...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.


Summer is Breezing By

Every year Independence Day creeps up on me so quickly!  Maybe it's that I have a bunch of friends and family with birthdays all clustered together in the first few days of the month and I'm never prepared with cards and wishes for them all.  As kids, my mom used to taunt us with the idea that the 4th of July meant was summer was half over.  Ahhhhh!

"Art in the Park"
I certainly don't feel that way now, in fact the summer fun has just begun.  We're trying to strike a balance between scheduled and unscheduled time, being around the house and yard and being out around town and in nature.  This summer our plan to not plan has finally worked out; the last three Sundays anyway, we've taken spontaneous morning bike rides, enjoyed family naps, and spent the afternoon reading outside.  Now that's what I call summer!  Our unplanning plan was prompted in part by the austerity program we instituted after our kitchen remodel.  It's been totally fun to discover all the summer events Milwaukee has to offer for free, if not pennies.  Ben and I had a long-awaited date night last week--dinner and a movie--for $30.  And for kids!  Although we've paid to attend a small handful of educational classes at the zoo, local nature centerpublic museum, and area dance studio there are also an overwhelming number of free activities at the Milwaukee public libraries, and other local libraries, county park wading pools, and the performing arts center just to graze the surface.  Though I grew up with the luxury of a teacher for a mom who had summers off, it's recently been brought to my attention that summer scheduling for working parents is a huge challenge.  I'm sure we'll find that out eventually.  And with all of these structured activities, let us also remember how important unscheduled time is for kids to learn at their own pace, read whatever books they choose, explore nature, and just "be kids."  Like I said, we're trying to find a balance and so far it feels like we've had some success.

Learning early how to identify and pick wild edibles.
On that note, lately I've been foraging for wild black raspberries and mixing up simple desserts of fruit crisps or fresh cut up fruit with local maple syrup-sweetened plain yogurt.  I'm still trying my darndest to pare down the freezer and pantry and haven't made any new batches of jam thus far.  Probably just in time for this season's blackberry harvest, I pulled a bag of plump frozen homegrown berries out of the freezer to make this bread.

Sweet Cherries, Strawberries, our Red Currants and Rhubarb to be made
into a simple fruit crisp with whipped cream
Alabama Blackberry Bread (Gluten-Free)
Makes 2 loaves

This recipe originally called for blueberries.  I'm not sure if substituting a different berry takes away from it being "Alabama" in style.  You could sub. strawberries, raspberries, or any wild berries if you choose.  My husband is my best critic and he really enjoyed this.  I love all the warm spices in it.  

3 c. all-purpose gluten-free flour (I use Bob's Red Mill)
Gluten-Free Blackberry Bread
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. xanthan gum
2 T. ground cinnamon
2 c. granulated xylitol (or sugar)
1 t. ground cloves
1 t.  ground nutmeg
3 eggs, well beaten
1 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 pints berries
2 t. lemon extract
1 c. chopped pecans (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F.  Grease 2 9-inch loaf pans.  Mix 1/4 c. xylitol/sugar and half cinnamon and set aside.  Sprinkle pan and top of bread with this mixture.  Place flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, xanthan gum, xylitol/sugar, cloves, nutmeg, and remaining cinnamon in large bowl.  Make well in center of dry ingredients.  Add eggs, oil, and lemon extract.  Stir until dry ingredients are moistened.  Stir in berries and nuts.  Divide batter between two loaf pans.  Bake 1 hour or until skewer inserted in center comes out clean.  To remove loaves from pans without losing sweet topping, try putting a sheet of parchment paper half the width of the pan into the greased bread pans, up and over the edges of the pan then pour in the batter.  This will give you a handy way to lift the bread right out of the pan.  Let cool before cutting.  Keep refrigerated.

Here's to keeping cool, calm, and unscheduled this summer!

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