January 2, 2014

The Late Winter Garden

Horseradish. The roots were tiny!

We just built a bunch of new beds and with the three we have left to build it will about triple the garden size - back to pre-baby square footage. YAY! I'm very excited about this year. Now that my son is older and we've made the section of the yard that contains the garden safe (as safe as anything can be for a toddler who has more ability to lift and climb than he has sense) I think I'll be able to garden regularly. 

Happy sigh.

Gardening makes me feel very much like me. It's who I am. I am a grower of plants. 

I transplanted a bunch of runners from last year's strawberries into a new bed. I think we'll have around 30 plants this year without having to buy more. We'll see how it goes. A few of them are already blooming (silly strawberries) and it's going to freeze tonight. Everything got heavily watered today to help prevent frost damage (except the strawberries. whoops.).

Tiny wheelbarrow
On an adorable note: To my son, all red berries are strawberries but blueberries are "blue strawberries". Also, he started digging holes and "planting" sticks and acorns and leaves. Upon observing this, my

October 18, 2013

Super Strong Vanilla Extract

As a fun extra in the shop for the holidays I'm making super strong vanilla extract. This is what we all wished normal extract from the store was but it never turned out to be. 

It's the real deal, folks and you only need a little (not tons extra like I always used) because it powerfully tastes of vanilla (as it should!). When you uncork a bottle of this you smell the vanilla, not the vodka. I'll be selling some in the shop for a limited time but if you want to make it yourself, here's how:

Chop 1/4# vanilla beans (grade B or extract grade or splits) into 1/2" pieces. Mix with 1 quart vodka (I used Texas vodka). Shake daily for 30 days. Strain or not.

Left: Extract freshly mixed day 1. Right: Fully extracted (30 + days)

I'll give you a heads up when the bottles are ready to ship. 

(P.S. It occurs to me that it might not be obvious from the picture but the lower half of the left jar is dark because you're looking at a pile of vanilla beans. The right jar has no beans in it... that's just the color when it's fully extracted. )

September 17, 2013

Tex-Mex Monte Cristo

I like the idea of jalapeno jelly (and so I always make it) but I never know what to do with it other than the classic "baked with cream cheese" dip. Here's what I came up with today and it was delicious. 

Grilled cheese and ham topped with jalapeno jelly. It's like a less complicated, Tex-Mex, Monte Cristo.

February 4, 2013

Spring Seed Starting

Once again I'm a little late starting seeds this year. By that I mean I could have started seeds during the past few months for earlier lettuce and greens and bigger tomatoes, peppers, etc. by planting time but it is by no means too late to start seeds!

Here's what I started this weekend:

Sweet Peppers
swiss chard and cilantro seedlings
  • Corbaci - 4
  • Coban - 2
  • Ashe County Pimento - 6
  • Tequila Sunrise - 3
  • Lipstick - 3
Hot Peppers
  • Fish - 3
  • Early Jalapeno - 1
  • Thai Red Pepper - 6
  • Serrano - 6
lettuce and beet seedlings
Tomatoes & Tomatillos
  • Rosso Sicilian - 3
  • Red Cherry - 4 
  • Cherokee Purple - 6
  • Green Velvet Tomato - 3
  • Arkansa Traveller - 3
  • Tess's Landrace - 6
  • Illini Star - 3
  • Plum Lemon - 6
  • Goldman's Italian American - 2
  • Verde Tomatillo - 5
  • Purple Tomatillo - 7
tomato plant
  • Thai Long Green - 6
  • Purple Pickling - 6
  • Ping Tung Long - 6
  • Bloomsdale Longstanding Spinach - 26
  • Red Russian Kale - 12
  • Da Ping Pu - 8
  • Tatsoi - 8
  • Arugula - 8
  • Gailaan - 8

January 22, 2013

Very Easy Potato and Roasted Broccoli Soup

I really like soups but when they're as easy as this one, I adore them. Here is my potato-broccoli soup in 4 easy steps.

 1. Make mashed potatoes (with butter, without, with milk... however you like). 
 2. Roast the broccoli (or other vegetables... the version pictured also has roasted cauliflower and carrots). 
 2b. Saute onions, garlic, and celery in butter (or roast all that along with your broccoli). 
 3. Dilute mashed potatoes with broth or water until thick or as thin as you like. 
 4. Add your roasted and/or sauteed veg. - DONE!

Bonus: At this point you can add cream, or not. Cheese or bacon or yogurt or not. Puree the soup or leave it chunky: it is totally up to you.

And remember, since I can't write a good recipe I just gave you a general formula. If you like potato broccoli soup that is a whole lota potato and not so much broccoli then prep your quantities accordingly. If you're a broccoli fiend then roast a ton. If you don't think you have enough broccoli then just roast some more and add it later. The cool thing about soup is that even if you end up with too much it freezes well and you can always beef it up, change the spices, or throw in some of whatever you've got at a later time. Such a flexible meal!

Soup in jars cooling for the freezer

January 11, 2013

Winter Vegetable Moussaka

Moussaka is amazing. For those not in the know, it's a Greek casserole made with layers of potato, ground beef, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, and topped with a creamy blend of yogurt, feta, and eggs.

fun was had with the waffle blade on the mandoline

But eggplant and zucchini are summer vegetables and we try to eat seasonally and domestically (right now all the summer produce in our grocery store is coming from Mexico) so I decided to give it a try with winter vegetables. This version includes potatoes, brussels sprouts, turnips, and onion pre-roasted with olive oil and butter then layered with canned tomatoes, spices, and topped with yogurt-feta yumminess.

It was fantastic. 

It wouldn't be moussaka to me without the buttery potato layer but the rest can be altered. Might I suggest sweet potatoes and kale? Pumpkin was going to go in this batch but I ran out of room so I think a pumpkin-potato-spinach version is coming soon. As far as I'm concerned one can not have to much topping so while I always double what my recipe calls for, I think tripling or quadrupling would not be unreasonable.

Here is my (somewhat unspecific) recipe for Winter Vegetable Moussaka (based on and reworked from a standard version in one of my go to cookbooks The Mediterranean Cookbook)

Winter Vegetable Moussaka

1# Brussels sprouts
3-4 turnips
12 red potatoes
2 onions
lotsa garlic
optional: 1 # ground beef, other vegetables as desired
butter, olive oil, and salt to roast
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
1 Tbl tsp fresh thyme and/or oregano (2 tsp dried)

For the topping:

3 cups strained plain yogurt (I use unstrained Greek yogurt)
4 large eggs
1 cup feta, crumbled
salt and pepper to taste

Slice or chop the vegetables. Coat in olive oil/butter and sprinkle with salt to taste. Roast in a 400* oven until soft and crispy (aprox. 30 minutes). Lower oven to 350*.

{NB - I normally slice some of the veg (like turnips and potatoes) and chop others. Depends on what texture you're looking for. Try it both ways and see what you like best.}

Beat together eggs, yogurt, some salt, and pepper.

Put a layer of vegetables in a large casserole followed by a layer of canned tomatoes with juice. Sprinkle with thyme and/or oregano. Repeat until all ingredients are used. Top with yogurt mixture. Crumble feta over that.

Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour until golden brown.

What favorite recipe have you adapted to use seasonal ingredients?