...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.


Fall Food, Tricks or Treats, and Living by Lists

Pickled Brussels--a little cloudy b/c I used dry mustard--
ran out of whole mustard seeds
I'm making pickled Brussels sprouts as we speak.  First time trying my hands at this canned product...I have an idea for a winter birthday present for a friend.  Stay tuned.  Otherwise, there has been a lot of warm, hearty cooking going on around here.  I feel like I've fully transitioned into fall/winter recipes though I'm tempted to buy one last round of tomatoes (if there are still some to be had) at the farmer's market today to make one last batch of preserves.

Chicken with Tomatillo Sauce and Braised Fruit
Serves 4

I recently learned that tomatillos are more of a fall variety--they don't set fruit in super hot weather.  Hopefully you can still sniff some out at a local farmers' market; I used tomatillos from our garden, which are dwindling.  I'm desperately plucking every last tiny one off the plants as I expect a freeze very soon.  The dried apricots were my home-dried version.  I love using cheaper cuts of meats/poultry and stewing/braising them into delicious hearty meals.

2 T. vegetable oil
8 chicken drumsticks, rinsed and patted dry
Salt and pepper
Dried oregano
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 t. chipotle pepper powder
2 lbs. tomatillos, husked, rinsed and quartered (or halved if using very small ones)
1 cinnamon stick
1 lb. pears, cored and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2/3 c. dried apricots
1/2 c. dried cranberries or cherries
3 green onions, chopped

Heat a stockpot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add oil and heat.  Add chicken and sprinkle with salt, pepper, and dried oregano.  Cook chicken until browned, about 5 min. per side.  Transfer chicken to plate.  Add onion to pot; saute 2 min.  Add garlic and chipotle powder; stir 1 min.  Stir in tomatillos and cinnamon stick; return chicken pieces to pot.  Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until chicken is cooked through, stirring occasionally, about 35 min.  Add pears, apricots, cranberries/cherries and simmer until pears are tender, stirring occasionally, about 15 min.  Transfer to serving dish; sprinkle with chopped green onions.  Serve 2 drumsticks per person along with a ladleful of the "stew" that this creates.
Ready to braise!
Dinner is served
I'm also well into winter squash mode and am marveling at all the varieties available at the farmers' market these days.  I just bought one (technically it's a "pumpkin") at the Fondy Farmers' Market last Saturday called Speckled Hound.  Never tried it, but very excited to do so.  When I see the brilliant orange-yellow-golden core of these hard-shelled fruits, I am either inspired to paint a room the same color or think about all the beta-carotene and other nutritious pigments helping my body (and my husband's and daughter's bodies) to grow, mend, and defend in this of cold seasons.

Red Kuri Squash and Shiitake Soup
Serves 4

Highly adapted from a recipe in Lucid Food by Louisa Shafia.  She used the beloved rutabaga where I used winter squash and carrots.  It's what I had on hand, but I'd love to try her variation as well.

2 c. dried or fresh shiitake mushrooms
5 T. olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 c. red kuri squash, peeled, seeded, and cubed
1 c. carrots, peeled and sliced
1/2 t. ground pepper
2 star anise
3 T. fish sauce
5 c. chicken or vegetable stock, divided
1/2 t.
3/4 T. dried ginger

(If using fresh shiitakes, you can skip this boiling step.)  Put dried shiitakes in a small pot, cover with water and boil 10 min. to rehydrate.  Let cool them slice and set aside (reserve 2/3 for soup and 1/3 for garnish).  Heat a stockpot then add olive oil and heat.  Add onions, garlic, squash, and carrots and saute 5 min. Add pepper, star anise, and 2 T. fish sauce and cook, stirring for 1 min.  Pour in 4 c. stock and bring to a boil.  Decrease heat and simmer, covered, until squash is tender, about 20 min.  Add 2/3 of sliced shiitake mushrooms and combine.  Puree in blender in batches and return to stockpot.  Season to taste with additional 1 T. fish sauce and salt.  Thin to desired consistency with additional 1 c. chicken or vegetable stock.  Serve hot garnished with remaining sliced shiitakes.

