Monthly Archives: February 2014

Posole Verde:Flavor in Every Bite

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onions, mushrooms, and posole simmering

onions, mushrooms, and posole simmering

One of the things that I enjoy about winter is the assortment of soups and stews.  They are thick, hearty, and packed full of flavor.  Yet, one main ingredient that I reach for over and over again in my pantry is posole.  It provides such texture and corn flavor unique to this particular ingredient.

While posole is traditionally made with pork,  I decided to make a non-meat version.  For those of you who want pork, simply add some pork shoulder that you have cooked until it is fall-off-the-bone tender.  Posole is available in grocery stores throughout the southwest part of the United States in both dried and canned forms.  If you can’t find dried, look for canned hominy (usually found in the ethnic aisle of most major stores).

Posole Stew

  • 12 oz. pkg dried posole (cooked until tender)
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 16 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced (I like cremini, shiitake, and oyster, though white button will be just fine)
  • 4 oz. butter
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 4 C. vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. salt

To soften the posole, either soak it overnight in water or pressure cook it until tender.  In a large pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and butter.  When the butter begins to foam, add the onions and mushrooms. Stir in the bay leaves, thyme, cumin, and salt.  Saute until the onions are translucent.  Add the cooked posole and stir to combine.   Add the vegetable broth.   Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for approximately 45 more minutes.

Verde Sauce

  • 1 fresh poblano, seeded
  • 2 fresh jalapenos, seeded
  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, including stems
  • 8 oz. fresh tomatillos, husks removed
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 C. onion, diced
  • 1/2 bunch of radish leave (from a bundle of fresh radishes)
  • 1/2 C. vegetable stock
  • juice of 1 1/2 limes
  • 1 tsp. salt

Place all of the ingredients in a blender.  Blend until the mixture is smooth.  If it is quite thick, add a little water to thin.  Once the verde sauce is blended, pour into a pan set over low heat.  Gently cook the sauce for about 5 minutes at which time the sauce will darken slightly.  After the sauce had darkened, add to the posole mixture.  Cook for an additional 10 minutes over low heat.

Remove the bay leaves prior to serving.

posole verde ready to eat

posole verde ready to eat

Toppings for Posole Verde:

  • minced cilantro
  • sliced fresh radishes
  • lime wedges (squeeze a wedge over each bowl of soup)
  • tortilla chips
  • guacamole
  • pepitas

I like to add a little of each, though the soup is fine on its own.  Or mix and match toppings to your taste.  Both the cilantro and lime juice add a nice bright flavor to the soup.

So there you have it friends.  A fresh, hearty soup with a brightness that will have you going back for seconds.  Enjoy!

Quick and Easy: Making Newspaper Pots

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N. Viro pot making tool

N. Viro pot making tool

Starting seeds at home can be a wonderful experience.   You have thumbed through catalogs, spun racks with seed packets at local nurseries, and have narrowed down your selections.  Now with seeds in hand, you are ready to start them indoors.   You have soil, lighting, and a place set aside for them, but now you wonder about the containers.  Should you buy plastic?  Purchase expensive  fiber?  Collect odds and ends from friends and family?  But have you considered making them yourself for little or no cost?

Yes, eager gardeners, you can make your own pots at home!  In fact with just a little effort and a few supplies,  you can make enough pots to meet all of your needs for a season.

N. ViroPotter tool

N. ViroPotter tool

Now I have had a wooden N. ViroPotter tool for years.  The wood is taking on an aged patina from the oil on my skin as well as the inks from newspaper.  If you don’t have one, don’t worry, you can use a wooden dowel that has a diameter of approximately 1 1/2″.  Then one end of the wooden dowel would be hollowed out.  (Check local nurseries, online shops, or your local Craigslist for this handy tool).

vertical cut 3" from end

vertical cut 3″ from end

How to Create Paper Pots

  • Take paper, such as newsprint (newspaper) and cut into 5″ x 9″.  For simplicity, the 5″ side is considered the height and the 9″ side is considered the length.
  • Fold over the paper lengthwise so that the small side of the fold is 3/4″ and the large side of the fold is approximately 5 1/4″.  The 3/4″ side of the fold will become the top of the pot.
  • Starting from one end of the fold, make a cut perpendicular to the fold line approximately 3″ from one end of the paper).  Lift up the 3″ cut area (now known as the ‘flap’).  The remaining 6″ of the fold, remains folded down.
  • Place the N. ViroPotter along the folded edge of the paper.  Line up the paper so the fold line is even with the end of potter tool. Roll the paper around potter keeping the paper taut.  Roll from the 6″ length of the fold prior to the cut so the 3″ flap is the last portion rolled onto the pot.
  • Pinch the paper at the bottom of the potter (the hollow end) and twist.  Then push the twisted end into the cavity of the potter.
  • Keep your hand wrapped around the pot and then pull up on the potter handle with remaining free hand.  This action should remove the paper pot from the potter tool.
  • Once the paper pot has cleared the potter tool, fold the flap over to the inside of the pot.  Press with fingers to secure the fold.

    paper wrapped around tool

    paper wrapped around tool

You have now successfully created a pot!  Now simply repeat the process until you have created the desired number of pots.

