Jalapeño Hushpuppies

When it comes to cooking I often have been the “skip to the good part” type. Let me just say THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT! Now that our family has entered the homesteading arena we tend to look at things quite a bit differently though. Cooking now feels more rewarding somehow. I’m thinking the entire time I’m cooking, “I grew this. My family grew this.” The feeling is really hard to describe. The flip side of growing your food is being ready to use it when it is ready to be used. Many times what you grow a lot of may not be what you had anticipated having a bumper crop of. This is really the case with us the last two years with the many pounds of peppers we are harvesting weekly. These include hots and sweets! The issue then becomes what to do with them all?! Enter Google. While searching for a vegan hushpuppy recipe I came a cross this idea. Now I’ve made Mexican cornbread many times but to shrink that into an hushpuppy now that seemed fun! So below you will find the modified version of the recipe along with the completely made on the spot dipping sauce. You know we always adapt recipes to our tastes and what is in our cabinets. As a result it ended up not being vegan. However, it can easily be adjusted to such. Let’s cook!

The Ingredients

  • Cooking oil of choice (we used avocado)
  • 5 small to medium jalapeños
  • 1 cup corn meal (we used self rising)
  • 1 cup flour (we used all purpose)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder (I’ll tell you about this mistake later!)
  • 1 1/4 cup water
  • 1 medium egg
  • 3 tablespoons plant butter
  • Salt to taste
  • Sugar to taste
  • Cajun spice blend to taste
For the Dip
  • 1 cup mayo
  • 3 large leaves of basil
  • 2 tablespoons pickled banana peppers with juice
  • 1 clove pickled garlic

Now before you go mixing all those ingredients up let me just suggest leaving off the baking powder if your meal is self rising of course. I did not realize that my cornmeal was self rising! The first batch of these more than doubled in size by the time they were done. I reduced the size of the next batch to accommodate. You may notice too that water was used instead of milk. Look y’all (all my Southern just came out), if I can substitute something without sacrificing quality to avoid a trip to the store best believe I am going to do it! I added the butter to compensate. This just keeps the texture from being too dry.

The Prep

There really isn’t much prep to this recipe which puts it in the win category for sure!

  • Jalapeños – Wash, de-seed, remove ribs, and then finely chop.

Let’s Cook the Hushpuppies

Add oil to frying pan or deep fryer. Put on a medium-high heat. While that is coming to temperature we will begin mixing our ingredients. Mix dry ingredients separately from liquids mixing both together after they have been thoroughly mixed separately. I added the jalapeños into the complete mixture slowly so as to distribute them as evenly as possible through the mixture.

I like to test the readiness of the oil by dropping a small amount of batter into it. You will quickly recognize whether or not it is ready. We used avocado oil as it has become our favorite oil for frying. It has a higher burn point which means you can cook at higher temperatures without smoking up your kitchen. Cooking at higher temperatures means less oil absorbs into your food. Win-win! It also means that you have to pay even closer attention to your food! You have been warned! In the above directions it was suggested to cook over a medium-high heat however we cooked ours on high. If you have not experimented with frying with avocado oil just know it comes highly recommended. The upfront cost is a bit more than the oils commonly used for frying but I feel like avocado oil makes up the difference. Do the research. When you do buy be sure to get a good quality one. Back to cooking…

On a medium-high heat it will take about 4-5 minutes till your puppies are golden brown. This of course is variable depending on the size you chose to go with. I initially used a tablespoon size which is what I recommend. Since we accidentally added baking powder I decreased the size to half a tablespoon. Depending on the depth of your pan you may need to rotate halfway through that cooking time so that they brown evenly. We got 15 puppies out of this recipe. These stay hot for a minute especially if cooked on high heat! They will be just the perfect temperature once your dip is completed.

Let’s Make the Dip!

This dip was completely made on the spot by items we readily had on hand. We recently began propagating basil in a jar on the kitchen sink to fill in rows in the high tunnel so the basil was literally at arms reach. I simply added all the ingredients to the food processor and processed until smooth. Initially I added the pickled peppers without the juice. The sauce wasn’t saucy enough for me so I went back and added the juice. It gave the texture and a nice spicy tang that I was looking for. The garlic clove was in with the peppers. We made these a couple of months ago for use on sandwiches and have actually used them for everything BUT SANDWHICHES! The family really loved the sauce, dare I say, MORE than the hushpuppies!

