Friday, November 30, 2012

Storing and Using Bananas: Freezing and Dehydrating and other awesome uses

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Dear monkeys in the desert and in the arctic,

You never know when you might want to preserve bananas.  I was unexpectedly gifted with seven cases of them and, after giving some away to my friends, froze some and dehydrated a few boxes (this is why I never turn down free food, ever!).  I would have been just as happy to freeze and dry them all, but there was no way they'd last long enough for me to process them (and my freezer just isn't big enough!).

They are considered one of the world's oldest cultivated plants, and loaded with nutrition - Vitamin B6, Potassium, Vitamin C, Protein, and more.

You may see them on sale some time and wish to stock up - but how to do so?

Dehydrating bananas is easy and fast.  You may choose to dip them in a solution of water and lemon juice, or water and fruit fresh per package instructions, but I did a batch without and there was no perceptible difference in the bananas; in fact, I would say the bananas without the fruit fresh dried more quickly and without getting too gummy.  Plus, it speeds the operation up to leave out an extra step!

Food dehydration is easy and simple.  You can dry anything that contains water (yes, even meat and watermelon!).  It takes a while for the food to dry - depending on your machine, it can be ages! - but it is an easy way to store foods and it does compact them quite a bit.  Read this link for more ideas on using your dehydrator (drying tofu?  Reviving stale popcorn?  Making bagel chips?) and technical information on sulfuring, storage, and more.

Freezing bananas is equally simple.  I peeled these and chopped them into thirds (later batches were only cut in half) and froze them individually on trays.  If you have the time and space, this is the best way to do it.  In later batches, I simple dumped them into bags and froze them like that; they are a little harder to pull apart but they are not a very wet fruit, so they don't glue together into a solid brick.  

Dehydrating Bananas
Use dried bananas as a toddler snack, an addition to trail mix, throw them into oatmeal and let them rehydrate as the oatmeal cooks or bakes, chop and add to cookies or cakes, give them to an astronaut heading to space ... 

Peel bananas.  Slice into quarter-to-half-inch-thick slices.  Without pre-treating, line them up on a food dehydrator and set to "Fruit" or 135F/38C.  Rotating the trays occasionally as time allows, dry for 12 - 36 hours or until they have reached the level of dehydration you desire.  In order to store them in a cupboard without molding, they must have less than 20% moisture retained (they will be quite hard).  I store mine in the freezer or refrigerator in bags, just to be safe.

For easy toddler-hand-holding, I like to half the bananas and then slice them lengthwise into three layers.  These are easier for chubby fists to grasp and gnaw on then the small rounds.  You can also dry bananas whole, although I will warn you that there are few creepier-looking foods in the world.

Testing the moisture: For cupboard storage without molding, the moisture remaining in your dried products should be: 10% remaining in fruits, 5% in vegetables, 10 - 12% in grains, and 20% in meats.  Those bags of juicy Craisins that sit on your counter for months without molding have been treated with preserving agents, such as simple sulfur dioxide, so don't use commercial dried fruits as your benchmark.  Test your bananas by breaking them in half and trying to squeeze moisture out of them.  Another method I have used in the past is, after drying a batch of fruit, I store all in the refrigerator but a small amount.  I put this small amount in a jar and cap it, then observe over the next few weeks if mold grows on the fruit.  If nothing happens after several weeks or months, I remove the rest from the refrigerator and store in jars in the cupboard.

Using dehydrated bananas: to replace fresh bananas in baking, rehydrate 1-1/8 cups of banana slice in an equal amount of water for an hour.  This will equal approximately two whole bananas.  You can add dried bananas to smoothies, yogurt, and other homemade concoctions; they can be ground into powder and added to oatmeal or cereal or kefir.  Chopped chunks make a great addition to granola and trail mix!

Banana Leather and Baby Food
Bananas are pretty sweet, but if you like it sweeter or with a unique flavor, add maple syrup, honey or even brown sugar, up to one tablespoon per quart of puree.  Granulated sugar tends to turn leather brittle as it recrystalizes.  

Peel and blend bananas; add a tiny bit of water if you need to jumpstart the pureeing.  Stop here if you are making baby food; freeze in ice cube trays and store in bags.

To continue making leather: add other fruits, sweetener if desired.  Add extracts or fruit juices if you like, or spices or herbs.  Cinnamon-Banana Leather with a hint of vanilla?  Mmm ...

