Update 4/2– Garam Masala, Candles and Soap

For the most part I have been focusing on spending time with my family and healing.  Every little moment seems to matter so much more.  It feels so good to just be able to cook a meal or spend time relaxing with my DH, I can’t even tell you.  Things I might have taken a bit for granted just a month ago.

One of the interests I’ve entertained myself with is spices.  Or rather, spice blends.  There’s been several but I’ll tell you about my favorite one.  I was liking  paneer (cheese) so much (both the making and the eating) I started diving into Indian Cooking blogs and Indian-fusion sorts of recipes for other dishes that included or complemented it.  Of course then I needed garam masala (lit. “hot mixture”), which I haven’t found locally.  So I took to making my own from the items I easily had on hand.  Eventually I will use whole spices as fresh and local as possible, roasted and/or ground myself to match the quality and freshness of the homemade paneer, but for now, after several attempts, our favorite quick mix is this:

Mix equal portions of ground cinnamon, coriander, ginger, and cayenne pepper.  Add a double portion of ground cumin.  Add a half-portion each of ground black peppercorns, cardamom and all-spice.  Store in a glass jar or other airtight container in a cool, dry place.

IMG_3653Naturally, then, when a friend shared their abundance of fresh, baby spinach I turned to Indian Fare.  I’d bookmarked several spinach and potato dishes that reminded me of a dish I’d enjoyed back when I lived in Arizona and combined them to produce what I was looking for.  The results turned out so delicious I’ve made them several times in the past two weeks!  The closest recipe is here.  The changes I made are that I used my processor to do the grating.  I cooked the spinach along with four large potatoes, peeled and diced, in a large skillet with minimal water and a lid (to get the potatoes cooked quicker with less water).  I also added a grated carrot, a clove of minced garlic, salt, pepper and a few sprigs of fresh parsley to the spinach and potato mixture (it all gets blended up together at the end).  I omitted the cayenne but instead used 2 tsp. of my garam masala spice mix.  And I used sour cream instead of evaporated milk.  The best way I’ve ever served spinach – hands down!

Since the last update I’ve also completed two exciting indoor craft projects with my Dear Husband I want to share.  Candles and Soap.

With the candles we were able to perfect our mix, method and container/wick widths to get a pour we like and can predict.  They burn clean, even and slow with a gentle pear scent. Next time we will use a bit shorter jar.  These are 20-hour candles.  I really wish you could smell them:

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DH and I had planned our soap adventure for awhile now, but like many things lately it needed to be postponed.  We were spurred into action by a request from a friend for all-natural, lemon guest soaps.  Thus, these lemon bars were born:

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Our soap is a blend of organic goat milk, vegetable glycerin, coconut oil and soy protein.  Natural iron oxide powder produces the yellow color.  Light use of lemon essential oil (5X) provides the desired properties and scent.  It wasn’t as much work as we anticipated and the results were definitely worth it. I think we’ve been bit by the soap-making bug…our list of ideas to try is growing!

Given all the possibilities I don’t know that lemon would have ever placed among my picks, but I already plan on making more for myself when my own sample runs out!  Even though we kept the scent on the fainter side of things, there is something just perfect about the rejuvenating pick-me-up of the lemon when I wash my face in the morning!

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Weekly Update – 2/8

 

We call our homestead/aspiring intentional community The Liberty Project.  I’ve called this place “Heaven” so many times since diving into our adventure last August that I’m starting to think this blog has just been waiting for me to get here!

IMG_3501 (1024x768)Last night we enjoyed the lovely Full Moon in Leo.  Here on the 49th parallel I’m feeling quite happy to see her rise up above the treetops once again!

To honor the Leo-Moon I decided to try something bold and expressive, that I’d never made before.  Roasted grapes!  I’d noticed a trend toward the ingredient and had saved several recipes to try.  In the end I went with a roasted grape, goat cheese, and honey pizza that I adapted from this bruschetta recipe.  Roasted chicken with thyme, lemon, onion and grape adapted from this recipe.  And a sauce for the chicken that I made from the other roasted ingredients pulsed through the blender, white wine, a tablespoon of apricot preserves and a touch of honey.  Spectacular is a good way to describe the meal – just like the Leo Moon!

I also tried an experiment.  For the grapes roasted with the chicken (that I knew would be made into sauce) I used canned grapes instead of fresh.  Canned grapes?!  Why, yes!  You see, back at the end of Fall, after the sweet and savory jams, I canned the last of our grapes – 7 quarts – using an Amish method I’d read about.  Just to try it and see.  That is, the grapes are left whole and kept minimally processed, canned in a water bath and nothing more.  Although most sources report that grapes aren’t so good for canning in this way, I could see how they would fit nicely into our repertoire if it worked out and thankfully we’ve loved them!  I’m going to can grapes again next year, too!  When I open a quart, I strain off the liquid, mix it with just a bit of agave or honey, and pop it into the freezer for an after-dinner grape-ice treat.  Because of the grape’s softness, the seeds are quick to pop out, if they haven’t  already released themselves, and in specific applications they are perfect.  I’ve used them to make a  grape syrup for peanut butter French toast and a grape cake dessert, among other entirely successful ventures.IMG_3523 (1024x768)

The night before the Full Moon we brought home our new doggie, Sara.  Her mother is a purebred Rottweiler and her father, pure Black Lab.  She was born the day after my husband’s birthday back in the first week of November.  We first learned of Sara’s existence on the Winter Solstice, when she was for sale for $200.  My DH had an overwhelming feeling about her; he had long expressed the desire to cross paths with a Rott-mix puppy.  Yet we’d only talked about coming across a rescue (we watch Petfinder.com), and never buying.  On a whim he gave Sara’s seller our number and we left it at that.  Then on the weekend we were surprised with a phone call saying that Sara’s new owner couldn’t give the puppy the attention she needs and that we could have her if we picked her up by Monday, when she was being taken to the shelter.  She’s housebroken and proving to be really smart and great with the kids!

Also in this last week I guess you could say that I’ve been exploring my love for cheese.  This was originally inspired by my addiction to Mattar Paneer and the realization that like everything else, I could make the dish more often for less money and with better quality if I made the Paneer (cheese) myself.  My final product (And I got to choose the source of the milk and it cost less than $2 for a pound.):

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This has led me to start delving into other simple cheese recipes like this and this.  And exploring the idea of waxing cheese to store it in the pantry.  I can’t wait to find a great sale on cheese just to try it out!  I’ll let you know how it goes!