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Recipes From Outside the Box: Homemade Minute Rice September 22, 2009

Filed under: Recipes from Outside the Box — Jennifer Kongs @ 4:30 pm
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Alright, so you love brown rice, but unfortunately, sometimes your growling tummy just can’t wait that forty-five minutes.  Or you’re going backpacking/camping and just can’t boil water for that long.  Or you have extra rice you just aren’t going to get eaten in the next couple days.  Never fear, I have the solution for you: homemade minute rice!  That’s right, you can buy organic brown rice (short grain is especially good for this purpose) in bulk, cook it in bulk, and then dry it in your oven to have on hand for an “instant” whole grain.  Unenriched, un-chemically processed, un-adulaterated brown rice that rehydrates in boiling water in under fifteen minutes that won’t cost you a fortune… ah, dreams really can come true.


PROCEDURE: Cook the brown rice as you normally would:  Heat 2.5 c. of water for every 1 c. of rice to a boil, add the rice, let simmer covered until the water is fully absorbed (around 40 minutes).  Spread the rice you aren’t eating right away, or that you want to take camping, or that you want for later in the week – whatever the case may be – and spread into a single layer on cookie sheets.  Place in an oven set at as close to 150 degress F as you can get it (200 is OK, but a little on the hot side).  Prop the door open a smidge to allow or air circulation, and let toast for about an hour to an hour and a half.  Check on the rice every thirty minutes or so, stirring to check i the moisture is gone.  The rice will change color slightly, and become hard and crisp.  Store dried, cooled rice in tupperware, plastice bags, or other airtight containers.  When you are ready to eat it, simply cover the amount you want to eat with boiling water, cover and let sit for approximately fifteen minutes.  Voila and Bon Appetit!

A complete homemade "minute meal

A complete homemade "minute" meal


Recipes From Outside the Box: Secret Chocolate Chocolate Chip Muffins September 15, 2009

FTLogoThe story behind conventional chocolate is truly dark and bitter -a tale riddled with evil players and injustice.  In response to disparate free trade practices, an alternative – fair trade – has taken hold to bring artisan crafts, coffee, bananas, and of course, chocolate, to the United States without devastating the regions that produce them.  While not without its own problems, this form of trading goods improves the environment, the social welfare, and the relationships between producers and consumers around the globe.

The chocolate chocolate chip muffin recipe below uses fair trade chocolate chips, cocoa powder, and sugar.  Instead of hiding abuse and colonialism, these muffins hide a different blood-red secret that’s good for you: beets!  By also replacing much of the sugar from a typical muffin recipe with agave nectar, and most of the oil with pureed apples, these muffins are a sweet treat you can feel good about.


3 medium beets

2 medium apples, cored and chopped

2 eggs

1/2 c. fair trade evaporated cane juice (or fair trade granulated sugar)

1/2 c. agave nectar

1/4 c. (or 4 tbsp.) melted butter

1 tbsp. vanilla

1/4 c. water

1 c. sifted unbleached unenriched all purpose flour

3/4 c. sifted whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 c. fair trade cocoa powder

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking soda

1/3 c. fair trade chocolate chips


Prepare the fruits and veggies: boil the unpeeled beets whole (cutting off the greens if still attached first) in a saucpan until easily pierced by a fork, about thirty to forty minutes.  Put into a food processor or blender with the chopped apples and puree until smooth.

Prepare the wet mixture:  Beat the 2 eggs with the sugar until frothy (about 3-5 minutes on high).  Mix in the agave nectar, melted butter, vanilla, beet/apple mixture, and water.  Mix just until well combined.

Prepare the dry mixture: Stir the sifted flours, cocoa, salt, and baking soda until well mixed.  Gradually add the flour ingredients to the wet ingredients, and mix until just combined.  Stir in 1/3 c. chocolate chips.

Fill greased and floured muffin tins 2/3 full with batter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes, once a toothpick comes out clean.  Recipe makes 18 muffins.

Ooey Gooey (Beety) and Tasty!

Ooey Gooey (Beety) and Tasty!


Recipes From Outside the Box: Two Simple Homemade Cheeses September 9, 2009

Let’s be honest: cheese is delicious.  It’s creamy, saltiness can go with almost any dish, sweet or savory.  Today’s dairy and food processing industries have, unfortunately, made most cheese available in stores unfit for regular consumption.  The antibiotics and pesticide residues in dairy cattle feed is fat soluble, meaning it is concentrated in food products that contain high percentages of milkfat – including cheeses.  Artificially colored, preserved, and packaged to boot, these “cheese products” are hardly what cheese is meant to be.  Lucky for us, two economically simple solutions exist: homemade ricotta and paneer (a mild, solid Indian cheese).

