September 28, 2010

Recipe Inspirations

A great read!
I've mentioned some sources I get recipes from and inspiration, since I often improvise on recipes with my own ingredient choices. I like what I eat to be the most nutrient rich possibility. Which is why I research as to what foods should most definitely be organic. I always think WHOLE! Whole herbs and spices for freshness and optimal seasoning - I grow herbs and keep potted herbs in the house over winter - I buy spices whole as much as is possible and grind in a mortar and pestle or an extra coffee grinder I have for grinding seasonings. I grind my own flour from a wide variety of grains, so I usually cook from scratch. I'll preserve foods by freezing and drying over canning because of nutrient retention (I used to can). We eat as fresh and local as possible too. I love my kitchen gadgets, i.e. "servants" - and use them! I've been learning all this stuff over 35 years, since I didn't know how to cook when I got married. I love to read and research and experiment (like I read about how to make marshmallows ... and decided I didn't want to make them, nor eat them!)(how did they make things before Cream of ... soups, instant puddings and jellos, cake and everything else mixes?).

Speaking of experimenting and researching, the first place I look now for cooking info is from Cook's Illustrated- books and magazines. I have all their magazines bound from their beginning so to have an overall index. Whenever I'm about to cook something new, I consult several cookbooks and pull together a recipe taking bits from several sources. But to do this you have to understand your ingredients. My next favorite cookbook is The Joy of Cooking. My book is an older version and falling apart. I think the older versions have a little more old basics that have now been edited for our more modern approach to cooking. The Joy of Cooking has a chapter titled "Know Your Ingredients". My favorite part to read in all books are prefaces and introductions - that's where the why's and wherefore's are. Rodale Press books are another rich resource for me. They all utilize whole food varieties. My favorite is The Rodale Cookbook by Nancy Albright, and then her Naturally Great Foods Cookbook. I have all of Martha Stewart's older cookbooks. I collect Rick Bayless Mexican cookbooks too...

For putting up foods, again I have Rodale Press books like Stocking Up, Root Cellaring, and their gardening and compost books. I collect fancy pantry books, lotion & potion and soap making books (I'm about ready to make soap again - I do it about once a year). And then a book I used to consult all the time is Carla Emery's The Encyclopedia of Country Living. I have a newer edition but I also have her very first mimeographed, many colored pages book in a three-ring binder (almost 40 years old!) - the following editions edited out a lot her ramblings and personality!

Nowadays I Google recipes. I get once-a-week recipes from - Lynne Rosetto Kasper has great recipes. I get daily recipes from where I have a recipe box. And I have a recipe box at too. I used to get emails from the Gourmet magazine, but it's gone by the wayside.

I'm currently exploring wine making, as I've posted about the amount of chokecherries we picked. Then, with reading, I hear raspberry wine is good too and it'll be a perfect use for older hand-picked raspberries I have in the freezer and not wanting to throw out. I'm going to make crabapple wine too. And some year soon, we're going to have a bunch of elderberries ...

I'm open for more suggestions and people's favorites ...

September 27, 2010

Collecting Seeds & Rubber Stamped Seed Packet

The garden is winding down. Normally we've had a frost by now, wiping out all the tender plants like beans, basil, squash and tomatoes, and then some flowers. Indian Summer will kick in with it's warmth for another month or so, and an occasional snow storm. This is the warmest September ever and we've not had rain for over a month, but a few spits. My watering keeps things going, but I'd planted more salady seeds for producing on into the late fall, but it's like the ground wicks away moisture instantly from the surface, so not many of the seedlings have sprouted yet. Monte and me covered tender plants a couple nights when temps threatened, and that saved them.

I've been collecting seeds from flowers I like to replant next year, starting seedlings in the early spring in my greenhouse. Like I've grown black hollyhocks for years and keep planting more and more - as biennials they do need to be replanted, but mine also keep reseeding. The calendulas sometimes reseed, I collect their seeds to. This year I'm collecting more. Like I like how the hyssop adds it's purple flowering at differing times than the flowering sage May Night and too, catnip. Another I collected is a perennial that my friend Marty wants to see if she can get started - I don't remember it's name.

