Search This Blog

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fall planting

Last fall I planted some garlic in early October and then we had two weeks of 80 degree weather.  None of it came  up.  This year, I waited until yesterday and planted three rows.  It's late October, late by most standards for planting fall garlic, but I didn't want to lose them again.  We like to practice crop rotation (less of a production than you'd think for a backyard garden).  Crop rotation is good for preventing disease and also takes into consideration the nutrients left behind in the soil from what was previously planted there.  We tend to move soil around too, because we're still expanding our garden with more raised beds the previous spring (having hauled two trailers full of compost while 9 months pregnant in May).  After a bit of research, I found that most crop rotation plans suggest planting garlic after tomatoes.  (Tomatoes shouldn't be in the same spot year after year.  They should have two years in-between so that they are in the same spot only every three years.  Also, other nightshades like potatoes or peppers shouldn't follow tomatoes either). 
This year I planted some garlic we'd bought from the farmer's market and some we'd bought from the grocery store.  I figured two types might make a difference.  Last year I bought some from a catalog but they rotted before I got them in the ground, and then the garlic I bought from the local garden shop didn't come up at all.
I'd also heard that turnips and parsnips can be planted and then harvested in the spring when planted in fall (we're up in zone 4a here).  I did plant some seeds several weeks ago, but nothing.  None of our parsnips came up at all this year.  It wouldn't be so bad if I could find them at farmer's markets but I can only find the ones covered in wax in the grocery store.  I have already decided to give up on carrots because they are easily found at the farmer's market during any time we'd be able to produce them and our nutrient rich compost makes for forked (but very small) carrots.  The turnips (and lettuce and kale) at farmer's markets are much better than we'd produced too - I'll leave those to the experts.  But, I've got to continue to try for the parsnips.
Our kale, which I'd heard tastes better after a frost, is very small but growing (the rabbits got to most of it a few weeks ago).  Now that it's past a frost date, I may harvest what little we have.  Every time I say that our harvest is over, I remember that there's still something edible to get out there, and that seems to be true until the snow flies.
Last year I planted some tulips bulbs in the fall, but this year I have no desire to plant more.  I enjoyed them when they came up until the rabbits bit off the tops.  If those come back up, I'll enjoy those too, but I would rather spend my daylight hours playing with our daughters since we spent so much time on our garden over the summer.  It's time for rest and relaxation.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


It's the end of the season but perennial herbs are still growing.  We made some pesto with the basil earlier in the season and today we're making more.  Basically, pesto can be whatever herb you want to blend up with some additions.  If you want to freeze it, I wouldn't add the Parmesan.  We use nutritional yeast rather than Parmesan for the frozen pesto.  Today, we're making pesto from the cilantro we bought from the store for some other recipe.  The cilantro in our garden went to coriander well before the tomatoes were ready, so that wasn't useful for salsa.  But, cilantro sold in stores is generally sold in a bunch that has way more than you'd use for just one thing.  Today we're also making mint pesto and oregano pesto.  I think we may even have some thyme pesto in the freezer from before.  I'm really looking forward to eating the nasturtium leaf pesto we made this summer.  You are limited only by your imagination.

It's best to have some sort of food processor or blender for this process. Generally people think pesto is basil, Parmesan, pine nuts and oil.  You can substitute any nut for pine nuts.  We use pecans because I prefer them to other nuts and because pine nuts at the local store are $43.99 a lb.  Instead of Parmesan, you can use nutritional yeast (found at a natural food store).  Again, we're not much into measuring, so we just grab a bunch of the herb, a tsp. or two of nutritional yeast or Parmesan, less nuts than herbs, and enough oil to make it smooth without being soupy. Jaimie also likes to add garlic.  Freeze in freezer bags or the canning jars used for freezing, or eat it right away.

Our baby's first food!

Our nearly 5 month old has started eating solids.  When we had our first daughter, our doula recommended avocado for her first food because it was full of healthy goodness, and tasty too.  Since then, we've read articles that avocados are great for baby's first food, so we figured we do the same for this daughter as well.  No need to mix breast milk with cereal (filled with added stuff in the ingredient list).  It seems to me that she liked it.

sweet goat cheese or cream cheese wontons

Jaimie likes to make cream cheese wontons.  It's easy and delicious. The first time he made them we used egg roll wrappers because that's what I had in the freezer.  It's been awhile, but I like to make a banana caramel dessert in the egg roll wrappers (topped with more caramel, ice cream & whipped cream, and sometimes a raspberry for garnish).  For cream cheese wontons, he uses an 8 oz package of cream cheese and adds sugar.  Of course, the sugar isn't a measured amount.  Use as much as you like to make it taste how you want it.  Because we had some goat cheese from someone, we tried it with that instead for this go-round. Mix that up and put it in a baggie, cutting off the corner to pour small amounts into the wonton wrapper.  Wet the edges of the wrapper with water and fold them to seal them up.  He likes to fold it so that the square wrapper goes in half to make a triangle, and then folds in the two sides of the triangle. Take that and fry it in oil on the stove top.  Eat and enjoy.

