A link to our Shop

At times we have to choose between the path that is conventional and the path that is not. In today's world that once worn path that our great grandparents traveled is so overgrown and forgotten that it barely exists. Our goal is to reforge that forgotten path and make it new again.

The Family Eggers

The Family Eggers

Friday, November 15, 2013

Vitamix - Soup Made in the Blender

Soup is one of those foods that can be prepared an infinite of ways.  It makes a highly satisfying lunch, especially as the weather gets cooler and for those watching calories.  Pair it with a nice grilled cheese sandwich or apple and you're good to go. 

Mackenson is our resident "Soup Kid".  He loves all kinds of soup, those with broth being his favorite.  At the dinner table, when soup is served, we turn to Mackenson and ask how the soup is.  He tastes it, looks thoughtful, and assigns a number value to it.  You see, he rates soup according to how much he likes it.  Most soups we make at home get a 9 or a 10.  I am told the highest on the Mackenson Soup Scale is a 10.  High praise!

The other day I was home alone for lunch and made a simple soup in our Vitamix blender.  I am pretty sure this soup could be made using any blender and transferred to a pot to heat.  The really neat thing about the Vitamix is that it heats the soup via friction; there is no need to use the stove or microwave to heat it.  After blending on high for 5-6 minutes there will be steam coming out of the blender container (that's the food, not the motor).  I love how easy it is to make soup in the blender. 

1 cup water
1/2 cup broccoli
1/2 cup carrots, about 1 medium
1/2 cup spinach
2 Tablespoons cabbage
2 Tablespoons onion
1/2 vegetable bouillon cube
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon dried basil
1/8 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 teaspoon black pepper (to taste)

Put all ingredients into the blender.  Blend on high for 5-6 minutes to puree and heat the soup.  Or blend ingredients and transfer to a pot to heat on the stove/microwave.

This soup was very good and very green.  It was also ridiculously easy to make.  There are a myriad of ways to substitute ingredients in this recipe.  We have some Swiss chard enduring the cold outside that will most likely end up in a soup this weekend.     

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hot Process Soap Additives: Paprika

paprika from the spice cabinet to color soap
There are many things that can be added to cold and hot process soap for color.  Some are natural and some are not; the naturalness of some is a bit of a debate.  To date I have used powdered mica and oxide pigments, coffee and paprika as colorants.

Paprika is a natural additive used as a soap colorant.  I didn't have to buy it online or from a specialty shop; I took the paprika right off my spice shelf!  I have used paprika in two different soap batches.  Both were a 1000gm (2.2lb) sized batch of hot process soap.  The two batches were the same recipe of fats, oils, lye and water.  See my previous post on hot process soap here.  Paprika was added at the end of the cook in both batches.  That means soaponification had taken place in the crock pot, after about a hour of cooking on low, and was ready to be put into the mold.  When adding things after the cook, you need to stir very well to incorporate the additive evenly throughout the soap batter.  You also need to work quickly as hot process soap can easily become too firm to put into the mold.  I usually spoon a bit a soap into the mold and follow with a quick but gentle tapping of the mold on the counter, then repeat.

In addition to paprika being a colorant for soap, I have found that it adds an exfoliating component to the soap.  I enjoy that aspect of paprika as much as the color.  If however you want a smooth bar, you may want to skip the paprika and try another colorant.

Batch 1:
sandalwood scented with orange stripes
When I made this soap, I was hoping for a white bar with orange or brown swirls that would compliment a sandalwood fragrance oil.  No colorant other than paprika was used.  At the end of the cook, after adding sandalwood fragrance oil, I removed 1/3 of the soap batter into a separate pot (from my foot locker of soap making supplies).  To this I added 2 teaspoons of paprika and stirred very well.  About one fourth of the uncolored soap was poured into the soap mold, followed by half of the colored soap, a second layer of uncolored soap, the rest of the colored soap and a final layer of uncolored soap.  The resulting soap bar was a natural cream colored soap with a light orange stripe.  The orange color of paprika in the soap was a lighter shade than paprika in the spice jar, but brilliant in its intensity.

Batch 2:
orange & anise scented with paprika & coffee colorants
Because I was attempting to make a dark brownish orange for an anise/orange scented soap, this batch was colored with coffee in addition to the paprika.  Paprika was added to the whole soap batch, again the amount was 2 teaspoons.  This soap came out dark brown with subtle orange undertones.

Some final thoughts on paprika as a soap additive:
I love how easy it is to use, the color it creates, and the exfoliating properties of the soap when it is added.  I was very pleased with both batches of soap and will definitely be using paprika again.        

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Happy Birthday! Cake in a Cast Iron Skillet

 As an expression of my love for my wonderful husband on his birthday I baked a cake for him.  I love him so much, it was a chocolate cake.  Baking a birthday cake from scratch is something we have done for each other since we were first married.  A custom Joe started, as he lovingly reminds me. 

