Sunday, 21 August 2011
Hooch and Calf updates
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity
I cooked so much this weekend--the garden is overwhelming. Then the peach tree in the yard decided every peach on it would ripen this weekend too. I was way too pooped to consider tackling more peeling, yet I needed to use these peaches. So I made a wonderful charred peach and red onion side dish to go along with my indirect grilled and herbed chicken (we had dinner guests) but I still had many peaches left over...and no energy to can.
So--here's a quick way to use up the peaches--start making some gift jars of...
Peach and Herb Infused Vodka
Prep canning jars (or any glass jar with lid) by washing and drying.
Wash, slice, and de-seed about 3 sweet peaches per pint of vodka. Add a few leaves or sprigs of your favorite (inspired) herb. I used pineapple sage because I thought the aromatics would be a nice note--but any herb (or none) is also acceptable.
Fill to lid with vodka. Let set in a dark closet or cabinet for at least a week before you try it.
I keep my vodka infusion in the freezer, topping off with vodka as needed, so it'll be ready the next time. Makes some interesting cocktails. I am also experimenting with a Peach and herb infused Blended Whiskey.
The photo shows the "Hooch" in the jar alongside sunflowers that fell over in the garden and gave me an excuse to rescue to a vase.
Below see a couple of pictures of our "bucket calf" now 5 weeks old.
Posted by Karen
at 14:32 CDT
Saturday, 20 August 2011
Of butterflies and herbs...
I thought I'd post a few pictures to serve as reminders for the gardeners...
First, have you taken time to check out your visitors to your butterfly garden? If not, do it now! Here's a couple of pictures of the yellow tiger swallowtails. Mind you, these bushes are just around the side of my yard and yet I have to admit, I've neglected taking (or making) the time to watch a bit of their world in action. This is also a good time to think about getting some seed pods from your friends for other plants that work well for butterflies and bees--like bee balm for example. I just received some bee balm plants with seed pods that I plan to put in full sun with my butterfly bushes.
Second, make sure you take some clippings from your herbs, root them and then pot the new individual plants in containers-- to keep alive indoors when your garden becomes dormant. I picked a bunch of mint which I will replant in self-watering containers--I will then give them as little harvest gifts to my friends and family next month! Meanwhile, while they are growing roots, why not put them in a place where you can appreciate them?
Posted by Karen
at 10:36 CDT
Updated: Saturday, 20 August 2011 11:02 CDT
Sunday, 14 August 2011
Marinara Sauce (classic "Spaghetti Sauce")
I'm sure you have loads of tomatoes in your garden and are looking for a classic way to use them up. Marinara Sauce is the best way, in my opinion. There is no question that it's loved by everyone, super healthy (antioxidants unleashed by cooking!) and a favorite of home cooks. Every cook has their favorite way to make it, though the ingredients are always the same.
And--Making marinara sauce from scratch is one of the easiest things to do--once the tomatoes are prepped!
You need to have skinned and seeded tomatoes. And yours from the garden still have the skins on and seeds in--so psyche yourself up for the challenge.
There are many opinions on how to seed and skin tomatoes, including actual utensils for seeding. I think I've tried them all and am reduced to this technique (of sorts):
Boil a pot of water, set in a sink. Working in batches of about 8 tomatoes at a time, cut off the stem end from the tomato, squeeze out the seeds along the long axis (aim contents vertically into a bowl) then--make a slit in the skin, and drop the now seeded tomato into the hot water. By the time you've got the 8th one in the pot, the first ones are ready to come out. Leave them in about 1-2 minutes to scald the skin.
Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the tomatoes into a colander in your second sink. When they are cool enough to touch comfortably--a couple minutes' is all (believe me, I've burned enough fingers trying too soon), slide the skin off into another bowl for discard, and plop the whole tomato (now seeded and skinned) into your large, heavy cooking pot.
Start with about 7-8 lbs of Italian Plum tomatoes. When you discard seeds and skins you'll be down to 5 lbs--more or less--which is what this recipe is based on. If you don't have that much, make up the difference in your pot with canned crushed Italian tomatoes or diced Italian tomatoes (don't drain, just add the additional cans in volume according to what you need to supplement.)
