Grape Juice is Wonderful… Fermented or Not

I always say, it’s the things we love the most that will bring us down in the end. I hope grape juice is not one of those things. I love grape juice. The unfermented kind. I love everything about it; the color, the tart sweetness as I gulp it down, the sound of ice cubes rattling as I sip it. Even though it’s 100% fruit juice, and contains natural sugar, it is still a sugary drink so I must be careful. Even though I water it down, those calories can add up. Especially on hot days when I want to gulp it down, glass after glass.

Looking at a chart, I see that table grapes are not that high in vitamin A nor vitamin C. (100 units of A and 4 units of C in a 100 gram edible portion.) This is why vitamin C is added to a bottle of grape juice.

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

 

Take it Straight from an Italian Girl… Bread and Pizza Dough

My daughter-in-law comes from a large Italian family. When I watched her whip up a loaf of fresh bread, I was taken back by the ease at which she went about it. It was a hot summer day, so she would have no problem with the yeast rising. We went hiking in the Arboretum while the dough rose and when we got home, she stuck it in the oven. We had fresh bread for dinner.

When I bake bread, I make four loaves. It is a big deal and consumes a lot of my day and my time. But today, when I pulled out an Italian cookbook and looked up pizza, I found my answer. The recipe calls for one cup of warm water and one pound of flour. I looked up the equivalent of one pound of flour and found that it was only two cups. I got out a big wooden bowl and prepared the dough. It was so much easier than the eight cups of flour I usually have spilled over my kitchen counter. The recipe was for pizza dough but I can use the same simple recipe for making one little loaf of bread at a time. Here’s the pizza recipe:

2 cups of flour

1 tsp salt

1 cup lukewarm water

1 cake yeast or 1 tablespoon yeast granules

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon olive oil

In a large bowl mix the salt, yeast, honey, olive oil and lukewarm water. (I used a rubber spatula.) Add the flour. Mix and knead it for about fifteen minutes. Shape it into a ball and cover the bowl with a clean dishtowel. Set it in a warm spot on your counter for about three hours until it doubles in size.

After it has risen, oil a cookie sheet (or pizza pan if you have it) and spread the dough onto it. Add your toppings, sauce and cheese and bake it at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. If you like it browned, lower the oven to 350 degrees and bake another ten to fifteen minutes.

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

First Thing in the Morning… a Sharp Knife and a Good Cutting Board

In the morning, before I get up, I think about what I’m going to fix for breakfast for my hubby and myself and what kind of sandwiches I’m going to make for his lunch. Because I am still half asleep, when I get downstairs to the kitchen, I like a sharp knife and a large wooden cutting board. Standing at the counter cooking at 7:30 in the morning is one of many things I do to keep healthy and energized and having a sharp, long, slender, serrated steel knife that slices through tomatoes quickly, on top of a stable, wooden cutting board, gets the job done. The sooner I get the breakfast routine done, the sooner I can move on to things I really enjoy, like gardening, writing and ironically, cooking and baking… once I’ve woken up.CreatespaceAcornsAndEat'emFRONTCOVER

Suellen Ocean is the author of many books on diverse topics. Her books are available here:

http://www.amazon.com/Suellen-Ocean/e/B001KC7Z78

OMG… Did the Bread Taste Like Cow Manure?

Canva EVALINE's FIDDLE Kindle Cover March 2016Believe it or not, Mid-Western Pioneers made cute little houses out of chunks of grass. They were so proud of their new homes, they put flowers in the window sill, happy to have a house. Even if it was made out of dirt.

Once the pioneers had a home, they built kitchens and the women went to work cooking and baking. There were no trees on the prairie, (if they’d had trees, they’d have built their homes out of wood, obviously) so they had to burn cow manure to keep warm and to cook with. Cow manure lies in the field saucer-shaped, and when it dries, it burns well (not speaking from experience, just what I read). They called them “cow pies” and the name still sticks today.

Years ago, before our rural home had electricity, I had a large wood-burning, cast iron cook stove. It had burners on the top and an oven below. It was cute as can be but I tired of going back and forth outside for kindling to keep the fire going and the black that got all over the pots and pans made it to my face and clothes. Pretty is as pretty does.

Imagine though, going back and forth outside to retrieve cow manure to cook and bake. Pretty gross. But people did what they had to do to make a new life for themselves and hey, who doesn’t have to take a little s*#t now and then to get ahead? The story coming out of the era is a bit more telling. At first, the women kept washing their hands after they handled the cow pies, but eventually, they quit being queasy about it and quit washing their hands. They’d pick up the cow pie, throw it into the fire and without washing their hands, go back to kneading their dough. Thank goodness the fire was hot and killed the funky microbes and parasite eggs that were surely embedded in the cow pies. Oh… the good old days.

