Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sad tale with Happy dehydrator ending...especially for a person with diabetes!

Disclaimer! This is not a medical article about Diabetes.  This is simply a telling of our experience with my husband's diabetes and one way we keep him healthy and active. 

My husband, Ken, is a very active man.  He thinks nothing of bicycling 20 miles, kayaking for four hours, or sailing for days!  He and I both would rather be on the water, but anywhere outside is fine.  Camping, is a great weekend for us...depending on where our campground is we'll either bike, walk, or kayak the time away! 

About 7 year ago we were out bicycling on a section of the Rail Trail south of York.  I was back at the car when Ken came dragging in.  I mean really dragging, barely able to walk.  I ran over to him and he panted out that he had hit a real sugar low on the trail! 

Ken is diabetic.  While he had eaten a good breakfast before we went out to the trail, he had overdone it and his sugar level dropped to a point that he had hit a hypoglycaemic low.  For a diabetic this can be serious! 

According to
Hypoglycaemia is a condition where the level of glucose (sugar) in the blood drops below a certain point – about 3.0mmol/l.  This causes a number of symptoms such as dizziness, sweating, shaking and palpitations, that usually go away 10 to 15 minutes after eating sugar.

I took Ken immediately for some food at a nearby hamburger joint.  Once his blood sugar was back up he explained that he had asked several people on the trail if they had any candy, a power bar or anything since he was having a diabetic low.  NO ONE helped him.  He was asking adults, and had explained that he had diabetes and they just ignored him!  I was furious!  How could anyone talk to someone in distress and not help?  We weren't in New York City for pete's sake, we were on a biking trail, and Ken was dressed in biking clothes. 
Ok, sure I can understand that he could have appeared to be inebriated, especially looking at the description of the symptons of a sugar low two paragraphs above.  But still wouldn't YOU help out?  Usually he didn't go out on any kind of excursion without a piece of candy or something to combat this type of event, but this one time he did. 

After that incident, I read up on what was best to carry and I started dehydrating fruit for him to carry at all times, including even in the car.
On I found Mary Bell's Complete Dehyrdrator Cookbook.  What a great way to learn about dehydrating!  She lists each fruit and vegetable common in the USA, with an explanation of the water content of each, how best to prepare it and how to treat them to alleviate the browning for some fruits and vegetables. 
Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Cookbook
My research showed that our local Walmart had the best price on a Nesco dehydrator.  I couldn't believe how easy it was to get trays and trays of dedrated fruit for us to carry. 

I started with apples, went on to strawberries (one of my daughter's favorites!), pears, bananas, cantalope, even watermelon!  And speaking of haven't had good pears until you've had dehydrated Asian pears!  Oh, talk about flavorful and sugary!  Yummy!  Those are Ken's favorite!

The great thing is this is something you can do with you kids to get them off those sugar filled treats!  You cut the fruit and have them put it on the trays.  You can even get them to pick out their favorite fruits, or go to the orchards to help you pick them! 

OH!  I forgot to mention the money you save over buying dehydrated fruits!  For a 6 oz bag of dehydrated pear slices you'll pay more than $5.00!  Plus you don't have any chemicals added to the fruits when you do them at home.  I will sometimes use a mild lemon juice and water solution to stop my pears and apples from browning during the drying process, but no chemicals are used! 

One more's best to use fruit that is just slightly overripe...the more ripe, the more natural sugar content and the better the final product is.  So don't throw away those apples that are going soft, or that pear! 

One of our favorites is an idea I got from one of our local orchards.  They sell dried apples bits with cinnamon.  A four ounce bag will set you back $4.50.  I took gala apples, washed and sliced them and then tossed them with just a tiny bit of Splenda and a few teaspoons of cinnamon. 

I put the pieces on the trays and turned the dehydrator on. 

You don't want to over season fruit you are drying because the flavors intensify during the drying process.

Five regular size apples will dehydrate down to 5 ounces of dried fruit. 
I don't peel the apples or pears either! 

As you can see below, just about any fruit hits the seedless grapes make the best raisins around!  Papaya and strawberries are always a great addition to our trail or gorp mix! 

