Saturday, October 26, 2013

It's Time to Plant Garlic! (And, of Course, a Recipe)

I live in the Pacific Northwest, and it's the season to plant fall garlic (September through November; very early spring in southern climes), which will be ready for harvest next summer. Garlic is easy to grow, and doesn't take much pampering other than weeding and possibly a bit of fertilizer in the early spring. And since garlic is pungent, it isn't bothered by many garden pests--a rather carefree addition to your food garden.

I have some cloves that have begun sprouting, so these will be what I use when I plant outside later today:

There are several kinds of garlic, and while many varieties are white, there are lovely colors to choose from as well.

Hardneck or top-setting garlic grows small bulbs that set on flower stalks with larger bulbs underground. The cloves seem to be more uniform in size, but there are fewer in each bulb.

Softneck garlic grows bulbs underground that are larger than hardneck bulbs, and they rarely set flowers. However, many of the cloves are smaller than the hardneck varieties; the outer cloves are good sized, but the inner cloves tend to be small.

Elephant garlic isn't really a garlic at all; it's a type of leek. They seem to have become popular in recent years, but I've never grown them so I can't really comment on them.

Garlic is sold in garden centers and through seed catalogs, and there's a lot to choose from. But I tend to simply plant garlic that's started sprouting that I purchased from the store and didn't get around to using. I buy organic garlic, and that way I don't have to worry about the bulbs being sprayed with a sprout inhibitor. So, if you decide to go the grocery store route, buy organic, or ask the produce person whether their garlic has been sprayed. If it has, don't use it.

Garlic is care-free, but it's still a good idea to plant the cloves in raised beds or a large container if your garden soil is heavy. If you decide to grow in a container, it should be at least 2 feet wide and deep. If you know your soil tends toward acid, apply a light dusting of lime. Also, if your weather is very cold without the insulating value of snow cover, you may want to mulch them.

Plant individual cloves 2 inches deep and about 4 inches apart. Plant them root side down (the pointed end goes up and the blunt end goes down). A 10-foot row of garlic can yield as much as 5 pounds of garlic.

Once planted, keep the garlic watered (not a problem in the rainy Pacific Northwest!), and fertilize with something nitrogen-rich like bloodmeal in the early spring. They should be ready to harvest around the beginning of July, but start checking them in late June. Of course, maturity depends on the variety you planted as well as your local climate, so ask around and see what experienced gardeners in your area have to say on the subject. Leaves turning brown don't necessarily mean they are ready--the garlic can be mature even with green leaves present, so checking is your best bet.

Dig and dry the garlic out of the sun for several days. Gently brush off dirt and then remove tops and roots or else braid them together. They store well in a dark closet or pantry. Keep in mind that if you store them in the refrigerator, the humidity will tend to make them sprout quicker.

Roasted Garlic

Take garlic bulbs (I usually roast two as that amounts to a lot of garlic), and take off a bit of the papery outer covering if it's dirty; otherwise leave as is. Cut off the top of the bulbs so the tops of the cloves are exposed. Place a small spritz of olive oil in the middle of aluminum foil squares (one for each bulb), set the bulbs on the oil and then drizzle on a very small amount of olive oil over the tops of the bulbs, about 1 teaspoon should do. Wrap them in the foil (one bulb to each packet) and set them in a baking dish. Bake at 325 degrees for 45-60 minutes or until they are soft. The garlic will squeeze right out of the bulbs.

Use this garlic "mash" on sourdough bread (dip the bread into olive oil/balsamic vinegar) or mix it with butter for a garlic butter spread. Or, you can sauté a batch of fresh greens and use the roasted garlic to season the greens along with some Parmesan cheese. The garlic is also good on cheese and crackers. Really, the possibilities are numerous, so use your imagination.

Happy eating!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels Recipe--Delicious!

Last month I delivered my baking cookbook manuscript to the publisher (due out August 2014) and promptly realized that I had forgotten to include a recipe for Cinnamon Raisin Bagels. So I went into the kitchen and without much ado, came up with this recipe. Just a quick note: Bagels are very easy to make, but most cooks never try them, and I'm not sure why. Even if you aren't a bread baker, they are quite easy to pull off, so give them a try. I think you'll be glad you did. And this particular recipe is a taste treat. Serve these bagels toasted with butter or cream cheese and you can't go wrong!

Cinnamon Raisin Bagels

Bagels Rising

Bagels Boiling


Cinnamon Raisin Bagels--Yum!

4 1/2 tsp. (2 packages) yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 T. sugar
1 tsp. salt
4 cups flour, more or less
1 T. cinnamon, slightly heaped
1 1/2 cups raisins
1 gallon water
1 T. honey

In a large bowl, mix together the yeast, warm water, sugar, and salt. Let stand until frothy; about 10 minutes.

