Pumpkin Waffles

I know I’m not the only one who loves to put pumpkin into everything this time of year.

Here’s a simple a delicious recipe for homemade, pumpkin waffles.


Ingredients
1 cup flour (your choice)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tbsp cinnamon - http://amzn.to/16CjkKt
1/2 tbsp sugar - http://amzn.to/15DXPmc
1/4 tsp nutmeg - http://amzn.to/15DXSOX
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin - http://amzn.to/1dQLQak
1/2 cup butter (melted) or coconut oil - http://amzn.to/11ahf4g
1/2 tsp vanilla - http://amzn.to/1bj8VS6

Directions
1.  Preheat your waffle iron - http://amzn.to/10oxCei .
2.  Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.
3.  Combine the wet ingredients in a separate bowl.
4.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix well.
5.  This may depend on your waffle iron, but I add a 1/3 cup of batter per waffle.  Cook as directed by your waffle iron - http://amzn.to/10oxCei directions.
6.  Top with butter and maple syrup - http://amzn.to/1aGhm9d .

Yum!  What other things do you like to add pumpkin to?

          

Shared on:
Homestead Barn Hop - http://www.theprairiehomestead.com/2013/10/homestead-barn-hop-130.html

Tasty Tuesday Linkup

Standard, legally required, Endorsement Disclosure: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

Avoiding Genetically Modified Foods: Some Tips and Tricks for the Grocery Store

We’ve all heard about genetically modified, or GM, foods.  And most of us, especially those who grow our own food and want to live a more sustainable life, know we should avoid or boycott them.  But the trick is, HOW do we avoid them?

If you are like me (and most of the country), you still go to the grocery store on a weekly basis and buy most of your food.  Going up and down the aisles, it is pretty obvious that a lot of the food should be avoided.  The pink frosting on aisle 5 is probably not a healthfood and the frozen lasagna in aisle 15 is almost certainly laden with salt and transfat.  But what about the block of cheese in aisle 3?  And the canola oil in aisle 10?  If you are trying to be healthy, cook at home and bake from scratch, these are items that you would probably consider picking up.  But are they healthy?  Do they contain GMOs?

In this article, I hope to give a you couple of tips for tackling the grocery store and filling your cart with items that are less likely to contain GMOs.

(If you have anything to add, please don’t hesitate to leave information in the comments.  This topic is one that is changing daily and is very hard to pin down.  I’ve done my best to do reading and research but I know I’m not immune to mistakes and misinformation.)  


70% or more of the foods that you can buy in the grocery store probably contain some form of GM ingredient, either directly or indirectly.  That is intimidating!  Since there is no requirement that companies label foods that contain GM ingredients, you can do one of two things:

  1. Only buy foods clearly labeled as GMO free or 100% organic 
  2. Know which ingredients are mostly likely GM and avoid products that contain them.

Let’s start with the good news.

Pasta, Rice and Beans: 

These items, when purchased plain and dry, do not contain GM ingredients.

  • Wheat – There have been 419 field trials of GM wheat but none are currently being produced commercially in the US or for US consumption. (Though don’t forget the recent story about a field in Oregon being contaminated with one of Monsanto’s test crops. Times, they are a-changin’))
  • Rice – GM rice is not currently being cultivated, though varieties have been developed and tested. 
  • Beans (this does NOT include soybeans) – GM beans are not commercially produced at this time in the US and are not available for US consumption.  
Fresh Produce:
Believe it or not, you are mostly safe in this department.  Some sweet corn sold fresh may be genetically modified but most fresh produce is GM free.  However, if you want to be 100% sure, buy organic. 
Sadly……. that’s where the good news ends.  The rest of the aisles in your typical grocery store are filled with bad news.  
The top five GM Foods are:
  1. Canola – (made from the rape plant)
  2. Soy
  3. Corn
  4. Sugar Beets (which comprise about 50% of the sugar production for the US)
  5. Cottonseed 

Given this information, it is easy to understand why so much of the food (i.e. processed junk) that is in the grocery store is GM. 

