Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Food, Inc. on DVD

For those of us who were not able to get to Los Angeles, San Francisco, or another major city that showed the documentary Food, Inc., we get a second chance via DVD. (For my original post on this movie click here.) The scheduled release date is set for November 3rd and you can pre-order it through Amazon for $18.99.

While I really want to see this movie, it isn't something I would necessarily purchase unless several friends chipped in together to buy it. Might make for a fun evening of viewing with friends. But I'd make sure the snacks served were kosher. Or in other words, skip the chips and pass the organic veggies and home made dip!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Teaching Children To Cook

Do you have children? If so, you probably have heard the comment, "Mom, can I cook with you?". We are usually reluctant because we know that is will take extra time and create more of a mess. Really, most of us just want to get in there and get the job done.

If we do opt to teach our kids some skills in the kitchen, I fear it is more along the lines of slice and bake cookies, mixing up a box of mash potatoes, or microwaving a packaged dinner. No? Okay, perhaps I'm a bit cynical when it comes to this stuff. Honestly, I can only remember that I had made cookies before going off to college and getting married. And we ate at home a lot!

If you want your child to learn to cook from scratch, start by having them work along side with you. Most of my girls started with things like peeling carrots or potatoes, stirring, and a bit of measuring. Then they would work up to completing a couple of steps in a recipe while I looked on. When I noticed their coordination skills were fairly good, I allowed them to use a knife under supervision. This depends on the child. One of mine couldn't be trusted with a knife until she was nearly 12! Another is using one at 7 (however, I am VERY watchful and I do not allow her to cut some items that would be too risky).

They really get excited when they make the meal themselves - well, when they make 80% of it anyway... which is really an accomplishment and understandable that they feel so proud. We always make a big deal about it at the table and comment on how good it tastes. Here are a few shots of Moira's first meal on her own, Split Pea Soup:

I found this great cookbook (Look and Cook by Tina Davis) for beginners that has real recipes like moms make; not the cutesy stuff that are just fun foods and mostly assembling pre-made items. I fell in love with it the second I saw it and purchased it for a Christmas gift a couple of years ago. It certainly doesn't hurt that she has added plenty of vintage charm and a couple of stories about herself! Filled with basic recipes, everything is from scratch including pudding, macaroni and cheese, pie crusts, etc. It doesn't have a ton of recipes, but by the time your child makes most of these, they will be ready for a regular cookbook anyway. (One exception that had a can of cream of mushroom soup was the Tuna Casserole recipe).

Here's a great website for kids that like to cook:

Need some additional tips:

1. Allow for extra time. Usually about 1/2 an hour is sufficient.
2. Remind them to always wash their hands before beginning and often during preparation.
3. Teach them how to clean as they go. I usually like to start a sink of soapy water as I begin.
4. Instruct them in safety issues: stove, knives, steam, etc. As they get older and work more independently in the kitchen, they need to be aware of cross contamination of items such as chicken.
5. Talk a lot about what you are doing and why as you work. They won't remember all of it the first time, but if you make it a habit to cook with your children often, then they will begin to own these principles themselves.
6. Discuss nutritional values of various foods. This will help them make good choices for life as they get older. I've noticed that my oldest really appreciated this later in her teens!

The results of all this love and good cooking? Foodies for life, great cooks, happy future spouses, and a ton of great memories! Now that's an investment worth making.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dehydrating Herbs

Perhaps you are already on top of things and you are dehydrating herbs, but I couldn't help but post this idea. Although I've had a dehydrator for years, I really hadn't done any herbs. I finally got after it and I love the results!

Recently I dried some parsley that I knew wasn't going to be used before it went bad. Along with it, I dried some sage from a plant on my patio that needed thinning as well and some mint that was just about to be caught in the first frost.

Update 2/21/10: I now just dry them stem and all. When they're done, I simply crumble the leaf off into a bowl, then seal in a jar with my vacuum sealer.

Each of the herbs were put in small mason jars and sealed with my food saver jar attachment. These will make great additions to soup and turkey this fall! 

What herbs have you dried successfully?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Dehydrating Apples

Did I mention that it is apple season here on the mountain? I love this time of year! It's so fun to go the orchards and sample the new varieties, try some cider, maybe an apple turnover, and of course, pick up a bushel of apples!

My family really likes apples. They go so well with cheese and they're great for baking or just dipping (see recipe tomorrow). But one of their favorite things is to snack on apple chips. And fortunately, my new dehydrator arrived just in time!

Can you believe my dear husband bought this with his birthday money - for me? Naturally, he would like lots of goodies from it, which I'm happy to accommodate, starting with apples...

1. Core and slice in uniform pieces. I have used an old fashion apple peeler/slicer in the past, but my husband likes the peels and it is a bit messy and time consuming. This year I'm doing it differently. I cut them in half first (because my apple corer handle broke and was difficult to use, otherwise I would core first, then slice).

For slicing, I purchased this nifty gadget at William-Sonoma for nearly half price! I was skeptical at first, but the salesman said that W-S has a return policy that is outstanding - If you don't like it, return it. And according to him, there was not time limit. Not to worry, this thing is a work horse! I've abused it and used it. This thing makes potatoes into fries in seconds (which I roast with olive oil and salt in the oven). For slicing, you just change out the slicer and the attachment in the lid, push down hard a couple of times and you have slices.

I need to state again, because it is very important... the slices need to be as uniform as possible. That way your produce dries at the same rate. For apples, they need to be 1/4" or less when sliced. That's why I use some device to help make them uniform (plus it saves a ton of time). I have also used a mandolin in the past, but it never worked very smoothly and was very dangerous! Three different family members (myself included) all cut themselves on it at some point and time. It would be easy to slice a finger off! This gadget from W-S is very safe. I can let all the kids work it although my youngest isn't quite strong enough to do it with hard foods.

Next I toss the slices in lemon juice to keep them from turning too brown. You can use other stuff, but I like to keep it natural and the lemon brings out the tart flavor. If you want, you can toss them with a bit of cinnamon at this point as well.

Once they are sliced and dipped, they are ready for the dehydrator. This batch was done before I went to bed and was ready the next morning. For apples slices, they need to be pliable when done.

Don't they look wonderful? I just vacuum sealed them with my jar sealer attachment and they'll stay nice for months! If they last that long! I think I may need to make more...

This is a great way to enjoy fall flavors well into winter. We'll most likely just snack on most of these, but they can be rehydrated with a bit of water for baking or cut into small pieces for granola. I think I may get a book with recipes for dehydrated food at the library for more ideas.
I'm off to dehydrate something else!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Hen Hilton's New Nesting Boxes

My husband finished the new nesting boxes this afternoon for the Hen Hilton. Isn't it cute? I love the roof! We had to extend the roost out front a bit after I took the photo. They needed a little more room to perch on so they could land easily.

'Penny' took to it right away. Good thing, because she is at the top of the pecking order!

The siding is almost done as well. Hopefully the roof will be on and we can paint before the end of October. It's slow going, but with a trip and work, it gets done when we have free time. My goal is to have the runs finished before the first snow! Oh, I hope!!

Right now, several of the girls are molting, so egg production is down a bit. Between cool nights, construction on their house, and a persistent bobcat, they are a bit out of sorts. Hopefully, it will pick back up again soon. The Hen Hilton is very warm and snug with plenty of light, so I hope that will encourage egg laying as well. I am starting to sell eggs when there are extras. If you live in the area, I will be posting this picture of eggs (above) in the left side bar when I have some available- first come, first serve type of thing. There's nothing quite like farm fresh eggs!


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