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Archive for the ‘Eating’ Category

HOMEGROWN Life: Shaking Off a DIY Fail

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

 

HOMEGROWN-LIFE-LT-GREENI’m a self-conscious chef. In an effort to minimize disasters, I seek out recipes with clear, step-by-step instructions that leave little room for interpretation. And anytime I try something new in the kitchen, I make sure my roommate is on standby as my frontline taste tester. She’s usually happy to oblige, but every so often, she gets stuck with a burnt or undercooked creation.

This was one of those times.

Over the holidays, with so many other things going on, I thought I’d stick to a baking project I couldn’t mess up. Cupcakes. In a past life (OK, a not-so-distant two summers ago), I worked in a bakery and became something of a cupcake connoisseur. No style, design, or flavor fazed me. If I had a recipe, I could make it happen.

Just to mix things up a little bit, I thought I’d try making my own food coloring. I loved the idea of knowing exactly what I was smearing on my cupcakes—no weird chemicals or fake stuff, just ingredients I had selected myself. As I trolled the Internet for tips, with visions of festive red and green icing dancing in my head, I figured this would be a low-stress challenge.

Before long, I came across a blog detailing the necessary ingredients for mixing both red and green dye, but the lists were long and full of powders I wasn’t sure I could pronounce, much less afford or locate in a store. I sifted through other recipes until I found one that made natural dyes seem even easier than I’d thought: spinach juice for green and pomegranate or beet juice for red. Sounds simple, right?

Pomegranate juice is easy to find fairly cheap. I grabbed a bottle for $1.50—on sale that week, too, so it had to be fate. Spinach juice proved a bit trickier. I saw some online, but the price tag was steep, and I didn’t think waiting a week or so for it to arrive seemed practical.

Without a juicer or any knowledge of juicing, I decided I would try to liquefy spinach. I turned to my little food processor, my trustiest friend in the kitchen, thinking it could get the job done. After repeated dicing, chopping, and grinding, I was left with a murky green liquid that resembled algae or moss—in other words, not something you would willingly eat, let alone consider a treat.

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Next I tried mixing some of the sludge into my buttercream. The result: soggy white syrup flecked with green chunks. Needless to say, I couldn’t get my roommate to try it.

Zero for one, I held onto the hope that red icing would be easier. Who needs green, after all, when red is the color of Santa hats and candy canes? The pomegranate juice I had was already in liquid form, so turning it into icing should be as easy as stirring.

I added a few drops of juice to my buttercream and starting mixing. Nothing.

After dumping in a whole tablespoon of juice, the icing began to take on the palest pink tinge. My faith renewed, I dumped in another tablespoon of juice.

Hm. Still pink.

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Yet another tablespoon in, the icing was slightly darker—though not quite red—but also extremely runny. I tried to spread it onto a cupcake, but it was too soupy to apply with a knife. I thought moving the icing to the fridge for a while might thicken up the consistency, but that was a lost cause, as well. The cupcakes looked like they had spent a 90-degree day in the trunk of a car. My roommate took a tentative taste and gave the flavor a thumbs-up, but she advised me not to take the cupcakes out into the world, where they would be subjected to ridicule.

I had to agree.

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They say food is all about presentation, and in that respect, these cupcakes definitely failed. They’re the kind of thing I would usually hide in the back of my fridge rather than show off, but here they are now, in all their glory, on the Internet. To me, it’s a reminder that not everything you make will look or taste like the pristine examples you see in glossy magazines or on tastefully photographed blogs.

Sometimes we fail, whether through a flawed recipe or our own lack of skill. And you know what? It doesn’t matter one bit. You tried. You gave a shot. Maybe you made something edible, even if it’s not pretty. Hey, a laugh can be as much of a bonding experience—probably more—as sharing a fussed-over snack with a friend. The point is the experiment itself, in rolling with the punches and trying again.

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Or not. Red food coloring is one project I’m happy to leave to the pros. Valentine’s is coming up before long, and what says, “I love you,” like homemade pink icing?

amandaNortheastern University student Amanda Hoover spent her fall semester interning for HOMEGROWN and Farm Aid. She is an amazing baker (don’t miss her 101s on homemade Nutella, biscotti, and peanut butter cups), in addition to being an awfully good sport. Thanks for sharing your hits and your misses, Amanda!

ALL PHOTOS: AMANDA HOOVER

 

ICYMI: The Top HOMEGROWN Posts of 2014 (AKA Inspiration for 2015!)

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

 

Don’t worry. We understand if you didn’t spend every waking minute of 2014 hunched over the computer, drumming your fingers and waiting for the next HOMEGROWN 101 to post. You’re busy! You’ve got actual stuff to do, from tending the garden (not to mention the kids, pets, and livestock) to making breakfast to fashioning bird feeders from Mason jars. We get it. Your get-it-doneness is why we love you!

