Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Zucchini Yogurt Nut Bread

I'm Yogurt obsessed right now.  No other way to say it.  Something about finding that I can make something that I consider of value so easily and cheaply and such good quality is making me giddy.  My family is staying out of the way and good for them.

I planted no zucchini this year.  I concentrated my raised beds on tomatoes and beans which are both late.  But zucchini is everywhere, cheap and reminds me of happy things.  I have no problems buying it at Bizi farms.  I've been making this bread weekly for a few weeks also.  I hope to get a few loaves in the freezer, but I keep scoffing it down. 

Zucchini Yogurt Nut Bread
1 cup chopped walnuts, toasted in a dry sauce pan for a few minutes
1 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
3/4 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 c. canola oil
1/2 c. plain good quality yogurt (check here to make your own)
1 cup grated zucchini (peeled first)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Spray a loaf pan with non stick spray.

In a large bowl, combine both flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.  Make a well in the middle and add the eggs and oil to the well.  Stir briefly.  Add the yogurt and zucchini  and stir to just combined.  Add the nuts and stir once more.  Quick breads can be over stirred.  Mix them only until all the dry is incorporated into the wet. 

Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes.  Set the timer.  Let cool and serve of seal it air tight.  This type of bread freezes well and makes good gifts.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Blackberry Jam

This is a submission to a blog jump.  To see the other entries, go to

I live in the Pacific Northwest.  I'm always amazed that blogging has no borders, so let me explain.  Blackberries grow as a weed here, everywhere that is untended.  It can be quite a problem if you own land that isn't regularly stomped or grazed on.  They grow in unfortunate places, thick.  Little critters hide in them just waiting scare the pants off of little kids. 

After you've picked all that you can reach, you notice that there are many just beyond reach, high and low, through the stickers.  Grandpa used to take a big board (like a sheet of plywood) and lay it down across the blackberry vines, then stomp it flat.  We'd climb on the boards, the more of us the better, and pick berries.  Then grandpa or one of the boys would come along and move the board.  I love free food.  And I love all the experiences you have teetering away standing on the board picking blackberries.

My Golden Retriever dives into the berry vines based upon sounds or smells that we don't even get.  You hear him thrashing about.  I worry for him.  What will he encounter?  Is there something that might hurt him.  Husband says "he is a dog, afterall.  And he has about an inch worth of down and fur."  Husband is prone to exaggeration.  But no, he emerges from the stickers looking like a freekin' maniac, but basically unhurt and very, very happy.

Okay, so I bought these blackberries from Bizi farms, but I've picked like this many Augusts.  Back when I was poor and single, I made it every year among other things because it made good hostess gifts and other small gifts and because everyone loves it.  The way I do it isn't fancy, but stuff that works often isn't.

Blackberry Jam at the Osbornes
4 cups cleaned blackberries
7 cups sugar
1 pounch liquid pectin
1/2 t. butter, optional

Crush the berries in a large bowl with a potato masher.  Run 1/4 to 1/2 of the berries through a food mill to remove extra seeds.  Discard unwanted seeds. 

Wild berries, especially when grown in unfortunate places, can be seedy but sweet and delicious.  Domestically grown berries can be much less seedy.  Your choice how much seeds you remove.  Return everything you are keeping to the berry bowl. 

Carefully pour the contents of the berry bowl into a large heavy pot with the sugar and bring slowly to a full rolling boil.  A full rolling boil is one that can not be stirred down.  Add pectin and continue boiling for 1 minute.  I recommend using some sort of timer.  Not that you don't know what a minute is.  Just that canning is always easier if you plan ahead and be prepared.  I think they call that Mis En Place in professional cooking.  My Mom called it "Get all your stuff out first." My Mother didn't speak any French.

Ladel into prepared jars.  I recommend running all jars through the dishwasher as part of the Mis En Place thing.  Then, you know they are very clean and spider free. 

Place hot lids and bands on each jar.  Start a small skillet or sauce pan on the back of your stove about the time that you finish crushing the berries.  Bring it to a slow simmer.  Put the lids in the simmering water.  You'll be fishing them out with tongs, so put the tongs in the simmering water.  That way you are ready and everything has been boiled.  The rubber band on the lid needs to make a firm seal on the rim of the jars so make sure they line up. 
I'm not too particular about the bands.  They never touch food. 

This makes me deliriously happy, so feel free to enjoy the process.  The rubber of the lid needs to be firmly against the rim of the jar.  The band holds it in place until it seals.

Process jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.  Set a timer and remove them when the timer goes off.  The water level should be just at or just above the top of the jars.  The water should be a full boil.  Don't worry about the pot.  I use my largest stock pot.  Don't go out and buy something unless you really don't have a large heavy pot; then you need one. 

