Thursday, 29 August 2013
Holidays and Harvest
You are looking at mountains of tomatoes, loads of peaches, unmeasurable stacks of peppers...
Your fingers resemble a painter's- full of vegetable stains and strangely wrinkled.
Can anything keep you soldiering on, pushing forward with your plans to preserve Summer, while still dealing with outdoor heat indices over 100 and no let up in sight?
First ask yourself this question. What do the next pictures have in common with all those vegetables and fruits you still see cloning on your countertops?
Answer. The holidays! Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas will all need special FOOD to be prepared. And the raw materials for those holiday dishes are sitting in front of you on your kitchen counter right now.
So, I'm asking you to get through the rest of this Harvest with a new goal in mind...
Think of everything you are preparing NOW, as a prep for a holiday meal LATER.
For example, here are a bunch of sweet banana and baby bell peppers, cleaned, sliced and blanched, then rinsed with icy cold water and draining, being ready for packaging in freezer bags.
They'll defrost in the future and be sauteed for use on beef sandwiches before trick-or-treating. Another bag will be chopped up and included in a cornbread to eat with chili on a Halloween or Fall buffet. Or maybe that cornbread with diced peppers will end up in a Turkey stuffing!
I know you're canning tomatoes, but why not make a batch of your best marinara sauce today and FREEZE it for the holidays? Can't you just imagine serving a wonderful lasagne with this sauce as a dinner before a Christmas play or recital?
Last, but not least--remember how everyone LOVES food gifts at Christmas? Why not make a batch of your best jam while you have all those over-ripe peaches in front of you? Can you see a jar of peaches paired with a loaf of homemade bread or a beautiful cheese?
I hope these ideas will keep you soldiering on with that harvest in front of you! Don't give up! Think of everything you do today as contributing to less work during the holidays when we all have so much to do and when what we cherish most--time with our family--is such a precious commodity!
Posted by Karen
at 17:47 CDT
Updated: Thursday, 29 August 2013 18:12 CDT
Thursday, 22 August 2013
Science 101: Symbiosis
Topic: Education and Values
Symbiosis—remember this from your Science classes? -It's the concept of two organisms co-existing, for the benefit of each. A “win-win” situation in life!
I recall learning about fungi and plants and similar biologic relationships as examples of symbiosis. But it's really much more interesting than fungi on a tree.
"Mutualism is any relationship between individuals of different species where both individuals benefit. In general, only lifelong interactions involving close physical and biochemical contact can properly be considered symbiotic. Mutualistic relationships may be either obligate for both species, obligate for one but facultative for the other, or facultative for both. Many biologists restrict the definition of symbiosis to close mutualist relationships "(source: Wikipedia)
This is probably an easier subset of symbiosis to understand because, if we simply observe the natural world around us, we see many examples.
However, we need to be aware of our role in the natural world, and our need to fulfill our role in nature. I took these pictures this afternoon,simply by looking in the yard and fields around the farm house. Your examples may be seen on a walk to the park or nature center, or in your own garden. LOOK closely at the natural world around you. Walden Pond was actually very small by our standards today and yet, what did Thoreau relate to us that is still relevant today?
“It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see.” â Henry David Thoreau
For some examples, look below and answer the question: Who are the participants in these four examples of symbiotic mutualism?
1. The picture of the horses and guinea fowl may be confusing—but they're a great example of the mutualism symbiotic relationship. Guineas eat ticks and insects that would otherwise infect the horses. They also like the weed seeds in the horse pastures. So how lucky are those horses who have guinea fowl free-ranging with them!
2. Next is the picture of trees with cattle sleeping under the canopy of shade trees. That one's easy, too. The trees provide shade from the hot sun for these black Angus who clearly need to be out of direct sunlight in the Summer. The exchange win for the trees? Cow paddies, of course—the best fertilizer. And cows don't disturb trees or harm their bark.
Next—YOU are a party in these relationships.
3. Butterflies need butterfly bushes and similar plants that are planted by HUMANS to exist. It takes literally generations of butterflies, each moving along their part of the route, to complete a full migration. And only your deliberate planting of butterfly habitat can help their multi-generational migration because pesticides and habitat elimination threaten their existence. In many geographic areas, humans are the only key to their continued existence.
Your benefit from butterflies? You can answer that, can't you?
4. Hummingbirds—ditto as butterflies. You must provide, if you can tune into your intrinsic response to nature's call. And, I believe you can understand this if you simply take the time to observe the details of your surroundings outside the confines of your house. So, take a walk and OBSERVE. Be a scientist.
