Fruit of Our Labor

March 27, 2012

To continue with our theme of making our own food, Katie and I decided to tackle something I adore – fruit rollups. It never occurred to me how they were made, but it turns out they are surprisingly simple. We have made apple fruit rolls as well as today’s recipe – pear strawberry rolls.

You start with fruit. A lot of fruit. Like, eight pounds of fruit. We divided this amount between pears and strawberries. Start by chunking everything up in to smaller pieces so that you can cook it down somewhat.

We cooked these down in a large pot, along with a half a cup of pineapple juice and a bit of honey. We tossed the pears in first because they took longer to cook, then added the strawberries. We let it all boil until the pears began to soften – maybe a half hour or so.

While the fruit is cooking down, we set up our food mill. In this case, we have an attachment for our Kitchen-aid.

The main attachment sets in to the front of the kitchen-aid. This is where the food will be pushed in to the mill.

The corkscrew is placed in to the center, and when on, will turn and move the food down the chamber and through the screen.

The screen is the strainer that is placed over the screw. The screw will push food down to the end, and push food out through the strainer.

Finally there is a basket placed around the entire strainer. This allows the strained food to be pushed out and fall to the right, while the solids (fruit skin, stems, etc) are pushed out the front. Make sure you have a container to catch both!

As you can see, the fruit was placed in to the top of the miller. We have a tool to push down the fruit to make sure it makes it gets all the way to the screw.

As you can see, the fruit that is strained is falling down the chamber to the right, in to the white bowl. The glass bowl is catching the fruit skin and solids that we don’t want in our strained fruit.

Once you have your strained mixture, spread it out in layers. We used a dehydrator and it made about four trays worth of puree. We set it up to go overnight, and about nine hours later we had fruit leather. You can also do this in the oven on parchment, baked on a lower temperature until dry. You want the fruit to maintain a little springiness, but not be sticky or wet feeling. Once you have your fruit rolls dried, you can tear them up in to pieces and enjoy!

A Sticky Situation

March 25, 2012

One of the new recipes we made recently as part of my New Year’s resolution was potstickers. This recipe isn’t quite as pain-free as many of the recipes we feature here (it’s not complicated, it just has a lot of steps), however, fresh homemade potstickers are vastly superior to the frozen or fast-food varieties that most people have had.

To start out, you make a filling. Your filling can contain whatever you’d like, but it this instance we made a fairly traditional filling. We used a sweet italian sausage (turkey instead of  pork). You can use any kind of ground meat, but you don’t want anything too flavorful that will take over your other filling ingredients. I also added half a diced onion, somewhere between 1 cup and 1 1/2 cups of diced bok choy (about 3 good sized stems), 2 tablespoons soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice.

Once you have your filling, you have to fill your potstickers. This is the most time consuming part of the process. You start with a wonton wrapper, and about a scant tablespoon of filling. You don’t want to overfill the wrappers, because they won’t seal well.

Then, you have to seal the wonton wrapper. Raw wonton wrappers are similar to pasta, and you seal them with just a bit of water. I just have a small bowl of water and I dip my finger in, and run it along the edges I’ll be sealing.

To do a traditional wonton shape, I’ll be bringing all the corners to the middle and sealing the edges to each other.

 

From this last picture, I would pinch the bottom and get out as much air as possible, and then squeeze down each of the folds to make sure it’s really sealed. If it’s not sealed well it will explode when you boil it, and you’ll have a bunch of waterlogged filling. If you don’t get at least most of the air out they will be inclined to float when you boil them, and it’s harder to get them to cook evenly.

Once you’ve got all of your potstickers filled, it’s time to cook them. The first step in cooking is to boil them a few at a time. Once they’re boiled they’ll stick together, so be sure you have somewhere to set them that has room.

After you boil them, the final step is to pan fry them. If you’re making wontons for soup, you would just add them to the soup instead of boiling them.

The frying makes them a little crispy, and much more delicious. We served them with a dipping sauce made of soy sauce, worcestershire, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, red pepper flakes, garlic powder, and some thinly chopped scallions. You don’t need to salt with the sauce because it’s already very salty from the soy sauce.

 

 

Lately the BurbEx team has done a lot to change diet, including eliminating unnecessary carbs. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some carbs. But we didn’t need quite as many as we were consuming. One way of compromising about this was to start making our own cereal, granola bars and today..crackers.

I eat crackers with everything. Tuna. Cheese. Egg salad. You name it, I cracker it. But I thought to myself, why not try and make our own. Brilliant!

So the basic recipe is 2 cups flour, a little salt, a tsp of baking powder, herbs, 1/3 c oil, 2/3 cup warm water.

All the ingredients went in together, so don’t worry about form or figure. I did crush my herbs up with my mortar so that they would be more fragrant.

Once everything was in, I mixed by hand into a soft dough. DON’T overmix. If it starts to feel tough, let it rest for a few minutes and gently begin working it again.

Now there are two ways you can go about making crackers. You can roll it out in to a thin sheet all in one go and either slice with a pizza slicer, knife, or bash-n-chop. You can also do it as a big sheet and break it after cooking.

I chose to roll it out as thin as possible and cut out square shapes.

We oiled and salted our crackers, as well as docked them (forked). We then baked them for 8 minutes until starting to brown. Delish.

