...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.


Local Food in the Depths of Winter

It's the time of the year when I clean out the fridge and find local root vegetables that are slightly shriveled as they are drying out; I need to use them before I lose them.  The homegrown carrots that I
"cold stored" in our unheated front vestibule have done alright.  I learned from some farmer friends that besides the temperature, I needed to control (or at least try to add) moisture in the environment or these roots would dry out.  I kept a damp flour sack towel over the baskets of carrots, parsnips, turnips, and kohlrabi until I finally had room to transfer them to our fridge just a couple of weeks ago.  I actually needed to put them in the fridge at this point for thermal mass as I continue my quest to primarily use what I have on hand; the fridge stock dwindles.  Though I had to compost a couple handfuls of carrots, I was happy with my first attempt to extend their shelf life without refrigeration.  I've also been chipping away at the stock of pumpkins, winter squash, potatoes, onions, and garlic we have cold-stored on a breathable rack in our basement.  Occasionally I have to toss a potato or a small squash into the compost, but overall they've kept well.  This winter we've been eating a lot of beans--it seems almost every day I have something soaking on the kitchen counter whether it's almonds for homemade milk or a variety of dried beans.  Monday has informally become soup night at our house.  Now I have two nights--Friday homemade pizza night and Monday soup night--that I at least have an idea about when I plan my weekly menus.  It's also good to start the week with a big pot of soup because it makes great leftovers to pack for lunches and enjoy on busy weeknights.

Root Vegetable and Bean Soup
Serves 4-6

1 c. dried beans (I used mung, homegrown rattlesnake, and coba beans)
1/4 c. dried tomatoes
2 c. water
1 large onion, chopped finely
1 T. coconut oil
1 medium rutabaga, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 small celeriac (celery root), peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground turmeric
1 t. curry powder
1 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. ground coriander
3 c. vegetable stock
1 c. coconut milk
2 T. lime juice
Salt and pepper, to taste
Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish, optional

Soak beans and dried tomatoes overnight.  Cook until soft, do not drain.  In a large pot, saute onion in oil  until soft, about 5 min.  Add rutabaga, celery, celeriac, and continue to cook for another 4-5 min.  Add garlic and saute another min.  Combine spices in a small bowl and add to vegetable mixture.  Add beans, water, and vegetable stock.  Simmer for 15-20 min. or until vegetables are tender.  Add coconut milk, lime juice and heat through.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve and garnish with cilantro, if desired.

The winter for us also means comfort food and what could be more comforting than Chicken Pot Pie?  This is an adapted version to fit my bill.  You could use the filling with a wheat flour crust as well or just eat it over homemade biscuits.

Chicken Pot Pie
Serves 4-6

I prepared this in a muffin tin and without a bottom crust thinking it would be easy to scoop each portion onto a plate.  Next time I will use ramekins or some kind of individual, oven-proof bowls so there is no need to transfer before serving.  The presentation would be much cleaner.

3 T. sunflower oil
1 c. chopped onion or leek
3/4 c. chopped celery
1/2 c. frozen peas
1/2 c. peeled, diced carrots
1 c. cooked, diced potatoes (leave the skins on for more nutrition)
1 c. chopped, packed greens (I used collards)
2 c. chopped chicken (used chicken thighs, cooked them w/ veg. trimmings to make my chicken stock)
3 T. gluten-free flour
1 c. chicken stock
1/3 c. almond milk
1 t. dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 gluten-free 9-inch pie crust (your choice if you use 1 or 2 crusts depending on presentation)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add onions, celery, cook until softened but not browned.  Add peas, carrots, potatoes, and greens and saute for 5 min.  Add chicken and stir until warmed throughout.  Sprinkle flour on mixture and stir thoroughly.  Add stock and stir until thickened slightly. Add milk and remaining ingredients, heat and stir until thickened.  Spoon mixture into pie crust (if using bottom crust).  Place crust on top and seal edges (if using bottom crust).  Bake for 30-40 min. or until pie crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling.

Standard gluten-free pie crust
Makes a single crust

Adapted from Flying Apron's Gluten-Free and Vegan Baking Book.

