Tuesday, May 31, 2011


Finally, warm temperatures and sunshine are here.  With the exception of the perennials, our garden design changes every year to best grow our plants and maintain healthy soil. 
Newpaper and moldy straw keep help with moisture and weeds.
Last year, we used a mulching system in our garden inspired by this book, a book that truly changed my way of looking at food, gardening, and saying "yes" to raising our own chickens.  I am still mulching this vast garden of ours, just taking a break from the heat during lunch to share some views from our garden and coop.
Napoleon, who may be one of our smallest roosters, but he has such a presence.
What once was an asparagus spear...

Some of our chickens trying to stay cool in the shade of the coop.
A June-bearing strawberry plant.

Sweet peas climbing up our lovely grapevine trellis.

Garlic chives getting ready to flower.

Where do your garden inspirations come from?

Friday, May 27, 2011

{this moment}

Inspired by Soulemama:

"{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.

If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Wishing you a lovely weekend!"

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Seed Starting {revised}

Every January, the most beautiful catalogs arrive in the mail and my email inbox.  Seed catalogs, that I sit with pen and paper to list my favorites.  With the best intentions, we sent up grow lights, heating pads and set tray after tray on shelves, in hopes that they will become seedings that survive.  I have hoped for better results.
Enter Kelly, our local greenhouse owner.  This winter (though not early enough), we gave her our carefully chosen seed packets.  Last night, we picked up our beautiful seedlings.  She labeled each plant set with repurposed tags and commented on the great variety that she now gets to grow.  We made sure to leave a sample of each seedling in her greenhouse.

If you are interested, I hope that you will contact your local grower to see if they can start your seeds.  Maintaining diversity in our plant life is good for our ecosystem and good for our health.

What changes are you making in this year's garden?  What new varieties will you try?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Inspired: A Party

Children and baskets of food were brought to a gathering of friends.  Inspired by the arrival of asparagus, many dishes highlighted this lovely spring vegetable. 
A small sampling of  our meal.
I am thankful to have been invited (and my camera too) as I am fast approaching my one year anniversary of leaving behind the role of family bread winner and embracing my new path.  Leaving behind wealth, in the modern sense, and arriving at the original definition of wealth: well being.  Well being for me and my family, and the land and animals entrusted in my care.  I still have one foot in the world of paychecks (just a few days a week) and the other one solidly planted in the keeping of my family and our health.  Listening and learning from a group of friends, while nourishing ourselves (and little ones) on asparagus, was a great way to spend an afternoon.

Here are the recipes and links from our feast:

Angel Hair Pasta with Asparagus and Mushrooms

Asparagus and Cheese Tart

Carolynn's Quinoa Salad
1 cup dry quinoa
2 cups water
1 red pepper cut up
3-4 asparagus spears cut up
2-3 lemons
olive oil
1 clove garlic
salt & pepper to taste
crumbled goat cheese
handful "flat" parsley

Rinse quinoa well, drain. Put in pan with 2 cups water. Bring to boil, put lid on & reduce to simmer for 15 minutes or until water is absorbed (tip side to side to check & see if any water remains). Remove from heat & leave lid on 10 minutes more, before fluffing.  After fluffing, leave lid off so it can begin to cool.

Make vinaigrette.

About the time quinoa is finished cooking (but still resting in pan with lid on), sautee asparagus (you could easily double the amount I used in this recipe) in olive oil, with salt, pepper & juice of an entire lemon, until asparagus is bright green & tender.

Dump asparagus & any "juice" in a bowl (or straight into the quinoa if you've "fluffed"). Saute red pepper with less lemon juice, but otherwise in the same way  (you could probably do them together, I just didn't think to add the red pepper until later). When finished, add this to the quinoa as well. Chop up a handful of fresh parsley & toss it in, then add vinaigrette (and cheese if you wish -- I wasn't sure how the cheese would fare all mixed in & refrigerated so I added it afterward).  Stir it up well, then refrigerate for at least 1/2 hour to let flavors meld together nicely & make sure it was well chilled.

