Friday, July 29, 2011

Mock Split Pea Soup

Yep, it's another Zucchinipocolypse special!

    Mock Split Pea Soup
  • 5 medium zucchinis (we used a mixture of zucchini and pattypan squash - I don't think it changed the flavor that much), shredded or chopped into small pieces
  • 2 cups (or more!) chopped bacon, uncooked
  • 1 diced onion
  • 6 cups broth
  • A dollop of some sort of fat for frying
  • A few chopped up carrots, celery, or whatever else you like in split pea soup
  • Spices to taste. I used about 2 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp paprika, and a tablespoon of oregano. Some pepper would be good. The broth was pretty salty already, so I didn't add any.

Fry bacon in the bottom of a lightly greased soup pot until about halfway cooked (you can chop up your veggies while it is cooking). Separate out 1/2 to 2/3 of the bacon and set aside. Add onion (and more grease if necessary), and fry until softened. Add zucchini, and enough broth to cover the zucchini. Add spices, and simmer for a half hour or so.

While it is simmering, in a separate pot, take the remainder of the broth, and cook the carrots, celery, and anything other veggie you're adding. (Alternatively, use roasted veggies that are already soft)

After about 1/2 hour, remove zucchini from heat. Use an immersion blender to blend it up or pour into a normal blender (be very careful with this - make sure your blender is designed to withstand heat, it is covered properly, don't overfill, and so forth). Pour pureed soup back into saucepan. Mix in reserved bacon, cooked veggies, and add remaining broth gradually until you get the consistency you want. It's ready at this point, but you can cook a bit longer to let the flavors meld more.

The resulting soup looks and tastes a lot like split pea soup, but the consistency is smoother. I'm sure you could adapt this to use with to use with ham instead of bacon, or even make it vegetarian with a good vegetable broth base, though the smoky flavor of the bacon is what makes it like split pea soup (smoked almonds have been suggested as a vegetarian alternative). I made it with fish broth and added canned fish after pureeing, and it was like a thin chowder.

According to LemurDa, this soup (minus the carrots or other additional veggies and with homemade broth) has about 11 grams of carbs per 10 oz. serving.1

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

While we're on this zucchini kick...

    Zucchini Frappuccino
  • 1 tray coffee ice cubes (this is what we do if we have leftover coffee)
  • 1 smallish zucchini
  • enough liquid (coffee, milk of some sort, water) so that the blender will work (I needed like 1/4 cup)
  • Optional: Sweetener, ripe banana, flavored syrup, cocoa powder, etc. to taste

Put stuff in blender. Blend. Makes about one "venti" or two "tall" servings.

Other recipes for frappuccino-knockoffs I've seen call for plain ice cubes/crushed ice + strong coffee. That would presumably work, too. Coffee ice cubes were what I happened to have on hand. If you go that route, I'd think you'd want to blend all ingredients except ice well first, then you can blend the ice just until it gets to the right texture. (Updated: I tried this method because we didn't have any more coffee ice cubes, and it didn't work well for me. The coffee was still slightly warm when I tried, and the blender too efficient at blending ice, so it just ended up watery, not icy, and not very good. I drank it anyways because I had to go to work. Update 2: Coffee ice cube method definitely works better. And paddypan squash is just as satisfactory as zucchini.)

It doesn't taste like zucchini, with a caveat - our garden zucchinis may be more mild flavored than zucchinis found at the store. If your attempts at making zucchini-stuff come out too strongly zucchini flavored, peeling may help - the peel, especially of older/larger zucchinis, has a bitter flavor. Add zucchini gradually to get a balance between creaminess and zucchininess, and be sure you use sweetener or some other flavoring. Or track down someone with a garden. This time of year they'll probably be happy to unload some zucchini.

If you try any of my crazy recipes, please let me know how it turns out, even if you think it's blech! I always pass them by at least one other set of tastebuds (in this case, a former Starbucks employee), but none of us around here could really be said to have typical American tastes, so it's possible that they're actually all intolerable to anyone who isn't nutso like us. If so, I'd like to know! After all, it's been years since I've had an actual frappuccino.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Unusual abundance

We are starting to experience Zucchinipocolypse.

I'm not crazy about zucchini, particularly cooked, but we're working it out. Raw or lightly cooked, it has such a mild flavor that it's relatively unobtrusive. We've been making zucchini hummus and zucchini pancakes (I shredded carrot, powdered garlic and onion, and chopped bacon. The bacon really makes the dish!). I made zucchini "noodles" by shaving thin strips, which I mixed into a curry. Tonight I'm making this soup (roughly, anyways). (Edit: The soup turned out awesome. It's a cream soup with no cream! LemurGirl even asked for seconds.)

For surprising uses... it works well as an ice cream base.

