...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.


Back to Work on the Homestead

Georgia Peaches for canning
I hit the ground running last week after vacation. It felt like the most difficult readjustment from vacation that we've ever experienced. Once I got the jungle of our garden tamed, I spent most of the weekend in the kitchen cooking, preserving, drying, and taking stock of what par items were needed. At one point Ben walked through the kitchen and said "this kitchen is getting used and abused this weekend!"  (I'm earning my new one next winter.)  I also found time to hunt for mulberries in the park and make some cupcakes on the side. Even though I've been given a green light to add a bit of dairy and eggs back into my diet, I've decided that I like the idea of continuing to bake vegan once in a while. And believe it or not, the champagne I used for these cupcakes was still left over from the "expired" stuff we popped open on New Year's Eve.

GF, Vegan Strawberry Champagne Cupcakes
Makes 1 dozen cupcakes

You could use any kind of seasonal berries for this recipe: blueberries, raspberries, mulberries, etc.  The consistency of these cupcakes is very fluffy considering they are GF.  I was extremely pleased with the texture.

Beautiful pink batter
1 3/4 c. all-purpose gluten-free flour
3/4 c. xylitol (or unbleached cane sugar)
2 T. tapioca flour
1 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1 t. xanthan gum
1/2 t. salt
1 c. whole strawberries, sliced
3/4 c. dry champagne
1/4 c. grapeseed oil
2 t. vanilla extract
1 t. red wine vinegar

For Strawberry Champagne Frosting:
1/2 c. coconut oil, room temp.
1 1/2 T. strawberry puree (reserved from above)
3/4 t. vanilla extract
3-3 1/2 c. organic powdered sugar, sifted
3 T. dry champagne

6 fresh strawberries, cut into quarters, for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line 12-cupcake tine with liners.  Puree all strawberries in food processor until smooth consistency, reserve 1 1/2 T. for frosting and pour remaining into medium-sized bowl.  Add   remaining wet ingredients and whisk together.  Slowly add wet ingredients to dry while whisking together.  Mix well.  Scoop batter into prepared cupcake tin.  Bake for 20-22 min. or until toothpick slides out smoothly (cupcakes should rise and brown nicely on top.)  Let cool in tin (out of the oven) for 5 min., then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.  Frost and garnish each with 2 quarters of strawberries. Enjoy!

For frosting:
I used coconut oil, but the original recipe called for a vegetable spread.  My frosting separated slightly after a while, but if eaten right away (for a party), it would be fine.

Use electric mixer to beat together coconut oil/vegetable spread, remaining strawberry puree, and vanilla for about 1 min.  Add powdered sugar and champagne.  Beat for 2-3 min. until light and fluffy.

Though it was a blazing hot weekend here, I found the need to have a big food preservation session and heat up the whole house. Ugh!  But it's certainly worth the sweat.  I picked up two cases of Georgia peaches before our trip from Tree-Ripe, a fruit truck from the south that brings fresh peaches, citrus, and pecans to our area in season.  Though it's not local, it's from a small family farm in its own area.  To be honest, getting peaches this way is about the only way I can handle canning them because the local peaches aren't ready until August and by that time I'm knee deep in preserving other fruit and the garden's overabundance.  This way I can distribute the work.  Yesterday I put up 17 1/2 quarts of canned peaches in a very light syrup (using xylitol as my sweetener).  We also grilled some of these fresh stone fruits and enjoyed them on a salad with mixed greens from our garden, a Dijon vinaigrette, shaved Parmesan, toasted almonds, garlic scapes, and some nasturtium flowers.  

Grilled Peach Salad
I also finally had a chance to use the very prolific daylilies in my yard.  Last year just after the daylilies finished a local food friend gave me some information about eating and preserving daylilies, which she's been doing for years.  The article she forwarded was from 1990, scanned from The Business of Herbs: The International News and Resource Service for Herb Businesses.  I can't seem to find a digital copy of this resource, but there are certainly other sources online.  The night we got home from our trip I had very little food in the fridge to draw from until I went grocery shopping.  But I did have a whole clump of daylilies out front that I knew I could use to make fritters.  They accompanied some bunless grass-fed beef burgers and our grilled peach salad.  The original recipe suggests that they could be eaten for breakfast like pancakes and I would agree.  I might also chop up the flowers next time for ease of biting (especially for a toddler.)  But overall, I was pleased with this new edible and the following day I dried more of the blooms in the dehydrator then ground them into dust to use--according to my local food friend--as a thickener in place of cornstarch or as a local substitute for saffron to add color to a dish. The flowers keep coming so I'll be drying them for weeks.  (Without a dehydrator, one can also oven dry  at 200 degrees until dry enough to grind.)
Daylily "powder"
Daylily Fritters
Though the daylilies grow in my yard, I still consider them sort of wild because I'm not really "cultivating" them in any way.  The same goes for my wild grapevines, which have now formed a gorgeous living fence on the south side of our backyard.  I have been trying to keep them trimmed back this year, especially because I've noticed many grapes actually forming for the first time.  If they are able to reach for enough light maybe we can add them to the very meager fruit harvest I'm expecting this season (at least my gooseberries are still in tact after our vacation.)  I used some of the trimmed grape leaves to make preserved pickled grape leaves yesterday.  Can't wait for a mid-winter meal of dolmades with rice and lamb.  

Blanched Grape Leaves, ready for rolling and packing
Packed and ready for lemon juice brine, processing
One beautiful pint--60 grape leaves

Vera patiently playing w/ play dough
It's Monday and I feel back on track with my routine.  A very rainy morning gave us some time to hide out in the basement and do some crafting.  Vera sat patiently for over an hour playing with her Play Dough while I FINALLY reworked the zipper into my "party dress."  I called my mom for advice a few weeks ago and nearly forgot her wise words before I got back at it this morning.  Let's just put it this way, she's a sewing goddess and her trick worked like butta.  Thanks Muzz!  I attached the hook and eye above the zipper, hemmed it--I'm finally getting better at machine-sewing a blind hem--and other than a final press, it's ready for dancing this fall at some weddings!  Now on to another dress for Vera though this one will be 3T so it won't likely fit her until next year.  Our local chapter of the Holistic Moms Network had a kids clothing swap yesterday where I picked up lots for this fall and beyond so I don't need to be sewing any more 2T size.  

Party Dress--no waist, above the knee
Gray/Silver antique silk damask
Now to find the perfect shoes
The sun's finally coming out today.  We really needed the heavy rain this morning (mentally and physically).  Now we can move on to walking to the park to harvest more mulberries this afternoon.

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