Years ago I bought a rubber stamp that's like a seed package. I've given seeds as gifts using this stamp. As you see in the picture, you'd fold the paper and glue the tabs to make a seed packet. And I cut out the window - I enclose the seeds in snack-size zip bag and push the bag into the packet, then the seeds don't fall out, but you can see them. My daughter-in-love Sarah, recently stamped some for her gift-giving and used a multiple colored stamp pad. It looked great, so I'm going to be doing that too.

I'm posting pictures of some of the flowers I'm collecting seeds from.

September 24, 2010

Food Fiction

I finished a fun fiction full of food book ;-) ... Comfort Food by Kate Jacobs. The popular food show host, "Gus" Simpson, a widowed mother of two adult daughters, is faced with having to host a live cooking show with a saucy younger beauty queen Carmen Vega. Her daughters, along with ex boyfriends get roped into the show, and viewers love the live drama. The food talk/competition was great. Jacobs is more known for her first popular book, The Friday Night Knitting Club - which I enjoyed too. As a knitter I've enjoyed several knitting stories: like The Knitting Circle, and knitting mysteries by Ft Collins Colorado author, Maggie Sefton.

Another book I read this past year connected to food was Clementine in the Kitchen by Phineas Beck (Samuel Chamberlain). Prior to WWII the Chamberlain family lived in France and Clementine presided over their kitchen. She so loved the family and them her, that when they had to move back to Massachusetts, she moved with them. With her not able to speak much English and used to fresh markets, her shopping experiences in America are fun ... and thought provoking ... A fun entry is her first exposure to America, a stopover at a family friend's home before they settled into their own home. The Yankee breakfast was her first eye-opener: orange juice, cornflake cereal, ham and eggs, along with muffins and cinnamon rolls, and pale, watery coffee. She couldn't get used to ice water instead of a glass of wine at meals. And then at the Sunday evening barbecue, she had her first hot dog and beer from a can poured into a paper cup, sharing this meal with the delighted son Phineas. The Americanization of Clementine had begun. The Chamberlains and the Childs crossed paths. I listened to Julia Child's My Life in France and couldn't wait to watch the movie "Julie and Julia", and ended up buying her Mastering the Art of Cooking two volume cookbook set.

I listen to tons of audio books while working in the kitchen, around the house and garden, and doing my textile arts. A local author, Diane Mott Davidson, has volunteered helping a caterer so to be a fly on the wall in many settings that have helped her write her murder mystery novels. I've listened to everyone she's written, getting them from the library. I like to start with author's first books so to grow with the author and the characters, as many of them carry on with a main character or theme. Since this blog is focused on food I'm not going to tell you all my favorites, maybe someday on my other blog. But Diane Mott Davidson writes about the food being prepared in the midst of the story and shares recipes at the end of the book. She's got titles like Killer Pancake, The Last Suppers, Fatally Flaky, Dyeing for Chocolate ...

September 22, 2010

White Chili Chicken Soup; Chicken Broth & Roasted Green Chilies

White Chili Soup with Avacado
This soup is an all-time favorite!

Chicken Broth
Since I'd made the grilled "Dancing" chickens a couple nights ago and planned on a chicken left over, we'd put all the bones in a large pot and covered them with water. I always add a quartered onion with 3-4 whole cloves stuck in each onion piece, I cut off the leaf tops of celery I always keep in the fridge along with one of the older stalks cut up,  I look for the oldest carrot or two in the same fridge bin and cut up, then toss in some pepper corns and a tsp of salt. Simmer for at least an hour, then strain ... putting all in the compost. This is the way I make chicken broth all the time and freeze what's leftover. I like to freeze in pint sizes and whenever a recipe has a cream of ... something soup can, I make a white sauce of a couple TB of olive oil and WWflour in a sauce pan and stir in the thawed chicken broth till thickened. Because these bones and deboned chicken meat had been smoke-grilled, the soup flavor is even better ... and the chicken meat makes the best sandwiches ever too!