Cereal – Unless it is labeled 100% organic, you can count on it containing GM ingredients.
Snack Foods – We all know that most snack food is bad for us and you can be sure it also contains GM ingredients.
Frozen Foods – Again, unless labeled 100% organic, it is going to contain GM ingredients.  Plus, most frozen food is high in sodium.  Better to just prepare fresh food and freeze your leftovers. 
Oils, Shortening and Fats –  Pretty much out of luck in this department.  If you look at the list of the top five GM foods, you can see that most oils are going to contain one more of these ingredients.  There is an exclusion, though.   100% extra virgin olive oil - http://amzn.to/1bo4oR1 , from a reputable source, is GM free.  However, there is a lot of controversy out there right now about how pure olive oil is and whether labeling is begin done correctly, so be sure that you are buying from a reputable source, that it is 100% olive oil and if you can find it, that it is labeled GMO free. Further, it is also possible to find GMO-free coconut oil - http://amzn.to/1bo4BDN . 
Condiments and Prepared Foods – Much like the snack foods, it is no surprise that these all contain GM ingredients.  If you absolutely must have it, make sure it says 100% organic on the label.  
Bread and Crackers – While technically a wheat product, most of the bread and bread products sold in the store contain corn syrup and/or some soy-based ingredient.  Better to just bake your bread at home.

Animal Products – Unless it is labeled 100% organic, odds are the cows have been injected with rBST and/or fed GM soy and corn products. 

Confused?  Frustrated?  Annoyed?  Overwhelmed?  Yeah.  Me too. 
The best thing to do is buy organic whenever you can and make as much food at home, from scratch, as you can.  The first step is having the knowledge, the next step is figuring out what to do with it.  And much like you, I’m still trying to figure out what to do with all of this information – how to put it into play in my daily life with three kids and family to feed.  
We’ll get there……

And if you’re looking for more information on the topic of GMOs, I recommend these books and videos:

       
Standard, legally required, Endorsement Disclosure: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

Buttermilk Basics: Culturing Your Own

Buttermilk.  Delicious and Irreplaceable.

I used to substitute regular milk for it in recipes until I realized that they tanginess of buttermilk does, truly, add another dimension to the finished product.  It is easy to buy at the store but also fairly simple to culture on your own at home.  The benefit of doing it at home is that you can control the quality (and fat content) of the milk that you use to make it.

Historically, buttermilk is a byproduct of butter-making.  When making butter at home, you churn or whip heavy cream until you are left with two products – a solid (butter) and a liquid (buttermilk).  These days, traditional buttermilk has been replaced with cultured buttermilk.

There are three ways to make cultured butter milk:

  1. Add a powdered culture to fresh milk
  2. Add buttermilk with live cultures to fresh milk
  3. ferment raw milk
Buttermilk is a probiotic food and is often suggested as a beverage for lactose intolerant people, as the fermentation process transforms the lactose into lactic acid. 
Are you convinced?  Ready to make your own?  Read more below.
Making buttermilk is very similar to making yogurt.  Just like when you make yogurt, you can do it two ways.  You can either use a powdered culture - http://amzn.to/14AICqZ to start your buttermilk or you can use a previous batch of buttermilk to start a new batch.  Considering that most of the buttermilk that is available in the store is either ultra-pasteurized and/or doesn’t contain live cultures, you’ll probably have the best luck starting with store-bought culture - http://amzn.to/14AICqZ and making your own.  Then you can use the buttermilk you make at home to culture future batches. 
Here’s how you do it with the powdered culture (you can buy it here - http://amzn.to/14AICqZ ):
1.  Let 1 quart of milk sit out at room temperature and “ripen” for six hours.  
2.  After it is ripe, heat the milk in a saucepan and stir until it reaches 86 degrees. 
3.  If you have a crock pot, transfer the milk to a warmed (but not on) crock pot.  If you don’t have a crock pot, a thermos or something similar (like a cooler) will work.  
4.  Sprinkle the culture - http://amzn.to/14AICqZ on top of the milk and let it fully absorb the milk.  
5.  Cover with a lid and gently wrap a few towels around the crock pot - http://amzn.to/17MR1GA or thermos to keep it warm. 
6.  Let sit for 24 hours.  
7.  Put the buttermilk in a jar and store it in the fridge for 2 week or so.  (You can also freeze buttermilk.) 
I made buttermilk waffles using this recipe - http://www.marthastewart.com/341273/buttermilk-waffles and they were divine. 
What do you think?  Do you like buttermilk enough to give this a try?  
             

