...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


Sunday Dinner

We hosted a very special Sunday dinner this past weekend.  We finally cracked open some pretty old bottles of wine that had moved with me three or four times.  I don't know what I'd been waiting for--probably the right opportunity to gather some appreciative wine and food-loving friends...and a point in time when I either wasn't pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or more seriously nursing.  These weren't wines I was just going to open on a Thursday night and have one glass.  This needed to be an event.  It finally happened on what seemed like the hottest Sunday of the year.  We started with a beautifully golden 2003 Oremus Mandolas Tokaji Dry that I purchased after seeing John Malkovich perform in Lost Land at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago.  We began dinner with a 1995 Joullian Cabernet Sauvignon from the Carmel Valley in Monterey, which I'd carried with me since I acquired it in college as a member of the California Wine Club--I later learned the Indiana liquor laws were under appeal at the time because I otherwise would never have been able to receive wine this way (and why was I subscribing to a monthly wine club when I was a poor college student surviving on stale graham crackers and water?)  Finally we decanted an autographed bottle of 1996 Chappellet Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa, which was a college graduation gift from a high school best friend--always thought I'd open it with him, but he no longer drinks.  So it was a little bit of history for me to go through this vintage selection and savor every sip.  They were all still very drinkable despite their ages.  I plan to record these in wine journal, which hasn't been actively used since the early naughts.

In preparing food for Sunday I had one thing in mind--not heating up the kitchen.  I made a one pot meal, sort of a rustic soup, with chicken we slow-cooked in the sun oven all day.  I also roasted some of our garden beets outside and grated them into a simple salad.  Our friends brought appetizers and dessert and we called in a meal.  We spoiled ourselves and dined inside, but finished with dessert al fresco--I love dining in our vegetable garden.

Grated Beet and Carrot Salad
Serves 4-6
Adapted from Janet Fletcher's Fresh From the Farmers' Market

3/4 lb. roasted or raw beets, peeled
1/2 lb. carrots, peeled
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
4 t. red wine vinegar
2 small cloves garlic, finely minced
salt and pepper to taste

Grate the beets and carrots (I used the grater plate on my food processor) and put into a mixing bowl.  Combine the remaining ingredients and whisk until combined.  Toss with the beets and carrots.  Season to taste.  Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Orange Chicken with Summer Vegetables
Serves 8
Adapted from One Pot

1 whole roasting chicken, seasoned and cooked, shredded (can sub. 2 lb. skinless, boneless chicken)
2 T. grapeseed oil
2 onions, cut into wedges
4 celery stalks, sliced in 1-inch pieces
1/4 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/3 c. orange juice
2 1/2 c. chicken or vegetable stock
2 T. soy sauce
1 T. honey
2 T. orange zest
2 bell peppers (any color), seeded and chopped coarsely
1 lb. zucchini or yellow summer squash, cut into half moons
4 ears corn, shucked and cut into 4 pieces each (a cleaver makes these easier to cut)
2 oranges, peeled and cut into segments ("supremes")
2 T. chopped fresh parsley to garnish

Set the cooked chicken aside.  Heat the oil in a large stockpot and cook the onion and celery over medium heat, stirring frequently, for 5 min., or until softened.  Add the flour and stir constantly for 2 min., then remove from the heat.  Gradually stir in the juice, stock, soy sauce, and honey followed by the orange rind, then return to the heat and bring to a boil, stirring.  Add the peppers, zucchini, corn, and simmer another 10 min.  Add the shredded chicken and orange supremes and heat about 5 more min.  Serve in bowls garnished with parsley.

The week before the dinner party we had some work done on our basement stairwell.  We found out that it was covered in lead paint and was an urgent project because our our 16-month-old daughter's health.  This wasn't a project we were able to do ourselves because of the safety regulations, but we had our trusty carpenter take care of it.  I missed taking the real before pictures of the gross green chipping paint and rusty nails that we'd hang our coats on.  Now it's a clean, bright area with new shoe cubbies where we can hang all the coats, bags, and other "chilch" (as Ben calls it) that we drag in the back door, as well as our shoes.  It's all part of our plan to make the most of our small space.

I'm also harvesting calendula flowers now.  I'd love to use them to die silk or wool one day, but for now I will dry them for herbal tea.  Calendula has many medicinal properties; it's good for diaper rash, cut and scrapes, as well as bug bites.  The flowers also make a beautiful arrangement.

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