Monday, December 30, 2013

Hens and Eggs

We have had many animals over the years...but none so special as our chickens. 





These hens came to us as day old chicks in May of this year. Over the past month, they have begun to lay. The hens roam a half acre lot where they eat greens and insects. At night, they retreat into a chicken house where they are safely locked up for the night.



Monday, November 25, 2013

Ecuadorian Chicken Empanada Recipe

While living in Ecuador, we loved to walk down the street and order chicken empanadas. Thankfully, we have been able to recreate the same flavors here in Florida. We start with an organically grown, free range chicken. We put it in a pressure cooker with 1 carrot, 2 celery leaf stalks, and a little salt and pepper. We then cover with drinking water, and seal. We cook it for about 30 minutes. After allowing it to cool a little, remove the chicken and begin separating the meat into a bowl. The broth is then strained and stored to be used for other recipes. 

Shred the chicken or cut using kitchen shears (our favorite kitchen tool). Next, we boil a pot of water and add in carrots which have been peeled and diced. Add 2 T of sugar and boil for about 5 minutes. Add in a cup or two of organic peas and continue cooking until tender. Strain and mix the vegetables with the chicken. 

Next, you will add 1-4 Tablespoons of cilantro/garlic seasoning - depending upon your preference. 

To make Cilantro/Garlic seasoning - In a blender, place 10 peeled cloves of garlic and one large bunch of fresh cilantro. Blend until smooth. Add 1-3T cumin and 2 tsp salt. This will store in the refrigerator for 10 days. 




Once you have mixed together the chicken, peas, carrots, and cilantro/garlic seasoning, you can freeze any extra mixture to use at a later date. This makes a wonderful freeze ahead meal.



Next, place a Tablespoon of filling into an empanada wrapper (recipe below). I purchase Goya pre made empanada wrappers that are sold in a plastic container (not bag) found in the frozen food aisle to make a quick meal. 







Gently fold over the edge, a finger tip width at a time, to seal. 




Heat oil to 350 degrees. Fry empanadas until lightly brown. Place on paper towel to absorb extra oil.


Enjoy!


These can be filled with all sorts of vegetables and meats. Queso fresco (fresh cheese) can also be used as a filling and the cooked empanada then sprinkled with sugar. 

Chicken Empanadas

1 c. cooked, shredded chicken
1/2 c. frozen peas
1 carrot, diced
1 T. sugar
1 tsp. salt (optional)
1-4 T. Alino (cilantro/garlic/cumin) seasoning

Empanada Wrapper Recipe
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 stick of butter cut into pieces
1/2 – 2/3 cup cold water
Preparation:
  1. In a food processor, mix the flour, salt and baking powder.
  2. Add butter and 1/2 cup of water. Mix and add more water if needed to form a ball.
  3. Once ball has formed, place dough in a covered bowl for up to an hour. 
  4. Roll the dough into a thin sheet on a non stick rolling mat. Cut into circles and roll thinner if too thick. These should be very thin- about 2-3mm.
  5. Use immediately or store in the refrigerator or freezer to use later with a piece of plastic between each circle. 


Friday, November 22, 2013

Cilantro

While living in Ecuador, we gained a love for cilantro. Unlike the cilantro that is typically sold in the United States,


Ecuadorian cilantro is slow to bolt, has thinner leaves, and a different flavor. We now grow both types. The Ecuadorian variety has less of the soapy taste that some cilantro foes complain about. 


The flowers of the cilantro plant are also pretty in a small vase. 



Aliño Recipe

Aliño is a very popular seasoning in Ecuador. We now make our own, with the addition of cilantro.

First, we separate the cloves of a head of garlic


An easy way to completely remove the peels is to remove the peeling with your hands that is very easy to remove and then soak the cloves in water with 1/4 c of baking soda for 20 minutes. 




After soaking, the remaining peel will remove easily

I then remove the leaves from the cilantro. 


I puree the garlic, cilantro, 1 T of cumin, 1 T of sunflower seed oil (optional) and a dash of salt. Add water if necessary to achieve a sauce like consistency. Typically, Aliño is made without cilantro, but I like the flavor with it added. 



This will store in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks. We add this to our Seco de Pollo chicken dish , pinchos (meat on a stick), and chicken empanada filling. It gives an Ecuadorian flavor to most any dish. 


You can also add this to mayonnaise, which makes a great dipping sauce for beef, potatoes, and vegetables. 


Saturday, November 2, 2013

Passion Fruit Juice

Passion Fruit is a wonderful plant to grow in Florida. Not only is it easy to grow on a fence, but the flowers are beautiful and the fruit of the edible varieties can be used to make juices, ice creams, and sorbets. 


It is best to wait until the fruit falls to the ground before using. Be sure to check for fruits daily, as raccoons will quickly discover fallen fruit that is more than a day old. Freshly fallen fruit is smooth, but will become wrinkly as soon as 12 hours after falling. Don't worry, the fruit is still fine to eat as long as there are no holes in the outer skin.

To remove the pulp, cut the fruit in half and scoop out the yellow pulp and black seeds. The seeds are not toxic and do not need to be separated prior to blending. Some people enjoy eating the pulp fresh and either eating the seeds along with it or spitting them out after separating it from the pulp. 8-10 average size passion fruits will yield about 1 cup of pulp with seeds. We generally process 4 cups at a time. Once the seeds are strained out, we are left with 3 1/2 cups of passion fruit pulp.


Recipe: To make passion fruit juice, place the pulp/seeds from 10 passion fruits into a blender. Add 4 cups of water and 1/4-1/2 cup of sugar. Blend thoroughly. Strain to remove the seed fragments. You can add more pulp or more or less water according to your tastes. 


Enjoy!


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Delicious Hibiscus

Roselle (Hibiscus) is an amazing plant. One tiny heart shaped seed planted in the early spring will produce a massive plant about 5 feet tall and 5 feet wide. It grows in full or partial sun. No soil amendment is needed, but they do well with some mulching once they are over 12 inches high. No extra watering is needed once you mulch the plants. More can be read about nutritional information and varieties here. 

The red calyx is harvested in late fall here in southwest Florida. Our tortoises love to eat the leaves and flowers. They provide them with quality, nutritious food. The seeds are wonderful for chickens. At the end of the season, we will cut the stems and give them to the chickens, the will peck them until each and every seed has been eaten. 




I like to peel off the outer red part (the calyx) and leave the seed head to fully develop on the plant. 



I place the red calyces into a pot on the stove and cover with drinking water. Cook on medium high for about 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.




 After 10 minutes, it should look like this....


Next, simply strain to remove the softened calyces. You can add water and drink as tea or use the juice to make syrups for shaved ice, pancakes, and more. 



To make an all natural shaved ice syrup, use 2 cups of Roselle tea and 1/2 cup of pure cane sugar. Cook until it comes to a rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Remove from heat and place in glass jar or pitcher. This can be used 1/2 and 1/2 with water and warmed to make Roselle tea. 


Roselle pancake syrup can be made using 3 cups of Roselle juice and 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Cook until it comes to a rolling boil that can't be stirred down. Pour into jars and seal lids. Store in the refrigerator. 




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