...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.


Riding That Train...

Domestic Honey Bee
(Courtesy of cirrusimage.com)

Trying to squeeze in one more post before I run away for a few days.  Ben has to work, but then he'll have a stay-cation. Vera and I are hopping the Amtrak this afternoon to head south for my class reunion.  Final destination: Paris, IL.  I thought I could try to pull in some sort of seasonal food reference for a reunion theme as there are fruit/vegetable combinations that only intersect briefly as fall becomes winter and they haven't seen each other since last year.  But I'll leave that idea alone for now.  Along with our high school reunion this weekend is the Paris Honeybee Festival, one of two big festivals with parades that hit the town annually.  Funny how the Honeybee Festival has new meaning for me now that I'm learning about beekeeping.  It was never confirmed, but there was always a rumor that the local beekeepers released so many bees into the wild around the time of this festival to make it more..."festive."  We certainly noticed it on the Paris Tigers tennis court as we swatted them with our rackets and darted them for dear life.  In hindsight--and with my new knowledge of honeybee interest and activity--I'm pretty sure those were yellow jackets and not at all the busy bees who make sweet honey.  I hope that I'll get the chance to see some of these critters close-up or taste some local bee products as I try to catch up with old friends this between today and Monday.

My short-cut week left me no choice, but to get all my preserving and cooking done early.  I kicked out a batch of Cardamom Apple Butter and some applesauce after our excursion to the orchard on Monday.  And yesterday I prepared a few pints of Salsa Verde with our garden's tomatillos and green tomatoes.  I also had an "ah-ha" moment yesterday with some beans.  I've been growing more beans for drying this year and have plucked and shucked them as they dry on the bushes.  The red limas have been quite productive given their limited growing space, but I'm also growing regular lima beans.  It just occurred to me yesterday that I should blanch and freeze some of these like the quick frozen variety you'd find in your grocer's freezer.  We have about a quart so far and there appear to be at least that many more still in the garden.  Should be enough to at least make a modest side dish of succotash for Thanksgiving.

Blanched Limas
Our early-in-the-week dinner party was a lot of fun.  Monday night dinner, who'd a thunk it?  We kept it simple and enjoyed each other's company over wine and hearty food.  Vera loved all the attention, but I'm sure she would have been twice as happy if our friends had brought their kiddos.  The dessert sort of developed as I went along and I decided I'd share the recipe here.

Blonde Gingerbread with Brandied Peaches (Gluten-Free)
Serves 12

Adapted from Process This! by Jean Anderson.  Easy to prepare and dress up.  The photo here shows it with a dollop of Cardamom Apple Butter and ice cream.

Perfect cool-weather dessert
1 c. brandied peaches, chopped (I used home-canned, you could substitute just about any fruit here) Reserved juices from brandied peaches
1 3/4 c. gluten-free all purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. xanthan gum
1 c. xylitol or granulated sugar
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. coconut oil (or butter), melted
1/4 c. vegetable oil
3 T. sorghum syrup
1 extra large egg
1 t. pure orange oil (or 2 t. orange extract)
1 t. baking soda
1 c. buttermilk
Extra brandied peaches for garnish
Vanilla Ice Cream
Toasted Hickory Nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease and flour 9 x 9 x 2-inch baking pan well.  Place brandied peaches in large mixing bowl and set aside.  Pulse flour, sugar, spices, and salt in food processor 3-4 times to combine, then transfer to bowl of peaches.  Toss peaches in dry ingredients until evenly dredged, then make well in center of dry ingredients.  Add melted coconut oil/butter, sorghum syrup, egg, and orange oil/extract to food processor.  Quickly stir baking soda into buttermilk, pour down feed tube, and pulse 4-5 times until all ingredients are well blended.  Pour sorghum mixture into well in dry ingredients and gently fold wet ingredients into dry--okay if floury specks show, they'll disappear during baking.  Pour batter into prepared pan and spread to corners.  Bake until springy and tester inserted in center comes out clean, 35-40 min.  Cool to room temp.  Cut into large squares and serve in with extra chopped peaches, a little of the brandied peach juice (put in bottom of serving bowl), a scoop of ice cream and toasted hickory nuts.

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