3 16oz cans northern white beans
4 c cooked chicken
1 Tb olive oil
2 medium chopped onions
2 cloves minced garlic
2 4oz cans chopped green chilies
2 Tb ground cumin
6 c chicken broth
3 c  grated jack cheese

That's how my good friend Jeanie, who's moved away, gave it to me. Now I'll tell you what I do:
I usually use canned navy beans, but might at times cook the beans from scratch, which would probably be about 2 cups of dry beans. I prefer the smaller white beans. I usually cook up a whole chicken, both for the meat and the broth. Otherwise I use organic chicken broth. I usually have cooked chicken and turkey in the freezer from past meals, but in a bind, I've used canned chicken. I can't tell you the sizes, but I think I used three cans.

Roasted Green Chilies Frozen
Saute the chopped onion and garlic in the olive oil. I always add more garlic than recipes call for. Then add the chopped green chilies. We always have frozen roasted anaheim chilies in our freezer from the farmer's market. I get a bushel roasted and usually 3 chilies equals 4 ounces. I don't remove the blackened skin when freezing, but remove it when thawed and I'm readying to chop them (and don't like washing it off, as I think I'm washing away good flavor, but just run my fingers down the chili to remove the skin, stem end, and seeds, then I do have to wash my hands to remove it all from them!). And the cumin, I grind fresh. I rarely buy pre-ground spices, preferring their fresh ground flavor. My cute little wood mortar & pestle sits on my kitchen windowsill.

If I'm taking the soup somewhere, then I put the cheese in it too. At home, we grate cheese and put some in our soup bowls and ladle in the soup. From another chicken soup recipe, I fell in love with fresh avacado cut in chunks and added to the soup bowls. When we have guests (some guests having had it more than once - and they love it!) we typically set up meals buffet style on our island in the middle of the kitchen that the stove is a part of. So the soup pot stays on the stove and there'll be a wooden bowl with wooden tongs of grated cheese and a bowl of cut up avacados (with fresh squeezed lime juice to keep them from browning). Homemade bread and salad top off the meal.

September 21, 2010

Potato, Onion, Zucchini Soup & Zucchini Flowers & Fried Green Tomatoes

I made this soup last night, and many times over the years. It freezes well, and tastes so good, pulling it out for a quick winter meal. (Another good use of garden zucchini surplus.)


3/4 virgin olive oil (I don't measure, just let it form a good puddle in the pan)

3 onions, sliced

2 potatoes, diced

3 large zucchini, diced

1/4 cup tomato paste

juice of 4 lemons

2 bunches of cilantro (you don't really taste it, yet it adds SO much)

salt to taste

Saute onions for about 15 minutes over medium-low heat. Add potatoes (when organic, I wash and keep the skins on) and saute a bit more. Add zucchini and tomato paste. Barely cover with water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on medium-low till everything is soft. Remove from heat and add cilantro and lemon juice. Puree in pan with an immersion blender, or in batches in blender. This is good hot or cold. I didn't think this would be so great without an added broth, but it doesn't need it! I like to serve it with some dollops of my homemade yogurt.


I'd mentioned earlier about wanting to fry up some zucchini flowers - the ones with the long stems are male flowers that will not produce 'fruit'. So I finally picked a few and tried them. I'd stored some extra egg mixed with milk in a little bowl in the fridge and a bowl of flour, corn meal and salt from trying fried green tomatoes, so used those same batter ingredients for the zucchini flowers. Just dip in the egg mixture (green tomatoes are 1/4" slices, and zucchini flowers kept whole), then dip in flour mixture and pan fry in a skillet with a bit of heated oil. Both were very good! but then almost anything battered and pan fried are good (believe me ... Dawson used to be a bug enthusiast and had me try battered fried Mormon Crickets! ... another story of "man eating bugs"! [that IS the name of a book]).