Posted by Karen
at 21:44 CDT
Updated: Thursday, 22 August 2013 21:47 CDT
Sunday, 18 August 2013
The Amazing Armenian Cucumber
The AMAZING Armenian Cucumber
The Armenian Cucumber is a garden delight with which you should acquaint yourself!
Why? Because this is quite the versatile item! It is a member of the muskmelon family, growing on a vine—like melons and squash. So you don't have to trellis it like regular cucumbers—thank goodness for that! One plant is highly productive and the fruit grows to 24-36 inches in length. And, trust me, just one Armenian cuke will make a couple of huge salads.
They're easy to prep for use.
Wash the outside
Slice into large segments
Slice the large segments length-wise into halves
Take a spoon and slide out the center seeds
Slice the segments again length wise
Slice the segments through the skin and flesh into thin slices
You DON'T have to peel because the skin is so thin and edible
You CAN also grate it or cut into sticks for other recipes
Wherever you use a regular cucumber, you can substitute the Armenian cucumber! Its flesh is like a cucumber's and its flavor is kind of like a cross between cucumber with melon overtones. Yum!
Below you can see it in a crisp salad, simply sliced thin and dressed with a vinegar & oil dressing-salt, pepper, a sprinkle of sugar and lots of dried dillweed.!
This weekend, my sister grated it for an Indian grated cucumber salad called Raita. See it in the bowl alongside the Chicken curry and Kale with tomato dish? This is usually simple grated cucumber with yogurt (or sour cream) , salt and pepper. She kicked it up with some sliced jalepenos, too.
I've used a standard recipe for Freezer Pickles and substituted the Armenian Cucumber for a standard cucumber with great results.
And it is delicious just eaten as crispy slices!
Posted by Karen
at 16:01 CDT
Updated: Sunday, 18 August 2013 21:47 CDT
Thursday, 15 August 2013
Super-Meat Loaf with Simple Sides
We are certainly deep into the productive time for vegetables and herbs. And, I know you've made your share of chopped salads, zucchini breads and pestos--maybe even started canning those tomatoes and making sauces and relishes.
How about “fortifying” your main courses with vegetables, too?
Here's an idea for making classic meatloaf into a “Super-Meatloaf” just be integrating chopped vegetables into it!
Makes 2 large meatloafs, 1 for dinner tonight for 6
and one to bake and refrigerate for sandwiches
First, saute together in olive oil, the following combination of diced vegetables until softened:
1 medium onion, 1 red bell pepper, 1 yellow bell pepper, 1 cup of zucchini, 4 oz. chopped mushrooms
(now, of course you can substitute green pepper or sweet banana peppers and omit what you don't like)
Combine the following together in a large bowl:
4 lbs. Grass fed beef, ground
2 large, farm fresh eggs
½ cup quick oats, uncooked
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
½ cup prepared barbeque sauce or ketchup
Add the cooked and drained vegetables next. And finally add fresh thyme leaves, salt and pepper to taste.
Divide into 2 loaves and bake together in a large roasting pan at 350 degrees about 1 & ½ hours. Check the internal temperature to assure it's thoroughly cooked to 160 degrees, remove pan and allow to stand at least 5 minutes before removing loaves from the pan—it will continue to heat the internal part of the loaves an additional 5 degrees.
One for dinner, the second—refrigerate for sandwiches tomorrow!
About the Sides:
Tomato Salad: just fresh mixed tomatoes, fresh basil, balsamic drizzle, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Roasted New Potatoes with garlic and onions were tossed in olive oil, baked on parchment paper with salt, pepper and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese at 400 degrees about 20 minutes.
Kale Greens -mixed Russian red and curly blue were wilted in a sauté pan in a small amount of olive oil and splashed lightly with lemon juice, salt and pepper.
Posted by Karen
at 12:03 CDT
Updated: Thursday, 15 August 2013 13:49 CDT
Sunday, 4 August 2013
Ancient Grain and Contemporary Garden meet in a Salad
Your Challenge: You're asked to bring a salad to a Summer event--
Maybe it's a picnic under the stars during an outdoor concert--
Or, a garden luncheon with the girls--
Or a backyard casual neighborhood potluck and grill-out--
Your Inspiration: Your backyard herb and vegetables
Your Back-up Resources: Your pantry
You are ready to go with a substantive salad if you build around a base of grains or legumes. So, always try to keep basic dried grains like quinoa, couscous (bulgar wheat) and rice, or legumes like lentils and beans, readily available in your pantry. Though remember that beans may need to be canned if you don't want to start your prep with start soaking a day ahead.
