Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mesquite Bean Extract and what you can do with it

Mesquite trees grow all over the southwest. They make long light yellow bean pods. It is the pod that is used for food.
I throw as many beans (whole) as I can into a pretty vodka, rum or whiskey bottle. Then I fill it with vodka. Let it sit without touching it for at least 3 months. It turns golden. I just leave the beans in it as I use it. This is an extract like vanilla and can be used all the same ways. I love to make cool drinks in the summer by using this with fruit juice (like apple or pear) and ice and make it a smoothie with ice in your blender. Superb.
You can also use it in baking. Or behind your ears to smell delightful. I am going to use it as a base for fruit brandy this winter, where you just add canned fruit and sugar every couple of months.
During the winter, I boil the beans on the wood stove to make the whole house smell like apples and cinnamon. Then I use the broth in bread and cakes.
you can also grind the beans and sift out the seeds and use this with flour in baking (like corn meal)
Finally got the printer coordinated with the solar stuff so I can print things. The camera is next, I will add photos to some earlier posts.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Summer Days Countdown

I have been keeping a daily journal since I moved out here. Each day also has a countdown to the last day of summer. It isn't that accurate because here in the lower part of California, we have summer like weather sometimes until October. But it is encouraging the see the days dwindle down and know that eventually, I will be able to bake something, use our refridgerator again, and be able to go outside without having to run back and sit in front of the fan after only about 10 minutes.
I have learned to harvest and cook Palo Verde Beans! They are easy to harvest with a rake and a sheet. Just lay the sheet under the tree and rake the branches. They fall to the ground quickly because they are dry (a nice golden beige color) and many fall off of the sheet for the other desert denizens to enjoy. Hulling them is tedious, and I would have used a flail and basket type method, but some of the hulls had little holes in them and also little holes in the beans! Don't want all that work to be eaten up in the storage jar. They should be soaked before cooking, because those little suckers take up a lot of water. Even after soaking the ratio is about 5/1 for water and beans in the pan. They cook in about 2 hours, and are the consistency of corn kernels. But after that, you can add them to rice pilaf, or salads, or stews. I have used them as a garnish as well. They are black and add a nice contrast to the food colorwise.
Palo Verde Bean Rice Pilaf
1 Cup Cooked palo Verde Beans
1/2 Cup Chopped Onions
2 T. Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Canned Corn
1/2 Cup Chopped Tomato
Saute all in Cast Iron or heavy sauce pan until onions are transparent.
1 Cup Uncooked Rice
1 T. Chicken Boullion
Garlic Powder to taste
Saute with other ingredients for about 2 minutes.
2 Cups of liquid (water from the corn, stock or just plain water)
Cook on high until bubbly. then lower heat and place good fitting lid on pan.
Check after about 15-20 minutes, if rice is just starting to stick to the bottom and all the liquid is gone, turn off heat and replace lid. Wait 5-10 minutes before serving. this gives the food enough time to even out liquid wise and the rice will no longer be stuck to the pan. I think it is caused by condensation from the lid.
Garnish with: Chopped greens from the garden or chopped green onions.
Serve with tortilla chips or as a side dish.
We have been eating variations of this dish almost every night so far this summer. It is quick and easy and lends ittself to any extra items you might want to add.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Update from the Hot Desert

We are enjoying a little break of under 115 degree weather. It seems so balmy. Our outdoor bathtub has been our little dipping pool. But we realized we needed to shade it when I couldn't even put my feet in the water because it was too hot! So Stephen got a really cheap "gazebo" (I am using the quotes on purpose) to shade our tub. We assembled it that night. Next day was great, cool water all day. Then that night there was a windstorm just before sundown. Even though we pegged it into the ground, it flew up and crashed into the mesquite tree. The cover was surprisingly strong, only a few little holes, but the metal frame bent in a couple of places. After the storm, we put it back with some improvements, using the rope provided in the package, we tied the legs down as well as pegging them and included a couple of tires for balast. Next day, whoops. Now more metal is bent. The connecting roof tarp and the side stitching is coming apart. So we wedged one leg under the tub (cast iron with enameling, not going anywhere) and attached a coffee can filled with concrete to it. The north leg we left down (more shade in the late afternoon and weighed down with tires. The east and south legs are tied to tires and wedged with heavy branches. But because of the bent metal the top connectors keep coming apart, but that is easy to do during the many times we go out there just to pour cool water over ourselves so we can return to the little 12 volt fans in the bedroom and be our own personal water coolers. Today (2 weeks after purchase and original setup) we found all our tie downs broken and the whole "gazebo" upturned and heading for the mesquite tree again. I thought the dogs might have gotten tangled in it somehow, but when we went to retie the ropes they came apart in our hands! So evidently this fabulous outdoor convenience is only supposed to last a couple of weeks because the tie down ropes have begun to self destruct. I wish Stephen had remembered to put batteries in his camera, mine is still packed somewhere in a box. Also one day I was just sitting on the tub enjoying the breeze and shade and my feet in cool water and I spotted a tiny lizard on a branch near the ground. I was in the middle of telling it how cute it was when a gopher snake came out of the bushes and grabbed it and disappeared into the weeds. Well, there went a couple of mis assumptions, 1 snakes eat lizards! 2 snakes hunt in the hottest part of the day if there is shade! More to come.