The bug man could tell me what this is ... I'm guessing it's a moth and not a butterfly, on a purple coneflower

September 20, 2010

Grilled Dancing Chickens

"Dancing Chickens" on beer cans - grilled
We had overnight guests and I did my beer-can grilled chicken. When I made it for guest Norwegians a couple years ago they all (5 of them) had to get their cameras to take a picture of them on the grill! Travis gave me this recipe and made it for us a few years ago, and I named them "Dancing Chickens". I always do an extra chicken for leftover sandwiches and soup - the bones make the greatest broth that I like to use for my white chili chicken soup (which I'll be making soon and posting the pics and recipe. We've got more company coming for supper tomorrow night, but she's bringing most of the meal, so I'll probably make it Wednesday. Tonight I'm cooking and freezing the last of my large zucchini as a soup, and I'll be posting it's recipe ... it's actually a bit hard to think of soup when the weather is abnormally hot and dry for this time of year, but gardens often dictate menus.)

My greenhouse sink
Start soaking, in the morning, various chunks of wood for providing great smoke flavor. Since this slow cooks a long time I use large wood chunks with some smaller. Usually I use Hickory, but sometimes mesquite.

Brine the chickens for at least 3 hours. I often put the frozen chicken in a bucket and pour the brine over, and let brine overnight in our cool to cold garage - if it's warm weather, I  brine them in a cooler. If the chickens are snug in the container, I think this brine can cover up to 3 chickens.

1 gallon water (1 qt hot first, for dissolving salt and sugar, the rest ice-water)

3/4 C salt

2/3 C sugar (Travis uses brown sugar)

1/2 C soy sauce

several tsps of herbs: thyme, rosemary, bay, pepper, onion and garlic powder

1/2- 1 C olive oil

Submerge with a plate with a weight for at least 3 hours.


Initially we did this with just the beer cans holding up the chickens, then I found the wire can holder with legs, which helps it not be so tippy. Open the beer cans and pour off half of the beer - poke, with a can opener, two more holes in the can top. Put the can up into the rinsed chicken. Sqeeze lemon juice over the chickens and stuff the lemon half in the neck hole. Sprinkle a herb seasoning mix over the chickens.

Make sure the grill is preheated on high for 15 minutes. Put the drained soaked wood chips on one side of the grill and leave this side on high the entire cooking time. Turn the burners under the chickens to low and close the grill. You want the inner grill temp to stay around 300 degrees. I cook the majority of the time with the burners off under the chicken, so their grease drippings do not catch on fire. But when I open the grill for occasionally turning the birds I'll turn their burners to high until I close the lid, turning them to low a bit and then off again, leaving one wood chip burner on high the entire time.

1 chicken cooks in about 1 hour.

3 birds in about 2 hours, but I plan for 2 1/2 hours.

Last night I did 2 birds and planned on 2 hours. My propane tank emptied some time in the midst, so they probably would have been done in 1 1/2 hours.

Pull the done birds off the beer cans to a serving board and enjoy!

Brining is good to do with a lot of meats. Salt pulls moisture out and after a little while it equalizes pulling moisture back in. So you're seasoning the meat thru-ought and not just the surface.

Monte 'stir-fried' veggies and greens in our cast-iron wok, but with no seasoning (therefore no chinese seasoning, leaving it for us to put what we wanted on ours), for the side dish. I had an artisan bread loaf fresh from the oven, with pesto and chopped tomato and chives in it for putting on the bread. George had to have one slice with honey on it. I'd made a rhubarb crisp and the electric ice cream maker churned the fresh yogurt ice cream (recipes posted here earlier).

We had sourdough pancakes for breakfast. And let them try the kale smoothie I posted. We sent them off with sandwiches of the deboned yummy chicken from last night on homemade bread.

As I'm writing this it's clouding up! YEAH!!!!! We might get some rain. We've not had rain for 1 1/2 months!

September 18, 2010

Kale and Banana Smoothie

I'm eating this right now! This is the second large batch I've made so to have in the fridge to eat bits of off and on. I just had Splarah and Dawson taste these latest exotic things I've made lately with the kale. They're here for the evening, sitting side-by-side at Dawson's desk - Splarah working on her computer doing homework (she's in nursing school) and Dawson's editing shots he took for some people's school photos. They love the kale chips and wanted me to leave the bowl. This so-called smoothie ... they could eat their spoonful, but didn't want anymore, so I'm finishing it.