To make vinaigrette, whisk together:
juice from 1 lemon
3-4 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, well diced
salt & pepper

Jody's Shortbread
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 9 x 13 pan and set aside.
3 cups flour (packed down in the cup)
3/4 c powdered sugar (not sifted)
1.5 cups salted butter softened
1 can (21 oz) strawberry pie filling
Mix flour and powdered sugar together and then cut in softened butter until mixture resembles bread crumbs or course corn meal (you can do this in a food processor).
Spread half the mixture into your pan and bake for 12-15 minutes.
Remove pan from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes (don't turn off the oven).
Spread the pie filling over the crust then sprinkle the remaining flour/sugar/butter mixture over the top. Gently press down with a spatula.
Return to the oven for 30-35 minutes.
Cool and then refrigerate before you cut into bars.

I am excited to try Jody's recipe with our Rhurbarb freezer jam--the last one in our freezer!

Hollandaise Sauce:  (Leah)
Note: You can make the Hollandaise sauce up to a couple days ahead -- just store in fridge.
Lemons (2)
Butter or ghee, grass-fed (1 1/2 cups)
Eggs, pastured or free-range organic, room temperature (6 yolks)
Sea salt
Food processor, blender or whisk
1. Juice lemons, yielding about 1/4 cup of lemon juice.
2. Melt butter or ghee in a saucepan. Remove from heat. If using ghee, use as is. If using butter, strain off and discard the white milk solids. Set aside.
3. In food processor or blender (or use a wire whisk and a mixing bowl,) blend 6 egg yolks. If the yolks are cold, run it for a few minutes.
4. Blend in the lemon juice.
5. While whisking or blending, gradually add the melted butter or ghee in a very slow stream. Do not go to fast or you will “break” the sauce. Blend continually as you slowly add the butter. You should end up with a thick sauce with the consistency of mayonnaise. If you have trouble using a blender or food processor, use a whisk and do it by hand -- it always works when you do it by hand; it just takes longer.
6. Add sea salt to taste.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


My husband and son found these amazing white morels on our land this week.   I decided to oven dry them using these instructions

I have plans for morel risotto this fall and will use the dried mushrooms for that recipe.  I like the idea of preserving this bold umami taste for a heavier meal.  My family does its best to eat seasonally and I also think that notion applies to the texture and weight of a dish.  I want more stick to my ribs sort of meals in the colder months and lighter fare in the warmer months.
How does your palate fluctuate with the change of the seasons?  What are you cooking this spring?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Princess Party Cupcakes

This Sunday was filled with tiaras, tulle, glitter and some amazing Strawberry Cupcakes made from this book.  I am usually one to change up the ingredients--swapping out all purpose for white whole wheat flour or adding ground flax seed.  This time, I stayed true to the recipe with the exception of this addition:

Dehydrated strawberries came to mind for giving these cupcakes an extra punch of strawberry.  I used my mortal and pestle to grind them into a fine powder, then added 1/2 cup to the dry ingredients for the batter.  More dehydrated berries (approximately 1/4 cup) joined the chopped strawberries for the meringue buttercream.

Happy fairy princesses gobbled them down, followed by dancing together in the living room.
How do you turn up the flavor in your recipes?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Baked Potato Pizza

In my quest for fun and wholesome meals, I have also been looking for shortcuts as I juggle home and work life.  Recipes that are not strict with ingredients, that welcome what I have on hand and the little hands that want to help. 

I start with a dough made from scratch--a no knead dough--that works in my refrigerator overnight.  It was inspired by Martha Stewart's Basic Grilled Pizza Dough from Everyday Food July/August 2010.  I like to experiment with various flours and I store my flours (with the exception of all purpose) in the freezer.  I also buy my yeast in bulk and store it in the freezer.  Be sure to have all of your ingredients at room temperature as yeast likes warm environments.  Here is my spin on the recipe:

1 cup warm water
1 1/2 teaspoons local honey
2 1/4 teaspoons (or 1 quarter ounce packet) active dry yeast
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl
Sea salt and black pepper
1 cup (5 ounces) white whole wheat flour
1 cup (4 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour
Penzeys Pizza Seasoning (or your own combination of dry spices which may include ground fennel seed, Greek oregano, garlic, basil, crushed red pepper, and cayenne red pepper)

1.  In a medium bowl (I like this one), whisk the warm water and honey together.  Sprinkle the yeast onto the water mixture and let stand until foamy, approximately 5 minutes.