Pour the puree on to your dehydrator's leather trays, or squares of parchment paper cut to size (not waxed paper!).  The Excalibur dehydrating guide suggests approximately 3/4 to 1 cup of puree per tray, and 1/8" in the center and 1/4" thick at the edges, to avoid brittle edges.

Add any garnishes (chopped or flaked coconut, chocolate, fruit bits, nuts) and dehydrate until it is leathery, flexible, and no longer tacky in the center. Peel and roll up in waxed or parchment paper, or plastic wrap, or cut and layer with waxed paper in freezer containers.  Store in the freezer.

Freezing Bananas
Use frozen bananas in smoothies, milkshakes, pancakes, muffins, cakes, breads, baby foods, oatmeal, banana splits... In short, anywhere you would add regular banana, you may add these (thawed) bananas! 

Peel bananas.  Freeze whole, cut in half or into thirds and lay on a cookie sheet (cutting them is useful if your blender isn't very powerful).  Freeze until solid; transfer to bags or containers.

Short on time: Skip the cookie sheet step and go straight to the bags.  They'll stick together and you'll need to tug them apart, but they won't become a solid brick.

Other Banana Recipes
If you have great ideas for dried or frozen bananas, let us all know!  I am always seeking new ways to use old foods! 

Make a banana milkshake to refresh and satisfy - and get some potassium in for the day!
Delight with banana custard: some like it hot, some like it cold, some like it always (that's me!).
Get fit and fabulous with a banana smoothie meal, stuffed with energy and nutrition!

Paleo Pancake
For a gluten-free, paleo-approved pancake, this simple treat can't be beat. 

2 bananas
1 egg

Mash together.  If desired, stir in blueberries or chocolate chips.  Cook in silver-dollar-pancake sized small rounds on a hot, buttered griddle.  Eat plain out of hand, or serve with syrup.  These are addicting.

If you're in the mood for a taste of Thai, visit one of my favoritest ever blogs, SheSimmers Thai Home Cooking.  This beautiful blog, with every recipe photographed in dazzling color, not only educates you on the history, culture and style of Thai cooking, but breaks down old ideas about cooking by introducing new ingredients, new colors, new flavors, and new ways to use old ingredients that we see all the time!  Let your frozen bananas thaw out, and then try Panko-Crusted Fried Baby Bananas or Pressed Grilled Bananas with Panela-Coconut Sauce.

Have a family classic?  Use your favorite recipe for banana empanadas, banana crepes, or bananas foster.  Try banana frittata, banana trifle, brandied bananas, banana flips (layered banana cake and banana cream!), and banana souffle.

Banana Pops - as fun to make as they are to eat!  Insert a popsicle stick, coat in melted chocolate and then roll in crushed cookies, pretzels, sprinkles, yogurt chips, blueberries, or any one of a thousand variations, to join the latest wave of banana pops or frozen bananas!  Slice the frozen bananas and dip in chocolate, then let them harden for a rich finger-food version.

Monkeying around,

Mrs H

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As seen on The Homestead Barn Hop with The Prairie Homestead, Fat Tuesday with the Real Food Forager, The Gathering Spot with Mamal Diane, Natural Living Mondays with Natural Living Mamma, Hearth and Soul Blog Hop with Penniless ParentingHealthy2day Wednesdays with Day 2 Day, Whole Foods Wednesday with This Chick Cooks, Wheat Free Wednesdays with Anne Marie Cain, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways with Frugally Sustainable,

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: Review and Giveaway

This review is now closed.  Thank you to all who participated!  Read on to enjoy the review!! 

This is the third book in a series of giveaways - click here to see what is next in the lineup!  Like us on Facebook to stay up to speed with all our giveaways!  

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.  They did not pay me for my review.  As some of you know far too well, the opinions expressed herein most definitely are and perhaps unfortunately always will be my own! 

First, the winner of the last giveaway, which drawing was delayed due to an invasion of cockroaches (exterminators came!!  Sorry for the grossness!) and an out-of-town guest (hurray!).  Thank you for your patience!  Congratulations to The Hungry Crafter, the winner of our random selection! Check out her beautiful blog on cooking and crafting at home.  I'll send her an email asking for her address, and Storey Publishers will mail out her beautiful new soda book! 