Here's my addition to a backyard grill party for a crowd just yesterday.
4 cups couscous, cooked, chilled, make sure you fluff it with a fork before chilling, even toss a little olive oil in it so it doesn't form a clog.
Chop together a mixture of seasonal vegetables right from your garden:
Zucchini, seeded tomatoes, onion, green pepper
Chop some fresh herbs: Mint is classic with couscous.
Add the vegetables and chopped fresh herbs to the salad. Feel like some chopped olives or capers or pimento? Go for it!
Whisk 1/4 cup lemon juice and 1/4 cup olive oil together and mix into salad.
Add 8 oz feta cheese crumbles.
Salt and pepper to taste, add more lemon juice if needed.
Toss again and put into a serving bowl, Chill until your event.
Posted by Karen
at 13:58 CDT
Updated: Sunday, 4 August 2013 13:59 CDT
Tuesday, 30 July 2013
Sometimes you just need some nuts and seeds to offset all the fruits and veggies you've been eating. Granola is a great breakfast cereal or “yogurt -topper” to do just that. It's a great homemade food gift as well.
Here's a recipe to make 4 quart glass jarfuls for sharing and leftovers for your personal use! As always, you can create your own flavor combinations by changing the spices, swapping out vanilla extract for another (almond?), using different nuts and seeds, and using different dried fruits in the last step. I like to think that the recipes I write in this blog are suggestions or starting points—in a process of creative evolution. Certainly you know that what's in the blog has been built upon a foundation of recipes and knowledge shared with me by others before me—no one works in a vacuum—especially in the kitchen! We have a history of mothers and sisters, aunts and grandmothers, teachers and friends who all contribute to what you place on the table or grow in your garden.
Prep 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine the following in a large mixing bowl:
42 oz. carton of Old-fashioned oats (the large cylinder size)
¾ cup sunflower seed kernels
¾ cup chopped walnuts
2 tbsp. flax seeds, freshly ground
1 tsp. Cinnamon
Melt in a small saucepan:
1 stick of butter
6 oz. of peanut butter
6 oz. of honey
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
Combine melted ingredients with dry in the large bowl.
Distribute the granola between the 2 baking pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, remove from oven and turn the granola to toast the other side of the dry ingredients, using a spatula or large flat spoon. Return to oven and bake an additional 10-15 minutes until the whole tray is dry and toasty.
Remove pans, cool, return to the large mixing bowl and stir in the contents of a 5 oz. bag of dried cranberries or equivalent raisins or other dried fruit mixture. Pack in zip lock bags or in Mason glass jars and store in a cool dry pantry.
Posted by Karen
at 21:59 CDT
Thursday, 25 July 2013
Three Types of Kale and Two Super Easy Recipes
More Summer Color from the Garden
A few weeks ago, I posted a picture showing the three types of kale I have growing in my garden: Russian Red Kale, Blue Curly leaf Kale, and the dark-green Italian Kale.
Here they are to remind you.
All of these varieties are interchangeable in recipes. If you look back to the posts before my garden was growing, you'll see some recipes for Sweet and Savory kale and for a Salad with baby kale.
This post will give you two very easy recipes to use kale in--
BUT, I also want to remind you: KALE can readily be chopped and tossed into soups, stews and quiches-- Try KALE cooked with other vegetables for a potent vegetable stock--and, of course, KALE is great when sauteed with other veggies and herbs in olive oil and garlic, thinned with a bit of pasta water and then tossed together for an amazing Pasta Primavera.
Today's recipes are:
Sauteed Kale with Garlic
Prep kale leaves by immersing in cold water in a pre-sanitized sink or large bowl--and spinning or patting dry with paper towels. (See earlier posts on how to pick and clean greens for more details.)
Remove coarse stems, chop leaves into rough strips.
Heat 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped in 3-4 T bsp olive oil.
Add about 6-8 cups of chopped kale leaves.
Toss to coat with oil and saute until limp.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Simply--very good and seen on the plate below at 10:00.
Now focus your attention on the item at 2:00 on the plate above.
Here's the easiest recipe you'll ever get from me.
Scalloped Potato and Kale Casserole
Prep fresh kale leaves as above, to yield 1 packed cup of chopped kale leaves.
Open a box of Scalloped Potatoes, 4 serving size.
Follow directions on the box, adding kale leaves.
