...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.


More Summer Recipes

Today is an ozone action day according to the weather forecasters.  We were outside this morning and had trouble sitting comfortably for even a few minutes.  It was a good day to hide out in the basement and finish the latest sewing project.  I am racking up Vera's 2-year-old wardrobe; it's been so much fun to sew dresses for her.  They don't require much fabric and they typically go very quickly.  I was tempted to call this the "bubble wrap dress" because for a good portion of sewing it, Vera sat and played quietly at my feet with a sheet of large bubble wrap.  This might just get my face on the homepage of horribleparents.com (a fictional website my sister and I refer to when we do something borderline "negligent" by parenting experts standards), but Vera had a blast and worked on her fine motor skills.  The rest of the time she wanted to sit on my lap and watch the sewing machine move and hum.  She likes to push all the buttons, turn the cranks, stick her fingers way too close to the working needle, and crawl up onto the sewing table to get pins, needles, and the seam ripper.  So you can imagine how long this lasts.  I actually think it's neat that she wants to sit with me when I sew.  When she's older, hopefully sewing projects of her own, she can say that she grew up sitting up my lap while I made clothes for her.  This dress was another super thrifty project: the pattern from my mom, the pink fabric from a discarded valance, and the patterned fabric an interesting vintage pillowcase that I deconstructed.  I love the main fabric and had a challenging time figuring out what to pair with it--a solid color to pick up the pink in its leaves, another bigger print to complement the greens, or a more subdued color to bring out the overall bright shades in it.  I am happy to have settled on the pink.  One day soon I will begin another project for myself.  New patterns can be expensive so when the craft store had a deeeeep discount on patterns the other week, I stocked up.  Occasionally I treat myself.

Vera and "Peaches" the pig
"Chicken Dance"
I'm also still occupied with cooking the late summer harvest.  I canned more tomatoes this week and frozen lots more.  Here are a few new recipes I've tried.  The beet salad was my contribution to our CSA Open House this past Sunday at Pinehold Gardens.  Vera made lots of new friends--both human and animal--danced with a chicken, and went home with a million mosquito bites.  We really had a great time!

Beets and Cucumbers in Cream
Serves 4-6

Adapted from Vegetarian Delights by Barbara E. Echols.  I'd never cooked cucumbers before except for maybe in a soup.  If you drain the water from them, they hold up extremely well when sauteed.  Give them a nice brown color for a whole new dimension.

4-5 fresh medium beets, cooked and peeled, cut into cubes
2 large cucumbers, peeled and seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch slices
1 T. white wine vinegar
4 T. butter
black pepper
1 c. heavy (whipping) cream
2 T. sour cream or whole milk yogurt
3 T. minced fresh chives
lemon juice

Sauteed Cucumbers
Set beets aside in a bowl.  Place cucumber slices in a colander over a bowl.  Sprinkle with vinegar and salt and let stand 1 hour to drain.  Melt 2 T. butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add cucumbers and saute until lightly browned--about 4 min.  Remove cucumbers with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Reduce heat to low and add remaining butter, beets, and pepper.  Cook 4 min.  Stir in heavy cream and bring to boil.  Cook until cream is reduced to a thick sauce.  Be careful not to burn.  Add cucumbers, sour cream (or yogurt), and chives and cook 4 min.  Add lemon juice and additional pepper to taste.  Serve hot or cold.

Saturday night we used the fresh corn I bought at the farmers' market for this adapted Ecuadorian recipe.  The dairy garnishes were my addition--according to Ben, my local South American "expert," the natives would never do that.

Corn Stew
Serves 4-6

3 carrots, peeled and diced
3 large potatoes, diced
4 T. vegetable oil
2 large onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
2 large, ripe plum tomatoes, cubed
1 T. sweet paprika
Leaves from 1 handful fresh oregano, minced
Handful fresh parsley sprigs, chopped
3 large handfuls swiss chard, stemmed and finely shredded (can sub. spinach later in the season)
4 ears fresh corn, cut off the cob
2 c. vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
Handful fresh cilantro leaves, chopped, for garnish
Sour cream of whole milk yogurt, to garnish (optional)
Shredded parmesan, to garnish (optional)

Blanch carrots and potatoes in salted boiling water until soft.  Drain.  Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat and saute onion, garlic, and chili until soft.  Add tomatoes, paprika, oregano, and parsley.  Stir well. Add carrots, potatoes, and swiss chard (or spinach).  Saute, stirring constantly, until the greens wilt.  Add corn and stock.  Cover and simmer until vegetables are nice and soft.  Add salt and pepper, then lightly mash the carrots and potatoes into the sauce.  Serve garnished with chopped cilantro, sour cream, cheese accompanied with crusty bread and a salad.

And lastly, I took another stab at this savory cheesecake last night.  Ben came home and said "Cheesecake!  For dinner?!  Really?"  I attempted to make this for my bridal shower, which I insisted on catering four years ago.  Of course, frantic as I was, I didn't allow enough time for it to cool and set so it was a disaster that ended up in the freezer (trying to quick chill) then in the garbage later.  I'm glad I tried again because it really is a decadent torte.  A small slice is all you need.  This could easily be made into mini cheesecakes for hors d'oeuvres as well.

Basil Cheesecake
Serves 12

1 T. butter
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated
2 1/2 c. fresh basil
1/2 c. fresh parsley
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 t. salt
1 clove garlic
1 lb. ricotta cheese, room temp.
2 lbs. cream cheese, room temp.
1/2 lb. parmesan cheese, grated
5 eggs
1/2 c. pine nuts, lightly toasted

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Butter bottom and sides of a 10" springform pan.  Mix bread crumbs and 1/4 c. parmesan cheese.  Sprinkle mixture into pan, turning to coat completely.  Mix basil leaves, parsley, oil, salt, and garlic in food processor until smooth paste forms, about 2 min., scraping sides occasionally.  Put ricotta cheese, cream cheese, and parmesan in a mixer bowl and mix until smooth, about 2 min.  Mix in eggs.  Remove about 1/3 of this mixture to a small bowl.  Into original 2/3 cheese mixture, fold in the basil mixture until well blended.  Pour the basil mixture into the prepared pan and carefully spread an even layer of the cheese mixture on top.  Sprinkle with pine nuts.  Set pan on a baking sheet.  Bake 1 1/2 hours.  Turn oven off and cool cheesecake about 1 hour with oven door slightly ajar.  Transfer to a rack and cool completely.  Serve at room temp. or slightly warmed.

"Hmmm, I think this one looks good."
We're hoping this heat breaks soon--perhaps this weekend.  Vera absolutely loves being outdoors.  Lately she's tried to be helpful by picking tomatoes.  Most of them are tiny and green, but I don't want to discourage her from being in the garden.  Luckily tomatoes can still ripen after picking, of course, so it's not a complete loss.

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