1 1/2 c. brown rice flour
1/4 t. sea salt
1/2 c. plus 3 T. coconut oil
1-2 T. cold water

In a food processor, combine flour and salt.  Add coconut oil and pulse until it forms small pea-sized crumbs.  Add water and process until dough comes together.  (You don't have to chill this dough before using.)

And let us not forget winter desserts.  I've been excitedly developing a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free cheesecake in my head.  It's easy to create a creamy vegan cheesecake using tofu, but since that's not on my menu these days I had to look further.  I originally thought I'd end up using coconut milk and gelatin, but found a recipe that uses neither.  I just enjoyed the first slice and I must say it hit the spot and satisfied my craving.

Pumpkin Cheesecake (Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Egg-Free, Soy-free)
Serves 12-16

Adapted from a recipe I found at Go Dairy Free.  The filling could easily be used for pumpkin pie as well.  

1 c. sorghum flour
1/2 c. potato starch (or arrowroot)
1/2 c. finely ground pecans
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. salt
1/4 c. coconut oil (room temp.)
5 T. water
1 T. maple syrup

1/2 c. millet
2 c. water
1 c. cooked, pureed pie pumpkin (halve, remove seeds, roast at 400 degrees for 30 min., scoop, puree)
1/2 c. raw cashews
1/2 c. maple syrup or honey (I recommend doing 1/2 and 1/2)
1 T. fresh sumac concentrate (or lemon juice)
1 t. ground cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/4 t. ground nutmeg

To cook the millet, rinse in a fine mesh strainer under running water for 1 min.  Place millet and 2 c. water in a small pot, cover, bring to a boil.  Turn heat to low and cook about 20 min. (or until water is absorbed).  Remove from heat.

For crust, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease spring-form pan or tart pan with removable bottom.  In a food processor combine flour, potato starch, pecans, cinnamon, and salt.  Add coconut oil and pulse until crumbs form.  Add water and maple syrup.  Form dough into a ball then press evenly into bottom of spring-form pan.  Bake about 15 min.  Let cool completely.

For filling, place pumpkin, cashews, maple syrup/honey, sumac/lemon juice and spices into high-powered blender (I use a vintage Vita-Mix.)  Blend until smooth and creamy.  Add cooked millet and blend again, adding a little water, if needed, scraping down the sides as needed.  Blend until very smooth.  Pour filling into cooled crust, spread around as needed.  Let cheesecake sit at room temp. for an hour then transfer to fridge until completely set, about 3 hours or overnight.  Remove from spring-form or 2-piece tart pan onto a serving plate.  Serve with homemade fruit preserves.

On cold, snowy winter days we cook cook cook.  I'm still also knitting knitting knitting.  I'm currently working ahead on two bonnets that will be gifts for a friend and neighbor who is expecting twin girls in the spring.  I'm trying to use up my stash of random yarn--I have a lot of single skeins that are perfect for quick and easy projects such as this.  The pattern is from my friend Beth at At the End of This Row.  Vera's been trying it on for me as I go along; I may just have to knit one for her after these are complete.

Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life Cover
photo courtesy of Powell's Books
I've also been reading more than usual and digging around at the library as I love to do.  I came across a beautiful cookbook, Lucid Food--Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life by Louisa Shafia, that I can relate to incredibly well.  Aside from tips on composting and buying local, she describes her waste-not lifestyle and wild foraging forays, both of which sounded very familiar.  I am constantly striving for low-impact in our kitchen and this book was a reminder of why we choose to live as we do and an inspiration to continue.  And by the way, I usually don't "read" cookbooks, but this one really grabbed me.

Last night was the final class of my beekeeping course.  Now I have to complete my take-home test, mail it in to get my certificate, and attend some weekend beekeeping demonstrations and symposia once the weather warms up.  As I mentioned, I will not be keeping our own hive this year, but I have had a couple of offers to observe and help with inspections at some friends' hives.  We're all feeling a bit overwhelmed and still trying to digest what we've learned in this three-day course.  I believe it's one of those things I'll finally grasp when I actually start doing it.  Though the first season might be a bit haphazard, I usually learn best by trying things for myself.  Now I just need to get Vera on the fast track for reading and writing so she can assist me in taking notes next year when I've doing high-noon hive inspections.  Ha!        


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