Dried Ground Cherries

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left to right: naked ground cherries, cinnamon raisin dried ground cherries, whole ground cherries with their husks, ground cherry plant 

photo by vsimon

Last year we had 1, this year we 7 ground cherry plants. Some we paid for, some were grown from saved seeds. Some were volunteer plants from last year. This could get out of hand.

A purchase plant was labeled “pineapple ground cherry”, most were simply “ground cherry.” We taste tested each one and didn’t notice any difference in flavor, size, or color. I think the pineapple name is just a marketing ploy.

Vince has already put up 26  jars of ground cherry jam. That is probably enough, even for gift giving. We have also had ground cherry and raspberry crisp. But what to do with this continuing embarrassment of riches? Dry them!! 

We have a super duper commercial quality dehydrator, with a thermostat and a fan. We use it every year for sliced dried tomatoes. Dried until they are thin and crispy, they are easy to crumble by hand into recipes. 

Reasoning, if we didn’t dry them as long, dried ground cherries might be like raisins. They are a similar texture.

We tried drying them whole and halved. Whole took much too long, up to 24 hours. Halved, they are done overnight.

Since ground cherries are not as sweet as grapes, it follows dried ones are not as sweet as raisins.

So they could go either way, sweet or savory. We tried many seasonings. Sugar and cinnamon for sweet. Simple salt and pepper, garam masala, smoked and hot paprika for savory. You can probably think of many other combinations.

The sweets can be summery additions to your breakfast cereal or muffins this fall and winter. The savory ones make good bar snacks. Think of munching on chewy nutless seasoned nuts.

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whole and halved ground cherries with sugar and cinnamon on drying racks photo by vsimon

Sugar and Cinnamon Ground Cherries

These are plenty sweet. As sweet, or sweeter than raisins.

2/3 cup sugar (we used white granulated)

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

8 cups husked ground cherries, halved (about 2.5 pounds)

In a large bowl, thoroughly mix sugar and cinnamon together.

Toss with halved ground cherries.

Place in a single layer on 5 drying racks.

Dry overnight at about 115 degrees. We put the dehydrator outside so it doesn’t heat up the house.

Store in glass containers. Or plastic, if you must. I like to put them in the freezer, they don’t take up much room. It isn’t necessary, I just like to store lots of things in the freezer.

Savory Dried Ground Cherries

Simply halve and sprinkle your choice of seasoning on them. Be careful, a little goes a long way. Start with about 1/2 to 1 teaspoon for 8 cups of ground cherries. They shrink by more than half and the flavoring gets concentrated. You can always add more after they are dry.

What seasonings would you try?

Hearty Beef and UnBarley Soup and Oat Groat Giveaway

Beef Un-Barley Soup

Beef and Oat Groat Soup photo by vsimon

Hum? Doesn’t barely have gluten? Yes, you are right.

But certified gluten free oat groats don’t. Please let me introduce you. Oat groats make a fantastic gluten free stand-in for glutinous barely. 

Cream Hill Estates grows and produces certified gluten free oats. They are not cross contaminated with glutinous grains during growing, milling, package, or transport. Cream Hill Estates is offering a package of their certified gluten free oat groats to one random winner who comments below. 

Oat whole grain nutrition.

Oat groats are truly whole grains. And no doubt about it, they are tasty, filling and nutritious. Two new pilot studies from Scandinavia show oats increase vitamin B1, magnesium, zinc, fiber, and antioxidants in the gluten-free diet.

Oats are a rich source of a unique fiber called beta-glucan. It lowers cholesterol and the risk of heart disease. It also enhances the immune response to bacterial infections. Beta-glucan helps stabilize blood glucose levels in people with Type 2 diabetes. And, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows a low glycemic diet, including oats, resulted in greater weight loss than a conventionally balanced diet.

Are oats right for me?

Only you will be able to decide. Please visit my Nourish column in the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness newsletter for more info. Scroll down a bit for the Oh Boy, Oats! article.

Hearty, and super simple in a slow cooker.

You can dump everything raw into the slow cooker. But you’ll get better brown color and flavor if you brown the beef in a separate pan first. This extra step isn’t difficult and immediately fills the house with beefy aroma.

Round steak is a flavorful, inexpensive cut of meat. And tough if cooked quick. Cooking low and slow magically makes it tooth tender.

Oat groats take a long time to cook too. Perfect for a slow cooker. They ooze body into the soup broth. And also add tender, not too chewy, not mushy texture to the chunks. I think even fans of beef barely soup wouldn’t recognize these are oats, not barely.

Of course, the onions are optional if you don’t tolerant them.

Beef and UnBarley Soup

serves 6-8 metric measures
1 ½ pound beef round steak .7 kg
1 cup oat groats 100 gm
1 cup diced onion 130 gm
1 cup diced celery 130 gm
1 cup diced carrot 130 gm
8 cups gluten free beef broth
(or 8 cups water and 2 tablespoons Better than Bouillon Beef base)
2 liters

Cube beef into small pieces. Brown in a large sauté pan.

