Tag Archives: cooking

farm dinners?

So, the fella forwarded me an invite to another of our friend’s quarterly farm supper events… and had one of his always-pragmatic suggestions… that “instead of writing dear diaries to the internet world, maybe you can plan and execute farm dinners. hmm. just a thought.”  Those who know me know that this is a frequent day-dream of mine… I just have a hard time a) with the current state of our venue(s), and b) with the idea of charging my friends to come over for dinner. 

As far as issue a)… either I could get creative and use someone else’s space… (Catington Station? Ahem?)… get a hustle on and get our house put together, or capitalize on the current rough slate we’ve got.  Sure, we’ll just throw a tarp over the double stack of insulation and work-related mess, issue our guests parkas at the door, and charge them double for the grittiness of it.  Free dinner for anyone who manages to shoot the rat. 

Yes, the rat, which has set up camp behind the oven, evaded numerous pellet-gun assassination attempts, tip-toed around the jumbo glue-traps placed on either side of the rear of the oven, and stolen the peanut I used to bait the snap-trap on the counter.  Ew.  Crafty little bastard… and I can’t poison it as I’m afraid it will die IN the oven.  The fella of course countered that the rat could be the first course… “organic indoor raised free range rat”.  I’ve eaten ‘coon.  I’ve eaten squirrel.  I realize the hypocrisy, and I’m sure the difference is purely semantic, but I can’t see myself trying or preparing rat unless actually starving.  Our friend, to whom we related our woes at New Years, said he’d dispatched many a rat when he resided at The Grand Manor, and suggested sardines as foolproof bait.  I’ll be trying that this afternoon… as soon as I figure out how to ensure that I don’t catch a Rott instead.  I guess that’s one way to train her once and for all to stop counter-surfing when we’re not looking… but a little too harsh for my liking as it could actually really hurt her instead of just teaching her a hard lesson.  Hm.

As far as the charging for dinner thing… I guess that’s my own hang-up and inner-cheapness that I need to get over.  I love feeding people… most folks love my food… and cooking for people is what I paid a LOT of money to learn how to do well.  Most people spend a lot of money going out to eat… why shouldn’t they support what we’re doing at the same time?  That said, send me an email, or comment if you want to get added to the email list if and when we put one of these together!

soyajoy, diy-astyla

You can make your own soymilk? And even tofu? Yep, and it’s so easy, I wanted to teleport myself back to the vegetarian years when I bought the stuff all the time and kick my (even more broke than now) college behind. There are gadgets you can buy that will make it for you (soyajoy, etc.), but you don’t need a machine if you have basic kitchen tools (pot, blender, strainer, brain)… kind of like how you don’t need a “yogurt maker” if you have mason jars and a large pot of warm water… think about how to use what you have to do what you want to do before you throw money at the problem!

Here’s how easy it is:

Soak a cup or so of soybeans overnight in about 4 cups of water (bonus if you buy 50# bags of organic beans from your nearest farmer or mill- it’s $34.50 here from Ted’s Organic Grains in DeKalb… carpool and stock up on all your staples in bulk once and rejoice in lower grocery bills the rest of the year… and them’s drought prices, son… albeit cheaper at the source).

Then throw ’em in the blender with another cup or two of water and get them as smooth as you can.

Add in another 4 cups of water and put the whole mess in a pot.
Stir and bring it up to a boil (it will foam up like crazy at one point, don’t make a mess and let it boil over and scorch all over the stove… ask me how I know).
Seriously, don’t stop stirring or walk away until the foam goes down… this doesn’t take long. Sing yourself a little soy song while you’re at it, or something.
Simmer for 10-15 minutes (this de-activates the trypsin inhibitors in soy that make it impossible to digest the protein otherwise, or so says the Rodale Home Food Systems book on my shelf that like me, came out in 1981). Both of us are still good sources of useful information, haha.

Strain it through a fine mesh strainer and/or cheesecloth (or a clean pillowcase? use whatever you’ve got… coarse fabric or doubled cheesecloth in a strainer is probably best).

Press out all the drops with a spatula or the back of a ladle. Rinse a bit by pouring more water through and strain again if you want thinner soymilk and to get out the last of the goodies, especially if you’re making tofu with the soymilk and don’t care about the texture of the milk,,. if you’re not, reserve the “first pressings” for drinking and the later bits for cooking with.

There you go! You can add vanilla, honey, sugar, cocoa powder, Tang (ew!) or anything else that strikes your fancy. Now if I only liked soy in my coffee, I’d be set for quarterly grocery runs… Still hooked on the dairy wagon for now as long as I require that caffeine IV drip of joe.. we’ve all got our vices, hey? Actually, I’m fine with powdered milk in my coffee but the fellow draws the line there. Fair enough.

The bean pulp that’s left is called okara- you can season it and use it as a meat replacer or stretcher (the same Rodale book has a surprisingly yummy recipe for “soysage”) or feed it to your chickens! They LOVE it.
Here’s the mise for my soysage, aka “cheatloaf”, which is surprisingly tasty:

What will really blow you away is how easy it is to make tofu at this point… and how similar it is to making cheese, if you’ve ever done that (don’t worry if you haven’t, it’s not rocket science and you can still eat your mistakes)!

Mix up a cup of water and 1 1/4 t. epsom salts (or nigari or calcium sulfate if you have those… I don’t). Bring the soymilk back up to a boil, add the mixture one third at a time, letting it boil again and stirring gently between each addition.

Kill the heat and let sit for a few minutes, and you should get soy curds and whey! Back to the singing… “little miss moffet, sat on a toffet, eating her bean curds, oh hey!”

Ladle into a mold (anything food safe and porous… strainer works fine again, though I have a couple plastic cheese molds that I saved from some store bought panela that had ridiculously sturdy “disposable” molds as packaging) and let drain. Press with a weight on top if you want firmer curds.
Use the whey in your next soup stock or bread. Mind blown! Sooo cheap, it’s almost free.

In other home dairy news… our neighbor just got goats! So in addition to the visiting goats at the park, we also have a trio of permanent resident Nigoras (Angora and Nigerian Dwarf crosses)… Olga and her daughter, and little Walter, the future stud-muffin who for now is getting pushed around by the ladies. So there is goat milk soap in the future… and our neighbor agreed to teach me to weld in exchange for soap-making lessons. I love our street. Most of the time…