Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Friday, October 5, 2012

Pickled Cauliflower

Cauliflower spoils so quickly we seldom get a whole head finished before we tire of it and it starts to brown, so in the spirit of frugality I've started pickling half of every head, and it is so easy to do. 

I was thrilled to find Andrea Chesman's Golden Spiced Pickled Cauliflower recipe in her wonderful book, The Pickled Pantry. She uses turmeric, a spice I utilize a lot when cooking cauliflower. It's on Page 97 for those who want to give it try. Use the "look inside" feature at Amazon.com to navigate to the page for the recipe. (I adjusted the recipe slightly and you can too if you want to put your own spin on things. Just use her recipe as the base.)

If you prepare a bottle this week they'll be ready in time for your Thanksgiving table. It takes 6 weeks for the pickles to fully develop their flavor.

Pickles have really come back into fashion and I am filling my larder with a wonderful variety for the winter. What are you pickling this season?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Seizing the Dream

Ever thought of becoming an organic farmer? These folks did something about it.

To Make A Farm

Click on the link to watch the documentary about suburbanites turned farmers.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I Brake For Farm Stands

You can make a pretty good homemade carrot soup with just a few carrots, an onion, chicken stock and some grated ginger. I also added zest of an orange in this batch for an extra kick.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Yes, it's carrot season and the farm stands are packed with plump, juicy, sweet carrots. I cannot resist a roadside farm stand, and feel great about supporting farmers.

I recently bought 3/4 quart of Maple syrup from a business at $23. A week later I drove past a small farmhouse selling their own syrup and picked up a full quart for $17.  Quite a savings, and the flavor was far superior! It was so delicious that I slurped it up by the spoonful. There is nothing like maple syrup. Nothing!

But the best part of that second transaction was hearing all about the product. The farm wife's eyes brightened as she told me she had made maple syrup since she was a child and "loved it. Just loved it." She and her husband tapped 120 trees on their land and this batch came from a rather modest "three day boil." It was a small crop due to last year's mild winter.

The woman predicted a more "normal winter" this season. "The caterpillars are changing color," she told me, and her father always said, "Watch the caterpillars, they'll tell ya what's in store." Apparently she saw a caterpillar that week that was almost white. Get out the Uggs.

Further down the road I collected some Cherokee Chocolate tomatoes. It's a very popular tomato with celebrity chefs these days and was also a favorite of the grower's. I mentioned that I'd never grown a chocolate before and was told to save some of the seeds from these and I'd have them in my garden next year. Don't you just love farmers?

Here is one of the Cherokee Chocolates next to a beefsteak from my own garden. Very exotic.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Icelandic Horses

Isn't this stallion a beauty? He's one of several Icelandic horses on the eco-farm I'm staying at.

A beautiful 125 acre property rife with reindeer, wandering guinea fowl, beehives, apple orchards and so much more.

It's a nice place to land after a day at the scandinavian spa.

Shhh, people relaxing.

Everyone needs some R&R now and then.

Off to the sauna.

Life is good.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Quick Pancakes

I'm a big believer in the improv method of cooking. I follow recipes to the letter when preserving food for food safety reasons, but when it comes to everyday meals, having an attitude of spontaneity means you will cook more often and enjoy fresher fare. 

Cast perfection to the wind and enter the joyful land of culinary freedom.

Pancakes are one of my regular wing-it meals. You need a bowl and a fork (or a whisk). Eggs, milk and flour. Badaboom. Sure, you can add a pinch of salt, baking powder, some sugar or melted butter, but you don't need to. 

You can make super yummy pancakes with milk, flour and an egg. Ingredients you normally have on hand. Add a teaspoon or two of baking powder and the pancakes will rise to become fluffy, but there's nothing wrong with flat denser cakes. They're more cosmopolitan, in fact. I adore them.

If you have an apple or other fruit in the house, you can toss that in too, but you don't need to. Mine have wild blueberries today.

I never, ever measure anymore, and honestly, you don't have to either. Anyone can toss together pancakes in under a minute and have them in the pan and on the table in five.