I think I put more kale in it then called for - how do you measure ripped kale leaves, or basil leaves for pesto ... other than weighing it?!

1 banana

2 C chopped kale

1/2 C milk

1 tsp maple syrup

1 Tb flax seed

Puree in blender. They pour it over ice cubes and serve. Mine doesn't pour! I think I used 1 Tb maple syrup.

You could use any type of liquid other than the milk, like even water, and more of it. Adding any other fruit you have on hand plus the banana would make it even better.

Splarah and Dawson said it tastes ... nutritious!

Roasted Squash Seeds

I'm baking one of our volunteer winter squashes right now just to see what it's like. All season we've watched them grow, not knowing what they are. This month they turned orange ... so are they pumpkin? They're not large, so could they be the smaller sugar pumpkins for pie? I actually make 'pumpkin' pie from all winter squash. I've got some recipes in my cookbook, including "Impossible Pumpkin Pie" which was the first pumpkin pie my kids liked.

Since winter squash season has just begun I thought I'd tell you about roasting their seeds. I can't throw away the seeds! I think my method of making crispy seasoned winter squash seeds is unusual. Most recipes have you toss the seeds with oil or melted butter and season and bake on a cookie sheet, stirring occasionally. Rather than mess with a lot of loose seasonings, I prefer to simmer the flavor into the seeds. I'll even do the seeds of a squash I bake whole.

Measure the amount of seed from any winter squash, then in a saucepan, barely cover them with water.

Per cup of seeds use about

1 tsp of a seasoning salt

(like a premixed kind, or mix salt with granulated garlic and onion)

(Add some olive oil or butter to the pan)

Bring to a boil and let simmer, stirring occasionally till almost simmered dry.

Spread on a cookie sheet. Since the oven is/was probably on for baking the squash, put the tray in the oven. If the oven is on, occasionally stir them and check for crispiness. If the oven's been turned off, I'll often just leave the tray of seeds in the oven till the next morning.

September 17, 2010

Primary Colors

My last month's challenge for my color and design class was using triads on the color wheel. At first I thought I'd do tertiary colors, but kept coming back to the primaries: red, yellow, blue. I did some researching. My first thoughts went to kids and crayola crayons, then cartoons - like looking at Dick Tracy. But then one of my art books, Itten - The Elements of Color, had a chapter titled "Form and Color", saying colors and forms have expressive values. I guess somewhere in time past the three primary colors were given three primary forms - square, triangle, and circle.

Itten said, the square, characterized by horizontals and verticals includes the cross, the rectangle and their derivatives. It corresponds to red. It symbolizes matter. The triangle owes its nature to three intersecting diagonals, including the rhombus, trapezoid, zig-zag, and their derivatives. It is the symbol of thought. The circle and it's derivatives generate a feeling of relaxation and smooth motion. It is the symbol of the spirit. Reading that made me think of the Trinity. Anyway I mulled over design compositions all month.

My teacher had said at the first class that once a student brought a basket of produce for her show-and-tell. Well it was one of those months! what with gardening demands and company, I was just about to bring a basket of produce, or something. The last day, I pulled out all my craft felt three primary color possibilities and started cutting out varieties of the three primary shapes and started machine needle felting ... something. I put a shiny stripy material over it and the machine did not like that - it shredded the material and broke some of the needles, but I liked the effect it added. I put some blue tulle over all that and needled it in too.

It's ok ... a study. It kinda created itself as I got going and just let it take shape. Kinda the way life feels at times ... things happen at the last moments, not within my control and my timing of how I want it to be.

Extending the Gardening Season

I'm currently cleaning my greenhouse, getting ready for winter. I've been deciding what potted plants I want to bring in and have them live longer for either their pretty flowering or produce they'll give us. Doing this usually introduces insects into the greenhouse. Tho they don't look to have insects outside, and the cooler temps keep them at bay ... bring them into the warm environment and voila, bugs! I usually spray them some with a safesoap for awhile, before deciding to add them to the compost.