For the recipes below, you can use either goat’s milk or cow’s milk, as long as it is unhomogenized.  If the milk has been homogenized, it will not separate readily into the curds and whey, which is what has to happen if you’re going to make cheese.  As always, I strongly recommend you find a local milk source that allows their cows to munch on grass rather than antibiotics or artificial hormones.  I have made these recipes both from milking goats at Homestead Ranch and from the cow’s milk available from Iwig Dairy.



1 gallon whole milk

1/3 c. vinegar or lemon juice

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. butter (optional)

candy thermometer (optional, but recommended)

cheesecloth or fine grained tea cloth (for straining)



Pour the milk in a pot and stir in 1/4 tsp. salt.  Warm gently, over medium heat, until the milk is just about to boil (between 185 – 195 degrees F on a candy thermometer), the milk will begin forming bubbles and a foamy top.  Remove the milk from the heat, and immediately add the vinegar (I like to add it one tablespoon at a time, until the curds begin to visibly separate). Add the remainder of the salt, stir briefly, and then allow to sit for at least ten minutes up to several hours covered with a clean cloth, giving the curds enough time to pull out of the whey.  The curds will gather, leaving a clearish liquid (the whey), the longer it is allowed to sit the more curds you will get, although the process can be done in a rush and still return a good result.  Ladle or pour the mixture into a cheesecloth-lined colander. (I set the colander over a bowl and catch the whey, which is great for adding to soaking beans, grains, or for various fermentation projects!)

Homemade Ricotta

Homemade Ricotta

Ricotta: Let it drain for a few minutes or up to an hour, depending on how dry or creamy you would like your cheese to be.  It is also optional to stir in a couple tablespoons of melted butter to make a richer end product, especially if using fresh goat’s milk.

Paneer: Let it drain for several minutes, until the visible liquid is gone.  Wrap

the cheese up in the cheesecloth, and press it into an oval shape.  Place the cheese onto a rimmed plate, and weigh it down to press out the remaining moisture, for twenty to thirty minutes.  (I place another small plate on top of the cheese with a couple cans of beans on top to evenly distribute the weight across the cheese’s surface).  Remove the cheese from the cloth, and cut into 1/2 – 1″ squares, which may be eaten as they are or fried until golden (that’s right – fried cheese…yummy!).


Recipes from Outside the Box: Multi-Colored Heirloom Gazpacho September 3, 2009

Heirloom Tomatoes

Heirloom Tomatoes

A complete smorgasbord of fruits and vegetables are available year-round in the grocery stores’ produce departments, but the negative effects of such a global food system on the environment and our health don’t seem worth the watery, flavorless results. As anyone who loves tomatoes knows: there is no better advertisement for the carbon-cutting benefits of choosing local produce over the vegetables that have been trucked hundreds of miles to the grocery store than a thick, juicy slice of a ripe tomato.

The height of August – when we would normally start dripping sweat just by looking outside – makes up for its miserably thick humidity by providing us the perfect conditions to grow a whole heckuvalot of tomatoes.  While you can pick up the standard slicers and red cherry tomatoes year-round in the produce aisle of the grocery store, the taste of a fresh, local tomato is truly unbeatable (and is guaranteed to make you turn up your nose at the ones sitting on the store shelves in December).  Plus something more unique awaits frequenters of the local farmers’ market stands: a full rainbow of unique heirloom varieties, from the rich pinks of Brandywines, to the dark Cherokee Purples, to the sunny Hearty Golds and Jean-Flamés.

One of my favorite ways to incorporate these tasty multi-colored fruits into my week’s meal plan is to add them to a simple gazpacho recipe.  By first puréeing fresh red tomatoes with onions, cucumbers, and peppers, you can create a bright pink soup base to add coarsely chopped heirloom tomatoes of several colors for an edible artist’s palette of ‘matery goodness.  Add a bunch of minced parsley, and you have the makings of a delightful summer dinner.

Multi-Colored Heirloom Gazpacho

Multi-Colored Heirloom Gazpacho



4-5 medium red tomatoes, chopped

1 medium cucumber, seeded, peeled and chopped

2 bell peppers, chopped

1 onion, chopped

1 jalapeño, chopped (can remove seeds to lower heat)

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp red or white wine vinegar

1 tbsp honey (or other sweetener)

1 bunch of parsley, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Place all ingredients for the soup base into a blender or food processor until smooth and liquid, about thirty seconds to a minute tops.  You can also reserve ½ – 1 cup of the chopped vegetables to add with the heirloom tomatoes if you prefer a chunky gazpacho.  Pour soup base into a large bowl.

ADD: 3-4 coarsely chopped heirloom tomatoes in a variety of colors.  I especially like to use one each of a yellow, green, and purple type.  Cover, and let the gazpacho rest in the refrigerator for at least an hour, but this soup’s flavor only improves the longer it sits.  It will be good to eat for several days, if you can make it last that long!