This year I was cleaning up the breakfast dishes so the kitchen would be clean for cake baking.  Joe walked into the kitchen as I was scraping the cast iron skillet (we had scrambled eggs with veggies that morning).  He asked if I was going to bake a cake in the skillet.  I laughed, then realized he was serious.  A second later I was intrigued with the idea.  We love our cast iron skillet.  It is amazing!  We use it on the stove top for egg dishes, curried onions, sauteed vegetables, breakfast sausages, etc., and Joe uses it to bake cornbread in the oven.  Well, I thought, why not bake a cake in it.  I felt I had to know if I really could bake a cake in our cast iron skillet.

chocolate cake cooling in the skillet
I made the cake as usual, following the directions for devil's food cake in the Better Homes and Gardens Baking cookbook that is on our cookbook shelf (instead of all-purpose flour I used whole wheat pastry flour).  While I was beating the cake batter together I set the skillet in the oven as it preheated.  I put a pat of butter in the skillet to give the outside edges of the cake a crunchy texture.  After the minimum baking time a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake didn't come away clean...10 minutes more were needed for this particular recipe and pan.  When the cake was done (clean toothpick), the pan was cooled on the stove top for 10 minutes.  By holding a cooling rack on top of the skillet like a lid, then flipping the whole thing over, I was able to remove the cake from the skillet.  I should have cooled it a bit longer; a small piece in the center stuck.  It was easily removed with a spatula and replaced.  That was the extent of sticking in the pan.  After the cake cooled completely on the wire rack it was flipped onto a cake stand and frosted with peanut butter frosting.
removed from the skillet to a cake stand

Mackenson put the candles on the cake, we lit them and sang Happy Birthday!

So...how does a cake baked in a cast iron skillet taste?  Delicious!  It was chocolaty, soft, moist and with a bit more texture because of the whole wheat flour (that's a good thing).  I highly recommend baking your favorite cake recipe in a cast iron skillet. 

Next I think I'll try pie in the cast iron skillet...                 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Tomato Powder

a pint of tomato powder
 With the end of the busiest growing season we find ourselves with an abundance of unripe green tomatoes.  As an alternative to filling our shelves with can after can of tomato sauce, Joe and I opted to try something different.  We would dry and pulverize the last of the garden tomatoes.  We spent a fair amount of time at our sink cutting and seeding tomatoes.  It was time consuming, but companionable work. 
green cherry tomatoes
ripe cherry tomatoes

putting tomatoes onto dryer rack
 The food dehydrator was filled to capacity with tomatoes of different variety and ripeness.  The smaller pieces dried faster and were removed while the thicker pieces were left to dry completely. 
tomatoes in the dehydrator
 As the tomatoes dried, I put them in a large zippy bag in the freezer.  According to Mary Bell in her book Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Book, freezing fruits and vegetables prior to blending them into a powder will give better results (click here for a link to this book on Amazon). 
dehydrated tomatoes
ready for the blender
 The tomatoes ground into a powder in our Vitamix blender quite nicely.  All those tomatoes fit into a pint jar that now sits happily in our pantry.  I plan to use this lovely powder to make soup, add it to bread recipes, stir fries, etc.  Since it is largely made up of green tomatoes, I will have to remember to flavor the dishes I prepare with it to account for a more tart tomato taste. 
tomato powder

Friday, November 1, 2013

Mint Tea

What is better than a nice cup of herbal tea on a cold evening?  It warms you us as it soothes the mind and eases the tension from the day.  Tea is also good in the morning for the kiddos when they have a sore throat or stuffy nose.

This summer we enjoyed herbal tea from our lovely garden mint patch.  Now that fall is here, I am preserving the mint to use as dry tea.  Since my kids like tea but don't like to scoop out loose tea with the metal tea ball, I bought fill-able paper tea bags.  I filled and sealed the bags with dried mint and now we have ready to use tea in our pantry.

First I dried the mint leaves in our food dehydrator.  I used a fruit leather liner under the mint to keep any small pieces from falling through the bottom.  To prevent the mint from blowing around inside the dehydrator I put a regular mesh tray liner on top.  This combination seemed to work well.  If you don't want to use a dehydrator you could air dry the herb by tying a string around a bundle and hanging it upside down until completely dry.   
fresh mint on a dryer tray
mint between two liners
When the mint was completely dry, it was easy to move from the dehydrator tray to a deep mixing bowl by rolling the two liners up like a jelly roll.  I had to pick some of the stems out of the mesh, but it slid right off the fruit leather liner's smooth surface.  Next, I removed the leaves from the stems by gently crumbling them with my hands.  This deep bowl kept all the little pieces from scattering about. 
leaves and stems together
stems were removed and composted

Now came the really tedious part.  I filled the bags with crushed mint leaves using a spoon.  The bags I bought are T-Sac size 1, and are available from Amazon.  They are advertised to hold two teaspoons.  Since the bags are biodegradable they are going in the compost after tea is enjoyed.   
filling a bag with mint leaves
Each bag was sealed using our vacuum sealer.  This was a bit of a tricky process.  I had to use a vacuum sealer bag because the tea bag did not trip the sensor to start the machine.  The tea bag wasn't going to be air-tight so I stopped the vacuum with the stop/seal button and just used the heat feature of the machine.  I have heard that a flat iron or clothing iron works well for sealing the bags.   
sealing the tea bag
Now when we want a warming, soothing mug of tea all we have to do is put the kettle on and open the pantry door. 

tea in the pantry