It occurred to me that this could be a good game day snack. Also if you wanted to you could add frozen corn and/or Vidalia onions to the batter for a bit more sweetness. Just do you! Make this recipe yours and remember to have fun while in that kitchen – from our family to yours!


Eggplant-Eggplant Parmesan

“If you have tried one you’ve tried them all”, one friend recently told me about the various Eggplant Parmesan recipes out there. Let’s be real – there are so many out there and I hate to do it but I’ve got to toss this recipe in the mix! It was really THAT GOOD! No there isn’t an error in the title of this recipe it is really called Eggplant – Eggplant Parmesan. Stick around and I will tell you why.

The Ingredients

Most of the recipes we post are adapted to what we are growing on our farm. That is where the “farm to table” comes in at. However, most, if not all, of our recipes can be easily adapted to fit what is growing on your homestead or what’s easily picked up at your local grocery store.

  • Thai Eggplant
  • Mozzarella cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Basil
  • Almond milk (unsweetened)
  • 2 eggs
  • Italian bread crumbs
    • The Marinara Sauce
  • Canned tomatoes (28 ounce)
  • Garlic
  • Onion (yellow, small)
  • Diced eggplant
  • Bell pepper
  • Avocado oil

The Prep

  • Eggplant – Rinsed eggplant with cool water and removed calyxes. Using mandolin, sliced the eggplant on setting 3 which for me produces a 3/16″ (5.6-mm) slice. My mandolin safety guard prevented me from slicing about 25% of each of the oddly shaped Thai Purple Ribbed eggplant. This may not be an issue for you if you use the more smooth, round Italian version that most of these recipes call for. I took these ends and chopped them and set a side. You’ll understand this step later.
  • Garlic – Peeled, sliced, set a side.
  • Bell pepper – Used one small purple bell. Sliced it lengthwise and set a side.
  • Onion – Chopped coarsely and set aside

Let’s Cook the Marinara Sauce

Now I’m not one to feel like everything needs to be homemade but in this particular dish I decided why not go for the gusto and make the marinara too! It actually wasn’t that difficult especially if you did the prep above and chopped your veggies first. I do not like waiting too much so I went ahead and preheated the oven to 400 degrees.

I put about 2 tablespoons of avocado oil in a pan on medium heat. While that was heating I took the chopped eggplant, garlic, bell pepper, and onion and placed in the food processor and processed just until the veggies were at a nice diced size. That mixture was then added to the oil and sautéed for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Next I added the canned tomatoes. I added salt to taste and allowed to simmer covered on low while preparing the eggplant slices.

Making use of the eggplant ends in this marinara sauce its why we call this recipe Eggplant – Eggplant Parmesan. We have the slices as well and the diced flavor right in the sauce. The texture is a great meat fake out as well. Our daughter said to me, “Mom! Does this have meat in it?!” She said it in an alarmed tone since I don’t eat meat anymore. Gotta love those fake outs!

Let’s Cook the Eggplant Slices

You will notice that many recipes, in fact everyone I looked at, included a step to sprinkle the eggplant with salt and allow to sit to remove some of the bitterness. This I perhaps would have done if I were using a variety that this was an issue with but it is not an issue with this Thai Purple Ribbed eggplant. As I have said many times before, it has to be the sweetest eggplant out there!

I took two eggs, about 1/4th cup of almond milk, and a dash of salt and added to a mixing bowl. In another bowl I poured our bread crumbs and let the assembly line begin! This is a great place, if you want, to get the kiddos involved to speed the process along as well as have some family fun! I simply dipped the slices into the liquid batter then dipped them into the bread crumbs. Be sure to cover both sides very well. Then I laid the well covered slices onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Depending on how many slices you have it may take a very large baking sheet or you may need to cook a couple of batches. I spaced the slices so they weren’t touching. Some recipes added a drizzle of olive oil over the slices right before cooking. I did not do this but wanted to throw that idea out there for those who may be interested. Next I cooked at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Next time I will stop at 15 minutes as some slices got a bit crispier than I wanted. I did turn about half way through the cook time. I used about 3lbs of eggplant and of course this was too much. Since we added some salt to our egg/milk wash and since there is seasoning in the breadcrumbs these slices are very tasty eaten as is as an eggplant chip.