Now, on to the book review (and giveaway!). 

This book is from Da Capo Lifelong Press; find them on Facebook here (they are always running giveaways, too!).  

This is a powerful little book. 

It is very possible that it will take over the world.

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World by Isa Chandra Moskowitz & Terry Hope Romero

I first met this book when I went to my wedding photographer's home to discuss her shooting my wedding.  She had made S'Mores Cupcakes that day, and I indulged; I became obsessed.

I had to have this book!

I borrowed it from her, and fell in love.  Orange Pudding Cupcakes with Chocolate Ganache.  Dulce Sin Leche Cupcakes.  Toasted Coconut Cupcakes with Coffee Buttercream Frosting.  Now, some time later, writing on my blog, I realized it was a book I needed to share with my readers. I could not keep this candle under a bushel!

Why vegan?  Especially useful for those who eat strictly vegan or have intolerances to eggs or milk products, anybody who loves sweetness or somebody in the mood for a tender, light-crumb miniature cake, this book is (as the title indicates) animal-product free.  I myself am not vegan; innocent and naive, the first time I saw a Mexican Hot Chocolate cupcake I swooned, "I didn't know you could bake without butter!"  Turns out, you can.  And the only way somebody might be able to tell the difference is that these are possibly ... better.

What's in it?  Now, when I get a book I like to know what to expect; so here's what to expect:  An introduction to ingredients, tools, and troubleshooting tips.  If you are new to the world of vegan baking, this section will be gloriously helpful.  Sometimes, a freaky-sounding foreign ingredient turns out to be something so normal and common that you've passed it in the grocery store a hundred times.  In fact, all of the ingredients in this book will be easy to find in a grocery store - nothing wildly outlandish, here.

This is followed by The Recipes, divided into four sections: Basic Cupcakes, Classic Cupcakes, Fancy Cupcakes, and Frostin's and Fillin's.  Perhaps needless to say, I like the Fancy Cupcakes best, myself!

Basic Cupcakes include such timeless favorites as Golden Vanilla Cupcakes (a new version of Yellow Cake), Your Basic Chocolate Cupcake, and even a Vanilla Gluten Freedom Cupcake.  Classic Recipes will delight you with Carrot Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting (hint: no actual cream cheese was harmed in the making of this recipe), Crimson Velveteen Cupcakes with Old-Fashioned Velvet Icing (Red Velvet ... in vegan disguise!!), and Brooklyn vs. Boston Cream Pie Cakes (this one is next on my list To Bake).  In the Fancy Cupcakes section, dither at Chocolate Stout Cupcakes, Tiramisu Cupcakes, or Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes with Cinnamon Icing.  The Frostin's and Fillin's section contains all the fluffy, creamy toppings and middles including such dazzles as Not-Too-Sweet Blueberry Mousse and Coconut Pecan Fudge Frosting.

You really can't lose with this book; it's beyond outstanding.  All bakers - vegan or not - should be adept at the skill of baking dairy-free.  Not only is it fun to try your hand at, but you never know when you can surprise a vegan friend, delight an allergen-sensitive friend, or just plain have a good ol' time with your own private hoard of cupcakes.

Brass Tacks: On with the giveaway!  You know this book is a winner, so why not try to be one, too?  Enter the giveaway and steal away with your own delicious copy of this fantastic little jewel.  Share this giveaway with a friend, too - the more entries we have, the more giveaways we are privileged to do in the future... Everybody wins!  There are still more delights to be had from this publisher ... such as Vegan Pie in the Sky, and Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar!  (We will also be giving away another of their books in our lineup here - another vegan publication!)

Enter the Giveaway! 

1. Leave a comment below.  Why do you (or will you) bake vegan?  For fun?  For a family member?  Are you vegan, yourself?  Have you baked vegan, before?  Use a current e-mail address or Facebook page when you leave the comment, and I will contact you via that route when you win - so be sure it's one you check!  The winner will be chosen Wednesday, December 5!

2. Share this giveaway with a friend! Post this on your Facebook, e-mail it to a friend, or share the link with somebody who might also be interested in this book!  This isn't required but it would be such a delight, thrill, honor for me if you would!