Careful with yourself.  Use pot holders and lifter tools.  Remember to make a memory.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What is all this coming to?

We have become a consumer economy.  That's not news to anyone.  But we've also become a culture that is lazy and not productive.  We are no longer a nation that builds and innovates.  As individuals, do we produce more than we consume?  Most of us do not.

Instead, we have a youngest generation spending all important moments texting each other.  While their parents are certain it's a great move to buy a house with no down payment and no money in the bank.  And their parent are to a large extent going to have a very hard time retiring.

Okay, so I sound a little angry.  But I have beautiful little grandchildren who deserve living in a world with opportunity and prosperity.  Here is just a few things I'm trying to teach them about the world: 

(1)  You can't have everything you want.  Sorry, none of us do.  And it is okay.  You have a whole long life getting things, making things, building the life you want. 
(2)  You are responsible for yourself.  You don't have a "right" to a new cell phone or a car or a vacation or a job.  You have a responsibility to others; work to do.  The world may reward you for living up to your responsibilities. See point (3)
(3)  The world isn't fair.  As an employer, I get to educate adults about this sometimes.  Yes, we try to create a equitable and rewarding workplace.  But sometimes, it just isn't fair and the better you are at dealing with it, but better you'll come out of that.  If you've ever separated children fighting over toys, hopefully you know that "sharing" is not enough.  Sometime you just have to get a long, figure it out, and deal with it.
(4) Be the best you can.  That's almost always enough.  Every day, get up, get ready, eat breakfast and go out there doing whatever you do with the best attitude and the most effort as you can.  It will pay off over all, but not every day.  See point (3).

Monday, August 16, 2010

Local Eggs

I've been toying with the idea of keeping a couple chickens and a small coop at our business property.  I'm not serious, really.  I've got enough projects that I'm not getting done well enough.  The idea of more live animals depending upon me really isn't a good idea.  It's an interesting dream that has lead me through so research and planning.  But how to keep the Doberman Pincher who occupies the same property from torturing them?  And what if they get sick or die?  I don't buy cut flowers because they last only a couple days and then die.  It is such a shame and a waste.  If a chicken died, I'd feel terrible. So it really isn't going to happen unless another member of my family takes it on. 

I've bought local organic brown eggs from a couple sources.  I try not to let the $4 per dozen price stop me.  I'm sure it costs that.  And $4 one way or the other should not be a problem.  But I was raised frugally and I worry about these things.

I've been doing some research.  I live in Vancouver, WA, but I lived in the north and mid Willamette Valley in Oregon most of my life.  There is a commercial egg farm in the North Willamette Valley.  They claim to be Antibiotic free and Hormone Free.  And they are out of Canby Oregon, just South of Portland.  Around 30 miles from me.  I bought a cartoon at Diane's Produce Market today for $1.99.  More research to be done, but this may be the answer.

Local Meat

For some time now, it has been my plan, my intention, my goal to change our eating habits.  More local food and more fruits and vegetables.  We really need to stop importing food from Peru and China.  No offense to those who live in Peru and China, but we really used to be good at feeding ourselves and others.  We used to be a land of abundance.  Back then, farmers and ranchers could make a career and life supporting themselves and their families.  But then we got too smart for our own good.  Kids earning money in the summer by picking strawberries and beans - Just isn't happening any more.  And we aren't better for the change.  The kids I know aren't better off sitting at home texting each other between video games and movies.  I'm just completely over that whole thing.

So the absolute truth is that I haven't made a lot of progress towards my goal of feeding us better.  The forced remodel didn't help any.  Not that we do that badly, really.  Compared to most people I see in the grocery store, we eat almost no food from the freezer aisle or from boxes, ice cream and cereal excepting.

I have my excuses.  I have a job and always had.  I don't have all day to do these things.  All those stay at home moms who are now mad at me, I'm sorry and I really don't mean it.  When I come home, I'm hussling around doing those things that I think are necessities.  But wait a second, maybe eating better is a necessity.

There is one fundamental change that we have made.  Meat.  My husband eats meat and insists on continuing that, so I can just give up any ideas of eating less of it.  The next best thing is to take more responsibility for it.  We decided to eliminate the whole hormone and antibiotic thing, which can't be good for anyone, including the cow.  Standing in front of the meat cooler at the grocery store wondering what we are going to eat this week is a habit I want to break. 

So here is what we did.  We bought a 1/2 cow from a local rancher some months ago.  We discussed with her what they will feed the cow, confirmed that there would be no hormones and antibiotics, discussed their plans to fatten it and butcher it.  We paid a $200 at that time to put a hold on that meat.  When butchered, our 1/2 cow had a hanging weight of 345 lbs, for which we paid $1.95 per pound.  We also paid 1/2 of the $75 kill fee.  Our total cost was $707.75 to her. 

