...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.


Harvest Time

Rattlesnake Pole Beans
Lincoln Leeks
Golden Beets
I decided this past week that although we've had beautiful, fairly warm weather for this time of year, I have to start wrapping things up around the garden or I'll be frantically trying to squeeze it all into a weekend in the next month.  I picked the rest of the Rattlesnake pole beans from the trellis, shelling the already dry ones and leaving the rest to dry completely in a sunny window.  Today I harvested all the leeks and mature red and golden beets (another succession of beets is still in the ground.)  When I show people my garden they always ask how I find the time to manage it all season; "how much time do you spend every day?" is a common question.  To be honest, on an average day during the growing season I don't spend more than 30 minutes actually "working" in the garden.  I weed early and often, harvest little baskets of vegetables here and there depending on what I need for cooking (or more if I'm preserving), and plant successions in small spurts.  But this time of year, harvest time, I definitely spend more time in the garden and yard.  Harvesting vegetables then cleaning and weighing them took about an hour and a half this afternoon.  This week I'll probably spend another couple of hours, at least, planting garlic, Egyptian walking onions, raking, and putting away trellises and pots.  This was the first year I grew leeks and I was extremely pleased with the yield.  They weren't the most robust leeks I've seen, but they produced well enough to provide all the leeks we'll need all winter.  I enjoyed watching these perky little green stalks share a bed with my kohlrabi and now fall beets and radishes.  In fact, I already miss seeing them in the raised bed.  My mind often wanders when I'm left to a menial or repetitive task so as I was cleaning and trimming these alliums--snipping the root hairs about a 1/2-inch below the base--I was somehow reminded of the successful, but short-lived dog grooming business my mom and I had when I was a kid (our regular groomer, a local clown--think manicured show poodles--skipped town after her messy divorce from a fellow clown.  We were out of a qualified trimmer so we proactively picked up our own clippers...but I digress.)  I also harvested more side shoots of broccoli today.  It's the first year I've grown broccoli and I've been so impressed with its production.  Since harvesting the main heads, the side shoots have been crazily producing many more individual florets.  There's nothing like having fresh, crisp broccoli to use right from the garden.  My favorite way to use it is in an egg dish like quiche or an omelet.
Broccoli Florets
I thought I was done preserving for the season, but on Friday I acquired a grocery bag of red bell peppers from our farmers at Pinehold Gardens.  According to them I underestimated the time it would take me to write recipes for their CSA newsletter this season so they've been generously giving me surplus vegetables.  I think it's a great barter.  I julienned and froze half of the peppers, but chose to roast and can the rest.  I prefer to roast them directly over the flame of my gas stove.  It helps to ventilate the kitchen if you choose this method.  The charred skin you'll peel off is a great carbon source for your compost.  I must say I've been most excited about this preserving projects.  Hopefully these will be better than the slimy store-bought things Ben's been so turned off by in the past.

Roasted Red Peppers with Lemon Juice
Makes about 3 pint jars

Adapted from Canning for a New Generation by Liana Krissoff.  Anyone who's taken my preserving classes has heard me say that it's not safe to can something in oil and expect it to be shelf-stable.  In this case, because there is plenty of added acid (lemon juice and vinegar), it's a safe recipe.  But if you choose to make a straight herb-infused oil, you must refrigerate it.

Flame-roasted Red Peppers
4 lbs. red peppers (about 10)
1 c. bottled lemon juice
2 c. white wine vinegar (6% acidity)
1 c. extra-virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 t. pure kosher salt

Roast peppers directly on a gas burner or under the broiler until blistered all over, turning them frequently with tongs.  Place in a sealed plastic bag or covered bowl and let steam at least 10 min.  Peel and seed the peppers, rip or cut them into large sections or strips.

Canned Roasted Red Peppers
In a wide 6- to 8-quart pan, combine the lemon juice, vinegar, oil, garlic, and salt.  Bring just to a boil.  Prepare canning jars and lids.  Heat water in canning kettle.  Heat jars if not already hot.  Pack roasted peppers into jars and ladle in hot liquid, leaving 1/2-inch headspace at top.  Remove air bubbles; wipe rim with damp paper towel.  Place lids and rings on jars.  Tighten lids until they are just fingertight.  Load kettle jar rack, submerge, making sure the water is covering the jar--ideally by 1-inch.  Bring to a boil, process for 15 min.  Remove jars to folded towel on countertop and let cool completely.  After 1 hour, check that lids have sealed.  Label and store.

