...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.


"End" of Summer Fun

Cozy places to plunk down in the garden
We still have another three or so official weeks of summer on the calendar, but with the new school year right around the corner it's hard not to feel that the season's over.  Perhaps the days of sleeping in (till 6:30 AM) or leisurely playing outside all morning are almost gone, but in our neck of the woods there is still a crazy amount of summer fun to be had.

Last weekend we hosted an event through our congregation's Feast for Funds program.  "Preserves and Pastries with Afternoon Tea" was the plan and since it was a 90-degree day, iced tea was on the menu:

Preserves and Pastries with Afternoon Tea

Homegrown Herbal Iced Tea (LUH Lemon Balm and Mint)
Stone Creek and Sven's Coffee
Blueberry or Sumac Spritzer (Local/Wild Fruits, Home-canned)
Wollersheim Winery Dry Red or Prairie Fume (Prairie du Sac)


Wisconsin Cheese Assortment with Rhubarb Chutney and Crackers
(LUH Rhubarb, Local Cheeses)

Mini Quiche with Swiss Chard, Preserved Roasted Peppers, Goat Cheese
(Yuppie Hill Eggs, LUH Swiss Chard, Pinehold Gardens Peppers--Home-canned)

Sunchoke Biscuits with Heirloom Tomato Preserves and Chive Butter
(LUH Sunchoke Flour, Chives; Sandhill Organics Tomatoes)

Crostini with Smoked Trout, Onion Fennel Relish, and Local Sprouts
(Rushing Waters Trout, Home-canned Relish, Wisconsin Broccoli Sprouts)


Sorrel Shortbread and Basil Ice Cream Sandwiches
(LUH Sorrel, Basil; Yuppie Hill Eggs, Organic Valley Cream)

Lemon Thyme Coffee Cake with Lavender Dandelion Glaze
(LUH Thyme, Lavender; Local Wild Dandelions)

Chocolate and Homestead Jam Bars
(LUH Blackberries, Currants, Gooseberries)

Cranberry Orange Biscotti
(Wisconsin Cranberries)

It was a pleasure for us to host a small group of friends from our spiritual community, give a tour of our garden and, most importantly, prepare food for these amazing friends.

Prepping Biscotti and Crostini for the event
Soon to be Tomato Preserves
Iced Tea and Pour-your-own Spritzers on the "patio"
Bottles of homemade concentrates for
Blueberry or Sumac Spritzers
Or wine if you prefer
I absolutely love putting together a spread of food for any occasion
In our amazing dairy state, it's not hard--in fact, it's a
joy--to put together an all-local cheese board
Mini Quiche is easy when you keep some homemade
frozen dough on hand
Homestead Jam Bars
Wisconsin Cranberry Biscotti
Sunchoke Biscuits with fixin's
The following day we got to sit back and be entertained at our CSA's annual Harvest Celebration.  It was a rainy day, but we slipped on our wellies, raincoats and stuck it out to enjoy the always-awesome, mostly-vegetarian potluck, crafts for kids, cooking demonstrations, and catching up with our farmers and other friends who love local food.  It's always a great opportunity to get Vera running around with those chickens and for her to visit Peaches, the Ossabaw Island hog.  

Caught in the rain inside the greenhouse.  If we have to stay here for an
extended period of time at least we won't starve.
A grasshopper friend trying to stay dry
in the greenhouse

Our CSA farm--feels like home
Trying to milk the "goat."
Speaking our our CSA, while I was coming up with the weekly set of recipes for their newsletter I dug up one of my absolute favorite recipes from a decade-ago stint at Konohana Japanese restaurant that once graced Milwaukee's Brady St. neighborhood.  Just smelling the combination of roughly chopped ingredients in the prep. bowl took me right back to the fun times we had in that kitchen.

Asian Carrot-Ginger Dressing
Makes 1 qt.

Since this was a restaurant recipe the original quantity was huge.  Even after dividing it by four it still makes a full quart of dressing, but if you love it as much as I do, you'll find yourself pouring it on everything--or at least way overdressing your salads with it--a la some people's obsession with Ranch Dressing.

1 clove garlic, peeled
3/4 lb. onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 lemon, zest and fruit (but not pith)
1/2 c. grapeseed oil (or other neutrally-flavored oil)
3/4 c. soy sauce of fish sauce (if you're soy-free)
3/4 c. rice wine vinegar
2 T. granulated sugar or xylitol
3 T. ketchup or tomato paste
Pinch of black pepper
2 oz. fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
2 oz. carrots, peeled and sliced

Put all ingredients in a blender (in batches) and mix well.  (Dressing may separate as it sits in the fridge, so be sure to stir before using.)

Another recipe I submitted to the CSA newsletter is below.  I love serving this as a vegetarian entree.  And the leftovers are great.  Today I had yet another realization that I'm slowly turning into my beloved mother when my lunch consisted of a mixture of four different leftovers we had in the fridge.  Something my mom would call "mish-mash."  And it was delicious topped with the dressing above.

Potato Salad with String Beans and White Beans
Serves 4-6

Great way to use a ton of the beans still pouring out of our garden
Adapted from the Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers.  

1 1/2 lbs. potatoes
1 lb. yellow wax or green beans
1/2 c. olive oil
3 T. cider vinegar
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
2 T. chopped fresh basil
1/3 c. thinly sliced sweet onions
1 15-oz. can white beans, rinsed and drained or about 1 c. dry white beans, soaked and cooked

Put large pot of salted water on stove.  Cut potatoes in half then into 1/2-inch thick slices.  Add potatoes to water and bring to boil; cook until just tender, about 10 min.  While potatoes are cooking, cut stem ends off beans and snap in half.  In large serving bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, salt, pepper.  Stir in basil and onions.  When potatoes are done, lift out of water with slotted spoon and place in serving bowl.  Return water to boil.  Add beans and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 min.  Drain beans and add them to bowl.  Add white beans and gently toss everything together.  Add more salt and pepper to taste.  This salad is delicious warm, at room temp., or chilled.

Nature's Riddler heirloom tomatoes.  Have had to pick
green and ripen inside to have any chance of stealing
a bite from the chipmunks and raccoons.
As you may recall, the weeks before the aforementioned party, I was working to get the yard and garden in shape.  I know everyone would have forgiven me if I hadn't, but it's those events that I depend on to give myself a nudge and quit procrastinating.  Once I tore out the insect-wrecked patches of zucchini and winter squash, I seeded our fall crop of brassicas, spinach, salad mix, beets, and cilantro, which are now well underway.  There's no telling if we'll have a mild or extended fall, but I'm hoping I can still get another really fantastic crop out of my garden.  I feel like last year I literally dropped the ball after August or September--never got the coldframe in place to overwinter greens for spring, never completed the clean-up and bedding down of the garden for winter, never had real closure for the 2011 season.  I'm feeling fairly on track for a clean break this year.  It's something I depend on to really settle into the winter and "hibernate," so to speak.  Stay tuned for an update on that progress.  At this point we're still enjoying the string bean harvest and handfuls of heirloom tomatoes we've managed to snag from the critters.


  1. Wow, all that food looks both beautiful and delicious!

  2. I was hoping to see the homestead jam bar recipe at the bottom... I'm always on the hunt for jam-users! (I love your handwriting on the cheese labels by the way...)