Monday, April 26, 2010

Captain's Log; Snowdate 04262010

Yup, woke up to more snow. Ok, it wasn't a surprise. Yesterday morning I put on a coat and gloves and carried my winter boots to the car for the trip to church. Got to church, chucked the coat, wished I'd worn sandals, went to DQ with DD to get in on the Buy One/Get one for 25cents Blizzard deal. Yeah, Stephanie instigated that one. Came home, wished for longjohns, and watched the snow fly. Amazing what a few thousand vertical feet can do.

But I'm not going to let it bring me down. I think I'll have my breakfast on the deck...

And then maybe hang some laundry on the line.

Or I could wait until tomorrow. Maybe it will get warmer.

So here are a couple of chicken pies I put together on Friday. I used one of our own chickens and homemade stock and lots of organic veggies cut up real chunky. And then it occured to this cooking maniac that Kent was butchering rabbits and I wouldn't have room in the freezer for a pie. I was at a loss what to do with the second pie until I realized I could call for help. Thank goodness for neighbors there to help out when you're in a bind and take a pot pie off your hands.

And what about the rabbits? Kent butchered 7 rabbits and cut them up. I now have 22 pounds of home-raised rabbit in the freezer waiting to turn into exciting meals. Like Morrocan Rabbit with Sweet Potato Dollars and Seared Kale (on Thursday).

So that book on my sidebar, Nourishing Traditions, has had me on a sharp learning curve lately. I'm not complaining, I'm just breathless trying to keep up. My fermented salad, Cortido, came out very yummy. Now I'm trying to decide what fermented fruit or veggie concoction to make next - Maybe you'd like to vote and help me out:
[ ] Ketchup
[ ] Pickled Beets
[ ] Pickled Cucumbers
[ ] Pickled Garlic
[ ] Pickled Pearl Onions
[ ] Pineapple Chutney
[ ] Fruit Chutney
[ ] Orange Marmalade

And I'm trying all kinds of new things that are supposed to be good for me. Some are easy to get excited about - like the almonds and walnuts I soaked in sea salt water and am "roasting" in the dehydrator as we speak. They should be crisp and yummy by tomorrow.

Other things that are new are harder to get my head around. Like the fermented salad. Which turned out great. And tonight, an appetizer of, of, ahem, uh, raw meat. Yup, tonight was my first time.

So I should have taken a pic of the plate with the pita bread, capers, minced onion and chopped hard cooked egg surrounding the Steak Tartare. Instead, you get this pic of raw meat in a bowl.

And it was seriously tasty. Although I was glad for the bread bits to help with texture issues. I wasn't sure I could take the concept and the cold, creamy? texture at the same time.

So why am I eating these strange and wondrous things? So much of the book makes sense to me. I like the theories and science behind it. Basically getting back to the traditional foods that kept folks healthy for hundreds or thousands of years. And primarily because in the time I've been applying this to my eating, I haven't had to take anything for pain, not once yet, I haven't had a headache, I have more energy and a pervading sense of well-being. I don't really need much more motivation than that. And it's not like things don't taste good, they are just prepared with so much more care, planning and techniques we rarely use in our modern world. Techniques that sometimes even seem a little primitive. Like the half gallon of raw milk sitting on my counter waiting to separate.

Ah, and for a little color, here's a pic of my beautiful beets. I rubbed the beats with coconut oil and roasted them and put the gorgeous greens in the steamer. So sad that I was filled up on salad, steak tartare and pot pie tonight and didn't have room to taste them. Hmmm, maybe for breakfast. On the deck!

So if all this cooking stuff doesn't do it for you, maybe you need to head over to LollyChops and get some craft ideas. Every time she posts I want to throw down my whisk and spatula and run to my craft room. Seriously. Or go to Life According to Being Sam's Mom and check out her sewing projects. I mean, even I know that not everything happens in the kitchen.

Check back after tomorrow and I'll let you know how things go with Brewing Kombucha, Attempt #2 of Sourdough Bread, Carob Brownies, and either A - Lining the chimney or B - Painting the hallway

Have a great night or day or whatever is ahead of you right now!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Something to Crow About

Not everything happens in the kitchen... here's an update on those seeds I planted with such high hopes. All but four pots are showing up green and I haven't given up on the last four, either. It's all very cheerful looking and I need to rearrange and raise one of the lights to accommodate the overachievers.