Let’s Cook – Put it all Together!

The fun part is layering up the dish. I started by placing a layer of marinara at the bottom of the pan to keep the meal from sticking to the dish. I just used a metal casserole pan. The order I used to layer was sauce, eggplant slices, then mozzarella. On the top layer I added basil leaves and a few extra slices of eggplant for a beautiful look! On the top most layer I sprinkled parmesan cheese instead of mozzarella. Baked at 400 degrees for 10 minutes with an additional 2 minutes or so on broil at the end to brown the cheese. After pulling from the oven I allowed it to sit five minutes then using a pizza cutter, cut slices for serving.

There you have it folks – easy as pie! We hope you enjoy making and eating this meal – from our family to yours!


Honey Fermented Garlic

COVID 19 has changed the face of the world in ways we are not fully prepared to accept. However with every generation that is just what we must do – adapt. We hope that the the case numbers lowering continues to be the trend. Until then we will continue to subscribe to the CDC’s guidelines to mask up. In addition, we are paying attention to our body’s immune systems by encouraging it to be stronger.

Enter fermented foods.

Fermented foods have been found to improve gut health and immunity. Many of us enjoy fermented foods in one way or another  – kimchi, pickles, and kombucha – all have made their way onto North American cuisine & we welcome them!

Our family just got into the world of fermented foods. I guess you could call it our COVID project. Our most exciting ferment thus far has been the most beneficial and that is the Honey Fermented Garlic. We have had several ask about how it was done since our post on social media back in August as a part of the #everybitcountschallenge. It is very simple. The most difficult part is peeling the garlic cloves! Here is what we did.

Steps

  • Peeled 2 large cloves of garlic and rinsed cloves with filtered water. Set aside.
  • Always best to use local honey but feel free to use store bought honey to experiment first as we did.
  • Wash your jar, ring, and lid with hot soapy water. We used one half pint jar the first time but if you go larger just peel more garlic accordingly.
  • Place peeled garlic into the jar.
  • Pour honey over the garlic. If you have raw honey at room temperature then this process can go a little slow as it tends to be thick. You could warm the honey slightly by allowing it to sit in hot water as you are peeling your garlic.
    • As you pour be sure to leave at least a half inch headspace in the jar. This allows room for the garlic fluids to drain out into the honey without overflowing your jar. It also allows space for the gases that result from fermentation to move around.
    • Watch the level of your honey. When it looks like you are at the half inch mark stop pouring and allow the jar to sit undisturbed for 5 – 10 minutes. This will allow the honey to settle in between the gaps of the garlic. This will push air bubbles to the top of the jar and your level will drop. Add more honey as needed and repeat the process until no more settling occurs and you have the half inch headspace. Be sure all cloves are covered with honey.
  • Cover with lid and place in a dark area. We covered ours with a cloth and left on the kitchen counter. You want to put it some place where you will remember to shake and burp jar daily.

What to Expect

Fermentation is a science with many variables. Your fermentation can be effected by many of these and may not go exactly the same way as ours did. This does not mean that you are doing anything wrong. For instance if your home is a little warmer than ours was at the time this data was collected then your ferment may move through its paces quicker. Alternatively, if your home is cooler, it may go slower.

