Thursday, September 29, 2011

Stocking up

So, admittedly, we don't grow most of our food (although we tend to grow more than most people do) but I really really try to avoid buying produce at the grocery store so, when I can, I try to stock up from local farms during the summer.

Some of the ways we do that are...
Buying bell peppers at the farm when they're 5 for $1 (!) and dicing and freezing them for use all winter. We also do this with onions and broccoli and green beans. We freeze our own edamame and corn. It's just like having the grocery store freezer section in your own home and have you looked at the price of quality frozen vegetables?!

We also buy and can peaches, cherries, and apples in season but freezing vegetables and berries preserves more taste and nutrition. Canning vegetables is also a much more involved process.

We pulled 20 lbs. of tomatoes out of the garden on Monday and simmered them down into a delicious marinara with some homegrown basil, oregano and garlic and farmer grown onion. Q cooked some Italian sausage and we had it over white sweet potatoes last night. It was so good and hearty that I ate the leftover sausage sauce all by itself after my potato was gone. The back left burner also has a chicken carcass getting transformed into stock for winter cooking. Heehee, the pun with the title was totally unintentional but I suppose we really are "stocking up". :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Whole 30 Challenge Desserts?

Q was getting quite burned out on the Whole 30 Challenge over the weekend so in a fit of madness I committed to joining him for the rest of the time (through October 11), although I didn't completely give up dairy. He wants me to make sure everyone knows that he never once asked me to join him or lusted over any forbidden thing I was eating. Anyway, "treats" were being sadly missed so I turned to the magic of the internet and found a couple of real winners.
Here's a strawberry rhubarb crumble. The only modification I made was doubling the strawberries. It was impressive how sweet it tasted with the group efforts of the pecans, coconut (unsweetened) and the strawberries. I would make it again just like this but Q thinks he'd prefer adding a couple tablespoons of honey when we're not on the challenge.

It's pumpkin and apple season.

A hint we learned last year for cooking winter squash (including pumpkins) - bake them whole and then cut them apart and remove the seeds. The rind is far easier to cut through and the seeds are easier to remove.

We canned 9 quarts of applesauce and have already eaten 2. Thankfully, we've got another two boxes of apples waiting to make another dozen quarts. We made a mixture that was primarily Macintosh with a few Early Gold and Gala thrown in to add sweetness.
Homemade applesauce liberally sprinkled with cinnamon and walnuts is a wonderfully satisfying treat (and healthy enough to be part of breakfast).

The pumpkin custard also turned out well and works great for breakfast or dessert. Sprinkling it with walnuts is also wonderful. I modified this recipe enough that I'll include my version below. I didn't think it was spicy enough this time around so I'd probably put in half again as much next time of the spices. After we're off the challenge I also want to try it with whole milk since coconut milk is so expensive. I was also wondering how just a little grated fresh ginger might jazz it up?

2 lb. 5 oz. pumpkin, baked and pureed
6 eggs
2 1/2 t cinnamon
1 1/2 t ginger
1/4 t nutmeg
1/8 t (?) salt
1 can coconut milk
2 t vanilla

It took about 1 3/4 hours for the largest ones to finish baking in a 350 degree oven.

Also, October Unprocessed 2011 is about to begin and though we're not committing - as Q put it "I think I've had enough food challenges for now thankyouverymuch". Thankfully, we tend to follow most of his rules anyway. I also discovered that I really like his blog, a great post is here.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Height of Harvest

'Tis the season for the harvest. We gathered lots of tomatoes yesterday along with the pumpkins, the last of the rhubarb and cucumbers, some oddly out of season strawberries, some grapes, a watermelon, a potato that we missed during last week's harvest, and 3 pea pods. We got the Sweet Dumpling squash (2), acorn squash (1) and one cantaloupe in over the weekend.
All of this harvesting plus a whole lot of weeding was brought to you by ...

Sleeping Baby!
We went on a lovely afternoon walk and she was sleeping so soundly when we got back that we just started the yard work and kept her in the stroller.

Later, Isabel decided it was her turn to nap in the stroller.

Digit preferred to keep Willow and me company.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What I would do with two free hands...

It's lucky she's so cute because there is a lot of work around here that isn't getting done (or done veeeery slowly) because of her. As sweet as these newborn days are I'm hoping she'll start being able to nap in the crib in a couple of weeks rather than in the sling on my chest.
Q has taken on the Whole 30 Challenge with a bunch of people at his gym so I'm counting down the days until October 12. I feel very guilty about continuing to eat several things that he's abstaining from right now - grains, dairy and the occasional sweetened anything being the major ones. There are benefits though -

1)We're eating way more veggies than usual and I'm surprised by how many meals don't really need the grain that they're usually served with. Tacos are fantastic wrapped in iceberg lettuce instead of tortillas. A vegetable and chicken curry is just a delicious thick stew without rice beneath it (although we were careful to not make the flavors strong enough to be overwhelming when it's not cut by rice). Especially since grain growing and processing is so labor intensive it's nice to seriously look at how much of them we really need to eat.

