...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.


Seasonal Comforts

photo courtesy of Snapping Beauty

I saw a cluster of daffodils poking their necks a few inches out of the ground last Saturday.  I couldn't believe it!  With the additional snow days we've had lately I was beginning to think spring was at least a couple of months away.  Next week I will begin starting my garden seeds and stagger them every week or so until I can plant outside.  This Saturday is "Seed Dating," a city-wide Seed Exchange where I'm planning to pass along some seeds I have from last year that I either have too many of or that didn't work out in my garden space.  And I'm hoping to supplement the stock I already have with a couple new varieties for this season.  Soon I will also begin sketching my garden design.  Though my three-month "winter break" has flown, I believe I'm ready to get growing again.  Everywhere I walk in our neighborhood I see things that make me think of summer.  I can almost smell backyard barbecue wafting through the air.  I'm looking forward to picnics and concerts in the park, rummage sales, farmers' markets, going barefoot around the house and yard, my bi-weekly morning therapy of hanging laundry outside, and spontaneous bike rides to the ice cream parlor (sorbet for me, please.)

My favorite chili
Next week Vera and I are taking a road trip to see Grammy and Papa in my hometown in east central Illinois.  To break up the trip we're stopping in Chicago to see a couple friends and their newborns--well, one was born in July, but it's the first chance I've had to visit.  When Vera was born so many wonderful people brought us meals for weeks and weeks postpartum.  I'm still paying it forward so today I cooked a pot of my favorite chili to deliver on Sunday.  I adapted the recipe and partially subbed a pint of my preserved green tomatoes where the recipe called for tomatoes.  

The pantry is slowly emptying out.  We still have plenty of canned fruits, juices, pickles, and tons of jams and jellies.  But I'm already getting excited about what I'm going to preserve this summer and considering moving my fabric stash out of the other side of the basement pantry to accommodate my 2011 goals.  Soon I'll be in the thick of gardening and preserving and wondering how the weather suddenly got so hot.  One of the items still plentiful in the pantry is canned plums.  I've been using them mostly in smoothies, but last night I baked them into something sweet for a potluck.

Oat Crisp Bars with Preserved Plums
About 12 bars

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

Final Crisp--not too sweet
5 c. gluten-free oats, divided
1/4 c. brown rice syrup
1/2 c. sorghum syrup, divided
1 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 t. salt
1 t. vanilla extract (or vanilla sugar)
3 1/2 c. preserved plums (pulsed briefly in a food processor)
1/4 c. potato starch

Place 2 c. oats in a food processor and pulse until oats resemble fine oat bran.  Set aside.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In the bowl of an electric mixer with paddle attachment, combine reserved "oat flour," the remaining 3 c. oats, brown rice syrup, 1/4 c. sorghum syrup, olive oil, salt, and vanilla until thoroughly combined, about 3 min.  Firmly press two-thirds of the dough onto a 9- by 12-inch baking sheet. Bake until light brown, about 15 min.  While the dough is baking, combine the plums, potato starch, remaining 1/4 c. sorghum syrup in medium-size bowl.  Evenly spread plum mixture over baked oat crust.  Crumble the remaining one-third of the dough over the plums, pressing it down firmly.  Bake until golden crust forms, about 40 min.


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