Friday, 7 August 2009

Successfully Soft Hamburger Buns

by J. of Badhuman

N. and I have had quite a time making buns that are soft. I know, in this day and age, it's en vouge to have taut buns; but we're not all about that, because we're talking about hamburger buns.

Typically, the interior of our hamburger buns are usually soft, but the crust on most of our buns have been pretty tough. Not like bad-ass tough, but hard tough.

N. found a great recipe at Rosa's Yummy Yums that helped us find, what I believe to be, a fantastic hamburger bun.

It's really easy, and, even if you haven't made bread before, you'll have zero issues with making soft buns.

The whole deal:
1 Cup (250g) Water, lukewarm
2 Tbs (30g) Unsalted butter, at room temperature and creamed
1 Egg (~50g)
3 1/4 Cups (433g) Plain white flour
1/4 Cup (53g) Castor sugar
1 Tsp Salt
1 Tbs Instant yeast
1 Egg yolk (+ 1 Tsp water) -- for egg wash
Sesame seeds

1. Sprinkle the yeast into the water and leave for 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve.
2. Combine all the ingredients and mix well.
3. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured working surface and knead for about 10 minutes until you've made a soft, smooth dough.
4. Place the dough in a clean and lightly greased bowl.
5. Cover it with a towel and let rise for about 1 (or1-1/2) hour, until doubled in size.
6. Divide the dough into 8 pieces and shape each piece into a flattened ball.
7. Place the buns on greased baking sheets, cover with a towel and let rise 30 to 40 minutes, until they're quite puffy and doubled in size.
8. Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F).
9, Glaze the buns with the egg yolk and water mixture, then sprinkle with sesame seeds.
10. Bake the buns for 12 to 15 minutes, until they are golden brown.
11. Remove them from the oven and cool them on a wire rack.What didn't we do?We did not egg wash, nor did we sesame seed sprinkle.

What did we do differently?
Yeast is a pain. I added a little bit more, and, not only did it cut down on proof time, it allowed me to pretty much get a guaranteed good rise. It's just what I do.
I also added an egg yolk, and it gave the buns a great color.

If you like your buns a little soft, but still quite hearty, give these a shot. They're good!

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Eat What the Garden Gives

By Marc @ GardenDesk

Many posts here at the Co-Op have been about eating lately, and that has really helped me focus again when it comes to the vegetable garden. Several things have not gone well this season in the garden, and I was getting pretty down about it. The whole "look" of the vegetable garden just doesn't look pretty this year and many of the crops aren't performing up to par compared to a "normal" year.

Reading about eating, cooking and harvesting has reminded me that the real purpose of the vegetable garden is to be more self-sustainable by feeding the family. I have complained much this year about the lack of big and beautiful tomatoes. If you have ever read my personal blog, you know that I am a tomato fanatic. In years past, I not only have enjoyed eating and preserving tomatoes, but I often get sidetracked on growing the largest tomato, growing odd tasting white tomatoes or seeing how many different colors I can produce. A lot of this kind of growing is more for novelty than for feeding the family. This year, groundhogs ate many of my tomato plants and the weather has not been helpful with the surviving plants. It has been so cool and wet that I am just hoping that my tomato plants don't develop blight!

The lack of tomatoes this summer has forced me to look at the garden more as a whole. Even though I have felt that the summer garden has been a disappointment, we have been able to eat many meals from it. We have had a decent supply of potatoes and green beans, small tomatoes and cucumbers. We have had a large supply of onions, bell peppers and zucchini. The weather conditions that have been hurting the tomatoes helped the onions, which I wrote about in my last GardenDesk post.

Since we have two teenage daughters, they are increasingly interested in cooking. It has been fun to be able to go to the garden as a family, harvest some veggies and make a quick meal together. The girls think it is so neat that they often take pictures of our meals before we eat them. Since we mainly have onions and peppers we have had fajitas several times now. Here are a few quick pictures:

Peppers, Onions and Tomatoes from the garden.

Grilling them up and ready to eat.

The other thing that Renee and the girls have had fun with in the kitchen this year is zucchini. They have found many ways to prepare it for the table.

Of course there is Zucchini Bread:

and frying it up with some onions:

One of my favorites is what they call "summer bake", which is like a quiche with zucchini, onion and tomato:

We have many other pictures of different dishes that we have eaten from the garden. I find this a bit funny, but it has helped me to remember why we are raising these vegetables in the first place. Even though the bounty looks different this year from past years, I suppose that we are being simple and frugal by eating what the garden is giving us.

We have also been able to freeze a lot of zucchini and we are currently looking for a dehydrator to help us preserve much of the bounty. I suppose that is material for a future post.

I hope you too have been able to raise and eat some of your own food. There truly is a simple satisfaction in it.

Keep Growing,

Monday, 3 August 2009

Eating Simply

By Frugal Trenches

Well, it is supposed to be summer here in England, but the weather is more akin to March or October which many moan about, but for me it gives me a chance to partake in some of my favourite autumn and winter simple activities. First stop is making soup! My kitchen sink soup is a frugal, old favourite of mine. It is versatile and a regular for my family, friends and readers, many of whom suggested I share it with you.

Serves 6 or if there is only 1 of you, it serves you 6 times ;0)

1 large onion - cut up into small pieces

3 stalks of celery - cut up into small pieces

1 6-8 oz can of peas (or whatever you have in your cupboard – corn would work, as would canned green beans)

1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes

1 cup green lentils

3 cups veggie stock

1 cup of water

1 tsp tarragon

1 tsp thyme

2 large garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp paprika

pepper to taste

In a saucepan heat up the oil on medium heat. Add the onion and saute until it is all soft/translucent (usually 3-5 minutes). Add the garlic, tarragon, thyme, paprika and saute for another minute. Add the can of tomatoes, veggie stock and lentils. Cover and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 40 minutes - 50 minutes until the lentils are tender. Add in the celery (cut up finely), tinned peas plus 1 cup of water and cook for another 5-7 minutes. Add in the pepper to taste. Serve hot!

