...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.


Making the Most of It

Sweet Cherry Blossoms give me hope for the harvest
Saturday was the most glorious, bright, shiny day I've been available to enjoy in a long time.  We started our weekend on Friday night having friends over for a casual homemade pizza dinner then had the rest of the weekend to kick back if we so chose.  Nothing on our schedules was staring us down.  I imagined that this was what a "normal human family" usually feels on a lovely Saturday.  I've been trying to slow down for some time now and trying even harder not to overschedule our family, especially on the weekends, which is typically the only time we are all together for any significant period of time.  It's been hard for me to say no to certain projects and opportunities. Historically, I've wanted to "do everything" and please everyone, but have often neglected the needs of my loved ones and especially my personal needs for peace, quiet, and time for reflection. From our UU congregation's Sunday sermon, I absorbed the idea that I need to re-connect with myself, first and foremost, then with my family, my friends, my community.  It may sound slightly selfish to some, but I've realized over the last three+ years of being a mother that if I'm not mentally, physically, and emotionally fit, I cannot be the parent I need to be.  Fortunately, I have a wonderful life partner who helps me understand this and offers me opportunities to achieve this (though I don't easily accept these offers.)  Saturday I found myself feeling a bit "lost" at times--meaning I didn't know what to do with myself because there was nothing super pressing on the plate.  When it comes down to the end-of-the-day question (that my daughter loves to ask first thing in the AM) "So how was your day?" I typically equate success and satisfaction in my day with physical productivity.  (Perhaps it's an underlying feeling of "guilt" for being the one to "stay at home.") But everyone who knows me well knows I don't have to qualify any of this (though they might agree that I should take more time for myself.)  I'm overdue in shifting my measure of daily achievements to include a check-in on mental well-being also.  I recently said "I'm considering doing a little more of doing a little less."  I haven't booked myself with as many cooking/preservation classes as in past summers.  I'm hoping to enjoy my family, friends, and homestead as much as possible this season (and the rest of 2012--and beyond--I'd hope.)  

On that same note, we've decided that since the big kitchen expenditure of late, that we'd focus our energy on living more austerely for a while.  And with summer on the horizon, let's focus on entertaining at home and on a budget.  It's something we should commit our lives to anyway--and perhaps we have more than the average American--but I'm always up for the challenge of living on even less than one thinks one needs.  I'm beginning with eating down our pantry/freezer.  Partly in an effort to see how long I can go without a major grocery trip, but also in preparation for the next growing season, which is already upon us.  

So I began with what's in the fridge and a few things on the cellar rack in the basement that had reached "use it or lose it" status.  And you know I don't like to waste food.  Because of the aforementioned lack of overscheduling, I have more time to relax and cook slowly and more intentionally in our new kitchen.  Here's what I've come up with so far.

Boiled in salted water
Makes one small jar

This recipe was adapted from what seemed like the only recipe I could find in this world for pickled salsify.  I wanted to use the crop I just harvested from our overwintered bed.  It's a fairly sweet (and sour) recipe, but since it's just a refrigerator pickle, it could certainly be tweaked before jarring.  "Scraping" the salsify can be easily achieved with the edge of a spoon just as one would do with fresh ginger.  This way you don't lose as much of the actual veggie as you would with a peeler.

1 lb. salsify (scraped and cut into 2-inch pieces)
1/3 c. brown sugar (firmly packed)
3 T. white distilled vinegar
1 T. butter
1/2 t. sea salt
1/4 t. black pepper

Cook salsify in a small amount of salted water 10 min. or until tender; drain well.  Set aside.  Combine sugar, vinegar, butter, salt, and pepper in a medium saucepan.  Add salsify; cook over low heat 20 min. or until thickened, stirring occasionally.  Pack gently into a clean glass jar and screw on lid.  Let cool then refrigerate.

Cooking in the "brine"

Squash and Pumpkinseed Muffins (Gluten-Free)
Makes 2 dozen muffins

Adapted from a quickbread recipe in Process This! by Jean Anderson.  It still seems like a good bit of brown sugar so one should enjoy sparingly (although it IS 24 muffins.)  The way I figure it, if I make these and call them "cupcakes" and serve as a "dessert" then overall they likely have less sugar than a typical dessert.  One could try making mini-muffins as well for a more moderate serving size.
Bright orange batter from the beautiful squash!