  • Days 1 – 3 There was not much activity. I started to notice bubbles which is what you want to see but there were not very many.
  • Days 4 – 7 Now the process is in full swing. There were many bubbles and I was concerned about overflow so I burped the jar twice a day.
  • Days 8 – 16 Still plenty of bubbling and the ferment has become super fragrant. Thankfully I love the smell of garlic. Garlic cloves are changing in color which shows their absorption of the honey is taking place. The honey is also thinning which shows the liquid gold inside of the garlic cloves is infusing into the honey.
  • Days 17 – 30 Bubbling begins to slow. We did our first taste test at 21 days. The garlic flavor was still pretty strong and still had quite a bite but at 30 days it was much more palatable. I found it quite delicious!
  • Days 30+ You will notice the garlic cloves continue to change slightly in color. Just be sure to keep them immersed in the honey which shouldn’t be too difficult since by now they have absorbed quite a bit of it. The honey will be much thinner than when you started.
    • If at this point you absolutely love the flavor of your ferment you can halt the fermentation process by basically pasteurizing it. Pasteurizing is basically heating and then rapidly cooling your ferment. I cannot suggest this process as I have not done it. I personally like the idea of the process continuing however since I am taking some of the ferment daily it really will not last long.

Caution

Just like any home remedy you must be careful and do your due diligence and research! You may need to talk to your doctor before trying this or any fermented food. For some people fermented foods can cause headaches or even migraines. Also some research shows that garlic has some  antithrombotic properties so ones that are on blood thinners already will want to consult with their physician. I’m sure there are many other contraindications out there so PLEASE DO YOUR RESEARCH!

Benefits

I’ve read up on this little concoction and there seems to be many benefits. I, however, can only address benefits that I or my family have personally experienced.

  1. Decrease in blood pressure Since May I have been on blood pressure medication. I was disappointed but it came as no surprise for me since hypertension runs on all sides of the family. Diet adjustments and exercise just were not enough for me so I had to make this step. However the dosage that I was placed on, a low dose, wasn’t enough to bring my blood pressure to a normal range. Not wanting to increase the dosage, I began to eat one honey fermented garlic clove daily and noticed and decline in my blood pressure within days! Overall decrease is about 10 mm Hg systolic and diastolic.
  2. Treats cold symptoms – There have been a couple of times that the family has complained of a tickle in the throat. You know the one that you get right before you get sick. Each time I refer them to the honey fermented garlic and sometimes after one clove with a tablespoon of honey the tickle is gone! Other times a few doses have been needed.
  3. Increased energy – Since I am the only one that takes it regularly I have been the only one to notice this beneficial side effect. It makes total sense! Honey is a source of quick energy and garlic helps overcome muscle fatigue – especially that related to intense activity like that a farmer may do! The two together are a great paring. Just to be clear, I am not getting Mario star power from this but I have noticed that I don’t tire as quickly during the day and that my friends is a huge accomplishment!

There you have it! There is not much to the actual process but there is lots to consider as to whether honey fermented garlic is something for you and your family. Whatever you decide we just want you and yours to have a happy, healthy Fall – from our family to yours!


Baba Ganoush

This time of year our eggplant game is seriously over the top. We overwintered some eggplants in the high tunnel and planted many more because we didn’t know how productive the overwintered ones would be. As a result we have an abundant and beautiful array of purple, green, and white eggplant varieties at the ready. Last year we froze them and this year we have begun dehydrating our surplus as well. Still there is nothing better than the flavor of freshly harvested veggies and eggplant is no exception to that rule. So we set out to find a new & delicious recipe to utilize them. We didn’t have to look far. The recipe came to us in fact! A friend of a friend shared with us how she loves Baba Ganoush and I immediately took to Google to see if it was a simple recipe that I could possibly get my family to try. I was intrigued to find the word hummus even associated with eggplant but that is a real good way to describe this dish – an eggplant hummus! It was simple enough and it was a hit with our family and I’m sure it will be with yours too! Here’s how we do Baba Ganoush at Bain Home Gardens!

The Ingredients

  • 2 pounds eggplant
  • 1/4 cup of tahini
  • Oil of choice (we used avocado)
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tablespoons of lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Parsley
  • Tony Catchers

The Prep

We will be roasting the eggplant at a very hot 450 degrees so go ahead an preheat your oven.

Wash your produce and go ahead and chop off the calyxes of the eggplants and chop your parsley too and set it aside.

Prepare a baking sheet and cover with parchment paper.

You may need a mesh strainer and will definitely need a basting brush so shuffle through those cabinets and drawers and pull these tools out along with a measuring cup.

Let’s Cook!

