Sourdough Summer

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This summer we’ve had an extra mouth to feed everywhere we’ve traveled throughout the Yucatán peninsula. It’s not all bad, though. This constant companion is silent, housebroken, and never whines or complains. And perhaps best of all, it makes a delectable pizza crust.

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In an effort to improve our digestive health, we began our first sourdough starter almost three months ago, and our kitchen has never been the same. After looking through several online directions, we settled on the tips provided by King Arthur Flour (given our Vermont roots, we’re probably a bit biased). All you really need is a dedicated container with a lid (most people use glass, but we already had a plastic jar) and a steady supply of whole grain flour. One cup whole wheat flour and a half cup water gets things started. Then every day we “feed” the starter in the same way, one cup flour and a half cup water.

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One part of the instructions did make us feel uneasy, though. Once a day, you need to remove half of the starter before you feed it. Many people just compost or throw out the discard, but that felt pretty wasteful. Fortunately, there are a wealth of recipes available to turn the cast-off starter into everything from muffins and pretzels to biscuits and pancakes. Basically, every time we feed the starter we use whatever we take out in a recipe. It is a bit of a commitment, but it helps to know we always have the option to stick the starter in the fridge and just feed it once a week instead.

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For the moment at least, our sourdough starter is making its way into at least one baked good every day. Our favorite recipe, which we find to be the most versatile, is a flatbread recipe from King Arthur. We use just the flatbread (not the topping or filling) part, minus the dry milk. The recipe makes a tasty bread for sandwiches, and also serves as a spectacular pizza crust!

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With fall around the corner, our sourdough summer shows no signs of letting up. While the exact starter we are using at the moment won’t be leaving Cozumel, part of our new ritual upon moving into a rental will undoubtedly now include beginning a new one. Six mouths to feed is really not that bad in the end, especially when one helps to feed the others 🙂

 

A Reactive Saint Patrick’s Day

In addition to pulling out our finest greens for today’s big holiday we used the occasion to introduce the Younger Fives to chemical reactions. To be more precise the reaction between baking soda and vinegar, which leads to some very yummy Irish Soda Bread.

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To start the day we went over the basics of this reaction between an acid and a base and then let the kids play with the ingredients themselves. Five Ball was most surprised with the results after he decided to dump his entire supply of baking soda into his cup of vinegar all at once. The older kids experimented with a bit more moderation:)

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Then we moved on to trapping one of the by-products of the reaction (carbon dioxide) in a balloon. While creating bubbles was exciting this step gave the kids a very tangible example that a gas was indeed being created.

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We then moved into the kitchen where we used the Happy Herbivore’s recipe to make Whole Wheat Vegan Irish Soda Bread. We talked about the importance of leavening agents in making bread and the history of Irish Soda Bread. Did you know that Native Americans were the first to use soda (they used pearl-ash or Potash) in their breads to make them rise?

While the bread was in the oven the kids watched The Magic School Bus Baked in a Cake. They have seen this episode several times before, but it does a great job of reinforcing the concept of chemical reactions in cooking. Plus the kids can never get enough of Mrs. Frizzle!

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Once the soda bread was out of the oven we sat down to a veganized Saint Patrick’s Day meal of Shepherd’s Pie and Irish Spice Cake. All in all a very educational Saint Patrick’s Day that led to five very happy tummies. We hope that you all had a wonderful Saint Patrick’s Day as well!

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E is for Earth Day (That’s Good Enough for Me)

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To gear up for our annual Earth Day waterfall hike (stay tuned for pictures), we decided to celebrate the Earth…in cookie form. We chose an earth-friendly sugar cookie recipe from Peas and Thank You and spent the morning mixing, whipping, and frosting.

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We aren’t too keen on artificial colors, so we found a great resources on making food coloring out of all-natural ingredients. The blueberries made more of a red than blue color (I guess truth in advertising does not apply to fruit), but in the end we had a sizable amount of blue and green frosting to make our cookies into palm-sized planets. Our biggest lesson was that it takes much, much more natural food coloring to get the desired color than it does its artificial counterpart.