    Zucchini-Cantaloupe Ice Cream
  • 1/2 cantaloupe (ours was one the small side, and the flavor was noticeable, but not particularly strong. Half a normal-sized cantaloupe would probably work well.)
  • 1 normal-sized zucchini
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (not strictly necessary - I used the leftover pulp from making coconut milk)
  • Coconut milk (just enough so that everything else will blend)

Cut cantaloupe and zucchini into chunks. Put in blender with coconut, and blend until smooth, adding just enough coconut milk to allow it to blend. Put mixture in ice cream maker, or freeze into ice cubes then blend in a high-power blender or food processor. The blender method didn't work particularly well for us. We usually use the ice cream maker, but LemurBoy desperately wanted to try the blender method, so I decided to give it a shot, but the blades just didn't get an adequate grip on the cubes. I ended up dumping it in the food processor to finish, as I feared burning out the motor on the blender.

Both kids ate it happily. Neither realized the secret ingredient without being told. LemurGirl declared this the best ice cream ever. I didn't add any sweetener, but our tastebuds are pretty adapted to lower sugar. If yours aren't, and your melon isn't super-ripe, you may want to add a little something.

If a green tinge is an aesthetic or pickiness problem, just shave off the peel.

I actually found myself saying, "Gee, I wish we had more zucchini" today. The two medium ones were used for zucchini pancakes for lunch, the large one is earmarked for the soup, and I wanted to try a new ice cream idea, too.

So I went out and looked, and another good-sized one had magically appeared in the two hours since I picked the zucchinis for lunch.

    Mint Chocolate Chip Zucchini Ice Cream
  • 2 zucchinis (on the smallish side of medium will give you the most neutral taste)
  • mint jelly (or mint extract + sweetener, or maybe even raw mint + sweetener) to taste
  • enough coconut milk to allow it to blend
  • A tablespoonful of coconut oil (probably not strict necessary. I just felt like throwing it in)
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • Chocolate chips, or 1-2 tablespoons cocoa powder if you don't have them (as we didn't), but that ruins the all-natural bright green color of the ice cream!

Chop zucchini into chunks to facilitate blending. Blend all ingredients except chocolate chips in the blender. Pour into ice cream maker and use as directed. Stir in chocolate chips if using.

We used homemade mint jelly/syrup made from the mint running rampant in our orchard.

The texture of these ice creams is kind of more like ice milk - using a higher proportion of coconut milk (or real cream) would probably make it creamier. But regardless, still tasty, cold, and kid and adult-approved.

More garden pictures:

Baby in the squash patch

LemurBoy picking leeks for the soup

Chickens in the corn


A friend is getting goats, and asked about what we feed ours. I wrote that we feed them lots of a certain type of weed that grows in our yard, then realized that I should probably check to make sure it's actually safe before I recommended it. I looked in a local weed identification guide, and discovered the weed is called Kochia, and that it's actually wonderful - it has a higher nutritional value than alfalfa hay, and is actually cultivated for animal feed in some areas.

We have literally an acre of this stuff growing. We weed it daily to feed to the goats, but it's impossible to keep up.

Our kochia crop, with large dogs for perspective. The whole yard looks similar. As does the side yard. And the area by the driveway.

Thank goodness we haven't got around to mowing it down! If we can get it cut, dried, and stored appropriately, it should save us some money in animal feed over the winter.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Coconut Donut Holes

In my Coconut Chicken Nuggets post, I mentioned that I'd need to try donut holes very soon.

I wasn't joking about the "very" part. The idea was too good to resist trying immediately.

I actually did measure out this recipe while making it, so all measurements are accurate.

* 1 egg (I'm wondering if this would work with pureed apple or banana for those avoiding eggs)
* Approximately 1/3 cup shredded coconut
* Spices (I used 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, some freshly grated nutmeg, and a pinch of ground cardamom. A little bit of vanilla would probably be good (I meant to add that, but forgot). Maybe even some cocoa powder.)
* Sweetener (optional)
* Fat of choice for frying

Break egg into bowl and mix. Add coconut 1 tablespoon at a time until you get a dough that holds together and keeps its shape - It took 5 tablespoons for me. Keep in mind that it's easier to add more coconut than more egg, so go slow with the coconut. Mix spices into dough. Roll into little balls a bit smaller than you want to donut holes to be (they'll puff up a bit while cooking).

Heat fat. When hot enough, drop balls of dough into it. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, rolling them around as necessary to cook thoroughly. Remove from pan and let cool a bit before eating. I think they're best still warm, but I stuck one in the fridge for a while to see how it would hold up, and it was still tasty.

This made 8 donut holes for me.

About sweetener: Since coconut is naturally on the sweet side, these don't desperately need any added sweetener. Both kids liked them unsweetened. Leaving them unsweetened probably also helps with portion control.

But if your goal is authenticity, or if you're making these for people with conventional taste buds, you'll want to add a little bit of sweetener.

If the idea of deep (or, in this case, more than a light coating but not particularly deep) fat frying intimidates you, don't stress it. This was really the first time I've done it. I just dumped about 1/2 inch of bacon grease in a little saucepan, heated it, and fried them up.