I'm hoping that they don't grow too fast or we won't be ready to transplant them when they are bulging out of the pots. Already the beans and squash have lots of roots grown through the peat.

Next, I'd like to talk sprouted grain. YUMMY! I baked bread yesterday with the wheat I had sprouted and dried. I knew it was going to be different as soon as I milled it and the rich, nutty aroma was so distinctly different than the usual, albeit wonderful, smell of freshly milled grain. I modified my usual recipe slightly, after reading some sprouted grain bread recipes. I knew mine worked at extreme altitude, but I changed up my water for whole milk, my oil for a couple tablespoons of butter, I sponged the yeast in the warm milk/butter/honey solution, and I did two kneadings (with the Bosch) with a ten minute rest in between. The dough was silky and wonderful and the resulting bread is so light and the taste is homemade on steroids. I'm hooked.

So I set about sprouting more grain. This time I'm doing wheat, spelt and kamut. I'm interested to see how long the various grains take to sprout. I've got money on the kamut and spelt being about 12 hours ahead of the wheat.

I also tried my first fermented veggie recipe. Cabbage, carrot, onion, sea salt, oregano and crushed red pepper. Shred the veggies fine, mix everything in a bowl and then take a wooden mallet to it and beat it for about 10 minutes to release the juices. Pack it all in a quart jar and press down until juice rises to the top. Cap tightly and leave it at room temperature for 3 days. I'm really looking forward to trying it. Here it is in the cupboard with the kombucha. You can also see that my scoby seems to be developing just like it's supposed to.

And about that "something to crow about" - that was my lame attempt to make a hint about what went on in the sewing room today. I cut out an apron on Sunday and started it and decided that our rainy day today was a good time to finish it. If you know me you know I have a thing for chickens. Love em. Can't wait to have the real thing again. In the meantime, I have to content myself with reminders of their pretty, feathered selves. So you know I'm not going to pass up fabric like this:

And if you know me you further know that I wear aprons all the time. Sometimes all day if I'm working in the kitchen, playing in the dirt, or other potentially messy tasks. So I had this pattern for an apron called "50's Diner". I liked the technique that encases all the seams in double-fold bias tape. But like my recipes, I had to make my own modifications. So rather than a single print, I threw in a couple of coordinating fabrics from my stash. And then I realized that the bib was clucking for an applique. So on that went. The end result..

And Kent felt the applique deserved a close-up:

So, I played in the dirt, cooked and sewed. What a great day!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Today in my kitchen...

Isn't this rainbow chard lovely!? It's so gorgeous I almost hate to cook it. However, I know it will taste fabulous so I can take a knife to these beauties without too much regret.

Here's a great way to eat chard:

Swiss Chard with Almonds and Raisins
For Two Servings:
1 Tbsp slivered almonds
¾ tsp olive oil
1/3 cup shallots, chopped
1 pound Swiss chard, fresh, end trimmed, cut into ½ to ¾ -inch wide pieces
1 Tbsp raisins, chopped (golden or red flame)
1 Tbsp water
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 ½ tsp red wine vinegar

• Set a large nonstick pot over medium heat. When hot, toast almonds, stirring often, until lightly golden, about 3 minutes; remove from pan, chop and set aside.
• Heat oil in same pot over medium heat. Add shallots; cook, stirring often, until light golden, about 4 minutes.
• Add Swiss chard to pot and increase heat to high; cook, tossing, until chard wilts, about 3 minutes.
• Add raisins, water, salt and crushed red pepper; cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until chard is tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.
• Remove from heat; stir in vinegar. Transfer to a serving bowl; sprinkle with toasted almonds.

So we got our big colorful picture to start this entry and I'll move on to even more exciting news - we are now participating in a Cow Share. Actually, we have two shares of a cow that lives in Loveland. And Thursday night we picked up our first shares of the milk. I've been drinking it and making lots of good stuff with it. These are 1/2 gallon jars...

Can you see the cream line? I skimmed the cream off two half gallons and have it culturing to make cultured butter (which also means some buttermilk).