3 inch flap to fold over top of pot

3 inch flap to fold over top of pot

For convenience, put your paper pots into a container.  Make enough pots to allow for one seed per pot.  For the purpose of making pots, the paper pots are intended for seeds you start indoors to get a jump on the growing season.  If you intend to direct sow seed into the garden, you do not need to use a paper pot.

Now fill the paper pot with damp seed starter soil.  Fill approximately 3/4 full.  Press soil surface lightly with fingertips.  Next, create a small hole in the soil approximately 1/4″ – 1/2″ deep (refer to specific seed packets for proper seeding depth).  Place a seed in the hole and then cover with soil.

bottom of pot

bottom of pot

Since the pots are made of paper, place the seeded paper pots into water proof trays (such as lids from storage containers).  Lightly water the seeded pots.  Now you can place the seeded pots in a sunny location or under lights.

So you see, making pots out of newspapers is quick, easy, and a great way to make use of a material you may have around the house.  These tools are still being made and available for sale.  If you prefer,  you can try your hand at making your own.  Either way, a handy potter tool is a great item to have on hand when you are ready to start sowing your seeds indoors.

completed newspaper pots

completed newspaper pots

Pee Wee Eggs: Tiny Treasures

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As chicken keepers, we have encountered them.  Small. Cute. Maybe they were still in the nest box or perhaps  stashed somewhere in the run or under a bush?  Novice flock keepers may scratch their heads and wonder what exactly they are.  But don’t wonder any longer, these pint-sized gems are pee wee eggs.

average weight of peewee egg

average weight of peewee egg

But before we delve into these eggs, let’s take a look at egg sizes.  These standards were put into place by the Agriculture Marketing Act of 1946 according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  And what is unique about this program, it is voluntary.  Egg producers don’t have to participate, but for those that do, consumers have come to expect a uniform size (whether it be medium, large, or perhaps jumbo) when they purchase a dozen eggs.

As backyard poultry keepers, we are not bound by this program.  Though there are those folks with larger flocks who will weigh out eggs and provide their patrons with a uniform dozen.  But if you are like myself or some vendors at farmers’ markets, there is variety in the sizing.  This is not because we don’t have a scale, but more than likely, because we don’t have a large enough flock to provide enough eggs of a consistent size to all of our buyers.  In other words, we fill up cartons as our hens lay their eggs regardless of size.

In the United States, egg sizes are determined by the weight of a dozen eggs.  Peewees are the smallest and therefore the lightest eggs categorized.  An entire dozen of peewees must weigh at least 15 ounces, but less than 18 ounces per dozen.  This averages out to 1.25 ounces per egg at a 15 ounce dozen.

6 peewee eggs

6 peewee eggs

Now you may say, “Well, I have never seen eggs that small at a grocery store”.  For most stores across the country, medium-sized eggs are the smallest sold.  Those eggs come in at least 21 ounces per dozen which averages to 1.75 ounces per egg.  Large eggs are the most common size sold with a dozen weighing in at 24 ounces per dozen  with individual eggs averaging 2 ounces each.  (For you bakers and cooks out there, if an egg size is not listed in a recipe, it is commonly assumed that the egg size is large.)

As backyard chicken keepers, we get to experience the progression of egg sizes.  Our young pullets start out by laying those cute, tiny eggs… peewees.  But as the chicken matures and puts on more weight, the size of her egg increases.  Now occasionally you may encounter a ‘wind’ egg which may or may not contain a yolk.  These eggs are not to be confused with peewees which will contain yolks.  Wind eggs also tend to be more round in shape and are usually half the size  or smaller than a true peewee egg.

peewee versus large egg

peewee versus large egg

Even though a peewee egg sighting in a carton may be as rare as hen’s teeth, it does not diminish their value.  Some chefs and restaurants seek them out because of the claimed superior flavor.  Others prefer their size stating that they are perfect for hors d’oeuvres and don’t take as much work to peel as quail eggs.

So embrace the peewee egg.  Prepare them for meals where their flavor will truly shine through in omelets, scrambled, or even over-easy.  Or if you have enough to sell, pack them up in a dozen and start a new trend.  Peewee eggs could become the next specialty egg allowing you to charge more for this tiny treasure.