I spent most of today in the kitchen preserving, baking, and cooking.  I love days like this when I have the energy.  Tonight was the Packers v. Vikings game so I decided to make a big pot of chili for game time.  I'm one of those people who loves pro football (especially Superbowl) strictly for the food aspect--everyone wants something to nibble while they're keeping score.  Otherwise, I couldn't care any less about football.  This was a chili recipe I prepared for the last Superbowl, but I used shredded pork for that batch instead of chicken.  It's delicious either way.

Three-Bean Chicken Chili
Serves 6

Adapted from Martha Stewart Living magazine.  I used some of our dried rattlesnake beans along with black and fava beans for a variety of texture.  It was a pleasure to go outside and cut fresh cilantro from the garden this time of year.  It's still going strong.

Rattlesnake, Black, and Fava Beans
1 T. coconut or grapeseed oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped (about 3 c.)
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 green bell pepper or poblano pepper, chopped
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 3/4 lbs.)
3 t. ground cumin
2 t. chili powder
1 t. dried oregano
1 dried bay leaf
16 oz. mild salsa (home-canned or store-bought)
1/2 c. diced green chilies
3 1/2-4 c. chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 t. salt
4 c. cooked beans, drained and rinsed
freshly ground black pepper
2 oz. sour cream for garnish (optional)
Shredded cheese, for garnish (optional)
Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish (optional)

Finished Chili
Heat oil in large stockpot and saute onions, garlic, and peppers, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 min.  Raise heat to medium, and add chicken, cumin, chili powder, oregano, and bay leaf.  Cook, stirring frequently, until chicken is seared on outside and coated thoroughly with spices, about 10 min.  Add salsa and green chilies, and stir to combine.  Cook 5 min.  Add stock, salt, and beans; season with black pepper, stir to combine.  Cover; simmer.  Stir contents, then replace lid to partially cover pot.  Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook until chili is thickened and chicken is tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 1/2 hours.  Divide among bowls; garnish as desired.  Serve immediately.

Many people have been asking me what to do with all that winter squash coming in lately.  Last night I made more of my Chili-Carrot-Tomatillo Soup, but substituted carnival squash for the carrots.  It purees into a beautifully creamy soup and is great with a dollop of plain yogurt.

This weekend I finally picked up my knitting again.  It feels so great!  I'm currently finishing a short-sleeved cardigan for myself.  I started this last spring and stopped just as I was starting the first sleeve.  When I picked it up again Friday night, it took me the whole night to figure out where I'd left off in the pattern.  Whew!  Nothing like a good mental challenge to start the knitting season.  I also started an easy pullover sweater for Vera last night.  My friend Beth who blogs at At the End of This Row inspired me with her one-year vow to not buy any new yarn.  All of her projects since then have been classified as "stash busters."  I love that concept and have decided to try it myself--not that I buy a lot of new yarn to begin with (I'll share my secrets in a later post), but I do have a hutch full of odd skeins in my basement craft corner.  I can't wait to get to the bottom of it and see how many projects I can create.  I'm guessing that most of them will be for Vera since garments her size don't require much yarn.  One last project I had started last spring was a purl-stitch cardigan for Vera.  I was getting frustrated with it back in April because the pattern was missing a step or two--not the first time I've come across badly written knitting patterns (almost as annoying as badly written cookbooks.)  Instead of seeking out a local knitter to help me sort through the book's mistake, I've decided to abandon the project and disassemble it.  In coming to this conclusion, I was reminded of my sister's dedication to baking.  She'll call and leave a message on a night I'm teaching a class, I don't get it until 10 PM--too late to return her call in a later time zone--so I call her in the AM to find out she'd wondered about substituting an ingredient in a baking recipe, but she was already halfway through the recipe so decided to throw out the whole cake.  Sounds like she missed the memo on "mise en place," though I'm realizing I should put everything in place before beginning a craft project as well.

Entrance to the LUH backyard garden
Vera and I were out for our daily walk one day last week, loving all the fall colors.  I realized that the gods must erase our memories of the beauty of years past because each year it's like I've forgotten just how amazing and glorious each season can be.  I'm loving the purple of the New England Aster juxtaposed with the red of the Staghorn Sumac leaves all against the backdrop of the trees' oranges and golds.  Gorgeous!  I'll enjoy it as long as I can.

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