Put browned beef and everything else into a 12 cup crock-pot.

Cover and cook on high for 8 hours.

Enjoy your day, and your dinner. 🙂

Extras freeze well, so make a lot and save some for next month.

How to enter to win Cream Hill Certified Gluten Free Oat Groats.

1. Visit Cream Hill Estates recipe page and decide which recipe you would like to try first.

2. Tell us which recipe you chose in the comments below by February 10, 2010.

A winner will be selected by random number generator and notified by email February 11, 2010.

Full disclosure- Cream Hill Estates provided me with free oat products for recipe development. And I am happy to share simply, healthy dishes made with oats.

Update 2-11-10. The winner of the certified gluten free ot groats is Debora.

Make Ahead Pesto Polenta Lasagna

pesto-polenta-lasagna

pesto polenta lasagna photo by vsimon

This recipe is from allrecipes.com, submitted by Fiffen. It is a super simple do ahead dish. All it requires is layering purchased ingredients, packaging, and baking.

Sometimes you just need a plop and drop dinner. This one is rich and satisfying, a small serving is filling.  Serve with a green salad and vinaigrette on a meatless Monday.

Simplify your life with make ahead meals

Prep the lasagna and freeze some for later. Layer in small ceramic or glass containers with tight fitting lids. Package just one or two portions per container. This is what personal chefs do for clients everyday.

Proper containers are one of the secrets to successful make ahead meals.

Reusable, stackable containers

We use mostly small Pyrex rectangles that hold 3 1/2 cups. They hold 1-2 portions, have tight fitting lids, and stack well. There is an example of these containers on Amazon.

If you have a Wal-Mart nearby, you can buy these small rectangles individually, no need to buy an assortment. Wal-Mart is not my favorite store, but we have not found this size in singles anywhere else.

The lasagna in the photo is made in a CorningWare container. This style makes a nice presentation, oven to plate. Make sure to get ones with tight fitting lids, not the loose glass lids.

Small containers make thawing and heating quicker. Pull your dish from the freezer and thaw overnight in the fridge. Meals can be refrigerated for several days. So it isn’t critical if you need to change your dinner plans.

Gluten free ingredients

I use Frieda’s prepared polenta. It comes in many flavors, and several work here. I like  mushroom and onion, basil and garlic, even dried tomato and garlic. I get whatever the store has. Look for it in the refrigerated produce section.

Classico marinara is the brand I by. All flavors are gluten free. I usually buy the roasted garlic flavor because it is lower in calories and sodium than the other flavors. But choose what you like.

Roland Pesto is my purchased pesto of choice. It is smooth, flavorful, and deep green. Classico pesto is leafy and unappealingly brownish. 🙁

Shredded cheese makes prepping this recipe quick. I like Sargento brand 6 Cheese Italian for the flavor. It is a handy mix of mozzarella, smoked provolone, asiago, romano, parmesan and fontina cheeses. Simple shredded mozzarella works too.

Sometimes you will see warnings on the internet that shredded cheese may be dusted with wheat flour to prevent clumping. Most often, it is not. And if it is, wheat must be printed on the label.

Pesto Polenta Lasagna

allrecipes.com submitted by fiffen

serves 8 metric measures
2 -8 oz tubes of prepared polenta total 500 gm
3 cups of marinara sauce 720 gm
1/2 cup pesto 120 ml
1/2 cup pine nuts 70 gm
2 cups shredded cheese (8 oz) 225 gm

Cut polenta into 1/2” slices.

Put a tablespoon or two of marinara on the bottom of an oven safe baking dish, or several small dishes.

Layer half of the polenta slices, marinara sauce, pesto, pine nuts and cheese.

Repeat layers.

Bake right away, refrigerate or freeze for later.

Bake it

Thaw overnight if previously frozen.

Remove any plastic lids.

If it is in one or two portion containers, bake in a 350-degree oven for about 30 minutes.

In a 9×13” pan? Cover with foil and bake for about an hour. 

Microwave it

Remove any plastic lids. The manufacturers say the lids are microwave safe, but it makes me uneasy. I don’t like cooked plastic, so I take the lids off.

Microwave one or two portions for 10 to 15 minutes.

I don’t even try to microwave a big pan of lasagna. The pan would keep hitting the sides of my microwave. And the turntable scrapes against the bottom of the pan. That is really annoying.

Enticing Embellishments

Sauté 8-16 ounces of slice mushrooms and add to the layers.

Sauté 16 ounces of fresh spinach and add to the layers.

Do both. 🙂

What would you like to make ahead?

Enter timtana flour giveaway

Don’t miss out on a chance to win whole-grain gluten free timtana flour. Simply leave a comment by January 6, 2009. Three winners will be announced January 7, 2009.