Once in the pot, take a potato masher or a wodden spoon and crush the tomatoes down--don't worry they'll cook into a chunky sauce over time. You don't need to do more than just break them up.
Now you can start--
5 lbs. (more-or-less) of seeded, skinned Italian plum tomatoes with contained juice, broken up--(can use or make up the difference with equivalent weight in canned diced or crushed tomatoes)-should have about a gallon of starting volume
2 tbsp olive oil
6 oz. red wine
1 tbsp wine vinegar
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
Basil and Oregano--required*--if fresh, chopped and packed about 1/4 cup each or 1 TBSP basil, 1 tsp oregano if using dried--adjust acc. to your personal tastes
(*Some people like to add some fennel seeds, too-about a tbsp dried, if you're one of those people--and others like garlic--mince a couple cloves or 1/2 tsp garlic powder--your option because--after all--this is YOUR sauce)
Salt, freshly ground pepper (or red pepper flakes, or both--your choice)-acc to your tastes--but you DO need add some.
Put all tomatoes and juices in the pot and stir in the olive oil, heat to boiling, then reduce heat and add all the rest of the ingredients,
Simmer until reduced by half.
This happy reduction is the key to the sauce--first it fills up your entire house with amazing fragrances you can't buy anywhere, second it answers the question--what have you been doing all afternoon?-- ("cooking, honey"-meaning you've been watching the reduction with an occasional stir), and finally--it is the magical transformation of tomatoes off the vine into a virtual art form.
The photo of the sauce in the pot illustrates the line in the pot where I started and where I ended up volume-wise. Part of the sauce I reserved to use separately n a casserole of Italian Baked Eggplant.
But to the remainder, I stirred in some leftover shredded pork from a pork roast I'd made earlier in the week to create a meat sauce (you can also stir in cooked and drained ground beef--or serve without meat, of course)
I cooked some spaghetti, drained it, returned it to the pan and stirred it with a bunch of the meat sauce. Still have enough to freeze for later!
Posted by Karen
at 07:45 CDT
Updated: Sunday, 14 August 2011 12:12 CDT
Saturday, 13 August 2011
Italian Bread and Tomato Salad
Here's a great recipe for a salad that tastes like a bowlful of the Italian appetizer, Bruschetta. Don't these ingredients look delicious?
The recipe below will serve 2-4 depending upon your appetite for salad !
Italian Bread-Tomato Salad
4 thick slices of Italian bread, cut into 1"cubes
1 pint of cherry or Yellow pear tomatoes, or combination, cut in halves--if large cherries, cut into quarters
Large bunch of fresh basil, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, diced
1/4 cup of Red Wine Vinegar-and Olive Oil dressing- equal parts, with salt, pepper whisked in.
Combine all of the above in a large bowl and toss until ingredients and dressing are well distributed (remember the French saying--fatigue le salad???) Serve immediately after assembling so the bread doesn't get too soggy from the tomatoes.
I've been sending this salad to the ER with my husband--much better for snacking than the usual candy-in-a-drawer. Obviously the recipe is increased--for example, I use a whole loaf of Italian bread and everything else is increased proportionally. It works fine.
There's one caveat about this salad. It should be served immediately after assembling. So, if you plan to bring it to your workplace or a party, you need to prep the ingredients ahead of time, put them into separate containers and refrigerate until you can assemble and serve the salad.
I send the bread cubes in the covered container that my husband will use to assemble and serve from. The tomatoes, onions, chopped basil and dressing are each in separate packaging (dressing in a glass jar). Chopped basil can be wrapped in a moistened paper towel inside of a plastic conainer--everything except the bread should be refrigerated until used. I usually prep the ingredients the night before his ER shift--too much to do in the morning!
Posted by Karen
at 12:28 CDT
Updated: Saturday, 13 August 2011 13:45 CDT
Thursday, 11 August 2011
An Idea for your Herbs
I know you've been working with your herbs--making pesto and garnishing salads, salsa, and soups. But, here's a combination that's a little different than usual and very versatile.
