Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010
After much consideration I have decided to redirect my time and energy to other pursuits. So, although I will continue to live the homemade life I have always lived, I will no longer be blogging about it.
I will leave this blog open for a time and then I will be closing it down.
I will leave this blog open for a time and then I will be closing it down.
Monday, September 27, 2010
The only thing I harvested this week is a spinner-strainer of spinach, but it was wonderful. It has been several weeks since we have had lettuce or spinach and I am so happy it is back. Those dark green leaves are crisp and full of flavor. Oh, how I have missed fresh salads, after picking this spinach I made a quick salad for dinner.
I added some of the strawberries we dehydrated earlier this summer, a few cherry tomatoes that we harvested last week, a little red onion and balsamic vinegar. It was wonderful, so fresh and delicious, not weighed down with a heavy dressing or too many ingredients. Plus, strawberries and balsamic vinegar are made for each other. I think walnuts would have been a good additon to this salad, the next time (and there will be a next time) I make it, I will leave out the tomatoes and put in walnuts instead. The nice thing about it was everything was local except for the vinegar, a splurge we enjoy.
I also made a smoothie with some of the spinach. My husband and I have had a bit of a cold lately and I wanted to give us an extra shot of antioxidants. Both spinach and blueberries appear on several, so called, "super foods" lists. Spinach is a good source of iron, vitamin A, C, K, folate, dietary fiber and calcium. Spinach also contains selenium, zinc, phosphorus, potassium, copper, omega-3 fatty acid and vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6 and E; a very impressive list of nutrients.
What is so interesting is that in the smoothie you can't even taste the greens, you could get kids to drink this smoothie, even husbands. Well, my husband is game to try most anything, but if it didn't taste good he would not drink a whole glass of it, which he did.
The below recipe has other ingredients with health benefits, such as, whey, kefir, and honey. I pulled a container of our blueberries out of the freezer and some whey left from making cheese, but if you don't have blueberries you could substitute another berry and if you don't have whey you could double the kefir; yogurt could be substituted for kefir. Smoothies are a mixture of what you have on hand, it is not necessary to stick closely to the recipe. I made this recipe up as I was mixing and though it is not necessary to stick to the list of ingredients, they are all highly nutritious.
Spinach and Blueberry Smoothie
2 cups spinach (approximately 2 good handfuls)
2 cups blueberries
1/2 cup whey
1/2 cup kefir
1 Tablespoon honey
Blend together, if the mixture is too thick add a little more kefir or whey, not thick enough, add a banana. Pour a tall glass and enjoy.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Actually, there is no Weekly Garden Update anymore since the garden is empty with the exception of spinach. However, there are some beautiful marigolds still to look at and with temperatures dipping into the upper 30s at night and staying mostly in the 50s and 60s during the day I have planted my fall flowers, mums. I like mums they will even live through the first snowfall, it helps that they are in pots so they are off the ground and can survive a few extra frosts. Temperatures this weekend promise to bound into the upper 60s, and dare I say , the upper 70s. We are looking forward to a beautiful autumn weekend.
I brought the Basil and Rosemary inside when the nights started getting cold, hopefully they will survive and provide us with some fresh herbs during the winter months.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Thursday, September 23, 2010
This past weekend we had a large amount of heirloom Persimmon and Beaver Lodge Plum tomatoes sitting on the table begging to be used before spoiling. I decided it was time to can tomato soup. On a cold winters day nothing is better than to come home to a warm bowl of soup. Even better, after working all day and coming home to shoveling snow we will enjoy having quarts of tomato soup on the pantry shelves just waiting to be heated and served with a Jarlsberg grilled cheese sandwich and maybe even a glass of red wine to warm the heart.
1 medium onion, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 quart whole tomatoes (or 28 oz. can, if store bought)
14 oz. chicken stock
2 teaspoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried parsley
salt and pepper to taste
Saute' onion and celery in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic and saute' for another minute or two, watch close garlic burns quickly. Add tomatoes, crushing with spoon, then chicken stock and herbs. Salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Finish soup by blending with a hand blender until partially smooth, leaving a few chunks of tomato.
This is the recipe I made up on the fly last winter and we loved the small chunks of tomato and the light garlic flavor. The color is not bright red because the Persimmon tomatoes are yellow, there are carrots in the soup to add sweetness, and of course, the chicken stock. This weekend I used my large stock pot and made five times this recipe. Since I knew I wanted this soup ready to heat and serve and the recipe has several vegetables and chicken stock in it, I needed to use the pressure canner.