But just in case you were wondering what your fellow DIYers were reading while you were off crafting, baking, and planting, we’ve rounded up the top five HOMEGROWN posts from 2014 in a few different categories—plus some fun stuff to look forward to. Here’s to finding inspiration for a whole new year of doing in 2015!

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Top 5 shiny new 101s of 2014:

  1. Sue’s Pallet Wood Chicken Coop 101
  2. Andrea’s Wine Bottle Wind Chimes 101
  3. Joe’s Fermented Chili Paste 101
  4. Cynthia’s Homemade Bone Broth 101
  5. Jessie’s Common Garden Pests 101—and how to fight ‘em!

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Oldies but goodies! Top 5 archived 101s in 2014:

  1. Jennifer’s Drying Chili Peppers 101
  2. Camas’s Buying a Whole Pig 101
  3. Back to basics: Hoop Houses 101
  4. Lauren’s Duck House 101 (Don’t miss her Raising Ducks 101!)
  5. Lucy’s Growing Lettuce 101

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Top 5 HOMEGROWN blog posts of 2014:

  1. Rachel’s pros and cons of tiny house living
  2. The Skills Tent Schedule at Farm Aid 2014—now with photos!
  3. The United States of Thanksgiving, HOMEGROWN-Style, with apologies to The New York Times
  4. Rachel’s big-batch granola recipe (This woman is a HOMEGROWN machine!)
  5. Dyan’s ode to fall cooking—and eating

Coming up next: a few inspiring—and totally doable—food resolutions for 2015. Stay tuned to HOMEGROWN.org! And happy HOMEGROWN New Year, you guys!

 

United States of Thanksgiving, HOMEGROWN-Style (with Thanks to the New York Times)

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

 

With Thanksgiving, our national holiday, just around the corner, what could be more American than engaging in some friendly competition? Before we could think better of it, we decided to pit HOMEGROWN.org against that estimable giant, The New York Times, and match the paper’s supremely awesome United States of Thanksgiving recipe for recipe, horchata for mofongo.

Sure, this contest is a little lopsided. (Hi, worldwide newspaper of record! What, you’ve never heard of HOMEGROWN.org? We’re an online community celebrating the culture of agriculture!) That’s the beauty of both the American dream and our country’s rich and flaky food heritage. So what if every recipe doesn’t line up perfectly, state by state? Each dish does come from the real kitchen of a HOMEGROWN member—and that’s pretty sweet. Or savory. Or better yet, both.

If you ever read this, NYT, thanks for being a good sport. And happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

ALASKA: Like The New York Times’ Russian salmon pie? Try Rösti with smoked salmon & horseradish cream!

oyster-tartALABAMA: NYT touts oyster dressing. Shucks, we’ll take Rachel’s oyster-mushroom tart (that’s it, pictured at left).

ARIZONA: You could make cranberry sauce with chiles. Or you could take those chiles and turn ’em into magnificent mole.

ARKANSAS: Heritage turkey? Try our resident homesteader’s failsafe turkey technique.

CALIFORNIA: Sourdough stuffing? Why just bake it when the Bay Area’s very own Rachel can show you how to feed your own starter?

COLORADO: Pecan pie bites? Or healthy, homemade granola? How about both?

quincejamCONNECTICUT: There’s quince with cipollini, quince, and bacon. And then there’s Rachel’s from-scratch quince jam (at left).

DELAWARE: Turkey with truffled zucchini stuffing? We’ll pass. Gotta save room for Ohsweetie’s zucchini gingerbread!

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Masala pumpkin tart, meet Christa’s pumpkin donuts. Everybody wins.

FLORIDA: Mojo turkey? If you really want to heat things up, try Tory’s turkey on the grill!

pecanpieGEORGIA: Pecan pie from where? We’ll have to take your word for it. But Jennifer from Texas—where folks love the nut so much, they made it the state tree—has her own pecan pie recipe (at left).

HAWAII: Mochi rice stuffing, meet Cynthia’s rice cooked in bone broth.

IDAHO: Hasselback potatoes? Sounds like—well, a hassle. Try these ridiculously easy grilled spuds, heavy on the lemon.

ILLINOIS: Pumpkin potage? We’ll raise you a bowl of Cornelia’s butternut squash and apple soup.

INDIANA: OK, Times. You win this round. We couldn’t touch persimmon pudding. But we can make it even better with homemade vanilla extract.

IOWA: Thanksgiving cookies sound like a contender. But Amanda’s grandma’s cinnamon-cranberry biscotti is the holiday breakfast of champions.

KANSAS: Candied sweet potatoes, get a load of Rachel’s coconut sweet potato soup.

mushroompastyKENTUCKY: We’ve never heard of pocket dressing. Then again, we didn’t know how much we loved mushroom pasties until we tried them (at left).

