...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.


Beet the Heat

Pattypan Squash Blossoms

We're cooped up indoors for a few days trying not to wilt, melt, suffocate, dehydrate, or whatever else this intense heat index could do to us. I'm thinking back to just a few days ago (like from my last post) when we were grilling outside and enjoying the lovely summer weather.  On Saturday I made some risotto with blossoms from our crazy-huge pattypan squash plants (the leaves are basically ENORMOUS natural solar collectors!)  I love squash blossoms--stuffed, chopped in risotto, battered and fried--but never want to sacrifice any potential squash that would grow from it.  I recently learned that I can have my cake and eat it too.  It's fairly easy to identify male versus female blossoms and just pick those that will not produce and offspring.  Yay!

Speaking of things reproducing (no, I'm not with child), I have been trying to utilize other vegetables in my garden that are going to seed.  I've so enjoyed the delicate wispy flowers on my cilantro plants lately, but realized I should pull them up to make room for the next succession of red beets, rutabagas, and fall radishes.  I salvaged what slightly bitter cilantro I could from the stems then arranged the flowers in a large vase, which sits cheerfully on the kitchen counter.  At first the smell of cilantro was quite intense, but it's died down and now I get to savor the last day or two of these teeny tiny flowers.  

"Bouquet" of Cilantro Flowers
Delicate White Blossoms
Working to make more "coriander seeds" as we know them
Bolted Spinach
ASC dried veggies
While we were on vacation two of my summer spinach varieties went to seed.  I left them in place for a while and continued to harvest greens to throw into smoothies, but finally again decided that they needed to go in order to make room for the next crop.  At the Cape, we visited the Atlantic Spice Company, which is not too far up the road from the LeFort place, but I'd never before stopped.  Aside from all the kitchen doo-dads and supplies, they sell bins and bins of loose tea and bulk spices.  I was inspired by the bags of dried spinach and leeks as well as the tomato powder.  In my mother's words I thought "I can make that!"  I bought a bag of both spinach and leeks--feeling as if I was smuggling home some huge pack of "green stuff" in the secret compartment of my suitcase--but I put that drying project on my to-do list anyway and found some time to follow through this past weekend.  I picked through the bolted spinach and roughly chopped it (tender stems and all) in the food processor, spread it onto the solid fruit-leather trays of the dehydrator and let it dry for the afternoon.  I've been saving dessicant packets from supplement bottles because I've heard of people using them to control moisture when storing certain vegetables or nuts.  Correct me if there's a major safety issue here, but I threw two of these packets in my Mason jar of dried spinach just to be sure it would remain dry.  I rendered a whole quart jar just from what I gleaned in about six row feet of my garden.  Nothing goes to waste!  I can use this spinach in the winter to add to soups, smoothies, casseroles, eggs, etc.

Spinach on the Dehydrator Tray
Full Quart of Dried Spinach
As the new preserving season moves on, I'm still working to rotate the frozen and canned items I have left in the basement.  I pulled a bag of frozen shredded red beets from the freezer and made a cake for our Saturday grill-out.  I'm still new to adapting wheat-flour based baking recipes to gluten-free.  This was another success.

Beet Chocolate Cake
Makes 10-12 servings (or if you have a hungry, chocolate-loving husband/family, you might get 6 servings!)

Adapted From the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition's From Asparagus to Zucchini cookbook.  I added some homemade applesauce to take the place of some of the oil as well.  There's a very small chance that your friends and family will detect the veggies in this cake.  Don't tell!  

Barely got a photo before it was GONE!
2 c. granulated xylitol (or sugar if you desire)
2 c. all-purpose gluten free flour
1/2 t. salt
4 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
4 oz. unsweetened chocolate (or 1/2 c. semi-sweet gluten-free/soy-free chocolate chips)
4 eggs (or 2 T. egg replacer diluted with 1/2 c. water)
1/2 c. applesauce
2 T. grapeseed oil
3 c. shredded red beets, raw
1/2 c. mini chocolate chips (gluten-free, soy-free)
Organic powdered sugar or your favorite chocolate frosting

Heat oven to 325 F.  Grease a 9x13" glass baking dish.  Whisk dry ingredients together.  Melt chocolate very slowly over low heat or in double boiler.  Cool chocolate; blend thoroughly with eggs/egg replacer, applesauce, and oil.  Combine flour mixture with chocolate mixture, alternating with beets.  Pour into pan.  Bake until toothpick can be removed from center cleanly, 40-50 min.  Let cool then frost or dust with powdered sugar (which I think makes it plenty sweet!)

There was actually a gently breeze off of the lake this morning that allowed me to stand the heat and do some deadheading, weeding, and pruning in the yard.  I recently read an article in Mother Earth News about garden mulches and had the idea that I could make my own from our tremendously prolific comfrey plants.  These medicinals become HUGE during the summer and are gradually taking over the front yard.  Today I chopped a lot of them down, spread them out on the tiny patch of grass left in the backyard and ran them over with the rotary mower until there was just a pile of leaves and stalks.  It isn't the prettiest looking mulch so I spread it around the base of my bean teepees and winter squash, which are tucked back in my favorite vegetable corner in the yard.  Hopefully the comfrey will keep down weeds in an area I can't very well climb into in order to weed and they will also nourish the soil as they break down.

I know I should just wait a few more days and the weather will change, but in the meantime I need to get some canning done.  I'm not crazy about doing that when the house in closed up.  I harvested a whole bucketful of mulberries from the park on Sunday and am eager to make jam.  Stay tuned for some wild berry jam in my next post.


1 comment:

  1. I made this today despite the heat. We only had a corner since it was still warm and before dinner time, but the Kiddo loved it. I used AP flour and reduced the baking powder (thanks to your tip at the class!). I was also out of unsweetened chocolate, so I subbed in cocoa powder (3/4 c. plus 1/4 c. coconut oil, melted with chips) and it worked brilliantly.

    Do you have a favorite mix for gluten free AP flour that you mix yourself? I'd be curious to mix up a batch to have on hand.