Pressure canning is no problem, in fact I prefer it because it takes less time and doesn't put as much steam into the air. I pressure canned this soup for the same about of pressure and time as I did for the chicken soup and chicken stock I canned: 11 pounds pressure for 25 minutes.
Every time I pressure can I take a look at the instructions again, never taking for granted that I remember all the steps. I have highlighted the ones I need to review and so it only takes a few seconds to look them over before starting. The instruction booklet also has the pounds of pressure and time needed for each type of food.
When I first started pressure canning, I was hesitant, I had heard the horror stories my grandma told of her mother's cooker exploding. Pressure canners have come a long way since then and I have found that it is not a process to be intimidated by at all, there are built in safety features. Just follow the directions, keep an eye on the pressure, turning the heat up or down to keep it as constant as possible, and enjoy the shorter processing time.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Breakfast is important, it helps to improve concentration, provide strength and endurance, and it also helps us to keep our weight down. A healthy breakfast consists of whole grains and protein, not a cereal or donut loaded with sugar, fat and calories.
I posted this recipe last January, but I make this granola quite often as it is one of my favorite breakfast foods, so I thought I would post it again. I like to eat it mixed with homemade yogurt and if I have fresh fruit I slice some on top.
2 c. rolled oats (not instant)
1 c. toasted almonds1/4 c. sesame seeds
1/2 c. toasted sunflower seeds
1/4 c. toasted wheat germ (optional)
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. dried fruit
Scant 1/4 c. cooking oil (not olive)
1/2 c. honey
Mix oats, nuts and grains in a large bowl. Measure oil into a measuring cup and swirl it around before pouring into a bowl. Then measure out the honey in the same unwashed cup. The oil will help the honey exit the cup. Toss everything together until evenly coated and then pour out into a baking pan. Use a large roasting pan as it keeps everything contained and can be stirred easily. Bake at 300 for 30 minutes turning with a spatula every 10 minutes so everything is an even golden brown. When it is finished cooking return the baked granola to the mixing bowl, add the raisins and dried fruit and stir to combine. Stir gently several times as it cools, so that it doesn't clump too much.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Nothing wasted, that's my motto. When processing pumpkin, nothing needs to be wasted. First choose a pie pumpkin, they are usually dark orange and small, the flesh will be sweeter and less watery. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop our the seeds and stringy bits.
But wait! Don't throw out those seeds, they make a good snack. The stringy bits can be put into the compost, so nothing is wasted there either. Give the pumpkin seeds a quick wash and let them drain while the pumpkin bakes.
Next place the two halfs face down in a cake pan with about a half inch to an inch of water in it, cover with aluminum foil (reused as you can tell from the photo). Place this in a 400 degree oven until the rind side is easily pierced with a fork. When the flesh and rind are soft place on the counter to cool. Once cool scrap the flesh off the rind and if not using in a recipe right away store in 2 cup measurements in a freezer container in the deep freeze and it will keep for months. Most of my recipes call for 2 cups, so that is a convenient amount to have on hand. Now the rind can go into the compost pile as well.
Once the pumpkin is out of the oven the seeds can go in, I usually turn the oven down to 375 degrees so they don't start popping and make a mess in my oven. I spray the pan with non-stick spray, place the seeds in the pan and sprinkle with salt. Bake until they are a light golden brown and crunchy, mmm. I eat the whole seed and spit out any part that seems too woody. Pumpkin seeds are a natural source of most of the B vitamins, along with C, D, E, and K. They also contain the minerals calcium, potassium, niacin, and phosphorous.
Then use the pumpkin flesh for any of the many wonderful pumpkin recipes, such as this wonderful Fruit and Nut Pumpkin Bread. The fruit can be left out if you prefer, I have made it both ways.
Fruit and Nut Pumpkin Bread
2 cups sugar
2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
2/3 cup chopped dates
2/3 cup raisins
2/3 cup cranberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Grease and flour two bread pans.
In a large bowl, beat the sugar, pumkin, oil, eggs and vanilla until well blended. In another bowl combine the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and cloves. Gradually add to the pumpkin mixture blending well. Fold in the walnuts, dates, raisins and cranberries.
Transfer to prepared loaf pans and bake at 350 for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until a toothpick comes out of the center clean. Makes 2 loaves.