This soup freezes exceptionally well, I usually try to have 2-3 portions in my freezer as a quick meal when in a rush or when I have unexpected lunch guests. I cost making this soup at around 30 pence - $0.46 cents US per portion. It is filling and healthy and goes well with homemade bread or scones, or even a nice simple salad on the side, a spinach salad is my favourite option!

Afterwards I usually head out to my favourite seaside spot for a walk, there really isn't a more simple or frugal way to spend my weekends!

What is your favourite frugal simple meal? Do you have a favourite frugal and simple activity?

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Garden Help Online

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

There is some fantastic info online for gardeners. I often do a quick search if the computer's on, rather than hunting down the right page in a gardening book. Books are fantastic resources and I love to sit and browse and absorb all the info. I use the computer more for quick research tasks though.

Here are some fact sheets I've found useful -

Bulleen Art & Garden Fact Sheets

Burke's Backyard Gardening Fact Sheets

Gardening Australia's Fact Sheets

Introduction to Permaculture - 155 page pdf file

Other places to search for info are your local council's website, nursery websites within your state, local tree-planting/revegetation groups, the Department of Environment, and sites for other gardening TV shows and publications such as Earth Garden.

Fact sheets make a useful addition to a gift of potted plants or seeds. Print out appropriate fact sheet and include with the gift if the recipient is likely to need some info to keep their growing gift alive.

Another source of info is online forums. I've found some great friends and answers at sites like -

Aussies Living Simply

Permaculture Research Institute

There are more forums attached to the gardening TV and magazine websites, as well as more specific ones to do with chooks, bushtucker, natives, roses, etc. Happy networking!

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Salsa Time

By Throwback at Trapper Creek

Many times when people first start cooking from scratch, there is a trend to try and duplicate commercial foods in the home kitchen because that is what we know and are familiar with. I usually don't agree with this thinking, but sometimes it is a hard sell to other family members and the words, "It's better for you... ," don't mean anything when textures and tastes are too different. And even for me, salsa is one of those home preserved products that I don't care for unless the texture is similar to what is available in the grocery store. So began my quest for a salsa recipe that I could home can safely, and that met my taste and texture criteria.

Here's a post from my archives (the photos and dates are from last fall, I have had one ripe tomato to date this year) that is timely right now as many people's tomatoes are ripening fast, and salsa is a good way to get rid of the glut. So I thought I would share my recipe, and all the trials and tribulations of making salsa and getting someone to eat it.

As you can see, my tomato plants are starting to look a little peaked. I haven’t watered them, since the first week in August, (this will concentrate the sugars) and I have been pretty rough on them, trimming back the new growth. This is my boring guy winner, Costoluto Genovese from Cook’s Garden. This is the one that tastes the best in the salsa to us. But finding a salsa recipe that is safe to can, and people still find palatable isn’t always easy. Too runny, too hot, not hot enough, isn’t like store bought. You name it, I’ve heard the complaints.

The general rule of safe canning is DON’T mess with a recipe, especially when you are combining low acid ingredients with acid ingredients. I think salsa is the number one home canned product that tenses out the Extension Service. But, you know me, I can’t leave well enough alone. It also helps to have a foodie friend that just so happens to have a food testing lab, who after eating my salsa, and then making her own, is still alive. ;) We have tested this salsa for pH, and it is in the safe range, or 4.4 – 4.5. Just to make sure, it didn’t lose acidity over time, she tested a year old jar last week, and it was the same. So proceed if you want, but keep the quantities the same on the peppers and onions, if you want hotter salsa, use a hotter variety of pepper. I make this two ways, one with chopped fresh tomatoes, which is I use for cooking Mexican flavored stews, and one with roasted tomato puree that will have a thicker consistency similar to store bought salsa. I got this recipe originally from the cooking section of the newspaper, so the original recipe was a tested one. The changes I have made are:
* I doubled the quantity, but did not change the ratio of low acid to high acid.
* I substituted roasted tomato puree for the chopped tomatoes, to make a thicker product.

MILD SALSA makes 7 – 8 pints

10 cups peeled, finely chopped tomatoes OR 10 cups roasted tomato puree*
2 cups sweet pepper, finely chopped
2/3 cup mild chilies, finely chopped
2 cups onion, finely chopped
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
1 cup cider vinegar (at least 5% acidity)
2 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
4 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons Tabasco sauce

Note: you can use any kind of pepper, just do not exceed 2 2/3 cups total.

Combine all ingredients, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Fill hot jars, leaving 1/2 headspace. Attach lids and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. (1001 – 6000 feet process 20 minutes; above 6000 feet, process 25 minutes) For an added degree of safety, in case you are using sweeter, low acid tomatoes, you can add 1/4 teaspoon citric acid per pint, or 1/2 teaspoon per quart.

*To roast tomatoes: Preheat oven to 400*, cut tomatoes in half, place cut side down in a jelly roll or roasting pan. Drizzle with olive oil. Roast until golden and juice has evaporated. Depending on the variety of tomatoes this may take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. At this point, you can pluck off the skins, or puree in a food processor, or run the tomatoes through a food mill. If the mixture is still too runny for salsa, cook down in a crock pot to the desired consistency.

I have found that having home canned salsa in my pantry has been a great addition, lending just that perfect flavor to many dishes - rarely do we eat just chips and salsa.

Happy salsa making!