Dinner pictures

Tacos with the last of the summer tomatoes and homemade salsa

Couscous made with homemade broth topped with carrots & cauliflower

Banana pecan pancakes (yes, we had these for dinner)

Chili (almost always made from leftovers)

Rice noodles, chicken, peas, carrots & onions.


We go through a lot of eggs at our house, between just eating them for breakfast to cooking and baking.  We're fortunate to have a connection for reasonably priced pastured chickens, lamb & cows, and now we have a connection for eggs.  It's one of those things that you try not to think about where they come from because you know that the chickens who lay most store-bought eggs are treated terribly.  We've bought from friends who have chickens but we don't see them often enough to keep us in the amount of eggs we use.  Just a few block away, though, is a small Mexican restaurant where they sell eggs.  The owner's uncle has chickens, pastured, that he houses in the winter with heat lamps.  The restaurant carries them all year.  She said that she gets about 10 dozen a week to sell.  We put in a standing order for 2 dozen eggs a week.   Yes, these eggs come at a premium price (but not too much more than store bought), but when I cracked some beauties open to make chocolate chip cookies, their yolks were a deep, dark, lovely yellow.   The eggs themselves are beautiful, with green, bluish, brown, cream and white eggs in the container.  They are so gorgeous that, probably around March next year, I'll start blowing them out to save shells for decorating an egg tree. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Happy Food Day! (and a 2-week menu for 10/24/11 - 11/6/11)

I hope your Food Day went well.  Food Day is October 24th, starting this year.  It's goal is to bring awareness and change in our diets to eat more real food.  See the last post for more info.

I've decided that our two week plan for a menu generally goes off track a little after we hit the week mark, so it's not what we actually eat.  However, I'm still going to list a two week plan this time around because I'll be gone for most of week 2 and Jaimie doesn't like to be left without dinner ideas.  (Which really, that's what a menu is - just ideas.  If you think of something different than your plan, go for it, but at least you've got an idea in your head to make something for dinner with ingredients you've got on hand).

Monday (today): Spaghetti squash with butter, neeps & tatties (mashed turnips mixed with mashed potatoes).  We were planning on chicken but it is getting late and the chicken is nowhere near done, so vegetarian tends to be quick.

Tuesday: Chicken, turnip greens over couscous

Wednesday: Leftover chicken (it's a huge chicken for being pastured), baked potatoes, carrots & pea pods (we've got to finish off some fresh produce so it doesn't go bad).

Thursday: Quinoa stuffed acorn squash.  Why? Because we have quinoa, we have an acorn squash from the farmer's market, and Jaimie was perusing The Joy of Cooking and found a recipe for it.

Friday:  Leftovers.  Either from earlier in the week or the leftover lamb chili from the freezer

Saturday: We'll be at a pot luck, so Jaimie's making colcannon.  It's mashed potatoes with  mashed cabbage. 

Sunday: Pumpkin mac 'n cheese.  We didn't get to it the last time around and I'd still like to try it.  It seems like the right time too, because it's the night before Halloween.

Monday: Grilled cheese and tomato soup.  It's quick (and warm) so that we have time to go trick-or-treating.

Tuesday:  Squash ravioli.  It's also quick because we have it in the freezer and it's yoga night.

Wednesday: Leftover chili from the freezer (I'm out of town).

Thursday: Leftover beef stew from the freezer

Friday: Steak, baked potatoes & any random veggie from the freezer that can easily be warmed (Jaimie's getting a lot of mammal while I'm gone).  He can share a steak with Lily and the rest is quick.

Saturday: Black bean quesadillas

Sunday: Italian polenta.  We didn't get to eat this nearly as often as we would have liked, so we'll make good use of the frozen tomatoes and zucchini.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Food Day is October 24, 2011

Food Day  is a day set aside to bring awareness to eating Real Food (the unprocessed, without additives, etc).  You can sign up to participate at  Obviously, you can eat real without signing up, but you can also go to an event if you are interesting in discussing "about what's right and wrong with our diets and whole food system and how to fix them."

Why is there a Food Day?  According to the website, the goal is to transform the American Diet.