Monday, September 20, 2010
Between the weather turning cool, the days growing shorter, and the bugs attacking, I decided it was time to pick the last of the tomatoes this past week. They will turn ripe in my kitchen.
That's a lot of cherry tomatoes! I will be freezing some more for winter pastas and soups and making another dish of Slow-Baked Tomato, Garlic and Basil, mmm, love that combination.
It is sad to see the end of the garden and the last of the tomatoes, I will miss fresh tomatoes. I'm already thinking ahead to next spring, planning which varieties I want to be sure and try, Sungolds are on my list and I definately want Black Krim's again, I've enjoyed them so much the last two summers. I will not be starting my own seeds next year. I don't have the right conditions to mature the tomatoes enough before they go out into the garden. With our short growing season we need tomato plants to be well along before they go into the ground and greenhouses do a better job of this. There is a greenhouse in our area that has been carrying lots of heirloom and organic tomatoes, and the other greenhouses are starting to catch on, so I will continue to buy those. The green tomatoes in this post were ones I grew from seedlings, they just did not have time to finish.
Soon these will be red and ready for canning, more sauce and this time some soup. I love having soup on hand for a quick meal when we have little time to cook. I consider it insurance against ordering in pizza or running out for fast food; saving us money and providing a healtier diet.
We have been eating fresh sliced tomatoes at all our meals.
I also cut the last of my herbs; the last handful of mint that will be dried and served as cups of tea.
All of the sage was pulled out and is currently drying. I will put these leaves in stuffing when I make turkey and some will be crushed and sprinkled on browned butter drizzled popcorn, oh that is so good.
The last of the Lemon Thyme was cut and is drying on a towel, I will add it to the small amount I gathered earlier this summer, this will be good on chicken. I like to put a whole chicken in a pot and slow cook it with root vegetables and herbs, provides several good meals, with the last bits being picked off the bone and made into chicken salad sandwiches for lunches.
Linked to Harvest Monday at Daphne's Dandelions.
Sunday, September 19, 2010
Saturday, September 18, 2010
The forecast called for a possibility of frost this week. Temperatures started out the week in the low 70s, then 60s and finally settled into the 50s for highs. With days getting shorter our tomatoes didn't have a chance to finish ripening on the vine. I also noticed that bugs were beginning to eat even our green tomatoes so I decided it was time to pick the tomatoes and clean out our the garden.
We piled what was left of the plants by our alley and then moved them into the back of the pickup truck to haul to the city's compost pile, our small compost bin could not handle this load.
The garden looks so bare now. In the foreground are the strawberries, still producing a few, along the left side are raspberry bushes and marigolds (which I didn't have the heart to pull out), and at the far end the spinach is coming along nicely and will be ready to start harvesting soon.
As you can see we have a lot of tomatoes yet to ripen, this happens most years, but this year I have more because I tried growing some seedlings of my own, which did not have as much of a head start as the ones I bought from the greenhouses in town. The boxes of green tomatoes are lined up waiting to ripen so they can be preserved as sauce.
Friday, September 17, 2010
I think the cat has the right idea. This has been a really full week with my fall story hour schedule, both at the library and around town, beginning and a couple of staff members out sick with the stomach flu. I think I will copy the cat and get some much needed rest this weekend.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
As I write this the air is crisp and cool, the sky clear blue, and there is a smell of dry leaves; the calendar says autumn is a few days away, but here in the northern reaches autumn has arrived.
I like the changing seasons. Every season calls for a different homemaking skill. Spring sees the garden planted, house thoroughly cleaned, and a return to line-dried laundry. Summer gardening means lots of weeding and meals with fresh vegetables, canning and other methods of food preservation intensify as pantries are stocked for the winter. I have several boxes of tomatoes yet to can and I hope to have several bushels of apples to make juice and applesauce to preserve.
In autumn the garden slows down or is complete and canning is finishing up, baking returns, and the focus changes to preparing the house for winter. Winter gives us time to improve on our sewing, knitting and crocheting skills, baking warms the house and the pace of life slows a little.
As a new season approaches I am usually ready for the change. Each season is exciting and busy with its particular work that needs to be done. Spring is intense with planting that needs to be done and the hope that the weather cooperates. Late summer and early autumn are especially intense with preserving food.