See the photogenic combo?
Garlic-Sage-Rosemary Herb Blend
Combine 6 cloves of garlic, rosemary leaves from 4 rosemary branches, and about 15-20 good sized sage leaves with 2 tbsp olive oil and salt and freshly ground pepper.
Put all ingredients in your mini-chopper or mini-food processor and pulse until it's the consistency of pesto. Use in suggested recipes below, store extra in refrigerator for a couple of days.
1.) Use as an Herbal seasoning on roasted meat.
You can use this applied directly on top of a boneless pork roast or lamb, prior to roasting. (This happens to be my dinner game plan.)
2.) Spread on sliced Italian Bread and bake at 400 degrees until browned edges, for a Super Charged Herb-and-Garlic Bread--
3.) Make the Ultimate Olive and Oil Pasta. Cook and drain your favorite pasta, reserving about 1 cup of the pasta water. In a large pan over low heat, combine the pasta, your herb and oil mixture and reserved pasta water, adding water to desired consistency of sauce. Heat through, remove from heat and add 1 can of drained, sliced black olives. Top with a little shredded dry Italian cheese.
4.) How about Herb-and-Garlic Roasted Vegetables? Toss with carrots and potatoes and roast the vegetables in an aluminum package on the grill or a covered pan in a 350 degree oven about 30 minutes or until done.
Have fun with your herbs!
Posted by Karen
at 18:31 CDT
Updated: Thursday, 11 August 2011 18:55 CDT
Full Moon Sayings
Last night, when I went into the yard to walk the dogs for their final "break", I was struck by the brightness of the moon illuminating the grass and trees. I didn't need to put on an outside light to check on the dogs' activities.
I was certain it would be full,but when I looked at it--not
yet--the actual full moon date for this August is August
13th. However, the nearly full moon prompted
me to post a bit about Full Moon meanings.
The article below is taken from
Moon Connection at www.moonconnection.com
Full Moon Names and Meanings
Full Moon names date back to Native Americans, of what is now the northern and eastern United States. The tribes kept track of the seasons by giving distinctive names to each recurring full Moon. Their names were applied to the entire month in which each occurred. There was some variation in the Moon names, but in general, the same ones were current throughout the Algonquin tribes from New England to Lake Superior. European settlers followed that custom and created some of their own names. Since the lunar month is only 29 days long on the average, the full Moon dates shift from year to year. Here is the Farmers Almanac’s list of the full Moon names.
• Full Wolf Moon – January Amid the cold and deep snows of midwinter, the wolf packs howled hungrily outside Indian villages. Thus, the name for January’s full Moon. Sometimes it was also referred to as the Old Moon, or the Moon After Yule. Some called it the Full Snow Moon, but most tribes applied that name to the next Moon.
• Full Snow Moon – February Since the heaviest snow usually falls during this month, native tribes of the north and east most often called February’s full Moon the Full Snow Moon. Some tribes also referred to this Moon as the Full Hunger Moon, since harsh weather conditions in their areas made hunting very difficult.
• Full Worm Moon – March As the temperature begins to warm and the ground begins to thaw, earthworm casts appear, heralding the return of the robins. The more northern tribes knew this Moon as the Full Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter; or the Full Crust Moon, because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing at night. The Full Sap Moon, marking the time of tapping maple trees, is another variation. To the settlers, it was also known as the Lenten Moon, and was considered to be the last full Moon of winter.
• Full Pink Moon – April This name came from the herb moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the earliest widespread flowers of the spring. Other names for this month’s celestial body include the Full Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and among coastal tribes the Full Fish Moon, because this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn.
• Full Flower Moon – May In most areas, flowers are abundant everywhere during this time. Thus, the name of this Moon. Other names include the Full Corn Planting Moon, or the Milk Moon.
• Full Strawberry Moon – June This name was universal to every Algonquin tribe. However, in Europe they called it the Rose Moon. Also because the relatively short season for harvesting strawberries comes each year during the month of June . . . so the full Moon that occurs during that month was christened for the strawberry!