Tasty Tuesday Linkup

Standard, legally required, Endorsement Disclosure: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

Small-Batch, Homemade Applesauce

We had an amazing Labor Day weekend.  One of the best weekends in recent memory.

We headed three hours south to the little town of Willcox, Arizona and did some serious apple picking. It was so much fun and only a *tiny* bit hot and humid.  (Ok…. maybe it was a lot bit hot and humid….  but we’re trying to keep it positive here.)

So, we went apple picking and it was our first time doing so as a family.  We had a great time and came back with a little over 40 pounds of apples.  My plan is to do a large batch of applesauce and can it (!).  (Don’t worry…. my mom is coming to help me, so I won’t be able to screw it up and therefore we won’t all die of botulism.  Phew.)  But, honestly, who can wait all that time for yummy, fresh applesauce?   Certainly not me, nor my husband, nor our three adorable children.

So, what’s a mommy to do?

Well, let me tell you.  This mommy took to the internet for a quick and easy, small-batch, applesauce recipe.  And you know what?  I couldn’t find one!  And some of you might be saying that this is because applesauce is really easy and who the HECK needs a recipe for it?  Well, I’ll tell you who – this girl does!  So, I looked over the large batch recipes and came up with my own.

Here you go….. the Five Little Homesteaders’ small-batch applesauce recipe!


Ingredients
6-ish apples (We had two varieties – red delicious and criterion.)
1/2-3/4 cups of water (enough to have about 1/2 inch in the bottom of the pot)
1/4 cup sugar (Now, before you go jumping all over me, yes, I used refined, white sugar.  You could certainly use this - http://amzn.to/174m0x1 or this - http://amzn.to/1dBKId1 in place of it.  Or if you are really serious about the whole no sugar thing, you can omit it altogether.)
1 tbsp lemon juice - http://amzn.to/19dI4W7
1/4 tsp of cinnamon - http://amzn.to/137cTuK or apple pie spice - http://amzn.to/1fvAyrc (I used apple pie spice, which is just a combo of spices.)

Directions
1.  Peel and slice your apples.  (I use this thing - http://amzn.to/174mbIA for slicing apples.  It is a life saver.  I use it daily for the kids.)

2.  Put the apples and everything else into a pot.

3.  Heat on medium until the water starts to boil then reduce to simmer.
4.  Simmer for 15-20 minutes.
5.  Smash your apples up. (Careful they are hot!)  You can use a simple potato-type masher - http://amzn.to/1fvAAzc if you don’t mind chunks (which we don’t) or you can use a food processor - http://amzn.to/1fvAE1V .  You can even use a food mill - http://amzn.to/18n0l29 , if you’re that hardcore.
6.  Enjoy while hot!  You’ll be in heaven, I promise.

Do you make applesauce?  What is your secret ingredient?

           

Tasty Tuesday Linkup

Standard, legally required, Endorsement Disclosure: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

Cooking with Dried Beans: Why and How

I used to cook exclusively with dried beans.  Then I got lazy and went back to canned.  Now I’m trying to get “un-lazy” and go back to dried.  I’ve learned a little more this time around so I’m hoping that this approach will stick.

In this post I’ll give you the why and the how of using dried beans.


So, first you ask, why should I use dried beans?  With all the cheap and easy canned beans available in the store, why should I bother with using dried beans?

Well…. let me tell you:

1.  Cost – It doesn’t get much cheaper than dried beans.  You can usually buy a bag of beans (which yields 4-5 cans worth) for about the price (or less) of one can of beans.  And don’t even get me started on buying from bulk sections or buying bulk bags yourself.  Dried beans = cheap.  Period.

