Sharon's Country Store

Located in the beautiful Kootenai Valley of Idaho! Just north of Bonners Ferry and only 30 minutes from Canada.

Sharon's Country Store  -

Who likes Raisins?

images (36) raisinsI remember , as a kid growing up, devouring raisins by the handful. Mom would never buy those cute, little boxes that hold about a dozen little raisins. No, with a family of 6, it was much cheaper to buy the big bags! Still is…

I still remember when I learned Raisins were dried grapes! Who knew???  Ha, my kids do the same thing! Milk comes from cows and eggs come from chickens , not the grocery store! :)

Here at the store , we have a few different kinds of raisins. The standard Thompson Raisins:   ( we have them in organic too )

- These are the most common variety found in markets, usually made from Thompson seedless grapes. Although they start as green grapes, the fruit naturally darkens as it dries.

Thompson dominates the market, however, it does surpass the other choices when it comes to its health factor.

Although the organic market has become very popular, not everything produced organically is better than non-organic production. Raisins are the exception. Given their harvesting vulnerability, Thompson grapes can be inundated with harsh production methods such as gas excelerated drying techniques, as well as pesticide residue. While Thompson is the most durable grape, it still is a grape nonetheless and grapes have a specific growth window. Therefore, Thompson Organic Jumbo raisins by far surpass conventionally produced Thompson’s. They are a large, juicy, sweet fruit worth the extra money, especially for their pesticide free production rendering them much more accepted by the body.

Flame: Flame raisins seem to be coming back into popular demand. Considered the sweetest raisin on the market, Flame raisins are second in healthiest to Thompson. They are usually not as plump as Thompson’s, but make up for their size in sweetness. They have just as much  iron and potassium

Prima Black Jumbo Raisins: Huge and sweet, just perfect for eating right out of the package!

I couldn’t find out much info online except that they are sweet, i don’t know what variety they are !

Golden Raisins: These are also called muscats and are generally made of white muscat grapes which are seeded, specially oven-dried (rather than by sun), and treated to retain their light color. Some golden raisins are dried Thompson seedless raisins which have been kept light in color by the use of sulfur dioxide.

and the little bitty Currants, which look like raisins, only smaller.

-Currants are dried, dark red, seedless grapes. They are dried to produce a black, tiny shriveled  flavor- packed grape. The grapes were originally cultivated in the south of Greece, and the name currant comes from the ancient city of ‘Corinth’.  Cool , huh? :)

Raisins used to be dried out in the sun ,which is inexpensive , however nowadays  they are mostly dried in mechanical dryers indoors which is probably a good thing with all the pesticides and who know what flying through the air…Oh boy , lets not got there…

AND something I learned from my researching raisins, they are harmful to dogs!  Check it out..

So there you have it! Try it this summer, dry your own out in the sun…a hot cars’ dash  would work excellent! I’ve dried herbs like that before, why not grapes? Kind of a science experiment for my kids…

Now go eat raisins!

Sharon :)

 

 

Powdered Milk

220px-PowderedMilk

I love having all my ingredients on hand when I’m baking, but too often  with 3 or more of us doing the cooking/baking, we run out of an item and it doesn’t get written down on my “list”.

Since we’ve had  the store, I don’t shop at regular grocery stores much , so my “lists” tend to be texted to my son who is bringing school kids home from school, or  I pick them up when I’m working that day.

Dry milk powder is one of those products that is a must-have in my cupboards, esp. so when  I  run out of milk !  Not only that, but buttermilk powder as well. It is quick and easy to mix both of them  up, and you don’t lose nutrients by using them!  I found this online:

Nutritional Facts:

  • Powdered milk is produced by extracting water and fat from pasteurized milk, and has the following added:  vitamins and minerals such as A,D,E, K,  magnesium, calcium, zinc, potassium and phosphorous.
  • Vitamin A is beneficial for your vision, immune system, reproductive system, and aides in cellular growth.
  • Vitamin D helps your bones, joints, and heart.  It also helps your intestines to absorb calcium and phosphorous.
  • Vitamin K aides in proper blood clotting.
  • Vitamin E is an antioxidant that protects cell membrane and stimulates your body’s immune response to disease.
  • Powdered Milk contains a carbohydrate called lactose.  Lactose aides’ diabetics because it doesn’t increase blood glucose levels and digests more slowly than glucose.  If you are Lactose Intolerant you may have a hard time with powdered milk and might want to find another source of vitamins and calcium.
  • Milk, much like red meat, contains 20 different amino acids required to maintain proper health of the human body.