• The Full Buck Moon – July July is normally the month when the new antlers of buck deer push out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur. It was also often called the Full Thunder Moon, for the reason that thunderstorms are most frequent during this time. Another name for this month’s Moon was the Full Hay Moon.
• Full Sturgeon Moon – August The fishing tribes are given credit for the naming of this Moon, since sturgeon, a large fish of the Great Lakes and other major bodies of water, were most readily caught during this month. A few tribes knew it as the Full Red Moon because, as the Moon rises, it appears reddish through any sultry haze. It was also called the Green Corn Moon or Grain Moon.
• Full Corn Moon – September This full moon’s name is attributed to Native Americans because it marked when corn was supposed to be harvested. Most often, the September full moon is actually the Harvest Moon.
• Full Harvest Moon – October This is the full Moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox. In two years out of three, the Harvest Moon comes in September, but in some years it occurs in October. At the peak of harvest, farmers can work late into the night by the light of this Moon. Usually the full Moon rises an average of 50 minutes later each night, but for the few nights around the Harvest Moon, the Moon seems to rise at nearly the same time each night: just 25 to 30 minutes later across the U.S., and only 10 to 20 minutes later for much of Canada and Europe. Corn, pumpkins, squash, beans, and wild rice the chief Indian staples are now ready for gathering.
• Full Beaver Moon – November This was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. Another interpretation suggests that the name Full Beaver Moon comes from the fact that the beavers are now actively preparing for winter. It is sometimes also referred to as the Frosty Moon.
• The Full Cold Moon; or the Full Long Nights Moon – December During this month the winter cold fastens its grip, and nights are at their longest and darkest. It is also sometimes called the Moon before Yule. The term Long Night Moon is a doubly appropriate name because the midwinter night is indeed long, and because the Moon is above the horizon for a long time. The midwinter full Moon has a high trajectory across the sky because it is opposite a low Sun.
The beautiful diagram below is taken from:
And to all of you--
"May you have warm words on a cold evening, a full moon on a dark night, and a smooth road all the way to your door." ---an Irish blessing
Posted by Karen
at 08:56 CDT
Updated: Thursday, 11 August 2011 09:45 CDT
Sunday, 7 August 2011
Chicken Vesuvio in the Crockpot???
Before I get back to vegetables, I have to share this great and super simple recipe for Chicken Vesuvio made in the crockpot. It was so impossibly hot last week (we hit the heat index of 123 one day) yet I really wanted something savory (read-garlick-y), delicious, and comforting for dinner. I couldn't bear to turn on the oven and it was too hot to use a grill outside. So, out comes the crockpot again.
The thing about the crockpot is that it cooks everything super-soft, so you can't leave this on for more than 8 hours. You'd end up with shredded chicken stew. While it would still taste great, you'd miss the texture and sensory experience of having separated potatoes, peas, and chicken, with this incredibly delicious garlicky juice that's perfect for dabbing at with a piece of Italian bread.
So, here's how I made CHICKEN VESUVIO in the Crockpot.
Prep crockpot with spray oil.
Prepare the following ingredients in a bowl:
1/2 cup flour
1-2 tbsp grated Parmesan or other dry Italian cheese
Seasoned salt, pepper to taste
6 Petite Delight Golden potatoes, scrubbed and sliced in half. If you use larger potatoes, then quarter them. Rinse, but don't dry them. The amount of moisture will help the flour mixture "dusting" to set on them.
6 boneless, skinless Chicken thighs (use free-range, hormone and antibiotic free & don't wash or rinse chicken)
In a large pan, place a thin layer of olive or canola oil or mixture of both and toast at least 4 cloves of chopped garlic.
Roll the potatoes first in the flour mixture, then brown them on all sides in the oil and garlic. Place potatoes first in the crockpot.
Then, unroll the chicken thighs and coat with the flour mixture, again browning on all sides in the pan, add more oil if needed.
NOTE: the flour should be like a dusting, not like a breading.