Most Baba Ganoush recipes called for Italian eggplant however that is not what was growing in the garden. We only had the Thai varieties so that is what we used. We are happy to report that because we did we were able to skip a step later on.

Cut your eggplant down the middle, lengthwise. Brush on your oil of choice on the meat side of the eggplant. We used avocado oil because it is what we had on hand however most recipes use extra virgin olive oil for this. After brushing on the oil place eggplant meat side down on parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cook for 30 – 40 minutes depending on the size of your eggplant. Our Thai Long Green Eggplant actually could have been removed about 10 minuets earlier than the Purple Ribbed variety.

As seen in the images above the skin of the eggplant becomes very loose and is really easy to peel off after they come out of the oven. Just be sure to let them cool about 10 minutes before trying that!

So a couple of recipes online suggested taking the meat out of the skins and placing into a mesh strainer to remove the naturally occurring water that is in the eggplant. The suggestion was to leave in the strainer (of course with a bowl below) for upwards of 10 minutes stirring as needed to help the process along. We did this for 5 minutes and after NOTHING came out we continued with the process. It could be that Italian eggplant has a higher water content than these Thai varieties. Not sure but moving right along…

At this point all left to do is to combine your remaining ingredients. Some may choose to do this by hand but I like to make use of my power tools and I used my blender. I added the eggplant, garlic, lemon juice, tahini, and avocado oil to the blender. I blended until smooth which didn’t take long ( 30 seconds or so). After blending I tasted the mixture so I could determine how much salt and Tony Catchers I wanted to add. I should mention that the recipe called for smoked paprika but seldom buy paprika so we just added a little spice with the Tony Catchers. After seasoning to taste we blended once more to evenly distribute seasoning and viola – done! Garnish with parsley when you serve. We forgot to harvest it and harvested it the next day and ate with the left overs.

How you choose to enjoy this hummus like dip is your choice – with chips, on pita bread, warm or cold – the options are endless. Our son was eating it by the spoonful with nothing at all! I guess Baba Ganoush rewally is all its cracked up to be!

For a short video of us making this dish click here. Here is a challenge for you: Try this dish with someone who does not like the flavor of eggplant and without telling them it is eggplant see if they like it. Let us know what happens! Happy cooking – from our family to yours!


Kohlrabi Slaw

If ever there was proof of alien life kohlrabi would have to be it! We love this little alien crop swollen stems and all! We have grown it for 3 years and we usually eat it as is or occasionally roasted. This year we thought we would do something fresh. So we decided to try a slaw. This was super easy and required no cooking skill whatsoever! Just a peeler and a shredder! It is so easy we decided to make a pictorial guide instead of our usual recipe format.

The Ingredients

From left to right we have our purple variety of kohlrabi. We harvested it a few days ago and stored it in the fridge until we were ready to make this dish. Next we have a very oddly shaped carrot (it was so sweet), one half of a red apple and one half of a small sweet onion.

The Light Work

For the kohlrabi separate leaves from bulb. Wash both. Remove the leaves from the stem and set aside. Peel bulbs and carrot. Set a little of the carrot tops aside for garnish or you may choose to chop them an add into your slaw. This depends on how much carrot flavor you want in your dish.

Shred kohlrabi, carrot and apple (we left the skin on). We thinly sliced the onion instead of shredding. Since we were not cooking the greens we made sure to mince them well. Mix all of your ingredients evenly. Here is the point where you can really make this dish your own. At this point you could use some apple cider vinegar, mayo, pepper and lemon to make this with the traditional flavor of a coleslaw. I however wanted to venture out a bit more. I added Sicilian Lemon White Balsamic Vinegar with some olive oil. It was the perfect mix of sweet from the kohlrabi and carrot with the tangy of the vinegar.

The Finished Product

Easy enough for ya’? We chose to store in a mason jar but a bowl will do just as well. We served it with grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. The flavor was just as I imagined it would be. This is a guilt free easy recipe that I’m certain we will recreate over and over again! You can add radishes even salad turnips! So will you make the BHG version or the traditional version? It is a win – win situation and in the year of 2020 we can all use that! From our family to yours!