You can choose from:

  • Whole Milk Powder;  Between 26% and 40% milk fat with no more than 5% moisture.
  • Skim Milk Powder and Non-Fat dry milk;  Contains 1.5% or less milk fat and 5% or less of moisture.
  • Buttermilk Powder;  Buttermilk powder is made from buttermilk that is churned, pasteurized and condensed.  It has 4.5 percent milk fat and less than 5% moisture.

In doing some research on powdered milk , I found it interesting the process they go through to make it . If you read the article, toward the end was info on the difference between instant and regular powdered milk:

“Turning Regular Powdered Milk Into Instant Powered Milk: It’s also in the drying tower where regular milk is turned into instant milk. This can be done ‘on the fly.’ First, not more than 0.2% lecithin is sprayed on the finer, dry milk particles that have been sifted out of the rest of the milk. The lecithin makes the powdered milk dissolve better. It’s then moved back to the top of the drying tower and fed into the top of the tower near the spot where the atomizer is breaking up the condensed milk into microscopic droplets. As the dry and wet particles are mixed together, the wet particles stick to the dry particles and at the same time form air pockets. This larger particle dries as it falls down through the swirling air. This process gives you a much lighter product that is much more easily penetrated by water. Nutritionally, there’s very little difference between instant and regular powdered milk. It’s virtually the same product except the instant milk powder is less dense and mixes more easily in water. Although Lecithin is a very healthy food, there hasn’t been enough added to the instant milk to show any differences in the nutritional data tables between the two. Concerning flavor, you shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between them, either.”

Good to know ! I get a lot of questions in here, so anytime I find info I need for myself , I’m happy!

I have a lot of people stocking up on it , and its  good to know that its also storable , tho’ it needs to keep cool and kept out of light…. just another thing to add to your food storage!

 

-Sharon

 

 

 

Homemade Pizza… from scratch

One of my family’s favorite foods is homemade pizza , in fact so much that we have it at least once a week! A friend taught us to make a chicken , bacon and ranch one and we love it, of course pepperoni being the most popular with the kids.

I love BBQ chicken and one with all the toppings you can get on! So with that many favorites in the family , I end up making 2 extra-large pizzas in order to get everyone’s request in . My sis-in-law shared a crust recipe with me years ago that is my absolute favorite and has never failed me!

So for the recipe I have a guest writer, another sis-in-law, sharing how she uses this same recipe and her method of making and baking.

homemade pizza

 I made pizza last night. Nothing fancy, but, oh my!.. it was good!  I used Sharon’s pizza crust recipe, which is:
2 C of warm water
2 T. yeast
1 t. salt
3 t. sugar
1/3 C oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)
5-6 C flour
Knead, add flour, until dough forms a ball.  Dough will be very soft.

(Sharon’s Note: I usually let my dough rise at this point for at least 45 minutes or until doubled, instead of letting it rise on the pan, don’t know if it matters)
Drizzle plenty of olive oil on the bottom of two cookie sheets or on your pizza stone or favorite pizza pan.

(Sharon’s note:  This recipe will make enough for a 10 x 15 baking sheet, really depends how thick or thin  you  like your crust ) 

Coat your hands with the oil too, and divide the dough in half. Press, pat, and push half of the dough into the each pan. Let rise while you prepare your toppings.  If you have a lot of toppings, you might want to bake the crust for five minutes or so before adding toppings. 

(Sharon’s note: I don’t pre-bake , but i do bake at 415° so watch carefully so you don’t burn your pizza. I rotate mine from top rack to bottom after 5 minutes baking time)
For sauce, I minced 4 garlic  into a few tablespoons of olive oil over a low heat. I added a quart of my plain canned tomato sauce, a little salt, and a good bit of Italian seasoning. I let it simmer for a bit. I used half of it for one pizza crust and saved the other  half for dipping bread sticks.

breadsticks
To make bread sticks, I coated the top of one crust with plenty of olive oil and sprinkled it with Italian seasoning and garlic powder and a little salt. They were so good I could have skipped dipping them. :-)

 

Mmm, just looking at these pictures is making me hungry! I think i’ll be making pizza in the very near future :) Like our usual Saturday evening meal!  One note, I use Ellison’s unbleached all purpose flour for this crust and it makes a wonderful , soft dough, my absolute favorite for baking yeast breads!