You can also make some great fruit leathers.  Simply put your fruits in the blender, add a bit of apple sauce and whir!  Then pour onto sheets that fit over the dehydator trays. 

Dried apples are great for pies in the winter also.  Reconstitute them in a big of water, use like you would fresh apples...or add them to your favorite coffee cake or bread! 

By the way there are many other types of dehydrators out there, as well as other ways of drying fruite.  A recent episode of Good Eats had Alton Brown making a drying device out of a huge box fan and a few furnace filters!  At one of the Amish farms you can visit in Lancaster, PA, you can see a smoke house type of dryer that requires a wood fire, and Dorothy, a Mennonite woman who has had a stand at the East York Farmer's Market for 50 years, uses the wood stove that heats her house to dry her apples.  I've even just put apple slices on a cooling rack next to my gas furnace and dried the apples that way.  So give it a try!  It's easy, money saving and healthy! 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Triple Lemon Chicken Piccata

It was a stressful day, matter of fact a stressful week!  Friday felt more like Monday!  So tonight when I got home ALL I wanted to do was cook.  I had been imagining the chicken piccata all day!  But first I had to stop by the wine store. 

What?  "What was I doing in a wine store!"  You ask?  Believe it or not...I am out of white wine.  Well, except for that small, lonely bottle of Gewurztraminer in the wine rack.  But that is a wine too sweet for this dish.  I wanted something with citrus notes, a bit of resin and a tad dry.  So I hit the wine store and found a good reasonably priced 2008 Bolla Soave from Italy.  Perfect! 

Chicken piccata has become a favorite of ours.  It's relatively inexpensive, quick and so full of a few of our favorite flavors...lemons, capers, and more! 

I wanted to kick the lemon up a notch on this batch though.  I have some lemon verbena and chives that I am growing and figured they would make a great addition to the dish. 

Chicken piccata is one of those dishes that really stretches.  I took two chicken breasts, butterflied them and then pounded them flat, dredged them in flour, and sprinkle with fresh ground sea salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Then pan fried them in butter with a touch of olive oil.

I put the cooked chicken on a clean plate, drained most of the butter off, then added the chives and lemon verbena.  While the chicken had been pan frying, I had measured out 2 cups of my favorite chicken broth, College Inn Culinary Broth White Wine & Herb.  Penzey's spices makes a great lemon extract, so I added 2 tablespoons of it to the juice from 3 lemons. 


I also put 3 tablespoons of capers in a small dish.   By the way...I drain most of the liquid out of my caper jar and replace it with balsamic vinegar. 

I added the chicken broth to the pan, and brought it back to a boil, then added the lemon juice, lemon extract, and capers.  After it had cooked down, I added the capers, and finally two tablespoons of butter after the sauce had reduced. 

In the meantime I put on some angel hair spaghetti to boil.  While the spaghetti was cooking I finely grated about 1/2 cup reggiano parmesano cheese.  Once the spaghetti was done I drained it and tossed with the cheese and a tablespoon of butter.  This is how alfredo sauce should be made by the way!  No added milk or cream.  Just fabulous cheese and a dollop of butter. 

What were Ken and Scupper doing while I cooked?  It had been a stressful day for Ken also, so he relaxed outside on the patio.  Scupper had to lay on the grass and relax from his hectic day too I guess!  LOL. 

Right before serving I put the chicken into the sauce to warm it up but not overcook it. 

Plating was easy...pasta with the ooey-gooey cheese, then the chicken next to it with sauce spooned on.  A salad made of English cucumbers, tomatoes and avacados tossed with rice wine vinegar rounded out this fabulous meal!  No dessert needed!   


The wine was a perfect addition to the meal! 

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Brunello Italian Wine ... Yes, you CAN do this Two!

Disclaimer: This is NOT a technical article nor is it meant to be.  I am simply demonstrating how I make wine using Wine Expert kits.  I also make wine from "scratch" but will post about that later. 

If you haven't done so already, you will enjoy reading the lead-in to this article:
--------------------------------------------- glad you decided you HAD to know how to make wine and save lots of money! make sure you have sanitized everything.  It actually takes me longer to sanitize than start the wine.  That is the one caveat.  Keep your equipment clean and sanitized.  But you do that already when you bake bread right?  Or any cooking?  I mentioned this in my post on Pesach Mead ( %20about in March 2010.