And since I've been using a lot of buttermilk, I also put some buttermilk out of my fridge into another quart of whole milk and set it in the cupboard for 24 hours to culture. Oh, and the kombucha seems to be forming a scoby, just like it's supposed to.

I wanted to share a little color I'm enjoying. The geraniums in my kitchen are in bloom again, still, some more... they've been flashing their bright smiles all winter. I've wintered these particular plants over for several years now and they just keep producing brilliant blooms.

The ones in the living room are healthy and eager, with lots of new leaves, but I don't think they get quite enough sun in that room. Hopefully they'll start their blooming when I can put them back on the deck in another ?month?

And it looks like I've got some sprouts for lunch tomorrows!

I also decided to soak more wheat as long as I've got the dehydrator here that I borrowed from Kathy. I'll try to get 20-24 cups of grain sprouted and dried before I return it.

Today was also day 8 of the sourdough starter so I mixed up some bread. I don't know if the starter was potent enough or not. We'll know in the morning when I wake and find out if I've got risen loaves or bread colored bricks in my pans.

I know it must look like I spend all my time in the kitchen. Apparently that's just where all the excitement has been lately.

Pie in the Sky

So I offered to do a dessert for a dinner I went to yesterday and I wanted to do something healthy, something with fruit, and something from items I already had in my kitchen and pantry. Turns out that pie in the sky fit the bill. I mean, at our altitude, it really is.

I even love the act of getting things out and ready for baking. I first considered the crusts. You can't make pastry without fat but I wanted to use healthful fats so I decided on a combination of butter and coconut oil. And of course it had to be whole grain. And it seemed to me that buttermilk would be good in it.

Here's how I made the crusts (Makes 2 crusts):

2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup fat (1/2 cup each of butter/coconut oil)
A pinch of salt
2 Tbsp sucanat for a hint of sweet
1/4 - 1/2 cup buttermilk

Put the flour, salt, sucanat and fats in the food processor and pulse until it looks like coarse crumbs. It will be kind of like a graham cracker crust mix at this point but won't stick together well. Then turn on the processor and pulse while drizzling in buttermilk until you get a nice dough that will hold together. Try not to overwork it. Here's where it got a little tricky, I didn't want to roll it with flour because it is my opinion that adding more flour is a great way to get a tough dough. Instead, line your mat with plastic wrap and then use another piece on top. I had to keep moving the top piece around as I work the circle. Then pick up the whole crust still stuck to the bottom plastic and position it in the plate and peel back the plastic. Voila! Do the same for the top crust and pinch the edges together. This produced a very flavorful, crumbly crust that was definitely worth eating.

And for the filling?
Well, for one I pulled a bag of organic blackberries out of the freezer and put them in the steamer to thaw. For the other, I pulled out some Braeburn apples I'd dehydrated and put them to soak. They even had crunch when rehydrated. I didn't do anything special when I dried these, just ran them through my peeler/corer/slicer and tossed them in a bit of lemon water before draining and dehydrating. They really retained their flavor and texture. I was so pleased! I tossed each of the fruits with about a 1/4 to 1/2 cup sucanat, a few tablespoons of arrowroot powder, and spices as seemed appropriate. I believe I used cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom on the apples and vanilla and cardamom on the blackberries.

And here are the pies. I'd offer you a slice but they got all eaten up at dinner. I guess that means they turned out OK.

Making Progress

I've been meaning to get some pics up of our latest indoor project. Kent finished the short end of the fireplace stone work and those two gaping holes in the wall turned into:

A lovely stone wall with two doors. The top one is made of steel with a decorative touch and fancy handle

And on the bottom is a very attractive rustic wooden door. I love how he did it and the handle.

You may be asking, "What's behind Door #1 and Door #2?" Well, behind the steel door you have your basic indoor grill! Who knew? Kent used parts from a couple of older grills to plumb and "knob" the workings. The rack has several positions to choose from, and unbeknownst to me, this cubby had a chimney all its own - making it a real working grill! I didn't photograph behind Door #2 but it is the place where you would place your propane tank to run the grill. (Ok, right now I've got a big tub of dog food slid in there. In a house this size you learn to multi-task your space.)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Always learning new things...

Cass is pretty excited about this post. He's always up for something new, so today was a big day for him. Or, um, he was big for today?