Suellen Ocean is the author of the Early American love story, Evaline’s Fiddle. Available here:  http://www.amazon.com/Evalines-Fiddle-Early-American-Love-Story-ebook/dp/B00KCC48NQ

 

 

What’s with the Polyester Dishtowels? Obviously, They’re Not Cooks

It’s not just discount stores that sell dishtowels with polyester weave. I was given a beautiful set from an upscale cooking store and they are terrible! You can’t dry your hands with them and it’s just as hard to dry dishes. What were they thinking? Obviously, they weren’t and they probably don’t spend time in the kitchen where we run water constantly. Those who love to cook are always washing and drying their hands and need an absorbent towel to wipe up spills. What? Do they think we stick microwave dishes in and only hang the pretty dishtowels for looks? Even someone whose idea of cooking means four minutes in the microwave, still has to wash his hands. And who doesn’t spill liquids on the counter? I guess the day has come when pretty dishtowels are just for looks, like decorative soap in the bathroom. (In my bathroom, I’ve got a bowl of soap shaped like acorns, given to me by the same person who sent me the polyester dishtowels, bless her heart.) What? Do they think today’s cooks only use paper towels? Don’t get me started. What is in those things? Certainly not paper. If you hold it up to the light, you can see and feel the plastic. Definitely not very biodegradable. Sigh.

It’s time to throw out the fake dishtowels. And while I’m at it, go into the bathroom and toss the fake bath towel. Although it does look rather pretty next to the decorative acorn soap. And really, who needs to dry their hands?

Suellen Ocean is the author of the vegetarian cookbook, Poor Jonny’s Cookbook. Available here: http://www.amazon.com/Poor-Jonnys-Cookbook-Suellen-Ocean/dp/0965114031

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… and Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

 

 

Acorn Preparation… Make Sure All the Tannic Acid is Removed

CreatespaceAcornsAndEat'emFRONTCOVERStep two in acorn preparation is leaching and it is the most important factor. If the tannic acid is not removed, your acorn meal will be bitter and your tummy might ache and your gums might pucker and blister. Doesn’t sound very appetizing does it? Don’t let that stop you, many foods need preparation.

Thoroughly leached acorns are a delight. If I was loopy, I’d say that acorns are a portal into the earth and that they bring magic to your life. As I look onto the bright green oak shoots that signal the advent of spring, and watch the birds flit between them, I am reminded of the strength the oak brings to living things throughout the world.

Secret Genealogy IV Cover

Rinsing out the tannin returns the acid to the soil, nourishing future harvests of acorns the forest animals depend on. The cycle of life goes round and round. Gathering and preparing acorns has us step into that earthy world, even if only for a short time.  Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

… and Secret Genealogy IV – Native Americans Hidden in Our Family Trees. Available here:

http://www.amazon.com/Secret-Genealogy-IV-Native-Americans/dp/1500756105

 

Writing and Cooking

The solitude of being a writer, mixes well with cooking. After getting lost in my historical novels, cooking brings me into the “here and now.” One of my favorite desserts is Acorn Chocolate Pie. I fill a graham cracker crust with soft tofu I ran through the food processor with about a quarter cup of leached acorns, a quarter cup of honey, two egg whites and a tablespoon of unsweetened powdered chocolate. I bake it for forty-five min to an hour at 350 degrees. Sitting down with a hot cup of coffee and a slice of acorn chocolate pie is a pleasure that I thoroughly enjoy.CreatespaceAcornsAndEat'emFRONTCOVER

Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973

 

Eating Wild Foods… Leaching Acorns

Leaching Acorns

When leaching acorns, the ratio of water to acorns is important. Acorns are rather starchy and when they’re dry, they soak up a lot of water. I probably use more water than is necessary but I usually say 3 parts water to one part acorns. For example, if you have one cup of acorns, I recommend using at least three cups of water when you put them into the blender to leach them. That’s probably enough. It’s fine if you use more water than that. If you have several cups of acorns, only grind one cup at a time. And don’t forget to take the shells off first!CreatespaceAcornsAndEat'emFRONTCOVER

Suellen Ocean is the author of Acorns and Eat’em, a how-to vegetarian cookbook and field guide for eating acorns. Find it here: http://www.amazon.com/Acorns-Eatem-How–Vegetarian-Cookbook/dp/1491288973