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In the end, we felt proud to use the beautiful bounty of the Earth to create cookies with, well, great personality. They could be summed up in just one word: Yum!

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Earth Day Messages from the Fives

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Five of Hearts: When I think about the Earth, I think of how beautiful it is and all the birds moving. Celebrate the Earth. Take a walk. Go outside. Be nice to the Earth, but not just one day a year. Every day.

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Five Ball: I think about the pretty butterflies. The Earth gives us a home. If we did not have the Earth, we’d be in outer space! No throwing trash. If you throw trash, the Earth will be hurt.

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High Five: Keep the bunnies. And tofu!

Valentine’s Day: Rachel Carson, Blowing Cave, and a Whole Lotta Love

There must have been something in the air today because we just couldn’t resist getting outdoors and feeling the love of nature. We started our Valentine’s outing at a the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells, Maine, named in honor of the famed biologist and author Rachel Carson.

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The snow was still somewhat deep, but we trudged through to experience the first half mile of the Rachel Carson Trail. Even with the road fairly close, we could hear the beautiful songs of several different types of birds perched far above us in the pine trees.  Truth be told, though, we did our fair share of disturbing the peace as a few casually tossed snowballs turned into a fifteen minute melee with white spheres plastering our jackets and several innocent tree trunks in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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The calm before the snowball fight.

Tired out from all the excitement and hungry for our first picnic lunch in quite a while, we got back in the Mazda5 and headed down the road a short ways to Kennebunk, home of, among other things, Blowing Cave. After a few passes along Ocean Avenue and one failed attempt to see ex-presidents and/or ex-first ladies out at Walker Point, Five Spice’s keen eyes found our destination about a half-mile back towards Kennebunk.

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The perfect picnic spot.

Blowing Cave is a fairly modest hole worn away in the rocky shoreline that can produce some spectacular sprays when the tide is rising. We had timed our visit by consulting the Kennebunk Tide Chart and were not disappointed. When the novelty of the spouting rock wore off, we contented ourselves by exploring the many tide pools, enjoying a satisfying picnic lunch, and basking in the warm winter’s day.

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Blowing Cave doing what it does best.

When we finally arrived back home we were delighted to find our sun porch to be warm and welcoming. However, nothing could compare to the warmth and love we felt as we enjoyed Five Spice’s Very Vegan Valentine’s Chocolate Cake, a recipe she adapted from the fabulous Have Your Cake and Vegan Too by Kris Holechek Peters.

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Five Spice’s delectable Very Vegan Valentine’s Chocolate Cake.

No holiday would be complete for us without a dance party, so we ended our day with light hearts and dancing feet . Hope you enjoy a few choice selections from our 14-song mix.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Jamaican Red Beans and Rice with Coconut Jerk Tofu

As part of World Wednesday last week, the Fives chose to learn more about the country of Jamaica. After a week of learning as much as we could about the island nation (including its pirate past at Port Royal, its history of slave rebellions, and present industries of sugar cane, bauxite, and tourism), we were ready for a Jamaican dance party and feast.  Here is our take on the island’s jerk seasoning and red beans and rice.

Jamaican Red Beans and Rice (Serves 4)
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup onion
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp thyme
1 tsp salt
1 tsp allspice
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
2 cups boiling water
1 cup brown long-grain rice
1 can kidney beans

In a medium pot, saute the garlic and onion in the coconut oil over medium heat. When both are starting to brown, add the spices and saute for another minute. Add the coconut milk and saute another two minutes.

Add the boiling water and rice, then simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes.

Remove from heat. Mix in the beans and let sit for 10 minutes.

Coconut Jerk Tofu
1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves diced garlic
2 tbsp ginger root
2 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tbsp coriander
1 tsp allspice
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Juice from 1/2 lime
1/2 cup canned coconut milk
1 package extra firm tofu, drained and pressed

Saute over medium heat the garlic, onion, and ginger in the coconut oil until they start to brown. Add in the spices and saute for another 1 minute.  Remove from heat and mix in the lime juice and coconut milk.

Cut the tofu into cubes and gently mix with the jerk mixture. Marinade for at least one hour.

Saute tofu on medium-high heat until tofu starts to brown.