Layer the chicken on top of the potatoes in the crockpot.
Return to the pan. Add 8 oz (1 cup) of chicken broth to the pan drippings and raise to a boil, de-glazing the pan with a wooden spoon. Boil until reduced to about 6 oz, the solution should look opaque.
Pour the contents of the pan into the crockpot.
Put the lid on and cook on low for 8 hours. In the last 30 minutes, add 1 cup of frozen peas.
Serve in a bowl to include some of the sauce. You can garnish with fresh parsley if desired.
Photos showing preparation.
Posted by Karen
at 10:38 CDT
Updated: Sunday, 7 August 2011 11:34 CDT
Thursday, 4 August 2011
What Can A Harvest Bounty Turn Into?
By now, your garden--wherever it is--is presenting you with loads of vegetables, herbs and fruits. Below are some pictures of the countertop full of... green and yellow beans, tomatoes, okra, Japanese eggplant, banana peppers, and a few apples PLUS a basketful of yellow and green zucchini and cucumbers.
Above is a photo of the mixed vegetable and red lentils I made--seasoned with Indian spices--after cooking, I immediately packed and froze the mass quantity casserole for an upcoming flute recital. I can keep it frozen until the day of recital, then bake it.
And-- you will see a roasted vegetable salad with eggplant, zucchini, peppers, etc- seasoned with olive oil and basalmic vinegar.
There's also a bowl of my favorite Summer go-to side dish--classic cucumber salad.
I have a picture of the pot of carmelized apples with which I plan to make a strudel tomorrow.
I also prepped and packaged all the ingredients for a huge Italian Bread and tomato salad--turns out like bruschetta in a salad bowl--my husband will assemble and dress the salad at work so the ER can snack on heathy stuff between patients today. From the phone report, sounds like it's a hit--
There were enough cukes and zucchini to send a basketful to the ER staff--they love to make grilled zucchini "steaks" -- about 1/2 inch thick slices from a large zucchini--yellow or green--marinated in Italian dressing, and grilled on the open grill outdoors.
I reserved a couple of zucchini to start making Zucchini Bread which I will make as mini-loaves and immediately wrap and freeze--for future CHRISTMAS gifts!
I'll post all of these recipes in the coming days--but I just wanted to get you picking and thinking.
Posted by Karen
at 07:31 CDT
Updated: Thursday, 4 August 2011 13:36 CDT
Saturday, 30 July 2011
Cooking for One? An Upscale Casserole?
I've been up at the Farm by myself over the last few days and found that I needed to make a really determined choice to eat right when cooking for just one person. It's too easy to blow off making the effort for a single person and instead throw something frozen in the microwave. Or worse--grab junk food.
But I've no reason to punish myself with those options.
I know the concept of an "upscale casserole " sounds like an oxymoron. But, a casserole is something in which you can accomplish two very important things: using up leftovers and making sure that you eat a balanced meal--especially when you are cooking for one person. This recipe will cover both goals and also will assure that you eat a good dinner for two nights--unless you decide it'll be a casserole for two!
Ground Grassfed Beef and Vegetable Casserole
8 oz ground beef, browned and then mixed with
4-6 oz of marinara sauce (or pizza sauce or diced tomatoes with a squirt of tomato paste and Italian seasoning, you get the idea)
1 medium-large zucchini, sliced 1/4-1/2" and browned in oil with 2 cloves of garlic
2+ cups of chopped fresh greens (spinach, kale, chard) sauteed in oil making about 1 cup when cooked-- saute the greens with 1 medium onion, chopped
Layer the zucchini on the bottom layer, sprinkle 3 oz crumbled blue or Gorgonzola cheese (or 4 oz shredded Mozarella or other cheese-remember we're cleaning out the fridge).
Next layer: greens and onion.
Top layer: ground beef mixture.
Add some chopped fresh herbs or shaved hard cheese.
Picture shows layered assembled casserole.
Bake at 350 degrees until thoroughly heated through about 30 minutes.
(Note: You may need to pat the zucchini with a paper towel to take out excess moisture if it seems to be too soggy.)