2 c. pumpkin seeds
2 1/2 c. all-purpose gluten-free flour
1 1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar (or granulated xylitol)
4 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. xanthan gum
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
12 oz. cubed winter squash, steamed until quite tender
1 stick butter (4 oz.), melted
1/4 c. coconut oil (could fully sub. coconut oil though might = more dense product once cooled), melted 
1/2 c. kefir (dairy or coconut)
3 large eggs
2 t. vanilla extract
3/4 c. (gluten-free, soy-free, vegan) mini chocolate chips (completely optional!)

Two yummy pans
Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease or line 2 12-count muffin pans.  Spread pumpkin seeds on a tray and either toast in toaster oven or in regular oven for a few minutes until lightly browned.  Cool until easily handled.  Pulse seeds in food processor with 2 T. flour 12-15 times until chopped (light nut meal).  Transfer to large mixing bowl.  Add remaining flour, brown sugar/xylitol, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, nutmeg, salt, and pepper to processor and pulse quickly until well mixed.  Transfer to bowl with seed meal.  Add squash, melted butter/oil, kefir, eggs, and vanilla to processor and pulse 5-6 times, just enough to combine.  Pour squash mixture into dry ingredients and fold in gently until all dry ingredients are incorporated--do not beat or stir or it will become tough.  Though the batter should be "stiff."  Add chocolate chips, is desired.  Scoop batter into prepared pans and bake 25-30 min. or until a pick inserted in center muffin comes out clean.  Cool slightly then remove muffins from pan to cool completely on a wire rack.
A little bite with some coffee
Quick Lemon and Garlic Quinoa Salad
Makes 4 servings

Adapted from Cynthia Lair's Feeding the Whole Family.  Time to eat down our 5-gallon bucket of quinoa and use more of that cellared winter squash.  This was also a great way to incorporate the preserved lemons my friend and I made back in February.

1 c. dry quinoa
1/2 t. salt
1 3/4 c. water
1/2 c. cubed winter squash, steamed
1/3 c. minced fresh parsley
1/4 c. sunflower seeds

3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. lemon juice
1/2 preserved lemon, diced (optional, but it adds incredible flavor to this salad)
1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 T. fish sauce (or soy sauce), if NOT using preserved lemons, you may add another T. fish/soy sauce

Rinse quinoa and drain.  Place rinsed quinoa, salt, and water in 2-qt. pot.  Bring to boil, reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer 15-20 min., until all water is absorbed.  Tip pan to side to make sure all water has been absorbed.  Let stand 5-10 min. uncovered, then fluff with fork.  Place cooked quinoa in large bowl.  Add steamed squash, parsley, sunflower seeds.  Mix thoroughly.  Combine dressing ingredients; pour over quinoa and toss well.  Serve at room temp. or chilled.

Though Saturday was much more leisurely than any day I've had in a long time, I still managed to pull myself away to borrow a friend's truck to haul some brushy yard waste to the dump for recycling and also crossed one task off my rainy day list (though it was the furthest from a rainy day that I could dream).  Dividing my spider plants had lingered on this list for at least two years!  Imagine how root bound it was!  I found some fellow Freecyclers who were willing to promptly pick up these splits as well as a few other pass-alongs from my gardening shelf.  I spent time planting a few seeds this weekend and am finding that my little one is going to be quite the helper in the yard and around the homestead this season.  Let it begin now and let us savor every moment however quiet or loud!

Taking the laundry outside
Sorting the clothespins
Hanging her own clothes on the homemade line
Little clothes on the line


  1. Annie -

    I love what you've written. :)


  2. I particularly love the photo of Vera hanging clothes on the line with her tutu and her rain boots!

    Thanks for sharing :)
    I hope all is well,

  3. I just set a very similar goal for myself in regards to food and eating out of what we have and getting a little more creative with cooking between now and the end of summer. We live within walking distance of a natural grocer and last weekend, Emma and I stopped by the Boulder County Farmer's Market for the first time this year after her gymnastics class. Last summer I bought a kid's Cooking Journal for Luke. We only got to do a few recipes before a biopsy and 2 surgeries derailed my plans. So it didn't go how I planned, but now I can refocus on this goal to improve our eating habits and our home. I look forward to an entire summer of getting to try some of the recipes you have posted. Maybe you don't have the same quantity of things on your to-do list, but the quality of what you share is better than ever and I get great guidance from it!


  4. Thanks Katie. And thank you ALL for reading. I will do my best to post regularly this summer as well. I would guess that our two climates/altitudes have similar vegetables available during peak season. You've already taken some important steps to getting yourself and your family on a healthy path. Tell me more about Luke's cooking journal when you get a chance.