Tuesday, September 29, 2009

September Chalkboard Drawings

So I have records of my chalkboard art, they will begin appearing here.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Geocaching and Andy Comes to Visit

My dear brother came to visit this weekend. He lives in Colorado now and hasn't been out to Oregon in five years or so. We had a great deal of fun. We hiked Mt. Pisgah on Saturday morning and on our way down decided to begin playing with the application on Q's phone that let us find geocaches. We'd never done it before and we are now hooked. If you don't know what it is, go here. (Note: the photos below are dramatic reenactments of real events - the finding of our first cache!)

We found our first one up on Pisgah. We decided that we would need to look for a bunch more on the coast while we were on today's field trip.

View of a pumpkin field from about halfway up Pisgah.
We found our second cache ever at the Darlingtonia nature reserve, a tiny wayside slightly north of Florence, Oregon. A cute path was created that leads into this bit of swamp to protect Darlingtonia Californica, a.k.a. Cobra Lilies, a carniverous plant native to northern California and southern Oregon. We've been meaning to stop here forever but a geocache was finally the incentive we needed. :)
Our final cache out at the coast (we did 7 today out there), was at Otter Rock. We picked up a case of wine at the super yummy Flying Dutchman Winery. I love their Coastal Blackberry. The cache included our first "geocoin". We've logged where we found it at geocaching.com and are going to replace it next weekend, hopefully in Washington. Here's his history so far. Yay! I think we're hooked.

Hopefully Andy will post some of his pictures from this weekend and I'll link to them from here soon.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Making Cornish Pasties

What I actually ended up doing, culled from many internet ideas. I did use this crust recipe but doubled it and converted it to gluten free using ideas from this page. I needed to make 1 1/2 times more of the crust recipe for how much filling I made. I got 12 out of this much crust. I'll probably end up with about 30 from the filling.

4 c rice flour
1 1/3 c potato starch flour
2/3 c tapioca flour
2 t xanthan gum
1 T baking powder
1 T salt
2 c shortening
1 1/4 c cold water
Combine all dry ingredients, cut in shortening, mix water in until dough forms, store in refrigerator until filling is ready.

2 lb. ground beef
2 large white onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 c diced turnips (mine were frozen)
3/4 lb. diced carrots (about 4 medium, 2 c.?)
1 lb. mushrooms, halved
1/4 c. cornstarch
1 qt. beef stock
1 T salt (I don't put any salt in my stock when I make it, so this might vary with commercial stock)
1 T Worcestershire sauce
1 t tarragon
1 t thyme

Saute the meat, onions and garlic until meat is brown and onion is translucent. Drain.
Add the mushrooms and saute a little longer.
Add the carrots and turnips then mix in the cornstarch, coating the vegetables with it.
Add the beef stock and seasonings.
Let simmer for about an hour, until the carrots and turnips are tender.

To assemble, use a ball of dough about the size of a fist and roll it into a circle. I first rolled mine to about the thickness of pie crust but this was a disaster. It didn't hold together, probably a result of the non-wheat dough. A little bit thicker kept it malleable but holding together. Place a scant 1/4 cup of filling on half of the circle using a slotted spoon or spatula. (I ended up with about 2 c of gravy left over when I strained them in this way.) Fold the empty side over and crimp the edges together firmly, pressing with a fork. Prick the top with the fork to allow steam to escape. Transfer to a baking sheet. Place the pasties in the oven, preheat to 350F and bake for 1 hour (including oven preheat time.)

I'm going to let several of mine cool completely, place them in individual ziploc bags, and freeze them. My goal is to have these in the freezer for lunches.

When I get into "Betty Crocker" mode I sometimes scare myself. Right now the dishwasher is going so I can get the last 10 pounds of plums we harvested this morning canned. The latest batch of yogurt is setting up on the stove top and a pan of pasties is in the oven and one is waiting to go in. The fridge lunch for me for the next 3 days (2- mashed turnips with pasty gravy, 1 - Vegetable curry), half a batch of cookie dough (if we bake them all at once, we eat them all at once), and 6 cups of pasty filling. We won't be starving any time soon.

