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another recipe roundup

April 12, 2012

Homemade bread

I’ve been working extra hours and things are getting very busy in the garden, but cooking is still my favorite way to unwind. Here’s what I’ve been making lately:

  • Butternut Bean Soup. A simple white bean soup elegantly served in half a roasted butternut squash. The recipe is from Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Mineral and you can download a pdf here.
  • Boston Baked Beans. I was inspired to make some after my mom was interviewed about our family’s bean lore for this Boston Globe article. I made a few tweaks to the family recipe–skipped the salt pork and cooked them in the slow cooker–and they were delicious! The leftovers were especially good on toast with a fried egg on top.
  • Tahini Soup. Tahini is my favorite food, so I stock my freezer with this soup whenever I have an abundance of carrots. It’s a nice change of pace from the hearty soups I crave all winter.
  • Carrot Millet Muffins. Thankfully, the abundance of carrots also led me to discover this recipe. The millet adds the most amazing crunch! I made three batches in as many weeks.
  • West African Groundnut Stew.  The days my shopping trips to PCC coincided with them serving this soup were always red letter days for sure. But thanks to Sundays at Moosewood, I can now make it at home. Sweet potatoes, hearty greens, and peanut butter–what’s not to love??
  • Stinging Nettle Pesto. The stringy stems were a workout for my food processor, but this is my favorite way to eat nettles. It’s good on pasta, but is heavenly on grilled cheese. I use this recipe from Fat of the Land as a guideline, but substitute sunflower seeds for pine nuts to make it more affordable.
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Sprouts!

March 27, 2012

spinach sprouts

I knew this would happen, but I may have jumped the gun with my post about signs of spring. Lately it’s felt like March is out to prove that it deserves that reputation for tempestuous weather. Pouring rain, snow, hail, sixty-degrees and sunny–we’ve had it all. Yet this time of year I’m suddenly haunted by the feeling that I should have gotten the whole garden planted yesterday. I think the reappearance of sunshine messes with my brain.

So anyway, you can bet that we planted our first sowing of peas on President’s Day. This was the first time I’ve been able to observe this Northwestern tradition because last year the ground was too soggy to break sod for our new garden until May. But this year, I was sure we’d be snacking on sugar snap peas by April. And then when the sprouts failed to appear, I was sure the seeds had rotted. What I hadn’t counted on was them taking a full month to germinate! Luckily, our farmstead includes a PVC tunnel-style greenhouse so I’ve been able to continue to satisfy my urge to plant things without risking spotty germination in cold soil.

a wee broccoli

Having a greenhouse is a huge step up from the seed-starting setup we used last year, which involved sprouting seeds over a space heater and letting them jockey for light under a few CFLs on a sunny windowsill. But it’s still a learning experience. At first we tried to make our own seed-starting mix, but the quantities we need make sterilizing it in the kitchen impractical. And because the greenhouse wasn’t cleaned well at the end of last season, we’ve had some trouble with mold. But all setbacks aside, right now we have spinach, lettuce, kale, collards, broccoli, peppers, swiss chard, peas, and quinoa(!) going. And that’s not counting those President’s Day peas out in the garden or the arugula and lettuce we sowed under a cloche this past weekend. We still have a long way to go, but it’s a start…

This into that

March 14, 2012

Arancini

I love leftovers, and since I lack the ability to cook in small batches, it’s a good thing that I do. If it’s not something I can freeze, I’ll dutifully eat the same dish for alternating lunches and dinners for days on end. Sometimes I’ll jazz it up with a fried egg

That said, I also like to read cookbooks, cooking blogs, etc., and especially ones about cooking sustainably, frugally, and simply. Unfortunately, the advice always seems to come down to: “First, you buy a whole chicken and roast it for Sunday dinner. Then, you use the meat in chicken tacos on Monday, chicken salad on Tuesday…” and so forth until you get down to soup made with chicken stock.