LOUISIANA: Shrimp-stuffed mirlitons? That’s a squash, left? Try honey-chile glazed shrimp and long beans. They’re like green beans. But longer.

MAINE: Lobster mac and cheese, meet Kirsten’s pumpkin mac. BAM!

MARYLAND: We can’t argue with sauerkraut and apples. But we still have room in our hearts and stomachs for winter slaw.

MASSACHUSETTS: Clam and chourico stuffing? How about Lisa’s clam and chorizo paella?!

cabbageMICHIGAN: You can hold at German potato salad. Or you can double down on Deutschland with sautéed red cabbage, apples, onions, and Bratwurst (at left).

MINNESOTA: What’s more autumnal than grape salad? Mud Pies’ home-canned fruit!

MISSISSIPPI: Ale-braised collard greens with ham? Why guild the lily? Keep it easy and veggie-friendly with these sautéed collards.

MISSOURI: Mmmmm, butter cake. More mmmmmm, evaporated-milk scones with burnt butter glaze.

MONTANA: Big Sky Countrymen and Women don’t let anything go to waste. Instead of venison steaks, try canning your own venison. (See Torry’s comment for details.)

lambNEBRASKA: Standing rib roast: Yes, please. But Penny’s lemon-rosemary roast lamb? We’ll take seconds (at left).

NEVADA: Turkey French dip? Sounds fancy. Maybe that’s how they do it in Vegas, but frugal folks know a sandwich doesn’t get any better than a grilled cheese with bacon grease.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: A roast bird is classic—if, ahem, a little boring. Flavor up that fowl with Penny’s lemon sage turkey.

NEW JERSEY: We’re curious about crepes manicotti. But we’re crazy for Cornelia’s buckwheat crepes with—wait for it—sweet potato filling.

posoleNEW MEXICO: Red chile turkey? Delish. We can use the leftovers to make turkey posole (at left).

NEW YORK: What’s richer than double apple pie? Jackie’s homemade apple cider caramels.

NORTH CAROLINA: Sweet potato cornbread? Or Jay’s sweet potato enchiladas? Why choose just one?

sourdoughryeNORTH DAKOTA: We’re new to lefse, AKA Scandinavian flatbread. We’ll have to ask Penny, HOMEGROWN’s resident Fin and maker of a mean sourdough rye (at left).

OHIO: What’s more seasonal—not to mention Midwestern—than English pea salad? Split pea soup with ham hocks.

OKLAHOMA: Who doesn’t love a good green bean casserole? But when you want to modernize it, try this green bean and red potato salad.

OREGON: Pinot noir cranberry sauce sounds good. Or take things down a notch on the hipster scale with Jay’s cran-apple chutney.

PENNSYLVANIA: We can’t knock glazed bacon. Heck, we’d love it on a sandwich with Kirsten’s green tomato bacon jam.

PUERTO RICO: Because why not chase down that mofongo stuffing with some homemade horchata?

RHODE ISLAND: What’s fluffier than Indian pudding? Turnip puff!

sweetpotatopieSOUTH CAROLINA: Salty pluff mud pie sounds mighty tasty. But so does Anne’s chocolate sweet potato pie (at left).

SOUTH DAKOTA: We’ll save the pear kuchen for dessert, after we’ve had our fill of acorn squash and pear soup.

TENNESSEE: There are roasted Brussels sprouts. And then there is Brussels sprouts and chorizo pizza!

tamalesTEXAS: Why stop at turkey tamales when you can throw down a festive tamalada (at left)?

UTAH: You might like caramel pudding. But have you tried Kirsten’s pumpkin, cranberry, and maple kugel?

VERMONT: We’ll take a dollop of Cheddar mashed potatoes. Just as soon as we finish this slice of Cheddar beer zucchini bread.

VIRGINIA: Corn pudding is good. But a Southerner worth her salt knows everything is better with pork. Try Kirsten’s roasted squash with corn and sausage casserole 

WASHINGTON: Glazed mushrooms with bok choy sounds heavenly. But Rachel’s great-grandma is our very own guardian angel, thanks to her onion celery dressing with shiitake.

FennelApricotStuffingWEST VIRGINIA: If you can’t find pawpaws for pudding, get your fruit fix with Penny’s apricot fennel stuffing (at left). Secret ingredient: hard cider!

WISCONSIN: Wild rice with mushrooms or Cindy’s mushroom celery stuffing? Yes, please.

WYOMING: Gotta love the timeliness of three sisters stew. But add some corn to Cindy’s butternut squash and white bean chili, and you’ll have a sibling trio that sings.

MORE HOMEGROWN WAYS TO GIVE THANKS