Beat in 2 cups of the flour along with the cinnamon and beat for about 3 minutes. Stir in raisins and then continue to add flour until a dough forms that can be turned out onto a floured surface and kneaded. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes, adding small amounts of flour as you knead so it doesn't stick to your work surface. When kneading is complete, divide the dough into 12 equal size balls and poke a hole in the middle of each ball; Gently pull to form a bagel shape (the hole in the middle will be quite small and the dough will be puffy; see picture above). Set the bagels on a greased baking sheet, cover with a towel, and let rise 35-45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Bring the gallon of water to which the honey has been added to a full boil. Gently lift bagels using a slotted spatula and place them in the boiling honey water; boil them, about 3 or 4 at a time, for 30 seconds; turn them over and boil for another 30 seconds. Drain them on absorbent paper or a tea towel and then place them on a greased baking sheet. Bake them in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove bagels from the oven and allow them to cool on a wire rack.

These are so good! They have a great balance of cinnamon and raisins and they aren't too sweet. I hope you try them and let me know what you think.

Happy baking!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sailor Jacks--A Highly Spiced Muffin

Recently, a friend of mine was waxing poetic about Sailor Jacks. I had to admit to her that I had never had the culinary pleasure...and in fact, I didn't even know what they were. She set me straight in a hurry, and suggested I make some, bring them in to work, and ask for everyone's opinion. Good idea. (The lovely folks I work with are great sports about taste testing my kitchen experiments!)

Here's the end result, and then I'll give you the recipe as I made them, plus my feelings on the subject.

Sailor Jacks

Sailor Jacks Recipe:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter and 3/4 cup of brown sugar. Beat until smooth. Add 2 eggs and mix until well blended. Either by hand with a large wooden or using an electric mixer on the lowest setting, blend in well 1 1/2 cups sour cream, 1 1/2 cups molasses, 2 tablespoons allspice, 1 tablespoon cloves, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. (You read those amounts correctly. These are highly spiced!)

On slow speed or by hand, add 1 teaspoon each of baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add 3 cups flour (some recipes I looked at said to use cake flour, but I used regular all-purpose flour and had no problems) and mix well. The batter will be thick. Add a heaping cup of raisins and stir them in.

Scoop batter into 12 greased muffin tins; the cups will be very full (about 1/3 cup batter per cup), but it works. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Be careful not to overbake them or they will be dry. When the muffins are done baking, place them upside down on a wire rack that has been set inside a four-sided pan (such as a large jelly roll pan) to cool for about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the powdered sugar glaze: Whisk together 2 cups powdered sugar and 1/4 - 1/2 cup water, depending on how thick you like the glaze, but keeping it thin enough to pour. Pour the glaze evenly over the muffins(use a spoon to help you get full coverage over the tops and sides of the sailor jacks). The excess glaze will drip into the jelly roll pan so you don't have a mess on the counter to clean up afterward...because the pouring is messy! The glaze will harden as it sets. These taste better the second day, by the way.

*  *  *  *  *
I tried my first sailor jack and thought they were WAY too spicy. I mean, they had a bite to them I've never tasted before. But I'd told my friend I'd make some so I brought them in to work as planned. I was nervous about how they would be received so I whipped up a loaf of banana nut bread as a peace offering. I requested that everyone have at least a brownie bite of the sailor jacks before digging in to the banana bread. (You'd think I was trying to foist vegetables on kids the way I carried on!)
To my utter surprise, most everyone loved them! And after the dust settled it dawned on me that the most ardent sailor jack admirers were all male. Interesting.
Now were I to make them again (which I will do), I'd try a batch with half of the called-for amounts of spices and see what that would taste like. You might want to start there and work your way up to the full dose of spices if you think you'd like that.
Anyway, give them a try. The spices used are perfect for our rapidly cooling fall weather. And to my way of thinking, it would be almost a crime to eat a sailor jack without a cup of tea or coffee to go with them. It's a perfect pairing!
Enjoy, and may you feel God's presence as you go through your days.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

72-Hour Emergency Kit Is a Hedge Against Bad Weather!

I realize that it's only the beginning of October, but here in the Pacific Northwest we recently experienced a series of massive storm systems that rolled through the state. They dumped record-breaking inches of rain for this time of year, and high winds blew down trees and power lines resulting in some of us temporarily being without electricity. So, I thought it would be a good time to remind you to gather together a basic 72-hour emergency kit. Then, when bad weather or some other unforeseen emergency strikes, you and your loved ones will be prepared to ride it out.

I'm  going to give you several options: The first option is the bottom-of-the-line emergency kit. The upside is that it's all spelled out for you so you don't have to do any figuring. But it's a fairly miserly amount of food, so we'll explore other options that will give you and your loved ones more and better meals.

Following is a list for a "72-Hour Kit-in-a-Box." You can use a large shoe box, or--even better--a plastic box that has a tight fitting lid. You'll need a box for each person in your family. This information comes from an Oregon State Extension service bulletin.

