Sunday, June 23, 2013

Mesquite Waffles

Mesquite flour can be substituted into regular recipes in small amounts. Because it is gluten-free, mesquite flour does not add the "stretchy" elastic qualities that other flours provide for leavened dough. To avoid overly crumbly results, mesquite flour should be limited to no more than 20-30% of total flour in a recipe. Mesquite flour is also naturally sweet, so sugars or other sweetening ingredients may have to be adjusted to taste.

This morning we made waffles with some of our mesquite flour. We adapted our normal from-scratch recipe and they turned out really tasty, with just a hint of the sweet mesquite flavor.

As an added bonus, the kitchen smelled like sweet mesquite while these were cooking.

B's Mesquite Waffles
B's Mesquite Waffles

1-1/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. mesquite flour
1 large tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 egg
1/8 c. canola oil
1-1/4 c. water

Stir dry ingredients together in a bowl. Make a well in the center and add the egg, canola oil and water. Stir together until well blended. Let sit about 10 minutes to allow the baking powder to rise. Bake on a pre-heated waffle iron until done.

Makes about 5 medium-size waffles.

"And I thought the waffle fairy was just a bedtime story!"
~ Donkey, in Shrek Forever After

Friday, June 21, 2013

Summer Solstice

One year ago today we took the first picture in this series, recording the north-to-south movement of the sun's path across the sky over the course of a year. To show this movement, we took photos of the sun setting behind the mountains on our western horizon.

There were 4 times during the past year that we took these photos:

Summer Solstice - June 20, 2012
First day of Summer.
Longest period of daylight.
Sun is furthest north and highest in the sky.

Autumnal Equinox - Sept 22, 2012
First day of Fall.
Equal hours of daylight and dark. Mid point between Summer and Winter Solstices.

Winter Solstice - Dec 21, 2012
First day of Winter.
Shortest period of daylight.
Sun is furthest south and lowest in the sky.

Vernal Equinox - March 20, 2013
First day of Spring.
Equal hours of daylight and dark. Mid point between Winter and Summer Solstices.

Summer Solstice - June 21,2013
First day of Summer.

And so on...

Long ago before there were watches, printed calendars and smart phones, our ancestors observed the movements of the sun and stars to keep track of time. Human-built structures such as Stonehenge, Chaco Canyon, Central American pyramids and many other monuments worldwide helped skywatchers to mark the passage of time. They were able to schedule and prepare for annual events such as planting, harvesting, dry and rainy seasons and more through an understanding of the recurring celestial patterns.

Wall mounted Sundial (on south facing wall)

Our wall mounted sundial is a reminder of the times when people couldn't just check a smart phone to know the time of day.

Although the traditional markers of time are no longer in common use, they still work - even if we don't take time to notice.

Little drops of water, little grains of sand,
Make the mighty ocean, and the pleasant land.
And the little moments, humble though they be,
Make the mighty ages of eternity.
~ Julia Carney, Little Things

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

An Early Mesquite Harvest

The pods on our mesquite trees have been ripening since the first week in June.

We usually expect to harvest each year around the 4th of July, so this is a couple of weeks earlier than normal.

To harvest the pods, we spread a clean bed sheet below a tree branch and knock the branch with a broom handle. Only the ripe pods will fall off easily onto the sheet.

You can shake the pods and hear the seeds rattling inside, another sign that the pod is ripe.

We rinse the gathered pods to remove any dust, and then spread them on racks to let them dry thoroughly. The pods must be completely dry before grinding.

We started out with 1 pound of mesquite pods. Any pods that were obviously discolored or inferior quality were sorted through and removed.

One pound of pods was enough to fill a 2.5 quart bowl.

The selected pods were broken into smaller pieces and ground a small batch at a time in the blender.

It seemed to process best with the blender about 1/3 full of broken pods.

We ran each batch for 20-30 seconds, at the Puree setting.

It is important to grind the pods when the weather is not humid. Otherwise, the mesquite flour can become sticky and difficult to process.

After processing the pods we have the mesquite flour, some rough chaff, and the seeds inside the pods.

The flour is sifted after grinding, to separate out the seeds and chaff.

Mesquite flour has a sweet and nutty taste.

It is highly nutritious: high in dietary fiber and protein, low in carbs and fat, and has a low glycemic index.

The coarse chaff can be used to make a mesquite sun tea.

The seeds are high in protein, but are extremely hard.

A hammermill would be needed to process the pods and seeds completely.

The final results of this batch...

1 lb of raw mesquite pods
(2.5 quarts) yields:

-- 1-1/4 cups of flour

-- 1-3/4 cups of seeds/chaff

There are lots of uses for mesquite flour:
-- Baked goods: Breads, Muffins, Pancakes, Waffles, Cookies, Corn Bread
-- Beverages: Sun Tea, Smoothies
-- Seasoning: sprinkle on foods; mix into breading on chicken, fish and meats

Mesquite Flour is gluten free. Substitute no more than 1/4 to 1/3 mesquite flour for the regular flour in your recipes.

Mesquite Flour is naturally sweet, so you may wish to adjust the amount of sugar and other sweeteners in your recipe as well.

There are lots of free recipes online for cooking with Mesquite Flour.

For more information about using native desert plants for food, visit