...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.


The End of the Garden

Ground Cherries still in their husks
Peeled Ground Cherries
The lone golden raspberry.  I assure you, it was delicious.
It looks like the garden finally bit it as of last night.  The Swiss chard and kale may still have a little oomph left in them to spring back from the cold, but otherwise I'm fairly sure it's about time to call it quits.  I actually harvested lots of fresh herbs last night to put into a dinner entree (see below).  I will likely be able to get at the parsley, oregano, thyme, and kohlrabi for a couple of weeks still, but the fennel and delicate radish leaves are toast.  Last week we were still pulling so much from the ground.  The tomatoes and tomatillos had the last bit of life wrung out of them on Saturday as I scoured the plants to harvest enough for one more small batch of salsa.  Picked the remaining ground cherries as well--a small handful--and need to find some way to utilize such a small amount while still enjoying their flavor.  Our golden raspberry harvest rolled in last week with--count it--ONE berry (which I ate in secrecy quickly after snapping the photo so as not to deal with dividing it three ways with my family!  Shameful, I know, but one of those completely selfish acts that busy moms occasionally commit.)  Still in the ground are the parsnips and salsify.  It's the first year I've grown salsify and, honestly, haven't much researched what I need to be doing with it.  The parsnips, on the other hand, can stay in the ground all winter.  I ran into our CSA farmer the other day at the co-op (I love when that happens...he and his wife are "local celebs" to me...but also good friends) and he said I should/could just leave them in the ground covered with a thick layer of leaf mulch.  Perfect, because right about now I have an endless supply of leaves blowing around my backyard and much less energy for gardening.

We're still hitting the farmers' markets and, in fact, plan to double or triple it up this weekend to collect all the goods before the Thanksgiving holiday a week from today (what!).  I have a 4-lb. jar of raw honey to collect at the St. Ann Center Winter Farmers' Market, our heritage turkey to pick up at the West Allis Farmers' Market (it sounds like JenEhr still has a handful of these organic birds available for purchase...might want to call now!) and People's Market Day to support at the Milwaukee County Winter Farmers' Market.  The latter is a special day at State Fair Park's Tommy Thompson Center.  This market runs through spring, but Saturday's event will be brought to you by the people.  In the spirit of the  Occupy Movement, the farmers and producers have raised funds so that this weekend's market is sponsored by the people, not by deep-pocketed corporations.  Please check it out.  Show your support.  And pick up some delicious locally-grown and produced foods to fill your holiday table or the table of someone else.

I promised I'd try to get my Thanksgiving act together in order to post some recipes for anyone interested (ahem...my sister-in-law who was seeking ideas last year and I thoroughly disappointed...)  One thing I know for sure that's on our menu besides the turkey and Ben's Gramma Kate's cranberry salad are some Brussels sprouts.  I picked up our Wellspring Thanksgiving share last night and was overwhelmed by the amount of produce, which will partially be worked into next week's meal.

Crispy Sesame Brussels Sprouts
Serves 4-6

In case this sounds too "Asian-infused" for you, I guarantee the sesame oil flavor is not overwhelming.  As I was enjoying some of these leftovers today I was realizing that one could substitute bacon fat, beef fat, or another mild oil/fat along with the butter (gotta keep the butter!) and still have a lovely crispy texture.  Also, I used gomashio ("goma" being the Japanese word for sesame seed) in place of the sesame seeds.  Sesame seeds are also a source of calcium, surprisingly, so what's not to like?

6 T. butter
3 T. toasted sesame oil
3 T. grapeseed oil
1 1/2 lbs. Brussels sprouts, halved
1/2 t. crushed red pepper (optional)
Salt and pepper
3 T. sesame seeds

In a large skillet, melt the butter in the sesame oil and grapeseed oil over medium heat.  Add the Brussels sprouts and crushed red pepper and season with salt and pepper.  Cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 25 min.  Sprinkle the sesame seeds on top and cook until the Brussels sprouts are dark brown and crunchy, about 10-15 min.  Season with salt and pepper and serve hot.

And, though this is not a Thanksgiving recipe per se, I promised (above) that I would include this recipe from last night's dinner.

Broccoli, Mushroom, and Mozzarella Noodle Strata
Serves 6-8

Adapted from The Homesteader's Kitchen: Recipes From Farm to Table by Robin Burnside.  This began as a more "traditional" strata with chunks of bread in it.  I didn't want to sacrifice my precious gluten-free bread for such a dish so I used gluten-free pasta in its place.  One could use regular pasta or regular cubed bread in place of the noodles here.

2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 c. finally chopped onion
1 T. minced garlic
1 c. sliced button mushrooms
1 c. sliced shiitake mushrooms (I used dried shiitakes and added them to the pasta water to "rehydrate")
4 c. cooked noodles--elbow macaroni, penne, mini shells...whatever you want (approx. 2 c. dry)
2 c. broccoli florets and tender stems, sliced
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
1 T. chopped fresh oregano
1 T. chopped fresh basil (I used 1/2 T. dried)
1 t. chopped fresh thyme
1 1/2 c. shredded mozzarella or provolone cheese
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
4 eggs
4 c. whole milk
1 T. Dijon mustard
1 t. sea salt
1/8 t. freshly ground pepper

In a large skillet, heat oil and saute onions, garlic for 2 min., stirring occasionally.  Add mushrooms and continue cooking until they begin to brown.  Remove mushrooms from heat and set aside.  Place cooked noodles in a large mixing bowl.  Add mushrooms, broccoli, herbs, and cheeses and toss to combine.  In a medium-size mixing bowl, whisk eggs.  Add milk, mustard, salt and pepper and blend well.  Evenly distribute noodle/vegetable mixture in a well-greased 9x13-inch baking dish.  Slowly pour the egg mixture over top and wiggle the custard into the rest of the ingredients until evenly saturated.  Bake uncovered in a 350F preheated oven for 50-60 min. until top is golden brown and center is set.  Let cool slightly then cut and serve.

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