"Put some candy in my nest!...Please."
Speaking of finding ways to warm up, we'll need some layers and bone-warming meals this weekend as the kiddos head out trick-or-treating.  Vera has never made the rounds before, nor has she willingly put on a costume.  We borrowed a handmade fleece cardinal costume from a friend.  Considering our home team's recent demise a la the St. Louis Cardinals, I hope no one takes it personally and eggs this pour child as she goes door to door.  I have to make some slight adjustments to the chin strap on the "hat" in time for a costumed play group on Thursday morning ("let's get all the mileage we can out of these costumes," thought my friend who planned the weekly gathering.)  Yesterday I put together her treat basket.  During a quick trip to Michael's last weekend--a place I no longer enjoy perusing or shopping since I've learned to find craft supplies via thrift stores--I believe I cursed in front of my child as I used my sister's famous line "let's get the hello outta here!" after making a beeline for what was on my list and then for the register.  This basket is by no means "child safe," but it's cute and that's what matters, right? Actually, I figure if we can keep her eyes on the prize for the duration of trick-or-treating, she won't be tempted to treat this basket--with all it's swallow-able pieces--like a toy.  Notice I've not allowed much room for candy.  I don't expect her to make it up one side of our street let alone down the other, but I may carry a pillowcase as backup just in case she hits the motherlode (our block has a reputation for being the Gold Coast for candy, so you never know...)  Plus, I'm not really interested in bringing a whole bunch of junk food into this house (cue the moans and groans from everyone b/c I'm the strickest mother in the world in this regard.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.)  We are actually taking along the Trick-or-Treating for UNICEF box we picked up at church; I'm hoping that gets weighted down with loot way before her basket tops off.

One last thought for the day...I've been pondering one of my long-time habits lately. Though I'm well aware that my daily productivity only happens because of the long, detailed lists laid out days in advance and revised and highlighted nightly, it never occurred to me until last week just how many lists I keep.  I have (in NO particular order) my daily to-do, rainy day to-do list, mental to-do list, craft project dream list, craft projects currently underway list, list of things to have my eyes peeled for the next time I'm at a thrift store/rummage/flea market, holiday/birthday wish list, book wish list, list of books I'd like to read (sublisted as: Food, Cookbooks, Gardening, Kids/Family, Crafts, and Leisure...with parts of each of these lists living in my Paperbackswap.com account), list of movies I'd like to see (which now manifests itself as my Netflix Queue), lists of music I'd like to listen to, a personal list on the Milwaukee Public Library website of books I'd like to check out (also cross references some of my book lists), a list of home improvement projects sublisted by dream/long-term projects and more realistic repair projects, a list of restaurants at which I'd like to dine, a list of places Ben and I would like to travel (a "bucket list" of sorts), a list (or should I say spreadsheet) of what is preserved in both my upright freezer and basement pantry, a list of items I'd like to try preserving sometime, a list of short stories I'd like to write, a list of seeds I'd like to order/things I'd like to grow one day...which leads into my garden projects list, a list of skills I'd like to learn, a list of products I'd sew and sell if I ever made it to starting my own Etsy shop, a list of holiday gift ideas for my family, a list of date night ideas, a list of blogs I'd like to keep up with...which brings me just to the tip of my bookmarks list on my laptop... Anyway, you get the idea.  I'm crazy about lists.  Sometimes I wonder if they really help me function or if they just hinder my productivity because they can cause me to be overwhelmed.  I believe it's the former.  I'm curious if any of you keep lists and if so, what kind and how do they work for you?


  1. Okay, you have taken that cardinal costume to a WHOLE new level. Not surprised a bit! Can't wait to see pics. And I might be stricter than you in the candy department - if only we could do homemade treats; what a difference that would even make. -ST

  2. Have had some great comments on the lists via personal messages. My favorite is from my mom who says her only list is a grocery list, which she usually forgets at home. On the bright side, she exercises her sometimes patchy memory by stretching her brain to remember what she needed to buy.

    Was asked where I keep all my lists--mostly on my computer, some at my desk, some at my basement desk/craft table. I wonder if I need a bulleted list of the location of my lists.