Another thing I do when making pizza crust, I’ll  make 2 batches and use 1 for making mini crusts and keep them in the freezer for school lunches! It’s so quick to pull the baked crusts out and put toppings on, bake just a bit to melt the cheese and pop it in the lunch bag.

 

Happy pizza making !

Sharon

www.sharonscountrystore.com

 

 

Think SPRING…

I think spring just MIGHT , notice  I said MIGHT have come early to us this year! :)  We have had some lovely 60° days and the crocuses and tulips are pushing their way to the sun.  This gets me in the gardening mood big time. I love to go see what overwintered in my  garden and see what needs replanted and dug up as my perennials expand their beds. I have a thistle problem that I have to nip in the bud!

Here at the store, we have garden seeds in stock and more spring things coming . We have seed potatoes in stock and garden gloves to protect your hands! :) Back to the seeds, have you ever planted Heirloom seeds? I have carried the Baker Creek Seeds now for 3 years and i’m impressed with the dedication they have to preserve these old seeds. Visit their website for a very interesting read on the history of each seed. Better yet , get their catalog, full of color pictures and lots of stories.

 

                                        Aren’t they lovely?019.21-Hollyhock-Alcea-Rosea-Queeny-230-173

 

MMmmm, these make my mouth water!

Carrot-Atomic-Red--230

 

 

We also have some “spring” cake sprinkles in stock, perfect for a picnic or party on the lawn!  If you prefer sprinkling sugar, we carry it in a variety of colors, from pink, blue, green, red, yellow to black or white! It looks lovely on a cupcake.

bears

 

If you like candy , we have a lot of gummy candy in stock that is “springlike”. Gummy flowers, our new gummy  frogs, pastel mints, gummy worms, gummy eggs ( in peach flavor , yum ) and our new grapefruit bears !

Tropical frogs

Tropical frogs

I hope I didn’t get excited too early about spring! Its been known to elude us entirely too long in our neck of the woods! But I can dream and start seeds and hopefully i am wrong …I’ll let you know in a month or too :)

Happy spring!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oats, not just for horses anymore!

Have you had your bowl of oatmeal today?

Oatmeal , for  a lot  people, is the staple food for breakfast . But , sad to say , I don’t enjoy those mushy flakes! I grew up on Cream of Wheat cereal and lots of eggs, so because I  don’t like it,  I don’t serve it like I should. It sounds so healthy , ya know.

I did find another form of oats that I do like and that is Steel Cut Oats. Its basically an oat groat cut into 2-3 pieces. Tho’ it takes extra cooking time (15-20 minutes)  they are worth it! I like them because its like eating tiny pieces of rice (same texture, maybe??) and you can top them with all kinds of yummy topping: cinnamon, nuts, fruit, use your imagination.

I found a recipe online that i’d like to try sometime. Doesn’t it look delicious?

 

Here are some interesting “Oat Facts”:

Since the beginning of time, oats has mostly been consumed by humans and animals alike. It was considered a weed like plant, never being as popular as wheat and barley.

The oldest known cultivated oats was found in a cave in Switzerland. Makes me wonder how it got there! Oats didn’t come to North America till the 1600′s, and then it wasn’t even on the mainland, instead being grown on an island off of the coast of Massachusetts.

The United States is one of the leading counties to produce oats, ( which is a good thing in my opinion) ,tho’ some states are producing less since 2000, because of growing a more profitable crop, soybeans. I love eating USA grown products!

Now for the good stuff!

Oats have received a lot of attention for their ability for reducing cholesterol, and being heart- healthy!  They also add fiber . There are many ways you can get the goodness of oats in your diet.
…From oat bran , oat groats, steel cut,  quick cook, regular oats, thick and probably more that I mentioned here!

Here are some ideas for using them and  getting  some oats into your kiddos (if they don’t like oats). Disguise it !