2.  Salt – Canned beans generally have A LOT of sodium.  You can buy some “reduced” sodium canned beans but unless you are adding salt to your water, your dried beans won’t have any salty issues.  Dried beans = less salt intake.

3.  BPA – Bisphenol A – Generally found in the lining of MOST canned foods, BPA is thought to have many negative effects on your health.  Dried beans = no BPA.

4.  Less Waste – Yes, cans are recyclable but if you don’t have to create the waste in the first place, why do it?  Dried beans = less trash.

Now that I’ve convinced you that using dried beans is all around the best option.  Let’s talk about how to use them.

First, you’ll need to soak them.  Generally speaking, dried beans are soaked for two reasons:

1.  Soaking removes indigestible sugars that are the cause of the *unsavory* side effects of beans (i.e. beans, beans the musical fruit……)

2.  Reduces cook time.

You can do a quick hot soak or an overnight cold soak.  I soak mine overnight.  I let them soak for at least 6-8 hours, with more than an inch of water covering them.  Then in the morning or mid-day, I rinse them well, and transfer them to a pot of water.  Depending on the type of bean, they will need to cook for 1-2 hours.  I haven’t tried my slow cooker - http://amzn.to/16HlPUw yet, but I think that will be next.

You’ll want to be careful to not try and soak/cook beans that are too old.  If your beans are too old, they will never rehydrate fully and you’ll be left with hard or crunchy beans even after you cook them.  Try to use your beans within a year.

As for how many beans you cook at a time, you can cook just what you need for a recipe or you can cook more.  If you cook more, you can can them (using a pressure cooker - http://amzn.to/13UYsfC ) or you can freeze them.  I’m planning to start cooking them (especially black and pinto beans) in larger batches and try freezing them.   I’d love to can them but as you all know, I’m intimidated by regular canning, so pressure cooker canning?  Ha!  Forget about it (for now).  For reference, about 1 1/2 cups of cooked beans is the equivalent to a can of beans.  (Handy to know for recipes that call for “a can” of beans.)

What do you think?  Do you always use dry beans or have you been a canned beans cook lately like me?  What is your favorite thing to make with beans?

           

Tasty Tuesday Linkup

Standard, legally required, Endorsement Disclosure: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

Fresh Homemade Ketchup Recipe

Homemade Ketchup Recipe :: Five Little Homesteaders

Have I mentioned that I froze a bunch tomatoes last spring?

Yeah, I know, I’ve mentioned it only a million times.  Well, you should know, they’re gone now.  I’ve used them all!  My freezer has never felt so empty!

Originally I made pasta sauce, then I made pizza sauce and now I’ve made homemade ketchup!  And let me tell you, it is amazing!  I was so impressed by how ketchup-y it came out.

Check out the homemade ketchup recipe below.

Read more ›

Standard, legally required, Endorsement Disclosure: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

Homemade Sourdough Pancakes

I’m always looking for new ways to use my sourdough starter.  So far, the homemade english muffins have been my favorite way to use it but these sourdough pancakes may be a close second.

Check out the recipe below and let me know if you give them a try.

Ingredients

For the Sponge
1 cup sourdough starter
1.5 cups warm water
2.5 cups flour

For the Batter
1 egg
2/3 cup milk
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp melted butter

Directions
Night Before
1. Mix all the ingredients for the sponge in a bowl.
2.  Cover (I usually use a clean dish towel) and let stand over night.

In the Morning
1. Mix all the batter ingredients in a bowl.
2.  Add to the sponge and stir well.
3.  Let stand for five minutes.
4. Drop by 1/4 cups onto warmed griddle and cook as you would a regular pancake.

Tasty Tuesday Linkup

Standard, legally required, Endorsement Disclosure: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.

Making Sense of Alternative Sweeteners

Confession:  Sometimes trying to eat healthy overwhelms me.

There are so many choices out there.  You can go to a healthfood store but that doesn’t reduce the number of choices.  You can spend zillions of dollars at said healthfood store on “organic” and “natural” products only to come home and read an article 10 minutes later about how the product you just bought is a big gimmick and is just as unhealthy as the cheap version sold at regular grocery stores.