Two other cooking tidbits:
  • I made chocolate cookies on Thursday night using vegan egg replacer, a mix of gluten free flours, and then the "normal" ingredients and they turned out very good - excellent texture and flavor. (I just used the egg replacer because we had it, I've had good success with it in baking, and it needs to get used up.)
  • Friday night's dinner was a repeat of the curry recipe without the cauliflower and yellow squash. I added more eggplant to make up the volume. It was again quite excellent.
On a non-cooking note, Q felt horrible yesterday afternoon and put himself to bed at about 6p. He slept through to 8a this morning. When he went to bed I was sure he was going to be down for several days, he was so miserable with a raging headache and nausea. When he got up this morning he was right as rain! What a relief.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Canned Plums and Even More Tomatoes

I canned 6 quarts of plums from the batch we picked from our tree earlier this week. I love their magenta color only second to the golden yellow of peaches when canned. Unfortunately, it was dark when they got out of the canner and I couldn't get artificial light to shine through them at the right angle, so no picture.

We picked another 10 1/2 lb. of Romas today and I simmered it down to sauce while I was working on the plums. Since the canner bath was already hot I decided to can this batch rather than freeze it - 4 more quarts of sauce.

I only have 18 empty quarts and 8 empty pints left and I'm trying to decide how to use them. Probably 14 quarts of peaches and the rest as applesauce. We've already drunk half of our apple cider so another couple boxes of apples wouldn't go amiss regardless. It's just so satisfying to share a bottle with dinner.

I was playing with tomato numbers today. We have four plants this year and I think they're going to give us about 40 pounds altogether. (Assuming frost and cool weather don't prevent the rest of my harvest.) My tomato needs are almost met right now. I used 175 pounds that we bought and 25 that we grew or were given, so I need around 200 pounds each year. That's 20 plants? Seems impractical in the space we have...perhaps I'll have to continue to support my favorite local farm. It would just be nice to know that they were all organic from my yard. I also don't know if I'm under or overestimating how many pounds we'll get off the plants. There sure are still a lot of pink tomatoes on those vines, even after today's picking.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Busy Busy Busy

Goodness gracious. I really don't have time to work. At school, I'm currently in the middle of the War of the Roses before the delightful intrigue of Henry VIII. At home I've got 20 pounds of plums I need to find time to can and have completed a sweater order I've been working on since summer and two Pac-Man hats. I've also gotten an owl baby sweater mostly done for boutique in November and have started another sweater order, a delightful super bulky jacket. I'm waiting for the yarn to come in the mail to work on a custom order for these gloves and just got another hat order today. Of course, the list of yard and preserving and knitting tasks that need to be done is too long to even mention. Yikes! I do love being busy though, so I should be grateful. We took the night off and went to see Real Genius at the local movie theater on "Flashback" night last night. I love that movie soooo much.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


The vegetables of the previous post turned into the curry above on Sunday night and have provided me with scrumptious lunches for the last two days as well. Since it was a recipe of my own invention, I'm putting it here before I forget what I did and I spend the rest of my life kicking myself for losing it. (Yes, it really was that delicious to me.) I'm pretty sure we broke some sort of rule using garam masala and curry powder but it was good anyway. It was lacking something toward the end and somehow the garam masala was just what it needed.

Mixed Vegetable Curry
olive oil
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 t. onion powder
1 1/2 T. curry powder
2 t. garam masala
1 T. salt (or to taste)
1 large eggplant, cubed
1 large yellow crookneck squash, cubed
1 head cauliflower (8 oz.), cut into bite-sized pieces
green beans, handful cut into pieces
3 ears of corn, corn cut from the cob
3 large tomatoes (I had Cherokee Purple), diced

Heat the oil in a large flat pan, add the garlic and saute until fragrant. Add onion powder and half of the curry powder. Saute the eggplant and squash until they start getting tender (5 minutes?). Add the cauliflower and beans. After another couple of minutes add the corn and, finally, the tomatoes. Add the rest of the curry powder and the garam masala now. Cover and let the whole thing simmer, stirring occasionally, for about half an hour. Everything all blends together. If it's too watery (probably depends on the nature of the tomatoes, mine were quite meaty), simmer to desired consistency, uncovered. Serve over jasmine rice.