Thus ends Impromptu Fried Food Day. I'm way too stuffed for anything else!

Coconut chicken nuggets

Our housemate ground up some chicken parts today, and offered to make some chicken patties for the kids' lunch. I decided no... now that we have coconut, I was going to try some chicken nuggets.

Unfortunately, I didn't really measure as I went along, so all measurements are estimates.

This was very gloppy chicken grind, so I mixed about half a cup of coconut in with it in an attempt to absorb some of the liquid and get it to hold together a bit better. It kinda worked. I don't think you'd need to do this with commercial ground meat. Alternatively, you could cut non-ground chicken up into chunks (or strips) and use that.


* 3 cups ground chicken. No, I don't know how much that is by weight. That's just the size of the container it was in.
* 2 eggs (some milk, dairy or otherwise, might work if you can't do eggs)
* 1 cup shredded coconut (I used the Let's Do Organic brand, which is very finely shredded. If you're using something not finely shredded, you might want to whizz it a bit in the food processor first)
* Seasonings to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp each of salt, garlic powder, and onion powder)
* Fat of choice if frying

(Again, all of that is an estimate. You could start with half the amount of coconut and spices and make more as needed if you're trying to avoid waste.)

Stir together coconut, salt, and spices in a bowl. Crack eggs into a separate bowl and beat them together.

Shape (or cut, if not ground) chicken into appropriately sized nuggets. Coat in egg. Roll in coconut mixture. I set them on a cookie tray until I had enough to fill the frying pan.

Heat fat of choice in frying pan. When it is hot, put nuggets in frying pan. It smells wonderful while cooking! Mine took about 10 minutes to cook thoroughly, with flipping every few minutes. Smaller ones would undoubtedly cook faster. When the coconut was nicely browned, they were adequately done.

Alternatively, you should be able to bake them at 400F for 15-20 minutes (until brown) if you'd like to avoid the frying.

This made about 20 nuggets that were about twice the size of normal fast food nuggets. Everyone who tried them loved them, and the kids came back for seconds. I think we'll have to do this again!

I took the leftover coconut and leftover egg, mixed them together into a little dumpling, and fried that as well. It was a little on the salty side, but had serious potential. Sugar/grain-free "Donut Hole" experimentation will be occurring in the very near future. (Edit: The future is now:

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Ongoing coconut milk experimentation

We got out shredded coconut yesterday.

The box was much smaller than I expected. Not unreasonably small - the 8oz bags are about half of typical 16oz size, and they're compressible, so 12 can fit in a pretty small space. But I think there's an expectation, given the cost, that it's going to be a huge box. The shreds themselves were smaller, too - it is very finely shredded, not like the normal store shredded coconut. This is just fine for our purposes, really.

This time, I mixed 1 cup of coconut with 2 cups very hot water, left it to sit for several hours, and then blended it. It came out VERY thick, and not particularly smooth, but not as grainy as the previous batch, either. A lot of the liquid was absorbed, and pressing it through the strainer, I only got about a half cup of milk. That won't do!

I blended it some more, and added another cup or so of water. That produced about 2 cups of liquid of quite acceptable quality. I tried it in my coffee this morning, and it was fine.

I ate some of the leftover coconut pulp along with some pineapple for dessert. I'll have to figure out something fun to do with the rest of it. I want to experiment with coconut flour baking, and this may be a way to do it without using up our supply (because it won't get bought again if it isn't a savings over the canned milk!). Another option is to try making a second-press for just drinking straight.

There was a solid layer on top this morning (presumably the oil). Not a bad thing, since that means the oils are there and the emulsifiers aren't, but it makes it a touch hard to use. I can either make it in smaller quantities and store it in one of our lidded Magic Bullet knock-off cups for easy re-blending in the morning, or just get it out first thing and leave it on the counter until it comes up to temperature.

Last time I made coconut milk from shredded coconut, the resulting milk was very sweet and directly drinkable. This was more like standard coconut milk - not bad, but not quite so horchata-like. I kind of suspect the other coconut we used (a foreign brand) may have had added sweetener that wasn't listed on the label.

Next time (after we use the milk I already made, plus the 2 cans I already (accidentally) opened before the coconut arrived, so it could be a few days), I'm going to try adding just enough water to thoroughly wet the coconut, leave it soaking overnight, blend that, and then add more water to get to the desired consistency. I think this will allow more contact with the blender blades, and get it even smoother.

I'm sure this all sounds like a lot of work for coconut milk compared to just opening the can, but it really comes out to about 5 minutes of actual doing-stuff, so it's worth it, especially if done in large enough quantity - I'm likely to start doing a quart at a time once I get the process down.

And if this all works out, I think that next time we're going to go for the 22lb bag, which brings the cost down to $0.14/oz of shredded coconut, as opposed to about $0.22/oz now.