Here's a picture when baked. My goodness-was this tasty even re-heated on Day 2--and a lot better for you than a frozen pizza or other junk food.
Posted by Karen
at 18:31 CDT
Friday, 29 July 2011
Cucumbers in the Garden?
Cucumbers in the Garden ???
This collection of “cucumber facts” was forwarded to me via email. And, having made it’s way through many forwardings—is sadly without a credit. So, I apologize in being unable to credit whoever collected these facts about cucumbers, but I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s worth a read.
The above photo shows 2 freshly picked cukes from my garden.
1. Cucumbers contain most of the vitamins you need every day, just one cucumber contains Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B6, Folic Acid, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Zinc.
2. Feeling tired in the afternoon , put down the caffeinated soda and pick up a cucumber. Cucumbers are a good source of B Vitamins and Carbohydrates that can provide that quick pick-me-up that can last for hours.
3. Tired of your bathroom mirror fogging up after a shower? Try rubbing a cucumber slice along the mirror, it will eliminate the fog and provide a soothing, spa-like fragrance.
4. Are grubs and slugs ruining your planting beds? Place a few slices in a small pie tin and your garden will be free of pests all season long. The chemicals in the cucumber react with the aluminum to give off a scent undetectable to humans but drive garden pests crazy and make them flee the area.
5 Looking for a fast and easy way to remove cellulite before going out or to the pool? Try rubbing a slice or two of cucumbers along your problem area for a few minutes, the phytochemicals in the cucumber cause the collagen in your skin to tighten, firming up the outer layer and reducing the visibility of cellulite. Works great on wrinkles too!!!
6.. Want to avoid a hangover or terrible headache? Eat a few cucumber slices before going to bed and wake up refreshed and headache free. Cucumbers contain enough sugar, B vitamins and electrolytes to replenish essential nutrients the body lost, keeping everything in equilibrium, avoiding both a hangover and headache!!
7. Looking to fight off that afternoon or evening snacking binge? Cucumbers have been used for centuries and often used by European trappers, traders and explorers for quick meals to thwart off starvation.
8. Have an important meeting or job interview and you realize that you don't have enough time to polish your shoes? Rub a freshly cut cucumber over the shoe, its chemicals will provide a quick and durable shine that not only looks great but also repels water.
9. Out of WD 40 and need to fix a squeaky hinge? Take a cucumber slice and rub it along the problematic hinge, and voila, the squeak is gone!
10. Stressed out and don't have time for massage, facial or visit to the spa? Cut up an entire cucumber and place it in a boiling pot of water, the chemicals and nutrients from the cucumber with react with the boiling water and be released in the steam, creating a soothing, relaxing aroma that has been shown the reduce stress in new mothers and college students during final exams.
11. Just finish a business lunch and realize you don't have gum or mints? Take a slice of cucumber and press it to the roof of your mouth with your tongue for 30 seconds to eliminate bad breath, the phytochemicals will kill the bacteria in your mouth responsible for causing bad breath.
12. Looking for a 'green' way to clean your faucets, sinks or stainless steel? Take a slice of cucumber and rub it on the surface you want to clean, not only will it remove years of tarnish and bring back the shine, but is won't leave streaks and won't harm you fingers or fingernails while you clean.
13. Using a pen and made a mistake? Take the outside of the cucumber and slowly use it to erase the pen writing, also works great on crayons and markers that the kids have used to decorate the walls!!
And let me add a couple of other reminders:
Cucumber water is THE most refreshing Summer palate cleanser and hydration--thinly sliced cucumber in fresh water--keep in a pitcher in the refrigerator.
Cucumber salad is a quick Summer "go-to" salad- peel and slice a cucumber length-wise. De-seed with a teaspoon slid down the middle. Then slice the cucumber thinly, dress with vinegar-and-oil , salt, pepper, and dillweed. Serve at room temperature after preparing or chill and it will keep a couple days' in the refrigerator.
Posted by Karen
at 13:08 CDT
Updated: Friday, 29 July 2011 14:47 CDT
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