You'll need a few supplies and can go to the Wine Expert website for an idea of what you need.  Just click here to see Tim's blog (he's the lecturer I've heard 2 times now):  If you want to contact Mr. Steve's to ask about his starter kits for making wine or beer go here:  Or make it a point to visit your local wine and beer brewing supply store

Once all is sanitized, open your wine kit. 

Pull out the bags of the ingredients.  In the case of the Brunello Italian it was packets 1-4, and four packages of chips to simulate aging in oak barrels.  In this case it included:  Oak chips, 2 packs of Toasted Oak, and one of French Oak. 

Pour 2 litres of hot water in the bottom of the fermentor.  Then pour in packet 1 and stir well for 30 second. 

Add the juice...oh the juice.  OMG the juice is so'll never look at Welch's again!  The juices used in these kits are so rich, flavorful, and aromatic you'll just want to sit down and drink it!  But don't!  Pour it into the fermenter! 

As you can see in these pictures of Ken pouring in the juice, he is bent over and carefully pouring it in.  It's a heavy box so he gets to do this step! 
Still pouring. 

Then fill the bag that the juice was in with lukewarm water and fill the fermentor to the 6 gallon line. 

You can use a different type of fermenter.  I have several other fermenters some are plastic and some are glass and came from Mr. Steve's. 

Stir for about 30 seconds or a minute. 

Next open the oak chips packets and pour them in.  Note: if using scissors to open the packets, make sure you sanitize your scissors! 

Stir in the chips, getting them all submerged. 

"Pitch" the yeast.  This means open the yeast packet and sprinkle the yeast on the top.  DON'T STIR! 

In about 24-48 hours you will start to see some foaming action and smell a wonderful aromatic odor emitting from the fermentor.  Ahhhh.  Pure heaven to our noses!  I keep my packets and labels taped to the top of my fermenter along with the instructions just to make sure I don't lose anything. 

Now how long did that take? You spent 30 minutes or so sanitizing.  And then MAYBE 10 minutes to pour the ingredients and mix them.  That's it!  Now you let it sit for 7-10 days.  Then you will take a measure with your hyrdrometer.  If it's to the correct reading you'll go to step 2. 

I'll add more posts labeled Brunello Italian Wine Three and Four as I go through the next steps over the next 6-8 weeks.  Each step is easy and doesn't take much time at all.

Brunello Italian Wine ... Yes, you CAN do this!

OK! Listen up! WHY haven't you tried making your own wine yet? Times are tough, money is tight, and jobs are scarce! So again I ask again, "Why haven't you tried making your own wine yet?"

Ah, too complex you say? Bull.

Too expensive? Bull again.

No time? Triple bull! It takes less than two hours to get your first batch of wine going if using a kit.

However, I do suggest planning ahead. For instance if you want to make wine for your daughter's wedding (oh yes, you will want to trust me!), plan on starting the wine 3-6 months ahead, and even up to 1 year ahead. I'll explain more about this later on in this post. Think about it as you start looking at wedding facilities and reception halls...explain that you will be bringing your own "winery" wine. Oh yes, I am serious!

Making wine from a kit is far easier than making wine from the scratch...I mean the grapes. It's also easier than making beer, and only slightly more difficult than making bread...yes, even the Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day. So read on!

Last fall I attended (for the second time) a lecture by Tim, about how the folks of Wine Expert (a Canadian company) scour the world and select the juice they want for their kits. It was a "sold out" event (actually free, but there was standing room only. Spots were gone just 1 day after seat reservations opened)! The lecture was sponsored by Mr. Steve's where I buy my wine and beer making supplies here in York, PA.

Tim does a great lecture! He brings forth all manner of information of what makes a good vineyard a great place to grow grapes. He talks about how the weather, rain, drainage, type of soil, amount of sunshine come into play for fabulous wine grapes. We learn about the country, the terrain, the district, and the wide varieties of grapes. And he is funny! How can you not enjoy an evening like that?

Then we get to TASTE wines that are similar, but of course not as good as ours will be! LOL. We tasted wine paired with chocolate, fruit, cheese, etc. Sorry, no caviar! Darn! LOL. Think about that next time Wine Expert and Mr. Steve's! LOL.