2) Q's been doing most of the cooking - and he's a fantastic cook!
Here's the braised cabbage with pan-fried chicken-apple sausage that was dinner on Saturday. Every woman should marry a man who can cook. He's even been feeding me "birdie bites" when I'm nursing Willow and don't have hands and things just smell *too good*.

Amusingly, most of the stuff we seem to be harvesting lately is not on his current diet. Last week's marinara and curry were made with almost exclusively homegrown ingredients (have I mentioned the pound of garlic we harvested?) but the big crops we planted that are just coming on now are currently forbidden - edamame, potatoes, corn, and oats. The edamame is in the freezer and the oats are still waiting to be threshed and winnowed.

Q dug out the two little potato patches I planted on a whim this spring when some rotten potatoes started sprouting in the compost bin. Ten pounds isn't bad for a crop that had no financial outlay and about an hour of time put into it.
We packed them in a paper bag with alternating layers of straw and potatoes. After the main crush of summer produce is done I'm going to try to fit the bag into the fridge since we still don't possess a location with appropriate root cellar conditions.

I started making a dent (literally) in the corn "field" today.
After I strip off the ears, the stalks get chopped off at the base. I'm cutting them into 4-5' lengths and have been setting them under the canopy to dry out.
They're sitting on the large pile of oat straw I put under cover a couple of days ago when it started looking rainy. When the stalks have dried thoroughly the current plan is to send them through a chipper for composting or path mulch.

I got about an eighth of the bed done today and got 30 ears (not including the little unripe ones that went to the grateful chickens). 8 x 30 = a whole lot of ears of corn, especially since Q can't eat any of it fresh this year. Normally, I'd be worried that over 200 ears wouldn't be enough to fulfill his seasonal sweet corn appetite. As it is, the neighbors got a dozen of the prettiest ears I found and the rest of today's pick got blanched, cut from the cobs, and frozen for winter.
There's a lot of this stuff where I feel like we're working against the clock because Q goes back to work next week and the little that has been done is because we're taking turns on baby duty. Of course, one way or another it will all get done to some level and it will all work out. After all, there isn't really an alternative. If the big jobs get done, all I'll be left with is the regular tomato pickings and small batch marinara making and freezing, which can be done with a baby tied to my chest.

Green peppers were on sale at the farm this weekend so we got 1/2 gallon of diced peppers into the freezer. Tomorrow is canning diced tomatoes with a friend. Saturday (Willow's one month birthday) will be apple picking and applesauce making. I'm so grateful that Q's such a willing helper and participant so we'll be able to eat locally and well this winter.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

First Corn and "The New Normal"

We're all getting used to less sleep and always having the baby attached. On Monday afternoon I was trying to make some progress on a custom knitting order and was also furniture for several residents...
In honor of Mom's last night here, we managed to find the first ripe ears of corn (9!) and have them for dinner. This ear kind of gave us the creeps though...
The next morning I found 6 more ears for Mom to take home and I haven't even looked since. Q decided to take the 30 day "paleo" challenge at his gym, so he can't even eat sweet corn until October 11. I have a lot of freezing in my future.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Color Wheel Quilt, Part V

Mom left this morning. :( We'll sure miss her. While she was here, she set the quilt up in her room and she worked on it more than I imagined she would. She worked so much that she finished it! I still need to finish the binding but all the quilting is done and it turned out just as beautifully as I hoped. I'm sure Willow will love it when she gets old enough to move to her big girl bed.

Mom took this picture and I just had to share it here...
Thankfully, the diaper service has started now and we were gifted a few weeks of respite before this scene starts again. :)

Monday, September 5, 2011

More pictures

Mom had the forethought to capture Willow's first harvest on "film" yesterday. All of the edamame is in now!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Summer's in Full Swing

The backyard corn is apparently very happy. This picture was taken pre-baby about 2 weeks ago and I think it's gotten even taller since then. There are lots of ears started. Let's hope they pollinated so we can get some nice juicy sweet corn.

Summer came late this year and the consensus is that everything is about 3 weeks behind.
We have just started getting ripe Romas and cherry tomatoes and the slicers are just around the corner. We've got 4 little eggplants, 2 cantaloupes, 4 pumpkins, 2 sweet dumpling squash, 2 acorn squash and a whole lot of basil and popcorn maturing in the front yard. Some time in the next couple of days I have to get Mom and Q to help me harvest the second plantings of edamame and oats.

The daylight hours consumed by napping with the baby to gear up for the next night and feeding the baby eat up a huge amount of time! As precious as newborn Peanut is, I won't be too sorry when she gets old and big enough to have this breastfeeding thing down pat and starts sleeping more at night. ;) Mom is absolutely invaluable; laundry and dishes magically get done and food mysteriously appears at meal times. I really don't know how women who don't have their husbands and mothers around 24/7 for the first couple of weeks do it.

Hopefully, tomorrow will be a garden day and I'll get some pictures.