It's been fun having leftovers from a dinner made from garden produce, broccoli from our garden, and homemade yogurt with frozen local strawberries mixed in for lunches. A whole new delight comes with eating food you grew yourself (and I like food an awful lot to begin with).

Q and I harvested plums tonight. This is just under twenty pounds. There are a few more pounds on the tree that we'll take tomorrow night. It was getting dark. I'm going to can tomorrow night. Thankfully, plums are easy. I think they're going to replace pears in the desired canning list for the season. Q said he'd be just as happy with them in his lunches. A couple more boxes of peaches this weekend, some apples into applesauce in a couple more weeks and canning will be done for the season. The small batch tomato processing continues with 3 lbs. I harvested tonight on the stove simmering into sauce right now. The last batch ended up as 12 oz. of paste in the freezer. There seems to be an almost endless supply gradually ripening out there.

Another huge batch of turnips really should be picked to let light in to the parsnips planted among them. One of the cabbage varieties is basically ready so cabbage burger filling needs to be frozen and sauerkraut needs to be made. The eggplant has about 6 that will be maturing within a couple of weeks. There are 3 orange pumpkins, 2 big still green ones, and at least one smaller green one on the vine. I just measured the banana pink jumbo and it is 16" long!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Crop of Many Colors

All it takes is leaving the garden unattended for a couple of days while I started school and it crept up on me. We're going to have a mixed vegetable curry thing over rice for dinner. Cherry tomatoes are for snacking, carrots are for lunch vegetables, and Romas are simmering down to sauce with the picking from Thursday. Yogurt is working on setting for lunches this week. Laundry is in the washer, in the dryer and on the line. Still need to do some ironing and finish an order (ideally 2). Hopefully, there will be some time this week when I feel like I can breathe a little.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

First Batch of Peaches

Today's work was 20 quarts of peaches. I also got 1 1/2 quarts of sauce simmered down, partially from our tomatoes and partially from some I was given.

Yesterday's work was mainly getting school stuff together but I made the first batch of bread from the rice flour we bought. The "bread muffins" were the closest approximation I could get to buns for our sloppies last night. I'm researching flour combos to make bread that has a little more body.

Monday night's dessert - rhubarb fool with whipped cream.

The four or five black-eyed pea pods we got are seeming quite mature. It will be fun when they dry out and I get to make a tiny, tiny batch of black-eyed peas.

Our crookneck squash finally has started producing. We've got this one and a couple others that look like they've started.

Banana Pink Jumbo Squash - about 14" long now. Is it really possible it's supposed to get two times as large?!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Freezing Lasagna

I made and froze lasagna this morning. It's such a delightful food but is so time consuming that it never seems practical to make it from scratch on a school day. Thankfully, it freezes well. I used this recipe for inspiration but the recipe below is what I actually did. :)

(this recipe made 3- 9"x13" pans)
3 lbs. ground beef
3 quarts marinara
3 lbs. ricotta
8 c. shredded mozzarella
1 1/2 c. Parmesan
6 eggs
3/4 t. salt
1 1/2 t dried parsley
1 1/2 t dried oregano
1/2 t ground pepper
1 1/2 lb. lasagna noodles

1) Cook the noodles, drain, and run cold water over them.
2) Brown the ground beef and drain. Add the marinara, stir, and simmer while you prepare the cheese.
3) Mix together the ricotta and eggs. Add the salt, parsley, oregano, and pepper. Mix in the mozzarella and parmesan.
4) Place a layer of sauce in the bottom of each pan. Next, place 3 noodles over the sauce. Spread half of each pan's cheese mixture over the noodles and cover this layer with sauce. Repeat the noodle, cheese, and marinara layers. Finish with a layer of noodles, a thin layer of sauce, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Freeze.
5) When you're ready to eat it, thaw the lasagna then bake it, covered, for 50-60 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Uncover and bake another 10 minutes.

These three eggplants, about 8 oz. each, came out of the garden this morning. I prepared extra meat sauce and noodles as I made lasagna and they're going to make up dinner tonight. Yum.
I also got enough tomatoes out of the garden to simmer down 2 c. of sauce while I cooked.

You must see this movie...

