Fail(s)

Way back when I first started this blog I promised to post successes as well as failures. Although not purposefully, I’ve been falling down on the fail confessions lately. It’s just so much more exciting to write and share about something that actually WORKS vs. something that definitely doesn’t. =P

I haven’t had too many horrible fails in the realm of cooking traditional foods with no limitations on available ingredients.  Meaning, I’ve had the luxury of using the “ideal” or “best recommended” ingredient without having to seriously modify things in deference to food allergies. The new realm of Gluten free cooking however seems to have brought out the “fail” big time. Part of it is I’m just rebel enough not to follow the tried and true paths carefully carved out before me by gluten-free kitcheonistas that have gone on before. Just seems too…easy? So, I’ve been trying to plow my own way and experiencing quite a few fails along the way.

So to spare any of you that feel the urge to experiment with this or that let me share some of the not-so-great things that have happened in my kitchen the past few weeks.

Just last night ~ Fried Okra. Normally I season some wheat flour, toss the freshly diced okra in it, allow it to “sit” for a while so the slimy juice stuff binds with the flour to form a nice light crust when fried. So last night I tried the same routine with gluten free sorghum flour. It did *not* stick to the okra very well and fell of in it’s entirety when frying was attempted. Next time will try it with a binder like a light egg coating, or a light batter made with the flour before frying and hope that sticks better. Or maybe I’ll just find a tried and true gluten free recipe somewhere for fried Okra and play it safe. But only as a last resort, of course.

Sorghum flour Fail 1 was shortly followed by Sorghum flour Fail 2 ~ I took the seasoned leftover Sorghum flour after the okra had used what it needed. Added some raw cream and patted it out into a little dough patty. The rest of the family was having grilled cheese crisps on whole wheat tortillas and I was feeling a bit left out. The little dough patty was set upon the cast iron skillet with some butter to cook. It promptly began to fall apart. With some skillful persuasion with my spatula while cooking it managed to semi stay intact enough to  make it to my plate. With melted cheese on top it was Ok. Not a miserable fail but certainly not what I was going for either. Again, gotta work on figuring out effective binders for gluten free flours.

~Over-zealous-Culturing~ I made a batch of whole, raw milk yogurt the other evening. It’s been a habit of mine to add extra good bacteria in addition to the yogurt starter and the great bacteria that is already in high quality raw milk. A couple of capsules of Colostrum assures that the end yogurt is thicker and not as runny as it would be otherwise and a Capsule of the Pro-biotic blend Tummy Tune Up for good measure. Over-kill if you will. This has not backfired on me until recently and I ended up with thick, custardy, bubbly yogurt/cream cheese-ish globs coming through the top of the cloth I had rubber banded to the gallon jug.  The flavor was rich and since it was already halfway there I went ahead and made yogurt cheese out of it. Still. Totally qualifies as a yogurt making “fail”

Over-Cultured Raw Milk Yogurt Bubbling out the Top of Gallon Jug

Over-Cultured Raw Milk Yogurt Bubbling out the Top of Gallon Jug

~Baked Squash~ There are a few success recipes/formulations of this that came out of my experiments for another blog-post. But, the “fail” deserves to be mentioned here. For several weeks our CSA baskets have had a delicious, mild summer squash unlike anything I’ve ever used before. The first week I thin sliced it, layered it in a glass pyrex baking dish. Each layer was given a drizzle of Organic Olive Oil, or a few pats of butter, and generously sprinkled with seasonings. Put into the oven and baked the end result was delicious. Never one to leave a good thing alone I decided that although it was really good that way, Cheese would take it to a whole new level. The next week’s squash experiment included a handful of shredded pepper-jack cheese on top. That DID take it to a whole new level of decadence so I went truly wild next time. Dolluped among the layers of seasonings was some Salsa, just a little…And to top the whole heavenly thing off, fresh, whole mozzarella cheese. The kind that comes still floating like a creamy bubble of pleasure in a protective blanket of whey. Thick slices of this stuff were carefully arranged on top and then baked.  Excitedly anticipating the crowning achievement of my previous squash dishes it was very sad when I poked the fork in for the first bite. The mozzarella had become very rubbery/over-baked and seemed to have had a bad reaction with the Salsa/juices from the squash. My one consolation was that at least it was flavorful, if a total fail on the texture side of things.

Squash layered in pan with Whole Milk Motzarella Cheese thick sliced and layered on top

Squash layered in pan with Whole Milk mozzarella Cheese thick sliced and layered on top

Over-baked Motzarella Cheese topped Squash. Flavor great. Texture not-so-much

Over-baked mozzarella Cheese topped Squash. Flavor great. Texture not-so-much

Now you are all caught up on my most recent not-so-great kitchen projects. Next post shall feature something fail proof and yummy! =D

Home again Home again Jiggity Jog

We are back in TN after a whirlwind trip to CA. It was my first time to visit CA and a highlight was Yosemite National Park! We were only able to spend a single afternoon driving around trying to avoid the New Yorkesque Traffic Jams in front of such breath taking displays  as El Capitan.

Despite the crowded driving conditions, limited time, a temporarily broken auto focus on my camera and a super cranky toddler I still managed to shoot what I consider to be pretty cool photo’s under the circumstances. Of course, a blind man with a camera phone could shoot spectacular pictures with such staggering beauty everywhere one turned.