Each fall we buy chickens from a friend who raises them, this year we had a few left yet from last year so I made chicken soup and chicken stock and canned several jars worth. We now have homemade chicken soup for when one of us is feeling under the weather or just a quick meal on a busy day. My recipe for chicken soup is located here. I left out the noodles so that they wouldn't get mushy, I will add them when I heat the soup.
I enjoy cooking and baking and as fall turns to winter I look forward to having more time to spend experimenting with bread, new recipes, and improving my cooking skills.
I am also trying to improve my sewing skills, I have always wanted to make a quilt and I now have one started. It will take me a while, I have very little time after working all day to spend on craft skills, but I am slowly learning and that is ok, it is not about finishing a project quickly, I enjoy the process. I am also slowly improving my knitting and crocheting, I have yarn and instructions ready to crochet socks and and an afghan started so now I look forward to spending some cold days with warm yarn.
Every season has it's pleasures and I want to take the time to enjoy all the seasons and continue to learn new skills that will benefit our household. I have been reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie books again, currently the book "The Long Winter". These books are fiction, but based on fact, and I marvel at the homesteading and homemaking skills they had or needed to learn. These homemaking and homesteading skills still come in handy, they save us money, provide a healthier lifestyle and make a house feel like a home.
This post is listed on Simple Lives Thursday.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
This year my garden produced more cherry tomatoes than ever before so when I saw a recipe for cherry tomatoes in a co-workers magazine it caught my eye. The original recipe called for mint rather than basil, but I have fresh basil growing and decided I would prefer the flavor of basil rather than mint with tomatoes. The recipe also called for goat cheese as an optional addition rather than the parmesan I used.
It is best to use tomatoes of the same size so that they finish baking at the same time.
Slow-Baked Tomato, Garlic and Basil
adapted from a Better Homes and Gardens recipe
1 1/2 pounds cherry or grape tomatoes
1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
7 cloves garlic, peeled and split lengthwise
1 bunch fresh basil, trimmed
1 to 2 teaspoons coarse or flake salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Toasted slices of ciabatta (or similar) bread
Fresh sliced parmesan cheese (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Wash and drain tomatoes well. Pat dry with paper towels. In a non-metal 2-quart baking dish place tomatoes in a single layer. Pour olive oil over so that they are well coated and there is a thin layer of oil on bottom of dish. Toss in garlic, basil, salt and pepper.
Bake uncovered, for 45 to 60 minutes or until skins split and soften but tomatoes still retain their shape.
Serve hot, warm or at room temperture. Spoon or mash over slices of toasted bread and serve with a slice of parmesan cheese if using.
Makes 8 servings.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
The food you make is only as good as the ingredients that go into that food. No matter what you are cooking it will always taste better if you start with fresh, good quality ingredients.
I harvested the last of my eggplants and knew it was time to make an eggplant parmesan and since I have a glut of tomatoes I started by making the sauce for the dish.
This takes a while to cook down so it might be best to make the sauce a day a head of time. I have been peeling a lot of tomatoes for canning and decided this time to just chop up the tomatoes and throw them in the pot, skin and all. While they cooked down, I picked a few of the skins out, but the majority I left in there and since this sauce cooked so long and the eggplant parmesan baked for a while the skins were not noticable in the dish. I added sauted onion, garlic, red wine, fresh basil and salt to the sauce and that was all. Fresh tomato sauce does not need a lot of ingredients, the fresh tomato taste is sufficient.
To prepare the eggplant, slice, sprinkle with salt and let sit in a strainer for 40 minutes to take some of the moisture out. Drain on a paper towel, or clean towel, and wipe off excess salt and moisture.
Bread the eggplant slices by dipping, first into flour seasoned with salt and pepper, then beaten eggs, and finally bread crumbs. Place the breaded eggplant into a fry pan with a couple inches of hot oil.
Fry, turning once, until both sides are golden brown.
Layer in a 9 x 13 dish by first placing a cup of sauce at the bottom of the pan, then shingling the eggplant on top and sprinkling a layer of mozzarella, then more sauce and finally parmesan cheese. Repeat with a second layer, finishing with the mozzarella on top, and bake at 375 degrees until cheese is bubbling and well browned, about 15 minutes.
As you may already know, I love to cook while listening to music and sipping on wine, so this was a pleasure to make. My music for this dish was Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, the Up From Below album. Ah, just writing this makes me want to make it all over again, it was fun and oh so delicious to eat; think parmesan, tomato and a little crunchy fried taste, mmm.