It makes my head spin.

One of those areas that confuses me is alternative sweeteners.  We all know aspartame is bad, as is high fructose corn syrup and white sugar should be used sparingly, but what about all the rest?

In this article I’m going to scratch the surface of this conundrum (and please, feel free to add any information you have in the comments below).

Coconut Palm Sugar
Coconut Palm sugar - http://amzn.to/16UQhfX is made from the flower of the coconut palm tree.  It is similar to brown sugar and works as a good substitute.  Dr. Oz claims that it can prevent blood sugar crashes that cause hunger and leave you unsatisfied.  Its supporters claim that its low-glycemic index make it a great alternative to regular sugar.  It has almost the same number of calories as regular table sugar but is claimed to be higher in micronutrients, perhaps because it is generally less processed.  On the other hand, coconut palm sugar it not a traditional food and the current high demand for it may be endangering the coconut palm.

Bottom line:  Is it a health food?  No.  Might it be a good alternative to regular white sugar?  Yes.

Agave Nectar 
Made from the blue agave plant, agave nectar - http://amzn.to/183lNtu is 25% sweeter than white sugar.  Like coconut palm sugar, agave nectar has a low-glycemic index.  However, if you read this article - http://www.foodrenegade.com/agave-nectar-good-or-bad/ from the blog Food Renegade, you’ll see that her research on the subject showed that not only is agave nectar not a traditional food it is also highly processed and a higher level of concentrated fructose than the evil high fructose syrup.  She doesn’t use it.

Bottom line:  Is it a health food?  No.  Might it be a good alternative to regular white sugar?  Maybe.

Stevia 
Stevia - http://amzn.to/14bdw6v is a no-calorie sweetener extracted from the stevia herb and it is not metabolized by the body.  You can buy it in many forms, most popularly as a liquid or granulated.  Like agave nectar, it is highly concentrated and very sweet.  The problem is that taking stevia from its plant-based form to the form that is most often used on our tables and in our recipes requires a lot of processing.  To do this, the stevia plant is turned into the compound Rebaudioside (RebA) and this is highly processed.  However, you can grow the plant (my mom has in the past) and use the leaves in tea to sweeten or make your own extract of the leaves using alcohol.  (Buy dried leaves in bulk here - http://amzn.to/1elyAcc .)

Bottom line:  Is it a health food?  Probably not.  Might it be a good alternative to regular white sugar?  Yes – if you use the whole herb or make the extract yourself (or buy from a reputable source).

Brown Rice Syrup
Brown Rice Syrup - http://amzn.to/14WkGYs is similar to maple and corn syrup but is half as sweet.  So when baking for those that are less fond of ultra-sweet dishes, this might be a good alternative.  It is derived from rice (duh) and some people say it has a funny after taste.  I couldn’t find a ton of negatives about brown rice syrup but I did find that most people said the taste can be a little funny and it is less sweet than other sweeteners so you still need to sweeten with something else.  That might be enough to turn me off.

Bottom line:  Is it a health food?  No.  Might it be a good alternative to regular white sugar?  Probably not.

Honey 
Does it get more natural?  Probably not as long as you are buying the raw stuff. - http://amzn.to/13dp0Ds  Honey and white sugar are very similar in the area of calorie-counting but honey does taste sweeter, so you often need to use less.

Bottom line:  Is it a health food?  If sourced properly, an argument could be made for yes.  Might it be a good alternative to regular white sugar?  In some applications yes, as along as it is raw and preferably locally sourced.

Does this help you?  It has help me *some.*  At the end of the day, satisfying your sweet tooth with fresh fruit is best and any other sweetened food should be eaten as a treat and in small amounts.  Did you (or I) really need to do all this research to determine this outcome?  Probably not.

Tasty Tuesday Linkup

Standard, legally required, Endorsement Disclosure: In order for me to support my blogging activities, I may receive monetary compensation or other types of remuneration for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial and/or link to any products or services from this blog.