What to do:

Add a healthy scoop of flour, one egg and start stirring milk into your bowl. Get the batter to the consistency you like. Thick or thin, there is no perfect consistency. Boom, you have pancake batter. (Add baking powder to make them rise to fluffy stature.)

Put in too much milk? Call them Swedish pancakes. Thick batter? Thin it with a little more milk, or go for the big thick man-cakes. You can add a pinch of baking powder or salt if you like, let the batter rest, etc. but I'm all for whip-it-up, fry-it and get it onto the plates. Less stressful that way, which means, you'll make them more often.

No maple syrup on hand? Thin the batter, call them crepes, smear with butter, dust with sugar or give them a squirt of lemon juice. Yum.

Anybody can make pancakes. A hot pan greased with butter will accept your improvised batter and deliver a comforting breakfast or late night dessert.

So go forth readers, and make your cakes. Thick, thin, fruited, plain or buttermilk. It's a delicious way to start the day and there's only a one bowl, one skillet, cleanup to contend with.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Wild Blueberries

Here they are in all their tiny silver-blue untameable fabulousness. The flavor of wild blueberries is subtly explosive. An oxymoron, I know, but quite fitting. I swear you can taste the antioxidants. They have double the dose of cultivated blueberries.

Half the size of their bloated cousins, wild blueberries freeze well and bake an awesome pie with a tighter filling. Less watery. These little gems are a super fruit loaded with phytochemicals that fight aging. Look kids, no Botox!

Yes, great things do come in small packages. I can so relate to that.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Filling the Shelves

Much of the harvest was eaten fresh this season, but there has been a bit to put up for winter storage.  I'm slowly filling the shelves. My goal is to eat far less imported produce and fruit this coming winter. Food safety continues to be an issue due to poor inspections, mass produced GMOs and pesticides used in conventional farming. See this year's dirty dozen.

If you grow your own food in your own home-composted soil and preserve it yourself, you know exactly what you're setting on the table daily. What I lack in variety I can always buy in bulk at organic farmers' stands to bring home and preserve... and wild blueberries are in season! It's a ton of work, granted, but truly worth it.

I've been drying and freezing my herbs for years as well. I keep my old spice bottles and refill them with my own garden's herbs. Saves a bundle and drying herbs is the easiest way to start preserving food because they are a cinch to grow and store. All you need to do is wash, hang by stems to dry and then store in your containers.

Conversely, wash and dry off the fresh herbs and freeze fresh in a ziplock for months (be sure to remove all the air, you can use a straw to do this). You can also preserve some in oil. There's nothing like grabbing summer herbs from the freezer to dress up a salad or winter stew.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fall Crocus

The fall crocus are up. There's no denying it now. The seasonal baton has been passed.

The light is changing too. The butternut squash can sense it.

Tomatoes are dashing to the finish line. I'm hoping the small green San Marzano volunteers I discovered only this morning can hang in there.

The raspberries seem totally unconcerned however. I harvested an enormous bowl this evening and there are plenty more waiting in the wings to ripen.

It's been a great year for herbs. Sage, thyme and marjoram especially. For some reason I didn't plant basil, tomatillos or Brussels sprouts. Don't ask me why. Divided attention, I suppose. Is it too late for brassicas? With the aid of a hoop house I may be able to extend the season months longer.

The nights are getting much cooler. I'm considering installing Christmas lights powered by a solar panel inside the main hoop house. Hoping for a 7-10 degree rise in temperature. Every little bit helps. Especially for the tomatoes. The challenge is to keep the lights from making contact with the plants or the plastic. Heat rises, so lower placement is best.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Scotts MiracleGro fined for adding insecticide to Wild Bird Seed

This is the last package of Scotts bird seed I will ever buy.

It's troubling to learn that the company laced wild bird seed with the toxic pesticides Storcide II and Actellic 5E to protect their bottom line. This action not only violated the law but also good sense. You have to ask, who makes these bonehead decisions?