I’ve always found this type of advice less-than-useful for a couple of reasons, the most noteworthy of which being that I very rarely eat meat.  I guess you could apply the same logic to beans, but I prefer to cook a big batch of dried beans and freeze most of it in smaller portions so that I always have a variety on hand. And when I do cook meat it’s not like I have any trouble using it up; it’s chicken–of course it can go in anything!

The leftovers that I need help using up are the odds and ends lurking in my fridge: the rice that outlived the curry, the half can of tomato paste, or the veggies on their way to to the compost pile.  In this regard, there’s been some exciting alchemy happening in my kitchen lately:

  • The French onion soup I posted about a few weeks ago left me with 3/4 of an increasingly stale baguette and a little bit of Gruyere. Obviously the cheese would have been delicious in anything, but the bread slowly turned to rock until one night I had the foresight to throw together this savory bread pudding from Macheesmo. It was perfect for a lazy weekend morning: Daniel popped it in the oven when he got up to let the chickens out, we continued to snooze* while it cooked, and within the hour our delicious breakfast was ready!
  • And speaking of Daniel, he has a few specialties in the kitchen: anything breakfast-related (especially eggs Benedict), steak, bread, and torta di pasta. This last one is a fantastic way to use up leftover spaghetti and a great reason to always have a jar of sun-dried tomatoes on hand. The hardest part is waiting for it to cool to room temperature before eating!
  • But the leftover transformation that I’m proudest of is that of leftover risotto to arancini. I’ve always known these fried rice balls were one of my dad’s favorite North End treats, but until we made them I had never tried one because the ones he likes have meat in them. We stuffed ours with mozzarella and dipped them in marinara sauce, but I can’t wait to try more variations in the future. A massaged kale salad on the side rounded out the meal nicely.

The only downside to turning leftovers into something even better than the original dish? You’re a lot less likely to have leftovers…

*Hi, dad! I’m sure this part about us sleeping while the oven was on screamed “fire hazard!” to you. So I should clarify that although I slept soundly during the entire process, Daniel was alert enough to make sure the house didn’t burn down.

Our new peeps

February 28, 2012

Lately I’ve been doing my best to use up the yarn I have before buying more. It’s been tough, but recently I had a little extra motivation. This box used to hold yarn:

But right now, it’s filled with…

Chicks!

…CHICKS! After lots of discussion, debate, and calculation of feed prices, we’ve decided to add four more chickens to our laying flock. They’re all super cute, but I have to say that the two Americaunas (Ginny and Hermione), with their big eyes and heart-shaped faces, are the most adorable:

Americauna chick

The cuteness was an added bonus–we got them because Americaunas, also known as “Easter Eggers,” lay blue-green eggs. The eggs we’re getting now vary in shape, size, and shade of brown, but I love the idea of a multi-colored mix.

Rounding out this small flock are one Black Australorp (Tonks) and one Maran (Luna). Why yes, they are named after Harry Potter characters! Here’s Luna:

Maran chick

It’s only been a few days but they are growing quickly and already have more pinfeathers than they did when we brought them home. In about two months they’ll be ready to head outside and join the rest of our ladies. We’re also thinking about getting some meat birds around that time, so stay tuned for lots more chicken-filled updates!

A handful of recent meals

February 17, 2012
bike with groceries

I feel the need to get a handlebar basket just for those times I need to carry a baguette.

I approach cooking like I approach knitting: both are deeply satisfying hobbies, I love learning new techniques and skills, and I almost always put my own spin on a finished product. But I don’t, at least at this point, feel much need to create my own patterns or recipes. But I do love to share ideas, so every once in a while I’ll post about what I’ve been cooking. Lately, I’ve been trying to snap out of a winter soup rut. Here’s what has helped:

    • Butternut squash risotto. My homemade veggie stock made this risotto surprisingly brown (all those onion skins!), but oh so tasty.
    • Red Beans & Rice. I followed the recipe in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, and made my own coconut milk using the instructions in Can it, Bottle it, Smoke it by Karen Solomon (tip: feed the used coconut to your chickens–ours love it!).
    • Macaroni & Cheese. A special treat. I usually skip the breadcrumbs and always add some broccoli or spinach to make it a more complete meal.
    • French Onion Soup. I usually make this tasty vegetarian version from the NY Times, but went all out this time with beef soup bones from Olsen Farms to make stock. I used the onion soup recipe from Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal (WELL worth reading).
    • Chocolate Beet Muffins. My initial skepticism was unwarranted–these muffins from Sustainable Eats are delicious. I grated the beets very finely and you’d never be able to guess they’re in there!

Signs of Spring!

February 11, 2012

seeds!I’m going to pretend for a minute that I don’t know how notoriously fickle springtime weather in the Pacific Northwest can be. I’m choosing to feign blissful ignorance of the fact that the last few springs have been devastatingly wet and cold for far too long. Because the weather right now is lovely and I really need this, okay?

And I’m not the only one–the farmstead is springing to life. The chickens are laying more, the spring peepers are peeping, and the migratory birds are making a comeback. We hear enough squawking and whooping from resident Steller’s Jays and Northern Flickers that earlier in the week it took me a moment to realize why the sound of a singing robin had stopped me in my tracks. Even Small Paul is feeling a little randy, though so far the size difference between him and the ladies seems insurmountable.

In the garden, we’re forging ahead. The garden plan, now on what is at least its fifth iteration, is more or less finished. Our last few packets of  seeds just arrived in the mail–we’re going to start some later today. We’ve been tractoring the chickens in the garden to help till in the cover crop. I’m excited because we’re going to try a lot of new things this year: growing quinoa and dried beans, raising ducks and meat chickens, and saving a lot more seed, to name a few. So spring or no spring, it’s going to be a good year.

We think that big one's a double-yolker!

A few favorite knits

February 2, 2012
Boneyard Shawl

I learned to knit as a Girl Scout over a decade ago.  I was probably the only person in our troop who stuck with it, and not because I wanted a merit badge. No, I kept knitting because I loved the thoughts of spending evenings beside a warm wood stove, knitting mittens and socks that would keep me warm through a long Dakota winter. It would be the perfect way to end a day spent baking bread, caring for livestock, and churning butter.

If you forget about churning butter and living in Dakota, I almost have the Laura Ingalls Wilder lifestyle I always dreamed of. But to tell the truth, knitting is not as practical a hobby as it sounds. Few knitters would deny this–not when yarn is expensive, time is hard to come by, and mass-produced merchandise is cheap. Of course, comparing a handknit wool sweater to an acrylic one at Target is hardly fair, but some knits are certainly more practical than others. Here are a few of my favorite things to knit. They are simple, enjoyable, and most importantly, I use them constantly:

Assorted jar cozies

  • Dishcloths. Give me a dishcloth over a sponge any day! They’re reusable, biodegradable, and way less gross than sponges. I have enough that I can use a new one every day or two and throw the old one in the laundry. I like mine on the small side for washing dishes, about 5″ square, so they are instant gratification knitting, too!
  • Hats and Scarves. I think I’d be hard pressed to find store bought substitutes for the hats and scarves I own. I love that they’re one-of-a-kind and made in the styles, fibers, and colors of my choosing. My house is chilly, so I tend to wear hats and scarves inside and out all winter long.
  • Jar Cozies. Not something you need a ton of, but it’s pretty rad to be able to make your own thermos. I used a jar cozy all the time when I was commuting to take oatmeal for my on-the-ferry breakfast. They’re also great for tea, since my travel mug is infused with coffee, and I’ve heard you can even incubate yogurt in a cozied mason jar.
  • Toys. What could possibly be practical about a stuffed octopus wearing tube socks, you ask? Well, knitted toys are whimsical and good for using up scraps. But what really convinced me of their value was this: they’re make with love, not plastic.
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