It hung at the butcher for a week.  We went there and made decisions with them how they would cut it.  How much would be hamburger, what size the roasts and steaks would be, how much would be stew meat and cube steak?  We paid the butcher $194.27 for her work.  (Yes, both the rancher and the butcher were women and I didn't do that on purpose.)  Our total cost was   $902.47 / 345 = $2.61/ lb on average. 

Do you want to see 1/2 a cow looks like?

Isn't this cool?  No pun intended.

Remember to look your food in the eyes when you can.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I'm a daily consumer of yogurt.  I have been for some time.  It cracked me up the other day standing in the grocery aisle.  A man and woman were shopping.  She wanted to by one of those yogurt products in individual serving cups that are advertised to regulate your digestive system.  He was saying that it was too expensive.  First, how much is your digestive system worth? and Second, why buy that kind?  I couldn't help myself.  I piped up and told them that Mountain High yogurt was much less expensive per serving, very tasty, completly natural and had, in my personal experience the same effect.  They both looked at me as if I was talking Spanish, smiled and nodded.

I've made previous attempts at making my own yogurt.

It wasn't until our recent flood / forced remodel that my attempts became more practical.  Making yogurt requires an incubator.  I'm not an expert at this yet, but it seems that you need to be able to hold the yogurt at about 110 degrees for 5 hours or so to grow that bacteria culture.  While there are countertop yogurt makers that you just plug in, I don't own one.  My attempts to incubate in my previous stove were failures.  Using the heating pad took time and effort that I wanted to spend on other things.

But my lovely new stove can do anything.  Under dehydrator setting, you can select 110 degrees.  I set the timer and walk away.  Now I can make a batch easily each week.  I'm experimenting a bit with adding a little local honey, but here is my basic procedure.
  • 4 cup milk in a good pan on the stove top brought to 200 degrees, stirring gently.  I put my candy thermometer in the pan so that I can see the termperature.  
  • Hold temp for 10 minutes.  Continue stirring.  I set a timer here and do this fairly precisely.
  • During the 10 minutes, prepare a large boil of ice water. 
  • At the end of 10 minutes, put the pan in ice water.
  • Remove from ice water when the mixutre is 125 degrees.  Add 1/3 cup powdered milk and stir to incorporate.
  • Remove 1 cup of milk and temper with 1/4 cup of starter (see below.) 
  • Pour into a hot clean container, cover and place in incubator @ 110 degrees for 4 - 5 hours.  Refrigerate immediately.

For the starter, use 1/4 cup of good organic yogurt.  Make sure the ingredient list contains only milk and/or cream.  My favorite brand also contains pectin to make it smoother, which I guess is okay.

But here is the good thing.  You can use the last 1/4 c. of your last batch of Yogurt for the starter for this batch.   That is exactly what I've been doing for the last few weeks.  Isn't that just perfect?

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

More on Summer

Yes, Summer has a taste.  Summer tastes like fresh vegetables and grilled meat.  My weekly to-do list includes a visit to Bi-Zi Farms to buy whatever she has fresh.

We've used our grill quite a bit during our recent flood and remodel.  I've learned to grill our vegetables.  This whole business of pulling back the shucks, removing the sink and wrapping the corn back up with the shucks is unnecessary.  Cooking the corn directly on the grill works good for us.  A rib eye steak and Mediterranean Salad makes a good date night on our own back patio.  

Mediterranean salad (modified from a Dr. Andrew Weil cookbook, can't remember which)
1 cucumber, peeled seeded and chopped
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1/2 sweet red pepper, shopped
1 small can sliced black olives
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped
3 T. lemon juice
2 T. olive oil
1/3 c. feta cheese, crumbled.
salt to taste and lots of fresh ground pepper.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

August / Calendar change month

Summer means many things to me, a conscientious use of sun screen, berries, grilled food, and changing of calendars.  Yes, I change calendars in August.  At one point, I was a teacher.  Before that, I was a student.  Years ago, I got in the habit of keeping an academic calendar.  This is a version of the calendar that starts in August.  Instead of buying calendar inserts in December, I buy them in July.  I have a very specific preference.¾-x-6-¾-academic-textagenda-refill-c-115_19_104_2629_109_895.html

I enjoy this change, the smooth, fresh feel of the new one.  I'm making many fresh starts right now - changes at the house due to the flood.  This one seems quite appropriate.

The binding on the old one is broken from heavy use.

Tattered, really.  It's been a hard year.  

The new one is beautiful.  Don't you think?  Full of promise for an organized and prosperous year. 
And already stuffed with recipes.  Remember to make plans and be organized.