...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.


Spring Renewal

Rainy Day Project: Caterpillar made from an egg carton
The house is clean, the shades and windows are wide open, planting of the garden is going at a satisfying pace.  Though today's "heat" makes it feel a little too stuffy for me this soon, I'm feeling a sort of "renewal" now that we're a little more than halfway into spring.  With the increased temperatures the last couple of days, the basement has quickly become the coolest place in the house.  I usually hide out down there at my sewing table in July and August to avoid the sweltering temps of midday, but I've already taken a wee respite down there.   Bits of time to sew have revealed themselves lately.

Before our kitchen remodel I'd gotten well into a project making some pajamas for Vera's baby doll.  Since then she and I stumbled upon the motherlode of random doll clothes at the thrift store--including tons of jammies.  Once I finally put the basement back together and returned to sewing I was faced with picking up where I'd left off with this miniscule project.  I remembered why I'd last laid it down--I was at a point where I'd ripped a lot out and was trying to go off-pattern to fix a few things.  It was becoming extremely frustrating and not the least big enjoyable.  And being a person who regularly practices the FIFO method of rotation ("First In First Out") in both the restaurant industry and at home, I do try to finish certain projects before moving onto the next.  I know this is not everyone's process--and not even mine 100% of the time--but knowing how I'm capable of procrastinating, it's a good idea for me to adhere to this as often as I can.  On that note, I'd found that this doll project was a thorn in my side and since Vera had ceased to ask when I was going to finish Alice's jammies (since we'd acquired all the secondhand pj's), I decided it was time to bail on the assignment.  An amazing weight was instantly lifted from my shoulders!  Since then I've fixed several items in my mending basket, cut out and finished a sundress for V and cut out and started another dress for her.  Amazing how that doll outfit was such a roadblock.

My first feeling of renewal has been sewing again--and upcycling which, of course, makes something old new again (and hopefully better/cooler).  This dress I made for Vera was a woman's 3/4 length skirt at the thrift store.  I loved the fabric as soon as I saw it and thought it could be easily upcycled into something girly.  The fabric is very viscous, but even after going through the names and definitions of every kind of fabric under the sun, I can't remember what type of fabric it is.  It reminds me of crepe, but without the texture.  I know that my mom used to make me a lot of summer dresses out of it; it's extremely moveable, comfy, and soft--the perfect outfit for dancing around at summer concerts in the park.  Next up is a sundress made out of a pillowcase, though not the standard "pillowcase dress" so popular and easy to sew.  Stay tuned for that.

Before--woman's skirt

After: Girl's sundress with pockets
I have also felt a great sense of renewal with cooking lately.  I don't know what it is since our new kitchen space was completed, but I'm feeling much more calm and less rushed as I cook.  I've also made a new habit of serving all meals family style instead of plating everything in the kitchen and bringing it to the table as we did for so long.  This way everyone can take what they want and we seem to linger slightly longer over dinner--never a bad thing in my mind.  Plus it's fun to use more of the great serving dishes I've had squirreled away for too long.  In trying to "eat down the fridge" (which I've since learned has been someone's--if not a national--project in the past) I've been forced to come up with some pretty simple dishes because I may not have all the ingredients to make something more complicated.  I must say that I quite fancy this new style of cooking.  I just finished reading the Kathleen Flinn book I recently mentioned.  Between that and another book I was randomly led to via the library's County Cat, An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace by Tamar Adler, I may be in the process of changing my cooking style quite dramatically.  The latter book is the perfect follow-up read to The Kitchen Counter Cooking School, though it was purely by coincidence that I stumbled upon it (as well as the former).  Adler's writing and cooking style remind me a little of both M.F.K. Fisher and Julia Child.  Her chapter on eggs that I read at the playground today had me running home to clean out a few more fridge ingredients and put together a fluffy omelet with black olives, pickled Brussels sprouts, olive-oiled anchovies, spinach, and cheese for lunch today.  I never would have imagined it would taste any good, but with a generous accent of homemade mayo laced with honey-mustard, it was divine!  It seems that every year in the garden, at the farm, or the local farmers' markets I glom onto some new (or formerly ubibuitous) vegetable and make it summer's favorite.  Through these two books, I have a new appreciation for simple yet delicious cooking and can't wait to see if, in fact, I feel any less pressure, but more creativity, in preparing meals and what I will do with all those gorgeous and delicious locals fruits and veggies.