I made some "cloches" of PVC piping and clamps and floating row cover (remay) material. I've put some in the kitchen garden over the peppers for a little warmth boost and frost protectant. Some are covering the bed on the south side of the greenhouse. I used to have a coldframe there, which produced salad greens most of the winter. Now it's a nice rock-lined raised bed. There's some pepper and eggplant plants there and two grapevines, but I planted some salady seeds.

I've put the same white material over lots of the tomatoes in the garden. Travis, I'm not growing Brandywine or Caspian Pinks (heirloom) again! I can probably start you some, but I've gotta grow smaller tomato and shorter season varieties in my neck of the woods! I've got to start looking up green tomato recipes! It sounds like the green tomato pie is like an apple pie. I've never cooked green tomato anything. I will be pulling out a lot of the plants eventually on to a large tarp and pull them into the garage. Then one-by-one most of them ripen.

In the greenhouse I've already got seedlings sprouted of carrots, raddishes, beets, green onions, cilantro, tomatoes, spinach, kale, mustard greens and lettuces. I'll be transplanting these to permanent bigger pots and planting snow peas too. I've got heat coils, and grow lights. This is the first year I'm going to see how growing over the winter in there works. It does get cold at night and hot in the day and sometimes freezes, but we'll put heaters in then for preventing freezing plants (and the sink pipes). Monte's going to do some insulation. I've started my garden seedlings early spring, but never fall planted for winter.

I'm pulling in (the big pots are on casters) a lime and fig tree, jasmine vine, four potted eggplants, two large pots of acorn squash plants, and herbs. I love gardening!

September 16, 2010

Baked Kale Chips

WOW!!! Another recipe from My first words after first tasting, and eating more and more while waiting for my Artisan bread to finish baking and we'd sit down to eat supper - "Addicting"! What a good thing to be addicting: kale!! Kale is probably the most nutritious green you can be eating. All year round we add kale to our salad making. I blanch and freeze my garden kale for adding to stews, soups, lasanga ... or just sauteing.

1 bunch kale

That's all they say. Most store bunches seem about the same size year round. I should weigh a bunch to see how much kale it actually is. You should wash and spin dry store-bought kale. They cut out the thick stems and rip up; I just ripped the leaves up and away from the stem, putting them in a large bowl for tossing with -

1 Tb olive oil

1 tsp salt

Bake the spread kale on parchment lined baking sheets at 350 for 10-15 minutes, till edges brown but not burn.

I sprinkled them with granulated garlic too. Next time we don't want to use the salt, just the garlic, or our Chef Prudhomme's spunky Italian Seasoning. We froze some and it remained crispy! So guess what? ... I've still got tons of kale in the garden! and I'm going to make tons of these kale chips, bag in sandwich bags, and freeze in a box or one of my freezer baskets - so they don't get squashed.

I'm munching on a bag I test-froze right now as I'm writing this post. Yummmm .....

September 15, 2010

Italian Meatloaf in Zucchini

volunteer squash at bottom - chipmunk planted sunflower
We are having the warmest September ever, and still no rain for over a month. Watering just doesn't compare with rain. I planted so many salady type seeds for fall to winter harvesting, but the ground is so dry from below, it's just immediately sucking away anything I contribute, so I'm not seeing many sprouted seedlings. And we did get a little frost - like a ghost frost that whipped about at ground level nipping at some things. I've got these volunteer squash I let grow at the kitchen garden's edge, and their leaves took the brunt of the frost, as did most of the zucchini leaves. Basil and beans, which are tender, are still going, as are the tomatoes. I've got most of the tomatoes covered now with a white 'floating row cover' material. You can see some of the material over the peppers in the garden picture.

So I think my zucchini season is over. I've got several large zucchini sitting on the counter for making a zucchini, potato, onions soup, which I'll eventually post. This soup tastes great over winter as I pull portions from the freezer.