"Monorail cat, now with greater capacity"

One thing I'm working on this week is learning to make bread from a sourdough starter. I wanted to do it the purist way, so I'm first making my starter. No yeast. Just water and flour. Leave it on the counter, add to it each day. It should be ready for using in baking on the 17th. In the meantime, we'll work on eating up the two loaves I made on Saturday - one is an herb bread with rosemary, thyme, sage and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, the other is a seed bread loaded with ground flax seed, sunflower seed and sesame seed. Yummy experiments.

I'm using a large container since I'm supposed to add a cup of water and a cup of flour each day. I am, naturally, using my own freshly milled flour from a red wheat/kamut mix.

It's not real active yet, but it's developing a wonderful nutty aroma and bubbles are starting to appear. Candy, over at Keeping the Home has easy to follow directions for making the starter and a great sounding bread recipe to follow it up. I don't know how it will react at this altitude but I'm soon to find out. Here's the link to this particular project: Sourdough Starter

And I pulled out the ol' pressure canner to address some turkey carcasses and necks that I had in the freezer. I simmered them in a pot (with some Bragg's apple cider vinegar added to the water) for about 24 hours. I'd never done it for that long but I was reading some info on the Weston A. Price Foundation website that made me decide to give it a whirl. Then I got up with Kent at 5:00 am on Sunday morning and strained my stock through cheesecloth, pulled all the meat off the bones and added a little salt and bay leaf to the mix.

The next thing you knew, there were 9 pints (my canner's capacity for pints) in the canner and I was cleaning up the kitchen. I had these done before I had to leave for church. A pretty productive morning. They all sealed successfully. That evening I used the remaining meat in the pot and a portion of the stock to make a chicken/vegetable gravy to go over mashed potatoes. We had it again tonight over homemade buttermilk, whole-wheat biscuits. It turned out very flavorful.

A couple more pet projects... I'd been soaking some grain for the last couple days and it sprouted this morning. So I set to work dehydrating it so that I can mill some sprouted wheat flour for baking. I'm looking forward to experimenting with it.

And that wonderful kombucha that is so expensive? Well, I was reading about how to make it myself. So I've put a pint jar of organic honeysuckle kombucha (purchased at the health food store) to bed in a quiet, dark cupboard where it can grow a scoby and I can begin brewing my own. Here's Candy again with instructions on how to do this: Kombucha.

I also potted up 22 more plants today. What does that put me at? Around 75? I'm going to have to try new seeds for most of my flowers, I'm thinking, as only the cosmos and morning glory's have germinated. I picked up three kinds of seed at Sunflower Market (how appropriate!) and will start those going tomorrow.

Well folks, Kent got up at 1:00 am to be at work by 3:00 am and he's still sitting here with me. I'd better wrap up and see if I can encourage him to go to bed with me.

Oh, and check out Val's blog to see the really cute snood she made. Turns out we both found the saame pattern online. How funny is that? I guess that particular gift isn't just limited to me and Kathy. Anyway, I bought fabric to make a few of these myself and now that she's taken the plunge she had some good advice for me on making the pattern work even better. Can you guess what one of my next projects will be?

Friday, April 9, 2010

My how my garden grows

What's going on here? Posting again so soon? Yes, and even more surprising, I'm posting pics of myself again. This time in a black and white gingham scarf. I've been wearing a lot of them lately and I've got a beautiful collection including scarves that were my mother's. I never knew how to wear them around my neck but on my head, well, that's quite do-able. And I have to admit, it's not just about my cutting edge fashion statements. It's not about how well they keep my hair out of my way while I work. It's not that it's nice to have some color around my face other than the gray hair. And according to Kent, he still thinks I look cute.

It started with reading scripture, thinking on it, feeling a little convicted, trying an experiment, and being amazed at what happens in my spirit when I dress in a feminine manner and cover my head. So, I don't think this is a major commandment. Certainly not a sacrament. But I think I've been learning a lot about how God made us women, what some of our greatest weaknesses are (and they aren't physical), and the heart He'd like us to have. I don't know if I'll cover for a long time or not. But for now, I'm getting a lot of edification out of it and I'm going to go with it for the time being.