Finally, we got to place our orders for these Selection International Series. Special warning here, no more of the Brunello is available (at the time of this post). These kits are strictly limited in number, another thing to keep in mind for that wedding! We've ordered kits from Wine Expert at these lectures before and have never been disappointed. They have other kits available year around too! Below are just a few of the types of wines we have made. With these more deluxe kits the labels come with the kits. We've used their regular wine kits also.

2009 was their first offering (special ordering) of Brunello Italian in four years! This is a wine that is deep, dark, and rich, with an abundance of dark fruit flavors, plum, a hint of cherry, and aged oak. So I had to buy 2 for drinking in 6 months or so (although their info says it's ready in 6-8 weeks) and one for setting back (once made) to age for a few years. Yes, we're that serious about this!

A good Brunello wine will set you back $49.99 a bottle and more. I paid $114.00 for each kit. One kit makes 33 (750 ml) bottles. So let's do the math...that's only $3.49 a bottle! And a little bit of your time.

Yes, there is a start-up investment of $100.00 for the supplies such as the fermenter bucket, a hydrometer (for measuring alcoholic content during the fermentation process), and a few other tools. But there are wine and beer supply stores that allow you to use their equipment and facilities for a few dollars more. This is especially popular for those wanting a fun group activity such as getting the wine bottled for a wedding!

As to bottles, I have only bought bottles one time, and that was when I wanted some blue splits (475 ml bottles). I usually just ask bartenders to save me some bottles and within a night or two I have plenty of bottles. I do try to bottle my wines into the proper shape bottles, but that's not necessary. I clean the bottles well, remove the old labels and sanitize them well before filling them. Again, $3.45 compared to $49.99 a bottle...isn't that worth your time? Not to metion the satisfaction of doing it yourself!

Many friends have certainly enjoyed my wines! Ha! you thought they only got bread didn't you? I gave a bottle of one of my wines to a friend. She wasn't listening well when I gave it to her. She drank it, then went around trying to find it in the wine stores in her area so she could buy more. Hello! I said I made it myself! LOL.

Another time I gave a bottle of one of a regular merlot to the V.P. at work as a Christmas present. He thanked me but didn't say anything for 6 months. I figured he probably thought it was not going to be good since it was "homemade." One day he came in, pulled me aside and said "I finally had the wine you gave me. I was sitting out by the lake and thought I would just have a glass of it. I finished the entire bottle! It was really good!" He had a touch of wonder in his voice! I was smiling all day, especially since he has a reputation of having very discerning taste!  

And when my husband started his consulting business, we held a launch party and served our homemade wines and beers to our guests and they loved it! 

I don't know how many people have asked to buy some of my wines, especially the Chocolate Raspberry Port!  This is a... very... BIG... NO! NO!  Federal regulations allow us to make 100 gallons per person in the residence. We can give it away, donate it (such as to a non-profit fundraiser), but sell it and you'll end up facing federal charges. But you CAN serve it at that wedding coming up!

Please understand, I am not bragging about my abilities in making these wines...instead I am bragging about how this company makes these kits so easy to use, and how you can save alot of money! 

So let's get started!   Go to the next post titled:  Brunello Italian Wine ... Yes, you CAN do this Two!  There you will be able to follow the easy process!

Friday, May 14, 2010

May 15th Bread Braid - Hearty Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

I full Master Recipe
1 loaf of Hearty Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf, pgs 62-63
Turkish-style Pita bread with black sesame seeds, pgs 66-67
Whole Grain Garlic Knots, pgs 64-65

While we can not put the recipe on our blogs, due to our agreement with the authors of Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day, we can share what and how we substituted with the group in our blogs. 

I've been using Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois two books, Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day and Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day since they books came out.  I love the ease of the recipes, and the wonderful way they come out.  I very seldom buy bread anymore...sorry Wegmans! 


WWW (white whole wheat) for the whole wheat
for once I did NOT switch the AP (All Purpose) and WW (whole wheat) measurements
I've given up trying to get my husband, Ken, to eat whole wheat bread.  But I love it so much I make it for me and my neighbors and co-workers.  LOL

Due to all the studying I had to do for my final exam I did not have time to try round up black sesame seeds, and make the pitas or the garlic knots. 