Prep a, 8x 8 Pyrex baking dish with spray oil. Bake the entire mixture together at 350 degrees for 1 hour.
I promise you the following:
- no one will complain about the presence of kale
- no one will leave any on their plate
- everyone will think it was the best potato dish they ever ate
- everyone will think you made it from scratch.
And, indeed, until your OWN potatoes are ready to harvest, box potatoes might be healthier than any "fresh" potato you buy at the store. At least the dehydrated potatoes in the box are not treated with chemical growth retardants like "fresh" commercial potatoes are. And this recipe can easily be doubled--I've even quadrupled it for a large party. (Yes, this is the potato dish I served on Bastille Day).
Of course, you can make this same dish with your freshly harvested potatoes soon enough!
Posted by Karen
at 09:19 CDT
Updated: Friday, 26 July 2013 15:56 CDT
Wednesday, 24 July 2013
Spinach (any vegetable!)Quiche
The Amazing QUICHE !
What a great culinary concept--vegetables, cheese, and eggs in a single crust pie shell,
I started by making an olive oil single crust--
As you know pie crust is basically : Flour, some fat, and ice water.
Great crusts are made with vegetable shortening or lard--or, in this case, olive oil. Olive oil works especially well for savory crusts which is the idea with a quiche.
So, I used: 1 cup of flour, about 1/2 tsp of salt--tossed together in a bowl. Then, added 1/4 cup of olive oil and used a fork to distribute this so the oil and flour mixture resembled lots of little grainy crumbles. Then, I added 2 tbsp of ice water and tossed again with the fork, sprinkling additional ice water with my fingers until the blend was now larger crumbs that would stick together if handled with your fingers. Once its at the stage where you can actually form a ball of dough that won't fall apart, you're ready to roll it.
Then, use a floured surface and floured rolling pin and roll your dough into a circle a bit larger than your pie pan. Use a spatula, slide it under the dough, fold over to a half circle, lift and place inside one half in the pie pan. Then, unfold the other half. You did it! Trim off excess and crimp a crust. I use thumb and index of my right hand, with index finger of my left hand and run around the rim of the pie pan, making a curvy scalloped edge.
Filling: I used about 1 cup of chopped, cooked and throughly drained spinach--if using a small box of frozen spinach, then defrost, drain and press out excess water.
Top that layer with 6 oz chopped or grated cheese--I used Swiss.I also added a couple slices of cooked and crumbled bacon.
Place 4 eggs in a 2 cup measuring cup--whisk these and add milk to make a 2 cup mixture of egg and milk. Season to taste with salt, pepper, a little nutmeg (your choice of spices). Whisk together and pour over the spinach and cheese.
Bake about 1 hour at 350 degrees.
Here's what you get.
Now--get creative and use up all of your other veggies in the garden in your next quiche--tomatoes, peppers and mozzarella? Swiss chard, onion and gouda? Tomatoes, onion and feta? Assorted fresh herbs?
Whatever you want!!!
Posted by Karen
at 21:14 CDT
Updated: Wednesday, 24 July 2013 21:25 CDT
Sunday, 21 July 2013
Topic: Harvest Hills Farm activity
In the middle of winter, I always look at my wardrobe and realize I am wearing black, navy, dark brown, maroon--maybe a hint of gold or dark green--you know the drill...
And then I might glance at the colorful aquas and lilacs and peachy bright colors of Summer and say to myself--how could I EVER think of wearing those colors???
But Summer eventually rolls around and I find myself wondering how the heck I could think black was a good idea for a blouse or dress during the day.
Same with your plate--Summer screams COLOR!!!
Your dinner plate should be looking like this if your garden is starting to produce. And, if you don't have a garden, then the local produce section at your store or Farmers' Market should be bulging at the seams with a variety of veggies and herbs.
For today's blog, let's look at the Ratatouille--about 12N on the plate. I'll save my comments on kale and indrect-grilled chicken and Southwestern salad for another entry.
Ratatouille is basically a stewed squash, tomato and herb concoction packed with nutirents. Cooking it is simple--and, in a way, it's like chili--every pot is unique and depends upon your tastes and what you've got around.
Saute together 4-6 cloves of chopped garlic and 1 chopped onion in about 3-4 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet.
Add: 1-2 diced/chopped green peppers--though you can substitiute sweet banana peppers if you'd like --which I did since my green peppers aren't ready yet.