I ended up biking to the movie theater yesterday and seeing Julie and Julia. I've really been wanting to see it but feared I couldn't go yesterday because the weather's been so bad. It seemed like it had been mostly clear for a while when it was time to go but I put on a rain jaI'cket just in case. In the time it took me to wheel my bike from the shed around to the driveway it went from light sprinkles to steady rain. At that point I couldn't give up though, right? It was a rather damp 15 minutes to the mall.

Visually, I love this movie for all of the beautiful food and the mid-fifties to sixties fashions. The actresses are fantastic. I'd never seen Amy Adams until we rented Sunshine Cleaning last week and have now been impressed twice by her performances. Meryl Streep as Julia Child steals the movie though. It's hilarious. She's not doing an impression, even though it's such an over the top character. She just is Julia Child.

It's interesting to me how often women are portrayed as needing to find direction in their lives, feeling lost, before they find their calling. It's a story I enjoy watching but I realized that it never seems to be explored as a male problem. Men don't externalize the seeking? They're so busy having to have careers and support themselves and others that they don't have time for it to come up? Maybe it happens plenty in real life but there's no one who would be interested in going to the movie about it since women tend to like watching movies about other women and men tend to like watching movies with more intrigue/adventure. More "plot" and less "character".

Anyway, everybody on the planet should go see the movie. It had me laughing out loud many times and I went home very hungry. I simply must be brave enough to try the beef bourguignon sometime. The problem is that that would involve following a recipe exactly though, which I'm not entirely sure I'm capable of doing. However, I also don't think I'd be sacrilegious enough to casually fling ingredients in the way I do when I'm following Julia Child's recipe. And heres a link to a youtube video of Julia Child and Jacques Pepin making sandwiches. It's somehow utterly hilarious without meaning to be (but in a good, uplifting way).

Friday, September 4, 2009

Marinara and Pickles are Done

The day has been very full. I've been processing food since 9:30a, with only a 45 minute break to bike to the grocery. It's now 8:15p and the last pickles are just coming out of the canner. The rest of the kitchen clean-up can wait until tomorrow. It's so much easier when I don't have to clean around all of the cooling jars anyway (so I tell myself).

I cut up about 30 Romas, 1 large white onion, and 3 medium cloves of garlic; place them in a pan; and drizzle them with olive oil. They roast at 350 degrees, stirring as needed, with the oven door cracked (with the help of a cookie sheet) to let steam escape.

After they're done roasting most of the moisture is gone. This seems to take about 1 1/2 hours.
At this point, I just run it through the food processor and put it in a pot on the stove to keep hot until there's enough for a canner load.

I did 10 pans of tomatoes today, roughly 50 pounds. I even got to include about 20 of the tomatoes from the garden. :) I ended up with 18 1/2 qts. of marinara. All 14 that I pressure canned actually sealed! I must be getting the hang of this. (Notice the beautiful bouquet that Q got me before he left.)

The uncanned quarts of marinara are in the fridge. I got all the stuff that we needed for making 3 lasagnas for the freezer from the grocery and I'll probably just freeze the last full quart of marinara and have the 1/2 quart for dinner tomorrow. I'm hoping my oomph will be reborn tomorrow morning. If not, I'll definitely make lasagna Sunday. I just keep the vision of how tired I often am after school dancing before my head as I try to pack the freezer full.

After I finished the marinara, I moved on to pickles, which is a new endeavor for me. Q had picked up 10 lbs. from Thistledown and my recipe said about 1 lb/qt. but I ended up with 13 quarts. I seemed to get about 12-14 oz./ qt. instead of a full pound. There was lots of brine but one can only pack cucumbers so efficiently. It was fun getting to use all the dill we grew. I hope they're good - but we won't know until the beginning of November. Pickles are a patient food.

I can't believe how orange this pumpkin's getting.

The ever growing Jumbo Pink Banana Squash.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Making Yogurt

(Update 9/4: Camera all better so picture was added)
No pictures today (the camera's acting strangely and Q needs to get home to look at it) but I needed to report that we made yogurt for the first time. It is remarkably easy. We followed the basic instructions from this article except we had a little less than half-a-gallon (minus one glass for Q with chocolate cupcake) and I used a whole 6 oz. container of Plain Organic Nancy's Nonfat Yogurt.

