Friday, May 23, 2014

zucchini overload

We're definitely starting to approach critical mass on the zucchini front - and it's glorious.

I harvested three more from the garden today, and there were five already in the fridge. There's a bunch more small ones on the plants, some of which should be ready to harvest within the week. Pretty soon I'm going to have to make a big batch of zucchini chips!

Since I don't eat grains, coming up with delicious and interesting ways to use up zucchinis is slightly more challenging. (No zucchini bread for me, I am afraid. Or cake, for that matter. Or cookies, or brownies. Etc.) Today for lunch I decided to make spaghetti. And since I would be using spaghetti squash to stand in for spaghetti, then why not zucchini as a stand-in for meatballs? I find zucchini is a very meaty type of vegetable so it serves this purpose pretty well.

I didn't follow a recipe, because if I follow a recipe and mess it up then I become sad, cause what kind of doofus can't follow a recipe? (Hint: this kind.) But if I just make it up and it turns out less than ideal, well hey, at least I tried! So I just started randomly grabbing things from the fridge.

I diced up and cooked some bacon for its grease, then slapped in a pat of butter, and sauteed two diced garlic cloves. Then I diced and cooked the zucchini in the buttery garlic bacon grease. (I'm getting hungry again describing this. It was delicious, man. You really can't go wrong with butter and garlic.)

Then I nuked a small spaghetti squash, threw that in with the zucchini, and served it up.

I topped it with some shakes of parmesan and the cooked bacon. It needed more salt (squash needs a lot of salt, I find) and some of the garlic bits were a bit burnt, but it wasn't bad! Which is about all I can ask for.

Now to think up something zucchini related for dinner..

Thursday, May 15, 2014

my totally epic flaxseed cracker post

I have recently gotten SUPER into flaxseed crackers. I was buying some from the store - Flackers, by Doctor in the Kitchen - and I loved them. But gosh, they're pricey, at $6 for a mere 5 ounces. (Basically around ~20 crackers.) I was like, surely I could make them myself?

I enlisted the SO, Chris, for help, and after searching the internet, we came across this recipe. The end product looked very much like what I was aspiring to, but I didn't like the addition of the pureed tomatoes. I compared the recipe versus what was in the ingredient list for the Flackers, and decided to try a very basic version, which was equal parts flaxseed and water, and a splash of apple cider vinegar. Otherwise, I followed the instructions at the link.

I did a small test batch first, and they came out PERFECTLY. For some reason I never got a picture of that first batch (for shame). But believe me, they came out looking JUST like the Flackers. Test successful, I launched on a campaign to make a big batch of my very own Flackers, with a variety of flavors.

Golden flaxseed, bought in bulk from Whole Foods. $2.49/lb
First, flaxseed. We calculated that 1.5 cups of flaxseed in this recipe would just fill one tray of my dehydrator. I decided to make 4 different flavors, and so measured out four portions. I added 1.5 cups of water to each, and .75 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar (sticking to the ratio as set out in the above-linked recipe).

such flax.. very mix.. wow
Then I let it sit for about 20 minutes. The flax will absorb the water and become a sticky, gelatinous blob.

Blob status achieved.
This is when I mixed in the flavorings. I wanted garlic rosemary, for sure, as well as onion. Chris had designs on the other flavors, one being tomato basil, and the other chipotle.

dehydrated onion
dehydrated tomato
The onions and tomatoes were ones we had previously dehydrated. We gathered fresh basil and rosemary from the plants in our garden. The chipotle came from a bottle of chipotle seasoning stuff.. that one was mostly an experiment.
top, l-r: onion, tomato and basil. bottom, l-r: chipotle flavor paste, rosemary and garlic powder
Dashes of salt were added to everything as well, and mixed thoroughly.

mix mix mix
Then, the spreading began!

plopped onto a paraflexx sheet (plastic wrap also works fine)

spreading with just the back of a spoon

tadaaaa. remember this is 1.5 cups of flaxseed

close up on the flaxy loveliness
Spreading the mixture takes a bit of finesse because it will easily be ripped apart if you're rough. But on the upside, it's SO sticky that it is easy to patch holes back over. Then I dehydrated for a couple hours at about 135 to get the first bout of wetness out, and lowered it to around 105 for the rest of the time.

trays loaded
After a couple hours, when the tops of the crackers had a slight crust to them (but were still plenty gooey underneath), I took them out and scored out the cracker shapes.
I just used the side of a silicon spatula.

all scored
I scored each tray as 8 x 8 rows of crackers, so I came up with 64 crackers on each tray. Also at this stage, I sprinkled a dusting of kosher salt along the tops of all the crackers. (I like when my crackers have grains of salt on them, but this is optional.)  Then loaded the trays back in to complete dehydration!

Three of the crackers, the tomato basil, onion, and rosemary garlic, all fully dehydrated in about 24 hours. The chipotle ones however took an additional 24 hours after that. I wouldn't use that flavoring mix again because a) too wet, b) too many fats in the condiment that could potentially go rancid, and c) didn't actually like the flavor that much. However I view a 75% success rate as pretty good.

Once finished, came the fun part - breaking them all apart into crackers!

breaking & testing the undersides for doneness

some finished crackers

I need to get some better storage
I packed them all up into various tuperwares, and ended up with a total of 256 crackers. Here's a breakdown of costs:

~3 pounds of flax @ $2.49/lb = $7.47
3 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar @ $5 for a gallon = $.06
1 onion = $.25
3 roma tomatoes = $1
spices, salt = $.50
fresh rosemary and basil from my garden = $0
electricity to run the dehydrator for two days = ~$3 (rounding up)

total cost: $12.28
cost per ounce: $0.26

The boxes of Doctor in the Kitchen Flackers had approximately 20 flackers in them, when I counted. An entire box is 5 oz of crackers, which comes out to about $1.20/ounce. So by making them myself, I am making a hell of a savings! The boxed Flackers of course have convenience on their side, but by doing huge batches at once, I spend a few hours of effort (most of the work is done in the dehydrator, after all) on a couple days and then I have crackers for weeks. Sounds like a good trade off to me.

And this was only with 4 trays. Next time I'll go for broke and do a full 9 trays!