Add: Summer Squash, Zucchini squash, eggplant--smaller sized, no seeds, thin skin OK otherwise, peel it.-cut into cubes or small chucks. Any/all of the above. I did not have eggplant so this version is just yellow Summer and green zucchini squash.
Add: skinned and seeded diced fresh tomatoes- at least 2 large, or 1 can of diced tomatoes .
Keep cooking in your large skillet pan on medium heat.
Add plenty of chopped fresh or dried herbs to taste--here you either can use an Italian blend or herbs de Provence (preferred--if you want the most authentic taste)--but like chili, it's ultimately about YOUR taste preferences.
Add: dried red pepper flakes and salt to taste.
Continue to cook until the vegetables are"stewed"--add oil if needed during your cooking if you think it's needed.
Add: chopped black olives?, capers?
This dish can be served hot, room temperature, or chilled. Delicious any way. it also makes a great main course with some cheese and bread on the side.
Start thinking COLOR !
Posted by Karen
at 21:42 CDT
Updated: Sunday, 21 July 2013 21:53 CDT
Saturday, 20 July 2013
Hello, my name is Bread
Hello! My name is Bread.
I know that is a weird announcement for me...a confirmed low-carber-- but our cultures (whatever our origin) all seem to have a central focus upon ...bread.
Think about it—the centrality of bread-- a mainstay in the menu, a metaphor for sustenance, a symbol for communion.
So, when my Summer intern wanted to learn how to make jelly out the assorted berries she'd foraged. I knew we'd be pulling out the bread maker because, no matter how good the jelly is, it doesn't stand alone without its mate, bread.
My wonderful Summer Interns went forth and found the wild berry patches and collected tons of berries. So—of course-- the canning skills were called forth and jelly was made.
Our recipe borrowed from the skills of others:
Make your own Berry Jelly.
We started out with about 2 quarts of fresh mixed wild berries, cleaned according to an earlier post I have on how to clean berries. I hate seeds so, it was my job to de-seed them in the juicer (you can also use a hand-turned or electric tomato seeder.) This process will take you as long as it took the kids to pick the berries! Don't give up! The rich juice derived without any of those little seeds is worth it!!!
You now have 6 cups of fresh wild berry juice.
Pour it into a stockpot and add 4 Tbsp. Real Fruit Pectin (we used Ball's brand, low or no-sugar pectin)
Bring to a boil for 1 minute, add 4 cups of real cane sugar and boil for 5 minutes.
Do a jelly spoon test—chill a teaspoon in ice water. Take a scant teaspoon of your jelly mixture, put it on a plate. Allow it to come to room temperature—just a minute or two. Is it set enough? If so, move to canning. If not, add another 1-2 Tbsp. Pectin., boil 1 minute, repeat the test.
This recipe makes 12 half pint jars and a little over to refrigerate for tasting.
Prep your canning jars, lids, rings as directed. Get your canning pot out and start the water boiling.
Fill the jars to ¼ inch of the top. Put lid and ring on. When all are loaded, boil in canning pot for 5 minutes. The “leftover” jelly should be put in a bowl and refrigerated. It's good to use for a week if it lasts that long. The jelly that's been canned is good for a year. All of your canned jars should “pop” and that means the middle should dimple down and no air space is perceived under the lid, meaning you can't push the center of the lid and have it come back out.
OK—jelly's made and you know it's one of the best things to give as a homemade gift. But, it needs it's mate, the bread.
So, if you really want to treat someone to a very special gift, then make a loaf of bread to accompany your jelly. And the bread maker is the quickest way to do that. Your instruction book will have many recipes, but here's a clever and health-inspired recipe to start with.
Oatmeal Flaxseed Bread
1 & ¼ c water
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp butter, melted
¾ c quick cooking oats
1& ¾ tsp salt
3& ¾ c. bread flour
2 tbsp organic flaxseeds (grind these fresh in a coffee grinder)
2 Tbsp dry milk
2 tsp active dry yeast.
Prep the pan with spray oil.
Add ingredient in this order: All liquids first, then dry ingredients, and LASTLY, add the yeast in a little well in the center of the batter.
Select the “Basic” setting and a light or medium crust (if you have that option).
Push the start button.
In 3 hours, you'll have the loaf in the picture.
Now get creative. To me, it looked like a hay bale, so we wrapped hemp cord around it and packaged it together with the jelly to give to a friend who helps us making hay.
But, I think anyone would like this country-inspired Bread AND Wildberry Jelly!
Posted by Karen
at 17:58 CDT
Updated: Saturday, 20 July 2013 22:47 CDT
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