Saturday, May 31, 2014

Strata de Mayo

Well, it happened again.  We accidentally blinked, and another three weeks flew by.  Fortunately, we remembered just in time to post a strata recipe for May (or maybe we didn't depending on where Blogger thinks we are).  And no, we totally didn't plan to post this closer to Cinco de Mayo, when it would have made way more sense.  But here it is, fashionably late: a strata to celebrate the Mexican army's victory over invading French forces on May 5, 1862 in the Battle of Puebla.

We started by browning up a pound of ground venison in our best cast iron skillet.

We seasoned it with our favorite Mexican seasonings: about a teaspoon each of pepper, garlic powder, paprika, and rosemary, two teaspoons of onion powder and cumin, and half a teaspoon of salt and cayenne pepper. (Ok, maybe paprika isn't Mexican, but it adds some nice red color).  Not pictured: a teaspoon of hot sauce and half a teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

Then we made the layers in a 13" x 9" pan as usual, with bread at the bottom, then cheese, meat, and chopped onions.  The cheese we had was Monterrey jack, but any cheese will do, as long as it's not French.  (Or at least, if it is French, you have to think of it as defeating the French by eating their cheese.)

Lather, rinse, repeat, ending with cheese on top.

This is the egg soak: six eggs, three cups milk, a tablespoon each of onion powder, garlic powder, and cumin, and half a tablespoon each of black and red pepper.

We poured it over the layers, covered the pan, and set it in the fridge to marinate for several hours.  It works best when soaking next to a couple jars of dandelion jelly.

Later that day, or the next morning, it goes in the oven at 375 °F for 45-55 min, or until it looks like this.  We were going to add some butter-soaked tortilla chips on top, but we kind of forgot.  (For traditional strata, there would be butter-soaked corn flakes, but corn flakes are not usually considered a traditional Mexican dish.)

It goes well with Katie's salsa, guacamole, and sour cream.  Mmmmmm.  It's like a piñata for your tongue! Olé!

How did you celebrate Cinco de Mayo?  Have you made a Mexican-themed strata before?  Tell us about it in the comments section below!

The recipe:
10 slices of bread (at least)
1 lb shredded cheese
1 lb ground venison, browned and seasoned to taste with black pepper, red pepper, red pepper flakes, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, cumin, hot sauce, and rosemary
1 onion, chopped
6 eggs
3 cups milk
1 Tablespoon each of onion powder, garlic powder, and cumin,
0.5 Tablespoon each of black and red pepper

Layer the bread, ground meat, onions, and cheese in a 9" x 13" pan, starting with bread and ending with cheese. Beat together eggs, milk, onion powder, garlic powder, cumin, black pepper, and red pepper. Pour over layers and set in fridge for several hours or overnight. Bake at 375 °F for 45-55 min, until golden brown and delicious-smelling. Serve with sour cream, salsa, and guacamole. Green chili sauce and enchilada sauce are also acceptable.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

More Fun With Dandies: How to Pull the Petals

If you've been following this blog for any amount of time, you might have noticed that we've slowed down quite a bit with our posting schedule.  It's not for lack of things to post about, of that you can be sure.  It's mainly because we've got so much going on that we haven't had a chance to sit down and write about all the fun we've been having!  Last week, our homestead population increased from 2 to 7,027 due to the arrival of a package of honey bees and 25 chickens.  (At this rate, we'll have to annex the neighbors' yards by June!)  We've also had significantly increased off-the-homestead responsibilities since the end of March.  But above all, the primary reason we've been so slow in posting is that we've been trying to use every dandelion flower in our yard. (We haven't even come close, but maybe next year.)

In the course of making use of all these dandies, we've improved our technique for pulling the petals out of the flowers, so we wanted to do a quick post to let everyone know about our new technique, in case someone else might want to get out and try it before the dandelion production drops off this spring.

This is the part of the yard where they have to share with grass and other flowers.  Other parts they have all to themselves.  Clearly, if we're going to get them all, we've got to move quickly. 

Most sources on collecting the flowers agree up to this point: keep just the flower head.

This is where our new technique diverges.  While others say to dig out the petals with your thumbnail, we've found it's quicker and easier to split the flower head in half, but not go all the way through, like so.

Then we take the pad of our thumb and rub the petals from one half from the split outward.  Almost all should come at once, if not, the stragglers are easier to grab with the flower split open.  Sometimes a few of the green parts on the back side will break off also, but for the most part, it's not a problem if they come along.  At the end of the day, we've usually got about 99% petals and 1% green stuff in the bowl.

Repeat with the other side, and we're done!  After a while, we get in the zone and can run at about five seconds per flower, except for the most stubborn specimens.  It's close to the same time frame for processing strawberries or green beans or the like.  Also, we've noticed that from about four cups of flower heads, we'll end up with about three-and-a-half cups of petals if they don't get too packed down.

With the petals, you can make all kinds of stuff, like wine and jelly!  While the petals themselves don't have a lot of flavor, they definitely add something besides yellow color to the end product.  It's just the right amount of je ne sais quoi...

The jelly looks especially nice when sitting on a matching honey bee-themed hand towel and catching the afternoon sun through a washroom window.  Also, since we know you're wondering: yes, it goes great with peanut butter in a sandwich.

The wine is still going, so we probably shouldn't post a recipe until it's done and we know it's good, but here's the recipe for the jelly, based in part off of Kristina's recipe here:

4 cups dandelion petals
8 cups water

Boil the water and petals for ten minutes, strain out petals (we used an old t-shirt) to give a nice yellow dandelion petal tea.

4 cups of the dandelion petal "tea"
0.25 cups lemon juice
2 cups sugar
4 teaspoons Pomona's pectin + 4 teaspoons calcium water (from powdered CaCl2 included in the pectin box)

Mix the sugar and pectin together well.  Mix "tea," lemon juice, and calcium water together, and bring to a boil.  Add sugar/pectin mix, stir vigorously to dissolve, bring to full rolling boil, keeping a close eye on the stove so the pot doesn't boil over and make a thick layer of dandelion fruit roll-up in the nether regions of your stove.  (Not that that would ever happen.)  Remove from heat.  Pour into clean canning jars and process according to preferred instructions. (We normally use the inversion method of turning the full jar upside down for 5-10 minutes, then flipping back upright, but food safety experts recommend at least a boiling water bath for a reliable seal.  General instructions are here; to apply to this recipe, replace every instance of 'chokecherry juice' with 'dandelion petal tea.')

What are you using dandelion flowers for this spring?  Have you managed to pick all of the dandies in your yard? (Don't forget, today is mother's day, and mothers love flowers!)