-Add the bran in homemade bread

-mix some into meat loaf

- make fruits crisps, add lots of oats in your topping

So even tho’ I don’t feed my family oatmeal in the mornings, I make sure they get their oats in the form of Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies!  :)  That counts , doesn’t it?

Natural , Dutch or Dark Black Cocoa Powder

 

Ah , there is nothing like a piece of chocolate cake , or chocolate cheesecake or chocolate candy or… do you get the picture?? I love chocolate!!!  And of course chocolate loves me so I’m set :)

Tho’ its  one of the ingredients  I wouldn’t sample while I’m baking, without that yummy powder called baking cocoa, desserts wouldn’t be the same!  The most common name it is called  is baking cocoa,(or natural cocoa) but when you do some online searching , there are quite a few cocoa’s out there.  There is Special Dark, Dutch , Sweet Ground, Black and on and on….Now which to choose ?

 

Cocoa Powder, what are the differences ..

I carry natural cocoa, dutch and the rich looking black cocoa powder here at the store, and get questions about the differences , so i did some research.

 

Here is a pretty simple explanation of the process that a cocoa bean goes through, direct from the King of Chocolate, the  Hershey Company.

Natural & Alkalized

Cocoa Powder
Cocoa powder is the end product from a pressing or extraction process that removes a significant portion of the fat or cocoa butter from the cocoa bean.  The starting cocoa bean material that is pressed is usually in the form of chocolate liquor.  This liquor contains no alcohol but is simply the roasted cocoa bean material (either whole beans or ground beans referred to as nibs) that is finely ground and refined into a paste that becomes fluid at temperatures above 40°C.  This fluid paste or chocolate liquor is then subjected to a pressing process at 6000-12,000 psi., removing most of the fat or cocoa butter from the liquor.  The resulting material is called “cocoa press cake” and typically contains from 10-12% residual cocoa butter, reduced from approximately 54% cocoa butter.  This press cake is then mechanically broken into smaller pieces and subsequently ground into a fine powder which is commonly known as “cocoa powder”.

Natural Cocoa Powder
Natural cocoa powder comes from pressing cocoa beans with no additional modifications.  The resulting natural cocoa powder is usually a light brown color.

Alkalized Cocoa Powder
Alkalized cocoa powders, sometimes referred to as Dutched, come from cocoa nibs and/or chocolate liquor that have been treated with mild alkali solutions in order to raise the pH.  This alkalizing or dutching process is a safe and approved process for cocoa that is used to modify the color, taste, and functionality of cocoa powder in food products.  Alkalization can be used to create a range of dark brown and red-brown colors that add desirable appearances to some food products that contain cocoa powders.  Alkalization can improve taste by reducing some of the sourness and bitterness associated with natural cocoa powders.  The alkalization of cocoa powder can also improve the solubility of cocoa powder in certain beverage applications.

I found this interesting: 

Color
The color of food products is a factor of critical importance to consumers and thus to food manufacturers. Color is one of the first messages the brain receives in making a sensory judgment on a consumer product. It carries a whole range of conscious and subconscious associations that affect sensory perception and thus appreciation.

Because most consumers can detect very slight differences in color in the red-brown sector of the visible spectrum, differences in the color of cocoa-flavored and chocolate products can be easily detected. Dark colors suggest a strong flavor. Light colors suggest a mellow or bland flavor. Cocoa powder is one of the primary colorants used in the food industry today.

 

Hmm, can you guess which cocoa they use for OREOS!!

 

  And I can’t forget this : 

Many people crave chocolate and avoid it because they are under the impression that it is fattening and unhealthy. Although a lot of chocolate products are unhealthy and calories dense, it is due to the addition of substances such as sugar and not to the cocoa itself. In fact, cocoa powder, which comes from the cocoa bean, is highly nutritious, and it can provide numerous health benefits.

 

Cocoa Nutritional Facts

A 2 tbsp. serving of cocoa contains just 25 calories and 1.5 g of fat. It also provides you with 3.6 g of fiber, which is 14 percent of the daily value, and 8 percent of the daily value of iron and 14 percent of the daily value of magnesium.

 So , go and enjoy some CHOCOLATE! Just go easy on the sugar :)