Instead I did an experiement with the basic recipe and the method I formed the loaves and raised them. 

I started with my favorite way of forming the bread.  I flattened out a 1 pound ball of dough into a rectangle (ok, roughly that shape), then starting at one end I roll the dough tightly. 

I then put formed a one pound ball into a regular loaf shape and put it into a bread pan. 

In the picture below you can see that a 1 pound loaf does not fill this bread pan even after rising.  Since it's difficult to slash with a knife, ne impossible, I use a pair of scissors.

I've come to love Julia Child's meticulous methods and found that she rose her baguettes in a floured dish towel (the old fashioned kind with the tight weave such as I've used below).  She would form the baguette, and then lay it in the middle of the floured dishtowel, then fold the towel in half.  She would then hang the towel from a drawer and allow it rise.  I did not make this baguette long enough, but you get the idea. 

Months ago I also tried the towel method hung up in my laundry room.  That was a hoot!  I didn't hang it on the drawer because it was a seeded oat bread that was very heavy and I was afraid it wouldn't hang from the drawer without falling.


Here I am doing my best imitation of Julia Childs during an Oscar night celebration at work.  I wondered around the two floor call center like this saying in a loud boisterous voice "Bon Appetit!"  It was hilarious!  I could tell the folks that didn't cook or watch cooking shows!  They had NO idea who I was imitating and when I told them they went "Who's that!"  Such peasants!  LOL. 


Once the baguette had risen sufficiently, I gently rolled it onto the cookie sheet.  I sometimes use a cookie sheet instead of my baking stone just because I want to get everything on one surface easily and not have to transfer it.  I honestly find it comes out very well indeed. 

There is something so satisfying in seeing the bread pop open as soon as you slash it.  It's as if it is giving a sigh, like us women when we remove that tight pair of panty hose, or tight girdle (now called fancier names by marketing departments.  Watching the dough bloom before it even hits the oven is proof to me that the loaf will be a winner! 

As you can see below, they are all winners!  The baguette on the right is the rolled up version. 
Lower centrer is the one I hung in the dishtowel. 
Upper center is just an oval loaf let to rise in the pan and you can see how it spread out
and sort of flattened out. 
The left loaf is a bowl shape but you can see the lump on the right hand side. 
So which method or rising and shaping do I like best?  I prefer the rolled baguettes best with Julia Child's method second.  I like the bowls more than the oval shapes.  Next I am going to try one of our other HBin5 member's method.  Old Pop ( uses pieces of wood to give the rising loaves a higher support.  I think his loaves come out well with that method also. 

As I've said, Ken won't eat whole wheat bread, but Waneta, my neighbor, will!  It happened to be Mother's Day so I took her down a loaf.  It also happened that Don, one of her son's, was in town. 
So I took him a small loaf also. 
Don is an interior designer, and he set the beautiful table seen below. 

Waneta had to cut into her loaf as soon as the picture above was taken. 
Don then got a piece and started contemplating the taste and crumb.  He declared it an excellent loaf! 

I've got to say this is one of my favorite breads and I will continue to make it! 

Be sure to stop by Big Black Dogs ( to find the links to the other great bakers' versions of these great recipes! 

I made a full recipe

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Pesach Mead, the Ezzie way (Follow Up)

On Sunday, March 14, 2010, I wrote about making Pesach Mead, a honey alcoholic beverage that is a good substitute for beer during Pesach (Passover).

The "beer" wasn't fully carbonated in time for Pesach, but it was still very drinkable.  We have been enjoying it and sharing it with neighbors and friends.  We have some of it left...but bottles of it go quickly when brought out.  Recently we were visiting some neighbors who own a beer distribution store here in Pennsylvania.  When he tasted the Pesach Mead he immediately claimed the rest of the large bottle for himself.  We did have to warn him that this stuff is 8.7%.  Since we were sitting at HIS house he didn't care, he didn't have to drive!  LOL. 

Ken, my husband and favorite label designer, did a very good job coming up with a label that represented the history of this mead type beverage.