Every year I say I'm going to batter and fry squash blossoms. But I still haven't. The flowers with long stems are male flowers. Those are the ones you'd harvest. The short stemmed flowers are the fruitful females.

This recipe is from I get daily emails of recipes from them, giving me great ideas.

1 large zucchini

Cut in half and scoop out the seeds. Sprinkle these halves with 1 tsp garlic salt. I don't use garlic salt, just granulated garlic. I got to thinking that if you don't grow zucchini, you rarely find large zucchini in stores. This time, because of a smaller zucchini than they must use, I had enough meat mixture that I tried filling a halved pepper to see how it would work. It tasted great. So I think smaller zucchini and peppers can be used in the baking dish. Eggplant slices would be good too, I bet.

Saute 1 chopped onion in

1/4 C olive oil

Mix together -

1 pound ground beef (they use 1 1/2# and I never have)

2 eggs

1 1/2 C seasoned bread crumbs (I never buy bread crumbs, using my homemade bread, dried and ground in the blender, and season myself, so used 1 tsp of an Italian seasoning mixture)

1 tsp minced garlic

1 Tb dried basil

1/4 C grated carrot

1/3 C grated parmesan

add in the sauted onion, mixing all well and mound in the zuccnini

Pour a jarred spaghetti sauce over, covering the meat and letting drip over edges. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes till meat is cooked thru.

Sprinkle 1 C grated mozzarella cheese over all and return to the oven for another 5 minutes.

You can serve with more spaghetti sauce if you want.

These are great leftover!

Sedum turning from green to soon, a deep rust red

September 13, 2010


Monte and me harvested the chokecherries today. The bushes are on the edge of the woods, edging my lower garden. We figure they were planted 100 years ago by a homesteader, along with our rhubarb. Only the clusters on the garden side exist. Bear, deer, and elk have eaten all of them on the woods side. The chokecherries weigh in at 30 pounds! There used to be aspen trees over them, so they'd not always fully ripen. Colorado has it's droughts and several years ago was a bad one and lots of aspen trees died. We're in another drought this year cuz we've not had rain for 1 1/2 months and there's been wildfires.

I used to make chokecherry jam and syrup, but I don't like the amount of sugar it takes to make them palatable, so I stopped harvesting them. This year I decided I'm going to try making wine of them. We have a friend who's made wine from just about everything - like even beets! So from her trials and reading, chokecherries make a great wine - and I'm going to jump in. The chokecherries are bagged in the freezer for now - which is the best way to start the breaking down process for developing the 'must' and not crush the pits (which are undesirable).

I'll probably post pics of the process, but I can't report on the results for a year!

September 10, 2010

Defrosting Freezers

Insulated plywood box
I usually defrost my freezers once a year - every September. I'd read that it's a good thing - for the life of the freezer - to let it totally defrost, like maybe 24 hours, to let the freezer walls thaw too. And I did say "freezers". We used to have three, two of them, uprights, we got used, so who knows how old they were/are. Now we're down to two.

My garden and cookbook shelves are above the freezers
When we moved to Colorado from Arizona, Monte made this large insulated box so we could bring his hard-earned game meat (bow-hunting). That was twenty seven years ago, and we still have the box. I've stored jarred things in there in the garage for years. Now our garage is insulated so things don't freeze, but I still store some things in the box. Then every September it's moved by the freezers so I can defrost them.

September 9, 2010

Harvested Broccoli

Froze the broccoli today. Now that it's just Monte and me ... 1/2 pound bags.

I cut off the floweretes, parboil or steam 5 minutes, run cold water over to stop the cooking and put in cold water to chill a bit, drain and bag and freeze.

I've got the sink full of cold salted water for dropping the broccoli heads in and soaking till I pull them out to cut up. The salt is supposed to drive any worms and bugs out. We don't really have bugs at our altitude. Some years there can be some aphids and I might find one or two worms that match the color of the broccoli! Our water year round is ice cold. For most of you, you'd put your steamed broccoli in ice water.

I marked on the calendar that I froze 21 bags. I'll be doing more over time since broccoli produces side shoots.