2.  Whisk oil and 1 teaspoon salt into the yeast mixture.  Add flours and stir with a wooden spoon.  Your dough should not look dry, if so, add a tablespoon of water.  I actually like a somewhat wet dough.

3.  Drizzle oil over the top of the dough (which has not left the bowl) and turn to coat, making sure that oil is also covering the sides of the bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap or if you're using the bowl that I like, place the lid on.

4.  Refrigerate dough overnight.  The next morning, punch down the down and replace cover.  Return dough to the refrigerator for a second rise.

5.  One hour before baking, take the bowl out of the refrigerator and remove the lid.  Punch the dough down and allow to come to room temperature.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees and oil a jelly roll pan.

6.  Press the dough into the jellyroll pan.  If it is stubborn, let it rest while you gather your toppings.  When you have pressed the dough out, sprinkle it with the Penzeys Pizza seasoning.  This is the base of your pizza.

Toppings (to be baked):
Cheese of your choice.  I have used mozzarella, farmer's cheese, and sharp cheddar for this recipe.
1 medium potato, peeled and thinly sliced (have you tried this tool?).  Again, experiment with various kinds or just use your favorite potato.
Bacon, thinly sliced and sauteed crisp.
Spicy Smokey Kale Chips from this inspiring couple.

Arrange these on your pizza crust and drizzle with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper.  Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden.

Toppings (to add after baking):
Garlic chives.  Snip the chives with your kitchen shears over the hot pizza.  Inhale.  Do you smell their garlic loveliness as they hit the heat of the pizza?
Sour cream
A lightly dressed salad has often found itself on top of my baked potato pizza.

What ingredients are you inspired to use on your next homemade pizza?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dear Store Bought Asparagus,

Nearly two years ago, I spent my Mother's Day digging trenches while incredibly pregnant with my 3rd child.  So pregnant that the next day, a daughter was welcomed to this world.  Back to the trenches.  These trenches were dug to plant asparagus--Purple Passion asparagus, as found here

I have waited patiently to taste this asparagus.  I have watched it grow and then become a beautiful fern-like plant in my garden, while only weeding, watering, and composting around the asparagus.  My wait ended tonight, when I harvested the first 10 spears and steamed them.  My family devoured them.  These fresh-from-the-garden spears have a sweetness that their well traveled counterparts can't deliver.
And so I say to you, Store Bought Asparagus, that we must part ways.  It's not me, it's you and I have found another. 
Sincerely, Me

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Rituals of Spring

Every year, I look forward to the opening of our local farmers' market.  Although my family has a large garden, there are some things that we don't grow and look to local vendors to provide.
I can always count on a great selection of herbs for pots, gifts and planting with my tomatoes.
I am spoiled by our delicious local honey and maple syrup (even grade C, my family's favorite) and hope that we can tap our own sugar maples next spring.
This weekend also included a lot of progress in our garden with many new leaves on our red raspberry bushes.
We added apple trees to the orchard.
We burn our leaves, twigs, and other brush in the garden so that the ashes can be mixed in to our garden soil.
Our ever busy chicken yard--that's a Polish hen at the entrance of the chicken coop.

A broody hen in a nesting box.

Peas ready for planting.

Many thanks to Seeds of Change and Rick Bayless for their Sowing Millions Project in which they offered free organic seeds to many gardeners earlier this year.  I am so excited to grow and taste these new lettuces!  Hopefully, I can keep our chickens out of the garden....
My favorite way to water our plants.

Homemade garden art in the form of trimmings from our grapevine that I placed on a trellis in the childrens' garden.  I am hoping that morning glories and pea plants will travel up this trellis and provide my kids with a snack and some beauty during their busy days in the garden.

What spring rituals are you and your loved ones enjoying?  Happy Spring!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

(Some) of our new baby chicks

9 baby chicks were welcomed home 10 days ago.  On the left, two bantam araucanas.  One of our Silkie chicks stands in the center.  A barred rock chick is perched on their feeder.  We found these chicks locally; most mail order sources require a minimum order of 25 chicks.  Soon to join them will be 2 Brahma chicks and I hope that they are hens--one of their attributes include winter laying of eggs.