...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.


Fall Events...Chilly Weather...and Comfort Food

I'm in the thick of preparations for next weekend.  I don't believe I've mentioned it yet, but on Friday, Oct. 1, I am preparing "A Soulful Meal with Anna Lappe" to kick off the weekend's Nourishing Community, Creating Sustainability event at the Unitarian Universalist Church West in Brookfield.  Then Saturday afternoon, Oct. 2, I've been asked to set up a booth in the Homegrown Village at Farm Aid 25: Growing Hope for America, where I will focus on food preservation within a display of our urban homestead.  I'm very excited to share a booth with my friends from the Victory Garden Initiative!

"Combing the berries"
Aside from event preparations, I've finished planting the fall garden--lots of lettuce, mesclun, mustard greens, cilantro, spinach, and more beets.  Some of the mustards are already popping up.  I've also finished processing all the elderberries we picked last weekend.  I laid them out in the basement on Tues. so they could get a little air circulation before I had time to pick through them.  Then I used a wide-toothed comb (purchased just for this purpose) to pick the berries off the stems.  Not only does this expedite the process, but it keeps your hands from getting so stained from the juice (though lemon or lime juice is good for removal.)  Earlier this week I made three quarts of elderberry syrup, which we'll take daily as a supplement to chase away winter colds and flu.  Tonight I finished bottling the elderberry cordial--using random glass bottles I'd saved, I have 1 gallon (two empty growler jugs) and another liter (the empty brandy bottle after using it to make the liqueur).  These will all store well at room temperature in the basement and can, in fact, improve with age.  Good thing, b/c we'll be drinking it through the next decade there's so much (actually, I see this as a strong bartering tool for the future.)  I can already picture us sipping a little of this liqueur on a cold winter night, to celebrate the holidays, or as an ingredient in a new cocktail on which I'll have to start working.  
Bubbling and gurgling elderberries

This week was also about comfort food--maybe because the weather started getting quite chilly.  Last weekend's ham turned into this week's ham loaf.  I haven't always been a fan of ground ham.  In fact, even when I worked at Sanford and Sandy D'Amato's dad, Sam, would fix his famous ham salad and share with the whole staff, I just couldn't stomach it.  But I've turned a corner and now I quite enjoy this sweet-salty comfort food.  

Ham Loaf
Serves 8

Adapted from Like Grandma Used to Make

1 1/2 lbs. ground cooked ham (I chop it in the food processor)
1 lb. lean ground prok
3/4 c. crushed graham crackers (I like to use half breadcrumbs so it's not quite so sweet)
1/2 c. whole milk
1/4 c. shredded carrot (you can easily shred/chop both carrots and onion in the food processor)
1/4 c. finely chopped onion 
1/4 t. black pepper
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c. ketchup
1/4 c. firmly packed brown sugar
2 T. vinegar
1/2 t. onion powder

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large bowl, mix the ground ham, ground pork, crackers, milk, carrot, onion, pepper, eggs.  In a shallow baking pan, shape the meat mixture into a 9x5-inch loaf.  Smooth the top.  Bake for 1 hour.  Drain off any fat.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine ketchup, brown sugar, vinegar, and onion powder.  Spoon half of the mixture over the meat loaf.  Bake for 15 to 30 min. more or until center registers at 170 degrees F on a meat thermometer.  Serve with remaining ketchup mixture.  

Green veggies for mac 'n cheese
I also made macaroni and cheese and snuck some extra veggies in there for Vera's sake.  I'm always feeling like she gets (and enjoys) more fruits than vegetables so sometimes I try disguising the veggies because anything green remains a challenge for her to eat.  This macaroni, even when reheated as leftovers, was nice and creamy.  

"Green" Macaroni and Cheese
Serves 12 (great as leftovers for the week)

Adapted from a recipe from Martha Stewart Living magazine.  I made it gluten-free and have made those notes at the end of the recipe.  Use the food processor to easily grate whole blocks of cheese.

1 stick unsalted butter, plus more for greasing dish
*6 slices bread, pulsed into crumbs in the food processor

1 small zucchini, ends trimmed
3-4 kale leaves, torn apart (middle vein left in)
1/2 red bell pepper, cut into quarters
5 1/2 c. whole milk
*1/2 c. all-purpose flour
2 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 t. ground black pepper
1/4 t. cayenne pepper, or to taste
4 1/2 c. (about 18 oz.) cheese--I recommend mixture of blue, cheddar, and muenster; grated
1 1/4 c. (about 5 oz.) freshly grated parmesan cheese
*1 lb. pasta (shells, elbow macaroni, penne, etc.), cooked 2-3 min. less than directions, drained and rinsed under cold water

Heat oven to 375 degrees F.  Butter a 3-quart casserole dish; set aside.  Place bread crumbs in bowl, melt 2 T. butter and pour over bread crumbs, toss; set aside.  In the food processor, fitted with the blade attachment, pulse the vegetables until well chopped; set aside.  In medium saucepan over medium heat, warm milk.  Melt remaining 6 T. butter in small stock pot over medium heat.  When butter bubbles, add flour.  Cook, stirring, 30 sec. Add chopped vegetables and cook 1 min.  While whisking, slowly pour in hot milk.  Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until mixture bubbles and becomes thick.  Remove pan from heat.  Stir in salt, spices, 3 c. cheese mixture, and 1 c. parmesan cheese; set cheese sauce aside. Stir pasta into reserved cheese sauce.  Pour into prepared dish.  Sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 c. cheese mixture, 1/4 c. parmesan, and bread crumbs over top.  Bake until browned on top, about 30 min.  Transfer dish to wire rack to cool 5 min.; serve.

*For gluten-free option:  
For bread crumbs, substitute dehydrated vegetables (pre-made mixtures are sold in natural food stores) and pulse until finely ground in a food processor.  For all-purpose flour, sub. some type of gluten-free flour (sorghum, garbanzo, brown rice, etc.)  For pasta, sub. gluten-free pasta.  I was very impressed with how it held up in the leftovers; there was no texture difference.


  1. There are also some great GF bread crumbs available ENER-G makes good ones and I recommend a GF mix for the flour. Bob's Red Mill has all-purpose GF baking flour that is a mix of various kinds of GF flours and substitutes well for things like this.

  2. What a great idea for the elderberries-- with the wide toothed comb! I wish that I had read this before I hand picked the little buggers off, from my harvest. It surely would have saved me a lot of time and prevented me from having purple fingers!

    clever indeed.

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