View from the road through the trees to yon far mountains

View from the road through the trees to yon far mountains

Yosemite Falls

Yosemite Falls

Spectacular View, burned ridge on the left

Spectacular View, burned ridge on the left

Cloud Puffs looked like Indian Signals from the mountain top

Cloud Puffs looked like Indian Signals from the mountain top

As my previous post explained the purpose of our trip to CA was the potential adoption of a baby girl. We went, we met the Grandmother and subsequently the Birth Mom. I was able to be with the Birth Mom (per her invitation) before and after the C section. She had a beautiful baby girl. Minutes after she was born I was allowed to hold her along with her Grandmother before she was whisked back to the nursery. I spent a precious few hours with the Birth Mom and BabyGirl during recovery. Changed baby girl’s diaper and held her close while her Mom slept. The Birth Mom confirmed her final decision to keep her baby girl and I said my good-bye’s. It was hard to leave CA without her. There are many things in the situation that in my limited perspective cause me worry and concern for the future of that sweet baby girl. We are keeping her covered in prayer and trust that God will be her protection and safety.  All in all it was an amazing experience and one that I wouldn’t trade for anything. Walking through something like that with perfect strangers and coming out on the other side as friends is an incredible thing. Please pray with me for this little one and her Mom over the next few weeks. There are many circumstances in their lives that they will need God’s grace to weather.

Newborn BabyGirl with her long fingered hands clasped by her face

Newborn BabyGirl with her long fingered hands clasped by her face

The Doodlebug asked when we got back to TN where her baby sister was. We explained again that she was with her Birth Mom and that we would ask God to bring us a baby. The next night the Doodlebug prayed so sweetly and so sincerely for a baby sister. It was one of the first times I have heard her pray and tears filled my eyes. We are going to continue on our Home Study path and trust that God will bring a baby into our lives to love in person for the long run. BabyGirl in CA will always be loved and hold a special place in our hearts even if she never shared our home.

We hit the ground running upon our return with many things needing attention immediately. The garden is overgrown by weeds. My tomatoes planned a coup and overtook the measly bamboo supports I had rigged before I left. The cucumbers plants are loving the experimental cages I had them climb this year and are growing gigantic mutant large cukes seemingly overnight, completely by passing the intermediate perfectly sized harvest stage and leaping right from babyhood into overgrown chubby adulthood within hours. I never got the rest of the garden planted so no corn or okra. The lettuce has all gone to seed and it’s time to plant another batch of it in the shady parts of the garden. One thing I love about TN is the ability to grow lettuce 3 out of the 4 seasons. With the addition of the wooden frame and plastic I might be able to stretch it all the way through all four seasons this year which would be VERY neat. Fresh lettuce from the garden in January? Yes, please!

I plan on blogging about some of the cool food we experienced in CA. Absolutely love the emphasis on fruits, veggies and overall freshness! It is now 2 AM and time for me to stop rambling. Just a quick thank you in closing for those of us who faithfully prayed for us through the journey to CA and the experience with BabyGirl. God was so faithful down to the last details in a situation that by all rights should have been more difficult than we could have stood to go through in our own strength. Instead we were sustained by that miraculous peace and confidence.

Since it’s technically Sunday already may you have a wonderful day of rest and restoration in preparation for the week to come. =)

Garden Dreams

I grew up with a Mom that was (and still is) and incredible gardener. Although I don’t think she’s ever gotten that officious title of Master Gardener, she truly is one and has the extensive gardens to prove it. She has that uncanny ability to take a scrawny, dead looking twig and infuse life into it to the point that the next thing you know this huge plant bursting with color and vitality where a stick used to be. I seem to have inherited the polar opposite ability. Not sure which side of the family tree to blame my black thumb on so it shall remain an unclaimed orphan. Unlike my Mom my gardening skills lie in the realm of taking perfectly hearty and healthy plans and turning them into dry, dead twigs.

So, I dream. I dream of a gorgeous yard filled with beautifully arranged flower beds. I dream of that organic, mostly weed free garden erupting with fresh produce. I dream of window boxes with colorful flowers dancing in the breeze. Of culinary herb beds just outside my kitchen door.

In the three years since we moved to TN I have managed to grow some things. I wouldn’t exactly say anything I grow thrives per say but at least it isn’t dead within a matter of weeks and occasionally manages to produce what it is intended to produce. After three years of working on the soil, weeding like crazy I have for the first time a garden that is day dream worthy.  It survived the flood without being washed away and decided to erupt in glorious growth with all the water! Just don’t look too close. The weeds are still ever present, and some of the plants have gone rogue but it’s so beautiful and so alive I love it anyway.

Thought I would share some of my favorite photo’s which are something like documentation of personal triumphs for me. Each plant that is alive is a victory!

Cabbage destined for cultured saurkraut

Cabbage destined for cultured saurkraut

Herb Garden with Fountain in the middle

Herb Garden with Fountain in the middle

My herb garden has been a challenge. Some herbs have gone crazy taking up way more than their fair share of space while others struggle along clinging to life.

One of the wee herbs struggling for life: Borage

One of the wee herbs struggling for life: Borage

Chamomile

Chamomile

Bumble Bee Partaking of green Sage bloom. Apparently Sage is super hardy because I can't kill it and it's thriving on neglect.

Bumble Bee Partaking of green Sage bloom. Apparently Sage is super hardy because I can't kill it and it's thriving on neglect.

Cilantro gone wild! Never knew Cilantro would grow into such beautiful, feathery blooms.

Cilantro gone wild! Never knew Cilantro would grow into such beautiful, feathery blooms.

Rue! Glorious Rue! This grows wild in some places. Has the most delectable smell. Is a medicinal Herb.

Rue! Glorious Rue! This grows wild in some places. Has the most delectable smell. Is a medicinal Herb.

Green Tomatoes

Green Tomatoes

Wee Cucumber with it's blossom still attached

Wee Cucumber with it's blossom still attached

Veggie Garden and back yard overview

Veggie Garden and back yard overview

I hope to be sharing recipes and research as I learn how to harvest and use the various herbs and veggies. In the meantime does anybody have an incredible (preferably cultured??) recipe for Green Tomato Chutney? I’ve never made it before but would like to try.