The 6 principles are:
1.Reduce diet-related disease by promoting safe, healthy foods
2.Support sustainable farms & limit subsidies to big agribusiness
3.Expand access to food and alleviate hunger
4.Protect the environment & animals by reforming factory farms
5.Promote health by curbing junk-food marketing to kids
6.Support fair conditions for food and farm workers

If not participating in an event, please consider eating only real food.  It does taste so much better when you keep it real and know what you are eating.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The last of the famer's market and harvest

It's the end of October and there won't be a farmer's market after next week.  Because we're both unavailable to go next week, this was our last trip until next year.  It was kind of a bittersweet thing, because we're glad to see the seasons change but also saddened to see the summer end.  When we arrived, the small farmer's market of about 20 vendors was reduced to 2 vendors.  Jaimie questioned whether we should just leave because we noticed a lot of pumpkins, which we had from our garden already, but there were no other people there and I felt that it was our last attempt to support the local fresh food economy for awhile.  It was too much to hope that there would be tomatoes for sale. However, there was much more than we expected.  We got quite a haul, especially because the vendors wanted to sell as much as possible as we were the only ones there and it was about 45 minutes until the end of the market with a lot of food left for sale.  There were some good deals that we had to pass up - like the huge box of peppers for $15, but we didn't want to be processing or freezing all of that, especially considering I'm not fond of cooked peppers.  
We did get two kind of peppers though: Hungarian hot peppers and banana peppers, both for pickling.  Yesterday, we had out a jar of sweet pickles with some Anaheim pepper strips in the jar.  Our toddler requested all of the peppers from the jar, pointing out all the red, and she happily ate them all. 
We figured we could do some jars of just peppers and see how they turn out.  I didn't mind the small taste that I had, so I would be willing to try them despite my aversion to cooked peppers.

Though Jaimie's not fond of sweet potatoes, we did get some.  I like them baked or as sweet potato fries.  Jaimie picked up some shallots for a pasta dish he's excited about.  We also got some turnips because they looked really good.  I'm certain we can mash them with some potatoes in the upcoming menu.  I'm not sure what he wants to do with the cabbage, but he seemed excited about it.  We bought some acorn squash and spaghetti squash.  The vendor gave us a recipe for a spaghetti squash pie that is supposed to taste exactly like coconut cream pie.  That warranted buying another squash.
Here's our haul.

We've pulled out most of the garden long ago, but I did have some saved just because the plants were doing so well and the ones I saved weren't overwhelming to handle.  The Anaheim pepper that we'd overwintered last year was the only pepper plant that produced well at all for us this year.  Unfortunately, I didn't bother to put it in a pot before the last frost, without cover, killed it off.  The frost also killed off the ground cherry plant.  We're planning on making a pie with the ground cherries we have but after husking them we realized that we didn't have enough good ones to do both pie and jelly.  The crab apples are ones that we pulled from the trees by my work.  No one seemed to care that I wanted to take them.  One co-worker said "You sure eat weird things" after he asked why I would even want them.  Well, I wanted them to do the candied crab apples that my sister commented about earlier.  

Jaimie started with the candied crab apples. We're boiling the rest of the crab apples to try a "recipe" for caramel crab apple jelly (recipe is in quotations because it had no measurements and was just kind of a suggestion, which is how we tend to work in the kitchen anyway).

I husked the ground cherries and took all the coriander off the stems (yes, we still had them hung up and hadn't put them in a jar yet). 

We both worked on prepping the peppers for pickling (I left him to do the Hungarians while I did the banana peppers).  Then, maybe tomorrow, we'll work on three types of pesto: cilantro (not seasonal either, but we got it at the Asian market), oregano (from the side of the house), and mint (also from the side of the house).

Breakfast foods for dinner

Every once in awhile I like breakfast foods for dinner.  It's rare, but sometimes.  I had pancakes on the menu and I imagined they would be regular pancakes but Jaimie decided to do banana pecan pancakes.

They were delicious, and the pecans added some protein.  It was also a good way to use up some of the bananas in the freezer rather than make more banana bread (but we still have plenty for banana bread).  He took his normal pancake recipe from The Joy of Cooking and just added mashed bananas and pecans, then cooked them on the cast iron griddle.   We had the leftovers for breakfast this morning, along with plain yogurt with local, raw honey added.  Local raw honey is better than you can get at any store, and it's great for helping to tame your allergies.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