72-Hour Emergency Kit


2 packages chewing gum
2 packages hot chocolate mix
1 1/2 cups trail mix
2 sticks beef jerky
2 packages apple cider mix
1 fruit juice box
4 granola bars
14 pieces hard candy
2 fruit rolls
3 packs soda crackers
1 can hearty soup (if it doesn't have a pop top, you'll need to include a can opener)
2 instant soup packets
2 liter container of water


Day One
Breakfast: 2 granola bars, 1 fruit juice box
Lunch: 1 package soup mix, 1 package soda crackers
Dinner: 1 stick beef jerky, 1 fruit roll
Snacks: 4 pieces hard candy, 3 sticks gum

Day Two:
Breakfast: 1/2 of the trail mix, 1 hot chocolate mix
Lunch: 1 stick beef jerky, 1 apple cider mix
Dinner: can of soup, 1 package soda crackers
Snacks: 5 pieces candy, 4 sticks gum

Day Three:
Breakfast: 1/2 of the trail mix, 1 apple cider mix
Lunch: 1 package soup mix, 1 package soda crackers
Dinner: 2 granola bars, 1 fruit roll, 1 hot cocoa mix
Snacks: 4 pieces candy, 3 sticks gum

Remember to rotate the food and water in your kit every year, or when any of the items go out-of-date. If you keep a list going (tape it to the inside of a kitchen cupboard) you'll be reminded when to rotate.

Now on to better things!

First of all, let's discuss water. It is recommended that you store a gallon of water per person per day. So for a 72-hour emergency kit, that's 3 gallons per person. Given that a gallon of water weighs something over 8 pounds, this is your major consideration both in terms of storage space needed, and weight. There are 55-gallon water drums available (they cost a lot!), but there's no way you could move that large of a container if you needed to evacuate. So my opinion is, stick with no bigger than 5-gallon containers (at about 40 pounds each, moving them is doable). Or buy cases of bottled water. If your containers don't keep light out, store them in a dark area away from any chemicals, fuels, etc. A closet is a good choice. Also, don't stack your water containers unless they are made to withstand the weight as they can warp and crack or give way entirely. You can live for 3 days without food, but you can't live without water, so take the time to figure out your storage in this all-important area.

Food is next on our list. Think in terms of non-perishable or long-term. Here are some ideas to help you menu plan: protein bars, dried fruit, granola, trail mix (if it includes nuts, you'll need to rotate the trail mix every 6 months or so), jerky, peanut butter, pilot bread and crackers, canned fish and meat, ready-to-eat soup, canned fruits and vegetables, canned kid meals (like Spaghetti O's), packaged oatmeal (instant flavored), dry milk powder, infant formula and foods (don't forget a bottle or two!), electrolyte drink powder packets, hot chocolate mix. Depending on what you choose to store, you'll need disposable utensils including bowls and cups, a multi-fuel stove and lighter, cooking pot(s), and a can opener. Obviously, if you don't need to evacuate, you can "shop" your pantry shelves for meals. But having this 72-hour backup is still a good idea. I home can my food in glass jars, but I still buy some cans for emergencies because they can travel without breaking.

Now that you've thought about suitable foods, you'll want to make a menu that will supply your family's needs and tailored to their personal tastes for three days. Come up with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and 2 snacks for each day. Once you have your menu figured out, it will be easy to gather your items in the correct amounts. Keep the menu list with your emergency storage so you remember what you plan to serve. It's also a good idea to write down the "good until" date for each item.

Personal items. Prescription and over-the-counter medicine (pain relievers, cold and flu meds, anti-diarrhea tablets, etc.), toilet paper and paper towels, hand sanitizer, soap in a container, feminine supplies, diapers, moistened wipes (baby wipes are a good choice), toothbrush and toothpaste, plastic garbage bags with ties for sanitation, bucket (for same). Also pack a change of clothing (including warm jackets, hats, and gloves if needed) and sturdy and comfortable walking shoes suitable for the current weather conditions. No matter what time of year it is, it's always a good idea to pack a rainproof windbreaker or poncho.

First aid kit. You can buy ready-made first aid kits, but if you choose to put your own together, remember to include bandages, ointments, antiseptic, tweezers, scissors, splints, tape, latex or vinyl gloves, tooth pain gel, children's meds, etc.

Miscellaneous but important stuff to have on hand would be things like a flashlight and weather band radio (with extra batteries--or else buy the kind that you can crank or that use solar power), whistle, sleeping bags or warm blankets, strike-anywhere matches (waterproof or in a waterproof container), multi-tool (like a Leatherman), wrench and pliers to turn off utilities, gloves, small container of unscented chlorine bleach with eyedropper for purifying water, plastic sheeting, duct tape, strong rope, saw, axe, shovel, cash (in a waterproof container), emergency contact list, medical/insurance/financial info, deck of cards or other small games.

Pets need consideration as well. If you need to evacuate, you'll want to have ready a carrier, pet food and water, litter and litter box, and any medicine your pet might need.

You can prepare a lot or a little--the choice is yours. But by giving some thought now to the possibilities, you'll be able to make rational decisions about what will be important for you and your family during an emergency.

You can even get your entire family involved in putting together a good emergency kit. Make some popcorn and hot chocolate, gather everyone around the table, and brainstorm ideas together. Have fun with it, and then kick back and enjoy those winter storms because you'll be prepared for anything they throw at you.