Extra Epic-ness: We're giving away more - Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions, Terry Hope Romero's Vegan Eats World, Chef AJ's Unprocessed, Ron Schmidt's Untold Story of Milk, and a bonus, edible round from Tropical Traditions - so follow us on Facebook to be alerted to all our giveaways!!! 

Mrs H

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Menu and Creamy Blueberry Smoothie

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to read even more fascinating tidbits from the kitchen and the fields. 

It's been a wild and wonderful time with Auntie Jo in town ... the little man loved having her here.  We spent a day in DC, drove out to Williamsburg a few times, and had all kinds of glorious adventures.

I've become positively addicted to blending things up in the Vitamix ... this blueberry smoothie is the latest and greatest!

Creamy Blueberry Smoothie
Creamy, thick, and rich with antioxidants, lignans, protein, fiber, potassium, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, and so much more. 

1 cup milk (milk, almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk)
1 frozen or fresh banana
1 cup frozen or fresh blueberries
1 teaspoon ground flaxseed
1 teaspoon ground hemp
Several pinches bee pollen (optional for vegan)
Ice cubes (if fruit is all fresh and not frozen)

Blend thoroughly until as smooth as desired (at least one minute).

Drink a toast to your health!

When Auntie Jo was here, we did everything Virginia.  We visited an old plantation, and two kind ladies took our picture there.

Little Mr H keeps sending pictures to Daddy.

We scored a free chair on black Friday, and a red solid wood bookcase, too.  They were on the side of the street.  Yay dumpster diving!  That's my kind of shopping.

The little man pinned an outfit on Pinterest ...

He helped me carry fifty deviled eggs to Thanksgiving dinner with friends (Mr H is still away).  The deviled eggs were made with homemade garlic-ginger mustard, and mayonnaise made with raw eggs and expeller-pressed coconut oil.

We walked downtown and visited a hole-in-the-wall Thai restaurant, where we enjoyed five-star vegetarian dining (I am not sure it was vegan!).  Out waiter was attentive, the food was prepared in decent timing and tasted fresh and well-seasoned.

We visited a museum with a creepy clown ...

The little man sat in a huge old chair that used to sit outside a chair-making shop.

He lifted weights to get buff and huge!

We visited the farm to pick up milk - and took embarrassing pictures!

Sitting on the steps at the nation's capitol, we kept the little man bundled up against the chill!

Auntie and the little man sharing a fun moment at the zoo next to the snake exhibit!

Noms This Week

Tuna Biscuit Braid
Check this collection for posts about Thanksgiving leftovers!
Green Almond Smoothie
Blueberry Smoothie (recipe above)
Cold Overnight Salad made with arugula and dandelion greens instead of lettuce

Mrs H

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

Tuna Biscuit Braid: I Kist Cheap Tuna Goodbye

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Big tunas,

Being from the Pacific Northwest, it's probably not surprising that I am pretty particular about my seafood.  Aside from the fresh and world-famous fare we can purchase in Seattle and the nearby harbors, my husband is a spearfishing diver and often brings home the bacon in the form of ling cod and spotted prawns.

I love this coast! 
Stands to reason, then, that I can't abide sub-standard, cheaply-tinned run-of-the-paper-mill tuna fish.  Yech.  Shredding, dry, reminiscent of particle board, smelling funky and in scrawny little aluminum cans, I once thought ol' tuna fish sandwiches (and all other things tuna) were a thing of my past.

Not so.

Welcome, would you, the TunaGuys.

Tender, moist, huge, perfect flakes.  Pink, fresh meat, without a hint of "fishy" smell; tenderly canned, these tuna are caught and processed in the USA and sold from their Washington state small business.  Spanish Style Yellowfin is probably my favorite; slick with the natural oils of the tuna meat, with slices of carrot, peppercorns and other delicate flavors, a can of this disappears faster than I can throw the little tin lid away.

This tuna is more expensive than the grocery store garbage, but rest assured it is not the same thing.  This is no Bumbled Bee-minus.  You could hardly expect to pay the same for a lobster dinner as you do for a dollar-menu cheeseburger!  The huge chunks in this can are known for being eaten straight out of the container (would you ever do that with Smelling of the Sea?).  If I am I going to enjoy tuna (and I do, I do!), it's going to be with the finest, most flavorful of all.  And these cans are so full of meaty goodness, I use one can, mixed with chopped celery, pickles, relish, spices, mayonnaise, mustard, tomatoes, carrots, and peppers, to make three fat sandwiches!