We'll pull these bags from the freezer all winter. Usually we'll just saute the broccoli up and add some lemon juice, sometimes toasted pinenuts or almonds, or walnuts, sometimes some parmesan. I love chicken divan (it's in my cookbook, using fresh ground herbs and spices creating a fresh curry mixture). I bagged the broccoli stalks and put them in the fridge - I'll be grating them for a Coldslaw.

September 6, 2010

Ribs for Labor Day

Calendar Girl me never posted about Labor Day. I looked at my old blog where I did a lot of posts related to calendar days - the idea being that days have stories, mostly from history, some from our own family. Returning to these stories and memories on calendar days takes ordinary linear living into the EXTRAordinary cyclical, rhythmical living. Therefore bringing deeper meaning to our everydays. But Labor Day?

Labor Day is a day our country established as a time to remember that we labor, and it's a holiday from that labor. We tend to think of it as the ending of summer, school has started. We usually get our first frost soon after Labor Day and the hummingbirds leave right after Labor Day! It's typically a bar-b-q day.

We invited guests for Labor Day this year and grilled ribs, using my grandpa's barbecue sauce. I wanted to do ribs cuz I've not done them for a long time. Travis has taken over the traditional rib making for 4th of July at their place, and he makes a lot of this sauce. I usually have some of this sauce in my fridge. This recipe is in my cookbook, and I always quadruple it. I never buy barbecue sauce cuz this is the best!!!

The Sauce:

1 C catsup

1/4 C lemon juice (fresh squeezed of course!)

2 Tb brown sugar

1 Tb soy sauce

1 Tb horseradish & mustard (half of each)

1 Tb grated onion

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1/4 tsp each: oregano, thyme (marjoram ...)

1 clove garlic, minced (more)

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Simmer this mixture for at least 10 minutes. I use organic catsup, and an already mixed mixture of horseradish and mustard. I cut back on the sugar this time. The soy sauce I use is Bragg All Natural Liquid Aminos - nutritious and way less sodium.

How many ribs per person? We get 1 pound per person. We often get a mixture of country style, spareribs, and some times babybacks. This time Monte had me write next to the recipe that he liked the spareribs best.

We roast them initially in an open pan at 400 degrees for an hour. Then put some sauce on, cover and cook at 325 till almost tender - maybe 2 hours. Then we grill a short time brushing on more sauce to carmelize the sauce, flavoring them better, and watching close so they don't burn. Most barbecue sauces are very sweet and the sugar burns easy! Then we put them back into the pan covered, and into the still warm oven till ready to eat.

The pictured plate is an older cooking of ribs meal when we'd had scalloped potatoes. This day's meal consisted of a large salad from my garden. And I made a chopped tomato and fresh basil mixture for putting on my homemade Italian bread: bruchetta appetizer. Then had rhubarb custard pie and homemade yogurt ice cream for dessert (all posted here).

September 5, 2010

Velveteen House

Over the years of blogging I'll occasionally do "Velveteen House" posts, a play off the classic childrens book Velveteen Rabbit with it's classic nursery room dialogue of "what is real" - here's a bit:

"...You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

... Well our home has been well-loved, lived in, and worn. Lots of wonderful memories bounce from our velveteen house walls. Click here if you want to link to my last Velveteen House post that has links to the older posts.

It happened again. Monte and me came home to the kitchen counters and sink full of young adult cooking adventures. Dawson and friends made poppy seed bread that didn't hold together and they evidently had eaten out the centers, and then chocolate chip shortbread that didn't quite work either. Being a weekend, they were up at our home, escaping from college life for a bit, and spent the night. The next morning when I came down, the kitchen was clean and the evidence gone.

The new adventure, adding more home memories, is the grandkids. Travis sent this picture of Emery's first try at their kitchen cabinets. I gave them my old kitchen cabinet child locks which they'll now have to install. So far, when Heather, Bill, and Will were staying here in June, I'd just done rubberbands across knobs and cardboard tacked across openings ... and chairs in front of things ... and cushions ...
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