making yogurt

It's not a difficult process at all.  I thought that I'd need special equipment or lots of time, but it's easy to make your own yogurt, and a great way to cut down on paying for all the individual containers when you can just make your own.
I don't have a yogurt maker, and our oven doesn't have a pilot light, but you don't need that if you've got a crock pot.  Start by putting your crock pot on the Stay Warm setting.
I make one 4 cup batch at a time.  I take about 1/4 to 1/2 a cup of plain yogurt (starter) and set it aside, allowing it to warm up to room temperature.  This yogurt can be from a batch you bought at the store or from the last batch you made. It must be plain yogurt, and none of that junk with no fat (i.e. full of artificial sweeteners).
I heat about 3 1/2 cups of milk in a Pyrex container in the microwave (you could do it on the stove if you wanted, but this is easier for me).  Heat to about 170.  That takes about 5 minutes for me in the microwave.  If it's not there yet, then add 30 seconds at a time until it gets there.  DON'T overheat to boiling.  If there's a film, take it off.  Try to avoid a film because then you've heated it a bit too much.
Keep the thermometer in the container and leave it in there, waiting for it to go down to about 105-110.  Go do something else at this point, but don't forget about it.
You could put it all in the crock pot and put it in a container later, but I like to put it in the container it'll be in once it goes in the fridge.  Get a quart jar (I just use a canning jar).  Put some yogurt and warmed milk in it and swish it around.  Then put all the milk and yogurt.  Put a lid on it and put the jar in the crock pot.  Turn off & unplug the crock pot but wrap a thick towel around the crock pot to keep in the warmth. Wait 4-8 hours (it's great to do this before bed and have it fresh in the morning) and then put your new yogurt in the fridge.

If you like yogurt Greek style, just put the yogurt on cheesecloth over a bowl and let the whey (slightly yellowed liquid) separate from the thicker part of the yogurt.  If it's too thick, add some more whey in. Don't waste your whey.  There's a lot of good stuff in there nutritionally.  You can use that in place of water in recipes (though I haven't tried it in anything but bread).  Sometimes I use the yogurt in place of water & milk in bread too.    You could also drink it outright, but I don't know that I'd do that without some other flavoring (maybe in a smoothie or something).

If you're making a bunch of yogurt, you could use your whey to make ricotta.  I haven't tried this, but, hey, ricotta is tasty.

You can flavor with jams, honey, fruit, whatever.  I like mine with honey, but jam is always good too.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Saturday Breakfast

I spent Wednesday morning getting the rain barrels ready to store for winter and reconnecting the downspouts.  We have decided that we need a shed, though, because we have way too much stuff to store in the garage with the van.  First thing Monday morning, I need to find out if we need a permit to put up a prefab shed.  Hopefully, we'll just be able to do it without pulling a permit.  I didn't think about needing a permit when I decided to build raised garden beds and an outdoor oven.  I guess I'd better check on that, too.

At the moment, I'm eating a delicious French toast strata that my mother-in-law made.  Shelly wanted me to post the recipe, so here it is (with MIL's additions in italics).  It's from the April 11, 2011, issue of Ladies' Home Journal (p 110) (Bench, 2011).

Photo by Yunhee Kim

French Toast Strata with Raspberries

One-dish french toast saves you time and is a sweet treat for your guests.
Serves 6
Work: 30 minutes
Total: 5 hours 30 minutes
5 eggs, beaten
1 1/2 cups milk
7 tablespoons granulated sugar
5 ounces cream cheese
Butter for dish
3/4 loaf (15 ounces) brioche or challah, thinly sliced and quartered
2 pints raspberries
Confectioners' sugar
1. Mix together the eggs, milk, and 4 tablespoons sugar. In another bowl combine cream cheese with 1 tablespoon sugar. Butter a 2-1/2-quart baking dish.
2. Quickly dip half of the brioche slices into the egg mixture and arrange them in a slightly overlapping layer on the bottom of the dish. Top with bits of half the cream cheese and half the raspberries. Repeat with remaining brioche, cream cheese, and raspberries. Pour remaining egg mixture over the top and sprinkle entire dish with 2 tablespoons sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
3. Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Remove plastic wrap and bake strata until eggs are set and top is golden, about 55 minutes; cover with foil if top gets too brown. Dust with confectioners' sugar and serve warm or at room temperature.
Per serving: 395 calories, 18g total fat, 7g sat fat, 317mg sodium, 47g carbs, 206mg chol, 12g protein, 5g fiber

This recipe is copyright 2011 Ladies' Home Journal:  
Bench, T. (2011, April). Good Eggs: 6 New Brunch Recipes . (Meredith Corporation, Producer) Retrieved October 15, 2011, from Ladies' Home Journal:

This is so delicious that I had to share it.  It can certainly be made locovore by using local organic eggs, locally sourced milk, and homemade butter, cream cheese and bread (and of course, local raspberries).  Hopefully, my citation is complete enough that I won't get sued for posting it.

Have a great rest of the weekend.  Now, get outside, it's beautiful out there!