I first learned of this from Margaret Roach's excellent blog A Way To Garden and felt compelled to make a post of my own. Here is a link to more info on the case.

Environmental Newswire

My Garden Toad

How well he blends.

I have watched this lovely fella grow and fatten up considerably over the season. He has done a fine job keeping the slugs and snails down to a minimum.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Freezing Tomatoes

I've been too busy to can the never-ending supply of tiny tomatoes so I am using a tip from The Garden Web and just freezing a batch.

I tend to use these little guys in soups, stews and pastas (sometimes salsa) so there should be no problem with texture. What a relief to have them stored in a matter of minutes without a steamy house and bad hair day to contend with.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Single Servings

If I don't get to canning my tomatoes fast enough and some parts start to go bad I just cut out the bad and make sauce with the leftover good bits. (This is how seeds end up in the compost.)

This pasta sauce was a simple toss together of onion, garlic, basil and tomatoes (skins on) which all came from my garden. 

I added some salt and lemon juice and cooked it down and then canned the sauce in small single serve jam jars. There's no hard and fast recipe, I just add as I go.

The size of jam jars is perfect for a single serving. Great for the nights when you come in late or are eating alone - like tonight - and want a dish of pasta fast. Boy, are these handy.

It's a one pot, one spoon meal. After the pasta is cooked and drained you can throw the sauce in the same hot pot to warm as you plate up. One pot to clean.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Three Tiny Tomatoes

These three yellow tomatoes are from three different bushes. A grape tomato, a cherry tomato and a plum.  Two of the three are volunteers from seeds that found their way into the compost. Hearty little devils. The garden is now teaming with tiny tomatoes.

Ah, a million cherries but nary a Purple Cherokee to be seen. 

The flavor of red (and purple) tomatoes have a superior flavor in my books, but I eat mostly yellows because of the reduced acid.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Nectarine Jam

I've leapt on the small batch preservation wagon, and am loving it. It's quick, easy and the work fits nicely into length of my Sunday morning radio program.

Peel and slice nectarines. Squirt in lemon juice. 

Mix up sugar and pectin. Stir in and boil.

Heat jars and process for 10 minutes.

Voila.  Nectarine preserves.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Icicle Pickles, the Finale

Plenty of pickles for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Sweet and piquant at the same time, these crunchy pickles never disappoint. Cassia buds are the secret.

Recipe here. Last year I peeled the pickling cucumbers. This year, skins were left on for a more rustic, traditional taste. Quicker to make too.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Three Cheers for Mark Bittman

Bittman wrote an impassioned opinion about celebrating the farm community in today's New York Times. Read it here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Freezing Rhubarb

Small batch preservation is a worthwhile endeavour when the rhubarb is flourishing and you don't have time to make that pie or compote.

Storing rhubarb is as simple as 1. 2. 3. Wash. Cut. Bag and Freeze.

The bag of frozen rhubarb I'm storing today will seem like veggie gold in November when supplies are scarce and we're craving a rhubarb pie.

Rhubarb freezes well and if you pre-cut it pie prep is a snap.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Scalloped Potatoes - From Garden to Table

This is where you start:

This is how you finish:

This is how you get there:


You'll need olive oil, milk, butter, flour, salt and pepper, croutons, potatoes and shredded cheese of your choice.

Grease a casserole with olive oil
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Peel and thinly slice about 4 cups of potatoes. (Listen to music while cooking.)

In a saucepan cook over a low heat:
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tsp of combined salt and pepper

Stir in:
1 3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup of Cheddar or Asiago cheese (or Cheese Whiz, whatever you have)
Simmer on low, stirring.
Add a bit of milk if sauce thickens too quickly.
(Dance briefly to good song.)

Arrange slices of potatoes in layers in the casserole. Pour sauce over each layer as you go. Building it up. Use all potatoes.

(Note: I have some purple potatoes in this casserole.)

Crush croutons (or bread crumbs) and top the casserole with the crumbs. I use garlic croutons.

Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes.

Let set for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve warm.
(Sing Aria with wild abandon between bites.)