We also experienced the first taste of local asparagus last weekend when Ben brought a grocery bag of it home from our farmer friends' place in Brodhead, WI.  My dinner plan was well underway at that point, but I quickly steamed some of the beautiful green stalks, chilled them then prepared the aforementioned mayo-honey-mustard "sauce" for dipping.  I nearly had Vera convinced they were some sort of "green french fry."  Last night, via the inspiration of my most recent library book, I frees-styled and came up with some gluten-free pasta with asparagus pesto (pine nuts, blanched asparagus, spinach, mozzarella, green garlic, preserved lemons, dried basil, s&p, pasta water...) and steamed asparagus topped with a soft poached egg, which contributed a beautiful natural "sauce" to the dish once the yolk was pierced.  So simple to prepare and I used lots of random bits from the pantry and fridge.

Mmmm, poached egg over Asparagus Pesto Pasta
Loads of burly greenhouse spinach have been coming our way all winter from our CSA farmers who are determined to get me to finally use up my "market dollars" from last season.  Some of these leaves are 1 1/2 times the size of my hand--perfect for making "rolls."  Spinach rolls filled with salmon salad (mayo, broken up pieces of cooked salmon, dilly beans, capers, etc...whatever you like).

Huge leaves of yummy spinach!
Spinach Rolls stuffed with Salmon Salad
Last week I got the sun oven out for dinner and--though it was mostly cloudy that day--had a succulent whole chicken cooked by dinnertime.

Shiitake-Crusted Baked Chicken
Serves 4-6

Adapted from a recipe in Jean Anderson's Process This!, it could be prepared in a regular oven as well as I've indicated in the directions.  For those sun-oven fanatics, you know what to do.

Sun Oven, here we come!
6-8 dried shiitake mushrooms, ground to "powder" in a food processor or spice grinder
1/2 t. salt
1/2 ground black pepper
1 large clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 t. ground ginger
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. chicken stock
2 T. fish sauce (or soy sauce if you're vegan)
2 T. sesame oil
2 T. dry sherry
1 whole roasting chicken, gizzards removed, rinsed

Preheat oven to 400F.  Combine all ingredients except chicken until a "paste" is formed.  Rub under chicken skin and over whole chicken, inside and out.  Place breast up in a roasting pan and place in oven to bake anywhere from 30-50 min. depending on exact size of chicken and oven.  Check with a meat thermometer after 30 min.  Pierce the thickest part of the thigh and also the thickest part of the breast, juice should run clear and thermometer should register at 160F internal temperature.  Remove from oven, let rest about 5-7 min.  Slice and enjoy.

I've finally gotten more proactive about protecting our perennial fruits this season.  I tied tulle around the red currant bushes last week, threw a sort of Spiderman web of netting over the gooseberry bushes, and hung some shiny holiday ornaments in the cherry tree (half-price score at a church rummage over the weekend).  Let's hope I see some return on my investments.  There are lots of fruits already forming, I can already taste them...and hopefully we will get that chance.

$3 for three boxes
We'll have "Christmas" in July
Wouldn't this scare you if you were a hungry bird?
The rainstorm's finally coming now.  We're inside for the afternoon to prepare some goodies for daddy's birthday tomorrow.  I wish a similar sense of spring renewal to all of you.  Try to find hope and simplicity in this season and carry it into summer and beyond.

1 comment:

  1. Me gusta mucho tus creaciones tienes mucho ingenio jejejje gracias por compartir besos