Recipes From Outside the Box: Waste Not, Want (Tasty Soup) Not August 28, 2009

I know, it’s the end of August and the idea of heating up the house to make soup sounds totally unfun.  But wait – it’s cloudy outside today, and the high is only in the seventies, so what the heck?   The first step to making a truly delicious, box free soup is to make your own soup stock.  Besides the impeccable flavor, homemade stock is a great way to turn food waste into new food – that tastes unique each time.  Plus – canned broth can be loaded with sodium, artificial flavorings, and make a simple soup cost a lot more than if you use leftover veggies in your fridge or freezer.

Brewing Stock: Smoked Turkey and Frozen Veggie Remains

Brewing Stock: Smoked Turkey and Frozen Veggie Remains

The simplest version: vegetable stock.  Each time you cut up vegetables for a meal – especially celery, carrots, onions, parsley, and garlic – save the parts you normally throw out (or compost) in a freezer bag.  The white rooty part of the celery that no one wants to dip in peanut butter, the end of the carrot, the (rinsed) skins of those onions and garlic cloves you chop up – all of that food you thought was trashable is absolutely freezable and stockable. Some of my favorite additions are the beet skins from boiled and peeled beets, and the stalks of any leafy green (like kale and chard).  Once you have a large freezer bag or two full (just keep adding to the bag as you cook), you have the makings of a basic veggie stock that will be stock-full (pun intended) of all the vegetable goodness you just couldn’t fit into earlier meals. This is a also great way to use the leftover bones and parts of a whole chicken or turkey, bones from barbequed ribs, or even the bones from a whole fish to add some good solid fats and proteins to the stock – not to mention another level of flavor.

A basic  stock recipe (adapted from Alice Waters’s amazing cookbook, The Art of Simple Food):


The carcass or meaty bones from a previous meaty meal (i.e. the remains of a whole chicken or turkey)

Frozen vegetable remains, defrosted if time allows (the more veggies, the richer the flavor)

1 or 2 bay leaves

1/2 tsp. black peppercorns

depending of veggies used, you can add any of the following:

1 head of garlic, cut in half

1 onion, peeled and halved

1 celery stalk

1 carrot, peeled

1 1/2 gallons cold water


If making a meaty broth, begin by placing the carcass into a large stock pot, and pouring the cold water over the bones.  Place over high heat, bring to a full rolling boil, then turn the heat down, maintaining a gentle simmer.  The foam that rises and collects at the top should be skimmed off with a ladle and discarded, but be careful to leave as much fat as possible (which makes the flavor so tasty and imparts important minerals to the stock).  After you have skimmed off the foam, add the vegetables.  This way, they will not get in the way of the skimming process (as they like to float on the surface).  If not using any meat, place the vegetables and water in a stock pot and heat to a rolling boil, then turn down to a gentle simmer.

Once the stock is at a simmer, add the bay leaves, and herbs (such as a bouquet of parsley and/or thyme), and peppercorns.  (It is possible to add salt at this juncture, but I wait until I’m making the soup later on, to ensure I don’t end up with an oversalty end product).  Let the broth simmer for 3 – 5 hours, depending on how strong you want the flavors to be.  Once it is done, use a slotted spoon to remove the larger vegetable chunks and animal carcass, then pour the remaining broth through a strainer (lined with a cheesecloth for a clearer, “thin” broth) into a nonreactive container.

If you use the broth immediately, skim the fat off the top.  If not, allow the broth to cool completely, then refrigerate it

"Thick" Broth

"Thick" Broth

with the layer of fat on top.  The fat will help seal in the flavors, and help preserve the broth longer in the refrigerator and is easily removed once cooled.  Do not cover the broth until it is totally cool, it can end up staying warm too long and spoiling otherwise.  I store the broth in two-pint containers in the refrigerator for a week or so, but it can also be frozen for a few months.  Be sure to defrost the stock before using it if you do decide to freeze it.


Recipes from Outside the Box: Homemade Granola Bars August 20, 2009

Homemade Granola Bars

Homemade Granola Bars

The staggering amount of waste linked to food production in the United States, generated to create products like granola bars, is overwhelming to say the least.  Fortunately, there is another way (cue the triumphant horns: da-da-daah!)

Granola bars are a perfect example of how to turn an overly packaged food (those individually wrapped chewy gooeys

Containers of foods bought in bulk

Containers of foods bought in bulk

are quite the waste generators) into a bulk buying – and super fun baking – experience.  At many self-proclaimed health food stores, you can find a bulk department to stock up on the ingredients you will need for the following recipe.  Don’t forget to bring your own reusable bags or containers to put your oats, flour, nuts, and dried fruits into, along with a bag to put all those bags and containers in.  Some stores even offer places to refill oils and sweeteners, but if not, consider buying the bigger containers – typically a better deal for both the wallet and the planet.