Imagine my ecstatic joy when my aunt and uncle (the ones who originally introduced me to this wondrous delicacy) gave Mr H and I an entire case for Christmas!!  Oh, there was singing that night.

Like most good things, after you've tasted of the best, you just can't ever go back.  Once, after being introduced to this fine fare, I was In the Mood for Tuna and, thinking the difference must be all in my head, went to the store and bought a can.

I ended up feeding it to a feral cat.

Tuna Biscuit Braid
This is a wonderful way to use tuna!  I am sorry there aren't more pictures - it was quite literally gobbled too quickly for me to snap any more than just one!!  Somewhere I have a stash of process photos - if I ever find them, I'll update this post!  
Mom made this for us when we were growing up, and I had to beg her for the recipe and finally learned to make this fun and memorable dinner myself!

2 cans (6 1/2-7 oz.) tuna, drained & flaked
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. minced onions
½ tsp. salt

Mix tuna, mayonnaise, parsley, lemon juice, onion and salt. Prepare biscuit dough.

Biscuit dough - Southern Biscuits

2 cups flour
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp soda
1/3 cup shortening or lard
2/3 cup buttermilk or milk

Heat oven to 425°. Measure flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and soda into bowl. Cut in shortening thoroughly until mixture looks like meal. Stir in almost all the buttermilk. If dough is not pliable add just enough milk to make a soft, puffy, easy-to-roll dough. Round up dough on lightly floured, cloth-covered board. Knead lightly about 20-25 times, about ½ minute. Roll into rectangle 12 x 10 inches, a little less than ½” thick.. Place on ungreased baking sheet.

Spread filling down center of dough. Make 7 cuts down each side from edge of dough to tuna filling. Bring first 2 opposite strips over filling, seal ends. Continue to criss-cross remaining strips. Bake 15-20 minutes. Serve slices topped with creamed peas. Note: Serves 6-8.

Cream Sauce (Medium)

2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
¼ tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
1 cup milk
1 pkg frozen peas

Tun' in later for more deliciousness,

Mrs H

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!!!!

Dearest, treasured family (you are all like family to me),

From my little, growing family to yours - happy, blessed Thanksgiving day!!

Remember with me Thanksgiving days from home!  Do we share memories?  The Corel bowl, the frosty yard, the flurry of arriving guests?

My memory is aflame with the thought of traditional, family heirloom recipes like this one, which I can hardly imagine a November Thursday without.

And can you sing the Thanksgiving Song without your mouth watering at the dishes as necessary to Thanksgiving as the partakers thereof?  Do you often have many of these same delights - and am I missing any treasures from the list?

Save your turkey bones and turn them into broth - process the broth in a pressure canner and use it later in the year!  Use leftover meat for hot turkey wraps, delicious turkey burritos, make a thick turkey stew of Thanksgiving leftovers, or try this variation of the moo-shoo turkey wrap.

Mr H and the little man I are on different sides of the country by necessity of the military, but our hearts are nonetheless happily together and full of joy!  After all, being grateful has very little to do with what we have about us, but instead is composed of the condition of our hearts.

God bless!

Mrs H

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

If Lord of the Rings Characters Drove Cars ...

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After you've gleaned all the good information you need, visit our new blog platform at to read even more fascinating tidbits from the kitchen and the fields. 

For those of you who watched Lord of the Rings (because just reading the book might not leave the same impressions!),

Every November for several years now, we've held a "Lord of the Rings Marathon" put together with some dear friends and family.  We get together and indulge in a smorgasbord of treats while watching all twelve hours of the extended trilogy - talking, quizzing, and playing games the whole time (we hush up for the good parts, of course!).  Here in Virginia, I've been in the mood for the ol' trilogy lately, and just might need to go to the library to rent the DVDs (we left our copies in storage in Washington, along with all the rest of our movies!).

I asked people on my Facebook to suggest license plates for the various members of the trilogy, with the only restriction being that they could only be up to seven characters, letters and numbers ...  I was in tears from laughing!

SHIRE (on his Prius)
IMNVZBL (on his motorcycle, naturally - aren't they all!?)

SHDWFX (on his white Ford Mustang)

GRNTHMB (also on a Prius!)













Have any more to contribute to this list?


Mrs H

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