Seedlings Approacheth

March 20, 2012

So last year our garden did alright- it kept us stocked in produce for a large portion of the year. But it would have been totally KICK BUTT if I had started seedlings. Which I didn’t. However, this year I got on top of it and started all of them. I’m hoping to get some good starts in pots so that I can plunk them in and get a ways ahead this year.

Our starting lineup includes:

Cherry tomatoes

Um..red tomatoes

Yellow tomatoes

Banana peppers

Bell pepers

Cantaloupe

Broccoli

Cauliflower

Arugula

Rosemary

Basil

Dill

Zucchini

Radishes

Carrots

Beans

Other beans

We used a combination of peat pots and egg cartons. The plan is to get shoots and replant them in to pots once big enough. They’re living out in our garage until I’m a little more certain it will stay nice out. Colorado “winter” is weird that way.

Oh, and update on last year’s garden — despite snow, sleet, COLD…we STILL have parsley. Send me your address if you want some. Seriously.

Train Train Train

March 19, 2012

So one of my main purposes in life is to find vintage things that are cute. I’ve been looking for hat boxes and train cases FOREVER every week at the thrift stores and I’ve NEVER seen one…until this weekend. I found a cute red train case. It was perfect, at a half-off price of $1.50. I mean seriously.

Of course for that price it was a DISASTER inside. Gross. Like seriously gross. First step was to rip out the peeling and faded plastic linings.

As you can see, the trim was falling out everywhere, barely held in with safety pins and paper clips. Not good. Fortunately most of it ripped out intact. The exception being the bottom. What I found was that the elastic bands on the top were actually sewn in to a piece of canvas-covered  cardboard. there were other cardboard sections to help support, but those didn’t make it past the surgery.

Once everything was ripped out, I could see what we were working with.

Yeah so back to the innards.

The inside actually cleaned up pretty well. The top especially. The bottom I spent a while ripping batting and cardboard out. The bottom “fabric” also didn’t come out cleanly so there were shreds of that everywhere.

The next step was to use my fabric pieces as templates. I picked a modern riff for my inside fabrics. I wanted something punchy.

I got a yard and a half of the flower pattern, a fat quarter of the orange, and enough of the ribbon trim to go around the top.

Next step was to get the canvas cardboard separated from the fabric, and then glue that to the top.

I then sewed the elastic to the board.

Once those were sewn in, I made a flap and pocket to go under the top. I glued that and then top in place. The corners took a little working, and it wasn’t quite perfect. The ribbon trim went around the raw edge and hid my flaws.

The process was largely the same for the bottom. It was definitely harder, and I cut a band to hide my yucky corners. However, once put all together, it looked pretty darned cute.

Total investment was about $10, and approximately 3 hours of time. Lovely!

A Mary Poppins Moment

March 18, 2012

We may have already had one bird feeder here at Burbex. We were just excited to have more than little brown sparrows that we had when we lived in the city. We both come from a long tradition of bird-feeding families, though, and really, who doesn’t like some more birds. We do, and the cats REALLY do. So, based on a cute idea we saw on Pinterest, we set out to make a few more bird feeders.

We started with 3 glass globes from light fixtures that we picked up from the Re-store for $2 each (We had a little incident with one, which is why there are only two feeders in the last picture). We also got some metal rings from Joann’s and some small chain from Lowe’s ($.59 and $6.97 respectively).

For our first attempt, we tried to make three hanging chains, and attach them all to the ring. From there, we hung it from a hook, and inserted the globe.

The problem with this feeder is that the chains don’t stay in one place on the ring, so if you get anything out of balance, you can have a catastrophe. This is what happened to our mysterious missing globe. We ended up tying little pieces of string around the ring to help the chains stay in place, and we ended up with a version of this design that does work.

 

For the second design, we decided to try for something a little more stable. So instead of using the metal ring on the bottom, we made a loop of the chain, and then attached the ascending pieces to that. The links on the bottom loop keep the ascenders from moving around the loop, and it is more stable.

 

So in the end we have two cute bird feeders, and we bought two more globes this weekend, to replace the lost one. Because our goal in life is to make sure our cats never lack for entertainment.

Dutch Apple, Baby!

March 17, 2012

Spring has sprung, or at least the sun is shining (as it does a lovely 300 days a year here in Denver), so we’ve been busy with a buch of non-indoors, non-projecty things. We also have a number of projects in progress, but apparently spring has given us a lack of follow through. We’ve still been cooking a new recipe a week, so watch for more fun food posts coming up, but here to tide you over is some pictures of our very first Dutch Apple Baby. For those of you who have never had one, a Dutch Apple Baby is basically a baked apple pancake. We thinly sliced some apples, and briefly sauteed them in a little butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon/nutmeg, until they were slightly soft. While that was going on, you make an egg-based pancake batter (very similar  to popovers). You pour the batter over the apples, and stick the whole thing in the oven to bake. It’s not necessarily a super elegant looking breakfast, but it tastes amazing. It’s like apple pie, without Rachel’s least favorite part-the crust!

The is a picture of our finished product, dusted with powdered sugar (everything looks fancier with powdered sugar!) It’s hard to see against the top of our range, but we cooked ours in cast iron. You can cook it in any pan you can also put in the oven.

As you can see, not particularly elegant on the plate, but more powdered sugar hides a multitude of sins! We’ll be back soon with more of our adventures, but hopefully this will tide everyone over until then!