Another option is to search out – or start your own! – a bulk buying club.  The ingredients used below, except the whole wheat flour from the local Gasper Family Farm, all came from the New Boston buying club.  This is the ultimate bulk buying experience – where most of the food is available in grandiose sizes – like 50 lb. bags of flour – that can be split among the group’s members to significantly cut costs and packaging waste.  In the pictured finished bars, I used sunflower seeds and almonds as the nuts/seeds portion, raisins as the dried fruit portion, coconut oil as the oil portion, agave nectar as the sweetener, and cinnamon, allspice, and vanilla as the flavorings of choice.

The Pantry of Bulk

The Pantry of Bulk

Homemade Granola Bars


4 c. rolled oats

1 c. whole wheat flour

2 c. seeds or chopped nuts

1  – 1 1/2 c. chopped dried fruit (raisins, shredded coconut, cranberries, apples, etc.,)

1/2 c. oil (butter, coconut oil, peanut oil, sesame oil)

1/3 c. water

1/2 c. sweetener (honey, maple syrup, agave nectar)

pinch of salt plus other spices or flavorings you like


Mix oats, flour, nuts/seeds and dried fruit together in a bowl.  Warm oil, sweetener, water, salt and other flavorings on stovetop until all melted together.  Add the “gooey glue” to the dry ingredients, and mix until well combined.  Don’t be afraid to use your hands and get messy – it’s super fun, plus helps the water bind the flour to create a stickiness that holds the bars together (think of it is a tasty paper maiche project).  Press the mixture into a greased 9 x 13 baking dish – preferably glass – and set in the oven at 325 degrees F for about 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from

Weighing down the bars

Weighing down the bars

oven, cover with a clean dish towel, and top with weights to help the bars cool and hold together solidly.  (This morning, I used some jars of rice and oats on top of two big cookbooks to evenly distribute the weight across the bars).  Let cool, remove weights and towel, and cut into 20 or so bars.  Will keep in an air-tight container for a week or so, but they can be refrigerated to extend their lifespans.  Additionally, if you like your bars sweeter or are having trouble getting everything to stick together, additional oils and sweeteners, or even melting some peanut butter into the “glue” ingredients can help hold it all in place – almost as good as spandex.


Recipes from Outside the Box: Go(at)gurt, minus the plastic tube August 19, 2009

Filed under: Recipes from Outside the Box — Jennifer Kongs @ 4:04 am
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Baby goats at Homestead Ranch

Baby goats at Homestead Ranch

The current state of the dairy industry and most store-bought yogurt is an unfortunate one to say the least (read why here).  Lucky for us, there are enough industrial food and farm outliers to make a go of completely homemade yogurt – even getting the milk straight from the goat (or cow) if so desired.

Because I’m a believer in the goodness of raw milk,

Mama Goat at Homestead Ranch

Mama Goat at Homestead Ranch

and super devoted to being uber-DIY, I make a trek once a week to milk four dairy goats at Homestead Ranch in Lecompton, KS.  I use the milk to make yogurt in a sweet little electric yogurt incubator, although this piece of equipment is totally unnecessary.  The recipe below is how I started to make yogurt a couple years ago, and it works fantastically.  Really, it’s a super easy process, and while the yogurt incubates, you get to walk away and get on with your life, then come back to a super cheap, super healthy, super tasty treat!

Yogurt Making Supplies (Special incubator is optional!)

Yogurt Making Supplies (Special incubator is optional!)


1/2 cup good quality commercial plain yogurt*, or 1/2 cup yogurt from previous batch, or one pkg yogurt starter

1 quart whole milk (2 % can be used), nonhomogenized and non-ultrapasteurized


Gently heat the milk in a saucepan to 180 degrees F (measure with a candy thermometer).  Remove from the heat and allow to cool to about 110 degrees F, stirring occasionally to remove the “skin” that will form on the top later.  Pour about 1/2 cup of the milk into a dish containing the yogurt (or starter) and stir until smooth and a liquid consistency.  Add to the rest of the milk and place in a shallow glass, enamel, or stainless steel container.  Cover the container and place in a warm over (a gas oven with a pilot light or electric oven pre-heated to warm and then turned off) overnight.  In the morning, transfer to the refrigerator.  Once thoroughly cooled, enjoy!  Delicious topped with fruit, granola, or with a bit of honey stirred in.

*When purchasing good quality yogurt, organic whole milk plain yogurt is best.  Try to find one with the fewest preservatives and addditional emulsifiers or other ingredients.

Oooh, Incubation

Oooh, Incubation