...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.


What I Did on my Fall Stay-cation

I am down to the last couple of hours of my first, and much anticipated, stay-cation.  Ben and Vera headed down to the Chicago-area on Friday so that I could have a quiet weekend to do whatever I wanted.  It was the first time Vera was away from me overnight and I think we both fared well based on what Ben tells me.  Of course, I miss my two sweeties, but it's been great to catch up on things from my rainy day list and putz, which is an activity I've been famous for since high school.  If you know me, you understand that I don't easily sit still.  I did promise not to do any cleaning this weekend (which almost happened except I shampooed the couch last night), but otherwise I was ready to organize, pare down, and refresh--physically and mentally.  It began with a serious session of cleaning out my recipe file box on Friday, Saturday I started going through my notoriously extraneous basement files (articles, ideas, and clippings of things that may someday come in handy).  I purged A LOT, which felt great!  Saturday night I organized my closet after getting rid of several articles for an upcoming rummage; I also hung a doubler rod to prepare for Ben's move into my closet.  He's still using the closet in Vera's room, but it's proving to be more and more difficult as he often wakes her up in the morning when he gets his clothes.  So, yes, you heard me correctly, I am voluntarily welcoming my husband to share my small closet.  The last time we did so was at our two bedroom apartment downtown when we had a HUGE walk-in closet despite a smaller living space.  This time it felt good to get rid of things--seriously consolidate and simplify. I started reading a book lately about organizing one's home then quit after A) I realized it was more for the obsessive hoarding type who can't see their floor because of all the "stuff" and B) just reading the intro was enough to motivate me to be very generous in getting rid of things.  The author suggested that everything in one's home should be either functional or beautiful.  Can you think of anything in your home that doesn't fit that bill?  I could!  I was reading a great article this morning on Mother Earth News online about wabi-sabi, the Japanese art of imperfection.  I first came across the term in 2002 when I was working at a Japanese restaurant and in love with all things Japanese.  When I asked one of my Japanese co-workers what it meant, he had a hard time putting it into words.  Since then wabi-sabi has become more of a household term and I think it sums up very well how I like to decorate and why I appreciate antique stores.  According to the article's author I might consider myself a wabibito:

"Wabibitos live modestly, satisfied with things as they are. They own only what’s necessary for its utility or beauty (ideally, both). They revere humans over machines, surrounding themselves with things that resonate with the spirit of their makers. Wabi-sabi is imperfect: a beloved chipped vase or a scarred wooden table."

Here are some examples of wabi-sabi from our home:

One of today's projects was organizing the upright freezer in the basement, taking inventory of it along with my preserves pantry and creating my annual spreadsheet so we can see and check off to know what we have.  To make the freezer a bit more manageable, I purchased some baskets and such after reading an awesome article in Better Homes and Gardens last year about this daunting task.  I feel as though it was a success.  Time will tell.
Before Organization
After Organization

Fall Greens
Aside from ramping up for my staycation, this past week I was in the kitchen preparing meals from our garden--yes, it continues to grow.  We had our first killing frost on Friday night, but the swiss chard, radishes, rutabaga, and beets survived as well as the cabbage, cilantro, mustards, arugula, and turnips under the floating row cover I had put down as I awaited colder weather.  I did some gleaning early last week and managed to come up with a pretty decent fall green salad from red streaks mustards, pineapple sage, sorrel, and nasturtium leaves (spicy like their flowers).  This was the base for tossed salads as well a fresh accent to the high-protein vegetable wraps I've been making lately with sprouted grain tortillas.  I also dried a good amount of lemon balm for winter tea and adapted a salad using broccoli stems and carrots from our yard and more of my foraged pears.

Curry Pear and Broccoli Slaw
Serves 4-6

Adapted from a recipe in the Outpost Exchange magazine, November 2009.  Don't discard your broccoli stems, most of them--but an inch or so of woodiness at the bottom--are edible.

3 large carrots, trimmed and shredded
2 large broccoli stalks, trimmed and shredded
2 firm but ripe pears, trimmed and sliced thinly (about 1/4")
1/4 c. dried cranberries
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped
2 T. white wine vinegar
1 T. curry powder
2 t. honey
1 t. salt
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 c. roasted peanuts
pepper to taste

Place pears, carrots, broccoli, and cranberries in a large bowl and sprinkle with parsley.  In a blender, combine vinegar, curry powder, honey, salt and pepper.  While blending, add the olive oil.  Pour curry dressing over veggies, add peanuts, and toss gently to combine.  Serve immediately.

I also made some homemade catsup.  I missed the boat on making it from fresh tomatoes, but used the amazing slow-roasted tomato paste from Ruegsegger Farms.  The recipe is from Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious, which adheres to my recent efforts to sneak more veggies into Vera's diet.  Store-bought ketchup often contains a lot more than you might bargain for in the way of sugar and additives.  I'd always wanted to make my own.

Homemade Ketchup
Makes 1 c.

6 oz. tomato paste
1/2 c. carrot or squash puree
1/4 c. water
2 T. apple-cider vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 T. firmly packed light or dark brown sugar
1/2 t. dry mustard
1/4 t. salt
1 t. ground allspice
1/4 t. chili powder, or to taste

Stir all ingredients together in a big saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Reduce the heat and simmer until the mixture has reduced by about half, 10 to 15 min.  Let cool before serving or refrigerating.  Freezing also works well.

You may have heard me mention my urban homesteading journal.  One of the first entries in that book of ideas was a brainstorm of foods and ingredients that we use a lot that are not local, including oils, coffee, some fruits, etc.  On that list was peanut butter.  I had noted that I would try to "use less" as a solution, but last week I had a though about making a local substitute.  I thought, if roasted sesame seeds can be ground up to make tahini, why can't roasted pumpkin (or squash) seeds be ground up to make pumpkinseed butter?  I did a web search and found that a lot of people had tried this.  My first attempt was very coarse, but I believe I can tweak it to make a reasonable substitute.  Imagine growing your own "peanut butter" substitute!

Pumpkin/Squash Seed Butter
Makes about 2 c.

2 c. roasted pumpkin/squash seeds
3 T. vegetable oil (you could even take this opportunity to use flaxseed oil!)
Salt to taste

Put the seeds in a food processor and process until finely ground.  Add the oil gradually and process until smooth.  Add salt and pulse to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Store in the fridge or freezer.  Enjoy on crackers, vegetables, or fruit.  Try baking with it.

And I just realized I gained and hour last night--wasn't on a schedule today to notice...maybe I will finally sit down.

1 comment:

  1. You can eat squash seeds! Horray! I just cooked a perfectly good acorn squash in the slow cooker, and tossed the seeds because I was not sure! All they needed after slow cooking was a good wash and salting!