ricki's recipe said to halve the pressing weight for the smaller cheese, but I want a more compact cheese so I decided to try it out with full weight.  The cheese looks good and I am very excited about making my own gouda.  Hope it takes good in a few months!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Making Romano Cheese 9/2/2011

Hey, today's fun is making Romano Cheese.  I printed the recipe down from Gavin Webber's site It worked really well, but did take some time to put together - especially the stirring and stirring and stirring for over 1 1/2 hours but, it looks good so far.  It is one hour away from the end of its 3 hour press, then back into the press with more weight for 12 hours.  At the end of the pressing, I'll be brining the cheese then drying and into the cheese cave.  In about 5 or more months I'll have a nice 2 lb. block of Romano.  I'm just not sure if I want to wax the cheese after if drys for a while or coat with olive oil.  We'll see when we get there.  Right now I'm leaning toward waxing since it will mean I don't have to be so concerned about mold in the cheese cave. 

Now that the Romano is in the press, I'm dreaming of my next cheesy adventure - perhaps Montasio.

Oh, BTW, this time when I made ricotta I ended up with about 1 good cup of ricotta cheese, not bad, after making 2 lbs of cheese.  So all in all I got an extra bit of ricotta for my troubles.   I'm thinking about making a bit of ricotta gnocchi with it.  Nope, it became dessert with fresh pears and a drizzle of chocolate syrup and honey.

Stay tuned for the next installment of cheesy adventures!