After heating the milk on the stove, we cooled it to 115 degrees and added the yogurt. Covering it with the lid, we put it in the oven, which had been set on warm for a couple of minutes before being turned off, and let it sit overnight.

The next morning, Q put a thin towel into a colander and poured the mixture into it. Not much drained and he had to leave the house, so he put the whole colander, covered with the lid, in the pot and refrigerated it. This morning was the first chance I had to deal with it. It had drained a lot and only produced about 2 cups of yogurt at the end.

I don't think I'd let it drain so long next time. It's fantastic, mild and creamy but it's a little...gluey? A bit more cohesiveness than yogurt usually has. I'm curious if it has to do with how long we let it drain, the fact we used skim milk, the fact I put in more starter than it officially called for or ? The article mentions how the originally heating changes the proteins. I don't know if maybe I didn't heat it hot enough originally and that could account for it too. If anyone out there has theories, do share.

I'm still enjoying it immensely. I mixed in about a teaspoon and a half of vanilla. There was supposed to be a picture of my bowl, one side full of creamy white yogurt and the other full of fat strawberries, defrosted from this year's harvest. I've also been sprinkling about a couple teaspoons of sugar on my bowl to supplement the sweetness from the fruit. I figure that still has to be better than store yogurt, which I suspect has a great deal more sugar as well as all the stabilizers and preservatives. Hmmmm...maybe the next batch will have a different texture because it won't have so much of the original stuff in it...something in the stable shelf life yogurt maybe affected it. I'm going to get more milk and process another batch when I just have a quarter cup or so left of batch one.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Tomatoes have been Preserved

I spent a delightful day at the house of a favorite friend's mother-in-law. We canned there from 8am to 6:30pm today. She's got two incredibly sweet little girls who are a joy to be around and a testament to what good parenting accomplishes. Out of the 200 lbs. of tomatoes I brought, based on an estimate of what it would take to meet what we were hoping for, we actually had 50 pounds left over.

Therefore, we now know that 150 lbs. of Roma tomatoes make...
8 quart + 7 pints + 20 oz. of sauce
44 quarts of diced tomatoes

We were very proud. For most of the day we had 6 burners, including 2 canners going. That's a lot of tomatoes.

I'll use the last 50 lbs. to make another 1 1/2 qts. or so of sauce and then marinara (probably another 11 quarts) in the next c0uple of days. Q was also kind enough to pick up 10 pounds of pickling cukes today, so I'll also have those to do. That will leave only 49 qts. peaches, 14 qts. pears, and 14 qts. apple sauce on my dream canning list for this season. I also want to freeze a whole bunch (a gallon?) of diced green pepper, since they're so cheap this time of year. I want to also get some quick meals (lasagna, 3 Bean Casserole, chili) and some lunch food (Cornish pasties)
in the freezer soon. The cabbage will also be maturing in the next couple of months so I want to learn how to make a vat of sauerkraut and put some cabbage burger filling (cooked ground beef, onions, cabbage) into the freezer for more fast meals. I wish schools still followed a proper agricultural schedule. As it is, I always have to go back to teaching just when the main preservation season is in full swing. It's cruel.

We went roaming some thrift stores the other day and came away with the first 10 jars for Mom's collection for next year's boutique jam and jelly - 1 pint, 6 half pints, and 3 quarters. Yay!
I didn't expect to find anything during canning season itself.
I love jars. I love them empty, replete with possibilities and imaginations of what they have held. I love them full; small, dense packages of summer sunshine that warm winter days. I love the link they give to the past, knowing that I'm using many of the same jars that my grandmother used, possibly even when I was a small child. I love the link to the future - my friend showing her 2-year-old up to see the finished jars and talking about this winter's delights after the little girl eagerly helped us peel the tomatoes.

One of the pumpkins is actually getting some color!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Lucky Day

We saw five herons today on our ten mile bike ride! It's a new record. Today is cool and overcast, so maybe they like the weather; no sun means no glare off the water as they fish?

We also picked another two large cucumbers from the garden today. I'm so impressed that no matter how large they are they don't seem to get bitter.