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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Preserving Pears

Sometimes we joke that we bought our yard and the house came with it. That's because in the warm months, there are times when the house gets neglected because we are focusing our energy on the backyard, which includes mature fruit trees- 1 pear and 1 apple, 3 raised bed gardens, a 200 square ft. rain garden, 2 compost bins, and-most recently-aronia berry bushes and 2 paw paws! The fall is filled with lots of preserving, and in the past we couldn't go through the pears fast enough- even dehydrating them (which is excellent) only uses a few at a time, and the thing with pears is that they are ripe for about a week, so the window to do something with all that tasty fruit is small!
So, I wanted to share what I did this year.

First, I boiled some water and got a big bowl of ice water ready. I had the idea that I was going to hold the pear by the stem and dip it in the water, then put it in the ice water to cool (to make it easier to remove the skin, like you do with tomatoes). This didn't end up working, because it takes pears much longer to soften their skins than tomatoes. I ended up dropping a couple of pears into the boiling water and removing them with a slotted spoon after a few minutes. Still, the skins did not just rub off.

I ended up using a paring (pear-ing) knife to peel off the peal, but it was worth using the boiling water method first, because peeling off a softened skin is much easier than a hard one.
Once the skin and core were removed, I sliced the pear and put it in a bowl with a little water and lemon juice in it.

When I was done, I put the pear slices in quart ziplocks with some of the acidic water, tried to squeeze as much air out as possible, and stuck them in the freezer for use in desserts this winter!

Don't forget to compost!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Best (Super) Foods!

Lately, I have been finding a lot of lists compiling SUPER foods- the best for your health. Do they agree? Let's look at 3 sources. (* means it shows up on more than one list)

1st, from Environmental Nutrition:
Brazil Nuts
Butternut Squash

Next, it's from Forbes (here's the link)
Raw chocolate
Black tea
Tomato paste*

Advice from Dr. Terry Wahls:
Mustard greens
Romaine lettuce
Leaf lettuce
Bell peppers

And here is a great food pyramid!
In conclusion, for a nutrition-boost, make a meal that includes avocado, blueberries, tomatoes and kale. Now you know what to put on the grocery list!

Sunday, November 14, 2010


I have been attempting to make homemade tofu lately, with local organic Iowa soybeans. The first try was pretty successful, despite the amount of time it took and the difficulty of the clean-up afterward. The second time, I tried to triple the batch and I wasn't as successful. I didn't have proper equipment for that quantity and in the end, it didn't turn out as firm as I would have liked. But when you make homemade tofu or soy milk, you get a lot of okara, which is the by-product of making tofu/soy milk. Literally, in Japanese, it translates to "honorable shell". It is high in fiber, protein and nutrients. Some Japanese farmers use it for livestock feed, it also can be an ingredient in high-protein cat and dog food, and it can be good for us humans to eat too!
First, I'll give you a rough outline of how tofu is made. You mix soybeans and water, blend it into a milky substance, and bring it to a boil. Then you pour that into a multiple-folded cheesecloth or a fine-woven towel in a strainer, and the part that strains out is the soy milk. After squeezing as much milk out as possible, you have dried-out pulpy stuff left, which is the okara. (You can then go on to heat up the soy milk and add nigari salt, which coagulates it, and pour it back into the cheesecloth- "tofu stock" will strain out and what's left in the cheesecloth is the curdled soy milk, or tofu).
In my experience of making tofu twice, I ended up with more okara than tofu. It can be composted, or frozen for future use, but I'm the adventurous type, so I did some research and found this blog- all about okara! I also got some ideas from The Book of Tofu and I have made chicken-less (or un-chicken) nuggets, okara muffins, okara cookies, okara granola, and okara english muffin bread. The baked goods don't necessarily taste much different, but they are much more filling, and good for you!
On the off-chance that someone out there on the world wide web is looking for something to do with their okara, I will be posting some of these recipes for you soon.
Above: less then half of the okara from 3 lbs. of soybeans used in chocolate-banana muffins, carrot-almond muffins, chocolate chip cookies, english muffin bread and granola!