And what, you say, does that have to do with gardening? Well, that was about the garden of my heart. But what about that other garden? I've got several of our seeds in pots now. 26 to be exact. I've been surprised that among the first to sprout were the Morning Glory seeds. They are 10 years old and apparently were just aching to turn into vines and flowers. They are all in pots now and one is actually poking it's head out of the soil.

Also sprounted: 10 year old Cosmos; and fine new heirloom seeds of cucumber, zucchini, squash, and snap beans.

Look close - you can see them peeking at you!

Here's that eager Morning Glory. They are called Scarlet O'Hara's. I'm expected big color from them...

That's it for today. I need to encourage Kent to get to bed (tomorrow he's up at 3:00 am) and then I'm going to spend some time in my sewing room. I'm pretty sure it's been feeling neglected.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring is in the air

It may be snowing and blowing outside but in my mind and heart, spring is sprung. After determining what I want for the greenhouse garden and landscaping, including some extra for Stephanie and Kathy, and then planning for some duds, I was ready to soak those little bits of promise and jump start the germination process.

Here they are getting their spa treatment, 21 different plants, 180 seeds, hand counted and placed in water. Later, after their various appropriate soaking times, they will go on to

The damp paper towel phase, where they will be kept damp and warm until they begin to sprout. Here are some of them in their blankets and baggies. I'm keeping them on an outer stone shelf of the fireplace mantle where they can stay warm but not too warm. Each day I will check their progress and plant (carefully, employing tweezers and patience) each one as they are ready.

Once they are in soil, they will go up to our office where we have converted the work table into a grow zone. Lights will be hung directly above the pots and then raised little by little as the plants begin to grow, keeping the light as close as possible.

Tonight I prepared a computer file of labels for the plants. I will print the 180 labels and, using a great idea from Kent, use packing tape and skewers to turn the labels into weather resistant pot markers.

I'm getting very hopeful for this years veggies. I think some of our new techniques will really help make a difference. I've also been hauling extra water to the greenhouse whenever I tend the rabbits and pouring it onto the winter dry beds. We won't be able to turn our hose bib on for a while yet. (I figure we still have 7 weeks during which it can snow at any time.)

I said to Kent as I was working with the seeds that, had botany been properly presented to me as a youth, I could have become quite obsessed. What an amazing miracle that all the information and fertility needed to grow a plant and produce fruit in kind is contained in that tiny, tiny bit of dry kernel. Some of them are so small I don't know exactly how I will maneuver them even with tweezers.

April (snow) showers bring my flours

out of the cupboard for cookie baking!

Yes, it's another windy, snowy day here in the mountains of Colorado. Looking outside it's hard to believe that spring is anywhere in the vicinity. But my daughter calls me from Denver to say that it's much nicer down there.

It's been blowing so hard today that the snow is coming in around the storm door and sticking to the front door. Chilly, too!

So I mixed up a batch of "New Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies". These are super yummy with my own milled whole wheat flour, rolled oats, sunflower seeds, crushed toasted almonds, sesame seeds, and raisins. With a salty-sweet flavor and lots of toasted nut.

You want one, don't you?

Resurrection Sunday

I'm trying to go chronologically with my pictures here...

Stephanie came up on Saturday to visit and spend the night. She and I had a great time together and enjoyed working together in the kitchen, as well. I had already baked the Lambie cake and this year she decorated it for the first time. For those of you who may not know, it's become tradition that I make this Lambie cake each year. I use the pan that was Grandma Robinson's and I even have the original Lady Baltimore cake recipe for it. I figured it was time for Steph to begin prepping for the day when she takes over responsibility for this family tradition. She did a wonderful job!

We went to church as a family (Kent, Stephanie and I) and it was also the 1 year birthday of our church, Hands of the Redeemer Community Church. It was a wonderful celebration of the resurrection with about 30 in attendance.

Afterwards we came home to host a gathering of family and friends. In attendance were Ken and Perla, Kathy, Sam and Jessie with little Tristan, and Kent, Stephanie and me. You can probably tell that Ken was looking forward to getting into that cake.

A close-up of Steph's masterpiece - she got the lamb good and woolly with raisin eyes and a bit of dried papaya for the nose.

And Kathy enjoyed Tristan, who is just a couple months younger than our Sam.

We had a wonderful time visiting and telling stories

We were so glad to have the Mazurek's with us

And Kent enjoyed the little guy too...